The Giant Axe

Lancaster City vs Ossett Town, The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier – First Division North, 17/10/15, The Giant Axe, Match 14

I’ve been to watch Lancaster City play before, in fact it was around this time of year, last year. The last time I had been here was for a league match against Salford City, in which Paul Scholes had been in attendance. Last time that I watched a game at the Giant Axe, I had a good time and decided to see what it would be like to see them this year. I was also interested to see what would have happened to the building works which had circled the ground the last time I had been here.

Once I’d dropped the wife and kids off in Chorley, I made the trip up the M6 to Lancaster, which from Chorley was only a 45 minute drive. As I’d been to Lancaster City before I decided not to use my Sat-Nav, and only got lost once, which I am proud of. Once I’d found myself, I drove past the ground and parked in a residential area near to the ground, and walked back. I’d arrived at around 2.15pm, and decided to head straight for the ground, rather than heading into the city.

Following the release of the BBC’s study into Match Day prices, I was interested to see how much I would end up spending. I had left the house with £40, and was interested to see how much I would return with. I paid £8 on the gate for entry, and a further £2 for a programme, I handed the guy on the turnstiles a £20, and I had to remind him about my £10 change, but to be fair to him, it was an honest mistake.

Once I’d gotten into the ground I decided to head round to the “Netbusters” Bar, by Dolly’s Diner, and emerged with a pint of Carlsberg in a plastic cup, which I paid £3 for. Whilst I stood and drank my pint, I decided to give my mum a ring, to check that they’d gotten to Scunthorpe in one piece. My parents, who live in London, near to Heathrow Airport, had decided to head up to Scunthorpe to watch Shrewsbury Town play, which I think is dedication, but then again I’m biased, and could only hope that their decision to travel all that way would pay off.

As soon as I had finished my pint, I bought some chips, a Kit Kat and a can of Diet Coke from Dolly’s Diner, and separated with £3.30. I then turned around and managed to buy a team sheet for 20p. Kick off was only minutes away, and I’d still only spent £16.50, which wouldn’t get me in at most Football League grounds, and some National League grounds.

Lancaster City play at the Giant Axe, which has been their home ground since the formation of the original club 1905, although the club played its first two home games at nearby Quay Meadow, located behind the buildings on St Georges Quay by the River Lune. Giant Axe was given its name as it was the centre piece of a sports club, the exterior wall of which was, when viewed from above, the same shape as an axe head. Behind the goal at which I had emerged, after getting through the turnstiles, is a large uncovered terrace, which runs the length of the byline, and gives a wonderful view of the ground. Along the touchline stands the only seated stand in the ground, which straddles the halfway line, and doesn’t run the full length of the touchline. At the end of this stand, is the changing rooms, “Netbusters” Bar, and Dolly’s Diner, as well as the toilets. Behind the far goal is a small covered terrace, which is backed onto by some new build houses. On the opposite touchline to the seated stand, is the club’s director’s bar, which is housed in what looks to be a Port-a-Cabin stacked on top of another Port-a-Cabin, which houses another bar. The dugouts are situated on this touchline, with the subs and coaches having to cross the pitch to get to them.

Lancaster City were formed in 1911 as Lancaster Town, and joined Division Two of the Lancashire Combination at the start of the 1911-1912 season. Lancaster Town became Lancaster City in 1937, as Lancaster was granted city status as part of King George VI’s coronation celebrations. The club joined the Northern Premier League in 1970, but resigned from this league only 12 years later and dropped into the North West Counties League. In 2004 the clubs joined the newly formed Conference North, and went on to enjoy a number of successes, including a good couple of runs in the FA Cup. Recently the club have found themselves playing in the Evo Stik League Northern Premier League First Division North, as they folded and reformed in 2007. Last season, when I had last seen Lancaster City, Darren Peacock was their manager, as he had been appointed on the 23rd of April 2013, and for the 2014-2015 season Trevor Sinclair was announced as his assistant. However due to a poor start to this season, Darren Peacock and Trevor Sinclair have since left the club, and now ex-Lancaster stalwart, Phil Brown, has been given the task of reviving the clubs’ fortunes. He has a difficult job, with the club coming into this game 17th in the league.

A point above them in 16th place, sit today’s opponents Ossett Town. The club were formed in 1936, and a former Yorkshire League referee named John Carter was given the task of bringing the highest possible standard of football to Ossett. The new club known as Ossett Town Football Club played in the Leeds League originally, and used various local pubs as their headquarters. During the Second World War the team switched to the brilliantly named Heavy Woollen League and had to use a different pitch as the Army commandeered Fern House. After the war, the club joined the Yorkshire League, and in 1950 scored a record 120 goals in the season, despite this goal tally they only managed a 3rd position finish. Ossett Town managed to get promoted to the Northern Premier League Division One North in 1999, as their rivals Ossett Albion were denied entry to the league due to ground grading issues. In 2003/04, Scott Cooper started the season as manager, but by October Town were bottom of the league and Steve Richards took over as manager, Town finished 14th. However, because of the newly created Conference North Division Town found themselves promoted to the Premier Division, it was supposed to be the top 13 but the demise of Telford United created an additional place. Phil Sharpe took charge for the 2010-11 season but with a tight budget and under-par performances Town suffered relegation to the Northern Premier League Division One North after only one home win all season. The only relegation the club suffered under the chairmanship of Graham Firth. Ossett Town have been in this division since then, and must be hoping for an improvement to the start of the season that they have had.

Before the match there was a presentation to Neil Marshall, who had recently played his 400th game for Lancaster City, with today’s match being his 403rd appearance. Loyalty isn’t too widespread anymore and it is good to see player’s sticking with clubs for long periods of history. Following the presentation, the two teams gathered in the centre circle for a minute’s applause for two Lancaster City fans, who had recently passed away, Les Manning and Edgar Coates were well known around the club, and I’m sure they would have been proud of the way the minute’s applause was observed by everyone in the ground. I know some people aren’t too keen on the minute’s applause, as they prefer the slightly more traditional minute’s silence, but I’ve got to say that I have no preference either way, and I feel that they are good alternatives for different situations.

It only took until the 6th minute for the first goal to be scored. Lancaster’s Ryan Winder played Aaron Taylor in, and the number 9 made no mistake with the finish as he slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

Lancaster City look like they have a good prospect in their number 11, a young lad by the name of Joe Whittington, who with his explosive pace, and eye for a cross, should go far in the game if he keeps his head down, and learns his trade.

Ossett Town might have had an equalizer in the 16th minute, but their number 7, Cameron Lyn was judged to have handled the ball, and the goal was ruled out for this offence.

Ossett had another chance in the 18th minute, as they won a free kick in a narrow angle on the right hand side of the pitch. From the free kick Ossett had a shot on goal, which was going to sneak in at the far post, until the Lancaster keeper, Mike Hale, got his fingertips to the ball.

Lancaster might have had a penalty in the 32nd minute, as Ryan Winder broke into the box, and tripped over the onrushing keeper, whilst he was through on goal. The referee adjudged no foul to have taken place, but a different referee might have given it.

In the 36th minute, Lancaster were forced to make their first change as their number 6, Adam Freeland picked up an injury, and was replaced by the Lancaster number 15, Jamie Street.

Lancaster doubled their lead in the 43rd minute, as Ryan Winder latched onto a simple ball into the centre, from a free kick, which was delivered by Joe Whittington. Winder took a touch and rounded the keeper, once clear he slotted the ball home.

Half Time: Lancaster City 2-0 Ossett Town (Taylor 6, Winder 43)

Following two minutes of added on time, the half time whistle blew, and I began to wander around the ground, taking the photos that I normally take. Once I was finished I headed back to Dolly’s Diner, where I purchase a Meat & Potato Pie for £2. The pie was alright, but not the best that I’ve ever had at a football ground.

Whilst I ate my pie, the half time draw took place, with the winner guaranteed a £25 prize. Or they could gamble that £25 prize and attempt to pick the correct key to open the Treasure Chest, in the chest was £100, and today’s winner elected to gamble. He lost and his £25 prize was added to the chest, making the prize in the chest £125. He didn’t leave empty handed as he won the consolation prize of a bottle of beer and a chip butty.

Three minutes into the second half, Lancaster made it 3-0, as Ryan Winder played a wonderful one-two with Aaron Taylor, Winder took the ball into the box and hammered the ball home into the top corner.

The Ossett keeper went down injured after this goal, and during the break in play I decided to purchase a can of Diet Coke for £1. I’d managed to burn my tongue on the pie, and needed something to help cool my mouth. The keeper had gotten back up once I returned to my position on the touchline.

In the 53rd minute Ossett made their first change with the number 3, Nathan Quinlan coming off to be replaced by number 16 Sam Pashley.

Lancaster’s Joe Whittington had what should have been the goal of the game, ruled out in the 54th minute, as his diving header was ruled to have taken place whilst he was offside, and the lad was denied a goal for his fine performance.

Ossett made a second change in the 58th minute, with Cameron Lyn, coming off for number 14, Callum Hepworth.

After this substitution I decided to sit in the stand for the remainder of the second half, the stand offered a good view of the game, with a couple of pillars blocking some of the view.

Ossett’s keeper didn’t seem to have recovered from the knock that he took following Lancaster’s 3rd goal, and in the 67th minute he was replaced by Reece Farnhill, number 15. Now Farnhill isn’t a keeper, and this led to Ossett’s number 4, Steven Jeff, going in goal. At this point I began to wonder if we would see a few more Lancaster goals.

Joe Whittington was replaced in the 72 minute, by Lancaster’s number 14, Barney Morris. Whittington had had a good game down the left wing, and as I’ve already said, if he keeps his head down and learns his trade, then there is nothing stopping him moving up a couple of leagues.

In the 80th minute, Ossett were awarded a penalty as Callum Hepworth broke into the box, and was bought down, the referee didn’t hesitate and pointed at the spot. Nathan Curtis, the Ossett number 9, stepped up to take the penalty, and his initial effort was saved, but he reacted quickest to the rebound, and made no mistake the second time.

Lancaster made their final sub in the 83rd minute with their number 12, Danny Carlton coming on to replace number 9, Aaron Taylor.

With the game coming to a close, I decided to leave my seat, and headed down to the touchline to stand for the last couple of minutes. The referee soon signalled that 5 minutes were to be added on, and Ossett began to push forward, looking for another goal.

That goal came in the 93rd minute, as a stray back pass, bought the Lancaster keeper off of his line, and the Ossett number 9, Nathan Curtis got to the ball first, and he took a touch and fired the ball into the empty net.

It was to prove to be too little, too late, as the referee bought the game to a close, and Lancaster City walked off of the pitch with the three points.

Final Score: Lancaster City 3-2 Ossett Town (Taylor 6, Winder 43 & 48 – Curtis 80 & 93)

I left the ground impressed with the refereeing display that I had seen, the ref and his assistants had had a good game, with them all making the right decisions, and not causing any controversy.

Both sides had played a good game, with Ossett Town definitely having a better second half than their first. Joe Whittington, the Lancaster number 11, has all the potential to go higher in the game, and I hope that he fulfils that potential.

Leaving the ground, I headed back to my car, and drove back to Chorley to pick up my wife and kids, whilst waiting for my wife to get herself sorted, I checked the football scores, and felt sorry for my parents as they had travelled all that way to see Shrewsbury Town lose 2-1 to Scunthorpe. However, despite this loss, they’ll tell me that it was worth it, and they’d do the same again.

Attendance: 162

Hat-tricks seen so far: 2

Next week’s plan: Newtown vs Bangor City, Welsh Premier League

Money spent: £19.50

Thanks for reading.

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