The 2016/17 Season Review is now available under the Match Reports heading.
Season 2016/17 Review
Season’s Review 2016/7:-
Since the club was reformed in 1955 there have been several significant seasons in Charnock’s history. For many years the club competed in the Preston & District League (now the Mid Lancashire League) but for one season in the 1960s it switched to the Bolton Combination an important decision at the time but one that was not successful with the club quickly returning to play its fixtures in the former league. In 1993 Charnock made another important move, gaining election to the West Lancashire League and this turned out to be far more successful. This season after many years of planning and constructing a new ground Charnock won promotion to the North West Counties League and a whole new chapter was opened in the history of the club.
The new season promised plenty of exciting experiences with new clubs and grounds to visit, a far bigger footprint with teams from as far south as Oswestry to Carlisle in the north. Also for the first time in its history Charnock Richard would be competing in the FA Vase; there was also the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy and two league cup competitions so with 42 league fixtures the number of games would be closer to 50 in the season rather than the less than 40 in recent years. Inevitably there was a certain amount of apprehension with the cost of running a team at Step-6 expected to be an increase on previous seasons and concern about how the team would perform against theoretically more skilful teams.
After running for many seasons with less clubs than the North West Counties League’s capacity six new teams were elected for this season and the playing standard in Division 1 was to be greater than for many a year, this was shown by four of the new clubs finishing in the top eight of the table.
Most of the squad that had played in the previous season re-signed but Charnock prepared for the new challenge by making a number of signings. Two players for personal reasons chose not to remain at the club. After joining the club in 2008 making 243 approaches and scoring 46 goals Liam Hayton moved to Hesketh Bank, with his work commitments he did not think that he could commit himself to playing the extra games in the new league. It was a similar case for Mark Woods who had been a Charnock since 2013.
Two new signings were made from Coppull United, Ashley Young, who had previously been at Charnock, and Nathan Fairhurst. Adam Halton signed from Burscough Richmond and he replaced Gavin Bates in goal although Gavin remained with the club. Sam Parkinson and Anthony Hough came in from Ladybridge and several other players were signed of which only Iain George subsequently made any appearances in the first team.
Manager Andy Westwell starting his sixteenth season in charge added to his management team by bringing in Paul McConville. Paul had been at the club since 2003 managing the Reserves very successfully for a number of years and remaining on the club committee since his resignation from that position. It was good to see Paul back involved with the playing side of the club. Dave Haslam and Andy Pendlebury continued in their previous roles. Lewis Spensley also joined the club in an administrator’s role from Coppull United.
There was great anticipation of the publication of the new season’s fixtures and in particular the draw for the FA Vase. In actual fact the First Qualifying and Second Qualifying Rounds were drawn at the same time and there was a real shock when Charnock were drawn away in both rounds. First they had to travel to play Wickham from the Northern League at Gateshead and if they were successful they then were away at Harrogate Railway Athletic who had just been relegated from the Northern Premier League. Charnock faced two really tough fixtures if they were to progress to the first Round Proper of the competition.
The season started on Saturday 6th August with an away trip to Eccleshall in Staffordshire. The home side had always struggled since they joined the league and Charnock had an easy 3-0 win. The second game saw the Villagers make one of their shortest trips of the season to Atherton LR and despite dominating the second half they only came away with a 2-2 draw. Charnock’s first home fixture of the new season saw Alsager Town visiting Mossie Park. They had been relegated from the Premier Division at the end previous season and had been competing in the Northern Premier League only a few years previously. They looked a very professional outfit and won 4-1 although the final score did flatter them somewhat. The following Tuesday saw Charnock back on the road visiting another newly relegated side Silsden and they won 1-0 with Carl Grimshaw scoring the goal. Two wins, a draw and one defeat meant that the Villagers had made a satisfactory start in the new league. Another long away trip to Whitchurch Alport resulted in another win 2-0 but the following midweek fixture saw more points lost at home with a 2-2 draw against Carlisle City. It was three home games without a win when St Helens turned up at Mossie Park and won 3-1. It had been Charnock’s worst performance so far and they did not deserve to win. Holker Old Boys had made an encouraging start to the season so a mid-week trip to Barrow looked a tough fixture but Charnock won 3-0. Domestic problems prevented David Burrows travelling to this game and they eventually resulted in him making himself unavailable. It was a major disappointment as he had scored five goals in six appearances. There is little doubt that had he continued to appear for the club Charnock would have won the title.
Charnock won their first home game with a 3-0 win over Chadderton and defeated Bacup Borough 4-1 before on Sunday 11th September they made the long trip north to Gateshead to play Whickham. During their previous long history Charnock Richard Football Club were only really known in Lancashire and the surrounding area, their performances in the FA Vase were to make the club more well-known over the North of England. A great performance at The Glebe Sports Club resulted in a 2-0 victory over Whickham, a club that won the FA Vase back in 1981. Full of confidence Charnock were back at Mossie Park the following week to meet Whitchurch Alport and once again their home record took a another knock, despite taking an early two goal lead the Villagers fell to a 3-2 defeat. It meant that from five home games they had picked up only four points. On the following Tuesday City of Liverpool were the visitors, a newly formed club in their first season they had already made their mark in the NWCL mainly with the tremendous support that they were enjoying with home gates of around 400 and they arrived sitting at the top of the table. Charnock won 4-3 after a tremendously exciting encounter. Oliver Evans, who was to have a season severely hampered by injuries, signed from Bamber Bridge in time for the journey to Harrogate Railway Athletic in the second preliminary round of the FA Vase on Saturday 24th September. It looked another difficult tie but the Villagers won, fairly easily, 3-1.
After competing in the Lancashire FA Amateur Shield for many decades Charnock now qualified for the Challenge Trophy and in the First Round, on the following Tuesday, they were drawn to play Bamber Bridge at Irongate. It was a really tough challenge but despite being under pressure a fine display from Adam Halton saw Charnock come away with a 2-0 win. A 5-1 win at Ashton Town on 1st October saw Charnock go on a winning run that lasted right up to Christmas and saw them in October top the table for a spell. There were wins against AFC Blackpool, Cheadle Town, Carlisle City, Eccleshall and Atherton LR. The First Round Proper draw of the Vase saw the Villagers at home to Barnoldswick Town and in an encounter that went to extra time Charnock were the eventual 3-1 winners. There were two incidents in this game that were to have a significant impact later in the season with Spencer Bibby being sent off and Ashley Young suffering a knee injury from which he did not return until February. This game was the first in a run of five cup games and on the following Saturday Charnock travelled to Hanley Town, who were in the Premier Division, in the second round of the Macron Challenge Cup. Again the tie went to extra time with Hanley scoring the vital goal with a controversial penalty to secure a 2-1 win. The Villagers had both Mike Fletcher and Josh Norgate sent off.
As the season moved into November Charnock beat Chadderton 2-0 at Mossie Park to move through into the Third Round of the Reusch First Division Cup and for their fourth successive cup tie they went to Ashton Athletic in the Second Round of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy. Charnock missed a number of chances in the first half and paid for it when Ashton Athletic won with a solitary second half goal. The Wigan based side went on to win the trophy. So to the Second Round of the FA Vase on Saturday 12th November when Charnock were due to meet Staveley MW at Mossie Park however the weather intervened and the match was postponed. Despite both leagues involved agreeing that the match could be played on the following Saturday the FA deemed that the game must be played midweek so Staveley had to make the 100 mile odd trip on the following Tuesday. Unfortunately Charnock could not field their best side, Bibby, Norgate and Fletcher were suspended. Adam Halton was on holiday and Ashley Young was injured nevertheless it was a highly competitive tie which once again went to extra time with the score at 90 minutes at 2-2. Charnock seemed to run out of energy in extra time, not surprising considering the two games a week schedule that they had been following since the start of the season, and Staveley scored two goals to depart with a 4-2 win.
The weather in the remainder of November was not helpful and Charnock had two games postponed before they travelled to Sandbach United on 26th November. It was very foggy at the Community Football Centre and there was an opinion that the game should never have kicked off but with Charnock 3-1 in the lead the game was abandoned with 17 minutes remaining. The following Saturday 3rd December the Villagers met Widnes at Mossie Park in Round 3 of the Reusch Division One Cup. A 4-1 defeat ended the Villagers interest in knockout competitions for the season. However, returning to league fixtures they had three fine wins against Cheadle Town, Ashton Town and at FC Oswestry Town in the run up to Christmas. Jon Hession who had been playing at Clitheroe signed before the game at Oswestry and made his debut from the bench early in the game after Oliver Evans was crocked. He scored and hit the cross bar and as the season progressed made a major contribution towards Charnock gaining promotion.
All the success in the run up to Christmas came to an end on Boxing Day when AFC Blackpool, who were in 19th position in the table, turned up and took a 3-0 lead by the interval, Charnock managed to pull the game back to 3-2 but it was a very disappointing result. The Villagers bounced back with a 3-0 home win over Bacup Borough and finished 2016 in second place in the table with games in hand over the leaders Whitchurch Alport. However the New Year did not start well for Charnock losing 0-1 at home to Litherland REMYCA and the disappointments continued with a 2-2 draw at Mossie Park against Stockport Town and the trip to replay the abandoned fixture at Sandbach United resulted in another defeat 3-1. The midweek fixture at home to fourth placed Litherland REMYCA produced another exciting game with Charnock winning 4-2. Despite this improved performance the Villagers failed to maintain their standards and fell to a 1-0 defeat at Stockport Town. There was further bad news with Nathan Fairhurst sustaining a groin injury that was to see him side-lined for the remainder of the season. The arrival of March saw the Villagers picking up their challenge for the title, initially, with a 1-0 win at home to FC Oswestry and then an important 3-2 win at Litherland REMYCA. The squad was down to the bare bones for this match but the players who turned out never looked like losing the game. A midweek home game against a rapidly improving Silsden saw Charnock only manage a 0-0 draw after failing to convert two penalties.
On transfer deadline day Charnock signed Matt Davison from Daisy Hill then went to the New Sirs ground and beat them 7-0. The season was now really getting to a critical stage, Charnock were still in a position to win the title but it was a case of winning games in hand. Prestwich Heys arrived at Mossie Park for another important fixture on Wednesday 29th March and once again it proved to be another exciting match with Charnock eventually winning 5-2 after the visitors had equalised with only 15 minutes remaining. Victories by 2-1 on the road at Alsager and Chadderton maintained the Villagers title chase followed by home victories against Daisy Hill and Holker Old Boys, the latter by 8-0, Charnock’s biggest of the season. Prestwich Heys at the Adie Moran Park looked a difficult fixture, there were no goals at half time but the team in green ran out as 3-0 winners. Sandbach United had been well placed in the table for most of the season and they proved to be worthy home opponents on Easter Monday but the Villagers finished up with a 3-1 win. Widnes after a disappointing start had been charging up the table all season and Charnock’s crunch game came on Saturday 22nd April when the teams met at Select Security Stadium. The winners of this game were likely to pick up the champions trophy and so it proved with Charnock going down 2-1 and ultimately finishing in the runners up spot.
Charnock’s difficult end to the season saw them at Bootle on the following Tuesday to meet City of Liverpool and a huge 727 crowd saw Charnock scramble a 1-1 draw which ended their hosts hopes of finishing in an automatic promotion place and saw Charnock guaranteed a place, via a substantial goal difference over REMYCA, in the Premier Division for the 2017/8 season. Charnock completed their fixtures and confirmed their runners up spot with a 3-2 win over St Helens at Prescott Cables.
It had been a very satisfying first season in the North West Counties League and to win promotion at the first attempt reflected the enormous effort put in by everyone at the club. The season had been interesting visiting new clubs and the hospitality received had been excellent along with the sportsmanship which had figured prominently throughout the league and Charnock have made many new friends.
Once again Andy Westwell had shown his ability to manage a squad of players and his motivation ensured that they produced performances to the best of their ability. He was ably assisted by Dave Haslam, Paul McConville and Andy Pendlebury.
Every season since he joined the club in 2009 Carl Grimshaw has been the team’s leading goalscorer and with 43 goals this term he again took this honour and he was also the Division 1 leading goalscorer. It had been another remarkable performance from the big striker and he has now scored 333 goals for the club. He is rapidly approaching Andy Roberts total who scored 352 goals in his 20 years playing career.
The club’s home attendances have been far higher than anticipated and the additional income generated has been important in view of the extra costs involved in running the club this season. Thanks must also be given to all the supporters who have travelled all over the North West to cheer on the team. Their enthusiasm has played a major part in the success that Charnock have enjoyed this season.
One final note on the season the team never lost a midweek fixture that kicked off in the evening, 15 matches in total. The club hope to see you all again in late July/August for the start of the new season playing in the Hallmark Security League Premier Division. The first fixture looks like being in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, another important landmark for the club.