Wednesday 30 January 2013

Hinckley United - De Montfort Park

Hinckley United FC
De Montfort Park
Leicester Road
LE10 3DR

01455 840088
Official Website
Independent Website (much better)

Ground Number: 238
Tuesday 29th January 2013
Hinckley United 1-3 Brackley Town
Blue Square North


This blog was created in 2013, back when I didn't bother with researching club histories, so the history page is taken from the Bradford Park Avenue programme from when I saw them earlier that season. Sadly, the club was dissolved at the end of that season and split into two clubs. Hinckley AFC was established by supporters and played at Heather St Johns before moving to Ibstock United. The original clubs owners and ground owners created Leicester Road FC who play at this ground. Both currently compete in the Midland League Division 1 which sits at step 6 of the Non-League pyramid.


I had been intending to go to Hinckley for quite a long time now, after hearing about their excellent club shop, which is supposed to have a great selection of old programmes. But various postponements had thwarted my attempts so far, mainly due to the weather, but in one case, because they could only raise 8 players for their game against Bishops Stortford back in December. I had actually been to the ground back in October 2008 when on the way to Tamworth v Barrow just to take pictures. And had been told abruptly but reasonably politely that only sponsors were allowed in the ground at that time! And I had also visited their old ground at Middlefield Lane, this time on the way to a Mansfield v Wycombe game, where I found this rather amusing sign.

I had had something of a football famine over the past 2 Tuesdays with pretty much the whole of the football calendar being wiped out. I had turned to alcohol to replace the buzz of a game, firstly with my Mum's birthday and then last week with a couple of cans whilst watching Bradford City's epic route to the Carling Cup Final after beating Aston Villa over a 2 legged semi-final. But it was not as healthy as football and it didn't make the week go any quicker than it does normally. I had consoled myself for the lack of games with making future plans for games. Firstly on my week off, I had already booked a ticket for Liverpool v Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday, which would be one of only 4 grounds that I needed to complete the 92. I was thinking of doing a 7 game marathon, starting on the previous  Friday with Spennymoor v Darlington. I have several mates who support Darlo, but it was looking like I would have to go in the Spennymoor end as, despite several attempts to ask Darlington if they could post tickets over Facebook and Twitter, they are as yet too ignorant to reply. Spennymoor meanwhile replied within 15 minutes. Whether I would be doing this depended on what was going on in between, with me waiting on the result of Huddersfield v Leicester in the FA Cup (to see if Burnley v Huddersfield would go ahead) and also the TV scheduling of Manchester City v Leeds (to see if the game would be moved to the Sunday. And I was also considering doing the NCEL groundhop, the main attraction being the local derby between Bridlington Town and Scarborough Athletic, which I really fancied.

On the day I woke up with the cold that had been bugging me for the past couple of days and spent the morning writing the start of this blog post, getting stuff ready to send on eBay and listening to the BBC Non-League Show podcast. There was still some doubt if the game would be on, so I kept checking Twitter and the Hinckley United message board for any news. I had also been playing Football Manager on my iPad, with Hinckley United. I started off with 3 straight defeats, as per the form book. But had started to turn things around, and climbed to mid-table by September, even beating Colwyn Bay 8-0! It turned out to be an epic game and as I give this blog a tidy up, 6 years to the day of the game, I can reveal that I won the Premiership, Champions League and Club World Championship with them. In real life, they had been struggling, going 1-0 down in under 10 seconds the last time I had seen them at Bradford Park Avenue, eventually losing 4-0. They has only one win and one draw to their name so far, but three of those points had been deducted due to financial irregularities. This meant a pretty much nailed on relegation to the NPL for next season.The win ironically came against one of the bigger sides in the division - Boston United and to cap it all on Boston's own patch.

After killing time in the afternoon, I set off to pick Anwar up in Aylesbury at 3.50 and after stopping for petrol along the way, I was there at 4.25. The journey to Hinckley went pretty smoothly for the most part. We spent some of the journey planning future trips to Solihull Moors, Worcester City and Nuneaton Town. The only time we did hit traffic was in Hinckley itself, due to road repairs which added about 10 minutes onto the journey. I had done my research and found a local Chippy called 'Tudor Road Fish Bar' where you could park outside. Scallop and Chips were had by both of us for the very reasonable sum of £1.85. Although they weren't the best I have had, it was still nice and the portions were pretty generous. On the way to the ground, we went through Middlefield Lane which was where the old Hinckley United ground was. I couldn't see what had become of it, as it was pitch black. My earlier research also paid off when I parked on the roadside outside the ground, rather than parting with £2 to use the car park.

After arriving at the impressive stadium, we were glad to see the floodlights on and people milling around as there had been a slight doubt earlier whether the game would be on. As the fears proved unfounded, we went for a quick look around the bar before going into the ground. I didn't mind paying the £10 admission this time, as the club were having financial issues and needed all the money they could get. I took a few pictures of the ground and waited for the programmes to arrive and the club shop man to open up. The shop, as previously mentioned came with a good billing and it lived up to it with a great selection of programmes, magazines, books and other football related stuff, as well as the usual pin badges and scarves. I bought 7 fanzines and a 'You are the Ref' book all for £2.50. I must have spent about 35 minutes in there and it was pretty much time for kick off when I came out. I was going to get a picture of the pre-match lineups, but my camera batteries were dead, so I had to make do with my phone. It was nice to see a couple of people from the non-league forum that I go on, they assured me I'd get a warm welcome and they were right.

As for the game, an attendance of just 152 fans saw Brackley stroll to a fairly dominant win. Notable names from their side included former football league players Billy Turley and Jefferson Louis and they must have a budget around 10 times that of Hinckley. The visitors opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Steve Diggin made a weaving run into the box before putting the keeper on his backside and finishing neatly. It wasn't until the hour mark that Brackley scored again, despite several chances. Tom Winters scoring direct from a corner. It was Diggin again on 70 minutes, this time when home keeper Rob Peet lost the ball. He was left with a simple tap in to double the lead. At this point, it looked as if it could be a rout but Hinckley held firm and even got a goal back - Harvey Headley scoring after a home player was tripped just inside the box. Hinckley could have got another back when they came close moments later, but it was not to be. Overall they had not looked too bad at the back and in midfield, it was just the lack of anything up front that meant that every time they tried to create a chance, the ball was won back by Brackley and putting the home side back under pressure again.

It's a sad state of affairs for Hinckley. Despite having a very good ground and a decent catchment area, they could only manage a little over 100 fans of their own for the game. They might be playing poorly and not appeal to many in the town but it's a vicious circle - until they get more people through the gate they will not have the funds to attract new players. I had enjoyed another football night out After dropping Anwar off, about 15 minutes later than expected due to those infamous invisible workmen on the M1 I was back home by 11.40. I wasn't feeling sleepy at all and in the end only got 2 hours sleep which left me feeling very groggy the next day.


DE MONTFORT PARK is an excellent non-league ground, that would not be out of place in the Football League with a few more seats. For those wishing to sit, there is a seated stand holding around 500 fans with executive facilities at the back. It costs £2 extra to sit here, but like the rest of the ground offers good views. Behind one goal there is a large covered terrace with around 1200 capacity and this is matched by a similar side terrace holding around the same amount. Finally, there is an open end with some small steps of terracing

The club shop as mentioned before is excellent, stocking thousands of books, programmes and other bits from teams all over the globe. There is also an impressive range of pennants and scarves on display. 
Other facilities include a large bar which has a decent range of drinks. The tea bar looked good also, but I didn't get anything from there. Sadly, the ground is no longer the home of Hinckley United, the club went bust in 2013, reformed by supporters as Hinckley AFC soon after. The ground's owners also created a new club, Leicester Road FC, both teams competing in the step 6 Midland Division 1, a sad state of affairs for such a decent ground and former club.

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