Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Westfield FC - Woking Park



Westfield FC
Woking Park
Woking
Surrey
GU22 9BA

01483 771106






Ground Number: 428
Tuesday 28th October 2014
Westfield 1-2 Windsor
Combined Counties League Premier Division



After a bumper week of football last week, but no game on the Friday as I was so busy catching up with things that had gone on whilst I was away, I was looking forward to getting to a game on this Tuesday. I was hoping it would be with my regular groundhopping partner, Anwar. In the absence of anything really special, I looked for the closest game to me, at a ground I had not been to previously of course. It turned out to be Westfield v Windsor in the Combined Counties League. I was pleased about this - the CCL being a league that I was over halfway to completing and having been to a fair few Windsor games in the past when ex Wycombe players Dennis Greene and Keith Scott were in charge. I had also been to a Westfield 'home' game before, but it was played at nearby Woking FC due to Westfield's very basic ground back then. In fact I'm not even sure if they had the hard standing back then as I went back to get more pictures a few years later, but since then there had been massive improvements so I was looking forward to going back and seeing what had happened to it. 






Westfield FC were formed in 1953. The club played in the Woking and Surrey Leagues up until 1978. That year they became founder members of the Combined Counties League (for it's inaugural year it was called the 'Home Counties League') They have never suffered a relegation due to on the pitch matters since joining the league, though they were demoted in 2006 due to ground grading issues. It took until 2013 to be promoted back and have the ground in place, but last season, their first season back, they finished an excellent 4th, just one place short of their best ever finish of 3rd back in the early 80's. The league was a direct follow on of the Surrey Senior League and they were also Champions of that for 2 years running, in 1973 and 1974. They had generally been successful, but at the time of the game were struggling down in 19th place.


In the FA Cup they had not had much success, though last season they reached the 1st Qualifying Round before going out to Southern League D1 Central side Aylesbury United. The FA Vase was just as elusive, but they did have a good run to the 4th round back in the 2000-01 season when they lost out to Arlesey Town, though they did beat Lewes along the way. They had won the Surrey Senior League Cup twice in the early 70's, plus the Surrey Junior Cup back in 1955.




Windsor meanwhile were doing a lot better, sitting in 5th place and with a chance of a shot at promotion, especially if they won their games in hand. The current incarnation of the club were only founded in 2011 and joined the Combined Counties League for the start of the 2011/12 season. In their first season they finished runners up in the Premier Division, and also lost on penalties in the semi final of the Berks and Bucks Trophy, a game which I was at. Since then, the chairman of the club has decided to remove the playing budget, but even so they have had 2 6th placed finishes since. They have had a couple of reasonable cup runs in their short history, reaching the 1st Round of the FA Vase and the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.

The club were a direct follow on of Windsor and Eton FC, and indeed took up residence at their old ground. The original club went bust in 2011 whilst in the Southern League Premier Division, having been Champions of the D1 South and West previous season. The club had a rich history, reaching the Isthmian Premier when it was step 2 of the non league pyramid during their halcyon days of the 1980's. They had success in the FA Cup during this time too. In the 1983-84 season they took Harry Redknapp's Bournemouth side to a 2nd Round replay and just missed out on playing Manchester United, a match that the Dorset club famously won 2-0. A number of famous faces have turned out for the club - numerous former Wycombe players and even Royle Family actor Ralf Little during the 2005/06 season.


On the day of the game it was quite busy for me. I had to start this blog, and I was also waiting in for my new phone to be delivered, as my parents were out. Later on in the day after lunch, I had a couple of bits of casual work to do and these took a couple of hours to complete. For the rest of the afternoon I just caught up on a few bits, but as of dinner time, still no phone.


After a delicious home cooked curry and getting my things together, I left at 5.45, allowing an extra hour for the ever useless M25. At first I was frustrated by cars doing way below the speed limit on the way to the motorway, then when I got to the M25 there was around 8 miles of crawling traffic thanks to some bozo stopping his van in the middle of the motorway, rather than pulling over to the hard shoulder like any sensible person would do. At first the prognosis on my sat Nav looked grim, with me lucky to make kick off, what with all the delay. In the end I got just outside the ground at just before 7.10. I tried to go in the entrance that my Sat Nav told me, but someone had put bollards at the end of the lane, and also some to stop you cutting across the pathway and getting in that way. In the end, I wasn't sure where the new entrance was, so I parked in the next side street and walked it.

After walking to the ground I was met at the gate my a friendly man who charged me a very reasonable £6 including programme. This is spot on in my mind, I reckon a fiver in for this step, plus the programme was well worth a quid, maybe £1.50. I caught up on my facebook and got some pictures of the ground before going and watching the game from the balcony.

THE GAME 

The first half was pretty decent without being spectacular. It was Windsor asking all the questions with Westfield defending very deep and relying on catching Windsor on the break. They did soak up the pressure well though and the Westfield keeper was never really tested.

Windsor took the lead around 10 minutes into the second half when sloppy defending allowed them to score from close range. But it was a lot more equal in terms of play and the goal seemed to spur Westfield into action. They got their equaliser just after the hour, a great cross allowed Shane Cheeseman loop a brilliant header over the keeper. From then on it was the home side in the ascendancy but it was Windsor who took the lead on 78 minutes. Robert Lazarczuk who had played really well as a deep lying playmaker put a great ball through to split the Westfield defence and it was put away in the scramble that followed to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. I thought he was the best player on the pitch, but straight away he was subbed off. Westfield tried to get back into it, but they were a bit hurried going forward and lack of composure meant their efforts came to nothing.

AFTER THE GAME

I made my way home, leaving Woking at 9.30. The roads were nice and clear and I was back at 10.10. I checked my Facebook and typed some more of this blog before watching TV in bed, going to sleep around midnight. 

EXPENSES

Entry with programme £6, Fuel £7.60

NEXT UP

More than likely Southam v Cleethorpes Town on Saturday. Maybe something in Wales on Friday night, but unlikely as Anwar is unavailable for that day and I have had a lot of expense lately.


WOKING PARK has been transformed into a smart and modern venue which has not fallen into the trap of using the metal stands that you see at so many new builds these days. Pride of place goes to the main building which houses the dressing rooms and a smart modern bar which has Sky TV and also houses the tea bar. I didn't see a club shop but there were plenty of free programmes for you to take from the bar, and make. donation if you wish.

From outside the bar you could gain a great view from the balcony and get an elevated take on the action. Below is around 100 seats, with another 77 seats behind the goal. This stand got much publicity when the club tweeted about it, being picked up by various media outlets and someone from the club was invited onto TalkSPORT radio to talk about it. The rest of the ground is open flat standing, with the far side being out of bounds to fans and housing the dugouts.


I'm not sure what is around the ground, but don't remember much around Woking's ground when I went , with the town about 20 minutes walk away.

        

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Maltby Main - The Gary Wilby Stadium



Maltby Main FC
The Gary Wilby Stadium
Maltby Miners Welfare Ground
Muglet Labe
Rotherham
South Yorkshire
S66 7JQ





Ground Number: 427
Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Maltby Main 0-2 Dronfield Town
NCEL Premier



Originally on this date, I had been planning on going to AFC Mansfield or tonights visitors Dronfield Town. But both of these games had been postponed due to Cup replays. There was little choice, but in the end I plumped for Dronfield's FA Vase replay at Maltby Main. I always tend to go for cup games, but on this occasion the home side had been very harshly treated. The 2 teams had drawn 3-3 at Dronfield in the first fixture and the match had gone to a replay at Maltby Main. Despite Dronfield taking the lead, Maltby Main fought back to hold a 3-1 lead on 88 minutes. But then a serious injury to a Dronfield player caused the match to be abandoned with a couple of minutes to go. Any sensible person would have let the result stand, but the FA in their infinite wisdom said that the match would have to be replayed from the start, with Maltby's 2 goal lead cancelled out.


Maltby Main were founded in 1916, playing in local leagues until they folded in 1965. They reformed in 1970, playing in the Yorkshire League. They joined the NCEL as founder members in 1982 and have stayed in around it's leagues ever since. They were relegated due to ground gradings at the turn of the century but were soon back in the Premier Division a few years later. Generally they have struggled in the league's Premier Dvision though, the 6th place that they achieved in 1998 being by far their best ever finish. Later that year they made their best ever progress in modern times in the FA Cup, getting to the 2nd Qualifying Round where they lost 3-0 to Brandon United. In the FA Vase, they have been to the 3rd Round on a couple of occasions, most recently in the 1993-94 season. Before the game, they were sitting in 14th place in the NCEL Premier


Dronfield were really struggling in the division below, sitting in 20th place. They had only been promoted from the Central Midlands League a year ago last May and were finding the new level tough to adapt to. The club had risen a long way in a short space of time, they only joined the Central Midlands League at step 8 of Non League in 2009. After a series of good finishes and 2 promotions, they won promotion to the Northern Counties East League Division 1 for the 2013/14 season. The first season saw mixed results, but eventually they finished in 14th place, which was a solid start in their first season.  They have not yet played in the FA Cup, and this tie was the first one that they had played in the FA Vase. In the previous round they didn't even have to play, as opponents Cammell Laird pulled out of the tie.

I'd left St Helens at 3.50PM, and was hoping that the rush hour traffic was going to be kind to me and allow me to have a bit of time to chill in Maltby before the game. I'd been planning to get there as soon as possible, and head into town to the Wetherspoons for dinner. At one point the Sat Nav was showing a 5.20 arrival, and no doubt I'd have made up some more time along the way. This was all destroyed though, by the careless actions of 3 lorry drivers on the M60, who decided it would be a good idea to have a crash and mess up the entire Manchester road system, With traffic diverting onto other roads, my route through Hyde was totally ruined and we were pretty much at a standstill for 90 minutes. With minor delays on other roads, and roadworks on the Snakes Pass road from Lancashire to Yorkshire, I was even concerned about missing kick off, in the end it turned out to be a 2 hour delay.

I got to the ground at 7.20, and had little option but to go straight in. I paid £6.50 for entry and a decent programme. I was hungry and would have preferred a meal, but in the end, the only hot food they did was burgers. Luckily they turned out to be nice and freshly cooked, although they could have done with some onions to go in them. Everyone at the club was nice and friendly, as I have come to expect in this league, and I was made to feel very welcome. I wanted to buy a Maltby Main Ski Hat that I had seen on the website for £4, but try as they might, no one could find one. I also fancied a pint after all that stress, but with it being very close to kick off and the bar being a 5 minute walk round the other side of the ground and up near the road, I decided against it. In the end I just took some pictures of the ground, and took a place under the covered standing, as it was starting to rain.


The game was not much of a spectacle to be honest. I was expecting a dominant performance by higher league Malby Main, with a battling performance from Dronfield trying to throw a spanner in the works. In the end the visitors hardly had to get out of second gear as goals from Nick Horsfield on 76 minutes and Christian Savage on 82 minutes sealed an easy victory. Maltby can point to the injustice of having to play this game again, but Dronfield, cheered on by a decent amount of fans in the 62 crowd produced a professional if unremarkable performance.

After the game I made my way home. The roads were knackered from the start, the Southbound exit onto the M1 being closed so I had to go North and turn round at the following junction. It was all going fine until I got to Aylesbury, even though I had to travel through the Franchise FC town of Milton Keynes. I got almost to Wing, around 10 miles from Aylesbury, but the roads were closed, and a massive diversion planned, although at least for once they signposted it. My sat Nav did not have this information though despite me paying for live traffic. In the end after around 5 miles into the diversion, it worked out a route through country roads, then Halton and Wendover, which saw me arrive home at 12.45.

I was still wide awake by this time, but not awake enough to avoid making a mistake. I thought I'd transferred all my photos of my whole week to my iMac, and so deleted them off my memory card. Imagine my horror when I went to the folder where they were supposed to be and they were absent. panicking, I searched around the internet for a solution, with various software demanding upwards of a hundred dollars for a licence for their software. Luckily with my knowledge, I knew where I could obtain a copy though means that would not cost me so much, and so, pretty much all were saved. I was muck relieved, and had a few drinks to celebrate, not getting to bed until 4am.

THE GARY WILBY STADIUM is a typical step 5 ground, with most of it being open hard standing. Both areas of cover are one one side, with seating for around 120 and standing cover for 200. The tea bar has a reasonable range at good prices, while I didn't get to try the bar. As I understand, the town is a short walk away and offers a good range of outlets.
       

St Helens Rugby - Langtree Park


St Helens Rugby

Langtree Park
McManus Drive
St Helens
WA9 3NL







Ground Number: 426
Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Liverpool U19 3-2 Real Madrid U19
UEFA Youth League



Originally on this day, I was going to go and see Mansfield Town's youngsters play. They play at Rainworth Miners Welfare FC who play in the Evostik Division 1 North. I'd then go on to see AFC Mansfield in the evening. But then a couple of things happened. Firstly AFC Mansfield's game was cancelled, due to opponents Dronfield Town's involvement in an FA Vase Replay. Then on Tony's Non League Forum, I saw that Liverpool U19's were playing in the UEFA Youth League against Real Madrid. Not only would it be an interesting game, but it would also be played at a venue not usually used for football - St Helen's Rugby Ground.

I had connections and memories of all 3 places involved in this trip. Firstly St Helen's. I had gone to see one of my favourite bands - the Lancashire Hotpots play there back in March of this year, and also tied it in with a game at Burscough FC. The town's won  football club once shared with the rugby club at their old ground for around 10 years, but that was long after they had their most famous player - Bert Trautmann, who was a German prisoner of war and who would go on to be a cult hero. The club are presently playing at Ashton Athletic near Wigan while they search for a new home in the town. Other famous people from the town include the comedian Johnny Vegas.



As for the 2 teams on the pitch today, Liverpool had been involved in one of my team Wycombe's most famous matches, for they were our opponents in our amazing run to the FA Cup Semi Final in 2001. We beat Harrow Borough, Millwall, Grimsby, Wolves, Wimbledon and Leicester City to set up a showdown at Villa Park. Wycombe did themselves proud, narrowly losing 2-1 and becoming national heroes. Then in 2007 our youth team lost 5-0 to Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup. As for Real Madrid, I visited their ground on a tour whilst on a short break to watch Atletico Madrid v Austria Vienna in the Champions League last November.

On the day of the game I woke up at around 8am. I had a shower and watched TV a for a bit before leaving at 9.30. I had to get diesel before I left at ASDA in Radcliffe, but soon enough I was on my way. I arrived in St Helens at 10.45 and parked up at the ground before walking into town. I got a few games from Cash Generator for a good price, before heading to Wetherspoons, a pub called The Glass House. I then had a pint of Black Dragon, my favourite Welsh Cider, before deciding what to have for lunch. Originally I thought about getting something from a takeaway, but in the end opted to have a meal deal, which included a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich and all the trimmings, along with a pint of Strongbow for £7.29. By then, it was getting on for 1PM, so I headed back to my car, arriving at 1.10 and sitting listening to the radio while I let my phone charge for a bit.

At 1.30, I went into the ground, paying £5 entry and picking up a free teamsheet. The atmosphere was strange, with a crowd made up mainly of schoolkids, who must have been having a great day out away from their work. It appeared that most were Everton fans as they were cheering for Real Madrid. I knew that Shaun of the 100 Football Grounds Club was at the game, but I didn't see him on the day.




As for the game, it was an entertaining contest. Liverpool raced into a 2-0 lead within 20 minutes, only to be pegged back to 2-2 in the second half. Real Madrid even squandered a penalty to give them what would have been a goal back just before half time. But the some side won it on 88 minutes when Harry Wilson, who had played for Wrexham, finished well past the Spanish keeper. The most well known player on the teamsheet however was Jordan Rossiter, who had played against Middlesborough in the League Cup and scored a great goal, earlier on this season.

After the game, I made my way to Maltby Main, but typically on the UK's roads, the journey was not a pleasant one, as I will detail in my next blog.




LANGTREE PARK is a smart modern venue, and it's a shame it's used for football more often. With around 11000 seats and 7000 terracing, it's a welcome change to the all seater stadiums you see in football and being modern, you will get a good view from wherever you are in the ground.

It's also little over 10 minutes walk from the town centre, which has a wide range of places to eat and drink.


Friday, 24 October 2014

Ramsbottom United - Harry Williams Riverside Stadium


Ramsbottom United FC
The Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Acre Bottom
Ramsbottom
Bury
Lancashire
BL0 0BS

01706 822799



Ground Number: 425
Tuesday 21st October 2014
Ramsbottom United 4-0 Whitby Town
NPL Premier Division



When I was looking for a Tuesday night game on my week away, I wanted to do one at as high as step as possible as I would be at step 5 and below for all the other games. I had 2 options in the NPL Premier - Trafford who had been friendly when I went to visit to look at the ground and Ramsbottom United v Whitby Town. I had also been to that for pictures and it had been a nice looking ground and looking on various sites, it also appeared that looking on various sites, it was the better area for some pre match refreshment. So I settled on that one and booked the nearest reasonably priced hotel that I could find, 10 miles away in Whitefield.

Ramsbottom United were formed in England's World Cup winning year of 1966 by present chairman Harry Williams. The club played in the Bury, Bolton and Manchester Leagues before joining the North West Counties League in 1995. They started in the competitions lower tier but within 2 seasons they were in the Premier Division. A fairly long stay in this division was generally successful and they gained promotion to the NPL Division 1 North in 2012. Again success was forthcoming and last season they completed a memorable few years by winning against Bamber Bridge in the promotion playoff final after scoring an incredible 112 goals, but only finishing 5th. This was all thanks to the great work of young joint management duo Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson. Again this season they were doing incredibly, with the team being in 4th place after the game ended.

To cope with this rise in leagues, the club have had to adapt their ground accordingly. This includes several items from old league grounds, including floodlights and executive lounges from Oldham Athletic and seats from Manchester City's old Maine Road stadium. They had their record attendance of 1653 against FC United of Manchester in 2007. In the FA Cup their best run came in their very first season in the competition in 1998/99. They beat Maine Road, Shildon and Billingham before losing to Southport in the 3rd Qualifying Round. In the FA Trophy they got to the 3rd Qualifying Round last season, whilst the 3rd Round of the FA Vase was reached in 2003/04 with them beating current football league side Fleetwood Town along the way.



Whitby Town were in the relgation zone after the game, but still with plenty of time to try and make good of the situation they are in. They were in the Northern League untill 1997 but their next season saw them win the NPL Division 1 at the first attempt. Since then they have been in the NPL Premier, finishing a record 4th in 2005. FA Cup wise, they have reached the 2nd Round twice, both in the mid 80's, losing to Wigan Athletic and York City. They got to the final of the FA Amateur Cup in 1965, losing to Hendon, but they did win the FA Vase in 1997, beating North Ferriby United 3-0 at Wembley.

The previous night I had a restless nights sleep at first, but eventually I dropped off and woke up at 9am. I checked Facebook and had a bath before catching up on my blog.
I left at just after 10 and made my way to my next hotel near Whitefield. It took a bit longer than usual because of road closures and traffic. I parked up outside and walked to Whitefield tram stop about 10 minutes away and paid £4.30 for a return into Manchester. I had to stop briefly as my tram only went to Abraham Moss. It was only a few minutes wait to get on the next one and by 12.10 I was in the city centre.


I was hungry by then so I got a half decent rice bowl for £1 and then walked the short distance to the Angel pub where I tried a couple of new ciders. I was hungry again so I went back to the same shop and got black pudding and chips. After another look around some shops where I bought a Rayman game for 99p. I then went for another look round the football museum which I had visited twice previously. By now it was nearly 4pm and with my phone battery rapidly deteriorating I caught the tram back to my hotel.

I had trouble getting in as they had not sent me my code for the day. Phoning them was tricky too as the phone signal was so poor but after 5 minutes I got it sorted and was in my room with my phone in charge. As Corin was doubtful as to whether he could get to tonight's game, I checked if the Liversedge game was on. It would mean a 60 mile round trip but at least my mate David would be there. Sadly the Bridlington Town twitter informed me that it was off and with the weather being so bad I was keeping a close eye on Twitter while I was watching The Chase so I  could make last minute changes of destination if needed.


There was no such drastic action needed as I left at 6pm. The M60 was slow though because of the rush hour and eventually I got there at 6.45. After confirming that the match was definitely on I made my way to the pre match pub that I had found out about online. It was called The First Chop and was totally brilliant with a great range of ciders. There was also a very friendly dog in the pub, which I always enjoy. After the pub I went to the Stop In takeaway where I had a doner calzone, chips and a can for £3.50. The chips were average but the calzone was delicious and great value.


It took me 5 minutes to walk back to the ground and after paying £9 entry and £2 for a programme I went and took some pictures of the ground. My phone battery had been giving me problems all day and I had to limit my usage again, but at least I had football to keep me occupied. A nice half time treat was Bovril in a proper mug for just 60p.


The opening goal came for the home side after 8 minutes when number 9 had a good run and finish. Ramsbottom were dominating and the visitors had their job made a lot harder when they had their number 6 sent off, apparently for elbowing. It looked a bit harsh from where I was standing. He was being held by his opponent, in return he shoved him away with his arm, but got his marching orders. The game was put to bed with 2 goals around about the 75th minute. The first was deflected in but the second was a lovely goal by number 11 as his shot from the edge of the area went in the bottom right hand corner.  Whitby's misery was completed on 90 minutes when a last minute penalty was converted to make it a deserved 4-0 win for Ramsbottom.

After the game it was a quick 20 minute drive back to my hotel. No pub for me tonight as my phone was dead but I did get a couple of bottles of an American cider that I had not tried before. I drank these while I watched TV, particularly enjoying Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish. I then watched the Champions League show on ITV where their coverage was actually quite good for once, considering their dire performances when doing the England games.


THE RIVERSIDE STADIUM is a lovely place to watch football. Covered on 3 sides, there is sheltered standing for around 500 behind each goal, plus seating for around the same along the side.

The one remaining side has uncovered standing, plus some executive box type buildings. The tea bar and club shop are all in one building and have a fairly good range, while the clubhouse is shared with the cricket club who are based next door. The programme is excellent and had a interesting article on the costs of football. It was good value for £2 and though the entry was a pound more than my ideal price for this level of £8 it was still good value and one of the cheaper at this level. 

Ramsbottom is a lovely town, the Chop House is a great pub and there is plenty of choice if you want something else to eat or drink. It's also well kept and a pleasant place to spend a day.



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