Daventry Town were robbed of a likely record Southern League attendance at Communications Park on New Year’s Day when wet weather put paid to the Northants derby against former Conference League giants Kettering Town.
A crowd of up to 500 was expected to converge upon Browns Road to easily surpass the 342 spectators who had witnessed the Rugby Town encounter during Daventry’s first step four campaign three seasons ago.
With an average league home gate of 123, Town are currently lying in mid-table in the Division One Central attendance charts despite winning all 10 league home games interspersed with extended runs in both the FA Cup and Trophy.
A bumper gate against a rampant Poppies team unbeaten in a dozen matches would have seen Daventry move up at least three places to become the seventh-best supported club in the Central Division.
Instead, a re-arranged Tuesday night fixture will do well to attract 300 paying customers.
Away to Rugby on Boxing Day and Kettering themselves on Easter Monday, Darran Foster’s men could have done with a major Bank Holiday pay-day.
All that beckoned though were a trio of away games against poorly-supported clubs from the London area.
Ashford Town, Potters Bar and Egham all have difficulty in raising a quorum at a time when Southern League Division One clubs collectively have seen an alarming decline in attendances over the past two years.
Forget the fact that the Poppies attracted almost 800 spectators for a game against Barton Rovers at the poorly-appointed Burton Latimer Park as well as playing in front of more than 2,000 football fans on their travels this season.
A truer reflection is provided by the fact that Daventry’s pre-Christmas match in the affluent Home Counties village of Chalfont St Peter was witness by only 45 brave souls, most of whom had travelled from Daventry!
The Purple Army’s initial Southern League campaign in 2010-11 climaxed with 432 supporters packing Communications Park for the play-offs semi-final victory over Biggleswade before more than 1,000 people turned up at Hitchin for the final.
Attendance levels also held up during the unsuccessful 2011-12 campaign in which Mark Kinsella’s outfit finished a lowly 16th in the table.
FA Cup ties then produced home gates of 605 and 551 respectively for the Nuneaton and Leamington matches.
League figures for that period were also an eye opener.
More than 230 went through the turnstiles for the visit of Bedworth United whilst the Woodford United local derby attracted a healthy crowd of 209.
Slough (243), Ashford (209), Fleet Town (195), Chalfont (188), and Barton Rovers (185) also made credible reading by today’s standards.
At least part of the Central Division’s problem now is that the Greater London clubs are too close together and attract virtually no travelling fans.
With half the division made up of clubs from the Home Counties things are not likely to get any better in the near future even though Slough (population more than 100,000) continue to buck the trend despite ground sharing with unfashionable Beaconsfield SYCOB.
None of this need have happened if only the Football Association had taken the bull by the horns and established a Midlands League when the Non-League pyramid was re-organised a few years ago.