Looking back through my match blogs I realised that I had already seen Athletic play twice, once at home to Wodford and an away game at Oakham United. However, I had never seen Town play, home or away.
Town's Dunley Way ground is tucked away in the middle of housing, not too far away from the town centre and only 2 miles from Atho's Hall Park ground. Parking within the ground is quite limited but, having said that, I still managed to get in 15 minutes before kick-off. I guess with it being such a local derby most spectators were on foot. Entry from the car park is through a single turnstile attached to the side of the clubhouse. The ground has two covered areas, a modern style seating area in front of the clubhouse just to the side of the goal and then another quirky, home-made wooden structure, also housing some seating, that runs along the Dunley Way side of the pitch. The dugouts are situated on the far side of the ground and the far end of the ground, behind the goal, is inaccessible to spectators. The pitch looked heavy but, considering recent rainfall, not as bad as it could have been.
Town are the older of the two clubs, being formed in the 1920's as opposed to Athletic's fairly recent formation in 1983. Both have come up through the ranks of local football in Leicestershire, through the Senior League and then into the Step 6 and the United Counties structure (although Atho had one season in the East Midlands League). Interestingly, the sides have swapped grounds in recent years. Dunley Way, Town's home, was home to Athletic at one time but after Athletic moved to Hall Park in 2011, displacing Town, The Swifts eventually moved into Dunley Way.
Despite being the younger of the clubs, Athletic made it into Step 6 five years before their rivals. Because of this, last season was the first time the clubs had met in a league match since the 2008-09 season when Atho finished second, gaining promotion to the Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division.
However, since Town joined their neighbours in Division One of the United Counties League, they have held sway. Last season saw Town win at 1-0 at Atho, despite having a player dismissed. They then followed this up with a 3-2 home win late in the season, coming from 2-1 down at half-time.
The game sprang into life as early as the 8th minute. First of all Marshal Keenan, from way out, smashed a superb effort off Faulkner's bar and then, after the ball was cleared, a quick break down the Town right led to a low cross being tapped in at the far pots by Jordan Small. 1-0. The aftermath of the goal celebrations caused disturbance in the crowd on the far side of the pitch where Atho and Swifts supporters were standing in close proximity. From my vantage point further down the touchline past the dugouts, I couldn't actually see what happened but whatever the case, it did cause a four minute delay before the referee was happy to restart the game.
After the early goal, the game turned into a typical local derby, hard fought and played mostly in the midfield area. Athletic certainly tried to take the game to their hosts, especially down their right hand side, but despite their best efforts they didn't make any significant opportunities and the Swifts back-line, ably assisted by the battling qualities of central midfielder Lee Tyers, looked to be in control most of the time.
For Athletic, right-winger Barnes Gladman's pace and trickery was a threat but as the half progressed Town left-back Louis Samuels grew into the game and began to look more assured.
HT. Lutterworth Town 1 Lutterworth Athletic 0. A fairly scrappy half with not too much in the way of flowing football. In all fairness it was Atheltic who shaded the possession but failed to really call Butlin into action.
Six minutes later Town made Athletic pay for their earlier missed chance. Keenan picked the ball up almost on the halfway line, drove forward and then unleashed a drive low to Faulkner's left, beating the keeper with the sheer pace of the shot. A superb effort. 2-0.
Town saw out the remainder of the game reasonably comfortably. As a neutral it was an interesting contest. On the day it felt like the teams, man for man, were quite evenly matched although I would have probably given slightly higher individual scores to many of the Atho side. However, as overall teams, it was Town who looked more together, more coherent in the way they played.
FT Lutterworth Town 2 Lutterworth Athletic 0. No doubt that both sides will finish well up the league and may even both be pushing Anstey Nomads all the way. If the season continues the way it is going the return match on April 22, the penultimate game of the season, could well be an absolute cracker.
Lutterworth Town: Butlin, Riley, Samuels, Tyers, Peace, Leslie, Wilson, Roberts, Keenan, Small, Daire (c). Subs: Starkie, Molyneaux, Clarke, Lewis, Nelson
Lutterworth Athltic: Faulkner, Coyle, Sutherland, Reaney, Morgan, Rapley, Gladman, Ivens, Rhodes, Woodward, Weston. Subs: Gill, Munton, Blockley, Harris, Bjelic
Ground Number: 174