Meadow Lane or The Football Cards Direct Stadium to give it its full name, is situated on the Eastern side of Birstall, a large village some 3 miles North of Leicester city centre. As always, before going to a new ground, I do a bit of research, especially as far as parking goes. So, I'll be honest, after seeing the ground on Google Maps (photo is from 2010), arriving at the ground is something of a revelation. The club has clearly spent a fair bit on renovation of the ground and the clubhouse. It is entirely different. I parked in a small parking area to the side of the ground where the new entrance is situated, a rather shiny new double turnstile complete with club logo and sponsor signage.
There's not too much history between Birstall United and visitors Bourne Town having spent much of their histories in different leagues. Birstall transferred into the United Counties structure from the Eat Midlands Counties League in the Summer of 2018, finishing 17th of 20 in their first UCL season (although this did include a 6 point deduction). Bourne meanwhile finished 11 points and 4 places above them. Despite the league positions, Birstall had the better of the head to head that season, drawing 0-0 at Meadow Lane and winning 1-0 at Abbey Lawn.
With the 2019-20 season voided, the only other registered league meeting came in last season's truncated campaign when Bourne ran out 5-1 winners at home. So far this season it is Birstall who have had the much better start, winning six and drawing two of their opening ten games to see them sitting in fourth spot on 20 points. Bourne have so far only won once in their eight outings and are currently 19th of 23 teams.
After some initial sparring the first real chance came after 10 minutes when Birstall were awarded a free kick just inside the Bourne half. The ball was drifted into the penalty area where Chris Larter just couldn't quite get enough of a head on it to divert it goalward. Ten minutes later it was Bourne's turn to carve out an opportunity when a lovely through ball found Josh Hales through on goal. He hit his shot quite early but was matched by a superb save from home keeper Charlie Doherty.
It was frantic stuff at Meadow Lane with both sides playing at 100 miles an hour somewhat to the detriment of the quality. It felt as if the team who could slow it down and play with a little more precision would be able to make some inroads into the game.
Quite early on Birstall identified a way to get in behind the Bourne defence. Dion Potter's pace aided by the occasional overlap from Watts was causing a lot of problems for the Bourne defence. Time and again diagonal ball's into the gap between centre-half and left-back allowed Potter in but unfortunately for Birstall the final ball in always eluded a striker. However, it was quite clear that if Bourne did not plug this gap, eventually it would pay off for the home side.
HT Birstall United 0 Bourne Town 0. A full-blooded half blighted by a lack of composure from both sides. Birstall had the lion's share of possession but lacked the killer pass in the final third. Bourne, despite being on the back foot for some time, managed to cr4eate the best chance of the game, thwarted by a good save from Doherty.
Bourne's plight got worse 8 minutes later when Corey Newman clattered Birstall number 8 Andres Articolo, leaving the United midfielder in a heap. This sparked quite a scuffle between a number of players from both sides. It was difficult to see exactly what went on but once it had calmed down the referee delivered a straight red to Newman, possibly for a raised hand in the scuffle rather than the tackle. He also booked Birstall goal-scorer Pallett who didn't appear to have been in the melee.
With a numerical advantage and a goal in front it looked unlikely that Birstall would let the points slip and, sure enough, with seven minutes remaining they secured the win. Again it came from the right where Potter had re-appeared, his cross was only half-cleared, straight into the path of Articolo who hammered it back into the net. 2-0
There was still enough time left for substitute Luke Moran to evade a couple of tackles before drawing a superb one-handed diving save from Swales, but the game was up for Bourne.
FT Birstall United 2 Bourne Town 0. Birstall climb to second in the league with just goal difference separating them from Kimberley Miners Welfare who, admittedly, have a game in hand. United have a break from the league at the weekend as they welcome St Andrews to Meadow Lane in the FA Vase. Bourne continue to look for their first three points on the road this season and welcome 12th placed West Bridgford to Abbey Lawn on Saturday.
Birstall United: Doherty, Armstrong, Z.Watts, Sibson, D.Watts, Phillips(c), Yusuf, Articolo, Potter, Larter, Pallett. Subs: Moran, Bibby, Ballinger
Bourne Town: Swales, Gordon, Klinkovics, Fitzjohn, Moss, Panten(c), Warrener, Newman, Mason, Hales, Van Der Drift. Subs: Botterill, Brooks, Cardell, Troth
Ground Number: 280