At Cottam Hall, Poulton Le Fylde, reigning champions Quilligans FC were looking to try and retain the Premier Division title. In order to do so, they needed to beat Newton Arms FC whilst hoping that their sole remaining challengers, Poulton SFC, would fail to beat the Gardeners Arms FC at the same venue. Even a draw might have been enough.
Yaaaawn. 07:30 but feeling like the reality of 06:30. Being a slave to routine the time shift plays havoc with my body clock and it'll take weeks for me to recalibrate. When I finally come around I'll be looking forward to a trip to Cottam Hall, Poulton to watch what could potentially be the Premier Division title decider. Reigning champions Quilligans FC were away at the Gardeners Arms FC whilst their sole remaining rivals Poulton SFC were looking to keep their faint hopes of the title as well as their very realistic chances of runners up alive by beating second placed Gardeners Arms FC.
The final table at the end of the previous six seasons had shown Quilligans to be top on four occasions and runners up on the other two making them regulars at the Layton presentation evening. Their superior goal difference had all but guaranteed another top two finishing position at start of play. This season, the secret of their success has been their tight fistedness at the back where they'd only managed to concede eight in the first thirteen league fixtures. At start of play they were still unbeaten domestically with a 100% away record having only dropped points at home following two draws against Blackpool Rangers and today's opponents Poulton. Rival teams looking for positives could say that goals have been relatively difficult to come by in recent weeks. Four out of their last six matches have been won by only the narrow margin of '1-0' provoking cries of 'Boring, boring Quilligans' from rival supporters and website writers.
The club are still very much on the treble with manager Mark Spedding's team having reached the final of the Gledhill Cup for the seventh season in succession where they'll play Division 1 side Fleetwood Gym FC in May. The two clubs also meet in the semi-final of the Premier & Division Cup next weekend at Commonedge Road.
Opponents Newton Arms FC were eighth in the Premier Division table this morning just two points ahead of bottom club Fylde Coast Gates. Both clubs having been disadvantaged by the folding of two clubs earlier in the campaign. Their only win came back in January against FC Loco. Two further points were gained in draws against Blackpool Rangers and Fylde Coast Gates. After early round wins against Wilo and FC Loco (AET) they were knocked out of the Gledhill by Fleetwood Gym and the Divisional Cup they were knocked out by the Devonshire Arms early in the competition. It's been a difficult season for Mick Hutchinson and his squad but it's fair to say that apart from a couple of hammerings from Poulton on the opening day and the Devonshire Arms later in the season that they've been competitive in almost all of their matches.
Briefly, in regard to the other match, both Poulton and the Gardeners Arms both had high motivation to win with Poulton still in with a very slim chance of winning the title and by both having every chance of finishing runners up. It had been a fantastic week of weather, dry, calm and with lots of warm sunshine. Strange how the older you get the more you welcome and appreciate the onset of Spring. Morbidly beginning to realise that you're not immortal perhaps?
Despite the loss of the hour and the resultant chilly start it was shaping up to be another fine day, the perfect beginning to British Summer time. Mark Ayre was in charge of Newton v Quilligans game and just after 11am we were underway with Quilligans in the blue.
Quilligans FC 2010/11
Newton Arms FC 2010/11
The Quilligans 'Bath Chair massive' grumbling about the warm sun
Mr Ayre searching for his fivepence
Aarron Thomas – son of ex pro Mickey Thomas up front for Newton
On four minutes, Will Watt played a reverse free kick down the left for Phil Robinson. His cross wasn't dealt with by the Newton defence.
..and in stepped Nick Greenall to stab it home. 0-1
Quilligans FC manager Mark Spedding
Newton manager Mick Hutchinson
Marc Beattie under pressure
Injured Micky Evans (Left) alongside Darren Spedding
Newton keeper Dave Snowdon.
On 18 minutes a Will Watt cross bobbled up niceley for Beattie who headed it over the head of Snowdon. 0-2
A crowded Quilligans FC penalty area
Good God, the unholly alliance of outlaws Bonney and Broadbent.
Graeme Hutchinson (Right) five minutes late with the tackle on Greenall.
On 22 minutes, Newton had their best chance when Thomas his the angle of bar and post from distance.
On 44 minutes Newton were right back in the match after pulling one back at the perfect time thanks to a Thomas shot that eluded Quill's keeper Smith and bounced in off the far post. 1-2
But a minute later, Will Watt seized on a poor clearance and lobbed it over Snowden from 25 yards. A killer blow for Newton. 1-3
Half time can only mean brandy and cigars
So Quilligans went in 3-1 up at the break and with their defensive record there looked to be no way back for Newton. On the adjoining pitch, the Gardeners had taken the lead in the opening two minutes and as half time approached they were still winning 0-1. Poulton were in the red.
But with my usual perfect timing I arrived to see Poulton equalise on the stroke of half time. A good flowing passing move ending with Danny Whittaker (Out of picture right) placing past the keeper. 1-1
Keep your eye on it Bondy!
Mr Bailey Snr in his usual cheerful mood
Carl Eastwood (Red 9)
Player manager Lee Impett (Left) had been forced to come on as sub and was immediately involved in a great Sunday football battle with Chris Debar and other Poulton platers including Adam Shorrocks above.
That's the furthest apart Impett and Debar were in the second half
Impett got the wrong side of Debar from a long ball and referee Errington adjudged that he'd been hauled down – penalty !
Anton Byrne-Carter (8) sends Speight the wrong way. 1-2
Referee Mark Errington
Nice jig – Scottish ancestry
Back at the Quills match and it looked like ex Blackpool FC player Phil Thompson had picked up a serious looking ankle injury
Impett now being double marked and enjoying every minute of it
Mr Cocker missed a throw-in and referee Errington moves in to help him out.
Hand ball lad
What do you reckon Daz? It looks fu**** to me mate.
They're at it again
A good move for Poulton involving Catlow, cross, foul, penalty and in the above picture Adam Sharrock converts to make it 2-2
Pugh late on Impett – great stuff
Daz Hall (Left)
Trouble brewing in the background
Get inbetween them
Could it be the end of the season for Thompson? It looked like a long afternoon in A&E for that fella
Still at it
Shorrocks heads over
Another goal for Quilligans who were running riot in the second half
Another good passing move down the left for Poulton, the ball is squared and Eastwood (Second right) taps it in for what proved to be the winner. 3-2
Debar's nose was swelling but still time for another altercation, this time with Gillett.
Impett the 'peacemaker'
Debar in the book
..and Gillett joins him
The whistle goes and a scrappy game comes to an end. 3-2
Still time for another Quilligans goal from Dickinson. 8-1 the final score.
And so the Premier Division title race is extended into April thanks to both of the remaining challengers winning this morning. In the end it was comfortable for Quilligans but it was a real scrap for Poulton who showed good spirit in fighting back from being behind twice to go on and take the points. Quills need just one more point from their last two games and second place is still very much up for grabs between Poulton, Gardeners and the Devonshire Arms FC.