Diary of a Groundhopper: Team Dudley v Willenhall Town

Saturday March 23rd
Team Dudley 5 Willenhall Town 2
I’ve been piling on the mileage this last week with a Tuesday trip to Norfolk followed by a day in Scotland on Wednesday; two matches in the UEFA U-17s Tournament at St. Mirren and Partick Thistle is just too tempting a to pass over! It is my turn to drive The Fox somewhere today, as well.
Fortunately, there’s a choice of games not too far from home but The Fox plumps for Team Dudley.
The West Midlands (Regional) League Division One venues are not renowned for providing food for visiting fans, so I am pleased to find a decent chippie en route.
As I pull up as instructed, I can see the players warming up on the plastic pitch, no problem; I just cannot find a way into the ground!
After a few miles of trawling around backstreets looking for an access road, I give up and park on the main road (Priory Road). I walk past a barrier into what looks like an office car park, all the while thinking it must be the wrong way. However, a club official appears and walks down some steps from this car park to the ground entrance below.
At the bottom of the steps, there’s a clubhouse on the right. I say clubhouse but it’s only the changing rooms and toilets. Just inside the entrance is a table set up where fans can get a drink and a snack (crisps and choccy bars). I was right about the lack of food, but the free biscuits with a drink are very welcome.
At the entrance to the pitch, there’s another table where spectators pay (£3). I have to say I wasn’t really expecting a programme this afternoon, so when I am handed a free 32-pager, it comes as a nice surprise. I have a quick scan and am shocked to find that this is Team Dudley’s last home game of the season! Where has this year gone?!
After paying, spectators enter a ‘cage’, typical of these 3G complexes. Standing is only allowed along one side of the pitch. There’s also a 50-seater stand along this edge. A large yellow hatched box in front of the stand indicates the area to keep clear so seated spectators can see the game. As the match kicks off, there are more people standing within this yellow box than there are out of it!!
Right from the off, Dudley look a well-organised side that like to attack. Fortunately for them, Willenhall don’t seem to have much idea about defending. At half-time, the home tally is three goals but it could have been many more.
At half-time, it’s time for another cuppa. There’s some lively banter going on between fans and the ladies serving the tea. One of the latter even manages to find time to fetch the teamsheets from the manager so I can photograph them.
The second half is slightly more even. Willenhall unsportingly decide to defend their goal now and then, which temporarily bamboozles Dudley’s attackers but the three-goal deficit stays in tact.
Another friendly club and another match with very little back-chat from the players. I could get used to this!
Pre-Match info: 7
Welcome: 8.5
Facilities: 3
Food: 0
Charm: 2
Programme: 8
Home Team Respect: 9
Home Fans: 6
Match: 7.5
Overall Trip: 9
Officials: 7.5
Att: 46

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