Ground Number: 943
Saturday 5th December 2020
Wroxham 3-3 MK Irish (3-4 on pens)
FA Vase 2nd Round
WROXHAM FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
Wroxham FC was established in 1892, by George Preston, a former captain of the Norfolk county team. They played in strictly local leagues for a large part of their early history and they enjoyed varying degrees of success in the East Norfolk League, Norwich City Junior League, East Anglian League and Norwich & District League. In 1964 they joined the Anglian Combination. They progressed through the league and were especially successful in the late 70s and early 80s when they were Division 2 champions in 1976 and Division 1 champions the following season. They then went on to lift the Premier Division title on five occasions, including four in a row between 1982 and 1985. in 1988, they moved up to the newly established Eastern Counties Division 1 and were champions in their first season. They were hugely successful in the Premier Division too, winning the title on no less than eight occasions. Due to travelling distances, they left it until 2012 to take the step up to the Isthmian D1 North and in 2015 enjoyed their best-ever finish in the modern league system when they finished 8th. However, they had a couple of reprieves from relegation but it was this time unlucky in 2017 as they were relegated back to the Eastern Counties Premier after a second-bottom finish. Following a few mid-table finishes, they were in 5th place when the season was abandoned in March. This season, they'd done even better and were top of the league, having won all nine games so far.
In the FA Cup, Wroxham have reached the 3rd Qualifying Round on four occasions, most recently in 2012 when they lost 3-1 at Dover Athletic. The FA Trophy saw little success for the club but they did reach the FA Vase Final in 2010. After beating Gorleston, Northampton Spencer, Halstead Town, Flackwell Heath, Armthorpe Welfare, Royston Town & Needham Market, they were faced with a two-legged final against Whitehawk. They won 4-1 on aggregate over the two games with the home game attracting their record crowd of 1,262. In terms of local cups, they have won the Eastern Counties League Cup (1993 & 2000), the Anglian Combination Knockout Cup (four times), the Norfolk Senior Cup (on eight occasions and the Norfolk Junior Cup (1975). They've had a number of famous players wind down their careers at the club, currently Grant Holy and Simon Lappin play for them. In the past, the likes of Trevor Benjamin, Scott Howie and Chris Sutton have plied their trade for the Yachtsmen. The pretty village of Wroxham has a population of just 1,500 and is situated on the River Bure.
It had been a long and miserable month away from watching live football and although the government's lockdown was inconsistent and lacked logistic sense, I'd kept in line with the regulations. Most hoppers had respected the regulations, but there was one individual that went way against the rules. The hopper in question travelled from London to Scotland on the train (reportedly on more than one occasion) to watch a game from outside the ground. Irresponsible and totally pointless and when challenged about it he said he was 'guilt-free' as he was a Vegan and that meat-eaters had caused the Coronavirus pandemic. The said hopper was hardly popular amongst his peers - multiple claims of bullying when he was pulled up on previous matters and wasting police time by reporting an incident when another hopper had a picture of him in the crowd at Hanworth Villa on their blog - by which time the picture had been removed anyway. The Tuesdays had not been so bad for me, but the Saturdays had been terrible - my favourite day of the week reduced to a miserable empty existence. The first had been spent watching Wycombe lose at Nottingham Forest on the internet, though at least I'd got a walk in and seen some FA Cup games too. The second Saturday was the worst of all - no football on any note thanks to the International weekend and torrential rain all day meaning I couldn't even go out for some exercise to clear my head. Things got better in the second half of lockdown with a few vaccines found to finally put an end to this whole sorry tale. In turn, the third Saturday was a lot better, a walk to town and back and lunch from the market before coming home and watching Wycombe gain a decent 0-0 draw at home to Brentford. Then, finally on Monday came the news that we had all been waiting for, Covid cases had eased enough for the lockdown to end on December 2nd. Even better, provided that cases were sufficiently low, fans could return to Football League stadiums - including Wycombe, provided that rates were low enough. A most unexpected but welcome development, but you have to wonder why it hadn't happened already when cases were far lower in September. The midweek bought disappointment - Wycombe only managing a 0-0 draw at home to Huddersfield Town in a game they really should have been looking to win. Tragic news followed on Wednesday when footballing god Diego Maradona died at the age of 60 and it was confirmed that Mrs Brown's Boys would be getting a Christmas special. 2020 really was the year from hell.
On Thursday, it was confirmed what areas would be going into which tiers. A few exceptions were allowed into tier 1 but the vast majority of the South and East (including High Wycombe) would be placed into tier 2. The latter would have draconian implications on going to the pub, but at least I'd be able to go to football. I started planning what game that I'd be going to on Saturday 5th, with sadly most of the Midlands and North in tier 3 which I'd try to avoid. It turned out that they'd be forced to play their games behind closed doors anyway, meaning that a lot of leagues couldn't viably restart. Further complications arose when it was ruled that clubs had to follow the pub rules about only being able to serve alcohol with a substantial meal in line with the pub rules but not takeaways if they wanted to drink outside. Also, clubs had to get permission off of their local councils to open tea bars as in some twisted logic, they were classed as neither an eat-in nor a take out establishment. As a result, most leagues were not starting on the first weekend and so the choice of games was extremely limited. I was hoping to do an FA Vase game, with Stowmarket Town top of the list as I'd already researched the club's history when I'd had a trip there earlier this year, only for the referee to call the game off a few minutes before kick-off. Originally, there were quite a few backups in the East, but by the weekend these were down to just Wroxham & Mulbarton Wanderers. I'd been for a revisit to Bedford Town in midweek as I'd not been lucky enough to get a ticket to the first Wycombe game with fans in ten months. This weekend though, hoppers Anwar and Colin were both keen to join me and we all agreed that heading East would be the best option. The weather was throwing a spanner in the works, deciding to snow for the first time this season. A local hopper informed me that it should be OK for the game but already, Norwich CBS had called their game off. Fakenham Town had sold out for their game against Hashtag United. Friday came and I had a chilled evening at home with a few ciders. I decided to put my camera up on eBay as I was fed up of getting far superior photos on my phone. I hope to get a decent bridge camera in due course.
I went to sleep around 11 and had a great nights sleep, waking at 8. I had breakfast and a shower and was pleased to see that Wroxham was definitely on. Mulbarton had a 10:30 inspection and there was no news yet from Stowmarket, though they had ordered that masks were to be worn at all times and that the tea bar would remain shut. It was a real shame as it had been one of the better grounds for food that I had been to. Around 9.45, Mulbarton was called off, so we were down to just two Vase options, aside from a couple of backups in the Anglian Combination. Stowmarket tweeted their standard matchday tweet and said that tickets would be available on the gate on a first-come, first-served basis, I did ask how many left, but they hadn't responded by the time I left. I worked out that the last possible place to change my mind for the two games was around Cambridge. I left at 10.20, picking Colin up at 10.30 and Anwar up at 11. We decided that due to the conditions imposed by Stowmarket - forced mask-wearing, taking advanced tickets off sale early, no food and ignorant Twitter, to head for Wroxham instead. They were nice and friendly, wishing us a safe journey. It was a mammoth trek, we stopped at Cambridge services where I had a rest and the lads for a Greggs. We got to the ground around 2, everything was very well signposted and the club was super friendly. We'd pre-booked tickets, so all I had to do was hand over £1 for a decent programme at the turnstiles. I then headed to the bar, it was a bit of a faff but I got myself a can of Strongbow for £2.50 to help the club out. It was nice to be able to sit at a table and type my blog whilst I had a drink and later on, I got a decent sausage roll and chips for £3.50.
Wroxham were in great form prior to to the lockdown - they had won all of their last six games - beating Walsham Le-Willows 2-1, Kirkley & Pakefield 3-0, Swaffham Town 2-1 and Godmanchester Rovers 1-0 - all at home. On the road, they had won 4-0 at Long Melford and 4-2 at Newmarket Town. MK Irish played a step lower in the Spartan South Midlands Division 1. They were also in stunning form, winning all of their last six - 2-0 against Stansted in the previous round of the Vase, 1-0 at Buckingham Athletic, 6-1 at Enfield Borough, 3-1 against London Tigers, 2-1 against New Salamis and 5-0 at Langford. The hosts featured a famous name in Grant Holt, once of Norwich but now on the bench for Wroxham who also named former Norwich man Simin Lappin amongst their ranks. MK Irish had former Wycombe defender Glyn Creaser amongst their coaching staff. The game started brightly, but there were not many serious attempts on goal. MK Irish, playing in a very colourful orange and green kit took the lead on 14 minutes when George Shrieves got away down the right and rounded the keeper. Wroxham were playing well though and they equalised on 32 minutes when a pass was put home at the back post by Grant Holt who had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes after another player was injured. Simon Lappin put Wroxham ahead just before half time and it was only a brilliant save by the visiting keeper Owusu Kyeremateng the prevented them from getting another. It turned out to be an important save as MK Iris equalised on the hour mark thanks to a Jack Clarkson header. Wroxham really took the game to the visitors and it was only a couple of saves by Owusu that kept the scores level. The visitors got a penalty on 86 minutes following a quick break and Mason Spence stepped up and converted what looked like a winner. However, with pretty much the last kick of the game, Wroxham were awarded a penalty and this too was converted to take a dramatic game to penalties. There was more drama in the shootout, but Owusu was the hero again for MK Irish as the visitors won 4-3 on penalties with Grant Holt missing the decisive spot-kick.
It had been a brilliant game and we'd got the penalty shoot out we had been hoping for, though it was a shame that Wroxham couldn't win as they'd been really friendly. It had also been a decent atmosphere thanks to both sets of fans. We left at 5.15 and I got BBC Three Counties on my phone to listen to reports from the Wycombe game. They'd drawn 2-2 up at Preston North End, a good result on paper but they had been winning with a few minutes to go. One daft fan of hours had gone to the game just to stand outside with his drum and had been moved on by stewards at half time. He had to wait two hours in Birmingham for his train and wouldn't be getting in until midnight. That gave way to the 606 phone-in on Radio 5. I needed petrol and a rest, so we stopped at Cambridge for petrol at Tesco and some salt and chilli chips at a Chinese called Golden Harvest. It was a fairly average portion, but service was good. I dropped Anwar off at 8.30, Colin off at 9, getting home myself ten minutes later. I did a bit of work on my blog whilst watching the EFL Highlights with a couple of ciders before watching Match Of The Day. Sunday was hell, as usual, waking at 4 am, especially after a late night. I completed my bog the following afternoon after listening to the Non-League show with Ollie Bayliss, MK Irish getting a good mention on there.
TRAFFORD PARK is a smart and well-kept ground for the level. It's mainly open standing but there's a stand for around 200 and a covered terrace behind the goal for around 150. The tea bar has a good range and everything is freshly cooked whilst the smart bar is restricted to cans only. There was a decent amount of parking and the village centre was a short walk away.