Dismal Day but Good Result

Match report by BILL THE BIRO

Leamington 0 Pools 1 (FA Trophy)
Saturday 15 December 2018
New Windmill Ground

I've now been to three away matches this season and one at home, and I have to say I've enjoyed them all, not least because we won them all. However I'm especially enjoying the non-league atmosphere.

I recently explained it to a Wolves fan: League Two clubs are basically downmarket Premier League clubs where it seems more like a business than a proper "club" in the social club sense. On the other hand, at the smaller National League clubs, the likes of Solihull and Havant, more of a social club atmosphere pervades the place - no segregation, a large and comfortable bar, no extortionate parking charges, and everyone's friendly. Ok, the stadium facilities, the seating and terracing may be smaller and less likely to be covered, but the catering's usually up to scratch (well, by football standards, at least!) And with the smaller crowds and grounds you're inevitably closer to the action and can hear the players and officials. It's all a bit more intimate, and perhaps a tiny bit more like Sunday League.

But when Pools were drawn away at Leamington I had an even lower-level atmosphere to experience. I also had my shortest trip ever to an away match at a mere twelve miles. Now while I know the centre of Leamington Spa* very well, I don't know its outskirts too well. And having looked at the map I thought that I'd follow the Google suggested route avoiding the town itself. That seemed a good strategy since Leamington's New Windmill Ground is in the middle of nowhere, half way between Leamington and the village of Harbury. But having a bit of local knowledge I decided I didn't need the satnav. As a result my 12 mile trip with its resulting wrong turns ended up at more like 20. However we managed to find it in good time.

Leamington used to be called AP Leamington for many years, after Automotive Products,  who used to make Lockheed brakes and clutches for cars in the town until 2000, and for that reason their nickname was, and still is, The Brakes.

The New Windmill Ground's location, surrounded all round by farmland, gives the impression that some footy fan farmer donated a field as a stadium. That impression can only be heightened when you go inside. It's basically the Grayfields enclosure (as I remember it from 50 years ago) with a 4-terrace deep shelter along one end and a shorter version with seats acting as the main grandstand along one side.

The bar was exemplary, being not only comfortable and fairly large, but also selling real ale at prices lower than in a typical pub in these parts. And that, coupled with the cheap tickets and free car park made it a very inexpensive day out.
"The match itself was really a victim of the weather. It was very cold, it rained almost throughout and a strong sidewind made a lottery of long balls"

The match itself was really a victim of the weather. It was very cold, it rained almost throughout and a strong sidewind made a lottery of long balls and I was glad to be under a roof and felt sorry for the players. Pools played most of the football but didn't do a lot to impress their new manager, and Leamington didn't manage a shot.

The only highlight was a solo goal by Ryan Donaldson who took the ball from the centre circle and jinked past several defenders before scoring. Perhaps a better opposition may have prevented it or perhaps the lack of anything to compare with it made it stand out. The other incident of note was when a Pools player slid off the pitch towards an advertising hoarding. His foot went through it and he needed assistance to retrieve it.

As the match wore on and it got colder (my toes were feeling the effects despite two pairs of socks, bringing back thoughts of standing in the Rink End many years ago), some nearby Leamington fans gave an entertaining commentary. With the match possibly going to extra time and penalties, they were imploring Loach to not let in an equaliser as they couldn't take an extra half-hour of this! I had to agree, and their wish, and perhaps that of every other person in the ground, was granted, and we all disappeared fairly sharpish to warm up and dry out.

Leamington FC had asked people to car-share as they only had space for 450 cars, and they laid on a bus service from the town centre. I guessed the attendance to be around the 700 mark, which proved to be double the official figure, but given the conditions I can't blame people for choosing to stay at home or go Christmas shopping, although I sympathised with the club, with their big occasion having been a bit of a washout.

Richard Money probably didn't learn too much from this game but it got his reign off to a winning start.

* Leamington Spa, to give it its proper name - which nobody does - is a sort of poor man's Cheltenham or Harrogate ... and its spa water tastes awful, by the way!

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