My Grounds

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Corby Town - Steel Park

Corby Town FC
Steel Park
Rockingham Road
NN17 2AE

Ground: 81
Date: 22nd April 2019
Corby Town 3-2 Yaxley
Southern League Division 1 Central

Corby Town FC - History

Corby Town were founded in 1948, taking the place of the original Stewarts & Lloyds team in the United Counties League. The club won consecutive league titles in the 1950/51 and 1951/52 seasons before transferring to the Midland League. Their first two seasons in this league saw them finish 2nd and 3rd respectively, before slumping down to mid-table for a couple of seasons. After a further two seasons in this league, the club transferred to the Southern League's North-Western Division, before being placed in Division 1 the following season (the 1959/60 season).

Their first season in Division 1 saw the club finish third-from-bottom, but the next few seasons saw them rise into the top half. After a sixth-place finish in the 1961/62 season, the club applied for election to the Football League but were unsuccessful, failing to receive a single vote. They applied again the following season after finishing 7th, but again received no votes and were unsuccessful. In the 1964/65 season, the club finished 4th in Division 1 to earn promotion to the Premier Division and saw them once again apply unsuccessfully for election to the Football League.

In the club's first season in the Premier Division, they finished 12th and again applied for election to the Football League: they were once again unsuccessful, but did receive a single vote this time. The 1966/67 season - which saw the club finish 16th in the league - was the final time the club applied for election to the Football League, and once again they received no votes. The following season, the club finished third-from-bottom and were relegated back to Division 1.

After three seasons in Division 1, restructuring saw the club placed in Division 1 North. The club spent eight years in this league, intially starting strong with top half finishes but steadily sliding down the table until they finished bottom in the 1978/79 season. The following season saw the club placed in the Midland Division due to restructuring, and again the club finished bottom. The next two seasons saw the club earn respectable mid-table finishes, before further restructuring saw them placed in the Premier Division.

After eight inconsistent years in the Premier Division, the club finished third-from-bottom in the 1989/90 season and were relegated to the Midland Division, before finishing as runners-up to bounce back immediately. This was followed by a couple of high finishes in the Premier Division - including a 3rd-place finish in the 1992/93 season - but this success was short-lived and the club finished bottom in the 1994/95 season to drop back down to the Midland Division.

After three seasons of bottom-three finishes in this league, restructuring saw the club placed in the Southern League's new Southern Division, which was renamed to the Eastern Division after one season. The club spent five seasons in this league before being transferred to the Western Division for the 2004/05 season, before being transferred back again the following season. The 2005/06 season saw the club finish as runners-up to earn promotion back to the Premier Division.

After initially struggling in the Premier Division (the club finished third-from-bottom in their first season back), the club soon rose up the table and won the title in the 2008/09 season to earn promotion to the Conference North. The club spent four seasons at this level, finishing 6th in their first season but steadily falling down the table before suffering relegation at the end of the 2012/13 season. 

After two seasons back in the Southern League Premier Division, the title was won again and the club returned to the National League North. However, the club finished bottom and were immediately relegated back to Step 3, this time joining the Northern Premier League's Premier Division. The 2016/17 season was even more disastrous for the club, as they finished in the bottom four and were relegated to Division 1 South. The club then finished 9th in the 2017/18 season before being transferred to Division 1 Central of the Southern League. This season, the club have secured a play-off place as they look to return to Step 3.

In the FA Cup, the club's best run saw the reach the 3rd Round in the 1965/66 season, beating King's Lynn, Burton Albion and Luton Town before losing to Plymouth Argyle. As for the FA Trophy, the club have twice progressed as far as the 3rd Round, most recently in the 2009/10 season when they beat Alfreton Town, Farsley Celtic and Stalybridge Celtic before losing to York City.

My Visit

This was another Yaxley away game that I had pencilled in as soon as the fixture list came out at the start of the season. In this case, though, I had asked my dad if he wanted to come to the game with me on the supporters' coach for a change, and he initially assented when I asked him about it last Wednesday. On Friday, I texted Jeff to book two seats for the coach, but yesterday morning my dad texted me to tell me he had a migraine so wouldn't be able to come.

Over the course of the prior week, I had also received word from the club that Corby were expecting us to wear shirts and ties into their boardroom, so I was hoping that the weather would cool down ever so slightly compared to yesterday. However, as I learned while walking down to the ground to catch the coach, this was not the case, meaning that I was going to be uncomfortably hot all day.

I left the house at around 12:10pm to walk down to the ground, arriving 25 minutes later and just after the coach had arrived. I got in and immediately took a seat, before changing into smarter shoes for later in the boardroom (I would have worn those shoes on the way, but they're not very comfortable to walk in for prolonged periods of time). The coach then left at 12:50pm and, after taking a wrong turn and taking us down the scenic route, we arrived at Corby's ground at around 1:35pm.

We then headed into the boardroom for some pre-match hospitality, before I then headed out at around 2pm to do my circuit of ground photos. After this was done, I headed back into the boardroom for another cup of tea, before heading up to take a seat high up in the main stand to watch the game. At half-time, we got served some food in the form of pie, chips and beans; it was certainly a surprise to be served this at half-time rather than full-time, but I certainly won't complain as it was good food.

While the two sides' respective recent form filled me with optimism that we could pick up another good result in this game, Corby's position right at the top of the league meant that I was taking nothing for granted and would have been more than happy with a point.

Here's my report on a game that should have seen us pick up at least a point, but saw us punished for a lack of clinicality in the final third:

We should have taken the lead after 2 minutes of this game, Matt Sparrow breaking forward at pace and passing across the box to Dalton Harris, who somehow shot well over the bar when all he had to do was tap in to score. However, all was forgiven a couple of minutes later when he did find the net: Sparrow broke again and crossed to Harris, who made no mistake this time and finished with a header. Corby started to wake up a little after this and had their first chance after 11 minutes when one of their strikers was one-on-one with Aaron Butcher but shot well over the bar. Six minutes later, though, Butcher had to react quickly to save a goal-bound shot after the ball was allowed to bounce in the box.

As the game continued to ebb and flow between the two teams, we had two chances in two minutes to double our lead, but failed to finish on both occasions: in the 21st minute, Dan Cotton shot audaciously from range, with Dan George in the Corby goal punching clear; a minute later, Sparrow once again broke away and cut inside, attempting to either shoot or square the ball to Cotton but missing both. For much of the rest of the half, Corby upped the pressure and had us pinned back in our half, only occasionally letting us break forward on the counter as they pursued an equaliser. They eventually got it in the 38th minute, a brief lapse of concentration leaving the ball loose in the box, allowing Stephen Diggin to get a curling shot away that gave Butcher no chance. 1-1 at half-time.

Perhaps due to the heat, both teams were a little slow out of the blocks at the start of the second half, but we produced the first good chance in the 49th minute as a Butterworth through ball set Sparrow through, but his shot was wide again. The next ten minutes saw Corby attempt to regain control of the game, but while they continued to pile the pressure on they weren't producing many clear-cut chances either. In fact, it was us who next came close to scoring again just after the hour mark: a Cotton free kick was floated into the box from 30 yards out and bounced awkwardly, with Ross Watson attempting to guide it into the net but failing to get a touch on the ball.

This once again woke Corby up and they continued to bombard our box with attack after attack after attack, eventually taking the lead in the 74th minute: Butcher cleared straight to a Corby attacker and, after some unsuccessful attempts to clear, Jordon Crawford curled a shot from the edge of the box past Butcher, his finish almost perfectly mimicking Diggin's first half goal. Three minutes later, though, we equalised with an unusual goal: Frazer Garner took a long throw into the box and Watson attempted to shoot when it reached the floor, with Corby defender Sam Warburton blocking the shot under pressure from Sparrow and placing it into his own net. However, Corby reclaimed the lead four minutes later: Elliot Sandy rattled a shot against the crossbar and it then bounced off Butcher's back and in. We then brought Charley Sanders on as we chased an equaliser, but ultimately it wasn't to be and we lost 3-2.

Overall, this was a frustrating game for us: we put in an excellent performance against a promotion-chasing side and deserved at least a point, but our finishing wasn't clinical enough and we were made to pay for it. Against the average team in this league, that performance would have seen us win - and it could and should have at least seen us draw today - but the top teams have that extra clinicality and that extra bit of luck sometimes that makes the difference. Still, aside from a couple of disappointing defensive lapses, this performance was most certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

MOTM: Joe Butterworth (a composed performance in the centre of park, playing numerous crucial through balls, breaking up attacks and constantly keeping the ball moving for us)

Though it was certainly a disappointing result and frustrating game for us, this was a reasonable day out on the whole. After the match, we headed to the bar rather than the boardroom as we waited for everyone to be ready for departure. This gave us time to watch the first half-hour of the game between Brentford and Leeds. As this was ongoing, I got into a chat with our striker Tom Waumsley - who happens to be a Leeds fan - about the match and the Championship promotion race.

Eventually, the coach left the ground at 5:45pm and arrived back at our ground 40 minutes later. I was then going to walk back home (and made it to the top of Holme Road in the process), but our keeper Aaron Butcher was kind enough to offer me a lift, so I ended up back in the house at 6:35pm, having camembert for dinner before getting to work on my match report and photos.

When I was double-checking Kintbury's fixture list this morning, I noticed that they moved the game I intended to watch for this season's final groundhop (I'll be taking in Yaxley's final game of the season at home this Saturday rather than groundhopping) to the Tuesday night. So, I had a look all over to find another possible game to finish the season with, and found one reasonable option: on the 4th of May, I'll be visiting Enfield Town's ground to watch a Step 7 game between New Salamis and Letchworth Garden City Eagles, the latter of whom look set to win the title while the former look set to be promoted to Step 6 (due to the latter being refused an extension to allow them to meet the ground grading criteria for promotion).

The Ground

Having been opened in 2011 adjacent to the club's old ground, Steel Park is a fairly new build but, having been used as high up as Step 2 in recent years, it's better than most others in this league. On the near side is an impressive 577-seater main stand, which offers impressive elevated views of the entire ground (and with no support pillars in the way to hinder the view). The only other area of cover is a large covered terrace behind the far goal which runs most of the width of the pitch and could probably provide cover for at least 500 people.

Other than this, the rest of the ground is open hard standing but there is still reasonable amounts of room for further expansion, although given that this ground was sufficient for Step 2 in the past it probably doesn't need much if any upgrading for the time being. The boardroom is situated in the bottom of the main stand, and other than that there's a club shop and tea bar on the near side, as well as a further refreshment's stand behind the near goal.


Sunday, 21 April 2019

Bourne Town - Abbey Lawn

Bourne Town FC
Abbey Lawn
Abbey Road
PE10 9EN

Ground: 80
Date: 20th April 2019
Bourne Town 0-4 Irchester United
United Counties League Division 1

Bourne Town FC - History

Bourne Town were founded in 1883 and first joined the Peterborough & District League in 1911. The club left the league in 1929, but returned after a season's absence and won Division 1 in the 1933/34 season. The club again left the league in 1935, but returned two years later and won the league in the 1939/40 season. After World War 2, the club finished as champions for two consecutive seasons before joining the United Counties League for the 1947/48 season.

After finishing a respectable 7th in their first season at that level, the club started to struggled and finished second-from-bottom in the next two seasons and then third-from-bottom the season afterwards. After improving and finishing 7th in the 1951/52 season, the club struggled again and finished bottom two seasons later, before finishing second-from-bottom the following two seasons.

After finishing second-from-bottom in the 1955/56 season, the club returned to the Peterborough & District League, but transferred to Division 1 South of the Central Alliance League two years later. The club won the Division 1 South title in the 1959/60 season, before moving up to the Midland League for the 1961/62 season. The club spent four seasons in this league and, after finishing second-from-bottom in the 1964/65 season, they dropped down to Division 1 of the United Counties League.

The club finished as runners-up in their first season at that level, before going on to win consecutive titles in the 1968/69 and 1969/70 seasons. The title was won again in the 1971/72 season, after which Division 1 was renamed the Premier Division. This saw a slight downturn in the club's fortunes for much of the next decade as they started to regularly finish in the bottom half, but the 1981/82 season saw the club finish 5th and was followed by consecutive 4th-place finishes.

A few more years of inconsistency followed after this - including the club finishing bottom in the 1987/88 and 1988/89 seasons - before the club won the title again in the 1990/91 season. After this, the club spent the next twenty years in the Premier Division, mostly finishing in the bottom half but occasionally breaking into the top half. However, in the 2009/10 season the club finished fifth-from-bottom and were relegated to Division 1 (for some reason). The club have remained here ever since, recording a highest finish of 5th in the 2015/16 season.

In the FA Cup, the club have progressed as far as the 3rd Qualifying Round on four occasions, most recently in the 1971/72 season when they beat Boston and Stamford before losing to King's Lynn. In the FA Trophy, the club progressed as far as the 1st Round in the 1972/73 season, beating Desborough Town, Histon and Wellingborough Town before losing to Bridgwater Town. As for the FA Vase, the club's best run saw them reach the 4th Round in the 1989/90 season: they beat Huntingdon United, Royston Town, Holbeach United and Eastwood Hanley before losing in a replay to Spalding United.

My Visit

Originally, I had been hoping to visit Stotfold yesterday, partially because they will be moving to a new ground later this year (November, I believe), but also because it looked likely that Biggleswade FC would be able to secure the title and promotion there (as they ended up doing). Howver, when I asked my mum about giving me a lift to a game, she mentioned that she was heading to Norfolk on Friday to visit my aunt and pick my sister up from University, so she didn't want to travel far.

Because of this, I rejigged my options slightly and added this in place of Lakenheath, with my mum eventually choosing this. Even though this wasn't what I intended, I was still fine with it, as Bourne was quite a local one that I'd been meaning to do for a while, not least because it looked like a great ground for this level from what I'd seen online.

On the day of the game, the weather was nice enough to not have to worry about a postponement, so I spent a relaxed morning getting ready before we headed out just after 1:40pm. We arrived in Bourne itself around 2:15pm, taking a few minutes after that to find the ground and then find somewhere to park. Eventually, I got into the ground at 2:25pm, paying £1 for admission (student rate) and disappointingly learning that there wasn't a programme available.

After talking to the friendly man at the gate for a few minutes, I headed around the ground to do my usual circuit of photos as I awaited kick-off. Once I was done, I moved to stand under cover in front of the team sheets and tea bar, which is where I stayed throughout the game. Just before half-time, I bought a drink, some crisps and some sweets from the tea bar for £3.50. 

Looking at the league table and recent form of the two teams, this game was looking like it would be a late-season dead rubber, but with the high amount of goals both teams had scored and conceded up to this point I was anticipating a few goals regardless.

Here's my report on a game that, though one-sided, was very entertaining and was absolutely not the dead rubber that it looked likely to be:

Irchester started this game on the front foot, Josh Burge almost scoring twice in the opening two minutes but placing his volleyed shots wide. Bourne then had their first decent chance after 5 minutes, Zak Munton getting an awkward shot away on the half volley but missing the target. At this point, it was looking like we were in for a thrilling game, but this didn't materialise until the second half.

In fact, after this early flurry of chances, the game quietened down until Burge had another chance for Irchester in the 20th minute: Dan Spaughton used his strength well to shield the ball to Burge, who shot through a few defenders and just inches wide of the far post. There were a few more decent chances here and there throughout the half, but the only other clear-cut chance (and comfortably the closest of the lot) came for Bourne in the 40th minute: a cross from deep was headed goalwards by Jake Mason, but it bounced the wrong side of the post and wide. 0-0 at half-time.

While the first half had proven lacking in goals, the second half quickly provided one when Irchester took the lead after 48 minutes: a drilled cross eluded Ant Muphey in the Bourne goal, before a header across the face of goal allowed Ryan Lovell to head into the empty net. The away side doubled their lead six minutes later as Lovell found himself one-on-one with Muphey: his first shot was blocked but fell back to him, but he rounded the keeper on the second attempt to score. Irchester continued to dominate after this, missing two golden chances in the 65th and 66th minutes: first, Lovell was again through one-on-one and had his shot saved and deflected into his foot before going over; the second saw Lovell lay the ball off to James Ball, who simply had to tap in but somehow shot over the bar.

After this, Irchester had to be patient as they continued to push forward, but their third goal eventually came in the 78th minute: a through ball again set Lovell through past the defence and he cut inside, moving across the box and eventually shooting past the keeper and covering defenders to complete his hat-trick. Chance after chance came after this, as Irchester constantly pushed forward at pace, with the only thing keeping the scoreline down being some excellent saves and clearances from Muphey. Their fourth almost came in the 88th minute, an excellent David Bell free kick played into the box and headed over at close range. Irchester didn't have to wait long after this for their fourth, as an own goal finished the job: Lovell rounded the keeper and headed wide (due to a poor first touch), before attempting a cross across goal that a Bourne defender headed in to make it 0-4.

Overall, this game was much more entertaining than I expected it to be, and certainly wasn't the dead rubber the table made it seem. Both teams put full effort in for the 90 minutes (despite the heat) and played in a good spirit, with very few fouls and other stoppages (other than a drink break each half). On the whole, though, Irchester were dominant in both physicality and intensity, which seems to be because Bourne were playing quite a young side; to their credit, they never gave up, but they never truly looked like scoring to get back into the game after falling behind.

Overall, this was a fine day out at a friendly club, and I'm glad that I ended up here for what was somehow my only neutral groundhop of the season when I've been at home (all my neutral ones have been while I was either on holiday or at University, and when I've been home all of my groundhops prior to this had been Yaxley away games).

I got picked up again after the game, and after an easy drive we were back home again at around 5:25pm, allowing me to start work on my match report and sort out my photos much earlier than I normally would.

Up next is a visit to Corby tomorrow with my dad on the Yaxley supporters' coach, after which I will finish the season with a visit to Kintbury Rangers on the 4th of May, for what is looking likely to be a title decided against Wroughton.

The Ground

Abbey Lawn is an excellent ground at Step 6, and one that would most certainly not look out of place a couple of levels higher. The only cover at the ground is on the near side, but it is all very impressive. First is the imposing wooden main stand, which contains seating for around 200 people. Next to this is an area of covered standing, which contains the tea bar and a single step of terracing; overall, this probably provides cover for up to 300 people.

Other than this, the rest of the ground is open hard standing and there is little room for expansion due to the close proximity of hedges and fences on all sides. The ground now has an overall capacity of 2,000, but the record attendance was 3,000 for an FA Trophy against Chelmsford City in 1970.