My Grounds

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Yaxley - Leading Drove

Yaxley FC
Leading Drove
Holme Road
 PE7 3NA

Ground: 7
Date: 29th August 2015
Yaxley 4-1 Godmanchester Rovers
FA Cup Preliminary Round 

Yaxley FC - History

Yaxley were founded in 1962, joining Division 3 South of the Peterborough & District League, where they stayed until earning promotion to Division 2 in 1965; by this point, the club had changed name to Yaxley British Legion. 

The following few years saw the club yo-yo between the two leagues until earning promotion to the PDFL Premier Division in 1975, winning the Huntingdonshire Senior Cup in the same season; the latter feat was repeated the following season as well. The club won the Premier Division in the 1976/77 and 1983/84 seasons, winning another two Hunts Senior Cups in this period. 

In 1986, a sponsorship deal saw the club change its name to Coalite Yaxley, and two years later the club became a founding member of the Eastern Counties League Division 1. A change in sponsor saw the club undergo another name change in 1990, this time changing name to Clarksteel Yaxley.

In 1992, Yaxley were expelled from the ECL as their Middleton Road ground - which was in a park - lacked the necessary facilities, with no chance of ever getting planning permission for anything. This forced the club to drop into the Huntingdonshire League, before joining the new West Anglia League in 1994 and becoming its first champions.

In 1995, the club moved to its current home of Leading Drove, allowing them to accept promotion to the United Counties League Division 1, where they stayed for two seasons before winning the league. Since then, the club - having reverted back to being called Yaxley at some point - has stayed in the Premier Division of the United Counties League, recording a best-ever finish of 3rd in the 2016/17 season, also winning the United Counties League Knockout Cup in the same season. However, this changed after the club won the title to earn promotion to Step 4 for the first time, moving up to Division 1 Central of the Southern League.

Yaxley's best-ever FA Cup run has been to the 2nd Qualifying Round, which was achieved in 2002-03 (losing 2-0 to Horsham) and 2006-07 (losing 5-1 to Kettering Town). The club's best-ever FA Vase run was achieved in the 2014/15 season when Yaxley reached the 4th round before losing to Erith & Belvedere. As for the FA Trophy, the club's first season in the competition saw them reach the 2nd Qualifying Round this season (2018/19), beating Corby Town and Wisbech Town before losing in a replay to Ramsbottom United.

My Visits

Since my first visit to my local club (when I'm at home rather than University, at least) early in the 2015/16 season, I have become something of a regular down at Leading Drove, visiting for almost every home game that doesn't clash with a Norwich home game, although this has been less the case this season due to University. In this time, I have seen a variety of games and a ridiculous amount of goals, having twice seen games that broke double figures (an 8-3 win against Wellingborough Town in the 2015/16 season, and a 12-0 win against Huntingdon Town in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round in the 2016/17 season), and it is undoubtedly because of the games I have seen at Leading Drove that my passion for non-league has grown more and more; I've also become a firm Yaxley fan in this period and am now the club's programme editor as well.

As for my first visit to Leading Drove, I had originally intended for it to happen for the previous round of the FA Cup, when we played host to Gorleston in the first game on the newly-completed 3G pitch. However, something urgent came up at the last season, so I ended up delaying my visit until the next round of the FA Cup instead. 

It should have been a simple walk from my house to the ground, but I somehow ended up getting confused and lost a couple of times, eventually getting into the ground just in time for kick-off, and just after the minute's silence for the victims of the Shoreham Air Disaster that had happened the previous week. 

With this being my first ever foray into non-league football, I wasn't really sure what I should expect in terms of the quality of football I would see. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how good both teams looked, with both Yaxley and Godmanchester playing exciting, free-flowing football (no doubt helped by the 3G pitch) in an even and entertaining first half in which Godmanchester had a penalty saved.

However, the game came alive in the second half and the goals flowed, with Yaxley being far more ruthless than Godmanchester and reaping the rewards, with Godmanchester only getting a late consolation for their troubles. Here's a match report I dug up from the club website; it's not particularly long, but it is at least more specific than my memories of the game:

After being comprehensively knocked out of the FA cup by Godmanchester and hammered in the country cup, the Cuckoos avenged those defeats in the cup. 

Luke Seaber-Shinn scored on his return to In2itive Park, but was powerless to avoid the Cuckoos getting a measure of revenge over local rivals Godmanchester after heartbreak last season. 

An even first half saw Andy Stevens in the home goal save a penalty. Dan Cotton, who did everything but score in the last round, drew first blood before Toby Ogbonna got his first Cuckoo's goal.

Player Assistant Manager Andy Furnell scored two more in the last ten minutes to add some sheen to the scoreline. Seaber-Shinn pulled one back in time added on. 

The Ground

Since my first visit to the ground back in 2015, Leading Drove has gone from a functional ground to quite an impressive one, much of which has happened this season due to the increased demands of Step 4 football.

There is now cover on three sides of the ground: on the near side is the main stand, which contains 100 seats, and next to this is some standing cover beneath the scaffolding above the clubhouse. Directly opposite this is a new 56-seater stand, which was built by combining the two bike-shelter covers that were already at the ground, raising them and then adding another row of seats. Behind the near goal is an area of covered standing which is still a work-in-progress (work presumably stalled due to the work needed to meet Step 4 grading requirements).

Other than that, the rest of the ground is open hard standing, with a good amount of room still available for any further expansion if required (except from behind the near goal). On the whole, and I'll admit I'm slightly biased here, it's now one of the better grounds in our current league, at least of those I've visited this season .

The overall capacity of the ground is 1,500, with the record attendance at the ground apparently being 300 for a game against Wisbech Town in the FA Vase in the 1982/83 season, although I imagine this figure is inaccurate and has been beaten in more recent times (in fact, it was beaten on the August Bank Holiday this season as 308 people saw us play against local rivals Peterborough Sports).


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