Friday, 14 March 2014

Leverstock Green - Pancake Lane

Leverstock Green FC
Pancake Lane
Leverstock Green
Hemel Hempstead

01442 246280

Ground Number: 339

Thursday 14th March 2014
Leverstock Green 3-2 Cockfosters
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division

Leverstock Green were one of the more local grounds that I had not done and with me getting quite a lot of the Spartan South Midlands League completed, I was keen to visit when the opportunity arose. Fellow hopper Anwar was also keen to visit and so when the chance came to do a Thursday night game in mid-March we jumped at it. The mid-March weather should be a bit warmer than it was for some of our earlier games and it would be a financially economical one to do, with me being able to eat at home as well to save money.

Leverstock Green are based near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire and although I have known of their existence for a while I had only been to the town's bigger club, Hemel Hempstead Town for a game, back at the end of the 2011-12 season. I had however been to the delightfully named Pancake Lane to take a few pictures on a non-matchday around 5 years ago. I suppose I should have visited on Shrove Tuesday given its name, but on that day I went to Kidlington instead, with this game coming up in my mind. The team were established in 1895 and although their Wikipedia page is very short on information I did manage to find some information on their excellent website. Up until 1991 they played in local football but then they were accepted into the South Midlands league, firstly the Premier Division but then being forced to drop into the Senior Division due to the lack of floodlights. They eventually gained promotion back up to the Premier Division after finishing 4th in the then named Division 1 in 2002-03. They achieved their best ever finish of 4th in season 2010-11, scoring over 100 goals in the process. They exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle this season, losing to Hillingdon Borough, but they did progress to the next round on 2 occasions, even taking Barkingside to a replay in 2005-06 before losing an exciting game 4-3. Their best season in the FA Vase came in 2010-11 when they must have had Wembley in their sights before losing in the 5th Round to Rye United. In the week before the game, Leverstock Green were sat in 20th place, not doing great but well clear of the single relegation place.

Cockfosters meanwhile were doing slightly better in  17th place, 5 points above their hosts. The club were founded in 1921 and play at a ground very close to Cockfosters underground station. I had been to take a look around a while back and it was a pretty tidy setup.  They won promotion to the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division last season, finishing 2nd and scoring 124 goals in the ultimately successful season. They have been entering the FA Cup since 2007-08 season and made their best progress this season as they reached the 1st Qualifying Round, Despite gaining a 2-2 draw with AFC Rushden & Diamonds, they went down 8-0 at the replay in Northamptonshire. FA Vase wise they have reached the 2nd round on 2 separate occasions, the latest last season when they crashed out 4-0 to Oxhey Jets.  They also lost to the same side in the final of the South Midlands Floodlit Junior Cup, a competition that they won in the 2007-08 season.

The day of the game didn't start too brilliantly with me over sleeping. I must have turned the alarm off and thought I would grab a cheeky few extra minutes and before I knew it, it was an hour later. I looked in confusion at the clock and wondered why it said 5.20am and doubled checked my phone. The clock on there confirmed my worst suspicions and I had to rush to work bleary eyed. Thankfully it was quite an easy day and I caught up with the 50 minutes that I had missed. When I got home I had a bit of a chill and some lunch and also finalised my blog from last night's game in Cheltenham. I then had a bath and had some dinner before leaving home. Before I did though I moved my clock over the other side of the toon so I would have to get out of bed to turn it off, thus avoiding a repeat tomorrow. It must have been the first time in about a decade that I had overslept and having been a bit tired the last few weeks I was really looking forward to my week off at the end if the month.

I picked Anwar up in Aylesbury at 6.15 and we chatted about retro games and football for the short 30 minute trip to Leverstock Green. After paying to get in nod buying a programme I had a look around the ground, grabbed some pictures and checked out Facebook. I had also found out during the journey that Anwar would be going to Cheltenham next Tuesday, so I would find something fairly local to me and probably somewhere southwards in the opposite direction to where he lived. It was soon time for the earlier than usual 7.30pm kick off.

The game started slowly with both sides having half chances but not really testing the keeper. It was scrappy and it was a close range finish that gave Cockfosters the lead on 22 minutes. The most amusing moment of the opening half hour was the referee getting whacked in the head with the ball, but thankfully he wasn't hurt. Shortly after Leverstock Green had their first real chance of the game when a free kick was headed off the line. A few minutes later Cockfosters broke and extended their lead with a low shot from the edge of the area. It stayed that way until half time.

The second half was a bit livelier with visitors coming closest early on.But then after a spell of pressure Leverstock pulled one back when a shot hit both posts, came out and the rebound was put away. A minute later it was all square with another close range finish, similar to Cockfosters first goal. Cockfosters players were rattled by this with the home side coming back into it more and making it a proper contest. The visitors took back control of the game and had a good spell of pressure. However it was was the home side that looked to have completed a great comeback by scoring an 85th minute header to make it 3-2. There was a mini scuffle a couple of minutes later as Cockfosters tried in vision to equalise which resulted in one of their men being booked. 

Overall it had been a much better second half. Despite getting a bit of stick from the Cockfosters contingent, he handled the game fairly well. Leverstock Green were a nice club too, making the effort to say hello and make us feel welcome when they saw we were not regulars. The programme was a tidy effort too with a bit to read and plenty of stats. It was a much quicker journey home, 30 minutes to Aylesbury and then 25 minutes back to home, so I was able to be tucked up in bed at a reasonable hour.

PANCAKE LANE is a tidy little setup. Originally the only seating and cover was on the clubhouse side and consisted of a few benches. Talking of the clubhouse it is modern and welcoming with a fair range of drinks. The tea bar did hot drinks, snacks and burgers. The only other area of cover was a metal stand seating around 100, named the Friends of Leverstock Green stand in honour of those that sponsored it.

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