Radcliffe Borough

Radcliffe Borough vs Lancaster City, EvoStik First Division North, 25/03/17, Taurus Park

Typically of British weather we have gone from one extreme to the other. Last weekend I was firmly glued to Twitter as I checked for any postponements, but this weekend I was able to relax, as the sun shone and the sky was blue and cloudless. I did have a cursory glance at Radcliffe Borough’s Twitter but that was just to find the postcode for the ground.

My mood was further improved as I found a Real Madrid home shirt in a charity shop in Chorley, as a football shirt collector this was to be a highlight! Once I’d eaten lunch I hopped in my car and drove the short distance between Chorley and Radcliffe. I left my home at around 2pm, and pulled up outside of Radcliffe Borough at around 2.35pm, which is a good journey given that it was a Saturday and I expected the motorways to be busier.

After a short walk to the turnstiles from my car, I paid £8 for entry and paid a further £2 for a programme. I initially went to complete a lap of the ground, however I was stopped by a steward as I went to walk behind the goal. Apologetically he explained that I couldn’t continue my lap, this way at least, and he gestured to the fire damage in the stand behind the goal. Unfortunately Radcliffe Borough were targeted by arsonists in December 2016, which has caused damage to the only stand in the ground which provides seating (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/arson-radcliffe-borough-stadium-fire-12280017). Fortunately the fire didn’t spread to the entire stand, and around two-thirds of the stand was still open.

From the turnstiles you emerge on the touchline, with the social club to your left. Behind the goal on the left of the turnstiles stands the seater stand that I’ve already referenced, this is fire damaged at the moment, but a majority of the seats are still available for use. Along the opposite touchline are the dugouts, which caused a delay in the second half as the subs and coaches walked across the pitch to the dugouts. Behind the dugouts stand a couple of rows of terracing. To the right of the turnstiles, stands the refreshment hut and a stretch of covered terracing. Behind the goal to the right of the turnstiles stands a small covered terrace. All in all, Taurus Park (or Stainton Park) is a good ground, and I hope Radcliffe Borough are able to find the funds to fix their ground.

I’ve covered the history of both sides before, so here’s the links for those blogs: Radcliffe Borough and   Lancaster City. So I’ll just delve into their recent form, Radcliffe Borough enter this game in 17th place in the league, with their last five games resulting in two wins, two draws and a loss. In their last match Radcliffe played Ossett Albion and emerged 2-1 winners. Lancaster City sit 2nd in the league, and are level on points with top placed Farsley, if results went their way Lancaster would move up to top spot, and their last five matches resulted in three wins and two defeats, in their last match they took on Tadcaster Albion and came away with all three points following a 1-0 win.

Before the match there was a minute silence for the victims of the Westminster attack, this well-observed by those in the ground. With both sides ready, the referee blew his whistle and the game commenced for about two seconds before the ref blew his whistle again and instructed the kick off to be retaken, as it appeared the Radcliffe Borough number 7, Lamin Baldeh, had crossed the halfway line before the ball was kicked.

The first half was a rather even affair, with both sides attacking and defending well, and by the way Radcliffe Borough played their position in the league of 17th wasn’t a fair reflection of their side. I was impressed by Radcliffe’s Lamin Baldeh as his pace down the right wing was impressive, and I feel some higher up teams should pay both sides a visit as both teams were packed with talent.

One thing I did notice was that the perimeter walls were close to the pitch, and in around the 43rd minute, the Radcliffe number 3, Jordyn Fitton, slammed into the wall as he attempted to chase down the ball. The referee showed immediate concern for the lad, however after receiving treatment he was okay to continue.

It took until the stroke of halftime for the opening goal, and it fell to Lancaster City’s number 10, Hannu Tam, to open the scoring, as he entered the box with the ball at his feet, the Radcliffe Borough keeper, Kyle Haslam, came off of his line to narrow the angle, but Tam simply lobbed the ball over his head, to give Lancaster the lead in the 45th minute.

Half Time: Radcliffe Borough 0-1 Lancaster City (Tam 45)

At half time I headed to the refreshment hut, paying £1 for a can of Pepsi Max, I had initially asked for Diet Coke, as that’s what most grounds sell, and was over the moon when the lady behind the counter apologised for only having Pepsi or Pepsi Max, as someone who prefers Pepsi Max over everything else I was over-joyed! It’s the simple things in life, isn’t it?

After a delayed start to the second half, the action continued where it had left off, as Hannu Tam raced onto a through ball, before rounding the keeper and slotting home to put City 2-0 up.

Radcliffe were awarded a dubious penalty minutes after kick off, I say dubious as from where I was stood it looked like the Lancaster player had two options, option one being let a powerful shot hit him straight in his privates, or option two, attempt to stop the ball from hitting him in his privates. He chose option two, and the ball did strike his hand, however it would have hit him either way. Then again handball is handball, and maybe the referee was right. Either way Radcliffe had a penalty, which their number 10, Jack Hindle, stepped up to take. His penalty was well struck but the Lancaster keeper, Michael Hale, was able to get to it, and saved it well.

In the 62nd minute, Radcliffe made their first change of the day, with number 7, Lamin Baldeh, leaving the field to be replaced by number 16, Timmy Raheem. Three minutes later, City also made a change, with Hannu Tam leaving the field to be replaced by number 17, Simon Willis.

City made it 3-0 in the 71st minute, as their number 9, Jordan Connerton, raced clear of the Borough defence, before slotting the ball past the keeper, to send the Lancaster fans into raptures. Radcliffe followed this goal by making a change with number 10, Jack Hindle, being replaced by Daniel Burns (?).

The remainder of the changes were made, with City replacing number 7, Jacob Gregory, for number 14, Joshua Earl in the 72nd minute. Borough then made their final change in the 74th minute, with number 12, Stanislav Zhekov (?) replacing number 8, Conor Ready. City made their final change as Jordan Connerton made way for number 15, Tom Kilfin.

Both sides continued to play well, and the Lancaster fans continued to hope for a fourth goal, however that wasn’t to come, and they had to settle with just the three goals today.

Final Score: Radcliffe Borough 0-3 Lancaster City (Tam 45, 46, Connerton 71)

Following the final whistle, I made my way back to my car, before setting off home to Chorley. It was an easy journey home, and I passed through a couple of towns, where I know a football team plays but I wasn’t sure on how to get to them, well now I know and I’ll be branching out more towards Manchester in the upcoming weeks.

Defeat for Radcliffe Borough sees them remain in 17th place in the league, they are currently eight points away from 21st placed Goole, and seem to be safe this year, with only seven games for Radcliffe left, and only five for Goole, it seems unlikely that Goole would catch them. Radcliffe have a number of good players, and I would recommend that if you find yourself near Manchester to pay Radcliffe a visit as they are a friendly club.

Before the game Lancaster found themselves in 2nd place, with only goal difference keeping them off of the top spot. As I stated earlier if results went their way they would move to the top, and results did go their way, with Farsley losing 2-0 to Bamber Bridge, and Lancaster winning, Lancaster now occupy top place in the league, with three points separating them from Farsley. Both teams now have six games to play, and if Lancaster can keep their three-point advantage, they should come out of the season as Champions.

As well as writing these blogs, I am also now recording my adventures in groundhopping, and the videos can be found on my YouTube channel, PreecedGames. Along with Groundhopping videos I also play video games (although these videos come with an NSFW warning).

Thanks for reading.

Attendance: 186

Cost: £12

Movember Total: £25.50 (£1.50 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157678444199844

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwALgmjeZV7OMP8euGBOi5A (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.)

Squires Gate

Squires Gate vs West Didsbury & Chorlton, North West Counties Football League Premier Division, 04/03/17, Brian Addison Stadium

With another wet weekend underway, my eyes were firmly glued to Twitter as I attempted to work out which games would be on and which ones would fall foul of the weather. I was disheartened when my first choice game at Radcliffe Borough was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, however I was soon cheered up when I noticed the Squires Gate had passed a pitch inspection and would be hosting West Didsbury & Chorlton in the North West Counties Football League Premier Division.

I set off from Chorley at 2pm, and pulled into some street parking at 2.45pm, I would have arrived earlier however the parking at the ground was full as both Squires Gate and Blackpool Wren Rovers were at home, and I had to explore the area to find some parking. Once at the ground I paid £6 for entry and a further £2 for a programme. I made my way straight to the clubhouse before the game and bought a can of Diet Coke for a £1, before finding some cover for the first half. The rain was falling and the pitch was beginning to show signs of standing water, however the referee was happy to start the game, and that’s all that matters.

Squires Gate play their home games at the Brian Addison Stadium, named after their groundsman, and is a typical non-league ground. Along both touchlines are stretches of covered terracing, with the touchline opposite to the dugouts, containing some seating. The touchline, with the dugouts, is tight, as the border is shared with Blackpool Wren Rovers, who play next door. Behind the goal nearest to the touchlines stand the changing rooms, and a small covered stand. Behind the far goal is a stretch of uncovered terrace, which was occupied by some hardy souls who braved the rain.

Squires Gate were formed in 1948 as Squires Gate British Legion and began life in the Blackpool & District Amateur League. In 1953 the club changed their name to Squires Gate, they won the league’s First Division in 1956 and 1957, before moving to the Fylde District League for the 1960 to 1961 season. In 1961 they moved up to the West Lancashire League, where they spent the next thirty years. From 1961 to 1980 they were in Division Two and in 1981 they were promoted as champions. Squires Gate joined the North West Counties Football League in 1991, and joined Division Two. Gate were promoted to Division One in 2003, as they missed out on the runner-up spot on goal difference, however the demise of Stand Athletic led to them being promoted. There has been talk of Squires Gate, Blackpool Wren Rovers and AFC Blackpool merging into one club in an attempt to reach the Northern Premier League, but all three clubs seem happy as they are, and although they are all in a short walk of each other, it seems to work, so why fix something that isn’t broken? Gate came into this match in 17th place in the league, with their last game ending in a 3-3 draw with Winsford United.

West Didsbury & Chorlton began life as Christ Church AFC in 1908, and joined the Manchester Alliance League, where they remained until 1914. The club became West Didsbury AFC in 1920, and joined the Lancashire and Cheshire League. West played at the top of this level of this league for many years, however they were relegated in 1952 but bounced back the following season. Again they were relegated in 1960, and this time it took six years to regain a place in Division One. However this again was to be short lived as they were relegated again in 1969, and achieved promotion back to the Division One in 1971. Two relegations in three years saw West playing in the Lancashire and Cheshire League Division Three, in which they stayed until the late 1980s. In 1988 and 1989 the club achieved back to back promotions as champions. They became West Didsbury & Chorlton in 2003, to reflect their new location following a ground move. In 2006 they joined the Manchester League Division One and were crowned champions in 2011, gaining promotion to the Premier Division. In 2012 the club were accepted to the North West Counties Football League Division One, and were promoted for the 2013 to 2014 season, as they finished third in the league in their first season at level 10, and as Formby failed to meet ground criteria, West Didsbury & Chorlton were promoted. Coming into this game, West find themselves in 10th in the league with their last game resulting in a 3-0 win at Barnton.

As I have mentioned, this match was played in parts in torrential rain, with the rain only easing for periods. As a result of this I took cover under one of the terraces, and felt sorry for the players on the pitch. West Didsbury & Chorlton started the game in white shirts with black sleeves, and finished the game in brown shirts with black sleeves. Despite the poor conditions both sides attempted to play some good attacking football, with the ball spending a lot of time on the floor.

It took until the 36th minute for the opening goal to arrive, West Didsbury & Chorlton had put Squires Gate under some sustained pressure, and finally Nic Evangelinos netted following a good through ball, which saw the keeper leave his line, however Nic got to the ball first and guided it home.

Half Time: Squires Gate 0-1 West Didsbury & Chorlton (Evangelinos 36)

At half time I headed back to the clubhouse, and bought another can of Diet Coke for a £1, before heading around to the opposite touchline, where I watched the subs warm up. Blackpool Wren Rovers’ match against Fulwood Amateurs had kicked off and I had a peek over the fence to watch until the Squires Gate game kicked off again. (The Wren Rovers match finished 3-3.)

It took a minute for Squires Gate to pull level, the ball was worked down the left wing and put into the box, where Ben Seear was on hand to bundle the ball home.

The rain had increased at this point, and I made my way back round to the cover on the opposite touchline. As I reached the cover, the rain turned torrential, and I felt pleased with myself for my decision to move.

West made their first change in the 73rd minute, as they switched their number 10 for their number 15. They followed this change with another in the 75th minute as their number 9 left the pitch to be replaced by their number 14.

An even game looked to be heading for a draw, as both sides had chances to get themselves into the lead, however it was to be West Didsbury & Chorlton who got their noses in front in the 84th minute. The ball was drove in from the right wing, and Nic Evangelinos fired it goal wards, the ball was diverted into the back of the net by the Squires Gate number 8, however the North West Counties website has it down as a second goal for Nic Evangelinos.

West made it 3-1 in the 86th minute, as Nic Evangelinos secured his hat-trick, technically. The ball came down the left wing, and was played onto the edge of the area for Nic, who took a touch and fired the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Following this goal, West made their final change with their number 8 being replaced by their number 12.

Final Score: Squires Gate 1-3 West Didsbury & Chorlton (Seear 46 – Evangelinos 36, 84, 86)

An even game was decided in the last ten minutes, as West showed a clinical touch in front of goal. I think they were helped by the fact that Squires were down to their bare bones for the game with Gate not making any changes in the second half. Maintaining a good level of fitness must have been difficult given the heavy pitch, and I feel Squires should have come out of the game with at least a point.

Following the final whistle, there was a bit of a row between one of the linesmen and some of the Squires’ players, however this disagreement was half a dozen of one and half a dozen of the other. The linesman in question hadn’t been shy and retiring when it came to dealing with the players and had told some of the players to “shut up and get on with the game” on a number of occasions. Whilst I would encourage officials to stick up for themselves, I do feel as though the linesman may have crossed the line.

A win for West Didsbury & Chorlton sees them move up to 9th in the league, with 33 games played they find themselves on 48 points, and are two points ahead of 10th placed Abbey Hey, who have a game in hand over West. I feel West should be happy with a top half finish for this season, and should use it as a chance to build. I was impressed with how West played, as they played a positive attacking game, and I want to make the trip down to their place soon.

Defeat for Squires sees them remain in 17th place, they’ve played 36 games this season, and are only a point above Barnton in 18th, who have three games in hand. Worryingly for Squires, they are only fifteen points ahead of Nelson who occupy 20th place, whilst fifteen points may be a good cushion, Nelson have five games in hand over Squires. However just because Nelson have games in hand, it doesn’t mean they are guaranteed the points, and I feel Squires should survive this season.

I enjoyed my visit to the Brian Addison Stadium, however I just wish it hadn’t rained as it had, as the rain definitely had an impact on the match, with the ball holding up on the touchline in particular.

Finally, I have recorded my trip to Squires Gate, and this video will be uploaded shortly. I’ve decided to start to show my groundhopping adventures alongside my gaming on my channel, and would appreciate it if you would have a watch of the video and let me know what you think of it, all feedback is welcome! Video here!

Attendance: 65

Cost: £10

Movember Total: £24 (£7 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1 (Well done to Nic Evangelinos!)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157681587238665

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwALgmjeZV7OMP8euGBOi5A (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.)

Irlam

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

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157681034308785

Preston North End

Preston North End vs Birmingham City, Skybet Championship, 14/02/17, Deepdale

Valentine’s Day, a day set aside to show your loved ones how much you love them, and a chance to shower them in gifts that they don’t need and won’t use, a corporate holiday where card manufacturers rub their hands together in glee. As you can probably tell I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, I’ve never really seen the point, I mean if the person you love doesn’t know that you love them for the other 364 days of the year, what’s the point of just demonstrating it in one day? Luckily I have an understanding wife, who feels the same way I do about Valentine’s Day. Also she understands how I feel about football, and when the chance came to go and watch Birmingham City at Preston North End, I couldn’t turn it down.

I’ve probably mentioned this before but my mum’s side of the family are Birmingham City fans, with the biggest fan being my Uncle Ed, the same uncle that went to Bradford City with me earlier this season. We share a love of groundhopping, and real ale, so when he text me to ask if I fancied attending a blue’s match, I quickly responded to say that I would. Unfortunately I had to work, but my work allowed me to move my shift, so instead of working 2pm to 9pm, I worked 10am to 5pm, which meant that I would have enough time for a pint or two before the game. Once I had finished work I headed out and met my Uncle at the Old Vic near Preston Station. My uncle had been in Preston since 1pm, and had already been to a number of pubs, but he still had his list of pubs he wanted to try, and after a quick pint in the Old Vic, we headed down to the Ale Emporium, a great little pub. After meeting a couple of my Uncle’s mates we headed down to the Moorbrook where we got chatting to a couple of Preston fans. With pints (I can’t remember what I drank as I told my uncle just to order me the same as we was having, and to be fair I didn’t pay attention to the names, but they were good) consumed and kick off approaching we headed along to Deepdale.

It surprised me to find Deepdale surrounded by houses, but I think I’ve become use to Football League grounds being out of the way. I was slightly shocked to separate with £3 for a programme, but in all fairness it was a good read, whilst waiting for my Uncle to count out his change for his programme, I purchased a 50/50 draw ticket for a £1, however I’ve no idea if I won as I didn’t hear the winning number announced. The Sir Tom Finney statue was a great sight, and in a way is probably the best statue I’ve seen at a football ground. We quickly located the away end, and headed inside. Before heading up to our seats, I purchased a Meat & Potato pie for £2.80, and I’m confused as to where they store their pies, as this thing was practically on fire, it felt like eating lava, however once it cooled down it was an alright pie.

I’ve read a lot about Deepdale, mainly through Simon Inglis’ books, and was impressed by what I saw inside. The floodlights and roof details are a work of art in my opinion, and I was slightly disappointed not to have gotten into the ground earlier as Preston have worked portraits of legendary players into the seats, however those seats were occupied. Deepdale is unifom in a way, with both stands behind the goals being practically symmetrical, I say practically symmetrical as the away end has a scoreboard hanging from the roof. Along the touchline to the right of the away end, stands a large seater stand, which is the largest stand in the ground. On the other touchline, are the dugouts, and the most recently built stand in the ground, with the Invincibles Pavillion being finished in 2008, although it doesn’t appear to be finished as above the corporate boxes seems to be an unfinished area, which I would assume was meant to be further corporate boxes. Deepdale has a capacity of 23,404 and used to house the National Football Museum, however the museum closed and relocated in 2010.

Preston North End began life in 1863, originally as a cricket club, and leased Deepdale in 1875. The cricket club adopted the rugby union code in 1877, however one year later they played their first game under the rules of association football and in 1880 unanimously passed a resolution to adopt the association code, and founded Preston North End Football Club. PNE were famously successful during the early years of professional football in England, and in 1887 they beat Hyde 26-0 in the First Round of the FA Cup, which is still a record winning margin in English first-class football. PNE were the first league champions and first winners of the double, in the 1888 to 1889 season, and became the only team to go an entire season unbeaten in both the league and the FA Cup, earning them the nickname the Invincibles. Preston were league champions again the following season, but have not won the title since. With their last major trophy win being their FA Cup win in 1938. Sir Tom Finney holds the record of being PNE’s top goalscorer with 187 goals from 433 appearances between 1946 and 1960. Following Finney’s retirement in 1961, PNE were relegated to the Second Division and have not played top division football since. Preston fell further down the pyramid in 1970 as they were relegated to the Third Division, however they won promotion back at the first attempt. PNE went through a period of decline during the 70s and 80s and in 1985 were relegated to the Fourth Division, PNE were lucky the following season as they only avoided relegation to the Conference via re-election. John McGrath oversaw their promotion back to the Third Division a year later, where they remained when John Beck took over in October 1992, however Beck was unable to save Preston from relegation, and was soon replaced by Gary Peters, Peters won the Division Three title in his first season as manager, but quit in February 1998, and was replaced by former Shrewsbury Town defender David Moyes. Moyes turned PNE into promotion contenders, and in the 1999 to 2000 season, PNE won promotion to Division One, and were close to gaining promotion to the Premier League, but were beaten by Bolton in the 2001 Play Off Final. Moyes soon left for Everton, and after a ten year spell in the second tier and a number of unsuccessful managers, the club were relegated to League One, however the arrival of Simon Grayson in February 2013 saw an up-turn in their fortunes. Preston were promoted back to the Championship in 2015 following a 4-0 play off final win over Swindon Town. Preston came into this match, sat in 11th place in the league, five points above 12th placed Birmingham, and one point behind 10th placed Barnsley, Preston have won one, drawn three and lost one in their last five matches.

Small Heath Alliance were formed in 1875, and turned professional in 1885, becoming the first club to become a limited company with a board of directors in 1888. From the 1889 to 1890 season they played in the Football Alliance, and in 1892 they were invited to join the newly formed Football League Second Division. In their second season the club were promoted to the First Division, and adopted the name Birmingham Football Club in 1905, and moved to St Andrew’s the following year. However on the field they failed to live up to their new surroundings and were relegated in 1908, and remained in the Second Division until after WW1. In 1921 the club won the Division Two title, and in 1931 reached their first FA Cup final, which they lost 2-1 to West Brom. Birmingham remained in the top-fight for 18 seasons, but were eventually relegated in 1939, the last full season before the Football League ceased for the duration on the Second World War. The name Birmingham City was adopted in 1943, with the club winning the Football League South wartime league in 1946. City were to win their third Second Division title in 1949, conceding only 24 goals in the 42 game season. However relegation soon followed in 1950, where the club remained until 1955, when they won the Second Division title for the fourth time. City were the first English club side to take part in European Competition when they played their first group game in the Inter-Cities Fair Cup on the 15th May 1956, they went on to reach the semifinal where they drew with Barcelona 4-4 on aggregate before losing the replay 2-1. Birmingham were to lift their first major trophy in 1963, as they beat local rivals Aston Villa 3-1 on aggregate in the League Cup, however after spending ten years in the top flight, City returned to the Second Division in 1965. City have spent a large part of their history as a yo-yo club going between the Second Division and the First Division, and in 1989 with the club in financial difficulties they dropped to the Third Division for the first time in their history. In April 1989 the club were bought by the Kumar Brothers, and a rapid turnover of managers, the absence of promised investment and a threatened mass refusal of players to renew contracts was endured until the Kumars went bust, and the club was bought by David Sullivan for £700,000, he then installed 23 year old Karren Brady as managing director. In the 1993 to 1994 season Terry Cooper was replaced by Barry Fry, and Fry was unable to stop City from being relegated back to the third tier (City had been promoted to the second tier under the Kumars), however Fry took the club back to the second tier as champions, however City were to remain in the second tier under Trevor Francis until Steve Bruce took over in October 2001, where he took a mid-table side and turned them into play-off winners, earning promotion to the Premier League. City remained in the Premier League until 2008, following the departure of Steve Bruce, and the arrival of Carson Yeung as majority shareholder. However Alex McLeish delivered immediate promotion back to the Premier League, where they remained until 2011, when they were relegated back to the Championship, however the club did win the League Cup, beating Arsenal 2-1 in the final. City have remained in the Championship ever since, with the club experiencing financial turmoil stemming from Carson Yeung being jailed, for being a crook. Things seem to have stabilized for City now, however recently they have replaced Gary Rowett with a certain Gianfranco Zola. Coming into this match, City sat in 12th five points behind Preston, and a point above 13th placed Ipswich, City have won one, drawn one and lost three of their last five games.

As is fast becoming tradition, when watching games with my Uncle Ed, we took our seats after kick off, and just in time to watch Callum Robinson, who found himself completely unmarked in the area, head home to give Preston the lead in the 8th minute.

In all fairness I struggled to work out the formation that City were playing, and it wasn’t until one of the lads behind me asked his mate how he thought the 4-1-3-2 formation was working that it clicked. City didn’t look organized and at times it was like watching headless chickens, however when City did organize themselves they looked dangerous.

Preston on the other hand, were strong and organized from the start, and had a couple of chances to extend their lead, which they didn’t take. A couple of times Preston ripped through the fragile looking City defense, and could have extended their lead.

Half Time: Preston North End 1-0 Birmingham City (Robinson 8)

With City losing at the break, we headed down to the concourse to watch the other half time results, my internet on my phone hadn’t been the greatest, and I had no idea of the Shrewsbury or Chorley scores, and I was pleasantly surprised to see both teams winning at the break. The other thing I noticed was how many people knew my Uncle, or Sid as they called him (his surname being Sidwell), I had known that my Uncle had made a number of friends who all shared the same love of City, but had never been to a City match with him before, and I lost count of the number of fans I was introduced to. City made a change at the break with Kerim Frei Koyunlu being replaced by Josh Dacres-Cogley.

Whatever Zola said to his players at half time had clearly worked, as we had barely taken our place back in the stand, when Che Adams equalized with a minute gone of the second half, Adams struck a fierce, bouncing shot, which sent the Blues’ fans into raptures, and it began to look like City would get something out of the game.

City now looked like an organized side and they began to pen Preston back, however Preston still looked like a dangerous force when they went forward.

North End made their first change of the game in the 63rd minute with scorer Callum Robinson being replaced by Tom Barkhuizen.

Despite City’s threat going forward, they were unable to turn it into anything of note, and it was Preston who scored next, with Jordan Hugill tapping home from Daryl Horgan’s square ball in the 78th minute.

Frustratingly, City’s captain Craig Gardner was booked for the second time in the 80th minute for a rash challenge, which saw him receive a red card, and leave City with an even bigger hill to climb.

City made another change in the 83rd minute with Greg Stewart replacing Cheick Keita, and in the 85th minute North End made their second sub, with Aiden McGeady being replaced by Daniel Johnson.

Chasing the game and a man down, City made their final change in the 89th minute with Stephen Gleeson making way for Jerome Sinclair. However it was clear to see that City had lost their bite going forward, and it became a matter of Preston seeing out the game. Again Preston replaced their goal scorer, with Jordan Hugill making way in the 94th minute for Simon Makienok.

Final Score: Preston North End 2-1 Birmingham City (Robinson 8, Hugill 78 – Adams 46)

Upon the final whistle we headed back down to the concourse, and a disappointing evening was made even more disappointing when I found that Shrewsbury had lost 2-1 and Chorley had lost 3-1. With those results confirmed we made our way back towards Preston Rail Station, a walk which was made worse as we somehow took the long way road. Fortunately there was still time for a quick drink in the Black Horse, a pub my Uncle had raved about, and upon entering I could see why, I’m not going to try and describe the pub here, I’m simply going to say that if you ever find yourself in Preston head to the Black Horse for a drink. After a quick drink we headed back to the Rail Station where we found that all trains had been replaced by Rail Replacement Buses.

A win for Preston sees them climb up to 10th in the league, and they are now only seven points below the play-off places, and I’m sure that North End fans will be hoping that they’ll get into the play-off spots to give themselves that chance at gracing the Premier League.

Defeat for Birmingham sees them slip to 14th, a further eight points off of Preston, meaning that they are now fifteen points off of the play-off places. City need to find some kind of form quickly, or this could amount to another disappointing season, although I believe Zola could turn this around yet.

With my first Birmingham match now ticked off, I’m looking to get down to St Andrews to take in a City home match, who knows when that’ll be though, as if there is one thing that groundhopping has taught me it’s not to make plans too far in advance!

Attendance: 10,233 (614 City)

Cost: £6.80 spent in the ground, £24 for the ticket, and a good amount on ale

Movember Total: £15 (£1.50 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157676814549764

Colne

Colne vs Mossley, Evo Stik Northern Premier Division One North, 04/02/17, Holt House

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these, a combination of work, illness and my niece’s 2nd birthday stopping me from getting to football in January, but I’ve finally been to my first match of 2017. In the last blog I stated that I was going to be donating £12 to Movember, however I’ve decided to extend that until the end of the season, just to give someone a chance to score a hat-trick, and to increase the amount I donate.

After a scan of the Non-League Paper, and a look at Google Maps I decided to head to Colne, a place I’ve not been before, and in all fairness not heard of before. I did see signs for Colne when I visited Nelson, but with being fairly new to Lancashire I’ve not explored this far past Burnley before. Colne sits at the end of the M65, and from what I saw is a typical Lancashire town, bordered by rolling countryside. Holt House sits on top of a hill, and offers fantastic views of the scenery around it.

The journey was an easy one, 45 minutes from Chorley, and as I’ve already stated it is directly at the end of the M65. Traffic was light, and I arrived at Holt House at around 2.30pm, I decided to park on a street near the ground, and walked the short distance to the ground. There was only one turnstile open for people paying cash, with the other turnstile being for season tickets, however when a steward noticed the queue he decided to allow people through the season ticket gate, which caused a bit of confusion for the guy on the turnstile, as he tried to tell me I needed to go through the other turnstile, despite the fact that the guy in front of me had also paid cash. Anyway I got into the ground after separating with £7 and that’s all that matters, although I didn’t get a programme, as I didn’t see any signs for programmes as I was walking in, however it did appear that programmes were being sold at the actual cash turnstile, but in the grand scheme of things I was just happy to actually be watching a live football match!

As I’ve mentioned, Colne play at Holt House, which originally was an area with several pitches, before being enclosed in 1975 when Colne Dynamoes joined the Lancashire Combination. Between 1982 and 1985 three stands were built and floodlights were erected, with another new stand being built in 1986. When Dynamoes folded the ground was used by the Colne Royal British Legion Football Club until they folded in 1995, following this the modern Colne FC became tenants. The ground holds 1,800, with 160 seats and space for 1,000 to stand under cover. Behind the goal, nearest the turnstiles, stands a stretch of covered terracing where the Colne fans gathered, with flags draped along the back of the stand. In the corner stands a refreshment hut, and past this stands another, however smaller, covered terrace, which stretches for about a quarter of the touchline, before giving way to uncovered hard standing. On the opposite touchline stands the social club, and the 160 seater stand, which straddles the halfway line. Behind the other goal is a stretch of uncovered hard standing. The pitch is one a noticeable slope, but then again most grounds in Lancashire seem to have a slope on the pitch!

Colne FC were formed in January 1996, six years after Colne Dynamoes folded due to being refused promotion to the Football Conference. The new club joined Division Two of the North West Counties League, and went on to finish bottom of the division in their first season. The club were to finish in the bottom half of the division for every season until the 2003 to 2004 season when they won the division, and were promoted to Division One, with this division being renamed in 2008 to the Premier Division. Colne won the Premier Division in 2016, gaining promotion to the Evo Stik Northern Premier Division One North. In their last five league matches Colne have won three of them, and have lost two, Colne came into this match sitting 8th in the league.

Mossley were formed in 1903 as Park Villa, and initially competed in local competitions, after just one season the club changed name and became Mossley Juniors, a name they kept until 1909 when they became Mossley AFC, and moved to their current home of Seel Park in 1912. The early years of Mossley AFC were spent in the Ashton & District League, before progressing to the South East Lancashire League in 1915, the Manchester Amateur League in 1916, the Lancashire Combination in 1918, before finally becoming founder members of the Cheshire County League in 1919. After more than fifty years in the Cheshire League, Mossley were elected to the Northern Premier League in 1972. During the later 70s the club grew into a formidable force in Non-League Football, as they won successive league titles in 1979 and 1980, following this they finished runners-up in each of the next three seasons. However financial problems and calamitous fortunes saw the club relegated to the NWCFL in 1995, in their first season in the NWCFL the club challenged for promotion but ultimately finished 4th. Mossley faced a spell of being the bridesmaid and never the bride, as they finished 2nd in the league on a number of occasions until the 2005 to 2006 season when Mossley won the Northern Premier League Division One, pipping Fleetwood to the post by two points, and Mossley found themselves back in the NPL Premier Division, however they were relegated in 2007, and entered the NPL Division One North, where they have remained. Recent results in the league have seen Mossley lose four times and win once, this run of form sees Mossley occupy 19th in the league.

Before the game started, I headed to the refreshment hut and bought a Twix and a can of Diet Coke for £1.70, the food smelt wonderful and I did regret not buying some hot food. For the first half I stood to the right hand side of the dugout, and as the game kicked off, I felt a tap on my shoulder, now I’m quite an introvert and I don’t really know a lot of groundhoppers, so I did wonder if someone had recognized me from Instagram, however when I turned round I was greeted by a 6 foot tall chicken, and I began to wonder if I was going to have a Peter Griffin moment, however the chicken was friendly and I didn’t have to re-enact Family Guy. As I’ve said I am an introvert, and I was pleasantly surprised when someone struck up conversation with me, so for the first half I stood and chatted about football with a complete stranger, which is just one of the reasons why I love Non-League football!

Despite kicking up the slope, Colne took early control of the match, and had a good penalty shout turned down within the first five minutes. However they were to take the lead in the 8th minute, as they were awarded a penalty as one of the Mossley players was penalized for handball. Mark Ayres (didn’t he play for Atherton Colleries?) stepped up and placed the ball down confidently, his penalty was well taken and beat the keeper.

It’s been a while since I saw an indirect free-kick, however in the 25th minute the Mossley keeper, Cameron Mason, picked up a backpass, and the referee signaled for an indirect free-kick. The ball was tapped back to an on-rushing Colne player who fired a shot goalwards, however the shot was dealt with well.

Colne doubled their lead in the 28th minute, as Oliver Wood picked the ball up in the area, and calmly slotted it past the Mossley keeper. Despite attacking up the slope, Colne were playing well, and probably should have been further in the lead at this point.

Mossley dragged themselves back into the game in the 31st minute, as the Colne keeper, Nesakhare Aghayere clattered into a Mossley attacker, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot. Mossley’s captain, Kyle McGonigle, stepped up and his penalty was well struck.

Half Time: Colne 2-1 Mossley (Ayres 8, Wood 28 – McGonigle 33)

At the half time break, I wandered around the opposite touchline, and took my place to the right of the main stand. The temperature had begun to drop, and I regretted not wearing gloves.

With a single goal between the teams, it wasn’t a surprise to see both sides go on the attack from the start, with Colne playing down the slope it did seem to be that they would be most likely to score.

Mossley made a change in the 55th minute with number 16, Keenan Quansah, replacing number 4, Matty Burke. Their second change came 5 minutes later, with number 6, Kyle McGonigle, making way for number 17, Danny Johnson.

Colne seemed to be in firm control of the game, and they had plenty of chances to increase their lead, however the Mossley keeper was having a good game, and he kept Colne at bay.

One thing that was good to see was the linesman not taking any stick from the players, with one incident leading to the Colne number 11, Michael Morrison, picking up a yellow card. I have to be honest I think the yellow card was harsh, as I feel a talking to would have sufficed, but it’s up to the referee. I can also see why Morrison was incensed as his team had just seen a potential goal ruled out, the ball looked to have crossed the line, or so the Colne players thought (I couldn’t really see to be fair), however the linesman disagreed and the game carried on with Colne leading by a single goal.

In the 65th minute both sides made a change with Colne replacing their number 10, Connor Gaul, with their number 12, Chris Anderson, and Mossley replacing their number 11, Mason Duffy, with their number 12, Sam Robinson. Colne seemed to be struggling for subs as they only named three, with one of them appearing to be a spare keeper.

Mossley’s number 12, Sam Robinson, wasn’t to spend long on the pitch, as he saw red in the 72nd minute, for a terrible tackle. In all fairness I think Robinson had suffered a rush of blood as only a couple of minutes before his rash challenge, he had been bundled into one of the wood fences around the pitch. However there can be no excuse for the challenge he put in, as he was lucky not to have broken the Colne players leg. I’m sure Robinson meant no harm in the challenge, and I’m sure he regrets the sending off, as it made it even harder for his team to get back into the match.

Mossley pushed forward looking for an equalizer but with the man-advantage, Colne soaked up the pressure and emerged at the final with the three points.

Final Score: Colne 2-1 Mossley (Ayres 8, Wood 28 – McGonigle 33)

At the final whistle I made my way out of the ground, unable to feel my hands, feet or face, as it was that cold. As soon as I got in my car I turned the heating all the way up, and began my journey back to Chorley. I soon warmed up as TalkSport announced that Shrewsbury had beaten Bury, which puts us a step closer to safety.

The win for Colne sees them move up to 6th in the league, they are 11 points behind league leaders Lancaster City, and it does seem unlikely that they will catch Lancaster City. However Colne do have a good chance of securing a play-off place, and I hope they do. Colne are a good club, and I enjoyed my visit to Holt House, although I hope it’s not as cold the next time I visit!

Mossley remain in 19th, with Prescot Cables breathing down their necks. Mossley do have a two point cushion between them and Prescot, but they’ll need to find some form soon. Mossley played well today and in all fairness they were unlucky not to come out of this game with a point.

Attendance: 212

Cost: £8.70

Movember Total: £13.50 (£1.50 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157679981298775

Colne’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Colne_FC

Mossley’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mossleyfc

Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attendance: 85

Cost: £7.80

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

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157674742241904

Nelson’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nelsonfc1

Bootle’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Bootle_FC

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers vs Shrewsbury Town, SkyBet League One, 26/12/16, Macron Stadium

I could start this blog by complaining about the £28 ticket price, I could but I won’t as to be honest I didn’t pay for my ticket, my parents did, as a Christmas present, so that meant that for the three of us, my parent’s paid £84 to watch League One football. £84, ridiculous really. Before the game I sat and worked out that if we had gone to watch Atherton Colleries, all three of us would have been able to get in, get a programme, a pie, a coffee and a pint, and still have change from £40. Now obviously this isn’t a cheap shot at the Bolton fans, as they have to pay the same prices, but £28 is ridiculous. Well I said I wasn’t going to complain, but it looks like I have, then again for £28 I felt aggrieved that I couldn’t take my seat home with me.

I’ve been passed the Macron Stadium on numerous occasions, either on my way to Manchester, or whilst shopping at Horwich Parkway, the retail site that sits next door to the football ground. Every time I’ve walked past the ground I’ve peered through the gates, and to be fair I was looking forward to actually going inside. Knowing that the Retail Park has a Next, we elected to get to the ground early to try and avoid any traffic, but to be fair the journey was easy, and we parked up, after paying £7 for the privilege, about 1pm. Before the game we headed to the Pizza Hut on the retail park, and Peter Kay wouldn’t have been happy as there wasn’t any Garlic Bread, in a Pizza Hut. In all fairness they were busy, and did look understaffed, but the staff were friendly, and shared a bit of banter about the football. With pizza consumed, we headed around to our turnstile. Soon enough we found ourselves in the concourse, which was huge, which is nice to see. Before taking our seats I separated with £6 for two programmes, with those in hand we headed up to our seats, in what must be the coldest football ground in the country.

To say the Macron Stadium is cold, is an understatement, I’m sure I saw a penguin in one corner of the ground! But despite the chill factor, the Macron Stadium is impressive. The Macron Stadium, formerly the Reebok Stadium, was opened in 1997, as Bolton made the move from Burnden Park. The ground holds 28,723, and has a distinctive gabled architecture which gives the ground its striking look, the ground is symmetrical, with both stands on the touchlines being the same, and the stands behind the goals being carbon copies of each other. My Uncle Ed once described the ground as looking like a UFO which had landed in the middle of the countryside, but then again he was probably a little bit bitter, following an expensive taxi journey he once had to take to get to the ground. Unfortunately the ground isn’t in Bolton itself, instead it stands just outside Horwich, and my Birmingham City supporting Uncles decided to follow the Blues to Bolton, and made the mistake of drinking in Bolton City Centre, with the idea of walking to the ground, however after talking to the locals, they learnt that the ground wasn’t in walking distance, not for a 3pm kick off anyway, and they had to hop in a taxi. So let that be a lesson for the future, if you are going to Bolton, head to Horwich. I’ve said this in a number of blogs, but I feel that this ground is far too good for League One, and should be back in the Premier League, out of all the league grounds I’ve been to this season, I would say that the Macron has been my favourite so far.

Bolton Wanderers were formed in 1874, and initially began life as Christ Church Football Club, before adopting their current name in 1877. Wanderers were founder members of the Football League in 1888, and have the honour of being the club that have spent the most time in the top flight without winning the title, with the 2011 to 2012 season being their 73rd, non-consecutive year in the top flight. The club have come close to winning the title on three occasions, as they finished third in the First Division in 1891 to 1892, 1920 to 1921 and 1924 to 1925. However Bolton have won the FA Cup on four occasions, in 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1958, along with the FA Charity Shield and the Football League Trophy. In 1995 the club regained their top-flight status, and qualified for the UEFA Cup twice, reaching the last 32 in 2005 to 2006, and the last 16 in 2007 to 2008. Recently though the club have experience some tough times, with financial crisis crippling the club, Bolton dropped into the Championship May 2012, and in December 2015 the club were handed a winding up order from HMRC due to unpaid taxes, the club who were £172.9 million in debt at the time, experienced a transfer embargo, and narrowly avoided being wound up entirely, as they were said to owe £2.2 million to those lovely people at HMRC. On the 9th of April 2016, the club lost 4-1 away to Derby which confirmed their relegation to League One, for the first time since 1993. This season, the club are looking for an immediate return to the Championship, and to be fair they look like they’ll do so, as they are one of the stronger teams in the league. In their last game Bolton lost 1-0 to Chesterfield, but their home record has been good, with their last home game resulting in a 4-0 win over Gillingham.

Shrewsbury Town aren’t having the best of seasons, but I have full faith in Paul Hurst to turn this around, since I last saw the Town play, at Fleetwood, we have won two, and drawn two in the league, unfortunately our FA Cup run came to an end at the hands of Fleetwood, however this allows us to concentrate on the league.

As I’ve already said, the Macron Stadium is cold, and despite the fact that I had wrapped up warm, I was still feeling the chill, so part way into the first half I headed down to refreshment hut, and bought a coffee for £2, and a share bag of M&Ms for £2.60. On the concourses were televisions showing the game live, and there were a couple of Shrewsbury fans who had elected to stand on the concourse and watch the TV with a beer.

Shrewsbury began the game looking rather lacklustre, and it seemed that our players had had a bit too much turkey on Christmas day. Bolton on the other hand were showing the form which has seen them rip teams to shreds, and in the 24th minute they found their opening goal, as David Wheater thundered a header against the post, from a Jay Spearing corner, before firing home the rebound, as Shrewsbury’s defence seemingly forgot how to communicate.

Wheater picked up his second of the game in the 28th minute, as he found himself in the right place at the right time, to mop up a shot from Gary Madine which had been blocked. The Shrewsbury defence called for offside, but again it was just poor defending.

Half Time: Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Shrewsbury Town (Wheater 24, 28)

At half time we headed into the warmth of the concourse, and watched the half time results on the televisions. I desperately attempted to find out how Chorley were doing at AFC Fylde, however there didn’t seem to be any signal. With the second half looming, we headed back to our seats. Shrewsbury made a change at half time, with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake being replaced by George Waring. Ebanks-Blake had had a rather anonymous first half, but he had battled well against the Bolton defence.

From the kick-off Shrewsbury began to put pressure on Bolton, and honestly, if we had played the way we did in the Second Half, in the First Half, we wouldn’t have been losing. Town were playing well, and it looked like we would force our way back into the match. Bolton were also continuing to attack, but Jayson Leutwiler continued to show why he is Town’s key player, with a number of good stops.

Town made a second change in the 72nd minute, with the ineffective Jim O’Brien being replaced by Shaun Whalley. The introduction of Whalley seemed to kick some life into us, and we began to look even more threatening.

Bolton then made their first change in the 80th minute, with Jay Spearing making way for Derik Osede.

Salop forced a goal in the 83rd minute, as Mat Sadler fired in a shot which thundered off of the underside of the bar, and with Town pressing, the ball made its way to Jack Grimmer, who crossed the ball in, and Junior Brown slammed the ball home to give us a lifeline.

With Salop pressing for an equalizer, the Town fans began to believe, and our support began to get louder, unfortunately this antagonized a Bolton fan, and after some verbals between the two sets of fans, the Bolton lad was escorted out. It’s never nice to see anyone being taken out of a ground, but something had to be done, it was also a shame to see a Bolton fan acting that way, as the Bolton fans I had spoken to were all nice people, but with every football club, there’s always one that lets the rest down.

Town should have had a penalty late on in the game, as the ball was turned into the box by Louis Dodds, and the ball clearly hit a Bolton hand, and the linesman waved his flag to indicate a penalty, however to the amazement of everyone in the ground, the referee waved play on, and I’m sure if some Bolton fans are being honest they’ll admit they breathed a sigh of relief when the referee overruled his assistant.

Bolton were able to see the game out, and the final whistle felt like a punch in the stomach, as Town looked likely to get an equalizer, however the Bolton defence held firm, and it wasn’t to be.

Final Score: Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Shrewsbury Town (Wheater 24, 28 – Brown 83)

Following the final whistle we made a quick getaway to the car, and watched in bemusement as a red Mazda attempted to force its way against traffic onto the car-park. However this was interrupted as my mum stumbled past me, turning round we noticed that my dad had misjudged the kerb, and had fallen flat onto his face, luckily on the grass, he’s getting on a bit, bless him. Once my dad had gotten up, and hobbled to the car, we set off back for Chorley.

A win for Bolton sees them remain 3rd in the league, only two points off of league leaders Scunthorpe. Bolton do look like they’ll make a quick return to the Championship, and I honestly do hope they do so, as their fans have stuck with them following their relegations.

Defeat for Town, sees us stay in 21st, on level points with Chesterfield who sit in 22nd, and Bury who sit in 20th. Chesterfield have a worse goal difference than ourselves, with -15 to our -13, however Bury are on the same goal difference as ourselves, and with the right additions in January, I think safety could be on the cards.

The Macron Stadium is definitely one to visit, and I think anyone interested in doing so would be best of doing so this season, as tickets will probably be easy to get hold of, as there were a number of empty seats. However, I have met a number of people from Bolton, and they do seem pretty loyal to their club, so maybe when Bolton return to the Championship, and hopefully the Premier League, the crowds will also return.

Attendance: 16.238

Cost: £10.60 (However this is only what I spent at the ground, it would be £28 higher if I had paid for my ticket.)

Movember Total: £9.50 (£1.50 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157678407342545