GROUNDHOPPER: Barwell FC (Malcolm Stephenson)

imageIt was a third consecutive Saturday on the road for FTLOF Groundhopper Malcolm Stephenson. After trips to Mickleover Sports and Belper Town he ventured to Leicestershire to see Blyth Spartans face Barwell and here are his thoughts

For the third consecutive Saturday in a row I was heading down the M1 for a Blyth game and a new ground to visit at the same time. After giving the wife a list of household chores to do while I was away I set off at 10am for the drive down to Leicestershire. I was feeling more optimistic for a good result for Blyth today rather than seeing any house cleaning done by ‘her indoors’ when I got home later that evening.

Today I was travelling with Chris from Blyth and it took us about fours hours to get there. We meant to stop at Ferrybridge services but I missed the turn off. After going about five miles up the M62, turning around and coming back, I still did not manage to find the services.

We eventually stopped at a service station when back on the M1 for a stretch of legs and something to eat. I always make my own sandwiches rather than buy at a service station. Chris spent about £34.50 at a Burger King for a burger and a few chips which strengthened my rationale not to buy at these places.

The printed AA route planner details were going well. Coming off the Motorway at Leicester you have to do a bit of a circle to get to Barwell. Following Chris’s directions we were heading into Leicester city centre. I knew this was not correct and we had to do a second U turn off the day. At this point the AA routine planner went out the window. From this point we just followed signs and our own instincts as you did in the old days.

Barwell is a small place with only about 8,500 people living there. It seems to join together with another place called Earl of Shilton.

Barwell play at the Kirby Road Sports complex which also caters for cricket and indoor bowls. Barwell only formed in 1992 when they mergedimage with Hinckley FC. Initially they played in the Midland leagues. They only joined the Northern Premier league in 2010. The ground has a main stand with about 250 seats which were from Leicester City’s old main stand. Alongside the main stand is a covered area for standing spectators.

Behind one of the goal lines there is another very small covered area. That’s about it as far as the ground goes. The indoor bowling alley runs along the back of one of the goals. Oddly there are three dug outs. Two long ones and a shirt one in the middle. The smaller one is one of the old dug outs while the other two longer ones were added to comply with league standards.

Blyth have played Barwell before but I missed the game last season as I was away on holiday. Blyth won here that game and I was hoping for a repeat today. Barwell play in yellow shirts with green sleeves, yellow shorts and green socks. Blyth were in their normal strips. After last week at Mickleover when Blyth had about 300 supporters at the game, today we only had a handful to cheer the team on. The gate I found later was a poor 161 which was sad for the efforts people put in at clubs.

On to the actual match itself. Well lest just say it was a ‘bad day at the office’. It was not a good game and it was just one of those days. As usual the lads ran their socks off and tried hard. We ‘huffed and we puffed’ but like the big bad wolf we could not blow the house down. Barwell took the lead on 18 minutes after a shot from a tight angle hit the back of the net. I thought we might get somewhere when 1ten minutes later Robert Dale was pulled down in the box and converted the spot kick.

The second half was poor with Blyth hardly having a shot on target. With 20 minutes left Barwell scored what turned out to be the winner. A cross came in and their attacker headed in from about six inches from the line. Even I could not have missed it. After that we never got much of a look in for the rest of the game. It was just one of those days when things just did not go right. Any team has them at some time in the season.

We got back to Newcastle about 8.45pm. Needless to say but no housework was done by the wife but she had managed to make some efforts in making a curry. Its was not that tasty and, like the team today, we had to make amends as I spiced it up with some madras paste.

Blyth have a tough home game against league leaders Skelmersdale on Tuesday night. Then it’s another journey next Saturday in the FA cup to Leek Town. Without Nathan Buddle (suspended) next week Blyth will need to lick their wounds and put today behind them if we are going to have any chance of getting a positive result. Next week will be a different matter though and a different story.

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