Monday, 25 May 2015

Combined Counties Catch Up - Chertsey Town vs. Metropolitan Police

Dusk at Alwyn's Lane
I visited Chertsey Town in the 2009-10 season for an FA Cup Preliminary Round match against Metropolitan Police who were then in the Ryman Division One South. There was a decent chance of a shock in this tie as Chertsey were second in The Combined Counties Premier having won three and drawn one of their four league games so far. They had also won two nil away at Chessingon and Hook United in the Extra Preliminary Round. The Police on the other hand were struggling and were yet to win the league after three games. This tie was played on Friday night and according to the programme this was the first competitive Friday night game at Alwyn's Lane.   

The main stand at Alwyn's Lane
The shock did not materialise. Chertsey were on top in the first half but they failed to make their dominance count. They were made to pay mid way through the second as The Police scored when the attacker was left alone. The visitors saw out the rest of the game to set up a tie with Tonbridge Angels.

Chertsey attack in the first half
Trains to Chertsey depart from Waterloo and the direct trains take just over an hour although if you're happy to change then the journey can be a little quicker. The ground is a steady fifteen minute walk from the station and I vaguely remember there being a couple of pubs on the walk. I also remember the clubhouse being pretty good.

Tree lined end of the ground

Monday, 18 May 2015

Combined Counties Catch Up - Ashford Town (Middlesex) vs. Tooting And Mitcham United

A very bright and sunny Short Lane
For my first dip back in time to produce posts for all Combined Counties League clubs, we travel back to the 2008-09 season for a Ryman Premier Division clash between Ashford Town (Middlesex) and Tooting and Mitcham United. The Middlesex part being necessary to differentiate between this Ashford United and the one in Kent. Tooting had been promoted via the play offs the previous season and had lost their two opening games against Borehamwood and Billericay. Ashford had won their first two games and would have been in confident mood.

Seated accommodation at Short Lane
And their confidence was very well placed as they won seven nil. The home side were three nil up at half time and added four in the second period which also saw Tooting reduced to ten men to compund a thoroughly miserable afternoon.

Ashford's fans behind the goal
The nearest underground station to Short Lane is Heathrow Terminal 4 on the Picadilily Line. The journey from Central London takes about half an hour or so. From here you can catch the 333 bus to the top of Long Lane and the ground is a further five minute walk. I don't remember there being any pubs in the area but the clubhouse was quite good and welcoming in general. 

Gas holder end of the ground

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Wood Win Play Off Final - Borehamwood vs. Whitehawk

The new stand at Meadow Park
As I had a wedding reception the following weekend, this was my last Saturday of the season. I had a choice between Rayleigh Town versus Manford Way in The Essex Olympian League and The Conference South Play Off Final which was between Borehamwood and Whitehawk. Against my better judgement I went for the later. This was a revisit as I had visited Meadow Lane for an FA Trophy tie against Romford in the 2010-11 season which was their first season in the Conference South. Whitehawk have flown up the leagues in recent season and my visit to The Enclosed Ground was in the same season for an FA Cup tie with Hendon back in their Ryman South days. Back to this season and the two sides had finished in second and fourth respectively and had both won the away legs of their semi finals to get to this stage.

Kick off in the big game
As you'd expect in such a game, the opening stages are quite cagey and both sides best chances come from free kicks. Whitehawk's is a header that goes just wide and the Borehamwood player is perhaps a touch lucky not to get booked for the initial foul. Borehamwood's chance from a free kick is when the attacker finds himself in space at the back post but he only finds the side netting. Into the second half and Whitehawk come close with another header from a set piece. The opening goal comes when a free kick from a clumsy foul finds the bottom corner to put the home side ahead. Whitehawk equalise when the attacker is bundled over in the box and the resulting penalty is buried past the keeper. There are no further goals and the match goes to extra time. The Borehamwood winner is a volley on the turn which the Whitehawk keeper had no chance of saving. The home defence survive the onslaught to claim their place in The Conference Premier for next season. 

The impressive Whitehawk following
Borehamwood is on the regular Thameslink line and trains take about half an hour from St Pancras. Meadow Park is then a fifteen walk away through the town centre. Five minutes from the ground is The Wishing Well which is perfect for the early kick off. The clubhouse has been significantly expanded since my previous visit and now is a lot bigger and now also has Sky Sports. While waiting for my train back I visited The Alfred Arms which is around the corner from the station.

So that's my last post of the season. Throughout the summer I'll be aiming to fill the gaps in The Combined Counties and Ryman Leagues as well as The Conference South.

Whitehawk attack in the first half

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Mavericks Complete Double - Worthing United vs. Wick And Barnham United - Played At Shoreham FC

Main stand at Middle Road
After going to Goodwood on Saturday I was keen to see a game at a new ground on Bank Holiday Monday and The Sussex League Division Two Final between Worthing United and Wick and Barnham United at Shoreham proved ideal. The cup final pitched champions Worthing against third placed Wick and Barnham and so it promised to be a close game. And with four of the top five scorers in the division playing there was a good chance of goals. Both sides place in the top three meant they achieved promotion to The First Division for next season. I'd seen Worthing a couple of weekends ago at Midhurst and Easebourne in the league when they won 8-1. I had visited Worthing United's Robert Albon Memorial Ground for a Sussex League Division One match with Pagham a few years ago. I have also visited Wick and Barnham's Crabtree Park for a Division Two match with AFC Uckfield

Kick off in the 2014-15 final
Worthing United push on from the kick off and a cross from the byline is cut out by the Wick defence. Wick then are able to break out and win a corner which unfortunately doesn't beat the first man. They do better with a delivery into the box when a free kick from wide is headed towards goal but the head lacks the power to trouble the goalie. Worthing take the lead when the midfielder is allowed to run into the area and despite the keeper getting a strong hand to it the ball finds the back of the net. They double the lead when the forward is played in through the middle and despite the Wick defenders appealing for offside, he slots the ball home to make it two nil. Worthing get in again out wide but this time the shot is blocked for a corner. Towards the end of the half, the Worthing keeper gives the ball away from a free kick and the defender has to be strong to deny the forward a shot on goal. 

One nil to Worthing
Worthing are almost gifted a third early in the second half when they are let in via a miss kick but the ball is eventually scrambled away for a corner. Wick's first foray into the Worthing penalty area is a free kick which is overhit and beats everyone. Worthing's next chance comes when the winger is able to cut inside and his shot goes just over the bar. The Worthing forward is then allowed to turn in the area but the shot clips the top of the bar to the relief of the Wick defenders. Wick win a free kick on the edge of the area following a clumsy foul and the free kick is bent just over. Worthing have a decent chance to seal the game when they break from the half line but they take too long to get the ball in and have to settle for a corner. Both sides have chances in the final moments but none are taken and Worthing win the final two nil. 

Worthing attack in the second half
Shoreham is reached by trains from Victoria and the journey takes around an hour and forty minutes. Middle Lane is then a steady twenty minute walk away. Shoreham is a pleasant sea commuter town and it is worth walking through the town centre to the pebble beach. In the town centre there is The Crown And Anchor which provides a view of the river as well as BT Sports for the lunch time kick off. In between the ground and the town centre is the fantastic Duke Of Wellington which was having a beer festival but it looks like it has a brilliant selection of beers in general. The clubhouse has the usual selection of drinks and had a big projector screen. I can also recomend one of the burgers. Next to the station is The Crabtree Inn which is ideally situated for a pre train drink.     

Post foul shot of the dugout side of the ground


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Play Off Tie Goes The Distance - Royston Town vs. Barton Rovers

Dusk at Garden Walk
Play off season has begun in non league and I had a now rare, midweek game between Royston Town and Barton Rovers in the Southern League Central Division. I had previously visited Garden Walk for a FA Vase match against Tiptree Town back when Royston were in The South Midlands League. That match went to extra time which should have served of some sort of warning. In the regular season Royston had finished a distant second behind champions Kettering while Barton finished fifth ahead of Rugby Town who had lost to Royston on the last day. Both of the regular season games had been won by Royston without Barton scoring. Royston had hit form at the right time, winning eleven of the last thirteen games.

Kick off in the semi final
Barton start on the front foot and they win a free kick in a decent position which the home defence is able to clear. The visitors then get a ball in behind in the Royston defence but the keeper is first to the ball. Barton do get the ball into the net with a header from a corner but the goal is ruled out by the referee for pushing. Royston manage to push back Barton and they win successive throws by the corner flag but these come to nothing. The Barton winger then goes on a mazy run after cutting in from the wing and the keeper makes a decent save at his near post. Royston manage to etch out a couple of half which fail to seriously trouble the keeper. Just before half time, both sides are reduced to 10 men following a two footed tackle and the usual aftermath.  

Barton clear in front of the wooden standing cover
Barton have the first sight of goal in the second period with a header from a corner which is claimed by the Royston goalie. Royston then get on top for the first time in the match and the Barton defence has to be alert to deal with a threatening cross into the box. They come close when following a quick break down the wing, the attacker is able to find his fellow forward but his shot is straight at the keeper. The home side come even closer when the Barton keeper makes a great save to tip a shot from the corner of the area onto the bar. There are no goals in normal time and so the match goes to extra time where there are also no goals. Barton win the eventual shoot out which I missed (as well as ET) as I didn't want to get back too late - I should have heeded the lessons from my previous visit.

A Barton attack in the first half breaks down
To get to Royston you have to take a train from Kings Cross and if you get a quick train you can be there in forty minutes. Garden Walk is then a ten minute from the station. In terms of pubs in the town centre there is The Green Man which had an extensive range of beers on tap and in bottles. The Coach and Horses which you pass when walking to the centre from the station has Sky Sports for the early kick off. The clubhouse had a couple of ales on and also had Sky Sports.

Wing play in front of the stand

Monday, 27 April 2015

Stow Claim Last Day Win - Stowmarket Town vs. Cornard United

Far from a rubbish day in Suffolk
It was the last weekend of the season for many teams and ideally I'd liked to see a six pointer. The first game that had caught my eye was Horndean against Totton and Eling in The Wessex Premier with the visitors needing to win to have a chance of staying up but Horndean seemed pretty tricky to get to. In the Eastern Counties Division One there was a winner takes all promotion clash between Saffron Walden and Great Yarmouth but I'd already visited Catons Lane a couple of months ago. Somehow I managed to completely skip over the relegation six pointer between Stamford and Witton Albion. In the end I settled on a game at a ground I been past a couple of times on the train - Stowmarket Town versus Cornard United in The Eastern Counties Division One. I'd seen Stowmarket twice already this season at Saffron Walden and then at Swaffham a couple of weeks ago. On both occasions they'd given two sides who ended up getting promoted a good run for their money which bodes well for next season. Both teams were in the bottom half before the game - Stowmarket just below half way and Cornard were second from bottom. The reverse fixture at the start of the year ended in a 2-2 draw.

Kick off at Green's Meadow
Stowmarket are played in very early on and in a scenario that would be repeated several times, the chance was put high and wide. Cornard get a couple of crosses into the box, the most threatening produces a header which lacks the power to really test the keeper. Stowmarket take the lead when following a break forward the attacker is allowed time to turn on the edge of the area and find the back of the net with a low drive. Stowmarket have a chance for a second but the header from a corner fails to seriously test the goalie. They do make it two nil shortly afterwards when the attacker is allowed the freedom of the area following a free kick from out wide and he stoops down to head his side into a two goal lead. Cornard get back into the game as the keeper waits for an innocuous ball to come to him and the Cornard forward nips in to half the deficit just before half time.  

Stowmarket on the attack in the first half
Cornard almost equalise early on in the second half. The Cornard forward gets into a great position and his pull back finds its target before the Stowmarket keeper makes a great save. The Cornard keeper then almost gifts the home side a third as he slips in a dangerous position but the mistake goes unpunished. Stowmarket get in behind the visiting defence and again the chance is the chance is wasted although the ball did bobble at critical moment. The game is now very end to end and it takes a great low save from the Stowmarket keeper to keep out an acrobatic effort on goal. It is then Stowmarket's turn to have a great chance as the attacker gets in but to his disbelief there is no one there when he cuts the ball back. The home side then come even closer when the Cornard keeper does brilliantly to tip the ball on the bar and the defence clear the rebound. Chances are being produced at will as the Stowmarket goalie makes another great save to keep his side in the lead. In the closing stages Stowmarket get in behind the visitors defence a couple more times and on the third occasion they make the game safe. The right winger cuts inside and his initial effort is saved before the striker knocks home the rebound to make 3-1.

Second half match action with the A14 flyover in the background
After a couple of trickier journeys in recent weeks, Stowmarket was relatively easy to get to. Direct trains to Stowmarket depart from Liverpool Street and the journey takes just under an hour and a half. From the station, Green's Meadow is an easy ten minute walk from the station. As with Charlton a couple of weeks ago, there a variety of pubs in Stowmarket. For the early kick off there is The Royal Oak is a good bet. If you fancy a pub with at lest six ales on then The Royal William is the pub for you. As it is just off the main road, it is very quiet and also had BT Sports. If you want a pub close to the ground then The Crown is about five minutes walk away. The clubhouse also had a couple of ales and the lunch time kick off. As seems to be the case with most Eastern Counties grounds, the hot food was great. While I was waiting for the train I popped into The Kings Arms which also had a good selection of beers. The programme said this was the last edition for the current editor and the person who replaces him has one of hell of a job - a fantastic programme.

Another view of the stands

Monday, 20 April 2015

Champions Finish In Style - Midhurst and Easebourne vs Worthing United

The sun strikes the boot of the Worthing forward
We are now getting to the business end of the season and I was tempted by the title six pointer at Needham Market but I was put off the inevitable large crowd. This time of the year also means (or at least it should do) better weather and the fine weather gave me a good excuse to visit one of the more scenic grounds in The Sussex County League - The Rotherfield, home of Midhurst and Easebourne. The Stags were at home to Worthing United who had already won The Division Two title. These were happier times for The Mavericks then the last time I'd seen them play at home to Pagham when they were bottom of Division One. Midhurst were comfortably in mid table and had lost the reverse fixture at The Robert Albon Memorial Ground 3-0 back in November.

Kick off for the final time this season at The Rotherfield
Worthing United score with the first attack of the game. The attacker is played in on right wing and he lobs the ball over the onrushing keeper and into the opposite top corner of the goal. Midhurst's first attempt on goal is weak header over the bar from a corner. They come even closer when the forward is played in after a throw in and the Worthing keeper makes a good save. Midhurst at this point look the better side and after a Worthing move breaks down, Midhurst go the attacker and a great cross is put into the box but the header hits the bar. The home side are made to pay for not putting one of their chances away when Worthing score a second against the run of play. Worthing get in behind the Midhurst defence and although the keeper is able to save the initial effort, he cannot prevent the rebound being put away. They are further punished when a cross into the box isn't cleared and the forward is able to turn and score the third. Things look like they could get even worse for Midhurst when they concede a penalty but the home goalie makes a fantastic save. The home side win a penalty of their own almost straight afterwards and the Midhurst player makes no mistake from the spot.

Midhurst attack in the first half
At the start of the second half, the Worthing forward is able to get in on goal but the home keeper continues his fine form from the first half and saves with his legs. The Midhurst keeper has to make another save from a drilled effort shortly afterwards. Midhurst's first opening when the forward is allowed to turn in the box but his effort is saved. Midhurst continue to push and create a couple of half chances, the best being a shot from distance which goes wide. The visitors come close to extending their lead as the Midhurst keeper makes a good save but the rebound strikes the post. They do extend their lead when a free kick is headed back into the penalty area and the forward lashes the ball in to make it 4-1. This sparks a flush of goals and Worthing make it five as the forward slots home after being played in. They get a sixth when a long throw isn't dealt with and the ball is put into the net. Midhurst are still attacking and they are unlucky when a header from a corner is cleared off the line. In the closing stages, Midhurst are reduced to ten men as a Stags player receives a second yellow and Worthing add a seventh after the forward is played in. The game was not as one sided as the score suggests and Midhurst were competitive for the majority of the match. 

Wing shot with the old club building in the background
Midhurst and Easebourne are located in The South Downs National Park and there are no close by railway stations. The nearest station is Haslemere which is reached by trains from Waterloo and the journey takes about an hour. From opposite the station you can catch the hourly number 70 bus and the journey takes half an hour. Before the game I went to Midhurst which is an idyllic market located next to the ruins of Cowdray House. In terms of pubs there is The Swan Inn which is around the corner from the historic Spread Eagle Hotel. It also had a couple of ales and Sky Sports. At the top of the main street is The Wheatsheaf which also had a choice of ales and seemed popular with the locals. The Rotherfield is then a twenty walk away. The clubhouse does the job and offers and elevated view of the pitch. As I mentioned earlier The Rotherfield is a picturesque ground and one of my favourite of the season.

No programmes were produced but I was able to get one from the Oakwood game a little while ago
Side on view of the stand