Crown Meadow is situated just to the North-West of Bridgnorth town centre just off Innage Lane. This appears to be the area of the town designated for sports. Aside from the football ground, there is Bridgnorth Cricket & Hockey Club, Bridgnorth Tennis Club and Bridgnorth Bowling Club, all within a few hundred yards of each other. There is a small car park but I am guessing this gets filled by players and officials before any spectators can get there. However, there is plenty o parking in the surrounding streets. The ground is accessed through a single turnstile just off the top left of the car park as you enter. This brings you in opposite the clubhouse. The playing area is just off to the left accessed via a few steps and the pitch itself slopes quite a bit, up from the clubhouse end towards the Victoria Road end goal which is backed by houses and gardens. The fact that the playing surface has a slope and is a few feet above the level of the clubhouse will surprise no-one who has any knowledge of this part of Shropshire. There is not too much flat land around.
AFC Bridgnorth have only been around in their current form since 2013. However, there is a long history of football in the town and record of Bridgnorth Town FC going back to the late 19th century. World War 2 put paid to the original team which folded shortly after the outbreak but the next incarnation in 1968 went on to climb up through the Midland Combination into the Southern League. In the early part of this century the club again began to struggle in the league and after a couple of relegations, once again folded due to financial problems in 2013. When that club went under a new club, AFC Bridgnorth, was born starting at Step 7 in the West Midlands (Regional) setup, winning the league at the first attempt.
Market Drayton Town changed their name from Little Drayton Rangers in 2003 and were also playing in the West Midlands (Regional) League and the Midland Alliance until their promotion to the Northern Premier League Division 1 (Step 4) in 2009. They remained in various guises of this league (One South, One West, One South East) but never managed higher than mid-table. They were relegated back to Step 5 (Midland League Premier) after finishing bottom last season.
Despite having played in the same league structure over the years, the teams have not been in the same division together. They did, however, meet in the 2015-16 FA Cup Preliminary Round at Greenfields Sports Ground, with The Gingerbread men coming out on top, 2-0 winners.
Over the years this competition, The Shropshire Senior Cup, has been dominated by Shrewsbury Town who have won it 67 times in total. Only two other teams have managed double figures. Telford United (Wellington Town as they were known) have 34 titles and Oswestry Town/United have 10. Of the two teams in action this evening only Bridgnorth Town have been successful, with a 1986 victory. Market Drayton have never taken the trophy but have been beaten finalists on more than one occasion, the most recent being a 3-1 defeat to AFC Telford United in 2014.
This season it's fair to say that neither AFC Bridgnorth or Market Drayton Town have set their respective leagues alight. Market Drayton are bottom of the premier League having won just once in twelve games, a 1-0 victory at Worcester City in their opening league outing. Bridgnorth sit 16th of 21 in Division 1 but having played more games than most teams below them could easily be sucked back into the relegation zone. However, two league wins in their last three have made life a little better, especially the 3-0 defeat of Ingles early in October which was effectively a six-pointer.
A County Cup game was just what both sides needed to provide welcome relief from the stresses of the league season.
Market Drayton, kicking up the slope in the first half, started like a steam train. The game was only four minutes old when they broke up their right hand side. Overlapping right-back Sam Paddock drove to the by-line before cutting the ball back across the box for Jack Leask to drill past Ben Lees. 0-1. the visitors won the ball back almost immediately from the restart and, less than three minutes later the ball was again nestling in the home net. This time the visitors went long with a great ball out of defence turning the home defence. Joel Jones was onto it, shrugging off a challenge before slotting the ball through the keeper's legs for 0-2.
Conceding twice well within the first 10 minutes didn't bode well for The Meadow Men. However, credit where it is due, Bridgnorth did not crumble. Instead, they managed to stem the flow of Town attacks and began to get a foothold in the game.
Just past the halfway stage of the first half Market Drayton once more found their way behind the home defence on the right flank. Josh Brown managed to get past his market before delivering a beautiful cross that flashed across the six yard box just evading the lunge of Jones before falling to Harvey Lewis running in on the back post. He guided the ball back across the goal but saw it go just wide of the post.
After 34 minutes Bridgnorth came within a few inches of getting a goal back when Will Reid's free-kick from just outside the box beat the visiting keeper Dominic Smith all ends up before clattering off the bar. Then just before the break, at the other end, Lees had to be at his best, going full length to push away a stinging drive from Brown.
HT AFC Bridgnorth 0 Market Drayton Town 2. A very fast start from Town but Bridgnorth responded well, steadied the ship and began to get back into the game without really worrying the visiting keeper too much apart from the strike that hit the bar.
Despite turning the screw as much as possible, Bridgnorth just couldn't find a way past the Town defence and keeper. If they could have found one goal it may well have swung the whole game in their favour.
With less than a minute left on the clock their last hopes of getting back into the game disappeared along with Anthony, shown a straight red for reacting to hard but fair tackle. In the melee he appeared to raise his hands. Despite the locals next to me being incensed by the red card, I thought from the moment it happened that the player was in trouble. To be fair to Anthony, he had been on the receiving end of a few robust challenges but you just can't lift your hands up in today's game. There was still a few minutes of added time to play, most of which was spent in the home half as Market Drayton tried to take advantage of the extra player.
FT AFC Bridgnorth 0 Market Drayton Town 2. A battling performance by the home side in the second half. The introduction of Anthony gave Market Drayton all sorts of problems but the final ball seemed to be lacking for Bridgnorth.
No game for either team this weekend, but Market Drayton will be hoping that this win sparks a league revival as they welcome seventh placed Shifnal Town, who also made the Cup Semi-Final on Tuesday evening, to Greenfields next on Friday 28th. Bridgnorth are at home again on Saturday 29th as they await the visit of eighth placed Paget Rangers.
AFC Bridgnorth: Lees, Hill, Reid, Whitney, Sadat, Walker(c), Parker, Hadley, Knowles, Ologitere, Marsh. Subs: Forbes, Searle, Luckett, Becker, Anthony
Market Drayton Town: Smith, Shaw, Paddock, Maxwell, Hughes, Williams(c), Lewis, Leask, Joel Jones, Howse, Brown. Subs: Josh Jones, Nadeem, Hough, Coranaldi
Ground Number: 331