Venue: West View, Brian Boys Stadium (Saturday 11th April 2015, 3.00pm)
This game had been a long time in coming and in planning. Bacup had been somewhere that had been within my range for a while, but I had never actually managed to ever reach the place. However, having seen that one of the sides I watch on a regular basis, Maine Road, were visiting there and it was in a month where the weather was more likely to be decent, why not get it done?
Despite hearing some less than pleasant stories about Bacup, I approached it with an open mind, and was soon heading into Manchester on the train, before a quick walk up to Piccadilly Gardens for a quick switch over to Manchester Victoria. It was in Piccadilly that I was to meet Dan Watkinson, who I had convinced to tag along despite his protestations regarding his memories of Bacup, more the town itself than the ground. I think.
Anyway, after a short wait at Victoria and a 12 minute train ride into Rochdale, it was onto the final leg from Dale up to the most northern spot on the SystemOne map, Bacup south street, which is around a half-hour bus ride from the town. As we continued the journey, Dan kept trying to convince me it wasn’t too late to go to AFC Darwen, but I was having none of it. Was it to be a smart decision? Find out later on…
So, after arriving in good time, we made the short walk from the town centre to the ground at West View. The town is far from a bustling place with many shops shut down or in the process of, but as you approach the ground itself, the visions change and the surroundings are far more pleasant, especially so in the sunshine, which was still warm-ish despite the wind. It was then that we came across the hill leading up to the ground, which resembles more of a launch pad than a road it’s that steep. Indeed, on the way back down, you end up running down the hill if you don’t hold onto the handrails available!
After turning onto the brilliantly named Cowtoot Lane, we made our way down the small alley way which leads to the gate/turnstile. Here, we parted with £2 on regard of our passes and made our way inside the rural-looking Brian Boys Stadium, the home of Bacup & Rossendale Borough, as they are currently known. The ground is a quintessential Counties ground. The stands are clearly well used, especially the one down the far end, and the Main Stand is all seater, but is only relatively small. Though, taking into consideration today’s attendance, that wasn’t likely to matter too much. The far side has a small covered terrace area, with the ground itself bordered by farmer’s fields and walls.
You enter from behind a goal, which is also neighboured by the clubhouse and food hut and has a patio area out front with a table. It was here that we were to base ourselves for the majority of the game. The ground has a reported capacity of 3,000, though I think you’d struggle to fit them all in. Bacup have been in existence for a fair few years under their differing guises, and here is the story of them so far….
The club was formed back in 1875 under the brilliant name of Bacup Baldies. Upon Barrow’s resignation from the Lancashire League in 1893, Bacup replaced them, took their fixtures on, but finished bottom. They left the league for a time in 1898 before re-joining in 1901. They became founder members of the Lancashire Combination in 1903-’04, competing in Division 2. After finishing 6th in 1911, they were promoted to Division One, and won the Lancashire Junior Cup. The following season saw Bacup relegated and after three more seasons of struggle in Division 2, they resigned in 1915 before re-joining once again in 1920, now under the name of Bacup Borough. Up to WWII, their best finish was third, coming in 1929-’30.
In 1946-’47, they were champions of the Lancashire Combination, but just two seasons later, they finished bottom and were relegated back to Division 2. Here they remained until 1955, when promotion again put them in Division 1. They remained here for the rest of the League’s existence, finishing runners-up in 1973, missing out on the title on goal difference and were beaten finalists in the last ever Lancashire Combination Cup as they were beaten by famous Lancastrian club, Caernarfon Town, 3-1 over two legs.
In 1982, Bacup became founder members of the North West Counties, and were placed in Division 3. This lasted just four seasons before being absorbed into Division 2. In 1990, they were promoted to Division 1 as runners-up, but were relegated in 1995. They were losing finalists in the 2001 Division 2 Cup, before being promoted again in 2003 as Division 2 champions, their first major honour for 56 years, and followed this success up the next season by lifting NWCFL Challenge Cup over Newcastle Town.
In 2011-’12, Bacup lifted the NWCFL League Challenge Cup again by beating Maine Road, today’s opposition of course, 5-0 at Curzon Ashton, in a game I attended but again struggled in the league. This was their last success as Bacup Borough before adding the “and Rossendale” suffix due to the demise and lack thereof of a “semi-pro” side within the valley. Last season saw the club only reprieved from relegation due to happenings in other leagues after they finished in 21st place.
Back onto today’s game now, and there wasn’t much to write home about, bar the goals in the first half. The first, scored by Road’s Connor Hughes, was quite something. Hughes picked up the ball on the half-way line before delivering a Beckham-esque lob into the net. 1-0.
Soon after, Bacup were level, as on loan striker Dominic Marie diverted a cross-cum-shot past Road’s Ryan Livesey to send his side in at the break on terms. This was made somewhat of a shaky situation as they has their #5 and captain sent off for a tangle with a Road forward. But, as last man, the ref was well within his rights to send off the defender. The resultant free-kick was a non event, and the sides headed in for the break.
As such, I ordered some chips from the hut which were priced at £1.50 (if memory serves me correct) and weren’t bad. I’ve had better this season, but certainly nothing to make complaints come forth. Anyway, soon after it was the second half, which was a largely tightly fought affair, which saw some in the crowd head inside instead for the 2015 Grand National and during the time the race was run, there was nothing that those individuals had missed. Indeed, it seemed as though the players’ minds were more likely at Aintree than at Bacup at that time!
As the match drew to it’s conclusion, Bacup hit the crossbar with an effort from near half-way themselves and both sides had late chances to win it, Road’s #9 missing a golden opportunity from 12 yards against the now 9-man Borough, who’d had their #9 sent off for a second bookable offence. But, it was Borough who almost won it at the death as the ball fell to a striker at the back post, but his shot was well charged down by ‘keeper Livesey, who ensured his side a point, which was, on balance, the fair result on the day.
Dan couldn’t wait to head back towards home, as is his mindset about Bacup, though he did concede the ground was a fair bit nicer than he had remembered (though it had been about 5 years since his last visit). Also, my outlook on the ground was it was one of those old, rickety ones that you either like or hate. For me, it was the former. I do like these grounds. I find them characterful and more appealing than any of the modern stadia in general.
Anyway, a short walk of about 10 minutes, for arguments sake, later and we were back at the bus stop, just as our lovely carriage pulled in to take us back to Dale. This was just the beginning of a dream ride back, which included a woman looking at the front of a bus, walking back to the driver, asking “Halifax?”, getting the direction to the Yorkshire bound service before making her way off. Now, if this bus had displayed “Not In Service” or something, then this would have been fair enough, but the fact that it had Rawtenstall displayed clearly on the front makes this quite the faux pas! Wrong county!
After this and walking past the unfortunately named “Gym’ll Fix It!” gymnasium, we rocked up at Rochdale station just as the stopper service back to Victoria was pulling in. Then, after arriving back in Manchester via the sights of Oldham and Moston, it was a quick sprint over from Market Street, where I bid goodbye to Aldi-bound Dan (other shops are available) before making it to Deansgate with a couple of minutes to spare for my connection back. Taking into account the traveline page had given me an arrival time of 8pm when I had researched the trip on the previous evening, needless to say, I was rather happy at getting back home at 6.30!
So, another ground nearer to completion on the North West Counties grounds trail, with only Eccleshall and possibly Hanley providing some trickiness for the ones left, and probably one of the nicer days to visit the valley. Bacup, in my opinion, is worth a visit, if not just for the scenery and cardio workout! The welcome and people are friendly, as are the dogs. Dexter is my new Lancastrian canine pal!
My Bacup & Rossendale Borough M.o.M.- Dominic Marie
My Maine Road M.o.M.- Ryan Livesey
PS: DARWEN vs NFV was 5-4 so…..
Game: 5- Not the best, both sides struggled to get going in truth.
Ground: 6- Certainly splits opinion, so make up your own mind!
Fans: 4- Not many fans to speak of today, with most in the bookies I think!
Programme: N/A- Sadly none available….
Food: 6- Not bad, had better but not moaning!
Value For Money: 8- Just £6.60 travel, £2 in (on pass) and £1.50 food) Oh, plus £1 raffle ticket for Easter Eggs. I didn’t win….DAMN!!