Saturday 9th October
North West Counties League Challenge Cup Round 1
AFC Blackpool 2 Rochdale Town 0
Attendance: 60 (Although my head count pulled in 76)
Programme: £1 (Not what I rate value for money)
Tea hut purchase: Tea at 60p
Weather: Sunshine and a cool to chilly breeze
Parking: Round the corner on the playing fields car parkMega busy traffic pouring into the away-day sleazy underworld of Blackpool. The Match Shed wasn't happy about lane hopping scousers in fourth hand Mondeo's, too close for comfort, best leave the Roy and the Reds boys for the big coaches from Glasgow, double wheeled monsters full of imitation football shirts, shiny red faces and fizzy cans of Tennants. Whatever happened to innocent friendly holiday makers, whatever happened to Mums packed lunch, a flask of coffee and a piece of cake? Steady there Match Shed stick to the road we've a cup tie to see today!
Do you realise that every public toilet in Blackpool demands an entrance fee? Once you pay up you gain entry to an automatic locking water closet. Do you know that the locking devices used for these places can eventually fail and not work? This renders the occupant trapped without means of alarm until the next council cleaner strolls along to service the facility (gosh knows when, days possibly). You could die in places like that? I never use them, I either go to a supermarket or a pub and so do a lot of other people. Reg Pont from Batley was apparently trapped in the bogs for three weeks just off the North Shore, he survived on two pork pies, a bag of quavers and a twix (obviously well rationed), good job these Yorkshire types take life protecting rations around with them at all times. Needless to say I called in at a local Tesco's.Talking of food for a change, I have been trying to find 'The Cottage' the world famous award winning fish and chip shop in Blackpool for many years. They have a website that boasts rebel rousing celebrities such as John Major in its clientele, all the other big wig politicians go there as well, it also attracts the stars from the theatre and the shows, it's supposed to be fantastic. Well this trip I actually managed to find the place. 'The Cottage' is shoe-horned into a really normal residential street in central Blackpool well away from the bright light attractions on the Golden Mile. I could eat in or for half price take away, I went for the latter, fish and chips in a tray, I scoffed it on one of the massive car parks hiding behind the sea front. It was ok but not mind blowing, I have had better in a lot of ordinary provincial towns to be honest, saying that I finished off the full greasy tray, batter scraps and all. The town was filling up fast, hundreds of cars and coaches seemed to be having a last decent weekend before Ice-Station-Britain kicks in. I drove along the promenade as far as Cleveleys, thousands of people thronged the pavements, especially along the Golden Mile, it was all Man-U t-shirts, Samsung replica's and Barca gear, originality in freefall.Match time was approaching. My chosen fixture was a quality looking cup tie from the North West Counties League, it headlined an intriguing game between the charismatic AFC Blackpool (orange is so 'in' at the moment) and bottom of the table under achievers Rochdale Town (Ex St Gabriels). The tounament was the NWC (Vodkat) League Challenge Cup 1st Round. The grey cloud which had affected the coast early doors started to quickly lift around the 2pm mark and apart from a chill breeze in the shade, the superb visual vista of the Jepson Way ground was the perfect setting for a competitive game of top non league football. A few die hards had travelled over from East Lancashire to watch Rochdale and they queued up in good mannered order for their fast fry chips and warm tea's from the friendly girls at the Social Club snack bar. The aroma of the chips and the boiling fat emitted that typical match day smell across the freshly cut grass, having had a really good wedge of fried fish and battered potatoes from 'The Cottage' earlier in the day I managed to go to the Tea Hut and just order a cup of tea (hows that for staying power)?AFC Blackpool were third in the league and their smart tangerine and white kit certainly made them look the business as the game got underway, however, never judge a match programme from its cover (Blackpools was pretty crap by the way), it was Rochdale Town who looked the better side in the first twenty minutes, despite their poor form in the league. Captain Matty Russell was having a fine game in midfield ably supported by right back Michael Shepherd. Blackpool battled back and it was all to play for as half time approached. What happened next changed the match. Rochdale created a cutting thrust deep into the Blackpool eighteen yard box, the ball was squared across goal, it slipped past the mouthy but competent Blackpool keeper Andy Speight, all Rochdale forward Matt Wilkinson had to do was simply side-foot the slow moving ball into the empty net, unfortunately Matt mistimed the bobbling ball and put it just wide, a tragic and game changing miss of massive proportions!Second half AFC Blackpool re-grouped took advantage of their 'get-off' and started to boss the game, despite a few Rochdale raids the momentum now lay with the home side, two quick goals in succession took the game away from the visitors and there was never going to be a way back. How different this game may have been if Rochdale Town had scored that sitter just before half time? It was a shame for really good players like Matty Russell who had played some top notch stuff for Rochdale but thats cup football, without doubt AFC Blackpool finished the stronger more competent side (no wonder they are doing well in the FA Vase at the moment as well). This was a good days football at a good ground. If you come here dont expect Bloomfield Road, it is a humble but well kept home for a character type club. It has covered facilities on all four sides a nice looking (but bobbly) pitch and some friendly local supporters who make everyone welcome. When the sun is out it looks great. After the game I had the chance of hanging around for the illuminations or hitting the motorway for the hills, as I had the promise of a home cooked 28 day rib-eye on the grill I sensibly chose the latter. It didn't disappoint.