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Monday 26th December 2022 ko 15:00

Western League Premier Division


BARNSTAPLE TOWN 3 (Swan 17 73 Andrew 79)

Att 447

Entry £5

Programme online only (downloadable)

It must have been nearly twenty years ago. I was on a weekend away with my ex-wife and a couple of friends at Ilfracombe Holiday Park. The friends went off to explore a garden centre, but the wife had spent most of the previous night doing college study. She opted to spend most of Saturday asleep but before she dozed off she said the magic words, “Go find a game.” She did so thinking that since it was mid-May I’d stand little or no chance of finding something; she always did underestimate me. 

I ended up at Appledore in the old Devon County League and trotted back to Ilfracombe with a happy if knowing smile. I remember her suspiciously turning over the programme in disbelief!  I never did admit that I’d thoroughly researched my options before driving down- just in case! But I’m sure you’re now wondering what that has to do with Ilfracombe Town? It’s simple really, back then if they’d have been at home I could have walked to Marlborough Park in less than 5 minutes.

Back then Ilfracombe Town was a staple of the Western League, but in 2014 were forced to fold their first XI and the reserves playing in the North Devon League. It took 6 years, but the Bluebirds did return to the Western League via the South West Peninsula League. You may wonder why I’ve included that statistic, but now compare that the years of the South West Peninsula and Western League Hops. Talk about bad timing!

Marlborough Park lies atop a hill overlooking the town and the view of the sea from two sides is a large reason why the ground is such an icon of the non-league scene. Do, though pay this place a visit in daylight hours, I suspect it would be quite the same at night.  It was one of those afternoons when I spent most of my time walking round, enjoying all the angles Marlborough Park gives you. That and since it was a massive local derby the clubhouse was rammed so as to be virtually inaccessible.

I was surprised at the club’s choice of music to play over the PA when I arrived. There was ABBA’s “Money Money Money,” and Pink Floyd’s “Money” and plenty more. It was clearly aimed at the visitors, presumably tongue-in-cheek, but the joke rather backfired on Ilfracombe as Barnstaple were worthy winners, in the cold and rain.

But my approach was that of an outsider, the music meant little or nothing to me. Where I did find meaning was seeing two thriving clubs entertain a huge crowd at a quite wonderful ground. Mind you it did take most of the way back to the M5 for my feet to warm up!