Lowestoft Town 2 Hednesford 2.
The Crown Meadow at Lowestoft FC is the last ground in the Conference North for myself to visit and keep up to date with the Conference North. A journey to Suffolk for a match is not for the faint hearted. Its too far to drive there in back in a day so I opted for the train which set me back £120. More money than sense you might think and it sometimes crosses my mind myself.
Up at 6am and a train at 8 o’clock was the order of the day. I felt like Billy no mates as I usually do while waiting for my train. Most of my ground hopping trips have been on my own and its never really bothers me. In fact a bit of solace at times is not always a bad thing. After the train stopping at York on its way to Peterborough I was nodding off into a sleep. On my own confessions I snore like a injured wart hog. By Doncaster when I woke up with a start, I felt like Billy no mates once more as I seemed to be sitting in a deserted carriage. I was not sure if my snoring had anything to do with it.
The train changed at Peterborough for another one hour forty minute journey to Norwich. That part of the train travel sees nothing but flat fields, water ways and boats, small hamlets, dotted farms and pig farms along its seemingly endless route.
The train arrived at Norwich and I recollected going to Carrow Road over 29 years ago. That day I went to see Carlisle Utd play there when the Canaries won 2-1. Their winning goal was blatant handball to control the ball by a Norwich player in the penalty area to set himself up to score. I cannot recollect anything else about the match but that cheating handball. Carrow Road has changed so much since last time and now a Holiday Inn is squeezed into one corner of the ground.
It was another half hour on the train to Lowestoft and I got talking to a fan going to the match. He was a Norwich fan and said to his friend one day at Carrow Road that he had ‘had enough’ and was going to watch non-league football instead. It was a toss of the coin between Lowestoft and Kings Lynn. The more direct rail links to Lowestoft swung the vote. The ‘Norwich’ now Lowestoft fan introduced himself and we chatted about football as you do when you meet others on your travels. He felt Glen Roeder (Oct 2007-Jan 2009) ‘ripped the heart out of the club’ when he was manager, even down to sacking the tea lady who had been doing the job for years. It takes a lot for a fan to change allegiance but I can understand why. This guy seemed to find a new life in his rebirth to non league football. He went to all home games and some away. He enjoyed the friendships at this level and meeting a few fellow fans in the pub before the match. You could see this bloke was enthusiastic about his football once more. You know you have a real non league convert when someone gets animated about a recent away victory, which he was there to see, against Leamington. Welcome to the wonderful world of Non league world.
The Crown Meadow is on a the quaintly named Love Road and is only abut 10 minutes from the rail station. The club was formed in 1887 and for many years only played in County leagues. Recently they played Whitley Bay in two FA Vase semi finals, 2008 and 2009. They beat Whitley the first semi to only lose the final to Kirkham and Wesham (renamed after to AFC Fylde). The second semi and Whitley won. The Trawler men last got to the FA cup 1st round in 2009 when they lost away to Wrexham. This season they lost to Tamworth in the FA cup 3rd qualifying round and to Dover in the 1st round proper of the Trophy.
The game kicked off and not much happened for either side in the early stages. I felt Hednesford were only slightly better. On 24 minutes the visitors got a free kick on the half way line. Amazingly and against the wind he took a shot on goal. I watched as it sailed into the net. It was a terrific goal and would have been cracking on you tube. The club has a permanent tv box on the far side but unfortunately no one was recording the match today as it was a terrific goal.
The ground has a main stand with old fashioned seats you used to see at some football league grounds. Tip up wood seats on a metal frame bolted to the concrete. There was a covered stand along side the main stand but few seemed to make use of it today on this sunny but slightly blustery day. At the other end of the main stand was the changing rooms. Behind one goal was a small covered shelter the same height and width as the posts. That was it basically with hard standing around the rest of the ground.
The second half got underway and after the hour mark the visitors went further ahead with a neat through ball. That should have been it really but when the going gets tough the tough get going. You could see the home side were getting back into the match. Ironically playing at their best when 2-0 down. They got one back but I was not sure if it was going to be enough. Injuries and niggles in the game between a players required 4 extra minutes on normal time. Deep into injury time Lowestoft scored to level the game. It was a fair result in the long run which keeps both sides safe for another season in the Conference North.
Lowestoft have come a long way in just a few years and have done remarkably well so far. If Workington do get promoted from our league the Trawler men will have a long trip up there next season. That’s a 653 mile round trip or at least 7 hours on a coach (one way) for that one! It will not be much easier if Blyth were had t go there on day either.