Ledbury Town
New Street

Ground No. 208
Visited - Saturday 20th March 2010
Result - Ledbury Town 1-2 Heath Town Rangers
Competition - West Midlands Regional League Premier Division
Attendance - 66 (h/c)

When the fixtures are released in June, it’s always the local derbies you look out for first, and Wolves away at Villa was one I’d been looking forward to for quite a while, that is until nearer the date when the ticket prices were announced… £43 for a midday kick-off that was on TV. Ridiculous! An attendance 5000 short of capacity seemed to suggest I wasn’t the only one who thought so either, yet unlike most of the missing fans, I was probably one of the few that had been searching for an alternate game to go to instead, settling on Ledbury Town as part of the ongoing effort to tick all of the West Midlands Regional Premier grounds.

Situated in Herefordshire, not far from the border with Worcestershire, Ledbury is a small market town notable for its timber frame buildings. It’s not the biggest town in the world, with a population of only 8800, but with the Malvern Hills to the north it’s known as a beacon for tourists, so I was looking forward to visiting, and set off in a good mood. All was going well enough until arriving at the train station and finding huge queues, meaning I missed the first train, and had to stand up to Birmingham, but once in New St, then I still managed to just make the connection just in time. With the sun shining after earlier rain showers, the return of an all being well feeling was gradually coming across as we headed out towards Hereford, but unbeknownst to me, the train companies had other ideas, which nearly ended up writing the day off completely. Coming into Worcester, there was an announcement that the train would terminate at Malvern due to signalling errors and that we’d need to wait for the next one. A delay of over an hour there made me consider a change of plans, but after finding out Malvern Town were away, then there was little choice but to wait, meaning I’d miss out on watching Villa-Wolves beforehand. We eventually made it into Ledbury at just gone 2pm, having planned to be there at 12:20pm, so I wasn’t in the best of moods, but set off towards the ground, having a brief look around the town (or High St as it is), prior to making my way down to the ground.

Formed in 1893, the club enjoyed success in local leagues throughout the 60’s, and in 1974 joined the West Midlands Regional League. 1978 saw them do ‘an Arsenal’ when they were promoted to the Premier Division due to the standard of their ground, despite having finished 5th, but it wasn’t to last and five years later the club folded after a dismal season which saw them concede 117 goals. Determined that that wasn’t to be the end of the club, the fans banded together and reformed a year later, quickly climbing up from the Hereford League Division Four, joining the Midland Combination in 1991, before switching back to the West Midlands Regional League in 1999. Going up as Champions of Division One in their first year back, they’ve been in the Premier Division ever since, with the aim of stepping up a level further to the Midland Alliance according to the programme.

The ground itself is situated adjacent to the town’s cemetery, the Main Stand literally just yards from graves on the other side of the wall, making night games probably a no go for the more superstitious groundhoppers out there! Vampires and zombies aside though, it is a pleasant setting, and after going through a small car park, the entrance is in the near corner of the ground. It’s this end that houses the clubhouse and changing rooms, with an all seated stand fitted in snugly between the two, with further cover directly behind the goal thanks to an overhang from the clubhouse roof. With the graveyard on one side, and a row trees sheltering the boundary of the adjacent cricket field, then the site is somewhat narrow, and the far side isn’t accessible to spectators, with not enough room behind the barriers for any hard standing, however the far end has a small training area and paving slabs behind the goal, whilst the Main Stand sits on the halfway line of the near side, offering a fantastic view, hugging the touchline, and raised from pitch level with some very steep steps that contain more seating for fans. 

The clubhouse itself offers a wide range of beers and ciders, better than many pubs, so a pint of dark mild later and it was back out ready for kick-off, yet as soon as coming out and taking a seat in the Main Stand it seemed that something was evidently wrong. With my watch saying 2:58pm and the players and officials still out on the pitch warming up, then something had happened, so we waited, and waited some more, and eventually, at ten past three the players went back to the dressing rooms with the game finally kicking off late at 3:15pm, eventually explained due to the visitors, Heath Town Rangers, being delayed getting there (maybe they travel by train as well!)

Slight worries as to whether I’d actually get to see a game aside, it eventually got underway, and the visitors had the first chance when their number 7 got a lucky deflection to find himself free in the box before comically shooting well wide in the sixth minute, and they were made to pay just two minutes later when Ledbury took the lead through their number 10, Beng Yella Ngwa who was unmarked in the box to get on the end of a pull back and fire it home. The hosts looked the brighter of the two teams, but on a boggy pitch they couldn’t really get a grip of the game and in the 18th minute Heath Town drew level. After some good work down the left, their number 11 crossed into the box where number 10, Jones, headed home to make it 1-1 (forgive the lack of full names for Heath Town, Ledbury printed the team sheets for the next match against Bloxwich in the programme!)

That was the way it would stay until the break, and another deluge at the start of the second half made an already heavy pitch increasingly difficult to play on. It was probably this that led to what looked like the turning point, in the 70th minute, with Heath Town being reduced to 10 men when their goalkeeper slid out to bring down Ledbury’s number 8, receiving a second yellow in the process. The stand-in ‘keeper was up to the task though, and perhaps still rocked by the challenge, number 8 hit a poor penalty that was easily saved. This spurred on the visitors, and within four minutes they had the lead thanks to ‘Harris’, their number 9 who hammered home a loose ball inside the box. Despite most of the play after this, including hitting the post in the 79th minute, the hosts couldn’t find an answer to it, and with the rain returning, it was Heath Town who were celebrating at the end, with a well deserved victory over a team who had double their own points total before the game.

After leaving, then I made my way back through town to the station, only to encounter yet more delays, as a dead cow on the line stopped trains going either way to/from Worcester. The train I was due to get back to Birmingham at 17:58 eventually came through the station an hour late on its way first to Hereford first, before being due to come back, so I just ended up jumping on that one and came home via Shrewsbury, a 90 minute trip taking nearly four hours in the end, leaving me half wishing I’d stumped up the extra and gone to Villa Park instead! 

Despite the delays though, it hadn’t been too bad a day out. The ground is good for this level, nicely enclosed on all four sides, and whilst it might not be enough to get them promoted on that alone these days, whether the club fulfil their dreams of Midland Alliance football or not, then it’s still worthy of a visit.

Welcome to New Street

Outside the Ground

The Near End

The Near Side

The Far End

The Far Side

The Main Stand

Players Shake Hands

Ready for Kick Off (eventually!)

New Street Panoramic


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