Away Day Robins
Formby - Story 1
The latest away day report comes from the ‘MUST NOT LOSE’ trip to Formby at the end of April.
A season’s best run of four unbeaten games had taken the Robins out of the bottom two for the first time for six months and put the pressure on the Merseysiders. With just one more game for both clubs, Harwood knew that a draw would mean that they had to match Formby’s result on the final day. A win would all but see them safe, while a defeat would almost certainly spell the end of their great revival.
Picked up Andy, Auntie Sheila and Jimmy ‘Mad Dog’ Hughes and set off in plenty of time after last years trip when we got lost in Southport. This time we went via the M6, M62 and M57 and were there by 7-30. The crowd was made up almost entirely of Harwood followers although several Formby fans turned up just before kick-off. Phil not only brought his drum, but also his entire family, boosting the travelling contingent to around twenty. It was nice to see that they’d put a roof over the terracing behind the ‘sea end’ although to all intents and purposes, the ground’s still a pitch with a fence round it. Despite the heavy rain, the pitch was in terrible condition, hard, bumpy, and very sandy in the goalmouths, which resembled sand dunes. Miskicks were the order of the day as both sides struggled to put passes together. Harwood were soon pushing the home side further and further back and the Squirrels resorted to the big hopeful boot, hoping that the pitch would cause Harwood problems. Very few chances were created in the first half as both side adopted a ‘safety first’ policy although a long-range shot was fumbled by Bobby who took a kick from a forward when blocking the rebound. Harwood created a few half chances and gained several corners but the Formby defence was in determined mood with the keeper dealing admirably with any danger around the six-yard box.
Then, right on half time came the turning point of the game. As the ball looked to be heading out for a Formby goal kick, great work by Rogers and Sculpher, saw the ball crossed to the edge of the six-yard box where Liam McManus was waiting. With the goalkeeper out of his goal, having tried unsuccessfully to stop the cross coming over, Liam only had to connect to put the Robins one up. Sadly for the Harwood followers, his connection was so poor that the ball just about reached the last defender who was stood on the line, and as he cleared it into the night sky as the referee blew for the break. That ‘goal’ would surely have knocked the stuffing out of Formby, but on the evidence of the first 45 minutes, we had nothing to fear in the second period.
We went for our half time pie but were disappointed to be told that the only hot food available was hot dogs – yeuk! No pies, no bar, what a let down, especially as Altcar Road is a new ground. The Squirrels must be losing much needed revenue thanks to their lack of facilities.
The second half began with Formby showing much more aggression and directness and the Robins found it difficult to get into our opponents half. After just four minutes, Boulder opened the scoring thanks to some weak defending. He was allowed to advance from the right hand touchline unchallenged, before unleashing a speculative drive from 25 yards which flew over Bobby and into the top far hand corner of the net. The goal was followed by more over aggressive challenges, constant arguing with the officials and time wasting at every dead ball. The referee, who had a good game on the whole, was very lenient with the Formby players, preferring to lecture them at length, instead of brandishing the yellow card. Very little was seen of the Harwood attack against the strong home defence and eventually Neil Smith was moved up front in an effort to give some height and weight to it. A Smith volley which went a yard over the bar, a Nelson effort which cleared the ground and a Hill free kick which hit the wall was all Harwood had to show for their 2nd half performance and as the Robins pushed further forward, Formby always looked likely to cause problems with their direct style. Ten minutes from time it was all over as Smith hit the home side’s second goal. A through ball caught the Harwood defence AWOL, and as Bobby came out for a ball on the edge of the box that he was never going to get, the Formby player nipped in first to head into the empty net.
Another two goals for the home side would have seen them better Harwood’s goal difference but the score remained the same, much to the dismay of the Harwood fans in a crowd of 98. The dream was over and if truth be told, Formby thoroughly deserved their victory over the 90 minutes. The home game against the Suirrels was a must win, and we failed, the away game was a must not lose, and we did, so we really can’t argue with the fact that they deserved to finish above us. As I’m sure you all know, we always stop off for a post match pint on the way home from games but this time we were well and truly gutted and went straight home, hardly saying a word…. we were devastated!
Still, we’ll be there at the next away game, giving it all we’ve got.
COME ON HARWOOD!
Formby - Story 2
The latest trip for the Blackburn & Darwen Robins was the Division Two game at Formby. It was a new ground for us so we set off early in case we got lost. Picked up Andy, Fat Phil, Jimmy ‘Mad-Dog’ and Big Dave before making our way down to the Co-op superstore in Great Harwood to get provisions for the trip. As usual we picked up loads of bargains, not least on beer and food. Fat Phil bought enough food to feed a family of four for a week, and it still only cost a tenner! It was then up to the top of Queen Street to Thomco to get some top quality building supplies for an important job which I’d got lined up.
Big Dave told me that he’d lost ten pounds over the Christmas period. No, he’s not been on a diet, he was drunk, stumbled down some steps, collapsed on the floor, and saw his wallet disappear down a drain! Despite the horrendous weather which we’d endured all week, we were told by Formby FC that the game was definitely on so off we went.
Got there with an hour to spare so we decided to have a game of footy on the beach, but after about five minutes, Big Dave and Fat Phil looked as though they were going to have heart attacks so we went to the ground. Being on Merseyside, I rather nervously parked the car and made sure to put the crook lock on. I also put all the valuables (Great Harwood Town programmes) out of sight in the boot.
On arrival we were greeted by the turnstile operator, knuckles tattooed with ‘love and hate’, skinhead haircut, scar across the forehead, 23 inch biceps, and if you think she sounds rough, you should have seen her sister in the snack bar!! Talking of the snack bar, young Jimmy asked for a pie. “Sorry our kid, we don’t sell ‘em.” Dave and Phil went quiet before bursting into tears.
After two successive defeats and at least half a dozen players missing through injury and suspension, we were expecting the worse, but Harwood made a cracking start, taking the game to Formby and it was no surprise when we took an early lead with just four minutes on the clock. The volley from the edge of the box by Sam Pope was as good a goal as you’ll ever see at this, or any other level of football. Unfortunately big Dave missed it as he was looking for food and so did Fat Phil who was inconsolable due to the lack of pies, because he had his face in his hands and was still sobbing.
We continued to dominate and ten minutes later new boy Fryer, who was dribbling past opponents for fun, was brought down by a desperate defender. Up stepped on-loan McKenna who placed his weak shot too near the keeper. Harwood came close on several more occasions, most notably when the dangerous Neil Zarac controlled the ball, turned his man and aimed a blistering 15 yard shot at the top corner which the superb Formby keeper turned over the bar. The final ten minutes of the half saw the hosts get more into the game and force a couple of corners which were easily dealt with by the Robins back four.
The second half was a completely different story as Formby started to knock the ball about with renewed confidence. All of a sudden our midfield was being outplayed and the defence started to panic with some wild clearances and shabby passing. Bobby Harris chose to catch an up-and-under right on the goal line and was bundled into the back of the net along with the ball. Soon afterwards the linesman gave hand ball after Cooney had chested it away, but luckily the spot kick was driven against a post. The hosts still poured forward and a miss hit shot from the edge of the box was heading towards the corner flag when it reached an unmarked team mate just outside the corner of the six yard box and he gleefully knocked it into the net. Despite the best efforts of our heroes, the result was never in doubt and Formby always looked the more likely team to add to the scoreline.
As we dejectedly set off home, looking in vain for a sign post, it was of some consolation that at least we’d got what we’d deserved-nothing. After half an hour of driving around the Formby area, we actually saw a sign which pointed us in the direction of the M58.
The West Lancs County Council, or is it the Merseyside County Council? Want stringing up for their pathetic excuses for road signs.
As usual it was an eventful Saturday watching the Robins, and no matter how the team is faring, we’ll still be following them come what may.
Join us for the next trip, and remember……….
Rally round the robins!