Result: Todmorden Borough 1-3 Little Lever Reserves (Lancashire Amateur League Division 2)
Venue: Bellholme Sports Club (Saturday 18th August 2018, 2.30pm)
Att: 22 (hc)
As the season’s first month advances on, I was given a rare early opportunity to drop into the local leagues and visit a town I’d wanted to look around for quite a while now. That town was, namely, the Yorkshire/Lancashire border town of Todmorden and I’d be heading to a ground a fair way out of town, but one that plays host to the newly reformed Todmorden Borough. With their folding towards the end of last season still fresh in the mind, I thought the chance to visit was one not to be spurned, and so, come Saturday morning, it was off on the train to Manchester once again.
After missing my planned train by a matter of seconds (it pulled away as I was crossing the footbridge), I caught the next one twenty minutes later, though initially had to endure a huge moth that had taken up a spot next to the seat I’d originally chosen. Could this day get any worse?! As it turned out, the answer, for once, would turn out to be no, unbelievably! The train arrived into Tod with little issue and I was soon making a mental plan of how my imminent pub-crawl would go. I reckoned it’d be best to start at the rear of town near the station and work back through the main road to the bus stop where I’d catch the bus down to Borough’s home, the Bellholme Sports Ground. As luck would have it, the stop was right outside a pub! What were the odds?!
Todmorden is a market town in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. It hosts the historic boundary between Lancashire & Yorkshire, the River Calder (and tributary, the Walsden Water), which run through the town, its grand town hall straddling the boundary and duly shows images reflecting the histories of both counties. The first instance of Todmorden’s name being mentioned was in 1641, having previously been known as Tottemerden and other similar names, the title likely deriving from the valley surrounding the town, rather than death! A pagan religious and burial site was unearthed above the nearby Cross Stone in 1898 and was likely used solely for funerals and the like. The findings currently reside within the town’s library.
The earliest record of the area is in the Domesday book, with many local settlements that have since come together being mentioned as separate dwellings. After originally having combined producing corn with fulling mills, the area grew to include farming and woollen textiles prior to the switch to the cotton trade during the Industrial Revolution, due to Todmorden’s geographical position close to Manchester, the centre of materials and trade. The local Pennine waterways played a big part in the growth of the industry in Tod, with these being used to power the local machine looms. Through the 190th century, Todmorden grew from a small village to more of a town, with better road and waterway links being created, as well as rail links being introduced to Burnley. The nearby Summit Tunnel became, at the time, the longest tunnel in the world, at 2,885 yards. The links continued to grow, with lines to Leeds and Manchester added shortly afterwards. The town also became the second municipality in Britain to introduce a motorised bus service, this coming along in 1907.
The visit began with a pint in the interestingly (and hornily, if you’re that way inclined) named Polished Knob, a free house which had a rather American-styled diner/music stage interior. It also had a lovely pub dog which was more than happy to say “Hello” to you as well. Sadly, my visit would only be brief, as I had to continue onwards with my alcohol-fuelled trip, the pint of Moretti (£3.70) going down very nicely indeed.
Next up came the main road through the town, though this did come about due to me missing the suitably named “The Pub” en route, which made me have to backtrack a short time later. The couple of pubs here, both named after historical figures the Duke of York (one of them anyway) and the Wellington, were both kind of your more traditional, drinkers sort of pubs. The Duke of York yielded a quick pint of Kronenberg (£3.2/45, I can’t remember which), whilst the Welly, which proclaimed itself the prestigious title of “smallest pub in Todmorden” gave me a second pint of Moretti for the day. The (I presume) owner was proud of the fact his pint of it here was £3.70 and that it was the cheapest in the area. I didn’t have the heart to tell him….
In between the pair came the aforementioned backtrack to The Pub, a little real ale gem slightly tucked away off the main road. I opted for a pint of the Pennine Brewery’s Orange & Grapefruit ale here which was bloody lovely, and nicely priced too, coming in at £3.20. It also had a map on the wall pointing out the numerous places of interest in the town. A peruse of this was had, before I headed off over the river and to the Royal George, my final pre-match stop. It was rather quiet in here, though a Newcastle fan was intently watching the Magpies’ game on the big screen. Luckily, I’d finished my Corona (£3), before they missed their late penalty and so missed out on the inevitable drama!
Hopping on the bus outside, a day ticket (£4.20) saw me back and forth from the Bellholme ground in good time. In the meantime, though, there was a game to watch. Todmorden Borough, now placed in the Lancashire Amateur League’s Division 2 after bowing out, folding and moving from the East Lancashire League over the previous few months, were welcoming the reserve side of Little Lever, a team from the outskirts of Bolton. I try to avoid reserves where possible (and definitely at home), but I’m not too fussed about aways, tbh. The Bellholme is a fully barred off pitch, with on grass standing giving full access the whole way round. Well it would have, if it wasn’t for the trees in the far corner anyway! A smart club building is located at the end of the access road, behind the near-end goal, with the car park leaving vehicles at the mercy of wayward shots. You’ve been warned. That’s the ground then, and this is the story of Todmorden Borough….
I can’t find a date to say when Todmorden Borough was founded, and the earliest information I can find is in 2004, when the club were playing in the East Lancashire League Premier Division, winning the title along with the League Cup, whilst also reaching the Harry Walsh Cup Final. By 2009, Tod had joined the West Lancashire League, where they seemingly remained in the Division 2 right through to their eventual departure and return to the East Lancashire League in 2015, following a 10th (second bottom) placed finish. The club would resign towards the end of last season, re-emerging for this campaign in the Lancashire Amateur League’s Division 2.
The game got underway just as I arrived and it began fairly evenly, though it could be argued that it was the visitors who began the stronger of the two sides. However, both sides’ #9’s would share chances during the first fifteen minutes or so, Todmorden’s seeing his shot comfortably saved by the Little Lever ‘keeper and his opposite number seeing his effort come back off the upright. His strike partner, the #10, then also had a low shot saved easily as the game continued on towards the half-hour.
The deadlock was eventually broken when the Little Lever #11, Alex Ward, managed to fashion a sort of sliding tackle/shot into an attempt on goal and the ball duly flew into the bottom corner at a surprisingly good pace. I was at the opposite end of the ground to this, though, and so maybe it was a bit more of a full-on shot than it looked from my viewpoint. Either way, it was one-nil to the visitors and this became two just before the break, when a rather silly foul allowed Lever’s #10, Shane Evans, to double the advantage from the spot. Half-Time, 0-2.
The break came and went in no time, as it tends to do at this level, and we were back underway in good time for me, as I was now on for an earlier bus back to Todmorden town as I’d hoped. Unfortunately, the second half was a fairly uneventful affair, with only a couple of chances being created by either side. The best of these for both saw Lever’s #4 strike a long-range free-kick wide of the mark and into the bushes beyond the far goal, whilst Tod’s #3 fired narrowly wide after a corner had only been half-cleared.
Todmorden did grab a goal back with around fifteen minutes to play, when the #9, Jamie Melvin, was played in nicely and despite getting his shot away and forcing the Little Lever ‘keeper into a stop, was adjudged to have been fouled in the meantime and a penalty was duly awarded. He stepped up to find the net and give his side some hope heading into the final quarter-hour of the game. Unfortunately for them, despite pressure being applied for the remaining minutes, they couldn’t grab an equaliser (or a second goal back, as it apparently finished 3-1 with Ward grabbing another) and so Little Lever’s Reserves ran out with the points. I ran out too, just across the way to catch the bus back for a couple of post-match drinks prior to getting the train back to Manchester. Note to self: remember that buses around here have a strange bar-code scanner thing going on….
Back in Todmorden, I disembarked just near the old, Unitarian church (which is apparently haunted, don’cha know) and headed for the nearby Golden Lion, where a canal-side pint of Cruzcampo was enjoyed (£4) prior to heading up the fairly steep incline for a quick look at the aforementioned church. From there, I backtracked towards the station for a quick Hooch in the town’s ‘Spoons outlet, the White Hart, before heading to the Queen’s Hotel, which stands opposite the station’s opening. A bottle of Corona (£3.20) was had in here, just so I didn’t have to rush it and could take it out if required. Drink smartly, everyone!
Soon enough, the train was due and I was soon back on board and heading back to Victoria station. Another walk back through the city centre was endured, though this one was via the more interesting St. Peter’s Square route rather than the dreary Deansgate one I’d taken on the way out, so there’s that. The train home was duly awaiting me as I got to Oxford Road, and so there endeth another trip. Next up is a venture down south and to the furthest league stadium from my dwelling….
***The game on Tod’s Facebook and Full-Time is confirmed and given as 1-3, I only thought it was two until writing this on Friday! Ah well, kept it more exciting.
Ground: 6 (plus point for backdrop!)
Value For Money: 8