Result: Padiham 1-0 Team Northumbria (FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round)
Venue: Arbories Memorial Sports Ground (Saturday 6th August 2016, 3pm)
Football is back!! Yes, I realise I said pretty much that exact same exclamation last month, but it truly is now and what better way to start off the season than with some North West Count…what….FA Cup? Oh that sounds like a fine idea FA *claps slowly with a hint of sarcasm*.
Ok, personal feelings to the season beginning with the FA Cup out of the way (I can’t promise there won’t be more), it’s onto the blog at hand. The two sides who I was going to witness take each other on in their first competitive game of the season, *shakes head in disbelief*, were to be the Storks of Padiham FC and Team Northumbria, a university side from, unsurprisingly, the North East who compete in the Northern League Division 2.
Upon arriving into Rose Grove station, I was then faced with getting my bearings, which always seems more of a challenge to me than it really should be. See my Newcastle Town blog for proof in the pudding of that. Eventually the correct pathway was worked out and set and I was soon on the march for the 2 mile trek over to Padiham. Now I’m sure that while heading towards Lowerhouse CC, I could actually spot the football ground over to the left, slightly raised up. I may be mistaken, but it made it seem a bit closer. ‘Twas nothing but wishful thinking.
After heading past the aforementioned cricket club, who were just getting underway, an abandoned building which looked like a hospital or school perhaps(?) and the Rose Grove FC pitch, which had a juniors game in full flow, I eventually came within sight of Padiham Town. Of course, after a long-ish walk I was pretty parched so justifiably, I’m sure you’ll agree, I went in search of a drink and came across The Bridge, which became my first port of call.
The Bridge was pretty quiet as I entered, with canines equalling the amount of human punters within. Still, it seemed a nice, traditional boozer and I figured a Strongbow was a good bet, as I reckoned some of the more exotic bottled options may not go down too well. That and it was sunny and cider always goes together with the bright thing in the sky.
The atmosphere, though, was quite dead and so I quickly downed it and headed onwards towards the uphill section of Padiham, where the ground is based. After passing over the River, complete with shopping trolley decoration and up the incline, I eventually found a small signpost pointing me in the direction of the ground.
My original plan was to go around to the adjoining Padiham CC clubhouse for a final drink before heading for the football. But, it looked a bit of an extra hike (going round the block) that I couldn’t be bothered with, so I made the divert to the Hare & Hounds which sits at the foot of the small access lane that leads to the ground.
The Hare & Hounds is, again, a nice enough drinking place, with a snug, country feel to it, though I’m not much of a fan of the stuffed animals as décor. Never have been, never will be. Anyway, back to the beer and I plumped for a Czech Lager that I didn’t find out the name of, but only went for a half, just to be sure it was ok. Yes, a bit of a wimp-out, but there you go.
As it turned out, it was pretty decent, but the animals were putting me off with their staring eyes and so I quickly made a retreat to the outside and up to the turnstiles, which sit on the side of the….cricket field. Not too difficult to get to after all, but I headed straight for the bar in the club, £7 lighter after entrance & programme.
The Arbories is a good ground, featuring five stands. The “Main” Stand is the only area of seating in the ground and sits alongside the clubhouse, situated on the half-way line. Neighbouring it, towards the far end, is a covered standing area, of which there are a further two, almost conjoined, to the far side and the cricket ground/entrance end. The far side also features a mound, now partly obscured by the seemingly newer covered area, whose rule of “Standing on the Mound is Strictly Forbidden” was being strictly enforced today. It was. The other stand is a very small covered standing area, to the left of the clubhouse, again behind the cricket ground end goal.
With the ground still empty with a good 45 minutes to kick-off, I headed to the clubhouse at the Arbories to beat the queues and a Peroni would prove a fine sidekick for the next three-quarters of an hour. Not too long after taking a seat, I was joined by fellow hopper Sam who’d decided to join myself in taking in this game after being in the area on quizzing duties. After a catch-up on all things football and more, it was time to head outside for the true beginning of the season. But prior to the big kick-off, here’s a bit of background to Padiham FC….
The original Padiham FC was formed in 1878, becoming one of the earliest created clubs in Lancashire, attracting around 9,000 fans to their original Calder-side home at times during the late 19th century. During the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Padiham were playing intermittently in the Lancashire Combination. Despite this, the club were one of the first to support the legalisation of professional football, though this came back to bite Padiham as they failed to follow in the footsteps of the likes of their neighbours and ultimately folded in 1916.
1949 saw Padiham resurrected and the new club called the Arbories Memorial Sports Ground its home. Their opening Lancashire Combination fixture drew over 1,500 fans. Despite a long stay in the league, honours eluded Padiham for the most part, with only a promotion in 1961 to show for their efforts, before a drop the next season preceded them dropping out of the Combination in 1968.
After joining the West Lancashire League, their first honour here arrived in the shape of the 1971-’72 Division 2 title. Following an apparent relegation, they won the honour for a second time in 1977 and re-joined the Lancashire Combination for another spell. This stint lasted for a further four seasons, until 1982 saw the club become founder members of the North West Counties League, with the Lancs Combination being amalgamated with the Cheshire County League, though the Storks only remained in the league until the turn of the decade.
After a 10-year hiatus, which featured a West Lancashire League Division 1 title (1998), they returned in the millennium year following major ground upgrades and went on to be promoted from the lower division of the NWCFL in 2009, before achieving promotion from the Premier Division to the NPL four years later. For what it’s worth, the club also won the 2010-’11 NHS Bird Cup.
After being promoted for the 2013-’14 season, Padiham performed pretty well, securing their status for a second campaign with a place finish, but were relegated back to the North West Counties at the culmination of their second season at Step 4. They finished last season in a solid mid-table spot: eleventh.
The game got underway with both sides trading early blows, but nothing too serious as to leave a mark on their opponent. Both sides were mostly limited to shots from range, though Padiham did have a penalty shout turned down mid-way through the first half. It looked a decent shout, but we were down the far end so didn’t exactly have the best of views.
As it was, the game continued on goal-less, but still a good game to watch, with both sides unabated in their attacking intent. But, neither side really had a cutting edge where it mattered and so the sides went in at the break still all-square and with it all to play for in the second 45. As for Sam and I, we’d completed our standard ‘lap’ and the food bar called to us, with Sam having mentioned he’d heard good things about the pies here, so he was a little disappointed at Hollands & the meat and potato filling, being a cheese & onion man. No such issues for myself, mind you, as I hate the latter concoction.
With the food finished up and with a home substitute in front of us being employed on dog care duties, we made our way back towards the far end and the covered terrace we’d inhabited during the earlier stages of the tie. This was to prove a good decision.
Just five minutes into the second half, Alex Murphy picked up the ball 35-yards from goal. With his back to the target initially, there looked little danger, but Murphy turned on a penny before unleashing a glorious strike into the top-left corner, with Team Northumbria’s custodian Steve Mundy left rooted to the spot. Brilliant. I stated “If that’s the only goal today, it’s worth the entrance fee alone!” Sam was, unsurprisingly, in agreement.
From there, Padiham looked to see out the game, but the Northumbrian side came at them and really pushed to get themselves back into it. Despite their pressure, they only really forced Michael Donlan in the Padiham goal into one real save, a low stop to his right, but with 10 minutes left on the clock, the visitors were awarded a soft-looking penalty, following a trip in the box. There seemed to be little in the way of protests, though, so maybe there was more contact then it looked initially.
As it was, the spot-kick was well saved by Donlan and any possible controversy was averted. Team Northumbria kept throwing players forward late on, having another penalty shout waved away and winning a few late corners. The ‘keeper was thrown up right at the death, but he couldn’t force anything to save his side and so Padiham progress through to the Preliminary Round and applauded the fans on their way from the field. A nice touch.
After the game, there was a slight rush on, but nothing too mad, to ensure making the train back. As such, I bid goodbye to Sam and headed off back downhill to the station. Eventually, I rocked up with around five minutes to go. Perfect timing. Well, it would have been, if this train actually went the correct route I required. So, it was off to find respite for the next 40 minutes or so. Faced with a short walk back up the road to the carvery-style pub on the main road, I began to head for there, only to spy a fading pub sign down a side road opposite the station. Hoping amongst hope it was open, I made a beeline for it and, thankfully, the open door signalled good news and The Junction came to the rescue.
The Junction was another old-style pub, with only a handful of people in and with a pint of Carlsberg purchased, I settled in while watching the Olympics coverage amongst some…different observations from the two guys at the bar. Eventually, though, it was time to head out and back to the platform ready for the train I’d ensured, this time, was the correct one. Indeed, it was and after a couple of drunken lads in the carriage settled down a bit (one fell asleep & one disappeared somewhere around Todmorden), it was a fairly bog standard journey back to Manchester Victoria.
On arrival, the rush over to Deansgate was on. 15 minutes I had from train to train and I was going to have to put in some effort. I could have waited for an hour and had another drink, but being on more of a budget this year and having had a few already over the previous day, I wasn’t too up for it. So a sprint down the majority of Deansgate ensued, being egged on by the doorman at The Deansgate pub, who shouted “Go on me mukka!” as I rushed past, eventually making it with seconds to spare. I apologize profusely to all around me on that short journey for my sweaty self.
Closing Thoughts are that Padiham seems a nice enough place, the ground was even better. The views down onto the town and into the hills from the far side added to the ground’s appeal and it’s certainly up there with the better ones I’ve visited of late. Big tick for the Arbories.
Game: 6- Very watchable game, few chances and brilliant goal. Good pen save too.
Ground: 8- See above. Nice ground, good facilities.
Food: 6- Standard pie, gravy ok with it, but nothing to complain about.
Programme: 7- Decent amount of articles in it, good info etc. Well worth a purchase.
Value For Money: 7- £7 in, £3-ish on food/programme. Not too bad, even with “Extras” & travel costs.