Wednesday, 31 August 2016

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

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

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

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

One last shot of the stand

Thursday, 25 August 2016

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

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

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

The heavens open in the second half

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Broadening My Horizons - Norwich United vs. Histon

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

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

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

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

More match action from the clubhouse end

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Wait Goes On For Greens - Kidlington vs. Farnborough

Cloudy skies over Yarnton Road
This weekend's game would see two sides play each other who were a full division apart last season. Kidlington won the Hellenic League last season to seal promotion to The Southern League Division One Central while their opponents Farnborough were demoted from The Isthmian Premier Division for financial irregularities. When I visited Farnborough's Cherrywood Lane, they were in The Conference South and they played St Albans on that day. Back to this season and the two sides had made mixed starts to the season - Kidlington had draw one and lost one game so far while Farnborough had won one and lost one so far. Farnborough had Jaime Cureton playing for them as he tried to get himself another crack at league football.    

Kick off at Yarnton Road
Farnborough have an early chance when the attacker is found in space at the back with a corner but his headed effort is bounced over the bar. They cause more panic in the home defence with another corner which is cleared away at the second time of asking. Farnborough take the lead as a ball in is not fully cleared and the ball is lashed home from close range. Farnborough then have two chances to double their lead. Firstly a shot following a pull back is well saved before the second chance is weakly headed straight at the keeper. Kidlington's first chance on goal is a shot which is blocked in the air and the Farnborough keeper makes a good low save to keep out the second effort.

The Farnborough keeper claims the ball in the first half
Farnborough almost grab a second immediately after the restart but the forward puts his free header wide of the target. Kidlington then have a good spell of pressure as a good cross into the Farnborough box is headed away. Then as the winger gets to the byline, his pull back unfortunately eludes everyone. Kidlington almost gift Farnborough the second as they are caught in possession in midfield and from the resulting attack the Kidlington keeper has to make a decent save. However, from the resulting corner Farnborough make it two nil with a close range  header. Farnborough seal the points with a penalty after the attacker is felled in the box and the forward makes no mistake from the spot.

The Farnborough winger attacks the clubhouse end
Until recently to get to Kidlington you had to get a bus from Oxford but now there is the Oxford Parkway station to the south of the village. Trains here depart from Marylebone every half hour and the journey takes just under an hour. The ground is then a half hour walk away. A short stroll from the ground is The Black Horse and The Red Lion which are both set up as gastro pubs but both had decent beer as well as the sports channels. The clubhouse had a good selection of drinks as well as the sports channels.

Another view of the stand

Monday, 8 August 2016

Lillywhites Clip Red Kites - Brimscombe And Thrupp vs. Henley Town

Stunning setting in Gloucestershire
The start of The FA Cup is always a grand occasion and to celebrate the start of this year's competition, I ticked off a ground I've had an eye for a long time. Brimscombe and Thrupp's Meadow ground is a glorious setting for football as the pictures will show. The visitors in this Extra Preliminary Round tie were Henley Town of The Hellenic League Premier Division. I visited their Triangle ground for a league match with Milton United several seasons ago. This was the first ever meeting between the two sides however there would of course two further meetings following Henley's promotion last season. Brimscombe had gotten their league campaign under way in midweek, losing two nil to Lydney Town on Tuesday evening.

Kick off at The Meadow
Brimscombe have the first half chance of the match when a free kick is headed just wide of the goal. As you can see from the pictures, it was a beautiful day and the heat contributed to the sluggish start to the game. Henley are then played in on goal but the forward takes too long and the defender is able to get back and block the effort on goal. Brimscombe soon come close with a header that goes just over the bar following a cross from out wide. It is a Brimscombe mistake that leads to the opening goal as they lose the ball in midfield and the forward is played in before he lashes the ball past the Brimscombe keeper. It isn't long until the home side are gifted a way back level. While attempting a diving header, the referee rules that the Henley defender handled the ball and he points to the spot despite the visitor's protests. The Henley keeper guesses right but he can't keep the ball out and it is one one at half time. 

Brimscombe defend a Henley corner
Henley come close to retaking the lead at the start of the second half but the Brimscombe defender is able to get back and make the tackle at the critical moment. It is however Brimscombe who get the next goal. A long diagonal ball forward finds the forward in space and he hammers the ball into the net. It doesn't take long for the home side to get the third. The left winger is able to control the ball and his pull back on the edge of the area finds the forward in space and he slots home to make it 3-1. Henley now have to score and the Brimscombe defence has to be alert to block a close range header on the line. The game is now really opening up as it Brimscombe who are next played in on goal but the Henley keeper is quick off his to block the danger. Henley continue to press in the closing stages and they should do better when the Brimscombe keeper doesn't connect with a corner but the ball is put well over the bar. The last chance of the game is a sharp half volley at the Henley back post which the keeper does well to keep out.

The Henley defender emphatically deals with a ball into the box
The closest station to Brimscombe is Stroud which is served by trains out of Paddington and this part of the trip takes an hour and a half if there are no issues with level crossings. Before getting the bus onto Brimscombe I recommend taking in The Alehouse which had a fantastic selection of ales and is just around the corner from the station. On the way out of Stroud I took the 64 bus from outside Lloyd's to Brimscombe. In the village itself I visited The Ship which was a friendly local which did the job. The ground is then five minutes away. The clubhouse was welcoming and had the usual selection of drinks as well as Sky Sports on a projector screen. If I'd planned my trip better I would have got a later train as The Stroud Brewery  is next door to the ground but didn't open until three. On the way back I got the 29 bus as catching the 64 would have meant I would have missed the last fifteen minutes.

Elevated view behind the goal

Monday, 1 August 2016

Sports Pay Penalty On Opening Day - Hullbridge Sports vs. Takeley

The Hullbridge winger takes on the fullback 
Even though I'd seen some entertaining pre season games it was great to get back to competitive action this weekend. With the FA Cup starting on the first weekend of August some league starts were pushed to the final weekend of July. One of those leagues was the Essex Senior League and the only new ground in the opening weekend of fixtures was Hullbridge Sports who were hosting Takeley. The only other Essex Senior League game I'd been to in the last couple of years was Basildon against Eton Manor at the end of last season and this was the first time I'd seen either club play. Today's hosts had finished in mid table while Takeley had finished fourth from bottom last season and so were both looking for an improvement in fortunes this time around. Both meetings last season had ended in draws.

Kick off of the 2016-17 Essex Senior League Season
Hullbridge almost have the perfect start when the attacker powers into the Takeley area but his run is halted by a crunching tackle. It is then Takeley's turn to have an early attack and the shot goes well over the bar. Then a Takeley cross into the box is flicked on by a Hullbridge defender but the goalie makes a good save to save his team mate's blushes. Takeley continue to look dangerous and when the attacker is chopped down in the box the referee awards the visitors a penalty which is slotted into the bottom corner to put Takeley one nil up. The last real chance of a fairly timid first half comes as Hullbridge get in on goal on the left hand side but the eventual shot is blocked.

The Hullbridge keeper claims a second half cross under threatening skies
Takeley think they have an early goal in the second half when the forward flicks the ball past the keeper but it is ruled out for offside. They come close again as a shot following a break is deflected onto the post. The away side continue to create chances as the man is found at the back post forcing a brilliant save from the keeper before the second effort is lashed high and wide. Hullbridge's first chance of the second period is from a corner when the goalie misses a corner kick but when the ball is put back into the area, no one can get the final touch. Then when a Hullbridge move breaks down, the Takeley player is unfortunate to see his long range effort come back off the bar. Takeley get the second killer goal when the attacker is played in after a break away and he is fouled by the keeper to win a second penalty. The kick is put to the right of the keeper to seal a 2-0 away win.

The Takeley keeper acrobatically clears the ball
Even though there is no train station in Hullbridge, it is fairly easy to reach from London. Firstly you need to catch a train to Rayleigh from Liverpool Street which takes forty five minutes. Then from just outside the station you can catch the number 20 bus and this takes just under ten minutes. If you have time you can the bus the all the way to the waterfront, if not get off just before the bus turns off Lower Road and the ground is five minutes up the hill. By the waterfront is The Smuggler's Den and The Anchor both of which have a good choice of beers and offer river side views. The Smuggler's Den also has Sky Sports for the early kick off. The ground is then twenty minutes walk away. The clubhouse has the usual selection of beers as well as Sky Sports. The bar and the club in general were very welcoming and I fully recommend a visit.

Another view of the covered accommodation and the clubhouse

Friday, 29 July 2016

GTFC Championship 2016 - Gainsborough Trinity vs. Grimsby Town

Grimsby attack in the first half
This week I visited home and was lucky enough to squeeze in the friendly between Gainsborough Trinity and Grimsby Town. The hosts were coming into their first full season with new manager Don Roma and the manager had been building a decent squad over the summer. Grimsby were looking forward to their first season back in the football league following their play off win over Forest Green Rovers. Of particular interest were former Scunthorpe players Sean McAllister and Andrew Boyce as well as Dominic Vose who was on loan for the season.

Dusk over The Northolme
In the early stages Grimsby looked a class above and they took the lead when the forward found space on the right hand edge of the penalty area and bent a fantastic shot into the far top corner. They continue to dominate but they gift Gainsborough a way back in when they concede a penalty which is converted to make it one all. The visitors regain the lead as a good passing move results in the midfielder having enough time in the area to slot home. At the end of the first half and start of the second Grimsby have two goals disallowed for offside and they then take their foot off the gas. Gainsborough begin to press and they equalise with a strong header from a corner while under immense pressure from defenders. Trinity get the winner when after a free kick as the ball finds the man free at the back post and the Grimsby keeper makes a brilliant save but he is powerless to stop the forward heading in the rebound to give Gainsborough the win.

Highlights of the game can be found on Trinity's YouTube channel here.