Thursday, 27 January 2022

Darlaston Town 1874 - Bentley Leisure Pavillion

Darlaston Town 1874 FC
The Paycare Ground
Bentley Leisure Pavillion
Bentley Road North
West Midlands

01922 616165

Ground Number: 1035
Wednesday 26th January 2022
Darlaston Town 4-0 Paget Rangers
Midland D1


The original Darlaston FC was formed way back in 1874, making them one of the oldest clubs in the Midlands. They spent their formative years in local leagues such as the Wednesbury Junior, Walsall & District (champions in 1904 & 1906), Birmingham Junior and Birmingham Combination (champions in 1908 & 1911). From 1911 until 1928, aside from wartime, they played in the Birmingham & District League, their best finish coming in their debut season when they finished as runners-up to an Aston Villa reserve team. Following a bottom-placed finish, the club returned to the Birmingham Combination, where they were champions again in 1946. Darlaston remained in the league until 1954 when it was disbanded. A newly formed second tier of the Birmingham & District League was established, reduced in 1960 to a single division and then in 1962, the league was renamed the West Midlands (Regional) League. Darlaston Town struggled in the league and up until 1974, their only top half finish came in 1967 when they finished 3rd. Things did improve for a few seasons but in 1982, they were relegated to the WMRL's second tier. They were promoted back in 1990, but despite finishing 4th, were demoted for ground grading reasons. Two runners-up spots in Division 1 to Ilkeston Town & Knypersley Victoria followed, the latter only on goal difference in 1993, the year they returned to the Premier Division. The 'Town' suffix was added to the club's name in 1996 and at the turn of the millennium, Darlaston Town would enjoy a 3rd place finish, behind Stafford Town & Causeway United, the best finish in the club's history. Ground grading reared its ugly head again in 2002 with the club demoted to Division 1 North. They'd finish as runners-up to Goodrich in 2004 and in 2007 were champions, returning to the Premier Division. They would remain here until their demise.

The original club folded in 2013, a contributing factor of this was down to vandalism at their ground four years earlier.  A new club was formed in the meantime and in 2014 they were accepted into the West Midlands (Regional) League Division 2. Their first season saw them finish 3rd behind Kington Town and FC Stafford. They moved into the Bentley Leisure Pavillion ground, which was also the home of Lane Head FC for a while. They remained here for four seasons, before being promoted to the Premier Division in 2019 as runners-up to Worcester Raiders. Both of these seasons were abandoned due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Darlaston Town 1874 in mid-table. The league was disbanded at the start of this season with the club moved to the Midland League D1.

The new club has not yet played in the FA Cup and Darlaston has not had representation in the competition since 1995. Their best run came in 1976 when they beat Highgate United, Armitage and Sutton Coldfield Town before they lost in a 4th Qualifying Round replay to Kettering Town. In the FA Trophy, they reached the 3rd Qualifying Round twice whilst in the FA Trophy, the 2nd Round has been reached on two occasions. The first of these Vase runs in 1995 saw them beat Gedling Town 4-2, only for the game to be replayed as one goal was too small, this time Darlaston prevailed 3-2. Local Cup wins include the Birmingham Senior Cup in 1973,  the Birmingham FA Vase in 1991 & 1992, the Birmingham Junior Cup in 1898, the Walsall Senior Cup in  1908 and the Wednesfield Charity Cup on a record 18 occasions.

Though representing the town of Darlaston, the club currently plays in nearby Walsall. Darlaston has a population of around 28,000. It is located near Walsall and Wednesbury in the valley of the River Tame. It was once a coal-mining town and has several historically notable buildings. The most famous person to come from the town is Sue Nicholls, who plays Audrey Roberts in Coronation Street. Her father Lord Harmar Nicholls was also a Conservative MP in Peterborough & Manchester. A few well-known footballers come from the area including Netan Sansara who was on trial at Wycombe in 2010 and currently plays in Norway for RĂ¥de Idrettslag.


I'd be busy with family stuff on Tuesday this week and so was looking for games on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. This tied in with fellow hopper Colin being off work, so I thought I'd have some different company for once. However, despite begging me to offer him options, I wasn't even offered the courtesy of a reply to my offer of Market Drayton on Monday or Baffins Milton Rovers on Wednesday. Happily, my usual passenger Anwar was available for the latter and was happy to do Darlaston Town. With an ever-dwindling list of options to visit, it was a good thing that we were trying a different day. On the rare occasion that I do a game on Wednesday, I usually take my mate Chris but he had done Darlaston. The day of the game came and I woke up earlier than I needed to for work. I scanned in the Cheshunt programme I had sold on eBay. Unlike most hoppers, I prefer a digital programme as it takes up less space and doesn't get creased in your bag. Traffic was worse than usual on the way to work so I was a couple of minutes late in. Thankfully, it was a fairly easy day and I was out on time. I had just over half an hour at home to get changed and have a rest.


I left at 4 and was with Anwar half an hour later. For once it was a decent journey, even with a stop at Sainsbury's for petrol, we were there by 6.40. After parking up, we went in search of food. I'd earmarked two places nearby, Daisy’s Plaice and Aladdin's Pizza. However, contrary to their Google listings, they were both closed. Both got one-star reviews from me before we found another place, Bentley Fish Bar. Here I had Fish, sausage, chips and curry sauce on a £4.40 deal. The price, portion and service were reasonable and the food was OK if not spectacular. We then walked back to the ground, arriving at 7.30 and paying £5 to get in. I then headed to the clubhouse to see what food was on offer there. I had an excellent portion of chips for £1. Though I was pretty stuffed, I wish I'd just headed straight in and not wasted time outside. It's just that club offerings vary greatly, some at this level only do drinks and snacks, but Darlaston were way above average.

Darlaston Town were in excellent form, unbeaten in all competitions since 30th October when they lost 2-0 to leaders Atherstone Town. The run stretched to nine games and in their latest game they had beaten Cradley Town 5-1. In fact, the only side that they'd not beaten was Dudley Town in the JW Hunt Cup and even then, they prevailed on penalties. They sat 4th in the league whilst Paget Rangers were 12th. Paget Rangers were in mixed form. In their latest game, they'd lost 5-1 to Stapenhill and had also lost 4-1 against AFC Bridgnorth in recent times. They'd won 3-1 at Dudley Sports and 3-2 against Chelmsley and had shared 2-2 draws with Dudley Town & Wednesfield. Paget Rangers edged it early on but they couldn't carve out an opportunity of note, though they did have a shot hit the side netting. On 13 minutes, Darlaston took the lead, a low cross was put home by Ben Lund. After 19 minutes, Paget's Ryan Kimberley was sent off for hauling down the last man. The resulting free-kick came to nothing. Darlaston weren't to be denied for much longer though, as, on the half-hour, they doubled their lead. Paget keeper Ben Nitri spilled a fairly simple ball and Andrew Nichol followed up for the hosts. Paget had a couple of half-chances but it remained 2-0 at the break. The visitors had competed well up until this point but they tired with ten men in the second half and the pace of the game slowed down. On 71 minutes, Nichol grabbed his second to make it 3-0. It was the best goal of the night as he used his strength and pace to hold off his markers before a neat low finish from the edge of the area. On 82 minutes, Darlaston nearly had their fourth as the ball bounced down off the bar on the line. A minute later, it was 4-0, another one where the visiting keeper could have commanded his area better with Maxwell Ngbeken having a fairly simple finish from close range.

It had been a decent enough game, though a bit one-sided in the end. Far better was the various people we met, which is one of the best things about groundhopping. There were a group of Darlaston fans that were delighted that we had chosen to visit them and made us feel welcome. There was someone from Wellington Amateurs who used to play for Port Vale, who had many a great story and was very friendly. There was Simon from the groundhopping group that I was on and there was also a carload of Oldham fans, one of whom played for Abbey Hey. All in all, it was nice to spend an evening with like-minded people. They were part of a fantastic 198 attendance and the club deserved every one of the fans. It's just a shame that more teams don't play on odd nights to get more fans in. We left at 9.45, listening to the usual radio show on the way home. I dropped Anwar off at 11.30 and got home myself 25 minutes later. I noticed from the games that other hoppers had been to a cracking game at Baffins Milton Rovers with Fareham Town winning 5-4. Colin had finally opted out of this four days after I'd texted him. It was a real shame as it would have been closer. With such far away options on Friday - the nearest new gound 160 miles away, my next game will be on Saturday as Wycombe Wanderers face Milton Keynes.


The Bently Leisure Pavillion or the Paycare Ground as it is known for sponsorship purchases is a decent ground. The place is very well-kept and the large pavilion building makes for a great backdrop under lights. Being a former works ground, improvements had to be made to bring it up to standard, a couple of Arena stands have been dropped in. These tick the ground grading boxes without much fanfare but overall the ground is better than these. The food and drink on offer at the ground is excellent and freshly cooked, far better than the three options that I saw outside. There's plenty of car parking at the ground and like most grounds, this friendly club makes it well worth the effort to visit.

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