Note Matlock’s three-sided town centre ground, shared with the local cricket club and overlooked by the imposing Riber Castle, is one of a dwindling band of characterful venues that despite the ravages of time, appear impervious to changes imposed by grading regulations. There have long been plans to demolish its long wooden stand - the Cyril Harrison Stand, built in 1920 - and replace it with something more in keeping with a modern sporting venue but these have so far come to nothing. Whilst this is clearly a potential problem for the club, for the purist it is no bad thing as the replacement of this long rickety structure, with its numerous roof supports and the club name proudly painted on its rear wall, would almost certainly rob the ground of much of its charm.
Believed to have been founded sometime during the late 1870s as Matlock FC (the ‘Town’ suffix was added on reformation after WW2), estimates also vary as to exactly how long the club has called Causeway Lane ‘home’, although it is agreed that prior to taking up residence they played at a ground in Hall Leys.
Aside from construction of the aforementioned Cyril Harrison stand, there was little development of note until 1959 when a further wooden cover, incorporating dressing rooms, was built on the opposite touchline. Seats were added some ten years later and again in 1975 - the year of Matlock’s record 4-0 FA Trophy victory over Scarborough at Wembley; and record attendance: 5,123 against Burton Albion in the first leg of the semi-final. Matlock actually lost the match 0-1, but won the return leg at Burton 2-0 to reach the Final. Trivia fans will no doubt be aware that the Fenoughty brothers: Tom, Mick and Nick all played - the only time three brothers have appeared for the same team in a Wembley final!
The crowd for the Burton tie eclipsed the previous record, set a year earlier when 5,119 spectators crammed into the ground to see the Gladiators lose a 1st Round FA Cup tie 4-1 to eventual Division 3 champions Blackburn Rovers. The terrace adjacent to the stand on the far side of the ground was laid prior to this match. Floodlights had earlier arrived at Causeway Lane in 1970, but have been upgraded subsequently.
The presence of the cricket square and outfield at the Castle End of the ground means that a temporary rail has to be erected during the football season and, as long as the cricket club remains, that arrangement along with the absence of any hard standing at that end, poses a major problem for the club if it is to progress any further.
A small covered terrace was erected at the Town End of the ground during the 1980s, followed by an office block in 1989 and this end generates valuable funds for the club as a car park when the ground is not being used for its primary function.
The most recent addition to Causeway Lane has been the construction of two imposing breezeblock dugouts on the far side, with rounded corners and angled side walls. These have a capacity of eleven and therefore do meet the new regulations; rather ironic considering the more developed grounds of some of their contemporaries have dugouts that do not conform!
Whilst one accepts that inevitably, Causeway Lane will have to be dragged belligerently into the 21st century if The Gladiators are to retain their current position in the Pyramid, for the time-being at least it remains a ground to be treasured and enjoyed by reactionary enthusiasts like me! DB