It's 21 years since I last saw Aylesbury United play. That was at the Hawthorns in an FA Cup Round 1 match. West Brom ran out 8-0 winners thanks, in part, to a hat-trick from Kevin Donovan. The third of which was a memorable goal for one of my friends who had a few quid, at pretty good odds, on 7-0.
The Ducks have had a period of leaner times since that day in 1992. The history section of their excellent website (www.aylesburyunitedfc.co.uk) explains the rollercoaster ride and how the club got to be playing in Leighton Buzzard. The site is a fine example of how a club web site should look and even features a live text commentary stream during matches. I urge everyone to take a look.
On to my maiden visit to Bell Close. I was slightly late to arrive and was very lucky to find a parking spot in the car park. The club shares the car park with a popular tennis and sports facility. I would certainly advise getting there a little earlier than I did.
The first thing that you notice upon entering the ground is the feature stand behind the far goal. The structure looks like it has been around for a while and features the club crest directly above the crossbar of the goal and the name Leighton Town FC across the top of the stand. There is something quite enticing and beautiful about this stand, especially on a slightly misty evening as Tuesday was.
On the town side of the ground there is another small stand which offers a seating area. Behind the Lake Street end goal is the club house, changing rooms and snack bar.
Having arrived slightly after kick off I was surprised to be able to hear the crowd before I actually entered the ground. Although fairly sparse (the official figure was 113) the Ducks supporters certainly made an effort to get behind their team. Despite, or maybe because of, playing home games 10 miles from Aylesbury there is a real sense of community spirit amongst the Aylesbury support. It will be interesting to visit the ground again during for a Leighton Town game and see if they have the same enthusiasm for their team.
The game itself wasn't the best I have ever witnessed. Both sides struggled to find any real rhythm and all too often the final pass was lacking. The highlight of the first half was a superb volley from the Aylesbury left winger (sadly no programme was available for me to check names) which crashed off the underside of the bar and came out.
The second half followed a similar pattern with neither team taking a grip on the game. Royston took their turn to strike the woodwork and were beginning to turn the screw a little towards the end of the game. Then, 2 minutes into injury time, The Crows struck the killer blow. Another strike hit the underside of the bar (again under the view of the iconic stand) and this time the ball was scrambled home by an on-rushing forward. A little harsh on Aylesbury who, on their return to this level, had certainly showed that they can compete.
I left the ground slightly disappointed that I hadn't, at least, seen an Aylesbury goal. I really wanted to see if they still celebrated with their famous 'Duck Walk'.
All in all, I liked Bell Close. It's a proper football ground, sells a pretty good cup of tea (see the Cuppa League) and, certainly when the Ducks are around, has a good atmosphere. I'll definitely be back when I can.
Aylesbury United - @aylesburyutdfc
Royston Town - @roystontownfc