Travellers’ Tales – May/End of Season 


06/06/05 Club/Ground Focus: Dennis Woods - Calais Racing Union FC (Championnat - France Amateur Group A)


On Saturday 4th June, Eddie Cook, Cliff Heath, Roland Reeve and I visited Calais Racing Union FC for their final Championnat France Amateur - Group A match with Chalons E/C.  This game was originally planned for the 28th May, but the whole programme for that day had been moved to the 4th June due to some poor weather earlier in the year where the whole days programme had been cancelled and all subsequent games had been moved back a week.
Eddie drove us to Dover where he parked the car for the day and we headed for our 10am Hoverspeed Speed Cat journey to Calais.  On arriving at Calais we decided to visit the stadium straight away and check the game out.  We were expertly lead by Cliff with his map, although the rest of us were a little worried when he lead us through fields, over small fences across a disused railway line and old roads that had been closed to traffic.  But he got us to the stadium in around 40 minutes.  
On arriving at the stadium we were allowed to walk through the open gates and take some pictures of the stadium.  You will see from the pictures that the stadium has one stand and a covered terrace opposite, There is also a raised terrace at one end behind the goal and both ends are uncovered.  A long bar rather than a club house was also available.  The stadium has 4 corner floodlights, but these were not required for our 6pm kick off.  There was also a scoreboard with a clock in the far corner. Food outlets were also available.   After taking a few pictures we decided to head off for a few drinks and something to eat.
It was strange to be in a foreign country and keep bumping in to fellow hoppers, but this made the day even more enjoyable and gave it a feel of a mini hop.  I guess there were up to 20 UK hoppers at the game.
After our late lunch we decide to head back to the Stade Julien Denis and we purchased our 8 euro (£5.50) seat tickets.  No programme was issued.  The game it self was very interesting as Calais RUFC were 4th from bottom with 70 points and Chalons E/C were 3rd from bottom with 69 points.  There are 18 teams in the league and 3 teams get relegated.  Now you may think that this is a lot of points for 2 teams close to the bottom of the table, but it appears that every team in the league gets a point for every game they play i.e. all 18 teams in the league had an additional 33 points before the last game of the season.  This seems a 'pointless' (perhaps not the correct word to use here) exercise.  What difference does it achieve?  Any way basically Calais needed to avoid defeat and Chalons E/C had to win.  This meant that a bumper crowd of around 2,000 attended.  There didn't seem to be any Police at the game, but the ground has a 7 foot fence all around the pitch which made viewing difficult.  Calais were never really trouble and scored their first goal through a penalty in the first half.  Calais also scored their second goal through a penalty in the second half.  They were then awarded a third penalty which the Chalons goal keeper this time saved, well he was getting lots of practice wasn't he.  Calais scored another goal to send the home team fans home happy with a 3-0 win. 
After the final whistle we walked back to the Hoverspeed port to catch our Sea Cat, although this was delayed by 30 minutes.  A very rough crossing meant that many people very sick, although everyone in our party was fine.  Although at the time I was thinking that the 8% beer that I had earlier was going to be a big mistake.
So an enjoyable day over in France, to visit a really friendly club.


29/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Barry Neighbour - Mautitius (Middlesex County League) at Broadfields


The season finally came to an end for me on Saturday 28th May with a visit to Broadfields to see Mauritus Sports v Brentford New Inn in the Middlesex County League. Mauritus' ground in Tottenham closed last week so the game was switched to Brentford's base at Broadfields. I had previously visited Broadfields a couple of seasons back but was happy to return to see a game. Unfortunately the `Home` team (Mauritus) did not turn up until five minutes to three meaning the kick off was delayed by 15 minutes. There was also a 5-a-side tournament on so the place was packed, though not too many were watching the game. With Mauritus already guaranteed bottom spot and Brenford not much higher, the game turned out to be pretty even with Brentford taking the lead half way through the first half only for Mauritus to strike back in controversial style. A forward rifled the ball past Brentford's keeper only to see it strike the post and bounce out across the face of goal. Incredibly the linesman flagged a goal which was given by the ref; these must have been the only two people present who thought it went in (everyone else thought the ball had struck the post and come out - so it was not the lager that got me confused!!). Despite a couple of stoppages in the 2nd period, eyebrows were raised when Mauritus scored the winner in the 99th minute, according to the guy next to me with his stopwatch. An adequate 8 page programme was issued for a `donation'.

 The Brentford Secretary retired after the game and says the future of Brentford New Inn looks very bleak for next season due to the increased travelling they now have to do. Fellow league side Martin Baker Sports are also said to have folded. Other news suggests that Spennymoor United have merged with Evenwood and will play at Spennymoor next season.

My final figures for the season are: 133 games seen and 522 goals scored - making 3.92 Goals per game (I was well on course for 4 a game until the last half dozen games which produced just 14 goals). Ironically I have visited 52 new grounds, the same amount as the previous 3 seasons. Definately got to do 53 next season!


24/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Stephen Harris - Hamburg non-league weekend


Hamburg non-league weekend, 20 to 22 May 2005

Although I regularly used to attend the things at Wembley, these days I find myself quite allergic to FA Cup Finals and for the past 10 years or more have sought my football action abroad on Cup Final day.  This year it was Hamburg in Germany and a non-league weekend, with four games in three days.
Hamburg is an ideal destination for the non-league enthusiast, with lots of clubs, stadiums of all types large and small and a wide range of kick-off times allowing 4 or 5 fixtures to be taken in between Friday and Sunday of any weekend.
I started on Friday evening in the Oberliga Nord at Concordia Hamburg for their game against top of the table SV Meppen.  Concordia play at the wonderful old Stadion Marienthal in the eastern suburbs of Hamburg.  They are an historic club and the venue has seen crowds in excess of 20,000 back in their glory days.  Those days are long gone and the crowd was 420 on Friday, above average for the season.  The ground is marvelously decayed and if you are a fan of undulating, overgrown, ancient terracing then this is the place for you.  There was a very pleasant bar for al fresco dinking on a sunny evening, the club issued both a free match programme and a free club magazine for the occasion and Concordia overturned the form book by winning 2-1.  A great start to the weekend.
The next morning saw a two hour train ride out into the sticks and a drop of one level in the leagues to see SV Husum play TSV Bargteheide in the Verbandsliga Schleswig-Holstein.  The fixture was chosen more because it happened to be on in a town I wanted to visit, than for any other reason.  Husum play at a rather basic ground with no cover but a very comfortable clubhouse.  Oddly, their second pitch, next door, has a fairly large stand but is mainly used for youth games.  Husum are a bit down on their luck in recent years and the crowd was just 261 for this midtable end of season game; but almost everybody went home happy following a last minute winner, 1-0.  An attractive, free programme was issued and the club publishes each programme in full on their website, which is a nice touch which I wish a few English clubs would adopt.
On Sunday I was joined by a friend for two games.  We had a choice of 10.45 kick-offs in the Verbandsliga Hamburg and opted for SC Condor vs Lurup, again in the eastern suburbs of Hamburg.  I had shied away from this ground in the past as I knew it had an athletics track and no raised terrace or cover.  In fact, viewing was surprisingly good ? and you could always watch from the shade of the beer tent and barbeque, busy from before kick-off.  An estimated 200 saw a convincing 0-4 win by second-placed Lurup.  Again there was a free programme and separate club magazine available at the ground.  Following the final whistle we moved to the shade of the beer garden of Condor?s excellent modern clubhouse nearby for a couple of well-earned pints.
With some reluctance we transferred three stops down the metro line for the afternoon game, back up a step to the Oberliga Nord.  We had a wide choice of games that afternoon, but had opted for Barmbek-Uhlenhorst against Kickers Emden.  I'm a bit of a Barmbek fan on the quiet and it was my second time there this season.  They are in the their first season after promotion, but are in danger of going straight back down.  Losing this one 1-3 will not have helped their cause.  They play at a typical, tight non-league ground with around 800 uncovered seats on one side and an open terrace for perhaps 3,000 opposite and not much at each end.  Home fans congregate around the various beer outlets and there was a good atmosphere generated by the 700-odd present, including many away fans.  The quality of the programme has deteriorated a little since my last visit, but at least remains freely available.
German non-league football has many similarities with our home grown version and anyone who gives it a try will quickly feel at home.  Hamburg is an easy place to start, with good public transport, pleasant venues to visit, easily available details on kick-off times, ground addresses etc., and good catering facilities at the grounds.  Worth a try for anyone who wishes to expand their horizons and every weekend offers either a Hamburg SV or a St Pauli home game for those who yearn for the big time.

23/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Dave Reed - Springfield (EIL)


Saturday saw a Groundhoppers convention at Springfield for the Denny King Cup semi-final against Epping.  The home club are to be congratulated on their organisation, we were welcomed an hour and a half prior to the 12.30 kick off and were able to get our copies of the excellent programme – 50p for 28 pages inside a glossy cover – before decamping to a local hostelry for a couple of pre-match halves.  The crowd at the game was estimated by Mick Burt at 82 and probably contained 50% Groundhoppers.  To be honest the match was not terribly exciting finishing 1-1 after extra time.  Rather strangely both goals came within a minute around the hour mark.  The visitors probably had the better of things overall but they went down 9-8 in the penalty shoot out just when it looked like we were going to be there all afternoon.  The game finished just after three o’clock which enabled those that wanted to watch the Cup Final to do so in the clubhouse whilst those of us that had no interest in such things adjourned to another hostelry for a late lunch and a couple more halves.


18/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Dennis Woods - Paris Saint Germain (Championnat 1)


My wife said she wanted to see the bright lights of Paris, so we travelled by Eurostar to Paris for 4 nights and I took her to Paris Saint Germain v Sochaux on Saturday for their 8pm kick off under their bright floodlights.
We had no trouble purchasing our 26 euro (£18) match tickets on the Thursday afternoon.  The nearest metro station Porte d'Auteuil, which is near to the end of line 10 is around a 10 minute walk to the stadium.  On the evening of the game there was a very large police presence.  On arriving close to the stadium a large crowd had built up behind some police barriers as bags were being searched.  As we had a bottle of coke we decided to drink it, rather than lose it.  On finishing it I place the bottle on the floor close to the police check entrance, as everyone else was doing so.  On having my bag searched the policeman soon realised I was English and asked if I had any bottles, or answering no, he asked am I sure.  Thinking that he must have seen me with the bottle I pointed to the fact that I had placed it on the floor.  He then ordered me to pick it up and place it in a bin, despite the fact that everyone else was placing the empty bottles on the floor.  I decided not to question this as I fancied watching the game rather than being placed in the back of a police wagon. 
After that we were free to walk around the outside of the stadium, although police lined the whole of the stadium outside.  You would have thought that we were at a high risk game as many had full riot gear on.
On entered the stadium we were once again searched which I do not have a problem with, but as you will see from the pictures, flares some how manage to find their way past all of the checks.  It is funny but the Parc des Princes reminds me of a small version of Wembley.  I think it was a combination of things, perhaps the huge area behind the goals to the stands, or perhaps the colour scheme of red seats in the lower tier and blue in the upper, the tightness of seats or the fact the toilets were way too small.  Still at least their were no posts to spoil the view of the pitch.  Programmes were free, but hard to get hold off and consisted of 8 glossy colour pages.
PSG were poor and conceded 2 second half goals to Sochaux, despite this the atmosphere from the PSG fans was excellent with singing, banging of drums and lighting of flares throughout the game.  With 8 minutes remain some PSG fans started to leave the stadium having seen enough of a poor PSG performance.  They should have stayed as PSG waited until stoppage time to get back of level terms with goals in the 92nd and 94th minutes.  Sending the 39,926 fans wild, well those that had stayed,  apart from the 200 or so Sochaux fans


17/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Dave Reed - Wyrley Rangers (WML 1)


I had promised myself one last train trip before the end of the season and decided on a visit to Wyrley Rangers. Getting there involved travel on seven trains.  Firstly a train from home to Charing Cross – no Northern Line tubes were signalled so a Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus and a Victoria Line got me to Euston. Main Line to Nuneaton and another change got me to Birmingham where I caught a train to Walsall. Here I stopped off to ‘do’ a couple of pubs before rejoining the train to Bloxwich North from where it was a half hour walk to the Long Lane home of Wyrley Rangers.


I was impressed with the set up as there is an excellent clubhouse and the ground has floodlights but only a couple of small covered areas of a temporary nature.  Although space is restricted at either end of the ground there is room on the far side to erect a stand and I would think that the club could then get promoted to the Premier Division.  Entrance to the game was £2 and included a colour programme of twenty pages, including the cover.


With the home side set for third place and visitors and near neighbours Great Wyrley having clinched the championship with a midweek win at second place Bewdley, there was only local pride to play for.  The home side took the lead after five minutes with what looked like a cross from Brett Hayward that deceived keeper Andrew Morris and it took the visitors until the 58th minute to draw level through Nicky Campbell.  


A draw was probably a fair enough result on a pleasant afternoon in the sunshine.  It only took me four trains to get home but it was all worthwhile.


16/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Andy Sneddon - New Brighton Villa (Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division 2). 

14th May 2005; New Brighton Villa 9 Penyffordd 1; Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division 2
No gate taken nor programme issued, but the club have been regular issuers on a number of occasions in the 80's and 90's;
Att: 46.

A gloriously sunny day led me to North Wales to see if New Brighton Villa could complete their dramatic late charge for the title. With two games to go they were 6 points behind leaders (and former Premier Division Champions) Castell Alun Colts who had finished their games, but New Brighton had to wipe out a large goal difference deficit. They did this in the grandest style with 19 goals scored and only 1 against in the last two games to lift the trophy.

On the day Penyffordd had nothing to play for being safe in mid table, and it soon became apparent that New Brighton were going to get the win they needed. However, despite the game being one sided it was far from unenjoyable with the home side playing some excellent football and the visitors taking the beating is excellent spirit. They never let their heads drop nor did they resort to spoiling tactics to stop NBV playing good football.

The ground is in many ways quite basic, but is rather better than many in this league. It is behind the community centre in the small village of New Brighton, just to the NE of Mold on the Queensferry road. The changing rooms are housed in the back of the community centre building immediately behind the goal, the rest of this end is tightly fenced in. On the North side of the ground is a great grass bank which affords cracking views of the game with houses behind & wonderful views of the Clwydian Mountain range in front. The other two sides are flat grass standing but it is fully enclosed with trees at the Western End and a hedge on the Southern side. The playing area is simply roped off but despite the lack of facilities it's enclosed nature and good views make it feel very much like a "proper" ground.

The club were most welcoming and I sincerely wish them well in the 1st Division next season.


16/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Barry Neighbour - Sheffield Wed (FLC1: Play-Off 1st Leg) and Broomfield (EIL2)


On Thursday 12th May I visited Sheffield Wednesday for the Play Off Semi Final against Brentford. Wednesday came out attacking and it was no surprise when they took an early lead; they were on top for the first half hour before the Bees started to come back into the match. Brentford controlled a lot of the second half and seemed content with a 1-0 defeat (I wasn`t!). Neither side really looked like scoring again and it leaves the tie delicately balanced for Monday night though the Bees will have to show a bit more ambition than they did on Thursday. A colouful 84 page programme was issued costing £3.

From a 28,000 plus crowd down to 28 and 2 dogs for Saturdays visit to Essex Intermediate side Broomfield who took on runners up Canning Town. The 42 Bus goes direct from outside Chelmsford Station to the Angel Pub at Broomfield. The ground is situated behind the pub. Buses run every 15 minutes or so and a return ticket costs £2.10. The ground is enclosed with a small clubhouse. No programme was available but the Secretary brought some old ones along which seemed to pacify the 4 'hoppers present. Despite their lowly position Broomfield were on top for most of the game and were good value for their 2-0 win. Canning lost any chance of the title midweek and the disappointment showed in their play.


11/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Leon Gladwell - Fulbourn Institute (Kershaw Cambs League)


I saw the most ridiculous match this evening (10th) for a very long time. I went to Fulbourn Institute where visitors Tuddenham (who when I last saw them in 2003/04 where enjoying £600 per week wages between them) rolled up with only 6 reserve team players. The game was at 6.15 and at 6.40, two more pulled into the car park. Having lost 11-1 to Fulbourn last week, they didn't want to play but when reminded that if they forfeited the game they would lose another 3 points (which would potentially relegate them) plus a £100 fine, they reluctantly strolled onto the pitch at 7 o'clock. The ref decided to play just 25 minutes each way but by the end of the first half, Fulbourn were 9-0 up with 7 goals coming in 6 minutes!! It finished 13-0 (there's one for the 'Anorak' section!!) and speaking with the chairman of the home side, I learnt that they have been accepted into the Ridgeons Div One for next season - a lot of work to bring the ground up to scratch but for a side who regularly pull in a 200 crowd on Saturdays, a club very much on the up.
09/05/05 Recent Travels: Dave Reed - Shottermill (CCL1); Bookham (CCL1); Chipstead (CCLP); St.Andrews (Anglian Comb) and Mummery Cup Final (at Wroxham)


On Saturday 30th April we paid a visit to Shottermill in the Combined Counties League.  This enabled me to make an immediate return to Hammer United to take some pictures of the ground which I had been unable to do on the previous Sunday.  Unfortunately, the goals had been taken down but I was still able to get shots of the clubhouse and the unique stand situated on the grass bank.  At Shottermill, for their game against table toppers Coney Hall, we found that the home side were not playing on their usual pitch (some two hundred yards from the changing rooms) but rather strangely were playing on a pitch in front of but running lengthways from the said building.  A minimal programme was issued and we nearly got a copy of Monday’s as well in which the editor had tongue in cheek claimed that they had won today’s game 3-0 with the goalkeeper amongst the scorers.  In fact he got the score correct but it was the visitors that proved successful.


On Bank Holiday Monday, our first port of call was to Bookham where the home side were entertaining Bedfont Green, the other title aspirants.  There were several Travellers present, who all got a copy of the programme, with slightly more content than Saturday’s, to witness the home side, third in the table completely rout the under-strength visitors 5-1.  This result handed the title to Coney Hall and rendered next Saturday’s game between the top two virtually meaningless.  The afternoon saw us at Chipstead and gave us a chance to try out their new stand which has replaced the old wooden structure that had stood for many years.  There were more goals here as the home side went down 5-2 to Godalming.


Last Saturday I was in a full car driven by Geoff Combes as we made for a double in Norfolk.  A 2.30 kick off saw us at St Andrews for their Anglian Combination game against unbeaten leaders Blofield United.  This fixture had originally been abandoned, due to snow I believe, earlier in the season with the visitors winning 1-0.  They made no mistake this time with a 2-0 win to finish the season with an unbeaten record.  With the home side playing on the pitch furthest from the clubhouse (there is a hole in their usual pitch) and no cover at all at the ground except for a portable shed on the halfway line which doubles as a tea bar, we were lucky not to get caught by any showers until late on in the game when we took shelter under some trees in one corner of the pitch.  Admission was £1 for a 24 page programme inside a shiny shell but only the middle four pages were not advertisements.


It was then on to Wroxham (via the Station Inn in Coltishall – an excellent hostelry) for the Mummery Cup Final between Acle United and Cromer Town.  This game had everything with Acle four goals up after seventeen minutes including two perfect chips over the Cromer keeper and a penalty.  Cromer managed to pull a goal back early in the second half but soon conceded again with a brilliantly taken own goal from a defender who came running in to hammer home an Acle corner.  The Cromer keeper then went off injured to be replaced by an outfield player.  Shortly after there was a nasty clash of heads, purely accidental, which meant a considerable delay before Cromer’s Darren Terrington was stretchered off the field badly concussed and cut.  Having used their three substitutes, Cromer were now down to ten men but they pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after the Acle keeper had brought down Cromer’s Karl Horton.  To finish an eventful game, Acle’s Steven Barnes and Cromer substitute David Harwood were sent off after a midfield scuffle.  Maybe the football was not of the highest quality but the match, which at times was played in heavy rain, was certainly entertaining.


08/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Mike Latham - Holywell Town (Cymru Alliance)


Sat 7 May 2005, Cymru Alliance, Holywell Town 0-4 Glantraeth (att-60)


Holywell Town’s Halkyn Road ground is one of the most picturesque in the Cymru Alliance and looked a picture for the final game of the season.  Situated on the road that winds down to Holywell from the A55 it affords splendid views of the Dee Estuary beyond.


At the main entrance a friendly gateman dispenses an admission ticket for £3 and a programme for £1 and there is plenty of car-parking once inside.  The ground is effectively one-sided with three structures all along one touchline housing seats and a covered terrace as well as the dressing rooms.  There is also a small tea hut that serves drinks from pot mugs and hot dogs.  The main feature of the stand is the ornate white ironwork that gives the club name.


The rest of the ground is standing though the far two sides are virtually given over to nature, with a steep wooded valley that eventually slopes down to the river beyond the far side.  The pitch has a slight slope, far less than it had until a levelling process took place some years ago.  The pitch was in good condition for the time of year and was well grassed.


The visitors Glantraeth clinched second place in the table with their win, the game changing on a contentious decision by the referee to send off a home defender on 25 minutes and award a penalty for a foul.  With the banished player making his way from the field the referee overturned the penalty decision and instead awarded a free-kick outside the area after consultation with his assistant.


But Glantraeth scored direct from the free-kick and went on to score again before half-time, adding two further goals in a scrappy second half.  Halkyn Road is a pleasant venue and has staged Welsh Premier League games in the past, though would need considerable work to do so again in the future.  The 28-page programme added to the enjoyment of the afternoon that began in bright sunshine and ended with a ferocious shower of hail and strong winds.


06/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Mike Latham - Ruthin Town (Cymru Alliance)


Thurs 5 May 2005 Cymru Alliance; Ruthin Town 1-2 Buckley Town (att - 60)


Buckley Town, champions of the Cymru Alliance, had to work hard for their win at Ruthin, sealing their victory four minutes from time with a well-taken strike by substitute Dean Hardstaff.  Buckley had looked a class apart in the opening stages and took the lead with a scrambled goal but the home side gradually got back into a well-fought contest and equalised midway through the second half.


Ruthin play at the Memorial Fields, a large open space off Park Road just outside the town.  There is another soccer pitch and a cricket pitch as part of the complex, each sharing a common changing rooms complex that incorporates a small bar and tea bar.  The latter served some mouth-watering freshly made baps and sausage sandwiches as well as hot drinks and there was a steady queue all evening for their excellent wares which ranked among the best experienced this season.


The main pitch has a post and rail fence on three sides with a rope used to separate the side that borders onto the cricket square with the dug-outs facing one another on the halfway line.  The only cover is provided by a small structure in one corner with some bench seating and a standing area.  As the wind grew in strength around the ground most of the three score spectators settled for a vantage point from here as it was the most sheltered part of the ground.


Bordered on two sides by farmers’ fields with sheep grazing, Ruthin’s ground affords great views over distant hills with the distinctive church spire providing another landmark.  There is plenty of parking and admission was £3 with an excellent 32-page programme selling for the amazingly cheap price of 50p.  This included details of Ruthin’s game against Guilsfield just three days earlier.


Ruthin had seven players with the surname Jones in their side, namely Edwart, Lee, Bryn, Ossion, Liam, Rhys and Gavant and the referee also shared the same surname.  Buckley’s captain was their goalkeeper. Faria Jackson, a former England Youth international according to the programme, and he looked a very accomplished performer.  He was also extremely polite, continually thanking the writer who acted a ballboy behind the far goal in the first half.


With no floodlights at the ground, kick-off was 6-45 and the game finished still in decent light around 8-30.  Two hoppers from Yorkshire also made the trip and also enjoyed their first visit to Ruthin.


06/05/05 – Recent Travels (2): Barry Neighbour  - Hersham RBL (CCL1); Bookham (CCL1) & Hanworth Villa (Middlesex County League).


The Bank Holiday wekend saw me descend on the Combined Counties League Division 1 with a visit to Hersham RBL on Saturday 30th April. The visitors were Bedfont Green who were top of the table and must have been confident of getting the win to maintain their challenge for the title. A very physical game developed and it was no surprise to see each side have a player sent off in the second half for scrapping. This seemed to unnerve Bedfont more than Hersham and they had to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw which allowed Coney Hall to move into pole position in the table. No programme was issued as `The Secretary is on holiday` - heard that one before! Bank Holiday Monday saw me visit 3rd place Bookham with the visitors again Bedfont Green. A 16 page programme was available for £1 which was welcome. Bedfont have certainly allowed the pressure to get to them as Bookham dominated from the start and ran out worthy 5-1 winners. This result handed the title to Coney Hall on a plate making Saturday's clash between the top two irrelevant. On Wednesday 4th May I visited Hanworth Villa in the Middlesex County League against Crown & Manor. (This game has already been adequately covered by Stephen Harris. Although no programme was available you could get a copy of Saturday's game v New Inn from behind the bar. 4 Pages at £1. Strangely enough this was a Hanworth Villa production for New Inn as the match was switched to Hanworth, a similar situation to Crown & Manor so why no programme for last night's game? Seems a bit strange. With Brentford in the Play Offs I will be saving my pennies but hope to get another couple of Non League games in before the end of the season


05/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Stephen Harris - Hanworth Villa (Middlesex County League)


Wednesday 4 May 2005;  Hanworth Villa 2-0 Crown & Manor;  Middlesex County League;  Att: 50; no programme issued, admission free.

My new-found (and I imagine short-lived) enthusiasm for this obscure league took me to a new ground last night; way across town and yet another that is under the Heathrow flightpath.  Hanworth play on a municipal ground, shared with Marsh Rangers FC, that has three football pitches – which any day now will convert for the summer to two cricket pitches.  The main pitch is fully railed and is enclosed on two sides by lines of trees giving a reasonably compact feel.  There is nothing fancy like cover or hard standing, but there was talk around the touchline of plans to install floodlights and an area of hard standing in the future.

To one side is a small building containing the dressing rooms, heavily fortified against the local yobs, vandals and arsonists who seem to delight in targeting such places.  Within this building, a cosy little bar and TV lounge have been created and a new paved area in front has tables and chairs with a slightly distant view of the action.

I arrived to find much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst a small section of the spectators over the lack of a programme.  Hanworth hadn’t issued as technically this was a Crown & Manor home game and Manor had “forgotten” it was their responsibility despite the switch of venue.  Having seen both of these sides recently I expected an interesting game with a clash of styles, and so it proved.  The full name of the visitors is Crown & Manor Football Academy, and as such they fielded a cosmopolitan mix of youngsters with good technical skills but little cohesion as a team.  One of my favourite players of recent years – Mathew Joseph, long of Leyton Orient and currently at Histon – is a product of Crown & Manor, but it is hard to imagine any of the current crop making the professional grade.  Hanworth were a much more mature and rugged bunch and sit top of the table.  Unsurprisingly, Villa dominated and won with two goals scored in quick succession in the middle of the first half.  Tempers flared a little in the second half as some Manor players were accused of “play-acting”, and it’s true that they did have a tendency to drop like a sack of spuds at the slightest physical contact.  Watching too much Champions League football on TV no doubt.


05/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Mike Latham - Silsden (NWCL2)


Wed 4 May 2005,  NWCL2,  Silsden 2-1 Cammell Laird (att - 332)


Silsden clinched promotion in dramatic fashion, coming from behind to beat the champions and so move above Winsford into second place.


Behind to a goal midway through the first half Silsden scored two goals in eight second half minutes, both from corners, and then survived an anxious last fifteen minutes.


After moving to groundshare Keighley Cougars RLFC’s ground following their elevation to the NWCL Silsden have enjoyed their first season and have one of the best appointed grounds in non-league football.


Cougar Park, formerly known as Lawkholme Lane, was transformed in the 1990s as the Cougars enjoyed a golden spell before being denied a place in the top flight by the onset of Super League in 1996.


With an imposing main stand, a fine adjoining bar facility and excellent terracing, covered behind one end, Cougar Park has an impressive look and is maintained to a high standard.  Silsden had to move four miles down the road to fulfil their ambitions of a higher grade of football and the decision has been fully vindicated.  To top off an eventful and entertaining evening Silsden produced a superb 52-page programme for only £1.


By beating Cammell Laird, home and away, and Daisy Hill all in the space of five days they fully deserved their promotion and Cougar Park is an excellent addition to the travellers’ list.


04/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Andy Molden - Berinsfield (Oxfordshire Senior League Premier Division)


Berinsfield (2) 5 Kidlington Old Boys (1) 1; Oxfordshire Senior League Premier Division; attendance 57.

Berinsfield have come from nowhere to be odds-on to claim the Senior League title; barring a record defeat at home to second bottom Worcester College Old Boys and Bletchington on Saturday and second placed Eynsham getting a cricket score in their last game, Berinsfield are champions.

The village of Berinsfield is a post war "estate" seven miles south east of Oxford. It's famous son is former England and Liverpool captain Mark Wright, who now owns a number of properties in the village. In the past it has had a reputation, but of late re-generation has taken place and no longer are the local pub and school just burnt out shells.

I have visited the ground(s) a couple of times before. In travelling circles the club have a reputation for never having games off; this could be that they have four or five pitch's to choose from and all are quite well grassed. To find the ground follow signs for the village centre, go to the top of the village green, turn right at the shops (Smarts Take-away, Co-op Village Store) Lay Avenue is third right after the "oneway side" of the village green. This will make sense if you saw it. The ground is at the end of Lay Avenue.

Last night the game was played on the main pitch next to the sports centre. A couple of years ago when I went this pitch was fallow and they played on an outside pitch next to an Eastern European style block of flats, which are now demolished and replaced by new houses.

The main pitch has moved 30 yards since I saw a game on it and to say it is a large pitch is an understatment. About 115 by 80 yards is a rough measurement. Since my last visit a plush new dressing room block with tea bar have been built, as well as a "enclosed" carpark. In years gone by you would have left your car in view while watching a game in case one of the locals borrowed it. The club use the Sports Centre Bar and Social Club which are on the far side of the pitch and which can also be accessed from the village green. Extra car parking, if required, is also available at the Sports Centre.

The pitch has a bank with tarmac path running the full length and this gives a very good view of the game. The pitch is usually roped and as the home officials were duly doing this the ref told them they need not bother !!. Though this would be a black mark for "ace doyens" of the hobby, a plus point was that the game had official "lino's", a rare treat in this league. The one on the "dug out" side of the pitch was well chosen, well over six feet, fifteen plus stone, shaven head and an ex-copper, he had a super game and no one questioned his decisions.

The home sec asked the one other traveller present if he was Mick who had phoned him during the weekend. He said he had received a number of calls over the weekend, but had been away until Tuesday morning so was unable to answer all the queries.

The game started a pace and "Kiddy" opened the scoring after only 5 minutes. But within ten minutes the homesters had not only equalised but had also gone 2-1 up. To be fair the first half was very even. After our half-time cup of tea from a very helpful chap in the tea bar we looked forward to the second period.

Kiddy started to tire and the homesters got on top; we had one bout of "handbags" where the Ref just watched and then told them not to be silly again or they would be off. He did have to book a couple of players later on.

The homesters got into a 4-1 lead by the 90 minute mark and with the game safe we thought injury time would pass by without incident. How wrong we were; a ball to the Berinsfield right winger saw said player decide to tackle the nearest Kiddy player with a leg breaking challenge off the ball. We thought all hell would break loose, but the home officials and players rounded on their own player and called him every name under the sun (telling him how he was bringing the club a bad name and not to bother turning up on Saturday). He was duly given "a straight red card" for his efforts. Although the Kiddy defender was shaken and stirred he was able to carry on. The ten men homesters were not finished and ran in a super fifth goal.

The tea bar man said goodbye to one and all and hoped we had enjoyed the game.

The "grapevine" had previously told me the club have had their ground inspected for Hellenic football for next term. As champs we may well see Berinsfield in the Hellenic next year. If the club so wished, lights would not be a problem as the Sports Centre already has a floodlit all-weather surface which runs alongside the pitch.

The nearest Station is Culham which is about three miles away but as this has only a few trains a day it is not much use. There is a bus service from Oxford to Berinsfield and also the Oxford to Wallingford bus stops on the main road outside the village, giving a half a mile walk to the ground. They are run by Thames Travel and are white in colour, I only know these facts as both services pass my house!.

As with most Oxfordshire grounds, a mobile Kebab van was in situ in the entrance to the Sports Centre. 


04/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Mike Latham - NCEL Cup Final, Harrogate Railway v Sheffield at Ossett Albion FC


Tues 3 May 2005-05-03 NCEL Cup Final, Harrogate Railway 1-2 Sheffield (att - 250)


Ossett Albion (in the NCEL in 2003/04) staged the final of the league’s cup competition for 2004/05 with an apology in their programme.


“Although we at Ossett Albion are both pleased and proud to be asked to stage this Northern Counties East League Cup Final I am sure the players will be of a different opinion,” it stated.  “They, no doubt, will feel that the venue doesn’t really reflect the importance of the occasion and, having been involved in a couple of these cup finals ourselves, I think that judgement is a valid one.”


The article went on to state that the relationship between the professional game and grass-roots is more distant than a few years ago and that it is difficult to stage cup finals at league grounds or even get local Football League teams to stage preseason friendlies with first teams as in the past.


Albion finished mid-table in the Unibond First and produced an excellent 28-page programme for the final though the cover was that for one of their home games and had an advert for the Unibond League.  It was packed with all the necessary information- histories and pen pictures of both sides and some good statistics of routes to the final, past winners of the cup and league tables.  Admission was £4.50 on a sunny and fairly warm evening with many of the spectators choosing to have a pre-match pint at the adjoining cricket club (Ossett Trinitarians CC) where two hand-pumped bitters were of excellent quality.


Albion’s ground is situated in Dimple Wells, just five minutes or so from J40 of the M1 in a quiet residential area.  The ground affords excellent views across to Emley Moor and there is a warm welcome afforded to travellers.  The club-house and tea bar are situated by the entrance, the former serving some excellent pies, and some afns kept nipping in to watch the Liverpool-Chelsea game on the television.


The pitch slopes markedly away from the cricket ground side widthways.  The dug-outs are situated at the top side and a small terrace of three steps runs behind affording a very intimate view of play.  Both ends have cover and the far side has a small stand with a standing terrace either side.  There are great vantage points to be had all around the well-kept ground.


Sheffield led 2-0 at half-time and though Railway replied with a headed goal early on the resumption held on to lift the cup.  The presentation was held in front of the club house afterwards.  The game was played in a fine sporting spirit and both sets of fans created a good atmosphere.  A visit to Dimple Wells is highly recommended.


03/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Brian Coutts - Boston Spartans FC Charity Match v An Ex Leeds Utd XI on Sun 1st May 2005


Here is info about the game. I have a small stock of programmes left at £2 + 50p P&P.


We have organised the match to publicise achieving the Football Association Adult Charter Standard and also to raise money in aid of St Johns School For The Deaf (Boston Spa) and Kidney Unit at Leeds General Hospital.


Despite the damp start to the day, the sun broke through right on time for kick off. A terrific crowd turned out for the match and help to raise over £1000  for the charities. The Charity Match on Sunday May 1st  between our over 35's squad and Leeds United ex-players  mainly from the 80's including:
Brendan Ormsby; Terry Yorath; Lee Sharpe; Jordan Yorath;  Neil Aspin; Jimmy Lumsden; Bobby McDonald; Bobby Shields; John Pearson; John Stiles; Vince Brockie; Nigel Thompson; Neil Parsley and Callum McDonald.

The ex-players provided some dazzling skills to entertain the large crowd and often left the Boston Over 35's looking bewildered. Despite going down to an early goal to Leeds after the Boston goalkeeper slipped leaving John Pearson with an easy tap in. Boston were not overawed and began to play some nice football which led to the equaliser from Wayne Berry making it one all at half time. The second half started with a superb strike from Robert Welch that flew into the top corner leaving Jordan Yorath with no chance. Leeds again started to knock the ball around and Boston had to defend well to keep them from scoring. Boston had increased their lead mid way through the second half when Andy Bonass finished off a fine move to make it three one.
Leeds continued to push for another goal and Ian Batley had to make several fine saves to keep Boston in front. With only minutes to go, Vince Brockie found himself unmarked in front of the goal and he made no mistake finding the back off the net.

PHOTOS - see 'Hoppers Images Album 
1- Barry Christopher and Neil Aspin Challenge For Ball; 2 -
Boston Spartans FC; 3 - Leeds United FC; 4 - Andy Bonass and Brendan Ormsby Challenge For Ball; 5 - Brendan Ormsby chases back as Brian Coutts crosses.

We are also having dinner at the local hotel on May 6th where several signed items will be auctioned off. E mail bids will also be accepted. FOR MORE DETAILS SEE WEB SITE


03/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Stephen Harris - Walton Casuals (CCLP)


Monday 2 May 2005;  Walton Casuals 0-0 Raynes Park Vale;  CoCo League;  Att: c.175; programme issued, £1, admission £4.

I had intended this to be merely the warm-up match before going on to Aldershot for the play-off in the afternoon.  In the event, it became the only match when the full horrors of Bank Holiday railway timetabling became clear to me.  But it was a pretty good game in its own right and an enjoyable morning's football.

The atmosphere was as much village fete as football match, with the championship trophy presented at the end of the game and a 'Family Fun Day' in full swing, with bouncy castles, Bar-B-Que, paddling pool etc..

But it was obvious as soon as I arrived that there were long faces all round amongst the regulars.  The reason for this was clear as I began to read the programme.  Contrary to everyone's expectations, Casuals have failed a ground-grading inspection and, as things stand, are not eligible for promotion despite having enjoyed the most successful season in the club's history.  The programme spelled out the exact reasons for failure and they probably bear repetition here:
i) Not all seats were individually numbered.  Casuals have just installed a third unit of Arena seating, bringing seated capacity up to 159, but had forgotton to put numbers on the new seats - something they felt they could correct in 10 minutes.
ii)  The tannoy system.  The rules apparently say that the tannoy must be audible throughout the ground.  Casuals have a loud tannoy system based on two speakers, one each side of the ground - louder and clearer than almost any football ground I can think of.  But they were told the interpretation should be that there must be a 'speaker in each spectator area'.
iii) Casuals have installed a 'state of the art' removable, perspex players' tunnel to ensure player safety.  This was thought by the inspection team to be "too flimsy".
All very disappointing for Casuals who have clearly done a lot of work and to my eye have a ground which is noticeably better than lots I have visited at the higher level.  They say they will appeal (and were wished luck in this by the chairman of the CoCo League at the end of the game) but wise heads in the crowd said there was no right of appeal.
Anyway, on to the game.  RPV were much better than expected and pushed Casuals hard in an entertaining, end-to-end affair.  Casuals started the game with a goal difference of plus-99, so there was a clear incentive for them to win.  But the closest they came was a long range shot against the post in the final minute.  A few yellow cards were picked up reflecting the home side's frustration - but it was all smiles and champagne at the end.


03/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Paul Roth - Shottermill & Haslemere (CCL1)


RESULT 0-2; PROGRAMME 12 pages-free;  ATT: NOT MANY!

When I was "doing" the Football League one or two clubs kept crossing my path and somehow I ended up seeing Doncaster Rovers 7 times in completing the 92. And so it is with the First Division of the Combined Counties League that I keep managing to meet up with Crescent Rovers.

With few clubs left for me to visit in this league a trip to Shottermill on Bank Holiday Monday saw them pitched against the ubiquitous Rovers. Their Woolmer Hill Sports Ground is a really rural affair set in a big leafy sports complex and is a long walk from Haselmere - half an hour at least. Arriving an hour before k.o. I was able to obtain the 12 page programme (no charge) and had read it in 30 seconds! I decided to walk around the complex a couple of times in the warm sunshine to kill some time.

The pitch itself is roped off on just one side and is surrounded by trees with an artificial playing area behind the near goal and an elevated bank running along that roped off area.

In the programme a three line article stated how well the team had played in beating Coney Hall but I was sure I had read Coney had won 3-0. After watching this game, which Crescent won easily 2-0, I am convinced Shottermill could not have won as stated;in fact they were truly awful.

A nice rural setting with little there.


03/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Mike Latham - Flixton (NWCL2)


Mon 2 May 2005,  NWCL2,  Flixton 0-6 Cammell Laird (att - 50)


The phrase “end of season encounter” could have been designed for this game as the writer rued his choice of fixture.  With Cammell Laird already assured of the championship and facing a severe fixture pile-up they fielded only two or three regular players and it was a good job they did or else the result could have been really embarrassing for Flixton.


Flixton, who finished second bottom due to having 21 points deducted by the league for breach of rules, had extreme problems in raising a side and the kick-off was delayed until 3-15 while they assembled eleven players.  They eventually started with ten men with their manager in goal and were soon up to their full compliment when a straggler arrived.


In the circumstances it was a poor game with the visitors looking capable of winning by as many as they liked.  Eventually they scored three goals in each half, striker James McCoy finishing with four to his name as the home side barely troubled the visiting ‘keeper.


In the Unibond League only a few years ago Flixton are plainly struggling and it is to be hoped that they regroup for next season.  Their Valley Road ground is neatly appointed and is around five minutes’ drive from J10 of the M60 (the Trafford Centre turn-off) and is reached at the end of a residential area.  The Manchester Ship Canal runs parallel to the ground.


A well appointed club house is the main feature of the ground with a small seated stand alongside.  On the far touchline there is a shelter that runs alongside the width of the pitch and the dug-outs and changing rooms are also to be found here.  Both ends are open standing.  There is also a small snack bar.


A torrential storm just before kick-off made the pitch wet but the weather soon dried up and a low tempo match was mostly played in bright sunshine as both teams did little more than go through the motions.  Admission was £3 with a superb 44-page programme selling for £1.  This included all the details of Saturday’s games in the NWCL and up-to-date league tables- a quite splendid effort.


On the occasions the writer has seen them CL look a class apart at this level and play some very good passing football and it will be interesting to see how they perform at the higher level next season.  On this evidence they certainly lack nothing in strength in depth.  They have scored 136 goals in 34 league games and have a positive goals difference of 104 with games at Silsden and at home to Darwen to come.


01/05/05 Club/Ground Focus: Mike Latham - Castleton Gabriels (NWCL2)


Sat 30 Apr 2005, NWCLD2, Castleton Gabriels 0-4 Blackpool Mechanics (att- 35)


Castleton Gabriels played what could be their final game in the NWCL as their season closed in familiar defeat- rock bottom of division 2 and with 111 goals conceded in 36 games it has been a miserable season on the pitch.  In a typical end of season game they had no answer to the finishing of Mechanics’ striker Wayne Gardner who completed a hat-trick late in the game, though it may well have been a different story had the home side capitalised on a number of clear-cut chances in the first half.


Gabriels face relegation because they have been unable to comply with a league ruling that all clubs have to have working floodlights for 2005/06.  The floodlight pylons are up but a club official explained that they had been searching for missing parts as their lights are of an old design.  They have finally located the parts in Ipswich but not before the league deadline and are appealing against the decision in order to give them more time.  If not they will enter the Manchester League.


Castleton is situated just outside Rochdale and the ground, reached at the end of a long residential street, has a pleasant rural feel with a moorland on two sides and distant hills making for a most pleasant backdrop.  The ground, floodlights excepted, is one of the best in the league in the writer’s opinion with cover on three sides and an impressive main stand that gives a fine view of the action.  There are a number of seats on the far side and one end is covered as well.  There is an excellent club house with one of the best menus around- the pie and peas come heartily recommended- and the club produced a 52-page programme incorporating the league newsletter for £1 with admission only £3.  The club are clearly dependent on a small number of hard working volunteers and a friendly welcome is given to travellers. The playing pitch was well grassed though undulating and had a marked slope. Originally formed as a Sunday school side in 1924 St Gabriels moved to its present Butterworth Park home in 1979 and entered the NWCL in 1990, playing their 500th NWCL game in August 2004.


01/05/05 – Recent Travels (1): Barry Neighbour  - Bradford City (FLC1); Worcester Park (CCL1); CML Hop; Holyport and Badshot Lea (both Hellenic 1E)


It has been a busy couple of weeks for me football - wise and I enclose a brief summary of my recent travels. Saturday 16th April saw a trip up north to Valley Parade Bradford to see Brentford take on Bradford City. 4-0 down at half-time and you know it is not going to be your day. The Bees pulled a goal back in the second half but a 1-4 defeat did little to enhance our promotion prospects. A 64 page programme sold for £2.50. Tuesday 19th and I was a bit nearer to home at Worcester Park as they took on Sheerwater in the Combined Counties Leage Division 1. A 32 page programme was given away free which consisted of 12 pages of adverts and 20 pages of stats with no written text at all (not even to welcome the opposition). Two days later and it was even more local as I travelled three miles down the road to watch Finchampstead entertain Letcome in an Hellenic Division 1 East game. A last minute goal gave Finch a 3-2 win. An informative 32 page programme sold for a £1.
The following day (Friday 22nd April) came the drive to Nottingham with fellow travellers Alan Gulliford, Gerry McGill and Les Jewiss for the Central Midlands League Hop. A visit to Blackwell Miners Welfare saw Gedling win a tight game 1-0. A 44 page programme sold for £1. Travelling on the official coach on the Saturday saw visits to Santos v Bentley Colliery (1-5) with a  24 page programme - no price on cover; Forest Town v runaway champions AFC Barnsley. This looked an away banker but a physical encounter finished with a disappointing 0-0 (that will bring an end to a few sequences). A 28 page programme sold for £1. Rainworth MW v Teversal saw a 0-2 scoreline and a 40 page programme (no price given). We finished up at Welbeck Welfare who went down 1-2 to a last minute goal by a strong Pinxton side. The 28 page programme cost £1.
 Back home and two Hellenic League Division 1 East games followed this week with a visit to Holyport’s new ground at Summerleaze Village on Tuesday 26th April for the game against basement side Bisley Sports. The facilities are very basic at this stage but the cricket clubhouse was open for refreshments. The 40 page programme cost £2 including ddmission but did include a free cup of tea or coffee. The quality of football was poor with both sides making a lot of errors although it led to a fairly entertaining game which the home side won 3-1. On to Thursday 28th April and a visit to Badshot Lea in a game rearranged from the previous Saturday when visitors Banbury United Reserves mini bus broke down. This time they arrived in a 53 seater coach at 6.50 for a 6.30 kick off! The game eventually started at 7.00 and was reduced to 40 minutes each way and a 5 minute turn around at half time. The 32 page programme from the Saturday game was reissued and sold for £2 including admission (as with Holyport if you did not want a programme admission was free). Banbury did not let the delayed start affect them as they raced into a 4-1 half time lead. The second half was disappointing and it ended with no further goals. Anyone who has not been to Badshot Lea should do so next season as they plan to move to a new ground in 2007 in Farnham. This game brought me up to 500 goals for the season in 125 games and was my 47th new ground. (Photos to follow).  Barry