AFC Fylde 1 Bradford Park Avenue 0 (Abandoned 32 mins, 26th March 2016)
Doing a 500 mile+ round trip to see a game that’s called off after half an hour, at a ground I wasn’t even keen to go to in the first place, doesn’t sound the most productive way to spend one day of the Easter break. In a strange way, the day was a little odd all round, and I quite enjoyed it in parts.
For a start, Fylde play in the middle of nowhere. Called Kirkham & Wesham until 2008, they renamed as Fylde to be a team for the “Fylde Coast”, even if the resulting nickname of “The Coasters” implies alternative meanings of either being named after beer mats, or a team that traditionally puts in the bare minimum of effort.
Despite the Coasters name, they are a good two miles inland, and will be a further three or four miles further in when their new ground opens in the summer. Until then they’ll be in their 10 year old home, out in the sticks, in the middle of farms south of the village of Wrea Green.
In the early days, the sheep in the surrounding fields probably outnumbered spectators for the club’s West Lancashire League games, but crowds now average about 550 as they push for promotion to English football’s 5th tier. The rapid rise has clearly resulted in a degree of pragmatic stadium building, and the club could probably merit a feature on “Grand Designs” for their inspired way of giving transport container crates a second life.
Along with the packing-crate inspired club shop, bar, changing rooms, hospitality suites, commentary booth, toilets etc, there was also “does-its-job” no-frills standard Meccano style seated stand down one side with four rows of seats, and a covered terrace of few steps at one end. Next to the end terrace, was an odd shallow section of terracing, more split level patio than kop, that wasn’t going to be a popular vantage point for this game.
Best at the ground was probably a penalty box width stand with six rows of seats behind one goal. The view possibly wasn’t that great for those having to watch through the goal net, but at least they’d have the prevailing wind behind them on quite a windy day.
From the off, it was clear the weather was going to play a big part in the game, even if the star billing it’d eventually receive wasn’t so obvious. Bradford Park Avenue were kicking into the wind, defending the goal that most of their noisy supporters had decided to congregate at. A Bradford flag would probably have blown away and wrapped itself around a nearby sheep had it not been so tightly secured, and goal kicks were struggling to reach even close to halfway.
Both teams were still trying to play. The home side were having the upper hand without creating too much, the odd corner, the odd hopeful shot. Bradford were having the odd occasional breakaway that didn’t come to much, but no too many taking points.
Then, about a quarter of an hour in, the rain started to come. It hadn’t ever been the brightest of afternoons, but a dark grey seam in the already murky sky had chosen to line itself perfectly with Flyde’s Kellamergh Park, and decided to dump an ever-increasing amount of rain as it passed overhead.
It took about two minutes to go from “heavy” to “Christ! This is taking the piss”, and those fans who thought they’d brave it out in the uncovered sections, decided there’s a fine line between stoic and foolhardy, and dashed for cover.
After after five minutes of deluge, the weather eased to just “nasty”, and it was during this spell the game’s only goal was scored. A cross from the right struck a Bradford PA player on the arm as it bounced out for a corner. The linesman saw if differently, and declared it intentional, so the home side had a penalty to a chorus of booing from the away fans.
It was whacked in hard to open the scoring, to a few joking shouts of “call it off ref” from the away fans, but it didn’t take long for the joke to become real.
The rain increased again, and standing water was starting to form in patches. The worst patch was a barren area that had been sanded over. For some reason both teams seemed to be channeling all their play through this one terrible patch, and each time, players seemed somehow completely surprised when their pass through this slick layer of mud saw the ball the just stop rolling and stick.
One final aquatic tap-dance through this lively brown puddle saw the ref call both teams over, and he’d clearly had enough, abandoning the game after 32 minutes. Given how soaked I got in the five minutes it took to try to find out about a refund, I can’t say I blame him, but it wasn’t him trading nine hours in a car for half an hour of football. As a result I can’t offer too much in depth about the match itself, but I can say, as a warning, that eating a whole packet of Haribo Tangfastic really isn’t good for you insides, but is probably safer than going up to Fylde when heavy rain is forecast.