Friday, 14 September 2018

Neither Side Flipped At Pancake Lane - Leverstock Green vs. Hadley

Clouds over the club buildings at Pancake Lane
For the latest instalment of early season cup football, I headed to the fantastically named Pancake Lane for The FA Cup First Qualifying match between Leverstock Green and Hadley. Leverstock Green are a team I have seen several times over the seasons, most recently at Cockfosters at the back end of last season. Both sides are in The South Midlands League Premier Division and it was in this competition that I saw Hadley host Biggleswade United a couple of years ago. Going on league form alone, Hadley were favourites having won three and losing only of their league games while Leverstock had lost the same number, they had also drawn two. However in their last three games, Leverstock had score twenty goals including ten in one game against Unite MK in The FA Vase. So there had to be goals right?

Kick off at Pancake Lane
Sadly not. The game never really gets going and while both sides look good in midfield, there isn't too much goal mouth action - you can tell I left my notebook at home and leaving it nearly week to write this wasn't the best idea. Leverstock Green won the replay one nil thanks to a second half free kick to set up a tie with Dorking Wanderers.

Leverstock Green trying to create
To get to Leverstock Green from London, you first need to take a train to Hemel Hempstead from Euston which takes around half an hour. Then from the High Street you take the half hourly 301 bus to right by the ground and this takes ten minutes. There are three pubs in Leverstock Green. The Plough and The Green Man had a couple of ales while The Leather Bottle had BT Sports. After receiving the friendly welcome from the gateman, I went into the clubhouse to discover a broader than usual selection of drinks. A great afternoon out and very glad I finally got round to see Pancake Lane.

Leverstock Green looking for a late winner

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Much Drier Return - Shrivenham vs. Tytherington Rocks

Seating at Barrington Park
I had made an attempt to visit Shrivenham for a league game last season, but a full morning of rain lead to their game being postponed and me having to make a mad dash to The County Ground to watch Swindon. The early rounds of The Vase in lovely sunshine seemed a perfect chance to actually get through the gate with minimal chance of a call off. Shrivenham were promoted to The Premier Division of The Hellenic League last season and won their first league game of the season away at Royal Wootton Bassett the previous match day and were now looking to push on. I have been intrigued by Tytherington Rocks ever since I started following non league in the south and I'm really keen to make a visit.

Kick off in rural Oxfordshire
Shrivenham are kicking down the slope in the first half and they hit the woodwork with their first attack. They repeat the trick shortly afterwards, hitting the post from close range. They do eventually get the opening goal as the hosts capitalise on a mistake and the attacker squares the ball for his team mate who scores from close range. They double their lead shortly afterwards when the forward is first to a long ball before he flicks it past the on rushing goalie. Shrivenham are in full flow now and the Tytherington keeper makes the first of many great saves to prevent them scoring on the break. Shrivenham score a couple more before the break to make it four nil at half time.

Shrivenham attacking in the first half
Even kicking up the slope, Shrivenham continue to dominate and they hit the woodwork for a third time before the Tytherington keeper makes another blinding save. Shrivenham get the fifth as the attacker is allowed time in the box to control as well as slotting the ball home. Shrivenham take a more direct approach for the next goal as they scramble the ball home in the aftermath of a long throw in. Sadly straight after this, Shrivenham get a seventh straight afterwards. When Tytherington do make the most of the slope the home keeper makes a great save when the visitors get through the defensive line. Shrivenham add another two goals before the end to make it nine nil.

Shrivenham attacking the clubhouse end
Having done the trip to Shrivenham once before, it was straight forward the second time. You need to take a train to Swindon from Paddington (which has suddenly got extortionately expensive) which takes just over an hour and you can get the 66 bus into the village. If you want ales beforehand then The Prince of Wales is a great shout but if you want the early kick off then you want to be across the road at The Barrington Arms. The clubhouse at the ground had the usual selection of drinks and the food is worth trying out. Special mention has to made for the brilliant match day programme - in summary, more than worth the effort of going back to Shrivenham.

Cricket pitch side of the ground

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Lethal Stabmonks Punish Hosts - Burnham vs. Chalvey Sports

Covered standing in the trees at The Gore
As I was back at work on the Tuesday I needed a game relativity close to London and with Burnham kicking off at 13:00 against Chalvey Sports the choice was a no brainer. This was both sides first season in The Hellenic League East with Burnham being relegated last season while Chalvey won promotion from local football. Today's visitors certainly have one of the most interesting nick names -  The Stabmonks. According to the programme, this comes from an incident where an organ grinder's monkey was killed, the locals rose funds to buy a new one and have a funeral for the old one. Chalvey had won one and lost one of their league games this season while Burnham won away at Ardley United in The FA Cup.

Kick off at The Gore with the club buildings in the background
Burnham are first to have a clear sight of goal but a heavy touch means the Chalvey keeper is able to come out and block the chance. Chalvey score with their first clear cut chance which comes from a flick on after a long throw and the attacker is able to slide the ball in at the far post. The tricky Burnham winger is then able to trick his way into space but he drags his shot wide. He repeats the trick but this time he slides his team mate in before the Chalvey keeper is again quick off his line to make the save.

Build up to the Chalvey opener
Both sides have good chances at the start of the second period. Firstly, Chalvey have an effort cleared off the line before the Chalvey keeper makes another great save to keep out a powerful Burnham shot from the edge of the area. Chalvey then double the lead as they put together a brilliant passing move which ends with the forward finishing at the near post to double the lead. Burnham still push to try and get back into the game and are unlucky not to get on the scoreboard when a close range header thunders against the post. They get through on goal again but the Chalvey keeper makes another save, this time with his feet. They are made to rue those missed chances as the Burnham keeper gets caught out by a speculative cross and the forward at the back post has time for two touches before tapping into the net. They get a fourth when the player turns on the edge of the box and his shot hits the defender and loops over the goalie into the net. Burnham get a late consolation goal but Chalvey have already done more than enough to claim the points.

Burnham look for the equaliser at the end of the first half
Trains to Burnham depart from Paddington and take forty minutes. The Gore is then about a twenty five minute walk through the village centre. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and unusually you can get in game drinks from the tea window. Due to having to get back into town I only had time to check out The Bee which had three ales on as well as the sports channels. You pass at least four other pubs on the walk to the ground. A great early afternoon in Buckinghamshire.

Side on view of the stand

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Return To Haverhill - Haverhill Rovers vs. Maldon And Tiptree

Storm clouds over The New Croft
Even though it was FA Cup weekend, engineering works and strike action severely narrowed the game choices for this weekend. I woke up early enough to make the long trip to Haverhill Rovers for their tie with Maldon and Tiptree. With Haverhill being in The Eastern Counties League, this was their second match in the competition, they beat literal neighbours Haverhill Borough (who I visited last season) in the previous round. In fact a couple of balls were kicked onto the pitch from a match being played on the Borough pitch. Maldon and Tiptree are in The Northern Division of The Bostik League and had yet to lose this season. A trip to Maldon is highly recommended with a couple of belting pubs and a pleasant place in general.  

Kick off under calmer skies
Maldon and Tiptree start like a team with confidence and they force the Haverhill keeper into a save after the attacker cuts inside. Haverhill's first chance is a header at the back post that loops just over. The game then enters a lull with neither side creating much. Maldon and Tiptree do take the lead just before half time as the home defence fail to fully clear a corner and when the ball is put back in, it is forced in from close range to give the visitors the lead.

Maldon look for the opener in the first half
Maldon look to extend their lead early in the second half and nearly do so when another corner isn't fully cleared but this time the chance is volleyed over. They have another chance as they get behind the Haverhill defence, they don't take advantage as the ball is eventually skewered wide. They regret this miss as Haverhill get a late equaliser. As with their goal, a ball in isn't dealt with and is forced in from close range. Things get even better for Haverhill when they are awarded a penalty in the ninetieth minute which was duly dispatched to put Haverhill into the next round.

Maldon look for the killer second goal
It does take quite a while to get to Haverhill - the first leg is a train to Cambridge from either Kings Cross or Liverpool Street which takes just over an hour. This was my first experience of getting a train to Cambridge from Liverpool Street and as they are a lot shorter, they are a lot busier. From Cambridge you get the 13 bus to right outside the ground or the town centre and this leg takes also takes an hour or so. I revisited the pubs I went to when I visited previously. The Queens Head is best for ales and I had The Essex Border from the excellent Nethergate Brewery. For the early kick offs, The Bull and The Woolpack are within walking distance of the ground. The clubhouse had BT Sports and the usual drinks. The burger from the tea window was fantastic.

Decent crowd in front of the clubhouse

Monday, 20 August 2018

History Repeats Itself - Sildlesham vs. Billingshurst

Match action in front of the stand at The Rec
I really enjoy my Sussex football but I'm now getting to the point where new grounds are a bit thin on er, the ground. One of those few remaining was The Recreation Ground home of Sidlesham. Today they were hosting Billingshurst in Division One of The Sussex County League. I saw Billingshurst play Lordswood in The FA Vase so they were hoping they would do better than the narrow two one defeat they suffered that day. The closest I'd come to seeing Sidlesham play was travelling past the entrance to the ground on the bus en route to seeing Selsey play.

Another view of the stand at kick off

Billingshurst have a couple of early half chances and it is no surprise when they take the lead. After a Sidlesham move breaks down, the visitors pile forward and although the defender gets a good foot in, it falls to a Billingshurst player on the edge of the box, who then places an excellent shot past the goalie. This is as good as it gets for Billingshurst in the opening period as they prove to masters of their own downfall. Firstly they get caught out trying to play the ball out of defence before the forward pounce and he slots the ball home.Then from a long clearance forward, the midfielder gets a touch which plays the attacker in on goal and they make it two one before half time.

Sidlesham look to make the most of a throw in
Billingshurst come close to getting an equaliser early in the second half but the Sidlesham defender does well to get a good block from a drilled effort. Sidlesham's first effort on goal in the second half is a near post header from a free kick which is straight at the Billingshurst keeper. The game then becomes a bit scrappy before Sidlesham blow a glorious chance for a killer third. The attacker does the hard bit, getting around the keeper before hitting the side netting with goal at his mercy. The game ends in a two one loss for Billingshurst completing a double for myself - sorry guys.

Billingshurst look for an equaliser at the end of the first half
To get to Sidlesham you first need to take a train from Victoria which takes around an hour and a half. Then from the bus station you can take the regular 51 bus to Sidlesham. This should take twenty minutes depending on road works and a level crossing. Sidlesham is a very linear place. The first pub -  The Anchor which is a friendly with a couple of standard ales - is a bit of a walk from the ground and the other pub close by. This is The Crab and Lobster which is more of a posh restaurant but does have a couple of benches outside to enjoy the two local ales on offer. It was just bottles in the clubhouse but these did the job as did the very reasonable priced burger from the tea hut outside. An excellent day out in Westmost Sussex.

Moments before I was hit by the ball

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Godmanchester Ascend To Next Round - Godmanchester Rovers vs. Newport Pagnell Town

Celebrating the second goal
FA Cup action took centre stage this weekend and my ground of choice was one I'd always talked myself out of - for travel reasons, see last paragraph - but one I really enjoyed visiting. The ground in question was Bearscroft Lane, home of Godmanchester Rovers who were hosting Newport Pagnell Town in an Eastern vs. United Counties League tie. Newport Pagnell were going to have their work cut out with Godmanchester having won both their league games so far, scoring six and conceding none on top of their four pre season wins. Newport Pagnell had their opening league game and I visited Willen Road for a league match with Spalding United.

Pre match at Bearscroft Lane
The game has an edgy start with chances at a premium. The first one comes when Newport Pagnell break out from a Godmanchester free kick and it takes a last ditch tackle to stop an effort on goal. The only real chance of the half is another Newport Pagnell effort when the forward is played in on goal and his lob over the keeper hits the top of the bar.

First half action in front of the turbines
Newport Pagnell continue to have most of the chances and the Godmanchester keeper does well to save a shot from the edge of the area. Godmanchester now begin to get more into the game and are gifted the lead when the Newport Pagnell defender handles the ball while on the floor. The penalty is put away to give the home side the lead. Godmanchester come close again as a well drilled shot hits the keeper and goes over the bar. They seal the win when the winger is able to come a long way before slotting past the keeper.

Godmanchester on the attack in the second half
The closest station to Godmanchester is Huntingdon which is around an hour from Kings Cross. As it was a nice day, I decided to walk which took nearly fifty minutes but is flat and is quite pleasant once you get into Godmanchester. There is also the 478 bus that goes from Huntingdon Bus Station to quite close to the ground. In the town is The Royal Oak which was friendly and the outside offers good views of the lake. There is also The White Hart which had a good selection of drinks. The clubhouse at the ground had the usual selection of drinks and this was a great start to this seasons FA Cup.

Another view of the stands at Godmanchester

Monday, 6 August 2018

Closer Than We Thought - Blackstones vs. Birstall United Social

Green surrounds at Lincoln Road
It's a dilemma that has dogged me ever since I started watching football - my Mum's birthday coincides with the start of the season and it's always a toss up between seeing a game and potentially not getting much at Christmas. Fortunately I was able to do both as we met up in Stamford and Blackstones were hosting Birstall United Social in Division One of The United Counties League. Stamford is a stunning town and I had really enjoyed my two previous visits when seeing games at Worthorpe and Borderville. The United Counties League started with a hop weekend the previous Friday which put Irchester clear at the top of the league. In all honesty I knew next to nothing about Birstall other than this was their first game in this league having moved over from The East Midlands Counties League. 

Caught out by the early kick off
It doesn't take long for the first competitive goal of the season to be scored. The Birstall keeper tries to play the ball out but it is seized upon by the Blackstones forwards and the ball is slotted into the corner from the edge of the box to make it one nil. They nearly get a second when the Blackstones forward just beats the Birstall keeper to a long bouncing ball but his chipped effort goes just wide. I'm reliably informed that Blackstones got their second goal just before half time - it wouldn't be the only goal I'd miss.

Blackstones attacking in the first half
At the start of the second half a quick, drilled Birstall free kick catches Blackstones half asleep but the visitors fail to take full advantage. Blackstones then take over and Birstall almost gift them the third, fortunately the keeper is able to save the day after the ball was given away on the edge of the box. They do get the third as the referee plays a good advantage after the winger is clipped and he crosses the ball before it is tucked in at the near post. Birstall get the goal they deserve with a cracking half volley that dips just under the bar. The next day we see in The Non League Paper that Birstall scored twice which we sadly missed!

Aerial combat in the second half
To get Stamford from London, you need to first take a train to Peterborough from Kings Cross and the fast trains take three quarters of an hour. Then from there you get the train for one stop into Stamford. As I mentioned earlier, Stamford is a gorgeous place and it really is worth exploring before a game. I've highlighted pubs in previous Stamford blog posts but I checked out a couple of new ones this time round. Firstly for the end of the cricket I popped into The London Inn which had lots of big screens and a wide choice of beers. Then there was the cosy The Kings Head which had a good selection of ales. The ground is then a twenty minute walk from the town and you'll do well to receive a better welcome. The clubhouse had a couple of hand pulls on including Betty Stogs from The Skinner's Brewery. In a season that will see plenty of debate regarding programmes, the Blackstones effort was excellent.

Further Lincolnshire greenery