Driving into Northampton I ignored the football and rugby ball signposts. I breezed past Sixfields and did a left at Franklin's Gardens. None of this pro stuff for me, I was headed for Kingsthorpe Mill, home of the aforementioned Northampton Spencer. My GPS through a bit of a fit and kept trying to direct me down a dead end, but I soon found Studland Road and was back on track. The approach to Kingsthorpe Mill takes you through an industrial estate and then down a narrow track to the car park. I found a spot to park and headed to the entrance just as the teams were coming out onto the pitch. After paying my £5 entrance fee and picking up a programme I also purchased a strip of raffle tickets from none other than the home team Chairman This is what I love about non-league football, the community spirit and willingness to pitch in. Later in the evening I even saw the same Chairman doing a round of the ground picking up any litter he could find. A team on and off the pitch.
Entering the ground the first thing that struck me, in stark contrast to the industrial estate I had just driven through, was that I was in a kind of green oasis. The ground is bordered on three sides by trees, combine that with a nicely manicured and flat pitch and the glow of the floodlights and you have the perfect non-league football setting.
All of the facilities at Kingsthorpe Mill are on the car park side of the ground. There is a changing room block then clubhouse building, which also houses the tea and snack bar and a covered standing area. Just the other side of the entrance is a small covered seating area. The rest of the ground is, of course, bordered with hard-standing. The dugouts, as is the norm, are situated opposite the main stand.
I began to make my way around the ground and was barely behind the home goal when Northampton hit the bar at the other end. This was to be the first of many chances at both ends of the pitch. Biggleswade responded to the early scare by forcing a corner of their own but it was the home side that were making the most of the early running. It was shaping into an intriguing contest, with two contrasting styles of play. Biggleswade are, to their credit, a side who want to get the ball down and play their football. Northampton have a more direct style and were looking to hit their front players as early as they could. This is not to say that they are a long ball team though, just more direct than their opponents on the night. Both sides were actually playing some nice football and the first half flew past very quickly.
Biggleswade also hit the post and had a goal disallowed for a push. The latter didn't garner many complaints from the attackers so, even though I didn't have a good view, I think it is safe to assume that it was a foul. Despite their neat football, Biggleswade were finding it difficult to contain the Northampton attack and the home side managed to create a number of good chances, squandering 3 or 4 chances to take the lead.
By the time the referee blew for half-time there was a feeling that maybe Northampton may regret their profligacy.
After a cup of tea and a chat with a local (who suggested another local side to take a look at, Northampton Sileby Rangers), I returned to pitch-side with some anticipation of the second-half.
I was not to be disappointed. Within a minute of the restart Northampton forced the visiting keeper into a very good save. The keeper was called upon again just a few minutes later as the home side stepped up the pace. Still they could not finish any of their chances and gradually Biggleswade's passing game was getting them back into it. As with the first half the second seemed to pass by very quickly. The sign of an interesting and entertaining game. Then, on 81 minutes, came the breakthrough. Northampton forced a corner and, when the ball was crossed, Dove met it with an unstoppable header to put them in front. There was nothing the keeper could do to stop this one.
Biggleswade could and should have had the opportunity to equalise just a minute later when one of their strikers was clearly pushed in the back when challenging for a ball in the box. From my viewpoint it looked a nailed on penalty but the referee and his assistant waved play on to the disgust of the away team.
For the remaining ten minutes both sides continued to play their football. Northampton did not sit on their lead but tried to get a second. Biggleswade did alter their style of play slightly, bringing on a bigger striker and looking to hit him earlier. However, there was to be no way back for them and the match finished 1-0 to Northampton who now travel to Haringey in the first round proper.
All in all I thought this was a very entertaining game. Biggleswade, despite defeat, look like a very good footballing side, plenty of accurate short passing and movement. To Northampton's credit, it was impossible to tell which team were step 5 and which step 6. If they continue to play this way I can see both of these sides being in the mix come the end of the season.
Northampton Spencer - @nspencerfc
Biggleswade United - @biggleswadeutd