Lancashire FA Amateur Shield Final

Blackpool Wren Rovers vs Royton Town, Thornton Sports Lancashire FA Amateur Shield Final, 21/04/16, The County Ground, Match 35

So after a couple of weeks of no football watching, this would turn out to be a great week for me. Following watching Hesketh Bank lose to Charnock Richard, I had thought that I had had my fill of football for the week, until I found this fixture on twitter, and having never been to the County Ground before, I decided to go and have a look. What interested me the most was the fact that the Lancashire FA own their own ground, as I had never encountered a local FA that owned their own ground before. As a kid I had seen plenty of Middlesex FA games at Honeycroft, home of Uxbridge FC, and I had just assumed that each local FA would use a ground in their jurisdiction.

The Lancashire FA prove to be an exception to my assumption, and at 18.35pm I left my house and walked to Chorley station. As I walked to the station to catch the 18.48pm train towards Blackpool North, I did wonder if I had set off too soon, as I would have to spend around five minutes waiting on the platform. However I was correct to have left early as the train rolled into the station at 18.46pm and left soon after, this meant that the train had to sit outside Leyland for a bit as it was early, but at 19.00pm we pulled into the station, and I got off the train and stepped into Leyland for the first time.

As you may already know, or may have guessed from where I got off the train, the County Ground is situated in the town of Leyland, the town famous for vehicle manufacture. In fact Leyland is home to the Motor Vehicle Museum, and if I had arrived a couple of hours earlier, I might have had a look around, then again there is a very interesting looking Wetherspoons down the round from the ground, the Leyland Lion, and I feel that deserves a visit too. Originally the County Ground was used by Leyland Motors FC who played in the Lancashire Combination from 1933 to 1980, before they moved to the Cheshire County League for two seasons, before they joined the North West Counties League in 1982. In 1990 they changed their name to Leyland DAF-SGL and were demoted to the West Lancashire League in 1992, they changed names again in 1993 as they became Leyland Motors Athletic, in 2001 the club folded, and the Lancashire FA took control of the ground.

The County Ground is basic in appearance, with three sides of hard standing, and a covered 500 seater stand along one touchline. On the opposite touchline to the seated stand, are the dugouts, which back onto the Lancashire FA offices. Behind the goal nearest to the touchline stands a covered terrace, and the refreshment hut, and behind the other goal there is a stretch of hard standing, which backs onto some all-weather pitches. Overall the County Ground is a good ground, and would probably fit nicely into the Northern Premier League, maybe someone could revive a Leyland team?

The Lancashire FA Amateur Shield began back in the 1906 to 1907 season, and the first winners of the competition were Hindley Central. The competition paused between 1915 to 1918 for the First World War, and interestingly enough it didn’t pause for the Second World War. Blackpool Wren Rovers have won the competition on three occasions, in 1969, 1971 and more recently in 2010, Royton Town have not won the competition in their history. The current holders of the competition are Coppull United, but their challenge to retain the trophy was ended in October as they lost to Turton, 4-2.

Blackpool Wren Rovers’ involvement in this season’s competition started in September 2015 as they beat Croston Sports Club 6-2 in the first round. Wren Rovers then went on to beat Walney Island on penalties in the second round, Hawcoat Park were next up and in the third round Rovers beat them 5-1. Rovers were then to meet Turton in the Quarter Finals, and they emerged 7-0 winners, away from home. In the Semi-Finals, Rovers beat Charnock Richards 5-4 on penalties, following a close 3-3 draw during 90 minutes.

Royton Town weren’t involved in the first round of the competition, as they received a bye to the second round. It took penalties for Royton to overcome Elton Vale in the second round, before they went on to beat Prestwich Heys 3-2 in the third round. Royton again need penalties in the Quarter Finals to get past Tempest United. In the Semi Finals, Royton defeated Poulton 2-1 to book their place in the final.

Wren Rovers were formed in 1931, and only became Blackpool Wren Rovers in 1998. They were founder members of the re-formed West Lancashire League in 1959, and subsequently played in the Lancashire Combination and the North West Counties League, before financial constrictions saw them move back to the West Lancashire League, and successive promotions saw them move from Division Two to the Premier Division, where they have played ever since.

Royton Town started life as the Stott’s Benham work side in the Rochdale Alliance League. A change of name occurred in 1985, as the club became Royton Town, and they remained unbeaten for two and a half seasons, with the club progressing to the Lancashire Amateur League in 1994. In 1999 the club moved to the Manchester Football League, and were swiftly promoted to the Premier League, where they have remained since. Town are members of an ‘elite club’, made of teams that have completed the Manchester League & Gilgryst Cup double.

After a ten minute walk through Leyland, I arrived at the County Ground at 19.10pm, and paid £5 for entry which included a free programme. The attendance was looking good twenty minutes and there was a steady stream of people through the turnstiles behind me. Once inside the ground I decided to have a walk around to kill the time before kick-off, as I’ve already stated the County Ground is a good ground, and is tidy and well presented. Whilst on my walk around the ground I did keep an eye out for a teamsheet, but I was unable to find one, which was something I found disappointing, especially as seeing as this was the final of a competition. Whilst I wasn’t expecting to be handed one at the turnstiles, I did think that one would be posted up somewhere, so I will be referring to players by their shirt numbers through this blog, unless someone reading this can provide me with a list of the players.

The two sides emerged before the kick off time of 19.30pm, but due to the usual milking of photo opportunities the game didn’t kick off until around 19.33pm, now I know I’m moaning about three minutes, but that could have proved costly when it came to getting home later, especially if the game went to penalties. Obviously these photos were pre-planned, and I’m not sure why the two sides weren’t bought out earlier, so that the kick off could have taken place on time.

Blackpool Wren Rovers took to the pitch in a full red kit, and Royton Town emerged in yellow shirts with blue shirts. The numbers on the back of the Royton kit gave me a bit of a headache, as they were white numbers on a yellow background which made them hard to read, but with a bit of concentration I was able to make out the numbers, so I shouldn’t really complain!

It didn’t take long for the scoring to begin, in fact it took a minute. Blackpool Wren Rovers’ number 10 picked up the ball on the right hand side of the area, and he put a low cross into the box, which Rovers’ number 9, Carl Eastwood, was at hand to put into the back of the net.

The 16th minute saw the Royton number 8 go down injured, and he was quickly replaced by their number 12. The injury didn’t look too serious, and I can only hope that the lad is alright, as an injury at this level could have far-reaching consequences involving work.

With the first half winding down, and nearing the break, I decided to head around to the refreshment hut, where I bought a bottle of water and a KitKat for £1.20, with the warm weather I was glad that I decided to buy a bottle of water, and anyway they were out of my preferred Diet Coke.

Half Time: Blackpool Wren Rovers 1-0 Royton Town (Eastwood 2)

The wind had picked up at half time, and I decided to shelter in the seated stand, whilst I read the programme. Aside from the early goal, the half had been evenly balanced, and if Royton had been a little luckier in front of goal, they could have been on level terms.

Royton must have known that they had finished the first half the stronger of the two sides, as they came out and continued to dominate the game in the second half. I had decided to stand and watch the Royton attack, and there was certainly a lot to watch in the first ten minutes.

However there was to be a sucker punch in the 55th minute, as Wren Rovers won a corner on the left wing. The ball was whipped into the box, and Wren Rovers’ number 11, Nick Greenall, was at hand to nod the ball home.

To Royton’s credit they didn’t let the second goal get them down, and they continued to press forward, possibly in the hope of doing a Liverpool style comeback. There was always a risk that they would let their frustrations get the better of themselves, and the Royston number 4 picked up a yellow card in the 59th minute for a poor tackle.

If anything was letting Royton down it was their marking at set-pieces, as Wren Rovers’ made it 3-0, with another goal from a corner in the 62nd minute. The ball was delivered in from the right hand side, and this time Danny Pickering, number 6, was at hand to net a header, Pickering had found himself completely unmarked and his header was well taken.

Royton made their second change of the game in the 77th minute as their number 15 came on to replace their number 7. Just two minutes later, Wren Rovers made their first sub of the game, with their number 11 coming off to be replaced by their number 16. In the 82nd minute, Wren Rovers’ made their second change as their number 8 was replaced by their number 16. Royton made their final change of the game in the 85th minute as they switched their number 10 with their number 14.

The score line was rather unfair to Royton as they had played well, and in my opinion they deserved more from the game. However, Blackpool Wren Rovers had also played well, and had taken the chances that were presented to them. Rovers’ were to make it 4-0 in the 87th minute, as following a defensive error, Carl Eastwood tapped the ball home to wrap the competition up for Wren Rovers.

Final Score: Blackpool Wren Rovers 4-0 Royton Town (Eastwood 2, 87, Greenall 55, Pickering 62m)

For the final couple of minutes I found myself talking to some of the Blackpool Wren Rovers’ fans, and found them to be a friendly bunch, and I am definitely thinking of taking the train up to Blackpool to take in a Wren Rovers game. That being said I am also thinking of heading down to watch Royton Town, as they impressed me throughout the game.

Blackpool Wren Rovers were deserved winners of this final, as they took the chances that were presented to them, and to their credit even though they did find themselves on the back foot on a number of occasions, they counter attacked well, which was reflected in the score line. Going forward Wren Rovers were superb as they played good quick football. Also I recommend that you visit their website, as their player profiles are brutally honest and make for great reading.

The score line didn’t really reflect how close the game actually was, as Royton Town were unlucky to lose as heavily as they did. With a bit more luck in front of goal this could have been a very different tie, but it wasn’t to be, however Royton can be very proud of the way they played the game.

I’d decided to leave at 21.35pm, as I felt that that would get me back in time for my train, and I was glad that I got to watch the trophy presentation. Once the celebrations had died down, and the teams had headed to the changing rooms, I left the ground, and walked down to the train station, where the real fun was to begin.

Everything was alright at the station, my train was on time and I was looking forward to getting into bed. Until the dreaded delayed message flashed onto the information board, this was followed about five minutes later by a cancelled message, which had me cursing my luck as my phone battery had died. Just as I left the platform, Northern Rail changed their mind and now my train was expected at 22.23pm. Not trusting Northern Rail, I decided to try and find a taxi, however not really knowing Leyland, and not having a phone, I was unsuccessful in my search and I returned to the station to find that my train was now expected at 22.35pm. So I stood and I waited on platform 4, until about a minute before the train was expected, when all of a sudden the platform was changed, and I had to jog over to platform 2, the train pulled in about 30 seconds after I had stepped foot on platform 2. Soon enough I was back in Chorley, and I was in bed shortly after, so again I find myself moaning about something which in the grand scheme of things was rather trivial and to be fair I had just watched a fantastic game of football!

Attendance: 200

Hat-tricks seen so far: 3 (I’ll do it again, next hat-trick I see I will donate £5 to charity)

Next game: Not sure as I’m busy this weekend, and I haven’t looked into midweek fixtures, so it may be Chorley vs AFC Telford, 30/04/16 Vanarama National League.

Blackpool Wren Rover’s twitter: https://twitter.com/wrenrovers

Royton Town twitter: https://twitter.com/RoytonTownFC

Pictures: My Flickr

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