An intriguing contest on paper between the clubs in sixth and eighth in this nineteen team league,Both clubs were holding their form quite well as last seasons champions Formby came across from Merseyside to visit Crilly Park.
Of course I say champions but Formby did not get promotion as their ground Altcar Road does not meet the current specifications so for the next two years they are playing in Burscough while the builders are in.
For those not familiar with Atherton LR the name Crilly Park is after named after former Chairman Jack Crilly and not after a former priest in Ireland!
A crowd of 60 turned up today for this encounter on International weekend and for those who follow clubs in the Championship and the ridiculously expensive sideshow that is the Premiership run by television without any thought or care to the fans this was another chance in the footballing calendar to see what many people say is “Real Football”
In the end it was always the away side that were going to take the points,the first half was almost total domination by Formby who controlled the game and spent most of it camped in the LR half even though they were playing up the slope.
The first goal came after just nine minutes when Formby striker John Prescott (not that one!) met a lovely cross from a corner to head the ball past LR keeper Danny Lowton to make it 1-0 to the Squirrels.
Formby continued to control the game so much that it was twenty seven minutes when LR got their first chance on goal when Matty Bowland on loan from FC United shot from outside the box but it was well over the sticks.
After a well saved shot from Formby’s midfielder Paul Speed just after the half hour mark it was Prescott’s second goal on the counter attack and a through ball from Luke Holden made it 2-0 then a few minutes later the first sub of the game came as Paul Speed sustained a knee injury and had to be replaced by Johnathan Swotton.
Just before the break LR had only their second and ultimately best chance when a Craig Dickenson cross was just past the reach of Gareth Shaw.
Half time Atherton LR 0 Formby 2
Second half came after the usual check on the scores in the clubhouse and a visit to the loo it was time for the the next forty five minutes of action to commence.
LR came out with a bit more bite in the second half with Bowland having an easy shot saved in the opening exchanges however a few minutes later the game was put beyond their reach as Francis Smith took a chance shot about forty yards or quite close to halfway which went high and over Danny Lowton and into the back of the net to make it 3-0 to the visitors.
Then later on came something which I’ve never seen in my years of watching football,A Formby player went down after a tackle and after the usual responses by one of small group of about three or four home fans to get up and stop being a softy I heard one of the Formby joint manager shout down to where the noise came from “Are you lot all effing backward around here” (cleaned it up a bit).
This prompted one of the people to come down and remonstrate and have a bit of an argument about what was said,the Formby boss was certainly using a few choice words which was not nice to hear with ladies and young children present in the ground but the officials managed to keep the kettle from going past boiling point.
Back to the match and LR pulled a goal back from sub Mark Adams just before the hour mark but after that it was the away team who took the points despite a spirited come back from LR.
Full Time Atherton LR 1 Formby 3.
Three points then for the Squirrels but it’s fair to say Mike Clegg the LR boss will be one going Nuts after this (spot the pun),Formby though are a classy side and should be in the shake up come the business end of the season, LR though are still in the hunt.
LR are much better than this despite the defeat,some of the last passes were well covered by the Formby defence and they did their homework on the opposition,Crilly Park is not the easiest ground for clubs to play at,the slope certainly makes teams work on the pitch and fitness and not peaking too soon is essential at this venue.
Despite the score line this was not a classic match,but then again to don’t come to matches at this level and expect to see an El Classico.
Must give special mention to the refreshments taken before the game,the pies where of a good size and tasted lovely with a very peppery taste although I would advise taking your time when consuming them so not to cause hiccups! plus the tea was quite nice too.
Non League Football is one of the great bastions of amateur sport,the Corinthian spirit rings bright here in the North West Counties League which over the past few years have developed something of a cult following among football fans, £5 admission for adults and you get a nice afternoon match and have a nice convivial day out.
So after this past fortnight of reporting from the world of Non League football it is back to the racing for the next few weeks,upcoming will be the Showcase meeting from Cheltenham then Aintree for the Old Roan Chase,Midweek jumps from Carlisle the the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby before the first or my two Rugby League World Cup matches.
Below,The refs warm up as a train enroute to Wigan passes by Crilly Park.
Pitch,Main Stand and the Clubhouse.