My Grounds

Monday, 20 November 2017

Swaffham Town - Shoemakers Lane

Swaffham Town FC
Shoemakers Lane
PE37 7NS

Ground: 14
Date: 27th August 2016
Swaffham Town 0-1 Ipswich Wanderers
Eastern Counties League Premier Division

Swaffham Town FC - History

Swaffham Town were founded in 1892 and, as such, are one of the oldest clubs in Norfolk. In 1935, the club joined the Norfolk & Suffolk League, but left it after just one season. In 1959, the club moved to their current home ground, having purchased the land for £250.

At some point, the club joined the Anglian Combination League, winning its Division 2 in the 1973/74 season. In 1990, Swaffham earned promotion to Division 1 of the Eastern Counties League, which is where they have spent all but four seasons since. In the 2001/02 season, they won the league and earned promotion to the Premier Division, but were immediately relegated back the following season; the same occurred after promotion in the 2006/07 season as well. Their only other excursion in the Premier Division came after promotion in the 2014/15 season, but ended at the end of the 2016/17 season when the club finished bottom of the league.

Since first entering the FA Cup in the 2013/14 season, Swaffham Town have experienced limited success, winning just two ties and never getting further than the Preliminary Round: they got that far in both 2013/14 and 2017/18, before suffering defeats to Huntingdon Town and Bedford Town respectively. In the FA Vase, things haven't been much better for the club, with their best run coming in the 1996/97 season when they reached the 2nd Round, beating Brightlingsea United and Hadleigh United before losing to Saffron Walden Town in a replay.

My Visit

With my grandparents unable to go to Norwich games for the entirety of the 2016/17 season (my nan has been able to go again this season) due to my granddad's stroke earlier in the year, my dad and I wanted to take as many opportunities as we could to see them and, while we were doing so before Norwich games, I also wanted to take the opportunity to start ticking off some grounds in Norfolk. On this particular day, this happened to be the closest game, so naturally we decided to go.

However, this proved to be a mistake in that we were forced to endure as bad a game of football as I'll ever have to watch: I don't like to see 0-0s, but such is how bad both teams were that I honestly felt as if that would have been a fairer scoreline, as neither team deserved to win. Better still, my camera died around halfway through my circuit of photos, so I had to borrow my dad's iPad to finish the job. In any case, here's a match report I dug up from Ipswich Wanderers' website:

Wanderers travelled to Norfolk looking to return to winning ways, Connor Corrick and Ross Myhill returned to the starting line up whilst Billy Holland also made his 1st start since his loan move from Needham Market. The bench also included George Mrozek, Connor Ward and Matt Mackenzie.

Wanderers attacked up the slope and only a fine save from Cruickshank denied a low strike from Bannister and from the corner, Rose headed just wide. The match then developed into a midfield battle, Vincent remained a threat for the hosts and Bradbrook punched away well to deny Allibone. Myhill and Deacon then combined to find Bannister whose rising drive flew just over. Swaffham pushed in the last five minutes of the half but the closest they came was an effort from Vincent from the edge of the box which flashed wide.

Wanderers almost made the ideal start to the half when Holland shot just wide but the game was developing into a better spectacle, Bradbrook did well to deny Allibone before Vincent put the follow up effort over the bar, Bannister then forced Cruickshank into a save before Deacon shot over from the edge of the area.

Swaffham then had two chances in a matter of minutes but Champion shot wide and Rahma lifted his effort over the bar. Castellan tested Bradbrook into a good save from long range. Wanderers then took control for the last 15 minutes and after a few half chances, almost took the lead on 86 minutes when a Holland volley beat Cruickshank but came back off the post. We found the lead on 89 minutes when Bannister cut inside his defender before shooting low past Cruickshank and in injury time Mackenzie shot wide from a Mrozek cross.

The Ground

Shoemakers Lane is a ground that - unlike many others at Step 5 and 6 - has a decent amount of character to it rather than just opting for the Atcost approach (not trying to knock clubs who do that, as it's entirely understandable why, but from a groundhopping perspective an Atcost isn't exactly exciting).

In this case, the ground has cover on three sides, but most of it is (other than the main stand, which is almost in line with the halfway line) is closest to the near goal. The main stand has two rows of seats (totalling around 100 seats) and is very close to the pitch (you can see just how close it is from some of the action shots above). On the other side is a small, wooden covered area - which almost blends into the fence that encloses the ground - which could probably hold up to 50 people (although it would be a bit cramped, I imagine).

There's another two areas of cover behind the near goal, one of which has a bench along it to provide some additional seating, while the other is another wooden structure, albeit about twice as large as the other one. The rest of the ground is open hard standing, with minimal potential for expansion other than behind the far goal, which is currently the only uncovered side of the ground.

There's no official figure I can find, but I would imagine the ground has an overall capacity of 2,000 at most. The record attendance at the ground is apparently 250 for an Eastern Counties League Cup game against Downham Town in 1991, although it wouldn't surprise me if this has been beaten since then.


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