Saturday 16th September 2015
Midland Football League Division One
Atherstone Town 2 Coventry United 4 ht: 1-2 att: 155
from Sheepy Road
I went to the strikingly named Sheepy Road ground in mid September. Atherstone was a club that had only really emerged on my radar in the last 12 months. For a hitherto overlooked ground, it was an absolute beaut. Why had I never heard of Sheepy Road? Why is it not heralded as one of the non league classics in ground geek circles? Maybe it is, and has just evaded me. It really does shoot down all the traditional lower league ground ducks; large old stands housing seats and standing, plenty of terracing, interesting floodlights, a bright colour scheme and lots of signage. I think of all my ground visits this was the most pleasantly surprising.
Atherstone Town, the new apotheosis, date from 2004, but their original incarnation is 1887. Their highest ever finish in the pyramid was 4th in the Southern League in 1988-89, when they were Atherstone United – United folded in 2003, to once again be Atherstone Town.
Curiously the first result in Google when you type in Atherstone Town is the website http://www.atherstonetownfc.co.uk, which opens with a panoramic view of what you assume is their ground…except it’s not their ground! It’s a much bigger ground, looking more like a Conference club venue. Confused, wondering if there was another, bigger Atherstone Town FC somewhere in the UK, I looked at the history and no…it’s the same history as the Warwickshire club that I visited; the one with the much smaller, albeit lovely, ground. I’m not sure what kind of voodoo, chicanery or enchantment is at work here.
From the Potteries, Atherstone can be reached as the crow flies along the A51 Tamworth road, and then on to the A5. Atherstone lies midway between Tamworth and Nuneaton east-north-east of Birmingham.
Sheepy Road is named after the parish of Sheepy, north east of the town. The parish of Sheepy contains the villages of Sheepy Magna and Sheepy Parva. Sheepy means the place at the island or dry ground in a marsh where sheep are allowed to graze, with Magna and Parva the latin words for large and little.
Latin lesson aside the road sign for the ground still says Atherstone United, giving away its age. The ground lies to the north of the town across the A5 which cuts across it.
The club crest has two adders entwined, that being their nickname. The large stand sits to the right as you come in. Five rows of about 50 odd seats. The front of the stand has the club name emblazoned on the front. The stand continues along the side with the other half covered terracing.
It’s a great stand with a red and white striped fascia fronting the stand in a line, as if drawn free hand. Regular supporting posts rise up to the front every few yards. Across the other side four steps of terrace rise after a flat swathe, in which stand four rusty spindly floodlight pylons. Midway along the side there is cover again with the red and white striped paintwork.
Both ends have four step terraces with patches of grass beyond.
I forgot to mention that before the game I popped into Atherstone Town. I was headed to the CAMRA guide recommended Market Tavern. As I arrived in the town square, though, I noticed that the pub opposite, the Angel, had a massive banner announcing it as the North Warwickshire CAMRA pub of the Year – it was a new beer house, and had a fine selection of craft ales on offer. If Carlsberg did ground hops…
And as if the fine ales, charming ground and good weather wasn’t enough, the match was a bit of a thriller too.
Coventry United, a new club, sharing with Coventry Sphinx came in to town in top position. However a confident Atherstone took an early lead with a header off a corner. The visitors hit back with two replies in the first half, but shortly after the break the Adders were back on level terms, with a header off a free kick captured in the picture here.
United always looked like they had goals in them and regained the lead. Late on they stamped their seal on the victory with a fine rounding of the keeper and tight angled finish. 2-4. Fair result and a great game. Sheepy Road is an unassuming, and to me overlooked, classic non league ground. Baaaah.