Whittlesey Athletic play their home games at Feldale on the Eastern edge of Whittlesey, a small town 6 miles East of Peterborough in the Fenland district.
Did you know? - On the approach to the town of Whittlesey from the West you will pass the three largest inland wind turbines in the country, which apparently are used to power the McCain's factory which sits just off the main road into the town. So, not only are your oven chips more healthy but they area also at least partially produced with sustainable energy.
Whittlesey Athletic were only formed seven years ago, in 2014, as the result of a merger between Whittlesey United and Coates Athletic, Coates being a village just a mile or so East of Whittlesey. They joined the United Counties League in 2016 from the Peterborough & District League, but called it a day early in the season. They went back to the Peterborough League before re-joining the united Counties League in 2019. They played both abandoned season in the UCL before moving laterally to the Eastern Counties League Division One North for the start of this season.
Downham Town, hailing from the town of Downham Market, are Eastern Counties League veterans. They joined the league in 1988 as one of the founder members, also coming in from the Peterborough & District League. They have stayed in the same division ever since and are now in their 34th season at this level. Their best league position came 10 years after the league formed, in the 1998-99 season, when they finished third.
This season kicked off with both sides winning their opening fixture 1-0, Whittlesey at home to Great Yarmouth and Downham at Framlingham. As far as I can see there have been no previous meetings in competitive games although, as the clubs are not too far apart, they well have met in local cups or friendlies in the past.
It was obvious right from kick-off that the home team were playing a narrow three at the back with wing backs pushed higher up the pitch. An attacking formation but one that left them a little exposed on their flanks defensively. It was also quite clear early on that Downham were prepared for this formation and were looking to exploit it, especially through the pace of their right-sided attacker Amon Kusirayi. As early as the 8th minute Kusirayi was set clear with a run on goal but Elliot Gale in the home goal was quick to react, coming off his line to make a good save. Six minutes later, as the away side continued to hold sway in terms of possession, Kusirayi turned provider, switching play to Ryan Pearson on the left, his intelligent lobbed effort from outside the box beat Gale but hit the top of the bar and went to safety.
The home side's first attempt of note came in the 20th minute when Jack Carter rose well at the near post directing a firm header narrowly wide. The effort sparked some reaction from his team mates and Athletic held onto possession a lot better for the next few minutes. Six minutes later Town goalkeeper Duncan McAnally had to react well to a deflected stab at goal, scooping the ball away from danger and something of a scramble in the penalty area.
Aside from these instances, clear cut chances remained at a premium. Downham continued to look for the ball over the top for Kusirayi but either the initial pass was wayward, the cross behind the attackers or the finish just not strong enough to bother Gale. It seemed as if we were heading for a goalless first half until Downham switched attacking focus, sending Pearson free down the left this time. His low, driven, cross was met by the unfortunate substitute defender Lewis Saunders running back towards his own goal. The ball rattled off the defenders foot and into the net. 0-1.
HT Whittesley Athletic 0 Downham Town 1. A half of few clear cut chances but those that came along were mainly for the away side who deservedly lead at half-time. Athletic, playing three at the back, were exposed down both flanks at times. The pace of Kusirayi in particular, provided an easy attacking option for Downham.
Downham looked to have control of the game at this point and it felt like it was only a matter of time before they got another goal. However, Athletic dug in a little and looked for a way back. Midfielder James Hill-Seekings tried to lead by example, picking the ball up in the centre of the pitch before dancing through the entire Downham backline, but as he bore down on goal McAnally was quick off his line to block the effort. Whittlesey made some changes and it was one of those, Matt Heron, who looked to have got them back in the game as we approached the last 20 minutes. Receiving the ball, inside the box, with his back to goal, the big striker swivelled and jabbed the ball in at the far post. 1-2.
The goal certainly pepped up the home team. Until that point, in the second half, Downham appeared to be coasting to victory, but suddenly there was renewed belief in the home side as they pushed for an equaliser.
Then after riding out the storm they hit Whittlesey with the killer blow on 79 minutes. Hunt's run down the right ended with a pull back to Bird who was left with a relatively simple tap in to make it 1-3.
With only just over 10 minutes left it didn't appear that the home side would have enough to get back into it now. They didn't give up the ghost by any means but when they had a header cleared off the line in the 89th minute, Downham then broke very quickly, Kusirayi made a run to the left of the box and crossed for Joe Jackson to complete the scoring. 1-4.
FT Whittlesey Athletic 1 Downham Town 4. Downham deservedly retained their 100% start to the season as they prepare to travel to 7th placed Norwich CBS on Saturday. Athletic have another home game in which to pick themselves up as they entertain second-placed Diss Town.
When I saw my first Eastern Counties game at Godmanchester (Look East) a few years back I remember saying that I wanted to see more game sin the league. Unfortunately, most of the grounds are just that bit too far to reach on a weekday evening. However, I enjoyed my trip to Whittlesey and I am determined to get to a few more Eastern Counties games this season, even if it means getting home at midnight.
Whittlesey Athletic: E.Gale, Wilmer, Long, Pell(c), Cook, Moore-Papworth, Redhead, Hatfield, Carter, Hill-Seekings, Whittington. Subs: Saunders, Bellairs, Heron, Hailstone, O.Gale
Downham Town: McAnally, Reed, Hutton, Gould(c), Yates, Knowles, Kutsirayi, Hunt, Prentice, Bird, Pearson. Subs: Berry, Jackson, Butt, Oughton, Sykes
Ground Number: 274