Non League Day

AFC Bridgnorth vs Dudley Town, West Midlands Regional League Premier Division, 10/10/15, Crown Meadow, Match 13

I think if there is one thing that I need to stop doing on this blog, it is advertising my plans for the next week. I mean, most weeks I’ll say that I’m going one place, and then I’ll end up somewhere completely different, on last week’s blog I said that I would be going to watch Rhyl vs Carmarthen in the Welsh Premier League, but I instead ended up watching AFC Bridgnorth and Dudley Town. On Thursday, I decided to contact my dad to see if they would be in Shropshire at the weekend, and luckily for myself, my dad confirmed that my parents had plans to go and watch Shrewsbury Town play Colchester. Now my dad didn’t need a lot of convincing to change his plans, and instead meet my wife and I in Bridgnorth, as it would give my parents a chance to see their grandkids. However, this was all on one condition, that we did not let my mum know.

It took around an hour and a half to drive from Wrexham to Bridgnorth, and we parked up on the parking at Severn Street, as I had made the decision to use the Cliff Railway to get up to High Town. Bridgnorth is a place that I spent a lot of my childhood, as my grandparents lived in the town, up until they passed away, and now they are buried in the cemetery. So walking through Bridgnorth felt like, almost, being back at home. On the way up in the Cliff Railway, we had the carriage to ourselves, and my daughter enjoyed the journey, as she pressed her face against the glass to get a better view. Once we arrived in High Town, we wandered towards the Town Hall, where I spotted my parents. My mum’s face was a picture, as she asked why we were there, and then I revealed that she wouldn’t be watching Shrewsbury Town, but instead she would be going to watch AFC Bridgnorth, in celebration of Non-League Day.

After a wander around town, we headed down to Innage Lane, on which Crown Meadow stands. At the turnstile we paid £4 per adult, and received a free programme. My dad and I had to lift my son’s pram over the turnstile, as there wasn’t a more accessible entrance open, but that’s to be the only complaint that I have.

Once we’d gotten through the turnstiles, my wife, parents and kids went to the bar, whilst I took a walk around the ground to take some pictures of the ground itself. The first noticeable thing about Crown Meadow is the slope. The pitch slopes at a gentle angle, but enough of an angle for it to be an advantage for the team kicking down slope. I walked towards the seated stand, and headed around the ground. There were a number of benches dotted around the ground, I’m guessing that they were where supporters of the club had liked to stand, and had decided to leave a bench as a memorial to where they once stood. I headed back round to the bar, and sat and passed the time before the game with a pint of Carling. As I drank my Carling I noticed that someone had gotten team-sheet, and I asked them if I could take a picture of it, which they very kindly agreed to.

AFC Bridgnorth are the phoenix club of Bridgnorth Town FC. AFC Bridgnorth were formed in 2013, as the old club dissolved due to financial troubles. Bridgnorth Town were formed in 1949, following the end of the Second World War. There had been a prior team, also known as Bridgnorth Town who formed in 1938, but suspended their footballing activities due to the Second World War, around this time St Leonards (Bridgnorth) Football Club also suspended their footballing activities, and after the war most St Leonards’ former players decided to play for Bridgnorth Boys Club, who had continued to play football during the war years. St Leonards decided to disband their team, and instead join forces with Bridgnorth Boys Club, who then became known as Bridgnorth Town in 1949. Bridgnorth Town for most of their history, played in the lower leagues of the English Football Pyramid, and in 2013 disbanded, and were replaced by AFC Bridgnorth. AFC Bridgnorth currently employ former Wolverhampton Wanderers player, Mark Clyde as their manager, and find themselves sat in 4th position in the league.

Dudley Town, were formed in 1888, but lay dormant for a number of years after the First World War, and were re-formed in 1928. During the early 30’s the club dominated the Worcestershire Combination but found themselves under huge financial pressure and folded shortly before the Second World War, they were resurrected after the Second World War ended and have spent the majority of their history in the lower leagues in the football pyramid. In 1976-1977 season they reached the First Round proper of the FA Cup, where they were beaten 4-1 in a replay by York City. Currently they employ the management duo of Nigel Kirkham and Andrew Allardice. Dudley Town currently sit 8th in the league.

For the first half Bridgnorth found themselves kicking down the slope, much to the pleasure of one of the Dudley coaches, who I spoke to whilst at the refreshment hut. He’d instructed his players that he wanted them kicking uphill in the first, as he expected tired Bridgnorth legs to allow his side to take full advantage of the slope in the second half. Whilst at the refreshment hut, I bought a can of Coke, a can of Diet Coke and a portion of chips, with the total coming to £3.50. By the time I walked back around to where my family were sat, a lady had come round with raffle tickets, and I found myself parting with another £1, for the chance to win a bottle of wine.

For the first half, we decided to sit on a bench placed directly halfway between the home and away dugouts, as it gave my daughter space to run around. What surprised me, was the gardens which backed onto the ground, as they had a perfect view of the ground, without having to pay the admission.

In the 22nd minute, Bridgnorth were forced to make an early change, as they bought on their number 14, Ashley Staines, on to replace number 6, Andy Hartlebury. Hartlebury had gone down with what looked to be a back injury, and despite his best efforts to play through the pain, he had to be replaced.

It might have been due to the fact that they were kicking down the slope, but AFC Bridgnorth looked the more likely to make something happen, and they did have a number of chances in the first half, which ultimately led to nothing. In my opinion, if Bridgnorth had taken their chances they could have been at least 2-0 up in the first 35 minutes.

Half Time: AFC Bridgnorth 0-0 Dudley Town.

AFC Bridgnorth found themselves unlucky to go in still level in this game, as they had been the better of the two sides in the second half, but how much of that being down to the fact they were kicking downhill, would be seen in the second half, as they would find themselves kicking uphill, with Dudley Town having the advantage of the slope for the second half.

At half time, Bridgnorth made a second sub, with their number 15, Liam Armstrong, coming on for their number 9, Ryan Bradshaw.

In the 53rd minute, there was a clash of heads between the Bridgnorth number 5, Jack Wilson, and the Dudley Town number 9, Christian Ekemalor. Ekemalor came out of the clash of heads the better off of the two, which was lucky for the Dudley coaching staff, as Ekemalor had easily been Dudley’s best player in the first half. Wilson on the other hand, had to be replaced, with Bridgnorth making their third and final sub in the 55th minute, with Lewis Ayres coming on.

I’d begun to notice how polite both benches were being towards the match officials, as both sides politely asked the linesman to signal to the referee for subs, with both benches saying please and thank you to the officials, which isn’t something I am used to at football. I did wonder whether both sides were on their best behavior due to my children being by the dugout, as both sides used very little swear words. Now as a parent, I understand that if I take my children to a football match, they are going to hear swear words, and it is my job as a parent to make sure that whilst they may hear swear words at football, it is at the football where those swear words will remain. I’ve got to say at this point that I was very impressed by the AFC Bridgnorth and Dudley Town players and coaches, and they should be very proud of themselves.

Dudley made their first change in the 62nd minute, as they bought on their number 12, Shaun Devenport for their number 7, Connor Wilkinson. Wilkinson had played well in the first half, and had been unlucky not to create a couple more chances.

In the 64th minute, Bridgnorth won a free kick on the edge of the Dudley area, which the Bridgnorth number 2, Kevin Buxton, took, but his free-kick was easily cleared by the Dudley defence, and the danger passed.

Bridgnorth finally got the goal that their play deserved in the 68th minute. Bridgnorth won a corner on the left hand side, and the ball was whipped into the box, where the number 3, Simon Gregory, headed the ball home, to put them into the lead.

The second Dudley substitution came in the 69th minute, as the Dudley number 15, Leon Naylor, came on to replace the Dudley number 3, Grant Joshua. Dudley had a great chance for an equaliser after the sub, as they won a free kick on the left hand side of the Bridgnorth area, the ball was whipped in by Dudley’s number 11, Rion Francis Mills, but the Bridgnorth defence scrambled the ball, and the danger away.

The game was going through an entertaining period, as both sides created a number of chances, with Bridgnorth looking to extend their lead, and Dudley looking to get back into the game. B

Bridgnorth won a corner, on the 70th minute, which Kevin Buxton took, and after a short pass, the ball was crossed in to the box, where it was cleared behind the goal by a Dudley head, and Bridgnorth won another corner, this time the ball went into the box straight away, where the Bridgnorth number 10, Liam Bood heading the ball goalwards, the ball was cleared.

Dudley made their third and final change in the 74th minute, as the Dudley number 17, Matt Weyman, came on to replace the Dudley number 8, Adam Wright.

As the game progressed, it became more and more apparent that this was a game which was being played in the right spirit by two good teams. Both sides were looking to attack, whilst remaining sensible at the back, and neither side once whined or moaned at the ref, or his officials.

With the game edging closer to the final whistle, Dudley won a free kick on the right hand side. The Dudley keeper, James Scarratt, was waved forward, and he was lucky not to concede a second goal, as the free kick was cleared, Bridgnorth were unlucky not to be able to get a clear shot on goal, and the keeper got back.

Final Score: AFC Bridgnorth 1-0 Dudley Town (Gregory 68)

Once the final whistle blew, I walked round the ground to the exit, and nipped into the clubhouse to use the toilet. Because I had parked in Low Town, my dad offered to give me a lift to my car, so that I could collect my wife and kids from Sainsburys, to save them from having to traipse halfway across town.

Now at this point I need to apologise to my parents, as it had been my idea to go and watch AFC Bridgnorth, when my parents had initially planned to see Shrewsbury Town play. At half time I checked the score, and found that Shrewsbury were trailing by two goals. With that on my mind I checked the scores after the final whistle, and found that Shrewsbury had pulled the game back, to win 4-2. So, even though we did see a good game of football at AFC Bridgnorth, I do feel slightly guilty that my parents missed what sounds to have been a good game at Shrewsbury. Oh well there’s always the Channel 5 highlights. Once I had collected my car, and picked up my passengers, we headed back to Wrexham.

The two sides had played a good game of football, and as I have said earlier, the game was played in a good spirit, and whilst Bridgnorth deserved the win, I believe that Dudley Town maybe should have gotten the draw. Both sets of coaching staff, were impeccably behaved, and are a credit to their clubs. The officials were also good throughout the game, which I feel is reflected in the fact that I haven’t mentioned them much through this report.

Attendance: ??? (Not sure, will update this if I find out)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 2

Next week’s plan: Lancaster City vs Ossett Town, Evo Stik First Division North

Thanks for reading.

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