Ground Number: 324
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Leiston 2-1 Dulwich Hamlet
LEISTON FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
I'd not seen Leiston play before, but they were a club who had made great strides in recent times. As little as 10 years ago they were at step 6 and spent 7 seasons at step 5. In this time they managed to gain a draw in the FA Cup with higher league Fleetwood in front of a crowd of 1250 before going out in a replay. Then in 2010/11, they won the Eastern Counties League Premier Division, thus earning promotion to step 4 and the Ryman Division 1 North. They had another good FA Cup run that year, getting to the 4th Qualifying round and playing Dartford, before again going out in a replay. The first season at the higher level proved to be a huge success and they gained another promotion to the Isthmian Premier. A steady first season saw them finish 12th. They had slightly tailed off this season and were 16th before kick-off but that was still a big achievement considering that the small town that they represent has a population of just 6240. The town's main economy is dominated by 2 power stations and if that sounds a bit unglamorous, they have the oldest purpose-built cinema in Suffolk, a nice looking building that I noticed when I went for food. It was quaint and really small and unique, looking to have only one screen, albeit a 3D one when I checked on the website.
It had been a frustrating week of football preceding this game. Firstly on New Year's Eve, Wycombe Wanderers v Fleetwood Town was called off at 3.10pm with fans locked out of the ground. This was due to the undersoil heating not being switched on and meant a completely wasted journey for all fans as they kept delaying the pitch inspection. New Years Day drew a blank too, as all my planned games were off due to rain. Maybe, that was something that should have affected Wycombe's game against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday as we turned in our usual poor performance against that opposition, losing of course and looking likely to drop into non-league at the end of the season. So understandably I was looking forward to seeing some football away from Wycombe, just so I can enjoy the game again. With the inclement weather, I was not totally sure where I was going. On the day of the game, I was disappointed to see my first choice Kettering get called off at lunchtime, but there were still a few alternatives left on. Favourite as I left the house was Basford United as I fancied doing some more NCEL grounds, as I had really enjoyed the groundhop day back in March. But Anwar fancied doing a higher step, and as he was paying a good chunk of the fuel costs, and I wasn't that set on my choice, we had a committee meeting in the front of my car. Chorley and Merthyr were discounted as being too far. That left us with a shorter trip to Leiston v Dulwich Hamlet, still over 3 hours away, but it was guaranteed on, and the weather forecast said no further rain in that area.
So off we set at 3.45, a bit slow getting out of Aylesbury and the poxy average speed cameras for 20 miles on the M25, but apart from that we made pretty good time and it was dual carriageway until the last leg of the journey. We then hit a few miles of really remote roads, before arriving at the ground at 6.40. Hungry, we headed into town to look for a takeaway. There was a pretty good place called Tasty Bites, and it had a sit-down area too, which is a lot better than eating dinner in the cold. I had Spring Roll, Gravy and Chips for £3.20 which was very nice and quite a decent sized portion for the price. After we had eaten, we made the short 5-minute walk back to the ground, arriving about 7.20.
I went in and got a programme too, before heading to the bar for a look around. It had been a really friendly welcome so far so I decided to get myself a pint of cider to put some money into the club. It was a reasonable one - Somersby - and was fairly priced at £2.95. I sat at a table and drank it while checking my phone. It was a nice touch that the club handed out teamsheets to everyone so you knew who was playing. It's something that they do at Wycombe too, and it's a useful and good thing to do, maybe only a small thing, but it all adds to the feeling of goodwill towards the club. After coming out of the bar I was surprised to see a club shop and a good one at that. It had a fair old selection of programmes, but I was a bit too late to look through them for my wants, given that it was a few minutes till kick off. Lately, I have been collecting pens, but I spotted a nice pennant which I also collect. There was also an Ipswich one, so I bought the pair of them for a fiver, a decent deal in my opinion. I then went out and bumped into Mishi, a Dulwich fan I know, before taking some pictures and finding space along the far side to watch the game.
The game itself was very good, with both sides attacking and passing well and wanting to win. Dulwich had the better of the early stages and took the lead within the first 10 minutes. It was a great strike too, Nyren Clunes picked the ball up on the right, and out wide from a tricky angle smashed it in the top left hand corner. They continued to have the better of the opening 20 minutes, but Leiston were always dangerous on the break. Around 25 minutes they got their equaliser. This time it was another good strike in the top corner, this time from a bit closer in, scored by Craig Parker. From then on in, the home side had the better of the game but it was still all level at half time. About 10 minutes into the second half Leiston got their winner and from then on in never really looked back. They had the better chances from then until the end. Dulwich did have the ball in the net late on but it was ruled out for offside. So another good night groundhopping, but now we had a long drive home. This was made worse by a few road closures. Luckily my Sat Nav managed to re-route us without any issues unlike in the past. Even with stopping for fuel on the way home we still got back to Anwar's by 0.20, with me getting in about 20 minutes later. The radio was an interesting listen on the way home with Man U losing their 3rd game in a row. And for the 3rd game in a row, Moyes blaming the referee. Pretty pathetic really, a sign of a man under pressure and out of ideas. As ever after football I stayed up about an hour longer after I got home, meaning I only got 2 hours sleep. I felt OK the next morning though, so it had been worth the long trip the previous night.
VICTORY ROAD looks like it has seen a lot of redevelopment in recent years, to match the clubs rapid rise up the pyramid. It's mainly metal type prefabricated stands which is a shame, but it's a sign of the times and financial constraints that this is very common. They've done an OK job of it to be fair, but it will probably need a bit more if they get another promotion. There is a seated stand along the far side, 4 rows high and holding around 300. There is a metal terrace behind the goal holding around 200 as well, but apart from that, it's open standing.
Luckily the other facilities are a lot better. The clubhouse is smart and modern with big screen Sky TV and reasonably priced drinks. Also in here is the food. Although I only had a tomato soup due to eating earlier, the choice, prices and portions looked decent. Finally the club shop has a wide range of merchandise as well as lots of old programmes. The town is only a quick walk away if you have time to kill, and overall I enjoyed my visit to this friendly club.