The Beeches

Ground No 97 (return visit)
Visited - Tuesday 10th August 2010
Result - Tividale 3-1 Dudley Sports
Competition - West Midlands Regional League, Premier Division
Attendance - 66 (official, 122 h/c)

Having originally been planned in the late nineteenth century as an overspill for the expanding town of Tipton, Tividale straddles the Dudley/Sandwell border right at the very heart of the Black Country. It started out life as a small village, and in the 150 or so years of history, it’s fair to say that not a great deal of note ever seems to have happened there really, although its name was once exported all over the country on bottles of Lissimore’s Ginger Beer, until a takeover in the mid-60s saw the company moved to Derby. Thanks to the post-war urbanisation and building of housing estates it now has a population of 6500, and it was this population boom that saw the areas first football club – Tividale FC formed in 1954.

Starting out in local leagues, in 1966, the same year as the area was divorced from Tipton by being placed in Oldbury following border changes, the club decided to join the newly created West Midlands Regional League Division One, seeking a higher challenge after having enjoyed success in the Warwickshire & West Mids League for the previous four seasons. They coped with the step-up seemingly well, and in 1973 won the League and Cup double, gaining promotion to the WMRL Premier for the first time in their history, before 12 months later moving to Packwood Road, renaming it ‘The Beeches’, not as you might suspect perhaps after local trees or anything similar, but after the waterways official who granted the club the lease to play there! The ground was eventually developed into one of the better in the area at Step 6, with the addition of floodlights in 1993 allowing them to step back up to the WMRL Premier, having been demoted two years earlier due to ground grading rules. They’ve been there ever since, although came close to promotion in 2002 with a runners-up spot, finishing second behind Causeway United who went up to the Midland Alliance ahead of them.

It was actually Causeway who I saw when I made my first trip to the ground on the opening day of the 2006-07 season, the nomadic Black Country side having just moved in with ‘The Dale’ after being evicted by Halesowen from The Grove. As a rule, I don’t often tend to go back to many grounds as a neutral, not for any particular reason, just that I prefer going somewhere new instead, so I’d been putting off a return for a while, but with the vague aim of completing the West Midlands Regional League at some point, then it was one left to tick, so with nothing else on, then I chose Tividale’s game against Dudley Sports to get it off the list.

Situated high above the Birmingham New Road, nowadays it’s actually the closest ground to Dudley town centre, barely a 10 minute walk from the site of the old Castle Sports Ground where Dudley Town used to play. Officially though, it is over the border in Sandwell, with the famous 2 mile long Netherton canal tunnel passing just to the west of it deep beneath the ground.

Leaving work late, then I still had plenty of time to make the journey over from the other side of Dudley, tracing a familiar route to the ground and arriving with half an hour to kick-off. The ground lies at the end of a cul-de-sac, with a path leading up from the main road to avoid a lengthy walk around the estate to get there. On arrival, you’re greeted with a spacious car park and clubhouse, but once inside, then the ground has a sense of intimacy, with tall trees to the left, and houses above it to the right. Indeed the whole ground lies on a left to right slope, with it being quite noticeable, albeit not quite on the scale of nearby Darlaston! The Main Stand runs the full length of the near side, and is a small cover that houses two rows of bench seating, with a directors area in the centre. The other three sides are hard standing, with the clubhouse and changing rooms behind the near end. Nothing had really changed from my previous trip four years earlier, although having a lush green pitch in place did give the ground a much better feel, with the wet summer of 2010 having been much kinder to the groundsman than that of the dry, scorching 2006.

Before the game, both sides were on level points in the table, although with this only being the second game of the season, then that really didn’t mean a great deal at this point! That said though, they were both looking to open their account having suffered losses on the opening day, and having endured a heavy 4-0 defeat at Wednesfield, then Sports were left looking at a long hard season ahead when Nick Turton made it 1-0 with a mere 10 seconds having been played! Chasing down a long ball forward from the kick-off he lobbed Samuel Pearson in the Dudley goal in a scene reminiscent of San Marino opening the scoring against England all those years ago to leave the visitors gobsmacked and remonstrating with each other as to how they’d conceded so sloppily from the off. Fortunately for Dudley, then it wasn’t the start of a collapse, and as the half progressed they got more and more into the game, grabbing a deserved equaliser in the 31st minute thanks to Adam Wright who tapped the ball home at the far post. The rest of the half was played out at a good pace, with both sides having chances, but in the second half then Dudley dropped away, allowing Tividale to increasingly dominate. They made it 2-1 in the 65th minute when Chris Russell slammed home a deep cross for his second of the season, and it was game over with nine minutes to go when substitute Anthony Cox got on the end of some good work down the left from Jason Chiltern who pulled it back for him to sweep the ball home in front of a sizeable crowd that had gathered, my headcount being 122, in contrast to the official attendance of 66.

After leaving, then I made my way home with no problems, glad to have got the ground ticked for Tividale. It leaves me with four new grounds left to do to complete the league, all outlying ones at Wellington, Shawbury, Bromyard and Bewdley, but with any luck then that should be done for the end of the season, with only three revisits for groundshares to do on top of that. As for the Beeches itself, it’s a tidy venue for Step 6, slightly reminiscent of Oldbury’s old York Road ground, a place which will always hold a place in my heart as the ground where I saw my first competitive non-league game at. 

Welcome to The Beeches

The Clubhouse

Entrance to the Ground

The Main Stand

Ready for Kick Off

The Near End

The Far Side

The Far End

The Main Stand

The Floodlights

The Beeches Panoramic
(click here for full size picture)

Ginger Beer!

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