Result: Ashton Town 1-2 Bacup Borough (North West Counties Division 1)
Venue: Edge Green Street (Saturday 30th April 2016, 3pm)
I’ll go this week. Nah, it’s close, I’ll go another time. This week then. No, I’m off there instead. This was the usual thought process which I went through when I had floated the idea to myself of visiting Ashton-in-Makerfield. Whether it be Town or Athletic, either way I’d find some sort of excuse or reason why I would need to visit somewhere else first. But today was D-Day. Today, I was to visit Ashton, finally, in the shape of Town’s Edge Green Street.
After a touch of rain (surprise), it was a certainty the game was a-ok and off to Ashton I set via the usual medium of Manchester’s stations. After heading back on myself slightly, it was off to Wigan where I had a short wait until my connection set off for Bryn, the closest (and slightly Welsh sounding) station to Ashton. After such an exciting paragraph, dare you read on?
For those brave souls that have managed to survive the excitement, I set off on the half-hour or so walk towards the ground but, as I’m sure you can all understand, I was desperately in need of a drink as I arrived onto the main road and found my salvation in the shape of the Caledonian Hotel. The Caledonian is a large building and is the only pub (as far as Google Maps would tell me anyhow) within the near vicinity of the ground, as you don’t really venture too near the town itself. So, to the Caledonian it was!
The pub itself is rather large, but it was fairly empty on this early afternoon, with only a few punters in the lounge area and little care for the Bolton game on TV. I think I was the only person who gave half a damn or even noticed that Bolton scored, and with the group’s conversation turning more towards Ashton Athletic, I figured that I might as well head over to the ground anyway, as the time was now approaching 2.30pm. Finishing the San Miguel pint, I made my way around towards the ground.
Eventually after horseshoeing back around, I cam upon a small dirt-path lane which happened to be the fabled Edge Green Street and soon my eyes were drawn to the turnstile block at the foot of the road. Upon reaching said block, I handed over my £5 entry, plus a further £1 for the programme. I did, however, turn down the offer of the gateman to buy a key-ring for a further £2. With the time just at about the half-hour, I reckoned I might as well head for the clubhouse and a further beer.
“Can’t see Bud on here mate, only Stella. Ah, £2 will do.” My sort of barman! So, with a £2 bottle of Bud to keep me company for the run up to kick-off, I took a seat to be accompanied by, unfortunately, Final Score which I’m sure we can all agree is just nothing on Soccer Saturday. Soon enough and buoyed by the aroma of chips filling the air around the clubhouse, it was time to head out into the fresh, South Lancashire afternoon for kick-off.
Edge Green Street is a funny little ground. It’s “main” stand is a fairly small one, which sits spanning the half-way line and a third of both ends. It has just a couple of rows of seats and a row of covered standing within and is joined on the far touchline by a seating stand, which is set slightly back from the “main” stand and looks a bit out of place if anything, as it sits toward the near-end goal-line. Both ends are open, hard standing as is the near touchline where the dugouts and dressing rooms are located. The clubhouse also offers a bit of covered standing. As for Ashton Town as a club, well…
The current Ashton Town were formed in 1953, but an Ashton Town AFC were in competition before that, playing in the Lancashire Combination from 1903. After promotion in their first season in Division 2, they were relegated straight away and by 1911 had withdrew from the league and folded.
1953 saw the aforementioned new club begin life as Makerfield Mill FC and after a short spell in the Wigan Sunday School League, played in the St.Helen’s Amateur League for three years, winning a Liverpool FA Shield (1957) and the Division 2 shortly before joining the Warrington & District League in 1958. After lifting the W&D League Division 1 in both 1960 & ’61, 1962, as well as the 1961 Wigan Cup, Town were forced out of their original home of Windsor Road due to redevelopment and it was then the club resurrected the name of Ashton Town AFC.
After a spell on public parks on Whithill St. in Bryn, which saw a further two W&D League titles won in ’63 & ’64, the club purchased land on Edge Green Street which was previously home to Stubshaw Cross Rovers. This became the club’s home and the club began redevelopment, with a further two Warrington & District titles added to the collection in 1965 & 1970 as well as the attractively named “Stubshaw Cross medal competition” in 1967. The clubhouse was opened in 1969 by Roger Hunt (Liverpool & England) and there’s a plaque behind the bar to commemorate this. 1971 saw the club join the Lancashire Combination before moving over to the Cheshire League in 1978 for a four season spell until the formation of the North West Counties.
Town joined the new league and have remained as members ever since, bar one season (’85-’86), when the club played in the Manchester League to allow ground updates to be undertaken to remain at Counties level. They have always remained in the lower tier, spanning both Division 3 and Division 2 following the two divisions merging in 1987. Their latest silverware was in 2013, in the shape of the Atherton Cup.
The game got underway with both sides being fairly well matched and with the home side just edging the opening stages. But, it was to be the visitors who would break the deadlock with the first clear chance of the game after fifteen minutes, Yves Zama receiving the ball and firing just inside the post from the edge of the box. 0-1. “Good start for you guys!” I said to the Bacup ‘keeper Josh Harris, who responded with a knowing “We don’t score many”. Cautious response.
The game continued to be a pretty tight affair, with both teams engaging in a midfield battle for the most part, but this claimed goalscorer Zama, who apparently fell with a badly twisted ankle. Indeed, he certainly sounded in some pain, so here’s hoping he’s ok. After a lengthy stoppage for treatment, he was carried off to the dressing rooms and we were back underway and on the stroke of half-time Karl Dailey levelled for the home side, scooping the ball unorthodoxly wide of Bacup’s custodian and into the net. 1-1 at the break and time for chips.
The small £1 portion of chips was soon emptied from the tray and after what seemed a slightly shortened half-time, calls of “they’re back out” filtered through the clubhouse and so out we all went to watch the second period. It was certainly more action packed than the first, with the first few chances off target, but Harris made the big save of the game so far, keeping out a low shot with his feet. Bacup should have taken the lead soon after when the striker broke clear, unselfishly squared the ball to his strike partner but, from two yards and the empty net gaping, he put it over. My miss of the season so far. Sorry.
From then on, though, it was largely the visitors who were on the front foot and looked to have a great chance to retake the lead after around an hour when the Ashton #2 was unfortunate to slip at the wrong moment and he ball to be pinned underneath him and against his hands. Penalty. His anguish was clear, as he shouted into his shirt, but he was soon to be on the other side of a mood swing as Town ‘keeper Joe Clements pulled off a superb save from the spot-kick.
This began a short period where Clements became unbeatable, tipping over a dipping header in the nick of time, before wonderfully saving a point blank effort when it looked for all the world it was going in. It looked as though his heroics were going to secure his side a point, at least, and you felt it was one of those games were one side miss all the chances thrown at them before the other team takes theirs.
After another couple of chances were spurned by Bacup, it looked as though their best bets to win the game were behind them. “See, told you we don’t score!” repeated Harris after one such miss. But then, in the 90th minute, a ball into the Ashton area wasn’t dealt with and it was Bacup’s Anthony Hall who rose highest to leave Clements with no chance to spark jubilation within the Borough ranks. 1-2, game over and after wishing Harris & his side all the best, it was time to head back to Bryn.
Upon arrival, I had a quick flick through the programme to pass the time. Not too much in terms of club articles, but far from the worst that’s for sure. I don’t want to sound like I’m pulling it down either, because it was a good issue nonetheless. Also, of particular note, was the page regarding the club’s chosen charity: Joseph’s Goal. Joseph’s Goal is a charity raising funds for research into Non-Keotic Hyperglycinemia (NKH), a debilitating illness which young Joseph was diagnosed with. Joseph has also been mascot for Wigan Athletic in their FA Cup Final win and in conjunction with Town have a “Latics Legends vs Dutch Legends” game at Edge Green Street in aid of the charity. Read more about the charity here.
So, having passed the time nicely, the programme was stowed safely away for the trip back home via the same mediums used on the way. I won’t excite you again, I promise. As for Ashton Town as a club, I found them to be a thoroughly welcoming club and one who look a decent outfit on the pitch. As the programme alludes to, they were as high as third until the weather came around in earnest, so the proof is there. Hopefully they do well next season. Cheers, I don’t know why I left it so long!…
Game: 6- Not a bad game at all, should have been more goals, but missed chances kept it closer.
Ground: 6- Nice little ground, bit of a charm to it.
Food: 5- Nice enough, economical portion though, but for £1, I can’t really complain too much!
Programme: 6- Already stated, decent issue, well worth £1.
Fans: 5- Not doing explanations any more. 5, 5, everyone gets a five as the memes say!
Value For Money: 8- Cheap travel, food, programme & beer! Usual £5 entry. Good cheap day!