Monday 17 April 2023

Stratford Town - DCS Stadium

Stratford Town FC
DCS Stadium
Knights Lane
Stratford Upon Avon
CV37 7BZ

Ground Number: 329

Tuesday 4th February 2014
Stratford Town 4-2 Wimborne Town
Southern League D1 South & West


The club was formed in 1941 as Stratford Rangers, changing their name to Stratford Town in 1949. They were briefly known as Stratford Town Amateurs between 1964 and 1970. After playing in various local leagues they joined the Worcestershire Combination (which later became the Midland Football Combination) in 1954. In 1957 they switched to the Birmingham and District League, which became the West Midlands (Regional) League in 1962, but rejoined the Combination in 1970. In 1975 they took the unusual step of joining the Hellenic League, which does not normally include teams from Warwickshire. After two disappointing seasons, they rejoined the Midland Combination once again, where they remained until becoming founder members of the Midland Football Alliance in 1994. They finished as runners-up to Oadby Town at the turn of the millennium and remained in the league until they finished as champions in 2013. Promoted to step 4 for the first time in the club's history, they finished in 10th in their debut season in the Southern Division 1 South & West. The following season they finished in 3rd before beating Taunton Town and Larkhall Athletic in the playoffs to reach the Southern Premier in 2015. They remain there to this day, albeit in a now regionalised division. Their best finish came in 2019 when they finished 5th, though they would lose to Kings Lynn Town who went on to win promotion.

Last season saw Stratford Town's best FA Cup run. They beat Carlton Town, Nuneaton Borough, Long Eaton United & Boston United to reach the 1st Round. They drew Shrewsbury Town at home in a game covered by ITV in front of 2,800 fans. They took the lead through Will Grocutt but eventually went down 5-1. In the FA Trophy, the 2018/19 season saw them beat Alvechurch, Mickleover Sports and South Shields before losing in the 1st Round to AFC Fylde. Ten years earlier, they enjoyed their best FA Vase run, beating Gedling Town, Coleshill Town, Causeway United, Westfields & Stone Dominoes before losing to Whitley Bay in the 5th Round. Well-known former players include Matty Blair, Dennis Bailey, Paul Devlin, Will Grigg and Leroy Lita.

The club shares the town of Stratford Upon Avon with tenants FC Stratford of the Hellenic Division 1, It has a population of around 30,000. The town is a popular tourist destination owing to its status as the birthplace and gravesite of playwright and poet William Shakespeare and receives approximately 2.7 million visitors a year. Other famous people with links to the town include actor Simon Pegg, TV chef Gordon Ramsay, politician John Profumo, footballer Dion Dublin and actor Daniel Brocklebank who plays Billy Mayhew in Coronation Street. For more on my visit to FC Stratford's old ground last season, see here


After the expensive trip to Stafford on Saturday, I looked at my football costs for the season. Considering it had cost me over £50 I was pleasantly surprised that I had spent £1384.85 on football this season on 76 games - an average of £18.09 a game. Though it was still a substantial sum, it was less than I was expecting. This sum includes tickets, programmes, travel, food and drink. I have kept costs down by taking my good friend Anwar to games (who is addicted to footy as I am) and a couple of times where I have done jobs on the way to the game and got money back that way. I was targeting a £1750 spend at the start of the season (100 games at £17.50 each) but that had gone out the window, purely due to the fact that I was expecting to do well over 100 this season. Still, I enjoy it, so it's not too much of a problem. I had the day off as per usual for a Tuesday and spent the day chilling and deciding what game to go to. For the first time in months, it was a case of a few games being off rather than the whole lot. Anwar had given his preferences as Stratford Town and VCD Athletic, and as the latter meant playing the M25 lottery in the rush hour I opted for Stratford Town v Wimborne Town.


I left home at 3.20, planning on stopping in Aylesbury on the way to get some diet Irn-Bru to take to the game. Once I had done that I made my way over to Anwar's, leaving his at 4.45. For once the traffic was kind to us. We were both keen to save money so we eat at Morrisons Cafe in Stratford. I had Chicken Tikka Masala, rice and naan for £4.50. Though not up to the standard of an Indian restaurant it was still very nice and piping hot unlike the last time I went in there. We made our way to the ground and as the turnstiles were not open went and sat in the warm bar for a bit. We went into the ground at 7.15 and chatted to a couple of friendly people before buying a programme. The club shop was pretty good with the usual merchandise alongside a good selection of old programmes. Sadly none that I needed, nor pens although it was a commendable effort. I went around the ground and got some pictures also checking Facebook while I waited for kick-off. It was cold wet and very windy by now so I got myself a Bovril. It was hot but not boiling so I drank it quickly.

Stratford came into this game on the back of a 4-1 win at Didcot Town on January 18th. They found themselves in mid-table in 13th position. Visitors Wimborne Town were 3 points and 3 places above their opponents in 10th place. Following their 6-2 win at Evesham on December 28th they didn't play a game for the whole of January. They were actually on my list of games I was considering going to on Saturday but the fact that it had no fallback games put me off. In any case, they lost 2-1 at home to Bishops Cleeve. We chose a seat at the back of the stand as the wind was blowing the rain in. The first half was decent with chances at both ends. It was the visitors who drew first blood, a 14th-minute finish from close range. Stratford equalised from a Richard Gregory penalty after a player was fouled in the box and that's how it stood at the break. At half-time I went back into the bar to warm up, putting my bag in my car before I went back in, to save carrying it around. Just as I came in for the second half I bumped into Twitter user Oxo Baggie who I had a brief chat to. It was his tweet to say that he was coming that was one of the reasons why I chose this over VCD Athletic.  The second goal for the visitors was a real beauty. Though it was wind-assisted, Ian Oliver's shot flew in from 30 yards, deceiving the home goalkeeper. Jamie Sheldon soon put Stratford back on terms when he scored straight from the corner. Again the wind had a part to play in it but it was still a great delivery and he deservedly won the man of the match. Stratford went ahead in the 70th minute, a great free kick from Gregory flying into the bottom right-hand corner. Having had the lead for the first time in the game, they were not going to let it slip and sealed the game on 88 minutes when Chris Sterling worked his way into the area before drilling home.

It had been a game played in windy and wet conditions and I had got a bit wet despite being at the back of the stand. The mobile signal had been very poor and the internet slow but it had been a great game at a friendly club. I went into the bar and went to the toilet before driving home. On the way back we listened to BBC Coventry & Warwickshire and I was pleased to hear that Lincoln had lost at home to Nuneaton. They also announced the surprise sacking of Brian Laudrup from Swansea. Later I tuned into TalkSPORT and listened as Sheffield United won at Fulham. The presenters were saying it was the worst game they had ever seen, thankfully not a tag that you could apply to the game we had just watched. I dropped Anwar off at 10.55, getting home myself at 11.20. I checked Facebook and some other stuff on the internet before watching TV and going to bed. Sadly I was wide awake thinking about future trips and only got about an hour and a half's sleep, but I was fine the following morning.


I'd actually been planning to revisit Stratford earlier in the season but it had been called off due a waterlogged pitch. That was just before Christmas and I'd put a bit of effort into tidying up my blog. I didn't think that I was going to revisit for a while, but a very late change of circumstances forced my hand. I'd been heading to Hartpury University v Milton United to complete the Hellenic D1, but it suffered a shock postponement. I was with others so we needed a quick replacement and for me, it would have to be a revisit. Had I been on my own, I'd probably have headed home, but it still wasn't a bad option. So, though it was not the new ground I was up for but at least I'd not been for 9 years.
It was not a great start to Monday with Anwar pulling out of tomorrow's trip in favour of going to Holyport with another hopper. With the kids back at school, some roads were a nightmare with it taking around 10 minutes to get a few hundred yards thanks to selfish parents blocking the road with idiotic parking. Bad enough for cars to get through, let alone a coach and lorry. Miraculously, the rest of the journey was normal and I still made work on time. The day at work was not so bad but there was more disappointment when I came out at 5. I'd met Colin and Martin from work and we were on our way. It was lucky that I headed to Hartpury's Twitter to buy a ticket as the game had been surprisingly called off. Someone had cut through a power cable rendering the floodlights unusable. I was not expecting this, but nevertheless, we pulled off at Stokenchurch and sought an alternative. I favoured Market Drayton Town as it was the nearest unticked one for me. But it was very tight for kickoff, so we agreed on FC Stratford v Stonehouse Town. Everything was up in the air, but thanks to Google Maps we found a Chinese takeaway for dinner called Wok Express. I opted for the house special curry with egg fried rice for £6.90. This was excellent but it was hard to find a flat surface to rest on. It was ten minutes to the ground, and initial impressions were not great as understandably, not all of the facilities were open with it being a defacto reserves game. I'd have loved to have got a hat for a fiver. Colin missed out on a pin badge but entry was great value at £6 with a programme. Everyone was super friendly too and they'd really improved the ground since my last visit. Later, they sold me a hat, not the best quality but lovely and colourful and a bargain for a fiver. Martin also got a scarf.
In terms of league placing, FC Stratford were 5th whilst Stonehouse Town were 12th. The hosts had won 6 out of their last 7 games, winning 4-2 at Newent Town on Saturday. The visitors had won one of their last five, on Saturday they lost 3-2 at home to second-place Milton United. FC Stratford took the lead on 5 minutes, a low cross from the right, slotted home by Dan Chaundy. Stonehouse equalised on 18 minutes, Finn Fowler finishing from close range following poor marking. The visitors were awarded a penalty by the firm referee who wasn't taking any messing. Tom Clapp produced a great save in the Stratford goal to keep the scores level. However, the visitors were on top at this point and had a shot cleared off the line. However, FC Stratford retook the lead on 44 minutes, a chipped volley into the roof of the net by Kian Hamer. In first-half injury time, it was all square, a shot on the turn by Fowler for his second. It was a special goal that won it on 65 minutes for Stonehouse, Cam Rees with a 25-yard volley which sadly I didn't have the best view of as I was up the opposite end. FC Stratford missed an open goal near the end, firing into the side netting and I believe a visiting player was sent off for a second yellow following a melee. Not that it mattered as seconds later, the ref blew for full-time to end an excellent game.
There had been great frustration with the Internet which was extremely patchy and slow. It was not as frustrating as poor Hertfordshire Hopper who had got all the way to Hartpury to find the game had been called off. To be fair, it was not to be expected. It was another example of how the Cymru Football app triumphs over the non-existent English version as this sends you notifications about games to avoid things like this. It had been a great game to watch and although I'd have preferred a new ground, this was a good revisit. There had been 54 in attendance. We left around 9.40 and made good progress home. We were back at my work just after 11 and I was home by 11.20.

I originally visited the DCS STADIUM on the way to Wycombe's 1-1 at Shrewsbury Town on 19th March 2011. Considering tonight's game would be under lights, I am pleased I went, so as to get some good daylight pictures. I was impressed with the new build, it looks very smart at the time for a step 5 ground. The whole ground was uncovered, apart from a modern seated stand on one side of the pitch.

The tea bar has a decent selection, even if the drinks could do with being a bit hotter. The club shop was a lot better than most at this level. The bar was modern and warm on a cold night and from what I could see had a decent selection, in the case of cider, Thatchers' Gold. The town is a few miles away and I couldn't really see anywhere nearby if you were looking for somewhere to walk to. The programme was a good effort, costing just £1, it was well presented and had plenty of stats and info. Everything you needed to know was in there, even if there wasn't a huge amount of reading material.

Since my last visit, the ground had come on leaps and bounds. The whole place had been brightened up following a change of kit colours. There had also been additional seats put in on the far side and a cover put at one end. Overall, the ground is probably good enough for the top level of non-league. The Shrewsbury cup tie must have funded and necessitated these upgrades but the ground is all the better for it.

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