Northern Premier League Division One South Play Off Semi Final

Bedworth United 2

(Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls, Luke Keen)

Chasetown 1

(Jack Langston)

Attendance: 517

The Oval

After a packed April where I went to 12 games I was wasting no time getting into the matches in May, traditionally the final month of the season. With the bad weather in early 2018 a lot of leagues had extended their seasons, a lot of teams still had plenty of games and that meant plenty of football for me to go to. I also have the CONIFA World Football Cup starting at the end of May and into the first week of June so as it stands my season will finish maybe as late as June 9th.

With plenty of divisions still going, there was of course plenty of leagues that had closed the curtains on the regular season and were kicking off their play-off matches, and tonight was one of those games. Having seen Market Drayton Town survive relegation on the final day just four days ago, I was heading up the table in the same division to see Bedworth United and Chasetown compete for a place in the play-off final.

I had been meaning to get to Bedworth all season and I had left it early season due to the potential for a game in the winter as they have an artificial pitch. Winter came and went, and I was planning on Bedworth last Saturday, but I ended up going home for the weekend and watching Market Drayton. After Saturday’s results, a fourth-place finish meant that I could tick the ground off tonight in the play offs.

A new tick and a new team I had never seen before with the home side nicknamed the Greenbacks. However, the away side I had seen once before, during their epic FA Cup run in December 2007 when they held Port Vale to a draw at Vale Park in the second round. I remember it being a Sunday kick off (probably on TV) and I rushed over to Vale Park after playing for my junior side, muddy knees and still in my kit witnessing the magic of the FA Cup aged 13. That season, Chasetown managed to beat Vale in the replay before losing to Cardiff City in round three.

There was also a familiar face in the away dugout in Scott Dundas. I had seen Scott’s Norton United a handful of times before the side unfortunately disbanded. A blast from the past was leading the line in the Chasetown attack too in the shape of Nick Wellecombe, a name that I had not heard for years. I had watched Nick many times for Newcastle Town when I was younger and it was a nice surprise to watch him play again.

Having had my first of four exams this month, it was only right to have some down time and what better way than to head out to a football game.

Before the game, I called in at Jet Blades who play down the road from the Oval and their reserve team were midway through a game with Crick Athletic. I saw the hosts score twice which I believe made the score 3-1 and then 4-1 and they went onto win 5-3.

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The Ground

After spending longer than I should watching Jet Blades Reserves, I left it a little tight for time getting parked up and into the Oval. As I drove up to the ground I was met with a ‘Car Park Full’ sign. I drove a little past the ground and found a small car park on Park Road which was also full, so I did a full loop and ended up on the public car park next to the library which was again free after 6pm.

I didn’t realise that just across the road from where I had parked there was some turnstiles down a small path hidden from the main road and I ended up walking to the main entrance and joining a fair-sized queue trying to enter the ground about five minutes before kick off.

Once in the ground there was plenty of people packed in ready for what I was hoping would be an entertaining game. The first thing you see is the towering main stand on the far side and the focus point of the ground. Raised above the dugouts and painted in the Bedworth home colour of green, the stand looks very smart, even if the view is restricted slightly from the support beams.

Over on the side where I entered the ground, the clubhouse was situated on my left with a covered raised area where alcohol was allowed, and many visiting supporters had congregated. I was surprised at how little cover there was. The cover by the clubhouse is fairly substantial but didn’t appeal to me tonight and at pitch level all the way around is uncovered standing.

As I walked around the pitch, the teams were entering the field of play, emerging from the changing rooms underneath the main stand. By the main stand was Debz’ Shed which sold some snacks and drinks as well as an array of Bedworth United merchandise and badges from various Non-League clubs. I purchased my Bedworth United badge and was able to take a quick picture of the team sheet that was pinned up onto the shed.

At halftime I had a quick look inside the clubhouse which was a lot smaller than I anticipated, the toilets were a little cramped, but I am not here to review toilet facilities! Up the corner at the end of the clubhouse building there was a hot food hut but on this particular evening I wasn’t in need of any refreshments.

The ground is very nice, and I wish Bedworth all the best in the play-off final this weekend. I will be moving away from Coventry at the end of the month, so I doubt another visit will be on the cards for some time, but I am glad I was able to come here before the season’s end and tick it off. 

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The Game

Bedworth United are one game away from promotion to the Northern Premier League Premier with a 2-1 victory over Chasetown who are now resigned to another season at Step 4.

The hosts struck twice in the opening 11 minutes through Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls and Luke Keen. Chasetown managed to pull one back from the penalty spot deep into injury time through Jack Langston but it was too little too late as Bedworth now face Stamford for a place in Step 3.

Bedworth started brightly with Alex Troke fired a low drive wide after a long throw into the area was only half cleared by the Scholars.

The first goal came on three minutes when former Wrexham player Bailey-Nicholls completed a solo run down the left wing and cut inside and slotted past ‘keeper Curtis Pond.

The Greenbacks doubled the lead on 11 minutes when Luke Rowe showed some sharp movement to work a pinpoint cross to Keen inside the six-yard box and he had the easy job of planting a header into the back of the net.

Keen and Bailey-Nicholls combined before Pond came off his line to block the shot away and stop Bedworth running away with the game completely.

Chasetown’s only real effort of the half fell to former Port Vale youth player Will Whieldon who hit a strong half volley at goal that Daniel Crane managed to hold onto.

It was a very physical game with plenty of rough challenges going unpunished by the referee, however Chasetown’s Oli Hayward was cautioned for a stamp on Bailey-Nicholls.

The second half lacked quality and it became a scrappy affair with players from both sides throwing themselves to the floor in embarrassing fashion.

The visitors were knocking on the door of the Bedworth defence and Daniel Cocks went close with a header at the back post.

United had some half chances but looked content with their lead as Bailey-Nicholls limped off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Kieron Brehon.

Cocks was unfortunate not to get a goal back for the visitors when he let the ball roll across his body from a throw in before unleashing a venomous strike that Crane had to tip over the bar. The Chasetown number 11 was a constant threat for the visitors and his free kick was headed over the bar from Chris Baker as Dundas’ men pushed to get back into the game.

Visiting substitute Muzzy Nduna went close when he flicked the ball up and threw a heel at it, but Crane did well to save from close range and push the ball out for a corner.

As the pressure mounted, Crane spilled the ball inside the area and Chasetown couldn’t capitalise on the goalmouth scramble as the ball was cleared away.

As the board went up for injury time, the visitors did manage to get the ball into the back of the net when Whieldon’s ball forward was flicked on by Ryan Wynter to Baker who nipped in ahead of Crane and was tripped for a penalty. Langston stepped up and put the ball into the back of the net, however United held on to confirm their place in the play-off final.

2017/18 Games: 77

2017/18 Grounds: 64 (12)

Total Grounds Visited: 210 (50)

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