THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Had been their home for 108 years

icon groundbuy30 April ~ For many football fans, a ground closure can feel like a particularly painful loss. Factor in the sale and impending demolition of your current stadium for redevelopment, add a consequent ground share and that is essentially what's happening to Worcester City in the Conference North. Their match against runaway champions Chester on April 27 was the final ever game at St George's Lane, Worcester's home for 108 years. There are plans for a new stadium but next season the club will share with Kidderminster Harriers, 13 miles away.

Smaller clubs often endure lectures about the financial realities they must confront in order to survive. This match wasn't the time for finger-wagging reminders; reality doesn't come much starker than having to leave your ground.

Standing in the club's Legends Bar before the game, I was a well-wishing outsider wanting to show some respectful solidarity. Reading about moments such as the FA Cup victory over Liverpool in 1959, or players such as Harry Knowles who have turned out for Worcester over the decades, you'd be flint-hearted not to feel some of the anguish at having to leave this ground for good.

The crowd for the Chester game was just over 4,075 but at times the atmosphere in the first half was subdued, almost tentative. Understandable in many ways, given the sombre nature of the occasion. It didn't help that Chester's George Horan scored early in a generally flat first half. However, the second half blossomed into an entertaining game, if ultimately frustrating for home fans who increased their volume as the match progressed.

Worcester played some imaginative football but, despite being reduced to ten men, Chester hung on to win, completing their season on a jaw-dropping 107 points. At the final whistle there was no pitch invasion, just warm applause as Worcester lapped round the pitch one last time. It looked a dignified and heartfelt moment for both sides of the touchline.

Football's wider health is weakened by ground closures like this. It was another bleak example of life away from football's cash-swamped financial apex. However, resilience is second nature to many smaller clubs and hopefully things will turn out for Worcester. There seems to be a lot of positive ideas, including a £100 season ticket, though it needs 1,500 takers. The commemorative programme was upbeat about the future, not least about progressing plans for a new ground within Worcester. One hundred and eight years is a long time. But now it's goodbye, St George's Lane. Steve Burniston

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