Monday, 14 April 2014

Hawks Stall Concord - Havant And Waterlooville vs. Concord Rangers

There was a decent crowd for the play off six pointer
As it is getting in to the business end of the season, I tried to find a game that meant something and The Conference South match between Havant and Waterlooville and Concord Rangers meant a huge deal for both sides. Both sides were just outside of the play offs and a win for either team would put real pressure on the clubs above them. Both sides were in good form and the home team had beaten once leaders Bromley at home the previous weekend. I'd seen Concord Rangers several times and their games had always seemed to produce goals. When I visited Thames Road for an FA Trophy game against Harlow Town, I saw Concord throw away a two nil half lead to lose three two. The only time I'd seen Havant play was last season at Dover where the away side again came back from two goals down at half time but this time the game ended in a draw. The reverse fixture had also produced a lot of goals - a three three draw the previous month.  

Just before kick off
Concord have a half chance from a corner but in general in the opening stages, both sides are playing some neat football but they cannot find the final touch. This is exemplified when Havant break from a Concord corner and the final pass is just cut out by a defender. Havant come closer when a miss kick in the Concord defence lets Havant in and the defender is relived to the chance blasted wide. Havant almost play themselves in and the pass is again just cut out. Concord have another headed chance but the Havant keeper is able to claim the ball. Towards the end of the half both teams continue to lost the ball in good positions and the half end goalless.

Panic in the Concord box in the first half
Havant have a great chance at the start of the second half as the left winger robs the full back and the keeper has to tip the ball over the bar. Then from the following corner a Havant player heads the ball just over the bar. Concord almost create a one on one chance but the centre back makes a great headed interception to prevent the chance. The game is now beginning to open up and the Havant centre forward is able to barge through in to the box but the keeper is able to claim the ball as it looks like he would have been better squaring the ball. A Concord corner then causes confusion in the area and the Havant defence is eventually able to hack the ball away. Then comes the games turning point. Following a ball in to the box there is a slight delay and the referee points to the spot for an apparent push. The Concord players are livid and the Havant player shows no sympathy as he smashes the ball home. Concord now go for broke and a driven cross is headed away. Shortly afterwards the Havant keeper has to tip over a viscous free kick. In the dying seconds Havant are reduced to ten men but they see out the rest of the game to claim a vital three points.

Covered standing down one side of the pitch
Havant is reached by trains departing from Waterloo and the fast trains take just over an hour and a quarter. In the town centre I visited The Old House At Home which was a great pub which had the lunch time kick off on TV. The ground is about a half hour walk from the town centre and about half way is The Curlew which is a good stopping point. The clubhouse is a pub next to the ground and it is a very good pubs. It had several ales on tap as well as the football on TV. While I was waiting for my train I popped in to The Six Bells which had a great atmosphere.

The programme was one of the best I have seen at this level. There was a lot of reading including a couple of detailed match reports from recent matches.

Another view of the stand
For an alternative viewpoint of the match, check out the fantastic Destination Havant 'Ville Departing Waterloo  blog.

Yet more bloody clouds

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Quins Try To The End For A Point - Bemerton Heath Harlequins vs. Lymington Town

The stand at The Westwood Recreation Ground
My parents were visiting this weekend and we had initially chosen to go to Rye for a day trip on the Saturday but Rye United's withdrawal from The Sussex County League forced a rethink. We eventually settled on Salisbury which allowed me to take in The Wessex League game between Bemerton Heath Harlequins and Lymington Town. I had visited Salisbury itself previously for an FA Cup tie between City and Grimsby Town and I was impressed by the town. Back to today's game and Bemerton were sitting in third and were close to scoring their hundredth league goal of a productive season. Lymington were in the bottom half of the table having conceded nearly ninety league goals. The stage was therefore set for a 0-0.   

Different angled kick off shot
The grass on the pitch is quite long and it takes a little while for both sides to adapt. Bemerton are played in via a free kick in the early stages and the Lymington keeper makes the first save of the game with his feet. The home team have another chance from a set piece shortly afterwards but the glancing header goes just wide. Lymington almost create their first clear cut chance of the game and the Bemerton defender is switched on to cut out the through ball. The visitors are now getting in to the game and the forward drags a chance wide of the goal. The Bemerton keeper then almost gifts Lymington the opener as he spills the ball but the chance is put well over. The home side soon have two chances in quick succession as the Lymington defenders put their bodies on the line to keep the game goalless. Both sides have half chances before half time but the game is nil nil at half time. 

Lymington attack The Clubhouse Stand in the first half
Bemerton start the second half on top and create a couple more half chances. Lymington's first chance of the half is a free kick from just outside the area which is deflected wide to safety. They then come even closer as the left back cuts in and his long range effort hits the post. Lymington do score the first goal soon afterwards. Bemerton give the ball away in the midfield and the ball is played through to the forward who slots the ball home to give his side the lead. Bemerton believe that have equalised as the Lymington keeper drops the ball in to his own net. The referee first appears to give the goal before changing his mind much to the annoyance of the home fans. Lymington get in decent positions to find the vital second goal but they lack the final touch to make the game safe. They are almost given a helping hand in finding the second goal as the Bemerton centre back slices the ball over his own bar. As the game enters the closing stages, Bemerton pile forward and the pressure eventually pays off. A free kick from the half way line finds a Bemerton head at the back post and Harlequins have their equaliser. They try and push on for a winner but the game ends in a draw.

Bemerton on the attack in first half
Salisbury is a fascinating place to visit and their is a lot to see. There is a concentration of attractions around the cathedral which itself is of course worth seeing. Trains to Salisbury depart from Waterloo and the journey takes around an hour and forty minutes. The Westwood Recreation Ground is a long way from the town centre. The R1 bus departs from the town centre and takes you to within five minutes walk from the ground. The buses depart every ten minutes and the journey takes around a quarter of an hour. The clubhouse was quite large and had Sky Sports. Unfortunately the bar is not open at half time which is something I'd never seen at a ground before. In the town itself we went to Cloisters for a post match drink and food. Closer to the station is The Cat Tavern which had a few ales on and is great for while you wait for your train.

A good programme was produced for the game. There was a detailed history of the Harlequins which sheds some light on the origin of the clubs interesting name.

Covered standing next to the main stand

Monday, 31 March 2014

Marine Gun Down Daniels - Stamford vs. Marine

Churches surround Kettering Road
I'd been meaning to visit Stamford for a long time and as this was their last season at Kettering Road I was running out of time. I didn't want to go to the very last game and I didn't fancy the crowd at the FC United game so the Northern Premier League match up with Marine was my last chance. The last time I saw Marine play was also in Lincolnshire at in my first ever non league game at Gainsborough Trinity in the old Unibond League. This was an important game for both sides as they needed the points to pull away from the relegation zone. The home side were five points away from danger while the visitors were only one point ahead of the final relegation spot. In the reverse fixture, Stamford claimed a three one win at The Arriva Stadium.

The two captains contest the toss
Stamford give away an early free kick much to the managers disgust and they are made to pay for the indiscretion as the Marine player powers the ball in to the top corner. Stamford come close to equalising with a long range of their own but the ball sails over. Marine almost add a second as they hit the bar but the offside flag had already gone up. The visitors do make it two nil with a header following a fantastic cross in to the box. They almost go further ahead but a great saving tackle by the Stamford defender keeps his side in touch. Stamford then have a good spell and a long throw causes panic in the Marine defence before the keeper is able to claim the ball. The Stamford forward is then able to round the keeper but he puts the ball over the bar. In the closing stages of the half a Marine defender almost puts the ball through his own but his side go in two up.

Stamford attack The Hedge End in the first half
Stamford almost create an opening at the start of the second half but the Marine keeper makes a great block. The Stamford winger then gets to the byline but his pull is just behind his fellow attackers. After the fast paced start to the half the game enters a short lull but it isn't long until Stamford get themselves back in the game. The Stamford man is left unmarked at the back post at a corner and he makes no mistake. Marine soon regain their two goal lead as the forward goes straight through the middle to put his side three one up. Remarkably, Stamford score a third goal of a crazy ten minutes when a penalty is slammed straight down the middle. Marine almost grab a fourth as the forward goes past the keeper but his pass is cut out by a defender. Both sides have further chances as a Stamford glancing header goes just wide and Marine hit a post. Marine do get the clinching fourth goal to claim a memorable away victory. 

Pin ball in the box
Stamford is absolutely one of the most scenic towns I have had the pleasure of visiting. The town is defiantly worth an explore before a game. There are also a lot of pubs. Before the game I visited The Lord Burghley and The Golden Fleece and both had Sky Sports and plenty of outside seating for sunny days. There are no direct trains from London to Stamford. You have to take a train to Peterborough and change there for a Stamford train. This unfortunately includes a long wait at Peterborough as there is only one train an hour. The journey in total takes around an hour and three quarters. The ground is a five minute walk from the station although the station is in between the town centre and the ground. The clubhouse did the job and a couple of bottled ales as well as the club's own ale produced by The Oakham Brewery. After the game I popped in to St Marys Vault which was a good Sam Smiths pub.

For a second week in a row, a brilliant full colour programme was produced. There was a lot of reading for the trip back including quite a few looking back at the club's history.

Kettering Road will be very sadly missed.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Diss End Winless Run - Diss Town vs. Woodbridge Town

It was bright and breezy in Norfolk
This week I was so confident in the weather that I booked my ticket almost a weekend in advance. The ticket I booked was from London to Diss for Diss Town versus Woodbridge Town in The Eastern Counties Premier Division. This match was the first home game since Diss had appointed Mike Derbyshire as permanent manager and he was hoping to end a run of fourteen games without a run. The visitors were not faring much better this season and found themselves bottom of the league. Both sides therefore needed a win to pull away from the bottom of the table.

Kick Off At Brewer Green Lane
As both sides are keen for the win, the game has a bit of a cagey scrappy start. Once the game settles down, it Diss who begin to create most of the chances and they put a long range effort in to the hedge behind the goal. They then almost create a decent one on one chance but the ball is just too heavy and the keeper is able to claim the ball. The keeper then has to palm away another long range before Diss make their spell of pressure pay. The Diss forward is played in and he rounds the keeper before slotting home from a very tight angle. This sparks Woodbridge in to life as the Diss keeper has to be alert to punch away a dangerous free kick. The keeper is helpless from the next ball in to the box as Woodbridge gain a headed equaliser. They come close to taking the lead just before half time but the volleyed effort is straight at the keeper. Diss have an even better chance but another good chance is easily saved. 

A Diss Town attack breaks down in the first half
Diss Town win a fortunate free kick at the start of the second half but it comes to nothing. As with the start of the first half it is very scrappy in the opening stages. Woodbridge Town have the first meaningful attack of the half as the winger gets to the byline but the ball in to the box is poor. It is then Diss' turn to break in to the box but the defender makes a good challenge and the ball goes out for a corner. It is from another that Diss retake the lead. The Diss player is allowed a free header in the box and he makes no mistake. Diss make it three one while I am checking the Scunthorpe score in the clubhouse. Woodbridge try to get back in to the game and they have a couple of half chances. In the final stages Woodbridge are reduced to ten men and Diss see out the rest of the game for their first win in fourteen.

The Diss players celebrate taking the lead.
As with many towns in this area of the country, Diss is a pleasant market town which is worth an explore before a game. Trains to Diss depart from Liverpool Street and the journey takes just over ninety minutes. Before the game I had a drink next to the mere at The Waterside and watched the first half of the Chelsea vs. Arsenal at The Greyhound. The ground is about a half hour walk from the station. The clubhouse does the job and had the usual selection of drinks. I defiantly recommend trying one of the hot dogs which are sourced from a local butcher. On the way back through town I popped in to The White Horse which was probably my favourite that I visited.

A very good full colour programme was produced for the match. There was a lot of interesting reading and it even included the attendances for the reserve matches which is a serious level of detail! 

Covered accommodation opposite the main stand

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Town Claim Derby Win - Andover New Street vs. Andover Town

Spring arrives in Hampshire
With the winter deluge now firmly behind us, I am now able to chose a game and not frantically check twitter and the BBC weather site. This week I opted for the Andover derby between New Street and Town. I had planned to visit Andover earlier in the season for Town's top of the table clash against Petersfield but that game fell foul of the weather. This match pitched top of the table against second from bottom. Town in their first ever season were top of the league and had a great chance to win the title. Earlier in the season they were involved in a penalty shoot out where the first twenty nine penalties were scored. New Street were second from bottom in the league at the start of play.

Early stages at Foxcotte Park
Town take an early lead when the New Street defender tries to play the ball across his own box and is punished as the forward picks up the ball and smashes it home. New Street almost respond immediately and it takes a great saving tackle to deny the forward a clear shot at goal. It is then the visitors turn to nearly score as the keeper makes a great save following a mistake by a defender. The Town defence then makes another goal saving tackle as New Street almost break through again. Town now begin to dominate and it takes a great double save from the New Street keeper to keep his side in touch. The Town winger is able to put a great ball in to the box but no one can connect. The visitors then create an even better chance as the winger gets to the byline but the forward fails to properly connect to the pull back.

There was a decent crowd for the derby
Town start on the front foot in the second half and it takes a brilliant save and then a perfectly timed challenge to stop Town running away with it. They have another couple of half chances before New Street are able to break out but the forward lacks support. Town are then given a great chance to finish the game as they are awarded a penalty for a blatant hand ball by the centre back. The New Street keeper is able to produce a fine save from the penalty and then from the rebound to keep the score at one nil. The Town forward is then played in, he rounds the goalie but the New Street defenders are able to get back and clear the ball off the line. The away side do soon extend the lead as a daisy cutter from distance finds the bottom corner of the net. Town are again played in and the forward is able to round the goalie again but this time the ball is put in to the side netting. Town hit the bar in the closing moments as they go on to claim a two nil win. 

The New Street keeper claims a first half Town corner
Trains to Andover depart from Waterloo and the journey takes just under an hour. The ground and the town centre are on opposite sides of town to each other. Before the game I went to The Town Mills which is pretty much on the river and was quite a nice setting. The walk from the station to the ground takes around twenty five minutes. The last section is not lit and there is no path so I wouldn't recommend doing the walk for a night game. The clubhouse was decent and extremely welcoming. It also had Sky Sports. In between the ground and the station is The Royal Oak by the picturesque village green of Charlton.

An informative programme was produced for the game. There was a match report from the previous match and there was a history of both sides.

More clouds

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Hares Skinned By Market - March Town United vs. Stowmarket Town

The stand and control tower at The GER Sports Ground
It appears that spring is finally here which means that normal service can be resumed with regards to picking games. I had be planning to visit March since hearing that the stand at The GER Sports Ground was to be demolished in the very near future. The stand is going to be cleared to allow the construction of a new clubhouse and changing rooms. Both sides were having disappointing seasons and were both sat towards to the bottom of The Eastern Counties League Division One table. In the reverse fixture at Greens Meadow in November the points were shared following a one - one draw.

Just before kick off in sunny Cambridgeshire
Stowmarket begin the game on the front foot and they manage to get in to the box twice in the opening exchanges and both times they fail to find a Stowmarket forward. When a Stowmarket forward does get to a ball in to the box he heads it back across goal for a fellow forward to nod his side in to the lead from close range. The March keeper is then almost caught out by a vicious in swinging corner but he manages to keep the ball out of the net. He is however picking the ball out of the net shortly afterwards as the forward slots the ball home following a good move. March then have their first serious attack but no one can connect with a good cross in to the box. That chance provides only a brief rest bite as the Stowmarket striker is able to hold off the centre back to score his sides third goal. Stowmarket create further chances before a March effort from distance goes well wide. March's afternoon then gets worse as the centre back is sent off for holding back the Stowmarket forward from going clean through.

Covered accommodation behind the dugouts
Stowmarket have a couple of chances at the start of the second half but the March defence are able to keep them out. The home side then get in to a decent attacking position but the cross is easily dealt with. The visitors then get a forth as a ball forward is flicked on and the ball is put in to the net. The vocal Stowmarket keeper is then forced in to his first real save of the afternoon when he tips over a March free kick from just outside of the area. He is then called in to action as he claims a looping head from close range. The Stowmarket winger then gets to the byline and his cross is deflected in by a March defender to make it five nil. They then score a sixth from distance which possibly got a nick on the way through to deceive the March keeper. In the closing stages, Stowmarket add a seventh following a quick break.    

March on the front foot in the first half
There are no direct services to March from London. You have to get a train from Kings Cross to Cambridge and change there for a train to March. The journey takes around an hour and a half. On March High Street I visited The Griffin Hotel and The Red Lion which both did the job. The former had Sky and BT Sports for the early kick off. The ground is about a ten minute stroll from the train and there is currently no clubhouse. I would absolutely recommend visiting The GER Sports Ground before the stand is removed. While I was waiting for my train I popped in to The Station Hotel which was exceptionally friendly.  

A good programme which included recent match reports of the recent ladies team matches and several other interesting articles.

View on the pitch from the tunnel

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Promotion Six Pointer Well Worth Long Trawel - Lowestoft Town vs. Madistone United

There was a decent crowd at Crown Meadow for this top of the table clash
Yet again, the weather made choosing a match tricky. After looking at the forecast and numerous forums it appeared that the Ryman Premier Division game between Lowestoft Town and Maidstone United seemed the best bet. It promised to be a good game as both sides badly needed the three points. Lowestoft to keep in touch with the play offs and for Maidstone to stay with Dulwich in the race for the title. I probably should have stayed away for Lowestoft's sake as the previous times I watched them in big games they had lost. Firstly in the FA Vase final against Kirkham and Wesham (now AFC Flyde) and in the Ryman Premier League play off final against AFC Hornchurch. I'd seen Maidstone before at their previous home of Bourne Park in Sittingbourne (which I believe is now vacant) and at their impressive new Gallagher Stadium. Maidstone were also responsible for the biggest winning margin I'd seen in a game when they beat Corinthian 9-0 in the FA Cup.  

The main stand at Crown Meadow
Lowestoft are nearly gifted an early goal when the Maidstone centre badly misjudges a back pass and he is relived when the winger puts in a poor cross. They have another chance as the ball falls kindly for the forward in the box but he shot is far too weak to worry the keeper. Another poor back pass almost plays Maidstone in to trouble but they are able to clear the danger eventually. Lowestoft are making all of the running and another chance is created by a good knock down and the Maidstone centre back is able to mop up the danger. Lowestoft then put a decent ball in to the box but the headed effort is well wide. Maidstone really struggle to get going in the first half and it takes a great sliding tackle to prevent the Lowestoft forward getting through on goal. Despite not really getting in to the game the visitors are still level at half time.

A first half Lowestoft corner
It is Lowestoft who continue creating chances in the first half and the winger shoots wide after a good run. Shortly afterwards the Maidstone keeper is almost caught out by a cross but he is able to tip the ball over the bar. Maidstone now begin to come in to the game but they manage to waste a free kick from a decent position. They do get a better ball in a few minutes later and the forward heads the ball wide. The Lowestoft keeper then misses the ball following a corner and he is relived that no one gets a touch. The Lowestoft defence is then alert to hack a goal bound effort off the line as the visitors really begin to threaten Lowestoft. They then come even closer when a deflected effort hits the bar. After that let off Lowestoft take the lead. The forward is allowed to cut in and he bends a fantastic shot past the keeper. The lead does not last very long though. Another Maidstone effort is deflected and this time the ball loops in to the back of the net. As the game gets close to full time, Lowestoft think they should have a penalty but the referee is not impressed. Then in injury time Lowestoft get a late winner. A free kick from wide is hit towards the near post and the ball is poked home. In the final seconds Maidstone are reduced to ten men when the midfielder is sent off following a fairly innocuous looking challenge. No other side in the top six win and so Lowestoft move to within two points of the play offs while Maidstone remain three points behind Dulwich.

The Lowestoft fans and players celebrate the winner
Lowestoft is a very long way from London but the game defiantly made it worth it. The journey takes over two and a half hours. You have to take a train from Liverpool Street to Ipswich and change there for the train to Lowestoft. Lowestoft is the most easterly settlement in the UK and Ness Point in the very most easterly point. The point is about a ten minute walk from the station. It is not very well signposted and I nearly turned back after walking through a large industrial estate. Before the game I went to The Hearts Of Oak which is very close to the ground. The walk from the station to the ground takes no more than ten minutes. The clubhouse is quite large and sells a couple of local beers. I enjoyed the Canary Pale Ale which was produced by the Green Jack brewery. During the first half I had some chilli nachos which were amongst the best football food I've ever had. After the game I visited The Factory Arms and The Banks Stores which both did the job while I was waiting for my train.

The programme was a great effort as are many from East Anglian clubs. There is a lot of reading for the long journey back and the flashback section was particularly interesting.

Looking towards to the dugout side of the ground