Formed in 1953, Bolehall Swifts have played at their current ground, Rene Road, since 1961. The ground is situated in Amington, just to the North-East of Tamworth town centre. Both Amington and neighbouring Bolehall, after which Swifts are named, were once villages but have been swallowed up by the growth of Tamworth. The ground, in my opinion, is something of a gem in the non-league world because it doesn't follow any standard configuration. The ground is accessed via a narrow service road off Rene Road which leads to a car park that spans both sides of a fairly large clubhouse. The pitch is situtated a good 50 yards off to the left from the car park and is accessed via a gate and path that runs down past another building that houses the player's and official's areas, spectator toilets and a snack bar (drinks can also be purchased from the club). Rene Road has not one, but two, very distinctive stands. To the right of the entrance, behind the goal, is the 150 bench-seat stand known as the "Welcome to Bolehall Swifts Stand", presumably because the phrase is painted in bright yellow letters across the top of the stand. On the far side of the pitch is a very unusual covered standing area, apprarently known as the "Founded 1953 Stand" (according to Wikipedia). This is one of football's more unusual stands, up there with Teversal's Tesco trolley shelter. I believe it started out life as a pig pen and still has open-fronted pens segregated by small walls. It's these sort of quirky features that make visiting non-league grounds so interesting. Of course, it's not just the grounds that make non-league special, it's the people. A big thank you to the Bolehall Swifts committee member who let me take photos of the team sheets before kick-off. It's so much easier to write these blogs when I have the player names to hand.
This was the first meeting between the sides this season. At the start of play Bolehall sat in 10th spot having taken 19 points from their 14 games. Lane Head were two places and seven points worse off than their hosts.
Although Swifts had lost 2-1 at Barnt green in their last outing, way back on December 2nd, they had won three of their last six. Lane Head had managed to win two of their last six. Both victories came against Redditch Borough, 3-0 at home and 1-0 in Redditch.
Lane Head joined the Midland League in 2018. Since that time, including the two abandoned seasons, there have been six meetings. Lane Head have won three, Bolehall two with one draw. Last season saw the teams fight out a goalless draw at Rene Road whilst Lane Head clocked up a 3-0 victory at home with Jack Arnold notching a brace
The visitors kicked off and almost had the perfect start to the game. They pushed forward immediately and were awarded a penalty within the first 10 seconds of the game. Jack Arnold stepped up but blazed his spot-kick well over the bar. A massive let-off for Swifts. The home side looked a little rattled at this stage as Lane Head, not letting the miss disappoint them, pressed forward towards the main stand. Arnold, trying to make amends for his penalty miss, went on a couple of good runs, causing plenty of concern but, unfortunately for the visitors, with no end product.
Swifts were gradually starting to get going and on 8 minutes came close themselves. A delightful first time pass from Connor Baikie found Joe Edwards who hit a first time shot towards the top corner, only to be thwarted by a flying save from Lane head keeper Chris Adamson. Bolehall had now weathered the initial storm and were probing the Lane head backline more and more. Another lovely through ball found Jake Allen but, as Adamson raced off his line, Allen stroked his shot just wide of the mark. The respite was brief. A minute later Allen stood over a free-kick out on the left flank. His perfect delivery was met by the head of skipper Lewis Miller, who made no mistake. 1-0. Now it was Lane Head who were under the cosh. Bolehall looked the more likely to score again as they tried to take control of the game. However, the next big chance was to come at the opposite end. The Swifts defence, playing out from the back, gifted the ball to Arnold on the edge of the area just past the half-hour mark. However, the striker took a little too long to get the ball out of his feet allowing just enough time for home keeper Oliver Doyle to bravely throw himself at the ball and save the day. The incident must have given Lane Head some impetus because, just two minutes later, they conjured up an equaliser. A free kick on their right wing was delivered deep towards the far post. The ball evaded everyone except for Kieran Grew, who stroked the ball home on the volley. 1-1
HT Bolehall Swifts 1 Lane Head 1. From a neutral's point of view, an entertaining half of football. Swifts edged the game on possession but could also count themselves very lucky not to have been a goal down inside the first minute. There was a little bit of an edge creeping in towards the end of the half. Although there hadn't been any bad tackles, there was clearly some comments being made between the players. You could see that by the way Lane head celebrated their goal.
Just past the hour mark it was Bolehall who were presented with a golden chance to go in front. Lane Head's stopper Chris Adamson came out of his box to win the race to a long ball. His momentum took him well out of his area where Swifts managed to win the ball back. It fell to Joe Edwards with Adamson in no-mans land but with a couple of covering defenders between him and the goal. His shot evaded the defenders but was just wide of the mark. Good covering from the Lane Head defence, forcing Edwards to snatch at his shot. As with the effort that went close in the first half, the incident seemed to bolster Bolehgall's resolve and they started to press for a winner themselves. With just over twenty minutes remaining they won a free-kick some 25 yards out and just to the left of the goal. Jake Allen once more took the set-piece, this time going for goal himself. The shot bounced just in front of Adamson who got down well but couldn't hold the ball. Owen Nolan reacted quicker than the Lane Head defenders this time, slotting the ball home to make it 2-1 much to the annoyance of Adamson who clearly felt he hadn't been given enough cover by his defence.
There was still time for Bolehall to almost gift an equaliser to Lane Head. Keeper Oliver Doyle inexplicably gave the ball to Kieran Grew on the edge of the box. However, the Swifts stopper was quick to make amends, spreading himself well to make the save.
FT Bolehall Swifts 2 Lane Head 1. A very hard-fought win for Bolehall. The edginess that seemed to be spreading at the end of the first half almost boiled over at the end of the game with a couple of Lane Head players clearly not happy with something that had been said. Thankfully it didn't escalate.
Bolehall climb to 9th and are now a healthy looking nine points clear of the drop zone. Lane Head remain 12th but the gap at the bottom of the table has narrowed after second-bottom Redditich Borough won 4-1 at home to Hampton. Thsi means that two pints now separates Redditch, Coventry Alvis, Barnt Green and Lane Head.
Next up for Bolehall is a trip to The Boggery on January 2nd to face Hampton. Bolehall won the home fixture 1-0 back in August. Lane Head are back at home as they wlecome Inkberrow for their first meeting this season.
All that remains is for me to wish all at Bolehall and Lane Head a very Happy New year.
Bolehall Swifts: Doyle, Brown, Mollison, Brehany, Miller(c), Thurstance, Nolan, Edwards, Baikie, Allen, Adams. Subs: Thompson, Vale, Yonwin, O'Callaghan, Minton
Lane Head: Adamson(c), Giles, Young, Davies, Fellows, Green, Lynex, Follows, Grew, Arnold, Martins. Sunbs: Watkins, Stearn, Embrey, Swan
Ground Number: 339