Friday, 18 August 2017

West Bridgford - Regatta Way Sports Ground

West Bridgford FC
Regatta Way Sports Ground
Regatta Way
West Bridgford

Ground Number: 708
Friday 18th August 2017
West Bridgford 0-4 Belper United
East Midlands Counties League


WEST BRIDGFORD is a fairly young club, having been formed as recently as 2010. They've seen a rapid rise since starting out, gaining their third promotion after finishing as Notts Senior League Division 2 (step 9 of the non-league pyramid) runners-up in 2012 and then as runners up of NSL Division 1 a couple of years later. They were an immediate success in the NSL Premier, finishing as runners-up to Wollaton in 2015, but unable to take promotion due to lack of facilities. The following season they had another strong season, finishing 3rd and with the required ground improvements now in place, were able to join the step 6 East Midlands Counties League. They made their debut season in semi-professional football last season, and it was a memorable one, being crowned EMCL champions, scoring 115 goals in the process and finishing 8 points ahead of their nearest challengers, South Normanton Athletic. However, they chose not to take the promotion to step 5 due to increased costs and so South Normanton went up in their place.

West Bridgford played their first game in the FA Vase last season, with them losing an exciting game 4-3 to Leicester Road in a 2nd Qualifying Round game. This season, the club played their first ever game in the FA Cup but again they fell at the first hurdle, losing 3-1 to NCEL Premier outfit Clipstone. Locally, the club won the Notts Intermediate Cup in 2016 as they beat Bingham Town 2-1 in a final played at Radford. They'd been runners-up in the same cup final back in 2012, losing 5-3 to Southwell St Mary's. West Bridgford itself is home to Nottingham Forest, Notts County and Trent Bridge Cricket ground. The latter has hosted Stuart Broad, who hails from West Bridgford, along with TV host Leslie Crowther and Tory politician Ken Clarke.


This game was planned during the previous week's visit to Quorn. Though I was keen to cut down on the Wednesday football due to being tired the following morning for work, I was still well up for Friday games. Aberystwyth Town is a ground that both fellow hopper Chris and I had wanted to visit for ages, but with the journey time at just under 4 hours, hopes of making it on a Friday night were fanciful. There was also a game at Newtown, which would see us have an hours allowance for delays, but in the end, we opted for something closer to home. West Bridgford were at home to Belper United and with the journey time under 2 hours, there'd be no need to rush. On the day of the game, it was fairly quiet at work, though I was glad to get away around 11.30. I came home and caught up with a few things that needed doing, before leaving at 3 to meet Chris. We left at 4.05 and made our way up the M1. There were delays of course, but the worst were on the A47 so we avoided it altogether, going past Barrow Town and Quorn FC. We got to our pre match meal place of The Big Bamboo Chinese takeaway at 6.10 where I ordered my usual salt and chilli chips with satay chicken skewers. They filled me up before we made our way to the ground. Before we went in though, we called at the excellent Poppy and Pint pub where I had a pint of Torkards Floppy Tabs cider. It was one I'd been meaning to try for a while, what with it being a local one made just up the road in Hucknall.

We got back to the ground at 7.30. Prices were good, a fiver for entry and a quid for a programme but it really didn’t feel as if a game was going on. The whole place was soulless and very quiet, although everyone we met was nice and friendly. The visitors were ahead within the first minute when Adam Dring's deep cross found Michael Dunne at the left post who just diverted the ball over the line. The visitors continued to be the better side and they doubled their lead on 26 minutes when Matthew Adcock seized on farcical defending to net from close range. Five minutes later it was three, more questionable defending but also a touch of class from Dunne as he spotted the keeper off of his line and lobbed home from 20 yards. The second half didn't see as many opportunities. The hosts pushed forward in search of a way back into the game but were nearly caught out on the break. It took a sliding clearance off of the line to prevent a 4th goal just after the hour mark. Deep into injury time, Belper did get their 4th as the hosts were caught napping. Like the third, it was a lob, but a much simpler finish, this time for Chris Dring who had come on to replace his brother Adam who had set up the first goal.


The second half had not been nearly as frantic as the first and the hosts, current champions of the EMCL were well beaten. I'm not sure how many of last season's squad remain but on the evidence of this performance, there seems to have been a massive exodus following them not making the step up. Surprisingly, given their dominance, it was Belper United's first win of the season at the third attempt. The match finished fairly late and Chris and I didn't get away until 9.45. We had a decent journey home, apart from the usual nonsense with the roadworks on the M1. The Two Mikes (or in this case one Mike) podcast kept us company on the way home. I dropped Chris off at 11.10, changing to the NPL podcast and getting home an hour later. I stayed up for a while, updating my blog and watching TV, before going to sleep around 2 am.


REGATTA WAY SPORTS GROUND is a bland but well-kept venue around a mile from the centre of West Bridgford. It has the typical modern setup of one metal arena stand, capacity around 100 and the rest open standing, although half of the ground is closed off to the public. Bar and food facilities are very basic and no dogs are allowed in the ground. It's probably what the FA want, everything to be standardized and as homogenised as possible, but at least you will get a friendly welcome from the club officials who put in a lot of work for their club.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level) 
Dull, with an arena stand, typical of a modern step 6 but well kept (5)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Lots of parking, mile walk to town (5)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Warm welcome, despite the spartan facilities (7)

4: Value for money
Standard step 6 price (6)

5: Social Media & Website
Regular updates, reasonable site (6)

6: Programme
Had all the relevant info, not bad for a quid (6)

7: Game entertainment
Good play, but one-sided (5)

8: Tea Bar
Basic snacks (4)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Cans only (4)

10: Club Shop
N/A (-) 



Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Crawley Down Gatwick - The Haven Sportsfield

Crawley Down Gatwick FC
The Haven Sportsfield
Hophurst Lane
Crawley Down
West Sussex
RH10 4LJ

Ground Number: 707
Tuesday 15th August 2017
Crawley Down Gatwick 2-2 Lancing
Southern Combination Premier


The club was formed in 1993 following the merger of two local sides and were originally known as CRAWLEY DOWN VILLAGE up until 1999, CRAWLEY DOWN up until 2012 and CRAWLEY DOWN GATWICK since then. They started out in the Mid-Sussex League, winning its Premier Division in 1995, earning promotion to the Sussex County League in the process. They were runners up in Division 3 in their first season, finishing behind Ifield to win promotion to Division 2 at the first attempt. They remained in Division 2 (step 6) until 2009, finishing 3rd in 1999 but unable to take promotion due to their floodlights not being installed in time. It was another third placed finish behind Peacehaven & Telscombe & Mile Oak that saw them earn promotion to Division 1. It turned out to be a time of great progress for the club, with them winning the Division 1 title and promotion to the Isthmian League in 2011.Their highest finish came in 2013 with a 13th placed finish in the Isthmian D1 South. The moment wasn't to last, however, and the following season they were relegated after only Eastbourne Town kept them off the bottom. The decline continued with another second-bottom finish in the Sussex County D1 in 2015, this time garnering just 13 points all season, with Selsey keeping them off the bottom. By this time the league had been renamed the Southern Combination, but it proved to be a blessing for the club as they bounced back at the first attempt, finishing as runners-up to Haywards Heath Town. Last season saw them finish in a mid table placing of 11th in their first season back in step 5.

In the FA Cup, the club have enjoyed limited success. It was the 2009/10 season that saw their best run - beating Westfield & Shoreham before losing 3-2 at home to Ashford Town (Middlesex) in the 1st Qualifying Round. The 1st Qualifying Round was also their best performance in the FA Trophy, a feat which they achieved twice. The FA Vase 2nd Round has also been reached twice - losing to Brockenhurst in 2007/08 and Greenwich Borough in 2014/15. Local cup wins include the Sussex Royal Ulster Rivals Cup in 2011 as they defeated AFC Uckfield 2-0 in the final at the Sussex County FA Ground.


Originally on this Tuesday, I was heading to Desborough Town for a United Counties League game. However, on Sunday, fellow hopper Anwar decided that he was going to watch local side Aylesbury instead and so I'd be on my own. I knew I'd want to head south, and three games came under consideration - Loxwood v Three Bridges, Andover New Street v Downton and Crawley Down Gatwick v Lancing. I was informed by a seasoned hopper that Andover New Street was worth saving as they often played on Mondays and Thursdays, so it became a two horse race. I had three criteria - the likelihood of goals, chances of a future FA Cup game and cost. Crawley Down Gatwick covered the first two in one - they were out of the cup already, following a 3-2 defeat to AC London. They'd also managed to score 95 and concede 86 last season, to make their mid-table finish an entertaining one. The last point was more a matter of principle than anything - once I'd spent around £15 in petrol, a quid or two wasn't going to make much difference. But a fiver for entry was an absolute bargain, especially for the south. Most clubs charge £6 at this level and a lot even £7, so it was nice to see a more pocket-friendly price and it saved messing around with coins.

I enjoyed my usual day off on Tuesday, walking down town before getting a lift back with my Dad. It was while I was walking down town that the good value of tonight's admission price was brought home to me. Whilst reading an article on the Clapton FC news site, I discovered that Great Wakering Rovers were charging a staggering £9 in admission this season at step 5, and that was in what was comfortably the worst standard league at Step 5 in the Essex Senior. Conversely, I've had some great value in that league - Stansted charge £5, and that includes a decent programme which I'd say was worth about £1.50 unless you take the mickey like the aforementioned Clapton and charge £1.50 for a single sheet of A4. I had a decent pizza for lunch while I listened to The Two Mikes on TalkRADIO. It was my brother's birthday, so he was over and it was good to catch up. I then took my new drone out for a test flight up Holmer Green Sports club, but an inquisitive groundsman started coming over so I decided to make myself scarce before he could ask any questions, seeing as it was private land. At least I got around 5 minutes practice before going home. After a dinner of Chill Con Carne, I left just after 5.20, hoping to make reasonable time in the rush hour. In the end, the delay was not too bad, the usual traffic around Heathrow adding around 20 minutes to my journey. I paid my entry, plus £2 for what was a pretty thin programme for the asking price.

It was just after 7, so I caught up online whilst I waited for kick off. I was quite pleased it kicked off at the earlier time of 7.30 and within a minute, the hosts were ahead. From an attack down the left, Nick Sullivan slotted into the bottom right-hand corner with a smart low finish. The equaliser came on 13 minutes with Lancing's first real opening. Luke Donaldson's effort was a decent one, firing into the top of the net from just inside the area. A clever manipulation of the offside trap saw the visitors ahead after 25 minutes. A lofted ball forward saw Lewis Finney control the ball well before placing a low shot from the edge of the area past home keeper Seb Bos. That was how it stayed until the break, with Lancing good value for their lead and looking as if they could add more. The second half started off at a slower pace although there was still some neat football being played. I'm used to managers berating the referee but Lancing boss John Sharman actually apologised to the man in black after a display of petulance by one of his players, when a decision didn't go their way. The game was generally played in a good spirit though, which was nice to see. Crawley Down were comfortably the better side since half time and they got their reward on 63 minutes. A free kick was awarded on the left and from the high ball into the area, James Day rose highest to head past visiting keeper Tyler D'Cruz. Both sides had chances to win the game, but it was not to be. The referee had been having a good game up until this point, but he harshly red-carded a player from each side for an off the ball incident. The coming together of Lancing's Alex Bygraves and Crawley Down's James Gray seemed fairly innocuous and worthy of a yellow card at most, but the referee thought otherwise and sent them off deep into injury time.

It had been a decent time, but due to lots of injury time, the game over ran by over 10 minutes and it wasn't until 9.30 that I left. Checking the results of the other games that I'd been considering, I was satisfied I'd made the right choice. Loxwood had beaten Three Bridges with a late goal, whilst Downton had won by the same scoreline at Andover New Street. Even in my original plan of Desborough Town, Leicester Nirvana won 5-0 in a one-sided game. There were some surprise results on the night too, most notably Bromley hammering Leyton Orient 6-1 in the National League. I listened to that and other results coming in, first on the internet station 'Back Of The Net' radio, then on Radio 5 where they went on to discuss the greatest ever Premier League team on its 25th anniversary. They were also showing the first ever Premier League Match Of The Day on BBC red button and so I watched that when I got home at 10.30. I stayed up until 11:15, looking forward to my next game on Thursday or Friday, but not so much to the 4 am start at work in the morning.


THE HAVEN SPORTSFIELD is typical of a club that have risen rapidly in recent times, with the obligatory metal 'Arena' stands to get the ground grading. There is a decent sized main stand, probably around 200 in capacity and although there are no supporting pillars, the view from the front few rows is not the best due to the fence around the pitch obstructing the view. There is further cover behind the goal, a small covered standing area for around 50. It's named the Brian Suckling stand in honour of the former chairman who was with the club through their meteoric rise through the leagues.

The rest of the ground is open hard standing, and if the weather is dry, the nicest place to watch the game from is the far side near the dugouts. It's in a nice location, surrounded by hedges and nicely kept. I didn't check out the tea bar, but the clubhouse is a fairly spacious facility with the standard range of drinks although it's more geared towards an area for the community than a facility specific to the club.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Metal stands, but a decent amount of cover for the level. Well kept too (6)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Lots of parking, near the village with a few food & drink places (6)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Friendly enough (6)

4: Value for money
Great price for step 5 at a fiver, all should charge this (8)

5: Social Media & Website
Interactive and regularly updated Twitter, informative site (7)

6: Programme
Nice design, but a bit pricey at £2 (5)

7: Game entertainment
A decent contest that either side could have won (7)

8: Tea Bar
Didn't visit (N/A)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Standard clubhouse (6)

10: Club Shop
Didn't see one (N/A)



Thursday, 10 August 2017

Quorn - Sutton Park

Quorn FC
Sutton Park
Farley Way
LE12 8RB

Ground Number: 706
Wednesday 9th August 2017
Quorn 3-0 Retford United
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay


The club was formed in 1924 and were originally known as QUORN METHODISTS. The name Quorn is more associated with a vegetarian meat substitute food product and as such their nickname is listed as 'The Vegetarians' on Wikipedia, though with no official confirmation, this is in all likelihood a hoax. The club are actually based in a Leicester village which has been home to English sporting heroes Gordon Banks and David Gower. The football club can count some famous players amongst their ranks - in 2003 they sold Luke Varney to Crewe Alexandra while former Premiership striker Dion Dublin also played for the club. Quorn reached the 5th Round of the FA Vase in 2007 where they lost to current Conference South side Whitehawk and the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy three years later, losing to Vauxhall Motors.

Before and after their name change to Quorn in 1952, they were long time members of the Leicestershire Senior League, bouncing around its various divisions during a 64-year spell. They joined the Midland Alliance in 2001. They never finished outside the top 7 and in 2007, due to the expansion of the Northern Premier League, third place was deemed good enough for promotion to the NPL Division 1 South. This coincided with a £500,000 windfall following the sale of former striker Luke Varney to Charlton Athletic which allowed them to make the required ground improvements. A five-year spell here followed, with two 12th placed finishes being their best placing. 2012 saw relegation back to step 5 with only Shepshed Dynamo keeping them off the bottom of the table. They've been there ever since, spending the first season in the United Counties Premier where they finished 7th. The following season saw a sideways step back to the Midland Alliance, which would become the present day Midland League. After a 5th place finish in 2014, mid-table placings have been the order of the day ever since.


Quorn's debut in the FA Cup came in the 2002/03 season when they won 3-2 at Histon in the Preliminary Round. They had to travel again for the next round, losing 4-1 at King's Lynn in the 1st Qualifying Round.

Record progress was achieved during the 2006/07 season. After beating Arnold Town, Malvern Town, Gresley Rovers and Belper Town, they were drawn against Brackley Town, that season's Southern League Division 1 Midlands champions. After drawing 0-0 on their own patch, they lost 2-1 in the replay in Northamptonshire.

Quorn's record win in the FA Cup came in the 2006/07 season as they defeated Arnold Town 6-0 in the Extra Preliminary Round, whilst the record defeat was the 4-1 defeat to Kings Lynn in 2002. Defeat in tonight's game could see them equal their longest wait for a win - between 2003 & 2006 they suffered three consecutive defeats at the first hurdle and have not won an FA Cup game since 2014 when they beat Bottesford Town 3-1 in the Extra Preliminary Round.


Retford United's debut in the FA Cup also came in the 2002/03 season. They beat Jarrow Roofing after a replay before losing to Burscough in the 1st Qualifying Round.

Their best run came during the 2008/09 season. They beat Barrow Town, Willenhall Town, Romulus & Newcastle Benfield before a 3-1 defeat to Alfreton Town in the 4th Qualifying Round. Their opponents, playing in the Conference North at the time would go on to reach the 2nd Round before losing to Scunthorpe United.

Retford's record win came in a 2006 Extra Preliminary Round tie as they beat Tadcaster Albion 6-0. Their record defeat was a 5-0 loss to Mickleover Sports in a 2010 1st Qualifying Round tie. Like Quorn, they've not won an FA Cup game since 2014 and defeat tonight would mean that they would have suffered 3 consecutive defeats at the first hurdle for the first time ever.



Though I'd been trying to cut down on midweek football due to putting too many miles on my car and feeling tired the next morning, I was always going to make an exception for FA Cup games. There didn't seem to be much on for my usual Wednesday night hopper Chris and I in terms of replays, so I was pleased to see that Quorn had changed their midweek matchday to that particular night. With me staying local for Wycombe v Fulham on Tuesday, the distance and late night would not be so much of an issue. I noticed that the Quorn manager was former Kettering player Dougie Keast. He was part of the side that ensured I would have to wait until my second season to see my first FA Cup game as he was part of the Kettering Town side that defeated Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 in an FA Cup 1st Round replay, which I was unable to go to because of school. It wouldn't take me long to fall in love with the competition though - the following season saw us defeat Merthyr Tydfil before a 2nd Round epic against West Bromwich Albion with us going out of the competition after a replay. That wasn't before a brilliant 2-2 draw at Adams Park in front of Sky TV cameras and a brilliant atmosphere which I attended in person. The assistant manager is even more famous - former football league player Russell Hoult, most well-known for a spell at Derby County.

The previous night I had been to Wycombe v Fulham, ironically my team v Chris's team. We'd been a bit under pressure in the first half but defended and got to the break still level. Despite being much improved, we lost the second half 2-0 to seal our 8th first round exit in 9 seasons. I got home just after 10 and was in bed by 10.30. Annoyingly, I had a restless nights sleep but felt fine the following morning when I got up at 4 for work. Luckily, it was a fairly easy day at work and I was home just after 11 to catch up on some much-needed sleep. It wasn't the greatest kip I'd had, but at least I'd got some in. I had a freshen up, got my things together and left just after 4. I met Chris around 5.10 and soon we were on our way. I'd planned our pre-match dinner stop and thanks to good roads, we were at the Golden Orient Chinese take away by 6.10. I was starving, not having had anything since breakfast. The salt and chilli chips plus curried chicken skewers went down very well. Due to lack of tables, we drove on to Leicester North services. It was well above average and one of the better places we have been to.

We drove on to Quorn, arriving at 7. After paying £6 for entry and £1 for a programme, we were greeted by the friendly team manager, Dougie Keast who took the time to chat about playing for Kettering after spotting the badge on my jacket. He recalled playing at our old ground, Loakes Park the massive sloping pitch. Our tactics were to boot it up the field which proved highly lucrative due to the slope. To be honest, the tactics have changed little in the modern day team, just with a little less finesse. We went into the bar which was very smart. There was nothing special on, drinks wise, so I just settled for a Bovril while Chris had a cup of tea. We discussed our upcoming plans, including a possible double in the north east on bank holiday Monday. We chose to sit in the nicely sized stand for the first half, sitting around the halfway line.

Despite being the visitors and being from a lower league, Retford United were well on top during the early exchanges. After not seeing much of the ball for the first 25 minutes, Quorn started to have a good spell. They opened the scoring when Nathan Dale's low curling shot from the edge of the area opened the scoring on 33 minutes. There was a couple of minutes pause towards the end of the first half as so many balls had been kicked out of the stadium, none were left and the one grey one that they did have was deemed unacceptable by the referee. Half time came and I had a brief word with Leicester based hopper Ken aka Lesta Blew Hopper who had come to watch one of his local sides. I also went to the bar to get some chips as I was feeling peckish and these were very good. The hosts extended their lead on the hour when a good through ball found Dominic Brennan and he finished confidently past Retford 'keeper James Gamble. On 78 minutes Quorn got their third from an attack on the left-hand side, effectively killing off any chance of a comeback from the visitors. The left foot finish from Armavir Sandhu meant that the rest of the game was played out at a reduced pace as both teams seemed to know where the tie was heading. 

The game played out with little further incident and it was a tad annoying at the amount of added time that the referee played, with us not getting out until after 9.40. It had been a reasonable contest, though just as with Bemerton Heath Harlequins a week earlier, the visiting team would regret not taking advantage of a good early spell as they were well beaten in the end, Despite a quick getaway, there was around 20 minutes delay on the way home thanks to a a couple of junctions being closed on the M1. At least I had the Two Mikes podcast to keep me company. I dropped Chris off at 11, getting home myself at 11.55. I relaxed for 20 minutes before going to sleep. Again it wasn't the greatest nights sleep before I got up for work at 4, but I was able to catch up the following afternoon.


I first visited SUTTON PARK back in the late 2000's whilst on the way to a Wycombe away game, possibly at Notts County. Back then, I wasn't a groundhopper, but still loved visiting grounds to take photos. Quorn was one of the smarter venues that I went to. There was a 350 seater stand and although that was the only cover at the time, it was still impressive for the level and well kept.

When I visited for the second time, they'd added a decent sized terrace behind one goal, which must boost the covered capacity to over a thousand. There was a decent tea bar at the ground, with the chips that I had being pretty decent. There was also a bar, this did the usual range that you would expect from a clubhouse, with Thatchers Gold for cider drinkers. Further afield, the town/ village centre was around 10 minutes walk away, this offers a good range of outlets, but my research pointed to nothing stand out, so you are better off using the club facilities.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Excellent, smart and modern facility, one of the best at step 5 and well kept (8)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
10 minutes walk from the centre, lots of parking (7)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
The first time I have been greeted by the club manager, took the time to recall Wycombe related memories (8)

4: Value for money
Standard pricing for this area and step (6)

5: Social Media & Website
Fairly regular Twitter updates, not the most interactive. Site is decent (6)

6: Programme
Thin, not a huge amount of articles, but had the essentials. Good value at £1 though (7)

7: Game entertainment
Retford made a contest of it early on before Quorn took control, flat at times (5)

8: Tea Bar
Decent choice and value, though some things took a while (6)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Nicely furnished, standard choice of drinks (6)

10: Club Shop