Travellers’ Tales – March 2005 - updated 30/03/05



30/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Paul Roth - Axminster Town (Devon & Exeter League)


AXMINSTER TOWN  V  SIDBURY UTD;  Axminster Hospital Cup 2nd round; RESULT: 8-0

Programme: 24 pages £1-50 including admission.

Like many other 'Hoppers, I stayed on down in Devon after the official Devon hop had ended and took in this extra fixture. Axminster play in the Devon and Exeter League and I was really surprised how good their Sector Lane ground is (it would not be out of place in the Devon league itself, which is the club's aim).

Turning into the ground, the clubhouse is on the left with car parking available behind the near goal and on the far side. Club officials were selling the excellent 24 page programme adorned with a tiger's head on the cover (the Tigers being their nickname). This sold for £1-50 and included entry. A barbeque was selling burgers and hotdogs. Immediately to the right is a railed-off section that gently slopes upwards giving the spectator an elevated view of the playing area and the rolling countryside away in the distance. There is no covered accomodation but that was of no consequence today as it was mild but overcast.

I hadn't realised that the opposition were 3 divisions below their hosts. This soon became evident as the home side strolled away to a ridiculously easy 8-0 win and, in truth,  should have scored many more.

Across the road from the club is the Lamb public house which I can recommend for its super real ale sourced from the nearby Branscombe Vale Brewery; not a GBG entry but soon to be so I was told.

Axminster Town had pulled out all the stops to make the hundred or so crowd most welcome and they should be congratulated for their tremendous efforts.

On Easter Monday I went along to see Newton Abbot Spurs play Buckland Ath and experienced the rare sight of the home keeper scoring his teams' only goal in their 1-1 draw.

Another fun weekend in glorious Devon.


29/03/05 Ground/Ground Focus : Mike Latham - Hyde United (Unibond Premier Lge) 


Easter Monday 28 March 2005, Unibond Premier Division; Hyde United 6-1 Burscough (attendance- 462)


Hyde United continued their pursuit of Workington at the top of the Unibond Premier with a spectacular second half demolition of fifth-placed Burscough on Monday evening.


Some of Hyde’s one-touch football and build-up play was breathtaking at times and manager Steve Waywell, who performed miracles at Leigh RMI a few years ago, has clearly assembled a talented squad.


Hyde missed at least half a dozen chances before Burscough came to life, striking the bar twice before taking a 1-0 half-time lead.  But in the second half Hyde really turned it on, equalising within a minute of the re-start and going on to run riot after Burscough were reduced to ten men following the sending-off of their central defender for dissent to the linesman following Hyde’s third goal.


Burscough conceded two penalties; from the second their goalkeeper was fortunate not to receive a red card also, and Hyde scored three goals in the last four minutes to send their fans home happy.


Hyde, who trail Workington by four points with two games in hand, play the Reds on 16 April at home- what a game that should be.  Burscough can console themselves they will not meet a side of this quality too often for they certainly contributed to a splendid game.


Ewen Fields has been dramatically transformed in recent years and is now part of a leisure complex in the town.  It is a model of what a small stadium can be like.


The playing surface is first class, still lush and green at this stage of the season despite a heavy workload.  Manchester United reserves regularly play at the ground.


The main stand gives a fine view of the action and to its right is the Scrattin’ Shed where Hyde’s most vociferous supporters gather.  The other three sides are newly concreted standing terraces, all covered and affording a close and intimate view of the action.


Admission was £7 adults with a £1 transfer to stand.  Inside the superbly maintained ground are two refreshment huts and the supporters’ club bar that also houses an excellent shop.  A superb 48-page programme, that had been updated for games on Easter Saturday, was a bargain £1.20.


Ewen Fields has the feel of a terrific football ground and a visit there is highly recommended, especially for football of this quality.


29/03/05 Easter 'Hopping : Owen Coupland - Shirebrook (NCELP) and Blidworth Welfare (CMLP).


I completed a 'double' in the Mansfield area on Saturday. The first game was at Shirebrook, for a 12.30 kick off against NCEL leaders Goole. Shirebrook play on Langwith road on the A60 side of the town and the ground is pretty impressive with two stands and covered terracing on the other side. The players actually warmed up for the game outside the ground in an adjacent field which holds the clubhouse in one corner and is used as a car park too. The game itself was a pulsating one with Goole's early lead scored by the irrepressible Steve Davey been cancelled out with a Shirebrook equaliser.  Goole then scored twice more before half time. The second half produced no more goals but was just as entertaining as the first with many chances along with a red card for a home defender.
I followed this up with a Central Midlands Premier Division game at Blidworth Welfare.The ground is on the main B6020 and the ground is in a dip below the road and the cricket pitch. An interesting ground with a big stand behind one goal and loads of steps for the players to handle before actually playing- the dressing rooms are by the cricket pitch above. The game aganst Newark Flowserve ended 2-2 after a spirited Blidworth side came from two down and was a good advert for this league. A glossy programme was issued for £1.
An interesting pair of grounds made for a good day out.
My run of no 0-0's ended tonight at 71 games when I witnessed Belper Town 0 Ilkeston Town 0. (28/3)


27/03/05 Easter 'Hopping News: Mike Latham - Ilkeston Town (Unibond Lge 1); Worsborough Bridge (NCEL1); Glasshoughton Welfare (NCELP) and Selby Town (NCELP).


Fri 25 Mar 2005, Unibond League First Division, Ilkeston Town 1-0 Spalding United (attendance- 405)

Ilkeston Town’s New Manor Ground is situated on the site of an old council rubbish tip on the Awsworth Road out of town and is vastly different in style and character to their lamented former town centre ground, now the site of a supermarket.


The ground is easy to find off the M1 and there is a spacious club car park with plentiful parking on the main road outside.  The stadium can be clearly seen from the approach road and the pulse quickens as you enter the car park.  A new ground it may be but there is plenty of character and individuality to the ground.


Admission was only £4 and a good programme sold for £1.50.  There is an excellent club house inside the ground where a warm and friendly welcome awaits the traveller.  It was interesting to note that many Ilkeston fans had arrived early to sample a pint and meet their friends and there was a good atmosphere in the club house and inside the ground. 


Ilkeston are one of the best supported clubs apart from AFC Telford United in the division and a crowd of 405 saw them continue their push for promotion with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of Nigel Jemson’s first half goal after his side had earlier missed a penalty.  The veteran striker was alert to poach the winning strike in a packed penalty area.


The playing pitch and floodlights were superb and the unusual elevated stand situated in one corner of the ground certainly caught the eye, decorated with a superb clock tower.  There is a smaller seated area on the main stand side and both ends are covered.  The clubhouse is situated on the other side to the seated areas and also housed a tea bar that did excellent business and served a variety of drinks and hot food.


The writer found Ilkeston to be a welcoming and friendly club and thoroughly enjoyed his visit.  The fans are clearly passionate about their side and appeared to be enjoying their season in the Unibond after ten seasons in the Southern League.  Ilkeston certainly looked a team on the up.


Sat 26 Mar, NCEL Div 1 Worsbrough Bridge 2-5 Staveley Miners Welfare (Attendance- 30)

The noon kick-off allowed the writer what was for him a rare dip into the NCEL with the prospect of seeing two halves at different grounds before the main match of the day.


Worsbrough Bridge is situated two miles south of Barnsley on the A61 Sheffield Road next to a country park in an idyllic location.  The River Dove runs alongside the pitch that slopes sharply towards the club house end that backs on to the A61.  A small seated stand with wooden bench seats is on the opposite side and the dugouts are in front.


There is a terrific view of the game from the grass banks in front of the club house and either side of the stand.  On the opposite (river) side there is an area of hard standing.  There is no standing behind the other goal as this is part of the cricket ground with the cricket square just behind the goal.


Although the crowd was only about 30 the programmes had sold out before kick-off.  Admission to the Park Road ground was only £3.  The home side led 2-1 at the break, the visitors’ goal coming from a shock 40-yard shot out of nothing that sailed over the home ‘keeper’s head, and the writer was surprised to find they eventually lost 2-5.


Sat 26 Mar 2005, NCEL Premier Division, Glasshoughton Welfare 3-2 Buxton (attendance- 100)

Glasshoughton is situated just on the outskirts of Castleford, a town known primarily for the exploits of its rugby league side.  But there is clearly a devotion of some of the townsfolk for the round ball game and the Leeds Road ground was a thoroughly pleasant place to watch a well contested game.


The Welfare centre has been extensively modernised and runs alongside one side of the ground with a small seated stand on the opposite side.  Additional cover is provided behind the goal at the Leeds Road end though most spectators chose to stand alongside the dug-outs in front of the club house.


Glasshoughton led 3-1 at halftime when the writer arrived but Buxton pulled a goal back and came close to rewarding their travelling supporters with an equaliser.


With the skyline dominated by the Xscape leisure complex and a massive Freeport shopping centre the area must be unrecognisable from 20 years ago.  The Glasshoughton WMC, formed in 1902, is located opposite the ground and provides additional parking and next to it are two Chinese takeaways.


Admission was only £3 and the ground is easily found off the M62 motorway.  The fleeting visit for the game that kicked off at 1230pm was well worthwhile.


Sat 26 Mar 2005, NCEL Premier Division, Selby Town 2-1 Harrogate Railway (attendance, est 150)

Second v third in the Premier Division made the visit to Flaxley Road a “must see” game and around 150 spectators chose to miss the televised international and witness an engrossing contest.


Selby came from behind, after conceding a third-minute goal, to earn a narrow win in an eventful and occasionally spiteful game that was refereed with calm assurance. 


The ground is located just outside the town centre and, unusually has its main stand behind the goal.  A covered terrace is located behind the opposite goal but the two sides are uncovered.  The far side houses the dugouts and changing rooms while the near side houses a small club house with tea bar and the club office.


The playing pitch was in good condition and the ground afforded an excellent view of the distant abbey.  Admission was only £4 with a excellent 36-page programme selling for £1.  This contained a chairman’s welcome that indicated a move to a new ground may well be in the offing so groundhoppers are recommended to visit while they can.  A warm welcome awaits and, on this visit, a good standard of football.


25/03/05 Ground/Ground Focus : Mike Latham - Bacup Borough (NWCL1)


NWCL Div1 Bacup Borough 1-1 Maine Road - 24 Mar2005 (attendance - 71)


There’s a quaint ritual you can perform each time you enter the turnstiles at Bacup Borough.  Ask the elderly gentleman on the gate: “Are there any programmes?” and he’ll reply: “No, there’s been a fire at the printers.”  Never fails.


Nice to see some things remain the same in a rapidly changing world and, the ritual over and £5 expended (£3 concessions), it was time to concentrate on the action.


Bacup have earned a fair amount of media spotlight by their acquisition of several ex-Football League stars, notably David May once a European Cup winner with Manchester United.


May was unavailable for the game with Maine Road but Bacup still had Ben Thornley (ex-Manchester United and Aberdeen) and former Welsh international goalkeeper Dave Felgate, now 45, in their ranks.  Felgate is perhaps best remembered for his stunning performance in the FA Cup for Leigh RMI at Fulham a few years ago, described by then Fulham manager Kevin Keegan as “the best goalkeeping performance I’ve ever seen.”  Ian Hughes and Lee Anderson, both with FL experience, were also in the Borough ranks.


Bacup’s West View ground, located up Cowtoot Lane is situated on a hill just off the Burnley Road leading out of the East Lancashire town.  The approach is steep and the surrounding area is dominated by old stone terraced houses and corner shops.  For an afternoon game the views are stunning.


Stone walls surround the modest ground which is an atmospheric place with a sloping pitch with a six feet drop from one corner flag to the opposite corner.  There is a club house behind the goals at the Cowtoot Lane end where the turnstiles are located and an excellent tea bar serving delicious Hollands pies and manned by friendly staff.  A small four-row seated stand is located in this corner between the corner flag and the halfway line and two of the ends are modestly covered.


Borough manager Brent Peters is the man with the silver tongue who attracts so many famous faces to West View and is credited with almost single-handedly keeping the club afloat.


Borough fell behind to an isolated Maine Road attack, the visitors’ striker Gareth Richards netting from a rebound off the upright but Thornley’s 30-yard free-kick deflected off a defender to earn a share of the spoils.  There was plenty of good football played on a mild evening with the hint of rain in the air, Thornley looking a class apart,  and a superb late save by Maine Road ‘keeper Greg Hall ensured his side a point from an entertaining game.


For a tast of real Lancashire a visit to Bacup Borough is highly recommended though the absence of programmes is a big disappointment and surely cannot be condoned by the league.



23/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Mike Latham - St.Helens Town (NWCL1)


Tuesday 22 March 2005; NWCL Division One St Helens Town 1-1 Alsager Town (attendance - 78)


Knowsley Road is one of the most famous Rugby League grounds in the world and has been home to St Helens RLFC since 1890.


Saints have been the most successful side of the summer era and last year averaged 9,507 for home games with a top gate of 15,964 for the derby with Wigan.


The ground record attendance is 35,695 for the Wigan game on Boxing Day 1949.


Many Saints fans are disappointed to see neighbouring teams move to smart new grounds within the last few years like Wigan and Warrington or develop their old ground as Widnes have done, while Saints have remained at Knowsley Road.  There have been rumours of a new ground to be built on a old glass-making factory site nearer the centre of town and under the energetic and ambitious new board these may well come to fruition in the future. Knowsley Road has a rather dated appearance though it is well maintained and painted and has lots of advertising boards and excellent floodlights as well as a fine playing area.


The main stand holds 2,372 with the rest of the ground covered standing on two sides and open standing at the clubhouse end.


When St Helens Town FC sold their Hoghton Road ground a few years ago they moved in with St Helens as part of the grandly named Sporting Club St Helens.


But by contrast to the teeming thousands of fans for a Super league game a Town game attracts a mere trickle of supporters.  The costs of players’ wages, floodlighting, stewarding and the groundsman alone must make each game a significant financial loss on the attendances that the soccer team attract.


On a mild and dry evening a crowd of around 50 paying spectators witnessed a NWCL Division One game against Alsager Town.


Parking is easy on the main car park and the clubhouse is open during the game with a tea bar located on the main stand concourse.  Only a small part of the main stand, the terracing on one half in front and a portion of terracing at the club house end were open with the rest of the ground cordoned off to keep stewarding costs down.


Admission was £4 adults and £2 concessions but disappointingly there was no programme produced for the game.


Knowsley Road would, one would think, easily meet Football League criteria and it is a splendid ground on which to watch football though the eerie atmosphere was off-putting.


St Helens, third in the division, had to settle for a 1-1 draw after an entertaining game played in a good spirit and well refereed.


22/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Mike Latham - Droylsden (NCN)


Monday 21 March 2005:  Conference North - Droylsden 2-0 Altrincham (attendance est. 814)


Droylsden continued their recent remarkable run of form, moving up to second place in Conference North with a 2-0 win over Altrincham at the Butchers Arms on Monday evening.


The Bloods’ sixth win in their last seven games featured some exciting attacking football and superb passing moves and was clinched by a spectacular 35 yard strike from Jody Banim.


Injury hit Altrincham, backed by a large and noisy following that lent a terrific atmosphere to an entertaining night’s football, gave a good account of themselves in a skilful encounter played in good spirit.


Situated behind the Butchers Arms just off the main street of the town the ground has a chequered football history dating back to the 1880s.  In recent years it has been extensively modernised to meet Conference grading requirements.  The impressive new 500-seater William Pace Stand affords an excellent elevated view and straddles the halfway line.  To the left is a big social club and the covered terrace behind the left-hand goal was developed last summer and the pitch moved about five yards from right to left.


Earlier in the season the markings of the old pitch layout were clearly visible but these have now disappeared.  In an early season match against Bradford PA the referee gave a penalty that would have been one under the old pitch markings but not under the news ones, much to the visitors’ chagrin.


On the opposite side there is a small covered terrace and the end to the right behind the goal is uncovered and shallow.  Two of the sides have wire meshing to help prevent the ball disappearing into adjoining gardens.


Located just over a mile from J23 of the M60, the Butchers Arms is an intimate ground hemmed in by a retail park and housing but despite space being at a premium the football club certainly makes the best of what is has got and there are plans for further ground improvements.


Most of the club’s remarkable transformation in fortunes is down to the energy, vision and investment of their chairman, Dave Pace, who also doubles up as the club manager.


The writer has seen Droylsden in action half a dozen times this season and can vouch for their entertaining style of play that is worthy of far better support.  But with Manchester City and United, Oldham Athletic and fellow non-league clubs such as Ashton United, Curzon Ashton, Stalybridge Celtic and many more within a narrow radius competition for the paying spectator is fierce.


A superb, fact filled programme sold for £2, another example of the terrific standard of match day magazines that help make non league football so enjoyable.


Admission was £8 adults and £5 concessions with children under-14 admitted free.  With the Easter holidays having started many parents seemed to have taken advantage of this initiative to bring along their children.


A well stocked snack bar sold good value drinks and food and was well patronised and the clubhouse is also open to all.


An old cotton mill dominates the skyline from the main stand together with a large terraced building advertising the Pain Clinic- a local acupuncturist. It was certainly no pain to be at the Butchers Arms with Droylsden’s jubilant fans rightly claiming to be the pride of Tameside at the moment


21/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Dave Reed - Liversedge (NCEL P)


I went to Liversedge on Saturday. Having got to bed shortly after midnight, (returning from Wealdstone's game against Slough), I was up at 6.15 to get to Kings Cross for the 8.10 train to Leeds.  An hour long bus journey (but cheap at £1.20) took me to Cleckheaton.  I usually like to get to places early so I had plenty of time to locate the ground and return to the town centre (about 10-15 minutes walk away) for my usual trip to the local Real Ale pubs.

Returning for the football, I was accosted by the gateman who identified me as a Groundhopper and then tried to sell me for a fiver the contents of a plastic bag containing programmes and some rugby books.  I had been warned that he might be difficult to shake off and so it proved.  Future visitors - you have been warned!!

Despite being quite close to the town, the views from the Clayborn Ground are mostly rural.  There is cover behind the goal at the entrance end and along the left hand side is a low stand with three rows of seats.  One building in the left hand corner at the top of the bank houses the changing rooms, clubhouse and tea-bar.  The team line-ups were pinned up in the lean to outside the clubhouse.  The pitch is anything but flat as it slopes up and down and from side to side.

The home side dominated the first half but only had a single goal to show for it at half-time.  A somewhat controversial penalty for handball ten minutes into the second half brought the sides level and visitors Sheffield 'nicked' the points with a winner a couple of minutes from time.  I thought it rather strange that the three officials came from Blackburn and Accrington, rather more in NW Counties League country.  A decent programme sold for £1, consisting of 36 pages inside a colour cover.  (Incidentally, Wealdstone's programme was also 36 pages inside a colour cover but sold for £1.50.  However, with more reading matter it was good value).

Although I was 'bushed' by the time I got home at 10.15, it had been an excellent day out in glorious spring weather.

20/03/05 Recent Ground/Club Hopping News : Andy Sneddon - Padarn Utd (Aberystwyth & District Lge); Brynteg Village (Welsh Nat Lge - Wrexham Area 1) and Houghton Main (Sheffield & Hallam County Senior Lge);

19/3/05: Aberystwyth & District League, Len & Julia Newman Memorial Trophy Round 3

Padarn United 3 Penparcau 4 (after extra time)

Att: 20; Prog: No - Padarn haven't issued since their days in the Mid Wales league in the late 1990's.

It wasn't so much a case of Spring arriving as Summer making a dramatic entrance on the Cambrian Coast. Barely two weeks previous the hills in the area where capped with snow, whilst today it was shorts and suntan lotion all round in temperatures around 70F and the most wonderful cloud free skies you're likely to see this side of the Med.

If ever there was a day to be standing in a field with minimal facilities this was it!

I never got round to "ticking" Padarn when they were members of the Mid Wales League in the late 1990's so missed out on the programme and the stand, the latter falling foul to the elements. The facilities now consist of a permanently roped pitch on three sides, with dugouts. The dressing rooms are in the corner with some other (unused) buildings. The rest of the ground is flat standing. It's an interesting venue in some ways though as the easy way in is through the Hotel Car Park with which the ground shares it's name (Llety Gwyn, on the A44 just West of Llanbadarn Fawr village), passing under the main Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury railway line. This forms the backdrop on one side with the historic village of Llanbadarn Fawr behind, whilst on the other side you have the Vale of Rheidol Narrow Gauge Railway with UWA's playing fields behind. This is the ground that UWA (Mid Wales League) sometimes use early and late season when their main ground (Vicarage Fields) is still being used for cricket.

On paper the game itself should have been a comfortable win for the visitors (3rd top) against Padarn (3rd bottom) but this was a local derby and a cup tie and as such we got everything you would expect in a game like this, including the formbook being thrown out of the window for the most part. Penparcau just about deserved their extra time win but Padarn's never say die attitude almost pulled them through against the odds.

This was my fourth "tick" in this league (Aberdyfi, Bow Street - superb ground, & Twywn/Bryncrug being the others) and it won't be the last. The welcome is always friendly, the entertainment excellent and in most cases the scenery stunning. It's a long way to go but it's been well worth it every time.

from 12/3/05:  Brynteg Village - Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Div 1

Brynteg Village 3 Ruabon Villa 2

Att: 25; Prog: 24 pages, £1.

Brynteg is one of many ex mining and steel villages in the hills West of Wrexham. On a cold and windy day this wasn't the best place to be as it is very exposed, a big open space with three pitches, the nearest of which to the dressing rooms is simply roped off for league games. There are no facilities to speak of as such so wrap up warm!

Mother (Ros) and Daughter (Sam) White appear to do pretty much everything to keep the club running smoothly and that includes the sporadic printing of programmes, done by Sam. This is usually not produced until the morning of the game, partly due to time pressures but also down to the fact that being a council pitch the games can be called off rather too easily by over zealous "Parkies"! So if you want a prog give them a ring after 10am on the day of the game.

It isn't the most inspiring venue for a hopper on a bad day but I suspect on a good one the views looking West would be superb, as the ground is raised up on something of a plateau.

League leaders Brynteg were good value for the win and it was rather more comfortable than 3-2 would suggest. If they are to be promoted to the top flight at the end of this season though I would suspect a new venue would be required.

from 5/3/05: Houghton Main - Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League Div 1

Houghton Main 3 Silkstone United 0

Att 65; Prog: 8 pages, 50p

Houghton Main play in Little Houghton, about 5 miles East of Barnsley and this is another little "gem" in this area. Although essentially a cricket ground, (the pitch being on the far side of the square from the Dressing Rooms and Social Club), the ground is terrific for this level being railed on 3 sides and roped on the cricket square side. There is  a wonderful covered terrace on the halfway line that I would expect could accommodate 150-200 without a problem. The steps are steep and views excellent.

The social facilities were first class with pie/peas/gravy and onions setting you back the princely sum of a quid, with proper crockery and cutlery to enjoy it from.

The programme is a pretty regular issue and includes most of the basics required.

The club are wonderfully warm and friendly and the standard of football and facilities are probably rather better than you may suspect. Well worth a visit. 


20/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Paul Roth - Sileby Rangers (UCL1)


SILEBY RANGERS  vs.  THRAPSTON TOWN ; U.C.L. Div 1 SAT 19 March 2005;
RESULT: 4-1 ATT: 54 PROGRAMME: 20 pages £1 with addmission

I have not dipped into the lower division of the U.C.L. for some time and with Sileby Rangers going well at present I thought I would have a look at them. I set off by train from at 7.30 arriving at Northampton at 11.15. A nice town with some very good pubs serving some cracking real ales. After touring these I set out walking towards the ground which is about 2 miles out of town, just off the Kettering Road.


I marched down Fernie Lane (where the ground is situated) and straight into a set of large wrought iron padlocked gates! As luck would have it their secretary, Mr.Battams, was standing right by them. (I had e-mailed him earlier in the week to check k.o. etc. and he told me the club must keep these gates closed on matchdays as the local residents didn't want hundreds of cars going up and down their small road. "Hundreds"?) So I could gain access to the ground, he then generously gave me a lift all the way around the block (to the other side of the gate and almost back to the place where we had been standing!). You wouldn't get that treatment at Highbury!!

The club is one of those rare gems you come across now and again with floodlights, super clubhouse (serving beer, tea and hot and cold food), a great playing surface all enclosed by a neatly trimmed hedge. Very, very smart indeed. To boot, a glossy fronted programme sold for £1 which included entry. This contained everything you could need information wise. The game itself was very entertaining with Thrapston taking a 1-0 halftime lead and then Sileby storming back to win 4-1 in a onesided second half.

Interestingly when I go by train to matches I always wear a pedometer just to see how far I manage to walk during the trip. It is calibrated to its most resistant setting. 2000 steps equates to a mile and in all yesterday after stepping out of my house at 7.00am I had clocked up 24070 steps. So a 12 mile walk then. One way of keeping fit I suppose!

As ever another really great day out


19/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Mike Latham - Radcliffe Borough (Unibond League Prem)


Sat 19 March 2005, Unibond Premier League; Radcliffe Borough 0-2 Workington (attendance: 295)


Stainton Park is the well appointed home of Radcliffe Borough FC whose game against leaders Workington on a beautifully sunny and warm afternoon, with temperatures close to 20 degrees, attracted a crowd of 295, including a healthy contingent from West Cumbria.


Named after a local builder, Stainton Park has been Boro’s home since 1970 and its appearance is testimony to the hard work and dedication of local people.  A smart seated stand, with four rows of neat blue seats behind the top goal is the focal point of the ground.  To its right is located the club house and three separate covered standing areas while the other two sides are uncovered standing.  An enclosure in front of the social club is reserved for members.


Admission was £7 adults and a superb 36 page programme full of up-to-date statistics and interesting articles sold for £1- truly a labour of love for its two compilers.


Bernard Manning, the famous (or infamous) comedian is the club president with his son, Bernard Manning Jnr the chairman.  Long-serving manager Kevin Glendon is also on the board and serves as a commercial manager.


The Boro’ complex also includes an impressive all weather sports complex with floodlit astro turf courts able to accommodate soccer, hockey, tennis, netball and cricket teams.  Boro’ regularly hold childrens’ soccer schools at the venue and also host community six-a-side leagues.


To be found on the Bolton Road out of Radcliffe, and reached by the road opposite the Turf Hotel, Stainton Park is located just after the town’s impressive cricket ground with its imposing pavilion. 


A friendly club, with some of the best facilities around, a visit to Stainton Park is highly recommended.  There is a well stocked club shop and the only disappointment was that the catering facilities had been given over to an outside contractor serving greasy food from a chuck wagon.


Workington scored twice in the first half to maintain their lead at the top of the Unibond Premier League, impressing with their style of play with Gary Cohen and Matthew Henney the goal-scorers.  Under manager Tommy Cassidy’s

direction the Reds, who lost their Football League status 28 years ago, are well worth watching and their revival has been one of the highlights of the Unibond season.


17/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Barry Neighbour - Bishop Sutton (Western League P) and Thatcham Town (Wessex Lge 1)


Saturday 12th March saw me return to the West Country for the second time in a week to take in the game at Bishop Sutton v Corsham Town. As with the previous Saturday I again picked up travelling companians Alan Gulliford and Gerry McGill at Basingstoke and also had my son Ian in the car as well. Bishop Sutton is a basic but picturesque ground with a new stand and clubhouse. It is railed off but immediately behind the goal at the far end is a ditch with hardly any room for spectators. A 16 page programme was given away with the £4 admission price but apart from a couple of match reports and pen pictures contained little reading material, not even a League table. A healthy crowd of around 70 watched a poor game devoid of any real skill brought to life by a Beckham style free kick to give Corsham the points. It was a cracking goal which looked totally out of place to the rest of the game. Corsham were on a run of 16 games unbeaten but showed little in this game.
Tuesday 15th March saw a short trip down the M4 to Thatcham Town as they took on Sandhurst Town in the Berks & Bucks Trophy Semi Final. This was a much better game which saw Thatcham awarded an early penalty which was well saved by Paul Cann in the Sandhurst goal but he had no chance a minute later when a volley screamed past him into the top corner. Sandhurst slowly fought their way back and were rewarded after half an hour when they converted a penalty to make it 1-1 and were on top up 'til half time. Thatcham came out and caught Sandhurst cold with a goal within 2 minutes - the Thatcham played was unmarked to head home from 6 yards.
 Another stunning shot made it 3-1 and there was no way back as Thatcham ran out comfortable winners. A 36 page programme sold for £1 which contained loads of stats and updated League tables.


14/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Dennis Woods - Loughall (Irish Premier Lge) and Dundela (Irish Lge Div. One)


On Friday 11th March I along with four other hoppers travelled to Northern Ireland to see Loughall v Newry in the Irish Premier League for their 7:45pm game.. 
Loughall are new to the Premier Division for this season and have a splendid stadium for a team that has progressed so quickly.  The stadium is called Lakeview Park and can be found in Ballygassey Road opposite the Police Station.  The nearest large town would be Portadown which is around 7 or 8 miles away.
The club have an excellent club house and on entering it we found four northern based hoppers that we knew.
The stadium has two covered areas, both have strange seating arrangements one having around 20 seats in a line at the back of the cover and the main stand which runs along most of the pitch has two rows of seats, but a lot of space seems to have been wasted as more rows could have been added.  The main stand has 5 steps of terracing both to the left and right of the stand.  Behind one goal is a two storey building that contains the changing rooms and club rooms above.  To the right of this building is the club house and the turnstiles.
Admission was £6 and a 24 page glossy programme was available for £1.50.  Although welcome, the programme could have been better - the date on the front was given as Saturday 12th March and there was no league table.  Newry took the lead in the first half but Loughall levelled things in the second half in front of around 250 fans.
An interesting point was that the referee was from the Welsh FA and was over on an exchange programme.
On Saturday 12th March we watched Dundela v Donegal Celtic in the Irish League Division One for their 2:30pm kick off.  The ground is a lovely old venue with 6 steps of uncovered terracing along one side of the pitch.  With an old run down house in the far corner.  Half of the opposite side is taken up by the club house and to the left is an old covered terrace of 8 steps.  There are no seats at the ground or floodlights.  Behand one goal is a grass bank with two steps of terracing.  The ground is called Wilgar Park and is in Wilgar Street, Strandtown and it is a little way out of Belfast.  Admission was £4.
The club have an excellent modern clubhouse which seems to be open all week and has SKY Sports.  Unfortunately the club having stopped issuing programmes but on a visit to look at the ground a couple of years ago we picked up an excellent glossy programme for a £1.
Dundela took the lead in a disappointing first half, but the second half was much better and Donegal Celtic scored twice to win 2-1 in front of around 120 spectators.
An interesting point is that despite their name Donegal Celtic are based in Belfast. 


14/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Dave Reed - Winslow Utd (South Midlands Lge)


Saturday saw me driving Ken Kenealy and Adrian Swan to Winslow for their Cherry Red Trophy semi final game against AFC Guildford.  After visiting a couple of local hostelries (no change there then!) we were entertained to a competitive game with a couple of controversial penalty decisions.  The visitors went ahead midway through the first half from the spot after a very soft challenge was deemed a foul by the referee but the home side levelled things a minute later after a slip by a visiting defender.  The most controversial decision came just before the hour mark when a Guildford defender was adjudged to have handled in the area.  However, only one of the linesmen spotted it but did not keep his flag up and play continued until about ninety seconds later when the referee was persuaded to go and speak to his colleague.  It turned out to be a fuss over nothing as Ryan Wiffin blazed the spot kick high over the bar.  It did not prove vital as inside a minute, Winslow got what proved to the winner following a scramble in the visitors' goalmouth.  Guildford spent most of the remainder of the game trying to force an equaliser and there were good chances at both ends but no further goals.  Perhaps slightly surprisingly therefore it was Winslow who went forward to the final.  The programme for the game was a photocopied 24 pages, included in the £3 admission.  Another good day out with no worries about the weather for a change.


12/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Paul Roth - Cray Valley PM (Kent County League)


Saturday 12th March 2005 CRAY VALLEY P M   VS.   STANSFELD O&B CLUB
Kent county inter-regional cup s/f; Result 1-0; Programme £3 with entry.

A few options were open to me today and after my fist choice match of Easington Sports vs. Tytherington Rocks was cancelled due to the Glos. side having cup commitments I opted for the short trip up the M2 to take in this Kent county Inter Regional Cup tie.These teams are close neighbours and I fear not much love is lost between them with Cray getting the better of things in recent encounters.

Cray's Middle Park Avenue ground is situated off the old Yorkshire Grey roundabout(now a Mcdonalds in place of the famous old pub) at Eltham and quite a decent set up it is. There is hard standing along the nearside as you enter the ground through the metal fencing and a very good social club selling beer and hot and cold food. A very good 20 page programme sold for £3 including entry; it is well produced with colour photos of recent games and lots of up-to-the-minute club information.

A crowd of about 75 witnessed a very tight tussle between two well matched sides with the only goal coming in the 29th minute from a well hit free kick from just outside the area. In all honesty chances today were at a real premium and neither side looked like scoring again but the match always remained competetive if not a bit bruising.

A couple of quirky things about the day. First, the really odd pub I visited for a "half" on my way to the game - "The Howerd Club"; listed in various GBGs this has to be one of the oddest drinking establishments I have ever visited. Situated at the back of a church hall, dedicated to the memory of the late comedian Frankie Howerd, it is 15 mins walk from the ground and is worth a visit alone for it's pure uniqueness.
Secondly, this is the third time I have encountered Stansfeld O&B club and their "sending offs" tally far outnumbers their goals for account on the occasions I have come across them. In fact it stands at "sending offs" 5 - "goals" 0  !

Another great day out and back home by 5-15pm. The wife could not beleive it !!


09/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Mike Latham - Bamber Bridge (Unibond League Prem)


Tues 8 March 2005, Unibond Premier Division - Bamber Bridge 1-2 Farsley Celtic (attendance: 80) 


Irongate is the home of Bamber Bridge FC, situated just minutes from the M6 and end of the M65 and located off the A6 London Road flyover into Preston.  Bamber Bridge is a small mostly residential village that has expanded in recent years and the football club is to be found at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac.


A splendid club house is situated behind the goal and fronts directly onto the terrace behind the goal.  Very comfortably appointed and manned by pleasant staff, it served three real ales.  The clubhouse also includes a refreshment bar and club shop.


Bamber Bridge, who played in the Preston & District League until a rapid rise through the pyramid after moving to Irongate in 1987, are currently struggling to match their glory days of 1995/96 when they won the NPL Premier division but were denied a Conference place due to ground grading requirements.


On a dry evening the counterattractions of live television conspired to keep the attendance down to only 80.  A technically superior Farsley Celtic side, with a number of experienced ex-Football League professionals in their ranks, cruised into a 2-0 lead but were left hanging on as Brig staged a late revival.  Farsley moved up to second place in the Unibond Premier as a result but Brig were left to reflect on a sixth successive league defeat.


Irongate boasts an excellent main stand, built in 1997 that affords an excellent elevated view over the playing area.  The other side is open standing and houses the dug-outs.  To the right of the main stand is a small covered end with a small covered stand to the left of the clubhouse to the left of the main stand.


The ground must be one of the most used of all with Preston North End Reserves staging matches there.  Irongate is also home to a junior and ladies team and is a regular host of local league and schools finals.


Admission was £6 adults and a superb 48-page programme sold for £1.50.  Irongate is a very pleasant and friendly place to watch football and it is a shame to see such a splendid local amenity currently struggling at the gates for support from local people.  A visit there is highly recommended.


08/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Andy Molden - Lydney Town (Gloucs. Northern Senior League 1)


Lydney Town (3) 5 Broadwell Ams (0) 0
Gloucestershire Senior Amateur Cup (North) Semi Final; Att 184 (head count)

Lydney are miles ahead in their league and are on course to come into the Gloucester County next season. I had previously tried to do the ground on May 1982, but in those pre-traveller days I turned up for a afternoon kick-off only to find it had been switched - I ended up doing Barry v Witney in the Southern League - no programme issued.

Twenty three years later and I'm back at Lydney.  I arrive at 12.30pm and comfirm everything is ok.  By 1.30pm I'm getting a bit worried as the programmes have not appeared yet (too much travelling with Mr Burt!) . At 1.40pm they arrive and the chap is duly given a good talking to for forgeting the game is 2pm and not 3pm!  You get a pre-printed shell with numberous advertising sheets including an 8 page insert, all for £1 inc. admission.

It seems a number of the crowd have forgotten it is a two o'clock kick-off! Gradually more people turn up as the game kicks off. By 2.20pm there are 146 around the pitch and this increases to 184 at half-time. The league game at Xmas between the two sides had a crowd in excess of 200.

Lydney are well on top but can't score. A good diving header midway through the first half though gives them the lead. Then after two comical errors by the Broadwell keeper Lydney take in a 3-0 lead at the break.

The large clubhouse, which is packed to the rafters, is doing a roaring trade, particularly in large rolls which cost £1.

The second half starts with Broadwell trying to get back into the game. As the half goes on Lydney get back on top and with a few minutes to go the homesters left winger - number 22 (would some ace doyens not like that!) skips down the wing, beats the whole of the defence, clips a ball into the centre where an advancing midfielder blasts the ball into the net. If the keeper had got a hand to it he would have been down to the hospital!!

Despite not having the trainers on the field of play the ref. plays 8 minutes of stoppage time, needless to say Lydney score a delightful free kick from 20 yards out to round the game off.

The local rag states that the club wants to get back to it's former glories of Hellenic football, though crowds of 15 at Clanfield may take the gloss off that.

To find the ground, (if travelling north to south through the town) take a left turn signed "free parking". The entrance to both the Football Club and Rugby Club are just after the free carpark and next to the preserved railway station. The ground is fully railed off and the club are currently erecting new brick bult dug-outs. A fine clubhouse and dressing complex is also on site. In fact the clubhouse had just had new carpets laid and a number of spectators were asked to clean their shoes before entering!

The game had compulsory Lino's as it was a cup semi. The club "always" issue;  they have one schduled midweek home game in early April (though this may increase as they are now in the County Cup final) plus a number of Saturday home fixtures left to play. A good tick.

Checking my records I have now ascertained programmes from 10 clubs in this league over the years. 


07/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Barry Neighbour - Shepton Mallet (Western League 1)


With Brentford having ended their FA Cup adventures it was back to Non League for me on Saturday and a visit to Western League basement side Shepton Mallet AFC. Picking up my fellow travellers Alan Gulliford and Gerry McGill at Basingstoke station it was a pleasant drive down the A303 and A36 to Shepton Mallet. Having found the ground we were amused by the board near the gate stating 'No Bicycles or Footballs allowed on the pitch', which might explain Shepton Mallet's position at the foot of the table! A trip into town found us in The Bell pub which served Real Ales and a good value meal which travellers really should try out. The King William pub at the foot of the Hill also served Real Ales. Back at the ground saw more confusion as they displayed the admission price list for the Somerset League side; I thought they were charging £2 for the programme instead this was included in the £4 admission price and was more than adequate with 32 pages and a bright cover. The ground has a decent size stand down one side and covered accomodation on the other side (which looks like converted Cattle Trucks). Still this was a lot better than nothing at all including a few local clubs I can think of. With Shepton rooted firmly to the bottom we expected a few goals from 8th placed Clevedon United but chances were wasted by both sides and the points were decided by a first half penalty after the home 'keeper hauled down a Clevedon player in the area. The keeper escaped any further punishment but ironically it was the Clevedon keeper who was booked 5 minutes later for a foul outside the area. The quality was missing but with both teams as bad as each other an even contest ensued to entertain a healthy crowd of around 70.


07/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Dave Reed - Holt Utd (Dorset Premier Lge) and Larkhall (Western Lge)


Saturday saw me driving down to Dorset with fellow traveller Ken Kenealy to take in the Dorset Premier League match between Holt United and Gillingham Town (4th against 5th).  Holt is a small village north of Wimborne and the ground is located to the west of the village at Gaunts Common, an even smaller community so you can imagine that it was pretty rural.  For this level the facilities were quite good.  There is a clubhouse in the car park and entry to the ground is via a paybox behind the near goal.  A nice touch here is an arch with two bulls heads (the home side are called The Bulls), rather like an entrance to a ranch.  To the right at this end is an area of cover which looked quite new.  On the right hand side of the railed off pitch on the half way line is a small purpose built erection containing both dug outs and an area for 'VIPs and officials'.  On the other side appears to be the beginnings of another covered area although I did not go and investiga
 te this.  Despite the game starting in a sleet shower, the entertainment was terrific with the visitors running up a three goal lead shortly after half time.  The home side then pulled back two goals after the introduction of substitute Dan Pidgley who scored one, the other being netted by Simon Freak although his goal was anything but!  With ten minutes to go Gillingham scored again but were immediately pegged back.  Despite the best efforts of the home side they were unable to get the equaliser. A minimal programme, produced on a colour printer, came with the £2 admission consisting of twelve pages of adverts and team pictures.  An insert with the manager's notes arrived later but there were no line ups included although these were readily obtained.  (Ken did discover an old programme that had line ups printed so this appears to be a bit hit and miss).  One nice advert in the programme for the Holt Stores and Post Office offered among their services - Helicopter and small aircraft flights!  As neutrals we were more than satisfied with what we had seen.

Sunday saw me in a carload heading for Larkhall and their game against Saltash, played today because the home side's reserves had played in a Somerset Senior Cup Semi-Final on Saturday (which they unfortunately lost).  The visitors got held up on their long trip up from Cornwall and so the kick off was delayed by fifteen minutes.  It was a return trip for me to Larkhall and since last year the pitch has been levelled and floodlights installed.

The visitors, especially their defence, seemed to have left their legs behind in Cornwall as the home side rattled up a three goal lead by the 24th minute.  Saltash also had a few chances and managed to pull a goal back but fell three behind again after 35 minutes.  They were much tighter at the back in the second half but still managed to concede a further two goals to go down 6-1.  The win took the home side up to third in the table and they must now be in with a chance of promotion. The 50p programme consisted of 20 pages of adverts interspersed with up to date news, tables and results including a report on yesterday's game.

If you have not been there, Larkhall is well worth a visit especially on a fine day with great views over the surrounding countryside and the city of Bath.  However, be warned, the ground is at the top of a very steep hill!!


06/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Paul Roth - Goole AFC (NCELP)


Sat 5th March 2005
Programme 18 pages £1.

As the NCEL hots up into a grandstand finish I thought I would take the opportunity to have a look at one of the top teams. So off I set at 5-30a.m. to travel to Goole for their game versus Brodsworth M W arriving at 12-20p.m. I had, by seconds, missed my rail connection at Doncaster so travelled to Thorne South on a later train in order to "tick" a couple of GBG pubs and then on from Thorne North to Goole. The train passes their Pleasure grounds stadium as you enter the town and I was dismayed to see water laying on the surface and no goal nets up! A quick phone call alleviated my angst----game on!!!!!! A real relief this as it had been bucketing down as I arrived in town.

A few beers later and I arrived at the ground which is set at the end of a row of terraced houses very central to the town. There are two covered areas opposite each other which provided welcome shelter and a five lane running track encircles the pitch (usually I detest stadiums like this but actually didn't mind this one). A glossy 18 page programme sold for a pound and a good read it made too in their small clubhouse before k.o.

Goole were soon a goal to the good and Brodsworth were undone by a serious knee injury to a key defender as well as having a player sent off. 2-0 it was at half time and chance to sample some "pie, peas and gravy with mint sauce - "luvverly!!!! Quickly after the restart the home team made it three from a penalty (there was a piece in the programme saying how extraordinary the season had been for how many spotkicks the club had been awarded) and on the stroke of 90minutes added a fourth with the best goal of the match--a 25 yarder screeching into the top of the net.

With all the other contenders winning this league is relly going down to the wire There are 5 or 6 teams in with a real chance of snatching the title and of course promotion. Great stuff!!!!!


06/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Dennis Woods - Hersham RBL (CCL1)


On Saturday 5th March, I visited Hersham Royal British Legion v Cranleigh in the Combined Counties League Division One (att. 19).  The facilities at West End Recreation Ground, in Esher are very basic.  In fact the ground is simply a roped off pitch with no cover, lights or clubhouse.  The pitch seemed good considering the wet weather we have had recently.  The river Mole runs a little way back behind the pitch.  I didn't seem any shops or pubs near the ground so don't arrive too early.
A simple 4 page programme was issued free (ask at the entrance to the dressing rooms) and no admission was taken and the club even gave away a free cup of tea at half time, how do these clubs survive.  I was a bit worried that the game could become a boring one way game, as Cranleigh were bottom of the league with 6 points from 26 matches and had already conceded 148 goals in the league.   It appeared I was going to be right as Hersham RBL hit the post after just 1 minute, when the striker should have really scored.  In fact the woodwork was hit so many times during the game that I lost count.  Some how Cranleigh held on for 0-0 at half time.  As the second half progressed Cranleigh got more confident and took the lead, early in the second half.  Although their lead was short lived as Hersham RBL equalised within a few minutes.  The Cranleigh keeper played a blinder and pulled off save after save to stop Hersham RBL taking the lead.  Then with around five minutes of normal time left Cranleigh broke free and scored what turned out to be the winner.  Their goal was celebrated by a mass bundle of players as if they had just scored the winning goal in an FA Cup Final.  Well done lads.
I was pleased that Cranleigh had won as they have had battled so well after having such a tough season and the winner must have come as a welcome relief to them.  Hersham RBL are a friendly club and it was nice to hear both benches shouting to the players to calm down instead of the usual comments you normally get from club personnel, mainly directed at the officials.
There are many different ways to travel to the ground using public transport.  I opted to travel from Waterloo to Kingston and then take a bus.  On leaving the train station head left towards the bus station and go to bay A12.  You can then take either a bus 218 or 471.  Note a return fare saves you a £1.  Both buses leave every hour, although the 218 leaves at 13 minutes past and the 471 at 43 minutes past, so it means there is a bus every 30 minutes.  You need to take the bus to the bottom of the hill as you leave Esher.  Alight at the Princess Alice Hospice just before the roundabout with West End Lane.  You can see the ground on the right as you turn into West End Lane.  After the game the buses depart at 13 and 43 minutes again.  Although the bus arrives back at the bus station just as the half hourly London train departs.  Well you don't expect trains and buses to connect for each other do you, this is Britain after all?

05/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Mike Latham - Porthmadog (Welsh Premier League)


Welsh Premier League

Sat 5 Mar 2005, Porthmadog 3-3 Airbus UK (attendance- 127)


Porthmadog is one of the outposts of Welsh football but their stunning Y Traeth ground is well worth the visit, surrounded as it is by some of the most stunning scenery imaginable.


Located down Snowdon Street opposite Woolworth’s in the tourist coastal town, Y Traeth (translated as “The Beach”) is the former site of tidal mudflats.  In early Jan 2005 the ground was flooded to the height of several feet after freak storms and graphic photographs in the well stocked club shop graphically tell the story.


Porthmadog, founder members of the WPL, regained their place in the elite of Welsh football in 2003 after a five-year absence and have made terrific ground improvements to ensure their status remains intact.


A most helpful club official outlined that they had built a second covered stand, located near the corner flag on the same side as the main stand, taking their seating capacity up to an impressive 500.


They had also built a perimeter stone wall and a cover for the terrace behind the goal to the left of the main stand.


The ground is well maintained with the covered stands, terrace and the four portakabins hosting the club shop, office, boardroom and tea bar all painted in the club colours of red and black.


The view is simply awe-inspiring from the main stands with the snow capped mountains of the Snowdonia National Park clearly visible and the ground itself is situated in a pleasant rural location.


The playing pitch looked flat and well grassed and though guilty of the occasional bobble was one of the best that the writer has seen in his recent travels.


Welsh is the main language in these parts and the ground announcements are made initially in the native tongue with a second announcement then in English.


Admission was £6 adults and a magnificent programme sold for only £1.


The programme contained 52 pages and was packed with information, not reliant on the WPL newsletter for most of its editorial as so many in the League are.  Porthmadog clearly enjoy a great support from the local community and their programme contained 76 different adverts from local businesses while the ground had 31 separate pitch-side advertising hoardings.


Airbus looked set for a thrashing as they trailed 3-1 at the end of a one-sided first half on a cold afternoon in an enjoyable game played in a fierce wind.


But in the second half, with the benefit of the elements, they rallied to draw 3-3 thanks to an equaliser five minutes from time and were denied a further boost to their hopes of escaping relegation in their first season in the WPL by a late goal-line clearance.


A visit to Y Treath is highly recommended.


03/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Dennis Woods - Kallithea and Panathinaikos (Athens/Greece)


Eddie Cook and I travelled to Athens last weekend to see some football in Greece.  Our first game was a 7:30 kick off  at Kallithea v AEK Athens in the Greek first division.
Kallithea Stadium is a strange stadium as it has been built into a disused quarry.  The stadium has a running track and has just two stands although a third stand is currently being built, very slowly, behind the east goal, this will add around 2,500 extra seats.  The main stand covers the length of one side and has modern seats with a roof that covers around half of the seats, this is the only cover at the stadium.  The second stand is much smaller and is built into the side of the quarry and gives the impression that there is a cliff behind the stand.  This stand is situated in one corner along the side of the pitch, with most of the seats being past the actual playing surface.  This stand is allocated to away fans. 
Our ticket for the game cost 20 euros and was for a unreserved seat in the main stand.  Entrance to the stadium was through a small gate where your match ticket is ripped in half, although I asked for only a small rip which the guy checking the tickets obliged, Eddie wasn't so lucky and ended up with half a ticket which no longer had any of the match details on it.  A large crowd gathered behind the entrance gate and I thought at the time this could be very dangerous.  As we entered the entrance to the stand our tickets were checked once more, the another guy was just about to rip my ticket in half, but again I managed to stop him.  Then a surprise a 16 page glossy A5 programme was handed to us.  Although there didn't seem to be many programmes about, as those entered the stand were arriving empty handed.  Of course the whole programme was in Greek, but the pictures are worth looking at and it's of course nice to have a souvenir of the game. We were able to grab a seat under the cover of the stand.  I think we took our seat well over an hour before the game and the stadium was fairly full with 45 minutes to go before kick off.  Having unreserved seats in a game that is likely to sell out was a big mistake and fans were soon standing in the aisle in front on the seats.  Plus around 30% of the fans in the home end were AEK fans, although to their credit they were fantastic for the whole of the game.  Stewards moved the fans standing at the front before the kick off.
AEK were 2-0 up within 10 minutes on a very wet pitch which stopped the flow of the ball on a number of occasions.  Kallithea pulled a goal back in the second half, but AEK hung on for a 2-1 win.  The attendance was 2,439.  To get to the stadium take the Metro (line 2) to Syngrou-Fix and then take bus 910 which takes around 5 to 10 minutes to reach the stadium.  After the game we walked back to the Metro station due to the crowd and the traffic.
Our second game in Athens required us to become members of Panathinaikos to obtain tickets.  Tickets are only sold to members but it doesn't seem to be a problem to join.  The application form is in Greek so we asked a helpful member of the staff to help us with completing the form.  Please note you will also need your passport as they keep a photo copy of it.  Once completed our details were fed into a computer and we were asked which price of seat we would like, we chose a 35 euro ticket, but prices ranged from 15 to 40 euros.  If you require tickets please ensure that you buy them in advance of the game. 
The Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium is covered in graffiti on the outside walls of the stadium and even on some of the walls on the inside.  To reach the stadium take the Metro (line 3) to Ambelokipi station which is then 200m walk away.
The stadium is of a bowl design and has a stand with cover along both sides of the pitch although the stand we sat in only had 12 rows of seats.  Both of the open ends are much larger.  Panathinaikos were very disappointing and scored a late goal to win against the bottom side 1-0 in front of an even poorer 6,103 fans, although the crowd seemed nearer 10,000 to me.  An excellent 52 page glossy A5 programme, with welcome pictures was left only on the front 3 rows of the seats so arrive early or you may miss out.


02/03/05 Ground/Club Focus : Mike Latham - Connahs Quay Nomads (Welsh Premier League)


Tuesday 1 March 2005, Connah’s Quay Nomads 0-3 Newtown (att: 105)


Connah’s Quay Nomads play at the Deeside Stadium, Kelsterton, Flintshire- a modern athletics stadium attached to Deeside College.


The Nomads moved there from their old ground, that was situated behind the nearby Halfway House pub in 1998 and the contrast from their old, homely and idiosyncratic venue could hardly be more marked.


The large college car park provides plenty of free parking and admission was £5 adults with an excellent 40-page programme a bargain £1.  This contained a number of excellent colour photographs and pen pictures of both home and visiting clubs with brief and informative histories of the Nomads and Newtown.


There was also a double page centre spread with excellent statistics on Nomads’ season to date.  A terrific effort and clearly a labour of love by its compiler.


The main feature of the stadium is the elevated main stand with six neat rows of seats- 420 in all.  The seated area gives an excellent view over the pitch and the dressing rooms and a small snack bar are housed underneath.  The dugouts are placed in front of the stand, separated by an eight-lane running track and the netting for the field events is located behind the goal to the right.  The quality of the floodlights was excellent.


There is also a small shelter for fans who prefer to stand to the left of the main grandstand.  On the far side is a small building that houses the television gantry with a room underneath.  The rest of the ground is standing, though especially behind the goals this is a long way from the action due to the running track.


Newtown were 2-0 up inside the opening half-hour and settled the issue with veteran striker Michael Brown’s second goal- a screaming 25-yard shot- after 65 minutes.  There was a crowd of 105 on a cold but clear night and the nature of the stadium means there is precious little atmosphere.  The shouts of the players could be clearly heard.  One noteworthy point was the efficiency of the ballboys who provided a superb service all night long.