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A sad end for Park Avenue

Monday 1st August 2016 is a date that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons for supporters of former Northern Counties East League side Louth Town, writes Matt Jones. People awoke to the dreadful news that Park Avenue, the home of the White Wolves since 2007 had been badly damaged by a fire, which at the time of writing is believed to be an arson attack. Although the ground itself was due to be demolished shortly anyway, this fire brought an abrupt end to a venue which supporters will remember for its’ unique glass fronted stand which offered fans the chance to watch the match at an elevated level from the club house whilst avoiding the harsh winter weather!

Louth Town were originally formed in May 2007 when Louth United decided not to continue fielding a team in the Central Midlands League. The ground at Park Avenue had already been sold for housing but local businessman Kerry Coggle with the backing of Steve Appleby, was able to secure a short term lease on the ground and with the support of the CMFL committee, and a group of willing helpers, Louth Town was formed.

After finishing a creditable 10th in their first season Town were rocked when manager Steve Morley announced that for personal reasons he could not longer continue managing the team. Andy Holmes was appointed but due to unforeseen work commitments he had to stand down and with 3 weeks to go before the start of the 2008-009 season, Paul Walden was brought into the club. Paul, who was previously manager of Skegness Town in the Lincs League has a wealth of experience and was able to bring a number of talented players into the club.

Paul made an immediate impact with the team, winning all but 3 of 28 league games during the season to win the league by 9 clear points and be promoted to the Supreme League as champions. There was also a Challenge Cup semi final appearance, which unfortunately resulted in an unlucky 1-0 defeat to Sutton Town who went on to lift the trophy.

The 2009-10 season proved to be even more successful than the season before as the first team won the Supreme Division by 8 clear points, won the CMFL Floodlit Cup and were finalists in both the CMFL Challenge Cup and the Lincs FA Senior Trophy. By winning the league, promotion to the Northern Counties East League was gained. They were also awarded the CMFL “Team of the Season” for the second year running.

Before the fire in 2011.

Louth settled immediately into the Northern Counties East League but half way through the 2010-11 season, manager Paul Walden announced that he would be leaving at the end of the season, but then decided to go at the beginning of March. The club acted swiftly and brought in former Selby Town duo Mick Gray and John Steeples who steadied the ship and guided the team through to the end of the season and a more than creditable 6th place finish in the White Wolves first ever season in the NCEL.

There was a further twist to the Louth Town story in May 2011 as Gray and Steeples left the club by mutual consent. They were surprisingly replaced by Paul Walden, who agreed to return for a second spell in charge.

There was great excitement at Park Avenue in July 2011 when it was announced that as well as securing a further lease on the stadium the club had also been accepted into the 2011-12 FA Cup for the first time in their history.

The team’s first run in the FA Cup brought some excitement as both Gedling Miners Welfare and Holbrook Sports were beaten before the White Wolves bowed out with a 2-0 defeat to Evo-stik League side Buxton in front of 335 supporters at Park Avenue. In the league, Louth were somewhat inconsistent and finished the season in 12th place in the NCEL Division 1. There were emotional scenes at the end of the season as manager Paul Walden left the club for a second time, deciding to retire from football management altogether.

Walden was replaced at the helm by former pro Daryl Clare for season 2012-13 and Clare led the team to their highest ever finish in the football pyramid, finishing 3rd in the Division 1 table and also reaching the final of the NCEL League Cup.

Season 2013-14 proved to be a major disappointment as the team struggled at the bottom end of the NCEL league table for the whole campaign, winning just 6 league matches out of a possible 42 and ending the season with just 20 points. Clare left the club by mutual consent midway through the season, to be replaced once more by “Mr Louth Town”, Paul Walden who was coaxed out of retirement for a third spell in charge.

Although the White Wolves ended the season in an automatic relegation place, the team were reprieved after the unfortunate demise of Dinnington Town and once again competed in the NCEL in season 2014-15, finishing the season in a creditable 6th place. Sadly, this proved to be Town’s last season in the NCEL as, with the future of Park Avenue uncertain and the planned new stadium some way off the White Wolves resigned from the league at the end of the campaign.

Although Louth had no senior football team in season 2015-16 the stadium continued to be used throughout the campaign, playing host to matches for the clubs junior section. The venue closed for football in May 2016 but was still proudly standing until its fate was sealed by the events of 1st August. Fans will be left with some fantastic memories of a great venue. R.I.P. Park Avenue.

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