Saturday 13th January 2018 15.00
Squire’s Gate 3 Abbey Hey 2 HT: 0-1 Att: 85 Ent: £6 Prog £2 Coffee £1
Harries 62, 72 Pett 86 : Smith 35, Swallow 87
from School Lane (or The Brian Addison Stadium)
Today’s choice of match was an easy one – Squire’s Gate would complete the NWCL Premier division for me, my third completed league this season and seventh overall. Squires Gate were founded in 1948 as Squires Gate British Legion and have played at their School Road ground all that time, adding and improving to it at various stages, especially for entry to the NWCL in 1991-92.
Their ground backs on to Blackpool Wren Rovers’ ground and just across the main road is AFC Blackpool’s ground (fka Blackpool Mechanics). In the 90s all three were in the NWCL, within a 300 metre radius of each other. Squire’s Gate and Wren share the same car park.
I love their School Road ground, or as it is now known the Brian Addison Stadium. Brian Addison has been a club stalwart since the 1960s, working successively as player, linesman, manager, secretary, chairman and now ground keeper. A worthy man to have the ground named after.
Despite the improvements to the ground over the last decade, it has that wonderful old style feel to it, where enough of its architectural history exists to merge with the new to create a charismatic lived in, well loved ground.
The car park side had a wall with fence posts and discoloured horizontal concrete slabs acting as fence panels; at different angles and hues. In front thin rusted scaffolding poles hold up a tin roof with dented advertisement boards providing awnings, all extolling the wares of Blackpool Bathrooms, the largest purveyor of bathrooms on the Fylde Coast. A floodlight sits underneath and pokes out through the corrugated roof. The dugouts also find space for themselves in amongst the medley.
The small stand behind the goal looked cosy and was pleasingly symmetrical, the stand split into two halves, both sides have three rows of seven, six and five seats from the top down. The seats were delineations on a wooden plank, set on white painted concrete plinths, as they were throughout the whole ground.
The clubhouse was completely refurbished in 2006 and sits in one corner on the side. Further up that side being a recently re-roofed series of stands. A covered terrace followed by three seated stands, the first being three rows in a 16,14,14 formation, the second a 10, 5-3, 12 affair and the last a 15,13,9 combination, for those seating nerds out there! Or maybe there’s only one seating nerd, and he’s writing this. Altogether 111 seats to add to the 36 in the other stand.
Across the other side is the covered shallow terrace, mentioned before.
The rest of the ground is hard standing of the paving slab variety. The ground is right next to Blackpool Airport, which gives the spectator the occasional distraction of a light aircraft flying over, perhaps taking pictures for a non-league grounds-from-the-air book, getting three for the price of one.
The game turned out to be first-rate althought the first half hour was played at a furious pace, with a very schoolboy-like chasing of the ball from all outfield players. Gate would attack down the left and find they had no space, so switch play to the right, upon which 19 players would move en masse like a flock of starlings to the right. Abbey Hey improved throughout the half and took the lead with Smith heading in from a corner. There was quite a cheer as Abbey Hey had brought a considerable away following, for the league. Also of note was a Gate player swiping at the ball to keep it in play and snapping the corner flag into multiple pieces. It was reinstalled by the good-humoured ref, considerably shorter than before.
Gate stepped up a gear in the second half, looking a lot sharper. Harries equalised after a header was only parried and fell to his legs, while he himself was falling over, to tap in from two yards. A scramble from a free kick 10 minutes later, was finally bundled in by Harries again, to turn the tide on the game. With four minutes left came an absolute thunderbolt of a free-kick from Pett. Twenty yards out he put his laces through it and it sailed, straight as a die into the top corner. I was stood behind the goal recording it. You knew from the microsecond he hit it where it was headed.
Abbey Hey pulled one back immediately with a great run and strike from Swallow, from outside the box. Gate held on for the last few minutes and deservedly picked up another three points to continue their revival. It turned out to be a great game. I liked the Squires Gate ground and its hospitality. They even had those badges left from last season, for the NWCL sticker album. Impressive, considering I seem to be the only one in the country collecting them.