Ledbury's New Street ground lies just to the South-West of the town centre. They have played there since 1934 after a having the site donated to them by a local businessman. Parking at the ground is quite limited but it was easy enough to find a spot on New Street only a short walk from the entrance. Most of the features of the ground are at the car park end. Entrance to the ground is through a gate off the car park which brings you in close to the corner of the pitch. Behind the car park end goal is a fairly large clubhouse which also has covered standing directly in front of it and a small covered seating area between the clubhouse entrance and the entry gate. To the left hand side of the ground, the cemetery side, is the main stand which features covered seating and straddles the halfway line. Opposite the main stand are the dugouts, brightly labelled home and away. This side of the ground is not accessible to spectators and is very tightly bordered by fencing. The pitch has quite a slope down towards the clubhouse end. All in all New Street has the feel of a proper, old-style non-league ground. Well worth a visit if you haven't been.
Ledbury's recent history, certainly from the turn of the century, has been turbulent to say the least. In the early noughties they won the West Midlands Regional league Division One title and got to the 4th Round of the FA Vase. However, despite these successes the club has twice resigned from the league and re-formed since then. Now, back in the Herefordshire League system for nearly a decade they have established themselves as a top-half Premier League outfit. In the last two completed seasons they have managed third place and, last season, runners-up to Hartpury. This season has started very well for The Friesians who were coming into this first home game under the lights this season on the back of a 100% record after two games. An opening day 2-0 defeat of Holme Lacy was followed by a a resounding 5-0 win at Coppertops, leaving them sitting in second place to Kington Town.
Worcester United are newly promoted to the Premier League after winning Division One last season. They finished three points clear of Fownhope, who also went up, despite losing twice to their nearest rivals. The club is celebrating its 10th anniversary this season and has made steady progress over the past decade, winning Division Two at the first attempt the previous season when still known as Lower Teme & Martley United. They opened their season with a narrow 4-3 home defeat to Wellington Rangers after leading 3-1 and losing it in the final five minutes. A tough introduction to the Premier League.
Ledbury, kicking down the slope in the first half, were very quickly out of the blocks. Within the first 30 seconds Worcester's goalkeeper had to be alert to block a Cosmin Micula drive from ten yards. The home side clearly meant business and they so nearly went ahead ahead on the 10 minute mark. A long punt down the middle from goalkeeper Alex Goode caused some hesitation between the visitor's keeper and covering defender. Tom Boyle nipped in between them, getting a tow to the bouncing ball, diverting it past the oncoming stopper but just wide of the post. Three minutes later, following a bit of pinball in the United box, Chris Wickham saw his snapshot clip the outside of the post and go wide. Ledbury were getting closer.
However, they could not rest on their laurels. Just past the quarter-hour, Worcester registered their first effort on target when Number 10 drilled a shot straight into the arms of Goode. A warning for The Friesians that Worcester could pose a threat.
As if to show they understood this, Ledbury were quickly on the front foot again. Worcester's keeper had to be on his toes to turn a Boyle effort onto the post and away for a corner after 20 minutes. However, his efforts were soon to be in vain as, from the ensuing corner, Ryan Pugh rose highest to glance a header into the net. There was a definite suspicion that the last touch came off a defender but that wasn't going to deter Pugh from a display of acrobatics to celebrate. 1-0
Almost from the restart it was Goode's turn to show his goalkeeping skills, saving well from Worcester's Number 8. However, it was Ledbury who continued to look the more dangerous of the teams. On 35 minutes a corner was just a fraction too high for Boyle as he headed over from inside the 6 yard box. So close to a second goal but Boyle wasn't disappointed for long. A minute later he picked the ball up some 25 yards out, just to the left of goal, steadied himself and unleashed an unstoppable effort into the far corner. 2-0.
There was still enough time for captain Joel Skyers to unleash an effort just over the bar from just outside the box, before the referee drew the half to a close.
HT Ledbury Town 2 Worcester United 0. A good display from the home side playing down the slope. They should probably have been going into the break with more than a two goal lead. Worcester, who stayed out on the pitch at the break, would need to change things for the second period.
From that point onwards, Worcester started to take control of possession. After 52 minute Goode was called upon to make a very good reflex save as Worcester managed to get their centre-forward in behind the home defence.
Ledbury finding the going much more difficult in the second half and are spending long periods penned in their own half. However, try as they might, Worcester were finding it very hard to find a way through the home defence. Just before the hour mark they got a great chance when a a corner was nodded just over from close range but that was as close as they got.
With just over twenty minutes remaining Ledbury launched a counter-attack. Boyle's shot from the edge of the box was too hot for the keeper to hang onto but, unfortunately for the home side, Burns could only put the loose ball over the bar. That was the chance to put the game to bed and, with Worcester now throwing everything at them, Ledbury could have done with the extra goal cushion. Two minutes later the missed opportunity took on more significance as the visitors finally got themselves on the score sheet. A corner from the left caused chaos in the home box and, after a bit of a scramble, the ball was slid across from the left and turned in at the near post by Joshua Lloyd. 2-1
It looked as if we were all set up for a grandstand finish but, as the game got more and more scrappy and tensions rose, the home defence held strong and saw out the final few minutes.
FT Ledbury Town 2 Worcester United 1. Definitely a game of two halves. After dominating the first 45 minutes, Ledbury were then forced to dig deep by a strong Worcester effort in the second half. All in all, it was a long (a near 200 mile round trip) but enjoyable first venture into the Herefordshire League and, what's more, the home side's win gave me a chance to reference a 90s band in the blog title. Ledbury remain in second but only on alphabetical order as they have an identical record to leader's Kington Town. Worcester drop to 13th and are still looking for their first point in the Premier League.
If you want to catch either of these sides in action this weekend, both are at home on Saturday. Ledbury take on Clee Hill United (ko 14:30) whilst Worcester welcome third-placed Hereford Pegasus Reserves to The Old Porcelain Ground in a late kick-off (16:30)
Ledbury Town: Goode, Wickham, Taylor, Jeynes, Trigg, Griffiths, Skyers(c), Febery, Boyle, Pugh, Micula. Subs: Morgan, Thomson, Skidmore, Burns, Watkins
Worcester United(squad): Banner, Callum, Heron, Higgins, B.Morgan, Morri, Tomkins, Williams-Howells(c), Windsor, Easterlow, Garton. Subs: Abbott, Evans, Lloyd, C.Morgan, Turberfield
Ground Number: 323