Saturday provided the opportunity to take in a Stourbridge away game and have a day out with my oldest and closest mate, his father-in-law and one of his friends from the WMG. The only downside was that, in the not so distant past, it would have been a five-some with my Dad (Pyramid Senior), also with us. Sadly, he can't be with us anymore, but I know he would have wanted us to have a good day out, so that was the plan. With a large crowd expected, tickets had been secured in advance and we set out on the road up to Leicestershire in good spirits. Destination, the Owen Street Sports Ground, Coalville.
One of the reasons this game was attracting a large crowd was the league position of the home side. This was the final game of the Southern League Central premier season and The Ravens were currently sitting in second place, only kept off top shot by means of Tamworth's 2-goal goal difference advantage. Tamworth were away at Redditch United. The mathematics were that Coalville had to better Tamworth's result or, should both teams win, better the Tamworth score by two goals. Being level on goal difference would give the advantage to Coalville because they had the better head-to-head record, having beaten Tamworth twice this season.
Stourbridge had nothing left to play for, their slim play-off aspirations having been ended a few weeks back.
The reverse fixture, at the War Memorial Ground, only took place a month ago. In a topsy-turvy encounter, Stourbridge took an early lead through Stan Anaebonam only for two from Tim Berridge and one from Tom McGlinchey give Coalville a 3-1 half-time lead. Alex Prosser scored late on for the Glassboys but The Ravens held on for the points.
The Owen Street Sports Ground or, to give it its current name, The Mander Cruickshank Solicitors Stadium, is located just to the South of Coalville High Street. Coalville moved to the ground after failing to get permission for floodlight sat their previous Ravenslea ground in neighbouring Ravenstone. Presumably, this is where they got their Ravens nickname. The ground is accessed via a fairly long service road from Owen Street. There is parking available at the ground but, with such a large crowd expected, we parked up when we found a spot on Owen Street. The walk down the service road takes you past some small-sided pitches and another full-size pitch before you reach the main stadium. Entrance is through a turnstile on the corner of the ground which brings you in next to a small shop that would normally sell programmes. However, even though we were a good 30 minutes before kick-off, the ground was already half-full and programmes had sold out. The 'home' end of the ground is the Shed End, a covered standing area behind the goal. this was already rammed to capacity when we arrived. On the training ground side of the ground, to the right as you enter, there is a covered spectator stand and the clubhouse, which has a balcony with seating looking out over the pitch (presumably reserved for officials). This block also houses the changing areas. There is covered standing at the far end of the ground and more covered seating opposite the clubhouse.
It's a compact ground that has plenty of atmosphere, especially when packed to the rafters as it was for this game with over 1,700 jammed inside.
With the 'olds' safely ensconced in the seats, we headed behind the goal that the Barmy Llamas had made their base for the game. This would be the end that Stourbridge were defending in the first half. Luckily (or unluckily) we were in position well before the game started because we were about to witness the quickest goal I had ever seen at a football match. Coalville kicked off in the now traditional manner of launching a long ball toward the opposition right-back position. A Stour defender won the header and tried to direct the ball across his own area towards goalkeeper Charlie Price. However, the header was mis-directed allowing Tim Berridge to nip in and poke the ball past ther keep and into the net. 1-0. Officially timed at 11 seconds. What a strat for Coalville. I'm sure most Stourbridge supporters were not expecting too much from the game but no-one expected to be be a goal down quite so early. It could be a long afternoon.
The goal seemed to take the home side by surprise too and, instead of hammering home their advantage, they allowed Stourbridge to get over the shock. Even then, the Glassboys looked absolutely toothless once into the final third, never really threatening Paul White's goal. Stourbridge supporters, with very little to cheer about themsleves, took much delight in celebrating Tamworth's 17th minute opener at Redditch.
The most surprising thing was that it took Coalville another 26 minutes to increase their lead. Again it came from the Stourbridge right, this time George Wilson cut inside and fired a slightly deflected effort past Price's left-hand, low into the corner of the net. 2-0
Again the goal prompted very little in response from Stourbridge. Coalville continued to press forward without looking overly threatening themselves to be fair. Charlie Price did have to pull off a superb stop on 36 minutes to prevent a third goal, blocking from Tom Berridge when the striker was one on one.
News came through that Tamworth had doubled their advantage at Redditch, meaning that Coalville needed to score at least two more without conceding. Maybe that prompted their action because two minutes after Kyle Finn had scored for The Lambs, Coalville bagged a third themselves. Tom McGlinchey curled a lovely shot over Price. The ball hit the underside of the bar and bounced out only for Billy Kee to be on hand to nod it over the line. 3-0
HT Coalville Town 3 Stourbridge 0. Stourbridge never really recovered from the very early goal and offered very little going forward. Coalville managed to get themselves three goals in front without playing that well themselves. With Tamworth also two in front, Coalville knew they needed to win this game and win it by a large margin if they wanted to be champions. Glassboys supporters were fully expecting an onslaught in the second half.
Coalville almost immediately forced a huge scramble in the Glassboys penalty area but somehow the ball was scrambled clear. However, after the initial response to the penalty, the double blow seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home side, and also subdued the Shed End. Stourbridge, after looking hopeless in the first half, suddenly looked the better side and certainly were the more threatening as we approached the hour point.
Both Chris Knights and Reece King went close and the introduction of Farid Mikidam added some power to Stourbridge's attack.
Coalville stepped their efforts up again as the clock began to wind down. Price was again called into action a few times towards the dying moments, producing a series of good saves as the home side desperately tried to achieve the near impossible task of scoring three more times. Unfortunately for them, it was a step too far. Tamworth completed their 3-0 win, taking the title on goal difference.
FT Coalville Town 3 Stourbridge 1. A disappointing second half from Coalville. Events transpired against them st teh start of the half with Tamworth scoring their third and Stourbriedge pulling one back from the spot. It made the home side's task just that little bit too difficult. However, after their start to the game, their supporters must have had high hopes early on. Even at half-time, with their team three up and Tamworth to ahead, the Shed End must have been thinking they could lay siege to the Stourbrifdge goal and grab a few more goals. That's football though. As a supporter, it's the hope that kills you.
Congratulations to Tamworth on gaining promotion. Coalville will face a home play-off semi-final with Rushall Olympic on Wednesday. The winner of that game will face either Leiston or Nuneaton in the Final.
Coalville Town: White, Dean, Putman, Pepe-Ngoma, Wilkinson, Wilson, Shaw, Doyle-Charles(c), Berridge, Kee, McGlinchey. Subs: Chitiza, Chambers, Smith, Thanoj, Towers
Stourbridge: Price, Lyttle, Wilson, Prosser, Kettle, Hull, White, King(c), Knight, Rowe, Anaeboam. Subs: Knights, Worley, Walters, Gittings, Mikidam
Ground Number: 362
Programme: Sold Out