With Bolton away at Nottingham Forest, and Atherton Collieries away at Nelson, I decided that I would tick another non league ground off my list. Looking at the various options, Burscough seemed like a relatively easy and cheap ground to get to.
Lucy and I met my Grandad outside Atherton Train Station at 13:00 on the dot, and we boarded the direct train to Burscough Bridge.
The train was boiling, and we soon escaped the devil that is Northern Rail when we arrived in a sunny Burscough. It took us a couple of minutes to get our bearings before we walked down to the football ground. I have never known a football ground that is so easy to find and get to via public transport. You could literally chuck a stone from the platform to the football ground… but you’d have to clear the Tesco Extra which is between the two!
Turning the corner we saw two teams playing on a pitch which backs on to Victoria Park. My Grandad for a second thought that was the ground. I’m telling you now. It would have been a wasted journey if that was the ground! Further inspection revealed the actual football ground we were aiming for, and the social club which is joined to the corner of it.
We took a few photos outside the ground, before entering through an extremely tight turnstile. It cost me £3 to get in, and £2 for a nicely presented matchday programme. We were greeted by very hospitable club members, who introduced us to the ground and gave us a bit of information on the place. Being amongst the first spectators into the ground, it gave me plenty of time to walk around taking photos.
Found on the far side of the ground was a small covered terrace, known as the Crabtree Lane End. One thing which struck me about this terrace was the fact it had BT sponsorship slapped all over it. Very unusual for teams of this level to be sponsored so visually.
Opposite the Crabtree Lane End was the Bobby Langton Way End. Now an empty space, which houses a supporters shop, it once had temporary terracing on it from when the club were playing in higher divisions.
The main centre piece of the ground was The Grandstand. Split into three separate sections, it is capable of holding 250 spectators. Underneath the Grandstand is where the players changing rooms can be found. To the side of the stand was a small refreshments area… which really was crying out for a refurbishment.
Opposite the Grandstand is another covered terrace which is found on the halfway line. It runs around a quarter the length of the pitch, and is neighboured by Barons Club which can be found in the far corner.
Whilst walking around the ground Lucy and I got speaking to a Wigan Athletic fan who enjoys watching Burscough. He dropped the bombshell that Burscough had in fact only been playing at Victoria Park for under a year. Well, obviously they’ve been there a lot longer… but there’s a lot more than meets the eye.
In May 2011, the owners of Burscough FC sacked the clubs Chairman and Secretary. They then revealed that they planned to sell their historic Victoria Park ground, and groundshare with Skelmersdale United for the foreseeable future. There was an agreement in place that Victoria Park couldn’t be sold or demolished without another suitable facility available for the club within Burscough. However, despite this, the fans weren’t convinced and many of them decided to turn their backs on the club.
A groundshare at Skelmersdales Stormy Corner ground followed, but it lasted for less than a year. In February 2012, the Linnets moved back to their home after talks between the owners of the ground and developers had stalled.
Immediately after moving back to their Victoria Park ground, the chairman revealed that the next step in the clubs future would be to build a new ground just behind the current one. Victoria Park is basically built on a load of farmers land, which allows for mass expansion.
A couple of days before my visit, Burscough FC had received the green light from planners and developers meaning that a new stadium will be on its way shortly.
It was a shame to think that I had come so close to never visiting this fantastic little ground. Everything about it felt historic, and nostalgic. Yes, it did need work doing to it… but so what? It was a compact little arena, fit for a match at this level.
After digesting all of that information and having walked around the ground… we realised we had left my Grandad in the refreshments area all by himself. Off we went to try and find him. We followed the signs, and found ourselves at the back of a dilapidated building. Doors were hanging off around us. Roofs were caving in. Then, we turned the corner again and we found a cold, dark room with a small TV in the middle.
At the far end of the room was an old style food counter, with an old woman selling the treats. On offer were Hollands pies… which were quite nice for once… and MY FAVOURITE Lancashire Crisps. Those of you who don’t live up here probably won’t have tasted Lancashire Crisps. They are a bit pricey… but they’re a local product, and they’re delicious. I am currently trying to persuade Atherton Collieries to sell them.
With numerous packets of crisps eaten between us, it was time to find a perch for the match. We stood just in front of the grandstand, which gave us a fantastic close up view of the pitch. The two teams emerged. Burscough were in their all dark green kit, which they wore at Curzon Ashton just a few days previously. Trafford were in their all yellow strip.
I had seen both teams play already this season, and Trafford have really impressed me. Burscough on the other hand, haven’t. I have been told that they can be brilliant on their day… but I just haven’t seen any signs of it.
Just a minute later and Trafford goalkeeper Tom Read tipped over a ferocious strike from David Lynch.
It had been end to end so far, and the away side were keen to exploit the flanks. Shelton Payne on the wing for Trafford was getting abuse off his own team mates after a couple of minor mistakes. As is so often the case with football, Payne went and proved a point just a minute later when he scored a fantastic solo effort. Cutting in from the right hand side, he beat three defenders, before firing the ball into the top left hand corner from the edge of the box.
Four minutes later and Shelton Payne should have doubled his and his sides lead. His pace proved too great for the struggling Burscough defence. Taking the ball around the keeper, he then dragged his shot wide of an open net. Will Ahern also wasted a fantastic opportunity, when he found himself one on one with goalkeeper Read.
Trafford continued to annihilate the Burscough backline, and deservedly added to their comfortable advantage on 24 minutes. Liam Shipton charged down the left hand flank and sent an asking cross into the Linnets box. Burscough defender Dave Roberts got his head to the cross, but the ball fell to Shelton Payne who fired the ball back across the face of goal to make it 2-0 to Trafford.
The home side did have the odd moment of joy possession wise, but I find it hard to remember many clear cut chances. Trafford were keen to capitalise on a slow Burscough defence, and so kept knocking the ball over the top for Michael Oates to run on to. It was Oates who had a chance on the stroke of half time to make it 3-0, but instead of calmly slotting the ball into the back of the net… it went out for a throw in.
Half time arrived, and Trafford in all fairness could have been leading 10-0. We made our way over to the Barons Club for half time. What a strange experience that was! Walking through the door, I noticed a group of men in the corner with no tops on. For a moment I thought I had walked into Burscoughs top of the range gay bar. Then it all became clear. The lads who were playing football on the neighbouring pitch when we arrived were now using the bar as a changing room.
A projector was showing the Arsenal v Blackburn FA Cup match on the wall. Fans were crowding the bar to buy their half time drinks. I just sat on a small table by the door with Lucy and Grandad, admiring the vast collection of football scarfs dotted around the room. Every country in Europe was represented. Every region of non-league football was represented. It was brilliant.
Through the gap in the door, I could see the teams coming back out for the second half. Trafford were out first for obvious reasons! It was clear for all to see that Burscough would have been in for the hair dryer treatment at half time. The words of their manager must have paid off too, as within just 5 minutes the home side pulled a goal back. The ball fell for David Lynch, who smashed the ball into the right hand corner from 20 yards out.
A minute later and it looked like Burscough had levelled the match when Louis Mayer headed the ball past Read in the Trafford goal. The linesman saw an offside, and the goal was disallowed. We suddenly had a game on our hands, which was good from a neutral perspective.
With 30 minutes of the match left, Burscoughs energy which had seen them control the opening exchanges of the second half had disappeared. Trafford were now in control of the match again, and numerous chances followed.
Martyn Andrews went close with a rasping effort, before substitute Chris Palmer didn’t quite get the contact on a low cross. Palmer knocked the ball towards goal with a scuffed effort, but the ball was scrambled off the goal line.
Michael Oates was then denied again by Horn as Trafford began to play their fast, relentless style of football. The visitors scored their third on 78 minutes when the referee awarded a penalty after Martyn Andrews was tripped in the area. I thought it was a very soft penalty, but it really wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the match. Shelton Payne placed the ball on the spot, and cooly converted to score his hat trick.
It had been a very pleasing and comfortable result for Trafford. The result was made even better when it was revealed that both Skelmersdale and Mossley had dropped points in the promotion chase. I have seen all three sides on numerous occasions this season, and I feel it will be Skelmersdale and Trafford who take up the two automatic promotion places. Mossley started the season off well, but seem to be fading somewhat.
It had gone a little bit chilly towards the end of the match, but the Lancashire sunshine was still beaming down on us as we left the ground through Barons Club and headed for the train station. We had around 15 minutes before the direct train home, and we made it with just a few minutes to spare after a very light stroll.
Overall it had been a very enjoyable day. My Grandad said he likes non league football, but he gets bored after the first half, so he enjoyed himself in the Barons Club watching Blackburn knock Arsenal out of the FA Cup. It was yet another great example of how non-league football is so exciting, and it can only be a good thing as Lucy is slowly becoming drawn in by the whole idea of it.
No other ground hops planned with my Grandad for the moment. We are planning another road trip at the beginning of next season to North Scotland though… so stay tuned!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 20.4 miles
- ADMISSION: £5 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2
- PIE: … I can’t remember!