Sunday, 18 August 2013

re-completing the LSL

Saturday 17th August 2013
Leicestershire Senior League Division 1
Grantham Road, Skillington, Lincolnshire

Over the summer the Leicestershire Senior League (LSL) has had a massive shake up in terms of numbers, with reserve sides of teams higher up the non-league pyramid being accepted on mass including the visitors today. Whether this is a good thing is another matter and one in which I personally can see both pros and cons. There were also three new first teams admitted, with these being Houghton Rangers (champions of the Leicester & District League), Anstey Town (champions of the North Leicestershire League) and the C.K. Dons who won the Grantham & District League (GDL) Division 1 last season. The Dons are based in the village of Croxton Kerrial but due to their ground in the village not being up to standard they had to look elsewhere for somewhere to play. The main reason for their home ground failing the LSL ground grading is that there is no shower in the referees room. One option was in the village of Waltham on the Wolds but newly formed Grantham Athletic will be playing their home games there in the Lincolnshire League. The solution that was found was to play a season at the village of Skillington, over the border in Lincolnshire which is around seven miles away from Croxton. Also at the time the plan is to keep the pitch warm over in Croxton, with the club forming a reserve side to play in the GDL. So we have the situation of this...a Leicestershire based club playing in the LSL, but having to play home games in Lincolnshire, while a Grantham based club playing in the Lincolnshire League playing home games in Leicestershire!!!!

The C.K. Dons were formed in 2009 and were subsequently accepted into division 1 of the GDL. They finished in a creditable sixth place in the fourteen team division in their debut season. The following season an eighth place was recorded and the club also reached the final of the GDL's Junior Cup. It was at this time that I became aware of the club, and after exchanging e-mails with secretary Jez Hill I went up to Ancaster to watch the final against Heckington Millers, but the Dons were on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline. The club then took a year out to regroup and then came back a year later stronger and better. They not only won the GDL Division 1 title winning nine out of the ten league games, but reached three cup finals. First up was the Junior Cup which yours truly there to watch and take photos. This was played at Harrowby United's ground in Grantham against fellow Croxton Kerrial side Croxton AFC, but despite leading twice they lost on penalty kicks. The next final was the Benevolent Cup and a 3-2 victory was recorded against AFC Three Gables. And finally the Memorial Cup, but Premier Division champions White Swan Barrowby were too strong and ran out three nil winners. 

The village of Skillington is located within the South Kesteven District of Lincolnshire, six miles south of Grantham and three miles from the border with Leicestershire. The parish church of St. James is a grade 1 listed building and is built of limestone. Skillington also performs well in the small village category of the National Village in Bloom contest, becoming the first consecutive winner in 2003, 2004 and 2005. There are two pubs in the village, The Blue Horse Inn and  the Cross Swords Inn but unfortunately both were shut. The latter closed at 2pm so unfortunately no chance of a pre-match pint. 

The route to Skillington from my home in the west side of Leicester was via Melton Mowbray and Buckminster and took me around an hour to make the 34 mile journey. With nothing going on in the village I made my way to the ground which is at the village hall on the Grantham Road. Only the changing rooms were open and there were no toilet or catering facilities for spectators. The pitch is also home to the local cricket club and for this game the Dons roped off the pitch on all four sides and have built wooden dugouts to meet the LSL's grading criteria.

The was played in dry and blustery conditions throughout and was hard fought and competitive. Both teams were fairly evenly matched during the game and clear cut chances were at a premium. It was the home side that came close to breaking the deadlock when a sweetly struck shot from Paul Chappell was touched onto the post from the visiting keeper. The second half started a few minutes early and I missed the Dons taking the lead. Apparently it was a screamer from midfielder Tom Potts. A few minutes later and the Dons were two up. They were awarded a free kick just inside the Nomads half near the left touchline, and Chris Morris's kick was headed home at the far post from Chappell. Again like the first half clear cut chances were few and far between, though the Dons should have been further ahead but Chappell shot straight at the keeper when through on goal. Late on in the game and Potts nearly got his second with what would have been an early contender for goal of the season. He hit an unstoppable shot from forty odd yards out that smacked the cross bar with the keeper motionless. 

Overall a good start for the Dons, and I feel they can use their location to their advantage as not many teams will like coming over to Skillington, especially in the middle of winter. I don't think they have enough to win the division, with my tip being Houghton Rangers, but should they keep the crux of the side together then a top six finish will not be beyond them.

Admission / programme: none
Attendance: 9, but plenty of sheep in neighbouring fields.

39 photos from the game taking during the first half can be viewed in the slideshow below:

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