Friday 10th February 2017 ko 19.45
Eastern Counties League Premier Division
ELY CITY 2 (Darling 69 Neal 86)
HAVERHILL ROVERS 1 (Palmer 83)
The Eastern Counties League has used the Friday night fixture as a promotional tool for a few years, and whilst this tie saw quite a few groundhoppers present, I do wonder whether the unusual fixture actually saw an increase in attendance. Whilst I found it convenient, I’m sure some others would prefer the traditional Saturday afternoon kick-off.
It is possible that the weather put a few off. It was cold and the afternoon snow put the fixture in some doubt. It was a case of keep an eye on Twitter and make a judgement call. In the end my travelling companions and I fancied our evening out enough to take the risk!
In the great book of footballing homonyms this Ely is the Cambridgeshire version, although Ely Cathedral looking positively ghostly in its floodlights does give you a clue, if you’ve temporarily lost all notion of place. That by the way is entirely possible if you try one of groundhopper Chris Garner’s “Fortified” hot chocolates! Sadly I was driving.
The Unwin Ground has all the advantages of being of the edge of town, although driving through all the other sports facilities does involve a certain leap of faith. It is, by football’s own standards a new build, the club vacated the Paradise Ground for here in 1986, and let’s face it when a ground is older than your girlfriend it can’t be “New” can it?
The ground used to be called Downham Road, but was renamed after late club stalwart Doug Unwin in 1999. It manages to straddle those often opposing poles of functionality and quirkiness, with the stand with the glazed sides sheltering many from the occasionally snow flurries, and it was no coincidence that the tea and food sold quickly!
It was an odd evening for weather. You could see why the club were wary about the snow, there was light flurries but when I made it through the turnstiles the pitch was obviously playable. I inwardly smiled, propped myself on the pitchside barrier and felt the thin layer of ice, perhaps it was a tighter affair than I’d convinced myself of?
It was an equally tight affair on the pitch. Two sides looking metaphorically over their shoulders saw a game where both sides passed, moved, and entertained but lacked that little bit of guile in the final third. Eventually George Darling’s deflected shot broke the deadlock, substitute Jordan Palmer equalised, but Craig Neal won the game for the hosts to the considerable relief of the home faithful.
We departed and marveled at how it was actually warmer than when we’d walked in. I know British weather is often a mystery, or thinking about it perhaps it was those hot chocolates!