Saturday 9th March 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
BARNOLDSWICK TOWN 3 RUNCORN TOWN 5
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea 60p, Sausage Roll 40p
Weather: Continual icy rain, bleak and cold
Parking: Club car park access road
I'd been out the country for over a week so it was a bit of a shock taking the Match Tank over to Barnoldswick amidst wildly inflated BBC weather warnings for deep and heavy snow. The London loving BBC weather team got it wrong (yet again) as hardly a flake of snow fell all day in this part of the country. What we did get was continual icy drizzle, it was bloody freezing at the Silentnight Beds Stadium. Last time I came here this pretty gateway to the Dales was bathed in idyllic sunshine, the sight of wet-through Runcorn Town supporters wrapped up in heavy coats and dark blue woolly hats trudging towards the covered terrace blew away any hopes that this was going to be a springtime stroll in the park. Its a good job Barlick FC (as the locals call em) have a nicely kept playing surface, apparently the town had missed recent downpours but it was copping for an afternoon of non stop drizzle for the match. The pitch stood up remarkably well considering the circumstances. A woman was attempting to write out the teams on a board adjacent to the packed out clubhouse, the felt pen was fighting a losing battle with the soggy elements, the locals started to push-by to take up their favourite spots in the charasmatically titled Sewer End, doubtless most of them would be suitably tanked to the brim with a few pints of ale and a steaming bowl of the internal tea huts famous hot pot and peas. They seemed a boisterous but friendly bunch, at this stage of the proceedings they were immune to the louder cutting wit of the travelling Runcorn supporters, something the locals struggled to come to terms with as the game wore on (probably not helped by some very strange refereeing decisions which understandably inflamed the travelling contingent). I took up a position alongside the halfway line under the covered terrace as the teams shook hands.
I had chosen this fixture as the NWCL match of the day and I was not to be disappointed. Both sides played some fine passing football and set out to score goals (lots of them). Runcorn Town emphasized the point by taking a lead as early as the 3rd minute through a close range Mark Keddie strike. Mark went on to have a fine game in midfield against some quality opponents.
Danny Horton and Ashley Alderson were having great games as they fought to get Barlick back in the match. The game went from end to end as both sides tried to adapt to the tricky conditions of a very wet pitch with a slippy top surface, poor Danny Toone was sliding all over the place in the Runcorn defence, at one stage it looked like he had a pair of cut price Primark slippers on? Danny held on (just). Barlick got their equaliser just before the break only for Stuart Wellstead to snatch back a Runcorn 2-1 half time lead. It had been an absorbing 45 minutes of entertaining football. We'd had gung-ho open attacking, flying hard tackles in defence and some mesmerizingly daft refereeing decisions, how the referee failed to award a Runcorn Town penalty when Paul Shanley was blatantly hacked down baffled everyone on the ground (even some hard nosed Barlick die hards). This fuelled the wrath of the vocal Runcorn Town supporters as they wasted no time in politely informing the referee in a true gentlemanly style that his birth right may be slightly questionable. Some of the more socially sheltered home fans seemed more than a little shocked at the colourful language normally so rarely used by the courteous Runcorn Town aficionados. As the teams and coaching staff headed back into the dressing rooms at the aptly named Sewer End of the ground there seemed to be some sort of coming together between some Barlick supporters and members of the Runcorn side, some loud bloke in a big high visibility coat could be seen affronting what looked like the Runcorn coaching staff, he was joined by others before the referee stepped in and got both of the teams in the building?
Don't know what sparked it off but it all seemed a bit handbags and hot air from where I was stood. The one thing it did do was inject even more urgency in the determination of both sides to come out on top in the second half. Half time action continued as I coughed up 60p for a nice cup of tea in the snug warm clubhouse, I also pushed the boat out for a luke warm 40p sausage roll (the lady said it was the very last one).
I have often touted Runcorn Town as the Brazil of the North West Counties League. What they provided in the second half of this game emphasized how accurate that statement is. Good as Barnoldswick were and try as they might, they simply couldn't live with the total-football which flowed throughout the entire Runcorn Town side. Scott Burton was having a sublime game as he took the ball off Barlick and split them wide open time and time again with pin-point passing and vision.
Can there be a better defender in this league than Tom Spearitt? I very much doubt it, Barlick threw everything they had at the visitors but Spearitt simply stopped them in their tracks. Instead of fearing a sustained onslaught from a fired up home side, Runcorn Town wupped them at their own game and went 4-1 up via a couple of goals from the irrepressible James McShane! Despite an Alderson super strike to give Barlick a minimal sniff of a comeback at 4-2 the classy Phil Howard (ex Wigan Robin Park) underlined his value as a clinical striker by slotting home a superb Paul Shanley cross to put things out of Barlicks reach at 5-2.
Barlick got a very late third goal but I was already down at the corner flag for a 'Le Mans' style dash to the Match Tank, I was that fast I even overtook a limping pensioner as he slipped in a puddle... goodnight Barnoldswick Town and well done to the visitors. I then found out that Maine Road had won away at top of the league Padiham (yippee), this means there is still every chance that the best side in the league can still win the title, come on Runcorn Town!!!