Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Chasetown - The Scholars Ground




Chasetown FC
The Scholars Ground
Church Street
Chasetown
Staffordshire
WS7 3QL

01543 682222






Ground Number: 409
Tuesday 16th September 2014
Chasetown 1-3 Rugby Town
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round Replay



I was originally supposed to be staying up North in a hotel this week, as it was my week off. But I was concentrating on the eastern side of the country this time, and all the Monday night games were on the Western side. Added to that, the previous Friday's trip to Cefn Druids had been done on my own, and therefore was a lot more expensive than usual. So when Anwar said he would be up for an FA Cup replay, I gave him a list of the ones I fancied, and he picked Chasetown, luckily that was my top choice, as I knew it had a club shop and was close to town too.

Chasetown FC were formed in 1954 under the name of Chase Terrace Old Scholars Youth Club. Initially a youth team, they played in Junior Leagues. They joined the West Midlands League in 1972, and after making their way through it's 2 divisions, switched to the Midlands Alliance. They won that league in 2006, thus winning them promotion to step 4. Initially winning promotion to the Southern League, they switched to the NPL in 2009. Promotion from the Division 1 South in their first season meant that they gained promotion to the Premier. A solid first season saw them finish 10th, which is their best ever placing, league wise. The following season however, they finished 20th, and were relegated back to Division 1 South. In their first season back, they reached the playoffs, but lost 2-1 to Stamford in the final, in a match that I went to.

The club are most famous however for their FA Cup runs in the mid 2000's. Their best effort came in the 2007-08 season when they started in the Preliminary Round, beat local rivals Port Vale in Round 2, before facing Cardiff City in the 3rd Round. They took the lead, and held it until shortly before half time, but ended up losing 3-1. As a consequence, they were invited to be Cardiff's first opponents in a friendly at their new stadium, a game which was watched by 5000 people as the Welsh side won 4-0. In the FA Trophy, they made the Quarter Final in 2011 before going out to Mansfield after a replay, whilst in the FA Vase, they made the 5th Round in 2000. Irish comedian Frank Carson was once a director at the club, while the most recognisable player to me in their team was goalkeeper Ryan Price who played for Stafford Rangers against Wycombe in the Conference, which is over 20 years ago now. 




Rugby Town were formed in 1955. They have been known under several names during their history including New Bilton United, Valley Sports, VS Rugby, Rugby United & Rugby Town. Their best ever league finish has been 3rd in the Southern Premier which they have achieved twice - on both occasions this was when the league was at step 2 of the non league pyramid. They have reached the FA Cup 2nd Round on 2 occasions. lastly in 1992-93 when they lost to my local side Marlow and missed out on a tie against Spurs. They won the FA Vase in 1983, beating Halesowen in the final, but the FA Trophy has proved out of their reach so far with them reaching the 3rd Round on a few occasions. In fact they were one of the teams Wycombe beat in 1991 on the way to their first ever FA Trophy win against Kidderminster Harriers. The most well known player for them is their ace striker David Kolodynski, who scores goals by the hatful on a consistent basis.


I was on my week off,  so I spent  the morning at home, first of all typing my blog,  while waiting for the post to come. When it did,  I was pleased to see that my Android TV box had arrived, so I fiddled around with it before it was time to leave. When all set up, I should be able to watch any film ever made or any football game in the top leagues, all for free, via online streaming.

I left home at 12.45 and met Anwar at the school where he worked at 1.20. We put the retro shop in Sutton Coldfield as our destination, but realised we'd be there far too early. Anwar mentioned a stall on Milton Keynes market, which was pretty much on the way, that also did retro games, so we decided to go there on the way. It turned out to be quite good, but there was nothing there that I fancied. Even so,  I got my lunch there - curry sauce and chips, and it was nice and great value at £1.50. From there we went to Sutton Coldfield. There was a bit of a delay on the M1,but nothing too serious, and we arrived at 4.50. It was a good job we had stopped at Milton Keynes, as the retro shop had closed down, and we would have had loads of time to kill.

We got to Chasetown at 6.15 and instead of parking in the ground, we went and parked up in a side road nearer town. We made our way to a pub that I had researched on the Internet. It was supposed to do real cider, which it did. But no new ones for me, I had to settle for some Thatchers Green Goblin, which at least I had not had for a for a few years. I had even more luck on the food front. I'd wanted to try proper faggots for ages and they were a proper delicacy round here. They were really nice too, and in conjunction with Anwar's fish and chips, we got 2 meals for a tenner.

Fully fed, we made our way back to the ground. I paid £8 entry and £2 for a nice thick programme. I had a look round the ground and took some pictures. I was looking for the clubshop, but it was not open. Everyone was nice and friendly, and despite the disappointment of this, it was a good night. I got myself a pint from the bar, as I was allowed to have a drink watching the game. The plastic glass would also serve a purpose on the way home - it was the ideal size to fill with Irn Bru and put in my car's cup holder to keep me hydrated. The tannoy man was also good at reading out the teams and making announcements, and played a good selection of pre match tunes.



THE MATCH

Rugby bossed the first half and took the lead as early as the first minute. David Kolodynski got onto the end of a long ball and fired home left footed from around the edge of the area. But Chasetown did have the occasional attack and indeed had a penalty, but that was smashed against the bar by Simon Brown. They did equalise right on the stroke of half time however when Nathan Waite finished past the keeper from inside the area. 

The second half bought no further goals, but that period saw Chasetown dominate. Extra time it was, and I was hoping for the drama of penalties but it was not to be. Kolodynski was again the difference scored another 2 quality goals, and it's a mystery to me how no one else has snapped him up. In any case his side will face a trip to Conference North side Worecester City in the next round.



ELSEWHERE

Wycombe gained a great 1-0 win at Plymouth, whilst Liverpool got a last minute penalty winner against Ludogorets in the Champions League. In the FA Cup the most entertaining game appeared to be Metstham's 4-3 victory at Chipstead in the clash between the 2 Ryman Division 1 South sides.

AFTER THE GAME

It was a fairly simple drive home, with minimal delays. I dropped Anwar off at 12.10 in Aylesbury and then got home myself at 12.35. With no rush to get to bed, I did some more work on my blog.

NEXT UP

Unknown at present, something tomorrow in any case. The Mansfield Town youth game that I was going to has been called off at the last minute, it was only a stroke of luck that I checked and avoided a wasted journey  




THE SCHOLARS GROUND is a venue that has seen much change over the past 10 years. The one original stand held around 150 and has all the facilities like bar and dressing rooms at the back of it. The rest of the accommodation is  up of pre fab stands. There is a metal covered terrace to your left, as well as some uncovered blue seats to the side of it. At the other end are some covered seats that look like the old stand at Barnet's former home of Underhill.

The club shop was not open on my visit and I did not use the tea bar, so I can't say much about those. But the bar was nice enough for a pint. The people were friendly too, and there was a nice local pub called 'The Uxbridge Arms' which did very nice food and a wide selection of drinks. 
            

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Cefn Druids - The Rock



Cefn Druids FC
The Rock
Rock Road
Rhosymedre
Wrexham
Wales
LL14 3YF






Ground Number: 408

Friday 12th September 2014
Cefn Druids 0-1 Bala Town
Welsh Premier League


After spending last Friday doing nothing but sitting at home drinking and watching TV, I wanted to get back on the Friday night football trail. Sadly, there was nothing in England - I was hoping for an FA Cup game moved due to a groundshare, but nothing was happening. So I turned my attention to Wales. There were 2 games in the Welsh Premier League, one at Aberythswyth, and one that was slightly nearer to me in Cefn Druids v Bala Town. I was hoping that regular groundhopping partner Anwar might be able to come with me to give me some company and help out with fuel costs, but the day before, he text to say he couldn't make it. This led to me checking if some of the games in the lower leagues in Wales were closer - but Denbigh, Briton Ferry and Ton Pentre were all similar or longer trips. In the past, I might have thought better of going, and saved my money. But with the lure of being able to pick up some of my favourite Welsh cider, plus the fact that I was aiming to do 150 games this season, not much was going to stop me. I had a look on Cefn Druids twitter feed, which had not been updated since July and had horrible visions of a sudden onslaught of wet weather cocking my trip up. But a quick look at the BBC Weather for nearby Wrexham assured me this would not be the case.


Cefn Druids are based in the village of Cefn Mawr, near Wrexham. They were formed in 1992 when 2 teams - Cefn Albion & Druids United came together to form a new. They have had various prefixes to their name - including NEWI, Elements and Flexys (in fact I picked up a mini kit from the Wrexham club shop when the club had the latter name - cost to me just 20p). Nowadays they are sponsorship free. Last season they ended a 4 season spell in the Cyrmu Alliance (step 2 of the Welsh League system) when they won the league and gained promotion. They had been in this league from their formation in 1992, up until 1999, but in between these 2 spells they spent 11 seasons in Wales' top tier, though they never finished higher than 12th. They were Welsh Cup runners up in 2012, while still playing in the Cymru Alliance, but this earned them a place in Europe. The winners of that cup were their highly successful local rivals The New Saints, who also won the Welsh League, thus giving the runners up of the cup their European place.  Their opponents were Finnish side MYPA. They drew 0-0 in the first leg in Wales, but lost the return in Kouvola 5-0. At the time of the game they were in 9th Place in the League




Bala Town were in 2nd place, and could go top for a while if they won the game tonight. They had been regular qualifiers over the last 2 years in the Welsh Premier. They were formed in 1880 and like their opponents, they had come from the Cymru Alliance. They joined that league in 2004, after playing in regional Welsh football. They took to their new surroundings very well and within 5 seasons were promoted to the Welsh Premier. Lately they have qualified for the European playoffs, including when they beat Port Talbot in 2013, a game which I went along to. That got them into Europe where they faced the Estonians Levadia Tallinn. Despite winning the first leg 1-0 at Rhyl, they lost 3-1 in Estonia to go out on aggregate.


On the day it was a bit busier than usual at work, and I didn't get out of work till 12.30. It was a day when the rude and ignorant were out in force too, so I was just glad to get away. I left after getting changed at getting on for 1pm and so made my way up the M40, had 20 minutes delay on the M42, before going up the M54 and on the road to Whitchurch. I had programmed Wrexham into my sat nav and for ages I was seeing signs for Chester with the exact same distance as Wrexham. I thought that it may be some Chester FC fan playing a joke, so I pulled over just to make sure that it was going to the right place. It wasn't until I was about 10 miles away that I saw signs for Wrexham and my mind was completely at rest.



As I was driving to Wrexham, I recalled an old episode of Brookside where Sinbad and Tinhead thought that their new lodger may be a serial killer, or something else as they could hear what sounded like coffin making going on in his bedroom. It turned out that Mr Moore was building a secret shrine to Wrexham FC, and happily there is a clip on YouTube showing this episode. Anyway, I found Tesco, as I was really looking forward to getting some boxes of Welsh cider and a lamb and mint slice, both of which had been utterly delicious last time I went to Wales for  a Bangor game in May. They had neither so I had to make do with the more expensive bottles, and a spicy meatball slice. I then set about looking for the Wetherspoons in hope of having a pint of Black Dragon cider, but I drew a blank there too. I then tried to find another Wetherspoons using Google Maps, but that was impossible due to the dire data signal offered by O2. I had a wander round the tome, and looked in a few shops but bought nothing. Before going back to my car, I went in a real ale pub, hoping for some Welsh cider, but all they had was English stuff. Wrexham had turned out to be a huge let down, but not due to the people there, more the poor service of the companies that have a branch there. I actually know a few people from the town, and they are great lads.

Before going to Cefn Mawr, I stopped at Home Bargains, and got some spicy crisps, Irn Bru and Mouthwash. I then got in my car and drove the 7 miles to the ground. It was still only 6pm and with not much around the ground, I sat in my car and typed my blog. I was also able to check out what was going on with Facebook, thanks to my MyFi dongle, that I got from 3, with the O2 signal still patchy. At 6.45 I went up to the ground, getting a copy of the programme and a copy of the Welsh Football magazine from the club shop. On the way in, I recognised the manager of Bala who I had seen on the Sgorio TV programme from S4C which covers the league of Wales. I had a pint of Somersby in the clubhouse, and felt pretty chilled as everyone at the club had been really friendly so far. I then typed a little more of my blog, as once again, O2 were an absolute disgrace signal wise while I was in the clubhouse.


I went into the ground at 7 and met loads of people who were surprised that a Wycombe fan had turned up at their game. I saw a couple of other ground hoppers from Everton and Halifax, who were also here for tonight's game. I got my dinner of hotdog and chips which only came to  £2.40, a great price for food in a ground. I took my place for the game and waited for it to start. During to the game I chatted to various people, firstly Tony who is a Facebook friend and fellow hopper, and a guy from Wigan Robin Park of the North West Counties League. They are a team based just outside Wigan Athletics stadium, and I was told to give him a call if I ever needed tickets.

THE GAME

It wasn't the best of games, but Bala had by far the better of it. They gained their victory when on 42 minutes, Mark Connolly headed in from a good cross to get the only goal of the game.

THE NUMBERS


Ground: 408 (34th of the season)

3rd out of 12 in the Welsh Premier League
42nd game of the season (1511th of all time)
Purchases: Entry £7, Programme £2, Hot Dog & Chips £2.40, Oxo £1, Pint of Somersby £2.90, Fuel Costs £37.30
Miles Driven: 357


AFTER THE GAME

I was away quick after the final whistle. I made good progress at first but then 3 road closures added extra miles and 30 minutes to my journey. Despite this,I didn't let it spoil my day, I had a good time despite all the negatives. Eventually getting back at 12.40, I got in, checked on Facebook and had a couple of ciders while watching TV before going to sleep about 2.

NEXT UP

Wycombe Wanderers v Mansfield Town in League 2, less than 24 hours later.

THE ROCK is one of the most unique grounds in football, with one side being built into the rock face. This side, and the 2 goals are open hard standing, in fact the whole ground is, apart from a 300 seater stand on the other side.

The club shop does a great selection of old programmes, as well as a range of club merchandise. The clubhouse is smart and modern and offers a good range of drinks. Best of all, the tea bar is very cheap, and the food is good. Everyone there was really friendly, and I'd certainly recommend a visit there.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Weston-Super-Mare FC - Woodspring Stadium



Weston-Super-Mare FC
Woodspring Stadium
Winterstoke Road
Weston-Super-Mare
North Somerset
BS24 9AA

01934 621618




Ground Number: 407
Tuesday 9th September 2014
Weston-Super-Mare 3-2 Ebbsfleet United
Conference South



With only 3 grounds to do in the Conference South, and not having done one for ages, I thought that a tick was long overdue. The added bonus was that Anwar wanted to do it too, and although it was one of our longer trips for a midweek game, we could stop in Bristol on the way, where there would no doubt plenty to see and do. It would also be one of the highest level game that we had done together in our 65 hops, with the only 'better' one being Nuneaton v Luton Town last year. I would have just Whitehawk and Gosport to do after this to complete the league. I noted that the trip for Ebbsfleet would be around 4 hours on a coach, with it being 175 miles between the 2 clubs. I had 40 miles less to do and I thought it was a long trip for me!

The town of Weston-Super-Mare used to gain most of it's economy through tourism, thanks to it's seaside location, This has declined in recent years with the advent of foreign holidays, but is still a fairly popular destination. Other industries such as helicopter manufacturing have come to the area to try and make up the shortfall. Famous people to come from the town include Fawlty Towers actor John Cleese and TV presenter Jill Dando.




Weston-Super-Mare FC were founded in 1897, but disbanded twice for World Wars 1&2. They have been going in their current incarnation since 1948. They played in the Western League for many years, winning it in 1991 and getting promotion into the Southern League.  They generally did well in their new surroundings and won promotion up to the Premier Division in 2004. 12 months later, they finished high enough to gain entry to the newly formed Conference South after restructuring of the of the non league pyramid. They have remained there since and in 2013 had their best ever finish when they ended the season in 7th place.

They had won a number of local cups, including the Western Senior Cup on 6 occasions and the Somerset Premier Cup twice. In the FA Cup, they have reached the first round proper on 2 occasions, and the 2nd Round in 2003 when they lost 4-1 to Northampton Town. That same season also saw them have their best run in the FA Trophy, when they reached the 4th Round. They have had several ex professional players turn out for them, mainly coming from the nearby Bristol trio of Rovers and City. Most well known to Wycombe fans will be Mickey Bell, who had 3 excellent years at Wycombe before leaving for Bristol City in controversial circumstances. He was at Clevedon Town as manager for a while, and oversaw the clubs loss to step 5 side Hartley Wintney last season. Even so, Weston-Super-Mare obviously saw enough in him to give him the manager's job at the start of the season. So far, they are just below mid table in 16th place.




Ebbsfleet were were one of the favourites for promotion at the start of the season and were currently just outside the playoffs in 7th place. They were known as Gravesend & Northfleet up until 2007, as the club was a merger of Gravesend United and Ebbsfleet United after the second world war. For a time they were owned by My Football Club, an online venture where 27,000 members paid £35 each to take over a club and have say in things like team selections. They eventually gave up ownership, partly to the supporters trust and partly to a Kuwaiti businessman. They are one of the few non league teams to have a club song, and it's quite a catchy one, entitled 'Cheer, Cheer, here come the Fleet'






They have spent most of their history in the Southern League, though they were founding members of the Alliance (now called the Conference) in 1979. They had an excellent first season, finishing 5th, which to date remains their best ever placing. However, within a few seasons they were relegated back to the Southern League. After switching to the Isthmian Premier for 5 seasons, they won promotion back to the Conference in 2002, remaining there for 11 seasons, suffering relegation back to the Conference South in 2013. In their first season back, they finished 4th, losing out in the playoffs, but winning the Kent Senior Cup. They have done very well in the FA competitions, winning the FA Trophy in 2008, and getting to the 4th Round of the FA Cup in 1963, where they beat Exeter, Wycombe and Carlisle before taking Sunderland to a replay. The most famous player to play for the team is current England manager Roy Hodgson, who made 59 appearances between 1969 and 1971.

Talking of England, I spent the previous evening winning away in Switzerland. As I'd promised myself, I watched the match completely sober, which must be the first time since about Euro 96, when I was at school. England played very well and new Arsenal signing Danny Wellbeck scored 2 good goals. I always thought that he did well for England, and reckon that the Gunners have got themselves a bargain there. I also fancy him to score more goals than any of the Manchester United strikers who have replaced him, or are still at Old Trafford.

Anyway, I had a good nights sleep, around 9 hours in all which was good. I normally only get half of that. I spent the morning relaxing, before I left home at 11.30. I went into Aylesbury and got some things for the journey. I also got some lunch at this brilliant takeway called 'Sunset Grill' and I have to say it's the best Chicken Piri Piri Burger that I have ever had. I then drove to meet Anwar at the school where he worked at 1.15. We then headed west for our day out.

First port of call was Bristol Rovers FC. I was hoping to get a picture next to their Vanarama sign, wearing a Wycombe shirt and holding a Mansfield scarf. It was for a bit of a laugh really, there had been bad blood between the clubs in recent times. Wycombe had looked doomed when Bristol Rovers won at Adams Park in the penultimate game of the season, with us 3 points behind them with one game to play. We needed to win at Torquay, but even that would not save us if Rovers gained even a point, which looked a fairly straightforward task at home to mid table Mansfield who had nothing to play for. But they lost 1-0, Wycombe won 3-0 down in Devon to save themselves, and so Colin Daniel, the scorer for Mansfield that day will forever remain a hero to Wycombe fans.It was not the first incident of controversy between the 2 clubs, in fact there is not space here to cover them all here, suffice to say there is no love lost.



I did feel a bit bad about taking the picture to be honest, as the genuine fans didn't deserve it. A steward came along and I rushed it, messing it up a bit. After that we went into a part of Bristol called Bedminster, parked up at Asda and went to some local shops for computer games. There was nothing worth buying, so I went down to the riverfront to a cider bar and had a couple of halves of new ones that I had not tried before. From there I stopped at Asda on the way back to the car, to see what ciders they did, and ended up getting a nice local Scrumpy, while Anwar got some of the Chocolate Bourbon spread he was looking for.

It was about 5.20 when we got back to the car, and after a slow trip out of Bristol, it was plain sailing and we were in Weston Super Mare by 6.10. We were planning to walk into town, but it was a bit far, so I got some chicken from the local Asda, while Anwar went to McDonalds. We went into the ground at 7.15. I had a look in the clubshop and bought a pen for £1 before going to the bar and getting a pint of Blackthorn which I drank while typing my blog. From there I went outside and got some pictures of the ground,while checking Facebook.

THE GAME

Weston surprised everyone by going into a quick 2-0 lead. The first was a screamer but the second was very poor defending on Ebbsfleet's part. The visitors equalised however with 2 goals in 5 minutes by Charlie Sheringham, and all that was with little over 20 minutes on the clock. It died down a bit after that and apart from a few close shots, the next notable incident was the linesman getting injured. Luckily there was someone in the crowd to deputise and so the game could continue. Deep into injury time Jacob Can got what looked to be the winner for Weston Super Mare when he got on the end of a great cross and volleyed into the net to give the home side victory.

ELSEWHERE

Wales scraped past Andorra after going behind but won 2-1 with a Gareth Bale brace. Lincoln beat Grimsby 3-2 in the Lincolnshire derby for their first victory over their rivals for 8 years. After losing 8-1 at home to AFC Fylde on Saturday, Oxford City won 2-1 at Boston United.

AFTER THE GAME

It was a fairly easy drive home, with little traffic. We left Weston Super Mare shortly before 10pm due to the injury to the linesman but were back in Aylesbury by midnight. A road closure affected my journey home, but I was still back by 12.30. I watched TV for an hour, trying to drop off, but couldn't get to sleep at all before work at 4am. I felt OK the following morning, but had 4 hours sleep when I got home the following afternoon. 

THE NUMBERS

Ground 407 (22nd out of 24 in the Conference South)

Game 41 of the season, 1510 of all time, 66th hop with Anwar

Goals for the season 161 (average of approx 4 per game) 

Miles driven: 285, 3904 for the season so far (average 95 miles per game)

Purchases: Entry £8, Programme £2, Chicken & Chips £3, Bovril £1, Blackthorn £3.30, Fuel Contribution £12.80. Total £29.50 (there were other expenses, plus of course maintaining my car, but I didn't charge them to my 'football costs')
Total spend for the season £637.40 (average £15.55 per game)

NEXT UP

Somewhere in Wales on Friday night, most likely Cefn Druids v Bala Town in the Welsh Premier.


WOODSPRING STADIUM is a decent ground for the Conference South. The best part of the ground is the terrace behind the right hand side goal as you come in. It's pretty high and you can get a great view, though it does look a bit strange with seats put in at the front in the middle. The opposite end is a smaller covered terrace. The side where you come in has all the facilities like bar, tea hut and club shop, plus a 350 seater stand, while the one remaining side is open hard standing.

There is not a lot around the ground, in fact it's 30 minutes from town. I did see Asda, McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut though. The bar is pretty good, with access from inside the ground, Sky TV and a better selection of drinks than most clubhouses. I had some chips from the tea bar, which were average, but great value at £1, also the Bovril was nice and strong. Finally, the clubshop is now mainly clothing after teaming up with a local sportswear company, but there are still a few small things left to buy.