Calor Gas Southern League D1 South & West Division.
At ‘The Spiers and Hartwell Jubilee Stadium’.
Evesham United (Red’N’White Stripes/White) 2-6 Wimborne Town (Yellow/Navy Blue), Att 183.
Admission £9, programme £2, jumbo hot dog £2.50, coffee £1.
For my last game of 2013 I made the 86 mile journey west and north-west to the new home of Evesham United to re-complete again the South & West Division of the Calor Gas League (The Southern League to us old timers). My enthusiasm for the ground was low, having heard and read of a similar design to the new (ish) home of Thame United. Actually I was pleasantly surprised. Yes like Thame, the main stand has been frustratingly built far too many yards from the edge of the pitch, and the cover behind one of the goals could have been enhanced by a few steps of terracing, but it is the wrap around of the local hills that gives some character and a pleasing outlook and ambience, and why I’d left this one for daylight.
By chance I had been at Evesham’s last ever league game at the old ground at Crown Meadow in 2006. The long running dispute over who pays for the new access road (from the main ‘a’ road roundabout, which runs alongside the new ground) had rumbled on, seemingly for ever, before the Robins could take full ownership of the jubilee stadium, which they opened in the Summer of 2012. Arriving after a hassle free drive, and parking my bum at a table in the clubhouse, I felt a warm feeling for the club when an official came round handing out team sheets, a nice touch, one which I wish more clubs would think about.
What ensued was a very eventful match, which turned on one major decision a minute or two before the half time break. There was no indication of a goal fest as early end to end exchanges did not result in clear-cut chances until the 5th minute when Lance Smith put the Robins ahead deftly turning in a left-wing cross. The game remained pretty even until after 29 minutes another cross from the left fell to the head of Griffin who looped a well placed header over the keeper into the far corner to level it up at one each. And a few minutes before the break debut making Robins keeper Louie Barnfather got in a mix up with a defender, crucially hesitated and had the ball taken from him by Magpies striker Mark Gamble who rolled the ball into an empty net, 1-2. Just a minute later Gamble followed a ball into the box and was, according to the referee taken out by the keeper Barnfather, penalty, and a red for Barnfather, a debut to forget! From my position on the other side of the penalty area it was impossible to see if the decision had been correct. But, as you would expect, the Evesham fans did not believe it was. The ref left the pitch at HT to dogs abuse after Gamble converted the penalty with Evesham keeper coach Gary Baines taking over in goal, 1-3 ht.
I hadn’t expected an early second half goal from Evesham, but only a few minutes after the break, a very tidy finish indeed from that man, the impressive Lance Smith again, gave fresh hope for the 10 men, 2-3. For a while it looked like Evesham may get back in the game, but on a sticky pitch the extra pair of legs started to tell, and two great strikes from George Webb, and another goal, and hat trick from man of the match Mark Gamble, gave a slightly flattering scoreline of 2-6. The last third of the game however was spent admiring the heroics of stand in coach/keeper Gaines who made a string of great reaction saves, and left most of the crowd around me in the main stand wondering why he had not started the game rather than the unfortunate Barnfather.
To finish 2013 wth eight goals was an unexpected bonus, as was the warm welcome from the car park to the clubhouse. A friendly club who will hopefully flourish at their long awaited new out of town venue.