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Thursday 23th May 2013 ko 18.30

North Leicestershire League Chairman’s Shield Final

LOUGHBOROUGH FC 1 (Varnham 64)

WHITWICK UNITED 4 (A Raine 40 Wade-Jones 53 90p Lawrence 80)

Att c80

Entry & Programme £3

I’m well used to trips to Loughborough, my famously unsporting ex-wife did her PhD at the famously sporting university, and I reflected as I passed the institution that this was the only time I’d turned LEFT at the roundabout on Epinal way!

I’d wanted to visit The Luffs for years, and for the most spurious of reasons. I’d visited Nanpantan-based Loughborough Dynamo, and soon after picked up an enamel badge from a dealer, only to notice that it wasn’t quite what I thought it was. I filed it away until I’d ticked off the ground, the trouble is that took 10 years…. Still it was well worth the wait!

The Drome sits on the site of the former Loughborough Aerodrome, on Bishops Meadow. That was originally planned to be a civil aerodrome but when World War II broke out the site was used for aircraft manufacture by Brush Coachworks. Around 335 de Havilland Dragon Rapide (known as de Havilland Dominie when used for military use)  aircraft were built here between March 1943 and March 1946. Several other aircraft were refurbished at the Loughborough Brush factory including Douglas Bostons and Lancasters by the Airwork company. The airfield even made it on to the Luftwaffe’s target list!

The postal address is on the Derby Road, but the ground is accessed through an industrial estate on Cotton Way. It isn’t straightforward to find, and I was not blessed with time to kill.

It became obvious that The Drome is a far better ground than just about every other ground in the North Leicestershire League, which was why the League picked it for their 3 supplementary cup finals. That was not popular with Whitwick who would have preferred a neutral venue, although I suspect their objections dissipated as the evening wore on!

The Drome is well appointed for two reasons, the first being the club’s 1998-2006 stint in the Midland Combination. The second is that the club’s administration is clearly of a standard way above their current station. They have a website, an active Twitter feed, and produce programmes for all home games, including this one, technically a game hosted by the league.

The club are go-ahead despite the limitations placed upon them. There’s no power, so the tea bar is powered by a generator, and solar panels provide part of the power needed for the showers. The club are pondering the installation of a wind turbine to supplement this. There’s no running water either so rainwater is collected, filtered and stored in bowsers. There’s a £38,000 grant application lodged with the Sports Foundation to get electrical power installed, but the local council aren’t easy to deal with and the club are worried as to whether they’ll let them dig the trench from the industrial estate.

The team have had no so such problems winning the First Division with only a solitary draw sullying their record. In fact their only defeat this season came against Shepshed in the county cup, no disgrace since they play 5 divisions higher than the Luffs. It does leave the club with a dilemma, do they go for the NLFL Premier Division, or do they fancy a crack at the Central Midlands League? It’s a quirk of the local football scene that the Leicestershire Senior League’s lower division is only open to them if they win the NLFL’s Premier Division, even though the two divisions are at the same level, 8 promotions from the Football League!

I did wonder though why the League had bothered with 3 supplementary cup competitions? League President Mike Jones, resplendent in his chain of office provided the answer.

” We were way ahead of schedule with our fixtures, at Christmas so we decided to play these as we didn’t want the lads to have nothing to do. Of course as soon as we started to play them it didn’t stop raining!”

What the game added up to for the Luffs, was a game too far for them. The competition is for sides in Divisions 1 and 2 of the NLFL but the opposition could not have been tougher, Whitwick finished second, and the opposition soon worked out they could win the tie if they slowed the game down, harassed the hosts and take their chances. That they did, and restricted the hosts to a handful of chances.

Adam Raine fired home from a corner, before Mitchell Wade-Jones doubled their lead after the break. Ashley Varnham jinked through to reduce the arrears, but Damon Lawrence’s magnificent free-kick settled the tie. Wade-Jones’ late penalty was mere garnish on an excellent win. They enjoyed the presentation, but I walked away impressed by the Luffs organisation in what has been a wonderful season, but also of the league they play in. I’ll keep an on both, they provided me with an excellent evening’s entertainment.