Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Seventh Heaven - Glebe vs. Deal Town

Main stand and clubhouse at Glebe under a spring sky
With me visiting MK Dons to finally see Scunthorpe on Saturday, I was keen to get some midweek non league in. In this regard, I was thankful to the horrible weather earlier in the year as it presented me with the opportunity to take in Glebe versus Deal Town in The Southern Counties East League. With Glebe being so close to Central London, I'd been saving Foxbury Avenue for a situation like this. I'd made the trip to the Kent Coast to visit Deal last season and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to The Charles Sports Ground for a league game with Erith Town. As with the Welsh games the previous weekend, tonight's teams had already played each other six times this season - twice in The FA Cup, twice in The Vase, once in the league cup and once in the league. Both sides were in midtable and it was just pride up for grabs tonight.

Kick off under dramatic skies
It is a fairly quiet first half, Glebe are kicking downhill with the wind behind them and the Deal keeper does well to punch a couple of balls into the area away. Deal come close when a shot from the edge of the area is deflected wide. The only goal of the half comes when a long throw into the Deal area isn't cleared and the Glebe forward acrobatically volleys home from close range. Just before that, the Glebe forward drove a cross in that was cleared for the vital throw in.

The Glebe attacker drills the ball across goal
Glebe have the first effort of the second with a shot that is deflected wide. The Glebe keeper is then almost caught out with a long range bending free kick that he has to tip over at the last second. Deal then equalise as they are able to get the ball in for a second time and this time it is forced in from close range for the equaliser. The lead doesn't last for long however. Glebe are able to break after a Deal move breaks down and when the first shot is blocked the forward is on hand to bury the second effort. Glebe manage to see out the rest of the game to claim the three points.

Deal defend a Glebe corner in the second half
The closest station to Foxbury Avenue is Sidcup which can be reached in under half an hour from London Bridge. Then from just up the road you can catch either the 160 or 269 which should take about ten minutes depending on traffic. There are quite a few micropubs in Sidcup. Unfortunately, I only got to try one - The Hackney Carriage which had a great selection of ales and is highly recommended. The clubhouse just outside the ground had the usual selection of drinks and the food is worth checking out. Glebe have clearly worked hard to get their ground set up and I enjoyed my visit and the welcome from everyone was second to none.

Players dash past the stand at Foxbury Avenue

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Race To Europa Goes To Last Day - Bangor City vs. Cefn Druids

The Bangor saving a dangerous first half effort
So for the final leg of my Welsh adventure I took the bus from Llandudno (there weren't many places to stay in Colwyn Bay) along the coast to Bangor. Following Connah's Quay defeat on Friday night at The New Saints, a win today for Bangor would mean the race for second spot (and automatic Europa League qualification) would go to the last day. Standing in their way were Cefn Druids who play at the fantastic looking Rock ground which is one I am very keen to visit sometime in the future. Being a Scunthorpe fan, I know Bangor for being where legendary manager Nigel Adkins began his managerial career, winning back to back league titles.

Kick off at Nantporth
The first action of the match is shown in the first picture and is a Cefn Druids shot from the edge of the area that is well saved. Bangor City then begin to settle and it doesn't take long for them to take the lead. A corner is bent into the near post where the ball is poked home from close range much to the annoyance of the Cefn Druids keeper. The Cefn Druids goalie then almost gifts them a second as he drops a cross but he is able to claim at the second attempt. The home side then gets a couple of balls in without any real end product before the keeper is called into action to save a shot and then his defenders block the second effort on the line.

Pretty sure this was the goal
Cefn Druids again have the first chance of the half with a diving header that goes just wide of the target. Then when the Cefn Druids forward gets the byline, his driven cross across goal just lacks the final touch. Bangor should then really double the lead as the forward somehow manages to hit the bar from a yard or so out following a great ball in. There is then drama at both ends in the final moments of the match. Firstly, Cefn Druids hit the bar with a header from close range which then goes out of play. Almost straight afterwards, Bangor go up the other end and hit the outside of the post with one of the last touches of the match.

Wing action in front of seating and TV gantry
It is possible to get a train direct from Euston to Bangor but this takes over three hours - assuming it actually bloody runs. In Bangor town centre I popped into The Fat Cat which had Llandudno brewery Wild Horse on tap. The ground is a fair way from town and is a bit of a slog and so it is best to break up the walk. Fortunately, Tafran Y Glôb (The Globe) is just after half way and is a great pub with the sports channels. The rest of the walk is then quite scenic with views of Anglesey and The Menai Bridge in the distance. The clubhouse at the back of the stand had the usual selection of drinks and the programme was the best for a little with a very good article on the 1978 Welsh Cup final with Wrexham. A great end to a brilliant couple of days, I will absolutely be returning to North Wales very soon. 

Elevated view of the final moments with Anglesey behind the trees

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Seagulls Play Push Soars - Colwyn Bay vs. Ciltheroe

Great setting for a sunny day of football
On Saturday morning I was up for the bus back into Gobowen and the train on to Colwyn Bay. And after seeing an English based team in a Welsh league, it was a Welsh based side in an English league today. Colwyn Bay were pushing for the play offs in The Northern League South and although they were five points behind Trafford in the last play off spot, they had a game in hand and played them at home on Thursday night. The nearest I'd come to seeing either side play was coming to Colwyn Bay and the North Wales area for many holidays when I was younger. The boyfriend of my old housemate was also a big Clitheroe fan and we always talked about visiting (the ground looks great). Clitheroe were comfortable in mid-table and the reverse fixture in September ended in a three-one win for today's hosts.

Clitheroe about to get the game started at Llanelian Road
Even though Colwyn Bay dominate possession from the very early stages it takes them a little while to begin creating chances, a half break stopped by a great Clitheroe tackle the highlight in the opening exchanges. When the opening clear cut chances comes along for Colwyn Bay, it isn't wasted. The man on the corner of the box is allowed to advance on goal and he hammers the ball home to make it one nil. They get in on goal again shortly afterwards but this time the Clitheroe keeper is quickly off his line to narrow the angle. Towards the end of the half, Colwyn Bay are able to advance straight down the middle and the forward makes no mistake to double the lead.

Colwyn Bay on the attack in the first half
It is Clitheroe who emerge with intent at the start of the second half and they see a thunderous shot cannon off the bar. They come close again as a shot is flashed wide of the target but from then it's all Colwyn Bay. A long ball forward is well controlled by the forward before he cuts inside and knocks the ball in to make it three nil. Clitheroe then begin to tire and when they give away the ball on the half way line, the Colwyn Bay forward gets behind, then squares it for his team mate who taps the ball home. Clitheroe again gives the ball away and again they are punished as the forward gets the home side's fifth. Clitheroe get a well deserved consolation late on and with Trafford losing at Goole, Colwyn Bay's play off challenge is alive and well.

Three nil Colwyn Bay
This is another long trip from London. You again have to take a train from Euston and change at Chester for the train to Colwyn Bay. The ground is then a twenty five minute walk away which you can do a lot along the beach. Alternatively, the 23 bus goes from the station, direct to the ground. If you spend time in the town centre you have to visit The Bay Hop which is a brilliant micro pub although I don't think normally opens until two (it was a 1940s festival when I was there so opened early) so could be one for after the game. To break up the walk I stopped off at The Cuckoo in Old Conway which had the early kick off on. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks as well as their own bitter. As you can tell from the pictures it is a great ground with scenic surrounds and a great second stop off!.

Covered standing opposite the main stand

New Saints Continue Assent - The New Saints vs. Connah's Quay Nomads

Dusk at Park Hall
I was meant to be visiting Berlin this weekend but when that fell through I still wanted to get away from London and so on Friday I set off for my tour around the edges and then into deepest Wales. My first step was Oswestry a short distance from the border for their Welsh Premier Division (I know it's not non-league!) clash between The New Saints and Connah's Quay Nomads. This match pitted the top two in the division against each other and although The New Saints had already won the league, Connah's Quay wanted to get closer to claiming second place and an automatic place in next year's Europa League. The visitors came into the game in good form having beaten Bangor 6-1 in The Welsh Cup semi-final. This was the sixth time the sides had met this season - three times in the league, once in the League Cup and again in the Welsh Cup. The New Saints had won three, Connah's Quay one and there had been one draw.

Kick Off At Park Hall
Connah's Quay have the ball in and around The New Saints box in the opening moments but after that The New Saints begin to see more of the ball. Having said that, Connah's Quay have the first chance when they get in on the angle but the ball is dragged wide. The home sides first chance comes as The New Saints get in on goal but the Connah's Quay keeper is quickly off his line to smoother the ball. They come close again with a header at the back post following a free kick from wide that goes just the wrong side of the post. Connah's Quay take the lead towards the end of the half to stun the hosts. A long ball forward isn't dealt with by the defence and the forward takes advantage to slot home.

New Saints header goes just wide
Connah's Quay continue where they left off and when The New Saints give the ball away in midfield, they are quick to attack and the home keeper does well to save. The visitors are pressing The New Saints high up the pitch and look to be well on top. That is until The New Saints are awarded a very soft looking penalty. The penalty is duly dispatched and The New Saints don't look back. They take the lead when the forward is able to dance through the defence before lashing a great shot from the edge of the area past the keeper. They complete the scoring in the closing stages via a close range shot following a pull back from the byline.

View along the main stand
It can take a little while to get to Owestry from London - especially when your train is over twenty minutes late. You first need to get a train from Euston to Chester (which is where I fell down) and from there you can the train to Gobowen. Then from just around the corner you can take either the number two bus into town or the 53 which goes close to the ground. Owestry is an extremely pleasant place and worth looking around if you have time. There is also a wide choice of pubs of which I was able to try two. The first one was The Oak Inn which felt like a locals but was friendly and had a selections of ales on. The second one was the excellent The Bailey Head which is the current local CAMRA pub of the year and it isn't hard to see why with the wide selection of ales and beers. The ground is then about a half hour walk from the town - again the 53 bus goes from the town to near the ground. The clubhouse is multi use and includes a bowling alley but the does the job with the usual drinks on offer. It also houses the spectacular league trophy - see below. If you do stay the night then I recommend staying at Laurels which is well worth the money and you won't get a better welcome or level of service. A really great start all round to the weekend away.

Welsh League trophy

TV gantry and dugout side of the ground

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