Longridge Town vs Vickerstown, West Lancashire Football League Premier Division, Mike Riding Ground
As I said at the start of the last blog, I’m not ready for this season to end, that’s probably because I don’t feel like I’ve seen as much football as I did last season, but then again a combination of work, illness, lack of money and hangovers hasn’t helped. What I have seen this season has been a number of good games, and even better grounds, which as a Groundhopper is all I can ask for. I still haven’t seen a 0-0 draw, although that’ll probably happen soon. With this likely to be my last blog post of the season, I decided against my original idea of heading to Coppull, and instead googled the directions for Longridge.
Longridge sits outside of Preston, and from what I saw, as I drove through, it is a pretty little area, one that I would certainly like to go back and explore. In all fairness I should have set off earlier, to allow me to explore the area before the game, which is something I may start doing next season. I couldn’t enjoy the scenery during the drive as much as I normally would, as I had made the genius decision to not fill my petrol tank before I left Chorley, believing that I would have enough petrol, I was lucky enough to find a Texaco garage in Longridge, just before I ran out, and honestly I’ve never been happier to see a garage before!
Longridge Town play at the Mike Riding Ground, and the outskirts of the town, a well maintained area, hemmed in by houses on one side, and fields on the other. After pulling into the car-park, and getting out of the car, I headed over to the admission gate, where I paid £3 to get in, which included a free programme and a teamsheet inside the programme. Yes, you read that right, Longridge Town provide a teamsheet with the programme! It’s a bloody brilliant idea and I wish more clubs would do so!
The Mike Riding Ground is your typical ground at this level, you emerge by the clubhouse, with a small stand to your left, which provides the only seats in the ground. The clubhouse houses the changing rooms as well, and in all fairness is a brilliant little room, where I happily paid 80p for a can of Diet Coke, the rest of the ground is a fenced off pitch, with standing areas consisting of grass, no concrete hard standing here! But that adds to the charm, within minutes of walking into the Mike Riding Ground I had already made my mind up that this was going to be a good place to watch a game of football. On the touchline opposite the clubhouse, there is also the added benefit of being able to watch a game of cricket, as I found myself doing during any break of play. Now with the Cricket season kicking off, and the Football season coming to an end, I may take up watching cricket, is there such thing as a cricket groundhopper?
I’ve found it difficult to find any history for either club, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to find the Football Club History Database, which has given me an idea of the history of both sides. I’m assuming that Longridge Town are the reformed club of Longridge United who played in the West Lancashire League between 1987 and 1993, with Longridge Town being formed in 1996. From what I have been able to find Longridge Town joined the West Lancashire League in 2009, having played in the Preston & District League. Town were to start life in the West Lancs league in Division Two, and finished runners-up in their first season, seeing them promoted to Division One. Town were to spend two seasons in Division One, winning it in the 2011-2012 season, which saw them gain promotion to the Premier Division where they have played ever since. This season has been a good one for Longridge as they come into this game sitting 2nd in the league, level on points with 1st placed Blackpool Wren Rovers, but behind on goal difference, and with two games to go it’s likely to come down to the final game of the season.
From what I’ve been able to find, Vickerstown joined the West Lancashire Football League in 2006, and entered Division Two, which they won at the first time of asking, gaining them promotion to Division One, in their first season in Division One they finished as runners-up and found themselves in the Premier Division for the 2008-2009 season, where they have remained since, with their best season being in 2014-2015 where they finished 4th. Vickerstown entered this game in 8th and with nothing to gain from the game, they could only attempt to stop Longridge Town from competing in the title race.
With a cold wind blowing, I decided to stand on the touchline opposite the clubhouse, so that the wind was behind me, standing here also meant that I could watch the cricket at the same time, and anytime I heard a shout from the cricket field, I found myself turning round to see what had happened.
Knowing that their title chances were in their hands, Longridge started the game well, but the opening five minutes were dominated by Vickerstown, with them coming close on a couple of occasions.
It took until the 9th minute for the scoring to open, with Longridge winning a free-kick just outside of the area, Ged Smith was the man to step up to take the free-kick and his effort was well struck with the ball rebounding off of the inside of the far post and finally nestling in the back of the net.
Longridge were to double their lead in the 16th minute, as they won a free-kick on the byline, the ball was whipped into the box, and bounced around for a bit, before Ryan McKenna popped up at the far post to fire the ball into the back of the net. It was clear from his celebration to see what the goal meant to him, with his “dab” celebration going down well with the number of kids wearing Manchester United shirts, with Pogba on the back.
Both sides had good opportunities during the first half, with Vickerstown seeing a goal ruled out for a foul, however it was to be Longridge that went into the break with the lead.
Half Time: Longridge Town 2-0 Vickerstown (Smith 9, McKenna 16)
At half time I made my way around to the other side of the ground, given that I like to watch a half from each touchline, however this was to mean that the wind was now blowing directly into my face, and my decision to only wear a hoody hadn’t been a good one. At half time Longridge made a change, with their number 11, Ashley Ball, leaving the field to be replaced by number 16, Jack Preston. From what I heard Ball had suffered a dead leg, and I hope he recovers in time for the last game of the season as it would be shame for him to miss the last game of the season.
With the game theirs to lose, Longridge came out looking for a third goal to kill the game off entirely, however Vickerstown had tightened up defensively and were now beginning to frustrate the Longridge attack.
Vickerstown came close to clawing a goal back minutes into the second half, as they broke forward and one of their attackers fired a shot goalwards, and if it hadn’t had been for the outstretched palm of Lee Dovey, in the Longridge goal, the ball would have nestled in the back of the net, as it was Dovey got a hand to the ball and touched it onto the post, where Joe Melling was on hand to clear the danger.
My decision to watch the second half from the touchline nearest the clubhouse, didn’t last long, and I soon made my way back round to the other touchline, so that the wind was behind me. Unfortunately the cricket match had stopped for a break.
Longridge were to make a second change in the 67th minute with number 2, Joe Melling, having to be replaced by number 17, Jordan Tucker. Melling had also picked up an injury, and looked to be in discomfort as he left the field, again best wishes to the lad, I hope that it wasn’t anything serious.
Jackson Round was to produce a moment of magic which very nearly saw Vickerstown back in the game, as he controlled a high clearance from his keeper with a beautiful touch, before firing the ball past Dovey into the top corner with the outside of his right foot, Longridge however were to breathe a sigh of relief, as the 17 year old’s effort was ruled offside. For a 17 year old, Round was playing brilliantly and coping well with men’s football, in my opinion he could easily play at a higher level, and I just wish more clubs would send scouts down to this level as there are some gems down here.
With 83 minutes on the clock, Longridge made their final change with Jordan Bowen making way for Leon McGloughlin. Vickerstown made their only change of the game in the 86th minute, with Jordan Dix making way for David Adams.
With the three points almost secured, Longridge saw the game out, keeping the pressure on Blackpool Wren Rovers, who had won at Tempest United to see the title race go to the last game of the season.
Final Score: Longridge Town 2-0 Vickerstown (Smith 9, McKenna 16)
Once the final whistle blew I made my way round to my car, and enjoyed the warmth. I set off for Chorley, and found myself annoyed by a TalkSport presenter asking where everyone had been if they had just tuned in, as they had commentary of the Premier League. Now I get that some people would rather sit indoors and watch football from the comfort of their own home, or listen to it on the radio, but I really can’t understand why they would rather pay for a TV subscription to watch over-paid prima donnas rolling around in fake agony when they get the slightest of touches. People will argue and say that the Premier League allows you to watch the best players, and the best action, but I would counter with Jackson Round’s moment of magic in this game, it was beautiful and unfortunately there won’t be hundreds of replays of that moment, however it will live in the minds of those that saw it. There are hundreds of football clubs up and down the country that would appreciate the support of people leaving behind their televisions and getting down to watch them. I paid £3 for this game today, I saw two goals, and a moment of pure brilliance. But then again each to their own and all that.
With Longridge and Blackpool Wren Rovers winning, the title race will now go to the last game of the season, which interestingly enough will see Longridge travel to Bruce Park, home of Blackpool Wren Rovers on the 13th May 2017, this game has a 3pm kick off, and despite the fact that I am working, there is a part of me that is tempted to go along, as a win for Longridge will see them pick up the title, and a single point for Blackpool Wren Rovers will see them crowned champions, as they won’t be caught on goal difference. If you are in the Blackpool area next week, or are crazy enough to travel, then I would recommend getting along to this game, as it will be good! Also if you ever find yourself near Longridge on a Saturday when they are at home, I really would recommend getting down to the Bruce Riding Ground, as you won’t regret it. Longridge is a brilliant club, and I’m looking at going back there.
Defeat for Vickerstown sees them remain in 8th, with one final match to be played, the lowest they could drop would be 9th, and a mid-table finish is a good one, the future at Vickerstown looks bright as Jackson Round looks to be a fantastic player in the making. Next season I’m going to be trying to tick off leagues instead of random grounds, so I may find myself up at Vickerstown next season.
Thanks for reading, and remember that football is not only a television show, go and support your local non-league team!
Movember Total: £31 (£1 from today)
Hat-tricks seen so far: 1
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