Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Cup Classic In The Fens - Wisbech Town vs. Spalding United

Storm passes over The Fenland Stadium
After a week of revisits and weddings, it was good to get back on the cup trail and get to a new ground. The one tie that really screamed out was the Fenlands derby between Wisbech Town and Spalding United. There was a division between the two teams with Wisbech in The United Counties League and Spalding in The Southern Division of The Northern Premier League. Unfortunately I missed out visiting the fantastic Fenalnd Park but as far as new builds go, The Fenland Stadium wasn't too bad. Wisbech went into the match in a confident mood after putting nine past Sleaford in midweek and they had won 4-1 at Biggleswade in the previous round. Spalding themselves have had a good start to the season, winning both of their opening games. The only time I'd seen either club play before was when I saw Spalding play at Soham Town Rangers in an FA Trophy tie which they won 6-1 so I was hoping for a closer game today.

Start of a cracking cup tie
Wisbech have the first chance of the game as a free kick into the box is flicked just wide. Spalding however make even better use of a free kick as they take the lead. The free kick in question is headed back across goal and is lashed in from close range to give the visitors the lead. Wisbech level things up midway through the half as a ball in is recycled as it is squared across the six yard box and slotted home from close range. Then just before half time, the hosts complete the turn around. A ball up the right flank plays the attacker in before he powers a shot past the keeper at his near post.

The Wisbech fans and players celebrate the equalizer
Wisbech look to extended their advantage as the forward cuts in from the flank but his effort goes just wide of the target. It is another Spalding free kick into the area that produces the equalizer. They are able to put the ball in twice and on the second occasion, the ball is flicked in from close range. Both teams throw caution to the wind as they look to win the tie at the first attempt. The closest either side comes is when Spalding fail to fully clear the danger but the resulting effort goes just over and they have to do it all again on Tuesday night. 

The Spalding defense stands tall in the second half
The trip from London to Wisbech ended up taking quite a while. I first had to take a train from Kings Cross to Peterborough with the fast training 45 minutes. The then twice hourly X1 from the bus station should have taken a similar amount of time but the stereotypical traffic on the single carriageway East Anglian roads meant the bus portion of the trip took nearly an hour. Wisbech was pleasent enough to make it worth while though and I was able to take in the Wisbech and Fenland Museum. Pubwise, The Globe on the market place had a good choice of beers as well as the sports channels. If you want to try beers from the local Elgoods Brewery then The Angel Inn had a couple on. A good way of breaking up the twenty minute walk to the ground is to pop into The Black Bear which was a welcoming locals pub. The clubhouse also had Elsgoods beers on and the burgers are also recommended. The ground and town were definitely worth the long trip.  

Decent cup tie crowd in front of the clubhouse

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Stong Second Half Seals It - Whyteleafe vs. VCD Athletic

First half action in front of the stand
For the second consecutive Tuesday I revisited a ground from my formative ground hopping days and headed to Whyteleafe vs. VCD Athletic in the Ryman South. When I'd previously visited either of these sides grounds it was for a pre season game. My visit to Church Road was for a friendly with Carshalton Athletic whilst my visit for Oakwood was for the Kent League charity shield where they played Croydon. Since I'd first seen both sides, they'd moved around the leagues a bit. VCD had a spell in the Ryman Premier while Whyteleafe spent a short period in the Kent League. On opening day Whyteleafe drew 1-1 at Greenwich Borough and VCD suffered a five nil reverse at home to Faversham.

Pre match formalities under the Surrey dusk
VCD acquit themselves well on the plastic pitch and the first half is an even, fairly cagey affair. Whyteleafe take control at the start of the second half and the opening goal comes when the keeper is stranded someway off his line and the ball is drilled home from some distance. They get the second goal from the penalty spot before adding a third late in the game.

Whyteleafe look to get the ball in during the first half
To get to Church Road you can get a train from either London Bridge or Victoria to Whyteleafe South or Upper Warlingham. Both journeys take around half an hour. In between the two stations is the great Radius Arms which had a good choice including a seasonal one from the Oakham Brewery which I'd never tried before. There is also the tasty Salisbury Fish Bar which is the best chippy so far this season. The ground is then a short five minute walk from either establishment. The clubhouse had a wider choice of drinks than most clubhouses and also had the sports channels. A really enjoyable evening.

View from the stand in the second half

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Wings Grounded - Welling United vs. Chelmsford City

Traveling masses from Essex will the ball home
I had a wedding the weekend just gone so was looking for a midweek revisit to meet my football needs. I had been meaning to revisit Park View Road for a long time. My first visit was for a New Year's Day derby against Bromley in one of my opening seasons of ground hopping. They won 3-1 on that day but there was to be no repeat this time around. Their opponents this time were Chelmsford City who had beaten Gloucester City who themselves have transferred over from the northern division of the conference. Welling had lost on the long trek to Truro City due to a freak (according to the match report in the programme at least) last minute goal.

Just before kick off with the main stand in the back ground
The opening exchanges are fairly even but after that the visitors dominate. Despite all their confident attacking play, it takes a silly second half penalty to gift Chelmsford the points. After the ball balloons in the air, the Welling defender needlessly barges into the back of the Chelmsford attacker and the referee points to the spot before the penalty is confidently dispatched. The away side see out the remainder of the game to secure the points.

Chelmsford look to attack in the second half
To get to Welling from Central London you can take a train from either Victoria or London Bridge and both options take less than half an hour. The ground is then a fifteen minute walk or five minute bus ride away. A short walk from the ground is the fantastic Door Hinge which has a good selections of ales on offer as well as being very friendly. As Welling share their ground with Erith and Belvedere there are two clubhouses at the ground. The Welling one is quite small but had a good choice of drinks as well as Sky Sports. The Erith and Belvedere one underneath the other stand is a bit more spacious and also had the usual selection of drinks.  

Erith and Belvedere side of the ground

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Mullets Out Of Fashion - Arundel vs. Pagham

Standard Mill Road shot
This weekend was one of the best of the season - The Extra Preliminary Round of The FA Cup which is also for many teams, the opening weekend of the season. I had planned to visit Shaftesbury but the major works at Waterloo put Hampshire and a lot of the south west out of reach. As things turned out, my second choice was hardly a step down. Last season when my parents were visiting, we headed to Arundel for a day out and a game only for the game to be postponed first thing in the morning - terrible planning on my part of course. Back to this season and Arundel were playing fellow Sussex League side Pagham. The visitors finished in fourth last season while Arundel finished just above the relegation spots.

Another view of the stand at kick off
Arundel are quick out of the blocks but the eventual weak shot fails to trouble the keeper. Pagham then put together a great move with the final header going just over the bar. They come a lot closer as a ball from wide is controlled in the box by the forward before he lashes home off the post to give the visitors the lead. The Arundel keeper then makes a save at his near post to keep his team in the game. Just before half time the Pagham attacker gets into a great position and all his ball across the six yard box is missing is the final touch into the net.

Arundel defending with the clubhouse in the background
Pagham don't wait long to extend their lead in the second half. Pagham get in on goal and after the first shot is blocked, the attacker is first to the ball and he makes it two nil. Pagham look to extended their advantage and they come close with a shot from distance which goes just wide. The away side get themselves in on goal again forcing the Arundel keeper to make a great save on the angle at his near post. Arundel create a couple of half chances, the best being when they get behind the Pagham defense but they regain their composure to clear their lines. The third goal comes when the forward out muscles the defender and he lashes home from close range. Pagham add a late fourth to seal the comfortable passage.

3-0 Pagham
Arundel is a stunning town that in theory should be easy to get to and from. Trains depart from Victoria taking an hour and forty five minutes - assuming there are no power supply problems. There is a lot to see in the town before a game including the castle and cathedral. After the sightseeing you can visit The St Mary Gate which is literally next door to the cathedral and had a good selection of drinks. Then just down the hill is the excellent Kings Arms which has a couple of ales on and allows you to take your own food in. Then if you fancy a pint of Harvey's as you're in Sussex then The White Hart has a couple on. The bar at the ground has the usual selection of drinks and the burgers are brilliant.

Final view of the stand

Monday, 31 July 2017

Steady Start - Long Melford vs. Brantham Athletic

Clubhouse and stand at Stoneylands
Despite an enjoyable pre-season, I was pleased that competitive football was back. My first game of what is hopefully a long season was Long Melford against Brantham Athletic in the premier division of The Eastern Counties League. Both these sides finished comfortably in mid table without threatening the relegation or promotion places respectively. The only time I'd seen either side play before was when I caught a mid week game at The Brantham Leisure Centre and Brantham hosted Woodbridge Town on that evening.   

Start of the 2017-18 season :-D
The first half chance of the season proper comes as a result of a lofted Brantham ball forward which is cut out by the Long Melford defense. The visitors come closer when a header from a driven cross goes just over the bar. Long Melford's first chance comes as a result of a goal mouth scramble and the Brantham defense just about clears their lines.

Brantham defending a first half Long Melford corner
Brantham create a great chance at the start of the second half from a free kick to the near post which requires a fantastic save from the Long Melford keeper to keep the scores level. The Long Melford goalie is called into action from the resulting corner, this time blocking a free header. The game is now becoming more open and it takes a great last ditch tackle to prevent the shot on goal. Brantham then waste a guilt edge chance as the forward gets behind the home defense but his weak shot fails to seriously trouble the home stopper. Long Melford have the final chance of the game but they fail to make it count.

Long Melford look for the opening goal in the second half
Long Melford can be a bit of a sod to get to from London especially if the connections don't work out. First of all you have to get a train to Sudbury from Liverpool Street which involves a change to the once an hour train from Marks Tey. This section takes just over an hour. Then from the bus station you catch the once an hour 753 bus (you can see the pattern!) to Long Melford which takes around ten minutes. I didn't do Long Melford justice and should have got there earlier to look around the giant village church  or Melford Hall. Predictably, I did investigate the pubs on offer and ale wise The Crown Inn had the widest choice as well as a good beer garden. A more upmarket option is The Swan. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks including one from the local Nethergate Brewery. Despite it being a bit of a faff to get to, I'd fully recommend a trip to Long Melford.

Hedge side of the ground that backs on to the cricket club

Monday, 24 July 2017

Pre Season Washed Away - Wealdstone vs. Reading U23

Looking over to the clubhouse at Grosvenor Vale
For my third and final pre season match, I had a choice between two revisits - Wealdstone and Staines Town and I opted for the former as they confirmed first that they would be producing a programme. My first visit to Grosvenor Vale was to see Tooting and Mitcham was for their first win in the Ryman Premier League in the 2008-09 season. Today there were hosting Reading U23. I had been to the Madejski to see Scunthorpe claim a 1-1 draw although they would had completed a memorable victory had Jon Forte not blazed over the bar after his fantastic run. 

Kick off in heavy rain at Grosvenor Vale
Reading should really take an early lead. The Wealdstone keeper makes a decent save and he can only watch as the rebound falls to the Reading forward who somehow misses from close range. They come close again when the attacking player comes desperately close to making contact to a great cross with a diving header. It is however the hosts who make the break through with a low shot when the ball falls to the player on the edge of the area. Wealdstone nearly double their lead after Reading give the ball away but no one gets the vital touch with the squared pass.

Different bits of cover in the corner near the turnstiles
The goals then flow in the second half. the second coming from a generous looking penalty for the home side (given I was at the opposite end of the ground) which is coolly dispatched. The third comes after the home player breaks down the middle and he plays his team mate in who slots in. The Reading keeper gifts the forward the fourth as he palms the rebound straight to the man. Reading do score the best goal of the game with a cracking shot from someway out. Normal service is resumed as everyone in the Reading defense leaves a lofted ball forward and the forward strokes ball home. Wealdstone complete the scoring when they break out and the second effort is powered home to make it six one.

Sixth goal
The closest tube stop to Grosvenor Vale is Ruislip on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines which is about half hour from town. The ground is then ten minutes away. The opposite direction to the ground is the brilliant Hop and Wine which has a selection of ales as well as a stunning choice of cans and bottles. For the early kick off. For the early kick off, the friendly Crook of Gold does the job. The clubhouse at the ground had a wide selection of drinks as well as the sports channels. The burger van inside is the first time I've ever had fish finger sandwiches which says it all!

Another angle of the seated accommodation

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Billericay Show Credentials - St Albans City vs. Billericay Town

Main stand with clubhouse behind at Clarence Park
I opted for a revisit of a fantastic ground in a gorgeous town last weekend. St Albans being the town and Clarence Park being the ground. The Conference South side were hosting Billericay Town of The Ryman League (it'll always be The Ryman League to me). Towards the end of last season Billericay were taken over by a millionaire owner and they have invested heavily in the squad and their New Lodge ground is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment. All this means that they are favorites for The Ryman League title this season. I visited New Lodge for a Ryman League match against Aveley which they won two one. As I mentioned earlier, I had also previously Clarence Park for a Conference South match with Woking who won that day on their way to the play offs.   

Just before kick as the Billericay huddle breaks up
It is the visitors who have the first effort on goal which comes via a lofted through ball and the St Albans keeper makes a low save to keep the scores level. St Albans then get in on goal almost straight afterwards and this time the Billericay keeper makes a great save. The visitors take the lead when the forward chests down a pass and he slots past the goalie to make it one nil. St Albans however manage to turn things around before half time. Firstly after a great passing move finds the man at the back post and he lashes home at the back post. Then a St Albans break out from defense enables the attacker to hammer the ball in off the bar from the angle.

A first half St Albans corner
St Albans are almost the gifted the third when the Billericay player gives the ball away but St Albans fail to take advantage as they shot is lashed wide of the target. They have another great chance as a pull back from the byline finds the player in space and the Billericay keeper makes another great save. Billericay make them pay late in the game. The Billericay forward shows great determination to battle through the St Albans defense before scoring the equalizer. Then a bouncing ball into the St Albans box isn't dealt with and the visitors secure the win from close range.

Another corner at the other end for St Albans
As I said in the first paragraph, St Albans is a stunning place and it is worth going around before a game. It is a really quick to get to from London - just twenty minutes from St Pancras. Previously I'd walked around the cathedral, this time I went up the clock tower which offers an alternative view of the cathedral as well as the Hertfordshire countryside. Pub wise, if you want to watch the early kick off then The White Swan is a good spot. Then right next to the clock tower is The Boot  which had a great selection of bottled beers. Best pub overall was The White Hart which had a wide choice of ales as well as awesome smelling food. The ground is a short walk from town and the clubhouse behind the stand had the usual selection of drinks.

Covered terrace opposite the main stand