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Friday 27th October 2006 ko 19.30

Devon Premier Cup – 3rd Round

NEWTON ABBOT AFC 2 (Friend 4 Vicary 6)

Ford sent off (violent conduct) 68

TAMARSIDE 1 (Knight 76)

Att c100

Entry £2

Programme 50p

I’m sure you all know about Newton Abbot’s football club, perhaps you ticked off Newton Abbot Spurs on the 2018 South West Peninsula Hop? But there was another team in the Devon Town, playing games at the Devon FA Ground in Coach Road. I was fortunate enough to watch them play, but it was only due to a benevolent piece of influence, from Sweden of all places!

I’m sure I wasn’t the only groundhopper to spot this unusual Friday night game under floodlights. This was the season before the formation of the Peninsula League so then Newton Abbot, playing in the Devon County League would have had only the lower division of the Western League to aim for at that point.

But I’d mentally written off the tie, as living in Banbury there wasn’t a hope of me getting there after leaving work at 5, but two things happened. The first that my manager at the time decided to call a sales meeting that Friday. That in itself wasn’t too helpful, he was based in Nuneaton so tended to have meetings nearby, but for reasons unknown decided to hold the meeting in Reading, and sales meetings always finished around 4pm.

Then future Swedish Hop organiser Kim Hedwall called. He was flying into Heathrow that afternoon; too late to get a train down to Newton Abbot for the game, but the trip was doable by car he thought. I looked at it, a 3 hour drive would get us to Coach Road at 7pm if he met me in Reading and my meeting finished at 4. There was of course two issues with my theory- it relied on my meeting finishing on time and we encountered no traffic on the M4 or M5. That last bit seemed fanciful in the extreme for a Friday night, particularly on the M5 on the section from Cribbs Causeway to Clevedon.

Of course the meeting did over-run by half-an-hour, but there was dear Kim who’d had the presence of mind to find my car in the multi-storey car park and stand by it. We dashed for the M4, I switched on the sat-nav and the ETA was 7.30 exactly. Kim looked pleased until I told him to factor in at least 30 minutes’ worth of delays, but to my amazement, and let’s skirt over my average speed, the delays were minimal and we screamed into the car park two minutes before kick-off!

It was a good job we didn’t miss kick-off too, as Newton Abbot scored twice in the first six minutes, but we were late enough for Kim to find the referee at half time for the team line-ups rather than before the game! But as the game finished I realised I’d completely forgotten about the trip home! While it didn’t take 3 hours to get back to Reading I’d agreed to drop Kim back at his B & B in Paddington, which I did- at well after 1am, and I didn’t see my bed back in Banbury until after 3… We did get quite a view on the way though with no end of firework displays clearly visible on the elevated sections of the M5. I think Kim is now the best educated Swede on all things Guy Fawkes!

So what happened next? The answer is that neither side lasted much longer. Tamarside entered the East Cornwall Premier (despite being Devonian!) but resigned in 2008 citing high operating costs. A side struggled on in the Plymouth & West Devon League but eventually became Marine Academy Plymouth.

Newton Abbot entered the South West Peninsula League as founder members of Division One East, effectively the old Devon League in 2007. Things looked rosy for them, with former Birmingham City, Walsall and Scunthorpe professional John Gayle at the helm. They were promoted to the Premier Division for the 2008-9 season but after failing to fulfil fixtures were expelled mid-season and their record expunged. They’ve never been revived. 

Coach Road reverted to being used for county finals, but in 2020 was extensively renovated and a 3G pitch installed. These days Devon Football League outfit Paignton Saints play home games here as do fellow Devon Leaguers Plymouth Argyle’s Development side, who moved from Seale-Hayne to play here. The net result for the Pilgrims is that they now play 32 miles from Home Park, and only 6 from rivals Torquay United’s Plainmoor!

But only than being the tale of two friends’ madcap dash on a busy Friday it’s a classic case of seizing the day even if if I restricted my footballing activities the next day to the positively local Airbus UK in the Welsh Premier!