Now you may not consider the Lancashire Challenge Trophy as a major sporting tournament… but let me assure you… it most certainly is! Past winners have included Wigan Athletic, Blackpool, Bury, Morecambe, Accrington Stanley, Fleetwood and more importantly Leigh RMI. It’s the trophy Sir Alex Ferguson hasn’t yet won. It’s the trophy that is so important to teams like Southport, that they withdraw from the competition due to the amount of pressure placed on players shoulders. It’s the Champions League of Northern Non-League. Oh, and did I mention that Leigh RMI once won it?
I’d have been attending the match no matter what, as it looked to be one of the more enjoyable evenings at The Reebok when looking through upcoming fixtures. I definitely booked my place there when Bacup Boroughs Dave Edler helped me sort out a Press Pass/Photography Pass for the evening. Having never been pitchside for a match before, I had no idea what to expect and was really looking forward to it.
In the days leading up to the match, my press accreditation was e-mailed through to me. Blog regulars and good friends of mine Aaron and Sean had secured Press passes. The Northern representatives of “The Non-League of Extraordinary Photographers” Facebook group – Josh and Greig had also told me they’d be there. This was brilliant… as it meant they could make me look like the amateur I am with their huge expensive lenses.
The evening of the match arrived. Aaron arrived in Atherton and Dad dropped us off at the mighty Reebok Stadium. Walking around the stadium we felt like we needed to put more layers on. It was going to be a long evening. Stepping inside the Main Reception we were greeted by some Lancashire FA representatives who presented us with our passes for the evening. My novice ways soon became apparent when I shouted in an excitable manner “DO WE GET TO KEEP THESE?!”
Aaron left me to venture upstairs into the press facilities… otherwise known as Jack Dearden land. I on the other hand was led through a winding corridor at the rear of the reception. Blue carpets kept carrying me past various photos of Bolton Wanderers rarely winning things. Signed shirts from when the likes of Nicky Hunt somehow managed to gain an international cap draped the walls. Each corner brought another photo and another painful memory.
Walking through a yellow door, it soon hit me. I was next to the changing rooms. Safe to say bodily fluid began to trickle down my leg uncontrollably. We had a quick briefing about how we weren’t allowed on the pitch etc etc. I had dreamt of standing in this area for years. Then, it got even better. We scampered off towards another yellow door which had a sign above it – “Home Tunnel”
I led the team out, pretending to be Super Kevin Davies.
Then, we were literally left to our own devices. No fans were yet in the ground, and no players were on the pitch.
Enough about all of that anyway! I could go on all day about how giddy I was and all the stupid photos I took.
The teams were led out with the same song that Bolton Wanderers use. Bacup Borough were in their white shirts with black shorts. AFC Fylde in their away kit which has blue and red stripes with yellow trims. If you really used your imagination… and I mean really use it… It almost seemed like Bolton were playing FC Barcelona.
Fylde were the overwhelming favourites. Sitting two divisions above their NWCFL opponents, they have had a successful season and have some quality players.
It was evident from the first minute of the match that it would be a struggle for Borough when Fylde winger Michael Barnes steamed past the right back with ease. This was an all too often occurence, and you really felt for the lad. One spectator was quoted as saying “Is he actually a player? It’s like Bacup held a raffle for a place in the cup final side!”
A minute later and the Coasters nearly scored when Harry Winter was through in front of goal. Bacup keeper Ryan Jones however denied him and kept the scoreline goalless.
James Dean then went close for Fylde, but put the ball just over. It really was a one sided affair.
Further Fylde work resulted in a goal on 37 minutes. The goal came straight from a Bacup free kick up the other end of the pitch. Carden intercepted the poor free kick, and Barnes was soon charging down the wing. He played the ball inside to Joe Booth who knocked a splitting ball through the Bacup back line for Jimmy McCarthy to latch on to. He slotted the ball around the oncoming keeper to give the Coasters a 1-0 lead.
At half time I went into the stand to see Colls Ultras Emil and Jasper. It was then that I noticed my camera battery flashing on one bar. Jasper really really really wanted a go on my camera, but I just couldn’t let him. I’m sorry! Emil on the other hand was having fun with his Bacup Borough song sheet which the club had been handing out. Basically, it was “The Proclaimers – 500 Miles” but with lyrics changed to turn it into a Bacup anthem.
Bacup came out in the second half with far more fight about them. Within just two minutes Bacup captain Daniel Cocks forced a brilliant save out of Fylde keeper Ben Hinchcliffe.
They then went close again when Lee Oldham came within inches of an equaliser after he fired towards goal in an attempt to bring his side level.
On 66 minutes, Bacup keeper Jones made one of the best saves I have seen this season. James Dean beat the defence, before finding himself one on one with the keeper. Dean looked to have rounded Jones, but an outstretched arm from a desperate lunge managed to block the ball as it was travelling into the empty net. A minute later Jones then saved from a Joe Booth header.
79 minutes and the game was over as a contest. James Dean was “brought down” in the area by Gareth Wager. Although at the time there appeared to be no complaints from Bacup, highlights and post match interviews (which I’ll come to in a minute) certainly seem to suggest that Dean dived to gain his side an advantage.
The game finished and Fylde ran out deserved winners. The winning margin wasn’t as great as many expected, and that is credit to a Bacup side who never gave up. They can feel immensely proud of themselves for representing the NWCFL in such great light.
Joe Booth lifted the trophy, and Bacup formed a guard of honour as Fylde made their way back on to the pitch. Whilst this was going on, I made the mistake of accidentally walking into Bacup manager Brent Peters. I actually thought he was going to eat me alive. Luckily, I survived and was on hand to watch Fylde waste about 10 bottles of champagne as they celebrated their success.
The light of The Reebok were quickly switched off and I walked back down the Home Tunnel. Aaron came downstairs to meet me and took me up to the post match press conferences. First up was Fylde manager Dave Challinor. Dave had played for Tranmere and Bury during his career. Whilst at Tranmere he played in the League Cup Final, and also held the world record for the longest throw in football (46 metres). Challinors press conference was over pretty quickly… which set the stage for infamous Bacup manager Brent Peters.
Aaron had told me he likes to talk… but my word. None of us were expecting the 40 minutes that he kept us in there for. Captain Daniel Cocks must have got about 20 words in as he just sat there listening to his animated manager.
When asked about the penalty incident that settled the match, we were all expecting a straight forward answer from Brent. However, we were wrong.
“Did I think we were hard done by? I thought we were hard done by with the penalty. I spoke to their players and they said it was never a penalty and the one thing I wrote in my notes prior to this game was I hope it would be a good final and it wouldn’t hinge on a refereeing decision.”
The Bacup captain then followed up Brents comments by saying
“I know it wasn’t a penalty. James Dean got up and winked, and told us he dived. If they need to do stuff like that to win a match then that’s up to them.”
Brent Peters then went on to lecture the room about when he “signed treble winning David May for Bacup Borough”. This was again very entertaining as he went into detail about the wages he paid him, and how he manages to attract players of such calibre. To top off the David May advertisement he then read out a text message that he had received off the man himself just hours before the match.
I’ll finish this blog with my favourite Brent Peters quotes of the evening. I’m sure they will give you some food for thought!
“At the end of the day we have to respect the levels that we play. It’s a fact that if you’ve got money and are paying somebody £300 a week you are going to get quality. Lads in my team are on like £40 and £50 a week. There is a massive difference. But at the end of that day, like I tell them, it is 10 v 10, or 11 v 11 with goalkeepers, but it’s 10 v 10 and we will compete and hopefully get something out of the game.”
“I’m a fair aggressor, very, very fair and I am constructive in what I say. I am not a ranter or a raver, that just throws a load of F’s and bleeps around. I’m constructive in what I say.“
… and my personal favourite
“I always believe that there is two things that someone can say if you ask them something. It’s either yes, or it will be no. But if it is no, I will make them say yes. Simple.”
A HUGE thanks to Dave Edler at Bacup Borough and Nick at the Lancashire FA who allowed me to photograph. Really appreciate it.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 6.6 miles
- ADMISSION: Free with my Press Pass
- PROGRAMME PRICE: Free
- PIE: N/A