Preston North End- Revisit (RANT)

Preston North End vs Birmingham City, Championship, Deepdale, 20/1/18

I don’t tend to do a lot of re-visits, or if I do they tend to be games that I don’t blog about, I mean I’ve been to Chorley plenty of times without blogging, and this game was going to be the same, I was planning just to turn up, have a few beers with my Uncle, and watch the game without thinking about how I was going to write about the game. Now as many of you will know if you have read this blog before my Uncle Ed and the majority of my mum’s side of the family are Bluenoses, with my Uncle Ed attending every home and away game this season, I’ve been subjected to some pretty depressing text conversations as the Blues have slumped into the Championship Relegation Zone, and despite my attempts to be positive about their chances, my Uncle Ed has been impossible to convince that they may be playing Championship football next season.

But why are Birmingham City in the place that they are? Why have I reminded my Uncle about Southampton, Leicester, Wolves, Sheffield United and Leeds to name but a few teams that have sunk into League One and then bounced back, with Leicester going on to win the Premier League, and Southampton have now become Liverpool’s Youth Academy. Why have teams steeped in history been allowed to drop down the leagues? What caused Leeds United, who were once a Champions League team, to drop like they did, with little sign of getting back to the Premier League?

The simple answer is the owners, the board, the people that make the decisions. The likes of Peter Risdale, Carson Yeung, that Italian idiot that recently rocked up at Elland Road and acted like a complete imbecile. These people are to blame for the state of football at the moment. I mean how can it be that Manchester United can pay ludicrous amounts for certain players but Hereford plummeted out of existence for an amount which would be pocket change to the majority of footballers? In fact I’m sure that a Manchester City player has just bought a house at the age of 20, which is the same value as the tax bill that caused one of Shrewsbury’s biggest rivals to have to rise again. I mean, sure I hate Hereford, but I don’t hate the fans, I wouldn’t have wished what happened to them on anybody, as those fans would have gone through absolute hell, and whilst I hate the players that play for Hereford, I’m looking forward to there being a chance of the two sides meeting again.

Birmingham City fans are currently going through a similar hell. Sure, Blues have never been a top club like Manchester United are currently, but during the 2000’s they were a top flight club, occasionally dropping down to the Championship, but I remember a time where my Uncle didn’t look so depressed walking into a football ground, I mean honestly walking into Deepdale he looked like a man going to his death. Fans should be excited to go to games, but when your team is being badly mismanaged then it does get difficult. There have been times, such as when we lost 2-1 at Histon in the FA Cup, that I have questioned why my parents put the time and effort in to take me to watch Shrewsbury Town. But the answer is clear, as much as your team can frustrate you, you will always love it and be there. For some people, football really is a matter of life and death, it’s the tribe that you belong to, everytime I walk into The Meadow I feel a sense of belonging, when I walk into Victory Park I get a similar feeling, but what would I do if someone came along and started to kill the club I love? Well I would like to think that I would get out there and protest, in an attempt to wrestle control of my club back. Because that is the thing, Shrewsbury Town are MY club, just like Birmingham City are my Uncle’s club, loyalty can be testing but it can be rewarding, and with the right owners Blues wouldn’t be in this mess.

In all fairness the mess can be traced back to Gold & Sullivan (And Brady), as they clearly only saw Blues as a way to get into the football game, build up a club, and sell them on for profit when it looked like their beloved West Ham would be available for sale. I’ve heard the way my Uncle speaks about them lot, they haven’t got many friends in Brum by the sounds of it. When they sold the club to Carson Yeung, they effectively ruined the future of Birmingham City, as whilst Gold & Sullivan were insufferable, they also presided over Blues getting into the Premier League, and in fairness they oversaw a good period of history for the Blues. But Carson Yeung was to be a death sentence, in July 2007 the Grim Reaper appeared outside St Andrews, shook his head and walked away from the mess. The uncertainty of whether Yeung would take the whole club, caused Steve Bruce to depart from Wigan Athletic, who were Premier League rivals at the time. Alex McLeish came in but he couldn’t stop them from being relegated, he did however get them to bounce back straight away. Things did look to getting better, as the beat Arsenal in the League Cup in 2011, but they were relegated in the same season, where they were thrown into financial turmoil, I mean even McLeish left, crossing the city and joining the Vile. Chris Hughton couldn’t rescue them, as a transfer embargo bound his hands tightly. Lee Clark came in but the less said about him the better. Gary Rowett, whilst dull to watch, stabilised the team but for some ridiculous reason new owners Trillion Trophy Asia dismissed Rowett, and bought in a supposed “pedigree” in the form of Gianfranco Zola. However Zola was atrocious, he won two out of twenty-four, and I can still remember being at the Preston North End game on Valentine’s Day wondering why I hadn’t just stayed at home with my long suffering Wife, but then again someone had to keep an eye on my Uncle. Harry Redknapp arrived, unpaid, and saved them from the drop, but after one win in the first eight league games of this season saw him shown the door, and he was replaced by Steve “Worzel” Cotterill, who has begun to stabilise the club, but the drop is still looming, and the thought of Shrewsbury Town swapping places with Birmingham City is an odd one for me.

Football should be for the fans, by the fans. In fact it should be for the community, by the community. A favourite topic of mine and my Uncle Ed is what we would do if one of us won the Euromillions (preferably over £140,000,000). Firstly we’d make sure that we were comfortable and that our family and close friends are also looked after, but that would probably only take the £40,000,000, especially when you factor in supporting charities. So that leaves us with £100,000,000, small change for Manchester United but huge for a community, so we’d buy Chorley FC, buy Victory Park and some of the surrounding area, and get to work. Firstly we would follow the Ajax model, attractive attacking football which would be played on the deck, also we’d invest heavily in the youth, and the ultimate aim would be to have a squad of 25 players, with 20 of those from our youth set-up. Bringing local lads through would encourage more locals to get involved. People that were volunteers would be paid for their time, local unemployed people would be hired on, all of the construction work would be completed by local builders etc. Both of us are real ale drinkers, and one aim would be to develop the Social Club at the ground, set up one for the away fans, and buy a couple of pubs in the area, where we would host club events. It’d also be in our player’s contracts that they would have to live within a 2 mile radius of Victory Park, and they would be encouraged to actively get involved in the local community. But then there are the other sports, we’d set up a Rugby League side to share Victory Park, we’d have both male and female teams playing there in both Football and Rugby League, sure the demand on the pitch would be heavy, but with the right groundstaff it would be easily managed. But other ideas include an Ice Hockey team, with the Ice Hockey Rink being built on the edge of town with a bus service from the town centre, the rink would be available to the public and would include a music venue, restaurant, pub, cinema and Basketball Court, for the Basketball team, then there is also the Cricket Club and we’d get them to the top standard that they could achieve. Chorley would become the hottest place to be in the North West, but there would be strict stipulations from ourselves about the demolition of existing structures in the town, and also the construction of new buildings, as we would want Chorley to maintain it’s identity. Using local businesses would result in rewards to use at the sports clubs, on merchandise, tickets, food, drink, etc. It’s crazy to think that if all these sport clubs pulled in the right direction then Chorley’s community would thrive, we just need to win the Euromillions now, someone give us the winning numbers?

Anyway, enough of this ranting, you’ve come here for a blog about Preston vs Birmingham, not the ramblings of a nutcase. I’ve obviously seen both sides last season, so here’s the link for that blog: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/preston-north-end/. It would be fair to say that I was looking forward to going to Deepdale again, as this is a ground saturated in history, sure it is a modern stadium, but the history of the place is clearly celebrated, from the Sir Tom Finney statue to the Dick Kerr Ladies. But as well as the history, the club have also included facilities for the local community, and Deepdale is a clear example of how a football ground should be, so hats off to Preston North End.

Unfortunately this was to be the first Saturday that I had to work, since returning to my job. Luckily I work in Preston and on Saturday’s we finish at 1pm. But of course there was to be no rail service, and I had to endure a Rail Replacement Coach. After this and work, I was ready to drink and after getting a bit lost I met up with my Uncle Ed in the Guild Ale House, don’t ask me what I drank as I can’t remember. Following the Guild we headed to the Ale Emporium, a bar we did last year, and this time I had a pint of Saaz from the Pictish Brewery. Whilst in the Ale Emporium we watched a bit of the Chelsea game, but honestly it didn’t interest us for long and we headed over to the Moorbrook, which was rammed. Another pint went down, and I was introduced to a couple of the regular faces from my Uncle’s blog (This one: https://whattimeskickoff.blog) however with kick off fast approaching, we made our way down to the ground, buying the usual programme for £3, before stopping to look at the Sir Tom Finney monument. As soon as we finished our tourist moment, we headed around to the away end, where my Uncle abandoned me, as he’d already got his ticket. I’d just finished paying £24 for a ticket, when a Blues fan approached me and offered to sell me a spare, unfortunately the transaction had gone through, but I was still appreciative of the offer. Ticket in hand, I headed in, I was search on the way in though, and should have made the guy patting me down uncomfortable by saying “That’s the closest to any action that I’ve got in a while.” But my brain failed me, and I entered the ground without making a steward uncomfortable. I quickly found my Uncle, and we made our way up into the stand, finding seats wasn’t difficult, as no-one was sitting down.

As usual we’d arrived late, but unexpectedly Birmingham were on the attack and were doing well going forward. With a bit of luck in front of goal they would have gotten themselves into an early lead, but this is Birmingham City and they like to do things the hard, depressing way.

I’d decided to go and get some food, and as I was walking down the steps to the concourse, Ben Davies fired home from the right side of the six yard box to put Preston into the lead. In the 17th minute, Blues found themselves 1-0 down, and to rub it in the Preston players celebrated directly in front of the away fans, which sparked a response from the fans, and surprisingly it prompted a reaction from me.

After buying a Meat & Potato Pie last year that I can still feel burning to this day as it was that hot, I was apprehensive about buying a pie again. However I was forced into it as my original choice of a Cheeseburger had sold out, so I returned to my seat with a Meat & Potato Pie and a bottle of Diet Coke, I also have no idea how much I paid for it! But this time it was a sensible temperature and I didn’t combust while eating it!

The rest of the half passed quickly, Blues looked flat, but they were still driving forward, but there didn’t seem to be any confidence in front of goal, in fact it appeared that they were nervous as soon as they entered the area. Preston defended their lead well, and could have extended their lead before the half time whistle.

Half Time: Preston North End 1-0 Birmingham City (Davies 17)

At half time we remained where we were, and my Uncle spent his time pointing out all of the different fans he knew, including the couple that travel up from Bournemouth for home and away games, which is just a ridiculous amount of dedication to a football club, and in fact that is the dedication that should be celebrated.

Going back to my earlier rant about how if we won the Euromillions we would buy Chorley FC. Now if while running Chorley I found that anyone travelled from Bournemouth to Chorley for a home game, on a regular basis, I would roll out the red carpet for them. They would get priority on tickets, a bed for the night with breakfast included, free drinks and a complimentary programme. Dedication should be rewarded, Shrewsbury Town have their dedicated fans, like the guy that travels up from Barry in South Wales for the majority of home games, or my parents who travel from London, or Bizzy who lives and breathes Salop, or Chris Smith (RIP) the man responsible for taking me to so many away games, or finally, Monty, so named as he walked from Montgomery for Shrewsbury games, these legends need to be celebrated, the club wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for people like this. Birmingham City need to start rewarding those hardcore fans with improved results!

Back to the action, during the half time break Preston switched their goalscorer Ben Davies with Joshua Earl due to an injury picked up in the first half. Whatever Steve Cotterill had said to his players at half time had clearly worked as they raced out of the break.

Preston made their second change in the 57th minute, just as I was remarking that Blues needed to make a change, Alan Browne replaced Jordan Hugill for North End.

Now this may sound odd, but I have a feeling that Birmingham City should be regarded as my third team, let me explain: Shrewsbury Town are my first team, I would do anything for that club. Chorley are my second team, and are the team I dream of buying. Birmingham City are my third team, due to family. What may sound even weirder is that fact that occasionally when the stars align, and the gods are smiling down on you, miracles can happen as Birmingham City equalized in the 63rd minute.

I know, I’ll give you a minute to regain your composure. It was weird for me too. Just take deep breaths, just in and out, in and out, in and out.

Anyway, North End’s keeper came out to collect the ball which was just outside of his area as he raced forwards, Jacques Maghoma nicked in and stole the ball away from the keeper, Maghoma laid the ball across to Sam Gallagher who fired the ball into the empty net. The celebrations were intense as I found myself shouting in jubilation, my Uncle bearhugged me and we almost toppled over, he released me to celebrate with the man in front, and I found myself hugging a stranger, only connected by the fact that we both wanted to see Blues win.

With momentum behind them, the Blues began to pour forward, and every attack was greeted by an expectant crowd. For a team that are currently second bottom of the league, Blues travel in good numbers and make a lot of noise even when they are losing, Bluenoses are proper fans, and I was impressed by how vocal they were.

Louis Moult replaced Callum Robinson in the 69th minute, as North End looked to recover from the equalizer. Frustratingly Cotterill seemed allergic to make substitutions and despite the fact that the attack needed freshening up he continued to persevere with players that were tiring.

Finally he made a change in the 86th minute, as Che Adams replaced Jeremie Boga, however it was to be a case of too little, too late as the game finished in stalemate.

Final Score: Preston North End 1-1 Birmingham City (Davies 17 – Gallagher 63)

I was surprised to feel frustrated that the Blues hadn’t picked up all three points as I left the ground. Before we ventured back into town, we stopped at the Dick Kerr Ladies monument, and marvelled at it. As I’ve said, Preston are a great example of how history should be celebrated.

First stop back in town was the Market Tavern, which is supposedly due to close it’s doors soon, however it was still kicking when we ventured in, and life could be breathed into the place again. After a long discussion about our plans for Chorley FC, we made our way down to the Black Horse, where I switched to Diet Coke (I had my niece’s birthday party the next day, try being hungover in a room full of kids!) where our discussions continued as we thrashed out the finer details of how the set up would work, certain sport clubs have been delegated to certain people, media work has been delegated, jobs have been created for people with useful skills and Chorley in our fictional world is a sprawling city the size of Manchester, with only one Football League club, but plenty of non-league clubs are encouraged, the town centre is booming and there is no homelessness or unemployment, essentially it would be the best place on the planet. History would be celebrated and created, art and music would be showcased, people would boast that they lived in Chorley and it would be affordable for them to do so.

Back out of dreamland, a point for Blues sees them remain in 23rd place in the league, safety is in touching distance but form needs to be found, and a goalscorer needs to put their scoring boots on. Preston sit in 11th following this result, and could still make the play-offs but it would be a hard chase for them.

Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!

Attendance: 13,529 (2,201 away)

Cost: £24 ticket, £3 programme, countless amounts on ale.

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157690840812211

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Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn Rovers vs Shrewsbury Town, League One, Ewood Park, 13/01/2018

I’ve been looking forward to this fixture since the fixtures were released, although when the fixtures were released I was expecting this to be top of the league vs mid table. However this was to be 2nd vs 3rd, with Blackburn looking to close a gap of five points. In fact I still can’t believe that Shrewsbury are 2nd in League One and I can only imagine this is how the Leicester City fans felt when they were topping the Premier League.

Another reason as to why I was looking forward to this game, was because of the fact that one of my former managers is a Blackburn Rovers fan and during the course of the season there has been a lot of banter about our respective teams. Now I hadn’t actually seen Andreas for around a year, but we arranged to meet up for a few beers before the game. After waking up slightly later than I wanted to, I headed down to Chorley Bus Station, and boarded a bus heading towards Preston, I did want to get my haircut but there was a queue in the barbers and I didn’t have the time to wait. Google Maps had suggested that I get the bus to Bamber Bridge and then the train to Cherry Tree, so I did just that. Unfortunately I had gotten on a slightly earlier bus, and had to wait around for the train, and no offence but there isn’t a lot to do in Bamber Bridge. Soon enough the train arrived, and I praised the Gods of Northern Rail, as they had sent a two carriage train, and the train was one of the old “Bus on Train wheel” trains, which are one of the worst things in existence. The train was packed when I got on, with plenty of Rovers fans, and a dog. I did find a seat, but disappointingly I wasn’t near enough to the dog to be able to play with it.

After arriving at Cherry Tree, Andreas arrived in his Audi TT, with its personalised number plate! Despite the number plate, the car is an absolute beauty, and the drive to the pub was an experience, as I’ve never been in a car that nice before! We soon arrived at the Black Bull Inn, where I for some reason decided to hide the fact that I was wearing colours, I needn’t have bothered as the first people I saw in the pub were Shrewsbury fans. Plus I ended up sat with Andreas and his Blackburn Rovers supporting mates, who couldn’t have been friendlier if they tried! But no-one tell the authorities that opposite football fans sat together and had a drink without fighting, as they’d never believe it! I’m lucky to know people who know good real ale, as whenever I go out drinking with my dad or my Uncle Ed I tend to follow their suggestions, and I did the same with Andreas as he recommended the Three B’s Blonde, which is from the Three B’s Brewery. Now this pint was one of the nicest I have had in a very long time, and at £2.70 a pint I had four of them. But the best thing about the Three B’s is that the brewery looks like it is attached to the pub, and if you call yourself a real ale drinker then you need to go to the Black Bull Inn in Blackburn.

Before the game, the lads that I sat with were holding a quiz, which I got involved with as the first three questions were all about Shrewsbury Town, however these questions were some of the hardest I have ever encountered. So here’s a list of the questions I remember, don’t cheat and use google, and leave your answers in the comments, the winner will get a pint if I ever meet them at a football match:

Name the two Blackburn Rovers’ players that have managed Shrewsbury Town:

What is Shrewsbury’s record win and who was it against?

Shrewsbury and Rovers have played 29 times, what is the Win/Drawn/Lost record for Rovers? (Excluding yesterday’s game)

Which National League side plays at the Gallagher Stadium?

Name the four Leicester players that went to Euro 2016:

What Italian word meaning “free” is used to describe a sweeper?

Name the 11 cities that will host a game during the World Cup in Russia:

Which seven Portuguese players have won the Premier League?

Which player has won the Charity/Community Shield the most times?

Which fixture has been played the most?

What British team has the longest name?

Where was Danny Graham born?

That’s all that I can remember, good luck with the answers, as I had no clue about the Shrewsbury questions, I did get the Sweeper question and the Gallagher Stadium one, as all those years of Football Manager finally pay off.

With kick off approaching, and my parents waiting for me, I decided to jump in one of the fleet of taxis that had turned up. As we got out near the ground, another taxi driving went to turn around using a driveway, he managed to knock his taxi licence plate off, so I picked it up and gave it him back, as I can’t imagine he would have been too happy if he left it behind. After saying goodbye to Andreas as he made his way into the home end, I met up with my parents, who immediately handed me a brand new Newcastle away shirt, I’m not a Newcastle supporter but I do collect football shirts, and it turned out that one of my dad’s golf buddies, Keith, had ordered some golf trousers from SportsDirect, but they had sent him a pair of trousers and the Newcastle shirt, not the two pairs of trousers he ordered. When he complained about the missing trousers they didn’t mention the shirt, which he gave to my dad, as he didn’t want the shirt. And that’s the story of how my football shirt collection grew to around 133 shirts.

Blackburn Rovers were founded in November 1875, and they played their first match on the 18th December 1875, in a game that ended in a 1-1 draw. In 1878 Rovers became one of 23 clubs to form the Lancashire Football Association, and in November 1879 they played in the FA Cup for the first time, beating the Tyne Association Football Club 5-1.  Rovers won the FA Cup in March 1884, as they beat Scottish team Queen’s Park 2-1, the same teams met again in 1885, and Rovers won 2-0. In 1886, Rovers made it a treble of FA Cup victories as they beat West Brom 2-0 in a replay, in 1887. The 1885-86 season was the birth of the legal professional footballer and Blackburn spent £615 on player wages for the season. In 1888 the club became founder members of the Football League.

During the early years of the 20th century, Rovers struggled, but they did begin a gradual improvement, culminating in Rovers winning the First Division in 1912 and 1914, as well as winning the FA Cup for the sixth time as the beat Huddersfield in 1928, 3-1. Rovers were relegated from the First Division In 1936, and when the league resumed after the war, the club were relegated in their second season in 1948. At this time the tradition of burying a coffin began, and the club remained in the Second Division for the following ten years. After promotion in 1958, the club settled down as a mid-table side. Rovers were to suffer relegating in 1966, and began a 26 year exile from the top division. Rovers spent time bouncing between the Second and Third Divisions, winning the Third Division title in 1975, but fell back into the Third Division in 1979.

Since 1980 the club had always played in the upper two tiers of English Football, until 2017 when they were relegated to League One. Jack Walker soon arrived on the scene around the start of the 90’s, and with plenty of cash to spend and Kenny Dalglish as manager, Rovers secured promotion to the Premier League in 1992. In the summer of 92, Rovers made the headlines as they paid an English record fee of £3.5 million for Alan Shearer. In 1995, Rovers won the Premier League, for the only time in their history, making them one of only six teams to actually lift the Premier League. However Rovers were also to become the first club to win the Premier League and then be relegated from the Premier League, as they slipped out of the league in 1999.

The Rovers’ return to the Premier League (Do you see what I did there? Coronation Street reference!) came in 2001, and was dedicated to the late Jack Walker who passed away after the start of the season. In the 2001 to 2002 season Rovers won their first ever League Cup by beating Tottenham 2-1 at the Millennium Stadium with record £8 million signing Andy/Andrew Cole scoring the winner.

Unfortunately the club suffered it’s worse moment in history in November 2010 as the Venky’s bought the club and sacked Big Sam and replaced him with Steve “I’ve no idea what I am doing here” Kean. On the 7th May 2012 the club were relegated to the Championship, amid protests against the owners including a chicken being released onto the pitch. Five years to the day after dropping out of the Premier League the club were relegated to League One. I was going to go on a rant about terrible owners being allowed to ruin clubs, but I’ll save that for next week when I see Birmingham at Preston North End.

Obviously Shrewsbury Town are my club, and I have covered them before so just have a look through my blog. After our heroics on Sunday against West Ham, a game in which I broke my big toe following booting a box full of books repeatedly, I was expecting us to either be dominant in this game, or to be suffering a hangover with one eye on Tuesday night. Unfortunately it was the latter as we seemed to be off of pace, and struggling in a way.

It took 14 minutes for Blackburn to open the scoring, as they won a free kick 25 yards out, which was superbly curled into the back of the net by Charlie Mulgrew. If it hadn’t had been a goal scored against Shrewsbury I would have applauded.

Around 35 minutes into the game I got hungry and decided to go and get something to eat, but as I made my way down to the concourse we won a penalty as Carlton Morris was brought down by David Raya. I immediately asked the steward next to me if I could watch the penalty from where I was stood, as we all know how funny stewards can be at time, and I also asked him if he would mind it if I hugged him if we scored, he replied yes to both questions, and I braced myself as Jon Nolan stepped up to take the penalty. He buried his effort nicely, and the away fans went bananas, I didn’t hug the steward however.

Not wanting to miss any of the action, I quickly bought a Steak Pie and a Diet Coke which cost me £4.70 altogether, the pie was good, but I forgot to pick up a fork, as I am a muppet, and they let me keep the lid on my Diet Coke!

Half Time: Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Shrewsbury Town (Mulgrew 14 – Nolan 35)

At the half time break, I sat down and had a chat with my mum, telling her about the book I am currently reading, for anyone interested it is “The Alchemist” and it really is helping with my depression, so I would recommend that you give it a read. I think I’d bored my mum to tears by the time the teams re-emerged, and I noticed that a kid had walked out of the concourse with chips. Therefore I headed back to the concourse and bought some amazing chips for £2, I mean these chips were perfect by my standards! Why don’t more clubs sell chips, they must be easy enough to cook!

Chips in hand, I stood to the side of the stand, and rested on the ledge of the stand. I was hoping that Shrewsbury would come out of the break and take control of the game, which we did as we started well. However it wasn’t to last and Rovers soon turned the game around.

In the 60th minute Danny Graham put Rovers back into the lead, as a wonderful turn and volley from Bradley Dack rebounded off of the post, with Danny Graham reacting quickest to tap the ball home.

Rovers made their first change of the game in the 62nd minute, as Adam Armstrong came onto the field to replace Craig Conway.

Charlie Mulgrew picked up his second goal of the game in the 70th minute. Dominic Samuel was clattered in the box, and the referee signalled for the penalty. Mulgrew calmly stepped up and fired the ball home.

Paul Hurst finally began to make some changes in the 73rd minute, as Omar Beckles came off for Max Lowe. Two minutes later Ben Godfrey had to leave the field due to injury, and Stefan Payne took his place.

Despite having more attack minded players on the pitch, we still continued to create anything of note, and Rovers looked comfortable with their lead. In the 81st minute Hurst made his last roll of the dice, as he bought Lenell John-Lewis on for Carlton Morris. Whilst Hurst is a fantastic manager, he does leave it late to make changes, I personally would have bought Lenell on at the same time as Stefan Payne, and I would have been inclined to take either Whalley or Rodman off instead of Morris, and I would have thrown everything at the Blackburn defence, however I’m not the manager, and in all fairness we probably would have been beaten by a larger score. In fact why am I even complaining? We’re second in the league, we dominated West Ham, and have just gone on a ten game unbeaten run! I mean even if we don’t end up going up to the Championship I’ll be happy, as this season has been nothing short of spectacular and has definitely been my favourite season of supporting Shrewsbury in my lifetime.

Rovers began to close out the game bringing Joe Nuttall on for Danny Graham in the 82nd minute, and then replacing Dominic Samuel for Lewis Travis in the 86th minute.

Salop had bought a good crowd for the game, in fact we took 1,387 which is more than some league clubs get at home! These fans had been vocal, and had gotten behind the team, but for some reason with ten minutes left, some of them started to leave. Sure we were 3-1 down, but Man Utd have shown that it is possible to score twice in three minutes, also Padiham scored two in a minute recently! And if you haven’t seen that video then I would suggest you google it! I’ve never understood why people leave games early, I mean the only excusable times to leave a game early is if either your side is losing by 4 or more goals, you are ill, someone you love is ill/giving birth/dead or if you have to catch the very last train and it is a night game. But when fans leave when there is still a chance that their side could mount a comeback, I do wonder why they even bothered to turn up. I’m one of those that would stand on an uncovered terrace in the pouring rain, watching Shrewsbury getting walloped 8-0 by Hereford (Never going to happen) and I still wouldn’t leave until the final whistle is blown. I mean for goodness sake, you may miss something amazing like a dog invading the pitch, or an official getting injured with a fan having to take the role of Fourth Official, or even if your side is losing 8-0, you may miss seeing your club legend of a player score his first goal back since coming back from injury, or you may miss the absolute goal of the century! STAY TILL THE END!

Sorry about that, but it annoys me. Sure beating the traffic is a good thing, but why bother turning up if you can’t handle a bit of traffic? It’s a waste of your ticket. Anyway nothing else happened in the game, and at the final whistle I made a hasty exit out of the ground as I didn’t want to bump into Andreas as he would have been insufferable.

Final Score: Blackburn Rovers 3-1 Shrewsbury Town (Mulgrew 14, 70, Graham 60 – Nolan 35)

It goes without saying that Blackburn fully deserved the three points, they were the far better side, and as disappointing as it is we didn’t deserve three points out of this game, a point would have been acceptable though.

With Rovers winning it means that they are now only two points behind us in the league, and they are starting to breathe down our neck which is getting uncomfortable. It’s like being a woman in a nightclub with a creepy bloke trying to hit on you. It’s just plain uncomfortable.

This does also mean that Wigan are now three points ahead of us, and we need them to hit a bad run of form soon. We are looking good for a playoff finish at the very least, however I hate the idea of us having to go through the playoffs to get promoted, as I have only ever seen my team get promoted once through the playoffs and that was in the 2003 to 2004 season when Salop narrowly beat Aldershot to get back into the league. I’ve seen us play Bristol Rovers and Gillingham at Wembley, with us losing on both occasions. As well as this I did follow Chorley to their playoff final game with Halifax, and Chorley lost that. So that means that out of four playoff final games that I have watched and supported one of the teams, I have only ever seen us win promotion once.

Kindly after the game my parents dropped me off in Chorley before heading back down to London, before the game my mum had said that they were going back to my Aunty Pat’s but somehow they forgot and drove home instead.

Next week I’ll be going to watch Birmingham City at Preston with my favourite drinking buddy, my Uncle Ed, and intend to have a good time at the game, as my Uncle Ed knows all of the good pubs and the ales. Also I have got a rant planned in my head about the useless owners in football and why the FA are horrendously bad at safeguarding the game from crooks who only intend to make money out of the unfortunate club that they infect, as these owners are parasites who need to be removed from the game.

Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!

Attendance: 13,579 (1,387 away)

Cost: £10.80 at the pub, £1 for the taxi, £3.60 for the bus, £0 for the train (What can I say there was no ticket machine in sight and the guard on the train didn’t move from his cab, plus I think I’ve paid enough for trains by now, especially seeing as how they are normally always late, and they are normally always those bloody “Bus on Train Wheels” things that should have been taken out of service about 20 years ago! So no, I do not feel bad about not paying for the train.) £6.70 for food, £0 for a programme as they didn’t sell them inside the ground. Thanks to my parents for once again paying for my ticket, once I am a bit better off I’ll repay the favour by buying you both a season ticket!

(Please note that this blog does not constitute as a legal contract, and I have also not specified where I will buy you a season ticket for, so it may not be for Shrewsbury Town, it may just be for the cheapest team I could find, probably Birmingham City as the only expensive ticket in that ground is the one that faces away from the pitch, they have to pay people to take the ones that face the pitch.)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157690581340111

Trafford

Trafford vs Ossett Albion, Evo Stik NPL Division One North, Shawe View, 6/1/18

I’m going to start this blog with a rant, a well-deserved rant, a rant that has been building for a while now. Professional football is dead, the soul is gone and the game is rotting. Hopefully the Premier League will one day consume itself and then we’ll be able to finally forget these ridiculous transfer fees. What has led to this rant, was the announcement on TalkSport that some Brazilian who played for Liverpool has made a bloated transfer move to a team that may end up leaving its national league if people vote for independence. Yes, I’m talking about Coutinho moving to Barcelona for £142 million or whatever the hell it was, but what really angered me, and actually led me to scream at the radio, was one of the TalkSport presenters saying, “Oh it’s only £105 million up front.” £105 MILLION? ONLY? For goodness sake, give me £105 million and I’ll take Chorley from the Conference North to the Champions League and I’d still have money left over! In fact my Uncle Ed and I have already planned for one of us to win the Euromillions, and then we’ll transform Chorley. To be fair if you gave me £105 million, I’d be able to turn Birmingham City into Champions League winners, actually wait, I’m good but not that good. But it’s not only Coutinho, its Pogba, Lukakau, Neymar, etc. The soul has left the professional game, and the only thing that stops me from turning my back completely on the mess, is Shrewsbury Town.

Rant over, it’s been a while since I wrote one of these, a combination of poor mental and physical health, as well as horrendous weather put me off during December. But I still made Wigan Athletic vs Shrewsbury Town on Boxing Day, and despite the 0-0 draw, I was happy to see the team that I love. Physically I’m now fine, and mentally I’m getting better, it’s a war that I fight everyday, and occasionally I’ll lose a battle, but in the end I will win this war with depression. The weather is still terrible around here though.

I was left with a choice between Trafford vs Ossett Albion or Maine Road vs Irlam. Recently I have read a book about FC United of Manchester, which had a map of all the grounds in Manchester that they had considered, and I became annoyed at myself as I haven’t explored Manchester enough yet, I mean there are teams such as Trafford, Maine Road, Droylsden etc, but I haven’t ventured there yet. So after consulting Google Maps I decided on Trafford as they are closer to Chorley and I couldn’t be bothered with a long drive. After getting stuck behind a number of ridiculously slow drivers, I arrived at Shawe View at around 2.45pm, and quickly made my way to the turnstiles where I paid £8 for entry and £2 for a programme. I did worry that I was going to be out of place as I was wearing a Chorley bobble hat, but then after consulting the programme I realised that I wasn’t the only one with Chorley connections, as Jack Dorney, James Dean, Tom Baker, Alastair Brown, Aaron Burns and Keil O’Brien have all represented Chorley at some point, and now all are connected to Trafford. In fact there was a former Shrewsbury player on show, as Alex McQuade lined up for Ossett Albion.

Trafford were formed in the summer of 1990, making them as old as myself, and started life as North Trafford, sharing Shawe View with Trafford Borough Rugby Club. Initially the club were denied entrance to the Mid-Cheshire League, but a late withdrawal saw them admitted to Division Two. Trafford won promotion in their first season as they finished second in the league. Further good news came in the form of the club obtaining sole tenancy of Shawe View via a thirty year lease, and substantial ground improvements followed. Trafford’s time in the Mid-Cheshire League was short lived, as in 1992 the club joined the North West Counties Football League Division Two, and in 1994 they won promotion to Division One, as they finished second in the league, promotion hinged on ground improvements, with the erection of floodlights, and a new stand (The South Stand). Also in 1994 they club dropped North from their name, and became known as Trafford. In 1997, Trafford won the NWCFL Division One and were promoted to Division One of the Unibond League. However the club suffered relegation in 2003, and dropped back into the NWCFL Division One. It took until 2008 for Trafford to regain their place in the Unibond League, as they won the NWCFL Premier Division by eleven points, Trafford remained in the First Division North of the Evo Stik for five years, before winning the Play Off Final against Cammell Laird in 2013. Trafford returned to the First Division North in 2015, where they have remained ever since.

I’ve seen Ossett Albion play a good number of times now, with plenty having been written about them on my blog, so I won’t delve into their history again. Albion aren’t having the best of seasons, and currently sit in 20th in the league.

Recently I’ve noticed that I find myself looking at grounds, and thinking of the ways that I would improve them if I had the money. Shawe View is a great example of a ground that has the space for improvements, but at this point doesn’t need them. Shawe View is tucked behind a residential area, with a huge amount of land around the ground. The turnstiles are in the corner of the ground, and through them you emerge by the corner flag. To your left is the Main Stand, which houses the club house, refreshment hut and changing rooms. This stand is a small one, straddling the halfway line, with a couple of rows of seats. Behind the goal, furthest from the touchline is a small covered terrace, where the vocal Trafford fans gathered for the first half. Along the other touchline is another small covered stand, with a few rows of wooden seats at the front, and a small standing area at the back. Finally behind the goal, closest to the turnstiles, is an uncovered grass bank, which provides great views of the ground. Around Shawe View there are a couple of grass banks, and all are good places to watch the game from.

For the first half, I decided to stand on the touchline opposite the Main Stand, as the sun was starting to set, and I didn’t want to spend the first half squinting at the pitch. There were a couple of things that I noticed during the first half: Jack Dorney didn’t stop moving, and should probably be playing for Chorley still and also, neither keeper was very good at kicking the ball long (sorry lads), with a number of goal kicks proving more of a threat to those watching the game.

At some point during the first half the Ossett Albion number 9, Adam Priestley (I am convinced that Priestley has represented Gibraltar on the International Stage), picked up a nosebleed, which led to him changing his shirt, and playing without a number for the rest of the game.

During an even first half, I soon became restless, and made my way around to the refreshment hut where I bought a Steak Pie and a can of Diet Coke for £3. The pie was good, however I still can’t feel my tongue as the pie attempted to burn a hole in my tongue!

Half Time: Trafford 0-0 Ossett Albion

At half time I decided to walk around the ground, and settled on a place on the grass bank by the turnstiles for the second half. However I soon moved as I became paranoid that I would slip down the bank, and also I have recently bought a couple of pairs of Adidas trainers, I’ve never owned Adidas trainers before as I have never been able to afford them, but I treated myself after Christmas, and I also moved from the bank as I didn’t want to get my trainers dirty!

The second half continued where the first half had left off, with both sides battling well but neither side showing much in front of goal. Trafford made their first change of the game in the 54th minute as Andy Keogh replaced Michael Monaghan.

It was the substitution in the 68th minute for Trafford which made me pay more attention to the game, as James Dean made his way onto the pitch to replace Andy Langford. Dean had been a favourite of mine at Chorley, and in a way he provides an Andy Carroll-esque option as he is the stereotypical Target Man; big, strong and a complete lump!

Ossett made their first change of the game in the 76th minute, as Tommy Wood was introduced to the game in place of Aidan Chippendale.

At this point of the game I was now sat in the covered stand opposite the Main Stand, the wooden seats were rather comfortable, and the Trafford fans around me were an entertaining lot.

Trafford made their final change in the 88th minute, as Mark Derbyshire replaced Josh Amis. A minute later Albion made their second change as James Hurtley was replaced by Callum Charlton.

As the sun set, and the sky darkened, the temperature continued to drop, and it seemed inevitable that the game would finish 0-0, as neither side seemed likely to put themselves into the lead. Someone on the Trafford bench held up the board to show that three minutes were to be added onto the game, and I began to plot my escape from the ground, as I was cold. Hunching down further in my seat, I was tempted to ask the referee to end the game before I lost feeling in my feet, and I also began to dread the thought of having to blog about a 0-0 game, as I hate 0-0 games. On Boxing Day I saw Shrewsbury draw 0-0 with Wigan, and I was embarrassed that we celebrated the point, if I was in control any kind of draw would be banned, and any game that finished even would go to Golden Goal with the game continuing until a goal is scored, no matter how long it takes. Teams that go anywhere for a draw should be fined, especially teams in the Premier League. With the final whistle due at any second, Lee Neville launched a high ball forward to the edge of the Ossett penalty area, James Dean did what a target man should, and chested the ball down. His former Chorley team mate Jack Dorney arrived to latch onto the ball, and he connected sweetly with the ball, his shot rose and rose looking like it would fly into the trees behind the goal, however at the last second it dipped, and clattered off of the crossbar before bouncing over the line. Dorney immediately sprinted to the Trafford fans behind the goal, ripping his shirt off in the process. Even as a neutral I leapt out of my seat to celebrate, more for the fact that someone had saved me from blogging about a draw! Once the celebrations calmed down, and the teams lined up for the restart, Ossett kicked the game off, but the referee immediately blew his whistle to end the game.

Final Score: Trafford 1-0 Ossett Albion (Dorney 92)

There was a skip in my step as I left Shawe View, as I had started 2018 by not seeing a 0-0 draw, and I can comfortably say that I have never blogged about a 0-0 draw and hope to never do so, as they are the bane of my existence. There is also one other thing I would change about football if I had the power: 10% of every transfer fee over £1 million would have to be donated to grassroots football. Just think, Coutinho moves to Barcelona for the cheap initial fee of £105 million, if 10% of this had to be donated to grassroots football then that would be £10.5 million. £10.5 million is a huge amount for grassroots football but only small change for a Premier League side. But also think about this, if 10% was donated from the transfers of Pogba, Lukakua etc then England would win a World Cup as the investment in grassroots football would be huge! Hackney Marshes would be full again, Sunday League football would boom, Youth football would be so well funded teams like SENRAB would pop up all over the place, and it would barely dent the pockets of Premier League sides. But then again I’m just a groundhopper, a simple man writing a blog.

The win for Trafford sees them remain in sixth in the league, Trafford have played the most games in the league so far, as they have played 26 games this season, and currently have 42 points on the board, all of the teams around them have games in hand, and a play-off spot looks most likely for Trafford.

Defeat for Ossett Albion seems them remain in 20th place in the league, Albion need to find form and they need to find it quickly. They can overtake the sides above them, which worryingly includes Atherton Colleries, but they need to start taking their chances in front of goal. I have a soft spot for both clubs in Ossett, and honestly don’t want to see Albion get relegated.

Next week I’ll be off to Ewood Park to see Shrewsbury play Blackburn Rovers, in a game that I never thought would be possible, as I’m still amazed that Rovers have dropped to this level, football is a fickle sport.

Finally at the start of the blog I stated “. To be fair if you gave me £105 million, I’d be able to turn Birmingham City into Champions League winners, actually wait, I’m good but not that good.” I would just like to put it down in writing that even if you gave me £105 billion I still wouldn’t be able to do anything with Birmingham City, I don’t think anyone could improve the Blues.

Attendance: 3184

Cost: £13

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157689153098402

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.

Shrewsbury Town

Shrewsbury Town vs Morecambe, FA Cup Second Round, New Meadow, 2/12/17

I probably should feel bad about the fact that it has taken me two seasons to blog about a Shrewsbury Town home match, as a Shrewsbury Town fan it has been an odd two years without taking in a home match at the New Meadow (Yes I know it has a different name, but that is a sponsorship name, and I’m not using that name, as it sounds like a Conservative MP’s name). I’ve seen many a game at the New Meadow, as during my three years as a student in Wrexham, I held a season ticket in Block 9, Row Q, Seat 3, and spent many of my Saturdays watching Shrewsbury, and in all fairness if I had put as much time into my coursework as I had into watching Shrewsbury, I probably would have finished Uni with a 1st, instead of the 2:2 degree that I received. But would I change my time at Uni? Would I have spent more time in the Library and less time watching Shrewsbury? Well the answer to that is no.

I had been planning to get to a Shrewsbury match, but I’ve always been put off by the near two hour drive to get to Shrewsbury from Chorley, in all fairness when I started this blog I lived in Wrexham, and I probably should have gone to Shrewsbury whilst I lived in Wrexham, but there were so many grounds to go on adventures to around Wrexham. However with my mum coming up to Chorley for a week, it made sense to head down to Shrewsbury, watch the game, and then bring my mum back, instead of getting my dad to do so. At 12pm, I left Chorley and made the journey down to Shrewsbury, using the A49. If there is one thing in life that I do enjoy, it is driving on clear, country roads, as it allows me to escape from my daily life, although there was one hairy moment, as I came round a roundabout, doing below 30mph, and the back end of the car skidded out, luckily there was no-one behind me, and I managed to control the skid, when I parked up at the BP garage in Shrewsbury, I did check the car but couldn’t see any clear reason for the skid. Parking at the BP garage cost £5, and if you are visiting Shrewsbury I would recommend parking at the BP garage, as there isn’t a lot of parking available around the ground.

After a quick walk down to the ground, I headed into the clubshop and picked up a hat and a scarf for £16, as I expected the weather to drop, and had already prepared myself for very cold weather. Seeing as how I hadn’t been to the Meadow in a while, I took a walk around the ground, and stopped to read the banners which had been hung from the side of the Main Stand. I also made sure to stop and make sure that my brick was still in place by the reception, which it was. Whilst waiting for my parents, I took a look at the new Lidl construction, which is going up behind the North Stand, whilst the income will be good from Lidl, I just can’t understand how this is going to work on a Saturday when Shrewsbury are at home, traffic is going to be a nightmare, and in all fairness the club really needs to look at putting a larger supporters bar near to the ground, as I would have loved to have gone for a pint, but the PowerLeague bar is just too small. Finally my parents turned up, and we headed into the ground. I instantly felt at home as I passed through the turnstiles, and spent a few minutes looking at the murals which now decorate the concourse, I was also amazed to see the vending machines which provide an alternative to the catering facilities.

Speaking of the catering facilities, I decided to buy a bottle of Pepsi Max before the game, which set me back £2. However my parents also decided to buy some food and drink, with them purchasing a Steak & Ale Pie, a Sausage Roll, a Tea and a Bovril for the sum of £10.50. When we took our seats in the stand, I did ask my mum whether she was hungry as it looked like she had already eaten half of her Sausage Roll, however she responded by telling me that she hadn’t taken a bite yet, and that this half a Sausage Roll had cost her £3.20, she soon got sick of it, and passed me the last half of it, and it was bland, tasteless and if I had bought it from Greggs I would have taken it back, as it was horrendous, no wonder so many people bring in their own food, maybe that Lidl will come in handy after all. (I’ve not had chance to ask my dad how his pie was, but he demolished it, so it might have been good.)

The 2017-18 season marks the 10 year anniversary of Shrewsbury leaving the old Gay Meadow and moving into the New Meadow, and in all fairness it feels like we have been here a lot longer, there are still the same issues that were experienced when we first moved, such as a lack of toilet seats, but this place has become home. It may not have the charm or atmosphere of the Gay Meadow, but to improve as a club we needed a modern home, and unfortunately the Gay Meadow was never going to be that modern home. The ground is essentially symmetrical, with both stands behind the goal being identical, and the same can be said about both of the touchline stands. The East Stand (or the Roland Wycherley Stand) is the Main Stand, and houses all of the hospitality facilities, changing rooms offices etc. The West Stand, is the largest stand in the ground with a capacity of 3,317, and in block 19 the more vocal Shrewsbury supporters congregate. The South Stand, where I used to have my season ticket, is soon going to hold England’s first safe standing, as the footballing community came together to raise the necessary funds to allow the club to install the same kind of standing which works so well in Germany, and at Celtic Park, I’m not sure when the work is supposed to begin, but as soon as it is finished I’ll be making another trip down to Shrewsbury to take in the new safe standing. Finally the North Stand, houses the away fans, as well as the stadium control room and the scoreboard.

Today’s visitors were to be Morecambe, who were formed in 1920. Morecambe took a place in the Lancashire Combination League for the 1920-21, and shared grounds with the Cricket Club at Wood Hill Lane during the first season. At the end of the season, with football proving to be popular, the club moved to Roseberry Park, and a few years later purchased the ground and the name was changed to Christie Park in honour of Mr J.B. Christie who was the club president at the time. In 1925, the club claimed the league title for the first time, and this was later followed by success in the Lancashire Junior Cup, beating old rivals Chorley, after two replays, and in front of over 30,000 spectators. Mr Christie bequeathed the ground to the club in 1927, and then helped to incorporate the club into a limited company. The rest of the 1920s and the whole of the 1930s saw a constant struggle to keep football alive on the North West coast, with little or no revenue off of the field and poor results on the field, a recipe for disaster. Following the Second World War, the club saw an upturn in their fortunes, with steady progress throughout the late 1940s, and nearly all of the 50s. In fact the fourteen years from 1960 could be justifiably said to be Morecambe’s Golden Era, including a Third Round FA Cup appearance in 1962, a Lancashire Senior Cup victory in 1968 and a FA Trophy victory in 1974. However the next twelve years were to be barren, with the Grim Reaper never far from the Christie Park door. Attendances fell from a creditable 2,000 plus to a miserable 200 minus. However this downturn in fortunes was to end in the 1985-86 season, as signs of improvement appeared, as the club improved in the league, and it took ten years of continual improvement both on and off of the field to fulfil the club’s ambition on playing in the Conference. Morecambe began life in the Conference in the 1995-96 season, and soon became one of the league’s most feared sides, as they narrowly missed out on promotion on a couple of occasions. On the 20th of May 2007, the club beat Exeter City 2-1 at Wembley to win the Conference Playoff final, and therefore gain promotion to the Football League. The 2009-10 season was to be Morecambe’s last season at Christie Park, and they moved to the Globe Arena in 2010. Jim Bentley was appointed as manager in 2011, and has remained with the club ever since.

Shrewsbury’s journey in the FA Cup has so far consisted of a 5-0 win over Aldershot Town in the First Round, we have slipped recently in the league, however we are still sitting near the top of the table, which is a remarkable achievement given the stature of some of the other teams in the league. Morecambe beat Hartlepool United in the First Round, 3-0, and currently sit 21st in League Two.

Morecambe made themselves difficult to breakdown, and Salop had to remain patient through the first half. In all fairness Shrewsbury seemed to be slightly off of form, and we didn’t seem comfortable.

Despite being slightly off form, we did take the lead in the 32nd minute, as Alex Rodman latched on a cross from Shaun Whalley to tap the ball past Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal.

Roche was lucky to remain on the field, as five minutes after the opening goal, he brought Jon Nolan down in the box. The reason why I say Roche was lucky to stay on the field, is that he was the last man, and clearly stopped Nolan from having a clear opportunity on goal. The ref decided that whilst it would be a penalty, Roche would only see a yellow card. Shaun Whalley stepped up to take the penalty and converted nicely.

Half Time: Shrewsbury Town 2-0 Morecambe (Rodman 32, Whalley 37)

Normally at half time I would take a walk around the ground, but unfortunately I was contained in South Stand and instead I spent the break watching the subs warming up. During the First Half, our on-loan keeper, Dean Henderson, had been walking around the South Stand taking selfies with fans for a donation to Hope House. Henderson used to have a mop of hair, but has recently gone bald for Hope House, and it was good to see him interacting with the Salop fans. If I’d spotted him at half time I would have grabbed a selfie with him, but unfortunately he was only in the South Stand during the first half, and as much as I wanted a selfie with one of the best keepers to play for Shrewsbury in a while, I didn’t want to miss any of the football.

Morecambe made two changes at half time, with Vadine Oliver and Aaron McGowan replacing Alex Kenyon and Patrick Brough. With both teams back on the field the second half kicked off, with Salop attacking the South Stand.

Honestly, the second half was absolutely nothing to write home about, it was a poor half, with Shrewsbury doing what was necessary to book their place in the Third Round. I’m not sure how Stefan Payne managed to remain on the pitch for the second half, as he was off of the boil, and struggled in front of goal. Hopefully this is just a blip for the lad, as he is a good player.

In the 59th minute, Shrewsbury made their first change with Louis Dodds replacing Ben Godfrey. The second change came in the 70th minute with Arthur Gnahoua replacing Alex Rodman.

Morecambe made their final change in the 78th minute, as Callum Lang came on to replaced Adam Campbell. Shrewsbury’s final change came in the 80th minute, as Carlton Morris switched places with Shaun Whalley, in all fairness I would have replaced Payne with Morris, as Payne struggled throughout the game.

After five minutes of added time, the referee blew his whistle, and signalled that Shrewsbury’s name would go into the hat for the third round draw. I felt sorry for the Morecambe fans that had travelled down, as they had travelled further than I had to see their team lose, whilst they didn’t play badly, they just lacked a cutting edge in front of goal.

Final Score: Shrewsbury Town 2-0 Morecambe (Rodman 32, Whalley 37)

Following the final whistle, we made our way out of the ground and headed back down to the BP garage, where we switched my mum’s stuff from my parent’s car to mine. My dad began his journey home to London, and my mum and I headed off to Chorley, as my mum is an Arsenal fan, and as a I grew up supporting Manchester United (I realised around the age of 13 that I much preferred Shrewsbury Town, as I saw them more often), we decided to avoid the Arsenal vs Manchester United game on the radio, as it was on BT Sport, and with my new Virgin TV package, I had been able to record the game. Instead we listened to my mum’s all-time favourite musician, Neil Diamond. It’s odd how our tastes change, as when I was a kid I hated Neil Diamond, as in my mind he produced music for old people, and once or twice as a teenager I got annoyed with Kerrang magazine, as some of my favourite musicians admitted that they like Neil Diamond, however since growing up I have realised that Neil Diamond is actually a brilliant Singer/Song Writer, and I found myself singing along to some of his music.

Hopefully Shrewsbury will draw a good name out of the hat, and I have to be honest I am hoping for an away draw to Liverpool, Manchester United or Everton, as that would help me to begin to tick off some of the Premier League grounds, although I have been to Old Trafford before, and would love a trip to Merseyside.

With an attendance of 3184, I can see proper fans having an issue getting tickets if we draw a big name at home in the Third Round of the FA Cup, I mean it has happened before when we played Chelsea in the League Cup and Manchester United in the FA Cup. Honestly, if we get a home tie, I will most likely not attempt to get a ticket, as I would rather my ticket go to someone who follows Salop home and away, like my parents, Bizzy or anyone else that travels the length and breadth of the UK following Salop. If we got an away tie, then tickets may be easier to get a hold of, as many fair-weather fans won’t want to travel, and away allocations at Premier League clubs tend to be bigger.

As a club I like Morecambe, and although he is an ex-Telford player, I like Jim Bentley, as he is doing a good job with limited resources at Morecambe. It’s clear to see the affinity between the manager and the fans, as the fans once paid for a fine that Bentley incurred. Hopefully Morecambe can avoid the drop next season, and I’m hoping to get to a Morecambe home match soon.

Attendance: 3184

Cost: £41 (£15 ticket, £3 programme, £16 hat and scarf, £2 Pepsi Max, £5 parking)

Well the cost would have been £41 however my parents paid for my ticket, and in all honesty I didn’t actually need the hat and scarf as the weather didn’t drop dramatically.

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157689902325004/with/38772692922/

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.

Widnes

Widnes vs Irlam, North West Counties Football League Premier Division, Select Security Stadium, 25/11/17

It’s amazing the lengths that I will go to to put off doing something, I’ve been intending to write this blog since I attended the game initially, but near on a week later, I have only just begun to work on it. As I’ve mentioned I’ve recently been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and potential bipolar, and my procrastination levels have reached a new high recently. I’ve also not been helped by the fact that I have recently had no internet, our TalkTalk box decided to go offline for around the 100th time during the week, and finally stopped working altogether, this was a new box, it wasn’t an old wifi router, it was a new one! In fact the reason why we had this router is because it was meant to solve the issues we were having with an old router. So finally fed up of TalkTalk, we have switched to Virgin, which leads me onto the actual start of this blog.

Now that I have Virgin Broadband and TV, I now have access to BT Sport, so that I can now fill my appetite for football. I’m already planning out games that I want to watch, and have worked out how to record so that I can have a constant source of football. But there is still one thing that I will never understand, why on a Saturday at 3pm would you sit in your house or the pub and watch a game of football? Sure your home or the pub might be warm, sure you may have constant access to snacks and drinks, but it’s sterile, there’s no atmosphere, you have to listen to commentators drivelling on about the fact that the linesman has one sock higher than the other, it’s just not football. Football is about going to the game, talking to the person on the gate, buying a programme from the person that’s been doing it for years, buying a pie, getting a 50/50 draw ticket. If you’re a groundhopper, it’s about exploring the new territory, finding a good place to stand, speaking to new people or volunteers that have been there for years. If you’re a season ticket holder, it’s about finding your seat, speaking to those around you. Ultimately, Football is about being there for your team, through thick and thin, or it’s about watching as many teams as possible. Football on the TV should never take priority over going to a game, there are so many teams with ticket prices cheap enough for anyone to afford them.

Talking of ticket prices, today’s match was to cost £6 to get into, with a further £2 for a programme. The journey from Chorley to Widnes had been an easy one, and I had found free off-road parking near to the ground. Whilst many clubs at this level have small stadiums, Widnes have one of the largest in Non-League, and it is certainly bigger than Accrington Stanleys’! Widnes are currently tenants at the Select Security Stadium, which is owned by Halton Borough Council, however the stadium wasn’t built for the football club, it was built for Widnes Vikings, a rugby league side. Rugby League is pretty popular in these parts, hence why the town has a 13,350 capacity stadium. However Widnes aren’t the only football club to play in the Select Security Stadium, as Everton and Liverpool ladies also play here, luckily the pitch is artificial, as I don’t think a grass pitch would be able to stand up to the amount of games played here. As Widnes FC tend to have lower attendances, the entrance to the ground was through the facilities reception, as you walk into the ground, you emerge in a corner of the ground, with the main stand to your right, this was to be the only stand open for the game, but it was more than enough to house those in attendance. The ground is impressive, and Widnes FC could achieve a lot here, if they had an owner with an obscene amount of money, in fact they’re now on the list of clubs I’d be interested in buying if I ever won the EuroMillions.

I’ve covered both teams before, as I saw Irlam host AFC Darwen: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/irlam/. The last time I saw Widnes it was at Atherton Laburnum Rovers, which can be found here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/atherton-laburnum-rovers/.

One thing I will say about the Select Security Stadium is that it is a cold place, it was freezing and matters weren’t helped when it began to rain with the wind blowing the rain into the stand. For the first half, I took a seat towards the back of the stand, and as close to the halfway line as I could. Watching this level of football in a stadium like this is an interesting experience, as I was able to get a great vantage point and I was also able to hear the players and coaches, as it was quiet in the ground.

For some reason Widnes started with a number 12 and a number 16, instead of a 2 and a 6, I can only assume that the 2 and 6 shirts had been lost, and Widnes FC were sensible enough to use shirts with similar digits as replacements.

Irlam were forced into a sub in the 14th minute, as their number 9, Timothy Kinsella, went down injured and was replaced by number 15, Joshua Nixon. It was a shame to see Kinsella leave the field as he had been causing issues for the Widnes back line.

As half-time approached, I did begin to fear that this would be my first 0-0 game, as both sides were evenly matched. But then Bradley Smart stepped up to fire Widnes into the lead in the 40th minute. Smart had broken the offside trap, and had carried the ball into the area before firing home.

Half Time: Widnes 1-0 Irlam (Smart 40)

At half time I headed down to the bar, and picked up a can of Diet Coke for 70p, the poor woman behind the bar was on her own, however she marshalled everyone into a queue, and was making short work of the orders, as she steamed through the queue.

For the second half, I decided to sit closer to the front, however after about ten minutes, I realised this was a terrible idea, as it was raining, so I scurried up to the back of the stand to shelter from the rain which was getting increasingly heavy.

Widnes doubled their lead in the 68th minute, as the ball was floated into the box from a corner, number 5, Michael Pollard got a touch on the ball which eluded the Irlam keeper, and after a moment of deliberation with the linesman, the referee awarded the goal.

Irlam made their second change of the game in the 70th minute, as number 3, Charlie Doyle, made way for number 12, Joel Amado. Widnes made their first change, five minutes later, with number 9, Bradley Smart, making way for number 17, Sean Myler.

A minute after their change, Widnes made it 3-0, number 7, Kevin Towey, latched onto a low cross to tap the ball home at the back post. Following an even first half, Widnes had now begun to show a little more quality, which shows in the scoreline. Following the goal, Irlam replaced their number 11, Daniel Greene, with their number 16, Gareth Meridith.

In the 80th minute, Widnes made their last changes, with their numbers 18 & 19, Sam Henry & Danny Laverty, coming on for numbers 7 & 10, Kev Towey and Chris Lomax.

Irlam scored a consolation goal in the 88th minute, as their number 10, Jordan Icely, bundled the ball home to reduce the arrears.

Final Score: Widnes 3-1 Irlam (Smart 40, Pollard 68, Towey 78 – Icely 88)

Following the final whistle, I made my way back to my car, the journey home was easy as there was little traffic on the roads. With no internet we had to resort to watching DVDs as TV is crap nowadays.

There have been games played since this one, with Widnes now occupying 5th place in the table, they have played 21, and have won 9, drawn 5 and lost 7, meaning that they have 32 points on the board. A top half finish would be achievable for Widnes, however a lot of the teams around them have games in hand, which could make things interesting at the end of the season.

Irlam sit in 16th place, with 18 games played, 6 wins, 3 draws and 9 defeats. Irlam have gained 21 points this season, and could race up the league if things go their way.

It may have been cold today, it may have been wet, but I couldn’t imagine giving Groundhopping up just to sit at home and watch BT Sport. Live football is available around the country, with cheap ticket prices at certain levels, and even free admission in some places! Get out there and support a football team in the flesh, don’t sit indoors.

Finally, I’ll be at Shrewsbury Town vs Morecambe on Saturday 2nd December, for the FA Cup Second Round, hopefully we’ll get a good result!

Attendance: 55

Cost: £8.70 (£6 Admission, £2 Programme, 70p Diet Coke

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157688881118131

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.

Blackpool Wren Rovers

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.

Attendance: ??

Cost: £2.90 (£2.20 Carling, 70p Diet Coke)

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157688660374061/with/37629910835/

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.

AFC Blackpool

AFC Blackpool vs Nelson, NWCFL First Division, The Mechanics, 11/11/17

As many readers of this blog may know, I’ve always been amazed by the number of clubs on the south side of Blackpool. In one road you have three different clubs, all playing at different levels, and all existing within a short distance of each other. There’s Squires Gate, Blackpool Wren Rovers and AFC Blackpool. I’ve been to Squires Gate twice now, and have been meaning to get to the other two clubs for a while, in fact I had meant to go to AFC Blackpool at the start of last season, but the battery in my car died on the day, meaning I was unable to get to The Mechanics that day, but with a clear weekend and no car troubles, I had only one game in mind, AFC Blackpool vs Nelson. I’ve got a soft spot for Nelson which stems from my visit to Little Wembley last season, and with them rooted to the bottom of the league I was hoping that this would be the game where they turned their form around.

AFC Blackpool started life in 1947 as Blackpool Metal Mechanics, before changing their name to Blackpool Mechanics, and they initially played in local leagues on the Fylde coast. In 1951, the club won the Fylde District League Division Two title and were promoted to Division One, where between 1953-54 and 1957-58 they were champions twice and runners-up three times in five consecutive seasons, as well as the league success, they also won a number of local cup competitions, including the Lancashire FA Amateur Shield in 1958. The club took a decision to move up the leagues in 1959 and joined the West Lancashire League, in their second season, 1960-61, they finished as Champions and won the Lancashire FA Amateur Shield again. In 1962 they joined the Lancashire Combination Division Two, which was then disbanded in 1968 with the league becoming a single division. When the North West Counties Football League was formed, the club were placed in Division Three, and were promoted to Division Two, as champions in 1986. They were briefly promoted to Division One for the 1991-92 season, before being relegated back to Division Two, renamed Division One in 2006. In May 2005, the club merged with Lytham St Annes FC, who had just won the West Lancashire League Division One title, with Lytham resigning from the West Lancashire League. The Mechanics once again merged with another side in 2008, this time with Squires Gate Junior FC, with the club being renamed AFC Blackpool. The name change depended on Blackpool FC giving it their full approval, and in July 2008 they confirmed to the Lancashire FA that they had no objections, and were keen to help the club. As champions of Division One in 2011, the club were promoted to the Premier Division, however the club were relegated back to the First Division in 2016, as the club finished bottom of the division.

I’ve covered Nelson’s history before, here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/nelson/ but as I have mentioned the start of this season has been a difficult one, and Nelson currently find themselves bottom of the league with 13 games played, they have only won once, drawn twice and lost ten, meaning that they have five points on the board, they are currently a point behind Daisy Hill who occupy 21st, with three games in hand.

The Mechanics is a smart ground, with hard standing on all four sides, the ground has plenty of room for expansion. From the turnstiles you emerge in a corner of the ground, with the clubhouse to your right and a small terrace behind the goal on your left. The small terrace behind the goal is covered, and houses the more vocal AFC Blackpool fans, along with their drum. On the opposite touchline to the clubhouse, is a small covered seated stand, this stand only has one row of seats and flanks the halfway line, with the dugouts on either side. Behind the other goal is another covered terrace, where a couple of older fans gathered for the game, with their radio which was clear to hear during the game. Finally the clubhouse, runs from near the turnstiles to the halfway line, and has a couple of rows of seats at the front. The clubhouse itself is a smart building, and it houses the dressing rooms, as well as a small club shop, where I managed to buy a couple of matchworn shirts for the price of £1 each, being a football shirt collector I picked up a home and away shirt. Entrance to the game cost £6, with a programme being £1, before the match I had a pint of Carling (Sorry Uncle Ed, there was no real ale) which cost me £3.

For the first half I decided to stand next to the home dugout, stood near to the goal that AFC Blackpool were attacking, with Nelson rooted to the bottom of the league I expected AFC Blackpool to dominate the game. Before the game kicked off there was a minute’s silence in remembrance of those that served to ensure that we would be able to live the lives we currently do.

It took just 4 minutes for the first goal of the game to be scored, as Blackpool’s number 10, Kit Gregory, slammed the ball past the Nelson keeper, following a cross from the right wing.

Around the 12th minute there was a worry for the Nelson, as their keeper was caught by the Blackpool number 9, Alex Taylor. The collision was accidental, as Taylor looked to get onto a loose ball, with the Nelson keeper attempting to gather the ball. The keeper went down in obvious pain, as he Taylor’s boot caught him on his right hand, and my initial thought was that the keeper had broken a bone, however after a bit of treatment the keeper did resume playing, which was lucky for Nelson as I don’t think they had a sub keeper.

The rest of the half was a scrappy affair, Blackpool had the majority of the possession but were seemingly unable to turn this possession into anything of note. Nelson looked a little shell-shocked following the early goal, and were fortunate to go into the break only a goal down. There was a little bit of handbags as the players came off of the pitch, nothing serious just some angry words exchanged. More importantly I noticed that the AFC Blackpool keeper was wearing a Blackpool FC goalkeeper shirt, which was a little odd.

Half Time: AFC Blackpool 1-0 Nelson (Gregory 4)

At half time I headed into the clubhouse, in an attempt to get warm, the weather was clear, but cold, and I had begun to lose the feeling in my feet. As I was thirsty I grabbed a can of Diet Coke for a £1, but as I began to drink it I regretted not buying a cup of coffee, as that would have been a lot more warming.

For the second half, I began by standing near the turnstiles, before moving to stand near the covered terrace, as the temperature dropped I continued moving around the ground in an attempt to keep warm.

It took ten minutes for Blackpool to double their lead, as number 9, Alex Taylor, latched onto a through ball before slotting the ball past the Nelson keeper, with a nice finish. The Blackpool fans behind the goal were making a good amount of noise, mostly imitating the Nelson keeper, repeating whatever he shouted and generally attempting to distract him.

Nelson made their first change on the game in the 57th minute, with their number 10 being replaced by their number 12. Five minutes later AFC Blackpool made their first change with their number 6 making way for their number 12.

Nelson’s task was made harder in the 65th minute, as their young looking number 3 picked up his second yellow of the game. I think frustration had gotten to him, and he saw his second yellow for a poor challenge. Unfortunately the kid had blonde hair, and his departure was greeted with jokes from the Blackpool fans about how the Milky Bar Kid is strong and tough. Following this sending off, Nelson made a change with their number 9 leaving the field to be replaced by their number 13, unlucky for some.

Blackpool made their second change in the 67th minute, with their number 16 replacing the number 4.

Despite being down to 10 men, Nelson suddenly burst into life, and in the 70th minute they put themselves back into the game, as their number 2, Ashley Brierley, now playing as part of a back three, fired home from a tight angle. Now I’m not sure if Brierley was the number 2, as I couldn’t find a teamsheet, but it looked to be the number 2 who was being congratulated for the goal.

Blackpool restored their two goal lead in the 75th minute, as their number 11, Billy McKenna fired home with a lovely finish. Following this goal, Blackpool made their final change with number 9, Alex Taylor, leaving the field to be replaced by the number 14.

Nelson continued to push forward, and it did look like they were the dominate side for parts of the second half. In the 80th minute they won a free kick on the edge of the area, and number 8, Ross Knight, produced a wonderful finish which flew into the top left corner.

For the last ten minutes of the game, the Nelson players attempted to get an equaliser, and despite attending the game as a neutral I began to find myself willing Nelson on, as they deserved a point from the game, plus I always have a soft spot for the underdog, which Nelson very much are at the moment.

AFC Blackpool killed the game off in the 90th minute, as their number 11, Billy McKenna, broke into the box once more, before firing the ball across the face of goal, unfortunately a Nelson player connected with the ball, and sent it into the bottom corner.

Final Score: AFC Blackpool 4-2 Nelson (Gregory 4, Taylor 55, McKenna 75, Own Goal 90 – Brierley 70, Knight 80)

At the final whistle a number of Nelson players slumped to the ground and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them, these lads are turning up to play and are currently struggling for form, hopefully they’ll turn it around soon.

Before I left the ground, I found the volunteer who I was told ran the club shop, she didn’t actually run the club shop, but she allowed me to pick up the shirts I wanted. As I have said these shirts were only meant to be £1 each, but I couldn’t bring myself to only separate with £2, as I know of other clubs that would charge at least £10 a piece for matchworn shirts. Therefore I handed the lady a £5 note, and asked her to keep the change, I know I only paid an extra £3 but every little helps. On a side note, if you are thinking of setting up a Sunday League team or a 5-a-side team then head to AFC Blackpool as you’ll be able to get a good number of shirts for a fraction of the cost!

Three points for AFC Blackpool sees them into 7th place in the league, with sixteen games played they now have twenty-six points on the board, and are in a good place to make a go at getting into the play-offs. I’m glad that I have finally ticked AFC Blackpool off, as I found the club to be well run and friendly, which is all I want from non-league clubs.

Nelson remain bottom of the league, with five points on the board, they still have three games in hand over Daisy Hill, but it is going to be difficult getting out of the relegation zone, as 20th place St Helens are five points ahead of them. Hopefully Nelson can turn it around, as they are a club that I have a lot of time for.

All that remains around this area of Blackpool is Wren Rovers, and I’m hoping to tick them off sooner rather than later, although it will be a sad day when I do so, as it’ll mean that I have been to all of the clubs in the area.

Attendance: 86

Cost: £16 (£6 entry, £1 programme, £3 Carling, £1 can of Diet Coke, £5 for match worn shirts)

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157666242916319

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.