Tuesday 16th August
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North
Bamber Bridge 6 Clitheroe 0
Programme: £1.50 (Very good for the money)
Tea Hut Purchase: Tea 80p
Weather: Cloudy, late sunny spells
Parking: The street behind the full car park
What a cracking non league ground! I've meant to come here for a long while but postponements, mood swings and eating too much for my tea has always got in the way. Tonight I finally got to the QED Stadium (which is really called The Irongate Ground) and all the positive reports I'd heard were absolutely correct, its a great place to watch football. Even that tight-arsed Frugal Glenn had no complaints, an extreme rarity since he parted with 8 quid to get in. We got there about 20 minutes before kick-off. There is an impressive clubhouse, tea hut and small covered terrace at the turnstiles end of the ground.
Its here where you can purchase the match programme, a friendly chap has them all laid out on a table just inside the entrance. How refreshing to see a good quality publication with plenty of interesting articles, there's even colour pictures thrown in, must say it is well worth the £1.50 and the best programme I've seen for quite a while, far better value than the 5 minute cover to cover jobs I've come across lately. Apparently it's put together by Dave Rowland and Peter Nowell with some photography assistance from Steve McKelvey, well done gentlemen, a first class matchday magazine!
Moving along with the layout of the ground, the Main Stand is one of the best you're likely to find at this level, there are excellent views running down the touchline.
The far (wood yard) end is a small covered terrace which wraps around the corners before the open side of the ground rounds things off with hard standing running down in front of a small grass bank just besides the houses.
The stadium is nicely complemented by a good playing service, something which helped the quality of football this evening. I'd had a big plate of sausages and mustard mash before steering the Match Shed over to the South Ribble, I was mighty full but if I wasn't, the Tea Hut looked to have some tasty tray fulls of pie and peas on offer, judging by the amount of blokes greedily tucking in, it must have been decent stuff, one old timer, totally unaware, had got peas overflowing down his car coat!.
I just got a tea which wasn't overpriced at 80p. How nice to find teamsheets available for everybody on the counter. As regards the two teams this was a bit of a derby, Clitheroe are just up the road and a good few die-hards had followed them over from the charismatic Shawbridge this evening. Last Saturday was the start of the season and Clitheroe had suffered a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Wakefield, as for Bamber Bridge, they went through the Mersey Tunnel (I dont like that tunnel one bit) to take on Cammell Laird and achieved an impressive 3-1 away win. Tonights game was only 9 minutes old before the drama began. Clitheroe lost their keeper Zach Hibbert through injury after a challenge with Brigs Glenn Johnstone, a crucial blow especially as the visitors didn't have a recognised keeper on the bench, midfielder Darren Green took the gloves of doom. Darren didn't do too bad in all honesty, ok he was a bit static on odd occasions but he also made some good saves (mostly with his feet). What happened in this game was weird.
The home side went 1 up in the 13th minute, made it 2 in the 21st minute, it was 3-0 after 32 minutes and 4-0 just on half time, me and Frugal Glenn both agreed (unbelievably) that it was actually against the run of play! Its true, in my opinion Clitheroe had far greater possession and played some excellent passing football. Clitheroe's problem (and credit to Brig, exploiting this) was that they opened up far too easily in defence and they simply couldn't finish worthwhile opportunities up front. Bamber Bridge were lethal with their finishing, John Cass in particular was extremely impressive. It was going to be a very hard task for Clitheroe to re-group and come again at Brig under the circumstances. During the half time break the Tea Hut looked to be under siege from masses of grub hungry punters (scenes from the Alamo or Zulu wouldn't be out of place), a quick Tea Hut snack was out of the question. Frugal Glenn shocked me by offering me something to eat free of charge for the first time in all the years I've known him (the miser). He'd purchased a new line of extra crunchy ginger nut biscuits from a backstreet Polish shop he's found, apparently there are major reductions if you dont take much notice of the odd 'sell by date'. Anyway, it turned out that Frugals ginger nuts were that crunchy his false teeth couldn't cope. After some swearing and a quick inspection of his lower-set he decided I could have what was left of the biscuit he couldn't finish off, such charity and generosity!
The first 13 minutes of the second half witnessed some more wonderful pass and move football from Clitheroe but still they couldn't create a clinical finish, Brig were pretty solid at the back (or was it the lack of someone to put the ball in the net)? The game ended as a spectacle in the 58th minute when John Cass prodded home the 5th goal.
You had to feel sorry for Clitheroe boss Carl Garner (who Frugal Glenn reckoned was a dead ringer for Norman Wisdom in his flat cap and raincoat), his side had played some great stuff in the middle of the park but the defence had let him down (and it was more than just the replacement keeper) and... 'importantly' so had his strikers. The 6th and final goal went in after 77 minutes courtesy of a sublime mazy Maradona type run from Brig midfielder Chris Marlow, a classic piece of football beating man after man before slamming the ball in the net. So 6-0 it was, a decent game partially spoiled by the loss of Clitheroe's keeper early doors but it certainly had some high spots, Bamber Bridge look a well drilled quality side who keep it tight but also have a dangerous cutting edge when they move forward.
To beat what looks a 'footballing' Clitheroe side 6-0 is a fine result. As for Clitheroe themselves, I reckon this defeat may take a short while to get out of the system but they do appear to be good enough to bounce back, its a bad start to the season for them and they do need to sort a few defensive and attacking techniques out but Carl Garner has players who can do a lot better and thats when (maybe) they'll start dishing out a few hidings themselves.