Now, what I had totally forgotten was that the Oakham ground was in the neighbouring village of Barleythorpe, not Oakham. I was slightly unlucky in that there was a Main Road listed under Oakham but I should have been looking for Main Street, Barleythorpe. A schoolboy error for someone who has been doing this for 4 years.
So, having thought that I had timed my travel to perfection, I arrived at Main Road, Oakham, with 8 minutes to spare before kick-off. Perfect except for one thing. I was almost 10 miles away from the actual stadium. Luckily, I managed to google the club address, enter the post code (which I should have done first time) and shoot off towards Barleythorpe. What I also failed to take into account was the level crossing a mile from the ground. Yes, you've guessed it, it was down and there was a long wait. So, I finally arrived at the ground having missed kick-off (a pet hate of mine) and, as it turned out, the opening goal.
Sterling Meadows is a relatively new, purpose built, facility situated on the campus of the Rutland College. There is plenty of parking available within a short walk of the entrance gate. This brings you into the ground pretty much level with the halfway line. The clubhouse and all facilities are immediately to your right and just to the left is a small wooden covered area that houses both seats and standing. Opposite this are the dugouts which are backed by another, smaller, pitch. The right hand goal is backed by trees which, as I said in the Calne Town blog a few weeks back, is always a nice thing to see in my opinion.The playing surface, which has a slight slope from right to left, looked in pretty good condition.
This only being Oakham's second season in the UCL, the sides had met just twice before. Oakham coming out on top by 2-1 at home and sharing the spoils with a 3-3 at the Weston Arena. Eventually just a point separated the sides at the end of the season, so a tight encounter was on the cards.
As I said, I missed the opening goal but reports seem to point to it being a nice passing move finished off by Nicki Young. By the time I arrived Lutterworth seemed to have recovered form going a goal down and were stroking the ball around nicely. Sure enough, with just over 10 minutes on the clock, they got their equaliser through Cameron Wilson. The goal seemed to inspire the away side and dispirit Oakham. Lutterworth, kicking up the slope, spent a good deal of the rest of the half in possession of the ball. However, possession isn't everything and they didn't really put too much pressure on the Oakham goal.
Half-time Oakham United 1 Lutterworth Athletic 1
With 70 minutes gone a nicely weighted ball between the Lutterworth centre-half and left-back allowed an Oakham player to run in on goal. The keeper advanced to meet him and blocked the initial effort only for the ball to spin loose and land at the feet of Adam Rothery who had the simple job of rolling the ball into the net.
For a while it looked as if Oakham may run away with the game after going ahead. A number of attacks culminated in an 81st minute shot coming back off the bar. However, this was as close as they came to a third goal and with barely any time left on the clock, they were made to pay for it.
A long, hopeful, punt down field eluded all Oakham defenders. Substitute Callum Wills ran through and just about beat home keeper Dan Swan to the ball, lobbing the keeper and sending the ball looping into the net. Wills took the full force of the advancing keeper for his efforts and, in truth, it was a brave finish.
There was barely time for the game to restart before the referee drew a close to an entertaining game with a final score of Oakham United 2 Lutterworth Athletic 2.
On the balance of play I think a draw was a fair result although Oakham must have been disappointed to have been leading with just seconds left. In my opinion these sides are quite evenly matched and, as with last season, I don't think there will be much between them come April.
It was time to make the long journey back to Oxfordshire and guess what? The level crossing was down on the way back as well. At least I didn't need my SatNav to find my house though.
Oakham United - @oakhamunited
Lutterworth Athletic - @official_atho