Ground – Shawbridge

Saturday 29th September 2007

FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Rd Clitheroe 8 Spennymoor Town 2 HT 2-1 Att: 330

Entrance £7; Hot drinks 70p/80p; Programme £1.30

EntranceI had agonised for over a week about where to go for a match for the 2nd qualifying round. There were many tempting grounds such as Gainsborough, Barrow, Boston, Halesowen, Stourbridge and Garforth, but Clitheroe won on account of its location and castle, and just because it appealed to me. What a choice it turned out to be, the highest scoring tie of the round and breaking my goals in game all time record!

It was an eighty mile drive for my Dad and I. (My Dad was visiting for the weekend, interrupting his normal schedule of watching AFC Wimbledon all over the south east) An hour up the M6 and then right at Preston, through to the rural Ribble Valley, the heart of which lies the affluent town of Clitheroe.

Clitheroe lays claim to an old Norman Castle, which reputedly has the smallest Norman keep in England. It is one of the oldest buildings in Lancashire.  It is a very impressive castle, right in the middle of town, with wonderful views over the town and of the rolling hills of the Forest of Bowland, the Ribble Valley and Pendle Hill, I believe (famous for its witches). More important than all that, though, is the wonderful view of Shawbridge Stadium!

View form the castle

Clitheroe FC date all the way back to 1877. They started as Clitheroe Central until 1903 when they dropped the Central. They played in various Lancashire Leagues until 1982/3 when they became founder members of the North West Counties League; but their most famous moment was undoubtedly the 1995/6 campaign when they got to Wembley in the FA Vase, only to lose to Brigg Town 3-0, in front of 7,500 fans.

This sign in Shawbridge Stadium commemorates the occasion. I’m not sure what the rusty wheelbarrow signifies, though.

Vase winners

Clitheroe’s FA Cup opponents, Spennymoor Town, also began in 1877 as Spennymoor Utd. They were fairly well known in the higher reaches of the non-leagues until recently, being stalwarts of the Northern League for a long time, and then the Northern Premier. However, after collapse in 2005 they took over another club in the area that had recently folded, Evenwood Town, changing their name to Spennymoor Town, and started their new life in the Arngrove Northern League Division Two (Step 6). Which they won last year.

Shawbridge looked like my kind of ground, from what I saw on the website. I wasn’t disappointed! It was like the non-league equivalent of Oxford’s old Manor Ground. A hodge podge of different stands and terracing all nestled snugly side by side, completely oblivious to continuity or form, and all the more charming for it. It also had a width-ways slope to the pitch, the like of which I’ve never seen before. It made Barnet’s Underhill look like a billiard table!


The slope was so pronounced that corners, such as the one about to be taken in the picture, need only to be struck dead level to be perfect for a striker’s head. Attacks down the right were positively downhill. Conversely, corners from down the other side needed some serious elevation!

Shawbridge had one main stand that seated about 200 in flip down blue wooden slatted seats. This is where me and my dad sat throughout. The view was excellent from here.

Main Stand

Further down were the toilets and food stand, and also a tiny little stand, probably the smallest I’ve ever seen, with the few seated quite obviously asking the question of me – what the hell are you looking at with your camera?

Small Stand

Behind the end that you come in at was the bar area with the corner having a makeshift roof. The whole was a covered terrace, a few steps up, the first of which looked like crazy paving, but the further up you went the more it became your more usual stadium foundation of large slabs of concrete. The Spennymoor fans congregated in numbers here in the first half. (The Spennymoor support was fantastic. Not only did they turn out in numbers but they were vocal throughout, even singing heartily at 4-1 down!) The far side was a long terrace with a bit of a cover and the other end was another small covered bit and a few steps up.

End terrace

Long side

The far side close up.

Long side again

From a distance.

 The match was an absolute classic and the standard of goals was a credit to both teams. Believe it or not, the game could have turned out very differently. Had Spennymoor taken a gilt-edged chance to make it 3-2 they could well have been replaying. However, Spennymoor’s woeful defence was taken full advantage of in the end. Their abysmal defence was exposed very early on when a simple tap in made it 1-0. But Spennymoor’s attack was confident, well organised, quick and accurate. When they were on the break you could almost believe they were the team from a higher division .

Their equaliser could have been a Goal of the Month contender on Match of the Day – a 25 yard screamer into the top corner. In less than a minute their celebrations were muted by a Clitheroe reply. It was only 2-1 at half time and Spennymoor had everything to play for except that their defence actually got worse in the second half. They stood around like so many static subbuteo players waiting to be flicked as first one, then another, Clitheroe player belted in goal after goal. No giant hand came down to flick the statuesque defenders as they they witnessed an embarrassment of goals. To be fair, some of them were sublime finishes, belying Clitheroe’s status in Unibond One North.

To summarise, an excellent ground, full of character, and a charming town too. Definitely recommended.


Jackson 5
Heap 45
Jackson 59
Sargeson 75
Exton 78
Dempsey 82
Exton 88
Fisher 90
Richards 45
Lawther 83

7 thoughts on “Clitheroe

  1. Ground deserves classic non-league ground status, because it has a slope and all the best grounds have.
    Poor show this season in the FA Cup from the Northern League, with only West Auckland surviving(as I write)and typified by this heavy deafeat for Spenny.

  2. I overheard a Spenny fan say that five of their regulars were out. I guess they must have been the defenders! Despite the bad defence and the scoreline Spennymoor looked like they had oodles of potential. Their equalising goal was a beauty and their approach play was very impressive. I’m sure it would have been a very different scoreline had they not hit the bar from 6 yards, which would’ve made it 3-2.
    Both sets of fans were great too.

  3. Great to see a neutral fan’s view of Shawbridge, superb reading.

    For info, the tiny stand used to be considerably bigger but a fire caused by vandals did for one end (and actually helped to make space for the Blues Grub Tub to be dropped in to a couple of seasons later!) and some unsafe supports did for the other (now blocked off) end. There’s a photo on the website of it in all it’s previous glory as the Massey Tankers Stand. Hope you don’t mind if I include a link to your report on the Clitheroe website (on the Visit Shawbridge page). Cheers.

  4. Royf,

    Thanks for the comment and information! Shawbridge was one of my favourite grounds visited. I really enjoyed the whole day. I don’t mind you putting my link on the website – it might get my readership into double figures for the day!
    I registered on Blue Swayed Views and somebody mentioned the entrance wasn’t £7 – sorry for the inaccuracy – let me know what it is and I’ll amend.
    ‘Serious anorak’ – how dare you! Actually, ok I am, but you should see some of the people on Tony’s Non-League forum!
    Thanks for your interest again.

  5. Fantastic!!! My father watched Wimbledon for over 50 years and my mother almost as long. I was enrolled in the Supporters Club in 1938 at the age of about 6 months. I have lived in Clitheroe for nearly 40 years and am a member of Clitheroe Supporters Club. Shawbridge is not yet the size of Plough Lane, but it has the same feel of a real footballing community and extended family. I love it!
    By the way, my mother and father are buried in Gap Road Cemetery, about 100 yards from the ground, although the ground was being demolished last time I saw it. Very appropriate just the same, as my father also worked as gardener at the cemetery for many years.

  6. Great description of your day out. Nicely observed and written and not full of the supposedly witty personal guff that clogs up other blogs.

    Useful also to know that the castle is where to get the classic ground view from.

    Clitheroe has long been on my list of grounds to visit. Must see if I can get there on next season’s FA Cup trail.

    PS Thanks to the link to my blog on your homepage.

  7. Paul,

    Thanks for your comment and the compliment! Shawbridge is difficult to beat as a non-league venue. Definitely worth the journey and the trip up the castle, too. It has loads of character. I don’t link to many sites as there seems to be an abundance of them now and I like to keep my site as simple as I can – yours is a classic, certainly one of my favourites – great pictures. I’m going to have to bump Stockbridge PS and Belper up my to do list after seeing your pictures – they look like classics.

    I’m going to Airbus (UK) Broughton on Friday v Bangor. I can’t wait – retractable floodlights!

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