Tuesday, March 10, 2020

RB Leipzig FC

RB Leipzig 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - UEFA Champions League, Round of 16, 2nd Leg

Leipzig is Germany's eighth most populated city located 99 miles south-west of Berlin in the Leipzig Bay, which constitutes the southernmost part of the North German Plain, at the confluence of the White Elster River and two of its tributaries: the Pleiße and the Parthe. The name of the city as well as the names of many of its boroughs are of Slavic origin. Leipzig has been a trade city since at least the time of the Holy Roman Empire. The city sits at the intersection of the Via Regia and the Via Imperii, two important medieval trade routes. Leipzig was once one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing. The United States turned the city over to the Red Army as it pulled back from the line of contact with Soviet forces in July 1945 to the designated occupation zone boundaries. After the Second World War and during the period of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Leipzig remained a major urban centre in East German terms, but its cultural and economic importance declined. Events in Leipzig in 1989 played a significant role in precipitating the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, mainly through demonstrations starting from St. Nicholas Church. Leipzig was a walled city in the Middle Ages and the current ring road around the historic centre of the city follows the line of the old city walls. The tallest structure in Leipzig is the chimney of the Stahl- und Hartgusswerk Bösdorf GmbH with a height of 673 feet. Standing at 466 feet, the City-Hochhaus Leipzig is the tallest high-rise building in Leipzig and was once Germany's tallest building.

RasenBallsport Leipzig commonly known as RB Leipzig, was founded in 2009 by initiative of the company Red Bull GmbH, which purchased the playing rights of fifth-tier side SSV Markranstädt with the intent of advancing the new club to the top-flight Bundesliga within eight years. RB Leipzig plays its home matches at the Red Bull Arena.  In its inaugural season in 2009–10, RB Leipzig dominated the NOFV-Oberliga Süd and were promoted as champions to the Regionalliga Nord. RB Leipzig won the 2012–13 Regionalliga Nordost season without a single defeat and were promoted to the 3. Liga. They then finished the 2013–14 season as runners-up and were promoted to Bundesliga (II) as the first team since the introduction of the 3. Liga to win promotion after only one season. On 8 May 2016, RB Leipzig ensured promotion to the Bundesliga for the 2016–17 season with a 2–0 win over Karlsruher SC. A year later, RB Leipzig captured a place in the 2017–18 UEFA Champions League by finishing as runners-up in the Bundesliga. The establishment of RB Leipzig has caused much controversy in Germany. This revolved around the apparent involvement of Red Bull GmbH and the restrictive membership policy. This has been seen as contrary to common practice in Germany, where football clubs have traditionally relied on voluntary registered associations, with sometimes very large number of members, and where the 50 + 1 rule has ensured that club members have a formal controlling stake. RB Leipzig has been criticised for allegedly being founded as a marketing tool and for allegedly taking commercialisation of football in Germany to a new level.

My journey from London Heathrow to Leipzig was via Frankfurt. From the airport at Leipzig there is a direct train service to the city centre. My hotel was located just five minutes’ walk from the station and proved to be a good base. With plenty of daylight to spare, I walked from the centre to the Red Bull Arena (25 minutes) to seek out some daylight photographs.

Although unable to get inside the stadium, I was able to take pictures of the exterior, much of that is the remains of the Zentralstadion, which opened in 1956. Effectively the Red Bull Arena has been built within the walls of the former stadium. Tottenham Hotspur played Lokomotiv Leipzig there in 1974 (UEFA Cup Semi – Final 1st Leg). Accordingly, it was rather nice to have some symmetry in this respect, being a “younger” supporter of the club.

In the city centre, it was good to visit Brauhaus an der Thomaskirche, where David Price and I enjoyed beer brewed on the premises. I enjoy visiting these traditional hostelries. Unfortunately, on my second visit with Sussex Hopper (match day), it was populated by hordes of Spurs fans shouting that they had “sung in the sun and sung in the rain” – time to move on.  Earlier that day, inspired by Dom Powell  (he is a trainer-collecting chef) at Augustiner Am Markt, I enjoyed an enormous Pork Knuckle with Bavarian Cabbage. I have to confess that the size of this delightful dish beat me – it was so big!

As referenced earlier, the Red Bull Arena sits within the confines of the old venue. Once inside, having negotiated a number of upward steps followed by a number of downward steps, you are in what I would describe as a typical modern German stadium. The oval shaped arena is fully covered. The view from the away section was better than many, with the stewards and opposition fans very friendly.

Tottenham Hotspur disappeared without trace in this match as they exited the Champions League. Already trailing 1-0 from the first leg in N17, it was always going to be a tall order to get something in Leipzig with Spurs current form. With a number of key players out injured, we witnessed a sad performance. However, with Guns N' Roses, Anthony Joshua, Saracens and Lady Gaga being signed up, we need not fear! Back via Frankfurt and nice to get home.

Attendance: 42,146
Admission: 60 EUR
Programme: Folded poster issued free (in English - there was a German version)

Click here for a full set of pictures

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Workington AFC

Workington 4 Clitheroe 1 - Northern Premier League, North West Division

Workington lies astride the River Derwent, on the West Cumbrian coastal plain. It is bounded to the west by the Solway Firth, part of the Irish Sea, and by the Lake District fells to the east. The town comprises various districts, many of which were established as housing estates. North of the river these districts include Seaton, Barepot, Northside, Port and Oldside. On the south side are the districts of Stainburn, Derwent Howe, Ashfield, Banklands, Frostoms (Annie Pit), Mossbay, Moorclose, Salterbeck, Bridgefoot, Lillyhall, Harrington, High Harrington, Clay Flatts, Kerry Park, Westfield and Great Clifton. The Marsh and Quay, a large working-class area of the town around the docks and a major part of the town's history, was demolished in the early 1980s. Much of its former area is now covered by Clay Flatts Industrial Estate. Some parts of the town north of the river date back to Roman times. It was in the 18th century, with the exploitation of the local iron ore and coal pits, that Workington expanded to become a major industrial town and port. Iron and steel manufacture have always been part of Workington’s heritage and it was here that the famous Henry Bessemer first introduced his revolutionary steel making process. In recent years, with the decline of the steel industry and coal mining, the town has diversified into other forms of industry.

Association football was introduced to Workington in the 1860s and further popularised when a group of steel workers migrated to the town from Dronfield, Derbyshire. They were workers of the Charles Cammel and Co steel works that arrived in the town in 1884. It is estimated that 1,500 townspeople moved to Workington. 'Dronnies', as the people of Workington called the newcomers, formed Workington AFC in 1888. The original Workington A.F.C. were one of the founder members of the Cumberland Association League in 1888 and played at Lonsdale Park. In 1894 they moved to the Cumberland Senior League, and in 1901 joined the Lancashire League. However, the league closed two seasons later and they returned to the Cumberland Senior League. In 1904 the club were admitted to the Lancashire Combination, but in 1910 they decided to economise and join the North Eastern League. However, after only one season, the club folded. The new Workington AFC was born in 1921 and immediately joined the North Eastern League. During the 1933–34 season, the club managed its best ever FA Cup performance, reaching the 4th round, before losing to Preston North End. Later in the decade, the club moved to its present home, Borough Park. In 1951 the club was voted into the Third Division North of the Football League, replacing New Brighton. Their first season in the League was a sign of things to come: the club finished rock bottom, and only improved by one place the following year. From 6 January 1954 to 15 November 1955 the club was managed by Bill Shankly. In 1974 and 1975 the club finished second from bottom, and in 1976 they finished bottom. In 1977 the club won only four games and again finished bottom of the league with attendances falling well below the 1,000-mark. This poor run led to the club being voted out of the League in summer 1977, replaced by Wimbledon.

Borough Park had long been a ground that I wanted to visit, inspired by their former football league status and the images of the stadium that I had seen, truly reflecting a bygone era. The distance from London has perhaps always been a bit daunting, but in reality connections at Carlisle make a day trip very doable. I caught the 07:30 Glasgow service from London Euston and the twenty minute interlude at Carlisle facilitated a quick pint in the buffet bar on the main Southbound platform. The two preceding departures to Workington had been cancelled due to a broken down freight train, so our fifteen minute delay did not compare.

On arrival it was a short stroll of just over five minutes to reach Borough Park. On the way we passed the impressive looking Derwent Park, the home ground of Workington Town (Rugby League). The Much Travelled Adam Carne broke away from our party, temporarily to visit the other venue and was treated rather well with a club badge and a cup of tea. After getting some pictures of the exterior of Borough Park, I headed for the town centre, where at the Henry Bessemer (JD Wetherspoon), I enjoyed a couple of pints of Hocus Pocus (4.6%) from the Loddon Brewery.

On returning to the ground, I managed to secure a match programme (sold out before kick-off) and proceeded to tour the magnificent stadium. The vast majority of the ground is given over to terracing. On the side of the ground when you enter is an area where I assume a large seated stand once existed. A much smaller version is now in situ. Opposite is a larger covered stand, with terracing in front. We opted to stand in one corner of the ground with cover immediately behind us. This proved a good choice, as we were aware that the weather would deteriorate as the match progressed.

The groundstaff had already done a fantastic job in preparing the pitch for this match. Two pitch inspections in the morning, after we had left Euston, were passed. However, the ground was soft and was not conducive to good passing football, particularly in the swirling wind. It is to the credit of both teams that they managed to play good football throughout. During a minute’s silence in respect of Workington’s club chaplain before the match, the stationary match ball was blown a couple of yards by the wind.

Workington led 4-0 at the break and were good value for the lead as they looked to strengthen their lead at the top of the table. Clitheroe, who had beaten their hosts in the return fixture earlier in the season pulled a goal back in the second period when we were hit by a gale of tempest proportions. This continued for the duration of the short walk back to the station, where we took refuge. Our train was only a couple of minutes late and the connecting service at Carlisle was on time. A further visit to the buffet bar was also called for. I’m really glad I made the effort to visit Borough Park, “they don’t build 'em like that anymore!”

Attendance: 484
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £2:50 (28 pages)

Click here for a full set of photographs

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Stotfold FC

Stotfold 4 Buckingham Athletic 1 - Spartan South Midlands League, Division One

Stotfold is a small town and civil parish in Bedfordshire. It is thought to have gained its name from the northern drovers breaking their journey south at this point on the A1 Great North Road and penning their horses (stots) in enclosures (folds) before continuing their journeys southwards. Stotfold Watermill stands on the River Ivel and was one of four mills in the town. It is the only working mill left in Stotfold and is a grade II listed watermill. The Mill was fully restored after being burnt down on 15 December 1992. The Mill opened to the public in May 2006 followed by a visit from the Duke of Edinburgh on 17 November 2006. Olympic and world champion track cyclist Victoria Pendleton was brought up in Stotfold. In 2007, the cycle track between Arlesey and Stotfold was renamed in her honour. The parish church of St Mary the Virgin dates to about 1150 but was probably preceded by a series of wooden Saxon churches on the same site. The church is built of flint with Ashwell clunch stone dressings to the buttresses and is mainly in the Early Perpendicular style. In about 1450 the tower was added and the chancel widened and it is believed that the baptismal font also dates from this time and is octagonal and panelled.

Stotfold FC was founded in 1946. The club played for many years at the Hitchin Road Recreation Ground before moving into the newly developed Roker Park ground in 1965. This ground was just a meadow named "Roker" when it was first used by Stotfold Athletic in 1911. In 1951 the club joined the South Midlands League Division Two, finishing 2nd to gain immediate promotion to Division One. They were Division One champions in 1953–54 and were promoted to the Premier Division, where they remained for thirty years. Stotfold won the South Midlands League Premier Division for the first time in the 1980–81 season. In 1984, the club moved to the United Counties League. The club moved again transferring to the Spartan South Midlands League for the 2010–11 season.

I initially visited Stotfold for a match at Roker Park in 1991. The journey on that occasion was made by public transport and involved catching a train to Letchworth and then a bus to Stotfold. For this subsequent visit to New Roker Park, I was fortunate to be offered a lift. However, Arlesey railway station is around twenty minutes' walk from the new venue and it is pretty much one straight road from there. With the ground locked at the time of my arrival, there was a limited opportunity for daylight photographs before adjourning to the nearby Fox and Duck for refreshment. This was followed by good fish and chips, purchased in the town centre.

As expected the ground had a very new feel about it, clean and tidy in every respect. It is completely surrounded by a tall wooden fence. The main clubhouse building is impressive and houses the changing rooms, function room with licensed bar and a snack bar. The spectator facilities inside the ground are a covered seated stand that straddles the half way line, with toilet facilities located in a separate block immediately behind the stand. These structures are on the clubhouse side of the ground.

Directly opposite the seated stand is a covered terraced area. Due to the cold biting wind, this was my viewing area for the entirety of the match. A collective of groundhoppers opted for the same view and I’m sure that their massed ranks helped take some of the chill from the evening. It should also be pointed out that I counted no less than three retired colleagues at this match!

I was impressed with both teams who were keen to play attractive football despite the less than appealing temperature. The home side led by a solitary goal at the interval – a fine move culminating with the forward rounding the keeper before slotting the ball home. A second goal from a penalty (the visitors reduced to ten men as a result of the foul) and a third shortly after, saw the hosts in the ascendancy.

A fourth goal for Stotfold was followed by another converted penalty, this time for Buckingham Athletic that completed the scoring. There is a fair amount of development taking place around the ground and this rural setting will become less so in the near future. The journey home via the A1, A414 and A10 was good and it was nice to get indoors out of the cold!

Attendance: 85
Admission: £6:00
Programme: £1:00 (24 pages)

Click here for a full set of pictures

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Boston United FC

Boston United 3 York City 1 - National League, North

Boston is a town and small port in Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England, around 100 miles north of London. It is the largest town of the wider Borough of Boston local government district. Boston's most notable landmark is St Botolph's Church ("The Stump”) which is visible for miles around from the flat lands of Lincolnshire. Residents of Boston are known as Bostonians. Emigrants from Boston named several other settlements around the world after the town, most notably Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States. The railways came to Boston in 1848 following the building of The East Lincolnshire Railway from Grimsby to Boston and the simultaneous building of the Lincolnshire Loop Line by the Great Northern Railway which ran between Peterborough and York via Boston, Lincoln and Doncaster. This line was built before the East Coast Main Line and for a short while put Boston on the map as the GNR's main Locomotive Works before it was relocated to Doncaster in 1852. The seven-storeyed Maud Foster Tower Windmill, completed in 1819 by millwrights Norman & Smithson of Kingston upon Hull for Issac and Thomas Reckitt, was extensively restored in the late 1980s and became a working mill again. It stands next to the drain it is named after and is unusual in having an odd number (five) of sails.

Boston United FC was founded in 1933 as a successor to a club called Boston Town. The first game was a 3–1 defeat at home to Grimsby Reserves on 26 August 1933, in front of a crowd of 1,544 The club then had a moderate amount of success in various leagues, including the Midland League and Southern League. The club's FA Cup run of 1955–56 included a 6–1 victory at Derby County, then playing in Third Division North. This was a record away win by a non-league team against League opponents in the FA Cup. This set up a Third Round match against Tottenham Hotspur of the Football League First Division at White Hart Lane on 7 January 1956. The match at White Hart Lane was played in front of a crowd of 46,185. The Pilgrims lost 4–0, but the match was more notable for the travelling support. Over 10,000 Boston supporters attended the game. A number of special train services from Boston to King's Cross were set up for the day. They were founder members of the Northern Premier League in 1968, of which they were champions four times and of the Alliance Premier League in 1979. However, their Northern Premier League title wins were not enough to gain them election to the Football League and when they won the title in 1978 they surprisingly missed out on league status in favour of runners-up Wigan Athletic, who took the Football League place previously held by Southport. In 1985 Boston United went to Wembley for the first and only time in their history for the FA Trophy Final of the 1984–85 season. Boston lost 2–1 to Wealdstone in front of 20,775. Promotion to the Football League arrived in 2002 until relegation back to the Conference in 2007. 

I missed out on visiting York Street when Boston United graced the Football League and have been keen to attend a match there since. The fact that the club are moving to a new stadium at Wyberton, for next season, meant a degree of urgency to this quest. An earlier attempt in December was thwarted by a postponement on the day and I went to Spalding United instead. I was fortunate to be offered a lift on this occasion and the route, via Peterborough and Spalding, took us past the construction site of the new stadium.

On arrival, we adjourned to the Golden Lion in the town centre, where this Pieman enjoyed a fine pint of Everards Tiger (4.2%). The second hostelry visited was the Coach & Horses, situated just a couple of minutes walk from the ground. At this establishment I delighted in a pint of XB (3.7%) from Batemans – always good to try the local ales!

The ground is a classic from a bygone era, in that it boasts traditional floodlight pylons in each corner. The main stand has a unique appearance and the seating is elevated from pitch level. With the exception of a couple of pillars, this area offers a decent view of proceedings. There is also further seating located behind the goal at the York Street end of the ground. This end is used to house the away supporters and also includes terracing. The club administration block and changing facilities are also situated as part of this structure, which backs on to the car park.

The side opposite the main stand and the remaining end are terraced, with that behind the goal going back further. All four sides of the stadium are covered. This contest between 3rd placed Boston and 2nd place York had the potential to produce a good match. Boston were on a tremendous run having won the last four matches and had only lost twice since mid-November, on both occasions to table topping King’s Lynn Town.

Kurt Willoughby opened the scoring for the visitors in the seventh minute when he chipped over the advancing keeper. However, the home side continued their run of form with goals courtesy of Frank Mulhern, Brad Abbott and Andi Thano. This was the first time this season that York had conceded three goals in the league. The battle for promotion is now in full swing and it will be interesting to see how this develops. Despite the forecast of high winds, we experienced a trouble free journey home.

Attendance: 2,155
Admission: £15:00 (main stand seat)
Programme: £3:00 (60 pages)
Tea: £1:10 

Click here for a full set of pictures

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Lakenheath FC

Lakenheath 4 Framlingham Town 2 - Eastern Counties League, Division One North

Lakenheath is a village situated in the Forest Heath district of Suffolk, close to the county boundaries of both Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, at the meeting point of The Fens and the Breckland natural environments. Lakenheath Fen Nature Reserve, created in 1996, restored wetlands from agricultural fields that were growing carrots. In May 2007, it was reported that cranes were nesting in the site for the first time since the fen lands were drained in the 16th century. The village has a single Victorian primary school, constructed in 1878, which was extended in 1969, again in 2004 and most recently in 2011. Lakenheath is remarkable for its medieval church, built about 900 years ago in wood, eventually being rebuilt in the local flint construction style. The church on the exterior has an embattled parapet that has an array of gargoyles and other carved faces at the string course at the base. The interior includes medieval paintings and carvings on the pews. The faces of the church's wooden angels bear the scars of the English Civil War, as none of the angels retained their original facial detail, due to religiously motivated vandalism by puritan soldiers. Lakenheath is host to the largest deployment of United States Air Force personnel in the United Kingdom: RAF Lakenheath. The social impact of the United States Air Force fighter airbase and its nearby sister, RAF Mildenhall, on the economy of Lakenheath and on the nearby towns and villages is important. The United States has maintained a presence in the community since bombers were stationed there during WWII, conducting raids on Europe.

The football club played in the Norfolk & Suffolk League until it merged with the East Anglian League in 1964 to form the Anglian Combination, at which point they were placed in Section D of the new league. The club were runners-up in Division Three in 1968–69 and finished second in Division Two in 1974–75. In 1981–82 they were runners-up in Division One, earning promotion to the Premier Division. However, the following season saw the club finish bottom of the Premier Division, resulting in relegation back to Division One. The club finished bottom of Division One in 1985–86 and were relegated to Division Two. Lakenheath FC later transferred to the Cambridgeshire County League and were champions of Senior Division A in 2007–08, earning promotion to the Premier Division. The following season saw them finish as runners-up in the Premier Division. In 2010–11 the club won the Premier Division title. Despite finishing only eighth in the Cambridgeshire County League Premier Division in 2017–18, Lakenheath FC was promoted to Division One North of the Eastern Counties League.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to Lakenheath. The journey is possible by train, but the services are not frequent. On arrival at the village, we made our way directly to The Nest and secured a parking place. I also took the opportunity to enter the ground to take some photographs. Afterwards it was time for some refreshment. I was told later that Lakenheath once boasted nine pubs.

Nowadays there are just two pubs remaining. Within a few minutes' walk from the ground, on the main street is The Brewery Tap. At this friendly establishment, I enjoyed Eat Drink & Be Merry (3.7%) from Parkway Brewery Co and The Perfect Finnish (3.8%) from Woodfordes. The pump clip for the latter (4 handpumps in this pub) features Teemu Pukki, Norwich City’s Finnish striker – a nice play on words.

Before returning to the ground, we grabbed some solid refreshment from Historic Fish and Chips (opposite the pub). I’m not sure how historic this shop is (it looked very modern), but the food was very good. On arrival back at the ground, there was already a buzz about the place. All the main facilities are located at the side of the pitch where you enter at the pay hut. To the right is a covered seated stand. This structure has seen some service but is still in good condition. To the left is the main clubhouse building containing a licensed bar and function room. This building also houses the changing facilities for both players and officials.

The opposite side of the pitch is where the dugouts are situated. The remainder of the playing area is railed off although there is no access behind one goal and half of the side opposite the stand. I was immediately struck with the location of the ground, drawing a comparison with The Rock (Cefn Druids). This should not be a surprise as both grounds are situated in what were previously quarries. The surrounding backdrop makes this a very impressive setting for watching football. We sat in the rear of the stand for the match with some regular stalwart supporters of Lakenheath. Their knowledge, of the history of the club helped immensely. Everyone I encountered was extremely friendly and these people are clearly very proud of the club and the progress made.

Despite playing on a difficult surface, both teams impressed me with their passing and commitment. The home side started brightly, but gradually Framlingham Town grew into the match and it was credit to the home keeper that they only trailed by one goal at the break. Lakenheath were soon back in the ascendancy in the second period and were leading 2-1 before Framlingham grabbed an equaliser. Two further goals secured the victory for the home side, although this scribe believes a draw might have been a fair reflection of the ninety minutes. The Nest is a fine place to watch football and I was pleased to witness such a good match.

Attendance: 82
Admission: £5:00
Programme: £1:00
Tea: £1:00

Click here for a full set of pictures

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Spalding United FC

Spalding United 2 Sutton Coldfield Town 2 - Northern Premier League, South East Division

Spalding is a market town on the River Welland in the South Holland district of Lincolnshire. The town was well known for the annual Spalding Flower Parade, held from 1959 to 2013. The parade celebrated the region's vast tulip production and the cultural links between the Fens and the landscape and people of South Holland. At one time, it attracted crowds of more than 100,000. Since 2002 the town has held an annual Pumpkin Festival in October. Spalding is located at the centre of a major region of flower and vegetable cultivation, due to the rich silty soil, which mainly comprises drained, recovered marshland or estuary. There are many garden centres and plant nurseries, as well as a thriving agricultural industry and various vegetable packing plants. The main vegetables are potatoes, peas, carrots, wheat, barley, oats, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. Spalding railway station is situated on the Lincoln Central - Peterborough railway line, operated by East Midlands Railway. The service is irregular, and it does not run at night or on Sundays. It does provide convenient access to Peterborough for employment and shopping. The service to Peterborough was withdrawn by BR in October 1970 as part of the closure of the East Lincolnshire route from Grimsby and Boston, but reinstated in June 1971 with a grant from Spalding Urban District Council.

The football club was established in 1921 when the previous Spalding Town was reformed. The new club played in the Peterborough & District League, which they won in 1930–31. They then stepped up to the Northamptonshire League, which became the United Counties League (UCL) in 1934. They won the UCL in 1974–75 and after several successive top-four finishes, re-joined the Midland League in 1978. They finished fourth in 1981–82, so were placed in the Premier Division of the Northern Counties East League when it was formed by a merger of the Midland League and the Yorkshire League in 1982. They won the first ever NCEL title with a 1–0 win on the final day of the season. After internal disputes within the NCEL related to the miners' strike, Spalding re-joined the UCL in 1986 and were champions in 1987–88, resulting in promotion to the Midland Division of the Southern League. After finishing bottom in 1990–91 they returned to the UCL. The club started the 2013–14  season by winning seventeen games in a row, a league record. The run ended on 14 December 2013 when they lost at home to AFC Rushden & Diamonds. The club went on to win the league, earning promotion to First Division South of the Northern Premier League. The Club has played at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field since being established. It was originally known as the Black Swan Ground, until being renamed after Halley Stewart, a local MP, in 1954. After World War II the club spent a season playing at a temporary ground in nearby Low Fulney. The record attendance of 6,972 was set in 1952 for an FA Cup qualifying match against Peterborough United.

My original intention was to attend the match at York Street between Boston United and Gateshead. When I left Cheshunt the match was still on, but as my train neared Cambridge, I saw on Twitter that the heavy rain over the previous few days had finally got the better of the pitch which had become waterlogged. However, all was not lost as Twitter also provided confirmation that Spalding’s pitch was playable having passed an early morning inspection.

My retired colleague, now living in Fakenham, was waiting at Kings Lynn station and kindly drove the shorter distance to Spalding. The Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field is located in the town centre and is only a few minutes walk from the railway and bus stations. After taking some photographs of the ground, we were able to adjourn to the Ivy Wall (J D Wetherspoon) where this Pieman enjoyed a couple of pints of Wise Donkey (3.9%) from the Kansas Avenue Brewing Co in Salford. A decent choice that accompanied my steak and kidney pudding superbly.

The stadium boasts an impressive grandstand, which straddles the half way line, and if viewing from the opposite side of the pitch, the enormous Chatterton Water Tower dwarfs this structure. Just along this same side is a small covered terrace structure. Another identical structure is situated behind one of the goals, adjacent to the clubhouse which contains a licensed bar. The changing facilities for players and officials are contained within the main stand. The opposite side of the ground is open, as is the remaining end, which doubles as the car park.

This was a niggly match, particularly in the first period where we witnessed a number of yellow cards. A lady spectator offered her handbag to the players as seemed appropriate at the time. Despite early pressure from the visitors, Spalding gradually eased themselves into the ascendancy. The home side took the lead courtesy of a penalty converted by Joel Brownhill, just before half time.

The match was turned on its head when two quick goals from Isai Marselia and Reece Gibson put the visitors in a winning position. However, Lewis Brownhill had other ideas, curling in a shot from outside the box for the leveller. Towards the end there was time for a red card for Sutton's Ryan Moore, before we trooped back to the car. Thanks must go to my retired colleague for driving, as we were fortunate to reach Kings Lynn station in time to catch the 17:44 train (although it eventually left at 18:00). A decent day out in Lincolnshire, even if the venue was different to the one we set out for.

Attendance: 119
Admission: £8:00 
Programme: £2:00 (40 pages also covers match v Lincoln United 1/1/20)
Tea: £1:00 

Click here for a full set of pictures