Football

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, 16 November 2014

Parkgate 4 Barton Town Old Boys 4

Saturday 15th November 2014
Northern Counties East League
PARKGATE 4 BARTON TOWN OLD BOYS 4
Attendance: 54
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea Bag £1, Burned Bottom Sausage Roll £1
Weather: Murky mist turned to consistent steady rain, mega grim
Parking: Golf Club car park adjacent to the ground
Lots of groundhoppers have posted nice pictures of this place. Its got a good feedback record. Must be me, or perhaps the awful weather but it just didn't meet my expectations.

Driving across Yorkshire I was surprised to see that fog had set in and it wasn't for shifting. Thankfully things got a little clearer on the edge of Rotherham but it was still a grimy and murky dogs dinner of a day weather wise. As the mist eventually faded consistent steady rain took up the running and it lasted pretty much the entire game.

The ground is a bugger to find if you haven't been tipped off its on the Roundwood Golf Club complex. Its only open on 3 sides. There is a bit of a basic small stand behind the goals next to the tea hut and the turnstiles. A similar covered terrace structure resides just across the corner flag area from the seats. Further down this touchline are a few steps of open raised terracing which provide a decent view of the pitch from the halfway line (if its not pouring down). The far end has perimeter hard standing only. The out of bounds side of the ground is lined by tall bushes and acts as a partition to a lower pitch where apparently Rotherham United train.

It only cost me 5 quid in but this match was so devoid of any hint of quality or anything approaching even basic entertainment I almost thought I had been ripped off, it was that bad. Ok, incredibly, it had 8 goals but take it from me it was utter garbage and the scoreline paid little traceability to what went on. Normally the NCEL is a decent standard of football but this game never got going. Remember kick and run in the playground at morning break, well that hoof, boot and charge rubbish was streets ahead of this tripe. This turned into a mistake ridden farce where the misplaced pass and the wayward punt seemed to be the preferred currency. A lone voice from a travelling Barton fan echoed over the wet pitch as another ball disappeared into a nearby back garden "Come on Barton, we're better than this, its bloody rubbish"!

My mood hadn't improved when I had realised that some of the 54 fellow sufferers in the crowd alongside me had got in for almost half what I had paid. Parkgate had provided certain Football League Season Ticket holders a special deal of reduced admission! When one considers what these modern game football lovers are more than happy to pay to watch their heroes in the big league, it is quite ironic that stupid clubs like Parkgate then charge their own genuine core-audience and any other non league loving supporters almost twice the price? Complete madness and its jolly unfair too, sadly far too many money grabbing non league clubs are operating this crazy system. Just for the sake of snatching loose change they totally disrespect the people who watch non league football week in, week out whatever the weather or circumstances.

To rub in my annoyance at this pitiful matchday experience even more, the tea hut had already taken me for a £1 luke warm tea bag and a smallish sausage roll (the only hot food item on offer) which, as is expected in non league circles, had a burned bottom. Not really a pleasant afternoon, in fact it is my worst visit to a game this season.



Sunday, 19 October 2014

Brigg Town 0 Padiham 0

Saturday 18th October 2014
FA Trophy Preliminary Round
BRIGG TOWN 0 PADIHAM 0
Attendance: 110
Admission: £6
Tea Hut Stuff: Badly burned Sausage Roll £1.20, Tea £1
Programme: £1.50
Weather: Grey cloud, mild, the odd isolated sunny spell
Parking: On the large club car park
Desperate for the bogs I swung the Match Tank into Thorne Services where the M18 meets the M180 eastbound. Directly behind me was the Padiham team coach full of players, officials and a few supporters supping ale. Luckily I headed them off near WH Smiths and got in the Gents just before the rush. I half expected the lads to sneak a few Whopper type grills back on the coach from the Burger King outlet. Sadly it appears this new nutritional fad sweeping through modern football has even reached non league levels, the players in their smart Padiham FC tops just blanked the burger range completely, bet they had some cold pasta twirls waiting back on the bus? Objective completed I set the Match Tank controls for the far east in the form of deepest North Lincolnshire.

It was soon time for some light lunch. According to Trip Advisor the best fish and chips in the Brigg locality could be found on Chapel Lane next to the post office in the small village of Scawby. Although just a short distance from the M180 and just down the road from both Scunthorpe and Brigg I found Scawby exceedingly difficult to locate. I got there in the end and I must say it was well worth the effort, tremendous stuff, even though the fish and chips plundered some £5.20 from my life savings.
The Match Tank doesn't do fancy luxury frivolities like Sat Nav so I had to remember a Google Maps image of how to get to the Brigg ground. After a few three point turns, plenty of f-words and lots of moaning I spotted the floodlights and what appeared to be the perimeter fence of the club car park. I thought it was strange but the apparent entrance seemed to be directly adjacent to somebodies back garden. I ended up taking the Match Tank down the tight track only to find a locked gate. The real car park entrance turned out to be on the far side of the ground, yet more vehicle reversing got me out of the back gardens before anybody noticed me, I hope, sorry about your rhubarb.
I was pleasantly surprised when the young lad at the turnstile only charged me 6 quid to get in. This is unusually cheap for Evo Stik NPL level football, or... worryingly the young chap took me for a Pensioner? Ok, I've dressed up a bit in the past at the odd night match when hood-winking myself into some of our more expensive non league stadia for the concessionary rate (the old timer disguise also includes voice disfiguration and a limp), today though I was in broad daylight and in no way trying to pull a fast one. I got to thinking 'bloody hell do I really look that old'?
The ground is called The Hawthorns but it doesn't readily resemble its West Brom namesake. Its got some character though, not a lot but enough to keep me happy for the afternoon. The primary focus is the pitch length stand with the red seats, at the corner is a small tea hut full of Pukka Pies and large cups of tea. I'm a big Pukka Pie admirer but I couldn't manage one on top of all those fish and chips so I went for the lesser option of a sausage roll. Sadly the bottom of the roll was incinerated to a dark brown concrete crust and proved difficult to salvage amidst the onlooking presence of nearby spectators. 
Both ends of the Brigg ground are uncovered with regulation hard standing. At the playing fields end they've bothered to put netting up above the perimeter fence to stop losing balls from wayward (but probably rare) efforts on goal, the frustrating thing is that the capture netting has become loose just above the fence so every time the netting captures a ball it slips down the net and drops down on the other side of the fence outside the ground, which obviously defeats the whole purpose, for goodness sake fix it. The side of the ground which houses the clubhouse and changing rooms has some rather quirky if a little drab constructions running alongside the pitch, these offer shelter and a good enough view I suppose. In an ideal world that grey pitch side wall could do with with some nice bright paint, I understand the reality that cash, effort and time are not easy to come by and a lot more urgent topics will doubtless take priority.
At least the place has a soul unlike some of the newer flat pack stadiums we see on the non league scene nowadays. Couldn't help but notice that quite a number of folk seemed to enter the ground at half time, probably for free, this included a large troupe of new world skateboarders and a separate bunch of rather loud mouthed 'opinionated' people whom had obviously been influenced by half a dozen pints. Sad for Steve Wilkes the Padiham boss to have to advise these 'opinionated' people to stop picking on one of the young Padiham players doing his best on the pitch, I believe the lad was only 16, all credit to Steve for telling them to lay off.
Onto the game itself. This FA Trophy big-one pitted two sides together who are both firmly rooted in the lower-bottom depth of their respective league tables. Brigg represent the Evo Stik NPL Division 1 South, Padiham represent the Evo Stik NPL Division 1 North. To say the least, both clubs have found actual goals very hard to come by. Surely this one off cup tie would be different, surely one side would free themselves of their shot shy shooting phobia and go net busting crazy, nope, afraid not, not a bloody chance of it. As I write this visit report on a Sunday afternoon, this lot could still be playing now and it would still be 0-0. Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty decent match and both sides showed plenty of determination and a fair bit of skill but when it came to creating genuine chances the Hawthorns Ground was a barren desert of despair. They've got to do it all again in a replay over at Padiham next Wednesday night. At least that date will enforce a conclusion even if they have to do it via extra time and penalties (could be a late night me thinks).

  

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

FC United 1 Skelmersdale United 2

Tuesday 14th October 2014
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
FC UNITED 1 SKELMERSDALE UNITED 2
Attendance: 1,843
Admission: £8
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Had a big tea at home before making the trip
Weather: Not too chilly really, rain kept off as well
Parking: Down some side street with fancy houses
Eccentricity, passion, faith, loyalty and support. Just a bunch of words often handed out in football fan circles like sugar coated jelly tots. Often, with perhaps the exception of a few select favourites, I usually realise (sooner or later) its a load of generic half cut bullsh*t! 

However... a FCUM match is like no other non league game you're ever likely to see. It actually measures up to those cheap throw away headings. Not sure if I totally enjoy it or I'm periodically attracted like a neon starved moth finding a bulb? The quirky gathering of grown up blokes stood up in the far corner of the seats even when their heroes are attacking the other end, the almost non stop singing no matter what crap is taking place on the pitch, the flags with the bob-on statements of intent, the cross section of all walks of life wrapped up in red, black & white, it goes on and on and on and the reality is, its just a non league football match which is even below the Conference level. You just gotta admire them if nothing else.

Tonight FC got mugged by a Skem side that I cannot believe has risen to the top of the NPL Premier Division. They looked like a side from a couple of leagues below. They came to frustrate, spoil and scatter and unfortunately for neutrals wanting a decent game, it worked a bloody treat. The match was fragmented, scrappy and niggly. FC had more chances than England had against San Marino & Estonia combined but they severely lacked the killer finish to put the ball in the net. Skem took what little came their way, fleeced a gob smacked defence and got all the 3 points, which will doubtless compliment that false position at the top of the table.

Duff match in my book 3/10 tops. Wished I'd watched Gordon Ramsay telling some Costa Blanca chef to f*ck off on TV.

Truly excellent programme though, 2 quid gets you the best read in non league, if you're sick of the advert ridden cut and paste back of a fag packet efforts knocked out by 90% of non league clubs, don't give up... get some change out and give this one a try, you wont be disappointed, great publication!
 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Silsden 2 Runcorn Linnets 3

Saturday 20th September 2014
North West Counties League Premier Division
SILSDEN 2 RUNCORN LINNETS 3
Attendance: 290
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50
Tea Hut Stuff: Cheese and Onion Pie £1.50
Weather: Grey cloud, slight chill, kept dry despite the threat of rain
Parking: On the field adjacent to the cricket pitch beside the ground
Been to this well kept new ground before so there wont be any fancy photos or duplicated descriptions of the layout, all I will say is that its well worth the trip and the views of the surrounding area are an attractive addition to what is a first class non league experience.

I always enjoy the great little tea hut that the Cobbydalers put on and today's fayre didn't disappoint, its not often you find Cheese and Onion Pie on the menu at football grounds but I thoroughly enjoyed my offering here and all credit to the club for keeping up the high standards of jolly decent grub. 

Silsden have set the NWCL on fire recently and were unbeaten in the last 7 games, Andy Geary has a vibrant squad of quality young players able to compliment his blueprint for fast effective cutting football, needless to say the scouts from other clubs are eagerly reviewing their respective performances.

As Silsden ripped todays visitors apart on numerous lightening counter attacks I could see why there is so much interest on what is happening down at the Silsden Playing Fields. They stunned the league leaders cold with a deserved 2-0 lead within 36 minutes of the kick off. 

I thought it was for the most part a good game for the spectator although I was slightly concerned that the referee got taken for a ride in the second half as the visitors looked for a way back into the match. What appeared to be a solid Silsden lead was quickly eroded as most people on the ground scratched their heads at what the referee was being persuaded with on (and off) the field?

I reckon Silsden definitely have something to build upon with this squad and I wish them all the luck for the future (something the referee deleted from their wish list during this particular encounter).

Friday, 19 September 2014

Falmouth Town 3 Stoke Gabriel 2

Saturday 13th September 2014
South West Peninsular League Premier Division
FALMOUTH TOWN 3 STOKE GABRIEL 2
Attendance: 73 (head count)
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Tea Hut Stuff: Large tea 60p
Weather: Light cloud turning to second half sunshine
Parking: On the club car park
Had some of the best fish, chips and mushy peas ever at The Gem Fish Bar and Restaurant in the town centre before the game. Its just off The Moor, up the hill adjacent to the Quarry Hill Car Park. Unfortunately there was no need for extra grub from what appeared to be a well stocked Tea Hut.
Bickland Park is old school uncut retro non league nirvana. Sadly local reports identify that this charismatic haven of football culture is tragically due for closure? 
Why do we, as a society, always get rid of the good stuff and end up replacing it with something really crap? Chances are this splendid old warhorse of a football ground will end up as one of those tacky budget supermarkets or an estate of semi detached huts for over borrowed first time buyers.
I'm not going to bore you with a match report, all I will say is that the visitors should have been 6 nil up at half time. Credit to Falmouth they took their opportunity during a more spirited second half display to get back in the match. The referenced 'opportunity' featured 2 penalty kicks and the Stoke Gabriel keeper sadly suffering a broken leg.
This provided the Falmouth side with their first win of the season.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Burscough 2 Darlington 2

Saturday 23rd August 2014
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North
BURSCOUGH 2 DARLINGTON 2
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
FC UNITED 1 BUXTON 1
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 
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2 KINGS LYNN TOWN 3
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 
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 3 AFC FYLDE 0
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
STAVELEY MINERS WELFARE 1 BRIDLINGTON TOWN 4
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
HYDE 3 FC UNITED 4
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
NELSON 1 RUNCORN TOWN 1
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.