Uwdi Krugg will be spending the 2014-15 season watching non league football, eating the wrong kind of food and having a bloody good moan.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Burscough 2 Darlington 2

Saturday 23rd August 2014
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North
Attendance: 293
Admission: £8
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Hot Dog £1
Parking: Tesco Supermarket behind the ground, free all day
Weather: Mainly sunny, odd cloud, dry, reasonably mild
Burscough seems an awfully small place to have two railway stations and a bloody big Tesco store. Mind you the supermarket people let you park all day for free on their big car park which alleviated the puzzle of finding somewhere to sling the Match Shed in an area blighted with permit-only parking. Just walk past the supermarket towards the delivery area and it brings you out on a lane just a couple of hundred yards from Victoria Park.
The sight of two coaches parked besides the turnstile block verified that the main Impi of the Darlo supporters had already arrived in West Lancashire. Todays crowd would number almost 300 and I can vouch that three quarters of them came from Darlington.
I am intending to purchase a programme (when available) from all my visits this season. I know that some will be good and some are bound to be rubbish, I initially felt quite positive about handing over 2 quid for a thick, colourful and glossy Burscough publication. My optimism soon turned to dismay when I realised the publication had more advert pages than normal and alarmingly no less than 9 pages were completely blank? Add to that a number of vague poorly set out articles that obviously hadn't been proof read and you got a package that looked good on volume but ultimately left one feeling a bit ripped off as regards genuine readable content. I take no pleasure in criticising non league programmes but Burscough need to review and improve what they are currently offering to the spectator.
It is good to see Burscough back at their Victoria Park stomping ground after a spell loaning out game time at Skelmersdale United. I've been here before about 5 or 6 years ago and the place looked more or less the same. The only changes seem to be a lack of advertising boards on the terraced stands and what once seemed to be a banked temporary open terrace structure that seems to have gone missing at the turnstile end. They still have an on site social club for pre match and half time boozing plus the sit down cafe behind the pitch side tea hut hatch. Glad to see the jewel in the crown Main Stand still survives which offers a good view of the action even though it is positioned slightly the wrong side of the half way line.
I wondered into the tea hut cafe and was surprised to find it completely empty, especially as there were plenty of long distance travellers in the village. The place has plenty of well kept tables and chairs and even a flat screen TV. I was still feeling a touch delicate after an Ale and Grub indulgence session the night before so I left my match day order until a little later.
Once kick off arrived and the social club emptied out there seemed to be black and white shirts everywhere. Tremendous support for the Darlington club. Burscough is not an easy place to get to and I only live about 50 miles away never mind the M6 North and A66 job most of this lot would have been involved in. 
Burscough had to utilise their strong defence as Darlo swept forwards time and time again, the first half witnessed waves of attacks swelling towards the home goal but the strong and exceedingly competent Burscough back line held firm. When Burscough took a 1-0 lead through a rare counter attack it was a major surprise to say the least. The game got a bit fiery after that with one or two personal clashes starting to infect the proceedings, Darlington got right back in it when Gary Brown got on the end of a fisticuffs related free kick 3 minutes before half time.
Suffering latent hunger pangs I suddenly realised I had to get something to eat. I knew the wife had ordered us a local bakery pie buster special for our late night supper from a very reputable supplier close to home so my choice at the Burscough Tea Hut was somewhat compromised. Typical, what the Tea Hut seemed to have on offer was purely Pies, Pies or more Pies, no good for me with that big supper in mind. Then I spotted they also did Hot Dogs for £1. I was in there like a shot. I didn't expect much, it was one of those tinned Hot Dogs I think but it filled a hole and served a purpose, the very nice lady at the counter even gave me onions. Job done.
Second half Darlington absolutely battered Burscough and battered the Burscough goalposts in the process, I've never been to a game when a side hit the post or the bar so many times. How the visitors didn't bag 6 or 7 goals is beyond me. The fact that Burscough kept the onslaught to 1-2 and then had the motivation and never say die determination to snatch a Liam Caddick equaliser with 15 minutes left on the clock is a credit to them. Unreal.
I left the game with the opinion it had been an entertaining day of football between two sides with differing objectives for the season. Darlington look a good side indeed, despite a few mumbled moans from some of the travelling support, they WILL be there in the shake up for promotion. Lets not forget Burscough though who showed some true grit in defence in this game and still had the drive, confidence and competence to hurt Darlington big time on the break. A good game all round.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

FC United 1 Buxton 1

Tuesday 19th August 2014
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Admission: 1,914
Admission: £8
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Over run by the starving hordes
Weather: Late sunny periods, dry turning chilly
Parking: A personal record long distance tonight, not acclimatised to this kind of trek for a game at Bower Fold, I usually park right beside the ground for a Stalybridge game.
Whats the point of a poxy little blog report when a club as popular as FCUM have their very own television coverage, a radio station that wipes the floor with even the likes of Talk Shyte and Radio 5 Live and some very good photographers shooting anything that moves whether its on or off the pitch, not to mention a much younger audience than your average non league crowd all busy, busy, busy taking loadsa snaps on their rental contract iPhones.

I'll get me coat......

Step aside Tea Hut and simply enjoy the best low-cost mid week entertainment since Billy Smarts circus did the North West in 1972. This even beat the time Jumbo shit on the ring masters boots.

Just turning up and seeing the flags, hearing the cutting wit and enjoying the all surrounding presence of a cultural clan like enthusiasm for this charismatic ground breaking club is worth your 8 quid admission money. And they don't even move into their first ever home ground until November (at least Stalybridge is a lot better than Bury)?

Some people don't like all the attention, so called smugness and razzmatazz that gets self generated at a FCUM game. I say give it a chance. I'm a die hard moaning bugger but some of the principles this lot stand up for we should all applaud. More to the point, on a boring Tuesday evening, its almost bloody good fun. I bet the host club renting their very nice stadium for this game wished they could pull in a couple of thousand for a game against the likes of a Buxton outfit (no disrespect to the visitors pulling power intended).

The atmosphere the crowd brings, which is further complimented by the self rule principles and co-ownership of the club, makes a somewhat refreshing change for what most of us non league football followers normally witness. The opposition get plenty of stick for sure, as do the officials but I see the very same abuse, banter, call it what you want at games with less than 50 people on the ground.

Its the same game, football, no matter where you play it and its what happens on the pitch that ultimately matters (isn't it)? FCUM are no different in this aspect and even the wonderful atmosphere couldn't save tonight's encounter with Buxton turning out to be a bit of a Dog. Missed passes, a lack of positional awareness and dare I say it 'nerves' seemed to inhibit both sides on a continual basis. Fragmentation and disjointed play ate away at tactics, strategy and confidence, we ended up being provided with little true quality. Sure, there were a few good chances at both ends but nothing seemed to threaten to ignite the game. A first half FCUM tap in from Wolfenden only a yard out put them 1 up in the 34th minute before Buxton got a well deserved equaliser from a late Liam Hardy penalty. A fair result on the balance of play.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Ramsbottom United 2 Kings Lynn Town 3

Saturday 16th August 2014

Another ground I’ve done plenty of times before so please accept my apology for the lack of an in depth ground review. Great place though. Here's a brief match summary....

Good quality programme with plenty of colour snaps, I still prefer a retro style cover though
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division 
Attendance: 322 
Admission: £9
Programme: £2 (lots and lots of colour pictures)
Tea Hut Stuff: Decent Meat and Potato Pie £1.50
Weather: Grey cloud, chilly breeze at times, odd spot of light drizzle
Parking: On the approach to the ground adjacent to the station

The top league in the NPL profile welcomed a promoted Ramsbottom side oozing talent, enterprise and a really nice ground.
Amidst the added extra's of a quality programme and a mouth watering meat and potato pie the clash with a classy looking Kings Lynn Town was ticking plenty of boxes for my match of the day.
Wham, bam Rammy soared into dreamland with a mega fast 2-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes. The Kings Lynn bench were in freefall, nay, completely stunned.
When you add up the rest of the chances the home side had over the 90 minutes, which included a good few nailed-on sitters and a wayward penalty kick, they really should have given the Norfolk set a damn good tonking.

However, this is a very competitive division and sides like Kings Lynn are not respected members of this elite league for nothing. Give them an opportunity to bite and they will feed. Late second half they had extra portions. Rammy seemed doomed to give this roller-coaster thriller a sad ending and when the Linnets dead ball expert George Thompson curled in a superb free kick from a central position just outside the box their loyal band of long distance travellers went beserk.

Gutting for Ramsbottom United after so much effort, passion and input. It was 'sheer promised land' for the Kings Lynn quarter.

Most of you will be well aware of this peach of a ground nestling below the Pennines so I wont bore you with duplicated details of layout and infrastructure, the one thing I will add is that you always see a decent football match at this place, they play our game the right way and it is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Stalybridge Celtic 3 AFC Fylde 0

There are a number of grounds I enjoy visiting a few times a season, Bower Fold the charismatic home of Stalybridge Celtic included. Its daft to do a full blown visit report for places like this, I'd just be duplicating a load of blah, blah rubbish with yet more pictures of the stands and unsuspecting old timers munching down pies.

As a brief reference and overview of the result here is a cut and paste job of what I put on the Non League Matters Forum under the section 'Where Did You Go'...... I've added token pics of the programme and the team sheet.

Tuesday 12th August 2014
Vanaramarama Conference North 
Attendance: 410
Admission: £12
Programme: £2 (Good read but poor cover)
Weather: Lashed it down both going and then returning home, somehow stayed fine for the match
Parking: Across the road from the ground

Keith Briggs the Celtic Manager was a bloody good player and he could have similar credentials as a Manager. He has built a completely new side at Bower Fold and his young charges not only held their own against a competitive AFC Fylde outfit, they switched the turbo on the second half and left them for dead. 3 goals in six minutes would terminate most opposition and despite the visitors maintaining their standards to play the game the right way, they were toast.

Been here lots of times and the ground is superb, as many on here will surely agree.

Good little programme that could be made even better with a more charismatic retro style cover (ditch the trend to copy the smarmy front pages of our league clubs).

Massive half time queue at the tea hut.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Staveley Miners Welfare 1 Bridlington Town 4

Saturday 9th August 2014
Northern Counties East League Premier Division
Attendance: 103
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50
Tea Hut Stuff: Large Tea 80p (too posh to call it a tea hut)
Weather: Rather sultry and warm, plenty of sunshine
Parking: Club car park
The start of the Northern Counties East season is always a welcome event on the football schedule. There are some great little clubs and friendly quirky grounds spread across this league and you always get value for money. One of the jewels in the crown as regards NCEL venues has got to be the Staveley Miners Welfare ground on Inkersall Road. Some esteemed non league bloggers and football pundits have provided plenty of terrace talk and eye catching photographs over recent years from here and the stadium has been on my hit list for some time now. I had it booked in last season but the fixture in question was unfortunately postponed. Their opening day game against the classy Bridlington Town was simply too good an opportunity to miss. I suppose this was a bit of a prolonged trip for me based upon the current range of the Match Shed and the grief I could potentially encounter for returning back to Krugg Hall well into a Saturday evening. I'd swung the event by offering the Financial Controller (wife) a deserved mystery trip to a lovely market town where she could have a good look around and treat herself, there was some extra cheesy stuff thrown in regarding "she deserved it" and the plan worked like clockwork. I was off to Staveley v Brid and my only baggage was doing her a favour by politely dumping her off in nearby Chesterfield town centre. 
I've seen a good few NCEL outfits in the past but both Staveley and Bridlington have stood out as excellent footballing sides who play the game the right way. Both clubs have been fortunate to have a good Chairman, Terry Damms has done wonders with the Inkersall Road set up and the charismatic Peter Smurthwaite has provided sterling service to Bridlington, I think Peter was engaged in some witty entertaining banter with some Main Stand Staveley die hards for most of the game, great stuff to see (and hear), only in non league can you witness these kind of people, the effort and passion they put into their clubs and the game itself is a credit to them as supporters never mind chairmen, and lets not forget their colleagues, staff and helpers who develop and protect the ongoing status of their football clubs alongside them. 
Derbyshire like many areas of central England had really copped for some atrocious downpours the day before the game and I was taken aback at some Staveley photos on Twitter which showed extensive waterlogging at the slightly sloping far corner of the ground. The talk on Friday night was whether the elements and some heavy forking could dry out the pitch before kick off, it was 50/50 when I signed off Friday evening. More twitter pictures from the club on Saturday morning fortunately showed a big improvement indeed, I wondered where such volumes of standing water could disappear to in such a small space of time? I know Staveley have recently had the pitch relaid but the drainage must be fantastic. Well done to all concerned.
Personally I thought it was a stifling and sultry very hot day, not quite humid but certainly a tad uncomfortable. I had the camera bag in the Match Shed but decided to leave it in the boot until the last quarter of the game, it was too warm to lug a bag about, I knew I'd be able to pop out or get a pass out to get the all important pictures of this charismatic little ground before the trip home.
As I entered through the turnstile at the Inkersall Road end my first impression was that it appears to be a big open pitch and the sunshine bathed everything in bright white light, hardly a shadow in sight, a major sun trap indeed (mind you, dont think this will be a problem from mid September onwards). It was going to be a hot one. Upon entry, to your left, there is a really nice looking clubhouse, bar, catering and function facility with alfresco seating (and boozing) on a raised bijou patio overlooking the pitch, there is plenty of natural light flooding the interior of the clubhouse, lots of decent seating, Sky Sports TV and games facilities, impressive indeed. I cannot dare really call it a tea-hut, the smart open plan catering unit adjacent to the bar offers a hearty range of hot food including a chicken curry special for this game, this looks a great facility for this level. My problem was that I'd eaten far too many pies this week already, including visits to Nelson FC and Hyde FC and a Steak Pie gut-buster pub lunch Friday afternoon on the Pennine Hills. I'd already played it safe and had a salmon sandwich from the nearby Morrisons store before entering the ground (but maybe next time I'll pig out here big style). 
The ground has good covered terracing in a distinctive blue and white colour scheme at both ends of the pitch. Traversing the half way line is a functional small Main Stand with adequate practical seating offering decent views of the pitch, its a little set back from pitchside but this does not impede viewing quality. A little further up from the stand further developments are taking place, I may be wrong but I think they are kitting out a new club shop? Across the pitch there is a tall blue and white adorned tall tower structure with a video and TV complex at the top. next to it is a marquee with plastic chairs. Everything is clean and tidy and very blue and white. What struck me was how far apart everything seemed in relation to what appears to be a very big pitch (or is that just me).
I purchased the match programme for £1.50 and you certainly get your moneys worth. There is plenty to read, there is the usual club news and views, including pen pictures of the visitors and also some welcome selected views from other various contributors, a good publication I thought.
I dont go in for fine detailed match reports, there are much better qualified commentators and writers than me to detail all the intricacies of a game and I am sure both Staveley and Bridlington have people doing this perfectly well for everyone to see and read. My brief summary of this game is that Bridlington found the shop door open, strolled in, had a look around, someone made a cup of tea and then they left with all 3 points. After 30 minutes of the first half  Bridlington Town led 4-0, the game was over, even the Germans wouldn't be able to turn that one around. Lets not be blase or nonchalant, Bridlington boss Gary Allanson came here with a positive game plan. His team executed it perfectly well. They completed the objectives so clinically they had won this match half way through the first half. 
Staveley didn't throw the towel in and go into free-fall, they stood firm re-grouped and gave it their best, particularly in the second half. Was a 1-4 away win a true reflection of the proceedings, I would say not, perhaps 1-3 would be more fair minded. Players that stood out for me included the raw power and intricate skills of Staveley's Nathan Forbes and for Bridlington Town the supremely competent Ash Allanson, is there a better midfield player in this division,  I doubt it. I was also impressed by the Bridlington forward Ombeni Ruhanduka, great player to watch, so sharp and skillful, think Gary isn't so keen at his tracking back efficiency at the moment though. 
It was a shame that Joe Cooper got a painful injury for the visitors in the latter stages of the game, I wish him a speedy recovery. In all honesty I dont think this was a great game by any means, Bridlington took their opportunities but the rest of it was scrappy and somewhat disjointed. Don't think a very bobbly pitch helped a passing game but that may be due to the recent relaying of the playing surface. Of course it is very early days and teams need a few weeks to bed in new tactics, players and strategies.
I got the camera out the Match Shed with around 15 minutes left and took some photo's of this really nice ground. After that it was back to the hills, good job I remembered to pick the wife up? 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Hyde 3 FC United 4

Tuesday 5th August 2014
Pre Season Friendly
Attendance: It appears nobody can be arsed giving it out?
Admission: 7 quid, they're a lot keener on this aspect of efficiency.
Programme: £1 (few pages)
Tea Hut Stuff: Rather nice Meat and Potato Pie, impressed... £2.20
Weather: Fine and mild evening, some late sunny spells
Parking: The small car park was full, side street opposite the leisure centre.
If you are going to give out a free limited number of official team sheets kindly be decent enough to give them to the mugs who've paid for a programme. Especially if its one of the lesser sized pre season friendly programmes with not a lot in it. I was well miffed off to find casual strollers entering the main stand ten minutes before kick off picking up the freebies without any interest in what had been casually thrust upon them, not like the odd few numpties like me who had actually bothered to support the clubs revenue by buying what they deemed to be an official 'programme' early doors.

No pics tonight and no glorified ground review, been here before like lots and lots of other non league folk. Like it or lump it, Ewen Fields is a nice Conference North stadium with an excellent playing surface but the tab appears to be Man City branding of the first degree, the Eastlands playboys have an interest here and its plain to see, say no more. At least Hyde still have red shirts... the rest of the place is a worship to the colour blue.

After a tough season last time around me and many others in a decent sized crowd were somewhat surprised to witness Hyde take a shock 3-0 lead within 13 minutes of the kick off. To be honest they could have even bagged a couple more in that first half.

FC United didn't really play badly in that early period they just looked a little ring rusty at the back. They zipped the ball about no-problem over the rest of the pitch and created some decent looking chances.

The second half brought about a completely different profile to the proceedings. The revived intensity of the visitors game plan totally wiped out any Hyde resistance and the home side quickly faded from being a lasting threat. This allowed FC United to over run the midfield and set up Jerome Wright and Mr Norton to portray their endless catalogue of tricks. 

It was a very impressive FC comeback. It finished 3-4 but despite some missed chances of their own in that disheveled first period Hyde got away somewhat lucky to not lose this match by a cricket score.

One has to fear the worst for Hyde in the Conference North on this second half performance, as for FC United they played some really good football (if only in parts) and I reckon they are certainly looking like a strong top four side for the EvoStik NPL Premier. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Nelson 1 Runcorn Town 1

Saturday 2nd August 2014
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 146
Admission: £6
Programme: £1.50
Tea Hut Stuff: Meat and Potato Pie, Peas and Gravy
Weather: Cloud, sunshine and rain all in one game
Parking: On the road beside the entrance
Match of the Day
The start of the NWCL season. I've been to what the locals call 'Little Wembley' before but today's game was special. Nelson had won promotion from NWCL Division 1 as respected champions and now had the pleasure of an opening fixture against one of the Premier Leagues top footballing sides, Runcorn Town. It looked an intriguing fixture on paper, Nelson had impressed many NWCL aficionados last term with some fine performances on their way to the Division 1 title. Runcorn Town had finished 5th in the Premier League after initial high hopes for silverware sadly failed to materialise. The close season had seen Town boss Simon Burton ring the changes with many new faces appearing in the squad as a number of big name players moved onto pastures new. All was set for a battle royal between two sides whom each had a lot to prove as a new campaign set sail from the shelter of the harbour.
Classic little stand really
The first thing that struck me as I entered through the turnstiles was the superb playing surface. It was like a bowling green, truly immaculate and was a credit to Trevor Stanworth the club groundsman. Little Wembley at Victoria Park nestles between Lomeshaye Park and the small industrial estate with the trademark old stone chimney residing behind some rather charismatic terraced houses. There is a tennis-style Wimbledon Green main stand offering seating and covered standing running down one touchline, which it has to be said is a tad set back from the pitch, the only other structures of note are down the far end from the entrance, there is a VIP lounge near the corner flag and then alongside the opposite corner there are changing rooms, a toilet and tea hut block (perhaps a little too close to each other for comfort), a bar area and the club office. 
Trendy alfresco club shop seems a tad short on stock at the moment
The rest of the ground is open plan with hard standing as expected at this level. Apparently there are plans in place for a new club shop in the near future.
The stand is set back from the pitch a bit but there is no standing in front so you still get a decent view
Still suffering from last nights beer ridden late night Indian takeaway, which I think consisted of Lamb Sagwalla and a rather spicy Chicken Balti Jal Frezi I had been unable to stomach anything all day, it felt like I'd had a bloody good kicking. As it was now 2.45pm I had to get something to eat. I hit the Tea Hut and put in a big order of Meat and Potato Pie, Peas and Gravy. Cost me £2.50 but there were unconfirmed rumours coming out the club that the catering was not to be missed? I found refuge at the end of the stand and opened up my steaming grub tray like an expectant kid on Christmas morning. 
Minuscule portion of peas and sadly... some rather rubbish gravy
The vision of what greeted me still sends a shudder down my spine. It looked like a Hollands pie with some of the crust mysteriously missing, a minuscule portion of economy processed peas and some insipid watery gravy that without wishing to sound disrespectful looked more like the contents of a puddle than what passes for standard gravy. Not what I was hoping for I'm afraid. The pie was ok but the tiny portion of peas and the dodgy looking liquid it all sat in was well short of the mark. Nelson FC are priding themselves on making improvements which are clear to see, I can only recommend that they shove the catering up the improvements-list ASAP.
Good programme, looks like Danny Mahoney on the cover
In stark contrast to the horrors of that gravy, the match programme I purchased on the way in was a well put together publication with lots of club comment, plenty to read and was well complimented by various colour pictures, certainly worth the £1.50 asking price, a good effort for this level.
Not many of these left nowadays
We'd had Met Office amber weather warnings for this area since yesterday and plenty of rain had fallen in the interim, ironically come kick off time things started to dry up a bit and we even got some rather warm sunshine. Needless to say the rain soon returned and everyone got a half time dowsing, it was that kind of day. No matter what fell out of the sky that pitch still held up really well, a superb surface for fast open football that lasted all afternoon.
Mark Keddie chases Robert Grimes, quality players
The game itself, rather predictably, started at 100mph. Each side was totally committed to the cause but this didn't necessarily help either teams objectives. Chances seemed few and far between but Nelson certainly had the best of the first half and took a 1-0 lead when Peter Wright went down in the area, he got up to put the penalty in the back of the net. Town looked lightweight up front and too much was expected of the excellent Mark Keddie in midfield, there was little creativity for the visitors otherwise. The Nelson quartet of Danny Mahoney, Adnan Ahmed, Robert Grimes and Peter Wright were looking mighty impressive, good job Town had the solid Tom Spearitt to shore things up from the back, one of the best defenders in this league in my opinion.
Tom Spearitt of Runcorn Town
Come second half one got the impression there must have been a famous Simon Burton tea-cup and hair dryer special taking place in the visitors dressing room. Town immediately looked a lot more competitive, cohesive and competent on the ball. Paul Shanley started to make inroads down the left flank and Nelson got pushed back. Sean Breen had looked crowded and bustled out of the game by the resolute Nelson defence for most of the game but he stabbed home the only clear cut chance he got with clinical precision to put Town right back in it at 1-1. Despite some huffing and puffing in the last 10 minutes that's how it ended. A draw was a fair result and a fitting outcome for a pretty entertaining days football. Nelson look very promising on this showing, as for Town it is obviously going to take a while for the new players to fit into the strategic game plan, the problem for Simon Burton (and the loyal Town supporters) is that no side in this extremely robust division has the luxury of a settling in period.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Return to Bower Fold

Loads of games this weekend but strangely none of them provided me with the get up and go factor to pump excess diesel into the Match Tank for a prolonged trip to a new venue. When Flint Towns game with Oldham Boro bit the dust in rather secretive circumstances I decided to just go to a match for the fun of it irrespective of whether it was a new ground or not. I decided to wander along to Bower Fold the home of Stalybridge Celtic, they happened to be playing Southport whom I also have a bit of a soft spot for. I enjoyed the match but had already decided to not do a full-on visit report. I've taken loads of photographs of the wonderful Bower Fold ground in the past, there was no urge to add to whats been done before.

Here is a cut and paste job of the message I left on the 'Non League Matters' forum under their classification of "where did you go".

Admission: £7
Attendance: 123 (head count)
Programme: None printed
Tea Hut Stuff: Too hot for grub (had a pint of weak lager in the clubhouse instead £3, not much choice, pants)
Weather: Hot and sultry, lots of sunshine
Parking: Just over the main road from the official club car park (which was charging cash).

I've had enough pre season friendlies now, the novelty has worn off.
Dont reckon this encounter warranted 7 quid entry but I seem to like both sides and Bower Fold is a superb non league setting.
Decent quality football for the most part, I'd give it 6/10.
Not many turned out crowd wise, the away end totalled 4 teenagers with Southport shirts.
The usually popular tea hut was mega quite, they were trying to sell off remnant pies (at half price) at the exit gate come full time.
The ground has been well covered on here over the years (I'll say no more other than its fabulous).
Bridge are badly in need of a striker to hack it at Conference North level for the upcoming season.
Southport looked to have something about them on this showing, plenty of positives to work upon.
Was going to do a visit report and some snaps for 'Wheres The Tea Hut' but I've been to Bower Fold too many times in the past.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Clitheroe 1 FC United 4

Tuesday 22nd July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
Attendance: 304
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50 (for 5 games) doh!
Tea Hut Stuff: Steak & Kidney Pie, Mushy Peas £2
Weather: Very warm sunny evening
Parking: Side street 5 minutes from the ground
26 degrees as I hit the town boundary. Constant sunshine. Clitheroe is a charismatic little town nestled in the scenic Ribble Valley. I know it well from various antique and house clearance auctions, it also holds a monster 7am Sunday morning car boot sale that has hawks and wannabe dealers fighting over junk and lots of other things that quite frankly would be better off left on a tip. There are some trendy local produce butchers specialising in fancy tasting sausages, a castle, a decent little market and some proper pubs. When you add the fantastic looking non league ground to the list, this is probably a decent place to live.
Clitheroe FC reside in the EvoStik Northern Premier League Division 1 North. They got to the final of the FA Vase in 1996 and also ended runners up in the much less important Lancashire Challenge Trophy in 2010, to be honest its been a pretty lean time in between.
Friendlies are what they say on the tin, mostly they act as fitness sessions, tactic testers and a chance to have a look at some trialists. This one had the bonus factor of witnessing the FC United peloton on a nice summers evening. I always enjoy seeing their loyal troupe of supporters with all the flags, banners and the cutting wit. Whether you love em or loathe them FC United are a tremendous asset to non league football both on and off the pitch, just the extra cash on the gate makes them a popular draw for their fellow clubs. 
FC have been really unlucky in recent years to have not progressed upwards into the Conference North, some cruel play off memories see them start this season (once again) as one of the top sides in the EvoStik Northern Premier Leagues Premier Division. With this game just a friendly there was obviously not the volume of support and colour as one would normally witness for a fully competitive fixture but there were still a good number of visiting supporters enjoying the evening in the Shawbridge stadium.

I got the Match Tank down a side street and was soon handing over my 5 quid entrance money. I gave them an extra £1.50 for a programme. The purchase was based upon the vision that the publication looked to have a decent number of pages in it. Unfortunately I found out that the club had sold me a programme covering no less than 5 home friendly games for this pre season period. Most of the pages were taken up by generic cut and paste club histories for sides not even playing. A bit of a con unless you are a die hard and intend to see all 5 games (even then the history write-ups were at least 12 months out of date). Its things like this that give even the humble non league programme a negative bad reputation and rightly so. It makes it so much harder for the clubs who do knock out a good programme. If I had known upfront I simply would not have purchased it.
The brownie points Clitheroe lost on the programme they more than made up for with the really good tea hut. I opted for steak and kidney pie and mushy peas for a very economical 2 pounds and it was simply wonderful. I'd eat here every night. After the horror of that cardboard pie at Frickley last season, which almost put me off football grub for life this was just what I needed to get back in the fast lane Mmmm.
Shawbridge is a splendid spot to watch football. My previous visit here was a night match against the old Woodley Sports side. Tonight on a sun drenched summers evening the place looked outstanding. If you've not been before you may be taken aback at the sloping nature of the well kept pitch, it seems to swell inwards like a shallow valley before climbing sharply to the right hand corner flag at the end opposite the entrance. As you step through that entrance you witness cover on all four sides which includes a seated main stand, various covered terraces, Lordys Bar and that Tea Hut I was going on about, the whole place is steeped in character. Lordys Bar seemed to be doing some fine service knocking out pints of ale for the thirsty spectators, its plastic glasses but you could still drink pitch side.
The match itself will be well documented on club websites so this is just a brief personal overview. I considered it a scrappy game for the most part, both sides had spells of temporary dominance but consistency of approach was often terminated by niggling challenges and foul play (more than is normally seen in a friendly). 
A 1-4 scoreline in FC Uniteds favour is a little unfair on Clitheroe who battled hard and cut out a good few scoring opportunities. FC had quality on the ball but it often vanished before anything clinical could be produced, even most of the goals appeared to be disjointed affairs. You pay your money and take your chance, as this was just a friendly I can't really complain, the pie and pea's and the glorious Shawbridge setting sent me home thinking it had been worthwhile.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Rochdale 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Saturday 19th July 2014

Not non league (I know) but my first choice fixture was unfortunately postponed because of overnight storms and continual rain.

Plan B was to play it safe and opt for a decent pitch and some shelter from the elements.

Time was running out so it was..........

Pre Season Friendly
Attendance: 1,470
Admission: 10 quid
Match rating: 4/10
Weather: Humid indeed, cloud and rain finally gave way to some second half sunshine.

Duff kits, tepid football and (sadly) too many examples of diving.

Give me the non league experience everytime. I certainly wouldn't pay £370 for a season ticket here (or 20 quid for a single league match).

Rochdale will struggle in Division 1 and I simply fail to see what all the fuss is about regarding the high hopes for this Wigan side.

Spotland is a friendly smart ground already well known by many with an excellent playing surface and decent enough tea hut stuff.

I just couldn't get into it today and wished that Ashton Town v Mold Alexandra hadn't been called off due to waterlogging and pitch protection factors for the coming season.

No snaps I'm afraid, been to too many league grounds where they dont let you in with a proper camera. Left it at home.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Oxenhope Recreation 5 Barnoldswick Town 4

Saturday 12th July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
Admission: Free
Attendance: 32 (Head count)
Programme: None available today
Tea Hut Stuff: Don't have one at the moment
Weather: Lot of light cloud, odd sunny spell, warm
Parking: Tucked in beside the adjoining cricket club
Bronte Country, majestic moorland, scenic views and plenty of fresh air. Nowadays the only 'Wuthering Heights' you're likely to see around here are a couple of 'no-prisoners' centre backs, if you're lucky one might even be called Heathcliffe?
This hidden gem of a no frills football ground nestles in the lovely village of Oxenhope which is famous for the Worth Valley Railway and its nearby proximity to the honey pot tourist trap of Haworth. The main football action takes place on the bottom pitch where the first team ply their trade in the West Yorkshire Premier, the top pitch has a Scafell Pike type slope to it and doesn't meet ground grading requirements. 
There is a lovely introduction to the field down a wide tarmac path that runs past the changing rooms before meeting up with the local bowling green and a small playground. The pitch sits picturesquely before sweeping views of the Pennine Hills as the outskirts of Oxenhope village meet well kept farmland and the open fells. Due to the availability of practical space the spectator only has access to 2 sides of the pitch. 
There is hard standing down the touchline beside the bowling green and a cracking view from above the raised banking behind the goals at the cricket ground end. Don't expect fancy stands or covered terracing, this is non-league uncut but it provides a great setting for watching a football match.
In the official non league grading system you will find Oxenhope Rec playing in a competition somewhat below the level where Barnoldswick Town do their stuff, Barlick, as their supporters call them, reside as a much respected side in the North West Counties League Premier Division. A number of Barlick supporters had travelled across to get a first glimpse of their heroes as the pre season build up started to finally get more serious. Hopefully a good open game was on offer, especially as Oxenhope still had the Keighley Cup triumph still fresh in the memory. We certainly got what I was hoping for. No less than 9 goals were provided as both sides played some fine enterprising football in rather warm and slightly humid conditions. I wont pretend to know all the players, I just enjoyed a good open game. If I had to single out a special mention it would be for an extremely impressive performance from Barlicks young attacking midfield player Joel Melia. He looks a very good player indeed.
The impressive Joel Melia
The game ebbed and flowed, at one stage Rec led Barlick 5-2 and seemed to be coasting but all credit to the visitors for digging deep and getting right back into the match, the fact we ended with a 5-4 scoreline says it all, the players gave it all and looked thoroughly tired out after the 90 minutes. 
I was pleasantly educated for the second week running that sides from lower leagues can still provide high quality football and that is what Oxenhope dished out for Barlick. In response, Barlick themselves came back from some gearbox problems early doors to finish the afternoon with some scintillating attacking entertainment. A quick word of praise for the Rec keeper who must have appeared 10 foot tall to the Barlick front line as we hit the final quarter, a very competent looking keeper who wasn't afraid to tell his back four what was expected.