Sunday, 17 August 2014

Cray Valley Paper Mills - Badgers Sports Ground




Cray Valley Paper Mills FC
Badgers Sports Ground
Middle Park Avenue
Eltham
London
SE9 5HT


07878 079566






Ground Number 400
Sunday 17th August 2014
Cray Valley PM 1-3 Raynes Park Vale
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round




As a big fan of the FA Cup, I was hoping for some games to be moved to the Sunday. A wide selection were, and so I had quite a choice. Had Anwar been available, it would have likely to be Halstead. But with him busy and it being 80 miles away, that was not up for consideration. Of the other 2, Ilford and Tower Hamlets had running tacks, which were a real turn off. Favourite was Cray Valley Paper Mills who were playing Raynes Park Vale. This would depend on me getting out of work on time (likely) and the traffic behaving (debatable, as the M1, M25 and M6 had been a right pig in the last couple of days and they were not the only roads that were affected) In any case, it would be my 400th ground, and I was pretty pleased it would be for an FA Cup game.

Cray Valley Paper Mills to give them their full name, were founded in 1919. The unusual suffix comes from the fact that they originally played at the Paper Mills, and were sponsored by the company and the Nash family who owned it, right up to it's closure in 1980. They have spent most of their existence in local leagues, but for a spell in the 1990s, they were in the Spartan League, with a best finish of 2nd in Division 1 in 1998. A spell in the London Intermediate League followed, before finally transferring to the Kent League in 2002, winning promotion to it's Premier Division at the first time of asking. They were Champions in 2004, but could not take promotion to the Isthmian League due to an insufficient ground. However, this was remedied in 2012 and now they have the facilities to go up, should they wish to do so. The league was renamed the Southern Counties East League the same year, to signify it's geographical expansion. Last season was their first in the FA Cup, they beat Lancing in a replay, before going out to Redhill. They also had their best FA Vase run, going out after a replay to South Park in the 2nd Round. 

Raynes Park Vale were founded in 1995, following the amalgamation of Raynes Park FC and Malden Vale FC. They have been in the top division of the league, ever since it expanded in 2003. They had a best ever finish of 4th in 1998, and have generally been in the top half of the table for their entire history. They have reached the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round on 3 occasions, most recently in 2004 when they crashed out 6-0 to Folkestone Invicta. In the FA Vase, there has been a trio of appearances in the first round, last time out losing to Peacehaven & Telscombe in 2011. They are yet to win a trophy, but can boast Jermiane McGlashan amongst their ex players, who went on to play for Aldershot and Cheltenham. They are currently managed by former AFC Wimbledon player Gavin Bolger. I had seen them before, back in February 2004, back in my phase of watching AFC Wimbledon. They got off lightly compared to others, 'only' losing 5-0 to the Wombles who destroyed all before them.  I'd only last seen them last month as they destroyed a young Aldershot Town side 7-0 in a pre season friendly.


I was expecting a fairly easy day at work, and I wasn't wrong. In fact it was even easier than usual,with me having done all of my jobs and helped others do theirs by 9.30. I could have gone off earlier but I wanted to stay till 10 to get the non league paper and some Irn Bru. I took my half hour break,getting changed and looking at Facebook on my phone, before getting my stuff, paying for it and leaving for the game.

It was a fairly painless journey, although the last 20 miles of it were through the slow moving London traffic, though there were no real hold ups. I got to the Badgers Sports Ground at 11.40, and went and picked up a programme from the turnstile. I went in the bar and had a pint, paying for my entry and programme while I was in there watching Sky Sports. They even printed me off a well presented team sheet which was nice.

After a couple of pints, I went into the ground and hot an excellent bacon cheeseburger for £3. It was nearly kick of by then, but I went round getting  pictures of the ground. I took cover under the stand as it was really starting to rain. Raynes Park Vale had the better of the first half, and they opened the scoring on 9 minutes when Lee Coburn deflected the ball into his own net, following a free kick. Aaron Jeffrey soon equalised for the home side when he finished from inside the area. The second half continued in the same fashion and on 49 minutes Simon Moore converted a penalty to put the visitors 2-1 up. It was 3-1 on 68 minutes as Marcus Dowdeswell headed in from the corner to settle the tie, to send the majority of the 106 crowd home disappointed. There seemed to be quite a few hoppers there too.

It had been another good afternoon at a nice club. Maybe not as brilliant as Staveley Miners Welfare on Friday, but above average, especially considering it's step 5. It was a worthy ground 400 for me in any case. After the game, I was still a bit hungry, so I went and got some chips with home made Chilli Sauce from a takeaway called Charcoal Grill. They were very nice, and great value at £1.30. The journey home was not so good - there was a hell of a lot of traffic around Battersea, and I ended up being delayed by around 30 minutes. I still got in around 5 though, listening to the football on the way home.

You can read about fellow hopper Laurence Reade's visit to an Erith Town game at the same ground HERE and take a look at what the ground looked like pre development on Mishi Morath's blog HERE

BADGERS SPORTS GROUND is a very modern ground, and is typical of new builds in that it has metal stands. In fact the club and ground remind me a bit of VCD Athletic, who are not a million miles away. At least the stands offer good sight lines and kept everyone dry today. There is standing for around 100, and seats for around the same amount. 

As for other facilities, the bar is freshly refurbished and offers a nice place to sit and drink and watch the televised football. Cider wise, they do Thatchers Gold at £3.50 a pint, which is exactly the same as at Wycombe. The burgers at the tea bar were very nice, and they were cooked to order too, though they could do with having chips as well. I didn't see any club shop, but the team sheets are a nice touch, and the programme is well presented and has all the facts you need. The admission price at £7 is a bit higher than I'd ideally like to pay, but it is the standard admission in this league. Overall, a nice club, and well worth a visit, as you will get a nice welcome.

              

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Staveley Miners Welfare - Inkersall Road



Staveley Miners Welfare FC
Inkersall Road
Staveley
Chesterfield
Derbyshire
S43 3JL

01276 471441






Ground Number: 399
Friday 15th August 2014
Staveley Miners Welfare 2-0 Worksop Town
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round




I'm a huge fan of the FA Cup early rounds and so I was pleased when some games were announced on the Friday night. Sadly though, they were all a fair distance away, but the bonus with Staveley, near Chesterfield was that I would be able to meet people there. Norwegian groundhopper Anders had the match cemented into his plans, as he was over here for another fortnight. Also Sheffield United and Worksop Town fan Seb said he would be there, and Chesterfield fan Luke said he would try and make it too. I'd actually been to Inkersall Road, tonights venue, to take pictures in September 2007, on the way to Chesterfield  v Wycombe, which  if I recall correctly, we lost 2-0. It had earned favourable reviews from groundhoppers, so I was looking forward to seeing a game there. Easpecially as it was part of my favourite step 5 league, the NCEL, that I fell in love with when I went on a groundhop in 2012.

Staveley Miners Welfare were formed in 1962 under the name 'Nags Head'. They only started playing Saturday Football in 1989, joining the Central Midlands League in 1993. The rapid progress was continued when they joined the NCEL in 1997.  They finished 2nd in it's Division 1 in their first season and gained promotion to the Premier. However, they struggled to cope with the step up and lasted 3 seasons before succumbing to relegation. They took a while to get back, being champions of the Division 1 in 2011. They have coped a lot better, staying well clear of relegation since their return to the Premier. Last season's finish of the 17th was the lowest since they returned, but they were still 23 points clear of the drop zone. As for tonight's competition, they had a great run in 2011, beating Winterton Rangers, Goole and Pickering Town before succumbing 3-0 to that years Conference North winners Hyde. That year also saw a run to the FA Vase Semi Final, however the Northern League's domination of the competition at the time prevailed and they lost over 2 legs to Dunston UTS by a very narrow 3-2 scoreline. That vintage year also saw them finish 5th in the NCEL, their highest ever finish to date. 




Worksop Town had a brilliant season last year, scoring goals by the hatful and finishing a playoff place in the Northern Premier League. They didn't progress and worse was to follow when the club owner pulled out all funding. The club jumped the gun and resigned from the NPL. This turned out to be in haste as the supporters trust were putting together a plan to save the club. They tried to withdraw their resignation, but the league stood firm, and were not letting them have their league place back. Luckily, the Northern Counties East League were happy to take them on, and they joined tonight's hosts in it's Premier Division. The league will still run with 21 teams though, owing to the demise of Wakefield, who were forced to resign due to financial difficulties. Worksop have not been without financial issues in the past, they lost the ownership on their ground to league opponents Handsworth Parramore (formerly called Worksop Parramore and Sheffield Parramore). This time out, a famous face stepped in to lend a hand, golfer Lee Westwood's generous donation getting them out of a tight spot earlier this summer. Hopefully the club can return to it's former glory - they once graced the Conference North and got to the FA Cup 3rd Round in the 1950's



I was glad of a fairly easy day at work on the day of the game, and was out at 11.45. The night before, I had been out for my brothers birthday and as well as a few pints I had gone to the Sausage tree in High Wycombe for my brothers birthday. I indulged on the exotic meat platter and had Camel, Horse and Zebra, which were very nice, and strange meats are something I am always up for trying. I relaxed at home for a few hours, having a bath and some lunch and leaving to meet Anwar at 3pm.



I got to his at 3.30, and soon enough we were on our way. It was slow progress out of Aylesbury and into Milton Keynes, but worse was to come. The M1 was stop-start all the way up, thanks mainly to roadworks, which as usual had big swathes of tarmac fenced off and no sod working on them. There was sitting traffic everywhere, and it was very frustrating. I'd have thought that the moron in charge of our country who cares more about polar bears and trivial stuff like global warming, than his own people would be dead set against that! It was also extremely frustrating when the mobile internet was at a frustratingly slow speed, so I couldn't check anything while we were stopped.




Eventually, after an hour and 10 minutes delay, we were parked up in a nearby street. It had pelted it down on the way up, so we were a bit concerned that the game may be in danger. But it was nice and busy, and so our minds were put at rest. We were unsure what the food would be like in the ground, so we sought out a local takeaway, chatting to some locals on the way. Star Pizza was the venue, and they did a very good Chilli Burger and chips, nice bit of salad in it too to keep the doctor happy for £3.70. From there, we walked the 5 minutes to the ground, and paid £5 to get in, plus £1.50 for an excellent programme.


We took a look around the ground and I got some great pictures of the stands. I was pleased to see a friendly dog, but then even more pleased to see 'Mick The Owl' who posted on the Gasroom a few years back, when Wycombe and Sheffield Wednesday shared a league. Hard to believe now, I know, but he came to Chesterfield and met the Wycombe fans the following season, and everyone got along famously. We had a good chat, and got a picture together, but then it was time to watch the game. Prior to that, I got a pint from the bar, and was pleased to see that they did bottles of 'proper' Westons Cider for £3, which was good value.




A brief run down of the game (I will try and add in a match report later, as I'm not really a fan of writing about the football itself) Anyway, it has the home side who had the best of the opening period, but then Worksop took over and were much the better side in the first half. The second period was a different story however. Staveley must have had a right royal rollocking, as they came out the second half a different team, and had much the better of proceedings. Ellis Wall opened the scoring with a deft chip over the keeper and a well worked free kick resulted in the second scored by Jordan Eagers. Another view of the game here can be seen on the epic The Real FA Cup website.




At half time, we went to the club shop. We were given a really smashing welcome from the owners of both shops (amazingly Worksop had a stall there too) But I said I'd wait till I got to their ground to get something from them. Instead I went in the Staveley Miners Welfare Shop, and got an old shirt for £3, complete with league badges and number. I also bought a keyring and a couple of pens. After that I went to the bar to get a pint of Strongbow. I'd been treated really well by the club so far, I'd not been charged too much  like a few clubs do. When you get a good welcome and good value, it makes you want to spend more. I stood and had my pint with Anders, who had come all the way from Norway to see this game and Alan Savage, who had made a slightly shorter trip from down the M1 at Ilkeston. We joined a Peterborough fan and talked about our favourite grounds, and the many merits of the NCEL.




After the game, I said my goodbyes, having had an absolutely superb evening. It had everything I love about the NCEL, and after singing chapter and verse to Anwar about the league, I was glad when I sold it to him on the first visit. In fact the night had everything I love about football, friendliness, co operation and community. I dislike a lot of things that happen higher up, even at Wycombe's level, which generally retains some dignity, I despise MK Dons, and everything that that despicable club stands for, and how the spineless FA let them get away with it. I dislike the high prices some clubs charge, though I pay £10.50 a game for a seat on the halfway line at Wycombe though my season ticket, which is a damn good deal in my book. I dislike the overbearing authoritarian approach to fans, and the tightly enforced segregation. In my mind, if you can't stand next to a fan of a different team without starting trouble, you should be sectioned, but there is no reason to treat everyone as guilty.

Anyway, rant almost over. We got on the motorway and went through 10 miles of horrible average speed cameras which annoy me no end. We made good progress however, and I dropped Anwar in Aylesbury just before midnight, getting home myself 20 minutes later. I chatted on Facebook to a Chester fan called Corin, and started writing the rest of my blog, before going to sleep just after 2.

INKERSALL ROAD is a cracking ground, and would be good enough for the Conference North, no issues. Everything had the club logo and the blue and white stripes on and it looks great. There is a seated stand holding 200 along the side, along with some open terracing. Behind both goals has covered terracing, whilst the other side is open, and also houses the corner bar and tannoy box

The end where you come in houses the bar and the tea hut, The bar was nicely done out and had a great selection of drinks at good prices. It had Sky for the TV football too. The tea bar looked a cracker too and I regretted eating beforehand, even though what I had was nice. Finally, the club shop had a great range of stuff, especially considering they were step 5. But most of all, the club were amazingly friendly, making everyone feel very welcome. This is the perfect groundhop, probably my favourite so far and should be at the top of anyones list. Even if anyone is sceptical about hopping, take them here, and they will either be sold on it, or beyond hope!