I often omit this section when writing a blog for a re-visited ground. However, there are a couple of reasons for not doing so this time. First of all, I haven't been to Fernie Fields since November 2014 when my blogs were completely different to the current format, so it is worth a review of the ground. Secondly, I wanted to take the opportunity to give praise where it is due. Fernie Fields is a superb facility, clean, tidy and extremely well maintained. The car parking was well marshalled, the snack bar staff were friendly and the pitch looked as good as if this was the first game of the season rather than the last. An credit to the groundsman and to the club in general. A fitting location for a cup final.
I'm not sure that too much has changed at the ground since my last visit. The only major difference that stood out was that the Sileby Rangers sign behind one of the goals has now gone. The Talavera Way side of the ground, which is where the car park and ground entrance is situated, also houses the main covered seating area. Either side of this there is covered standing running the full length of the ground. There is hard-standing surrounding the rest of the ground but no more covered areas. To the right of the entrance, behind one of the goals, there is a clubhouse, snack bar window, patio area with tables and the toilet facilities.
Although my last visit was almost 8 years ago now, the game I saw that evening remains one of the most entertaining games of football I have ever witnessed (Smells Like Team Spirit)
As stated above, this was a Cup Final featuring the top two teams in the Northants Combination Premier Division. After a a season in which the teams were neck and neck Roade finally pulled clear in mid-March when they won 4-1 at Blisworth (All Roads Lead To Roade), a result that avenged a 2-1 home defeat back in November. Blisworth were the league's highest scorers, averaging almost 4 per game. Roade had the tightest defence, conceding fewer than 1 per game on average. Having seen both teams play a couple of times this season, I can vouch for just how good they both are and how evenly matched the sides are (despite that last 4-1 result). This was also the first time that the Premier Division Cup Final had been played since before the pandemic. Blisworth, or James King Blisworth as they were then known, were the last winners after beating Kettering Nomads in the that season's final. They had also won it in 2017, beating the same opposition. Sandwiched between these wins was a defeat to Moulton in 2018. Roade made the final in 2016 but were beaten by Harpole.
To get this far Blisworth beat Rothwell FC Aztec 3-1 in Round 1. They then went to Stewart & Lloyds in the Quarter-Final, winning 5-0, before finally overcoming Wollaston Victoria 4-3 on penalties, after a 4-4 draw, in the semi-final. Roade had a bye in Round 1 but then won 3-2 at Harpole before beating Moulton 2-1 away from home in the semi-final.
A decent crowd had built up by the time the teams came out. It's fair to say that Roade settled the quicker of the two and, certainly in terms of possession, had the lion's share over the first fifteen minutes. However, despite their territorial advantage, they couldn't not find a way to penetrate a solid looking Blisworth defence. As the game started to even out, Blisworth redressed the balance of the game but were also finding the Roade defence as resolute as their own.
On the half hour mark we had a situation where both physios were called onto the pitch simultaneously, luckily neither injury was serious. The players took time to grab a quick drink and get revised instructions from the bench. So far the game had been something of a midfield stalemate. Both sides showing some good work in the middle third but then finding that both defences were on top of their game. Neither goalkeeper had been stretched at this point. This trend continued almost up until the half-time whistle. However, on 44 minutes as we were all preparing for our half-time refreshments, the deadlock was finally broken and it was Blisworth who were celebrating. They won a corner on the left which Kieran Westbury went over to take. He lofted the ball towards the back post where centre-half Rhys Gartland rose highest to power a header towards goal. Josh McAdoo got across well but could not get enough on the ball to keep it out of the net. 1-0
HT Blisworth 1 Roade 0. Both defences have been in charge for the majority of the half so quite fitting that the only goal so far was scored by a defender.
In the 69th minute, with Blisworth defending a Roade foray, the ball was fed to Blisworth substitute Ross Watson inside his own half. He immediately looked to break forward, fending off a challenging and weaving around a couple more before surging towards the edge of the Roade penalty area. McAdoo was off his line quickly though, narrowing the angle enough to force the shot to go wide of the mark. It was great run though, livening up a game that had, at that point, tailed off a little.
The miss looked as if it might be even more important two minutes later as the game sprang into life again. A long ball out of the Roade defence for once caught out the Blisworth back line, sailing above their heads. A Roade striker (I was at the other end and didn't see who it was) was alive to the possibilities and had taken the chance of running in behind the line. It paid off as he reached the ball a split second before Blisworth keeper Jack Bradshaw. The keeper couldn't prevent himself from taking out the striker right on the edge of the penalty area. The referee took a little time to consult with his assistant before brandishing a red card to Bradshaw. After a short delay for treatment to the Roade player and for the Blisworth bench to work out who to sacrifice in order to get reserve keeper Sachin Tayal on, the free-kick was taken but came to nothing. However, with 20 minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall time for Blisworth. Roade surged forward at every opportunity but were nowhere near as clinical up front as they were in the league match two months ago. They were also not allowed to relax by a Blisworth team who did not let the red card affect their ability to counter-attack effectively. In fact in the closing minutes it was Blisworth who probably had the best chance when Nathan Bobowicz burst through but dragged his shot wide. Roade just could not find a way through the Blisworth defence and, after a few minutes of stoppage time, the referee drew a close to the game.
FT Blisworth 1 Roade 0. A tight and tense match throughout decided by a single goal from a set piece as the sides cancelled each other out for much of the game. Great credit to Blisworth for the way they approached the game after going down to 10 men. Roade denied the league a cup double but will be more than happy with the title. Blisworth didn't get the league title for the first time in seven years but they did manage a cup double. Both sides have provided plenty of entertainment over the season and I for one will definitely be heading back to the Northants Combination next season.
Oh, and for anyone interested, Abbeymead Rovers won 1-0 securing the points required to retain their place in the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division One.
Blisworth: 1.Bradshaw, 2.Herbert, 3.Reina, 4.Redding, 5.Gartland, 6.Morgan, 8.Lyons, 9.Duffy, 10.Bobowicz, 11.Westbury, 14.Major. Subs: Tayal, Watson, York
Roade: McAdoo, Betts, Hogben(c), Lawton, Jackson, Faulkner, Lewis, McDonald, Wingrove, Joyce, Watts. Subs: Hall, Roberts, Smith, Abrams, Reece
Ground Number: Re-visit