TRAVELLERS' TALES REPORTS 2016-17
TT No.82: Brian Buck – Sunday 14th May 2017; Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United; Premier League; Result: 2-1; Attendance: 31,848 (Season ticket); Programme: £10! - Special edition.
So here it was, Spurs last ever match at White Hart Lane. I need to tell you that I was not especially emotional about this, but that has more to do with other things going on in my life. But I do agree with a fellow scribe who wrote that very little of the ground that he grew up in the 1970’s (1960’s for me) remains and it was those homely pre-war structures that he had genuine warmth and affection for. The concrete and steels stands that replaced them felt soulless to him (pleasing on the eye to me). Only the Upper tier of the East Stand (where my seat is/was) remains from when my father first took me to the ground on 19 November 1960. Since that date, I have watched 1,636 matches at White Hart Lane and have seen 51.13% of all Spurs league matches ever played here since the 1908/9 season and have not missed any Spurs first team home match since 13th August 1969. Yes, I will miss it, but only because I don’t like change. But the new ground is right next door and providing I get the seat I’m after in it, then things will quickly move on for the better. As for the game today, Spurs caught United in transition. They’ve done well enough to reach the final on the Europa League, but unless they win it they won’t be in the Champions league next season. Furthermore, I expect that there will be a lot of personnel changes between now and next season, as there was after Pochettino's first season. The unmarked Wanyama scored Spurs first goal on 6 minutes, heading home from a corner and Kane scored the last one, sticking out a leg to meet Eriksen's cross from a free kick on 48 minutes. Just a bit disappointing that Rooney scored the last ever goal on this pitch on 71 minutes though. The bulldozers started to tear it up next day! At the final whistle, I didn’t stay for the post-match celebrations as I needed to get to church as quickly as possible. But when I belted down the stairs I and a few others found most of the exits still locked. So, after rushing along a few corridors I’d never been down before, eventually we found a small door in one of the big doors open and I was off!
contributed on 16/05/17
TT No.81: Brian Buck – Saturday 13th May 2017; Middleton Cheney v Oxford University Press; Oxfordshire Senior League Ben Turner Cup Final; Venue: Kidlington FC; Kick-Off: 5.40pm approx.; Result: 1-4; Attendance: 75 approx; Admission: £1 (concession) with free for page programme.
I arrived at my last match of the day with about 45 minutes to go before the intended 5pm kick off. But I had trouble getting parked and this was because an earlier cup final on this pitch had gone into extra time. This didn’t worry me too much as it gave me a chance to sit down and have something to eat and drink whilst I watched the scores come up on Sky Sports News. This was quite a relaxed match for me. I had a comfortable seat in the stand and the only irritant went and stood behind the goal in the second half. The sun was out and this was a decent game. OUP took the lead on 38 minutes and it was coming against their division below them opponents. In fact, I wondered if their half time team talk was along the lines of, “We’ve got this won, so don’t bother in the second half!” So, if that was true then a far post header from a corner kick on 61 minutes showed that Cheney still had something to offer. But we had to wait until the 80 minute for OUP to respond. This time it was a 40 yarder. Two minutes later the keeper was lobbed from 30 yards and a tap in five minutes later saw OUP pick up a text book win!
contributed on 16/05/17
TT No.80: Brian Buck – Saturday 13th May 2017; Horspath v Garsington; Oxfordshire Senior League Premier Division; Venue: Horspath Athletics Track – back pitch; Kick-Off: 2pm; Result: 6-2; Attendance: 15 approx; Admission: Free; Programme: No
It didn’t take that long to get to my next game and I was there about an hour before kick-off. My directory said that the venue was the athletics track itself, but on my arrival, it clearly wasn’t, as unsurprisingly an athletics meeting was going on! But they did sell food and drinks here, which I partook off. If you ask me athletics is a dangerous sport. I saw this group of girls standing on the track over the far side. Then some nasty man frightened the hell out of them by firing a gun behind their backs causing them to run for their lives to get away from this madman! This gun kept going on all afternoon and I can’t understand why the police weren’t called! Then I found the pitch which was behind and to the north of the athletics track. Here I learned that in effect Horspath groundshare with Headington Amateurs of the Hellenic League, but have to move to a nearby pitch if both sides are at home on the same day. I was allowed to sit in the home dugout, where I heard the ref tell the players before the start, “No loose tackles, no fighting or peeing in the hedge (athletics again!). I will send you off if you do!” Luckily my bladder behaved itself today! There was nothing on this game, so this was a rather enjoyable romp. It was 1-1 at the break with the visitors looking the better side to me. But the ref still wasn’t happy and he spoke to the Horspath manager before the restart. Fair enough if he was getting abused. But sitting with the players and talking to them, it was hard to believe that they were causing him any problems. The second half turned out to be a goal feast and some of them were good ones as well.
contributed on 16/05/17
TT No.79: Brian Buck – Saturday 13th May 2017; Holy Trinity v Kings Sports 2nd; Hertfordshire & Borders Churches League Division 2; Venue: Firnie Fields Park, Barry Close, High Wycombe; Kick-Off: 10.30am; Result: 0-7; Attendance: 3; Admission: Free!
I hadn’t been able to check this match out properly before I left home at about 8.45am. But I was comforted by the fact that I was told by the visitor’s secretary that it wasn’t at the hosts Hazelmere Recreation ground, especially as I noted that the venue had been changed from here on the league website by the time I got home from my Friday evening game. So, I went for it. But when I got there, some 15 minutes before kick-off, I found that the place was deserted. No pitch marked out and no goal posts. Nothing and nobody there! I was just about to leave when a car pulled into the car park. It turned out that it was the ref. He checked his twitter feed and found out the correct venue. After giving me the postcode for it he departed. While I was putting this into my sat nav another car turned up. This was a home official/lino/player, who had come to see if the ref was here. I then told him that he had gone and then followed this chap to the ground. To add insult to all this it then started to rain! But that soon cleared! The visitors needed to win this one by as many goals as possible to help with their title decider, set for the following Saturday. They were a class above the hosts and led 2-0 at the break. Meanwhile we seemed to be on the direct flight path of nearby Wycombe International Airport and during the match several light aircraft flew over us, low enough for me to see their registration numbers. The second half saw Kings rattle in another five goals with Holy Trinity accepting their thrashing with good grace.
contributed on 16/05/17
TT No.77: Keith Aslan - Saturday 13th May 2017; FLEETDOWN v Greenways; Kent County Premier; Kick-Off: 14.48; Result 1-0; Admission: Free; Programme: £1.50p; Attendance: 62 (47 home, 4 away & 9 neutral).
Dartford is a dispiriting outer London suburb famous as the birthplace of Mick Jagger. Young Michael used to sing in the local church choir, now that would have been worth listening to. The ground is a 27 minute walk from the station, turn right opposite Kent Football United, up the hill and Fleetdown is at the top (no buses). A rope is the last word in spectator comfort here but there is a clubhouse that was showing the lunchtime football. When I enquired earlier in the season I was told paper production was temporarily suspended due to a run of consecutive home games having used up the 'programme budget' I'm not surprised, todays issue must have cost a fortune, 40 pages glossy in full colour. Makes it all the stranger that with plenty printed they were kept in a box behind the closed bar and you had to ask for one. Why wasn't someone going around the ground flogging this beauty?
There were some big hitters of the groundhopping fraternity at this one who like myself were enticed by the programme which was somewhat better than the game that accompanied it. The match lived down to its end of season billing with the home side getting the only goal near the end thus alleviating the 0-0 that some hoppers so dread (not me though). Never have found out why Kent County games kick off at 2.45 (ish!). Back in the day a lot of leagues used to have this start time so the results would get into the evening classified sports papers but this is the only one I can think of that hasn't changed back to 3 o' clock.
Today did have a downside. There was a barbecue but when the poor malnourished travellers went for their half time rations we were told 'players only' Clearly untrue as a few chosen ones were happily chomping away while the game was going on. Now you don't expect food at this level but it ain't right torturing hungry hoppers with a barbecue and then telling them not to get stuffed. I can smell those burgers even now.
Starvation aside another good day out in pleasant company and close enough to the Kentish Riviera to get home in plenty of time for the Eurovision Song Contest. How much excitement can a man take in one day?
contributed on 15/05/17
TT No.76: Steve Hardy – Saturday 13th May 2017; Waterloo GSOB v Byrom; Liverpool County Premier League – Premier Division; Kick-Off: 2.00pm; Result: 6-2: Admission: Free; Programme/team sheet: No; Attendance: 4
Waterloo Grammar School Old Boys are based at the Archbishop Beck Sports Academy on Long Lane in Fazakerley. Archie B’s, as my bus driver called it, has an outdoor, floodlit, 3G pitch inside a cage, plus a couple of smaller artificial pitches, also inside cages. I arrived at noon, and was delighted to find a match was just starting on the 3G pitch, which turned out to be a friendly between the Reserve team of WGSOB and Mersey Marauders.
There are no spectator facilities inside the cage, so for this first match I ate my lunch whilst sat on a bench that is placed down the side of the pitch, outside the fence.
After the game ended, with a 3-0 win for the Marauders, it was on to the main event and WGSOB first team entertaining Byrom in a Premier Division game in the Liverpool County Premier League. Byrom kicked off with just nine men, but coped quite well with the limited WGSOB attacks initially. Then, with two more players getting changed at pitch-side, they conceded a first goal and then a second, before the two extra players joined the fray and they pulled a goal back straight away to trail 2-1 at the break.
As with my match in the morning, we needed a second goal from Byrom to make things interesting. Also like my first match, we didn’t get it as a WGSOB winger scored from an oblique angle and they were fairly comfortable after that to run up a 6-2 win with one lad getting four.
I watched this second game from inside the cage, and was able to walk round all four sides of the pitch to take my photos. It was also refreshing to not have to listen to the constant arguing and whinging that I find is so prevalent in this league. Of course, any whinging would not have been heard anyway as, very annoyingly, a very high pitched alarm kept going off on the building site behind one goal, and the poor old Police must have turned up at least four times to investigate only to be called back some minutes after the alarm had been switched off, when it started all over again.
So, my last action for this season ended with a very long and tiring day out, but with plenty of very entertaining football.
contributed on 15/05/17
TT No.76: Steve Hardy – Saturday 13th May 2017; BRNESC U18 v Rosemont U18; Liverpool County Premier League U18 Division; Result: 3-1; Kick-Off: 9.45am start; Admission: Free; Programme/team sheet: No; Attendance: 10.
The British Railwayman’s North End Social club is based on the Melling Road, in Aintree, right opposite the famous Aintree racecourse. This was my third attempt at seeing a game here following two previous matches that were called off just after I arrived. When you set off at 6.30am to get there in time, that can be very frustrating, I can tell you!
Today’s game was a basement battle in the truest sense. Bottom of the table BRNESC had just one win to their name all season, with visitors Rosemont next to bottom with two wins. As with all youth team games that I have seen, however, confidence seemed really high in both camps during the warm up, and what followed turned out to be one of the best games of football I have seen this season.
Rosemont started really well but found themselves 1-0 down after about 15 minutes. More Rosemont pressure followed before they conceded again to go 2-0 down against the run of play, and it looked like game over. Rosemont kept playing the better football, though, and were rewarded when a defensive mix-up allowed them to pull a goal back just before half time.
What we needed after the break was a Rosemont equaliser, but the wind was taken out of their sails in the 50th minute when they conceded a penalty which was converted for a 3-1 lead. After that it was end to end stuff but neither side could find the net and the game finished with a mass brawl, which I thought the referee managed very well with just two bookings the result.
After the game, it was a number 63 bus to Fazakerley for me, to watch my next game.
contributed on 15/05/17
TT No.75: Brian Buck - Saturday 6th May 2017; Farley Boys v Jedenastka; Luton District & South Beds League William Pease Cup Final; Venue: Dunstable Town FC; Kick-Off: 5.15pm; Result: 4-2; Attendance: 90 approx; Free admission and programme (for me!); Refreshments: food available.
I made good time for my final game of the day and I even managed to avoid the speed camera near Creasey Park, which unkindly trapped me doing 27mph in a 20mph limit last season. I was let in for free, by the chap on the gate, because “you turned up the other night” to another one of this league’s cup finals at Barton Rovers on the previous Wednesday. Seemed to me he was questioning my sanity! This was quite a rowdy match. Farley Boys had won the top division and Jedenastka, a Polish side, had won the division below. The latter’s name confused even their most loyal fan, who managed to hang the clubs flag upside down! Farley Boys 2nd X1 had been playing in the early kick off here. Don’t know how they got on. I called them the Farley Rusks! Although Farley were the favourites here they struggled to prove it and on 22 minutes they found themselves a goal down after Jedenastka scored with their first shot of the game, but against the run of play. But on 45(+2) minutes Farley equalised. However, with Farley still looking lethargic Jedenastka retook the lead on 68 minutes. In fact, they could have sealed victory had they not missed a good chance to score on 79 minutes. This miss cost them dear as five minutes later Farley equalised and then finally woke up and eventually won the cup with something to spare, scoring again on 89 minutes and also on 90(+1) minutes from the spot.
contributed on 10/05/17
TT No.74: Brian Buck – Saturday 6th May 2017; Haddenham United v Aylesbury Dynamos; Aylesbury & District League Premier Division; Venue: Cuddington Recreation Ground; Kick-Off: 2.30pm; Result: 1-3; Attendance: 25 approx. Free admission; Programme/Refreshments: No.
I was at my next game with time enough to spare for a quick slurp in the nearby pub, which I walked to from the ground. I would have decamped into the bar at the ground instead, but that didn’t open until after the game. Although this was Haddenham’s home game, it was switched to their opponent’s home ground because of cricket. It was a pleasant afternoon for football, apart from the chilly wind and it was nice to see some locals turn up to watch, if only out of curiosity. There was an added bonus in that one of my friends unexpectedly appeared, having bussed it from Aylesbury. Both sides were up for this match, but for different reasons. Haddenham needed to win to try and avoid relegation and Aylesbury needed to win to keep the pressure on league leaders Long Crendon who were, at the time of writing, attracting the attention of the Berks & Bucks FA, with the outcome then unknown. It was Haddenham who took the lead on 3 minutes, but Aylesbury equalised on 11 minutes, took the lead on 24 minutes and extended it on 39 minutes. It was in effect game over at this point. The start of the second half was delayed while we waited for a dog to be removed from the pitch. Then on 72 minutes Haddenham had a chance to get back into the match via the penalty spot following a foul, but the resultant shot was saved. Overall an enjoyable afternoon of village football. It wasn’t that exciting but it didn’t have to be for me. It was all about local people playing and watching sport in the way it should be done.
contributed on 10/05/17
TT No.73: Brian Buck - Saturday 6th May 2017; Luton Town v Leyton Orient; EFL Youth Alliance Merit League 1; Venue: Luton Town Training Ground, Ely Way; Kick-Off: 11am; Result: 3-3; Attendance: 60 approx. Free admission and refreshments; Programme: No
I arrived here about 15 minutes before kick-off and there was just enough time for a pre-match cuppa. Unlike some other venues tea and coffee are free here. If fact if you want something to drink then you have to boil the kettle yourself! Then it was a walk out to the pitch and the game was played out on one I hadn’t seen a game played on before. Each season they rotate the pitches they play on and sometimes they play on different pitches during the season. This ground is the former home of Electrolux, who used to play in the South Midlands League. But apart from the pitches themselves nothing else remains of the old ground today. There was never any cover here and the old cricket style pavilion was pulled down some years ago and replaced by the current portakabins. The pitch wasn’t too great here either. The thinking being that the club are going to move to their new training ground at Brache (not at Brache Sparta) for next season. But it seems that either the first team only will use it or if the club as a whole are to move there then the youth team won’t now go until 2018/19. As for the game, this was a different Leyton Orient side to the one I saw play at Stevenage in the early part of the season. The reason for this is that most of that side now form the club’s first team! However, this lot didn’t disgrace themselves today. Luton took a 16th minute lead with a 40 yarder, doubling it on 27 minutes with a header from a corner. On 56 minutes Orient pulled a goal back by way of a direct free kick, which looked as though it was going wide, but at the last moment the ball curved its way into the net, in off the post. Three minutes later they equalised from the spot, but six minutes later Luton regained the lead. However, on 88 minutes Orient deservedly equalised again.
contributed on 10/05/17
TT No.72: Keith Aslan - Saturday May 6th; WEST BROMWICH UNITED v Wolverhampton United; West Midlands Division 2; Kick-Off: 15.00; Result: 7-2; Admission: Free: Programme: £1; Attendance: 62 (55 home, 3 away & 4 neutral)
Smethwick Rolf Street is the nearest station for this one, but if you want to save yourself an enervating 17-minute walk through Smethwick whose chief architect appears to have been Dante, the 82 runs every 12 minutes from the city centre and stops outside the ground. Hadley Stadium is an unexpected gem, and don't be put off by the running track. A large stand runs along the full length of the touchline, but with the view obscured by the dugouts you are better off standing up at the back. Either side of the stand is some quality old school terracing and while, like most athletics stadiums, it's looking a bit dowdy these days this only adds to its charm. Floodlights round off the facilities and I wouldn't expect any ground grading aggro. as West Bromwich move up through the leagues. Behind the main stand are the changing rooms, offices and tea bar.
West Brom. are delighted with their first season in senior football, having won the league cup and also achieved promotion. They have numerous helpers, all of whom are ultra-friendly and things are looking good both on and off the pitch. Today they could clinch the championship providing they won by 16 goals, so runners up spot it is then. In his programme notes the manager optimistically wrote "nothing is impossible". Here is a man who’s never tried to change his broadband supplier. The proggy is a cracker, 20 pages of full colour and todays player profile was of flaxen haired full back Sam Causton (favourite food steak don't you know) In answer to the question 'who would you most like to meet' he inexplicably answered Alex Ferguson! Why? The home side would have come closer to meeting their goal target were it not for my man of the match, Wolverhampton's 16- year-old goalkeeper, who kept the score down stopping the ball on numerous occasions not by breath taking saves but just by getting in the way. His positional sense must be brilliant. This game was a joy to watch and about the cleanest match I've ever seen, with just two fouls in the whole 93 minutes.
Somewhat unwisely there was a tannoy announcement that food was being laid on at half time for a junior team and spectators were welcome to partake. Not the sort of thing to say when there are travellers about and as soon as the cling film was removed the kids were always going to come off second best. What the groundhoppers lacked in numbers we more than made up for in pure avarice. This was yet another smashing day out and I can only echo the immortal words of Smethwick's most famous daughter "Oil give it foive". And unless you were around in the sixties that reference won't mean a thing to you.
contributed on 07/05/17
Another one o'clock Bank Holiday kick off
meaning an early return home was not the first thought that went through
my head when the alarm went off at 4.30am. To add to the fun Virgin Trains were their usual rubbishy
selves, 32 minutes late back into Kings Cross due to privatization on the line.
On my last visit to the north east the Newcastle Metro Station was
undergoing a major refurbishment, and while it undoubtedly looks a bit better
now, it's hardly the Sistine Chapel and it wasn't worth shutting it down
most weekends for the best part of a year. Unsurprisingly Sunderland West End
play in the west end of Sunderland, and the final stop on the Metro, South
Hylton, is a ten-minute walk away from the ground. They play in the same
colours as Sunderland, but it's easy to distinguish between the two, this lot
tend to win a few games. They were only formed in 2006 with many of the
founders still with the club. In their first season, they were runners up in
something called the 'Wearmouth and Hylton Aged Peoples Trophy' Now that sounds
like my kind of competition. A rather barren location but excellent food
available with northern delicacy pie and mushy peas being the signature dish.
I was supporting the home side as their mascot was called
Chelsea but they were never going to win this one. All the goals in the first
half, Redcar missed a hatful of chances to finish the game off in the second
which left their manager audibly displeased. My abiding memory of this game was
not the football but the freezing wind. I haven't been so cold at a football
match for years, and while with this hobby hypothermia is an accepted risk
during the winter, it would have been nice if the weather gods had
been a bit kinder in May. Still I suppose this is the north of England so what
can you expect.
The Monwearmouth Cup is one of the oldest in the
country first competed for in 1889 and along with the Shipowner’s Cup are the
two major knockout competitions on Wearside. I have been to a few finals of
both and they have been good days out with the games always played at the home
ground of one of the finalists. The Shipowner’s Final will be at Richmond Town
(bus from outside Darlington Station if you fancy it) on 27th May so just time
to squeeze it in before the pre-season friendlies start!
contributed on 02/05/17
TT No.70: Brian Buck – Saturday
29th April 2017; East Stars v Hatch Lane; East London Barking
& Dagenham Sunday League Premier Cup Final; Venue: AFC Hornchurch;
Kick-Off: 7pm; Result: 0-4; Attendance: 90 approx; Admission: £4 with programme.
My last game of the day was a
leisurely 50-minute drive away and I was the first paying spectator here! So, I
had plenty of time to sup a pint whilst I watched the exciting Crystal Palace v
Burnley game on the TV. It would have been an enjoyable experience had it not been
for a load of young kids using the said bar as a running track. Obviously,
their parents weren’t caring a toss about their misbehavior, especially when
they ran past me. So, I moved my chair into a position where they would have to
avoid me, or so I thought. Then a minute or so later one of the brats actually
climbed over me to continue his ‘journey’! This current Sunday League is a
merger of the East London Sunday League with the London City Airport Sunday
League and I’ve seen Saturday evening Cup Finals here before. What goes on in
these matches is sometimes rather unbelievable and tonight you had the
histrionics of both management teams, together with their mates, all who
thought that they knew what they were talking about. There were also some very
dodgy things happening on the pitch. The ref tolerated it all for a while but
then gradually got his cards out more frequently. There was a sending of on 63
minutes, but despite it happening right in front of me I couldn’t see what the
offending player had done wrong. Hatch Lane took the lead on 32 minutes,
against the run of play but when the remaining goals went in during the second
half they were deserved. Overall a rowdy night and one which I might have
enjoyed more had I been connected with either side.
contributed on 02/05/17
TT No.69: Brian Buck - Saturday 29th April 2017; Tiptree Heath v Flitch United;
Andreas Carter Essex & Suffolk Border League Division 3; Venue: Feering
Community Centre; Kick-Off: 3pm; Result: 1-1; Attendance: 35 approx; Admission:
Free; Programme: No.
After my previous match had finished
it was just over a half hour’s drive to my next match and after I had confirmed
that the match was on, having been unable to check it out earlier, I was
directed to the nearest pub where I managed an unhurried pint. Back at the
ground I decided to watch the match from the comfort of my garden chair, which
I always keep in my car boot, along with wellies and all my other requirements
to meet with the demands of the weather of the day! I picked a spot where I
could not only see the game, but also the trains passing by the pitch, some of
them slowing down to stop at the nearby Kelvedon railway station. I witnessed
ten trains pass by during the course of the afternoon! Tiptree Heath are a
newly formed club and ultimately, they are trying to get senior football
restored in Tiptree now that Tiptree United are merged with Maldon Town. Having
only picked out this match because I hadn’t been to this venue before, I
discovered during the afternoon that there was something on this game. If
Flitch won or drew then they would win the league. If Tiptree won then they
could win it with their game in hand. For this game, we had a very strong young
ref and refreshingly he clamped down on any dissent directed his way from the
outset and most players soon got the message. One didn’t though! Tiptree took
the lead from the spot on 26 minutes following a foul and on 70 minutes Flitch
equalised with a 25 yarder through a ruck of players, thus beating the scorer
of Tiptree’s goal who had taken over the gloves at half time! Although this was
very much a sporting match it wasn’t always that exciting to watch as both
sides were evenly matched!
contributed on 02/05/17
TT No.68: Brian Buck – Saturday 29th April 2017; Dunmow Rhodes v Great
Baddow Reserves; County Motor Works Vauxhall Mid-Essex League Division 1;
Venue: High Easter Village Hall; Kick-Off: 11am; Result: 1-2; Attendance: 5
approx; Admission; Donation; Programme: No.
High Easter can be found somewhere
in the middle of a triangle drawn between Bishop’s Stortford, Braintree and
Chelmsford. Dunmow play all their home games here as their old pitch in Dunmow
is too small for them and is instead used by their various 26 youth teams. On
the opposite side of the road to the ground is a vintage coach depot. On my
arrival, I struggled to get a parking space because a recycling lorry was in
the car park and was being loaded up to take away a load of the local’s
rubbish. Meanwhile Dunmow have got their feet under the table here and even
have permanent dugout, painted in the clubs green and yellow colours. Today I
watched the game sat in one of them, as neither side could be bothered to walk
across the pitch to use them. The match was being played in the morning because
Dunmow's reserves were involved in a cup final in the afternoon and there was
something on the game - if Great Baddow won then they would win the league.
Unfortunately, the possibility of them not actually winning today generated its
own baggage and they moaned at the ref a lot. Their world was further disturbed
when on 30 minutes they went a goal down from the spot following a handball,
disputed of course. At this point Baddow lost a bit of confidence, but it was
restored when on 50 minutes they equalised after a header from a free kick hit
the bar, with the rebound being headed home. Then two minutes later the
eventual winner came their way, via a diagonal shot across the face of goal.
Thereafter Dunmow gradually faded as Baddow gradually took over, even though at
one point their manager had to remind one of his defenders that he was manager
and not him! Pity the ref didn’t reiterate his position to their players more
contributed on 02/05/17
TT No.67: Steve Hardy – Saturday 29th April 2017; Padiham v Barnton; North West Counties League Premier
Division; Result: 2-0; Admission: £3 for a grockle and £1.50 for an excellent
programme. Attendance: officially 180, my headcount sub 100!
arrived at the Arbories Sports ground to find ‘Car Park full’ signs everywhere.
Turns out the local cricket club were also at home, next to the football
ground, and it was they who had hogged all the parking spaces. Not knowing the
area, a lengthy drive round then ensued, before a parking space was found some
way from the ground.
liked the Padiham ground, I must say. A large stand down one side, and covered
terracing on two of the other sides gave plenty of shelter for spectators. A
sizeable bar is situated next to the dressing rooms and main stand, and it was
from there that I was able to track down the free team sheet as well.
for the game, it was a typically end of season affair for both clubs. Neither
are going up or down although visitors Barnton have only secured their future
in this division in the last week. A goal in each half was enough to earn
Padiham a fairly comfortable victory really.
did laugh at the official attendance figure of 180 though. My headcount was
under 100, and even if you counted both sets of players and officials in the
total it was still nowhere near 180!
contributed on 02/05/17
TT No.66: Steve Hardy – Saturday 29th April 2017; Accrington Stanley U18 v Walsall U18; Football
league Youth Alliance North West Division; Venue: Nelson FC; Kick-Off: 12.00pm
start; Result: 2-4; Admission: Free; Programme/team sheet: No; Attendance 25.
usually play their youth team fixtures at either their main stadium or at QE
Grammar School in Blackburn. When I contacted them by email to find out where
this match was taking place I got no reply at all. I then rang them and was
told the person on reception had no idea where the match was being played, but
she would find out and ring me back. She didn’t. Luckily, I discovered their
Academy has a superb twitter account, where details of all the games being
played by their various age group teams are listed well in advance. It was a
bonus for me to discover that my game was being played at Nelson FC, of the
North West Counties league, as I hadn’t been there.
have only been at their Victoria Park ground since 1971, but it is already
looking very run down. There is a very low stand down one side but no other
spectator facilities at all. The bar was open throughout this morning’s match
although only selling teas and coffees that early in the day!
was told that AS play as many of their youth team games at Nelson as possible,
and that this was the 4th or 5th match played there this
the pitch, it was an excellent game all round. Walsall went 1-0 up then 2-1
down by half time. They equalised on the hour and then won the match with a penalty
on 82 minutes. My headcount was 25, mostly parents of the AS lads.
off was 12 noon, which put a damper on my second match of the day, which was
supposed to be the Accrington Stanley first team match with Luton Town. Talking
to Accrington officials at the match they thought I would make the Crown Ground
easily enough, but I decided against it and instead made the 6-mile trip down
the road to Padiham for my next game. See TT No.67 above for more.
contributed on 30/04/17
TT No.65: Keith Aslan – Saturday 29th April 2017; HONITON v Exmouth Amateurs; Devon and Exeter League Premier Division;
Kick-Off: 14.58; Result: 5-0; Admission & Programme: £1.50p; Attendance:
128 (115 home, 2 away & 11 neutral)
With both Honiton and Newton level on points and playing
their final games today, a win for the 'Hippo's' (no idea where that nickname
comes from) would give them the league championship. Not a
mathematical certainty, but I think there would be a steward’s enquiry if
Newton overturned a twenty-eight-goal difference. Football is a funny old game
but it's not that funny. Exmouth are having a torrid time, thrown off their
pitch by our old friends the local council, most of their players did a runner
when they lost the ground and the club failed to turn up for their last
game. They bought the bare eleven with them today with their technical area
containing two people, 1 WAG and someone in shorts who spent much of the game
gazing lovingly into his i-pad. If he
was the manager I don't think his heart was in it. Honiton were 2-0 up inside
the first 2 minutes and I feared for a Ferring-type score, but all credit to
Exmouth, they steadied the ship and even managed to create a few chances
themselves. Word on the streets is that the championship means South West Peninsula
League football here next season.
The ground is an eighteen-minute walk from the station to
the west of the town. Neat and tidy, railed on three sides with a cricket pitch
adjacent to the fourth, a small stand and a clubhouse where you can watch the
lunchtime football on Sky, or you could have done if there had been any. There
was a sign inside notifying price increases with a pint of
lager going up to £2.80p! A pleasant town, Honiton's main claim
to fame is that in 1964 it boasted England's longest traffic jam. Pre-motorways,
with the bypass still two years away and in a time when everybody holidayed in
the U.K, a good proportion of them in the West Country, one summer
Saturday there was a 36-mile tailback trying to get through Honiton. Small
beer compared with the M25 these days.
Although plenty of 'suits' in attendance there apparently
wasn't going to be any medal presentations at the end of the game
although I didn't hang about to check. This was because they didn't know if the
home side were actually going to win the league. Surely if Honiton didn't get
the necessary result, couldn't they just have taken the stuff back home with
I was reacquainted with my Broadstairs dacha much earlier
than anticipated and genuine thanks go to Rod Ashman for blowing the final
whistle at 4.38pm. He would be doing us all a favour if he explained to his
mates at the next meeting of the referees’ society how he managed it. He could
point them in the direction of the rule book that states games are to be of two
equal periods of 45 minutes and explain the bit about 'time added on at the
referee’s discretion' doesn't mean playing random extra minutes for no reason.
He could let them in on his secret for starting a match on time, the simple but
effective ploy of bringing the teams out of the changing rooms 5 minutes before
the advertised kick off time. Oh, and he could point out that 10 minutes is
long enough for a half time fag break. Well done referee, I salute you.
TT No.64: Brian Buck - Tuesday 25th April 2017. Warboys Town v Whittlesey Athletic Reserves; ChromaSport &Trophies Peterborough & District League Division 1; Result: 2-2; Att: 70 approx.
With there being not much on locally
to excite me, I ventured a bit further afield tonight to watch Warboys Town,
who resigned from the Eastern Counties League during the 2003/4 season. Since
then and having taken the place of their reserves, they have worked their way
back up the leagues, via the Cambs Leagues, to where they are now. My last
visit here was on 3 March 2003 when I saw their U18’s lose 1-0 to Godmanchester
Rovers in a Hunts FA Youth Cup Semi Final match, att 45 approx. Since then the
only major change to the ground is that the seats have been removed from
the stand, down to vandalism I suspect. But otherwise it is in good condition
and I got a great view of the game from here. This was a 7.30pm kick off, so
the floodlights still work, although there were a few bulbs not working
tonight. Otherwise the place looks clean and tidy and the clubhouse may well
have been extended since I was last here. The club have longer term ambitions
to return to the ECL and from what I saw from the boisterous crowd, of all
ages, there is enough enthusiasm here to drive the club to fulfil their aims. A
win tonight would have pretty much guaranteed them promotion, but despite
drawing they had another three games left to get the two points they needed.
The game was played out with a light but icy north wind blowing in my face.
Whittlesey took the lead on 9 minutes with a shot which went in off the
woodwork. Although they are termed as being the clubs reserves they are in fact
their first team now following their resignation from the UCL earlier in the
season. Warboys equalised a minute later with a well hit 25-yarder, cue loud
cheers from their fans and then took the lead on 32 minutes with a 30-yard
direct free kick from the same player. On 65 minutes Whittlesey equalised
amidst claims of offside from the hosts. Then right at the end I witnessed my
first abuse of the roll-on-roll sub system. In added on time Warboys subbed
their number 10, but within a minute they tried to bring him on again. At first
the ref wouldn’t allow this, but relented the next time the ball went out of
play. They had settled for one point rather than none!
TT No.63: Brian Buck - Saturday 22nd April 2017; Millwall Lionesses v Oxford United Women; FA Women’s Super League 2 Spring Series; Venue: St Pauls Sports Ground, Rotherhithe – Fisher FC; Kick-Off: 5.30pm; Result: 2-0; Admn: £2 (concession); Programme: £2; Att: 144.
The actual attendance was more like the 90 I counted though! After the previous match had finished it took about an hour and twenty minutes to drive to my last match of the day, about 20 minutes longer than sat nav time. This was partly because the post code for the ground takes you near the ground but to a parallel road! Now in desperate need of sustenance I’d left it too late to get to a pub and had to settle for a large cup of tea and a Snickers as the plastic hot dogs weren’t ready yet. Furthermore, I wanted to get a decent seat in the stand, as I was anticipating a much larger crowd than the one we actually got. I’d seen two matches here before, on 26 June 2007, when the ground belonged to nearby Bacon’s College. At that time, the ground had become neglected. The 3G surface, if you could call it that had become torn in places and badly resewn together in parts. Furthermore, the goal netting had become tangled and knotted. I saw two matches here that night, both league matches in the City League Summer 2007. You don’t need to know the teams. There would have been a third game, but the participants wisely stayed away. Meanwhile during the matches, I did see some kids were actually playing football on the pitch while play was going on down the other end! Fast forward 10 years and the place looks really smart these days - the new 3G pitch looks great and spectator facilities are good with seating on one side and standing cover behind one goal. They also have a clubhouse. The capacity must be low though and I doubt if you could get more than 2,000 in the ground if that. As for the match, I enjoyed it as I sat in the late evening sunshine. It wasn’t a great game. Bottom of the table Oxford put up a brave show and without really looking like having a shot themselves they did manage to defend quite well. Millwall took the lead on 35 minutes with a well hit first time shot, but overall the scorer was out of form and was eventually subbed. The second goal came on 82 minutes, from the spot after a player was pulled down. Millwall would have scored loads more goals but their weak shooting was a feature of this match.
TT No.62: Brian Buck - Saturday 22nd April 2017; Balcombe v Old Varndeanians Reserves; Gray Hooper Holt LLP Mid-Sussex League Premier Division; Kick-Off: 1.30pm; Result: 3-1; Att: 15 approx.
My next game was just over a 20-minute drive away and I reached the ground with about 15 minutes to spare. I was rather hoping at this point that there would be some refreshments, of any type, available, but there were none around. When I texted the home officials on the previous night, about this game taking place, I was met with the response, “Who’s asking?” I thought about telling them that I was the local axe murderer, but eventually I got the reply I needed from them. On this sunny but chilly afternoon, I found myself a park bench to sit on, level with one of the penalty spots. I fell on my bottom here as this turned out to be the end all the goals were scored. On my way to ‘my’ bench I passed the visiting coach who told one of his players, “Don’t worry, you’re in the team.” This was met be the player telling him, “I’m not bothered!” The manager then warned the ref that the home lino was a dodgy one, but was brushed off by him. From what I saw of him though he was overly fair to the away side. On 4 minutes the visitors took the lead and by half time their management team were more than happy. In fact, they told their players that they had no criticisms with anything, including the match officials, even though I thought Balcombe shaded it. After the break, Balcombe gradually began to dominate and on 50 minutes they equalised. Then on 70 minutes the hosts took the lead. Suddenly the home lino came under the microscope and on 81 minutes the visitors had a player booked for calling him a cheat. Then right on time Balcombe scored their third goal to seal their win. This was a game which got better as it went along.
TT No.61: Brian Buck - Saturday 22nd April 2017; Forest Row v Rotherfield; Gray Hooper Holt LLP Mid-Sussex League Premier Division; Kick-Off: 11.00am; Result: 0-0; Att: 20 approx.
I was on the road at around 8.15am and arrived at the ground in sat nav time, just over two hours later. On my arrival, here in this seemingly sleepy village I found the ground at the end of a dead-end road and there were cars parked everywhere and nothing likely the peaceful place Google Street View showed it to be when I viewed it on the previous night. First thoughts were that it had something to do with the adjacent golf course, but when I finally found somewhere to park I realised that it had more to do with the two youth-team matches already taking place here. Worryingly one of them was taking place where my match was due to take place. But both games were done and dusted some 15 minutes before the start, with the emphasis on ‘dusted’ because this was a very dry bumpy pitch. In fact, it was the kind of pitch which would be unplayable on a frosty day. Just goes to show how a swing of 15 degrees or so can mean the difference to a game being on or off! While I waited for the game to start I had a cup of coffee from the tea bar. I could have had a bacon roll as well. Then I had a first. Did I want a free refill because the cup of I was given was rather small? I declined saying that I’d have it at half time instead. Big mistake, as the tea bar was here for the kids and not the adults and come half time it was closed! As for the match, despite the score-line, it was actually a decent game. Both sides wanted to win, even though there was little more than pride to play for. At the end both sides desperately tried to get the winner, but without success. Just one awkward incident for the ref not to deal with. On 28 minutes one of the keepers thumped an attacker when he got too closed to him in the box. Should have been a red card and a spot kick of course. But although words were said after the offended party complained, he showed no cards and turned what I consider to be a ‘Nelson’s blind eye’ on the situation. Otherwise everyone was well behaved.
TT No.60: Keith Aslan – Saturday 22nd
April 2017; DENABY UNITED v Swinton Athletic; Pete's
Patisserie Sheffield County Senior League Premier Division; Kick-Off: 14.04;
Result: 1-4; Admission: Free; Programme: £1; Attendance: 46 (31 home, 14 away
& 1 neutral).
Visiting Denaby United has been a lifetime’s ambition for
the past eight weeks, with two previous attempts stymied first by the weather
and then Doncaster Council not marking the pitch. I can't praise the club
enough for putting the postponements up on their website the previous Fridays
saving wasted journeys. Third time lucky today, with the council marking
half the pitch on Friday and the other half Saturday morning, obviously too big
a job to do all at once. I think Denaby were pushing it to ask them to cut the
grass as well. They didn't, and it was far too long for effective football with
the pitch resembling a dandelion sanctuary.
The club play in the pleasant mining town (at least it was
when it had one) of Conisborough. A half hour walk from the station all
uphill, but on the plus side, and this won't come as a big surprise, downhill
on the way back. As an alternative, buses run every 15 minutes on a circuitous
run back to Doncaster from outside the ground and you get a perfectly good view
of the match from the bus stop. I can recommend the 'Meet and Eat' café in the
centre of town for nourishment, large portions and good cheap grub. The
walls are covered with 100 -year-old photographs of Conisborough, many of them
depicting the squalor and poverty the miners lived in back then, so something
to gladden the hearts of Tory voters. My previous visit to the town was a
bank holiday for a sumptuous double of two of non-league footballs most iconic
stadia, Denaby United’s previous abode and Mexborough Town. Both
still in use, United’s old ground a shadow of its former self but still has the
old terracing, is used by Denaby Main while as far as I know Mexborough’s
ground remains unchanged with today’s visitors, Swinton, the occupiers.
Nothing iconic about the present location just a pitch,
changing rooms and most importantly, a tea bar. Denaby have been
playing most of the season in Doncaster due to ground grading nonsense (now
sorted). The ex. North East Counties club folded in 2002 when they were thrown
off their ground, but ten years later a group of enthusiasts reformed the club
and the name Denaby United lives on. Already relegated this season they are
confident of bouncing back and I wish them well.
The reason why Denaby United has become a mecca for
groundhoppers is the programme, one of the best I've seen, 30 pages containing
enough reading to last most of the journey home. Statistics, jokes, league
news, colour photographs, articles, reports, results, tables, this had the lot,
all for a quid. Take a bow Jimmy Benfold, the editor. Among the contents
were two pages on defunct North East Counties league clubs (I must
admit Wooley Miners Welfare passed me by) and another fascinating article on
British football tragedies from which I learnt that the plaque
commemorating the Burnden Park disaster in 1946 is situated in Asda, which was
built on the site of the ground. This programme will take pride of place in my
collection and will be wonderful to look back on in my dotage - next year.
TT No.59: Keith Aslan – Monday 17th April 2017; LEICESTER NIRVANA v Kirby Muxloe; United Counties League Premier Division; Kick-Off: 13.04; Result: 2-0; Admission: £5; Programme: £1; Attendance: 64 (39 home, 13away & 12 neutral)
I got home in plenty of time for the final episode of Broadchurch with this nice one o' clock bank holiday kick off, a bit too early for the referee though who couldn't quite make the appointed hour! Nobody I spoke to from the home club knew why the game had been bought forward, but you do tend to get some inexplicable start times on Easter Monday - Fulham's 2.45 kick off for instance.
The oxymoronic Leicester Nirvana have only moved into their new ground mid-season, taking the Atcost stand from Highfield Rangers with them. I liked the place, hard standing all the way round, with the tea bar, also serving food, situated at the top of a small slope behind the goal with a good view of the game while you're waiting for your burger. Warning, they're very spicy. It is in a surprisingly rural setting with a lake next door, ideal for a pre-match stroll. The T.V. in the tea bar only takes terrestrial channels and has a default setting on 24-hour news. Why? Surely there must be something more interesting on. Much the same as Weatherspoons who always seem to have the News Channel on whenever I visit. Has anybody ever said: "Let’s go down the pub and watch the news"? The ground is easy to get to, the number 58a from the city centre drops you outside the ground, and with a half hourly service on a bank holiday buses must be plentiful on a Saturday.
Nirvana are a community club with both the team and officials comprising a league of nations. They run numerous youth teams including the 'Nirvana Nippers' for ages 2 to 4. Isn't 2 a bit young to be playing football? They merged with Leicester Senior League team Thurnby Rangers in 2008 and haven't looked back since. There is a good vibe about the place.
As for the football, this wasn't the worst match I've seen, but not one of the better ones either. An end of season game both chronologically and aesthetically with two second half goals sealing it for the home side. Walking back from the bus station through the City Centre there was one of those brown tourist board signs pointing to the 'Culture Quarter'. Leicester - Culture? I think someone is having a laugh.
contributed on 17/04/17
TT No.58: Steve Hardy – Saturday 15th April 2017; Athletic Sparta v Christ the King 3rds; Coventry Alliance Division Four; Result: 1-0; Free admission; No programme; Attendance: 14.
Keen to earn a few brownie points with my other half, I thought she would be thrilled when I offered her a short break in Bermuda for this weekend. Sadly, she wasn’t, and her reply of ‘is that the Bermuda near Nuneaton, dear?’ proved that she HAD been listening to me all these years when I wittered on about grounds I wanted to visit in exotic sounding places.
The venue was the Bermuda Phoenix Centre in the Nuneaton suburb of Bermuda Village. The Centre is a large Community building, which houses the changing rooms and I suspect a bar, as I saw several people with pints in their hands as I was leaving. There is a bowling green behind the centre, and the football pitch to the left. The main users of this pitch are Bermuda FC, also of the Coventry Alliance, but today it was the turn of ground-sharers Athletic Sparta, who were entertaining the 3rd team of Christ the King.
On the pitch, the Czech speaking Sparta team were held at bay by the CTK lads fairly comfortably. Just as I thought a 0-0 was inevitably, though, a wild hack at the ball from the Sparta number 3 surprised everyone by sailing over the keeper and in to the top corner of the net. If the lad had meant to do that, then it would have been goal of the season. He didn’t though, so it wasn’t. This was in the 80th minute, and as hard as they tried, the CTK lads just couldn’t find what would have been a deserved equaliser.
My headcount was just 14 for this match. There were actually more people watching the bowls on the adjoining green, and they weren’t that impressed when stray footballs kept disrupting their games.
So, another very competitive match in one of my favourite leagues. I have never seen a duff game in this league, and long may that continue.
contributed on 16/04/17
TT No.57: Keith Aslan - Saturday 15th April 2017; PRESTWICH HEYS v Charnock Richard; North West Counties Division 1; Kick-Off: 15.01; Result: 0-3; Admission: £4; Programme: £1; Attendance: 204 (108 home, 86 away & 10 neutral).
Another Saturday, another failed attempt to visit Denaby United. Some things are just not meant to be. Their match today was postponed due to Doncaster Council 'forgetting' to mark the pitch. Call me Mr. Cynical but I suspect the council’s 'amnesia' and the fact it was a bank holiday weekend were related. I was not alone among the hoppers at Prestwich whose first choice was obliterated by this most useless of councils.
Plan B at Prestwich then. Then ground is a fifteen-minute walk from the delightfully named tram stop Besses o' th' Barn, so called because a pub used to stand there that looked like a barn, and I think you can guess the landladies name. Why aren't girls called Bess anymore? I find it ironic that a mode of transport considered obsolete sixty years ago is now considered cutting edge and every city worth its salt, and Birmingham, has a tram system. Manchester have embraced them like no other with the most extensive network in the country which gets bigger every time I visit.
Prestwich billed this game as their Play-off push, but more realistically the match was of far greater import to their opponents. Charnock Richard are teetering at the head of a league that is tighter than P.J Proby's trousers with three points separating the top five clubs. Charnock are the Barcelona of the North West Counties league and the only team to have any sizeable away support with almost half of today’s crowd travelling down the M56. I got to this one very early predicting a quick paper sell out. As usual I was right with the programmes becoming a collector’s item 45 minutes before kick-off, most being snapped up by the visitors. Why does one person need six programmes? I whiled away the time chatting to fellow fans in the club house, which has food, drink and football on TV. The homemade minestrone soup was highly yummie. In the second-half we were treated to the proper Manchester experience when it rained, but plenty of cover to keep all of the large crowd dry. One small criticism of the ground, it really does need more than one toilet.
The first half was even-Steven’s but Charnock Richard asserted their title credentials after the break. They even missed one of the worst penalties I've seen outside an England match with their centre forwards spot kick causing more problems for low flying aircraft than the goalkeeper. After today’s games 5 points now separate the top five so still all to play for, but this win keeps the visitors in pole position.
Credit where it's due, the trains ran perfectly today. An Easter gift from Mr. Branson? Makes up for the two and a half hours I spent on Whitstable Station last Tuesday night!
contributed on 16/04/17
TT No.56: Steve Hardy - Saturday 8th April 2017; Upton AA v Redgate Rovers; West Cheshire Football League Pyke Cup Semi-Final; Kick-Off: 2.00pm; Result: 2-3; Admission: Free; Programme/team sheet: No; Attendance 26.
The second part of today’s proceedings saw a short 20-mile drive to the outskirts of Chester and the Chester County Sports ground. This is a vast multi-sport complex housing cricket, hockey, football, netball etc., as well as an indoor gym and wedding venue!
My match this afternoon was a Semi-Final of the Pyke cup, a very highly regarded cup competition in the West Cheshire league. The home team, Upton Athletic Association have a dedicated pitch within the complex, where they have built a small stand and have fully railed the pitch off with very stout wooden posts and rails. Visitors Redgate Rovers are a Liverpool club, being based in Aigburth, and both teams play in the top division of the West Cheshire League.
In blazing heat, the two teams tested each other out in the first half before the visitors took the lead just before the break. The second half saw both teams score twice with Redgate holding on for a 3-2 win. My headcount was just 26, which was a tad disappointing for a cup semi-final, and seemingly nobody supporting the visitors.
Excellent game, and a day which started with me scraping ice from the car windscreen, saw me get home to find I was badly sunburned. Of course, there is no such thing as global warming, is there?
contributed on 09/04/17
TT No.55: Steve Hardy – Saturday 8th April 2017; Tranmere Rovers U18 v Burnley U18; Football League Youth Alliance North West Division; Venue: Raby Vale Training Ground, Wilaston Road, Thornton Hough, Wirral CH63 4JE; Kick-Off: 11.00am start; Result: 2-4; Admission: Free; Programme/team sheet: No; Attendance: 43.
A trip to the Wirral for me to start this week’s fun and games. Tranmere Rovers have a training ground in a very posh part of the Wirral, where the street they are based on has houses that you can’t actually see because the drives leading up to them are so long. You wouldn’t know it was a football training ground either, unless you were looking for it, as there is no mention of Tranmere Rovers or anyone else on the gate that leads up a very potholed drive to the car park.
Tranmere Youth are rock bottom of the North-West Division of the Football League Youth Alliance. I, therefore, expected a comfortable win for visitors Burnley and so it turned out, but not before Tranmere had given a very good account of themselves. They took the lead with a flowing passing move which was finished off by their number 9, and then spurned several other chances before Burnley slowly began to get back in to the game. With chances coming at both ends, Burnley eventually scored twice before the break to take a rather flattering 2-1 lead. The second half saw Tranmere fade somewhat, and Burnley scored twice more before Tranmere scored a deserved second right at the death.
Plenty of other incidents to report too. One of the Burnley lads was carted off in an ambulance after unfortunately suffering what looked like a broken leg, and a Tranmere player got himself sent off near the end after a dreadful two footed lunge nearly caused another.
No problems with access to the game, with the added bonus of a self-service tea room next to the changing rooms. Spectators are restricted to the area behind one of the goals and my head count this morning was 43, which included a good few from Burnley.
contributed on 09/04/17
TT No.54: Keith Aslan – Saturday 8th April 2017; Bishop Lydeard v Westbury; Western League Division 1; Kick-Off: 15.00; Result: 1-1; Admission & Programme: £5; Attendance: 45 (39 home, 0 away & 6 neutral)
For lovers of scenic grounds, this one is for you with the Quantock Hills providing a wonderful backdrop for an afternoon’s sport. Bishops Lydeard is a village 6 miles outside Taunton with a half hourly service from the station. The buses are all full and while it's nice to see a rural route so well used, the amount of suitcases belonging to passengers obviously going on holiday in Minehead is testament to the folly of Doctor Beeching. The railway is now a Heritage Line starting at Bishops Lydeard and running all the way to Minehead, but alas it cannot be extended into Taunton. Today the buses had a similar relationship to a timetable as Southern Trains, they were all over the place due to heavy traffic. Big problems in the county with Exeter City's match being put back 45 minutes due to gridlock. So, a normal summer Saturday in Somerset then! I'd already given up hope of my 8-minute connection back in Taunton and after the game I arrived at the bus stop geared up for a long wait. Imagine my happiness and joy when the bus came almost straight away. "It's 3 minutes early" I said to a fellow 'customer' "No it isn't" came the reply ''It's 27 minutes late" A good result for me though.
The ground is at the top of a hill on the outskirts of the village, a walk not to be attempted in the dark. Food and drink available with outside covered seats and tables proving a welcome respite from the sun. Work is ongoing in compliance of Western League ground grading with the foundation, but nothing else, of a seated stand. The game was an entertaining romp in the sunshine with the only sour note being the constant whingeing of, primarily, the home side. They obviously hadn't read the bit in the programme about respecting the referee. Another thing that winds me up about modern day football is at every injury break the players all made a dash to the dugouts to drink water. The referee didn't partake and there's no reason why fit and healthy young men can't play 45 minutes football without constantly needing to have a drink. Maybe if they hadn't spent the best part of an hour 'warming' up they wouldn't get so thirsty?
Sitting in the shade, drinking tea, eating burgers, programme to hand watching football with panoramic views in the distance. I'd like to know of a better way of spending a Saturday afternoon.
contributed on 10/04/17
TT No.53: Brian Buck – Tuesday 4th April 2017; MK Gallacticos v Mursley United; Spartan South Midlands League Division 2; Venue: played at North Furzton Sports Ground, Lynmouth Crescent, North Furzton; Result: 3-2; Attendance 40.
This game eventually kicked off at 6.20pm and was either ten minutes early or five minutes late, depending on which website you looked at. However most of the players were present at least half an hour before the start, especially the visitors whom we watched warm up, if you could call it that. On this basis alone most of us aging spectators could have got a game! As usual with these venues in Milton Keynes they look pretty awful if you see where they are on a map, but on site this was a decent area, not far from a large manmade lake. Apologies to any women who may have contributed to it! Not only that but in the immediate vicinity there was some decent housing as well. We had spoken to the jovial experienced ref earlier and at the time he was wearing glasses, but he chose to ref the match without them! He told us that it would be a 40-minutes each way game and by the end this decision seemed justified.
The first half was full of endeavour from both sides, but the proceedings weren’t particularly exciting to watch. However, on 38 minutes, MK did take the lead and the scorer was named Christopher Wreh. At first there was speculation that it might be the same person who apparently used to play for the Woolwich Nomads and who lives in the area, but it was later confirmed that it was actually his son. On 44 minutes the ref, playing to the crowd a bit, called a visiting player to him, but he seemed reluctant to come. His reply was that he could wait and that his side were losing and wasting their own time, which made us neutrals smile a bit. However, two minutes later Mursley did equalise. However, on 53 minutes MK did regain the lead, just as an ice cream van passed the ground, ironic as there was now a bit of a chill in the air. On 62 minutes Mursley equalised again, but MK retook the lead 8 minutes later. On 79 minutes the Mursley keeper was sent off for a dangerous tackle inside the box, but the resultant spot kick was blasted well over the bar. Then right at the end Mursley got a corner and all of their side, including the keeper, were inside the box, trying to get another equaliser. But the ball went straight to the keeper and he threw the ball out to one of his players who was standing just inside his own half. He received it, but just as he set off to place the ball into a completely unguarded net the ref blew the final whistle! Overall a very entertaining match.
contributed on 06/04/17
TT No.52: Brian Buck - Saturday 1st April 2017; London Bees v Sheffield FC Ladies; FA Women’s Super League 2 Spring Series played at Barnet FC; Kick-Off: 7pm; Result: 2-1; Attendance: 387.
After the previous match had finished I spent a while in the bar watching the Football League results come through on the TV. Then I left for my final game of the day, knowing that I would easily get there in the 50 minutes that my sat-nav told me it would. But in the end, it took twice this long as I got stuck in a traffic jam about five minutes from the ground. But my problems weren’t over! After parking up I arrived at the ground some ten minutes before kick-off. You would think that with this match being free admission all you needed to do was go in through the usual entrance for these games, through the bar, purchasing your programme, as you did so. But, first of all, I was told that I needed to buy a programme from the club shop. This I did (£2) and then I returned to the same entrance, where they wouldn’t let me through, because I didn’t have a ticket. I couldn’t quite get my head round why I would need a ticket if the match was free admission, but time was running short now and so I asked where non-ticket holders could get in. I was told to go down to the north end of the stand. I did this and after entering through a turnstile I found myself in the North Stand, behind the goal. I wasn’t happy with this, got let out and returned to the previous entrance to find out if I could get a ticket so I could sit on the side. I was told I couldn’t and so I had to return to the North Stand and watch the match from there. It seems that you either had to be Press, associated with one of the teams or have bought one of their pre-match hospitality meals before the start to sit on that side, although I wasn’t sure of the last part. But as things transpired I sat in about the right place to witness the key moments of the match.
The first half was one of the poorest I’ve seen at this level. Sheffield were marginally better than the Bees, who were dreadful. But I didn’t like their gamesmanship tactics. However, having seen the ref, Abigail Marriott, put in some good displays in the Thurlow Nunn Youth League in the past, I knew that she was up for the challenge here and so she was. Sheffield perhaps should have scored on 3 minutes when the ball seemed to go over the line when it came down off the crossbar, but no one could be sure. The second half started in much the same way, but gradually the Bees dominated possession and eventually scored on 83 minutes through Jo Wilson, although I thought she was going to miss, as earlier she had put wide a shot from a similar position. On 89 minutes, she scored again after cutting inside and thumping home a really powerful shot from about 12 yards out. Then on 90(+2) minutes Sheffield scored after some awful marking left the scorer free. So overall it wasn’t so bad and most of the 180 people I counted would have gone home happy.
contributed on 04/04/17
TT No.51: Brian Buck - Saturday 1st April 2017; Horsley v Laleham; Surrey Elite Intermediate League; Kick-Off: 3pm; Result: 3-1; Attendance: 15 approx.
My next game saw me nip round the M25, slowly at times, to Junction 10 and the ground, just about in West Horsley, is a few miles from there. From a distance, it looks a bit like two or three converted horse paddocks and on my arrival, some 90 minutes before kick-off, the gates to the ground were being unlocked, by someone who knew the code and I was about the third car in. Soon loads of others appeared, including a taxi, owned by one of the players, who brought a load of his teammates with him. Once I confirmed that the match was going ahead I nipped off to the local pub for my pre-match meal. It doubled up as a Thai Restaurant, but I didn’t partake, just in case they told me that Thai’s must be worn. I only had a new one on me!
I was back at the ground well before kick-off and as I sat in their now open clean looking bar I wondered which pitch the match would be played on, as the both pitches, either side of the clubhouse, looked suitable. The one they didn’t use was fully marked out, had corner flags out ready and was roped or taped off all round, even though no game was to take place on it today. But the pitch they did use had a ranch style fencing along one side and behind one goal. I don’t think that spectators were allowed on the other two sides, but I stood on the opposite side and no one objected. The match official was being observed and I would say that his strong point was communication, very good for someone so young. Most of his decisions seemed right from what I could tell. However, on 21 minutes he booked a home player for not retreating quick enough after the keeper blasted the ball at him. He didn’t actually see him do this because he had his back to the incident and furthermore, unless the booked player was a greyhound he couldn’t have moved back much quicker anyway. On 34 minutes Horsley took the lead with a well hit snapshot. On 65 minutes the lead was doubled from the spot after the keeper allegedly nudged an attacker off the ball. On 79 minutes Laleham pulled a goal back, also from the spot after a player was allegedly held down. This looked slightly more justified, but I wouldn’t have awarded either of them or even given any free kicks. Towards the end Laleham faded and Horsley scored their final goal on 88 minutes. This turned out to be a decent game, played out in some pleasant unspoiled countryside.
contributed on 04/04/17
TT No.50: Brian Buck - Saturday 1st April 2017; Welwyn St Mary’s Blues v Welwyn St Mary’s Reds; Hertfordshire & Borders Churches League Division 1; Kick-Off: 10.30am; Result: 0-1; Attendance: 5 approx.
I started off my day with this spicy local derby, played at Welwyn Playing Fields, Ottway Walk in Old Welwyn. These days it’s home to Lemsford who play in the Herts Senior County league and it’s railed off on one side and half along behind both goals. The pitch is on a bit of a plateau on the railed off side and therefore the car park is below pitch level. Thankfully since my last visit the concrete bollards, presumably put there to stop illegal fly tipping, have now been removed. However, my first visit here was back in 1982, when Welwyn, as opposed to Welwyn Garden City or Welwyn Garden United, were the tenants. I recall that as I didn’t have a car at that point I was given a lift back to Welwyn North station by a man driving his blue invalid three-wheeler. Like me he was also a regular watcher of the Spurs Youth teams who played at the then Spurs Training Ground at Brookfield Lane, Cheshunt.
Talking of Spurs, I also knew the ref today, who was Bobby Scarth. We’d met before at another one of these games and some 45 years ago I watched Bobby play regularly for the Spurs youth and reserve sides then. He is always happy to be reminded of this. There was something on the game today in that by winning the Reds moved to the top of the table with one match left. So, the title was now theirs to lose. Had the Blues won though then it would have still been possible for them to claim the title. This was a feisty match despite the connection between the sides. The only goal came on 12 minutes in favour of the more antagonistic side. But the goal calmed them down a bit and they were further calmed down when they found out that the ref wasn’t quite as deaf as they thought he was! Meanwhile the Blues were in a bit of a mess in this first period. There were claims from the sidelines that they were disorganised. At the break this was addressed and the second half was a much more even affair. Despite this the Reds won because overall, they were more up for it than the Blues were.
contributed on 04/04/17
TT No.49: Keith Aslan - Saturday 1st April 2017; Bearwood Athletic v Two Gates; Holder Cup Final @ HOLLYFIELDS; Kick-Off: 15.03; Result: 3-0 to Two Gates; Admission & Programme: Free; Attendance: 108 (60 TG, 30 B & 18 neutral)
The Cup Final season is in full swing occasionally throwing up an unexpected gem, and Hollyfields is 50 carat. Fully railed with a concrete path, a smashing stand built with metal and wood, and a clubhouse with food and the lunchtime footie on TV. This ground will probably have gone under the radar of many hoppers as no 'major' non-league team plays here although the facilities could certainly support one. Prime tenants are a well-known team round the Birmingham and District league called simply 'The Village'. Today, as a prelude to the main event, they had an early kick off on the second pitch. I wonder who was Number Six? (If you're under 50 get your parents to explain that reference).
The ground is a 25- minute walk from Erdington Station, which is in turn a 15-minute ride to the north of Birmingham. I don't want to be too critical of the place but it makes Shepherds Bush look like Disneyland by comparison. I did discover a bus stop five minutes from the ground with a service that goes direct to Birmingham International every half hour, probably a better bet if you are one of those people with free bus fares - so that's everyone except me then. Hollyfields is adjacent to Holly Lane who used to strut their stuff in the Midland Combination a few years back. This final should have been played at Sutton United (the one where pie eating hasn't been criminalized) but Bearwood played at Sutton three weeks ago and in a 'robust' match they had a player sent off and the team indulged in some major naughtiness both during and after the game resulting in them being banned from the ground, so a new venue had to be found at relatively short notice. Apparently Bearwood have a bit of previous for this sort of thing, but they behaved themselves today. It must be down to the pre-match handshakes!
The referee, Kevin Rzepkowski, has a very impressive c.v. including 10 years as a Football league linesman. Beginning his refereeing career in 1969 he must be of the same vintage as myself. I assume the 2.30 kick-off shown on the front of the programme was an April Fool and at the allotted time everyone was ready to go except the players and officials who needed another 33 minutes. All very annoying, I could have spent an extra half hour sightseeing in Erdington. Maybe not. They'll be dancing in the streets of Two Gates after this result, a surprisingly easy victory considering how close the two teams are in the league. Two Gates are the oldest team in the Birmingham League (by about 100 years I would think) being formed in 1888. I have never known a team at this level last so long. With three figure crowds, the norm for these finals I often wonder where all the supporters come from, or go to, given that the average attendance for league games is the proverbial 'one man and his dog' (and even the dog gave the lunchtime Village game a miss).
There are eight Birmingham League Cup Finals played at different grounds around England's second city. All superbly organized with informative programmes at places where you wouldn't normally expect paper. This is the third one I have been to over the years and thoroughly enjoyed the lot. All details on the league website with plenty left to play if you fancy taking one in. Mind you, the rest of the grounds are unlikely to be of the same standard as Hollyfields.
contributed on 03/04/17
TT No.48: Steve Hardy – Saturday 1st April 2017; Knighton Town v Bow Street; Mid Wales League Division One; Result: 1-0; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 31.
After the inner-city delights of Liverpool last Saturday, I really needed something more rural this week. What better than a trip to Mid Wales and the beautiful town of Knighton. Of course, most of Knighton is in Shropshire, but the football ground is in Powys, and that is good enough for me.
This match was a rearranged fixture following a nasty accident earlier in the season caused the game to be abandoned when one of the Bow Street players broke his leg in two places. Knighton decided not to charge anyone admission today, which I thought was a very nice gesture, and typical of the club as a whole from my experience.
The ground is council-owned, I was told, but the club have been there for ever and the council are very supportive. The floodlights shown in my photos are only training lights at present, although I understand they are coming down shortly to be replaced by proper match floodlights which are already on site and waiting to be erected. When money allows the changing room/social club is also going to be demolished and replaced by a more modern building as the club look to progress up the pyramid.
On the pitch the Welsh speaking visitors arrived in fourth place although with no chance of getting any higher. Mid-table Knighton will also stay where they are, but there was no sense that this was just an end of season game. Both sides gave it their all and it was only a lack of finishing power that prevented a high scoring game. Knighton eventually won it with an excellent run and finish from a tight angle just before half time.
No programme today. The club haven’t issued at all this season, but I was kindly given a few back copies, showing they have issued spasmodically during the two preceding seasons. An excellent effort it is too.
A lovely welcoming club in a fabulously beautiful part of the world.
contributed on 02/04/17
TT No.47: Brian Buck – Saturday 25th March 2017; Newport Town v Worcester Raiders; West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1; Result: 2-3; Attendance: 45 approx.
Today I was fortunate enough to be given a lift to my game and I was very grateful to my chauffer for dropping me off on the way to his game, about 12 miles away at Market Drayton Town. The added advantage of this was that I could have a longer slurp both before and after my match. Newport can be found roughly equidistant from Stafford and Telford and you would think that the clubs name coupled with the level of football they play in, would mean that they have a nice ground. But, in reality, it’s just a railed off pitch in little more than a public park. It is not enclosed and the only other facilities they have are the obligatory dressing rooms and a room which is in effect the tea bar. But there was hot food available, which I partook of. The club officials were very welcoming though and the nice lady secretary told me that the club recognised that they need to try and move forward and, with this in mind, they have acquired some land in another part of town, which they hope to move onto in 2018/19. But from the way she was talking, in the early stages don’t expect the facilities to be any better than they are now! This was hot news, just out on the previous Wednesday and even some of the locals didn’t know about it!
As for the match, well, as it was the warmest Saturday of the year so far, I was able to dispense with my coat and jacket to watch the game. My hat remained firmly welded to my head though, until I realized, when I got home, I’d left it in my driver’s car. The hat that is, not my head! This was an encounter between the second and fourth placed sides in the league. I think that the ref might have been expecting trouble as when he booked his first (of four) player on 20 minutes he produced one of the biggest yellow cards I’ve ever seen! There had already been a goal by this point in this feisty match when the visitors scored on 13 minutes. The equalizer came on 20 minutes and then Newport took the lead two minutes after that. Six minutes later the raiders equalised amidst claims of offside. Then on 34 minutes Newport were awarded and missed a spot kick. This was really their big chance blown as after the break the Raiders looked the better side, despite their persistent nagging of the officials. The lino on my side was so good at limiting their expectations that I invited him round to see if he could do anything with my wife! The winning goal deservedly came Raiders way on 67 minutes and then right at the end Newport missed a good chance to equalise. This brought to a close a good day out. I wish both sides all the best for the future and I do hope that the Raiders find their lost ark!
contributed on 28/03/17
TT No.46: Steve Hardy – Saturday 25th March 2017; Long Lane v All Saints; Merseyside Christian Football League Division Two; Result: 2-6; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 1.
This match took place at the Childwall Comprehensive School Sports Academy in the Wavertree district of Liverpool. There are three football pitches at the rear of the site with kids training on one pitch today, and two Merseyside Christian league games on the other two. I admit to having picked my match purely because I thought I would see more goals than the other game and so it proved.
Long Lane are bottom of the bottom division, and were still celebrating picking up their first point of the season the previous week. The visitors, All Saints, were third in the table, but with plenty of work to be done if they wanted to catch the top two.
It was all too easy for the Saints today though, although Long Lane tried really hard and thoroughly deserved their 2 second half goals, I thought. 3-0 to the Saints at half time, with three more coming after the break to complete a 6-2 win.
I came to Liverpool by train, and got a Merseyrail train from Lime Street to Broad Green for this match. After this game, it was back to Broad Green and a few stops further down the same line to St Helens Central. From there it was a short bus journey to the Pilkington Sports complex for Pilkington FC at 12.30 followed by Pilkington Recs Rugby league at 2.30pm.
contributed on 28/03/17
TT No.45: Keith Aslan – Saturday 25th March 2017; Trethomas Bluebirds v Caerau; Welsh League Division 3; Kick-Off: 14.32; Result: 1-3; Admission: £3; Programme: £1; Attendance: 38 (29 home, 8 away & 1 neutral)
Good news, Paddington apparently has "a new and improved shopping experience" which is just want you want from a station. Today the place was swarming with police, less to do with a terrorist threat I suspect and more to do with Milwall playing at Swindon. I was making my first ever visit to Caerphilly, famous for its cheese, and a very impressive castle which is well worth a visit. They built them to last in those days. Next to it is a statue of Tommy Cooper who was born here. News to me, I didn't even know he was Welsh. You never stop learning in this game.
The Bluebirds have moved a couple of miles down the road from their home village to comply with Welsh League ground regulations and are playing at Bedwas Rugby Club, a 40-minute walk from Caerphilly gorsaf (station to you). No need for any physical exertion with a door to door bus service every 12 minutes. Trethomas must really want promotion as it is costing them £250 a month to hire. Where does the money come from? This being South Wales they build their Rugby grounds king sized with a 500 seat stand down one touchline, another smaller stand opposite with more covered seating behind the goal. And floodlights of course. All a bit over the top for 38 people I would have thought but that's ground grading for you. The bar inside the stadium offered hot drinks and cold rolls plus the amber nectar, welcome on a very warm day. Trethomas laid siege to the Caerau goal in the second half to no avail with their consolation not coming until deep into the time referees add on at the end of a game for no particular reason.
No pre-match handshakes here, or anywhere else in the Principality. Hard to believe I know, but unlike their English counterparts the Welsh F.A. think they are a waste of time. Can't think why. The ground had no sign of any Rugby pitch markings and if it wasn't for the Rugby posts behind the goals you wouldn't know the game was played here. I assume technology has moved forward and the groundsman uses the same sort of magic spray to mark the pitch as referees use for free kicks, although I assume it doesn't disappear quite so quickly. The programme gave the team line up, and a very detailed history of, Caerau Ely which would have meant more if that was actually who was playing. Confusing Caerau Ely with Caerau is an easy mistake to make, although the fact that Caerau Ely don't play in the same division might have been a bit of a giveaway!
On arrival, I was greeted with a friendly hello, nice to see you again, by a total stranger to me. It turned out he was an official of Caerau who remembered me from my visit there. This must have been a good ten years ago, and I can only assume my good looks and charisma make meeting me such an unforgettable experience. But I do find it just a tad disconcerting that once seen I'm never forgotten.
contributed on 26/03/17
TT No.44: Brian Buck - Saturday 18th March 2017. Langleybury Cricket Club v Bovingdon ‘A’; West Herts Saturday League Division 2; Kick-Off: 2pm; Result: 4-3; Attendance: approx. 10
After the previous game, it was a relatively short drive to my next match. When I arrived here the small car park and the one on the opposite side of the road were full. So, I drove the short distance to the nearest pub and left the car in their car park. As I was well early I dined in the pub before returning to watch the game. This kicked off 5 minutes early. Luckily, I was back in time to see the start. I would imagine that in summer and with all the trees in leaf, this would be a lovely place to watch football, or cricket of course. Rather like my morning game the pitch sloped both ways. Soon I was joined by the Bovingdon club chairman, who updated me on what is happening in his neck of the woods as regards the Herts Senior County League in which Bovingdon are doing very well. But he was really here to watch his son play, although the body language of his son told me that he wished he wasn’t here. I told the chairman that I used to hate my father trying to get me to play golf better. All I really wanted to do was to give the golf ball a big thump!
Anyway, in an excellent match the hosts took the lead on 16 minutes with a 40 yarder. But Bovingdon were deservedly level from the spot 5 minutes later. Then after the ref came across to check me out at the break, with his body language saying to me ‘are you an assessor if you are taking notes?’, the second half started, now with light rain. I didn’t recognise the Bovingdon lino at this point, but it turned out to be their chairman again, now wearing a baseball hat! On 65 minutes Langleybury took the lead. But this was thrown away after Bovingdon scored on 76 and 79 minutes. But on 81 minutes the hosts made it 3-3 from the spot and then four minutes later the Cricket Club won the match with a stunning 40-yard direct free kick, thereby improving their lowly position in the league and leaving Bovngdon stumped!
contributed on 20/03/17
TT No.43: Brian Buck - Saturday 18th March 2017; St Albans Deaf v Northchurch Baptists; Hertfordshire & Borders Churches League Division 2; Venue: played at the Oxhey Playing Fields, The Pavillion, Green Lane, South Oxhey; Kick-Off: 10.30am; Result: 0-2; Attendance: 1.
I was a tad late for the kick off here as I got stuck in a traffic jam on the A1, but on countback following the half time whistle I reckon that I missed about two minutes. More importantly I reached the pitch just in time to witness the opening goal, which came direct from a corner unless you count the deflection off a defender before the ball entered the net. Then it was time to take in the surrounds. A bloke taking his two dogs for a walk told me that these spacious playing fields used to be part of a golf course and the Pavillion, a pub, was probably the clubhouse. Meanwhile on the pitch the visiting captain was a hard taskmaster and he told his players “Don’t go for more than two minutes without creating a chance.” Try telling that to Mr Wenger at present! But, in reality he was playing so wide up the pitch he was really divorced from the other players, who must have struggled to hear his comments, or even indeed see him! Meanwhile the ref was in apologetic mood, often telling the players that he hadn’t seen an incident or getting his decisions wrong if he had. Nice to see a ref actually admitting to a mistake though! Meanwhile the hosts were struggling to get into the match and their half time team talk was in sign language. Lots of arm waiving here then! In the second-half the hosts did a bit better, but often they were on the end of wrong decisions and at times their frustrations showed. I did have some sympathy for them at times. The game was eventually decided from the spot on 79 minutes after a silly foul and so the Baptists ended up winning by about the right margin. They were a bunch of grafters, but in terms of ability, about the same as their hosts.
contributed on 20/03/17
TT No.42: Keith Aslan – Saturday 18th March 2017; Jarvis Brook v Cowfold; Southern Combination (nee Sussex County) Division 2; Kick-Off: 14.03; Result: 1-0; Admission: Free; Programme: £2; Attendance: 38 (31 home, 0 away & 7 neutral).
Name changes are generally pointless exercises by jobsworths with too much time on their hands. London Transport to Transport for London, what's that all about. Guards - Train Managers, Passengers - Customers, British Rail - Pile of Manure (o.k. I made the last one up). Football embraces the name change culture, with the appropriately monikered Kent League transforming into the Southern Counties East, although why County is pluralized I don't know seeing as all the clubs play in Kent. Today’s action was in the League formerly known as 'Sussex' and whoever came up with the idea of changing it to the Southern Combination needs to take a cold shower.
Jarvis Brook is beautifully situated in the heart of the Southern Combination countryside, a 20-minute walk from Crowborough Station, although I was travelling cross country and got a half hourly bus from outside Tunbridge Wells station which stops marginally closer to the ground. Fully railed with a clubhouse dishing out burgers and bacon rolls over an hour before kick-off. Jarvis have applied for, but not yet received, planning permission for floodlights. I can't see any problem with the nearest house over half a mile from the ground. The programme is as good as you'll see at this level, 16 pages of glossy colour with loads of reading material. They are sponsored by the printers, which helps.
Today the beautiful game was controlled by a matching referee with the magnificent Jessica Storrie adding an extra dimension to the match from a groundhoppers point of view. She even treated us to a proper drop ball. When was the last time you saw one of those? There should have been far more goals in this, tons of scoring opportunities with rubbish finishing mainly, but not exclusively, by the home side. Cowfold even contrived to miss a penalty. Jarvis Brook finally managed their 100th goal of the season on 90 minutes to keep up the heat on leaders Bosham. The goals in this division are somewhat skewed by Ferring. Cowfold are 4th from bottom but with a plus 24 goal difference. Ferring completed their fixtures last week with 28 defeats out of 28 and a goal difference of minus 286. But I salute them, they turned up for every game with a full complement of players, a credit to those running the club. I wish them well.
Lovely club, lovely programme, lovely grub, lovely scenery, lovely referee. This is why I do what I do.
contributed on 19/03/17
TT No.41: Steve Hardy – Saturday 18th March 2017; West Hagley v Old Hill; Birmingham Football League Veterans cup; Kick-Off: 2.30pm; Result: 0-1; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 8
This was a rare opportunity to see a game on the Hagley playing fields in West Hagley, south of Stourbridge. The village used to have a team playing in the Birmingham AFA, but no more. These days they just have their Veterans side playing there, and so a chance to watch the Veterans playing in the Birmingham league veterans cup was too good to miss.
You have to be over 35 to play in the Veterans cup and several players in both sides looked to be well past that birthday! Having never seen a veterans’ game before I didn’t know what to expect really. What I got was a very feisty and tetchy game with much shouting at the Ref, and several very dodgy tackles flying in. Old Hill won it with a goal very early in the game, which they were able to defend fairly comfortably for the rest of the game, although Hagley did hit the bar near the end.
The Hagley Playing Fields are slap bang in the middle of the village. There is a large car park in front of the playing fields, which was packed on my visit, although this could be because the local library is also on the site. The pitch and changing rooms are to the left of the car park and with people walking their dogs around the park, and stopping to take in some of the action before moving on, I averaged the crowd out at just 8 people watching. Those who remained throughout were obviously friends and family of the Hagley players, as they offered vociferous encouragement and advice on how to get back in to the game!
So, another excellent game in one of my favourite leagues, with a long day out ending by 5.30pm as both the M5 and M6 both behaved themselves for a change.
contributed on 20/03/17
TT No.40: Steve Hardy – Saturday 18th March 2017; Zion Athletic v Zion City; West Midlands Christian League Division One; Kick-Off: 10.30am; Result: 6-1; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 4
There are a good few Christian leagues spread around the country providing a good standard of football on a Saturday morning. My local league, the West Midlands Christian league, is one of the better organised ones in my opinion, and today I was off to Wolverley, just outside Kidderminster, to visit my final ground.
The two teams playing are both offshoots of the original Zion Church team from Halesowen. The visitors, Zion City arrived with just ten men and bottom position in the table virtually guaranteed, but they tried hard throughout and never gave up. That said, it was all too easy for Athletic, who strolled to a 3-0 lead by half time. Two more followed early in the second half before City were rewarded for their persistence with an absolute belter of a goal from a very tight angle indeed. Athletic scored one more near the end to round off a comfortable 6-1 win.
The action took place at Brown Westhead Park in Wolverley. This is a multi-pitch job, where umpteen junior games were also taking place, and where several parents had set up small stalls selling hot and cold drinks to the watching spectators.
contributed on 20/03/17
TT No.39: Brian Buck – Saturday 11th March 2017; Bedric’s Worth v Thurston Reserves; St Edmundsbury Football League Division One; Venue: Oakes Road Open Space, Bury St Edmunds; Result: Admission: None; Programme: No; Attendance: approx. 15.
Today I had a bit of a problem. By now Mrs Buck had got fed up with Spurs playing at home on Sundays. Next day would be their third Sunday home game in as many weeks, with a fourth one to follow on the following Sunday. So, I was forced to take her out somewhere today! So, we had a decent meal in a pub in Fornham All Saints and then I dropped her off at St Edmundsbury Cathedral and went off for my daily fix, via a pub close to the ground. The hosts seemed quite pleased to see me and I think they were quite taken aback by the fact that someone should come so far (as they saw it) to watch them play.
Although the ground was in effect in a recreation ground part of it had been fenced off to stop dog walkers, or more specifically their dogs, stop pooing on the pitch. The ground itself is right next to the busy A14, but in order to stop people watching the games here as they drive past a fence has been put up to block up most of the view. Nice to know that this local council can waste money in this way when most councils can’t even attend to the potholes on our busy roads or other more important things. The game was second versus bottom and to be truthful it showed. By the 34th minute the home number 9 had scored a hat-trick and by half time the score was 5-0. For the second half, I was joined by the league secretary and we had a good chat. He told me that the home side used to be called Bartons. He then told me that their current name was the original name for Bury St Edmunds, which began as an Anglo-Saxon settlement called Bedric's Worth. Worth was a Saxon word meaning an enclosure such as a farm or hamlet surrounded by a stockade. Probably why they put up this ridiculous fencing then! Meanwhile on the pitch the hosts continued to go about their business and inflicted a painless hammering of their easily submissive opponents who surrendered without any friction. I then picked up Mrs Buck and unusually for a Saturday I got home just as the football results were being read out on the telly!
contributed on 13/03/17
TT No.38: Steve Hardy – Saturday 11th March 2017; Govan Athletic v Breightmet United; Manchester Football League Division One; Result: 1-0; Free admission and no programme; Attendance: 4.
This match took place at the Platt Lane Complex in Fallowfield, Manchester. This address may seem familiar to some of you, and that is because it is the former home of the Manchester City Academy. Once the new Academy was built opposite the Etihad Stadium, City sold this facility to Manchester Metropolitan University, who in turn, are letting the office space to the Manchester FA to use as their headquarters. Facilities-wise, there are 2 outside floodlit 3G pitches, and an excellent looking fully railed off grass pitch to choose from, whilst inside there is another 3G pitch and several gym areas as well.
The two outdoor 3G pitches seem to be used regularly by Manchester league sides Gregorians and Govan Athletic, although there is also a sign for the Manchester Titans American Football team on the pitch I visited today. My match featured third bottom Govan Athletic against 4th bottom Breightmet United. An eager crowd of 4 watched this one, and with both teams desperate for points, a good spectacle was served up. Govan won it with a goal on 30 minutes, and it was refreshing to see very little swearing and abuse directed at the Referee, which, sadly, is pretty common in this league.
The ground was reached by catching the 111 bus from Piccadilly Gardens bus station, which stops, conveniently, right outside the ground entrance. Another tiring, but excellent day out.
contributed on 12/03/17
TT No.37: Keith Aslan – Saturday 4th March 2017; Stockton Town v Billingham Town; Northern League Division 2; Kick-Off: 15.00; Result: 4-0; Admission: £5; Programme: £1; Attendance: 352 (230 home, 58 away & 64 neutral)
Congratulations go to Denaby United for announcing on their excellent website on Friday evening the postponement of Saturday’s match due to rain, thus saving me, and others, a whole heap of pain and distress the next day. A quick flick through 'The Traveller' and I'd found a bespoke plan B at Stockton's new ground whose plastic surface is joyfully impervious to the ravages of H2O.
Darlington to Stockton is the oldest passenger railway in the world and began running in 1825. Seven days a week, no weekend rail replacement landau's back then. Also of note is the line goes through the least used station on the rail network. Teeside Airport racked up 28 passengers (customers) last year from its two trains a week. Seeing its location makes you wonder what the 28 were doing there!
Stockton's ground is a 20-minute walk from the station and about 100 yards away from their previous abode. It's the same clubhouse, a thriving affair with full meals and lunchtime football. This looks to be the number one nightspot in Stockton, although I wouldn't imagine the competition is particularly robust.
The ground is exactly what you would expect, an Atcost stand and the foundations for another one adjacent which will contain seats, but no sign of any sitting down material at present. The tea-bar has pies, and to the traveller who reported there was no hot food I suggest you get there a bit earlier mate. The whole ensemble was surrounded of course by a green mesh fence, apparently compulsory if you've got a synthetic pitch. The large crowd was bolstered by a substantial away following from one station up the line, plus refugees from many of the local postponements. Incidentally, my headcount was 352 while the official attendance was 355. Maybe 3 people were in the toilet when I did mine! Before their elevation, Stockton won the Wearside League, and almost everything else, for the past 4 years, but until now the lack of a decent ground has halted progress. Undaunted by the step up to the Northern League todays win saw them go top, above Team Northumbria on goal difference.
That's the Northern League wrapped up again for me, at least for the next few months, but something I've noticed on my visits is that the games all kick off at the advertised times and I don't recall any late starts. It can't be coincidence and I assume the league insist on punctuality. Perhaps other leagues could follow suit?
contributed on 05/03/17
TT No.36: Keith Aslan – Saturday 25th February 2017; Balti Sports v Holt United; Dorset Premier League; Kick-Off: 14.01; Result: 0-1; Admission: £3.50p; Programme: 50p; Attendance: 63 (46 home, 14 away & 3 neutral)
It's the time of the season when the discerning groundhopper looks for a game with 'something on it'. While my name and 'discernment' won't be appearing in the same sentence any time soon, the chance to refinish the Dorset Premier League with a top v second clash was too good to miss. It's tight at the top with Balti 7 points clear but Holt having 4 games in hand. High speed line to London was shut, as was the bit between Southampton and Bournemouth, and while I won't dwell on my journey, let’s just say that any political party will get my vote that promises to bring back the death penalty for the evil slime that shut the railway network down every weekend.
Weymouth has always been one of my favourite seaside towns and I spent a carefree couple of hours wandering around. Anyone who laid out a few quid on me appearing on live CCTV in Greggs eating a pre-match pie should collect their winnings. The famous sand sculptures need a bit of renovation after Thursdays visit from 'Doris' with the view along the 'Jurassic Coast' never failing to inspire. Like me I expect you always wondered why nearly all of England's dinosaurs used to hang out in Dorset. Maybe they liked Weymouth as well.
The ground is a 20- minute walk to the north of the town at Weymouth College/leisure centre. Weymouth Sports used to play here, but not when I saw them play. Fully enclosed with a small stand which did its job when the predicted rain arrived. The pay hut doubles as a refreshment kiosk with hot dogs on the menu. Inside the leisure centre there is a hot drinks machine and a room where you can sit and watch the football previews on Sky Sports. This is next to the changing rooms which are a fair distance from the pitch so the teams don't go off at half time enabling a prompt finish. Even Stevens in the first half, Holt had the better of the second when they deservedly scored the only goal of an entertaining match to make them favourites for the title. A fellow hopper remarked that more supporters appeared to have travelled to this one than were at the Holt home game he attended a few years back. Glory hunters eh?
I have a great idea for a new TV series. Fronted by Chris Tarrant or Michael Palin it would be called "Great Rail Replacement Bus Journeys of the U.K." The ride from Bournemouth to Southampton must be included with the splendour of the A31 coupled with the haunting beauty of the M27 by moonlight, the experience enhanced by sharing it with a bus full of passengers not knowing if they were ever going to see their families again this weekend. Strangely, when we get thrown out of the train and onto a bus we undergo a transformation from 'customers' to 'passengers'. This is the magic of 21st century rail travel in the world’s 5th. largest economy!
contributed on 26/02/17
TT No.35: Steve Hardy – Saturday 25th February 2017; Awsworth Villa v Sandiacre Town; Notts Senior League Premier Division; Venue: Kimberley Leisure Centre: 3G; Result: 1-0; Admission with Programme: Free; Attendance: 46.
The attraction of this match was the venue. Very sensibly, Awsworth had planned on beating storm Dottie by moving the game to a 3G pitch at a leisure centre in Kimberley, some 3 miles from their normal ground. Several other hoppers had obviously spotted this opportunity as I reckon hoppers made up two thirds of the crowd of 46.
The venue is just another 3G pitch in a cage. Spectators were welcome inside the cage though, and I reckon the club missed a trick by not charging anything for their excellent programme. Even at £1 a time they could have gone some way to paying the fees of the 3 officials. That said, I don’t think Awsworth had anticipated the large influx of hoppers and the few programmes they printed were all gone long before kick-off. Watching grown men crying is awful!
The match itself was very good I thought. Awsworth are challenging for the title, but came up against a very spirited Sandiacre team who belied their lowly league position with lightening quick breaks. An end to end first half ended goalless, with Awsworth eventually scoring the winner in the second half to break the Sandiacre resistance.
Top marks to Awsworth for their enterprise in getting this match played. Another very friendly club too, and a pleasure to visit.
contributed on 26/02/17
TT No.34: Steve Hardy – Saturday 18th February 2017; Phoenix v Retford; Central Midlands League - North Division; Result: 4-2; Kick-Off: 2.00pm; Admission: £2; Programme: £1; Attendance: 7.
Brinsworth-based Phoenix play at a vast complex of the same name in Bawtry Road, Brinsworth. Surrounding the enormous social club are a cricket square, a golf course, three other football pitches and an enclosed ground for Phoenix FC. The CML is at step 7 in the non-league pyramid, and, as such, ground requirements are fairly relaxed. Phoenix have a railed off pitch and a small covered standing area to keep the rain off spectators and that is about it really. To be fair though, with a crowd of just 7 today and, most of them from Retford, the facilities more than adequate.
The match itself was pretty even in the first half as Retford took the lead, went 2-1 down, and then equalised again just before the break. Phoenix took control in the second half though and thoroughly deserved their two further goals and a 4-2 victory.
Quite what the future holds for clubs like Phoenix is uncertain. With both Rotherham United FC and Parkgate FC away today, they were the only Senior club at home in the area, and still only attracted a handful of locals to watch them. The social club was packed, of course, with people watching football on the telly, and there were actually more people watching a local match on one of the outside pitches, than there were at Phoenix. Great shame in my opinion, and it must be heart-breaking to all the volunteers who keep clubs like Phoenix going.
contributed on 20/02/17
TT No.33: Steve Hardy – Saturday 18th February 2017; Rotherham United U18 v Hartlepool United U18; Football League Youth Alliance - North West Division played at Parkgate FC; Result: 3-1; Kick-Off: 11.00am; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 30.
Rotherham United’s current base for their youth team is the Roundwood Sports Complex in Rawmarsh. Here they have two pitches sandwiched between the Roundwood golf course, and Parkgate FC of the Northern Counties East League. I went to the match thinking I would be watching on one of the outside pitches, but to my delight I found it had been switched to the main pitch at Parkgate FC.
My headcount of the crowd reached 30, and included a good few who had travelled down from the north east. Their reward was a pretty insipid performance from their team who looked very shaky in defence and non-existent in attack. Rotherham strolled to a 2-0 half time lead and added a penalty after the break to lead 3-0. A small resurgence from Hartlepool near the end brought a consolation that, frankly, they barely deserved.
A tea bar was up and running throughout and it proved most welcome to us punters on a none too warm morning in Rotherham. It was then a four-mile drive to match two, which was at the Phoenix Sports & Social Club.
contributed on 20/02/17
TT No.32: Keith Aslan – Saturday 18th February 2017; Tideswell United v Harworth Colliery; Central Midlands North; Kick-Off: 14.59; Result: 2-0; Admission: £2; Programme: £1; Attendance: 36 (27 home, 8 away & 1 neutral)
Central Midlands League newcomers Tideswell are based in the picture postcard village of the same name in the heart of the Peak District National Park with the journey going through some of the most magnificent scenery in the country. The branch line from Stockport to Buxton is pretty impressive but the bus ride from outside the station takes your breath away. The route was lined with backpackers and hikers enjoying the warm February sunshine. The war memorial in the village square has 46 names on it with 3 members of one family perishing in battle. The contrast between life in this sleepy village and the trenches must have been horrific.
As village grounds go they don't come much better than this one, fully enclosed and railed, a covered stand, part seated, and floodlights. What sets it apart is a high grass bank behind one of the goals, steps taking you up with a rail along the full length of the top to lean on making a superb viewpoint to watch the game. Hot drinks and sweeties were available from the changing room complex.
The game was typical Central Midlands fare with the outcome in doubt right up to the end with Tideswell scoring their second goal in the 93rd of the 90 minutes. The second half was enlivened when a Harworth player got confused with football and taekwondo, a mistake that saw his early exit and precipitated the most half-hearted mass brawl you'll ever see. Come on lads, you can do better than that. With the sun beating down and perfect visibility for some inexplicable reason the floodlights were turned on at half time, very strange. I can't believe it was at the referee’s request.
To catch my train from Buxton meant the bus had to be on time. It was, but nothing is that simple, and the road to the station was closed due to 'maintenance' with the enforced diversion putting the kybosh on my connection. I assume the bloke who shuts the railways down every weekend had a bit of spare time on his hands and decided to have a bit of fun by closing a few roads as well. Rather than wait an hour for the train I spent next week’s food money on a bus across to Macclesfield. This one went over the mountains, unfortunately it was dark, not that I would have seen much anyway as the road was enveloped in a thick mist. This, according to the AA, is the most dangerous stretch of road in the U.K. and I'm not surprised. I'm glad I wasn't driving the bus. My 'Virgin' train was 18 minutes late leaving Macclesfield. Nice one Richard.
contributed on 19/02/17
TT No.31: Keith Aslan – Saturday 11th February 2017; Melksham Town v Clevedon Town; Western League Premier Division; Kick-Off: 15.03; Result 6-0; Admission: £5; Programme: £1; Attendance: 151 (129 home, 12 away & 10 neutral - quite a few more watched from the bar but I've not counted them as that's cheating!).
Woke up this morning to find Kent covered in a millimetre of snow which was the excuse for a vast tranche of p-p's round these parts. Considering it's a winter game a lot of people don't seem to want to play football in the winter! So, it was 'go west old man' for me and a trip to Melksham's new ground. A bit of a slog by public transport. The station has a two-hourly service which doesn't fit in after the football, neither do the hourly bus services back to Chippenham. Plus, the train journey is the easy bit, it's a 50-minute walk from the station mostly through an endless housing estate and I felt the will to live ebbing away long before I reached the ground.
Good setup, Atcost stand on the far side, nearside is a large grandstand with bar and changing rooms, a la Slough but this one's finished. Full meals available in the bar, lunchtime footy on the big screen, nice vibe all round. You get a good view of the pitch from inside which a large number of wimps chose to take advantage of. I lost count of the number of people I heard complaining of how cold it was. In February. Who'd have thought it? Plenty of officials in evidence to keep the club going, all very friendly, but given it's a new ground, where were all the stewards? The programme was a good read and contained something I've never seen before, the players’ wages. Everyone is on the same money (allegedly), £40 per. match including the subs. A nice little earner and I wonder how this compares with the rest of the league. While Melksham can afford to dole out £560 a game I doubt a lot of other clubs at this level can. Their playing record is pretty impressive, the last 13 games have produced 11 wins and two draws and Melksham's overall tally of 62 points from 26 games would see them heading most leagues. Strangely, with clubs having played the same amount of games, they are only fourth, 10 points behind the leaders Bristol Manor Farm.
Clevedon are mid table but today just wasn't their day. After 20 minutes, they were down to ten men with a very contentious sending off (this is the third home game in the last four that the opposition has had a man sent off) The small bunch of vociferous Clevedon fans were not happy and I don't blame them. Then just after the half hour their goalkeeper collapsed in a heap with no one near him and had to be taken off. One of the subs. was the reluctant recipient of the No. 1 jersey, somewhat strangely he was about the smallest man on the field, and let’s just say this wasn't his best position.
I got a lift back to Chippenham after the game from a fellow hopper (although there was a price to pay) and I arrived back at my now snowless Broadstairs dacha 2 hours earlier than anticipated. It wasn't only Melksham who got a result today.
contributed on 12/02/17
TT No.30: Steve Hardy – Saturday 4th February 2017; Staffordshire Moorlands v Congleton Rovers; Staffordshire County League Division Two North; Result: 2-3; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 10 H/C
Staffordshire Moorlands are a new team in the Staffs County league for this season, and they are based on the outskirts of Leek on some playing fields in the shadow of the massive Britannia Building Society headquarters. The Birchall Playing fields consist of a large changing room block, four full size football pitches and a couple of junior size pitches. Upon arrival, there were no nets up on any of the pitches near the changing rooms, and I did wonder if the game was still on. It turned out that the pitch they normally use was waterlogged, so they had transferred to one that was at the far end of the complex.
On the pitch, the visitors had been on the receiving end of several thrashings in recent weeks, but were much the better side today. They coasted to a 2-0 half time, helped by a rather dodgy performance from the home keeper, and I fully expected them to bag a few more in the second half. How wrong I was though, as Moorlands gave a much better account of themselves to score almost from the start, and then equalised on 75 minutes. It was end to end stuff after that until in the dying minutes, Congleton snatched a deserved winner.
So, the league is competed for another year for me, and I can only hope the committee sort out their civil war and start thinking about the clubs and spectators for a change, instead of their own egos.
contributed on 05/02/17
TT No.29: Keith Aslan – Saturday 4th February 2017; Melton Town v Stewarts & Lloyd Corby; United Counties League Division One; Kick-Off: 15.03; Result: 4-1; Admission and Programme: £5; Attendance: 42 (36 home, 5 away & 1 neutral)
Another easy one by public transport with no maps required. Out of Melton Mowbray station, up to the main road, turn right, keep going, and the Melton Sports Village is on your left after a 23-minute walk. For the infirm and inert there are plenty of bus's. Whatever your sporting favourite it is catered for here. My travels have made me a bit of a connoisseur of hockey but the match going on today didn't have the same magic as usual which might have been because it was a men's game! Pre. match staging post was the Rugby Club bar, adjacent to the ground, with a wide selection of cheap comestibles. If I was religious I would imagine this is what heaven is like, stuffing my face, quaffing the amber nectar and watching Chelsea demolish Arsenal on a big screen. Such joy.
I liked 'Digital Deadline Park' (yes that's really what it's called), although everything is temporary it is all pleasing to the eye. The portacabin changing rooms are made to look like wood, at least I assume they are, I can't believe they actually make them from trees these days. Next along is a nice-looking stand behind the goal. Given that it is only covered by a sheet of canvas and open on all four sides, unless the rain is falling vertically you would have to choose your seat to avoid a soaking, not a problem today. Then there's the tea bar with hot pies and finally the piece de resistance, the 'hospitality suite' situated in an old electricity generating cabin that still has the yellow warning notice on the door 'Danger electric shock' The playing surface was equally suited to crown green bowls and the secretary must have wondered who the dolt was who phoned her up the previous evening to ask if the pitch was going to be o.k. I quote from the programme "Plans are in place to have a purpose built 1000 capacity stadium ready for the 2018/9 season" In my experience the words 'plans are in place' normally means they aren't, and I assume the new facility is needed for step five and the daffy ground grading rules. I hope if they ever do move the current ground is put to good use. Incidentally you could comfortably get a thousand into Melton's present abode, although I expect our old friends Mr. Health and Mr. Safety might disagree.
Melton are happily pottering along mid table while Stewart & Lloyds have usurped Woodford United from their traditional bottom spot. On the balance of play the away side certainly weren't three goals worse this afternoon and I was very impressed with their performance considering most of the team looked like the target audience for CBBC. Or maybe I'm just getting old?
contributed on 06/02/17
TT No.28: Steve Hardy – Saturday 28th January 2017; Market Rasen Town v Ruston Sports; Lincolnshire League; Result: 0-0; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 11.
A weekend break in Lincoln and a number 53 bus, gave me the opportunity to make my debut in the Lincolnshire league with a visit to the pretty town of Market Rasen. No problems with the weather here, and the club obviously found it strange that I would even bother to ring them, before getting on my bus, to make sure the game was still on.
The club share their Rase Park base with the local cricket club, and it was good to see that the two clubs have joined together in a fund-raising exercise which will provide better facilities for both of them to use. At present, the football team play on a roped off pitch on the far side of Rase Park, which has a very impressive stand down one side, and change in the communal clubhouse on the other side of the cricket square. The bar was open throughout in the clubhouse, and tea and coffee was also available.
On the pitch, it was third bottom v second bottom and, to be honest, the game had 0-0 written all over it from about the 10th minute. Even when Ruston were awarded a very dodgy penalty early in the second half, you just knew it would either be saved or blazed over the bar. It was the former!
The Lincolnshire league are trying to attain step 7 status. There are four reserve sides in the 16 member clubs, and several clubs that have already played at step seven over the years, eg. Lincoln Moorlands Railway and Nettleham. On the basis of my visit to Market Rasen, they would seem to have a pretty strong case, and I wish them luck in their quest.
contributed on 29/01/17
TT No.27: Keith Aslan – Saturday 28th January 2017; Barnetby United v Brumby; EC Surfacing Shield Semi-Final; Kick-Off: 13.28; Result: 1-4; Admission & Programme: Free; Attendance: 18 (16 home, 1 away & 1 neutral)
An early start for this one, and while it takes me a bit of time to get going these days, once I'd had the breakfast deal in Doncaster 'Greggs' (a revisit), I was good to take on whatever the world could throw at me which today was just a whole heap of pleasure. Barnetby is a village twixt Scunthorpe and Grimsby in the middle of the Lincolnshire Fens. Given the size of the place and its remote location it has a superb rail service leaving from the station’s four platforms. As well as the hourly Trans-Pennine expresses to Doncaster, Sheffield and Manchester there are trains to Lincoln, Newark and Retford. These are needed to supplement the two buses a day that serve the place. Everything here is where you would want it to be, the pub is a 15 SECOND walk from the station, with the convenience store and chippie both at the end of the road that leads to the football ground. The chippie is inventively called 'ASalt and Battery'. If there is anything else in Barnetby it passed me by.
Lee Fielden is Mr. Barnetby. Played for the team since 1993 (under 16's), he became manager at 22 in 2001. He is also Secretary, groundsman and programme editor. He makes travellers very welcome and took time out to talk to me in spite of his managerial duties. While the Scunthorpe and District League is some way outside of my area of expertise I'm willing to stick my neck out and say this is the only club that issue programmes and badges. On Friday night Lee took my number and promised to phone if the predicted precipitation produced pitch problems which it didn't although the game took place on a gooey surface and some referees don't think you should play football in mud! The ground is pretty much what you would expect at this level with the addition of a new changing room block, built two years ago, from landfill, whatever that means. The name Barnetby United is proudly emblazoned across the entrance.
The E.C. Surfacing Shield (Lee's employers) is one of the many knock-out competitions round these parts used to supplement a somewhat meagre fixture list. Brumby are top of the league and unbeaten, they whipped Barnetby 6-0 a fortnight ago in the 'Hospital Cup' so hopes of a victory today weren't high. The home side were still in it, deep into the second half, but in the end Brumby were just too good. One surprise was that the game had two kosher linesmen, not something you get for a league match. With the 1.30 kick off finishing at 9 minutes past 3 this must be one of the few referees that actually has a home to go to! I don't know what level the Scunthorpe and District League is, but the standard of football didn't seem very different from a lot of games I watch.
On the way home, the train passed Scunthorpe's new ground with the game still going on and looking refulgent with beaming floodlights. I well recall excitedly doing the ground opener here thinking this was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to do a new league ground. Even I occasionally get it wrong.
contributed on 29/01/17
TT No.26: Steve Hardy – Saturday 21st January 2017; Staffordshire LA v Foley Meir; Staffordshire County League Division One; Result: 0-8; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 1 H/C
Another week, another 3G pitch. This one was by choice however, and not because everything in the area had been postponed and plastic was all that was left.
Staffordshire LA (LA is short for Longton Area) have moved just recently to Dimensions Leisure Centre in Burslem, Stoke on Trent. The 3G pitch is just behind the Port Vale FC ground, as one of my photographs hopefully shows. You would never know about this move by reading the league web site though, as no venues or kick off times are ever shown for any of their fixtures.
When I read about this new base for Staffordshire LA, I had assumed it would be just a one-off use of the ground to ensure the game actually got played, but talking to one of their players I was told the move is now permanent. Therefore, another ground to be visited in my attempts to complete the league!
On the pitch, it was as one sided as the score-line suggests. Foley Meir were absolutely terrific, and had their speedy number nine got the hang of staying onside, they would surely have reached double figures. 3-0 at half time, with five more coming at regular intervals in the second half. LA had their moments, but really didn’t look like scoring throughout.
Splendid entertainment on the top of one of Stoke’s highest points, where it was absolutely freezing. I swear Burslem was a good 10 degrees colder than the rest of Stoke!
contributed on 23/01/17
TT No.25: Keith Aslan – Saturday 21st January 2017; SLOUGH TOWN v Chippenham Town; Southern League Premier Division; Kick-Off: 15.02; Result: 0-1; Admission: £10; Programme: £2; Official Attendance: 753
A second visit in three months to Buckinghamshire's premier tourist hotspot, this time to see how Slough are settling into their new accommodation. Prior to the game, I had a look at their old 'new' ground. Still there, derelict of course but stands and floodlights remain in situ. Apparently, the owner of the land died, his son took over and immediately threw the club off so he could build houses on it. The council said they would never give planning permission for anything other than recreational facilities so instead of getting a regular rent he's left with a useless piece of land. Like Aylesbury and Kettering's now dilapidated former homes it's all such a waste. This is third home ground I have seen Slough on, I first saw them at Stan Bowles's spiritual home, the Dolphin Greyhound Stadium (long gone), where they played for fifty years. If memory serves me correctly (and these days it doesn't always) it was 1970, a pulsating 3-3 draw in the FA Cup against Hillingdon Borough with the nigh on 4,000 crowd treated to the silky skills of Micky Droy among others. These were good times.
'Arbour Park' is easy by public transport, being a 15 stroll from the station, you don't even need a map. Leave by the back entrance, up to the main road, turn right and just keep going. A multitude of 'no parking' cones would suggest you won't get much closer to the ground in a car. While not a particular fan of new builds, I quite liked this one, six tiers of covered terracing behind each goal, a stand on the far side and on the nearside are the changing rooms and a very impressive grandstand, or it will be when it's finished! (April apparently). I spent the time waiting for kick off happily grazing on cheese and onion rolls in the welcoming bar cum tea room. There are benches and tables outside, ideal for a warm day which this wasn't. There must have been well over a hundred neutrals at this one, the expected configuration of hoppers was supplemented with a plethora of refugees from postponed fixtures. Like all new grounds, (apart from A.F.C. Flyde where they were actually needed) the place was overwhelmed with stewards. Why do new grounds need all these people, but not old ones? I think 'health & safety gone mad' covers it.
Slough are currently in freefall, top in December, this defeat, their third in succession takes them down to 6th, with Chippenham moving up to second. Mind you, if I was a fan I'd just be happy they were on their own ground playing back in Slough. The results can come later.
contributed on 22/01/17
TT No.24: Steve Hardy – Saturday 14th January 2017; Team Dudley v Wem Town; West Midlands Regional League Division One; Result: 1-3; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 25 H/C.
Team Dudley are the adult team of Dudley College, and after years of playing at Dudley Town’s Dell Stadium, Team Dudley finally have their own ground. Today was the first WMRL match to be played at the new venue, although I understand several Dudley College fixtures have already been played there.
The new set up is a floodlit 3G pitch inside a cage, on Priory Road in Dudley. There are no spectator comforts at all, although you are allowed inside the cage to stand in a designated area near the entrance to the pitch. There is a dressing room block outside the cage along one side, from which free tea and biscuits were available, and that is about it really.
On the pitch, Wem Town were the visitors, and I doubt they could have had an easier afternoon if they had tried. They sauntered to a 2-0 half time lead, made it 3-0 midway through the second half, before relaxing and allowing Team Dudley a late consolation. TD now find themselves at the foot of the table with two other clubs, with some hard work to be put in if they are to avoid relegation.
On a day when wet weather caused a good few postponements, this match was always going to be a safe bet to go ahead. The crowd of just 25 was about average for TD, with the split being even between Wem fans, groundhoppers and TD family and friends.
contributed on 23/01/17
TT No.23: Keith Aslan - Saturday 14th January 2017; Freeland v Hook Norton; Oxfordshire Senior Cup; Kick-Off: 13.30; Result: 1-2; Admission: Free; Programme: £1; Attendance: 103 (68 home, 27 away & 8 neutral)
My first choice of match was postponed on Friday morning. As my train sped through the Dartford hinterland on its way to the metropolis, the conditions were ideal for football and I presume that the Fleetdown match was called off so early because if they'd left it any later there was a very real danger of the pitch being perfectly playable. More on dodgy postponements anon.
Plan B was Freeland’s big day, an Oxfordshire senior cup tie with Hellenic Div. 1 leaders Hook Norton. A day of firsts: first time the home club have reached the quarter final of the competition, first programme, and the first three figure crowd in living memory. Handborough is the railhead for this one, with a door to door hourly bus service. There is a bus museum adjacent to the station which I would have liked to visit had it been open. I chose to walk the two and a bit miles to the ground because my doctor says walking is good for my knees. I'm not so sure. Didn't really have the chance to find out as half way along Handborough High Street (which goes on for ever) a fellow hopper stopped to give me a lift which was nice as usually they just wave to me as they speed past. The ground is in the centre of Freeland, opposite the only pub. in the village where I partook of a splendid steak dinner. Not cheap but well worth the money. Teas and coffees were available at the ground with accompanying free biscuits. Having quite a few programmes left over nobody could understand why someone didn't go around the crowd selling them, the club would have made a few bob.
Freeland gave a good account of themselves, and although 2-0 down at the break, the second was from a highly dubious penalty. They pulled a goal back 10 minutes from time and the game then got a bit frisky with the Oxford Senior League team going for an equalizer and Hook Norton delaying the game at every opportunity. At the final whistle time-wasting had won the day, but Freeland can be well satisfied with their afternoon.
Dodgy postponements part 2. North Leigh's ground is barely a mile from Freeland and their Southern League match with Yate was off due to a 'frozen pitch' Oh no it wasn't. There was a thin frost in the area early Friday morning which had disappeared by lunchtime and the temperature never went below +2 all night with Saturday morning checking in at a balmy 7 degrees. I assume this was another very early Friday morning call off. All a bit naughty really.
contributed on 15/01/17
TT No.22: Keith Aslan – Sat 7th January 2017; Bildeston Rangers v Haughley United; Suffolk & Ipswich League Bob Coleman Cup 3rd Round; Kick-Off: 13.33; Result: 0-7; Admission & Programme: Free; Attendance: 36 (18 home, 10 away & 8 neutral).
It's cup weekend so congratulations go to Manchester United for their 55th consecutive live televised FA Cup match, a magnificent record stretching back to January 2005 and proof of the old adage (at least as far as the TV companies are concerned) that you can't have too much of a bad thing. Saturday lunchtime, a Man. United X1 at home to Reading, and to think some people say the cup has lost its romance! It's knock out action for me as well but of the more prosaic 'Bob Coleman' variety, a competition at least clubs actually want to win and put out their strongest sides.
Bildeston is a delightful village in the middle of the glorious Suffolk countryside, the sort of place I would not have heard of, never mind visit, if it wasn't for this wonderful hobby. Two intrepid hoppers did this one by public transport, there is a bus back to Ipswich at 16.44, but a taxi is required to get here unless you arrive at 9.30 in the morning. I am once again indebted to the now sadly Ben-less Len for a lift from Stowmarket, the nearest railhead. Pre-match refreshments were enjoyed at the 'Kings Head' in the village centre in which we were immediately identified by one football savvy drinker as "Grasshoppers" Close! A pub that has a notice reading 'Any unattended children will be sold as slaves' is o.k. in my book. The ground is almost a mile outside the village down a narrow track and is in the proverbial 'middle of nowhere' with not a house to be seen. It has a changing room block built in 1998 which contains a kitchen which alas wasn't in use today. Standing outside the building offers a raised view of the match and the surrounding countryside. If top of the range facilities like dugouts and a rope are your bag then this ground won't be for you, but for a scenic backdrop to a match you won't find many places to rival Bildeston. Not usual issuers they produced a programme today in honour of their illustrious (everything is relative) opponents.
Haughley, from two divisions higher, cruised to an expected victory, but Bildeston kept going 'till the end and were unfortunate that the one 'goal' they did score was chalked off as it entered through a hole in the net requiring lengthy surgery to repair. While referees are usually responsible for late starts, the man in black was innocent over this one with Haughley refusing to come out of the changing room and totally ignoring the refs. increasing loud banging. Given the changing room doors only open outwards there isn't much else Toby Cousins could have done other than to get an axe and enact the poster for "The Shining". It would be nice for the league to take some action against the tardy miscreants but of course they won't. Punctuality seems to be a thing of the past.
At the risk of repeating myself, what a wonderful way to spend a Saturday.
contributed on 08/01/17
TT No.21: Steve Hardy – Sat 7th January 2017; Leicester Nirvava v Sleaford Town; United Counties League Premier Division; Result: 3-1; Admission: £3; Programme: £1 (an excellent effort); Attendance: 47.
After 30 years of waiting, Leicester Nirvana finally have a ground of their own and today, I was able to visit them for their first Saturday game at their new home. I went by train to Leicester and then caught the number 58 bus from the bus station to within a hundred yards of Hamilton Park.
I really like the new set up, and the people running the club were lovely. There were loads of hoppers in the crowd of 47, and it was disappointing to hear some of them moaning about the ground being so basic, the pitch being in a poor state, and the programmes not arriving until 2.15pm. My view is that the club are not spending money recklessly, and will add more facilities as the money becomes available. As it is, it is more than adequate for the crowds they are getting now, and they are to be congratulated on finally getting a ground of their own without overspending.
On the pitch, Nirvana looked really impressive going forward, and not so in defence. This was summed up by a lightning fast break for a super opener, being cancelled out straight away by some comical defending which allowed a Sleaford forward to simply chest the ball in to an empty net. Nirvana pressed on again though, and took the lead again just before half time.
After half time the expected response from Sleaford just didn’t happen. They have been on a good run of form lately, but just didn’t seem to be able to get going. Ultimately, Nirvana scored a very late third, despite being reduced to 10 men after 70 minutes.
Back at Birmingham New Street as I sat waiting for my connection, the platform was filled by Newcastle fans going home after their game at Birmingham. Strangely most of them got on to a train for Bournemouth, so perhaps it isn’t just Man U who have thousands of southern based fans!
contributed on 08/01/17
TT No.20: Keith Aslan – Sat 31st December; Old Wulfrunians v Wyrley; West Midlands League Division 1; Kick-Off: 12.02; Result: 4-1; Admission: Free: Programme: £2; Attendance: 52 (22 home, 3 away & 27 neutral)
For the second successive Saturday groundhoppers outnumbered locals at my chosen game. As at Stokenchurch seven days ago, Old Wulfrunians were all geared up for the influx (infestation?) of itinerants and extra programmes were printed. The game attracted many big hitters of the groundhopping fraternity with representatives of Felixstowe, Cheltenham and Stockport among the crowd. For pedestrians, the ground is a 200-yard walk through the trees from A.F.C. Wulfrunians, but nearer half a mile by road. It is a completely separate complex and not as one person disparagingly put it, an outside pitch. There is a welcoming clubhouse which also serves hot drinks but no food today and half time entertainment was provided by a big screen showing the Celtic Rangers match. The ground is fully enclosed, railed on two sides with an interesting brick built stand, double sided which formed another stand facing an adjacent pitch. In a previous life this structure used to be dugouts, but it is still large enough to keep all of Old Wulfrunians’ average crowd sheltered. Getting here is easy with the no. 3 bus running from Wolverhampton City centre (not the bus station) every 15 minutes to the Castlecroft terminus which is opposite the entrance to A.F.C. and a 6-minute walk from their neighbours ground.
Although I read the club history in the programme I am still none the wiser with Old Wulfrunians, formed in 1922, joining the West Midlands league in 2005 as A.F.C. Wulfrunians, while continuing in a lower league under their previous name? And why does one club play in the Midland Combination and the other in the West Midlands League when they are only a couple of hundred yards apart. You would need Sherlock Holmes to sort this one out. Whatever the set-up is, it seems to be working for both clubs.
The middle of the table clash at Old Wulfrunians was a comfortable win for the home side, they were set on their way with a deflection that will need to be referred to the West Midlands League dubious goals panel as to whether it was an own goal or not. The answer to this was very important to some of the hoppers present. Not me. A.F.C. were also home today with a noon(ish) kick off and the driver of the bus back into town didn't know what had hit him with two games turning out their comparatively large crowds simultaneously. Virgin Trains must have surprised even themselves by running their trains as per. the timetable and I was back in the Las Vegas of Kent in plenty of time to go out partying. Only problem was, like every other New Year’s Eve, I wasn't invited to one.
contributed on 01/01/17
TT No.19: Keith Aslan – Sat 24th December; Stokenchurch v Henley Town Reserves; Hellenic Division 2 East; Kick-Off: 14.00; Result: 4-1; Admission: Free; Programme: £2; Attendance: 86 (12 home, 5 away & 69 neutral).
It's December the 24th, a date everybody knows means one thing, yes, it's former Labour supremo Ed Milibands birthday. Am I the only one who has a chuckle when people say Jeremy Corbin is unelectable. You mean Ed was! Of less import, December 24th is also Christmas Eve, and when it falls on a Saturday, I usually have my work cut out finding my weekend football fix. I recall in the early seventies, with nothing else on at all, Wealdstone hastily arranged a Southern League Cup 2nd replay against Hillingdon Borough on Christmas Eve morning. They didn't issue for it which has left me with a permanent hatred for the club. Always remember a grudge is for life, not just Christmas. I like to think that losing their ground was Gods punishment for not even bothering to do a team sheet that morning. Christmas Eve 2016 produced just one match in the South East with Stokenchurch the place to be for me and 68 like-minded souls. Not usual issuers, the club was all geared up for the hurricane of hoppers and made a few bob by producing a programme. Due to the holidays the adjacent village hall was unavailable to serve the refreshments otherwise the club would have made enough money to keep them going 'till the end of the season.
Stokenchurch has a 60-minute bus service from High Wycombe Bus Station with the return, perfectly timed for football, on the hour. I was struck by how few people were travelling on Christmas Eve with particularly my train from the Thanet outback being far emptier than for a normal Saturday. Stokenchurch has everything you could want from a village, a chippie, a café and three pubs. A large group of us camped in the nearest inn to the ground which unusually was run by Gurkhas. A sociable gathering with everyone buying me Christmas drinks. (o.k. I made the last bit up). The manager/secretary/programme editor actually came around the pub selling the programmes. Now that's what I call service.
As you would expect from this level the pitch has a rope and that's about it. Stokenchurch won the division last season but couldn't go up due to their (lack of) facilities. Floodlights, hard standing, covered seating, fixed rail. These are all things a village club with an average attendance in single figures really needs. Perish the thought that they should ever get promoted just because of their footballing ability. This season they are mid table with the visitors only off the bottom spot on goal difference. The 'church scored first with a sumptuous free kick, 1-1 at half time but the home side eased to victory in the second half. The match was a personal triumph for Steve Park, Stokenchurch's no. 9, who scored all their goals.
Henley are nicknamed 'The Red Kites' and throughout the match a group of Red Kites circled overhead. Spooky. The official attendance and my headcount were both exactly the same. Even spookier.
contributed on 25/12/16
TT No.18: Keith Aslan – Sat 17th December; Framlingham Town v Cornard United; Eastern Counties Division 1; Kick-Off: 15.01; Result: 2-0; Admission: £4; Programme: £1; Attendance: 71 (60 home, 4 away & 7 neutral)
A rare automobile excursion today so thanks go to Horsham's finest for reserving a space for me in his car. If you're doing this one by public transport, you can't. The last bus leave the village at 10 past 4. Framlingham is a charming place situated about 15 miles to the north of Ipswich. A brass band was playing carols in the town square giving a Christmasy feel apart from the fact that people were walking around in shirtsleeves.
Due to the company I was keeping, there was an obligatory pre match pub crawl. We had to visit the Station Hotel because it is in the 'Good Beer Guide' and presumably, in the 'Most Miserable Barmaid Guide' as well. I would recommend the 'Railway Inn' down the road with more cheerful service and the opportunity to watch Chelsea's latest victory on a big screen. Judging by the pub names, trains used to be quite big in these parts. Framlingham play on the northern edge of town and although it has a clubhouse outside the ground, we didn't spot it until we left, which I like to think was due to the fog that only completely lifted in the second half. This is a nice venue with a brick stand incorporating the changing rooms, and most importantly, containing a tea bar replete with bacon rolls. There are the usual yellow painted stripes to tell people not to stand in front of the seats and block everyone's view, but two of our number somehow missed all the signs and had to be told to move by disgruntled patrons. Clearly years of groundhopping doesn't seem to give some people much insight into spectator etiquette!
One of our number was temporarily stopped from taking photographs before the match and told he needed permission from the secretary because 'we have a couple of sixteen years old in the team'. You what! He was taking photos of the ground with no players in sight. The secretary duly gave permission repeating the warning about under age players. I know this sort of thing has been in the news lately but let’s have a bit of common sense here. Technically it is illegal to take photographs of underage footballers and distribute the images, a law the club have broken with a large colour photograph of Framlingham’s youth team in the programme! Maybe the secretary doesn't read it?
I know I say this about every trip, but this really was an enjoyable day out. And given that the 'photographer' in our car also takes snaps of all the beer pumps he has a drink from, it made me feel a lot better about myself and how I spend my Saturday afternoons.
contributed on 18/12/16
TT No.17: Keith Aslan – Sat 10th December; AFC Fylde v Brackley Town; FA Trophy; Kick-Off: 15.00; Result: 1-1; Admission: £8; Programme: £2; Official attendance: 641
Fylde's superb new ground is a 17-minute walk from Kirkham & Wesham station, an appropriate location given that prior to its somewhat naff name change this is what the club used to be called (without the station bit obviously). The stadium has what is commonly known as a 'wow' factor, you won't ever have seen floodlights like these before. A football league ground in all but name it has one end and one side filled with copious amounts of heavy duty terracing, the other side containing a large seated stand, while behind the far goal is where I assume the expansion work will take place once the club attain their inevitable football league status. I had a delicious pre. match meal in the club bar which has at least a dozen screens all showing different sports which I found a bit off putting.
It is ten years ago, I did Fylde's previous 'new' ground and I vividly recall the chairman telling me of their 15-year plan to get into the football league. I'd heard it all before, but in this case, it looks to be coming a reality with the team currently out of sight at the top of their league. It wasn't so long ago this club were playing on a public park in the West Lancs. League. Brackley have also come up in the world, and Hellenic League football is still fresh in the memory in this part of Buckinghamshire. The two clubs are rivals in the Conference North, although the more geographically astute might question Brackleys northerly status. Mind you this is the league that thought Bishops Stortford was in the north of England as well.
I'd chosen todays match, not for the magic of the Trophy, but because with Fylde’s well publicised ticket distribution problems there would be a much lower crowd for this fixture, and the reduced admission prices were a clincher. I bought my £8 terrace ticket from the nice young girl in the ticket office, but when I came to try and get in the entrances were shut and the only access was into the main stand which was the only part of the ground that was open. Unusual for a newly built ground, there were very few stewards to let supporters know what was happening and there was chaos as people who'd bought tickets for other parts of the ground were told to sit anywhere in the main stand with people who'd already bought specific seats (at £2 extra) turning up and finding them already occupied. When the decision was made only to open the main stand surely somebody would have had the common sense to inform the ticket office so they didn't sell tickets for the rest of the ground. Apparently not. The tickets rather grandiosely had printed on them 'A.F.C. Fylde - the football team of the Fylde coast' which must come as a bit of a surprise to Blackpool and Fleetwood.
It was nice for me to visit a ground like this when most Saturdays are spent where a rope is the last word in spectator luxury. I look forward to seeing Fylde in the football league soon and trust they will get their ticketing arrangements sorted out. Today’s game ended in a draw which means a midweek replay that Fylde could have happily done without. Still at least they won't have too far to travel what with Brackley being in the north of England!
contributed on 12/12/16
TT No. 16: Steve Hardy – Sat 3rd December; Cheshire League Premier Division; Wythenshawe Town 3 Garswood United 1; Admission: £2; Programme: £1.00; Attendance: 17.
Manchester based club Wythenshawe Town are aiming for promotion to the North West Counties league for next season, so I thought a game against bottom club Garswood United was an ideal opportunity to visit them.
The number 11 bus from Stockport bus station took me to the end of Timpson Road, and a short walk brought me to their very impressive ground. To the left of their ground entrance is another fully railed off pitch which was used by their junior sides I was told, and through the wonderful wrought iron gates with ‘Wythenshawe Town’ built in to them is a small car park, and the excellent clubhouse and changing room block. Admission was £2 with a further £1 for their super programme.
Facility-wise, the club has two small stands, one on each side of the pitch. There is a rail on all four sides and hard standing on all bar behind the far goal from the clubhouse end. No floodlights though, and that could be a problem with their NWCL application I would guess.
The game itself was very good I thought, with the basement visitors more than holding their own throughout. The first half finished goalless after the home team missed a very early penalty, but right at the start of the second half the visitors took the lead. A shock looked on the cards briefly, but normality soon prevailed with Town scoring three times to keep the pressure on leaders Whaley Bridge for the title.
Another very friendly club, although with just 17 people watching, and a good few of those supporting Garswood, they don’t seem to be raising the pulse of the local population. The clubhouse, though, was packed, with drinkers in watching the Man City v Chelsea game on TV, rather than braving the freezing cold for live football!
contributed on 05/12/16
TT No.15: Keith Aslan – Sat 3rd December; Hamble Club v Baffins Milton; Wessex League Division 1; Kick-Off: 15.01; Result: 2-1; Admission: £5; Programme: £1; Attendance: 82 (40 home, 37 away & 5 neutral).
These two clubs have followed an identical path. Long-time Hampshire league rivals they both decided at the same time to better themselves carrying out large scale ground improvement work simultaneously and both were elected into the Wessex League this season. And quite a success they've made of it with the clubs lying 2nd and 3rd at start of play. After this full blooded (or dirty, depending on your viewpoint) encounter Hamble went top when previous leaders Laverstock & Ford somehow managed to lose to bottom team Andover New Street.
If you look on the internet you will find various locations for Hamble's ground, and anywhere that says they play at 'Hamble Club' or 'Hamble Community Facility' should be dismissed. They do in fact play at the Shell-Mex Ground, right out of the station and it's on the right after no more than a six-minute walk. Indeed, the area was the centre of the universe this afternoon as far as Wessex League football goes with the other half of the Hamble-Portsmouth derby taking place 400 yards down the road at Follands against United Services. Obviously, lots of recent improvement work at Hamble, new floodlights, TWO tea bars, one of which sold some very tasty looking bacon and cheese burgers and, also a mould breaking new stand, one of the very few not built by Atcost!
I was surprised to read some comments on the game viz. 'the second half was a bit of a non-event' 'chances were few and far between' and 'Hamble's 3 points never looked under threat' I found the second half highly entertaining, as good as the first, and thought there were plenty of chances with Baffins always looking like they could get back into the game. It just goes to show that football is a game of opinions. This is fine providing everyone respects that mine are always the right ones.
If going to Hamble Club (or Follands for that matter), the village itself is well worth a visit, and if travelling by train, check out the magic lights on Hamble Station. They become brighter when you walk under them. Very impressive and great fun to play with while waiting for your train. Met up with three hoppers on Southampton Station who'd been to Team Solent so I had some pleasant company back to London. Also, at Stratford International, met up with a train load of West Ham fans whose company wasn't quite so pleasant. In fairness, the ones in my carriage behaved themselves, they all seemed too depressed to cause any trouble.
contributed on 04/12/16
TT No.14: Keith Aslan – Sat 26th November; Ashford v Snodland Reserves; Kent County League Division 2 Central & East; Kick-Off: 14.05; Result: 2-3; Admission: Free; Programme: £1; Attendance: 6 (3 home (including 1 w.a.g), 0 away & 3 neutral)
Appledore is a picture postcard village on the edge of Romney Marsh. It's main industries are quaint antique shops and new age cafes with the local pub serving the best pint of larger I've tasted in a long time (or maybe I was just very thirsty). This is Ashford's third game here since the move from their ground share with Ashford United and it is here they are intending to stay for the foreseeable future. Understandable given that they were paying £200 a match to hire 'Homelands' while Appledore are only charging £30 (which seems very cheap to me). Appledore themselves were in the Kent County League a while back, but now only run a Sunday side leaving their ground available for Saturday football. A big Ashford F.C. banner is set up along the half way line prior to kick off and hot drinks and pies are available from the tea bar. Surprisingly they have issued for all their games here, 16 pages, glossy and packed with colour photographs. If, like me, you have a paper fetish, I would get this one done sooner rather than later while the enthusiasm lasts. A great set up, all they need now are some supporters.
Appledore is accessible by train, which is just as well because it sure ain't got any buses, although if I was being picky, they could have built the village a bit closer to the station, and the one and a half mile yomp across Romney Marsh wasn't the highlight of my day. Being pickier still, it would have been nice if our old friends Southern Railways actually ran a service bearing some semblance to the timetable. Half the trains were cancelled and an hourly service mutated into a two-hourly service. The politicians must allow Southern to keep their franchise just to make Virgin look good. Oh yes, and Railtrack had shut the line between Canterbury and Ashford just because they could. I might have mentioned this before but Privatization of the railways really wasn't a very good idea.
Ashford were bottom of the league a few weeks back but results have picked up since their move and they are now mid table. Today’s match was much as you would expect from this level with Ashford getting their second goal too late to avert defeat. The ground has a public toilet with a box inside for donations to keep it open. I've never seen that before. A glorious rustic setting to watch football, and one of my more memorable days out, even though it took 3 hours and 50 minutes to do the 40 miles back to my Broadstairs dacha!
contributed on 27/11/16
TT No.13: Steve Hardy – Sat 19th November; Longlevens v Burnham; Hellenic League Premier Division; Result: 1-0; Admission: £3 including programme; Attendance: 33? (My headcount was 16!)
Longlevens is a suburb of Gloucester, but the football club don’t play there any more, having moved to their current ground in Barnwood in 2011. The Premier Division of the Hellenic League is step 5 in the pyramid system, and, as such, I was expecting a lot more of Longleven’s ground than they actually do have. For a start, you can watch the game without paying admission from outside the ground on three of the four sides, through wire mesh fencing. I was pretty sure that this was contrary to Hellenic League regulations, but I may be wrong on this. There is a low stand along one side of the pitch, and that is about it for spectator facilities. That said, the facilities are more than adequate given crowds in the upper teens which is what they had today.
On the pitch the team are safely in mid table, and today were playing bottom club Burnham, for whom Luther Blissett was supposed to be making his debut today as their new Manager. No sign of Watford’s finest, but his team did put in a much- improved performance, without ever looking like getting a positive result. Longlevens bossed the first half, missed a penalty and then scored just before half time to lead 1-0. After the break, it was more of the same, although Burnham did play a lot better and could well have snatched an undeserved equaliser late on.
Finally, a word about the Longleven’s backroom staff. Wonderful! They couldn’t do enough for the three hoppers who had descended on them from all over the UK, and they were a credit to their club.
contributed on 21/11/16
TT No.12: Keith Aslan – Sat November 19th; Chalvey v Sandhurst; Berks & Bucks County Cup; Kick-Off: 13.30; Result: 3-1; Admission: Free: Programme: 50p; Attendance: 31 (27 home, 3 away & 11 neutral)
"Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough, it isn't fit for humans now" are the opening lines of John Betjemin's famous anti-Slough ode. Now nobody likes the place, but writing poems encouraging the Luftwaffe to obliterate it is a tad over the top. Betjemin is one of my hero's, not just for his stance on Slough, or his railway preservation work, but because in his twilight years an interviewer asked him if he had any regrets in life. He thought for a few seconds before laconically replying 'Just one. I wish I'd had more sex' What groundhopper can't relate to that? The opening credits of 'The Office' sum Slough up very well, although the bus station is now no more, and fair play to the place, they've built a new one that is even closer to the station. Jimmy Carr was brought up here and he always says that if you want to know what Slough was like in the seventies, go there now. Slough is officially the most ethnically diverse town in England, although if my walk to the ground is anything to go by, the indigenous population are somewhat under represented.
Chalvey is a downmarket suburb of Slough and is a 25 minutes walk from the station, but for the lame and the lazy the no. 5 bus provides a half hourly door to door service. For those travelling by car it couldn't be easier with the ground just 200 yards off junction 6 of the M4. It is adjacent to the large 'Holiday Inn', handy if you want to make a weekend of it, although a mini-break in Mosul would probably be safer. Although just an open space that's roped off surprisingly the changing room block contains a tea bar and a veranda with seats and tables. As well as being served hot beverages by a very nice young lady it is the programme pick up point. Chalvey are occasional issuers, usually for cup games. With the match postponed from last week I bow to no one in my admiration for whoever tippexed the old date out and wrote the new one by hand in all 30 programmes. Incidentally, a bit of pop trivia to impress your friends, Tippex was invented by the mother of the Monkees’ Mike Nesmith.
Chalvey, in their first season in the Hellenic League (Div. 2 west) are the current leaders, and were excellent value for their win against opposition from a higher division. They are looking for promotion but that will mean a ground-share which I happen to think would be a shame. Surely the only place for a team called Chalvey to play is in Chalvey? Their officials couldn't be more welcoming and there is a great vibe about the place that is notably absent in the rest of the 'village'. All-in-all an oasis of joy in a Slough of despond.
contributed on 21/11/16
TT No.11: Keith Aslan – Sat 12th November; Birstall v Kimberley Miners Welfare; East Midlands League; Kick-Off: 15.01; Result: 2-1; Admission: £4; Programme: 50p; Attendance: 44 (37 home, 6 away & 1 neutral)
I received a phone call just as I arrived at St. Pancras to say my intended game at Chalvey was postponed so plan B was put into operation. Plan B was 'what on earth am I going to do now?' Professional groundhoppers have contingency plans, I don't. I just got on a train heading north and once aboard gave my mobile phone a good workout (how did we ever do this hobby before they were invented)? Got a positive response from Birstall with Mrs. Secretary saying the game was 99% certain to go ahead, coincidentally the same odds as Hilary Clinton was last week of becoming the next president of America! This presented me with an unexpected opportunity to refinish the East Midlands League.
Easy to get to with buses 22A&B (but not 22) leaving from opposite Leicester station to Birstall. Buses back do not run very late on Saturdays and while a 3 o'clock kick off is no problem, if you go to a game with extra time and penalties you could be struggling. Considering it is a suburb of Leicester, Birstall is a very nice place with plenty of eateries and drinkeries to while away the time. It says it is the biggest village in England, but I've been to a number of places that claim this. Much is happening at the ground to bring it up to standard for their newly elevated status. To go with a bit of cover behind the goal is a brand new Atcost stand along the side, with stacks of breeze blocks all over the place suggesting the improvement work is still ongoing. There are two 7ft high turnstiles a type rarely seen at the level. The bizarre aspect is that they cover a side entrance that hardly anybody uses, while almost everybody enters through the main entrance which is just a gate in the fence. The clubhouse has hot drinks and rolls for sale, inside I got talking to two people who were instrumental in forming the club in 1961. This level of football certainly inspires longevity.
The game was a corker, with goalmouth action and casual brutality in abundance. One down at half time, Kimberley equalized seconds into the second half and the game looked to be heading for a very hard fought draw until the home side got a winner in the 89th minute. The referee added 4 minutes on to the first half, but with many more stoppages in the second period, he blew up just after Birstall scored without adding any time on to give the visitors a chance to equalize. Given that Kimberley had been winding him up all afternoon it serves them right. Well done ref.
As always, a thoroughly enjoyable day out with Chalvey still to look forward to next Saturday, weather permitting. Leicester one week, Slough the next, this is a hobby that takes you round all of England's major tourist attractions.
contributed on 13/11/16
TT No.10: Keith Aslan – Sat November 5th; Headington Amateurs v Lynch Pin; Hellenic League Cup; Kick-Off: 13.34; Result: 5-2aet (2-2 after 94 minutes); Admission: Free; Programme: £2; Attendance: 17 (13 home, 0 away & 4 neutral).
It's the first round of the FA Cup this weekend, (the only time of year where you'll hear Swindon Town described as giants) and this whetted my appetite for some knock out football so it was off to see the giants of Headington Amateurs take on the plucky underdogs of Lynch Pin in a game that encapsulates the magic of the Bluefin Sport Hellenic Challenge Cup.
To get to Headington's current residence you need to walk 18 minutes from Oxford Station into the City Centre (there are plenty of buses) where the number 10 gives you a 10 minute service to the Horspath Turn from where a further 10 minute walk takes you to the Horspath Stadium, which in spite of what you will read everywhere is not actually where Headington play. They play on a pitch outside, part roped, part chained, on the edge of a very large playing field, but separated by a small road that gives it a kind of enclosed feel. Not playing inside the stadium means you miss out on the large Atcost stand, but you also miss out on eyestrain from having to watch the game across an eight lane running track and all in all the satellite pitch is probably a better venue from a spectators point of view.
Teas were served up from the otherwise unopen clubhouse, apparently burgers are usually also available but the chef wasn't turning up today. The superb programme is available from the tea bar, a labour of love by the secretary/chairman/programme editor/teaboy. It's a pity such an effort hasn't got a larger readership with the crowd being a paltry 17, a quarter of whom were groundhoppers. Headington were thrown off their ground at the end of last season and the council have been very unhelpful in finding them alternative accommodation. As one committee member observed (and I've heard this many times before) the FA get billions of pounds from TV deals but contribute virtually nothing to help grass roots football.
The game was a corker, goalmouth action aplenty and even at two down Lynch Pin never looked out of it. They pulled one back with 20 minutes to go and deservedly equalised with 8 minutes left. And so, to extra time. Headington rather put the kybosh on a giant killing by scoring 20 seconds into the added period but Lynch Pin still had opportunities to equalise again until two further goals in the second period put the game to bed. On the down-side the language of both teams was appalling and I wonder how long it will be before the very young referee decides he can find better ways of spending his Saturday afternoons than being sworn at by a bunch of potty mouthed yobs. Note to the football association, those pre. match handshakes still aren't doing the job.
contributed on 06/11/16
TT No.9: Keith Aslan – Sat October 15th; Deal Community Sports v East Kent College; Kent County League Division 1 Central & East; Kick-Off: 14.47; Result: 1-5; Admission: Free: Programme: £1. Attendance: 28 (22 home, 0 away & 6 neutral)
A stress-free day out for me with a half hour train ride along the coast to Walmer station and a 20 minute walk to Betteshanger Colliery Welfare, the latest domicile of Deal Community Sports, nee Town Rangers. They have led a nomadic existence in their short history, this being their third ground, and is only a temporary staging post as they are looking for a permanent home they can call their own. Deal C.S. have issued from the off and the excellent programme edited by president Bob Chivington is proudly numbered Volume 6 number 3. The facilities here are top notch with a large clubhouse, a café serving a wide variety of hot food, an indoor and outdoor bowling green and six football pitches of which only one was in use today. You can see the remains of the fabulous wooden stand, a remnant of Betteshanger Colliery's Kent League days, and the professional ground hopper might like to know that they played on a different pitch to the one Deal now use. The most noteworthy aspect of the place is that it's still there at all given that the coal mine must have closed down the best part of 40 years ago and you could build a lot of houses on the large playing fields!
There is a veranda outside the café with a good view of the pitch which would supply shelter if the weather turned naughty and chairs are available which the unexpectedly high quotient of groundhoppers made full use of. After a couple of seasons playing at the Bay Point Club in Sandwich the visitors have moved back into East Kent College, which given they call themselves East Kent College is an apposite venue. Deal C.S. have had a difficult start to the season with only one win and they were never going to add to it today, the score would have been even greater if the College forwards weren't such rubbish at shooting. The first half was enlivened with a bundle, the referee showing extreme leniency in only booking two players when at least one sending off was called for. In truth, it was the proverbial handbags at six paces and footballers really should take some lessons in fighting from U.K.I.P. M.E.P's who don't mess about when fisticuffs are called for.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit here, helped by arriving back in time to see the second half of T.N.S. v LLandudno on S4C. The commentary was in Welsh but still made more sense than Garth Crooks. Oh yes and on the way home I passed a poster for the local Women's Institute advertising a talk being given on schizophrenia. I've half a mind to go to it.
contributed on 16/10/16
TT No.8: Keith Aslan – Sat 8th October 2016; Axminster Town v Plymouth Marjons; Devon Premier Cup; Kick-Off: 14.00; Result: 2-0; Admission & Programme: £4; Attendance: 58 (55 home, 0 away & 3 neutral)
First off, an apology. In my usual superlative report on the Lancing United v Rustington match I might have inadvertently implied that the absence of a programme might not necessarily have been due to the official line of a printer malfunction. Imagine my joy and happiness when postwoman Pat stuck an all colour issue for the fixture through my door a week later. Happy to put the record straight on that one. It did produce the best laugh of the week with a report on their first few games in the Southern Combination containing the line 'there are no easy games in this league'. The following Saturday they beat Ferring 12-1.
Axminster have eventually moved into their impressive new out (very out) of town ground. They had a whole heap of problems with the relocation, exclusively due to the property developers being very naughty. A strongly worded article featured in the programme about 'Devonshire Homes' in which the word greed featured prominently. They still have a number of issues regarding facilities at the adjacent, railed second pitch (the thirds played on it this afternoon) but they hope to resolve them soon. The main ground is all finished, and looking good with the stand incorporated into the changing room/clubhouse building. As a fellow hopper observed, a pleasant change from the usual Atcost structure. The comestibles on offer in the clubhouse were top of the range including the biggest cheese and onion baguettes you'll ever see at a bargain £1.50p.
The ground is a good half hour walk from the station through the town. Coming from London you pass it on the left hand side as you approach Axminster. I am indebted to the gateman who told of a short cut which enabled three very elderly hoppers to get back to the station for an early train in 21 minutes without any cardiac arrests, but it was a close run thing. I really am getting too old for this sort of thing.
Two first half goals produced a routine win for the home side. Marjons didn't really have a lot to offer up front and never looked like closing the gap. I might have mentioned referees timekeeping before but I make no apology for giving a name check to man in the middle, Gareth Bridge. Prompt kick off, a 13 minute half time, and two periods of 45 minutes to the second. 3.43 finish and it is down to the whistler that the hoppers got a train none of us was expecting to catch. The journey back to London was much enlivened with a robust discussion on how long football matches are supposed to last, and it became obvious that only me and Gareth Bridge have actually read the rulebook!
contributed on 09/10/16
TT No.7: Keith Aslan – Sat 24th September 2016; Lancing United v Rustington; Southern Combination Division 2; Kick-Off: 14.02; Result: 4-1; Admission: Free; Programme: Printer broke down (ha! ha!); Attendance: 30 (28 home, 1 away & 1 neutral)
Having had a perfect trip to the north east recently the trains have returned to abnormality this Saturday. No trains at Broadstairs so my journey was top and tailed with a rail replacement bus. Victoria was shut and everything was diverted into London Bridge and Southern Railway cancelled more trains than they ran. I have no time for people like Bear Grylls who constantly bottle out of one of mankind's greatest challenges, travelling from Broadstairs to Lancing by public transport on a weekend.
After suffering various cancellations (staff shortages don't you know) I eventually arrived at Lancing Station which is an 11 minute walk from the ground. My mood was not improved on arrival to be told there was no programme because 'the printer had broken down'. Yes of course it had. The ground was a pleasant surprise, completely surrounded by a fixed wooden rail. I like wood, much nicer than metal. The very new changing room block is in one corner and the whole ensemble is very pleasing to the eye. There are no on site refreshments (unless the tea urn broke down in sympathy with the printer) but a convenient Convenience Store has a wide range of sandwiches that are both cheap and tasteless.
The match was all about one man, and I will protect the anonymity of the Rustington keeper out of pity. Lancing got their first after three minutes when the shot stopper (and I use the word loosely) let a tame punt through his hands. All goalies make boo boo's from time to time, it's the nature of the job, and most of them just put it to the back of their minds and get on with it. Not this one, and the early goal was a precursor of 90 plus minutes of such scintillatingly inept goalkeeping that would leave even Gary Sprake awestruck. He couldn't hold a cross or a shot all match and useless doesn't even begin to cover it. Goal number two came when he completely misjudged a lob. He nearly made it a first half hat trick of calamities when he spilled a tame shot straight to the feet of an unmarked forward who hit the post. Whatever the manager said to him at the break it didn't work and he was just as bad in the second half. Lancing scored a third, the keeper was innocent with this one, then 15 minutes from the end Rustington pulled one back, the start of a recovery that lasted until the ball next came near their goalkeeper. He tried to make a clearance, at least I assume that was the idea, but instead he somehow managed to kick the ball into his own net, a feat that would have been physically impossible to achieve if he'd actually tried to do it. The commiserations from his teammates after he'd let the first goal in were notably absent by now.
The train from Hove to London was cancelled (everything you've heard about Southern trains is true) and when I finally arrived back in London I decided to visit my favourite Euston café for sustenance and also to watch some of the football. I just arrived in time to see Chelsea concede their third goal. How much worse could my day get?
All in all, this trip was a bit of a shambles, but hey-ho let’s look on the bright side, at least I had a better day than the Rustington FC goalkeeper.
contributed on 25/09/16
TT No.6: Ian Brown – Sat 10th September 2016; Annagh United 1 v HW Welders 4; Northern Ireland Football League Championship; Admission: £6; Concessions: £3; Paper: No; Headcount: 80; Refreshments: Available from Club (none partaken)
With the cricket season in the last throes (Magic gleefully informed us later his beloved Bootle had won and a double was secured when he won the farting competition 31-0 in the score box - oh joy of joys! It was decided that a trip across the Irish Sea would be in order for the remaining posse of the Mersey Hopping Mafia: Peter, Harry & The Sofa Bear, as it was booked in advanced by top booking agent Leigh we got the flight for £37 each. Flying out at 08.15 from JLA.
On our previous NI jaunt back in April, we purchased an iLink card which is a top-up-able smartcard, for the day it was £13.50 including all bus & train in Zone (inc 1 & 2), not too bad considering that it is £10.50 return from Belfast International Airport into Belfast City Centre.
A hearty Ulster Fry Breakfast, with coffee or tea, was purchased from Platform Food in the Great Northern Mall. After that was consumed we jumped on a train out to Adelaide to have a look at the re-development of Windsor Park, as Linfield were at home later in the day, the club shop was open, so I bought a badge and match programme. After that we walked back to Adelaide Station and caught a southbound train changing at Lisburn for Portadown.
As we arrived in good time into Portadown, Peter asked myself and the good doctor if we fancied having a look at Portadowns’ Shamrock Park. On the way up we came across a First Round Mid Ulster Junior Cup Tie featuring Hannover Reserves v Mountainview (it finished 3-2 to the hosts). I was quite impressed with it. On the far side is the main stand which had no seats in it just a platform for cameras. Looking at the ground from the new Met stand on the east side of Shamrock Park, to the left is the new south stand which replaced a curved open terrace in 2006. This impressive stand has 1,000 red plastic seats beneath a "goalpost" steel roof structure, takes up the width of the penalty area, and is raised slightly above pitch level. Unusually the stand sits in a similar position as the former south terrace, leaving a gap of several metres behind the goal where the speedway circuit used to be. The curved line of the former terrace fencing has been repositioned behind the goal. Despite the distance from the touchline, the spectators have an excellent unobstructed view of the pitch. Looking to the far right from the main stand the shape of the old ground layout becomes more obvious, with the former speedway track now buried beneath the grass of the new training pitch which sits behind the goal.
Looking opposite to the west side of the ground, the old Main Stand sits proudly on the pitch centre line, with 1,000 modern red plastic seats on a raised seating deck. There are a number of columns to this stand which may impede your view. Players emerge from dressing rooms beneath the stand's seating deck. A pair of modern plastic dug outs sit either side of the player’s entrance. Although the stand still maintains its distance from the pitch behind the former speedway track, the elevated seating deck ensures a good view of the action. Finally turning to the MET Stand, this impressive cantilever stand was opened in 2008 and has 1,800 red plastic seats. This new structure replaces a covered terrace. As with the new south stand, the base is raised slightly above the pitch level and sits behind the outline of the former speedway track.
With Portadown Reserves kicking off at 2.30pm, the father of the players kindly gave us a lift from Shamrock Park down to Annagh United. AU Football Club were formed in 1963 and they play their home matches at their Tandragee Road ground, in Portadown, county Armagh. Just a ten minutes walk out of the centre of the town of Portadown lies, what was, once upon a time, the village of Annagh. Today it has been absorbed into the town itself as a residential area on the way to Tandragee with the football club located on the left hand side as you leave Portadown.
Club Info: Nickname: ‘The Annagh’; Motto: Semper Sub Ponte (Always Under The Bridge); Club Colours: (Home) Red shirts, red shorts, red socks; (Away) Blue shirts, Black shorts, Black socks.
The main developed area of the ground is where the main entrance to the ground is situated. With Tandragee Road itself being a quite narrow and busy road it’s useful that there are two car parks situated at this side of the ground. The car parks are situated either side of the club house which has recently been extended and refurbished. The main feature of the ground is the Met Steel stand which runs either side of the half way line and is the most popular vantage point for watching the game. It was built in 2003 in preparation for the club’s elevation from Mid Ulster Intermediate football to the Irish league and is covered and laid out in concrete steps, in preparation for the addition of seating. The stand can accommodate the required 200 people. There is additional covered standing area within the Joe England stand. This stand is a new addition to the ground having been added for the 2010-11 season. This stand is named after the club’s Life Patron and provides disabled access and seating for wheelchair users and accompanying spectators.
There is no standing at The Railway End, whilst hard standing runs three quarters of the way around the ground from the end of the Joe England Stand past the MET Steel Stand, round to The South End. On the far side is “The Bog Side”, where there is hard standing up to where the dug outs, from the dug outs towards the Railway End there is no spectator access.
There were no hot drinks available from the club house, only soft drinks & those of an alcoholic variety. However we were invited in for tea & sandwiches at half time.
The game started off at a brisk pace but as the half wore on the game slowed and nothing much happened in the way of goal chances, with the visitors having the bulk of possession. At H-T the score remained 0-0.
Chris Middleton opened the scoring just before the hour when he buried the ball in the top corner from a Michael McLellan lay-off. David Rainey made it 2-0 on 68 minutes after William Armstrong had slipped a great pass into his path. Chris McElroy pulled one back for United with six minutes remaining but any thoughts of a late revival were extinguished when Ethan Boylan struck twice in stoppage time to earn the points for the Welders.
On getting back into Belfast just before 18.20, we had a nice pint in The Bridge ‘Spoons… Munro Dark from the Swannay Brewery from Orkney, To make it even more palatable Harry gave us some CAMRA Vouchers so it cost £6.75 for the round before we made our way back to the airport for our flight back at 21.00. As everyone was there promptly the plane left early so we were back on the ground at JLA at 21.20.
contributed on 12/09/16
TT No.5: Keith Aslan – Sat 10th September 2016; Blyth Town v Ryton and Crawcrook; FA Vase; Kick-Off: 15.01; Result: 1-2; Admission: £5 (including a free drink); Programme: £1.50p; Attendance: 91 (76 home, 8 away & 7 neutral)
It's the Newcastle City games this weekend with tomorrow seeing the world’s largest half marathon with 60,000 competitors ranging from Mo Farrah to fun runners, although the 'fun' aspect of running 13 miles escapes me. I have chosen this particular Saturday for my longest trip of the season as the athletics means Newcastle Central Metro Station is actually open. Every other weekend it's shut due to a multi-million pound’s modernisation programme. Come on, it's a tube station, it looked fine to me quite adequately fulfilling its purpose. What 'modernisation' does it need that it has to be closed every weekend. Crystal Chandeliers above the escalators? The ticket hall incorporating a mini version of the angel of the north? A botanical garden with a water feature? A laser light show? Whatever needs doing can be done at night when there are no tubes. Stop messing everyone about. Choosing the only Saturday with the metro station open has a trade-off that I have had to pick a game with the possibility of extra time.
To reach Northern League newcomers Blyth Town the best way is to get the metro (if it's ever open again at weekends) to Regent Interchange where every half hour the X9 takes you right to the ground (warning: Arriva North East is probably the most expensive bus company in the world). It's obvious there has been plenty of action here to bring things up to spec. for their higher status with much of the ground brand new. The programme says that Blyth are aiming for the football league in ten years. Get real boys. Bizarrely the admission price includes a free drink, this includes beer, and as I paid the old boys rate of £3, if I'd taken advantage of a gratis pint of larger, it would have cost more than I'd paid to get in. I don't think Blyth have thought this through. The pre. match entertainment in the clubhouse was the Manchester derby being shown on a big screen, the result of which gladdened my heart.
The match itself was low on skill but high on entertainment, an absorbing contest which I would probably have appreciated much more if it wasn't for the spectre of extra time. Not a welcome prospect at the best of places. A round trip of 720 miles from home is not the best of places. An added 30 minutes equating to a two hour later return to my Broadstairs’ dacha. One all on 90 minutes I was resigned for a very late night, but thanks go to the referee for adding lots of time on for no reason, and at 90+3 Ryton scrambled a winner. The celebrations on their bench were nothing compared to the celebrations of this hopper. A bus journey, a metro journey, two train journeys (including one on Virgin), 360 miles, and I was home in plenty of time for 'Match of the Day'. It goes to show that things do sometimes work in this country, just not as often as they should.
You will get a warm welcome at Blyth, as with most clubs in this part of the world, and my email to the secretary earlier in the week was met with an instant response. They are geared to go higher up the pyramid, but they do want to forget ideas of the football league for a century or two.
contributed on 11/09/16
TT No.4: Keith Aslan – Sat 3rd September 2016; Milton Keynes Academy v Binfield; Hellenic League Cup; Kick-Off: 14.35; Result: 1-3; Admission: Free; Programme: £1; Attendance: 26 (17 home, 2 away & 7 neutral)
Milton Keynes gets a lot of bad press so let’s redress the balance. I think the place is great and I've thoroughly enjoyed my many trips to Buckinghamshire’s second city. The architecture is pleasing to the eye, lots of green spaces with a village feel to the suburbs. It has an excellent integrated transport network, motorists and pedestrians are kept apart, and a roundabout led road layout means there are never any traffic jams. And, most importantly, it's got a large 'Greggs'. What's not to like? Right, I've done my bit for the Milton Keynes Tourist Board, and such a being actually exists, so on with the game.
The aforementioned transport system means that to reach the Academies Tattenhoe Pavilion base is easy with the number 8 bus running from outside the station every quarter of an hour to within a 6 minute walk of the ground, a walk that encompasses a rather nice pub. The set up here is very good with a large leisure type complex surrounded by sports fields. The actual ground is little way from the main buildings and separated from everywhere else on the site. It has a rural feel, surrounded on three sides by trees which provided protection from the precipitation that fell for most of the game. The ground is enclosed by a white wooden fence adding to the ambience of the location. Teas and coffees are available from a very enthusiastic lady, as well as a machine vending crisps, choccy etc.
This is Milton Keynes Academies first season in senior football, although they have previously been operating an U21 side in the U.C.L. Playing a team from two divisions above them they celebrated the occasion by producing a programme, a full colour glossy effort done by the students. The secretary apologised that they had forgotten to put the team line ups in, but a worthy effort nonetheless. The difference in standard was not obvious with the students taking a deserved lead early doors, an advantage they held up to the 35th minute. By the 38th minute they were 3-1 down and that was that. They had plenty of possession in the second half without ever really looking like reducing the deficit but they will have learnt a lot from this game. Binfield claimed they were going to play a load of youngsters in this game, but they didn't look very young to me!
My Virgin train was only 23 minutes late arriving back in Euston. Result.
contributed on 05/09/16
TT No.3: Keith Aslan – Mon 29th August 2016; Worthing United Leisure v Ferring; Southern Combination Div 2; Kick-Off: 11.03; Result: 18 (eighteen)-1 (one); Admission & Programme: £2; Attendance 35 (28 home, 1 away (he deserves a medal) & 6 neutral).
The programme pointed out that Ferring have had a 'difficult' start to the season, which as understatements go is right up there with 'the Atlantic Ocean is a bit wet'. Played 4 lost 4 and racking up an awe inspiring goal difference of minus 56 these are troubling times for the away side.
The 11a.m. kick off, or as near as the ref could manage, meant leaving my Broadstairs dacha at silly o'clock and not for the first time did I pine for the noise and squalor of London and it's a wonderful transport system. Worthing United's Palatine Park base is a 17 minutes stroll from Durrington-on-sea station, but looking at the map, I would think Goring-on-sea is probably about the same distance. For younger readers, maps are paper things that people used to use to find places in olden times before the advent of sat-navs! New into the league this season there is an enthusiasm about the place with top notch facilities including a large clubhouse (closed today), half a dozen changing rooms and the all-important tea bar selling hot and cold drinks (but no food today) throughout the morning. They played on the furthest pitch from the building so they didn't go in at half time. Clearly the logistics of supplying half time refreshments need a bit of tweaking with two young girls arriving with giant beakers of orange squash just after the second half had kicked off. At the interval a hopper decided he needed to go to the toilet and we jokingly suggested as he was walking all the way to the amenities block he could bring us all back the half time teas. Lo and behold he returned with a tray full of welcome beverages for his thirsty colleagues. Groundhoppers are such nice people (well most of them!)
Ferring are deep in the manure and all credit to them for turning up. They played the game properly and kept going 'till the final whistle. One player who particularly caught the eye was their no7 I think, who looked like Eamon Holmes after a heavy session at the all you can eat bar, and seemed to be trapped in the centre circle by some invisible forcefield. But, like his teammates he made the effort to turn up and I wish them well for the future. I've never seen an 18-1 before, or anything like, and you can add to that 5 direct hits on the metalwork. But the morning did produce one unexplained mystery. Why did the referee add two minutes on to each half? Referees are strange people.
contributed on 30/08/16
TT No 2: Steve Hardy - Sat 13th August 2016; Gobowen Celtic 1 Madeley Sports 1; Mercian League Premier Div; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 5
When I booked my train tickets on the Wednesday before this match, I was under the impression that this would be a ‘ Champagne job’, meaning I would have visited every club in the Mercian league. Whilst checking the fixture later in the week, though, I discovered it wouldn’t be a CJ after all, as new team Whitchurch Alport Juniors are playing at a venue I haven’t been to before. Never mind, I have enjoyed my meanderings around Shropshire, so one more ground to visit will be no hardship at all.
On the pitch today, Gobowen dominated most of the play and wasted a good few chances before Madeley scored from a corner in what was their only real effort on goal all game. Gobowen deservedly equalised just before the break and the 5 of us who made up the crowd, fully expected them to push on to victory in the second half. Strangely, that just didn’t happen though. Celtic had almost all of the play with umpteen chances being scorned, before Madeley’s defensive system achieved its goal of a point.
Gobowen Celtic have benefitted from this reduction in divisions by being promoted for the second successive season, and they now find themselves in the Shropshire County League’s top division. Gobowen is just outside Oswestry and some two miles from The Venue, home of Welsh Premier league champions The New Saints. The club play at the Gobowen Playing Fields, on St Martins Road, which is about half a mile from the railway station/village centre. This ground is just what it sounds like. A playing field with absolutely no spectator facilities at all, and therein lies the problem for most clubs in the Mercian league.
If they are ambitious, and want to follow last season’s champions FC Oswestry Town in to step 6, then they will have to groundshare at a club that does have the required facilities. This is financially beyond just about every club in the league which means the club stagnates before eventually folding when they simply can’t afford to keep playing. The Mercian League has shrunk this season, from three divisions to two. This reflects a national problem that we have whereby smaller clubs, and indeed leagues, are folding because clubs just can’t afford to play anymore. It costs about £100 for a club to stage a home match these days, and with no income or sponsorship behind them it means players and managers have to find the money from their own pockets.
contributed on 14/08/16
TT No.1: Steve Hardy - Sat 6th August 2016; Melton Town 2 Potton Utd 5; UCL Division One; Admission: £2 (grockle rate); Programme £1; Attendance: 91
A trip by train to Melton Mowbray, which according to the sign of the station platform, is the food capital of Leicestershire. On a very hot day, the walk up the Burton Road to the ground took it out of me somewhat, but, of course, the return trip downhill was a doddle.
Melton Town were making their debut in the UCL this afternoon, and the official crowd of 91 contained at least 30 ground hoppers from all over the country, who were there to help mark the occasion. I thought the club did rather well organisation-wise, and if not having any milk for the tea bar was the only problem they had, then they should be well pleased.
A small stand has been erected behind the goal nearest the entrance, and that is it for spectator facilities. Floodlights are on the ‘to-do’ list and there is a path around the perimeter of the pitch. All in all a work in progress I think.
On the pitch, Melton were not really at the races as Potton swept in to a 2-0 lead, before they managed to pull on one back. Potton scored again before an own goal reduced the arrears once more, but any hopes of a comeback disappeared as Potton scored 2 more to win, deservedly, by 5-2.
Talking to club officials I learned that the current Melton Town are no relation to the old Melton Town side that played in the Leicestershire Senior league and Central Midlands league 1970’s and 80’s. I visited their old Egerton Park ground back in the late 1980’s meaning I am officially very, very old!
contributed on 07/08/16