Wellington Playing Fields
Ground No. 223
Visited - Saturday 19th February 2011
Result - Wellington 6-1 Stafford Town
Competition - West Midlands Regional League, Premier Division
Attendance - 43 (h/c)
Discounting teams from the same town/city, Wellington are one of a number clubs around where mentioning their name brings up the question of which one (Ashford Town probably being the most obvious example in non-league). Five clubs called Wellington have entered the FA Cup throughout its history, most prominently Wellington Town from Shropshire who went on to become Telford United, whilst Wellington AFC from the small town in Somerset currently play in the Western League Division One, the same level as their Herefordshire based namesakes of the West Midlands Regional League.
It was the latter side that I’d planned to visit on the way to completing the WMRL Premier, to tick off their ‘Playing Fields’ ground, which they’d moved to in 1978, the name not exactly inspiring visions of an all seater, super stadium, but at least one step up from the farmers field that they used to play in prior to that!
The club had been formed in 1966 following England’s World Cup win, before re-forming in 1968, and using the farmer’s field mentioned above. Wellington itself is a small, rural village, based just off the A49 halfway between Leominster and Hereford, with a population of 1000, but entering the Herefordshire League on formation, then it seems that they’ve always enjoyed the support of the local residents instead of the usual nimby restraints that similarly positioned clubs find themselves with, and it’s this that has helped them develop the facilities that they have today. After moving to the present site in 1978, changing rooms were built in 1981 which saw the club being invited to join the Herefordshire League Premier Division, which they won in their first season at that level, regaining the title another two times during the eighties. 1996 saw the ground improved, which combined with a league and cup double winning season helped them to successfully apply to join the West Midlands Regional League, winning the Division 1 South title at the second attempt, only to be denied promotion on ground grading issues. Further improvements were made, and in 2000, after finishing runners-up they were able to step up to the Premier Division, to a level that they’ve managed to maintain ever since. Still more improvements were made though in the clubs ambition to continually improve, so with the promise of one of the nicer grounds in the league to visit, then myself, with Rob driving headed off mid-morning in good spirits for the journey down through Kidderminster to what with Ledbury sadly having folded, is now the furthest flung outpost in the league, being not too far from the Welsh border.
The ground is right on the edge of the village in a complex that caters for a number of sports, with bowls, cricket and tennis also played here, in addition to a number of other football pitches that the clubs youth teams use. There are no turnstiles, but after walking from the car park around the corner of the bowls club, then a paybox signals the start of the footballs territory and the ground opens up in front of you from here. Hard standing runs around all four sides, whilst to the left at the near end stands the pavilion which houses the changing rooms and refreshment facilities. A small stand sits fairly unusually positioned in the corner, reminiscent of Raith’s Starks Park in its angle to the pitch, and provides 77 seats under cover, which is mirrored in the opposite corner at the far end, again, unusually angled due to the proximity of the pitch behind it making it tucked out of the way, unfortunately this time right behind a floodlight pylon, but providing cover for a further 74 spectators should the need arise, which with clouds above and a number of games having been called off due to waterlogged pitches suggested it might!
The visitors were Stafford Town, having had the longest journey in the league to complete at just short of 70 miles. I’d visited them at the start of the new season at their new Evans Park home, and whilst they’d been beaten by neighbours Stafford Rangers that day, the ability they’d shown suggested that a good season might lie ahead. This hadn’t turned out to be the case though, and by early February they were sitting only one place above Wellington in 13th. What had happened to the club since that day, perhaps only a more knowledgeable fan can tell you, but it took literally seconds for them to be behind in this match as they collapsed from the word go. Straight from kick-off the home side pushed forward, veering left before playing the ball wide right to Paul Jones on the edge of the box who was able to stride in unchallenged and poke it home on just 26 seconds for 1-0, and if that wasn’t a wake up call to the away team, then it was 2-0 in the second minute, Wayne McNeil finding similar space to ghost into the box and smash home a pull back from the right, Jones this time the provider. The next 20 minutes had comparatively little to report before the next flurry of goals, starting in the 23rd minute when Aaron Morgan chased a long ball and poked it past the oncoming keeper only to see it bounce off one post, trickle along the line before in off the opposite post for 3-0, but it was Stafford who pegged one back, a goal reminiscent of Wellington’s first, with a ball down the right from the kick-off which was tapped in at the far post by Matt Buckham following a deep cross. In the 37th minute, the hosts restored their 3 goal advantage, Matt Williams chasing a long ball and placing it into the bottom corner, before another flurry of goals just before half-time when Dale Withers knocked in a Matt Williams shot that the keeper had parried into his path, before from a corner Wayne McNeil got his second of the game after poking home from a scramble in the box to make it 6-1 at half time!
Chatting to a Cardiff fan during the interval, he was even more pleased with this choice of game than we were, his original match at Leominster having been called off, and this being a back up! With talk of double figures and more goals expected, the second half in comparison was a bit of a disappointment. Stafford had re-organised at the back and looked a lot stronger for it, showing what they could do going forward by holding the home defence in their own half for most of the next 45 minutes. Perhaps it was that Wellington were happy to sit back and wait for the counter attacks, but there was no further score, the visitors coming closest in the 55th minute when they hit the bar, but 6-1 and the three points was enough for Wellington who leapfrogged Stafford in the table to move into 13th spot.
After leaving, on the invite of the chairman, we headed back into the village to the local Social Club which acts as the clubhouse, about 5-10 minutes walk from the ground itself, to have a quick pint, before making our way home, glad with the choice of game!
The ground itself is a great set-up for the club, with two separate all seated stands (only Dudley Sports and Cradley Town can boast similar, and neither are of this standard), and if their plans to build a clubhouse on site go through, then it will be one of the better grounds outside the Midland Alliance, and with them being a friendly club, then well worth a visit for those who haven’t been.
Welcome to Wellington
The Pay Box
The Pavilion and Near Stand
The Near End Stand
Looking across the Near End
The Far Side
The Far End
Looking across the Far End
The Far End Stand
Ready for Kick Off
The social club in the village
Wellington Playing Fields Panoramic