Travellers’ Tales April 2005  – updated 29/04/05



 29/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Stephen Harris - Rayners Lane (Hellenic 1E)
Thursday 28 April 2005;  Rayners Lane 6-0 Englefield Green Rovers;  Hellenic League Div I East;  Att: 44; programme issued, £2 with admission.

I'm quite a fan of the Hellenic League but have long been conscious of the fact that I have never seen a game at the home of the nearest club in that league to where I live, Rayners Lane.  A Thursday night fixture finally gave me the opportunity to put that right yesterday evening.
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Tithe Farm Social Club is a very neat and friendly little ground.  It is dominated by the very large bar and dressing room block which fills one side.  The other three sides are tightly enclosed by a tall and dense line of coniferous trees.  There is hard standing on three sides and a neat white post and rail fence, set at a height where it was useful even for tallish people like me.  On the far side there are two identical little covered standing areas, painted in brilliant white.  I was the only spectator intrepid enough to venture round there and after a while loneliness drove me back to the tea bar side where everyone else had gathered.
Englefield Green Rovers were, frankly, not very good and got the whalloping they deserved.  At least they took it in fairly good spirit, although the air was a little blue at times in the vicinity of the away dug-out.
After a bumper attendance of 74 on Tuesday night, when they put six past Hounslow Borough, Rayners Lane officials must have been a little disappointed with the turn out of 44 last night.  And even that was a rather generous interpretation of the numbers present I thought and must have included the little group of 'herberts' kicking a ball around in front of the social club.  We were however treated to the sight of a mass arrival of blazers as the Middlesex County FA officials broke off from their committee meeting in the clubhouse and came and watched for a few minutes, temporarily doubling the crowd.
The club appologised for the thin nature of the programme, not surprising really as this was the third home game in six days.  But I thought is was rather a good effort actually and the best non-league programme I've seen in several weeks.
 29/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Oldham Town (NWC2)

Wed 27 Apr 2005;  NWCLD2;  Oldham Town 0-0 Nelson (att - 30)


Oldham town’s origins can be traced back to 1964 when a football town was formed at a local building contractors, George Dew.  As founder members of the NWCL in 1982 they kept their name as Oldham Dew until was changed to Oldham Town in 1985.


The club play at the Whitebank Stadium in the Hollinhead area of the town, about five minutes’ drive from the M60.  There is a carpark and club house at the entrance to the ground, situated in the middle of a housing estate.  Most of the ground’s facilities are to be found at the clubhouse end with two small shelters behind the goal and another to the side, near the corner flag.  There are around a hundred seats.  The rest of the ground is hard standing behind a post and rail fence and the dug-outs are located opposite one another at the halfway line.


This was a typical end of season encounter before a sparse crowd and disappointingly ended scoreless.  The club produced a 24-page programme for the game.


 29/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Eccleshill Utd (NCELP)


Thur 28 Apr 2005; NCEL Premier Division; Eccleshill United 0-2 Goole (att - 100)


Selby Town’s defeat at Sheffield had opened up the chance for Goole to lift the championship of the NCEL and they went into this game knowing that victories in their last two games of the season would see them to the title.


Step one was safely achieved with a goal in each half securing this 2-0 win in a scrappy game.


Eccleshill United’s Plumpton Park ground, the site of a former quarry and the club’s home since 1963, is situated in the middle of a housing estate in the neighbouring hamlet of Wrose, about two miles from the centre of Bradford.  There is a large car park and a friendly club house.  The ground is surrounded by a two metre high blue metal fence. 


There is a covered end at the clubhouse and a smart seated stand straddling the halfway line down one side with the dug-outs situated opposite.  The rest of the ground is hard standing behind a post and rail fence.  A 20-page programme was produced for the game and the Goole fans went home happy, looking forward to Saturday.

 27/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Andy Sneddon – Lytham St.Annes (WEst Lancs Div 1)

Lytham St Annes 4 Poulton Town 0; Tues 26th April 2005; West Lancashire League Division One
Att: 40 (eventually!); Admission: No charge; Programme: 12pp, by donation

A quick £10 to the babysitter enabled Dad to finally nip out on a Tuesday and tick off Lytham St Annes' new ground in the West Lancs League.

After many years sharing the facilities at Lytham Cricket Club, Lytham St Annes FC are finally on a ground they can use all through the season. They have moved this season to the revamped Lytham YMCA ground on Mythop Road, no more than a gentle 10 minute stroll from Lytham Town Centre and the railway station. The main building is impressive with a huge new gymanasium & sports centre complex dominating the pitch. This also has a raised walkway in front which provides hard standing, in a slightly elevated position, in front of the dressing rooms and bar/café area, albeit around 10 yards back. The ground has a much more enclosed feel than the old one. Both touchlines are "taped" off, with dug outs on the far side from the main building. One end is very tightly fenced in whilst the other affords a pleasant tree backed route to the other side of the pitch. Hot drinks, beer and snacks were available all evening from the plush bar overlooking the pitch.

LSA have reintroduced a match programme this season after a number of barren years and for a donation to genial Chairman & Secretary Geoff Mackay you get a quite superb 12 page issue, complete with full colour cover and all the essential information included. They appear to issue for all home games and I have little doubt that one will be available for the last home game of the season on Thursday 5th May, against Crooklands (6-45ko).

Before tonight's game LSA needed 5 points from their remaining 3 fixtures to ensure promotion to the West Lancs Premier Division. A comprehensive and well deserved 4-0 win against an at times over-aggressive Poulton Town side means they need either 1 win or two draws from their final two games. The attendance grew gradually throughout the evening and peaked at 40 in the 2nd half. From a neutral perspective it would be good to have the game next Thursday having something riding on it, although I suspect Chairman Geoff may disagree!

One point of note is that visitors Poulton Town have been issuing all season and intend to carry on next year. Known programme issuers in the league this season have been:

Fleetwood Hesketh, Burnley United, Charnock Richard, Fulwood Amateurs, Euxton Villa, Lytham St Annes, Poulton Town, Bootle, Norcross & Warbreck, Croston SC & Rivington.

Others known to have been fairly regular in recent years but I can't confirm for 2004/5 include: Turton, Freckleton, Hesketh Bank, Furness Rovers, Millom, BAC/EE Preston, Blackrod Town & Furness Cavaliers

Any additions to definite issuers would be welcome.

 27/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Ashton Town (NWCL2)
Tues 26 Apr 2005, NWCL2; Ashton Town 4-1 New Mills (att-50)

This was a landmark game in the history of Ashton Town - originally formed in 1953 as Makerfield Mill FC.  With floodlights due to be installed at their Edge Green Street home in the next few weeks to satisfy membership criteria
of the NWCL for next season it marked the end of the 6-15 midweek kick-off. I must admit I will miss them in a funny sort of way. Programme editor Ian Templeman must be congratulated for the splendid 32-page publication (£1) he produced for this game. 
Ashton Town have been members of the NWCL since its inception in 1982 apart from one season in the Manchester League.  Situated just off the Golborne Road from the town of Ashton-in-Makerfield south of Wigan, the ground is
to be found off a pleasant residential road and is surrounded by houses. Unlike experiences elsewhere those same residents fully supported the club's application to install lights, preferring for the club to stay where it is
than the site be developed by property developers.

A well kept playing pitch is the first thing you notice on entry, as well as a warm welcome from club officials.  There is a small club house behind the goals at the top end, a changing room block down one side and a small seated stand and cover on the opposite side.

With visitors New Mills arriving in dribs and drabs the game only kicked-off at 6.55pm and referee S Parker shrewdly kept the halftime interval to a minimum in order to finish the game in the light.  New Mills took an early lead but a splendid header by Neil Parkinson levelled the scores just before halftime and Ashton went on to record a convincing victory with three second half goals to leapfrog their opponents in the table.  They were indebted, though,
to some fine saves by 'keeper Danny Vickers.

There was an amazing on-pitch altercation at the break between the visitors' coaching staff and captain leading to the latter walking off the field and being replaced by a second half substitute.  No such problems for Ashton
who looked a cheerful and well organised team and with the rare inclusion of identical twins in Paul and Karl Atherton.

In general the game was played in a good spirit and was officiated extremely well. With most of the players having rushed to the ground from work or about to rush from work to begin a night shift the entertainment on offer was excellent value for the £2 admission price.

Ashton Town have now won their last four games but pity the poor press officer - Saturday's game against Nelson will be the eighth home game in five weeks and he started the season with four home games in a fortnight.  In between he had only eight home games in seven months for which to prepare a programme. Great entertainment, a friendly welcome and a pleasant ground- highly recommended.
 27/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Stephen Harris - Oxhey Jets SML1)
Tuesday 26 April 2005;  Oxhey Jets 5-1 Winslow United;  Spartan South Midlands League - Div I;  Att: c.90; programme issued.

Oxhey Jets are an up-and-coming club, promoted to the Spartan League last summer after dominating the Herts Senior for a few years.  They have lagged a bit behind Biggleswade United for most of this season, but suddenly find themselves top of the table, already promoted to the Premier Division and tonight playing for the championship.

The club are based in a very anonymous suburb, somewhere in the nomansland between London and Watford.  But the venue is decent enough, and all pretty new.  The ground is situated alongside a modern indoor sports centre and opened just 4 years ago.  It is rather open as yet, with no trees established, and several people chose to watch the game for free through the fence.

Those of us who paid £4 (for entry and a basic programme) found a railed-off pitch with hard standing along the near side which was several feet below the level of the entrance.  Most of this side consists of grass banking, but in the centre are two new Arena-type stands containing about 100 blue seats.  These are set well above pitch level on raised concrete bases and so were much more usable than at many clubs where they are sited too low for comfort.  Alongside is a small two step terrace area giving a good view of the action.  The rest of the ground is undeveloped.  I walked around and found a pathway to the dugouts on the far side when going around one end, but got wet feet coming back the other way.  Needless to say, the entire crowd of around 90 gathered in the area around the stands.
Winslow were no mugs.  Lying in sixth place in the table they gave Jets a good game, keeping it to 2-1 at half time and holding out well into the second half before letting in a flood of goals at the end.  For a while it looked as if nerves might get to Oxhey and there was a mad ten minutes when the referee had to show half a dozen yellow cards, banish the home manager to the stand and send off an away player.  But sense prevaild and there was no real rough stuff.
The final whistle blew just as the heavens opened and the players cracked open a bottle of champagne on the pitch to a backdrop of thunder and lightning
 26/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Maine Road (NWCL1)

Mon 25 Apr 2005, NWCL1 Maine Road 1-2 Curzon Ashton (Att-70)


There is always something to be gleaned from a visit to a non-league ground and the trip to Maine Road’s ground at the Manchester County FA’s headquarters at Brantingham Road did not disappoint.


Maine Road produced a superb 88-page programme for only £1- equal in size and quality to Great Harwood’s effort of a few days earlier.  Containing up-to-date stats and reports, with the NWCL newsletter as part of the insert, a review of the season with some great cartoons and a fabulous club history and records section the programme was simply an outstanding effort.


Formed in 1955 as Manchester City Supporters Rusholme and later renamed Maine Road FC after their headquarters at the newly built Maine Road Social Club, Maine Road have played at Brantingham Road since 1980 and been members of the NWCL since 1987.


Their number 4, Ian Walker, recently completed 600 appearances for the club- a magnificent achievement and Maine Road clearly attract a great loyalty from their players and supporters.  Many of their current crop of players have come up through the youth teams at the club and the average age of the side, despite Walker’s presence, is around 20 or 21- a source of great pride to club officials.


Brantingham Road is situated in the middle of Manchester suburbia, about half-a-mile or so from Chorlton-cum-Hardy and about 10 minutes from J7 of the M60.  A school playing-fields is next door and the far side of the ground is bounded by houses.


The welcome at the turnstiles was warm and the club secretary willingly gave out the team lists while snacks were purveyed from a makeshift building near the club house at the entrance to the ground.  There is a club house at the entrance.  The attendance appeared to be about average for the season, around the 70-mark.


The playing pitch was in good condition despite it being close to the end of a long season but the ground itself is rather featureless- a long shelter, about two-thirds of the far touchline down one side and two small covered stands, one containing seats down the near side where the dug-outs are situated.  A post and rail fence surrounds the ground and a word of warning if you position yourself behind the far goal- you are likely to be the only spectator at this end and spend the whole game fagging the ball from wayward shots and crosses for a grateful goalkeeper.  Your writer fell naively into this trap.


Curzon Ashton came from 1-0 behind at halftime to win 2-1, their winner being a superb first time volley from winger Simon Heaton.  It was a competitive game played in a good spirit.


It was a hugely enjoyable evening after a beautiful Spring day in Manchester and the community feel and welcome from Maine Road more than compensated for the rather featureless surroundings.


Interestingly the programme gave out awards for the season with Ramsbottom United emerging with the best pies and favourite ground, St Helens Town the best hospitality and Congleton the best programme.  Highly recommended.

 25/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Dave Reed - Haslemere Hospital Trophy Final (at Hammer) 
Having driven home on Saturday evening from the CML Hop, I felt good enough on Sunday to take in the final of the Haslemere Hospital Trophy being played at Hammer, a small village near Haslemere.  What a little gem the ground is, situated down a track off Hammer Lane.  A small clubhouse and changing rooms are just inside the entrance to the right with two dug-outs further down that side.  Opposite at the top of the bank is a small covered area with seating available for 8-10 people (depending on size!).  The whole ground is enclosed by trees.

The game was between Liphook United and Chiddingfold, both members of the Surrey County Intermediate League (Western) as are Hammer and we were treated to a very entertaining afternoon as were the crowd of approx 160.  The score after 90 minutes was 2-2, three of the goals coming from free kicks. With no further score in extra time the game went to penalties.  Chiddingfold won the shoot out 3-2 having overcome the disadvantage of having a man sent off after 82 minutes.

All in all it was a great afternoon's entertainment for £2 including the programme and a visit to this ground can be recommended.
 25/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Alsager Town (NWCL1)


Thursday 21 April 2005, NWCL1, Alsager Town 0-1 Skelmersdale United (att - 91)


Alsager Town play at the Town Ground, a pleasant tree-lined setting in a natural bowl.  The approach to the ground is made through a housing estate and the entrance is very narrow.  The club house and tea bar are situated at the entrance side and there is a grassed slope that leads down to the pitch.  On the near side is a small seated stand and another covered area with a small covered stand on the far side.  The rest of the ground is hard standing.


Alsager, now nicknamed the Bullets, after the local bullet-making industry, have attracted considerable publicity through the singing exploits of a number of their fans who are known as the Far-siders, Bar-siders or Shed-enders. They helped create a good atmosphere for a competitive end of season encounter settled by a headed goal on the half-hour.


Alsager are a friendly club with good facilities and their ground is well worth a visit.  Formed as recently as 1965 they entered the NWCL in 1999 and won promotion in 2002 to the first division.  They are easily found off J17 and J16 of the M6 north of Stoke-on-Trent.


 25/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Great Harwood Town (NWCL1)


Fri 22 April, NWCL1, Great Harwood Town 3-1 Abbey Hey (att - 87)


Great Harwood maintained their hopes of escaping relegation with a 3-1 victory on Friday evening.  They have been unable to play at their own ground since January following an arson attack on their club house and have used Accrington Stanley, Darwen and Colne for home games.


This game was once again staged at the Interlink Express Stadium in Accrington and there was a surprise in store.  The programme compiler, John Fenton, had produced a quite magnificent 88-page programme full of facts, stories, articles, cartoons and statistics- easily the best the writer has seen this season and amazing value for £1.


The whole ground was open for the sparse crowd to walk around- the distinctive main stand with its supports on the roof, a covered terrace opposite and two uncovered ends.  The ground can be found behind the Crown pub on the Whalley road out of Accrington.

22/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Stephen Harris - CB Hounslow United (Middlesex County League)
Thursday 21April 2005;  CB Hounslow United 0-0 Hanworth Villa;  Middlesex County League;  Att: c. 80; no programme issued.

The opportunity to get away from work early suddenly presented itself and a quick check of the fixture lists suggested that I might be able to get to CB Hounslow United in time for an estimated 6.30 kick-off.  An hour and 20 minutes later I arrived at the ground with five minutes to spare, my bus having crawled along the Uxbridge Road at something less than walking pace.
First priority, I admit, was to try to get my hands on a programme or team sheet if there was one.  A likely looking character was perusing a scrap of paper.  But it was his own hand written line-ups, cadged off an official.  Said official let me down gently - "Sorry mate, but we do usually do one for Saturday games".  Oh well.
I hope I'll not be upsetting anyone, or even surprising anyone, by saying that the Osterley Sports Club ground is a dump.  A low white rail patchily surrounds about half the pitch with the rest roped off.  In the nearest corner are the smashed remains of a portacabin and this once had a small cover attached to the front.  The tiny bit which remains could perhaps shelter four people at a squeeze on a rainy day.  Some wooden pallets had also once been laid in this area for spectators to stand on and the rotted remains of some are still visible amongst the long grass and litter.  Behind the near goal is the burnt-out shell of the social club which once stood here, together with the large, windlowless but intact, dressing room block.  All in all, pretty basic.
On the plus side, the grass had been cut for the ocassion, the lines marked out and we even got some corner flags not too long into the game - all of this being an improvement on the situation at a supposedly more senior club I had visited earlier in the week.
This match pitted second against first in the league table and it was clear to all that both sides were quite useful.  The game was entertaining, but goalless, the sides cancelling each other out as can be the way in late-season top of the table clashes at any level.  It was my first goalless draw for several months, the last coming in the somewhat more salubrious surroundings of Bologna in Italy's Serie A.
I was surprised by the relatively large size of the crowd - not usually a noted feature of this league.  At fairly open grounds like this, with no gate taken, the crowd tends to come and go a bit, but there were 80 spectators at the point when I did a head count, with a good mixture of home and away supporters plus neutrals like myself.
Half time saw a visit to the bar, in the dressing room block, in a high-ceilinged room which had evidently done time in the past as a squash court.  My order of a small bottle of Red Stripe and a chocolate bar came to an astonishing £2.70.  The combined change of all my many pockets only amounted to £2.60, but fortunately this seemed to be enough to satisfy the barmaid.
The second half was very competitive, although pretty clean, and a draw a fair reflection I thought.
19/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Harrogate Railway Ath (NCELP)


Mon 18 Apr 2005; NCEL League Cup Semi-Final; Harrogate Railway Athletic 1-0 Hallam (att - 170)


Harrogate Railway achieved national fame during their FA Cup run two seasons ago with their home tie against Bristol City attracting the glare of national television and a record attendance of 3,500.


There was a much more modest turn-out for this semi-final, around 170 (based on a head count) lining the ground just after kick-off on a dry but chilly evening.


Station View is actually situated in the village of Starbeck about a mile-and-a-half from Harrogate town centre on the Knaresborough Road.  There is a club house and car park and another playing pitch before the main ground is reached.  Admission was £4 and the programme was £1.  A feature of the ground was the "station buffet" which served a good selection of drinks and snacks, a delicious steak pie being procured for a bargain 70p.


The ground is rather basic being uncovered hard standing on three sides and a small covered standing and seated area (with 800 seats) behind the far goal.  A number of porta-cabins along the side of the field housed the PA box and boardroom.


The home club had actually played ten successive away games before beating Armthorpe Welfare at Station View two days previously and face two more away trips to complete their season, still in with a chance of the championship.  The programme was bang-up-to-date and was a good 32-page offering that showed the club to be progressive with a fund-raising initiative underway to redevelop the ground and facilities at Station View.


Heavy rain had made the sloping pitch wet but it appeared well drained and a hard-fought game ensued, the home side qualifying the final by virtue of a last-minute headed goal by substitute Graham Marchant.


Hallam had a player dismissed for two yellow cards on the hour-mark, his second offence being a blatant and unnecessary hand ball and the referee had his hands full keeping the lid on the game with some bad fouls flying about.  But the officials did nothing to curb the terrible bad language of the players which remains a blight on the non-league scene, especially if taking young children to the game.  Why do so many players feel it necessary to shout: “F*** off!” every time they make a bad pass?  Sadly there were plenty of misplaced passes in a tedious encounter lacking in skill.


There was also an extraordinary verbal exchange between a home defender and his bench conducted in full hearing of the spectators.  The same player later replied to some good natured barracking by a visiting supporter with some choice remarks and obscene hand gestures that should have warranted punishment from the officials.


Off the field the club is a friendly one with a number of hard-working officials- the club was formed in 1935 and has played since then on the railway ground and has carried on though the railway works closed in 1959.  Though hardly picturesque it is a ground full of character and clearly the focus for the local community with a number of junior teams playing there.

19/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Stephen Harris - Cogenhoe Utd (UCLP)
Saturday 16 April 2005;  Cogenhoe United 3-2 Bourne Town;  United Counties League;  Att: c. 96; programme issued.

With my first choice team, Leyton Orient, having played and won in most satisfying style at Southend on Friday night, the way was clear for me to visit a new ground on Saturday.  I fancied seeing a top team in a fairly minor league and settled on Cogenhoe United, top of the UCL - a league in which I have little personal experience.
Cogenhoe turns out to be a small village south east of Northampton in the Nene valley - pronounced something like 'Cook-no' to my soft southern ears.  The weather was good and, being in dire need of exercise and fresh air, I walked the six-or-so miles from Northampton station and most of the way back - pausing only for essential re-hydration stops at the White Hart, Great Houghton, the Olde Cherry Tree, Great Houghton and the Bold Dragoon, Weston Favell.
The ground is not particularly impressive, being largely untouched I suspect since it opened in the 80s.  A small stand midway along one side has 50 blue seats bolted on to an older wooden frame and also provides a little covered standing space.  Otherwise facilities consist simply of a concrete pathway to stand upon and a rail to lean on.  Views of spring fields and distant church towers help to make up for the lack of architectural beauty within the ground itself.
But Cogenhoe appear to be in the business of satisfying the ground graders; with a fresh concrete pathway being laid at the far end, and plans on the clubhouse wall for the proposed new 150 seater 'grandstand'.
Like most clubs at this level, the real heart and soul is the bar and this is where most of the 100-strong crowd were gathered before, after, and in some cases throughout, the game. There was plenty to drink, but my hunger pangs were hardly staved off by the cup-a-soup and chocolate bar acquired from the tea bar which opened only for the half-time break.
I expected the locals to wipe the floor with Bourne and this is how it looked when the home team scored in the first minute.  But from then on the teams were quite evenly matched and Bourne perhaps were unfortunate to come away pointless.  Careful reading of the thin programme suggested that Bourne were no longer the whipping boys they had been earlier in the season.
Whilst the quality of football was lower than I had expected, this was a good day out and a welcome break from my usual London-based football diet.
18/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Dave Reed – Southam (MCFLP)
Following what is now my usual practice of trying to see games in as many different leagues each season, I opted on Saturday for the Midland Combination game at Southam where the home side were entertaining Meir KA. 

Entering the ground in Banbury Road there is a low area of cover on the near side and on the opposite side are two stands with wooden seating, situated in the centre of each half.  The progamme, included with the £3 admission consisted of twenty pages, some coloured, inside a stiff colour cover.  The home side fell behind after seven minutes and despite a lot of possession they were unable to breach the visitors' rearguard until ten minutes from time through substitute Dan Cramp.  He proved his worth by then getting the winner with a minute of normal time to go.

After leaving Southam, I sped down the M40 for another game at Bletchingdon in Oxfordshire.  This was the final of the Ben Turner Cup which I believe is for teams competing in the First Division of the Oxfordshire Senior League.  I was rather surprised to find that the League had not produced a programme for the game which was attended by about 200 people, including at least three other Groundhoppers.  We were treated to a very competitive game in which Kennington defeated Kings Sutton 3-1.  An usual occurrence was the referee dismissing a spectator for attacking one of the players.  (Should be interesting this Wednesday when the two teams are due to meet again in a League match
17/04/05 Travellers' Tales: Dennis Woods - Slovakian Travels.
On Friday 8th April, Eddie Cook and Roland Reeve joined me on a trip to Bratislava, Slovakia.  Once we landed we took a taxi to our hotel and after checking in and dropping our bags off, we took a another taxi to the main train station.   We then bought our train tickets to Untersiebenbrunn, in Austria.
SC Untersiebenbrunn changed their name at the start of the season to and halfway through decided to change it again to Seidi-Software.  Damn sponsors.  I've decided to stick with their original name otherwise things are going to get pretty confussing after a few years.
Untersiebenbrunn is 40 minites by train from Bratislava.  Before arriving at the station we saw the floodlifghts on the right hand side and it was just as well as we were the only ones to get off the train and there wouldn't have been anyone to ask, in fact the whole town/village seemed to be deserted.
SC Untersiebenbrunn lost 3-0 to SV Stadterke Kapfenberg in front of a crowd of 686.  Admission to the game was 10 euros (£7).  As you can see from the pictures the stadium consists of one main stand and an uncovered temporary stand.  A 4 page colour programme was given away free.
Our next game was on Saturday morning at 10.30 am and was a Slovakian Division 2 game between Rapid Ruzinov Bratislava v Sala.  Admission was 40 Korun (78p) and a 4 page, black and white, programme was issued for free.  The stadium consisted of one main stand running the full length of the pitch, with concrete terracing opposite and no floodlights.  Sala won the game 2-1 in front of a crowd of 240.
Our second game on the Saturday was Inter Bratislava v Ruzomberok in the Slovakian first Division.  It is a shame that such a huge stadium only had 508 spectators for this 3.30 pm match.
Admission was 75 Korun (£1.47) and a 12 page programme with a colour glossy cover sold for 10 Korun (20p).  Inter won the game 2-1 thanks to excellent stoppage time rocket shot straight into the top corner of the net.  Since the winter break Inter have won 3 out of the 4 games that they have played and this has meant that they have now moved off the bottom of the table.
We had planned to see a second division game at Slovan Bratislava which is a 10 minute walk from Inter's ground, but their game had been brought forward to the Thursday as Slovan had a Ice Hockey play off match on the Saturday night.  It appears that Ice Hockey is a bigger sport than football in Slovakia.
The final match on our tour took place on Sunday at 3.30 pm at OFSK Dunajska Luzna who were playing SFK Jablonec in the Bratislavian Regional League (Division 3).  Admission to this game was 20 Korun (39p) and a 4 page black and white programme was issued for free.  Luzna won the game 3-1 in front of 150 fans.
The stadium only has a small stand with no floodlights.  An excellent clubhouse served beer and to the locals lots of vodka.  A BBQ was also available.
17/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Paul Roth – Trowbridge Town (Hell 1W)

Res: 0-0;  Programme £1 with admission.

It is 21 years since I last visited the Wiltshire County town to watch football and it is hard to imagine that back then they were in the equivalent of todays' conference (playing Fisher Athletic in a relegation battle). Myself and the two clubs have come a long way since 1984  but ultimately the Town are now 1 mile further out of town down Bradley Road at their new Woodmarsh arena.

Travelling by train and, after changing at Westbury to do the GBG pub entry-a bit further away from the station than I thought, I arrived at Trowbridges' ground at 2p.m. The place has a rural feel to it being just in the countryside on the edge of town and to be honest I was slightly disappointed with it. There is no clubhouse but the Mash Tun pub across the road does food and so the visitor needn't go thirsty!

An excellent 40 page programme sold for £1 and seemed to include admission although a sign as you enter the ground states "admission £2-50p". There are 2 covered areas; one on the halfway and a further one behind the far goal. There is a canteen serving pasties and tea etc.

The football itself was nothing to write home about as the title chasing home side never really got going despite missing quite a few good scoring chances. The final score being a poorish 0-0. I felt the pitch could have done with a cut and roll.

Having just 22 minutes from the final whistle to get back to the station, I really got my skates on and so can definitely confirm that Woodmarsh is a brisk 20 mins walk from there! The mad world we live in meant going to Bath Spa to get my train back to London (only to find myself 40 minutes later gliding back through Trowbridge) due to essential engineering works re-routing the train back via Hungerford!

Not the best footballing day but, as ever, most enjoyable. Distance measured - 19689 steps (!). WebEd - see Paul's report from Sileby Rangers (20/03/05) which will help to explain his punishing new exercise scedule!!

16/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Newcastle Town (NWCL1)


Sat 16 April 2005, NWCL Division One, Newcastle Town 4-0 Squires Gate (att-100)


Newcastle Town kept up the pressure on leaders Fleetwood Town with their sixth successive win to make next week’s meeting between the two sides one to savour.


With player-manager Nigel Gleghorn calling the shots from midfield Newcastle always looked in control and were three goals to the good by half time.  Long serving defender Dean Gillick scored twice, both with headers after Paul Harris’s close range opener.  The second half was tame by comparison though Dave Woodvine’s fizzing left-foot volley for the fourth was one to savour.


Newcastle’s ground is Lyme Valley Parkway, a pleasant setting in a valley with rugby and cricket pitch next door and just a five-minutes journey from J15 of the M6.  Originally built in the 1950s, the venue is also a velodrome with a £250,000 cycle track recently installed.  The curved banking around the playing area makes for some great vantage points of the pitch below.


Admission was £5 adults with a superb programme selling for £1.  There is a tea hut and small clubhouse and the welcome from club officials was very friendly.  With Stoke City at home just a few miles down the road the attendance was affected and was around the 100-mark.  Stoke use the ground for reserve team and junior fixtures and the playing area was in excellent condition.  Most of the spectators gathered on the club house side where a small and modern seated stand gives a good view of the action.  On the far side there is a covered terraced area.  The ground was maintained to a high standard and a club official informed it had recently received a B grading that would enable the club to stage games in Conference North.


The 44-page programme had some innovative features and was well designed with a wealth of interesting editorial.  Of particular interest was a survey of all the clubs in the league with Town’s rivals marked out of 100 for categories such as ground standard, interaction with local supporters, the welcome by club officials, programme quality, food and bar facilities and overall value of the day.


On the survey Atherton LR come out on top with 77percent with St Helens Town bottom with 32 percent.  The programme is the best this writer has seen in non-league circles this season and complimented a most enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment.

15/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Hallam (NCELP)


Thurs 14 April, NCEL Premier, Hallam 2-2 Thackley (att - 100)


There’s no escaping the fact that you are entering a football ground of great historical significance at Sandygate.  A huge sign proclaims the ground as the oldest club ground in the world, dating back to 1860, and that Hallam FC are the second oldest club in the world (after Sheffield).  There is also a prominent plaque on the wall.


Once inside the ground does not disappoint.  Situated in leafy Crosspool, a suburb of Sheffield just off the A57 road that takes you over the Snake Pass to Glossop, the location is idyllic.  Sharing with a cricket club, Hallam FC’s ground is effectively three-sided with a club house and smart new cantilevered main stand on the left hand side as you enter and a small covered stand behind the goals at the entrance.  The pitch slopes sharply down to the far end with huge netting constructed in a vain attempt to stop wayward shots disappearing into neighbouring gardens.  The far side is largely out of bounds, almost encroaching as it does on the cricket square with a neat temporary fence constructed.


Club officials do a grand job as ball boys, manning the cricket side and behind the far goal to ensure that play keeps flowing with the crowd gathering mostly in the stand or on the banks at the club house side.


Admission was £4 with an up-to-date programme selling for £1 and a tea bar and the club house provide plenty of facilities for the spectator and a warm, cheery welcome.


The pitch was damp after recent rain and that helped the game which Hallam needed to win to ensure safety from relegation.  Playing in distinctive blue and white hoped jerseys, they came from behind to lead 2-1 just after half-time but then had to rely on some outstanding saves from their goalkeeper.  Thackley equalised from a penalty and a draw was a fair result.  A visit to Sandygate is highly recommended.

15/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Heart of Midlothian (SPL)
Wed 13 Apr 2005, SPL Hearts 1-2 Hibernian (att - 17,676)


There are those grounds you are glad to tick off your list and do only once and others that you like to return to year after year for their special atmosphere and character.  Tynecastle definitely falls into the latter category for the writer who considers it to be one of the most atmospheric club grounds in the country, especially for a highly charged local derby under floodlights.


Surrounded by impressively sturdily built tenements, hemmed in by a distillery and a school just off the A71 Gorgie Road, Tynecastle is an increasingly rare example of a near town centre ground and has an early example of a grandstand designed by Archibald Leitch, as detailed in Simon Inglis’s superb new book, “Engineering Archie.”


The other three stands at Tynecastle were constructed in the 1990s and rise up, seemingly almost sheer, from pitch level affording superb and intimate views of the action below.


Thankfully Tynecastle’s immediate future now seems more assured after the takeover of the club by a Lithuanian businessman and the prospect of ground-sharing nearby Murrayfield with the Scottish RU has diminished.


The surroundings of Murrayfield come in handy for free  parking if arriving early enough and there is the opportunity to visit the SRFU shop or walk into the impressive 67,500 capacity stadium that housed Hearts’ Uefa Cup-ties earlier this season.  A bus ride into Edinburgh takes only ten minutes or so and a £2.20 all-day bus pass can be secured after 9-30am.  If venturing into Edinburgh a trip on one of the four different open top bus routes with tour guides comes heartily recommended.


Pre match atmosphere can be sampled in the Tynecastle Arms, a heaving mass of humanity, where Wayne Foster’s signed shirt is given pride of place.  The writer used to watch Foster play for a then decidedly poor Bolton Wanderers team and often see him jogging the pathways and bridleways around the open cast mines of his hometown Atherton.  The former England youth international striker moved to Hearts, where his late winner at Easter Road, after coming on as sub in a Scottish FA Cup-tie in 1994, earned him enduring fame in Gorgie.


A page was devoted to Foster’s goal in the superb 64-page Hearts programme that was good value for £2.50 while £24 secured a prime seat in the stand.  Edinburgh derbies are certainly not for the faint-hearted and the fervour of both sets of supporters was something to behold, though the atmosphere and demeanour of the fans does not seem threatening for the neutral supporter (not that there were many of those).


Scoring twice in six second half minutes Hibs overcame a half-time deficit to win a frantic game played at 100mph and cement their claim for a third-placed finish.  Great stuff!

14/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – New Mills (NWCL2)


Tues 12 Apr 2005, NWCL Division 2; New Mills 0-2 Silsden (att - 141)


This match brought together two of the newcomers to the NWCL this season with Silsden, despite a heavy fixture backlog, still in with a chance of promotion and the Millers also well placed in the top half of the table.


New Mills are a long established club who enjoyed a golden period between 1963-71 when they won the Manchester League on seven occasions.


Their Church Lane ground is superbly maintained and there is a warm welcome extended to travellers.  The ground has been developed in recent years with the aid of a fund raising appeal and lottery funding and is a most pleasant place for spectators to enjoy their football.


Located off the A6 Stockport- Buxton road, New Mills is situated in the High Peak and surrounded by some marvellous scenery.  The ground is easily located, opposite the imposing church, and there is plenty of parking close by with a station a bracing ten-minute walk-away.


Admission was only £2 and a smart 32-page programme, bang up-to-date, was quite amazing value at 60p- ridiculously cheap for an effort of this quality.


The ground is surrounded on three sides by a tall dark brown fence and there is a small stand and cover on the Church Road side.  The dressing rooms and club house are located behind one goal.  The rest of the ground is hard standing.  Several tables had been laid out in front of the club house for the benefit of supporters to enjoy eating their pies and peas.


The club house also houses a tea bar with prices well below the norm but with drinks served in pot mugs and pie, peas and gravy in proper dishes.


The Millers are the best supported club in the NWCL2 this season, averaging around 160, and they had the feel of a vibrant community club.  They run several junior sides and have Astroturf facilities for hire on a site adjoining the main ground.  The club’s website is also a model for others to follow, packed with relevant information and excellent photographs.


An increasingly scrappy game was marred by a serious leg injury to a home player ten minutes from time with the visitors edging home with a goal in each half from a game of few chances.  A visit to Church Lane is highly recommended.

14/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Andy Sneddon – Crewe FC (Mid Cheshire Lge1); Stockport Georgians (Manchester Lge Prem Div) and Ossett Common Rovers (West Yorks League Prem Div)

Wed 6th April 2005; Crewe FC 0 Bollington Athletic 2; Mid Cheshire League Division One
Att: 40; Programme/Admission £1, 48pp

Crewe FC currently play at the Cumberland Stadium very close to the town centre. However, the stadium will be undergoing refurbishment next season and the club will be playing elsewehere, so we decided to "tick it off" just in case.

The ground is a fairly basic council owned athletics track with all the facilities on the side you come in on. There is a small car park inside and a nice chap will relieve you of a quid on the gate in exchange for a quite superb 48 page programme (Crewe are regular issuers, including midweeks). There is a tea bar inside the dressing room complex with reasonoble views of the pitch. However, on a poor day most people would stand in front on the glass because that's where the small amount of cover is. The view from here isn't perfect as you are a little way from the picth (6 lane running track in the way) and the two dugouts are quite large. The best view is from the small grass bank alongside the dressing rooms.

The stadium has floodlights but these are very much for the athletics and are not of match standard. However, on a chilly evening that started with glorious sunshine, the dark clouds rolled in late in the first half and by the time the heavens opened early in the 2nd it was a good job we had the lights. There's no way the game would have continued without them and although far from perfect it was playable.

Crewe should have had the game sewn up by halftime, but their young side just couldn't finish. Two second half goals from the visitors got them a rather underserved 3 points that leaves Crewe deep in relegation trouble.

Sat 9th April 2005; Stockport Georgians 3 Breightmet United 3; Air Miles Manchester Lge Premier Division
Att: 35; Programme/Admission £1, 36pp

Stockport Georgians play at one of the better appointed grounds in the Manchester League, in the Woodsmoor district of Stockport. It's a pleasant suburb and the ground has a slight rural feel about it with many trees lining 2 sides. It is fully enclosed, with a large car park inside, fully railed, hard standing all round, dug outs and a small stand for approx 50 people situated in one corner by the dressing rooms and clubhouse. The programme was a cracking effort with a full colour cover and much to read and was available in the club before the game, as well as a young lad walking round just after kick off making sure they all went! There is a good tea bar within the club which served superb pie/peas and gravy for £1-50 and the general feel of the place was extremely welcoming.

The game itself was very much the old game of two halves. In the first there were a reasonable number of chances but only one went in (to Georgians) whilst the second was a real ding dong affair with the formbook thrown out of thw indow as second from bottom Breightmet came back from 1-0 and 2-1 down to lead 3-2, only for Georgians (still with outside title chances) to equalise in disputed fashion in injury time.

Wed 13th April 2005; Ossett Common Rovers 1 Carlton Athletic 2; West Yorkshire League Premier Division
Att: 25; Programme: 4 page full colour, 50p

As rumours abound that Ossett Common Rovers may be losing their ground at the end of the season and I had business in Leeds during the afternoon, it seemed a perfect opportunity to get this one ticked off, just in case. The ground, in common with many in the West Yorkshire League, is simply a railed off pitch, with no other facilities to speak of other than the dressing rooms. It's a far from unpleasant setting though, situated on the SE edge of Ossett, but the pitch is rather undulating to say the least and doesn't lend itself to good football. The programme is a regular issue, produced by genial club Chairman Malcolm Hirst, and although only 4 pages, had both line ups, reports, news, fixtures and the league table, plus 3 full colour photographs. What more do you need?

Ossett needed points to avoid getting dragged into the relegation dogfight, Carlton, strangely for once, only have 2nd spot to play for as Nostell MW are clear at the top (still unbeaten) and are rumoured to have NCE ambitions. Carlton looked the more dangerous on the break but the home side had most of the play and will feel disappointed to have come away empty handed.

Although there is nothing available at the ground here are a couple of recommendations for refreshments:

The Red Lion on Dewsbury Road (approx 15-20 mins walk) is a real ale brew pub and had it's own multi award winning White Lion available (very pale and absolutely superb), plus Kelham Island Pale Rider as a guest. It was a real pub in every sense: real ale, real fire, real people, warm welcome. Tremendous.

To compliment the ale we went to the Park Square Fisheries, a couple of minutes walk from the ground, and enjoyed proper Yorkshire Fish and Chips (done in beef dripping) for the miserly sum of £2-65. The fish was quite simply amongst the best I've ever tasted.

It all added up to one very good evening out!

13/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Dave Reed – Hinckley Utd (NCN) and Moor Green (NCN) at Solihull Borough
It was a relaxing weekend for me as I had two trips to the Midlands courtesy of Geoff Combes who drove on both occasions.  Saturday saw us at Hinckley United's new ground and I was reasonably impressed with what I saw although somewhat surprised at the lack of fencing round the playing area.  We got a pretty good game with visitors Harrogate deservedly taking the points, I thought.  Sunday saw us driving up the M40 for Moor Green's home game against Worksop, being played of course at Solihull Borough.  A small crowd saw Moor Green take three vital points with a 2-0 win although the result was only settled in the last minute. Perhaps understandably, the quality of football was not as good as the previous day.
12/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Sutton Town (NCELP)

Mon 11 Apr 2005, NCEL Presidents Cup Final First Leg, Sutton Town 3-3 Buxton (att - 386)


Though soccer in the Nottinghamshire town of Sutton-in-Ashfield dates back to the mid 1880s, the present club was only formed in 2000. Either side of the second world war Sutton Town played at the Avenue Ground on Mansfield Road but lost this ground when the landlord sold it to a property developer.  They then moved to Lowmoor Road, in neighbouring Kirkby-in-Ashfield, changing their name to Ashfield United in 1992 but folding in 1997 when East Kirkby MW reclaimed the ground.


Resurrected as North Notts FC, the new club worked its way through the Central Midlands Leagues and was re-named Sutton Town FC as the club achieved promotion to the NCEL Division One.  After finishing fourth last season, the Snipes now currently top the league with a handful of games remaining.


Their ground is a neatly appointed one, known as The New Hosiery Mills Ground and located off Huthwaite Road, situated in the middle of a smart new housing estate and with an impressive cricket ground, where Mansfield Hosiery Mills CC compete in the Bassetlaw League, next door.


The luxuriously appointed cricket pavilion did a roaring trade before the game and admission was £4 with a smart 40-page full colour programme selling for an incredibly cheap £1.50.  Hemmed in by new houses on two sides and with a steep wooded slope behind one goal and the cricket ground behind one length it is hard to see how the club will find the room to develop the ground much further but they have made a fine job so far.  There are two entrances from the cricket ground side and a small seated stand behind the goal to the left with a covered standing area up to the halfway line down the near side.  The rest of the ground is newly concreted hard standing.


A large contingent of visiting fans made for a terrific atmosphere and a highly competitive and interesting game ended 3-3 with the second leg on 27 April now eagerly anticipated.  Buxton led twice but were pegged back before halftime.  The home side took the lead with a Beckhamesque free-kick taken by Colin Cockerill before the visitors scrambled a late equaliser.  The pitch was well grassed and had a slope towards the main stand end.  Sutton Town are a friendly and ambitious club and a visit there is to be recommended

11/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – LDV Vans Trophy Final (Millenium Stadium Cardiff)

10 Apr 2005, LDV Vans Trophy Final

Wrexham 2-0 Southend United (after extra time) att - 36,216

Your intrepid reporter was one of the few neutral supporters at the Millennium Stadium on a warm and sunny spring afternoon in Cardiff as Wrexham temporarily cast aside their fears of relegation and question marks over their future with a deserved trophy success.  They needed extra time when they emerged as the stronger side, sealing their win with goals by Ugarte and Ferguson to end Southend's long unbeaten run.

The Millennium is a great place to watch football - great sightlines and architecture and friendly stewards and there was a terrific atmosphere generated by both sets of supporters.  A ticket for the north stand upper tier was £34 with an outstanding 76-page programme on sale for £5.  The compilers had made a great effort to ensure the programme was full of interesting and unusual articles and of great relevance to the game and it added greatly to the enjoyment of the day.

With the stadium about half-full entry in and out of Cardiff was easier than normal and there was a friendly and relaxed prematch atmosphere on the streets around the ground. The view of the game was superb and the long trek up the steps afforded great views at various points of the Cardiff RU ground that runs behind the north stand.  Southend impressed with the quality of their build up play but Wrexham seemed to have the extra cutting edge and proved that in extra time.

With the roof open many of the Wrexham fans in the east stand had to battle with the sun streaming through at them and part of the pitch was bathed in sunshine.  The huge television screens high up behind each goal in the stadium roof gave continuous feed of the action.

It was a hugely enjoyable and interesting day out and a great occasion.

10/04/05 Recent travels: Barry Neighbour – Devon Hop; Cinderford Town (Southern League) and Westbury United (Western Lge 1)
Like many others I also attended the Devon Hop. All six grounds: University Of Exeter; St.Loyes; Budleigh Salterton; Plymouth Parkway; Dawlish Town and Cullompton Rangers were firsts for me. I won`t go into details as Dave Read and Dennis Woods have already done that. Just like to say Thanks to Phil Hiscox for organising a great weekend. If anyone reading this has never been on a Ground Hop make it your business to do so, as the social side is nearly as good as visting the new grounds. On returning from Devon I paid £10 to go on the Bracknell Town coach to take in the Southern League game at Cinderford Town on Saturday 2nd April. A late equalizer meant Bracknell overturned a 2 goal deficit to grab a vital point but it could have been more as the ref blew up after 43 minutes of the 2nd period, with no extra time added (and this was even after the home keeper had to be substituted after lengthy treatment following a bad fall tipping over a goalbound effort). A 44 page programme sold for £1. Wednesday 6th April saw a trip down the M4 and across to Westbury United who entertained Chard Town in the First Division of the Screwfix Direct Western League. A penalty apiece meant that the spoils were shared in an entertaining encounter. A 28 Page programme was on sale for 70p.
10/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Spennymoor Utd (Unibond Premier)


Thursday 7 April, Unibond Premier: Spennymoor United 2-3 Blyth Spartans (att - 131)


With Spennymoor United giving an undertaking they would be able to raise a team for this north-east derby after so many postponements of late, the Thursday night clash at the Brewery Field was a must-see.


Situated just off the Tudhoe road out of town, the Brewey Field has clearly seen better days.  The burnt out shell of the old club house greets the visitor on arrival and £5 secured admission with a further 50p transfer to stand.  Sadly, there were no programmes for the game.


Spennymoor United have played at the venue since 1904, following the amalgamation of two local clubs, but the ground was previously used for a number of sporting events, including rugby.  The ground has changed considerably in appearance from twenty years ago with the demolition of the lamented Cow Shed covered terrace and the Catterick Stand on the opposite side.  Hemmed in by housing and with no car park the main entrance is reached down a small road.


A smart cantilevered main stand with five rows of black and white plastic seating offered the best view on a cold and windy evening with the players almost within touching distance from the front row.  In this stand the dressing rooms, committee room and a small bar are located.  There is a covered end to the right of the main stand with excellent terracing but the other two sides are uncovered standing, with huge netting erected behind the goal.  The only refreshment facilities were provided by a mobile catering van by the side of the main stand.


With Bishop Auckland also playing at the Brewery Field the playing area gets some hammer and two youngsters were to be seen pushing a big roller around the pitch before the game.


Spennymoor took a 2-0 lead, both goals coming from headers by defenders up the field for corners.  But Blyth, backed by a noisy travelling support pulled a goal back with a screaming cross shot before half-time.  With the elements in their favour in the second half Blyth sealed a much needed victory in their battle against relegation with two late goals, the equaliser being much disputed following claims for a foul on the home ‘keeper.


With Newcastle United’s European tie live on television the attendance was only 131 and the home club are clearly facing a battle for survival with the Unibond League set to rule soon on their glut of recent postponements for being unable to raise a team.  It is to be hoped for the sake of the club stalwarts that Spennymoor survive- they have a long and rich history and their Brewery Field ground oozes character.

10/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Darwen (NWCL2)

Wed 6 Apr, NWCL Div Two, Darwen 0-4 Nelson (att - 70)


This East Lancashire derby on a bitterly cold evening of squally showers brought together two former Football League clubs.  Darwen were elected to the Football League in 1891 and left it in 1899 when they moved from Barley Bank to their present Anchor Ground.


Nelson were founder members of the Third Division (North) in 1921 and failed to gain re-election after the 1930/31 season.  Their present ground at Victoria Park in a stone’s throw away from their old Seedhill ground, part of which was buried under the M65 motorway.


Darwen are rightly proud of their history and their programme, an excellent 28-page publication selling for £1 and full of up-to-date statistics and interesting articles, has many glimpses of the town’s glorious soccer heritage.  You can discover, for example, that Darwen supplied four England internationals between 1881-91 and that they were FA Cup semi-finalists in 1881.


The club house has several old photographs adorning its walls, including a report of when Darwen played at Arsenal in the FA Cup in 1931.  Though they lost, 11-1, Arsenal were so impressed with their sportsmanship they presented the Lancashire visitors with a set of their own red strip, the colours of which Darwen have worn more or less ever since.


The programme compiler was apparently horrified to find he had included league tables a week old in the programme by mistake- League clubs take note.  So he issued an insert with up-to-date statistics including the games played the day before.  Fantastic service.


The ground is to found on the Anchor Estate, behind the Anchor Garage on the A666 on the Blackburn side of Darwen, just before J4 of the M65 motorway.  Admission was £3 and the spectators, roughly three score and ten, gathered on the main stand side to the left of the club house at the entrance side.  The other three sides were open standing but only a brave few tested themselves against the elements.


The covered side had a considerable number of seats and terraced standing and the spectators were roughly split 50-50 in terms of allegiances.


On a rain sodden pitch honours were even until Nelson took the lead just before half-time and then sealed their victory with three late second half goals.  The programme revealed that Darwen had used 48 players this season but their highest scorer had four goals to his name.  Statistics rarely lie and they created precious few opportunities with Nelson the more creative side once they got their noses in front.


With a tea bar adjoining the club house selling an excellent range of hot food and drinks and the club officials welcoming travellers, the Anchor Ground is a most pleasant and historic place to visit and highly recommended.

10/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Holker Old Boys (NWCL1)

Tues 5 April, NWCL Division One, Holker Old Boys 1-2 Flixton (att - 28)


Holker Old Boys is a thriving small club on the outskirts of Barrow-in-Furness on Rakesmoor Lane in the village of Hawcoat.  The ground’s elevated position affords marvellous views over distant Lakeland fells though its exposed position tests the fortitude of the spectator in deepest winter.


The club was founded in 1936, originating from the local Holker Central Secondary School, and played at Thorncliffe Road, close to Barrow AFC’s Holker Street ground.  In 1971 they moved to Rakesmoor and developed the ground sufficiently to be included in the NWCL in 1991.


The welcome from the gateman was warm and the writer, immediately recognised as a traveller, was ushered into the well kept club house for a programme.  Admission was only £2 with the programme, with a distinctive green cover and the club badge with a stag’s head in the middle, selling for £1.  This mostly comprised the latest league newsletter though there were a few pages of editorial.  The home team had eleven changes to the published team, the visitors, who had only one substitute, a mere eight.


Holker run three open age teams and several junior teams down to the age of eight years and their splendid facilities are clearly a focal point for the local community.


The club house sold fresh rolls and crisps and though there is no tea bar, travellers are welcome to pop into the groundsman’s room near the dressing rooms at half-time for a cup of tea, which was very welcome on a chilly evening.


The club house and dressing rooms are located by the entrance to the ground and there is a large car park.  A small seated stand is positioned behind the goal towards the corner.  Painted in green and white on the front of the stand roof is the message “Holker Old Boys welcome you to Rakesmoor.”


The home dug-out is situated on the opposite, open side with the visitors’ on the near-side where there is also a low covered shelter.  The pitch was slightly sloping from left to right looking from the club house but was in good condition for this time of the season.  Neatly enclosed by a white post and rail fence the ground is splendidly maintained.


With the counter-attraction of Liverpool-Juventus on television (shown on the big screen in the club house) only eleven spectators lined the ground at the 8pm kick-off.  This swelled to the final attendance of 28.  After falling behind to a well taken goal early in the second half Flixton scored twice in five minutes to make their long journey home a happy one, though they had a player sent-off in the last minute for a bad tackle that was out of character in a well contested game.


A visit to Rakesmoor Lane comes highly recommended for a warm and friendly welcome, good facilities and an excellent and unusual ground.

10/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Atherton Collieries (NWCL1)

Atherton Collieries 2-6 Fleetwood Town NWCL1 4 Apr 2005  (att - 107)


Alder House is an atmospheric ground situated close to the centre of Atherton, a former coal-mining and mill town between Bolton and Leigh.  Atherton Collieries were formed in 1916 by a group of miners representing the six pits in the district that had stayed at home to help the war effort.  The club today is kept going by a sturdy band of loyal enthusiasts as the support from the townsfolk is dismal.


It never ceases to amaze how clubs at this level continually put out superb value programmes that make a mockery of the glossy and over-priced specimens in the Football League and beyond.  Colls’ programme was a mammoth 52-page effort containing news from their game only two days before, a superb statistical section and, as it was their last home game of the season, a review of the campaign.


Leaders Fleetwood Town brought around 100 spectators with them and they were rewarded with a six-goal victory though Colls, just one place off the bottom, competed spiritedly and not only took the lead with an early disputed penalty but then drew level at 2-2 early in the second half.  Unfortunately the game was spoilt in many observers’ eyes by the worst kind of officious refereeing, culminating in the dismissals of the Fleetwood manager and the Colls’ goalkeeper in the second half.  The latter red card seemed incredibly harsh and was even disputed by the Fleetwood fans massed behind the goal.  The Colls striker, who good-naturedly explained to the visiting fans that it was his first game, went in goal but was unable to save the resulting penalty.


So Fleetwood march on- re-formed in 1997 they look a very accomplished team for this level.  Colls, meanwhile, are in the middle of a dreadful run of results with just one point from their last dozen games though they had precious little luck on this occasion.


Alder House is an idiosyncratic ground with the dressing rooms housed behind the top goal next to a tea bar that served some of the best pies in the Northern Union and which did a roaring trade.  The purveyors of the meat and potato crusted delicacies were one of the 48 local businesses that had taken out adverts in the programme.


Down one side a small club house and a lean-to construction housing some rudimentary bench seating was situated together with the away dug-out.  The home dug-out is situated on the opposite side behind which are two shelters, one of which seems to defy the laws of gravity by remaining standing.  The far end is open standing, the ground falling markedly away to reveal a spectacular view over the urban conurbation beyond.  Admission was £4 for an entertaining and eventful game and though two divisions may separate these sides next season the score-line reflected unfairly on the home side’s efforts on this occasion.

04/04/05 Easter Hop notes (and images in the Hops Album) - 25th & 26th March: Dennis Woods
I am shocked that I have not seen any pictures from the Easter Hop, perhaps everybody like me thought that somebody else would do it.  No doubt most of you were there so I won't bore everyone with details of the match or ground other than University of Exeter beat Crediton United 4-1 in front of a crowd of 271.  A 20 page programme including a glossy cover was given away of entry to the ground. Isn't the covered area amazing and the banking around the ground excellent!
Next onto St.Loyes, via the Tap and Barrel pub, well I had to see where the club started from didn't I.  It was nice to see around 30 other hoppers had the same idea (you know the usual crowd) and the Landlord must have thought that New Years Eve had come early.  It wasn't long before we drank them dry of the only hand pump ale on offer and the pub cleared as quick as it had filled.  Still at least this meant that everybody made it back to the ground for kick off! Another nice setting on a lovely afternoon weather wise.  A crowd of 276 were present.  A 32 page programme was issued for a £1, including a glossy cover.
The third game of the day saw us at Budleigh Salterton.  I had not visited the ground before so this was a new 'tick' for me.  As most of you will know the pitch has been turned around and a new seat stand added since the last Devon Hop.  This has meant that the cover is now behind the goal. The ground is quite open. A 60 page programme with glossy cover was issued, but it mostly contained adverts. 
What a lovely setting at Plymouth Parkway.  A crowd of 322 were present and a 56 page programme was issued again with a glossy cover.
Cullompton Rangers. Another fine ground that some of you may have done on a previous Devon Hop in the rain.  Again this was a new 'tick' for me.  215 were in attendance and a 36 page was issued for 50p.  The programme consisted of a glossy shell of 20 pages and a 16 page insert.  However a certain Barry Neighbour did not receive the insert only the adverts and didn't realise until he got home.  Don't worry Barry I will unstaple my copy and photocopy the pages for you. A steam train also passed the ground during the game, but unfortunately my camera was not at hand.  Did anyone else get a picture of it passing the ground?
04/04/05 Easter 'hopping news and recent travels - 25th March to 2nd April 2005: Dave Reed
Along with a couple of hundred others, I spent Easter weekend in the West Country, attending the Devon Hop and thanks must go to Phil Hiscox for his usual excellent organisation.

Friday saw us visit University of Exeter, St Loyes and Budleigh Salterton, (the first and last being revisits for me).  Since my last visit to Budleigh, the pitch has been rotated through 90 degrees and floodlights and a small stand erected.  Saturday saw us travelling down the A38 to visit Plymouth Parkway's new ground and then, like several others, I deviated from the official itinerary to beat a (very) hasty retreat up the A38 to Bovey Tracey where the home side produced a very good programme available from the clubhouse for a donation.  This is a regular issue of 40 pages inside a colour cover and contained all relevant details for the South Devon League game against East Allington and also for the reserve game which followed after. The same referee officated for both games.  After this, it was a much more sedate journey for the last official game at Cullompton, once again a revisit for many.

A good majority who had attended the official games then went on Sunday to a game at Axminster where the home side from the Devon & Exeter Premier Division were entertaining Sidbury United in the local hospital charity cup.  A programme was included in the £1.50 admission, once again apparently a regular issue consisting of 24 pages and produced on a colour printer.  As the visitors were usually matched against Axminster Reserves in Division Four of the League, the outcome was pretty predictable.  A comfortable win for the home side of 8-0 although the Non League Paper gave it as 9-0 so perhaps I missed one!

Monday saw me doing a revisit at Wellington and then driving on to Bideford where the home side overwhelmed Corsham 5-1 in the Western League cup.  Tuesday was an awful day weatherwise so I passed up up an evening revisit to Cullompton but in complete contrast, Wednesday was a beautiful day which I spent as a tourist before making for Newton Abbot's game against Ivybridge.  Since my previous visit, seats have been installed in the impressive stand so I was able to watch the game in comfort.  The only disappointment was the lack of a programme, the chap on the gate said that he only knew about the game a couple of days before.  Rather strange this, as I saw the fixture a couple of months ago!

I returned home on Thursday and Friday night saw me at Thamesmead to watch the London Intermediate Cup Final between Cray Valley and Metrogas, local rivals, the latter winning 2-1. On Saturday, I 'tidied up' the South Midlands League Premier Division with a trip to Bedford United where the small crowd were given a good afternoon's entertainment, not least by visitors Broxbourne's larger than life manager Peter Theo who spent virtually all the game bellowing from the back of the stand.  The visitors held a comfortable 2-0 lead until the 74 th minute when Bedford pulled a goal back from the penalty spot.  The visitors then went straight up the other end to restore their two goal lead.  Goals in the 77th and 85th minutes brought Bedford level again only for them to concede another to lose vital points in their relegation struggle.  There was so much added time that the game didn't finish until five o'clock.  Some finish to the end of what had been quite a hectic eight days football - twelve games, 54 goals and umpteen pubs!
03/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Paul Roth – Buckingham Ath (SML1)
Programme 50p;  Entrance £2-50.

As Buckingham Athletic are at the top of their division pushing for promotion and as this was a local derby I thought this could be an interesting game to watch. So I set off up the M2 arriving in the picturesque town at the stupidly early time of 12-30. After a lengthy walk round the town I parked up at their attractive Stratford fields ground. The ground is situated just outside the town on the A413. It is fully railed off and is at it's most handsome viewed from the far end as you enter (from there you get a view of all the conifers enclosing the field and the high hillside ascending beyond) The impressive, if small, main stand sits proudly beneath this backdrop.

My hopes for an enjoyable game were not realised as the match soon became a very niggly affair and after 15 minutes an ambulance had to be summoned when the Winslow no.3 appeared to break a leg. The half hour delay did nothing for the match and a disappointing first half ended 0-0. The second was not much better although Buckingham did take an undeserved lead before a mass brawl reduced them to 10 men. Soon afterwards Winslow equalised and should have gone on to win.

The clubhouse could only offer a cup of tea as there was no food at all. There is a B P garage next door for one's catering needs. A poor programme sold for 50p.

So, as is sometimes the case, a match that looks appealing on paper didn't work out to be quite the case. Luckily there is always next week!

03/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Andy Sneddon – Rivington (West Lancs League Div 2)

Rivington 0 Glaxo Ulverston Rangers 0 West Lancs Lge Division 2; Att: 15; Programme: 36 pages, 50p

With very few left to do in the West Lancs League we decided to tick off Rivington on a wonderfully warm afternoon, as work commitments ruled out a longer trip. The Rivs no longer use their original ground at Rivington School in the picturesque village that gives them their name, but now use the former home of ex Manchester League outfit British Aerospace Lostock on the edge of the neighbouring town of Horwich. The ground is tricky to find unless you know where to turn, but thankfully the club put a decent sign outside to guide the unwary though the imposing steel gates.

From M61 Jct 6 take the turning towards Bolton's Reebok stadium. At the lights where you would turn left for the Reebok, turn right and look for some large steel gates on your left hand side after a couple of hundred yards or so. Go through the gates and follow the badly potholed road down to the dressing rooms on your left. There is parking here or you can carry on down the road and park up round the back of the old factory overlooking the ground. Although this sounds a bit grim it's perfectly safe as you can watch the game from some grand elevated views with the cars, or walk down to pitch side.The ground is actually part of the old Bae site and is a of ground massive contrasts, with pleasantly rural views on one side and a badly run down backdrop of (mostly) unused industrial units and factories on the other.

The pitch itself is railed on both sides with dugouts, and hard standing down the sides also. It is hemmed in at the Southern end by a high steel fence to stop the ball going up into the factory area, but the Northern end is open and backs onto Lostock RUFC's pitch. The programme is sold from pitchside by the spongeman!

The views from up behind the goal looking down on the pitch and to Winter Hill and Rivington Pike beyond are superb and provide a remarkable contrast to the grime and dereliction behind.

I'll gloss over the game as it was a turgid end of season affair without a meaningful shot on goal all afternoon. I suppose I was due one after averaging over 5 goals a game until this point this season!

The interesting venue more than made up for it though.

02/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Eccleshall (NWCL2)


Sat 2 Apr 2005, NWCL Division 2, Eccleshall 2-4 Padiham (att - 50)


Eccleshall are relative newcomers to the NWCL and their Pershall Park ground must be one of the most idyllically located in the league.


Situated about 10 miles from J15 of the M6, Eccleshall is a delightful village set amid rolling Staffordshire countryside.  The football ground is a mile outside the village and reached via High Street.  It is located 100 yards after the sign for Pershall.


To enter the NWCL Eccleshall erected a wooden fence to enclose the ground and also floodlights.  There is an old pavilion by the entrance which houses the committee room, a small bar and tea bar and dressing rooms.  There is an overhang to the pavilion where some bench seating and a dozen plastic seats provide seated accommodation.


The only other cover on the ground is a small building sandwiched between the two dug-outs.


Admission was only £3 with £2 for concessions and a superbly informative 32-page programme was a bargain £1.  The statistical section was outstanding while manager Bob Askey’s piece was refreshingly honestly written, admitting to sleepless nights after a poor run of recent results and looking back at whether he made the right selections and tactical decisions.


The programme editor, Richard Marsh, also wrote that the Inland Revenue were due to inspect the club’s books next Thursday:  “Someone at the tax office thinks we might be paying players and we are a limited company.  We don’t pay players as you all know and if we did we’d want our money back from the games in March.”


The welcome from the club officials was warm and Eccleshall are clearly a friendly and ambitious club who are enjoying their step-up to the NWCL.  They are the only club to defeat Cammell Laird in the league this season but they have now taken only two points from seven games.


Eccleshall scored first and last but Padiham, third in the league, played some fine attacking football to claim the spoils from an entertaining game played in good spirit on a bumpy and dry pitch that was shorn of grass in places.  The attendance on a head count looked to just below Eccleshall’s average home crowd of 60 with a good few making the trip from East Lancashire.  A trip to Ecclehall is highly recommended, especially on such a glorious Spring afternoon as this.

02/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Dennis Woods – Evergreen (HSCLP)
On Saturday 2nd April I saw Evergreen play Chipperfield Corinthians in the Herts Senior County League Premier Division. 
Evergreen's ground is about a mile from Kings Langley railway station.  On leaving the station exit, turn left and you will be in Station Road, keep walking straight and you will walk under both the M25 and then the railway line.  The road changes into Gallows Hill and then Lauderdale Road then you will come to a T-junction turn left into Hunton Bridge Hill and this road bends slightly and becomes South Way and you will see the football club at the bend in the road close to the pedestrian traffic lights.  On route there is the Unicorn pub which hand Tetley's on hand pump.
The ground is basic, but has hand standing behind one goal and along one side of the pitch.  Other than brick built dugouts there is no cover at the ground.  The club does however have a good clubhouse.
Evergreen won the match 1-0 with the only goal coming in the first 5 minutes of the second half.  A basic 8 page programme sold for 50p and the attendance was 36.
02/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Doncaster Rovers (FLC1)

Football League One, Fri 1 April 2005, Doncaster Rovers 1-1 Colchester United (att- 6,774)


Colchester United fans returning to Belle Vue nearly seven years on from their last visit would find the ground vastly changed and the whole atmosphere of Rovers’ home since 1922 completely different..


In May 1998 Colchester were Doncaster Rovers’ last opponents before they dropped out of the Football League, winning 1-0 before a crowd of 3,572.  At that time the very future of Rovers looked imperilled and there was a sense of doom and despondency about the place.


Now Rovers, under their astute and inspirational chairman John Ryan, are a club transformed- successive promotions have taken them out of the Conference and straight through League Two into a position where they are not far from the play-off places for the Championship.


The ground looks neat and tidy, newly concreted terraces, a renovated main stand, a superb playing surface, excellent floodlighting from unusually tall pylons and a caring lick of paint here and there.


Rovers seem to have captured the enthusiasm of the town’s youth- with youngsters forming a significant percentage of a 6,774 crowd on a warm spring-like evening.  The sale of replica shirts, of the red and white hoped design, must be very high as a percentage of the average crowd as virtually everyone, young and old, seemed to be wearing one.


A £13 admission to the uncovered Town End behind the goal was reasonable and afforded an excellent view of an interesting game.  The most vociferous Rovers fans packed into the covered terrace opposite the main stand.  The main stand still has a standing terrace in front and with its distinctive extended roof looked quite a sight reflecting off the lights against the darkness of the night sky.


The Colchester fans gathered mostly at the uncovered end behind the other goal.  The game had been switched to the Friday evening due to the Lincoln Meeting at the famous racecourse, home to the St Leger, across the road. 


The programme, priced £2, contained 64 pages and some excellent articles and had obviously been compiled with a loving care by the four-man editorial team.


Rovers groundshare Belle Vue, now named Earth Stadium after the club’s main sponsor, with Doncaster Dragons Rugby League club whose Easter Monday game against Castleford had attracted a crowd of 3,500.  There were no obvious signs of harm to the playing area and the writer has been informed that the two clubs have a happy working relationship, unlike the sad tales of acrimony and warring factions at other clubs where the two codes co-exist.


With Rovers set to move to a new ground at Lakeside Village Belle Vue’s days are numbered making one last visit there all the more recommended.  It was a friendly, happy and vibrant place to watch League football and it was easy to see why Rovers are rated as one of the best passing sides outside the Premiership

02/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Dennis Woods – Larkhall Ath (WL1)
I visited Larkhall Athletic on Wednesday 23rd March for their game with Westbury United.  I won't write too much as I know that Dave Reed reported about his visit earlier in the season, but I thought you might like to see 2 pictures of the only covered area at the ground.  It's a shame that the orange plastic fencing ruins what would have been a lovely picture with the hills in the background. See Photo Album - 'Hoppers Images' (page 9 images 13 & 14)
Larkhall Athletic won the game 4-2 after being 2-1 down at half time in front of 63 spectators.  A 16 page programme complete with glossy cover was issued for 50p.  Admission was £3.50 for adults. 


01/04/05 Ground/Club Focus: Mike Latham – Squires Gate (NWCL1) and Shaw View (NWCL2 Trophy Final)


(1) Wed 30 March 2005, NWCL Div 1 Squires Gate 1-1 Skelmersdale United (att - 47)


On a mild but rainy evening on the Fylde Coast a handful of devotees gathered at School Road to see this middle of the table clash in the NWCL, ignoring the live international football on the television.  Squires Gate is one of three grounds in the same vicinity of Blackpool Airport- their ground actually backs on to Blackpool Wren Rovers’ ground, who play in the West Lancashire League, and Blackpool Mechanics is a goalkeeper’s punt away.


Gate came out of the West Lancashire League in 1991 and are now the best placed of the trio and in their third season in the NWCL’s top tier.  The ground, just a few minutes’ drive from J4 of the M55, is reached by the side of a school and is small but extremely well appointed.  There is a club-house by the main entrance and two small seated stands on the club-house side.


Opposite is a small covered stand and a minute seated stand occupies some of the space behind one goal.  There is an excellent tea bar manned by extremely pleasant staff and a club shop with programmes and other memorabilia on sale.  A bulky programme consisting of 40 pages sold for £1- 24 of these pages comprised the weekly NWCL newsletter but it is splendid value nonetheless.  Joint lowest scorers in the league, Gate created few opportunities in a game that was increasingly dominated by the slick passing of the visitors, who had from behind to salvage a point from an interesting encounter. 


After drainage problems at their new ground Skem are facing a huge fixture backlog in the final few weeks of the season and one of their officials explained they would have to play their final few home games after mid-April at Burscough while their new ground is dug up and the pitch re-laid.  No such problems for Gate whose playing pitch is consistently one of the best drained in the country.  A warm welcome awaits the traveller to School Road and the evening was hugely enjoyable.


(2) Thursday 31 Mar 2005, NWCL Division 2 Trophy Final; Cammell Laird 4-0 Flixton

      (att - 150) at Shawe View, Trafford FC


Shawe View is a relatively recent addition to the NWCL, the ground formerly the host to a myriad of sporting organisations being used as Manchester City’s training ground and a reserve venue for the long defunct Trafford Borough RL side.  Not easy to find, but well worth the effort, it is a picturesque tree lined ground in a quiet residential area about 10 minutes from the M60 orbital motorway and not far from Manchester United’s training ground in Carrington.


With locals still purring over Trafford’s 5-0 demolition of second placed Newcastle Town over Easter, the runaway leaders of NWCLD2 took centre stage.  Cammell Laird, runaway leaders of the division in their first season since moving up from the West Cheshire League, were far superior and played some superb attacking football at times though the pace slackened in the second half.


Leading 2-0 at the break through two goals from their prolific striker, Ronnie Morgan, Cammell Laird scored twice in the last four minutes to seal their resounding victory.


Shawe View is a most pleasant place to watch football with cover on three sides and a small main stand, an excellent tea bar and small club house; a huge adjoining car park takes the strain away from the driver.  The NWCL produced an outstanding 24-page programme, priced only £1, as a souvenir of an entertaining evening.