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Saturday, 12 September 2020

The Cup Returns - Sunderland RCA vs. Durham City

Action in front of the stand at Meadow Park with the chimney from the old pumping house in the background
I had planned to spend the Easter weekend taking in a lot of games in Newcastle but Covid put pay to that. So once people were allowed back in grounds and the FA Cup draw was made, I opted to have another go. I had planned to visit Hebburn but upon discovering that Sunderland RCA were 100% having printed programmes my plans changed. My parents lived in Sunderland for a while and always spoke very highly of the place and I had enjoyed my break with them there. Oddly the two sides had played each other in pre season with Sunderland RCA winning 5-1.

Kick off of the season proper
Durham are kicking downhill in the first half but they still fall behind before equalising quickly with a free kick. Sunderland make better use of the slope and score twice to progress to the next round.

View from the grass bank at the far end
There are occasional trains from Kings Cross direct to Sunderland which take three and a half hours but these are quite infrequent. It is probably easier to go to Newcastle and then use the metro to get to Sunderland. If you have a bit of time in the city centre then you have to visit the fantastic Ship Isis which has a great selection of ales and craft beers. If you're heading straight to the ground then you want to get off at the Park Lane Metro stop. From here you can catch the 60 bus which flies down to just around the corner from the ground in around ten minutes. Close to the ground is The Guide Post which had a choice of ales. The entrance to the ground is in a newish looking housing estate which made me think I'd gone the wrong way. The club were very welcoming and the clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks. A brill start to the season and my North East adventure!

Durham attacking in the first half

Monday, 31 August 2020

One Of The Best - Crockenhill vs. Thamesmead SC

The fantastic Wested Meadow 
One of the good things about pre season is being able to visit you really enjoyed previously and Wested Meadow falls well in to that category. It was almost five years ago to the day since my first visit and I enjoyed it as much second time around. You can see from the first picture why I love the ground so much with it's unique wooden stand and leafy surrounds. Today they were playing Thamesmead SC. I had visited the club in their previous guise of Seven Acre and Sidcup at Oxford Road and I visited their current ground before it was redeveloped for a Thamesmead Town game.

Thamesmead on the attack
Thamesmead are ruthless and are three up at half time with the Crockenhill keeper making some great saves to keep his side in touch. Thamesmead add a fourth in the second half to seal the win. The closest station is Swanley which is just under a half hour trip from Victoria. The walk takes around a half hour with the last bit being unpaved with high sided hedges enclosing the road. Half way between the ground and the station is Chequers which was a great pub and had it's Covid routine well set out. There were two hand pulls, one being from Timothy Taylor and the other one was White Rat from The Rat brewery which went down very well. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and is worth checking out for the scarves adorning the celling. They also produce a printed programme which could sadly become less common this season.

Last bit of the walk to the ground

Friday, 28 August 2020

The Beginning - East Preston vs. Hamble Club

Great to be back
After however many months, weeks and days it was great to be back groundhopping last weekend. Despite the lengthy break, I'm still a sucker for a printed programme so East Preston made it an easy choice for their game with Hamble Club of The Wessex League with the seaside also being a big draw. This would be my third visit to The Lashmar having previously visited for an FA Cup match with Ringmer almost a decade and then for another pre season friendly with AFC Portchester. I had always enjoyed my trips here. It's much less of a draw then bigger seaside places with it being just a village but there is still enough there to make it worthwhile. 

Start of the 2020-21 season!
The first half was pretty quiet with East Preston having the best chance when the forward poked wide at the back post. Hamble took the lead with a close range finish before two late goals saw East Preston claim the win. It takes just under two hours to travel from Victoria to Angmering with the ground a further ten minutes walk away. The walk takes you past the excellent S P Alehouse which has a broad selection of beers on keg and cask and was very friendly as well well as being set out for the new normal. A great return to football.


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