Manchopper in….Lytham

Result: Lytham Town 1-3 Longridge Town (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Ballam Road (Saturday 21st July 2018, 3pm)

Att: 35 (approx.)

As teams’ pre-season preparations and schedules continue to roll on as the season gets ever closer, I decided that a trip to the seaside was in order. However, I wasn’t heading there for sun, sea or sand nor any other beachy paraphernalia that you may come across once there – I was instead headed for Lytham Town, the West Lancashire coastal town famed for its windmill, nearby golf course….and brewery, of course! So, having enticed Gibbo into joining me on this venture, I set off into Piccadilly to meet up with him, via a £226 stop-off at the ticket office for trips that will become apparent over the next month or so. I need my head testing, I swear.

Anyway, I digress. Having sorted all the above out in good time, I found Gibbo amongst the crowds on the platform before we managed to scout out the better carriage option for seating. This went well for once (it wouldn’t if it was me alone) and a pair of Brewdog’s Pale Ale’s were soon being supped at as we headed off towards Preston where we would have a ten minute changeover before the train to Lytham. Well, that was how it was supposed to go down anyway but, alas, Northern’s classic failings decided to rear its ugly head once more and we were subjected to a further twenty-minute delay. Why? Because the planned four-car train arrived with only two and another pair had to be sourced from elsewhere and, just to add insult to the injury, the two then struggled to attach together. I was forced into a second Brewdog as this was going, just to get me by!

Finally in Lytham

Lytham

Eventually the two stopped butting heads like a pair of angry rhinos and we were finally en route to the coast. Arriving at around 12.30pm, we were greeted by a number of Northern staff and police who were on guard at the station due to the expected crowds for the ongoing Lytham Festival which was today featuring the likes of Bananarama. Gibbo was highly excited for this and even more so by the Lytham sign up on the station wall, with one of the aforementioned staff being roped into taking a pic of the couple of us in front of it before we headed off into the centre of town for a bit of a peruse of the area, prior to continuing on towards the front and a look around the festival area itself. Much to Gibbo’s disappointment, the windmill was off-limits due to it being within the festival’s grounds and so had to make do with a further pic in front of more signage. Then, it was finally onwards to the most important part: pubs!

Lytham dates back to around the Bronze Age and 900AD saw a village by the name of Kilgrimol or Kilgromhow established by, who are believed to be, expelled Vikings from Ireland. The Fylde area, known as Amounderness by the Anglo-Saxons, where Lytham is situated saw the town named in the Domesday Book as Lidun. It was later handed over to the Benedictine monks of Durham in 1199 and later became part of the crown after the dissolution of their home. The Cliftons took over in 1606 and built Lytham Hall, a new house replacing the former one, in 1757. For many centuries, relied on the fishing and shrimping trades prior to the advent and rise of tourism, along with the arrival of wealthy industrialists spreading out from the nearby strongholds of Manchester, Liverpool and Preston. Its most famous landmarks include ‘The Green’, a strip of grass running between the shore and main road, the aforementioned windmill and the neighbouring old Lifeboat House – now a museum.

The Clifton name resonates around Lytham, the former leading family giving their name to numerous streets and buildings. Their estate on the outskirts of Lytham and Ansdell originally occupied a large area, with Lytham Hall playing host to the family seat. This remained in the family until 1963 when it was passed onto the Guardian Royal Exchange Insurance and later, the Lytham Town Trust in 1997. This plays host to open-air plays and car shows etc and several gates and walls of the original estate still survive. Lytham is also home to the Foulnaze cockle factory, though this has only been opened thrice in the last twenty years, the last time being in 2013. The town’s station lies on the single line between Blackpool South and Preston, with two other stations:- Station Road, Lytham and near to the Old Links Golf Course having shut in 1874 & 1949 respectively.

The Lytham Festival not quite at capacity….yet

Lifeboat Museum & the famed windmill

Ship & Royal

First up was the Ship & Royal, which was eventually located after I’d forgotten where it was. It wasn’t quite worth the effort as it turned out, the place being very disorganised. The two staff were having to do all things out front, serving, changing barrels and serving and collecting dishes. They were doing their best to keep up, so no blame on them per se, but they desperately needed more help, which eventually did arrive after a good fifteen to twenty minutes and a few people having left after waiting a fair while. Anyway, after Gibbo had something resembling a half (served in a pint glass for some reason) of Lytham Ale and I played it safe with an Amstel – the round costing £5.30.

Next up was a far more serene experience in the small bar known simply as “The Craft House”. In a weird happening, the guy in front of me turned round to enquire what his partner “George” was having. She’d already left, though, leaving me to be the only person there. Of course, I’d unfortunately just ordered mine in, so couldn’t take advantage of his kind, yet unintentional, offer! Now on first name terms with half the people in the Craft House and the barman, I grabbed an outdoor table on Gibbo’s orders (who, being an Atherton native, had just returned from a pie shop), the pint of the Lancaster Ale going down nicely and, at £2.80, was just as good on the pocket as it tasted.

Strange indoor roadway

Craft House

Gibbo’s happy with his Jaeger decision

With kick-off time approaching, we crossed over the way and to the town’s Spoons, the Railway. It was a different kind of ‘Spoons from outdoor appearance, with its covered outdoor seating seeming more akin to the bistros in the town centre. After a pair of Jägers were consumed (courtesy of Gibbo as it was his idea, honestly) a pint of the Windermere Ale was consumed at the always cost-effective Spoons price of £2.19 before setting off on the few minute’s walk back over the railway and to the ground, passing through the adjacent park to get there, entrance gained through a gateway in the perimeter fencing, Gibbo being the model for this below…

Into the ground we go

Lytham’s Ballam Road ground is a fairly simple one, but is also one that has its fair share of character. The pitch is fully railed off, but has no hard standing immediately around it. However, a raised patioed area behind the goal at the Ballam Road end does give a bit of an alternative, with a few park benches upon it too, with a covered area alongside it hosting a barbecue today. The clubhouse stands to the rear of this and the walls feature pictures and the like from through the years, but it is only a small, narrow room though does have a few tables within too, should the weather not be too great. That’s Ballam Road in a nutshell and this is the story of Lytham Town….

History Lesson:

A Lytham F.C. was first formed around the turn of the 20th century and joined the Lancashire Combination in 1904. However, they competed here for just the one season, finishing bottom, before departing for parts unknown. They would enter the FA Cup for the first time in 1925, reaching the First Round prior to being knocked out in convincing fashion by Oldham Athletic 10-1.

They re-joined the Combination in 1929 and this time remained there until 1936. After the war, the club again returned to the Lancashire Combination, playing in its second division. Here, they finished in the top half in every season through to 1959 and eventually then gained promotion to Division One. They remained there until 1963 when they were relegated back. However, 1968 would see both divisions merged.

Lytham clubhouse

LTFC

Lytham were again relegated from the Combination in 1971, but were absent for only four years prior to returning once again. The period of the late ’70’s also saw the club reach the FA Vase Third Round on two occasions, prior to the Combination’s merger with the Cheshire County League to create the North West Counties League in 1982. Lytham thusly became a founder member of the league, but would soon depart it. After being relegated from their founding placing in Division Two in 1984, they competed for one sole season in Division Three, finishing 6th, before folding at the end of the 1984-’85 season.

Somewhere in the meantime, the current Lytham Town club came into being and played in the Preston & District League prior to their move into the West Lancashire League in 2007. They joined the league’s Second Division and spent four campaigns there before achieving promotion to the Division One in 2011 as champions. They have remained there to this day, finishing up last season in ninth out of the sixteen teams competing.

The game had just gotten underway as we were heading over the road bridge across the railway and it didn’t take all that long for the first goal to arrive. As we were talking to one of the few Longridge officials who had made the short trip out, Longridge’s new signing Jay Hart finished nicely from the edge of the area to open the scoring for the day after around eight minutes and so it looked as though there could be more to follow. Unfortunately, the game became a fairly sedate one with little in the way of chances coming at either end.

Match Action

Match Action

As such, Gibbo and I continued on up to the clubhouse to indulge in Lytham’s self-proclaimed “famous(ish)” 3 for £5 Budweiser offers, though this almost became something else, with the lad behind the bar having to be told in panicked tones that it was only the Bud that was on offer and nothing more. Anyway all was sorted out in this regard and the game had largely been sorted out on the pitch too, with Hart skilfully keeping the ball up in the air and under control, nodding it up before laying it off for Stuart Vasey to fire home for two-nil. That was largely that for the half as the BBQ became the more interesting thing on the go for the next half-hour or so. Cheeseburger in for just a quid. Can’t complain with that, can you?

Having now set up shop on the opposite side of the ground for a while and listening in on the Lytham side’s half-time team-talk, the second half was soon underway. I guess the manager’s words did get to them as they got tighter at the back and thus the game became an even more turgid affair than the first half. I honestly can’t remember all that much going on up until the usual raft of substitutes after around an hour’s play began to liven it up a little. But, to be honest, it didn’t have much to improve on.

Match Action

Good save, but he’ll be beaten by the rebound

Ainsworth buries the pen

Either way, further goals were to eventually follow late on. After Lytham had created and spurned a few decent opportunities, Longridge would net a third goal via a rebound that James Sloane capitalised upon, the ‘keeper rather unfortunate in this as he had pulled off a good save from the initial effort from outside the area. However, Lytham continued to battle on and were awarded a pretty stonewall penalty in the last-minute of the game, the spot-kick duly converted with confidence by Ross Ainsworth.

So that was that and it was back into town for another couple of hours before the train back, in the hope of catching some of Bananarama’s set, of course. As I alluded to earlier, this would sadly not come to pass for one reason or another, so Lytham’s watering holes would continue to be a more than decent substitute. The Taps was the first up post match, the nicely decorated pub offering up a decent pint of Hop House (that just managed to survive me elbowing over) whilst Gibbo opted for an ale with some kind of ‘punnage’ to it that I can’t remember right now. I don’t think I was too impressed as it was certainly no Obi-hops Kenobi, that’s for sure.

The Taps

The Queen’s

Back at the Station to round off the day

After leaving Gibbo to finish up his pint in there, I made the solo trip over to the Queen’s on the front which was packed with festival-goers unsurprisingly, who were still waiting on crossing over the way to the gates. As such, I was actually held at the door for a while on account of the numbers, before getting in after a short wait. Sadly, this trip wasn’t too worth it, Dark Fruits in a plastic glass coming in at the inflated sum of £4.85. Four…eighty-five…

The trip ended with a brief sojourn in the Station bar, located in the station building which was definitely a little more cost-effective with a bottle of Sol costing £3.35. Gibbo soon joined me once again in here for a final helping of putting cash into the local economy before grabbing the train back out of the ever more crowded town, on account that the Bananarama fans would soon be going bananas I’m sure. Upon getting back into Preston, we went on our separate ways, with going via Warrington a far better option for myself, whilst Gibbo still had to endure the long trip around the houses to return to Atherton at some point next year.

So there ends off the penultimate weekend of pre-season for me. It had been a good one, Lytham’s a great little town and the ground was decent too. The game was a bit ‘meh’, but I’m not too fussed when its free (bar £1 on the football card!). Onto the final weekend then and a bit of a double is in the offing. A Cheshire League side, a former Cheshire League side, a newly reformed team and an old Merseyside non-league powerhouse all feature. It should be pretty good….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Programme: N/A

Food: 6

Value For Money: 7

 

Manchopper in….Leyland

Leylandutdfc_400x400150px-LongridgeTownFC

Result: Leyland United 1-3 Longridge Town (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Centurion Park (Saturday 30th June 2018, 3pm)

Att: 45 (approx.)

With the possibility of England reaching the World Cup quarter-finals the following Saturday, I duly decided to start off the season a week early to make up for it. Also, it would have been silly to miss out on the glorious weather that the UK was experiencing during the latter part of June, as it certainly isn’t anything to rely on year-on-year, as many of you will know! Anyway, fixtures were threadbare for the weekend locally, but a couple stood out. Airbus UK had an early kick-off which would enable me to catch the France-Argentina game later in the afternoon, whilst Leyland United’s game with North West Counties new-boys Longridge Town provided an easier travel option.

As it was, Airbus proved to be too difficult to bother with on this day (despite the allure of the Red Arrows and Beluga movements at the neighbouring Hawarden Airfield) and so, come the mid-morning of the final Saturday of June, I caught the train from Manchester up to the Lancastrian town – also famed for its transport-making heritage, hoping for a nice, comfortable journey. Alas, the bloody thing was packed out and it was standing room only once again, with many obviously taking the chance to head to the seaside on this rarest of days. I eventually escaped the sweat box and continued into the town centre of Leyland, all the while in the shadow of the smoke emanating from the wildfire from the nearby Winter Hill.

A five-minute-or-so walk later and I found myself outside the town’s Wetherspoon’s outlet, the Leyland Lion, not far from the town’s British Commercial Vehicle museum – which celebrates the famed truck and bus maker Leyland Motors (later British Leyland Motor Corporation) which later grew to include the likes of car and motorcycle constructors Triumph, Rover (duly taking hold of the Land Rover and Jaguar brands too) and became British Leyland. It would latterly become the Rover Group and lives on as part of Jaguar-Land Rover and MINI, whilst the Leyland name is still carried by the original Leyland Trucks company and survives as part of an American heavy-duty company. Also, a marker point nearby marks the half-way point between London and Glasgow (some 198 miles in either direction).

Leyland

Leyland

Prior to becoming industrialised in the more recent past, Leyland was an area of fields and a meeting point of Roman Roads from Wigan to Walton-le-Dale. For a long while, the area fell into disuse prior to being rediscovered after the Battle of Hastings and was duly named in the Domesday Book. It is home to a late 12th or early 13th century church and is home to a Saxon cross.

Once at the bar, I decided to go a little more adventurous and opted for a pint of the Windermere Brewery’s Pale Ale, which set me back just the £2.29. Not too bad but, as it turned out, this wouldn’t even be the cheapest drink I’d find today! Anyway, after enjoying some sunshine in the pub’s beer garden which, interestingly, featured a derelict phone box, which was seemingly serving as an extension of the smoking area, I continued on Northwards and off towards a Morrison’s supermarket where I was told I would come across the Old Leyland Gates hostelry, one of the more up-to-date foodie pubs.

The information was good and having navigated my way through a rather tidy group of bungalows, I was more than happy to set eyes on it and headed within. My eyes were again drawn towards the pumps of real ale and, as a result, I couldn’t resist opting for a pint of the Chris Kamara-inspired Un-beer-lievable World Cup special beer and supped away whilst slightly in awe of the fact the pub had gone out-of-the-way to invest in, not only World Cup competitor bunting, but also full-sized flags from each of the 32 nations. I found this brilliant, as I’ve always had a fascination with World flags for some reason….no you’re weird! Back onto Un-beer-lievable – it tasted strangely close to the Greene King IPA which, come to think of it, was also on offer. Hmmmmm…..

The Leyland Lion & its phone box

The Leyland Gates

Leylandhosen!

Luckily, I quite enjoy that anyway so wasn’t bothered at all, especially as it only cost a further £2.89 and after finishing up here, I carried on down the main road and back towards the station where I had previously seen the Queen’s pub. It didn’t seem to be Liz’s own place though, sadly. This seemed far more of that traditional type of establishment and, much to my delight, also displayed full-size flags! Sorcery, where the hell are Leyland’s pubs sourcing them? I’ve not seen any anywhere else, so fair play to them for digging them up. Also a pleasant surprise was the appearance of McEwan’s Lager (no idea why either) as was its price – £2.10. Magic.

After debating whether or not to watch the F1 qualifying on the small, distant screen in here or risk dipping into one of the two pubs en route to the ground, I opted for the latter option and headed up and over the road-bridge that crosses above the station. I bypassed the Railway pub for now, thinking it would be a better stop-off after the game, and instead carried on just around the bend where the Rose of Farington, named after the nearby area of the town, was located. The Rose also had the lovely alcoholic version of Dandelion and Burdock in stock, which is bloody lovely in the hotter weather especially, and they kindly switched over one of the TV’s to accommodate me, having given me the option of any number to pick from. Really nice place too, and with the bottle setting me back a very fair price of around the mid £3 mark, I settled in to see where Kimi would end up on the Austrian grid (by the way, screw those fans who booed at Silverstone and the salty Merc lads!).

Queen’s

Rose of Farington

Farington Mill monument

After watching him end up a decent 4th, the clock was approaching 3pm and therefore kick-off. Centurion Park lay around a ten-minute walk away, and I arrived just outside the gates of the ground as the referee’s shrill whistle rang out over the nearby area to signal the game was underway. Upon entering past the sign bearing today’s opposition, you are immediately within the ground’s car park which is located right behind the goal and also extends round onto the grass to the right-hand side, so watch your cars! There is little to speak of with regard to Centurion Park which is a simple West Lancashire League home. Along the left-hand side of the ground, there is a cabin which houses the dressing rooms, a closed-up food trailer (which may be used at other points), another building of some description whilst a pair of dugouts are located at pitch-side, to the front of them. The ground is all open standing, with the vast majority of it on grass, apart from the area immediately between the dressing rooms and dugouts, though there are a couple of benches outside the cabin upon the paved area, and another in the corner of ground on the same side near the car-park area which provide somewhere to rest up if required. So that’s Centurion Park, and this is the story of Leyland United F.C….

History Lesson:

Leyland United Football Club was formed in 2011 after the merger of Leyland Football Club and Leyland Red Rose, with the feeling being it was better to put the resources of two good teams in the town into one joint effort going forward. After a sole season in the Preston & District League’s Premier Division (now the Mid-Lancashire League) where they won both the Premier Division (First Team) and Division One (Reserves), Leyland joined the West Lancashire League, taking a spot in Division 2 and winning the early season 2012 Guild Cup via a penalty-shootout win over Mid-Lancs League side Blessed Sacrament after a 4-4 draw.

Their first season saw them finish a highly respectable third, with a six-point deduction putting paid to their promotion hopes, before finishing 6th, 4th, then dropping to second-bottom prior to recovering to 3rd once again in 2017. Last season, the club won the West Lancs League Division 2 title and were duly promoted to the Division One for the coming season.

Arriving at Centurion Park

“Stand”

With the game at the second venue in Leyland I’ve seen a game at (after the Lancs FA HQ) underway, let’s get straight into it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the visitors, making the step up from the West Lancashire League this season, who began the stronger with regular raids on the Leyland goal undertaken. They went close early on, the Leyland ‘keeper’s original save being headed back towards goal but, fortunately for the hosts, bouncing back off the woodwork. Both wingers then went close, with #11 seeing his headed effort saved comfortably by the GK, before #7 saw a shot whistle narrowly past the post.

The first half continued to be dominated by Longridge Town, with #10 seeing his effort cleared off the line with the resultant follow-up effort by #11 saved, and the former then went close once more, a free-kick from a fair way out drifting narrowly off-target. Eventually their pressure told and it was the player wearing the #14 shirt who grabbed the opener, converging onto a through ball before turning well and finishing nicely. One-nil to the visitors and they continued to press forward, with #3 firing wastefully over from a good position before Leyland finally began to gain something of an attacking threat towards the end of the half, #10 being thwarted when one-on-one with the Longridge GK and just before the whistle, the gloveman was forced into a good stop from a free-kick.

Match Action

Match Action

‘Keeper keeps out the FK

After making acquaintance with Buddy the dog and his Dad, the half-time whistle duly blew whilst a Longridge player was stricken on the floor, with the early part of the half being taken up by him receiving his due treatment, before trudging off with a little help. The sides and officials quickly returned to the pitch from their dressing rooms within the cabin within ten minutes and we were swiftly back underway.

Unfortunately, as so often happens in friendly contests – especially those at the start of the programmes, it became a bit of a stop-start affair, with subs a plenty featuring throughout the 45. However, goals were more prevalent despite the lack of overall action, with #9 latching onto a through ball and sliding the ball across the Leyland ‘keeper early on in proceedings to increase the visitors’ lead. He then presented the #11 with a chance following a tidy 1-2, but he shanked the ball well wide of the mark.

Match Action

Leyland get one back

Centurion Park looking resplendant

As the substitutions began to make more of an effect on the game, along with occasional water breaks that were being afforded to the players, things quietened down for a while before #10 sealed the win for Longridge, firing in a free-kick. Leyland were able to respond late on, their own #10 seeing his initial shot well-kept out by the ‘keeper, but he was powerless to deny the rebound which was forced over the line.

#7 had a late chance to add further gloss to proceedings for Longridge, but his shot ended up hitting the side-netting and the game ended up three-one to the visitors come the full-time whistle. As for me, I bid a quick exit and re-traced my steps back down the main road, passing by the Rose of Farington on the occasion and instead popping into the aforementioned Railway. A Coors was had in here (£3.65), just before an influx of players and staff from both sides swiftly followed, all in time to watch the Argies bow out.

The Railway

Golden Tap

Upon finishing and giving my table to a few managers and players, I remembered that I hadn’t seen the small real ale place that was apparently near the station and opposite the Queen’s. This despite having been there twice. Even then, upon returning, I originally walked past it before eventually seeking it out within the row of shops! It was worth the (self-imposed) trouble too, the Golden Tap was a nice little place and the Euchre Pale Ale was lovely and, for just the £2.80, you can’t complain too much, can you?!

After nursing the pint for just less than an hour, it was time to head the short distance back to the station where, I hoped, the train would be far more conducive to comfort than the one I had on the outbound trip. I was wrong. It was standing room only once again, though at least this time there was room to breathe! The journey was spent bemoaning the fortunes of Northern’s service with a lady who at least had a holiday to look forward to at the end of the experience, whilst I had to make do with more drink. It could be worse, I guess. We could have been stopped by the line-side fire we passed near Wigan!

Anyway, that ends the first trip of the new 2018/’19 season (despite it still strictly being 2017-’18 still, but it’s close enough). It’d been a good one, Leyland was decent and very cheap, the game was ok and was also free so you can’t really go wrong and the journey was easy, albeit not too comfortable. As they say, two out of three ain’t bad. Onto the next game, wherever that may be….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 4

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9

Manchopper in….Mill Hill (Mill Hill St. Peter’s FC)

Result: Mill Hill St. Peter’s 1-13 (Thirteen) Padiham (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Queen Victoria Street (Saturday 15th July 2017, 2pm)

Att: 52 (hc)

With a 5am start beckoning on Sunday morning and a 4 hour coach ride down to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, I’d already decided to be sensible for once and not travel too far for a pre-season game. Even alcohol intake was being put on the back-burner and, as such, I was looking for somewhere to perfectly ally the two, whilst also hosting a pretty decent game and, wouldn’t you know it, Mill Hill offered up such an opportunity.

Arriving in Mill Hill

The Bull’s Head’s back passage

Heading off towards Blackburn via the interim of Preston, I eventually arrived in the dank and drizzly suburb of Blackburn at just before 1pm, ahead of kick-off an hour later. Upon having a quick check down at the ground that the game was definitely on (nets up seemed to say this was the case), I continued towards the far end of town and the first stop of the day, the Bull’s Head. It was very quiet in here, though the beginning of the qualifying session for the aforementioned race kept me entertained enough,though the Peroni definitely seemed somewhat out of place in a very traditional and cosy pub. Eventually though, a stoppage in the session gave me an out and so I headed off down the high street to what seemed to be the more popular pub of the two, the Witton Inn.

After being kindly granted my request of having the quali put on in here as well, a pint of Moretti (they like their Italian lager around here it seems) along with the thrill of a McLaren going fastest (still wrong that that’s the case) would keep me there up until around ten minutes to kick-off, by which time the drizzle had abated and I could leave. It was a well-timed leave too, as one punter asked if it was ok to turn over to watch a race he had a bet on. With all the times aligning nicely, it was back over to the ground.

The Witton Inn

Mill Hill

I arrived within sight of Queen Victoria Street to find both teams still going through their warm-ups. With me not too fond of hanging around in the mizzle, I instead headed into the Mill Hill Hotel that I originally planned on leaving until post-match. The Hotel stands opposite the ground and provides a sight of the pitch and so I settled on a Carlsberg in here, what with the Italian stuff seemingly not reaching this end of town yet to keep an eye on when the warm-ups were at an end. Before long, I headed upstairs to the toilet declaring “Gents” upon the door. Upon my grand descent, I was accosted by the lady behind the bar for using a private loo rather than the public ones downstairs. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who’s done this, probably due to it not being very obvious to us unschooled visitors!

Mill Hill Hotel

Arriving at the ground

Faux pas done, it was soon time to head over to the ground. The entrance is found at the end a small access road down the side of a block of terraced houses, with the pitch located within the confines of the river on one side and factories/yards opposite and at the far end (beyond which the town’s other club, Mill Hill FC is located). The ground is a pretty smart one for the level, with a nice clubhouse/tea bar/dressing room building sitting atop the grass mound at the end from which you enter and a small covered terrace stand located in the near corner. The pitch is barred off at both sides, though this is not the case behind the goals. Bar the small covered terrace, the ground is open standing, with the sides featuring some hard standing but both ends are just grass though the mounds here do give a slightly raised view of the action. So, that’s the Queen Vic and this is Mill Hill St. Peter’s…

History Lesson:

Mill Hill St. Peter’s were formed in 1898 on the back of a church-related instruction to improve the working and social conditions for the working class of the parish area. The current pitch was used as a butcher’s stall prior to it becoming the home of the club soon after its creation, with one of the founding priests having played against Real Madrid (apparently) whilst studying in Valladolid.

After originally competing in local leagues (mostly the Blackburn Combination), 1927 saw the club win the Blackburn and Darwen Catholic League and numerous other local competitions, whilst being under threat of having the priest/fellow player knock on the door of team-mates (and anyone else in the town it seems) if they’d been absent from mass!

MHSPFC

1937 saw the side win the Livesey Cup, which they followed up with the following season prior to the outbreak of WWII. Post-war, the club saw a few players make the step up to the professional game, with its school team arms including Jimmy Baldwin who’d go on to play for Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City in his career. The club also brought through other future pros such as Fred Pickering, another Rovers player and an England international in his time amongst others.

Following the loss of the club’s new(ish) pavilion in the early 1970’s, money was raised via means to replace it including a match that was kicked-off by (latterly Sir) Tom Finney, though that was his only kick! After a long stay in the Blackburn Combination, the club would leave for the West Lancashire League for 1987, though their stay was a short one, with St. Peter’s soon returning to the Combination after just one season away. With more success here in a short spell, the club’s application to the East Lancashire League was accepted in the early ’90’s, where they won the Division 2 in 1993, being promoted to Division 1 as a result. This was then won for the next two seasons.

Guess the player?

After passing the club centenary, St. Peter’s re-joined the West Lancashire League in 2001, playing the next eight seasons in Division 2, before being promoted to Division 1 in 2009 as runners-up. They remained in the league’s top-flight until last season, when they were relegated back to Division 2 after finishing up second-bottom out of the fifteen teams.

The game was soon underway as I arrived just as the whistle was blown. Now, when people say there is an all-action goal-fest, they probably don’t usually mean it in quite the literal way that I do! The other problem is that there is no signs of any names of scorers or pretty much anything to do with the game, so let’s just jump into the action shall we?

First off, the Storks almost took the lead as early as the second minute, a rising shot clattering back off the crossbar, before the deadlock was broken soon after, a good move seeing the ball pulled back within the area and a low shot dispatched into the bottom corner by Connor Loftus. There was no sign of what was to come, though, as the hosts struck back fairly quickly. A corner was awarded on the left flank and the resultant ball was nodded down by #9 and, as Padiham appealed in vain for a foul, #8 knocked the ball in at the back post.

Match Action

Match Action

From then on in, though, it was pretty much all one-way traffic. Padiham re-took the lead after around 20 minutes, a high cross being knocked back into a dangerous area where the ball was converted by Jay Hart and the visitors would add a further three goals before the interval, Alex Murphy beat the offside trap to fire in for number three, Loftus pounced upon a poor defensive header to convert the fourth before Hart added to his personal tally by heading home to leave the score-line reading 1-5 at the break. It could have been even more, considering the visitors had hit the post on another two occasions! Half-Time and the early part of the second half consisted of a visit to the bar for a bottle of Desperados, what with me having to give something to the club, of course.

Match Action

Desperados

Whilst in the clubhouse I, somewhat unsurprisingly by this point, saw another close range chance for Padiham taken by Jake Townsend and it then became clear to me that my first ever double-figure win might just be on the cards. The home-keeper was doing his best to stop this happening, though, and pulled off a number of impressive stops within the siege of his net, including a fine double-stop around the hour mark.

Alas for him, the goals soon began to rain down once more, just as the weather began to do the same. After Padiham’s #4 saw his car get hit by a ball (allowing us all to know this by exclaiming “That’s my car as well!!”) and James Walker hit the woodwork again, Townsend netted the seventh away goal, Dom Craig netted in an instant replay of the former, slotting home a pull-back, before Kieran Pickup added his name to the score-sheet as double-figures loomed.

View from the clubhouse

New stand at QVS

Match Action

Another good save by the Mill Hill ‘keeper saw him tip a low shot onto the post and get some much deserved luck with the ball rebounding into his hands, but he was powerless to eventually concede the tenth as #15 released Pickup to net for yet another brace on the day.

That effervescent A Trialist – wearing #11 today – then somehow drove into the bottom corner with a decent strike, before the ref then inexplicably gave a penalty to Padiham, for handball, with five minutes left and the score at 1-11. Skipper Chris Turner did the job, before Pickup secured his hat-trick (in only 40 minutes of play) with the last kick of the game for 1-13 and to round off what is probably the most difficult “match report” I’ve ever had to do. Back to the bog-standard one-nils please guys!

Penalty goes in for twelve

A quick exit from the ground saw me back at Mill Hill station within a few minutes and I was in Preston station’s Hero bar within a half-hour and sipping a Heineken as it seems Moretti has disappeared from its pumps. The price certainly wasn’t a welcome one at around the £4 mark, but it beats sitting on the platform for 40 minutes. Eventually, though, it was time to head off and back home to round off a nice, easy journey and all sights were set on Silverstone.

Preston Hero

So what to make of the game. Well, once it gets past the eight mark, I always get a little uncomfortable as a neutral (in a thrashing anyway), though at least they didn’t have “Can You Feel The Force” blaring out as the ninth went in! Padiham did look highly impressive in converting as many chances as they did, though, and you wouldn’t bet against them having a good campaign. As for the hosts, well, it’s hard to gauge much from a game like that. It can’t get any worse that’s for certain and they’ll be hoping that that’s their thrashing done for the season. As for next week, it’s all up in the air…

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 7

Food: N/A (seems they do have some usually though, going by comments)

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9

 

Manchopper in….Turton

Result: Turton 3-0 Eagley (West Lancashire League Premier Division)

Venue: Thomason Fold (Saturday 13th May 2017, 3pm)

Att: 105 (approx.)

So it arrives. The final day of my 2016-’17 season dawned and it was a pretty dull and dank morning. Why change the habit of a lifetime, eh British weather? Anyway, avoiding a rant on that subject let’s get back onto the actual subject at hand; the football, for the final time this season.

Having had a random draw decide my destination for the final day’s play, fate said I’d be off to West Lancashire League side Turton and their Thomason Fold ground. Now, I’d only heard good things about both club and ground from various other hoppers etc., and so my hopes were set high.

Having headed off at just after 10am, I arrived into Bromley Cross station at just after eleven, with a 2.5 mile walk ahead to reach the town of Edgworth where, strictly, the ground is located. So, I set off on the largely uphill trek, stopping off only to visit Turton Tower (exterior only, as it cost a princely £6 to get in), a “historic” manor house and give a guy some bad directions. Sorry…

Heading into Turton

Turton Hall

To be honest, by the time I’d headed through the woods from Turton Tower up to Chapeltown, I was feeling a bit parched. Luckily (or not so as it was planned), there be a pub by the name of the Chetham Arms. Almost a great name there. Anyway, the Chetham dates from the 18th century but has been modernised somewhat within, but not to the extent to lose its whole character. It also sits at the foot of the road to Old Boltonians’ ground, so I may just be back rather soon!

After a pint of Amstel in here, I got some affirmation of directions round to Turton before heading slightly back on myself to reach the town as outlined by the bar staff. However, I probably should have said I was on foot, as a cut-through over the reservoir was blatantly there and would have saved a good ten minutes that I could have spent in the next stop, the Black Bull.

Chetham Arms

Edgworth

Black Bull

This was your quintessential small town pub, traditional in its build. It was, however, the home of my joint priciest pint of the day (I think), with the Kronenbourg setting me back £3.50. Again, though, it seemed the people of Turton/Edgworth weren’t too forward in coming out to play so early and so I bid goodbye to those at the bar and headed up the road to Edgworth’s town centre, bypassing the cricket club for now to reach the pub at the far end of town, the Rose & Crown.

Unfortunately, this was shut until two, so a quick backtrack to the White Horse was made, with me deciding to venture into the local ales of Bolton. The one I tried had a cricket-themed name (I can’t remember it off the top of my head) but didn’t settle too well on me. Neither did the lager pint I had in the cricket club of Resolution or Revolution…or something-ution. Maybe it wasn’t anything to do with “-ution”.

After spending a good half-hour watching the City-Leicester game plus a bit of the leather and willow boys braving out a heavy shower, I saw the time had just passed two and, with my pint nearing its end, I thought it’d be something of a shame not to head back to the Rose & Crown and finish off there. So, I did just that, ending off on a pint of the fine Aspall cider, bringing back memories (what I can recall anyway) of the station bar in Sheffield after visiting Millmoor at the start of the year!

White Horse and Rose & Crown

A quick one at the cricket

With the clock now approaching kick-off rapidly, I made the short five minute walk back around the corner and down a couple of alleyways, with a couple of locals to help guide my way, otherwise I’d likely have got lost somewhere. Obviously. I headed through the small gateway which gives entry to Thomason Fold to find a pretty decent attendance on for the Tigers’ derby clash with near-neighbours Eagley. I’ve seen it termed as “The Oldest Derby” and with Turton being the oldest club in Lancashire and Eagley themselves not too far behind, it’s probably true!

Thomason Fold itself is a nice enough little ground. It features a little hard standing, some raised, on the near touch-line from where you enter, with the remainder of the ground being grassy, uneven standing, which I discovered to my peril when, after retrieving a ball ahead of a corner, bailed over some of that very ground down near the changing rooms!

Danger! Trip hazard!

Terracing

Thankfully, no-one bar the Eagley right-back seemed to notice, or maybe they were just being kind. Or shaking their heads in disappointment… Other than that, there is a clubhouse/food hut down in the corner, sandwiched between the terracing and the changing rooms, with a large grass mound giving great views over the pitch, despite actually being outside the ground, but a small mesh fence doesn’t hinder access to it too much. So, what about Lancashire’s oldest club? Well….

History Lesson:

Turton FC was formed in 1871, thusly becoming the oldest club in Lancashire. Originally playing at Tower Street in Chapeltown (now host to Old Boltonians and possible oldest ground in the world), the club can hold a claim to having been Lancashire’s leading club through the early years of their formation and Lancastrian football with 1878 seeing the Tigers be a force in forming the Lancashire Football Association. Turton also entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1879, reaching the Third Round on two occasions (1881 & ’82) and competing against the likes of Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday.

There is also the belief that Turton’s kit influenced Bolton Wanderers’ colours with a former player of Turton, John Bentley, being a key player in forming BWFC.

Turton’s old home from the new(ish) one!

The latter part of the decade saw Turton compete in the Lancashire Combination, largely finishing in mid-table, relegated to the recently formed Second Division in 1904 before taking a season out in 1906-’07 prior to a three season return until 1912, where the club maintained a place in the Combination’s second tier. However, with the growth of professional football in the 1880’s, Turton’s influence faded. They did, though, lift four Lancashire Junior Cups (1900, ’02, ’03 & ’05) and also triumphed in the 1913 Lancashire Amateur Shield.

However, since that time, the club has folded twice for lengthy periods, not reappearing until 1987 in the West Lancashire League’s Division 2. As such,  the club’s next major success came in the form of the 1988 West Lancashire League Division 2 title, before they became runners-up in the First Division in 1994.

View from the clubhouse

Relegated back to Division 2 in 1999, Turton were promoted as runners-up the next year returning to Division 1 which they again finished second in two seasons later, maintaining a spot in the newly named Premier Division. Relegation in 2010 saw Turton back in the second tier of the league, and 2015 saw the club finish as runners-up once more, only to see the club refused promotion due to ground grading issues.

Thankfully for the Tigers, they soon put those right and were promoted at the close of the next season as champions to take up a spot in the Premier Division for this season, where they finished up a solid ninth.

Match Action

Cornered Tiger

The game got underway with Turton being the largely dominant force against their already relegated opponents. However there is a case, you’d at least admit, that this game shouldn’t have been happening on this very day, what with the original game at the end of March being abandoned for “bad light” with three minutes left on the clock & Eagley 3-0 up. Apparently, the league confirmed the result only to reverse the decision the next day and decide a replay should happen. So, here we all were.

Eagley, under the stewardship of ex-football league player Simon Whaley, never really got going, though with nothing to play for, it wasn’t too surprising. The hosts took the lead just before the break, with a loose ball falling to Steve Fitton who clipped a chip from at least 25 yards into the net. A fine finish.

Match Action

Match Action

Turton saw the rest of the half out while I took refuge in the bar sampling some soup before moving on to a hot dog, both priced at a quid. The game had been a real end of season, run of the mill game, with little to get anyone going. But, there had at least been a goal and the sides headed in, separated by that solitary strike.

The second half was a more open contest and, after my trip, Turton doubled their advantage. The visiting right-back did well to clear an initial effort off the line, but saw the clearance fall to Luke Bradbury who took the second chance. The result was all but confirmed soon after, with Eagley’s #4 seeing red for a second bookable offence.

Match Action

Match Action

Celebrating the third

The Tigers added a third with around five or so to play, Matt Warburton nodding home from a corner to well and truly wrap up the derby success and they even could afford to miss a penalty shortly afterwards (which looked fairly fortunate to be given in the first place), with #6 seeing his kick saved pretty comfortably.

Penalty save

That was pretty much that in terms of action and Turton saw out the win, ironically managing the same score-line as Eagley had registered in the original, abandoned contest. However, this did enable their defender Richard Battersby (I think ex-FC United & Trafford from my memory) to bow out of football on a win. I was bowing out of football too, but only for this season of course, so don’t get too worried…or celebrate too hard.

The long walk back was punctuated by a stop-off in the King William pub which is about a fifteen minute walk from the station at Bromley Cross. So, having wasted a good forty-five minutes in here, I headed onwards back to the station and it’s one of those where you have to cross the tracks to get to the other platform, which is always a rare quirk for me!

Over the reservoir

The King William

An eventful trip home followed to end off my footballing year. For the next month and a bit, cricket returns to these pages (which is always a welcome way to recoup some funds!). As for Turton, it was all pretty good. The ground was nice and scenic and the area around it was decent too. The game itself was a bit meh, but it certainly could have been worse and I didn’t expect too much more. Plus, it being the “oldest derby” definitely added some allure to it! So, I’ll leave off there and sign off for 2016-’17. 2017-’18, can you beat that?!

RATINGS:

Game: 4

Ground: 6

Food: 5

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 6

 

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Lostock (Tempest United FC)

tempest-utdlostock-st-gerards-fc-logo

Result: Tempest United 1-4 Lostock St. Gerards (West Lancashire League Richardson Cup 3rd Round)

Venue: Tempest Road (Saturday 3rd December 2016, 1.30pm)

Att: 45 (hc)

As the final month of the year begins, so the run towards 200 grounds nears its conclusion. Yes, with Tempest United chosen as venue 198, the bicentennial ground has been chosen (no spoilers as yet) with Port Vale filling the 199th spot the following day. But, for this Saturday, it was a local trip to just past Bolton and the small town of Lostock for some West Lancashire League cup action. Let’s hope there were no STORMS brewing. Ah, tempest..storms..? Ah, go away.

After setting off on a much delayed Northern train (shock, horror), it soon became apparent that delays and on-train crushes would be the order of the day. Having disembarked at Deansgate station off one sweat-inducing service, I imagined my ordeal may be over. This dream was shattered, however, when the Blackpool-bound connection arrived with just two carriages, both full to the brim and with people with pushchairs forced to stand within the toilet just to get on. Great service.

Mercifully, my journey was only a 20-minute further hop from town and I was quick to make my exit, careful to not stand on any of the kids around the doorway. Safety at a premium here! Anyway, this was to be my last train-related issues for a couple of hours at least as thoughts turned towards football and the second of three clubs along Tempest Road.

Tempest Rd

Tempest Rd

Chew Moor

Chew Moor

Duke of Wellington

Duke of Wellington

Indeed, having already visited the closest of the three to the station, Ladybridge FC, for my first game of this season, Tempest are the furthest down. But in being situated there, it gave me the chance to visit the only pub in the town, as far as I’m aware anyway, the Duke of Wellington.

It only takes around 15 minutes to walk there, with the ground a further two minutes on. Not too taxing, though the slice of lime I received in my Corona was the driest I’ve ever seen and so was not utilised on this occasion. After watching the remainder of the first half of Manchester City-Chelsea in here, it was soon time to head over to the ground.

Arriving at Tempest Road

Arriving at Tempest Road

Arriving at Tempest Road

Today’s Game

Tempest Road is a simple ground. The pitch is barred off on two-and-a-half sides with only the clubhouse side having open, hard standing. The far side of the pitch is home to a very small mound, which gives a slightly raised view of the ground, as does the extreme ends of the clubhouse side. The road end of the ground is just an open expanse of grass, with the occasional ball striking cars as it clears the hedge. That’s pretty much it for the ground, so here’s a bit about the history of Tempest Utd…

History Lesson:

Tempest United FC was formed in 1946 in the village of Chew Moor in Lostock and had a good initial existence before disbanding. During their first form, the club were nomadic playing on “various farmer’s fields” in and around the village, though they did manage to lift their, to date, only Westhoughton Charity Cup.

During the late 1950’s, the current ground was converted by Bolton Council from allotments to a football pitch and funds from the previous incarnation of the club went towards reforming it. The changing rooms at the ground have seen some…different locations, namely a garage and cottages, the latter with tin baths and coal fires as upgraded facilities!

The Famous Shed

The Famous Shed

Initially playing in the Bolton Combination, Tempest won both the Second and First Divisions within the first three years of joining the league, but silverware soon became hard to come by. However, they soon came by a timber chicken shed to be used as a clubroom/changing rooms from 1979, with a bar added some time later. The late 80’s saw the club given funding to build a brick extension for the clubhouse, enabling the shed to become changing only facilities.

Following a further Bolton Combination divisional win, the club also lifted the league’s Open Cup in 1991. The following year, the club applied for the West Lancashire League and were subsequently elected, with Tempest having remained there ever since. After joining the ‘old’ Division 2 initially, they were promoted to Division 1 in 1996, but were relegated after one season in the top division. They did, however, go on to win two Bolton Hospitals Cups after this in 1998 & 2000.

TUAFC

TUAFC

Following re-organisation in 2000, Tempest were promoted to the new “Premier Division” but were immediately relegated once more. It took another six seasons for the club to return, but they did as 2009 Division One Champions. But, after a further five seasons of struggling away in the top-tier, they returned to Division One for 2014-’15, but were promoted again last season after finishing up in 2nd place behind champions Turton.

After the away side were made to walk over to the “tunnel” (two ropes and some cones) through the car park and make their way onto the pitch from this side and following the usual pre-match pleasantries the “different Lostocks derby”(not its actual name, unsurprisingly) was underway. The home side looked to be on top through the early stages, but it was to be the visitors who would strike first, Joey Mullen doing well to beat two Tempest defenders before firing past the ‘keeper.

The game continued in the same vein, with Lostock being put under pressure by the home side, but Tempest were wasteful in good areas and struggled to test the Lostock GK. Their misery was being compounded by some questionable officiating from the assistants especially, who had pretty poor days it has to be said. Both sides were affected by this, though it seemed to get to Tempest and affect their performance as, just before the half hour, Adam Clare found the ball at his feet following an advantage in the area and he finished unerringly. A plus for the ref, who I felt had a decent game, but was affected by his assistants overall.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The home side found themselves further behind at the break, Clare netting his second after beating the offside trap and finishing off confidently and it looked all over bar the shouting. A small shock was on the cards in the Richardson Cup, with the Divisions 5th-placed side trailing to its 14th.

For the break it was to the smart clubhouse with the “Famous Shed” changing area behind, which is referred to numerous times around its location. In here is to be found the bar and the small food hut where I purchased chips for a £1. Not too bad either and most welcome on a fairly chilly day.

Soon enough, the sides were back out on the field and the second half was underway, with questionable offsides being the order of the day still (there was at least three I was completely in line with that were given off when they weren’t for both teams). Despite this, the home side continued to be the more dominant force overall, but just couldn’t create in front of goal. However, they were given the chance to get something of a lifeline when a blatant trip in the area was awarded with a rightful penalty. #3, Sean Rothwell, stepped up only to see his pen kept out, fairly comfortably, by the Lostock GK. But only the home team will know how they failed to net from the rebound!

Patio viewing

Patio viewing

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Then came the goal of the game and what a cracker it was. With the away side getting forward, the ball was half cleared out to Jon Wilding a full 35 yards out. There looked to be little danger, until Wilding unleashed a fizzing, rising drive from all of 30 yards which flew past the despairing ‘keeper and into the top corner. A great strike and that, without any doubt, sealed St. Gerards’ place in the next round.

There was still time for Tempest to press on and force another penalty, #11 this time taking responsibility, but again the Lostock ‘keeper guessed correctly to keep out the shot. Just as it looked like he’d earn a deserved clean sheet, Rothwell received the ball just outside the area and hit an effort into the far bottom corner. 1-4 and full-time arrived not too long after.

Pen save #2!

Pen save #2!

Having seen a really entertaining game, I left Tempest Road pretty pleased, considering the whole day had cost less than £8, which is crazy really! Alas, the train services had not improved and after further delays and crushes, I arrived at Deansgate just in time for my connection home which was, in another shocking twist, delayed and full to the door where I was situated. Ah Northern, after Sunday, that’s me done with you for the year, methinks. Let’s hope 2017 is a much improved year. As for Tempest: it’s a nice little ground and a decent all-round club which is well worth a visit if you find yourself in the Bolton area and are looking for a cheap game option. Just CMB to go to complete the trinity of Tempest Road….

dsc03378

 

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 5

Food: 6

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9

Manchopper in….Lostock (Ladybridge FC)

ladybridgebedians

Result: Ladybridge 4-2 Bedians (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: St.John’s Park (Saturday 2nd July 2016, 3pm)

Att: 10 (approx.)

Football is back. Yes, the day after the official FIFA recognised beginning of the 2016-’17 season, I was back in the throws of the pre-season friendly games. Though, to be honest, it was a bit of a struggle to find a local game that I could be bothered to go to. Initially the plan had been to visit the new club AFC Denton, but then came up the chance to visit Ladybridge.

I’d only found out about this game after seeing Bedians’ twitter account tweet out their pre-season friendly list, otherwise I’d have had no inkling there was a game here, as was rather apparent with the lack of spectators. Anyway. after having it confirmed that the game was all set (after the AFC Denton game was off), I began the journey towards the area of Lostock, which sits just to the west of Bolton.

I’d previously intended to visit Ladybridge once before, at the start of the 2014/’15 season, but due to a non-updated Maps app, I decided against it, having had it still appear that it was a field with little going on. Having been assured otherwise after pointing it out, it’s always been on my list since, but the opportunity had never truly risen again. That is until today, of course.

The journey was to be on the train, but with the added annoyance of a rail replacement service from Bolton to Lostock and again on the return journey. However, the train times seemed to give enough of a buffer that a short delay wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Remember this statement.

Bolton

Bolton

The Spinning Mule

The Spinning Mule

So, after heading through Manchester and onwards to Bolton, I decided I may as well visit to Spoons in the town centre, what with Lostock looking rather devoid of any drinking holes, at least on the way towards the ground. Indeed, it turned out the only pub I saw was slightly dilapidated and had its roof caving in. Luckily, it wasn’t open so no-one needs to call Health & Safety out on this occasion.

I arrived into the Spinning Mule at shortly after 1.30, but then remembered that the replacement bus was leaving at two, and I’d not taken into account the fact I’d arrived later than I’d originally intended, as I had a usual thick moment. So, after quickly necking my bottle of Punk IPA, I undertook the short walk back to the station, where I then had to walk the length of a platform, to an out of the way car park, where the bus would be departing from. With just seconds to spare, I hopped on and was soon being whisked away to Lostock. Ooh, the glamour of it.

Now, as I said earlier, Lostock isn’t the most rocking of places. But, it is a pretty picturesque sort of area, which definitely surprised me. There are rows of pricey-looking houses nearby the ground and there is also a reservoir behind the clubhouse end. There are also views away over the adjacent fields and lots of trees. But the highlight, on arriving at the ground, had to be the retractable floodlights, which have been recently installed, I understand after an unintended ear-wig.

Anyway, I arrived at St. John’s Park at around half-two, and found a yellow sign directing me up a dirt track which ran through a wooded area. The ground sits just off Tempest Road, which has the strange honour of being home to three different clubs on three different venues (the others being CMB & Tempest Utd. Any other instances of this?). Eventually, the Ladybridge FC clubhouse came into view and with half an hour to kick-off, I thought it rude not to go in and sample the delights of the club.

This way...it seems.

This way…it seems.

Ladybridge FC

Ladybridge FC

The clubhouse still seemed in a state of re-decorating, with awards, pennants and other general memorabilia piled up in a corner of the room. There was also a rather full trophy cabinet under the 4Music blaring TV in another corner of the room, which was providing today’s pre-match entertainment. The refreshment hut sits here too and so I headed there and purchased a Coke, before realising the pasties baking away and so this was joined by a meat and potato offering, which gave a strong start to the food season. Decent.

By the time I’d finished up my culinary delights, I reckoned it was time to head back outside with about 15 minutes to kick off. The ground is a fully barred off 3G-pitch, along with dugouts but little else bar this to be found. It’s a smart enough ground for the level that Ladybridge play at, however, which is currently in the West Lancashire League Division 1 (second division). With this being their current standing, here’s a bit of history about Ladybridge FC…

History Lesson:

Ladybridge FC were formed in 1989, when the recently retired Steve Hill created a side for his sons & their mates to play for. They played at Ladybridge Lane originally, hence the name of the club, their first strip coming fresh from Bolton market.

After a quiet period of just steadily building the club through the years of the ’90’s, the club secured the land on Tempest Road from 2000 onwards, where they remain to this day on the, recently installed, 3G surface. The club initially played in the Lancashire Amateur League from the ’07-’08 season, having made the step up, but struggled, being relegated from Division 2 in 2008.

After a third place finish in their one season in Division 3, Ladybridge joined the West Lancashire League in 2011. After, again, initially struggling at their new level (technically the same but the standard is, arguably, better in my opinion), they became a lower mid-table outfit before achieving promotion from Division 2 to Division 1 last season as runners-up.

The place to be...

The place to be…

Refreshments

Refreshments

In the "tunnel"

In the “tunnel”

The game was soon underway and the kick-off wasn’t without incident in itself, as it was the first instance of a single-player kick-off that I’ve seen at a live game. Uncharted territory was entered. The Ladybridge official was also exceptionally fair with regards to offside, clearly making sure his defence are as sharp as possible come the season and having no easy starts!

This was also the second season in a row that my first game has featured Bedians, having travelled the short distance over to Didsbury for their home friendly with Abbey Hey last July. That game ended in defeat for them and they fell behind within 15 minutes in this contest too, A ball across the area was flapped at uncertainly by the visiting ‘keeper and the unfortunate centre-half behind him could only slide the ball into his own net. My first goal of the season was an oggie.

Bedians, though, were in a mood to attack themselves and they struck back with around 10 minutes left in the first half, a long ball over the top forced a defensive error and the impressive Bedians #7 slotted home with composure. 1-1 and that was that until the break, a break I was hoping would take the full 15, as to spare me a fairly lengthy wait back at the train station after the game.

The half-time was only 10 minutes, but this was better than the 5 I feared and we were back underway with another one man kick. Still not used to it. Anyway, regardless of what kick-off technique was being used, it didn’t hinder the visitors as they netted soon after the restart, #7 again, this time breaking free and again slotting past the advancing ‘keeper. 1-2 and the game was seemingly just getting going.

What is this??

What is this??

Goin' in

Goin’ in

Match Action

Match Action

It certainly seemed even more so that this was the case when, 10 minutes or so later, Ladybridge’s own #7 showed he could find the net, though his effort had a bit of help from a defenders anatomy on the way over the Bedians custodian and into the net.

Two-a-piece it stood but it seemed that, as the substitutions began to take more of a hold, Ladybridge were becoming by far the stronger of the sides. This seemed to be proven as they retook the lead, the #10 curling a seemingly tame shot which the ‘keeper left, seemingly of the opinion it was going wide. It wasn’t and found its way in off the post. 3-2 ‘Bridge.

Ladybridge level it up

Ladybridge level it up

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After a decent save to deny Bedians a further leveller, the scoring was complete towards the end of the game when Ladybridge’s #8 had all the time in the world to control the ball of his chest, pick his spot and slot in neatly. 4-2, full time and an entertaining start to my season. As it was, I still had a good 40 minutes until the bus back to Bolton and so I decided to wait out half of it in the clubhouse, still being entertained by 4Music, that is until a group of home players came in with the ending of Djokovic-Querrey.

As soon as that ended, it was time to take my leave as well, though it seemed I was trying to fit in with the ‘Bridge players as I left at the exact time they did too. I can assure them all that their places are comfortably safe, and would be even if they were 90-odd! Anyway, after making my way back through the wood on a Little Red Riding Hood-like quest (just devoid of Wolves or Grannies), I was back at Lostock after a leisurely 10-minute stroll. There I waited….and waited…and waited. And waited some more. Eventually, the white elephant bus came into view and we arrived into Bolton with two minutes until my train left.

No problems right? Good timing? Well, it would have been, had I and one other guy had to not run down one whole platform, go up two flights, over a bridge, down more stairs and a further platform to reach it. Luckily, we both must have a decent level of fitness, as we both made it with seconds to spare. Well done, sir. Those runs are worth it at times, you see. The connection through Manchester Deansgate was far more serene, and thus I headed home for a few drinks around Urmston with my parents to end the day. Next up…..

DSCN0103[1]

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Good goal fest to kick-off 2016-’17. Hope it continues!

Ground: 5- Ok for the level, nice clubhouse and pitch plays well, in my opinion.

Food: 7- Meat & Potato pasty was pretty good, worth the £1.50

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9- Only £7.50-ish for the whole day. Can’t complain at that.

 

 

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Croston

thCAJL4NWE120px-Nelson_FC

Result: Croston Sports 1-4 Nelson (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Croston Sports Club, Westhead Road (Saturday 28th June 2014, 3pm)

Att: About 50

For my first trip of the season, I was heading up into Lancashire and to the small village of Croston. Croston lies to the south of Preston, and is on the one-line West Lancashire Railway with one train running back and forth from Ormskirk to Preston. I had originally been planned for the game between Ladybridge & Digmoor, but on discovery of the fact Ladybridge play on a field with no defined pitch (i.e. has to be barred off at least), I was forced to look elsewhere for some entertainment. (I WAS LATER INFORMED LADYBRIDGE DO INDEED HAVE A BARRED OFF PITCH WITH CLUBHOUSE AND GREAT FACILITIES. AND I MISSED A 9-1! DAMN OUT OF DATE GOOGLE MAPS!!)

Luckily, Nelson’s twitter account came to my aid, with the news of a friendly with aforementioned Croston Sports, which was to be played at the village’s Sports Club. I was sorted and was soon planning my journey.

Croston Sports are members of the West Lancashire League Division 2, which is four levels below the North West Counties (NWCFL) Premier where Nelson currently reside following their promotion last season. It had been a fair while since I had seen Nelson play, in fact I think the last time was in 2008, when Trafford visited their Victoria Park home on the way to the title that year. I had not seen Croston play before, so I was looking forwards to the trip.

I set off at just before midday and headed into Manchester Oxford Road for my connection onwards towards Burscough, where I would be required to take a short walk through the Merseyside town, from Burscough Bridge Station to the rural Burscough Junction, which is part of the one-line West Lancs Railway.

After boarding the train bound for Southport, I was soon in Burscough, and soon found myself looking at the floodlights of the familiar venue of another Victoria Park, this one the home of Burscough FC, towering above a TESCO. After continuing onwards to Burscough Junction, I was faced with a dilemma on arrival, as a train pulled in showing “Ormskirk”. Now, being one-line, I thought this may be my train but knowing I was supposed to be heading to Preston I thought against it. I didn’t want to be lost again and in a similar situation as a group of girls who’d got off at the station and were now lost.

As the train came back in still showing Ormskirk, confusingly, I had to check with the driver who gave me a muffled answer to my question of “Does this train go to Croston?”, although that was probably because he was thinking, “There’s one line, figure it out dumb-arse!”

Arriving in Croston

Arriving in Croston

 

Road to the ground

Road to the ground

Croston Sports Club

Croston Sports Club

Anyway, after alighting at Croston station at three minutes to three, I was faced with a march along the “Station Road” leading towards the best named Caravan Park I’ve ever heard of, the “Royal Umpire”. After hearing of this, I couldn’t shake images of Prince Charles standing on a rural cricket field in Lancashire giving a small overweight 50-year old his marching orders. After making a turn down a rural looking road, I soon saw a pub-like sign declaring “Croston Sports Club”. It turned out I had only missed two minutes of the game, so I wasn’t too late and hadn’t, more importantly, missed a goal.

Croston’s ground is your typical amateur ground. It is barred off, with a small set of dressing rooms behind the far end goal. Bordered behind the near side goal by a hedge guarding a cricket ground, there is no real hard standing,  but there are a few paving slabs dotted here and there, and a truck tyre. A Goodyear truck’s tyre. No idea why, but there it was. The car park runs alongside the pitch, and you enter along the lane leading to it, with both cricket and football pitches being set behind the Sports Club itself, the football club at the rear.

History Lesson:

Croston Sports Club joined the West Lancashire League in 2004, and finished as runners-up in their second season. This earned them promotion to Division 1 where they remained for five seasons before being relegated to Division 2 once again. Last Season, they maintained their place in Division t2 comfortably enough, and lifted the annual Danny Birch Memorial Trophy, defeating FC Adlington 4-1 at Chorley’s Victory Park. The retained the trophy in the third running of the event, which is run in memoriam of Danny Birch, who played for both Adlington and Croston, until he tragically passed away aged just 23.

Back onto the clash this blog is about, and through the early stages, Croston more than held their own aginst what was, I learned a mixture of Development Squad, trialists and a few first teamers, until about 20 minutes in when Nelson’s Jonty Maulin sent a forceful header flying into the top corner. the Croston ‘keeper was the busier of the two number 1’s and had to make a few good saves to keep his side in the game as Nelson began to shake off the cobwebs and assert their authority. But they almost conceded just before the break, as a Croston forward burst towards the box, before curling just over the bar from 18 yards.

But it was to be Croston who’d concede late in the half, as they seemed to switch off as “A Trialist”‘s ball in was converted from close range by Liam Boswell.

Match Action

Match Action

Random truck tyre

Random truck tyre

Changing Rooms

Changing Rooms

For the second half, I decided to take a tour of the ground, and was down the wrong end as Nelson added a couple more to their tally. Again it was the influential A Trialist who worked his magic and his low cross struck a Croston defender and past the wrong-footed goalkeeper.

The journeyman A Trialist, who seems to play for numerous clubs every pre-season since the dawn of time, soon grabbed another assist as he crossed low and hard and after a goalmouth melee Jonny Hession poked the ball over the line. Why A Trialist hasn’t got in a World Cup squad yet is beyond  me!

The game was disrupted a bit through the second half, as the inevitable changes took place and Croston grabbed what I thought was a deserved goal. They launched a quick counter after winning the ball, and their left winger hit a cross-cum-shot which fell to the unmarked #10 and the striker rolled the ball easily into the net.

Hard Standing

Hard Standing

Match Action

Match Action

Cricket Club end

Cricket Club end

Croston’s ‘keeper pulled off a wonderful save late on, when he palmed away a curling effort which looked destined for the top corner, but it mattered little, as Nelson kept their hosts at bay to record a 4-1 win, and they look good for their return to the NWCFL Premier Division.

After the game, I had to miss out the Sports Club itself to get back to near the station, but I did have time to make a stop off on the way back in “The Crown”, which looked rather nice as I walked past it on my way to the game. On entering, the pub is decorated in a modern, yet traditional fashion, and has a really comfortable, welcoming atmosphere to it. After buying a Kopparberg for £3.50, I watched the early stages of Brasil v Chile, whilst listening to a few entertaining stories being shared by a group of men from Leeds and the barmaid.

Royal Oak

The Crown

After finishing my bottle, I was soon on my way back to the station, where I boarded the train headed for Preston and then onwards back to Oxford Road despite many delays on the planned routes. Some over half an hour late. The looks on the faces of those still awaiting their rattler were not those of enjoyment. But, for me, it had been a pleasant visit to Croston, and one that I would encourage you to make, if you like your lower league football in quaint villages.

2014-06-28 16.07.50

 

My Croston Sports M.o.M.- The goalkeeper ( I don’t know his name, sorry!)

My Nelson M.o.M.- Liam Boswell.

RATINGS:

Game: 6- Pre-Season friendly, but was pretty good.

Ground: 6- Not much to it, put the pitch looked very good from the side.

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Fans: 5 Hard to judge if they had ‘fans’ for a friendly ( I heard a couple shout for Croston though), but a few had come down to watch the team and a few from Nelson.

Value For Money: 7- Free entry, so only travel to pay, at about £8. New ground is always good too!

Referee: 7- Doesn’t really matter in a friendly, but he did alright.