St Andrews Canal Street ground is situated on the outskirts of the suburb of Aylestone, just outside Leicester city centre and not a million miles from the King Power Stadium. The ground is accessed through an impressive single turnstile from the reasonably sized car park. I was greeted with a very friendly 'Good evening, how are you?' from the lady on turnstile who also, a little later, shared the home team sheet with me from a message on her phone. The club house and refreshment bar is set back from the playing area, to the right of the turnstile. Another mention for the gent working the tea bar, who was also friendly and welcoming. Both club volunteers that I encountered were a credit to St Andrews and made for a very good impression of the club as a whole.
Between the turnstile and the club house there is a covered seating stand and opposite, next to the dugouts, an interesting sheltered standing area that is open on both sides, making it feel like you may be waiting for a train. Unique features like this, however, are what makes non-league grounds special. The ground also boasts another one of my favourite non-league ground features, trees behind the goals. A photo that I sent to a group of friends was greeted with the comment 'I wouldn't want to fetch the ball from those spooky woods behind the goal'
Overall Canal Street continues what seems to be a theme this season. A Leicestershire ground - this is number 7 of the season - that is a pleasure to visit. It really is a hot spot for great non-league stadia.
To be honest, at this point in the season, this game was probably never going to have any great bearing on the the fate of wither team. St Andrews, in the lower half of the table but well clear of the relegation zone, have steadied the ship after relegation from the Premier League last season. Bugbrooke, who finished way too close to the bottom last season, find themselves leading the chasing pack of teams who can't quite get back on terms with the top three. At the start of play they were 16 points behind third-placed Melton Town, with less than a third of the season remaining, a sizeable gap.
The sides had fought out a goalless draw at Birds Close back in October and, with the home side coming into the game on the back of two consecutive away wins, this game was expected to be equally as close. The Game
It was the away side who started the game on the front foot. As early as the 4th minute they came very close to an opener when their right-back tried his luck from outside the area and was unlucky to see his effort come back off the bar.
St Andrews gathered themselves after this let off but, despite play being fairly even, it was the away side who looked the more dangerous and missed another couple of golden opportunities inside the opening 15 minutes. I have to mention that it was about this point that I tweeted 'Badgers really should be two up' (more for my own notes than anything else) and received a reply from Jimmy Sirrel's Lovechild (@jslovechild) that actually made me laugh out loud. 'Dangerous from sett pieces'. If only Bugbrooke had gone on to score all their goals from set pieces I would have had a ready made blog title (with a reference to JSL, of course).
As it was, the balance of possession paid off after 40 minutes when Bugbrooke took the lead. A speculative effort from outside the box was spilled by the home keeper and Daniel Field was left with a relatively easy finish for 0-1.
The home side did not let their heads go down and it took just four minutes for them to find a leveller. Whilst Bugbrooke hesitated, complaining that the ball had gone out for a throw-in, St Andrews continued their attack down the left. The ball was crossed to the far post and then knocked back into the middle where Aniyah King was on hand to prod the ball home. 1-1
I'm sure, at this point, both sides would have settled for going in all square at the break. However, the late action was not over. Two minutes into added time Bugbrooke got their noses in front again when Daniel Porter was given too much time in the home box. 2-1.
HT St Andrews 1 Bugbrooke St Michaels 2. A good first half with three goals and the promise of plenty more to come in the second period.
Six minutes later Porter received the ball in the box, swivelled sharply ad planted lovely finish past the keeper to make it 1-4.
Although there was still 25 minutes remaining, you had the feeling that there was no way back for St Andrews at this point. They certainly gave it a go for the remainder of the game and, it has to be said, probably redressed the possession percentages in the closing stages. However, they couldn't find a way back into the game.
FT St Andrews 1 Bugbrooke St Michaels 4. Despite the lopsided score-line this was actually a much more tightly contested game than it first appears. Yes, The Badgers were fully deserving of the three points, but St Andrews played their part in an entertaining game and showed some signs of really nice football. The big differences were the mistakes that the home side made and the way that Bugbrooke punished them.
St Andrews: Hammill, Toon, McLean, Hawes, Lee, Armsden, Green, Sandhu, Sankey, Hodgkinson, King. Subs: Chauhan, Amoatin, Parish, Graham
Bugbrooke St Michaels: Bigly, Budd, Caton, Hall, Field Ling, Moore, Morgillo, Porter, Quigley, Reeve. Subs: Bekoe, Lyons
Ground Number: 187