The scoreline might read Cheadle Town FC 0 Russia U19s 22. But the result doesn’t tell the whole story. “We can take plenty of positives from the game,” said Steve Piggott, goalkeeper for the Greater Manchester part-timers, without whom the scoreline could have become, well, embarrassing.
While Chelsea and Arsenal played out a Premier League grudge match, football fans were diverted by events at Park Road, Cheshire, where each development in an extraordinary afternoon for the North West Counties League First Division side was relayed on Twitter.
A friendly against Russia’s crack under-19 team - said to contain one player with Champions League experience – resulted in a 22-0 thrashing, the heaviest defeat in Cheadle Town’s history.
The game actually started trending on Twitter along with the Stamford Bridge clash when Cheadle finally relieved the siege by winning a corner.
With thousands of new social media followers joining the 40 or so brave souls who normally watch the team’s home games, the players are keen to set the record straight about an unusually low-par performance.
“The first team had won on Saturday so we weren’t at full strength,” said Piggott. “There were a lot of tired legs and a few niggling injuries. We had some young players in and we weren’t all used to playing together.”
Even the elements were against Cheadle, who currently stand a respectable seventh in their league. “The Russians seemed to have the wind behind them. Every shot they had in the first half seemed to hit the target.
“They could have slacked off at 10-0 and started messing about but they were very professional to the end.”
Piggott, 35, a truck driver with Allotts Removals and Storage Specialists in Hyde, was Cheadle’s man of the match, a performance which should help the reserve goalie break into the first eleven.
“I pulled off a few good saves, maybe some world class ones. I probably kept the score under the 30s. They had a one-on-one eight yards out. I got down to my left and managed to push it round the post.”
Piggott said he “enjoyed” the game. “We did get a corner when we got it to the right end of the field. It was nice to have a shot on target. Some of the lads’ heads did begin to drop but I tried to keep their heads up and told them to keep going.”
The players may have been saving themselves for the big one – Widnes FC at home on Wednesday. “The league is more important than a friendly. The Russians were well-organised and fit, the best of the best in their age group. It was a great experience and we can take lots of positives.”
Cheadle have previously given Dinamo Bucharest a game, losing that encounter by just 5-0. “If we had a return fixture I think we’d do a lot better if we had our full first team out. We are more organised and drilled.”
After the final whistle, some Cheadle players went for a drink with their opponents, others quickly slunk off home - a fearful prospect for their WAGs.
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Piggott promises a better showing on Wednesday. “Our new fans will see we try to play nice, entertaining football. We’re not a long-ball team. Terry (the gaffer)wants us to play to strict principles. We’re a club on the way up.” He added: “It would be nice to keep a clean sheet for a change.”
Karl Florczak, Cheadle’s website and social media manager, published a report of the weekend’s big game. “Cheadle Town’s decent league form continued with this 4-3 win over Litherland REMYCA,” he wrote. “What a shame that this victory will ultimately be overshadowed by what happened on Sunday in what was - or should have been - an innocuous friendly match.”