A very good offer at Rammy United
Looking back, taking a 5 hour trip on the M1, M6, M60 and M66 whilst nursing a hangover from a violent leaving drinks do (mine) on a Friday afternoon wasn’t such a great idea. Once again I had the FA.com fixture list and the Non League Paper to blame for the latest road trip! The plan was Ramsbottom United on Friday, Clitheroe on Saturday and Wakefield on Sunday. All FA Cup games, all up north and I had the promise of beer in York on the Saturday night.
First up on Friday night was the game between Ramsbottom United against Salford City (described by the Blackburn lad at work as “Manc Bastards”) who are managed by Rhodri Giggs. Ramsbottom is a nice little town with a rich history north of Bury in the South Pennines with Peel Tower on the hill near the town. The ground itself is just a short walk down from the main high street and the Railway station which is part of the East Lancashire Heritage Railway between Heywood and Rawtenstall, and next door to the quite superb Ramsbotton CC cricket ground which is one of the nicest Cricket Grounds I’ve seen. An absolutely immaculately kept Pavillion with immaculately painted benches that stretch all the way around the boundary with the outfield turf that is as smooth as a bowling green. Ramsbottom CC are part of the very decent Lancashire League which comprises of 17 sides in the East Lancashire area, although Todmorden is actually just across the border in Yorkshire.
I paid 6 quid to get in, a quid fifty for the programme and a quid fifty for Pie and Peas (‘kin love the north, me). The pre-match entertainment was non-existant apart from some bloke testing the PA system like it was a scene from Phoenix Nights. Lots of “testing, one, two, one, two” and Brian Potter-esque “Tony, can yer hurr me now?”. The kick off was delayed until 8pm to accomodate the 345 souls who all tried to leave the Cricket Club bar as late as possible (Thwaites Wainwright and Mild on tap so I can’t blame them). The Harry Williams Riverside Stadium is a lovely little ground. One covered terrace, one partially covered and seated side, an open end sheltered by the worlds tallest trees and open side with a portacabin that doubles up as the tea/pie bar and the club shop.
The game itself was a real hard fought encounter, tackles flying in everywhere, players getting straight back up after being flattened and running off knocks (A throwback to a bygone era) and for the amount of crunching challenges the ref only showed one yellow card for dissent! Salford took the league after a minute and probably just shaded the first half but Ramsbottom really got stuck in after the break and deservedly equalised before getting a equally deserved winner a few minutes from the end.
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The scenic Shawbridge ground in Clitheroe
So after Friday night in Ramsbottom, a chinese takeway and a decent night’s sleep in the hotel I had a lovely full english complete with the best black pudding I’ve ever tasted. From Ramsbottom I took a slight detour to Clitheroe via Haslingden, Rawtenstall, Bacup, Todmorden and Burnley. Clitheroe is another excellent little town. Think Totnes but double the size, twice as impressive and without the conker shoe brigade being pompous. I had a lovely Ham hock and carrott hotpot for lunch with a pint of Thwaites Lancaster Bomber in the Rose and Crown and then parked near the ground which is tucked away in the middle of a terraced houses and you need to walk down a cobbled street to get to the turnstiles. 7 quid to get in and a quid fifty for the programme. A quid extra as Clitheroe are a division up from Ramsbottom in the Evo Stick Northern Premier Division One North!
It’s a really unique ground. All sides are partially covered from the elements but it’s a real DIY mishmash with a shallow covered terrace complete with benches at the back to the portakabin which is the sponsor’s lounger to a very small all seater stand which then has another portakabin called the “Grub Tub” and then you have the dugouts, the changing rooms and the Castle Cement all seater stand which has wooden seats. Then you have a partially covered terraced at the far then the slope which rises by a metre or so in the corner and almost a metre or so from left to right. The pitch looks like a well thumbed school text book with a bigger fold in one corner. Then on the right hand side there’s a covered terrace with a small gap in the middle. From this side of the ground you get a good view of Clitheroe Castle and the main church. Certainly a ground well worth visiting in a proper area for football.
The match was watched by 295 brave souls in the that driving blanket rain which robbed everyone of a half a yard in pace. Skelmersdale were the better team for the first 20 minutes but then Clitheroe scored twice in the space of 7 minutes through a rebound and a decent free kick. Conditions got even worse in the second half and Skem had a their right back given a straight red for an elbow. Clitheroe’s keeper, Zack Hibbert pulled off a couple of excellent saves but Clitheroe’s defence , marshalled by ex Blackburn Rovers centre back Marlon Broomes, held out and then Clitheroe scored a couple of extra late goals to win 4-0. They brought on a young lad called Alex Brees at the end who looked very lively, the programme say’s he’s at University. Looked good enough to play at pro level though if he wanted to.
Laugh of the day went to this 8 year kid who positioned himself behind the Skem keeper in the second half. This kid asked the keeper for his gloves after the match and when the keeper refused he said, bold as brass, “you couldn’t save that free kick in the first half could you, cock”. The keeper could only grin and bear it.
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On the Sunday I went to watch the third FA Cup game of the between Wakefield FC (“I didn’t know Wakey had a football team” said the girl from Wakefield at work) and Thackley (“which is a suburb of Bradford and a fookin’ shit one” said the bloke from Leeds at work).
Funnily enough when I turned up at Wakefield’s ground at College Grove in Wakefield I got the distinct impression by the lack of people, the lack of players warming up and the lack of goalnets that the match had been cancelled or I’d got the wrong day. I checked the Wakefield FC website on the phone. No, I wasn’t going mad. I had the right address and the right time. I quizzed some people in the car park who had no idea when or where the game was. “Would they be playing at Wakefield Trinity” I asked. Blank looks. I checked the FA’s website on the phone. The match was definately at 1500 on Sunday. I then checked the Thackley website and then found out the match would be played at Ossett Town’s ground which is a few miles to the west of Wakefield.
I managed to get there just before kick off. Osset Town’s ground, Ingfield, is now called Stade France after a sponsorship deal with the local scrap metal dealer, Eric France. The decision to call it “Stade France” must have been taken in a local boozer somewhere after several pints. It’s situated on the main road going through Ossett Town centre and opposite the main shopping precinct and a new bus station. Ossett itself was a town created on the strength of both coaling mining and textile industries and notable people born and raised in Ossett were certain members of Black Lace, actress Helen Worth (Gail Platt/Tilsley on Coronation Street) and Red Riding Quarter and Damned United Author David Peace.
Ossett Town’s ground is quite decent one. Covered on 3 sides with quite a decent all seated stand behind one goal. Tesco tried to buy the ground last year but it was rejected but apparently Ossett Town do want to move to a new ground in the next couple of years in Ossett itself, the Tesco move would’ve seen them have to groundshare with Dewsbury Rams up the road and away from the town. Ossett also hosts another football team, Ossett Albion.
After the excellent games at both Clitheroe and Ramsbottom the Sunday match between Wakefield and Thackley wasn’t a good one on a dry, dusty, sandy pitch. Lot of crap control, misplaced passes, hoofs out of defence and general play breaking down everywhere. Both managers went completely spare all game. Wakefield won a penalty, but the Thackley keeper saved it. That was the highlight of the game until very late on when a couple of Wakefield subs combined to create a chance which the keeper saved. From the resulting corner there was an alimighty scramble and one of the subs shot through a crowd of players to win the game.
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