I seem to becoming more predictable in my old age. Having been so involved with Colls recently, I really wanted to go along to a neutral match and relax. I saw one fixture and I soon had my heart set on it. “Are you doing anything on Friday night?” was the exciting yet possibly catastrophic message that I sent to Aaron. Within seconds, he sent back the impressive reply of “Is this going to result in a trip to Marine?” I rightly pointed out that Aaron had obviously already considered going to this match if he knew the local fixtures, and that’s all it took. We were all set to go to Merseyside.
Having finished work, Aaron rolled up at the Gibbons household just as I had finished having my ears lowered. As I rushed around gathering all my belongings my Dad and Aaron got into conversation about how I refuse to use a GPS. This is an apparent issue which has been highlighted on a couple of occasions this summer; notably when I kindly diverted my mum through Wolverhampton and Tividale on our way to Bristol a couple of weeks ago. This came weeks after Aaron and I had driven around half of the Fylde coast when trying to find the hidden home of AFC Fylde.
“Just use a GPS. It’s stupid refusing to use one. It’s not big or clever just following signposts. Remember when you got us lost coming out of Bootle last season?” were the words from my Dad as we got ready to set out. “It’s fine. Everything is under control. You go down the East Lancs to Haydock, on to the M6, turn off towards Skelmersdale and carry on and turn right at the police station.” Simple as that.
Should anybody have ever doubted me? No. Of course not. I felt pretty smug as we arrived in Crosby, having only gone wrong when we actually saw a signpost for the bloody ground (which was Aaron’s fault). We had around two hours to spare until kick off, so we decided to head to the local beach to see the famous Another Place installation by artist Antony Gormley who is famous for creating the Angel of the North.
Another Place consists of 100 cast iron figures of Gormley and they are scattered across the beach as far as the eye can see. It was first exhibited on the beach of Cuxhaven, Germany, in 1997 and after that in Stavanger in Norway and De Panne in Belgium. A few years ago the iron men were due to be moved to New York, but the local council agreed to keep the attraction permanently.
A few scruffy locals were out walking their dogs and offspring when we arrived. In fact, I thought one bloke was one of the iron men as his clothes were that dirty he appeared to be covered in barnacles. The sun was shining at just the wrong angle meaning it was difficult to take decent selfies with the statues but we did our very best before we decided it was time to find a local pub.
Having dumped a pile of sand in the passenger side of the car, I noticed that Radcliffe Borough fan TGOTT had just checked into The Edinburgh pub next to the football ground. Split into two sides, it felt like all the locals were at the front of the pub, while the football fans and people out for a quiet drink were packed into the back. Despite only offering Carling and Carlsberg as draught beer the pub was nice and I’d definitely go back again when I go to this ground again.
With 20 minutes until kick off we made the short journey next door and entered The Marine Travel Arena, or Rossett Park as it traditionally known. AFC Liverpool have called this venue their home for just over a year and I visited here last season with Emil and Jasper to watch them entertain Runcorn Town in a NWCFL Premier Division match. I absolutely love the place and can only imagine I’ll like it even more when I see landlords Marine in action here.
AFC Liverpool were founded in 2008 by a group of Liverpool FC fans who felt they could no longer afford to watch their side. Many assume that AFC Liverpool was set up in a similar manner to that of FC United of Manchester, but the club insist they want to be viewed as Liverpool FC’s “younger brother” as opposed to a rebellion.
In June 2008, the club were officially accepted into the NWCFL and announced a groundshare with Evo-Stik Division One North side Prescot Cables. Their first competitive home match was a 5-0 win over Darwen, with 442 fans in attendance. Their inaugural season ended with silverware, winning the Division One Trophy and finishing in an impressive fourth place.
They retained the Division One Trophy the following campaign and in turn became the first and only side to win it twice on the bounce. Unbelievably, they reached the final for a third consecutive season a year later but lost out on penalties to Atherton Collieries at Valley Road in Flixton. Their fortunes were better in the league as following the demise of Rossendale United and the rejection of promotion from Holker Old Boys, Liverpool were promoted into the Premier Division.
This evening they were taking on Radcliffe Borough in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup. It was strange seeing Radcliffe playing against somebody else as the last two seasons they have drawn Atherton Collieries at this stage of the competition. On both occasions, they knocked us out in a replay in cruel and heartbreaking circumstances. It was for this reason, that admittedly I was cheering on Liverpool for this match.
Aaron and I had a quick chat with the Radcliffe manager Danny Johnson before the match and he was more than willing to big up his two young strikers. Having put so much faith into them we had our eyes on Tom Hulme and Sam McMahon and they performed well with the assistance of my man of the match, right winger Bevan Burey.
The pitch at Marine was beautiful as usual and it made for a close and very entertaining match in which Liverpool started the brighter of the two sides. They should have had a lead early on when Steve Jones hit the post after three minutes.
Radcliffe themselves came close to opening the scoring through a spectacular overhead kick attempt from Tom Hulme on 22 minutes.
Approaching the half hour mark, Francis Barry was unlucky to hit the bar from a couple of yards out, and then Jones sent in a free kick that cleared the top corner and went into the crowd.
AFC Liverpool were breaking forward at will and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before they punished a poor Radcliffe defence. Francis Barry was put through again but couldn’t get enough power on a lob whilst under pressure.
Liverpool striker Ryan Cox found himself bursting through on goal when former Atherton Laburnum Rovers goalkeeper Chris Cheetham closed him down. As Cox rounded the keeper the ball was clearly saved but the home fans appeared unhappy as penalty appeals were turned away.
The home fans became even unhappier five minutes before the interval when Francis Barry had the ball in the net only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside.
Liverpool paid the price for not taking their chances and found themselves two goals behind early in the second half. Thomas Hulme grabbed both. For the first goal, he received a cross from Sam McMahon with his back to goal on 48 minutes. He turned his man and flicked the ball into the net at the near post. Four minutes later Radcliffe won a corner which was headed back across goal by Kevin McGrath, and Hulme popped up again with a simple tap-in to double the visitors lead.
AFC Liverpool manager Paul Moore reacted and made a tactical switch bringing Connor Belger on for Allen Weston. The comeback began on 56 minutes when a through-ball from Steve Jones was expertly chested forward by Cox, and his body swerve around Boro captain Richard Smith left him one-on-one again with Cheetham. This time the Reds forward made no mistake and calmly slotted home under the approaching keeper.
A good cup-tie was developing as end-to end attacking play thrown in with some nervous defending from both sides entertained all in attendance. Eventually, the Reds were able to captialise as a deflected pass from Liam Loughlin fell into the path of Francis Barry on 68 minutes. Barry surged into the box, and let loose a superb strike from a tight angle for the equaliser.
With a draw and a replay looming, the home side managed one last monumental effort three minutes into injury time as Steve Jones whipped a dangerous ball into the Radcliffe box. Ryan Cox got ahead of Radcliffe substitute Jonathan Tinker, and he sent the home fans into FA Cup dreamland with a clinical header past Cheetham to take the win.
Liverpool will face Armthorpe Welfare in the next round and will fancy their chances against the Doncaster based side who have had a poor start to the season.
As I left the ground wondering whether this fan owned club would be nomadic for it’s entire life, I had a look on their website to see just exactly what they stood for. In amongst the hype of FC United of Manchester and 1874 Northwich, their merseyside brothers become forgotten about. I shall leave you with this quote from their About page.
Remember – this is not an attack on LFC or a rejection of LFC. It is here for the many thousands of Reds priced out of Premier League football. We believe that football should not be a TV show and exclusive to those who can afford it.
Football is the worlds game; it should be run for the people, by the people and affordable to all.
AFC Liverpool: Ryan Jones, Michael Williams, Jonathan Swatton, Jack Sinnott (C), Allen Weston (Connor Belger), Steven Williams, Steve Corris, Liam Loughlin, Steven Jones, Francis Barry, Ryan Cox – Substitutes: Ronnie Morgan, Ryan Nield, Daniel Loughlin, Alex Griffiths, Josh Ellery
Radcliffe Borough: Chris Cheetham, Joshua Bardsley (Joshua Tinker), Aaron Walters, Nathan Valentine, Richard Smith, Kevin McGrath, Bevan Burey, Matthew Davies, Sam McMahon, Thomas Hulme, Omar McKenzie (Christopher Amadi) – Substitutes: Sam Fitzgerald, Steve Foster, Matthew Landregan, Matthew Carr, Aaron Ashley
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 28 miles
- ADMISSION: £4 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2