Date: Tuesday December 1st 2009
Ground: Christcurch Meadow
Comp: Unibond Div One South (step 4)
Match: Belper Town 1 Leek Town 1 HT: 1-0 ATT: 167
Stevenson 2: Ashman 90
Additional: Entrance £7, Programme £1.50, Coffee/Tea £0.80
Christchurch Meadow in pictures
Watching Leek Town this season started out idyllic, seeing six wins out of six to start with, including a 5-1 win at home to Brigg and a 1-0 away FA Trophy win over local rivals Kidsgrove. As it inevitably would, things went downhill a bit, with a lot of frustrating home draws mixed with a 5-2 defeat at Carlton. I was still enjoying following a team again, though, despite Leek reaching terminal velocity down the Unibond South table.
Lately however, it has become a bit depressing. If the ordure I witnessed at Cammell Laird was the night out that made you vow never to drink again, then Belper was the following night, finding yourself in the pub again, three pints down. It’s at games like this that you yearn for the plateau of emotions that accompanies groundhopping at neutral games. As it was, Tom and I, to add to the pathos, stood with the other five die-hard (die of pneumonia, more like) Leek fans in the bucketing rain behind the goal.
A small peak in the trough of fandom was the unlikely and extremely undeserved equaliser in injury time by Leon Ashman. And that Belper was a lovely ground and town. These observations become somewhat greyed, though, when your faculties are hijacked by the over-riding Dysthymia of your team’s perfomance.
The confident team who played flowing on-the-ground football in August were nowhere to be seen. Now they had resorted to hoofing the ball up the middle from midfield, to be lost to the opposition. Again and again and again. Monkeys learn faster. This was Tom’s first Leek match for a while, as he’d been working most Tuesdays and Saturdays. He was loving the abject conditions that often stereotype support of small clubs. I could understand this, but his masochistic enjoyment was greater than mine, I feel.
The trip to Belper marked an unintentional completion of all compass points on Tuesday nights, in the last month. Due West to Ellesmere Rangers, due south to Shifnal, due North to Cammell Laird and now due West to Belper. It’s another pleasant run, if not a bit scary in the lashing rain at times, through Ashbourne, into Derbyshire.
Belper is just north of Derby, with a population of just over 20,000. As you come in to the town the skyline is dominated by the massive Strutt’s North Mill, an imposing Arkwright mill. This overlooks the ground, which is just on the right as you come in from the West, right near to the town centre, off the main A6. There is parking inside the ground, but this fills up quickly. You are invited to park in the mill car park on the other side of the road, just a two minute walk from the ground.
Christchurch Meadow is a really nice ground. It has two great backdrops; behind the goal is Christ Church, providing a very pleasant view (better than the football for the most part). On one side is the enormous Arkwright Mill, but it’s not as near to the ground as the Arkwright Mill at Rocester.
Christchurch Meadow has a huge stand by the division’s standards, a 500 seater running most of the way down one side. A very attractive structure with one of those extendable tunnels that pull out from the back, for the players to walk through (see middle of pic) – very Serie A.
On the other side is a covered terrace. Behind one goal is a kind of small stepped terrace (see first picture). The game was fairly bad from a Leek point of view. Yet again a cruel deflection was Leek’s undoing, as early as the second minute. Leek again tried the tactic of hoofing it up front but to no avail for pretty much the rest of the match. In the second half Belper should have had the game sewn up easily. A few sitters, some excellent saves by Steve Hodgson and a bit of luck kept the score to 1-0, although it still looked like an impossibility; an equaliser. However, in injury time, Ward, with his back to goal turned and shot, his shot deflected into the path of Leon Ashman who tapped it in from two two feet.. Delight for the rain sodden half dozen; disbelief at two dropped points for the Belper faithful. (Mind you, they took their frustration out on league leaders Sheffield in their next game – winning 6-2 away)
Belper Town FC were founded in 1883, and are nicknamed the Nailers on account of their past manufacturing of nails.
Christchurch Meadow in pictures