Malvern Town 2 Lye Town 0 West Midlands Regional League Premier Division Att: ??? (but estimate 150), Langland Stadium, 28th December 2013.
With the post-Christmas slumber ever so evident, a long trip across the country was not on the cards today. Anyway the weather in the Midlands was fine, albeit seasonally cold. I had kept an eye on Malvern Town’s fixtures for a while, looking for the right opportunity to venture to a ground that I knew was in a picturesque setting at a time that there would a fixture of some interest to the neutral.
Prior to Christmas, Lye Town were truly cemented at the top of the League, having won 22 and drawn 4 of their 26 games this season. They travelled to the Worcestershire town of Great Malvern, knowing that their mid-table opponents had a far more modest record in the league reading W9 D1 L20. Lye it seemed were in no mood to miss out on promotion as narrowly as they did last season, with only one team promoted each year to step 5 and the Midland Alliance.
Malvern Town were, just three months prior, floating down the River Severn without a paddle, being in debt to the tune of £200k, until local businessmen in their twenties, Chris Pinder and Ted Grizzell threw the club a lifebuoy to keep them afloat. So I presume just to be able to turn out in the same division was a relief.
The approach to Malvern’s Langland Road stadium is uninspiring, as we drove down the residential streets that the ground sits amongst, but as soon as we parked in the ample car park at the fore, the excitement of visiting a beautiful new non-league ground gripped us. As we arrived early there was opportunity to sample the spacious club house. Real Ale? Check! Large-screen showing sports channels? Check! Doom Bar was my choice and a pre-order of a new club pin badge, through joint club owner Chris Pinder himself only heightened my new found admiration for this club in the foothills of the very picturesque Malvern Hills.
After paying my entrance fee at the turnstile and purchasing my £1 programme, we took position opposite the main stand in order to get the backdrop of the hills in any pictures we took. When you live somewhere this beautiful you must get very blasé about it all, as evidenced by the fact that the main stand facing towards the housing estate rather than the Malvern Hills. We soon got chatting to another non-league enthusiast that called himself Mowdog who randomly follows Lye Town and Coalville home and away. Mowdog videos all the goalmouth action at the games he goes to, whilst also providing a running commentary. Mr Mowdog was a font of knowledge on the two teams that were about to kick off in front of us, including the fact that Lye’s ‘keeper is actually their star midfield playmaker (Ben Jevons) , covering for their normal ‘keeper who sustained a nasty knee injury recently.
Straight from the kick-off it was evident that Lye wanted to add to their 103 goals from 26 games. There was wave after wave of Lye attack. The visitors build-up play looking slick and accomplished. The Malvern defence looked nervous. A Lye free-kick from just outside the box dipped wickedly and rattled the bar in one of the stand out moments for Lye in the first half, but there were so many. Some of the Malvern tackling would have stretched anybody’s imagination as to what we be regarded as legal, as the defence tried to battle away the kitchen sink that Lye were throwing at them. Then there was the linesman on the far side who, at times it seemed, was trying to communicate via semaphore, such was the regularity in which he raised his fag, who ruled favourably towards the home team on a couple of occasions with offside decisions that were quite obviously not. The impact of one of these, when a Lye forward ran past a defender before slotting the ball in the net, proving a particularly poor decision.
But if Malvern were riding their luck, they were handed a very large dollop of it, when Jevons in the Lye goal, passed straight to a Malvern player when under no pressure at all. The ball found its way to striker James Lush who made no mistake in putting the home side 1-0 up, totally against the run of play. “Come on the Town” was the cry from the home fans in the main stand. That’s how it stayed until half time when an elated, but probably knackered home side and a shell-shocked away team made their way to the dressing rooms.
As the second half started the sun had just about gone down behind the Malverns and Lye rolled their sleeves up and were ready to make amends for the first half. Again there was wave after wave after wave of Lye pressure, but in this half Malvern were far more organised at the back and put on a top defensive performance. Almost ironically, Malvern doubled their lead. A long punt out from defence found an on-rushing Malvern forward who was probably relishing the release from defensive duties , his shot from distance rattled the bar, before falling to Lush once again to convert. Mr Lush probably won’t have two easier chances all season to get on the scoresheet.
There was still time for Lye to hit a post from a free header, but whilst I felt Lye had been wrongly done by in the first half, in the second I warmed to the plucky, resolute Malvern team. So the worst possible Christmas present for Lye, an end to their season-long unbeaten run, but judging by their fluid passing game and provided they get a recognised ‘keeper in place as soon as possible, they’ll be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Coventry Sphinx, Loughborough University and Shepshed Dynamo in the Midland Alliance next season. Whilst as for Malvern Town, I am sure that they are happy that they are still playing football. They look more than good enough to be safe in this division however with a period of stability they may have aspirations to play higher up the pyramid and after the warm welcome we received in their lovely facilities I wish them all the best in achieving their ambitions.