Monday evening saw us visit Sheffield Town FC to watch their Under 21 team take on (and beat) Retford United U21 The final score being 3-1 and it could have been a bigger margin of victory if truth be told had it not been for a great display of goal keeping from the Retford keeper. I didn’t hear the attendance number but there was around 150 people watching and the best atmosphere i have ever experienced at a youth game. It’s been a tough start to the season for the two main Sheffield Clubs with the City's leading club Sheffield United starting the season losing every game in the Premiership so far and the city's second club Sheffield Wednesday propping up the Championship (due in no small part to starting the season on -12 points) So it’s good to see a good news story in the form of Sheffield Town FC. I tip my hat to them.
Today’s game saw us taking in the FA Vase second qualifying round tie between Bourne Town v Loughborough University. Bourne play their football in the United Counties League division one and have collected three wins, two draws and three defeats from their opening eight games and currently sit in eleventh place in the table (out of twenty clubs) There opponents Loughborough University play a league higher in the United Counties Premier division and are currently sixth having won four drawn one and lost two matches so far this season. On paper it looked like a tough game for Bourne and that’s exactly how it turned out.
We picked this game to take in today because the home side are currently managed by former Lincoln City player Nathan Arnold. The 2016/17 season will go down in history as one of the finest seasons in the clubs history. The Imps won the National League that season with Arnold playing a huge role in it. The two moments that really stand out for me are his famous last minute goal that gave the Imps the win over Ipswich Town in the FA Cup 3rd round reply and another last minute goal when he bagged the winner away at Gateshead, a goal which all but gave the Imps the title and broke Tranmere Rovers hearts in the process.
Bourne is a sleepy little place in the south of Lincolnshire with the journey taking a little over an hour from Retford. On the way we discussed England’s comprehensive midweek win over Wales. It was a tough one for Felice to take given he always wanted to sing with the Pontypridd male voice choir and failing miserably. All joking apart i have always wanted to do some non league hopping in Wales; sadly my goons don’t feel the same so it looks like i will have to do a weekend in Wales at some point once all the COIVD bollocks is over. Beer, a new ground or two and kebabs what could be better? Plus i have to admit the Welsh accent is my favorite in the UK. Come get me you Welsh ladies.
We pulled up opposite the ground and a little after 2.30. There were plenty of cars around so it looked like a decent crowd had turned up for the match. The continued ban on fans attending games in the Football League seems to be benefiting non league clubs as we saw a handful of people wearing Peterborough United hats/ coats in on the quick walk up to the ground. Admission was £5 for adults with a raffle tick costing an extra quid. The ground is dominated by a proper old school style stand covering two thirds of the near touchline. Half of this is a covered terrace with the other half consisting of wooden benches. The dugouts are in front of the stands and the clubhouse and toilets below it. As is the way of the world right now there is a one-way system in the clubhouse with drinks served via table service. The rest of the ground is open with hard standing all the way around. All in all it’s a tidy little set up. The cricket ground is behind the near goal that you enter in and the bowls club is behind the touchline opposite the main stand. All in all it’s a nice area but i imagine that it’s annoying for the folks playing bowls when stray footballs get booted out of the ground and onto the Bowls pitch.
About 10 minutes’ before the kick off the heavens opened up so we took cover in the stands. About 5 minutes into the match the rain stopped so we made our way round to stand behind the goal that Loughborough were attacking.
Bourne lined up playing five across the back but sadly it wasn’t enough to stop their much quicker opponents. They had already missed several half chances by the time they took the lead in the 13th minute. The visitors had been causing problems with their pace and they finally made the breakthrough when Tope Fabamunsi was sent through and coolly finished a one on one against the goalkeeper. On 17 it was two nill when Ronan Silva applied the finish after a neat passing move. The hosts were putting in plenty of effort but were really struggling to get a foothold in the game. The visitors could have had a third when Loughbrough cut through again , the shot beat the keeper only for Scott Lock (who was by far the team’s best defender on the pitch) made a last ditch goal line clearance to keep his side just about in the tie. Arnold had selected himself to start the match and you could easily see why as he was head and shoulders above the rest of his players quality wise. The visitors had looked very impressive with number nine Tope Fabamunsi really catching the eye.
Half time called for a gentle walk around the ground and a visit to the tea hut for a hot drink. There looked to be a decent crowd in and i hoped that the home team would raise their game in the second half and give them something to cheer. Alas that didn’t happen.
On 50 minutes Bourne had a great chance to get back into the match when a Cummings cross was narrowly headed wide by Arnold, it was a chance that could have changed the game but a minute later Loughborough sealed the game when they added a third curtsey of a quick breakaway allowing Silva to grab his second of the game. The game now became much more even although the visitors still had the better of the chances. Things got even harder for Bourne when they were forced to play the last twenty minutes of the match with ten men as having made their three allowed subs Josh Spencer suffered an injury and was unable to continue. Given all this it is to their credit that they only conceded one more goal but it has to be said some of this was down to poor finishing from Loughborough The final goal coming in the 82nd minute when Fabamunsi grabbed his second of the game from close range. During the final ten minutes the rain returned and as we were stood on the open side of the ground we got piss wet through like a couple of doughnuts.
At the final whistle we trudged back to the car piss wet through, disappointed at hearing of a 1st league defeat of the season for the Imps but glad that we had ticked off yet another new ground. It was a shame for Nathan Arnold that the result didn’t go his way but looking at their form in the league there is plenty to build on going forward. Good luck to Loughborough in the next round, they were a pleasure to watch and they look like they have decent set up and well drilled team.
Given the conditions i must also give credit to both sets of players for the way they conducted themselves and the referee Amiee Kier who commanded the respect of both sets of players and looked to let play flow whenever she could.