Result: Nelson 0-1 Congleton Town (NWCFL Premier Division)
Venue: Victoria Park (Saturday 26th March 2016, 3pm)
Yet another weekend that began in some doubt with regard to just where I would find myself ending up for the Easter Saturday game. With the weather throwing up a few storms over the country, the forecast leading up to the game at Nelson looked less than helpful to ensuring the game would go ahead. But, after a quick check with the club on twitter, I was given some hope and decided to risk the trip to Lancashire.
After heading into Warrington, it would be at Bank Quay station where my journey from hell would begin in earnest. After a 14 minute delay in Cheshire, my train eventually pulled in and got us on the way towards my next stop off in Preston, where I then had a 15 minute wait for the train onwards to Nelson. Not too bad you’d think. But you haven’t heard about this train then being cancelled due to a door deciding it didn’t want to shut and thus meaning an hour’s delay. What a shame Northern Rail are to soon be gone…
Anyway, luckily the Preston Hero station pub came to my rescue along with a bottle of Birra Moretti, which kept me sane for the rest of my wait. Eventually, the clock ticked on towards 1pm and so I made my way over to the platform where I would be finally able to begin the final leg of the trip. This, I pondered, is why I set off early to games now.
Soon enough I was on the Northern service bound for Colne and was heading there via every possible town and village on the way. Seriously, even stations like Cherry Tree and Burnley Barracks were visited as we trundled slowly on towards my detraining. It did come as some relief to finally see the signs at the Nelson Interchange and to get out of the recycled bus and onto the soil of the Red Rose county.
First stop was the grand looking Station Hotel which sits, unsurprisingly, next to the station. With not too long to wait in here, I quickly finished off my Kronenbourg before heading through the streets of Nelson towards Victoria Park, which I had last visited no less than 8 years ago when watching Trafford on their way to the Counties title. But today I would be there as a neutral, and after heading through an underpass under the motorway, I followed some Congleton fans down a small entry which spewed us out right at the turnstiles. Easy! Entry paid and I was in.
Victoria Park hasn’t changed really from what I could recall, with it still housing its one stand on the far side. The stand houses both seating and terracing, with the small amounts of terrace flanking the seating on both sides. Behind both goals is open standing, though the far end houses the changing rooms and clubhouse, complete with one row of seats, and a few other huts. The near side is also open and houses the dugouts.
After a quick visit to the clubhouse to purchase a programme, for a slightly pricey £2 considering the overall content (though thanks to the guy in there who helped me locate them due to my absolute blindness), and a steak and kidney pie for around £2.50 (much more worth the price) it was almost time for the game to begin as both sides’ players entered the cosy tunnel. But first, the history of Nelson FC for you lucky folk…
Nelson FC was formed in 1881 and became founder members of the Lancashire League in 1889, their first silverware coming in the shape of the Hospital Cup (1889, ’92). They became champions in 1896 but folded just three years later. However, just two seasons later, Nelson returned and rejoined the Lancashire League for one season, before heading for the Lancashire Combination Division 1. After three seasons, Nelson were relegated, but immediately bounced back.
After WWI, the club reformed and joined the Central League in 1919. After two seasons they became founder members of the Football League’s Division 3 North, with their first game (vs Wigan Borough) attracting 9,000 fans. 1923 saw Nelson win the Division and with it promotion to Division 2. In preparation, the club travelled to Spain where they became the much heralded first team from England to defeat the mighty Real Madrid.
This, though, didn’t prove a good omen for the season to follow, as the Admirals were relegated (despite beating both Manchester Utd and eventual champions Leeds Utd). Back in Division 3 North, Nelson attracted their record crowd (14,143 vs Bradford PA in 1926) and reached the FA Cup Second Round the next year. After being re-elected once after finishing bottom in 1928, the club weren’t as lucky in 1931 as they finished bottom but saw them replaced in the League by Chester City. Following a stint back in the Lancashire Combination, the club folded again in 1936.
After a quick reform as Nelson Town, the club joined the local Nelson & Colne League for the ’36-’37 season and were due to take a place in the West Lancashire League for 1939, only for the start of WWII to halt the sport. After being reformed following the war, the club were back in the Lancs Combination and won it and the Lancs Combination Cup in 1950. They won the latter again in 1951 as well as again reaching the second round of the FA Cup for the third time. 1952 saw another League title won and the decade was rounded out with wins in the Lancashire Cup (1955) and the Lancs Combination Cup (’59-’60).
1966 saw Nelson relegated to Division 2 of the Lancs Combination, which lost most of its clubs to the Northern Premier League in 1968, though Nelson remained in the league until the founding of the North West Counties League, when the Admirals became founder members in 1982 and joined the short lived Division 3. After it was scrapped in 1988, Nelson played in Division 2, but problems with Victoria Park meant the club were forced to drop to the West Lancashire League for four years until 1992.
After re-joining the NWCFL in ’92, the club won the Division 2 trophy in 1997 and in 2006 were finally promoted to Division 1 after finishing 3rd, the club’s first promotion for 83 years. 2008 saw the club avoid relegation due to events off the pitch. 2010 saw Nelson resign from the league but returned for the 2011-’12 season and were promoted back to the, now named, Premier Division in 2014. Last season saw Nelson finish in a solid 11th place.
The game got underway after the usual pre-match pleasantries and both sides traded early blows, the away side having the best of the chances with a goal-bound effort being blocked on the line following an error by Nelson ‘keeper Davis, who looked a little shaky early on, but seemed to settle down as the game went on, as proven when he pulled off the first of a number of good saves, denying Brian Matthews’ effort with his right foot.
But, he was to beaten a few minutes later when the referee awarded , in my opinion, a rather harsh penalty for handball as the ball reared up on the defender straight off the pitch and struck his arm. Still, it was Matthews who stepped up and drilled the ball low into the corner. 0-1.
There was also a small scuffle not too long after the goal, involving a couple of players from each side, over not very much. But then came the best moment of it as the referee steamed over and unleashed the loudest voice I’ve ever heard on a football pitch. It was definitely something you notice and it was little surprise that everyone stopped and did exactly that!
Despite the efforts of the Admirals’ Nathan Taylor, who I thought was brilliant in midfield, not much else happened after the goal, and the half fizzled out until the break. The half-time came and went with little to note, so straight onto the second half then and it was Nelson who were the dominant force as the half went on and they somehow contrived to miss an almost open net, when the ball was played to the striker a few yards out, but his touch eluded him at the vital time and after a short scramble, the Bears keeper claimed.
Then came the rain. Lots of rain. The sort of rain that brings up Ollie Williams “IT’S RAINING SIDEWAYS!” thoughts. But, this did little to stop the game, and as the pitch became more slippery, so more chances began to present themselves. Indeed, history repeated itself down the other end as a corner saw a goalmouth scramble after the ball slipped from the ‘keeper’s grasp and somehow the ball was cleared off the line and eventually cleared when it looked a certain goal.
To be honest, that’s the last I really took any notice of as the rain began to take most people’s attention off the field of play, although one guy got steadily more frustrated by Nelson’s inability to shoot on target and began to shout numerous “useless *insert obscenity here* at any spurned chance. The last real chance of the game fell to Congleton, but Scott Sephton’s low drive evaded all in the box and the far post, but this mattered little as the Bears held on to win.
So, it was back to Nelson station and with the rain abating somewhat, I was able to make it back without being swept away. After a short wait, it was back on the bus…er, train to Preston and onwards back to Manchester and home, with the highlight coming on the last leg of the journey. This was a quote that I hadn’t heard before and reckon I won’t hear again. Here it is… “I know it wasn’t great, but its not often a guy walks on with his penis hanging out!”. Absolutely no idea what happened there and I’m not sure I want to either.
I eventually arrived home in time to catch the majority of the Germany-England game, where the English did the usual to fill everyone with false hope before, of course, returning to the usual performance against the Dutch (which has just ended as I write this). Anyway, enough of international friendlies, there’s Cheshire League action on the horizon….
Game: 7- Decent game and should have been more goals.
Ground: 5- Nice ground, but not too much to it. (Point deducted for the term “Little Wembley”!)
Fans: 6- No real reason, and indeed I think the rating system is ending this season for fans
Food: 8- Pie was very nice, not that this was a surprise!
Programme: 5- Average issue but had worse.
Value For Money: 6- Not a bad day overall and nice to revisit Nelson after so long.