Oldbury United
York Road

Ground No. 70
Visited - Saturday 3rd September 2005
Result - Oldbury United 4-1 Leamington
Competition - Midland Football Alliance
Attendance - 137

After having enjoyed my trip to Willenhall Town, I’d been looking forward to seeing another game at this level, and with the International Break coming up, it seemed like a perfect time to explore the local non-league scene further, and so after looking through the websites for a game to see, it was finally Midland Football Alliance side Oldbury United that I decided on, and their match against top of the table Leamington.

It perhaps wasn’t the best of choices, as for some reason the club had decided to keep the kick-off time at 3pm, the same time England were due to kick off against Wales, so in the lead up to the day, I really was expecting a low crowd, especially considering Oldbury were the poorest supported side in the league already!

The journey down there went fairly well, instead of using the trains, I’d decided to get the bus down to Oldbury, and as there was one direct from Wolverhampton, stopping off near to the ground, it didn’t take too long to get there, only about 40 minutes. Despite this though, I was pushing it for time a little bit, and after arriving at York Road (or The Cricketts as it’s also referred to as), it was 2:55pm when I went in, only having time to take a few pictures outside, before buying a programme and going in to take a first look inside the ground.

The main turnstile is located in the corner of the ground, and on entering there is a fair sized clubhouse immediately to the right, with several small stands running alongside the pitch. The tunnel was also located on this side, being a metal fence running from the clubhouse to the pitch, with gaps in for fans to move from one side to the other when the players have passed. Behind one goal is a few steps of terracing, with several covers propped up over them, and on the opposite side of the clubhouse, The Tony Dandy Stand, which runs for most of the length of the pitch, and is quite small, with two rows of benches and a roof, providing covered seating. Finally, completing the picture is the far end from the turnstiles, which has been left empty, although fans still stood there throughout the game. Despite all of the stands being quite small, and not really looking in the best of condition, the ground does have quite a good feel to it, being enclosed by tall trees behind the empty end and the Tony Dandy Stand. Behind these trees runs the M5 motorway, which is quite evident from the noise of the traffic, and the blue road signs popping up over the trees! The other two sides help reaffirm the grounds urban setting with housing and factories, including several tower blocks stretching for as far as the eye could see, over the hills in the distance back towards Dudley and Wolverhampton.

Arriving a bit later than expected, the game had already started as I was making my way around pitch side, taking pictures. Instead of going all the way round, I decided to sit down and take in the first half, choosing the cover of the Tony Dandy Stand, with its less than comfortable wooden benches.

The game was devoid of any real skill or quality, but both sides were going for it, and top of the table Leamington were looking good, and most likely to break the deadlock, until in the 28th minute, when from a corner, the ball was handled on the line by the visitors, with the penalty duly being awarded to the home side. After much deliberation with his linesman, the referee also decided to send off defender Russell Dodd, before the penalty was dispatched with ease by Lee Booth. Oldbury went 2-0 up only a few minutes later, when after a defensive mix-up, the Leamington goalkeeper failed to clear the ball, only for Wayne Lawley to pop up, and poke it into an open net. The visitors didn’t break at this though, and cheered on by what seemed the majority of the crowd, they got one back on 39 minutes with Ryan Howell heading home from a cross.

During half-time I’d changed sides, over to the other stands, where there was plastic seating, which was slightly more comfortable! The second half started much as the first had ended, with Leamington looking the most dangerous, but not really troubling the Oldbury goal. On 50 minutes, the hosts made it 3-1, with Andy Wells scoring from a corner, punishing the visitors, who really should have been challenging more. The game finally seemed finished though, when on 71 minutes Leon Morgan was stupidly sent off. Oldbury had won a free kick about 30 yards out, when a Leamington player decided to try and stand in front of the home player taking the free kick, this led to a rather ridiculous scuffle between the free kick taker and the protagonist, right in front of the referee, and Morgan only had himself to blame by steaming in and mouthing off at the referee, who issued him with a second yellow card, leaving the visitors with just nine men. Oldbury capitalised on this, and finally finished the game off 4-1 when Booth grabbed his second right before full time. By now, I was standing in amongst the Leamington fans in the covered end, who at the end of the match voiced their displeasure at the referee, who hadn’t really had the greatest of performances.

Despite my fears of a low attendance, the game actually resulted in Oldbury’s highest crowd so far this season, with 137 turning up. It must be noted though, that the majority of this crowd was made up by an impressive number of Leamington fans, who turned out in full colour, and song, doing their club proud. The same couldn’t really be said of Oldbury though, and other than immediately around the clubhouse, it was difficult to spot who was actually supporting the home side, which was a slight disappointment.

After leaving the ground, I didn’t have too long to wait for a bus back home, which got back relatively quickly and easily.

Overall it was a good day out. After the Willenhall game, I said that I would go back to a game of this level, and I was glad to have done so. The quality of football might not be up to football league standards, but watching a non-league game is in so many ways, better than league football. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed, and for want of another word, fun. When taking into consideration the costs involved, it really is good value for money, and no doubt I’ll be visiting another MFA ground this season.

Welcome to Oldbury United

Outside the Ground

Outside the Ground

The Near End

The Near End

Leamington Flags

The Tony Dandy Stand

Rear of the Tony Dandy Stand

The Far End

The Near Side

The Near Side

The Clubhouse


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