Friar Lane & Epworth 1 Stourbridge 5
Replacement bus services and trawls through London finally wore me down and I decided to head North to Leicster. I woke up to an extremely hard frost and fog! Surely not another Newbury? The journey to Leicester was extremely easy with everything leaving on time. Conditions had become bright and sunny until about 10 mins outside Leicester when the fog returned. To say you couldn't see your hand in front of your face would be ridiculous as I was on a train, but outside, you could barely make out anything. I was seriously concerned until on approaching the city centre, it lifted again with visibility in the town centre, perfectly clear. I had e-mailed the club in advance asking for directions from the train station. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a response and the directions were spot on, thanks guys! The walk takes you through the University of Leicester campus with students at every turn. One student was on my train and I'd watched her tuck into a lunch of sushi, crisps and a rather attractive looking packaged salad. I thought they were supposed to be hard up! Her lunch put my slightly stale Double decker firmly in its place. Around the university, you walk down Tiger way which leads to Tiger stadium, home of the Leicester Tigers. Nice looking stadium with the next game at the end of the month already sold out. Made me think how much egg chasing had changed in the last decade. I used to occasionally watch Wembley FC, who were based next to Wasps old ground. Wasps ground was probably the equivelant of a current Ryman premier ground. Many people knocked professional rugby when it came in, but the revenue received, has certainly made the facilities a lot more attractive. Once I was happy that I was on the right road, I detoured to find some lunch and found a chip shop that provided me with an excellent sausage and chips. I ate it in a recreation ground called 'Nelson Mandela Park'. This made me feel like an extra from 'Only fools and horses.' I was intrigued by a castle like building next to the park which on closer observation, turned out to be a prison. Kind of ironic that Nelson Mandela park displaying a large board with the tag-lines 'A short walk to freedom' & 'There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere' should be right next to the local slammer. The walk to the ground from the station is probably just over 2 miles, leave yourself 45 mins for a gentle walk and you'll be fine. The roads you walk along are very busy though. On finding the ground, you walk across a little bridge just past the bar. On looking up, my first impression was that this was the worst pitch I'd ever seen. On closer examination, I realised that I was looking at a training pitch. On walking past this, you reach the entrance which was reasonably priced at £4 including a programme. The programme was OK, but there was no thoughts or information about the game and no details of the visiting team. The ground runs parallel to the railway line and one of the sides is overlooked by a railway embankment. There is one small stand that sits about 30 and hard standing around a quarter of the pitch. The changing rooms are right at the back of this stand, this means that the players are extremely close to the spectators and you can hear every word of the managers team talks. The Friar Lane boss was explainiing before the game that the performance was more important than the result, this gave me hope for a great game. I was not disappointed, this match was hugely entertaining from the first kick to the last with fast, skillful attacking play. Stourbridge probably just edged it by 5~1 flattered them hugely. stourbridge flew out the blocks and it was no surprise when they scored on 10 mins. Rogers broke down the left in acres of space, his cross/shot caught a deflection leaving the keeper helpless as it flew in at the near post. Friar Lane then started to play although Stourbridge were still looking dangerous. The second goal again came from Rogers on 30 mins, almost a carbon copy of the first except that the shot went straight in without a deflection. the rather cramped tea hut provided me with hot chocolate at half time as the temperature plumetted, bottles of beer were also on sale and were clearly popular as the singing and chanting started just after time, actually, this was a fair sized crowd and there was a good atmosphere. Friar Lane scored on 48 mins when the keeper never got hold of a punch and it was hooked into an empty net from 22 yards. Stourbridge knocked the stuffing out of a resurgent Friar Lane 4 mins later when a midfielder timed his run to perfection, collected a pass and easily rounded the keeper to restore the 2 goal lead. Friar Lane played some delightful stuff but were finished off on 73 mins when a poor headed clearance was chipped back to the far post to a striker who headed home from point blank range. As the mist started to envelop the railway embankment, the final goal came in stoppage time. A throw in near the corer flag fell at the feet of a striker who easily turned his marker and slotted home again at the near post. This was the last kick of a really entertaing match. Nice to tick off my first ground from the Leicestershire senior league and extremely accessible by public transport.