Shrewsbury Town

Shrewsbury Town vs Morecambe, FA Cup Second Round, New Meadow, 2/12/17

I probably should feel bad about the fact that it has taken me two seasons to blog about a Shrewsbury Town home match, as a Shrewsbury Town fan it has been an odd two years without taking in a home match at the New Meadow (Yes I know it has a different name, but that is a sponsorship name, and I’m not using that name, as it sounds like a Conservative MP’s name). I’ve seen many a game at the New Meadow, as during my three years as a student in Wrexham, I held a season ticket in Block 9, Row Q, Seat 3, and spent many of my Saturdays watching Shrewsbury, and in all fairness if I had put as much time into my coursework as I had into watching Shrewsbury, I probably would have finished Uni with a 1st, instead of the 2:2 degree that I received. But would I change my time at Uni? Would I have spent more time in the Library and less time watching Shrewsbury? Well the answer to that is no.

I had been planning to get to a Shrewsbury match, but I’ve always been put off by the near two hour drive to get to Shrewsbury from Chorley, in all fairness when I started this blog I lived in Wrexham, and I probably should have gone to Shrewsbury whilst I lived in Wrexham, but there were so many grounds to go on adventures to around Wrexham. However with my mum coming up to Chorley for a week, it made sense to head down to Shrewsbury, watch the game, and then bring my mum back, instead of getting my dad to do so. At 12pm, I left Chorley and made the journey down to Shrewsbury, using the A49. If there is one thing in life that I do enjoy, it is driving on clear, country roads, as it allows me to escape from my daily life, although there was one hairy moment, as I came round a roundabout, doing below 30mph, and the back end of the car skidded out, luckily there was no-one behind me, and I managed to control the skid, when I parked up at the BP garage in Shrewsbury, I did check the car but couldn’t see any clear reason for the skid. Parking at the BP garage cost £5, and if you are visiting Shrewsbury I would recommend parking at the BP garage, as there isn’t a lot of parking available around the ground.

After a quick walk down to the ground, I headed into the clubshop and picked up a hat and a scarf for £16, as I expected the weather to drop, and had already prepared myself for very cold weather. Seeing as how I hadn’t been to the Meadow in a while, I took a walk around the ground, and stopped to read the banners which had been hung from the side of the Main Stand. I also made sure to stop and make sure that my brick was still in place by the reception, which it was. Whilst waiting for my parents, I took a look at the new Lidl construction, which is going up behind the North Stand, whilst the income will be good from Lidl, I just can’t understand how this is going to work on a Saturday when Shrewsbury are at home, traffic is going to be a nightmare, and in all fairness the club really needs to look at putting a larger supporters bar near to the ground, as I would have loved to have gone for a pint, but the PowerLeague bar is just too small. Finally my parents turned up, and we headed into the ground. I instantly felt at home as I passed through the turnstiles, and spent a few minutes looking at the murals which now decorate the concourse, I was also amazed to see the vending machines which provide an alternative to the catering facilities.

Speaking of the catering facilities, I decided to buy a bottle of Pepsi Max before the game, which set me back £2. However my parents also decided to buy some food and drink, with them purchasing a Steak & Ale Pie, a Sausage Roll, a Tea and a Bovril for the sum of £10.50. When we took our seats in the stand, I did ask my mum whether she was hungry as it looked like she had already eaten half of her Sausage Roll, however she responded by telling me that she hadn’t taken a bite yet, and that this half a Sausage Roll had cost her £3.20, she soon got sick of it, and passed me the last half of it, and it was bland, tasteless and if I had bought it from Greggs I would have taken it back, as it was horrendous, no wonder so many people bring in their own food, maybe that Lidl will come in handy after all. (I’ve not had chance to ask my dad how his pie was, but he demolished it, so it might have been good.)

The 2017-18 season marks the 10 year anniversary of Shrewsbury leaving the old Gay Meadow and moving into the New Meadow, and in all fairness it feels like we have been here a lot longer, there are still the same issues that were experienced when we first moved, such as a lack of toilet seats, but this place has become home. It may not have the charm or atmosphere of the Gay Meadow, but to improve as a club we needed a modern home, and unfortunately the Gay Meadow was never going to be that modern home. The ground is essentially symmetrical, with both stands behind the goal being identical, and the same can be said about both of the touchline stands. The East Stand (or the Roland Wycherley Stand) is the Main Stand, and houses all of the hospitality facilities, changing rooms offices etc. The West Stand, is the largest stand in the ground with a capacity of 3,317, and in block 19 the more vocal Shrewsbury supporters congregate. The South Stand, where I used to have my season ticket, is soon going to hold England’s first safe standing, as the footballing community came together to raise the necessary funds to allow the club to install the same kind of standing which works so well in Germany, and at Celtic Park, I’m not sure when the work is supposed to begin, but as soon as it is finished I’ll be making another trip down to Shrewsbury to take in the new safe standing. Finally the North Stand, houses the away fans, as well as the stadium control room and the scoreboard.

Today’s visitors were to be Morecambe, who were formed in 1920. Morecambe took a place in the Lancashire Combination League for the 1920-21, and shared grounds with the Cricket Club at Wood Hill Lane during the first season. At the end of the season, with football proving to be popular, the club moved to Roseberry Park, and a few years later purchased the ground and the name was changed to Christie Park in honour of Mr J.B. Christie who was the club president at the time. In 1925, the club claimed the league title for the first time, and this was later followed by success in the Lancashire Junior Cup, beating old rivals Chorley, after two replays, and in front of over 30,000 spectators. Mr Christie bequeathed the ground to the club in 1927, and then helped to incorporate the club into a limited company. The rest of the 1920s and the whole of the 1930s saw a constant struggle to keep football alive on the North West coast, with little or no revenue off of the field and poor results on the field, a recipe for disaster. Following the Second World War, the club saw an upturn in their fortunes, with steady progress throughout the late 1940s, and nearly all of the 50s. In fact the fourteen years from 1960 could be justifiably said to be Morecambe’s Golden Era, including a Third Round FA Cup appearance in 1962, a Lancashire Senior Cup victory in 1968 and a FA Trophy victory in 1974. However the next twelve years were to be barren, with the Grim Reaper never far from the Christie Park door. Attendances fell from a creditable 2,000 plus to a miserable 200 minus. However this downturn in fortunes was to end in the 1985-86 season, as signs of improvement appeared, as the club improved in the league, and it took ten years of continual improvement both on and off of the field to fulfil the club’s ambition on playing in the Conference. Morecambe began life in the Conference in the 1995-96 season, and soon became one of the league’s most feared sides, as they narrowly missed out on promotion on a couple of occasions. On the 20th of May 2007, the club beat Exeter City 2-1 at Wembley to win the Conference Playoff final, and therefore gain promotion to the Football League. The 2009-10 season was to be Morecambe’s last season at Christie Park, and they moved to the Globe Arena in 2010. Jim Bentley was appointed as manager in 2011, and has remained with the club ever since.

Shrewsbury’s journey in the FA Cup has so far consisted of a 5-0 win over Aldershot Town in the First Round, we have slipped recently in the league, however we are still sitting near the top of the table, which is a remarkable achievement given the stature of some of the other teams in the league. Morecambe beat Hartlepool United in the First Round, 3-0, and currently sit 21st in League Two.

Morecambe made themselves difficult to breakdown, and Salop had to remain patient through the first half. In all fairness Shrewsbury seemed to be slightly off of form, and we didn’t seem comfortable.

Despite being slightly off form, we did take the lead in the 32nd minute, as Alex Rodman latched on a cross from Shaun Whalley to tap the ball past Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal.

Roche was lucky to remain on the field, as five minutes after the opening goal, he brought Jon Nolan down in the box. The reason why I say Roche was lucky to stay on the field, is that he was the last man, and clearly stopped Nolan from having a clear opportunity on goal. The ref decided that whilst it would be a penalty, Roche would only see a yellow card. Shaun Whalley stepped up to take the penalty and converted nicely.

Half Time: Shrewsbury Town 2-0 Morecambe (Rodman 32, Whalley 37)

Normally at half time I would take a walk around the ground, but unfortunately I was contained in South Stand and instead I spent the break watching the subs warming up. During the First Half, our on-loan keeper, Dean Henderson, had been walking around the South Stand taking selfies with fans for a donation to Hope House. Henderson used to have a mop of hair, but has recently gone bald for Hope House, and it was good to see him interacting with the Salop fans. If I’d spotted him at half time I would have grabbed a selfie with him, but unfortunately he was only in the South Stand during the first half, and as much as I wanted a selfie with one of the best keepers to play for Shrewsbury in a while, I didn’t want to miss any of the football.

Morecambe made two changes at half time, with Vadine Oliver and Aaron McGowan replacing Alex Kenyon and Patrick Brough. With both teams back on the field the second half kicked off, with Salop attacking the South Stand.

Honestly, the second half was absolutely nothing to write home about, it was a poor half, with Shrewsbury doing what was necessary to book their place in the Third Round. I’m not sure how Stefan Payne managed to remain on the pitch for the second half, as he was off of the boil, and struggled in front of goal. Hopefully this is just a blip for the lad, as he is a good player.

In the 59th minute, Shrewsbury made their first change with Louis Dodds replacing Ben Godfrey. The second change came in the 70th minute with Arthur Gnahoua replacing Alex Rodman.

Morecambe made their final change in the 78th minute, as Callum Lang came on to replaced Adam Campbell. Shrewsbury’s final change came in the 80th minute, as Carlton Morris switched places with Shaun Whalley, in all fairness I would have replaced Payne with Morris, as Payne struggled throughout the game.

After five minutes of added time, the referee blew his whistle, and signalled that Shrewsbury’s name would go into the hat for the third round draw. I felt sorry for the Morecambe fans that had travelled down, as they had travelled further than I had to see their team lose, whilst they didn’t play badly, they just lacked a cutting edge in front of goal.

Final Score: Shrewsbury Town 2-0 Morecambe (Rodman 32, Whalley 37)

Following the final whistle, we made our way out of the ground and headed back down to the BP garage, where we switched my mum’s stuff from my parent’s car to mine. My dad began his journey home to London, and my mum and I headed off to Chorley, as my mum is an Arsenal fan, and as a I grew up supporting Manchester United (I realised around the age of 13 that I much preferred Shrewsbury Town, as I saw them more often), we decided to avoid the Arsenal vs Manchester United game on the radio, as it was on BT Sport, and with my new Virgin TV package, I had been able to record the game. Instead we listened to my mum’s all-time favourite musician, Neil Diamond. It’s odd how our tastes change, as when I was a kid I hated Neil Diamond, as in my mind he produced music for old people, and once or twice as a teenager I got annoyed with Kerrang magazine, as some of my favourite musicians admitted that they like Neil Diamond, however since growing up I have realised that Neil Diamond is actually a brilliant Singer/Song Writer, and I found myself singing along to some of his music.

Hopefully Shrewsbury will draw a good name out of the hat, and I have to be honest I am hoping for an away draw to Liverpool, Manchester United or Everton, as that would help me to begin to tick off some of the Premier League grounds, although I have been to Old Trafford before, and would love a trip to Merseyside.

With an attendance of 3184, I can see proper fans having an issue getting tickets if we draw a big name at home in the Third Round of the FA Cup, I mean it has happened before when we played Chelsea in the League Cup and Manchester United in the FA Cup. Honestly, if we get a home tie, I will most likely not attempt to get a ticket, as I would rather my ticket go to someone who follows Salop home and away, like my parents, Bizzy or anyone else that travels the length and breadth of the UK following Salop. If we got an away tie, then tickets may be easier to get a hold of, as many fair-weather fans won’t want to travel, and away allocations at Premier League clubs tend to be bigger.

As a club I like Morecambe, and although he is an ex-Telford player, I like Jim Bentley, as he is doing a good job with limited resources at Morecambe. It’s clear to see the affinity between the manager and the fans, as the fans once paid for a fine that Bentley incurred. Hopefully Morecambe can avoid the drop next season, and I’m hoping to get to a Morecambe home match soon.

Attendance: 3184

Cost: £41 (£15 ticket, £3 programme, £16 hat and scarf, £2 Pepsi Max, £5 parking)

Well the cost would have been £41 however my parents paid for my ticket, and in all honesty I didn’t actually need the hat and scarf as the weather didn’t drop dramatically.

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157689902325004/with/38772692922/

If any clubs are reading this, and want to use any part of my blog for their website or programme, then please feel free to do so, all I ask is that you credit my work.

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Widnes

Widnes vs Irlam, North West Counties Football League Premier Division, Select Security Stadium, 25/11/17

It’s amazing the lengths that I will go to to put off doing something, I’ve been intending to write this blog since I attended the game initially, but near on a week later, I have only just begun to work on it. As I’ve mentioned I’ve recently been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and potential bipolar, and my procrastination levels have reached a new high recently. I’ve also not been helped by the fact that I have recently had no internet, our TalkTalk box decided to go offline for around the 100th time during the week, and finally stopped working altogether, this was a new box, it wasn’t an old wifi router, it was a new one! In fact the reason why we had this router is because it was meant to solve the issues we were having with an old router. So finally fed up of TalkTalk, we have switched to Virgin, which leads me onto the actual start of this blog.

Now that I have Virgin Broadband and TV, I now have access to BT Sport, so that I can now fill my appetite for football. I’m already planning out games that I want to watch, and have worked out how to record so that I can have a constant source of football. But there is still one thing that I will never understand, why on a Saturday at 3pm would you sit in your house or the pub and watch a game of football? Sure your home or the pub might be warm, sure you may have constant access to snacks and drinks, but it’s sterile, there’s no atmosphere, you have to listen to commentators drivelling on about the fact that the linesman has one sock higher than the other, it’s just not football. Football is about going to the game, talking to the person on the gate, buying a programme from the person that’s been doing it for years, buying a pie, getting a 50/50 draw ticket. If you’re a groundhopper, it’s about exploring the new territory, finding a good place to stand, speaking to new people or volunteers that have been there for years. If you’re a season ticket holder, it’s about finding your seat, speaking to those around you. Ultimately, Football is about being there for your team, through thick and thin, or it’s about watching as many teams as possible. Football on the TV should never take priority over going to a game, there are so many teams with ticket prices cheap enough for anyone to afford them.

Talking of ticket prices, today’s match was to cost £6 to get into, with a further £2 for a programme. The journey from Chorley to Widnes had been an easy one, and I had found free off-road parking near to the ground. Whilst many clubs at this level have small stadiums, Widnes have one of the largest in Non-League, and it is certainly bigger than Accrington Stanleys’! Widnes are currently tenants at the Select Security Stadium, which is owned by Halton Borough Council, however the stadium wasn’t built for the football club, it was built for Widnes Vikings, a rugby league side. Rugby League is pretty popular in these parts, hence why the town has a 13,350 capacity stadium. However Widnes aren’t the only football club to play in the Select Security Stadium, as Everton and Liverpool ladies also play here, luckily the pitch is artificial, as I don’t think a grass pitch would be able to stand up to the amount of games played here. As Widnes FC tend to have lower attendances, the entrance to the ground was through the facilities reception, as you walk into the ground, you emerge in a corner of the ground, with the main stand to your right, this was to be the only stand open for the game, but it was more than enough to house those in attendance. The ground is impressive, and Widnes FC could achieve a lot here, if they had an owner with an obscene amount of money, in fact they’re now on the list of clubs I’d be interested in buying if I ever won the EuroMillions.

I’ve covered both teams before, as I saw Irlam host AFC Darwen: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/irlam/. The last time I saw Widnes it was at Atherton Laburnum Rovers, which can be found here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/atherton-laburnum-rovers/.

One thing I will say about the Select Security Stadium is that it is a cold place, it was freezing and matters weren’t helped when it began to rain with the wind blowing the rain into the stand. For the first half, I took a seat towards the back of the stand, and as close to the halfway line as I could. Watching this level of football in a stadium like this is an interesting experience, as I was able to get a great vantage point and I was also able to hear the players and coaches, as it was quiet in the ground.

For some reason Widnes started with a number 12 and a number 16, instead of a 2 and a 6, I can only assume that the 2 and 6 shirts had been lost, and Widnes FC were sensible enough to use shirts with similar digits as replacements.

Irlam were forced into a sub in the 14th minute, as their number 9, Timothy Kinsella, went down injured and was replaced by number 15, Joshua Nixon. It was a shame to see Kinsella leave the field as he had been causing issues for the Widnes back line.

As half-time approached, I did begin to fear that this would be my first 0-0 game, as both sides were evenly matched. But then Bradley Smart stepped up to fire Widnes into the lead in the 40th minute. Smart had broken the offside trap, and had carried the ball into the area before firing home.

Half Time: Widnes 1-0 Irlam (Smart 40)

At half time I headed down to the bar, and picked up a can of Diet Coke for 70p, the poor woman behind the bar was on her own, however she marshalled everyone into a queue, and was making short work of the orders, as she steamed through the queue.

For the second half, I decided to sit closer to the front, however after about ten minutes, I realised this was a terrible idea, as it was raining, so I scurried up to the back of the stand to shelter from the rain which was getting increasingly heavy.

Widnes doubled their lead in the 68th minute, as the ball was floated into the box from a corner, number 5, Michael Pollard got a touch on the ball which eluded the Irlam keeper, and after a moment of deliberation with the linesman, the referee awarded the goal.

Irlam made their second change of the game in the 70th minute, as number 3, Charlie Doyle, made way for number 12, Joel Amado. Widnes made their first change, five minutes later, with number 9, Bradley Smart, making way for number 17, Sean Myler.

A minute after their change, Widnes made it 3-0, number 7, Kevin Towey, latched onto a low cross to tap the ball home at the back post. Following an even first half, Widnes had now begun to show a little more quality, which shows in the scoreline. Following the goal, Irlam replaced their number 11, Daniel Greene, with their number 16, Gareth Meridith.

In the 80th minute, Widnes made their last changes, with their numbers 18 & 19, Sam Henry & Danny Laverty, coming on for numbers 7 & 10, Kev Towey and Chris Lomax.

Irlam scored a consolation goal in the 88th minute, as their number 10, Jordan Icely, bundled the ball home to reduce the arrears.

Final Score: Widnes 3-1 Irlam (Smart 40, Pollard 68, Towey 78 – Icely 88)

Following the final whistle, I made my way back to my car, the journey home was easy as there was little traffic on the roads. With no internet we had to resort to watching DVDs as TV is crap nowadays.

There have been games played since this one, with Widnes now occupying 5th place in the table, they have played 21, and have won 9, drawn 5 and lost 7, meaning that they have 32 points on the board. A top half finish would be achievable for Widnes, however a lot of the teams around them have games in hand, which could make things interesting at the end of the season.

Irlam sit in 16th place, with 18 games played, 6 wins, 3 draws and 9 defeats. Irlam have gained 21 points this season, and could race up the league if things go their way.

It may have been cold today, it may have been wet, but I couldn’t imagine giving Groundhopping up just to sit at home and watch BT Sport. Live football is available around the country, with cheap ticket prices at certain levels, and even free admission in some places! Get out there and support a football team in the flesh, don’t sit indoors.

Finally, I’ll be at Shrewsbury Town vs Morecambe on Saturday 2nd December, for the FA Cup Second Round, hopefully we’ll get a good result!

Attendance: 55

Cost: £8.70 (£6 Admission, £2 Programme, 70p Diet Coke

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157688881118131

If any clubs are reading this, and want to use any part of my blog for their website or programme, then please feel free to do so, all I ask is that you credit my work.

Blackpool Wren Rovers

Blackpool Wren Rovers vs Thornton Cleveleys, West Lancashire Football League, Bruce Park, 18/11/17

After a rough week, which began with me being diagnosed with Clinical Depression along with a few other mental health issues, it was nice to get back to a semblance of happiness. One of the reasons I have always loved Non-League football is that the crowds are smaller at the lower divisions, and that means that there is always plenty of space to stand and just relax, quietly, watching a game of football. Whilst I do enjoy being part of a crowd and supporting my club with plenty of others, I am an introvert and find myself most relaxed at football grounds where I can be alone. As well as allowing me to relax for ninety minutes, this game also allowed me to tick off the final ground in this area, and therefore provided me with a sense of accomplishment.

But enough of my issues, you’ve come here for football reasons. As I’ve explained before, this area of Blackpool is unusual, as one on road you have three football clubs, all playing at different levels, and all with different supporters. There’s Squires Gate, who I’ve visited twice, and Blackpool Wren Rovers who share a perimeter wall, and AFC Blackpool, who I visited last week, who play around a two minute walk from the other two clubs. When I visited AFC Blackpool I made it my mission to get to Blackpool Wren Rovers so that I could finish the three, and as soon as I got home from the Mechanics, I checked the West Lancashire Football League site, and was overjoyed to see that Wren Rovers had a home game coming up.

I pretty much know the drive from Chorley to Blackpool like the back of my hand now, and after an easy drive I parked up in a layby which has become my usual parking place when visiting this area. A quick walk followed, and I soon arrived at Bruce Park. I did think that I had read Twitter wrong, as this game was tweeted as being a 2pm kick off, but at 1.20pm no-one was around the ground, and I did feel a bit guilty as I walked through the entrance for free, as I was expecting to part with a couple of quid. From the entrance I headed straight to the clubhouse, where I paid £2.20 for a pint of Carling (Again sorry Uncle Ed). My suspicions that it was in fact a 3pm kick off grew, as 2pm approached and there still didn’t appear to be may other people in attendance at the game. As I walked out of the clubhouse, I did relax slightly when I saw that I wasn’t the only person in the ground, and I completed a lap of the ground.

Bruce Park is a basic ground, but one that looks impressive for this level. There is no seating in the ground, but I don’t think it would be difficult for Wren Rovers to install some if the necessity arose. Hard standing runs around all four parts of the ground, with plenty of cover to shelter under if the weather is poor. From the entrance you emerge behind the goal, with the changing rooms to your left. On the right is a stretch of covered standing which runs up to the halfway line, before becoming uncovered standing, the away dugouts sit on this touchline, and so does the perimeter wall shared with Squires Gate. Behind the far goal, is another stretch of covered standing, and at one end of this stand, nature has tried to reclaim it, as ivy hangs over one of the sides. Along the other touchline, is another covered terrace, which looks like it could hold some seats, the home dugouts sit at the front of this stand. Finally, behind the near goal, is more covered terracing, with the changing rooms housed next to this terrace.

I’ve covered Blackpool Wren Rovers before, the report can be found here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/lancashire-fa-amateur-shield-final/. So I won’t delve into their history again, although I will say that I was expecting good things from Wren Rovers today, as in the 2015-16 season they finished 1st in the league, with a huge goals scored tally of 107. In the 2016-17 season, Rovers finished in 2nd in the league, but again had a mammoth goals scored tally of 126.

From what I’ve been able to piece together from the FCHD website (http://fchd.info/indexi.htm) Thornton Cleveleys began life as ICI Thornton, and played in the West Lancashire Football League Second Division from 1987, in 1992 the club won the league on goal difference and were promoted to Division One, which saw them change their name to Thornton Cleveleys International. Thornton’s stay in the First Division was to last two seasons, as in 1994 the club were relegated back to the Second Division, as they finished 16th out of 18. In 1995 the club changed name to Thornton Cleveleys, and were promoted back to the First Division in 1997, but this was only to last a season, as they were relegated back to the Second Division, which was then renamed the First Division as a result of league re-organisation. In 2001, the club were again relegated to the Second Division, which would have once been the Third Division, the club were to challenge for promotion for a number of years until 2009 when they finally finished as champions, and were promoted to the First Division. Thornton made it back to back promotions, as they finished as champions of the First Division in 2010, and earned promotion to the Premier Division, where they have remained ever since, despite finishing 15th out of 15 in 2015.

Before the game kicked off, I bought a can of Diet Coke for 70p, from the little refreshment hut which had suddenly sprung open. There was no sign of a programme or a team sheet around, and my eyebrows raised when I noticed that Thornton were starting with a number 15, but no number 11.

The first half was to be a scrappy affair between two evenly matched sides. I hadn’t seen the league table before the game, and honestly believed that Thornton were a lot higher up the league than they actually are. They played with confidence and kept Wren Rovers pegged back, however in front of goal they had no luck, and it was to be Wren Rovers who had the better of the chances in front of goal, however the Thornton keeper had a good first half, and the two sides entered the break level.

Half Time: Blackpool Wren Rovers 0-0 Thornton Cleveleys

At half time I walked around the ground and stood near to the home dugout for the second half, in the covered stand on this side, it does appear that the club have got some very old seating ready to be installed.

Ten minutes into the second half, the first goal of the game was scored. The ball was worked down the left wing, for Wren Rovers. The Thornton keeper flapped at the cross, and allowed it to pass over his head into the path of Rovers’ number 7, J Booth, who calmly tapped the ball home.

In the 57th minute, Thornton made their first change of the game, as they switched their number 3 for the number 14. Rovers made their first change in the 63rd, with their number 16 coming on for their number 6. It was around this point that a young boy decided to stage a pitch invasion, as he ran across the middle of the pitch to get back to where the adult he was with was stood.

In the 67th minute, Wren Rovers doubled their lead, as the ball was played through to the number 9, C Eastwood, who slammed the ball home. There were calls from the Cleveleys’ players for handball, but from where I was stood, in line with the linesman, I couldn’t see anything.

In an attempt to get back into the game Thornton made their final changes in the 70th minute, as they switched their numbers 15 & 10 for their 11 & 12. Despite being two goals behind, Thornton continued to play good football, and with a bit more luck in front of goal, they may have gotten something out of this game.

With the game all but won, Wren Rovers made another change in the 81st minute, as they switched their number 9 for their number 15. Although it was to be the substitution in the 85th minute that was to provide the most entertainment, as the Thornton Cleveleys’ manager was sent off. The Wren Rovers’ bench had signalled for the change, and the linesman had made the ref aware as soon as the ball went out, the referee acknowledged the substitution, but then lost track of what he was doing, and signalled for the throw-in to be taken. Obviously this caused confusion, as all the players were waiting for the sub to be made, but the referee was in dreamland. Somehow throughout the game the referee had managed to annoy both benches, and it would be fair to say that he hadn’t had his best game, and I think frustration boiled over for the Cleveleys’ manager, as he was sent to the changing rooms for his expression of dissatisfaction. However this entire thing could have been avoided if the referee had been paying attention. The sub was made eventually, with the number 7 making way for the number 12.

Final Score: Blackpool Wren Rovers 2-0 Thornton Cleveleys (Booth 55, Eastwood 67)

Following the whistle, I made my way back to the car, and drove home to Chorley. It was odd being back before 6pm, but it was useful as the Christmas Lights were being turned on in Chorley, and apparently the roads were horrible after 6pm. With winter drawing in, the kick offs at this level are going to be shifted to 2pm, but then again the games will probably be called off due to the weather. I like the 2pm kick off, as you get more of an evening, plus if you want you can watch whatever games been televised.

A win for Blackpool Wren Rovers sees them remain in 1st in the league, they’ve now got a cushion of six points between themselves and Garstang. Garstang have three games in hand over Wren Rovers, although I’ve said it time and time again, just because you have games in hand, it doesn’t mean you have the points. I’d be interested to see Wren Rovers take the step up in the divisions and join the North West Counties Football League, although that would mean that all three clubs would play in the North West Counties Football League, and could also place a financial strain on Wren Rovers as they would have to improve the ground slightly.

Thornton Cleveleys occupy 13th position, and have played twelve games this season, with eleven points on the board. I honestly though that Cleveleys were higher up the league with the way they played today, and with that little bit more luck in front of goal, I could see them having a good season.

Attendance: ??

Cost: £2.90 (£2.20 Carling, 70p Diet Coke)

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157688660374061/with/37629910835/

If any clubs are reading this, and want to use any part of my blog for their website or programme, then please feel free to do so, all I ask is that you credit my work.

AFC Blackpool

AFC Blackpool vs Nelson, NWCFL First Division, The Mechanics, 11/11/17

As many readers of this blog may know, I’ve always been amazed by the number of clubs on the south side of Blackpool. In one road you have three different clubs, all playing at different levels, and all existing within a short distance of each other. There’s Squires Gate, Blackpool Wren Rovers and AFC Blackpool. I’ve been to Squires Gate twice now, and have been meaning to get to the other two clubs for a while, in fact I had meant to go to AFC Blackpool at the start of last season, but the battery in my car died on the day, meaning I was unable to get to The Mechanics that day, but with a clear weekend and no car troubles, I had only one game in mind, AFC Blackpool vs Nelson. I’ve got a soft spot for Nelson which stems from my visit to Little Wembley last season, and with them rooted to the bottom of the league I was hoping that this would be the game where they turned their form around.

AFC Blackpool started life in 1947 as Blackpool Metal Mechanics, before changing their name to Blackpool Mechanics, and they initially played in local leagues on the Fylde coast. In 1951, the club won the Fylde District League Division Two title and were promoted to Division One, where between 1953-54 and 1957-58 they were champions twice and runners-up three times in five consecutive seasons, as well as the league success, they also won a number of local cup competitions, including the Lancashire FA Amateur Shield in 1958. The club took a decision to move up the leagues in 1959 and joined the West Lancashire League, in their second season, 1960-61, they finished as Champions and won the Lancashire FA Amateur Shield again. In 1962 they joined the Lancashire Combination Division Two, which was then disbanded in 1968 with the league becoming a single division. When the North West Counties Football League was formed, the club were placed in Division Three, and were promoted to Division Two, as champions in 1986. They were briefly promoted to Division One for the 1991-92 season, before being relegated back to Division Two, renamed Division One in 2006. In May 2005, the club merged with Lytham St Annes FC, who had just won the West Lancashire League Division One title, with Lytham resigning from the West Lancashire League. The Mechanics once again merged with another side in 2008, this time with Squires Gate Junior FC, with the club being renamed AFC Blackpool. The name change depended on Blackpool FC giving it their full approval, and in July 2008 they confirmed to the Lancashire FA that they had no objections, and were keen to help the club. As champions of Division One in 2011, the club were promoted to the Premier Division, however the club were relegated back to the First Division in 2016, as the club finished bottom of the division.

I’ve covered Nelson’s history before, here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/nelson/ but as I have mentioned the start of this season has been a difficult one, and Nelson currently find themselves bottom of the league with 13 games played, they have only won once, drawn twice and lost ten, meaning that they have five points on the board, they are currently a point behind Daisy Hill who occupy 21st, with three games in hand.

The Mechanics is a smart ground, with hard standing on all four sides, the ground has plenty of room for expansion. From the turnstiles you emerge in a corner of the ground, with the clubhouse to your right and a small terrace behind the goal on your left. The small terrace behind the goal is covered, and houses the more vocal AFC Blackpool fans, along with their drum. On the opposite touchline to the clubhouse, is a small covered seated stand, this stand only has one row of seats and flanks the halfway line, with the dugouts on either side. Behind the other goal is another covered terrace, where a couple of older fans gathered for the game, with their radio which was clear to hear during the game. Finally the clubhouse, runs from near the turnstiles to the halfway line, and has a couple of rows of seats at the front. The clubhouse itself is a smart building, and it houses the dressing rooms, as well as a small club shop, where I managed to buy a couple of matchworn shirts for the price of £1 each, being a football shirt collector I picked up a home and away shirt. Entrance to the game cost £6, with a programme being £1, before the match I had a pint of Carling (Sorry Uncle Ed, there was no real ale) which cost me £3.

For the first half I decided to stand next to the home dugout, stood near to the goal that AFC Blackpool were attacking, with Nelson rooted to the bottom of the league I expected AFC Blackpool to dominate the game. Before the game kicked off there was a minute’s silence in remembrance of those that served to ensure that we would be able to live the lives we currently do.

It took just 4 minutes for the first goal of the game to be scored, as Blackpool’s number 10, Kit Gregory, slammed the ball past the Nelson keeper, following a cross from the right wing.

Around the 12th minute there was a worry for the Nelson, as their keeper was caught by the Blackpool number 9, Alex Taylor. The collision was accidental, as Taylor looked to get onto a loose ball, with the Nelson keeper attempting to gather the ball. The keeper went down in obvious pain, as he Taylor’s boot caught him on his right hand, and my initial thought was that the keeper had broken a bone, however after a bit of treatment the keeper did resume playing, which was lucky for Nelson as I don’t think they had a sub keeper.

The rest of the half was a scrappy affair, Blackpool had the majority of the possession but were seemingly unable to turn this possession into anything of note. Nelson looked a little shell-shocked following the early goal, and were fortunate to go into the break only a goal down. There was a little bit of handbags as the players came off of the pitch, nothing serious just some angry words exchanged. More importantly I noticed that the AFC Blackpool keeper was wearing a Blackpool FC goalkeeper shirt, which was a little odd.

Half Time: AFC Blackpool 1-0 Nelson (Gregory 4)

At half time I headed into the clubhouse, in an attempt to get warm, the weather was clear, but cold, and I had begun to lose the feeling in my feet. As I was thirsty I grabbed a can of Diet Coke for a £1, but as I began to drink it I regretted not buying a cup of coffee, as that would have been a lot more warming.

For the second half, I began by standing near the turnstiles, before moving to stand near the covered terrace, as the temperature dropped I continued moving around the ground in an attempt to keep warm.

It took ten minutes for Blackpool to double their lead, as number 9, Alex Taylor, latched onto a through ball before slotting the ball past the Nelson keeper, with a nice finish. The Blackpool fans behind the goal were making a good amount of noise, mostly imitating the Nelson keeper, repeating whatever he shouted and generally attempting to distract him.

Nelson made their first change on the game in the 57th minute, with their number 10 being replaced by their number 12. Five minutes later AFC Blackpool made their first change with their number 6 making way for their number 12.

Nelson’s task was made harder in the 65th minute, as their young looking number 3 picked up his second yellow of the game. I think frustration had gotten to him, and he saw his second yellow for a poor challenge. Unfortunately the kid had blonde hair, and his departure was greeted with jokes from the Blackpool fans about how the Milky Bar Kid is strong and tough. Following this sending off, Nelson made a change with their number 9 leaving the field to be replaced by their number 13, unlucky for some.

Blackpool made their second change in the 67th minute, with their number 16 replacing the number 4.

Despite being down to 10 men, Nelson suddenly burst into life, and in the 70th minute they put themselves back into the game, as their number 2, Ashley Brierley, now playing as part of a back three, fired home from a tight angle. Now I’m not sure if Brierley was the number 2, as I couldn’t find a teamsheet, but it looked to be the number 2 who was being congratulated for the goal.

Blackpool restored their two goal lead in the 75th minute, as their number 11, Billy McKenna fired home with a lovely finish. Following this goal, Blackpool made their final change with number 9, Alex Taylor, leaving the field to be replaced by the number 14.

Nelson continued to push forward, and it did look like they were the dominate side for parts of the second half. In the 80th minute they won a free kick on the edge of the area, and number 8, Ross Knight, produced a wonderful finish which flew into the top left corner.

For the last ten minutes of the game, the Nelson players attempted to get an equaliser, and despite attending the game as a neutral I began to find myself willing Nelson on, as they deserved a point from the game, plus I always have a soft spot for the underdog, which Nelson very much are at the moment.

AFC Blackpool killed the game off in the 90th minute, as their number 11, Billy McKenna, broke into the box once more, before firing the ball across the face of goal, unfortunately a Nelson player connected with the ball, and sent it into the bottom corner.

Final Score: AFC Blackpool 4-2 Nelson (Gregory 4, Taylor 55, McKenna 75, Own Goal 90 – Brierley 70, Knight 80)

At the final whistle a number of Nelson players slumped to the ground and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them, these lads are turning up to play and are currently struggling for form, hopefully they’ll turn it around soon.

Before I left the ground, I found the volunteer who I was told ran the club shop, she didn’t actually run the club shop, but she allowed me to pick up the shirts I wanted. As I have said these shirts were only meant to be £1 each, but I couldn’t bring myself to only separate with £2, as I know of other clubs that would charge at least £10 a piece for matchworn shirts. Therefore I handed the lady a £5 note, and asked her to keep the change, I know I only paid an extra £3 but every little helps. On a side note, if you are thinking of setting up a Sunday League team or a 5-a-side team then head to AFC Blackpool as you’ll be able to get a good number of shirts for a fraction of the cost!

Three points for AFC Blackpool sees them into 7th place in the league, with sixteen games played they now have twenty-six points on the board, and are in a good place to make a go at getting into the play-offs. I’m glad that I have finally ticked AFC Blackpool off, as I found the club to be well run and friendly, which is all I want from non-league clubs.

Nelson remain bottom of the league, with five points on the board, they still have three games in hand over Daisy Hill, but it is going to be difficult getting out of the relegation zone, as 20th place St Helens are five points ahead of them. Hopefully Nelson can turn it around, as they are a club that I have a lot of time for.

All that remains around this area of Blackpool is Wren Rovers, and I’m hoping to tick them off sooner rather than later, although it will be a sad day when I do so, as it’ll mean that I have been to all of the clubs in the area.

Attendance: 86

Cost: £16 (£6 entry, £1 programme, £3 Carling, £1 can of Diet Coke, £5 for match worn shirts)

Hat-tricks see so far: 1 (This needs to change)

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157666242916319

If any clubs are reading this, and want to use any part of my blog for their website or programme, then please feel free to do so, all I ask is that you credit my work.

St Helens Town AFC

St Helens Town vs Cheadle Town, NWCFL First Division, Ruskin Drive, 28/10/17

With autumn coming round quickly, and bringing the usual number of postponements, I decided to head somewhere with a 3G pitch, as these games are always guaranteed to be on. My initial plan had been to head to Kendal Town for their game with Atherton Colleries, but with Kendal being an hour drive away I didn’t want to risk it, as I didn’t want to pull up outside the ground only to find that the game had been cancelled, as has happened before. As it was Kendal’s game went ahead, but I’d already made my decision.

As a groundhopper I am always grateful to the volunteers that help the clubs that I watch to continue running, and I always feel more grateful to the volunteers of clubs that have gone for long periods of time without a ground to call their own. St Helens are one of these clubs, as in 2002 St Helens left their home of Hoghton Road, and moved in with St Helens RFC, sharing Knowsley Road for a number of years before the Rugby club sold their home and built a new one, the football team were supposed to move to the new Langtree Park but this did not happen, leaving St Helens Town without a home, and during this period the club had to overcome many financial issues to continue to exist. First the club shared with Ashton Town, and then Ashton Athletic. Town also had periods of playing at Prescot Cables, as well as Ashton Town. Finally construction of Ruskin Drive was finished, and St Helens Town finally had a home of their own. Now if it hadn’t been for the dedication of everyone involved at St Helens there is a real chance that the club would have ceased to exist.

Ruskin Drive is a basic, but functional ground. It is clearly a multi-sports venue with the pitch having a number of different markings on it, including 5-a-side pitches, and what I believe to be a hockey pitch, but St Helens Town has a home, and that’s all that matters. The ground is surrounded by a wire fence which can be seen through, as some people took advantage of, and you are only able to view the game from three sides of the pitch, as the side with the dugouts on is inaccessible. Along the touchline opposite the dugouts is a small seater stand which provides the only cover in the ground, and the remainder is hard standing. Oddly there are no toilets in the ground, and you have to leave the ground to trek over to a nearby clubhouse to use the toilet. For groundhopping purists then this isn’t going to be their favourite ground, but to me it was a decent place to watch football, no matter how cold it was. Entrance was £5, and a programme cost £2, and for that £2 you get a very informative and well produced programme!

I have covered the history of St Helens Town before, https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/charnock-richard/, but I was very impressed to see that St Helens Town had memorialised their legendary players, including one Bert Trautmann.

Cheadle Town were formed in 1961, as Grasmere Rovers, by a 14 year old boy, Barrie Dean, who asked his neighbour, Chris Davies, to help his friends form a football team. The name Grasmere Rovers comes from the name of the street that Dean and Davies lived one, Grasmere Avenue. The club began life in the Manchester Junior Football League, and played their games on a Sunday afternoon at The Mellands Playing Fields. In 1972, they joined the Manchester League, and began playing on a Saturday afternoon. In 1982 the club moved to their present home of Park Road, and the 1982-83 season would be the last season that they would be known as Grasmere Rovers. Cheadle Town joined the North West Counties Football League in 1983, and were promoted by default in 1987 when Division Three was incorporated into Division Two. Cheadle have spent most of their life in Division Two of the NWCFL. 1998 saw the start of a three-year escape from Division Two as the club were promoted to Division One, the club struggled with lowly finishes and were ultimately relegated back to Division Two in 2001. They have stayed at this level ever since, and can now claim to be a Division One club again, but only due to the renaming of Division Two in 2008. Interestingly, Cheadle Town are famous throughout non-league football for their foreign tours. When abroad the club travels under the name of AFC Manchester, and have played 96 games in 30 different countries. Cheadle are the first and only English team to have played in and against Cuba, and have also graced the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

Coming into this game, Cheadle sat in 14th position in the league, with eleven games played they have won four, drawn two and lost five with a total of fourteen points on the board. St Helens Town on the other hand occupied 18th place, with thirteen games played they have won three, drawn two and lost eight, with elevens points gained this season.

For reasons only known to the referee, the game kicked off at 14.55, meaning that if anyone had aimed to turn up just in time for kick off then they would have missed the opening five minutes of the match.

Disappointingly, St Helens looked like they had only just met each other before the match, as they struggled to combine more than two passes together at any stage of the first half, and the Cheadle keeper had very little to do, and when he was posed with a shot to stop he did brilliantly.

It was no surprise when Cheadle got themselves into the lead. Cheadle had won a free-kick on the left hand edge of the box, and the ball was whipped into the box, almost beating the keeper, however it rebounded off of the post, and dropped perfectly for number 4, Antony Trucca, who only had to tap the ball into the back of the net.

In the 41st minute, Cheadle doubled their lead, as their number 10, Richard Whyatt, beat the offside trap and fired past the St Helens keeper. It was no surprise that Cheadle were the dominant side, as St Helens were playing poorly. At the half time break, as the teams left the field it was clear to hear the St Helens keeper complaining about his defence, and to be honest I can’t blame him, as Cheadle probably should have found themselves further in the lead, however the St Helens keeper was playing well.

Half Time: St Helens Town 0-2 Cheadle Town (Trucca 12, Whyatt 41)

At half time I made my way down to the very smart looking clubhouse to use the facilities, before stopping for a bit to watch the park football matches going on, which were being hosted on pitches on the far end of the complex. There is a lot going on around Ruskin Drive, with plenty for everyone. (Correction: There are toilets in the ground, they are near the changing rooms! Thanks to John McKiernan for pointing this out!)

During half time, the St Helens manager must have actually got around to introducing his players to each other, as they came out in the second half as a different team, and actually began to string passes and attacking movement together, and came close on a number of occasions.

In the 59th minute they reduced the arrears to a single goal, as their number 9, Shaun Brady, finished off a good attacking move with a good finish. Following a low cross from the right wing, Brady slid the ball home to the delight of the St Helens fans.

Cheadle reinstated their two goal lead in the 65th minute, as they won a penalty. The ball found its way into the box, and with a Cheadle attacker through on goal, it looked like the St Helens keeper knocked him off of balance leaving the ref with no choice but to award the penalty. Cheadle’s number 3, Luke Pearson, stepped up and fired the ball home.

The game then entered a period of stalemate, as both teams attacked and defended well. In the 64th minute, Cheadle made their first change with their number 9, Jake Ambrose, leaving the field, for number 15, Adam Gardiner. A minute later, St Helens made a change with number 12, Matthew Smith, replacing number 8, Hal McHugh. St Helens made their second change in the 70th minute, as number 16, Jake Young, replaced number 7, Alex Ashby. In the 72nd minute, Cheadle made another change, with number 10, Richard Whyatt, being replaced by number 12, Thomas Russell. Cheadle’s final sub came on in the 78th minute, as number 8, Daniel Wood, made way for number 14, Remeece Brown. St Helens made their final change in the 80th minute, as number 14, Beck Murray, came on for number 2, Dominic Whelan.

The final minutes of the game were to be a frantic scramble, as in the 85th minute Shaun Brady doubled his personal tally for the game, as he tapped the ball home, to give St Helens a chance.

However Cheadle were to hold firm, and emerge 3-2 winners. The second half bought a remarkable improvement in the St Helens ranks, and a draw would have most likely have been the fairest result, however St Helens poor first half proved to be their undoing.

Final Score: St Helens Town 2-3 Cheadle Town (Brady 59, 85 – Trucca 12, Whyatt 41, Pearson 65)

I was glad to get back to my car, as I was frozen to the core, and it may actually be time for me to break out the winter clothing. With another ground ticked off I checked my Groundhopper App, which showed that I have now been to 101 grounds, according to the app, although I believe that figure may be slightly higher as I have been to a number of grounds as a kid, but it is hard to track down the games that I have been to.

Defeat for St Helens Town sees them remain in 18th place, with only a point separating them from 19th placed Eccleshall. Luckily for St Helens they are six points above Nelson who currently occupy 21st place in the league, however Nelson do have two games in hand.

A win for Cheadle sees them move up to 13th, and they are now level on points with Holker OB. Cheadle do have a couple of games in hand over the teams above them, but this does not guarantee them points. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to a Cheadle home match soon, but with winter approaching I can see a number of games being called off.

Attendance: 82

Cost: £9 (£5 entry, £2 programme, £1 raffle ticket, £1 can of Diet Coke)

Hat-tricks see so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157688535296924

Haringey Borough

Haringey Borough vs Heybridge Swifts, FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round, Coles Park, 14/10/17

After the disappointment of missing Non-League Day due to work, I was looking forward to getting back to groundhopping. I had initially come down to London to be the Best Man at my friend’s wedding, and had decided to extend my stay after my Uncle Ed contacted me to ask if I fancied taking in Hampton & Richmond Borough’s game against Truro in the FA Cup, however our plans changed as we decided that the Haringey Borough game sounded more interesting. I can now claim to have been to a game at White Hart Lane, despite never having seen Tottenham Hotspur play. How? I hear you ask, well Coles Park, home of Haringey Borough actually stands on White Hart Lane, in Tottenham, and is the only football ground on White Hart Lane. Tottenham Hotspur actually play on the High Road in Tottenham.

My Uncle and I had initially planned to meet at the Mad Bishop and Bear pub at Paddington Station at 11am, but given that we both will be early for our own funerals we met at around 10.30am, and the first ale of the day was consumed. If you have ever read my Uncles’ blog, https://whattimeskickoff.blog/, you will know of his hatred of Carling, and I elected to stay on his good side by drinking ale with him, if you want the details of the ale we drank, and where we drank, then have a look at his blog, as he’ll most likely go into good detail about the pubs. From Paddington we made our way around to Liverpool Street, where we had another drink at the Wetherspoons that stands next to the station, this Wetherspoons was packed with Spurs fans heading to Wembley, and once we had finished our drinks we found ourselves on the Overground to Bruce Grove. From Bruce Grove we headed to my favourite pub of the day, the Beehive. Unfortunately the Beehive didn’t have a large choice of ales on, but this is due to the fact that they aren’t getting the same level of footfall from football fans, due to Spurs being at Wembley. Once Spurs are back at home I can imagine that the Beehive will see their footfall rise back to the levels that they are used to, or at least I hope they do as the Beehive is a cracking pub. After a stop at the Elbow Room, we made our way up to Coles Park, however I did insist on stopping at the Spurs’ Club Shop to buy my Arsenal supporting mum a present.

The New White Hart Lane looks to be an impressive structure, and will be worth a visit once it is completed, however I do wish they would change the name as they do not play on White Hart Lane as I have stated. Then again they’ll probably do a sponsorship deal, and it’ll be known as “Some Company Arena”. We arrived at Coles Park with about five minutes before kick off, and paid £7 at the gate for entry, with a programme costing £2. The facilities at Cole Park are basic in comparison to their near neighbours, but they are well looked after. The pitch is a 3G surface, which I am assuming is used by the community as well as the football team. Along one touchline, stands the Main Stand, which stretches from the turnstiles near the corner flag, to the halfway line. This stand is elevated above pitch level, and I am sure it provides a good vantage point. In front of this stand are the dugouts, and to the left is a stretch of covered terracing. The rest of the ground is hardstanding, with the facilities tucked behind the Main Stand.

Haringey Borough were established in 1973, following the merger of Edmonton and Haringey Borough (formerly Wood Green Town) and they were initially known as Edmonton & Haringey. They started by taking Edmonton’s place in Division One of the Athenian League, and adopted the name of Haringey Borough in 1976, after finishing bottom of the league. When the Athenian League disbanded in 1984, the club joined Division Two North of the Isthmian League, and with many of the players and management team leaving shortly before the start of the 1988-89 season, the club dropped out of the league, and joined the Premier Division of the Spartan League for the 1989-90 season. In 1995 they were renamed as Tufnell Park, one of the names they had had before merging to form Edmonton, but they reverted back to Haringey Borough the following year. When the Spartan League merged with the South Midlands League in 1997 to form the Spartan South Midlands League, the club were placed in Premier Division South for the 1997-98 season, and a seventh placed finish saw them placed in the Premier Division for the following season. Borough were relegated to Division One in 2007, after they finished bottom of the Premier Division, however they earned an immediate promotion the following season, as they finished as Division One runners-up. At the end of the 2011-12 season the club were transferred to the Essex Senior League, and in 2015 they won the Essex Senior League, earning promotion to Division One North of the Isthmian League.

Heybridge Swifts were formed in 1880 as Heybridge Football Club, and became members of the Essex & Suffolk Border League. In 1931, the club won the Division One title, and were promoted to the Senior Division. In the 1949-50 season the club joined the Premier Division of the South Essex League, but returned to the Essex & Suffolk Border League after one season. After finishing as runners-up in 1970, they were founder members of the Essex Senior League in 1971, and won three consecutive league titles between 1981-82 and 1983-84. After their third title the club moved to the Division Two North of the Isthmian League, and were champions in 1990, earning promotion to Division One. In 1994-95, the club reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup for the first time, losing 1-0 to Gillingham. In 1996, Heybridge finished as Division One runners up, and were promoted to the Premier Division. In 1997-98, the club again reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup, losing 3-0 to Bournemouth, and another 1st Round appearance came in 2002-03, ending in a 7-0 defeat to Bristol City. Heybridge narrowly missed out on promotion to the Conference South on two occasions, reaching the play-offs twice, however they were to remain in the Premier Division until 2009, when they were relegated to Division One North. Notable former players include Dean Holdsworth, Peter Taylor, Paul Parker, Olly Murs (That lad from the X-Factor) and Mark Wright (From TOWIE).

To reach this round, Haringey Borough have overcome Bowers & Pitsea, Hitchin Town, Welling United and Bideford. Heybridge Swifts have faced Haverhill Rovers, Arlesey Town, Metropolitan Police and Frome Town.

The game got off to a good start with both clubs showing what a place in the 1st Round would mean to them, especially as some big names would be in the hat for the draw, such as Portsmouth. It was to be Heybridge that took the lead though in the 14th minute, as following a defensive error, the ball ended up in the back of the net, with Haringey’s number 4, Lawrence Yiga, being credited for the own goal.

The rest of the first half was a cagey affair, with the highlight being the little lad who accidentally threw his stuffed toy onto the pitch. After a few minutes, and being politely asked by myself, the linesman returned the toy, which was greeted by a cheer by the people stood on the touchline.

Half Time: Haringey Borough 0-1 Heybridge Swifts (Yiga (OG) 14)

At half time we took a walk around to the clubhouse in search of more ale, but none was to be found, so instead we headed to the refreshment hut next to the Main Stand, as this had no queue. The other refreshment hut seemed to have more on offer, but there was a large queue at this one. I decided to pay £3.50 for a Steak & Kidney pie, something that I’d never eaten before, and fairplay to Haringey Borough, I think I’ll be eating a few more Steak & Kidney pies in the future. During the break, I remarked that Haringey would need to come out of the blocks quickly to rescue their chances of remaining in the FA Cup.

Haringey Borough did start quickly, and equalised through their number 9, Ralston Gabriel, in the 57th minute. Gabriel had little to do apart from tap the ball home at the near post, following some good attacking play.

Heybridge were swift in restoring their lead, as their number 10, Samuel Bantick, broke clear of the Haringey defence, and fired the ball home to put Heybridge back into the lead.

In the 69th minute, Heybridge made their first change with their number 10, Samuel Bantick, leaving the field for the number 12, Joshua Fagbohun.

A minute after the change, Heybridge were awarded a penalty, as one of their strikers was fouled inside the area, it was a clear penalty and there were no complaints from Haringey. Heybridge’s number 9, Luke Callander, stepped up and made no mistake with his finish.

Haringey made their first change in the 72nd minute, as they swapped their number 10, Jamie O’Donoghue, with their number 16, Joseph Benjamin.

Heybridge killed the game off in the 73rd minute, as their number 9, Luke Callander, latched onto a cross from the right wing, and fired a composed shot past the Haringey keeper, to all but ensure that their name would be in the hat for the FA Cup First Round draw.

In the 75th minute, Haringey replaced their number 6, Ramil Sheriff, with their number 14, Kai Heather. Two minutes later, Heybridge made a change with their number 9, Luke Callander, leaving the field to be replaced by their number 18, Reece Conway. Heybridge made their final change in the 87th minute, as number 11, Juan Luque, made way for number 15, Marley Andrews.

Haringey pulled one back in the 87th minute, as number 7, Ruaridh Kay, found himself on the end of a corner, before dispatching the ball into the back of the net. Haringey followed this goal up by replacing their number 9, Ralston Gabriel, with their number 17, Ayrton Coley.

Final Score: Haringey Borough 2-4 Heybridge Swifts (Gabriel 57, Kay 87 – Yiga (OG) 14, Bantick 65, Callander 69, 73)

Following the final whistle we made a quick exit, and made our way to the Haringey Borough bus stop, before getting onto the Overground back to Seven Sisters, where we then made our way to Marylebone, where my Uncle would be getting the train back to Birmingham from. Luckily he had misread his train time, as he had initially thought it was 19.10, when in fact it was the 21.10, which meant that we had a few more hours of drinking time, which we enjoyed in a pub near to Euston Station, before saying our goodbyes on the Bakerloo line, as he jumped off at Marylebone and I carried on through to Paddington.

A well-deserved win for Heybridge sees them enter the First Round of the FA Cup for the fourth time in their history, and hopefully they draw a big name out of the hat, as I am sure that the financial reward would be huge for them. In fact hopefully they overcome whoever they draw, and reach the Second Round. Although I’m sure their manager won’t want them to become distracted by the FA Cup.

Defeat for Haringey sees them exit the FA Cup, which means one less competition for them to have to concentrate on. Hopefully this doesn’t disrupt their form in the league, and they can go on to have a good season.

Attendance: 401

Cost: £12.50

Hat-tricks see so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157687354884270

Prescot Cables

Prescot Cables vs Ossett Albion, Evo Stik North Division One North, Volair Park, 30/9/17

I had intended to head to Ashton Athletic vs Chorley in the FA Cup, however I woke up late, unusually late for a dad of two, and that meant that with Chorley’s game kicking off at 12.30pm I had to find an alternative. After scanning the Non League Paper, I decided on Prescot Cables vs Ossett Albion. Somehow I have managed to convince myself that I have watched Ossett Albion before, but after having a look through the list of blogs that I have written I soon realised that I had only every seen their neighbours, Ossett Town.

After a quick drive down from Chorley, I soon arrived in the town of Prescot, and began the hunt for parking, after finding that the street parking around the ground had been taken, I headed back to the long stay car-park that I had found, and paid £2.40 for parking. Soon enough I found myself back at the turnstiles, where I paid £8 for entry and a further £2 for a programme. From the turnstiles I headed to the Social Club, and bought a pint of Whalloper Gold for £2.60, I was expecting it to be a lager, however it was a very nice pale ale, and if I hadn’t had been driving I would have headed back for another.

Volair Park, simply put, is an amazing example of how Non-League grounds should look. It is dominated on one touchline by an imposing Main Stand which offers great views of the ground, albeit with a few supporting pillars, as the seating area is elevated above the pitch. To the left of the Main Stand is a section of uncovered hard standing, where the vocal Prescot fans gathered for the first half. Opposite the Main Stand is more uncovered hard standing with a grass bank behind, if Prescot were to advance up the leagues it would be easy to expand on this area, as it is large enough to hold a good sized stand. To the right of the Main Stand are the turnstiles, and a section of half covered, half uncovered standing. From the moment I walked through the turnstiles, I was in awe of the ground as it is an impressive ground.

Prescot Cables were established in 1884, and have also been known as Prescot and Prescot Town. The “Cables” part of their name comes from the largest local employer, British Insulated Cables, which was founded in 1890. Cables joined the Lancashire Combination in 1927, taking over the record of Fleetwood who resigned after playing 22 matches. Cables were runners-up in the Combination in three consecutive seasons from 1930-31 to 1932-33. However the glory years weren’t to return for another 20 years. Cables experienced, possibly, their most successful period between 1954 and 1960. In 1955 they finished as Lancashire Combination Division Two runner up, and gained promotion to Division One. In 1957 they finished as champions of the Lancashire Combination, and in the next two seasons they finished as runners-up. The 1954-55 season saw them register their record victory in a competitive game as they beat Great Harwood 18-3. Cables reached the FA Cup First Round in 1957-58 and in 1959-60, however they were beaten by Hartlepool and Darlington respectively. By 1975 fortunes at the club had dipped drastically, and the side joined the Mid Cheshire Football League, and were champions in 1977. In 1978 they joined the Cheshire County League as founder members of Division Two, and finished as champions in 1980, gaining promotion to Division One. In 1982 the Cables became founder members of the North West Counties League and were promoted to Division One in 1987. In 2002 they finished as runners-up and were champions the following season, seeing them gain promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One. Cables began playing the Northern Premier League Premier Division in 2004, after a re-shuffle of the leagues. In 2005 a new football committee was formed as the Supporter’s Club took over the running of the team. In 2009 the club dropped back into the Division One North after finishing 22nd. Prescot have remained in the Division One North ever since, but went viral at the end of the 2016-17 season as they won the Liverpool Senior Cup for the first time in their history, and after the first goal was scored, a number of fans fell through a perimeter fence.

Ossett Albion were formed in 1944 as a junior club, and eventually became a senior club, beginning their history playing in the West Riding County Amateur League and the West Yorkshire League, before joining the Yorkshire League in 1957. Albion won promotion from Division Two in 1959, and finished as runners-up in 1960. Albion again finished as runners-up in 1962, with the club continuing to achieve regular top 4 places for several years afterwards, before they were relegated back to Division Two in 1972. Albion bounced back in 1974, and finally won the Yorkshire League in 1975. However they were relegated again in 1978, before winning the Division Two title in 1979, however they were relegated again in 1980 and again won the Division Two title in 1981. In 1982, the Yorkshire League joined up with the Midland League to form the Northern Counties East Football League, and Ossett were placed in Division One East, however league re-organisations saw them moved into Division One Central in 1984, and Division One in 1985. Albion were promoted in 1987 as the won the Division One title. Albion finished as champions in 1999 but were denied promotion as one of their changing rooms wasn’t big enough. In 2001 the club finished 2nd in the league, but were promoted to the Northern Premier League Division One instead of champions Brigg Town. In 2002 the club finished bottom of the NPL Division One and were relegated back to the Northern Counties East League, but in 2004 they were champions on a dramatic final day of the season, they pipped Eastwood Town to the title by virtue of scoring the most goals with the two clubs locked on the same number of points and the same goal difference. Albion have remained in the NPL Division One North ever since, and have twice finished just outside of the play-offs, however they have also struggled against relegation. Recently the founders and directors of Unita, a local based facilities management company, took the reigns of Ossett Albion in a move which sees the club inherit a ready-made football academy.

Coming into this game, Prescot sit 5th in the league with 11 games played, 6 wins, 1 draw and 4 defeats meaning that they have 19 points on the board. Ossett Albion currently sit in 21st place having played 10 matches, earning 1 win, 1 draw and 8 defeats, which means they currently have 4 points on the board, and are only a point above Goole AFC who currently sit bottom of the league.

The pitch at Volair Park looked like it had seen heavy rain recently, and there was a real chance that the pitch would turn into a mud-bath especially as the rain continue to fall in a light drizzle during the first half. Before the game had even begun the Ossett Albion number 3, James Kay had introduced himself to the linesman commenting that the linesman would probably be sick of him within five minutes.

It took only two minutes for Prescot to take the lead, as they won a corner on the right hand side, the ball was delivered into the box where Alan Burton, number 6, was on hand to fire home a powerful finish, sending the Cables fans behind the goal into raptures. The same fans were to remain vocal throughout the game, with the Albion keeper being given the nickname of “Malfoy” due to his blonde hair.

Speaking of keepers, Prescot’s stopper, Marcus Burgess, was sent off in the 24th minute for handling outside of his area, it looked like a mistake from where I was stood, however the referee deemed Burgess’ actions worthy of a red card, and Cables found themselves down to ten men. Without a keeper on the bench, Lloyd Dean went between the sticks after playing the opening 24 minutes as a striker. Dean was to have a good game in goal, with his defence working hard to ensure that he wasn’t placed under a large amount of pressure.

Albion were to find a way through the Prescot defence in the 43rd minute, as the ball was delivered into the box from a corner, Albion’s number 9, Jason Price, found himself on the end of the ball and made no mistake with the chance that he had been presented with.

Half Time: Prescot Cables 1-1 Ossett Albion (Burton 2 – Price 43)

At half time I headed to the refreshment hut, and bought a can of Pepsi Max for a £1, before heading into the stand, as the rain had become heavier, and I sought shelter in the stand whilst waiting for the rain to stop. The stand is a mismatch of different coloured seats which provides the ground with a bit more charm.

As soon as the rain stopped I made my way out of the stand and stood on the uncovered terrace by the turnstiles, despite being a man down, and with their striker in goal, Prescot continued to put pressure on the Albion backline, and in all fairness were unlucky not to take the lead again, as they had plenty of chances to do so.

With both teams snatching at chances, the game fizzled out, and a draw looked to be the fairest result. The usual changes occurred, with Albion making their first change in the 64th minute, as their number 7, Callum Charlton, made way for their number 12, Ross Hardaker, and in the 83rd minute, Andy Welsh, the number 11, made way for Kieron Scargill, number 14. Prescot made their changes in quick succession, with Reece McNally, number 3, leaving the field in the 79th minute, for number 16, Andy Scarisbrick, and in the 80th minute Josef Faux, number 7, and Harry Cain, number 11, made way for Jordan Southworth, number 17, and Tunde Olowabi, number 15.

Prescot did have a number of chances towards the end of the game to grab the winner, but “Malfoy” (Brett Souter) in the Albion net was equal to everything thrown at him, and the game ended with the scores level.

Final Score: Prescot Cables 1-1 Ossett Albion (Burton 2 – Price 43)

At the final whistle I made my way out of the ground and back to the car, on the way back to the car I phoned my wife to rave about Volair Park, as I absolutely loved the ground, and will be back in the future. As I have mentioned previously my Uncle Ed has started his own blog, mainly detailing the trauma of following Birmingham City, however he is interested in groundhopping around the Non-League scene as well, and I’ve added Prescot Cables to the list of clubs I’d like to introduce him to.

A draw for Prescot sees them remain in 5th place in the league, they know have 20 points on the board, but have played the most games in the league, meaning that they are vulnerable to the sides around them, all of whom have a game in hand over them. Currently cables are 4 points off of the top of the table, however top side South Shields currently have 3 games in hand over Cables, and that gap could become a lot greater.

Ossett Albion have also remained in the same place, with the draw seeing them remain in 21st. They are still a point ahead of Goole AFC, but will need to find a winning formula soon if they are going to comfortably beat the drop. Unfortunately for Albion the teams above them, Colne and Skelmersdale, both have games in hand, with Colne having 4 games in hand.

Remember that it is Non-League day next weekend, so get down to your local Non-League club and give them your support!

Attendance: 295

Cost: £13.60

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157685739997632