Lutterworth Athletic 1 Barrow Town 2

Saturday 17th November 2012
Lutterworth Athletic 1 Barrow Town 2
East Midlands Counties League
At: Weston Arena, Hall Lane, Bitteswell
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Weather: cold, dry
Attendance: 87
Duration: first-half: 45:25; second-half: 47:03

There were many reasons for choosing this particular game. It pitted Barrow Town, the runaway leaders of the East Midlands Counties League, against newly-promoted Lutterworth Athletic, who had the league’s leading goalscorer Danny Laywood in their line-up. Like Barrow, Lutterworth were also on a decent run of form and, added to that, I’d not previously visited the refurbished Weston Arena and the game was sufficiently near (61 miles) to get me back home in time for Strictly Come Dancing! Lutterworth held a single goal lead at half-time then had a penalty saved. Barrow took full advantage to score two quick goals to extend their run to fourteen straight league wins.

I remember well my visit to Lutterworth Athletic’s original ground on Dunley Way ( Towards the end of April 2011, they hosted Aylestone Park in their last league game at Steve Rendell Park prior to a move a couple of miles up the A426 to the Weston Arena near the village of Bitteswell. Formerly the home ground of Lutterworth Town, the place has been totally refurbished with new pitch-side rail, handstanding and stand. There is also a smart new clubhouse as well as artificial pitches. According to Groundtastic, the stand originally stood at Leicester United's old Winchester Road ground.

Approaching Lutterworth from M6 Junction 1 along the A426, I noticed was a large plane in the centre of a roundabout and, a few yards further on, the ‘Welcome to Lutterworth’ sign reminded me of the connection between the town and Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine. John Wycliffe, the other name on the sign, was a 14th century philosopher and Rector in Lutterworth's Parish Church of St Mary between 1374 and 1384 where he is traditionally believed to have produced the first translation of the Bible from Latin into English. The Whittle roundabout is at the opposite end of the town to the Western Arena which is a couple of miles to the north of the centre near the village of Bitteswell.

Last season, 2011/12, was Lutterworth’s first at the Weston Arena and they finished as runners-up to Rothley Imperial to gain promotion to the East Midlands Counties League for the first ime. This season it took them a while to get accustomed to the step up as they picked up just two points from their opening eight league games. Once they got their first win under their belt at the ninth attempt (6-1 at home to Ellistown), Lutterworth (18 points from 15 games) have moved up the table to tenth position. Four weeks ago, the beat Barrow’s main title rivals Basford United 3-1 at the Weston Arena.

League leaders Barrow Town (40 points from 14 games) drew their opening game before embarking on an unbroken run of 13 consecutive league wins. Manager of the Riversiders is Adam Beazeley, who made 15 appearances for Stafford Rangers during the 1997/98 season. One interesting player amongst Barrow’s substitutes was Ohio-born Zak Boggs (, a post-graduate student at Leicester University who previously played for MLS side New England Revolution.

Just before kick-off while stood near the entrance awaiting the arrival of the players onto the field, I heard a familiar voice making his way through the turnstiles. It was Horwich-based John Holland, who I got to know on August’s Mid-Wales League groundhop and briefly bumped into on Manchester Piccadilly Station a few weeks ago. John provided good company and I was more than happy to give him a lift to Stafford station after the game to save him having to take a lengthy return bus journey back to Leicester.

Lutterworth Athletic (in green and white) got the game underway attacking the north end in the first half, left to right in relation to the stand. They created the first chance, a right-foot shot from Ben Laxton which Barrow goalkeeper Matt Nurse pushed clear.

Barrow’s pre-match assessment of a ‘difficult looking fixture’ proved correct as the home side took the lead in the 29th minute. Cameron Laywood found Danny Laywood who stayed onside and sent a low shot past Nurse into the far left corner of the net. The goal took Laywood’s tally of league goals for the season to 18 goals. I felt that Lutterworth’s hard work deserved a goal. Was Barrow’s winning streak about to end?

The visitors thought they’d equalised in the 40th minute. From Cameron Gray’s left-wing corner, a header was cleared off the line amid appeals for a goal which were waived away. Just before the interval, Karl Whymark dispossessed Lutterworth goalkeeper Ryan Tilley and sent a shot towards goal which Tony Brown calmly got back to clear.

Concerns John and I had about the floodlights during the latter stages of the first half proved unfounded and Barrow made a positive start to the second half.

Lutterworth, however, were awarded a penalty seven minutes after the restart. Ash White brought down Laxton inside the area and Danny Laywood stepped up. However, Nurse produced a great save to keep out the spot kick and prevented the home side opening up what could well have been an unassailable two-goal advantage.

Looking to extend their winning streak to fourteen games, the save lifted Barrow and they themselves were awarded a penalty in the 70th minute. Brown tripped Jamie Allen inside the area and captain Craig Noble scored from the spot even though Tilley dived the correct way.

“Heads up” the Lutterworth players were told but they were stunned three minutes later when Barrow scored what proved to be the winner. A shot Zak Boggs was blocked and Allen rifled a right-foot shot into the bottom-right corner from 20 yards out.

Boggs and Portuguese-born Jose Moreida both had chances to extend the lead while Lutterworth gave the leaders a few anxious moments during the closing stages.

We were all treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets I've seen for a long while.

The win extended Barrow’s lead at the top to nine points over second-placed Basford United who were taking a break from league action and lost 5-3 at AFC Rushden & Diamonds in the FA Carlsberg Vase.

I enjoyed my trip to the Weston Arena!

Lutterworth Athletic (green and white hoops / white white): 1. Ryan Tilley, 2. Cameron Laywood, 3. Adam Laywood, 4. Mike Lucas, 5. Tony Brown, 6. Andy Morris, 7. Mark English, 8. Dom Ivens, 12. Josh Rapley (capt), 10. Danny Laywood, 16. Ben Laxton. Subs: 9. Liam Baines (not used), 14. Jack Sutherland (for Morris, 77), 15. Bill Hayes (not used).

Barrow Town (red and black stripes / black / red): 1. Matt Nurse, 2. Ash White, 3. Phil Garner, 4. Tom Cooper, 5. Josh Stevenson, 6. Niall Prenderville, 7. Karl Whymark, 8. Cameron Gray, 9. Ross Calum, 10. Jamie Allen, 11. Craig Noble (capt). Subs: 12. Zak Boggs (for Calum, 58), 14. Lewis Allen (not used), 15. Michael Paparozzi (not used), 16. Jose Moreida (for Whymark, 71).

Referee: T. Walker.
Assistants: C. Banks and A. Anderson.

1-0 Danny Laywood (29)
1-1 Craig Noble (70 pen)
1-2 Jamie Allen (73)

Lutterworth: Tony Brown (YC, 69)
Barrow: Ash White (YC, 52), Craig Noble (YC, 84)