Monday, 22 December 2014

Frod Hit Back To Claim Point - Appleby Frodingham vs. Thoresby Colliery Welfare

The clubhouse with Brumby Hall in the background
As it was the last weekend before Christmas, we wanted to avoid the motorways and any busy town centres and so we elected to watch Appleby Frodingham's home match with Thoresby Colliery Welfare in The Central Midlands League Black Dragon Division North. The only match I'd seen in this league was Boxing Day last year at Thorne and I had been impressed with the standard in that match. This was App Frod's first season back in The Central Midlands League after being relegated from The Northern Counties East League last term. They had made an OK start to the season and had a couple of games in hand over the teams immediately above them. I had seen App Frod once before at local rivals Bottesford Town in another Boxing Day match. Thoresby were only one point behind league leaders Clay Cross Town with two games in hand.  

Kick off at Brumby Hall
Thoresby almost carve out a very good chance in the opening minutes but the App Frod keeper gets to the ball first. App Frod then come very close to taking the lead when on the break, they have an extra man on the overlap and his shot is saved by the keepers legs and the ball loops just the bar. They come close again shortly afterwards when a free kick isn't cleared fully cleared away and the App Frod player sends a dipping half volley towards goal and the ball dips just over the bar. Thoresby then create a couple of chances, the best one being when the ball is pulled back from the byline but the ball is ballooned over the bar. Thoresby are then gifted the lead. The App Frod keeper spills a long range shot and just as the Thoresby player is about to tap the ball in to the net he is taken out by the App Frod defender. The penalty is given and incredibly the referee takes no further action against the defender. The penalty is buried to put the visitors one up. Towards the end of the half, the App Frod player hits a great long range effort but unfortunately for the home side it is too close to the keeper.

App Frod on the attack in front of the council offices
App Frod start the second half on the front foot and a cross in to the area lacks the pace for the resulting header to be able to worry the keeper. The home side get in to another couple of decent positions but lack the quality for the final ball. They should really be level when the ball is pulled back to the player in space but he puts the ball wide, although some in the crowd thought it had gone in. Thoresby are then able to break and a good ball puts the forward in. He is then flattened by the onrushing keeper. The referee is again in a generous mood and only books the App Frod goalie. The resulting free kick finds a player in space but his header lacks any real power. After that let off, App Frod get the equaliser their endeavours deserve. The pacey winger is able to break down the right and he wins a corner. This corner is not fully cleared and the ball is prodded in from close range. Neither side can find the winner in the final minutes and the result is a well earned point for both sides.

Hedge side of the ground
Scunthorpe station is a leisurely fifteen minute stroll away from Brumby Hall. If you are desperate to get to Scunthorpe from London, you have to take a train to Doncaster from Kings Cross and change there for a train to Scunthorpe. The journey takes just under two hours if you get decent connections. The general consensus is that the best pub in Scunthorpe Town Centre is The Honest Lawyer which had a good selection of ales last time I was in there. A bit further up the road is The Blue Bell which is a Wetherspoon's. Both pubs can be very busy if Scunthorpe United are at home. The clubhouse is the Brumby Hall Social Club and sells drinks at club prices and had BT Sport for the early kick. If the weather is too bad then the clubhouse provides an elevated view of the pitch. 

Match action with The Pods Leisure Centre in the background

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Citzens Lose First Game Of Season - Welwyn Garden City vs. Codicote

Floodlit first half action
After not seeing a Spartan South Midlands game for years, I made it two in two nights on Wednesday. After travelling through it so many times on the train, I finally made it to Welwyn Garden City for their home match with Codicote in Division One. Welwyn were yet to lose this season and had won all but one of their games before Wednesday. Codicote themselves were having a decent season and were close to the top of the division. This was the first time I had seen either side in action.

Kick off at Herns Way
Both sides take a little while to adapt to a heavy pitch and in the opening stages the only chances of note are a couple of free kicks which ultimately come to nothing. The first clear sight of goal comes when the ball is pulled back to a Welwyn player in a good position but he puts the ball well over the bar. The Codicote keeper then comes out of his goal to cut out a through ball and he clears the ball to safety. Codicote soon have another free kick and this one, like the one in the opening stages, comes to nothing. Welwyn then come a bit closer with a dipping shot which goes just over the bar. The home side manage to get to the byline again and this time the shot following the pull back is on target but is lacking sufficient power. Another Codicote free kick is blocked by a Welwyn defender and the first half ends goalless.

The Codicote keeper claims a ball in to the box
Both sides have opportunities to get the ball in to the box at the start of the second half but neither delivery causes the defences any problems. The first real shot in anger is by a Codicote player and the shot goes over the bar. Welwyn then hit the woodwork when an effort is deflected on to the post after a good move. Welwyn think they have taken the lead when they score from a corner but the goal is ruled out for a foul in the area. Welwyn are on the up and the Codicote keeper has to make a good low save when the Welwyn played is put in on goal. Then comes the sucker punch. The Codicote player is played in and his first effort is save and the player knocks the rebound in from close range. Codicote add a second in the closing stages to inflict a first league defeat of the season on Welwyn.

Dugout side of the ground
Trains to Welwyn Garden City depart from Kings Cross on a regular basis and the journey takes around half an hour. The ground is then a good half hour walk from the station. There are a couple close of pubs close to the station. The first one I visited was Doctor's Tonic which was quite good. I ate at The Two Willows and the food was good and there was a decent selection of beers. The clubhouse is just outside the ground and is pretty much a pub and had Sky Sports.

Second great Spartan South Midlands programme in as many nights
Another view of the stand

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Another First Half Blitz - Hoddesdon Town vs. Kings Langley

Lowfield under lights
As I had now finished work, mid week games came back in to play. The fixtures weren't particularity  favourable in terms of visiting a new ground so I decided to revisit Hoddesdon Town for their Spartan South Midlands League Premier match with Kings Langley. I hadn't been to a game in this league for nearly two years so it was good to get back to this league and Hoddesdon's incredible match programme made it a good revisit. My previous visit to Hoddesdon had been for an FA Vase tie against Kirkley and Parkefield which from memory the away side won. I visited King Langley's Gaywood Park also on a Tuesday night for a South Midlands Division One game against Sun Postal Sports. Back to this season and Kings Langley were top of the table while Hoddesdon were in the lower reaches of the table. 

Kick off at Lowfield
Kings Langley attack from the off and the home keeper has to be alert early on to claim a driven cross in to the Hoddesdon area. The visitors then take an early lead as the forward is played in and he slots past the keeper to put his side one nil up. Hoddesdon first attack comes in the form of a free kick which the Kings Langley goalie claims. He then punts the ball forward to turn defence in to attack and this time the forward cannot find the target. The visitors continue to attack and they have a couple of half chances before they double their lead. The Hoddesdon defence fail to deal with a cross from the right flank and the Kings Langley player has an easy headed chance to make it two nil. Shortly afterwards the Hoddesdon keeper does well to save a deflected shot from distance and from the rebound the Kings Langley forward somehow manages to hit the bar. Just before the break the visitors make it three with a brilliant free kick from just outside the area.   

Kings Langley attack in the first half
Hoddesdon look to get back in to the game straight from the restart and when they get in on goal the Kings Langley defender just gets back to head off the line. The home keeper then almost gifts the visitors a fourth when spills a shot but he claims the ball at the second attempt. Hoddesdon should really score when the ball is chipped to the back post but the forward doesn't fully connect and the keeper makes an easy save. The home side do get back in to the game with a goal from the penalty spot. The Hoddesdon forward bursts in to the box and he taken down and the resulting penalty is powdered down the middle to make it three one. Kings Langley then almost restore their three goal advantage but the forward cannot take advantage when played in on goal.

A Hoddesdon move breaks down in the first half
The nearest station to Lowfields is Broxbourne. Trains to here depart from Liverpool Street and the journey takes around half an hour. From here it is about a twenty minute walk to Hoddesdon High Street. On the High Street there is The White Swan which would be good for the early kick off. A bit closer to the ground is The Golden Lion which is a bit more homely. The ground is then a five minute walk from the High Street. The clubhouse does the job and has Sky Sports. As I mentioned earlier, Hoddesdon produce an incredible match programme. Even on a Tuesday night, the programme was well over fifty pages.

Small wooden cover opposite the main stand

Monday, 15 December 2014

First Half Blitz Sets Goddy On Way - Ipswich Wanderers vs. Godmanchester Rovers

A first half Godmanchester corner
It was my last weekend in the south before I returned to the north for Christmas so I decided to head to a ground hopper's favourite. The ground in question was Humber Doucy Lane, home of Ipswich Wanderers for their Eastern Counties League, Premier Division tie against Godmanchester Rovers. The reason why it is a ground hopper's favourite will become clear in the pictures and it did not disappoint. The visitors were having a good season and were three points behind league leaders Norwich United although they had played a game more. With both Godmanchester and Norwich applying for promotion, it promises to be an exciting season. Ipswich were in mid table and have had good runs in The FA Cup and Vase, reaching the first qualifying round and second round proper of the respective competitions.     

Kick off under blue skies. Note the writing on the back of the stand.
The Godmanchester goalie has a shaky start as he is tackled in the area but luckily for him the ball drops to the feet of a defender and they clear the danger. Godmanchester take the lead early from the penalty spot after the forward was clumsily taken down although there was a possibility he was fouled outside of the area. The penalty is slotted home to put the visitors one up. Ipswich almost equalise straight away but the defender heads the effort off the line. The home side then have another chance hacked off the line from the following corner and the Godmanchester goal is living a charmed life. Ipswich are well on top now and when a ball in the box isn't fully cleared the keeper has to make a great save to keep his side in the lead. Godmanchester are finally able to break out of defence and Ipswich are grateful for a deflection which sends a shot wide of the post. Ipswich think they should have a penalty when a powerful shot is blocked in the area and there is the strong possibility it was blocked by a players arm. Godmanchester then have a period of possession of their own and Ipswich are made to rue those missed chances. A ball in to the area from the right is controlled by the forward and he is allowed to turn and his low shot beats the keeper to make it two nil. In the closing stages of the half, an Ipswich cross is headed down in the penalty area but the ball is blazed over from very close range. In the final minute of the half, Godmanchester are awarded a second penalty and they effectively seal the points with a third goal.  

The numerous stands along one side of the pitch
Ipswich have a couple of half chances at the start of the half but they fail to trouble the Godmanchester goal keeper. The Ipswich winger manages to get to the byline but his cross in to the area is well blocked by the defender. Godmanchester's first effort comes when a free kick in to the area is almost flicked in to his own net by the Ipswich defender. Godmanchester then think that they should have a third penalty but the referee is not interested on this occasion. Ipswich are still trying to get in to the game and they are disappointed when after a good move, the cross goes straight to the keeper. They come a little closer when a desperate slide by a Godmanchester defender clears a ball across the edge of the six yard box. Godmanchester should really put some gloss on the score line but the ball is headed off the line after the forward had rounded the keeper. In the closing stages, Godmanchester do get their fourth and Ipswich get their goal which is the absolute minimum their efforts deserved. 

Godmanchester defend in the first half.
Humber Doucy Lane is right on the edge of Ipswich and you therefore have to catch a bus from Ipswich Station. Trains to Ipswich depart from Liverpool Street and the journey takes around an hour. Ipswich town centre was crazy with Christmas shoppers and show I jumped in to the first half decent pub I saw which was The Salutation which was OK. The 66 bus from the station will take you to within a short walk of the ground. The journey takes about fifteen minutes if the traffic isn't too bad. If you ask for a ticket to The Lattice Barn then you have a good place for a pre game drink. The ground is then a ten minute walk from here. The clubhouse and welcome in general is fantastic. I can fully recommend a trip to Ipswich Wanderers.

First half wing play

Monday, 8 December 2014

Lymington Claim Border Skirmish - Lymington Town vs. Christchurch

The sun sets behind the clubhouse at The Sports Ground
With the counties to the north and east of London being hammered by rain all week, it seemed like westwards was the way to go for a game. The game I opted for was Lymington Town against Christchurch in The Wessex League Premier Division. The game was a derby with little more than thirty miles separating the two clubs. In terms of league positions, there were twelve places separating the two sides with Christchurch one off the bottom of the table. Despite the difference in league positions, Christchurch had beaten Lymington 4-2 at The Hurn Bridge Sports Ground back in August. After an indifferent start to their league campaign, Lymington have greatly improved and have not lost in the league since a defeat against title chasing Petersfield in September.

Kick off at The Sports Ground
The game has a very scrappy start and the first chance of the game comes from a Lymington free kick in to the area which is headed behind. The home side don't have to wait long for their first real chance. The Lymington forward bursts in to the area and he is clumsily chopped down for a clear cut penalty. Despite the Christchurch keeper getting  a strong hand to the penalty, the ball hits the back of the net to put the home side one up. Christchurch think they should have a penalty of their own shortly afterwards but the referee is not interested. Set plays appear to be the best way to score as Lymington then hit the post with a free kick. The first real chance from open play comes when the Christchurch forward gets to the byline and the Lymington keeper pulls off a good low save. From the resulting corner, Lymington are quick to break out of defence and the end result is a looping header which hits the bar. Lymington do make it two shortly afterwards however. The forward is played in and he slots the ball under the advancing goalie. Christchurch are given a lifeline when the attacker goes down in the area and the away side are able to pull a goal back. Lymington should restore their two goal advantage before the break but the striker blazes the ball wide when played in.     

First half wing play with St Thomas Church in the background
Both teams have half chances at the start of the second half but the advanced players for neither side have any support. Lymington hit the woodwork again from close range and the Lymington player is relieved to see that he would have been offside anyway. The Christchurch player then powers through the Lymington defence and the keeper has to pull off a good save with his legs. The home side almost gift the visitors an equaliser as the centre back and keeper get in a tangle but the ball falls kindly and they get away with it. The Christchurch keeper then pulls off the save of the game when he tips a great long range effort on to the post. Lymington then get the killer third goal as the player is left unmarked at the back post following a free kick and he makes no mistake to seal the points. To their credit Christchurch keep on going and in the final stages the hit the woodwork and it is not to be their day. 

A Christchurch corner in the first half
As with several destinations this season, there are no direct trains to Lymington. You have to get a train from Waterloo to Brockenhurst (which was first destination of the season) and change there for a train to Lymington Town. If there are no cretins on the line near Southampton then the journey takes about an hour and forty minutes. Lymington is a delightful port side town and I enjoyed my walk around the quay before the game. The one downside to Lymington is that there are a lot of gastropubs. While both The Kings Head and The Thomas Tripp  were perfectly fine they were not the pubs I would normally opt for. The ground is a steady fifteen minute from the station and the clubhouse at the ground was fairly cheap and had Sky Sports. Next to the station is The Bosuns Chair which is perfect for a pre train drink.

Side on view of the stand

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Lynn Robbed By Late Penalty - Kings Lynn vs. Harrogate Town

Dusk at The Walks
For the second time in this season's FA Trophy, I travelled to The Fens for a game. Earlier in the competition I had seen Soham crash out 6-1 at home to Spalding. Today's tie was between Kings Lynn of The Northern Premier League and Harrogate Town of The Conference North. Both teams were having OK seasons and both found themselves in mid table. This was Harrogate's first game in the competition this season while Kings Lynn had beaten Market Drayton and Stourbridge to reach this stage of the competition. This was the first time I'd been to a game involving either side. 

The main stand at The Walks
In the early stages, the Harrogate keeper goes in bravely to win the ball and this would not be the last time that he put his body on the line. He is called in to action as following a swift Kings Lynn break, the ball is crossed to the back post and he makes a good low save from the resulting header. Kings Lynn then manage to get another cross to the back post but this time a snap shot is blazed high and wide. The Kings Lynn winger then bursts in to the box and the keeper produces another great save which leads to a mass scramble in the six yard box but the home side cannot force the ball home. Kings Lynn win a free kick out by the far touchline and the keeper has to be alert yet again to clear the danger. Harrogate are restricted to a couple of half chances as Kings Lynn are disappointed not to be leading at the break.

The Kings Lynn keeper in mid flight in the first half
The second period begins in the same vein as the first when a Kings Lynn free kick in to the area causes havoc in the box and two efforts from close range are blocked before the Harrogate defence is able to clear the danger. Another free kick shortly afterwards looks like it has hit the back of the net but unfortunately for the home side the ball has hit the side netting. Harrogate's first chance of the half comes on the break and is blocked by the Kings Lynn defence. The home support are then enraged by the referee when they have two penalty claims in quick succession turned down. On first viewing, it looked like Harrogate were lucky to get away with the second one. The game is now opening up as both sides look for a winner and the Harrogate forward should do a lot better when he finds himself in space after a free kick but hammers the ball over the bar. The Kings Lynn winger then puts a great ball across the six yard but no one gets the vital touch. The Harrogate forward then breaks in to the area and as he tries to round the keeper, he is brought down and the referee gives the penalty to the disbelief of the home fans. The forward shows no mercy from the spot to put the visitors one up. In the final stages Harrogate have a good chance to score the killer second goal but the weak shot is easily saved.

An early Kings Lynn corner in the first half
The journey to Kings Lynn was one of the easier trips of the season so far. Trains to Kings Lynn depart from Kings Cross and the journey takes around an hour and forty minutes and there is one train an hour. If you want ales before the game then The Crown and Mitre by the ferry is the place to go. If you want to watch the early kick offs then The White Hart on Saturday Market Place does the job. In terms of general sights, Kings Lynn is worth exploring before a game. The Walks is about a fifteen minute walk from the train station. The bar underneath the stand does the job and does good sausage rolls. After the game I went to The Lattice House which was an OK Wetherspoons. More importantly I also visited Bitsons Chippy on Blackfriars Street which I can highly recommend.

Another view of the fantastic main stand

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Seasiders Leave It Late To Snatch Point - Felixstowe And Walton United vs. Thetford Town

A soggy, tree lined Goldstar Ground
After glorious weather while on holiday for the previous week or so, it was inevitable that the rain would come when I started to watch football again. I had intended to watch US Portsmouth in the vase but the weather put me off and the first game where I heard there was no issues with the pitch was Felixstowe and Walton vs. Thetford Town in the Premier Division of the Eastern Counties League. I had been meaning to visit Felixstowe for a little while since reading about the town and the team on the excellent Cold End website.  I also enjoy a game by the sea so it was a perfect first game back. The home side were having an OK season and were in sixth position at the start of play while Thetford were closer to the bottom of the table. Felixstowe had played a 120 minutes in mid week in a Suffolk Premier Cup defeat against Conference North Lowestoft Town.

Opening seconds of the match
Felixstowe have an early half chance when a diagonal ball finds the forward in space but he takes too long and the keeper has an easy save in the end. Thetford come closer with their first chance as the forward powers through the defence and they are relived as his shot hit the underside of the bar and out to safety. Felixstowe then have a couple of half chances and the best of these come when the winger gets to the byline but his cross is hacked away for a corner which ultimately comes to nothing. Thetford's next chance is from a free kick from close to the touch line which forces the home keeper in to a good save. The Felixstowe keeper is soon beaten as he collides with two of his own defenders which leaves the Thetford forward with the simple task of tapping the ball in to an empty net. Felixstowe manage to claim an equaliser just before half time.

Felixstowe on the attack in the first half
The Felixstowe forward is played in during the opening stages of the second period but the Thetford keeper is alert to cut the ball out. The home keeper then almost gifts the visitors the lead but he gathers a free kick at the second attempt. It then the Thetford keeper's turn to present an opening to the opposition as his poor goal kick is seized upon by Felixstowe and he redeems himself with a good save from the first effort before the second effort is put wide. The game is really open now and the Thetford forward puts the ball wide when clean through. Felixstowe's next chance comes after a ball to the back post which is eventually poked wide. Following a substitution, Thetford take a throw on the half way line which goes to the winger who in turn plays his forward in and he slots his side back in the lead. Felixstowe now flood forward looking for the equaliser and it isn't long coming. The Thetford keeper makes a great save from a close range header but he is powerless to stop the rebound. The home side have a late chance for a winner but the forward blocks his own players shot in injury time.

A Felixstowe ball in to the box
There are no direct trains from London to Felixstowe. You have to take a train from Liverpool Street to Ipswich where you change for a train to Felixstowe. Unfortunately for me my train from Ipswich was cancelled but the station staff did an excellent job in arranging taxis for everyone. Minus taxis, the journey takes around an hour and forty minutes. The seafront is about a ten minute walk from the station. On the seafront is The Cork which offers sea views. In between the seafront and the ground is The Grosvenor which had BT and Sky Sports for the early kick off. The ground is less than ten minutes walk from the station. The club house outside the ground has a good selection of drinks and also had Sky Sports. While I was waiting for my train I went to Chuffers which was my favourite bar in Felixstowe.  

Areas of cover at The Goldstar Ground