Chorley 1 Worksop Town 0 (8th March 2014)
I think I could probably have guessed that a match between the league leaders, and free-scoring 3rd-placed Worksop, whose 34 prior league games had averaged a ridiculous 4.94 goals per game, wouldn’t be the goal feast the stats might lead you to expect. Only getting to see one though, was a bit disappointing, although at least it was a good end to end game.
It wasn’t just the prospect of goals that had me making a four hour drive up north though. The 1st v 3rd nature of the game, an expected four figure crowd, and most importantly a substantial ground were bigger lures.
There are often other little things that make your day though. One was parking up and spotting a car opposite that was a little …err… different. I mean, I can imagine the car being stolen (actually I really can’t but…) and the owner having to give a description to the the police “…yes, that’s right, it’s a Peugeot, it’s blue. It’s a W reg. It’s also a convertible…Any other distinguishing features, hmm, let me think…Oh yes! It’s completely covered in large pictures of Shane Ritchie’s face. So yes, if you see any cars about being driven suspiciously, or maybe on a dodgy garage forecourt that are blue W-reg Peugeot convertibles, that are also automotive shrines to Shane Ritchie, check them out.”
A quick google reveals that the woman who owns it has made it into several papers, and is a tattooist, which is frightening prospect. Someone could go in wanting an eagle on their back, and come out with a picture of Shane Ritchie as Alfie Moon saying “you’re doin’ me ‘ead in, Kat”
In terms of bad taste, it was possibly only topped inside the ground by an inflatable slide. OK, it was 102 years ago now, but surely somebody must have questioned whether turning the deaths of 1514 people on the Titanic into a theme for a children’s play area was exactly suitable. Regardless, many children present clearly found pretending to slide down the deck of a sinking ship to an icy death a huge amount of fun. Maybe in 2103 people will think nothing of playing on a Twin Towers falling stockbroker bungee rope game.
The kids were also keen to sample wares from the ice-cream van doing a decent trade inside the ground. The “hotter than Ibiza” weather forecasts for this weekend did feel rather optimistic in this corner of Lancashire, as a cold wind whipped in beneath partially clearing skies. Maybe in Chorley it did count as a heatwave, and those old Les Dawson style northern gags “…it was so hot that I had to undo the the top button on my mac…” had more than an element of truth.
The welcome at the ground was at least genuinely warm. Non-league football is obviously cheaper anyway, but being able to get in for just £5 due to being season ticket holders elsewhere was very welcome. The most distant season ticket holder taking up this offer previously had been a West Brom fan, so two Reading fans threw the turnstile operator completely. We didn’t let on that we’d only discovered the offer the previously day, and it bore no part in our decision to come to the game.
Two beers for under £6 was also welcome in the large clubhouse, although the decision to limit food on offer to just soup (a red hearty concoction of undetermined flavour) was different.
None of those things were why we came up to Chorley though. It was about the ground itself. Pride of place goes to the main stand. Chorley’s is a classic old-fashioned “proper” stand, about 70 yards long and looking much bigger than the 900 seats it apparently holds. Low floodlights adorn the roof, similar to the low lights elsewhere around the ground, which looked barely out of the reach of some of Chorley’s taller players.
If that stand looked the sort that wouldn’t have been out of place in a league venue, similar was the terrace at the northern end of the ground. Deep and covered, it had a stereotypical rugged northern character about it, even if up close the roof looked much lighter than one that would require the double row of concrete based columns that supported it. These meant it wasn’t quite as popular a vantage point as you’d otherwise expect, even if it did give a good view. Almost more popular was the stubby covered end opposite. Not even as wide as the six yard box, it represented the only remaining usable part of a grass bank behind the goal. It did at least have fewer pillars holding its roof up.
Also fenced off was a large grass bank down the side opposite the main stand. It was in use until relatively recently, but no doubt some health & safety official saw it and had kittens in fear of crowds sliding down the banking on a wet day. Metre-high boards now line the front of the banking, leaving the occasional stranded crush barrier on show, and a good vantage point sadly lost.
Other kinds of points, league points, were very much at stake today. A run of four games without a win, including an injury time defeat at home to FCUM in front of over 2000 in the previous game, had seen Chorley’s lead whittled away. Another failure to win would see Skelmersdale take over first spot if they beat Grantham, as expected, on the same day. Defeat would also see visitors Worksop close the gap to just two points.
With Chorley taking the pitch in yellow shirts rather than their usual black and white stripes due to a charity push for Mencap, it took a while to work out who the home side were. Most attacking in the early stages came from Worksop, in black and blue, looking intent on adding to the 97 league goals they’d already scored in their 34 games this season.
Despite that, Chorley had already hit the bar once before poking the ball in from short-range to give the hosts the lead, probably slightly against the run of play. From there it was all out attack from both sides. Chorley hit the bar again, and had one cleared off the line, with Worksop having chances too, and it was something of a mystery that the half ended with just a single goal. To one Worksop fan in a green coat, the reason for this, and seemingly every other problem in the world, was down to Chorley boss Gary Flitcroft, and he seemed to be on his own mission to help Mencap by having a sponsored afternoon of verbal abuse.
After the break, both teams tightened up, and this seemed to suit Chorley more, who looked more and more in control as the game progressed. News of Skelmersdale being surprisingly 0-2 down to Grantham may well have filtered through, and given Chorley a bit of extra determination. With a bit more composure they would have put the game to bed, hitting the post again, and forcing another save or two, but they couldn’t finish Worksop off.
This led to a tense end to the game with Worksop throwing everyone, including the keeper, forward in search of that equaliser. Sadly for them though, it didn’t come, and they left the field with the unaccustomed feeling of having not scored a league goal for only the second time this season. For Chorley, now four points clear at the top and a full eight ahead of Worksop, it was a win to celebrate., just perhaps with something a little warmer than an ice-cream though.