Sunday, 5 July 2015

Rainworth Miners Welfare - Kirklington Road

Rainworth Miners Welfare FC
Kirklington Road
NG21 0JY

Ground Number: 496
Saturday 4th July 2015

Rainworth MW 1-5 Mansfield Town
Green Energy Cup

So, the football season finally returns and I am certainly glad of it. I only had a 36 day break and in some ways it went quick, while in others it seemed liked an absolute age since my season ended near the end of May at the opening game of FC United’s Broadhurst Park. I had been pretty bored, but had at least bought my site up to date with most of the league changes, as well as repairing some broken picture links on a large number of my blogs. 2 of my main 3 aims for the break had been thwarted - I was still enjoying my cider when I thought I might cut down and I had endured plenty of expense what with car and dentist bills. One thing I had managed to do was to cut down on junk food and also spend a fair amount of time jogging. Although I hadn’t lost as much weight as I had hoped, it was something to fill the void that football had once occupied.

I’d been waiting for my own club, Wycombe Wanderers to release their pre season schedule for ages. The promised ‘early June’ release turned out to be just before lunchtime on June 23rd. It turned out it be a big disappointment with only 3 fixtures in the UK in addition to their trip to France which they had wasted no time in trying to flog trips too. While our club needs to make money anyway it can, it looked more like the Thomas Cook travel agent website at times! As for the 3 we had organised, I already decided that I wouldn’t go to Aldershot on Saturday 1st August as I would be on the United Counties League and Peterborough & District League Groundhop, having started looking early and managing to get a room in nearby Rothwell for £20 on the Friday night. I was unsure about the trip to Basingstoke, but was hoping to go to the closest of them all, a trip to Wealdstone on 21st July.

As for my own pre season friendlies, I wanted to get cracking as soon as possible. For a long time I had been planning to go  to Walton Casuals v Spelthorne Sports, to be played at the Xcel Leisure Centre near their ground. But in the days leading up to the game I was getting less and less enthusiastic about watching a game in a cage on a 3G pitch and so tried to rope Anwar into doing Newtown v Bala, a pre season match in deepest Wales. I was even willing to pay a larger portion of the fuel costs than usual, in order to get to see a game in a proper ground. But as he was fasting for Ramadan, it was just that little bit too far for him to go. In the end I decided to leave football for another week, and as time wore on, last season was feeling more and more like a distant memory.

RAINWORTH MINERS WELFARE were founded in 1922. They played in local leagues up until 2003 when they joined the Central Midlands League. This saw a rapid rise in their fortunes as within 4 years they were promoted to the NCEL Division 1 in 2007 along with Bottesford Town and Barton Town Old Boys. After finishing 4th in their first season they were promoted in 2nd place behind phoenix club Scarborough Athletic in 2009. The following season, they repeated the trick, this time finishing runners up behind Boro’s landlords Bridlington Town. Normally 2nd place would not be enough, but due to financial constraints Brid elected no to take promotion and Rainworth were offered the chance to go up in their place. They spent the  next 6 seasons in the NPL D1 South, with a best ever finish of 14th coming in 2012-13. Despite finishing in 21st place last season, they would have been offered a reprieve due to Norton United folding. However with on field results not being great and the cost of travelling longer distances, they opted to drop into the NCEL Premier for the coming season.

Their first season in the FA Cup proved to be their most successful. in 2007 they beat Nuneaton Griff, Reversal, Biddulph Victoria & Kidsgrove Athletic before falling to Chasetown in the 3rd Qualifying Round. Chase, who won 2-0 went on to reach the 3rd Round of the Cup before losing to Cardiff City that season. Little progression was made in the FA Trophy with their sole victory coming in 2012-13 when they beat Sleaford Town before going out to Carlton Town after a replay in the 1st Qualifying Round. They reached the FA Vase Final in 1982 but lost 3-0 to current Conference high fliers Forest Green Rovers. This was after a record home attendance of 5071 saw them overcome Bedfordshire outfit Barton Rovers in the semi final. They won a number of local cups as a Notts Alliance league side, including the leagues own cup on 5 occasions. They were also champions of this particular lead on 10 occasions. 

Though I’d not see Rainworth Miners Welfare play before, Mansfield Town were regular opponents of my team Wycombe. I’d seen them play on 16 previous occasions and generally Wycombe had a decent record against them. Probably my favourite memory was when we won 4-1 up there in the snow back in around 2004. They were to play an even more pivotal part in our history in May 2013. With us all but relegated, they saved our skins by beating Bristol Rovers in a surprise result on the last day of the season. With us putting in a rare decent performance at Torquay, we won and stayed up on goal difference. The following season we got all the way to the playoff final which was a great turnaround and hopefully we will never see such dark days again.

In the week leading up to the game I was getting happier and happier that the return of football was fast approaching. It had been scorching hot all week, but the night before the game there was a huge storm with loads of rain, and I hoped that this wasn't going to affect the game. As a result of the storm I didn't get as much sleep as I'd have liked and I was up from around 4.30am. To kill time before the footy I watched some videos, did a little of my blog and went on social media. While on Twitter I noticed that the manager of Rainworth was Julian Watts who I remember from Luton Town when they played Wycombe in 1999. Whoever assigned the squad numbers had a good sense of humour as his shirt adorned the monicker '40 WATTS' earning him the nickname of 'Light Bulb'

I still had time to kill before leaving at 9.30 and so I started looking at potential FA Cup Preliminary Round replays for my few days up north in August. I'd already pencilled in Chorley v FC United of Manchester for the Tuesday and was hoping for Monday & Wednesday games as well. I left on time and went to B&M Bargains and Poundland in Aylesbury before meeting Anwar at 10.30.

We were on our way by 10.35 and it was a decent journey apart from the pathetic 50MPH limit through around 25 miles of roadworks on the M1. These have been going on for around 5 years and it's ludicrous how long things take to complete in this country compared to other places. We had planned to stop for a look around Mansfield on the way to the game and with us arriving at 1 we had around an hour to kill. I remembered from last time that there was 45 minutes free parking in the retail park so though time was tight I used that. I went to Cash Converters and picked up a PS2 game - Simpsons Hit & Run for 99p. I also grabbed some lunch - Curry & Chips for the bargain price of £3 from a place called Crawshaws. The curry was nice even if it wasn't authentic. The chips though were a bit of a disappointment, only being lukewarm after obviously being sat on the hotplate for ages. There was then the main reason I came to Mansfield, a Micropub called The Beer Shack where you could buy obscure ciders to take out. The range was about half as much as last time but I still managed to get half a pint of Bush Pig cider to take to the game with me as well as a couple of the local magazines that detail similar establishments.

After a quick look round Home Bargains where I got some drinks for the game, we were on our way. We were there by 2 and parked up in a nearby side road. We paid £6 to get in which was fair enough, even though they will only be charging a fiver for league games. I also picked up a very nicely designed programme for £1 which had some good articles in as well and came with a free teamsheet. I sat in the shade and checked Facebook while I drank the cider that I had purchased earlier. I also went back to the programme stall and bought a book for £1 called 'Meat Pies & Microphones'. It was by the local radio reporter Simon Mapletoft who covered Mansfield Town on BBC Radio Nottingham for 13 years. An annoncement went over the tannoy that loads of people had to move their cars from the side road where I was parked. Thankfully there was still plenty of time until kick off and I got back in no problem. I had a brief chat to Chris Bedford who does the Football Traveller magazine - a very comprehensive list of all the games that are being played on a given week. I often buy a copy when I am on my week off as I seek to see as many games as possible when I am away somewhere.


Anwar: Rainworth Miners Welfare 2-3 Mansfield Town
Myself: Rainworth Miners Welfare 1-4 Mansfield Town


Mansfield fielded a completely different side each half and the first half side included former Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer amongst other names I recognised. The visitors had the better of the game and they look the lead on 29 minutes as Anthony Dwyer fired a load diagonal shot to the keepers left hand side. 4 minutes later though it was all square as Lewis Chambers scored from the penalty spot after a foul in the area. Chambers had a great game and caused Mansfield plenty of problems, especially during the first half which remained level at the break.

The second half was a different story. A couple of minutes in Craig Westcarr's deflected shot gave Mansfield the lead. Nicky Hunt scored with an excellent long range strike on 62 minutes for the goal of the game. It was down to former Oxford City man Adi Yousseff to steal the show though as his brace completed the scoring for the football league side. The second one was the better of the 2 - a neat finish after some lovely team play.


Rainworth Miners Welfare 1
Chambers 33

Mansfield Town 5
Dwyer 29, Westcarr 48, Hunt 62, Yousseff 68, 75

Attendance: 675



It had been a most welcome return to football and I was very pleased to have ticked off another of the grounds in my favourite league - the Northern Counties East. As with all of their clubs, everyone is super friendly and you are made to feel very welcome. The league also has a brilliant website which is very helpful when planning trips and researching clubs. We left just before 5, but on the way home stopped for a look at Blidworth Miners Welfare FC. They play in the Central Midlands League which is a step below the NCEL D1 at step 7 of the Non League Pyramid. It took a bit of nifty footwork to get in but what greeted me was a very neat ground which could easily grace up to step 4 of the pyramid. With good value entry and floodlights as well, there is a good chance I could find myself back there for a game and there are a few other decent grounds in that league too. I dropped Anwar off at 7.20, getting home myself 20 minutes later. My Aunt and Uncle were staying over so I had a couple of drinks with them before going to bed around 10.30

KIRKLINGTON ROAD is a decent ground that is probably fit for step 3 football. There are 2 seated areas - firstly a covered stand that is on the halfway line, holding around 200. There is also an uncovered stand in the corner holding around the same amount. Opposite the covered stand is cover for those to wish to stand and that holds around another 250.

I didn't use the tea bar or clubhouse but both looked decent. The club also have a decent range of merchandise on sale. There are a few shops and pubs near the ground too, and this friendly club are well worth a visit.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

FC United Of Manchester - Broadhurst Park

FC United of Manchester
Broadhurst Park
310 Lightbowne Road
M40 0FJ

0161 769 2005

Ground Number: 495
Friday 29th May 2015
FC United Of Manchester 0-1 Benfica

For my final game and groundhop of the season, I wanted to go to FC United's official opening of their new ground, Broadhurst Park.My chances looked slim - tickets had all but sold out to members and the precious few were going on sale at 10am in Manchester when I'd be on my way to Wembley. But luckily my Macclesfield supporting mate George was on hand to get me one, which was very nice, as despite having me on Facebook for ages, we have not really spoken much. It was for that reason that I was a bit unsure about travelling all that way, especially when he didn't have a phone, making it almost impossible to meet. Luckily that was remedied the day before, and we were in regular contact for the 24 hours.

Talking of that Wembley trip, it was a bitterly disappointing 2 outings in 6 days. First up was the Conference playoff final, where I had hoped to meet all my Grimsby pals after paying £10 a ticket via an offer. But work really held me back, the busiest and most frustrating Sunday ever work wise and I didn't get away until the last minute. It got better, I met some of my pals and it was a good game. But ultimately the Mariners lost on penalties and I was gutted for my mates. Fast forward to the next Saturday and I was happy to have the day off. Expensive entry at £42, and an expensive train ticket from High Wycombe at £23 allowed me to go drinking in London's best pubs. This was fully taken advantage of with some great ciders tried. Less said about the game the better - a dire contest which Wycombe were winning with 10 seconds to go. However Southend got an equaliser at the death, then it was another round of penalties. Same end, same score, same result and it meant that after a terrific effort, Wycombe Wanderers would once again be plying their trade in League 2 the following season.

FC United of Manchester were founded in 2005. They were formed as an antidote to the expensive Premier League greed, in particular the actions of the Glazer family who took over their own club Manchester United, saddling it with debt and alienating a large part of the fan base in the process. This was particularly pertinent in a week where FIFA had disgraced themselves yet again, with the Kim-Jong-Un of football, Sepp Blatter, clinging onto his job despite a sea of corruption allegations. As well as helping out the local community a big thing they do is set the tickets at sensible prices - for the coming season they will be charging £9 at Conference North level.

After their formation, FCUM enjoyed 3 successive promotions. Starting in the North West Counties League Division 2 they were Champions at the first time of asking, beating Castleton Gabriels 10-2 along the way. They won the North West Counties Division 1 as well and found themselves in the NPL D1 North for the 2007-08 season. Again promotion was won at the first attempt with them finishing runners up to Bradford Park Avenue before beating Skelmersdale United 4-1 in the playoff. For the following 7 seasons they remained in the NPL Premier, that was until this season when they won the League after a succession of playoff failures.

In the FA Cup they enjoyed their best ever run in the 2010/11 season. Starting in the 1st Qualifying Round they beat Radcliffe Borough, Gainsborough Trinity and Norton & Stockton Aincients before meeting Conference side Barrow 1-0 in the 4th Qualifying Round. This saw them into the 1st Round for the first time where they met local rivals Rochdale in a game that was live on SESPN. They won 3-2 in a pulsating encounter. This set up a game against Brighton & Hove Albion who they took to a replay before losing 4-0 in a replay. Their only ever FA Vase campaign saw a 3rd Round defeat to Quorn, while in the FA Trophy this season saw them reach the Quarter Final before a 1-0 defeat to Torquay United.

On the day of the game, it was a reasonable day at work with me finishing at midday. I got change and got my things together before getting a McDonalds for lunch and leaving at 12.30. The usually reliable M40 was very slow and stop start pretty much all the way up, and this set the tone for the day. There were delays on the M42, the M6 was horrendous, so much that I had to go off at Stoke and through places such as Congleton and Kidsgrove to cut some of it out. Then the M60 was knackered, meaning I had to take the M56 instead. In the end there was around 2 hours delay on our miserable, pathetic, over taxed roads and I didn't get to Broadhust Park until 5.45 which meant I was unable to go into Manchester for a couple of pints, which dampened the day a bit.

Luckily I had been in contact with George, and we had rearranged out meeting point to be at the ground. Parking was plentiful on the street and I parked a few minutes away from the ground. I then went off to meet George and I was relieved to finally get my hands on the golden ticket. It was good that he was also a top lad and after a brief search for a pub we decided to go into the ground and have a drink in there. The main bar was full but there was a bottle bar under the terrace, which had previously seen service at Northwich Victoria FC. We each had a Bulmers cider while we shared our thoughts about the game.

After that we made our way back outside and looked at the merchandise stalls. I got the night's programme as well as a pen and also a few interesting programmes from games past. There were a large amount of flags and banners dotted around the ground which I captured on my camera as comprehensively as I could. The rest of the time till kick off was spent eating from the excellent food stalls at the ground. First up was some very nice Peri Peri Chicken in a fresh roll which cost me £4. Still hungry, I then had a fantastic hot dog with jalapenos, sour cream and pulled pork chilli which was absolutely sensational and worth every penny of the fiver that I paid. For the game we decided to stand at the top of the terrace behind the round where the FCUM faithful were creating a great atmosphere.

As for the game, for so long it looked as if it was going to be a goalless draw. Not that it was dull, but despite some great skills there wasn't a lot of end product from either side. The home sde probably shaded it, with Tom Greaves looking especially impressive before he limped off with injury. It was with around 10 minutes to go that Diogo Goncalves jinked into the box before beating FCUM keeper Nick Culkin at his near post. This sparked jubilant scenes amongst the Benfica contingent, with more pyro lighting up a carnival atmosphere.  

After the game we hung around a bit to see what was going on. The players came to thank the fans but the biggest cheer of the game came when it was announced the bar would be open until midnight! We eventually got our way at 9.50 and it was very easy and quick to get away from the round. After a brief stop at Tesco so we could get a drink and some snacks each, I dropped him off at Macclesfield Town's ground at 10.40. Handshakes and promises of more meets were exchanged, before I set myself up for home with the sat nav programmed and my phone set up so I could listen to the Two Mikes podcast on the way home, which always provides good entertainment. Of course there were delays on the way home, with the M6 being closed for 2 junctions, and various other inconsiderate roadworks. Eventually though I got home at 1.40 and had myself a cider while checking out the numerous comments and messages from Facebook friends who had taken a keen interest in the game. I didn't get to sleep until nearly 4, which means I had stayed up for 24 hours without getting tired much. I went to sleep in a good mood, having had a great end to my football season.

Talking of that season, it had been a real blockbuster. 169 games in all, which smashed my previous record of 132. Yes, it had been expensive, costing me over £3500 in total, but then again, you can't take it with you. I had also driven over 18000 miles, thankfully most in my old car which got traded in near the end of the season. My head says that I am a madman spending so much but my heart has enjoyed every single minute, visiting some great places and meeting some brilliant people. I am unsure of my intentions for next season at present, but I expect it to be geared towards meeting people for sure, as that is the best part of football.

BROADHURST PARK is FC United's first home that they can call their own, and it's an excellent building block for the future. The main stand and the terrace are large and make up a big percentage of the grounds capacity which stands at 4400 officially, but physically you could fit around 5000 in. There is seating for around 1000 and although the other 2 sides are flat standing they are at least covered.

In keeping with FC United's community ethos, there are plenty of public facilities on hand, including a home for Moston Juniors who were resident when the area was just fields. For the football supporters there is a bar at the top of the stand which sadly I was unable to visit due to it being full although there is a bottle bar under the large Danebank Terrace behind the goal. Food was excellent when I went, with a number of stalls offering tempting and tasty treats way beyond the usual stuff you get in football grounds. The club shop is just a couple of stalls at the moment, although they do have a good selection at great prices.