Away Day Robins
The latest report from the Blackburn & Darwen Robins comes from the trip to Burscough where Harwood were attempting to put the brakes on Skelmersdale’s climb up the table. The home side’s previous two games at Burscough had yielded six points courtesy of a 3-1 win against Stone Dominoes, and an incredible 9-0 victory over Colne, seven days before Harwood’s visit.
Billy ‘The Kid’ Hughes arrived at my house minus Jimmy ‘Mad Dog’ who had been taken ill during the day, then we picked up Andy and Auntie Sheila. It was about fifteen years since we last made the trip to Victoria Park so we set off early at 6-30. Travelled through Houghton and Parbold, which boasted some really nice pubs, and arrived at the ground just 30 minutes after setting off. We were pleased to see four more car loads of Harwood fans outside the ground and gave the locals a blast of the bugle and air horn. As we got to the turnstiles, we were glad that Fat Phil hadn’t travelled as there was no way he would have squeezed through the very narrow gap. Bought the programme, which looked very good at first glance, bought the raffle tickets, and then tried to buy a pint but there didn’t seem to be a door into the bar. “Oh, the entrance to the pub is outside.” Chirped the ticket salesman. “Well let us out our kid before we break down the exit gate.” Shouted Billy who was gasping for a pint. In fairness to the lad, it had been ten minutes since he polished off his last can.
Returned to the ground ten minutes before kick-off and draped the flags behind the goal and gave the ‘brass section’ another work out. Unfortunately Billy dropped the air horn and broke it!
The team showed changes from the one which had a great win against Salford City in the previous game. Lee Sculpher was replaced by Neville Nelson at the back and Dennis Hill returned from injury. Steve McDonald was missing and the versatile Liam McManus took his place up front.
A cagey opening ten minutes was followed by the first real action of the game when a Darren Rogers pass gave Ed O’Neil a half chance on the edge of the box. A great effort cannoned back off the bar with the keeper well beaten, bringing the Harwood following of around 15 to life. That incident also acted as a wake up call to Skem who created a chance of their own which was magnificently turned away by Bobby Harris, continuing his terrific run of form. Price and Hill saw plenty of the ball in midfield for Harwood while the home side always looked dangerous when going forward. Nelson and Sculpher were dominant in the air, winning every header when the crosses came in.
After 20 minutes, Skem should have been reduced to ten men when an horrific over the top two footed tackle sent Graham Price flying through the air, but the ‘Scouse’ referee only saw fit to hand out a yellow card. Thankfully, Price was able to continue after lengthy treatment. McManus then sent through Hill on the left after a great cross-field pass but as he homed in on goal, a great last-ditch tackle stopped him. The hosts then upped the pace once more and it took a couple of fine Harris saves to keep the Harwood goal in tact. But even he could do nothing when a shot from the edge of the box hit his right hand post, spun along the goal line and out for a goal kick on the left. - Phew! Not to be denied, Lee Thompson, Skem’s leading scorer, hit the game’s first goal and his 36th of the current campaign on 31 minutes. The Robins had to dig in as they were put under pressure and battled hard to get things moving at the other end. The half time whistle blew with Harwood having played their way back into the game and looking more than capable of getting an equaliser.
After hot drinks and pies all round it was behind the goal with a roof on where we could make twice as much noise, and we did!
The local yobs hadn’t seen or heard anything like it for years, and in between nicking the balls and anything else that wasn’t nailed down, they joined in the banter.
The second half continued as the first had ended with the Robins on the attack, and after several sorties into the Skem box, and half a dozen corners, the inevitable equaliser came-and how! A ball into the box was cleared as far as Neville Nelson standing fully thirty yards from goal. As the ball dropped to the ground, Nev connected sweetly to send it screaming into the top corner for the greatest goal ever seen at Victoria Park. The crowd went mad, the players went mad, and were still hugging the goalscorer when Skem attacked down the right side of our defence and scored to regain the lead. We were absolutely stunned behind the goal but soon started singing again in an effort to help the lads get back on top. This they did, with some excellent football coming from all over the park. Bobby still had to be alert and pulled off another outstanding save to keep us in it, but the huge majority of the play was now taking place in and around the home penalty area. On 74 minutes, the Robins once more drew level when Nev’s central defensive partner, Neil Smith, volleyed a cross from Dennis over the keeper. Another great goal had the fans dancing on the terraces again and it was now end to end, as both sides looked for the winner in the final few minutes. Some rather strange refereeing decisions had us biting our nails but the closest anyone came to a goal was when Bobby saved a great shot then leapt to his feet to block the rebound from only five yards. As the fans burst into a chorus of you’ll never walk alone, the full time whistle blew and was greeted with cheers from the Harwood faithful. The Burscough scallies ran onto the pitch, picked up the match ball, then scarpered on a couple of stolen bikes.
After applauding the lads off the field, we nervously made our way back to the car, and held an impromptu sweepstake on how many wheels the car would still have. Incredibly, the car was where we left it, with all four wheels present and correct. Mind you, both wing mirrors had gone, the Rover Viking Badge had disappeared and the aerial had been snapped off!
With Skelmersdale on top form of late, we were over the moon with the point and decided to stop off at one of the nice pubs in Parbold.
Now as regular readers will know, we usually get as far as ordering the drinks before getting thrown out, but this time we exceeded even that. As we walked through the front door, Jimmy gave a five second blast on the air horn. An old codger’s teeth flew out, a young lady threw her glass into the air thanks to the shock, several others screamed and the landlord’s wig fell off as he dived below the bar. “GET OUT! YOU’RE ALL BARRED!” Came the unsurprising response from ‘Mine Host’.
Oh well, we decided to go straight home as some of do have to get up at 4-15.
Just as we were nearing the Darwen turn off the M65, Billy’s phone rang. “Yes honeybun, I’ll be there soon. O.K. don’t go on about it, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah, stop moaning or you won’t get any chips you old hag!”
“Blimey Billy, that wasn’t your usual lovey-dovey conversation, was she mad about something?”
“Yeah,” replied our not so love struck buddy. “She’s been waiting in the rain outside the chippy since half seven, I forgot to tell her that I was going to futty.”
And they say that romance is dead-they could be right!
Join us for the next trip, and remember,
Rally round the robins!