Saturday, 27 July 2013

500 and counting...

Saturday 27th July 2013
Pre-season Friendly
Elgoods Fenland Arena, Lynn Road, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

No plans originally today after spending the previous four Saturday afternoons watching three different sports (cricket, football and American Football), but having spotted that Wisbech Town Football Club had a pre-season friendly the decision was made to make the one hundred and thirty mile round trip. Wisbech is somewhere that has been on my radar for a number of years, and rather annoyingly didn't get to their old ground in the town Fenland Park. A visit to the club also became high on my priority since they joined the United Counties League (UCL) over the summer, having previously played in the Eastern Counties League (ECL). Why you may ask? Well simply because last season I completed the UCL for the first time with visits to the three remaining grounds, and want to keep on top of it as it were. After today there is still one more ground (Campbell Drive, Peterborough Sports FC) in the UCL to visit, with the intention to visit when Oadby Town play there on November 30th.

As the post title says this will be (in my records) my 500th venue that I have seen football played at. This total could and would have been reached sooner had I not got involved with Oadby Town in the late nineteen nineties, but I have no regrets and I feel I have the best of both worlds - the buzz of supporting a team, and also relaxing at games and not caring which team comes out on top. Some landmarks in terms of numbers are as follows:

1. Filbert Street - Leicester City FC sometime in the 1980's for Tommy Williams Testimonial
100. Rolls Royce Sports & Social Club - Hucknall Rolls FC 19th March 2002
200. Carters Park - Holbeach United FC 24th September 2005
300. Moira Dale Recreation Ground - Castle Donington Town FC 20th April 2009
400. Horsewell Lane - Sparta Moshdock FC 9th October 2011 

Wisbech is a market town, civil parish and inland port with a population of around 20,200 inhabitants. The town is located in the Fenland District of north-east Cambridgeshire, and is approximately twenty one miles east of Peterborough and thirteen miles west of King's Lynn. The tidal River Nene runs through the town and is spanned by two bridges.

more information on the town can be seen on the Wikipedia page: Wisbech

The football club were formed in 1920 following a merger of three local clubs and joined the Peterborough & District League (PDL). In their first season they finished in 9th place in the thirteen team division one. Town were crowned PDL champions five times (1924/25, 1927/28, 1928/29, 1931/32, 1932/33) before making a step up and joined the United Counties League (UCL) in 1935. Between 1936 and 1939 they also competed in the East Midland League (EM), which was probably due to a lack of fixtures in the UCL. In 1939 with the outbreak of World War 2 the UCL and EM competitions were abandoned, and they competed in played in a war time competition of the PDL. When the hostilities ended in 1945 Wisbech competed in both the UCL and PDL and finished 3rd in both competitions before solely concentrating on the UCL. Between 1946 and 1950 Town were crowned UCL champions three times and were runners-up once. In 1950 they transferred to the Eastern Counties League (ECL), spending just two seasons in the ECL before joining the Midland League. Six seasons were spent in the Midland League before another transfer, this time to the Southern League, which at the time was probably the strongest league outside of the Football League. Success was hard to come by in the higher standard of football, winning the division 1 title once in the 1961/62 seasons. In 1970 they switched back to the more local ECL, and since their formation spent the most time playing in the same competition (twenty seven years), winning the league title three times (1971/72, 1976/77 and 1990/91), before a runners-up position in the 1996/97 season secured promotion back to the Southern League. Five years were spent in the Southern League before they were relegated back to the ECL in 2002. After eleven years in the ECL Town are on the move again, this time back to the UCL for the start of the 2013/14 season. How long will they stay in the UCL this time? Who knows as they I believe their aim is to be playing step four football as soon as possible. This though will not be easy as the UCL premier division will be very competitive this season with the likes of Spalding United, AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Deeping Rangers expected to make a promotion challenge.

The drive across to Wisbech for me is very straight forward in terms of the route (all along the A47), but isn't the easiest drive. This is because of having to drive across Leicester - not a pleasant experience at the best of times, but with school children being on the summer break there are road works galore going on, and also the A47 is for the most part a single carriageway, with the part of it being dueled is around Peterborough. According to Google maps it is sixty four miles and should take 1 hour forty minutes, though I expect it to take slightly longer. In reality this was about right, with the only time that I was held up was a set of traffic lights on the east side of Leicester. I got into Wisbech at around 1.15pm and managed to park for free in the Horsefair car park. With not knowing about any decent pubs I made my way to the JD Wetherspoon outlet, the Wheatsheaf Inn on Church Terrace. A typical 'spoons lunch was had which was washed down with a very nice pint of Gold by the Grainstore Brewery. From then it was a short drive to the ground along Lynn Road at the eastern extremities of Wisbech.

I found the ground to be typical of recent new-build non-league grounds - practical and functional, but lacked character or originality. On to the people that are involved with the club - well I found them a friendly and welcoming bunch. A notable mention goes to the chap that does the announcements, as he waited for me at the end of the game and gave me his copy of the team sheet - much appreciated and thank you. The admission charge for this friendly was at the reduced rate of £3, though with no programme issued I purchased a strip of raffle tickets for £1 and ended up winning 2nd prize. This was a bottle of red wine which I donated back to club, this was due to myself not being a wine drinker and the wife preferring the white grape variety.  

The game was a competitive one and gave both teams a good work out with just two weeks before the UCL season starts on August 10th. Very few chances were created in the first half, and when it looked like it would end goalless the home side took the lead on 43 minutes. An excellent Tom James cross from the right was headed home by right back Neal Spafford. The second half was a more open affair with more chances at either end being created. With around seventy minutes on the clock Spafford needlessly pulled back Eynesbury substitute Lee Bassett's shirt and the referee rightly awarded a penalty. Bassett stepped up and slotted the ball past Tom Roberts in the Wisbech goal for the equaliser. Five minutes later and Wisbech were awarded a penalty kick themselves which was for handball. Unfortunately for the home side Callum Reed's kick was high, wide and not very handsome!!! The final fifteen minutes saw both sides test the opposition keeper before the referee, Anthony da Costa ended the proceedings bang on ninety minutes. In all fairness a draw was the right result.    

10 photos of the ground can be viewed in the slideshow below:

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