Ground Number: 661
Saturday 31st December 2016
AFC Wulfrunians 1-3 Sporting Khalsa
AFC WULFRUNIANS - A BRIEF HISTORY
AFC Wulfrinians are a fairly young club, having been formed as recently as 2005. They can trace their roots back to an older club, Old Wulfrunians, who were established in 1922 and play in the Birmingham Amateur Leagues. The new club started out in the West Midlands Regional League, initially at Division 2 level, although two rapid promotions saw them progress to the step 6 Premier Division for the 2007/08 season. All in all, six seasons were spent here, with the club never finishing outside the top 6. After becoming champions for the second time in 2013, they had the facilities in place for promotion, following the move to their current Castlecroft Stadium. Since then, they've been at step 5, originally in the Midland Alliance, then moving to the Midland League when the league merged with the Midland Combination. Their best ever finish came in 2015 when they finished 7th. After finish 13th last season, they've fallen further this season, sitting 18th at the time of the game.
In the FA Cup, the club have reached the 2nd Qualifying Round twice - losing to Alfreton Town in 2009 and Stamford in 2013. The 2015/16 season saw the club embark on a notable FA Vase run - beating Pershore Town, Bilston Tow, Harrowby United, Quorn & Alsager Town before a 3-2 defeat to Nuneaton Griff in the 4th Round. Locally, AFC Wulfrunians won the JW Hunt Cup in 2011.
Fellow hopper Chris & I decided the first part of this double on Boxing Day, as it won over local rivals old Wulfrunians on the account of some hoppers we know attending this game. I'd deactivated Facebook the night before, and so I'd had a fairly late night after getting back from Wycombe's game at Cheltenham the previous night as I was making sure that I could still remain in contact with those that I needed to. The reason for having a break was pretty simple - I was spending far too much time on there. Every time I got to a game I was catching up with what had gone on in my absence and spent far too much time with my face in my phone, even missing goals on occasion. So I decided to stick with Twitter, which was a little more casual in terms of 'workload'. On the day of the game I woke at 8 am after around 5 hours sleep. I got ready, and in a rush opened the fridge and had that ever so traditional breakfast of a chicken kebab that had been left over from last night. I left home at 8.45, getting to Wavendon to meet Chris just after 9.30. Bar the long-running and frustating long stretch of roadworks on the M1, we had a good journey, arriving at our destination at 11.10.
Entry was £6, and a well presented and informative programme was £1.50. First stop was the tea bar, where I got the second part of my breakfast. Sausage and chips were great value at £3 and the tea bar in general was one of the better ones I have been to. From there we went up to the bar, where I had a can of Thatchers Gold. It was a real hopper fest, with Anders from Norway, Jens from Germany and Eddie from Grimsby as well as various faces that I'd seen out and about on various groundhops in the past. The earlier point about Facebook being too distracting was exemplified here as it was nice to chat and catch up without being distracted too much by my phone. There was only one stand at the ground, so after walking around and getting some pictures, I joined Chris, sitting near the halfway line.
The game started with chances at a premium, in fact, the first two notable incidents were injuries to home players, which thankfully remedied after treatment by the physio. Visitors Sporting Khalsa took the lead with the first real chance of the game on 22 minutes. A free kick was blasted against the wall, Craig Bannister was quickest to react as he drilled home the rebound into the bottom corner of the net. The lead was doubled 5 minutes later, this time it was a cross from the left that was headed in by David Meese at the near post. The scoreline reflected the fact that Khalsa had the better chances, but the deficit was reduced on 32 minutes. A great through-ball was played and it was left to striker Marcus Robinson to finish tidily in the bottom right-hand corner. The first half had been a decent contest, though there was not so much action in the second period. One further goal was scored, a penalty, awarded for a trip just inside the area. David Meese stepped up to convert the spot-kick, and complete his brace in what was a deserved victory for his side.
CASTLECROFT STADIUM is a smart and modern ground. Built initially as Wolverhampton Wanderers training ground, then as a base for English Rugby, AFC Wulfruniuans have played there since around 2012. There is just the one stand, a highly impressive structure seating 500 supporters under cover. Views are good, as is leg room. The rest of the ground is open hard standing and the ground has an overall capacity of 2000. The tea bar facilities are excellent - great choice, great value and generous helpings. The bar does the job. Not too much in the way of AFC Wulfrunians personalisation and restricted mainly to cans and bottles. But it's spacious, has plenty of seating and is reasonably priced.