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.

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; there is a possibility that the club could still equal this run this season, having reached the 3rd Round a couple of days ago (at the time of writing) with a 3-0 win over Peterborough Northern Star, a result made all the more impressive by the fact that the manager had resigned just two days before the game.

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

Compared to a lot of the other grounds I have visited in non-league, I have to admit that Leading Drove is a reasonably basic ground, one which is perhaps best described as functional. On the side you enter the ground at is a stand that has seating for around 100 people (this was just benches on my first visit, but actual seats were added around a month later), with a smaller covered area (a converted bike shed, essentially) providing seating for 13 people (as with the main stand, the seats were added around a month after my first visit); another one of these converted bike sheds is found on the far side, directly across from the main stand.

The rest of the ground is open hard standing, other than an area covered by the overhang from the clubhouse. 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.


Surprisingly, considering I've visited many times since starting groundhopping, I never bothered to take photos of Leading Drove, although I'm going to aim to amend that when I go home over the festive period. Also, when I go home I'll be able to find the programme from my first visit and add a photo of that, as well as a photo of the latest programme - one of my own - from my next visit for comparative purposes.

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