End of Season Review/Next Season’s plans

End of Season Review/Next Season’s plans

I’ve spoken about writing one of these before, in fact I’ve meant to write one at the end of each season, but I’ve never gotten around to it. So here it is the first End of Season review on this blog, the first in three seasons.

But this isn’t going to be a blog about my highlights, as I’m currently struggling to think of any. This season has been a difficult one, one where my love of football has been seriously tested, it started normally with me attending games, but I found that I was struggling for the motivation, both to actually attend the games and to write the blogs. The passion wasn’t there and in all fairness I couldn’t be bothered to leave the house on some Saturdays. In November I found the reason for this, as I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and the depression robbed me of my enthusiasm for groundhopping, with the anxiety making me worry about silly little things, like; where would I park? Would the person on the turnstiles care if I paid with a £20? Would I find a place to stand? Etc, so I found it easier to avoid these thoughts by not going, which was stupid of me, but anxiety takes control.

I’ve not done the amount of games that I wanted to, I wanted this to be a season where I went to a game every Saturday, however my mental health isn’t the only thing that stopped me, as work, money and illnesses also had a negative effect on the season.

There have been some good moments this season, I’ve been to a number of games with my Uncle Ed, and I’m already talking to him about doing more next season. I’ve also seen Shrewsbury Town at Wembley twice, and have been able to spend time with my parents whilst watching the team that we love, sure the results at Wembley didn’t go our way, but we just need to use those results as motivation.

So what about next season? Well I can safely say that there will be a rise in the number of blogs on this page, as I’ve bought a Chorley FC season ticket and intend to blog about all of the home matches that I get to, whilst I may be able to do every Saturday, I’ll have to see about any Tuesday games. Some may be wondering why I’ve bought a Chorley season ticket, and the answer is simple. If I have the ticket, I have to go to the game, no excuses. Also I’ve missed the routine of going to watch a team on a regular basis. Whilst I was at University I had a Shrewsbury Town season ticket, and I attended every game, which made me feel more connected with the team.

On the weekends where Chorley are away, I may follow them to wherever they are playing or I may groundhop elsewhere. With going to Chorley on a regular basis I am hoping to save money, as I won’t need to pay to get in, I also live five minutes away from Victory Park so I’ll be saving money on petrol, as I’ll be able to walk to the games. So that means I may be able to groundhop further afield, my Uncle and I have already spoken about Scotland, but I also want to explore the North Wales area, and the Midlands, basically I want to go as far as I can.

I also want to start writing more, more blogs, more opinion pieces, more stories so look out for that.

Here’s to the 2018/2019 season, I hope that you are a lot better than the 2017/2018 season.

Oh and it’s time for more men to start talking about mental health issues, you are important and your mental health is important. There are people out their that will listen and it takes a brave person to admit when they need help.

You aren’t weak, and you aren’t alone.

Advertisements

League One Play-Off Final

Rotherham United vs Shrewsbury Town, League One Play-Off Final, Wembley, 27/5/18

With what has happened recently I have taken a while to calm down enough to write this blog, but whilst I’ve calmed down a little, I’m still pretty annoyed by what has occurred. So let me get this off my chest now; Paul Hurst you could have built a legacy however your actions recently have tarnished any good memories I had of you, and honestly I hope your decision backfires. Hurst goes on about being an “ambitious manager” but I think we may have different views on ambition. In my view, ambition is where you take the time to build something, to raise a club to a level that they have never been before. Ambition would be taken a team like Chorley to the Premier League, and yes that could be achievable with the right manager. Sir Alex Ferguson had ambition as he re-built United during the 80s and 90s before taking them to heights never seen before. Paul Hurst is a mercenary, hopping from job to job and he’ll just become another regular on the managerial merry-go-round, at Shrewsbury Town he had the support of the fans and the board to achieve, however he failed to take full advantage of that. Apparently he had known about the Ipswich job for a while, and I can’t help but think that he didn’t try his best at Wembley as he knew he was leaving. Finding out that his backroom staff had to find out that he was leaving on Twitter was just the icing on a very bad cake. But the cherry on top of that horribly burnt cake is that he was supposedly in the Rotherham dressing room before the game…

Anyway, rant aside (although not completely finished) I was slightly optimistic going into this game, Salop had performed well in the Play-Off Semi-Finals, and we had played well against Rotherham in the league, winning once and losing once. We travelled down from Chorley on the Saturday, and on the night before the game I took my wife to Uxbridge to watch Deadpool 2, however I hadn’t realised that Aston Villa fans were going to be in Uxbridge, and I don’t think my Shrewsbury Town shirt went down too well.

On the morning of the match I had planned to go down to the driving range at Stockley Park Golf Course with my dad, however the weather had put an end to that idea as we had had heavy rain the night before. However on the Sunday the sun was shining and the temperature was high. For some reason one of my dad’s work colleagues had decided that they wanted to come to the football with us, I’m not sure why as Shrewsbury Town are terrible at Wembley, and they picked us up from Yiewsley before taking us up to Uxbridge, where we had a quick couple of drinks before jumping on the Tube to Wembley Park. On the Tube we met a Fulham fan who predicted we would do well as we were supposedly in the same area of the ground that they had been in.

Wembley Park was full of both sets of fans, and there was a good atmosphere between the two. I bought my usual commemorative flag and scarf for the low, low price of £20. Worse still the programmes were £10 each, oh what a cheap day out Wembley is. On the walk up Wembley Way I heard a number of fans talking about the sale of Wembley, and how it would be good to see the Play-Offs played at different venues. With the attendance for this game predicted to be around 30,000, I couldn’t help but agree that it would have been better to have played this game at somewhere like Villa Park or Elland Road as at least the ground would have looked full which would have been better for the atmosphere. Talking of the atmosphere, the Salop fans were in fine voice walking up Wembley Way, and although the FA had banned confetti and balloons there were plenty in the Shrewsbury Town end, and if the players had matched the level of effort that the fans had put in, the result would have been very different.

This wasn’t to be the first time that I was to watch a match between Rotherham and Shrewsbury at Wembley, as I had been at the Old Wembley in 1996 when the two sides had met in the final of the Auto Windscreens Trophy, which is now the Checkatrade Trophy (which we lost this season). Rotherham began life in 1870 as Thornhill Football Club, but in 1905 they changed their name to Rotherham County as they were the prominent club in the town. They regularly competed against Rotherham Town in the Midland League, until County became members of the Second Division of the Football League in 1919, Town failed to be elected to the Third Division North in 1920. County’s fortunes had begun to decline by 1925, and they had to seek re-election to the Third Division. It was clear that having two professional clubs in the town was unsustainable, and in February 1925 the two clubs began to talk about a merger, and in early May Rotherham United was formed after the merger of Town and County. Days later Rotherham United were elected to the Football League. Around 1928 the club adopted their red and white colours, after playing in amber and black, however there were no improvements in the club’s fortunes, and they again had to apply for re-election in 1931. Following the conclusion of the Second World War, things began to look up for the Millers as they won the Football League Third Division North Cup in 1946 and finished as runners-up three times in succession between 1947 and 1949 before becoming champions of Division Three (North) in 1951. Rotherham’s highest ever league position of third in the Football League Second Division occurred in 1955 when only goal average denied them a place in the top flight. Rotherham remained in Division Two until 1968 when they went into a decline which saw them drop to Division Four in 1973. They recovered quickly though and in 1975 they regained their place in Division Three, after finishing in the 3rd promotion spot in Division Four. The Millers proceeded to win the Division Three title in 1981. During the 90s the Millers were promoted between the Football League’s lowest two divisions as they slipped into the Fourth Division in 1991, but bounced back to Division Two (Division Three was renamed for the 1992-93 season due to the launch of the Premier League) as they finished third in the Fourth Division in 1992. They survived in Division Two for five years until 1997 when they were relegated. In 1996 the Millers made their first trip to Wembley beating Salop 2-1 to win the Football League Trophy. The new millennium saw Rotherham finish as runners-up in Division Three, meaning they were promoted to Division Two where they immediately finished as runners-up and won a second successive promotion. United were to remain in Division One for four seasons, before being relegated to the newly named League One in 2005. Rotherham then entered an unfortunate period of financial difficulties as they started the 2006-07 season on -10 points due to the CVA which saved the club from liquidation, the Millers were unable to secure their place in League One however and they were relegated to League Two in 2007. With the club sitting in the automatic promotion places it was revealed in March 2008 that they had again entered administration and would be deducted 10 points. A CVA was required again, and this time resulted in a 17 point deduction. For some daft reason the Millers were forced out of Millmoor (which still stands to this day, unused. What a brilliant decision from the landlords…) and ended up playing at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield. In 2013 the club finished second in League Two and were promoted back to League One, where they reached the Play-Offs, beating Leyton Orient to reach the Championship, however the Millers were to be relegated in 2017.

As I normally say, if you want to read the history of Shrewsbury Town then have a look through my blogs as I’ve written about them before, and don’t fancy repeating myself. This season has been one of our greatest in our history, as we finished the season in third place behind Blackburn and Wigan. The play-offs saw us take on Charlton and we won both of the Semi-Final legs 1-0, no drama. Rotherham had to face Scunthorpe United, and after a 2-2 draw in the first leg, Rotherham rose to the occasion and won the second leg 2-0.

So let’s talk about the match…

With the sun high in the sky, and the temperature rising it seemed that we struggled to deal with the conditions as one or two of our players looked well off of the pace, none more so than the normally reliable Omar Beckles. I’m not sure what was going through his head when he decided to give Richard Woods an aggressive hug in the 9th minute to concede a penalty. I must admit that I didn’t watch the penalty, I couldn’t. However Dean Henderson stepped up and managed to keep the penalty out.

But Omar’s day was to get much worse as in the 32nd minute he managed to lose track of Richard Wood, seriously if you had put Richard Wood in an empty room wearing luminous clothing and asked Omar to find him he still wouldn’t have. Wood made no mistake with the opportunity and headed past Henderson to put the Millers into the lead.

It was turning out like Lincoln City all over again, our opposition had done their homework on us, and we had no Plan B, we also had no Plan C through to Z. We did try to respond but as always there was no-one in the box to capitalise on any crosses, as we play with one striker and sit deep.

Half Time: Rotherham United 1-0 Shrewsbury Town (Richard Wood 32)

At half-time I did attempt to go and get a drink, but as this is Wembley they were hopefully unprepared for even the slightest hint of a crowd, I mean I’d hate to see what they are like when the place is sold-out! So I headed back to my seat, and began to pray that we would at least put a little effort in.

It has to be said that we started the Second Half well, as we put Rotherham under pressure. Bryn Morris made his way off of the pitch in the 56th minute to be replaced by Stefan Payne, meaning that we were now playing with a second striker!

Two minutes after the change we scored. Yes, Shrewsbury Town scored at Wembley, and I can proudly say that this is the third goal that I have seen Shrewsbury score at Wembley, in fact I’ve seen all of the goals that Shrewsbury have scored at Wembley, all three of them! In a move straight off of the training ground, Shaun Whalley played a low free-kick into Mat Sadler, who surged into the box before playing the ball back for Alex Rodman who smashed home.

Now if there was a time to take the initiative and attack this would have been it, but we reverted to being toothless in the box. Carlton Morris was forced off in the 66th minute due to injury and Lenell John-Lewis replaced him. Just seven minutes later, Hurst used his final sub with Joe Riley replacing James Bolton.

Rotherham made their first change in the 71st minute, with David Ball making way for Caolan Lavery. Their second change came in the 75th minute as Jon Taylor, who used to play for Salop, made way for Ryan Williams.

Rotherham in all fairness could have won the game in normal time, as time and time again they got in behind our visibly tired defence however we rode our luck and the score remained level, sending the game to extra time.

End of 90 minutes: Rotherham United 1-1 Shrewsbury Town (Wood 32- Rodman 58)

Rotherham continued from where they had left off, as they dominated the first half of extra time, there seemed to only be one team that understood what was at stake and unfortunately they were all wearing red.

In the 103rd minute Richard Wood got the deciding goal, as he found himself again in acres of space at a set-piece and his shot rebounded off of the post and into the back of the net.

There’s not really much left to write, as Rotherham closed up shop and kept the ball well. Eventually the ref bought the game to it’s conclusion and we lost. Five times we’ve been at Wembley and five times we’ve lost.

Final Score: Rotherham United 2-1 Shrewsbury Town (Wood 32, 103- Rodman 58)

My parents decided to remain in the ground to watch Rotherham pick up their trophy, however I couldn’t bear to spend a second longer in a ground where we have a 0% win rate. This may come across as me being a sore loser, but try putting yourself in my shoes. Everytime we get to Wembley I get excited, I start to think “This’ll be our time”, but it never is. Every trip to Wembley ends in disappointment, and this one hurt the most.

Paul Hurst has now left us for Ipswich, and we’ve hired John Askey. The safe-standing has been installed at the Meadow and hopefully we’ll keep a good portion of the squad from this season. I’m not expecting us to win the league next year, but it would be good to see the manager building for the future.

Good luck to Rotherham in the Championship, you played the better at Wembley and you fully deserved it. Hopefully you don’t come back down again!

Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!

Attendance: 26,218

Cost: Too much.

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157669678526118

Football League Trophy Final

Lincoln City vs Shrewsbury Town, Football League Trophy (Ridiculous Sponsorship name Trophy), Wembley, 8/4/18

There’s something about a cup final at Wembley that will always bring out the child in every football supporter, especially when your team is involved. It doesn’t matter what competition, when your team gets to Wembley it’s special, or at least it used to be. The Football League Trophy has seen a number of sponsors, and the names seem to be getting more and more ridiculous, but what is ridiculous is the idea that entering Under 21 teams into the competition would help, luckily an Under 21 team has not yet made it to the final and hopefully they never will. If this had been Chelsea Under 21s vs Shrewsbury Town, I would have still gone but it wouldn’t have mattered. Before the game, my dad pointed out that Real Madrid and Barcelona have “B” teams in the Spanish football pyramid, but that wouldn’t work over here. The Spanish league system is regionalised underneath the Second Division, and that is why Castilla (Real’s “B” team) etc are able to play, as the league requires these teams to make up the numbers. If you entered Chelsea Under 21s in League Two then it would make a mockery of the English football pyramid. We don’t need “B” teams in our league system, we need someone in charge to stand up and enforce a rule which states that in every matchday squad there needs to be at least three English (or Welsh for Swansea) academy graduates to ensure that players that are eligible for our national team are given the chance to play!

Anyway, as I said at the start of the blog a Wembley cup final does get people excited, as shown by my dad who finished an eight hour shift at around 6am, got into bed and then got back up after four hours of sleep, although I’m not sure if he actually slept in that time, as he was like a child on Christmas Morning. We left our house in Yiewsley and made our way to the train station where we caught a train into Ealing Broadway. On the train there were a few Lincoln City shirts to remind us that we were going to be outnumbered by the large amount of Imps that would be making the journey. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed by the fact that we only took around 11,000 fans when compared to the 26,000 Imps, or should I be wondering where the extra 5,000 had come from, as our normal home gates stand at around 6,000 and our away fans normally only number 1,000 odd. Then again this is Wembley, we may not have the biggest travelling support, but does that matter? When we want to make noise, we can make noise although this leads me onto something else. For weeks before the game, it was clear for everyone to see that blocks 111 & 112 were being designated as the “singing” blocks, as those that like to sing wanted to congregate together, unfortunately the happy-clapping, day-trippers managed to get in the way of this, as they bought tickets in these blocks and then got upset with anyone that stood up and attempted to make some noise. Since moving from the Gay Meadow the supporters at Shrewsbury have become more and more gentrified, and some of them act like they are at the theatre. Now if you pay your money then you can do what you want, but do not moan at those that are trying to get some atmosphere going, if you want to sit quietly and gently applaud the action then there were plenty of other places to sit.

From Ealing Broadway we jumped on the Central Line to Holborn, as my parents had been raving on about the Princess Louise, and I can see why. Entering the Princess Louise is like stepping back in time, as sitting in the bar I expected the Peaky Blinders to walk in. I’m not over-exaggerating when I say that the Princess Louise is my favourite pub in London, and in fact it may be one of my favourites in the UK, so I would definitely recommend that you visit!

With it getting closer and closer to kick off, we left the Princess Louise and headed back to the Underground, on the Jubilee Line we met a fellow Salopian and travelled to the game with him. On Wembley Walk I decided to keep up the tradition of buying a flag and scarf from each time I have seen Shrewsbury at Wembley, and paid £20 for the two. I’ve seen Salop at Wembley three times previously, but have never seen them win. My first Shrewsbury game that I can remember was at the Old Wembley as we lost in the AutoWindscreens Trophy (The Football League Trophy) to Rotherham, and I’ve also seen us lose in the Play-Off finals twice, once to Bristol Rovers and once to Gillingham. The concourses were filled with Salopians, and we headed to the Real Ale stand, where my dad paid £4.95 each for three pints of Ale. The Ale was good but not £4.95 good, but then again the programmes were £7 each! Wembley is not a cheap day out for anyone, unless you’ve got deep pockets, but for the common working man this is the kind of event that you save up for. Now I’m an Old-School football fan, I enjoy standing on terraces in the rain, with a cup of tea, surrounded by blokes all of who are chanting, I still remember peeing into a trough at the old Gay Meadow, but as I’ve said football is getting more and more gentrified, and the whole theatre vibe was exemplified as I noticed there was a popcorn stall. A POPCORN STALL. A POPCORN STALL AT THE HOME OF FOOTBALL. Part of me died inside when I noticed the Krispy Kreme Donut stand…

Sure I’m getting old, but really? I can understand a popcorn stall in the family section, where kids are more likely to be, but in the general concourse? No, just give us hot drinks, beer and pies. But then again looking at the other food options I could see that they had also been “improved”, as there were Fish and Chips on sale. Just give me a burger that has been held at a temperature similar to the inside of a nuclear reactor. (With every word that I write I am becoming more and more convinced that Non-League football is the sole remaining part of the “Beautiful Game”. I don’t want the hooliganism back, I don’t want to be treated like an animal on the terraces, I just want to be able to afford to support the team I love, stop pricing fans out of football.)

The EFL Trophy began in the 1983/84 season as the Associate Member’s Cup, but in 1992, after the lower-division clubs became full members of the Football League, it was renamed the Football League Trophy, although this name is normally replaced by whatever sponsor has thrown the biggest amount of money at the EFL. Between 2000 to 2006 the competition was also open to a number of Football Conference sides, and in 2003/04 Shrewsbury Town were one of the Conference sides that were allowed to compete. The trophy, as I have mentioned, has gone by a few different sponsorship names, starting with Freight Rover, followed by Sherpa Van, Leyland DAF, Autoglass, Auto Windscreens, LDV Vans, Johnstone’s Paint and finally Checkatrade. Bristol City are the most successful team in the competition having won the trophy one three occasions in 1986, 2003 and 2015. Carlisle United are the second most successful, as they have won it twice and have been runners up four times. Shrewsbury have never won the competition and as I have said we were runners-up in 1996.

Lincoln City were formed in 1884, however my usual history source Wikipedia does not have much information before 1980. In 1982 and 1983 the club narrowly missed out on promotion to the Second Division. Lincoln were to be part of history in 1985, as they were Bradford City’s opponents on the day of the Bradford City fire, and two Lincoln fans lost their lives alongside fifty-four other spectators. In memorial to Bill Stacey and Jim West, who sadly lost their lives, the club has named a stand the Stacey West stand after the pair. Lincoln were relegated on the last day of the following season and the year after that they became the first team to suffer automatic relegation from the Football League, this marked the fourth time the club had been demoted from the Football League, and the dramatic decline has been linked to the trauma arising from the disaster in 1985. Lincoln regained their place in the League at the first time of asking, as they finished as champions in their first season in the Conference. Lincoln entered administration at the end of the 2001/02 season with the financial crisis seeing the club bereft of players. Critics expected Lincoln to be relegated however Keith Alexander performed miracles, and the club reached the Play-Off Final which they lost 5-2 to Bournemouth. In 2003/04, again the critics expected Lincoln to struggle, but Alexander proved them wrong, however he did suffer a cerebral aneurysm halfway through the season, but luckily made a full recovery. Lincoln again reached the play-off finals in 2005, but were beaten 2-0 by Southend. Keith Alexander left in May 2006, with John Schofield taking the reigns, the club again reached the play-offs but lost to Bristol Rovers in the semi-finals, meaning that their failure to succeed in five successive play-off competitions is now a record for any club. (Losing three times previously at Wembley doesn’t look too bad for Shrewsbury!) Chris Sutton took the management role in 2009, following Schofield’s departure in 2007 with Peter Jackson taking the reigns between November 2007 and September 2009. Sutton resigned in September 2010 citing personal reasons, however he later revealed that it was due to disagreements over spending with the board that had seen him leave. Steve Tilson took over in October 2010, but Lincoln City were relegated on the last day of the 2010/11 season. Tilson released all but three members of the squad in preparation for their first season in the Conference, however Tilson departed in October 2011 due to poor results on the field. It would take until the 2016/17 season for the Imps to regain their place in the league, thanks to the genius of the Cowley Brothers. Lincoln would also go on a brilliant run in the FA Cup during the 2016/17 season with them reaching the Quarter Finals, before being beaten by Arsenal.

I’ve covered the history of Shrewsbury Town before, so I’m going to skip doing that again and instead look at the routes the two teams took to the final. Lincoln City started off by beating Mansfield, Everton U21s, Notts County, Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and Peterborough United. In the Semi Finals Lincoln City took on Chelsea U21s, and after extra time they booked their place at Wembley. Shrewsbury beat Coventry City, West Brom U21s in the group stage but lost to Walsall, however with the points picked up during the group stage we progressed on to beat Port Vale, Blackpool (4-2 on penalties) and Oldham, before facing Yeovil Town in the Semi Finals, a 1-0 win was enough for us to get to Wembley.

Wembley Stadium was re-opened in 2007, with Shrewsbury Town becoming the first Football League team to score at the new Wembley thanks to Stewart Drummond, we also became the first Football League team to have a player sent off, thanks to Marc Tierney. Obviously Wembley does not need a long write up about the history as it’s hard not to know the history of Wembley. The new stadium has a capacity of 90,000 and in terms of facilities is light years ahead of the Old Wembley. Whilst the Old Wembley held all the memories it was clear that a new ground was needed, and I can’t find much to fault about Wembley, apart from the prices and anything else I’ve ranted about. The views are good in all parts of the stadium, and that’s all that matters.

Let’s get down to the football, Shrewsbury didn’t get started. Its as simple as that, none of the players turned up, apart from Jon Nolan. This was one of the most abject performances I have ever seen and I had a season ticket during the final season of Paul Simpson’s reign. I’ve seen Shrewsbury fans blaming the poor refereeing, and whilst the referee was dire, we were just as bad if not worse.

The worst refereeing decision came in the 10th minute, as Matt Rhead forgot that he was playing football and instead decided to audition for the next WrestleMania by smashing Dean Henderson with his elbow. The referee decided that this warranted a yellow, despite the fact that Deano clearly suffered after this challenge, although the ref was probably afraid that he would be next.

Six minutes after the referee bottling a major decision, Lincoln scored. Henderson could only parry a corner, and Toto had decided to allow his man far too much time, and Elliot Whitehouse reacted quickest to put the ball into the back of the net, although with the time and space that he had he could have casually strolled off, bought a cup of tea, drank the cup of tea, visited the toilet, done his tax returns and cured cancer before putting the ball into the net.

In the 32nd minute, the referee again proved that he was a worthless, waste of space, as Luke Waterfall decided to punch the ball out of play following a shot from James Bolton. Then again if we had been awarded the penalty, we probably would have missed it.

Half Time: Lincoln City 1-0 Shrewsbury Town (Whitehouse 16)

At half time, I decided to go to the toilet, and thank you to the helpful steward who pointed out the empty toilet by the entrance, as if he hadn’t I probably would have missed the start of the second half, due to the queue for the other toilet. I saw a bit of the FIFA 18 game, and hoped that the final result of that match would be the final result of this match. (We won 2-1 at FIFA 18)

We started the second half well, as we launched attack after attack however we couldn’t find a way through the resolute Lincoln defence. Things weren’t helped by the fact that Carlton Morris had decided to leave his studs at home, and looked like a new-born giraffe on ice, blindfolded, with it’s legs tied together. He spent more time on his back than a prostitute, and he contributed less than a hooker would have.

Lincoln made their first change of the game in the 63rd minute as Matt Rhead left the field, probably because someone from the WWE had just called, and he was replaced by Ollie Palmer. Danny Rowe was replaced in the 64th minute by Harry Anderson.

Amazingly Paul Hurst made a change before the 70th minute, as he switched the horribly ineffective Bryn Morris with Alex Rodman in the 67th minute. I honestly hadn’t noticed that Morris was on the pitch. Nathan Thomas left the field in the 75th minute for Stefan Payne, and I can’t understand why, as Thomas had played fair better than Morris. In my opinion Morris should have been taken off, although with his lack of studs he probably would have taken a while to slip and slide off of the field.

With the game nearing its conclusion we began to press forward, however we seemed to be afraid of the goal, instead choosing to fire either side of the posts or just firing the ball over the crossbar.

In a move which stunk of desperation, Shaun Whalley was replaced by Arthur Gnahoua in the 86th minute, although looking at our bench there were no other options. I’m not being harsh on Arthur but he still has a lot to learn about football at this level, and I think we would have been better putting Lennell John-Lewis on.

The referee did make one correct decision as he indicated five minutes of added on time, two and a half minutes for the subs, and two and a half minutes for the time-wasting. (Don’t try and deny it, Lincoln started time-wasting in the 17th minute following the goal. Annoyingly it was effective.) However the referee could have signalled for twenty-four hours of added on time and we still wouldn’t have scored.

Lincoln made their final change in the 95th minute as Matt Green was replaced by Sean Long.

Final Score: Lincoln City 1-0 Shrewsbury Town (Whitehouse 16)

At the final whistle we made our way out of the ground as quickly as possible. One thing that really angered me was that the only Town player that made an effort to come over to the fans was Deano, our on-loan keeper, no-one else made the effort before I left. Now a lot has been made online about the Salop fans leaving before the trophy presentation, but try losing four times at Wembley, honestly you get sick of watching the other team picking up the trophy.

We made our way back to Paddington, where we drowned our sorrows in the Mad Bishop and Bear before catching the train home. We met a number of Lincoln fans who were all very pleasant, and deserved to be happy.

Lincoln out-played us, plain and simply, they deserved to win. Sure Matt Rhead should have been sent off, sure we should have had a penalty, but we were that bad I think Lincoln would have won this even if the referee had gotten everything correct. The Imps were up for this game, and showed it, whilst we showed nothing.

But there has also been talk online from Salop fans about not going to Wembley if we get there in the play-offs, and to them I would just like to say shut up. If Shrewsbury get to Wembley in the play-offs, then I’ll be there, despite the fact that I have never seen us win at Wembley. This is Shrewsbury Town and I’ll follow them through thick and thin, despite being unable to afford to get to as many games as I want to.

Promotion is still achievable, COME ON YOU SHREWS! #LoveThisTeam

Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!

Attendance: 41,261

Cost: Too much.

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157689653014500

Oxford City

Oxford City vs Eastbourne Borough, National League South, Marsh Lane, 7/4/18

With Shrewsbury Town playing in the Checkatrade Trophy Final on the Sunday, I had decided to travel down to my parents’ house in London the day before, meaning that I would be able to enjoy the pre-game build up a little more. With my drive taking me down the M40, I put out an appeal on Facebook to fellow groundhoppers asking them for recommendations near to the M40, and there were a few that stood out, but Oxford City was the only real option for me, as I have been to a number of the grounds around the M40 before, and Oxford City were one of the only teams that I hadn’t visited previously.

Fortunately the M6 and M40 behaved themselves, and I found myself pulling up outside Marsh Lane at around 2.30pm. I decided to park on the car-park near the entrance and made the walk down the road to the turnstiles. There is a car-park closer to the turnstiles, but I saw a load of empty spaces and took one. At the turnstiles I paid £12 for entry and a further £2.50 for a programme. As usual I took a walk around the ground before deciding on where to stand for the first half. Following my lap of the ground I headed to the refreshment hut behind the goal and paid £1.20 for a can of Pepsi Max, I was rather glad to see that there was a metal grid protecting the refreshment hut, as it was clear to see why the subs were on the bench and not starting the game, as either they were purposefully trying to miss the target or they just couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo.

Marsh Lane is a tidy little facility, with plenty of cover for supporters. The turnstiles bring you out behind the goal, with the refreshment hut and social club housed in a building to your left, this section of the ground is the only one without any cover and as it was slightly wet a lot of people elected to get under cover. On the touchline to the left of the turnstiles, stands a small covered seater stand, which offers good views of the pitch, although there is a single floodlight which does block a portion of the pitch if you sit in the wrong place. Next to this stand is a covered terrace which straddles the halfway line, and in front of the terrace are the dugouts. Behind the far goal is another covered terrace where the Eastbourne fans gathered for the first half. Along the final touchline stands a small covered seater stand which stretches for about 3/5ths of the touchline before giving way to the changing rooms, it’s just a shame that this stand has a number of supporting pillars which can obstruct your view. The pitch at Marsh Lane is artificial and by the looks of it, there are a number of teams which use the facilities here, including Oxford United Ladies.

Oxford City played their first match in December 1883, and soon became the leading club in Oxfordshire, as they won the FA Amateur Cup in 1906, and joined the Isthmian League in the following year. City’s days as the largest club in Oxfordshire were soon to end as they fell behind Headington United, and after that the club turned professional in 1949. In 1979, City became a limited company in an attempt to return the club to success, and Bobby Moore was appointed manager with former West Ham team-mate Harry Redknapp as his assistant. In 1988 the club reached its lowest point as they were evicted from their White House Ground, and were forced to resign from the Isthmian League. It took until 1990 for the club to reform and they joined the South Midlands League Division One, winning promotion in their first season. In 1993 they returned to the Isthmian League, also in this year they moved to Marsh lane. Oxford City were to gain promotion to the Conference North in 2012, as they finished second in the Southern League Premier Division, beating AFC Totton to gain promotion. In their first season in the Conference North they finished in tenth place, however the next season they were saved from relegation due to Vauxhall Motors resigning from the league, City were docked three points for fielding an ineligible player which caused them to fall into the relegation zone. For the 2015-2016 season they moved to the Conference South, which is one of the curses of being a team in the “middle” of the country.

Eastbourne Borough were formed in 1964, as Langney FC, naming themselves after the Langney district of Eastbourne, where the club plays its home games. The club started when a group of friends, who had become too old to play for the Langney and Friday Street Youth Team, decided to form their own team so that they could continue to play football. Langney joined the Eastbourne & District Football League, competing in Division Two. Oddly the team only affiliated with the Sussex FA in the summer of 1965, which marks its first official season. In 1968 there was a change of name to Langney Sports FC when the club affiliated to the Langney Community Association. At the end of the 1974 season, the club won promotion to the Premier Division of the Eastbourne & Hastings League. In 1983 the club were elected as founding members of Division Three of the Sussex County League, and relocated from the playing fields at Princes Park to their current ground at Priory Lane, in the heart of the residential area of Langney. The 1986/87 season saw them achieve a treble by claiming the Third Division title, the League Cup and the Eastbourne Challenge Cup, this was followed by a second successive promotion in the next season to Division One. The millennium saw the club win the Sussex County League, and they were promoted to the Eastern Division of the Southern League. After their first season in the Southern Football League Eastern Division, the club announced that they were to be renamed Eastbourne Borough to reflect the town the team played in. In their third season in the Southern Football League Eastern Division they finished second in the league, missing out on the title on goal difference, however second was enough to see them promoted to the Southern League Premier Division. Though they only finished eleventh in their first season, they qualified to be one of the founder members of the Conference South for the 2004/05 season. Eastbourne earned promotion to the Conference National in 2008, as they beat Hampton & Richmond Borough in the Conference South Play-off final. Borough remained in the Conference National until 2011, and have played in the Conference South ever since.

With both clubs sitting near the relegation zone, I wasn’t expecting the game to be a classic. Sergio Torres started the game for Eastbourne Borough, and after reading his autobiography I was interested in seeing him play.

Both sides had good chances to get themselves into the lead, however the final touch was missing, and both keepers had to be alert to keep the score tied. During the first half I don’t think that the Eastbourne fans paused for breath, as they attempted to get a bit of an atmosphere started.

During the first half, I was intrigued to see someone flying a drone around the ground, and I can only hope that he was capturing footage of the game, as the angles he would have got will make for interesting viewing.

Half Time: Oxford City 0-0 Eastbourne Borough

At half time I walked around to the club shop and had a look inside. I was hoping to find that the club were selling old match-worn shirts, but unfortunately they were only selling their latest kit, which although it was only £22 I couldn’t justify buying. It’s a shame that more clubs don’t sell their old kits, as what do clubs do with them once they are no longer in use? Surely this is a revenue stream which more clubs need to look into.

Oxford City started the second half well, and were forced into a change in the 51st minute, as Frankie Musonda had to leave the field and was replaced by Connor Stevens. Eastbourne made a change in the 47th minute with Harry Ransom leaving the field to be replaced by Ian Simpemba.

Oxford forced their way into the lead in the 53rd minute, as the ball was played low and hard across the face of goal, and unfortunately for Borough their defender Matthew Pickering got the last touch on the ball to send it past Mark Smith in the Borough goal.

City doubled their lead in the 58th minute from the penalty spot. From what I saw, the penalty was dubious, as to me it looked like the Oxford player stood on the ball and slipped over, however the ref had seen it differently and had decided that an Eastbourne player had committed a foul. Matt Patterson stepped up and thumped the ball home to double City’s lead.

Borough made their second change in the 63rd minute with Shaun Okoje making way for Jamie Taylor. Borough’s final change came in the 70th minute with Tyler Pearson replacing Gavin McCallum. Oxford made their second change in the 75th minute with Zac McEachran making way for Kavan Cotter.

There was to be a lifeline for Borough in the 86th minute. Emmanuel Odubade must have gotten bored with his team not helping to produce many chances for him, so he made his own, as he skipped into the City area before firing home into the far corner.

However it was to be a case of too little, too late, as City saw the game out well. To help with killing the game off, City made their final change in the 88th minute as Samuel Nombe was replaced by Udoka Godwin-Malife.

Final Score: Oxford City 2-1 Eastbourne Borough (Pickering (OG) 53, Patterson 58 – Odubade 86)

Following the final whistle, I quickly made my way to my car and finished off the final part of my journey down to London. After a slow first half, I was glad to have seen the game improve in the second half. Both sides played well, and ultimately Oxford took their chances. It was a shame for the Borough support as they were fantastic throughout the game.

A win for Oxford sees them sit in 17th place in the league, just two points behind 16th place Eastbourne Borough. Oxford have a four point cushion between them and Concord Rangers who sit in 18th, and with a twelve point cushion between Oxford and 20th placed Poole Town, I feel it would be safe to say that Oxford City will be playing National League South football next season, unless they hit a terrible vein of form.

Eastbourne, as I have mentioned, sit in 16th place on 46 points, with a fourteen point cushion between them and the relegation zone it would be difficult to see Borough being relegated. A defeat for them today was unfortunate but they played well.

Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!

Attendance: 221

Cost: £15.70

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157692253471822

Rochdale AFC

Rochdale AFC vs Shrewsbury Town, League One, Spotland, 30/3/2018

For some reason, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that I would be watching football on a Friday, and spent most of my morning convinced that it was in fact Saturday. The Easter Weekend, obviously means that the majority of football in the country is played on the Friday and Monday, and luckily Shrewsbury had got a fixture against a side fairly locally to me, it could have been worse I could have been a Tranmere Rovers fan, as they travelled down to Dover with no warning of a pitch inspection, and unfortunately their game was called off due to a “waterlogged pitch” despite the fact that many Tranmere fans in Dover were reporting no rain in the area.

Before the game I met my parents in Chorley for breakfast, and confused them with the Wetherspoons App which allows you to order and pay from your phone without the need to speak to a human. My parents had made the rather sensible decision to book a hotel for the night before the game, which meant that they weren’t travelling up on the day of the game. Following breakfast and a walk around town, we made our way to Rochdale, luckily we were made aware of a traffic accident before we met the back of the queue, and found a diversion with the help of the sat-nav. However getting stuck in traffic before a game at Spotland would have been nothing new for me, as we arrived late the last time I saw Salop play Rochdale, which was the 7-1 win back in February 2001, in fact I distinctly remember Lennie the Lion’s human form coming up to the back of the stand to hand me the sweets I missed out on!

I don’t feel that Spotland has changed that much from the last time I visited, and I appreciated that as Spotland is a distinctively classic football ground, with three seated stands and a terrace behind the goal. Away fans are housed along one of the touchlines, in a fairly large stand which led to a good atmosphere from ourselves. The away stand does also provide a very good view of the action, and I would encourage anyone that goes to stand at the back, as the view is great! I’m hoping that Rochdale will remain at Spotland for as long as possible, as it really is a good ground! Before the game we popped into the social club next door, and watched part of the Oxford vs Scunthorpe game, and I just can’t help but to wonder why Shrewsbury don’t have a social club like Rochdale’s, we had the land until the powers that be decided to allow a Lidl to be built. Oh and no the PowerLeague bar does not count, it’s far too small.

Rochdale were formed in 1907, and after the First World War they applied to join the newly expanded Football League however they were unsuccessful. In 1921 that changed and Rochdale joined the new Third Division North, and played their first home game against Accrington Stanley (“Who are they?”), winning 6-3. Rochdale went on to finish bottom of the league and had to reapply for membership. Dale had to wait for a while for their first promotion, but it came in 1969, as Len Richley continued from where Bob Stokoe had left off. Despite being top of the Third Division at Christmas, their form declined rapidly, leading them to dismiss Richley. Dick Connor took over and the club finished the 1970 season in 9th place. For the next three seasons Dale hovered around the relegation zone, which was deemed unacceptable by the board, so Connor was replaced by Walter Joyce for the 1973-1974 season, this move backfired and Dale were relegated with only two wins out of forty-six games. In 1978 the club finished bottom of the league, however they were successful in their re-election bid, and instead it was Southport who lost their place in the league to Wigan. In 1980, the Dale finished bottom again, and were only re-elected by one vote over Altrincham. In 1998 Steve Parkin took over, and the club’s fortunes improved significantly with the emergence of players such as Gary Jones, Clive Platt, Grant Holt and Kevin Townson. In November 2001, Parkin left for Barnsley, John Hollins took his place and the club finished the season in 5th, however they lost in the play-off semi-finals to Rushden & Diamonds. A managerial merry-go-round was to ensue with Paul Simpson taking over from Hollins in 2002, and then Alan Buckley was appointed, and sacked, in 2003. Parkin then returned until he was sacked in December 2006, Keith Hill took the reigns, and led Dale to the play off finals in 2008, however they lost in the final to Stockport County, 3-2. Rochdale ended their forty-one year wait for promotion in 2010, as they beat Northampton Town to secure the third automatic promotion spot. Keith Hill left in 2011 for Barnsley, Steve Eyre took over but his spell did not last for long as he was sacked after twenty-seven games, with the club only picking up four wins in this time. John Coleman arrived in January 2012, however the club were relegated on the 21st of April 2012 from League One after two years in the league. Coleman was to survive until January 2013, when Keith Hill returned to the club. On the 26th April 2014, just a little over two years from when they were relegated from League One, the club were promoted back to League One, where they have remained since.

As always, this is the part where I state that as I have already covered Shrewsbury’s history before I won’t be doing it again here, have a look through the rest of the blog posts if you are interested in reading about Shrewsbury Town’s history, or Google it.

With Town sitting second in the league, and with Rochdale in the relegation zone, I was pretty confident about this match. In the social club I had managed to get a teamsheet, and by the looks of it we had sent out a strongish team, however there were one or two surprise inclusions.

Town started the game well, with Nathan Thomas leaving Rochdale defenders in his wake, as he ran fifty yards to produce a left footed finish past the Dale keeper Josh Lillis. With Town 1-0 up within ten minutes, I was expecting the floodgates to open.

However a quarter of an hour into the game, our centre back Toto Nsiala went down in front of the Shrewsbury fans, and after a fair amount of time on the floor, he was stretchered off with a neck brace, and had to be replaced by Max Lowe, with Omar Beckles moving to centre back. Losing Toto took the wind out of our sails, and we started to look frail defensively.

Due to the injury to Toto there were eleven minutes added on to the first half, with this being extended as Dean Henderson went down following a challenge from Stephen Humphrys, Hendo went down holding his head, however he, rather luckily, was able to continue.

Dale were also forced into a change in the first half as Kgosi Ntlhe was replaced by Brad Inman in the 40th minute.

For some baffling reason, we allowed Oliver Rathbone to take a casual stroll through the centre of the pitch, and with far too much time and space he fired home a right footed effort from twenty-five yards, which eluded Henderson, who didn’t seem to be positioned correctly.

Half Time: Rochdale 1-1 Shrewsbury Town (Rathbone 45+12 – Thomas 8)

During the first half I had gone and gotten a pretty poor Meat & Potato Pie, and had paid £3 for the privilege, so rather than go an explore the concourse at half time I decided to stay in my seat and read through some of the other scores on twitter. At the far end of the pitch there did seem to be a mini-football match going on, but with it being down the other end of the pitch, I couldn’t really see much.

Shrewsbury took to the field a couple of minutes before Rochdale re-emerged, and by the looks of the players Hurst had really geed them up, with Hendo making his way around the team encouraging individuals.

However there wasn’t really to be much of a reaction from Shrewsbury, we seemed pretty flat, and at times we looked lost. Without the influence of Toto, and Ogogo, we seemed leaderless and whilst Mat Sadler was doing his best, it’s hard to just have one leader on the pitch, especially with the younger lads we have. If Toto hadn’t been injured, I think we would have dominated the match, however he suffered a fractured cheekbone, and we struggled.

One criticism that I have of Paul Hurst is that he leaves his substitutions until it is far too late in the game, as shown today, as with about fifteen minutes left, he replaced Luke Hendrie with James Bolton, and Nathan Thomas was replaced by Stefan Payne. Now if he’d made these changes earlier then we may have taken control of the game, but we allowed Rochdale to grow in confidence.

Former Salop loanee, Stephen Humphrys was replaced in the 77th minute by Steve Davies. This change proved to be a great decision, as three minutes later Steve Davies put Rochdale into the lead. Callum Camps swung a free-kick into the box, and we failed to deal with it. Davies produced a beautiful overhead kick which looped over Hendo and into the back of the net. In all fairness if I had been a neutral I think I would have celebrated Davies’ goal, as it was simply stunning, then again aren’t all overhead kick goals? Anyway, Steve Davies that was a wonderful goal, but why did it have to be against us?

With Town now chasing an equaliser, Dean Henderson went up for a corner, in true Jimmy Glass style, however Shaun Whalley’s cross was too deep and beat everyone in the box. Jon Nolan hit the bar in the dying minutes as the ball fell to him twenty yards out, with his volley beating Lillis but hitting the bar.

Now for the incident which has meant that I have had to write this blog two days after the game, and if I’m honest I’m still annoyed. In the last minute, Jon Nolan went down in the box, and the referee awarded a penalty to ourselves. Now earlier in the day I had watched part of the Oxford vs Scunthorpe game, and had seen Oxford awarded a fairly dubious penalty. From where I was stood the Shrewsbury penalty looked to be a stonewall penalty. However the linesman, who was well behind the play, got involved and the referee changed his mind and awarded a corner, as the linesman convinced him that Nolan had dived. Now the reason why I have left it a while before I wrote this, is that I wanted to present a balanced view of the game. Sure the referee probably should have stuck to his decision, but if it were the other way round, if Shrewsbury had been 2-1 up and Rochdale had been awarded the penalty then we wouldn’t have been bothered if the referee had changed his decision, but because it happened to us it annoyed us, as it should. From the resulting corner Rochdale were able to counter, and because Hendo had gone up field, Ian Henderson, Rochdale’s captain, sprinted up the field and put the ball into the back of the net.

Rather unwisely, Rochdale celebrated in front of the away fans, and due to a number of idiots in our ranks there were a number of items thrown onto the pitch. Now I’m not condoning people throwing things onto the pitch, and in all fairness I wouldn’t be upset if the Shrewsbury fans that threw things were banned or at least warned about their behaviour. But why did the Rochdale players think it was a good idea to celebrate in front of the away fans? You’ve just scored what could be a vital goal in your relegation battle, go and celebrate with the home fans. Go and celebrate with the fans that have had to watch the poor performances which have led to you being in the relegation zones. From next season I would love to see players getting sent off for celebrating in front of the away fans, if you want to help to stop crowd trouble, then get the players to use their brains! Oh, and before anyone comes on here and says, “You wouldn’t be saying this if it was a Shrewsbury player that scored.” You are wrong, completely wrong. If a Shrewsbury player celebrated in front of the opposition fans, and caused them to cause a bit of trouble, then I wouldn’t be annoyed at the ref for sending the Salop player off. But then again, people will start talking about “the passion, celebrating should be passionate”, and again I’ll say this, some of the most passionate moments I have seen in football are where the scoring team celebrate with their fans!

Final Score: Rochdale 3-1 Shrewsbury Town (Rathbone 45+12, Davies 80, Henderson 96 – Thomas 8)

Whilst the defeat was frustrating, it isn’t the end of the world. This is Shrewsbury Town, we aren’t use to being at the top of League One, and let’s not forget that we have achieved this with a budget which must be tiny in comparison to some of the other clubs in the league. So if we don’t get automatic promotion, has it been a bad season? No, it hasn’t. If we get into the play-offs and lose, does that mean it has been a bad season? Hell no! This season has been amazing due to the fact that we have overachieved, and at the end of the season promotion would just be the icing on the cake.

Rochdale deserved the win today, and if we’d only lost 2-1 I wouldn’t have been too disappointed as Steve Davies’ goal was superb. Rathbone’s was frustrating as we crumbled defensively. As for the third goal, I think the lead up to that was farcical, and if you ever see the name Richard Clark down as your referee, then prepare for a prime example of how not to referee a game of football. Some may say that this is just me being a poor loser, but don’t come crying to me when Richard Clark screws you over.

Anyway, we’ve got a Wembley trip to look forward to, and there’s also the remainder of the season to get excited about. Remember, one game does not make a season.

Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!

Attendance: 4098 (1281 away, that’s a quarter of the attendance, fairplay to every Salop fan that attended!)

Cost: £20 breakfast, £3 pie. Match ticket provided in exchange for breakfast!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157689333996020

Maine Road

Maine Road vs Burscough, North West Counties Football League Premier Division, Brantingham Road, 24/02/18

Again there’s been a gap between my blogs, and that can only be explained due to a lack of funds, mental health and the weather, although I feel like they’ve been an issue in the past. At least I hadn’t ended up in hospital after watching my side lose 4-0 to Brentford (Yes, the final score was 5-0, but I don’t think my Uncle Ed is aware that Blues conceded a fifth). So I probably should use this part of the blog to wish my Uncle a speedy recovery, and to thank everyone that helped the fool after he had his incident!

I was torn between two games for today, either Maine Road or West Didsbury & Chorlton, so I did the sensible thing and asked my wife a series of quick fire questions which led to her deciding that I would be going to Maine Road. Luckily the journey into Manchester was easy, with minimal traffic, and I pulled up outside Brantingham Road with about fifteen minutes before kick-off. Approaching the turnstiles I committed a cardinal sin as I pulled a £20 note out of my pocket, luckily there was a guy nearby who kindly changed my £20 for two £10s, and, including a programme, I paid £6.50 to get in. The programme itself could probably be used as a doorstop as it contains a large amount of information about both football clubs, the league etc. Although oddly the programme does reveal that one of the Maine Road players is sponsored by the Former Manchester United Players Association.

The reason why I found it odd that a Maine Road player is sponsored by the Former Manchester United Players Association is because of the fact, that as you probably should have gathered from their name, Maine Road are a team set up and run by Manchester City fans. Maine Road began life in 1955, as City Supporters Rusholme, and played friendly matches before joining the Rusholme Sunday League, where they remained until they transferred to the Manchester Amateur Sunday League in 1966. The club also moved their headquarters to the Maine Road Social Club and were renamed Maine Road FC. After they won the Manchester County Sunday Cup and the league title in 1972, the club switched to Saturday football and joined Division Two of the Manchester League. Road won the Division Two title at the first attempt and were promoted to Division One, as well as picking up the Manchester County Amateur Cup. The following season saw them win the Division One title, and they were promoted to the Premier Division. In 1983 the club were Premier Division champions, and they retained the title for the next three seasons, before finishing as runners-up in 1987, after which the club moved to Division Two of the NWCFL. Maine Road’s first season in the NWCFL saw them win the Manchester Premier Cup for a third time. Despite finishing as runners-up in Division Two the club were not promoted as their ground failed to meet the grading regulations. However they won the Division Two title the following season, seeing them earn promotion to Division One. Road were relegated at the end of the 2001-2002 season, they were Division Two runners-up in 2003-2004 and were promoted back to Division One, where they have remained ever since.

I’ve covered Burscough before, and the blog can be found here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/burscough/. Unfortunately Burscough did drop out of the Northern Premier League Division One North, and now find themselves down in the NWCFL, which is quite the drop when you consider that not too long ago they were in the Conference North.

Brantingham Road is a very open ground, with a large amount of empty land around it. Upon walking through the turnstile you emerge behind the goal, with a thin strip of uncovered terracing to your right. Round to the left of the turnstiles are the changing rooms, and the refreshment hut. Along the touchline to the left of the turnstiles is a stretch of uncovered standing, and the dugouts, this hard standing runs to just after the halfway line before a small covered stand takes its place. Behind the far goal is a stretch of uncovered standing, and someone has taken the time to plant a few trees behind the goal, which is probably a good thing as there is a row of houses behind this goal, and I can imagine that they are probably sick of finding footballs in their back garden. Finally on the other touchline is a covered stand, which provides the only seats in the ground, however these seats are benches, but the views are good from these and I spent the majority of the game sat in this stand. Overall Brantingham Road is a nice ground, and it certainly has a lot of room for growth!

Once both teams were ready, the game kicked off under a bright sun. However the wind was still making itself known, and whilst it may have looked warm, it was actually freezing! However instead of being sensible and buying a hot drink from the refreshment hut I decided to buy a can of Diet Coke and a Twix which came to the grand total of £1.80.

It didn’t take long for Burscough to open the scoring, as in the 5th minute Terry Cummings fired home a simple chance. The Maine Road keeper had chosen to punch the ball away following a cross from the left wing, however his punch was weak and it fell straight to the feet of Cummings who hammered home.

Maine Road took the early blow well, and equalised in the 11th minute, as James Ormrod managed to get the decisive touch from a corner, slamming the ball home to put Road level.

Burscough regained the lead in the 18th minute, as Chad White found the back of the net, after picking the ball up inside the area. Burscough then established a two goal cushion in the 25th minute, as Peter Henertey made no mistake, firing the ball home confidently.

Maine Road reduced the arrears in the 42nd minute as Sean Cookson slotted home tidily to give Maine Road a chance of getting something out of this game.

Now I’m not sure which bench it was, but one of them impressed me with the way they handled their players. The referee was a complete stickler for the rules and you could see both sides getting frustrated with the ref, however one of the benches continually reminded their players to stop whinging and play football. Referees are human, as surprising as that may be, and are prone to making mistakes, and this referee was no different but without the dedicated individuals that decide to spend their Saturdays officiating football matches we wouldn’t have this beautiful game, so cut them some slack once in a while.

Half Time: Maine Road 2-3 Burscough (Ormrod 11, Cookson 42 – Cummings 5, White 18, Henertey 25)

At half time I decided to walk around the ground, trying to find somewhere I could shelter from the wind, whilst still being in the sun. However this task would prove to be impossible, and therefore I walked around the ground trying to find a good place to stand, before deciding to go and sit in the stand again.

Maine Road made a change at the break with their number 10, Alexander Pope, making way for number 16, Jason Perry. In all honesty if I thought that there was going to be a change at the break but I was expecting the Maine Road number 6, James Ormrod, to be the player leaving the field, as in the first half he was involved in a collision which looked serious at first, but luckily Ormrod was able to continue.

With Maine Road looking for an equaliser, and Burscough looking for a goal to kill the game off, the game turned into a midfield battle, with very few chances for either team. The flow of the game was interrupted as the ref ensured that every throw, free kick, goal kick etc was taken in the exact same place as where the ball had gone out/the foul had occurred. This led to the Burscough number 4, Joshua Dunrod, getting booked for dissent, and in all fairness if he hadn’t had quietened down I think the ref would have had no problem with sending him off. Luckily for Dunrod, and his teammates, he remained on the pitch for the full ninety minutes.

In the 55th minute, Maine Road made their second change with Jack Langford, number 7, making his way off of the field to be replaced by Joseph O’Brien, number 15.

Burscough made their only change in the 65th minute, with Matthew Ward, number 11, making way for number 12, Prince Ekpolo. Maine Road made their third and final change in the 75th minute, as Sean Cookson, number 11, was replaced by number 14, Sammual Riley.

The game had fizzled out at this point, as both teams cancelled each other out, and any chances were snatched at. For all of the excitement and goals of the first half, the second half had been drab. I was relieved to hear the final whistle as I had begun to lose the feeling in my feet, and my right foot was still stinging from kicking the ball back to the keeper (I still haven’t fully recovered from breaking my toe in January).

Final Score: Maine Road 2-3 Burscough (Ormrod 11, Cookson 42 – Cummings 5, White 18, Henertey 25)

I quickly made my way back to my car, and turned the heating up as far as it would go. The journey back was rather easy but I’m still confused by people that buy Audi’s and other fancy cars, and then do 50 miles an hour on the motorway. One you are a hazard to yourself and everyone around you, and two you are wasting the power of your car, buy a bloody Ford KA if you feel the need to go at a snail’s pace on the motorway! Motorways are designed for everyone to do 70 miles an hour, but again the extremists always ruin it for everyone as on one hand you have the slow idiots who do below 70mph but then on the other hands you have the reckless fools who do 90mph+, now if everyone did a consistent 70mph there would be no issue, but as is the way of the world, the extremists always ruin it. I’m not saying that I’ve never sped on the motorway, as who hasn’t put their foot down when the road is dry and it’s clear in front of you? But when the road is wet and the road’s are busy then doing anything above 80mph is reckless!

Anyway, enough of my ranting about driving, I mean I’m not perfect I did roll my Rover 25 on a country road once. Burscough deserved the three points, their attacking players were great in the first half, as they attacked in numbers and put pressure on Maine Road.

Maine Road didn’t capitulate and gave Burscough a very good game in the first half, however both sides were poor in the second half, and the game really did fizzle out. I would recommend visiting Maine Road as they are a great club, and the ground is very easy to get to.

Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!

Attendance: 78

Cost: £5 entry, £1.50 programme, £1 raffle ticket (Which I lost), £1.80 food and drink

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157690828428842

Random Thoughts

I’m fully aware that one day I will have to stand up in front of a room and say, “My name is David John Preece, and I am addicted to Football Shirts, Books, Football Manager and Groundhopping.” But I’m okay with that, sure I have over 130 Football Shirts, around 5 bookcases full of books, over 3 months (at least) of time invested in Football Manager, and I have been to over 100 football grounds in my time. My house is cluttered, and I do tend to be found either reading or playing football manager, but that is who I am, I enjoy soaking up new knowledge, and I have a sixth sense for finding football shirts in Charity Shops.

I am an absolute dreamer, my head is firmly in imagination land, as is show by the fact that I could probably write a manifesto for the “Chorley Sports Partnership” that my Uncle Ed and I have dreamed up. Now the “Chorley Sports Partnership” is a working title, and is not the final name, we still haven’t thought of that. But what this involves is a Euromillions win, preferably of over £150 million, and then we would buy Chorley FC, Victory Park and pubs, whilst building an Ice Rink, for the Ice Hockey team, a Basketball Court, for the Basketball team, and improving the facilities at Chorley Cricket Club and Chorley Rugby Union Club, which would share it’s ground with Chorley Rugby League Club. This investment in sport, would hopefully grab the interest of the community, as this is why we want to spend this money, we want all of the sport’s clubs in Chorley to be for the community by the community, seriously just give us the money and we’ll build you the greatest place on Earth.

But as I have stated, I am a dreamer, and I constantly find myself wondering what would be my perfect football XI? Especially if the players involved were in their prime again. But with all of the great players I have seen, I have a couple of lists:

Manchester United XI (Based on players from my lifetime)

GK, Peter Schmeichel

RB, Gary Neville

LB, Denis Irwin

CB, Nemanja Vidic

CB, Rio Ferdinand

CM, Roy Keane

CM, Paul Scholes

RW, David Beckham

CAM, Eric Cantona

LW, Ryan Giggs

CF, Cristiano Ronaldo

Subs- David De Gea, Patrice Evra, John O’Shea, Wayne Rooney, Ruud Van Nistlerooy, Dimitar Berbatov, Nicky Butt.

The Great Dane in goal, which shows how highly I rate him, as David De Gea is a world class keeper. Vidic and Ferdinand in defence, a dream partnership. Paul Scholes, who could find Madeline McCann with a pass. Cantona would be the main part of the side, as he just had the ability to change a game without effort. Talking of effortless players, Berbatov, the man hardly ran, but he still created. Finally I feel I should explain John O’Shea’s inclusion, I’m just going to say that chip against Arsenal at Highbury.

Manchester United & Arsenal XI (Based on the 90’s & 2000s when it was good)

GK, Peter Schmiechel

RB, Gary Neville

LB, Denis Irwin

CB, Tony Adams

CB, Martin Keown

CM, Roy Keane

CM, Patrick Viera

RW, David Beckham

CAM, Dennis Bergkamp

LW, Ryan Giggs

CF, Thierry Henry

Subs: David Seaman, Jaap Stam, John O’Shea, Ray Parlour, Paul Scholes, Marc Overmars, Wayne Rooney

Can you imagine a midfield partnership of Keane and Viera? Both brilliant leaders, with a huge amount of talent between them. Adams and Keown at the back, as I remember that pairing being a brilliant one.

England XI (Based on players from my life time)

GK, David Seaman

RB, Gary Neville

LB, Ashley Cole

CB, Rio Ferdinand

CB, Tony Adams

CM, Steven Gerrard

CM, Paul Gascoigne

RW, David Beckham

CAM, Paul Scholes

LW, Raheem Sterling

CF, Wayne Rooney

Subs: Joe Hart, Sol Campbell, James Milner, Frank Lampard, Peter Crouch, Michael Owen, John Terry

I didn’t want to include Terry in this list, as I just dislike him, however he did play well in an England shirt, so he gets a place. Sterling only gets in on account of me not being able to think of a left winger who stood out and didn’t abuse kids. Paul Gascoigne has to take a place in midfield, and I honestly think this side would walk the World Cup, as all of these players in their prime were top class.

Shrewsbury Town (Based on players from my life time)

GK, Dean Henderson

RB, Ben Herd

LB, Marc Tierney

CB, Ian Sharps

CB, Shane Cansdell Sheriff

RW, Mark Wright

CM, Abu Ogogo

CM, Ryan Woods

LW, Sam Aiston

CF, Grant Holt

CF, Luke Rodgers

Subs: Joe Hart, Jermaine Grandison, Darren Moss, Neil Ashton, Ben Davies, Lee Steele, Leo Fortune-West

The manager for this fine side would obviously be Paul Hurst, but this Salop side in their prime would be an exciting side to watch, and with Hurst in charge we would have no issues in the league. The only weak spot I can find would be Sam Aiston, but he was an exciting winger, especially during the King/Ratcliffe era, plus he still goes to Salop games, so he’s worthy of a place in my opinion.

Modern Greatest XI (Based on players from the last few years)

GK, David De Gea

CB, Sergio Ramos

CB, Gerard Pique

RWB, Daniel Alves

DM, N’Golo Kante

LWB, Gareth Bale

CM, Xavi

RW, Lionel Messi

CAM, Paul Pogba

LW, Neymar

CF, Cristiano Ronaldo

Subs: Manuel Neur, David Alaba, Eric Dier, Eden Hazard, Dele Alli, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Harry Kane

A disappointing lack of Englishmen starting the game, but at this moment in time we just aren’t producing many great English players. Gareth Bale starts as a wingback as I wanted to include him in this side, he truly is a great player. Despite my dislike of Lionel Messi, he has to be included, he is one of the greatest players to ever walk the Earth in my opinion.

Players from before 1990 XI

GK, Gordan Banks

RB, Duncan Edwards

LB, Emlyn Hughes

CB, Claudio Gentile

CB, Bobby Moore

RW, George Best

CM, Billy Bremner

CM, Danny Blanchflower

LW, Tom Finney

CF, Bobby Charlton

CF, Geoff Hurst

Subs: Peter Shilton, Jimmy Armfield, Nobby Stiles, Johnny Haynes, Stanley Matthews, Denis Law, Ferenc Puskas

With this being based on players that I have read about, or watched documentaries on, this was possibly the hardest list to complete, as I haven’t got first hand experience of experiencing these players during their playing days.

I’m not sure why I find these lists so interesting to do, but it does make for an interesting think as choosing certain players over another is difficult, and also it gives you more of an appreciation for those players that played in unglamorous positions, such as left back.

Let me know what you think, if you have any thoughts or comments then feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!