If it wasn’t for recently subscribing to the Non-League Paper we wouldn’t have been making this trip. It had been printed a couple of months ago that Worcester City had agreed a groundshare with Kidderminster Harriers for the upcoming season. Along with this news came the dreaded demolition promise. So, with just four matches remaining at “The Lane” we dropped all other groundhopping plans and ventured down South.
Worcester City own what is one of the most old and traditional grounds that I have visited. Yes, it will be such a shame to lose it… but I could reluctantly see how a move may benefit the club in years to come.
Two of the most memorable moments in the clubs history have been staged at The Lane. After beating Liverpool at home in the FA Cup, City then went on to play Sheffield United where no fewer than 17,042 spectators filled the place.
The most recent was in December 2005 when Huddersfield Town were the visitors in The FA Cup. The match was televised on BBC One, and the winning goal can be seen here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEAKSQLOi6c
With all of the historic photos and information fresh in my mind I was really looking forward to the trip. The problem now was to find people to come with me. Joe was definitely in, as he was the designated driver. Eventually after numerous people said they were in, and then out Warington Town and Blackpool fan Rob said he’d join us.
Joe picked me up at 11:20 before we went on to pick Rob up from Warrington at 12:00. From there, we went direct to Worcester. Easy right? No.
Travelling down the M6 towards Crewe, the road signs were telling us that there were serious delays just outside of Stoke. We were deciding whether to gamble and carry on down the motorway or divert when the signs suddenly changed. The M6 had been closed.
Co-Pilot Gibbons decided it would be best to come off the M6 at Junction 16, taking the A500 all the way around Newcastle-under-Lyne and Stoke-on-Trent before then heading down to Stafford to rejoin the M6. Whilst navigating I was also making back up plans incase we didn’t make it to Worcester.
Thankfully after being gridlocked near the Britannia Stadium we pressed on towards Worcester after taking a somewhat scenic route. The only other problem arose when Joe took a wrong turning near Walsall and got overtaken by an old woman on the outskirts of Dudley. Meanwhile, on the back seat, Rob was not enjoying myself and Joe singing along to a One Direction megamix.
We made it into Worcester to find roadworks and diversions in place everywhere. At 14:20… only an hour or so late we made it to the ground and eventually found some parking. The Lane obviously wasn’t built with cars in mind when it was built only 58 years ago.
Walking up to the ground, an old man with a hunchback was struggling to cross over the road next to the canal. The sound of The Smiths was filling the fresh Worcestershire air and Joe was walking around in his football shoes after changing out of his driving shoes.
It cost £5 to get into the match with my student card. I squeezed through the turnstyle which had been made in Manchester after the members of a boyband had allowed me in. I think they were trying to see how many teenage boys you could squeeze into a turnstyle operating booth.
When through the gates, you are greeted with an opening and a white building. It really was just like Craven Cottage. In the opening in front of the white building was a large table where programmes and an array of football badges were being sold. My favourite badges were the Bolton Wanderers and Leigh RMI ones.
I also bought a matchday programme for £2.50. I thought it was slightly expensive, but maybe that’s the normal price for programmes in the Conference North? The programme had some good content, and had a rather traditional appearance to it.
Behind the table was a burger van which served some of the most expensive snacks known in non-league football. The man and woman in the cabin should have been wearing masks and striped vests. Joe succumbed to the smell of the food and paid out £4.50 for a brew and a burger.
Walking around the passage between the white building and the Main Stand, the ground was in partial view as the players tunnel was obscuring full view of the ground.
The large main stand reminded me of the main stand at Chorley’s Victory Park. Split into three sections there were various metal staircases which took you up to the elevated viewing. It cost an extra £2 to sit in the stand, but plenty spectators opted to watch the match from up there. The centre of the stand consisted of plastic seating, whereas the two sections on the end of the stand housed wooden benches.
Opposite the main stand was a large open terrace, which also had a Shed in the right hand corner. I think originally this side of the ground had some sort of stand sitting on it, but I’m not too sure. The Shed found in the corner was a strange feature, but certainly one which will be missed when it goes. With colourful abstract graffiti intertwined with vegetation and cladding, the rear of the Shed offers a somewhat restricted view.
Behind the goal on the far end of the ground was the Canal End. This is one of my favourite parts of a ground I have been to in years. Far too often when at a football match, standing behind the goal offers a restricted and boring view. Worcester’s Canal End is different. Standing at the front of the level terrace meant you were at the same height as the top of the goal; almost looking down on the play as it unfolds in front of you.
Opposite the Canal End was the Changing Room End. One side of the Changing Room End was very narrow, with no standing room at all. However, as you move towards the white building in the corner, the terracing begins to build up; step by step.
Overall I really liked the ground. It was immensely cold, and the locals (for reasons unknown) had decided to wear shorts. It was a large ground for the division, but not large at the same time… if you get my drift.
Just before the match was due to kick off, it began to rain. It was my first groundhop with my brand new camera which had arrived earlier on in the week. I would have used it at Cheadle Town 4-5 Atherton Collieries… but I have horrible parents who make me stay at home when suffering from recently diagnosed anemia. How thoughtful of them.
A dark cover loomed over St. George’s Lane as the tannoy system began to play a very fitting song – Bastille – Pompeii. The lyrics in the song say “Grey clouds roll over the hills brining darkness from above”.
It was time for the sides to emerge on to the field of play. The small clock which hangs over the tunnel was showing 15:00. However, after reading various blogs on the place in the last few days it appears the clock has been stuck at this time for the last few years.
Worcester City were in their blue and white stripes, whereas their visitors were in their orangey and black stripes. Unlike when I saw Boston play at Skelmersdale United earlier on in the season the fans seemed in a more optimistic mood… and certainly seemed more happier to be at the match!
When The Pilgrims took on Skelmersdale United earlier on in the season, the Northern Premier League side knocked out the overwhelming favourites after forcing a replay on a cold Tuesday night. More importantly on that night, I was officially employed by Boston United for the evening! Their official photographer hadn’t turned up, so it was down to me to supply photographs for the Boston matchday programme.
For the first few minutes the home side looked like the better side. Mike Symons and Walsall loannee Kieron Morris were causing Boston many problems down the left hand side. Attack upon attack tested a nervy looking Boston back line, but Worcester just lacked that cutting edge. It was however a game that would be won in midfield, where Boston proved to be superior to their hosts. Spencer Weir-Daley and man of the match Ian Ross were first to everything and Worcester couldn’t cope with them.
It was Ian Ross who scored the first goal of the match on 16s minutes when he struck from 25 yards out. Ben Milnes picked out Marc Newsham before he shifted the ball over to Ross. His effort went into the left hand corner, leaving the goalkeeper Glyn Thompson with no chance.
Spencer Weir-Daley then nearly doubled the advantage a few moments later. A counter attack from Boston saw Weir-Daley try his luck from 30 yards out. His shot travelled along the floor, and missed the goal by just a few inches.
Worcester’s first really effort at goal came from a free kick on the edge of the box. Tom Thorley curled his effort towards goal, but Dan Haystead gathered it into his grips with ease. A minute later and a sliced clearance from Boston substitute Gary Silk nearly led to an own goal.
Half time arrived, and Boston took a lead in what had been a fairly equal first half. We hadn’t seen any social club on the way into the ground, but we gambled once again and followed the crowd. We found ourselves in a social club where Football Focus was beamed out across numerous screens.
The thing that caught our eyes though were the two young lads playing Table Football. No, not them themselves… you can put your phone down! No need to call the Police. Basically, there was a rather inappropriate sign on the side of the Table Football which read:
“PLEASE PUSH COIN IN FIRMLY AND FULLY OTHERWISE YOUR BALLS WILL NOT DROP”
It really was an eye opener. Especially to Joe and Rob who had been wondering why puberty hadn’t yet hit them.
The teams soon came out again, so we vacated the clubhouse and made our way back into the ground. We stationed ourselves at the Changing Room End hoping for Worcester City to mount a comeback.
The game remained fairly even until the 54th minute when Boston doubled their lead. Ben Milnes stole the ball off Matt Birley just outside the Worcester box. He then beat one defender and fired the ball high into the top left hand corner. Again, the Worcester goalkeeper could do little to keep the effort out.
Tom Thorley came close yet again for Worcester when he smashed the ball towards goal. Only a brave header from Nathan Stainfield diverted the ball away from goal. That was Worcesters final chance of the afternoon, and the home faithful began to get on their sides back.
Rob then asked “How come the away side always have a bigger bench?” I discussed with him at some length why he thought this, and we tried to draw a conclusion. He pointed out that there were more people behind one bench than the other, so surely the bench with less people squashed behind it must be smaller? No. Wrong. The fans were Boston fans. Boston is the most obese part of the country. This meant any bench/people calculations were out of the window straight away.
The three points were secured for The Pilgrims on 74 minutes when Marc Newsham tapped the ball in from a yard out when Charley Sanders worked the ball well down the left hand side.
Credit to the Worcester fans. Back home if it was Atherton Collieries or Bolton Wanderers who were losing, you’d hear all sorts of unsavoury abuse being fired towards the players. The worst phrase I heard from the terraces at Worcester was “Worcester! You’re rubbish!”
The mood of the home faithful was epitomised when Boston made a substitution with a couple of minutes to go…
“Coming off for Boston United is Ben Fairclough. He is being replaced by… ermmm… Paul L… Paul Lister? No… it’s ermmm… Is it Jordan Nuttell? Yes. You know what. I don’t know. I’m beyond caring!”
The whole ground erupted in laughter and disbelief and what they had just heard. It was quality.
It was a great way to end the match. The ground soon emptied, and there was a palpable depression around the vicinity of the ground. Many people knew it would be the last time they ever seen such a great little ground.
Off we went, never to see St. George’s Lane again.
The day was finished off with a trip to Blackpole McDonald’s.
It had been a really nice day out at Worcester. The fans seemed friendly enough, even if we didn’t really have that much contact with them. The football wasn’t that good really, and the ground offered traditional romance.
Goodbye The Lane.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 120 miles
- ADMISSION: £5 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2.50
- PIE: N/A