TT No.51: Steve Hardy – Wednesday 1st November 2017; Sutton Coldfield Town Youth v Matlock Town; Northern Premier League Youth Division; Kick-Off: 1pm; Result: 0-6; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 13 h/c
Aah, the joys of being retired! A Wednesday afternoon match in Sutton Coldfield was just the ticket today, as Sutton entertained Matlock Town in the Evo-Stik league youth division. Not sure of the ages of these lads, but I would guess either U19 or U18. Two completely contrasting displays from the two teams however. Matlock were sharp, confident and attack minded, whereas Sutton were none of those things.
The Central Ground is tucked away in the middle of a residential street called Coles Lane. A well-hidden entrance leads down a narrow lane to the ground where for low key matches like this you can actually park your car behind one of the goals. It’s a 3G pitch, of course, and it is very well used, with both SCT and Romulus playing there as well as a plethora of youth teams every evening. The main stand is a treasure in my opinion. Bought from Manchester City in 1956 it was finally erected in 1959 as a replacement for the old stand that had burned down in 1955 following a firework accident.
On the pitch, the lads from Matlock controlled the game from start to finish. 3 goals in each half was the least they deserved, and they remain top of the table with a 100% record.
Another top afternoon out, and much better than sitting behind a desk in an office, in my opinion.
contributed on 02/11/17
TT No.50: Brian Buck – Saturday 28th October 2017; Fry Club v Odd Down Reserves; Somerset County League Premier Division; Result: 1-0; Attendance: 40 approx.
The lure of today’s game was that this is a club on the up. Fry Club is located about a five-minute walk from Keynsham railway station and they issue programmes. I travelled to the game by train changing at Bath, which seemed to be overrun by tourists. There could have been a rugby match going on there as well, as I heard a modicum of chanting going on outside the station as I briefly waited for my connection back to London after the game. Meanwhile back at my game and I arrived here about an hour and a quarter before kickoff. The club have moved grounds recently and as Fry’s have sold off a lot of their chocolate making complex for housing and there was a lot of building work going on here. I eventually found the ground, with the floodlight pylons being of assistance. Here I soon bumped into the club’s chairman and their secretary, the latter relieving me of £2 for the programme. Nice four-pager, but there was no value in it except that you were paying for your admission at the same time. Next it was time for food and drink and the plush looking The Pavilion satisfied my needs. I had fish & chips, washed down with a couple of pints. This part of the complex also incorporates a fitness centre, or something to do with exercise. In these places the only part of my body which gets exercised is my drinking arm! So onto the match. In addition to floodlights the club also have a railed off pitch and their long-term ambition is to play in the Western League. Today it was very windy again and after Fry scored the only goal of the game on 19 minutes I decamped to behind the top goal which backed on to the aforementioned Pavilion, where it wasn’t quite so windy. In fact, try as they might neither side could really deal with it. Odd Down were probably the more comfortable side when Fry scored, but as the match wore on so Fry were in the ascendancy by the end, playing with the wind at their backs and downhill. Afterwards a brisk walk saw me catch the 16.56pm train back to Bath.
TT No.49: Steve Hardy – Saturday 28th October 2017; FC Creswell v Balfour Old Boys; Stafford & District Sunday League Division Two; Result: 0-22; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 2 h/c
The Stafford Sunday League has three divisions, with Division Two being the bottom one. My match this morning saw the bottom club FC Creswell entertain the top side Balfour Old Boys, and I have to confess my choice of this match was based entirely on the number of goals I thought I would see.
Creswell is a small village to the west of Stafford, and the park the game was played in, is just off junction 14 of the M6 motorway. To the background roar of continuous M6 traffic, the home team, with their assortment of different coloured socks and shorts, must have been fearing the worst as 4 goals in the first 15 minutes (including two own goals) gave the Old Boys the perfect start. It was 7-0 at the break, and the goals just kept on coming in the second half with the 22nd and final one coming in the 89th.
Two things could have happened in the second half, but neither did. The first would have been a complete capitulation by the homester’s and the second the Old Boys showboating and rubbing the host’s noses in it. That neither happened was a credit to both teams, particularly the home team who never gave up and almost scored themselves with the score at 20-0. Just think what the final score might have been if that one had gone in?
No tantrums/swearing or fouls of any nastiness throughout either, which gave the young lady Referee probably her easiest game of the season so far.
TT No.48: Keith Aslan - Saturday 28th October 2017; AFC KILBURN v Swanwick Pentrich Road; Central Midlands League South; Kick-Off: 14.04; Result: 0-3; Admission: £3; Programme: £1; Attendance: 32 (19 home, 11 away & 2 neutral)
With storm 'Brian' putting paid to my previous week’s visit to Milborne Port my intentions to visit them today were stymied when they disappeared during the week, and judging by the conversations I'd had with their friendly secretary their demise would have come as much of a shock to him as everybody else. So, with that ground gone forever, I immediately set my sights on afc Kilburn, another ground that I missed out on in their Central Midlands League days due to their predecessors suddenly folding, and with current results not dissimilar to Milborne Ports, I wasn't going to hang about for my second chance at this one.
Previously name Ambergate after the village they played in a couple of miles up the road they moved into Kilburn in 2015, with the facilities enabling them to attain a higher standard of football. I assume part of the deal was that they changed their name to Kilburn, but the afc prefix? A bit naff. If it was up to me I'd have gone for Kilburn Ambers. It's a proper old ground, an 'Atcost' free zone but with plenty of cover and a small refreshment room serving hot drinks with northern delicacy, the chip butty, appearing at half time. There is the working man’s welfare just outside the ground, cheap beer but not the sort of place you'd go for a night out. The village itself, like the ground, looks much as it would have done a century ago. Not so much 'sleepy' as 'comatose' The place was pretty much deserted and I only found a Chinese Restaurant and a hairdresser’s in the place, one was closed and I had no use for the other. There are oodles of buses from Derby that stop either in the village itself, a 5-minute walk from the ground, or Kilburn Turn, which is 12 minutes. They have strange numbers such as 9.1, 9.3, Amberline and Comet. The Comet has state of the art buses and runs non-stop back to the bus station. Highly recommended. 'Trent Barton' supply the services and I wish they ran buses round my way. The last bus back from Derby to Kilburn is 02.45am! If you are the other person in the universe apart from me who pays bus fares, a £6-day rover ticket will see you well. Incidentally I can recommend the food at Derby bus station. While you know you will always be conned at railway stations, there are sometimes good cheap cuisine on offer where buses congregate, and they don't come much gooder or cheaper than at Derby.
There is an acute referee shortage round these parts and lack of an official put paid to Kilburn's reserve match this afternoon. And when the ref. dropped out of the first team game the chairman of the Central Midlands League stepped in to officiate to ensure the game went ahead. While the FA is quite clearly run by idiots, we should remember it also has good people like this league chairman who work tirelessly in the interests of grassroots football. He went out of his way to explain all his decisions to the players and spectators apart from the only ones I wanted to know. Why did he start the game four minutes late? Why did he add 3 minutes injury time onto the first half when there weren't any injuries? and why did we have to suffer an extra 6 minutes at the end when the game was clearly over as a contest? Timekeeping is obviously an alien concept in this league (as with many others). It's easy to see why Kilburn are struggling, they dominated the first half hour without coming close to scoring and once Swanwick went ahead, that was that. I am indebted to a fellow hopper giving me a lift back to the bus stop. Silly of me really to expect to catch a bus that would require the referee to condense one and a half hours of football into two hours!
Finally, I'm sure a lot of my fans will have had sleepless nights wondering if my Immingham programme ever turned up. After two months and numerous phones calls the promised paper came through my letterbox, so they've been crossed out of my little black book. Many thanks to the Immingham official who did so much to get the programme delivered, and all I can say is if you are planning a visit there don't take any notice of what goes upon their social media sites as the person who writes them appears to make a lot of it up.
TT No.47: Brian Buck - Saturday 21st October 2017. Tollesbury v Dedham Old Boys Reserves; Essex & Suffolk Border League Division 3; Result: 6-1; Attendance: 20 approx.
Today was forecast to be a very windy as Storm Brian passed over the UK and it was. But rather like with me, things turned out to be not quite as bad as I was led to believe. So because of this I held back on deciding where I should go until the morning of the game and picked somewhere more easterly where the wind would be at its lightest. I checked out the game with the clubs fixture secretary, who admitted that it was a bit blowy where she was and added that she had just taken her dog for a walk. On the basis that she came back with it she assumed that the match would be on! So off I went, arriving at the ground at about 90 minutes before kick off. There was one car in the car park and that belonged to the ref. I knew that he was the ref because he looked smart and had a shirt and tie on. No one apart from match officials ‘dresses’ up for matches like these! Anyway, as he was adamant the game would be played, unless one or both of the teams refused, I headed off to the pub, where I had a very nice pre-match meal and had a good chat to the locals while I was eating it. The highlight of this encounter was a discussion on how to serve leeks! Apparently the problem doesn’t arise here as a leek has never walked into this pub! Back at the ground it remained very windy, but the sun was out. So most people stood on the far side of the pitch, where the sun wasn’t in one’s eyes and the cross wind was near enough behind our backs. Tollesbury are top of this league whilst Dedham are mid table. The hosts played into the wind in the first half and found the going tough in what became something of an endurance test. On 23 minutes Dedham took the lead, but on 39 minutes Tollesbury equalised from the spot. The general consensus of opinion was that it should not have been given as it was a fair tackle. Afterwards even the ref was uncertain, even though he had a clear view of the incident from about five yards away. After the break Tollesbury made full use of the wind and once they got to grips with the wind and Dedham tired facing it, they rattled home five goals in the last twenty minutes, some of them good ones. Overall a decent day out despite the blustery conditions.
TT No.46: Brian Buck - Wednesday 18th October 2017. Coventry United v Highgate United; Birmingham Senior Cup 1st Round; Venue: played at Butts Park Arena, Coventry; Kick-Off: 7.45pm; Result: 3-5;Attendance: 65.
More like 125! We arrived here with just under an hour before kick off after surviving the Coventry inner ring road, which makes the Monaco Grand Prix circuit look like a doddle in comparison. Anyway, we purposely avoided having to pay to park in the spacious car park behind the goal by parking outside a real ale pub in a road next to the ground and said car park instead. Unsurprisingly we felt obliged to go in the pub while we were there! We returned in good time for the match. I’d already purchased the glossy programme, 50p tonight, soon after we parked up. Then came the shock. It was £7 (Adults) and £6 (Concessions) to get in and this was for a Step 5 level game! This was my only gripe of the night though. We then made our way to the seats and we sat high up in the 3,000 seater stand. If relations continue to deteriorate at the Ricoh then Coventry City are thinking of moving here. If so then there is plenty of space to develop the ground, although rugby is also played here at present and is used by Coventry RFC and Coventry Bears I believe. Also, a railway line passes behind one goal and it was good to see a few trains pass by as the game progressed. Initially the floodlights looked a bit dingy. But just as the match started so more came on and suddenly the lux value doubled and the brightness of them was excellent. As for the game I got the impression that this was a cup competition which neither side was too fussed about winning. So both sides went for it, without worrying too much about defending, just like football used to be! In the first half the lead changed hands three times. Highgate opened the scoring, before Coventry scored twice. But it was 3-2 to Highgate by half time. After the break Highgate soon extended their lead and then both sides scored again with roughly 15 minutes left. Overall a decent night out in a part of Coventry where the lights of the tall surrounding flats overlook the ground, bringing a slight feel of Canary Wharf to the place.
TT No.45: Steve Hardy – Saturday 21st October 2017; Redditch Borough v Wake Green Amateurs; Birmingham FA Saturday Vase First Round; Result: 0-2; Admission: Free, Programme: No; Attendance: 51
Another week and another County cup competition for me. This time it was the middle ranking of the 3 Saturday cups run by the Birmingham FA, the Saturday Vase, and my destination was Redditch.
Redditch Borough started life as Redditch United Reserves and set off on their own in 2014, joining the then Midland Combination. Now absorbed in to the Midland league, they are currently playing in Division Two which is at step 7 of the non-league pyramid. In contrast, their visitors today, Wake Green Amateurs, are a very old club having started in 1925. They play in the Premier Division of the Birmingham & District League which isn’t in the national pyramid system, but recent clubs to leave the BDL have gone straight in to Division 3 of the Midland league. Given the two-division gulf between the teams, most people seemed to think the Borough were a home banker. Not me however, as I have seen a great many matches in the Birmingham & District league and knew that Wake Green were no mugs.
So, it turned out, with Borough enjoying most of the possession but not able to get too close to the Wake Green goal to get a shot off. WGA relied on breakaways, and it was from one of those that they took the lead in the 26th minute. At half time the other groundhoppers in attendance were saying Borough should have been at least 4 goals ahead, which I didn’t quite see myself. What we did agree on though, was that the game needed a quick response from Borough if they were to get anything out of the game. Well, we got a quick response, but it wasn’t from Borough, as a WGA forward set off on a mazy run towards the Borough penalty area after 50 minutes, where he was unceremoniously hacked down for a penalty. The spot kick was scored with ease and at 2-0 that was it for the Borough, with no way back.The action took place on Borough’s new ground at the Mettis Aerospace Sports & Social club in the Batchley district of Redditch, not a million miles from the Redditch United’s ground which is also on the Bromsgrove Road. A large car park is in front of the huge social club, and to your left, past a 3g caged pitch is the grass pitch used by Borough. A few spectator improvements have been made to the ground, with a small area of covered standing down one side of the pitch, and hard standing along two sides as well. The changing room block is behind one goal and refreshments were available from a mobile burger van which had set up next to the changing rooms. I went to the match by train, with bus 42/43 from the bus station opposite the railway station being just four stops down the Bromsgrove road from the ground.
TT No.44: Steve Hardy – Saturday 14th October 2017; Madeley White Star v Rushall Olympic u21; Staffordshire Challenge Cup Second Round; Result: 1-0; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 13
The Challenge cup is the lowest ranking cup organised by the Staffordshire FA and can normally be relied on to find a new venue for yours truly. This year is no exception. When I saw a club called Madeley had a home tie, I wondered why a Shropshire club were playing in Staffordshire? Turned out to be a different Madeley, with this one being some 4 miles from Newcastle-Under-Lyme, and west of Stoke.
The home club have been an active junior set up for many years, but this is the first season for the newly formed adult team. They have joined the Crewe league, rather than the Staffs County league, and today they were entertaining Midland league U21 division side Rushall Olympic U21s.
The council owned Manor Road playing fields has four football pitches, and three portacabins for dressing rooms and storage of nets, mowers etc. I had no idea of what to expect from either team, but it turned out to be a very close affair between two equally matched sides, which Madeley eventually won through a superb free kick after 26 minutes. Rushall played some lovely passing football, but didn’t have anyone to finish off the flowing moves. In fact I don’t think they had a single shot on goal during the entire 90 minutes.
A crowd of 13 were there to witness events, mostly supporting the numberless shirted home team. Glorious sunshine too. Something not seen around these parts for some weeks!
contributed on 11/10/17
TT No.41: Brian Buck - Saturday 7th October 2017. May & Baker EC v Rayleigh Town; ProKit UK Essex Olympian League Premier Division; Venue: played at Barking Rugby Club, Gale Street, Becontree; Result: 2-2; Attendance: 35 approx.
Today I needed to visit London, firstly to get my recently renewed Senior Railcard linked up with my Oyster Card and secondly to obtain a Delay Repay form from Virgin Trains after they kindly delayed my trip home from Newcastle by about six hours two weeks earlier. I’m sure they realise that many people can’t do this by email, by scanning your ticket into their computerised Delay Repay form, so they make it as difficult as possible to get one in paper form. So you can’t get them from Stevenage or Peterborough. Anyway, with that resolved I was off on my travels and after alighting from Becontree I was at the ground about ten minutes later, or to be more precise, the bar! Here they also did decent food, although my request for two sausages and chips was responded to by bringing me a large plate of chips and two ‘sausage burgers’- £6.50 please! However, by now I had discovered that the hosts had done a free 16-page programme, their first issue either ever, or for some considerable time. This was a match between the top of the table hosts and their bottom of the table visitors. Earlier in the morning M & B’s fixture secretary had told me not to under estimate Rayleigh. Perhaps he should have told his team this as well! I watched the game from the 300-seater stand from where I got a good view. It was a bit noisy as the ground backs on to the busy A13 where traffic was continually passing by. Rayleigh took the lead on 14 minutes by way of an own goal when an M & B player, in trying to clear the ball, expertly diverted a cross into his own net. But M & B were level four minutes later following a header from a deep cross. Rayleigh went ahead again on 24 minutes, but M & B equalised again a minute later. For most of the rest of the game the only difference between the sides was the erratic passing of the visitors, but in the last few minutes Rayleigh stirred themselves and they missed two very good chances, at least, to win the match. Overall a decent day out.
contributed on 11/10/17
TT No.40: Brian Buck - Saturday 30th September 2017; Gimingham United v Runton United; Walcott Lighthouse Inn North East Norfolk League Sanders Coaches Division 1; Result: 1-2; Attendance: 15 approx.
Today we had rather a pleasant day out, close to the North-East Norfolk coast. We arrived in the area well before kick-off, but the lure of a pub ‘on the list’ and a decent church in Southrepps, delayed us getting there. Furthermore, we also went to another pub close to the ground, where we ordered food. So just how long does it take to knock up a burger, chips and beans, plus two cheese and onion rolls? The consequence of this was that we arrived at the ground just as they were kicking off. The reason why this game was chosen today was that the fact that Runton United have won every league match since they drew 2-2 with Plumstead Rangers on 15 November 2014. The league table shows that their last league defeat came in the 2013/14 season. They’d already won their first five games of this season and today they faced their hosts who had won all of their six opening games. Nothing against Runton, but this was a good chance to say, “I was there,” when they finally dropped some points. However today was not that day! The pitch sloped slightly and they had a stand here as well, complete with a few concrete steps. But it must have been made by the ‘friends’ of Luton Town, as it had loads of posts blocking one’s view. Furthermore, there was a perspex dugout almost in front of it. So, it was unused and indeed would probably only be used when it rains. To a degree the game did not quite live up to expectations. Both sides were evenly matched and so although it was entertaining, it wasn’t that exciting. The inevitable happened on 16 minutes when Runton took the lead, but Gimingham regrouped and started to see a lot of the ball. So, when they equalised on 33 minutes, it was just about deserved. Runton then scored what would turn out to be the winning goal on 40 minutes, but it might not have been so had the home lino raised his flag for offside, which I believe it was. The second half saw the hosts run out of ideas and Runton, without looking brilliant, go on and create quite a few scoring chances. So, their run continues. Afterwards as we drove away we passed the players walking back down the road to the Village Hall where they got changed.
contributed on 11/10/17
TT No.39: Brian Buck – Tuesday 26th September 201; CB Hounslow United v Eversley & California; Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Challenge Cup 1st Round; Result: 5-2; Attendance: 55.
A rare new midweek ground under floodlights for me this evening, almost a year ago to the day, my driver informed me and I remain very grateful to him for carting me around from time to time. We left early enough to deal with any problems the M25 might throw at us, but for once we didn’t encounter any traffic hold ups and we arrived in time to have a quick slurp in a pub near the ground. This was one of those places where there seemed to be more cars than people. CB Hounslow United are now playing at their new ground, called The Lair, Green Lane, Hounslow after spending many years at Osterley Sports Club. With a few minor alterations needed this ground is geared up for Step 3 & 4 football and the hosts are rightly proud of their achievements. Getting hold of any spare land in London is difficult enough in its own right. To make a success of it is even more difficult. I didn’t venture inside the clubhouse, so the two outstanding features for me were the stand, from which you could get a good elevated view of proceedings and the pitch. With apologies to other grounds-men who also produce great pitches, this one was simply the best I’ve seen outside the Football League. It was truly flat and the grass coverage on it was so good that I had to look twice to make sure that it wasn’t a 3G pitch. There were two flies in the ointment though. Firstly, the planes going in, or coming out of Heathrow Airport. They were so deafening as they passed above us. I’m not sure if the ref would be heard if he were trying to speak to a player when one came across. Secondly, we had the obligatory noisy young kids sitting in front of us. They were no serious problem really, but we moved away from them because they were irritating me! As for the game it turned out to be a good one. Both sides behaved themselves and gave the match officials no hassle at all. So, this was great for people who just want to watch football as a sport, like me. The score was 2-2 at half time, with Hounslow equalised about a minute after Eversley scored each time. After the break Hounslow slowly moved the game away from the visitors with three further goals, the last one being a follow up header after the taker of a spot kick had his effort saved.
contributed on 11/10/17
contributed on 09/10/17 (via Brian Buck)
What better way to celebrate 'National Poetry Day' than a tidy up of the North-East Counties League, or as it has inventively been renamed, the Northern Counties East League. Swallownest is a ride from Sheffield, with the X5, X54 and X55 providing a 15-minute service from the bus interchange. It is a long time since I last visited the 'Steel City' and they have built a waterfall feature outside the station which I can best describe as Wow! Well worth a visit if you happen to be in these parts. The club play at Swallownest Miners Welfare, which is thriving considering there aren't any miners left. The bus went through Oregrave scene of some of the worst violence during the miners’ strike. I always think it's sad that the mining industry in this country has disappeared, but I might have a different viewpoint if I'd actually had to work in one. The Welfare appears to be the main attraction in the village with a pool table and dartboard and anybody who’s been in a coma for the past 50 years would instantly recognise the place, with the only change in that time being a screen showing the football. From the bar I picked up a sixteen-page programme from Swallownest Beighton Ladies recent match against Malet Lambert YC. An unexpected issuer, but given the pile left over, not a best seller.
Plenty of food here with the meat pies proving popular, the ground has undergone a transformation to bring it up to spec. with newly built cover behind the goal providing a very welcome respite from the weather. Only two sides open, with the grass banking along one touchline out of bounds for spectators presumably due to health and safety. As it's the first season of programme production a few tips for them. A current table would be good, rather than last season’s final North-East Counties tables when Swallownest weren't even in it. Last season’s top league goal-scorers weren't particularly useful either and a list of all previous Cup winners and League champions would suggest the editor has carried out a mining expedition on the North-East Counties Website. And the team page was blank. Quite understandable if you can't get the away side but surely somebody could have taken a punt on the home line up? Surprisingly the officials were named, and if the referee really did come from Cambridgeshire the home club are going to be hit with a rather large bill for travelling expenses.
The match was top quality entertainment, 2-2 at the break surprisingly the visitors ran away with it a bit in the second half with Swallownest's third of no consequence coming as it did in the time referees add on at the end because their wives have told them not to get home too early. To add to the fun, we had the usual mass brawl and after a long consultation with both linesman the ref. only sent off two players (one from each side wouldn't you know). I didn't envy him the task of sorting it out, from where I was standing he could have picked any two to go from about a dozen.
Among the neutrals today was legendary blind hopper John Stancombe and his guide dog Eric. (Eric?). It is beyond me how he manages to travel all over the country on his own by public transport from his home in Norwich. He used to be a regular programme producer until his sight went completely and I have got many of his excellent issues in my collection. I salute you John.
Good game, good grub, good company, cheap lager and the trains behaved themselves. It's days like this that make life almost worth living.
contributed on 01/10/17
TT No.35: Brian Buck – Saturday 23rd September 2017; Team Northumbria v Durham City; Buildbase FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round; Result: 2-0; Attendance: 85.
This could have been a really nice day out. I left home to start my 501 miles round trip shortly after 8.30am, not realising that it would be about 19 hours before I would finally get home. The outward journey was fine. Train to Peterborough and then another one to Newcastle. From here it was a short walk to the bus stop where I picked up the Stagecoach Number 1 bus which took me direct to about 50 yards from the pitch, which was in the Coach Lane Campus, which forms part of Northumbria University. No bar here though and the ground wasn’t open yet. So, I nipped off to a pub, some ten minutes-walk away and had lunch. By the time I returned, about 25 minutes before kick-off, they were just opening up and I was the first in, getting a programme free with my admission, despite it carrying a cover price of £1. The ground ticked all the boxes for football at this level. It had a 200 approximate Atcost stand and a small bit of cover on the same side of the pitch. Both of these sides play in the Northern League, with Durham playing in the lower division. The game was full of energy and both sides did their best. But the hosts made up of University students (I assume) looked to have more stamina than the visitors and goals on 2 and 45 minutes were enough to give them a lead they never looked like losing after the break. The only irritants present both came from the visitors. One was an adult, who stopped moaning at the ref at half time and one teenage kid, who didn’t! He must have thought that he was the manager, but overall, he was just frustrated really. Then the fun and games started. As I waited for the match to finish I noted two buses waiting to leave. Just like to old Football Specials I thought. So, I ran over and got on the first one to leave. I was soon joined by another spectator! Had it left straightaway then I may have been able to catch the 5.26pm train from Newcastle and so get back indoors by about 10pm. But this 25-minute bus journey inexplicably took 40 minutes as the diver was in no hurry and so I missed the train. So, I got on the 6.30pm train instead. Things went well until it suddenly stopped halfway between Grantham and Peterborough. And there we waited for something like three hours. Apparently, a train coming the other way had brought down the overhead wires. When they finally decided what to do about it we reversed to Grantham, where we joined an already full diesel train. We then headed towards Peterborough, but coming to a halt where we had come to a halt earlier. Eventually we crawled into Peterborough, arriving at 2.20am. From here a taxi was provided to get me to my starting station and I was indoors at 3.45am. I just got in three hours sleep until it was time to get up to get ready for Church. Apparently, the Dover Athletic team were somewhere on the train, coming back from their 1-1 draw at Guiseley!
contributed on 26/09/17
TT No.34: Keith Aslan – Saturday 23rd September 2017; Lutterworth Town v Teversal; FA Vase 2Q; Kick-Off: 15.00; Result: 7-0; Admission: £4, Programme: £1; Attendance: 68 (48 home including 7 wag's; 8 away & 12 neutral)
There's only two teams in Lutterworth and the Town have made very rapid strides over the past 12 months to bring themselves up to the same level as the Athletic with both just a couple of points apart in the United Counties League. Having won the Leicestershire Senior last season without losing a game they really went for it, carrying out major ground improvements including floodlights. All very neat and tidy, but closely surrounded by houses on three sides leaving no space for added infrastructure the small metal stand (no seating) is behind the goal, as is the changing rooms and a very cheap clubhouse. An unusual set up here with the club leasing it out as a business which is open non matchdays as a pub and has a loyal group of regulars. Given the prices they charge it deserves to be a success. There was a welcome barbecue which apparently takes place at every home game. I was surprised there weren't problems with the floodlights given the close proximity of houses all-round the ground. This was rather smartly circumnavigated by telling the locals that the club was only willing to take out a 29 year- lease on the land if they could erect floodlights, otherwise they were off and the council would be building houses on the site. Suddenly all floodlight protests magically vanished. Nice one.
On arrival, I was greeted with 'You must be a groundhopper' I really do need to change my image. When I proffered my entrance money the gateman tactfully said 'That'll be £2, you're obviously a concession' There was a small pile of programmes that clearly weren’t going to last the distance and a 2.15 sell out left a lot of unhappy punters, and not just groundhoppers either. I'm sure I keep reading that programmes are obsolete and nobody buys them anymore? The game was enlivened by a rather succulent bevy of Lutterworth wag's who I'm told follow their men home and away (young love eh, that won't last!). I'm ashamed to say that certain groundhoppers paid rather more attention to the young ladies than they did to the football.
Lutterworth’s previous forays into the Vase have been short and not very sweet and up to now haven't made it past the preliminary stage while todays match sees them in the third qualifying round. The large margin of victory, while partly down to the home side playing some pretty good stuff, owed more to Teversal missing six first teamers who were in Prague on a Stag weekend. When did stag nights turn into a weekend away in a foreign country? It used to be a local pub crawl then tying the condemned man naked to a lamppost. Job done apart from popping into the police station next morning to bail out the groom so he made it to the wedding. We knew how to enjoy ourselves in those days.
The ground is a twelve-minute walk from the centre of town, unlike Lutterworth Athletic which is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest railhead is eight miles away at Rugby and it's the X84 you want. While the timetables on the local bus stops tantalisingly showed a 5 o'clock bus back, this is just a tease and in reality, you're stuck in Lutterworth after the match for an hour and a quarter. The place is pretty drab and while there are worst places to kill time there are certainly a lot better. I ensconced myself in the town’s main pub, appropriately called 'The Shambles' which has a large banner festooned across the outside proudly announcing it was Marstons Pub. of the year in 2015. All I can say is the competition can't have been up to much. I won't dwell on the fraught journey back to my Kentish dacha, let’s just say that railway privatization is a big pile of manure.
contributed on 24/09/17
TT No.33: Steve Hardy – Saturday 23rd September 2017; AVRO Reserves v Stockport Georgians Reserves; Manchester League Division Three; Result: 2-0; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 18 h/c
At the end of last season, AVRO moved out of their Lancaster club set up in Failsworth, Manchester, and have now pitched up at White Bank Road in Oldham. Rugby league enthusiasts might be familiar with that address, as it is the former home of the Oldham Roughyeds RL club, as well as Oldham Dew/Town and Borough football clubs. The Roughyeds had to move out of the Whitebank Stadium in 2016 as it had failed to meet minimum standard requirements, and it now looks as if they will never return as AVRO completed the purchase of the ground this summer.
Talking to locals who were watching the game yesterday, it seems AVRO have done a great deal of work at the renamed Vestacare Stadium, in a very short time. By all accounts, the place was a dump before, but AVRO have installed a shiny new 3G pitch, and built a new stand half the length of one side of the ground. Floodlights were already in place and the former Roughyeds social club has now been rebranded as the new Lancaster Club, although this is still a work in progress and builders are still on site refurbishing the place. On the pitch yesterday I watched a very competitive Reserve team fixture between AVRO and Stockport Georgians which the home team won 2-0 thanks to a last minute goal sealing the points. This match was a 1.00pm ko, so that groundsharers Mostonians of the Lancashire Amateur league could start their match at 3.15pm.
AVRO are aiming for the NWCL. With their first team top of the league after 8 straight wins, and with the facilities they now have, they would seem a shoe-in. I really enjoyed my visit there and wish them luck in their venture to better themselves.
contributed on 24/09/17
TT No.32: Ian Brown – Saturday 16th September; Donegal Celtic v Newington YC; Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League; Result: 1-2; Admission: £5 (no concessions); Programme: No; Attendance: less than 100; Catering: “Dermos Chippy Van” - Teas, Coffees, Soft Drinks, Chips, Burgers, Hot Dogs & Filled Sodas.
Donegal Celtic was formed in 1970 when a group of young men who had a huge interest in football decided to form a team in the Lenadoon district of West Belfast.
With no facilities, kits, pitch or equipment, the first few years were spent playing friendlies and entering local summer competitions which helped to enhance and promote their reputation and name. They registered their chosen name with the Irish Football League, taking the name from the area they were based, Lenadoon, Gweedore, Glenveagh are all local areas named after towns in County Donegal, with the Celtic part being taken on due to the massive local following for Glasgow Celtic, and formerly Belfast Celtic.
To reach Donegal Celtic Park from Belfast City Centre by bus take the 10B (towards Poleglass, Glenkeen) & 10F (towards Lagmore View). Alight at Suffolk Heights, Hannahstown, where it is a short stroll to the ground
The ground sits on the side of a hill. The Social Club and the ground floor of the clubhouse sit lower than the pitch. On the side of the social club there is a mural depicting “a huddle” the club crest and a former player Paul “Maxi” McVeigh”, impressive it looks too, the two-storey clubhouse leads out to the ground car park, the players have a fair walk to reach the pitch, between two small Atcost structures.
As mentioned above two 75 seat structures flank the players entrance. To the right of the Atcost structure is a long low cover leading down towards the Suffolk Road end of the ground. To the left-hand side is the Main Stand – which seats 568 speccies over 12 rows. Beyond this is the Glen Forest End, basically a narrow strip of concrete. Opposite the main stand is another covered structure providing both seating and standing; 315 seats on 5 rows with a wide area at the rear. The rest of this side is a raised narrow strip of concrete leading towards the away turnstile on Suffolk Road. The Suffolk Road end is basically a grass verge with again a narrow strip of concrete providing hard standing. The stadium control tower dominates the corner of the Suffolk Road End.
The game was competitive enough but seemed to fall down when the ball reached the danger zones. Before the game the Chairman came over to speak us, a nice touch. Half time 0-0.
Newington took the lead when Peter Gilgun slotted home after hesitancy in the homesters’ rearguard. Shortly afterwards a Conal Burns penalty doubled the visitors the lead. DC set up a grandstand finish by converting a penalty given away by the keeper.
contributed on 19/09/17
TT No.31: Brian Buck - Saturday 16th September 2017; NUFC Oilers v Crouch End Vampires; Southern Amateur League Senior Division 2; Result: 0-2
I was due to watch a match on the previous evening, but on the way to Boreham Wood, to see the Woolwich Nomads play, the gear stick on my car suddenly wouldn’t move and I got stuck on the southbound A1(M) and so I invited the AA to come and see me and my companion. An hour and a quarter later they accepted and I was towed to my garage. But there was good and bad news to follow. The bad news was that I missed not only my Friday night match, but also my intended Saturday morning game. The good news was that they identified the problem and got my car fixed, free of charge, after admitting to a mistake they’d made two days earlier and I was back on the road by 12.30pm.
So, I reached my chosen afternoon match at The Hive with time enough for a quick slurp in the club’s bar which they like to call The Pecking Order. Didn’t see any chickens cross the road though! More drink needed! Anyway, this game was played on the most northerly of the 9 full size pitches they have here, which was handy for later on as it was only a short walk from there to Canons Park Tube station, making it easy get to Wembley Stadium for my evening match. This was the fifth of the 9 pitches that I‘ve seen games on here and that doesn’t include Barnet FC on the main pitch, who were away today.
I tried to find out more about the name NUFC Oilers. The first bit was easy, NUFC stands for Nottingham University and they are really their Old Boys side. But no one seemed to know where the ‘Oilers’ part came in. I was fobbed off with the fact that it was their nickname. Then one chap said it was because they played slick football and I suggested that it might be because they looked a greasy bunch to me. I know how to make friends easily you know! Anyway, this wasn’t a great game. It seems that the visitors, newly relegated, play their best stuff in midweek games at the end of the season, just as it is getting dark! They spent a lot of time trying to wind up the ref. I’ve seen him ref quite a bit and I like him, especially as he can be just as awkward if he doesn’t get respect he should have. So, on a decent but exposed pitch on a raised plateau it was the hosts who won this rather ordinary match with goals on 18 and 26 minutes with the second one going in off the post and the keeper. While this game was going on I kept my eye on another match being played out two pitches down which was Old Garchonians 1 Polytechnic 1, which was a bit of a surprise as the hosts usually play their home games at the London Lions complex.
contributed on 19/09/17
TT No.30: Steve Hardy – Saturday 16th September 2017; Olton Ravens v Bartley Reds South; Birmingham & District Football League Division Six; Result: 3-13; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 14 H/C
Well, where to start with this afternoon’s fun and games? Probably at the beginning is as good a place as any. Olton Ravens are one of several new clubs in the Birmingham & District League this season, but more importantly they are one of only three new venues left for me to visit.
Their base is the Land Rover Social club, near Solihull. This is an excellent facility with umpteen football pitches and also a rugby pitch, although ours was the only game taking place there today. The social club is massive, with loads of people watching the football on the wide screen TVs, or sitting outside in family groups enjoying the fine weather (until the heavens opened, that is). There are several portakabin style dressing rooms near the entrance to the site, and plenty of car parking for visitors and players.
Earlier in the season I had seen Olton Ravens play a pre-season friendly which they had lost 10-0. They were dire that day, but recent results had suggested they had tightened things up a bit, so I was not expecting a similar result again. How wrong I was. Talking to a referee’s assessor before and during the game he was convinced that Olton would lose heavily again and he was correct. 4-0 down after just 10 minutes they rallied slightly to score themselves on 16. Game on? No chance, as the Reds scored another 5 at will, to lead 9-1 at half time. Their eighth goal was a long range headed OG, which resulted in the young defender who scored it, leaving the field in tears and heading straight for the dressing room, never to reappear. It seems his keeper had said some pretty stupid things to him after the OG, which, given his young age, was really sad.
After the break, it took the Reds 20 minutes to get back into their stride before three more goals came in quick succession. Credit to Olton though as they managed a couple of their own, the second of which being from a penalty in the 88th-minute, before the Reds sealed their victory with number 13 in the final minute. Olton even had a player sent off for two bookings, which he thought very harsh, and he set off for the Reds dug out to have his say. The referee followed him over and managed to move him away to his own dug out, but the funny side of that was that there was nobody in the Reds dugout for him to remonstrate with anyway!
So, another top afternoon out in one of my favourite leagues. Yes, the standard wasn’t very high, but you couldn’t fault the entertainment value.
contributed on 17/09/17
TT No.29: Brian Buck – Saturday 9th September 2017; AFC Solihull v Enville Athletic; Midland League Division 3 (played at Tudor Grange Leisure Centre, Solihull); Result: 1-2; Attendance: 32.
By now I was in possession of a courtesy car as my own car was at Columbo’s, as I like to call it. They seem to spot things wrong with it that no one else can. So, my view that all that was needed was some gear box oil translated into over a thousand pounds of work in their eyes! So, I decided to take my replacement car for a bit of a spin today, on the basis of, why bugger up your own car when you can bugger up someone else’s instead?
Anyway, I arrive at the ground just under two hours from home. Then it was time for food in the leisure centre, but no alcohol today. When I returned the £2 programmes were available. A free cup of tea or coffee comes with it, but this didn’t make the programme taste any better. They make this offer to try and encourage people to pay to get in! I then took my place in the stand which had plenty of wooden seats, needed when we had a bit of rain later on. The pitch was in the middle of a running track, but the view wasn’t that bad. On the other side of it there was an advert which read ‘Sign manufacturers for over 65 years’. Fine for me, but what if someone under 65 years old wants one?
This was a match between two sides who had yet to win a league match prior to today. The game was almost over by the 12th minute, by which time Enville were leading 2-0. Things were going quite well until shortly before the break when the visiting keeper came out of his area and flattened the home forward, to stop him from scoring. He only got a yellow card for this, but the squabbles went on for some time. Then the ref ran over to the home bench and spoke to the manager. The reason for this was revealed by him during the break as he joined us for ‘tea’ rather than give his losing side a stiff team talk. He told us that he was too angry to do this. He then revealed that the female lino had complained that she had received ‘gender based’ abuse from one of the home players, but apparently couldn’t be sure which one it was. The manager then told the ref that the camera around his neck was switched on and was recording everything he had said to him! Fortunately, things calmed down after the break. The football got better and Solihull managed to pull a goal back on 54 minutes from the spot.
contributed on 14/09/17
TT No.28: Keith Aslan – Saturday 9th September 2017; Darlington v Leamington; Conference South; Kick-Off: 15.02; Result: 0-0; Admission: £14 (£10 for old people); Programme: £2.50p (very good); Official Attendance: 1277 (including at least 7 neutral)
I'm not a fan of the Conference. Overrated, overpriced with a most ludicrous ground grading system which they use to get rid of teams they don't want. Cambridge City and Kings Lynn are just two of the clubs thrown out for minor infractions because 'rules are rules' unless of course you get crowds of six thousand then the league just ignore the rule about having a four-sided ground - Oxford United for instance. Darlington were stitched up last season, when with two months left of the season they were told they wouldn't be allowed to compete in the play offs, leaving it much too late to make the necessary ground 'improvements'. Their point that they should have been informed of ground requirements at the beginning of the season would seem to me to be quite reasonable, but reason has never featured very prominently in this league. The club is busy making the adjustments to allow them to enter the play offs this season, but taken on today’s performance it is an academic exercise. Oh yes and whoever decided that Bishops Stortford is in the north of England clearly wasn't paying attention in Geography lessons. This league is a ‘shambles’.
In spite of hearing much negativity regarding Blackwell Meadows I liked the place. A 28-minute walk from the station, it has six rows of covered terracing behind one a goal, a grass bank behind the other and along the far side a local stand for local people, a no-go area for visitors who are thrown out because there isn't enough room. And here lies the problem, the ground isn't really big enough. It was o.k. for today’s smallest crowd of the season but I wouldn't like to be there next week for the 2,500 they are expecting for the cup game with South Shields. It has a comfortable bar with food and the pre. match entertainment was watching Liverpool get tonked on a big screen.
Leamington were formed in 2000 two years after their predecessors A.P. folded. This is their first season in the Conference having been promoted through the play offs. Their most famous old boy is Harry Redknapp. I doubt many people could name their ground. It is of course the "Phillips 66 Community Stadium". Darlington's recent turbulent history is well documented and it's good to see them back in town although the ultimate aim of a return to the football league is unlikely to be accomplished at this ground.
The Non-League Paper gave this match one star which was being a tad generous. Leamington came for a point and Darlington weren't good enough to prevent them getting it. The visiting keeper started wasting time in the eighth minute with the rest of his colleagues soon joining in. The referee spent most of the match telling them to hurry up and pointing at his watch seemingly undeterred by the fact they weren't taking any notice of him. Try booking somebody mate that usually works! Leamington sucked the life out of this game in the second half, not that there was much life in it to start with. Remember when three points for a win was first introduced in we were told it would create lots of goals and exciting football as teams wouldn't settle for a draw and go all out for the win. What a load of rubbish.
The game started late presumably in homage to Darlington's sponsors, our old mates Virgin Trains. There is a similarity between football and the privatised railway in that being up to 8 minutes late is actually on time. Branson's private island was devastated by the hurricane and he was actually on it when 'Irma' hit. Sadly, he was unscathed so we will still have to put up with the publicity seeking little runt a while longer. The programme was an excellent read and well worth the money. And, while on the subject of football programmes, I am indebted to last week’s Deal Town proggy for coming up with the most appropriate anagram in history. 'The new stadium' is an anagram of 'West Ham United'.
Another wonderful day out in the north east only partly spoilt by having to watch a turgid football match in the middle of it.
contributed on 10/09/17
TT No.27: Steve Hardy – Saturday 9th September 2017; Rhosllanerchrugog v Penyffordd Lions; Welsh Cup 2nd Qualifying Round; Result: 2-3; Admission: Free; Programme: by donation. Attendance: 8 h/c
I always seek out new clubs in the qualifying rounds of the Welsh FA cup, and as more often than not, there will be a new programme on offer. So, it was today with a visit to brand new club Rhosllanerchrugog, who are based at the local Rugby club on a pitch miles away from the changing rooms and clubhouse. Driving across Wales through rain of biblical proportions, I did wonder if the game would still be on, but my fears were allayed upon arrival by the sight of the goalposts being carried through the car park, past two rugby pitches, and on to the football pitch at the far end of the site. No spectator facilities at the pitch, with just a rope down one side to keep the spectator hordes at bay. In any case, the rope wasn’t really needed today as the crowd peaked at just 8, with four of those being groundhoppers.
On the pitch, the visitors were another newly formed club, Penyffordd Lions. They were also formed during the summer of 2017, in their case from the ashes of the old Penyffordd club who had folded at the end of last season. The first half was dominated by Pen, who had several chances to score, but missed them all, giving us a 0-0 halftime score. A very short half time break saw us restart after just 5 minutes, and with the prospect of extra time in the rain and gloom, that was a very good decision in my opinion.
As so often happens, the homesters suddenly sprang to life, and took the lead on 49 minutes. Pen continued to be the better side though, and deservedly equalised on the hour mark. By this time the hoppers present were praying for anyone to score to avoid extra time, and we were delighted when Pen scored a second on 79 minutes. Relief all round until Rhos found the energy from somewhere to equalise two minutes later and we were back to square one. Pen continued to press though and after an almighty scramble in the Rhos penalty area, they managed to bundle what proved to be the winner with two minutes left. Phew!
contributed on 10/09/17
TT No.26: Brian Buck - Saturday 26th August 2017; Hilton Harriers v Pinxton; Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Black Dragon South; Result: 0-3; Attendance: 55 approx.
Today was the first in a short series of very warm days, both day and night, so there was no need for more than basic clothing. To get here I caught a number of trains to Derby. Then after just over a ten-minute walk, to the bus station, longer if you stop off at the three pubs on the way, I caught the half hourly V1 bus to Hilton and got off almost by the entrance to the ground. With just under an hour and a half to go before kick-off programmes were already available for sale. No food here, but I had brought my own and was allowed to eat it on the premises. They also have a hidden bar here and after some discussion I found something to suit my taste. I’d been to another ground in this village/town, that of the Hilton Harriers who played in the ‘Derby’ Summer League for a while, but this ground is nowhere near that venue.
Today this was a match between the top of the table visitors and the second placed hosts. I couldn't quite understand why they used the railed off pitch, painted in the club colours of orange and black, furthest from the clubhouse, even though it was flatter looking than the other one. Surely, they will have to switch if they become successful and erect floodlights. However, on today’s performance this will not be in the immediate future, as they were well outplayed by the visitors. Pinxton’s squad contained famous names such as Jack Hawkins and Jack Warner. The former scored the first goal and the latter named was suspended today. They were winning 3-0 by the break. In the second half Harriers made a token effort to get back into the match, but that was all it was. Afterwards a fellow Groundhopper kindly gave me a lift back to the station which meant that I got home earlier than expected. The only fly in the ointment today was having a disagreement with a Manchester United fan who erroneously thought that Spurs should allow more than 3,000 visiting fans into Wembley, to make for a better atmosphere! I think that there would be an even better atmosphere if none of their fans were let in!
contributed on 04/09/17
TT No.25: Brian Buck - Saturday 19th August 2017; Worthing Town v Sidlesham; Macron Store Southern Combination League Division 2; Result: 1-5; Attendance: 43.
I travelled here by train, accompanying by some un-forecasted rain but fortunately it stopped by the time we alighted at the station. From there we had a 15-minute walk to the ground where we met a very nice lady in reception who told us that she was whatever fancy title she had given herself. When it came down to ifontributed on 04/09/17 the bar and food would be available we were told that it would be once her catering manager arrived! However, by now we had noticed her pretty delicate fingers holding copies of the holy grail for this club, the match day programme and soon she was lighter by two. We then had a longer chat which revealed that after a falling out the club have dropped the ‘Leisure’ of their name last season. They then played their matches at the far end of Palatine Park. But this season, under their revised name they are playing on the pitch between the clubhouse and the adjacent Hungry Horse pub and rather than wait for the catering manager to arrive I decamped there for an hour or so. I returned shortly before kick-off, just before the players appeared. I was a bit worried that the ref might be the same guy who sits in front of and reads the scores off the teleprinter as they come in. But unless he is an Olympic athlete, then I saw the actual bloke doing his stuff on TV a few moments after this match had finished. As for the game, it was really as one sided as the score suggests. The hosts tried hard but were plainly nowhere near as good as the visitors, who were 2-0 up at the break. This became 0-3 after 61 minutes, but I was pleased for Worthing when they pulled a goal back on 90 minutes, as they had taken their punishment with minimal fuss, but in stoppage time Sidlesham scored twice more to win by about the right margin.
contributed on 04/09/17
TT No.24: Brian Buck - Saturday 12th August 2017; Abbey Hey v Runcorn Linnets; Hallmark Security North West Counties League Premier Division; Result: 0-4; Attendance: 165.
This was rather a long day out on the trains, but nonetheless I enjoyed it. I was able to get a direct train from Peterborough to Manchester Piccadilly, which included some stunning views between Sheffield and Stockport. Then I caught a local train to the nearest stop to the ground, Ryder Brow, some 8 minutes-walk away. By coincidence I had followed a chap I had briefly spoken to at Manchester Piccadilly station almost all the way to the ground. So, I was pleased to be able to redirect him just as he was about to take a wrong turn right at the end. Turned out that he was a huge Wigan Athletic fan and we spent some quality time together during various parts of the day. Surprisingly there was someone on the gate some 90 minutes before kickoff. £4 & £1 programme OAP admission for me. Then it was off to the bar, where I manage to bag a couple of meat and potato pies. But what was I going to wash it down with? There didn’t seem to be many bottles of Magners available and I needed at least four to cover my day’s needs. The barman did a quick stock take and told me that he had ten! Anyway, it appears that the locals don’t drink cider much, so I was safe! Then it was time to leave the busy atmosphere of the bar, filled up mainly by good natured visiting fans, and get out and watch the game.
In fact, most of the crowd seemed to be supplied by the visitors, always a good sign if their team is fancied to do well. They did so here today as the hosts didn’t really turn up on the day and were 3-0 down by the 38th minute. After the break with the match effectively decided it was much more low-key and Runcorn added one further goal, on 86 minutes. After the match, I returned to the bar, primarily to await my train, but whilst supping my last pint I noticed a well-dressed man in Runcorn colours chuck an envelope and their players sitting near me. Rumour had it that it was thrown towards the manager and that it had about £100 in it! Overall a good and probably a memorable day out! Getting home took longer than expected as my train was delayed. I met a nice lady at Manchester Piccadilly and she decided to reroute via Leeds and Doncaster, while I stuck with my train. So, it turned out to be a romantic reunion (from my point of view) when we were reunited at Peterborough! This lasted until we reached Huntingdon where she got off. Alas not with me!
contributed on 04/09/17
TT No.23: Brian Buck - Saturday 29th July 2017; Punjab United v Sporting Khalsa; Friendly Match; Result: 3-4; Attendance: 50 approx.
Today I decided to let the train take the strain and with engineering works going on around Dartford I lashed out a few extra pennies and got to Gravesend just 22 minutes after leaving London St Pancras International, as it is called these days. From there I caught a bus to the ground, which I had to wait some time for it to arrive. However, I was chatted up by some pink haired granny while I waited! The bus stopped almost outside the ground and I headed straight for the entrance where I picked up a free programme, on account of my senior citizen status. By now I had been joined by another groundhopping friend, a Leyton Orient fan. Next stop was the bar, but not the main one, as there were two private functions going on here today, namely a wedding reception and a 40th birthday party celebration. We were ushered into a small bar in between the two functions where we were joined by some home officials, who were very pleasant people to talk to and they were full optimism for the coming season, having been promoted into Step 6 football after winning the Kent County League last season.
So, this season they will play in the Southern Counties East League. Just before the start I attempted to buy some food from the outdoor burger bar. But despite there being no one in the queue I was told that I would have to order it from the bar we had just come out of! When I asked I couldn’t buy it direct from the burger bar I was told “Security reasons!” I decided not to partake. As for the game, it was keenly contested with the visitors, from the West Midlands, proving to be the stronger side by the end. I watched the game from the seated stand and so kept dry from the rain. Khalsa scored after 5 minutes but by the 32nd minute Punjab were winning 3-1. It could have been 4-1 by the break, but as the potential scorer bore down on goal the half time whistle was blown. After the break Punjab wilted quickly, so allowing Khalsa to score the three goals they needed to win the match.
contributed on 04/09/17
TT No.22: Keith Aslan – Saturday 2nd September 2017; INFINITY v Stockbridge; Hampshire Premier League; Kick-Off: 14.59; Result: 1-2; Admission: Free; Programme: £1; Attendance: 29 (13 home, 6 away & 10 neutral)
For those who think this one is too far to travel, good news, they don't actually play in Infinity but the at the weird and wonderful village of Knowle which is 4 miles north of Fareham Station and has a door to door bus service. I've never been to a place quite like it. Constructed on the site of an old lunatic asylum it is a microscopic Milton Keynes (and I mean that in a good way). The entire place has been built this century with the new houses blending in with the remains of the hospital which have been transformed into luxury apartments, and anybody paying the prices they are being sold for would have been candidates for residency in its previous incarnation! A new one-and-a- half mile long country road is the only access to the place, although the bus sneaks out round the back through some bollards which magically disappear into the ground on its approach (How can they tell the difference between a bus and a car?). The place is unique and would be an ideal location for a remake of 'The Prisoner' with Knowle being harder to escape from on a Sunday than 'The Village' ever was.
Myself and another hopper indulged in some serious pre-match blackberry picking, but in truth they weren't much kop (nowhere near as good as Thanet blackberries), and on arrival in the village there was a large sign saying the next day’s fete was cancelled due to the dodgy weather forecast. No climatic problems today with the spectators basking in The Last of The Summer Shine. The ground is pleasantly situated with a large car park, railed down one side and a building containing the dressing rooms and grub station which, as with the rest of the village, was all new. Like Immingham they put on their twitter feed that there was going to be refreshments and a programme, but unlike Immingham they were telling the truth. (Incidentally we are still trying to squeeze the promised programme out of our northern friends. You haven't heard the last of this saga and more pertinently, neither have they). Infinity couldn't be more different, the grub was cheap, the £1.50p cheese burgers were magnificent, and for the professional hopper the team line ups were written on a whiteboard. A good turnout of hoppers, unfortunately one of the malevolent ones disgraced us with his presence. Continually whingeing, refusing to give the club a penny, he gives ground hoppers a bad name. But the other nine of us made a contribution to club funds, buying raffles, food and programmes so they must have made a few quid out of us.
The outcome of the match was a bit of a surprise given Infinity's previous record of played 5 won 5 but in an entertaining game mid table Stockbridge scored a goal in each half with Infinity's 89th minute strike too little too late. A glorious day out in the Hampshire countryside with the bus back, tastefully timed at 8 minutes past 5, actually having people on it, not always a given on country routes.
Finally, the question everybody wants the answer to - why are they called Infinity? I can now give you the definitive answer, nobody at the club knows. Like the Marie Celeste and the popularity of Ant & Dec it will forever remain one of life's enduring mysteries.
contributed on 03/09/17
TT No.21: Keith Aslan - Saturday 20th May 2017; Ford Motors v Pilkington @ STYAL. Cheshire League Presidents Cup Final; Kick-Off: 14.00; Result: 3-0 to Pilkington; Admission & Programme: £4. (£2 for me because I'm old); Attendance: 110 (45 Pilkington, 30 Ford & 35 neutral)
My final hop of the season took me to the wonderful village of Styal deep in the heart of the Cheshire Footballers Belt. All your food and drink requirements are catered for in this tiny enclave which oozes money from every pore. Ironic then that most people will have heard of the place only because it houses one of the country’s largest women's prisons. Like the rest of Styal the football ground can be summed up as neat and tidy. Fully railed with a small stand and when I arrived the clubhouse was full of unhappy cricketers staring wistfully out on the adjacent cricket pitch which was slowly subsiding in the heavy downpour. Serves them right for arranging fixtures during the Manchester Rainy Season - January to December.
Good news: The ground is 6 minutes-walk from Styal station. Bad news: There are only three trains a day that stop there. Good news: One of them fits perfectly with a 2 o' clock kick off. Bad news: To catch it the referee needs to start the game punctually and there can't be extra time. Good news: He did and there wasn't. The four people, waiting for the train had all been to the football and I puzzled with the rows of bicycle racks on the platform. Who is going to bother cycling to a station with virtually no trains? To get to the match I went to the nearest railhead with a proper service, Handforth, which is a 35- minute walk and where I got an unexpected new Greggs tick. The best way to get to the ground is by plane with Manchester Airport only one and a half miles away.
Ford can feel very aggrieved by the margin of defeat with only two late goals banishing the spectre of extra time. The closeness of the game was illustrated by the Pilkington goalie picking up the Man of the Match award. Rob Cork was the man in question and I was very taken with the opening line of his pen picture ‘Cork by name, cork by nature, a natural stopper’.
With few alternatives, so late in the season plenty of hoppers made for this one and I spent the game in the pleasant company of professional northerner known to everyone as 'Lollipop Man' so called due to a previous employment and not a Kojak-esque sweet tooth. He was coming down to the Metropolis the next day for the non-league finals and because he didn't trust Virgin Trains to get him there on time (can't think why) he was travelling overnight by coach. Rather him than me. So, it's all over for another season with only a vacuous summer stretching ahead. Could be worse, at least I've got the election to look forward to!
v2 contributed on 13/08/17
TT No.20: Steve Hardy – Saturday 2nd September 2017; Steeton v Wakefield City; West Riding County Amateur League cup; Result: 5-2; Admission: Free: Programme: £1; Attendance: 31 H/C
What a super little set up this is! The village of Steeton is some 3 miles north of Keighley in West Yorkshire, and the football team play at a facility they share with the local cricket club in Summerhill Avenue. I received an extremely warm welcome when I arrived and the facilities are first class for the level they play at. Fully railed off pitch with the dressing room and tea hut block being behind the goal nearest to the entrance. Car parking is tight, so I parked my car at the cricket club which is just a bit further down Summerhill Avenue.
Getting there was an absolute nightmare with traffic problems seemingly in all directions. The match was a 1.45 start, but by that time the visitors had just 6 players who had made it through the chaos on the roads. A few more turned up in dribs and drabs, and we eventually started at 2.00pm. The match was very high scoring again, with the visitors scoring against the run of play after 13 minutes, and goals following at fairly regular intervals after that until, by halftime, Steeton led 3-2. After the break Wakefield didn’t seem to be able to recreate the high intensity of the first half, with Steeton scoring a couple more on the hour mark before easing to a 5-2 victory.
A word of praise also for the programme. Absolutely stunning effort in full colour, on glossy paper, with 40 pages for just £1. OK there are loads of adverts on every page, but the rest of the content is top notch. The journey home was a lot easier than I had feared, as most of the traffic problems had dissipated, resulting in yet another top day out in Yorkshire.
contributed on 03/09/17
TT No.19: Steve Hardy – Wednesday 30th August 2017; Spittal Rovers v Whitley Bay Sporting; Northern Alliance Division Two; Result: 3-3; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 18 H/C
The plan today was to visit the most northerly English pyramid club I hadn’t been to already, with trip to the Newfields Park home of Berwick based Spittal Rovers. A had had a few doubts about this one actually taking place, I must say, as I couldn’t see how visitors Whitley Bay Sporting Club could possible get all the way up to Berwick for a 6.15KO. It was no surprise, therefore, to arrive at the ground to find the place deserted. A quick call to Secretary Sharon soon alleviated my worries though as she said the game was still on, but that they don’t play at Newfields Park anymore and that the league web site was incorrect. Turns out they have relocated 12 miles south of Berwick to the home of Lowick United, so with time running out to make kick off, it was a speedy trip back down the A1 to Lowick for me.
Remote is probably the best description of Lowick. It is a delightful village in the middle of nowhere, with the football ground right on the edge of the village. What an excellent set up though. Two portacabins for home and away dressing rooms, a separate dressing room for the ref, and what looked like a kitchen area where people were coming out with cups of tea in their hands. The pitch itself was immaculate and railed off along one side. Lowick United have been playing in the North Northumberland league recently, but don’t seem to have an active adult male team at all this year. I was totally wrong about the visitors making it in time too. They had a full squad plus substitutes warming up when I finally arrived, and we kicked off spot on 6.15pm.
The match itself was superb. WBSC took the lead early on, before the homesters equalised on 30 minutes. Back came WBSC to take the lead just before the break and they led 2-1 at half time. After the break, the visitors had a defender rather harshly sent off on 55 minutes, and Spittal took full advantage by equalising almost immediately, although the goal looked very offside from where I was standing. WBSC continued to look very impressive on the counter attack though with their young number 11 the best player on the pitch, and one of his crosses looked like it had been turned in for a 3-2 lead, only for it to be hooked off the line and hoofed straight down the other end of the pitch for Spittal to take the lead themselves. I really hoped the visitors would get something out of the game though, and sure enough, that young winger crossed again in the dying minutes and a deserved equaliser went in.
A wonderful evening’s entertainment and credit to both clubs to getting on with it.
contributed on 03/09/17
TT No.18: Steve Hardy – Saturday 26th August 2017; Shilbottle Colliery Welfare v North Sunderland; North Northumberland League; Result: 1-2; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 29 H/C
I have a morbid interest in endangered leagues in the UK, and following the demise of my own local league, the Wolverhampton Combination, I now try to see a game in as many leagues that are teetering on the edge, as possible.
One such league is the North Northumberland league which is still with us, but now down to just one division of ten clubs. Today I ventured to the village of Shilbottle, which is close to Alnwick, and the Shilbottle Community Centre which is the home of former Northern Alliance club, Shilbottle Colliery Welfare. Not a bad set up at all for the level, with a fully railed off pitch and dressing rooms located in the impressive Community Centre. Not really any spectator facilities as such, but I was able to gorge myself on blackberries from the numerous bushes that surround the pitch!
Today’s visitors were the league’s team to beat, North Sunderland. The lovely and knowledgeable Shilbottle Secretary soon spotted I wasn’t a local and gave me a full history of both his own club, and the visitors, who now have their own ground being built for them in Seahouses I was told.
The game itself was very good. North Sunderland were the better team throughout, but missed a good few chances before a slip by the home goalie gave them the lead when he allowed a shot to go through his legs. To their credit, Shilbottle managed to equalise in the second half, but North Sunderland scored almost from the restart to squash any thoughts of a home win for good.
Amazingly for rural Northumberland, the ground can be reached by a bus from Alnwick, which stops just outside the ground. Not sure if you can get back to Alnwick after a midweek game though!
contributed on 03/09/17
TT No.17: Brian Buck - Wednesday 26th July 2017; St Clears Reserves v FC Carmarthen; Clay Shaw Butler Charity Shield; Result: 2-7; Attendance: 35 approx.
For my last game of my tour/holiday I ventured outside of Pembrokeshire and headed into Carmarthenshire. Although this game was on my agenda before I left home, my friend from Llangwm had offered me a better option and closer to base for tonight. But I rejected this because of out all of my pre-tour/holiday planning, FC Carmarthen were the most supportive and helpful. They are a newly formed and well-organised club who have been elected into the Carmarthenshire League. They will eventually be playing their home games at the Showground, once they get their pitch there sorted. Tonight, there was a miniscule chance of the game not going ahead, as I was told that shortly before kick-off that St Clears only had seven players. Eventually they mustered 12, whilst Carmarthen had at least 17 players. There was also a problem getting the goals onto the pitch as no one knew the code to undo the lock! Looking at all the players available, I struggled to believe that none of them were capable of dealing with this! Anyway, the code was found. (2501 if it happens again lads!). It soon became clear that this was going to be a resounding away win as the hosts were playing in a way which gave geriatrics a bad name! Carmarthen, an excellent side, were soon on top and led 4-0 by the break. They should have scored goals more really. Meanwhile the hosts best player was their young centre forward, who knew where the goal was, despite not putting it in the correct position before the start of play! After the break although St Clears pulled a goal back they were tiring quickly and by the 80th minute they were down to ten men through fatigue. Earlier a visiting player went down far too easily for the liking of one St Clears fan who told him, “Get up, the wind’s stronger than that!” Carmarthen scored three more times in this period, but the goal of the night came St Clears way when a 50-yard effort went in off the crossbar. Overall this was a great night out with some lovely people.
contributed on 23/08/17
TT No.16: Brian Buck - Tuesday 25th July 2017; Monkton Swifts v Pembroke Boro; Weaver Callan Memorial Trophy Semi Final; Result: 8-2; Attendance: 45 approx.
Faced with an hour and a half’s drive to revisit Penypont to get my fix tonight, I was very grateful to receive a couple of texts from one of the good people of Llangwm telling me about this game at Monkton Swifts tonight. Just a pity that the first of these arrived at 7.15am while I was still asleep! I thought that it was my alarm clock! Anyway, this was much better for me as the ground was only four miles from where I was staying. I’d seen the outside of the ground on the previous Sunday when I was Church Hopping! But I hadn’t realised just how nice it was until tonight. The ground is railed off on two sides. The players enter the pitch from the middle of the stand, has seating for perhaps 80 spectators. Later I found out that this club once played in the Welsh League. However, there was a massive slope on the pitch. It also need a cut and favoured players with one leg longer than the other! Meanwhile the hosts reserve team manager was sitting in front of me and he reeled off a list of dates and opposition for forthcoming friendly matches. Rattling them off rather quickly and almost in the same breath he told his listener that there would be no game on one particular Saturday because he was getting married and then continued reeling off fixtures. Not particularly funny in print, but it was at the time. The match was as one sided as the score-line suggests and the hosts were 5-0 up at the break. There was friction in the crowd though. When one Swifts player put in a dodgy tackle an elderly but very vocal visiting female fan shouted out that this game was only a friendly and it wasn’t needed. But as soon as a Boro player put in a dodgy tackle her comments were repeated back to her by the Swift fans. The banter became more intense and coarse. Eventually she complained to a home official who threatened to kick the Swift fans out of the club. However, this would have created a problem, as they included the reserve team manager and some of his players. And was it not her who uttered the first ‘F’ word? In the second half things became more even. Monkton only score three more goals and Pembroke got a couple at the end themselves.
contributed on 23/08/17
TT No.15: Brian Buck - Monday 24th July 2017; West Dragons v Llangwm; Friendly Match; Result: 5-2; Attendance: 50 approx.
From watching football on one of the better grounds in the county on the previous Saturday, it was time to visit the worst one I saw tonight. It’s in Haverfordwest and it was just as well that I took some time to find it earlier in the afternoon leading up to the game. The entrance is a narrow driveway between two houses and there is no dropped kerb to make this any easier either. But once inside the ground the whole place opened up and there was plenty of parking. Facilities were spartan too. In terms of football furniture all they had was a couple of rusty portakibins. However, the pitch was very well prepared and also, as this ground is on the top of a hill, the views were spectacular. Furthermore, on this showing West Dragons looked as good, if not better, than Goodwick and come the end of the season it will be interesting to see which side does the best. Dragons were a goal up after 41 seconds and the scorer would also get the last goal on 73 minutes. The other three goals came in the first half and were scored by someone who should be playing at a much higher level, rather than just on the top of a hill! With both sides making a number of substitutions after the break the game became more even and Llangwm deserved their two goals.
contributed on 23/08/17
TT No.14: Brian Buck - Saturday 22nd July 2017. Goodwick United v Llanelli Town; Friendly Match; Result: 1-3; Attendance: 300 approx.
After having lunch with my wife, I left her to ponder the delights of St Davids Cathedral and headed the 16 or so miles north to Goodwick, which is near Fishguard. Parking was free and easy. There was no admission charge here and no programme issued either. But with the game attracting the attention of the locals, they could have made quite a bit today had they wanted to. Anyway, I did give them a bit of cash, via the bar, which not only has a balcony which overlooks the football pitch, but it also overlooks the rugby pitch behind it as well. The ground is railed off and has a small stand, with shallow seating, which I patronised until the partners of the home players blocked my view with their little ones, oblivious to the fact that a football match was taking place. It seemed like one of the criteria for playing for this club is that you must not only have a female partner, but also have the ability to get her pregnant as quickly as possible! As for the game, it was a decent one. Goodwick have been just about the best side in the Pembrokeshire League for a few years now and Llanelli, trying to return to their glory days, will be playing in Welsh League Division 1 this season. It was they who took the lead on 27 minutes. Then on 43 minutes, Welsh legend of the lower leagues, Lee Trundle and perhaps the reason why the attendance was so high, drew his marker into fouling him inside the box, but his resultant spot kick was saved. But he did get on the scoresheet on 53 minutes and Lanelli scored again on 8 minutes later. Goodwick did score on 75 minutes and their manager told me that his name was Dalling. At the time, I thought he said Darling, which probably explains the funny look I got when I confirmed it with him!
contributed on 23/08/17
TT No.13: Brian Buck - Friday 21st July 2017; Letterston v Hundleton; Friendly Match; Result: 3-4; Attendance: 15 approx.
This ground is just off the Haverfordwest to Fishguard road and I arrived at the same time as a short rain storm did, but fortunately the changing rooms here have a sufficiently large overhang, so no one got wet, apart from those you either needed or wanted to! But it soon stopped and most of the game was played out in bright sunshine. This also a rather scenic ground and the pitch sloped sharply. At one point, I thought that there might be programmes for the game, but the box they might have been in was actually used to remove some shit from the playing area. Meanwhile as I watched the game a couple of girls were kicking a ball about in front of me. Bearing in mind that they were probably under the age of 15, I wondered quite what kind of person one of their mothers must be, to let her daughter go running around, with ‘Nope not tonight’ emblazoned on her top! Meanwhile in the distance it seemed that our attendance might get swelled as I spotted a gang of women piling out of a pub. But it seemed that they were on some kind of pub crawl and they all jumped on a waiting coach which soon drove off. As for the match, reffed for the most part by the home manager and fairly at that, Letterston went a goal up on 3 minutes with Hundleton equalising six minutes later. But kicking down the slope Letterston were winning 2-1 at the break following a successful spot kick on 20 minutes. I think words might have been said to the Hundleton players during the break as they equalised 74 seconds into the restart and then took the lead on 55 minutes. A further goal seven minutes later made it 2-4 before Letterston scored the final goal of an enjoyable even four minutes from time.
contributed on 23/08/17
TT No.12: Brian Buck - Thursday 20th July 2017. Haverfordwest County U19 v Fishguard Sports (Played on Haverfordwest County Training Pitch); Friendly Match; Result: 3-3; Attendance: 35 approx.
Today marked the first game in my football tour of West Wales, which my wife prefers to call it ‘Our Holiday!” However, all did not go well. We arrived at our Bed & Breakfast in good time. I also left our base with sufficient time to get to the ground and my sat nav told me that I would get there half an hour early for this advertised 6.30pm kick off. But somehow, I ended up in Milford Haven rather than in Haverfordwest, without so much of a ‘recalculating’ from my normally trusty sat nav. Once I had eliminated the possibility that Haverford West had moved to Milford Haven, I headed off to the correct town, with no knowledge as to where the ground was, especially as my sat nav was playing up. Eventually I found an ambulance station where I was given directions. But I still couldn’t find the place. Then I rang up the home secretary who confirmed that the postcode was actually right, a fact confirmed when I tried to enter it again in my sat nav and it now worked. Turned out that I had actually driven past the entrance to the ground without knowing it! The game was played out on the training pitch, next to the main ground, which I expected. I had missed the start and also a goal for the hosts. Then the half time whistle went at about 7.08 pm and I realized, that they must have kicked off early as I had only witnessed just over 15 minutes of football! But at least I saw Fishguard equalise in this period. The second half was thankfully quite exciting as County retook the lead on 48 minutes. But then Fishguard equalised and went into the lead with goals on 51 and 60 minutes. But now it had started to rain and I had to return to the car to get a coat and brolly, but I was back in time to see County’s equaliser on 71 minutes with a shot which was at least two feet over the line, even though it never reached the back of the net!
contributed on 23/08/17
TT No.11: Keith Aslan – Saturday 19th August 2017; IMMINGHAM TOWN v Sleaford Sports Amateurs; Lincolnshire League; Kick-Off: 15.02; Result: 3-0; Admission: Free; Programme: ha! ha! Attendance: 76 (67 home, 3 away & 6 neutral)
The Immingham Town facebook page was really promoting this one, first game on their new ground (or more accurately their new partly roped off pitch), with a programme and refreshments as part of the celebrations. This was just a tad inaccurate as there wasn't a programme or refreshments. This resulted in some unhappy hoppers, particularly the one who had phoned up a couple of days earlier to confirm the paper. An attempt was made to call the person from the ground (the culprit was apparently in Newcastle) but he wisely wasn't answering his phone. The club official we dealt with at the game was very apologetic and helpful. We gave him our names and addresses and he promised to send us a retrospective copy. He seemed pretty genuine but I shall wait and see if anything drops through my letterbox in the coming weeks. Their facebook page stated the reason for lack of paper was due to 'problems'. Problem was the person putting the stuff on there didn't know what he was talking about. It also gave the attendance as 130, presumably when I did my headcount 54 people had gone off looking for the programme seller.
Immingham ain't the easiest place to visit. Quickest and simplest route is to get the excellent 'Trans Pennine Express' to Haborough then walk the two and a half miles into town. But with groundhoppers and exercise having a very distant relationship, Stallingborough, the next station along the line, offers a 20- minute bus service but only local trains stop there. I chose the walking option as my knee doctor keeps insisting it's good for me! Haborough is a very small village that only has a pub and a gun shop. Handy place to live if you want to shoot somebody but not so good if you run out of milk. If you don't mind getting to the ground early there is a regular bus into Immingham from here, regular as in one a day at 8 o'clock in the morning. Immingham itself is an unexpectedly pleasant place, it got a gold award last year for the Britain in Bloom competition and looks to be aiming for a repeat this year. It has loads of seats all over the place, all freshly painted black with none of them vandalised. Only one famous person has ever come from Immingham but as it's the Soham murderer Ian Huntley I don 't expect the local tourist board push it very strongly.
If you enjoy the aesthetics of a football ground then Immingham Town probably isn't for you, soulless just about sums it up. But it does have impressive brand new changing rooms still with the lingering aroma of fresh paint. Mein host gave the hoppers a tour of the facilities but with everybody else from the north of England I had to explain what the showers were for. The team won the Supplementary Cup last season and for some unknown reason it was set up on a table in the middle of the changing rooms. Inspirational maybe? If so it worked with a fairly straightforward win for the home team.
Not for the first time a big thank you to Stockport's finest for a lift out of town after the game. Now alas flying solo after his four- legged friend went to Doggy Heaven. I do miss him in the car jumping up on my knees and licking my face. It just isn't the same when Len does it.
contributed on 20/08/17
TT No.10: Steve Hardy – Saturday 19th August 2017; Leicester Three Lions v Kibworth Town; Leicester & District League Premier Division; Result: 2-1; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 2 h/c
The opening round of games in the Leicester & District League threw up a fair few interesting games, with my return to the village of Desford being the one I decided on. As I arrived at the Kirkby Road ground and spotted the ‘Sport in Desford’ sign on the clubhouse wall, I had a horrible feeling that I had been here before. My only other visit to Desford had been to see Desford FC in 2009, and they too had a huge ‘Sport in Desford’ sign on their clubhouse wall. Luckily a look on the interweb allayed my fears and showed that Sport in Desford are responsible for several sports facilities in Desford including this Kirkby Road ground, and I hadn’t been here before after all.
The ground is fairly basic, with two full sized grass pitches, a good sized changing room block, and a kiddie’s play area next to the limited car park. With the Lions Reserves also at home today, the car park was chokka, but there is ample street parking available just outside the ground. On the pitch the Lions dominated the first half but only led 1-0
at the break. The visitors looked completely out of sorts and were arguing amongst themselves long before half time. They were slightly better in the second half but a goal each meant a deserved 2-1 win for the Lions. On the second pitch their reserves won 9-0 after leading 5-0 at the break. The league’s Fulltime site initially gave the result as 9-0 to CFA FC, but it was definitely a home win!
My limited experience of this league is entirely positive, and I can thoroughly recommend seeing a match in it.
contributed on 20/08/17
TT No.9: Brian Buck - Saturday 1st July 2017. Briston v Schoolhouse; Nick Raven Shield Final; Result: 2-2 (Briston won 4-3 on penalties) (6.30pm kick off) Attendance: 100 approx.
After the previous match at the Haverhill Borough 3G pitch had finished we made an unhurried hour and three quarters trip to Briston, which is roughly 10 miles east of Fakenham. Here I was soon seized upon by the avid local photographer who according to his blog is Wealdstone’s official photographer and five minutes later I was busy having my picture taken and very nice it looked too when I saw it. There was just time to nip off to the local chip shop and to wash it down with something from the bar before the game started. This competition was held in memory of popular and well-known local man Nick Raven, who did a lot of corporate work for Norwich City before he died following a brain tumour.
There are a number of miniature shields on the main shield and so it seems that this competition, involving 8 sides this year, will become an annual event. The game was a physical one: “something Schoolhouse didn’t like,” the Briston people told me. Although they are a successful Norfolk Sunday side they apparently don’t like being tackled. Briston, under the leadership of their young excitable manager, “like to get a few challenges in.” Things went well for the most part. Briston took a 34th minute lead, doubling it on 69 minutes with a tremendous 30- yarder. But within a minute Schoolhouse pulled a goal back. Then the problems started. On 78 minutes, the Schoolhouse keeper fouled a Briston player near the corner flag and the ‘middle of the pitch’ ref sent him off. Schoolhouse didn’t like this and started to walk off the pitch. Eventually they were persuaded to return and after the ref agreed to overturn his red card the game continued. Then on 90(+5) minutes Schoolhouse equalised. Eventually this half lasted 62 minutes. Then it was on to spot kicks where Briston prevailed. The order they were taken seemed to vary though and, later on, I found out that this was the new ABBA system they are trialing in some areas this season. So, this was The Name of the Game!
contributed on 13/08/17
TT No.8: Steve Hardy – Saturday 12th August 2017; Marshalls v West Kirby; West Cheshire League Division One; Kick-Off: 2.00pm; Result: 1-0; Admission; Free; Paper: No; Crowd of 10
Match two today was reached by a number 82 bus from Liverpool South Parkway station with a journey time of just 10 minutes. Marshalls were playing their first home match in the top division of the West Cheshire league, following promotion last season. The action took place at the John Moores University IM Marsh campus. This is the Sports campus for all the John Moores students, and has an outdoor grass rugby pitch, fully railed off football pitch and a 3G in a cage hockey pitch. Indoors there are also a couple of gymnasiums and a sports hall for badminton etc. All very impressive, and I am guessing that the university play BUCS matches here as well.
The visitors today were West Kirby, from the Wirral, and most of the crowd of just 10 were following them. A very even first half saw both sides cancel each other out and end goalless. It would take a moment of magic to separate the two sides, and this came in the form of a mazy run and excellent finish by a Marshalls forward on the hour mark, which sent the home bench wild with joy.
I much prefer the West Cheshire league to the Liverpool League as the latter is far more violent in my limited experience. That said, today’s match had a few handbags moments as well, but they were well handled by the excellent referee.
Another very long and tiring day out eventually game good, despite the problems created by the Merseytravel bus companies!
contributed on 13/08/17
TT No.7: Keith Aslan - Saturday 12th August 2017; JARROW v Easington Colliery; Northern League Div. 2; Kick-Off: 14.59; Result: 3-2; Admission: £5; Programme: £1; Attendance: 116 (81 home, 22 away & 14neutral)
Jarrow have made it into the Northern League at last and there is a buzz about the place to complement their new- found status. The ground is a 15-minute walk from Brockley Whinns metro station, the same alighting point for Jarrow Roofing which is 25 minutes in the opposite direction. The ground is pretty basic, obviously enclosed, railed and floodlit with the obligatory Atcost structure, one of the smaller examples of the genre and, it would have been woefully inadequate to shelter the crowd had the incessant precipitation not taken a welcome tea break during the match. Pies, burgers and my personal favourite, hot dogs, were on sale an hour before kick-off but somewhere to sit and eat them out of the rain would have been welcome. There is no clubhouse here. Badges were also available for metal detectorists.
There are two large flags tied up behind the goal with one of them proudly stating that 'there is only one team in Jarrow'. When I queried the numerical accuracy of that statement with an official I was put right in no uncertain terms. Jarrow Roofing don't play in Jarrow, it is in fact the name of a local company. Now I didn't think that sort of advertising was allowed at this level, but I suppose you can forgive the F.A. for not picking up on it, they must have their hands full at the moment, with the banning of cutting pretty patterns into a football pitch. It's good to see them tackling the major issues that blight our national sport. How often have you heard the plaintive lament from football supporters "if only the pitch was cut in straight lines".
Having rained all morning up to kick off, and again in the evening, the weather gods took pity on the spectators and the sun shone during the game in which Jarrow garnered their first Northern League points at the third attempt with an exciting comeback. As half time approached the home side were 2-0 down with 43 minutes on the clock. When the referee blew up for the interval dead on 45, it was 2-2, meaning some hasty alterations to both managers half time team talks. Jarrow got a deserved winner 20 minutes from the end of an entertaining game of football.
I might have mentioned referee’s punctuality on an odd occasion before, but I make no apologies for starting the season off by saying that I can't recall ever having been at a Northern League game that's kicked off late and today was no exception. It's so basic why can't other leagues do it? So, hats off to Mike Amos (inventor of the groundhop) and his crew for running a highly professional league. I assume there's no secret to it, you just tell the referees to start on time and they do. Simple. And while on the subject of punctuality, Virgin Trains were spot on both ways today. What is happening?
contributed on 13/08/17
TT No.6: Ian Brown - Wednesday 9th August 2017; Windle Labour v Halebank; Cheshire Football League Division One; Result: 1-1; Venue: Bobbies Lane, Eccleston, St Helens. Admission/Paper/Refreshments: N/A.
Last season Windle Labour used a pitch adjacent to the St Helens Town facility on the Ruskin Drive Complex . A well-known traveller from a place on the A6 north of Preston turned up there this evening expecting to see this game only to be informed they no longer are there due to non payment for the use of the facililties.
Windle Labour now ply their trade at Bobbies Lane in Eccleston, it is the St Helens College (Bobbies Lane Sports Campus).
The pitch is behind the campus building, no furniture, it has the feeling of being enclosed though. There is no permanent rail, a taped barrier ran round the perimeter of the pitch. As mentioned above there we facilities for refreshments though toilets were available.
As mentioned above the member of the "Hopperati" latched onto the Mersey Don and spent most of the game bending his ear with his latest tales of travelling woe Wink ( lucky guy), whilst the Don's Henchman & yours truly retreated a safe distance. The other member The Litherland Scribemiester found a victim, sorry someone to talk to, as the don told us later on he was a traveller from the Warrington area.
As Halebank turned up in their red kit, as the name suggests the homesters also play in red and had to play in blue bibs.
With regards to the game it ebbed and flowed, with it usually coming up short in the final third at both ends, of the chances that were created it was a mix of good goalkeeping and profligate finishing kept the score line blank at half time.
The second stanza followed in the same vein, with one who does not like 0-0 's getting increasingly agitated as the half progressed. On 70 minutes relief, Halebank took the lead when an attempt at the far post floatingly deceived the keeper. Parity was restored shortly afterwards when Dean Curtis slotted home. Windle Labour had a goal chalked off much to the chagrin of the home dugout.
It was a pleasant way to spend a Wednesday evening in August.
contributed on 09/08/17
TT No.5: Steve Hardy - Saturday 5th August 2017; Burton Park Wanderers v Blackstones; United Counties League Division One; Kick-Off: 3.00pm; Result: 0-3; Admission for a grockle: £3; Programme: £1. Attendance: just 19.
Match 2 today was just 10 miles up the A43 in Burton Latimer, and was reached by driving through a rain storm of biblical proportions where only the plague of frogs was absent.
I knew that BPW are now sharing their ground with Kettering Town, but I had no inkling of the developments that had occurred in the last year. For a start, BPW are no longer the lessees of Latimer Park, their home since 1973. Their landlord had been charging them a peppercorn rent for the past 40 years, but once Kettering Town asked for permission to play there, the landlord immediately upped the rent to a figure that BPW could no longer afford and so Kettering became the main tenant. Speaking to club officials I learned that Kettering had built a brand new clubhouse which they don’t let BPW use, and have plans to demolish the whole place to build their own state of the art ground at which there will be no place for BPW at all.
The whole matchday experience was very depressing I thought. A crowd of just 19 assembled, including several from Blackstones, and a more one-sided match would be difficult to find. The visitors led 2-0 at the break and, in all honesty, it could have been 6 or 7. They added a third in the second half before taking their foot off the gas as BPW were offering nothing up front to challenge them at all.
A small portakabin was serving hot drinks and snacks, and the programme consisted of a 4 page insert inside a last season’s cover. All very sad in my opinion.
contributed on 07/08/17
TT No.4: Steve Hardy - Saturday 5th August 2017; Kick-Off: 11.00am; Northampton Town U18 v Southend United U18; Football League Youth Alliance South East Division; Result: 2-1; Admission: Free; Programme: No; Attendance: 42
Northampton Town’s youth teams play at Moulton College in the village of Moulton. This is a far bigger facility than I first thought with umpteen football and rugby pitches spread over a vast area and no fewer than 5 different entrances to choose from. When I got there I chose the nearest entrance, through gate 3, and spotting a bus from Southend disgorging loads of young footballers, thought I must be in the right place. I was wrong. This lot turned out to be the Southend U16 team who were also playing Northampton Town today. To cut a very long story short, I eventually discovered the U18s were playing some way away through a hole in a hedge and along a narrow lane at the Chris Moody Centre, which I could have accessed through gate 4!!
The match itself was excellent. Northampton edged an even first half and went in 1-0 up. After the break it was still very tight until Southend got a deserved equaliser on 70 minutes. They were still celebrating when Northampton went straight down the other end and won the game with a far post header.
contributed on 07/08/17
TT No.3: Ian Brown - Saturday 5th August 2017; Creetown v Heston Rovers; South of Scotland League; Result: 2-3; Admission: £4; (£2 Concessions); Refreshments available: Pies £1.50; Hot Beverages £1; Paper: No
Creetown is a small seaport town in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, which forms part of the Galloway in the Dumfries and Galloway council area in south-west Scotland. Its population is about 750 people. It is situated near the head of Wigtown Bay, 18 miles (29 km) west of Castle Douglas. The town was originally named Ferrytown of Cree (Scottish Gaelic: Port Aiseig a' Chrìch) as it formed one end of a ferry route that took pilgrims across the River Cree estuary to the shrine of St Ninian at Whithorn. This is the reason why the local football team, formed in 1895, are known as 'The Ferrytoun'.
Creetown was formerly served by the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Railway. The granite quarries in the vicinity constitute the leading industry, the stone for the Liverpool docks and other public works having been obtained from them. The village dates from 1785, and became a burgh of barony in 1792. Sir Walter Scott laid part of the scene of Guy Mannering in this neighborhood. Dr Thomas Brown, the metaphysician (1778–1820), was a native of the parish in which Creetown lies.
As mentioned above Creetown Football Club was originally formed in 1895 as Barholm Rovers and played their home games at Barholm Park Creetown. In 1905 Barholm Rovers became Creetown Rifle Volunteers Football Club before becoming Creetown Football Club in 1920.
Castlecary Park is clearly visible from the A75 with Wigtown Bay in the background looking resplendent on this august Saturday afternoon. If approaching from the east, exit at the first Creetown junction and the entrance to the ground is immediately on the right. From the west, take the second exit for Creetown. Entrance to the ground is on the right. Castlecary Park is basically part of a farmer’s field, although a new log-cabin-style club building was constructed in 2013. It is the only feature of note at the ground. Refreshments were available from the side of the cabin.
The game began with the visitors attacking the Wigtown Bay end, the home keeper making a fine stop diverting a long-range strike over the bar. The match ebbed and flowed with the home taking the lead when Michael Sutherland tapped in from close range just before the half hour , chances came and went for both sides. HT: 1-0 Creetown.
The second stanza followed the same pattern of the first, end to end being profligate in front of the goal for both sides until Alex Dick gave Creetown a 2-0 advantage. The next goal would be crucial in the context of the game it was, a ball was floated in behind the rear guard of the Creetown defence and Sam Hughes ghosted in to the head into the net. Game On. Hesitancy in the Creetown defence saw Sam Hughes double his tally, it was now anybodys, both teams were not settling for a draw going toe to toe both teams had chances to take the spoils, in the end a cool finish from Sam Hughes maintained the visitors 100% record: played 3 won 3.
A decent day out helped by the friendliness of the locals. A pleasant place to watch football at this time of year.
contributed on 07/08/17
TT No.2: Steve Hardy - Saturday July 15th 2017; Nantlle Vale v Meliden; Pre-Season Friendly; 2.30pm start; Result: 5-1; Admission: £2; Programme/team sheet: No; Attendance: 61.
Nantlle Vale play in the village of Penygroes in North Wales, and are a club I have wanted to visit for some time. With several of my partner’s family living there it was a good time to visit the in-laws!
A slightly better set up than the previous evening at Llanrug, I thought, with a proper stand down one side of the pitch and a length of covered terracing next to it, which proved most useful when the inevitable heavy rain started.
On the pitch it was a bit of a one-sided mis-match really and I couldn’t understand why Welsh Alliance division two side Meliden would travel all the way over from Prestatyn to play division one side Nantlle Vale when there must have been more local clubs they could have played, surely? Perhaps the players were having a night out in the fleshpots of Penygroes afterwards. They certainly played like they had their minds elsewhere with comical defending contributing to at least 3 of
the Vale goals.
Once again, the home players and officials were all Welsh speakers with the visitors speaking with that strange North Wales Scouse accent that is prevalent right the way down to Bangor in my experience. As with Llanrug the night before, the Vale officials couldn’t have been more friendly and I was whisked in to the committee room where about 20 years of old programmes were stuffed in to a box, and I was given a good few to take home.
More stunning scenery all-around the ground, and I can’t wait for another visit to the in-laws to be suggested!
contributed on 17/07/17
TT No.1: Steve Hardy - Friday July 14th 2017; Llanrug United v Bontnewydd; Pre Season Friendly; 6.45pm start; Result: 2-2; Admission: Free; Programme/team sheet: No; Attendance 55.
This was a keenly contested local derby, with Welsh Alliance first division side Llanrug United, and Gwynedd league Bontnewydd being just 4 miles apart. Both sides had plenty of vocal support in the very healthy crowd of 55, and with the home side being two divisions higher than their neighbours, I
was expecting a comfortable home win.
The first half was bossed by Llanrug, who could only score once to lead 1-0 at the break. More of the same after half time, as Llanrug doubled their lead, but following mass substitutions by both sides Bontnewydd suddenly scored twice in three minutes to level thing up. After that it was end to end stuff, with the two teams eventually settling for a draw at the final whistle.
Llanrug’s Eithin Duon ground has an eclectic mix of spectator facilities, with two small unusable stands each the size of a large dug out behind one goal, and a tea bar along one side of the ground which has a very welcome overhang in front of it to protect us from the torrential rain. The people running the
club were really friendly, and spotting my accent wasn’t from North Wales dragged out their only committee member who
spoke English to talk to me.
The scenery around Llanrug was stunning, with mist covered hills everywhere you looked, and the match proved a perfect start to my 2017-18 campaign.
contributed on 17/07/17