Good drainage in the lower field

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Saturday Dec 29th 2012, KO 15:05 (15:08 actually) at Ampthill Park, South Midlands League Premier Division. DSC00091

Ampthill Town (Yellow/Blue) 1-1 London Colney (RedNBlackStripes/Black), attendance 51.

Admission 6 pounds, programme 1 pound, roll and coffee two pounds thirty.

The morning had been spent checking updates from club websites and from hoppers updating the excellent nonleaguematters forum page for latest news of postponements. By mid morning games had started dropping quicker than premier league players in the penalty area! The weather forecast suggested that the rain, already falling in Berkshire at 11am was not due to reach the Eastern parts of the country until mid afternoon, so I decided a sensible move would be to go North and slightly East. I quickly narrowed my choices down to Winslow Utd/Cranfield Utd and my 1st choice Ampthill Town, which is near the county town of Bedford.

Phone calls to Cranfield and Ampthill confirmed at 12pm both games still on, the Ampthill secretary advised “the pitch drains well usually”, this was all I needed, so Ampthill it was. On the M4 it was wet, raining, not hard, but still a worry, by the time I got on the M1 it was torrential, with wind and spray creating horrid driving conditions.

On arrival, a quick look at the pitch raised my spirits as it did look playable, indeed a few players were warming up. Inside the clubhouse an official told me, “The ref is messing about”, “He will make a decision in twenty/thirty minutes”. At 14:45 we got the thumbs up 🙂 DSC00065

Once I’d settled by the dugouts opposite the stand, I saw what a lovely location Ampthill Park was set in, to the left an attractive cricket ground and pavilion, above that, what looked like a war memorial, and to the right, open fields , which rolled down toward the main road into Ampthill. I had a quick drive up the high street, and could see this was a pretty well to do little town, wikipedia tells me it is one of the most expensive places in Bedfordshire to buy a property, this does not surprise me!

The name ‘Ampthill’ is of Anglo-Saxon origin. The first settlement was called ‘Aemethyll’, which literally means either ‘ant-heap’ or ‘ant infested hill’. In the Domesday Book, Ampthill is referred to as ‘Ammetelle’, with the landholder in 1086 being Nigel de la Vast.
In 1242, King Henry III confirmed the right to hold a market on Thursdays. These continue more than 750 years later.

Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to Ampthill Castle, and it was there that Catherine of Aragon lived from 1531 until divorced in 1533, when she was moved to Kimbolton. The castle was built in the 15C by Sir John Cornwall, later Lord Fanhope, from ransoms after the Battle of Agincourt. Although the Castle is now gone, some intriguing indications of castle life remain such as the local ponds (Westminster pond being one) allegedly built to supply the castle with regular supplies of fish. DSC00081

I’d seen Ampthill win three nil at Biggleswade United earlier in the season and had been impressed with them, I’d also noted they have progressed to the last thirty-two of the FA Vase where they entertain Enfield 1893 at home on Jan 19th. Any other season and they’d look like potential championship winners, but this season Dunstable Town, still without a loss, already look league winners, with others scrapping for a runners-up spot.
Miraculously at 3pm the rain had stopped, and I didn’t see any more until back on the M4 at 6pm.
London Colney were also handily placed in the upper reaches of the table, so was all set fair for a competitive game on a pitch that as the secretary had suggested earlier had indeed drained very well. From kick off Ampthill took the game to LC and created a few chances, before going one nil up after a cross shot from the left was deflected into the goal by Lawless, 1-0.

It took LC about fifteen or twenty minutes to get a foothold into the game, but once they did they were able to exert their own pressure at the cricket field end of the ground, without unduly troubling the Ampthill keeper that is until Fitzgerald struck a lovely twenty yarder from just outside the area into the bottom corner, 1-1, how it stayed until half time.

By the second half the pitch had become a glue pot, and quality football was now more unlikely as the minutes ticked by. Clear cut chances were few, as both defences held firm, it hadn’t been a classic, and wont live long in the memory, but the ground is very easy on the eye, and I was just so pleased to get to a new venue when so many matches bit the dust.

It completed game 50 for season 2012-13, and game 97 for the calendar year. Happy New Year to you, and heres to some good football and cracking new grounds in 2013. 🙂


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