First of the Season

Chorley FC vs Nuneaton Town, Vanarama National League North, 8/8/15, Victory Park, Match 6

This was a match of firsts, obviously it was the first game of the season for both sides, and all of the players, it was Matt Jansen’s first game as Chorley manager, it was the first time I had referred to the Vanarama National League North, as the National League North and not the Conference North, it was the first time I had seen the Duke Street End without its roof, but more importantly it was my Daughter and Son’s first football match, as well as my Niece’s.

As I’ve said in my Bamber Bridge blog, I’ve had a thing for Chorley FC for a while now, and that has turned them into my second team. Victory Park is a ground that I absolutely love, it has an old-fashioned charm to it, with its grand, old main stand and the banks of terracing that grace the other parts of the ground. In a world full of all-seater stadiums, grounds like Victory Park buck the trend, and that needs to continue.

Victory Park was opened in 1920 (No prizes for guessing where Victory comes from), and according to Wikipedia the Main Stand has been in place since 1947. The rest of the ground, as I have said, is made up of terracing, as you enter the ground you are greeted by the social club on your left hand side, walking further on, passing plenty of cars, you reach the perimeter fence, from here you can walk down towards the Piling Street End, via a concrete walkway, with grass banking on the left. This grass banking used to be used by fans, but unfortunately Health & Safety meant that it is now fenced off. The Piling Street End, is a small covered terrace with a very steep roof, there is grass banking on both sides of this stand, but unfortunately that can also not be used. Behind the other goal, nearest to the entrance and social club is the Duke Street End, named after the closest road to it, it backs onto a Primary School, and has recently had its roof removed, following a campaign by the fans to raise the money to complete these works. The aim is to replace the roof, to the standards required by the council, but to be honest I kind of liked the stand the way it was today, but that could have been due to the fact that it was sunny in Chorley.

Chorley FC came extremely close to promotion last season, losing the Play-off final to Guiseley, despite Chorley leading 2-0 for the majority of the game. During the pre-season, popular manager Garry Flitcroft decided to leave his role, and move into a director’s role, as he wanted to spend more time with his family. He was replaced by his assistant, a certain Matt Jansen, a move that has been greeted positively by many Chorley fans.

Today’s opponents came in the form of Nuneaton Town. Nuneaton Town rose from the ashes of Nuneaton Borough who were liquidated in 2008, the Nuneaton fans still refer to themselves as “the Boro”. In the 2014-15 season Nuneaton found themselves relegated from the Conference following a poor season, and I’m certain that their fans will be hoping that they bounce back straight away, but it won’t be an easy ride, as they are entering a very competitive league with a number of clubs who will all be challenging for promotion.

So, after dropping my car off at the Premier Inn, that we are spending the night in, I walked back to Victory Park to meet my wife and kids, as well as my Sister in law, her boyfriend and their daughter, my niece. They found themselves running late, which gave me a chance to pop into the Chorley club shop and purchase the new home kit for myself, and the new away kit for my son. Once the rest of the party arrived, we headed through the turnstiles, parting with a £10 each for the adults. As soon as we got through the turnstiles I spotted the Chorley Supporter’s Trust tent, where I picked up my membership card (Chorley Supporter’s Trust: On the way round to the Duke Street end, my daughter was given a free baseball cap, and I apparently signed up for a bank account for her.

The sun was shining on Victory Park as the two sides emerged, which as a southerner I found amazing, as I thought it only rained in the North. Nuneaton kicked the game off, with a certain Marlon Harewood playing up front for them.

It didn’t take long for the first goal to be scored as Nuneaton’s Joe Maguire netted in the 6th minute, from Nuneaton’s first corner of the game. I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually see the build-up to the goal, as I had popped to the toilet, and when I came back Maguire was heading the ball home.

Despite the early goal, I did feel that both sides were evenly matched in attack, with both sides having chances, Chorley however suffered as they failed to get the ball out wide and attack from the wings.

The Nuneaton fans had travelled in a good number, and were certainly in fine voice, as they chanted “Boro, Boro!” They were helped by being stood in the Piling Street end, which has a roof. There was also a good number of Chorley fans, but the lack of roof on the Duke Street end, didn’t help their attempts to build an atmosphere.

It was starting to become clear that the ref wasn’t going to have the best of games, as he began to annoy the home crowd by missing a couple of decisions, but then blowing for fouls for Nuneaton.

Some local kids had found a good vantage point from the nearby park, as they climbed to the top of the play equipment and peered into the ground. They soon grew bored though and disappeared.

Sam Ashton was having a good game in the Chorley goal, as he kept the score at 0-1, with a number of good saves. I’ve got to say that Nuneaton do have a very good strike force, and that may just be the difference in the games they play this season.

In the 33rd minute they doubled their lead as Aaron Williams, who was having a good game, latched onto a perfect pass from Callum Chettle, and Williams calmly slotted the ball past Ashton in the Chorley goal.

Marlon Harewood was relatively quiet in the first half, with the ex-West Ham striker, only popping up infrequently, but when he did pop up, he showed the quality that had served him well in his time in the Premiership.

Chorley pulled a goal back in the 39th minute, as the ball finally found its way out to the right wing, where Josh Hine delivered the ball into the box for Marcus Carver to nod home.

Now I will admit that I am slightly (very) biased towards Chorley, but the ref did seem to be going in Nuneaton’s favour, as shown in around the 41st minute, as Marcus Carver went down following what looked like an elbow to the head, the crowd thought they had seen something, but the ref seemingly bottled the decision.

Half Time: Chorley 1-2 Nuneaton Town (Carver 39- Maguire 6, Williams 33)

At half time I decided to take my daughter for a walk around the ground, but she only managed to make it to the corner flag in between the Main Stand and the Piling Street end, before she decided she was tired, so I scooped her up and dropped her back off with the wife. I decided I was now hungry, and we headed off to the Magpie’s Nest, where the food is always good. Inside was like a sauna, and I did feel sorry for the people working behind the counter, as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ventilation in the building. I decided on some chips, which cost a reasonable £1.50.

Back outside, we decided to follow the Chorley attack and headed down to the Piling Street end. We found a space at the corner flag, and my daughter found a piece of fence that she could see over, so that she could carry on watching the match.

Chorley came flying out of the blocks from the kick off, with Dean, Hine, Sheridan and Flynn all having efforts which should have resulted in an equaliser, but they either saw their efforts clear the crossbar, or they were saved by the keeper.

Chorley made their first change in the 58th minute with Sam Sheridan being replaced by Adam Roscoe. Sheridan had played well, but it was clear that Chorley needed fresh legs on the pitch.

Joe Maguire prevented an equaliser for Chorley in the 61st minute as he managed to get back and clear a shot from Hine which had beaten the keeper, and was destined to go in, until Maguire got a foot in.

The Magpies were applying plenty of pressure but the chances weren’t falling right for us, and the equaliser still eluded us.

Harewood probably should have made it 1-3 in the 65th minute, as he had a golden chance on the edge of the box but Matt Flynn managed to block the shot before it could beat the keeper.

Chorley made another sub on the 66th minute with Darren Stephenson replacing Chris Almond on the left wing. Darren has done well to come back from a serious injury and it was good to see the lad back in a Chorley shirt.

Slightly against the run of play, David Morgan, in the 77th minute, hit a half volley to make it 1-3 for Nuneaton, and restore their two goal cushion. Chorley’s attacking play deserved more, but to Nuneaton’s credit they were taking their chances when they arrived, and that will always be the difference.

Chorley made their final sub in the 81st minute as Lewis Guy came on to replace James Dean. Guy’s appearance on the field, bought with it a hope that I would be able to shout “What a Guy!” at him, once he’d scored.

The Magpies continued to push and apply pressure with Andy Teague in the 84th minute, getting forward and getting onto the end of a cross, but his shot could only find the side netting.

Chorley’s second goal came in the 86th minute, as Darren Stephenson scuffed a shot across the face of goal, where Josh Hine was waiting to pounce, with his finish beating the Nuneaton keeper, to give the Magpies a glimmer of hope.

The ref was still having a poor game, and his linesman had also started to join in, with odd offside calls, fouls going unpunished, and just general incompetence. Hopefully this level of refereeing isn’t going to be the standard for the season. The ref signalled for 4 minutes of extra time, which added to the hope that Chorley would find an equaliser.

Nuneaton took the 4 minutes of extra time, as a signal to start making subs, as in the 92nd minute they made their first with Cieran Keane coming on to replace James Reid, who decided to take a leisurely stroll off of the pitch, much to the annoyance of the home crowd.

Their second sub came in the 93rd minute with Ryan Smith coming on for James Clifton, who also took a leisurely stroll off of the park. Now I can fully understand teams using these tactics, and if my team were in the lead I probably would have wanted them to do it, but when your team is chasing the equaliser it can be bloody frustrating.

Chorley’s last chance came from a long punt from Sam Ashton, but even with everybody in the box, it came to nothing. The final whistle followed soon after, and Nuneaton walked off with the three points.

Full Time: Chorley 2-3 Nuneaton Town (Carver 39, Hine 86- Maguire 6, Williams 33, Morgan 77)

Disappointingly my children’s first football match had ended in a loss for their team, not that they noticed, a loss which could easily have been a draw if the Chorley players had taken their chances, of which they had a number of golden ones. However it wasn’t to be, as Nuneaton showed an attacking prowess which saw them take the chances that fell to them, and I’ll stick my neck out here, and say that I think Nuneaton will have a good season if they play like they played today.

It was interesting to see a player like Marlon Harewood playing down at this level, as I think he could still do a job with a Football League club, but as I’ve read, he wants to focus on his business, whilst still having a game at the weekend, and good luck to the lad.

Victory Park remains one of my favourite grounds, with its charm and character, however I can’t wait for the roof to be replaced on the Duke Street end, as although it looks nice as it is, the atmosphere has gone from that end, with the Chorley fans only really making noise whilst stood under the Piling Street end.

Leaving the ground, we wandered to the Duke Street rec, where my daughter had a quick run around. Following a trip to the in-law’s house to wish my brother in law a “Happy Birthday”, we made our way back to the Premier Inn, where I am now writing this blog and watching the new Football League show.

Attendance: 1011

Hat tricks seen so far: 2

Next week’s plan: Nothing for Saturday due to a prior engagement, and I’m searching for something for the Sunday, so if anyone knows of any lower league games on the Sunday, around 50 miles from Wrexham, please let me know!

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A wild exercise machine in its natural habitat.
A wild exercise machine in its natural habitat.

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