Ludlow Stadium sits on the Northern extremities of Ludlow, just of the A49 bypass. The access road, Burway Lane, leads off Bromfield Lane and down past the main football pitch to a fairly large parking area. Although there is a turnstile block between the car park and the stadium, entrance on this evening was through the main gates. This leads into the stadium complex, which comprises of the main grass pitch and a full-size 3G pitch separated by the club and facilities building. This a two-storey block that houses all of the facilities and also has balconies on the upper floor that look out over both the grass and 3G pitches. There is a snack/tea bar at the far end on the ground level (not open this evening) and seats either side of the entrance to the players tunnel. The dugouts are on the far side of the ground opposite the clubhouse. Although it's fair to say that the clubhouse is in need of a lick of paint here and there, it does have a certain charm and despite looking quite modern from a distance has a retro feel to it, especially inside (think 1970s community centre). The pitch looked to be in good condition. Overall, I liked the Ludlow Stadium. My only gripe is that the team sheets aren't displayed on a noticeboard anywhere (not that I could see anyway), but thanks to both Ludlow and Shrewsbury media admins for sending over afterwards, much appreciated.
Ludlow FC joined the Salop League in 2020-21 season, having moved from the West Midlands Regional League structure. Their first season was truncated due to Covid but, since then, they have achieved a fourth place and second place finish. In the same period Up & Comers have managed 11th and, last season, sixth.
The previous four meetings of the teams have very much favoured the home side on every occasion. In November 2021 Ludlow beat Up & Comers 5-1 with Sean Evans grabbing a hat-trick. The return fixture a month later ended 3-2 to Shrewsbury. Last season Evans was again on the mark to give the Reds a 1-0 home win. Back at Sparrow Lane Shrewsbury took a 2-0 half-time lead and hung on to win 2-1 after having Declan Johnson sent off just after the hour. That red card was one of ten that Up & Comers received last season.
It was Shrewsbury who started the game the stronger and at a faster pace, pushing Ludlow back early on. The pressure from the Blues almost paid off in the fourth minute when they forced the Ludlow defence into a mistake at the back, gifting the ball to Steve Hole some 20 yards out. The striker made a little room before firing wide of the target. A sighter for the striker and a warning for the home defence. A minute later they were almost caught out again when a long ball split their defence wide open. However, Morgan Millard did brilliantly to recover his ground and get in a superb sliding challenge to prevent a shot coming in.
Ludlow were struggling to make an impression on the visitor's defence and ten minutes in were thankful to their goalkeeper Zach Venables who was at full stretch to keep out a Ben Davies shot. Hole, off balance, couldn't make anything of the loose ball. Then, 12 minutes into the contest Tom Hewitt tried his luck from outside the box, seeing his effort go just wide.
Ludlow's first meaningful attempt cam in the 18th minute when a long ball into the opposition penalty area found an unmarked Ryan Clarke. His glancing header went just wide of Luke Hyde's right-hand post with the keeper scrambling across his goal. Almost immediately after this, Shrewsbury were back on the offence. A long ball forward was flicked on into the path of Joe Parry but, fortunately for Ludlow, there was just enough pace on the ball for it to run through to Venables, who had come off his line sharply.
Three minutes before the half-hour the deadlock was finally broken. A lovely diagonal pass found Kevin Renshaw on the right-hand edge of the Ludlow penalty area. His first-time, volleyed cross found Steve Hole, who had stolen a march on the home defence, and he smashed the ball past Venables. 0-1. There was no let-up from Up & Comers. Just past the 30 minute mark, Parry tried his luck from the edge of the area, seeing his shot fly just wide of the post. Then, 36 minutes minutes in, Ludlow grabbed an equaliser with a well worked move that led to their first effort on target. The ball was played long from the right flank towards the far post. Clarke intelligently fired the ball back across the six-yard line where full-back Aaron Dovey was ghosting in to fire past Hyde. 1-1
Shrewsbury's response was to produce a lovely passing move of their own which culminated in another good save from Venables. Then, a minute before the break, Up & Comers got their noses back in front when a Davies cross from the right was laid off to Hole with his back to goal, inside the area. the striker swivelled and fired a shot into the far corner. Venables got a hand to it but couldn't keep it out. 1-2
HT Ludlow 1 Shrewsbury Up & Comers 2. The visitors held sway in the possession stats amd probably feel they should have more the a one goal lead at the break. However, Ludlow showed that they could play too, given the opportunity. In fact, both sides played some attractive football.
Just before the hour mark, however, it was Luke Hyde's turn to show his goalkeeping skills. Substitute Harry Jones must have thought he had scored before Hyde threw himself to his left and scooped the ball off the line. A save not too dissimilar to the famous Gordon Banks stop from Pele.
However, Hyde's heroics were to prove in vain two minutes later. A through ball found Ryan Lewis breaking down the right wing, springing the offside trap (although, I have to say he looked a good couple of yards off from my viewpoint). Lewis ignored the calls and squared the ball for Ryan Clarke to provide the finishing touch. 2-2.
Suddenly it was Ludlow who looked the more dangerous. Tom Everall couldn't quite get high enough to get a header on target in the 71st minute and then it took a brilliant last ditch covering header from the Up & Comers captain Nathan Simon to prevent Clarke having a free header from a few yards out, preventing an almost certain goal.
With two minutes of normal time remaining Ludlow produced a move worthy of winning any game. A wonderful flowing, passing moving up their right side culminated in a slide rule cross which found Up & Comers nemesis Sean Evans in the penalty area. The substitute duly slotted home to claim his fifth goal in three games at The Ludlow Stadium against this opposition. 3-2
FT Ludlow 3 Shrewsbury Up & Comers 2. This result didn't look likely after the first half where it was the visitors who looked way more dangerous. However, Ludlow grew into the game, got what looked like a fortunate equaliser, and then never looked back. The winning goal was worthy of the three points in itself. Having said that, Up & Comers will feel that they did enough to at least take something from this game. Two good footballing sides who will both, no doubt, be in the top half of the table at the very least.
On Saturday Ludlow make the trip to Telford to face newly promoted AMS FC.
Up & Comers are also on the road as they also travel to Telford to take on Ercal Colts Junior Evolution. Shrewsbury won both encounters last year, 4-3 at home and 3-2 in Telford, so it promises some goals.
Ludlow: 1.Venables, 21.Gibbons, 3.Dovey, 4.R.Williams(c), 5.Millard, 14.Z.Williams, 6.Edwards, 11.Marston, 10.Clarke, 9.Lewis, 15.Jones. Subs: 7.Everall, 8.Richards, 18.Evans, 17.Morris
Shrewsbury Up & Comers: 1.Hyde, 5.Cross, 7.Ingles, 3.Fletcher, 8.Hewitt, 11.Eaton, 13.Simon(c), 9.Hole, 4.Parry, 10.Davies, 11.Renshaw. Subs: 16.Robinson, 17.Davies, 14.Dyas
Ground Number: 370