Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Mickleover Sports - Raygar Stadium

Mickleover Sports FC

Raygar Stadium
Mickleover Sports Club
Station Road

01332 521167

Ground Number: 416
Tuesday 30th September 2014
Mickleover Sports 3-0 Bedworth United
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

It was FA Cup Replay week again and so if possible, I was looking for an game in that competition if at all possible. There were a few decent ties, but they were all a fair way away. Happily Anwar was back to keep me company and help out with fuel costs, and between us we chose one of the nearer ones - Mickleover Sports v Bedworth United. It was actually a continuation of the first FA Cup game of this season that I had seen. Staveley Miners Welfare had triumphed over Worksop on that Friday night. They went on to beat Rainworth Miners Welfare in the Preliminary Round. Just as they were getting into their stride they came up against Mickleover Sports in the 1st Qualifying Round. I was hoping that the game would be moved to the Friday night, as had many of the games. But sadly it was not to be and Mickleover triumphed 3-0 over the NCEL side. Then on Saturday, tonights sides played out a 1-1 draw down in Bedworth, to set up tonights replay.

Mickleover Sports were founded in 1948 and spent the first 44 years of their history playing local football in the Derby & District Senior League. In 1993 they gained promotion to the Central Midlands League - Premier Division. They won promotion to the league's Supreme Division 2 years later and by 1999 had been promoted into the Northern Counties East League at Division 1 level. After 4 seasons in that league, they went up again, after winning the league in 2003. Their rapid progress continued and it was double promotions in 2008 and 2009 as they were champions of both the NCEL and the NPL D1 South. Despite finishing 15th in their first season in the NPL Premier, they were relegated the season after, and only survived a second successive relegation by the skin of their teeth as they finished 21st back in the lower league of the NPL. They stabilised however and after finishing 5th last season and losing out in the playoffs to Belper Town, they are currently 6th, having been on a good winning run lately.

In the FA Cup they are close to beating their best ever run this season. Previously in 2010 they beat Retford United and S&L Corby before losing out to Newcastle Town in the 3rd Qualifying Round. Success in the FA Trophy has been pretty much a non starter although they did get to the 3rd Round of the Vase on a few occasions. They have a couple of smaller cups to their name - the NPL Presidents Cup and the NCEL League Cup.

Bedworth United were a team I had last seen last season as they lost 1-0 at home to Halesowen Town. the current incarnation of the club came about in 1968, although there have been several Bedworth teams in the past. They spent their first 4 seasons in the West Midlands League, earning promotion to the Southern League in the early 70's. They have spent all their time in and around in the Southern League, apart from last season when they spent an unsuccessful season in the NPL D1 South, finishing 2nd bottom of the league. Their best ever finish came in 1983 when they finished 5th in the Southern Premier - at the time that was step 2 of the non league. They've reached the 4th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup on a number of occasions, most recently in 1996 when they lost to Boston United. The FA Trophy 2nd Round has also been reached on a couple of occasions. They were doing a lot better for being back in the Southern League - sitting 7th in the table at the start of play.

As usual it was my day off on Tuesday. Usually I am sat around, waiting to go to football and doing various things to kill time, but I did something useful for once, going down town and getting my hair cut. I used to go to an Asian place that was in some random part of town, but since they started closing on Tuesday's I have found a decent one near the town centre called 'Chaps'. It's a couple of quid extra but it's nicer, and they have a really friendly dog there. I then came home and killed the rest of the time by going on the internet and watching TV.

I left a little bit earlier than usual for Aylesbury because I wanted to check in their Sports Direct for a pair of slip on trainers I fancied. They didn't have the exact ones I wanted but I got a pair of Velcro ones and they were only £9

I met Anwar and his mate Scouse Carl who was making his debut on one of our groundhops. Traffic was very slow getting out of Aylesbury, then again through Milton Keynes, and once more on the M1. All in all there was around 30 minutes delay. We needed food and so stopped at a pizza place called Pizza Tonight on the way. I had a hot and spicy pizza and it was excellent for the £4 that I paid. From then on it was only 10 minutes to the ground, arriving there around 10 minutes before kick off.

I paid £10 entry and programme and also bought a pen from the club shop for £1.50. I had a brief chat with another groundhopper Chris and got some pictures of the ground. I then took a place on the other side of the pitch to watch the game. At half time it was getting a bit chilly so I got myself a cup of cracking home made minestrone soup which was easily the nicest hot drink I have had inside a football ground.


Mickleover had accounted for the wonderfully named Thurnby Nirvana and the wonderfully friendly Staveley Miners Welfare so far, so perhaps I should have been rooting for Bedworth. But really I was hoping for prnalties. In any case, the hosts dominated the first half and were good value for their lead at half time.

The second half was a different story though, with Bedworth having much the better of the opening exchanges and being unlucky not to equalise. The game turned on a sending off and a penalty mid way through the half. There was a foul in the area, and as the player was the last man, he walked. The resulting spot kick was put away well and Mickleover never looked back from there. They added a 3rd when the goalkeeper messed up and was stranded and lobbed to round the game off. A fair result in the end.


I drove home after briefly getting lost on the one way system in Derby City Centre. There was around 20 minutes added to the journey, what with diversions and traffic on the M1, but even so we still got back to Aylesbury by 11.55. After dropping Anwar and Carl off I was back home within 20 minutes. As usual after a night of football, I couldn't get to sleep for ages and only ended up having around an hours sleep, which left me feeling jaded the following day.


AFC Croydon Athletic v Chessington & Hook United in the FA Vase. Being played at Colliers Wood United FC on Friday evening.

I'd been to The RAYGAR STADIUM before, back in 2007. Some rather hopeless navigating by my mate Paul meant that we went about 15 miles out of our way due to having to divert due to delays on the motorway. Either which way, now that I was in Mickleover, I was going to take a look at the ground, and was impressed by the ground, which was then an NCEL venue at step 5. There were a couple of areas of cover, a seated stand holding around 300 and cover for 350 standing fans, while the rest of the ground was open. It would be interesting to see if there was anything added since my last visit, when I went there for a game. I wasn't sure if the cover behind the goal had been added, as I do not have a a picture of that end from my last visit. In any case, it adds cover for around another 350 standing fans. Around a quarter of the ground is closed off to fans, due to them also playing cricket there.

The club shop was good, offering a decent range of club stuff and also old books and programmes. The clubhouse offered real ales and a range of other drinks, though I didn't indulge on this occasion. The tea bar offered a small range of food, mainly burgers but the minestrone soup was home made and delicious. The people at the club are really friendly and the ground is worth a visit. 


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Taffs Well - Rhiw D'dar

Taffs Well FC

Rhiw D'dar
Parish Road
Taffs Well
CF15 7PB

02920 813020

Ground Number: 415
Friday 26th September 2014
Taffs Well 5-0 AFC Porth
Welsh Football League D1

For the second Friday night in 3 weeks, I would be doing a groundhop in Wales, indeed I had been to football more often than not on Friday evenings this season. Last week it was the Eastern League Groundhop, and I would be hoping for better luck this week with the match bring called off right on kick off due to fog. It was going to be an expensive one again, as Anwar yet again was unavailable, this time due to his Mum working and being unavailable due to look after his kids. Frustrating, but unavoidable, as you have to put family first. I did briefly consider staying in for the night, but last time I spent a Friday in, I was bored, and it was either stay in and have a few drinks, or go out to football. I decided to take the latter and slightly healthier option, though I would still get to sample some Welsh Cider, which as I have said before on here, is my favourite.

I had been steered towards Taffs Well by my friend and fellow groundhopper Matt Harrison. His excellent Lost Boyos blog had provided me with the inspiration to go to Cefn Druids a fortnight previously, and I had enjoyed my visit there. The other option closer to home was Eastbourne United v Colliers Wood United in the FA Youth Cup, but I wasn't sure about going to see a youth game. Plus there was 2 teams near Swansea - Garden Village and Briton Ferry. These had the added bonus of possibly seeing top Swansea mate Nathan, but it was a bit further, plus the fact that I fancied seeing him play football for his Saturday morning and making a weekend of it. The thing that swang it in the end was the reputable Fagins Ale and Chop house which would provide me with dinner as long as they didn't take the mickey with food prices. I also wanted to go to a retro games shop in Cardiff called Super Tomato, but after looking at the stupidly expensive parking in Cardiff (£5 an hour) I decided to go to Taffs Well, park up, and see what time it was. If I wanted to go into Cardiff, it was a 15 minute train journey away, and the fare was the same as an hours parking in the city. It would also give the early opportunity to check out the pitch, given that there was light rain scheduled for the morning in South Wales. Unlikely to be a problem, but I didn't want to take any chances, given that I would be driving a long way. I would also be checking the state of play on Twitter before I left as well, just to make sure there wasn't any early call offs.

The village of Taffs Well is situated 6 miles north of Cardiff, and gets it's name from the River Taff. It is also the place of the only hot thermal spring in Wales, that has been in use since Roman times and reaches 66 degrees Farenheit. It had a population of just over 3600 according to the last census, and has it's own train station, with a 20 minute journey getting you to central Cardiff.

TAFFS WELL AFC were founded shortly after World War 2, in the summer of 1946. They played in very local leagues until 1977 when they joined the Welsh Football League Division 2 (level 3 of the Welsh Football pyramid) They earned promotion in their first season, getting up to Division 1. Their best period came in the 1980's when they had a couple of spells in the Welsh Premier League. They had best ever finishes of 4th, 2 seasons in a row in 1986 and 1987. However, they were relegated the following season and have not been back since, even spending seasons in Division 2 after being relegated again. They've been in Division 1 since 2004, and last season had their best ever finish since returning, finishing in 2nd place behind Monmouth Town. This season they were way down the table in 13th place.

AFC PORTH were doing even worse, bottom of the league and one of 2 teams to lose all 7 games so far. The club have been around in various incarnations since 1902. The current outfit joined the Welsh League Division 2 in 1991, winning promotion to Division 2 (sounds strange, but the league had a reorganisation) Fed up with being in the same division name wise after promotion, they repeated the trick the following season, and were up in Division 1. They changed their name to AFC Rhondda in 1996, performing well at first but following a turbulent time at the turn of the millennium, which saw them relegated twice, they reverted back to their original name in 2004. This saw them bounce back up to Division 1, but their best ever finish remains 3rd in Division 1 in 1999. Last season they finished just below halfway, in 10th place out of 16.

On the day I left work at 12.30 after a fairly easy day for a Friday. I went and got changed, then as I was hungry went and got a cheeseburger and chips from McDonalds. I'm not usually a fan, but on this occasion it cost little over £2 and though the cheeseburger still had the added nonsense like gherkins, it was passable and the fries were actually very decent. I eat them on the way up to my car, and had the rest when I got there, also having some of my diet irn Bru.

I left at 12.45 and the journey started well enough. That was until I hit Oxford and an accident on another road bought all the traffic in the area to a standstill. I had about 20 minutes added to my trip, then the same again for a variety of delays, meaning I lost 40 minutes in all. When I got to the ground, it was just before 4.30 and I was all for going to the village train station and getting a train into Cardiff to a retro games shop I wanted to visit. I started making my way there, though halfway through, I realised it would be very tight, and so turned back and went back to my car. I decided to get some pictures of this ground while it was still light. While I was there I spoke to the groundsman. He showed me a programme in the clubhouse of from when Wycombe played Taffs Well and also gave me some old programmes from the past 2 seasons of some of Taffs Well's away games so I could learn more about the league. I also saw his dog, who was very friendly and liked the attention.

From there I headed to Fagins, the pub that had been recommended to me by Lost Boyo Matt Harrison. It was still only 5pm and I knew I had to be careful as I was driving in 5 hours. The Internet on my phone was dead slow, so I tried to use my wireless dongle. The signal was fine, but sadly the battery wasn't and it only lasted a minute before conking out. So instead I stared typing my blog. The place seemed to be a haven for dogs, I had seen 4 dog walkers on the way in, the groundsman had a dog and now there was a border terrier in the pub. I'd already ordered my favourite cider, Happy Daze and vowed to have a second pint before going for a walk down the village in search of food. The pub did nice looking nosh, but I had time to kill, and so wanted to explore further.

Happily, during my 2nd Pint, I discovered that the pub had free wifi and I was glad to be able to check Facebook while I was there. I then went off to find food, walking into the village and looking at the spring. I got a massive portion of chips for £1.20 from the Hong Kong takeaway which filled me up a treat. I then went back to the car, arriving at 18.45 and giving my wifi dongle 15 minutes to charge before I went in the ground. I wished I could have had more to drink, but I was driving, and it's not worth the risk. Instead I would stop at Tesco on the way home, and get some bottles form there. I went in, buying a programme and entry for £6. I got a really friendly welcome with people amazed I had come from Wycombe to see the game. I met a couple of great Cardiff fans who recalled some of the clashes from down the years between Wycombe and the Bluebirds


A routine and one sided win for Taffs Well who were on a 5 game losing run. But AFC Porth had lost all 7 of their games. The goals were fairly unremarkable and I think the visitors only had 1 shot. Most amusing aspect of the night was the linesman looking like Alan Carr. Credit to the hosts, they got the ball down and passed it and must have had 80% possession.


Game 50 of the season
Expenses: Entry £5, Programme £1, Chips £1.20, Soup £1, Fuel £32.50
Spent so far this season: £879.80 (£17.60 per game)
Miles Driven: 283 (5347 for the season, 107 per game)


I had a £15 voucher to spent at Tesco, which they gave to me after the unavailability of 2 products that I normally buy when I go to Wales. That was as a result of a visit to the store in Wrexham which occurred when I went to Cefn Druids a fortnight ago. I got the Welsh cider that I wanted and also as I was hungry got some crisps and some Irn Bru. They were also selling off the stuff in their hot cabinet so I got 2 jumbo hot and spicy sausages for 40p. By then it was just after 10pm and apart from a brief stop at Reading services to go to toilet it was a smooth journey home. I got in at 12.15 and after checking Facebook I watched TV in bed before going to sleep.

It had been another good night in Wales amongst good people, and will only encourage me to try and do more in this league. Though the way my expenditure is going, I will be hopeful of some company this time.


Some unlucky hoppers who were at Felixstowe, only to see the referee abandon it due to fog (wrongly in most peoples opinion) also missed out at the game at Connah’s Quay. The game was abandoned after 10 minutes due to floodlight failure. In the same league Garden Village beat Cambrian and Clydach 1-0, while Briton Ferry triumphed 2-1 over Goytre United.


Wycombe Wanderers v Cambridge United the following day.

RHIW D’DAR is a smart ground in pleasant surroundings. There is a stand on each side of the pitch. To the left is the older original stand which offers a combination of seating and standing. On the other side is a newer stand, this is interesting in that it has the dugouts built in underneath. I’d hazard a guess that there were around 300 seats and 150 covered. The rest of the ground is open, but this would be fine for the Welsh Premier League, no matter what ground graders say.

Elsewhere, the club has badges, ties and tracksuits for sale. The bar has lots of club stuff on the walls and offers the usual range of drinks. The tea bar didn’t do food when I went, so eating outside is a good option. The are seems to be monopolised by the Chinese, as from what I saw both takeaways were Chinese chippies. The pub, Fagins, also does food at reasonable prices, plus best of all a great range of drinks.

I’d have no hesitation in recommending this friendly club to hoppers, a nice village nearby too, and doable on the train if you wish.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Redhill - Kiln Brow

Redhill FC
Kiln Brow
Three Arch Road

01737 762129

Ground Number: 414
Tuesday 23rd September 2014
Redhill 2-1 Herne Bay
Isthmian D1 South

It was back to work for me on the Monday, although as usual I had the Tuesday off. I'd enjoyed my week off, but could't help thinking that I had undersold myself football wise, 'only' doing 5 games due to postponements. This was boosted by the Eastern Counties League Hop on Saturday, with 3 staggered kick offs in one day, but knocked back by the lack of a Monday game, and the postponement of Wednesday afternoon's game involving Mansfield Town U21 and the Friday night game at Felixstowe being called off due to fog, right on kick off. I resolved to do it better this time, and although I couldn't control the weather, I could at least base myself up in Manchester and meet up with some friends too. For this hop, and indeed Friday's hop somewhere in Wales, I would be without the financial help and company of fellow hopper Anwar, the reason tonight being that he was watching his beloved Arsenal in the League Cup.

I first heard the name of Redhill back in the 1990's, when watching an episode of 'Only Fools and Horses', the one where Delboy went hang gliding, he crashed into a TV Transmitter near the Surrey town. Other famous people to reside in the town include the Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs, who lived there when he was arrested for his part in the crime. Author Nick Hornby was born here, as was Bad Girls actor Liz-May Brice, while Michael Greco, who played Beppe Di Marco in Eastenders went to school in the town. I had always been intrigued by the name of the ground, Kiln Brow, which to my mind sounded absolutely lovely and I wondered about the origin of the name, but a google search threw up a blank.

Redhill FC were formed in 1894. They played have in various leagues over the years, but in 1998 joined the Sussex County League Division 1. Relegation to it's Division 2 followed after only a couple of seasons, but eventually the club fought back, gaining promotion in 1997. Mixed fortunes followed, but in the 2012/13 season, 2nd place was enough to earn them promotion to the Ryman D1 South. Last season they finished just above the relegation spots in 22nd, and this season they were a couple of places above, but still struggling, down in 20th place. They have won a multitude of local cups and reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup in 1957, before losing 6-1 to Norwich City. They've not been past the 1st Qualifying Round since the 1980's and the same can be said of the other FA Competitions with their best ever FA Vase run coming when they got to the 4th Round in 1982. The club used to play in a ground in the centre of town and once attracted a crowd of 7000 for a game. They moved to their current home in 1984 with their record attendance of 1200 coming in a friendly against Crystal Palace in 1989.

Herne Bay were sitting in 9th place at the time of the game. They were founded in 1886 and played in various leagues before settling in the Kent League in 1974. They were champions of that league 5 times and runners up 5 times over the years, and they finally accepted promotion into the Isthmian D1 South in 2012. They have finished 18th and 19th in their 2 seasons here, so this season's start has certainly been encouraging. In the FA Cup, they have reached the 4th Qualifying Round on 2 occasions, most recently in 1986 when they went out to Farnborough. They got all the way to the FA Vase Semi Final in 2012, before going out to West Auckland Town 4-3 on aggregate. They have won several local cups, most recently the Kent Premier Cup in 2011. Their record attendance of 2203 came against Margate, while well known players to turn out for the club include Danny Kedwell and Liam Hatch.

I was on my day off as per usual and filled my day by going down town, and doing some research for this blog amongst other things. I watched a bit of TV in the afternoon, and had dinner of spicy turkey, chips and beans before leaving home at 5.45.

The M25 is notorious for being awful at the best of times and so I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was only delayed by 5 minutes, despite it being the middle of the rush hour. The local roads were not so good however, and a crawled along for pretty much most of the 5 mile journey , resulting in another 10 minute delay. I wondered why some of the road seemed familiar, then I remembered that I had been to South Park last year and had used the same route

I eventually got to the ground at 7.15 and after taking some pictures of the signs outside, I decided to go in. I paid £8 for entry and £2 for a programme, before heading to the club shop. There was a very good selection of old programmes and books, as well as club merchandise. I picked up an old shirt for the princely sum of £1 before going round and taking pictures and grabbing a seat in the stand while I typed my blog and checked out Facebook while I waited for the game to start.


The opening stages were quite cagey, but Redhill were the side in the ascendancy with Herne Bay defending quite deep. Gradually though it got more end to end, but it was still the home side on top. They got their reward when shortly before half time Joe Goldsmith followed up a shot that had been parried by the visitors keeper.

The second half was much the same, and Redhill doubled their lead around 10 minutes in. Sam Butler was the scorer, latching onto a good through ball and finishing well. By now it was getting quite chilly, so I was glad that I'd bought that shirt earlier as the extra layer was welcome. Sloppy defending allowed the visitors to get one back around 20 minutes from time as Stuart King got on the scoresheet. They came very close to equalising about 5 minutes later, but the ball went just wide. There was some debate about whether it was a corner or a goal kick and a visiting player was booked for his protests. The referee wasn't the best, which led to some fruity language from the Herne Bay team. And that was before he sent a visiting player off for a tackle on the halfway line that in my mind wasn't even a booking. This led to a coming together of the 2 teams and a bit of pushing and shoving, a few seconds after the game restarted the final whistle was blown.


I drove home, listening to TalkSPORT on the way home. It was the league cup and in the only game that went to extra time, Liverpool beat Middlesborough 14-13 in a long penalty shoot out. I even had to listen to the last part on my phone as I walked into my house, and it had started while I was still on the motorway. I got in, typed some of my blog and checked Facebook before watching TV in bed.


In the 2 other games that I considered North Greenford United won 3-1 at Northampton Sileby Rangers while Hythe Town drew 2-2 with Walton Casuals.


Somewhere in Wales on Friday night. Taffs Well is currently favourite, with Briton Ferry and Garden Village also in the mix. An outsider is Eastbourne United in the FA Youth Cup.

KILN BROW is quite typical of step 5 grounds that have needed to see improvements in the past few years. The seats are another of those metal pre fabricated type stands, although it's larger than most, holding around 170. The only other area of cover is behind the goal to the left as you come in, this has more cover for around 300.

The club shop is very good, having a great range of items and being one of the better ones at this level. I didn't use the tea bar or clubhouse, but the tea was served in proper mugs and the chips looked a very generous portion size for what they cost.