Friday, 10 April 2020

The End - Boston Town vs. Shepshed Dynamo

One of the stands at The DWB Stadium
In the weeks leading up to this match I was really hoping that we would get one last weekend of football and with leagues across the country being suspended, thankfully the United Counties League held out. As this was likely to be the last game for a reasonable length of time, I undertook a longer and trickier journey than I usually would and ventured in deepest southern Lincolnshire to visit Boston Town. As a Scunthorpe fan I had many an unhappy trip to Boston which also stained my views of the town but now an adult I was willing to give the place another go (which ultimately proved a great decision). They were playing Shepshed Dynamo who were in second place, three points behind Quorn but with four games in hand.

Kick off before social distancing took hold
Shepshed take an early lead as the attacker gets to the by line before his ball in is turned into the net. Boston come to equalising with a header at the back post that has to be headed off the line. Shepshed look to get further ahead and the Boston keeper makes a great save when the forward is found with a pull back. They do double their lead when a header is powered home from a corner. A third is scored from the penalty spot following a clumsy foul. Boston's last chance of the half is a free that needed to be tipped around the post by the Shepshed goalie.

Two nil Shepshed
The second half has an unintentional end of season fell and the only goal coming again for Shepshed from the penalty spot.

Four nil Shepshed
It took the best part of three hours to get to Boston from London. On the way out from Kings Cross I had to change at Peterborough and Sleaford and on the way back just at Grantham. Unfortunately The Stump was closed due to refurbishment works but the Guildhall Museum was interesting enough. A short walk from the station is The Eagle which had a great selection of ales. Half way to the ground on the other side of the town centre is Goodbarns Yard. The clubhouse at the ground had gotten crates of Tyskie which went down well with all concerned. The way the trains fell for the return journey I had bit of time after the game so stopped off at the great Andy's Fish and Chips. There was time at Grantham to pop into The Whistle Stop and it would be easy to miss your train while in here. So I was happy to have given Boston another chance and I was very happy my last game of the season involved an interesting town with great pubs, chip shops and two interesting football grounds!

Two of the stands at the brilliant DWB Stadium

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Late Goal Sinks Reds - Langford vs. Rayners Lane

One of the many planes that soared over Forde Park
Work last weekend meant I had to settle for Premier League action at West Ham (which was pretty decent in the end) but it was really good to get back to proper football this weekend. The weather had also improved and although I was a little wary, a prompt reply from Langford on Twitter meant a stress free journey from South London. I'd never really considered Langford due to relatively infrequent buses but once I worked out it was walkable from Arlesey it jumped to the top of the list. Their opponents in this South Midlands Division One game were Rayners Lane who when I visited Tithe Farm ground were in The Hellenic League but they have since acquired a plastic pitch, a new clubhouse and have moved over to The Spartan League and were looking for promotion.

Shortened pre game rituals
Rayners Lane get in on goal via a little nick but the eventual shot is dragged wide of the target. Langford then get in on goal themselves, forcing the Rayners Lane keeper into a save at his near post. The visitors come even closer as a shot from the edge of the box following a pull back hits the bar. Rayners Lane continue to create chances without taking the lead, this time the forward puts the ball wide from space after a corner. For all the chances Rayners Lane create, it is the hosts who take the lead, forcing the ball home from close range just before half time.

Langford defending a Rayners Lane corner
As expected, Rayners Lane gun forward from the off and a shot from the edge of the box goes just over. They are given a way to pull level as the forward is chopped down and the resulting penalty is put away despite the Langford keeper getting a hand to the ball. Rayners Lane continue to have a lot of the ball but resolute defending from the Langford players denies them any serious chances. That is until the final moments of the match. The forward gets ahead of his man and he pokes the ball home at the near post to seal a two one win.

Rayners Lane attacking the clubhouse end
As I mentioned at the start, you can in about forty minutes (even quicker if go down Church Road, past the lakes) walk from Arlesey station which is again forty minutes away from Kings Cross. The reason I took the long way was to take in a couple of pubs to break up the walk. The best by some distance was The Engineers Arms which had eight hand pulls on as well as the sports channels, a real cracker. The Crown and The White Horse were both fine but weren't on the same level. The football ground is at the very end of Henlow (I didn't actually see any of Langford) and is a very welcoming set up. The clubhouse behind the goal and where you can watch the game from had the usual selection drinks. Another great afternoon of South Midlands League footy in Bedfordshire.

Side on view of the stands

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Hosts Prevail In Must Win Derby - CB Hounslow vs. Hanworth Villa

Club buildings at The Lair
The Combined Counties Premier Division was one of the first divisions which I completed and I restored this achievement last night with a visit to CB Hounslow - well until next year when Jersey come up. Quite a few seasons ago I saw a Hounslow game at their old ground at Osterley Sports Club in an end of season match up. I had intended to visit a couple of Tuesday agos but illness put an end to that plan. There is just over three miles between the two grounds and this derby was a must win for the hosts. They sat bottom, level on points with Hanworth but had played five games more. CB Hounslow had won another important home game on Saturday, beating Raynes Park Vale one nil.

Elevated stand at The Liar
From the start there is only team that looks winning the game. Hounslow should do better with a free header but they take the lead when the busy midfielder perseveres with an attack and when the ball falls to his team it is slotted home. In the early stage of the second half, the visitors are caught out by a free kick to the near post which is tucked home. The Hounslow man completes his hat trick (the third I've seen in a fortnight or so) as Hanworth don't deal with a long ball forward that ends up in the back of the net.

Seconds before the second goal
If the Piccadilly Line had behaved I would have gone to Hatton Cross and broken up the half hour walk by stopping off at Green Man but I instead had to alight at Hounslow West which proved to be a blessing in disguise. I instead visited The Bell which had the sports channels and from very near by I was able to take the 423 to right out side the ground with the trip taking around twenty minutes. Sadly the club is having a licencing issue which meant that no alcohol was able to be served. Which is a shame as I really liked the new set up and I hope they can alleviate this issue soon.

A first half CB Hounslow corner

Monday, 24 February 2020

Second Sucessive Saturday Goalfest - Shefford Town and Campton vs. St Panteleimon

Decent backdrop at Shefford Sports Club
Back in England this weekend but sadly the weather hadn't really improved. Rain in the week had made me question my choice of game but with a dry morning and a strong wind, my first of Shefford Town and Campton against St Panteleimon in Division One of The Spartan South Midlands League went ahead. Both sides won their respective county leagues last season - Shefford Town and Campton winning the Bedfordshire League while St Panteleimon won the Middlesex equivalent. The two clubs had settled well at their new level with today's visitors sitting in first place with Shefford a couple of places back in fifth. The reverse fixture saw St Panteleimon win five two so I was hoping for more of the same.  

Kick off at a blustery Shefford Sports Club
And I was to get more of the same but even more in favour of St Panteleimon. The first sees the forward played in before he slots past the goalie. They get a second before half time as the attacker cuts inside and he sees his shot go in off the post.

St Panteleimon corner in the first half
St Panteleimon get two quick goals at the start of the second half with two close range finishes and the fifth comes when the visitors are again played in goal and the attacker pokes the ball past the on rushing keeper. St Panteleimon add three more and Shefford get a consolation to see the game finish eight one to the table toppers.

View down the touchline towards the clubhouse
The nearest station to Shefford is Hitchin which is three quarters of an hour from Euston. Then from the town centre you can take the 9B bus into the village centre. Right in the centre is the excellent Brewery Tap which had a choice of ales from the brewery and a couple of guest ales. For the early kick off you have a choice of The Bridge or The Woolpack. The ground is then a ten minute walk out of the town. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks as well as the sports channels. The ground is clearly very new and they now have an decent base to progress further should they elect to. If you want provisions for the train ride home then The Beer Shop on Hermitage Road back in Hitchin has a great selection. An awesome return to non league in England.

Dugout side of the ground

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Any Great Port In A Storm - Portadown vs. Queens University

Entrance to Shamrock Park
Storm Dennis arrived around lunch time on the Saturday and already a host of games had already been called off. Portadown had said on Twitter that there was no inspection planned around midday but on the walk to the ground it was really hammering down but everyone still seemed confident so I retired to the bar under the main stand. Portadown missed on promotion last season, losing in the first round of the playoffs and were looking to avoid that lottery and go up automatically and were well ahead at the top of The Championship. Visitors Queen University were in the bottom half were some distance ahead of the relegation places.

Game on at Shamrock Park
Queens University are perhaps a little unfortunate to keep eleven on the pitch when the keeper appears to shoulder barge the on rushing forward before they nearly take the lead only for the ball to get stuck in the mud (something that would become a bit of a theme). Portadown score the opener when the ball is forced home from close range following a corner. Then they score the goal that has been all over the internet. The Portadown forward is played in, slotting the ball past the keeper and he celebrates while the ball has got stuck in the goalmouth leaving his team mate to knock it in.

Just before the Portadown opener
The goals then really begin to flow after half time. After missing out on the second goal, the forward makes no mistake when through again, hammering the ball past the goalie. The fourth comes as the attacker is first to a free kick and although he hits the post he gets the rebound to make it four nil. Queens University get on the score sheet with a well crafted goal before Portadown score the goal of the game. The striker runs onto a ball over the top, smashing a half volley back across the keeper into the far corner. Portadown add two further goals, one from another corner and the seventh when the Queens University keeper gets caught out of his goal. All of the goals and further chances can be seen here.

Portadown celebrate a second half goal
To get to Belfast from Portadown takes half an hour on the train from Great Victoria Street with Portadown being the last stop. More or less next door to the station is the excellent McKeevers Bar which had a great selection of drinks and the sports channel. Around the corner is McConville Bros which doesn't look like its changed in a long time (which is a good thing) and also has a good drink selection and Sky Sports. The ground is then around twenty minutes walk away, I didn't see any buses walking there or back. The bar underneath the stand sold cans and I can strongly recommend the chips and curry sauce. It was a great afternoon out, every at the club and the town in general was exceptionally friendly, making Portadown another must visit ground in Northern Ireland.

Interior of the main stand

Monday, 17 February 2020

Living Up To Expectations - Glentoran vs. Carrick Rangers

One of the areas of cover at The Oval
When I went to Belfast last year, the main reason to visit was to see Glentoran play at The Oval but a late change for TV meant I missed out, not to say I didn't enjoy my visit to Crusaders. So again on League Cup Final weekend I headed back to finally see a game at this stunning ground. You'll see from the pictures how much of a belter it really is. Tonight, third place Glentoran were playing Carrick Rangers who were comfortably above the drop zone following promotion last season. The hosts had lost two of their last three games in the league which had seen them drop four points behind Linfield so they really needed a win tonight.

Kick off at The Oval
The game sadly didn't match the ground. The first chance of the game is a dipping half volley that the Carrick Rangers goalie does well to beat away at his near post. Glentoran continue make openings but the Carrick Rangers keeper isn't really seriously tested. Carrick Rangers have the first real chance of the half as the Glentoran keeper tips a dipping shot over the bar. Glentoran rally in the closing stages forcing the keeper into another near post save this time from a close range header before Carrick Rangers almost seal the points when the attacker hits the post when one on one with the keeper.

Home terracing behind the goal
To fly to Belfast I went from London City to Belfast City which took around an hour and The Oval is then a half hour walk away. If you're coming from the city centre then it is either a forty odd minute walk or a ten minute ride on the frequent G1 bus to five minutes away from The Oval. Near the ground I visited The Great Eastern which was very welcoming and had the sports channels. Across the road is the brilliant Boundary Brewery where many of their beers were sampled. It is the first industrial unit on the right past the gates, it isn't well advertised to the outside world. The bar in the first floor of the main stand had the standard lagers and the sports channels. So what else can be said about The Oval. It really is an absolute of a monster of a ground, everywhere you look there is another photo opportunity and on top of this everyone is very friendly. Well worth coming back for.

Sadly the only programme of the trip
View of the far terrace from the back of the stand

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Game Proves To Be Only Let Down - Bedford vs. Milton Keynes Robins

Football next to the A421
Having previously been to two consecutive games at Football League grounds (Crawley Town and Spurs) it was good to get back to non league. I've been trying to push to complete the South Midlands League recently and so this weekend I went to Bedford against Milton Keynes Robins in the first division. I have been to Bedford Town previously who play next door so I knew how to get to the ground which was usful. Milton Keynes started in fifth which is just outside of the promotion spots while Bedford were in the bottom half. The reverse fixture in October was a tight game with todays visitors winning one nil. 
Just before kick off at McMullen Park
The game isn't great sadly. Both sides have chances to win but they are few and far between and the game finishes goalless. Which was the only down on what was a good all round visit.

First half corner. The Eyrie is just behind the trees
Trains to Bedford depart from St Pancras with the East Midlands trains taking forty minutes while the Thameslink ones take an hour and ten minutes. You then take the twice hourly 73 bus from stand F at the bus station to just outside the ground. Whilst in Bedford itself I visited The Three Cups and The Castle which are very close to each other and both have a selection of ales. I also visited the now seemingly common Brewhouse and Kitchen which had the usual selection of beers. The clubhouse just outside the ground offered cans and everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

Another angle of the stands