Result: Colne 0-0 Droylsden (Northern Premier League Division One North)
Venue: Holt House (Saturday 22nd April 2017, 3pm)
With the season drawing to a close and the race for the play-offs reaching its critical point, the final weekend of the regular Northern Premier League season saw a number of games with something riding on them. As such, my final choice came down to one of Ossett Town vs Trafford or Colne vs Droylsden. Obviously, you should know which one I decided upon!
My final decision came on the back of two reasons. Firstly, I hadn’t been to Holt House for just over nine years and second, I reckoned the game would likely be an open one, what with Colne needing a result and visitors Droylsden playing for little more than pride. Alas, me reasoning was to be awry. By quite a way too!
Anyway, my day began with a trip up to Preston before grabbing the full, scenic stopper up into the Lancastrian countryside. After an hour or so of heading through the rolling hills and sheep-filled farmyards, the creaky pacer finally rolled into the old market and former mill town. Upon exiting the station, I immediately headed for the nearby Crown Hotel, where I plumped for a pint of the “Blonde Witch” ale, which wasn’t bad at all. Even more so when you take into account it’s less than £3 a pint.
Of course, I couldn’t take too much advantage of this as there was still a fair bit more of Colne (and more importantly its pubs) to see. Second up was a bar named The Venue, which seemed to be a bar-cum-pub, in which it couldn’t truly decided what it wanted to be. Still, I wasn’t in any mood to complain as, once again, I went for a Coast-to-Coast APA, which was a decent enough pint too, though didn’t take me as much as the Witch did.
After watching Lincoln net their decisive, title-winning second goal, I headed back out into the Colne sunshine and came upon one of the Olympic gold postboxes from 2012. Upon reading the plaque, I learnt this was for Colne’s very own gold-medallist, Steve Burke, who won the top prize in the Men’s pursuit cycling. Of course, despite his success, Burke is still not the most famed son of Colne. That very man will be mentioned later, having had the honour of a ‘Spoons bestowed upon him. No, it’s not the creator of Postman Pat somehow.
As I was heading there, I was stopped in my tracks by a small bar/restaurant by the name of the “Green Chimney”. Having been enticed by the large “ale” word in the window, I was somewhat disappointed, if not surprised, to find there was only bottles on offer. Having not seen anything too much to my fancy, I decided upon an Orange Bulmers to accompany me on a drink outside. Yes a drink outside. In Colne. In April. Sorcery.
Having been given my cider along with plastic cup to go with it, I headed out onto the small road-side seating area to while away some time. Whilst sitting here, I did notice another bar across the road which I hadn’t even seen whilst standing directly outside and mulling over the Green Chimney. Anyway, with me planning on having an hour or so back in the town after the game, I made a mental note of this small, unassuming place for later and moved on to my final pre-match stop the Wetherspoons by the name of “The Wallace Hartley”.
Now, as I alluded to earlier, Hartley is Colne’s most famed and celebrated son, though for pretty tragic reasons. It turns out that Hartley was the band leader on the doomed Titanic voyage. Bravely remaining on board the sinking vessel and continuing to play amongst the chaos, Hartley and his seven band mates would all go on to perish within the icy waters of the North Atlantic. His body would eventually be brought back to Colne, the route to his funeral was attended by thousands lining the streets.
On account of all this, I thought it would be rude not to visit the place bearing his name (not knowing about the memorial I’d just walked past being in existence) and headed in for the, now standard, swift Punk IPA before heading off down a steep hill before rising back upwards again upon approaching the ground. It’s only a couple of minutes at a steep incline, though, so nothing too major and certainly not as steep as the approach to Bacup’s ground!
Anyway, after crossing over the neighbouring pitches, I joined onto the queue for the turnstile, before handing over my £7 entrance, plus £2 for the decent programme. Not a bad deal for a big game in the club’s history, especially considering this is their first season back at NPL level.
Once inside, Holt House is a pleasant little ground, with that traditional yet quaint feel to it. It houses three stands, the “Main” stand straddles the slope and is located towards the far end of the touch-line on the side you enter from, with the near end having the clubhouse/dressing rooms. The opposite touch-line plays host to a very small covered terrace which is set back slightly from the pitch and doesn’t really offer great views of much. The near-end is where the popular covered terrace is located and this is where the vocal followers of Colne call home. The far end is open, hard standing and affords nice views down the valley to the town below. As for Colne FC’s story…
Colne Football Club was formed in 1996, following the demise of the town’s previous club, Colne Dynamoes, who played at the same venue up until their closure. Dynamoes, themselves, were victims of their own visions of grandeur, with it eventually being their owner’s apparent overspending, to the point of the club going into bankruptcy, along with the refusal of promotion to the Conference (due to ground grading) that combined to sound the death knell for the Dynamoes.
Prior to this, Dynamoes had been a rather successful side, going from being a local school side, competing in the local Nelson & Colne League, right through to being NPL Champions in a spell covering just 27 years. Following them taking on the current site and building the subsequent stadium upon a former cricket field, the club joined the Lancashire Combination in 1975 (with a best of 2x runners-up), before becoming founder members of the NWCFL in 1982. After a swift rise through the divisions (winning Division 3 at the first attempt in ’83), the club benefited from 12 clubs moving to the new NPL Division 1, amongst restructuring, with Dynamoes taking a spot in Division 1 and won it immediately (’88), along with the FA Vase at Wembley.
As champions, Dynamoes went into the NPL Division 1 themselves and won it in 1989, with former Liverpool star Alan Kennedy at the side’s forefront. During the summer, the club turned full-time and some players were, reportedly, earning more cash than some in the football league at that point in time. They, again, immediately won a league, this time the NPL Premier Division, by a staggering 26 points, whilst averaging crowds over 1,300. However their story ended abruptly, with the refusal of new stadium, along with the reasons in paragraph one combining to see the Dynamoes consigned to the history books during pre-season.
Six years later saw the current Colne F.C. come into being, the club joining the North West Counties Division 2, ending their first season bottom. After finishing in the bottom half every season up until 2002-’03, their fortunes took a massive turn for the better as they lifted the Division 2 title in 20o4 and were promoted to the Division 1. The season was made all the more successful with the triumph in the Division 2 cup being allied with a semi-final showing in the FA Vase.
Colne would go on to remain in the Division One (now NWCFL Premier Division) through to last season, when they were promoted to the NPL Division 1 as champions. Of course, this season has seen them (perhaps(!)) reach they play-offs at the end of their first season back at that level, with the club edging closer to emulating the feats of the former Colne club.
Upon my arrival, my first thing to do was to take a pure airshot at a ball which came over into the stand. It was all going well as I lined up my kick back over the fence to the pitch, but I hadn’t taken the step into account and it just so happened to hit said step and bounce away from my outstretched leg, left there like a rejected handshake. After a bit of a joke about my terrible skills, I went for chips to help myself get over it.
The game got underway and…well, it never looked like it was going to be the open, flowing game I imagined/hoped it would. Both teams looked very evenly matched, with Droylsden’s position in the table somewhat false, considering the team they currently have to the results they were achieving early in the season. Their improvement has been a markedly good one and, if the team remains intact, they could be set for a good campaign next time out.
Anyway, this day was about Colne and whether their play-off dream would come true. They did start fairly brightly with Adam Morning being denied by Bloods ‘keeper James Coates. But, apart from a couple of blocks and a scramble, neither side really created much and the first half was, for a neutral, a bit boring. I’m guessing the Colne fans and management were at their wit’s end throughout it though!
With the second half not needing to do much to be an improvement on the first, it looked like Colne had got the all important goal they needed when, around five minutes in, Morning was again denied by Coates only for Spencer Jordan to fire the rebound home. Unfortunately for him and the home support, the assistant’s flag, rightfully, ruled out his strike and stunted the celebrations.
The second half was certainly more watchable, with the effervescent Morning again narrowly missing a chance before Droylsden were denied by an unbelievable save from Colne ‘keeper Gregory Hartley who sprung to his right to claw away, one-handed, Ciaran Kilheeney’s goal-bound header that was destined for the top corner. Hartley had no right to get there and it was this that was the most memorable action of the game. Brilliant stop!
Despite Colne applying late pressure onto the Bloods’ defence, they never truly looked like grabbing a late winner and, with a point being enough to secure them a place in the top five, the referee’s whistle arrived to great relief among the home fans. As I left, the singing resonated around Holt House, though I wasn’t as happy as those in there as, once again, bang went my nil-nil-less run. How people get to over 100 without one, I’ll never know!
Upon heading back down the valley, I decided to stop off at a trio of small micro-pubs that sit on the beginning of the hill leading downwards from the town. Strangely, all three of them stand side-by-side, yet don’t appear to be connected in any way. So I decided I’d have a half in each, though I did go for the weakest option that each one had an offer as I’m not a huge ale drinker anyway and so didn’t want to push it!
With the trio completed (with one barman feeling considerably sorry for me having travelled to Colne for a nil-nil), I headed for my penultimate planned stop, the Duke of Lancaster. This is your “proper” pub it seemed and the Strongbow for £2.20 seemed to ram that point home. It was pretty full in here, on account of most punters watching the Chelsea-Spurs FA Cup semi, so I couldn’t really be bothered hanging around and swiftly headed onwards back towards the station, with me having about twenty minutes left to the train back to Preston.
En route back, I came upon the small bar once more, only to find out it had shut up for the day, which was unfortunate. Unperturbed, I headed onwards to the station before I remembered I had spotted a small wine/tapas bar which was facing the Crown. I decided I’d try my luck and see if I could wrangle a beer out of it and was surprised to find bottles of Brewdog Lager in the fridges. For £3.50, I had one in my hand, though the woman working the bar/front of house in Esquire Lounge seemed confused to why I’d travelled up to watch football and found myself in there afterwards!
To be honest, by then I was at that point too though it seems a very nice little place. But, with no chance of tapas for me, I bid a swift goodbye and headed to the station where I boarded the train, swiftly fell asleep and ended up binning my lager after a third of the bottle. Ah, what a waste!
After missing my connection in Preston (don’t ask), I then had to get the stopper back to Manchester. Upon asking the staff guy on the platform where it would likely go from, he replied he didn’t know as it hadn’t been allocated a platform yet and so we stood there for a good two minutes looking at the display and waiting for it to change. Finally, up sprung a 2 and off I ran. Note to all: you don’t get much time, as I got to the platform as the train was pulling in!
Anyway, the train back was fairly uneventful, as long if you don’t count a girl having a nosebleed and her friends shouting about it as an event, and I was soon back at Manchester with a lovely 45 minute wait ahead, though this went by pretty quickly and did give me a much-needed opportunity to charge up my phone again. So there ends this trip as I enter the final few weeks of the football season. Cricket is coming, but there is the looming shadow of a big, big game to be sorted out first…
Value For Money: 5