Monday, 25 July 2016

Wythenshawe Town - Ericstan Park



Wythenshawe Town FC
Ericstan Park
Timpson Road
Manchester
M23 9LL







Ground Number 600
Saturday 23rd July 1016
Wythenshawe Town 2-4 Oldham Athletic
Friendly



10 FACTS ABOUT WYTHENSHAWE TOWN FC

1:  The club were formed in 1946. They were originally known as North Withington, changing their name in 1987.

2: Prior to the mid-1980's they played at Hough End Fields on Princess Road, Withington.

3:  They play their home games at Ericstan Park and have done so for many years. In 2009 this venue saw extensive improvements with a £500,000 clubhouse and dressing room facility refurbishments. The ground got its name from tow former men involved in the club during its early days - Eric Reynard & Stan Orme.


4:  There is also another club in Wythenshawe, namely Wythenshawe Amateurs. Up until a couple of years ago, they were league rivals in the Manchester League.

5:  After a long spell in the Lancashire & Cheshire League, they joined the Manchester League in 1974.


6:  From 1987 until 1998 the club enjoyed their first ever spell in the Manchester League Premier Division. They generally struggled though and despite a few good years between 1993 and 1996 where they finished 5th, 4th and 6th they were relegated in 1999 after finishing second bottom.

7:  Between the years of 1998 and 2012 they were in Manchester League Division 1, generally doing well. Winning the league in 2012 entitled them to promotion back to the Manchester Premier. However, they again found things tough going and a couple of seasons later they were relegated to step 8 of non-league after finishing bottom.

8: Since 2014 they have competed in the Cheshire League. They had an exceptional season winning all 18 of their games to win promotion from Division 2. They won the league again last season, winning 14 out of their 20 games.

9: In that invincible season of 2014/15 the club won a quadruple, winning every competition they entered. As well as the league,  they won the League Cup, Altrincham FA Cup & Manchester Amateur Cup.


10: The club also have a number of other sides, including a development squad and Sunday League side.


MY VISIT

This groundhop was only decided at midnight the previous evening. I'd been planning to go to Trafford v Chorley for my 600th ground, with that particular location being chosen as it was close to Manchester City centre and with reasonably decent transport links. This was ideal with me needing just one cider to complete the Wetherspoons Cider Festival and there being a large choice of outlets in the city. However, this was all blown out of the water when I saw that Oldham Athletic's development squad had a friendly in Wythenshawe at 11am, thanks to my Latics supporting friend Thomas letting me know. I'd only known about Wythenshawe Town through another Oldham supporter, George, who had done some voluntary work for the club. Normally I concentrate on steps 1-6 with non-league, with this being a step lower it was a little off my radar. However, with me clearly seeing that they had a half decent ground, I decided to ditch my pre-match plans and instead add this game to my schedule.

The next morning I woke at 7.30am. After having a shower, getting dressed and putting my stuff in my car, I went and bought a paper to read with my breakfast, which was included in the price of my room. I left at 9.50, taking just under an hour to get to Wythenshawe. I parked up on the nearby industrial estate before walking to the ground. Entry was by donation, so I stuck what change I had in the bucket. I was also surprised to see merchandise on sale and it was excellently priced. I couldn't resist a scarf for £3 to add to my collection. I met up with Thomas and we stood on the opposite side to some of the noisier Oldham fans who were in great voice and had flares and other visual delights. They would be heading to Oldham Athletic's first team game at Fylde later today, but as a 'switched on' and progressive club, the hosts had brought the match forward a few hours to allow they and other interested parties to attend.



The hosts started the stronger team but it was Oldham's youngsters that took the lead on 4 minutes through Brad Kay's close range finish. The visitors had taken a 3-1 beating in the corresponding fixture last season, but there was no danger of that happening this time, as Oldham started to take control of the game. They made it 2-0 on 18 minutes as a ball across the 6-yard box was put away by the Latics' Lee Knight. Though the hosts would pull a goal back from the spot before half-time, it was against the run of play. Ned Dry restored Oldham's 2 goal lead on 55 minutes and perhaps they took their foot off the gas as this lead to Whythenshawe's best spell of the game. On 70 minutes their substitute got another goal back with a shot from just inside the area and it looked as if they might make a game of it. However a minute from time Oldham made it safe with a 4th goal to complete a game that was fair more entertaining than you would expect in such hot conditions.





THE GROUND

ERICSTAN PARK is a great setup for this level, and with a few improvements would have no issues getting into the North West Counties League, which is their long term ambition. The off-field facilities are certainly decent, with a good bar, a decent tea hut and a good range of merchandise too. There are 2 stands, both seated but with some standing space too, holding around 250 apiece under cover, with 31 seats in each.

In terms of improvements needed, floodlights would be essential, and I believe plans are in place to bring some in. Apart from that, hard standing all the way round rather than just part way, plus a general tidy up would all that I'd imagine would be needed to progress to step 6.


 

Colne - Holt House Stadium


Colne FC
Holt House Stadium
Harrison Drive
Colne
Lancashire
BB8 9SF








Ground Number: 599
Friday 22nd July 2016
Colne 0-2 Burnley
Friendly




10 FACTS ABOUT COLNE FC

1:  Colne FC were formed in 1996. There were 2 former clubs in the town - Colne who folded in the early 1900's and Colne Dynamoes who went bust in 1990.


2:  The club started life in the second tier of the North West Counties League. They struggled at first, finishing bottom in their first season. Slowly they improved however, and by 2004 they were champions, despite only finishing 10th the previous season.

3:  From 2004 until last season they were in the top tier of the North West Counties League. They generally fared well, mostly finishing in the top half of the table aside from the 2008/09 season when they finished 18th.


4:  Last season they won the North West Counties Premier, edging out Runcorn Linnets in a battle for the title that went right to the wire. Next season they will take their place in the NPL Division 1 North at step 4 of the non-league pyramid.

5:  Colne were FA Vase Semi-Finalists in the 2003/04 season, losing 4-3 to AFC Sudbury in a 2 legged semi-final.

6:  The club's best progress in the FA Cup came in the 2004/05 season as they reached the 2nd Qualifying Round. After beating Peterlee Newtown, Chester-Le-Street & Sheffield, they lost 2-1 to Brigg Town.

7:  The Holt House stadium was previously used by Colne & Colne British Legion before the club moved in upon their formation. The record attendance at this ground came in 2004 when 1,742 turned up for the FA Vase semi-final against AFC Sudbury. The clubs biggest 'home' attendance came when Accrington Stanley hosted their North West Counties League game against FC United in front of 2,762 supporters.

8:  Colne won the 2004 North West Counties Division 2 cup, beating Great Harwood Town 1-0 in the final.

9: Plans were in place to move to a new stadium nearer the outskirts of town, however, these appear to have been shelved following the global financial crisis.  


10: Famous people associated with the town of Colne include broadcaster Tony Livesey, former Coronation Street actress Natalie Gumede and footballer Mike Phelan


MY VISIT

Having spent the previous couple of days up in Scotland, I wanted somewhere to break the journey halfway. After weighing up the few options available I plumped for North West Counties League champions Colne who were hosting a young Burnley side in a Friday night friendly. It was a ground I had visited to take photographs of prior to Wycombe's game at Accrington in 2008 and one I was keen to go back to for a game.

   


After a reasonable nights sleep I awoke at 7am. After doing a bit of reading in bed I went for a bath and got my things ready to go. I had a look at my route to see if there were any more Scottish grounds I could take a look at along my route. It appeared not, but there were a few interestingly named places such as 'Nine Mile Burn'.  On the way out of Edinburgh I stopped at Morrisons to get some Irn-Bru and a Scotch Pie for my breakfast. I left around 9.15 and barring a stop to get a picture of the scenery it was my last stop until just after 1pm when I stopped at Tesco in Carnforth for my lunch.  It had been very rainy on my way down but fortunately, it was baking hot once I got into England, quelling any fears of a waterlogged pitch in July. I enjoyed my chicken and grapes, before making my way to Colne, arriving at 3pm.

I checked into the Crown Hotel and had 10 minutes rest before making my way into town. I stopped at Colne's Wetherspoons, The William Hartley, but they didn't have the cider that I needed. I then took the gamble of going into Burnley as they have 2 Wetherspoons, one of which I've not visited to see if I could find that elusive pint. I thought £5.60 return was a bit steep, especially after having 2 very good value trips in Scotland. Both of Burnley's outlets failed to come up with the goods, so I just had a retry at the Boot Inn which was my 99th in the chain. I stopped at a takeaway to get Keema Panini and chips, before timing getting to the bus station very well to get my lift back to Colne.




On the bus journey back to Colne, I'd decided that Trafford FC would have the honour of being my Saturday game tomorrow. They were supremely friendly when I stopped to take pictures on the way to another Wycombe game, back in the days when they play in the North West Counties League. More importantly, they had good transport links to Manchester, which had lots of Wetherspoons. If the establishments failed to deliver the cider that I needed then I'd go to the Bierkeller, another long-time target. There were other attractions such as the football museum which may come into play if I had time to spare. As it turned out though, a change of plan later blew all this out of the water, but at the time that was the plan. The bus dropped me right outside my hotel and after I'd sorted my stuff out for the game I made my way to the ground, arriving at 6.55.



I paid £6 entry plus £1.50 for a smart looking programme, which contained a fair amount to read in it and provided lots of information on tonight's game. After going round and getting some pictures of the ground, I went into the bar and got a can of Magners for £2.20. Later on, I'd also get a Mini Dog & Chips for £1.50 which was great value. Before the game there was a presentation for the late NIgel Coates, who was having a stand named in his honour. He'd been the club's manager from 2003 until 2013 and amongst his honours included a league and cup double as well as a run to the FA Vase Semi-Final. He'd passed away in mid-June, with a quick decision made to name the stand behind the goal after him and a round of applause in the 10th minute of tonight's game to mark his decade in charge.



The game was a typical pre season friendly, with fitness being the key rather than making the game a good spectacle to watch. There had been some good skill and passing but little in the way of clear cut chances. Despite Burnley having the better of these, it was still goalless at the break. Four minutes into the second half the young visitors took the lead, thanks to a header from Tom Anderson. Colne tried to get back into the game, going close on a couple of occasions but a flurry of substitutions disrupted what little flow the game had. Khius Metz doubled Burnley's lead on 65 minutes thanks to a low driven shot. An attendance of 526 saw the game peter out on a warm, sticky evening though it had been a nice tribute to their former manager in terms of the match being played in the right spirit.



After the game, I walked the 15 minutes back into town. There were 3 micropubs in a row on one street, so I decided to explore them. The first, 'The Tapster's Promise' only had one cide on that I'd not tried. I wasn't sure about the Rhubarb cider from Snailsbank, so I only had a half. As it was it turned out to be very nice, even though I am no fan of rhubarb normally. While I was in there I got talking to some fans who had been to the game and they told me that the seats at the ground had been donated by local club Accrington Stanley, following them taking some out of their terrace. Boyce's Barrel was closed so I went on to the next one, the Cask & Keg. There was nothing new here, but I had a half of Thatchers Gold. Driftwood cider was still not on at Wetherspoons so I had a wander around the town. I had a couple of further stops - having a pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits at the Commercial Hotel and a pint of Samuel Smiths cider at the Red Lion with the latter being just £2 a pint. The Red Lion was a really old fashioned pub, with last orders being called at 10.45 and I too decided to have an early night, getting back to my hotel around 11.15.



THE GROUND

I originally visited The HOLT HOUSE STADIUM on 2nd February 2008 prior to Wycombe's game at nearby Accrington Stanley. On a snowy day, I was impressed by the ground for the level with it's 2 stands - one seated  and one standing with seating for 300 and cover for a much larger amount. The area looked very pleasant too and once I started groundhopping for real, I was keen to see a game there.




On my second visit, the smart setup was still there with more covered standing being added on the far side, though a lot of that was taken up  as storage by seats donated from Accrington Stanley. The tea bar at the ground was excellent and good value while the clubhouse, mainly restricted to cans, had a good choice and reasonable prices. I didn't see any merchandise for sale however. The town was a 15-minute walk away and offers a decent range of outlets and great views from both the ground and the town.


Sunday, 24 July 2016

Heart of Midlothian - Tynecastle


Heart of Midlothian FC
Tynecastle Stadium
McLeod Street
Edinburgh
EH11 2NL


0333 043 1874




Ground Number: 598
Thursday 21st July 2016
Hearts 1-2 Birkirkara
Europa League 2nd Qualifying Round, 2nd Leg





10 FACTS ABOUT HEARTS


1:  Heart Of Midlothian FC were formed in 1874 with their origins being from a local dancing club.

2:  They are currently Edinburgh's only top flight club with arch rivals Hibernian languishing in the Scottish Championship and Edinburgh City recently promoted to the Scottish League 2 after being in the Lowland League.


3:  Hearts have won the Scottish League Championship on 4 occasions, the last being in 1960. They have also been runners-up 14 times with the latest occasion being in 2006.

4:  The Scottish Cup has been won on 8 occasions. Their last victory came in 2012 as they hammered local rivals Hibernian 5-1 in the final at Hampden Park.

5:  Hearts have won the League Cup on 4 occasions, though not since 1963 when they beat Kilmarnock 1-0 in the final.

6:  The club have been regular participants in European football. Their best season came in 1988/89 when they reached the UEFA Cup Quarter Final. Despite beating Bayern Munich 1-0 at Tynecastle they lost the tie overall after a 2-0 defeat in Germany.

7:  The club's record attendance of 53, 392 came in 1932 as they hosted Rangers in a Scottish Cup 3rd Round clash.

8:  Hearts best ever victory came in 1880 as they sunk Anchor 21-0 in an EFA Cup tie.


9:  Record goalscorer for the club is John Robertson who scored 213 goals in 2 spells between 1983 and 1988.

10: Hearts record incoming transfer fee is £9M. This occurred in 2007 as they sold goalkeeper Craig Gordon to Sunderland, a record fee for a British goalkeeper at the time


MY VISIT

For the second part of my Scottish European adventure, I was off to Hearts. I was hopeful that they would beat Infonet Tallinn in the prior round and was pleased when they prevailed over 2 legs. Tickets took a while to be put on sale, but when they did I got one of the better seats near the halfway line as opposed to the game at Celtic when availability had been restricted to behind the goal when I purchased. It was a superb value £12 for my ticket, though the admin fee of £1.50 to pick up at the stadium was a bit naughty. I got a good price on a hotel in nearby Leith for £29 and was looking forward to a trip to the Scottish capital. Hearts were facing Birkirkara of Malta with the  game still finely poised with the first leg being drawn 0-0 in Malta the previous week.




I woke up just before 7am and after catching up online I typed my blog from yesterday on my iPad. After getting ready I went over to the hotel for my breakfast,  especially enjoying the potato scones. After getting my stuff together I had a mile walk back to my car though mainly pleasant parkland. On the way out of Glasgow I stopped to get pictures of Partick Thistle and Rangers.  At the former I managed to get inside and it turned out he knew someone from Wycombe and remembered Steven Craig playing for us. I also went to Rangers and Hibs but was unable to get in to those grounds.  I  arrived at my hotel just before 1 and with an hour to kill I went to the local Wetherspoons,  The Foot of the Walk in Leith.  It was pretty busy but there were none of the 3 ciders that I needed -  instead I had a pint of the Down Down cider that had been made in collaboration with Status Quo. After that. I went to some shops and got a paper and some lunch. By now it was time to check in and I spent an hour in my room to allow my phone to charge for a bit before going out at 3.30.



I walked into Edinburgh, first stop my 95th Wetherspoons, The Playfair. They didn't have any of the 3 elusive ciders that I needed but I fancied a rest. I had a fairly light one, the Dark Cider The Moon at 4% while I browsed the news in the Daily Star. Another Wetherspoons was on the cards on my boozy week off , this time I ticked number 28 of the festival. Garden Cider Vintage had taunted me by being listed as available but then not so on a couple of occasions so it was good to get it ticked. The Standing Order proved unsuccessful at providing me with the elusive 2 that I needed but I did at least have a pint of something Scottish. Thistly Cross Traditional was very drinkable at 4% and it signalled that once finished, it was time to make my way to football.



I stopped for food along the way, having a great Haggis and Peppercorn Pie along with chips for £2.60. I also bought a match scarf and a Hearts canvas bag before picking up my ticket. I got in with half hour until kick off, happy with the view from my seat and posting some pictures online. The first half was edged by the home side and they had a well placed penalty saved that just didn't have enough power on it. At the start of the second half Hearts piled on more pressure but just lacked that bite. As so often happens , the team that were under pressure got a break and it was a smart finish that put them ahead. Hearts rallied for an equaliser without having anything clear cut and they were caught again on the break as they piled forward. This goal was an even better effort, giving the home keeper no chance. At last they woke up and started creating, smashing the ball against the woodwork for the second time and finally reducing the arrears from close range. There had been quite a lot of booing from the home fans their night was summed up when they won a free kick near the end. It was by no means a huge chance of scoring but they didn't even test the keeper, smashing the ball high into the stand behind the goal.



I got some more pictures at the end, including from around the other side. I saw some of the 56 fans that had travelled across from Malta and shook hands with a few. I then walked back into Edinburgh, hoping to find the last 2 ciders that I needed. The Alexander Graham Bell came up trumps with the Texan Style Cornish cider with just the Driftwood to try, which I have not seen any sign of at all. While I was having my pint, I typed my blog and caught up online. It had been a good evening, despite the result. I always cheer the British team on with a few exceptions when it's a European game. Rather than walk the 2.5 miles back to my room I instead got the bus for a very reasonable £1.60. It was nice and quick and dropped me right outside my hotel at 11.30. I watched TV for a bit before going to sleep around an hour later.



TYNECASTLE is a decent stadium for a club of Hearts size and suits them perfectly. The ground is a reasonable walk from the city centre which has loads of choice, plus there is a good selection in the immediate vicinity of the ground. An all seated stadium there are 3 new stands which replaced terraces following modenistation, plus the older main stand.