Plymouth Parkway v Weymouth
Bolitho park / Friendly /26th July 2014
On my birthday in May (23rd May for those who want to send presents and money next time around), it was announced that Swansea City would be playing a preseason fixture down at Plymouth Argyle. When it dawned on me that the weekend of the Jack Army’s jaunt to Plymouth would also fall on the first weekend of my 6 weeks holidays, I was very quickly sold on the idea of a footballing weekend in Plymouth. As a birthday treat to myself, I booked the train tickets to Plymouth there and then.
I’d decided that a journey to a city so secluded in the depths of the western part of the UK, deserved a two game footballing weekend and so I set about the task of finding a non-league preseason friendly to take in. I found my answer within moments of beginning my search. Located just a short distance from the city centre in Crownhill sits Plymouth Parkway FC and I was pleased to read that they would be taking on Weymouth FC on the day before Swansea were to take on Argyle.
A bit of research told me that Parkway were founded the same year that I was born, 1988, which I felt gave me a bit more encouragement to go as I don’t think I’ve ever been to a football club that is the same age as me. In the year of their formation, the new club received sponsorship from Exeter Airport and so the club changed their name to Ex-Air Flyers; the club colours of yellow and blue, which remain today, derive from the yellow/blue colours of the airport logo. The club started in Division 4 of the Plymouth and Devon District League, where they immediately went on to be successful and win a host of promotions.
Eventually the club would join the newly formed Devon League as the facilities of Parkway Sports Club were offered to them; thus the club changed their name firstly to EAF Plymouth and eventually to Plymouth Parkway the following season in 1993/94. These days the club play in the South-West Peninsula League Premier Division, a league they won last season.
I made it to Plymouth at 10:30am via a day back home in Wales, a night out in Bristol and two train changes. The hostel we were staying at was located in the very pleasant Hoe part of the city down by the sea. Having dumped my bag there, I headed straight back out into the city to find a bus up towards the Crownhill part of the city. Buses were in abundance on the Royal Parade and I was soon walking the streets of Crownhill, about 10-15 minutes walk away from Parkway’s Bolitho Park home.
It was a searingly hot day and so there was only one thing to do: seek refuge in the nearest building, which conveniently happened to be a pub. Despite it being before midday still, the Tamar pub was rather busy with clearly everyone having the same idea as me and enjoying a cold pint to battle against the sun’s warmth.
Today’s friendly was a 2pm kick-off, so I opted to stay at the Tamar until just before 1pm and then go in search of Bolitho Park. This was when I received my first phonecall of the day from Sheridan. Sheridan Sparkes (a superb name if ever there was one) was my groundhopping companion for the weekend, as he seemed to like the idea of doing two games in Plymouth too, after I had declared my plans to my Twitter audience. Bashley-supporting Sheridan (he lives 300 yards from the ground as he kept reminding people throughout the weekend) was not arriving into Plymouth until an hour after me but on trying to find his way to the ground he had got himself monumentally lost it seemed. Fortunately, he had an hour until kick-off, so I was sure he’d make that.
I was having a lot more luck with my Plymouth geography and found Bolitho Park reasonably comfortably, although it must be said that it is quite hidden away amongst the engulfing forestry. “Is the place where Weymouth are playing today?” I hope so I declared to the lady who was clearly questioning her own knowledge of Plymouth-based football clubs.
The ground itself looks beautiful as you approach it through the car park, with trees completely flanking it on either side; it’s also fair to say that today’s blistering heat helped give the place a healthy glow too. Bolitho Park has been the club’s home since 2003, when the club began developing the area with the aid of Plymouth council. Slowly, but steadily, the club have continued to improve the ground adding the aforementioned stands, floodlights and railings and the club are seeking to continue improving their humble setup.
On entering the ground, the place was a happy scene with many fans already there drinking beers and ciders on the grassy area in front of the small club bar and behind the goal. The ground itself is rather basic with one stand on either side of the pitch – one a standing terrace and the other a very small seating stand. The rest of the ground was open to the heat of today’s weather, although some sneaky folk sat on the bankings under the large trees outside the ground’s fencing meaning they got themselves a free helping of football that Saturday afternoon.
I’m very much a lager drinker, but the heat seemed to tell me that buying Kopparberg was a good idea today, especially considering it came with a glass of ice. In theory it was great idea, but the idea was to go terribly wrong. I’ve never been one to get a hangovers, but I believe the night out in Bristol the night before, the travelling, the heat and finally the sudden switch from lager to cider was too much for my body and all of a sudden the typical symptoms of a hangover were sweeping my body. As the teams came out onto the pitch I felt bloody awful. I decided to get some food in me and was delighted to find that the club were selling Cornish pasties for £2. It was pretty immense, but my body wasn’t too keen on food still it seemed. I decided that a lap of the ground would sort me out.
As the game kicked off I was still receiving texts from Sheridan asking where the hell the ground was; it seemed he was the only person with a decent phone that doesn’t have Google Maps. However, as I found myself watching on from the far corner of the ground, I spotted him coming through the gates in his Feyenoord shirt and with his luggage entow ten minutes into the game. I tried to be as welcoming as possible as I greeted him, but I was still struggling big time with this sudden hangover hit.
By now the first goals of the game were going in, as Southern Premier League Weymouth took the lead through a Jordan Copp tap in, only for the home team to equalise 8 minutes later thanks to a wonderful chipped finish from the alliteratively-named Levi Landricombe.
Halfway through the half I had completed my lap of the ground and with the weather so hot, both teams took a drink break. I decided that I’d do the same and hoped a bottle of water would finish off my hangover (it didn’t).
The game carried on a decent pace for a preseason friendly and despite playing at a couple of levels below Weymouth, the home team were impressive and played some great football at times.
Half-time: Plymouth Parkway 1 – 1 Weymouth.
For half-time I headed to the club bar to hide from the sun for 5 minutes. Whilst some of the friendly locals chatted to us, I was struggling to conjure up the power up the energy not to be sick and so I figured drastic action was required; it was time to deploy the most dangerous, yet usually effective weapon in the hangover-fighting arsenal: ‘hair of the dog’. Admittedly, I had already drank lager this morning, but I felt switching back to it after my silly idea to have cider may save the day.
With can of Fosters in hand, we headed back out for the second half. It was only 7 minutes into the second half and Parkway took the lead with Danny Lewis heading home from a Levi Landricombe corner (I feel it is necessary to continue to write his full name as it is a truly great name – certainly up there with Sheridan Sparkes).
As the half developed, something occurred to me: I felt fine! The switch back to lager had worked! So much so that halfway through the second half I was back at the bar buying another one.
Just past the hour mark, the away team equalised as Shane Krac finished neatly to bring the Terras back into the game.
As the clock ticked down towards the 90, the win was still anyone’s for the taking as both teams battled hard, at times showing no signs that this was preseason friendly. However, the turning point would come in the 78th minute, as Conor Jevon entered the fold from the bench. Two minutes later the substitute latched onto a through ball and fired home what would end up being the winner.
Full-time: Plymouth Parkway 2 – 3 Weymouth. A great game for a preseason friendly.
By the final whistle, we found ourselves behind the goals near the clubhouse and like many others, it seemed like a good idea to hang around and drink beer for a bit in the sunshine. It was also great to hang around after the game and talk football with a few Terras fans, including Weymouth-dwelling Notts County fan James Spring, who I know from Twitter and Plymouth fan Ryan, who we befriended and was clearly looking forward to the Swans rolling into Home Park the next day.
After about an hour of revelling in the beer and sunshine, me and Sheridan decided to call it a day and head back into the city itself and see what Plymouth had to offer us. As we walked through the beautifully-named Bladder Park en route back to the bus stop, I felt that we had found a bit of a hidden gem in Bolitho Park – certainly a perfect ground for a hot summer’s day.
Highlights: scenic little ground, nice little club bar, good game of football for a preseason friendly, friendly fans.
Low Points: quite basic ground, not that much near it.
Here are all the photos from my first day in Plymouth, including some of the Hoe, where we went in the evening: https://www.flickr.com/photos/125327149@N05/sets/72157646013997262/
Also, make sure to check out Sheridan’s site Stadium Trotter, as I’m sure he will have his report of the day up shortly. Give him a follow on Twitter at @SheridanSparkes or @StadiumTrotter and check his site here: http://thestadiumtrotter.weebly.com/