Irlam vs AFC Darwen, North West Counties Football League Premier Division, 04/03/17, Silver Street Ground

I spent my morning walking around the shops in Chorley Town Centre, a rather successful shopping trip for myself as I picked up a Brazil shirt, an Italy shirt and an Admiral England shirt all for the price of £7. However whilst walking around I had one eye on my phone, for one I’ve gotten back into Pokemon Go, however it was today’s football which caused me to keep checking my phone every two seconds, as I scoured Twitter for signs of games being called off.

I was overjoyed when Irlam tweeted that the game would be on after a pitch inspection, and after lunch I jumped in my car, and followed the Sat-Nav down to Irlam. One thing I had failed to notice was that Irlam play close to where Salford’s Rugby League side are housed, and the road to Irlam was bogged down with traffic as Rugby League fans attempted to get to the AJ Bell Stadium, however once past the Rugby ground the traffic eased, and I pulled up outside the Silver Street Ground, home of Irlam FC.

I paid £5 for entry to the match, and asked at the turnstile whether there were any programmes for sale. Unfortunately there weren’t as the programme editor had taken a look at the weather last night, and had decided that the game would be off, fortunately the game was on, but there wasn’t enough time to get the programmes sorted, which was a shame, however more importantly the match was on. After walking through the turnstiles I headed to the clubhouse, and paid £2.50 for a can of Fosters, I took a seat in the immaculate clubhouse, and watched as the experts on Sky dissected the incident between Zlatan and Mings.

Once I had finished my pint, I headed out to the pitch, as it was drawing nearer to 3pm, and I made my way along the touchline opposite to the dugouts, and stood on the halfway line. Silver Street has tonnes of room for expansion if ever needed, and the facilities on hand, whilst basic, were well maintained. Along the touchline that I stood on for the first half is a stretch of uncovered hard standing. Behind the goal to the right hand side was another stretch of uncovered hard standing, with a large grass area behind, further into the distance is a motorway. Along the opposite touchline stand the dugouts, and another stretch of hard standing, however to the left of the halfway line, is a small covered stand which contains the only seats in the ground. To the left of this small stand are the changing rooms, clubhouse and turnstiles. Behind the goal nearest to the clubhouse, stands a small covered terrace, however this only extends for half of the distance behind the goal, and the remainder of the area behind the goal is hard standing, again with a large grass area.

Irlam FC were formed as Mitchell Shackleton FC in October 1969, by employees working for the engineering company Mitchell Shackleton in Eccles. The club began life in the Eccles and District Amateur Football League in 1970, initially the club were funded by their workplace’s sports and social club, however the recession of the late 1970s led to the company restructuring its business interests leading to a reduction in the workforce. That in turn led to the closure of the sports and social club, and since then the club has been self-financing. It was in the Manchester Amateur league that the club built its reputation, as they won the Third Division in 1974 and the Second Division in 1975. The club remained in the Manchester Amateur league until 1989 as they joined the Manchester League, and in their second season they finished as First Division runners-up in 1991, gaining them promotion to the Premier Division. The club changed their name to Irlam Mitchell Shackleton at the start of the 2001/2002 season, in anticipation of their move to Irlam, a move only necessary as their Salteye Park was purchased and subsequently used for the AJ Bell Stadium, home of Salford Reds.In 2006 the club dropped the Mitchell Shackleton suffix to become Irlam FC. In the 2008/2009 season the club stepped up to the North West Counties Football League Division One, and finished in 8th place in their first season. As AFC Darwen were bravely battling against the drop at the end of the 2015/2016 season, Irlam were preparing for life in the Premier Division as they finished runners-up in Division One, gaining them access to the Premier Division for the first time in their history. In their last five matches, Irlam have won once, drawn twice and lost twice, leading them to sit in 13th according to the table on the 26th of February.

I’ve covered AFC Darwen before, here.. So I won’t delve into their history again, according to the NWCFL website, AFC Darwen have not played since the 4th of February and their last game resulted in a 9-0 defeat at the hands of Bootle. In their last five, Darwen have lost twice, won twice and drawn once. Currently they sit in 19th, again according to the table on the 26th of February.

With AFC Darwen having had a month off of league football, it was going to be interesting to see how they reacted to that enforced break. Irlam emerged in their blue home kit, and Darwen were wearing their red kit.

It took until the 14th minute for the first goal, as the Darwen number 9, Karl Turner, latched onto a nice ball and lobbed the onrushing Irlam keeper. The Darwen number 9 was to be a constant annoyance to the Irlam defence, both with his attacking movement, and his constant banter, in all honesty if he put as much effort into his football as he did into winding the opposition up, he’d be on the same level as Messi.

Darwen were to double their lead in the 28th minute, as the Darwen number 11, Mohammed Nabeel, picked up on a perfect through ball, and converted nicely past the Irlam keeper. During the attack, the Irlam number 2, Barry Lomas, went down injured, and unfortunately had to be stretchered off of the pitch, hopefully it was nothing serious, and he’ll be back playing again soon, however he was to be replaced in this match by Irlam’s number 12, Richard Peters (Note I am using the team line ups from the NWCFL website so this may not be accurate). In all fairness the scores probably should have been level at this point, as Irlam had had two good penalty shouts turned down within seconds of each other, and in my opinion they probably should have been awarded the first one, however the referee made his decision, and Darwen capitalised on their opportunities in front of goal.

Half Time: Irlam 0-2 AFC Darwen (Turner 14, Nabeel 28)

At half time I headed back around to the clubhouse, and paid a £1 for a can of diet coke. I then completed a lap of the ground, dodging the puddles and mishit shots from the subs as I went, before taking a position on the touchline by the dugouts for the second half, I’d forgotten to bring my glasses and wouldn’t have been able to see the subs from where I stood in the first half.

Given the injury in the first half, the second half was delayed until 16.05, however the game resumed quickly in comparison to the 20 minutes of extra time they had at Shrewsbury Town’s match against Coventry City.

Irlam made their second change of the game in the 58th minute, as the Irlam number 14, Marcus Perry, came on to replace number 7, Lee Grimshaw.

The heavens had opened at this point, and this only added to the game on the pitch, as the already wet pitch became even worse, and for a period tackles flew in, with some bordering on reckless. Mohammed Nabeel, the Darwen number 11, was to be a victim of one of these tackles, and he had to be replaced in the 67th minute, by number 12 Declan Cunliffe. Irlam also made their final change with their number 10, Jordan Icely, making way for number 17, Callum McCarty.

Irlam reduced the arrears in the 70th minute, as their number 9, Steven Mills, capitalised on the Darwen keeper’s error, and slotted the ball home, to put Irlam back into the game, with a chance of gaining a point.

Darwen made their final changes in the 80th minute, as their numbers 9, Karl Turner, and 8, Jordan Scott, left the pitch to be replaced by numbers 14, Liam Cole, and 15, Daniel Russell.

The final goal of the game came in stoppage time, Irlam had been pushing forward for an equaliser, and their keeper delivered a free-kick from the halfway line into the Darwen box. Once he had struck the free-kick he stood on the halfway line, ready to clear up any balls that came towards him. The ball was cleared by Darwen, and sensibly the keeper began to back-track, however the ball was played to Darwen’s number 14, Liam Cole, who composed himself and fired over the keeper’s head into the open goal.

Final Score: Irlam 1-3 AFC Darwen (Mills, 70 – Turner 14, Nabeel 28, Cole 93)

Unfortunately the rugby league lot had finished as well, so my journey out of Irlam was delayed by the traffic attempting to get away from the AJ Bell Stadium, soon enough I was back on the motorway and back on my way to Chorley. On my way out of the ground I found myself walking alongside Darwen’s number 11, Mohammed Nabeel, as he limped back to the changing rooms, he had a clear cut on his left knee from the challenge he had suffered, I have no doubts that there was absolutely no malice in the tackle, as it appeared to just be a result of the wet pitch.

Defeat for Irlam sees them sit in 14th place, however if results were to go their way they could move up to 11th place, as only two points separate them from 11th placed Maine Road, although they would be on equal points as 8th placed Hanley Town, Irlam’s goal difference of -14 would count against them.

AFC Darwen currently occupy 19th in the league, however they are nine points ahead of Nelson who sit in 20th place, Darwen do have games in hand, and could climb to 13th if results went there way, however their goal difference of -42 is worrying, and is the 2nd worst in the league, with only Cammell Laird having a worse goal difference, -90 for anyone interested.

Silver Street is a lovely little ground, the welcome was warm, and I would definitely recommend paying it a visit, however if you are intending to visit Silver Street, I would take a look into the fixtures of Salford Reds, the Rugby League side, as traffic can be slightly nightmareish.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about filming my groundhopping adventures for YouTube, I’ve seen others doing the same thing, and have noticed that there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the North West doing it. This would mean that I would have to revisit some grounds, but I would still continue the blog at the same time, I’ve already got the YouTube channel, either click here, PreecedGames, or search PreecedGames, as the name suggests it is a gaming channel, and I will advise that anyone offending by swearing or violent games, may want to give it a miss.

Attendance: 84

Cost: £8.50

Movember Total: £17 (£2 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0



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