The expectations of Caton United Reserves would not have been high as they looked forward to season 1956-57 in Division II of the North Lancashire & District League.
In the previous season they had only won six league games out of 22, amassing a total of 16 points.
They did have three young players in the team who would eventually progress to the first team – Derek Irving, Malcolm Strickland and Ronnie Bargh – and some other players, like Charlie Hewitt and Percy Capstick provided the experience.
They would only once again win six league games out of the 22 games they played but their spirit never wavered in spite of conceding an average of five goals per game.
The spirit in the club, though, enabled them to make progress in the Junior Charity Cup and when they were drawn to play Lancaster YMCA confidence was high having beaten them twice previously in league and cup games.
The game was reported as follows:
“Outplaying their opponents for most of the game Caton United Reserves beat Lancaster YMCA in the second round of the North Lancashire League’s Junior Charity Cup competition. Ken Jopson gave Caton an early lead and, inspired by this success, the villagers continued to dominate play for the rest of the first half. Receiving good support from their half-backs the Caton forwards were in aggressive mood and only poor finishing spoiled many good scoring opportunities. YMCA made a few attacks on the home goal but their shooting was feeble and rarely tested Gordon Nixon. Just before half-time however the Lancaster side equalised through their inside right Isaacs. Two minutes after the break Ken Jopson put Caton ahead once more after Bill Webster hit the bar with a long shot from the right wing. United Reserves maintained the initiative and in the 80th minute Bill Webster increased the lead to 3-1 with a great effort.”
Grange were defeated 3-2 in a tense semi-final at Bolton-le-Sands and they then got the chance to display their skills at Christie Park, Morecambe, in the final against Heysham who had finished the season as runners-up to champions, Galgate, in Division II.
After an end-to-end tussle, Heysham overcame Caton United Reserves 2-0 but had to battle for the full 90 minutes to subdue the villagers.
The Reserves had to travel to Grange and win their final game to avoid relegation and, on the same day, the first team were playing at Lower Holker.
Both teams travelled on Lamb’s Coaches of Hornby and the second team was dropped at Grange in temperatures so oppressive that Malcolm Strickland, Derek Irving and Gordon Nixon led their teammates to the nearest shop to buy cold drinks.
It seemed like “Mission Impossible” but with Gordon Nixon saving two penalties and Caton’s forwards finding their scoring touch a 3-1 victory kept them in Division II and consigned NALGO to relegation.
Derek Irving’s memory was stirred when he thought about the team he played in and these were some of his recollections:
“Ken Jopson had accepted a lift back to Caton on a motor bike when it crashed near Denny Beck and the driver was killed and Ken injured.
Malcolm Strickland died in an accident on his 21st birthday near County Garage, Morecambe. Percy Capstick was walking home with his friend Ephraim Nixon near Lunesdale Terrace, Claughton, when they were hit from behind by a car. Ephraim was killed and Percy was severely injured.”