Thursday, 19 October 2017

Crook Town - Sir Tom Cowie Millfield

Crook Town FC
The Sir Tom Cowie Millfield
West Road
County Durham
DL15 9PW

01388 762959

Ground Number: 735
Wednesday 18th October 2017
Crook Town 1-5 Newcastle Benfield
Northern League Cup 1st Round


The club was formed after a merger between Crook and Crook Excelsior in 1889. They played friendly matches for their first few years before joining the Bishop Auckland & District League in 1894. After finishing as runners-up in their second season, Crook Town joined the Northern League in 1896. They struggled at first, finishing bottom in two of their first three seasons.They won the first of their five Northern League titles in 1915, all of them achieved whilst the competition was a single division, The club had a brief spell in the North Eastern League in the 1930's, their only spell away from the Northern League, but success was limited, finishing in the bottom half more often than not during a six-year spell. For the 1982/83 season, the Northern League established a second division and Crook have spent equal time in both. Finishes have ranged from a low of 18th in Division 2 in 1992/93 to a high of 5th in Division 1 in 1996/97.

In the FA Cup, Crook Town got as far as the FA Cup 3rd Round, way back in 1933 where after beating Football League sides Aldershot & Stockport County, they crashed 7-0 at Leicester. Success has been a little more modest in recent times with runs to the 1st Round in 1976 (lost 4-1 at home to Nuneaton Brough) and the 4th Qualifying Round in 1999 (lost 7-0 at Doncaster) being the highlights. The FA Amateur Cup saw great times for the club back in the day - reaching the final 5 times and winning them all. In its replacements, they have reached the FA Trophy 3rd Round in 1976/77 and the FA Vase Quarter Final in 2005/06. Local cup wins include the Northern League Cup three times, the Durham Challenge Cup four times, the Durham Benevolent Bowl on five occasions and the Captain G Wright Trophy twice. In the 1910's and 1920's, the club made regular trips to Barcelona to play the Spanish giants, winning 2 and drawing 4 of the 10 games they played. The club's record attendance came in 1952 when 17,500 somehow packed into the Millfield for an FA Amateur Cup game against Walton & Hersham.


As I was up in Carlisle for a Wycombe game on Tuesday, I booked a botel overnight to break the long journey. Of course, a match would be taken in on Wednesday and initially, I was hoping to make progress south and see an afternoon game too. However, choices were few and far between, so I thought again. Crook Town and Tow Law Town (who contest an amusingly named local derby - Crook v The Lawyers) were two grounds I really wanted to visit, but chances were very sparse. So when Crook came up with a rare Wednesday night game against Newcastle Benfield, I knew I had to go. It would mean a mammoth trip home on Wednesday night, which wasn't ideal as I had to be up fairly early on Thursday as my car was in for its MOT. Also, I had to find somewhere to kill time on Wednesday daytime. But these were sacrifices both worth making, especially as according to 'Groundtastic' magazine, the ground was due to go in the not too distant future.

I’d had a few drinks the night before, celebrating a last-minute equaliser for Wycombe in their 3-3 draw at Carlisle. Unusually for that type of situation, I fully remember the evening, although I did wake up at 5 am with the light on. After switching it off, I had another sleep until  9, which meant that I’d had a good night’s sleep after getting to bed at 11.30 ish the previous night. I felt pretty fresh considering, but couldn’t be bothered to go out and get breakfast as I wanted to get my blog done. With all that uploaded and me caught up online, I had stacks of time to kill, so after checking out of my room at 10.30, I went for a look around Carlisle. I didn't buy much, just a film for my PSP that cost a bargain 20p about the history of the England football team. At least I'd used up some time, as it was nearly 1 when I got back to my car. From there I drove to Carlisle City to look at what was a very impressive ground for the level and was luckily open for me to get pictures. I wasn't so lucky at Prudhoe Town but managed to find a hole in the fence at Annfield Plain. In between, I popped into Consett. It was a nice town and best of all, thanks to a decent council, parking was free. I bought a fancy box of Carte Noir chocolates from Barry's Bargain Superstore for a quid, having remembered it from when I went to Consett's old ground. I also filled up with fuel at Morrisons, so I had enough to get me home.

I got to Crook at 4.45, parking in a car park opposite the ground. After checking that the game was definitely on, I made my way into town. After having a look around the town and buying a paper, I went to the local Wetherspoons. I had a half of Thistly Cross while I read my paper. After that, I went in search of dinner, having a pork curry with chips and rice as well as a pint of Strongbow for £5.95 in the Crook Hotel. After that, I made my way to the ground, paying a very reasonable £6 including programme. I sat in the freshly refurbished bar for a while, reading my programme before the game. Fellow groundhoppers had said good things about the ground and I had to agree, it was a right cracker. I sat in the stand for the game, which had a decent view of the action.

Newcastle Benfield started the strongest and they took the lead on 6 minutes, a low diagonal shot from around 10 yards after Scott McCarthy got away from the defence. The visitors looked comfortable and likely to add to their lead but on 23 minutes, Crook equalised with a towering Matt Stephenson header from a corner. Their joy was short lived though, on 25 minutes Benfield were back ahead when a cross from the left was headed in by McCarthy from close range for his and his team's second. At halftime, I got a Bovril from the tea bar before retaking my place in the stand. A few minutes into the second half, the visitors looked to have the game sewn up, making it 3-1 from another close-range finish, this time from 40-year-old Paul Brayson who starred in the Football League with Cardiff, Swansea and Reading amongst others. Benfield were running away with it by now and after having a Brayson goal disallowed for offside, it was 4-1 after 80 minutes. It was veteran Brayson again, this time slotting past the onrushing keeper from the edge of the area. A few minutes from time, it was 5-1, with a finish from a few yards at the near post, Brayson completing his hat-trick.

From there I drove home, leaving Crook just before 9.30. It was a decent journey home, with just the one stop at Woodall services. I got in at 1.40, but not being tired at all, I stayed up until 3.30 am. Despite not much sleep, I felt fine when I woke at 8.30 am the following morning. It had been an expensive couple of days away, costing nearly £150 and it was to be was to be an expensive week with my car in for its MOT and service, but it had been enjoyable. The football would continue the following night with something a bit more local - Clanfield 85 v Hemel Hempstead Town in the FA Youth Cup.


THE SIR TOM COWIE MILLFIELD has a great reputation amongst groundhoppers and rightly so, as it's a classic. There's a covered stand, this is rated as a 400, capacity, but as it is bench style seating, you could probably fit another 100 in physically. To the side of this is some covered terracing, this has space for around 700. There's some open terracing behind the goal too, with around the same capacity again. The rest of the ground is open flat standing.

The bar is newly refurbished and quite a nice place to have a drink. The tea bar has a wide range at good prices, although I didn't see a club shop. There's plenty of choice in the town, a short walk away and I enjoyed the Crook Hotel better out of the two pubs that I visited.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
A real classic ground, well kept too (9)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Lots of free parking, close to town (8)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Nice enough (6)

4: Value for money
A fiver entry was good value (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Reasonably regular updates on Twitter (7)

6: Programme
Contains all the essentials, good for £1 (7)

7: Game entertainment
A bit one-sided (6)

8: Tea Bar
Good selection at good prices (8)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Freshly refurbished, reasonable range of drinks (6)

10: Club Shop
None that I saw (-)



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Coventry Copsewood - Allard Way

Coventry Copsewood FC
Allard Way
West Midlands

Ground Number: 734
Tuesday 10th October 2017
Coventry Copsewood 3-0 Coventry Alvis
Midland League D1


The club was formed in 1922 under the name Peel Connor and has been known under various guises during its history, such as GPT Coventry, Marconi (Coventry), Coventry Marconi and from 2005, Coventry Copsewood. They mainly competed in local works leagues prior to joining the Midland Combination in 1993. Starting in Division 2, a 5th placed finish in their first season was good enough for promotion. The club would spend 3 seasons in Division 1, earning promotion as champions during the 1996/97 season. Since then, they've been in the Midland Combination Premier, which has since been absorbed into the Midland League Division 1.Finishes have ranged from 3rd in 2005 and 2012 to 21st in 2008. Last season they finished 12th and before tonight's game, they sat slightly higher in 9th place.

Coventry Copsewood have not yet made their FA Cup bow, although they have been competing in the FA Vase since the start of the new millennium.  Their best run came in their second season in the competition, 2001/02. After beating Heath Hayes, Bolehall Swifts and Rothwell Corinthians, they lost narrowly in the 2nd Round to Rushall Olympic with a 2-1 defeat away from home. They've seen plenty of local cup success too winning the Coventry Telegraph Cup three times running, the Coventry Charity Cup three times,  Birmingham Junior Cup twice and the Terry Alden Cup.


After a busy week off work, including a weekend where I did 7 games, I was keen to take it a bit easier this week. I'd looked in the Non-League Paper on Sunday morning and presented fellow hopper Anwar with a list of 16 possible games that we could go to. After letting him mull it over for a bit, we both decided on the local derby between Coventry Copsewood and Coventry Alvis. It was one of the nearest unvisited grounds for both of us and so it was a fairly simple choice. We'd actually tried to visit there back at the end of February, but a late deluge rendered the pitch unplayable, just as we were arriving in Coventry. We ended up doing a revisit to Sutton Coldfield that night, as they had the 'safe' option of a 3G pitch.

On the day of the game, I woke up at 8.30 after having my best night's sleep in ages. As was customary for my day off, I had a bath and got dressed before walking the 4 miles into town. Amongst other things, I bought a chicken Jalfrezi for lunch. Morrisons curries are usually not up to much, but with it being reduced to £1.50 because of 'Indian Week', now was a good time to retry it. It was decent enough, especially when paired with some 70p Mexican rice. After lunch, I started making plans for tonight, including meals. The Morrisons shareholders must be rubbing their hands with glee, as myself and Anwar always enjoy our meals there and there was a store with a cafe a couple of miles from the ground. The rest of the afternoon was spent starting tonight's blog and going to collect my prescription amongst other things, the latter I'd forgotten to do on my way down town earlier. Once I got back, I started looking at next week when I will be staying in Carlisle on Tuesday. It was frustrating trying to find somewhere reasonably priced near Whitchurch Alport on Monday but I was happy to see Crook Town at home on Wednesday, as it was a long-term target.

I left at 4, meeting Anwar at 4.30. It was a very good journey up, with us getting to Morrisons at 6. Anwar went for Macaroni Cheese and chips, whilst I went for the healthy option of red Thai curry. We both enjoyed our meals and mine was great value at £4. Anwar got another bargain with two packs of cakes for 9p each and it was still only 6.35 by the time we left. We got to the ground 10 minutes later, getting some pictures of the signs outside the ground before going in the club room where we paid our £5 entry and I got a programme for a quid. I'd seen tonight's opponents Coventry Alvis last season with fellow hopper Chris last season. Though they were league champions in 2016, they only finished 3rd last year and had struggled to date this season, sitting bottom of the table. We stayed inside until 7.30, which gave me time to do my blog and catch up online. Anwar also shared out his doughnuts, with me having a couple for my pudding. After we'd gone outside, I found myself a position on the halfway line to watch the game.

Copsewood dominated from the start and missed a number of gilt-edged chances to take the lead. Their wasteful finishing meant the score was goalless at the break, although Alvis had gradually got better, they were restricted to chances on the break. Copsewood finally took the lead on 50 minutes, a ball was flashed across the six-yard box and Liam Davies was on hand to divert it into the corner. A couple of minutes later, it was 2-0 when a corner was put in from the left and a Matthew Burt headed it home. The chances became less frequent after this, although the hosts did hit the bar with around 15 minutes remaining. They extended their lead on 77 minutes with a scrappy deflected goal from Burt to put the game beyond all doubt. Even with all the injury time, the game ended around 9.40. It was a good journey home with me dropping Anwar off at 10.55. I got home at 11.15 to find a nice tweet from the club, hoping that I's has a good evening. I went to bed around half an hour later and with me up at 4 for work, I needed a 4-hour nap the following afternoon. Next up for me will be a game on Friday, hopefully, Ely City with Anwar.


ALVIS WAY is a decent enough ground for the level. There are two areas of cover, a seated stand of a capacity of 65 and this includes seats from Coventry City's old Highfield Road ground. The other is behind the goal, a covered terrace for around 200, although this is set a fair way back from the pitch. The rest of the ground is open. Inside the ground is a committee room which has basic drinks, although I think there's more facilities elsewhere on the site.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Decent enough for step 6 (7)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Bags of parking, but seemed a bit isolated (6)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Friendly welcome in the club room (8)

4: Value for money
Reasonably priced for step 5 (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Semi regular updates, occasional interatction and Pitchero site (7)

6: Programme
Reasonable effort and only £1 (6)

7: Game entertainment
Started brightly with missed chances, but faded (5)

8: Tea Bar
Very basic like many at this level (4)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
10: Club Shop
Didn't see either (-) 



Monday, 9 October 2017

Bishop's Lyderard - Cothelstone Road

Bishop's Lydeard AFC
Cothelstone Road
Bishop's Lydeard

Ground Number: 733
Sunday 8th October 2017
Bishops Lydeard 2-3 Cheddar
Western League D1


The club was founded in 1912 and have spent the vast majority of their history in local football. In 2003, they joined the Somerset County League, progressing up its league system and becoming Premier Division champions in 2016. Last season was their first season in the Western League and they finished a very credible 6th in Division 1. This season saw another first as Bishops Lydeard made their bow in the FA Vase although it was not a happy debut with them crashing out with a 9-1 defeat at AFC St Austell. There have been a number of local cup wins including the Taunton & District League Cup on five occasions, the Seward Memorial Cup twice and the Rowbarton Charity Cup.


It was another long journey on the minibus to get to our next game, although we were at least heading back towards Weston Super Mare. We passed some nice sights on the way, including Glastonbury Tor. The roads were pretty slow though and we didn't get there until 1.50. I used the time to look through the Non-League Paper and plan my week's groundhopping, which will depend on other hoppers but will likely include games on Tuesday and Friday nights. Even though I'm an old git myself, at 38, it was nice to note that I was comfortably the youngest on the bus, with the possible exception of Robyn.

We arrived at the ground and went straight in. First stop was the merchandise stall, easily the best club effort on the hop, where I bought a pen for £1.50. Also exceptional was the catering, An excellent Thai Green Curry for a fiver. I sat down and enjoyed it, the hot sunshine and view of the hills behind giving a nice backdrop to proceedings. They had real ales, but no real cider, only Thatchers in cans, so I decided to give it a miss until I got home later. It seemed pretty busy, probably due to the fact that the ground was closed off at the far end.

Cheddar by far the brightest, kicking up the slight slope. They took the lead when Chris Coombs scored with a diagonal shot from just inside the area. The hosts had to weather the storm a bit and Cheddar missed several chances including an open goal with the goalkeeper out of position. Bishops Lydeard equalised on 39 minutes, the ball hitting the bar and bouncing just behind the line with the goal credited to Jake Quick. Just before halftime, the hosts took the lead, this time a corner was scrambled home by Ben Hedbitch. Around 5 minutes before halftime, Bishops Lydeard were given the chance to put some daylight between themselves and Cheddar but the penalty was tipped onto the post by visiting keeper Liam Kingston. It proved to be a real turning point, as the visitors seized back control. They'd already had a header ruled out for offside before the equaliser on 67 minutes. It had a real touch of quality about it as Adam Jones fizzed a volley into the roof of the net. The winner came on 74 minutes when a ball was played forward. The home defence failed to intercept and Ricky Bennett nipped in with a low shot from just inside the area. Bishops Lydeard keeper Sam Carreau was clear man of the match, making several good saves to keep his team in the game, with Cheddar deserving of a bigger margin of victory.

It had been a good end to a great weekend, but now it was home time. It was a fairly quick minibus ride back to Weston Super Mare train station with us getting there just after 5. After saying goodbye to my fellow hoppers, it as a ten-minute walk to my car. I listened to the England game on the way home, also hoping that Scotland could do the business and get through. England laboured to a 1-0 victory, but to expect any more from a distinctly footballing nation is pure fantasy. Sadly, Scotland weren't able to do the business despite a spirited 2-2 draw in Slovenia and went out on goal difference. I got in at 7.45, having a couple of ciders that I'd bought on Friday as well as catching up online, listing a couple of things on eBay and starting to clear the backlog on my blogs. With me being up for work at 4am the following morning, I was in bed at 9.30, watching TV before going to sleep.


As with most grounds that have recently come up to step 6. the main seating comes in the form of a metal stand. It is at least a bit different to the usual ones, being narrow and high with a capacity of 100. It's supplemented by an area of covered standing for around 50. The rest of the ground is open and is restricted to three sides, with the far end being closed off. It's set in wonderful scenery with rolling hills all around. The wooden fence also adds to the nice feeling around the ground. The bar is quite basic and although I didn't check out their usual food offering, they were doing a fantastic curry when I visited. There was also a well-stocked merchandise stall, with a wide range of souvenirs for the level.