Carl Marston's Around the Grounds: Great Cornard's Blackhouse Lane
PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:27 12 April 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 visits Cornard United
The good times are finally returning to Cornard United, after many years of heartache and toil.
Often labelled as the whipping boys of the Eastern Counties League, The Ards are on a stable footing and gearing themselves up for a trip to Portman Road.
For the first time in 30 years, since lifting the trophy in 1988-89 during a treble-winning year, Cornard United will grace the Suffolk Senior Cup Final, when they take on Achilles at the home of Ipswich Town FC.
It might have been a long time in coming, with many seasons of propping up the ECL, when victories were few and far between – some years even fewer than the number (four) Ipswich Town have so far managed this season – but wins over Trimley Red Devils, Beccles Town (on penalties), Kirkly & Pakefield Reserves and Ipswich Wanderers (2-1 in the semi-finals) have secured a cup final, while mid-table safety has been secured in the league.
It was high time, therefore, that I paid a visit to Blackhouse Lane.
Club: Cornard United
Ground: Blackhouse Lane
Chairman: Harvey Doherty
Cornard United began life in the Sudbury Sunday League, in 1964, before switching to the Bury & District League (1966) and then the Colchester & East Essex League (1970).
Six years later and the club moved to the Essex & Suffolk Border League, enjoying a memorable season in 1988-89 which included winning the Premier Division title, beating local rivals Sudbury Wanderers in the final of the Suffolk Senior Cup, and winning the League Cup.
This glorious treble saw Cornard promoted to the Eastern Counties League, and a subsequent promotion to the Premier Division was achieved at the first attempt in 1989-90.
After a seven-season stay in the Premier Division, The Ards were relegated back to Division One in 1996, and it has been fairly tough going since then with just one top-10 finish in the last 22 years.
This season is actually their 23rd in a row at Step Six – Thurlow Nunn ECL One – and they had the misfortune to finish in the bottom two for five years in a row (2010-11 to 2014-15).
In fact, they only won a total of five league matches in a three-season sequence from 2010, with a mere one win and four points gained in 2012-13, and 154 goals conceded in 34 matches.
Ground-wise, Cornard moved to their current Blackhouse Lane HQ in 1982, after previous homes at Great Cornard Recreation Ground and then Great Cornard Upper School (from 1975).
While I was interviewing chairman Harvey Doherty, home keeper Colin Athey, a goalkeeping coach on the wrong side of 40, missed his clearing kick and so gifted Debenham LC’s Matt Poxon a simple chance to sweep the loose ball into an empty net, from a feet out.
It is not often that I am forced to suspended an interview, for a few seconds, while I write down a few notes describing the goal, for my match report in the following morning’s newspaper.
But that was what happened on Tuesday night, and I thank Mr Doherty for his patience!
“It’s a fantastic achievement for the club,” insisted Doherty, with reference to reaching the Suffolk Senior Cup Final – not the nature of Debenham’s second goal!
He continued: “It’s been 30 years since we were last in the final, when we won it, and it’s been pretty barren times since then.
“I actually took over the club five years ago, from Mark Hoskin. I used to run the youth section out there, for 10 years, and it’s been a slow build.
“We have gradually picked up. When I first took over, Paul Grainger was manager, and he did well for a year-and-a-half –he got us up to about third or fourth bottom, which at the time was a success for Cornard.
“Most of the players now are Sudbury and Cornard based, who we have been brought through the youth, through our under-18s.
“Each year we are improving and improving, and it’s been capped by a Cup Final, which should increase our profile.
“We are a community club. We don’t have a rich man who owns the club,” added Doherty, who has lived in Great Cornard all his life.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019: v Debenham LC (Thurlow Nunn One North, 2-1 away win)
Blackhouse Lane is a narrow country lane, not the typical approach to a football ground. But it’s well worth a visit.