Manchopper in….Brighouse

Result: Brighouse Town 0-3 Atherton Collieries (Northern Premier League Division 1 North)

Venue: St. Giles Road (Saturday 18th November 2017, 3pm)

Att: 198

In a rare diversion from FA competitions this season, this very Saturday gave me the chance to “tick” one of the few grounds in the NPL’s Division One North that I’d still to visit (having done most in my time watching Trafford), this despite it being one of the more simple journeys to complete. So when Brighouse thusly won out in the popular twitter vote in the week leading up to the game, I was more than happy to seize the chance to travel to the Yorkshire club’s St. Giles Road home for their league clash against Roses rivals, Atherton Collieries.

A simple journey from Manchester through to Brighouse, via a swift change in Huddersfield, saw me arriving into the town at just after midday, the reasoning behind my early arrival being that I had the circa 35 minute walk up to the ground ahead of me. But with a couple of hours ahead of me before I had to contemplate the walk in the chilly Yorkshire air, it was off to some of the finest hostelries in Brighouse, and there’s a fair few to choose from in that respect.

First up was The Calder, located on the main road leading in towards the town centre. The Calder is located within a former theatre building, though there isn’t much to suggest this is the case (to my eye anyway) within sadly, with the only clue alluding to this fact coming in the form of a plaque near the door. Regardless, I began with a pint of Hop House 13 in here for the not too shabby £4.20. However, my struggle over this first drink made me reckon today was going to be a cider day. This came to pass.

Brighouse

The Calder

Upon finishing up my pint in here, I continued the walk up towards the town centre itself, though was half-sidetracked by the Barge pub across the way. I did decide that there was more options on the linear route towards the ground, though, and changed tack to the more traditional The George, where a finely priced (not much more than £2) Dark Fruits was enjoyed whilst watching the first half of the Arsenal-Spurs game. Half-time at the Emirates (or Ashburton Grove, if you prefer) called for me to head onwards towards the Olde Ship, a pub which is appropriately named, due to it actually being largely created out of an old ship – namely HMS Donegal – the timbers of which make up the frame and supports within. This is the sort of character I like in a pub, though I’m not quite sure the music stylings being played loudly within quite fit! Another cheap Dark Fruits was had whilst I helped a guy who was stoking the pub’s fire with his walking stick, to load up said fire with some wood (despite being remonstrated with for initially picking up the wrong piece). I got it right on the second attempt and all was well!

Next up was a planned swift one in the Black Bull which sits across the roundabout from the Ship. However, I soon spied the Bridge across the road and decided I’d pop in there instead and leave the Bull for a post-game pint instead. A swift Corona was had in here before I embarked on the walk to Brighouse’s ground, entailing a largely uphill journey until getting to the road which leads off and down towards a pathway leading through some trees to the rear of a fairly modern housing estate. The ground sits immediately at the end of said path, with the entrance at the far side of the car park.

Brighouse

Olde Ship

The Bridge

Upon arriving, I paid my £8 (having had no Football League season ticket for discount and, don’t worry, I’m not ranting about that offer again) for entry, plus the £2 for the fairly decent programme. I also bought a golden goal after pretty much all the guys around the gate alerted me to the fact I’d dropped a fiver, making sure there was no way I was losing it! My pick of 66 minutes gave me little hope of regaining some money and so I headed to the clubhouse to find some food, as this usually helps matters…

Brighouse’s clubhouse is a smart little building with the bar and food area located within, along with the usual paraphernalia. Heading over to the food bar, I plumped for the advertised £2 chicken curry pie which was a very decent offering indeed. With a few minutes left to kick-off, I took my newly purchased pastry bliss back outside and gave me a chance to take in St. Giles Road.

Almost there.

BTFC

The ground is a fairly simple one, with not much else to speak of bar the clubhouse, which sits to the rear of the near end, and the sole stand at the ground which runs the majority of the left-hand touch-line. The turnstiles are sandwiched between the two, with various mobile buildings being located to the rear of the clubhouse building. The far end and right-hand touch-line are open, hard standing, with a little open terracing just beyond the stand. As for Brighouse Town’s story….

History Lesson:

Brighouse Town F.C. was formed in 1963, initially as a representative side of Brighouse’s Blakeborough Valve Company, the club playing their home games at the Woodhouse Recreation Ground and competing in the Huddersfield Works League. During their time as Blakeborough, the club won numerous honours, with 1969 seeing their most successful campaign end with League Cup and Halifax District Cup triumphs, with this season being followed by the club taking the step of gaining its own ground, Green Lane, where the club would remain for the next decade, winning a further two league titles prior to applying for the West Riding County Amateur League and joining in 1975.

Following their departure from Green Lane, the club mad the short move to their current St. Giles Road site and continued to ply their trade in the WRCAL until 1988 when the company whose name the club carried failed and Brighouse Town AFC came into being. The name change also tied in to a period of success for the club with promotion to the WRCAL’s Premier Division being attained in its first season as Brighouse, the club finishing as Division 1 runners-up, as well as lifting the league’s Division One Cup. 1991 saw the Premier Division title won for the first time and the West Riding County Cup joined the trophy cabinet the next year. Success in the nineties continued, with ’94 seeing the Premier Division League Cup won, before winning the Premier Division title again in 1995.

The ’95-’96 season would become on of, if not the, most successful in Brighouse’s history, as the club proceeded to lift the title once again and then completed the double by taking the League Cup. Their double became a treble, as the Bod Wedgeworth Memorial Trophy was added to the silverware. The decade was rounded off by another double, Town lifting both the 1999 Halifax F.A. Cup and WRCAL Premier Division Cup.

BTFC

The early part of the new millennium saw Brighouse’s success in the WRCAL continue unabated, with regular silverware arriving at St. Giles Road. Following the second lifting of the Bob Wedgeworth Trophy in 2000, 2001 saw a treble of WRCAL Premier Division, Premier Division Cup and Halifax F.A. Cup arrive, prior to the retention of the league and Halifax Cups the next season, the latter being won for a third and fourth consecutive year, in 2003 & 2004 respectively. 2004 also saw the Bob Wedgeworth Trophy won for a third time, which ended up being the final silverware Brighouse would won as an amateur outfit.

The 2008-’09 season saw Town make the step into the semi-pro game with the club joining the Northern Counties East League, competing in Division One. They spent two seasons here before winning promotion to the NCEL Premier Division as runners-up, and Town remained in the NCEL top-flight through to 2014, when the club won the NCEL title with the triumph coming in the club’s 50th anniversary season. A few seasons of consolidation followed as the club found their feet at NPL Division One North level, with last season seeing Brighouse finish up in a solid 9th place, with new manager Vill Powell taking the reigns for the current season, taking over from Paul Quinn, the newly-appointed Shaw Lane boss.

We were soon underway with Brighouse gaining the upper-hand over the early stages. Indeed, the home side almost took the lead within the first ten minutes, only being denied by Jamie Forbes’ superb goal-line clearance, the Colls defender hooking the ball clear from off his goal-line with the ball seemingly destined to find the net. From the on, the visitors began to gain a foothold and the game became a slightly turgid affair for the next twenty minutes or so, with little in the way of action to speak of, before a Ben Hardcastle drive struck the foot of the post for the visitors.

Having taken up a spot with Rob and Zach within the travelling Colls numbers for the earlier part of the half, my decision to go for a lap may have been one they wished I’d have continued to extend for the rest of the game. No sooner had I began the circuit than Colls took the lead. A corner from the left was flicked on to the arriving Chris Lynch at the back post and the right back completed the task of knocking the ball home from a few yards.

Eyes on the ball

Match Action

Match Action

From then on, the Lancastrian side took control of the tie to more of an extent and thus it wasn’t much of a shock when they doubled their advantage eight minutes later. The ball found its way out to he dangerous Hardcastle on the left side of the area and he cracked a drive (it looked a half-volley from the far end) across the goal and into the far corner. The rest of the half passed with little of note, the sides heading in with the score reading nil-two.

The second half began in much the way of the first, Colls looking comfortable with the hosts struggling to really create any clear-cut chances. I said as much to Rob, who was still unconvinced at the 2-0 advantage, stating that Town wouldn’t find the net. Obviously, this would prove correct and this doesn’t happen often, so I’m definitely taking the chance to milk this prediction coming to fruition!

The lights took more and more effect as night began to descend ever more around West Yorkshire, with the Emley Moor mast’s warning lights becoming ever more prevalent in the distance. And darkness soon shrouded any chance Brighouse had of rescuing something from this game as the quicksilver Colls sub Jordan Cover raced clear and pulled the ball back to the arriving Danny Lambert who finished confidently beyond Town stopper Chris Butt, who’d earlier pulled off a great stop to deny a Colls effort.

50/50

Lights

Match Action

Following a further strike being ruled out for off-side for Colls, Brighouse almost gained themselves a consolation in the closing minutes, substitute Marcus Day seeing his effort crash back off the same upright earlier struck by Hardcastle, but this mattered little as the referee brought proceedings to a close shortly afterwards with the visitors running out deserved winners.

After saying goodbyes to both Rob and Zach, I headed back down through the night (now thankfully pretty much all downhill) before taking refuge from the chill in the previously mentioned Black Bull. Again, Dark Fruits was the order of the day and again was far from bank-breaking. After watching a little of whichever Championship game was on (I have a feeling it involved Preston), it was onwards to the ‘Spoons where I plumped for the old school Hooch, before spotting Zach on a table across the way and proceeded to ruin the next forty minutes or so of his quiet evening, which involved a swift stop at the station neighbouring Railway.

Black Bull

‘Spoons

The quick hop over to Huddersfield was completed with little issue, delays all feeding into each other, meaning no problems were really forthcoming. Back at Hudds, Zach headed back to his York abode whilst I had a little longer to wait for my transport back into Manchester, being joined by a rowdy group at the centre of the world that is StalyVegas.

So that’s that for Brighouse and, all in all, it had been another decent day. A cheap-ish journey and town is always welcome and the game itself was decent enough too. The ground was solid if unspectacular, somewhat reminding me of New Mills without the old buses over one side. The only downside was that bloody League offer rearing its ugly head yet again! I do truly despise it as, despite understanding why it exists, there are definitely better, more universally encompassing ways, of attracting people in. In my view anyway, but what do I know? Anyway, before going too much against my earlier promise of not ranting, next week sees me afforded a trip down to the smoke via the kindly Mr Nobody. Only when I arrive somewhere will I know where I’m going! So, until then, adieu….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 5

Food: 7

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Kendal

Result: Kendal Town 2-1 Radcliffe Borough (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)

Venue: Parkside (Saturday 7th October 2017, 3pm)

Att: 111

Non-League Day rolled around once again and, as usual, saw club’s up and down the country unveiling initiatives from lowering prices to my much hated promotion, the allowing in of Premier League season ticket holders for a discounted price whilst the rest are left to pay full. Without going off on a full-on tangent there, a more positive initiative was that of West Didsbury & Chorlton’s Non-League Dogs day, which invited dogs and their owners in for free and in turn attracted national attention from Sky Sports. A far more positive way of getting people through the gates, whilst avoiding the PL ticket horror show.

As for my game…well there was no promotion here whatsoever, which was something of a surprise, though no issue for myself. At least the PL ticket thing hadn’t been implemented (I think I may need counselling over this). Anyway, after an early F1-influenced start to the day, I decided that, being up already, I might as well get an earlier train up to the Lakes and have more than enough time for an explore. So having transited through Warrington and up to Oxenholme along with a group of Leyton Orient fans who were debating whether to get to Barrow early or not. The group made their decision and got off at Lancaster while I continued on one further stop to Oxenholme, where I’d grab my last connection for the short five-minute hop to Kendal.

The Lakes

Kendal Castle

Looking down on the town

After a short delay, I was soon heading past the castle ruins and into the station. I’d soon be back at the castle, having a quick look around the waterlogged remains before heading back down the steep-ish incline from the former stronghold and along the river until I arrived within the tight streets of the older part of the town centre. I still managed to take a wrong turn here somehow, before eventually righting myself and heading for my own stronghold, Wetherspoons, of which Kendal’s is complete with its own rather large chimney no less. There is a plaque outlining what the “700-foot” chimney was a part of too, but with the rain coming down at more of a rate, I headed inside for the staple Punk IPA before retreating back on myself and to the main street, where two pubs stood almost side-by-side. Both looked interesting enough, so I reckoned I might as well try both!

First up was the interestingly named Horse & Rainbow. It was fairly full in here, with a few punters taking advantage of what I’d soon find out were very cheap pints. At just over £2, I had a Strongbow in my possession, but not for too long as it was soon time to head a couple of doors down, but not before I’d berated a guy for watching the F1 qualifying on repeat and not getting up for it live…though I did warn against watching the screen he was facing for Sky’s spoilers.

‘Spoons, complete with chimney

Olde Fleece

Kendal

The Olde Fleece was the name of my next port of call and I again stuck with the Strongbow. Another pint at less than £3 was purchased, whilst I got far too excited by the “ghostly face” within my glass. This was, as I quickly deduced, no more than the shadow of the chair behind it, but I was then asked if I’d like to have a look at the pub’s very own “ghost picture” that shows a very see-through guy standing outside this very establishment during the early 20th century. The question remains: a trick of the camera…or something more unexplained? It’s that time of year, after all….

After another ghost story involving a mirror in there, it was time for me to continue my tour of Kendal. Next up was the interestingly named Bootlegger’s. This place is hidden through an alcove and a small alley and looks suitably shut up. Luckily, this wasn’t the case and I headed into the dimly lit, sort of old-Western-themed bar. After interrupting the barmaid’s attempts at warming up near some heat source close by the door, I plumped for a Staropramen, which came in at less than £4, though I did later see I’d missed out on an offer on Cubanisto which I regretted somewhat. Anyway, I finished up and bid goodbye to said bar staff who had now been joined in the quest for comfort by a few other regulars.

I’d previously spied a couple of pubs just off the main street and plumped for the closest of the three, the Globe, which sat within the bustling market place. Avoiding the stalls and those browsing them, I got myself a final pint, this time of Kingstone Press to take me through to around ten past two, whereupon it was time to head back past the castle and onwards to Park Side Road and Kendal’s ground.

Where in the world?

Bootleggers

Parkside from Park Side

After heading past a decent-looking pub near the ground I had no idea existed, I soon found myself in sight of the ground from the road. Navigating through the car park to the turnstiles, I was relieved of my £9 entry, plus a further £2 for the ok programme. Kendal’s ground is definitely one of my favourites, with a good mix of old and new(er) stands. The “Main Stand” sits on the far touchline, along with a further covered standing area and houses the dressing rooms, with the large terracing & seating stand located just to the right of where you enter, behind the near end goal. This also plays host to the clubhouse and tea bar, where I would buy a hot dog upon my arrival, as I was in some need of some “lunch” by now. The near-side houses an old covered area directly opposite that on the opposite side, with further uncovered terracing located towards the far end which itself is open, hard standing. Ground description done, here’s the story of Kendal Town…

History Lesson:

Kendal Town F.C. was founded in 1919 by employees of the Netherfield Somerfield Brothers factory and, as such, began life as Netherfield F.C. They won the Westmorland County Cup in 1925 to pick up their first piece of silverware before going on to join the West Lancashire League in 1936. Following the Second World War, the club moved into the Lancashire Combination, finishing their first season as runners-up. This season also saw them reach the FA Cup First Round for the first time, where they’d lose out to Barrow.

KTFC

When the Lancs Combination gained a second division in 1947, Netherfield were placed in Division One and this was won in 1949, which was combined with a second First Round appearance in the Cup, though this again ended in defeat. The following season, however, did see the club achieve a First Round win, as they navigated North Shields to meet Watford in the Second Round, where they’d end that year’s run.

First Round appearances became commonplace in the early part of the 1950’s, with three further seasons seeing this round reached. In the league, meanwhile, 1954 saw the club end up as runners-up in the Lancs Combination for a second time and 1956 saw the Lancashire Combination Cup secured. This was won for a second time in 1961, with a third league runners-up placing being achieved the following season.

Parkside

Following another Second Round Cup appearance in 1964, 1965’s Combination title win (final First Round appearance) and subsequent strong form saw Netherfield become founder members of the Northern Premier League in 1968. However, the club struggled here and finished bottom in 1974, 1982 & 1983, the latter of which saw the only relegation, with the club dropping into the newly formed North West Counties League. After just about avoiding relegation to Division 2, due to an Ashton United points deduction at the end of their first NWCFL season, the club maintained their place in Division 1 and became founder members of the NPL’s Division 1 in 1987.

Despite finishing bottom at the end of the division’s first season, the club weren’t relegated. They’d remain in the division through to 2006, (going through two name changes in the process, first to Netherfield Kendal in ’98 and latterly to Kendal Town in 2000), reaching the play-offs after a third placed finish before defeating Stocksbridge Park Steels and Gresley Rovers to achieve promotion to the NPL’s Premier Division.

Today’s game

A fifth-placed finish in 2009 would see Kendal reach the play-offs here for the first time, losing to Ilkeston Town in the semi-finals, and this was repeated the next season, only with Bradford Park Avenue being the vanquishers. Unfortunately, this form soon dropped away and 2013 saw the Mintcakes finish second from bottom which saw them relegated to the Division One North. Last season, Kendal achieved a 12th placed finish in the same division.

The game got underway with Kendal looking to avenge their league defeat to Radcliffe the week prior, the second time in a month I’ve had that happen, following my trip to Rhostyllen-Lex Glyndwr a few weeks ago. Indeed, my Radcliffe blog from a couple of years ago also happened to be this very clash too, so repeats aplenty were abound. The pitch didn’t look the easiest to play on and chances were at a premium in the earlier stages of the contest, with those mostly falling to the visitors, but being largely restricted to long-range efforts. But on 33 minutes, the home side broke the deadlock with Ric Seear arriving at the back-post to nod home.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Kendal wasted no time in adding to their lead, as Radcliffe quickly lost possession soon after the restart and Matt Clarke made gains through the defence before squaring the ball to Anthony Lynch who had the simple task of knocking the ball in from close range. From then on in, Kendal saw out the remainder of the half to head in at the break with a solid cushion, 2-0.

The second half began with Radcliffe looking to get themselves back into this tie. After a stinging effort was tipped over the crossbar by Ryan Jones early in the piece, the visitors began to take more control of the contest and grabbed one back through a Carl Peers tap in just before the hour. Not that I saw it, as I had surveyed the scene and decided there was little chance of me missing anything of note, so began a text only to hear cheers from the far end. Ah well, 2-1 it was and the game was well and truly on!

Match Action

On the front foot

Both Callum Grogan and Peers went close to levelling up the scores, but Kendal would manage to see out the remaining minutes to secure their passage through to the First Qualifying Round and a home tie against Atherton Collieries. Radcliffe could probably count themselves unlucky over the ninety not to have secured a replay. But it was Kendal who took their chances when they came.

As for me, it was back off towards the station with enough time for another two, though this did end up with me following one guy on the hunch he knew where he was going. He did, but I didn’t expect to be heading through a graveyard at some point! Can there be any more death-related things this day?! Ghosts, cemeteries…what next? Anyway. I decided to be sensible for once and settle for just the one final cider in the Castle Inn which is just around the corner from the station. Of course, this would prove not to make any difference whatsoever, as I got back to Manchester still fairly awake, before rapidly getting worse and flopping at home at some point around nine. The lesson there is don’t be sensible, surely*.

The Castle Inn

As for the day as a whole then. Kendal is a pretty cool place to explore, though I’d say I prefer Clitheroe castle to Kendal, on the basis I can see more of the ground! You can see Kendal County F.C. from there, though, so I’ll give some points back for th…..where were we again? Oh yeah. The pubs were good value too for the most part, with ghostly happenings being an added bonus. The game was ok without being spectacular, though the ground certainly made up for that. So it’s onwards back to the FA Cup for Saturday and a battle of Towns….

*DISCLAIMER: It’s probably best to be sensible tbh.

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 8

Programme: 5

Food: 5

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Glossop

Result: Glossop North End 0-2 Mossley (FA Cup Preliminary Round)

Venue: Surrey Street (Saturday 19th August 2017, 3pm)

Att: 450

It was back onto the Road to Wembley for this game as local rivals clashed for a place in the next round of the oldest cup competition in football. I was also introducing globetrotting Dave to the joys of Northern non-league football, somewhat removed from the like of Wimbledon, back in the day. You may also remember the fact I blogged this very ground a couple of seasons back, but having neglected the town whilst visiting Surrey Street on that day, I felt it’d be rude not to return at some point and have an explore. Dave was well up for it too and as such, it was off to the twitterverse’s chosen contest.

Just about avoiding the early morning rain showers, a quick change through Manchester was undertaken before we were heading onwards towards Derbyshire. Eventually arriving at just before mid-day, it soon became apparent that we may be reliant on a Wetherspoons until after the clock had passed that magic midday stroke. But, this changed with the discovery of the early starting Norfolk Arms and, after a quick trip to the local Boots and dodging a group of marauding Vespa riders, we were straight through the door for a couple of pints of Holt’s Crystal Gold.

Gloomy Glossop

Norfolk Arms

The Smithy Fold within a Mill

With the early kick-off about to get underway and the pub filling with United fans, I decided it’d be better to move on and head for said ‘Spoons which Dave, being a Chelsea fan, would probably have been somewhat thankful for. The Smithy Fold (within an old mill or something) is definitely one of the nicer ones out there and it combined well with the usual Punk IPA for myself. Our whistle-stop tour was soon to continue, though, with a trip over to the Brook Tavern. It looked pretty decent from outside but wasn’t quite to our overall taste within.

Due to the lack of interesting options, our stay was brief (though did yield us the chance to see United break the deadlock in South Wales) and with the clock now approaching 2pm, Dave reckoned we should head closer to the ground and, namely, to the Friendship Inn that sits just around the corner from the ground and not quite where you’d expect to find a pub. Be that as it may, this was probably my favourite of the ones visited pre-match, helped along markedly by the fact it was selling the superb Big Wave Pale Ale.

Weather starts to improve over the station

Friendship Inn

The kid wearing the Gengar hoody notwithstanding, not much was really up for report in here and we reckoned we may as well head up to Surrey Street and have a pint in the ground pre-match, a real rarity for me! After almost losing £15 to the wind, I was safely guided to the turnstiles without further faux pas and soon handed over £8. But, disaster! No programmes remained due to the printer breaking down, meaning around fifteen or so only had been up for grabs for these lucky punters. However, Dave, being a Tooting native, was kindly sorted an issue later in the day…..

Welcome to Surrey Street

The refreshing pint of Dark Fruits (albeit in a plastic container) saw us through to kick-off, with Dave deciding he wanted to head for “The Trenches”. No, this isn’t any sort of strange toilet nickname, but is instead how the covered standing area behind the goal and alongside the clubhouse/tea bar/changing rooms is known. It once housed the more vocal fans, I seem to remember, though these were seemingly absent from the crowd today, who were in good number. The rest of the ground features a further two stands, a seated stand towards the near corner and a further covered terrace on the opposite side, straddling the half-way line, with a little more terracing protruding from beyond the roofed area. As for Glossop NE’s story, well it’s a long and chequered one…

History Lesson:

Glossop North End FC was formed in 1886, initially playing friendly matches prior to joining the North Cheshire League in 1890. They’d go on to use professional players in 1894 whilst competing in the Combination (finishing runners-up & third in their two season stint) before joining the Midland League for a further two seasons, again finishing with a best of runners-up.

Glossop, as they’d be known from their stint in the league (to avoid confusion with Preston) through to 1992, would go on from there to join the Football League in 1898, being third time lucky in the application process whilst under the guidance of chairman, local cotton magnate Sir Samuel Hill-Wood, who’d later go on to hold the same role at Woolwich Arsenal. Indeed, the family line continues to have links with the club to this day with Peter Hill-Wood currently being a patron of the Hillmen. In joining the league, Glossop became the smallest town to host a Football League outfit (before being ousted by the area around Forest Green only this year) and remains the smallest to have hosted a top-flight club.

Their first Football League season was a highly successful one, the club finishing as Division 2 runners-up to Manchester City and achieving promotion to Division 1. However, their tenure in the top-flight only spanned a single season, prior to the Hillsmen (as they were then known) returning to the second-tier. Here they’d remain through to the end of the 1914/’15 season, whereupon the club was later disbanded due to WWI.

GNEFC

Reformed at the cessation of hostilities, the club had spells in both the Lancashire Combination (one season) & Manchester League in the period between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second. They’d end up winning the Manchester League title once in 1928 and also added the league’s Gilgryst Cup to their cabinet on three separate occasions.

After the end of WWII, Glossop re-joined the Manchester League and won a fourth Gilgryst Cup title (1948) prior leaving their original North Road ground in 1955 and moving into their present Surrey Street site. Since then, the club have had spells in the Lancashire Combination (nine seasons) and the Manchester League once more and became founders of the Cheshire County League (winning promotion to Division One as Division 2 runners-up in 1981) before also becoming founder members of the North West Counties League after the following season when the league merged with the Lancashire Combination. Glossop would spend the majority of their time here in the First (latterly Premier) Division, bar a spell from 1988-1992.

After staving off the threat of folding during the latter part of the 1980’s and early ’90’s, the club’s fortunes began to change and the Hillmen began to challenge more at the top of the table than languish towards the bottom of it. Following the name revert to Glossop North End in 1992, success would come in the form of the Manchester Premier Cup in 1997 vs Trafford at Old Trafford & 1998 at Maine Road vs Radcliffe Borough and the Derbyshire Senior Cup in 2001 vs now defunct Glapwell. Past this, little in the way of silverware was to follow in the next decade, though Glossop did get themselves to Wembley in the FA Vase, ending up as runners-up to the then Vase specialists Whitley Bay in the 2009 competition.

Clubhouse

Despite this, Glossop still struggled to get themselves out of the Counties and it would take until 2015 to do it, and then despite a large backlog of fixtures towards the end of the campaign. After managing to reel in the 21-point deficit to the top, he club also won the NWCFL League Cup and returned to Wembley once again for the Vase final, but again would fall at the final hurdle to a Northern League outfit, this time North Shields. 2016 saw Glossop easily make the step up to Step 4 and the NPL Division 1 North, finishing up the season in 4th position and taking a spot in the play-offs, eventually losing out to Northwich Victoria in the semis. Last season saw the departure of boss Chris Willcock, despite a decent 8th position finish, with Paul Phillips and Steve Halford taking the reigns.

Just 15 minutes after arrival of the officials, the game got underway with the visitors grabbing the early initiative, despite coming up against the confusing matter of a Matt Russell in both full-back positions. Yes, both #2 and #3 for Glossop North End were Matt Russell. Madness. Anyway, just a few minutes in, an effort from a corner had to be cleared off the line by a Glossop defender, which may well have been one of the Russell pairing. Despite this early chance, little else was fashioned through the first half-hour, with only a sole Dale Johnson effort for the hosts threatening a goal.

Match Action

Match Action

Floor scrap

But, with the thirty-minute mark passed, a couple of corners would lead to the opener. Jack Tuohy’s delivery found Elliot Harrison (whom Dave had already picked out as a danger man early in the game) and the winger planted his header beyond Glossop ‘keeper Paul Phillips (who has previous in this competition, having been a key part of the Droylsden squad who made it onto TV a number of years back) and into the net, to give the visitors the advantage.

Mossley did have a scare towards the end of the half, Liam Ellis’ header being ruled out for offside as Glossop pushed on to try to restore parity, but the Lilywhites saw out the remainder of play to head into the dressing rooms with the slight advantage. For us, it was to the food bar where we had to settle for a hot dog, due to the pies having run out at the time we’d got there. They were back on fairly swiftly but, having already tasted the fine offerings up at Surrey Street, I wasn’t too upset by the lack of pastry.

Harrison heads Mossley in front

The most memorable part of the half-time break was definitely the disgusting way in which Marko Arnautovic was announced to have been sent off. The PA system crackled into life with the words “Marko Arnautovic has been sent off for elbowing….” before the commentary was broken by the announcer’s words “the raffle ticket seller…”. Awful scenes, though his bending of time and space definitely needs looking at.

It was Glossop who had the ball in the net again early in the second period, but an infringement on the visiting ‘keeper just prior to the goal by “scorer” Ben Deegan saw the powerful frontman’s effort chalked off. This would prove to be a fatal error, as Mossley would soon double their advantage, Danny McLoughlin being felled at the end of a surging run. With the foul in the box, the due penalty was awarded and skipper Tom Dean stepped up. His spot-kick was kept out by Phillips, but fortune was against the ‘keeper as the ball immediately returned to the feet of Dean who stroked home the equaliser. This would prove to be the last action for Phillips too, as he appeared to chuck the ball into the celebratory scrum and was duly sent off for the transgression.

Original pen save, before the action kicked off!

Match Action

Today’s entertainment came courtesy of…

This pretty much ended North End’s hopes and Mossley comfortably saw out the remainder of the tie to book their place in the First Qualifying Round. Post-match, it was back to the clubhouse for a quick one (and receipt of programme), plus the witnessing of a strange half-skirmish between a member of each side just outside the bar. No idea what really sparked it, but there was certainly some annoyance going around.

We soon departed, along with the Mossley boss who had a quick chat about Lilywhites and Dave was more than happy to tell him about how he’s adopting the Tameside club due to the links through the nickname before we headed back to the high street for a couple of further drinks, in the Globe and the station-neighbouring Star Inn. The former was a brilliant little pub and well worth a visit if you find yourself in these parts. However, time had caught up with us and it was time to catch the train back to Manchester for the short 25 minute hop.

Dave was pleased with the Hillmen issue

A final quick one to waste away some time in the Grand Central alongside Oxford Road station completed the trip, before a return to my parents’ bar, where we’ve got to know Dave from on his sporadic visits up, made it signed and sealed off. All in all, it had been a really good day out. Glossop’s a decent town, the game was definitely watchable and Surrey Street is always a ground I enjoy visiting. As it is, it’s the Lilywhites of Mossley who progress and they’ll host the winners of tonight’s (at time of posting) replay between West Didsbury & Chorlton & 1874 Northwich. The arch draws ever closer….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

 

Manchopper in….Colne

Result: Colne 0-0 Droylsden (Northern Premier League Division One North)

Venue: Holt House (Saturday 22nd April 2017, 3pm)

Att: 568

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.

The Crown Hotel

The Venue. Nice underpants clock too.

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.

The golden postbox. No, not a crap fairytale.

Sitting outside. That’s unexpected!

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.

Colne

The Wallace Hartley

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.

It’s pretty steep that hill!

Queuing. Not often experienced!

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…

History Lesson:

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.

Benches & tactics and stuff.

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.

The fans were out in numbers at Holt House.

Quite a few away fans too.

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.

Match Action

Match Action

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!

Match Action

Match Action

View from the stand

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.

The three micropubs

The Duke of Lancaster

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!

My unfortunate loss.

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…

 

RATINGS:

Game: 4

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 5

Manchopper in….Skelmersdale

Result: Skelmersdale United 0-3 Marine (Northern Premier League Premier Division)

Venue: Stormy Corner (Monday 17th April 2017, 3pm)

Att: 403

Easter Monday had arrived and I was set to round off my Easter weekend with a good old-fashioned Bank Holiday derby fixture. Originally, this game had been planned to be Ilkeston vs Mickleover Sports, on account of Ilkeston’s apparently iffy future, but this was then unfortunately upstaged by the goings on with regard to Skelmersdale Utd and their “dismissal” from their Stormy Corner ground under a cloud of implausible, unreasonable-seeming goings on. So, feeling a bit for the club and wishing to help them out somewhat in their quest for survival, I reckoned my money would be better off spent there.

So, I set off having no complete plans of how to actually get to the ground via public transport, other than getting the train to Orrell and a bus from just up the road in Upholland. The first bit accomplished, I was then left with a good hour in the latterly mentioned self-proclaimed “historic” town. No worries, I thought, I’ll just go find somewhere to wait it out.

First pub: closed. Second one: in darkness. Third: similar. Fou….well you get the picture by now. Yes, Upholland was a ghost town during the late morning/early afternoon with nowhere open anywhere. So, I was left to trek up and down the road to pass the time which, I’m not going to lie, got a little soul-destroying after a while. For once in my life, I couldn’t wait to board a bus. That’s how desperate it got.

Eventually my carriage of refuge arrived and for £5.50 I was whisked up and into West Lancashire, passing by numerous now-open pubs en-route, just to rub it in a bit. After heading through the town centre of Skelmersdale, I remained on board to get a little closer to the ground, as there was three pubs to choose from within a ten-minute walk of Stormy Corner. No problems foreseen, I disembarked after the forty-minute journey to find…another ghost town. Brilliant.

Anybody?

One of the only people I’d see on my walk

First pub…nowhere to be found. Second: closed until later. Third: see second. The groundhopping Gods weren’t helping me out today, for sure! So with little choice left (all avenues had been exhausted), I decided to head to the ground a whole hour-and-a-half before kick-off, negotiating back-alleyways and roundabouts as I went, before eventually arriving at the scenic industrial estate which Stormy Corner is nestled within.

Arriving at the ground shortly afterwards, I paid my £9 dues at the turnstile, later returning to the box next door for a programme costing £2. It wasn’t worth it, though I do feel this may be down to cost-cutting as, on my previous trips, I’m sure I remember them being more full of articles and info? Anyway, I’m not one to complain too much about programmes, so I headed off for the bar for a much-needed pint, after the shenanigans of the day so far!

Upon entering Skem’s fine, memorabilia-filled clubhouse, I decided upon a pint of Lees’ Lager, which wasn’t the greatest I’ve ever had if I’m honest. A bonus, at least, was I was permitted to charge my phone to a reasonable level after it having to help out in the on-the-fly planning of my routes and in-vain hopes of finding pre-match pubs. Luckily, the Carlsberg I had secondly was a far better choice. The familiar options.

Arriving at Stormy Corner

SUFC

Paul & Marine’s vice-chairman who’s dressed as a bear

Soon enough, reluctant blogger Paul arrived having been on the Marine supporters’ bus and was in a far less neutral point of view today, Marine being his local and now #2 side. As proved by his sharing of words with another guy during the first half! (NB: I may be overblowing this for dramatic value). Soon enough, though, it was time to head outside for kick-off of the attractively named M58 derby!

Stormy Corner is a decent, if unspectacular, ground. Its “Main”, all-seater, Stand sits on the far touch-line from where you enter and offers a slightly raised view of the action. Behind the goal, and in front of the clubhouse/food bar, turnstile etc., is a covered standing area, which runs the majority of the way behind the goal at that end. The opposite end and the near-side touch-line are both open, hard standing, though both do have mounds which, sadly, are now off-limits to spectators. Health and Safety. Anyway, before I get into a rant over that, here’s the story of Skem Utd…

History Lesson:

Skelmersdale United FC was formed in 1882 under the name of Skelmersdale Young Rovers, the side having been created of a team of players brought together by teachers of the town’s Wesleyan Day school. When the name was changed to Skelmersdale Wesleyans (under new headmaster- won’t see that much nowadays), the minister wasn’t too impressed with the change and so the team took the moniker “Skelmersdale United” and 1891 saw them join the Lancashire Combination.

Their first major silverware came in the form of the 1915 Lancashire Junior Shield, a victory over Portsmouth Rovers seeing the trophy head to the Skem trophy cabinet. 1909 saw the club join the Liverpool County Combination and it was here they lifted their first league title in 1911. They would remain in the LCC through to 1955, during which time they would lift a further nine titles, eight Liverpool County FA Challenge Cups and five (plus one shared) George Mahon Cups.

The final home game at Stormy Corner.

Their first season at White Moss Park in 1955 saw the club move back into the Lancashire Combination, taking a spot in the Second Division and immediately winning it. In 1961, Skelmersdale was given the designation of a “new town” and the club itself went on to greater success on the national stage, Skem reaching the FA Amateur Cup Final at Wembley where they came away with a creditable 0-0 draw with Enfield. However, they would go on to lose the replay 3-0 at Maine Road.

The following year saw the club reach the FA Cup first round, where they lost to league side Scunthorpe Utd and repeated the feat the following year, this time bowing out to Chesterfield. The ’68-’69 season also saw Skem depart the, recently downgraded, Lancashire Combination for the Cheshire County League, which they won on both of their first two seasons, also adding the Cheshire Challenge Shield on both occasions, the 1970 Cheshire Jubilee Cup, the 1970 Lancashire Challenge Cup and the same season’s Lancashire Floodlit Cup for good measure to start the decade off on a high note.

Memorabilia-filled Clubhouse

After a further two semi-final appearances, 1971 saw the club finally lift the Amateur Cup, defeating Dagenham 4-1 at Wembley, as well as securing promotion to the Northern Premier League come season’s end. The club also lifted a second consecutive Lancashire Challenge Cup at the end of the season, making the 1970-’71 a highly successful one for the BlueBoys.

After lifting 1971’s Ashworth Cup and Lancashire Challenge Cup, 1971-’72 saw the club again vanquished in the FA Cup first round, this time by Tranmere Rovers, though they did lift the interesting European Amateur Cup Winner’s Cup (defeating Monte Belluna 2-1 on aggregate). After winning two successive Liverpool Senior Non-League Cups (’74 & ’75), a sharp decline for Skem was to follow. By 1976, the club found itself back in the Lancashire Combination and, following the amalgamation between the Combination and the Cheshire League, Skem took up a place in the newly formed North West Counties League’s Division 2 for 1982.

1987’s league restructuring saw Skem take a place in the Division 1 of the NWCFL, but they remained here for just three seasons before being relegated. However, 1998 saw promotion back accomplished and 2000 saw the NWCFL League Challenge Trophy arrive. 2002 saw the club make the move from their long-term home at White Moss Park, moving to their current home at Stormy Corner and 2006 saw Skem achieve promotion to the NPL after finishing as NWCFL runners-up.

Champions banner

2008 saw the club lose out in the play-off final to FC United and lost out again to eventual winners Newcastle Blue Star the next year, salt being added to the wounds by the fact Blue Star then folded during close season. After further play-off semi-final defeats in the following years, 2013 finally saw Skem promoted, as champions, to the NPL Premier Division. 2015 saw Skem win the Liverpool Senior Cup but this has been, to date, the last silverware the club have won and with relegation back to the First Division already confirmed, the club have also been saddled with the news they will be forced out of their ground at the end of the season, Skem having to ground-share next season.

My, surprisingly, first NPL game of the season got underway and it took just three minutes for the first goal to arrive. And what a goal it was. Marine’s star-striker, Danny Mitchley, netted a superb strike. Mitchley advanced into the right-hand side of the area before cracking a thunderbolt into the top-corner of the opposite side of the net past the helpless ‘keeper and it looked like another long day was in the offing for the already relegated Blues.

To be honest, Skem’s only real threat in the early stages looked to be from striker Bevan Burey but he had little coming from wide areas, in terms of supply into the box. Plus with only one option on the bench, they were pretty hamstrung in what they could do to change things up. Matt Hamilton and Florian Da Silva, whom I took a strong liking to for his quick, direct style of play both went close to extending the visitors lead, as Marine continued to dominate.

Match Action

Match Action

Marine Ultras!

Skem’s Remirez Howarth, on loan from Blackburn Rovers, was another bright-spot for them as he, on occasion, was able to fashion chances for himself, forcing a couple of decent saves out of veteran ‘keeper Paul Phillips in the visitors’ goal. But it was to be the visitors who would double their lead when, on 36 minutes, Hamilton rose up highest to power a header into the net from close range.  That pretty much signalled that for the first half and I headed to the food bar where I eventually came away with a cheeseburger, which the lady inside already had in her hand and looked a bit lost with. Not bad for £2.50 either.

After spending the whole of the break in the queue, I completed an early lap of the ground before re-joining Paul and the Marine supporters down on the side of the pitch, their “youth” congregating behind the goal. However, Skem came out of the blocks strongly and were then awarded a bolt from the blue (forgive the sort-of pun); yes a penalty.  Handball was given by the referee, but the resultant spot-kick by Steve Irwin was comfortably saved by Phillips who immediately 180’d to direct a fist-pump to someone in the stand behind!

This proved to be the end of Skem’s chances to get anything out of the game as Marine swiftly made it three, Florian chasing down the goal-keeper to block his clearance, with the ball eventually falling to Mitchley to knock home his second of the game and consign the basement club to a derby-day defeat. Their day was summed up with fifteen minutes to play, when a high-tackle by skipper Phil Mooney was, unsurprisingly, punished with a red-card that Mooney hardly complained about. Two other players, one from each team, were lucky to got off with just a yellow, with both raising hands in the resultant clashes.

View from the stand

Match Action

Phillips makes the save

Skem did continue to go at Marine and almost grabbed a consolation late on, Irwin clipping the top of the bar with a looping header, but it wasn’t to be and Marine came away from the game with the three points and the bragging rights. Though, it’s good that they’ll be able to have any sort of bragging rights next season after what Skem have had to endure in recent weeks. I hope it all resolves in the right way for them soon. It’s always a shame to see such a historic club threatened.

Post game, it was to the clubhouse for the final time (probably more so than just in the day, of course) for a quick pint of Guinness, before a pic with the legend that is Florian was had along with Marine fan Rob, who had been had just prior to it by Lyon-native Florian’s deadpan-joke delivery of saying he was Dutch when announced as a Frenchman. Bantz.

Florian looks delighted.

Anyway, it was soon time to leave, on account that Paul had almost missed the bus and I headed off on the short ten minute walk back to the bus stop for the return journey, though I decided I may as well go via Wigan this time and get the express back to Manchester from there. All this went smoothly and I was soon on the train back from there, with the journey a hell of a lot easier than it was getting there!

So, all in all, the trip up to Stormy Corner for what appears to be the final time, was a good one. The game was a bit of a non-event, though this wasn’t much of a surprise in all honesty and the area around the ground was a massive let down and that’s putting it nicely. As I say, it will be sad to see Stormy Corner (possibly) go and, once again, all the best to Skem in their quest to get back on-track soon, with the club ground-sharing at perennial landlords Prescot next season. Next week sees a return to the NPL for the final weekend and a first game in the North division this year. The place? It has a mill that isn’t….

*Shout out to the charitable walkers from Marine who, I was told after writing, trekked between the two grounds.

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 7

Programme: 4

Value For Money: 5

 

 

Manchopper in….Ramsbottom

rams_logo_newtelford

Result: Ramsbottom United 0-2 AFC Telford United (FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round)

Venue: Harry Williams Riverside Stadium (Saturday 26th November 2016, 3pm)

Att: 319

The cold weather had arrived in force. Well, around where I live it had anyway! Luckily for me and even more so for Paul who had been in the throes of travelling over from Liverpool, the cold hadn’t appeared to affect our intended destination of Ramsbottom much, if at all. Good news then and after confirming once more with the very interactive and helpful Rammy twitter account, I set off for Manchester before further trips into the hills.

After eventually meeting Paul outside of Piccadilly Station, we missed our intended tram by a matter of seconds, due to the poor systems known as the Metrolink ticket machines. Not to be deterred (due to the frequency of the trams, so a positive there for you Met), we jumped on the next one and were soon arriving into Bury. Now comes the “exciting” part. As is fairly usual for people heading to Rammy, the only real way to get there from Bury is on the East Lancashire Railway and their fleet of vintage trains. It may be a bit more money, but it beats the bus!

So, having passed by the mounting police presence in the town ahead of Millwall’s arrival and headed over to Bury Bolton Street for our step back in time, we arrived in a…festive themed station house. Having been informed that you now buy tickets on the train rather than at the office, we headed down to the platform and the small bar located there: The Trackside. It was nice enough inside, with the expected railway décor. What wasn’t as nice was the steam train outside deafening all and sundry within a 10-mile radius while letting off steam. Take ear-plugs if you are of sensitive hearing and don’t do what someone did and look for the toilet in the kitchen…

An unusual transport day for me...

An unusual transport day for me…

...is about to get a whole lot more so!

…is about to get a whole lot more so!

Here we go!

Here we go!

After a pint (£2.75) and a half of an ‘orange wheat beer’ in here whilst trying to sort out if our service was to be the fabled steamer or not, we were relieved when the time came to jump on that, indeed, it was. Not only that, it was also a “Santa Special”. Sadly, no Santa was spotted down our end, so Paul and I consoled ourselves with a beer we were allowed to take on board. Good stuff. £5.40 for the short 15 minute hop is ok if you consider you’re paying to keep these things going too and it’s not too often you get the chance to travel to a game on a vintage train. Still beats Northern too!

Diesel & Steam in unison

Diesel & Steam in unison

Sssomebody's sssmokin'!

Sssomebody’s sssmokin’!

So, after a few photos of our transport upon arrival in Ramsbottom, it was time to seek out the important stuff. The Irwell Works Brewery seemed a good place to start (I’d been before and Rammy’s twitter had recommended it) so it was off past the markets and to the brewery. After heading upstairs to the bar, Paul plumped for the IPA offering, though that wasn’t quite to my liking and so I went for a cider. It was pretty decent too. But, with the time already passing 2pm, we decided to head over to the Ramsbottom Tap which meant it was off up the steep incline to the town’s high street.

The Tap was another decent establishment, with a quick pint of Shindigger being my choice. But with kick-off only 15 minutes away, a quick walk back through the town was undertaken, until we were approaching the cricket club turnstile and eventually the Riverside Stadium’s gates.

Rammy Market

Rammy Market

Irwell Works Brewery

Irwell Works Brewery

Ramsbottom

Ramsbottom. The Tap’s sign is just visible.

After paying £8 for entry, we picked up our reserved programmes (£2) from Katie inside (thanks!) and headed for pitchside. The Riverside is a smart little ground, consisting of four stands. Both goals are home to covered terracing, with the larger of the two situated at the cricket ground end. The opposite touch-line is home to the two seating stands, the larger main stand located towards the railway end and the smaller on half-way. The near side is open, hard standing and is home to all facilities and hospitality boxes. As for the club itself…

History Lesson:

Ramsbottom United Football Club was formed in 1966 and initially competed in the local Bury Amateur League. After a season, the club moved into the Bolton Combination where they were to spend the next eighteen years before  a move into the Manchester League for Season ’87-’88, competing in Division 1.

1991 saw the Rams end up as Division 1 Champions and earn promotion to the Premier Division. After four further seasons competing at this level, the club applied for a place in the North West Counties League and were accepted for a place in the league’s Division 2. Their first season saw immediate silverware arrive, the Rams lifting the Second Division Trophy and the next season saw them lift the Division 2 title.

A VERY threatening flag!

A VERY threatening flag!

1999 saw the club enter the FA Cup for the first time and Rammy fared fairly well in reaching the 3rd Qualifying Round where they fell to Conference side Southport. After starting the millennium in encouraging fashion, finishing third on two consecutive occasions, the club fell away into mid-table. The mid to latter part of the “noughties” saw the Rams become inconsistent in the league, though they did lift three consecutive Bolton Hospitals Cups (’06, ’07, ’08).

Following a poor season in ’08-’09, a change in management was undertaken, with Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley taking the reigns as joint managers. They immediately took the club up the league, finishing their first season in charge fourth before progressing to runners-up the following year. 2012, however, saw the Rams take the Premier Division title and, therefore, promotion to the Northern Premier League for the first time, breaking many NWCFL records as they went.

Today's admission

Today’s admission

After narrowly missing out on the play-offs in their first season at NPL First Division level, Ramsbottom managed to secure a spot in the play-offs the following campaign. After defeating Darlington in the semis, Rammy then defeated Bamber Bridge in the final to secure the second promotion spot to the NPL Premier Division. Upon this, Johnson & Morley left the club to join the ambitious Salford City, taking a number of the squad along with them. Despite this, the club stabilized and managed to maintain a spot in the Prem. But the following year saw Rammy eventually suffer the drop for the first time in their 50-year history, as they returned to the NPL Division 1 North for this campaign.

On the march...

On the march…

Arriving at the Riverside

Arriving at the Riverside

The game got underway and, well, not much happened. Outside of the goals, there really wasn’t too much goalmouth action to be seen. Both sides were fairly unconvincing in front of goal for whatever reason during this game and never truly troubled either of the opposition goalkeepers. The home side had a few half chances but all were spurned as the sides headed in goal-less at the break and, to be honest, it looked as though it would remain that way. Not even the noise from the Stafford Rangers fans, who’d diverted to the Riverside upon their game with Chorley being called off, could liven up the tie on the pitch but at least there was the odd steam train passing behind the goal to keep us non-regulars somewhat entertained.

Match Action

Match Action

'sa bit frosty out here...

‘sa bit frosty out!

A bit of first half action

This guy wasn’t too interested either.

Half-Time consisted of getting, as expected, a tasty pie for a couple of quid and absolutely no “o’clock” moments for myself. None. Anyway, as the second half got underway, I was making my way round the ground when I got talking to Rammy sub Sam Freakes, who was more inclined to take the win on the day than taking Telford to a replay. As soon as he uttered this, he was given the chance to make it happen as he replaced the injured Grant Spencer.

But, it was to be the higher-level visitors who would make the breakthrough in a fittingly scrappy manner. They had forced a corner just after the hour mark and from the resulting ball in, Rammy couldn’t force the ball clear and it fell to Conor McCarthy at the back-post to force the ball over the line. If there was going to be a goal in this game, then that was how it was going to arrive, you felt.

Steamer passing the ground

Steamer passing the ground

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Unfotunately, though, the goal did nothing in the way of opening up the game and it continued on its turgid way towards 90 minutes. But, as the clock entered the final 10 minutes of the tie, the Bucks’ Josh Wilson picked up the ball 35-yards out and unleashed an arrow of a drive that flew with pin-point accuracy into the top-right hand corner. Being sat in the stand and right behind the effort, it was quickly apparent there would be no chance for Rammy’s stopper Charlie Albinson. What a way to light up what had been a dour afternoon. 2-0, game over and time to exit the nippy Rammy night and take refuge in a hostelry in the town.

After finding out that the Beer House was just a shop, disappointingly, we made our way over the road to the Oaks for a quick post-match pint of a German beer that I can’t remember the name of, but there’s a few offered here, before heading to the bus stop for our carriage back to Bury. Once arrived, we decided to find somewhere to watch Chelsea-Spurs. After originally settling on Rayner’s bar, we soon bored and headed to the neighbouring Knowsley for the second half. Again, though, we weren’t too fussed by the game at this point and decided to head for the interchange over the road and the tram back to town.

After the quick hop back into Manchester, Paul bid a rapid goodbye and headed for a train out of here, completely neglecting the fact he didn’t have his programme, or the “snowy bible” as it had been christened by this point. For me, a quick change in Piccadilly Gardens and onwards to Stretford was the penultimate journey before grabbing the bus home to end the day. A really decent day out on the whole, with a hardly used transport being the highlight. No not the tram! Always good visiting Rammy and, hopefully, it won’t be too long until another is on the cards. For now, it’s onward to 200…

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RATINGS:

Game: 4

Ground: 7

Programme: 6

Food: 7

Value For Money: 6

 

Manchopper in….Clitheroe

clitheroe-fc-badgestocksbridge-badge

Result: Clitheroe 0-5 Stocksbridge Park Steels (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)

Venue: Shawbridge (Saturday 8th October 2016, 3pm)

Att: 270

As the third of the FA’s major club competitions got underway, so attentions turned to its first round of fixtures. A selection were thrown up, but having just come off the back of a day down in Tottenham the previous weekend, I wasn’t really too keen to spend a mint on a game for this one. As such, the choices were soon whittled down to a pair and the choice of Witton Albion vs Brighouse Town or Clitheroe vs Stocksbridge Park Steels was given to the great Twitter community.

The people chose the latter, of course or you wouldn’t be reading this blog with this very title, and so come Saturday morning I was travelling up from Manchester & Salford and down Lancashire’s Clitheroe line, which ends in the very town that is the subject of this blog.

So, having disembarked with all and sundry during a fine, sunny afternoon, I quickly navigated my way to the town centre and onwards to the castle, which I’ve long targeted for a quick visit. Having ensured it was indeed free to visit (separate charge for the museum etc.), I made my way up the set of steps and eventually onto the crest of the hill that the castle keep sits upon. From here, you have commanding views over the town and to Pendle Hill in the distance. Is that a ground I spot too?

Clitheroe Castle

Clitheroe Castle

Spot the ground

Picturesque

With this part of the cultural mission over, it was time for the second phase which is, of course, to find and seek out the best of the bars and pubs around just for you because, clearly, I’m not that interested….no, really. Honest. Anyway, after heading down from the castle, I found myself at the foot of what seemed more of the historic high street, with this point being driven home my the man playing the flute on the pavement. Novel. Next to him, though, was the old carriage entrance to a hotel/pub by the name of the Rose & Crown.

There wasn’t too much to report in here, with a Corona costing a town-standard £3.60 and so I decided just to head over the road to the next coaching inn, the Swan & Royal. In here, the apparently haunted establishment seemed to take a sinister twist, as my ordered bottle of Corona proceeded to explode all over the unfortunate barmaid. With replacement bar staff in place, the next bottle was much more behaved and in-possessed and all was well, ‘Wooooo’. Spooky.

Rose & Crown (plus flute guy)

Rose & Crown (plus flute guy)

The non-haunted Corona

The non-haunted Corona

Clitheroe

Clitheroe

Beer issues over and no more encountered, it was time to head a little nearer the ground, with the clock reaching the top of the 14th hour. At the top of the road leading down toward the ground, I found myself with a dilemma. The Ale House, which seemed a bottle-shop/bar combo, or the White Lion, more of a regular pub. Being on the side of the latter, I plumped for here. The decision was, well, a bit ‘meh’. It wasn’t bad nor was it anything notable, though a drunk-looking guy stumbling out of the Ale House for a cigarette made me feel a little more comfortable with my choice…

Approaching 20-past two on the watch, I decided it was a decent time to head for Shawbridge and having been at least three previous occasions during the period I was watching Trafford, I was pretty confident I wouldn’t get lost. That was, until I found myself passing a Tesco and heading into a more industrial area. This wasn’t right and indeed a quick check of Maps proved this was indeed the case. Yes, getting lost has returned to these pages after a surprisingly fair while! Luckily, it was only a short back-track that was needed and I was soon heading up the short entry way to the turnstiles.

Over the raging water...

Over the raging water…

Signage

Signage

Shawbridge!

Shawbridge!

£8 entry handed over and I was back into Shawbridge once again. A further £1.50 was given to the lady in the small booth just behind the turnstiles. Now don’t hesitate, as you need to evade being cannon fodder to the barrage of wayward shots from the substitutes that rain down upon you as you sprint to the bar. There is netting for most of the way around the entrance, but the further away you get, well, not so much!

Shawbridge is a great little ground, that is already one of my more favourite ones I’ve visited. Overlooked by the castle, it is a quintessential old-school non-league ground, with its all-seater “Main” Stand sitting at the far end of the left-hand side touch-line as you enter. Here, it is joined by the changing rooms, facilities and food hut along with a small covered terrace, that is quite hard to spot! The opposite side is home to a touch-line-long terrace, with 3/4 of it covered right up toward the far end, where another covered area stands behind the goal. A further covered standing area is located just to the left of the turnstile as you enter, with the bar to the right. And lo, your tour of Shawbridge is complete. Now, it’s time to delve into the history of Clitheroe Football Club…

History Lesson:

Clitheroe FC was formed in 1877 under the moniker Clitheroe Central FC, formed at the (I presume) aforementioned Swan Hotel. After initially competing in local leagues, the club moved into the Lancashire Combination and dropped the Central suffix from their name whilst doing so. Clitheroe’s first major silverware came in the form of the Lancashire Junior Cup in 1893, though they would have to wait almost a century to win it again! (as the Challenge Trophy in 1985).

Apart from the two World War enforced breaks in the sport, Clitheroe maintained their place in the Lancashire Combination right up until the end of the 1982-’83 season. Despite this, they found success hard to come by, winning only the 1935 Lancashire Combination Cup and the League title in 1980. Along with relegations in 1953 & 1959 to the Combination’s second tier, the club did win the Division 2 title in 1960, the earlier re-promotion coming as runners-up.

Clitheroe became founder members of the North West Counties League in 1982 and were placed in the lowest Division, Division 3. This was won at the end of their second season in the NWCFL and the club went on the rise quickly, winning Division 2 the following season before completing a hat-trick of divisional titles with the Division 1 title at the end of the ’85-’86 campaign, though promotion wasn’t attained.

'Shed End On Tour'

‘Shed End On Tour’

The club remained in the NWCFL through until 2004, winning the ’99 Floodlight Trophy along the way as well as reaching the FA Vase final at Wembley, but Clitheroe fell at the final hurdle, bowing 3-0 to Brigg Town. They also reached the semi-finals in 2001, but lost out of two-legs to Taunton Town. After narrowly missing out on a double the previous season, the Blues won the league title for a second time in 2004 thanks to a three-point deduction being awarded to Mossley and were promoted to the Northern Premier League, thanks largely to ground updates funded by the sales of players, none more so than record sale Carlo Nash.

A hark back

A hark back (or a clue to why they were good?)

Competing in Division 1 through their time in the NPL, Clitheroe stayed for three seasons before the Division was regionalised with the club being placed, unsurprisingly, in the Northern section. They have remained in the Division 1 North right up to the present day, with the club solidifying themselves as a largely mid-table outfit, with the odd good & poor season here and there. Last season, they recorded a highly respectable 7th place.

After a quick sojourn in Lordy’s bar, it was time to head out for kick-off, with the teams already lining-up for their pre-match handshakes. The game got underway and it quickly became apparent just who the dominant side was going to be, as they had a goal ruled out inside the first 10 minutes.

Stocksbridge really were taking the game to their hosts and it was little surprise when, in the 17th minute, they forced a penalty after a clear trip. The finely-named Harrison Biggins smashed home the penalty via the underside of the crossbar to give the Yorkshire side a fully deserved lead. Following this opening goal, Clitheroe had their best spell in the game, with the pacey Dimitri Tuanzebe causing problems down the left and Harry Pratt forcing a good stop out of visiting ‘keeper David Reay, but soon Steels were back on top.

The difference in quality, on the day, between the two sides was quite remarkable when you consider there are only two places between the two in their respective league placings (Clitheroe 9th; NPL North vs SPS 7th; NPL South). Indeed, as I headed round towards the food hut and was debating whether to head inside or not, the choice was made all the easier as the Clitheroe #4, who struggled throughout the game and was generally out-muscled in the middle of the pitch for me, lost possession and the through ball released Scott Ruthven who rounded the GK and slotted home.

Match Action

Match Action

1-0

1-0

Match Action

Match Action

In the food bar, I settled an argument over the true score-line between the young match mascots, as clearly I’m a very trustworthy person. A fine Steak Pie bought as recommended by, I presume, Clitheroe fan Richard on Twitter and half-time arrived with 2-0 remaining on the scoreboard and so I returned to the bar, as to avoid being hit by any wayward shots during the 15-minute break.

The second-half was soon underway, with the hosts straining to get back in the game. Despite creating a couple of half-chances, their chances were put to bed by the goal of the game. A long ball forward was targeted towards the general vicinity of the impressive Steels #9, Joe Lumsden, watched the ball onto his boot before unleashing a stinging volley past the helpless Chris Thompson and into the corner of the net. Fine goal.

It was soon four, as Nathaniel Crofts raced away from the offside trap, rounded Thompson and ended the game as a contest. This seemed to settle Stocksbridge’s attacking intent somewhat, with chances becoming increasingly few and far between. The unfortunate home #4 was subbed off soon after the fourth following shouts of “get him off!” (that was the most friendly) from the home support who were far from impressed. Personally, I never think it’s helpful to shout it audibly, especially at 4-0 down(!). Passions may run high, but he’s not a full pro after all.

Match Action

Scenic
Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Back to the game and Thompson was keeping the score down with a couple of fine stops; first from Crofts when one-on-one and another to tip over a good effort. Down the other end, the largely unworked Reay, who by this point was shouting to his team about mental strength and seemingly desperate for a clean-sheet, matched his fellow #1 by tipping over a fiercely struck shot from close-range. But number 5 eventually arrived in stoppage time, Steels sub Adam Hinchcliffe’s free-kick finding its way through the wall and in to end a shocking day at the office for the hosts, but a fine one for the visitors who go on to the First Round and now host a strong Lancaster City outfit.

Following the game, I quickly beat a hasty retreat from Shawbridge and the majority of downbeat fans and headed back to the station. With an hour to play with, I decided to head into the bustling Maxwell’s Wine Bar. After nursing a final Amstel for the final 45 minutes of my stay in Clitheroe, it was time to head onto the train back to Manchester Victoria, before undertaking the cross-city walk to Oxford Road for the train back.

So ended another good day in one of my favourite grounds and probably towns I’ve visited. Clitheroe, in both forms, is well worth a visit and for more than just the game if you get the chance, as my almost whistle-stop journey showed. It was also a great bonus that the day was a fine one and that lent to not having to run for cover! First step on this road to Wembley is done. So, where to next?

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RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 8

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7