No.24 - Sat 15th December 2012; Cambridgeshire County League Division 1A;                           2pm at Mill Lane; Sawston; Cambridge; Cambs; CB22 3HW.


Matchday images (37)

Sawston Rovers (3) 5 Howden Sports (1) 3

Mill Lane thriller sees Rovers go top....

You don’t have to travel far to see a really good game of football, do you? To be perfectly honest I’d rather watch a local non league match these days than look further afield (literally) to take in a supposedly better match higher up the pyramid. Take this Saturday as a case in point.


Considering the amount of heavy rain that had fallen only twenty four hours earlier I was more than happy to find a game closer to home that was still on rather than go too far and experience a risky late call off, as can often happen at this time of the year. I don't subscribe to the Law of the Sod any more?!


Thankfully a mid-morning phone call confirmed all I needed to know when Barry Rule, affable, young, first team manager at Sawston Rovers Football Club, told me that after improving weather conditions, his side’s eagerly-awaited Cambridgeshire County League Division 1A fixture against Howden Sports was definitely going ahead. It was just the news I had been waiting for. Phew!


Sawston itself is regarded as a large village in South Cambridgeshire situated on the River Cam and some seven miles south of Cambridge. Football travellers are probably more familiar with the better known club in the village, Sawston United FC, who play in the Cambs County League Premier Division. Founded just after the Second World War (in 1946) United use the superior Spicers Recreation ground situated on the Cambridge Road and close to the Sawston Village College for their games. I imagine some of you have already taken in a game there.


So today I was heading for the supposedly 'smaller' football club in the village. For the record, Sawston Rovers, a relatively newer club, have played at the recreation ground on Mill Lane since the club was formed in 1957-58 season. Their enclosed, picturesque, tree-lined venue is only a short five minute drive along the A1301 from the main junction with the A505 located close to the McDonalds roundabout. To avoid any confusion it is about two miles (south) of Spicers.


There are two narrow access entrances to the playing fields each offering limited parking for vehicles on match day. A smart well appointed club pavilion benefitting from Lottery funding provides changing facilities for teams and officials as well as a function room with adjacent kitchen area. A veranda at the front of the building provides cover for spectators who are ideally placed to watch the action from close quarters. The one and only large (un-roped) pitch on site runs lengthways from here. It is quite bumpy in places and rises on a slight incline towards the goal at the far end of the field.


Having won seven of their opening ten matches so far, it’s been a great season for Rovers. In fact, there was a lot riding on today’s game: if other results went their way victory would see them leap frog over Clare Town at the top of the league table. By contrast Howden Sports (formerly known as Fulbourn Sports) desperately needed a win to move out of the bottom two relegation places currently shared with fellow basement strugglers Steeple Bumpstead FC who, by coincidence, being unable to raise a team, failed to turn up for a fixture here last week.    


Both sides contributed to what was a competitive, compelling and remarkable high scoring game, making it one of the best I have seen so far this season. Rovers took a well deserved lead when Rumbelow (39) netted from close range but this was only short-lived before Brasher (43) slid in to grab an equaliser. Incredibly in a late flurry stand out long 'net-busting' shots from the hosts Rumbelow (45) and Williams (45+3) extended their lead going into the break making it 3-1. The goal-mouth action continued as the second half got underway when Rovers' Meacher added a fourth (53) shortly before Sports' Traynier (55) pulled one back. Moments later Williams (57) added a fifth only for Barker (62) to reduce the deficit down at the other end. Phew! By full-time the scored remained 5-3 giving Rovers three valuable points and more importantly that highly desirable spot at the top of the table. It had been a cracking aftenoon's entertainment.       


The match played in bright, sunny but cold conditions attracted just sixteen spectators, taking place on what was a superb and well-drained pitch. Indeed it was refreshing to see that the grounds’ staff had taken time to spike the playing surface earlier in the day. Sadly a minute’s silence was observed before the game started as a mark of respect to Richard Nieuwenhuizen the lino tragically killed after officiating in a recent Dutch youth game. 


Although the club doesn’t issue programmes, hot drinks were freely available from the serving hatch in the pavilion, cheerfully dispensed at half-time by committee member Rex Woodley. Incredibly he has been with Rovers for over fifty years now – in fact since the club’s formation back in the late 1950’s when the team was set up give youngsters living locally an opportunity of playing football (thereby creating instant rivalry with Sawston United FC who at the time were the only side in the village). Rex played as a young goalkeeper in the first team before hanging up his boots to work behind the scenes in varying capacities – today he embraced the role of ball boy and could be seen chasing many miscued, errant balls kicked beyond the goal at the pavilion end – not bad for someone aged seventy-something!    


During play I also got into conversation with Phil Brasher a member of the Cambridgeshire Leagues and Cups Committee who had  turned up to watch his grandson Ryan, a defender for Howden Sports. Complete with shooting-stick Phil told me about the latest experimental county initiative aimed at bridging the gap between youth and adult football with the introduction of an Under 20’s league competition. At the moment only five teams have signed up to take part in the new project designed to keep youngsters in the sport and off the street. Let’s hope that this ‘work in progress’ is a success!


Rovers are keen to promote their club and publish a terrific website which is regularly updated to cover all the latest news, fixtures and results. There are informative details about the club’s history and honours as well as a list of contacts and a map with directions to help the visitor. In fact it was after flagging up the site that I phoned club manager Barry Rule who kindly gave me the thumbs up about the game. What a star!


I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay at Mill Lane and found everyone connected with this proactive club to be extremely friendly and welcoming. I would definitely recommend a visit here to all hoppers. It was certainly a great advert for Cambridgeshire County League football. What more can I say?! The joys of hopping in leafy Cambridge suburbs continue...have fun wherever you go... 


FGIF Match Stats

Scorers: (H) L Rumbelow (39; 45); R Williams (45+3; 57); M Meacher (51) and (A) K Brasher (43); R Traynier (55); D Barker (62)

Attendance: 16; Admission and Programme: None; Match rating: 4/5; Ground rating: 3/5.


edited on 16/12/12