Fleetwood Road, Anchorsholme was the venue today out watching the possible Division 3A title decider between the Gardeners Arms FC and Foulds Metals FC.

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In their Alliance debut season playing as Fleetwood Gym FC Foulds Metals finished in a respectable eighth positition in Division 3B.  After re-organisation they were moved to Division 3A for this campaign where they’ve had a great season.  With only four games left they’re currently in second place six points behind today’s opponents having played the same number of games.  Their goal diffence is also 26 less than the Gardeners so anything but a win this morning would realistically rule out any remaining hopes of the title for Tony Cowell’s men. 

Whatever the outcome they’ve done well and only Marshall Court and Elswick can beat them to at least the runners up spot.  Foulds have only lost three of their twently league games losing to Wrea Green, Marshall Court and Elswick.  Most importantly they beat the Gardeners Arms 4-2 in the reverse fixture back in September.  They’ve had mixed fortunes in the Cup.  In the Gledhill they were knocked out in Round 1 by West Coast Tackle Postal but in the Division 3 Cup they reached the last eight before being knocked out by eventual finalists AFC Dunes.

The Gardeners Arms FC started the season as Birkdale United and are mostly made up of the successful Blackpool Rangers Junior side who two seasons ago represented Rangers at Under 17’s.  A 4-1 win in the gale against the Newton Arms on Wednesday night took them six points clear at the top.  They’ve only lost one league game out of twenty and as stated previously that came against today’s opponents earlier in the season.

A win this morning would all but guarantee them the title due to their superior goal difference and a draw would guarantee them promotion in runners up position.  Back in October I went to Wigan to watch them in the Lancashire Sunday Trophy against Caledonia but they were not at the races that day and went down 1-0.  In the Gledhill they received a first round bye, beat 2A’s Great Eccleston in Round 2 but were knocked out by Bispham Juniors of the Premier Division in Round 3.  In the Division 3 Cup they’ve reached the final where they’ll play AFC Dunes later in the month.  A league and Cup double is still a distinct possibility for Mick Smith’s team which would be a very creditable achievement in their first season in adult Sunday football.

At last the Fleetwood Road pitches were playable again and referee Max Cobb got the game underway five minuters early with the Gardeners in the blue and white stripes kicking off defending the changing room end.  The earlier rain and gloom had been replaced by blue skies.

Gardeners’ Matty Smithurst.

Referee Max Cobb in excellent shape.

Dave Holloway

Ex McDonald Property keeper Simon Morrell.

It was good game straight from the off this one with both sides realising the full importance of the result.  The Gardeners created the first real chance of any merit on sixteen minutes.  The ball was played square to Danny Pickering on the edge of the box.  His shot looped towards Foulds’ keeper Bentley ‘The Tank’ Brooks and he looked to have fumbled it and dropped it behind the line.  In the picture below it looks to have crossed the line and the Gardeners start celebrating but the Foulds flag stayed down and referee Cobb waved play on.  High drama !

Bentley’s on the line and still nowhere near it.  Come on Max it must be in ?

The end of the game and perhaps the end of the season as Foulds’ Jamie Perkes receives a nastly looking ankle injury.  Still too cold for sunbathing though.

On twenty minutes after a good spell of pressure the Gardeners took the lead.  Good work on the right wing from Tobin resulted in a deep cross to the far post where Matt Smithhurst rose highest to nod firmly past Bentley.  1-0.  Celebrations above.

Michael Melvin.

A nasty knee in the lower back for Will Riding.

Give a good striker half a chance and he’ll most often score.  This was certainly the case for the Foulds’ equaliser on 36 minutes.  Prolific striker Stuart Geddes fortuitiously received the ball thirty yards out but swivelled and hit a looping volley over the head of Morrell and into the top corner.  Morrell, rooted to the spot, could only stand and admire it.

Geddes receives the congratulations of his team mates.

‘On your marks’

‘Get set’

Go !

                                     Half time score :  Gardeners Arms FC 1 – 1 Foulds Metals FC

Danny Pickering.  He turned out for Wrens’ Reserves yesterday and put his side 1-0 up through a header but the league leaders finally lost out 3-2 to visitors Whinney Hill.

Gardeners’ manager Mick Smith looks on nervously with the score at 1-1.  A couple of half time substitutions necessitated by injuries.

With the game very evenly balanced at 1-1 the Gardeners maded the breakthrough on 63 minutes.  A throw in from the edge of the box from Sharples eventually fell to top scorer Lee Tobin and in the above picture he lashes and unstobbable half volley into the top corner past Bentley.  2-1.

A big goal for the Gardeners.

For the next fifteen minutes it was all Gardeners as they looked to kill off the game.  As the breeze stiffened the Foulds front line became more isolated until the last ten minutes when Foulds, with little to lose, started to push more men forward giving everything they had in an attempt to get an equaliser.

Gardener’s Pete Brown, on to treat an injury, is desperate to know how long is left.  ’25 seconds’ on Mr Cobb’s mobile or was it a naughty picture ?

Crossy, the old head at the back keeps his defence switched on and moments later Mr Cobb blows his whistle.  Gardeners Arms FC are Division 3A Champions.  (The second of my Pre Season title tips to come in.  Not that I’d ever mention it)

                                   Final score :  Gardeners Arms FC 2 – 1 Foulds Metals FC

Although there were few clear chances of note this was a good game to watch.  Surprisingly, it was played in quite a subdued manner for a game of such importance.  Credit to both teams that there was not one malicious tackle in the whole match allowing Mr Cobb a very quiet and uneventful game which was well officiated.

Foulds can’t complain at the result.  The Gardeners shaded possession and had the better chances and it’s fair to say that the best team in the Division has won the league.  True, it’s still mathematically possible for Foulds to overtake Gardeners but it would require a miracle and the Foulds management and players were gracious in defeat conceding the title to their rivals at the end.  Marshall Court’s slip up away at the Newton Arms this morning helps Foulds’ chances of securing runners up spot.

Congratulations to Mick Smith, Pete Brown and all the Gardeners players.  Just short of a few good haircuts in my opinion.  Matt Smithurst was my man of the match today.  A good goal and tireless running down the left flank.  Can they now go on to win the double ?  Not if AFC Dunes have anything to say about it.

I look forward to seeing both the Gardeners and Foulds in Division Two next season.

Division 3A Champions 2005/06 – Gardeners Arms FC.

Sportspy 2005/06