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The Year’s at the Spring

Pippa’s Song

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn,
Morning’s at seven
The hill-side’s dew pearl’d,
The lark’s on the wing,
The snail’s on the thorn,
God’s in his heaven –
All’s right with the world!

Robert Browning (1812-1889)




Thursday 2nd January 2014 Baker-Joiner Midland Football Alliance k.o.:- 7.45pm

Heather St Johns                                                            1
Hayden Johns 72,
Loughborough University                                             1
James Winchester 29,
referee:- Brian Boyle                                                  attendance:- 86


My son, James and I had arranged to visit Newport County on January 1st for their match against Oxford United. From the moment I left home to drive down to Chipping Norton, the rain was incessant and so it continued all day and all night. By the time I got there, Newport County was already off, as was Bristol Rovers and a host of non-league games. James and I settled for Swindon Town and got as far as Highworth – less than ten miles away – before we learned that that match, too had fallen foul of the weather. Intensely frustrated (especially as Reading, another of our possibilities was ON, but it was now too late to get there!), we went into The Saracen’s Head in Highworth and enjoyed a hearty repast – slow roasted shoulder of lamb, (and a couple of good pints of ‘Moonlight’) –  before repairing back to Chipping Norton. First time in a very long time that I have missed a match on New Years Day!


The following day was bright and sunny with blue skies. I joined my group of walkers for a seven mile hike from Ab Kettleby, north of Melton Mowbray and in pretty treacherous conditions we walked down to Saxelbye across very muddy fields, but in good weather and over to Grimston, where the parish church dates back to 1100, and finally to Wartnaby, where this impressive church of St Michael and All the Angels was open to visitors. From there, we returned by the direct route to Ab Kettleby, having found the conditions challenging!

There was a full Midland Football Alliance fixture list planned for the evening of 2nd January (the only non-league to do so), but by mid-afternoon, that had been decimated by the weather and only two matches remained, those at Coleshill  and at Heather St Johns. I chose Heather because  ………………  well, I don’t really know why. I’d visited both grounds previously – Heather St Johns exactly two years previously (Monday 2nd January 2012 MFA Heather St Johns 1 Atherstone Town 3 attendance:- 193). That was the middle game of three that day, the other two being at Godmanchester Rovers, in the morning, and Boldmere St Michaels in the evening. The last time I had been to Coleshill was in 2007 (Saturday 22nd December 2007 FA Vase 3rd Round Coleshill Town 1 Blackstones 2 attendance:- 102). I suppose that Heather was chosen in the end because it was about fifteen miles nearer than Coleshill and my mileage this year has been ruinous!


It was a cold evening. St Johns Park had been improved since my last visit with the addition of a small, seated stand at the top of the nearside of the ground. There was a warm welcome and there were several hoppers there – maybe as many as twenty, all as pleased as I was to find a match that was actually ON!


This was a game that should have been won by the away side. They were the dominant team in the first half, but could only score the once and in the second half, they easily contained a spirited home come back until, in the 72nd minute, Hayden Johns hit a speculative shot from out on the right wing which smote a defender and arched over the goalkeeper and into the top corner of the net! A draw was probably a fair result, but only because the students took their foot off the gas!


A curious fact from the two games that were played in The Midland Football  Alliance this evening was that they both had the same attendance – 86.

Saturday 4th January 2014 FA Cup with Budweiser    k.o.:- 3.00pm

3rd Round

Yeovil Town                                                                4

James Hayter 12, 60,

Joel Grant 49,

Keiffer Moore 90,

Leyton Orient                                                          0

referee:- Oliver Langford                             attendance:- 3,667


The spate of bad weather continued. On Saturday morning, the rain was beating down with a depressing monotony as I drove to Blisworth to meet up with Graeme. We travelled to Chipping Norton where James took over the driving and headed down to Yeovil, a further 131 miles, more in hope than anticipation. The news from The Huish Stadium was pretty positive all the way down. They had put plastic sheeting in place over the pitch and were confident that the match would go ahead! Meanwhile, all the way down the M5, the rain continued to lash down and even on the A37 going down to Yeovil itself, the traffic was very slow as flooded areas of road had to be negotiated very gingerly!


A garden of remembrance outside the ground

We got there, the game was definitely ON, so we bought tickets and repaired to the marquee tent which doubled as a bar, snack bar and TV lounge. Food was available and I sampled not one, but two of the pork ‘baps’ that were very reasonably priced at £2.50. Graeme and I had a pint, but poor old Jim was reduced to bottled water, four days into a ‘dry’ January! It was a far cry from his exploits in Truro last month! He is on a detoxification and fitness regime culminating in a run at Blenheim Palace on Saturday 1st February. Good Luck!


Jim eschewing the beer for January

The ground is somewhat piecemeal, more reminiscent of former Conference times than present Sky-Bet Championship days. It has a capacity of just under 10,000 and yet it looks considerably smaller than, say, Colchester United or Shrewsbury Town, both of whose grounds have a similar capacity. It is, perhaps, that the four stands – one of which has no roof – are built on a much smaller scale and there are plenty of portakabins surrounding the ground which add office space, but which also enhanced the higgledy-piggledy appearance of the stadium and surrounds. One nice touch was the Garden of Remembrance (sponsored of course, by a local undertaker!), which featured a former young player amongst the many crosses sited there.


Graeme piling into the lager!

Everyone was very helpful, team sheets were obtainable, guidance to various parts of the ground was no problem, the only tiny issue occurred when the jobsworth who kept an eye on the section between seated spectators along the side  and standing fans behind the goal, wouldn’t let me through at half time just to take a quick photo of the stand that we were sitting in! Fortunately, an appeal to a higher authority was successful, and I was escorted through to take my photograph!


The pitch was in near-perfect condition, the remains of the white plastic sheeting were in evidence alongside the pitch and we had a great view from our seats in the stand.


This was my first visit to the new stadium, but I had made one previous visit, just before they moved away from The Huish (Easter Monday 16th April 1990 GM Vauxhall Conference Yeovil Town 2 Chorley 1 attendance:- 1,751). On that day, it cost but £3.50 for a seat in the stand (£18.00 for an old man gonna die soon today!) and £0.50 for a programme (£3)!


This was a match between the bottom of The Sky-Bet Championship and the top of Sky-Bet League One. Leyton Orient started off in League One like a train and were runaway leaders for a while. Right now, they are in second place, trailing Brentford by four points with a game in hand! Yeovil are punching above their weight in The Championship and presently occupy the second relegation spot, some four points adrift of safety.


Leyton Orient appeared to have brought a somewhat weakened side. At least four players, including the influential Kevin Lisbie, were missing from the starting line up of the match previous to this one. Yeovil Town, meanwhile, were at full strength.


The game started quietly. There was only a goal in it at half-time. In the second half, however, the home side ran amok, despite using all their substitutes. Indeed, the last substitute to appear for the home side in the 82nd minute, Kieffer Moore, also scored the fourth and final goal on the stroke of full time to send the Glovers faithful happily on their way home.


I wonder how happy they were the following day to find out that their reward for tanking luckless Leyton Orient, was a thankless trip to Premiership side, Southampton! Then, again, that’s almost a local Derby!

Good Luck, Yeovil!


Matches this season – 120, New Grounds – 87

Matches this year – 2   New Grounds – 1

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