Wednesday 27 January 2016

Stamford - Borderville Sports Centre

Stamford AFC
Borderville Sports Centre
Ryhall Road

01780 751471
Official Website

Ground Number: 550
Tuesday 26th January 2016
Stamford 4-1 Buxton
NPL League Cup 2nd Round


STAMFORD AFC was formed in 1896. Their nickname of 'The Daniels' comes from former Stamford resident Daniel Lambert, who was reportedly the fattest man ever in Britain and who was buried in the graveyard close to their former ground. The town was voted by the Sunday Times as the "Best place to live in Britain' in 2013 and is also the home of current Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Ferguson, more famous for being the son of former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

The club has played in various leagues in their history such as the Midland League and United Counties League. Winning the UCL Premier in 1998 earned them promotion to the Southern League. Starting in it's Eastern Division, they struggled at first, but after gradually improving a 7th placed finish in 2004 was enough to earn them promotion up to the Southern Premier. This was due to the non-league pyramid restructuring to allow the formation of the Conference North & South. Their adventure at the higher level lasted just one season, with only Solihull Borough keeping them off the bottom of the table. They bounced back quickly though and after beating Wivenhoe in the Southern D1 East playoff final of 2006. Despite an excellent 8th placed finish in their first season back, geographical reorganisation meant that they started 2007/08 in the NPL Premier. Though it was a close run thing, they were relegated after finishing second bottom and started the following season in NPL D1 South. After a series of varying finishes, they finally earned promotion back to the NPL Premier in 2013, after beating Chasetown in the playoff final. Since making it back they have struggled, but managed to keep their heads above water with 18th and 20th placed finishes. This season was a similar story - sitting in 22nd at kick off, but still well in touch with the teams above them.

Stamford's best ever FA Cup run came in 2013/14. After beating Grantham Town, AFC Wulfrunians and Ashton United, they lost out to Hednesford Town in the 4th Qualifying Round. The 5th Round of the FA Trophy was reached in 2005 where a narrow 1-0 defeat to Exeter City halted their progress. It's smaller brother, the FA Vase has seen even more success. As well as a semi final and 2 runners up spots they won it in 1980 after defeating Gusiborough Town 2-0 at Wembley Stadium. Local cup honours include the Lincolnshire Senior Cup, the Lincolnshire Senior Shield and the Hitchingbrooke Cup.


I was pleased to have Anwar back with me this Tuesday, after a number of games on my own thanks to commitments from both sides. There was plenty of choices, but with him having a limited budget for fuel costs, there were some that were ruled out. The weather would play a part as well, but with me wanting to see a cup game, Stamford v Buxton looked the best option. This was all worked out during half time at Wycombe Wanderers v Leyton Orient, a game which the Chairboys lost 2-0 with a pretty poor performance. It would be our second visit to Stamford after seeing them at their old ground when they beat Chasetown in the 2013 NPL D1 South Playoff final. We'd also seen them away at Barwell when they had current Wycombe keeper Alex Lynch in goal for them. Lynch was on loan to them from Peterborough United at the time and owing to the sale of Matt Ingram to Queens Park Rangers, has recently taken over as our first choice keeper, having only played a handful of games previously. I'd also seen Buxton on their own patch, as they beat Hednesford Town in an FA Cup replay, back in October 2012. Looking back at some of those entries in my blogs reminds me of how much it has evolved. As for some of the entries even further back they are very basic, hence why I have been doing a lot of revisits lately so I can update them.

I had a decent nights sleep on Monday as per usual. I normally walk down town on Tuesday to get a bit of exercise, though today I set off a little earlier to avoid the rain that was scheduled to arrive around midday. Typically I undid all the work by getting 6 different Christmas sweets items for £1.50 as they were selling them off cheap in Poundland. I also got some diet Irn Bru for tonight’s game, which was another good deal in Morrisons. I came back and spent the afternoon catching up on various bits before leaving for Aylesbury at 3.30. After getting to Anwar's at 4 we were soon on our way. There was around 20 minutes delay on the way, but it would have been more had we not diverted off the A1 onto another road after 2 lorries decided to have a crash. After going the back route we got to Morrisons at 6.15 with me having Scampi and chips for dinner. The place seemed a bit chaotic with kids running about and meals being sent back to the kitchen. Luckily ours were great, even if they took a while to come. After a short drive and mistaking the floodlights of Blackstones FC for the ground as it was a few hundred yards away, we got to the ground and parked up for tonight's clash.

The Northern Premier League  Challenge Cup (or Integro Doodson Cup) is a much-maligned competition, with managers often putting out under-strength sides. Indeed, between tonight’s 2 clubs, despite their collective many seasons in the NPL, they can only muster 1 runners-up spot between them.  However I have seen plenty of cracking games in the Southern League’s version of this competition, and it represents a decent chance of silverware if your season is not going to plan. I’ve seen games in this cup before - at Nantwich where they defeated Leek Town 5-0 and at Spalding where Coalville was beaten 5-1. Stamford would have to improve on a torrid home record if they were to change things in their favour - after over a year in their new ground, they had only won twice in over 30 attempts. Getting to the ground about 7 we took some pictures of the outside and went in paying £10 entry and £2 for a programme. After looking around the ground I went to the club shop and chatted to various people before kick-off. One notable name on the teamsheet was Paul Bastock in goal for Stamford at the venerable age of 46. He'd made his first appearance in football in around 1987 and I'd seen him a few times for Boston when they played Wycombe in the Conference, and he must be the Pilgrims' record appearance holder. I recognised a couple of other names too - namely the former Doncaster Rovers striker Ricky Ravenhill who was on the bench for Buxton, and one of the linesmen who I follow on Twitter. There was a decent selection of pre-match music on the tannoy as the start of the game approached, thanks in part to local station Rutland Radio.

The game started brightly with both sides looking to open the scoring early but it was Stamford who were on the front foot in front of a disappointing crowd of 105. Those who did attend witnessed a lively game with Jack Wightwick opening the scoring on 12 minutes, following up after the Buxton keeper parried an initial shot. It looked to be the same old story for Stamford as they conceded an equaliser on 19 minutes when Alex Wiles finished past Paul Bastock after the Stamford defence failed to cut out a cross. Nevertheless, they regained their lead within a couple of minutes with the goal of the game. Jake Duffy was some way out when he struck his shot, and although the wind might have helped it flew into the top left-hand corner. The hosts were bossing the game by now and 2 goals in the space of 3 minutes settled the tie. Firstly Jordan Smith headed the ball on into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 3-1 and then on 39 minutes Jack Wightwick got his brace and completed the nights scoring. There were fewer chances in the second half, Buxton having the better of them and forcing some decent saves out of Bastock as they looked to reduce the arrears.

We got away pretty quickly after setting the Sat Nav up. On the way back we listened to the rest of the Liverpool v Stoke City League Cup semi-final on Radio 5 which the home side won after a penalty shoot out. The journey home was nice and quick with me dropping Anwar off just after 11 and getting home myself 20 minutes later, though the quick drive meant my fuel economy was not as good as it could have been. I was glad I had made the choice to go to Stamford as opposed to other options. I really need to tick off AFC Fylde before it goes and the plan was to drop off Anwar at Blackpool. The weather looked too dodgy to risk it though and my fears proved well-founded. AFC Fylde was called off early afternoon and Blackpool played out a dull 0-0 draw with Sheffield United on a heavy pitch. After watching a bit of TV I got to bed just before 1am, which is a lot earlier than previous Tuesdays, which was welcome with me being up for work at 4am.


BORDERVILLE SPORTS CENTRE (or the Zeeco Stadium as it is known for sponsorship purchases) is nowhere near as nice as their former home in terms of character. However it is one of the better new builds, and although it's a fair way from town, a walk is not out of the question if you have the time. In any case, there are a number of places such as 3 supermarkets, a chip shop near Blackstones FC and a McDonalds nearby. If you choose to eat inside, the choice is decent and reasonably priced. I didn't see any pubs nearby but the bar is bright and welcoming. Though they didn't have any real cider (only Strongbow and a few bottles) they have their own ale, brewed by the local Oakham Brewery I'm led to believe.

As for the ground itself, most of it is open flat standing. The 2 stands that are there are both prefabricated, but they are not your usual arena type. The 250 seated stand has good legroom and decent views, despite floodlight pylons being sightline. There is also a decent sized terrace holding around 500. I've been warmly welcomed at both of Stamford's homes and that, coupled with a decent club shop make it well worth a visit.

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