Thursday, 13 October 2016

Chard Town - Denning Sports Field

Chard Town FC
Denning Sports Field
Zembard Lane
TA20 1JL

Ground Number: 631
Sunday 9th October 2016
Chard Town 2-3 Bishops Lydeard
Western League D1


Chard Town were formed in 1920, playing local football prior to joining the Western League in 1976. They've spent time in both tiers of the league, spending slightly more time in the lower tier. Generally they've struggled in the Premier, with their best finish coming in 1985 when they came 11th. Since 2009 they've been in Division 1, coming closest to returning last season when they finished 3rd, despite being just 2 points behind champions Chipping Sodbury Town.

In the FA Cup, Chard Town have not seen a great deal of success, with the 2nd Qualifying Round being their best effort so far. They've had a couple of notable runs in the FA Vase with the best coming in 1989/90 when they got to the 4th Round before losing to Bashley. Local cup honours include the Somerset Senior Cup and Western League Cup. 


Chard Town was the game I and most of the other groundhoppers on the groundhop were looking forward to visiting most of all, owing to it's famous sloping pitch, which is one of the steepest in English football.  It's something that has stopped them playing in the FA Cup and FA Vase in recent years which is a real shame for them as these things should be decided on the field, not on a technicality. The FA have been desperately trying to make them drop down, but thankfully a supportive Western League have stuck by them - at least for now. It seems as if the authorities would rather that every single venue is as dull as possible - a flat field with an Arena stand. I don't really see the issue - it's a level playing field if you will excuse the pun. I learned later on from someone at the club that finding a suitable venue in the town would be near impossible due to the natural slope that Chard has as a whole.

On the day of the game I awoke at 5.30, after a 6-hour sleep, I watched videos on Youtube for a while before another 90-minute sleep that saw me wake at 8. I'd been staying in a strange B&B that was basically an old ladies house with bedrooms, not even locks on the doors. It had been comfortable enough anyway, and she saw me off with a friendly parting and a very nice cooked breakfast. I left Calne at 8.50, stopping on a doble yellow line for a couple of minutes so that I could buy the non-league paper from a local shop. It was a reasonable journey, with me getting to Chard at 10.30. There's always something that feels good and fresh about the morning game on an organised groundhop, and this was no different. It was helped by a venue with bags of character, and the famous slope. It wasn't as noticeable from the entrance side, but on the other side of the ground, you could really see its impact. It was still 10.50am, but after seeing that I could try Natch Cider on tap for the first time ever, I opted to indulge and it helped me relax while I waited for the game to start.

It was a bright first half, and with Chard opting to shoot up the slope first half, you assumed they would push on in the second half with the advantage on their side and the game scoreless at the break. Around 5 minutes into the second half captain Mark Clunnie opened the scoring for Bishops Lydeard when he netted from the edge of the box after a good square ball. The visitors further extended their lead on 56 minutes when Zac Ryder's shot went in off the post. Bishops Lydeard were well on top at this point but it was the hosts who got the next goal when James Boyland scored on 72 minutes. The visitors restored their 2 goal lead four minutes later as Ryan Brererton followed up on a shot that had initially been parried. Chard made things interesting with the goal of the game from Steve Friend 2 minutes from time, but the visitors looked comfortable enough to see the game out. It had been a good game for the 244 in attendance to watch, though the ground looked fuller than that.


DENNINGS SPORTS FIELD is a wonderful and imposing ground with bags of character and is situated within walking distance of Chard Town centre. It's most famous for its slope, but has plenty of other unique features. There's not a huge amount of cover - just enough for around 100 standing and 50 seated, but there is plenty of open standing with the near goal elevated for a decent view. The opposite end is officially closed off to spectators, though most of it is usable.

On my visit there was a BBQ outside, serving bacon and egg rolls. Otherwise there is food and hot drinks as well as snacks available in the clubhouse. The bar in there is also very good, with ales and 2 ciders on tap, as well as  a decent selection of bottles. Merchandise was available outside with old shirts, programmes, scarves, pin badges and various other items available for purchase.


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