Tuesday 22nd July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
CLITHEROE 1 FC UNITED 4
Programme: £1.50 (for 5 games) doh!
Tea Hut Stuff: Steak & Kidney Pie, Mushy Peas £2
Weather: Very warm sunny evening
Parking: Side street 5 minutes from the ground
26 degrees as I hit the town boundary. Constant sunshine. Clitheroe is a charismatic little town nestled in the scenic Ribble Valley. I know it well from various antique and house clearance auctions, it also holds a monster 7am Sunday morning car boot sale that has hawks and wannabe dealers fighting over junk and lots of other things that quite frankly would be better off left on a tip. There are some trendy local produce butchers specialising in fancy tasting sausages, a castle, a decent little market and some proper pubs. When you add the fantastic looking non league ground to the list, this is probably a decent place to live.
Clitheroe FC reside in the EvoStik Northern Premier League Division 1 North. They got to the final of the FA Vase in 1996 and also ended runners up in the much less important Lancashire Challenge Trophy in 2010, to be honest its been a pretty lean time in between.
Friendlies are what they say on the tin, mostly they act as fitness sessions, tactic testers and a chance to have a look at some trialists. This one had the bonus factor of witnessing the FC United peloton on a nice summers evening. I always enjoy seeing their loyal troupe of supporters with all the flags, banners and the cutting wit. Whether you love em or loathe them FC United are a tremendous asset to non league football both on and off the pitch, just the extra cash on the gate makes them a popular draw for their fellow clubs.
FC have been really unlucky in recent years to have not progressed upwards into the Conference North, some cruel play off memories see them start this season (once again) as one of the top sides in the EvoStik Northern Premier Leagues Premier Division. With this game just a friendly there was obviously not the volume of support and colour as one would normally witness for a fully competitive fixture but there were still a good number of visiting supporters enjoying the evening in the Shawbridge stadium.
I got the Match Tank down a side street and was soon handing over my 5 quid entrance money. I gave them an extra £1.50 for a programme. The purchase was based upon the vision that the publication looked to have a decent number of pages in it. Unfortunately I found out that the club had sold me a programme covering no less than 5 home friendly games for this pre season period. Most of the pages were taken up by generic cut and paste club histories for sides not even playing. A bit of a con unless you are a die hard and intend to see all 5 games (even then the history write-ups were at least 12 months out of date). Its things like this that give even the humble non league programme a negative bad reputation and rightly so. It makes it so much harder for the clubs who do knock out a good programme. If I had known upfront I simply would not have purchased it.
The brownie points Clitheroe lost on the programme they more than made up for with the really good tea hut. I opted for steak and kidney pie and mushy peas for a very economical 2 pounds and it was simply wonderful. I'd eat here every night. After the horror of that cardboard pie at Frickley last season, which almost put me off football grub for life this was just what I needed to get back in the fast lane Mmmm.
Shawbridge is a splendid spot to watch football. My previous visit here was a night match against the old Woodley Sports side. Tonight on a sun drenched summers evening the place looked outstanding. If you've not been before you may be taken aback at the sloping nature of the well kept pitch, it seems to swell inwards like a shallow valley before climbing sharply to the right hand corner flag at the end opposite the entrance. As you step through that entrance you witness cover on all four sides which includes a seated main stand, various covered terraces, Lordys Bar and that Tea Hut I was going on about, the whole place is steeped in character. Lordys Bar seemed to be doing some fine service knocking out pints of ale for the thirsty spectators, its plastic glasses but you could still drink pitch side.
The match itself will be well documented on club websites so this is just a brief personal overview. I considered it a scrappy game for the most part, both sides had spells of temporary dominance but consistency of approach was often terminated by niggling challenges and foul play (more than is normally seen in a friendly).
A 1-4 scoreline in FC Uniteds favour is a little unfair on Clitheroe who battled hard and cut out a good few scoring opportunities. FC had quality on the ball but it often vanished before anything clinical could be produced, even most of the goals appeared to be disjointed affairs. You pay your money and take your chance, as this was just a friendly I can't really complain, the pie and pea's and the glorious Shawbridge setting sent me home thinking it had been worthwhile.