With the mighty Bolton Wanderers playing away at Millwall, I decided that I would give it a miss and catch up on some local non league action. I had a list of around 50 matches to choose from, and I noticed that it was also FA Cup weekend. This meant I could again join my blogging friends, Tony and Johnny! They decided that they’d be going to AFC Fylde v Solihull Moors in the 3rd Round Qualifying, so I joined them.
I caught the train from Bolton at 12:40. Now usually when I get on a Northern Rail train I am greeted with the smells and sights that no passenger should be subjected to. Every journey is a miserable one, the only highlight being when the ticket inspector scribbles on your ticket. However, today was different. Very different. I may even go as far as saying it was my favourite train journey ever.
Opening the doors, I walked on to the carriage which Tony and Johnny were on. They’d decorated the whole carriage with balloons, given out party poppers and forced all of the other passengers to sing Happy Birthday to me as I walked down the aisle. Both sitting there with their party hats on, they presented me with a mini football table, a packet of Bovril cubes, a pie bought from a “secret location close to The Etihad” and a Birthday Cake. We weren’t allowed to light the cake though. The inspector threatened to chuck us off at Chorley if a candle was lit.
We pulled into Kirkham and Wesham, and after handing the remainder of the Birthday Cake over to a group of drunk Scottish women, en route to Blackpool, we disembarked the Birthday Train and tried to figure out where to go next! We exited the station, and asked a couple of women where the nearest pub was. They directed us down the road, and off we went.
A couple of minutes later we ended up in the Fox’s Biscuit Factory. We didn’t think it was a pub, and our suspicions were confirmed when an irate looking Panda came marching out of his office. After shouting some abuse at us, he gave some useful advice – “There’s a pub called The Stanley just on the corner! Tell them Vinny sent you for the good stuff!” It really was a magical moment, he was just like he is on his adverts! – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP0mXUCqOCc
We marched on to The Stanley pub, where we had a quick drink whilst watching Manchester City v Sunderland. Our original plan was to skateboard to the ground, but after much consideration we opted to order a taxi.
A taxi arrived, and we were soon on our way to Kellamergh Park. It couldn’t have been any harder to get to, and Johnny put it brilliantly when we were driving to the ground. “Look at all of these fields! Could they not have built it in one of these instead so it’s a bit nearer?”.
10 minutes later we arrived at Kellamergh Park. The taxi driver obviously wanted an extra 30p, so rather than dropping us off at the pub next to the ground, he carried on up the gravel path, and dropped us off right next to the turnstyle.
Found in the middle of absolutely nowhere (Warton), Kellamergh Park was built in 2006 to replace their former home of Coronation Road. Back then the club was called Kirkham and Wesham FC, and they were in The North West Counties Football league. Much has changed for this very ambitious club since. In 2007 they revealed their ambition/plan for the future. The clubs aim is to be in the Conference by 2017, and The Football League by 2022. Well, you can’t knock a club for having a bit of ambition can you?
Now you may be thinking that a club with a 6 year old ground, costing £150,000 would be very happy with their new home. Well, you’re wrong. Plans have already been put forward (and subsequently rejected) to relocate again. The club feels a new ground is crucial if they are to hit their ambitious targets. Personally I think the ground at present could stage Blue Square matches, but some improvements may have to be made.
We approached the turnstyles, and I went through the concessionary one with Tony. I paid my £5 upon production of my student card, Tony on the other hand asked “How do I prove I’m disabled?” to which the bloke who was operating said “I don’t know. Do you have a limp or anything?”. With that, Tony lifted up his prosthetic leg before hitting it repeatedly on the blokes table. “THAT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME MATE!” the worried bloke said, and he let us in.
I then purchased possibly the best ever non-league matchday programme. Priced at £2, I can’t describe just how good it is. 46 pages of coloured brilliance. Whoever designed/prints the programmes really does need a pay rise. I’m not even joking when I say they put many Premier League sides to shame with their programme. Even the programme seller was the most polite of lads you’ve ever met at a football match. “Could I interest you in a programme sir?”. Honestly AFC Fylde, I give you 10/10. The only complaint I have is that they mistakenly printed a photo of Redditch United’s ground instead of Solihull Moors ground… schoolboy error! If this happens again, I will have no other option but to deduct points.
Whilst pondering whether to get a pie before the match, or at half time, AFC Fylde/Kilmarnock fan Malky came over to speak to us. We had been speaking to Malky on Twitter about the match, and you could tell he was dying to meet us!…
Unfortunately for Malky we had eaten all of the biscuits which Vinny the Panda had given us, and we had no Birthday Cake left either as we had given it to his Scottish friends on the train. Malky was wearing an AFC Fylde scarf which looked very tempting in the cold conditions. I nearly ventured over to the well stocked club shop in the ground to buy one. I was also tempted by the AFC Fylde home shirt… it looked beautiful, which is more than can be said for the Solihull Moors shirts which were on show.
We stationed ourselves next to the two dugouts, and waited for the two teams to come out. Opposite us was the seated section of the ground, a stand which ran the length of the pitch. Holding 282 spectators, it cost £30,000 to construct. To our left was the pie hut, and a little terraced shed positioned right behind the goal. Finally, to our right was a stand in the middle of being constructed, and it will be a great addition to the ground.
The tannoy announcer at Kellamergh Park definitely loved the sound of his own voice. He waffled on for 20 minutes, with various snippets of information. My personal favourite quote from him was:
“If you’re up from Solihull, why not make a day of it? After the match, why not drive up to Blackpool and view the illuminations. I mean, you might get stuck in a traffic jam… actually, you will get stuck in a traffic jam. It’s probably not worth it is it?”
The teams eventually walked on to the pitch, after the lineups had been read out THREE times. Yes, that’s right, three times, and on each occasion, the teams were read out wrong. AFC Fylde were in their white strip, Solihull in their yellow and blue stripes. The Solihull fans stationed behind the net were in full voice, and the match was soon ready to kick off.
From the very start, Fylde looked far the better of the two sides. You wouldn’t have known that Solihull play in the division above. The only real fight/energy on show from the visitors was from their manager; Marcus Bignot. The former QPR defender came out with all sorts of rubbish. So much so, we decided to move to the other side of the ground so we didn’t have to listen to him anymore.
The Coasters deservedly took the lead on 12 minutes when James Dean picked the ball up on the right. He knocked the ball high into the box and Joe Booth was on hand to head the ball past Jasbir Singh in the Solihull net.
The Coasters had numerous chances to extend their lead, but Jasbir Singh pulled off some brilliant saves to keep the away side in the tie. Singh however could do nothing to keep out former Manchester United player Michael Barnes. Jack Dorney supplied the cross, and Barnes duly converted. That was Barnes’ sixth goal, in six games, and it was easy to see why he had been in fine goalscoring form as of late.
Solihull had their first meaningful attempt at goal on the half hour mark. A counter attack resulted in Omar Bogle firing towards goal in front of the travelling Moors fans, but his shot was deflected behind for a corner. Solihull showed very little in the way of attack, and it probably didn’t help matter that they were playing with one man up top by himself. In fact, even the five year old lad stood next to us got it spot on:
“Daddy. Why have the yellow team got no players on this side of the pitch?”
It was soon to get worse for the Blue Square North side, as Michael Blackwood was sent off in the dying minutes of the half. Michael Barnes was running through on goal when Blackwood brought him down from behind. The referee had no choice but to send him off, and from that point on, Solihull looked defeated.
The half time whistle meant one thing. It was time to go to the pie hut. I had read great things about the culinary delights on offer at Kellamergh Park, it’s safe to say that my expectations were sky high. Anything else would be a total disappointment.
“the club uses quality local produce including award winning pies and a good meaty burger and much more!”
I purchased “the special steak and ale pie” which was advertised by a traditional chalk board on the counter. It cost me £1.50, and it looked like a big portion for the price. I took the pie away for closer inspection, and I really am struggling to find what award these pies won. I’m guessing it was “The most glazed lid” category or something, as the pie was nothing special once opened. The meat in it was virtually non-existent, and the sauce lacked any real flavour. If I was to give the pie an award, it would be “The most bland filling award”.
After eating the pie, I decided I needed a drink to wash it down. A cup of tea was only £1, and it was really nice compared to other non-league teas. You even got a nice AFC Fylde cup, which was a nice touch. I was placing my tea on the condiments table to add milk, when the bloke next to me shoved a white substance into his cup. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Drug Dealer.
Well, no. You’re wrong. Let this story be a lesson to all of you. When buying a brew at a football match, always check to see if you are putting salt or sugar into your brew. We shall leave this story here, but lets say it didn’t end too well.
Before the second half started I still needed to take thousands of photos for my Photography homework. I really struggle to see how I can take 30 macro photos, based on movement at a football match. Anyway, being the trooper that I am, I managed to take a photo of a seat. Ta-dah.
With an exciting half time over, it was time for the teams to emerge for the second half. The opening exchanges were pretty uneventful, with Solihull still offering nothing in the way of football. So it was a surprise when on 58 minutes, they pulled a goal back. Fylde gave a free kick away on the edge of the box, and Ryan Beswick stepped up to curl the ball into the top right hand corner. It was a fantastic goal.
An FA Cup comeback seemed very unlikely, and that was confirmed when just six minutes later the home side reinstated their two goal cushion. Great build up play down the wing saw Michael Barnes pick the ball up around 25 yards from goal. He set himself, and fired the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Another goal for Barnes, who was tearing the Solihull defence to pieces.
Progression into the next round was secured when Fleetwood Town loanee Richie Allen scored the home sides fourth. Michael Barnes crossed the ball to the far post, where Allen was on hand to power the ball back across the face of goal, into the bottom corner.
That brought to end what had been an entertaining match, with the home side dominating much of it. They thoroughly deserved to progress into the next round, and hopefully they get a draw against a big team to help progress their ambitions.
It’s a great little setup at Kellamergh Park. The people at the club know what they want, and run it well. It’s pleasing to see such an ambitious club at this level, who try their best to involve the local community. The thing which stood out for me the most was the amount of children at the match, with AFC Fylde shirts and scarves on. If only more clubs could draw in younger crowds, then the future of non-league football would be a bright one.
Malky offered the three of us a lift back to the train station, which saved us another £9. So thanks a lot for that! Much appreciated! We arrived back at Kirkham and Wesham Train Station just in time to catch the train back to Preston… and beyond. From there we caught the Manchester train, and I got off at Horwich (The home of the fortress which is The Reebok Stadium).
It had been a great day out, and it was made even better with it being another Birthday Celebration. Thanks a lot to Tony and Johnny for that! You’ll be able to read their thoughts on the day here in the next couple of days – http://1legonthecup.com/
I will definitely be back at AFC Fylde in the future. What division they will be playing in, and where they will be playing is not yet known, but I look forward to returning. When I return I will also be purchasing an AFC Fylde shirt… unless somebody from the club is reading this and wants to donate one, then I would be very grateful!
Next week I am having another week of non-league football when I travel a couple of miles to watch the local derby between Daisy Hill and Atherton Collieries.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND – 32.3 miles
- ADMISSION – £5 as student
- PROGRAMME PRICE – £2
- PIE – £1.50