|A drive out to Kirkham this morning to watch the Division 3A mid table clash between the Stanley Arms, Wesham FC and FC Excelsior.|
Time goes more quickly the older you get. I can't believe it was just over three years since I last came to watch a game out in Wesham. Unfortunately, not much has changed. We may criticise the Blackpool Council but credit where it's due at least they've made a good effort to improve the pitches over the summer and the new goal posts at many venues are very welcome. Out at Kirkham the story is very different. The goal posts three years ago were unacceptable then but they're still here. As for the pitch, there's been no investment and it surely won't be long before it becomes unplayable once again through the winter mud. Shape up Fylde Borough Council !
On the pitch the Stanley have been in a slump for a number of seasons. In the last campaign they were relegated from Division 2B after finishing bottom. They could only manage one win all season and that came on August 20th 2006 following a 5-1 win over the Links Hotel FC. They would not win another league game for over a year until August 26th 2007 when they beat Ansdell 6-5. A terrible run of twenty defeats and one solitary draw.
There was some question about whether or not the Stanley would survive but thanfully they're back again under manager Rick Leaman for another campaign in 3A. At the end of October they've had a decent start. The team were sixth in the table this morning after having had four wins and five defeats from the first nine matches played. Even in defeat they've not being hammered. At the end of September they only lost 4-3 to second placed Waterloo Sports & Social. In the Gledhill Cup they were beaten in the first round by 3B outfut Burlington FC.
Stanley's opponents this morning were FC Excelsior who were just above them in fifth on goal difference. They too had enjoyed four wins and five defeats from the first nine games played. Another side who've been struggling in Division 3 for many, many seasons like the Stanley they epitomise what lower league Sunday football is all about.
Last season, playing as the Dog & Partridge FC the team had a good season when finishing in seventh. Seven wins, six draws and nine defeats was not so bad but still a long way off the form required for promotion.
This season they've moved with their new sponsor to the Lytham Road pub Excelsior which looks to be worth a visit if ever you find yourselves in South Shore. Under manager Steve Downing they realise they've a lot to do if they're to break into the top four as they currently comprise of some very good sides. They're an attacking team who are yet to draw a blank this season. However, they're very inconsistent and are yet to win two in a row.
A big win against Pump & Celtic was recently followed by a bad defeat to the Ship, Fleetwood. Last week they had a great 3-2 win against the Fairhaven which suggests they're at last tightening up defensively. Like opponents Stanley they went out of the Gledhill Cup early. After a first round bye they pulled 3A league leaders Autoweld in round 2 and went down 3-1.
All set then for a close game on paper with the final outcome difficult to predict. The clocks went back during a wet and windy night across the Fylde but by kick-off time conditions were much improved, very mild and brightening up all the time.
Today's official was Mr Ross Swift and at 11:03 he got proceedings under way with the Stanley in the green kicking towards the hills.
Stanley Arms, Wesham FC 2007/08.
FC Excelsior 2007/08.
Excelsior keeper Ross Parker hurls the ball out javelin style.
Craig Worrall (Left).
Dave Bamber not looking his best despite the extra hour in bed.
In the first twenty minutes it was the home side that was enjoying the majority of possession but despite getting the ball upfield clear cut chances of any note were few and far between. As the half progressed Excelsior at last begun to settle and went close on a couple of occasions.
Ex Stanley player/manager Mark Sevens watches on from the sidelines.
Excelsior manager Steve Downing far from happy with his team's slow start.
The Stanley go close from a corner.
Approaching the half hor mark Excelsior created two golden opportunities to score. In the above picture Craig Worrall out-jumped the Stanley defenders to place a header just over the angle of bar and post. Minutes later the same player was involved again. He broke free in the box, drew the keeper and unselfishley picked out a colleague at the far post. With the Stanley keeper in no-mans land Excelsior looked odds on to score but a superb diving block from Alan Lockett kept the score at 0-0.
Stanley's Dave Bamber is second in a 1 on 1 with the keeper.
Danny Cole (Left)
Steve Mercer (Left) helps keep those old Stanley posts upright.
Unusually for Division 3A it looked very much as though we'd be going into the hlaf time break at 0-0 but the Stanley had other ideas. A long ball down the flank found Bamber on side. The Stanley striker gathered it looked up and played a ball back towards the edge of the box. A miss-hit shot fortuitously found Chris Hastwell. He played a neat one two with Danny Cole before smashing it home in the picture below. 1-0.
Chris Hastwell puts the Stanley ahead.
Excelsior down on their knees. That was to be the last action of the first half.
Half time score : Stanley Arms, Wesham FC 1 – 0 FC Excelsior.
Three year old Reece Bamber out watching dad Dave this morning.
Stanley player/manager Rick Leaman takes a half time breather.
The second half was no more than 40 seconds old as FC Excelsior made it 1-1. A harmless looking ball into the box appeared to be miss-kicked by the Stanley defenders and Craig Worrall got on the end of it to put it past Leaman. 1-1. Stanley still enjoying the half time interval by the looks of things.
Craig Worrall (Right) equalises for the Excesior.
A much happier Excelsior manager.
Stanley keeper Leaman beats Worrall to the ball.
After the early goal the away side were beginning to dominate proceedings and it looked as though the constant pressure they were putting on the Stanley defence would reap a reward but the Green's weathered the storm.
Excelsior pressing for a second.
Brave man wearing one of those with Sunday league shirt pullers about. Could be nasty!
Excelsior's best chance of the second half. The usually reliable Sean Lonsdale fires his shot miles over the bar towards the Trough of Bowland.
On 77 minutes and well against the run of play the Stanley regained the lead. A corner from the right wasn't dealt with. The ball was scrambled towards the edge of the box where ex Chequers FC player Danny Cole was lurking. The striker was first to react and his shot eluded the dive of Parker. 2-1.
“I can't believe we're losing”.
A Stanley injury brings young Stanley fan Jack Mansfield onto the pitch on his bike for a better look!
Stanley go close again.
Despite a decent late chance for Excelsior sub 'Scholesy' with which he failed to hit the target the away side failed to create any real pressure in the last ten minutes and Stanley hung on rather comfortably to take all three points.
Final score : Stanley Arms, Wesham FC 2 – 1 FC Excelsior.
A fifth win of the season then for Stanley that took them up to fifth in the table. No offence meant but the quality of the top four sides makes it highly unlikely that they could finish any higher. They played their part in a decent game of football for Divisuon 3A. As per pre-match expectations it was a close fought game that could of gone either way. Bamber and Cole did OK up front and Joe Reeves had a very good game at left back. With injured Wes Lawrenson due to return soon then perhaps they can score a few more goals and maintain a push for a top six finish.
As for FC Excelsior they'll be very disappointed with today's result. I know they were unlucky not to score on one or two occasions in the first half but all too often Worrall and Lonsdale were not provided with enough ball from the midfield players. Inconsistency strikes once again for the 'Yellows' as they again failed to win two in a row. They have some decent players and they too could achieve fifth spot if they hit a decent run of form. They can count themselves unlucky this morning as their performance at least deserved a point.
At Stanley, when they ask you to lend a hand in taking the net down they mean it literally.