Newport Pagnell Town FC
Ground Number: 321
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Newport Pagnell Town 0-2 Huntingdon Town
United Counties League - Premier Division
As usual, I was looking for a bit of midweek footy with Anwar, but was left with ever decreasing options due to the weather. Essex was especially badly hit, with Witham Town biting the dust early on on the Tuesday and with other games in Essex going, first choice Brentwood Town looking increasingly dodgy, I spent the afternoon checking out alternatives. As it turned out, Brentwood's pitch was passed fit just before 3PM> However, following advice from a groundhopper in Essex, and the poor state of their pitch previously I was sceptical whether it would go ahead and so decided to leave it for another day.
Wycombe had continued their search for a win fruitlessly on Saturday. We were very fortunate to get an entirely undeserved 1-1 draw against Scunthorpe but I was pleased and relieved when our last minute equaliser went in. It's now been 9 games since our last win away at Bristol Rovers on October 19th. Including cup fixtures we have had just 1 win in 12 games - that coming in the FA Cup away at Crewe in mid November. Goalscoring has been a problem, as has discipline - 6 red cards already this season tells it's own story. The style of football has not been great to watch and it's got to the point where people are calling for Gareth Ainsworth to be sacked. I don't agree with them at present - there is no guarantee the new man will do any better and first and foremost - the club cannot afford it financially.
So as I left home at 4.10, I had no idea where I was going. The plan was to get to Anwar's and decide from there. I stopped off at the new ASDA in Aylesbury to get some stuff to take to the game, planning to get to his house at around 5. It was the first time I had been to the new ASDA in Aylesbury and I was left disappointed as it was a small store and didn't have the 2L diet Irn Bru that I wanted. I had to make do with a couple of small bottles for a higher price - though perhaps it's a good thing as I really must try and cut down!
I got to Anwar's just before 5 and rang one of the options that we had left - Shortwood United, to see if the game was still on. There was no reply, and also no reply to my tweet I sent them - nor was there all evening despite them being active on the account. So we looked at the list of fixtures at step 5. The United Counties League looked the best bet, with plenty of games on and therefore lots of backups if our chosen game bit the dust. We eventually settled on the closest - Newport Pagnell Town, a team who I had seen just a fortnight ago at AFC Rushden and Diamonds. They were playing Huntingdon, who had only lost 1 game so far this season and were in with a shout of the title if things went their way. Newport Pagnell were near the bottom with just 4 wins all season and so would have their work cut out to get a result tonight. Neither of the sides had played above their current level, but Huntingdon had made good progress to get here from a lower level in recent years.
Despite Milton Keynes best efforts to delay us with a succession of roundabouts and busy traffic, we still managed to get there just before 6.30. We were both hungry and with no guarantee of getting anything at the ground, we decided to head off into town. On the way we saw a house that had made a big effort with their Christmas lights, something that is always nice to see. After looking at various places, we settled for a kebab shop. I had a Kofte Kebab which was a fairly standard £4 and was reasonable enough. It was certainly a bit healthier than the usual takeaway, being grilled and having lots of salad on it. It was getting on a bit, so we decided to eat whilst walking back to the ground. After stopping off to get some drinks at a local shop, we got back to the ground at around 7.25.
After paying to get in, we picked up a basic but well presented programme for £1 and went and took some pictures of the ground. I was disappointed that it was too dark to get a picture of the back of the stand as there was a nice looking mural that I had seen in the Rushden and Diamonds programme a couple of weeks earlier. Try as I might. I couldn't get my flash to light up the back of the stand, so will have to make do with looking for a picture elsewhere. I bumped into fellow groundhoppers Splodge (who I had seen at Potters Bar a few weeks earlier) and Peter (who is a Southend fan, and like Splodge passed his 1000 grounds visited mark some time ago) We had a bit of a chat until the match started, before taking a seat in the newer of the 2 stands.
The game was fairly decent and had been pretty equal up until half time. To be honest, the visitors should have been down to 10 men after a bad tackle on a Newport Pagnell player. As it was, there were chances at either end, with neither team dominating especially, but luck can play a big part when one team is up the top and the other is struggling. It was a scrappy goal that gave Huntingdon the lead seconds before half time. Newport failed to clear their lines and Huntingdon profited with a shot that wasn't going at any great pace. The second half continued in much the same vein with plenty of bad tackles going in, but the ref taking little action. Newport Pagnell certainly took their revenge for the tackle in the first half and the game was held up for nearly 5 minutes while the Huntingdon keeper received treatment for an injury. The game was sewn up 10 minutes from the end, and for once it was something positive to report. A excellent free kick was smashed against the bar and would have been a worthy goal to seal the win. The rebound was met by a stooping header to confirm the points for Huntingdon, who just about deserved the game on the balance of play.
Though it had not been a game that I had initially chosen, due to it not being in a league that I was looking to complete, the weather had really decided it for me. If I'd been able to see into the future, my destination probably would have been Shortwood but their lack of help and announcements via Twitter meant that that would have to wait till another day. Newport Pagnell are very active on Twitter and at times like this, it's essential when planning where to go. It was very lucky I took someone else's advice and used my judgement, as my initial target of Brentwood was called off about 6.30 after as predicted more rain fell in Essex
It was also nice to get home fairly early. After dropping Anwar off I was back home just before 11 and ready to go to sleep just after midnight, meaning that for once I didn't feel knackered on the Wednesday morning, as I got 4 hours sleep, over an hour more than usual. Next plans on Saturday are for a game at Redditch, who play St Albans City. It will be nice to see a step 3 game and visit a ground that's days might be numbered, should Redditch get their wishes of a new ground.
WILLEN ROAD is a pretty decent ground for step 5, being similar to St Ives Town and Potters Bar Town who are a level higher. There are 2 seated covered stands along the side of the pitch. Firstly an older one which I would estimate was built when they moved to the ground in 1972. The other along the other side is one of those new metal type stands. Between the 2, I'd estimate that they hold around 200-250, whilst the rest is open standing.
The bar is excellent and nicely decorated, though the selection of drinks is pretty standard. It also loses points for having 2 Franchise FC shirts on the wall. I didn't see a club shop, but I know a lady came round selling scarves along with raffle tickets. There were basic tea and coffee facilities, but no tea bar that I could make out, so the 15-20 minute walk to town is essential if you want something to eat.