Manchopper in….Kirkham (AFC Fylde)

 

Result: AFC Fylde 1-3 Chesterfield (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Mill Farm (Saturday 20th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 1,092

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!

Arriving into Kirkham & Wesham

Kirkham

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.

Kirkham

First Stop- The Queen’s Arms

Stables Inn

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.

Black Horse

Tap & Vent and some brushes. Nice.

Final pre-match stop (sort of): The Swan Hotel

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.

Arriving at Mill Farm

Bradley’s Sports Bar

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….

History Lesson:

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.

AFC Fylde

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.

Mill Farm

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.

Match Action

Denton nets from the spot

Match Action

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?!

Match Action

Match Action

Late on….

Lane Ends to, fittingly, end the day

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….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Alfreton

alfretonAFC-Fylde-Website-slider-2

Result: Alfreton Town 1-0 AFC Fylde (FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round)

Venue: North Street (Saturday 17th September 2016, 3pm)

Att: 263

Following the last round in the FA Cup at Leek, myself and blog regular Paul decided we should continue our own cup run for another step along the “Road to Wembley”, following the dramatic contest at Harrison Park. For what is likely the final consecutive round of the Cup this season that I will watch a game in, we decided to head into Derbyshire and visit North Street (or Impact Arena), home to Alfreton Town FC.

After eventually locating Paul on the train after boarding on two separate occasions, I took the place of two, apparently, highly excitable Hollyoaks fans, who’d gone very OTT by the fact that an actor from the show who plays “Jack” was in our very carriage. The star quality was lost on us, however, and we were far more impressed by the odd pacer trains that flashed past, none more so than when we had to wait for one to pass as we headed for Sheffield. The excitement was far too much. Is he joking?

After passing into our third county of the day, we arrived into Alfreton at midday, immediately heading for the first watering hole we would encounter. The Station didn’t look the best of options, though and so we continued on with Paul recommending we head into the Plough for our first drinks of the day. This wasn’t to be the greatest of decisions, as Paul will attest to and so I was given the reigns for the rest of the journey through Alfreton, starting at the far end of town and the safe hands of Wetherspoons.

Alfreton

Alfreton

Waggon & Horses

Waggon & Horses

The town’s ‘Spoons, Waggon and Horses, was a fairly run-of-the-mill offering, with little to excite and so the “Wetherspoons News” kept us entertained, as we tried to match places respective outlets with their football clubs. Yes, this is the on-the-edge life we lead. Punk IPA’s finished off, we headed back into Alfreton town centre, passed by the arriving Fylde coach as we did so, before a burst of sound out of a pub drove us inside to discover just what was going on.

It turned out that the Blue Bell had been taken over by a group of Northampton fans, who’d, for one reason or another, chosen Alfreton over Chesterfield as their place for pre-match drinks and entertainment. This added some good atmosphere to our stay here, with the pint of Fox’s going down very well. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the better ales I’ve had. Tremendous. The barmaid here was also very helpful in going through each offering, despite the noise radiating from the maroon-clad mass, so added props for that. Upon their exit, though, it seemed the regulars had had enough of having their early afternoon drinks being interrupted, so we also departed, heading just up the street to the King Alfred.

In the previous establishment, I’d seen a bottle in the fridge by the name of Revolution and, being easily taken by attractive looking insignia and labels, reckoned I’d like to try one of those at some point. This wait proved a short one as, upon browsing the fridges in the Alf, my eyes once again focussed on the blue-clad bottle. Paul decided to join me in tasting the Marston’s offering. It was ok, but nothing more than that and with the clock approaching 2pm, we were soon heading for the Impact Arena.

Fylde arrive

Fylde arrive

Blue Bell

Blue Bell

King Alfred

King Alfred

An encounter with a door saw us head for an impromptu drink in Bluey’s Australian Bar, which sits at the top of the road, give or take, from where Alfreton Town’s home sits. Upon entering, it certainly seemed a good choice. Bluey’s struck me as a sort of sports bar and the barmaid was taken aback by us being quite impressed by us declaring the bar as “cheap”. After a chat in just what brought us to Alfreton, it turned out that her boyfriend is a player for Matlock Town and so continues the influence of non-league football amongst the population of the UK.

With our unplanned stop meaning the time was ever closer to kick-off, we swiftly headed off, finding the turnstile hidden away somewhat down a small dirt path and after paying £12 entry, ground 192 was entered. The excitement didn’t stop there though, oh no, as I bought the final programme for the match, denying the guy behind me a copy (sorry, not sorry), though the £3 price was a bit steep.

ATFC

ATFC

Impact Arena

Impact Approach

North Street is a differing ground from many in this country, by virtue of the fact it houses seats that are left open to the elements. This, to me at least, gives it something of a continental look to it at one end. The other three sides put this illusion to bed, though, with them being very regular views seen at grounds. The “Main” Stand is a small-ish construction, that houses the clubhouse, dressing rooms and everything else within, with only a few rows of seats, mostly toward the far end. The opposite side is populated by another all-seater stand, that is again only a few rows deep and, interestingly, doesn’t have a perimeter fence in front of it. The near-end goal features a fairly large terrace behind it, with the rear part covered by a roof. As for Alfreton Town’s story….

History Lesson:

Alfreton Town FC was founded in 1958, following the merging of Alfreton Miners Welfare FC & Alfreton United FC. The new club duly moved into a new ground (their current home) on North Street and initially competed in the Central Alliance’s Division 1 North, doing enough over their first two season to allow them to become founders of the re-formed Midland Counties League.

Following several good performances and close calls, Alfreton eventually took the Midland League title in 1970, before adding a further two titles to this throughout the decade (’73 &’77). The club also achieved three Midland League Cups during the same decade and were rewarded by being allowed to keep the very trophy they achieved this with. 1982 saw the Midland League merge with the Yorkshire League to create the Northern Counties East League.

The NCEL League Cup was won by Town in 1985 and the title was lifted in 1987. At the close of the following campaign, Alfreton took up a place in the newly formed Northern Premier League Division 1. Despite finishing bottom in 1991, league re-organization in Wales meant clubs left the NPL and this in turn gave a reprieve to Town, allowing them to keep their spot. After missing out on promotion in 1995, ’96 saw Alfreton promoted to the Premier Division of the NPL as runners-up.

Old crest

Old crest

From their, fortunes took a downturn and Town dropped back through the NPL levels to find themselves back in the NCEL by the ’99-’00 season. 2002, though, saw the title won once more, alongside the League Cup, President’s Cup and Derbyshire Senior Cup in a fine quadruple. The following season saw the club lift the NPL Division One title and defend their Derbyshire Senior Cup along the way as the club returned to the NPL Premier Division.

2003 saw Town lift the Derbyshire Centenary Cup in pre-season, before finishing the season in 4th place. This finishing position meant Town could take up a spot in the newly formed Conference North. The season’s highlight was, arguably, reaching the FA Cup First Round, where Town lost in a replay to Macclesfield Town. 2008-’09 saw Town reach the play-offs after being a largely mid-table outfit prior to this, but were defeated in the semi-finals and the club did an FA Cup PB in reaching the 2nd Round, where they bowed out to Scunthorpe United.

A second third place in 2010 saw Town again compete in the play-offs, this time reaching the final, but again were to face heartbreak, this time at the hands of the fast-rising Fleetwood Town, but 2011 saw Alfreton finally get their promotion as they won the Conference North by ten points. Despite equalling their FA Cup best in 2013 & after three mid-table finishes, the club were relegated in 2015 and finished last season, their first back at Step 2, in 10th place.

Today's Teams

Today’s Teams

Look at all those shirts!!

Look at all those shirts!!

Paul decided there was still time to head for the clubhouse pre-match with me opting out on a drink this time, as my mind worked in a sensible way for once. The clubhouse here is covered in memorabilia, with shirts adorning the walls and numerous scarves and more shirts covering the ceiling, featuring jerseys from all over the world. It’s certainly interesting but there was little time to be spent looking, as the sides were in the tunnel and ready to head out onto the pitch ahead of this tie.

The game got underway with free-scoring Fylde, 5-3 winners at North Street the month earlier, attacking their opponents’ defence at regular intervals, with a header going close to opening the scoring. But, it was to be Alfreton who were to take something of a shock lead, as they won a corner on the right and the resultant set-piece was volleyed in at the back post by Tom Allan. 1-0 and it looked as though goals were to be plentiful, as expected, once more.

Fylde still looked the more dangerous of the sides, with top-scorer Danny Rowe flashing a drive wide of the post, but the chances were at an extreme premium, with both sides looking more fearful of going out, than they did of trying to force their way into the next round. The best chance for the visitors came as Town ‘keeper Fabian Speiss (who I saw have a man-of-the-match performance for Boston at Fylde last season) collided with a team-mate but, despite a desperate scramble in the goal-mouth, the grateful Speiss found the ball return to his grasp once more.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

It wasn’t until we headed into the food bar next to the smaller of the stands that things began to kick-off. As Paul ordered his grub, he was met with a confused look from the girl serving and the phrase I’m sure many scousers get “I don’t understand”. So after turning translator and meeting no such issues through my accent, or lack of it as I was informed that I “didn’t sound Northern”, we headed back onto the terraces thoroughly entertained by this. Food was good too, so all positives!

Just before the break, I met with Alfreton fan/steward Ashley, who’d messaged me prior to the game, before I left him to his task for the moment as the whistle blew. Half-time, 1-0. Off to the bar once more we went, with two cans of San Miguel purchased, though the remainder of mine went missing just after the restart, as I stuck my head out the door to check on the game’s progress!

Paul rebelling

Paul rebelling

Very continental!

Very continental!

Back outside for the second period, Paul and I headed for the Spanish-end and took up a position within the seats and next to a group of home fans, though both sets were finding it hard to create any noise, despite having tried earlier in the contest. Though, with the lack of on-pitch action, this wasn’t all too surprising an occurrence.

Fylde continued to dominate the game overall, though Alfreton looked quite solid at the back which came as something of a surprise considering their overall defensive record so far this season, though Fylde haven’t exactly been top-notch in this field either. They again survived a 6-yard scramble, as the ball somehow evaded crossing the line despite the best efforts of the ever dangerous Rowe and Niall Dixon cleared off the line from Bohan Dixon.

Keepers!

Keepers!

Scramble!

Scramble!

Late on...

Late on…

Alfreton did have their odd moments too, with Fylde stopper Tony Thompson forced into a couple of saves by the Gibraltan international Adam Priestley and impressive on-loan defender Kallam Mantack, but Speiss was the man in this game, as he denied further chances for Rowe including the crowning glory of his performance in stoppage time, when he clawed away the former’s free-kick which was destined for the top-corner. WHAT A SAVE! With Paul chatting to a Fylde committee man who was full of praise for Town, while berating his own side’s lacklustre performance, the game came to a close with the surprising 1-0 score-line standing, but with Alfreton fully deserving their place in the 3rd Qualifying Round (at King’s Lynn Town).

Back into the bar for the final time we headed for a chat with a few Alfreton fans, including John (though I can only remember his name from twitter, sorry everyone else for my bad memory) and thanks to Ashley for buying me a post-match drink. Soon enough, it was time for us to leave and have a final drink in the pub at the top of the road, the Victoria. After bidding goodbye to all the above, the Victoria proved a decent enough stop-off point and a guy gave us a tip-off for something of a shortcut back to the station, with the journey back proving largely uneventful. A week off next week, before a return to the big leagues…

dsc03024

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Wesham (AFC Fylde)

1024px-Boston_United_FC_logo.svg

 

Result: AFC Fylde 5-2 Boston United (Vanarama National North)

Venue: Kellamergh Park (Saturday 5th March 2016, 3pm)

Att: 479

Another Friday night deluge meant that the morning of this very Saturday was spent trying to find an alternative game in the event that Hallam’s game with Dronfield was called off, which appeared likely. A peruse over the fixture list and there was one game which immediately stood out: AFC Fylde vs Boston United, a play off clash in the National North at a ground that’s soon to be departed. Decision made.

One the inevitable news arrived from the Yorkshire club that the game was indeed off, I headed out into Manchester to meet with Dan, with the now irreplaceable Piccadilly Tap the meeting point. I ordered a pint of an old faithful now, Bitburger, and Dan arrived not too long afterwards. After recommending to him to join me in the German beverage, I was confused to when he arrived back with a glass of Prosecco. “I forgot it was a wine” was the vague reason and so he spent the time hiding his swigs while trying to look a little less…well, you know.

Soon enough, the time had whittled away and Dan had endured his last sip and so we headed into Piccadilly for the train towards Blackpool. Of course, our final stop on the outbound route wasn’t to be the coastal resort, but the small towns of Kirkham & Wesham, just within view of the tower and the big one at its more famed neighbour. The journey took just over an hour and was illuminated by the group of Brighton (I think) fans sat directly in front of us who, it turned out, like to rate train toilets on their journeys around the country. This train’s scored about a 4, the best a full marked Chiltern Railways which apparently has a fireplace in it. Nutty stuff.

Dan and his very suitable drink

Dan and his very suitable drink

Arriving at Kirkham & Wesham

Arriving at Kirkham & Wesham

They disembarked at Preston, while we continued a further ten minutes onto K&W. Upon arrival, the plan was to head into Kirkham itself but once my phone’s Maps had decided that we were on the opposite side of the town on a pair of occasions to what we actually were.

After I was beeped at by a bus driver while being on the pavement (I gave him the hand of rage), we decided to sit in the pub nearest the station, the Royal Oak. When arriving at the corner it sat on though, my prior thoughts were proved right. Where one pub sits, there’s usually another next door. The Stanley Arms fit this bill and looked a better bet, so we diverted there. The Royal Oak, though, intrigued me and I kept on saying we were heading there later.

Now in the Stanley, what was found was a friendly welcome and a dear-ish pint, £3.80 for Kronenberg. Not brilliant, but we needed somewhere to wait and the barman was friendly enough that I didn’t really mind. After Harry Kane had apparently turned into a quick equine animal before our eyes on TV and we wondered just what was in this beer, we headed back out to the bus stop at the station for the free AFC Fylde shuttle bus up to the ground. Perfect! It was on time too!

The Royal Oak

The Royal Oak

In the Stanley Arms

In the Stanley Arms

After picking up more fans at the Lane Ends pub which is nearer the new ground and passing said construction, we passed through the small village of Wrea Green, with its village green cricket pitch being readied and along the country lanes before finally passing the Ribby Hall caravan park and pulling up outside the Birley Arms pub which sits on the corner of the ground’s access road. Of course, it would be rude not to pop in now wouldn’t it?

Upon entering the Birley Arms, Dan and I were immediately hit by a wall of noise. This was the travelling band of Pilgrims and they were certainly ensuring their presence was known! What was good as well is that they were of no issue to anyone and were really creating a good atmosphere in here and letting everyone know just how much they hated Lincoln (City and not United or Moorlands Railway, I presume!).

After my first choice of beer was off (again, how many times!), I eventually ended up with a pint of San Miguel so not a bad substitute. With the Boston fans still going strong throughout our 20 minute stay here, I figured that they were probably some of the better pre-game fans I’d come across so far this year, though I haven’t come across many…Anyway, that’s not the point, I now liked Boston too but I always tend to side with the home team in such games if I don’t really have a connection with either. A draw then?

The Birley Arms

The Birley Arms

On the walk

AFC Fylde

Almost in

Almost in

Eventually, it was time to head up to the ground. A short walk on a pathway around the road leads you past a large admission board which must be the biggest around?! Anyway, with our admission fees in no doubt, we continued onwards up to the Kellamergh Park turnstiles and I was soon through and into the ground itself, albeit £12 lighter. After purchasing the programme for £2, I was heading over towards the relative safety of “Fuller’s Bar” when I turned to see an unfortunate visiting fan be smacked in the face by a ball which was really travelling. The player who’s stray shot struck the supporter rushed straight over to him to check he was ok, so full marks there too. I believe he was, so all were good to go on.

Dan joined me in Fuller’s Bar as the players went through the latter stages of their warm-ups and watched as Fylde’s giant seagull mascot prowled the field. I imagine this is the first time that any seagull had ever “prowled” be it real or otherwise. Anyway, dubious avian varieties aside, Kellarmergh Park is a nice, neat ground an it  will be a shame to see it meet its demise at the close of this season. It has two seating stands, the smaller stand which runs most of the near touchline (as it appears from the turnstiles behind the goal, as you may have guessed from the earlier accident). Alongside the turnstiles is a more recent all-seater stand, with a raised terrace standing opposite. The far touchline is open hard standing, on a small terrace. As for the club itself, well…

History Lesson:

AFC Fylde were formed in 1988, after an amalgamation of Kirkham Town and Wesham FC. Now Kirkham & Wesham, the club was carrying the name of a previous club who competed in the West Lancashire League in the run up to WWI. Now competing in the same league some 70-odd years later, the club inherited the place of Kirkham Town in Division 1.

Relegated to Division 2 in 1990, Kirkham were to have a small yo-yo period, being promoted in ’93 before suffering the drop once more in 1995. They were immediately promoted the following year as runners-up, this was the promotion that sent Kirkham on their way. After restructuring of the league into the Premier Division and Division 1, K&W went on to dominate the Premier Division.

Between 1999-2000 and their exit in 2007, the club won the league on seven of the eight seasons, only failing in 2003. They also won four out of six Lancashire FA Shields during the period between 2000 & 2006, including a hat-trik of wins from 2004-’06. The club (representing the Lancashire FA) have also won the Northern Counties Cup on three occasions (05, ’06, ’07).

Today's Game

Today’s Game

Fuller's Bar (after former manager, Mick

Fuller’s Bar (after former manager, Mick)

Following their acceptance into the North West Counties for 2007-’08, Kirkham & Wesham won the Division 2 trophy (at a game I attended), and finished runners-up in the league. This was topped though, as K&W won the FA Vase at Wembley, beating, now fellow National North side) Lowestoft Town 2-1, via a young Matt Walwyn’s brace. On account of finishing as divisional runners-up, the club were promoted to the Premier Division and became AFC Fylde.

After winning the division at the first attempt, Fylde were promoted to the Northern Premier League Division 1 North. 2011 saw the club lose out in the play-off final, but after current boss Dave Challinor took the reigns, the club overturned a 16-point deficit to win the NPL1N title. Their first season in the Premier saw the club again reach the play-off semis but lost out to eventual winners Hednesford Town, despite goalkeeper Ben Hinchcliffe scoring from range.

2014 saw a very successful season for the Coasters as they won the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy, the NPL League Cup and gained promotion to the Conference North via the play-offs and a final win on penalties over Ashton United, with Hinchcliffe again at the fore as he netted the winning spot-kick. Last season, the club’s first campaign in the Conference North, saw Fylde end as runners-up but lost out in the play-off semi to eventual winners, Guiseley.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

The sides entered the field from the tunnel immediately alongside the turnstiles and were soon underway. Almost from the off, it looked as though both sides were going for it which provided us with a lot of hope that a good game was going to be in the offing and both team’s fans seemed to find this the same way, launching into vocal support early on.

Indeed, it took Matty Hughes just five minutes to open the scoring, heading home a left-wing ball and sending the home side a goal up, though it didn’t last too long as a further five minutes was all that separated the opener and Boston’s equaliser and what a strike it was. Dayle Southwell smashed a free-kick past Matt Urwin, the home ‘keeper, and straight into the top corner. I was even more delighted than he was as I managed to capture the goal on camera. It’s the small things.

But Fylde grew more on top after they had been pegged back, with a pair of good saves by Fabian Spiess keeping the scoreline level and Boston suffered a further blow when Southwell was forced off injured. It was little surprise, then, when Fylde again silenced the visiting support. James Hardy worked to get clear of the Pilgrims’ defence, and he fired home from the edge of the area. 2-1 and time for chips. Not bad either, £2.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Equalising goal!

Equalising goal!

The second half got underway with United on the attack and looking to claw themselves back onto level terms once more. But it was Fylde who netted again, with Speiss unlucky to see another good stop fall to the feet of Josh Langley, who took his time and finished calmly. But Boston weren’t done yet and about five minutes later, they were back in the game, Mark Jones looping a header past Urwin. 3-2 and all to play for!

Well it was for all of a minute! Richie Baker received the ball from the pacey front man Bohan Dixon and crashing his shot across Speiss and into the far corner. You felt that was that and it certainly seemed a foregone conclusion when Boston sub Cameron Johnson was sent off just after entering the fray. It was a reckless challenge, though I felt he was unlucky to get the red card.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Baker than smashed the woodwork with a superb effort from range and Joens bundled wide at the other end when it looked easier to score as both sides looked to net again and as the game entered its final ten minutes, it began a Fylde onslaught on the Boston goal. Speiss was outstanding and without him, it could easily have been eight. He was eventually beaten at the death, though, Dion Charles converting from close range after being denied moments earlier. So, 5-2 and full-time. To Fuller’s!

A pint of Kronenberg was ordered here £3.40 and after a muse of a Fylde team photo, I noticed Ritchie Allen in the pic and went on a long-winded talk of how much I like Ritchie Allen. This was before I turned 90 degrees and saw Ritchie Allen himself in civvies. Good job I didn’t  slate him! Being in the clubhouse also gave me the opportunity to speak to Fylde’s Bradley Barnes, who I remember from his time (& mine in very differing ways!) at Trafford moons ago. Not that it was mutual…

Full-Time Score

Full-Time Score

Brad and I in Fuller's

Brad and I in Fuller’s

All Aboard

All Aboard

“Huh, I don’t remember you, but I remember him!” to quote the Fylde midfield maestro. Ah well, after ensuring him I definitely was there by varying means, we had the rarity of a player/manchopper picture for the blog and were on our way back out for the bus back to Kirkham & Wesham station, this time via Lytham, the windmill and a different looking Moss Side!

Eventually, we arrived back and after hopping off, it was decided that, with 20 minutes or so to wait for the train home, that there was definitely time to pop into the Royal Oak. We certainly made an impression as the moment we entered, the lights went out and cue the “50p in the meter” jokes. Soon enough, the power was restored and after dodging the drunk at the bar who was determined he’d wound up the barman (who was having none of it), I had a quick half of something or other, before heading back down to the station.

Out in Manchester!

Out in Manchester!

After the announcement of a broken train, we hopped off at Preston via a contingency plan and grabbed another back to Manchester Oxford Road to get home easily. That was until the train I was getting rolled in and I spotted Cappy, who I’m off to Berwick with the next week, in the rear carriage. He was off drinking with a couple of mates and asked if I’d like to join them. Of course, after much persuasion, I was joining them in Manchester’s pubs, namely the “rock/metal” place, The Salisbury, the Thirsty Scholar (which sits under the railway) and latterly the Lass O’Gowrie where I sampled a Manchester Pilsner or something, I can’t remember now…. Anyway, a good end to the night saw me end up on the last train back and get a sample of what’s to come at Berwick. Oh God….

DSC01792

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Really entertaining game, lots of goals!

Ground: 7- For reasons already stated.

Food: 7- A good portion and tasty too.

Programme: 6- An ok issue, nothing to write home about though, but only £2 so not complaining at all.

Fans: 8- A good atmosphere generated by the home fans too, especially alongside the visitors in the 2nd period.

Value For Money: 8- Just a top day out all round. Good pubs, people and game!