Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Take Off For Brecklanders In FA Vase - Thetford Town vs. Downham Town

Stand at The Thetford Recreation Ground
For the last game in my run of cup matches I headed out to Norfolk for a county derby of sorts between Thetford Town and Downham Town. Both sides play in The Eastern Counties League with Thetford in The Premier Division and Downham in Division One. I'd seen Thetford once before at Felixstowe and Walton in a league match when they drew an entertaining game 2-2. I'd visited Downham Market's Memorial Field also for a league game and in that match they won 3-1 against AFC Sudbury Reserves. In their respective divisions, Thetford had made a very good start, sitting in second place, a couple of points behind Mildenhall while Downham were seventh in Division 1.In the previous round, Thetford saw another Division 1 side, Framlington and this win contributed to a four game winning streak. 

It was a three sided ground for the second week in a row
Thetford waste no time in putting the Downham keeper under pressure as they launch a angled free kick into the area which he punches away under pressure. The home side continue to pepper the Downham goal and a curling shot from the edge of the area goes just over the bar. Thetford come close to a fortuitous opening goal when an innocuous looking long ball forward is caught by the wind and ends up bouncing off the top of the cross bar. Downham are then able to break out after a Thetford attack and the eventual ball from the byline finds the man in plenty of space but his shot goes straight at the goalie. The Downham keeper then makes two great saves to ensure the scores are level at half time. Firstly he does brilliantly to put a powerful header from a free kick over the bar and then he makes a low save to keep out an effort from the resulting corner.

The Thetford winger attacks the car park end
Thetford take an early lead in the second half as the Downham keeper can't fully gather a rasping shot from the edge of the box and the Thetford forward is on hand to put the ball in the net to make it one nil. Thetford are dominating possession and they have another effort on goal when the winger is played in with a chipped pass but his shot flashes across the face of the Downham goal. They come close again as the ball is flicked on and the shot on the volley is put just over the bar. The Downham keeper spills the ball for a second time after a Thetford attack but this time the ball goes just wide. Downham then have a perfect chance to get an equaliser as a fantastic cross finds the man in plenty of space but the free header is put wide of the target. They are made to rue that miss as Thetford get the second goal - or it sounded like they did from the cheers I heard from the toilet.

Dugout side of the ground
To get to Thetford you have to take a train from Kings Cross to either Cambridge or Ely and change there for a train to Thetford with the trip taking just under two hours. Thetford is famous for being the filming location of Dad's Army and there are plenty of reminders around the pleasant town centre. A short walk from the town centre is The Black Horse which has the sports channels as well as a few ales on hand pull. If you don't fancy walking too far from the town centre then The Green Dragon right on the market place does the job for the early kick off. To get back to the ground from the town, you have to go back past the station and next door is The Railway Tavern which had an atmosphere fairly on in the afternoon and also had the sports channels. The clubhouse at the ground under the stand was extremely welcoming and I can also recommend the burgers from the tea bar. 





Watching on from the stand in the second half


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Magpies Cup Hopes Melt Away In First Half - Alresford Town vs. Cadbury Heath

There was a decent crowd at Alrebury Park
The next round of FA Cup qualifying came up last weekend and I decided to take in one of the ties between two step five sides. The tie in question was for the second weekend in a row, a clash between Wessex and Western League sides and pitted Alresford Town against Cadbury Heath. This was the first time I'd seen either side play although I had previously visited Winchester which is just down the road. Both sides were in lower mid table in their respective leagues but due to their cup runs, they had plenty of games in hand over the teams above them. Alresford needed a reply to get through the last round against Fareham and in the round before that they shocked Wimborne Town of The Southern League.

Kick off in front of rural back drop
Alresford have an early half chance when the attacker is found in the box with a cross from the left wing but his header is straight at the Cadbury keeper. That is as good as it sadly got for Alresford in the first half. Another left wing cross, this time at the opposite end is headed onto the bar via the Alresford keeper and the rebound is turned in from close range. Cadbury soon double their lead when the forward is played in on goal and despite the Alresford keeper getting a strong touch on the ball it still finds the back of the net. The visitors come close to adding to their lead as a free kick from out wide goes just wide of the target. Alresford have another headed half chance to reduce the deficit but there is too much on the close range header. Cadbury do get the third as the striker is played in over the top and he lashes the ball in to seemingly settle the tie.

Moments before the first goal
Both sides have half chances at the start of the second half as Alresford try to get back in the game but neither keeper is seriously tested. Alresford get the early goal they need as a cross to the back post is headed in from close range to get them back into the tie. A free kick out wide provides Alresford with another chance and this time the header goes just wide of the target. Cadbury Heath are now defending with their lives against wave after wave of Alresford attacks. Despite all their possession, Alresford don't get any closer to Cadbury Heath, the closest they come is from a corner but the header doesn't worry the keeper and Heath progress to the next round. 

Cadbury Heath winger tries to get hold of the ball
As I mentioned earlier, the closest station to Alresford is Winchester. Trains here depart from Waterloo, taking about an hour or so. Then if you walk through the town centre to the bus station you can catch 64 bus to the centre of Alresford with this portion of the trip taking twenty minutes. I can imagine Alresford would be even more attractive on a Summers day with the Watercress Line Station and waterside walks. The Globe has a good beer garden which looks out on The Old Alresford Pond. Just up the road is The Horse And Groom which had a decent selections of ales on hand pull. The Swan Hotel is the place to go if you want to watch the early kick off. The ground is then a five minute walk from The High Street. The clubhouse offers elevated views of the pitch and also had a couple of ales on which makes a pleasant change. For the trip back, Dave's Fish and Chips is hard to turn down as it's located right next to the bus stop.




The Cadbury Heath players celebrate in front of the stand


Monday, 12 September 2016

Thrilling Start To Vase - Westbury United vs. Folland Sports

White Horse overlooking Meadow Lane
We are well and truly in the middle of cup season as last weekend saw the start of The FA Vase. I had initially planned to watch Risborough Rangers but after seeing that it would be raining for most of the afternoon, I decided to head further west and catch Westbury United's home time with Folland Sports. This match pitted Western against Wessex League with both sides in Division One of their respective competitions. I'd visited Follands Park to see Folland play Hordean back when they were in The Premier Division. The stand out feature of Follands Park is the jet plane in one corner of the ground which a nod to their connections with the aerospace plant next door. They hadn't had the best starts to the season and sat second bottom without a league win this season. Westbury had faired better and sat in seventh position although their goal difference is heavily skewed by a nine nil loss to Hengrove Athletic.

Start of the 2016-17 FA Vase
The game has a frantic start - something that would continue throughout the afternoon. After the referee played a good advantage, the Folland midfielder is allowed to come forward with the ball and he plants a perfectly placed shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area to give the visitors the lead. Westbury are almost immediately gifted an equaliser when the Folland keeper flaps at a free kick into the area but he is relived to see the ball cleared off the line. Folland then are played in on goal by a misplaced Westbury pass which is not punished as the shot is put wide of the target. It is then Westbury's turn to get in on goal and some great defending sees both attempts on goal blocked. Westbury think they have the equaliser as the rebound is put in the net after a shot is saved but the forward is denied by the linesman's flag. Folland have the last significant chance of the half when the Westbury keeper does well to just tip over a shot from the edge of the box.

Folland defend a first half attack
The second half continues to be end to end as Folland are almost played in via a great cross field pass but the forward just can't control it. Westbury's first attempt of the half is a shot on the turn from outside the box that the Folland keeper does well to tip over. Folland then have a fantastic effort to make it two nil as a cross from the left finds the forward all alone in front of the goal and the Westbury keeper makes a stunning point blank block to keep his side in touching distance. It is then the Folland keeper's turn make an incredible save as the winger is played in but he is left aghast as the goalie makes a fantastic save. Westbury get the equaliser as a corner is floated to the back post and the Westbury player heads it back across goal and into the opposite top corner. Westbury now go all out attack and the Folland keeper does well to punch clear a heavily deflected cross. It has been a thrilling cup tie so far and it is a shame it is settled by a very generous looking penalty. The Westbury winger gets beyond the full back and the referee judges that he has been brought down and the resulting penalty finds the bottom corner despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball. Folland come close to getting a late equaliser in the final moments but the Westbury keeper makes a good low save at his near post to take his side into the next round.   

The equaliser finds the net
Westbury is fairly easy to get to from London. If you are lucky you can catch one of the infrequent direct trains from Paddington. Failing that you take a train to Bath also from Paddington and change there for a train to Westbury. The journey takes either an hour and a half or just over two hours. Meadow Lane is then about a fifteen minute walk from the station. Westbury had a good variety of pubs. If you want to catch the early kick off (it was The Manchester Derby when I was there) then The Angel and The Ludow Arms are perfect venues to do this. However, if you fancy a more homely, ale serving pub then The Crown Inn is the place to go. The clubhouse at the ground had the usual selection of drinks as well as Sky Sports on a projector screen. As you can see in the first picture, you can see the white horse from the ground and the club was extremely welcoming - a brilliant day out.




View up the touchline to the terrace in the corner


Monday, 5 September 2016

Sheffield's Cup Hopes Washed Away - Sheffield vs. Farsley Celtic

View towards covered accommodation at The Coach and Horses Ground
It was FA Cup weekend again and for this round I arranged to meet my Dad half way between London and Scunthorpe and the tie that provided the best way of doing this was Sheffield's tie with Farsley Celtic. Sheffield don't play in the Steel City itself and play in Dronfield which is just inside Derbyshire. I'd been to Dronfield previously for the multi venue beer festival and I was suitably impressed by the town and its hostelries to chose Dronfield as a meet up. Both sides play in The Northern League with Sheffield in The Southern section with the visitors in The Northern section. The two teams have had very different starts however. Sheffield have lost all four of their league games so far while Farsley have won three and drawn one so far. Sheffield have been suffering a bit of an injury crisis, with up to ten players missing for today's cup tie.   

Kick off at The Coach and Horses
As you can tell from the pictures, the match started in torrential rain and this limited my note taking and so the report is briefer than it normally would be. Farsley dominate from the off and the game never looks like going against form. The visitor come close to taking an early lead when the forward is played in on goal and the Sheffield keeper makes a good save with his legs. They do take the lead when the Farsley midfielder is able to drive from midfield and he slots in the attacker who slots the ball home from inside the area.

Sheffield look for a late consolation in front of the seats
While Farsley continue to dominate in the second half, Sheffield do have more of the ball in the Farsley half and do create a couple of half chances. It is however the away side who double their lead from the penalty spot after the Farsley player is tripped in the box. As the rain eases, the game opens up but it isn't until the final ten minutes that Farsley get the third goal with the attacker tapping in from close range.

Sheffield play the ball up the wing in front of the stand
Dronfield is easy enough to get to from London. You have to take a train from St Pancras to Chesterfield and change there for the train to Dronfield and the trip takes just over two hours. Again the heavy rain limited our enthusiasm for walking about the town sampling the many pubs. Luckily The Dronfield Arms around the corner from the station has an excellent selection of ales as well as a great choice of bottled beers. From here the ground is about a twenty five minute uphill walk but a taxi only costs four pounds. There is no clubhouse inside the ground with The Coach and Horses a short walk from the turnstiles providing refreshment with there being a wide selection of locally brewed Thornbridge Ales on tap. Despite the lousy weather I really enjoyed my visit to the world's oldest football club. For dinner we opted for The Village Fisheries which really did the job.

Fantastic programme for the long trip home





First scoreboard of the season

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Annual Bank Holiday Kent Trip - Snodland Town vs. Eltham Palace

Rolling Kent hills in the background at Potyn's
It seems pretty much every bank holiday I travel to Kent for a game. In recent times I've visited APM Contrast, Crockenhill, Sheppy United and Eltham Palace. I was seeing Eltham Palace again this bank holiday as they head to new boys Snodland Town. This is Snodland's first season at this level following their promotion from The Kent County League last season. They'd made an OK start to the season, winning two and losing two of their first four games. Today's visitors had won one, drawn two and lost three so far this campaign. Eltham Palace were the first side I visited in The Kent Invicita League when they hosted Bridon Ropes. The Kent Invicita League is now Division One of The Southern Counties East League which is the competition of today's game.

Kick off in front of the stand
In the early stages of the match, Snodland have a lot of the ball but they fail to create anything. They are almost played in but the defender gets across at the last moment to get a vital foot in. It the visitors who have the first real chance when the Snodland defence struggle to clear a free kick and luckily the second shot is straight at the keeper and he is able to clear the danger. Then Snodland have a fantastic chance as the forward is found completely free in the box with a cross but he some how heads the ball over from close range. The winger is played in via a brilliant diagonal ball shortly afterwards but his weak fails to seriously challenge the keeper. Close to half time and another guilt edged chance is wasted. The Eltham Palace forward is found all alone at the back post but he also misses the target from close range. Right before half time a chance is finally put away by the home side but all I can tell you about is that the home fans cheered so loud I could hear it in the clubhouse.

One of the Snodland first half chances
Snodland come close to doubling their lead at the start of the second half as the attacker is found with a touch back from the centre forward and the Eltham Palace keeper makes a good low save. Eltham Palace then should really equalise when the ball is squared to the man in space just outside the six yard and he somehow puts the ball into the hedges behind the goal. From the resulting goal kick a dangerous cross is put just wide of his own by a Eltham Palace defender. When Snodland get the second goal it is an absolute screamer - he beats the defender in the air and then beats another man before putting the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. They make sure of the three points when the midfielder controls the long ball forward and then plays in the forward over the top and he lashes the ball home. Eltham Palace still continue to push forward and it takes a great save with the keepers legs to stop them getting a consolation goal.

First half match action
One of the main reasons I chose Snodland was how quickly it is to reach from London. To get there you can take 'the high speed train' from St Pancras to Strood and change there for a train to Snodland with the journey taking under fifty minutes. There are two pubs I saw in Snodland. The first one is The Freemasons Arms on the southern edge of the town and this had the sports channels as well as a decent beer garden if the weather is decent. There were also a couple of ales. Then just down the road from the ground is The Monk's Head which is perfect for a pre match drink and also had the sports channels. The ground is an easy ten / fifteen minute walk from the station. The clubhouse is outside of the ground and had the usual drinks on offer. It looks the club are making real strides with the ground and they host a Maidstone United XI in the middle of next month for the switch on of their floodlights. A club really worth visiting.




One last shot of the stand


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Wood March On In Cup - Colliers Wood United vs. Banstead Athletic

Team with its own bus stop
After not going to a mid week game for ages, I went to one on consecutive weeks. Last Tuesday I saw Scunthorpe at Wimbledon where The Iron continued their good start to the season. Last night I went to Wibbandune for The FA Cup replay between Colliers Wood United and Banstead Athletic. The first game ended 3-3 and so there was a hope for goals. Also with Colliers Wood being bottom of The Premier Division of The CCL without a league win and Banstead having won both of their league games in Division One there was a potential for a shock. The shock never came with Colliers Wood winning 3-0 although Banstead were more in the game than the scoreline suggests.  






The usual excellent welcome was experienced at Wibbandune as well as the tasty rolls from behind the bar. I took the usual route of walking from Raynes Park and popping in The Cavern which has an excellent selection of beers as well as an awesome jukebox. All in all a great evening and I fully recommend a trip to Wibbandune.

The heavens open in the second half
 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Broadening My Horizons - Norwich United vs. Histon

Covered accommodation at Plantation Park
It was FA Cup weekend once again and this weekend I ticked off a ground I've had an eye on for a long time. I'd always been put off by the long train trip to Norwich and then a reasonable bus journey (I'm aware I've posted about visiting Dereham before) but a bit more research should there was a better way to get there. So I finally made it to Plantation Park for Norwich United against Histon in The Preliminary Round of The FA Cup. This is Norwich's first season in The Ryman League having won the Eastern Counties League last season and they had won both their games at their new level. This was also Histon's first season back at step 4 following their relegation from The Southern Premier League. Histon will always be remembered for beating Leeds United in the FA Cup some seasons ago.

The start of Norwich and Histon's FA Cup journey
Norwich win an early free kick from wide and from this set piece, they take the lead. Under pressure from the Norwich attackers, the Histon player powers a header past his own keeper to gift the home side the lead. Norwich look to increase their advantage, but they can't find the final ball at critical moments in attacks. The closest they come to extending their lead is when a close range header is blocked on the line. Histon take the lead with their first significant attack as the midfielder is allowed to run forward and he plays in the forward who gets the equaliser. The visitors then take the lead when Norwich don't fully clear a corner and the attacker hacks the ball in from close range.

Norwich attack the clubhouse end in the first half
Norwich have a couple of corners at the start of the second half as they look to pull level but these come to nothing. They come closer with a free kick from out wide which manages to elude everyone. Norwich continue to do much of the pressing and the Histon keeper does well to get a vital touch on a cross which takes it away from the advancing Norwich players and out for a corner. The final clear cut chance for an equaliser comes when the forward is found in space at the back post but the header goes over the bar and Histon seal progression to the next round.

Norwich look for a second half equaliser
As I suggested earlier, one way to get to Plantation Park is catch a train to Norwich and then catch a bus to Blofield. A much easier way is if you catch a train to Brundall and walk the rest of the way. To get a train to Brundall you have to take a train to Norwich from Liverpool Street and change there for the short train to Brundall. The journey takes just over two hours. Right next to Brundall Station is The Yare which is next to the river and had a good selection of beers. Blofield is then a steady twenty minute walk away. In the village itself is The Kings Head which has the sports channels for the early kick offs. The clubhouse at the ground offers elevated views of the pitch and had the usual selection of beers. The burgers from under the bar are worth trying out too.




More match action from the clubhouse end