Friday 5 July 2019

We Only Got Promoted - Chorley FC Vs Spennymoor Town FC, National League North Promotion Final, Victory Park (12/05/19)

Let me ask you this: Who knew that the Lighthouse Family were still a thing? Now be honest, don't nod like you really knew that twenty three years later that the lift music producing double act were still belting out the same one track they were singing when I was still at school.

For those of you thinking surely not, they were crap then, how has their whimsical upbeat music achieved such longevity, I would agree, however I just saw them on the sofa of one of the many sofa based Sunday morning programs that fill the morning slot as I left the house.

Considering the frequency of which we have gone to football on a Sunday this season, it has almost become the norm, instead of just something that our European neighbours did. Having forgotten my briefcase sized folder of CD’s on our last few outings, the tables have officially turned when Tom produces a mere handful from his bag, and I present to him my entire music collection condensed into one black polyester holdall I got off Amazon.

The Champions League, a Game of Thrones and that awful expression “wedmin” Tom’s go to when explaining what his other half is up today, all get an airing, before the music even gets a look in, as we make the long drive North.

When Tom's first CD of choice begins, I have to be sensitive, it’s one from his late father's vast collection, he tells me it's one that evokes childhood memories of family holidays, the must listen on long drives. So I have to somewhat bite my tongue as bizarre rendition after bizarre rendition of TV and movie soundtrack covers spill out from my speakers one after another. They are neither the original recordings nor are they from any films or TV shows you have ever heard of, but he’s happy and he’s not said “wedmin” again, so I do my best to just tune it out.

Going a long way to dispel the myth that its ‘grim up north’ the weather is in fact getting nicer the further up we go, but the brilliant blue sky and that I’ve had to crack the window because it’s getting a bit bloody warm, all seem quite insignificant after the admission from Tom that he has “never been to a circus”.

There will be no lions or tigers today, unless Chorley FC’s (CFC) Victory Park has a surprise in store for us. I can offer him a James Bond esq para glider flying perilously low over the motorway, the sight of a woman driving nigh on horizontally, I shit you not and he’s already contemplating “chips and gravy” as we will officially pass into “chips and gravy” country.

The tightly packed warren or terraced houses and single file streets don't make for easy navigation in the immediate vicinity of Victory Park, that so far, and somewhat disappointingly is both lion and tigerless. It was perhaps a tad naive of us to think we could just rock up and park a stone's throw from the ground, like we usually do. The narrow pavements are packed with people making their way to the match, and not any old match, one with a place in the National League at stake.

In keeping with one of English football's finest traditions, one would have no idea on the face of it that there was a football ground at all among the red brick houses, if it wasn't for the streams of people. Having eventually found somewhere to park after a few laps, and heading up what I’m told is not an alleyway but a ginnel, it’s hard to ignore the call of the programme seller, “programmes, three pounds a programme”, and the ornate wrought iron gate beside the turnstiles, with the pitch just viable the other side, that is all that stands between us and our penultimate game of the season. 

After a four hour drive, and having somewhat underestimated just how far away Chorley was from home, we are almost in Blackpool, we have not arrived in our usual overly punctual manner, but it’s a thrill to be here all the same and the setting could not be better.

If it’s name alone spelt out in white on the shiny metal black gate wasn't impressive enough, the kind of name to strike fear into anyone who dares enter, much more commanding than a ground or stadium named after a DIY chain or Middle Eastern airline. The infrastructure is straight out of the crumbly but charming column. A mixture of prefab and what looks like it could be pre war, it’s a real stunner.

With the pitch almost already completely surrounded, two people deep in some places, and with segregation in play, the fans of Spennymoor Town FC (ST) many of whom I'm sure are the same ones we saw spill on to the pitch at Brackley, after seeing them secure their place here in a penalty shootout win, our options for where to spend the afternoon are limited.

There is not an empty seat in the steeply angled roofed main stand, all the first floor places to sit have been filled by those with far better sense than us, who actually turned up in good time. The big shed behind one goal, with an imposing black and white flag hanging from its back wall is certainly inviting, but by the looks of the average age of the people in there, it might be a bit rowdy for us fogeys.

At the foot of the main stand, at the bottom of a flight of stairs that leads to the seating, no more than four or five thin steps lead down to the edge of the pitch forming a kind of mini terrace if you will, that is slightly elevated, and is yet to be filled.

If the name of the ground wasn't enough to intimidate you, the six foot plus magpie in a red baseball cap doing laps, may just be the icing on the cake. For now he seems happy parading around with a black and white flag, posing for pictures with children, but we all know magpies can be pretty vicious things, and I can’t be the only one to feel slightly on edge, that it could turn at any moment.

Following up behind the cap wearing bird, two young CFC fans share the burden of carrying a sizable sign that reads “Chorley we are going up” and in the away end, the ST supporters have packed the small and equally steeply angled roofed stand behind the goal. It’s back wall not covered in flags, but what looks like the artwork of local children. So tightly packed in are they, it’s hard to tell if it's seating or terracing, and those filling the stand waving yellow balloons above their heads, many of whom I'm sure were the highlight of the semi final, the game itself is a bit of a stinker, it is excellent to see they have travelled in such good numbers, but it's not a surprise, neither is the fact they are already making a decent racket, “Moors, Moors, Moors”.

The blazing sun only adds to the highly charged atmosphere. When the CFC players emerge for their warm up, the noise level takes a considerable spike, everyone to a man applauds them and the shed, which is not quite to the same proportion of the monster at Bromsgrove, but of a decent size all the same, breaks into its first chant. Ian Curtis and Joy Division playing over the PA are soon drowned out by“Chorley, Chorley, Chorley”.

Those arriving after us are finding it even harder to find a desirable place to stand, “if you see a good spot jump in” says one man to his kids, acting as pathfinders, as they frantically look for somewhere they can all squeeze into. Other than the ground and its excellent name name, the level of preparedness from the CFC fans can't fail but to impress. From those sitting pitch side on what looks like patio furniture brought from home, the young girl standing on her very own little stool so she can see over the hoardings and the man next to us who produces his own spork to enjoy his pie, it’s clear these are not fair weather fans, these regardless of age are old pros, regular visitors I would say.

Big flags, small flags, some as big as your head flags fill almost every available space, the whole place is heaving, the ST end looks like it couldn't possibly fit another soul, as it continues to vibrate to the sound of “Moors, Moors, Moors”.

The bumper crowd though spells bad news for Tom and his hopes of getting his hands on some chips and gravy. “I’m not eating today” he says forlorn, the “queue is so long” and for once he’s not exaggerating. It’s not a case of a couple of blokes waiting for their Bovril, that stand between him and lunch, but a snaking long line of hungry people. The promise of brown gloop covered fried potatoes is so close, we can almost touch the Magpies Nest from which they are being served, it’s almost cruel.

With it only getting warmer, Tom is soon starting to feel the effects of not only not being able to get something to eat, but to drink too. “Ohhhh that bottle of Dr Pepper looks very nice” he mumbled, his hand almost starting to reach out to pinch it off a small child. When another young CFC fan pops up with a Fanta, things are close to getting out of hand, “I’m so thirsty! You and your Fanta” he says loudly, while giving a ten year old the evil eye.

When CFC depart, their warm up complete they are showered with a rapturous ovation from the home crowd, and one young fan gives up a shout of “come on Chorley”. The magpie and the boys with the placard have now teamed up and are doing laps of the pitch together and the next song on the PA is just about the most nostalgic football related song going, other than Three Lions and World in Motion of course, Eat My Goal by Collapsed Lung.

With matching club colours, there is a definite monochrome feel to Victory Park, with more and more ST flags having gone up, one person has scaled the large grass bank to one side of the away stand, and fastened one to a fence. Both ends now look fit to burst, ST’s a hive of activity, the shed now full, but not before a couple more flags have gone up in their too.

Ten minutes to kick off, and whoever decided to put Chumbawamba on, should be up for gross misconduct. A corridor of children has been formed from the edge of the pitch, each are put into position at regular intervals, and are handed a black and white flag, in preparation of the teams arriving. For the first time the shed breaks into song, however its short lived. They go again, the first time a dry run, and it's far louder, “la, la, la, la Chorley”.

“Good afternoon and welcome to Victory Park” says the cheery voice over the PA, who is quick to offer a “warm welcome to Spennymoor Town”. The flag bearers, with kick off still five or so minutes away are already swaying their striped flags, but much like the shed who fire off another song, they are warming up too.

As is normally the case, the person wielding the PA’s microphone is far more animated when reading out the home team, than the away one. The ST fans start to sing over the names of the CFC starting eleven, “I’m Spennymoor till I die” however the “weyyys” that follow each name from the home crowd, are far louder

Each time the home fans belt out a song, it gets louder each time, “the Stretford End of Chorley” as one woman refers to it, the shed to you and I, is well and truly finding it’s voice, “na, na, na, na Chorleys going up”.

A few ST fans not holding up yellow cards in the stand, which I suspect are the same colour as the tequila sunrise looking strip they will be playing in today, considering the glaring kit clash, have gone all Henman Hill, and have opted for the grassy bank or “knoll” as Tom calls it, basking in the sun, but sadly without any Pimms.

The music that welcomes the players out, along with the super excited high pitched screams of the boy perched on the edge of a wall next to us, “come on Chorley” and the roar of the shed, is the kind of trumpet fanfare, with a touch of the Rocky about it, that is more commonly heard at a state occasion or royal wedding, not at a National League football match.

“Like that music” says Tom, doing his own bit of impromptu “wedmin”, but I can tell him now, Charlotte would never go for it.

At the very epicentre of the shed, it's bouncing heart, is where the songs are starting from, “up the National League we go” and then quickly spreading. “ The ginger van Dijk” as the ST fans effectively call their towering red headed captain wins the toss, and opts to kick off. When the two captains are asked to shake hands the contact is minimal and the eye contact non existent. “Up the football league we go” sings the shed as the game gets underway and from somewhere within the dense crowd, comes the sound of a drum.

Such are Tom’s hunger pains, he is now trying to convince me to go and get his food, that I’m supposed to simply “climb over the wall” behind us, shimmy down it and get him his grub and without even knowing it, the CFCs fans shout of “you fat bastard” towards the ST keeper, is somewhat poetic, as its for exactly that reason, I won't be jumping over any walls any time soon.

ST send in an early cross which is easy for the keeper to claim, and then CFC inspire the first “ohhhh” of the day from the fans, unmarked in the box, the player heads the ball back in the direction it came from, sending it just over the bar.

“He tried to hit him” says Tom, the attempt at a dig by one ST player has gone unnoticed by the referee, who only has a quiet word with the two players involved in the coming together on the edge
of the ST box. The game only five minutes old, the scene is set for what will be a heated encounter.

Our proximity to the food is not only causing Tom a dilemma, “I shouldn't stand here, all I want is pies” but other people too. One CFC fan is finding it hard to fight the temptation, and when a lady passes us, her hands filled with a large tray, and a gust of wind lifts the paper covering, revealing a swathe of fresh pies, Tom once again urges me to do his dirty work, “steal one”.

“Bit closer than I would of liked” puffs one CFC supporter, it’s ST turn to just miss the target with a header. The visiting team's effort does little to dampen the mood in the shed, “come on Chorley, come on Chorley” who are soon teasing the ST fans, “it's all gone quiet over there”.

If the man behind me continues with his deafening claps, I may have no choice but to throw myself over the wall and with a quarter of an hour gone, the sight of a rebounded clearance being scooped up by the ST keeper, is to Tom an ominous sign, the football equivalent of reading tea leaves, “going to extra time again” he says resignedly and if he’s right, that will be our third game in a row, one of them, the semi final we saw ST win, going all the way to a penalty shootout.

The grassy knoll has been cleared by some robo cop looking types and Tom is now growing even more pessimistic, “I think 4-2 was a bit optimistic” he says in reference to our pre match predictions. Despite their near constant songs, “oh when the Moors go steaming in” the shed is still poking fun, “your support is fucking shit” and Tom is staring to loose it, “needs a goal, needs a goal” he mutters quietly to himself. Only stopping when the home crowd en masse cry “hit it” to the man on the edge of the box, but the ball rolls away from him, the chance is gone and Tom reverts to sounding a little bit like a scary bloke on the bus.

Again the home fans are more than happy to voice their opinions, “hit it” they all shout, as the ball once again falls to a player on the edge of the box, but the shot is scuffed. The shed seemingly not the slightest bit bothered it's not really clicking for them up front so far, they are somewhat in their own little world if I’m honest, “CCFC, CCFC”. One man on the front row instead of bemoaning his teams link up play, is showing no sign of the frustrations others are displaying, and has decided instead to heckle one ST substitute about the state of his hair, “bloody hell that's thin”.

Just shy of the half hour mark, ST break, two on two, they look on to take a somewhat undeserved lead, but the final shot is wild, and well, well over, which is received with a relieved “weyyyy” from the crowd and I’m it turns out I’m not the only one getting fed up with the nagging of a food whinger. “If you want some chips, get some chips” says one lady, thrusting her purse in to the hand of her son, having heard just about as much as she can bare, but on seeing the queue, he hands it straight back.

“Get in Sergio, one nil” shouts a man two along from us, punching the air, a single earphone in, his attention split between here and what's going on in Manchester City's latest title chasing encounter. The home fans are getting a tad restless, “lazy” says one after a less than inspired pass. Lethargic is not a word that can be used though when discussing their bulky number 6 and captain, who loves a surge forward from the back, and it’s not him but a fellow defender who plays their part in a big crunching “50/50” as Tom calls it wincing, that looks like someone might stand up with a foot pointing the wrong way, but all involved are fine, both getting up in one piece, shaking hands and carrying on.

Despite his team forcing ST further and further back into their own half, the CFC manger is still “very angry” points out Tom, who is growing concerned for his welfare, “he might have a heart attack”. As the minutes tick by, it's the home side who are looking more and more in control, ST looking more and more on the back foot.

For the third time the CFC fans demand a player “hit it” for the second time the player in question is able to get a shot away, winning the home team a corner.

“Free header” gasps Tom, thinking this is the moment, the moment that means there is a chance we might get home before midnight, but the CFC player puts it over, to a chorus of “ohhhhh” and more thunderous claps, from the loud clapper, that are starting to cause irreparable damage. Growing ever louder, “la, la, la Chorley” the shed stops mid song to expel a “you fat bastard” at the latest ST goal kicking, picking up where they left off as soon as its taken.

In Tom’s opinion ST are set up to only counterattack, and their fans who I can tell you have been anything but quiet, are still getting it in the neck from the shed, “your support is fucking shit”. CFC are slowly turning the screw, allowing the ST back line less and less space to manoeuvre, lucky for them they have a captain who really shone the last time we saw them, “the ginger van Dijk” has a great knack of being in the right place at the right time. “Not getting that ball back” laughs Tom, when the aforementioned defender smashes one clearance so high it almost clears a nearby house.

“Yes 2-1” shouts the City fan, who has upgraded his celebration, this time jumping into the air. A home injury sees almost every player take on water, we are somewhat fortunate to be in the shade of the main stand, they must be feeling the full force of the sun. Tom is starting to wither, he seems almost delirious, making garbled comments about every person's passing food and drink. One such person, food in hand, who has braved the queue, talks as if they have just returned from war zone, “its crazy over there”.

“Oh Lancashire is wonderful” sings the shed, paying homage to their home county, and soon like Tom they think the vital breakthrough has been made, by no one other than their marauding captain, who for such a unit, shows a fair amount of agility, neatly swivelling and crashing his shot past the ST keeper, sending the shed into euphoria, and everyone else for that matter, only for it to be ruled offside. Tom more crushed by that, then when he realised he might not be eating.

In a thick Northeast accent, and right over Toms shoulder in his ST tie, a man who looks like a visiting board member, gets right into the home fans, and their “premature” smoke bomb as Tom dubs it, that has just gone off at the back of the shed. “Sit down shut up” he shouts bravely, such is his closeness to Tom, he does his best to make it clear to those turning towards the vocal away fan, that they are not together.

A toe poked effort with a minute left to play, is the final chance of the half and is right at the ST keeper. The back of the shed, the smoke bombs final remnants still lingering is bounding to the tune of Tom’s favourite song after a few drinks, “lets go fucking mental” and Tom is reaching crisis point, a level of desperation I’ve never seen in him before, “I’ll give you a tenner for those chips”.

The immediate moments after the whistle are a little subdued, the applause not being delivered with much gusto until a flare up on the pitch, riles up both sets of fans. “He elbowed him” exclaims Tom, one ST player is prone, the man with the spork who missed the incident, asks Tom if he saw what happened. When he explains what he did see, Mr Spork gives a totally unbiased response, “fair tackle then”.

“Just before we bring you the half time draw a few announcements” says the man over the PA, unnecessarily elongating my agony. Bizarrely after going on about his lack of food for almost an hour and a half, Tom then produces a biscuit, “came prepared” he tells me, and I’m a little lost for words.

“Birthday announcements” are up next, and as nice as they are, can he just get down to the important business of telling us who has won “£400”. A short interlude is filled with the Underworld song from Trainspotting that gets everyone moving, Tom energised by his snack has certainly got a bit of life back in him, “love this song”.

Not quite fully recovered, and still somewhat out of it, Tom is still offering some astronomical amounts of money for people's food, “twenty quid chips, twenty quid chips”, and is even considering drinking some quite ungodly stuff, “I hate Pepsi Max, but I could down that”. When we finally get round to the half time draw results, my tickets that I nabbed at breakneck speed on the way in, are of course not winners.

“They're out early” notices Tom, ST running a few drills on the edge of the pitch, before CFC arrive to another glorious musical welcome, “here they are” introduces the voice over the PA, before We Will Rock You starts to blast out, and on approaching the shed the CFC keeper shakes the hands of those fans asking.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, Tom never fails to disappoint, “chilly now” he tells me. As the game gets underway, the only thing I can hear is one father's attempts to calm his son down, who is mid tantrum and has worked himself up into a right frenzy, “James, James, James”. Sadly for them both, they have become somewhat of the focal point for those around us, all eyes off the game and on them

“We’re gonna score in a minute” sing the shed, however it’s ST who have the first meaningful chance. Running from almost one end of the pitch to the other, completely unabated, however by the time he makes it to the CFC penalty area, his lung buster of a run has finished him off, he had options but never looked up, “he ran out of gas” sighed Tom. His effort at the end of this one man charge, tame to say the least.

Unfortunately the child sized meltdown is only getting worse, and is capturing more and more people's attention. “I’d ring you” says Tom, foolishly suggesting he'd be relying on my fatherly advice to help him out of a similar situation, I’d call someone else if I was him.

Earphone man who for the moment is very much in the know, is offering up his two pence on CFC’s second half performance so far, all that first forty five minutes energy has dwindled and they are retreating, further and further back, “you're too deep”. The whole place is somewhat sober, one old lady is giving a ST substitute the finger as he warms up in front of her and Tom is contemplating drinking the water the players are spitting out, even going as far as to mime catching it.

Ten minutes gone and an ST lay up is cut out just at the last, as the ball is rolled to a player waiting to hit it from the edge of the D. Not long after and ST’s first attempt of the half is a long range one, that the ST keeper spills, forcing away fans hearts into mouths, until he gathers at the second attempt.

Mouth wide open, aghast, Tom can only mutter two words, “open goal”. From the edge of the six yard box, latching onto a kind ricochet, all the CFC player had to do was prod it over the line, but instead it’s right into the keepers arms, “it's got 1 - 0 written all over it”.

With no food to occupy him, Tom is finding the extra time on his hands is allowing him to dish out more of his tactical pearls of wisdom then usual. His Pep hat having travelled with us all this way. “Same against Brackley” he says about ST’s set up, “sat back, second half slowly ramped it up”, he suggests, then hurriedly replacing his Pep hat with one you can hold two cans of beer in, with attached straws, when his food envy kicks in again. “What's he eating?” he says squinting to get a better view, “a little tub of chicken wings and we can't get anywhere near it” oh the injustice.

“3-1 city get in”, and that's the Premier League title all but wrapped up, what we would do for just one goal, let alone four. Over twenty minutes gone now and with no real chances for either side, half chances at best, the CFC fans hold their breath, “go on, go on, go on” says one close by, as the forward cuts into the box, and unleashes a shot, that is deflected wide.

“Been quite a lot of handbags this game” comments Tom, as the tension mounts and players patience starts to wane. The ST end give their thoughts on the player who fouled their man, “wanker, wanker, wanker’’ and the shed gives theres, “we love you Chorley we do”.

Clearly a man of many talents, CFC's captain can hit a mean free kick too. From a fair way out his dipping effort has some thinking it’s in, but it's a fraction over, “ohhhhh”. Still flitting between here and the goings on at the other end of his transistor radio, well more likely an app on his phone, earphone man rejoins us for a fleeting moment, “come on Chorley” then he’s off again. The shed, now stuck in a loop of “Chorley, Chorley. Chorley” is getting louder and louder, one fan having removed his shirt, is whirling it above his head, and they all soon disappear behind the fog of the latest smoke bomb.

Nearing the thirty minute mark, the match is dire, the only thing keeping either of us afloat is the home fans display, and Tom clinching to the possibility that at some point he will eat, “thats a big plate of chips” he says drooling. The chant of “no pyro no party” goes up once more, this time the blue smoke bomb is not exactly plentiful, and Tom wonders if it's just someone with a particularly high setting on their VAPE, “has someone been smoking in there?”

“Yesssss 4-1” shouts earphone man, it's like he is trolling us and doesn't even realise it, what I would do for a goal right now.

“It's all Chorley at the moment” says Tom agonisingly, they are just unable to make their sustained pressure count and it's killing him. Various free kicks and more half chances, are just not being made the most of. The shed is almost relentless in its goading of the ST fans, “it's all gone quiet over there” even though they have been very rarely anything but raucous, “Moors, Moors, Moors”.

From the steps on the main stands to a large yellow bin, there isn't a place someone is not standing or sitting, counting down into the last five minutes, and we can't be the only ones sending a quiet prayer to the football Gods for a goal.

The tan bandage that now covers nearly all of the ST’s captains head, is doing little to hamper his performance, falling short of going the full Terry Butcher, after quite the bang to the head. CFC still
look the more likely to score, one player allows the ball to bounce over his shoulder, turning and unleashing a first time shot, but it’s over. ST look like the most likely of the two to get someone sent off, if it wasn't for the more than lenient ref. “Does he have any cards in his pockets?” asks one fan after the latest ST foul. “He don't like cards” laughs Tom, the referees laissez faire approach has not gone unnoticed.

“Cheeky” coos Tom, when one CFC player tries to catch the ST keeper out with his free kick. Shooting and trying to curl it in the near post, instead of crossing it in as everyone had prepared themselves for.

It’s getting nervy to say the least, a CFC pass back rolling towards their goal has some biting their nails, until it’s cleared, no time for mistakes now. A rare ST attack sees their shot blocked by one CFC players testicles and while he recovers the ball is hurriedly cleared, hand the ball straight back to ST, its all getting a bit manic.

“Three minutes of added time” announces the voice over the PA, which is then followed by Tom’s somewhat redundant question, “does no one want to win anything this year?”. His prayers, which were probably the loudest are almost answered not once but twice in the dying moments of the half, but again CFC can't make it count. Stretching the forward can poke the ball over the keeper, but his shot his wide and then with almost the last kick of the game their captain, puts an effort wide too.

“City won the league” informs earphone man, to all those around him. A bit of Fat Boy Slim plays while the players take on water, and like a miracle, when I was praying for goals, he was praying for food, Tom has bagged himself some chips, however they had “run out of burgers” and within seconds of getting back to our post, his face beaming, he’s already got gravy down his front, “really!”.

With the shed maybe quiet for the first time today, it’s a toss up between the sound of Tom inhaling his chips and the ST fans for who is loudest.

It’s taken over an hour and a half of football for the referee to produce a card, and it’s not a huge surprise its for a ST player, physicality is very much part of their DNA, and the awarding of the booking gets a jeer from the home fans, “whooooo”.

The resulting free kick looks like a straightforward one for the ST keeper to deal with, but maybe what is now a weary mind, makes a bit of a meal of it, spilling it, he then quite literally puts his head on the line, or should I say face, blocking the follow up, with his boat race.

Standing on the steps of the main stand, the CFC mascot has turned spectator, no longer wandering, he watches on, occasionally fluttering his wings on the head of the women below him. Two young girls desperately try and get his attention, “Magpie, Magpie”, coolly turning towards them, with the air of an old Hollywood star about him, the mere lifting of his wing sends them giddy.

If the home side think they are going to get any joy from lumping the ball into the ST box, they need to think again, ST’s captain is on the end of everything, bandage or no bandage, he is an absolute rock and it's is not under his watch but a teammates, that sees a CFC player go down in the box. The whole place is sure its a nailed on penalty, they all look, including the players towards the referees assistant, who hesitates for a fraction of a second, before motioning play on.

A real hush has descended, the ST fans are still buoyant, “we’re the black and white army” but the home supporters have fallen very flat. Spending most of their time grumbling, despite their team being well on top as far as possession is concerned, but once again, not really coming together in front of goal.

“He's all over him” barks one CFC supporter, the referee able to see too the ST players attempt to climb inside the home players shirt and is penalised accordingly. “Yes” shouts one fan as the resulting free kick is curled over the wall and starts to creep inside the post, only for the ST keeper at full stretch to get enough on it to turn it wide.

The Magpies lost his shit, the blue smoke is pouring out the shed once more and the ST players are remonstrating with each other, who was picking him up they ask. Ghosting in, the scorer of CFC’s goal was able to head the home side ahead with ease. It's about the first time ST’s captain had not won a header in his box all game. Flying off towards the corner flag, the scorer soon propping up a pile of his team mates.

“Thank fuck for that” rejoices Tom and for some reason the CFC fans are calling for the dismissal of one ST player, “off, off, off”, who only receives a yellow, before the game restarts.

I couldn't tell you exactly how long it took for the CFC supporters bubble to burst and Toms for that matter, but it wasn't long, a couple of minutes if that. One CFC fan summing it up perfectly, “what a nightmare”, ST have equalised.

The ST players bundle head long into their fans, who break out their loudest rendition so far today of “Moors, Moors, Moors” which quickly gets a sniping reply of “we forgot that you were here”. Embraced, engulfed near enough devoured by the travelling fans, the all yellow wearing ST players have a new spring in their step, having just gone behind, one motions towards the crowd for them to give everything they've got.

Both teams huddle, the young CFC fans are still trying to get the mascots attention, “magpie, magpie, magpie” but he’s far too cool to react. It’s the ST end turn to go all Tom’s had two pints, “lets go fucking mental” and the latest announcement over the PA, nearly causes Tom to cry, “pie and chips now £2.50 from the Magpies Nest”, which is the last thing he wanted to hear, “now they fucking tell me”.

With the game poised to restart, the request over the PA for the fans to “stay off the pitch” come full time, is a complete waste of breath.

The ST end erupts as their keeper approaches and it the visitors who get the first chance of the final period of extra time. “He wasn't blowing up for anything in first half” complains one CFC fan, when ST are awarded a free kick, and the inconsistency of the man in charge is starting to wear a little thin. The shot is on target, but also right at the keeper, much to the delight of the home crowd, “weyyyy”.

ST’s equaliser has well and truly knocked CFC, and with what feels like every call going their way, they are very much getting the run of the green, its ST who now look the most likely to push on and win. Home heads are down, the fans try to rally, “come on Chorley” but for the first time it fails to take off.

“It's gotta be on the deck, they are too tall” comments one nearby CFC supporter, his team's approach, and the size of the ST defence, means they are heading down a blind alley. When a call does go their way, it's greeted with sarcastic cheers, but they soon turn to gulps when its only their captains right boot that is the difference between ST scoring or not. Stepping in with expert timing, he’s able to stop the ST player bearing down on goal.

The CFC fans continue to struggle with the referees decisions, presented with two consecutive corners they have little impact. The ST supporters are growing in confidence, the mascot is on absolute tenterhooks.

“How long is left?” asks one CFC fan out loud, not long enough. Penalties will be required to conclude one what one persons calls "the two magpie derby".

I find it somewhat amusing, that the beginning and end of my day is punctuated by naff, cheesy pop music from the middle to late 90's. The Lighthouse Family waved me off this morning, and Heather Small warbling about being "proud" brings it to an end.

After having seen CFC miss out on promotion at Halifax two season ago, and being pipped to the title by Stockport this season, because of amongst other things a loss to ST, the raw and unbridled outpouring of emotion following the one handed save by the CFC keeper, to clinch the win is a sight to behold.

The choice of song would not have been my pick, I understand the sentiment, but ultimately its irrelevant what they played. Among the madness unfolding before us, the fans of course not listening to a word the PA said about staying off the pitch, those haring around on the grass, couldn't care less if it's Heather or Chopin being played.

While the fans are leaping onto it, one CFC player is leaping off it and into the crowd to celebrate with friends and family. The flags in the main stands are going back and forth, and of course the magpie is right in the thick of it. "We only got promoted" screams one person into their phone, as grown men cry, and hold strangers like long lost loved ones and it doesn't take long for thoughts to turn to new away days next season, "we're going to Notts County" says one person in a mild state of  shock, before sights shift to settling old grudges, "Stockport County we're coming for you".

Post trophy lift, post one player catching a face full of bubbly, the players some with flags over their shoulders that read "we're going up" are more than happy to let fans pose with their medals, one sits on the pitch alone, his still around his neck, just staring at it, contemplating his achievement.

The robustness of the trophy does not quite live up to the treatment it gets, hoisted over and over, pulled from pillar to post, the moment it falls apart, one player is left with a long metal rod in his hand, and all the constituent parts at his feet, like a scrap metal kebab.

Not a game that will be remembered for long, but a ground that certainly will be and two sets of fans who despite each others claims did not stop. For me the lasting memory of this match, with our season rapidly coming to end, will not be the look on Toms face when he finally got to eat, but that of one CFC player being carried across the pitch on the shoulders of the fans, with a smoke bomb in hand, drinking it all in.

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  1. Cheery Voice on the PA31 July 2019 at 02:17

    "Ten minutes to kick off, and whoever decided to put Chumbawamba on, should be up for gross misconduct" - The trial passed without any conviction.

    “Good afternoon and welcome to Victory Park” says the cheery voice over the PA, who is quick to offer a “warm welcome to Spennymoor Town”. - I've never been told I sound cheery, I'll take that one!

    I did chuckle at these comments!

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