Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Withdean Wonder - AFC Varndeanians vs. Rustington

Tree lined Withdean Stadium
A late surge of rain caused havoc with match choices yet again. I bottled my original choice of Wisbech (and this game obviously survived in the end) and after looking at the forecast I thought Little Common in The Sussex League would be a fairly safe bet but this game was called off with me just a couple of stops away from Bexhill. A quick look around Twitter shows that AFC Varndeanians match with Rustington is on and so I travelled across the county to Preston Park. The Withdean has changed a lot since Brighton left and I seen a lot of seats from The Withdean at Newhaven's Fort Road ground. I have visited Rustington's Jubilee Avenue ground on a previous last minute change caused by a postponement for a Sussex League match with Westfield last season. Varndeanians needed the three points to keep in touch with the promotion places while Rustington wanted to pull away from the bottom of the table.

The teams make their way across the track
Varndeanians should take an early lead when a pull back from the touch line finds the man in space but his shot is saved by the Rustington keeper. They create another chance as the ball is driven across the goal and the only thing missing was the final touch. They do however take the lead following a corner when the attacker is allowed far too space and he lashes a low shot into the net. Rustington's first opening comes when the forward is played in but as he runs wide of the goal he puts his shot high and wide. They come close to an equaliser as the home defence is caught out by a quick throw and the keeper has to be quick off his line to smother the chance. The home side make two nil when the attacker is able to dance through the defence and he slots the ball past the goalie. Rustington get back into the game just before half time. A free kick from around the half way line is lofted towards the back post and the Rustington player nips in to head the ball home.

Varndeanians attack in the first half
Rustington almost equalise early in the second half when a header from a cross hits the post. It is however Varndeanians who get the next goal. The left winger robs the full and he finds attacker who's chipped shot finds the far top corner with the goalie stranded. Rustington aren't deterred and they get back within one goal as they winger is played in on the right hand side and his deft lob sails over the keeper into the back of the net. Varndeanians almost gift the away side a leveller with a weak back header and the keeper is again quick off his line to save the situation. They do get the equaliser when the forward rises to head home a cross from the right hand flank. They aren't level for long though. The impressive Varndeanian number ten is allowed to run at the defence and after he cuts inside he shoots and his shot goes in off the legs of the goalie. Both sides have half chances to add to their respective totals but the game finished 4-3.

The Rustington forward finds space in the first half
The closest station to The Withdean Stadium is Preston Park which can be reached by trains from Blackfriars with the journey taking just over an hour. Right by the Woodside Avenue exit from Preston Park Station is The Station which is a fantastic pub with the sports channels. The Withdean is then a fifteen minute walk away. I fully recommend going back under the railway line and walking along London Road which is a flatter, more direct route. There isn't a bar at the ground but right next to the stadium is The Sportsman which is your best bet if you want a drink before the game.

Looking towards another of the old stands

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Blubirds Soar To Top - Chippenham Town vs. Kings Lynn Town

Stand and blue skies at Hardenhuish Park
The weather almost allowed me a free choice of game last weekend but a torrential band of band of rain early on Saturday morning put paid to that. After seeing on Twitter and the Chippenham Town forum that it was more than likely that the Chippenham Town versus Kings Lynn Town game in The Southern League Premier would go ahead, I headed west yet again for a game. This match pitched second against eight this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I've visited The Walks for an FA Trophy match against Conference North side which Kings Lynn were extremely unfortunate to lose. Chippenham had won their four games in the league but they had lost the return fixture two nil back in October.  

Kick off in blazing sunshine
Both sides have early chances - Kings Lynn with a free kick out wide and Chippenham from a pull back but neither keeper is tested. Chippenham then almost power through the Kings Lynn defence and the key pass is cut out as the visitors regain their composure. Kings Lynn almost gift Chippenham the opener following a mistake by the centre back but the final ball is just too high. Kings Lynn come close with a looping header from a free kick which sadly goes over the bar. The home side take the lead shortly before half time with an effort which is lashed home from distance which gives the goalie no chance.

Kings Lynn repeal a Chippenham attack
Kings Lynn get a couple of balls into the Chippenham penalty area early in the second period but neither find their intended target. Chippenham then double their lead in controversial style. The Kings Lynn keeper loses the ball while trying to collect a corner and the Kings Lynn players are adamant that he was fouled. The referee doesn't agree and after a bit of a scramble the ball is forced home from close range to make it two nil. This sparks the visitors into life and a good chance to half the deficit is put well over the bar. They do get back into the game as the Kings Lynn attacker finds the ball at his feet at the corner of the penalty area and his angled effort files past the keeper. Chippenham however soon restore their two goal advantage. The Chippenham centre forward gets to a long ball forward and he hits it on the half volley on the up and past the keeper. This knocks the wind of Kings Lynn's sails and Chippenham add a fourth with a near post header from a corner.

4-1 Chippenham
Trains to Chippenham depart from Paddington with the journey taking just over an hour. As with Stamford and Corby, tickets on the day are extremely expensive and so I recommend booking in advance if possible. The town itself is a pleasant market town on The Avon with a lot of old buildings to look at. The best pub by far in the town centre is The Buttercross Inn. There is a fantastic choice of beers and ciders as well as the sports channels on a big screen. The ground is a leisurely fifteen minute walk from the town. The bar overlooks the pitch and had the usual selection of beer and was also quite lively before kick off. While I was waiting for the train home I popped in to The Blackhorse which is perfect for that.

Covered standing opposite the main stand

Monday, 25 January 2016

Late First Half Blitz Does It For Blues - Corby Town vs. Gainsborough Trinity

Corner view of Steel Park
My sister has recently moved to Corby and the visit of Gainsborough Trinity in The National League North provided the perfect opportunity for a big meet up. Luckily the weather finally eased up a little bit (just for one week by the looks of things) although there were still quite a few postponements in the local area. This was an important game for Corby as they were currently in the relegation places and there was just one separating six teams. Gainsborough were looking to pull themselves into the top half and the reverse fixture at The Northolme had resulted in a one one draw. Another incentive to come and watch Corby was the fact that ex-Scunthorpe cult hero Cleveland Taylor was club captain.

Kick off at Steel Park
The first chance of the game falls to the hosts when a free kick into the area is brought under control but the attacker can't keep his shot on the turn down. They come closer as the Gainsborough keeper spills a long range effort and the forward just can't force the rebound home. Another chance goes begging for Corby when the player in the middle gets too much on his header from a great cross and the effort goes well over the bar. Gainsborough's first effort on goal comes midway through the half and is a shot from the edge of the area which goes just wide. Corby come close to creating another good chance but the cross is just too high for the man in the middle. Then comes the two late sucker punches. The Gainsborough forward completely misses the ball when attempting a shot in the area and ends up kicking the defender and hitting the deck. Much to everyone's astoundment, the referee gives a penalty which is duly dispatched. Then in first half injury time Gainsborough double their lead with a near post header from a corner.

Covered accommodation behind the far goal
Gainsborough start where the ended the first half and a shot across goal goes just wide of the far post. Corby then have a couple of free kicks in decent areas and they fail to seriously trouble the Gainsborough defence with either. They do get into the game with a penalty of their own at The Clubhouse End. This time there is no disputing the referee's decision as the attacker is bundled in the back and the resulting penalty is hammered into the top corner. The Corby goalie is almost caught out by a long free kick from the visitors and he just recomposes himself in time to tip the ball over the bar. Corby now lay siege to the Gainsborough defence and the away side somehow keeps the ball out during a scramble following a free kick from a dangerous position. The closest they come to an equaliser is in the closing stages when the Gainsborough keeper is beaten to the ball from a free kick and the Gainsborough defender makes an amazing last ditch clearance to keep his side in the lead. Despite the pressure, Gainsborough are able to hold on and take the points back to Lincolnshire.

Gainsborough attack The Clubhouse end in the first half
Trains to Corby depart from St Pancras and the journey takes just over an hour. Despite the journey taking a relatively short amount of time and being very straight forward, tickets on the day are extortionately expensive. I was given a lift to and from the ground but I don't remember seeing any buses on our drive. Steel Park is about two and half miles from the station. The only pub I was able to visit was The Samuel Lloyd which is a Wetherspoons and a five minute walk from the ground. The clubhouse had the sports channels and the usual selection of drinks.

The dugout sound of the ground. The building on the far right, is the back of the stand at the old ground


Monday, 18 January 2016

Pitch Battle - Warminster Town vs. Almondsbury UWE

Scenic backdrop at Weymouth Street
The good news this weekend was that the rainfall had eased off however the rain threat was promptly replaced by ice. I set off for Wiltshire hoping to see Amesbury Town against Fleet Spurs in The Wessex League but this was postponed while I was looking for the bus stop in Salisbury Town Centre. I therefore had to return to the station and travelled one stop to Warminster in the hope that their Western League First Division with Almondsbury UWE would go ahead. This was of course my second Western League game in as many weekends following on from Keynsham last week. Almondsbury come from just outside of Bristol with the UWE part of their name coming from their partnership with The University of Western England. Almondsbury had won the reverse fixture 4-1 on Halloween. Both sides were in mid table and Warminster were looking to build on their Boxing Day victory over close neighbours Westbury on Boxing Day. 

Kick off at Weymouth Street
The pitch is very heavy and it wouldn't have been a surprise if it had been called off but fair play to all for getting the game started. The pitch causes the first moment of concern for Almondsbury when a Warminster cross gets stuck in the mud in the area but the defence is able to clear the danger. Warminster have started full of confidence and it takes a great save from the Almondsbury keeper when the Warminster forward is played in. They come even closer to the opener as a header from a corner kick is headed on to the top of the cross bar. It is however the visitors who take the lead. From a free kick, the Almonsbury player gets a strong header in to make it one nil to Almondsbury. Warminster hit the top of the bar for a second time with a shot from inside the area. They get the equaliser when the winger breaks down the right flank and his cross is put into the net from close range. Despite all their hard work, the half ends on a down for Warminster. Two players come together with the Warminster player putting his hands in the face of the Almondsbury player which results in the sadly inevitable red card. 

Seconds before the Warminster equaliser
Warminster win an early free kick in a decent position at the start of the second half but the Almondsbury defence is able to head it away. Almondsbury then get themselves into a good position but the ball gets stuck in the mud. Shortly afterwards the Almondsbury attacker is able to trick his way through the defence and unfortunately he ultimately shoots wide of the target. Warminster are then able to catch Almondsbury on the break and it takes a brilliant saving tackle to prevent him getting a shot in. The game is now really opening up and it is the turn of Warminster to put in a great saving challenge at the crucial moment. The away side then score what would prove to be the winner. The forward is played in on the right wing and he makes no mistake to make it 2-1. Warminster try desperately to get the second equaliser but Almondsbury see out the rest of the game to seal the three points.

Almondsbury attack in the first half
Trains direct from London to Warminster are fairly infrequent and so the best bet is to catch a train to Salisbury from Waterloo and change there for a train to Warminster. The journey takes around two hours. Weymouth Street is then a steady twenty minute away. On The High Street with the sports channels and a couple of ales on hand pulled is The Old Bell. A bit further down the road is the fantastic Organ Inn which is a former CAMRA rural pub of the year and had a great selection of beers. Then a bit off The High Street, if you don't walk straight past the narrow its on is The Pestbury Sports Bar which has both sports channels on big screens and puts on free food during televised games. The clubhouse also had the sports channels on a big screen and had the usual selection of drinks. 

Another view of the stand

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Keynsham Storm Back To Claim Points - Keynsham Town vs. Devizes Town

Match action with Keynsham itself in the background
The wet weather, as it seems to for the last couple of months had a major baring on my match choice this weekend. Considering the biblical band of rain that was sweeping over the south on Saturday afternoon, I decided a plastic pitch was again the best bet. There were two such pitches in the Western League Division , Roman Glass St George and Keynsham Town. As the later looked easier to get to I decided to set off to Somerset for this weeks game. The only other game I'd seen in The Western League was Gillingham against Sherbourne Town last season. Keynsham were in brilliant form having won the last four games and only losing once in the previous 12. Devizes were looking for an away win to try and pull away from the bottom of the table.

Kick off at The AJN Stadium
It was raining all the way through the first half and that is why I didn't take enough notes for a detailed account of the first half. Devizes start on the front foot and the Keynsham keeper makes a good save from a drilled effort. The visitors take the lead when a corner isn't cleared and from the resulting pull back the ball is slotted home. They are gifted a second via a comical own goal. Both the goalkeeper and the centre back go for a long ball forward and the defender heads the ball past the stranded keeper. Keynsham themselves a gifted a goal as the keeper fails to collect a cross which leaves the forward with a simple finish to make it 2-1.

The Keynsham keeper claims a ball into the box
Keynsham go looking for the equaliser at the start of the second half. Their first sight of goal is a whipped cross into the box which the Devizes centre back does well to get a vital touch onto. Shortly afterwards the hosts hit the post with a shot from the edge of the box after it had looked like the move had broken down. Keynsham get the equaliser when the ball is headed home from close range following a driven cross into the danger area. The home side complete the turn around when after a throw, the attacker is allowed to cut inside and his shot from distance finds the far corner of the net. Devizes come close to getting an equaliser with a free kick which goes just wide of the back post. Keynsham get a fourth when an attacker is again allowed to cut inside and his low shot beats the keeper. The hosts get a late fifth to complete the comeback in style.

Devizes come close in the second half
As with Stamford last week, there are no direct trains from London to Keynsham. You have to take a train to Bath from Paddington and change there for a train to Keynsham with the journey taking around two hours. The ground is then about a twenty walk from the station. As I mentioned earlier, the weather was pretty terrible so it was lucky there was a good selection of pubs in Keynsham. On the High Street is The Trout Tavern which I think had the sports channels. Then by the river there is The Brassmills and The Lcok Keeper which I imagine would be really nice if the weather was a lot better. The opposite the ground is The Crown Inn which was extremely welcoming and the open fire was brilliant on a cold, wet day. The clubhouse did the job and offers views of the pitch if the weather is terrible.

Side on view of the stand

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Daniels Finally At Home - Stamford vs. Hyde United

Covered accommodation at The Zeeco Stadium
A serious amount of rain was covering the south of England last weekend and the only area which looked to be escaping the deluge was East Anglia. With this in mind I wanted to go to Sudbury to see either Long Melford or Cornard United but rail engineering works added a layer of complexity to proceedings. The next best dryish place was Stamford where both Stamford and Blackstones were due to be playing at home. Blackstones was postponed while I was travelling so I eventually settled on Stamford. I was lucky enough to catch a game at Stamford's previous Kettering Road home against Marine in one of the final games at the ground. Hyde United were relegated from the Conference North last season and were in mid table. Stamford were yet to win at home in the league this season and were looking for a win to get out of the relegation places. They were also looking to avenge the 7-1 hammering they were given at Ewen Fields back in September.

Kick off at The Zeeco
Hyde United believe they've scored an early goal but the effort is ruled out for offside. Stamford do however take an early lead. The attacker is allowed to get to the byline and from his pull back the Stamford forward slots the ball home to make it one nil. Hyde go on the attack for the equaliser and the winger is allowed to cut in and it takes a good punch away by the goalie at the near post to keep his side in front. Both sides then have long range efforts which fail to trouble either keeper. A dipping Hyde effort from range then does force the keeper into a save and the resulting corner is not cleared by the Stamford defence and the ball is scrambled home from close range for the equaliser. They then come very close to taking the lead when the forward is played in but he only manages to hit the post.

Moments before the opening goal
At the start of the second half the pitch is becoming very heavy and the players as well as the ball are getting held up. The Hyde keeper is nearly caught out by a long clearance forward but he manages to save his own blushes and tip the ball over the bar. It is then Stamford's turn to hit the woodwork as the referee plays a good advantage which allows the winger to put in a great cross and the ball is headed onto the top of the bar. It is from another cross shortly afterwards that Stamford score the winner. The ball is again crossed in and after the goalie saves the initial shot he is powerless to stop the rebound being put into the net. Both sides have late half chances but Stamford claim the 2-1 win.

Stamford fend off a Hyde attack in the first half.
There are no direct trains from London to Stamford. You have to catch a train to Peterborough from Kings Cross and change there for a train to Stamford. There is only one train an hour from Peterborough so there can be a bit of a wait at Peterborough. The ground is then a good half hour walk from the station. As well as the pubs I visited on my previous visit, I also found another couple of gems. I firstly went to The All Saints Brewery which is a brilliant setting and had a great selection of beers. On the edge of the town centre on the way to the ground is The Tobie Norris which was another fantastic building and had five hand pulled ales. The clubhouse at the ground had BT Sports and also sold the excellent Hanson's Field ale which went down very well.

Side on view of the stand

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Cobras Find Sting On Boxing Day - Clipstone vs. Rainworth Miners Welfare

The hills surrounding The Worksop Van Hire Stadium
I was back up north for Christmas again this year and just like last year, the wet weather led to a frantic search for a game at a new ground to go to. We had originally chosen Glasshoughton but the horrific weather in that part of the country meant this game was called off early in the morning. I heard on Twitter that the game between Clipstone and Rainworth Miners Welfare was going ahead and so we headed off to Nottinghamshire. If we'd based our choice solely on the two teams league position then this game would have been high on our list. Rainworth were in fourth place with Clipstone sitting in seventh with a game in hand and having only conceded twenty five goals all season. The reverse fixture back in early September resulted in a 3-1 victory for Clipstone.   

Kick off at The WVH Stadium
Clipstone get into a couple of good crossing positions early on but they fail to find the vital final touch on either occasion. There is an extremely strong wind blowing and the wind catches a Rainworth corner which the Clipstone keeper does well to punch away. There is then a moment in the game which involves fantastic play from both sides. A ball in to the area is expertly controlled by the Clipstone forward and his shot on the turn produces a fantastic close range save from the Rainworth keeper. He is however powerless to prevent the opening goal. Clipstone break forward and the forward is all alone when he receives the ball in the area and he wrong foots the goalie to make it one nil. It is almost two nil shortly afterwards when the Rainworth keeper makes another vital save when the forward is played in. Rainworth come close to equalising when the winger gets past the full back and the close range header is some how blocked on the line. Clipstone have a great chance just before half time but the shot is blocked and as this attack breaks down, Rainworth break down the other end and it takes a brilliant last ditch tackle to stop the forward getting his shot in.    

The Clipstone goalie deals with another wind assisted corner
Rainworth have a bit of luck at the start of the second period when the defender is some how able to knee the ball over his own bar following a corner. Another corner almost brings about the second goal when a wind assisted corner hits the back post. They do get the third goal from the penalty spot after the forward is tripped in the box. Rainworth try to get back into the game and the Clipstone keeper needs two attempts to save a hard shot from the edge of the area. The Rainworth left back then goes on a marauding run but his shot goes harmlessly over the bar. It is however Clipstone who get the third goal to seal the points. As a Rainworth attack breaks down, Clipstone break out and the ball eventually gets to the right winger at the back post who lashes the ball home. In the closing stages, Clipstone have further chances to extend the lead but it finishes three nil. 

Clipstone defend a Rainworth ball into the area
As it was Boxing Day we had to drive to Clipstone but there is a bus route which runs from Mansfield to the ground and as Clipstone is just outside of Mansfield the bus journey isn't a long one. To get to Mansfield from London you have to get a train to Nottingham from St Pancras and change there for a train to Mansfield. The journey takes around two and half hours. We didn't get a chance to check out any pubs before the game but cans of larger were available from the clubhouse. Colour team sheets are given out for free if you purchase a programme which I thought was a great touch.

Side on view of the covered accommodation