A DILEMMA AFTER SHILDON WIN AT BANBURY…..
What a pleasure to read John McCormick’s eloquent account of his day out at Deepdale and a refreshing change to have some positivity about Sunderland.
With any luck, that can continue after the international break, always assuming that Queens Park Rangers are willing sacrificial victims at the Stadium of Light.
My reason for not being in West Lancashire was a simple one; I found the lure of a trip to the North Oxfordshire town of Banbury to watch Shildon’s FA Cup Third Qualifying Round game a far more attractive proposition.
After the debacle at Portman Road, an evening in the company of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove would have been preferable.
Having stayed in Ipswich on Tuesday night and used a computer in the town library to file my report, I set off on part two of my odyssey.
A pleasant couple of hours were spent in Ely with its huge cathedral dominating the flat fenland landscape before checking into a simple B and B in the small Northamptonshire town of Finedon.
Finedon was a couple of miles away from the slightly larger town of Rushden, once the home of a Football League club. Owned and sponsored by local footwear manufacturer, Dr Martens, Rushden and Diamonds were an amalgamation of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds. They rose quickly, reaching Division One of the Football League before the company hit serious financial problems, pulled out and Rushden and Diamonds FC were eventually wound up in 2011.
A splendid stadium had been built on the site of Irthlingborough’s Nene Park. I saw Darlington play there in 2005 and was impressed. It was a neat and tidy ground with a sports centre and an educational facility attached, but was situated in the middle of nowhere. Difficult to access and difficult to feel any great warmth for it, once the slide started, the flimsy fan base fell away.
Meanwhile, Rushden Town’s old ground in Hayden Road was taken over by Rushden Rangers who then merged with Higham Town (keep up at the back!!) to form Rushden and Higham United who now play in the United Counties League Division One – Step 10 in the FA pyramid and the same level as Tow Law Town, Willington and Hebburn Town play at.
It’s a good old ground with an elderly main stand that is now mothballed due to structural problems. They stand in the upper reaches of their league and visitors Potton United, from near Bedford, are towards the lower reaches. It rained…….
The downpour was not enough to spoil a decent game between two sides that showed plenty of effort and some flashes of skill. A nasty injury to a Rushden player held the game up for ten minutes (he was still lying on a stretcher in the bar at the end of the game) and I was driven away from my seat in the “new” stand by a Potton supporter who talked non-stop throughout the first half.
Rushden went into a two goal lead, took their foot off the pedal and Potton scored two quick goals to come away with a deserved share of the points. After the surrender in Suffolk the previous night, it was a pleasant change to see a team gird up their loins and recover what looked like a hopeless situation.
The next day I moved on to the Stags Head at Swalcliffe, a village four miles from Banbury. It was a fine place to stay; clean rooms, good food and splendid beer although none from the nearby Hook Norton Brewery, which was a shame.
The brewery was visited on Thursday morning and money was spent on beer, Christmas presents and more beer. I pottered around in the car to Chipping Norton, the home of David Cameron and a town with a good Co-operative heritage, although I can’t really see Dave and Samantha flashing their co-op dividend card in the Co-op Supermarket. From there I went on to Burford, where Cromwell had three Levellers shot in front of the church wall and which boasts a shop dedicated to the sale of brushes – a little like Jackson’s of Eldon Lane.
Friday included a vain search for a car park in Chipping Camden, a stroll around Broadway, once the home of a particularly unpleasant Tory MP called Sir Gerald Nabarro. He was against the EEC, pop music, drugs, pornography both magazines and online sites like www Nu Bay com, students and immigrants, supported Enoch Powell, used a disgusting racial epithet on Any Questions which caused Freddy Grisewood to have an apoplectic fit, owned eight cars with the registrations NAB 1 to 8, looked like Jimmy Edwards and sounded like Terry-Thomas. All in all, a complete a*******.
From there I spent an evening at the RSC in Stratford watching a solid production of Coriolanus and trying to keep up with the rugby league scores from the Leeds v Hull semi-final. The result (an 18-16 win for Leeds) sent me home happy.
Saturday saw a return to the brewery to pick up more beer and then into Banbury for the football. Banbury United, known as the Puritans after Cromwell’s extended stay here before the Battle of Edge Hill in 1642, play in the Southern League Premier Division, which is Step 7 of the Pyramid. They started out as the works team for Spencer’s Corset Factory and the ground is still known as The Spencer Stadium. They have been members of the Southern League for most of their time and had never played a team from as far north as Shildon.
Shildon play at Step 9 and were the team that Monsieur Salut and I cut our teeth on. They have been successful over the last few years, reaching the Fourth Qualifying Round three years ago and winning the Northern League the year after. Long serving manager Gary Forrest and his coaching team left in March and were replaced by club captain Daniel Moore and former Hartlepool United defender and fully qualified FA coach Micky Barrons.
Banbury were expecting a hard game but a successful one. The £7,000 on offer would be a boost to their finances. They got the hard game but not the win despite taking the lead in the 25th minute. Shildon’s Adam Burnicle hit back straight to level and that was how it was at half time.
Shildon dominated the early part of the second half, scoring twice through player-manager Moore and Burnicle to send the 100+ Railwaymen fans (including this one) into paroxysms of delight. Banbury pulled one back with eight minutes left, but the defence stood solid and through we went. The news from Preston, passed on by a number of people, some there, some listening at home, added to the pleasure.
The journey home was a long one, broken at Wetherby and then lengthened by The Highways Agency who closed the road between Dishforth and Scotch Corner, sending traffic on a lengthy detour around Catterick Garrison and Richmond. They really are a serious obstacle to football supporters and anyone else trying to get to wherever they are going and, like the FA, are increasingly unfit for purpose.
Monday’s draw gave Shildon an away tie at National League strugglers Guiseley. It’s not quite what the club wanted but it is winnable, is not too far away and we should be home before the HA close off North Yorkshire.
My dilemma? Do I go to Guiseley or to the Stadium for the QPR game? Your suggestions are welcome.
*Nene Park via Wikipeia, courtesy of Jim 21. Other graphics by Jake