Sunday, 25 January 2015

Last Minute Goal Wins It For Blues - Rustington vs. Westfield

Winter sun at The Recreation Ground
This Saturday I was most of the way to Arundel for their home game against Lancing when I saw on Twitter that the game had been postponed. Fortunately I had a couple of back up games in The Sussex League and the easiest one to get to was Rustington's home match against Westfield in Division Two of The Sussex County League. I had been to Angmering before when I saw East Preston play Ringmer in an all Sussex League FA Cup tie several seasons ago. More recently, I visited Westfield's Parish Field for the final of The Hastings FA Senior Cup Final versus Sidley United. Back to today's game and both sides were in the bottom half of the table and looking for three points to pull away from the bottom of the table.   

Kick off at The Recreation Ground
Rustington monopolise possession at the start of the game but they fail to create anything of note. The first half chance of the game comes when the Westfield forward almost battles through but he is tackled at the last moment. The two defences then try to gift the other side the lead. Firstly, the Westfield keeper spills a shot in the area and after that a poor back pass by the Rustington defender almost plays the Westfield forward in but the keeper is quick off his line to save the defender's blushes. It is then the Rustington keeper's turn to spill the ball in his area and luckily for him, the Westfield forward isn't looking at the play. Rustington then begin to get on top and a brilliant cross in to the area eludes everyone. The Westfield centre back puts his body on the line to block a vicious drive in the area. Mid way through the half, the hosts take the lead. The Rustington forward finds the ball at his feet in the area and he glides past a couple of challenges before slotting the ball home. Both sides then have free kicks from just outside of the area, both of which are wasted. In the closing stages of the half, Westfield should equalise. The ball is headed back across goal and the free header is put well wide. 

High Westfield ball in with the clubhouse in the background
Right at the start of the second half, Westfield do equalise. A free kick from out wide finds it's way to the back post where it is headed home by the Westfield centre back. Rustington then go on the offensive to retake the lead. A cross field ball from the left side plays the forward in and it takes a brilliant low, one handed save from the Westfield keeper to keep his side level. Rustington then have another chance but the forward doesn't connect after turning his marker. The Westfield midfielder goes on a mazy run into the Rustington area and after doing all the hard work, he blazes the effort high and wide. Rustington again get in following a cross field pass but after beating the keeper to the ball, the forward takes too long and the eventual cross is a poor one. Rustington then have another good spell of attacking play, the highlight being a header from a corner which draws a fantastic low save. Westfield manage to break the spell of Rustington attacks and win a free kick on the edge of the area which requires a fantastic save from the keeper to keep it level. Rustington then get the last minute winner. Westfield are again caught out by the diagonal ball and the forward again beats the goalie to the ball and this time he is able to but the ball in to the back of the net to seal the win. 

Westfield defending in the first half
As I alluded to earlier, the nearest station to the ground is Angmering. Trains to Angmering depart from Victoria and the journey takes an hour and a half. The ground is then a twenty five minute walk around the houses away from the station. If I had been in less of a rush, I would have gone in to East Preston as there is an excellent chip shop by the beach. Five minutes away from the ground is The Windmill Inn which had BT Sports and a couple of ales on. The clubhouse was great and very friendly. The programme was great. The club produce one every month covering all the month's home games. As this was the only game of the month, it was Decembers issue with a paper insert but it was still full of great reading.

The car park side of the ground

Friday, 23 January 2015

Grantham Town Update

In the original Grantham Town post, I said there was a mix up with the printers and so there were no programmes on the day. Shortly afterwards I saw on the Grantham Town Twitter account that programmes were available at the home game versus Kings Lynn or via post and via the Chief Executive I received one promptly and so I thank Keith and wish The Gingerbreads all the best for the rest of the season. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Town Down Sudbury - Downham Town vs. AFC Sudbury Reserves

Sun through the trees at Memorial Field
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about missing out on a game at Downham Town, well the weekend just gone, I made up for that misjudgement. Town were at home to AFC Sudbury Reserves in The Eastern Counties League First Division. This was not my first time of seeing a first team against a reserve team. A couple of seasons ago I saw New Bradwell St Peter host Chesham United Reserves in The Spartan South Midlands League Division One match. Going even further back, one of my first ever games was between Scunthorpe United Reserves and Bradford City Reserves (I think) at Quibell Park, where the stand has now been demolished. Downham were looking to avenge a four nil defeat earlier in the season at The Wardale Williams Stadium back in October. I had visited this ground for a Ryman League fixture against Chatham Town in what was my first venture into East Anglia for a game.

Pre game coin toss at The Memorial Field
Both sides win early free kicks in decent positions but neither set piece seriously troubles the defences. Downham take the lead around mid way through the half when the Downham forward is first to the loose ball and he powers through the tackles and slots the ball home past the Sudbury keeper. The home side double their lead shortly afterwards when the ball is headed home powerfully from a corner kick. Sudbury then break quickly as they look to get back into the game but the final effort is dragged wide of the target. The Downham player then wins the loose ball again and fortunately this time his cross come shot goes just wide of the post. The Sudbury keeper is then forced into a good save from a Downham free kick to keep his side in the game. Sudbury finish the half strongly and the forward should get more on his header from a promising cross. As the half draws to a close, the visitors are able to break out again but there is a similar outcome as the eventual effort is dragged wide.

2-0 Downham. The clubhouse is in the background to the right
Sudbury start where the left off in the second half and it takes a great tackle to prevent them being through on goal. The Sudbury right winger then does get through on goal but this time his shot is blocked. Sudbury get the early goal they are looking for when a long range shot leaves the Downham keeper wrong footed and flies into the back of the net. The visitors now push for the equaliser and they are left frustrated when there is no one there to put the finishing touch to a great ball in to the area. The Downham keeper then makes a fantastic save to preserve his sides lead as he makes a great low save from a close range header following a Sudbury free kick from out wide. Sudbury are going all out for an equaliser and as happens so many times, they are caught out on the break. The Downham players break out after a Sudbury attack and a good set of passes results in the ball being slid in at the back post. In the closing stages, Downham have a fourth ruled out for offside but they see out the remaining minutes to claim a 3-1 home win.

Sudbury winger attacks in the first half
Downham is easy to reach from London. Trains to Downham Market depart every half hour from Kings Cross and the journey takes an hour and a half. As the name suggests, Downham is a market town and there are a lot of independent shops in the centre which makes a change. Just away from the town centre is The Live and Let Live which is an excellent pub for watching the early kick off. For a relativity small place there a lot of hotels in Downham and you can pop in to a couple of the hotel bars on the way to the ground. The bar wasn't open when I got to the ground which left me a little concerned but when it did open it had the usual selection of drinks. On the way back to the ground I popped in to one of the many hotel bars - The Crown Hotel - which was needed to warm me up. At the station is The Railway Arms which doesn't open until six but is worth getting a later train for. Overall, I really enjoyed my trip to Downham, the town and the club were fantastic.

The open touchline side of the ground

Monday, 12 January 2015

Tudors March On In Trophy - Hemel Hempstead Town vs. Concord Rangers

Concord Rangers fans take their position in the first half
This weekend I had a choice between Hemel Hempstead versus Concord Rangers in The FA Trophy or Risborough Rangers against Welwyn Garden City in The Spartan South Midlands League. The prospects seemed better for Hemel so I headed up to Hertfordshire and my choice was vindicated when on the train, I saw on Twitter that the Risborough game was postponed. Both sides were in The Conference South and had meet once already at Vauxhall Road which ended in a 2-1 win for Concord Rangers. Both sides were in mid table and were only separated by three points in the league. I had seen a lot of Concord Rangers in the past and when I visited Thames Road it was in another FA Trophy tie against Harlow Town. On that day, Concord lost 3-2 after being two nil up at half and I was hoping for an equally exciting game this time round. 

Kick off at Vauxhall Road
The Hemel keeper is tested early on when the Hemel defence don't fully stop a Concord attack and he makes a great save from a stinging half volley. The save is followed by a succession of Concord corners which come to nothing. Hemel's first sight of goal comes as a great cross finds the Hemel player free at the back post but he is unable to keep his header down. The referee then almost sets up a Concord goal as he gets hit by the ball and Concord break forward. Luckily, the long range effort goes just wide. It is then Hemel's turn to have a low drilled effort saved as the Concord keeper makes his first real save of the match. Hemel now have a spell of pressure and the Concord defence is just about able to cut out the danger. The Concord defence is almost caught napping from a quick free kick but Hemel fail to take full advantage. Hemel take the lead when a ball to the back post is headed back across goal and the ball is scrambled in from close range. Neither side create any more chances and the home side go in to the break one up.

Long Hemel throw
Hemel have an early chance to increase their lead but the shot is dragged wide. They are made to rue that miss as Concord equalise shortly afterwards. In a near copy of the Hemel goal, a corner isn't fully cleared and when the ball is put back into the box, it is forced in from very close range. Hemel don't rue the earlier miss for long though. Straight from the restart, they break up field and the cross the ball for the Hemel player to head his side back into the lead! Concord believe they have a second equaliser but the goal from a corner is disallowed for pushing in the area. The Concord keeper then makes a great save from a powerful effort to keep his side in the tie. They have a better chance to extend their lead when the forward is played in, but the ball bobbles at the last minute and the chance is wasted. Concord almost gift Hemel a third as the full back is robbed close to goal and the keeper has to be alert to save his blushes. In the closing stages, Hemel do get the killer third goal. As Concord push forward for the equaliser, Hemel are able to break and the winger squares the ball to his unmarked team mate who makes no mistake.

First half action in front of the seated accommodation.
Hemel Hempstead is very easy to get to from London. Regular trains run from Euston and the journey takes about half an hour. Close to the station is The Post Office Arms which the best pub I visited in Hemel and in all honesty I should have had another drink there. The Swan was perfectly fine and had a good view down towards The River Bulbourne, but it was more of a gastropub. The walk to Vauxhall Road completely bypasses the town centre and so I didn't see too much of the town itself. The walk was one of the more punishing ones this season with a least a mile of the journey up a steep hill. It took close to forty five minutes and I saw several bus stops so I presume there is a bus from the station. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and had both Sky and BT Sports on the big screen. The soup from the burger was tasty and was essential in keeping warm in the strong wintry winds.  

Vauxhall Road at dusk

Monday, 5 January 2015

Sutton Remain At Summit - Sutton Coldfield Town vs. Stafford Rangers

The main stand at Coles Lane
For my last weekend before the dreaded return to work, I had planned a trip out to Norfolk for Downham Town's match with Great Yarmouth but I changed my mind once I saw the weather forecast. I of course should have stuck to my guns as the match was one of only four to survive in the two divisions of The Eastern Counties League. As the weather forecast looked grim all over the place, I decided to go for a team who I knew had a plastic pitch and went to watch Sutton Coldfield Town host Stafford Rangers in The Northern Premier League Southern Division. It promised to be a good match as Sutton Coldfield were top of the table and the visitors were in the final play off place. Sutton Coldfield need a win as Mickleover in second were only one point behind and had four games in hand. I had seen Sutton Coldfield a couple of years ago at Lincoln United in the same competition. Having gone to Keele University I had to give Stafford Rangers a bit of support. Although they didn't really need it as there was a sizeable contingent had made the trip to Warwickshire.

Kick off at Coles Park
Stafford begin the game on the front foot and they force a succession of corners which ultimately fail to trouble the home defence. Sutton Coldfield's first chance comes from a set piece when a header in the area goes just wide of the post. Their next chance comes when a shot from distance is defected just wide of the post. They come even closer as a free kick in to the area isn't dealt with and from the resulting shot the home side hit the post. Then following a midfield scrap, Stafford are able to break and the Sutton Coldfield keeper pulls off a decent save to prevent the visitors going ahead. The Sutton Coldfield goalie almost gifts Stafford a gift when he drops a free kick in the area but he is able to gather the ball at the second attempt. Stafford are finishing the half strongly and after a spot of head tennis in the area, a looping header is sent just over the bar. The final chance of the half is a Sutton Coldfield effort in the area which is put over the bar after a free kick in to the area.

Stafford attack in front of their travelling fans
Sutton Coldfield create a great chance early in the second when the forward is found by a precise ball in the box and the Stafford defender makes a great tackle to prevent him getting the shot away. The Stafford defence is breached shortly afterwards as the ball is pulled back to the forward and he powers the ball into the top corner to make it one nil to Sutton Coldfield. Sutton Coldfield have a good chance to get the ball into the area again straight away as the winger is played into a good position by a back heel but the Stafford keeper easily collects the cross. Stafford have a great chance to equalise as the forward is allowed to turn after a throw but his weak shot is comfortably dealt with. The game is now really opening up and Stafford have a lucky escape when a Sutton Coldfield free kick thunders against the bar. Stafford then have a good chance which sadly for them is dragged wide of the target. As Stafford flood forward looking for the equaliser, the home side are able to break and it takes a smart save at his near post by the Stafford keeper to keep his side in the game. In the closing stages, the Stafford winger puts a brilliant cross across the edge of the six yard box but no one can get the vital touch. Sutton Coldfield have a few chances in injury time but the final score is one nil to the hosts. 

Sutton Coldfield attack the clubhouse end in the first half.
To get to Sutton Coldfield from London, you have to get a train from Euston to Birmingham New Street and change there for a local train to Sutton Coldfield. The journey takes just over two hours. I was lucky get a return for twenty pounds the day before and I would recommend trying to get tickets in advance as I would imagine they would be fairly expensive on the day. Coles Lane is then a steady twenty minute walk from the train station. About half way in between the station and the ground is The Duke which was very friendly and had several ales on. The clubhouse is well worth a visit before a game. They also had a couple of ales on tap including the club's own ale and a larger. While I was waiting for the train back in to Birmingham, I popped in to The Station which is perfectly situated for a beer while you are waiting for your train.

Covered standing next to the clubhouse

Friday, 2 January 2015

Wind Assisted Draw - Grantham Town vs. Frickley Athletic

Pitchside view at The South Kesteven Stadium
I was in Sheffield for New Years Eve and had planned to break up the return journey by taking in Long Eaton vs Basford United in The Midlands League but sadly the top of the table clash was postponed due to snow. A quick glance on Twitter showed that there were no pitch issues at Grantham Town for their home clash against Frickley Athletic in The Northern Premier League and it was fairly easy journey so I set off for Lincolnshire. I had visited Grantham last season to see United Counties League side Harrowby United host Eynesbury Rovers in another top of the table clash. The two side needed points for different reasons - Grantham were just outside of the play offs while Frickley were sat just outside of the relegation zone. Grantham had won the reverse fixture 4-2 at Westfield Lane back in August.

Kick off at The South Kesteven Stadium
The wind is extremely strong at kick off and when the keeper was practising goal kicks in to the wind, the ball didn't go past the half way line. This is further highlighted when the Frickley defence struggle with a free kick in to the area but they regain their composure to clear the danger. The Grantham forward is then almost played in but the ball is just too heavy. Frickey's first chance comes following a break and the Grantham keeper is forced in to a good low save and the rebound is then wasted. The visitors come close again as the forward gets in to the area by the touchline but he pokes wide from close range. Grantham use the strong wind to their advantage with a corner and the Frickley defender has to head the ball over his own bar. The last effort of note in the first half is a dipping Grantham shot from just outside the area which just goes over the bar.

Frickley attack in the first half
In the opening stages of the second half, Grantham manage to get a couple of crosses in to the area but neither seriously trouble the Frickley defence. Then the Frickley forward finds the ball at his feet following a free kick in to the area and unfortunately the ball gets stuck under his feet. Frickley take the lead as the left winger twists and turns by the touchline and he delivers a fantastic cross which is headed home from close range. Grantham almost equalise straight away but the shot is blocked by the Frickley defender. They do get an equaliser when the Frickley keeper makes a great save from an effort inside the area but the ball is not fully cleared and the Grantham forward is able to smash the ball in to the top corner. Grantham have a lucky escape when a free kick from out wide is allowed to bounce in the area and the keeper is alert to make a good save. In injury time Frickley almost win it but the forward can not get enough on a chance from a corner. Grantham then break and the Frickley keeper has to make another great save to win his side a point.

Another view of the main stand
Trains to Grantham depart on a regular basis from Kings Cross and the journey takes around an hour. Tickets on the day can be quite expensive so it is advisable to book tickets in advance if possible. The ground is then a good half hour walk away with hills in both directions. I had hair of the dog and watched the start of the Stoke City vs Manchester United game in The Black Dog which did the job. Grantham it self is a very scenic place and is worth an explore before a game. The clubhouse is fairly neat and had an ale from the local Brewster's Brewery. Unfortunately there was a mix up with the printers and there were no programmes available.

View from the main stand

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Owls Coast Home - Cleethorpes Town vs. Armthorpe Welfare

A very wet Bradley Development Centre
With the way the festive days fell this year, I was able to catch one more game up north before heading back to London. We had intended to watch Selby Town at home to Lincoln Moorlands but the heavy snow fall the previous night meant that some of their players were unable to travel and the game was postponed. Most of the morning was spent watching Twitter and seeing games being called off one by one in The Northern Counties East League but I did see that Cleethorpes Town's home match against Armthorpe Welfare was defiantly on. On our approach to Grimsby we hit very heavy rain and I had my doubts but the pitch held up very well. It is well known that local side Grimsby Town actually play in Cleethorpes and it turns out that Cleethorpes play in Grimsby. On to today's game and Cleethorpes were doing well after winning promotion from division 1 last season and sat in seventh position. They had also had a good run to the second qualifying round of The FA Cup where they were knocked out by Conference North side North Ferriby. Armthorpe weren't having as successful of a season and were third from bottom at the start of play. 

Kick off in heavy rain
Cleethorpes have an early half chance when a cross into the area isn't cleared but the Armthorpe defence is able to block the shot. They then have a short corner routine which culminates in a weak headed effort. Armthorpe then have a decent shout for a penalty when the Cleethorpes defender misjudges the bounce of the ball and it appears that it hits him on the arm but nothing is given. Cleethorpes soon take the lead. Apparently it was a good goal but I unfortunately had my back to it as I was taking my place in the stand. They almost double their lead when the forward heads wide following a good cross into the area. They do double their lead when the Armthorpe keeper does well to get down to a long range effort but the Cleethorpes forward is first to the ball and he makes it two nil. Armthorpe should be further behind when the ball is headed down in the area but the shot is dragged wide of the target. Cleethorpes grab a third when the Armthorpe player is robbed in the area and the Cleethorpes forward powers a great effort in to the top corner.

Seconds before the second goal
Cleethorpes have a cheeky attempt on goal in the opening stages of the second half when they attempt to chip the keeper from the edge of the area but the ball goes just over. Armthorpe have a good chance to put pressure on the Cleethorpes keeper but he easily claims the free kick from out wide. Cleethorpes get a fourth as the Armthorpe defence fail to fully clear a ball into the danger zone and the forward slots the ball home from the edge of the area. Cleethorpes sense blood and the midfielder goes on a mazy run and he is tackled in the area when he would have been better passing to a team mate. They get the fifth when the forward is played in and he skips around the keeper and puts the ball into the empty net. Cleethorpes are now creating chances at will and the forward should do better then blazing ball into the car park when he is unmarked at the back post. The sixth comes when the wall half blocks a free kick but the ball lands at the feet of the forward who prods home from close range. The Armthorpe goalie then pulls off three fantastic close range saves in quick succession to frustrate the home side. He has to be alert when he makes a good save from another long range chipped effort. Armthorpe have a short attacking spell as the game enters the final stages but they fail to trouble the goalie.

Everyone looks to the linesman after the sixth goal
I was driven to The Bradley Development Centre but the closest station to the ground is Grimsby Town. According to the excellent Andy Of Kent website you can catch the number 3 bus from the station to close to the ground. Grimsby Town is on the Cleethorpes to Manchester Airport line and is an hour journey from Doncaster. Before the game we went to The Trawl which had Sky Sports and a pinball machine which is sadly a rare sight in pubs. The pub is about a twenty minute walk from the ground. There is The Bradley Inn closer to the ground but we did not try this out. The clubhouse at the ground is new as you would expect from a recently formed club and had BT Sports and the usual selection of drinks. The programme shown below is a brilliant effort.

Clubhouse side of the ground