Result: Ladybridge 4-2 Bedians (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: St.John’s Park (Saturday 2nd July 2016, 3pm)
Att: 10 (approx.)
Football is back. Yes, the day after the official FIFA recognised beginning of the 2016-’17 season, I was back in the throws of the pre-season friendly games. Though, to be honest, it was a bit of a struggle to find a local game that I could be bothered to go to. Initially the plan had been to visit the new club AFC Denton, but then came up the chance to visit Ladybridge.
I’d only found out about this game after seeing Bedians’ twitter account tweet out their pre-season friendly list, otherwise I’d have had no inkling there was a game here, as was rather apparent with the lack of spectators. Anyway. after having it confirmed that the game was all set (after the AFC Denton game was off), I began the journey towards the area of Lostock, which sits just to the west of Bolton.
I’d previously intended to visit Ladybridge once before, at the start of the 2014/’15 season, but due to a non-updated Maps app, I decided against it, having had it still appear that it was a field with little going on. Having been assured otherwise after pointing it out, it’s always been on my list since, but the opportunity had never truly risen again. That is until today, of course.
The journey was to be on the train, but with the added annoyance of a rail replacement service from Bolton to Lostock and again on the return journey. However, the train times seemed to give enough of a buffer that a short delay wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Remember this statement.
So, after heading through Manchester and onwards to Bolton, I decided I may as well visit to Spoons in the town centre, what with Lostock looking rather devoid of any drinking holes, at least on the way towards the ground. Indeed, it turned out the only pub I saw was slightly dilapidated and had its roof caving in. Luckily, it wasn’t open so no-one needs to call Health & Safety out on this occasion.
I arrived into the Spinning Mule at shortly after 1.30, but then remembered that the replacement bus was leaving at two, and I’d not taken into account the fact I’d arrived later than I’d originally intended, as I had a usual thick moment. So, after quickly necking my bottle of Punk IPA, I undertook the short walk back to the station, where I then had to walk the length of a platform, to an out of the way car park, where the bus would be departing from. With just seconds to spare, I hopped on and was soon being whisked away to Lostock. Ooh, the glamour of it.
Now, as I said earlier, Lostock isn’t the most rocking of places. But, it is a pretty picturesque sort of area, which definitely surprised me. There are rows of pricey-looking houses nearby the ground and there is also a reservoir behind the clubhouse end. There are also views away over the adjacent fields and lots of trees. But the highlight, on arriving at the ground, had to be the retractable floodlights, which have been recently installed, I understand after an unintended ear-wig.
Anyway, I arrived at St. John’s Park at around half-two, and found a yellow sign directing me up a dirt track which ran through a wooded area. The ground sits just off Tempest Road, which has the strange honour of being home to three different clubs on three different venues (the others being CMB & Tempest Utd. Any other instances of this?). Eventually, the Ladybridge FC clubhouse came into view and with half an hour to kick-off, I thought it rude not to go in and sample the delights of the club.
The clubhouse still seemed in a state of re-decorating, with awards, pennants and other general memorabilia piled up in a corner of the room. There was also a rather full trophy cabinet under the 4Music blaring TV in another corner of the room, which was providing today’s pre-match entertainment. The refreshment hut sits here too and so I headed there and purchased a Coke, before realising the pasties baking away and so this was joined by a meat and potato offering, which gave a strong start to the food season. Decent.
By the time I’d finished up my culinary delights, I reckoned it was time to head back outside with about 15 minutes to kick off. The ground is a fully barred off 3G-pitch, along with dugouts but little else bar this to be found. It’s a smart enough ground for the level that Ladybridge play at, however, which is currently in the West Lancashire League Division 1 (second division). With this being their current standing, here’s a bit of history about Ladybridge FC…
Ladybridge FC were formed in 1989, when the recently retired Steve Hill created a side for his sons & their mates to play for. They played at Ladybridge Lane originally, hence the name of the club, their first strip coming fresh from Bolton market.
After a quiet period of just steadily building the club through the years of the ’90’s, the club secured the land on Tempest Road from 2000 onwards, where they remain to this day on the, recently installed, 3G surface. The club initially played in the Lancashire Amateur League from the ’07-’08 season, having made the step up, but struggled, being relegated from Division 2 in 2008.
After a third place finish in their one season in Division 3, Ladybridge joined the West Lancashire League in 2011. After, again, initially struggling at their new level (technically the same but the standard is, arguably, better in my opinion), they became a lower mid-table outfit before achieving promotion from Division 2 to Division 1 last season as runners-up.
The game was soon underway and the kick-off wasn’t without incident in itself, as it was the first instance of a single-player kick-off that I’ve seen at a live game. Uncharted territory was entered. The Ladybridge official was also exceptionally fair with regards to offside, clearly making sure his defence are as sharp as possible come the season and having no easy starts!
This was also the second season in a row that my first game has featured Bedians, having travelled the short distance over to Didsbury for their home friendly with Abbey Hey last July. That game ended in defeat for them and they fell behind within 15 minutes in this contest too, A ball across the area was flapped at uncertainly by the visiting ‘keeper and the unfortunate centre-half behind him could only slide the ball into his own net. My first goal of the season was an oggie.
Bedians, though, were in a mood to attack themselves and they struck back with around 10 minutes left in the first half, a long ball over the top forced a defensive error and the impressive Bedians #7 slotted home with composure. 1-1 and that was that until the break, a break I was hoping would take the full 15, as to spare me a fairly lengthy wait back at the train station after the game.
The half-time was only 10 minutes, but this was better than the 5 I feared and we were back underway with another one man kick. Still not used to it. Anyway, regardless of what kick-off technique was being used, it didn’t hinder the visitors as they netted soon after the restart, #7 again, this time breaking free and again slotting past the advancing ‘keeper. 1-2 and the game was seemingly just getting going.
It certainly seemed even more so that this was the case when, 10 minutes or so later, Ladybridge’s own #7 showed he could find the net, though his effort had a bit of help from a defenders anatomy on the way over the Bedians custodian and into the net.
Two-a-piece it stood but it seemed that, as the substitutions began to take more of a hold, Ladybridge were becoming by far the stronger of the sides. This seemed to be proven as they retook the lead, the #10 curling a seemingly tame shot which the ‘keeper left, seemingly of the opinion it was going wide. It wasn’t and found its way in off the post. 3-2 ‘Bridge.
After a decent save to deny Bedians a further leveller, the scoring was complete towards the end of the game when Ladybridge’s #8 had all the time in the world to control the ball of his chest, pick his spot and slot in neatly. 4-2, full time and an entertaining start to my season. As it was, I still had a good 40 minutes until the bus back to Bolton and so I decided to wait out half of it in the clubhouse, still being entertained by 4Music, that is until a group of home players came in with the ending of Djokovic-Querrey.
As soon as that ended, it was time to take my leave as well, though it seemed I was trying to fit in with the ‘Bridge players as I left at the exact time they did too. I can assure them all that their places are comfortably safe, and would be even if they were 90-odd! Anyway, after making my way back through the wood on a Little Red Riding Hood-like quest (just devoid of Wolves or Grannies), I was back at Lostock after a leisurely 10-minute stroll. There I waited….and waited…and waited. And waited some more. Eventually, the white elephant bus came into view and we arrived into Bolton with two minutes until my train left.
No problems right? Good timing? Well, it would have been, had I and one other guy had to not run down one whole platform, go up two flights, over a bridge, down more stairs and a further platform to reach it. Luckily, we both must have a decent level of fitness, as we both made it with seconds to spare. Well done, sir. Those runs are worth it at times, you see. The connection through Manchester Deansgate was far more serene, and thus I headed home for a few drinks around Urmston with my parents to end the day. Next up…..
Game: 7- Good goal fest to kick-off 2016-’17. Hope it continues!
Ground: 5- Ok for the level, nice clubhouse and pitch plays well, in my opinion.
Food: 7- Meat & Potato pasty was pretty good, worth the £1.50
Value For Money: 9- Only £7.50-ish for the whole day. Can’t complain at that.