Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Devonian

Saturday 9th April 2011
Southern League Division 1 South & West
The Sports Ground

A slideshow of photos of the ground and game is below:

An offer of a trip down to North Devon was too good an offer to turn down. There are a couple of reasons for accepting the offer: 1) I have not been to Bideford before and 2) I am going on holiday to the village of Hartland (which is 15 miles west of Bideford) in mid-June and this would give me the chance to do a reccy on the road between the M5 motorway and Bideford itself.

Bideford is a small port town on the west bank of the River Torridge in North West Devon. It is the principle town of the Torridge local government district. The river is spanned by the 13th century Long Bridge. This was originally made of wood but was replaced by a stone one in the 15th century and consists of 24 arches, all of which are different in size. Author Charles Kingsley lived in the town and based his novel Westwood Ho! in this part of north Devon. In the 16th century Bideford was one of Britain’s largest ports while today the town is a thriving shopping centre with numerous antique shops along the narrow streets from the quay and river. The quay itself is still bustling with fishing and cargo vessels and pleasure boats.


A history on the club below is taken from their official website:

"Founded in 1946, the club played three seasons in the Exeter & East Devon League before joining the Western League in 1949. Bideford had a request to be elected to the Second Division denied, and had to play in the Third Division instead. This was the only season the Western League ran a Third Division, and Bideford won it without losing a game. Two seasons later they also won Division Two, and so took their place in Division One.

Bideford won the Western League three times before joining the Southern League in 1972. The club spent three seasons at that level before the expense involved and increased travelling took its toll, and they had to drop down back to the Western League. During their Southern League days, the club set an all-time FA Cup record, when in 1974-75 they played thirteen FA Cup games in a single season - they faced numerous replays in qualifying rounds including needing five games to beat Falmouth Town and four more to beat Trowbridge Town in the next round. With the subsequent abandonment of second and further replays, this record is likely to stand for a very long time. Two more Western League titles followed in the early 1980s.

Several players from the club have progressed to Football League status, the most recent of them being Tony Dennis and Shaun Taylor. Two former internationals have played for the club at the end of their career, Welshman Leighton Phillips, and Dermot Curtis from the Republic of Ireland.

Bideford have won the Toolstation Western Premier League 9 times over the years, as well as lifting silverware in the Devon St Lukes Bowl, Devon Professional Cup, and Western League Cup.

In FA competitions, Bideford AFC’s record is quite impressive, reaching the First Round Proper of the FA Cup on four occasions, and reaching the Semi-Final of the FA Vase in 2003/04. Last seasons FA Vase campaign saw Bideford reach the quarter-final stages, where they were knocked out by an impressive Lowestoft. 

Bideford AFC gained promotion from the Toolstation Western Premier League at the end of a fantastic 2009/10 season, in which they did the double winning the League and the Westinsure Devon St Lukes Bowl where they beat Exeter City 2-1 in the Final. Bideford AFC were promoted to the Zamaretto Southern League in May 2010, the first time they have played in the Southern League in 35 years.

Manager Sean Joyce is an ex-professional footballer, who spent his career playing for Doncaster Rovers, Exeter City and Torquay Utd. He has managed Bideford since 1998, bringing much success to the Club during his time here."

The journey down to Bideford was made in glorious sunshine which firstly involved a stop at Nuneaton train station to pick up Pete who had travelled down from Liverpool, then after joining the M6 between Coventry and Bedworth we then made our way to the Pit Stop Cafe on the A38 south of Bromsgrove for the now customary breakfast. A footnote is that this will be the second Saturday in succession that I will have visited this excellent little cafe. Overall without stopping (according to Google maps) it takes around 4 hours to make the 225 miles between my house and Bideford. Taking into account the stops to change drivers we arrived in the town at around 1.15pm. This gave us a chance to have a walk round to quay side and have an ice cream at a local farmers market. We made our way to the ground which is just a short walk from the quay at around 2pm and parked inside the ground and were then charged £7 for admission and £1.50 for a 32 page programme.

You enter the ground in a corner and had a very open feel about it with the changing rooms, catering hut and stand immediately ahead of you. The clubhouse is just inside the entrance on the right with a stand consisting of seating and standing accommodation on the far side of the ground.

This was a close, hard fought encounter that could have gone either way. It was the visitors who started the brightest and it came as no surprise when they opened the scoring on nine minutes. Following a break down the left Scott Joyce pounced on a loose ball and smashed the ball into the net. Bideford then came into game more as the half wore on and looked more likely the score next. In fact they would have done but for Wimborne keeper Jakub Malara who made three saves in the space of about five seconds! The second half was a lot more open with both sides pushing forward before Wimborne doubled their tally. It came on 55 minutes from Jamie Davidson who picked the ball up on the left and then proceeded to beat Bideford defenders at will before slotting the ball past the keeper. Five minutes later and Bideford were back into the game when a looping header from Matt Andrews caught Malara flat footed to make it 1-2. For the final half hour Bideford had more possession with Wimborne looking to hit them on the counter attack. In the final stages Malara made another couple of saves and the Wimborne defence held out and secure the three points.

The journey home was via Stafford to allow Pete to get back to Liverpool and allowing for this we were back in Leicester by 9.15pm.

Admission: £7
Programme: £1.50
Badge: £3
Match rating: 2 ½ out of 5
Attendance:  ???
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