Buxton 1 Skelmersdale 2 (4th October 2014)
If New York’s skyscrapers to the Peak District countryside of Buxton wasn’t something of a change, the change in weather certainly was too, with Autumn seemingly been given a miss, and the early onset of winter greeted me instead.
Less than two weeks earlier I’d been fearing sunburn, and now I was back in a world of wind whipping in from the hills, and scarves being a necessity rather than a decoration. It didn’t help that while Buxton might not have New York’s skyscrapers, Buxton FC’s Silverlands ground does have their height. At 1000 feet about sea level it’d be nudging the top floors of the Empire State Building, and as a result, not surprisingly, it’s the highest ground in England.
Laziness on my part, in the main due to a bit too much travelling of late, meant missing out on the chance to have a look around this spa town. The drive up was picturesque enough though, and Buxton’s ground offered just enough glimpses of scenery to offer distraction in the less interesting moments.
The ground itself had, in parts at least, that very northern substantial feel. A robust covered home end felt like it was used to much bigger crowds. A thin covered terrace down one side, roof supported by slender poles at the front, was another popular vantage point. Less popular was the main stand. I can imagine this was popular when built, with around 500 seats raised above the changing rooms and offices. Sadly, at some point the club accepted an offer to have a phone mast installed on the side of the pitch. With a width that rivals a Giant Redwood, the mast rises up in front of one end of the stand, obliterating any chance of a view from perhaps half of the seats.
The opposite side houses a homely cabin of a club shop, something of a refuge no doubt on even) colder days, and a place with enough decorum to insist that even the stag’s head mounted on the wall wears a club tie.
Buxton, top of the league, were hoping to set a club record 10th consecutive victory this afternoon. Coming to spoil the party though were Skelmersdale, just behind them in 2nd. Buxton certainly started like a team going for a 10th straight win, but a goal against the run of play 12 minutes in threw the home side, and set the tone for an afternoon of frustration.
Skelmersdale were playing a perfect counter-attacking game, and despite Buxton having most possession, and most of the chances, 2-0 looked more likely than 1-1. You did sense, however, that if Buxton could nick that equaliser, then it could change things completely.
They got the chance after 64 minutes with a free-kick just outside the box. Buxton had had a multitude of set-pieces before, probably coming close to wearing out the grass by the corner flag having taken so many, but nearly all were headed away or caught by the keeper. Perhaps with that in mind Buxton went for a shot instead – and what a shot it was, curling hard and fast into the far top corner with the keeper not even moving.
Unfortunately, having got themselves out of gaol, they landed themselves right back in the cells barely a minute later. A needless foul resulted in a soft penalty, easily converted, and Buxton found themselves with an uphill battle, despite kicking down the slope in the 2nd half.
There was to be no comeback this time. The 2nd goal just knocked the belief out of them. They did draw one flying save of Hollywood extravagance from the Skelmersdale keeper, but that was about it, and Skelmerdale jumped ahead of them to the top of the league. Maybe a team from a place called Silverlands should be used to being runners-up.