My first match of 2014 came in deepest darkest Lancashire; where better place to start? We were off to Padiham which is a small town found a few miles away from Burnley. As with most places in this area, the town’s economy was once booming with mining and weaving, but that has since long gone. The football club can draw comparisons to local industries as it is said they once attracted large crowds as they were among the first clubs to be founded in Lancashire. In 1884 they played neighbours Burnley, with 9,000 spectators turning up.
Being a Bolton fan, it was dangerous going to these parts on my own so I needed to go with a sensible adult. Who better than Lee, a Bolton fan who is Salford through and through? He was keen to watch his local non-league side while also enjoying a day out on the road after days of drinking over Christmas and New Year. Lee picked me up and we agreed that we would try and reach Padiham without using a GPS.
We had loads of time to spare, so it didn’t matter that we went through the town centre and missed the ground completely. In the end we gave in and I navigated us through some winding cobbled streets where we found the Arbories Memorial Sports Ground at the top of a hill, backing on to what appeared to be some allotments. A dry stone wall led up a small road to the ground while a nice local pub sat just metres away from the ground, separated by a row of traditional terraced houses.
After parking in a relatively small club car park with the guidance of a welcoming steward we walked down the small hill to the Hare & Hounds pub where we had a pre-match drink. There was only one other person in the pub but it was nice and I’d recommend it if you are planning on going to the Arbories. We only stayed for one pint each and decided to go into the ground.
I loved Padiham, but I’ll forever be annoyed at them for refusing to let me in as a concession as claim they don’t do student admission. As a result I had to pay adult price which annoyed me for most of the afternoon. Other than that, the people were friendly enough and the ground was fantastic; especially the clubhouse which appeared to be relatively modern. Inside the clubhouse was the bar area and a separate area for refreshments that meant anybody who wanted a pie (and there were a lot of us) had to queue in the corridor and out of the door. I enjoyed a pie and a bovril, mainly bought to warm me up as it was pretty cold up in the hills.
As previously mentioned, Padiham are one of the oldest football clubs in Lancashire so it isn’t that surprising to find out that this isn’t their original ground. It would have been great to imagine 9,000 fans watching Burnley at the Arbories, but that wasn’t the case. The clubs original home was on the banks of the River Calder. This ground was lost during World War I and the club lay dormant until after the end of the Second World War. The club was resurrected in 1949 when the Arbories War Memorial Ground was opened, and they have played there since.
They became founding members of the North West Counties Football League in 1982, but left the league eight years later rejoining in 2000. During this time £500,000 had been spent on facilities. One promotion followed before the Storks won the NWCFL Premier Division in 2012/13.
Facing sides such as Darlington and Northwich Victoria was a new experience for Padiham and they coped relatively well in their inaugural campaign at this level, finishing fourth bottom a few months after this match. Salford on the other hand finished 12th, 47 points behind league champions Curzon Ashton.
Salford’s win at Padiham put them back into the top half of the table and it meant they recorded their first double of the season over a side. Danny Browne returned from injury as did Mark Battersby who went on to join Atherton Collieries at the end of the season. On the bench for The Ammies were Matty Boland and Josh Messer who would also go on to join the mighty black and white stripes in Atherton over the summer.
The visitors certainly looked the better side throughout the afternoon and they worked hard in the first half shooting up the slight incline on a claggy pitch. It was Padiham though who had the first chance to open the scoring when a long ball found its way to Spencer Jordan who laid it off to Kieron Pickup. A low shot was deflected for a corner which was taken by Rob Whyte. Martin Parkes came close to heading the ball home from close range but a Salford defender applied a crucial touch to deny the Storks.
Former Curzon Ashton midfielder Stuart Cook was instrumental for Salford and he set up Mark Batterbsy on 12 minutes with a precise pass from the left. From the edge of the box he fired towards goal but it went narrowly wide.
The deadlock was broken just three minutes later when Matt Purcell crossed to Rio Ahmadi on the edge of the area. The ball was laid off to Battersby who unselfishly rolled a pass across the face of goal for Cook to finish past Sean Davis.
The Storks tried to respond by keeping possession and it nearly paid off when Dominic Craig chased a long ball towards goal. All that was needed was a quick touch to take the ball past the advancing goalkeeper by Daniel Fradd made a fantastic challenge to deny the forward.
It should have been 2-0 to City ten minutes before the interval when goalkeeper Davis spilt a high cross which was sent in by Danny Browne. He spilled the ball to the feet of Ahmadi but he was unable to steer the ball inside the near post.
Salford were dominant as the half closed and Purcell could have scored twice if it wasn’t for some desperate Padiham defensive work. Jamie Tandy then sent in a precision cross to Ahamdi who headed just wide of the post.
At half time we headed into the clubhouse to warm ourselves up. It seemed everybody at the ground was wearing a Burnley hat or scarf, it appeared that these Clarets fans had taken their non-league club to heart which is always great to see. In fact, these Burnley fans took it to a new extreme, all congregating in the terrace behind the goal with BBC Radio Lancashire on full blast so that everybody at that end of the ground could listen to the FA Cup match away at Southampton. I stayed away from this area with my Bolton coat on.
The second half started as the first half had finished with Ahmadi unable to convert his chances into goals. This time he saw his close range header saved by Davis who reacted well to keep the glancing effort out.
The home side nearly got back on level terms on 50 minutes when Dominic Craig surged past Richard Smith on the left wing. His original shot was blocked but he steered the rebound into the path of Spencer Jordan who saw his shot somehow deflect over the bar when it looked certain to be a goal.
With 18 minutes remaining Stuart Cook – who plays for the England Futsal team – was harshly penalised for a challenge on the halfway line. From the resulting free-kick Martin Parkes got away from his marker and headed the ball over from 12 yards out.
The home side were now piling on the pressure and they had a penalty shout for handball turned down inside the last 10 minutes. As play continued a shot flew just wide of Fradd’s right hand post, crashing into the side netting.
As the sun set in Padiham the match finished and we drove back to Atherton. I really enjoyed my trip to Padiham and would thoroughly recommend going to a match there. The clubhouse is fantastic, the food is great, the fans acknowledge that you can support a Football League side while backing your local team and there’s even a nice cricket club next door which I’m sure could be incorporated into a trip during the summer months.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 31 miles
- ADMISSION: £7 as an adult
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £1.50
Padiham: Sean Davis, Max Jones (Lewis Jordan), Sam Morris, Marin Parkes, Dean Overson, Dominic Craig, Mark Sharples (Ashley Carter), Chris Turner, Rob Whyte, Kieron Pickup, Spencer Jordan (Tom Murphy) – Substitutes – Rob Flint, Marcus Burgess
Salford City: Daniel Fradd, Richard Smith, Jamie Tandy, Phillip Edghill, Aaron Walters, Warren Gaskin, Stuart Cook (Matthew Boland), Matthew Purcell, Porya Ahmadi (Nathan McDonald), Mark Battersby, Danny Browne – Substitutes – Otis Gorman, Ryan Humphries, Josh Messer