Oldham Athletic

Oldham Athletic vs Shrewsbury Town, League One, Boundary Park, 16/9/17

For a Shrewsbury Town fan I don’t get to many Shrewsbury games, in fact I haven’t been to a home match in the seasons I have been groundhopping, and that isn’t due to a lack of commitment from myself. It’s more to do with the fact that I am a father of two children, and I simply can’t afford to attend many Football League matches, due to the price of tickets. When you consider the cost of petrol, parking and tickets it adds up to a large amount, which I can’t always afford to justify. I would love to get to more Salop matches, but it’s simply not affordable. At the start of the season I sit down with the fixture list and plan out the closest away games, as these are the ones that I can afford to get to. Happily for today’s match I was going to be joined by my parents, and with my dad driving, it meant that I wouldn’t need to worry about petrol, and I could afford to pay the £24 that Oldham were asking for. Now to me £24 is a lot of money, to be fair it’s a good portion of the weekly shop, now that isn’t a shot at Oldham, it is now the going rate in the Football League for tickets to be £20 plus, and in all fairness there are teams in the National Leagues that cost near enough £20 for entrance, which is the reason why I tend not to groundhop in the National Leagues. It just seems to be the case that I am being priced out of football, which has me thinking. If teams were a bit more sensible with prices, if they slashed ticket prices in half would they attract more fans? Oldham have a big ground, but there were large portions of empty seats, so if they cut their prices in half, would they attract more fans? Probably, but it’ll take a very brave side to be the first to experiment.

My parents arrived in Chorley at around 10.30am, and we left for Oldham at 12pm. Traffic was light, and we soon arrived in Oldham, after driving around for a bit we found parking near the hospital at a cost of £3. After parking the car, we asked the amazingly friendly steward for directions to a good pub, and after being shown where the first ‘test tube’ baby was born, we set off to find a pub. The steward had directed us to a chain pub, however my dad decided that he wanted to explore, and we ended up heading towards Chadderton, I had hoped that Chadderton were at home and that their social club would be open, but they were away at Atherton Laburnum Rovers, a game which Chadderton won, and we had to find somewhere else to drink. We ended up in the North Chadderton Conservative Club, although I’m going to leave my political views out of this, although I will say that I’m a staunch Labour supporter, and the thought of going into a Tory club was only made tolerable by the fact that I was thirsty and wanted a beer!

With our drinks consumed, we headed back to Boundary Park, I’m not going to call it by its sponsored name, as Oldham Athletic play at Boundary Park and nothing else. Boundary Park is a proper old school ground, full of charm and character, and I hope that they never leave! I was also overjoyed to find that they were selling teamsheets for 50p at the ground, are Oldham the only league club to do this? At the turnstiles I prepared myself to pay the £24, but my dad beat me to it, which I’m very grateful for, as it meant that I could put the £24 towards other things, so thanks dad! My mum on the other hand got in for £12 as she is technically an OAP.

As I’ve said Boundary Park is an old school ground, and I was impressed by the set-up, although there are a number of supporting pillars at the front of the away stand, which is a bit of a pain, but we managed to find seats where the view wasn’t obstructed too badly. Shrewsbury had bought a good number of fans with us, and before the game the fans were in good voice reminding everyone that we are top of the league. To the right of the Away End, also known as the Rochdale Road End, is the Main Stand, which is a small two-tiered stand, and it is this stand that gives the ground its charm, either side of the Main Stand, is now unused terracing, which would probably be a good place for some safe standing, interestingly the dugouts are situated halfway up the Main Stand. To the left of the Away End is a new stand, known as the North Stand, this stand was completed in 2015, and has seating at the front, with commercial facilities at the back. Opposite the Away End is the Chadderton Road End, which seemed to be where the more hardcore Oldham fans were housed.

I’ve covered Shrewsbury’s history before, but recent results have seen us sit in 1st place in the league, even if we had lost today then we would have remained top of the league. I’m still trying to get used to Salop being top of the league, as we struggled last season, however Paul Hurst has assembled a great squad and has us playing good football.

Oldham Athletic began life as Pine Villa FC in 1895, and played in the Manchester and Lancashire Leagues. When rivals Oldham County folded in 1899, Pine Villa moved into their stadium, and changed their name to Oldham Athletic. Athletic were accepted into the Football League in 1907, and after three years in the Second Division, they were promoted to the First Division. After the First World War, the club were relegated to the Second Division on 1923, and wouldn’t play top division football for another 68 years. Athletic were relegated again in 1935, and dropped down to the Third Division North, they were close to promotion back to the Second Division but the outbreak of the Second World War bought an end to League Football. Oldham regained their place in the Second Division in 1953, as the won the Third Division North, but after only winning eight games all season, they soon returned back to the Third Division North. With a 15th place finish in 1959, Oldham became founder members of the Fourth Division, and in the following season were forced to apply for re-election after finishing in 23rd position. Ken Bates entered the picture at Athletic in the early 1960’s and the club’s fortunes changed for the better, in 1963 the club again were promoted to the Third Division, but struggled for consistency, and in 1969 they were relegated again. 1971 saw Oldham regain their placed in the Third Division, and in 1974 they won the league and were promoted to the Second Division, for the first time in 21 years. After narrowly missing out on promotion on a number of occasions, Oldham finally rejoined the top flight in 1991, as they won the Second Division and joined the First Division. In their first season back at the top, Oldham finished 17th and became a founder member of the Premier League. After reaching the FA Cup Semi Final in 1994, Oldham found themselves a minute away from winning 1-0 in extra time, when a Mark Hughes equaliser saw the game end in a 1-1 draw, in the replay Oldham were beaten 4-1 and many Oldham fans have described this as the start of their decline, as in 1995 Oldham were relegated from the Premier League. Oldham sank further in 1997, as they were relegated to Division Two, and were tipped for an immediate return, which unfortunately didn’t materialise. After Chris Moore almost bankrupted Athletic, the club struggled for a number of years and have remained in League One ever since.

With the game underway, I decided to take advantage of a slow start to the game, and headed down to the Refreshment Hut for a bit of food, I had heard a lot of good things about the pies at Oldham, and I’m sure you can understand my disappointment when I was told that they had sold out of nearly everything before the game. Shrewsbury had bought just over 600 fans, and all that was left was a burger and a meat & potato pie. My dad had asked for a pie, and as he had paid for my entrance I decided to do the right thing, and gave him the pie and I settled for the burger, in total it cost me £6.50, and the burger was very good.

I still had my burger in my hand when Stefan Payne opened the scoring in the 19th minute, as Jack Ruddy in the Oldham goal, failed to deal with Joe Riley’s low cross, and Stefan Payne was on hand to force the ball home. Unfortunately Payne injured himself in the process, after taking a knock to the face, and he was replaced by Carlton Morris.

Oldham played well, and managed to get themselves back into the game in the 33rd minute, as Craig Davies powered home a header from six yards, following a cross from Gevaro Nepomuceno’s left wing cross, I wonder how much it would cost to get Nepomuceno’s name on the back of a shirt!

Half Time: Oldham Athletic 1-1 Shrewsbury Town (Davies 33 – Payne 19)

At the half time break, I decided to go and see if I could get a drink and a bit more food, however the queue stretched halfway down the concourse, and I decided against waiting, just in case I missed anymore of the action.

Oldham had a golden chance to get themselves in front, as Eoin Doyle rounded Dean Henderson, however Doyle’s strike could only find the post instead of the empty net, and every Shrewsbury fan in the ground breathed a sigh of relief.

Salop managed to regain the lead in the 65th minute, as Alex Rodman set up Jon Nolan for a brilliant 10 yard strike inside the far corner. Chants of “We are top of the league” and “The Town are going up” rang out from the away fans.

Oldham made their first change of the game in the 75th minute as an injury to Dan Gardner forced them to replace Gardner with Ousmane Fane. Oldham made a second change in the 77th minute with George Edmunson leaving the field to be replaced by Queensy Menig. Oldham’s final change came in the 85th minute, as former Shrewsbury loanee Tope Obadeyi replaced Kean Bryan.

Oldham were pushing for an equaliser, and were getting too close for comfort on occasion, however Dean Henderson was having yet another fantastic game, and I honestly hope Manchester United let him go, as I would love to see Henderson sign permanently for Salop, as his passion and talent is bloody brilliant!

Oldham’s hopes of getting back into the game was killed off in the 93rd minute as Eoin Doyle picked up his second yellow card for a poorly timed challenge. Following this sending off, Shrewsbury made their second change, with Alex Rodman making way for Ebou Adams.

Final Score: Oldham Athletic 1-2 Shrewsbury Town (Davies 33 – Payne 19, Nolan 65)

At the final whistle, I didn’t want to leave the ground, as I’d just witnessed Shrewsbury go five points clear at the top of the league. The Salop players and officials received a heroes’ welcome from the fans, as they made their way across to us, with Henderson again showing why he is fast becoming a fans’ favourite as he led the celebrations.

Finally, with the players off of the pitch, we left Boundary Park, and headed back to the car, unfortunately there was a large queue to leave the car-park and we sat in the car listening to the final scores, before eventually making our way back to Chorley.

Boundary Park is possibly one of my favourite league grounds, as it is a charming, characterful ground, and I honestly hope that Oldham don’t change the ground too much. Sure it would be nice for the supporting pillars to be removed from the Away End, but the Main Stand is a fantastic looking stand, inside and out, and I hope the Oldham board never decide to knock it down.

Victory for Shrewsbury sees them remain at the top of League One, with a five point cushion over 2nd place. No-one is expecting us to stay up here, and whilst it would be nice to dream that we may reach the Championship, I would much rather just see us remain away from the relegation zone. Getting up to the Championship would be a dream come true, but it is only September and we can’t get too carried away.

Unfortunately defeat for Oldham, sees them drop to the bottom of the table, and I think Oldham have got the quality to recover and move away from the bottom, as I have said it is only September and I would be absolutely amazed to see Oldham be relegated.

Next week will see me return to the more affordable Non-League scene, and I’m beginning to feel that it may be a while before I can afford to follow Shrewsbury home and away, as I would love to do.

Attendance: 4150

Cost: £7 (Would have been an extra £24 for entrance and £3 for the programme)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157686760442234


Squires Gate Re-Visit

Squires Gate vs Congleton Town, FA Vase First Qualifying Round, Brian Addison Stadium

At the start of the season, I noticed a tweet that another groundhopper had responded to on Twitter. That tweet was from Squires Gate asking for groundhoppers to contribute to their programme, and as someone that wants to help clubs where I can, I responded to the tweet stating that I would be interested in helping. Earlier this week I had a message from one of the lads behind the Squires Gate programme asking if I was still interested in contributing, which I was, so after a quick questionnaire about my groundhopping adventures, I was thanked for my help and offered free admission to Squires Gate’s FA Vase game with Congleton Town.

I have been to Squires Gate before, for their league match with West Didsbury & Chorlton, however the last time I went to Squires Gate it was raining, so with the sun shining I decided that a re-visit was in order, plus the free admission helped with my decision! I set off from Chorley just before 2pm, and arrived at around 2.30pm. After introducing myself at the turnstile, I was in the ground with my programme in hand. From the turnstile I headed around to the clubhouse, where I separated with £2 for a can of Carling which I sat outside and drank as I read my piece in the programme. As a groundhopper I’ve always wanted to contribute to a programme, so I would just like to say thank you to Jay from Squires Gate for providing me with the chance to help! I also need to apologize to my Uncle Ed at this point, as he has made it very clear in his blog, https://whattimeskickoff.blog/, that he doesn’t like Carling, and doesn’t understand why people drink it.

As I’ve already stated, I have been to Squires Gate before, and the blog for that trip can be found here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/squires-gate/. The Brian Addison Stadium hasn’t changed from the last time I visited, and Squires Gate are still in the North West Counties Football League Premier Division, however they aren’t having an easy time at the moment, with the club sitting bottom of the league with 0 points on the board. Gate have played five times this season, and have been unlucky enough to lose each of their games, however this is only the start of the season and there is plenty of time for Gate to turn this around.

Congleton Town are in the same league as Gate, and currently sit in 18th in the league, having started the season slightly better than Gate have. Town have played six games, and have won one, drawn two, and lost three, meaning that they have five points on the board. Congleton were formed in 1901, and began life in the Crewe and District League, and in their first three seasons they were crowned champions from 1901-1902 to 1903-1904. Town moved to the North Staffordshire and District League in 1905. In 1920 they moved to the Cheshire County League, and remained in this league until 1965 when they joined the Manchester League, apart from one season when they joined the Macclesfield and District League for the 1939-1940 season. Town only played in the Manchester League for three seasons, as in 1968 they joined the Mid Cheshire League, a league they won in the 1974. Town were to win the Mid Cheshire League on two further occasions in 1976 and 1978. In 1978 the club re-joined the Cheshire County League, and were the last ever winners of this league, as they picked up the title in 1982, just before the league merged with the Lancashire Combination to form the North West Counties Football League. In 1987 the club joined the Northern Premier League’s newly created Division One, a division where they remained until 2001, when they finished in last place and were relegated to the North West Counties Football League Division One, which was then renamed as the Premier Division in 2008.

It didn’t take long for the game to burst into life, as the Congleton number 11, Declan Fletcher, sent an absolute thunderbolt of a strike past the outstretched fingers of the Squires Gate keeper to hand his side the lead in the 5th minute.

From the first goal, Congleton began to dominate the game, and put the Squires Gate defence under a large amount of pressure. One player began to stand out for me within the Gate defence, and that was their number 6, Corey Moorhead, who despite his young age was showing a real talent for defending, and if the lad keeps on playing he’ll turn into a good defender at this level, as he barely put a foot wrong during the first half.

Declan Fletcher was to double his side’s lead in the 35th minute, as following good work down the right wing, the ball was sent into the six yard box, where Fletcher was on hand to knock the ball into the back of the net.

Gate were to go into the half time break 3-0 down, as Congleton scored their third in the 42nd minute. The ball was whipped in from a corner, and the Congleton number 3, Thomas Morris, was on hand to hit the ball on the half volley to send it into the back of the net.

Half Time: Squires Gate 0-3 Congleton Town (Fletcher 5, 35, Morris 42)

At half time I wandered back round to the clubhouse, and instead decided to resist the urge for another can of Carling, and settled for a can of Diet Coke which I paid the total of a £1 for. The sun continued to shine, but a bit of a breeze had begun to roll in from the sea, and I did begin to think about whether it would be appropriate to start wearing a bigger coat to the football, as it’ll soon be Autumn.

Squires Gate managed to reduce the arrears in the 49th minute, as the ball was delivered into the box from the left wing, Gate’s number 7, Dean Ing, was on hand to volley the ball home, with a slight bit of assistance from the bar.

Congleton restored their three goal advantage in the 55th minute, as their number 10, Jason Carey, latched onto the ball in the six yard box, and managed to slip the ball underneath the Gate keeper and into the back of the net.

Gate made their first change of the game following this goal, with number 4, Alex Colquhoun, making way for their number 14, Tarren Moxon.

Following this change, Gate again reduced the arrears in the 57th minute, as their number 11, Nick Greenall, fired home an absolute thundering shot. Greenall’s goal was the kind of goal that you would want to watch again, and I honestly hope that someone managed to capture footage of it, as it was a stunning strike.

Again Congleton were to restore their three goal advantage, this time in the 66th minute as their number 9, Emini Adegbenro, beat the Gate keeper at the near post to fire home. Congleton had played well down the left wing, and the ball ended up at the feet of Adegbenro who made no mistake with the chance.

In the 69th minute, Congleton made their first change, with their number 3, Thomas Morris, leaving the field to be replaced by their number 12, Richard Peters. Congleton’s second change of the game came in the 73rd minute, as their number 7, David Sherlock, switched places with the number 14, Oliver Ford. Congleton made their final change of the game in the 76th minute as their number 10, Jason Carey, made way for number 17, Steve Foster.

Foster made an impact on the game minutes after coming on, as in the 79th minute the ball was crossed into the box from the right wing, and Foster was on hand to hammer the ball into the back of the net.

Gate made another change in the 80th minute, as their number 14, Tarren Moxon, left the field to be replaced by the number 12, Conor Smith. I was a little confused by this substitution as Moxon had only come on during the second half, and didn’t appear to be injured, although I’m sure there was a reason behind this change.

Final Score: Squires Gate 2-6 Congleton Town (Ing 49, Greenall 57 – Fletcher 5, 35, Morris 42, Carey 55, Adegbenro 66, Foster 78)

At the final whistle I headed back down to where I had parked my car, and made the journey back to Chorley. As I walked down to my car, I reminded myself that there are two other clubs in the area that I need to visit, one being Blackpool Wren Rovers who play next door to Squires Gate, and the other being AFC Blackpool who play at the end of the road, interestingly all three clubs were at home today, so if I had fancied doing so, I could have watched the first half of Squires Gates’ game, before going next door to Blackpool Wren Rovers for the second half of their game. Although if I had done that, I would have missed five goals at Squires Gate, so I’m glad that I stayed in one place.

Defeat for Gate sees them go out of the FA Vase, however this may be a blessing in disguise for them as they’ll now be able to concentrate on the league, and getting themselves off of the foot of the table. From what I saw today, I believe that Gate could get themselves off of the foot of the table, as they attack well, and obviously have goal scorers in their ranks. They just need to be a bit more difficult to breakdown at the back, as there were a couple of occasions where Congleton were given far too much time and space.

Congleton will now march onto the next stage of the FA Vase and it’ll be interesting to see just how far they can go, as they are a dangerously good attacking side, as shown by the six goals they scored today, with five different players getting themselves on the scoresheet.

Finally, I’d like to once again say thank you to Jay, and the rest of the Squires Gate volunteers for the hospitality shown to myself, I’m very appreciative of the free admission especially as I got to see a brilliant match, and would like to wish you luck for the rest of the season, hopefully you can find some form soon!

Attendance: 63

Cost: £3

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157688844420105

Bacup Borough

Bacup Borough vs Cammell Laird, North West Counties Football League First Division, Brian Boys West View Stadium

I’m not the biggest fan of driving, which tends to be the reason why I stay as close to Chorley as I do when groundhopping. There’s always something that annoys me when I’m behind the wheel of my car, be it roadworks, traffic or other drives, but the drive to Bacup has to be one of the best that I have ever been on, as soon as you come off of the motorway, and start heading in the direction of Bacup, the scenery changes, and the road heads through the countryside, with a beautiful view surrounding you. Honestly, I could have driven on the roads around Bacup for hours, but there was football to get too, and Bacup’s ground is simply wonderful.

In all fairness the ground has possibly seen better days, that’s not a criticism, and it does appear that the stand behind the goal furthest from the turnstiles may need some repairs, but there is something about the Brian Boys West View Stadium that makes it one of my favourites. It could be the fact that the ground is surrounded by rolling hills, or it could be the fact that the ground has a proper Lancashire charm, or it could just be the warm welcome that the volunteers at Bacup provide. At the turnstile I paid £6 for entry, and whilst I was disappointed at the lack of a programme, I was immediately distracted by the brilliance of the ground. There is one seated stand, which stands on the touchline nearest the turnstiles, this stand only stretches to the halfway line, and for the rest of the touchline it is uncovered hard standing. As I’ve said the stand behind the goal, furthest from the touchline, has seen better days, but it provides ample cover in case of poor weather. Along the other touchline stands a covered terrace, which is bordered by fields. Finally, the goal nearest the touchline, houses the clubhouse. The pitch at Bacup slopes from right to left, when viewed from the turnstiles, and the corner flags on the right hand side of the pitch are halfway up the goal post.

After completing a lap of the ground, I headed into the clubhouse where I was greeted by a small dog, who took offense at the fact that I was wearing a hat in the clubhouse, after being told by the lady at the refreshment hut that the dog didn’t like hats, I quickly removed the offending item, and the dog suddenly became my best friend. From the bar I bought a pint of Strongbow for £3, and headed outside to sit on the picnic benches outside. Strongbow isn’t my cider of choice, but the view of the ground made it taste better.

I’ve covered both teams before, with the blog for Bacup Borough here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/barnton/ and the blog for Cammell Laird here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/05/07/afc-darwen/. Since seeing both sides play, Cammell Laird have suffered relegation, and Bacup have remained in the NWCFL Division One. Bacup have started this season well with five games played this season, they have won three and drawn two. Cammell Laird on the other hand have played four games so far, with only one win in those four games, with the other three being defeats.

With another rare sunny August day ahead of us, both teams took to the pitch, and kicked the game off. Bacup started the first half brightly, with some promising attacks, however it must have been frustrating for the Bacup number 3, as he constantly found himself in acres of space on the left wing, but the ball rarely made its way to his feet. Cammell Laird didn’t start the game badly, but they did have to be alert to the threat that Bacup were posing.

However as the half progressed, Cammell Laird began to find themselves getting further forward, and the dominance shifted to them, with Laird becoming the better side.

Bacup could have taken the lead in the 29th minute, as their number 9, Wayne Morrison, latched onto a through ball, and buried the ball into the back of the net, however the linesman had his flag raised, as Morrison had strayed offside as the ball was played through.

In the 38th minute, Cammell Laird were awarded a penalty, as the Bacup number 2, Markell Foulds, was ruled to have fouled a Laird’s striker by pushing him in the back, from where I was stood it did look to be a dubious penalty, but the referee was closer to the action than I was, so who am I to disagree with his decision. Josh Maldon, the Laird’s number 7, stepped up to the spot, and he converted the penalty well to put his side into the lead.

Half Time: Bacup Borough 0-1 Cammell Laird (Josh Maldon 38)

At half time I walked back round to the clubhouse, remembering to take my hat off before I entered, and purchased a Diet Coke from the bar for a £1. The dog was sat on a table, and I spent a few minutes fussing over the dog, before the score between Gillingham vs Shrewsbury was announced and I became distracted by the fact that Salop were winning 2-0, my Uncle Ed had text me to tell me that he was there, and he was full of praise for Salop.

For the second half, I headed round to the touchline at the top of the slope, which provided a wonderful view of the rolling hills that surround the ground. I’ve always appreciated the countryside, as being born and raised in London I didn’t see a lot of countryside in my childhood apart from when I visited family in Shropshire. In fact the view around the ground threatened to distract me from the game, and once or twice I found myself just staring at the surroundings.

At half time, Bacup made a change, with their number 10, Davison Banda, making way for their number 14, Matthew Barlow.

With Bacup chasing an equalizer they started the second half strongly with some good work down the wings, however the final product never arrived, and Wayne Morrison, the Bacup number 9, began to cut a frustrated figure as the Laird’s defence worked well to keep him at bay.

Bacup made a second change in the 59th minute, with number 7, Joshua Walne, being replaced by number 16, Benjamin Rhodes. Bacup had started to see a lot more of the ball in their midfield, and they were beginning to produce some fantastic attacking play, however the Laird’s keeper held firm.

Cammell Lairds, made a change in the 72nd minute, as their number 9, Joe Malkin, left the pitch, and number 12, Charlie MacInnes, made his way onto the pitch.

Both sides were now attacking and defending well, with the game turning into a stalemate between two good sides. I no longer found myself getting distracted by the countryside surroundings, as the match had kicked into life, with a goal seeming likely, as both sides had brilliant chances to put the ball into the back of the net.

Lairds made their second change in the 75th minute, as number 11, Greg Drummond, was replaced by number 15, Paul Jewell. Both sides made their final change in the 82nd minute, as Bacup replaced their number 6, James Constantine, with their number 12, Tre-Carmichael Baldwin-Willis, who went straight up front to provide an extra attacking option. Cammell Lairds, replaced their number 8, Jamie Colebourn, with their number 14, Callum Morrison.

Baldwin-Willis had a fantastic opportunity to equalize, as he collected the ball with his back to goal, before turning and firing a shot which skimmed the post. Baldwin-Willis proved to be a difficult striker for the Lairds defence to deal with, as Baldwin-Willis is a big lad, and his strength saw him able to hold the ball up, but as well as being a big lad, he also has a fantastic turn of pace, and looked to be the most likely to get Bacup back into the game.

Final Score: Bacup Borough 0-1 Cammell Laird (Josh Maldon 38)

Following the final whistle I made my way out of the ground, and back down to my car. During the match, I had somehow made plans with my Uncle Ed to watch Hampton & Richmond play St Albans City on the 14th of October, as well as watching Chorley vs Bradford Park Avenue on Easter Monday followed by Bolton vs Birmingham City the day after. My Uncle is a devout Birmingham City fan, for his sins, and has recently started a blog, which can be found here: https://whattimeskickoff.blog/. But the reason why we had come up with the plan to watch Chorley on Easter Monday, was because I had text him to say that he needed to start coming up to Lancashire for his groundhopping, as I’m convinced that he would enjoy Bacup Borough as much as I did, hopefully one day I’ll manage to get him to a game here!

Now regular readers of the blog will probably have noticed that I very rarely say bad things about the grounds I go to, and I tend to be positive in my blogs about the grounds I have been to, as the majority tend to be maintained by volunteers, and I would never want to criticize someone who has given up their time for free. But I do have once criticism for Bacup Borough, your ground is going to be very hard to beat, you’ve set the bar high, and honestly I really enjoyed my time at Bacup!

Their first defeat of the season sees Bacup sit in 6th in the league, with 11 points on the board, with three wins, two draws and a defeat so far, Bacup seem to be in a good position for a good season, and if they can maintain their early form, I can see Bacup challenging for promotion.

A win for Cammell Laird sees them in 15th place in the league, they have 6 points on the board, but they do have a game in hand over the teams above them, so if all goes well they could climb the table. I’m sure that the Laird’s management will want to build in this victory and climb up the table. I’ve now seen Laird’s play twice, both times with them being the away team, and I feel that I should pay a visit to their ground, although with the way this blog goes who knows when that will be!

Attendance: 42

Cost: £10

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157685817914690

Litherland REMYCA

Litherland REMYCA vs Chadderton, North West Counties Football League First Division, Litherland Sports Park

As a 27 year old this confession seems a bit odd, but I have never been to Liverpool. I’ve been to London, Manchester, Bristol to name but a few cities, but I have never in my life stepped foot in Liverpool, and I’m honestly confused as to why this is a fact. I mean the closest I have ever got to Liverpool is Liverpool Airport, which is out on the outskirts. Now I’m aware that whilst Litherland is part of the Liverpool postcode, I don’t think it actually counts as Liverpool. But if the rest of the football clubs in the Liverpool area are as friendly as Litherland REMYCA then I shall be venturing in to Liverpool soon.

Now with that confession out of the way, let’s move on to the actual blog. With a rare sunny day in August ahead of me, I made the decision to take a trip down the M6/M58 to Litherland Sports Park, home of Litherland REMYCA. As is suggested in the name, Litherland Sports Park is a multi-event ground, with a running track circling the pitch. Entrance to the ground is gained through the gym reception, where it cost me £5 for entry into the game, a further £1.50 was paid for a programme, which has been an excellent read. I know a lot of people detest grounds with a running track around them, but to be fair I’ve only been to three grounds with a running track, one of them obviously being Litherland Sports Park, and the other two being the Withdean, former home of Brighton, and the Deeside Stadium, home of Connah’s Quay. The only issue I have with grounds with a running track, is that it makes it difficult to take good photos of the action, as you are set back further than normal, as is shown on the photos on my Flickr. Litherland Sports Park is mainly uncovered hard standing, however there is a 50 seat stand with a covered terrace next to it on one side of the ground.

Litherland REMYCA started life in the Seaforth area of Liverpool as St Thomas FC, and were founded in 1959. They began by playing in the Church of England League, and with many of the players being recruited from Seaforth and Bootle, the team later became known as Bootle CLB (Church Lads Brigade). Litherland were formed by the Edwards brothers, Bill and Ken, and they acted as managers, having recently given up their playing careers. Links were formed with Bootle YMCA, which provided the club with a base and with facilities to train. In 1967, the club again changed its name to REM Social as a local workingman’s club offered to finance the running of the club, just a year later the club became known as REMYCA Utd FC, with the name being derived from the connections with REM Social Club and Bootle YMCA. REMYCA joined the Third Division of the I Zingari Alliance League and became champions at the first attempt. Successive championships followed, culminating with the club being accepted into the I Zingari League. In 1988, REMYCA won the I Zingari League and in 1991 became one of the few Merseyside Teams to win the all Lancashire FA Amateur Cup. The 90’s were a period of great success for the club, as the won Premier League and Cup doubles in 1994, 1995 and 1996, this period of dominance saw REMYCA Utd join the Liverpool County Combination, to enable the club to challenge themselves at a higher level. In 2013, the management committee began exploring the potential to grow and develop the club, with the first stage of the plan being to add Litherland to the club name, so as to identify with the local area. In line with their aspirations to compete at the highest level, the club applied to join the NWCFL, and were accepted in 2014. Litherland have started the season well, with two wins from two league matches played, the club have recently been knocked out of the FA Cup, as they went down to Penistone Church 2-0. Litherland currently sit in 5th in the league.

Chadderton were formed in 1947, under the name Millbrow Football Club. The club then changed their name to North Chadderton Amateurs, before adopting their present name in 1957. Chadderton began by playing in the Oldham Amateur League, and won the Challenge Cup in 1955. In the following season the club joined the Manchester Amateur League and won the league championship in their first season. After winning the league championship again in 1963, the club joined the Manchester League, winning the Second Division title and gaining promotion to the First Division, in their first season. In 1980, Chadderton joined a higher grade of football as they joined the Lancashire Combination, however their stay in this league was to be short, as in 1982 they became founder members of the NWCFL, following the merger of the Lancashire Combination and the Cheshire County League. Chadderton have had a number of famous faces in their ranks, with David Platt, John Pemberton, Steve Jones all pulling on the red of Chadderton, as well as Mark Owen of Take That fame. Chadderton have only played one game this season, as they beat Carlisle City 4-0, and currently they sit in 10th in the league.

With a bright sunny afternoon ahead of us, the game started well with Litherland opening the scoring in the 16th minute, as the Litherland number 9, Lennon Whewell, breaking clear of the Chadderton defence to race into the box, before finishing nicely past the Chadderton keeper.

Three minutes later, Litherland doubled their lead, as a free kick was delivered into the Chadderton box, the ball was half cleared but it fell to Lennon Whewell, who fired home from the edge of the area.

Despite being two goals behind, Chadderton didn’t let their heads drop, and they reduced the arrears in the 29th minute, as following good work down the right wing, Chadderton’s number 10, Mikey Moss, delivered a beautiful lob over the Litherland keeper’s head.

It was around this point in the match that I got chatting to a fellow groundhopper, John McLure. The beauty of social media, is that groundhopping is now a lot more connected, and I’ve seen a number of John’s posts on Facebook before. John is based in York, but travels the lengths and breadths of the country seeking out football, and has been to a number of grounds that I am envious of. Anyway, it was great to meet you today John, and best of luck with completing the NWCFL, I’m sure I’ll bump into you again in the future.

Half Time: Litherland REMYCA 2-1 Chadderton (Whewell 16, 19 – Moss 29)

At half time, I took a walk around the ground, as I had spent the first half watching the game on the touchline opposite the dugouts. I normally enjoy watching the second half from the opposite touchline to the one I was stood on for the first half, but it was difficult to find a place on the touchline nearest the dugouts, as with the running track around the pitch, the dugouts are situated in such a way that they block part of the view, therefore I made my way back round to the covered terrace on the opposite side.

It took just a minute into the second half for Lennon Whewell to complete his hat-trick, as a defensive mix-up, allowed the striker to round the keeper and with an open goal at his disposal he made no mistake and tapped the ball home to reinstate Litherland’s two goal cushion.

Litherland made their first change of the game in the 59th minute, as number 12, Anthony Cato, came on to replace number 3, Jake Connor.

Chadderton fought their way back into the game in the 61st minute, as they won a penalty as Mikey Moss was bought down inside the area. Chadderton’s number 9, Vincent Howell stepped up, and his finish was exquisite as he pulled of a paneka kick.

Litherland made their second change in the 67th minute, as their number 11, Paul Cliff, made way for their number 15, Daniel Cross.

Chadderton were now applying pressure to the Litherland defence, and in the 71st minute they got the goal that they deserved, as somehow their number 8, Thomas Hughes, managed to elude the Litherland defence and keeper before slotting home with a good finish.

Following this goal, both sides made changes with Litherland’s number 8, Jack Mulholland, making way for number 14, Liam Van Gelder. Chadderton replaced their number 7, Craig Schumann, with their number 12, Nathan Quinlann.

Chadderton continued to apply pressure, but it wasn’t to be, and an entertaining game finished all square.

Full Time: Litherland REMYCA 3-3 Chadderton (Whewell, 16, 19, 46 – Moss 29, Howell 61, Hughes 71)

Following the final whistle I walked back round to my car, still trying to catch my breath following the highly entertaining match that I had just watched. Both sides played fantastically, and a draw was probably the fairest result. Chadderton did fantastically to pull themselves back into the game, and it was brilliant seeing a side go 3-1 down before pulling it back to 3-3. Chadderton seemingly have a fantastic spirit within their side, and if they play the rest of the season with the same spirit, then they should be competing at the top of the league.

Both sides should be proud of themselves for the highly entertaining game of football that they put on, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how the NWCFL First Division plays out this season. Litherland continue to occupy 5th in the league, and are 5 points off of the top of the table, however they have a game in hand over the teams above them.

Chadderton also continue to occupy the position they were in when they came into this game, although with only two games played this season, they could easily climb the league, if they continue to play as well as they did today.

As I said at the start of the blog, Liverpool is uncharted territory for me, and there are a lot of clubs in the Liverpool area which I will now be taking a look at, thanks to the wonderful welcome at Litherland. Scousers are generally portrayed as friendly characters, something I know very well as I work with a number of Scousers, and the volunteers at Litherland just added weight to this portrayal as they were fantastic.

Attendance: 68

Cost: £6.50

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157684549484082

Fulwood Amateurs

Fulwood Amateurs vs Coppull United, West Lancashire League Premier Division, Lightfoot Lane

After six weeks of being unable to drive I was itching to get behind the wheel of my Focus and travel to a ground that I had not been to before. My original plan was to head to Bacup Borough, but I didn’t fancy the drive, given that it had been a while since I had driven, so instead I opted for a journey to Fulwood, as with working in Preston I know the roads pretty well. There was to be an issue though, as there was an accident on the M6, and I began to doubt that I would get to the game on time, with traffic crawling along. However, typically of British roads, the traffic soon cleared and there was no sign of what caused the original issue.

Fulwood Amateurs play next door to Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club, and the only signs outside are for the Rugby Club, so if you ever go to watch Fulwood play look for the Rugby Club, as if you look for the Football Club you’ll probably get lost. Fulwood’s ground used to double up as a Driving Range, so I can imagine at one point a volunteer has had to trawl the pitch looking for any golf balls. I believe that the Driving Range has now closed, which can only be good news for the pitch, as I can’t imagine that being hit by golf balls is good for a football pitch.

Speaking of the pitch, it looked immaculate, with a lot of hard work going in to making sure it was perfect for the season ahead, this was evident by the sight of a ride-on mower parked next to the pitch. From what I saw, Fulwood have a number of volunteers to help around the club, and I enjoyed the warm welcome that I received. With ridiculously over-inflated transfer fees flying around at the top of the game, it was refreshing going to a game where the players would have worked a full time job before playing on the Saturday. Also with over-inflated transfer fees being propped up by ever increasing ticket prices, I was more than happy to find that today’s entry price would be £2, including a programme.

As a ground at this level goes, Lightfoot Lane is a lovely little ground. There isn’t a seating to speak of, but there is a bench by the home dugout, and there are plenty of garden chairs dotted around, so if you do need a seat, I’m sure you could find comfort on one of those. There is cover, by the home dugout, and on the Driving Range, however the Driving Range end looked to be closed off, so I didn’t venture down that side. The rest of the ground is open, hard standing, but there is plenty of room to expand if the need ever arises. Although saying that, if Fulwood were to climb the leagues I would imagine that they could look into sharing with the rugby club. The dugouts at Lightfoot Lane are situated opposite each other, with the home dugout being closest to the changing rooms.

Finding the history of Fulwood Amateurs has been a difficult job, although I can say that they were founded in 1924, and have a number of trophies in their trophy cabinet. The first trophy that I can see the club have won was the Manchester & Salford Medical Charities Hospital Cup in 1937. The club joined the West Lancashire League Division Two in 1993, after spending the majority of their history in the Lancashire Amateur League, where they won the Premier Division in 1987. In their first season in the West Lancs League Division Two, the club finished as runners up and were promoted to Division One, which was renamed the Premier Division in 1998. Fulwood were to remain in the Premier Division until 2014, when they were relegated back to Division One, where they played one season and finished as Champions. The Amateurs have won the Premier Division on one occasion in 1995, and have finished in third place for the past two seasons.

I’ve seen Coppull United play before, so here is a link to that blog: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/coppull-united/. Coppull finished the 2015-2016 season in 8th, and the 2016-2017 season in 10th.

Both sides have already played two games this season, with Fulwood opening the season with a 3-2 victory at Vickerstown, and a 1-1 draw with Southport Hesketh meaning they entered this game with four points on the board. Coppull have started by beating Thornton Cleveleys 2-1, and in their second game they suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Garstang.

The game started brightly, with both sides having good opportunities to open the scoring, with only good defensive work and a lack of luck preventing one of them taking the lead. With the way the dugouts are arranged at Lightfoot Lane, I had a good opportunity to observe Tony Hesketh, the Fulwood manager, and I’ve got to say I was impressed with how he conducted himself, there was very little swearing and he didn’t question the referee’s decisions, which was good to see. In fact on a couple of occasions Tony actually reminded his players to respect the ref, which is excellent leadership.

The opening goal came in the 26th minute, with the Fulwood number 9, Danny Parkinson, firing home to give his side the lead. Conceding seemed to knock the wind out of the Coppull team, and Fulwood had a few more opportunities to increase their lead before the break, however the Coppull keeper was playing well, and kept them at bay.

Half Time: Fulwood Amateurs 1-0 Coppull United (Parkinson 26)

At half time I wandered round to the other side of the ground, and took up a place by the away dugout, and had a look at Twitter for the latest scores, I was amazed at what was unfolding at Chelsea, and if the season carries on the way it has started, the Premier League should be interesting, although I doubt I’ll pay too much attention to it.

The second half kicked off slightly late, but it kicked off and that’s all that matters. It took seven minutes for the second goal of the game to be scored, and it was the equalizer for Coppull, as their number 8, Adam Pitstock, netted a looping effort, which I am still unsure of how it managed to hit the back of the net, as I’m convinced that the Fulwood keeper should have gotten a hand to the ball.

Five minutes after the equalizer, Coppull put themselves into the lead, as Pitstock latched onto the ball, and fired it past the Fulwood keeper, to completely turn the game on its head. Fulwood seemed a bit stunned to have conceded two goals in quick succession, and they were to be even more stunned in the 64th minute, as the Coppull number 11, Liam Davies, popped up at the near post, to tap the ball home.

The 72nd minute bought a raft of changes, as Fulwood decided to go for broke and made all three of their subs at once. Off came number 10, 9 and 7 and in replacement on went 12, 14 and 15. Unfortunately there weren’t any teamsheets, so I’m unable to give the exact names of the players replaced, and can only give you the names of the scorers thanks to the West Lancashire League website. Coppull also made a change with their number 14 coming on for the number 7.

Coppull made it 4-1 in the 74th minute, as Scott Hendy fired home. I’m sure Hendy was the number 14 that came on in the 72nd minute, as from where I stood it looked like he was the one being congratulated, although I should probably have been wearing my glasses, as it would make reading the player’s numbers a lot easier.

Coppull made the second of their substitutions in the 76th minute, with number 4 coming off to be replaced by number 12. I had been impressed by the Coppull number 4, as he had put in a real shift, and looked absolutely knackered as he left the field. Coppull then made their final change in the 79th minute, as their number 9 left the field to be replaced by number 15.

Despite trailing by three goals, Fulwood kept attacking, and were unlucky not to reduce the arrears. I was impressed by the fact that at least one of the Fulwood subs looked to be under the age of 18, and as a club Fulwood are attempting to bring young lads through, with one of their lads recently signing for Blackpool.

Final Score: Fulwood Amateurs 1-4 Coppull United (Parkinson 26 – Pitstock 52, 57, Davies 64, Hendy 74)

Following the final whistle I made a quick walk back to my car, as the final scores started to roll in, with Shrewsbury and Atherton Colleries both picking up wins. Chorley on the other hand could only draw with Curzon Ashton.

Fulwood is a wonderful club, and if you are ever in the Preston area I would recommend that you pay a visit to Lightfoot Lane. In fact I would recommend just getting to a game in the West Lancashire League, as this is what football should be, played with passion by a bunch of lads that have worked all week. At this level you won’t find ridiculous wages, ticket prices etc, but you will find the real game.

Three points for Coppull sees them climb to 6th in the league, with two wins and a defeat, Coppull have started the season well. Although this season is only three games old, so everything could change. Fulwood currently find themselves in 11th with four points on the board, however they are only three points off of top spot.

Attendance: Unknown (I wouldn’t imagine that it was more than 20)

Cost: £2

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157684061958962

Charnock Richard (FA Cup)

Charnock Richard vs Penistone Church, FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, Mossie Park

Regular readers of my blog will probably have looked at the top of this blog and noticed that I am writing about a re-visit to a ground, obviously I don’t tend to do this, as once I have visited a ground I don’t normally blog about it again, however there is a reason for this, and that reason is that this would be the first game for Charnock Richard in the FA Cup. Following their promotion to the NWCFL Premier Division, Charnock are now eligible for the FA Cup, and what kind of groundhopper would I be if I passed up the opportunity to see history in the making?

I had meant to attend the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round last season, however car troubles meant that I was unable to do so, so this year I wasn’t going to be taking any risks, so I decided to walk to Charnock Richard from Chorley, a walk that Google Maps stated was 2.2 miles and would take me 45 minutes, however I set off from my house at 1:50pm, and arrived at Mossie Park at 2:20pm, shaving 15 minutes off of the expected time it would take me to arrive, which was good as it allowed me to have a pint of Amstel at the social club.

There was a slight doubt that I would be able to write this blog, as in June I broke the scaphoid bone in my right hand, meaning that for the last couple of weeks I’ve been in a cast, which obviously made typing difficult. Luckily the cast came off during the week, and I now have to wear a splint to support my thumb. Because my father will be reading this blog, and because he loves the story of how I broke my scaphoid, I thought I’d include it here. I was on holiday, the second day of my holiday to be exact, and my parents very kindly agreed to babysit the kids, so my wife and I headed to the bar on the holiday park, and after a pint we went into the arcade, where I challenged my wife to a go on a punching machine, my wife initially declined but soon relented, and after she went first I decided that I had to be macho and beat her score. I haven’t thrown a punch since primary school, and although I hit a score of 600 odd, I broke a bone for the first time.

Stories of poor decisions aside, I have obviously blogged about Charnock Richard before, a blog that you can find here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/charnock-richard/. So therefore I won’t be repeating their history here, although I do want to congratulate Charnock on their promotion to the NWCFL Premier Division, Charnock are a fantastic club, and I always enjoy visiting, so I am looking forward to seeing how high this club can climb.

Today’s opponents would be Penistone Church, who are based in Penistone, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. They currently play in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division. Church were formed in 1906 following the merger of Penistone Choirboys and Penistone Juniors, and they initially played in the Sheffield Amateur League and the Penistone League. Church were the first winners of the Sheffield Junior Cup in 1909, and they won this trophy again in 1937. Church were founder members of the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League, following the merger of the Hatchard League and the Sheffield Association League. Penistone were to reach the Premier Division in 1995, and became a yo-yo club as they flitted between the Premier Division and Division One on a couple of occasions. Church were to finish as Premier Division runners-up in 2003, but spent another year in Division One following relegation in 2007. Church soon established themselves as a top side in the league, and in 2014 were promoted to the NCEL Division One. In the 2015 to 2016 season the club qualified for the inaugural Division One Play-Offs however they missed out on promotion after losing in the Semi Finals to AFC Emley. Church weren’t to make the same mistake again, and in the 2016 to 2017 season they overcame AFC Emley in the Semi Finals, before beating Grimsby Borough in the Final to win promotion to the Premier Division.

Entry into Mossie Park cost me £5, with a further £2 going to a programme. Upon buying my programme I was handed a pen, and a weird box, as the sponsors of this game, The Beardwood Hospital, were in a generous mood. Before the game I spent my time trying to work out what the box was, and I soon discovered it was an anti-bacterial hand wash, which to be fair is an odd souvenir to get from a football match.

The game burst into life from kick off, with Charnock winning a penalty in the 5th minute. Their number 10, Jonathan Hession, broke into the box and was fouled, with the ref given no choice but to signal for the penalty. Unfortunately Hession looked to have rolled his ankle as he went down, and he was replaced by number 12, Luke Barrow. There was a slight delay as Hession was helped off of the pitch, and it wasn’t until the 7th minute that number 8, Nathan Fairhurst, was able to take the penalty. The delay didn’t put him off, and he fired the penalty home nicely.

After the initial flurry of action the game calmed down, with Charnock being the more dominant side, however the game was again to burst into life, as Luke Barrow fired home to double Charnock’s lead in the 33rd minute. Barrow picked the ball up just outside of the area, and curled a beautiful finish into the back of the net.

Immediately Church sprang into action, and their number 3, Jordan Barnett, was on hand to net a header, in the 35th minute. Barnett wasn’t content with just scoring the one goal however, and two minutes later he grabbed the equaliser, although I’m not sure how much he knew of it as the ball rebounded off of his back and past the outstretched fingers of the Charnock keeper.

Church weren’t finished, and they went from 2-0 down, to 3-2 up in the 42nd minute, as their number 8, Jordan Corduri, latched onto the ball, and fired a low finish home from the edge of the area. Church had had three clear chances, all from corners, and had scored all three.

Half Time: Charnock Richard 2-3 Penistone Church (Fairhurst 7, Barrow 33 – Barnett 35, 37, Corduri 42)

Just before half time I headed around to the refreshment hut, where I bought a pie, it was lucky that I headed round to the refreshment hut, as just by being there I stopped a stray ball from flying inside the refreshment hut and causing chaos. Although I just wish the ball hadn’t hit me on my right hand, as I did have to wonder whether I had done any more damage to my hand.

Pie in hand, I decided to walk around to the opposite side of the ground, as I expected Charnock to come flying out of the half time break, desperate to get an equaliser.

Charnock did come out strong following the break, and had a couple of good chances to get back into the game, and were able to drag themselves back into the competition, as they equalised in the 67th minute, as number 7, Matthew Davison, fired a header home to keep Charnock’s FA Cup dreams alive. Following the goal, Penistone made their first change, with number 11, Ryan Smith, making way for number 12, Scott Whittington.

In the 76th minute, Church put themselves back into the lead. Church had won a free-kick in a dangerous position, and thundered the ball against the bar, the ball dropped down and seemingly bounced clear of the line. The Church players appealed which seemed to cause the Charnock defence to turn off, and Scott Whittington reacted first, nodding the ball home.

Charnock made a change in the 81st minute, with Luke Barrow leaving the field to be replaced by number 14, Oliver Evans.

Unfortunately, Charnock’s task of getting back into the game was made a lot harder, as Matthew Davison picked up his second yellow card, and therefore a red card, in the 84th minute. Honestly I’m not sure what was going though Davison’s head, as he put in a completely unnecessary challenge on Adam Rhodes, the Church keeper. I can understand the frustration that Davison may have felt, but he had been a major thorn in the side of the Penistone defence, and it was disappointing to see him get sent off.

Given that they were now a goal down, and a man down, Charnock had nothing to lose and in the 87th minute, number 2, Spencer Bibby made way for number 15, Matthew Leatham. However despite throwing people forward, and having a good number of chances, Charnock were unable to get themselves back into the game.

Final Score: Charnock Richard 3-4 Penistone Church (Fairhurst 7, Barrow 33, Davison 67 – Barnett 35, 37, Corduri 42, Whittington 76)

Following the final whistle, I made my way out of the ground and headed back down the road to Chorley. It had been a disappointing defeat for Charnock as I had hoped to see them win their first ever FA Cup match, but it wasn’t to be, and Penistone fully deserved the win. In fact this was Penistone’s first ever win in the FA Cup and they will now face Litherland REMYCA in the next round.

As I’ve said it was disappointing to see Charnock lose, Charnock have a very good side together, and I would expect them to do well in the NWCFL Premier Division this season. Penistone Church played well today and hopefully this will be the start of a very good season for them, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how far they can go in the FA Cup, although I can imagine they won’t be dreaming of Wembley just yet.

A seven goal thriller was a great way to start the season, and I am fully looking forward to the season ahead, as if every match is like this one then it will be a very entertaining season indeed.

Attendance: 254

Cost: £7 (I’ve forgotten how much the food was)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157687247548275

FC Halifax Town

FC Halifax Town vs Chorley, National League North Play Off Final, The Shay

With Chorley’s battling performance against Kidderminster seeing them gain a place in the Play Off Final, my season was to be extended by a further game, as with Chorley on the cusp of gaining promotion to the National League Premier, there was nowhere else I would rather spend my Saturday than at The Shay, home of FC Halifax Town.

However there was the small matter of going to work first, luckily my shift ended at 1pm, and after a quick walk up to a cashpoint on Preston Fishergate, I headed back to my car, and set off for Halifax. I’d been up since 6am, and after a poor night’s sleep there was part of me that was desperate to go home and climb back into bed, but the excitement of seeing Chorley play kept me going. The journey to Halifax was pretty straight forward, and it was smooth sailing until I reached Halifax itself, where I encountered some heavy traffic, which was seemingly caused by other drivers being incapable of merging from two lanes into one. With fifteen minutes before kickoff, I found some street parking, up a steep hill, and quickly made my way down to The Shay, as I entered the car-park near to the South Stand, I was relieved to hear that kick off had been delayed by fifteen minutes, and it was clear to see why, as the queues for the home ends stretched for a good distance. After following directions from a friendly steward for the away end, I paid £15 for entrance, and took my place on the North Stand.

The Shay is an impressive ground, with both stands behind the goals being large terraced stands, it does lead to a good atmosphere when the attendance is large. To the right of the North Stand is the Skircoat Stand where the Chorley fans were to be sat of they didn’t fancy standing on the North Stand, only half of the Skircoat Stand was to be used, as the majority of the away support had made the choice to stand on the North Stand. To the left of the North Stand is the Main Stand, which provided the seating for the home fans, this is an impressive looking stand, despite the scaffolding down at the far end, this stand was originally constructed in the 2001-2002 season but due to financial issues it was left unfinished for a number of years before being opened in 2010, the scaffolding at the far end was intended to be a hospitality area, but this was not completed along with the Main Stand.

FC Halifax Town were founded in 2008 following the financial meltdown of Halifax Town AFC, as the original club were placed into administration in the 2007-2008 season, with huge tax debts burying this original club after almost 100 years of history. Following the taxman winding up the original club, FC Halifax Town were formed, and began life in the Northern Premier League Division One North, a poor start to the 2008-2009 season culminated in the sacking of manager Jim Vince, following an upturn in fortunes, Halifax won just two of their final 14 league games, with Nigel Jemson stepping into the manager’s position for the remainder of the season, with their first season finishing in a final position of 8th. Neil Aspin took over the helm for the 2009-2010 season, and the club got off to a better start, and despite failing to record a game for over a month during heavy weather during the winter, and Lancaster City dominating the promotion race, Halifax were able to claw their way back to the top of the league with a 2-2 draw with Clitheroe sealing the title and promotion for the Shaymen. Life in the Northern Premier League started with a number of signings, notably Mark Bowyer from Darlington and Jamie Vardy (I wonder what happened to him?) from Stocksbridge Park Steels. With the Shaymen in goal scoring form, they won the title after winning 2-0 at Retford United, which saw them promoted to the Conference North for the 2011-2012 season. Jamie Vardy was to depart for Fleetwood Town at the start of the season, and with only two wins from their opening nine games, Town responded well by winning four of their next six games. Halifax were to do well in the FA Cup this season, reaching the first round for the first time since their reformation, and were drawn at home to League One Charlton Athletic, the eventual defeat, and score line of 4-0 to Charlton, does not reflect the good account that the Shaymen gave of themselves in that game. A play off place was secured, however following a 2-2 draw in the first leg with Gainsborough Trinity, Halifax were to lose the second leg 1-0, forcing them to settle for another season in the Conference North. The 2012-2013 season started with a cull of the previous squad with only nine members of the previous squad being retained, a number of high profile signings were made, with Jason Jarret, Dale Johnson and Gareth Seddon all signing for the club. A number of postponements during the winter saw a tough backlog of fixtures, with the club battling to a 5th placed finish, after beating Guiseley in the semi-finals, Halifax found themselves against Brackley in the final, with a 1-0 win seeing Halifax promoted into the Conference Premier. The 2013-2014 season saw the Shaymen go on an incredible run, as they went from mid-table to 5th place, and therefore a spot in the play-offs, a first leg win over Cambridge, saw them go into the second leg 1-0 up on aggregate, and only 90 minutes away from Wembley, however it wasn’t to be, with Cambridge winning 2-0 in the second leg. Following the unbelievable end to the previous season, expectations for the 2014-2015 season were high, with many believing that Halifax could make their way back to the Football League and despite a good start to the season, a stuttering end to the season the club finished outside of the play-off places, with a loud minority of fans not pleased by this, as they believed that Halifax should have made the play-offs at the very least. Neil Aspin was to be sacked ten games into the season, as they only collected five points from those games. Aspin was replaced by Darren Kelly, however Kelly was to last less than two months with six defeats out of seven games, with Jim Harvey taking over as caretaker. A memorable run in the FA Trophy took its toll on Halifax’s league form with the club only winning twice in ten games, dropping back into the relegation zone with it coming down to needing a win over Macclesfield, however they only managed a 1-1 draw and dropped back into the National League North. Despite relegation the Shaymen still wanted to end the season on a high, and in the FA Trophy they beat Grimsby 1-0, earning them the FA Trophy. Jim Harvey’s contract wasn’t renewed, and he was replaced by North Ferriby United manager Billy Heath. A third placed finish in the National League North saw Halifax take on Salford City in the play-off semi-finals, both legs finished in 1-1 draws, and it took penalties for Halifax to reach the final, which leads us nicely into today’s match.

I’ve covered Chorley’s history before, so I won’t repeat that here, just have a look through my blog to find the history of Chorley FC. However going into this season it would be fair to say that expectations weren’t high and many fans were expecting a comfortable mid-table finish. Chorley were helped by Darlington failing to meet ground grading criteria meaning that Chorley’s 6th placed finish saw them qualify for a play-off place. Following a 1-0 defeat a Victory Park at the hands of Kidderminster Harriers, in the first leg, Chorley travelled to Aggborough with it all to do, and a 19th minute strike from Jordan Carver bought the score level on aggregate before super-sub Adam Roscoe sent Chorley into the final with his goal in the 93rd minute.

With both sides knowing that promotion was at stake, the first half was nervy with neither side taking too much of an attacking initiative, however that isn’t to mean that there weren’t chances for either side in the first half, and both keepers had to be alert to the threat that their opposition attackers posed.

Both sides were forced into first half changes, with Halifax having to replace their left back Josh Wilde in the 24th minute with Tom Denton taking to the field in his place. Chorley had to make a change in the 38th minute with Stephen Jordan replaced by Kieran Charnock, as Jordan suffered a suspected groin injury.

Half Time: FC Halifax Town 0-0 Chorley

With the queue for food being absolutely massive, I decided to take a seat on the terrace and read the programme which had cost me £3. The content inside was good, but I get the feeling that it wasn’t put together by the home side, with equal content given to each side, unless that is how Halifax do their programmes, and if that is the case then fair play to them as the programme was interesting.

It took a minute for the deadlock to be broken, as a scrappy bit of play saw Halifax play their way up the field, with the ball being slipped through to Kevin Roberts, who got the better of Adam Blakeman before firing his shot under Richie Branagan to put Halifax into the lead.

Chorley made a second change in the 58th minute with Jason Walker replacing Josh O’Keefe. Two minutes after this change, Chorley won a free-kick on the edge of the area, and the man stood next to me uttered the words “This is going in.” Sure enough Adam Blakeman fired the ball past the wall and into the bottom corner, to send the Chorley fans into raptures. Now I’m not sure why some Chorley fans decided to encroach onto the pitch, but I’m just going to put that down to over-excitement.

Halifax then made their second change in the 62nd minute, with Cliff Moyo replacing Dion Charles. It didn’t take long for Moyo to introduce himself as he picked up a booking for an off the ball incident with Jordan Carver.

Tom Denton was then also lucky to escape an early bath, as he elbowed Scott Leather, interestingly enough Halifax’s own match report describes the elbow as blatant, but the referee had made his decision and Halifax continued with eleven men.

The final change for Halifax came in the 78th minute as David Lynch left the field to be replaced by Danny Clarke. With the prospect of extra time looming, this was an interesting substitution and it became clear that Halifax wanted to end this game in normal time. However Chorley were to finish the second half the stronger of the two, and extra time became an inevitability.

Second Half: FC Halifax 1-1 Chorley (Roberts 46 – Blakeman 60)

After making a quick call to the wife to let her know that I would be home later than expected, I took my place back on the terrace, and began to search my fingers for nails to bite. I’ve never enjoyed extra time, and I despise penalty shootouts.

However with the first half of extra time underway, it was to be Halifax that put themselves into the lead, as Scott Garner popped up with a looping header in the 103rd minute.

Chorley then began to throw everything at Halifax, with Adam Roscoe replacing Dale Witham in the 105th minute. Branagan had seemingly abandoned his goal and was now performing more of a midfield position, and the match started to resemble a kick around during lunch at high school, one side had taken the lead and everyone knew that the bell was about to ring to signal the start of lessons, so the losing side elected to play rush keeper. This worked well for Chorley with Branagan’s long kicking ability coming into use, and as one man near me remarked, “I’d rather lose 3-1 but give everything.”

Everything was what Chorley did give, and there was to be an excellent chance late on in the game. With a corner awarded to Chorley, Branagan made his way into the box, and the ball fell for him perfectly, he threw himself acrobatically at the ball but his volley narrowly cleared the bar. However there was to be one last chance, as another corner was whipped in with the ball again landing for Branagan, however his shot went wide of goal.

Full Time: FC Halifax 2-1 Chorley (Roberts 46, Garner 103 – Blakeman 60)

As the final whistle blew, the Halifax fans stormed the pitch and who can blame them? They’d just watched their team win promotion back to the National League Premier in a hard-fought encounter. Congratulations to FC Halifax, I hope that the next time we meet is in the National League Premier.

I stayed behind with the rest of the Chorley fans to applaud the boys for putting everything they had into this game, part of me began to wonder what would have happened if Branagan’s volley had been inches lower, causing the game to go to penalties, would I be sat here writing about how Chorley were going to be playing in the National League Premier? However that wasn’t to be, and FC Halifax deserved the win, they took their chances and defended well until the end despite heavy pressure from the Magpies.

I’m not heartbroken by the result, I’m more disappointed that we had gotten so close to promotion and had fallen at the last hurdle, however as I said at the start of the blog many Chorley fans were expecting mid-table, so to have gotten this far was brilliant. We’ll pick ourselves up and continue into the next season, hopefully we’ll keep the majority of the squad as we do have a good squad here, a few additions would be good, but we’ll have to see how the summer goes.

This isn’t to be the last blog of this season, as I’ll be attending a charity match on Sunday 28th May, as the Twincess Select XI take on Jamie Vermiglio’s Chorley All Stars in a 1pm kick off. This match will be played in aid of Down Syndrome Association, and tickets are expected to be limited, if you are able to get to the game, I would recommend buying a ticket sooner rather than later, as this looks to be a good event, seeing as how it coincides with the Chorley Beer Festival.

Also before ending this blog I’d like to say congratulations to Longridge who beat Blackpool Wren Rovers 1-0 to seal the West Lancashire Football League Premier Division title. On sadder news, as a Shrewsbury Town fan I am upset by the news that Chris Smith has passed, and would like to extend my best wishes to his family.

Thanks for reading, and remember that football is not only a television show, go and support your local non-league team!

Attendance: 7920 (1,941 away)

Cost: £18

Movember Total: £32.50 (£1.50 from today)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157683799076405

YouTube: FC Halifax Town vs Chorley (Reminder the gaming videos on this channel contain NSFW language and those that are offended by swearing or violence should avoid these. The groundhopping videos are clean however, mostly clean anyway.)