Nelson vs Bootle, North West Counties League Premier, 31/12/16, Little Wembley

After watching Shrewsbury at Bolton last week I decided to end 2016 at a level of football I have become very comfortable with. I’m not sure why, but I seem to enjoy football more in the NWCFL, whether that’s because the football is more honest, whether the grounds have more charm or whether it actually feels like every penny you spend assists a team more. Whatever the reason for my enjoyment of the NWCFL, I love it at this level, and honestly feel that when I finish with groundhopping, I’ll spend my time volunteering at a club at this level.

I’ve heard and read a lot about Little Wembley, home of Nelson FC, and this game provided a great chance to go and visit, especially seeing how Bootle were going to be the visitors. I attended Padiham’s game against Bootle, and found myself impressed by how Bootle played the game, so when I noticed that they were to be Nelson’s opposition, I didn’t hesitate in my decision to attend this game. After a quick drive from Chorley, I found myself pulling up outside Little Wembley, the only parking at the ground is street-parking, but fortunately Little Wembley is on a quiet street, and I didn’t have any issues parking up. I walked down to the ground and at the turnstile I paid £6 to get in, however what really surprised me was that the turnstile operator was a young lad, and when I say young, I feel he may have been about 13, but he was polite, and whoever his parents are, they should feel proud of themselves for raising a well-mannered child! From the turnstiles I headed around to the clubhouse at the far end of the ground, and paid £1.80 for a Kit Kat and a Diet Pepsi, unfortunately I couldn’t find a programme, but to be fair I was too enchanted by my surroundings to really mind.

Honestly, Little Wembley is one of the greatest grounds I’ve been in. It may not have much in the ways of facilities, there is a single seated stand on one touchline, and the clubhouse and changing rooms are tucked in one corner of the ground, it is fairly basic, but what makes me love this ground, is the views. Along the touchline, opposite the seated stand, are a row of terraced houses, which must come with a great view of the pitch, and I did notice that a few are up for sale! Behind these houses is the town of Nelson, and the ground itself is surrounded by trees. The majority of the ground is hard-standing, but it is clear to see that if Nelson were to advance up the leagues, then there is plenty of room to grow.

Nelson were formed in 1881, and were found members of the Lancashire League in the 1889 to 1890 season, and finished their first season in 4th place. In 1896 they were league champions, as they won 22 out of 30 games. Unfortunately the team were to fold during the 1898 to 1899 season, and they rejoined the Lancashire League in the 1900 to 1901 season, and in the 1901 to 1902 season they joined the Lancashire Combination. In 1916 the club closed down, and remained closed during World War One, until they were reformed in 1918, joining the Central League in 1919, where they stayed just for two seasons. In 1921 the club joined the Football League, as a founder member of the Third Division North. Nelson were crowned champions of the Third Division North in 1923, earning promotion to the Second Division, the first and only time the club played in a national league. In preparation for their season in the Second Division, the club went on a pre-season tour of Spain, beating Real Oviedo 2-1, and a little known team called Real Madrid 4-2, which makes Nelson the first team to beat Real Madrid in Spain. Nelson’s stay in the Second Division was short, and they were relegated back to the Third Division North in 1924. In 1931 the club finished bottom of the league, for the second time, and they were relegated out of the Football League, to be replaced by Chester City. Nelson then dropped back to the Lancashire Combination, however on the 7th of August 1936 the club folded. They were hastily re-formed, and entered the Nelson & Colne League in time for the 1936 to 1937 season. In 1939 Nelson returned to senior football in the West Lancashire League, however two games were played, due to events in Europe, which dictated a seven year absence of League football in Nelson. Following the Second World War, the club was reformed in 1946, and joined the Lancashire Combination, the club were to win the league on two occasions in 1950 and 1952, along with the Lancashire Combination Cup in 1950, 1951 and 1960, Nelson also won the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy in 1955, during this period the club applied for re-election to the Football League, but were denied on each occasion. Nelson became founder members of the NWCFL and joined the Third Division, and in the 1982 to 1983 season they finished tenth. In the 1987 to 1988 the club joined the Second Division, as the Third Division was scrapped. However due to the poor standard of their Victoria Park stadium the club were forced to drop down to the West Lancashire League, where they remained for four seasons, until 1992, when they rejoined the NWCFL Second Division, after Victoria Park was upgraded. In 2006, the club finished third in the league and were promoted to the First Division, which was to be the club’s first promotion in 83 years. However, there was to be another twist in the tale, and the club resigned from the NWCFL in July 2010, they continued to run junior teams, and rejoined the NWCFL for the 2011 to 2012 season, and in the 2012 to 2013 season, the club were crowned champions of the NWCFL Division One and were promoted to the Premier Division. Recent results haven’t been too great for Nelson, and they find themselves at the wrong end of the table, following two draws, two defeats and one win in their last five games.

As I have mentioned I have already seen Bootle play this season, at Padiham, so I’ll leave a link to that blog here. In Bootle’s last five games they have been rather impressive, and they seem to be rather prolific in front of goal, in their last five games they have won three, with a 5-1 beating of St Helens, a 7-1 demolishing of AFC Darwen, at Darwen, and a 4-3 thriller against AFC Liverpool, however the club have lost two games, with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Cleethorpes in the FA Vase 3rd Round, and a 2-0 defeat to Squires Gate.

For a club at the wrong end of the table, Nelson started the game brightly, and made the best of a muddy pitch, fast attacks down the wings, unsettled the Bootle defence, and in the 10th minute, the ball was whipped in to the Bootle area, the Bootle keeper came out to gather the ball, however he put in a poor challenge on an on-rushing Nelson attacker, and the referee signaled for a penalty, which was converted confidently by the Nelson number 9, Jason Hart.

Bootle seemed to be struggling to get into the game, but once they adjusted to the pitch, they began to get forward, and in the 29th minute, they won a penalty. The Bootle number 10, Josh Hamilton, stepped up and fired the ball into the top left corner.

The game seemed to even out, and both sides had chances to get forward, however the game was turning into a real midfield battle, with neither side able to establish dominance. Bootle came close, as they saw a shot rebound off of the crossbar, and it seemed the keeper got a hand to the ball, so when the rebound came down at the feet of a Bootle attacker, they would have been onside, the ball was squared to another Bootle player who tapped the ball into the net, however the linesman had seen things differently, and his flag was raised for offside.

With half time approaching, I completed my lap of the ground, and as I was nearing the clubhouse, Bootle won another penalty, again for a poor challenge in the area. With his earlier goal still fresh in his mind, Josh Hamilton stepped up again, and again fired the ball into the top right corner, to give Bootle the lead in the 43rd minute.

Half Time: Nelson 1-2 Bootle (Hart 10 – Hamilton 29, 43)

At half time, I was going to head into the clubhouse, however the queue was long, so I spent the half time break playing ball-boy for the Bootle subs, which kept me entertained until the second half kicked off.

Bootle came out of the break the better of the two sides, and they began to show their prolific nature in front of goal again, as they created chance after chance to increase their lead.

The Bootle number 3, Michael Carberry, was having a good game, and had been impressive down the left wing, from what I heard from the Bootle fans, he is only a young lad, but he clearly has talent, and he’s another player that teams higher up need to have a look at! His game was completed in the 52nd minute, as the ball was delivered into the box, Carberry controlled it well, turned and fired the ball home, which by the sounds of it was his first goal for the club.

Bootle increased their lead in the 56th minute (Well I made it the 56th minute, however the NWCFL website says the 69th, however both the Bootle and Nelson twitter pages, show that the 4th goal was scored 4 minutes after the 3rd), the Bootle number 9 picked up the ball in the Nelson penalty area, and his shot looked to be going wide, until it took a deflection off of a Nelson defender, and cannoned into the net.

In the 59th minute, both sides made a change, with Nelson’s number 11 being replaced by their number 16, and Bootle swapped their number 9 for their number 12.

There weren’t to be any more goals in this game, as Nelson didn’t really trouble the Bootle keeper, and the Nelson keeper kept everything out that the Bootle attack threw at him. To be fair if it hadn’t had been for the Nelson keeper, the score line would have been a lot higher, as he played well.

The 72nd minute bought another change for Bootle, as their number 3, the very impressive Michael Carberry, left the field to be replaced by Bootle’s number 14. Six minutes later Nelson made a double substitution with their numbers 5 and 7 leaving the field to be replaced by numbers 12 and 14. Finally in the 83rd minute Bootle made their final change with their number 10, Josh Hamilton, leaving the field to be replaced by their number 15. It was a shame that Hamilton was replaced as he was one goal away from a hat-trick, and therefore a goal away from me giving £5 to charity. He had come close to completing his hat-trick in the 2nd half, as he beat the Nelson defence, and keeper, but his shot rebounded off of the post.

Final Score: Nelson 1-4 Bootle (Hart 10 – Hamilton 29, 43, Carberry 52, Own Goal 56)

At the final whistle, I walked back round the ground and up to my car. The drive home was easy, and I soon found myself back at home, wondering whether I could be bothered to stay up to see in the New Year, in the end I couldn’t be bothered, and decided against watching the year change.

Defeat for Nelson sees them sit in 21st, eleven points from safety, and six points from being the bottom placed side. Nelson need to find form and quickly, and hopefully they’ll find their form in the New Year. Their attacking play in the first half was promising, and they were indebted to their keeper who kept the score down, as without him, Bootle could have won by an even larger margin.

A win for Bootle, sees them occupy 2nd in the league, a point away from Runcorn Town, who occupy top spot. Atherton Collieries are on equal points with Bootle, and Colls have a game in hand, but they do have to win that game first. If Bootle keep up their strong attacking play, and their form in front of goal then this should me a memorable year for the club. I’m hoping to get down to the Delta Taxi Stadium soon, as I’ve enjoyed watching Bootle this season.

I’ve already said how lovely a ground Little Wembley is, but I’m going to say it again. I would fully encourage anyone in the area, to visit this ground at least once, as it is a charming ground.

Anyway, Happy New Year to everyone reading this, let’s hope 2017 continues to provide entertaining football, and hopefully 2017 will see Shrewsbury Town escape relegation!

Attendance: 85

Cost: £7.80

Movember Total: £12 (£2.50 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0


Nelson’s Twitter:

Bootle’s Twitter:


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