Atherton Laburnum Rovers vs Widnes, North West Counties Football League Division One, 17/09/16, Crilly Park
Another Saturday, another journey which would take me through Wigan. With my car still off of the road, it meant that again my options were limited to where I could get to on public transport, and with rail replacement work still plodding along on the line between Preston and Manchester, I found myself once again catching the 362 bus to Wigan. I was planning on heading to Ashton Athletic for their FA Cup match with FC Halifax, however tickets were selling quickly for the game, and I hadn’t noticed, and hadn’t bought a ticket. So my back-up plan was a trip to the town of Atherton, a town I still can’t pronounce correctly. My travel costs were the same as last week, £5.30 for the bus, and £4 for the train. I could have gone through Bolton to get to Atherton, but I’m a creature of habit, and knowing the Wigan route well, I decided to stick to the familiar.
Unfortunately, just before I left home I realized that I couldn’t find my headphones, and after tearing my house apart looking for them, I had to admit defeat, and leave without them. Upon arriving in Wigan I did begin to look for an Argos, but there wasn’t one nearby and the CEX and WH Smiths in town didn’t sell headphones. Boredom did set in at Wigan Wallgate as I waited for the 14.09 to Blackburn, but thankfully the train arrived to whisk me off to Atherton. Arriving in Atherton at about 14.30, I headed down to the local Asda, but luck was against me, and there were no headphones or coffee shops.
I’ve recently started drinking coffee, and when I say recently I mean since Friday, as they’ve recently provided free hot-drinks at work, so I tried some coffee, and now feel it will start to be included in my list of addictions, which currently include: Bacon, Football Manager and Groundhopping. I suppose there are worse things to be addicted to like Crystal Meth, but I can’t see myself liking Meth, although as my parents used to say, when trying to get me to eat new foods especially vegetables, “How do you know you don’t like it without trying it?” Sound life advice.
(Sidenote: My parents read this blog, and I would just like to assure them that I have no intention to try Crystal Meth, I simply can’t afford it. I think the only way I could afford it would be to win the EuroMillions, and if I won that I’d become addicted to fast cars and running a football club. So it’s safe to say that Meth is not on my radar at all.)
Anyway, drugs aside, I soon found my way to Crilly Park, nestled nicely in a residential estate, in which the houses had a horrible tendency to beep at me, sounds weird but half of the gardens in this neighbourhood had these sensors in the garden, which I believe are meant to scare off cats and other wildlife, but all they were doing was testing my hearing, which despite years of loud music I am proud to say is still pretty good.
Back in January I visited Alder House, home of that other Atherton club Atherton Colleries, now anyone that has been to Alder House will know about the slope of the pitch, something I commented on comparing it to Underhill, the former home of Barnet. On that blog, Mr Atherton Colleries himself, Joe Gibbons, or Gibbo, commented that if I ever visited Crilly Park I would be in for a “real treat” as the slope at Crilly Park is steeper than Alder House, and he was right, as soon as I walked through the turnstile I noticed the slope straight away, with it appearing that the team attacking uphill would need Sherpas to guide them. (Is there any flat ground in Atherton?)
It cost me £5 to get in today, with another £1 for a programme, once through the turnstiles I headed straight to the clubhouse, and bought a pint of Carlsberg to drink during the first half, which cost me £2.60.
Obviously the first thing you notice as you enter Crilly Park is the slope, but I would be lying if I said that was the only thing that caught my eye, as the Main Stand is wonderful, it provides the only seats in the ground, but as it is elevated it provides a great view of the pitch. Beside the Main Stand are the clubhouse and dressing rooms. Behind the far goal, is a covered part of flat standing, which is set back from the pitch and is next to the train line, so I was able to play trainspotter whilst watching the football. Along the touchline opposite to the Main Stand, is another covered terrace, which I stood under for the first half, and behind the other goal, nearest the turnstiles is flat standing. All in all I really like Crilly Park, it’s a wonderful ground, full of character and charm, and I hope Atherton LR realize what a brilliant ground they have, I’ve visited a number of grounds in my groundhopping adventures, but Crilly Park really stands out as one of the best.
Atherton Laburnum Rovers were founded in 1956, as a junior club known as Laburnum Rovers, named after the Laburnum Playing Fields where they first played. In the same year as their foundation they joined the Brircroft Junior League, before joining the Leigh & District League and in 1960 they moved to the Hagfold Playing Fields. In 1961 Rovers joined the Bolton Combination, but a lack of facilities at Hagfold prevented promotion, and in 1966 they moved to their current home at Crilly Park, meaning they could be promoted to Division One for the 1966 to 1967 season. The club joined the Cheshire County League in 1980, and changed their name to Atherton Laburnum Rovers, due to a league stipulation that the town had to be in the club’s name. Rovers were founder members of the North West Counties Football League in 1982. In the 1992 to 1993 season, Rovers were crowned champions of the NWCFL, losing just two games all season, and the next season they repeated the feat of winning the league, this time they were promoted to the Northern Premier League Division One for the 1994 to 1995 season, however this stay lasted just three seasons, and in the 1996 to 1997 season they were relegated back to the NWCFL Division One, and following a period of financial instability the team were relegated to the NWCFL Division Two in the 1999 to 2000 season, however they were promoted back to Division One after one season. The NWCFL Division One was rebranded as the Premier Division for the 2008 to 2009 season, and in the 2011 to 2012 season Laburnum Rovers were relegated to Division One where they have stayed since.
Originally formed as The Dragons AFC in 2003, Widnes are a young club, initially set up with the purpose of making football fun, teaching new skills and self-confidence, the club’s aim was to make football so much fun that children would want to be involved and keep coming back for more. Over the years the club continued to expand, and had success on and off the field, with the club participating in tours to Spain (twice), Belfast and Devon, and in 2008 the club were awarded the FA Charter Stands Development award for its continuous development of grassroots football. In March 2012, Widnes Dragons began a consultation process with Widnes Vikings RLFC to become a part of the Vikings Sports Brand, leading to the unanimous decision in July 2012 to become a part of the Widnes Sports Group, and recently the club have enjoyed a successful partnership with Everton FC, to become Everton’s official school boy recruitment partners. In time for the 2013 to 2014 season Widnes Vikings were admitted to the football pyramid and joined the NWCFL Division One. In March 2014, the club’s committee held a vote which has seen the club move away from the Vikings brand, with a restructure of the club to secure its own identity and long-term future. As a result of this, the club parted ways with the Vikings brand and became known as Widnes Football Club.
There was a minutes silence before the game, which I believe was held in honour of Dan Wilkinson, the Shaw Lane AFC player who sadly passed away whilst playing the sport he loved. In an a cup tie at Brighouse Town FC, Wilkinson collapsed on the field, and despite the efforts of the medical staff from both teams along with paramedics, he passed away after suffering from Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy, the same disease which almost took the life of Fabrice Muamba. Shaw Lane AFC are raising money for the Daniel Wilkinson Foundation, and you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/danwilkinsonfoundation?utm_id=60&utm_term=JYd733EEw.
Widnes opened the scoring in the 24th minute, with Tom Mitchell, number 6, finding himself unmarked in the box, he met the corner kick with a thumping header which gave the keeper no chance at all.
In the Laburnum Rover’s manager notes they stated that they needed to improve on how they started games, as the manager felt it took them too long to get into the game, and unfortunately they seemed to be struggling to get going today as well, and in the 37th minute they found themselves trailing by two goals, as Widnes’ number 11, Ryan Malone broke into the box, and after his first shot hit the post, he netted the rebound well.
Half Time: Atherton LR 0-2 Widnes (Mitchell 24, Malone 37)
At half time I headed back to the clubhouse, where I bought a can of Fosters and a packet of crisps for £2.60. With my food and drink in hand, I headed back out to the pitch, and watched the subs warm up. Atherton were to be kicking downhill for the second half, and they must have received a lecture at half time, as they were out on the pitch five minutes early.
Whatever the Rovers’ manager had to say must have worked, as in the 50th minute Rovers halved the deficit, as their number 9, Imande Favour muscled his way into the box, and after rounding the keeper he slotted the ball home. I’ve got to say that Favour was the stand out player for Rovers today, and if any teams higher up are looking for a big, strong, target man then they wouldn’t go wrong having a look at this lad.
Both teams made their first changes in the 58th minute, with Widnes replacing number 11, Malone, with their number 15, and Rovers switched their number 2, for their number 12.
After two pints, I did begin to feel the need for the toilet, and I was making my way across to the clubhouse, when Widnes won a corner, the ball was delivered into the box, and Widnes’ number 9, Neil Harvey, seized on a flick on, and powered a low shot home.
Widnes made a second change, two minutes after scoring, in the 65th minute, with their number 4 leaving the field to be replaced by their number 16.
I began to notice around this point, that one of the Atherton fans had superhero sight, as despite being stood at the other end of the pitch, he was able to see every offside, and I must admit that I am jealous of his ability, to see tiny details over long distances, I am of course joking, but I do wish I had his eyesight.
Atherton made their final changes in the 71st minute, with numbers 3 and 8 leaving the field to be replaced by numbers 15 and 14 respectively.
Atherton’s number 9, Imande Favour, was still causing issues for the Widnes defence, as they seemed to be struggling with his strength and pace. In the 74th minute, he again reduced the deficit to one goal. A corner was whipped into the box, and the Widnes defence failed to deal with the ball, and Favour pulled off a beautiful volley into the back of the net.
Widnes made their final change in the 85th minute, with their number 9, Harvey, departing to be replaced by their number 12.
The two goal cushion was restored by Widnes in the 88th minute, as the Widnes number 7, Kev Towey, latched onto a through ball and fired past the Rovers keeper, with a shot which found the roof of the net.
Final Score: Atherton LR 2-4 Widnes (Favour 50, 74 – Mitchell 24, Malone 37, Harvey 63, Towey 88)
Following the final whistle I made my way to the train station, and cursed my luck as a train pulled out of the station just as I stepped onto the platform, however it was a 15 minute wait for the next train, which gave me time to find that Shrewsbury had lost again, this time losing to Scunthorpe.
Once I was back in Wigan I headed over to a bus stop and waited for the next 362, I’d somehow timed my journey well, as the next bus came after a couple of minutes, and I was back in Chorley for about 18.30. I’ve been enjoying getting public transport to football, but I am looking forward to getting my car back as it will enable me to cast my net further.
Defeat for Atherton LR sees them sit 17th in the league, with 12 games played they have won 3, drawn 2 and lost 7, meaning they have picked up a total of 11 points, with the 4th worst goal difference in the league, -15, there is a bit of work to do, but going forward Laburnum Rovers have a good set of players, especially with Imande Favour in the side, I’ve already mentioned that teams higher up should be looking at him, but I need to repeat that, as he was brilliant, he caused the Widnes defence a number of issues during the game, and took his two goals well.
Three points for Widnes sees them in 9th position, after playing 9, they have lost 3, drawn 1 and won 5, meaning a total of 16 points have been picked up. Widnes have just parted company with their manager Danny Meadowcroft, and I feel that the caretaker manager Danny Salt would definitely be a good choice for permanent manager, as his side looked good today.
Finally, this is something I’ve been debating whether I should mention or not, but the referee and his assistants were good today, but the main thing that impressed me was the players and fans’ reaction to the female assistant referee. Unfortunately there have been a couple of cases in the non-league scene where certain people (Neanderthals with outdated views on the world) have abused female officials, and I did dread the thought of that happening today, but if anything the players and fans highlighted how good both teams are, as they were respectful and a credit to the teams they represented.
Cost: £9.30 for travel, £11.20 at the game.
Hat-tricks seen so far: 0
Next game: Still not sure why I do this, but nothing next week as I’m at work, but potentially Squires Gate vs New Mills, 1/10/16, The Macron Cup 1st Round
Atherton LR’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/AthertonLRFC
Widnes’ Twitter: https://twitter.com/widnes_fc