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The Season Review 2017/8 is now available under "Match Reports".
Season 2017/8 Review


Season 2017/8 has been another outstanding success for Charnock Richard Football Club and it will live long in memories of everyone associated with the club.

It was the year that saw the club spending the summer of 2017 spraying water onto the pitch and most of the following winter trying to drain water away. It was the season that saw Charnock play 53 matches, more in a season than ever before. It was a season that saw 20 fixtures postponed and one abandoned. It was the season that saw Charnock play 20 games in the final 58 days of the season. It was the season that saw the Macron 2nd Round Cup Tie against Barnoldswick Town postponed five times and finally it was the season that saw Charnock Richard, at one stage, in the runners up place in the table that would, if they had finished there, seen them promoted to the Northern Premier League which would possibly have been a promotion too far.

Following a number of problems with the pitch during the previous season the club carried out major works on it as soon as the final fixture was completed. The final treatment was the reseeding and for the pitch to be ready for the start of the new season, at the beginning of August, it was important to keep the ground moist so a relay of club members spent most of the early summer moving a sprinkler around the pitch, little did they know the amount of water that was to fall on it and every other ground right through into the following April.

When the players reported for pre-season training in June the only player who had not re-signed was Mike Fletcher so the team had an excellent basis for their first season at Step-5 in the Premier Division of the North West Counties League. There was one new face in Joe Noblet and Mark Woods returned from Longridge Town in early August. Several players arrived via transfers early in the new season including Connor Loftus, James Walker, Alex Ralph and David Sherlock. The restoration work on the pitch meant that Charnock had to play all but one of their pre-season friendly games away from home.

The first fixture of the season created plenty of interest and excitement because it was the first game that Charnock had ever played in the Emirates FA Cup, the Extra Preliminary Round and they drew a home game against Penistone Church from the Northern Counties East League. Charnock took a two goal lead in the first half hour before they conceded three goals before half time all as a result of poor defending of left wing corners. Matt Davison equalised midway through the second half but the visitors scored a fourth goal to put an end to the Villagers hopes of enjoying a cup run. The first league game was away at Barnton and once again the defence struggled, conceding three goals but Charnock scored five goals to give them an encouraging start to life in the top division. Two home games followed and Charnock won 4-1 against Padiham and beat Squires Gate 5-2. Reality stepped in for the following game a 2-0 defeat at the hands City of Liverpool at the TDP Solicitors Stadium, Bootle. The first Saturday in September saw Charnock make their longest journey in the league, a trip to Hanley Town who had made an impressive start to the season and the Villagers came away with a 3-1 win. The following Saturday Charnock made another coach trip to East Yorkshire to play Selby Town in the 1st Qualifying Round of the Buildbase FA Vase and won 7-1. Back to the league the following Tuesday Charnock won 4-1 at Barnoldswick Town before facing Bacup Borough at Mossie Park in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Vase. A comfortable 3-0 win set them up for the 1st Round Proper in the competition and they drew Bedlington Terriers at the Doctor Pitt Welfare Park ground. The last Saturday in September saw Charnock beat Bootle 3-1 at home and then the away game at AFC Darwen was abandoned at half time due to a waterlogged pitch with Darwen leading 1-0. At this stage of the season Charnock were in third place in the table, a remarkable start for the club at this higher level and even more amazing was that they had played only seven league games against the 11 played by the other teams in the top four!

Charnock had their first draw of the season 1-1 at home to Winsford United on Saturday 7th October and then won 3-1 away at Maine Road. Saturday 21st October saw Charnock make their longest trip to a match ever as they set out on a 165 mile journey to Bedlington. It was to be a day that turned out to be very disappointing, the pitch was not conducive to Charnock’s style of play and they lost 1-0 when a blind overhead kick from a throw in dropped just inside the back post. Charnock were back to winning ways the following Saturday beating visitors Irlam 1-0. On Saturday 4th November Charnock suffered their second league defeat of the season going down at Mossie Park 1-0 to Abbey Hey; it was a case of the Villagers not taking their chances.

Charnock had been given a bye in the 1st Round of the LFA Challenge Trophy competition so they played their first tie in Round 2 at Prestwich Heys who were in a run of unbeaten games. It looked a difficult match but the Villagers won relatively easily 3-1. Charnock should have come away from Congleton with a win rather than a 1-1 draw and in their first game ever against neighbours Burscough at Mossie Park they won 5-2. They produced possibly their best performance of the season on Saturday 18th November at the Select Security Stadium against Widnes and came away with all three points following a 3-0 win. The following Tuesday saw the first postponed match of the season the Macron Cup 2nd Round tie at Barnoldswick Town, the game was re-arranged for the following Thursday only to be postponed again. The away fixture against Northwich Victoria also hit the buffers and what was to become a series of postponed games was under way. Tuesday 28th November saw Charnock record their biggest win in the NWCL to date, beating AFC Darwen 9-1 at Mossie Close; it was one of those games where almost every chance was converted.

The Macron Cup tie against Barnoldswick Town, in accordance with league rules, had been switched to Mossie Park on the following Thursday but the pitch was waterlogged and once again the game was postponed. In the table Charnock had slipped down to fifth but still had at least three games in hand over teams in the top eight. In early December the weather relented somewhat and Charnock played five games, a 1-1 draw at Burscough, a 3-1 win at Padiham in the quarter final of the LFA Challenge Trophy, a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Widnes at home, a 4-1 win at AFC Darwen and a 4-1 defeat at the hands of City of Liverpool at Mossie Park. The only postponed game prior to Christmas was Barnoldswick Town yet again. The festive season was a wash out with games at Ashton Athletic and at home to AFC Liverpool postponed. There was yet another failed attempt to play the Barnoclswick Town cup fixture before Charnock travelled to Abbey Hey looking to avenge the 1-0 defeat suffered earlier in the season and they completed their objective winning 2-1. Tuesday 9th January saw the much delayed Barnoldswick Town Macron Cup tie finally played at the Silentnight Stadium and Charnock won easily 4-0.

A tight game at home to Ashton Athletic saw the Villagers win 1-0 before on 20th January they travelled to league leaders Runcorn Linnets and lost 6-2. The Villagers bounced back on the following Tuesday winning 2-0 at Northwich Victoria and went on to beat Barnton 4-1 at Mossie Park before travelling to second placed side Runcorn Town and winning 2-0. At this stage of the season Charnock were in third place in the table, three points behind Widnes with five games in hand and the consequences of finishing in the top two and thus being promoted to the Northern Premier League became a reality. The first two fixtures in February were postponed but the home fixture against Barnoldswick Town was quickly rearranged and was played only three days later and Charnock lost 4-3. Charnock warmed up for the semi-final of the LFA Challenge Trophy tie against Clitheroe with a 4-1 home win over Maine Road. The cup tie at The County Ground on Wednesday 21st February was very tight and finished 0-0 with Clitheroe going through to the final via a 5-4 win in the penalty shoot-out. It was a superb performance by the Villagers against their opponents from the higher league.

The disappointment of the Clitheroe game hung over into an away fixture at Padiham and Charnock lost 2-1. Games against 1874 Northwich home and Irlam away were postponed before the re-arranged home game against AFC Liverpool finished in a 2-2 draw. Northwich Victoria at Mossie Park was postponed as was the Macron Cup 3rd round tie at Bootle but the latter was quickly re-arranged for Thursday 15th March and Charnock won 3-1 but it was at a cost with Matt Davison and Ross O’Farrell suffering injuries that were to see them side-lined for a spell. Two days later Charnock were back at Bootle for a league game and suffered four further injuries, Ryan Schofield, James Walker, Harvey Close and Anthony Hough. The villagers were under pressure for much of the game but managed to come away with a 2-2 draw. These two matches at Bootle were to be the turning point in the season because with up to eight first team players missing in the following weeks Charnock struggled. They drew 3-3 at Winsford and lost 3-1 at Squires Gate.

They returned to Winsford for the Macron Cup quarter final tie which finished 1-1 but the home team won 4-2 on penalties. With the first team squad decimated at this point in the season it was a case of strengthening the squad as much as possible and by the new signings dead line date of 22nd March Charnock had signed on eight players. It was a much changed team that faced West Didsbury on Easter Saturday and Charnock struggled and fell to another home defeat 2-1. The three draws and three defeats in the six games played following the penalty shoot-out defeat by Clitheroe saw Charnock’s chances of promotion disappear. Even though we were into April the postponed games continued to mount up and the away fixture at the Marine Travel Stadium against AFC Liverpool fell foul of a waterlogged pitch on Easter Monday as did the home games against Northwich Victoria and Congleton Town later in the week. With four weeks of the season remaining Charnock still had 12 fixtures outstanding, a simply ridiculous situation for the teams chasing promotion or facing relegation.

1874 Northwich had had a tremendous season winning through to the semi-finals of the FA Vase and a decent run in the FA Cup but now faced a huge backlog of fixtures and they arrived at Charnock on Thursday 12th April having lost out to Thatcham in their quest to reach the Vase final on the previous Saturday. With their injury crisis slackening somewhat the Villagers produced an improved performance and won 4-2. Runcorn Linnets were the visitors two days later and although the team in green put up a spirited performance they were no match for the eventual championship winners and lost 2-0. An away fixture at Ashton Athletic saw the game goalless at half time but the Charnock defence fell apart early in the second half and the resulting 5-0 defeat was one of the most disappointing of the season. Third placed Runcorn Town visited on Saturday 21st April and it looked as if a Carl Grimshaw goal was going to result in Charnock doing the double over them but a goal in added time meant that the game finished 1-1. For a second time the fixture at West Didsbury and Chorlton was postponed but the home game with Northwich Victoria saw Charnock win 3-2 after building up a three goal lead. A third visit of the season to the St Luke’s Barton Stadium in Winsford to play 1874 Northwich resulted in Charnock losing 2-1 in a game that lacked quality football.

The season had finally been extended to 12th May and Charnock finished with a home game, a crunch match with Hanley which they won 3-0 and three away games at Irlam won 2-1, AFC Liverpool won 2-1 and finally West Didsbury and Chorlton. Prior to the final fixture Charnock were in sixth place one point ahead of 1874 Northwich and with a superior goal difference. Charnock dominated the first half but only scored one goal and their hosts equalised just before the break. A revitalised West Didsbury scored four goals in the second half and the Villagers lost 5-3. It looked as if Charnock had missed out on the top six but the final result from Winsford revealed that Northwich had only drawn with their landlords and the Villagers finished the season in the top six by a superior goal difference of two goals.

In the league Charnock scored 103 goals of which Carl Grimshaw scored 44 and with another seven goals scored in cup competitions he was the division’s leading goalscorer with 51 goals. It was a remarkable feat for Carl who has been at Charnock since 2009 and has scored 389 goals in nine seasons. He was also the leading scorer in Division 1 last season. With 15 “Man of the Match” awards he was joint second to Zack Dale from Barnoldswick Town. His impact on the success that Charnock have enjoyed this season is summed up by revealing that Matt Davison with 13 goals was the second placed goalscorer.

A total of 47 players turned out for the team over the season, several only making one substitute or full appearance. There were possibly more changes in the squad over the season than for a good number of years but of course a higher standard and considerably more games to play results in a higher turnover of players. Carl Grimshaw made 52 appearances missing only one game and Nathan Fairhurst was second with 51 appearances.

Over the season Charnock played some excellent football and were involved in some high scoring games, their home and away record were remarkable similar as was their goals scored 64 at home and 66 away.
Two years ago Charnock were finishing as runners up in the Premier Division of the West Lancashire League having won the title for the four years previously, who would have thought that less than 24 months later that the club would be challenging for promotion to the Northern Premier League?

Once again the club has to recognise the amount of work that Andy Westwell and his assistants have put into the team over the season it has not been easy competing against clubs that have greater resources than those enjoyed at Charnock. Credit also to the players who have remained loyal to the club, a good number remain from the squad that played in the West Lancashire League. Understandably players are looking for a regular game every week and inevitably some move on in order to achieve this but loyalty has been the basis of Charnock squads for many years and it is very satisfying to see that it remains even though the club is now competing at a higher level.

Finally many thanks to everyone who has assisted in some way this season, a tremendous amount of work goes into running any football club but with an increased fixture list the tasks become more onerous and increase in number. Support has again been excellent and the numbers who have followed the team to away fixtures have provided important encouragement to the players.

Looking forward now to season 2018/9.

Keith Reader

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