Monday, 27 October 2014

Honours Even In All Essex Ryman Clash - Brightlingsea Regent vs. Barkingside

View from one of the stands at North Road
I had a couple of choices for games this week and after reading a bit about Brightlingsea it was an easy choice. Brightlingsea were pipped to the Eastern Counties League title by Hadleigh United (a game I witnessed) last season but as Hadleigh didn't opt for promotion and so Brightlingsea were promoted to The Ryman League for the first time. Barkingside themselves hadn't been in the Ryman League long themselves, winning promotion in the 2012-13 despite also finishing second. I had seen Barkingside play in Essex once before and the omens for today were not good as they lost heavily to Witham who were also on their way to The Ryman League that season. Both sides had made indifferent starts to the season and were both just a couple of points above the relegation zone.

Kick off at a very sunny North Road
Barkingside are on the attack from the off and following a quick break, the initial cross isn't fully cleared and the Regent keeper is forced in to an early save. The keepers good save is soon forgotten as he drops an inconspicuous cross in to his own to gift the visitors the lead. The Barkingside goalie then also has a moment of madness but fortunately for him, his defence bails him out. The defenders though are helpless as Brightlingsea equalise with a bullet header from a corner kick. Brightlingsea now have the momentum and when a long throw in to the box causes chaos in the Barkingside box, the defender has clear a shot off the line with the keeper well beaten. Another long throw causes chaos once again and the keeper makes two good close range saves before a third effort is scuffed wide. Barkingside have the final chance of the half with a chance from a corner which is just cleared away.  

The Brightlingsea equaliser
Brightlingsea should take the lead right at the start of the second half. Barkingside struggle again to deal with the long throw which lands the feet of the forward who somehow manages to blast the ball over from only a few yards out. They come close again when a cross from out wide is flicked just over the bar. Barkingside's first chance of the half comes when the Brightlingsea keeper makes a fantastic save from a headed effort following a free kick from the left. Barkingside are perhaps a tad lucky to keep eleven men on the pitch when the forward is fouled when he appears to be through on goal. The defender is only booked and the resulting free kick is flicked away at the back post. The game is really opening up now and the Brightlingsea keeper makes a good low save after the winger turns the full back. Brightlingsea comes desperately close when the ball is headed against the bar and then kicked away to safety. The home side have one final chance when a cross finds the forward in space but he misses the target.

Wing play in the first half
As with Soham last week, there hasn't been a train station in Brightlingsea for a number of years. To get there I had to take a train from Liverpool Street to Colchester Town which takes just under an hour. From here Osborne Street is a short walk from the station and you can catch the 87 bus to Brightlingsea and this section of the journey takes forty minutes or so. In retrospect I wish I had arrived earlier to walk along the waterfront but I was still able a bit of the town. Right by the waterfront is The Yachtsmans Arms which is good for a post waterside stroll drink. From here I went to The Railway Tavern which is one of the pubs of the season. There was a great selection of beers and the inhabitants were out in force at the game. The clubhouse was decent and had Sky Sports on the big screen. While I was waiting for the bus I went to The Kings Head where you watch out for the bus. All in all one of the best away trips in a long time. 

View of the stand which was brought up from the Isle Of Wight on a truck

Monday, 20 October 2014

Tulips Blossom In Trophy - Soham Town Rangers vs. Spalding United

Numerous bits of cover at Julius Martin Lane
The FA Trophy made it's d├ębut for the season last weekend. I had intended to go to Swindon Supermarine but changed my mind once I saw the price of the train. The much cheaper option was to head to Cambridgeshire for the tie between Soham Town Rangers and Spalding United. The visitors were back in the Northern League following a couple of seasons in The United Counties League. They won the title by some margin last season and had made a good start to the season and were sitting just outside of the play offs. Soham have been at this level for a good number of years (they won The Eastern Counties League in 2007-08) and had made and equally good start to their season. It promised to be a close game. 

Kick off in front of the main stand
Soham almost gift their Lincolnshire visitors an early goal as the centre back nearly sells his keeper short but the defence is able to recover and clear the danger. They then nearly score themselves as the centre forward just can't connect with a great cross in to the box. They come even closer shortly afterwards when a shot from the edge of the area is just deflected wide of the post. The first decent save of the game comes as the Spalding keeper makes a good low save following a shot from close range. Soham do however take the lead from the following corner. The Soham player is able to get free in the box and his looping header finds the far corner of the net. The lead doesn't last long though. There is a touch of fortune as the cross in takes a slight a deflection but there is nothing lucky about the finish as the forward powers the ball home to make it 1-1. Spalding now have their tails up and it takes a great tackle to stop the forward bursting through on goal. The visitors do take the lead just before half time. All I see of this goal from the clubhouse is the players celebrating.

1-0 Soham
The second half is very similar to the end of the first with Spalding very much in control. They manage to create a couple of decent chances but a mixture of wayward finishing and good goalkeeping keeps the score at 1-2. The visitors do eventually score the third and this triggers an avalanche of goals. The third goal comes as the visitors break through and the Soham keeper is again able to save the initial effort but is helpless to prevent the rebound being powered in the corner of the goal. The Spalding winger is then able to find the forward from a wide position and he is able to beat the goalie to make it 1-4. Spalding should really make it five as a corner is flicked on to the back post but the effort is scuffed wide. They don't have to wait long for the fifth as from another corner the ball is headed in unchallenged. Soham try to get a second goal and they are unlucky when a shot from distance is deflected wide. The visitors do add a sixth in the closing stages to add gloss to a great cup victory. 

View of the far goal from the stand
Sadly there has not been a station in Soham for nearly fifty years although there are tentative plans to reopen the station. The closest station to Soham is Ely. Ely can be reached by taking a train from Kings Cross to Cambridge and changing to a train to Ely from there. If the trains are running on schedule then the journey should take an hour or so. From opposite the station you can take the 12 bus to Soham. There is only one bus an hour and the journey takes fifteen minutes or so if don't get stuck behind a tractor. At the bottom of the High Street is The Ship which had Sky Sports for the early kick off. Next to the square is The Red Lion which had a better selection of beers. The ground is a fifteen minute steady walk from the town centre. The clubhouse was spot on and also had Sky Sports.

Uncovered side of the ground

Monday, 13 October 2014

Tadley Milk Their Time In Cowes - East Cowes Victoria vs. Tadley Calleva

It was a sunny day on The Isle
This weekend I made my way on to the Isle Of Wight for a long planned weekend away. Naturally I arranged the trip around a game and the game in question was The Wessex League Division One game between East Cowes Victoria and Tadley Calleva. The Victoria part of the home teams name comes from the fact that the ground is located on The Crown Estate close to Osborne House which was a royal retreat for Queen Victoria. The home side had not made the best start to the season and they lost in The FA Vase the previous weekend 11-0 away at Bridport of The Western League. The visitors meanwhile had only dropped two points in the league all season.

Kick off at Beatrice Avenue
The opening minutes of the game are quite scrappy. However it doesn't take long for the first chance of the game to come along. The ball is played right through the middle of the East Cowes defence and the keeper bails out his defenders making a good save with his feet. The visitors create another one on one chance shortly afterwards but the keeper is again alert to get to the ball first. The break through isn't long coming although there was a touch of fortune involved. Following a Tadley ball forward, the defender and keeper clash and the forward is left to roll the ball in to the net. The referee allows the goal to stand despite the home teams protests. Tadley continue to press after the goal and the wingers get to the byline a couple of times. On the second occasion the East Cowes keeper makes a great close range save. East Cowes' first chance comes when the Tadley defence misjudges the bounce of the ball but the shot from the edge of the area is straight at the keeper.  Tadley should really be two up just before half time as they have two free shots in the area but the home defence is able to repeal the attacks.

A first half East Cowes attack
The visitors double their lead early in the second half. Following a through ball the East Cowes keeper is able to save the first effort but the rebound is put in to the net. It gets worse shortly afterwards as the forward finishes on the half volley at the back post after a cross from the left wing. Tadley then score an incredible fourth. A quick throw catches the full back out which allows the winger to curl home an effort from distance right on the far touchline. East Cowes are unlucky not to pull one back with a deflected effort following a good break. East Cowes luck continues to desert them as after a couple of deflections the ball falls at the feet of the forward who makes no mistake from close range. They add a sixth as the forward is put through and he rounds the keeper and taps the ball in. East Cowes get the goal their efforts deserve with a free kick from the edge of the area. Somehow I miss another three Tadley goals by leaving early.

The East Cowes free kick beats the Tadley Calleva keeper
So to get Cowes from London is fairly simple. Firstly you have to travel from Waterloo to Southampton which takes just over an hour assuming there are no engineering works. The ferry port is then a twenty minute walk away. The ferry journey to East Cowes then takes an hour. Around three quarters of the way between the ferry port and the ground is The Prince Of Wales. This is a great pubs for a pre match drink. The walk from the port to the ground takes twenty five minutes and is up hill for a lot of the walk. The clubhouse does the job and is very friendly. After the game I returned to East Cowes waterside and took the chain ferry over to the westside. The two pubs I remember being particularly good were The Duke of York and The Fountain. All in all a great weekend away and I'll look forward to revisiting to see Cowes Sports.

Side one view of the stand

Monday, 6 October 2014

Bloaters Ego Inflated By Vase Scalp - Great Yarmouth Town vs. Boston Town

Spectator at The Wellesley
I've been wanting to visited Great Yarmouth's fantastic Wellesley ground for a long time and upon seeing the FA Vase draw a couple of months ago I placed my faith in the weather goods and booked my train ticket. Their opponents in this Second Qualifying Round were Boston Town of the United Counties League Premier. While the visitors were a division above their hosts, they had only won twice in the league this season and so their was the potential for a shock. This was both sides first game in The Vase this season although Boston had a good run to the second qualifying round of The FA Cup where they came unstuck against Kings Lynn of The Northern Premier League.

Kick off in front of the fantastic grandstand
The game has a very quiet start and as the half goes on, both sides get in to half decent positions but fail to create any real chances of note. The  first proper chance comes to Great Yarmouth as following an overlapping run from the winger, he is able to get a shot away which flashes just wide of the post. They almost create another chance shortly afterwards as the ball is headed back to the edge of the area but the Boston defence is able to hack the ball away. Boston's first chance is a low shot inside the area which the Yarmouth keeper does well to get to down to. The Yarmouth keeper is again called in to action to save a drilled free kick from some distance out. Yarmouth then almost create a good clear cut chance but the ball bounces away from the forward at the vital moment. The Boston keeper is then almost caught out as he leaves his goal but the home side fail to take advantage. Boston come closest to opening the scoring right at the end of the half. The Yarmouth players are relieved to see a cross from out wide hit the bar and out to safety.

Covered benches down one side of the pitch
The rain which arrived towards the end of the first half is now torrential as the second half begins. Unlike the first half, the second is a lot more open and end to end. Yarmouth take the lead as the midfielder is allowed to run with the ball to the end of the area and his low shot beats the keeper to put the home side one up. Boston have a good chance to equalise when following a good break, the forward slots the ball just wide but he was also flagged offside. It is then Yarmouth's turn to create a chance on the break and this time the ball is dragged wide from just outside the area. The home side then have a good period of possession as they look to kill off the tie but they can't find the vital second goal. They are almost made to pay when a ball in to the area pings around the box but Yarmouth manage to eventually clear the ball. In the closing stages, Boston win a free kick on the edge of the area but it is put well wide as Yarmouth hold on to claim the win.

Yarmouth on the attack. You can just make out the Scroby Sands Windfarm in the background
It takes a long time to get to Great Yarmouth from London but The Wellesley Ground makes the visit well worth the trek. To get to Great Yarmouth you have to take a train to Norwich and change there for a train to Yarmouth. The journey takes around two and a half hours. The town has the usual seaside arcades and attractions and it is also home to one of the biggest market places in the country. Before the game I went to two pubs with the same name. The first Kings Arms is located on King Street and is a short walk from the sea front. The second The Kings Arms is a five minute walk from the ground is ideal if you want to watch the lunch time kick off. The clubhouse was friendly and you can watch the game from here if you want to stay warm. While I was waiting for my train, I popped in to The Gallon Pot which is close to the station. 

Another view of the fantastic stand

Monday, 29 September 2014

Abingdon Cup Run Ended - Abingdon United vs. Dorchester Town

Clouds over Northcourt Road
The FA Cup returned after a short break this weekend and I travelled to Berkshire in hope of seeing of a cup shock. The match was between Abingdon United of the Hellenic Premier Division and Dorchester Town who play the Southern League Premier Division. The Magpies were relegated from the Conference South last season and had made an indifferent start in the Southern League, winning three of their ten league games this season. Abingdon had made a worse start to their league campaign and had only won once in the league this season. Their form in cup competitions was a different matter however. Before the game, they were unbeaten in six cup games that they played already this season. The only time I'd seen either team play previously was when I saw Dorchester play at Braintree Town in the Conference South several years ago. 

Kick off at Northcourt Road
Early in the game, the Dorchester keeper has to be alert to claim a headed effort following a good ball in to the box. It is then Dorchester's turn to have an early chance as a snap shot from a corner kick is tipped over the bar. Abingdon have a good break and the Dorchester defender does well to hack the cross to safety. The Dorchester winger then breaks menacingly in to the area but his shot from the corner of the area goes in to the side netting. The visitors are now well on top and they come close when a corner kick is headed just over. They have a better chance shortly afterwards but the forward drags his effort wide when clean through. Abingdon have a break of their own and unfortunately for the hosts, the effort is straight at the goalie. Dorchester have the last meaningful attack of the half which breaks down when the forward is robbed on the edge of the area.

Dorchester go close in the first half
Abingdon get in to a good position early in the second half but the cross in to the box is a poor one. They get in to another decent area but this time the ball is blasted high and wide. Dorchester have their first real chance when the forward gets to the byline and it takes a brilliant block by the Abingdon defender to save a certain goal. The visitors however do not have to wait for the opening goal. It comes as the right winger is allowed to cut inside and this enables him to curl an effort past the Abingdon keeper to put his side one up. Abingdon come close to equalising straight away as Dorchester fail to deal with a corner and the keeper has to tip a rasping shot over the bar. Dorchester seal the win with a penalty fifteen minutes from time. The keeper fouls the forward and the penalty is buried to the keepers left. Abingdon have a chance for a late consolation but the forward is forced off the ball.

Looking over towards the seated stand
Along with Gosport and Canvey Island, Abingdon is one of the largest towns in England without a railway station. The most convenient station is Oxford which is an hours journey from Marylebone. From the stop right outside Oxford Station you can catch the X3 to Abingdon which takes about twenty minutes. The bus stops pretty much outside the ground but you can stay on and visit the pleasant town centre. Right next to the bus stop in the centre is the museum and for a nominal fee you can go on the roof for a great view of the town and the surrounding countryside. Right on the River Thames is The Nags Head where I tried the Abingdon Bridge from the local Loose Cannon Brewery. After that I went to The Grapes to watch the first half of the Merseyside Derby. From the town centre, the ground is a steady twenty minute walk. The clubhouse was pretty much a pub inside the ground and had Sky Sports. 

Comfortably best programme of the season so far
Covered area housing the vocal home support

Monday, 22 September 2014

Visitors Do Just Enough - Saltdean United vs. Rustington

Ariel view of the action
The cup competitions took a well deserved break this weekend which allowed my first visit of the season to my favourite county league. The league is the Sussex County League and the match was a Division 2 clash between Saltdean United and Rustington. I'd never seen either in action before now and the closest I had come was when I travelled through Saltdean on the way to Peacehaven and Telescombe several seasons ago or when I travelled to Angmering to see East Preston. The aforementioned sides of course have just met in the FA Cup. Back to today's game and both sides were looking to get their seasons back on track as each side had only won one game so far this term.  

Kick off at Hill Park
Saltdean have an early opportunity to break but the move breaks down as the forward is caught offside. Then the Saltdean forward does well to keep a long ball in play and he is unlucky to see his effort flash just wide. It is another long ball which gives Rustington their first chance. The forward goes close with a chip. The visitors have a lucky escape when the keeper gives the ball away only for the Saltdean pull back to miss everyone.  The keeper is nearly caught out again when he takes two goes at claiming an effort at his near post. It is the visitors who score first. A shot from distance bounces a couple of times before hitting the post and going in to the net. Rustington finish the half strongly and no one can get the vital touch on a drilled ball across the six yard box. They come even closer when the forwards shot is cleared off the line.

Action on the flank in the first half
At the start of the second half a slip in the Saltdean defence almost gifts Rustington a good chance but the defender does well to recover and cut out the danger. Saltdean then win a couple of free kicks in decent positions but these both come to nothing. Rustington then win a free kick in a good area and the bending ball manages to elude everyone. The Rustington forward then breaks clear and he blazes over from the edge of the area when he had a bit more time than he thought. Rustington then claim the all important second goal. It comes from the penalty spot as the forward is pushed in the back when waiting for a cross in to the box. Saltdean know they have to get a goal and the Rustington keeper almost gifts it to them. He misses a tackle in the box but the forward is forced wide and hits the post. Rustington have a chance to a third in the closing stages but the Saltdean keeper keeps the score at two nil.

The Saltdean defence deal with an attack in the first half
Saltdean is around six miles away from Brighton. Trains to Brighton depart from Victoria on a regular basis and you are there in around an hour. From Brighton Station you can take the number 27 bus to within a couple of minutes from the ground. The ground is at the edge of Saltdean so if you want a drink before the game you have to get off at the seafront and walk to the ground afterwards. Even if you don't want a drink, cliffs and beach are worth a look at. Just off the seafront is The Spanish Lady which offers sea views and has Sky Sports. The ground is a further twenty minute walk from the sea front. The clubhouse and the club in general are incredibly welcoming.

Saltdean on the attack in front of the clubhouse

Monday, 15 September 2014

Heathens Ascend From The Depths To Claim Replay - Flackwell Heath vs. Wantage Town

Wilks Park in autumn
Cup season is well underway and the national cup rounds are coming thick and fast. My latest cup match was the FA Cup first qualifying round match between Flackwell Heath and Wantage Town. Flackwell Heath play in the Hellenic League Premier Division and until last season Wantage Town also played in the same division. They won the league title for the second time in four seasons to gain promotion to the Southern League South and West Division. They had made an inconsistent start to life at the higher level winning seven points from their opening eight games. Flackwell Heath had only lost one game all season, against Bracknell Town in the Floodlit Cup the previous Tuesday. Flackwell had already beaten a team from Wantage's division - North Leigh - in the previous round. Wantage also played a team from their opponents league when they defeated Kidlington.

Kick off at Wilks Park
Wantage have an early let off as the defence miss judges a long ball forward but the forward rushes the chance and puts the ball over the bar. The visitors defence don't learn their lesson as they are caught out again and the keeper this time has to pull off a good save with his feet. Wantage have their first chance when the forward is played in but the Flackwell keeper is alert to the danger. Wantage are finally made to pay for not judging the long ball shortly afterwards. The defender heads past his own keeper following another long ball forward. Flackwell Heath now enjoy a good spell and the winger gets to the byline but lashes the ball in to the side netting. The forward gets to the byline again and this time able to find someone. The Wantage keeper makes another good save with his feet to keep the difference to one goal. Right before half time. Wantage equalise to punish the home side for not taking their chances.     

A first half Flackwell corner
Flackwell come out all guns blazing and an early chance is blocked on the line by the Wantage defence. A second effort soon afterwards is beaten away by the keeper. Flackwell create a number of half chances but fail to retake the lead. The sucker punch isn't long in coming. Wantage attack and the the ball lands at the feet of the forward who slots in from just inside the area. The away team then take a two goal lead as the striker knocks the ball in after the initial shot hits the post. Flackwell respond almost immediately. The ball is headed back to the midfielder on the edge of the area and he powers the ball home. Flackwell are well on top and they create yet more chances but still remain behind. They eventually claim a deserved equaliser as a free kick from wide is headed in. Wantage are still well in the game and a cross come shot flashes past the post. The Wantage keeper makes one final great save as he is able to tip the ball over the bar following a rasping effort from the edge of the area.

Wantage attack in the first half
There is no station in Flackwell Heath and the nearest station is High Wycombe. Trains to High Wycombe depart from Marylebone on a regular basis and the quick trains take twenty five minutes. You can take either the 35 or 36 to Flackwell Heath from the bus station with this journey also taking twenty five minutes. There are two buses an hour. Right next to the bus stop in the centre of the village is The Cherry Tree which has Sky and BT Sports and is ideally located. A short walk past the entrance to the ground is The Stag which is more of a gastro pub but the garden provides incredible views of the Buckinghamshire countryside. The clubhouse has a couple of ales from the Rebellion Brewery and also had Sky Sports. If you have a little bit of time while waiting for your train in High Wycombe then I fully recommend visiting The Bootlegger opposite the station, which has literally hundreds of bottles of beer on offer.

Headed clearance in front of the changing rooms and tea hut