Ground #: 18
Ground: Giant Axe
Competition: Northern League Division 1 North (Level 8)
Kick Off: 3pm
Cost: £5 (concession ticket)
Lancaster City 3
Mahoney 34’, Coar 47’, 69’
Salford City 5
Foster (pen) 15’, 57’, 71’, 75’, 90’
Despite being now more than midway through the 2nd year of my degree at Lancaster, the local football team had not appealed straight away. When I first arrived in Lancaster, within a week I had already watched their Football League rivals Morecambe and had been several times after, such was my enjoyment of my first visit to Christie Park. However, now being a Groundhopper and wanting to see more local teams, the time had come to visit Lancaster City.
Lancaster City currently find themselves playing in the Northern League Division 1 North (or the Unibond League) which is Level 8 on the English League Pyramid. Lancaster had been well known from 2006/2007 after they finished the season in the Conference North with just 1 point after going into administration, all their players leaving and having to play a sizeable amount of games with their youth team and young cast-in’s who they had brought in on emergency deals. They then dropped down to Northern League Div 1 North, where they achieved a very respectable 11th place last season. They play their home games at the brilliantly named Giant Axe ground, which is named because when viewed from above, it is said to be shaped like an axe head. The ground today is quite basic but probably a good standard compared to the rest of the League, with one main stand for seats, a covered standing area behind one goal, an uncovered standing area behind the other goal and a place people stand underneath the press box down the other side of the pitch. Plans to improve the ground have been put on hold due to financial implications, but also as Lancaster will probably not need to improve the ground in a hurry for more fans.
They welcomed Salford City, who had last season been promoted from the North-West Counties 1st Division after a 2nd place this season. However, this season had been very tough for the Ammies and they have already gone through 3 managers to try to staive off an immediate return to the North-West Counties league. Under ‘new’ manager Paul Wright, they found themselves coming to Lancaster with only 9 points all season, with one away win so far and amazingly none at home. With also only 9 away goals scored all season, this was a potential banana skin for Lancaster City which was repeatedly touched upon within the programme. Lancaster City were having a decent season, currently in 6th and were only 2 points of the last play-off place in the Division, so this game had all to play for.
We had arrived at the ground on a VERY wet day and a quite chilly wind half expecting the game to be off, but it was on and to my amazement it was on when we saw the state of the pitch too (see the photo above) that amazement increased. Salford fans were in good voice at the start of the game as both teams tried to get used to the poor conditions and it was Salford who took the lead when a Salford player was one on one with the goalie and was taken down yet no penalty was awarded until the referee had consulted with his linesman, much to the fury of the Lancaster fans. Steve Foster dispatched the penalty and Salford had the lead. This forced Lancaster to come back at them and bombarded the away goal until they got their deserved equalizer on 34 minutes when Danny Mahoney curled a superb free kick into the top corner to give on loan goalie Matt Edwards no chance. The last 10 minutes of the half both sides could of snatched a goal and Salford thought they had when a shot had beaten Neil Beesley in goal but was stopped on the line, through mud and Lancaster cleared. So 1-1 at HT it was. My friend who I went with to this game laughed and said he wished for a 4-4 draw, was never going to happen, but I had not expected what the 2nd half brought.
Lancaster took the lead for the first time straight away when a well delivered cross could not be missed by Alan Coar from about a yard out which then brought Salford out to attack the Lancaster goal. By this time the rain had stopped for a very chilly wind which was causing the mud and pitch to dry up slightly and turn more into a bog which made playing any sort of football hard. Salford though had a go and got their reward when a great cross was slipped through the keepers legs for Steve Foster’s 2nd of the game. Again, both sides went on the attack as a draw would suit neither team and Lancaster got a 3rd and re-took the lead when great work from Dodgson I believe allowed Coar for another tap in. However this lead didn’t last long as an awful pass-back from a Lancaster City defender went straight past Beesley in goal and allowed Steve Foster to slide in on the mud for a 3rd. Salford then scored almost instantly after that too when they hit Lancaster on the counter attack and Foster scored his 4th by smashing a shot through Beesley. Lancaster were stunned and the Salford fans next to us also were too as they were looking at only their 2nd league win of the season. As you would expect Lancaster bombarded the Salford goal and near misses and some good saves from Edwards retained Salford’s lead until just after 5 minutes of injury time was called and Steve Foster picked the ball up outside the box and curled a fantastic shot over Beesley in net and made it 5. It finished 5-3 to Salford. Breathless.
This was my first proper non-league game, as I don’t really count Cambridge Utd as one as in my belief they should be a league side and look good to go back to League 2 this season. I could not have expected the match to turn out the way it, especially after the 1st half. This game will really take some beating, 8 goals, 5 scored by one player alone, I doubt I will ever see that again. Great fun and banter between the fans, and all of this only for £5. You have to love the non-league, I sure will be back to Lancaster City at some point and will have to go visit other close-by Unibond League teams.
- Match: 9/10 (this will take some beating, great game)
- Value for money: 7/10 (£5 for Level 8 does seem fair, and the game was worth the entry fee)
- Ground: 6/10 (decent for this level, good facilities too)
- Atmosphere: 8/10 (Salford City fans are some of the best I have come across, great banter with Lancaster too)
- Food: 6/10 (decent burger at decent prices)
- Programme: 6/10 (while not amazing, you have to remember it was only £1.50 and at this level too)
- Referee: Mark Griffiths – 6/10 (keeper should have been sent off for last man and someone also kicked out at another player to only receive a yellow)