Sunday, 1 September 2019

Stafford Town - Evans Park




Stafford Town FC
Evans Park
Fairway
Stafford
Staffordshire







Ground Number: 875
Saturday 31st August 2019
Stafford Town 1-3 Tividale
FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round








STAFFORD TOWN FC - A BRIEF HISTORY


The club was established in 1976 by Gordon Evans who the current ground is named after and were originally a nursery side for Stafford Rangers. They joined the Midland Combination a year later. Initially known as Stafford FC, they spent five seasons in Division 2 with finishes ranging from 1st in 1979 to 18th in 1981 & 1982. They changed their name to Stafford Town in 1981 and aside from a couple of years between 1990 and 1992 when they were known as Stafford MSHD (following a merger with a local Sunday team) they've stuck with the name ever since. After spending 1982-1984 in local football, they became founder members of the Staffordshire Senior League. Finishes ranged from 2nd in 1992 to 13th in 1990. In 1993, they joined the West Midlands (Regional League) and were Division 1 champions in their first season. Stafford Town were Premier Division champions in 2000 (the best league finish in the clubs history), when they made the switch to the Midland Alliance.. The team generally found life difficult here and they rejoined the West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1 (step 7) in 2004 after a bottom-paced finish. They fared a lot better here and in 2010, a runners-up spot behind Wellington Amateurs (on goal difference) was enough to seal a return to the Premier Division. They spent a couple of seasons in the Premier Division struggling, before transferring to the Midland Combination Premier Division. An 8th place finish here in 2014 was their best since the turn of the century. The league merged with the Midland League in 2014 and Stafford Town were placed in Divison 1 (step 6). They struggled here and in 2018 suffered relegation to the Staffordshire County League, thanks to a reorganisation of the non-league pyramid. They could only manage a 5th place finish last season, but this was deemed good enough for promotion back to Midland D1. They've enjoyed a tricky start to the season, currently sitting in 16th, a few places above the relegation zone.

Stafford Town have enjoyed a fair amount of campaigns in the FA Cup. Their debut season of 2000/01 represented their best progress. That year, they beat Stratford Town (after a replay), Paget Rangers and Moor Green to earn a 3rd Qualifying Round tie against Harrow Borough, who played three steps above them. Despite gaining a 0-0 draw down in Middlesex, they lost the home replay 3-1. Harrow Borough went on to play Wycombe that year and were a first victim of their run to the FA Cup Semi-Final. The best run in the FA Vase came in 2011. An epic 7-1 win at Goodrich kicked things off before a 5-0 win over Pelsall Villa. A 3-2 win against Atherstone Town was enjoyed prior to a 2-1 home defeat to Brocton in the 2nd Round. Local cup wins include the Les James Challenge Cup in 2014 and the Bourne Sports Trophy & Staffordshire FA Vase in 1984.

The town of Stafford has a population of 68,472 according to the 2011 census. It is twinned with Stafford in Virginia in the USA, Belfort in France, Dreieich in Germany, Tarragona in Spain and Skarzysko-Kamienna in Poland. As well as Stafford Town, it's home to two other clubs - Stafford Rangers who played in the top tier of non-league football in the 1990s but now play in the Nothern Premier League. The other is Brocton who are fellow Midland League D1 members. The town has a long history in shoemaking and is home to a category C prison and a ministry of defence base. There are plenty of famous people in the town including TV personality Dave Gorman, actor Neil Morrisey and football manager Brian Little.



MY VISIT

Back in early August, I spotted that I'd be free on this date, as I had no intentions of going to AFC Wimbledon v Wycombe Wanderers as it's a ground I've been to many times before. I fancied doing an FA Vase game and my first thought was to head south on the train for once, but there was very little on that I fancied. There were plenty of options in the Midlands though and with the usual advance tickets available from Wycombe to Birmingham, I took the plunge. One of the better-looking ties was Stafford Town v Tividale. With prior knowledge that there were a number of good pubs in Stafford, it was a pretty easy decision to make as I could get a return from Birmingham to Stafford for under £12, making the trip overall around £25. The week leading up to the game had seen a Bank Holiday double but nothing since. It had been a stressful week at work and a dreadful week in football as the EFL kicked Bury out of the Football League. They even refused to listen to a second bid for the club and so, I was glad to be missing out on their competition. The Friday saw a walk downtown and a couple of pints, plus a few cans at home, but generally, I was taking it easy with an early start.



I woke up early on Saturday, at my normal work time of 4am but had still got 6 hours sleep in. I watched some episodes of Dave Gorman's Modern Life is Goodish on my Android box and had a sausage sandwich for breakfast. I left home at 7.10, getting to High Wycombe station around 10 minutes before my 8.34 train after a decent walk. It was on time and I passed the journey by reading my paper and watching YouTube videos before arriving in Birmingham just after 10. With neither of my favourite Birmingham pubs yet open, I walked to New Street for my train to Stafford. Typically, it was 15 minutes late, but I was soon on my way. It wasn't a bad price at £11.70 return. I got to Stafford just after 11. My first stop was Theo's Cafe where I had two oatcakes with sausage and bacon with beans on the side. It was nice, but I've had better in the past near Port Vale's ground. My first proposed pub stop, Slaters, only did Berry cider, so I headed up to The Kings Arms, right up near Stafford Rangers FC. I had a new cider, a pint of Celtic Marches cloudy cider which was decent, if a little bit sweet for me. It was over a mile walk to the next pub, the Star and Garter and sod's law, it would decide to rain. I got drenched, though I had a mac to cover my top half. I watched a bit of the Southampton v Manchester United game with a pint of Old Rosie but lost interest after a few minutes. Next up was the Floodgate Alehouse which was OK and I had a pint of Black Dragon. Too many pubs were stocking Lilley's fruit cider in place of the real stuff though and my trip had not proved as fruitful as I'd thought. At least I was drying out now, well, my clothes anyway, negating the need for a new pair of trousers. I got myself a spicy chicken burger and chips from a chippy and had a final pint in The Sun Inn, a Titanic pub which was probably my favourite of the day. It was then time to head to the ground, getting there at 2.45 and paying £5 to get in, plus £1 for a programme.


Stafford Town had not enjoyed the easiest start to their return to step 6 football. Their home record has been impressive enough, with a 2-1 win over high-flying Hinckley and a 2-2 draw against NKF Burbage. It's on the road that's proved tricky with defeats at Chelmsley - [ ] Town (0-3), Kirby Muxloe (1-3), Leicester Road (0-1) and most recently at local rivals Brocton on Bank Holiday Monday (1-5). Tividale meanwhile were riding high, sitting 4th in Midland D1, a step above their hosts. They were also unbeaten at home, having beaten AFC Wulfrunians 2-0 and Lye Town 2-1 as well as drawing 2-2 with Haughmond. On the road, results were more mixed, having lost 2-0 at Coventry Sphinx on the opening day but winning 3-1 at Gresley. The hosts' FA Vase record was not the best - just two wins in the last six campaigns, but the visitors were even worse, just one in the same timeframe. It was a pretty decent contest, the match report from the Non-League Paper is below. Tividale deserved their win but were made to work hard for the victory.



After the game, I went straight to the station and headed for Birmingham. There was 10 minutes delay as we sat in a tunnel for ages but I was back by 6. I had a couple of pints in the ever-excellent Post Office Vaults. It may have been one too many, as although I got my train ok, in my confused state I thought that I had to change train, despite never having have done on this journey before. It meant 50 minutes in Dorridge station, but I was soon on my way. I had a snooze too, luckily waking up when the train was on High Wycombe station platform. I called in at the Peking House Chinese takeaway, having salt and chilli chips and some chicken satay skewers. I eat these as I walked up the hill, but with me running later than intended, I got a taxi part of the way home, paying £6 for the privilege. I was in at 10.15, watching some of Match Of The Day before going to sleep. It had been a very unhealthy day, though it had been fun mainly and a welcome break from a stressful job.

THE GROUND


EVANS PARK is a tidy venue for the level Stafford Town play at. There’s just the one stand, seated and holding around 200, plus some standing at the sides. The rest of the ground is open flat standing. Facilities at the ground are quite good, there’s a bar and you can also get cans of Strongbow etc from the tea bar which has pies, pasties, snacks and drinks. The town is a short walk away and has plenty of choices, my favourite pub being the Sun Inn.

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