Charnock Richard (FA Cup)

Charnock Richard vs Penistone Church, FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, Mossie Park

Regular readers of my blog will probably have looked at the top of this blog and noticed that I am writing about a re-visit to a ground, obviously I don’t tend to do this, as once I have visited a ground I don’t normally blog about it again, however there is a reason for this, and that reason is that this would be the first game for Charnock Richard in the FA Cup. Following their promotion to the NWCFL Premier Division, Charnock are now eligible for the FA Cup, and what kind of groundhopper would I be if I passed up the opportunity to see history in the making?

I had meant to attend the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round last season, however car troubles meant that I was unable to do so, so this year I wasn’t going to be taking any risks, so I decided to walk to Charnock Richard from Chorley, a walk that Google Maps stated was 2.2 miles and would take me 45 minutes, however I set off from my house at 1:50pm, and arrived at Mossie Park at 2:20pm, shaving 15 minutes off of the expected time it would take me to arrive, which was good as it allowed me to have a pint of Amstel at the social club.

There was a slight doubt that I would be able to write this blog, as in June I broke the scaphoid bone in my right hand, meaning that for the last couple of weeks I’ve been in a cast, which obviously made typing difficult. Luckily the cast came off during the week, and I now have to wear a splint to support my thumb. Because my father will be reading this blog, and because he loves the story of how I broke my scaphoid, I thought I’d include it here. I was on holiday, the second day of my holiday to be exact, and my parents very kindly agreed to babysit the kids, so my wife and I headed to the bar on the holiday park, and after a pint we went into the arcade, where I challenged my wife to a go on a punching machine, my wife initially declined but soon relented, and after she went first I decided that I had to be macho and beat her score. I haven’t thrown a punch since primary school, and although I hit a score of 600 odd, I broke a bone for the first time.

Stories of poor decisions aside, I have obviously blogged about Charnock Richard before, a blog that you can find here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/charnock-richard/. So therefore I won’t be repeating their history here, although I do want to congratulate Charnock on their promotion to the NWCFL Premier Division, Charnock are a fantastic club, and I always enjoy visiting, so I am looking forward to seeing how high this club can climb.

Today’s opponents would be Penistone Church, who are based in Penistone, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. They currently play in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division. Church were formed in 1906 following the merger of Penistone Choirboys and Penistone Juniors, and they initially played in the Sheffield Amateur League and the Penistone League. Church were the first winners of the Sheffield Junior Cup in 1909, and they won this trophy again in 1937. Church were founder members of the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League, following the merger of the Hatchard League and the Sheffield Association League. Penistone were to reach the Premier Division in 1995, and became a yo-yo club as they flitted between the Premier Division and Division One on a couple of occasions. Church were to finish as Premier Division runners-up in 2003, but spent another year in Division One following relegation in 2007. Church soon established themselves as a top side in the league, and in 2014 were promoted to the NCEL Division One. In the 2015 to 2016 season the club qualified for the inaugural Division One Play-Offs however they missed out on promotion after losing in the Semi Finals to AFC Emley. Church weren’t to make the same mistake again, and in the 2016 to 2017 season they overcame AFC Emley in the Semi Finals, before beating Grimsby Borough in the Final to win promotion to the Premier Division.

Entry into Mossie Park cost me £5, with a further £2 going to a programme. Upon buying my programme I was handed a pen, and a weird box, as the sponsors of this game, The Beardwood Hospital, were in a generous mood. Before the game I spent my time trying to work out what the box was, and I soon discovered it was an anti-bacterial hand wash, which to be fair is an odd souvenir to get from a football match.

The game burst into life from kick off, with Charnock winning a penalty in the 5th minute. Their number 10, Jonathan Hession, broke into the box and was fouled, with the ref given no choice but to signal for the penalty. Unfortunately Hession looked to have rolled his ankle as he went down, and he was replaced by number 12, Luke Barrow. There was a slight delay as Hession was helped off of the pitch, and it wasn’t until the 7th minute that number 8, Nathan Fairhurst, was able to take the penalty. The delay didn’t put him off, and he fired the penalty home nicely.

After the initial flurry of action the game calmed down, with Charnock being the more dominant side, however the game was again to burst into life, as Luke Barrow fired home to double Charnock’s lead in the 33rd minute. Barrow picked the ball up just outside of the area, and curled a beautiful finish into the back of the net.

Immediately Church sprang into action, and their number 3, Jordan Barnett, was on hand to net a header, in the 35th minute. Barnett wasn’t content with just scoring the one goal however, and two minutes later he grabbed the equaliser, although I’m not sure how much he knew of it as the ball rebounded off of his back and past the outstretched fingers of the Charnock keeper.

Church weren’t finished, and they went from 2-0 down, to 3-2 up in the 42nd minute, as their number 8, Jordan Corduri, latched onto the ball, and fired a low finish home from the edge of the area. Church had had three clear chances, all from corners, and had scored all three.

Half Time: Charnock Richard 2-3 Penistone Church (Fairhurst 7, Barrow 33 – Barnett 35, 37, Corduri 42)

Just before half time I headed around to the refreshment hut, where I bought a pie, it was lucky that I headed round to the refreshment hut, as just by being there I stopped a stray ball from flying inside the refreshment hut and causing chaos. Although I just wish the ball hadn’t hit me on my right hand, as I did have to wonder whether I had done any more damage to my hand.

Pie in hand, I decided to walk around to the opposite side of the ground, as I expected Charnock to come flying out of the half time break, desperate to get an equaliser.

Charnock did come out strong following the break, and had a couple of good chances to get back into the game, and were able to drag themselves back into the competition, as they equalised in the 67th minute, as number 7, Matthew Davison, fired a header home to keep Charnock’s FA Cup dreams alive. Following the goal, Penistone made their first change, with number 11, Ryan Smith, making way for number 12, Scott Whittington.

In the 76th minute, Church put themselves back into the lead. Church had won a free-kick in a dangerous position, and thundered the ball against the bar, the ball dropped down and seemingly bounced clear of the line. The Church players appealed which seemed to cause the Charnock defence to turn off, and Scott Whittington reacted first, nodding the ball home.

Charnock made a change in the 81st minute, with Luke Barrow leaving the field to be replaced by number 14, Oliver Evans.

Unfortunately, Charnock’s task of getting back into the game was made a lot harder, as Matthew Davison picked up his second yellow card, and therefore a red card, in the 84th minute. Honestly I’m not sure what was going though Davison’s head, as he put in a completely unnecessary challenge on Adam Rhodes, the Church keeper. I can understand the frustration that Davison may have felt, but he had been a major thorn in the side of the Penistone defence, and it was disappointing to see him get sent off.

Given that they were now a goal down, and a man down, Charnock had nothing to lose and in the 87th minute, number 2, Spencer Bibby made way for number 15, Matthew Leatham. However despite throwing people forward, and having a good number of chances, Charnock were unable to get themselves back into the game.

Final Score: Charnock Richard 3-4 Penistone Church (Fairhurst 7, Barrow 33, Davison 67 – Barnett 35, 37, Corduri 42, Whittington 76)

Following the final whistle, I made my way out of the ground and headed back down the road to Chorley. It had been a disappointing defeat for Charnock as I had hoped to see them win their first ever FA Cup match, but it wasn’t to be, and Penistone fully deserved the win. In fact this was Penistone’s first ever win in the FA Cup and they will now face Litherland REMYCA in the next round.

As I’ve said it was disappointing to see Charnock lose, Charnock have a very good side together, and I would expect them to do well in the NWCFL Premier Division this season. Penistone Church played well today and hopefully this will be the start of a very good season for them, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how far they can go in the FA Cup, although I can imagine they won’t be dreaming of Wembley just yet.

A seven goal thriller was a great way to start the season, and I am fully looking forward to the season ahead, as if every match is like this one then it will be a very entertaining season indeed.

Attendance: 254

Cost: £7 (I’ve forgotten how much the food was)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157687247548275

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FC Halifax Town

FC Halifax Town vs Chorley, National League North Play Off Final, The Shay

With Chorley’s battling performance against Kidderminster seeing them gain a place in the Play Off Final, my season was to be extended by a further game, as with Chorley on the cusp of gaining promotion to the National League Premier, there was nowhere else I would rather spend my Saturday than at The Shay, home of FC Halifax Town.

However there was the small matter of going to work first, luckily my shift ended at 1pm, and after a quick walk up to a cashpoint on Preston Fishergate, I headed back to my car, and set off for Halifax. I’d been up since 6am, and after a poor night’s sleep there was part of me that was desperate to go home and climb back into bed, but the excitement of seeing Chorley play kept me going. The journey to Halifax was pretty straight forward, and it was smooth sailing until I reached Halifax itself, where I encountered some heavy traffic, which was seemingly caused by other drivers being incapable of merging from two lanes into one. With fifteen minutes before kickoff, I found some street parking, up a steep hill, and quickly made my way down to The Shay, as I entered the car-park near to the South Stand, I was relieved to hear that kick off had been delayed by fifteen minutes, and it was clear to see why, as the queues for the home ends stretched for a good distance. After following directions from a friendly steward for the away end, I paid £15 for entrance, and took my place on the North Stand.

The Shay is an impressive ground, with both stands behind the goals being large terraced stands, it does lead to a good atmosphere when the attendance is large. To the right of the North Stand is the Skircoat Stand where the Chorley fans were to be sat of they didn’t fancy standing on the North Stand, only half of the Skircoat Stand was to be used, as the majority of the away support had made the choice to stand on the North Stand. To the left of the North Stand is the Main Stand, which provided the seating for the home fans, this is an impressive looking stand, despite the scaffolding down at the far end, this stand was originally constructed in the 2001-2002 season but due to financial issues it was left unfinished for a number of years before being opened in 2010, the scaffolding at the far end was intended to be a hospitality area, but this was not completed along with the Main Stand.

FC Halifax Town were founded in 2008 following the financial meltdown of Halifax Town AFC, as the original club were placed into administration in the 2007-2008 season, with huge tax debts burying this original club after almost 100 years of history. Following the taxman winding up the original club, FC Halifax Town were formed, and began life in the Northern Premier League Division One North, a poor start to the 2008-2009 season culminated in the sacking of manager Jim Vince, following an upturn in fortunes, Halifax won just two of their final 14 league games, with Nigel Jemson stepping into the manager’s position for the remainder of the season, with their first season finishing in a final position of 8th. Neil Aspin took over the helm for the 2009-2010 season, and the club got off to a better start, and despite failing to record a game for over a month during heavy weather during the winter, and Lancaster City dominating the promotion race, Halifax were able to claw their way back to the top of the league with a 2-2 draw with Clitheroe sealing the title and promotion for the Shaymen. Life in the Northern Premier League started with a number of signings, notably Mark Bowyer from Darlington and Jamie Vardy (I wonder what happened to him?) from Stocksbridge Park Steels. With the Shaymen in goal scoring form, they won the title after winning 2-0 at Retford United, which saw them promoted to the Conference North for the 2011-2012 season. Jamie Vardy was to depart for Fleetwood Town at the start of the season, and with only two wins from their opening nine games, Town responded well by winning four of their next six games. Halifax were to do well in the FA Cup this season, reaching the first round for the first time since their reformation, and were drawn at home to League One Charlton Athletic, the eventual defeat, and score line of 4-0 to Charlton, does not reflect the good account that the Shaymen gave of themselves in that game. A play off place was secured, however following a 2-2 draw in the first leg with Gainsborough Trinity, Halifax were to lose the second leg 1-0, forcing them to settle for another season in the Conference North. The 2012-2013 season started with a cull of the previous squad with only nine members of the previous squad being retained, a number of high profile signings were made, with Jason Jarret, Dale Johnson and Gareth Seddon all signing for the club. A number of postponements during the winter saw a tough backlog of fixtures, with the club battling to a 5th placed finish, after beating Guiseley in the semi-finals, Halifax found themselves against Brackley in the final, with a 1-0 win seeing Halifax promoted into the Conference Premier. The 2013-2014 season saw the Shaymen go on an incredible run, as they went from mid-table to 5th place, and therefore a spot in the play-offs, a first leg win over Cambridge, saw them go into the second leg 1-0 up on aggregate, and only 90 minutes away from Wembley, however it wasn’t to be, with Cambridge winning 2-0 in the second leg. Following the unbelievable end to the previous season, expectations for the 2014-2015 season were high, with many believing that Halifax could make their way back to the Football League and despite a good start to the season, a stuttering end to the season the club finished outside of the play-off places, with a loud minority of fans not pleased by this, as they believed that Halifax should have made the play-offs at the very least. Neil Aspin was to be sacked ten games into the season, as they only collected five points from those games. Aspin was replaced by Darren Kelly, however Kelly was to last less than two months with six defeats out of seven games, with Jim Harvey taking over as caretaker. A memorable run in the FA Trophy took its toll on Halifax’s league form with the club only winning twice in ten games, dropping back into the relegation zone with it coming down to needing a win over Macclesfield, however they only managed a 1-1 draw and dropped back into the National League North. Despite relegation the Shaymen still wanted to end the season on a high, and in the FA Trophy they beat Grimsby 1-0, earning them the FA Trophy. Jim Harvey’s contract wasn’t renewed, and he was replaced by North Ferriby United manager Billy Heath. A third placed finish in the National League North saw Halifax take on Salford City in the play-off semi-finals, both legs finished in 1-1 draws, and it took penalties for Halifax to reach the final, which leads us nicely into today’s match.

I’ve covered Chorley’s history before, so I won’t repeat that here, just have a look through my blog to find the history of Chorley FC. However going into this season it would be fair to say that expectations weren’t high and many fans were expecting a comfortable mid-table finish. Chorley were helped by Darlington failing to meet ground grading criteria meaning that Chorley’s 6th placed finish saw them qualify for a play-off place. Following a 1-0 defeat a Victory Park at the hands of Kidderminster Harriers, in the first leg, Chorley travelled to Aggborough with it all to do, and a 19th minute strike from Jordan Carver bought the score level on aggregate before super-sub Adam Roscoe sent Chorley into the final with his goal in the 93rd minute.

With both sides knowing that promotion was at stake, the first half was nervy with neither side taking too much of an attacking initiative, however that isn’t to mean that there weren’t chances for either side in the first half, and both keepers had to be alert to the threat that their opposition attackers posed.

Both sides were forced into first half changes, with Halifax having to replace their left back Josh Wilde in the 24th minute with Tom Denton taking to the field in his place. Chorley had to make a change in the 38th minute with Stephen Jordan replaced by Kieran Charnock, as Jordan suffered a suspected groin injury.

Half Time: FC Halifax Town 0-0 Chorley

With the queue for food being absolutely massive, I decided to take a seat on the terrace and read the programme which had cost me £3. The content inside was good, but I get the feeling that it wasn’t put together by the home side, with equal content given to each side, unless that is how Halifax do their programmes, and if that is the case then fair play to them as the programme was interesting.

It took a minute for the deadlock to be broken, as a scrappy bit of play saw Halifax play their way up the field, with the ball being slipped through to Kevin Roberts, who got the better of Adam Blakeman before firing his shot under Richie Branagan to put Halifax into the lead.

Chorley made a second change in the 58th minute with Jason Walker replacing Josh O’Keefe. Two minutes after this change, Chorley won a free-kick on the edge of the area, and the man stood next to me uttered the words “This is going in.” Sure enough Adam Blakeman fired the ball past the wall and into the bottom corner, to send the Chorley fans into raptures. Now I’m not sure why some Chorley fans decided to encroach onto the pitch, but I’m just going to put that down to over-excitement.

Halifax then made their second change in the 62nd minute, with Cliff Moyo replacing Dion Charles. It didn’t take long for Moyo to introduce himself as he picked up a booking for an off the ball incident with Jordan Carver.

Tom Denton was then also lucky to escape an early bath, as he elbowed Scott Leather, interestingly enough Halifax’s own match report describes the elbow as blatant, but the referee had made his decision and Halifax continued with eleven men.

The final change for Halifax came in the 78th minute as David Lynch left the field to be replaced by Danny Clarke. With the prospect of extra time looming, this was an interesting substitution and it became clear that Halifax wanted to end this game in normal time. However Chorley were to finish the second half the stronger of the two, and extra time became an inevitability.

Second Half: FC Halifax 1-1 Chorley (Roberts 46 – Blakeman 60)

After making a quick call to the wife to let her know that I would be home later than expected, I took my place back on the terrace, and began to search my fingers for nails to bite. I’ve never enjoyed extra time, and I despise penalty shootouts.

However with the first half of extra time underway, it was to be Halifax that put themselves into the lead, as Scott Garner popped up with a looping header in the 103rd minute.

Chorley then began to throw everything at Halifax, with Adam Roscoe replacing Dale Witham in the 105th minute. Branagan had seemingly abandoned his goal and was now performing more of a midfield position, and the match started to resemble a kick around during lunch at high school, one side had taken the lead and everyone knew that the bell was about to ring to signal the start of lessons, so the losing side elected to play rush keeper. This worked well for Chorley with Branagan’s long kicking ability coming into use, and as one man near me remarked, “I’d rather lose 3-1 but give everything.”

Everything was what Chorley did give, and there was to be an excellent chance late on in the game. With a corner awarded to Chorley, Branagan made his way into the box, and the ball fell for him perfectly, he threw himself acrobatically at the ball but his volley narrowly cleared the bar. However there was to be one last chance, as another corner was whipped in with the ball again landing for Branagan, however his shot went wide of goal.

Full Time: FC Halifax 2-1 Chorley (Roberts 46, Garner 103 – Blakeman 60)

As the final whistle blew, the Halifax fans stormed the pitch and who can blame them? They’d just watched their team win promotion back to the National League Premier in a hard-fought encounter. Congratulations to FC Halifax, I hope that the next time we meet is in the National League Premier.

I stayed behind with the rest of the Chorley fans to applaud the boys for putting everything they had into this game, part of me began to wonder what would have happened if Branagan’s volley had been inches lower, causing the game to go to penalties, would I be sat here writing about how Chorley were going to be playing in the National League Premier? However that wasn’t to be, and FC Halifax deserved the win, they took their chances and defended well until the end despite heavy pressure from the Magpies.

I’m not heartbroken by the result, I’m more disappointed that we had gotten so close to promotion and had fallen at the last hurdle, however as I said at the start of the blog many Chorley fans were expecting mid-table, so to have gotten this far was brilliant. We’ll pick ourselves up and continue into the next season, hopefully we’ll keep the majority of the squad as we do have a good squad here, a few additions would be good, but we’ll have to see how the summer goes.

This isn’t to be the last blog of this season, as I’ll be attending a charity match on Sunday 28th May, as the Twincess Select XI take on Jamie Vermiglio’s Chorley All Stars in a 1pm kick off. This match will be played in aid of Down Syndrome Association, and tickets are expected to be limited, if you are able to get to the game, I would recommend buying a ticket sooner rather than later, as this looks to be a good event, seeing as how it coincides with the Chorley Beer Festival.

Also before ending this blog I’d like to say congratulations to Longridge who beat Blackpool Wren Rovers 1-0 to seal the West Lancashire Football League Premier Division title. On sadder news, as a Shrewsbury Town fan I am upset by the news that Chris Smith has passed, and would like to extend my best wishes to his family.

Thanks for reading, and remember that football is not only a television show, go and support your local non-league team!

Attendance: 7920 (1,941 away)

Cost: £18

Movember Total: £32.50 (£1.50 from today)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157683799076405

YouTube: FC Halifax Town vs Chorley (Reminder the gaming videos on this channel contain NSFW language and those that are offended by swearing or violence should avoid these. The groundhopping videos are clean however, mostly clean anyway.)

Longridge Town

Longridge Town vs Vickerstown, West Lancashire Football League Premier Division, Mike Riding Ground

As I said at the start of the last blog, I’m not ready for this season to end, that’s probably because I don’t feel like I’ve seen as much football as I did last season, but then again a combination of work, illness, lack of money and hangovers hasn’t helped. What I have seen this season has been a number of good games, and even better grounds, which as a Groundhopper is all I can ask for. I still haven’t seen a 0-0 draw, although that’ll probably happen soon. With this likely to be my last blog post of the season, I decided against my original idea of heading to Coppull, and instead googled the directions for Longridge.

Longridge sits outside of Preston, and from what I saw, as I drove through, it is a pretty little area, one that I would certainly like to go back and explore. In all fairness I should have set off earlier, to allow me to explore the area before the game, which is something I may start doing next season. I couldn’t enjoy the scenery during the drive as much as I normally would, as I had made the genius decision to not fill my petrol tank before I left Chorley, believing that I would have enough petrol, I was lucky enough to find a Texaco garage in Longridge, just before I ran out, and honestly I’ve never been happier to see a garage before!

Longridge Town play at the Mike Riding Ground, and the outskirts of the town, a well maintained area, hemmed in by houses on one side, and fields on the other. After pulling into the car-park, and getting out of the car, I headed over to the admission gate, where I paid £3 to get in, which included a free programme and a teamsheet inside the programme. Yes, you read that right, Longridge Town provide a teamsheet with the programme! It’s a bloody brilliant idea and I wish more clubs would do so!

The Mike Riding Ground is your typical ground at this level, you emerge by the clubhouse, with a small stand to your left, which provides the only seats in the ground. The clubhouse houses the changing rooms as well, and in all fairness is a brilliant little room, where I happily paid 80p for a can of Diet Coke, the rest of the ground is a fenced off pitch, with standing areas consisting of grass, no concrete hard standing here! But that adds to the charm, within minutes of walking into the Mike Riding Ground I had already made my mind up that this was going to be a good place to watch a game of football. On the touchline opposite the clubhouse, there is also the added benefit of being able to watch a game of cricket, as I found myself doing during any break of play. Now with the Cricket season kicking off, and the Football season coming to an end, I may take up watching cricket, is there such thing as a cricket groundhopper?

I’ve found it difficult to find any history for either club, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to find the Football Club History Database, which has given me an idea of the history of both sides. I’m assuming that Longridge Town are the reformed club of Longridge United who played in the West Lancashire League between 1987 and 1993, with Longridge Town being formed in 1996. From what I have been able to find Longridge Town joined the West Lancashire League in 2009, having played in the Preston & District League. Town were to start life in the West Lancs league in Division Two, and finished runners-up in their first season, seeing them promoted to Division One. Town were to spend two seasons in Division One, winning it in the 2011-2012 season, which saw them gain promotion to the Premier Division where they have played ever since. This season has been a good one for Longridge as they come into this game sitting 2nd in the league, level on points with 1st placed Blackpool Wren Rovers, but behind on goal difference, and with two games to go it’s likely to come down to the final game of the season.

From what I’ve been able to find, Vickerstown joined the West Lancashire Football League in 2006, and entered Division Two, which they won at the first time of asking, gaining them promotion to Division One, in their first season in Division One they finished as runners-up and found themselves in the Premier Division for the 2008-2009 season, where they have remained since, with their best season being in 2014-2015 where they finished 4th. Vickerstown entered this game in 8th and with nothing to gain from the game, they could only attempt to stop Longridge Town from competing in the title race.

With a cold wind blowing, I decided to stand on the touchline opposite the clubhouse, so that the wind was behind me, standing here also meant that I could watch the cricket at the same time, and anytime I heard a shout from the cricket field, I found myself turning round to see what had happened.

Knowing that their title chances were in their hands, Longridge started the game well, but the opening five minutes were dominated by Vickerstown, with them coming close on a couple of occasions.

It took until the 9th minute for the scoring to open, with Longridge winning a free-kick just outside of the area, Ged Smith was the man to step up to take the free-kick and his effort was well struck with the ball rebounding off of the inside of the far post and finally nestling in the back of the net.

Longridge were to double their lead in the 16th minute, as they won a free-kick on the byline, the ball was whipped into the box, and bounced around for a bit, before Ryan McKenna popped up at the far post to fire the ball into the back of the net. It was clear from his celebration to see what the goal meant to him, with his “dab” celebration going down well with the number of kids wearing Manchester United shirts, with Pogba on the back.

Both sides had good opportunities during the first half, with Vickerstown seeing a goal ruled out for a foul, however it was to be Longridge that went into the break with the lead.

Half Time: Longridge Town 2-0 Vickerstown (Smith 9, McKenna 16)

At half time I made my way around to the other side of the ground, given that I like to watch a half from each touchline, however this was to mean that the wind was now blowing directly into my face, and my decision to only wear a hoody hadn’t been a good one. At half time Longridge made a change, with their number 11, Ashley Ball, leaving the field to be replaced by number 16, Jack Preston. From what I heard Ball had suffered a dead leg, and I hope he recovers in time for the last game of the season as it would be shame for him to miss the last game of the season.

With the game theirs to lose, Longridge came out looking for a third goal to kill the game off entirely, however Vickerstown had tightened up defensively and were now beginning to frustrate the Longridge attack.

Vickerstown came close to clawing a goal back minutes into the second half, as they broke forward and one of their attackers fired a shot goalwards, and if it hadn’t had been for the outstretched palm of Lee Dovey, in the Longridge goal, the ball would have nestled in the back of the net, as it was Dovey got a hand to the ball and touched it onto the post, where Joe Melling was on hand to clear the danger.

My decision to watch the second half from the touchline nearest the clubhouse, didn’t last long, and I soon made my way back round to the other touchline, so that the wind was behind me. Unfortunately the cricket match had stopped for a break.

Longridge were to make a second change in the 67th minute with number 2, Joe Melling, having to be replaced by number 17, Jordan Tucker. Melling had also picked up an injury, and looked to be in discomfort as he left the field, again best wishes to the lad, I hope that it wasn’t anything serious.

Jackson Round was to produce a moment of magic which very nearly saw Vickerstown back in the game, as he controlled a high clearance from his keeper with a beautiful touch, before firing the ball past Dovey into the top corner with the outside of his right foot, Longridge however were to breathe a sigh of relief, as the 17 year old’s effort was ruled offside. For a 17 year old, Round was playing brilliantly and coping well with men’s football, in my opinion he could easily play at a higher level, and I just wish more clubs would send scouts down to this level as there are some gems down here.

With 83 minutes on the clock, Longridge made their final change with Jordan Bowen making way for Leon McGloughlin. Vickerstown made their only change of the game in the 86th minute, with Jordan Dix making way for David Adams.

With the three points almost secured, Longridge saw the game out, keeping the pressure on Blackpool Wren Rovers, who had won at Tempest United to see the title race go to the last game of the season.

Final Score: Longridge Town 2-0 Vickerstown (Smith 9, McKenna 16)

Once the final whistle blew I made my way round to my car, and enjoyed the warmth. I set off for Chorley, and found myself annoyed by a TalkSport presenter asking where everyone had been if they had just tuned in, as they had commentary of the Premier League. Now I get that some people would rather sit indoors and watch football from the comfort of their own home, or listen to it on the radio, but I really can’t understand why they would rather pay for a TV subscription to watch over-paid prima donnas rolling around in fake agony when they get the slightest of touches. People will argue and say that the Premier League allows you to watch the best players, and the best action, but I would counter with Jackson Round’s moment of magic in this game, it was beautiful and unfortunately there won’t be hundreds of replays of that moment, however it will live in the minds of those that saw it. There are hundreds of football clubs up and down the country that would appreciate the support of people leaving behind their televisions and getting down to watch them. I paid £3 for this game today, I saw two goals, and a moment of pure brilliance. But then again each to their own and all that.

With Longridge and Blackpool Wren Rovers winning, the title race will now go to the last game of the season, which interestingly enough will see Longridge travel to Bruce Park, home of Blackpool Wren Rovers on the 13th May 2017, this game has a 3pm kick off, and despite the fact that I am working, there is a part of me that is tempted to go along, as a win for Longridge will see them pick up the title, and a single point for Blackpool Wren Rovers will see them crowned champions, as they won’t be caught on goal difference. If you are in the Blackpool area next week, or are crazy enough to travel, then I would recommend getting along to this game, as it will be good! Also if you ever find yourself near Longridge on a Saturday when they are at home, I really would recommend getting down to the Bruce Riding Ground, as you won’t regret it. Longridge is a brilliant club, and I’m looking at going back there.

Defeat for Vickerstown sees them remain in 8th, with one final match to be played, the lowest they could drop would be 9th, and a mid-table finish is a good one, the future at Vickerstown looks bright as Jackson Round looks to be a fantastic player in the making. Next season I’m going to be trying to tick off leagues instead of random grounds, so I may find myself up at Vickerstown next season.

Thanks for reading, and remember that football is not only a television show, go and support your local non-league team!

Attendance: ?

Cost: £3.80

Movember Total: £31 (£1 from today)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157681393399421

YouTube: https://youtu.be/ePon0M26Sis (Reminder the gaming videos on this channel contain NSFW language and those that are offended by swearing or violence should avoid these. The groundhopping videos are clean however, mostly clean anyway.)

Prestwich Heys

Prestwich Heys vs Whitchurch Alport, North West Counties Football League First Division, Adie Moran Park

This season has gone fast, far too fast and I am nowhere near ready for it to end. However many leagues are pulling to a close, with the NWCFL playing its last fixtures of the season today, there will be the play-offs, but then after that there will be no more football until the pre-season friendlies start to be announced. I had a couple of ideas for today, one being Atherton Colleries’ game against Runcorn Town, one being Chorley’s game against FC Halifax and the other being Prestwich Heys vs Whitchurch Alport. Whilst Colleries and Chorley were interesting prospects, my sense of adventure kicked in and I decided to make my way over to Prestwich. Although, I would like to say congratulations to Atherton Colleries for their promotion, and I’m planning to follow them around a little more next season, to see how they get on.

I had intended to go to Prestwich earlier in the season when they hosted Chorley in the Lancashire Trophy back in September, I’m not sure why I didn’t get to that game, I’m guessing work may have gotten in the way, but part of me is glad that I saved my visit for today. My family are from Shropshire, and whenever I see a team from Shropshire I tend to support them, with the exception of AFC Telford, there is nothing that would ever lead me to support them, even if I watched them play Wrexham, I’d just support the referee. There was also to be a blast from the past in Whitchurch’s team today, as a certain Kevin Street took a place in their midfield. Kevin played for Shrewsbury during the Jimmy Quinn Conference era, and I always remembered him as a battling midfielder, who assisted us back to our rightful place in the Football League. The last I had heard of Kevin, he was in management, although I was glad to see him doing what he did best, controlling the midfield.

The journey to the Adie Moran Park was an easy one, as Prestwich are situated on the outskirts of Manchester, and therefore benefit from excellent transport links, which was good as I wasn’t sure I would have my car, as it had recently gone in for its MOT. If I hadn’t had the car, it would have been easy to get there on public transport, but I had my car back, so it was a quick drive down the motorway. I pulled into the Adie Moran Park car-park at around 2.30pm, and paid £4 to get in, with a further £2 spent on a programme and a golden goal ticket. From the turnstiles I walked a lap of the ground before heading into the clubhouse, where I paid £1.80 for a can of Diet Coke and a Mars Bar, the clubhouse is a fantastic little place with live sport shown on the big screen. Adie Moran Park is a good little ground, with plenty of room for expansion should the club ever need to do so. From the turnstile I emerged behind the goal, with a small section of covered standing to my right. Along the touchline, nearest to the turnstile, stands the changing rooms and clubhouse, beside these stands a small seater stand, this stand stretches up to the halfway line, before giving way to hard standing. Around the far goal stands more uncovered hard standing, and on the other touchline stands the dugouts, with more hard standing. As I have mentioned Prestwich are blessed with plenty of land in which to grow, one thing that impressed me was how tidy the ground was, with a volunteer making a regular walk around the ground to tidy up any mess, without people like this volunteer the ground wouldn’t look as impressive as it did, so hats off to you sir. (I would like to add at this point, that I put my rubbish in the bins around the ground, of which there were plenty, so there really is no excuse for littering!)

Prestwich Heys’ origins can be traced back to the 9th of February 1938, when a meeting was called at the Music Room of the Heys Road Boys School at which the idea was put forward of forming an Old Boys Association. Following the Second World War the club gradually progressed through the Bury Amateur League and in to the South East Lancashire League claiming the Championship in 1960, 1961 and 1964, the club changed their name in the 1964 season to Prestwich Heys AFC, and acknowledgment of the fame they had achieved by the club as they proved themselves to be one of the top amateur clubs in the nation. In 1967 the club won the Lancashire Amateur League, and followed this by winning the one and only Lancashire Combination Grand Slam in the 1970-1971 season with Heys bringing all four trophies back to Grimshaws. The onslaught of professionalism in the 70s saw the club struggle to maintain its winning ways. The trophy cabinet was to remain bare, apart from a Manchester Amateur Cup won in 1972, and in 1982 the club moved into the newly formed North West Counties League. However ground grading issues were to see them fall into the Manchester Football League in 1986, but this was to be a positive as the club picked up their first trophy for over a decade as they got their hands on the First Division title in 1988. Bury Council relocated the club in 1991 from their Grimshaws home on Heys Road for a new base at Sandgate Road. After suffering relegation in 1996, the club bounced back with the Manchester League double of the First Division Championship and Murray Shield. The 2004-2005 season saw the club take the major prize of their first Manchester League Premier Division title, and they followed this up the next season by retaining the trophy. It was to be hat-trick of Premier Division titles as the club retained the trophy again during the 2006-2007 season, and also lifted the Goldline Trophy after beating Charnock Richard on penalties at the Reebok Stadium. The unfortunate death of Adie Moran on the eve of the 2007-2008 season, left Heys reeling, and in the next four seasons the club struggled, and in 2011 they turned to former player Jon Lyons to resurrect their fortunes. Since then the club have been making steady progress in re-establishing themselves amongst the area’s leading clubs culminating in their return to the North West Counties Football League after a 30 year absence. Heys set their goals, and achieved them, the Manchester League Premier Division was won by 13 points, the Bolton Hospital Cup was secured in a 1-0 victory over Atherton Colleries, this was followed by another 1-0 cup final win, with Heys winning the Gilgryst Cup Final against Manchester Gregorians. This season has seen Heys play well, and they come into this game in 8th in the league, Heys aren’t in the position for the play-offs, but this should be seen as a positive season for them.

Whitchurch Alport were formed in 1946, and took their name from the nearby Alport Farm, which was the home of local footballer, Coley Maddox, who lost his life during WWII. Alport started life in the Shrewsbury & District League, winning the title two years after their formation. The club went on to spend a year in the Birmingham League before becoming a founder member of the Mid Cheshire League in 1948. In the 1969-1970 season the club became the first side to take the Championship out of Cheshire, they also won the Shropshire Country Cup, but were denied the treble by Kidsgrove Athletic as they were beaten 4-2 in the League Cup Final. Whitchurch have strong links with Crewe Alexandra, with a number of players having worn the red jersey of both clubs. Peter Gowans, Billy McGinley, Willy Mailey, Richard Wainwright, Kevin Rafferty and Nick Longley are all fine examples of the link between Alport and the Alex. A certain Jimmy Quinn was to start his playing career for Whitchurch Alport. Alport were to be the first English side to win the Welsh Amateur Cup in 1974 as they beat Cardiff College 2-1. However a decade later and Alport were in decline, a disastrous decision to field on local players resulted in back to back bottom place finishes. Alport then approached Pete Wainwright, then manager of Kidsgrove Athletic, who set about abolishing the local player only policy. With his assistant Willy Mailey, they set about transforming the club’s fortunes. In 2009 the club won the Shropshire County Cup, with a 1-0 win over Wellington Amateurs, however just four years later they club resigned from the Cheshire League only a few weeks before the campaign began, and barely survived. The club took a place in the Mercian Premier Division, but life was to be far from plain sailing, with the club unable to attract the right caliber of players it was only down to the dedication of Gavin Brocklehurst, Phil Denson and Rich O’Keeffe that the Alport managed to stave of the threat of the gates being locked on Yockings Park forever. After a couple of seasons in the Mercian, Alport made the decision to apply to join the NWCFL, however their original application was declined, but a successful appeal was heard at Wembley Stadium, with Alport being allowed to join the NWCFL First Division. A lot of hard work had to be carried out, with their ground having to be bought up to ground grading criteria, not to mention having to build a team ready to compete at this level. In August 2015, Whitchurch played Rochdale Town, at Alport’s highest ever level, with a 1-1 draw resulting in Luke Woollam becoming the first player to score for the club as a NWCFL outfit. Alport are in the play-offs, no matter the result of this game, but the result today will decide on where they sit in the league and who they will face in the play-offs, as a 5th place finish will see them travel to City of Liverpool FC, whereas a 6th place finish would see them face Litherland REMYCA.

With the Mayor of Bury in attendance, the first half kicked off, with both sides playing good football. Prestwich set themselves up in a 3-5-2 formation, with one of their wing-backs remarking that he had the hardest job on the pitch, Whitchurch on the other hand seemingly set up in a 4-4-2 with their wingers pushing forward. The first half was to be an entertaining one with both sides having good chances, but neither was to find a way to get into the lead.

Prestwich were forced into a change in the 35th minute, as Paul Tierney going down in obvious pain, he was replaced by Michael Itela, and after the game it was confirmed that Tierney has ruptured his Achilles tendon, best wishes to him as he looks to make a speedy recovery to the game.

Half Time: Prestwich Heys 0-0 Whitchurch Alport

At half time I glanced at my Golden Goal ticket and sighed, as it read the 12th minute, but then again knowing my luck I could have bought 90 of them, and still not won. Also at half time I made my way round the other touchline and took a position by the dugouts. Prestwich made a change at half time with Chris Baguley coming on to replace Brad Lyons.

It didn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken, as in the 51st minute, Alex Hughes netted the first goal of the game, putting Whitchurch into the lead with a lovely low finish past the Heys’ keeper.

The 58th minute saw Heys make their last change of the game, with James Hampson coming on to replace Greg Wills, with only 14 players on duty, it clearly appeared that Heys were down to their barebones.

Alex Hughes did it again in the 68th minute, as he latched on to the ball in the area, following a defensive error, and slotted the ball past the outstretched Heys’ keeper’s fingertips into the back of the net. Whatever had been said at half time had clearly spurred Whitchurch into action, and they were beginning to show why they had made the play-offs.

The 78th minute saw Alport make a double change, with Callum Jones coming on for Dean Twigg, and Louis James coming on for Alex Hughes.

Prestwich were still very much in the match, despite the score line, and clearly wanted to finish the season on a high. They were handed a lifeline in the 87th minute as they were awarded a penalty. Lee O’Brien stepped up to take the penalty and hit the ball perfectly into the back of the net, scoring what will be his last goal for the club as he retires this year. Alport made a switch before the goal, with Stevie McNichol coming on for Carl Everall.

Prestwich continued to push for an equalizer, with their keeper making his way forward for a corner kick. Part of me hoped for the keeper to score, as that would’ve been bloody brilliant (who doesn’t love seeing a keeper score?) and part of me wanted to see Alport clear the ball and score a long range effort. In the end neither happened, and the referee bought the game to an end.

Final Score: Prestwich Heys 1-2 Whitchurch Alport (O’Brien 87 – Hughes 51, 68)

Following the final whistle I made my way out of the ground, and got back into my car. There was a heart in mouth moment as the car seemingly refused to move, as I had marked with my front wheels on some grass, but after a few seconds the wheels found some traction and I made my way back to Chorley. Earlier on in the blog I bemoaned my luck when it came to the Golden Goal, but in reality I shouldn’t complain. On the M60 there were some delays, as a car had ended up on its roof in the fast lane, and I can only hope that no-one was injured as a result of this.

Three points for Alport sees them remain in 5th place in the league, and they will now face City of Liverpool FC in the play-off semi-finals, best of luck to them in that clash, as with Whitchurch being a Shropshire side, I would obviously love to see them do well. The other play-off semi-final will feature 3rd placed Litherland REMYCA taking on 6th place Sandbach, a game that I am tempted to attend.

Prestwich remain in 8th despite the defeat, and hopefully will be able to build on this season. Prestwich Heys is a wonderful club, and with it being so well placed near to a number of transport links I would whole-heartedly recommend anyone to go and pay the club a visit.

I feel I should end this blog by congratulating Widnes and Charnock Richard. Widnes have won the NWCFL First Division, and Charnock finished as runners-up meaning that both clubs will move into the NWCFL Premier Division, replacing New Mills, Nelson and Cammell Laird who have all, unfortunately, been relegated. The question now is who will be the third side to be promoted? My hopes are that Whitchurch will make their way up the leagues, but the play-offs are a lottery.

Thanks for reading.

Attendance: 113

Cost: £7.80

Movember Total: £30 (£1.50 from today)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157680058543653

YouTube: https://youtu.be/WxOHyNSb7pU (Reminder the gaming videos on this channel contain NSFW language and those that are offended by swearing or violence should avoid these. The groundhopping videos are clean however, mostly clean anyway.)

Ashford Town (Middlesex)

Ashford Town (Middlesex) vs Farnborough, Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central, 17/04/17, Robert Parker Stadium

I had to resort to pulling names out of a flatcap for this game, as there were far too many in the local area to choose from, I had the options of Staines, Potters Bar, Ashford Town and the Metropolitan Police to name a few. Obviously Ashford Town were the team that I pulled out of the hat, and I began to make my plans to visit the Robert Parker Stadium.

Ashford don’t actually play in Ashford, they play in Stanwell, a nearby village which stands on the south side of Heathrow Airport, making this an easy game to get to, as if there is one thing that Heathrow Airport is, it is well connected. Although my sat-nav had other ideas and it attempted to divert me onto the M4, so I did the sensible thing and ignored it. I pulled up outside of the Robert Parker Stadium around 2.30pm and parked my car on the grass surrounding the ground, as the ground is in the greenbelt they are unable to tarmac the car-park, so if you visit in the winter, it may be sensible to park on the road outside!

Ashford play at the Robert Park Stadium, as I have mentioned in Stanwell, from the ground you can watch planes take off from Heathrow Airport, which is perfect for any plane-spotters that also happen to be groundhoppers! Behind both goals is uncovered hard standing, with the end nearest to the turnstiles, being a single strip of hard standing, this end of the ground is penned in by the petroleum containers which stand next door, and also provide an interesting backdrop to the ground. Behind the other goal is a stretch of four rows of terracing. Next to the turnstiles is a large programme hut, which is well worth a visit, next to this stands the refreshment hut, with the changing rooms tucked behind. On this touchline stands two separate covered stands, one providing seats and the other providing terracing, these stands only reach the halfway line, and the rest of the touchline is uncovered hard standing. On the opposite touchline stands a larger seater stand, which stands on the halfway line, either side of this stand is hard standing, with the remainder of the touchline being uncovered hard standing. Interestingly behind the stand is an old Transit van, which has seen better days.

Ashford were established in 1958 as Ashford Albion, and joined Division Two of the Hounslow & District League, they finished second in their first season, which saw them earn promotion to Division One. In their first season in Division One, they again finished in second place, and earned promotion to the Premier Division, adopting the name of Ashford Town in 1964. However the club pulled out of the Premier Division during the 1964-1965 season, and the first team replaced the reserves in Division Two in the following season. The club were soon back in Division One, as they finished third in Division Two in the 1965-1966 season. For the 1967-1968 season the club joined the Premier Division B of the Surrey Intermediate League (Western) and finished fourth, which saw them promoted to Premier Division A, with the club winning the division in 1975. Ashford were founder members of the Surrey Premier League in 1982, and in 1990 they were formally renamed Ashford Town (Middlesex) to avoid confusion with the Kent club who shared the same name, however this Kent club are now name Ashford United. Also in 1990 they joined the Combined Counties League, and won the league in 1995. They went on to win the league for the next three seasons, and again in 2000, after which they were promoted to Division Three of the Isthmian League. Ashford seem to have a habit of getting promoted in their first season, and did so again as they finished third and were promoted to Division Two of the Isthmian League. In 2002 they moved to Division One South, and in 2004 switched to the Western Division of the Southern League. In 2006, they finished second and were promoted to the Isthmian League Premier Division. In 2010 the club were relegated and were placed in Division One Central of the Southern League, the club were offered a reprieve due to the liquidation of Merthyr Tydfil, but declined this reprieve and started the 2010-2011 season in Division One Central. Ashford were relegated again in 2014, and dropped into the Combined Counties League, in 2016 they finished as runners-up and regained their place in Division One Central of the Southern League.

Farnborough were formed in 1967 as Farnborough Town, and joined the Surrey Senior League in 1968. In 1971 they reached the top division of the Surrey Senior League, and after finishing as runners-up in 1972, they joined the Spartan League, where they went on to win three consecutive league titles, when the league merged with the Metropolitan-London League to form the London Spartan League in 1975, the club were placed in Division One, and were crowned the first champions of this league. The club moved to Cherrywood Road, and moved up to Division Two of the Athenian League in 1976, they won this division at the first attempt, and subsequently joined Division Two of the Isthmian League. During 1973 and 1977 the club went 87 matches unbeaten at home, and won Division Two of the Isthmian League in 1979, and were promoted to Division One. In 1985, the club won the Division One title, and were promoted to the Premier Division, with a further promotion coming in 1989 as they finished as runners-up behind Leytonstone/Ilford but due to Leytonstone/Ilford failing to meet ground grading criteria, Farnborough were promoted to the Conference. Unfortunately Farnborough were relegated during their first season, and were placed in the Premier Division of the Southern League, they were to be back in the Conference at the first attempt as they won the Premier Division at the first time of asking. Again Farnborough were relegated, but once again they bounced back immediately as they won the Southern League Premier Division in 1994, the club lasted five seasons in the Conference before being relegated in 1999. The club joined the Isthmian League Premier Division, and won this competition in 2001, and were promoted back to the Conference. The 2004-2005 season saw Farnborough relegated again, this time joining the Conference South. In the 2006-2007 season the club, unfortunately, entered administration and were deducted ten points as a result, in May 2007 they were expelled from the Conference and reformed as Farnborough Football Club, they were admitted to Division One South & West of the Southern League, which they won at the first attempt, and were promoted to the Premier Division. In 2010 they won the Premier Division and were promoted to the Conference South, in their first season in the Conference South they reached the play-off final, losing to Ebbsfleet United. However the financial problems continued, and in the 2011-2012 season, they were deducted five points, and had ten points deducted the following season, they were relegated to the Premier Division of the Isthmian League in 2015, and were demoted to Division One Central of the Southern League in 2016, due to their financial situation.

Coming into this game, Ashford found themselves in 12th in the league, with their last five games resulting in two wins, one draw and two defeats, with their last game finishing in a 2-2 draw with Aylesbury. Farnborough found themselves in 2nd place, with a play-off place secured, their last five games have resulted in four wins and a draw, with their last game being a 2-1 win over Histon.

I paid £9 to get in today, with a further £2 going to a programme, upon entering the ground the programme seller noticed my Malaga CF shirt, and asked whether I was Spanish, after explaining that Malaga are my Spanish team, I wandered off to the refreshment hut, where I met a Staines Town fan in the queue, I very sheepishly reminded him of his team’s FA Cup win over my, actual, team Shrewsbury Town, and during the wait for food he regaled me with tales of Staines’ FA Cup exploits. Reaching the front of the queue I paid, £3.50 for a can of Diet Coke and a Cheeseburger.

With neither side having much to play for, Ashford Town are assured of their place in this league for next season, and Farnborough are assured of a place in the play-offs, the first half was a bit of a drab affair. There were two highlights for me, one being the Farnborough fans who were in fine voice, and the second being Farnborough’s right back, John Oyenuea, who is an excellent player, and would be well worth a punt by a team higher up the pyramid. Oyenuea is a fantastic right back, with pace and stamina to burn, and his running caused the Ashford defence no end of issues. He also has good positional sense, and he reminded me of Danny Allen Page, back when Allen-Page played for Hayes & Yeading.

The 45th minute saw Farnborough forced into a change, as their number 5, Curtis Osano, went off injured, I suspect he pulled his hamstring, but I’m no expert on these matters. He was replaced by number 14, Charlie Allen. It was at this point that I noticed that Farnborough didn’t have a number 3 on the pitch, instead they had number 15 at left back, and I’m unsure whether CJ Fearn started the game or whether it was Keith Emmerson.

Half Time: Ashford Town 0-0 Farnborough

At half time, I took a walk around to the other side of the ground, and took a place by the away dugout. I was beginning to fear that this would be my first 0-0 draw, something I have managed to avoid for the two seasons I have been writing this blog.

In the 58th minute, Farnborough made their final changes, with numbers 7 and 8, Scott Donnelly and Pat Cox, being replaced by numbers 12 and 14, Perry Coles and Charlie Allen.

Both sides were attacking well, with both sides having good chances to put themselves into the lead, Farnborough were the more dominant side, and with the play-offs approaching didn’t need the points, but instead needed the form to carry into the play-offs.

I needn’t have worried about a 0-0 draw, as in the 66th minute, Ashford’s number 11, Jack Beadle, unleashed an absolutely stunning shot from outside of the area into the top left corner, leaving the Farnborough keeper, Aaron Button, with no chance of getting to the ball. It was a goal against the run of play, but it was well deserved for an Ashford side which had played well during the game

The goal spurred Farnborough into life, and they hit the post shortly after the goal. The mercurial Jamie Cureton also had a good chance, a lobbed shot, cleared off of the line. Farnborough continued to attack well, with Oyenuea continuing to show why I was right to be impressed by him, as he marauded up the right wing, providing a constant threat.

Ashford made a change in the 84th minute, with their number 12, Max Herbert, coming on to replace their number 10, Tommy Brunton.

Despite all of Farnborough’s pressure, Ashford defended well, and deserved the three points when the final whistle blew. A fitting end, seeing as how this was to be Pat Munn’s last game for the club. Pat has long since retired from playing after a long career between the sticks for Ashford, however he remained at the club taken on a variety of roles, including physio. Pat has been with Ashford for fifty years, and it was good to see Ashford win this game to reward Pat’s service in a fitting manner. Congratulations Pat, enjoy your retirement, however I do have a feeling that Pat will be back.

Final Score: Ashford Town 1-0 Farnborough (Beadle 66)

After the final whistle I made my way out of the ground, and back to my car. I didn’t bother with my sat-nav and instead drove the sensible way home which I had already memorized, given the fact I used to travel this way for a while whilst teaching in Feltham.

Three points for Ashford Town sees them remain in 12th in the league, and with only one match left of this season, the highest they can climb to is 9th, and that’s only if results go their way. The lowest they can drop to is 13th, and in all honesty they can count this as a good season, seeing as how this is their first season back at this level. I like Ashford as a club, they are a friendly club in a good location, and I would recommend that if you are nearby that you pay a visit to the Robert Parker Stadium.

Farnborough remain in 2nd, and have secured 2nd place no matter what happens in their last league match of the season. Farnborough will be in the play-offs, and I wish them luck for the play-offs. I’ve visited Farnborough once before, back in the 2003-2004 season, when Shrewsbury were in the Conference, and remember Farnborough as a Conference club, especially as how I also remember that playing Hayes, although I can’t remember exactly when I saw them at Hayes.

On a separate note, Barton are in 3rd in the league, and have secured a play-off place, the lowest they can drop to is 4th, so best of luck to them as well in the play-offs.

Thanks for reading.

Attendance: 217

Cost: £12.50

Movember Total: £28.50 (£50p from today)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157682732405205

YouTube: https://youtu.be/49y0OZWfaZY (Reminder the gaming videos on this channel contain NSFW language and those that are offended by swearing or violence should avoid these. The groundhopping videos are clean however, mostly clean anyway.)

Uxbridge FC

Uxbridge vs Barton Rovers, Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central, 15/04/17, Honeycroft

With a four day weekend ahead, I made the decision to take the wife and kids down to London to visit my parents. Now as much as I wanted to see my parents, there was an ulterior motive to my visit, as in the Hayes & Yeading blog I wrote this season I mentioned that I didn’t feel like I could count my visit to Honeycroft as I hadn’t actually seen Uxbridge play, so with Uxbridge at home to Barton Rovers this was going to be the perfect chance to tick Honeycroft officially off of the list.

Following a morning spent in Uxbridge town centre, marvelling at the brand new Primark, I set off for Honeycroft at 14.25, and arrived at 14.30, it really is that close to my parent’s house. I was meant to be joined at this game by my dad, however he made the sensible decision not to join me, as he had worked a night shift on Friday night, and was working another night shift on Saturday night, and as much as he loves football, he needs to sleep.

I’ve mentioned this before that my love of non-league grounds started at Honeycroft, but today’s visit once again reminded me of why I love the non-league game. The same faces are still at the club many of whom I remember from my childhood, and the aviary is still around the clubhouse, this is a ground that will always contain good memories for myself, as to be fair I spent a large number of Saturdays there. So once again Alex “Big Alex” Maltman, thanks for the memories.

With the sun shining, I decided to sit outside the clubhouse and enjoy a pint of Strongbow. Once my pint was finished, I headed to the turnstiles and paid £8 for entry and a further £1.50 for a programme, I was overjoyed to find that Uxbridge provide teamsheets for free, and I celebrated this by purchasing £2 worth of raffle tickets.

I’ve visited Honeycroft once this season already, as many of you may already know, so I’ll link to that blog here, nothing around the ground has changed, and in all honesty nothing needs to change at Honeycroft. For this level, Honeycroft is a fantastic ground, and the only work that I would do if I had the money would be to level the pitch. With the weather having been so warm, the pitch seemed to be on the dry side, which would affect the bounce of the ball today, but the conditions would be the same for both sides.

Uxbridge FC were formed in 1871, and the team started off playing friendly games. They entered the FA Cup in 1873, but folded in 1874 due to financial difficulty. Five years later in 1879 the club were reformed, and for the next ten years they enjoyed success, with the Heron brothers gaining full international caps for England, whilst playing for the club. In 1894 the club became founder members of the Southern League and finished in mid-table of Division Two. In the 1897 to 1898 season they reached the final of the FA Amateur Cup but lost in the final to Middlesbrough. The club only stayed in the Southern League for five seasons, before dropping out for financial reasons to join the Middlesex League, however they only survived a single season in the Middlesex League before folding again, this time with a debt of £130. After two seasons the club was reformed and joined the West Middlesex League, two seasons later they joined the Great Western Combination League and remained there until the First World War. After the First World War, the club joined the Athenian League, but were relegated to the Great Western Combination League at the end of the 1919-1920 season. Uxbridge returned to the Athenian League four seasons later, and stayed at this level until the 1936 to 1937 season, when they failed to be re-elected. They then moved to the Spartan League and finished top, however they were denied the championship, as it was discovered that the club had played an ineligible player, so they finished third after having six points were deducted. This prompted the club to join the London League, and then they rejoined the Great Western Combination League during World War Two. Uxbridge then rejoined the London League for the 1945 to 1946 season, before joining the Corinthian League. In 1948 they bought a ground on Cleveland Road for £5800, with this ground bearing the name Honeycroft, after a large house which stood on the ground. The 1959 to 1960 season was a successful one as Uxbridge won the Corinthian League, a league in which they remained until restructuring in 1963, when the club were placed in Division One of the Athenian League. The club were relegated at the end of the 1966 to 1967 season, and joined Division Two, this relegation led to financial difficulties and they mortgaged their ground, however the continued and met a full strength England side at Wembley Stadium in 1976 as part of World Cup preparations, with this game finishing 8-0 to England. In 1978 the club bought their current home in Yiewsley (Some people will say West Drayton, but it isn’t on the other side of the railway tracks, so in my opinion it stands in Yiewsley!) and named this ground Honeycroft, the club spent over £170,000 on ground improvements, and drew 1-1 with Arsenal in 1981 as the floodlights were switched on for the first time. In 1982 the club were elected into the Isthmian League, the club finished second in Division Two South in 1985 and were promoted to Division One where they remained for twenty years. George Talbot took the reigns in the early 1990s, and his fifteen years at the helm saw varying degrees of success. With the club winning the London Challenge Cup in 1994, 1997 and 2000, with the club finishing as runners up on two occasions in 1998 and 1999. Uxbridge picked up the Middlesex Senior Cup in 2001.The club moved to the Southern League in the 2004 to 2005 season, and their debut in the new league saw them finish in fourth place, and they reached the Play Off final but lost on penalties to Maldon United. Poor performances on the pitch saw the departure of George Talbot, during the 2005 to 2006 season, with Tony Choules taking over. Under Choules’ stewardship Uxbridge have reached the Play Off Final in 2008, losing to Oxford City. The club then switched to the Division One Central for the 2010 to 2011 season, where they have remained ever since. Uxbridge also won back to back Middlesex Charity Cups in 2013 and 2014.

Barton Rovers were formed in 1898, and played village football until the Second World War. After the Second World War, Barton joined the Luton & District League for the 1946 to 1947 season, where they played until 1954 when they joined Division Two of the South Midlands League. They won the Division Two title at the first attempt and were promoted to Division One. The following season saw them finish as runners-up in Division One, resulting in promotion to the Premier Division. Barton finished bottom of the Premier Division in 1963 and were relegated back to Division One, however they were to return to the Premier Division just two seasons later, after winning the Division One title in 1965. This saw the start of a decade long spell of success for the club, their first five seasons back in the Premier Division saw them finish third on four occasions and runners up once. They then went on to win three successive titles between the 1970-1971 and 1972-1973, and following a third placed finish in 1973-1974, the club went on to win five successive titles in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979. Barton Rovers joined Division Two of the Isthmian League in 1979, league restructuring saw them moved to Division Two North in 1984 before Division Two was restored in 1991. After finishing as runners-up in 1995, Barton were promoted to Division One, where they remained until they finished bottom of the division in 2001. After returning to Division Two, league restructuring saw them placed in Division One North in 202, before they were transferred to the Eastern Division of the Southern League in 2004. Further restructuring saw them join Division One Midlands in 2006, before finally being placed in Division One Central in 2010, where they have remained since. In 2015 the club finished fifth and qualified for the play offs, where they lost to Bedworth United in the final.

Uxbridge came into this game sitting in 17th place in the league, with their last five league games ending in two wins and three defeats. Barton Rovers sit in 3rd in the league, and their last five league games have resulted in four wins and one defeat, with one of their wins being an 8-0 victory over Petersfield Town.

With the sun high in the sky, the two sides took to the pitch, with Uxbridge in their red shirts, and Barton in their yellow. Both sides attacked well during the first half, and Barton could have found themselves 1-0 on the 16th minute, as the capitalised on an opportunity and fired the ball home. They began to celebrate but the referee had other ideas and after discussing it with his assistant, the goal was ruled out for offside.

Barton did put themselves into the lead in the36th minute, as their number 7, Scott Sinclair, fired home an absolute thunderbolt of a shot from just outside the area. His shot gave the Uxbridge keeper absolutely no chance, and the ball nestled in the back of the net nicely.

Half Time: Uxbridge 0-1 Barton Rovers (Sinclair 36)

At half time I walked round to the refreshment hut, and purchased a can of Diet Coke and a Kit Kat for the total of £1.65, with my drink in hand I walked back round to the pitch, and watched as the subs warmed up. Once the two sides were back out on the pitch I took my place next to the crooked little stand opposite the main stand.

Unfortunately the Barton goalscorer, Scott Sinclair, went down injured in the 52nd minute, and was replaced by number 14, Elliot Bailey. Sinclair had played well, and deserved the goal he had scored, it was a shame to see him leave the field as there was part of me that wanted to see him score another goal of the same calibre.

Barton made their second change in the 56th minute, as their number 15, Victor Osubu, came on to replace their number 11, Phil Draycott. Barton made their final change in the 69th minute, as their number 10, Connor Calcutt, was replaced by their number 16, Danny Watson.

Strangely despite naming a full subs bench, Uxbridge didn’t make a single substitution, my only guess can be that they had one eye on their game on Bank Holiday Monday against Potters Bar, as at this point of the season they must be tight on players.

Barton doubled their lead in the 74th minute, as Victor Osubu latched onto a loose ball in the box to fire home. The ball had been whipped in from a corner, and was flicked on inside the box, where Osubu found himself in plenty of space, and he made no mistake with the opportunity.

Final Score: Uxbridge 0-2 Barton Rovers (Sinclair 36, Osubu 74)

Leaving the ground I felt disappointed, as I had wanted to see Uxbridge win this game, I’ve got a soft spot for them, and keep an eye out for the results. It’s been a disappointing season in a way for Uxbridge, however mathematically they are safe this season, and can look forward to next season now. Going forward they were creative, and I was impressed by their number 10, Jon-Jo Bates, as well as their numbers 8 and 3, Abobaker Eisa and Andrew Dean, as they were all hardworking, creative players. Unfortunately Uxbridge seemed to lack that finishing touch in front of goal. With two games remaining the lowest Uxbridge could drop to would be 20th, however they would have to lose both of their remaining games, and Northwood would have to win both of theirs, on the other hand Uxbridge could climb to 14th if results go their way and they win their remaining fixtures.

It seems unlikely to me that Barton Rovers won’t be playing in the play-offs, as they currently sit in 3rd in the league on 74 points, if they were to lose their last two games, and Egham were to win theirs, as well as 4th and 5th winning their two games, Barton would drop to 6th which would see them drop out of the play-off spots. With their last two games being against Kempston, who occupy 5th, and Egham, Barton’s fate is very much in their own hands, and if they continue to play like they did today, I would certainly expect to see them in the play-offs.

In my Vlog for this match, I mentioned the back pass rule, as I’m sure Uxbridge should have been awarded an indirect free-kick in the first half. As it happened the ball was played to the Barton Rovers’ keeper who was put under pressure, he then used his hand to push the ball away to safety, however during this no other player had touched the ball, which in my opinion is a back pass. The rules state: “The ball is kicked by a teammate of the keeper, this action is deemed to be deliberate, rather than a deflection or miskick, and the keeper handles the ball directly (no intervening touch or play of the ball by anyone else).” In my opinion all of the above were met, the ball was deliberately played back to the keeper, who was under pressure, the keeper then handled the ball, however he only used his hand to push it away, he didn’t pick the ball up. In my opinion this would have been an indirect free-kick, but the referee made his decision and we’ve got to respect that, as without the referee we wouldn’t have had a game of football, and what would you rather have? A referee that makes mistakes but you get to watch a game of football or no football? It’s an easy decision for me.

After another Saturday spent watching Uxbridge, I’ve no idea where I’ll be going on Bank Holiday Monday, although Uxbridge are at Potters Bar, and that isn’t too far from my parents’ house, although there are plenty of other teams in the London area that I’d like to see play. I’m going to resort to pulling names out of a hat, aren’t I?

Thanks for reading.

Attendance: 119

Cost: £13.15

Movember Total: £28 (£1.50 from Ashton Athletic vs Radcliffe Borough and £1 from today’s match)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157682534069916

YouTube: https://youtu.be/nUaRyfshpVw (Reminder the gaming videos on this channel contain NSFW language and those that are offended by swearing or violence should avoid these. The groundhopping videos are clean however, mostly clean anyway.)

Radcliffe Borough

Radcliffe Borough vs Lancaster City, EvoStik First Division North, 25/03/17, Taurus Park

Typically of British weather we have gone from one extreme to the other. Last weekend I was firmly glued to Twitter as I checked for any postponements, but this weekend I was able to relax, as the sun shone and the sky was blue and cloudless. I did have a cursory glance at Radcliffe Borough’s Twitter but that was just to find the postcode for the ground.

My mood was further improved as I found a Real Madrid home shirt in a charity shop in Chorley, as a football shirt collector this was to be a highlight! Once I’d eaten lunch I hopped in my car and drove the short distance between Chorley and Radcliffe. I left my home at around 2pm, and pulled up outside of Radcliffe Borough at around 2.35pm, which is a good journey given that it was a Saturday and I expected the motorways to be busier.

After a short walk to the turnstiles from my car, I paid £8 for entry and paid a further £2 for a programme. I initially went to complete a lap of the ground, however I was stopped by a steward as I went to walk behind the goal. Apologetically he explained that I couldn’t continue my lap, this way at least, and he gestured to the fire damage in the stand behind the goal. Unfortunately Radcliffe Borough were targeted by arsonists in December 2016, which has caused damage to the only stand in the ground which provides seating (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/arson-radcliffe-borough-stadium-fire-12280017). Fortunately the fire didn’t spread to the entire stand, and around two-thirds of the stand was still open.

From the turnstiles you emerge on the touchline, with the social club to your left. Behind the goal on the left of the turnstiles stands the seater stand that I’ve already referenced, this is fire damaged at the moment, but a majority of the seats are still available for use. Along the opposite touchline are the dugouts, which caused a delay in the second half as the subs and coaches walked across the pitch to the dugouts. Behind the dugouts stand a couple of rows of terracing. To the right of the turnstiles, stands the refreshment hut and a stretch of covered terracing. Behind the goal to the right of the turnstiles stands a small covered terrace. All in all, Taurus Park (or Stainton Park) is a good ground, and I hope Radcliffe Borough are able to find the funds to fix their ground.

I’ve covered the history of both sides before, so here’s the links for those blogs: Radcliffe Borough and   Lancaster City. So I’ll just delve into their recent form, Radcliffe Borough enter this game in 17th place in the league, with their last five games resulting in two wins, two draws and a loss. In their last match Radcliffe played Ossett Albion and emerged 2-1 winners. Lancaster City sit 2nd in the league, and are level on points with top placed Farsley, if results went their way Lancaster would move up to top spot, and their last five matches resulted in three wins and two defeats, in their last match they took on Tadcaster Albion and came away with all three points following a 1-0 win.

Before the match there was a minute silence for the victims of the Westminster attack, this well-observed by those in the ground. With both sides ready, the referee blew his whistle and the game commenced for about two seconds before the ref blew his whistle again and instructed the kick off to be retaken, as it appeared the Radcliffe Borough number 7, Lamin Baldeh, had crossed the halfway line before the ball was kicked.

The first half was a rather even affair, with both sides attacking and defending well, and by the way Radcliffe Borough played their position in the league of 17th wasn’t a fair reflection of their side. I was impressed by Radcliffe’s Lamin Baldeh as his pace down the right wing was impressive, and I feel some higher up teams should pay both sides a visit as both teams were packed with talent.

One thing I did notice was that the perimeter walls were close to the pitch, and in around the 43rd minute, the Radcliffe number 3, Jordyn Fitton, slammed into the wall as he attempted to chase down the ball. The referee showed immediate concern for the lad, however after receiving treatment he was okay to continue.

It took until the stroke of halftime for the opening goal, and it fell to Lancaster City’s number 10, Hannu Tam, to open the scoring, as he entered the box with the ball at his feet, the Radcliffe Borough keeper, Kyle Haslam, came off of his line to narrow the angle, but Tam simply lobbed the ball over his head, to give Lancaster the lead in the 45th minute.

Half Time: Radcliffe Borough 0-1 Lancaster City (Tam 45)

At half time I headed to the refreshment hut, paying £1 for a can of Pepsi Max, I had initially asked for Diet Coke, as that’s what most grounds sell, and was over the moon when the lady behind the counter apologised for only having Pepsi or Pepsi Max, as someone who prefers Pepsi Max over everything else I was over-joyed! It’s the simple things in life, isn’t it?

After a delayed start to the second half, the action continued where it had left off, as Hannu Tam raced onto a through ball, before rounding the keeper and slotting home to put City 2-0 up.

Radcliffe were awarded a dubious penalty minutes after kick off, I say dubious as from where I was stood it looked like the Lancaster player had two options, option one being let a powerful shot hit him straight in his privates, or option two, attempt to stop the ball from hitting him in his privates. He chose option two, and the ball did strike his hand, however it would have hit him either way. Then again handball is handball, and maybe the referee was right. Either way Radcliffe had a penalty, which their number 10, Jack Hindle, stepped up to take. His penalty was well struck but the Lancaster keeper, Michael Hale, was able to get to it, and saved it well.

In the 62nd minute, Radcliffe made their first change of the day, with number 7, Lamin Baldeh, leaving the field to be replaced by number 16, Timmy Raheem. Three minutes later, City also made a change, with Hannu Tam leaving the field to be replaced by number 17, Simon Willis.

City made it 3-0 in the 71st minute, as their number 9, Jordan Connerton, raced clear of the Borough defence, before slotting the ball past the keeper, to send the Lancaster fans into raptures. Radcliffe followed this goal by making a change with number 10, Jack Hindle, being replaced by Daniel Burns (?).

The remainder of the changes were made, with City replacing number 7, Jacob Gregory, for number 14, Joshua Earl in the 72nd minute. Borough then made their final change in the 74th minute, with number 12, Stanislav Zhekov (?) replacing number 8, Conor Ready. City made their final change as Jordan Connerton made way for number 15, Tom Kilfin.

Both sides continued to play well, and the Lancaster fans continued to hope for a fourth goal, however that wasn’t to come, and they had to settle with just the three goals today.

Final Score: Radcliffe Borough 0-3 Lancaster City (Tam 45, 46, Connerton 71)

Following the final whistle, I made my way back to my car, before setting off home to Chorley. It was an easy journey home, and I passed through a couple of towns, where I know a football team plays but I wasn’t sure on how to get to them, well now I know and I’ll be branching out more towards Manchester in the upcoming weeks.

Defeat for Radcliffe Borough sees them remain in 17th place in the league, they are currently eight points away from 21st placed Goole, and seem to be safe this year, with only seven games for Radcliffe left, and only five for Goole, it seems unlikely that Goole would catch them. Radcliffe have a number of good players, and I would recommend that if you find yourself near Manchester to pay Radcliffe a visit as they are a friendly club.

Before the game Lancaster found themselves in 2nd place, with only goal difference keeping them off of the top spot. As I stated earlier if results went their way they would move to the top, and results did go their way, with Farsley losing 2-0 to Bamber Bridge, and Lancaster winning, Lancaster now occupy top place in the league, with three points separating them from Farsley. Both teams now have six games to play, and if Lancaster can keep their three-point advantage, they should come out of the season as Champions.

As well as writing these blogs, I am also now recording my adventures in groundhopping, and the videos can be found on my YouTube channel, PreecedGames. Along with Groundhopping videos I also play video games (although these videos come with an NSFW warning).

Thanks for reading.

Attendance: 186

Cost: £12

Movember Total: £25.50 (£1.50 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 1

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157678444199844

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwALgmjeZV7OMP8euGBOi5A (Reminder the gaming videos on this channel contain NSFW language and those that are offended by swearing or violence should avoid these. The groundhopping videos are clean however.)