Bury Town 1 Hendon 3 (1st November 2014)
Bury St Edmunds is one of those odd sort of towns, way out in the sticks and quite liveable looking, but you can’t help but wonder what people actually do for a living there. Yes, you have the Silver Spoon sugar factory which announces the town as you arrive down the A14, but the centre itself seemed to consist of little more than cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s a nice place for a stroll around, and you wouldn’t starve, that’s for sure, but it had an almost village feel to it, rather than being a town of over 40000 people. I guess for many that’s a plus.
Definitely a plus is the grounds of St Edmunds Cathedral, en route from the town centre to the ground. Two 900 year old gate towers, a variety of ruins, and the cathedral itself unsurprisingly draw a number of visitors. The abbey ruins bore a notice stating anyone damaging the walls would be prosecuted – sadly about 500 years too late. Even before Henry VIII had the monasteries destroyed, local tales of monks in armour taking hostages, and locals rioting and pulling down the gate towers, makes historical Bury St Edmunds sound like a medieval Chuck Norris film, but the biggest excitement on this day would be a fireworks display for later in the evening.
Naturally, even for a ground so close to a historic town centre as Bury Town’s is, the unwritten rule of compulsory ground location tawdriness necessitates that no sooner have we left a side of the street with half-timbered houses and 1000 year old walls, than we face a Halfords MOT & Exhaust centre and a Vauxhall car dealership. From there it’s a short delightful walk across a pay & display car park to the ground.
Bury Town only moved to their Ram Meadow ground in the late 1970s, and while that means it’s old enough to avoid the dreary flat-pack look of newer grounds, but not old enough to have genuine old-time character, it does still have enough about it to be interesting.
Most unusual is the main stand. For a start, it must be about the smallest main stand going. Just four rows of bench seats are divided by a players’ tunnel and segregation for press and also for officials, meaning about 40 seats max for the general public. More striking is the roof, high and angled upwards like the back of an extra-wide crocodile clip. A clock and sign look smart on the high back wall, but with the roof so high it might as well be knitted for all the protection it would offer from anything other than westerly winds and rain.
To the side of this is the apparently “temporary” clubhouse, as old as the ground is, still going strong. The front of this has a roof extension, providing a little more covered terracing in a ground that doesn’t have too much. A newer conservatory style extension looked strangely unused, while both turnstile blocks were also built in a (much cheaper-looking) conservatory style. Whether they had a deal with the builder is unclear, but I doubt too many members of the general public would be likely to consider getting a uPVC turnstile block added to their homes after seeing one.
The opposite side probably was a covered terrace at one stage, but is now covered bench seats – far more popular than such seats usually are at grounds. Even the obligatory non-league ground dog was to be found in these seats rather than at the end, where most seem to go. From here, to the north, past a garden shed tea bar/tuck shop and a very wonky fence or two, was a standard six-yard-box section of covered terracing. Behind here loom the giant tanks and buildings of the sugar factor, belching steam into the unseasonably mild November air.
Opposite is an almost identical end terrace, but this has the more picturesque tower of the Cathedral poking into view instead, assuming anyone looking in that direction isn’t blinded by the low sun.
With team changing ends before kick off, I did wonder if Hendon had won the toss and had chosen to have the home keeper looking into the sun in the first half. If it was a ploy it seemed to work, as the very first attack of the game saw the ball hit against the post, and the rebound turned back in to give Hendon a very early lead. With the teams at opposite ends of the table it was hardly the ideal start for the struggling home side.
Hendon, buoyed by the confidence of being a promotion-chasing team, went on to take control of the early stages. Saying that, promotion isn’t really Hendon’s thing, with them not having been promoted for 104 years. They’ve never been relegated either, although there have been a few league re-alignments in that time. They were moved into the top division of the Isthmian league in the 1960s, and haven’t budged for a stubborn 52 years.
With Hendon being a bit wasteful considering the amount of play they had, the home side got more into it and changed the game by nodding in a corner at the back post. What had looked a routine win was now in the balance.
Bury threatened to take the lead, but Hendon regained the lead in the 2nd half, bundling in a near post corner of their own, to the delight of the away fans who’d made the trip.
With just over 20 minutes left, the game was made safe. The Bury Town keeper couldn’t claim a cross, and a weak palm out was drilled back in for a 3-1 lead for the away side. For a team who’d only scored 12 league goals all season, never managing more than two goals, and had lost all three cup ties played up to this point, a 4th cup defeat seemed inevitable.
Those 14th century Bury St Edmunds townsfolk might have rioted at this point, but the locals on this day didn’t seem too downhearted. Apparently it was a better display than usual, and if nothing else, even if they couldn’t produce any metaphorical fireworks on the pitch today, at least they had the real display to look forward to later on.