Rossendale United
Dark Lane

Ground No. 224
Visited - Saturday 5th March 2011
Result - Rossendale United 4-4 Winsford United
Competition - North-West Counties Football League, Premier Division
Attendance - 104

It’s always annoying to hear of a ground disappearing suddenly without having had the chance to visit it, and that looked to have been the case with Dark Lane, when news broke that Rossendale United had resigned from the North-West Counties League and folded. The omens had been there for a while, with rumours of financial troubles going around and not being able to name a full bench graduating to fixtures being called off, so it was welcome to hear that, whilst badly burnt, the phoenix was indeed rising from the flames and that the supporters trust would be coming together to pick up the pieces and carry on. 

It had all been a bit of a confusing situation for some time though, with things having reached a head when the management team and players resigned whilst the clubs owner was away on holiday and out of contact. With the game against Runcorn having faced a late postponement due to no running water (they’d been cut off due to unpaid bills), the league had postponed their next two games and given them a deadline of fulfilling the fixture against Winsford United or facing expulsion. It hadn’t been an easy job, but the local community rallied, and with a new manager and players found, the Winsford game was confirmed as being on, albeit not until the Friday afternoon beforehand. Having been caught out several times over the past few years with other grounds, then I was determined not to miss out on a chance of visiting Dark Lane, so checking, and then re-checking on the Saturday just to make sure, I made my plans to head up and tick it off.

Rossendale itself is a valley, situated halfway between Bury and Burnley, and on the journey up from Manchester it was a surprise to see quite a lot of Burnley shirts around the towns on the bus route heading up to their fixture with Palace (even from the towns closer to Manchester). I've never really associated them with a big out of town support, but apparently so! Anyway, back to this game, and after arriving in Rawtenstall and stopping off for a quick drink in Fitzpatricks - 'the last temperance bar in Britain' (I do drink, but it seemed quite novel, and the black beer and raisin was worth it!) then it was time to head on over to the small hamlet/village/settlement, of Newchurch, where the ground is located.

From the outside, the club still has a number of Unibond signs up, and it does feel a bigger ground than many at Step 5, with the tall Main Stand and near terracing visible behind the turnstiles. Annoyingly it's one of those grounds with the clubhouse outside, but due to the recent problems, they were only serving tea and snacks anyway, so I went in for a look around.

Coming in at the near corner, the club shop is to your right, although that too was closed, albeit for more sinister reasons with visible signs that vandals had kicked through the door to break in, leaving the club with an unwelcome repair bill (although thankfully nothing was stolen apparently). There's a good sized covered terrace beyond this, running for most of the width of the pitch, round to the far side where hard standing runs down to the far end where a cover provides shelter from the rain, albeit how much shelter is debatable with no back to it! The Main Stand itself sits on the near side in the centre, with a small amount of terracing in front, and a wooden upper tier underneath its cavernous roof, the players tunnel emerging from its centre.

Rossendale had been sitting second bottom before the game, and Winsford second top, and from the off it was obvious that the visitors looked a strong side, although physical to boot, with one of their players getting booked in the first minute for a rash tackle. That said, it was the home side that took the lead first, and you could feel a good cheer go up from the crowd when it happened, a small community willing the team on, and after some good work down the right, the ball was crossed deep to Bradley Howard who, unmarked, slotted home in the 8th minute. The visitors, having had the better of the opening chances, didn't like this and after Ryan Stewart had done well to beat his man he pulled it back to their number 9 Michael Brandon who put it past the 'keeper to equalise eleven minutes later. Practically from the restart they nearly took the lead when Liam Newman rattled the crossbar from all of 30 yards, but it wasn't long before they were ahead, with the Stewart-Brandon combination working again, this time Brandon heading the ball down into the path of Ryan Stewart who stroked it home just before the half hour mark. Five minutes before the break and it was 3-1, the hope of the crowd after the opening goal deflated when Brandon got his second, robbing the ball from a Rossendale midfielder, before turning and running to the edge of the box and picking his spot to make it look like a possible landslide was on the cards when the teams left the field for half time.

In the second half though, the introduction of Mark Baguley seemed to give the hosts a little extra up front, the big man being impossible to knock off the ball, and fairly tidy with it as well. He pulled one back from the penalty spot, after dale's number 6 had been tripped in the box, only for Winsford to seem to put the game to bed with quarter of an hour left, when they won a soft free kick on the edge of the box that Lee Jones drove home along the ground straight into the net. Like in the first half, it looked like it might be a case of how many could the visitors score after that, but with a never say die attitude that might help the club in months to come, then the hosts rallied, and a great through ball from Baguley left Steve Burke racing through the middle to slide the ball home past the goalkeeper in the 86th minute, and the crowd were cheering again right on 90 minutes when a one-two on the edge of the box played in Grant Spensor who chipped over the oncoming goalie. They had another few chances in injury time, but it wasn't to be, and the ref blew to indicate a valuable point had been secured, and perhaps more importantly for their future, a morale boosting game for the fans that felt more like a victory, even if Ashton Athletic's first win since the beginning of January meant dale went bottom of the table.

After leaving, the journey home went smoothly enough, walking back to Rawtenstall and a bus from there back to Manchester and beyond, glad to have come. The ground is a good place to visit, and hopefully the troubles have whipped the supporters into action to give them the hope of a future beyond the end of the season. There was certainly the feeling of a community coming out for the club, so whatever happens over the next few months, it looks like there will still be a place for football in the valley for a long time to come yet.

Welcome to Dark Lane

The Players Entrance/Rear of the Main stand

The Turnstiles

The Clubhouse

The Main Stand

The Near End

The Far Side

The Far End

The Main Stand

The Main Stand

Lower Tier Terracing

Upper Tier Seating


Two Religions

The Players Line Up

Ready for Kick Off

Dark Lane Panoramic

Fitzpatricks 'The last temperance bar in England' 



  1. It is a lovely ground. Nice report and pictures.

  2. Excellent report Tim, this was one of my local grounds, the other being Bacup Borough. Both these small clubs struggle for support as many locals are either Burnley or Blackburn Rovers fans.

  3. Again, an excellent and touching report. I used to go to the odd game with my young son circa 2009/10. Today, we picked up courage and went to take a look at what remains of the ground. Its a ghastly site! You probably know there was a fire. Well,nothing has been done to the ground since the main stadium went up in flames. The pitch is totally over grown with some quite substantial jungle type growth around the centre circle. Everything else seems to have fallen victim to the vandals. What ever looked to have survived the fire has been kicked, bashed and smashed into dereliction in a pathetic attempt to put a smile on a feral vandal friend's face. Very sad.