Carl Marston's Around the Grounds; floodlit occasion at Lakenheath FC
PUBLISHED: 12:36 22 March 2019
Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Here he drops into The Nest, home of Laknheath FC
Let there be light! And now there is light, or rather floodlights to be more precise, at The Nest, the delightful home of Lakenheath FC.
Helped by a sizeable grant (£52,929) from the Football Foundation, upwardly mobile Lakenheath have installed floodlights, in addition to introducing new dug-outs and some spectator hardstanding.
The temptation was too much for me – I simply had to head out to this corner of West Suffolk to report on their historic first-ever home floodlit match, last Friday night, against fellow top-five side Fakenham Town.
I wasn’t the only one. A big crowd of 313 turned up to mark the occasion, along with a fair number of ground-hoppers – they were conspicuous by their urge to take photos of every nook and cranny inside The Nest – a bit like me, I suppose.
Club: Lakenheath FC
Formed: around 1907-08
Ground: The Nest
Manager: Ben Cowling
The Heath played at various venues around the village, before settling at The Nest at around the time of the Second World War.
It is an instantly recognisable football ground, on account of its sunken nature – it used to be an old chalk quarry, with the chalk being used for the construction of local roads.
Known as ‘The Pit’ (an equally excellent name), it became home to Lakenheath FC when owner Sir Charlton Briscoe offered the site on a long lease. It was eventually sold to the club for a small fee by Sir Charlton’s son in the early 1960s.
Of course many clubs from up and down the country will be envious of The Heath’s current position, of owning their own ground. The future is secure, and their elevation from the Cambridgeshire County League to Division One North of the Eastern Counties League (Step Six) for the start of this season has been a huge boost.
Manager Ben Cowling predicts a “very bright future” for Lakenheath, with the target of promotion for next season.
And if the last few weeks are anything to go by – a record 15-0 away win (in the Thurlow Nunn League) at Wisbech St Mary followed by the unveiling of the new floodlights –then anything is possible at The Nest.
“It was a great night for the club. It was phenomenal, to have a crowd of over 300 here,” enthused Cowling, with reference to the official gate of 313 (although around 400 were in actual attendance).
“I’m so pleased for the chairman (Kevin Fincham), the vice-chairman (Steve Peasey) and the Director of Football (Tony Lyes).
“It’s their vision and they have brought me in to see it through.
“The lights, the dug-outs, the hardstanding, all this has involved so much investment, time and effort.
“We own this ground, this is ours, and that’s huge.
“I’ve been at clubs who don’t own things, and they can lead a very shaky existence.
“This club is built on solid foundations, with all the fund-raising and all the work that has been done by volunteers.
“I’ve been manager here since last April. The first game we lost 5-1 at home to Eaton Socon, and the average age of the back five was over 40!
“We brought in a big number of players last summer, and we’ve improved throughout the season.
“The aim is to be a Step Five club by the end of next season, that’s the plan. I think with these facilities and with the good crowds, we can achieve this.
“We’ve learnt a lot over the last year. Now we’ve got to keep these boys and then kick on next season.
“We should be there or thereabouts next season, despite the competition. I think the future is rosy,” added Cowling.
With reference to the 15- 0 win at bottom club Wisbech St Mary a fortnight ago, Cowling said: “It was just one of those games, but it was only three points.
“Wisbech are not in a very good place, but they didn’t resort to trying to kick us off the pitch. The result just topped off a great season – to go into the record books,” added Cowling.
Fri, March 16, 2019: v Fakenham Town (Thurlow Nunn Division One North, 2-1 away win).
Fakenham keeper, Tom Coombe, played a blinder to keep the hosts at bay with a string of fine saves.
But the occasion, rather than the result, was all-important.