Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Hosts Duck Out In Six Pointer - Barton Rovers vs. Aylesbury United

Barton on the attack in front of the backdrop of the Bedfordshire scenery
For the first time in a little while, I was able to chose a game in the week and head out on Saturday without having to constantly to check Twitter to see what games have survived. My game of choice for this momentous occasion was the Southern League East Division clash between Barton Rovers and Aylesbury United. This game had great importance at the bottom of the table with both sides too close to the sole relegation spot although both sides were ten points clear of Arlesey in last place. Aylesbury are currently in exile, playing at Chesham United's Meadow ground which is a much visit for anyone who hasn't been. Barton won the reverse fixture back in August 3-2 and were hoping to complete the double.

Kick off at Sharpenhoe Road
With so much at stake, the game was fairly tense throughout. This is shown early on as Aylesbury create an opening for the man at the back post which goes begging as he loses his balance. They create another chance later on in the half but the shot is straight at the keeper. Barton's best chance of the opening period comes when the forward gets in on goal, eventually forcing the keeper into a good save. Aylesbury take the lead towards the end of the half with a header at the back post from a corner. Not too much happens in the second half. Aylesbury do hit the bar with a shot on the turn before they seal the points with a goal late on.

The Barton defenders await a first half ball in
To get to Barton, you first need to get a train to Luton from St Pancras with the quick trains from upstairs taking twenty five minutes or the slower ones from the lower levels taking about an hour. Once in Luton you need to walk through the shopping centre to stop G1 outside the Weatherspoons to catch the 81 bus which should take twenty minutes. Everything of interest in Barton is on Bedford Road including two pre game pubs. The better of the two in terms of ales is The Waggon and Horses which also had the sports channels. If you don't want to walk too far from the ground then The Royal Oak more than does the job. The clubhouse had a wide selection of beers and also had Sky Sports. I really liked Sharpenhoe Road, the pictures don't really do the backdrop justice. There is a seated stand on the clubhouse side and covered standing on the opposite side. Both ends are uncovered standing. The club also produces a physical programme.

Tree lined covered standing

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Doughboys Fail To Fully Rise - Wellingborough Town vs. Deeping Rangers

Deeping attack in front of the stand
So with another couple days of iffy weather, I left home on Saturday with numerous options in mind. I was really keen for Shrivenham but their pitch inspection was a little too late and so after hearing on Twitter that no inspection was planned, I headed to Wellingborough Town who were hosting Deeping Rangers. This match was in The United Counties Premier Division with Wellingborough in the bottom half and Deeping in tenth. Deeping Rangers had a great run in this years FA Cup, reaching the second qualifying round where they were knocked out by Kidderminster. The closest I'd come to seeing either side play before was when I saw next door neighbours (quite literally) Wellingborough Whitworth in an FA Vase tie against Edgware some years ago.

Stand in the sun at kick off
There aren't a lot of clear cut opportunities at the start of the match until when midway through the half, a Wellingborough cross following a break is cut out. It is the home team who take the lead with a near post header from a corner. Straight afterwards, Deeping come close to an equalizer as a shot is deflected just wide. The goal sparks Deeping into life and they pepper the Wellingborough goal and a couple of chances come close to the equalizing goal. When they do score the equalizer, it is in a very similar vein to the Wellingborough goal. The attacker is left unmarked as a free kick if lofted into the box and he heads home to make it one all. Things get worse for Wellingborough immediately afterwards as the forward is able to get to the byline and his pass finds its target and the ball is bundled in to complete the turn around just before half time.

One nil Wellingborough
It doesn't take Wellingborough long in the second half to restore parity. The Deeping keeper appears to misjudge a long range shot which ends going through him and into the net. Both sides push forward looking to retake the lead but neither fail to create a real chance. Wellingborough create the next clear cut chance as the attacker is able to bear down goal, forcing the Deeping keeper to make a great save at his near post. The home team are reduced to ten men mid way through the half as the Wellingborough man is sent off for a late lunge and Deeping are able to take advantage. They get behind the Wellingborough defence and the ball is slid home from close range. The away side get a late fourth to seal the victory.

Deeping make it one all at the clubhouse end
To get to Wellingborough from London you need to take a train from St Pancras direct to Wellingborough which takes forty five minutes. Having been to Wellingborough before I knew to try out The Olde England for ales and welcoming pub cat and to The Horseshoe Inn which is good for any early kick offs. One new find was The Old House which had a great selection of ales. I tried The Session IPA from The Framework Brewery in Leicester. The ground is then a steady twenty minute walk away. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and was very friendly. I didn't sample the food but it looked more than decent.

Dramatic sky over the clubhouse

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Hosts Get Helping Hand - Andover Town vs. Alresford Town

Decent crowd at The Portway Stadium
This weekend seemed to be the worst so far for weather in the build up to a game. I left home with several options including Broadbridge Heath and Tadley Calleva (both of which were postponed) and Leverstock Green. However, the first game I knew was definitely on was Andover Town against Alresford Town in The Wessex League. It had the potential to be a decent game with Andover top of the league and Alresford a few places back in fifth. I can fully recommend a trip to Alresford's  Alrebury Park with the town and the ground being worth visiting. That was for a FA Cup tie with Cadbury Heath that they would sadly lose. I had seen Andover Town at the home of the other Andover side, New Street a couple of seasons ago and their ground was also a serious march away from the town centre.

Pre match formalities
The first chance comes early as Alresford get a shot away after a free kick into the box but the shot is saved and the header from the resulting corner goes just wide. Andover respond with a good chance of their own on the break which takes a fantastic block from an Alresford defender to keep it out. Andover get more into the game as the half goes on and a header from a free kick produces a good save from the Alresford keeper. Andover make their pressure count as another free kick isn't cleared, a scramble ensues that ends with the ball in the back of the Alresford net. Then as the half comes to an end, Andover think they've scored a spectacular second but the referee has already blown for a penalty which is dispatched to double the lead.

First half action at the clubhouse end
Andover continue where they left off and score from close range to make it three nil. This sparks Alresford back into life as a dipping shot from range is tipped over by the Andover keeper. They do get their goal as they break out and finally force the ball home from close range. The two goal deficit doesn't last long as Andover win their first penalty due to a soft looking foul. The spot kick is buried before Andover are awarded a bizarre third penalty. After an Andover ball in, an Alresford player is booked for something which prompts the Andover players to ask for a penalty. After running back to the half way line for a consultation with his linesman, the referee awards the third penalty which is converted much to Alresford's disgust. The visitors do get a second late on but it is scant consolation.

Goal mouth action in the second half
Andover is very easy to reach from London. All you have to do is catch a direct train from Waterloo that takes just over an hour. Unfortunately, the station is halfway between the ground and the town centre. If you have time to go in to town I recommend The Redbridge which had a great selection of beers and the sports channels. The ground is then a good forty five minute walk from town. About two thirds of the way there is The Chesnut Tree which is a good half way house and also had the sports channels. The clubhouse sells cans but does offer an elevated view of the action. I really liked the ground - a good mixture of cover across different levels - absolutely worth visiting.

Andover winger breaks through in the first half

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Blues Continue Impressive Run - Frickley Athletic vs. Stocksbridge Park Steels

Sun setting on the glorious Westfield Lane
This Boxing Day, Scunthorpe were away at Blackpool which was too much of a drive and we never seem to beat them - again they beat them away for the first time in seventeen years! So we had originally chosen Lincoln United as our Boxing Day fix but a late change to a one o'clock kick put an end to that and that result was 5-4! So the next closest choice was Frickley Athletic in South Elmsall where my Dad used to work so we had a good idea where we were going. It promised to be an entertaining match with both sides pushing for the play offs and being among the top scorers in the league. I had seen Frickley Athletic play away at Grantham one New Years day when my original choice of Long Eaton was frozen off.

Kick off in front of the stand at Westfield Lane
Frickley pressure Stocksbridge on the ball from the off and they are able to break a couple of times early on without really creating anything clear cut. The first major chance of the game comes as the Stocksbridge attacker gets in on the angle, forcing the keeper into a save at his near post. Frickley then take the lead with a thunderous effort. The ball is laid back to the forward on the edge of the area who hammers a first time effort past the keeper. Stocksbridge almost gift the hosts a second when the defender slips but his keeper bails him out with the save. From the resulting corner a header is cleared off the line by the Stocksbridge defender.

A Stocksbridge corner in the first half
Stocksbridge almost equalize at the start of the second half with a free header from a free kick that produces a stunning one handed save from the Frickley keeper. Stocksbridge continue to have a lot of the ball without creating too much. The best effort being a drilled shot that goes just wide. The Frickley number seven then tracks back to win the ball before going on a lung busting run up the wing but no one can get a touch to the eventual cross in. Stocksbridge get the equalizer when the Frickley defender is adjudged to have fouled the attacker in the box with the penalty being accurately dispatched. The game appears to be heading for a draw but Frickley come up with a late winner. The centre back gets his head to a corner at the near post to seal the points.

Another view of the stand in the first half
The closest station to Westfield Lane is South Elmsall. To get here from London you need to take a train to Doncaster from Kings Cross and change their for a train to South Elmsall. If you don't mind taking a taxi or enjoy climbing step hills, then The Barnsley Oak offers a good selection of beers and picturesque views of the local area. A bit closer to the ground and the station is The Sawmill that had a good selection of bottles as well as the sports channels. The ground is about a fifteen minute walk away from the station. The clubhouse at the ground had the usual lagers as well as one hand pull. As you can tell from the pictures, Westfield Lane is a fantastic ground and is absolutely worth the effort getting there. I didn't have any of the food but the pie and chips looked fantastic.

Covered standing along one side

The goals from the game can been seen on the club's excellent Youtube channel.

Impressive view from the stand

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Rangers Rue First Half Misses - Hall Road Rangers vs. Barton Town Old Boys

Match action with wind turbine in far distance
I'm back up north for Christmas and instead of going to watch Scunthorpe (who it turned out put in the performance of the season) we had our annual trip into The North East Counties league for The Humber Derby between Hall Road Rangers and Barton Town Old Boys. With my parents moving closer to The Humber Bridge, this looked like a straight forward trip north of the river. I never got to their old Dene Park ground although we did drive past it on the way from the pub to the ground. Barton Town Old Boys are a team I'd seen play two times previously. The first time was away at Askern Villa and then against Liversedge at their Marsh Lane ground. Barton have recently changed manager after a poor start to the season which had seen an improvement in results but they were still fourth from bottom. Hall Road were comfortably in mid table and looking to move closer to the top.

Kick off with Haworth Hall in the background
With the wind behind them, Hall Road attack from the off and the Barton keeper just about stops the ball going in during a scramble in the six yard box. The Barton forward then manages to power through a couple of challenges but his cut back is cut out by the Hall Road defence. From then on, Hall Road create a serious amount of chances. Firstly, when the Barton defender slips, the Hall Road attacker hits the post from close range before the Barton keeper makes a save to block the rebound. With the strong wind, in swinging corners prove a massive challenge and Hall Road head one over from close range. Hall Road are now getting behind the Barton defence almost at will but every time they lack accuracy at the key moment. The last big moment of the half comes from another corner that this time bounces off a Barton defender and hits the post for a second time.

Hall Road attacking the hall end in the first half
Barton now have the wind behind them but it is Hall Road who have the first chance of the half as the forward cuts inside before hitting a shot that goes just wide. In swinging corners are still proving challenging and it is from one that Barton take the lead. The attacker is able to get his head to one at the near post and sends it into the net to stun the hosts. This gives Barton a lot more confidence but Hall Road still create chances. A low ball across the box results in the Barton keeper having to make a great low save at his near post. The best all round football moment of the game comes when a fantastic ball allows the Barton forward to hit a shot on the volley but he is denied by an excellent reaction save. Hall Road push for the equaliser and in committing so many forward, they are caught out on the break. Following a clearance, there is a fifty / fifty challenge on the half way line between a Barton player and the Hall Road keeper which the former wins, allowing his team mate to roll the ball into the net from the centre circle to seal the points.

Barton defending in front of the impressive Humberside sky
As I mentioned earlier, we drove to the ground but there are plenty of buses from Hull Station (141, Simpli Bus 4 and 5) that stop on Beverly Road, a short walk from the ground. If you stay on the bus into Dunswell, you can visit the brilliant Ship Inn which had a selection of well kept ales. A bit closer to the ground is The Rising Sun which looked to have the sports channels. The clubhouse at the ground had the usual selection drinks as well as having a balcony to watch the action from.

Usual NCEL high quality programme

Clubhouse and stand at Haworth Park

Monday, 18 December 2017

Larkhall Athletic vs. Barnstable Town

Fantastic backdrop of Plain Ham
This weekend I was set to visit my 450th ground and so I wanted it to be somewhere fairly special. I'd seen and read a lot about Larkhall Athletic's Plain Ham ground and as Bath itself is a great place to visit it was the perfect choice. Larkhall play in the Western Division of The Southern League and their visitors today were Barnstable Town. The closest I'd ever come to seeing Barnstable is visiting there while staying in Appledore a very long time ago on family holidays. Larkhall defeated Barnstable away three nil on the second match of the season (an incredible Tuesday night trek) but since then they have gone in different directions. Larkhall were in mid table while today's visitors were just outside the play offs. 

Kick off at Plain Ham
The game has a steady, tentative start with both sides getting the feel for one another. Larkhall have the first real sight of goal as a drilled ball goes across the edge of the six yard box but there is no one there to get the final touch. They don't have to wait long for the opener as a looping cross goes into the box before being headed powerfully into the net. Barnstable aren't really creating much, their best chances coming from free kicks that fail to really trouble the keeper. Larkhall come close to doubling the lead when the forward beats the Barnstable keeper to ball but his poked effort is headed off the line.

Barnstable look to pressure the Larkhall defence
It is still Larkhall making all the headway at the start of the second half as the attacker gets to the byline but his team mate can't enough on the ball to send it into the net. They repeat the trick a short while afterwards, this time the Barnstable keeper makes a great save to keep the gap to one goal. Barnstable are having a lot of the ball but they can't seem to find the final pass. They almost gift the hosts the third when the keeper makes a mistake from a long ball forward but he is again helped out by a covering defender. Larkhall do seal the points as the attacker powers through the defence and he then squares to his team who doubles the lead.

Barnstable corner towards the clubhouse
So as I mentioned earlier, the first step of a trip to Larkhall is take a train from Paddington to Bath which takes around an hour and a half. Then from the bus station next door you take the number six bus into Larkhall which should take about ten minutes depending on traffic and parking on the exceptionally tight streets. If you have time, it is absolutely worth having an explore of Bath city centre. In Larkhall itself there is a good selection of pubs. Firstly there is the The Larkhall Inn which is an old school pubs with the sports channels followed by The Rose and Crown which is a bit fancier but does have a great selection of beers. The last pub before the severe ascent to the ground is The Bladuds Head which is a welcoming locals feeling pub. The walk up to the ground is pretty punishing and the last hundred yards or so are unlit and unpaved but it is a hundred percent worth it. Not many grounds come close to matching The Dripping Pan as my favorite ground but Plain Ham comes pretty close. The clubhouse at the ground had the usual selection of drinks as well as tasty rolls behind the bar. 

Another view of the covered accommodation

Millers Grind Out Home Win - Aveley vs. Hetford Town

Parkside under lights
Since my trip to Guernsey earlier in the year, I've been getting close to completing the Ryman League. I had just the five grounds left to visit and with Aveley playing on Friday night I had a chance to get closer to the full house. Around the same time last year, I paid one last visit to Aveley's fantastic Mill Field for a match with Haringey Borough and they have now of course moved to the fancy new Parkside. Their opponents on this evening were Hertford Town. When I visited  Hertingfordbury Park, it was for an FA Vase tie with Mauritius Sports Association which shows how long ago it was. Hertford were promoted from The South Midlands League last season and had adopted well to life at the higher level. Aveley have had an indifferent start to the season and were just above the relegation places at the start of play. 

Kick off on the plastic at Parkside
I lost my pen before kick off and it was too cold to take notes on my phone so this is a severely abridged match report! Hertford take a early lead and are well on top in the opening stages. Aveley however turn the game around with two close range finishes following set plays. Hertford push on in the closing stages and are caught out as Aveley sell the game late on.

Aveley defend a Hertford attack in the first half
To get to Aveley from London, you have to take a train to Rainham from Fenchurch Street and a short walk from the station you catch the 372 into Aveley. From here it is a ten minute walk along The High Street and then Park Lane to the ground. The walk along The High Street takes you past The Crown and Anchor and The Old Ship Inn both of which are lively locals. The bar at the ground had a good selection of drinks as well as the sports channels. The bacon burgers are also highly recommended.

Further seating opposite the main stand