Ground #: 127
Ground: The City Ground
Competition: Evo-Stik Southern League Premier (Level 7)
Kick Off: 3pm
Cost: £5 (concession)
Cambridge City 0
Chaffey s/off 41’, Dekanski s/off 84’
St Neots Town 5
Moore 1’, Mackey 9’, (pen) 41’, 72’, Jacob 53’, Rogers s/off 82’
I have a list of clubs who have announced they are to leave their ground at some point in the near future but until now have not really acted upon visiting any of these grounds before they disappear. (Hatfield Peverel the only exception so far) Cambridge City’s Milton Road (or The City Ground) has been “in danger” for years but until the recent Bank Holiday I had never pulled my finger out and went to see a game there. (I even lived just outside Cambridge for 3 months back in 2005) It was time to put that right.
Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire. It lies in on the River Cam, about 50 miles north of London. There is archaeological evidence of settlement in the area in bronze age and Roman times including numerous farmsteads and a village in the Cambridge district of Newnham. After the Romans had left Saxons took over the land on and around Castle Hill and renamed it Grantabrycge – 'Bridge over the river Granta'. Over time the name evolved to become Cambridge, while the river Granta became known as the river Cam to match the name of the city. Cambridge played a significant role in the early part of the Civil War as it was the headquarters of the Eastern Counties Association, an organisation administering a regional East Anglian army, which became the mainstay of the Parliamentarian military effort. In 1643 control of the town was given by Parliament to Oliver Cromwell, who had been educated at the University and so the town's castle was fortified, with troops garrisoned there and some bridges destroyed to aid the defence. Although Royalist forces came within 2 miles of the town in 1644, the defences were never used. In the 19th century, in common with many other English towns, Cambridge expanded rapidly. This was due in part to increased life expectancy and also improved agricultural production leading to increased trade in town markets. During the Second World War Cambridge was an important centre for defence of the east coast. The town became a military centre, with an R.A.F training centre and the regional headquarters for the local area. The town itself escaped relatively lightly from German bombing raids, which were mainly targeted at the railway as 29 people were killed and no historic buildings being damaged. In 1944, a secret meeting of military leaders held in in Trinity College laid the foundation for the allied invasion of Europe.
When you mention Cambridge and football to most fans, they will immediately think of City’s neighbours Cambridge United who currently play 2 divisions higher than City. However the Lilywhites were formed first in 1908 as Cambridge Town and were committed to playing amateur sport, joining the Southern Amateur League. As Norwich were the only FL club in the area at the time, Town were invited to apply for the FL in 1936 but declined, allowing rivals Ipswich Town to apply successfully in 1938. When Cambridge became a City in 1951, themselves and Abbey United both applied to become Cambridge City which the Lilywhites won due to their application arriving first. Abbey United renamed themselves Cambridge United and later joined the FL in 1970. City from ‘51-‘70 were one of the best supported non-league teams in the country with gates over 3,500 (and far more than United). They were Southern League champions in 1963 and runners up in 1971. With United in the FL (and doing well) fans started to drift away from City and some games they attracted less than 200 supporters. On the pitch, they were relegated from the Southern League Premier in 1976 before consolidating in the Southern League 2nd tiers before joining the new Conference South for 2004/05. In 2008, City were demoted from the Conference South (despite finishing 14th) to the Southern League Premier due to ground regulations where they still are today.
City now need a new ground as combined with the failed ground grading, they have legal issues over the sale of the ground made by a former director. (The legal case looked quite complicated upon first read so I won’t try and dig something that is resolved further out, especially if I get it wrong) City have announced that they will start a groundshare with Newmarket Town from next season meaning the City Ground doesn’t have long left, which has been home to City since 1922. The ground is dominated by the big main stand (picture above) which runs down one side of the pitch and also houses the clubhouse, teabar and changing rooms. A new extension has been built recently towards the far corner of the stand which has more seats and offices for the Cambridgeshire FA. Opposite is a covered standing terrace that the louder City fans congregate in and all of the talk pre-game was on their recent 4-3 defeat to Chippenham Town, who were described as a “horrible club”. (Visit coming soon) Behind both goals is just hard standing while the ground is surrounded on the most part by trees to give this a decent feel to a reasonable sized ground. It’s better than a fair few grounds I’ve been to so it will be sad when play finally stops here at the end of the season.
Having been in the Southern Premier since 2008/09, City have always done reasonably well having finished 4th in 3 of their 4 seasons back at this level. The bookies who take bets on this level have made them one of the favourites, however their early season form could be described as stuttering, at best. After a promising 3-1 win over Bashley on the opening day, they had lost 3-2 and 4-3 to St Albans City and then Chippenham to put them 6 points down already on the leaders. The visitors had come just down the A428 from St Neots after some success in recent seasons. On the back of “financial backing” St Neots won the United Counties League back in 2010/11 before winning the Southern League 1st Central Division last season. Upfront they can afford ex-Premiership striker Stefan Moore and his quality can easily be seen at this level as he has been breaking scoring records on their way up. St Neots also were on 3 points for this game as defeats to Chesham United and Hitchin Town was followed up with a win over Weymouth coming into this.
City fans had been moaning about several poor starts their side had made, so what better way to start this game by going 0-1 down in under a minute. St Neots defender Jon-Paul Duncliffe broke up an attack and then played a long, route one ball over the top. This amazingly caught City’s defence out and Stefan Moore lobbed Enol Ordonez to give the away team a dream start. Less than 10 minutes later and it was 0-2 with City looking really fucked this time. Ollie Thorne picked out Ben Mackey on the edge of the area and he danced past a couple of non-challenges before curling the ball into the far corner. Brilliant. City did have a spell where it looked they could get back into it as Mitchell Bryant missed two good chances to pull one back. His 2nd chance, a missed header from a Robbie Nightingale cross was one that should have been buried. Just before HT, the referee ended the game as a contest by getting a key decision completely wrong. Another long ball over the top sent Moore away vs Lee Chaffey. Moore takes a tumble after Chaffey had made a challenge and the referee gives a penalty and a red card. A photographer at HT had shown his picture to prove that the “contact” was outside the area and from my view, it looked like Chaffey won the ball. Still, it wasn’t like it was important. Mackey dispatched the penalty to make it 3-0 at HT. Game over.
I always wonder when a team is so out of it at HT, how they approach the 2nd half? City tried to get a goal back with the 10 men and it was no surprise they were done on the counter attack at St Neots made it 4-0. Hilliard split the defence with a throughball to allow Dan Jacob to finish a 1 on 1 chance. City still pushed forward and showed signs that St Neots’ defence isn’t all that by creating some good chances that goalie Duggan did well to keep out. Down the other end, home goalie Ordonez fumbled a tame cross from Jacob and Mackey was there to make it 5-0 with 72 minutes played. The referee hadn’t kept any sort of control on the game so it was no surprise the final 15 minutes were played with a lot of fouls and two red cards, both for receiving a 2nd yellow. First Declan Rogers for the away side walked before Jack Dekanski joined home for City’s 2nd red card of the day. St Neots were fortunate not to concede at least one, but their offensive quality blew City away in this game for an easy 3 points.
Upon first look, a game that featured 5 yellows and 3 red cards suggests to the observer that the game was quite dirty. However this really wasn’t, it was a shame referee Nigel Smith ruined it with such an incompetent performance where he completely lost control. City’s season carried on in a dirge way for their next game as they lost 1-0 away at Leamington to leave them 20th after 5 games. St Neots are 8th after their 3-2 win over Banbury United to put them in a good position. You can’t win the league in August, but you can be so far behind others you are losing it. City need to win soon. A friendly enough club off the field, although I do wonder what attendances will be like down the road at Newmarket for 2013/14. Hopefully their new ground can get sorted ASAP.
- Match: 7/10 (enough there for the neutral)
- Value for money: 6/10 (general Southern League pricing)
- Ground: 6.5/10 (decent, just nothing that catches the eye)
- Atmosphere: 7/10 (quite good, from both sets of fans)
- Food: 5.5/10 (ok food, miserable service)
- Programme: 6/10 (fair enough for £2)
- Referee: Nigel Smith – 2/10 (useless, hope to avoid in future)