Chorley is a ground I have been looking to visit for the last couple of seasons. Just down the road from me, and known for its friendly atmosphere, I couldn’t wait to visit. I have been crying out for a local team like Chorley since Leigh RMI became extinct a few years ago. When I got a text off Joe asking me if I wanted to join him and Aaron for the evening at Victory Park… I couldn’t possibly turn it down!
Joe texted me whilst I was quietly and sensibly revising at school. How inconsiderate? I was all composed, and then he asked me if I want to go to a last minute football match! That was it, I got a little bit giddy. The school bell rang and I immediately rang Joe to confirm that I could come to another Evo-Stik thriller.
I was picked up by Joe and Aaron from Atherton Train Station at 18:50, and I hopped into the front seat of Oliver; the blue Citroen C1. The journey to Chorley didn’t take long, and it was a rather enjoyable experience as we took in the wonderful sight of The Reebok Stadium.
19:20 and we arrived in sunny Chorley, however it wasn’t sunny enough to indulge in a Fredericks Ice Cream. Victory Park is hidden behind a vast housing estate, and if it wasn’t for the strong police presence around the area, we may have missed the turning! I was a bit shocked by the police presence, but it was then explained to me that it kicked off between the two sets of supporters last season. Video footage of which can be found here;
Joe dumped Oliver next to the park which backs on to the ASDA Family Stand, and we walked up the road towards the ground. Aaron then led us up a grotty little alleyway which eventually led on to the “car park” of the ground. It was hardly a car park though, it was more of a death trap and is in desperate need of a resurfacing. After having my photo outside, and narrowly avoiding riot vans and puddles we approached the turnstiles. Aaron had sorted out the tickets, so that was one less hassle for us all.
It is well worth noting that Chorley run a scheme which enables season ticket holders at one of the 92 league clubs cut price admission (£5).
The moment I walked into Victory Park I really liked the feel of the place. In the far distance you could see the away end which was already packed full of singing Chester fans. There were fans young and old everywhere you turned, and as we walked further into the ground, Victory Park revealed itself.
Directly in front was the Pilling Lane End. For this match the ground had been segregated by a flimsy metal fence, and a gaggle of stewards from The Reebok. The segregation meant Chester fans were housed at this side of the ground. A covered terrace stood directly behind the net, and it housed around 400 away fans. The remaining Chester fans had to make do with the open space either side of the stand.
To the right of the Pilling Lane End was the Main Stand. Constructed in 1947 after the previous stand was burnt down, it holds 900 seated spectators. The club are currently in the middle of replacing the wooden benches with plastic seats. This stand has the players dressing rooms, dugouts and media facilities.
Opposite the Main Stand was the Ashby Banking. Running the length of the pitch it offers quite a good view of the pitch. Up until the beginning of the season you were able to stand on the bank itself, but a fence has now been erected to prevent such fun.
My favourite non-league stand to date is the Duke Street End. It isn’t easy on the eye, but it’s all you want of a terraced stand really. Large and with a tin roof, the home fans were able to create a good atmosphere in it. It was also refreshing to see supporters from all different football league clubs standing together on the terracing.
After walking around the ground for a bit, I heard a voice pop up from the other side of the advertising boards. “It’s Joseph Gibbons!” – Slightly confused, and worried that somebody in Chorley knew my name, I hid behind Joe and Aaron for protection. Joking of course! It was Chorleys’ Official Photographer; Josh Vosper. Josh and I follow each other on Twitter and he said he knew it was me by my Bolton apparel. I felt slightly famous! We talked to Josh for a while, and he then took a photo of the three of us, which I will have framed and shoved on my wall.
I hadn’t had anything for tea, so we soon caved in and visited The Magpies Nest. The Magpies Nest to you and I is simply the refreshments hut. They had a wide variety of Lancastrain cuisine. Delights which drew our attention were the famous Lancashire Hot Pot and Butter Pie (A pie which derives from Preston. It’s potato, onion and butter). You have to give Chorley credit for trying, but the Lancashire Hot Pot just wasn’t up to scratch I am afraid. It had far too much liquid for the container it was ladled into, and it lacked flavour. In fact, I took matters into my own hands and ran back to the nest to ask for the womans salt bottle. More importantly perhaps, it resembled stew… NOT HOTPOT!
The teams came out, and we perched ourselves in front of the Main Stand. The view wasn’t that good as the dugouts blocked our sight down the touchline. Eventually we settled for a place on the Ashby Banking, which came with its perks, as we had a woman linesman in front of us. Wa’hey! She did a good job, even if she did drop her flag when signalling for a crucial offside decision.
Chorley had only lost twice at home all season, and the visitors had already been crowned Champions of the division. With this in mind I was expecting a hard fought game from two of the most dangerous sides in the division.
The game turned out to be a rather one sided affair, with Chester unlucky to leave with only 2 goals to their name.
The first goal came on seven minutes when Robbie Booth fed through Chris Simm. Simm did well in rounding keeper Russell Saunders before shooting from a tight angle. Chorley defender Mark Ross partially cleared the ball, however midfielder Ian Howard was on hand to put the ball into the back of the net.
Chester nearly scored a second on 15 minutes when Levi Mackin fired in a strong cross. The ball flew over the defence, over the keeper, and struck the post. It would have been a fantastic goal had it found a way in.
The Magpies did try to play football, but everything they tried went wrong. Numerous balls over the top either resulted in a throw in, or an offside. You could clearly see why Chorley were in a play-off position, but Chester were just too good at cutting out their wing play.
The next opportunity of the match fell to the away side, who were now launching wave after wave of attack on the Chorley defence. Marc Williams found the ball at his feet around 30 yards away from goal. He beat one player before launching a vicious strike towards the net. His effort swerved and dipped before it crashed off the crossbar. Fantastic effort.
Chorley fans felt aggrieved not to have been awarded at least one penalty. The first shout came when a free kick came in from the right, and the Chorley striker looked to have been pushed. The second came just moments later in similar circumstances. Although, to be fair to referee he had been very good all evening. In Aarons words “I like this referee, he’s very… anonymous.” – Well there you are, you now have proof.
Marc Williams should have doubled Chesters lead on the stroke of half time. A great corner was swung in, and he met the ball right in front of the net. Williams though jumped too high and his header ended up going straight over the crossbar.
During the halftime interval we went for another walk around the ground. We ended up in the Main Stand, and what an unpleasant experience it was. First of all you had to fight your way up the narrow stairway, and then you had to walk along the wood benches to stand any real chance of moving along the stand. Stood at the back of the Main Stand, you couldn’t see the rest of the ground, you could just see the pitch. It felt like I was stood at the back of the Stretford End.
The PA system had failed dramatically, and it sounded as if a swarm of bees was following us around the ground. Not to worry though, to put it simply, the lads in the sound room just needed to plug an auxiliary cable in properly… which they failed to rectify. We’d had enough of the buzzing noise, and so made a quick exit.
We were tempted to go up to the box and say – “Your Main Stand is buzzing mate!” – To which they would have replied, “Oh, nice one! I’ll go and tell the manager!” – Peter Kay fans will understand this joke.
The sound team could have won back my respect if they’d have frequently played soundbites from Chorley FM.
“You’re listening to Chorley FM, where the listener comes first.”
Trundling back to the Ashby Banking, we came across a pack of Chorley girls. Luckily we avoided them, and got back to our perch unscaved.
On 67 minutes Marc Williams finally got the goal which he richly deserved. Wes Baines fired the ball in from the corner spot, and Michael Taylor was on hand at the front post to flick it on. Williams was lurking at the back post, and tapped the ball in to seal the points for the league champions.
The match finished, and Chester were still on track to secure 100 points and 100 goals in a season. Chorley on the otherhand were still looking good for a play-off position, and will probably meet FC United in the semi-final.
Both sets of fans were well behaved, and in good humour. It’s a good job everybody behaved as the Bolton Wanderers stewards would have loved an opportunity to get into the action.
The journey home was quite quick, and we even did the YMCA.
I am certainly looking forward to next season when I can get to a few more Evo-Stik matches with Joe and Aaron.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 16 miles
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2