Needham Market 0 Kirkham & Wesham 1
My run of seeing a game in every round of this competition came to an end over the Easter weekend. The offer of seeing 8 games in 2 days at the CML hop was too big a temptation to turn down. Fortunately, the semi final between Needham Market & Kirkham and Wesham was nicely set up with Kirkham holding a slender one goal advantage. So I prepared for my trip by calling up the National rail website and yes, you’ve guessed it, REPLACEMENT BUS SERVICE. They must be my most hated three words in the English language. This time, the maintenance was from Bury St Edmunds, so I’d have to complete my journey on said bus. The journey to Bury was uneventful, I stepped off the train, took a deep breath and headed for the queue of busses. Surprisingly, I was pointed in the right direction, the bus left on time and away we went touring a couple of delightful Suffolk villages. Delightful that is, until a bunch of rowdy, teenage Ipswich fans got on at Thurston. About a dozen of them got on board, the first words I heard were “Let’s burn it up at the back”. My heart sank! To be fair, once they’d settled down they weren’t too bad, but there’s always one with an annoying, monotone, loud voice who usually has bleached hair. The driver actually threatened to throw this individual off the bus when we reached Needham, probably as he was sick of listening to his voice & inane comments. I do like a spot of irony and that moment came when on a replacement bus service, we had to stop at a level crossing to let the slow moving, freight train pass by on the very line that I was not allowed to travel on. Never mind, I reached Needham in plenty of time & was happy to find a chippy almost immediately which had a couple of tables for those wanting to eat inside. My pie & chips were superb and piping hot, although not quite up to the standard of the one I visited twice in Crowborough. I ate my lunch to the sound of Kirkham fans singing away in the pub next door, all bode well for a good atmosphere at the game. A couple of older Kirkham fans came into the chippy with their wives, I felt their pain when the owner informed them that he didn’t serve gravy. The look of utter shock & bemusement on the Kirkham fans face was a picture- After all, Northern boys love gravy! It’s a simple 10 minute walk to the ground along very residential, but quite attractive streets. I was delighted to see that admission would only cost £6 and that under 12’s would be allowed in free. Where else do you get value like that for the semi final of a National competition? The ground is quite high up and a little exposed although the line of fir trees on one side of the ground gave a little relief from the wind. There is a reasonable sized stand and a couple of other covered standing area. The pitch was perfectly playable but rather sticky following a deluge of rain the day before. I never got to see a clubhouse, but other facilities at the ground were more basic than a lot of Ridgeon’s grounds. A crowd of 1270 watched the game, Kirkham fans by far the more vocal.
Any semi final always holds the interest, but this never quite got going as a contest. Both sides defended well although chances were few and far between. Kirkham always tried to play a neat passing game and should have scored in the middle of the first half when Patterson was clean through, but his shot went straight at the keeper. The second half was much of the same, Needham unable to carve open any clear cut openings. They did have one shot headed off the line and saw the giant Kirkham keeper make one fine save, but Kirkham were always more likely to score on the break as Needham pushed forward. Right on 90 mins, Kirkham secured the tie to win 4~2 on aggregate. They broke clear on the left and as the Needham keeper closed down the angle, the ball was squared for Walwyn to tap in the easiest of finishes. Kirkham on the day, were deserved winners.
Coming home, we had a 45 minute wait for the replacement bus service that we eventually caught from the main street. Nice of Network rail to provide signs telling us that the busses would be there. One poor guy had been waiting by the station for nearly 2 hours. Still, nice to meet up with fellow ground hoppers and discuss our hobby.
Needless to say, the same bleech haired Ipswich fan was on the bus going back towards Bury. I took my seat and switched on my I-Pod!