Ludlow 3 Pelsall Villa 1

Saturday 25th April 2009
Ludlow 3 Pelsall Villa 1
FTL Futbol West Midlands League Premier Division
At: SBS Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 30 (headcount)
Weather: sunny spells, breezy, cool in the shade
Duration: first half: 45:57; second-half: 46:20

After a week of really nice pleasant Spring-time weather, guess what on Saturday morning – rain! Thankfully, the weather forecast suggested it would soon clear and it had by the time we got to Ludlow.

With the family dropped off in the town near the castle, which turned out to be well worth the visit, I headed out of town in the direction of Shrewsbury on Broomfield Road towards the ground. Known as the SBS Stadium, in recognition of a sponsorship agreement with Shropshire Building Supplies Ltd, it was located between the A49 bypass and the Leisure Centre/Ludlow School. Before the bypass slip road and immediately after leaving the 20 mph zone, there was a drive to the left (signed) which led to the stadium itself.

From the car park and through the entrance, the pitch (orientated south-east to north-west) stretched lengthways. There was hardstanding all round with a clubhouse and changing rooms block on the near touchline. In front of the building facing the pitch were four rows of red individual tip-up seats, separated into two blocks by the players tunnel. There was also a balcony overlooking the pitch to provide an elevated vantage point. On the other side the club building was a floodlight 3G pitch with its own seated area.

The stadium has been Ludlow’s home for around six years after they sold their previous ground at Riddings Park in the town. A plaque commemorates the laying of the new ground’s foundation stone in December 2002.

As a gesture to their fans, no admission was charged but the club were unable to issue a programme to spectators. Before the game I enjoyed time in the impressive function room inside the club building, from where hot and cold refreshments were available. One of the officials, who turned out to be with Pelsall, kindly provided the lineups.

Both sides went into the game in bottom five of the Premier Division table with poor recent form. Ludlow, 17th position in the 21 team league on 35 points from 38 games, had enough points in the bag to stay out of the bottom two despite losing their last four games. The need for points was more necessary for Pelsall (18th position with 33 points from 37 games) as they still could be caught by second-from-bottom Ledbury Town (on 31 points) and third-from-bottom Wolverhampton Casuals (32 points) who were both playing their final games today. Pelsall were on a run of eight league games without a win and lost 3-1 at home to Ludlow last month.

Before the teams emerged, the referee requested that Ludlow change their socks from red to blue, avoiding a clash with those worn by the visitors.

Ludlow (red shirts, black shorts and blue socks) got the game underway defending the southern end; in other words attacking from right to left in relation to my vantage point of the back row in the John Nash Memorial Stand. And no sooner had play got under way, it stopped briefly after just 16 seconds when Pelsall’s Michael Griffiths was accidently hit in the face by the ball. The midfielder was able to continue and ended up later finding the net for his side.

A nice 5th-minute move led to Ludlow opening the scoring with the first real shooting chance. Simon Newhill, in space on the left, squared a pass into the area where loosely-marked Gareth Ayres fired low into the bottom-left corner from no more than 10 yards out.

Chances were scarce during the opening quarter hour. Then, Newhill got forward into the area and sent a lofted shot dropping no too far over the bar. In the next attack, Ludlow skipper Lewis Ayres got in a close-range shot which the diving Pelsall keeper Luke Harling turned round the right-hand post. Harling also did well to keep out a low shot from Archie McIlhatton with another diving save at the expense of a corner.

Ludlow doubled their lead in the 23rd minute. Gareth Ayres turned provider with a low ball from the right to the far post where Paul Whatmough slotted home at close range. “Do the simple stuff,” cried one frustrated Pelsall player.

Pelsall (white shirts, red shorts and red socks) twice went close around the half hour. John Bettrey sent a 20-yard drive flashing past the left-hand post and Ian Humphries turned on the right inside the area and fired over from a narrow angle.

The visitors were awarded a free-kick just outside the area for a foul on Humphries. While Ludlow were organising their defence, the ball was tapped to Bettrey who fired low against the left-hand post.

At half-time, I popped up to the refreshments bar for another hot tea and noticed on Sky that Stafford were losing their final game of the season 1-0 at home to Hinckley United. With me not deciding to head to Marston Road today, 2008/09 has been the first one since 1973/74 that I’d not seen them play all during the entire season.

Back to the action in the second half, Pelsall reduced the deficit ten minutes after the restart. Griffiths sent a low well-stuck shot into the bottom-left corner from 15 yards. Lee Hodgson-Bridge and Danny Horrall had set up the chance by exchanging a one-two to cut in from the left.

Ludlow introduced Martin Jones on the hour in place of Whatmough and the tall substitute made an immediate impact by scoring his side’s third goal just 40 seconds after coming one. He picked up the ball 30 yards out and beat two defender to get clear before hammering an unstoppable shot past Harling. With the home side on course for the points, it was very much ‘squeaky bum’ time for Pelsall who, I guess didn’t know what was happening in the games involving Ledbury and Wolves Casuals.

Pelsall didn’t lie down and looked to reduce the deficit once more. Hodgson-Bridge got down the left and crossed low into the area. The ball was cleared to Bettrey who fired wide from 20 yards out. Two minutes later, a long ball forward fell for defender Tom Baggott to shot wide from well outside the area.

In the closing stages, Ludlow also added a fourth goal. Harling, however, did well to save from Jones and the ball was scrambled clear.

The full-time whistle signalled a double for Ludlow over Pelsall. In terms of the fight against relegation, the visitors’ defeat didn’t actually matter for much as both Ledbury and Wolves Casuals lost their final game. Stafford, as I heard via my Dad’s full-time phone call, came from behind with three unanswered second-half goals to beat Hinckley 3-1.