A day that actually. started out with plans to watch two other Leicestershire teams contest an FA Cup 1st qualifying round tie, ended watching another of their Leicestershire rivals win a hard-fought victory in rural Lincolnshire.
The original plan was to watch Anstey Nomads v Oadby Town in the FA Cup but traffic warnings of long delays northbound on the M1, saw us make a decision to go up to the A1 and cross country into Leicestershire via the A47 , however just past Peterborough the A1 itself ground to a halt and after sitting in traffic for ages, a Plan B had to be found. Having visited many of the United Counties League grounds, it isn’t always the easiest league to find a new ground in but we decided that we could still reach the previously unvisited Bourne Town and decided to continue up the A1, through Stamford (passing their new ground – which remains unticked for now) and arrive in Bourne to take in their United Counties Division One home fixture with Aylestone Park, who i hope had a more relaxed journey the 50 miles or so across from Leicester.
Having family connections to Leicester, it is always enjoyable to see a team from the region and Aylestone Park would be a new side for me as well, with this their first season in the United Counties League, as they moved across from the East Midlands Counties League after recently stepping up from County League football. Bourne seemed a lively market town on arrival, with plenty of shoppers on the streets and after finding a parking space outside the recreation grounds which seem to host most of the town’s sporting facilities, we passed by the cricket ground and watched a couple of overs play before entering the well appointed Abbey Lawn ground, home of Bourne Town FC. whose history extends back as far as 1883. Admission was £5 with a small programme an extra £1 on top.
The ground is very well tended, the club seemed to have lots of helpful volunteers and a decent clubhouse and on top of that the best pitch i have seen at Step 6 (or for that matter many levels above for quite a while). It was interesting later reading in the programme, the chairman expressing gratitude to the groundsman and helpers for producing such a quality surface and it definitely looks like money well spent.
Unfortunately for Bourne, the visitors seemed to enjoy the quality surface even more than them and took the lead with an early goal from Leon Doughty, which was doubled soon after by hard working centre forward Sam Taylor who was left in space to put the visitors 2-0 ahead, Bourne had worked a number of promising openings themselves going forward but were not helped by the loss of centre forward Jake Mason after a heavy challenge left him unable to continue.
However the home side, brought themselves back into the game with a fine individual goal from Zac Munton who provided their most notable attacking threat throughout the game and fired a great strike into the roof of the net to make it 1-2. The home side continued to look troubled at the back though and Toby Warner restored the visitors two goal advantage at the break, when again he was left in far too much space to pick his spot on nod the visitors 3-1 in front.
The second half, saw more of an attacking threat from the home side but on several occasions good approach play and inviting crosses into the box were not capitalised on and the visitors made sure of the game later on in the half when Warner again strode through the defence and picked his spot for his 2nd and his side’s 4th goal of the game.
Overall, Aylestone Park deserved their win, looking more clinical in front of goal but the home side had chances themselves and looked bright at times in attack but their defence did look very vulnerable when put under pressure and after conceding 4 at home the previous week as well in the FA Vase, it will definitely be a cause for concern.
So, as often happens the most enjoyable days whilst visiting new grounds, come when you had no set plans to visit the place at all! But Bourne was of those places that make you realise why non-league football is so enjoyable, friendly people, a lovely well cared- for ground and for a fiver admission an excellent game of football (though on this occasion those of a Bourne persuasion may disagree given the scoreline!). Aylestone Park looked a decent side and this result pushed further up a contested mid table and i am sure they will be looking to build on this excellent result.