Sunday 27 August 2023

Downham Town - Memorial Playing Field

Downham Town FC
Memorial Playing Field
Lynn Road
Downham Market
PE38 9QE

Ground Number: 1215
Sunday 27th August 2023
Downham Town 5-1 Swaffham Town
FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round


The club was established in 1881 and was originally nicknamed the Saints. They initially played in junior leagues in the King's Lynn area, before joining the Peterborough & District League in 1949, when they gained senior status after being elected to the league's Premier Division. They went on to win the Premier Division five times. After the last of those successes, they became founding members of the Eastern Counties League Division 1. Finishes ranged from 3rd in 1999 and 2022 to 20th in 2006. That was until last season when they were promoted following a 2nd place finish. They'd missed out in the playoffs in 2022, beating Norwich CBS 1-0 before losing 3-1 at Harleston Town in the final. It was a case of second time lucky as earlier this year they overcame Whittlesey Athletic 4-1 and Harwich & Parkeston 4-0 to gain promotion to the Premier Division.

The elevation to step 5 gave Downham the chance to compete in the FA Cup for the first time but they narrowly lost 1-0 at Kirkley & Pakefield. This season sees the club embark on its 35th FA Vase campaign. Their best run came during the 1986/87 season when they beat Diss Town, Bowers United, Eynesbury Rovers and Staveley Works before losing 4-0 at Rocester in the 3rd Round. In terms of local cups, they've won the Norfolk Senior Cup in 1964 and 1966, the Norfolk Primary Cup in 1991, the Peterborough Senior Cup on five occasions as well as the Isle Of Ely Challenge Cup, the Harry Overland Cup, the West Norfolk Cup and the Bill Knott Trophy. Their record attendance of 1,500 came for a 1949 friendly against Norwich City.

The town of Downham Market is situated in Norfolk and has a population of around 10,000. It is approximately 11 miles south of King's Lynn, 39 miles west of Norwich and 30 miles north of Cambridge. It was an agricultural centre, developing as a market for the produce of the Fens with a bridge across the Ouse. During the Middle Ages, it was famed for its butter market and also hosted a notable horse fair. The market is now held on Fridays and Saturdays. Notable buildings in the town include its medieval parish church, dedicated to St Edmund, and the Victorian clock tower, constructed in 1878. The town is also known as the place where Charles I hid after the Battle of Naseby. In 2004 the town completed a regeneration project on the Market Place, moving the market to the town hall car park. The decorative town sign depicts the crown and arrows of St Edmund with horses to show the importance of the horse fairs in the town's history. People with links to Downham Market include former PM Liz Truss and 'King Of Chavs' Michael Carroll a lottery winner vilified by the press after his win in 2002. Both showed equal incompetence when put in charge of large sums of money.


Usually, Sundays are a day from hell for me with the worst of the general public having to be dealt with in large numbers. It was especially galling at this time last year when I saw people checking in at some great grounds on the Welsh Hop. That was what I hoped for when I booked time off for this year's event, almost a year in advance. Sadly, it was not to be as the event was cancelled due to the Welsh FA first arranging a round of the Welsh FA Trophy on this date and then failing to communicate with hop organiser Chris when he tried to seek clarification. There was the brief hope of a Central Midlands Alliance Hop but with the away sides being uncooperative and unwilling to play at anything other than the standard kickoff time. With Chris involved with the league, I hope that when these clubs come calling for favours in the future, the league show them the same consideration that they showed the hop.
Normally, my alternative would have meant a Sunday league game in the morning and a women's game in the afternoon, after careful planning. But thankfully, it was FA Vase weekend so some games would be moved to Sunday. I was even lucky enough to get a new ground. I'd tried to visit Downton in pre-season and was all set to visit. However, the club were kind enough to message me and tell me that it would be played on the back pitch, presumably to save wear and tear on the main pitch. The contact was appreciated for saving a wasted journey and I had a pleasant journey to Mundford instead. The only downer to the day was that the cowboys at Chiltern Railways were not starting trains out of High Wycombe until after 10 on Sunday. A shambles, but par for the course with the worst train operator in the country. Instead, I would have to drive to Amersham and take the underground unless I wanted a very convoluted journey. The only compensation was an excellent value £16.50 fare from Liverpool Street thanks to the Trainline app.

It had been a boozy and unhealthy Saturday after getting back from my game at Pitshanger Dynamo. As a result, I awoke well before my alarm went off at 7.45. This meant I wasn't rushing around like I usually would be, getting dressed and having a porridge pot for breakfast before leaving at 8.20. Everywhere was nice and quiet, just how I like it. I was at Amersham station well in advance of my 8.52 train to Liverpool Street. This too was pretty quiet, though it started to fill up, the closer we got to London. I had half an hour to kill at Liverpool Street and considered Wetherspoons. However, at over £6 a pint and me being limited due to driving later, I decided against it. The train to Cambridge was absolutely packed but it seemed a fairly pleasant crowd. I'd got my ticket on Trainline for £16.50 and although the official change point was Cambridge North, I was able to change at Cambridge. It was a shame not to get a double seat to myself but I guess that's the price you pay with such reasonable prices to a tourist destination. We got to Cambridge at 11.40 where the train emptied. I headed out to the Cambridge Blue, time constraints allowing me only one pub. The Cambridge Blue was a solid choice, set in a residential area. The ale and cider selection was great, as was the range of Belgian bottles. I had a pint of Hecks Port Wine of Glastonbury to start, a pleasant medium cider. Second was a bottle of Timmermans Oude Kriek, a delicious Lambic beer. It was a fabulous place and I will certainly be returning to Cambridge in the future, not least to see Cambridge University Press play. I was back at the station in time for the 13:03 to Downham Market, The Great Northern service was nice and quiet and the USB points worked too. The decor was not as nice as Greater Anglia though. I got to Downham Market just before 1.40 and walked the ten minutes to the Whalebone Wetherspoons. Black Dragon was available but they weren't exactly quick on clearing the tables which didn't bode well for service. However, my pint was with me within a few minutes. I'd ordered steak with a chicken breast, it came in at £14.49 for the lot. However, service was prompt and the steak well cooked, all in all one of the better Spoons out there.

It was 15 minutes walk to the ground, with entry an excellent value £6. Downham were in the top half of the Eastern Counties Premier whilst Swaffham were in a similar position in the league below. Downham took the lead after two minutes and from there the match never looked in doubt. It was some confused defending and an own goal that provided the opener and then on 8 minutes the lead was doubled when a cross from the right was headed home. A free kick caused problems on 15 minutes, the rebound being put away for 3-0. This reflected the pattern of play with Swaffham restricted to chances on the break. The visitors did get a goal back on 58 minutes, a cross from the right headed home. Downham restored their three-goal lead on 83 minutes, a shot drilled into the bottom left. A cross from the right and a finish from point-blank range made it 5-1 not long after that.
It had been a fairly decent game, albeit a bit one-sided I had plenty of time to kill but with few shops near the station. I headed straight for the platform. It was a 20-minute wait for the train which came at 5.39. I was in good company including Anders who had come over from Norway for his usual English trip. A change at Cambridge left me with 15 minutes to kill and with pretty much everything closed. I settled for a meal deal in Sainsbury's. I was back at the platform with a few minutes to spare and although it was packed once more, I was able to get a nice quiet part of the carriage to myself. I had time to get my blog done with the aim to get home somewhere between 9 and 10 p.m.

MEMORIAL PARK is a decent venue for the level. The ground itself is three-sided with part of it closed off for cricket. All of the stands are on one side, three small areas of cover together. There's room for 100 seating and 100 standing. There's a food stall in the ground or a bar and toilets outside it. There's a reasonable-sized car park or further street parking. The ground is 25 minutes from the train station or 15 minutes walk from town.

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