The Dog and Duck Stadium, so called because of it's proximity to the Dog & Duck Inn (now a Beefeater attached to a Premier Inn), is situated just to the South-East of Wellingborough town centre, in the shadows of the Whitworth Bros. mill. The ground is also within a long throw of near neighbours Wellingborough Whitworth FC. There have been rumours of the ground closing over the past few years, possibly because of the ever-growing retail parks close by, which was another reason for my re-visit. Parking is limited at the ground but I was told that parking in the adjacent retail park was allowed.
Entry to the ground is through a single gate. At £9.00 it is certainly at the top end of the Step 5 entrance fees, but still a reasonable amount to pay to watch 90 minutes of football. Upon entering you find yourself behind one of the goals, the opposite one having the backdrop of the flour mill just beyond the River Nene. Immediately to your right is the club house and player facilities block. Just in front of the club house, raised above pitch level, there is also a burger/snack bar. The main stand, formerly the Peter Ebdon Stand (not sure if that is still the case), is to your left. A reasonable large covered seating stand that effectively separates the ground from the corner of Whitworth's pitch (it's that close). There's no other cover for spectators.
The pitch looked to be in very good condition, as you would expect for the first match of a new season.
The Doughboys programme is a 32-page full colour glossy magazine. Again, at £2.50, like the entrance fee, it is very much at the higher end of the price list. Having said that, it is packed full of interesting articles and statistics. A very professional looking programme, well worth purchasing.
This season opener was also something of a local derby with just over 25 miles and the town of Northampton separating the clubs. Both teams have played a step higher than their current league in the past, Daventry with the most recent sojourn into the Southern and Northern leagues, only dropping down at the end of last season after finishing second from bottom of the Northern premier League Midlands Division. Consequently, it's a been a few years since the sides last faced each other in the league, the last time being the 2018-19 United Counties Premier League season when Daventry too the title for the second time. The Purple Army hold sway in recent times, winning six and drawing one of the last eight league outings against the Doughboys, including three out of the last four at the Dog & Duck. They have also outscored this evening's hosts by 20 goals to 7 over the same period. So, recent history looked to be on the side of the visitors but Wellingborough, I believe, were coming into the game with confidence having not lost during the pre-season (as far as I could see).
Both sides started the game at a good pace, but it was the visitors who were first to pose a threat when Charlie Kille's drive was turned away by a flying save from Ashley Bodycoate after just two minutes. However, six minutes later Wellingborough conjured up an even better opportunity when a cross from the right found Lloyd Buckby unmarked on the six yard line. The striker was stretching and off balance when he put his volley wide but really should have at least worked the goalkeeper.
That being said, the Doughboys didn't have to wait too long before they did get their noses in front. The goal was made by captain Jack O'Connor, stepping in swiftly to cut out a long Daventry through ball, he then spotted a gap down on the right side of the Daventry defence. His precision ball fouind that gap, allowing Jessi Obeng to run onto the ball, round goalkeeper Jude O'Connor and slot into an empty goal. 1-0
The goal signalled a ten minute spell when it looked as if Daventry's evening was beginning to spiral out of control. Already a goal down, in the 19th minute a 50-50 challenge in front of the dugouts ended with Ryan Bell's crunching challenge leaving a Wellingborough player in a heap. The referee had no hesitation in pulling out the red card, much to the disbelief of the visitor's players and bench. I'll be honest, from my viewpoint on the opposite side of the pitch, it looked like an honest challenge, with both players flying into the tackle. However, the referee was much closer to the action that I was. Clearly the Daventry coaching team were of the same opinion as me and, as their player trudged off, the referee appeared to also dismiss one of their coaches.
The incident left the visitors reeling a little and it took them a fair amount of time to re-shuffle their formation. Their ire with the officials was not helped when a nasty looking tackle from a home player was met with nothing more than a quick word from the referee. However, the home side were not able to take immediate advantage of the extra player and, as the half wore on, you could see Daventry visibly growing into the game and regaining confidence.
With eight minutes to go until the break only a combined effort of home defenders and goalkeeper kept out Zac Allen after a Daventry raid down their left.
Tehn, just when it looked as if the hoem team woudl go into the break ahead, four minutes into added time Daventry struck back. The ball was fed into the Leon Lobjoit in the heart of the hoem penalty area. Teh striker, signed from Leighton Town in the Summer, managed to keep himself onside, collected the pass and slipped a neat finish past Bodycoate to level it up. 1-1. On the balance of play over the closing ten minutes, it was a deserved reward for Daventry.
HT Wellingborough Town 1 Daventry Town 1. No shortage of action or controversy in the first half. Wellingborough taking the lead early on and the visitors being reduced to 10 men. However, to their credit, Daventry worked very hard to get back into the game and grabbed a deserved goal on the stroke of half-time.
It was just past the hour mark when The Doughboys finally put some pressure on O'Connor's goal. Once again it was the lively goal scorer Jessi Obeng who provided the spark, driving in from the left, jinking past a defender and unleashing a curling shot just past the goalkeeper's left-hand post. Despite this effort giving Wellingborough a toe-hold back in the game their second goal, when it came, was completely out of the blue. So much so that I only just about caught the action. There looked to be very little danger for Daventry when Paddy Chicozs got the ball some 30 yards out. However, the midfielder had spotted O'Connor just off his line and unleashed a superb dipping drive that left the keeper helpless. 2-1 and, as The Wycombe Wanderer tweeted, a potential goal of the season contender already.
Daventry, despite their numerical disadvantage, were not giving up the ghost and, as the minutes ticked by they began to press Wellingborough, looking for another equaliser. The home side had the defensive organisation of their captain to thank for keeping the the visitors at bay. However, the game still had an incident to throw our way and it was quite a strange one. In the 89th minute, after another Daventry raid ended with a defensive free-kick, there was clearly some words between Daventry captain Leon Lobjoit and the referee. This culminated in the referee producing a yellow card, sin-binning the striker. More words mist have been uttered as Lobjoit left the field because the referee immediately followed up the yellow with a red, leaving the visitors to play with 9 for the remaining few minutes. Of course, with so little time left and two players down, there was no way back for Daventry at this point.
FT Wellingborough Town 2 Daventry Town 1. A hard-earned three points for the home side but they were made to work very hard by a Daventry side who played with a man down for much of the game.
Both sides are back in action on Tuesday evening. Wellingborough make the short journey over to Vase finalists Newport Pagnell Town who lost 1-0 at March Town United on Saturday. Meanwhile, Daventry will be looking to get their season firing when they welcome Aylestone Park to Elderstubbs. The Leicestershire side came from 2-1 down at half-time to beat Histon 3-2.
Wellingborough Town: Bodycoate, Bates, Alexander, Henson, O'Connor(c), Solkon, John, Buckby, Noel, Cichozs, Obeng
Daventry Town: O'Connor, Osei-Bonsu, Marshall, Jackson, Bird, Archer, Bell, Tcacik, Allen, Lobjoit(c), Kille. Subs: Cerga, Print, Farrell, Campbell, Lyons
Ground Number: Re-visit