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Match Details: March Town United 1 – Debenham LC 0 (ECL D1)
Destination: The GER Sports Ground, Robin Goodfellow’s Lane, March, Cambs, PE15 8HS.
Competition: Eastern Counties League, Division One
Admission: £4 (including free programme)
Programme: Free with admission (32 pages / 16 of adverts)
Other ‘stuff’ purchased/available: Pin badge £2.50
Weather: Another hot one in the strong afternoon sunlight
Off The Pitch: Once today’s Peterborough United v Leeds United game was moved to a midday kick-off, I decided to make the most of the early start and see if I could find another local(ish) game which could also be attended afterwards. The only criteria being that it needed to be walkable from London Road, or accessible by public transport. Having looked around at what was available, I decided to try and get to March Town United, as once I’d seen a picture of their magnificent old wooden stand I knew the ground would be right up my street. March is geographically definitely not our usual patch (70-odd miles south of the Yorkshire border, and turn left at Peterborough), but I wanted to include this report in order to highlight what a gem of a location it is to those who might not come across it otherwise.
Having finished hugging various delighted Leeds fans after their injury time winner at London Road, I only just made the 14.18 train from Peterborough to March by the skin of my teeth (no thanks to a total of nine minutes added time in the aforementioned league game). From then on it was a simple one stop/15-minute journey to March, and then a ten-minute walk from there to the ground. Four quid entrance, which included a free programme made this good value for money. Unlike some free programmes, this one was a decent effort too, with all the usual content you’d expect in something you’d usually pay extra for. So full marks to the club for value for money in times of need. Down the left on entering was located the refreshment cabin, where the value-for-money aspect continued in fine style – big china mugs of tea or coffee for 50p, and I also treated mesen to a choccy bar for the same amount. Then beyond the tea shack is the centrepiece of the ground – big, blue and made of wood!
For those of us that like grandiose old structures at non-league grounds, this is up there amongst the most impressive. Seating inside the stand is via the old-style wooden benches, while underneath the far end of the stand it looks as though there was once a door to a refreshment room complete with serving hatch next to it. These days though, the basement mainly houses the toilets and players/officials changing rooms. The only other spectator accommodation in the ground is a small bit of covered three-stepped terracing on the opposite side behind the dugouts (see pic below). I say terracing, although it does have a small blue bench in it as well, which would appear to be able to seat a maximum of two people at any given time – so get there early if you want to be sure of a space in this location! As you’ll also see below, the pitch is post-and-railed off, though even the posts here are wooden, being fashioned out of what looks like chopped up sections of old telegraph poles. There is a small area beyond this in the far corner of the ground which is inaccessible to spectators, meaning that you can get access to around 90% of the pitch perimeter.
The GER Sports Ground is named after the Great Eastern Railway company, and although March is no longer the railway hub it once was, the GER Sports Club still resides next door to it. The ground was opened in 1923, at which point it was home to March GER United FC. After the end of the Second World War, March GER United remained dormant, so their ground was subsequently taken over by the other main local club, March Town, who later added the ‘United’ suffix to their name and thus ended up with their current monicker. The ground also formerly had a small race track round it, and as a result the the side stands are a few extra yards from the pitch than is the norm, but no so as you’d adversely notice as a spectator.
On The Pitch: With all the painted sections of the ground being coloured blue, and one team taking to the field in blue and the other in orange, it was a safe bet that the blue lot were the home side. I’m glad I checked though, ’cause it transpires that March have recently reverted back to something close to their old colours of amber and black, so t’was them in the orange shirts, and visitors Debenham LC (the LC being an abbreviation for ‘Leisure Centre’) in the blue kit. The game saw March get off to a flyer and take the lead within the first five minutes, courtesy of a goal from Ash Brand. Thereafter, we got a game which was highly competitive throughout, though what I think Ron Manager would summise as “lacking quality in the final third”, with the upshot being that there was no further scoring. The home side kept looking for a second goal to kill the game off, while the visitors pressed forward towards the end but just couldn’t quite find the net. To summarise though, it’s a lovely venue to visit, the home fans are a friendly bunch, and the matchday volunteer staff seem to go out of their way to provide a warm welcome. This all goes to make it a top notch experience all round – particularly for keen connoisseurs of old wooden football stands!
If you’re reading this before November 7th 2011, it’s also worth worth noting that the club has a special commemorative game arranged on that night, when Conference side Cambridge United will be visiting as part of March’s 125th anniversary celebrations. More info is available on the club’s webpage at: