Stratford Town
Knights Lane

Ground No. 160
Visited - Saturday 23rd August 2008
Result - Stratford Town 1-1 Biddulph Victoria
Competition - Midland Football Alliance
Attendance - 137

O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me. Not the exact words I would use myself, but the general gist of the matter when a few unexpected bills had put me in the running with the church mouse and meant that my planned trip to Portman Road was called off, when my head said no even though the heart was saying stick it on the credit card! With this in mind, then a more local trip was needed to occupy my Saturday, and as the first line might indicate, top of the list was a return to the town of Shakespeare himself, Stratford upon Avon, for Stratford Towns Midland Alliance fixture with Biddulph Victoria. I’d visited Stratford before, about two years previously at their former Masons Road home, and it led me to write what is probably one of the more negative reviews on the site, the ground not really appealing to me at all thanks to a depressing location, dominated by the surrounding industrial scene on all sides, with nothing to really warm to. But the club had since left there, and after a brief stay in Solihull, had returned home (or more accurately, just outside it) to a purpose built facility at Knights Lane in Tiddington. With this in mind, I was looking forward to getting back there and seeing whether I’d be able to warm to this ground any more.

With it being fairly local, then I didn’t have to leave too early, catching the 9:52 train from Wolverhampton and arriving into Stratford just after 11:20 following a brief change in Smethwick. My first port of call was back to familiar territory, and the short walk to Masons Road to see what was left of the ground. Since my visit it seemed like the bulldozers had really moved in, and the only thing that remained was the two dugouts on the far side of the pitch and the posts surrounding it (minus handrail). The stand, changing rooms and clubhouse were a mere scar on the ground, obliterated for whatever will replace them. It was a bit of a sad sight really, and whilst walking around feeling slightly nostalgic, I had to remind myself that I hadn’t actually liked the place, although as a lost ground it does seem to hold more charm than it once did when in full use! Anyway, after leaving there, I made my way into town and spent the early afternoon being a bit of a tourist, looking around before making the long, but fairly pleasant walk down to nearby Tiddington.

Located on the edge of the countryside, then from the outside the ground looks fairly impressive with an imposing exterior and large new car park surrounding it, giving a good first impression of the place. There isn’t much else to see outside, so before the game, I made my way into the clubhouse, which was particularly smart, with leather seats and a modern looking bar, grabbing a pint and watching the end of the Charlton-Reading game on one of the large plasma screens that had been set up, before going inside to see what Knights Lane had to offer.

As with Masons Road, all of the facilities are situated along one touchline, with the Main Stand looking quite smart, sitting on the halfway line, raised from ground level to give a good view of the action. The other three sides were hard standing, but with an asphalt surface, and neatly cut grass sides around the edge, then as with the rest of the ground, it looked impressive, and the exterior wall was of a high quality finish meaning the ground, despite only having one side of development, felt quite closed in, making for a good feel to the place.

With 3pm having come round, after taking a few pictures and finding a seat, the game eventually got underway and for most of the first half it was pretty even stuff, both sides looking to attack, but largely restricting each other to shots from distance. It looked like it would go into the break with things equal, until 4 minutes from half-time when the game turned on its head thanks to two incidents. The first saw the visitors take the lead when on the break, the ball was played in from the right to Shaun Mould who kept his head down and managed to hit the ball first time, low into the corner to make it 1-0, but from that moment of ecstasy for Biddulph, things soon went wrong when with the game in injury time, Chris Boast recklessly dived in at a Stratford player resulting in a second yellow and an early bath less than 30 seconds before the referee blew his whistle for half time.

The teams came out in the second half, and with the man advantage, the home side looked to press ahead, creating most of the chances, without ever really looking likely to find an equaliser, but their luck was in when tempers on the Potteries side became frayed in the afternoon sun, firstly with Neil Edwards receiving a second booking after another bad tackle which meant his side were reduced to nine men, only for shortly afterwards the manager Karl Wilcox to get sent from the dugouts (to erm, just slightly further along the touchline…) following a heated debate with the ref. It was what Stratford needed, and they capitalised on it, finding the equaliser with 10 minutes to go when Mark Faulds created some good link up play on the edge of the box, and after receiving the ball back, hit it home to make it 1-1. The game was marred by an injury to Stratford goalkeeper Chris Jay in the latter stages, with an ambulance pulling up outside the ground afterwards (not seen any news to confirm how bad it was), but despite having one of their outfield players stand in, they held on, having probably the better of the end of the game, before the referee finally blew his whistle to indicate that the points would be shared.

After leaving, I made my way back to the town and station, getting home in good time, with no incidents on the way, other than having to put up with two young girls on the train singing Mama Mia continually at the top of their voices for about the last half hour, much to the annoyance of everyone else on board! 

Overall, it had been a pretty good day out. The ground is a major improvement on Masons Road, and like with my visit last year to Nantwich at their new home, compared to my previous trip to their old Jackson Avenue ground, it felt like visiting a different club. As mentioned, I hadn’t enjoyed going to Masons Road at all, it was a bit of a depressing venue and didn’t do the club any favours, but now, as with Nantwich there is very much a feel that this is a club that is going places, so hopefully they can match the development on the pitch with that off it. With that in mind, then I’d thoroughly recommend a visit here. If groundhopping be the food of love, hop on!

Welcome to Stratford Town

Rear of the Main Stand

The Turnstiles


The Main Stand

Ready for Kick Off

The Near Side

The Far End

The Far Side

The Near End

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