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!
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.
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.
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…
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….
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 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.
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.
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.
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….
Value For Money: 7