What I was really here for was Stamford Lions v Peterborough Polonia, the opening game of the Peterborough and District Premier League season and the first game on the United Counties League & Peterborough District Football Groundhop 2019.
Lions play their games at the Borderville Sports Centre on the Northern reaches of Stamford. The pitch is directly behind Stamford AFC's Vic Couzens Stadium which, it has to be said, looked in perfect condition for the start of their season in a couple of weeks time.
Lion's ground doesn't have the stands and plush dugouts that The Daniels can offer. However, they do have grass banks behind both goals which make for great viewing spots, adding a great grassroots feel to the place. They also have a couple of gazebos set up for dugouts. I've never seen this before but I think it could catch on at this level. There are constantly reports of vandalism to small grounds and the dugouts quite often bear the brunt. With a gazebo, you can just take it down and lock it away after the game. Great idea.
Last season saw Lions finish in a creditable fourth spot. Polonia, in their first season of Premier League football, were stranded at the foot of the table. The sides met three times in total, twice in the league with Stamford winning 6-0 at home and 2-1 away. In the Peterborough Senior Cup meeting, also played at Polonia's Candy Street home, Stamford again came out on top, this time by 5-0.
Looking at the player lists from last season's meetings compared with the team sheet from today, it was clear that Polonia had made some major squad changes over the short break since the season ended and, if I'm not mistaken, have had something of a Lithuanian take over (at least based on the squad list). Of course, the North-Eastern corner of Poland shares a border with Lithuania and, in days gone by, that border has been somewhat fluid I believe. My father-in-law was born in that part of Poland, which is why the possible connection piqued my interest. I'd love to know more about the history of the team and the possible Lithuanian connection. Maybe I'll have to take in a home game at some point?
Thankfully for the players, the stifling heat of the previous few days had dropped a little by the time we got to kick-off. It was Lions, kicking up the slight incline, who started he stronger giving Kavaliauskas, resplendent in what looked like a Dutch national shirt, plenty to think about in the Polonia goal.
Several efforts had fizzed either at the Polonia keeper or narrowly wide of his goal before, on 19 minutes Stamford broke the deadlock.
Some superb work from Showler on the right flank, twisting his defender inside out before sliding the ball into the path of Duffy-Weekes for the simplest of tap-ins. 1-0.
That should have been the signal for the floodgates to open but Stamford just couldn't turn their dominance into any more goals.
Credit to Polonia. They were being pinned back for the majority of the game but never resorted to just hammering the ball downfield. At every opportunity they tried to get the ball down and play out from the back. You had to admire the way they stuck to their principles of play.
HT Stamford Lions 1 Peterborough Polonia 0. Lions have had the share that their name indicates. However, they've not made the most of their dominance in terms of goals and, at 1-0, Polonia are still in this game even though they have rarely threatened their opponents goal.
As we approached the hour mark, Stamford had a couple of gilt-edged opportunities that went begging and you started to wonder if they woudl live to regret their profligacy. Sure enough, as if on cue, a rare Polonia raid led to the away side being awarded a penalty after Pentney fouled Puzara. Lukas Bielskis calmly sent Swales the wrong way and it was suddenly 1-1.
The goal gave Polonia belief and for a few minutes after the equaliser it looked as if they might go on to snatch an unlikely there points. However, Stamford regained their composure and started to press for a winner. Their cause was helped on 85 minutes when Vladicka was sent off for a second yellow card offence. However, Lions could not take advantage of the extra man and Polonia saw out the final few minutes to take a share of the spoils.
FT Stamford Lions 1 Peterborough Polonia 1. The away side would, undoubtedly, be the happier. Stamford should really have seen this game off in the first half alone. Still, it's goals that count and they just couldn't add to their tally.
It was great to be back out watching competitive football. Thanks to Stamford Lions for being great hosts - good burgers and decent tea. Good luck to both sides for the rest of the season. Let's hope that the crowds continue to flock to the rest of the ground hop (see below for a list of games).
Stamford Lions: Swales, Pentney, Aust, Kelly, Gove, Walton, Dunn, Speck, Edwards (c), Duffy-Weekes, Showler. Subs: Ball, Searson, Hunnings, Collins, Hedley
Peterborough Polonia: Kavaliauskas, Macianskis (c), Pratasas, Venckaitis, Krasuckis, Bielskis, Buzas, Zickevicius, Vladicka, Puzara, Aurikas. Subs: Kolojauskas, Zaburas, Akopian, Stalioraitis, Buivydas
Ground Number: 203