After visiting Mossley the evening before, it was now time for our first Atherton Colls away match of the season, and it saw us take in a relatively short drive to Runcorn. In all honesty, it should have been plain sailing… but that wasn’t the case, thanks to a certain Joe Buckley.
Wigan fan Joe Buckley (a new face on my blog) somehow managed to get on the wrong train from Manchester. Those of you familiar with the Manchester-Wigan line will know that the line has two branches, the Atherton branch, and the Bolton branch. After agreeing to meet Buckers as he got off the 18:00 train, we waited… and waited. I then rang him, and a worried voice went “I think I’m on the Bolton train.”
This resulted in me having to direct Joe Lawton through the back streets of Atherton to reach Buckers who had got off the train in Westhoughton. What a plonker.
Already 20 minutes behind schedule we had to pick Lewis up from Leigh and fill Oliver up with petrol, before then racing to Runcorn. Somehow Joe got us from Leigh to Runcorn in just under 25 minutes. Well done!
After dodging kids on scooters, and people jogging with their dogs we finally found a spot to park Oliver and we headed towards the turnstyle at the Millbank Linnets Stadium. It cost £3 each for me and Joe; Buckers and Lewis both got in for free as juniors. Not bad, only £6 for the 4 of us!
However, it nearly cost Joe Lawton a lot more.
As I was paying the bloke at the turnstyle, I noticed a crisp £5 note flutter to the floor. My first thoughts were that Joe had dropped it, so I went to pick it up. Unfortunately I was beaten to it by a local looking man. They get everywhere these days! Now, in all fairness to the man, he may have been innocent… but I thought he looked guilty (I watch Jeremy Kyle), so he was.
I walked over to the man in question (bearing in mind I had just seen him pick up the note and exclaim to his peers “LOOK! I’VE JUST FOUND A FIVER!”) and I asked him if he could give it back as my mate had dropped it. He then looked me square in the eyes and told me it was his. Not one to take matters into my own hands… I went a found Joe, and left him to it.
I marched off to pitchside to find Joe to ask if he’d lost £5… and he had. The plot thickened! I pointed out the bloke who had it. So, in true Joe Lawton style, he strolled past the bloke in question whilst rummaging through his wallet and pockets in a way to say “I’VE JUST LOST £5!” – The bloke noticed, and knew straight away he was treading dangerously now, and was well on his way to losing his money.
A couple of moments later, Joe emerged from the entrance with the turnstyle operator. The operator walked along the small terraced section, asking regulars if they had picked up £5. The bloke in question looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up. Suddenly, he gave up the fight and he got his wallet out. The £5 was returned to its rightful owner. I think that is 1-0 to Detective Gibbo, and let that be a lesson to you! Don’t drop money in Runcorn!
Right, sorry for boring you with that story. Just wait until half time when I moan about there being no pies!
It seemed we were the only representatives from Atherton. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really feel welcome at Runcorn. Usually at non-league matches as such, people will smile, ask you how the journey was… ask you what you’ve had for tea. No, none of that, they just glared at us.
We had a walk around the ground, and it was a very long walk. It was a large pitch, but luckily there was a free water tap coming from the perimeter fence! Or so I thought. I was just about to take a drink when Joe grabbed me and saved me from near death.
Usually I would now talk about the ground, but there wasn’t really that much to report on. The Linnets moved into the purpose built ground in 2010. As a result the ground lacks any real character or charm. It’s nice on the eye, and everything is clean… but it just seemed a bit desolate and anonymous in its location.
The ground has a nice little seating stand which holds 150 spectators. Lewis wanted to sit down, but we told him he wasn’t allowed.
The only other covered area within in the ground is a small terrace just behind the net.
The teams soon came out, Linnets sporting what appeared to be a yellow and green hooped Gaelic Football kit. Atherton in their usual black and white stripes. I was highly disappointed when the teams came out, I was hoping it would be the groundsman with his lawn mower. The pitch didn’t look as if it had seen a blade since May!
Linnets soon revealed on Twitter why the pitch was in such a terrible state:
“Mower problems meant we couldn’t get the pitch any shorter, but we’ll try for Sat! Time for the match!”
After winning the Bolton Hospital Cup last time out, it was time for Colls to take to the pitch again. It was always going to be a tough test for an understrength side, add to that the fact Linnets enjoyed a 5th placed finish in the NWCFL Premier Division last season.
On their first visit to the Millbank Linnets Stadium, Colls seemed to struggle to adapt to the heavy playing surface. This played in favour of the home side and they were able to knock the ball around well from the offset.
The home side deservedly opened the scoring on 6 minutes when a cross came in from the left hand corner. Linnets striker Tom Turner found himself unmarked at the near post and calmly volleyed in from close range.
Atherton kept trying to string a move together, but the long grass was proving to be a real problem as each move broke down. Inevitably, Runcorn doubled their lead on 29 minutes when skipper Robert Whyte rose well in the area after a well placed cross from the right. Colls keeper Phil Pantlin tried his best to punch the ball away, but was just pipped to it by Whyte who saw his header loop over everybody and into the net.
Just two minutes later, the home side scored another. A ball over the top found its way to Tom Turner who caught the ball on the bounce; managing to lob the oncoming Pantlin. It was a well taken goal, and it took Turners tally to two for the evening.
Just before half-time Colls came close to conceding a fourth. A pass back led to a very quickly taken indirect free. Only keeper Pantlin was alive to the situation and did well to keep out the shot.
Half time arrived, and it was time for a pie!…
No. No pies. The women were told not to cook pies as they weren’t sure what the crowd size was going to be. We were left with ‘funsized’ hotdogs as the only food. It was at this point I was glad our friends Tony and Rhino weren’t here… they would not have been happy!
So the pie plan went down the drain along with my “Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps” plan. Why have you got that as a plan you may be asking? Well, the hit TV series was set in Runcorn, that’s why.
We sat down to enjoy our hotdogs – which had now turned white due to condensation. It was nice and peaceful until members of the club decided they wanted to move some of the filing cabinets out of the office which leads in to the refreshments area.
It was soon time to go back outside and watch the second half.
Atherton pulled a goal back straight from the kick off. Johnny Bridge found himself one on one with the keeper and finished well to leave the score at 3-1.
Colls looked the stronger side in the second half and Bridge should have pulled another goal back on 60 minutes, but he headed just over the bar after great work by Phil Williams on the right wing. You sensed it was only a matter of minutes before the Runcorn defence was broken again.
61 minutes and the long grass worked to Colls advantage as they pulled back another. A tame pass back to the keeper slowed down and allowed Phil Williams to collect the ball, before steaming through to the edge of the area. The keeper closed the angle but Williams curled the ball into the bottom right hand corner.
After that it was the home side who had the majority of the chances, and the match ended 3-2.
It was a relatively entertaining match, and certainly a game of two halves. Pre season rust and long grass proved difficult at this stage of the season. I felt a bit out of place as an outsider at Linnets, but I’m sure they didn’t mean it. I also wasn’t happy at the fact they didn’t do programmes or pies.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND – 24.6 miles
- ADMISSION – £3 as student
- PROGRAMME PRICE – N/A
- PIE – N/A