Result: AFC Blackpool 1-3 West Didsbury & Chorlton (NWCFL Premier Division)
Venue: The Mechanics, Jepson Road (Saturday 25th April 2015, 3pm)
It was a decent morning in Manchester as I left my house and headed in my way up to Chorlton for my coach pick-up point and to join the West Didsbury & Chorlton side on their journey up to the seaside. It was to be my second trip to the seaside town of Blackpool in a few weeks, after my Easter Saturday visit to Squires Gate, the club who lie just across the road from the “other” Tangerine side in the town.
As it was, AFC Blackpool have been on my list to visit for some time before the opportunity of today’s game and the pure ease of travelling bought me into embarking and finally visiting the Mechanics ground. So, it was at around 12.15 and in the midst of a sudden deluge on Chorlton Green, that I arrived at the Bowling Green Inn, rather sodden and was joined on the coach by Dan Watkinson, who was also making his first visit to the club, having been to Gate 5 times before, he told me.
So, after around an hours journey, including getting a little lost at the end of it, we pulled into a windswept Jepson Road, which stands at the foot of the runway at Blackpool Airport., amongst the hangar spaces and workshops, giving it a somewhat unique backdrop. After being given a somewhat humorous run around in pursuit of a programme (priced at a cheap £1), we headed for the sanctuary of the clubhouse, out of the wind and occasional rain showers that were now drifting across the pitch.
Dan took advantage of a vacated plug socket to charge his iPhone, before it was time for an early lunch, I purchased chips and gravy, whereas Dan opted for a pie of some assortment. Both were of good quality, and mine was certainly worth the £1.20 price tag. Soon after the completion of the meal, it was time for the kick-off and we headed outside to find the seats most sheltered from the gale. The Mechanics is an old style ground, with a stand on all four sides. Behind both goals are covered terraces, with the far end featuring the larger of the two, and both touchlines featuring covered seating, with the near side stand housing the clubhouse and changing rooms building directly behind it/adjoining it. The far touchline houses a somewhat rickety-looking stand with a couple of rows of tangerine seats within.
Each stand was rather sparsely populated today, despite a few vocal Blackpool FC fans in attendance for the game, continuing their “Oyston Out” songs throughout the game! Before the review of the game though, a trip into the past of AFC Blackpool….
Founded in 1947, AFC Blackpool began life as Blackpool Metal Mechanics before dropping the “metal” part of their name soon after. The club initially played at the Stanley Park Arena before moving to their current Jepson Road home. They initially competed in local Fylde Coast leagues, winning the Fylde & District League Division 2 in 1951, achieving promotion to Division 1, which was won twice during the club’s tenure. Before the end of the decade, the club won a first Lancashire Amateur Shield in 1958, before joining the West Lancashire League a year later.
Their first season ended with a runners-up spot, before winning the 1961 title and Shield double. They successfully defended their League title the following season, before joining the Lancashire Combination in 1962, competing in Division 2. There was little success gained in this league, bar he 1974-’75 Lancashire Combination Bridge Shield. 1975 was the club’s best finish, runners-up to Darwen, before they became founder members of the North West Counties League, competing92 in Division 3, which was won in 1985-’86, with the Mechanics gaining promotion to Division 2. They had a brief spell in the top flight of the NWCFL following promotion in 1992, but were soon relegated back to Division 2 the following season.
Here they remained until 2011, when they won the Division 1 (renamed in 2008), achieving promotion to the Premier Division where they remain. This came after a 2005 merger with Lytham St.Anne’s FC and a 2008 merger with Squires Gate Juniors. Upon the latter, the club changed its name to the current one, after approval from Blackpool FC.
After a few seasons of solid mid-table finishes, this season has seen the club stave off relegation, finishing just above the drop zone in 18th place.
So, with both clubs lying in the lower reaches of the table, though with a fair gap in points, the game was all about pride. West, whose manager, Andy Nelson, is handing over the reigns at the end of the current season, began the game on the front foot, though it was a tight opening half-hour or so. However the deadlock was broken just before the 30 minutes mark, when Dave Short was released before unleashing a vicious drive into the roof of the net from 20+ yards. A cracking finish.
Dan and myself went on a lap of the ground, past the ever more drunken BFC contingent who were dishing out some “banter” to the West GK, but there was little to shout about for either side, whose efforts were being lessened by the conditions, somewhat. It remained 1-0 at the break, and with the food already eaten, it was a simple time to warm up!
It wasn’t long, though, until everyone was back outside to brave the cold, with West Didsbury still looking the better of the sides, and the more likely to score the next goal, which they did, from the spot. A rather brainless tackle in the area, with no danger looming, gifted the visitors the chance to double their lead. Scott Mason stepped up and confidently fired past the GK, Adam Caunce. 0-2, and it looked over bar the shouting, if the previous hour was anything to go by.
Blackpool, though, were handed a lifeline with 10 minutes remaining, when an optimistic effort from Ben Duffield looped up off a West player’s boot and looped over the stranded Paul Hughes and into the net. The goal seemed to excite the Blackpool FC fans, and one, not-so-athletic fan decided to unleash his upper body for all to see and run on the pitch. It wasn’t a great sight!
At 2-1 it was game on, it seemed. Well it was, but only for 7 minutes. Sub Kieran Brocklehurst tapped in at the back post to seal a last day win for the visitors.
So, after a short wait in the clubhouse, which included free cake(!!!) it was off to the coach after being wished a safe journey and all. I have to say that the people at Squires Gate were very hospitable, but those at AFC are just as much a friendly and welcoming lot. A true credit to those involved.
The coach journey home (which was FREE I hasten to add!) involved a keg of Krombacher, a stop off in the Bowling Green back at Chorlton, before heading back into Urmston where we watched the end of the cricket in a pub. Then it was onto a curry, though this didn’t go all that well, and it was off home, where I bid a goodnight to Dan after a long, eventful and slightly messy day. This is becoming the norm and I’m getting worried…..
My AFC Blackpool M.o.M.- Adam Caunce
My West Didsbury & Chorlton M.o.M.- Matt Eckersley
Game: 7- Decent enough, especially in the conditions.
Ground: 7- Nice ground, like the old-style of it.
Food: 7- Pretty decent, well worth the price
Programme: 4- Light on content, but at least there was one! Especially with my record of late!
Fans: 6- Friendly, and the Blackpool lot added humour with the hardly athletic pitch invasion!
Value For Money: 10- There and back for free, how can it not be top marks, and a good day in full.