Lye Town
The Sports Ground

Ground No. 171
Visited - Saturday 27th December 2008
Result - Lye Town 4-2 Ledbury Town
Competition - West Midlands Regional League, Premier Division
Attendance - 64

Everyone has heard of Birmingham’s Balti Triangle, and also the Curry Mile in Rusholme, Manchester, but probably less famous is the Black Country’s own version…. Lye High Street! Nestled just in between Stourbridge and Halesowen, south of Dudley, Lye is only a small town, but it does have a remarkable number of curry houses situated on the main thoroughfare, but that wasn’t what I wanted to travel there for.

Sharing the same ground with Lye Cricket Club, Lye Town FC are long term members of the West Midlands League, having played there since just after the war, last having experienced promotion/relegation in 1955/56. Despite this, the ground does seem to belong to a club of a higher level, and is famous for its cowshed end, so I’d been looking forward to going there for a while, with the Saturday after Christmas providing a good opportunity thanks to most of the bigger games (including Wolves) having been moved to the Boxing Day 24 hours earlier.

Setting off just after midday, one thing I hadn’t factored in was Dudley busses. In most towns and cities the public transport, whilst not perfect, generally turns up more or less on time, Dudley on the other hand, tends to have its own approach to timetables. Having been a bit bored during a quiet period, the boys in the office got down to writing some times on a bit of paper for a laugh. The story goes that some misguided fool came across these scribblings and decided it would be a good idea to make copies and pin them up on bus stops around the borough. Of course what should be noted is that the times listed under no circumstances bare any resemblance whatsoever to when you might expect a bus to actually turn up! If you ever have the misfortune to need to travel around Dudley by bus, or god forbid, have to rely on them to get to work like I do, then it’s a phenomenon you might come across, and as expected the bus from Dudley town centre down to Lye was about 20 minutes later than what someone had haphazardly jotted down as a joke. This meant I was pushing it for time, having planned to get there only 10 minutes before kick-off, but thankfully it managed to make up some of the lost time on the way, getting into Lye at 2:55pm.  

Having briskly walked the short distance down to the ground from the High St, the whistle was just sounding as I was going in, so despite my misgivings, I did actually get to see the start of the game, and from the off, both teams seemed to be up for it, with Ledbury, despite their position in the table being 7 places lower than the hosts, seeming to have a little bit more class on the ball. Despite that, what Lye didn’t have in ball skill, they did have in effort, and seemed a really strong, fast attacking team and they opened the scoring on 15 minutes courtesy of their number 9, Marvin Marius, who with a nice touch managed to drift past a stationary defence before placing the ball home past the goalkeeper to make it 1-0. That put Lye into the ascendancy and they bossed the game for the next 20 minutes before the visitors got themselves level, but not without controversy. The ball came out to their right winger Duncan Preedy, who from near the touchline managed to punt home a somewhat hopeful, but nonetheless, accurate effort right into the far corner. Despite being a good 30 yards out with plenty of players between the scorer and the goalkeeper, the linesman still flagged for offside against someone who wasn’t interfering in play, so the ref disallowed the goal with predictable arguments ensuing. The game was stopped for a good few minutes whilst the Ledbury players argued with him and the linesman, before the ref decided to restart it, changing his mind, despite having clearly awarded the free-kick and now stating it was a goal! A now begrieved Lye side were punished further, although this time with no arguments when just two minutes later the visitors took the lead, Scott Roberts placing the ball home after finding space in the area. Not content with having caused one melee, just before half-time the referee went one stage further by sending the wrong man off! Lye had won themselves a penalty, of which there was no question about, the last man had been pulled down in the box when on the break being chased by a defender, but instead of the small black bloke with a shaved head, the ref decided instead to send off the tall white bloke who had bushy hair you’d spot a mile away! The players eventually rectified the situation, before Ben Billingham stepped up to level the scores, ending what had turned into an exciting first half, if one to forget for the officials. 

After the break, having found myself a programme and a badge in the clubhouse (and a surprisingly cheap pint of mild), then it was back for the second half, and the prospect of more comedy officiating! The standard of the game itself wasn’t really up to that which the players had set earlier, so in the 71st minute the ref decided to spice things up by reducing Ledbury to nine men, sending off their number 5 with a second yellow for what was a bit of a soft free-kick to give anyway. Six minutes later he infuriated the fans who had travelled up from Herefordshire even further by giving an even softer penalty after Lye’s number 10 went down rather easily in the box. That stopped the game for more arguments, with half the visiting side seeming to receive yellows before Billingham stepped up, only to see his effort well saved by the goalkeeper. That wasn’t the end of the arguing though, and from the rebound a Lye player was pushed in the box for another penalty to the home side. Fair enough this time, but the game was quickly turning into a farce. This time Lye’s number 7 made no mistake, blasting the ball home. Lye grabbed a fourth shortly afterwards with a shot from outside the area, although not before Ledbury were down to 8 men, with their number 8 walking, what for didn’t seem obvious to anyone at the time. The proceedings were finally bought to an end when Lye won yet another penalty in the dying seconds, this time with no arguments. Again, it was a soft one, but the Ledbury followers and players had ceased to take the game seriously, and as Billingham stepped up for his hat-trick he looked almost embarrassed, perhaps a factor in him blasting the ball high over the bar onto the roof of the stand.

After leaving, I made my way home with no troubles, glad to get out of the arctic weather with a wind so chilly that it would even have Geordies slipping on a thin T-Shirt.

Beforehand, I had been cursing myself a little bit on the way, thinking I really should have left such a nearby ground for a night match later on in the season towards April/May when it gets lighter, but I was glad to have come, pleased to see such an entertaining game. At £3.50 admission, then it just goes to prove that you don’t need to part with 10 times that amount just to see what the media class as the only good football on offer. Everything below the Premier League might be perceived as irrelevant, but it generally serves up more entertainment.

As for the ground, it is apparently a favourite amongst groundhoppers, and you can see why. As mentioned, it is shared with the cricket club, and from going in, you walk down a path past the cricket pitch, with the clubhouse and changing rooms one side and the pitch the other. This eventually leads to the near end, where the famous ‘cowshed’ is situated. A few rows of sloping terracing, it gives quite a good view of the action, and the central section is covered by a high barrel roof, which is open at the rear (other than for the boundary wall). The near side of the ground is roped off with nothing there, but the far side is where the Main Stand sits, running for two-thirds the length of the pitch with the near third hard standing. The centre part of it is seated, with both parts flanking it terracing, however the far end of the stand and the far end itself is roped off, with access not permitted, although why remains a mystery. There appears to be a sizable open terrace at this end, but with covers over it (except for a few places where you can see the terracing beneath), then it has presumably been declared unsafe, which is a shame. The ground as a whole has probably seen better days in terms of its condition, but it is a friendly place, and has character everywhere you look. Even with one side undeveloped, the two open ones make up for it and it doesn’t have the unbalanced feel that you might expect. With that in mind, a visit is highly recommended, and I’d be more than happy to return myself, having enjoyed the day out.

Welcome to Lye Town

Entrance to the Ground

The Clubhouse

The Near Side

The Far End

View from the Main Stand

The Far Side and Main Stand

The Near End

The Near End


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