Saturday 25th February 2012
North West Counties League Premier Division
BOOTLE 2 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea 80p, Cheese & Onion Potato Snacks 30p
Weather: Cloudy, odd bright spell, chilly
Parking: Club car park (easy exit)
I was even more 'under-cover' than normal today, there has been no love lost between me and the North West Counties League recently. My public complaints about the increasing number of late postponed games in the NWCL resulted in a number of both private and public messages and various statements coming my way. I'm not one to hold a grudge and when you get fixtures like todays top of the table clash between Bootle and Rammy I decided to give the league another chance (I bet they're thrilled to have me back 'NOT'). Anyway, I didn't want to get spotted by anybody official so I went along to the game dressed as a bigger tw*t than normal. Frugal Glenn has moved house since the last episode of Crimewatch and he's still sorting his model railway out so it was just me in the Match Shed as I did the dance of the multiple traffic lights all the way down the East Lancs Road towards Liverpool. I got to pass the big grandstands of Aintree Racecourse as the Match Shed made its final approach for the nearby fantastically titled 'Delta Taxis Stadium' the home of Bootle Football Club.
The ground is just over the road about half a mile past Aintree Railway Station nestled amongst some nicely designed industrial units on a modern looking business park. As I entered the ground the turnstile gang were giving some older bloke with a beard a bit of stick for not buying a raffle ticket, as he was a concession they started saying he didn't look 60 and was he sure of his age? The chap had a bit of a limp and he looked a bit upset as he hobbled off with the raffle ticket seller still tracking him. I pretended to be a Latvian (not sure the turnstile gang understood that though, probably thought I was a slate loose), still, it seemed to work, the raffle ticket snapper just blanked me. The Delta Taxis Stadium is a nice tidy ground that is being developed as and when the club can afford it, the most recent addition is what the club title 'The Kop' which is about 3 steps of terracing behind the nets with a new roof over it.
The other structures are all down the touchline as you enter from the turnstile. These come in the form of some flat pack stands (one with seats) positioned outside the large clubhouse.
There are toilets both inside the clubhouse and at the end of the last stand.
The Tea Hut is (unfortunately) of the burger van variety but it looks like it belongs to the club rather than a trader. Its down by the corner flag next to the Kop. It was a bit strange that it didn't seem to open until after kick off time? It was managed by a couple of young girls and the place didn't inspire me with confidence (no disrespect intended). As far as I could see, the girls seemed to be selling a few tinned hot dogs but not much else. I just got a tea (which was only luke warm) and a bag of some crappy potato snacks which I stupidly mistook for crisps, cheese and onion it said on the bag, they tasted more like bleach for a U-Bend (or at least how I imagine that kind of stuff tastes). Shame the Tea Hut doesn't match up to the rest of whats happening at the ground.
A few Rammy supporters had gathered and it was obvious that both sets of fans knew this was a very important game in respect of the title. Bootle have been solid, confident and mighty impressive of late, Ramsbottom are the team everybody else in the NWCL rates as a fine football side, there would be no-quarter given today and neither side could afford to lose, especially with Runcorn Town and Barnoldswick also gearing up for the challenge elsewhere in the division. With just short of a couple of a hundred in the ground the game set off at the expected fast pace.
What most people didn't expect was the visitors taking a 2-0 lead after only 15 minutes. The mightily impressive Lee Gaskell headed home the first and midfield general Grant Spencer backed it up with a strike from just outside the area. Bootle were visibly shaken and Ramsbottom went onto control much of the first half, Bootle simply stuttered to get into gear.
A couple of apparent half time team talk factors kicked in for the second half. Predictably Ramsbottom sat back deeper down the pitch whilst Bootle started playing with much more thought and calculated determination. Would they get the 2 goal deficit back? To be honest I thought no, how wrong could I be? Tom Foley scrambled a reply for Bootle with 12 minutes left to make it 1-2. Still Ramsbottom looked mighty confident and very tight at the back, surely Bootle couldn't get the all important equaliser? The game ebbed towards the final whistle and Bootle just couldn't get up the pitch, then with 90 minutes on the clock there was a last gasp surge which ultimately resulted in an almighty scramble on the Ramsbottom six yard line, unbelievably Bootle somehow got the ball over the line for the magic goal they'd battled so hard for all the way through the second half. The Ramsbottom dug out was a picture of two reactions, half of them stood stunned as they drowned in abject deflation, the others started kicking ten tons of shit out of the metal dug out, victory was so near yet so far. Bootle just went mad.
The NWCL drama looks set to reach even further dizzy heights before the end of the season, perhaps it might go all the way to the final day. By the way.... Runcorn Town and Barnoldswick both won today... just to make it a bit more interesting. All in all Bootle is a nice little visit, if they could improve the Tea Hut a bit it would be even better.