Saturday, 30 January 2010

Woodley Sports 4 – 1 Lancaster City; 30th January 2010.


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At noon I adorn my religious robes and check the internet. Lord knows it was freezing last night, so the Town game was in doubt. After three pitch inspections and countless refreshing of the live updates page, it turns out the game was called off. Just 5% of the pitch was deemed unplayable, the time taken to make the decision was daft, the players wanted to go on but the final decision was a no, and I was left in a mood.

However, what games were there locally? Woodley? Oh wait, they're playing Lancaster! Wouldn't it be nice if the worst didn't happen, despite it being 95% likely to happen? If Woodley did win, it was a three-pointer in for the Shaymen. I joked to my brother that he'd regret not coming along, telling him Woodley would win 4–1 in jest, and we quickly arrived at the Neil Rourke Memorial "Stadium." And as we got out at the car park there was some faint commotion, and over the speakers it was already 1–0! We got through the turnstiles as soon as we could. We quickly found another Town fan on his way back home from finding out the news himself, a cheshiresteve from www.theshaymen.net, and sat down in the tiny main stand.

Woodley's is one of the smallest grounds in the league, an astroturf pitch with a five-row stand in the centre, and a few-stepped terrace along half the side of one of the goals. The unbuilt side gives a view of the hills, and a few picnic benches line a path into a mock Tudor bar. However that sounds, it is a nice enough ground to call home which sadly most Stopfordians don't, though it'll be murder to fit in all the Halifax fans later this season. With but one mid-week spot yet to be filled in this season with a fixture, this is yet to be rescheduled. At 207, this is the least-attended match I've been to in my life, but one of the more blockbustering attendances Woodley will enjoy this season, with a very small fanbase that brings in an average of around 100. And from my experience here, one that makes good company (though a few Lancastrian teens who sneaked out before the final whistle made a consistent, orchestrated effort to be crowned twats of the Unibond).



So we asked a fan to check the score was real. "Well, it fucking went in the net didn't it?" he grumbled. A Lancaster fan. Woodley seemed to be defending at the time, and a little sloppily, but nothing was really going either end. Indeed, for most of the match Woodley marked well, covering every player when they got to their half. The next real opportunity was a Woodley through ball, and from 20 yards on the right of the box it flew into the top left corner. Another came in low on the ground just before the close of the half as it found Queeley's feet in the box. This was beyond belief! There wasn't enough buzz for any of the crowd (crowd?) to go particularly nuts as I'd expect at Halifax, but inside I was buzzing. The half time whistle went and we applauded Woodley back into their little warren, and watched a little of the cheap subscription Italian Sky Sports in the bar.

By the time we'd finished a chat with another Town fan in the bar another goal was in. 4–0! Lancaster finally dropping points! My son's got into med school! To avoid being blinded by the setting sun, we stood by the dugouts on the other side, chatted to a young Woodley insider and an assistant manager as he coordinated the team. The morale amongst them was great; true, honest football players. Meanwhile, a Lancaster player yelled "Fuck off!" at the universe he was born into as the ball he was meant to collect rolled out for a throw-in. A physically freezing but mentally warming second half saw a token Connerton goal fart its way into the net as a consolation three minutes from time.

I was amazed that I predicted the score to be 4–1 as a joke, and in reality the result came. Were I not to have known the two's league positions and standards (this would involve ignoring the five Lancaster fans who stood at the top of the stand singing about how great they were for the whole game), I would've estimated the uncoordinated and passionless Lancaster team to be relegation battlers, and Woodley to be a competent mid-table unit (they had the togetherness, but weren't lethal). And if we know that Lancaster are capable of such depths in their performance, the Shaymen have little to fear. We were even up to more during Prescot Cables. Hopefully for us, this signifies a free-fall into the Unibond abyss and we'll only be giving Colwyn the time of day.

Still, only early signs to go by. What a day out though! Almost up there with watching Town, and leagues above watching the updates for teams on Soccer Saturday I've formed vague opinions of, while trying to get through my book on black holes. Totally worthy winners and good sports to boot. A Lanc' unintelligibly groused that they'd show us what for come the April fixture, though I couldn't help but find it amusing. So thanks Woodley for providing a groundhopper's starter kit to relish, and well done to the programme seller for flogging all the copies by the time we arrived. A treat.



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