Thursday, 12 August 2021

Whittlesey Athletic - Feldale Park

Whittlesey Athletic FC
Feldale Park
Drybread Road

Ground Number: 982
Wednesday 11th August 2021
Whittlesey Athletic 1-4 Downham Town
Eastern Counties D1 North


The club is a fairly new one, having been formed in 2014 as a merger between Whittlesey United and Coates, two longstanding members of the Peterborough & District League. They started out in the step 7 Premier Division which is where both of their predecessors played. They finished as runners-up in 2015 behind Oakham United (under the name of Coates Athletic) and then again the following season, this time behind Moulton Harrox. With the champions unable to take the promotion, they moved up to the United Counties D1 in 2016. However, despite doing well on the field, they resigned seven games in after funding was withdrawn for floodlights, rendering their ground unsuitable for the higher level. The following season saw them rejoin the PDFL Premier, where they finished 3rd. A 5th place finish in the 2018/19 season was deemed good enough for promotion following the expansion of the leagues at step 6. 2019/20 saw them in 13th when the season was abandoned and it had been a similar story again last season with the side sitting in mid-table when the season was once more called to a halt.

The club has not yet entered the FA Cup and this season represents their debut in the FA Vase. They beat fellow step 6 side Debenham LC in the previous round to get this far. Local honours include the Peterborough & District Charity Shield in 2016 and the Cliff Bullen Charity Cup in 2019. The town of Whittlesey is situated six miles from Peterborough and has a population of just over 16,000. It is home to a Whittlesey Summer Festival which is held in September each year and includes a classic car show, an Italian food stall, a fairground and a steam engine. It is also home to the largest on-shore wind turbines in the UK that power the nearby McCain chips factory.


I'd originally intended to visit Whittlesey Athletic back on 31st October 2020 for their FA Vase games against Mildenhall. It had 'won' out of a choice of other options at Fakenham Town and Malvern Town as it was the nearest. However, both clubs had shown little enthusiasm in tweeting about the game in the week previous and the night before the game, Whittlesey put a tweet out saying that they had COVID cases in their squad, but they'd followed protocol and the game should go ahead. On the morning of the game, there was have rain and so we decided to play it safe and head for the 3G pitch at Malvern. In the end, both games went ahead but Whittlesey got a sound beating as they lost 6-0. There was one good thing, with it being fairly nearby, I'd be easily able to do it midweek. The opportunity came up on this Wednesday and happily fellow hopper Chris was keen to do it. Like with the Tuesday, I was hoping for an FA Cup replay to come up but there were no new grounds to visit on this day.

The day of the game came and I was at work as usual. I didn't have the best nights sleep before, so it was a bit of a slog in the morning/ Soon enough, it was 3PM and time to leave. Normally, I'd go straight from work to meet Chris, but this was far more local than usual. Instead, I went home for a bit, only 45 minutes to have a rest before leaving just before 4.10. It was only 33 miles away, but with the roads around Aylesbury being even more useless than usual, I allowed an extra 20 minutes to get to Chris by our pre-arranged meet time of 5.30. As it happened, the roadworks had all gone and I was in Wavendon by 5.15. It was also a good journey over to Whittlesey with us at the China Chef takeaway by 6.30. We picked up our dinner and made our way to the ground, arriving at 6.40. We went straight in, paying £4 entry. There were plenty of tables to eat at and my salt and pepper chips were excellent for £3 but the Thai Green Curry was not a patch on the one I had near Thorne Colliery.

There was no programme due to printing issues but they were happy to email a copy. A number of hoppers were in attendance and we had a good chat with a few of them including one called Terry who looked a bit like Louis Van Gaal. Unusually, we had plenty of time before kick-off and it was nice to relax and take in my surroundings. Both teams had chances early on but didn't really test either keeper. The Downham #7 had the first real chance and looked a great player. On 10 minutes, he got away using his pace but shot into the keeper's arms from around the penalty spot. He also set up the chance five minutes later which saw his side hit the top of the bar. Whittlesey then had a good chance on 19 minutes, shooting narrowly wide of the top left. They had a good spell until the last ten minutes of the half when Downham resumed control. The visitors took the lead on 41 minutes, a cross was put in from the left and the ball was deflected home via the Whittlesey #12. On 50 minutes, it was 2-0, hesitation in the home defence was capitalised on by Simon Bird who finished from ten yards.  Whittlesey pulled one back on 68 minutes, poking home a ball that was delivered into the box. On 78 minutes, the two-goal lead was restored, Bird getting his second when he finished through the keeper's legs. Two minutes from time, Jack Prentice sealed the game, making it 4-1 with a great shot from wide out on the left.

We left at 9.40 and made our way back to Milton Keynes. We listened to Andy Crane on Greatest Hits Radio, getting back to Chris' house at 10.45. I switched over to the 200% podcast. My sat nav took me a really strange route through the back end of beyond and the likes of Long Marston. I arrived home at 11.45, looking to see Wycombe had got in the League Cup. After the game against Exeter in Round 1 left our dressing room looking like a Holby City set, what with all the injuries, I was hoping for a good draw. Maybe a new ground at Brentford or a long overdue visit to Bournemouth or Birmingham. What did we get? Stevenage away and I'm sure they will be equally as disappointed after they fought hard to beat Luton. I watched TV for an hour, before going to bed and as a result felt slightly tired the following morning.


FELDALE PARK is a smart and well-kept venue. There's a covered seated stand for around 50 and standing for around the same number. The rest of the ground is hard standing and some of the far side is closed off. There's a smart bar at the ground which has a basic range of drinks. Burgers and bacon rolls as well as drinks and snacks are available at the tea bar. Nearby is the Straw Bear pub, though the town, around 30 minutes walk away has an excellent range of pubs of which The Letter B looks worth a visit. There's plenty of parking but I'm not sure about public transport options.

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