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Saturday 5th March 2022 ko 13:00

North West Counties League Premier Division

PADIHAM 1 (Hoskin 45p)

ASHTON ATHLETIC 5 (McDermott 16 Carr 23 53 73 Morton 49og)

Att 378

Entry £8

Programme £2

It must have been around twenty years ago that Dean, a Blackburn-based groundhopper told me I simply had to visit the Arbories. Sadly Dean was lost to the groundhopping world a few years ago, and for no sensible reason it took me until now to finally visit. My way of looking at it, is that at least now I could bring Robyn too!

I’d become very aware that this hop was stretching our host clubs close to the limit. It isn’t normal to see a crowd of 460 at Bacup Borough but as we approached the two Saturday middle games I imagined we’d lose a few to groundhopper drift and Padiham had the experience of playing at a higher level. They’d had a two season stint in the Northern Premier League from 2013-2015 so I reasoned that the Arbories was set up for a large crowd. Thankfully I was proved right. 

The club managed to keep a huge queue for delights such as corned beef hash well under control,  and while the second game of a four game day will always see a few hoppers head “Off piste” it does have the advantage of it being lunch time! It was good for once to be utterly redundant save for doing the head count!

There’s plenty to like amongst the bricks and mortar here, including what could well be the thinnest stand I’ve ever seen on the far side.  But to see the real delight of Padiham, you need to do what the Northern Premier League forbade, and that’s climb that grass bank on that far side for a quite wonderful view. 

The tower of St Leonards Church and the spire of the Nazareth Unitarian chapel poke their heads above the line of the Arbories’ boundary, and to the rear the vista of Burnley beyond evokes past times. I can imagine the view being fairly similar to this a century ago. 

In fact from a Padiham point of view all would have been good with the world, but they came up against a motivated and well-resourced Ashton Athletic. I remember Richard Brodie in the losing York City side in the 2010 Conference Play-off final; he terrorized defences at Conference Premier level for many years. In fact the surprise is that he only played one season in the EFL- 2012-13 at Morecambe. He’s now 34 and Athletic’s player-coach but still leads the line as pugnaciously as ever, and came close to scoring – Daniel Morton’s own goal was entirely due to Brodie breathing down his neck.

But man of match was Thomas Carr who’s hat trick broke Padiham hearts. That, by-the-way included the lad on PA duties, three times he was forced to call out Carr’s name, and each time the “arrr” tailed off slightly more tragically. You couldn’t help but feel for him, even if the score was realistic on the balance of play.

It wasn’t difficult getting egress when it was all over. I had a spare seat in the car so ended up giving photographer Mike Bayly a lift to Nelson. If you didn’t know Mike’s the author of “British Football’s Greatest Grounds” If you want 100 amazing grounds to go and visit, you could do a lot worse than use his book as a reference. I wonder if Padiham will make a future edition?