Result: Charnock Richard 3-1 Barnoldswick Town AET (FA Vase 2nd Round)
Venue: Mossie Park (Saturday 22nd October 2016, 3pm)
As the earlier rounds of the FA Cup came to an end the previous week, it comes down to the FA’s two non-league competitions to keep the majority of non-league sides still dreaming of a trip to Wembley. Or Boston, if that’s a bit more realistic. Anyway, with the Vase still in full swing, I decided that, having spent a fair amount over the few previous weeks, I’d stay a little closer to home and so perused the fixtures looking for an interesting place to head for.
To be honest, the options were pretty few and fair between but one name leapt out at me more than others and that name was Charnock Richard. The village, famed for being home to the first M6 service station, now plays host to a North West Counties team with the Mossie Park-based outfit having made the step up from the West Lancashire League at the beginning of this season. Also, their striker Carl Grimshaw was even considered worthy of an FA article prior to this round of fixtures and so where else was there to go? Nowhere, that’s where and so to Mossie Park I headed!
Having got the train into Manchester and bought tickets for the upcoming FA Cup game between Westfields and Curzon Ashton (having watched the latter at York in the last round), I was left with a 45 minute wait until the next connection up to Euxton. Having never been in the Hourglass bar in the station’s food hall section, I decided to break that duck and head up there. This proved to be a decent, if fairly costly, idea with the beer costing £4.50, but it was a good pint. There were also some people clad in Wolves tracksuits enjoying the hospitality up here.
Eventually, the clock ticked round to past midday and I made my way for the Edinburgh-bound service through to Wigan. This service also had some star power, in the shape of Coronation Street’s Todd. Or at least I think it was him, to be honest I’m not too sharp on soap actors. Anyway, this was as exciting as this journey got and having gotten off at Wigan along with a number of Brighton fans, the train to complete the short hop to Euxton arrived and it was next stop Mossie Park. Well, with a few pit-stops along the way that is…
With a 45-minute walk ahead, I had scouted out only two drinking holes on the way there, so was surprised to be, almost immediately faced with the Euxton Mills pub. A quintessential, traditional-style pub, there was only one punter to be found in here and after a swift Desperados (which has been side-lined somewhat of late), I was back on the march up the long, winding road heading through the fields.
Eventually I came upon the second stop, the Bowling Green, which is a carvery pub, so emanated some pretty welcoming aromas from within. Obviously, it would have been rude to ignore, so in I headed and was soon in possession of a pint of Joseph Holt’s Crystal Gold, priced at £3.30. There was some drama before I had a pint in hand, however, as I was almost served a pint of Coke by the barmaid, much to my horror. After desperately making sure this had been corrected to something stronger I sat down to calm my shaken self.
With the clock nearing 2.15, I decided it was time to head on over to the ground. With a reported 15-20 minutes still left on my travails, I thought I’d ignore the ‘Baku Lounge’ on the way there despite the interesting name. To be honest, it was a good idea, as the place looked shut-up at the time and the smashed glass on the opposite side of the road didn’t give off the best signs. Also, it was now the boring, generically named ‘Red Door’. The oil funding must have run out or something…
After passing a couple of old churches, I began to see the tell-tale sign of a ground in the midst of nowhere-ville. Cars. To be honest, there wasn’t many cars around apart from this small area, so I took it as proof of Mossie Park having been located. For once I was correct and having spurned the clubhouse, on account of having had a fairly heavy evening the prior night, I headed straight for the turnstile, where I was relieved of £5 and soon had a glossy programme in my possession for a further £1.50.
The ground itself is a bit of a weird one, as it is fenced in on all sides by those green, metal cage-like structures you see on artificial surfaces all over the country. Luckily, the only 3G here is the phone signals, with the pitch looking in good touch, if a bit sandy. The ground is a simple one, with open, hard standing at both ends and on the far touch-line, with the ground’s only stand sitting to the right-hand side of the pitch, as you enter. The dressing rooms sit adjacent to the turnstile and the building also plays host to the food hut and other facilities. A tidy ground overall. Now, for a look into the story of Charnock Richard FC…
The current Charnock Richard Football Club was formed in 1955, following in the footsteps of another club with the same title, who competed during the years 1933-’49. The Villagers spent the vast majority of their initial existence in local leagues around the Chorley area, but joined the higher level West Lancashire League in 1993. The club’s old pitch, Mossie Close, is still there too, sitting opposite the new ground and alongside the clubhouse.
Following two promotions within their five years in the league, Charnock found themselves in the Premier Division. They won their first Premier Division title in 2003, going on to repeat the feat on a further five occasions over the span of seven seasons (2009, ’12, ’13, ’14 & ’15). Following a runners-up placing last season, the club’s application to join the North West Counties League was accepted and the club are currently top in their first campaign.
The game got underway but not before the referee having to pick the match ball up off one of the biggest abominations in football today, the plinth. God, I hate those plinths. Anyway, Charnock Richard’s first ever home Vase tie was a slow burner initially, with little to speak of during the early stages. However, this all changed on the half-hour when a solidly hit drive looked destined for the top corner, only for Barlick’s ‘keeper Jordan Gidley to make a fine save, with the strike looking destined for the top corner.
It then looked like Charnock would take the lead against the side from a division above, as Anthony Hough broke through the defence, rounded Gidley, but his shot was tremendously blocked on the goal-line by a sliding defender. Charnock, the Division 1 leaders, really should have been ahead at the break, but Barlick held on to keep the game all-square as the sides headed in and I headed for chips, a pretty decent portion for £1.20 too, with the food even being brought out to me. I could get used to this royal treatment.
Second half underway and it was Barnoldswick who came out of the blocks the quicker, with striker John Beckwith firing in a shot that left the ‘keeper beaten, only for the ball to cannon back off the post. From then on, it was the hosts who took the game by the scruff of the neck and again looked the most likely to break the deadlock, with Grimshaw looking dangerous…and angry throughout, but not as angry as the kid with the crutches who, when questioned by a Charnock-badged man, said he’d hit him with said walking-aid. The challenge was welcomed. In jest of course!
Just before the hour, the Villagers were denied on the line once more as, following another fine stop by the impressive Gidley off his own initial effort, the pacey Oliver Evans’ follow-up was blocked and eventually cleared. Barlick were still dangerous on their own forays forward too, with Gidley’s opposite number Adam Halton proving just as good when he palmed away Harry Thompson’s drive.
The game entered the last 10-minutes, with pretty much everyone in the ground, I’m sure, thinking the same as me. HOW IS THIS 0-0?! This was made even more surreal when, from a corner, an overhead kick saw Gidley somehow scramble to his right to claw the ball behind. The mercurial Grimshaw was then denied, once again by a goal-line block as the minutes ran out, but not before Spencer Bibby was, for me, unfortunate to receive a red card. It was a fairly strong tackle but there looked no real malice or threat in it however Bibby was back in the showers earlier than he’d have wanted. Well he was in the doorway spectating, but you know.
Following the now standard goal-line clearance in the last minute to again deny Grimshaw and one Barlick player remark to his team-mate “How’ve you not been sent off yet?” following a challenge, the referee brought the ninety to a close. 0-0. God knows how, but that was the best 0-0 I’d ever seen. Luckily for all of us paying punters, there was another 30 to go!
Goals, many goals! That was the story of extra-time. Well, actually, the last ten minutes of extra-time, but we’ll get there! Both sides spurned decent early chances during a fairly quiet first period before, finally, the deadlock was broken and it was that man Grimshaw. The “local celebrity” broke clear of the static visiting defence, and slotted beyond Gidley for 1-0. The players, along with the Charter Lane end, went mad!
Then, Gidley had the moment that can happen to all goalkeepers. Having had an outstanding game up until the 117th minute, he fluffed a clearance which looped up to the opportunistic Grimshaw and he had the simplest of tasks to roll the ball into the empty net. But, Barlick weren’t done as they went immediately down the other end with sub Joe Gaughan receiving the ball around 25-yards out before curling a fine shot into the top corner, leaving Halton no chance. The words don’t really give the strike justice, so hopefully these do for the final, game clinching one.
With Barlick straining for an equaliser, the ball broke out of defence and fell to the feet of Mark Adams. Adams then proceeded to run from his own half, right through to Gidley’s area. Faced with the advancing gloveman, Adams stayed cool, rounded him and with many in the crowd, myself included, expecting him to square it to Grimshaw alongside to allow his hat-trick, he was having none of it and finished a fine solo goal with aplomb. A great goal to end a fine game. 3-1 full-time.
So, having undertook the walk back under the setting sun, I arrived back in Euxton with a good half-hour until the train back and having been underwhelmed earlier in the day by the Euxton Mills pub, decided to look for somewhere on the “other side of the tracks”. Here, I found the large The Talbot and inside was buzzing with many in for the football and a few players from the town’s own club Euxton Villa drinking to either celebrate, or forget, their game today. A quick half of Amstel saw me through to the departure time, before I was back on the platform with the strains of the Match of the Day theme song blaring out from an ice cream van. In late October. That’s optimism.
After a police-riddled train back to Wigan was negotiated, it was plain sailing back home to end the day. A nice ground played host to a great game and you couldn’t have really asked for more for a fiver. A great day’s entertainment was had and ground 195 is done. With 200 fast approaching, where could be a good venue to head for? I’m open to suggestions. Anyway, thanks to Charnock for a good day and all the best in their Vase campaign and, indeed, for their title ambition.