Monday 29 January 2024

Ground #400 - Wilderness Lane

Date: 30th December 2023
Location: Harleston, Norfolk
Ground: Wilderness Lane

My twenty-fifth new ground of 2023 was on Saturday 30th December at Wilderness Lane in Harleston, Norfolk. The game was Harleston Town vs. Heacham in Eastern Counties League Premier Division.

Wilderness Lane is located just west of the centre of Harleston and is part of a sports complex with a tennis club and bowls club directly south of the football pitch. The other three sides of the ground are bordered by housing (or roads running past housing). The nearest railway station to the ground is Diss, which is 9 miles south-west of Harleston. 

The entrance to the ground is near the south-east corner with the entrance turnstile adjacent to a food outlet. Directly next to this is a tiny two-level metal covered stand. The rest of this side is uncovered standing. There is no spectator access in the middle of the southern side due to the position of the dugouts backing onto the rest of the complex. To access the western end you therefore have to go all the way round the pitch in the opposite direction. Outside the ground confines on this side there is a separate club building housing the changing rooms which is down a pathway behind a bowling green.

The only area of seating is by the halfway line on the northern side of the venue. This stand is a familiar non-league structure with 122 seats spread across the five rows of seating. The remainder of Wilderness Lane is uncovered standing. Both ends have a strip of grass behind the concrete hard standing area and have netting in place for the whole length to catch wayward balls from heading into adjacent houses on the eastern end and the road itself on the western end.

Harleston went into the game in 3rd place, matching last season's finish in their first season at Step 5 of the non-league ladder. Heacham by comparison were 14th but well clear of any relegation fears due to some very poorly performing teams at the bottom of the table. The visitors had the first opportunity of the game in the 9th minute when a goal-kick was nodded onto a Heacham striker but the keeper rushed out and closed down the angles to block. A quarter of the way through the game Harleston went close when a cross from the right saw a shot fumbled wide by the Heacham keeper. In the minutes before the break the hosts were presented with two golden chances to score. First the keeper brought down a Harleston striker only for the resulting penalty to be struck directly at the keeper. And shortly after this Harleston missed an absolute sitter when they sliced wide with the goal gaping from a couple of yards out. The away side started off the second period brightly with good attacks culminating in off-target efforts or tame shots att he keeper. With a quarter of an hour remaining Heacham should have done better when an attacker was left one-on-one with the goalie only for him to shoot wide. Just as the game looked like it was heading for a 0-0 Harleston managed to score when Josh Wells headed home a corner in the 82nd minute. This opened the game up for the final minutes and in the 86th minute Harleston grabbed a second when the ball was laid off for Josh Durham who stroked past the keeper from the right side of the area. Indeed the hosts almost made it three in added time when a ball up found a striker unmarked on the edge of the area with the keeper out of position. He managed to lob the ball wide and that was the final action of the game with Harleston securing their third win in a row.

Result: Harleston Town 2-0 Heacham
Division: Eastern Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 114

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