Sunday 20 December 2020

Newport Pagnell Town - Willen Road

Newport Pagnell Town FC
The Pavillion
Willen Road
Newport Pagnell
MK16 0DF

01908 611993
Official Website

Ground Number: 321
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Newport Pagnell Town 0-2 Huntingdon Town
United Counties League - Premier Division


The club was established in 1963 as Newport Pagnell Wanderers. They joined the North Bucks & District League in 1964 and progressed through its leagues, winning Division 3 in 1966 and Division 2 in 1967. After winning the Division 1 title three seasons in a row, they moved to the South Midlands League Division 1, changing their name to Newport Pagnell Town the following year. They finished as runners-up in 1973 before transferring to the United Counties League Division 2. Newport Pagnell Town were runners-up in 1976, earning promotion to Division 1. In 1982 they won Division 1, losing just once all season and earned promotion to the Premier Division. Four seasons were spent here until the club was relegated back in 1986 and Newport Pagnell would remain in Division 1 until 1992 when they bounced back as runners-up behind Harrowby United on goal difference. Lower half finishes were the order of the day and the club was relegated back again in 1997. They were champions again in 2001 and 2001/02 saw the best finish in the club's history as they finished as runners-up to Holbeach United in the  Premier Division, at the time, a league that sat at step 4 of the non-league pyramid. The club remained in the UCL Premier for some years, 2009 and  2018 being highlights as they finished 3rd. In 2019, Newport Pagnell Town were transferred to the Spartan South Midlands League where they remain to this day.

It took Newport Pagnell Town eight attempts to win their first FA Cup game, but when they did, in 2008, they enjoyed their record FA Cup run. After beating VTFC and performing giant killings over  Cirencester Town and Marlow, they lost in the 2nd Qualifying Round at Fleet Town. In the FA Vase, the 2016/17 season saw the club's best-ever run. Daventry Town, Broadfields United, London Colney, Peterborough Sports and Sunderland Ryhope were beaten before a defeat to eventual winners South Shields. Local cup wins include the Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy in 2010 & 2011, the Berks & Bucks Intermediate Cup in 2002, the UCL D1 Knockout Cup in 1978 and various North Bucks & District League Shields in the late '60s.

The town of Newport Pagnell is near Milton Keynes and the M1 Motorway. It was home to the second ever motorway services to open in the UK and the first for all vehicles rather than just trucks when it opened in 1959. The hotel was mentioned in the ace sitcom 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads' when after the holiday company that Bob had booked his holiday with went bust, he was forced to spend a 'terrible' night in a Motel in Newport Pagnell when he instead should have been looking at the Bosphorus in Turkey.  The town itself has a population of around 15,000 and was once one of the bigger towns in Bucks. From 1954 until 2007, it was home to the car manufacturer Aston Martin before they upped sticks and moved to Warwickshire - indeed the works football team played a big part in the early years of the football club when it supplied them with many players. It is also home to the only remaining valium manufacturer in the UK. Famous people associated with the town include footballer David Oldfield and Eastenders actress Letitia Dean who plays Sharon Watts and went to school in Newport Pagnell.


As usual, I was looking for a bit of midweek footy with Anwar but was left with ever-decreasing options due to the weather. Essex was especially badly hit, with Witham Town biting the dust early on Tuesday and with other games in Essex going, first choice Brentwood Town looking increasingly dodgy, I spent the afternoon checking out alternatives. As it turned out, Brentwood's pitch was passed fit just before 3PM. However, following advice from a groundhopper in Essex, and the poor state of their pitch previously I was sceptical whether it would go ahead and so decided to leave it for another day. So as I left home at 4.10, I had no idea where I was going. The plan was to get to Anwar's and decide from there. I stopped off at the new ASDA in Aylesbury to get some stuff to take to the game, planning to get to his house at around 5. It was the first time I had been to the new ASDA in Aylesbury and I was left disappointed as it was a small store and didn't have the 2L diet Irn Bru that I wanted. I had to make do with a couple of small bottles for a higher price - though perhaps it's a good thing as I really must try and cut down! I got to Anwar's just before 5 and rang one of the options that we had left - Shortwood United, to see if the game was still on. There was no reply, and also no reply to my tweet I sent them - nor was there all evening despite them being active on the account. So we looked at the list of fixtures at step 5. The United Counties League looked the best bet, with plenty of games on and therefore lots of backups if our chosen game bit the dust. We eventually settled on the closest - Newport Pagnell Town, a team who we had seen just a fortnight ago at AFC Rushden and Diamonds. They were playing Huntingdon, who had only lost one game so far this season and were in with a shout of the title if things went their way. Newport Pagnell were near the bottom with just 4 wins all season and so would have their work cut out to get a result tonight. Neither of the sides had played above their current level, but Huntingdon had made good progress to get here from a lower level in recent years.

Despite Milton Keynes best efforts to delay us with a succession of roundabouts and busy traffic, we still managed to get there just before 6.30. We were both hungry and with no guarantee of getting anything at the ground, we decided to head off into town. On the way, we saw a house that had made a big effort with their Christmas lights, something that is always nice to see. After looking at various places, we settled for a kebab shop. I had a Kofte Kebab which was a fairly standard £4 and was reasonable enough. It was certainly a bit healthier than the usual takeaway, being grilled and having lots of salad on it. It was getting on a bit, so we decided to eat whilst walking back to the ground. After stopping off to get some drinks at a local shop, we got back to the ground at around 7.25. After paying to get in, we picked up a basic but well-presented programme for £1 and went and took some pictures of the ground. I was disappointed that it was too dark to get a picture of the back of the stand as there was a nice looking mural that I had seen in the Rushden and Diamonds programme a couple of weeks earlier. Try as I might. I couldn't get my flash to light up the back of the stand, so will have to make do with looking for a picture elsewhere. I bumped into fellow groundhoppers Splodge (who I had seen at Potters Bar a few weeks earlier) and Peter (who is a Southend fan, and like Splodge passed his 1000 grounds visited mark some time ago) We had a bit of a chat until the match started, before taking a seat in the newer of the 2 stands.

The game was fairly decent and had been pretty equal up until halftime. To be honest, the visitors should have been down to 10 men after a bad tackle on a Newport Pagnell player. As it was, there were chances at either end, with neither team dominating especially, but luck can play a big part when one team is up the top and the other is struggling. It was a scrappy goal that gave Huntingdon the lead seconds before halftime. Newport failed to clear their lines and Niks Savalnieks profited with a shot that wasn't going at any great pace. The second half continued in much the same vein with plenty of bad tackles going in, but the ref taking little action. Newport Pagnell certainly took their revenge for the tackle in the first half and the game was held up for nearly 5 minutes while the Huntingdon keeper received treatment for an injury. The game was sewn up 10 minutes from the end, and for once it was something positive to report. An excellent free-kick was smashed against the bar and would have been a worthy goal to seal the win. The rebound was met by a stooping header from Savalnieks to confirm the points for Huntingdon, who just about deserved the game on the balance of play.

Though it had not been a game that I had initially chosen, due to it not being in a league that I was looking to complete, the weather had really decided it for me. If I'd been able to see into the future, my destination probably would have been Shortwood but their lack of help and announcements via Twitter meant that that would have to wait till another day. Newport Pagnell are very active on Twitter and at times like this, it's essential when planning where to go. It was very lucky I took someone else's advice and used my judgement, as my initial target of Brentwood was called off about 6.30 after as predicted more rain fell in Essex It was also nice to get home fairly early. After dropping Anwar off I was back home just before 11 and ready to go to sleep just after midnight, meaning that for once I didn't feel knackered on the Wednesday morning, as I got 4 hours sleep, over an hour more than usual. Next plans on Saturday are for a game at Redditch, who play St Albans City. It will be nice to see a step 3 game and visit a ground that's days might be numbered, should Redditch get their wishes of a new ground.


I'd jokingly said at half time the previous Saturday, that I hoped Wycombe would go into tier 3, so dire was the performance against Coventry City. We played terribly for an hour, then vastly improved, so I was actually looking forward to the game. I'd originally planned to go to London Tigers v Langford at Amersham Town on Tuesday, but either the fixture was cancelled or it was in the Groundhopper app in error, either way, I had no live game to go to. Instead, I stayed in and watched AFC Bournemouth v Wycombe on the TV and again, we gave a fairly encouraging performance, so I was really looking forward to the QPR game this weekend when I booked my ticket at around 10.30 on Thursday morning. However, an hour later, a whole swathe of the UK was put into tier 3 Covid restrictions, meaning my ticket was cancelled. It was especially frustrating as I was in the midst of eight 3 am starts at work in a row and the shop was packed at times. It was ludicrous how this was considered safer than an open-air football stadium, but then again, has anything made sense with the current government. However, Non-League football was so available and so I set about looking for a game.

My preference was a new ground at step 7 but leagues were suspending fixtures left, right and centre. I'd fancied a revisit to Newport Pagnell for a while, so I could get better pictures and revise my blog. With draconian restrictions in place, this was the ideal time and even better, the game would be kicking off at 2 to save on floodlight costs. This meant that I'd be back in good time for dinner, a 3 PM kick-off would have been cutting it fine. Happily, fellow groundhopper Anwar was happy to join me, meaning I'd get some help with petrol and have some much-appreciated company. To be sure of getting in, I bought a ticket online, the booking through TicketSource was nice and simple and fee-free. The admission price was also very reasonable at £7. It was ironic that I booked my ticket precisely seven years to the day of my original visit. The day of the game came and it was my only Saturday of the year in work. The store was packed again and quite busy and I was glad when it came to the end of my 3-11 am shift. I'd bought a paper that had a £5 free bet at William Hill, so instead of going straight home, I headed for Aylesbury. After placing my Liverpool, Everton, Norwich & Swansea accumulator, I headed into Aylesbury. After parking up, I headed to the nearest takeaway, Southern Fried Chicken. All my first choices were out of stock, so I had a chicken burger meal for £4.80. The chips were great and freshly cooked, but the burger could have been better and so I added it onto my spreadsheet as costs for the games. After getting some drinks and a chocolate bar, I headed over to Anwar. He had bought his son Hicham and after a decent journey, we were parked up at the ground by 1.40. Gaining entry in was as easy as having a QR code scanned and so after doing a circuit of the ground, we found a space along the side of the pitch.

Newport Pagnell Town sat 9th in the table and were in fairly decent form in their last six league games. They'd won three - beating London Colney 5-1, Broadfields United 3-0 and Baldock Town 1-0. Draws had come against Leighton Town (2-2) and at Colney Heath (1-1), the only defeat coming in the return fixture at Leighton when they lost 2-1. Tring Athletic were in 17th place and were in mixed form. They'd beaten London Colney 3-1 (a game I was at) and won 1-0 at Broadfields United but had suffered defeats against Oxhey Jets (1-2), Dunstable Town (0-2) and Baldock Town (0-2) as well as at Wembley (1-4). Tring Athletic started brightly but didn't really create many chances. It was 1-0 to Newport Pagnell Town on 9 minutes. Jim Burnside held off his marker and used his pace to get away before smashing a great shot into the top corner. Tring had the chance to equalise a couple of minutes later with a penalty but the spot-kick hit the post and then the ball was cleared. They had a further chance on 21 minutes but it was a great tackle by a home defender that deflected the ball past the left-hand post. It was 2-0 on 38 minutes, nifty footwork and a shot fired into the top right-hand corner by Jack Stronge. The second half started just as the first half had ended and Burnside got his second and his sides' third as he tapped home a low cross from a few yards out after 48 minutes. Burnside completed his hat trick on 53 minutes with a low finish, although the Tring keeper got a hand to it. It was 5-0 on 62 minutes, Ben Ford's curling corner hit the post and Stronge followed up for his second from close range. Ford got on the scoresheet himself on 66 minutes, a long-range shot that the Tring keeper really should have done better on. On 72 minutes, Burnside smashed home into the top left-hand corner from 25 yards for his 4th to make it 7-0. The visitors pulled one back on 78 minutes through Callum Short, a great lob from around 25 yards. A penalty was awarded to Newport Pagnell on 81 minutes and up stepped Stronge to make it 8-1. Tring Athletic pulled another back, right at the end, another excellent lob by Short. It had been a decent game in the end and a deserved win for Newport Pagnell, though Tring did have some good spells. All in all, 128 were in attendance, but they were about to have their Christmas ruined by Boris Johnson.

It was around 3.50 by the time we left. The clown in charge of the country was due to be the centre of attention at 4 PM and so that ruined the second half commentary as he blundered his way through the announcement. Grim reaper Chris Whitty and his sidekick Wally Valance had declared that the science pointed to a new strain of the Coronavirus which was far more infectious. Originally, the plan for Christmas was to have complete relaxation of rules. However, the dictator completely cancelled that and ordered 'non-essential' shops and businesses to close at a few hours notice. Worst of all, instead of the five days meeting family, people in London and the south-east were ordered to go to work but not see family at all this Christmas, not even outside. So I am forced to work in a packed supermarket but I can't see my brother and his family who have been very responsible. The crank gave religion a free pass of course, as ever. I dropped Anwar off around 4.40 and was home myself around half an hour later. I'd not enjoyed the day as much as I could as the news about the impending doom had been leaked throughout the afternoon and distracted me from the game. It was a good curry for dinner and a few pints before an early night. Of course, there will be no football for the foreseeable future and although my employer has been pretty decent to me, this abhorrent government has ensured that there will be no reward for my hard work at the end of my marathon stint of shifts. That came about the following day, with shift 5 of 8, a huge ten-hour one, starting at 3 am, once again the store was packed in parts, but at least the store security did their bit, meaning there were around 30 people queueing outside when I left at 1. I had a nice walk whilst listening to the Non-League show on BBC Three Counties before coming back and finishing this blog.


WILLEN ROAD is a pretty decent ground for step 5, being similar to St Ives Town and Potters Bar Town who are a level higher. There are 2 seated covered stands along the side of the pitch. Firstly an older one which I would estimate was built when they moved to the ground in 1972. The other along the other side is one of those new metal type stands. Between the 2, I'd estimate that they hold around 200-250, whilst the rest is open standing. The bar is excellent and nicely decorated, though the selection of drinks is pretty standard. I didn't see a club shop, but I know a lady came round selling scarves along with raffle tickets. There were basic tea and coffee facilities, but no tea bar that I could make out, so the 15-20 minute walk to town is essential if you want something to eat. 


1 comment:

  1. You don't mention the tea hut. This is one of the highlights of my visits. Very good value meal deals to be had there with friendly ladies serving