Monday, 23 February 2015

Late Goals Snatch Draw For Town - Romsey Town vs. East Cowes Victoria

Rainbow and hail stones at The Bypass Ground
Yet again the weather in the second half of the working week made choosing a game tricky but the Southampton area seemed to avoid the worst of it and so I punted for Romsey Town at home to East Cowes Victoria in The Wessex League Division One. This was a big game as the two sides were the bottom two sides in the league and both needed a positive result to give themselves the best chance of catching third from bottom Andover New Street. Romsey had recently changed managers and the new manager's first game was a decent 2-2 draw with then league leaders Tadley Calleva. It was Tadley who I saw win 9-1 away at East Cowes Victoria earlier in the season. Oddly, in a league with only fifteen teams, this was the first time the teams had faced each other this season - the return fixture being played in just two weeks time.

Kick off at The Bypass Ground
Things start badly for East Cowes. In the opening minutes of the game, Romsey get through on goal and the forward is pulled back by the defender who was extremely lucky not to receive any further punishment. The penalty is put in to the bottom corner to give the home side the lead. The visitors first sight of goal comes when a corner flashes right across goal but no one gets a touch. They come even closer when following a good passing move, they put the ball into the net but the strike is ruled out for offside. The game was open from the start and a Romsey cross finds the man at the back post but his pull back is just cut out by the East Cowes defender. East Cowes get an equaliser when a free kick isn't fully cleared and the ball is slotted home from the resulting second cross. Romsey have a good chance to reclaim the lead as the East Cowes centre back misjudges the bounce which presents the forward with a good one on one chance but the goalie is equal to the shot. In the closing stages of the half, the East Cowes keepers makes another save, this time from a header following a corner.

East Cowes defending as the storm clouds move in
Romsey have a great chance to retake the lead at the start of the second period as corner is allowed to get to the man at the back post but he blasts the ball high and wide. It is then East Cowes' turn to have an early chance but the forward perhaps shoots a touch too early when played in on goal. The Romsey keeper then has to be alert to tip over an audacious lob from long range. East Cowes win the second penalty of the game when the forward is clumsily chopped down and the penalty is again buried past the goalie. East Cowes now sense blood and a shot following a pull back from the byline is cleared off the line. The visitors get a third when a long ball forward is allowed to bounce and the forward chips the ball over the advancing keeper to put them in control. East Cowes have another couple of half chances and they are made to pay for not making more of them. Firstly, the home side win the third penalty of the game following another heavy tackle and the penalty is again dispatched. Then in the final few minutes the Romsey attacker is played in and he makes no mistake to make it 3-3.

The Romsey keeper awaits a first half cross.
There are no direct trains to Romsey to London. You have to take a train from Waterloo and change at either Southampton Airport Parkway of Salisbury for a train to Romsey. The journey takes about an hour and forty minutes. Like Saffron Walden the previous week, Romsey is absolutely worth exploring before a game. There is a house which once belonged to King John and there is also the imposing abbey. A short walk from the abbey was The Tudor Road which was very much a locals pub but in no way unfriendly. A bit closer to the ground is The Old House At Home which was very busy at lunch but had a couple of ales on. The clubhouse just by the turnstiles had the usual selection of drinks and is worth visiting before a game.

Additional cover by the clubhouse

Monday, 16 February 2015

Bloods Continue Rich Vein Of Form - Saffron Walden Town vs. Stowmarket Town

Natural cover at Catons Lane
The now seemingly guaranteed Friday night deluge of heavy rain threatened to make finding a game which was definitely on tricky. Fortunately much of the Eastern Counties catchment area seemed to miss the worse of it and I was able to see Saffron Walden Town at home to Stowmarket Town in Division One of The Eastern Counties League. Catons Lane has been on my radar for a long time due to the scenic nature of the ground and hopefully my pictures will do it justice. Saffron Walden were hot favourites today, having not lost in the league since the second game of the season against another team with a fantastic ground, March Town United. This meant that they had gone twenty one league games unbeaten, one short of the club record. They had also had a decent run in the FA Vase where they reached the fourth round before going out to fellow Eastern Counties side Stanway Rovers. The closest I'd come to ever seeing Stowmarket Town play is going past the ground on the train to Norwich. Earlier in the season, Saffron Walden won one nil at Green's Meadow.       

Kick off in the shadow of The Church of St Mary
Stowmarket have an early let off when the Saffron Walden attacker can't fully connect with a decent cross into the area and the loose ball is lashed well wide. Stowmarket then have an early chance of their own as a shot following a good pull back is put well over the bar. Both sides are attacking from the off and the Stowmarket forward can only shoot straight at the goalie after a good break. It is then Saffron Walden's turn to hit their opponents on the break and this time the keeper is forced into a good low save from a close range header. From another cross into the area the Saffron Walden player heads the ball just over the cross bar. Stowmarket are then almost caught out by a quick throw but the cross just eludes everyone. The home are almost undone by a long ball forward and it takes a great one handed save to keep the scores level. Just before half time, the Saffron Walden defender almost lets the bounce get the best of him but fortunately for him the keeper is first to the ball and saves his blushes.

Throw down the touchline in front of the wooden stand
The attacking nature of the match continues in the second half and the Saffron Walden player comes close with a diving header from a long throw. The Stowmarket defender then makes a great defensive header from another ball in to the box shortly afterwards. The home side are then given a let off when a poor touch by the centre goes unpunished by the visitors. The away side do however take the lead shortly afterwards. The Stowmarket forward gets in behind the home defence and he is first to the ball and he is able to prod the ball home past the advancing keeper. Saffron Walden now pile to forward to keep the unbeaten run going and the Stowmarket defender does well to clear under pressure. The Saffron Walden winger is next to test the Stowmarket defence, cutting in off the wing but the keeper is able to make a good low save to keep his side ahead. The defence has to be on their game to make a vital block and the ball goes out for a corner. From this corner, a Saffron Walden player is able to get free of his marker and power the ball home to equalise. Stowmarket are undeterred and a long range effort goes just over and lands on top of the net. Saffron Walden do however claim the winner in the closing stages. Another long throw is flicked on and the flick on finds the attacker at the back post and he heads home.

Saffron Walden attack in the first half.
The closest station to Saffron Walden is Audley End. Trains here run from Liverpool Street and the journey takes forty five minutes. While the walk doesn't look too bad on a map, it is a punishing two mile march up and down hill. I thoroughly recommend catching a bus unless you fancy some serious exercise. I took the 301 bus back to the station after the game and I believe a couple of routes go back to the station. While the walk was fairly devastating, Saffron Walden is definitely worth the effort. It is a gorgeous market with plenty to see. In terms of pubs before the ground I first went to The Duke Of York at the top of the High Street which had BT and Sky Sports for the early kick off. After that I went to The Kings Arms which was good but also very popular and there was sadly nowhere to sit or I would have stayed longer. The ground is then a short ten minute walk from the town centre. The clubhouse did the job and had the usual selection of drinks. The bacon burger from the tea hut was the best (although probably worst for me) that I have had this season. While I was waiting for my bus I went to The Victory which is right next door to the ground. The bus then took five minutes to get back to the station.

Stowmarket attack The Church End in the first half

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Robins Boss Top Of The Table Clash - Bosham vs. Langley Wanderers

Clubhouse at Walton Lane
After a short break to see Scunthorpe stroll to victory at Leyton Orient last weekend, it was back to non league this Saturday. There were two top of the table clashes this weekend - Hollands and Blair versus Lydd Town in The Kent Invicita League and Bosham at home to Langley Wanderers in Sussex League Division Three. I opted for the later as Bosham seemed like a more interesting place to visit. I also very nearly came to Bosham after Arundel was postponed a couple of weeks ago but opted for Rustington instead. Bosham were sitting at the top of the table, six points ahead of today's visitors but Langley do have four games in hand. Bosham travel to third place Sidlesham next week and so were coming in to a vital stage of the season. Both teams had scored a lot of goals so far this season - they had both scored 42 goals at the start of play - so it promised to be a great game.

Kick off at Walton Lane
The highlight of the opening exchanges comes when the Bosham winger battles through to the byline but his cross is blocked and the subsequent corners come to nothing. Bosham then score a controversial opener. The Bosham forward is correctly flagged offside by the linesman but the referee opts to play on with the Langley player under significant pressure. He loses the ball and the ball is forced home from the resulting cross much to the justified anger of the away side. Langley are now wound up and the forward is lucky not to even receive a booking for a heavy challenge in front of the dugouts. Langley then begin to settle down and put some pressure on the Bosham goal. The home defence is just about able to clear a dangerous cross into the area. The game now becomes very open and the Langley keeper then makes a terrific save to tip a rasping drive on to the cross bar. It is then the Bosham keeper who makes arguably an even better save from very close range after a good cross from the right. Bosham score a second when the right winger escapes his marker and he squares the ball to his team mate who hammers the ball home to double the lead. In the closing stages of the first half, the Langley number ten just can't connect with another dangerous cross.

Bosham attack in the first half
Langley have the first attack of the first half and the Bosham defence manages to block a couple of shots on goal. Bosham's first chance of the half comes when the ball comes to the forward at the edge of the box but he drags his shot wide. Bosham get the third when the ball comes to the Bosham attacker and he keeps his feet as he gets in to the box and he slots the ball home. Bosham are now rampant and the bounce deceives the forward after the ball is pulled back to him in the area. The Bosham winger is then able to get into a good shooting position and it takes a brilliant saving tackle to stop him getting a shot in. Langley's first effort on goal for a short while is a long range effort which goes just wide of the upright. Not for the first time season, I miss a goal while in the toilet and it is Bosham who score it to go four nil up. In the closing stages, the Bosham winger gets in behind the defence but he greedily shoots when probably should have squared it to his team mate in the middle. They do get a fifth when the Langley goalie is wrong footed by a speculative long range effort to seal the win.

A first half Langley ball into the area.
As I mentioned earlier, I chose Bosham on the basis that it looked a more interesting place to visit. The place has a lot of history and is even mentioned on The Bayeux Tapestry. It is well worth getting there early enough to have a walk around the bay on the waterside road if the tide is out! There are no direct trains from London to Bosham. You have to take a train from Victoria to Barnham and change there for a train to Bosham. The journey takes the best part of two hours. The ground is then a fifteen minute walk from the station. If you do get there early enough for a walk around the bay then it is worth visiting The Anchor Bleu which had a number of ales on. In between the bay and Walton Lane is The Berkley Arms which is a good half way house. The clubhouse and the club in general is extremely friendly and everyone was keen to hear where I'd come from for the game. They also produce a brilliant match day programme and is yet another reason to visit Bosham on a Saturday. On the way back to the station I popped in to The White Swan which is perfect for a drink while waiting for your train. 

The crowd at Walton Lane


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