It's been almost five years since my first visit to Station Road. That evening the home side, bottom of the Premier League, had given themselves some hope with a 3-2 home defeat of Oadby Town. Ultimately, however, it proved in vain and they were relegated at the end of the season.
By the time I got to Long Buckby the small car park at the ground was full but there was still plenty of parking available on Station Road itself. Access to the ground is via a narrow path that leads past the clubhouse, alongside the cricket pitch and another football pitch, and finally to a double turnstile. As I remarked on my first visit, that passing through the turnstile actually takes you into a courtyard, off which is the refreshments bar and the toilet block. The opposite side of the courtyard is the back of the main stand which runs over half the length length of the pitch on the Station Road side. The rest of the ground, which has not noticeably changed since my first visit, is unremarkable save for the dugouts on the opposite side to the main stand.
Long Buckby went into this game leading Division One by 16 points, having lost just once in the league. They were hosting Premier League Loughborough University, sixth in their table but on the back of a 5-2 defeat at Lutterworth Town in their last game.
As far as I could see, there was no previous history between these sides in either league or cup.
Loughborough took the lead as early as the fifth minute after a defensive mix-up allowed Will Dawes to nip in, round the keeper, and slide the ball into an empty net to make it 0-1.
After going behind the hosts stepped their game up and, arguably, had the better chances in the remainder of the half. In fact, only two minutes after losing the goal they came very close to levelling the game. Bucks Number 11, running from just inside the Loughborough half, skipped through a number of challenges and unleashed a low drive to the Scott Martin's left. The keeper got down to it and somehow managed to deflect the ball up and over the bar for a corner. It was a good response from Long Buckby and showed that they weren't going to roll over to their higher ranked opponents.
The game continued to ebb and flow with the home just about edging the play. However,just before the half-hour mark, Bucks had their keeper to thank for keeping them in it when he produced a superb one-handed stop to prevent a header from Connor beating him.
HT Long Buckby 0 Loughborough University 1. Very much a contrast in styles across the pitch. Loughborough certainly playing the more cultured style of football but, on a very wet and boggy pitch, Long Buckby's more direct approach caused plenty of problems. The home side have a right to feel slightly aggrieved at being behind, after creating more chances than the Scholars.
Four minutes later and with The Scholars now having the bit firmly between their teeth, Dawes went from goal scorer to goal provider, jinking past a defender to the by-line and squaring for Tom Iaciofano to slide the ball home from close range. 0-3
Loughborough were now, effectively, home and hosed, but they were not letting up. Iaciofano got his second and The Scholar's fourth with a sublime, outside of the left foot, finish into the far corner. 0-4
The game had now well and truly gone for The Bucks. After more than holding their own in the first half they were being given a footballing lesson by the University in the second period. To make matters worse they were reduced to 10 men in the 83rd minute after their Number 2 received a second yellow for an off-the-ball trip on a Loughborough player.
Five minutes later and the home side were down to 9 men with Number 6 getting a straight red for a lunge just outside the box. Loughborough also withdrew Tope Fadahunsi at this point, even though they had no further substitutes. Originally I thought that the referee had sin-binned the defender, but it appears it was just a coaching decision. The wait for my first sin-bin goes on.
Immediately after the red card Loughborough substitute, Ollie Jarrett, was on hand to tap in another low cross to make it 0-5.
FT Long Buckby 0 Loughborough University 5. A harsh lesson for The Bucks in the second half. A young and talented Loughborough side, featuring four debutants, gave them the run around after the break. However, it was plain to see why The Bucks are pushing for promotion this season.
Loughborough University: Martin, Fadahunsi, Davis, Sackey-Mensah, Townrow, Parsons, Iaciofano, Ogunmekan, Warwick, Dawes, Connor. Subs: Wright, Hilton, Bryan, Jarrett
Ground Number: Re-visit