Result: Radcliffe Borough 3-1 Kendal Town (Evo-Stik NPL First Division North)
Venue: Stainton Park (Saturday 31st January 2014, 3.00pm)
With my first, second and third choice games being called off at Eagle Sports, Urmston Town & East Manchester as I searched for a cheap option for a football match this chilly Saturday, the last of January 2015, I admitted defeat and gave in to the fact that I was going to have to look up the leagues a little. I was soon left with three options. Trafford, Radcliffe Borough or Salford City. As the former fell, it was to Stainton Park, home of the Boro’, that I set off for with the bail out point at Moss Lane being available in case of any late call offs, which seem in vogue at the moment.
I was meeting with my usual accomplice Dan Watkinson in Piccadilly Gardens, though I did anage to walk past him before he alerted me to his presence. So, now in situ, we set off on the short walk over to Shudehill Interchange where we would catch the 98 up to Radcliffe.
Around 45 minutes later, we arrived on the edge of the large open expanse which sits in the middle of the estate that surrounds the ground. I hadn’t been aware of just how easy it was to get to the ground previously, but once I had seen on Maps that it was just across the road that I would be dropped off, it made the choice so much easier.
Dan and myself then made our way past the “RBFC Physiotherapy” sign that stands on the entrance to the adjoining car park at Radcliffe’s home before making our way to the turnstile where we were relieved of the £7 entrance fee plus a further £1.50 for the prog..magazine. It has to be one of the largest in current football Radcliffe’s “Boro Magazine”! After politely declining a golden goal ticket, I was nonetheless directed towards the warmth of the clubhouse by the chilly, yet jovial, man who was stationed in the biting wind selling the tickets. Once inside, we picked up a teamsheet that was available on the table top in the building before turning to see what appeared to be severed heads positioned on a table along with other items near an image of Kevin Keegan!
Was this some sort of offering to the ex-England boss? No, it was a couple of mannequin heads sporting a pair of “fashionable” headwear. And Keegan? Turns out it was just his autobiography, not some sort of shrine.
Anyway, with the “Keegan Shrine” left behind we headed back outside just as the teams were emerging from the tunnel and onto the field of play. We had pre-arranged that it was best to get the lap of the ground out of the way early. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 3,500 capacity Stainton Park, it is quite a nice ground with the side that you enter from being occupied by the clubhouse/dressing rooms, a kebab hut, and a truncated covered terrace, that used to run the whole remainder of the touchline but now only provides cover down the far end. Behind the far goal is an open raised terrace that offers decent views and the far side is hard standing, with bars to lean on. The near (pond) end goal is where the “Main Stand” is situated. This is a smart-looking all seater stand, though it does seem to be missing a few rows at the moment. Indeed there are a couple dotted around here and there. There is another food outlet, inside the clubhouse which was serving a homemade-style pie, peas and gravy for £3. More on that later on. For now, though, here is the history of “The Boro”.
Formed in 1949, Radcliffe Borough initially plied their trade in the South East Lancashire League where they won the Division 2 and 1 in successive seasons (1950-’51 & 1951-’52) paired with cup wins in the Bury Amateur League Cup (1950), three South Lancashire Cups (’51,’53,’55) & three South Lancashire Shields (’50,’51,’52). They then joined the Manchester League, winning two Gilgryst Cups (’58-’59 & ’61-’62) before joining the Lancashire Combination where they won the league cup in 1972 before being accepted intot he Cheshire County League (latterly North West Counties)in 1974.
In 1983, Boro’ won the Second Division in front of 1,468 (let that sink in) before lifting the First Division two seasons later, making the step up to the Northern Premier League. After ups and downs, the club began to cement its place, reaching the last 16 of the FA Trophy too, in 1996. The following season saw Radcliffe lift the NPL First Division title by two points from Leigh RMI. But, having spent all resource on meeting ground grading, the player budget suffered and the club lasted just one season at Premier Level before dropping back down.
2000 saw Radcliffe reach the First Round of the FA Cup where they lost 4-1 to York City at Gigg Lane before reaching the newly formed play-offs in season 2001-’02, losing out in the semis. After narrowly missing out on the title the following year, the club this time achieved promotion through the play-offs, beating North Ferriby United & Chorley in the semi & final respectively.
Back in the top-flight, the club struggled and finished in 19th and the relegation play-offs (remember them?. They remained in the Premier Division until 2007 when they were relegated to the new First Division North where they remain to this day. Last season, the Boro’ finished up in a lowly 18th place after fighting relegation for the majority of the season and during the week before this game, manager Paul McGuire left by “mutual consent” and replaced by Bill Prendergast. Today was his first game in charge of the side, however the programme still featured an interview with “Manager Paul McGuire”. Ooooh, awkward…..
They have had the likes of Nick Culkin (the shortest ever Manchester United senior career), Craig Dawson(WBA & England u-21), Matt Derbyshire (journeyman) Chris Makin (Southampton) and Darren Sheridan (Barnsley).
Back to on-field matters now and after finishing up our early walk around, Dan and I took up our places in the Main Stand behind the goal, guarded this first half by the Kendal GK. He was almost caught out early on by the swirling wind, and his reprieve was only temporary as Radcliffe struck first. Striker Bevan Burey’s initial effort was saved well, the rebound half stopped before being cleared off the line. The clearance, however, smashed into the back of another defender, the rebound falling to Sam Fitzgerald who half-volleyed home. 1-0, and a good start for Prendergast.
The game remained an open affair, with Radcliffe on top for the most part, the referee doing a good job too, with little to no dissent towards him being a clear sign of his control over the game.
10 minutes before the break, the Cumbrian visitors were level. Ex-Crewe Alexandra man Jordan Connerton forced an effort that was well saved by Radcliffe custodian Chris Cheetham, but the ball fell to Reece Fishwick who calmly placed the ball into the ‘keeper-less net from outside the area. 1-1, and that’s how it remained until the break. To the pies!!!
The pie was good too, so it made up for my initial slight shock at £3 price, though considering it wasn’t your usual Hollands/Pukka offering, you can understand that. Well worth purchasing one when you visit, I can recommend it. And if you don’t believe me, then take the word of the man from Buxton who we spoke to at the bus stop awaiting the transport back to town. He too was impressed, going as far as to say it was “one of the best I’ve had for a long time”.
Pie matters over for now, and back onto the game. Again, it was Radcliffe who were the dominant force, looking to impress their new manager. Chris Mason spurned a great chance to give his side the advantage when he was presented with a one-on-one opportunity against Kendal’s on-loan Fleetwood Town ‘keeper Liam Bleeker, who pulled off a terrific save to tip the ball wide. But, Radcliffe were not to be denied. Just after the hour, Sam Cook this time finishing a chance of similar fashion to Mason’s, giving Bleeker no chance.
Radcliffe were then awarded a penalty by the referee, who then changed his decision following a discussion with his assistant who said the ball had been won. I had to say, it looked a penalty from where we were sitting, but I don’t know for sure. Kendal pressed on in the last 20 minutes, but struggled to fashion chances, whereas Boro’s Dave Sherlock smashed the post with a free-kick.
In the 93rd minute of 94, Radcliffe countered swiftly and sub Ashford Blake coolly strode clear, rounded Bleeker and rolled the ball home. 3-1. Game over. Radcliffe fan Mark Keohane had introduced himself to me just before this third goal too, and confirmed that, to his eyes, it was indeed a penalty that should have stood earlier on. But, it wasn’t to be too controversial, as Blake saw to that. Good to meet you, Mark.
So, myself and Dan made our way back to the bus stop where we had our non-league chat with our new acquaintance from Derbyshire, before boarding the bus back to Shudehill, but not before someone had been caught out by that Lionel Messi vine. On full blast. If you know what I’m on about, you can probably guess the lad’s embarrassment!
After arriving back home, I joined my parents for a couple of drinks and a curry before meeting some…less than reputable characters… as well. All in all, a fun day at a good ground, one that is definitely better as a neutral than I remembered as a biased fan! Radcliffe seem a good club and I hope they continue their upturn in form.
My Radcliffe Borough M.o.M.- Bevan Burey
My Kendal Town M.o.M.- Gregg Johnstone
Game: 8- An entertaining contest.
Ground: 7- As I said, better as a neutral.
Fans: 6- They’ve lost the ultras! Those that remain seem a good bunch, though!
Food: 9- Very worthwhile purchase!
Programme: 7- Lots of original content. Out of date, but can’t hold that against them.
Value For Money: 6- £5 travel, £7 entrance, £3 food and £1.50 programme. Not bad.