Hallmark Security League First Division club St Helens Town’s first-team finally made their long-awaited return to the town on Saturday, staging their first ever fixture at their new Ruskin Drive ground.
A pre-season friendly against NWCL Premier Division side Congleton Town attracted a healthy crowd and a special souvenir programme was produced for the occasion.
As might be expected for an opening fixture at a new venue, there were one or two minor issues before the game began, but Town chairman Glyn Jones is confident that the necessary lessons have been learned and all will be fine by the time the competitive games begin.
“There were one or two teething problems, perhaps only to be expected, as the new changing block has yet to be completed and the pay-box and refreshment kiosk have yet to arrive”, explained Jones. “There was an error in the ordering of Town’s hospitality unit, which is too small for its purpose and a new one has yet to arrive.
“The facility is Council-owned and operated, shared with Pilkington FC, whose reserve team entertained Rainhill United in another friendly immediately before Town’s kick-off, so St Helens and Congleton had to kick their heels for a while before the pitch was available.
“Players for the game found themselves locked out of the allocated changing room and the Council official with the keys nowhere to be found, so after some improvisation, some spare cricket changing facilities were found, the game went ahead and both sides were quite happy”.
St Helens raced into an early lead, with captain and leading scorer Andy Gillespie netting after 15 minutes to write his name in the history books as the first ever Town goalscorer in a first-team game at Ruskin Drive.
But at this early stage of the season, with fitness and sharpness at a premium, other chances went begging and Congleton equalised shortly afterwards to tie the sides at 1-1 at the interval.
Congleton, with two run-outs already under their belts, put that match fitness to good use in the second half and two late strikes gave them a 3-1 win.
Bootle are the next club to visit Ruskin Drive on Thursday evening.
There are still some programmes available from the historic first game, price £2 plus £1.50 postage and packing, which are available through the St Helens Town website (http://www.sthelenstownafc.com).