Nevertheless, after two and a half hours I arrived at School Lane, the rain had stopped, and was directed to a parking spot just on 7:30. Time enough for a cuppa and a bite to eat.
I had heard a number of tales of woe about Poole's Tatnam Ground ranging from basic, through to 'it's just a field next to a school'. So, after following the signs to the entrance, I was pleasantly surprised to see a tidy little ground. Basic yes, but not without it's own charm. At the opposite end to the car park entrance is a recently added covered standing area and on the opposite side to the school is a main seating area and another smaller covered standing area. The rest of the ground is hard-standing. The stadium has quite a tight feel to it and, as such, the 341 strong attendance was enough to create a good atmosphere. After walking around the ground and noting a fair few Black Country accents, I took position behind the Tatnam Road end goal and got ready to watch the game.
This was one of the matches that I had highlighted as a featured game of the week. The reason being the league positions of the two clubs. At kick-off Stourbridge were sitting in the last play-off position on 71 points. Poole, one place and four points behind but with 4 games in hand. An absolute must win for the Glassboys and a match of massive importance to Poole. It was always going to be a tense affair.
At this point I would like to pay tribute to Poole Town. With so many matches so close together and having to fit in Thursday night matches they had come up with the idea of football for a fiver. Yes, just £5! A fantastic idea which probably added 20% plus to the gate.
After a pulsating first 10 minutes in which both teams created good chances, the game settled into the tense, tight battle that was expected. Poole, undoubtedly, had the best of the remainder of the half and only some resolute Stourbridge defending kept the half-time score to 0-0.
I spent a fair portion of the first half chatting to one of the Poole stewards. A former referee himself, he had plenty of non-league tales to tell. I have to say that Poole is a very friendly club and the steward summed up the attitude of the people I met. I think they were genuinely pleased to see the travelling supporters.
Stourbridge started the second half looking much more lively than they had in the first. Throughout the team they looked sharper and quicker. Poole, however, weathered the initial storm and started to play their way back in. Then, almost out of the blue, Luke Benbow latched onto a mistake in the Poole defence and finished very neatly past Thomas in the home goal.
As is normal with the Glassboys these days (see Hemel report) they could not hold on to the advantage for too long. A rushed clearance was picked up by Poole midfielder Steve Devlin who hammered a 25 yarder past Dean Coleman. For a few minutes Poole looked like they might take hold of the game until, just past the 70 minute mark, a clumsy challenge on Benbow resulted in a Stourbridge penalty. Skipper Sean Geddes duly fired the spot kick home to send the travelling support wild.
Poole rallied and, for the final 20 minutes, had far more possession without ever really troubling Coleman's goal. After 5 minutes of injury time, the final whistle brought cheers of relief from the away fans. A vital three points.
Poole, however, still have four games in hand and are only seven points adrift. Anything could happen in the final few weeks of the season. next up for the Dolphins and the Glassboys are AFC Totton. Poole travel to Totton for a local derby this weekend, whilst the Stags visit Amblecote next week.
Poole Town - @pooletownfc
Stourbridge - @sfcofficial