Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Spalding United - Sir Halley Stewart Field

Spalding United FC
Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field
Winfrey Avenue
PE11 1DA

Ground Number: 441
Tuesday 2nd December 2014
Spalding United 5-1 Coalville Town
Doodson Sports Cup 2nd Round 

There were plenty of options for this midweek. However, I had some restrictions. Firstly I wanted to do a step 4 or above game - as I did Coventry Sphinx last Saturday and will be off to Long Eaton this Saturday, both of whom are at step 5. My first thought was Cinderford Town v Swindon Supermarine, as I like watching the visitors. But then I looked further into it and the roads there were not the quickest, plus there was a lack of options food and drink wise. Also Anwar was on a limited budget, so I had to pick something close. I discovered that there were a few other options, and after checking the weather I plumped for Spalding over Tividale, as it was a cup game. OK, so it was only the much maligned Doodson Cup, which was regarded as a waste of time by a lot of people. But I love cups, and the last one I had seen - Yate Town v Swindon Supermarine in the Red Insure Cup, had been a cracking 3-3 draw and a penalty shoot out. My only previous game in this cup had been Nantwich Town's 5-0 demolition of Leek Town around this time last  year, after I had given some friends a lift to Crewe for the Wycombe game.

Spalding United were formed in 1921. They played in a number of local leagues and won many of them before being promoted to the Southern League Midland Division in 1988. They only lasted 3 seasons at the new level before dropping back down to the UCL. A turbulent time followed with them switching between leagues but last season they stormed to the UCL title after winning their first 17 games. This season they have followed it up with more success and are currently 5th in the NPL D1 South.

The have reached the FA Cup 1st Round on 2 occasions, although their record attendance came in a 2nd Qualifying Round game against Peterborough in 1952. That day 6972 crammed into the ground to see the 2 sides draw 2-2 before Posh triumphed 3-0 at London Road. In the other FA competitions they have reached the 3rd round of the Trophy and the Quarter Final of the FA Vase.

Coalville Town were founded in 1926 under the name Ravenstone Miners Athletic. They joined the Leicestershire Senior League at the start of the 1990's, adopting the club's present name in 1995. This bought about a previously unseen period of success, a couple of seasons later they were promoted to the Leicester Senior Premier. This was followed up in 2003 with promotion to the Midland Alliance where they spent 7 seasons. In 2011 they joined the NPL D1 South after winning the league, and in the past 2 seasons they have grabbed the runners up spot in that league, but failed both times in the playoffs. There looks unlikely to be a repeat this season as they are down in 15th place. The club have reached the FA Cup 1st Round in 2004 and the FA Vase Final in 2011 where they lost to Whitley Bay. 

Now some more on that magical FA Cup run for Coalville. Or rather than to when we found out we were playing them. It was approaching the end of Tony Adams' miserable spell of manager of Wycombe. This consisted of horrendously boring football (though not as dreadful as the stuff we would experience under Peter Taylor a few years later). True to the form, we had suffered a mind numbingly dull 1-0 defeat at Darlington and at the time I went on the coach, so faced a long journey home. The FA Cup draw proved a brief distraction as we waited to see who came out the hat. A lot of people on the coach were delighted when we were drawn at home to Coalville Town or Liversedge, though we would have preferred it to be away from home. We knew virtually nothing about either team as I didn't really follow that level of football at the time. But it was great to draw out someone that not many people had heard of - not because we were hoping for a big win, but because it would be nice to see something and someone different. 

The replay between the 2 sides would be in Leicestershire the following Tuesday, the 2 teams having drawn at Liversedge's Clayborn ground up in Yorkshire on the day the draw was made. The game was the same day as we played Swansea City in the LDV Vans Trophy, which happily we won 1-0. These were the days when mobile internet was in it's infancy - well before the days of social networking like Twitter too. Even a message board would have been a long shot, as would the club websites at the time, certainly no chance of a real time update anyway. I had to rely on the old fashioned phone call. Having put the number of Coalville Town in my mobile before leaving home, I rang them up at full time to ask what the score was. The man on the other end confirmed that they had won, 2-0 I think it was and so we knew our opponent for the next round, which would be played in 10 days time. 

In the intervening time, Tony Adams resigned from his job as manager. But bizarrely he didn't tell anyone at the club - chairman Ivor Beeks found out on BBC News at teatime! A parting of the ways was a good thing - he left us in 17th in League 2. It was in the week after a 1-0 defeat at home to Yeovil Town. After the media circus died down, we got on with it and put Peter Cawley in charge for the upcoming game. Coalville started in the very first round of the competition in August - the Extra Preliminary Round. They beat Daventry Town 3-0 before beating Gedling Town by the same score in the Preliminary Round. A 2-2 draw at Deeping Rangers in the next round saw them face a replay which they won 3-1. They then faced Rushall Olympic in the second qualifying round, winning that game 2-1. They won away to another Midlands side to set up a game at Willenhall, which again they came through. That saw them in the final qualifying round. Whilst the FA Cup draw had been fairly kind to them, their opponents Liversedge had a couple of giantkillings along the way, most notably beating Conference North side Harrogate Town. In the first game played in Liversedge records show that the home side had a goal wrongly chalked off for offside, a fact later backed up by the Sky Sports cameras that covered highlights of the game. But Coalville prevailed in the replay and so they would be the side to face Wycombe at Adams Park in the first round. 

As mentioned above, the build up to the game from Wycombe's point of view was tough, having lost a manager and been on a poor run of form in the league. Despite all this the general consensus was that Wycombe would still win at a canter. Not that this dampened Coalville's enthusiasm at all - 908 fans travelled down to see the game. The first 10 minutes saw chances for Wycombe as the visitors started nervously. But on 15 minutes it took a smart save from Frank Talia in the Wycombe goal to keep out Chris Woodhall's free kick. Ashley Warner hit a shot into the side netting on 27 minutes as Wycombe lived dangerously. The home side did have a good chance before half time though as Nathan Tyson headed wide. The second half was a bit more restricted chances wise and it took a solitary header from Roger Johnson to put Wycombe through on 70 minutes. Wycombe fans in the terrace unveiled a banner that said 'SACK THE BOARD' but it would take many more years of mistakes, incompetence and brinksmanship before the supporters finally got to take over the club. In many ways it got worse with our very existence threatened due to financial mistakes. Wycombe had avoided a big shock and can count themselves lucky not to have been on the end of an upset. Though we were the better side, there was no way at all that we performed to our full capabilities and the Coalville side and their fans that day can be rightly proud of their 9 game FA Cup run. The team got a great reception from the fans and deservedly so. Wycombe couldn't perform a giantkilling of their own and lost in the next round to League 1 leaders Luton Town 3-0 at Adams Park to end their interest in the cup.
I spent the Tuesday relaxing at home in the morning as it was my day off. I had a dentists appointment at 2PM and as it wasn't raining, decided to walk the 20 minutes there and back. I had to have a tooth out and it was quite complicated. The dentist asked me if I was 'having a quiet evening at home' and I said yes. I didn't want to worry her by telling her that I was travelling 100 miles up the A1 to a pub and football match.As I was picking Anwar up at 4PM and needed to get petrol and a few bits for the nights game, I left at 3.10, but even then after getting my things, I was still 5 minutes later than scheduled. At least the Irn Bru perked me up a bit.

Anwar was there waiting for me, and I was happy with the arrival time of just before 6PM. However 15 minutes delay getting out of Aylesbury soon put paid to that. My Waze sat nav did it's best, with me going cross country at times, but in the end I got to the ground at 6.30. We parked up in a car park opposite, which fortunately didn't charge after 6PM. We'd planned to go for dinner, but before we went we nipped across to the turnstile to get a couple of programmes in case they sold out before we returned. After putting them in the car, we made our way into town.

It was only a few minutes walk to the Ivy Wall, the local Wetherspoons. They always offer good value for reasonable food and as long as you know what you are doing you can get something nice. As I had been to the dentist I opted for something soft, namely the Chilli Con Carne Gourmet Hot Dog. It was lovely and for little more than £7 it came with chips, onion rings and a pint of Thatchers Gold. I later had a pint of my favourite Black Dragon Cider, and after that lot I was feeling miles better. It was one of the better Wetherspoons I had been to and was well looked after. By now it was 7.30, and so we made our way back to the ground, getting there 10 minutes before kick off.

After paying £7 to get in, I got some pictures of the ground. I learned the value of having a good phone, as while I was looking on Facebook a ball from the pre match warm up caught it a treat and catapulted it out of my hands and onto the floor, luckily it was unscathed. We took a seat in the stand and listened to some of the retro tunes they were playing including the Bay City Rollers and the themes from Match Of The Day and Grandstand. The home fans were in good voice this evening, singing throughout.


Both sides fielded much changed sides for this low key game, but there was only only one side in the game. Spalding United were ahead after 3 minutes and the lead was doubled with both goals coming from Andrew Tidswell. Jordan Hempenstall made it 3-0 on 22 minutes and by half time it was 4-0 courtesy of Jordan Nuttell. The scoring died down in the second half with substitute Tom Waulmsley completing Coalville's misery around 10 minutes from time. Sam Brookes grabbed a late consolation for Coalville, but they had a wretched night and were never in the game.


I needed fuel and so I made my way to the Sainsbury's nearby. Annoyingly the petrol station was all in darkness and coned off so we had to go to Morrisons, 2 miles away and fill up there which meant we didn't get doing until 10PM. We made great time however and after dropping Anwar off at 11.30  I was back in my house 20 minutes later. As usual I had little sleep as it took me ages to drop off and I had to be up at 4am for work.

SIR HALLEY STUART FIELD is a decent ground for this level. The standout feature is the elevated main stand which is quoted as holding 300 fans, but looks bigger. Next to it is a covered metal terrace and that is is as far as cover goes as the rest of the ground is open. The small club shop was closed when I went, and I didn't use the bar or tea hut. However the town is close by and that has a huge range of places to go for pre match food and drink.


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