I recently totted up how many grounds I had been to and was surprised to find that I was closing in on the 200 mark. Now I know this is small fry in the world of hopping, but I wanted to make ground number 200 a decent one, not a new build. So looking for a ground with a bit of character, I decided on Dark Lane, home of Rossendale United.
This was also a new League for me too after my aborted trip to Holker last year. The ground is fairly easy to find and although the car park is limited in spaces we have no trouble in parking up. The ground has a ramshackle appearance on the outside, just as I like them, plenty of character and I'm confident I've made the right choice of ground for today.
The turnstiles are situated in the corner of the car park and they bring you into the ground in the corner with a covered terraced stand in front of you with the main stand to the left.
The setting for the ground is stunning with some beautiful countryside beyond the limits of the perimeter fencing. There is a table selling raffle tickets and another selling programmes as you enter where I am mistaken for a Manchester City fan before apologies are offered when they realise I am not. We spend a few minutes talking about the ground and they inform me that it can be pretty cold in the winter with the ground being very open to the elements. Fortunately for us the weather today is pretty good and not very cold. We carry on to make our way anti clockwise around the ground.
The terraced stand has three steps with the top step a wide one to the back of the stand. There is a crush barrier running along the first step in the first section which runs to half way behind the goal.
There is a small dividing wall half way along with a gap at the top to enter the second section of the stand. This becomes a four step terrace with no crush barrier.
Once past this terraced section the ground narrows as you go towards the corner and a very smart blue fence runs from this stand right down to the other corner on this side. You can see the views from this picture too.
The far side of the ground has hard standing running down it's length with a well tended grassy area behind it running to the fence.
There are two large dugouts situated on this side too and this picture gives you sneak preview of the main stand.
This brings you to the opposite end to where we came in . There is hard standing running the entire length with a basic cover which also runs the entire end. The blue fencing ends a little way along and there is then a variety of fencing, trees and bushes.
This is a more general view of the end from the side of the ground.
Leaving this end brings to the side of the ground with the impressive looking main stand.
The ground widens up again on this side with hard standing running to the stand and a grassy area up to the fence.
There is access to the seats on the end of the stand and there is a terraced area in front of the seats with the entrance to the dressing rooms half way down the stand.
We go up the steps to take a look at the seated area. The "seats" are in fact long benches with the seat numbers painted on with a line separating each seat. Very old school and fantastic to see.
At this point we meet a Club official who is due to man the tannoy system. He asks us why we are here and where we've travelled from. We explain what we are doing here and he goes on tell us the Club are having problems at the moment financially but how they are hoping to get through them. A really nice guy and very friendly.
There is another section of seating in the centre of the stand for Directors and officials with another section of benches after this.
After the stand there is some uncovered terracing with a couple of portacabins at the back of it.
Neither of today's two teams are doing too well in the Vodkat Premier with Rossendale in 21st and Formby in 20th in a league of 22 teams, so this was the cliche six pointer. The game began fairly scrappy with both teams struggling to hang onto the ball. Formby had plenty of possession but it was Rossendale who were creating the best chances.
On 19 minutes the ball broke to Rossendale's Stephen Burke who found himself one on one with the keeper and calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the net. Formby lost their way briefly and began arguing over every decision which did no help their cause. Rossendale used this to their advantage and looked likely to score more but some good defensive work by Formby kept them at bay. Formby gradually worked their way back into the game and got their reward on 37 minutes when good interplay between Robinson and Stancombe resulted in a low shot that beat the Rossendale keeper from Stancombe. Formby also hit the woodwork before half time but there was no further score and so we went in level at the break.
Early in the second half Formby's King was shown the red card after a reckless challenge leaving Rossendale with the advantage. However Formby galvanised themselves and looked very solid at the back and were even pressing forward making light of their disadvantage. Formby were awarded a free kick just outside the Rossendale box and when it was cleared the danger looked over. But Jack Sinnott picked it up 25 yards out and hit a superb half volley which dipped over the keeper and into the net. Formby still went forward and Rossendale were finding it hard to create anything. But on 74 minutes they had their equaliser. Rossendale exploited their man advantage and some good passing play resulted in Burke being found unmarked on the edge of the box and he found the back of the net for the second time.
They were not level for long though. Formby immediately went on the attack from kick off and Robinson surged into the box only to be brought down by the keeper and the penalty was awarded. Phil Stafford stepped up and put away a good penalty to restore Formby's lead. Formby's players continued to work hard and this made it very hard for Rossendale to get any sort of game going. Formby saw out the 4 minutes additional time to secure a vital win in the relegation battle and deal a blow to Rossendale's own hopes of survival.
An enjoyable game and a superb ground made for a good day out and I would recommend you to make a visit to Dark Lane in the near future.
More pictures of Dark Lane here.
There are pictures of the ground, action and the fans here.
Rossendale United 2-3 Formby