Ground #: 85
Ground: Mill Marsh Park
Competition: Southwest Peninsula League Premier (Level 10)
Kick Off: 2:30pm
Bovey Tracey AFC 3
Barker 28’, Gerring 42’,57’
Witheridge AFC 1
Sadly, there were no local games around (bar Torquay and even that was an evening KO) on the 29th April for the Royal Wedding. So a day of work and avoidance was the order of the day. The following 24 hours though still saw the news masturbate furiously over the ceremony and so I was out of here and off to a game. At first it was to be a debut dip into the Devon & Exeter League with a visit to nearby Hatherleigh Town. However, I saw that the nearest SWPL team that I had yet to visit, Bovey Tracey were at home and as they were still fighting relegation, this looked to be an interesting game. Off I went then!
Bovey Tracey is a small town in Devon on the edge of Dartmoor, its proximity to which gives rise to the "slogan" used on the town's boundary signs, "The Gateway to the Moor”. Bovey Tracey was an established Saxon community and takes its name from the River Bovey. The town gained its second name from the de Tracey family who were "lords of the manor" after the Norman Conquest. One member of the family, William de Tracey, was implicated in the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. It is thought that de Tracey rebuilt the parish church of St Peter, St Paul and St Thomas of Canterbury as penance for the murder. The church still stands today and has an unbroken list of vicars from 1258. Bovey Tracey is noted in the cycling community as the start point of the Dartmoor Devil bicycle ride, an annual event held in late October taking in over 2000 m of climbing and over 100 km around and across Dartmoor. Other sights to see in the quaint town include the House of Marbles and the Devon Guild of Craftsmen headquarters.
The town’s football side play right next to the A382 on the north side of the town at Mill Marsh Park. (Also named as the Western Counties Roofing Ground for sponsorship reasons) The ground has been home to Bovey Tracey since 1979 (although they did have to sell some of the land in 1984 to assist in the “Bovey Bypass” construction) and is slowly being brought up to a decent ground. Two metallic stands now straddle the near touchline and both structures are barely two weeks old (at time of writing for this game) as their first use was for the SWPL Hop match against Buckland Athletic on the 23rd April. Views from both stands are fairly good and with floodlights being put in over summer, Mill Marsh Park will easily achieve SWPL Premier ground grading to stay in the league. There is also a spacious refreshment room on site selling normal hot food and drinks as well as alcohol which went down very well with the decent contingent that had travelled from Witheridge. As this was the first game after my meat free lent I absolutely nailed a decent cheeseburger for £2.50 on the patio section before the game.
While off the pitch things look good, on the pitch, it has been a tad of a struggle for Bovey’s first team this season as they had still not secured their Premier status for 2011/12. Going into this game down in 17th, they were 4 points clear of 19th place Elburton Villa with both of them having two more games to play in the league. 18th place Dartmouth who were also in relegation trouble heading into this game were on 30 points with Bovey, but had a game in hand on their two rivals. If Bovey won this game, they were safe no matter what, and with Dartmouth having a tough away game at Falmouth Town and Elburton Villa hosting inconsistent Penzance, this looked like it would be an interesting day in the relegation battle to see who would be joining already doomed Wadebridge Town in SWPL Division 1 next season. In between Bovey and a vital 3 points was Witheridge AFC who I had seen twice already this season (home vs Tiverton and away @ Royal Marines) and on those two occasions they had been managed by different people. Coming into this game then it was no surprise that Witheridge had another manager! This time Mike Taylor had taken over the reins. After finishing 10th last season, 2010/11 had offered so much but they were down in 15th and had just escaped from the relegation fun. With Steve Ebdy grabbing 18 goals this season (Witheridge have scored 61 after 35 games) that’s probably the reason why they avoided the relegation battle. But with attendances slightly down at Edge Down Park (the 10/11 average is actually higher because they played one more game and had a hop game which drew a crowd of 423) these look to be testing times for the side from North Devon.
With Withy having not much to play for it was interesting to see how they would start this game as the home side had so much to play for. As it happened, they should have scored within the opening 10 seconds when straight from kick off, a long punt forward put Jordan Charran through but he fired well wide. Bovey came back into it though and while most of the football was being played in Withy’s half, the away team were dealt a blow when one of their players was forced off when he landed badly challenging for a header with a Bovey striker. The fact he was taken off and his top being used as a sling to carry his arm, suggests its a broken arm or dislocated shoulder so best wishes to him and hope he has a speedy recovery! One thing I didn’t understand though is Withy took so long to get a sub on and could have paid the price being one man shorter needlessly for around 8 minutes. Ironically, Bovey took the lead when Withy were back to full strength on 28 minutes after a fantastic diagonal ball from right to left set Nick Barker on his way and he took one touch to take the ball away from the defender and his 2nd was to crash the ball into the bottom corner and gave John Wannell no chance. Charran then had another chance straight again from the Withy kick off but he missed the target again. Barker forced an excellent save from Wannell before we had the most bizarre moment I had ever seen at a football match on 42 minutes. Withy were awarded a drop ball just inside the Bovey half and so to get on with the game, Steve Ebdy punted the ball towards goal quickly so Bovey keeper Tom Buckler could get on with the game. However, Buckler had gone for a wander and was nowhere near his goal so could only watch Ebdy’s punt bounce in. Ebdy look horrified to have “scored” and referee Mike Edworthy said he had to give it. Bovey then demanded to score unchallenged to regain the lead they shouldn’t have lost and Withy let them so Ben Gerring took charge and jogged up the other end of the pitch from kick off to score. Had Gerring missed or Wannell accidentally saved, we could have had a very interesting moment but Bovey had “re-gained” the lead. At HT, the Withy players were unhappy with Mike E as one of their players had been taken out off the ball and lay in a heap on the floor but the ref just played on. It was 2-1 though, a strange 45 minutes of football.
2nd half saw Withy make a go of it in an attempt to carve out a proper equalizer and when the ball broke in the box, that equalizer looked on, but was fired wide. Instead just 5 minutes later, Bovey made the game safe. A daft free-kick was given away on the left hand side and was floated into the box where Gerring was completely unmarked and easily headed in. Quite shambolic defending and was surprised how bad Witheridge had become since I saw them last. It should have been 4 just two minutes later when a quickly taken free kick caught Withy out but the chance was fired over. The rest of the half was a bit of a non-event as Bovey were happy to sit back on their two goal lead and let Withy attack, which bar Ebdy, they seemed incapable of doing. As it happened, Bovey easily saw the game out with a 3-1 win and with that left just two teams in the relegation battle it seemed…
… that was until it was announced that elsewhere, while Budleigh Salterton had won at the University of Exeter to secure 2nd place in the SWPL Div 1 East and therefore won promotion, they were not going to take it and withdraw their offer. That means (as I write this on May 3rd) only one team will go down from the Premier (Wadebridge) into Div 1 West and only 1 team will come up from that division (Camelford or Callington Town). It means at the moment that Dartmouth and Elburton Villa are safe and opinion has been split about Budleigh’s decision with some calling for points docked or fines and trying to get 3rd place Stoke Gabriel (who had also applied for promotion) into 2nd so they could play Premier football next season. That’s for another post though! (coming soon) While at Bovey, I enjoyed this ground, another scenic setting with some decent infrastructure in place to see the club go from strength to strength. With floodlights due to be in place for the start of next season they can now enter FA Competitions and so trying to qualify for a 2012/13 Vase place should be there aim for next time out. As for Withy, I’m slightly concerned. Maybe its just end of season laziness where they had nothing to play for, but they were poor in this game and if Ebdy was to leave for a better side in the summer, Withy would look nailed on for relegation. We’ll see.
Photos from Bovey Tracey vs Witheridge
- Match: 6/10 (faded badly in 2nd half)
- Value for money: 7/10 (good value)
- Ground: 6.5/10 (could look very impressive in the future)
- Atmosphere: 5/10 (dribs and drabs)
- Food: 7/10 (good burger and had lots on offer at good prices)
- Programme: 5/10 (bought better for £1, but bought worse)
- Referee: Mike Edworthy – 5.5/10 (slightly inconsistent with decisions)