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Wednesday 16th October 2013 ko 19.45

Southern League Cup First Round

POOLE TOWN 1 (Byeley 63)

WIMBORNE TOWN 1 (Davidson 14)

No extra time, Poole won 5-4 on penalties

Att 206

Entry £10

Programme £2

Tea £1

The Dorset town of Poole is famous for many reasons; there’s the large harbour, and Poole Pottery now sadly closed. There’s Brownsea Island, the birthplace of the Scouting Movement, and during the English Civil War the town was a Puritan stronghold, a bastion against ship tax being levied at the time. With the Royalists on the brink of defeat in 1646, the Parliamentary garrison from Poole laid siege to and captured the nearby Royalist stronghold at Corfe Castle, the ruins of which are still a major tourist near Swanage. During the Second World War the town was a major embarkation point for Operation Overlord, as 81 landing craft containing American troops from the 29th Infantry Division and the US Army Rangers departed Poole Harbour for Omaha Beach for D-Day, in June 1944.

I arrived on a good day for the sporting folk of Poole, as on the previous evening the town’s speedway team, the Poole Pirates won the Elite League title, beating the Birmingham Brummies. That fact may well have caused the local football club mixed feelings. Town pride is one thing but the Pirates ride at Wimborne Road stadium, and until 1994 Poole Town called there home.

Wimborne Road is owned by Poole Town Council, and it was they who decided to evict the football club, and recreate the ground as a speedway stadium. It worked well for the speedway, but it caused an almost terminal decline for the football, as Town were forced to groundshare firstly at Hamworthy United then at Holt United. The club slipped from the Southern League Premier Division all the way down to the Hampshire League Division One, and things only began to look up for the club when they managed to find a pitch back in Poole at Tatnam Farm, only around a mile from Wimborne Road.

That’s to be found behind Oakdale School, and you do park in the school car park! That’s a good arrangement, you’d have to be in a massive detention for the two organisation’s timings to clash! The ground still has the feel of what it is, a school field adapted as the club gradually regained its status. There’s a low-slung main stand, with a smaller prefabricated affair behind one goal. Away from the pitch there’s a Portakabin-style bar area, and a burger van café. It looks temporary, and that hopefully is what is. Nevertheless, this is the club that found and nurtured the talents of striker Charlie Austin, now at Championship side QPR.

The club want to move, and have planning permission for a new ground at Bearwood, but the more pressing need is to make sure the facilities at Tatnam are good enough to remain in the Southern League Premier. They need to build an additional stand, behind the far goal, the council have granted planning permission and funding has been secured, but they need permission from the landowner to proceed, and so far that landowner has delayed making a decision. So who is the landowner, yes Poole Town Council…… As I watched the game I could hear the roar of speedway bikes at the old ground. I suppose here they’ve got used to it, but to me it felt like an unwanted reminder of what had been lost.

The match was one of those games you just love as neutral, a local derby (around 6 miles) and a potential upset with Wimborne plying their trade in the Southern League Division One South and West.

It wasn’t obvious which side was in the more senior division. Poole moved the ball better, and created more chances, but the visitors had the more gilt-edged shots on goal. Wimborne took the lead through Jamie Davidson’s mazy run and shot, and you wondered whether they could hold on as Poole ratcheted up the pressure. Eventually the breakthrough came, as Ekon Elliott’s low cross was smashed in at close range by Warren Byerley.

A draw was probably a fair result, and with the league sensibly eschewing extra-time the penalty shoot out saw just one miss, Billy Maybury being the unfortunate player for Wimborne, to send Poole thorough, although the absence of a celebration spoke volumes for how seriously the club was taking the competition.

Poole Town have, of course, far bigger fish to fry and it would be extremely churlish for the local authorities to delay this friendly, hard-working club’s ambitions. It’s clear they’ve suffered enough.