Sunday, 4 December 2016

Students Garduate To Fourth Round - Team Solent vs. Bodmin Town

Sun setting behind the stands
It was FA Vase time again and after travelling a fair distance to Portland last round, I stayed a little closer and travelled to Southampton for the tie between Team Solent and Bodmin Town. Team Solent are doing well in The Premier Division of The Wessex League sitting in seventh with games in hand on the teams above them. Team Solent are the first team of Southampton Solent University and are made up of students, alumni, staff and a couple of external players. Bodmin play in The South West Peninsula League where they are in fourth place and although this is a level below Team Solent, it is still a very strong league. This would be the first time I'd seen either side play although while on holiday in Cornwall we did visit Bodmin and the car park in the town centre backs on to their Priory Park ground and I did have a quick look. This was my fifth Vase tie of the season and I'd two home and two away wins and so it would be a hard one to predict. 

Kick off at Test Park
Team Solent make the perfect start when the ball is crossed in and the attacker is able nod home at the back post to put the hosts one nil up. Bodmin almost equalise straight away but the Team Solent keeper is able to make a good save from an effort following a break. It's a really open first period and the Bodmin defence is just about able to clear a dangerous free kick into the box. Then after a Bodmin corner isn't fully cleared, they recycle the ball which leads to a low shot which the keeper is equal to. Bodmin create a great opening when the ball is pulled back from close to the byline but there is no one there to take advantage. The open nature of the game continues as it is then Team Solent who are able to break out and following a similar pull back, a shot on goal is blocked by the Bodmin defence. In the closing stages of the half Bodmin think they have a shout for a penalty that is waved away by the referee.

The Team Solent defender blocks a Bodmin effort on goal
Bodmin go on the attack straight away in the second half and the Team Solent defence is able to block an effort on goal after the Bodmin forward took on a couple of a players on the edge of the area. Team Solent then play themselves in via a cross field pass and the Bodmin keeper makes a great save with his legs from the resulting effort on goal. Bodmin are having a lot of the ball without really threatening the Team Solent goal. The closest they come in this period is when a free kick is sent into the box which is headed just wide. The Bodmin forward then finds himself in a dangerous position and the Team Solent defence is relived to see the shot bend wide of the target. Team Solent think they've sealed the tie when the attacker is able to get his head to a cross at the near post but the Bodmin keeper produces an amazing save. Team Solent see out the rest of the game to reach the fourth round.

Bodmin look for the equaliser in the second half
To get to Test Park, I opted to travel to Redbridge Station which requires you to take a train to either Southampton Central or Eastleigh and change there for the hourly service to Redbridge. The walk from here to Test Park takes about half an hour. Alternatively you could get off at Southampton Central and catch on the frequents buses to Kendal Avenue which is a short walk from the ground. Close to Redbridge Station is The Ship Inn and The Anchor which are both friendly locals with good selection of beers. Around the corner from the ground is The Saints Pub which is perfect for the early kick off and if Bush Hill are at home in The Hampshire League you can see the ground from the pub. The bar at the ground did the job and also had the sports channels. I can fully recommend the bacon rolls from the tea hut.

Another view of the stands at Test Park

Monday, 28 November 2016

10 Men Fosters Claim Big Win - London Colney vs Cockfosters

Dusk over Coltlandswick Playing Fields
While looking through the weekends fixtures one fixture really screamed out. This was the match between first and fourth in the Spartan South Midlands League and the two teams were London Colney and Cockfosters. The away side hadn't lost since the middle of last month while the hosts were eleven points clear at the top of the league and so there was the potential for a great match. Cockfoster's Chalk Lane was one of the first grounds I visited when I started ground hopping. On that day they played Haringey Borough in a London Senior Cup tie. If anything else, I was hoping to see a full ninety minutes after my last South Midlands game at Holmer Green barely last fifteen minutes.

Kick off in the top of the table clash
Cockfosters make most of the early running and their best early moment comes when the attacker is played in on goal but his touch takes the ball too wide and the opening comes to nothing. The Cockfosters keeper makes an incredible close range save from a chance from a corner to keep the scores level. They don't stay level for long however as a cross from wide is allowed to bounce and the ball beats the London Colney keeper to make it one nil to the visitors. London Colney push for a quick leveller but a ball into the box following a quick break manages to just elude the vital touch. They in fact fall further behind when the Cockfosters forward is able to get free in the box to score from close range. Again, London Colney have another chance shortly after conceding and the Cockfosters defender does well to block the chance. Just before half time they get right back into the game. The London Colney forward gets a shot on goal following a pull back from the byline and the ball is blocked on the line by the arm of a Cockfosters defender. The offending player is sent off and the penalty is buried to set up the second half.

The Cockfosters player brings the ball under control
London Colney are almost in early on in the second half and the Cockfosters keeper does well to get to the ball first. Cockfosters are still well in the game even with ten men and they put together a good passing move which ends in the London Colney keeper being forced into a good save. The visitors extend their advantage when a ball into the box is flicked home from close range to put the ten men two up. They then have a great chance to seal the points when the forward is played in on goal but the London Colney keeper makes a great save to keep his team in it. The home side are then played in themselves and the keeper again comes out on top as the Cockfosters goalie gets down well to save the effort on goal. London Colney get back to within one goal when the ball headed home at the back post to set up a nervy finish. They come desperately close to an equaliser when an effort following a free kick is hacked off the line by the Cockfosters defence. That proves to be the last chance as Cockfosters hang on to complete November without losing in the league.

London Colney attack in the first half
The nearest station to London Colney is St Albans and trains from St Pancras take between twenty and thirty minutes. From either the bus or train station you can catch either the 85/85A or 602 bus with this part of the journey taking twenty minutes. I don't know if there was some sort of incident on the local network but the return buses seemed almost to return at random. Right at the bottom of The High Street is The Colney Fox which is a gastropub but did have a good choice of beers. Next to the river is The Green Dragon which would be nice in summer and also had a decent of range of beers. A bit closer to the ground is The White Horse which is the best bet for the early kick off. It is possible to walk to the ground past the leisure centre and you don't have to take the entrance off The Orbital Road as I initially did. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and offers an elevated view of the pitch if it gets too cold.

The Cockfosters player does well to pick me out with a pinpoint pass


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A Great Cornard Win - Cornard United vs. Needham Market Reserves

Match action in front of the Blackhouse Lane stand
After last week's long trip I fancied something closer to home although in the end I still ended up travelling a fair distance. Cornard United had been on my radar for a long time but for one reason or another I hadn't visited but the match at home to Needham Market Reserves caught my eye. The main reason for this was high probability of lots of goals - Needham Market Reserves had scored thirty eight and conceded seventy five in their twenty games so far this season. There were also ten goals in Cornard's last match and unfortunately nine of them were scored by Woodbridge Town. Another reason was that I had good memories of Sudbury itself as a place visit. I'd visited Bloomfields to see Needham Market's first team in an FA Cup tie with Stanway Rovers a couple of seasons ago. Going into the game, Conrnard were in fourteenth with Needham Market sitting in nineteenth.

Kick off at Blackhouse Lane
Needham Market create a couple of half chances at the start of the first period and the Cornard keeper has to be alert early on to punch away a dangerous cross into the box. The visitors come closer when the forward is played in which forces the Cornard keeper to make a great close range save. Cornard's first effort on goal is a header which requires the goalie to tip the effort over the bar following a ball into the box. From the resulting corner, the Cornard player is able to get a head in at the back post to put his side one nil up. They double their lead shortly afterwards when the attacker is played in on goal and he slots past the onrushing keeper. Cornard are on the rampage and the forward almost powers his way through the Needham Market defence with his eventual shot being blocked. Then again from the resulting corner, Cornard are able to get a head to the ball to make it three nil. Needham Market almost find a way back into the game as the winger is able to cut in but fortunately for Cornard his shot hits the post and lands in the keeper's arms. 

The Cornard keeper plucks the ball from the air
Cornard almost extend their lead at the start of the second half with a header from a decent cross which goes just wide of the target. They come even closer when the forward is played on goal but hits the post when clean through. Needham then put together a great passing move which ends with a curling shot going just wide of the post. Needham Market are now giving it a good go and they are unlucky to see a shot deflected wide of the post. The Needham Market player then dances through the home defence but he puts his shot well over the bar. Cornard score two late goals to seal the three points and pub some gloss on the score line.

The Needham Market keeper tips the ball over the bar
As I suggested earlier, the closest station to Great Cornard is Sudbury. To get here from London you have to catch a train to Marks Tey and change here for The Gainsborough Line to Sudbury with the journey taking about an hour and a half. The walk from the station to Blackhouse Lane is a bit of a slog (about forty minutes) along one road but fortunately there are three pubs along the way to break up the walk. The first one is The Five Bells which was welcoming and had a couple of ales on. Then a bit further down the road is The Kings Head which had a good selection of beers as well as the sports channels for the early kick off. Then closest to the ground is The Brook Inn which also had a decent selection beers as well as having the Suffolk variation of a bar billiards table. The last bit of the walk is along an unpaved and unlit stretch of road which could be tricky on a night game but I don't know if there's a better way. The clubhouse was very welcoming and I can fully recommend the bacon burger.

The tree lined, clubhouse side of the ground

Monday, 14 November 2016

10 Men Claim Late Victory - Portland United vs. Blackfield And Langley

There were over 250 inside The Weyline Stadium for this Vase tie
I had Monday off and so I decided I could travel a bit further this weekend and so I visited a ground I've had my eye on for a long time. The ground in question was The Weyline Stadium home of Portland United who were hosting Blackfield and Langley in the second round of The FA Vase. It promised to be a great match with the two sides being third and second in the league respectively with just three points separating them. Portland have won consecutive promotions to get to where they are in The Wessex Premier Division and have made a very good start at this level. The two sides meet earlier in the season at The Weyline for a league which Blackfield and Langley won two one back in August.

Kick off in the second round of The Vase
The Portland forward is able to get the better of his man in the opening stages but no one can get the vital touch on his drilled ball across the six yard box. They come close again as a cross to the back post finds the man in space and he puts his header just wide of the upright. Portland are well on top and the Blackfield keeper has to make a great save after the left winger beats his man and unleashes a powerful shot. The Blackfield keeper is then grateful for his defence when they block a close range effort on the goal line. Blackfield's first clear cut attack comes as a drilled cross is punched away by the Portland keeper. In the closing stages of the half, the Blackfield player is giving a second yellow following an incident with a Portland player.

The Blackfield keeper punches away under pressure
Blackfield have a couple of sights of goal early in the second half, the best coming after a quick break which ends in a great low save by the Portland keeper. It is however Portland who take the lead. The goal comes at the end of a great move and the forward runs into the area and beats the keeper at his near post. The lead doesn't last for long however. The midfielder is robbed on the half way line and as the Blackfield attacker closes in on goal he is fouled and the referee awards the penalty. The Blackfield player makes no mistake from the spot to level the scores. The ten men believe they can get the win and the Portland keeper makes a decent spot to keep out another Blackfield effort. They do get the late winner as the man is found in space and he lashes the ball in to put Blackfield into the lead. Portland frantically push for an equaliser and the Blackfield keeper is able to tip over a dipping effort. Then from the resulting corner, he claims a deflected shot and this proves to be the final action of the match.

Portland attack the clubhouse end in the second half
The closest railway station to Portland is Weymouth and trains from Waterloo take just over two and half hours. A short walk from the station to The Kings Statue and you can take the number one bus to just past Grove Road. I got off the bus at the bottom of the hill to try and look at the castle and this may have been a mistake as the walk up was punishing to say the least. Half way up the hill are The Britannia  and The Royal Portland Arms which both have a good selection of beers. Once I got to the top of the hill I visited The New Inn which had a decent selection of ales and craft beers. The clubhouse the the ground offers elevated views of the pitch and there was a beer festival on for my visit which was a bonus. The people at the club are extremely friendly and went well out of their way to make sure I enjoyed my visit. The island in general has a lot of stunning views and I didn't see everything on the island. It is possible to do this trip in one day but I elected to spend the night in Weymouth and if you opt for this option, The Hotel Rex is perfect for this.

Another view of the stand

Monday, 31 October 2016

Bizzare Ending In Bucks - Holmer Green vs. Edgware Town

Match action (what little there was!) at Airedale Park
When I realised where Holmer Green was and remembering how good the trip to Penn and Tylers Green was last season, this weekend's match choice was pretty straight forward. Holmer Green were facing Edgware Town in The Premier Division of The Spartan South Midlands League, a competition where I hadn't visited a new ground in since Christmas 2014 so was well overdue another visit. I'd seen Edgware at their sadly departed White Lion Ground when they played Wivenhoe in The North Division of The Ryman League. More recently I'd seen them in a high scoring FA Vase tie at Wellingborough Whitworth and I was hoping for more goals in this fixture. The two teams were next to each other just below mid table although Holmer Green did have a couple of games in hand on today's visitors. The two sides had met in mid week in a league cup tie with Holmer Green winning six one.

Kick off at Airedale Park
The match had an innocuous with the Edgware defence doing well to block an early Holmer Green shot on goal. The Edgware defence has to alert again shortly afterwards when another shot is blocked following a long throw into the box. The home side takes the lead as a cross from the right wing is headed back across goal into the opposite corner and into the net. Then things get silly.

The Edgware keeper watches a Holmer Green cross
The referee takes exception to something said from the crowd demanding that a supported is ejected from the ground. When this doesn't happen he picks up the ball and abandoneds the game after about ten minutes. One of the linesmen agrees to referee the game which prompts a mad dash to find a qualified linesman and when one isn't found the game is finished. This was by some distance the shortest game I ever watched and definitely the strangest endings I've seen.

Both sets of players try to amuse themselves
The closest station to Holmer Green is High Wycombe and the quick trains from Marylebone take just over twenty minutes. Then from Castle Street you can take the number 1 bus to Holmer Green. Oddly there are two number 1 bus routes run by two different operators from the same stop and both take around fifteen minutes to get to Holmer Green. Both The Earl Howe and The Old Oak are friendly locals both with one ale on in each. The Bat and Ball by the village recreation ground has the sports channels for the early kick offs and also had a couple of ales on. The ground is a ten minute walk from this pub and the clubhouse had a great selection of largers as well as the sports channels. It's a shame the game went the way it did as the club and the village itself were extremely welcoming and I enjoyed my short time in Holmer Green.

Elevated covered standing next to the entrance

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Wells Vase Form Runs Dry - Abbey Rangers vs. Tunbridge Wells

Uncertain skies over Addlestone Moor
After all the travelling mid week I needed a much shorter trip on Saturday and the ideal game showed itself with Abbey Rangers hosting Tunbridge Wells in The FA Vase. Tunbridge Wells have history in this competition losing in the 2012-13 final to Spennymoor Town. Abbey Rangers are based in Addlestone which is within walking distance of Chertsey and that means a short train ride from Wimbledon. I'd visited Chertsey Town's Alwyn's Lane for an FA Cup tip with Metropolitan Police a long time ago. A visit to Tunbridge Wells' excellent Culverdean Stadium in 2012 signalled the beginning of the end of my Olympics shift working nightmare so holds good memories for me. Both sides were in the lower halves of their respective leagues with this being Abbey Rangers' first season at step 5.

Kick off at Addlestone Moor
The Abbey Rangers winger ghosts past the Tunbridge Wells fullback early on but his cross is cut out by the defence. Tunbridge Wells' first chance to put pressure on the home defence comes to a fruitless end when a free kick from a wide position is claimed easily by the keeper. Abbey Rangers come close as the ball falls to the midfielder and his shot strikes a post before the rebound is hit straight at the goalie. Abbey Rangers then come closer when the Tunbridge Wells defender is robbed in his own area and the resulting shot takes a heavy deflection, trickling over the line to make it one nil. Close to half time, Tunbridge have there best chance of the half, a shot from the edge of the area which the keeper does well to tip round the post.  

Poor angle, but this is Abbey Rangers going one up
At the start of the second half, Tunbridge Wells are able to break out of defence after an Abbey Rangers move breaks down but the eventual cross comes to nothing. Abbey Rangers double their advantage as they put together a brilliant passing move which ends with the attacker lashing the ball home to make it two nil. Tunbridge Wells now have to push for the next goal and they have a shot blocked after a good move of their own. Abbey Rangers have a great chance to finish the game but the ball is headed over at the end of a quick break. They do make the game safe when after another break, the ball is squared and the attacker buries the chance to make it 3-0. 

Abbey Rangers attack the clubhouse end in the second half
The Addlestone Moor ground is about half way between Chertsey and Addlestone stations. Trains to Chertsey depart from Waterloo with direct trains taking just over an hour. The ground is then twenty or so minutes walk from the station. In the town centre, The Prince Regent is perfect if you want to watch the lunch time kick off. If you want an excellent Young's pub with a brilliant choice of ales and bottles then The Crown Hotel just around the corner does the job. If you want somewhere a little quieter but with an equally excellent choice of beers then there is The Thyme At The Tavern just across the road. The clubhouse had the usual selection of beers as well the sports channels. I thoroughly recommend the bacon burgers from the food bar. I also have to mention the quality programme which is a brilliant effort.

There was a decent crowd for this first round tie


Friday, 21 October 2016

Bonny Blues Frustrated By Steelmen - Penrith vs. Consett

Main stand at Frenchfields
For the second game of my north west trip I caught the bus from Workington to Penrith (via a stop off in Keswick) for my first ever game in The Northern League. I've planned to visit the north east for another Northern League trip with my Dad so this was pretty much the only ground I could do without him. Penrith hadn't played a league game for nearly two weeks as they had consecutive cup ties in The League Cup and then The Cumberland Cup during which they scored ten goals. Both sides were in and around mid table at the start of the game and Consett have the much better record in matches between the two sides having won 11 of the 20 meetings. You have to go back to the 2013-14 season for the last Penrith victory.

Kick off at Frenchfield Park
Consett start on the front foot and an early shot from the edge of the area is sent over the bar into the surrounding darkness. Penrith are then able to get into a couple of decent positions themselves but the end results is the same. The first real chance of the game comes when the Consett attacker is found at the back post and it takes a great block from the Penrith defender to prevent the shot on target. Consett continue to push on and the take the as a long ball forward is flicked on and the forward lashes the ball past the Penrith keeper. This sparks Penrith in to life and they have a couple of great attacks straight after the Consett goal. Firstly, the winger finds space and his great cross into the area eludes everyone. Then the Penrith forward forces the Consett keeper into a great save with a shot from the edge of the area before the rebound is put onto the post. From the resulting corner Penrith have an effort headed off the line as the Consett defence defend their lead. The last chance of the half also falls to Penrith as following a free kick there is a shot on goal and Penrith are denied by the defender on the line once again. 

I'm pretty sure this is Penrith hitting the post
Penrith have the first chance of the second half when a long ball from the keeper is brought under control by the attacker but he puts his shot over the bar. Their next chance comes when the forward is allowed is turn and shoot but his shot goes straight into the arms of the goalie. Penrith are played in again but again the attacker doesn't connect properly with the strike and his shot is claimed by the keeper. A long Consett ball forward causes some panic in the Penrith defence and the eventual shot goes over the bar. There are a couple more half chances but Consett hold on for the win.

Committed Consett defending in the second half
So as I mentioned at the start my journey from Workington to Penrith was on bus via Keswick which included some fantastic views of The Lake District. If travelling from London, you can catch a train from Euston and in three hours you'll be in Penrith. If you want to stay overnight, then The Station Inn around the corner from the station is perfect as well as again having one of the better bars in the town. The best non-hotel pub I went to in the town centre was The General Wolfe. Then just a short walk from the ground is The Cross Keys which was a decent country pub. The walk from the town to the ground takes just under half an hour. The clubhouse at the back stand had a good selection of drinks and offers views of the pitch if it's too cold outside. For a new build ground I really liked Frenchfield as well as my trip to the north west in general. 

More covered accommodation opposite the main stand