This was my first visit to Meadow Lane, home of Westbury United. The ground is situated just to the North West of the town centre and, despite effectively being surrounded by a residential area, feels quite rural. It is one of those non-league grounds where you can drive your car into the complex, paying your entry and getting your programme as you go, accessed through metal gates bearing the club's name (unfortunately, I forgot to get a photo). I was greeted by a smiling local who commented that I had a 'Nice car' before pointing me in the direction of a good parking spot. I elected for a space alongside the pitch rather than behind the goal, although the car park attendant jokingly commented that behind the goal may well be a safe place. However, with 11 scored in their last two games, I wasn't sure that would be the case this evening.
Meadow Lane has two stands. The main stand on the far side from where I parked has seating for 96 and bears the name of the club in bold black lettering across the top of the stand. The second stand, The Roy Dutchman Stand, is situated on the Meadow Lane end of the ground to the left of the goal. Roy Dutchman was a long term supporter of the club, who had been a regular at Meadow Lane since 1974 until he sadly passed away in 2019. A lovely touch is the portrait of Roy in the back of the stand which means he can continue to watch his beloved Westbury United. The lettering on this stand is written in the same font as on the main stand. A very pleasing feature for an IT nerd like me, which also gives a professional look to the ground.
The clubhouse and snack cabin are also in that corner of the ground, with players and officials changing areas between the clubhouse and main stand. Dugouts are also on that side of the pitch and are about as far apart as I have ever seen at a ground. Another interesting feature was the addition of the plinth to place the match ball on, as seen before Champions League and World Cup games.
My overall impression of the ground was very good. It has a great feel to it, one of proper football ground that has seen its share of action. For some reason it reminded me of Bremhill View home of this evening's visitors Calne Town from my visit in 2016 (Webb Double Sinks Vics), possibly because the majority of the focus is on the one corner of the ground where the snack bar and stand is located.
Although not really a local derby there is only 19 miles between Westbury and Calne. Consequently, the clubs have met before quite frequently having both been part of the Western league set up for many years before transferring into the Hellenic League last season. This was a lateral move for Westbury, from the Western Premier, but was effectively a promotion for Calne who had played in the Western League Division One for the previous decade.
At the start of play this evening, Westbury sat in 11th spot with 14 points from their 8 games and were unbeaten in the league since a 2-1 defeat at home to Shrivenham in early September. Seven places below them, Calne had managed to rack up 9 points from their 11 games and had lost their previous three league games, since their last win, 3-0 at home to Thornbury Town. The sides had already met once this season, the reverse fixture at Bremhill View, which finished Calne Town 1 Westbury United 2. United led 1-0 at half-time through Dan King. Calne equalised through Jamie Walters in the 70th minute but were then reduced to 10 men when Matt Russell saw red. The game was won in the 90th minute with a Francois Allen goal, in front of a crowd of 157.
In a lively opening encounter, it was the visitors who came closest early on, having an effort cleared off the line after only 6 minutes. Both sides looked confident on the ball but it was Calne who were looking the more dangerous. They had the ball in the net after 19 minutes but were stopped by the assistant's flag which had been raised way before they scored. The Lilywhites were not playing like a team on a losing run of three games.
Therefore, it was a blow for them when, somewhat against the early run of play, they went behind. A crisp, low strike from Ashton Shanley from the edge of the box beat Edwards all ends up. 1-0.
Suddenly it was the hosts who were showing their skills, the goal having sparked them into life. Three minutes after going ahead they doubled their lead. A superb driving run from left-back Ryan Bole, where he travelled from way inside his own half to within 30 yards of the visitors goal, led to the ball being fed to Dan Demkiv who struck a stinging effort which Edwards could only parry. Ricky Hulbert, following in like any good centre-forward, was first to react, snaffling up the loose ball to make it 2-0.
A double blow for Calne who, up until that time, had edged the game. They weren't deterred, however, and came extremely close to pulling a goal back just two minutes later. First of all another effort was headed off the Westbury line before Nick Mills struck a lovely curling effort which beat Baldy but cannoned back off the bar to safety.
The game was now end to end. Calne had certainly not given up the ghost but Westbury were clearly in the mood for adding to their tally, none more so than Bole who twice tested Edwards with thunderbolts from outside the box. A left-back very much in the mould of Stuart Pearce, in stature and with the ferocity of his shooting.
HT Westbury United 2 Calne Town 0. Westbury played some really nice football at times but the visitors have also looked dangerous and can consider themselves very unfortunate to be two goals behind at the break.
That goal effectively killed the game off and, although I wouldn't say it went flat it did lose some of the zing that the first half had. Westbury were content in knowing the game was in the bag, and managed the game accordingly. Calne kept going but it felt as if they knew there was no way back for them either. How they must have been rueing the chances in the first half.
One thing we (the supporters) did get to appreciate in the second half was the eccentricity (if that's the right word) of the Westbury stadium announcer. Listening to his announcements before the game it was clear he had a different tone and method to other announcers. This was corroborated midway through the second half when a Westbury player went down and the physio was called on. The announcer took this opportunity to let us all know "Please bear with us while we make sure our player is ok", which certainly made me smile. I think all stadium announcers should be this polite.
Back to the game. There was no more serious goalmouth action until we were approaching full-time. Just as normal time was about to run out Westbury were awarded a penalty for a foul on Dan Demkiv, which the same player took and scored. 4-0. Two minutes into added time Joey Cunningham got in on the act, firing in the fifth and rally putting the icing on the Westbury cake. 5-0
FT Westbury United 5 Calne Town 0. A comfortable win for the home side in the end. It certainly wasn't that way in the first half, where Calne were unlucky not to have scored at least once. Once Westbury scored a third the result was never in doubt. The two late goals were a little harsh on the visitors who, in my eyes, were not five goals worse than Westbury. Still, the score line and table does not lie and Westbury continue their rich vein of form in front of goal. That's 15 in their last three games now.
Next up for Calne is the visit of mid-table Roman Glass St George on Saturday. Westbury face a tough looking trip over to the 3G pitch of table-toppers Malvern Town.
Westbury Town: Baldy, J.Jordan, Bole, Hutchings, Price, Shanley, Griffiths, Thompson, Hulbert, S.Jordan, D.Demkiv. Subs: Timbrell, Cunninghan, Allen, Bowden
Calne Town: Edwards, J.Norman, Bettles, C.Norman, Ford, Gleed, Mills, Hudson, Walters, Flippance, Bright. Subs: Russell, McStravick, Webster
Ground Number: 283