Result: Barnoldswick Town 2-4 West Didsbury & Chorlton (NWCFL Premier Division)
Venue: The Silentnight Stadium (Saturday 2nd August 2014, 3.00pm)
It’s the opening day of the North West Counties season! It’s the beginning of August, the height of summer! It’s warm, it’s sunny, it’s….ACTUALLY IT’S ABSOLUTELY POURING!!! Yes, the wonders of an English summer gives you a wet, blustery day at what should be the best time of the year weather-wise. Regardless, I had decided a few weeks earlier to take up the offer of a seat on the West Didsbury coach up into the far reaches of Lancashire.
Having set off with my parents, who fancied a day out on the West fun bus, I arrived at just about 11am at The Bowling Green in Chorlton Green just around the corner from the club’s Brookburn Road ground. After taking seats on the coach, along with Dan Watkinson who I’d enticed into coming along to (though he may have been regretting it at this point, as the rain became heavier, we were setting off in the driving rain at about 11.30.
After travelling along the motorway’s and A-roads, we turned down some, fantastically advised by satnav, tight, winding country lanes and past some cows who looked startled (or whatever cows do when surprised) to see a coach trundling past. Anyway, we pulled down a small access road signed “Barnoldswick Cricket & Football Club” which led to the ground and it’s car park.
After running to the shelter of the ground through puddles the size of Lake Geneva, a West player exclaimed to me “It’s a great day for it isn’t it?!”. I told him I didn’t envy him one bit, but I was thinking there may not be a game if this rain continued. The pitch was in great condition, however, and there was to be zero problems with rain or anything else.
Sitting in the clubhouse, a Barlick committee guy came round collecting entrance fees sue (£5) and I was kindly given a programme by a West official. The players were all still milling around at his point, and the rain had begun to abate by the time they exited towards the changing rooms, ready for the warm-ups. The clubhouse itself is warm and smart, with hark-backs to their history adorning the walls and mirrors emblazoned with the name “Barnoldswick United”. More on that a little later. After buying a Smirnoff Ice, I sat with the aforementioned travelling support before my parents decided to head off into the town, a short distance away, to sample the local entertainments. I declined, due to the return of heavy rain. Softie, I know!
Looking through the clubhouse windows which overlook the pitch, I noticed three stands. Two seated stands, one which also houses the tunnel and changing rooms, sit on either side of the clubhouse & toilets. Another, a fantastic stone built covered terrace adorns the right hand side of the pitch, where the dugouts are also situated. Opposite this is a fence, which splits the cricket and football fields, and the opposite end to the clubhouse which West’s Rob McKay likes to call the “garage end” (due to the slight raised area leading to a garage) features hard standing.
Barnoldswick Town F.C. were only founded in 2003, as a result of a merger between existing clubs, Barnoldswick United & Barnoldswick Park Rovers. The sports complex in which the Silentnight Stadium is situated is known as Victory Park. Barnoldswick had played amateur football up until 2009-10, when they were elected to the North West Counties (NWCFL) after finishing 6th in their West Lancashire League Premier Division. The club have only had floodlights since their last West Lancs season in 2009, and were promoted immediately from Division 1 of the NWCFL, and after an initial strong season in the Premier Division, their challenge has faded of late. Last season, the club finished in 16th place in the NWCFL Premier Division.
With the weather now set fair, the game kick-off and West took the lead through a superb 20-odd yard free kick from Scott Mason. Even better was, as the free-kick was being lined-up, Dan pulled his phone out and said confidently, “I’m just going to film the goal!”.
The lead lasted half an hour, when James Gill equalised from close range, before just three minutes later, the Barlick right-back needlessly fouled a West attacker and was given his marching orders. Rick Gleave converted the penalty to give West their lead back and Jerome Bryson had a goal ruled out for offside, but 10-man Barlick hit back before the break,Joel Melia being played in on the right, and firing across ‘keeper Jordan Hitchen.
Half-time, 2-2 it stood, and I’d just finished off a wonderful pasty, peas and gravy (with real crockery!) and for the second half, I decided the stone stand had to be the place to watch from. As did half the crowd when the rain returned, but by then even the cricketers had gotten underway. Rain?, pah!
Anyway, West dominated the second period against their hosts, with Gleave again scoring after good work on the right flank by Bryson presented him the chance, before winger Bryson himself wrapped up the win with 15 minutes left to cap a fine individual display.
After the game, all people and non-league dogs made their way to the clubhouse and handed out congratulations and commiserations to whichever side they happened to be supporting. After a while, and with rain returning to the skies once again, we departed the friendly club, and I have no hesitation in saying I’ll be returning at some point in the future. I really did find everyone there welcoming and open, which is why I, personally, enjoy Counties football more than any other level.
We remained in the Bowling Green for drinks on our return, before returning home with a curry in hand. A day doesn’t end much better than that!!
So, the Manchopper competitive season is once again underway who knows where I’ll end up in the coming months and what I’ll end up doing there!! Bring it on!
My Barnoldswick Town M.o.M.- Joel Melia
My West Didsbury & Chorlton M.o.M.- Mark Rogers.
Game: 8- A good, entertaining end to end game, a great advert for non-league.
Ground: 8- Smart, and characterful, one that should be on your list should you venture up this way.
Fans: 7- A friendly, fair bunch and knowledgeable as well, which is always a good combination.
Programme: 6- A good effort for a Counties programme, and for £1, you can’t complain (mine was free)
Food: 9- Really good quality pasty, peas and gravy. think it was £2.50 (?), but well worth it.
Value For Money: 7- Good value overall, £5 entrance. around £5 refreshment and £1 programme.
Referee: 8- A good game for this ref, imo, though some Barlick fans felt harshly treated. For me, though, he handled it all very well.