Sunday 12 November 2023

Ground #397 - Football Development Centre

Date: 28th October 2023
Location: Norwich, Norfolk
Ground: Football Development Centre

My twenty-second new ground of 2023 was on Saturday 28th October at the Football Development Centre in Norwich, Norfolk. The game was Norwich CBS vs. Whittlesey Athletic in the Eastern Counties League Division One North.

The Football Development Centre is on the western outskirts of Norwich. The ground sits within Bowthorpe Park but is largely surrounded by roads backing onto built-up residential areas. The only exception is the Bowthorpe Industrial Estate to the west. The venue is 4 miles north-west of Norwich railway station and opened in 2010. Norwich CBS have played there since 2017 after going through a number of other venues in quick succession.

The venue's main building has smart cafe facilities and dressing rooms with steps leading out to half a dozen mini 3G cage pitches with netting. A walkway then leads to the main 3G pitch which is also capable of being segmented into smaller pitches for community use.The entrance to the ground is on the eastern side and is the main spectator side. It has a 158-seat structure towards the western end while the eastern section has a snack outlet and a toilet block in the south-east corner. The rest of this side is uncovered hard standing and there is a good amount of space compared to other sides of the ground.

The remaining stand is a small four-level covered metal stand just to the east of the goal at the southern end of the road. This is cut out of the fence for what is otherwise little more than a walkway in terms of space for hard standing. The western flank has a uncovered hard standing for its length with a strip of grass behind. There are two dugouts and lots of additional goals stored in the either side of the dugouts. The northern end is not accessible to spectators as the pitch runs right up to the cage confines, leaving the ground as a three-sided one.

Norwich CBS were bottom of the table but had started turning things around after a dismal start to the season where they picked up one point from their opening 12 games. However, back-to-back wins had brought them within touching distance of the teams above them. Whittlesey by comparison were sat in lower mid-table which was disappointing after a 5th place finish last season. Twenty-five minutes into proceedings Norwich got the ball in the net when the second phase of a corner saw an attempted shot find Kyle Richardson who slotted home. Unfortunately for him the lineman's flag was up and the goal was chalked off. A couple of minutes later Norwich knocked the ball in again but this time it was into their own net when a Whittlesey cross was turned into the Norwich goal by an unlucky defender. On the stroke of half-time Kyle Richardson picked up the ball outside the area, sidefooted a couple of tackles and curled a beautiful shot into the far corner to restore parity going into the break. This didn't last long as less than five minutes after the restart the visitors got their noses back in front. A Whittlesey attacker was played through, rode a defensive challenge and then lofted over the advancing keeper who got a hand to it but couldn't keep it out. Fifteen minutes later the away side went 3-1 up from the penalty spot after a Norwich handball. The keeper dived the right away but got nothing on the spot-kick as it went into the bottom of the net. This was the last goal of the afternoon though there were a few close moments - Whittlesey almost scored an own goal with a quarter of an hour remaining when a defender's header back to the goalie saw the two on different wavelengths and the ball went inches wide. A similar instance of people holding their breath happened in the 83rd minute when the Norwich keeper tried to control the ball but bounced the ball off a charging Whittlesey attacker - the ball headed towards goal but after what seemed like an age rolled the other side of the post. No more goals then but after an even first half Whittlesey shaded the second period enough to justify their three points.

Result: Norwich CBS 1-3 Whittlesey Athletic
Division: Eastern Counties League Division One North
Attendance: N/A

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