Monday, 16 April 2018

Greens Continue Premier Push - Whitton United vs. Norwich CBS

Match action at King George V Playing Fields
So after what seems like forever, Spring looks to be finally here which gave me the odd feeling of being able to choose a game and not be checking Twitter every minute. It was a rare occasion where trains were running east out of Liverpool Street as work for The Elizabeth Line ramps up. I therefore opted for Whitton United against Norwich CBS (can anyone tell me what the CBS stands for?) in Division One of The Eastern Counties League. This is Norwich's first season at this level and was previously known as Spixworth which is in a long line of name changes. They found themselves comfortably in mid-table showing how well they have adapted to the higher level. Whitton were in second and were looking good for promotion which had been achieved already by league leaders Woodbridge Town. 

Kick off at King George V Playing Fields
Norwich take the game to the hosts and the Whitton keeper makes a decent low save after the attacker gets through the Whitton defense. They come close again when a free kick to the back post finds the man in space but his half-volley goes over the bar. Whitton's first site of goal follows a cutback but the Norwich defense recovers just in time. As so often happens, Norwich are punished for not taking their chances. A lofted ball to the back post is headed back across the Norwich keeper and into the net via the post. 

The Norwich defence cuts out a pass
The second half is a fairly scrappy affair without too much goalmouth action. The second goal comes when the Norwich keeper is caught a long way out of his goal and Whitton double their lead. They come close to getting a third when the Norwich defence can't fully clear a free kick into the area before the second effort is also hacked away by the Norwich defender. Whitton get a late third to continue their promotion push. 

Whitton attacking the clubhouse end
If the trains are actually running, then the fast trains to Ipswich from Liverpool Street take about an hour. Then after a walk through the town centre, you can get the number nine bus to Whitton which takes ten minutes. It's then a quick walk through the park to get to King George V Playing Fields. If you fancy a drink in Ipswich then you have to check out The St Jude's Brewery Tavern. This excellent pub has a wide selection of beers and ciders and is also kid and TV free - a real contender for pub of the season. The clubhouse just outside the ground was friendly and had the usual selection of drinks. With the cracking pub and great ground, it was a brilliant day in Suffolk. 

Whitton United Shed End

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Pagham vs. Saltdean United

Clubhouse and cover at Pagham
As much as I liked Haverhill and Slough - especially for bailing me out in terrible weather - it was nice to get back to a more varied ground this weekend. I had seen Pagham for their first game of this season, which was a four nil away win at Arundel in the FA Cup and had wanted to visit ever since. They were also one of the three teams I had left to visit in The Southern Combination Premier Division with Broadbridge Heath and Loxwood the other two. Pagham were one of four teams in with a shout of the title and started the day in second, one point behind Haywards Heath. I fully recommend a visit to Saltdean on a warm day to enjoy the elevated views from the grass bank on one side of the pitch and the general surrounding of their Hill Park ground. I visited for a feisty match with Rustington a couple of seasons ago. Today's visitors were in fifth having played more games then all of the teams above them.

Kick off at Nyetimber Lane
Both sides have half chances at the start of the game, Saltdean have a free kick that is deflected out for a corner and Pagham have a half volley following a long ball but neither fail to seriously trouble the keeper. Saltdean have another free kick on the edge of the box which this time goes straight into the arms of the keeper. Towards the end of the half Pagham take the lead. A Pagham ball in isn't fully cleared and when it is put back in the box and is forced home from close range.

Pagham defending in the second half
Pagham are lifted by their goal in the first half and look to increase their advantage and the Saltdean keeper has to make a good save at his near post after the attacker gets behind the defence. Pagham get the second when the initial effort hits the post and the Pagham player reacts quickest to lash the ball in. They get the third goal as Saltdean give the ball away on the half way which allows the midfielder to loft the ball which is subsequently lashed past the keeper to make it three nil. Saltdean are still fighting and the Pagham defence has to block two shots in quick secession. Then from the resulting corner Saltdean have another close range effort cleared off the line. Saltdean get behind the Pagham defence and again they see the eventual shot cleared off the line again!. It's not their afternoon and it finishes three nil to Pagham.

Pagham look to attack in the second half
It takes a fair amount of time to get to Pagham. You first need to get a train to Bognor Regis from Victoria which takes an hour and a half. Then a short walk from the station you can catch the 600 bus to Pagham and their are four buses an hour and the journey takes fifteen minutes. The bus stops just around the corner from the ground but you can stay on to see the sea or the local pubs a little further on. I really liked the pubs I tried in Pagham. The first one was The Lamb which had a couple of ales and is good for reading the paper. If you want to watch the early kick off then The Bear is a good bet and is also good if you have a wait for the bus home. The pub with the best selection of beers was The Inglenook which also had the best selection of animals - I only saw the parrot, not sure where the cat was. The clubhouse at the ground had the usual selection of drinks and you can see most of the pitch through the window. An excellent afternoon in West Sussex.

The main stand from the other side

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Rebels Roar Back - Slough Town vs. Chesham United

Decent bank holiday crowd at Arbour Park
The weather continued to ruin things so I opted for plastic again - although a couple of games survived in Kent on grass, including Punjab Sports who had been rained off on Friday. Today's match of choice was Slough Town against Chesham United in the Southern Premier League. Slough currently occupied the final play off spot and had a seven point gap on Royston immediately below them. Chesham having played more games and being nine points behind were pretty out of contention. I'd seen Slough Town at 'home' once before when they were sharing at Beaconsfield and they beat Merthyr on a damp midweek. I'm a big fan of Chesham's Meadow ground and will look to revisit in pre season. The reverse fixture on New Years day ended in a one all draw.

Main stands at kick off
It is the away side who have the best of the early exchanges and the forward heads over after a break out. They take the lead as the attacker is played in with a diagonal ball and he slots past the keeper to make it one nil. Slough's first chance is a well hit low shot that the Chesham keeper does well to get down to. Chesham are then played in again but a poor first touch allows the Slough keeper to come off his line and claim. Just before half time, Slough level in spectacular fashion. The ball breaks to the Slough player 25 yards or so out and he lashes the ball past the Chesham keeper.

Moments after the Slough equaliser
After a fairly quiet start, the second half soon explodes into action. Firstly Chesham find themselves in on goal after a turn on the half way line but the Slough keeper is able to keep it out. Then Slough should really be ahead as the ball is headed back across goal but the resulting shot is hammered over the bar. Slough now build up a head of steam and the Chesham defender does well to block a shot after the keeper had saved a drilled effort. Shortly afterwards the Chesham keeper makes another great save to tip a long range shot over the bar. Chesham are still in the game however and Slough have a bit of luck when a deflected cross bounces off the top of the bar. Slough get the deserved winner close to full time when the ball is squared across goal and this time it is forced in from close range to claim the points.

Slough attack in the second half
Slough was one of the quicker journeys out of town this season. Trains from Paddington take half an hour and the ground is then a fifteen minute walk away. If have time before hand then The Rose and Crown at the opposite end of the high street to the station had three ales on and had the sports channels. If you want something a bit closer to the station then The Rising Sun has the sports channels. Like a lot of new builds, the clubhouse is at the back of the new stand and offers view of the action if it's too cold. They had the usual selection of drinks including their own lager that was quite good. Hopefully back on to grass next week.

Highlights, including the great equaliser at around three minutes can be seen here.

Additional seating opposite the main stand

Monday, 2 April 2018

Haverhill Borough vs. Fakenham Town

Turnstile at New Croft 3G
After the mad run around yesterday, I opted for the safe option of 3G at Haverhill Borough. Today they were hosting Fakenham Town in The Eastern Counties Premier. With the high number of possible relegation places, Haverhill were still not safe from relegation and needed to make up ground on the teams above them. I'd seen Fakenham already this season when they were beaten eight nil at Histon a couple of months ago. I really enjoyed my trip to Fakenham for a pre season friendly with Norwich city that was one of the times where the town and ground were both enjoyable.

Kick off on The New Croft 3G
Haverhill take the game to Fakenham early on but there isn't really action of note in the opening stages. Midway through the half though, the hosts take a spectacular lead. The Fakenham keeper comes a long way out to meet the ball but he doesn't get enough on it and is lobbed from long range. They come close to doubling their lead when the Fakenham keeper flaps at a cross but the resulting chance is put wide of the target. Haverhill double the lead just before half time with another great goal. The Haverhill player is teed up from distance before hammering a shot in off the bar to make it two nil. 

Fakenham looking for the opening goal
Haverhill look to seal the point early on and are unlucky to see a shot deflected over the bar to safety. They really should get the third as they get behind the Fakenham defence but after the ball is squared the ball is put wide on the run. Fakenham are still trying to get on the score sheet and when the Haverhill defence doesn't fully clear a ball in Fakenham have a close range shot blocked. There aren't any further major chances for either side and Haverhill win two nil.

A Fakenham effort goes wide in the second half
It felt like a bit of slog to get to Haverhill, you first need to get a train to Cambridge from Kings Cross which takes forty five minutes if you get the non stopping service. Then a short walk from the station you catch the 13 bus to Haverhill which takes about an hour. The bus does stop outside the ground but it is worth exploring the town beforehand. If you want to watch the early kick off then both The Bull and The Woolpack are good choices. If you want ale and pub with no TV or music then The Queens Head is your best choice. The small clubhouse had the standard selection of drinks and BT Sports. The sausage sandwiches are also excellent as was the welcome from the volunteers at the ground.

Tussle in front of the covered accommodation

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Mudbath - Dartford vs. Hampton and Richmond Borough

Game on at Princess Park
Easter is normally a time for football with lots of games spread across the long weekend. However with the seemingly never ending run of bad weather, the programme has been severely hit. On Saturday I had wanted to watch Punjab United in Gravesend but that match was called off just as I sat down on the bus so I made the dash to Dartford for their Conference South match with Hampton and Richmond Borough. This match had a lot riding on it as was second against third with the loser likely to be consigned to the play offs. I have visited Hampton a couple times before and I always enjoy my trips to The Beveree.

More standing water
The pitch clearly wasn't fit at the start of play and it rained throughout the match but full credit goes to the referee for letting the game start, to the managers and who wanted to play and most importantly to the ground staff. Football was difficult with the pitch but the game was still entertaining. Dartford claimed the points with pretty much the last kick of the game as the forward got behind his marker to slot home from close range.

Hampton craft a chance in the first half
Trains to Dartford depart from Charing Cross and take three quarters of an hour and it is then a steady twenty minute or so walk to the ground. On the walk to the ground you pass The Malt Shovel which is popular with people heading to and from the game and does the job. The clubhouse at the back of the main stand had the usual selection of drinks as well as BT Sports.

Goalmouth in the second half

Monday, 26 March 2018

Binfield Rock Title Bid - Binfield vs. Highworth Town

Elevated view at Hill Farm Lane
The weather seems to temporally at least have let up - Easter weekend doesn't look great - to allow a free choice of game last weekend. Binfield has been a ground that has been on the list for a little while and the visit of high flying Highworth Town stood out. I visited Highworth earlier this season for an FA Vase tie with fellow Hellenic League side Easington Sports which they won comfortably. Highworth are currently top of the table having only lost three league games so far this season and it seems to be between them and FA Vase semi finalists Thatham for the title. Binfield themselves were having a decent season and were in sixth place behind local rivals Bracknell, who they host on Monday evening. The reverse fixture in Wiltshire saw a one one draw.

Just before the teams switched round
Both sides were trying to play football early on but neither created any real chances. The first chance however produces the opening goal. The Highworth winger gets behind the defence and his ball across is put into his own net by the sliding defender. Things soon get worse for Binfield as a ball over the top is lashed home by the onrushing striker. The first Binfield chance is a header from a cross that produces a decent save from the Highworth goalie. The away side almost get a third as another header is this time blocked on the line. Headers seem to becoming a theme as a third forces a brilliant one handed save from the visiting keeper.

Two nil Highworth
Binfield come out looking to get back into the game and out of a couple early chances, the best was a great corner kick that just eludes everyone. Binfield continue to push without reward before things go crazy in the final ten minutes. The home side win a penalty when the forward is pushed over in the box and the resulting penalty is dispatched and Binfield smell blood. They get behind the defence before a ball across the six yard box is hacked away. They get the equaliser when a ball across the edge of the box is lashed into the opposite corner. They complete the turn around when Highworth give the ball away in midfield and the attacker eventually slots the ball home from just outside the area. Highworth now pile forward and nearly concede a fourth in spectacular fashion. The keeper is caught well off his line but fortunately for him the long distance effort thunders off the bar as Binfield win by three goals to two.

Highworth look for the third in front of the clubhouse
As you can tell from the pictures, the ground is fairly rural. To get there from you London you need to catch a train to Bracknell from Waterloo before taking the 150 bus to Binfield. All this takes just over an over and a half with the buses being every half hour. A short walk from the bus stop is The Victoria Arms which is a welcoming Fullers pub that the usual choice of ales as well as BT Sports. Then about half way to the ground is The Jack O'Newbury which is an excellent rural ale pub which also has the sports channels. The ground is then a steady ten minute walk away. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and the hotdogs come highly recommended. The club are rightly welcome of the whole set up and there is a picturesque backdrop to proceedings. The programme was also great and teamsheets are freely available on the bar.

Touchline view of Hill Farm Road

Monday, 19 March 2018

Town Derailed In Late Flurry - Billingham Town vs. Darlington Railway Athletic

Snow storm passing over Bedford Terrace
This was weekend I was spending a weekend with my parents in the north east and we had planned to take in a Northern League game. Then the weather stepped in - again!. Looking at the forecast, it looked like we would have to resort to watching Sunderland to see a game. However, on Saturday morning both Billingham Town and Darlington tweeted saying their games were and we were saved. We stuck with our original Northern League plan and headed to Bedford Terrace for their Divison Two match with Darlington Railway Athletic. The closest I've come to seeing either play or visit either town was when I saw Scunthorpe at Feethams and The Reynolds Arena some years ago. The only other time I'd seen a Northern League match was Penrith versus Consett a couple of seasons ago. Coming in the game, the hosts were seventh with Darlington second bottom.

Snow already on the pitch at kick off
The visitors are the first to put pressure on the opposition defence and the Billingham keeper has to make a good low save early on. Darlington then have a bit of luck as the defender falls on the ball in the box but they are able to clear their lines. They come closer when the Darlington defender has to head a shot off the line after the forward cuts inside. The ball falls twice to Darlington players in good positions but they fail to seriously trouble the Billingham keeper. With the strong wind behind them in the first half, would Darlington regret not making the most of their sights of goal.

A Billingham cross in the first half
Darlington continue where they left off at the start of the second half and the Billingham keeper makes a good close range save following a pull back from the byline. The visitors are almost gifted the opener when the Billingham keeper drops the ball from a corner but he is bailed out as his defenders block the resulting shot. The Billingham defenders then perform more heroics as they get a last second tackle in to deny Darlington a break away goal. Then as so often happens, Darlington are caught out by a sucker punch. A Billingham free kick is delivered into the box and is poked in from close range. Shortly afterwards, a Darlington corner is handled by a defender and the resulting penalty is buried to equalise. Then in the very last minutes, Darlington put together another break away move and claim the three points with a finish from the left hand side.

A Billingham free kick goes just wide of the target
It takes a long old time to get to Billingham from London as you would expect. If you're really keen, you first need to catch a train from Kings Cross to either Darlington or Eaglescliffe and change there for a train to Thornaby. Then from there you can catch the final train to Billingham which overall takes just under four hours. The good news is, the ground is then only a short walk away. If you still have the energy there are a couple of decent micro pubs - The Crafty Cock  and The Village Crossing are both close to the ground. Both had an excellent selection of beers (both local and from further afield) and the sports channels. The Crafty Cock also sold amazing smelling pies. The clubhouse outside the ground had the usual selection of drinks and offered a warm welcome. While it was the only Northern League game on the whole afternoon was fantastic.  

Side on view of the stand and the snow

Trimmed down but still good programme
Northern train passing the ground