Monday, 21 January 2019

Hosts Roar Back - London Lions vs. Brimsdown

Brimsdown under pressure in the first half
Work commitments in East London meant my options were pretty limited this weekend. Considering I was working in Waltham Forest, my first hope was Frenford Senior but they were away and I was tempted by Clapton but in the end I made the trip across North London to London Lions. They play in Division One of The Spartan South Midlands League and today they were playing Brimsdown. Brimsdown currently ground share at Ware but at their old ground on Goldsdown Road, I saw the best match I've ever seen live when Enfield Town defeated Aveley 7-4 in torrential rain. London Lions themselves have ground shared numerous times but are now back at their impressive Rowley Lane headquarters. Both sides found themselves in the bottom half and were both looking to get closer to midtable. 

Kick off in the drizzle at Rowley Lane
London Lions have a lot of the ball early and they are given a helping hand with the opening goal. A weak shot from the edge of the area should be straight forward for the Brimsdown keeper but he lets the ball go through him for the opening goal. London Lions have a lot of the ball in around the Brimsdown area without creating any real chances and they are made to pay for their lack of ruthlessness. The Brimsdown attacker is allowed too much space on the edge of the area which allows him to rifle a shot past the London Lions goalie. The visitors complete the turnaround as the Brimsdown forward gets in on goal before a deflection takes his shot past the keeper. London Lions have a chance to equalise in the last minute of the half but the Brimsdown keeper redeems himself making a good save from a well hit shot.

Equaliser for Brimsdown at the clubhouse end
There is drama at the start of the second half when the hosts are awarded a penalty. The offending Brimsdown player receives his second yellow and the Brimsdown keeper ameliorates the situation, making a decent save from the spot kick. That is however as good as it gets for the away side as London Lions score three unanswered goals from some good passing football to seal the 4-2 win (it was very cold at this point, hence the lack of notes!).

London Lions pushing forward
So to get to Rowley Lane from Whipps Cross takes two tubes, a train, a bus and a walk but from Central London it is a bit more straight forward. The closest underground station is High Barnet which is twenty minutes or so from town. Then from across the road from the station you can take the 107 bus to Glebe Lane and the ground is a fifteen minute walk up Rowley Lane itself. If you have time, I recommend getting to Barnet earlier for a visit to Ye Olde Mitre Inne which had an excellent selection of ales and general beers. The clubhouse at the ground was very friendly and considering the time of year, the pitch was in fantastic shape. A great afternoon in extreme North London.

Closer shot of the stand at Rowley Lane

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Shrimpers Continue Winning Run - Harwich And Parkeston vs. May And Baker

View from the terrace at The Royal Oak
Ever since Harwich and Parkeston made their return to senior football I've been wanting to visit but things such as engineering works, social engagements and mother's birthdays have prevented me from visiting and this weekend I final made it to The Royal Oak. I knew what to expect from all the pictures and the latest Groundtastic and it certainly didn't disappoint. Harwich and Parkeston's opponents were May and Baker who themselves were also in their first season in The Eastern Counties Division One South and both sides had acquitted themselves well finding themselves sitting in fourth and fifth position respectively.  Harwich had won the last ten games in a row while May and Baker were also on a good run themselves so it promised to be a good game.

Kick off at the Royal Oak
In watching the game and taking the ground in, my notes for this game were rather sparse. Harwich think they should have a penalty in the first half when the forward appears to be fouled right in front of the linesman but nothing is given. The winning goal for Harwich comes when the attacker controls the ball and lays it off for his team who slots it past the keeper. There's a lot of huff and puff in the second half without too many clear cut chances as Harwich get their eleventh win in a row.

Harwich defending in the second half
The closest station to The Royal Oak is Dovercourt but I stayed onto Harwich Town to have a look around first. Whatever you elect to do you first need to take a train to Manningtree from Liverpool Street and change there for the train onto Harwich Town and the whole trip takes around an hour and a half. If you want a drink beforehand I recommend staying on to Harwich Town as there is a better selection of pubs. The pub I visited The Hanover Inn which had a roaring fire and had a selection of ales. The pubs in Dovercourt, The Kings Arms and The Royal Oak were OK but the drinks choice weren't the best. So as you can tell from the pictures, the ground really is a cracker and worth the trip out to Essex is more than worth it and you are guaranteed a great welcome.

Dugout side of the ground

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Purps Navigate Tricky Course To Summit - AFC Stoneham vs. Andover Town

Foul in front of the stand and committee room at The HP Arena
AFC Stoneham is another ground where this season I've been thwarted by engineering works and striking guards but this weekend provided a reasonably clear window to travel to Eastleigh and finally visit AFC Stoneham. As a geography graduate, I'd always have an interest in AFC Stoneham with their previous close links to Ordnance Survey. Today they were at home to Andover who I saw last season when they top of The Premier Division of The Wessex League. Due to events in the summer, they were now in Division One and found themselves up against the team sat in second and who also hadn't lost in the league all season. In the opening weekend of the season, AFC Stoneham won the reverse fixture 10-1 so the visitors were hoping for a much closer game.

Kick off at The HP Arena
After a change of kits - it seemingly only became apparent that dark blue and purple would be a colour clash once the teams were out on the pitch - Stoneham forced a bit of a scramble that required several close range blocks to prevent the opening goal. The first goal comes from a corner which the forward is able to stroke in from close range. Stoneham continue to press but the Andover defenders are constantly able to put their bodies on the line to prevent a second goal. Even when the defenders aren't able to block the ball, the keeper is able to pull to off a great save when the forward gets in on goal. Andover have a spell of pressure at the end of the half and the attacker should do better when in on goal than putting the ball high and wide. They get the equaliser their pressure deserves as the forward gets the ball on the edge of the box before placing a brilliant shot past the diving Stoneham keeper.

One nil Stoneham
Stoneham come close when they try to recycle a ball back into the box but the Andover defence are able to clear the danger. Andover have a great chance to take the lead but the free header somehow goes wide of the target. Stoneham are having a lot of the ball in and around the box and over and over again, the Andover defence stand tall. The visitors come close again in a see saw second half as a ball flashes across goal without anyone getting the vital touch. The Andover keeper then makes a great save to tip the ball over the bar from a shot from outside the area. He is powerless however in the closing stages as Stoneham score from a free kick to seal the points and move to the top of the table.

The Andover keeper punches the ball clear
The train from Waterloo to Eastleigh takes just under an hour and a half and once you get there, there is only place to head to. The Steam Town Brew Co, opened last year and has a selection of it's own beers as well as a broad general selection of other beers and is an early contender for pub of the year. From just across the road you can take the number 2 bus to right outside the ground. If you're still thirsty then The Cricketers has a couple of ales and will be the last drink of the afternoon as there is currently no bar at the ground. The welcome at the ground couldn't be faulted and the programme is a great effort. Glad to finally have ticked off The HP Arena!

Match action in front of the brutalist fencing

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Derby Day Doesn't Bloom For Tulips - Spalding United vs. Wisbech Town

Main stand at The Sir Halley Stewart Fields
 As has been noted elsewhere, the choice of games on New Years Day gets smaller every year and for a long time I was thinking of Gloucester against Weston Super Mare but then by chance I saw Spalding United were at home. I'd always been put off by the irregular train service to Spalding but the New Years Day trains looked OK and I was all set. There opponents in this Northern Premier League Division One East match were Wisbech Town. Last season I saw the reverse of this fixture over in Cambridgeshire in the FA Cup last season, with then lower league Wisbech winning after a replay. I remembered the first game being a good derby game with a healthy crowd. In their first season back at this level, Wisbech were second from bottom but within touching distance and with games in hand on the teams above them.

Kick off at The Sir Halley Stewart
Wisbech take the lead when a corner isn't fully cleared and the forward is allowed to turn and angle a shot past the Spalding keeper. Spalding come close to equalising as the forward just beats the keeper to a long ball but he sees his shot come off the post before the ball is hacked away to safety. They come close again when the forward is again first to ball, this time his effort goes wide of the target. Spalding get the equaliser they deserve from the penalty spot as the forward gets in between the Wisbech defender and the ball and although it looked generous, Spalding didn't care as they went in level.

Wisbech attacking the clubhouse end
The second half has a scrappy start with a Spalding free kick going just wide being the highlight. Wisbech retake the lead as following a ball in, it gets stuck under the defender's feet who ends up scoring an own goal. The visitors now go for the kill as the Spalding keeper is forced into a save after the Wisbech forward powers through before a cross shortly afterwards is well blocked by the Spalding defence. The visitors see out the rest of the game to claim a big three points.

Wisbech coming close in the second half
To get to deepest South Lincolnshire, you first need to take a train to Peterborough from Kings Cross with the quick ones taking forty five minutes. Then you can take the train for one stop on to Spalding. The changes don't work out too great on the way out and you could end up waiting nearly forty minutes. I was pretty annoyed that my first choice pub, The Priors Oven was shut but it just meant I went on to the previously unconsidered The White Horse. Which turned out to be a very good thing, this is an excellent Sam Smith's pub in a cracking old building. If that's not your thing then The Pied Calf has the early kick off along with a decent choice of beers. The ground really makes the trip worthwhile. A short walk from the town centre with it's great stand in the shadow of The Chatterton Water Tower it really is a cracker. The clubhouse had a wider selection than usual of drinks as well as the sports channels. The programme was also excellent with a lot of reading. A great way to start the year!

One final shot of the stand and the tower

Monday, 31 December 2018

Diamonds Wade Through To The End - AFC Rushden and Diamonds vs. Biggleswade Town

There was a big crowd for this top of the table clash
As I'm back down in London I'm now back at the mercy of public transport. After much deliberation and changing my mind I eventually settled on the fourth versus fifth clash in The Southern Premier League Central between AFC Rushden and Diamonds and Biggleswade Town. My first memory of Rushden and Diamonds was when they beat Scunthorpe in The FA Cup while they were still in The Conference and relativity more recently I saw them come back to draw 3-3 at Hayes and Yeading's old ground. I've visited Langford Road again a little while ago when they played Berkhampsted in The South Midlands League and I think Berkhampsted disappeared the week afterwards. Today's game promised to be a cracker and Biggleswade were looking to complete the double having won the first match up one nil.

Waiting for the linesman to clear off
In a quiet first half, it is Biggleswade who have the only chances of note. firstly they have a half volley that is straight at the keeper before a free kick from distance goes wide of the target. Hopefully the second half would provide more entertainment.

Biggleswade keeper claims a cross
Biggleswade take the lead when a defensive slip lets the forward in on goal and he doesn't waste the chance to make it one nil. Rushden now have a spell of pressure with a last ditch block preventing a shot on goal. They get the equaliser when a cross from the left is put in to the net at the back post. You sense that Rushden now have the momentum but things don't pan out that way. The Biggleswade defender is tripped in the box and the penalty is buried to restore Biggleswade's lead. Things get even better for the visitors when the attacker smashes a shot from distance past the Rushden keeper to establish a two goal lead with ten minutes to go. The home side are given a glimmer of hope when they are awarded a penalty of their own for a high boot which also sees the Biggleswade player receive a second yellow. The resulting spot kick is dispatched and Rushden have two minutes to find an equaliser. And they find it from a third penalty deep in injury time which is again put past the keeper to claim an unlikely draw.

Rushden attacking in the second half
So for my first trip not in a car for a couple of weeks, I first took a train from St Pancras to Kettering which takes around an hour. Then from the town centre I took the 49 into Rushden and this section takes forty minutes or so. The stand out pub in Rushden is the brilliant Hopmaster General which had an amazing selection of beers on draft as well as a large section of bottles and cans. If you just want to watch the early game then The Rose and Crown is a good spot. The ground is then less than ten minutes from the town centre. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and also had BT Sports. I liked Hayden Road and hopefully they do something to get the main stand back in use.

Tree line side of Hayden Road

Friday, 28 December 2018

From Glanford Park To Here - North Ferriby United vs. Hednesford Town

Hednesford going forward with The Humber Bridge in the distance
For my 500th ground we made the short trip over the Humber Bridge for North Ferriby United against Hednesford Town in The Northern Premier Division. My first ever ground was Glanford Park (thankfully it was only uphill from there) for a match with Scarborough which they won 3-1. It's been a great endeavour visiting new places and seeing the great variety of grounds, food, etc across the country and beyond. For today's match North Ferriby found themselves at the bottom of the table, eight points from safety. Things were also going badly for the visitors who had lost their last four league games.

Kick off at Grange Road
Hednesford start by having a lot of the ball but the nearest they come early on is when a good cross is blocked before getting in to the danger zone. North Ferriby are then played in on goal following a good passage of play but the player loses their footing at the vital moment. They come close again as the attacker is able to flick the ball on target as a result of a decent lofted ball, forcing the keeper in to a good save. The visitors take the lead just before half time when the ball hits the woodwork and the referee says the ball has crossed the line and Hednesford go in one up.

Hednesford attacking the allotment end
At the start of the second half, there is a big let off for North Ferriby when a header from a good cross hits the post and goes out to safety. North Ferriby then begin their best period of the match, putting the visitors under sustained pressure. They look a lot more confident and when the forward gets in behind the defence he maybe takes just too long, allowing the defender to get a block in. They are given a away back in to the match as the Hednesford player blocks a powerful shot from the edge of the box his hand and the penalty is buried to level the match. A couple of balls fall to North Ferriby players on the edge of the box but every time the shots miss the target. It then looks they'll be punished for missing these chances when Hednesford are awarded a penalty for a clumsy challenge in the box. However, the North Ferriby  goalie pulls off a fantastic save low to his right to keep the scores level. The game does not sadly finish that way. In the final minute of injury, the Hednesford player gets past the full back and his cross is forced in at the back post to give The Pitmen the win.

North Ferriby sight of goal in the first half
As with the other two games up north this Christmas, it is pretty easy to get to North Ferriby from London. The first leg is a train to Doncaster from Kings Cross and from there you can take the train to Ferriby. Assuming there are no strikes from Northern staff (like the last twenty weekends) then journey takes just under three hours and the ground is just round the corner. Another option would be to go direct to Hull and catch a bus. If you are driving then it is street parking only. Before the game we visited The Duke of Cumberland which had a choice of ales as well as the sports channels. The clubhouse had limited choice of drinks but still provided welcome shelter from the cold and everyone in the village as well as the club were very friendly. On to the next five hundred!

Action in front of the clubhouse

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Hosts Quieten Din - Collingham vs. Dinnington Town

Big Dinnington tackle in front of the clubhouse at Station Road
For the second game of my stretch up north, we ventured into the Central Midlands League for Collingham against Dinnington Town. I'd been to two other venues in this league and they were both great grounds. Thorne Colliery especially with its imposing main stand is a must see ground. The other ground was Appleby Frodingham which has one of the most impressive clubhouses I've seen at any ground at any level. I have also been to Askern and Retford United but this was then they were both at a higher level. Today's game saw third against seventh and with Collingham having only lost twice in the league this season it looked like a home win was most likely.

Kick off at Station Road
And so it looked like it would be early on, Collingham having an early free kick out on the right that the visiting defence dealt with. However, it soon became apparent that Dinnington were well up for the game. They come very close to the opener as a header from a free kick glances just wide. It is then Collingham's turn to come close when the forward gets in out wide but he passes his effort wide of the far post. The Dinnington centre midfielder decides he is going to take on the whole Collingham side himself, powering through numerous attempts to stop him in his tracks before the Collingham keeper saves his effort. In the closing stages of the half, Collingham start to dominate proceedings. Firstly a shot from outside the box hits the outside of the post before no one get a telling touch on a ball across the six yard box. Collingham do take the lead late on when a free kick from the right flank is flicked on to the player at the back post who hammers a shot into the back of the net.

Collingham corner as the sun begins to go down
Dinnington get to the Collingham  byline in the early stages of the half but when they fail to get a shot in, Collingham break and when the forward is played in, he lofts the ball over the advancing keeper to make it two nil. Collingham now look to finish the game and the Dinnington keeper makes a great save to keep his side in it. Collingham almost gift Dinnington a way back in to the game when a Collingham defender sticks his leg out to try and block a cross forcing the Collingham keeper in to a brilliant point blank save. The hosts do get the third goal with a close range finish which is harsh on Dinnington.

Collingham attacking in the second half
If you're lucky with the connections, you can be in Collingham around two hours after departing London. Firstly you need to take a train to Newark Northgate from Kings Cross and then get the second train for one stop to Collingham. The ground is then a five minute walk up the road. If you have time, The Grey Horse with it's four ales on handpull is well worth visiting. Although do note that the location on Google Maps is incorrect and the pub is located on the northern end of the village. As we were driving, we were able to stop in nearby Swinderby to briefly visit The Plough which had a couple of ales as well as the sports channels. If you don't have time to visit these pubs, the clubhouse more than makes up for it. It had a couple of ales including one from the local Beer Mat brewery which went down very well. Another brilliant tick in The Central Midlands League especially with entrance and programme coming to four pounds. 

Dusk at Station Road