The plan for today was to meet up with The Onion Bag after several failed attempts last season.The phone call came and we decided upon the Colne game against Salford City as the ground looked interesting and with a good backdrop too.
I set off with the rain falling steadily, which makes the journey fairly tedious. I eventually drive out of the rain clouds and take a comfort break at Birch Services on the M62. As on several occasions last season, I run into a pink cowboy attired hen party apparently on their way to Blackpool. Their language was as colourful as their hats.
I leave them behind at Birch and a few miles onto the M6 the heavens open and visibility is pretty poor. I suddenly start to have concerns about the game being on and I panic as I realise I have no back up plans. Whoops!
It is still raining as I make my up Harrison Drive to the XLCR Stadium, home of Colne.
There is no sign of TOB, so I make my way into the ground through an open gate. There are two guys going about the job of getting the ground ready for the game. I ask them if the game will be on. I get a funny look and an assurance that there will no problem with the game going ahead. I ring TOB to see where he is and to tell him the good news. He is not far away he tells me, so I have a little wander in the covered end while I wait. Five minutes TOB has arrived and we meet at long last. I'll not tell you too much about him in case his head gets too big, but I thoroughly enjoy my afternoon with him and I hope we will hook up again in the future.
We decide to explore the ground before going to find something to eat. It is still raining but the pitch looks good and there are only a couple of spots at the edges that are waterlogged. You enter the ground in the corner of the ground with a covered four step terrace in front of you.
In the corner there is a tea hut which is not open today and this leads to the far side. There is a short four step terrace with a bench on the top step and the toilets behind.
Just after this there is a small covered stand which as you can see from the picture afforded no protection from the weather at this moment.
There is some hard standing leading you towards the dugouts which are sited on this side of the ground.
After the dugouts the hard standing widens considerably and this runs all the way to the corner.
The end opposite where we came in is a one level hard standing and from here you can see the camber of the pitch which runs down to the far corner.
This brings you the side of the ground with the Main Stand situated astride the halfway line with the bar/tea hut and dressing rooms. There is a small terraced area here but it is blocked off at both ends.
The Main Stand is a gem. Quirky and with plenty of character. This picture shows how the pitch drops away. The height of the front of the stand increases as it heads towards the corner.
The seats are a mix of benches and plastic seats, with the benches having backs to them, fairly unusual to what I have previously seen.
This brings us back to where we started, a lot wetter than when we set out! We spend a while chatting to the Club officials and are blamed for the weather as to quote "you are the tourists". We head outside to go and get some food and discover that TOB both have the same model of car. After an abortive visit to a pub we decide to head to Sainsbury's and get a sandwich and head back to the ground to eat it. As we leave the supermarket the rain has relented and there is even some blue skies.
As we arrive at the ground, both teams are outside the ground warming up on the grassy area that sites below the ground.
The game kicks off and before anyone has settled down Salford score. Jack Redshaw opened the scoring with a shot the keeper can only parry but the ball loops upwards and bounces into the net. Shorly after they have scored Salford have a great opportunity to make it 2 but miss the chance. I have a chuckle as one of the Salford coaches shouts to the wayward forward, "You should be hitting the onion bag from there". Now, I knew he is famous, but I did not realise he was that well known! Salford continued to swarm forward I feared for Colne, but to their credit they fought back and after 15 minutes Maduka was brought down in the area and Colne were awarded a penalty. Neil Stansfield stepped up and levelled the score.
Five minutes later Colne were ahead after Matt Tindall cut his way past several defenders with a strong run into the box before slotting home from the tightest of angles. The picture below is the start of his run.
This was a good competitive game with both sides dominating at times. On 25 minutes Salford were level. Danny Heffernan headed powerfully home from a corner giving the keeper no chance.
Salford were now on top and retook the lead on 37 minutes when Redshaw got clear, made his way into the box and curled a great shot past the keeper.
Salford went into the break 3-2 up after a thoroughly entertaining half of football.
The second half saw the customary wholesale change of players and whilst the game was still interesting, the number of chances fell and there was only one more goal. This went to Salford when Gary Salmon picked himself after being fouled to send the Colne keeper the wrong way and make it 4-2.
A very entertaining game and the ground is a gem, well worth the visit. TOB and I parted outside the ground with every intention of hooking up again in the near future.
Only one drama on the way home as I had to take evasive action on the M62 to avoid several settee cushions strewn across the lanes!
More pictures of the XLCR Stadium here.
There are more pictures of the ground, action and the fans here.
Colne 2-4 Salford City
Att: 50 (Onion Bag head count)
Programme: None issued