Result: Penlake 9-0 Golborne Sports (Hallmark Security Cheshire League 1)
Venue: Sutton Leisure Centre (Saturday 23rd May 2015, 3pm)
Att: 40 (hc)
The penultimate weekend of the season signalled the penultimate game. A straight shoot out between two sides, Penlake & Walshaw Sports was decided when Walshaw’s gamewas switched to a 3G venue, thus leaving me with a trip towards St.Helen’s for a crucial game in the Cheshire League 1. Penlake, the home side, sat 11th out of 12 in the table and required no less than a win to stay up and send Warrington Town Reserves down instead. Golborne Sports provided the obstacle, looking to do their near neighbours a favour and put their opponents through the trap door.
Again, I was to be joined on another journey into the lower reaches of the English system by Dan Watkinson, who I was to meet at Manchester Oxford Road Station, for the train onwards to Newton-le-Willows. Whilst on the platform, we briefly met up with Trafford supporter Richard Parkinson, who was heading off to Southport for the Lancashire vs Derbyshire County Championship match. I’ve known Richard for a fair while now, and it’s always good to have a chat with him, however brief it may be, as a couple of minutes later, he departed off on his way towards the leather and willow. We, however, were on our way soon after, on the Llandudno-bound train.
After disembarking at the first stop on the route, it was soon onto a novelty of sorts, a comfortable Northern Electric train! How exciting. Dan, meanwhile, ended up meeting an old colleague, as you do, before we soon rolled into Lea Green station at just after 1.30. With loads of time to spare and with Sutton Leisure Centre, the venue for today’s game, just two minutes walk from the station, we decided to scout out the entry etc. first. After doing so and spotting the first players beginning to arrive in the car park, we decided to backtrack towards the pub, situated on the station approach.
Now inside the Bull & Dog, and with a, rather expensive, £3.70 Kopparberg in hand, we made our way over towards the tables and benches running along the far wall. Here, we were greeted with a voice calling “Well, you’ve just avoided the worst game in the history of football!”. The comment was made about the Dundee-Rangers game, which Rangers scraped through by a guy sitting next to us. It turned out that, he too, was heading to the Penlake game and informed us that there would probably be quite a few groundhoppers down at the game, himself being one. After a further conversation about Minor Counties cricket and football in general, we headed off in unison to the leisure centre. On arrival, you make your way through the car park, past a sign warning of “No Ball Games”, and past a large blue penguin which stands guard at the entrance to the facility itself. P-P-P-P-Penlake then!!! No? No? Okay then.
Once inside, our fellow hopper, whose name escapes me, came across a familiar face to him, by the name of Andy, who wished us luck in finding the entrance. Surprisingly, it was I who had the best of this, spotting the signs for the way to the Athletics Track, which surrounds the ground. After passing by the dressing rooms of the respective teams, both bearing the names of their previous inhabitants for a cup final, we headed outside and back into the sunshine of St. Helen’s. As stated above, the pitch itself is surrounded by an athletics track, though this matters little, as it seems to not affect the views too much. This is probably aided by the fact there is a grass banking which runs the length of the far touchline, before curving round behind the far goal, Curva Nord style. Behind both goals is open, with a pathway leading behind the “road end” and grass and bushes behind the far net. The near side touchline is where the hatch with a Slush Puppy Machine is situated, with a patio-like area providing views of the pitch. This is where you enter the barred-off pitch area from when you first exit the Leisure Centre.
The players soon followed us through the door, before carrying some “mobile” dugouts towards the touchline! The two sides awaited kick-off, whilst Golborne struggled to get up to 11, but once they did, we were all set to go. But before then, here is a bit of history about Penlake Football Club….
Penlake FC was formed in 1971, by the current club president, Chris Duffy, along with Eddie Guinness. The club, Penlake Juniors, as a whole, derives its name from the British Rail Club within Sutton Junction. The traditional name of the club’s home is The Beeches Playing Fields, which is part of the wider leisure centre on Sutton Road.
The club hosts age groups from under 7’s up to the open age side, and their claim to fame is being in the Guinness Book of Records. This was achieved in 1986, when the Penlake first team went on a 153 game unbeaten streak, which lasted for over five years. This record still stands to this day, and apparently makes Penlake Juniors the “Team of the Millennium! Not a bad title to hold! The club played just one season under the Penlake Juniors name in the Liverpool Combination, before dropping the suffix for the senior side. They continued in the league for a further two seasons, before dropping out of competition, it appears, in 2007. They returned, in the Cheshire League 2, in 2012, playing two seasons in that division, before gaining a place in the League 1 in 2014 as a result of the Cheshire League restructuring, after a ninth placed finish.
So, what would the Team of the Millennium have in store for us today then? Let’s find out….
The answer was fireworks! No, not literally, but figuratively speaking, they were on fire! After a rather even start to the game, the home side began to take control and it was no surprise that they struck first, with the Penlake #9, Alex Grisedale, being played in, before slotting in comfortably.
As we were undertaking a half-lap of the ground, taking pictures of many things including Dan’s foot, Grisedale grabbed his, and his side’s, second soon afterwards, when the striker hammered in an effort from inside the area off the underside of the bar and into the net. Great start for the relegation threatened side, who looked full of confidence and this was only enhanced before the break, when the #14, who started the game, again found the crossbar friend rather than foe, firing in off of the woodwork.
Half-Time came and went with a spot of sunbathing (unheard of, I know) being undertaken upon the grass banking which Dan and myself found as our vantage point of choice, and I’m sure Dan also took the opportunity for a few, not quite 40, winks. As for me, I found more than enough entertainment on the field, as Grisedale notched his hat-trick soon after the restart.
Then came the goal of the game. The #11 picked up the ball on the left wing, before unleashing a volley from 25 yards which flew past the GK, with the crossbar again helping the ball on its way. The sixth and seventh followed shortly afterwards, #11 nicking a less spectacular second, tapping in after #14 had been his shot well repelled by the Golborne GK, and Grisedale got his fourth, again smashing one past the beleaguered visiting goalkeeper, just as an Airbus Beluga flew over. Even the large cargo aircraft would struggle to hold the amount of goals today!
There was still time for Grisedale to become the league top scorer by grabbing a fifth goal, poaching one at the back post and lastly came substitute #12, who got inside the area before slotting it across the ‘keeper for #9. To add insult to an awful lot of injury, a comment from the crowd exclaimed “I don’t think he’s scored since he was 13!”.
If it wasn’t for an offside at 4-0, it would’ve been double figures and that wouldn’t have flattered Penlake at all, nor would it have been harsh on Golborne who were truly awful. True, they may have been light on numbers and playing for nothing but pride, but that doesn’t explain a 9-0 hammering against the side second bottom. Still, full credit to Penlake, who fully deserved their points.
As a result, the small band of Warrington fans went home slightly down, but I doubt they’d lose too much sleep. As for Dan and I, we headed back to the station, where we missed the first train back, but for me, this was for the best as the cancellation of a service was the one I’d have arrived for, therefore being left stranded. Happily, there was another in 20 minutes, so after wasting away the time with pointless conversation and the disturbing “Shrek is love, Shrek is Life” video, we soon set off for Victoria station and Dan again must have found me boring company as he once again visited the land of nod….
After arrival at Victoria, and Dan’s trouble with the ticket barriers there, we headed over to Piccadilly Gardens where I bid goodbye to Dan,who headed on his way home, whereas I walked on back to Oxford Road and parrived around about 10 minutes before my train home was due to depart. Perfect! A good day, at a nice venue and a very entertaining game, unless you hold a Golborne Sports point of view….
My Penlake M.o.M.- Alex Grisedale.
My Golborne Sports M.o.M.- The manager who was absent, referring to his many reporters on Twitter!
Game: 8- Entertaining, but very one sided.
Ground: 6- Athletics track a downside but, nonetheless, a very nice venue.
Fans: 6- Extra points for the comment above!
Value For Money: 9- Only downside was the dear-ish cider in the pub!