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Wednesday 2nd March 2016 ko 19.45

East Midlands Counties League

ARNOLD TOWN 4 (Slawson 7 Payne 73 Wood 87 Branston 90)

HOLWELL SPORTS 5 (Joachim 12 58 Stevenson 38p Wells 65 77)

Att 24

Entry £5

Programme £1 (double issue with the previous Saturday’s game)

Teamsheet FREE

Back in 2005 I paid a visit to Arnold Town for a Northern Counties East game at their former home, Gedling Road. I found a vibrant club, right in the centre of their community and seemed to be thriving despite some fairly obvious ground constraints. The club moved to a new ground, Eagle Valley in 2009, after a season in exile but its location was, and to some extent still is the surprising factor in the club’s recent history.

On one hand Eagle Valley is everything Gedling Road wasn’t. There’s a large clubhouse with excellent facilities. Pitchside, the ground fulfils ground grading for Step 5, one notch higher than the EMCL, and there’s plenty of room for expansion too. The problem for me is Eagle Valley’s location- it’s barely in Arnold, if at all, and there’s clear fields between the ground and Arnold itself.

The postal address is, Eagle Valley, Oxton Road, Arnold, but Oxton Road is in the environs of Calverton, and Calverton Miners Welfare are a well-established club in the Notts Senior League.  In the fully-professional world, the out-of-town stadium makes sense, putting the crowds well away from congestion, and with the room to provide all the facilities needed.

In non-league all too often the exact opposite is the case, the little club in the middle of town makes its money from the bingo, the darts and so-on using the clubhouse on non-game nights. Move out of town, and that income stream disappears, but there’s a less economic side to it too.

I’ve published my rather poor photos of Gedling Road, and whilst it had real issues, it had character by the bucket-load, and for those who think that doesn’t translate into income just have a look at the frankly frightening attendance on this occasion, at a ground where the pitchside furniture added up to no more than two “Arena” stands and hard standing. The wind whistled through the facility into the emptiness between itself and the town in the distance.

The club have struggled in recent years. Season 2012/13 saw relegation from the Northern Counties East, Premier Division after being docked 13 points for an insolvency event but opted to move across to the East Midlands Counties League.

Now I may have caught the club on a bad night, but the struggles of the club’s past and present seem to be weighing heavily upon them. In practical terms there wasn’t a programme; none of Saturday’s double issue were produced for this game, my copy was rustled up by the chairman. The tea bar wasn’t open pitchside, and you could hear the PA announcer asking whether the mike was switched on well before he realised it was.. The impression was on a club on its knees, still friendly to a fault, but just that little bit too far away from the patrons that are any club’s lifeblood.

Of course the game completely bucked the depressing trend! It was a rip-roaring encounter, which the difference between the two sides was former Leicester City and Aston Villa forward Julian Joachim. He may be 41 now, but the mind is still active, and his skill and know-how got him a brace of goals, and his influence saw Holwell home.

But that wasn’t any great solace to Arnold still struggling at the wrong end of the table. That’s 17 goals conceded in their last 3 games, and as the meagre crowd negotiated the potholes in the car park I felt I wasn’t the only one of the 24 present fearing for the club’s future.

And here’s Arnold Town’s old Gedling Road Ground in December 2005.