Blackpool Wren Rovers vs Thornton Cleveleys, West Lancashire Football League, Bruce Park, 18/11/17
After a rough week, which began with me being diagnosed with Clinical Depression along with a few other mental health issues, it was nice to get back to a semblance of happiness. One of the reasons I have always loved Non-League football is that the crowds are smaller at the lower divisions, and that means that there is always plenty of space to stand and just relax, quietly, watching a game of football. Whilst I do enjoy being part of a crowd and supporting my club with plenty of others, I am an introvert and find myself most relaxed at football grounds where I can be alone. As well as allowing me to relax for ninety minutes, this game also allowed me to tick off the final ground in this area, and therefore provided me with a sense of accomplishment.
But enough of my issues, you’ve come here for football reasons. As I’ve explained before, this area of Blackpool is unusual, as one on road you have three football clubs, all playing at different levels, and all with different supporters. There’s Squires Gate, who I’ve visited twice, and Blackpool Wren Rovers who share a perimeter wall, and AFC Blackpool, who I visited last week, who play around a two minute walk from the other two clubs. When I visited AFC Blackpool I made it my mission to get to Blackpool Wren Rovers so that I could finish the three, and as soon as I got home from the Mechanics, I checked the West Lancashire Football League site, and was overjoyed to see that Wren Rovers had a home game coming up.
I pretty much know the drive from Chorley to Blackpool like the back of my hand now, and after an easy drive I parked up in a layby which has become my usual parking place when visiting this area. A quick walk followed, and I soon arrived at Bruce Park. I did think that I had read Twitter wrong, as this game was tweeted as being a 2pm kick off, but at 1.20pm no-one was around the ground, and I did feel a bit guilty as I walked through the entrance for free, as I was expecting to part with a couple of quid. From the entrance I headed straight to the clubhouse, where I paid £2.20 for a pint of Carling (Again sorry Uncle Ed). My suspicions that it was in fact a 3pm kick off grew, as 2pm approached and there still didn’t appear to be may other people in attendance at the game. As I walked out of the clubhouse, I did relax slightly when I saw that I wasn’t the only person in the ground, and I completed a lap of the ground.
Bruce Park is a basic ground, but one that looks impressive for this level. There is no seating in the ground, but I don’t think it would be difficult for Wren Rovers to install some if the necessity arose. Hard standing runs around all four parts of the ground, with plenty of cover to shelter under if the weather is poor. From the entrance you emerge behind the goal, with the changing rooms to your left. On the right is a stretch of covered standing which runs up to the halfway line, before becoming uncovered standing, the away dugouts sit on this touchline, and so does the perimeter wall shared with Squires Gate. Behind the far goal, is another stretch of covered standing, and at one end of this stand, nature has tried to reclaim it, as ivy hangs over one of the sides. Along the other touchline, is another covered terrace, which looks like it could hold some seats, the home dugouts sit at the front of this stand. Finally, behind the near goal, is more covered terracing, with the changing rooms housed next to this terrace.
I’ve covered Blackpool Wren Rovers before, the report can be found here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/lancashire-fa-amateur-shield-final/. So I won’t delve into their history again, although I will say that I was expecting good things from Wren Rovers today, as in the 2015-16 season they finished 1st in the league, with a huge goals scored tally of 107. In the 2016-17 season, Rovers finished in 2nd in the league, but again had a mammoth goals scored tally of 126.
From what I’ve been able to piece together from the FCHD website (http://fchd.info/indexi.htm) Thornton Cleveleys began life as ICI Thornton, and played in the West Lancashire Football League Second Division from 1987, in 1992 the club won the league on goal difference and were promoted to Division One, which saw them change their name to Thornton Cleveleys International. Thornton’s stay in the First Division was to last two seasons, as in 1994 the club were relegated back to the Second Division, as they finished 16th out of 18. In 1995 the club changed name to Thornton Cleveleys, and were promoted back to the First Division in 1997, but this was only to last a season, as they were relegated back to the Second Division, which was then renamed the First Division as a result of league re-organisation. In 2001, the club were again relegated to the Second Division, which would have once been the Third Division, the club were to challenge for promotion for a number of years until 2009 when they finally finished as champions, and were promoted to the First Division. Thornton made it back to back promotions, as they finished as champions of the First Division in 2010, and earned promotion to the Premier Division, where they have remained ever since, despite finishing 15th out of 15 in 2015.
Before the game kicked off, I bought a can of Diet Coke for 70p, from the little refreshment hut which had suddenly sprung open. There was no sign of a programme or a team sheet around, and my eyebrows raised when I noticed that Thornton were starting with a number 15, but no number 11.
The first half was to be a scrappy affair between two evenly matched sides. I hadn’t seen the league table before the game, and honestly believed that Thornton were a lot higher up the league than they actually are. They played with confidence and kept Wren Rovers pegged back, however in front of goal they had no luck, and it was to be Wren Rovers who had the better of the chances in front of goal, however the Thornton keeper had a good first half, and the two sides entered the break level.
Half Time: Blackpool Wren Rovers 0-0 Thornton Cleveleys
At half time I walked around the ground and stood near to the home dugout for the second half, in the covered stand on this side, it does appear that the club have got some very old seating ready to be installed.
Ten minutes into the second half, the first goal of the game was scored. The ball was worked down the left wing, for Wren Rovers. The Thornton keeper flapped at the cross, and allowed it to pass over his head into the path of Rovers’ number 7, J Booth, who calmly tapped the ball home.
In the 57th minute, Thornton made their first change of the game, as they switched their number 3 for the number 14. Rovers made their first change in the 63rd, with their number 16 coming on for their number 6. It was around this point that a young boy decided to stage a pitch invasion, as he ran across the middle of the pitch to get back to where the adult he was with was stood.
In the 67th minute, Wren Rovers doubled their lead, as the ball was played through to the number 9, C Eastwood, who slammed the ball home. There were calls from the Cleveleys’ players for handball, but from where I was stood, in line with the linesman, I couldn’t see anything.
In an attempt to get back into the game Thornton made their final changes in the 70th minute, as they switched their numbers 15 & 10 for their 11 & 12. Despite being two goals behind, Thornton continued to play good football, and with a bit more luck in front of goal, they may have gotten something out of this game.
With the game all but won, Wren Rovers made another change in the 81st minute, as they switched their number 9 for their number 15. Although it was to be the substitution in the 85th minute that was to provide the most entertainment, as the Thornton Cleveleys’ manager was sent off. The Wren Rovers’ bench had signalled for the change, and the linesman had made the ref aware as soon as the ball went out, the referee acknowledged the substitution, but then lost track of what he was doing, and signalled for the throw-in to be taken. Obviously this caused confusion, as all the players were waiting for the sub to be made, but the referee was in dreamland. Somehow throughout the game the referee had managed to annoy both benches, and it would be fair to say that he hadn’t had his best game, and I think frustration boiled over for the Cleveleys’ manager, as he was sent to the changing rooms for his expression of dissatisfaction. However this entire thing could have been avoided if the referee had been paying attention. The sub was made eventually, with the number 7 making way for the number 12.
Final Score: Blackpool Wren Rovers 2-0 Thornton Cleveleys (Booth 55, Eastwood 67)
Following the whistle, I made my way back to the car, and drove home to Chorley. It was odd being back before 6pm, but it was useful as the Christmas Lights were being turned on in Chorley, and apparently the roads were horrible after 6pm. With winter drawing in, the kick offs at this level are going to be shifted to 2pm, but then again the games will probably be called off due to the weather. I like the 2pm kick off, as you get more of an evening, plus if you want you can watch whatever games been televised.
A win for Blackpool Wren Rovers sees them remain in 1st in the league, they’ve now got a cushion of six points between themselves and Garstang. Garstang have three games in hand over Wren Rovers, although I’ve said it time and time again, just because you have games in hand, it doesn’t mean you have the points. I’d be interested to see Wren Rovers take the step up in the divisions and join the North West Counties Football League, although that would mean that all three clubs would play in the North West Counties Football League, and could also place a financial strain on Wren Rovers as they would have to improve the ground slightly.
Thornton Cleveleys occupy 13th position, and have played twelve games this season, with eleven points on the board. I honestly though that Cleveleys were higher up the league with the way they played today, and with that little bit more luck in front of goal, I could see them having a good season.
Cost: £2.90 (£2.20 Carling, 70p Diet Coke)
Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)
If any clubs are reading this, and want to use any part of my blog for their website or programme, then please feel free to do so, all I ask is that you credit my work.