Manchopper in….Fulwood

Result: Fulwood Amateurs 5-0 Coppull United (West Lancashire League Premier Division)

Venue: Lightfoot Lane/’The Green’ (Saturday 11th May 2019, 3pm)

Att: ~250

My penultimate weekend of groundhopping saw another double-header which would begin with this very visit to the outskirts of Preston. Having looked local for Saturday’s game with a trip down to the south coast and Southampton coming up the following day, this contest saw hosts Fulwood looking to take the West Lancashire League title, whilst their rivals Slyne-with-Hest also looked to home advantage to pay dividends for them as they looked to overturn the slight advantage Fulwood held going into the final day.

Both teams welcomed sides from the other end of the table – Fulwood entertaining Coppull United, whilst Slyne took on Southport Hesketh. As for myself, I took full advantage of a later than usual start to a trip before heading via Warrington up to Preston whereupon I was finally able to pay a visit to the city’s famous bus station where I’d catch a service onwards to Fulwood. But it wouldn’t just be Fulwood I’d be heading too, oh no – it would be a very specific bus stop which, perhaps unsurprisingly, had a pub just a few steps away by the name of the Sherwood.

Preston’s Famed Bus Station

The Sherwood

Black Bull

The pub gains its name from the road it is located upon and I watched the majority of the first half of the play-off between Aston Villa and West Brom before finishing off my pint of Boddington’s (£2.60) and grabbing one of the regular services back down the road and past the hospital, getting off just before the dual-carriageway, which was crossed over to reach the Black Bull where I partook in an Estrella (£4.25) whilst wasting away some time before grabbing another bus up the way towards to foot of Light….erm, foot Lane which the ground sits not too far along. Before heading ground-wards, however, I paid a visit to the, slightly hidden from roadside, Phantom Winger – a Hungry Horse hostelry – for a pint of Coors (£3.50) and took advantage of their charging points before finally heading for the ground.

Fulwood is a town in the unparished northern area of Preston and has remained separate largely due to the fact the town in encompassed within the Fulwood Conservation Area. It has been governed independently since 1974. Noted in 1199 as Fulewide, it has since gone through name changes of Fulewude in 1228 and Fulwode in 1297 and was part of the ancient forest of Fulwood where Preston race ground was located. In Victorian times, said to be a township-chapelry in Lancaster parish on the railway linking Preston and Lancaster with its own station which closed in 1930. The vicarage was noted as being in the diocese of Manchester.

Fulwood-entrance to Preston

Way to the Phantom Winger….

Inside the Phantom Winger

I arrived after a fifteen minute walk and struggled to make up £2 in change for admission/programme (inclusive) and didn’t want to hand over a tenner just due to ease more than anything. However, this did prompt the guys on the gate (well, table to be more exact) to say that they’d take whatever if I was struggling for it (on account they apparently take some grief for charging) which was nice, though I assured them I was fine and that I was more than happy to hand over the couple of quid. I eventually got some silver together and handed over my dues and headed through the gate (an actual one this time) and into the ground itself before immediately paying a visit to the cozy clubhouse/food bar at the rear of the stand/equipment store/former driving range behind the goal for a hot-dog, which was decent enough for a quid, which you can’t exactly complain about now, can you?!

With all this out of the way, the teams were out on the field and ready to go. As for the remainder of the ground, a small covered standing area sits back away from the pitch somewhat and houses the dressing rooms and toilets and is flanked by a raised grass banking that separates it from the entrance area. The majority of the rest of the standing is all open, hard standing with just the far side being a little hard to get through due to the overhang of trees near the far side of the “driving range” stand. So that’s “The Green” in a nutshell and this is the story of Fulwood Amateurs….

History Lesson:

Fulwood Amateurs Football Club was founded in 1924 and originally played on a field behind a local pub by the name of the Black Bull before moving over onto a pitch on Watling Street and making use of another pub’s facilities for changing instead. Fulwood joined the Lancashire Amateur League in 1928 though would have to wait almost a decade for their first silverware – this arriving in the form of the (not at all long-winded) Manchester and Salford Medical Charities Hospital Cup, defeating South Salford to achieve the honour. The following year saw success continue for the pre-WWII team, the club winning the Lancashire Amateur League Aggregate Trophy, Lancashire Amateur Cup and also winning the league (though all three divisions are listed as this honour, so no idea which is correct.).

After the war, Fulwood would win the 1950 Division 2 title back in the Lancashire Amateur League, though after seemingly being relegated after a sole season in the top tier, they returned back to Division 2 which was won again in 1952 along with a second Aggregate Trophy. Moving to a plot of land in Grimsargh in 1955, things seemed to go awry and Fulwood ended up in the 3rd Division North of the LAL, though did win this in 1960 along with promotion to the Division 2 once again which was then won in 1971 though their rise back up to the top division was again seemingly short-lived with the club back in the 3rd Division North by the time this was won again in 1975.

FAFC

The next season saw the Second Division again won, but again the visit to the top division was brief and the drop rather alarming, though the move to land alongside the ground of Preston Grasshoppers proved fruitful with the 3rd Division North again having to be lifted in 1983 and the Second Division title once again following immediately afterwards, alongside the third and final Aggregate Trophy and the LAL’s Norman Archer Trophy. 1987 saw Fulwood win the “Premier Division” title and this was followed with a move into the West Lancashire League in 1993 – whereupon things are a little easier to follow.

After immediately being promoted from the West Lancs League’s Division 2 as runners-up, they then went on to win the First Division at the first attempt, becoming West Lancs League champions in the process. After lifting the Lancashire FA Amateur Shield in 1998, re-organisation in 1999 saw the First Division become the Premier Division – which Fulwood won in its first season under the new title and retained the LFA Amateur Shield too. The club remained in the top flight right through until 2015, winning various cup silverware in the form of three WLL Houston Cups (2005, 2007 & 2008), another Richardson Cup (2010), though rarely looked like repeating their title wins of the ’90’s and their best was a runners-up spot in 2010 before relegation to Division 1 was suffered in 2014.

In the clubhouse

However, their stay there was brief, as Fulwood won the Division 1 title at the first attempt, as well as lifting the West Lancs League President’s Cup and Wilf Carr Memorial Trophy, and returned back to the top-flight in strong fashion – finishing their first two seasons in 3rd before dropping away slightly to 6th last season, though they did win the LFA Amateur Shield for a third time that year. However, this season has been strong and Fulwood had this very game today to win their third West Lancashire League title but the first under the “Premier Division” banner.

We got underway with Fulwood being slightly sluggish and indeed it was the visitors who made most of the early running, though didn’t make too much despite their dominance during the first fifteen – however they should have been one up just moments into the contest. A good touch and through ball by #11 released #9 who just beat the ‘keeper to the ball but his poke crawled wide of the far post. Fulwood responded with a flick-on testing the visiting ‘keeper’s handling, which faltered at first, but was recovered quickly.

The “sort-of-a-stand” Stand

Match Action

Opener flies in from the spot

#11 then had a chance for himself but his shot on the turn was hit straight at the home ‘keeper, but Fulwood gradually began to gain a foothold and impose themselves upon their visitors and soon after #4, Sam Braithwaite, had fired over the bar from the edge of the area, a pull-back in the box was given as a spot-kick (just about right from my viewpoint behind the goal) and #11, Adam Stammers, duly dispatched from the spot to begin the quell the nerves of the home support and players themselves. The jubilant celebrations showed as much; half-time 1-0.

A rather uneventful break came and went and we were soon back playing with Fulwood this time coming out and looking like champions-elect. They dominated from the outset with Stammers and #7, Jonty McDonald playing a good one-two to allow the former a shot on goal that forced a good stop, before the resulting corner was headed wide. #12, Jake Connolly, then almost netted when found unmarked at the back-post, only to be denied by a fine goal-line block by #4, but the second was finally recorded soon after. Connolly again got in and after his initial drive was spilt by the GK, #9, Hugo Rodriguez, was sharp in following up and gleefully dispatched the loose ball.

First goal celebrations!

Match Action

AAAAAANNNNDD 2!!

Connolly continued to give the Coppull defence all sorts of problems to think about and after he’d again forced the GK into action down low, a fairly obvious second penalty was awarded after a trip and McDonald sent the ‘keeper the wrong way from the spot. This began an absolute siege of the Coppull goal and the fourth arrived shortly afterwards when good hold-up play and lay-off by Rodriguez gave #5, Dan Cooper, the chance to shoot from 20 yards, he unleashed a fine drive that left the ‘keeper helpless. A great goal.

AAAAAANNNNDD 3!!!

Match Action

Fulwood lift the title

That wouldn’t be it on the goal-front though and a third Fulwood penalty soon came around, this one being converted in carbon-copy fashion to the previous one only this time it was Rodriguez who was given the task of netting from 12 yards with the other takers having been subbed (I think) by this point in the play. Fair play to Coppull, they came on strong late-on and ought to have grabbed a consolation as #5 headed just wide and they then hit the post with the last-kick of the game, but they would end with ten men as #4 was sent-off for a second yellow which, let’s be honest, didn’t really need to be given out. Anyway, it was and full-time arrived with Fulwood’s title win being confirmed and the celebrations could begin! Congrats to them.

Post-match, I figured out that buses weren’t all that great in terms of helping me get back to the pub trail and instead I opted for a swift walk back down some back-roads which eventually had me passing over a small stream and eventually back at the bus stops on the route I’d taken to get there, having seen that I could just about get there in time to jump back aboard a service up to the three close by (sort of) public houses I passed nearby en route. As such, I travelled the few stops along to the interestingly named Plungington Hotel where I took advantage of the warm sunshine that was now enveloping this part of Lancashire and the walled garden the pub played host to.

A strangely grand looking bus-stop

Plungington Hotel

Withy Hotel

Brook Tavern

The garden – basically just an old bowling green area – was nice enough for a swift Amstel (£3.85) before I headed along the road for a quick Strongbow (£3.50) in the Withy Arms as I’d just about calculated I could squeeze in the last watering hole nearby, the Brook Tavern, and upon finishing my cider in here I duly did make it for a Dark Fruits (£3.95) which was most enjoyable, though I was put off by the straw like bubble formation inside my glass. I thought this some strange coincidence until I got down to a low-enough point to see a small straw protruding from the liquid. Ah….there we go. Whatever the case, I quickly headed back for yet another bus (Preston Bus Service, you served me well) and was quickly back in the station in good time for the train home.

The remainder of the journey passed very smoothly indeed and I was home nice and early ahead of my long trip down south the following morning. As for the day at hand first, though, and it had been a very decent one indeed. The game was tight enough for long enough as to keep me interested before becoming something of a slaughter and the crowd number added to the occasion too. The ground is decent for the level (though I have heard a murmur it may not be about all too much longer, though this may be just some hearsay) and the programme/food at Step 7 is always a nice little aside too. Travel simple enough and only a little rushed due to the self-imposed constraints and Fulwood was, on the whole, worth the trip. On to Southampton we roll for my penultimate “hop” of the season….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 6

Food: 5

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 7

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