I was only a few days away from finally getting around to blogging about my visit to Skelmersdale United during pre season. However, when my Photography teacher informed me an assignment would be coming up in the next few weeks, I thought I would find a match to go to and get a head start.
Originally, I was planning on making the trip to Trafford v Leek Town, but plans soon changed when I rang up the club, and they weren’t confident the game would go ahead. With this in mind, I decided to take a chance on Skelmersdale United after they seemed pretty confident the match would go ahead. It was going to be a long day with college and football, but I was still looking forward to it.
I left college, (which is only 6 miles away from Skelmersdale) and then caught the train home. A quick pit stop followed, before I travelled back to the other side of Wigan. It was a pain, but it was worth it. Usually I would get public transport to local matches, but due to the fact that Skelmersdale appears to be immune from trains and buses, it was down to my Dad to take me.
I was really looking forward to finally watching Boston United. When I was little, I always used to play on FIFA, on my PS2. Not one to lose, I used to always create matches such as Real Madrid v Boston United. Boston United used to be one of the first teams that appeared when you scrolled down to League Two. As a result, the amount of matches that I have seen Boston United play in Madrid over the years is phenomenal.
We followed the signs for “Skem” off the motorway, and we were soon reading to navigate our way around the “largest roundabout in Europe”. All of that went relatively smoothly, and we arrived at the West Lancashire College Stadium just half an hour after setting off. We parked on the main road outside. Parking was extremely easy to find due to the fact the ground is situated in the middle of an industrial estate. It’s a bit of a strange place to find a non-league ground, but once inside, you forget where you are.
We approached the turnstiles, and paid our admission price – £9 altogether – which was very good. On my last visit to the ground I struggled finding matchday programmes, but this time I was prepared. As soon as you enter the ground, there is a little programme hut on your right. Programmes are priced at £2. They are well presented… but could maybe do with a staple to prevent the pages from falling out all over the place!
The ground had a nice feel to it as soon as I walked in. The players were warming up, on a pitch which looked superb given the weather over the past week. The floodlights were shining bright, and incredibly, the tannoy system was playing songs which weren’t sung by The Beatles. On my last visit to Skelmersdale (v Stockport County), the club decided to blast out The Beatles all evening, so I was disappointed when they had other artists on this time.
Stormy Corner is the adopted name of the ground for the home fans. Whether that is because it was very blustery in places, I will never know. Don’t let the name put you off though. The Main Stand at Skelmersdale houses around 250 seated spectators. It is the focal point of the ground, and offers a great view of the action. The players facilities are found underneath the stand, and the smell of Deep Heat is rife.
A small covered terrace is found directly in front on the Clubhouse. I think originally this side of the ground had no roof on it, but the club have since improved it and have erected a temporary structure which keeps the more vocal home fans dry.
Opposite the clubhouse is an uncovered terrace, with a steep grass banking. This is where a group of Boston fans congregated for the evening, where they gave abuse to Skelmersdale goalkeeper Sam Ashton for most of the second half. He took it all in good heart though. Finally, opposite The Main Stand there is another uncovered terrace running the length of the pitch.
The ground was still receiving a steady flow of spectators through the turnstile, so I went around the ground to take a few more photos before kick off. I was in the middle of taking a photo of the Skelmersdale flags which were draped off The Main Stand, when my flash obviously attracted the attention of some people higher up the footballing hierarchy.
“Who are you here with?”
“Erm… My Dad? I’m doing A-Level Photography”
“Brilliant. Do you fancy doing a job for the evening? Boston United’s photographer wasn’t feeling well, so he hasn’t made the trip. They are looking for somebody to take photographs for them”
So with that, I was marched around the ground into the Executives area which overlooks the ground. I was led into the room through a back door, and there were people sat there in suits and other football related clobber.
“This lads here to take photos for you”
It felt like I was going into Dragons Den, pitching my ability to take photographs. After a couple of minutes of negotiating, and Duncan telling me he was out, it was looking unlikely that I would be appointed. Luckily Theo and Peter showed faith in me, and allowed me to take photos for them. I was slightly disappointed with Hilary though, who claimed I was “itching her foot”… whatever that means!
Boston United’s latest employee perched himself close to the tunnel, in preparation for the players to arrive on the pitch. In hindsight I should have walked on to the pitch to take photos, like a true professional… but not one to go too far, I stayed behind the perimeter fencing.
There were a few players of interest on show at the West Lancashire College Stadium on this crisp winter evening. In goal for the home side was former Bolton Wanderers player Sam Ashton. Ashton once played for Bolton Wanderers in an FA Cup match at Watford, however, there is more to the story. With 5 minutes of the match remaining, Ashton replaced Mexican striker Jared Borgetti.
Sam Allardyce was in charge of Bolton at the time, and in a post match interview he gave the reason for making such a strange tactical decision: “He wears a massive tattoo with the club badge on it. He comes from the heart of Bolton and he loves the club so much and is so passionate. He just asked if he could get on for a couple of minutes. We were always ready to play him outfield as he has played at right-back and centre-back for the youth team. I thought it would be a perfect late Christmas present.”
Now, if that wasn’t enough for one evening, Boston had their famous captain on show. Gareth Jellyman. Yes, that’s right. Jellyman himself had made the long trip to Skelmersdale. Now, if you don’t know who he is, where have you been? I remember watching Gillette Soccer Saturday a few years ago, when Jeff Stelling came out with one of the best lines ever:
“Mansfield Town’s Gareth Jellyman has been shown a red card for dissent. Looks like Jellyman’s thrown a wobbly”
That line went down so well, Jeff Stelling even named his book “Jellyman’s thrown a wobbly”
My final player of interest for the evening was Skelmersdale’s Gary Burnett. You may remember him from my Atherton Collieries blogs from past months, and yes, it has finally happened… he has been snapped up by a bigger team. Everybody at the club was sad to see Gary leave, but at the same time, we were all very happy for him, as we knew he was capable of playing at a far higher level.
The teams lined up, ready to face each other for the second time in less than a week. It ended 2-2 on Saturday when Skelmersdale travelled down to Boston in the FA Trophy First Round. The consensus is that Skelmersdale played quite well, and may have won the tie had it not been for a sending off. Having scoured Boston United forums, it was clear that many Pilgrims supporters expected to progress through to the next round.
The game started off at a moderate tempo, with Skelmersdale keen to keep possession. It took just seven minutes for a breakthrough to be found, and it came for the home side. Anthony Hickey won the ball in midfield, before Gary Burnett set Mark Jackson up to fire into the bottom right hand corner.
Boston United then went on the attack. Minutes of sustained pressure followed. However, Skelmersdale had a blanket defence, and the Blue Square North side just could not find a way through. Tom Hardwick was leading the line for Skelmersdale, and he kept things organised at the back.
Skelmersdale had a strong appeal for a penalty turned away on 25 minutes. Hickey was running into the area, when he was caught by Conor Marshall. Referee Adrian Holmes was having none of it, despite the abuse off the home crowd.
Boston United came close on 37 minutes when Marc Newsham headed towards goal. His header however looped just over the crossbar, and that was as close as Boston came to scoring in the first half. It was strange really. Boston obviously possessed the ability to mount a dangerous attack, but they just couldn’t find a way through a physical and hardworking Skelmersdale side.
Half time arrived. Now, you’ll all be disappointed to know that there will be no pie report from this weeks match… but not to worry! Here is a photo of my pie and chips from my last visit. If I remember correctly, I was satisfied with the pie, and the chips were a nice addition to the culinary delight.
The second half began, and Boston came out in search of a route into the next round. They put in a far better performance than in the first half, and had Skelmersdale playing in their own half for large sections of the remaining 45.
Gary Burnett had Skelmersdale’s first real chance of the first half, when he twisted and turned his way through the Boston defence. He fired towards goal from the edge of the area, but Dan Haystead pulled off a great save to prevent the home side from doubling their lead.
Skelmersdale doubled their lead when Adam Morning found the bottom right hand corner with a low shot. He had only been on the pitch for seconds when he picked the ball up close to the halfway line. Boston players failed to pressure Morning, and he had a crack from around 25 yards out. It was a somewhat unexpected shot, and it appeared to catch Haystead off guard. 2-0.
Boston then went close to pulling a goal back when Mark Jones went close with a header. The momentum was now with the away side, as they looked to take the game into extra time. Another chance followed just seconds later, when Spencer Weir-Daley gained possession in the box.
The travelling Pilgrims finally had something to cheer about in the 85th minute when Marc Newsham pulled a goal back. A quick corner from the right caught Skelmersdale out, and after the ball was cleared only to the edge of the area, Newsham chested the ball down and fired into the bottom right hand corner.
It was a nervy ending to the match for the home side, but they hung on to reach the FA Trophy Second Round Proper. The Boston fans who we spoke to after the match said it was nothing more than Skelmersdale deserved over the two matches, and they wished Skelmersdale fans the best of luck for the next round.
I really enjoyed my second visit to Skelmersdale United. I was slightly disappointed with the place when i visited during pre-season, but faith has now been restored in the West Lancashire College Stadium. It is a well run, and ambitious club, which appears to draw in the local community for matches. It was also pleasing to see that many Boston fans had braved the long journey to West Lancashire, despite the weather leading up to the match!
The Skelmersdale fans were very complimentary about York Street, and the way they were treated when they travelled down. So they have certainly whet my appetite to visit Boston United sometime in the near future!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 21.0 miles
- ADMISSION: £2 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2
- PIE: N/A