Saturday 19 August 2023

Mulbarton Wanderers - Mulberry Park

Mulbarton Wanderers FC
The Common
NR14 8AE

07545 470130

Ground Number: 1211
Saturday 19th August 2023
Mulbarton Wanderers 1-5 Bedford Town
FA Cup Preliminary Round


The club is a fairly modern one, having been formed in 1993. They were originally the youth team of Mulbarton United, a now-defunct Anglian Combination side but broke away to form a new club. They established themselves in the Central and South Norfolk League, progressing from Division 4 to Division 1 between 2001 & 2008. Progression to the Anglian Combination followed in 2009 with them finishing as Divison 6 runners-up behind Thetford  Athletic in their debut season. 2011 saw them win Division 5 before they lifted the Division 4 title the following year. They were Divison 3 runners-up behind UEA in 2013 and were second to Scole United in the 2014 Division 1 table. They then won Division 1 in 2015 for their seventh successive promotion. Mulbarton Wanderers spent three seasons in the Premier Division until 2018 when they finished as runners-up behind Harleston Town. Three seasons were spent in the Eastern Counties Division 1 as they finished 3rd in their debut season before results across the two abandoned seasons were good enough to earn a promotion. Since 2021, they've been in the Eastern Counties Premier Division, their best finish was 4th in their debut season.

This season will be the club's 4th in the FA Cup. Their best progress came in 2021 when they beat Lakenheath and Hadleigh United before taking Welwyn Garden City to a 1st Qualifying Round replay, losing 2-1 in Hertfordshire after a 2-2 draw on home soil. During the 2020/21 season, the club enjoyed an excellent run in the FA Vase. They beat Peterborough Northern Star, Great Yarmouth Town, Newport Pagnell Town, Cogenhoe United and Ampthill Town prior to losing on penalties to Hanworth Villa in the 5th Round. Local cup honours include the Norfolk Senior Cup in 2022, the Mummery Cup in 2017 and the Cyril Ballyn Cup in 2013. Womens and juniors team were introduced to the club in 2001 when they merged with Harford Belles.

The village of Mulbarton has a population of around 3,500 and is located around six miles south of Norwich. The place name 'Mulbarton' is first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as Molkebertuna and Molkebertestuna. The name means "outlying dairy farm", the first element is the Old English 'meoluc' meaning 'milk', and the second element is the Old English 'beretun' meaning 'barley town or settlement', hence 'farm'. Maurice Norman, the 1950s former Norwich City, Tottenham Hotspur and England footballer, was born in Mulbarton.


This game was decided upon last Saturday. I had given up my Wycombe Wanderers season ticket as the home games did not line up with the time off that I'd had to book at work, long before the fixtures came out. As a result, taking into account potential fixture changes for TV and other things, the usually great value season ticket was only marginally worth getting. I'd have to drop a few more fixtures to make sure I got the best value and as I wanted to do more games in the FA Cup, this was the ideal opportunity. The list of games presented me with around 20 options. A lot were out of the question due to distance and train costs. The easiest would have been Eastbourne United, although that game was not inspiring me. Two of the more interesting ties were out Norwich way. Both Fakenham Town v AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Mulbarton Wanderers v Bedford Town pitted step 5 against step 4. Either of those would be great for me, just as long as I could secure travel to Norwich.

National Express was my first port of call, but I couldn't find anything suitable. I checked the train on the off chance and happily, there were still suitable advance tickets on sale. I opted to play it safe and allow plenty of time in Norwich. This would mean driving to Amersham rather than walking to Wycombe again but it would have been a really early start and late homecoming. I secured travel from Liverpool Street to Norwich for £12.50 each way, working out at just over 11p a mile. The fare from Liverpool Street to Amersham worked out at 16p a mile. Not quite the 5.25p a mile deal that I got on the National Express to Leeds, but still cheaper and more enjoyable than driving. In the end, I opted for the easier option, Mulbarton Wanderers v Bedford Town was closer, giving me more leeway if buses didn't turn up. I secured a ticket for £8 plus a 67p booking fee to save any hassle on the day.  There was not much in Mulbraton, but I was spoilt for choice pub-wise in Norwich. This would probably be one day when I'd be avoiding Wetherspoons.
It had been a decent week leading up to the game. For the first time in six months, and indeed since Matt Bloomfield took over, I enjoyed a Wycombe Wanderers game. This came on Tuesday as we beat Leyton Orient 3-2 in a hectic and enjoyable game. The performance was far from perfect, but it was great to watch. Best of all, I was able to get a freebie ticket owing to someone being on holiday. It was the usual boozy matchday and I had a couple of drinks to toast the win too. Wednesday was a nice day at work, only six hours and times have been a lot happier there after a rocky period. I cheered myself up even more by booking a weekend in Newcastle for my time off work. I should get a cracking deal with Colin coming and sharing a twin room too. Thursday and Friday were less enjoyable as some of the public got further away from their weekly bath and the place started to hum a bit. It was also very busy but the week should have ended on a decent note with a revisit to Cobham for Epsom & Ewell v Met Police in the FA Cup. However, it was not to be. The game was a dull 0-0 and I got soaked due to excessive rain. 

The day of the game came and I'd not had a great night's sleep when my 06.30 alarm went. It took me a few minutes to get going but after getting washed and dressed and having breakfast, I left at 6.55. A can of energy drink woke me up before I drove to the station and got the 07.22 train to Liverpool Street. I was there 35 minutes before my train, killing time by using the facilities. I was then on my train 15 minutes before departure where I had to change at Chelmsford. It was nearly half an hour's wait at Chelmsford before I got on the 10.02 to Norwich which was far busier and noisier than the last train. However, it calmed down and was slightly more pleasant after a crowd got off at Manningtree. We got to Norwich at 11.20 and overall, Greater Anglia are one of the better train companies out there. It was around a mile to my first port of call, I was peckish and had time to kill. So I stopped at Tesco for a meal deal, getting Hoi Sin Duck wrap, a can of energy drink and some crisps for later. Norwich was pleasant, not too busy, especially in the pedestrianised area made famous by Alan Partridge. Sadly, I saw no mention of the great man on my walk.


I was there a few minutes before the White Lion opened. The White Lion was a lovely little local pub and winner of the East Anglia Cider Pub of the year 2023. It did not disappoint and I had a pint of East Norfolk Haymaker which was great. The rest of the Cider was either retries or sweet so I headed off. Next stop, ten minutes walk away, was the Belgian Monk. There I got to indulge my second passion drink-wise after cider, with a half of Ter Dolen Kriek. This was pleasant and a contrast to my first pint. Third and last, at least pre match was The Vine. There I had a retry of Burnards Oaky Dokey and Penang Prawn Curry. Both were excellent and it was six minutes walk to the bus stop. Highly unreliable, 15 minutes late which meant 20 minutes wait. But at £2 and proper planning seeing me arrive in good time, I couldn't grumble too much. It was all nice and easy at the ground with regards to getting in and I took a place on the far side.
Mulbarton Wanderers had got this far by beating Sheringham 2-1 in the previous round. In the league, they had four contrasting results. On opening day was a narrow 1-0 home defeat to Thetford Town and they had also been thumped 6-1 at Newmarket Town. In more positive news, they had won 4-2 at Walsham Le Willows and hammered Harleston Town 5-0 in their most recent game. Bedford Town had recently been relegated to the Southern League D1 Central. They'd made a good start to their lower level, sitting 2nd. In terms of results, they had beaten Kidlington 5-1 and Barton Rovers 2-0, both at home. The visitors led in the opening minute, a cross headed home very easily by Ryan Blake in the Bedford change strip of yellow. It looked as if it could be a hammering when they came close ten minutes later but Mulbarton went on to have a good spell, albeit without troubling the visiting keeper. The first half saw a continuation of this, both sides keen but without the cutting edge to see things through. Mulbarton took the game to Bedford in the second half, Ben Thompson scrambling home an equaliser on 54 minutes which was fully deserved. Two minutes later, a foul by Eliot Altay presented Ryan Blake with a penalty which was put away to restore the visitors lead. Bedford then had a good spell with Mulbarton under pressure and unable to break out. The game looked to have been made safe on 69 minutes, a drive home from the edge of the area by Adam Watkins. Mulbarton gave it their all but to no avail. Archie McClelland made sure of the game on 80 minutes, swivelling on the turn to find the top right corner with a superlative strike. On 86 minutes, a ball from the right found Kyle Connolly who curled into the bottom left corner to make it 5-1 on 86 minutes.

Bedford Town deserved their win, the quality of their side shining through. I'd had a Tango and Pringles at the game to keep me going and help the club out but was hoping for another pint at least in Norwich. The inconsistent bus service worked out in my favour as I was able to catch the 16.50 five minutes late with no wait at all. Brilliant service from the driver who picked me up from a random spot. Wycombe drew 0-0 at home to Burton, disappointing but at least I'd opted out of it. Our owner made us feel like customers and I'd acted as one and enjoyed a nice day. I made my way to the edge of the centre for the Freemasons Arms but they only had fruity and sweet stuff. The Murderers was a similar story so I headed to the Bell Hotel, a Wetherspoons. This was not in the plan but with me being peckish and being able to preview the menu, I went for the chicken strips basket with a pint of Black Dragon. £10.66 was nice value and it was a nice place to sit and while away 45 minutes. I was at the station well in advance of my train where I was able to complete this blog.


MULBERRY PARK is a smart village setrup and very well kept. The only cover is a seated stand, holding around 100. The rest of the ground is open flat standing. There is a basic tea bar in the ground and a further social club outside. It is around half a mile from Mulbarton centre. Bus 37 passes through half hourly, otherwise, there is a club car park with additional street parking.

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