Thursday 4th June 2009

Catforth 1 Ribchester Rovers 0 (after extra time)
Catforth and District League Barron Cup First Round
At: School Lane
Kick-off: 7-00 pm
Attendance: 19 (headcount)
Weather: sunny
Duration: first half: 45:16; second half: 45:00; ET: 10:12 and 10:14

Prior to this evening’s game, I’d only ever watched eight games in the glorious month of June out of a lifetime total of approaching 2600 games. On the list are three play-off finals, a couple of World Cup experiences in Dallas back in 1994, that bizarre game at Moreton the year before and more recently a game each in both the Derby/Ashbourne Summer League and Women’s Euro 2005.

This season, with my blog in full swing, I fancy going for a first-ever 52-week season, at the same time as trying to stick to the 85-game budget I’d been set my Mrs ‘iwf’ for 2009. So, having been aware of the Catforth and District League, I decided to ‘bite the bullet’ for a first taste of the competition and Catforth itself seems the logical place to start.

The Catforth and District League has been around for nearly 80 years and last year became affiliated to the Lancashire FA (see Garstang Courier article). This season, there are three divisions and three cup competitions including the Barron Cup (see Garstang Courier article for a 2009 season preview).

A fellow traveller called ‘Seagull’ provided me with an assessment of the competition. He wrote: “The setups are basic as you'd expect, but the bulk of them are in lovely settings, with many having great views of the Bowland Fells … I know a lot of people really enjoy it.” He also suggested that teamsheets may be available.

The village of Catforth, an attractive place I thought on a pleasant sunny evening, is located a few miles to the north of Preston and from what I could see boasts a couple of pubs and a traditional red telephone box, but no shop. I’d planned to arrive around an hour before kick-off and then hunt for some tea before the action got underway at 7 pm. But, holdups on the M6 between Thelwall and Wigan meant a delayed arrival, 6-40 pm, and little time for eating or drinking. Players weren’t yet changed so I popped into the village and found the Running Pump, a Robinsons pub on the northern outskirts on the road to Great Eccleston. With more time, I think it would have been a good place for a pre-match meal – all I could manage, however, was a quick Pepsi and bag of dry roasted nuts.

Catforth’s ground is on School Lane and I found it without a hitch from the M55. I exited at junction 1 and followed the A6 north into the village of Broughton before turning left onto the B5269 (signed Elswick) at the lights by the Texaco garage. Half a mile after crossing the hump-backed bridge, having gone through the village of Woodplumpton, it was left into School Lane and the ground was a further half mile on the right. Parking was in the lay-by opposite.

The ground itself was basic as expected. Through the entrance, the pitch (orientated south-east to north-west) was on the left-hand side of a larger field and ran lengthways towards the trees at the far end. It was unroped with no dugouts, hardstanding or cover. Next to the entrance was a portacabin, using by Catforth as a changing room.

I overheard the pre-match teamtalk by the Catforth manager who reminded his team how important the Barron Cup was. Home side Catforth of Division 1, the top division, went into the game in fourth position in the league (out of eight teams) with eight points from five game and just one league defeat. Like the Telford Combination, just two points are awarded for a win. Visitors Ribchester Rovers, third in Division 2, were also having a good season with ten points from five games and also just one league defeat.

I am a collector of team line-ups but, as with the (Derby/Ashbourne) Summer League, none were obviously available. I guess a team card is completed at some point and forwarded to league officials.

Ribchester Rovers (all blue) got the game underway defending the School Lane end in the first half into the low sun setting in the west. Their keeper, in a bright yellow top, certainly needed the cap he was wearing.

Catforth (wearing red shirts, red shorts and white socks) dominated the opening half hour though Ribchester started to threaten as the interval approached. Teams stayed out during the interval and the action was back underway barely five minutes after the half-time whistle.

As the second half wore on, I started to wonder if either side would break the deadlock before the end of 90 minutes. Over to the east, I noticed the sky darkening. Brilliant! rain, extra time and possibly even penalties. Thankfully, the sky brightened up again but neither side could find a goal. Moments before the final whistle, Ribchester’s no. 12 latched on to a throughball played into the Catforth area, only to completely miss-kick a great chance to net the winner.

The referee first had a chat with the respective managers, presumably to agree 10 minutes extra time each way, before calling over the captains – Catforth’s no. 8 and Ribchester’s no.9, a player a called ‘Liam’.

Ribchester got extra time underway attacking the School Lane end and the first 10 minutes again failed to produce a goal. Eventually, the deadlock was finally broken in the 104th minute. Nigel Taylor delivered high curling left-foot free-kick towards the far post from out of the right which the Ribchester keeper could only palm into the roof of his own net. The visitors almost equalised when a long throw from the left was flicked on and no. 12 headed over the bar.

Catforth (red/red/white): –

Ribchester Roves (blue/blue/blue): –

Referee: Kevin Roberts.

1-0 Nigel Taylor (104)