Monday, 24 August 2015

Wasps Regain Sting - Chalfont Wasps vs. Old Woodstock Town

Tree enclosed view at Crossleys
It what is becoming a recurring theme this season, this weekend I ticked off a ground that I've had my eye on for a long time. The ground in question this weekend was Crossleys which is the home of Chalfont Wasps who were hosting Old Woodstock Town in The Hellenic League Division East. I have also enjoyed visiting grounds in this division (Rayners Lane, Henley Town and Holyport) and Crossleys would continue the trend. Both teams had identical league records so far this season having won one and lost one so far this season although today's hosts had the better goal difference. Chalfont had also been at home the previous weekend and were two nil before they were reduced to ten men and eventually lost 2-3. 

Kick off at Crossleys
Early on in the game, the Chalfont centre back gives the ball away on the edge of the area but luckily for him the mistake isn't punished. Old Woodstock then play a chipped ball over the top and the Chalfont keeper has to make sure he is first to the ball, which he is comfortably. It is then the Old Woodstock defence's turn to give the ball away but they recover enough to block the shot on goal. The defence has to be alert to block another dangerous ball in the area after the winger is able to get beyond the full back. The best chance of the half comes when the Old Woodstock attacker gets to byline and his pull back finds the striker only for his shot to be blocked right on the line. They have another great chance shortly afterwards as a cross to the back post finds the man in lots of space but his diving header misses the target. Chalfont have a brilliant chance of their own right at the end of the half. A good cross finds the unmakred striker but he slips and can't get enough power or direction on the shot.

The Chalfont cross into the area is blocked by The Old Woodstock defence
The first chance of the second half is a Chalfont free kick which goes well over the bar. Old Woodstock's first chance comes as a result of a quick break but this chance is also skied. The Chalfont forward is allowed to turn in the penalty area and this forces the Old Woodstock keeper into a great low save. The hosts come close again but this time a deflection off a defender sends the ball wide of the post. Old Woodstock then get in on goal following another deflection and the Chalfont keeper makes a great save to keep the scores level. The hosts then take the lead mid way through the half which is also when I elected to take a toilet break which is another theme of the season so far. Chalfont have a chance to seal the points but this time the shot on goal is deflected on to the post. Old Woodstock's best chance of an equaliser comes when they are able to get to the byline following a break from a Chalfont corner but the ball in is cut out by the home defence. There is a scramble in the area in the dying seconds where Chalfont can add a second and after the first shot is blocked, the Chalfont attacker balloons the ball over from a yard or so out.  

The only seating at Crossleys
Chalfont Wasps play in the picturesque village of Chalfont St Giles which is as close to the rural ideal as you can probably get. The nearest station to Chalfont St Giles is Gerrards Cross and trains here depart from Marylebone and the quick trains take just over twenty minutes. From Gerrards Cross you can catch the 730 bus to the top of The High Street and this section of the journey takes quarter of an hour. A very short walk from the village green is The Fox and Hounds which had a great selection of ciders which was perfect in the sunny weather. On The High Street itself is Feathers which has Sky and BT Sports for the early kick off. Crossleys is then a steady ten minute walk from the village centre. The clubhouse is shared with the cricket club and in summer you can watch the cricket with a drink while you wait for the game to start. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks as well as the sports channels. Programmes are sold from behind the bar and at £2 for a decent programme and entry, Chalfont Wasps are great value for money.

Another view of the cover at Crossleys

Monday, 17 August 2015

Same Again From Portchester - Bournemouth vs. AFC Portchester

Wing play in front of the stand at Victoria Park
It was the very first round of The FA Cup last weekend and I normally permit myself a bit of a longer trip out of London for this special occasion and my first game in this years competition was an all Wessex League affair between Bournemouth and AFC Portchester. Victoria Park is a ground I've had an eye on for a while due it's stand and as with Lydd I wanted a time where the game was definitely going to be on. I'd seen Portchester earlier in the season when they recorded a comprehensive four nil away win at East Preston of The Sussex League (I'm sticking with the old name). According to the excellent match programme, Portchester won the league fixture between this two at Victoria Park last season 6-2. Back to this season and the hosts had drawn and lost one game while the visitors had won one and drawn one.

Kick off at Victoria Park
Portchester have the first chance of the game when a shot from inside the area is flashed just wide of the far post. Portchester are having the vast majority of the ball and the Bournemouth keeper make his first save of the game from another angled drive after Portchester had got in on the left wing. Bournemouth's first chance comes from a free kick in a dangerous position which is just cleared and the resulting corner unfortunately comes to nothing. Portchester then get to the byline but the attacker takes too long to pass the ball which allows the Bournemouth defence to get back and the shots are blocked. The Bournemouth keeper then makes another good save from a well drilled free kick. Bournemouth's best chance of the half comes when the ball is headed back into the area but the onrushing forward doesn't fully connect with the ball. Just as it looks like Bournemouth will go in at half time level, Portchester finally make their pressure count with a goal just before the break. 

Portchester attack in the first half
Portchester continue where they left off and they miss an absolute sitter in the opening seconds of the second half. They come closer again shortly afterwards when a shot from the edge of the area is deflected wide when it could have gone anywhere. They come even closer when following a short corner routine, the Portchester attacker is allowed to shoot from the edge of the area and to Bournemouth's relief the shot hits the bar. They hit the woodwork for a second time as the man is found in space at the back post and this time his shot hits the post. Portchester eventually get second when Portchester break down the left wing and the cross again finds the free man at the back post and he makes no mistake as the ball is slid in to double the advantage. The away side put the tie beyond any doubt as the forward is able to dance through the defence and slams the ball home to make it three nil.

Seconds before Portchester hit the bar in the second half
Regular trains to Bournemouth depart from Waterloo on a regular basis and the journey takes just under two hours. Once in Bournemouth, the sea front is a steady fifteen minute walk from the station although I found it a little tricky to navigate. A short walk from the pier is Sixty Million Postcards which is extremely hip but does have an awesome selection of beers and I'm also reliably informed that the food is also very good. Across the park is the more traditional The Brasshouse which is a chain pub but did the job as it had both BT and Sky Sports early kick offs on big screens. From The Square you can catch the number 6 bus which takes you to Boundary Road Roundabout which is a five minute walk away from the ground. There are up to six buses an hour and the journey takes ten or so minutes. The clubhouse was friendly and also had BT Sports. On colder days you can watch the game from the clubhouse. As I mentioned earlier the programme is fantastic so it worth getting there on time so you don't miss out.

Winger on the run in front of the dugouts

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Town Battle Back - Lydd Town vs. AC London

An AC London player prepares a free kick with the church in the back ground
I've been meaning to visit Lydd for a long time but wanted to wait for a weekend where there was absolutely zero chance of a postponement as the journey is a long one and there aren't many other clubs in the surrounding area. The fine weather of the opening weekend of the Kent Invicita season provided the ideal opportunity with Lydd hosting newcomers AC London. AC London were formed as a youth team but have risen through the leagues into senior football. They play at Crystal Palace Athletics Stadium which is by far one of the biggest capacity stadiums in non league. Lydd finished third in the table last season and I saw them win 5-1 at Rusthall towards the end of the previous campaign. Lydd have had a mixed pre season which included a decent draw with local Ryman League side Folkstone.

Clear blue skies for the start of the Kent Invicita season
The game has a very bitty start and a Lydd corner results in a weak header which goes harmlessly wide. The next Lydd half chance comes when the AC London defender is able to cut out a long ball forward just before the attacker can pounce. AC then give Lydd a scare when after the initial effort hits the post, the rebound is put into the net but the linesman's flag prevents the hosts going behind. This sparks Lydd into life and the AC London defence has to be alert to clear a shot off the line. AC London score their first goal in the league when the Lydd full back is robbed and the resulting cross is slotted in from close range. They come close to doubling their lead as the attacker is able to cut through the defence but the keeper is equal to his shot. Lydd then come perilously close to an equaliser when a corner is headed on to the bar. AC London score again from close range and it looks they will go in two goals up. However, just before half time the Lydd attacker is able to get himself some space and he lashes the ball into the bottom corner.

Lydd attack the clubhouse end in the first half
The next goal is crucial and both teams go on the attack to score it and both sides create a couple of half chances without troubling either keeper. The first real chance comes when a Lydd attack breaks down and AC are able to break and the shot goes just wide. The game has been fairly feisty throughout and this comes to a boil when an AC player receives a second yellow and the visitors are down to ten men. Lydd now sense their chance and when the winger is able to get to the byline, the first effort is blocked before the second effort is kept out by a brilliant save from the AC London keeper. From the resulting corner, the home side score the equaliser with a bullet header. Just as it looks like the newcomers will hold on for a very good point Lydd break their hearts in the final minutes. A ball forward is headed down into the path of the onrushing forward and he makes no mistake to seal the points.

Lydd push for the equaliser in the second half
As I mentioned earlier, it takes a little while to get to Lydd from London. The closest station is Folkestone Central and fast trains here depart from St Pancras and this portion of the journey takes just under an hour. Then from the bus station you can catch either the 100 or 101 (there is one of each every hour) and this section of the trip also takes around an hour. Right next to the bus stop is The George which had Sky and BT Sports and so is great for watching the early kick off or for a pre bus pint. A short walk away is The Dolphin which also had BT / Sky Sports as well as a couple of ales. The ground is a short walk from the centre of the village and the clubhouse was very welcoming and had the usual selection of drinks as well as the sports channels. The food hut which is apparently under new management does excellent burgers. 

Match action in front of the dugouts

Sunday, 2 August 2015

First League Game - Liss Athletic vs. Hamble Club

Watching from the trees at Newman Collard Playing Fields
After a month or so of friendlies I was pleased to get back to league action. After reading that the Hampshire Premier League was starting a week earlier then most other leagues, I looked through the fixtures to pick my first league match of the new season. I opted for Liss Athletic who were hosting last seasons champions Hamble Club. The hosts had finished third bottom last season and a 4-0 win over Wessex League Fareham suggested things could be different this season. I have been to Hamble itself before, to see Folland Sports and there were a number of other pitches at the complex so I don't know if that's where Hamble Club play.

Start of the 2015-16 league season
Hamble won the last game of the previous season 11-0 and it looks like they want to repeat the trick as they attack from the off. They have a couple of early chances which fail to test the keeper but it isn't long before they do take the lead. The attacker is able to get to the byline and his cut back is lashed in from close range. They make it two when a long bouncing ball forward isn't dealt with and the forward powers the ball home. Liss' first chance when the attacker is able to force a shot on goal after a free kick but the keeper is able to make a smart save. Hamble continue to create chances as they look to extend their lead but they are unable to take any of them. They are nearly made to pay for not extending their lead when the Hamble keeper misses a corner and he is indebted to his defender who blocks the resulting shot on the line. It is then Hamble's turn to have an effort cleared off the line following a corner. In the closing stages of the half, the Liss striker is played in but he unfortunately fails to hit the target.

The Hamble keeper misses a corner
Hamble continue attacking in the second half and a couple of efforts go just wide. They come closer when the attacker goes on a mazy run and his shot is tipped over by the Liss keeper. The visitors then have a couple of free kicks which the home defence are able to keep out. Liss are still very much in the game and Hamble are given a reminder of this when the forward is allowed a free header from a corner and the Hamble goalie makes a good save. Hamble make the game safe when the right winger is able to cut inside and after his intial effort is blocked, he puts the second in to the net via the back. In the end a decent win for the champions but had Liss taken their chances it could have been a different story.

A Hamble throw in in front of the trees
In theory the train journey from Waterloo to Liss should only take around an hour and fifteen minutes but unfortunately for me, due to signalling problems, it took over two hours. Therefore I didn't get to spend as much time in Liss as I'd liked. About half way in between the station and the ground is The Whistle Stop which had Sky Sports and a couple of ales. It also has a table tennis table if fancy a game before a match. The ground is a steady ten minute walk from the station and as you can see it is very photogenic. The clubhouse at the ground sells cans and offers an elevated view of the pitch.  

Elevated view behind the goal

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Pre Season Done Right At The Lasmar - East Preston vs. AFC Preston

Summer skies in Sussex
This season's first trip to the seaside took me to Angmering for the pre season friendly between East Preston and AFC Portchester which was a clash between the Sussex and Wessex Leagues. This was a revisit as I had previously visited Lashmer Road for an FA Cup tie against Ringmer back when East Preston were in Division Two of the county league and the hosts lost 4-1 on that day. I saw Portchester at Winchester last season and they looked more than comfortable against the now Southern League side. 

Players waiting to kick off
Portchester settle almost immediately and look very comfortable on the ball. East Preston almost gift Portchester the opening goal but the chance is put high and wide of the target. The come closer with a header following a teasing cross from deep. The visitors get in behind the East Preston defence but the defenders are able to regain their composure and clear the danger. Towards the end of the half East Preston have their first chance of the game when the forward has a shot which is blocked by the Portchester defender.

Portchester attack the flanks in the first half
Portchester score with the first attack of the second half. A corner finds its way to the back post and the ball is forced home from close range. They score again when a shot from distance takes a heavy deflection to leave the goalie flat footed as the ball goes over the line. The Portchester winger gets in behind the defence and again the East Preston defence is able to deal with the danger. A good Portchester passing move results in the ball being cut across the six yard line but the ball is blazed well over the bar. The final score was four nil and I don't know if I missed one when I went to the bar just before half time or when I left to catch my train.

The first Portchester goal of the second half
Angmering is served by trains from Victoria and the journey takes the best part of two hours. The ground is then a ten minute walk from the station. The beach is worth taking in and the chip shop in the village centre is pretty decent from memory. Also in the centre of the village is The Tudor Tavern which had a good selection of beers including Beachcomer which is perfect for a lunch time drink. The clubhouse at the ground is brilliant as it had Sky Sports as well as one ale from The Hammerpot Brewery. The reason why I was so impressed with pre season at East Preston was that entry was only three pounds which included a programme which was better then some clubs produce in the regular season. They have a another home friendly this Saturday against Alresford Town so if you want a great pre season experience I fully recommend attending. 

The dugout side of the ground

Monday, 20 July 2015

Epsom And Ewell Gain Belated Vase Revenge - Epsom And Ewell vs. Hoddesdon Town

Fantastic clubhouse at The Surbiton Town Sports Club
In April 1975, Epsom and Ewell met Hoddesdon Town in the final of The Fa Vase at Wembley. The teams met for the first time since their date at Wembley on Saturday at Surbiton Town Sports Club. Epsom had made a promising start to their pre season winning one and drawing so far this summer. I have visited Hoddesdon on two previous occasions, once in 2009-10 for a Vase game against Kirkley and Pakefield and again last season for a Spartan League match with Kings Langley. There are least two times I've seen Epsom and Ewell, once away at Guildford City in The Combined Counties League and at Alton Town in the same competition.

Kick off at The Surbiton Town Sports Club
Hoddesdon have an early goal disallowed as a rebound is forced home after the initial shot was saved. Epsom take the lead shortly afterwards when a long ball forward is allowed to bounce by the defenders and the ball is lashed home on the half volley from the edge of the area. Epsom follow this up with further long range efforts which both come close to doubling the advantage. They do double their advantage as the forward is played in through the middle and he slots the ball past the advancing keeper. Hoddesdon get one back just before time as the Epsom keeper is caught out by a free kick. I didn't see a lot of the second half but I did see Hoddesdon make a good start to the second half but just before I left, Epsom made it three one. In my dash to make the train I missed a further four goals which hopefully isn't an omen for the coming season.

Hoddesdon make it two one.
Epsom host Lingfield on the 28th so if you fancy seeing a game at unique venue then I would fully recommended going along. Surbiton Town Sports Club is a steady twenty minute walk from Tolworth Station. Trains to Toworth depart from Waterloo and the journey takes about half an hour. In between the station and the ground is The Hogsmill Tavern which has a fantastic beer garden if the weather is nice. The clubhouse shown at the top of the post is fantastic and has the usual selection of drinks and Sky Sports on the big screen. The club produced a special pre season programme for this game but they also had some left over programmes from last season and it is well worth picking one up as it is a fantastic programme.

Elevated match action

Monday, 8 June 2015

Ryman Recap - Harrow Borough vs. Wealdstone

Wealdstone attack the end populated by their sizeable away following
For this weeks Ryman Recap, we return to the 2009-10 season for a Middlesex derby in the FA Trophy between Harrow Borough and Wealdstone. With just three miles separating the two grounds it promised to be feisty, a fact reinforced by comments in the 'away programme' (see pictures at the bottom of the article). The two teams were experiencing differing fortunes it the Ryman Premier Division with Wealdstone in the play offs and Harrow sitting just above the drop zone. In the previous round Harrow had required a reply to defeat Soham Town Rangers.

Just before kick at Earlsmead
Wealdstone backed by their noisy set of fans start the game much the stronger and take an early lead and it takes a brilliant performance by the Harrow keeper to restrict the visitors to just the one goal. The game is delayed at half time after the referee suffers an injury. This doesn't distract Harrow who equalise a short time into the second half. Wealdstone retake the lead with a thundering free kick but Harrow equalise for a second time in the dying seconds. I unfortunately missed the second equaliser as I had to leave to get a Halloween fancy dress party - a true story. 

Side on view of the main stand
The closest station to the ground is Northolt Park and trains to here depart from Marylebone and the quick trains take quarter of an hour and it is then a short walk to Earlsmead. I don't remember going to any pubs before the game but the clubhouse was pretty decent and had Sky Sports. As I mentioned earlier, the Wealdstone fans produced an away programme to raise money for Stones player Steven Hughes who had suffered a serious knee injury. I have yet to see this at any other game and was definitely a fantastic idea.

View from the Wealdstone end