Result: Newman College 2-1 Bolton United (Mid-Lancashire League Premier Division)
Venue: BAC/EE Sports Club (Tuesday 26th April 2016, 6.45pm)
Att: 10 (hc)
After ticking off a couple of the “frequently passed on a train, but not yet visited” grounds earlier this month in the shape of Parrswood Celtic and Rylands, the somewhat unexpected opportunity to tick off the BAC/EE club in Preston presented itself a couple of weeks earlier. This came about after I had been researching if anyone played there still and came upon the Mid-Lancashire League and Newman College FC.
Having then seen that they were indeed using the club as their home ground, were playing this very Tuesday evening and trains back were relatively helpful, plans were made to head over to the Lancashire city. Of course, in late April the weather was due to be lovely and balmy wasn’t it?
NO, NO! No, it wasn’t, it was cold, it was wintry but it was sunny, so some silver lining there. Also, having disembarked at Preston Station after making the 40 minute trip from Manchester, it began the weather phenomena that I have christened as “snail”. Snail is when it’s not quite snow, but also not hard enough to constitute hail so put the two together and there you have it. Anyway, after braving the “snail” I took the path through the nearby Miller Park, close to the River Ribble, and soon arrived at the BAC/EE club to find the nets being prepared and the players arriving, so we had a game. Unlike at Aintree. Bastards.
After ensuring a car load of Bolton United players that there was a game on, there was still a good 35 minutes until kick-off and I didn’t particularly fancy hanging around for that length of time. Luckily there’s a pub by the name of The Continental just two minutes from the ground and so this would prove my temporary respite in the lead up to the game. In the shadow of the railway bridge on the approach to Preston and in the company of a pint of Amstel, I waited out the time before braving the weather and heading back over to the Sports grounds.
Upon re-arriving at the ground, I found the home team in something of a huddle, still awaiting their counterparts from Bolton, who soon joined them clad in a bright orange kit. Eventually, the match officials joined the teams on the field (the strange thing being there were linesmen in a league at a level they are rarely seen), but this was only the start of a few strange things to happen with the ref!
The BAC/EE club is basically a cricket pitch which just happens to have a football pitch on the outfield. The football pitch is barred off on two sides, with the far touchline being up alongside the houses and features a little hard standing towards the car park and is where both dugouts are located. The far goal at the river end and the side of the “square” are not barred off. The car park you enter through provides the other hard standing, behind the other goal. There are also a few of the cricket benches which provide seating too, which is rather helpful!
Eventually, after the officials had undertaken a lap of the ground and reminded the groundsman to put the pins in the net, we were ready to go. We got underway with both sides trading early chances, but with little to choose between them. Indeed, it was a tight affair throughout the first half after the opening minutes and it took a defensive error from the visitors to provide the opener.
Around 20 minutes or so into the game, the ball was played into the Bolton United defence. An attempted ball across the back four was intercepted by Newman’s #9, Richard Lemon, and the striker took his time before confidently finishing beyond the goalkeeper. 1-0.
After this, the game continued to be an easily watchable one, with both teams providing some good play despite being faced by low sunlight. Bolton really should have been level before the break, with a close range shot being well saved by the Newman goalkeeper and #7 going close to sliding in a low ball across the six-yard box, but it just evaded his boot. After a 50-minute first half for no apparent reason, the ref finally brought the first period to a halt at 1-0.
After just a four minute half-time we were back playing swiftly, with the time reading 19.44. Play close attention to that! With Bolton now playing away from the setting sun, they seemed to take the advantage from Newman for the vast majority of the second half, but couldn’t find a way to force themselves back level.
They did have a couple of close calls, the closest being with around 25 minutes to play when the ball found its way to a Bolton player around 20 yards out. His low shot seemed destined for the bottom corner, destined enough in fact for one of the Bolton bench to declare “It’s in that!” only for Newman’s ‘keeper to pull off another fine save with his fingertips to keep his side ahead.
Just as it looked like it was inevitable that United would find the equaliser, Newman began to mount an attack and eventually the ball found its way to the feet of their #4, Sam Swarbrick, who crashed his shot beyond the helpless ‘keeper for 2-0. With 5 to play (it seemed), it was all over, but the action continued with…shall we say a “verbal disagreement”… on the Bolton bench providing some further happenings!
So, the clock ticked down past the 90 mark and to 93 minutes (20.33pm) and I decided that I wasn’t risking any further time and, to be honest, fancied getting home an hour earlier. So, off I headed back through the park on a jog back up to Preston station and the train back to Manchester (incidentally passing by the College’s Sports field on the rattler), comfortable enough in the fact that the game must have ended 2-0 as there was no time really for any more action to go on. That is, until I discovered when looking on my phone that the game had finished 2-1…
Now, the next day I found out via asking Newman’s manager(?) on twitter when Bolton scored. I received the answer that they had found the net with 8 minutes left! 8 MINUTES!! HOW LONG WAS THE GUY PLAYING AGAIN?! Madness! That meant that I had seen no less than 98 minutes and still missed at least 8 so I figure the ref could do with a new watch battery….
Game: 6- Not a bad game to watch, better than I expected if anything.
Ground: 6- Simple ground, just a barred off pitch, but good backdrop.
Fans: 5- Not long, not long.
Value For Money: 6- £11.50 on travel, £3.50 pint, but free game so not too bad.