Euxton Villa

Euxton Villa vs Crooklands Casuals, Bay Radio West Lancashire League Premier Division, 20/08/16, Jim Fowler Memorial Fields

It’s been a while since I last wrote one of these, in fact the last time I wrote one of these would have been the last game of last season. This is my fifth game of this season, but the first game of the season not involving Chorley FC, prior to today I’ve seen Chorley play; Preston North End (2-1 loss), Airbus UK (2-1 loss), Bamber Bridge (2-1 win) and FC United of Manchester (3-3 draw). Now as much as I enjoy watching Chorley play, I was looking forward to getting to a new ground today and watching two sides that I have never seen before.

With my car off of the road again, my choices for football were limited to wherever I could get to on either public transport or by walking. Today would see a mixture of the two, as I caught the 109 bus to Preston, got off of the bus in Leyland Cross and walked down to the ground. Anyone that follows my Snapchat will have been subjecting to a number of videos detailing my walk to the ground. I arrived at the Jim Fowler Memorial Fields, initially, at 2.30pm, and after looking around the ground I couldn’t see any sign of a bar, so I ended up having a walk around the local area to kill some time before kickoff. It wasn’t until I arrived back at the ground at around 2.50pm that I noticed the clubhouse nestled between the home and away changing rooms. Kicking myself for not noticing it sooner, I quickly went and bought a can of Carling, a packet of crisps and a KitKat all for the price of £3!

The Jim Fowler Memorial Fields are a basic affair, essentially what I’d expected at this level. It is made up of a pitch surrounded by advertising hoardings with hard standing running around the pitch, the clubhouse/changing room building, seems to be a newly built building, and the clubhouse is very smart inside. The thing that impressed me the most, was the pitch as it looked immaculate, and despite the heavy rain in the area, the pitch had held up well and looked like a carpet!

Euxton Villa were formed in 1907, and began life as Euxton playing in the West Lancashire League. The club led a rather nomadic existence as they played in various locations in Euxton before they bought three farmers’ fields in 1985, where they have built their home. The club have since merged with junior teams from the village, and in 2002 they became an FA Community Club, and are proud to be one of the first 100 clubs in the country to attain this status. The clubhouse was officially opened in 2009, by Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle.

Euxton have started the season well, winning the first four matches they have played this season. Euxton have played and beaten Tempest United, Coppull United, Southport Hesketh and Eagley so far this season. Their last game came against Eagley in which Euxton picked up all three points as they beat Eagley 4-2.

Crooklands Casuals were formed in 1970, starting life as a way for Dalton Rugby players to kick a round ball around on a Sunday morning, they were soon given an ultimatum in relation to the use of the pitch, as there were more players turning up for the Sunday morning kick around then there were on rugby training nights. Rather than be told they could no longer play football, founder members, and brothers, Roy and Brian Pickthall soon set up a Sunday League team, with no pitch, no strip, no money, no name and no idea what they were doing! The club started off sharing Barnfield with Dalton Town, however as the club progressed Barnfield became less of a viable pitch, and the club moved into their current home in 1979. Crooklands joined the West Lancashire league in 2000, starting in Division Two, since then the club have progressed, and are now stalwarts of the Premier Division.

Crooklands results for the start of the season have been a bit of a mix, as they have played four, won one, drawn one and lost two. Crooklands last match ended with them beating Vickerstown 3-1. However earlier results have seen Crooklands lose 4-0 to Slyne with Hest and 3-1 to Fulwood Amateurs.

As I walked out of the clubhouse I almost walked straight into the Euxton team as they lined up before walking onto the pitch, Crooklands were emerging from the changing room to my left, and as soon as there were 11 players queuing from each team the ref led the two sides onto the pitch. Euxton Villa were wearing bright orange shirts, with white shorts and Crooklands were decked out in bright (lime?) green shirts with black shorts. Both sides followed the ref out onto the pitch, and soon enough the game began.

Euxton were the quickest out of the blocks, and their initial attacking play was very positive. However it didn’t take long for the Crooklands numbers 9 and 10 to catch my eye, as the number 9 seemed to be an old-fashioned centre forward, with the strength to hold players off and the intelligence to play round them, and the number 10 just posed an out and out attacking force with his speed and trickery.

Crooklands won a corner in the 14th minute, and although they kept four at the back, they couldn’t stop Euxton as they counter attacked from the corner. Following a quick break, the Euxton number 11 Rob Walker found himself in plenty of space on the left hand side of the box, and he slotted the ball home nicely past the young Crooklands keeper. (Twitter has just revealed that the Crooklands keeper, Charlie Foster is just 16 years old, as well as Foster, two other 16 year olds also made their debut for Crooklands, well done to number 11 Kieran Clark and number 14 Callum Caldwell!)

It didn’t take long for Crooklands to get back into the game, as ten minutes after the opening goal, Crooklands number 9, Dave Mansergh, maneuvered his way around the Euxton defence before firing the ball home. Crooklands had played some wonderfully simple football, and the goal was a just reward for keeping it simple and getting the ball forward.

Euxton found themselves back in the lead in the 30th minute as their number 9, Patrick Bibby, sprung the offside trap brilliantly, and went one on one with the keeper, before beating the keeper with an excellently placed shot.

Half Time: Euxton Villa 2-1 Crooklands Casuals (Walker 14, Bibby 30 – Mansergh 24)

Following the half time whistle I headed back around to the clubhouse, and joined the queue, despite their being a couple of people head of me, everyone was served quickly and I was soon sat at one of the tables outside drinking another can of Carling, which I paid £2 for. I hadn’t found a programme for this match, I wasn’t really expecting to find one at this level, I was pretty chuffed however to find a copy of the teamsheet on twitter.

Crooklands came out strong from the break, and dealt with the Euxton attack well. In all fairness Euxton probably had the better of the ball going forward, however they weren’t having the best of luck in front of goal, as they could have been 4 or 5 up if they had taken their chances.

It was to be Crooklands who scored next, and they bought the score level in the 51st minute, as their number 7, David Goude hit a low and hard shot from the edge of the area which fizzed past the Euxton keeper and nestled in the back of the net.

Both sides made changes in the 56th minute, with Crooklands replacing their number 2 Paul Muspratt (Sorry if that is wrong, but that’s what the teamsheet looks like it says!) with their number 12, Liam Curwen. Euxton switched their number 3 Lewis Saunders with their number 16, Callum Rigby.

About a minute after the first substitutions, Crooklands put themselves into the lead, as their number 9, Dave Mansergh put the ball into the box, and their number 10, Tony Butler got a foot to the ball to deflect it into the box. Crooklands, to be fair, always looked like they were going to score again, and it was no surprise when they did.

More changes were made by Euxton in the 61st minute, as they swapped their number 4, Lee McKenna, for their number 14, Matt Mawdsley. McKenna had played well, in all fairness, but the manager had obviously decided that things needed freshening up.

Both sides made further changes in the 70th minute, with Euxton replacing their number 11, Rob Walker, with their number 12, Ryan Donwellan. On the Crooklands Casuals bench, young Callum Caldwell, number 14, came on to replace the equally young, number 11, Kieran Clark. (I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that Crooklands had three 16 year olds in their team, they certainly didn’t play like 16 year olds, they played like players that had been at this level for a while!)

Euxton were pushing forward for an equalizer, and the ball spent a large amount of time in the Crooklands’ half, but despite all of Villa’s pressure they weren’t having any luck in front of goal, and when they were able to get a shot on goal, the Casuals’ keeper did well to keep the Villa attack at bay. If the Casuals’ keeper can work on his kicking from goal kicks, he’ll be a fantastic player in the future.

There was always going to be another goal in this game, as Euxton pressed forward, however that goal was to come from a Crooklands player, as in the 90th minute, their number 9, Dave Mansergh broke forward once again, and after beating the last defender he found himself one-on-one with the keeper, and he made no mistake with his shot, firing past the keeper. His celebration was a little unusual for this level of football, as he sprinted to the corner flag, and in front of no-one he slid on his knees in celebration, he was eventually joined by some of his teammates but they had to run a fair distance to celebrate with him, but then again when you play as well as he had, he can’t be blamed for celebrating as he did. In fact if I were to select a man of the match it would have to be him, he was simply brilliant.

To Euxton’s credit they did attempt to keep pushing forward, but time was against them, and soon enough the referee brought an entertaining game to an end, and with the final whistle he signaled Euxton’s first defeat of the season, and according to the Crooklands Casuals’ twitter this was Casuals’ first away win ever, apparently. (I would be interested to hear whether this actually is Crooklands’ first ever away win as it does seem to be a long time to wait for an away win!)

Final Score: Euxton Villa 2-4 Crooklands Casuals (Walker 14, Bibby 30 – Mansergh 24 & 90, Goude 51, Butler 57)

At the final whistle I made a quick stop at the toilets before heading back towards Leyland Cross, where I had to wait for my bus back to Chorley, thankfully the bus was on time, and soon enough I found myself back on home, thoroughly happy with my choice of football match, as I had watched an entertaining match between two good sides. It was good to see two teams looking to play the game instead of moaning at the ref, sure there was some moaning at the ref but all in all the players got on with the game.

The ref and his assistants had a good game, with them not making any mistakes of note. The ref made his presence known to the players, and he could be clearly heard explaining decisions he had made which was good.

Following this result, Euxton find themselves sitting in 5th placed in the league, they are still within reach of the top of the table, as they find themselves three points off of Longridge Town who currently sit top of the league. Plus it is still only August, and with only five games played so far, there is plenty of time for things to change.

Crooklands now find themselves in 7th place having played five, won two, drawn one and lost two. As I’ve said only five games have been played so far, so there is still plenty of time for teams to get themselves into a good run of form.

Euxton Villa is a brilliant club set in a great location, and they are a team I would like to visit again in the future, especially with how easy it is to get there from Chorley, and plus I now know where the clubhouse is!

Attendance: Not sure, I forgot to do a headcount.

Cost: £10.60

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Next game: Charnock Richards vs St Helens, North West Counties League Division One, 27/8/16

Euxton’s twitter: https://twitter.com/EuxtonVillaFC

Crooklands Casuals’ twitter: https://twitter.com/crooklandsfc

Pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157671553686020

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