Result: AFC Fylde 1-3 Chesterfield (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)
Venue: Mill Farm (Saturday 20th October 2018, 3pm)
WE HAVE TRAINS!!!!! Yes, for the first time in a good month-an-a-half I could actually train it somewhere in the country. I know, I know, it’s unbelievable for me too! With it being the final round of qualifying for the FA Cup’s “proper rounds”, things were still hamstrung somewhat by the continuing strikes, however one option was doable and, as luck would have it, it was a new ground too – though not a new club. As you should have really figured by now, I was back off to Kirkham & Wesham and AFC Fylde’s new Mill Farm home, having visited their previous home (now academy/women’s ground), Kellamergh Park. Their shiny, relatively new home looked a pretty interesting prospect too, so the decision was made:- to Fylde it was!
Setting off a little earlier than originally planned due to my planned tour of Kirkham giving a very tight schedule otherwise, I headed into Manchester before switching back out towards Preston. A trouble free journey got me to the Lancastrian city in good time and there was little rush in catching what turned out to be a packed service to the tourist hotspot that is the “Vegas of the North”, Blackpool. Rather fortunately, I would be disembarking at the first stop on the route, but not before being asked in jest for a kiss by a guy in return for pressing the ‘door open’ button. I did concede he was, in his words, ‘pretty fit’ though and this was enough to seal the deal! This is clearly the season of random encounters, that’s for sure, which keeps things interesting I suppose!
The area incorporating Kirkham & Wesham (originally Kirkham-in-Amounderness) is thought to be the oldest inhabitaed area in the Fylde district. It owes its existence to Carr Hill, upon which it was built, which was originally the site of a Roman fort. The two neighbouring towns are situated within the Borough of Fylde. In the 19th century, the remains of a harpooned elk was discovered, pointing to the possibility the are was inhabited from around 8,000 BC. The town itself, though, is pre-Roman era, with its name deriving from the Danish ‘kirk’ (church) & ‘ham’ (settlement) and appeared in the Domesday Book as Chicheham and is described as being located on the Roman road between Ribchester and the River Wyre and latterly had a market charter awarded to it back in 1269-’70 by King Henry III. It remained a small market town through the 15th and 16th centuries, before eventually growing as a thriving textile making area with sailcloth being its mainstay, originally woven in cottages and latterly the Flax Mill, built in the mid-1800’s. Looms ran in the town right through to 2003, with the last of these, dating from the 1920’s, being kept on as a memorial of sorts, just a short way from the station. In 1925, Kirkham’s Church Street became the subject of a pencil drawing by the famed artist L. S. Lowry, and his later artwork named “A Lancashire Village” was created from this sketch. Several housing developments were added to the town through the 20th century, thus adding to the size of town (obviously) and growing the area in stature. The open prison nearby is built on the former RAF base which closed in 1957.
Wesham, meanwhile, is connected to the same parish, though is referred to as a town in its own right. It was reputedly given to the hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem by Cicely, daughter of Roger de Genet and later given by the Lancasters to the Abbey of Cockersand. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries, the area was given/sold to the Westby’s, the area including Medlarghe (later Medlar), Wessham (Wesham) and the separate manor of Bradkirk was later bought up the owner of nearby Ribby Hall. The area is believed to have been settled since medieval times and the bridleway of Mowbreck Lane is a roadway from the era, which led to Treales. The early 1900’s saw the area become home to a new workhouse, which replaced the aging one in Kirkham and this later became a military hospital during WWI and later Wesham General, prior to the remaining buildings later becoming home to the North Lancashire NHS Trust, which they remain as today.
Emerging from the station, a fifteen minute walk saw me at the far end of the Kirkham high street where I was planning to work back from. This plan would soon have to slightly amended, upon the two pubs up the hill still being shut, so my tour de Kirkham began in the early-doors pub, the Queen’s Arms. A nice enough place to start the day, a pint of Moretti kept me company for the first half-hour of my visit, alongside a few early Hallowe’en decorations. With the two up the way now open and ready to go, I back-tracked on myself and firstly headed into the Stables Inn, which seemed to be, rather unsurprisingly, a former stables. The place was surprisingly busy since, according to my phone’s maps, it had just opened, with the Chelsea-Manchester United game being a particular draw. Another pint of Moretti was enjoyed in the Stables while watching the early stages of the contest and working on my, delayed due to laziness, Droylsden blog prior to popping over the road to the Black Horse which definitely looked to have been an old coaching inn, with the large archway seeming to be the giveaway. This was a fair bit emptier than over the way and after sticking on the Moretti with the idea of being somewhat sensible for once, I once again headed back on myself, this time back down the hill and to my fourth stop of the day, the Tap & Vent.
Once inside the real ale-based Tap & Vent, I opted to go onto the fairly similar Cruzcampo, which I was able to sample for the second week running, having also sipped at a pint in Droylsden the previous week. A nice touch was the guy running the place offering some testers of freshly baked pretzel which were bloody lovely too. Unfortunately, my stay here would only be brief as with time beginning to run a little slimmer now with regard to the bus I was planning to get up to the ground, so I continued on the short distance to the Swan Hotel, which the bus stop helpfully sits right outside of. After opting to get my “refresher” pint of Dark Fruits in here, I was able to catch a little more of the Chelsea-United game before grabbing my carriage towards Mill Farm.
After just about managing to get “the Recreation Ground” out of my mouth, £1.50 allowed me to take the short journey up the road to around a five minute walk from the ground. Fylde run a system where you have to get a ticket from the ticket office prior to heading inside and so I reckoned I’d do this now whilst there were now queues to have to bother with, what with there still being some 40 minutes to kick-off. £10 lighter, I was in possession of my ticket to the ground, and a further £3 had me a fairly glossy programme too. With there being said amount time to waste, I thought it more beneficial to pop into the ground’s Bradley’s Sports Bar for, you know, research purposes. Heineken in one of those polycarbonate glasses emblazoned with the 2022 Football League target was bought and I got talking to a couple of Chesterfield fans (whose names escape me, as I forgot to note them sadly) along with a lovely fan they’d brought with them named Zoe. Happening to be disabled they told me all about how inclusive and helpful the club have been, which is certainly a nice touch by the Spireites, bias notwithstanding (haha)!! Having just come across her website, her story is quite inspirational to say the least, so do have a look: zoeedge.co.uk. With kick-off quickly encroaching upon us, the trio headed out and round to the away terracing which played host to some of the travelling support today (the rest were in a seated block at the end of the Main Stand), whilst I followed shortly afterwards, the turnstile being, handily, right next door.
Entering into Mill Farm properly, I entered from just down the side of the Main Stand, with the open end of the ground right in front. To the other end of the ground is a sizeable covered terrace, with another similar terrace running the majority of the far touchline. The Main Stand is a good sized all-seater stand and its arched roof gives it something of a different look, though not too dissimilar to its near neighbour at Fleetwood. Food and other facilities are located underneath here too, as well as the dressing rooms and the like. That’s Mill Farm in a nutshell, and this is the story of AFC Fylde….
AFC Fylde began life following the merger of local clubs Kirkham Town and Wesham F.C., who together became Kirkham & Wesham Football Club in 1988. There had been a club of that name prior to the First World War, so it was a return to the old school, somewhat. The “new” club took Kirkham Town’s place in the West Lancashire League Division One, though success was hard to come by at first, the club finishing bottom in 1990 and being relegated to Division Two. After three seasons there, they would achieve promotion back to Division One in 1993 after finishing 3rd, though their return was only a short one, as they would suffer the drop once again in 1995.
After finishing as Division Two runners-up the following season, Kirkham & Wesham found themselves back in the Division One once again and this time they were there to stay and there to be successful. Becoming the Premier Division in 1998 upon league restructuring, two fourth placed finishes preceded a spell of seven titles over the next eight years between 1999-’00 & 2006-’07, the only season they didn’t take the top spot during the period being 2002-’03, when they finished as runners-up. During a 21 month spell between January of 2003 and October of 2004, the club went unbeaten in all competitions.
2006 saw the club complete a hat-trick of Lancashire Amateur Shield triumphs, and a fourth in six years. Kirkham & Wesham also would win four Northern Counties Cups as representatives of the Lancashire FA – these coming in 2005, ’06 & ’07. Following their title win in the latter of these years, the club took the decision to make the step up to the North West Counties League Division Two, winning their first game 5-0 vs Darwen and won their next game, their first under floodlights, against Holker Old Boys. They also played their first FA Vase game during that season, defeating Worsborough Bridge Athletic by 3-0. This would be the beginning of a successful campaign, as the club went on to win the competition in their first season competing in it, defeating Lowestoft Town 2-1 at Wembley, Matt Walwyn netting both. They also added the Division Two Trophy by defeating Bootle 1-0 (a game I attended, incidentally) at Trafford’s Shawe View ground, and also achieved promotion to Division One, a fine debut season!
For the start of the 2008-’09 season, the club changed their name to AFC Fylde and won the NWCFL’s Premier Division (as it was known for that season onwards) at the first attempt too, finishing above New Mills on goal-difference, so achieving promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One North. A management change from long-term boss Mick Fuller to Kelham O’Hanlon and turnover of playing staff saw a mid-table finish eventually secured, though the next season saw them go far better, reaching the play-offs and beating Skelmersdale United in the semi-final before losing out to Chorley in the final. A poor run of results the next season saw O’Hanlon replaced by Dave Challinor, who took a two division drop in doing so, and they reeled in a 16 point deficit to take top spot come season’s end and take the title and promotion to the NPL Premier Division.
Fylde would reach the play-off’s in their first season here, but lost out in the semis to Hednesford Town, though added silverware the next season in the form of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy by defeating Chorley and the NPL League Challenge Cup with a 1-0 win over Skem. They would also achieve promotion through the play-offs on this occasion, besting Worksop Town in the semi and Ashton United in the final on penalties. Promoted to the National League North, the club finished a strong second at the close of their initial season, but again suffered play-off pain first time round, this time at the hands of Guiseley. Further disappointment followed the next campaign too, when they lost out in the 2016 version to North Ferriby United. However, it would be third time lucky in 2017, when the Coasters would bypass the play-offs and take the National League North title.
Fylde reached the Second Round of the FA Cup for the first time in 2017-’18, defeating Kidderminster Harriers in the First Round, and almost completed a shock win over Wigan Athletic to reach the Third Round, but went down to late strikes by Will Grigg. They went on to finish 7th come the end of last season, again reaching the play-offs, but continued the trend of losing out first time round, going down in the, now expanded, tournament in the qualifiers to Boreham Wood.
The game was soon underway and it was the hosts who had the better of the early throes, with Fylde taking just 12 minutes to break the deadlock, with dangerman Danny Rowe firing home from the edge of the area, after a corner was only half-cleared by the Chesterfield defence. However, the Spireites soon grew into the contest and began to take control, going close through Laurence Maguire, who is joining his brother in gaining International recognition as a member of the England ‘C’ side, before eventually levelling on 26 minutes when Will Evans rifled a free-kick from around 25 yards into the bottom corner.
After heading right round to the far corner of the ground where the segregation line separated the two sets of fans, I soon backtracked and set my sights on the Main Stand and its food bars within. In the meantime, back on the field, the Coasters almost re-took the lead immediately after being pegged back but after being played in a few yards out, a last ditch block by a Chesterfield defender managed to deny James Hardy’s shot. This would prove to be a vital moment in the match as the visitors would go in ahead at the break, with former Huddersfield Town target man Tom Denton being influential on this occasion, the tall forward winning a fairly obvious penalty, before converting confidently from the spot. Half-Time, 2-1 and I was off for some chips.
The second half began much the same as the first, with Fylde starting out well in their pursuit of getting back on level terms. Danny Philliskirk went close to finding the equaliser, nodding over a dangerous cross from the impressive Joe Cardle. Sub Gime Toure also saw his effort go just off target, before Chesterfield made the game safe with around twenty minutes left on the clock, Denton netting his second of the game when he headed past Fylde ‘keeper Jay Lynch following some slack defending. Ashley Hemmings almost set up a grandstand finish, but was unlucky to see his fine hit from distance thunder back off the crossbar, but it wasn’t to be for the hosts as the visitors went on to reach the First Round of the Cup, where they will meet the opinion splitting Billericay Town. Post-match, I beat a hasty retreat to the Lane Ends where I settled in for a fair while to wait for the train over a pint of Boddingtons. Because, why not?!
Eventually it was time to head back to the station, around a five minute walk away, where I caught the service back the short distance down the line to Preston, prior to heading into Warrington. Here, the walk over to Central was made, but with the better part of an hour to my train, I decided to pop into the station neighbouring King’s Head and watch the second half of the Huddersfield-Liverpool game. Moretti was on the cards here once again and kept me sufficiently watered through to my train home, which all went smoothly.
So ends another trip and another FA Cup day out. The town and ground were all good and the game was decent too. Food was ok, as was the programme and the travel, rather surprisingly, all went nice and smoothly too, so I can’t have too many complaints concerning the day overall. Onwards to next week and it’s, finally, a return to the chase of the ’92’ and to a very bright ground indeed….
Value For Money: 6