My Grounds

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Fakenham Town - Clipbush Park

Fakenham Town FC
Clipbush Park
Clipbush Lane
NR21 8SW

Ground: 23
Date: 22nd July 2017
Fakenham Town 0-3 Yaxley
Pre-Season Friendly

Fakenham Town FC - History

Fakenham Town were founded in 1884, joining the Norwich & District League in the early 1900s. After going on hiatus during World War 1, the club didn't rejoin the league until 1921, before joining the Norfolk & Suffolk League in 1935. When the league merged with the East Anglian League in 1964 (forming the Anglian Combination League), Fakenham were placed in the Premier Division, but were relegated at the end of the 1965/66 season.

Fakenham returned to the Premier Division after winning Division 1 in the 1971/72 season, a season after winning the Norfolk Senior Cup for the first time (they won this again in 1972/73 and 1973/74, as well as the Anglian Combination League Senior Cup in 1978/79). In 1988, the club became one of the founding members of Division 1 of the Eastern Counties League, earning promotion to the Premier Division in the 1991/92 season after finishing 2nd.

In 1994, 1998 and 1999, the club won the Norfolk Senior Cup again, and the 1998/99 season also saw the club record its highest-ever finish after coming 2nd in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division. However, this was followed by a period of decline, culminating in a relegation back to Division 1 in the 2003/04 season. At this level, the decline continued, with the club finishing bottom of the league in 2008/09 and 2009/10 (though neither campaign saw the club relegated back into the Anglian Combination).

After the latter of these two bottom-place finishes, fortunes slowly started to improve for Fakenham, with the club earning promotion back to the Premier Division after finishing 2nd in Division 1 in the 2013/14 season. Since then, the club has finished mid-table for the last three seasons in the Premier Division, but they are currently struggling at the bottom this season.

In the FA Cup, the club have made it as far as the 1st Qualifying Round on two occasions, most recently in the 2001/02 season, when they beat Marlow before losing in a replay to Leyton. The club has fared slightly better in the FA Vase, reaching the 3rd Round on three occasions, most recently in the 2006/07 season: in this campaign, they beat Walsham-le-Willows, Gorleston and Newmarket Town before suffering a 5-1 defeat at home to Cogenhoe United.

My Visit

After the previous pre-season saw Yaxley play no away games (for whatever reason), I was fairly eager to get to this game as soon as I saw it listed as one of our pre-season friendlies. This was even more the case after other obligations meant I missed Norwich's pre-season friendly at Lowestoft Town, and thankfully my dad was more than happy to drive me up there, after paying a visit to my grandparents in Attleborough of course.

Unlike a lot of other grounds I had visited up to this point, Fakenham's was very easy to find, with me using Google Maps on my phone to lead the way while my dad drove. As such, we got to the ground well before kick-off, giving me ample time to go around the ground and take a circuit of photos, with us eventually settling in front of the covered stand behind the goal Yaxley were shooting towards in each half (these areas of cover didn't extend all the way from the fence enclosing the ground to the pitch), moving properly under the cover in the second half as the rain started to pour.

As for the game itself, my thoughts on it below:

For a pre-season friendly, the first half of this match was very high energy, with both teams contributing to an exciting affair, albeit one which Yaxley somewhat ran away with. That being said, had Fakenham scored their clear-cut chance in the first 30 seconds, things could have been different. However, this was not the case and Yaxley instead went straight up the other end and won a penalty, Dan Cotton calmly converting from the spot. Yaxley then starting to firmly dominate proceedings to the point where Fakenham struggled to get out of their own box for large periods of play. By the 25 minute mark, Yaxley had added two more goals - another from Dan Cotton and one from Jack Saunders - and had been through on goal on several other occasions as well.

In the second half, Yaxley seemed somewhat fatigued by their first half efforts and mostly sat back, allowing Fakenham a chance to exert some control over proceedings. Several chances followed for Fakenham, but ultimately it was not their day and they could not convert any of their chances into goals. Late in the half, Yaxley had a few more chances that really should have been converted, but the goals in the first half ultimately proved to be enough for Yaxley to claim yet another pre-season victory.

The Ground

In many ways, the set-up at Clipbush Park reminds me of Wisbech's Fenland Stadium, and there are certainly lots of similarities, not least of which being the identical areas of cover behind each goal, both of which could likely provide cover for 100 people (same as Wisbech, except without the area of seating that one of these areas has at the Fenland Stadium, and without the steps of terracing seen there), while one of them could also provide some seating in the form of a solitary park bench (presumably a memorial bench of sorts, by the look of it).

The main stand, however, is definitely better than the one at Wisbech, and not just because it isn't an Atcost: the stand looks as if it could provide seating for at least 200, and possibly as many as 300 people, although it is odd that the seats are red when the club play in amber and black. 

Other than this, the rest of the ground is open hard standing, with the ground having an overall capacity of at least 2,000 (based on the fact that the record attendance at the ground is over 2,000 for a pre-season friendly against Norwich City in 2006). It also looks as if there would be ample room to expand should the club ever rise to Step 4 or above, although I would imagine the ground is probably (in terms of football furniture, at least) good enough for Step 4 as it is.


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