Result: Squires Gate 4-0 Wanderers (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Stanley Park Oval (Saturday 9th July 2016, 12.30pm)
A Saturday that was to be a run-of-the-mill visit to a local club became something far and away from that intention. This was down to this very friendly, whose existence became apparent just a couple of weeks earlier and considering both the venue, the Athletics stadium within Blackpool’s Stanley Park and the visitors, the Wanderers. The Wanderers are 5-time FA Cup winners (as well as the inaugural victors) and on a visit up from London, so what was there to oppose heading to the seaside?
Nothing was the answer though but during the earlier than usual journey into Manchester, I was slightly concerned by the high volume of water being dumped upon this part of the North West and hoping beyond hope that it wasn’t the same on the coast. As it turned out, it was slightly better up there and along with blog regular Dan, I boarded our lovely Northern Rail carriage and off we set for the lights and sights of Blackpool.
After the peace of the journey had been shattered by a large family group, we were rather relieved to be able to escape into the seaside air and heading out onto the streets, our initial stop being one of the town’s Northern Wetherspoon’s. We first came upon the Layton Rakes, a short walk from Blackpool North station and so we escaped the rain for a while and headed inside for a much needed beverage.
A quick Punk IPA/Carlsberg combo later and we were heading towards our match venue, the Stanley Park Oval Stadium. The Park is about a half-hour’s walk from the front, though it’s a rather pleasant trip, for the most part, though we were rather put off by one unfortunately named hairdressers (it bore the name of a questionable group beginning with an I).
Eventually, and with the rain becoming more intermittent, we arrived at the park gates and after a short walk over a slightly overgrown pitch and putt range, we arrived at our ground to the welcome sight of both teams going through their pre-match motions. Gaining entry through a gate (all above board, it was free entry), we made sure to purchase a, commendably up to date, programme for £1.50.
The Oval itself houses just one stand, but it is a mighty impressive structure, towering over the running track and providing much needed cover from the fine British summer weather. Other than that, there isn’t anything else to speak of, with the rest of the venue being flanked by grass and the odd, slightly raised grass mound. As for history, this is where I’d usually go into the home club’s history, but having already done Squires Gate, I’ll just say they finished up in a lowly P19 last season. A deeper look into the history of the club can be found within the blog here.
So, onto the game. With the rain teeming down once more during the pre-match team photos, it seemed quite fitting that both match mascots were, according to the programme, called Noah. If the rain got worse, we might just have had to make use of their namesake’s skills. Happily though, the rain died off for the game but not before the first goal had gone in. Just 20 seconds after the first whistle, Jamie Gibson broke clear and finished easily. 1-0.
Four minutes later and it was two. This time, the scoring honour would go to Alex McKendrick, who ran onto a through ball and rounded the beleaguered Wanderers ‘keeper before knocking the ball home. It looked like it could be a big scoreline, but Wanderers did get themselves going and began to offer some resistance and the odd threat going forward, but it always looked likely Gate would net again.
The rest of the half slowed down somewhat after the rocket start, with only a couple of good chances presenting themselves. But, on the stroke of the break, Gate did net their third with Ryan Riley chipping over the on rushing GK. Unfortunately, I missed this one, as I was intently following the F1 qualifying for the British GP that I was heading to the next day.
As it was, the game fell victim to what a lot of pre-season games suffer from and that is the stop-start nature of the second halves. With a never ending stream of substitutes making their way to and from the field at regular intervals, it prevents any sort of flow from truly developing. Despite this, though, Squires Gate did find the back of the net twice more, only for both to be ruled out (much to my chagrin, as I caught both on camera). With five to play, they eventually found a fair way past the inspired Wanderers second half custodian, Riley netting his second with a fizzing drive to round off the 4-0 win.
After saying a quick greeting to the home of non-league canines and Richard, it was time to depart, after making my own canine acquaintance (I can’t remember the boy’s name though, but I do remember it was slightly feminine too). Before we did completely leave, though, we made our way over to neighbouring Blackpool CC for about 10 overs of their delayed game vs Darwen CC (which BCC won by 90 runs). We were royally entertained with a few wickets and some big hitting and have already pledged to visit properly at some point in the near future.
As we made our way back down to the town centre, we came upon the strange sight of a dance troupe and Darth Vader flanked by a pair of Stormtroopers. As Darth was attacked by a sex doll, we made our way to relative safety in the shape of the, reputably haunted, Frenchman’s Cove pub complete with Pirate outside. A pricey bottle of Miller’s later and we were back on our way to Blackpool’s main rail terminus with plenty of time in hand. But, Dan and I agreed it isn’t a trip to the town without a foray on the prom.
Dan was apprehensive of this, due to the well documented sights and sounds of the hen and stag do’s that frequent the bars and clubs here, with occasional blogger Paul texting his own warning of this to me while the game was still ongoing. Needless to say, one giant inflatable penis later and we were happy to take refuge in the station building, before setting off on our way back.
There’s a lot to Blackpool that I’ve yet to personally uncover (some of which I don’t wish to), and with trips to Wren Rovers and Blackpool FC still to happen, I await with bated breath what’s still to come. Hopefully no more dodgy inflatables….
Game: 6- Four goals, decent enough & interesting opposition.
Ground: 4- Nice stand, not much else.
Programme: 8- Well put together, good content and, as I said, right up to date.
Value For Money: 6- Different venue (though a Blackpool Euro-something team play there), interesting game, few goals, sexy time for Vader.