Five years ago High Lane FC open age Saturdays entered a team into the lower tiers of the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL with a five year plan. The plan was the brainchild of Malcolm ‘Maly’ Wilson and was to move through from division 3 into the premier league, then cementing their position within the top tier of the league and challenging for honours.
The plan started well in the 2013–14 season with the team finishing top of the 3rd division in their 1st season, winning seventeen from twenty two games and narrowly edging out their closest rivals by 3 points. In the 2014-15 season High Lane again had a great run, winning fifteen from a possible twenty and again being crowned as divisional champions, this time on goal difference. The 2015-16 season in the 1st division was another successful campaign in alignment with the plan as High Lane again achieved promotion by finishing 2nd in the table, a mere two points behind the league champions. Three promotions in three consecutive seasons was no mean feat and secured a place in the Premier division for the 2016-17 season.
The first season in the top tier was a learning curve for the team and management and a hard fought campaign resulted in a respectable 9th place finish with a record of nine wins, four draws and eleven losses. A positive goal difference was a major plus point showing the team had been competitive in the majority of the games. Experience was gained and a couple of new players joined the team, impressed by the quality and team spirit and free flowing football encouraged within the team.
The team continued to train hard and develop during the close season and went for an all out assault on league and cup honours during the 2017-18 season. Unfortunately they came up just short in the league finishing second, nine points adrift of eventual winners Moorside Rangers Firsts with a record of fourteen wins, three draws and three losses and a goal difference of forty three. The lost games were the difference between the two teams as Moorside went unbeaten through the league campaign with a record of sixteen wins and three draws. In the two encounters between the teams Moorside had brushed High Lane aside in the first game early in the season, winning 6 – 1 at High Lane. The second encounter at the end of the season was a much closer affair with high lane squandering a 3-0 half time lead to draw the game 3-3. This was not the end of the season for the two teams however as both teams were to play again the same week on a weekday evening to contest the final of the Rhodes Cup.
High Lane had reached the final with reasonably comfortable victories over premier division sides Milton 1sts and Salford Victoria 1sts in the opening two rounds. The quarter finals was a hard fought 1 – 0 win over third division runaway champions Dom Doyle and a 2 – 1 win over premier division Whalley Range in the semi final completed High Lanes passage to the final. Moorside had generally swept teams aside en route to the final with two 4 – 0 victories, one 4 – 1 victory and one game against 2nd division Bedians AFC 1sts that was a seemingly hard fought game finishing 2 – 1 to Moorside.
The final was a tight game finishing 1 – 1 after extra time and was decided on penalties with High Lane securing their first major honours winning the shootout 3 – 2. You can see by the pictures just how much this meant to the team and following a call to Maly to congratulate him on his achievements his enthusiasm was overpowering. It’s easy to see with such a love of the game his team have had the success they have achieved and I’m sure this will be the first of many pieces of silverware the team will be picking up. Aside from this it just goes to show that with the correct management a team from a small leafy suburb with a small catchment area and limited resources can compete with much bigger clubs, this in itself is a major achievement!!