Monday, 20 February 2017

Creeksiders Cam Away With Three Points - Fareham Town vs. Whitchurch United

Sunny afternoon at Cam Alders
It almost feels like spring is here as I was able to chose a game the preceding Sunday and not have to worry about the weather and end up not needing a coat on match day. This of course changes this week which a forecast of heavy rain in the middle of the week but it was good while it lasted. The game I had chosen was The Wessex League Premier Division match up between Fareham Town and Whitchurch United. This was an important match as both sides needed points to pull away from the relegation zone. I visited Whitchurch's Longmeadow Sports Club a couple of seasons ago for another Wessex League match with Brockenhurst and they achieved a three nil win on that occasion. Fareham won the reverse fixture two one back in September.

Kick off under clear blue skies
Whitchurch come close in the early stages but the attacker can't get enough on a recycled ball after the initial cross is cleared. Then from a corner shortly afterwards, the ball is headed over the bar. Fareham then have a couple of chances of their own, the first of which the Whitchurch goalie makes a great save (a recurring theme as the game goes on) with his feet from a close range effort. Then he has to tip a dipping shot over the bar after the winger is allowed to cut inside. Whitchurch are able to get in out wide but the eventual effort is lashed well wide of the target. Fareham have a double chance in the closing stages of the first half. A free kick on the edge of the box is blocked by the wall before the keeper makes a great low save from the follow up effort.

Fareham winger takes on the Whitchurch defense
Whitchurch almost gift Fareham the opener at the start of the second half. The Whitchurch defender misjudges his header back to the keeper but he is alert enough to get the ball first. The Whitchurch keeper then makes another brilliant stop after the ball is headed back in the six yard box and then comes the key moment of the match. When the ball is played back in, the forward is brought down and the referee points to the spot. The penalty is buried to put Fareham one up. Fareham now go for the kill and the Whitchurch keeper comes to the rescue again to make another save with his feet. Fareham have further chances to make the game safe but the game ends one nil. 

View from the back of the stand
To get to Fareham from London, you can take a direct train from Waterloo and you'll get there in around an hour and forty minutes. If you can navigate the roadworks outside the station, the walk to the ground takes only ten minutes. The town center is in the opposite direction to the ground. My favorite pub in the town center was The Golden Lion which had a good selection of beers as well as a couple of Fullers Ales. The Ironmaster also had a decent selection of drinks. Then half way to the ground next to the scenic waterside is The Castle In The Air which is a good half way spot. The bar at the ground doubles up as a nightclub but did have a reasonable choice of larger. The burgers are also absolutely worth trying out. I really liked the ground and as you can see, the view from the stand is pretty impressive.

View down the dugout side of the ground

Monday, 13 February 2017

Blues Win Mid Table Battle - Selsey vs. Southwick

Match details
My first choice fixture of the previous weekend was the top of the table clash in The Hellenic League West between Hook Norton and Fairford Town but when I saw the forecast temperatures coupled with how difficult it would've been to get to another game, I went for another option. Of course, my original choice beat the weather anyway. Whenever a lot of games fall foul to the weather, Selsey always seems to manage to beat the conditions and their regularly updated Twitter provided me with the assurance I needed. Their opponents in The Sussex League Division One match were Southwick. Having past Southwick's Old Barn Way ground several times while traveling on the West Coastway Line, I have been meaning to visit for a little while. The two sides were next to each other in the table, level on points but Southwick had played four more games then today's hosts. Selsey won the reverse fixture four two back in November.

Kick off at The Bunn Leisure Stadium
Southwick get into a crossing position early on which unfortunately lands in the grateful arms of the Selsey keeper. The Selsey forward is then played in on goal but he passes the ball wide of the target. Towards the end of the half, the Southwick keeper has to be alert to punch away a dangerous cross.

The Southwick keeper comes to claim a Selsey cross
Into the second half and the visitors have a lucky escape when a cross is heavily deflected and goes wide of the target. Selsey then come even closer as a free kick is headed onto his own bar by a Southwick defender and then goes out of play. The hosts do take a deserved lead when a corner is headed home from close range. In the later stages of the game, Selsey are then gifted the second goal. The Southwick keeper is unfortunate in letting a weak shot go straight through him and into the net.

A first half Selsey attack with the clubhouse in the background
It does take a little while to get to Selsey from London, but it is worth the effort. Firstly you have to take a train to Chichester from Victoria which takes an hour and forty minutes. Then from the bus station you can catch the 51 bus which takes around twenty minutes to get to Selsey and there are four buses an hour. I got off a little earlier then I intended to have a walk on the sea wall past the seafood stalls and the lifeboat station. Just behind the station is The Lifeboat which is good for a post beach walk drink. Then on the High Street, The Seal had the best selection of beers while The Crown was good for the early kick off. The ground is then just off the High Street, through the Co-Op car park (which took me a short while to work out). The clubhouse was friendly and had the usual selection of drinks as well as the sports channels. I really enjoyed my trip to Selsey and as I said it's worth taking the time to visit.

Another view of the stand

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

10 Men Romp To Victory - Stonehouse Town vs. Hardwicke

Glorious day in Gloucestershire
I'd had my eye on Stonehouse Town all week but the weather forecast had forced me to consider Steyning and their plastic pitch. However, a combination of the weather being a lot drier than predicted and communication with the club on Twitter, I was able to set off for Stonehouse, knowing that the game was going ahead. I had really enjoyed my trip to Gloucestershire earlier in the season to see Brimscombe and Thrupp and so I was looking forward to this trip. Stonehouse play in The Gloucestershire County League and while I'd seen games at this level in The Sussex and Central Midlands Leagues, this was my first game in this league. Their opponents were Hardwicke who were fifth from bottom at the start of play but had games in hand on the teams around them. Stonehouse were in second place and there were only four points separating the top four teams.

Kick Off At Oldends Lane
Hardwicke have an early sniff of goal when the Stonehouse midfielder is robbed of the ball but the move eventually breaks down. Stonehouse come close with a glancing header from a curling cross which goes just wide of the post. They come close again as a neat flick gets the forward in on goal and the Hardwicke keeper has to be quick off the mark to get to the ball first. Hardwicke then almost gift Stonehouse the lead when the keeper loses the ball at a corner but his mistake goes unpunished. The home side do however take the lead following a ball back into the box after a corner isn't fully cleared and the attacker makes no mistake from close range. Hardwicke come close to fashioning an equalizer but the centre back just there first. In the closing stages of the first period, Stonehouse double their lead. A quick break from a Hardwicke corner ends in the forward being played in on goal and he make it two nil. 

Hardwicke defend a first half corner
Hardwicke create a couple of chances at the start of the second half but none of them seriously trouble the Stonehouse keeper. They are then given a big boost when a Stonehouse player is sent off for presumably for something he said as the foul was barely a free kick in the first place. The visitors take immediate advantage as a pile driver of a free kick hits the post and the rebound is put in from close range. That would unfortunately be as good as it would get for Hardwicke. Stonehouse restore their two goal advantage as a driven corner kick finds the man in space who forces the ball into the net. Hardwicke have a chance which is lashed just wide before Stonehouse add two late goals. Firstly when a Hardwicke move breaks down, the forward gets in on goal before dispatching the ball past the goalie. The final goal of the afternoon comes as the winger cuts inside and places a low shot just inside the near post. 

A Hardwicke corner in the first half
To get to Stonehouse from London you first have to take a train to Swindon and from there you can get a train to Stonehouse. The whole journey takes an hour and forty minutes. The first pub I visited was The Woolpack Inn which had a couple of ales on as well as serving great looking food. Then half way to the ground is The Globe Inn which had a good choice of beers as well as the sports channels. The Magpies Sports Club at the ground also had the usual selection of beers as well as the football on a projector screen. I cannot speak highly enough of the welcome at the ground. As I mentioned earlier, it was through the  responsive Twitter account that I traveled in confidence that the game was going ahead and people were keen to ask where I'd come from for the game. A brilliant set up and great afternoon all round.

Another view of the stand

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Erith Call Deal's Bluff - Deal Town vs. Erith Town

Deal defend in front of the changing rooms
After a couple of weeks off (which did include a trip to see Barcelona play at The Nou Camp), I was back to non league this weekend. The weather in the week was a lot warmer and so there was a decent selection of games and I chose the Kent League six pointer between Deal Town and Erith Town. Both teams were in need of points to pull away from the bottom two. I saw Erith Town when they were playing at Erith Stadium some years ago and on that day they comprehensively beat Herne Bay to move within a point of them in top sport. These days they share at VCD Athletic where I saw a Kent League Charity Shield match between VCD and Croydon.

Return to action
Both sides have early half chances, Deal's comes when a looping ball finds the man at the back post and he proceeds to volley the ball well over the bar. Erith's comes as the ball is chipped into the danger area but the attacker can't fully connect with the ball. A calm start to the game is blown away as the Erith player appears to go in late which leads to the usual handbags and several yellow cards. Once things settle down again, it doesn't take long for the visitors to take the lead. A corner from the left is flicked on at the near post and the ball is headed home at the back post to put Erith one up. They almost double their lead as the forward is nearly played in but the Deal keeper is just first to the ball. Towards the end of the half, the Deal winger almost gets himself in on goal and it takes a great last ditch tackle to deny him a clear shot.

The early Deal chance
Erith go further ahead when a first time ball into the box causes panic in the Deal defense and the ball is forced home from close range to make it two nil. Deal then come desperately close to getting back in to the game as the winger is able to put in a brilliant cross and from the resulting effort on goal, the Erith keeper makes a great point blank save. The hosts don't have long to wait to get back into the game however. The Deal forward has the ball in the box and he goes down under a challenge and the referee points to the spot. The penalty is duly dispatched to make it two one. Deal then get an equalizer, the forward gets to a ball lofted ball over the top first and chips the keeper to level things up. Parity doesn't last long as Deal again fail to deal with a ball into the box and the ball is again scrambled in from close range to restore Eirth's lead. They seal the three points when Deal lose the ball in midfield and when the forward is played in he makes no mistake in scoring the fourth and final goal.

The Erith winger runs past the clubhouse
To get to Deal is fairly straight forward from London. You catch a direct train from St Pancras and the trip takes an hour and forty minutes on the fast train. I thought Deal was quite similar to Whitstable and there is the castle and pier to explore before the game. I was also to sample a couple of decent Kent beers at a couple of very good pubs. Firstly at The Bohemian I tried Sail from The G2 Brewery which was a good light ale and I managed to resist the large selection of bottled Belgian beers. Then there is The Kings Head which is good for the early kick offs and also served great looking food. Just around the corner is The Taphouse where from the ten or so beers on tap I tried the tasty Peroxide Blonde from The Docker Brewery. The ground is ten minutes walk from town and it has cover on three sides as well as a raised grass bank on the fourth side. The clubhouse had a good selection of beers as well as the sports channels. Burgers also come highly recommended.

Side on view of the stand

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Bloods Stain First Game - Stanway Rovers vs. Saffron Walden Town

Saffron Walden attack in the first half
This weekend I had intended to finally visit Rottingdean Village in the Sussex County League but the Southern Rail farce meant that this would run the risk of a nightmare trip and so I played it safe and opted for Stanway Rovers against Saffron Walden in the Eastern Counties League. This was the first game in charge for new Stanway manager Karl Duguid after Angelo Harrop stood down in December. The only time I can remember seeing Stanway play previously was against Hanworth Villa in an FA Vase tie six years ago. Saffron Walden is one of my favourite places I've visited for football - although I made the mistake of walking there from Audley End - they were hosting Stowmarket on that afternoon. Stowmarket are second in the table, sixteen points behind run away leaders Mildenhall while Saffron Walden were in mid table. Stanway won the reverse fixture four one back in October.

Kick off at Hawthorns
Both sides have free kicks in decent positions early on but nether cause any serious threat and they are headed away by the respective defences. The first clear sight of goal comes when the Saffron Walden player is played in on goal but his effort is blocked by the keeper. The visitors then almost gift Stanway the opener as they play the Stanway attacker in with a poor back pass and he drags his shot across the goal and wide. Stanway then struggle to fully clear a Saffron Walden free and they regain their composure to scramble the ball away. The away side take the lead in slightly fortuitous circumstances as a header hits the post and the rebound bounces off the keeper and into the net. Saffron Walden come very close to doubling their lead shortly before half time when the ball is played back in after a corner is cleared and the resulting header thunders off the bar and just about out to safety. 

Stanway look to put the Saffron Walden defence under pressure
Stanway push for the equaliser straight after half time and the forward has a shot blocked after being played in on goal. Then a well hit corner kick manages to elude everyone. It is however Saffron Walden who score the next goal. A cross into the box isn't fully cleared and after the second one is played in, the attacker gets ahead of his marker to score their second. Stanway half the deficit shortly afterwards as the forward is allowed to turn on the edge of the box and fire home from the edge of the box. Stanway now pile forward and the midfielder goes on a meandering run from around half way only see his shot blocked by the Saffron Walden defence. Stanway soon have a great chance for the equaliser, but a great last ditch tackle keeps Saffron Walden ahead. Saffron Walden are able to see out the remainder of the game to seal the three points.

The Stanway attacker looks to get behind the defence
To get to Stanway I took the train to Colchester Town which takes just over an hour and then from across the road on Osborne Street you can take the 65 bus to just outside the ground. The bus portion takes about ten minutes dependent on traffic. I wouldn't recommend heading straight to Stanway as there are things to see in the town such as the castle and it's grounds. There are also two brilliant pubs in the centre. Firstly there is The Three Wise Monkeys which a great choice of beers including the excellent 'Schmankel' wheat beer from The Tapout Brewery. Then around the corner is the more intimate Queen Street Brewhouse which has more ales and I tried 'Orange' from The Green Jack Brewery. Then in Stanway itself is The Live And Let Live which also had a couple of ales on as well as BT Sports. Here I tried 'Bengal Flare' from the Box Steam Brewery which a good chilli after taste. The clubhouse located outside the ground had a good selection of beers as well as BT Sports. All in all, a fantastic day out in Essex.

The Saffron Walden winger runs on in front of the stand

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Apparent Late Goal Rush Secures Win - Easington Sports vs. Shortwood United Reserves

Watching on Addison Road
For the last match of the year, I needed an early kick off at a game fairly close to London. My choices for a new ground were Sittingbourne or Easington Sports. As the walk from the station to the ground is fairly long at Sittingbourne I opted for Easington Sports. They play in The Hellenic League Division One West and they were playing Shortwood United Reserves. I have never seen a game in this division before. I had visited Abingdon United for an FA Cup tie a couple of seasons ago but never actually seen a game in this division. I'd always enjoyed my visits to Hellenic League grounds, Brimscombe and Thrupp being a particular highlight earlier this season. Before this fixture, Easington were towards to the top of the table with Shortwood not far behind them in mid table.

Last kick off shot of 2016
Shortwood have a glorious chance in the opening minutes as a ball forward is well controlled by the forward and he rounds the keeper only to see his goal bound effort stopped by a sliding defender. Easington have a couple of chances to get balls into the area and these fail to sufficiently test the Shortwood keeper. Then a searching ball forward just eludes the reaching of the stretching Shortwood striker. Easington come desperately close to the opener when the attacker gets free of his marker at a corner and he thunders a header against the post. Despite the heavy pitch it is a really open game and Easington are relived when a Shortwood ball across goal manages to elude everyone. They come closer just before half time as the Shortwood attacker finds space in the box and forces the Easington keeper to save with his legs. 

An Easington cross in the first half
Easington have their tails up attacking the clubhouse end in the second half and the attacker gets to the byline before the eventual effort on goal requires a smart save from the Shortwood keeper. They then manage to get in out wide and this time the effort goes wide of the goal. Next time the attacker gets in out wide he elects to play the ball across the goal but there is no touch forthcoming. This is the point sadly where I had to catch my bus back into Banbury so I could catch my train and proceed to miss all three goals which is special even by my standards. Shortwood manage to score twice before a late Easington goal leads to a nervy finish.

First half action with the clubhouse in the background
The closest railway station to Addison Road is Banbury and this is reached by taking a train from Marylebone which takes just under an hour. I'd visited Banbury before for games at Brackley and Banbury itself and the pleasant town centre is worth exploring. To get to Easington you take the hourly 488 bus to the pub of the same name. This portion of the trip takes ten minutes or so depending on traffic. The Easington is a decent pub with a wide selection of beers and is a steady fifteen minute walk from the ground. The clubhouse sells cans as well as tasty smelling bacon rolls at half time. It also had BT Sports. At three pounds admission and programme, you are unlikely to find a better value match day experience. I fully recommend visiting Easington Sports and also recommend staying until the end of the match too.

Shortwood throw in front of the stand

Monday, 2 January 2017

Still Foggy In Essex - Aveley vs. Haringey Borough

The stand is out there somewhere
The final weekend of the Christmas period provided plenty of options for football. I opted for a Friday / Saturday combination and my first match was Aveley against Haringey Borough in The Ryman League Division One North. As with my last in Essex at Coggeshall, I had concerns on my way to the ground regarding fog but the game just about survived. This was the last scheduled mid week game for Aveley at Mill Field before they move to a new ground next season. I'd visited Mill Field before for an FA Trophy tie with Carshalton many seasons ago. Aveley also featured in one of the most incredible games I'd ever seen - an exhilarating last day match with East Thurrock on the last day of the season where they snatched the title. When I went to Haringey Borough's Coles Park when they were still in The South Midlands League. There have been many changes since, namely the introduction of an artificial pitch. Both sides needed the points - Aveley to cement their play off place while Haringey wanted to keep in touch with the sides in the play off places already.

Conditions at kick off at Mill Field
As you can see from the pictures, conditions weren't the best and was at times difficult to tell which team was which on the opposite side of the pitch. I could see enough to see Aveley take the lead in the first half when the forward is played in on goal and he makes no mistake to make it one nil. Then in the second half, they double their lead when the attacker slots in at the back post following a cross from the left. Haringey get a late goal back but Aveley hold on for the win.

An Aveley throw in the first half
I fully recommend a visit to Mill Field before the end of the season, it really is a fantastic ground. To get there from London you have to take a train from Fenchurch Street to Rainham which takes just over twenty minutes. Then from the station you can take the 372 into Aveley and this takes ten minutes if traffic isn't too bad. Pub wise in Aveley there is The Old Ship Inn and The Crown And Anchor which are both friendly locals that had decent selections of beer. The ground is then a steady five minute walk from the village. The clubhouse was welcoming and also had BT Sports. The bacon burgers from the tea hut are also worth trying out.  

Close up view of the stand