I have to say that the wait to visit Sheepy Road was well worth it. The stadium has everything that a good non-league ground should have. Yes, it's definitely showing signs of wear and tear. Yes, there are indications of a past life at a higher level. No, there wasn't any means of drying your hands in the gents (on the Rowlands Way side) but what great character the place has. I loved it and would certainly put it up there in my top ten, maybe even top five, non-league venues. Sheepy Road also appears to have three entrances. Two is a rarity in non-league. I don't think I have come across a ground with three before.
I parked on the Rowlands Way side of the ground and entered through the single turnstile which brings you into the complex behind the players and officials block as well as the main stand, which runs almost the full length of this side of the ground. On the opposite, Sheepy Road side, there is another covered stand, the dugouts, the snack bar, the clubhouse/bar and another turnstile entrance. Behind both goals there are shallow terraces and, at the Gypsy Lane end, another entrance as well as what looks like an old snack hut (one of the signs of life at a higher level?).
Going into the game, Atherstone were sitting in fifth spot, below Hinckley on goal difference and 18 points shy of leaders Walsall Wood. In fact, only an absolute collapse from Wood could give any of the chasing pack a chance of the title. Swifts, by contrast, were sitting third from bottom, 10 points above Alvis but having played a game extra. Although they had a little bit of leeway, they still need to get a few more points on the board to feel completely safe. The reverse fixture in Tamworth finished 4-0 to Atherstone, so Swifts obviously knew they were in for a real battle.
That all changed after 11 minutes though. It took a little bit of good luck, but Atherstone took the lead when a Ryan Quinn drive, from the edge of the box, took a slight deflection which took it out of reach of Paintain's despairing dive. 1-0.
The goal, it has to be said, changed the complexion of the game in as much as it visibly gave Atherstone more confidence. Suddenly the passes were crisper and there was a swagger to their game. Bolehall's heads didn't drop after going a goal down, but they were being pushed back more and more.
On the half hour mark the second goal arrived when Alex Naughton turned very sharply on the corner of the 18-yard box before rifling drive into Paintain's far corner. 2-0.
The final fifteen minutes of the first half felt very much like Atherstone versus Swifts goalkeeper, Paintain. The Bolehall stopper single-handedly kept the score down to two with some superb saves, managing to get fingertips to a number of goal-bound efforts.
HT Atherstone Town 2 Bolehall Swifts 0. Once into their flow, Atherstone played some wonderful football. Bolehall hung in there and will be happy to be only two down at the break, mainly thanks to their keeper who has pulled off a number of superb saves.
On 59 minutes some great work by Naughton on the right, taking the ball to the byline and cutting it back, laid the third on a plate for Harry Walker-Donovan to make it 3-0.
Two minutes later substitute Danny Harris supplied a very nice finish to make it 4-0 and then the icing on the cake was supplied on the 63rd minute by Jonathan Gould. The left-sided player picked the ball out some 35-40 yards out, beat a series of Swifts defenders and then delicately lofted the ball over the onrushing Paintain to make it 5-0. A brilliant individual effort.
At this point it was obviously a case of damage limitation for Bolehall and, to their absolute credit, they fought hard until the final whistle showing some great team spirit. Town, however, were dominant and continued to try to pas the ball into the net, which is one of the reasons they didn't get to double figures.
Somewhat surprisingly, Atherstone failed to add to their total, despite going close on a number of occasions.
FT Atherstone Town 5 Bolehall Swifts 0. A comprehensive victory and wonderful display of football from the home side. Towards the end, one or two home supporters were getting a bit annoyed that the Adders hadn't scored more goals but, let me tell you, they are very privileged to be able to watch this style of football on a weekly basis. The way Atherstone play the game is an absolute credit to their club and management. Entertainment at it's very best.
Atherstone Town: Beeson, Goodby, Gould, Haines, Gray, Thomson, Walker-Donovan, Baxter (c), Naughton, Quinn, Mewies. Subs: Williams, Harris, Green, Shorthouse, Eggleton
Bolehall Swifts: Paintain, Selvester, L.Taylor, Day, Brown, Dunlevy, Atkinson-Forbus, Phillips, Iliffe, Payne, O'Neill. Subs: Weir, Derrington, J.Taylor, Smith
Ground Number: 153