Tuesday 17th February 2009

Nuneaton Town 2 Romulus 0
BGB Southern League Division 1 Midlands
At: Liberty Way
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 576
Weather: dry, cold
Duration: first half: 46:51; second-half 48:07

I somebody had asked me this time last year ‘when will you be visiting Nuneaton’s new Liberty Way stadium?’, I would have confidently replied with something like ‘sometime during the 2009/10 season for a Blue Square North fixture between Nuneaton and Stafford’. However, things changed last spring – I stopped watching Stafford Rangers and Nuneaton Borough went into liquidation. From the ashes of Borough came a new club in summer 2008 named Nuneaton Town playing at the Liberty Way stadium in the Midland section of the BGB Southern League Division 1.

I visited Nuneaton’s old Manor Park ground on quite a few occasions watching Stafford Rangers but could never commit the route to memory and finding it often proved a problem. Not so with the new ground which I found easily approaching from the west on the A5 – A444 towards the town centre to the one-way system north of the station, then A47 signed Hinckley. Follow this road then right at the roundabout, signed A4254 to Attleborough and the ground is eventually on the right in the industrial estate.

The ground was shared (or may be still is) with Nuneaton RFC and has been substantially developed over the past few years. The pitch runs widthways through the entrance with a large covered terrace behind each goal – Ian Neale Stand behind the near goal and Stuart Plumbing Stand behind the far goal. One the near touchline, in front of what I think is the Rugby Club’s clubhouse, was open terracing with a temporary seated stand over on the far touchline. In the corner, near to the entrance, was a refreshments bar.

Looking at the lineups in the programme (£2 sold from near the entrance), the probable Nuneaton team included several familiar names from the Nuneaton Borough days – Darren Acton, Rob Oddy and Gez Murphy to name three. Seb Hamilton, who had a brief spell with Stafford last season, was named amongst the Romulus substitutes. The lineups, as expected, were announced over the tannoy.

I opted to pay an extra £2 for a seat in the stand. My hand was stamped to say that I had paid!

Nuneaton went into the game with hopes of promotion on their mind. Following Saturday’s home win over Stourport, they occupied second position, some 15 points behind Leamington but with three games in hand on the leaders. Leamington had been unbeaten for their first 24 league games but had lost the last two so top spot (the only position with automatic promotion) was again up for grabs.

Romulus may have been in 11th though they had games in hand on all ten teams above them, as much as five on some. So, with a gap on eight points on fifth-placed Leighton, who occupied the last play-off berth, Romulus’ season was still very much alive.

The teams came out in fair-play fashion between two rows of cheerleaders all wearing Nuneaton replica kit.

Nuneaton (in familiar blue and white striped shirts, blue shorts and socks) got the game underway, attacking the far Stuart Plumbing Stand. While both sides created the odd chance in the opening 25 minutes, visitors Romulus (green and black striped shirts, black shorts and green socks) certainly looked the more likely side to score in the latter 20 minutes of the first half. Tyrone Fagan glanced a header just wide and Jason Lanns provided another warning when he should at least have hit the target from 15 yards instead of ballooning the ball over the bar.

The home fans around me were getting edgy. “The way they are playing, they could beat us,” said one of them and I tended to agree. Seven minutes before the break, Romulus hit the bar.

At half-time, the cheerleaders did a short routine. The tannoy man tried to lift the spirits of the home fans by announcing the latest score at The New Windmill as ‘Leamington 0 Aylesbury 1’.

Nuneaton nerves were eased soon after the restart in the 48th minute when Town took the lead. A free-kick from the right was flicked on to the far post where Danny Pitham hooked the ball home.

Just past the midpoint of the second half, Seb Hamilton came on for Colm Tiernan and it was good to see a former Stafford player in action again. Murphy almost made it two, only to be thwarted by a diving save from Matt Harris. Then Nuneaton survived a real scare when a header rebounded off the bar before the points were secured with a second goal in the 89th minute. Substitute Robert Foster ran down the left and played the ball into the path of skipper Mark Noon who slotted into the bottom right. It was a good job the second goal went in as Acton produced a flying save to turn round a well-struck 25-yard shot.

On my way out, there was a joyous roar with the announcement that leaders Leamington has lost 2-1.