Manchopper in….South Shields

Result: South Shields 2-1 Colne (Northern Premier League Division One North)

Venue: Mariners Park (Saturday 28th April 2018, 3pm)

Att: 2,104

With the Northern Premier League regular season entering its final round of games, I thought it only right to visit the home of one of the league’s three divisional champions and, with my railcard entering its final few months of validity (hurry up with that new one please), I decided it’d be best to head off to the side that is located furthest away. As such, and if the title hadn’t given it away already, I was off to the North East coast and to Mariners Park, home of South Shields F.C.

Setting off from a surprisingly sunny Manchester at just before half-nine, a quick change in York had me heading on down the tracks to Newcastle, arriving at a little before midday. After another swift connection down onto the city’s Metro system, I was soon eastward bound to the mouth of the Tyne. Eventually arriving into South Shields at around 12.30, I made haste towards the town’s Roman Fort….well, what’s left of it anyway. Unsurprisingly, the place is now little more than the foundations of the buildings that once made up the Romans’ Arbeia, (though a rebuilt gateway stands guard) and after a swift visit I continued onwards to the front and found myself outside the Harbour Lights restaurant/bar. Having walked into a brisk wind on the way there, I was in need of a warm-up and so headed within for a pint of Hop House 13, which set me back a little under £4. Not too bad.

South Shields

Fort

On the front

After watching some of the Stoke-Liverpool early kick-off in here, I finished up and returned back to the town centre itself, where I bypassed the Wetherspoons and a few of its near-neighbours for the moment, instead preferring to explore the far side of the town, where I’d previously planned to begin my journey via the North/South Shields Ferry, before rail repairs put paid to that idea. Still, I had copious amounts of time in hand and soon arrived at the foot of the ferry terminal just as one of the pair of craft was pulling into port. I soon pulled into a kind of port too, though mine, unsurprisingly perhaps, was of the pub variety – namely the Alum Ale House, located in the shadow of all manner of shipping paraphernalia around the Tyne Dock. The Ale House was a lovely place with quite a number of punters taking advantage of the sun (not that it was warm to me!), though I stayed indoors with a pint of the fine 61 Deep.

From there, I continued a short way down the road, passing a pair of roundabouts until I arrived at the door of The Steamboat. Apparently, the Steamboat is a regular CAMRA award-winning place, though I didn’t much fancy partaking in another ale just yet. As such, I entered into the pub to find San Miguel which suited me just fine for the moment, whilst I took in the décor of the place, which encompassed all sorts of maritime stuff…and a Croatian flag. Never before have I seen a flag look quite so out-of-place! Regardless, the Steamboat has to be one of my favourite pubs visited this season. Characterful, warm and traditional. Sweet.

Harbour Lights

Alum Ale House

Steamboat

Sadly, time was quickly conspiring against me and I soon had to depart and return towards the bustling town centre and its market place. With a few drops of rain beginning to fall as I passed an old-looking church just off to the side of the tented stalls, I came across a pair of pubs just around the corner from the Metro station. A quick look at both helped me decide to pop into the Mechanics Arms, where I found one of my favourite lesser-spotted ciders on draught, Woodpecker. A pint of that was excitedly bought (yes, really) and I took up a seat at the window and watched bus-goers arriving into the town whilst being ferried from place to place.

A quick journey later and I was disembarking at Bede station, located a short five-minute walk away from Shields’ Mariners Park home. Arriving at the ground in what I thought would be plenty of time, I soon discovered that I was within the second thousand people to have gotten to the ground. Unsurprisingly, the in demand programmes where all gone by the time I paid in my £8 dues, though I was pointed in the direction of a small wooden hut which served as the club shop it appeared, where I was able to get another printed off at some point soon for a total of £3. With around 15 minutes still to go before kick-off, I reckoned now would probably be the best time to join the queue of people at one of the food bars and timed it well enough that I would be getting a nice, fresh batch of chips, not forgetting the gravy on top. For a further £2, these were pretty good too.

Back to the town….

The pair of neighbours

Arriving at the ground

These kept me busy through the final few minutes leading up to the game before the teams emerged from the tunnel over the far side of the ground, with South Shields, led by former Sunderland & Middlesbrough man Julio Arca, receiving a guard of honour from opponents Colne, who were intent on making sure this would be the only niceties they would have handed out come five-to-five.

We were all soon set to go at Mariners Park, a ground located within an industrial estate, though is tidy and which features a few stands on the near side, with its Main Stand, bar, changing rooms and other amenities located across the way. The near touchline sees a pair of covered terraces, both a few steps deep, flanking a small seated stand that straddles the half way line. The opposite side sees and older, small covered terrace area that doesn’t particularly offer a great view of the action on a day like today, though did attract the most vocal of the Shields fan base it seemed. This stand is located between the clubhouse building and the Main Stand, the former of which also has an upstairs balcony-like area for those seemingly taking advantage of hospitality, whilst the latter has an area of terracing to the front, with the seats raised above the pitch, giving a good view of the action. Both ends are open, hard standing, with the far end housing a 3G training pitch and a large marquee over in the far corner alongside it, though this may have only been in situ today. So that’s Mariners Park in a nutshell and this is the story of the Mariners of South Shields….

History Lesson:

The current incarnation of South Shields Football Club was founded in  1974 and is the third club to carry the South Shields name. The original club was formed in 1889 as South Shields Adelaide Athletic and competed in the Shields & District, Tyneside League & North Eastern League pre-WWI, winning the former in 1905, the Tyneside League on two consecutive occasions in 1906 & 1907 respectively and the same feat was achieved in the North Eastern League, the two titles here being won in 1914 & 1915. The club also won the wartime Tyneside Combination in 1916, whilst also winning numerous cup silverware in the form of two Durham Challenge Cups (1911, 1914), two Black Cups (1913, 1914) and an Ingham Infirmary Cup, also in 1914 with that year seeing the club achieve a quadruple.

The club was voted into the Football League’s Second Division in 1919, before financial issues necessitated a move to Gateshead in the late 1920’s, later becoming Gateshead A.F.C. The club would remain a League outfit through to 1960, despite having being relegated to the Third Division North in 1928. They finished as Third Division North runners-up in 1932, missing out on promotion on goal average before performances dropped off and they finished second bottom in 1937 but achieved re-election.

Flag Ahoy

1950 saw another runners-up placing achieved (only the winners were promoted) and 1952 saw Gateshead reach the FA Cup’s 4th round – a run which included a win over Liverpool – but eventually, come 1960, they were “surprisingly” voted out of the Division 4 in favour of Peterborough United, despite not having finished bottom or had to apply for re-election since 1937. This subsequently meant the club saw out their remaining years in the local Northern Counties League (the North Eastern League’s replacement, before retaking the name a few years later) winning the North Eastern League’s League Cup in 1961 before switching into the North Regional League in 1962 and lifting the title in 1964. They became a founding member of the Northern Premier League in 1968, finishing bottom in 1970 and dropping into the Wearside League, finishing runners-up in 1971. A failed seven attempts to return to the league were encountered before a short two-season spell in the Midland League was had prior to their eventual folding in 1973 and the club being replaced in similar fashion by another South Shields FC club who were relocated to the Heed. This second outfit was also renamed to take the Gateshead name, becoming Gateshead United, but folded after only three seasons in the town.

Before their folding, the second club had started life as South Shields FC and were admitted into the North Eastern League in 1936, finishing third in their first season before winning the league title in 1939. After WWII, the club reached the FA Cup First Round for the first time in 1948, losing to Crewe Alexandra, a run which saw Chris Marron set a Cup record by netting 10 goals in a 13-0 preliminary round game against Radcliffe Welfare United. Three further league runners-up spots were achieved in 1949, ’56 & ’57 (the latter season also saw a second First Round cup appearance, the club taking Chesterfield to a replay) and the 1958 saw them reach the FA Cup’s Second Round, overcoming Frickley Colliery in the First Round before bowing out to York City. They went on to win that year’s North Eastern League title and also attempted to join the Football League afterwards, but this attempt failed.

SSFC

The North Eastern League folded in 1958, with Shields moving into the Midland League, a spell which saw a second Second Round appearance achieved in 1959 (a run which saw a 5-0 revenge win over Crewe) and this was repeated the next season, only with Chesterfield taking the place of the Alex. Further attempts to join the League were unsuccessful and upon the Midland League’s demise in 1960, the club joined the new Northern Counties League and were joined by Gateshead A.F.C., the club they’d been formed to replace. 1962 saw another league runners-up placing and a League Cup win with the league’s renaming that same year preceding a further two second place finishes in the next couple of seasons, the league being disbanded in 1964 and Shields joining the North Regional League and after winning it in 1967, shadowed Gateshead in becoming a founder of the NPL and reached the FA Cup’s Third Round in 1970, eventually losing at QPR.

1972 saw them try to join the Scottish Second Division (along with Wigan Athletic) but they were rejected and after reaching the 1974 FA Trophy semi-finals, found themselves with no ground and so relocated to Gateshead to replace A.F.C. After a second failed attempt to join the league North of the border, a further two appearances in the FA Cup’s Second Round were achieved before their folding in 1977 and the forming of the current Gateshead outfit.

The current club formed in 1974 and joined the Northern Alliance which they won in both of their first two seasons before a switch into the Wearside League saw success continue, the title here being won in 1977, along with the Durham Challenge Cup. After winning the Monkwearmouth Charity Cup in 1987, they eventually moved into their own ground at Mariners Park in 1992 which led to a second Wearside League title in 1993 (along with the Sunderland Shipowners Cup) and a third in 1995 which saw the Mariners promoted to the Northern League’s Division Two and the following year saw them promoted again to Division One. This would only last a sole season however, with Shields relegated back in 2000 and despite the threat of the chairman at the time that he’d fold the club if relegation was suffered, the club were still around come the next campaign.

Main Stand

A second threat of closure in 2006 resulted in the club being locked out of their home though a new committee would be formed and save the club. On-field performances improved and 2008 saw promotion back to Division One finally achieved and the 2010 Northern League Cup ended a long wait for silverware. However, things took s dip and 2013 saw Shields relegated once more and forced to leave their home for Eden Lane, in Peterlee after their lease expired. 2015 saw them return home and they would win the 2016 Northern League Division 2 title and promotion back to Division 1. The next season saw the club go on a 32-game winning run which led to them becoming Northern League champions and also lifting the Durham Challenge Cup for a second time. They added the Northern League Challenge Cup and the prestigious FA Vase to these successes to achieve a quadruple after beating Cleethorpes Town at Wembley and their success has continued into this season, South Shields having won the NPL Division One North title and with it promotion to the Premier Division, under the ex-Sunderland duo of manager Martin Scott and captain Julio Arca.

The early stages of the contest saw a very quiet, tight opening with neither side giving much away to their opponents, Colne especially so having extra stakes on their side as the Lancastrian outfit looked to sneak into the play-offs via the back-door. The visitors would eventually fashion the first real chances of note too, with Matt Morgan firing in a low shot that flew wide of the upright, before Alex Curran forced a first true save out of either ‘keeper, South Shields’ stopper Liam Connell keeping out the effort.

The game continued being a closely fought affair, though the deadlock was eventually broken on the half-hour and it was the soon-to-be-crowned champions who would grab the opener. Shields won a corner when the Colne defence eventually scrambled the ball behind after it had twice been cleared off the line, but this resultant set-piece would prove to be their downfall as the ball eventually found its way to the feet of Lee Mason and he prodded the ball over the line for one-nil.

Match Action

Match Action

On target

Having waited half-an-hour for the opening goal, they began to arrive like the much-maligned London buses. Just a couple of minutes later, the hosts won possession in the middle, the ball being brought forward by Michael Richardson before he played a nicely weighted ball into the platinum-highlighted coiffed Carl Finnegan, the striker cutting inside the defence and firing beyond Colne stopper Hakan Burton. That looked to be the end of the visitors play-off hopes for another season.

However, Colne had other ideas – though they did require a huge slice of luck and more than a helping hand from Connell between the Shields sticks. Just a few minutes before the break and having had very little to do up to that point, Connell was faced with watching a weak and seemingly unthreatening effort from full-back Waqas Azam into his waiting arms. Unfortunately for him, a huge bobble (or something anyway) caused the ball to rear up sharply, bypassing the ‘keeper’s grasp and rolling over the line with Connell watching despairingly on. Two-one and game on as we headed into the break.

An uneventful half-time came and went and I decided to start off the half in the small terrace with the louder fans, though, as I said earlier, found it to not be the greatest of places to watch from and so continued on round the ground for a second time. Azam had an early chance to double both his and Colne’s tally, but could only find the side-netting before Shields responded Luke Sullivan and Lee Mason going close to adding a third. Skipper Arca was replaced around this time too, having showed just how good he still is at this level, superbly marshalling the middle of the park for the Mariners.

Not much to see here….

Match Action

Match Action

From there, little of note really happened up until the last five minutes, with only a few wayward or blocked shots being seen and it looked as though Colne’s hopes were being snuffed out as the clock ran down. But, they were given some hope late on when Matty Pattison was adjudged to be time-wasting (I assume anyway) over a corner by the referee and received a second yellow, resulting in him getting his marching orders. He looked rather bemused, as were many in the crowd (me included), but the hosts were down to ten nonetheless and perhaps it wasn’t over yet for the visitors.

Indeed, the dangerous Curran forced Connell into another decent stop as Colne piled forward as the clock ticked over into stoppage time, but that was to be that, the champions held on to end their time in the NPL’s Division 1 North with a win, likely becoming the final ever winners of the division in this form, prior to its East/West split from next season. Colne would just miss out on a play-off to Trafford and Tadcaster (though both would resultantly bow out in the semis anyway) so perhaps got their disappointment out of the way! Julio Arca lifted the trophy to the cheers of the Shields faithful before the champagne was sprayed as I made my way out of the ground and back to Bede station for the train back into the town for a couple of post-match bevvies.

Colne fans making some noise too

Lap of honour

Celebrations begin!

First up came the Wetherspoons I’d passed earlier, the Wouldhave – the name derived from a ship I think I noticed from the picture in the doorway. Either way, after seeing a couple of guys trip on the stairs on their way up to the loos, I opted to keep it easy with a quick bottle of Hooch before nipping next door to the Clover and Wolf, one of those foody bars. It was pleasant in here too and not too pricey, a pint of Moretti coming in at £3.30, before finishing up in the previously scouted out Kirkpatrick’s, located in a grand-looking, sprawling building just around the corner and a couple of minutes from the station. There were a couple nearer, though I decided not to be too silly and call it a day with my cheap £2.75 Amstel.

Spoons

Clover & Wolf

Kirkpatricks

The train back was caught with no issue and I arrived back in Newcastle station where the train was waiting to whisk me back down to Manchester. Unfortunately, a slight delay on this meant I missed my local connection, but a bus wasn’t long in coming to my rescue. So there ends the day. It’s always good fun getting caught up in someone else’s party (Ossett wedding crash notwithstanding), the game and ground were both decent and South Shields was a decent town too (plus I wanted to visit the club whilst they still used their traditional badge!). Journey was ok enough despite the small set-back, so no complaints here. Onwards into the last month of the season then, starting off with another promotion party a little higher up the pyramid….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 7

Programme: N/A (pending)

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Ossett (Ossett Albion AFC)

Result: Ossett Albion 4-0 Bamber Bridge (Northern Premier League Division One North)

Venue: Queens Terrace/Dimple Wells (Saturday 21st April 2018, 3pm)

Att: 402

As the season begins to reach the end of the road, so also does the run of Ossett Albion as a senior outfit. If you haven’t already heard (and where have you been if not?!), the Unicorns’ open-age side are to merge with their cross-town rivals, Ossett Town, to form a new united club under the name of….well, Ossett United. This, in turn, will also spell the end for Queen’s Terrace as a ground within the footballing pyramid and so, with Dimple Wells being one of my favoured grounds ever since my first trip way back in 2009-’10, I figured a final jolly to the Unicorns was in order.

Indeed, the game would also see the final game played by Albion at the ground before their departure though, pleasingly, it will remain in some guise with a 3G being installed which will see it continue to be the home of the side’s development and women’s teams going forward, with United playing at Town’s Ingfield ground right in the centre of Ossett itself. As a result, I decided to leave the main area of the town alone for now and instead see what the “South Ossett” area had to offer instead. Sadly this wouldn’t include the Ossett Brewery’s own pub, with it being a little too far out-of-the-way this time around.

Anyway, having headed into Manchester during the mid-morning, I caught the train over from Victoria to Dewsbury in the nick of time before heading up through the Roses county border towns of Hebden Bridge and its fine, traditional station, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd, eventually arriving into Dewsbury station at just before midday, in good time to complete the short walk over to the bus station to catch the carriage over to Ossett. It was bloody hot on that thing too. What is this sorcery?!

Ossett

Nice church

Having headed just past the current home of Albion, I got off just down the road from my first two stop-offs of the day, situated towards the far end of the town. First up was the Weaver’s Arms which is a really unassuming, old-school pub. It doesn’t look particularly overly welcoming from the outside but inside the feeling is well and truly different, with locals happy to chat about the footballing matters both in Ossett and up in the Prem too, fed by the West Brom-Liverpool game on TV. There was even a guy in here who was visiting from Perth, Australia for the game but, before you think groundhopping has gone too far, he was a friend of someone high up within the Unicorns’ ranks!

Having finished up my pint of Kaltenberg (which at less than £3 was a huge bargain), I bid goodbye to the guys in here and continued onwards back towards the first pub I’d passed en route, the Old Vic – though I did go back a slightly longer way round, as I wanted to have a look at the old Christ Church just around the corner. Eventually arriving back at the Vic, I was soon in possession of a pint of Coors in here whilst I concocted my plan of getting a pair of programmes early, as it was likely these would sell out considering the magnitude of the day. I’m not usually too fussed about them per se, though I do like to pick one up if possible and certainly so if the game is more meaningful than is often the case. BTW, the Vic was a decent little pub too, with a wide range of exotic (and otherwise) empty bottles lined up in one corner of the room. The Coors didn’t come cheap, though, coming in at around £4.

Weaver’s Arms

The Old Vic

DRINK!!

From here I headed off across this part of town, foregoing the Park Tavern for now and instead venturing through a slightly more estate-y area to the Prince of Wales. This was ok enough for a quick one, though I didn’t remain in place all that long, another Coors in here setting me back £3.50~ before I returned down the same road and back towards the ground.

I didn’t seem to be the first person who’d had the idea of getting a programme early doors as the turnstile operator didn’t seem to set aback by my request and I soon had possession of two programmes at £2 a pop, with Dan still on his way down to join me. It was something of a shame that he wasn’t there already, as I soon made what I believe is my biggest faux pas of the season so far, and one I’ll have to go some to best at all. Having popped around the corner and to the Dimple Wells Lodge, I came across a wedding reception in the garden. However, there was nothing to state that the hotel’s bar was affected by this and having headed through the main doors and into the empty bar area, nothing seemed to point towards this being the case.

Prince of Wales

Oops….

I was wrong. Having informed Dan of where I was, we were soon approached by the manager of the hotel who informed us that the whole place was indeed booked out for the function, meaning that we were, officially and unquestionably, gatecrashers, albeit completely accidental ones! She was very nice about it, saying we should have really been told earlier (I’d been there a good 25 minutes at this point!) and that we needn’t rush what we had. Of course not wanting to outstay our unwanted welcome, we did just that and headed, rather sheepishly back through the guests and back towards the ground for kick-off. I’d wanted to seek out the groom, who was happy enough for us to finish up we were informed, and apologise for the oversight, but couldn’t spot him so I’d like to offer him & his new wife the opportunity to return the favour as when and if the roles are reversed….and  I’m serious too!

Soon arriving back at Queen’s Terrace, we headed around the boundary of the adjoining cricket ground and to the turnstiles were we were relieved of our £7 entry fee before we immediately beared right and dived into the “tea bar” where I opted for cheesy chips and mushy peas for £2. These were bloody good too and kept me busy for the first ten minutes of the match, which had gotten underway soon after our arrival to Dimple Wells. Speaking of the ground, it is a lovely, ramshackle (and I mean that in a positive way) ground, hosting three stands.

Arriving….

….passing the cricket club

….and heading towards the ground

Firstly, the Main Stand is located on the far side of the ground and straddles the half-way line. The far end hosts a newer covered standing area, with a little extra uncovered terracing located at either side. The near end houses another covered terrace, with this being set back slightly from the pitch and so the views aren’t the best from here, though the more vocal section of the home support call this place home, perhaps due to the close proximity of the clubhouse which stands within the gap between the turnstile/tea bar and the covered terrace, and also has a few outside tables upon a raised patio area, which is a nice place to be on a day such as this was. The near touchline is a couple of steps of open, hard standing, which runs the length of the pitch, though the bit behind the dugouts is rather pointless as you can’t see a thing unless you are around 6’6. Be that as it may, I love Queen’s Terrace. That’s the ground in a nutshell and this is the story of Ossett Albion….

History Lesson:

Ossett Albion Association Football Club was founded in 1944 (which must be a rarity in that they were formed in wartime) as a junior outfit before eventually becoming a senior team and after initially joining the West Riding County Amateur League for a short spell, Albion joined the Yorkshire League in 1957, taking a place in their Division 2. The club would be promoted at the end of their second season here, finishing as runners-up, before immediately finishing as league-runners up the next year, to Farsley Celtic.

They remained in Division One through to 1972, a period which encompassed three West Riding County Cup wins in 1965, ’66 & ’68, before they were relegated at the end of the 1971-’72 season after finishing bottom. They then spent just two seasons back in Division Two before again finishing as runners-up and returning to the top division. They would then become the Yorkshire League’s 1975 champions as they immediately won the title in their first year back but quickly dropped off into mid-table and were relegated just three years later, though did see more cup success, with two Yorkshire League Cups being won in 1976 & 1977. However, they would spend just a season back in Division Two before being promoted, this time as winners in 1979.

Ossett Albion line-up at home for the final time

Their return would be short lived and they were relegated back, once more, after just the one season and they continued to yo-yo between the two divisions, being promoted at the end of the next campaign, as Albion won the Division 2 for a second time. The following year would be the club’s final in the Yorkshire League, as Albion would take a spot in the newly formed Northern Counties East League’s Division One North for Season 1982-’83, with the Yorkshire League having merged with the Midland League to create the new NCEL. After spending two seasons in the North Division, reorganisation saw them move into the short-lived Central section for 1984 prior to being allocated a place in the regional Division One for 1985 following a 4th placed finish. The club would go on to spend a further two seasons in the Division One prior to winning it in 1987 and being promoted to the NCEL Premier Division.

After finishing bottom (but avoiding relegation) at the end of both the first two seasons and finishing second-bottom at the end of their third, things began to take a turn for the better and the Unicorns began to rise up the table slowly, firstly establishing themselves in mid-table before reaching the higher echelons and then finally lifting the NCEL title in 1999. Unfortunately, the club were not promoted to the Northern Premier League’s Division One due to issues with regard to the changing rooms not being big enough and so Albion had to remain in the NCEL for another two seasons, eventually being promoted in 2001 when, after finishing as runners-up to Brigg Town, Brigg were the club this time being denied promotion. However, their stay in the NPL Division One lasted just a sole season, the Unicorns finishing bottom and thus returning back to the Counties East.

OAFC

A further two season spell back in the NCEL (which saw the NCEL League Cup won in 2003) was ended when Albion won their second championship after beating Eastwood Town to the title on the final day of the 2003-’04 season on goals scored only. The club therefore returned to the NPL’s Division One and would cement themselves as a solid mid-table outfit, remaining in the Division One through its separation into a North/South divisional split in 2007, with the club finishing 6th at the end of both the first two seasons following. However, their form soon dropped away and the club became perennial strugglers for the next six seasons, finishing a best of 17th in 2015, having already narrowly avoided the drop with 2014 seeing only a late reprieve keep their NPL status intact. After a 10th placed finish in 2016 saw a relieving upturn in form, Albion returned towards the wrong end of the table last season, finishing 18th, with this season seeing them safely hovering in the lower mid-table under ex-Sunderland midfielder Andy Welsh, ahead of the impending merger with Ossett Town.

With the game already underway, it wasn’t long until the first chance came around. In fact it took just six minutes for the visitors from just outside Preston to come close, Adam Dodd seeing his well struck shot parried away by Brett Souter between the Albion sticks and Brig continued their bright start soon afterwards when Alistair Waddecar’s free-kick was deflected rather wickedly and duly forced Souter into a second good stop of the afternoon.

Dodd would again go within a whisker of giving his side the lead some fifteen minutes later when he saw his effort hit the outside of the upright and it was this close-call that seemed to awaken the hosts from their slumber. In fact, just a few minutes later, they themselves would strike first with something of a goalmouth scramble resulting in the ball finding its way to the feet of Scott Metcalfe and the winger made little issue of sweeping the ball home from close range. One-nil to the Unicorns!

Match Action

Watching on….

Match Action

Waddecar then went close a second time, seeing his effort clear the bar and the terraced stand behind the goal, before Albion would double their advantage just after the half-hour when Tom Corner was left totally unmarked at, rather fittingly, a corner-kick and he thumped his header beyond Brig stopper Lloyd Rigby and into the net and it looked like the fans of the hosts would be saying a fond farewell to their home & current club with a win. Half-Time; 2-0.

Half-Time was largely spent being amused by a group of young Albion fans who were quite happy to show their idolising of Derek Ubah during the warm-up. Indeed, Ubah definitely seems a cult hero in these parts, getting his own cheer when entering the field during the second-half, so he must be a certainty to keep his place in the new United team for next season, otherwise there could be rioting afoot in these parts. Be warned!

The second half was soon a-go and it didn’t take long until Bamber Bridge were laden with a huge setback when a ‘robust’ challenge by right-back Macauley Wilson on Albion’s Josh Grant resulted in tempers flaring here and there as players swarmed in from all over the field. However it would be Wilson only who would be given his marching orders though to be fair to him, he seemed remorseful and knew it was a bad one, checking on Grant before heading from the field.

Match Action

Match Action

View from the terracing

Things soon settled down and Albion would assert their numerical dominance quickly with Aiden Chippendale going close and James Knowles hitting the crossbar. They would eventually add their third on 70 minutes when Gibraltar international Adam Priestley latched onto a long ball forward from ‘keeper Souter before squaring the ball to Chippendale who slotted home.

Souter would soon be forced to leave the field having been caught in a fair 50-50 challenge meaning sub ‘keeper Owen Brooke received an unexpected appearance but this proved to have little effect on Albion as they added a fourth late on when a terrible mix-up between a defender and Rigby led to Adam Priestley nipping in between them, knocking the ball over the ‘keeper and nodding into the empty net to complete a fine win for the hosts and ensure that a fitting farewell was given to Ossett Albion Football Club at Queen’s Terrace.

Post-match visit #1

Post-match visit #2

After a quick visit into the bar for a Bulmers post-match, Dan and I continued just up the road and to The Tap pub which stands pretty much opposite the ground’s access road. It was here that I was faced with the beautiful sight of Blue Moon on tap (unsurprisingly, I guess) and I didn’t hesitate in handing over my £4.20 (ish) for a pint of the lovely American, Belgian-style wheat beer. However, soon after joining Dan  – who once again disappointed with a Carling – I had a realisation. I’d forgotten about the Park Tavern and that would have been a bad showing to miss out one place alone. So I swiftly finished off here, left Dan to finish off that….stuff and jogged on over to the Park for a quick bottle of Bud (not the dilly dilly version) before catching the bus back up to Dewsbury where I was to meet Dan for the train back, which featured the highlight of a Gibbo in the wild, returning from watching his beloved Colls along with his girlfriend. Needless to say, he quickly made sure he escaped our grasp!

After stopping at each and every station on the way back, we eventually pulled back into Victoria where I bid goodbye to Dan and headed back on over to Oxford Road for the train back, the walk being highlighted by a guy doing his very best George Michael’s ‘Carless Whispers’ on his saxophone in “Sexy Sax Man” style. What a way to end off the day, wouldn’t you agree?!

So that’s that for both the day and Ossett Albion in their town. A fine day and game combined well to make for a good trip, with programme, food and pubs all being fine additions to the day too. The journey both up and down was pretty much trouble-free (bar making the train with seconds to spare en route) but that was it. Anyway, all the best to the two Ossett’s on their new beginning and hopefully they can tap in to the rather large catchment area they are no doubt within. Anyway, onto next week and the, by time of writing, NPL North champs….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 7

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