Saturday 19th March
North West Counties League Premier Division
Colne 3 Runcorn Linnets 2
Tea hut purchase: Value for money tea at 50p
Weather: Bright and sunny day, reasonably mild
Parking: On the field behind the kop end, easy exit
Having had some truly awful food at recently visited grounds I wasn't going to be taking any chances today. I stopped at an en-route chippy after setting off for Colne and had a splendid feast of a Hollands Steak & Kidney Pie, Chips and Gravy, it cost me £2.65p but certainly filled me up. I scoffed it in the Match Shed whilst listening to Spurs cocking it up against West Ham. Back on the road my journey took me past Todmorden open market with its little old ladies mingling amongst the old wooden stalls of cheap crimplene slacks and towers of cut price bog rolls, then down into Burnley and right alongside the famous Turf Moor ground, I see that the old pub next to the traffic lights just up from the away end is now a Turkish kebab house. Perhaps kebabs are cheaper than pints nowadays? Never been much of a kebab fan actually, though I do respect that they have quite a following with the late night crowd. Not long later the Match shed was entering Colne via the eastern conclusion of the M65, the massive Boundary Mill shopping centre gleaming in the bright sunshine, the car park beside the slip road was packed with cars and coaches. Colne FC is not far from here, you take a left at the first roundabout and climb up the long hill along Harrison Drive, its peppered with speed bumps and lots of resident-parked vehicles, at the very top the road turns into a badly rutted track which runs past the local Rugby Union club, the proud little football ground stands in acres of open space just a bit further on, matchday parking is in a field behind the covered end of the stadium. As I entered the ground it appeared most people had packed into an old lorry container which had been converted to what was trendily identified as 'The Reds Bar'. I detected a few Runcorn accents rising above the broad Lancastrian tones of the locals. The hilltop location of the ground really hits home when you notice the wide open vista beyond the open end of the ground, the spread of stone houses built on the steep sides of the far valley rises majestically until the sweeping fells become superb open moorland, mile and mile of greenery as it stretches east to Yorkshire (probably heading for Skipton and Silsden way). There is a really significant slope to the pitch at Colne and it dips even further once you get down towards the far right hand corner, it looks like the edge of the world down at the corner flag, have to say it did look a decent playing surface though (despite the runaway brow of the hill). It was time for a cup of tea at 'The Reds' tea hut, a great looking traditionally structured emporium knocking out the finest tea bags in East Lancashire for 50p a hit, I was dry after my Pie and Chips dinner. Looking at the pies on offer in the hut I was glad I'd gone to the chippy, they looked overheated, very brown and a bit burnt on the crust, I later witnessed a disgruntled old timer struggling to get his dentures to make in-roads on a meat and potato, he gave up after a while and a third of it went in the bin.Walking around the place just before kick off you realise the ground provides a really nice setting for non league football, it has the right feel to it if you know what I mean, the covered terrace behind the nets, the charismatic little main stand by the halfway line and a selection of odds and sods type structures here and there give it some atmosphere sadly a tad lacking at the more modern grounds. The teams came out to the speakers blasting out 'The Final Countdown' (what a shyte track to play) and we were soon into the business of the day. Colne were 5th and looking handy for a big push in the run in, the Linnets were lower midtable in 16th and probably hoped for a respectable final league placing, got to say they brought quite a few fans over from the River Mersey for this one, admirable support indeed, most of them spilled out of 'The Reds Bar' with broad smiles and red faces from their hastily gulped pints. Colne kicked up the hill in the first half but struggled to make an impact, Runcorn kicked down the hill and couldn't keep up with the ball, nine times out of ten it always ended up down at the corner flag on the edge of the world, I'm sure the winger disappeared over the precipice for ten minutes before the mountain rescue team and some ball boys got him back on again.I gave it 15 minutes before realising this was a terribly scrappy encounter with little cohesive play worthy of praise, far too many passes went astray and it seemed Colne had now adopted a very direct 'long-ball' style of play which wasn't pretty to look at. Runcorn countered this by hoofing the ball right back down the pitch at every opportunity, it was all 'thwack-bung-wallop', midfield craft had gone back in the wrapper. Not good. I stood near the dug outs in the first half and soon realised why there was quite a bit of room in what is usually a decent vantage point. The Colne Assistant Manager, Lol McMahon, provided a non-stop (and I mean NON-STOP) running commentary of touchline instructions which were yelled out to the poor Colne players at a truly deafening level, I wouldn't mind but most of what was being passed on was inane gibberish and this bloke never stopped for a breath, on and on and on he went, nearly everybody not already in the know soon moved on for a bit of peace and quite, I've seen a few yellers in my time but Lol is in a premier league all of his own.Perhaps a 1-1 half time scoreline was fair enough, it had been awful, the only piece of skill was the opening goal from Colne's James Crokern, a sublime 30 yard strike straight into the top corner, brilliant. Half time real-life drama Colne style hit the stadium during the break, the committee couldn't find the winning holder of raffle ticket number 68! They wouldn't rest until they'd hunted down the winner, they must have been desperate to get shut of that 5 quid meat pack with todays sell by date on it. Two of the committee went around the entire ground and asked every person if they had ticket 68, obviously the undercover winner had better stuff to store in their fridge than some dodgy Colne burgers and a few link sausages.The action on the pitch failed to improve in the second half, the game got a bit niggly and the Referee didn't seem to be making it any better, he got some major grief from the Linnets fans, some of his decisions did seem rather vague. Despite the visitors snatching a 2-1 lead which Colne levelled and then went ahead by 3-2 the quality of football was dire. The only magical moment was the appearance of a flock of sheep in the field behind the dug outs, perhaps Lols dulcet tones emitting from the Colne bench were somewhat similar to the Fellside Farmer announcing another bag of hay? Even the sheep cleared off after 5 minutes though, Lol was on fire. Runcorn rallied for a chance of a late equaliser and a welcome degree of late tension gripped the ground, a few quick attacks gave the Linnets fans hope, it quickly fizzled out when the Ref they admired so much sent a Runcorn player off for no apparent reason just before the death. Not a good match but I have to say.... I did like the ground. Wonder if they ever got the raffle winner?