Woodside Park – Bishop’s Stortford

16 Aug

Bishop’s Stortford – 0

Colwyn Bay – 2

Blue Square Bet Conference North – 13th August 2011

And so the season begins properly, with one of the longest, if not the longest, away day.

Much was made of Bishop’s Stortford inclusion in the Blue Square Conference North, a league they didn’t believe they could’ve been in at the tail end of last season. The Blue Square Conference South outfit found themselves moved at the Conference AGM. Basically, with the demise of Rushden & Diamonds in the Blue Square Conference, Southport was reprieved from relegation. Furthermore, with Thurrock of the Blue Square South having the better record than Stafford Rangers, they too were not relegated from the Blue Square South. This left Bishop’s Stortford as the 23rd most southern club at the level, and therefore the little village that is on the end of Stanstead Airport  were moved into the Conference North.

Bishop's Stortford could be accused with being in denial.

They were quite vocal about their move, leading to a small amount of North/South mentality developing between their move. Whilst I don’t have much sympathy with them having to travel north (due to Workington and Blyth having similar length away days), I do see their point in asking for help from the league for travel costs – their move up North was incredibly late and they had already budgeted for being in the southern league.

Speaking of budget, it felt odd that I had to budget for an away day. Gone are the days when £30 would get you a decent afternoon’s entertainment (including everything). With the raise in ticket prices and further travel costs adding up to a more expensive away day, I’m having to plan games weeks in advance. Not that I’m complaining though, but with the ground’s location near Stanstead Airport and the extortionate rail fares, I did contemplate flying to watch the Colwyn Bay/Bishop’s Stortford game.

See, it is near Stanstead, this one is the 1602 to Munich.

In the end, no flights were running (or flying), so instead I got a train to meet an old university friend who lived in St. Albans. I roped him in to watch the Bay match – making him give up his ticket to watch his beloved Shrewsbury Town against Burton Albion.

I arrived at Bishop’s Stortford at around midday, after setting off from Manchester at 9am. The journey was brightened up immensely by randomly meeting You’re Supposed To Be At Home guest writer John Wilson at Euston Station, as he was just coming back from his round the world jollies. After meeting another Bay fan, I met my mate, who drove me to the ground.

We received a warm welcome from the Stortford lot, who were welcoming. After handing over the entrance fee, I entered Woodside Park for the first football match I’ve seen in East Anglia. In fact my first time to East Anglia ever.

The fantastically retro Conference North Ball

Woodside Park was – in all honesty – one of the better purpose built stadiums out there. Sure it’s on a business estate, but other than that it’s a lovely ground with real ale in the clubhouse, a well stock shop and a pie stand that – in all honesty – doesn’t sell pies. Instead I was treated to a burger that was one of the nicest I’ve ever eaten at a football ground, certainly tasted like it had come from a cow at some point in its existence. Suitably fed and watered up, we took our seats in one of the four covered stands, by the half way line for the first half.

The match began with Bishop shooting towards “The Stanstead Airport End”. From the get go though, Colwyn Bay were the much stronger side, pressuring for large periods of the early get go. Both Sean Doherty and Gareth Evans ran at their defenders, the former of which was dealt with brilliantly by fullback for Stortford Max Lette-Jallow. Stortford’s chances were often resulted with break play, with pacey winger Dwight Gayle shooting just over on the break.

A rare headed ball from Bishop's Stortford

Colwyn Bay however took the lead on the 32nd minute through John McKenna. He had acres of space and towered above the two Bishop’s Stortford centre backs (who were lacking in height) to head in a cross from Luke Denson. At half time, the score was 1-0 to Colwyn Bay.

The second half began much the way that the first ended. Bay pressuring and Stortford hitting on the break. On the 4th minute of the second half, John Newby crossed for Sean Doherty to head in again in the area. Bishop’s Stortford 0 – 2 Colwyn Bay.

Doherty looked impressive for Colwyn Bay

This seemed to lit a fire underneath the home side who in all honesty should’ve pulled one back when the ball came to Dean Rance with an open goal from six yards out. Inexplicably he put it wide!

Stortford pressured, but as time went on, they weren’t going to get a break. Colwyn Bay shut up shop and left the 23rd most southern Step 6 side with three points. I was happy, my mate enjoyed his day out – as he met a Bay born, Bishop’s Stortford resident who was a Shrewsbury Town fan, so they had an indepth discussion on how Salop were going to do this year – and Ian Walker’s side (yes, the ex Spurs keeper) had a few positives to take from the game.

As my Arsenal friend would say - That Bloody Ian Walker

So what of Bishop Stortford? Well the ground is lovely, and well worth a day out. I can’t help think though it’ll be my only visit to their ground, as I’m fairly confident that – should they survive this year – that the law of averages almost will dictate that they’ll be moved into the Conference South.

I don’t think too many Stortford fans would complain at that.

About Rhys Wynne

Rhys Wynne is the editor & creator of You're Supposed To Be At Home. For his sins, he is a Colwyn Bay & Liverpool fan, and a serial blog creator. You can follow Rhys on twitter here.

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