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Monday 26th December 2011 ko 3.00pm

Isthmian League Division One North

SOHAM TOWN RANGERS 3 (Cotton 7p 21 Carter 53)

AFC SUDBURY 1 (Henshaw 64)

Att 221

Entry £7

Programme £1.50

Tea 70p

Cheeseburger £2.50

Chips £1.10

The small Cambridgeshire town of Soham seems to have been touched by tragedy more than most. As if the 2002 murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were not bad enough, in 1944 the town narrowly escaped destruction. A fire developed on the lead wagon of a heavy ammunition train travelling slowly through the town. The town was saved by the bravery of four  staff, Benjamin Gimbert (Driver), James Nightall (Fireman), Frank Bridges (Signalman) and Herbert Clarke (Guard), who uncoupled the rest of the train and drove the engine and lead wagon clear of the town, where it exploded, killing Jim Nightall and Frank Bridges but causing no further deaths. Ben Gimbert survived and spent seven weeks in hospital. Although small in comparison to what would have happened if the entire train had blown up, the explosion caused substantial property damage. Gimbert and Nightall were both awarded the George Cross (Nightall posthumously).

Despite all this Soham is a thriving market town and its club has done well to graduate from the Eastern Counties League. Julius Martin Lane now reflects that elevation, with covered terracing on the 3 accessible sides, the fourth a victim of the ground graders. It appears to be just too open! All this cover has slightly restricted the view from the main stand, a bench-seated affair, with doors at the side for access at the side. All very welcome on a cold, windy day.

The part of the ground the club are probably most proud of is the clubhouse. Both large and comfortable, it easily coped with a bumper Boxing Day crowd. I found it handy to buy my food from the burger bar nearby and quietly sit and read my programme.

The club was established in 1947 by a merger of Soham Town and Soham Rangers.Town were formed in 1920, won the Cambridgeshire Junior Cup in 1932–33, and played in the Cambridgeshire League during the 1930s, earning promotion to the Premier Division in 1938. Rangers were formed in 1919 and reached the top division of the Cambridgeshire League in 1926, the same year in which they won the Junior Cup. The merged club entered the Eastern Counties League in 1963,  won the 2007-2008 title and were promoted to the Southern League, Midland Division. For this season they were switched sideways to the Isthmian part of the pyramid.

As befits a local derby the action was fairly frantic. Soham took the lead from the penalty spot, after Andy Furnell ran strongly into the Sudbury penalty area. He seemed bound to score but Sudbury keeper Danny Gay managed to block his shot, but  a further block by defender Steve Adams was adjudged to have been handball. He was booked and Daniel Cotton stepped forward to fire the spot-kick low into the bottom left hand corner.

Soham doubled their lead on 21 minutes, and again Cotton’s hard work paid off. His neat one-two put him clean through and he beat former Southend keeper Gay easily. All quite surprising given the relative League positions of the clubs. You expected the visitors to make a better fist of things in the second half, but on 51 minutes the game was put out of reach when Gay spilled a Cotton free-kick and Scott Carter was on hand to force the ball home through a melee of players.

Sudbury gained some consolation when Michael Shinn’s 64th minute free-kick defeated the Soham Town Rangers defence and Ryan Henshaw was on hand to reduce the deficit. However despite all Sudbury’s huffing and puffing the final score was a fair reflection on the game.