To be fair, there is not too much to report about the ground, although I did note that there was quite a lot of improvement work happening. Right in front of you as you enter through the gates is the main stand, a covered seating area directly behind the Alfred Street end goal. To the left of the stand is what appears to be a completely new block (this is the area that is being improved as we speak), which looked close to completion. Just past this, and slightly set back from the playing area, is the main clubhouse and changing rooms. This, I believe, is shared with the cricket club who play on the same sports ground. Along the right hand side of the playing surface, as you approach from Alfred Street, is more parking on the grassed area and also the dugouts are on this side of the ground. The opposite side of the playing surface is completely open as it forms part of the cricket pitch.
The home side were coming into the match on a three game winning streak, inlcuding a very crediatble 2-1 victory over Lutterworth. Buckingham, two places lower in the table, were on a terrible run. With the exception of a 2-2 draw at Burton Park, they had lost six conceding 35 and scoring 7. With Irchester also not boasting the best defensive record, I was certainly not expecting this to finish 0-0.
Somewhat surprisingly considering their recent poor form, it was the away team that started the stronger, on a very cold and blustery evening. However, despite playing the first 10 minutes mainly in the Irchester half, it was actually the home side that went in front when a Brown free-kick from way out on the left was fired in, somehow sneaked out of the keeper's grasp and rolled into the net. The away side could feel a little hard done to by that but they picked themselves up and continued as they had started the game. Within seven minutes they got their reward when they broke down their right flank. The winger beat the last defender and squared for Brent to finish a fairly easy chance at the near post.
It was Buckingham who continued to have the best of what, to be honest, was a pretty scrappy affair not helped by conditions that were worsening as the half progressed. The gusty wind was making any ball lifted off the ground very difficult to control and many longer balls were drifting straight out of play. However, once or twice Buckingham did get the ball on the floor and managed to conjure up a couple of good moves. It was one of these moves, around the half-hour mark, that set up the goal that took them in front. The ball was popped out and nicely controlled on the left flank, the winger spotted Hendricksen running through the middle and played what was probably the pass of their game, splitting the defence open and leaving Hendricksen a free run on goal. The chance was by no means easy, especially at the keeper was quick to come off his line. However, the Robins forward expertly lofted the ball over him and into the far corner of the net. An excellent goal all round.
Buckingham continued to look the most likely side all the way up to half-time, although there was no more scoring. So, with rain now coming down the score was a deserved 2-1 lead for Buckingham as we went off to get a much needed, warming cup of tea.
Maybe it was the better weather or, more likely, some frank half-time discussions but The Romans looked like a different team in the second half. The passing was sharper, they were keeping the ball on the ground and using the width far more than in the first 45 minutes. Having said that, with half of the second period gone, they still trailed 2-1. Then the game really came to life.
Buckingham came very close to making it 3-1 when a shot was lofted over the keeper but was acrobatically hooked off the line by the Irchester right-back. A tremendous piece of defending which seemed to spark extra life into the home side. They immediately went on the attack themselves and forced a free-kick halfway inside the Buckingham half. The ball was lifted into the penalty area where a completely unmarked Nathan Heycock was able to get his head to the ball before the keeper and help it on it's way into the net.
Two minutes later the home side won another free-kick, this time just outside the penalty area and almost on the dead-ball line on their left wing. The call was floated into the six yard box where Heycock was again quickest to react, getting his head to the ball and forcing it over the line. Two goals in a couple of minutes and the game was turned on it's head.
There was still time for Irchester to hit the post with another unmarked header before the referee blew for full-time. The Romans had strung together four consecutive wins for the first time (according to the match report) since 2010. Buckingham need to re-group and try to perform as they did in the first half of this game, where they were easily the better side for 45 minutes.
Finally, for any ground-hoppers reading this, the two jovial characters on the gate were by no means out of character for Irchester. I found this to be one of the friendliest grounds that I have been to. From the gents on the gate, through the tea bar staff and generally people around the ground (credit to the Buckingham fans too), everyone had a friendly word to say and were happy to chat. A really nice little ground, well worth a visit.
Good luck to both sides for the rest of the season.
Irchester United - @irchutdfc
Buckingham Town - @buckingham_town