Saturday 30th March 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
AFC BLACKPOOL 1 RUNCORN TOWN 1
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea 60p
Weather: Bright and sunny, chilly in the shade
Parking: Playing fields car park around the corner
I drove the Match Tank down from the Pennines, over the M62 and M61 westbound before skirting around the south of Preston to visit the vibrant town of Lytham on the A583 into Blackpool. I'd got a bit of business to do here before heading onto the big match later in the afternoon. I entered 'Seniors' Fish and Chip shop for my takeaway dinner, this place had won the 2012 award for best of class fish and chip shop in the UK, as I've already mentioned every other chippy on the Fylde coast seems to have won some kind of award or another? Seniors looked the part but I was a bit put off by 4 young kids running the place without a traditional looking fish fryer in sight. When I checked out the price board hung on the wall I realised I should have brought my cheque book as well! No way was I paying really silly prices for a piece of fish, I ordered chips and gravy instead, even this economy option cost me £2.45p. I sat on the sub zero promenade to scoff them, just across from the extra expensive rip off car park housing the Match Tank, they seem to be an affluent bunch in Lytham but there's no need to rob people blind for everything. I hit Blackpool around 1pm and had a stroll past the Pleasure Beach and the South Pier, the sun had come out and I felt the temperature rise to a comfortable level for the first time in weeks, should be perfect for the game ahead.
I'd been to AFC Blackpool earlier in the season against Padiham, its a nice ground with a really good playing surface, they charge a bit more than normal to get in but you do get the famous Effing & Blinding Show from the Blackpool Management Team thrown in. If you've not sampled these bigots in action you're missing out big time. The Manager and his big gobbed assistant see everybody and everything as fair game for their abusive foul mouthed tirade, the referee, opposition players (even their own players too) and a word of warning, they are also willing to take on visiting supporters as well. One Runcorn chap told the Blackpool Manager to quieten down to which he got confronted with "Whats YOUR F*cking Problem"!!! I really think it is about time the NWCL took these so called Management figures to task, it does nothing for the good standard of the league and the appalling behaviour needs to be stopped. The game itself was a must-win fixture for the Runcorn Town side, riding ever close to top of the league they are in close competition with four other sides for the title, namely Maine Road, Padiham, Bootle and Winsford. Any slip ups can result in lost ground that gets harder and harder to regain during the end of season run in. More than half the crowd had travelled over from Runcorn and after a 10-1 win last Monday night against Stone Dominoes expectations were high.
What I witnessed was a competitive action packed encounter with lots of chances at both ends of the pitch, the referee was getting lots of stick throughout the game, either for being too lenient or then too tough, some of the abuse he and the officials had to suffer was extreme to say the least. Having said that it was mind boggling how a large number of Runcorn Town attacks ended up with forwards being cut down in their tracks, many in clear goal scoring positions only for the referee to ridiculously wave play on? At least it kept the deranged Blackpool Management bench quiet for a short while. AFC Blackpool took a shock 14th minute lead through a harmless looking James Walker long range skidder, the ball seemed to bobble just before reaching keeper Karl Wills and the home side had something to hold onto. I must say the Blackpool keeper probably deserved man of the match status for his excellent saves keeping tidal waves of Runcorn Town pressure at bay, time and time again he came to his sides rescue as the Town forwards bore down on him.
Half time arrived and most of the Runcorn Town Army took time out for a bit of medication in the bar, rumour had it some of them had earlier been enjoying 2 meals for 9 quid deals alongside a few pints in the Shovels pub just across the main road from the ground. The second half started with a 47th minute Phil Howard equaliser and the game witnessed yet more Runcorn Town pressure as Stuart Wellstead mesmerised the opposition with his speed and dribbling, the only bloke on the ground not taken in by Stuarts skills was the Blackpool keeper!
Everything thrown at him this keeper stopped, even a James McShane penalty (after the Ref turned down 23 earlier appeals for a spot kick). Despite the pressure, Blackpool still threatened at the other end of the pitch and I honestly thought this game could have ended 4-12 rather than 1-1. Tension and desperation fuelled the final 15 minutes as the Town fans tried to will the ball into the net, it wasn't to be, AFC Blackpool held out for a gallant point (well, at least the players did, not sure about the bench), a good point for the home side, it edges them further away from the danger zone at the foot of the table.
As for Runcorn Town, everyone knows that 3 points was the primary target and a draw seems disappointing, however, the class is still there and I feel this Runcorn side have a battling spirit that will stand them in good stead for the dramatic title run in. That dramatic run in steps up a gear on Easter Monday with a derby clash against Runcorn Linnets.