Sunday, 8 September 2019

07/09/19 Review: Coventry United vs Haughmond

Coventry United 0-2 Haughmond (Midland Football League Premier)
Butts Park

When you have to work on a Saturday it can often be a gloomy affair, especially when you know your mates are out and about, having a beer, watching the footy. Thankfully for me, I'd arranged a strategic split shift that allowed me a "long lunch break" between 2 and 5 to go and check out the stadium around the corner. Step up Butts Park and my first venture over to see Coventry United in MFL Premier action against Haughmond.

Not bad for an eggball stadium

Although we are still early in the season, yesterday's trip would be my second to a ground that is purpose built for rugby, following on from a very special outing to Burton Rugby Club's Peel Croft in August to see the first football match there for over a century. In comparison, Butts Park is a dual-use stadium that hosts four teams across the two sports and the 4,000 capacity blue and white structure houses matches for Coventry RFC, Coventry Bears and of course Coventry United and Ladies football clubs. There also used to be an American Football Club playing there in the form of Coventry Jets, whilst the universities of Coventry and Warwick have also used the ground for their varsity day matches too, making it a valued asset to the City following Cov City's expulsion to Birmingham. Gotta be worth a visit on a sunny Saturday afternoon in September, right?
First though, a pre-match pint in the Broomfield Tavern
After polishing off a Spon End Fish Shop lunchtime deal I made my way down Broomfield Place and into the delightfully rough and ready saloon bar intending to sup up a quick shandy. Those who've been in there will know that it is not a shandy kind of establishment and instead I found myself guzzling down a pint of North Cotswold Shagweaver Ale- just the light lunch refreshment one needs before heading back to work. As pictured above, I wasn't the only chap in there awaiting the game and as 2:45pm rolled around it was time to mooch over and get ready for my fourteenth match of the season. Would it be as exciting as my last outing to New Bucks Head earlier in the week? Probably not! But nevertheless I was excited to see what the match could brew up and based on league positions, plus the fact that Shropshire's Haughmond were winless so far, meant that I very wrongly predicted a 3-0 win for the hosts as they looked to keep the pressure on my boys Sporting Khalsa who sit at the summit of the MFL Premier division. 

Butts Park is red and green again
Just six years since their formation as a backup club for if and when the Sky Blues fold, United are still going strong and despite slowing down after back to back promotions from the MFL Division Three all the way to the Prem, they are still considered to be one of the stronger sides in the league. A bit like Khalsa, who I actually saw beat United 3-0 back in November 2017, they have been unfortunate enough to find themselves battling very strong clubs in the form of Alvechurch, Bromsgrove Sporting and most recently llkeston Town, United have found themselves finishing 8th in each of their seasons at this level so far. This season is arguably the biggest chance for a side like Khalsa, United and other ambitious clubs to break out of the MFL and with the red and green army taking on Shrewsbury side Haughmond this would be a big chance for them to build momentum before a tough encounter with Walsall Wood, another side who've leapt up in recent seasons since I saw them in 2017. Of course the Mond, newly promoted after finishing runners-up to Tividale in the West Mids Regional League last season, would be looking to end their baron run of five league games so far without a win (two draws, three defeats) and in additional they would be seeking revenge on the hosts today who beat them 2-4 in the reverse fixture over at Shrewsbury Sports Village, which is the most westerly ground in the division and about 60-miles or so away from Butts Park. All the signs pointed toward a home victory today, but with the Acadmeicals beating Stone Old Alleynians 3-1 and United losing 0-2 at the Aspray Arena, anything could- and did- happen.

Butts Park, are you reeeeeeady?!
With the match kicking off on time and debuting a brand new astroturf pitch, I was still midway through my tour of the ground and indeed it's safe to say that I was a big fan. The XL Motors Stand, pictured above, is the 3,000 seater main attraction and it stands up as being arguably the meatiest stand I've seen in the MFL. Another rugby ground that I went to back in 2016, in the shape of AFC Wulfrunian's Castlecroft Stadium, may argue the toss but for me Butts Park has the edge due to the clean, modern and stylish structure. The underneath of the stand houses a splendid clubhouse area, including a bar, club shop section, full catering and all the mod cons, whilst at the back of the seating there is a couple of VIP boxes making it a proper all-in-one. Behind one of the goals is a windowed Guinness Bar which was not opened for the footy, and across the other side was a fairly old-school looking roofed standing terrace, which had yet another unopened bar attached to it. It seemed sad to say in such a high-quality venue, but I couldn't help but feel most at home in the standing area as I spent a good chunk of the first-half stood alone.
Now that's more my cup of tea
When you consider the typical standard of grounds at this level tend to be more like the ones I've visited such as the very old school Moat Ground in Gresley, the delightfully scruffy and wonderfully simple South Normanton Athletic home and wider afield my hometown ground, Queensgate Park of Bridlington, Butts Park is more like the quality of National League grounds I've visited in terms of facilities and of course this is largely down to the rugby residents but equally for the men's and ladies' clubs of Cov United, of which a superb 389 were in attendance for yesterday's match.

Speaking of which..
On the new pitch, the game was well and truly in full-swing by the time I settled down and just ten minutes had passed-by when Haughmond took the lead. The visiting ponytailed striker, known as Spud, made the most of his side's early pressure by striking a post-corner volley into the ground and as it lofted up into the air it caught out Otuyo in the Coventry goal before landing in the net. United 0-1 Haughmond. The rest of the second-half was fairly 50/50 and although United were creating chances, they showed absolutely no quality in the final third and as a result they went into the dressing room knowing that they'd need to turn things around in the second-half to make up for their one-goal deficit.

For me though, it was time to check out the bar
After fifteen minutes soaking in the half-time atmosphere in the clubhouse and resisting the urge to buy some merch, I made my way back out into the sun soaked seating stand ready for part two. Could the green and red side do any better with their shooting this time around? The answer was no, despite their best efforts, and in fact things would go from bad to worse as Haughmond almost started the half with another goal. Thankfully on this occasion the Acadmeicals striker couldn't make the most after big man Otuyo struggled to retreat back to his goal after running out, but after going up the other end and missing from as close as two-yards out they would later be punished as Spud made the most of some poor defending and pounced to grab his brace and almost guarantee the points with just twenty minutes left to play. United 0-2 Haughmond. Had this battle been a game of rugby I dare say Coventry would have been much happier as their attackers punted over the crossbar for the thirty-eighth time in an effort that would have been deemed pointworthy, but ultimately even when they did finally score in the 90th minute the goal would be ruled out for offside, therefore consolidating a very poor afternoon all-round. Haughmond's first win in the league was secured and they will be glad to have the last laugh having got through this early return game against a side who'd previously toppled them.

In truth, they might not have scored even with another 90 minutes to do so
With a return to work now calling me I made my way back indoors ready to oversee an ABBA tribute band, but on the plus side I left very happy knowing that Butts Park is undoubtedly going to become one of my regular haunts. Hopefully after seeing them lost 0-3 and 0-2 so far, I won't prove to be an eternal curse for them and I expect that I'll eventually see them grab a win!


  1. Excellent.Shame we were not.PUCU

    1. The finishing was as bad as I've seen tbh... the game could've lasted all day and they wouldn't have scored. Ahh well, you gotta move on to the next one and forget that now!