Result: Atherton LR 1-0 Daisy Hill (NWCFL First Division)
Venue: Crilly Park (Friday 13th February, 7.45pm)
Friday the 13th. Unlucky for some? Perhaps. But not for me, as this Friday signalled the half term holiday and thus a week off for me from the rigours of work. As means of celebration, what better way than to watch some Friday Night Football in the English 10th tier?
So, at just before six o’clock, I set off on the bus headed for the Trafford Centre where I would connect onwards on the 132 to Atherton. After a trouble free journey bar a touch of traffic, I arrived into Atherton whereupon I spotted a spoon-like shape disembarking into the night. It couldn’t be…could it? In all the excitement, I was distracted into getting myself lost within the darkened shadows and lanes of the town. Eventually, I found myself on a road which sounded fairly familiar to me, the superbly named Flapper Fold Lane. A quick check of Google Maps confirmed I was on the right heading, and so I was soon within sight of the floodlights, blazing out into the night. In fact, there looked to be a symbol in them, just like what Batman has. This one appeared to be a certain cutlery piece… (NB: This part is fiction, as if you didn’t know already…)
After a tour of the alleys surrounding the ground, I arrived at the turnstiles, where I handed over my £5 entrance fee, before returning soon after to purchase a programme after checking with Rob that he hadn’t picked me one up already. On my way back, I noticed a familiar outline in the stand. Was it the legendary “Football Spoon”? It was!
After having a chat about all things football with the Spoon, kick-off had crept up on us and the teams had headed onto the pitch for the contest. Crilly Park itself is a ground with much ramshackle charm to it. With its sloping pitch, from one end to the other, it’s comprised of two stands. One is a covered standing terrace on the far side, the other, the raised seating Main Stand, is flanked by, to the right, turnstiles and to the left, the clubhouse, dressing rooms and food hut all on the near touchline. Both ends are open, hard standing though the far end does feature a, seemingly abandoned, stand that now is used as a storage area. Crilly Park has a capacity of 3,000. Now onto the history of the club….
Established in 1956 as Laburnum Rovers, (the name taken from their original venue at Laburnum Playing Fields. After originally competing in the local Briarcroft Junior League and Leigh & District Leagues. They soon moved onto Hagfold Playing Fields and the Bolton Combination before, in 1965, the club applied to move onto the present site which was no more than a field at the time. On their last season at Hagfold, the club won the Bolton Combination Division Two and Division 2 Trophy (the latter for a second consecutive year) before moving onto their new home.
After joining the Cheshire County League in 1980, the club were required to include the town in the club’s name. Thus, Atherton Laburnum Rovers came to fruition. Just two years later, the club became founder members of the North West Counties League. Their first silverware under the new banner came in the form of the 1981 Westhoughton Charity Cup.
They were placed in the Division 2, and they remained here until 1992-’93, when they won the division and immediately swept through the Division One the following season signalling promotion to the Northern Premier League (NPL) Division One. During their time in Division Two, the club won the 1985 Bolton Hospitals Cup for the first time (winning it for a second time in 2002). They later reached the FA Vase Semi Finals, losing to Diss Town in a replay after defeating Aldershot Town in the Quarters.
After three seasons in the NPL, the club were relegated back to the NWCFL Division One. They won the 1999 Goldline Trophy but were relegated, amidst financial issues, the following season. However, they soon bounced back, winning the Division Two the following season.
After a Goldline Trophy/Bolton Hospitals Cup double in 2004, they became the first team to win successive Goldline Trophies as they retained the title via a 5-3 goal fest over Eagley at the Reebok. In fact, Eagley were the side vanquished on both occasions by the Yellow-clad team. This was the last silverware picked up by the club, who remain in the Premier Division (the rebranded Division One). Last season, the club finished in 8th place under Michael Clegg’s leadership, before he departed for rivals Atherton Collieries and Ross McNair took up the challenge.
Back onto the game then, and to be frank, there really isn’t much to talk about in the first period. It was a rather turgid affair with next to nothing in terms of chances. It would take a rather fluky goal to break the deadlock you felt, and that’s exactly what happened. From a corner, the ball was half cleared to the LR #2, Joe Fielding, whose cross drifted over visiting goalkeeper Peter Collinge and into the net via the angle of post and crossbar. That was 42 minutes in, and it was soon half-time and pie time.
A steak pie and some rather sad news regarding a well known black and white dog later, the second half was underway. Myself and Spoony went for an obligatory photography lap of the ground which included a story about Crook Town an their most famous son (it’s a terrific story containing Barcelona, West Auckland, A World Cup and the Peruvian National team) and me retrieving the ball for the Atherton ‘keeper who was unable to hurdle the fence behind his goal. He said this, not me!
The ‘keeper, Charlie Dorsey, made a few good saves to keep his side ahead and seemed determined to keep his clean sheet intact. Daisy Hill, in truth, never really looked truly threatening, though and indeed it was LR who almost added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time, when a player evaded the high backline and shot past Collinge only for the Daisy #4 to make an outstanding goal-line clearance. It was a terrific save by the centre-back, but it wasn’t to be a meaningful one in terms of the result as LR hung on for the narrowest of successes, the manager’s favourite. 1-0.
So, after a quick chat with the Counties Ian Williams we made our departure into the night and the short walk to Atherton Station for the journey back. On arrival at Salford Central, I said goodbye to Spoony who was off to meet his other half in town, whereas I am not taken up by the opposite sex and so am free to make my way back towards the City centre where I Had a half-hour to waste until my last leg of the journey home.
A good evening, with good company at Crilly Park. I had already visited the ground during its brief tenure playing host to Leigh Genesis in its final days as a senior club (it’s still going at Junior level), but can’t really tick it off until I’ve seen the home club play there (i.e.LR). So, it was akin to a new ground for me so I was quite pleased. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the “Crilly Park Review”, the match day programme of LR. It’s a thoroughly good issue and well worth a purchase, if not for the fact it only cost £1! Bargain!
So, it was to home, knowing that in 24 hours time, I would be setting off for my second game of the weekend, the FA Vase clash between Glossop North End and Dunston UTS. Join me then (in review form of course…)
My Atherton LR M.o.M.- Charlie Dorsey
My Daisy Hill M.o.M- Peter Collinge
Game: 5- Not a great game as a spectacle.
Ground: 6- A classic non-league ground. If you like them ramshackle, you’ll love it.
Fans: 8- Three flags and some vocal support (second half). We still remember the guy with the rattle though!
Food: 9- Top Steak pie, for £1.50. Really tasty, a little soft on top but I’m not that picky.
Programme: 7- Good content, and an enjoyable issue overall.
Value For Money: 8- pre paid tickets mean the day cost £9-ish overall. Superb!