Ground #: 82
Ground: Moor Road
Competition: South Devon League Premier (Level 12)
Kick Off: 6:30pm
Programme: With Admission
Ipplepen Athletic 2
Sparkes 63’, Stacey 75’
Shane Gagg 23’, Woodmore 50’, Dodson 78’
For hoppers, the Easter Bank Holiday weekend is a superb time to cram as many games as they can in. For the past few years too, the excellent SWPL Hop has been running on this extended weekend taking in the mixed and wonderful bag of grounds that currently host Southwest Peninsula League football. Although I’ve been writing this blog for just over 2 years now, I had the chance to go to the previous two but for one reason or another decided against it. Now with the final SWPL Hop coming for this 2011 Easter Weekend, I decided to get a bit involved. Although not straight away as the Thursday evening game was at Crediton United, a ground I had only just visited. So an unofficial “hop” game was sought, and found at South Devon League side Ipplepen Athletic, with their derby game against Abbotskerswell. Keen!
Ipplepen is a small village in South Devon which used to be home to the Ipplepen Priory before it seems disappearing of the face of the earth. (I cannot find, although I didn’t look for long, any real information about the Priory today) W.G Hoskins described Ipplepen in his book “Devon” (1954) as followed, “IPPLEPEN is a grey and rather dismal village, with much bad modern building. The church (St. Andrew) stands well at the head of the village, and is almost entirely a 15th century rebuilding. The Perpendicular windows of the nave are notably good. The font and rood-screen are said to be c. 1430- 50. The pulpit is a magnificent specimen of 15th century art, with canopied niches from which the statuettes have disappeared. There are also two par- close screens.” It sounds like an absolutely rocking place then!
I didn’t actually head into the village as Ipplepen’s Moor Road ground is situated to the north of the village down some tight country lanes. Upon arrival, the ground is certainly an excellent set-up for Level 12 and wouldn’t look out of place slightly higher in the pyramid too. Right next to the cricket club, you enter the ground either through or down the side of the clubhouse to a wide open grassy area and the actual pitch. Inside the clubhouse it is spacious and easily kept the big crowd (big for this league at least!) in and seated if they wished to watch the game from there, although it is set back some way from the pitch. The pitch itself is fairly basic. A wooden and mesh wire fence is railed off all around the pitch and at a good height (for me) too so I could lean on it! There is a small amount of hard standing down a wee bit of the clubhouse side that would probably need to be increased to host a higher level of football (which Ipplepen are hoping to do one day). Behind one goal the grass bank is raised so it can provide a decent view and apart from that there are no other spectator facilities, yet. One final point is behind the other goal is a small training pitch and car park which is surrounded by lights (check other photos). It would probably be fair to presume that they could erect floodlights around the pitch should they need to in the future.
While things off the pitch look good, Ipplepen on the pitch aren’t quite ready to make the charge towards the Southwest Peninsula Leagues just yet as this was their first season back in the South Devon League Premier and were not exactly troubling the top sides. Going into this game in 8th (out of 14) having got 28 points and only 3 (including this one) to play. This was their first season back in the Premier Division though and so they had achieved their target of not being involved in a relegation battle as footballing giants Ashburton and Waldon Athletic looked to be taking the drop. They welcomed Abbotskerswell to Moor Road who had made the short 2 mile journey down the A381 for this derby game. Coming into the match up in 5th, the away side were the favourites for this game and they having only played 19 games up till this one, they could still have a Top 2 position at the end of the season. So not only local pride to play for then!
The game kicked off in glorious sunshine and both teams made a positive start as they wanted to impress the larger than normal crowd who had turned up. Ipplepen did look good on the counter attack early on, but very quickly Abbotskerswell began to get on top, especially through their #3, the left back, Paul Sharland, who rampaged up and down early down and caused the Ipplepen right back all sorts of problems. They then went close from two free-kicks, the first one was quickly taken which caught out the home defence but the shot was fired wide and then Ipplepen goalie Scott Bond saved well from a driven free kick. The opening goal was coming and it was no surprise on 23 minutes when Abbots took the lead from a piece of individual brilliance. A long diagonal ball from the left found Shane Gagg on the right edge who cut inside and beat one man then fired home into the top left corner to give Abbots a great lead. Abbots should have increased their lead further on 34 minutes when a through ball put an Abbots player 1 on 1 with Ipplepen goalie Scott Bond and as he rounded him, the player could only crash his shot onto the underside of the bar and away as he had the goal at his mercy. Sharland then forced Bond into another good save as at HT the away side were looking at an easy win and I was looking at the most one-sided derby I’d ever seen. Ok, 2nd most.
The 2nd half continued in the exact same way as most of the 1st as Abbots only needed 5 minutes to increase the lead as another through ball put beefy striker James Woodmore onto goal. As he had a couple of defenders around him and looked quite big, I didn’t expect much to happen, but suddenly, Woodmore burst away and he had pace! He easily skipped past the last defender a la Maradonna c.2002 before easily slotting home and it looked game over there and then. That is also what Abbots must have felt too as they eased off so much that Ipplepen came right back into the game. At first, they looked fairly blunt up front and so the game was probably drifting to a 2-0 away win when the ‘Pen won a free kick on 63 minutes. The cross was floated in and Stewart Sparkes beat Abbots goalie Chris Jackson to the ball and so his header sailed into the empty net. Game on! Especially when Woodmore thought he scored his 2nd but in the build-up play to the goal, everyone in the ground noticed the blatant handball. On 75 minutes, ‘Pen won another free-kick, in round about the same area as they had scored their goal from so people took notice. This time the ball was hit in with pace and it went through everyone to arrive at the back post where Jack Stacey hammered the ball in from around 5 yards out. The home fans/bench were delighted as they had amazingly come back from the dead. (Insert Lazarus joke here) That revival lasted only 3 minutes though as yet another through ball cut the home defence to pieces and Paul Dodson finished his 1 on 1 chance easily and made it 2-3. Ipplepen came back though, they hit the bar after some head tennis in the box as Jackson looked extremely shaky on crosses and ‘Pen knew this. Abbots though let the game drift away though and won it 3-2 and celebrated at the final whistle like they’d won the World Cup. Would be some banter on those farms on the Tuesday!
So for my first game for the “3 in 3” it was a far better experience than expected. An excellent game played by two attacking teams in an excellent setting. Some good weather too (I wouldn’t like coming here on a wet day) made this a really worth while trip. An ambitious team who want to be some day playing in the SWPL, so while that may seem a fair bit away currently, who’s to doubt their advance in the future. A recommended visit.
- Match: 7.5/10 (expectantly good entertainment)
- Value for money: 6/10 (ok, but a lot at Level 12 don’t charge)
- Ground: 6/10 (professional in a good setting)
- Atmosphere: 6/10 (lively here and there)
- Food: N/A – still on Lent so couldn’t sample the BBQ
- Programme: 7/10 (was free and had the info you want, good stuff)
- Referee: Allen Johns – 7.5/10 (great game, kept control)