“YOU’VE got to have a look at their stand, it’s proper Victorian,” I was told when I mentioned I was travelling to March in Cambridgeshire for the local club’s FA Vase tie with Peterborough Northern Star.
Actually, it’s not Victorian and the club are looking to demolish it, which no doubt upsets the ground-porn community who like to wallow in nostalgia. But it is worth seeing, a big wooden construction but some distance from the football pitch.
March Town United currently play in the Eastern Counties League Division One. They’ve seen better days – they were Eastern Counties champions in 1988 and they’ve reached the first round of the FA Cup twice (1955-56 and 1978-79).
The heavens opened as I arrived in March from Cambridge. I was scuppered from the first moment I arrived, my train hurtling across the fenland towards the apocalyptic clouds that seemed to be hanging over March. Mobile phone signals were almost non-existent. “Not a good place for signals. One of the reasons I moved to Peterborough,” said a friendly local who was helping me navigate the short distance to the “GER ground” as she called it. “I often think the rest of the country forgets about this part of Britain. Look at Wisbech, it doesn’t even have a railway station.” She had a valid point. Parts of East Anglia do seem remote and unconnected. I remember a photo-essay in the dearly-departed Independent in the late-1980s that referred to the region as “Britain’s Ukraine”.
Over 22,000 people live in March, which is a reasonable population to support a decent level non-league club, certainly high enough to get more than 70 people through the turnstiles.
I say Turnstiles, but you basically enter the ground through the bar, where two stalwarts sit at a table taking your three quid for admission. “Make sure you keep your red ticket as it allows you back in the bar,” I was told. There was an added bonus for this game as I bumped into Graham Yapp, a long-time non-league enthusiast and a follower of Game of the People. It’s good to share experiences, as they say. And I was grateful for a lift back to Hitchin.
The crowd was small and somewhat subdued, the autumn weather dampening spirits, but on the pitch, it was a lively first half.
In the 22nd minute, Northern Star’s Connor Pilbeam crossed for Zak Munton who netted from close range. Munton extended the lead six minutes from half-time from the penalty spot. It looked comfortable for the visitors.
To March’s credit, they came out in the second half highly motivated. Gradually, they grew in confidence and put Northern Star under pressure. In the 73rd minute, they pulled a goal back from the penalty spot, Northern Star’s Christian Gordon handling in the area and earning himself a red card. Michael Chow scored with ease.
Ten minutes later, March equalised with an absolute belter of a goal, one that was fitting of a much higher level. Substitute Dayne Moore turned and hit a long range effort from 25 yards past Simon Dalton to send the home crowd into raptures.
But within a minute, Northern Star were back in front. March defender Max Mayless made a mess of a long ball and substitute Jack Flintoft hit a bouncing effort past the home keeper. There was no coming back this time and Northern Star hung on to win 3-2. An entertaining 90 minutes watched from a period piece grandstand. For three quid, a bargain.