2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 9 – Tuesday 03 September 2019: Glossop North End v Eccleshill United

Matchday programme cover

I have a friend who loves his non-league football, he’s an Emley fan and also follows West Ham as a result of the FA Cup tie between the two sides in January 1998. Although the Hammers won through, it was Emley who stole all the headlines. Anyhow, he had mentioned that he had always wanted to go and see Glossop North End which as it turns out is only a short trip from Huddersfield.

Glossop North End hold the record for being the smallest town to have had a top flight league club, when back at the turn of the 20th Century the club were bankrolled by Sir Samuel Hill-Wood, who later became chairman of Arsenal and the Hillmen still have connections to the Gunners to this day.

They were elected to the Football League in the Second Division for the 1898/99 season eventually finishing second and gaining promotion to the top-flight. The 1899/1900 season was their only season in the First Division and unfortunately, they finished bottom of the pile.

GNE 1899/1900 Season

They remained in the Second Division through to the start of the First World War, but Glossop were perennial strugglers. Just before the war in the 1913/14 season they a had club record attendance of 10,736 for an FA Cup Second Round match against Preston North End. At the end of the war Glossop applied for re-election to the Football League but failed and had to drop into the Lancashire Combination League.

They now ply their trade in the Northern Premier League and have been relatively successful in recent years winning a North West Counties League and cup ‘double’ in 2014/15. They also have made it to two FA Vase Final’s, in 2008/09 and 2014/15, where they were beaten by Whitley Bay 2 – 0 and North Shields 2 – 1, respectively.

This visit to the AMDEC Forklift Truck Stadium on a wet and windy evening was for an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay, after the initial tie at Eccleshill United had ended 1-1. First impressions were of a hotchpotch stadium with the clubhouse behind one of the goals, with a covered terrace alongside, some covered terrace along the north side of the pitch and a seated stand on the south side.

The Hillmen kicked off into the wind and rain and Touhy hit a free-kick just over the bar in the early stages of the match which ebbed and flowed with entertainment at both ends of the pitch. The North End left back, Coulibaly looked particularly impressive with a number of strong runs down the wing but unfortunately lacked a final delivery that would count. Eccleshill hit the crossbar on the half hour but the keepers weren’t troubled throughout the first-half with Glossop looking the stronger side and the sides went in at the break 0-0.

The reality of the early FA Cup rounds

Despite looking the better side and having more of the ball the Hillmen were on the receiving end of the first goal. A free kick was swung in from the left and Irving had a free header to put it in the back of the net for the visitors. This sparked a reaction from Glossop. A long ball down the left was latched on to by the lively Mills who cut inside and sent a right foot curler into the top corner from just outside the corner of the area to level just after the hour mark. This lifted the urgency in the home team to go and search out a winner. A bit of pinball just outside the box finally saw the ball come to Limpishi who fired the ball in, a miss-hit from Maeico saw the ball roll to Tuohy who fired the ball into the roof of the net from six yards past the wrong footed keeper. Heads went down in the Eccleshill side, they had defended well for seventy-two minutes but were now on the back foot and 2-1 behind. North End upped the pressure for the final fifteen minutes, with Maeico hitting a rising shot just over the bar from twenty yards. In the dying minutes, the ball found its way to Limpishi on the right wing, he sat the defender down on his arse and sent the ball in to the near post to be flicked in by the substitute Fitto with virtually his first touch of the game.

A great competitive match in difficult conditions, but the small wet crowd were thoroughly entertained throughout the game.


Tuesday 03 September 2019

Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay

Glossop North End 3 (Mills 63’, Tuohy 72’, Fitto 89’) Eccleshill United 1 (Irving 51’)

Venue: AMDEC Forklift Truck Stadium

Attendance: 147

Glossop North End: Latham, Wilshaw, Coulibaly, Vinten, Hibbert, Holt (Limpiski 61’), Ekpolo, Tuohy, Coppin, Maeico (Mason 85’), Mills (Fitto 88’)

Unused Substitutes: Ellis, McClenaghan.

Eccleshill United: Emmerson, Marsh, Kaba, Sugden, Omolokum, Basi, Stor, Woodward Irving, Staunton Buchanan

Unused Substitutes: Stimpson, Moorhouse, Hargreaves, Kroma, Ndlovu, Lever, Taylor.


Steve Blighton


2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 8 – Saturday 31 August 2019: Scunthorpe United v Carlisle United

Matchday programme cover

The final Saturday in August sees me in Lincoln to visit my Mum for the weekend. Football wise, Sincil Bank, the home of Lincoln City is a ground I’ve been to umpteen times, in fact it is my second most visited stadium behind the Bridge. Just up the road from Lincoln is Scunthorpe, and the Sands Venue Stadium, (I have always known it as Glanford Park) the home of Scunthorpe United and it is the destination for my eighth match of this season. With Carlisle United the visitors it will be the second time in four days I have seen the Blues on the road – a hardcore Cumbrian fan!

I have a soft spot for Scunthorpe United. I’ve mentioned in earlier articles my dad’s trials at Chelsea and Arsenal, but whilst he was signed on for Arsenal, he was still in the Air Force and stationed in Lincolnshire. He signed part time terms with Scunthorpe United – I wish my dad had spoken more about his football career, too modest I suppose. I can’t find any evidence of him playing for the Iron but one of his stories was about the time he got called back to play full time for Arsenal, but he decided to stay in the Air Force as it paid better in those days. If he had played for Scunthorpe, he would have run out at the Old Showground, their previous home from 1860. As for Scunthorpe’s current ground (since 1988), it’s a nice touch, as with a number of new grounds, that its address is named after a former player, in this case Jack Brownsword, the Iron’s all-time appearance record holder, who played between 1947 and 1965 and would have been at the club the same time as my dad.

The Iron mascot – Scunny Bunny

Safely in my seat opposite from the main stand ahead of kick-off and with the teams warming up, the brilliantly named Iron mascot, Scunny Bunny, goes through its pre-match routine. Soon the teams are out with Scunthorpe in claret and light blue – apparently the design and colours are a tribute to when Sir Ian Botham played for the club – and Carlisle, who as in midweek, are in their change strip of, what their kit manufacturer Errea describe as After Eight – whatever has had happened to kit colours!

Iron pressure on the Carlisle goal

When the game gets underway, the Iron make the early running with good chances in the opening fifteen minutes. First, Yann Songo’o, has a header which is cleared off the line, and is quickly followed by a chance for Matthew Lund, but his shot ends up well over the bar. Abo Eisa then has a header which goes narrowly wide. Scunthorpe continue to dominate the first-half but can’t turn the pressure into goals, as decent chances come and go for George Miller, Andy Butler and Regan Slater. And as a result, at the break the game is goalless. The Iron were to rue their missed chances when on the hour mark, Ryan Loft, who had come on at the start of the second-half as a substitute for Carlisle finds himself with time and space to fire home at the near post. Scunthorpe though dig in and go in search of an equaliser but are susceptible to Carlisle on the counter-attack and are grateful to ‘keeper Rory Watson who is out quickly to thwart Harry McKirdy as he burst through midway through the second period. As the game goes on, Scunthorpe continue to push and think they have levelled from a Matty Lund goal-bound header, only for Adam Collin to produce a spectacular save. The Iron continue to hammer away at the visitors goal, but at the whistle it is the visitors Carlisle who take the points with a 1-0 win.


Saturday 31 August 2019

Sky Bet League Two

Scunthorpe United 0 Carlisle United 1 (Loft 60’)

Venue: Sands Venue Stadium

Attendance: 3,359

Scunthorpe United: Watson, Clarke, Lund, Songo’o, Butler (McGahey 63’), Gilliead (Colclough 73’), McArdle, Slater (McAtee 85’), Brown, Miller, Eisa

Unused Substitutes: Eastwood, van Veen, O’Malley, McAtee, Dawson.

Carlisle United: Collin, Elliott, Iredale, Carroll (Sagaf 56’), Thomas, Jones, McKirdy (Hope 79’), Webster, Bridge, Knight-Percival, Sorensen (Loft 45’)

Unused Substitutes: Gray, Mellish, Charters, Branthwaite.


Steve Blightom

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 7 – Tuesday 27 August 2019: Rochdale v Carlisle United

Matchday programme cover

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that as an only child I started reading because dad had control of the telly, which was good on the occasion there would be sport on, especially football. But I didn’t read novels, my main reading material were encyclopaedia, history books, football books and annuals. I later added the music press to my reading list. As you’ll appreciate, these sort of books are essentially facts and figure based, and I loved reading and absorbing them, even to the point of getting my dad to test me on what I could remember. At one stage I knew all the countries in the world, their capitals, their national flag, their currency, major towns and cities etc and in terms of my football recall, I knew all the winners of the First Division, FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup, UEFA Cup, Cup Winners Cup and of course the World Cup, along with goal scorers, home grounds, colours, and individual honours like caps and goals. Sad, I know, but that answers a lot of questions for a lot of people about me!

Anyway my dad used to test me, and we were doing football grounds this particular day. He started off easy-ish with First and Second division clubs, but he would always throw in an obscure one, and on this occasion, he asked, “Rochdale?”, immediately I said “Spotland”. “How the hell do you know that?” or words to that effect was my dad’s response.

Rochdale had perked my interest from being in one of those pub-quiz football questions, Name six clubs in the league whose name ends with “e”? (The others being, Crystal Palace, Plymouth Argyle, Port Vale, Morecambe, and Stevenage). I also have a penchant for teams with one name, Chelsea, Fulham, Stenhousemuir. Additionally, I like the history of teams with the suffix United as it usually means the formation from two teams, with Wanderers usually having an interesting history and I like the unusual ones like Wednesday, Alexandra, and North End. The other Rochdale connection was that there was also a song in the charts called It’s hard being a Cowboy in Rochdale, by Mike Harding, so I have always wanted to visit Spotland or the Crown Oil Arena as it is now called.

My chance came with a Carabao Cup (the League Cup in my youth) Second Round tie with Carlisle United. ‘Dale had progressed after a First Round victory over Bolton Wanderers 5-2 at home, with Carlisle United impressing in a 3-0 win at Championship side Barnsley. As is the norm for the League Cup, the game was midweek, giving me a fix of walking to a ground of an evening with floodlights in the distance drawing the fans to the ground.

Team handshakes before kick-off

Of the game itself, ‘Dale began brightly with Stephen Dooley seeing an effort saved after jinking past two defenders and they were ahead after eleven minutes when Aaron Morley struck a stunner past Adam Collin. Morley was prominent for the home side and was involved in a move five minutes later which saw him pick out Callum Camps, who nodded down to Done, but he could only drag his shot wide from outside the area. Rochdale doubled their advantage just after the half hour mark. A ball forward wasn’t cleared by the United defence, with the wayward clearance falling to Done who did well to break into the Carlisle box, finishing calmly into the bottom corner in a one-on-one situation with ‘keeper Collin. Into the second half and ‘Dale had the better chances with Morley and Dooley having efforts to further extend the lead. Carlisle made a double-substitution on fifty-three minutes which sparked the visitors into life. One of those, Harry McKirdy got Carlisle back in the game when he won a penalty with nineteen minutes remaining, which was converted by Bridge. This gave United the impetus going into the final period of the game and Sanchez in the Rochdale goal had to be at his best on a couple of occasions to keep the visitors at bay. However, ‘Dale hung on and earned a lucrative Third Round tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United, where they weren’t disgraced, going out 5-3 on penalties after the game ended 1-1.


Tuesday 27 August 2019

Carabao Cup – Second Round

Rochdale 2 (Morley 11’, Done 31’) Carlisle United 1 (Bridge 71’ pen)

Venue: Spotland

Attendance: 1,974

Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, O’Connell, Magloire, Keohane, Ryan (Pyke 63’), Morley, Dooley (Rathbone 68’), Camps, Done (McLaughlin 86’), Andrew

Unused Substitutes: Norrington-Davies, Delaney, Lynch, Henderson

Carlisle United: Collin, Elliott, Webster, Knight-Percival, Iredale, Bridge, Jones (Carroll 53’), Scougall, Thomas, Olomola (Sorenson 64’), Hope (McKirdy 53’)

Unused Substitutes: Mellish, Gray, Branthwaite, Loft


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 6 – Saturday 24 August 2019: Nelson v Shelley

Matchday programme cover

A trip to Wembley, Little Wembley in fact, also known as Victoria Park, the home of Nelson FC. As you can imagine there is a bit of a dramatic difference between the two Wembley’s, trust me! Capacity wise, whilst the home of the England team in North West London can hold 90,000, the North West England version, holds a mere 2,000.

Here’s a football quiz question for you. Can you think of the club that was the first English side to beat Real Madrid away from home? A side that also won away at Old Trafford in the same season. A side that played in the Football League for ten seasons and has played competitive games against 34 of the current sides in the top four divisions. A side that has played many FA Cup ties in the competition proper with a record home attendance of over 14,000. The answer? Well, all this, and more, has been achieved by ‘The History Boys’ of Nelson FC, also known as ‘The Admirals’.

The origins of Nelson FC can be reputedly traced to a group of townspeople who in 1881, on witnessing a local football match between Burnley and Blackburn, were inspired to form their own team. However, it wasn’t until 1889/90 that they competed in a senior competition.

When football resumed after the First World War, Nelson embarked upon the most remarkable adventure of their history. In 1921 the thirteen non-reserve teams of the Central League were voted into the Football League`s newly formed Third Division North. The first league match, on August 27 1921, brought a record attendance at Seedhill of 9,000.

The next season, 1922/23, saw the Blues lead a close race for much of the season, and five wins in a row during April saw them romp away to the title. On the back of their title triumph, and in preparation for life in Division Two, Nelson took the remarkable step of an overseas tour to Spain, in May 1923. They performed with some success, winning two of their four games, a 2-1 success against Real Oviedo and a 4-2 victory at Real Madrid.

Unfortunately, Nelson`s time in Division Two was to be short-lived, lasting just the one season in which they finished second-bottom of the table. It was clear early on that they were struggling both on and off the pitch, but they achieved some remarkable feats on the way. They had a home victory over Champions-elect Leeds United, one of only nine league defeats for the Yorkshire side and their first away victory came at Manchester United. Few non-league clubs can claim to have won away at both Real Madrid and Manchester United!

A return to Division Three North brought a drop in attendances, though big games saw new records established, such as 13,500 for the visit of table-topping Darlington. That first season back in the third tier of the Football League saw a second-place finish to the North-Eastern side, hence no promotion, and was to be the last time the Blues seriously threatened a return to the national stage.

The next season brought a new and never beaten record attendance at Seedhill of 14,143 for the visit of leaders Bradford Park Avenue. The home team went two goals down but came back to draw 2-2. Two seasons later Nelson became serious strugglers, finding themselves £6,500 in debt. A rock-bottom finish meant a re-election application. They had conceded 136 goals during the season, and all the problems seemed to be down to insufficient gate receipts during difficult times for the area. Re-election was granted in 1928, but three seasons later Nelson were back in the same situation, and 1930/31 was to be their final season as a League club. Nelson struggled on in the Lancashire Combination without winning any honours, and things became much bleaker in 1936. A big loss was incurred that season and the club disbanded on 7 August. The club reformed after the Second World War and entering the Lancashire Combination League, playing in the league until it merged with the Cheshire County League to form the North West Counties League in 1982.

Action at Little Wembley

The current Nelson side still ply their trade in North West Counties First Division North and their visitors for this fixture were Shelley from Huddersfield – my connection to Shelley will be revealed later on in the season.

It was a lovely sunny day and barely a breeze, only a hard pitch to contend with. It’s a quaint old ground which has seen better days with a small stand along one side of the pitch. Attendance on the day was nothing like the 14,000 they attracted back in the 1920s. In fact, the crowd was 55 and I was able to count every one of them. Of the game, it was two very evenly matched sides and I was impressed at the standard of football, this being tier 10 of the pyramid. Both defences were much stronger than their own and opposition attack with Ryan Blackburn being outstanding in defence for Shelley, who also showed touches of pace up front with Israel Johnson. Nelson were equally stoic in defence well marshalled by Daniel Fagan. Shelley manager, Ash Berry, was his ebullient self on the touchline in a game that ended as a draw, which on reflection was a fair result but deserved goals.

A final interesting fact about Nelson FC, following their return to act after the war in the Lancashire Combination. They were involved in some terrific tussles for the title with Wigan Athletic over the next few seasons, winning it twice in 1949/50 and 1951/52. In those three seasons of 42 league games apiece, Nelson scored 125, 120 and 139 goals, respectively. The first title season also saw Nelson clinch the Lancashire Combination Cup to seal an historic ‘Double’ in what was at the time one of the premier leagues in the country outside of the Football League. The men at the forefront of this period of success were two young player-managers. Centre-half Bob Johnson moved from Burnley for the start of the 1949/50 season and, when his contract expired, the Blues landed a young man from Manchester City, 30-year-old Joe Fagan. The team built by ‘Uncle Joe’ romped to the title in his first season in 1951/52. Joe left to join Liverpool`s boot room team in 1958 and 25 years later he was the manager who took the Reds to a European Cup, League Championship and League Cup treble.


Saturday 24th August 2019

North West Counties Football League – First Division North

Nelson 0 Shelley 0

Venue: Little Wembley

Attendance: 55

Nelson: Parkinson, C. Lloyd, Grice, Dickinson, Fagan, Wynne, J. Coop, Sharples, Hill, J. Lloyd, Knight.

Substitutes: Close, Townsend, Dewhurst

Shelley: Day, Leech, Andre, Daffern, Blackburn, Keane, O’Keefe, Broadbent, Billington, Pownall, Johnson

Substitutes: White, Robertson, Bradshaw


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 5 – Saturday 17 August 2019: Blackburn Rovers v Middlesbrough

Matchday programme cover

Running through the fixture list this particular Saturday there wasn’t much catching the eye but opted for Middlesbrough’s visit to Blackburn Rovers in the end. Both teams had got off to a slow start and neither were known for scoring lots of goals. I suspected that this may turn out to be a goalless draw, so arranged to meet my friends Frank and Michelle after the game for a curry.

Blackburn Rovers have long history in football and are featured in the recent Netflix show, The English Game. The programme centres on the period prior to the formation of the Football League in 1888 with the FA Cup exploits of Darwen and Old Etonians part of the story line. Rovers have won the league on three occasions, the last being the Premier League in 1994/95 and six FA Cups. Along with Wanderers they are the only two teams to have won the FA Cup three years in succession from 1883 through to 1886 and were awarded a commemorative shield to mark the event. They then won the Cup again in 1889/90 and 1890/91.

Jack Walker statue

Blackburn’s more recent success came under their benefactor Sir Jack Walker who invested heavily in the club to earn promotion to the new Premier League for its inaugural season in 1992/93. After finishing fourth and then runners-up, Rovers went on to winning the league in 1994/95 with a dramatic last day of the season defeat to Liverpool with Manchester United also losing that day. Sadly, Sir Jack has since passed away in 2000, but he is fondly remembered by many football fans, not just those at Ewood Park and he is commemorated with a fine bronze statue outside the ground.

Rovers winning penalty

It wasn’t a bad game and not as dull as I had feared. For Blackburn Sam Gallagher ran his heart out up and down the left wing. The old stager, Stewart Downing (all left foot) showed a few touches of class with his control and passing. At the whistle, Blackburn picked up their first Championship win of the season while extending Middlesbrough’s winless start under new boss Jonathan Woodgate. The points were settled by Danny Graham’s first-half penalty for Rovers, who had lost their first two league matches. The 34-year-old won the spot-kick when his shirt was pulled by Anfernee Dijksteel (boyish humour means I must always giggle when mentioning this name) and he stepped up to send goalkeeper Darren Randolph the wrong way. Substitute Marcus Browne struck the woodwork for Boro’ their best effort in the second half, leaving them with one point from their opening three league games. Rovers winger Stewart Downing almost scored against his old club after the break but curled a decent effort narrowly beyond the far post.


Saturday 17 August 2019

Sky Bet Championship

Blackburn Rovers 1 (Graham 25’ [pen]) Middlesbrough 0

Venue: Ewood Park

Attendance: 14,012

Blackburn Rovers: Walton, Bennett, Lenihan, Williams, Cunningham, Travis, B. Johnson, Dack (Buckley 76’), Gallagher, Downing (Rothwell 76’), Graham (Armstrong 71’)

Unused substitutes: Nyambe, Leutwiler, Bell, Evans

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Dijksteel (Tavernier 61’), Ayala, Shotten, Friend (Walker 83’), MacNair, Wing, M Johnson (Browne 70’), Howson, Fletcher, Assombalonga

Unused substitutes: Clayton, Saville, Bola, Pears


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 4 – Tuesday 13 August 2019: Stockport County v Barrow

I’m old enough to remember Barrow being in the Football League back in 1972 when they failed re-election into the “old” fourth Division. Though the reasons for not being re-elected were many, three factors have been highlighted, (1) Barrow’s geographic isolation, (2) Hereford United’s FA Cup victory against Newcastle United, and (3) the decision of the Barrow board to introduce a speedway track around pitch at Holker Street, as a means of off-setting financial difficulties. With Barrow out of the Football League, they joined the Northern Premier League for the start of the 1972/73 season, the club having spent a total of 51 seasons in the Football League. They’ve actually played at their Holker Street ground continuously for 110 years – another ground I need to visit!

In mid-August Barrow were playing away at Edgeley Park, home of Stockport County and so a midweek trip to see the Bluebirds was in order. My connection to Stockport is as with other clubs I’ve adopted, through a work colleague. I say that, but it was probably more accurate to say that I knew Mark through work, as he was based in Manchester. Through him I started to follow Stockport’s results. Like Barrow, they too have dropped out of the top four tiers of the pyramid and both now ply their trade in the National League, the division below League Two. My main memory of Stockport was their trip to the League Cup Semi-Finals when they narrowly lost to Middlesbrough in 1996/97 season. The First-Leg at Stockport saw the Hatters lose 2-0 before securing at remarkable 1 – 0 win at the Riverside Stadium against a Boro’ team containing Australian International ‘keeper, Mark Schwarzer, the Brazilian pairing of Emerson and Juninho, as well as Italian International striker, Fabrizio Ravanelli. It was a brave effort by County who were then in League Two against the Premier League side, going out 2-1 on aggregate. Following the game I discovered that another friend of mines’ husband is a Stockport fan and was also at the game, small world!

A nightmare in parking the car on arrival in Stockport, allied with the fact that the club had decided to go to a ticket-only policy, meant that I missed the first ten minutes of the match and the opening goal of the game. It appears that I’d missed some early excitement as Ben Jackson had already forced a fine save from Barrow ‘keeper Joel Dixon before the home side fell behind in the third minute. Scott Quigley had raced clear one-on-one with the County goalkeeper and slotted home by the time I took my seat. From the restart, Stockport immediately went on the offence for the rest of the half. Dixon further denied efforts from County’s Adam Thomas and Elliot Osborne, with Frank Mulhern and Paul Turnbull both having good chances to level the game before the break.

Into the second-half and the Hatters continued with the pressure and got their rewards just three minutes after the break when Mulhern flicked in an inviting cross from Thomas. Four minutes later and the home crowd were on their feet again as Jordan Keane found the bottom corner with a powerful drive from distance. The crowd had gone from the early frustration of the first-half to the enjoyment of taking the lead within the first seven minutes of the second-half.

From that point it was an absolute cracker of a game and Barrow hauled themselves level through a John Rooney (younger brother of our Wayne) free-kick on 67 minutes. However Stockport weren’t to be denied as Thomas converted a low cross from substitute Jake Kirby for the home team just three minutes later. That goal came with twenty minutes still remaining, but County saw it out in a five-goal thriller to secure a first win back in the National League.


Tuesday 13 August 2019

Vanarama National League

Stockport County 3 (Mulhern 48’, Keane 52’, Thomas 70’) Barrow 2 (Quigley 3’, Rooney 67’)

Venue: Edgeley Park

Attendance: 4,183

Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Miniham, Palmer, Turnbull, Cowan,Keane, Thomas, Dimaio (Kirby 63’), Osborne, Jackson (Arthur 88’) Mulhern (Bell 72’)

Unused substitutes: Ormson, Curran

Barrow: Dixon, Barry, Granite, Kay (Dyson 59’), Brough (Brown 10’), Hird, Taylor, Rooney, Angus, Harrison (Hardcastle 46’), Quigley

Unused substitutes: Hindle, Greaves


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 3 – Saturday 10 August 2019: Bolton Wanderers v Coventry City

Match day programme cover

As is becoming increasingly common in the football world, the season starts with news of a few clubs in financial difficulty and 2019/20 was to prove no exception, with two former North-West leading lights, Bolton Wanderers and Bury this time under the financial spotlight.

When I worked in London, I had a colleague there, Phil, who was a big Bury fan, so I used to follow their results and others in the league so I could talk to him about his club as he would mine. This was back in the early 1980s, so it meant getting football updates reading the national papers, as the internet was still a pipedream, and Sky and Channel 4 were in their infancy. A historic old club, the Shakers, who won the FA Cup twice (1899/1900 and 1902/03), held the record for the biggest victory in an FA Cup Final, when beating Derby County 6 – 0 in 1903, a record only equalled in 2018/19 when Manchester City put six past Watford. An additional impressive fact about Bury is that they are the only club to have scored more than 1,000 goals in each of the top four tiers of the Football League. Since those glory days, they’ve flitted between the third and fourth tiers for the last 50 years, but I have always kept an eye on them. Then strangely enough I discovered a new work colleague, this time in Leeds called Tim, who was also a Bury fan and who went to watch them, so my chats all things Shakers related resumed and I used to look forward to those Monday morning football chats. Sadly Bury due to financial issues, didn’t start the 2019/20 season, and were expelled in December 2019 from the Football League. Fans have created a phoenix club, Bury AFC, and hope to take the field in the North West Counties League in 2020/21. Very much a case of watch this space.

Whilst Bury disappeared from the Football League ranks, Bolton Wanderers on the other hand were clinging on to their league status by their fingernails and had managed to make it to the opening day of the campaign, losing 2-0 at Wycombe Wanderers. I then decided to get tickets for Bolton’s first home game of the season against Coventry City. I don’t think that they were expecting such a big crowd and as a result the programmes at the ground had sold out, thankfully though I managed to get hold of one later on the internet. The University of Bolton Stadium (previously the Reebok Stadium and Macron Stadium), was another new ground for me – this is a recurring theme as I have deliberately avoided grounds I have already been to – rules eh!

Due to their financial difficulties Bolton Wanderers had gone into administration, been deducted 12 points, and had to field their youngest ever team. The Trotters did not name a single senior player in their starting line-up, with the 11 players on the pitch at kick-off having an average age of just 19.

Despite their lack of experience, Wanderers fared valiantly against an attacking Coventry side, who thought they had taken the lead when Wesley Jobello turned in from close range before it was ruled out for offside. The Sky Blues had another goal disallowed for offside soon after the break when Amadou Bakayoko bundled home from a deflection off Jordy Hiwula. You can imagine the look on his face as he came sliding towards the Bolton fans on his knees in celebration when the goal was chalked off.

Bolton’s best chance of the match came after Finlay Hurford-Lockett’s cross was almost fired home by Eddie Brown deep into the second half. Incredibly, Coventry then had a third goal disallowed for offside as the game moved into the closing minutes, after Maxime Biamou slotted in from point-blank range. At the whistle, the Trotters had held Coventry City to a goalless draw to claim their first point of the League One season. A most enjoyable match primarily due to the tireless running of the Bolton youngsters and well appreciated by a large crowd of almost 9,000, swelled by 2,500 Coventry fans who joined in the appreciation for the Bolton players. I don’t know if it’s a record, but the Bolton squad numbers that day added up to over 500, including goalkeeper Matt Alexander wearing No: 43 and the substitute keeper, Luke Hutchinson wearing No: 46.

Saturday 10 August 2019

Sky Bet League One

Bolton Wanderers 0 Coventry City 0

Venue: University of Bolton Stadium

Attendance: 8,901

Bolton Wanderers: Alexander, Brockbank, Edwards, Zouma, White, King-Harmes (Hurford-Lockett 67’), Graham, Weir, Politic, Brown, Darcy

Unused substitutes: Boon, Senior, Brown-Sterling, Richards, Riley, Hutchinson

Coventry City: Marosi, Dabo, McFadzean, Rose, Mason, Westbrooke (Bapaga 87’), Kelly, Shipley, Jobello, Bakayoko (Godden 61’), Hiwula-Mayifuila (Biamou 60’)

Unused substitutes: Wilson, Hyam, McCallum, Eccles


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 2 – Saturday 03 August 2019: Barnsley v Fulham

Matchday programme cover

So Match Day 1 saw me get to see one of my ‘must watch teams’ this season, Stenhousemuir, ticked off the list and as fate would have it, the first game of the English season throws up Barnsley versus Fulham just down the road. So I get an immediate opportunity to tick another team off my list, that being the Cottagers, Fulham FC.

I’ve seen Fulham on a number of occasions, the last being the first game of the 2016/17 season versus Newcastle United. The most memorable by far though is the Boxing Day game (actually played on 27 December) at Stamford Bridge in 1976 in the old Second Division. I went with my Dad and cousin David, the crowd was 55,003 which I will always remember as I like to think we were the three! Anyway on the pitch that day for Fulham were Bobby Moore, George Best and Rodney Marsh and Chelsea had the last of the old guard, Peter Bonetti in goal, and the new generation with a 20 year old Ray Wilkins captaining the side. Chelsea won 2 – 0 and went on to be promoted that season.

View from Beckett Stand.

Back to Match Day 2, Oakwell, the home of Barnsley is a new ground for me, and I was really looking forward to the game and got a tingle as I walked down Belgrave Road with the stadium coming into view at the bottom of the hill. Walking to the ground has always been a highlight for me, it probably goes back to that first game. I get goose bumps as I approach the ground and the crowds begin to swell the closer to the stadium you get. I was in the front row of the Beckett Stand, which is slightly below pitch level which meant that the view was a good one from the corner of the ground.

It was a typical first game of the season with both teams testing each other out, but not creating too many clear cut chances. Barnsley scored early on and it didn’t look as if either team would add to the scoresheet.

Two games down, two new grounds and both teams on my list losing….The beginning of season didn’t bode well for ‘my teams’.

Saturday 03 August 2019

Sky Bet Championship

Barnsley 1 (Thomas 12’) Fulham 0

Venue: Oakwell Stadium

Attendance: 14,823

Barnsley: Sahin-Radinger, Sibbick, Diaby, Anderson, Cavare, McGeehan, Mowatt, Thomas (Chaplin 86’), Bahre, Wilks (Thiam 90’), Woodrow (Miller 90’)

Unused substitutes: Collins. Williams, Halme, Styles

Fulham: Bettinelli, Odoi, Mawson, Le Marchand (Christie 33’), Bryan, McDonald, Johansen (Knockhaert 65’), Cairney, Kamara, Mitrovic, Cavalero (Ayte 74’)

Unused substitutes: Rodak, Kebano, De La Torre, Rui Fonte


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 1 – Wednesday 24th July 2019: Hearts v Stenhousemuir

Cover of match programme

I have always been a Chelsea fan since that fateful day in August 1969 when I saw my first ‘live’ game, although previous to that I had occasionally seen them on the tv, but back in the day there weren’t the limitless channels showing football from around the globe. Match of the Day was well past my bedtime, so it was the Big Match on a Sunday afternoon for me, and fortunately we lived down south which tended to have a southern First Division match as the featured game, so often giving me my fix of watching my beloved Blues.

With my Dad being in the Air Force we moved around a bit, so I have always followed the teams local to where he was stationed. As a result, I have a soft spot for the Italian club Napoli, from when we lived there in the mid to late 1960s and my Dad used to go to watch Gli Azzurri from time to time. Half of our family were Chelsea fans and the other half were Fulham fans, and we used to go to alternate matches from time to time – if Chelsea were at home, Fulham were away and vice versa. So Fulham are another team I have a soft spot for too, despite the West London clubs being viewed as rivals. I also lived in Lincoln for 10 years and went to watch the Imps regularly in my teens, and now my home is Huddersfield, so have adopted the Terriers too. So these are “my” teams and I was determined to see each of these this season.

If you’re around my age you will probably have a Scottish team as well as your own team, unless of course your first team is Scottish and then you’ll probably have an English team! Whilst I was at school everybody chose either Celtic or Rangers, however, always wanting to be different I looked at the Scottish league tables and right down the bottom were Stenhousemuir, nicknamed Stenny or the Warriors – interesting name I thought. I read up about them a bit and their history, when without the luxury of the internet, research was done down at the local library and so Stenny became my Scottish team.

Why this story? Well, during my summer holidays in 2019 with my daughter we were up in Scotland, doing a bit of a tour and we ended up near Edinburgh and fortunately Stenhousemuir were in town too at Hearts. So we did a bit of shopping and sightseeing in Edinburgh during the day and made our way to Tynecastle for the evening kick off. On our way to the ground we got talking to a couple of young brothers who were also going to the game and had a really good chat about Scottish football in general, and discovered they also watched Edinburgh City who play in the lower echelons of the Scottish pyramid.

View towards Roseburn Stand and Stenny fans.

The ground wasn’t fully open, as it was a Wednesday night in July and a group game in the early stages of the Scottish League Cup, so hardly one to pull in the punters. Our seats were perched on high in the Gorgie Family Stand with the 100 diehard Stenny fans stationed at the opposite end of the ground. As you’d expect between a top tier and fourth tier team, Hearts were dominant from the start. However, incredibly Stenny made it to half-time with the game goalless. Into the second-half and it was more of the same pressure from Hearts with the Stenhousemuir ‘keeper, Graeme Smith, proving to be the Man of the Match. At one point he pulled off a stunning triple point blank save in the second period to thwart the Hearts attackers. The game was played entirely in the Stenny half, and more dangerously in an around the box. But wait….the Warriors breakaway and Mark McGuigan scores with just thirteen minutes remaining in the game, Hearts of Midlothian 0 Stenhousemuir 1. It was now sitting on hands time as there are a lot of very irate Hearts fans around us, but it was easy to spot the Stenny fan in the stand! Was a cup upset on the cards?

Sun sets as cup upset fades

It wasn’t to be, and Hearts eventually broke the Warriors rear-guard action levelling on eighty-two minutes from Craig Halkett. With Stenny hanging on, disaster struck as with just three minutes remaining, Halkett got his and Hearts second to clinch a 2-1 win for the home team.

Despite the result it was a decent game, Stenny had battled hard, and having seen them on a number of occasions previously, the final result wasn’t a surprise. No complaints though, but a good game to start the season off.

Wednesday 24th July 2019

Betfred Cup Section A

Hearts of Midlothian 2 (Halkett 82’, 87’) Stenhousemuir 1 (McGuigan 77’)

Venue: Tynecastle Park

Attendance: 7,299

Hearts: Zlamal, M.Smith, Souttar, Bozanic, Clare; Washington (Keena 59), Walker, MacLean (Ikpeazu 55′), McDonald (Mulraney 55′), Halkett, Hickey

Unused substitutes: Doyle. White, Dikamona, Irving

Stenhousemuir: G.Smith, McIlduff, McKernon (Watters 83′), Marsh, McGuigan, Hopkirk, Cook, McLaughlin. M Munro (Halleran 63′), Scullion (Andreson 90′). A Munro

Unused substitutes: Marley, Luke, Daramola


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey – In the beginning by Steve Blighton

Saturday 16th August 1969, my Dad, Uncle Jim, and me walking down the Kings Road – the 6 year old me staring agog at the huge amounts of men and boys around me all moving in one direction.

The smell of fried onions and a hint of burgers fills the air as I rush to keep up with my Dad and Uncle that Saturday afternoon around 2.30pm, after walking from my Nan’s house along Lots Road, stopping off for a coke en-route in a smoke filled pub.

Chelsea versus Ipswich Town, the first home game of the 1969/70 First Division campaign, started my football journey that season beginning at Stamford Bridge and culminated nine months later, being allowed to stay up late to watch what has since become billed as ‘the most brutal game of football’. Wednesday night 29th April 1970, Chelsea versus Leeds United in the FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford – they don’t make them like that anymore. And then after the brutality came the beauty of the 1970 World Cup and that amazing Brazil team. I was now hooked on the game!

Like most boys, and pretty much throughout their lives, their Dad is their hero, and my Dad was mine. He had taken me to my first ever game of football and would continue to do so on many occasions. I loved going to football with my Dad which we did throughout my life, and my last memory of him was watching Chelsea demolish Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 on Sunday 8th March 2014 – 4 days later he died in his sleep.

Some of dad’s medals (front view)
Some of dad’s medals (back view)

My Dad was quite a good footballer himself. He had trials at Chelsea, which I only ever found out after he died. He was rejected by the Blues because his heading was weak. However, he got signed by Arsenal but decided to stay part-time and remain in the Air Force. He was stationed in Lincolnshire and spent some time at Scunthorpe United and was good enough to play Representative football for the Air Force. During that time he was dedicated enough to change his preferred foot. He was a right-half and his competition at the time was an amateur international, so he taught himself to kick with his left foot and a new career as a left-half was born.

So in honour of his memory I decided I would attempt to get to 50 games during the 2019/20 season – homage to my first game with my dad fifty years ago. My original criteria was that I would go to games at grounds of teams that had either been a full member of the Football League (or phoenix club) or had won the FA Cup. However, as the season progressed, I revised my criteria as it was obvious, I wouldn’t reach my goal that way, so I lowered the net to include games as far down the football pyramid as Step 10. For those unfamiliar with the pyramid, the Premier League is Step 1, the Championship is Step 2 and so on. Step 10 is the North West Counties League Division One North and is where AFC Darwen ply their trade. I got to see Darwen on my journey, who are the current incarnation of the club that played in the Football League from 1891 to 1899, with the original Darwen FC featured recently in the excellent Netflix series, The English Game.

However, the story of that trip to Lancashire and the wonderfully named, Anchor Ground, is for another time. So let’s go back to where this all started with the match details of that Saturday in August 1969.

First Division

Chelsea 1 (Hutchinson 74’) Ipswich Town 0

Venue: Stamford Bridge

Attendance: 29,613

Chelsea: Bonetti, Dempsey, Houston, McCreadie, Hinton, Cooke, Hollins, Houseman, Hutchinson, Baldwin (Osgood), Tambling

Ipswich Town: Best, Carroll, Mills, Morris, Baxter, Jefferson, Woods, Viljoen, Wigg, O’Rourke, Brogan. Substitute: McNeil

So the journey begins

Love you Dad x