Lawro, traffic and a planned care home

We are part of The Trust Project What is it? blogger Neil Redpath is watching a game in every single round of the FA Cup. Most recently, this meant visiting some displaced Ducks...

And so to Aylesbury. But not for a match, even though I've decided to spend the First Qualifying Round watching Aylesbury United, because my mate Chris lives in Aylesbury.

No, as I explained in the preview blog, United have now been forced to leave their old place and groundshare with nearby Leighton FC.

BLOG: September 11: End of Preliminaries, start of Qualifiers

So I drag Chris out of bed and carry on up the A418 to LFC's pleasantly-named ground Bell Close. Parking outside the ground, we notice an Aylesbury United banner draped over an existing Leighton FC sign.

We're at the right place, then.


Other than this banner, there are no other hints that any team other than Leighton FC play here. A bit disheartening, surely, for the Ducks fans who have supported their team here for three seasons.

As ancient tradition dictates, we pay a quick visit to the club bar. As modern tradition dictates, Sky Sports News is being shown on three TVs. In the corner stands a packed trophy cabinet, all with Leighton FC awards.

A nice way to rub your success into the faces of Aylesbury fans.

Hanging proudly above the bar is a picture of Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson, playing for Oxford City against Leighton FC quite a few years ago. The then-moustachioed one is turning his opponent inside-out prior to scoring a 25-yard scorcher.

Well, that’s what it looks like anyway.

We step out of the bar into a very run-down ground. To our left, a deteriorating fence tries but fails to separate Bell Close from the Leighton cricket pitch next door.

After briefly considering asking for a refund and watch through the broken slats, we take our position ready for kick off.

Taking our place at the back of the main stand, we see the teams run on: United in green and white, visitors Potters Bar Town in dark red.

A smattering of fans – the attendance is later announced as 133, fewer than at the last FA Cup game I attended at Ashford – clap their teams on, only to be drowned out by the traffic in the distant background.

BLOG: September 6: Dogs, daughters and dodgy tellies

Aylesbury have the majority of the possession, Potters Bar the better chances. Their two frontmen Shane Wyllie and Ellis Remy play like a young Emile Heskey and Andy Cole respectively, their strength and pace causing Aylesbury all sorts of problems.

The dugouts – well, benches – are situated either side of the main stand. While a strange silence hangs over the Potters bench to our right, Aylesbury manager Byron Walton makes up for it with constant orders barked from the touchline.

No doubt who's on top, then. United's pass-and-move founders on the bumpy pitch while the visitors' long-ball game sails merrily over.

Half-time changes nothing, with Aylesbury having the ball and Potters Bar the chances. The match is summed up on the hour when visiting player Dennis Paratusic blazes over not only the crossbar but also the whole stand – much to the amusement of the Ducks supporters.

The match ends goalless, with a replay required the following Tuesday. We decide to give it a miss.

Driving back to Aylesbury after the match, we pass their old Buckingham Road ground. We can't help but stop. It'll probably be more interesting than the match.

Windows boarded up and gates padlocked, it's a sorry sight. But a gap in the fence is easily big enough to get a good view of the ground. Inside, the pitch is overgrown, hiding the stands at the far end.

We feel sorry for the Aylesbury fans who now travel more than 20 miles away from Aylesbury every fortnight for a home game, passing their old field of dreams on the way.

It’s been three years since football was last played here and a notice at the entrance says that the ground will be knocked down for a new care home.

But the sale won't help the Ducks, who were only leasing the ground anyway.

With Aylesbury in financial troubles and no ground to call their own, the future for the mighty Ducks looks uncertain. But at least they can dream. Win the replay, get through a couple more rounds, draw a big team... as long as there's the FA Cup, there's always hope.

-------------------------------------------- More to read...

BLOG, September 11: End of Preliminaries, start of Qualifiers
BLOG: September 6: Dogs, daughters and dodgy tellies
August 29: Preliminary problems as giantkillings begin
August 24: Dereham dreams still alive
BLOG: August 14: The long road to Wembley starts here

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