Friday 1 March 2024

FC St Helens - Windleshaw Sports Ground

FC St Helens
Windleshaw Sports Ground
Windleshaw Road
Denton's Green
St Helens 
Lancashire
WA10 6TD







Ground Number: 1266
Friday 1st March 2024
FC St Helens 1-0 Daisy Hill
North West Counties D1 North







FC ST HELENS - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 2014 when they split from the reserve team of St Helens Town FC to form a new club. Their first season saw them pick up where the reserve team last played and they finished 6th in the West Cheshire League Division 3. The following season saw them join the Chesire League where they started in Division 2. A 4th place finish was good enough for promotion to Division 1 where they finished in 5th place two seasons in a row. In 2018 this was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division where they could only finish 14th in their first season. Their performance over the two pandemic-hit seasons improved greatly but results counted for nothing. In 2022, they won the Premier Division, scoring over 100 goals in the process. This gained them admission to the North West Counties League where they finished 3rd last season. This was good enough for entry to the playoffs where they beat Ilkley Town on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals. In the final, they came up against Chadderton where they again drew, this time 1-1. However, this time they were on the wrong end of a penalty shootout and missed out on promotion.


The club enjoyed a decent FA Vase run last season. They beat North Ferriby, Rossington Main and Penistone Church before losing to AFC Liverpool in the 2nd Round. The Windleshaw Sports Ground is a site of great historical significance in the town, currently the home of FC St Helens but also being the headquarters of St Helens Cricket Club for many years and the home of St Helens RFC until their move to Knowsley Road for the 1890-91 season. The Saints enjoyed large crowds for their matches and Windleshaw Sport was the venue for the very first ‘organised’ encounter between St Helens R.F.C. and Wigan RLFC which took place on 1 March 1890, where the ground was illuminated by twelve Well’s Patent Electric Lamps.


St Helens is a town in Merseyside which has a population of around 183,000. The town was famous for its heavy industry, particularly its role in the coal mining industry, glassmaking, chemicals and copper smelting and sailmaking which drove its growth throughout the Industrial Revolution. The town is today most famous for its Rugby League team St Helens R.F.C. who have won 3 World Club Challenge cups in recent years, and museums such as the North West Museum of Road Transport, the World of Glass and art installations such as Dream. Football-wise, St Helens Town were once the town's premier football team, famous for being the first English club of Manchester City hero Bert Trautmann. They've finished as high as 3rd in the North West Counties Premier on many occasions. However, they've been in freefall in recent years and have suffered two successive relegations. They currently find themselves in the ninth tier of non-league in the Cheshire League Division 2. Famous people from St Helens include the legendary comedy folk band, The Lancashire Hotpots.


MY VISIT

It had been a decent but exceptionally boozy Saturday. So much for my New Year intentions to cut down, the same could be said about snacking and fizzy drinks. Sunday was as brutal as ever and easily the toughest day of the week. At least I had the consolation of not missing out on anything, unlike the coming Sunday. Being forced to book my holiday for the whole year by the end of March is not ideal. Consequently, I had none left to use for the Sunday of this hop. I will plan better next time but for this year, it'll be a long and lonely trip back from Blackpool on Saturday night. Monday was another killer ten-hour shift, so I was glad of my day off on Tuesday. It was a very productive day, picking up and sending off parcels, getting a nice walk in and picking up some shopping I needed. In the evening, I had an enjoyable visit to Adams Park. The usual pre-match pub and food and although Cheltenham frustrated us for 85 minutes, we came through 2-0 with the highlight of a great strike from Beryly Lubala. Wednesday was a decent day at work, despite my needing to take a couple of ibuprofen due to an achy back. The only dampener, quite literally was the risk of the weather ruining things this weekend. The biggest concern when I looked on Wednesday was a few hours of snow scheduled between 8 & 10 PM on game day, though I was hoping that would change.
It had disappeared by the time I checked on Thursday and it looked to be OK weather-wise. Thursday was another good day but Friday was not. It was more like a Sunday with a bloke having an argument at full blast on the phone with his missus and a child who was in the store for over an hour and wailed constantly. I was glad when it came to 2pm and time to go. It was a good journey up. The M42 and M6 were congested near Birmingham and then there were a load of roadworks up near Warrington. We got to the hotel at 5.40 and checked in. I was annoyed to have a room near a noisy road and hoped that it calmed down later. I stayed in the room until 6.05 and went off to the game. Dan, Richard and Paul had suffered a late call-off at the Leyland Ground but met us at the hotel. It was an easy but busy drive to the ground. We parked in a side road which saved us from going around the houses to get to the ground. Entry was a bargain at £5 and it was a nice friendly atmosphere. After saying a few hellos, I made my way to the Groundtastic stall where I got an excellent book on the history of the Alliance League for just £2. It was then to the bar for a pint of Inch's, not the best but low strength and it quenched my thirst. It was then a long wait at Fat Mal's Food Truck but the menu was interesting. I had salt and pepper chicken melt wrap and seasoned fries for £9.20. The food was excellent and well worth the money. I then went around the other side of the ground to watch the game.
FC St Helens were sitting proudly at the top of the table, eleven points clear. They were top of the form table too, despite only drawing 0-0 at Ashton Town in their last game. In their last home game, they beat AFC Blackpool 5-2. Daisy Hill was in 14th, six points above any potential relegation places. They were 15th in the form table, having drawn 0-0 at Darwen in their last game. Their sole win in the last six came as they won 1-0 at Runcorn Town. The game was fairly even at the start. St Helens were awarded a penalty 22 minutes in, but it was well saved by the Daisy Hill keeper. A couple of minutes later, they did take the lead, Josh Hall bundling in from the corner to make amends for the missed penalty. The visiting keeper Morgan Newns was having an inspired game, tipping a shot onto the post. Daisy Hill had a few chances on the break but St Helens were dominated. The visitors even hit the post with ten minutes to go as they looked for a late equaliser.
 It was not to be however and for all their fight, which boiled over into a scuffle at one point, they had nothing to show for it. The lack of quality up front was evident to see as it was not the greatest of games. Off the pitch, as well as on the pitch though, FC St Helens were surefire winners. The attendance of 504 was their largest of the season by some distance and they had been excellent hosts too. They had made the most of the opportunity and I don't think there was much more they could have done better. It was good to catch up with old faces and meet some new ones too. We left at around 9.45 with Colin opting to go to ASDA with the others on the way back. I headed straight for the hotel with it taking nearly half an hour due to a build-up of traffic near our hotel. I typed my blog and sunk a few cans, hoping that the traffic would quieten down later.


THE GROUND

WINDLESHAW SPORTS CLUB is a basic but pleasant venue around half an hour from St Helens Town centre. It has good public transport links and there is plenty of parking at the ground and on the surrounding streets. The ground is well kept and has two stands - one seating around 50 and the other holding the same number standing. They are the standard metal-type ones that are commonplace. The bar is very smart and offers a reasonable range of drinks. Merchandise is available and a small tea hut is in situ too. For my visit, an excellent catering van called Fat Mal's was also in attendance.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Lane Head - Grosevenor Park


Lane Head FC
Grosvenor Park
Somerfield Road
Bloxwich 
Walsall 
WS3 2EJ








Ground Number: 1265
Saturday 24th February 2024
Lane Head 2-0 Hampton
Midland D2








LANE HEAD FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was founded in 1974 under the name of Lane Head Strollers. They played mainly junior football and were considered a well-run outfit. In 1999, the club was absorbed into the now-defunct Blakenhall FC. It was a partnership that would only last a few years as in 2002, Blakenhall merged with Bloxwich United who decided to strip funding for the club. For a brief time, they returned to junior football under the name of FC Strollers, but they too folded. In 2004, Lane Head FC were reformed, starting up again as a junior side having several teams of all ages. Things went full circle in 2018 when the club established a senior side, following the dissolution of Bloxwich United FC. They took over their ground and joined the Midland League Division 2. They have been there ever since, never really pulling up any trees. Their best finish was 10th in their first season but this season is shaping up to be the best in their history.


Previous clubs to have played at the ground are numerous. The first Bloxwich Town was established in 1976 as Peel Football Club, representing the Sir Robert Peel pub which still exists on Bell Lane. They were known as Carvers for a while due to sponsorship reasons, then Bloxwich before finally settling on Bloxwich Town in 1989 They spent a single season in the Southern League Midland Division during the 1998/99 season but won just once all season. This was following their best-ever season when they won the Midland Alliance and reached the FA Vase 3rd Round. In 2001, the club merged with Blakenhall to become Bloxwich United, though this short-lived merger would last less than a season. They took over the Blakenhall's place in the Southern League Western Division. However, after 19 games of the 2001–02 season, the controlling Blakenall contingent amongst the joint ownership abruptly pulled out of the merger and resigned the club's place in the Southern League causing their record to be expunged.


Another Bloxwich Town was established in 2002, but they would only last until 2005, progressing through the Midland Combination. Next up was another Bloxwich United, formed out of Birchills United who had recently won the Wolverhampton Combination and then the West Midlands (Regional League) Division 1. They changed their name to Bloxwich United in 2008 and were twice runners-up in the WMRL Premier. One-time Wycombe Wanderers loanee and Aston Villa starlet Steven Cooke played for the club in 2009 but they went bust in 2012. Attempt number four was formed out of works team Rostance Edwards who had won the Wolverhampton Combination in 2013 and then were promoted as runners-up behind Austrey United in the Midland League Division 3 in 2015. They changed their name to Bloxwich Town but the curse struck again as they only lasted until 2018. Several smaller clubs have also played in the town.


Bloxwich is a market town and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Walsall, West Midlands, England. It is located between the towns of Walsall, Cannock, Willenhall and Brownhills. The population is around 25,000. Bloxwich has its origins at least as early as the Anglo-Saxon period when the place name evidence suggests it was a small Mercian settlement named after the family of Bloc (Bloxwich, earlier Blochescwic, meaning "Bloc's village"). Bloxwich grew rapidly in the 18th century around coal mining, iron smelting and various manufacturing industries, as part of the Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing in the area consisted of bridle bits, stirrups, keys, cabinet locks, plane irons, buckle tongues, chains and saddles. Its most famous product of manufacture was awl blades, which it is reputed to have surpassed all other places in the United Kingdom in manufacturing. The most famous former resident was Slade's Noddy Holder who was born in the Caldmore area of Walsall before moving to the Beechdale Estate in Bloxwich. Former Cardiff, Wolves, Celtic, Cardiff, Derby County & Accrington Stanley footballer Lee Naylor was born in the town and went to Sneyd Comprehensive School.


MY VISIT

Once more, it was time to decide what game to go to on a Saturday. As ever with a weekend game, my first stipulation was that I didn't want to drive. There were also other areas such as value for money and quality of pubs, as well as how difficult the journey was. As usual, all the working out was done on a spreadsheet and the initial favourite was Gillingham Town as I'd been considering it last week. Fleetdown was the best value for money and Gala Wilton and Swanage Town & Herston were the best for pubs. Futbology was my friend as ever, and many fixtures weren't even considered for various reasons. I was scrolling through the list when one fixture popped out at me - Lane Head v Hampton. I recognised both names vaguely but it was the ground where it was being played that interested me. The Old Red Lion Ground, Grovesnor Park or whatever name it went under had been used by several failed Bloxwich clubs. The latest tenants were Lame Head of the Midland D2. The train fare worked out also, owing to one of the several quirks of ticket pricing, it was the same price from High Wycombe to Bloxwich as it was to Birmingham. This made it a decent value fare and there were also a few pubs worth a look. The only thing that could ruin my plans was the weather, so I was hoping that it would behave in the few days before.


This was all decided on Wednesday afternoon. I'd had a good day at work and arrived home to see that I'd had a failed delivery from Royal Mail for a mobile phone I'd bought from Cash Converters online. Rather than the carefree ways of Yodel or Evri, they'd not just left it on the doorstep and had taken it back to the depot. For whatever reason, I'd have to wait until Friday until they could leave it at my local post office. Perhaps covering their backs but going from previous experience, maybe not. In the evening, I watched Bradford City v Wycombe Wanderers, along with a few drinks. I needed them as on a pitch that resembled the Battle Of The Somme, Wycombe were outplayed but not outfought. A scrappy last-minute goal and a rare moment of quality saw Wycombe bag a trip to Wembley in the Football League Trophy final. Bradford's wayward finishing counted for nothing but I won't be at Wembley. It is on a Sunday so I will be working and I've been boycotting the competition since the introduction of Premier League U21 teams. Thursday brought much frustration after a gruelling day at work. I got home to find another failed Royal Mail delivery and a notification from Evri that my parcel had been delayed. At least one of those contained a case for my phone. Thursday evening saw me finalise my research including Bloxwich's footballing history and backups in case the game bit the dust.

Friday was another tricky day, busy and full of questions from people who couldn't be bothered to read the product packaging. As if I'd know the intimate details of 22,000 products just because I work there. It was also extremely busy and I didn't get out until 4 after being constantly pestered by customers all day long. I picked up my new phone from the Post Office and all was good as far as I could see. It did take an absolute age to get everything set up though and I spent all evening re-setting up banking and everything. The day of the game came and I woke up early as ever. This meant I had plenty of time for breakfast before leaving at 7.50. Walking to Wycombe station, I was 15 minutes early for my 09:28 train to Birmingham. I was really pleased to see that the game was confirmed as on as the train pulled into Bicester, a relief given some of the frost and fog that was outside.
I was in Birmingham at 11:05. It was then a 25-minute walk to my final Wetherspoons I needed to complete the Birmingham set, the Figure Of Eight. Black Dragon was available which was good. It was a fairly jaded Spoons but I was not ready to leave yet so I ordered a pint of Stowford Press. Service was variable but I was content and relaxed as I made my way to New Street to get the 12:45 to Bloxwich that arrived at 13:14. It was then a ten minute walk to the Bloxwich Showman where I ordered chicken wings basket with a bottle of Hooch for just over a tenner. There were some late call offs, not least at Walthamstow where a soggy patch near the sideline meant that the officials trousered half their fee for fifteen minutes work. Nice work if you can get it.  A nice ground had been spotted near Walsall and I later found out that it was Sunday side ISSA FC, part of the independent Walsall FC supporters club. Well worth a visit, but sadly for me, primarily a Sunday ground. I had passed up the chance of an extra pint in Spoons for one in the Lane Head FC bar. After paying £4 to get in, it was £3 for a bottle of Bulmers, fairly reasonable. As ever, I was disappointed by my laptop battery discharging completely for no good reason so I was unable to get started on my blog.
Lane Head were in 5th whilst Hampton were in 7th. The hosts were in missed form, winning two and losing two of their last four games. Their last game was a fortnight prior as they beat AFC Coventry Rangers 2-0 at home. The visitors were unbeaten in four league games and also enjoyed some good cup results. Their last game was a week ago as they beat Coventry Alvis 2-0. Hampton had a lot of possession early on but Lane Head took the lead after six minutes, Jamie-Lee Tomlinson latching on to a long ball on the break. It was 2-0 on 19 minutes, a curling shot from the right flew in past the bemused keeper who was goal side of the ball, and Tomlinson again the scorer. The second half saw Hampton pressurise some more but they were so poor in the final third, they barely threatened. Lane Head had some chances on the break and never looked in danger of surrendering their lead. The contest had not been the greatest but it was a nice club to visit.
Wycombe had lost 1-0 at Stevenage, a result confirmed to me as I hurried back to the station to make the 17.14 to Walsall. I was there with a couple of minutes to spare and it was only six minutes journey. Walsall was a strange old place, I exited the station not into barriers but a shopping centre that took me back a couple of decades. It was a dated place but the people nice. A walk took me to the St Matthew's Hall Wetherspoons and after a wait I got myself a pint of Black Dragon for £3.45. That was consumed before I headed to the Fountain Inn, a nice backstreet boozer in a nicer part of Walsall. A pint of Dorset Nectar Organic Medium was enjoyed without much of a plan going forward, other than to play it by ear as to whether Banbury or High Wycombe would be my next destination. The 18:50 back to Birmingham fitted the bill and then it was a walk across Birmingham for the 19:43 to London Marylebone. The train was fired up early and power to my laptop was gratefully received.


THE GROUND

GREOSVENOR PARK is a smart setup, Decent neighbours help the club out. There's a basic bar at the ground which also serves snacks. Officially, only a quarter of the ground is available to fans. Realistically, the only place out of bounds is the stand behind the goal but they are happy for you to discreetly take pictures. Parking is plentiful and town is around 15 minutes walk away.