Friday, 21 October 2016

Bonny Blues Frustrated By Steelmen - Penrith vs. Consett

Main stand at Frenchfields
For the second game of my north west trip I caught the bus from Workington to Penrith (via a stop off in Keswick) for my first ever game in The Northern League. I've planned to visit the north east for another Northern League trip with my Dad so this was pretty much the only ground I could do without him. Penrith hadn't played a league game for nearly two weeks as they had consecutive cup ties in The League Cup and then The Cumberland Cup during which they scored ten goals. Both sides were in and around mid table at the start of the game and Consett have the much better record in matches between the two sides having won 11 of the 20 meetings. You have to go back to the 2013-14 season for the last Penrith victory.

Kick off at Frenchfield Park
Consett start on the front foot and an early shot from the edge of the area is sent over the bar into the surrounding darkness. Penrith are then able to get into a couple of decent positions themselves but the end results is the same. The first real chance of the game comes when the Consett attacker is found at the back post and it takes a great block from the Penrith defender to prevent the shot on target. Consett continue to push on and the take the as a long ball forward is flicked on and the forward lashes the ball past the Penrith keeper. This sparks Penrith in to life and they have a couple of great attacks straight after the Consett goal. Firstly, the winger finds space and his great cross into the area eludes everyone. Then the Penrith forward forces the Consett keeper into a great save with a shot from the edge of the area before the rebound is put onto the post. From the resulting corner Penrith have an effort headed off the line as the Consett defence defend their lead. The last chance of the half also falls to Penrith as following a free kick there is a shot on goal and Penrith are denied by the defender on the line once again. 

I'm pretty sure this is Penrith hitting the post
Penrith have the first chance of the second half when a long ball from the keeper is brought under control by the attacker but he puts his shot over the bar. Their next chance comes when the forward is allowed is turn and shoot but his shot goes straight into the arms of the goalie. Penrith are played in again but again the attacker doesn't connect properly with the strike and his shot is claimed by the keeper. A long Consett ball forward causes some panic in the Penrith defence and the eventual shot goes over the bar. There are a couple more half chances but Consett hold on for the win.

Committed Consett defending in the second half
So as I mentioned at the start my journey from Workington to Penrith was on bus via Keswick which included some fantastic views of The Lake District. If travelling from London, you can catch a train from Euston and in three hours you'll be in Penrith. If you want to stay overnight, then The Station Inn around the corner from the station is perfect as well as again having one of the better bars in the town. The best non-hotel pub I went to in the town centre was The General Wolfe. Then just a short walk from the ground is The Cross Keys which was a decent country pub. The walk from the town to the ground takes just under half an hour. The clubhouse at the back stand had a good selection of drinks and offers views of the pitch if it's too cold outside. For a new build ground I really liked Frenchfield as well as my trip to the north west in general. 

More covered accommodation opposite the main stand

Wonder Strike Wins It - Workington vs. Ashton United

Corner view of Borough Park
I had a week off work and so decided to spend a couple of days up in the North West as well as taking in a few games. The first one was at a ground I'd heard a lot about and that was Workington's Borough Park and it didn't disappoint. This would be my first new ground in a midweek game since Christmas last year. Workington came into the game after claiming four points from two difficult away trips to Whitby and Warrington - the later result leading to the Warrington managers stepping down. Ashton were on the edge of the play offs and were looking for points to close the gap between themselves and those above them. Although Workington did the league double over Ashton last season, tonight's visitors had the better form in previous matches between the two sides.

Kick off at Borough Park
Workington manage to get an early cross into the danger area but the Ashton defence is equal to it. Then when another cross is only cleared to the edge of the area, the Workington player lashes the ball into the top corner on the volley for a stunning goal to put the home side one up. Ashton almost equalise immediately as a cross to the back post finds the man in space but his header goes just over the cross bar. Both sides are getting into good attacking positions and the Ashton defence manges to clear after the Workington attacker plays the ball in from the byline. The Workington keeper then misjudges a back pass but lucky for him the resulting effort goes across goal and out to safety. The last chance of the half comes when the Ashton centre forward out muscles the Workington full back and fortunately for Workington, no one is able to get the vital touch.

The Workington player steadies himself before lashing the ball home
Ashton almost let Workington in early in the second half as the full back gives the ball away but the defence is able to cover for the mistake. The Workington winger is then played in out wide and his heavy touch means the chance goes begging. Ashton then think they have a good shout for a penalty as the forward is played in before he appears to be bundled over by the Workington defender but nothing is given. Shortly afterwards, a cross from out wide finds the man in space and his low shot forces a fantastic low save from the Ashton keeper. Workington now have their tails up as they put together a great passing which ends with the forward dragging his shot wide of the target. The Workington forward is then played in over the top and the keeper makes another great save with his feet to keep his side in it. Workington work themselves in again after a good 1-2 but the effort is hammered wide. 

Workington push for the second goal
Workington is obviously a long way from London and the train does take some time. To get there you have to take a train from Euston to Carlisle and change there for the train to Workington. Due to poor connection at Carlisle the journey takes the best part of five hours. Therefore staying overnight is the best option if travelling from London is staying overnight and The Waverley Hotel is perfect for this. The hotel is five minutes from the ground and also has one of the better bars in Workington. I don't know if it was because it was only Tuesday night but a lot of the pubs I'd researched ended up being shut. I'd ended up eating at The Henry Bessemer which is a Wetherspoons before going onto the chainey Bounty. The clubhouse at the ground had a good selection of drinks and as I mentioned earlier, the ground is absolutely worth the effort of getting there.

The Workington winger takes on the full back in front of the stand

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Stringers Push Town All The Way - Hailsham Town vs. Eastbourne Town

There was a decent crowd for the derby
This week I had initially planned to travel out west and see Larkhall Athletic host Mangotsfield but I didn't fancy the extended trip and so I decided to gamble on Southern Trains and instead went south for the derby between Hailsham Town and Eastbourne Town in Division One of The Sussex County League (I know it's changed names but it's still The Sussex County League to me). In their last league game against Crawley Down Gatwick, Hailsham won their first point of the season and the following Tuesday they got their first win in The County Cup. According to the program notes, the manager is now getting a stronger looking squad together. I'd been to The Saffrons when Eastbourne were in The Ryman League and on that day they beat Dulwich Hamlet. After finishing second last season, Eastbourne were looking for another title push and were in third place with a game in hand on the top two.

Kick off at The Beaconfield
Hailsham have the first sighting of goal when a free kick is headed well wide of goal. Eastbourne then force a succession of corners with the last one being headed just over the bar. Shortly afterwards the Eastbourne winger kills the loose ball and his teasing cross is just dug out by the defender. Hailsham then have a good shout for a penalty when the attacker is played in on but the referee isn't interested and there was no appeal from the felled player. The last chance of the half comes after more good control allows the Eastbourne player to get a shot in on goal which is dragged wide of the upright.

Hailsham attack in the first half
The heavens open during half time and the defining moment of the match happens in the opening exchanges of the second half. The Hailsham keeper gets behind a well hit drive from outside of the box but unfortunately for him the rebound goes straight to an Eastbourne player who makes it one nil from close range. Hailsham immediately go on the attack for an equaliser and a great cross into the area eludes everyone. A good passing move from Hailsham creates space on the edge of the area but the effort is well tipped over the bar by the Eastbourne keeper. The Eastbourne forward goes on a mazy run and his shot is blocked on the line to keep Hailsham in it. I haven't really done the match justice (was too wet for too much note taking) but this was a brilliant derby match with heaps of effort from both sides.

Eastbourne attack the clubhouse end in the first half
To get to Hailsham you first have to take a train from Victoria to Polegate which takes about an hour and a half if Southern are running close to their actual timetable. From here you can catch the 98 bus to Hailsham and this section takes quarter of an hour. The main street in Hailsham is currently being dug up and so the place looks like a building site but it will be good when it is finished. At the top of The High Street is The Granadier Hotel which had a couple of Harvey's ales on. Half way down The High Street is The Corn Exchange which is the place to go for the early kick off. The Beaconfield is then a five minute walk away. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and was exceptionally welcoming. I can also recommend the burgers from the tea hut. If your train back to London is delayed (which is pretty much a given at the moment) then Dinkum is a good place to keep warm.

The Eastbourne defender clears his lines

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Wessex Wonder - Downton vs. Fleet Spurs

Match action at The Brian Whitehead Sports Centre
This weekend I made yet another trip to Salisbury for a game. I'd been through there to watch Salisbury themselves, Amesbury, Bermerton Heath Harlequins and now Downton was my next destination. There opponents today in The Wessex League Division One were Fleet Spurs. Fleet Spurs were involved in a lawsuit with Tottenham Hotspur regarding their badge which apparently damaged their brand. The home side were in seventh place before kick off while the visitors were seven places back in fourteenth. Downton were coming into the game after five consecutive games on the road and they were looking to bounce back after a four one defeat at Shaftesbury in midweek.

Kick off at The Brian Whitehead Sports Centre
Fleet Spurs cause some panic in the home defence with an early corner kick but Downton manage to clear their lines. The Downton attacker drills a cross across the edge of the six yard box but this manages to eludes everyone. Fleet then have a brilliant chance to take the lead as cross to the back post is deflected into the attackers path and he fails to make proper contact and the keeper is able to claim the ball. Downton take the lead when a fantastic diagonal ball finds the man in space and after his half volley hits the bar, his team mate is on hand to put the rebound in and make it one nil. The lead doesn't last long however. Following a looping pass forward, the first Fleet effort is saved but the second goes through the keeper to give Fleet the equaliser. Downton then have a brilliant chance to restore the lead when a cross to the back post finds the man in a lot of space but his free header is put over the bar. The game is now really opening up and when Fleet are able to break out, the Downton keeper saves the first shot from the edge of the area, he then makes an amazing save from the rebound before the second rebound goes over. There's still time for one more clear cut chance before half time as the Downton forward is played in on goal and it is the Fleet keeper's turn to make a great save to keep the scores level.

The Fleet keeper prepares to deal with a first half cross
Downton have the first chance of the second period as a shot from the edge of the box just dips too late to threaten the Fleet goal. Fleet then get into a couple of decent crossing positions but on both occasions, the balls in manage to elude everyone. The end to end nature continues as the Downton forward then controls the ball on his chest before sending a shot just over the bar. Downton then have the perfect chance to retake the lead when following a corner kick the Fleet player handles a header from close range and the referee points to the spot. Unfortunately for the hosts, the penalty is put well over the bar. They again come close to the second goal but on this occasion the shot from the edge of the area is deflected wide. The last clear cut chance of the game falls to Fleet when the attacker creates some space and his shot is tipped over the bar by the Downton keeper. The game ends in a draw which is a fair results after a breathtaking match.

First half action in front of the stand
As I mentioned earlier, the closest station to Downton is Salisbury and trains here depart from Waterloo, taking about an hour. From the town centre you can get the X3 to Downton which takes twenty minutes. Despite being a village there are a couple of interesting things to see. There is the St Laurence Church as well as The Moot Gardens. Pubwise the first pub is The Wooden Spoon where I had a pint of The Falling Star from The Wickwar Brewery and there was a fantastic selection of food on offer too. Then just down the road is The White Horse where I tried The Pumpkin Ale from The Downton Brewery and there were a couple of other ales on. Then five minutes from the ground is The Bull Head which has the sports channels for the early kick off. The ground is less than five minutes from the bus stop and the clubhouse also had another Downton Brewery on hand pull as well as BT Sports.

Wing battle on the dugout side of the ground

Monday, 3 October 2016

Balham Blaze Past Lammas - Staines Lammas vs. Balham

It was an afternoon of sunshine and showers in Laleham
My initial plan this weekend had been to go to Weymouth for their FA Cup qualifier with Brimscombe and Thrupp but I'd forgotten I had people visiting in the evening and so I had to go for something a lot closer to home. I'd been meaning to visit Staines Lammas' Laleham Rec Ground home since they ended their ground share at Ashford and so this weekend was the ideal occasion for that. Their opponents in today's Combined Counties League Division One game were Balham. I hadn't visited a new Combined Counties Ground for a long time, the last one I think being Hartley Whitney which was a good three years ago. This was Balham's first season in the CCL following their promotion from The Surrey Elite League and they were more than holding own, sitting comfortably in mid table, one place above their opponents on the day. Lammas didn't have a match the previous weekend but claimed a decent friendly draw against Spelthorne in mid week.

Kick off at The Laleham Rec
The game has a fairly even start with Balham having the first clear cut opportunity when the forward heads the ball wide after being left unmarked at a free kick. Staines then come close as the attacker is able to get through the defence but his shot is blocked before the keeper is quick off his line to smoother the loose ball. The visitors take the lead when after a long ball forward the ball falls kindly for the Balham man who slots home from close range. They double their lead as the forward is played in and is tripped by the last man, the referee awards the penalty but takes no further action and the penalty is converted to make it two nil. Balham look to try and get out of sight before half time and the Staines keeper does well gather a miss hit which could have easily gone in.

Two nil Balham
Staines look to get back into the game straight away and the Balham defender does well to get his head to a threatening cross. It is however Balham who strike next. The Staines keeper makes an incredible low save from a close range header but the rebound is forced home. The heavens then open and while my back is turned heading towards some shelter, Balham get the fourth goal. Things then get worse for Staines when the player receives a harsh looking second yellow and the hosts are reduced to ten men. Balham now push for the firth and the Staines keeper does well to get quickly off his line and smoother a through ball before the forward can get there. Balham are then played in on goal but the chance is put wide of the target. Staines get a consolation goal from the penalty spot late on and they create a good chance for a second in the final moments but the cross is just too high.

Staines on the attack in the first half
Laleham is a commuter village just outside of Staines and it here where the nearest train station is located. Trains to Staines depart from Waterloo with the journey taking just under an hour. Then from Staines Bus Station you can catch the twice hourly 458 to the centre of the village which takes little over five minutes. There is a pleasant river side in Laleham and if you're lucky you'll one of the parakeets who live in large numbers in the local area. A short walk from the river side is The Three Horseshoes which is very much a gastro pub but had a good selection of beers. The Turks Head just opposite the ground is a more of a locals pub and had the early kick off on TV. The clubhouse is one of the best ones in The CCL and had Sky Sports as well as the usual selection of drinks.

View down the touchline towards the clubhouse

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Take Off For Brecklanders In FA Vase - Thetford Town vs. Downham Town

Stand at The Thetford Recreation Ground
For the last game in my run of cup matches I headed out to Norfolk for a county derby of sorts between Thetford Town and Downham Town. Both sides play in The Eastern Counties League with Thetford in The Premier Division and Downham in Division One. I'd seen Thetford once before at Felixstowe and Walton in a league match when they drew an entertaining game 2-2. I'd visited Downham Market's Memorial Field also for a league game and in that match they won 3-1 against AFC Sudbury Reserves. In their respective divisions, Thetford had made a very good start, sitting in second place, a couple of points behind Mildenhall while Downham were seventh in Division 1.In the previous round, Thetford saw another Division 1 side, Framlington and this win contributed to a four game winning streak. 

It was a three sided ground for the second week in a row
Thetford waste no time in putting the Downham keeper under pressure as they launch a angled free kick into the area which he punches away under pressure. The home side continue to pepper the Downham goal and a curling shot from the edge of the area goes just over the bar. Thetford come close to a fortuitous opening goal when an innocuous looking long ball forward is caught by the wind and ends up bouncing off the top of the cross bar. Downham are then able to break out after a Thetford attack and the eventual ball from the byline finds the man in plenty of space but his shot goes straight at the goalie. The Downham keeper then makes two great saves to ensure the scores are level at half time. Firstly he does brilliantly to put a powerful header from a free kick over the bar and then he makes a low save to keep out an effort from the resulting corner.

The Thetford winger attacks the car park end
Thetford take an early lead in the second half as the Downham keeper can't fully gather a rasping shot from the edge of the box and the Thetford forward is on hand to put the ball in the net to make it one nil. Thetford are dominating possession and they have another effort on goal when the winger is played in with a chipped pass but his shot flashes across the face of the Downham goal. They come close again as the ball is flicked on and the shot on the volley is put just over the bar. The Downham keeper spills the ball for a second time after a Thetford attack but this time the ball goes just wide. Downham then have a perfect chance to get an equaliser as a fantastic cross finds the man in plenty of space but the free header is put wide of the target. They are made to rue that miss as Thetford get the second goal - or it sounded like they did from the cheers I heard from the toilet.

Dugout side of the ground
To get to Thetford you have to take a train from Kings Cross to either Cambridge or Ely and change there for a train to Thetford with the trip taking just under two hours. Thetford is famous for being the filming location of Dad's Army and there are plenty of reminders around the pleasant town centre. A short walk from the town centre is The Black Horse which has the sports channels as well as a few ales on hand pull. If you don't fancy walking too far from the town centre then The Green Dragon right on the market place does the job for the early kick off. To get back to the ground from the town, you have to go back past the station and next door is The Railway Tavern which had an atmosphere fairly on in the afternoon and also had the sports channels. The clubhouse at the ground under the stand was extremely welcoming and I can also recommend the burgers from the tea bar. 

Watching on from the stand in the second half

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Magpies Cup Hopes Melt Away In First Half - Alresford Town vs. Cadbury Heath

There was a decent crowd at Alrebury Park
The next round of FA Cup qualifying came up last weekend and I decided to take in one of the ties between two step five sides. The tie in question was for the second weekend in a row, a clash between Wessex and Western League sides and pitted Alresford Town against Cadbury Heath. This was the first time I'd seen either side play although I had previously visited Winchester which is just down the road. Both sides were in lower mid table in their respective leagues but due to their cup runs, they had plenty of games in hand over the teams above them. Alresford needed a reply to get through the last round against Fareham and in the round before that they shocked Wimborne Town of The Southern League.

Kick off in front of rural back drop
Alresford have an early half chance when the attacker is found in the box with a cross from the left wing but his header is straight at the Cadbury keeper. That is as good as it sadly got for Alresford in the first half. Another left wing cross, this time at the opposite end is headed onto the bar via the Alresford keeper and the rebound is turned in from close range. Cadbury soon double their lead when the forward is played in on goal and despite the Alresford keeper getting a strong touch on the ball it still finds the back of the net. The visitors come close to adding to their lead as a free kick from out wide goes just wide of the target. Alresford have another headed half chance to reduce the deficit but there is too much on the close range header. Cadbury do get the third as the striker is played in over the top and he lashes the ball in to seemingly settle the tie.

Moments before the first goal
Both sides have half chances at the start of the second half as Alresford try to get back in the game but neither keeper is seriously tested. Alresford get the early goal they need as a cross to the back post is headed in from close range to get them back into the tie. A free kick out wide provides Alresford with another chance and this time the header goes just wide of the target. Cadbury Heath are now defending with their lives against wave after wave of Alresford attacks. Despite all their possession, Alresford don't get any closer to Cadbury Heath, the closest they come is from a corner but the header doesn't worry the keeper and Heath progress to the next round. 

Cadbury Heath winger tries to get hold of the ball
As I mentioned earlier, the closest station to Alresford is Winchester. Trains here depart from Waterloo, taking about an hour or so. Then if you walk through the town centre to the bus station you can catch 64 bus to the centre of Alresford with this portion of the trip taking twenty minutes. I can imagine Alresford would be even more attractive on a Summers day with the Watercress Line Station and waterside walks. The Globe has a good beer garden which looks out on The Old Alresford Pond. Just up the road is The Horse And Groom which had a decent selections of ales on hand pull. The Swan Hotel is the place to go if you want to watch the early kick off. The ground is then a five minute walk from The High Street. The clubhouse offers elevated views of the pitch and also had a couple of ales on which makes a pleasant change. For the trip back, Dave's Fish and Chips is hard to turn down as it's located right next to the bus stop.

The Cadbury Heath players celebrate in front of the stand