“Bears are at home to REMYCA Utd on Tuesday night. A huge game for both teams. A cold but dry night is forecast so come along to the Silk Stadium 7.45pm kick off. The Bears need your support”.
So went forth a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, but not the fans, as the official attendance was a paltry 87 (writes Mike McLaughlin). The evening was indeed cold and dry, but it was bitterly cold and desperately gloomy. Little enthusiasm or positive ambience could be discerned about the stadium as all movement or body language or conversation was subdued and muted; all reflective of a team producing patchy performances and poor results, and sinking close to the bottom of the League.
Litherland REMYCA, in their second season in the Premier Division, were languishing in 20th position in a League of 20, with only three wins from 23 games. (Club secretary Ken Mead suggested a degree of caution as he identified signs of life in some of Litherland’s recent form.) With the Bears perilously close, only a few points ahead, this was definitely to be a very important game.
It began brightly for the Bears, two goals ahead after seven minutes, as the Litherland defence dithered and dallied. The game was wide open, the pitch seemed massive with gaping spaces everywhere. Both teams appeared disorganised and loose, careless and clumsy in possession. Part of the problem could have been the remarkable similarity in the playing kits of both teams, black shorts and vertical stripes.
A free kick to Litherland on the edge of the area was converted expertly and, at 2-1, the visitors began to cohere more, although the Bears were still able to contain them.
There were brief glimpses of skill and creativity interspersed with swathes of muddled play from both teams. Litherland decided their future lay with long-range pot-shots and when keeper Ellison inexplicably left one to sail over him on to the bar, and thence on to his back and into the net, they seemed justified.
At 2-2 the visitors began to hope and, for a while, they out-fought the Bears and regularly wrested possession. A deep gloom was settling on the scattered groups of supporters as the interval approached.
The second half began equally dismally. Stop-start, with injuries, fouls and substitutions disrupting play, there was plentiful evidence of poor control and passing. Totally in concert, the Litherland keeper sloppily allowed a low shot to squirt under his body; and a lovely finish from Aaron Bott as he subtly diverted a cross into the net, and the Bears were 4-2 ahead.
They began to play now and there was fleeting promise of more to come when, suddenly, Litherland burst through the middle of the home defence and it was 4-3.
If only the quality of play had matched the exciting fluctuations in the scoreline, but it hadn’t and it didn’t.
The game persisted until the 94th minute with hardly a tremor of excitement, and the Bears had an invaluable three points, and were 12 points clear of Litherland. Such relief, for several reasons.
The sombre mood persisted after the game. It was difficult to judge the players too harshly. There have been so many changes of personnel, many of them unexpected and unexplained. It seems that this was keeper Ellison’s last game for the club as he leaves for Runcorn Linnets. Several of the players were strangers to the fans, and probably to each other from the way they played. Not for the first time, one can only hope that whatever they bring to the club they settle quickly and gel into a proper team. It was reassuring that two newcomers, the Aarons, Bott and Johns scored a brace apiece.
On Saturday, under grey skies and amidst a boisterous wind, Whitchurch Alport came to town and 188 bodies turned out to watch.
Last season, in the corresponding game, they came, saw and conquered as they stole away the Bears’ immaculate start after seven consecutive victories. They raced into a three-goal lead, and won 3-1.
Earlier this season the teams drew 1-1 at Whitchurch, after a solid and promising performance from the Bears’ old guard.
Whitchurch began this season very strongly, but have since faded slightly to ninth place with a symmetrical 9-6-9 record.
Their manager remarked: “Realistically we’re fine with probably eighth or maybe seventh … but we’re a long way off after such a good start. We’ve gone through a lot of change from the club’s point of view. A lot of changes that have tested the club … we’ve still got a lot of improvement to be made in terms of performance and consistency because, we know, on paper, we’ve got one of the better squads in the division. We currently haven’t got the winning mentality that we had at the start of the season.”
This was interesting.
Whitchurch began the game brightly, forcing an early corner, and only a desperate scramble kept them at bay. That was to prove the closest moment to a goal in the first half as both teams struggled to create, and defences looked solid. Two rapid yellow cards deprived the visitors of one of their centre-backs, and unsurprisingly, they became more cautious.
Whitchurch later admitted to enduring a difficult first half.
In the second half, the visitors grew in confidence and became more adventurous. At times it was difficult to discern which team was a man short and, just on the hour, an excellent through-ball (or a desperate long clearance) skewered the advanced home defence and a composed finish put Whitchurch ahead, 1-0.
The Bears’ response was immediate and significant. Midfield and strikers, lively and full of movement, pushed the visitors back and a cross, whistled in from the right, was bulleted into the net from Dan Cope’s head less than 10 minutes later.
Then it became horrendous. A young substitute defender fell awkwardly, breaking two bones in his ankle and damaging ligaments and tendons. He was detained overnight in Leighton Hospital for surgery on Sunday.
Whitchurch tweeted: “We must say a huge well done to all at CFC for the help and support with Ben Chilcott, outstanding in helping.”
The pressure built and intensified, but the Whitchurch keeper was immense, inspired even. Several of his saves were remarkable, one “that Gordon Banks would have been proud of”.
His defence remained solid and uncompromising, kept their shape, battled hard and held on for a point.
Opinion, later, was generally that 1-1 was probably a fair outcome after a decent game, but the failure to capitalise, again, on opponents reduced to 10 players, was developing into a bad and dangerous habit.
Next home match
Saturday. Barnoldswick Town, 3pm.