Lichfield City FC
The City Ground
Ground Number: 651
Tuesday 6th December 2016
Lichfield City 2-4 St Andrews
Midland League Cup 3rd Round
LICHFIELD CITY - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club were founded in 1970 and were originally called LICHFIELD. They changed name to their present moniker in 1994. They joined the West Midlands Regional League in 1976 at Division 1 level and although initially doing well they soon started to struggle and in 1985/86 they finished second bottom, being relegated to Division 2. It would take them until 1990 to earn promotion back up, when 3rd place was good enough to go up. They'd go on to have a much happier this time and they reached the dizzy heights of the WMRL Premier in 1995/96. They'd only stay one season though, making the drop into Sunday football at the end of that season. Lichfield City would return to Saturday football in 2008, starting in the step 9 Midland Combination Divison 3. By 2012 they'd earned 3 promotions to the Premier Division and this step 6 status meant that ground upgrades were needed. Since then, they've maintained their status with ease, even when the Combination merged with the Midland Alliance. They had their best ever finish of 7th in the Midland League Division 1 last time out and have kept that up this season, sitting 5th place at the time of the game.
Lichfield City have progressed to the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup in both of the seasons that they entered the competition. This season they beat Wolverhampton Casuals 2-1 in a replay, before going on to lose 5-1 at Coventry United. They also have just been on their best FA Vase run, with victories over Wellington & Shawbury United enough to set up a 2nd Round tie at Bromsgrove Sporting. I was one of the 747 present that saw the bow out 3-1 despite a spirited 2nd half performance.
I was glad to have fellow groundhopper Anwar back in the passenger seat for this game, after a few weeks of being absent due to various commitments. I'd started looking out for fixtures last Wednesday when The Football Traveller had landed on my doormat. I'd shiwn Anwar the list on Saturday during Wycombe's brilliant 5-0 win at Chesterfield in the FA Cup, and we'd initially agreed on Carlton Town v Stocksbridge Park Steels in the NPL D1 South as our game. However with the visitors drawing in the FA Trophy, the game was cancelled and we had to look for a new option. Initially we agreed on Lye Town v Shawbury United, but when I checked, there was to be a lot of fog forecast. Whilst I had seen plenty of games in the fog before, I was concerned about us getting lumbered with an inconsiderate referee, like the one at Felixstowe who had called off a game at Felixstowe a few years back, when despite over 200 in attendance on a Friday night 'groundhop' game, the man in the middle called it off, and wasn't budging, this despite the fact that the fog cleared 10 minutes later. The real galling fact was that the Eastern Counties League officials were at the game, yet they proved utterly useless, preferring to stay in the hospitality tent, rather than finding a solution to the situation. So we decided to wait until Tuesday lunchtime before finalising our decision.
The previous night I'd watched the FA Cup draw, which as with the previous 2 rounds, provided a mediocre set of games. From Wycombe's perspective, Stourbridge or Northampton at home was not the day out or financial pay day that the club or the fans were looking for. It was at least winnable though, and I'm hoping that the non-league club prevail as the cups should be all about playing unfamiliar opposition, not ones that you have faced several times already over the years. The same could be said for some of the non-league teams - Barrow and Sutton United had gained some notable results to get this far, yet were 'rewarded' with ties at home to Rochdale and AFC Wimbledon respectively. Hopefully they can get through, and get the plum tie that their hard work deserves. On the day of the game, I spent my day off, walking down town as per usual. The weather forecast was still not clear, even at lunchtime, with it changing all the time, so we decided that we'd choose our game at 4, when I arrived at Anwar's. After spending the afternoon double checking all my fixtures, so as to provide an accurate list, before leaving at 3.30PM.
After I got to Anwar's at 4, we looked at our options in areas that didn't have fog forecast. Five in total were whittled down to 2 riders, and Lichfield City v St Andrews triumphed over Poole Town v Wimborne Town. Although I'd have preferred to complete the Conference South at Poole and see a more attractive game, the travel distance would mean an ever later arrival home than usual. Plus, should we hit bad traffic, it was cutting it fine for kick off. We left at 4.10, encountering the usual evening traffic chaos we had come to know and hate. There was around 40 minutes delay in all, though thankfully we'd allowed plenty of time. Morrisons was the choice for dinner, as it had been quick and easy to see if they had a Cafe in Lichfield. We got to the store at 6.40, there I had sausage, egg, chips and beans for the decent price of £4, along with a can of diet Irn Bru I'd bought in the Wycombe store earlier that day. It was at that point that I realised I'd left my camera on the side at home, so I'd just have to rely on my phone tonight. We left, arriving at the ground at 7.20. There were no programmes available, admission was a fairly standard and perfectly reasonable £5. The club seemed a nice friendly place, and so after going round and grabbing some pictures, we settled for a spot on the halfway line to watch the game.
The first half belonged to the visitors. We were barely a minute in when they were awarded a free kick and the resulting curling effort was crashed against the bar. They'd spurn several other chances too, before they did open the scoring on 25 minutes. Robert Morgan volleyed in a cross to give his side the lead. The visitors went on to dominate for the rest of the half with Lichfield barely having a sniff, but a goal just before half-time levelled things up. There was a foul in the area and Liam Holt netted the resulting spot kick. With St Andrews dominating the first half and hitting the woodwork three times, it was somewhat of a surprise that the hosts had the better of the second half. However it was the visitors that grabbed what looked like a potential winner on 80 minutes. The home keeper had already made a great save, but Eliot Putman followed up, calmly netting in the opposite corner to where the keeper had just dived. Just as we thought we were going to avoid an extra 30 minutes, Lichfield scored a goal that looked to have forced extra-time when Smigielski Pawek headed in from a corner on 87 minutes. However there was a sting in the tail, a hopeful ball lofted forward just before time and it was left to Shay Brennan to flick home to put St Andrews ahead. The hosts piled forward in search of an equaliser but were caught out on the break when Brennan scored again. The goal had a distinct suspicion of offside about it and the ensuing row resulted in a bit of a melee with the referee sorting it out, sending off a home player before blowing for full-time shortly after.
As things turned out, barely any games were postponed due to fog, but at least my over-bautious attitude had resulted in us seeing a decent game. Both halves had kicked off late, and what with a substantial period of injury time we didn't leave until 9.50. There were a few sets of roadworks and diversions, creating around 15 minutes delay. I dropped Anwar off at 11.30, getting home myself at 11.55. Normally I need at least 90 minutes before I get to sleep, but tonight I was tired by half midnight. I still didn't have the greatest night's sleep though with me being up at 4am the next morning for my usual day at work.
THE CITY GROUND befits a team that have only just recently risen to step 6 football. It's all very nice and well kept and has a decent bar where you can get a selection of hot pies as well as the usual range of drinks. As you'd expect from a 'new' ground it's just a couple of 'Arena' metal stands, placed at either end of the pitch. One has seating for around 100, whilst another has standing accommodation for 200. There is also what appears to be an older overhang in front of the function rooms behind one goal that could keep around 50 fans sheltered. The rest of the ground is open flat standing.