Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Great End To Non League Season - The 61 FC (Luton) vs. MK Gallacticos

View back across the pitch towards the stand and clubhouse
Bank holiday Monday was my last non league match day of the season (hopefully I'll see one more Scunthorpe game this season!) and choices were pretty thin on the ground. There were a lot of cup finals at grounds I'd already been to and as I was at work on Tuesday, AFC Portchester was a big ask. It was only by chance I saw that there were games in Division Two of The Spartan South Midlands League which is a division where I'd never seen a game in. I'd looked at this league before and The 61 FC were one of the grounds I highlighted as one to visit. Today there were playing host to MK Gallacticos who were several places above today's hosts in the league. Between them the two sides had scored 136 goals in their 64 games so far so hopefully there would be a few goals today.

Kick off with the rolling Bedfordshire hills in the background
The 61 start on the front foot but they can't find the final ball when they get into good positions. When they do manage to get the man in on goal, the MK Gallacticos keeper is able to block the shot. The visitors take the lead with a great goal. A forward ball finds the winger out wide and his ball in is back healed into the path of the advancing forward who hammers the ball home. MK Gallacticos are now rampant and they look like scoring every time they go forward. The MK Gallacticos attacker powers through to the near post and the 61 keeper makes a save, just catching the ball at the second attempt before it goes over the line. Straight afterwards, the MK Gallacticos forward is in again but this time a heavy touch sees The 61 keeper claim the ball. Then in the final stages of the first half, The 61 are able to stun the visitors with two quick fire goals to send them in at half time in the lead.

The MK Gallacticos forward rounds the keeper but can't find the finish
MK Gallacticos equalize shortly after half time. The attacker barges his way through The 61 defense before slamming the ball home. Like when they scored their first goal, MK Gallacticos go looking for further goals. The closest they come to getting one comes as the winger gets in on goal and after his initial effort is saved, the rebound goes well over the bar. MK Gallacticos gift The 61 the lead back when the defender is caught on the ball and The 61 forward robs him before slotting past the keeper to restore the home sides lead. Both sides are now really going for it. The 61 keeper makes another decent save as MK Gallacticos are played in again. The visitors equalize for the second time in the half when the winger is played in on goal and he makes no mistake to make it three all. It is the home side who claim the seventh and winning goal of an entertaining contest. MK Gallacticos commit a needless foul out wide and from the resulting free kick The 61 player gets in a header at the near post to claim the points.  

The 61 forward hooks the ball back in during the first half
The closest station to The Kingsway Rec Ground is Luton. Trains to Luton depart from St Pancras and the journey lasts around half an hour. Pub wise in Luton, I first tried The Red Lion which would be perfect for the early kick offs. Just across the road is The Castle which had a choice of ales as well as playing good music. The walk to Kingsway Rec takes about forty minutes or the 31/32/33 buses from the train station, drops you off right outside. The clubhouse had a couple of lagers as well as BT Sports on the TV. While the gangs of youths around the park don't make you feel particularly welcome, the people in the club certainly do and I recommend a visit. If you've got a wait for your train, The Well is a good spot for this.

Program from the original date

A first half MK Gallacticos chance goes over the bar

Monday, 1 May 2017

Crows Fail To Take Flight - Hollands And Blair vs. Crowborough Athletic

First wing action with one of the covered areas in the foreground
So for my last weekend of non league action this season I wanted a game with something riding on it. After getting to Arundel last season only for the game to be called off, my first choice was to see them host Shoreham who needed a win and for Haywards Heath to slip up but engineering works put that idea out of commission. Luckly there was a similar scenario in The Southern Counties East League where Crowborough needed to better Ashford's result at home to Rochester. Crowborough were at Hollands And Blair who I'd seen a couple of times in The Invicta League and had been meaning to visit for a little while. As the name suggests, they were initially a factory side. Crowborough won the reverse fixture two nil and needed the same today.

Kick off at Star Meadow
With regards to the match summary, a couple of frustrating events means that there wont be a through summary. Firstly, I forgot my note book, forcing me to take notes on my phone. Then on the walk back to Gillingham Station, I dropped my phone, smashing the screen and so losing the notes. Essentially it was a frustrating end to the season for Crowborough. They started well but news filtered through that Ashford were walking their game and the energy went from the game and it finished nil nil.

Crowborough look for the early goal to settle their nerves
The nearest station to Star Meadow is Gillingham. Trains here can be caught from either St Pancras, London Bridge or Victoria with the quicker trains take about forty minutes. Star Meadow is then a half hour walk up a steady incline. Pub wise there were a couple of decent ones. Firstly I visited Past And Present  which is a great micro pub with three ales on as well as a wide choice of ciders. Then just around the corner is The Will Adams which is a quiet backstreet pub also with a selection of ales. Then at the top of the hill around the corner from the ground is The Old Ash Tree which is good for watching the early kick off. The clubhouse had a great array of drinks including one ale as well as Sky Sports. I was really impressed with the set up at Star Meadow, they've put a lot of work to get a great ground and the program was also excellent. 

A cross eludes the Crowborough forward in the second half

Monday, 24 April 2017

Yachtsmen Stay Afloat - Cowes Sports vs. Amesbury Town

Brilliant stand at Westwood Park
As it's getting to the business end of the season, there are a lot of games with a lot riding on them. Also as it's getting down towards the end of the season, I felt like I could do a longer trip as I'd be resigned to gardening in a couple of weeks. To satisfy both there factors I took the ferry over to The Isle of Wight for The Wessex League Premier Division match between Cowes Sports and Amesbury Town. A win for Cowes would guarantee their Premier Division safety, anything less would give Fawley a chance of staying up. Amesbury's Bonneymead Park was one of may favorite grounds I visited last season and I fully recommend going if you haven't already. They had already done enough to secure their Premier Division spot for next season. The only time I'd seen Cowes Sports was back on the mainland at Petersfield Town in Division One. The reverse fixture ended goalless and Cowes were hoping for more today.  

Just before kick off at Westwood Park
The first half is unsurprisingly tense but Cowes have the backing of a decent home crowd. Cowes get a couple of dangerous looking free kicks into the box without finding anyone before a long Amesbury throw causes panic in the box. Then a Cowes corner finds the man in space on the edge of the area but his shot goes over the bar. Amesbury are next to come close as a cross to the near post is flicked just wide of the box.

Cowes look for the opener in the first half
There is a more frantic start to the second half. The Cowes keeper miss controls a back pass and he is grateful as the Amesbury player can only hit the post. Cowes are then played in on goal and the Amesbury keeper is just there first to block the effort. Cowes are now really turning up the pressure. They come desperately close as a header from a cross goes just wide. The vital moment of the game comes midway through the half. A Cowes cross from wide is headed back into the danger zone and the ball is then forced home from close range to the delight of the home side. There is still time for a couple of half chances for Amesbury but Cowes hold out and it is just as well as Fawley score a late winner but it is Cowes who stay up.

Cowes push for the winner in the second half
If you time things right it doesn't take too long to get to Cowes. Fast trains to Southampton from Waterloo take just over an hour and from outside the station you can catch the half hourly shuttle bus to the ferry. The fast ferry takes only twenty minutes and the whole journey can be under two and a half hours. It is worth getting to Cowes to have an explore and there is a lot of maritime heritage to take in. Pub wise, I first visited The Cowes Ale House where I had the tasty Wight Knight from the local Island Brewery. Then there was The Union Inn which had a good selection of beers. Most surprising was The Mess Canteen which had it's own fantastic beer. The ground is then a twenty minute up hill walk. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and the burgers are worth trying. As you can see from the pictures, the main is worth the trip alone.

Decent crowd for the big match

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Brickies Refuse To Lay Down - Sittingbourne Town vs. Faversham Town

First half wing play in front of one of the numerous bits of cover
A game in Kent seemed to be my only choice for a new ground on Bank Holiday Monday. I had a back up at Glebe if I didn't fancy too long a walk but the weather was good and I felt fine and opted for Sittingbourne Town's derby with near neighbors Faversham Town. Faversham needed a win to keep their faint play off hopes alive and with the two towns being so close it promised to be a entertaining afternoon. I had seen a game at Sittingboroune's previous home but this was when Maidstone United were sharing the ground and they beat Tooting and Mitcham in The FA Cup on that afternoon. The only time I can remember seeing Sittingbourne play was a Ryman League match away at Chipstead back in my early groundhoping days. A couple of seasons later, I traveled to Salters Lane for The Kent League Charity Shield where Faversham played Herne Bay. The reverse fixture on Boxing Day saw the points shared in a one all draw.

Kick off at Woodstock Park
There is a contentious moment in the opening stages when the Sittingbourne players believe a Faversham player handled in the box but the referee is unmoved. Faversham's first attack comes when a ball is allowed to bounce in the box and the Faversham attacker's shot loops wide of the goal. They come closer as the Faversham attacker lays the ball off for his team mate before his low shot forces the keeper into a low save. They do take the lead when Sittingbourne give the ball away, prompting the Faversham player to go on a powerful which is ended by a Sittingbourne defender in the box and the referee points to the spot. The Sittingbourne keeper saves the initial effort but he cannot keep out the rebound as the visitors go one up. Sittingbourne come close to an equalizer as the Faversham defense fails to fully clear the ball and the Sittingbourne player lashes the ball against the bar.  

Sittingbourne defend in front of their fans in the first half
There is plenty of huff and puff at the start of the second half without too much being created and the game is starting to get a little tetchy. The first chance of note is a Faversham free kick from the edge of the box which is straight at the keeper. The game then gets really interesting when Sittingbourne get the equalizer. A looping cross gets to the man at the back post and he heads past the goalie to make it one each. Faversham now look to regain the lead when the forward gets his shot in but the keeper saves with his feet. It is Sittingbourne however who score the winning goal. After a couple of crosses are blocked, the next one finds its target and it is then flicked home to the delight of the home supporters.

Sittingbourne hit the bar in the first half
As with Rochester the other week, trains to Sittingbourne depart from either Victoria or St Pancras. I got the fast train from the later which took just under an hour. Unfortunately my first choice pub The Paper Mill was closed which was a shame as it looked like it had a great choice of ales. The best I visited in the town center was The Red Lion which had a selection of beers and ales. The walk to the ground then takes a grueling forty five minutes. I wouldn't recomend doing this for a night game as parts are along an unpaved, unlight road and you have to cut through a field also. On the way back I took the supporters mini bus which runs before and after the game and is a great service. The clubhouse had a wide selection of drinks and the burgers were fantastic. I fully recomend a visit to Woodstock Park as the welcome is second to none and everyone wants to help you enjoy your visit.

The Sittingbourne keeper claims with further cover and the clubhouse in the background

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Peacocks Strut Their Stuff - Bridgwater Town vs. Taunton Town

Double stands at Fairfax Park
For the second part of my Somerset double, I traveled 20 minutes on the train to Bridgwater for their match in The Southern League South And West Division match with Taunton Town. I'd seen Bridgwater not too long ago at Swindon Supermarine where I though they were bit unlucky to lose 3-1. The two teams have had very different seasons. Taunton are in second place only behind Hereford and were set for a place in the play offs. Bridgwater however haven't had the best season and are set for a return to The Western League. In the reverse fixture back towards the start of the season, Bridgwater were able to hold Taunton to a draw.  

Kick off at Fairfax Park
The game has a surprising start with Bridgwater taking an early lead. A long ball towards the edge of the box is headed over the keeper to give Bridgwater the lead. This irks Taunton and they go on the attack straight away and when the ball is squared to the forward, his shot hits the post. They do get the equalizer around twenty minutes in from the penalty spot. The ball hits the Bridgwater players arm from close range and the penalty is buried to make it one all. Taunton continue to pile forward with the forward powering through the defense before the Bridgwater keeper blocks his shot. Taunton do complete the turnaround when they beat the offside trap and this time when the ball is squared the ball is hammered in off the bar. They further extended their lead as a corner isn't fully cleared, the forward beats the keeper to ball to head the ball home. Just before half time they make it four. The Bridgwater forward is able to nod ball down for his team mate who gets the fourth goal.

One nil Bridgwater
Bridgwater try to get back into the game at the start of the second but they can't take advantage of a couple of balls that are put into the box. Taunton come close to a fifth when a ball to the back post leads to a scramble where Bridgwater eventually clear it for a corner. From that very corner there is a header that hits the post. They the post again, this time it is after the winger cuts inside and his shot hits the woodwork before the rebound is put well over the bar. Taunton do get their fifth as the attacker gets to the byline and his cross is headed home from close range.

The equalizing Taunton penalty
It takes a bit of time to get to Bridgwater from London. You first have to catch a train to Bristol Temple Meads and change there for a train to Bridgwater which takes around two and half hours, depending on connections. If you elect to stay over night then The Old Vicarage in the town is perfect. Th place itself is pleasant and it is worth having a look around. Pub wise, Vinos Ale And Wine Tavern had a good choice of craft beer. Next to the river, The Fountain Inn has a fairly wide choice of ales. If you want to watch the early kick off then Bunch Of Grapes close to the station does the job. The ground is nearly a half hour walk from the town and the clubhouse had a good selection of lagers. If you have a wait for your train, then The Commercial Inn is conveniently located for a beer.

Taunton attack the end housing their fans

Gate Closed In First Half - Weston-Super-Mare vs. Margate

View from the terrace at The Woodspring Stadium
There wasn't a lot of choice for a new ground on Good Friday and with extensive works around Bath, a lot of games in The Western League were out of reach. I therefore decided to make a weekend of it and went for Weston-Super-Mare against Margate in The Conference South. After conceding a very late leveler against St Albans, meant that Margate had to win to stand any chance of beating the drop. This was the first occasion I'd see Weston-Super-Mare play. I'd visited Hartsdown Road for a Ryman League match with Canvey Island a couple of seasons ago in a thrilling 2-2 draw and was hoping for something similar.  In the reverse fixture back in August, Margate won 3-1 and they needed a repeat today.

Final checks from the referee before kick off
Margate make the worst possible start. A Weston free kick from the edge of the box takes a big deflection to leave the keeper with no chance of preventing the opening goal. Weston look to extended their early advantage and after a ball in, the Weston player takes the ball away from own man before missing the target when he may have been better leaving it. Margate see off the flurry of chances and equalize midway through the half. A free kick from near the half way line finds the man in the box and he nods the ball home from close range. Parity doesn't last long however as Weston retake the lead - another time where I poorly timed my toilet visit. I do however see the third goal just before the break. The Weston forward controls the ball in the box and is then clattered from behind for a penalty. The penalty is duly dispatched and Margate have it all to do in the second half.

The Weston player takes on the Margate defense
Margate try to attack from the start of the second half and the Weston keeper does well to claim a free kick put into the box. The Weston attacker then manages to power through the Margate defense forcing the Margate keeper to make a good block. From another Margate free kick, the attacker is able to get the ball down before firing a low shot which the Weston keeper saves at his near post. Then from the resulting corner there is a scramble in the six yard box and the Weston defense is just about able to clear the danger. The final chance of the afternoon comes when the Weston winger is able to cut in, fire in a shot which the keeper saves with his feet.

A Weston corner in the second half
Although it is a long way to Weston-Super-Mare, the quick trains from Paddington take just over two hours. I really should have got an earlier train as I didn't feel that I was able to explore enough. A short walk from the sea front is The Imperial which had a good selection of beers. The just up the road is the excellent Brit Bar which had a couple of ales on and also had decent music on. The walk from the town takes a good forty five minutes. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks as well as BT Sports. If you've got a wait for your train then Off The Rails is perfect for a drink while you wait.

Another shot of the seated accommodation

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Corinthian Get Ahead - Rochester United vs. Corinthian

Not much wind at Rede Court Road
My parents were down for their annual Easter visit and so I needed an interesting town where there was a game on. I'd always been impressed with the look Rochester when I've traveled through to places like Faversham and Whitsable and with the gorgeous weather, this weekend seemed to be the perfect time to visit. Rochester United play in The Southern Counties East League Premier and their opponents today were Corinthian. Corinthian's Gay Dawn Farm is one of my favorite grounds I've visited in the South East and also provided the second highest number goals I've seen in a game - 10 - they sadly lost 9-1 to Maidstone in The FA Cup. The reverse fixture back in September was an entertaining three all draw and we were hoping for the same.

Kick off at Rede Court Road
Corinthian are played in out wide fairly on but the attack eventually comes to nothing. They are able to get the ball out to the man out wide again and this time the cross in just manages to elude the men in the box. Corinthian are well on top at this point and the next time they get in on goal, the attacker's touch is a bit heavy which forces the man wide before his cross is headed away. Rochester almost take the lead against the run of play but the Corinthian keeper is able to save the shot on goal. The Corinthian man is then able to get beyond the goalie who is relived when the attacker can't fully connect with his header. Both sides have great chances just before the break. Firstly a Rochester header from a great cross goes just wide before Corinthian get in on goal and the Rochester keeper does well to smoother the chance. 

The Rochester defense stands firm in the second half
The second half has a very end of season feel to it with a lot of huff and puff without a lot of end product. The key moment of the game comes from a Corinthian corner where the attacker is left all alone at the back post and his powerful header goes in off the bar. The other moment of note comes when the Corinthian attacker appears to be chopped down in the box and when the referee gives nothing, a heated debate occurs on the pitch which results in a booking for the Rochester player. In the dying moments, Rochester have a chance of their own from a corner which is headed over the bar.

Rochester look for a way through in the first half
The closest station to Rede Court Road is actually Strood, but it is worth staying on and exploring Rochester beforehand. Trains to Strood and Rochester can be caught from either Victoria or St Pancras with the quick trains taking forty minutes. From close to Strood Station you can take a bus which takes you close to the ground. If you do elect to explore Rochester, the castle and cathedral are worth checking out. At the very far end of the high street there are four pubs close together which provide a great choice of ales. We first checked out The Flippin' Frog which was homely and had four ales available. Then just up the road is The Northern Seaman which had even more ales on offer. If you want somewhere to watch the football then The Jolly Knight next to the castle does the job. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and the food smelt fantastic as was the welcome provided.

Corinthian get a ball into the box with the clubhouse in the background