Thursday, 23 October 2014

Huddersfield Town U21 - PPG Canalside



Huddersfield Town U21
PPG Canalside
509 Leeds Road
Huddersfield
West Yorkshire
HD2 1YJ

01484 537720




Ground Number: 423
Monday 20th October 2014
Huddersfield Town U21 0-1 Charlton Athletic U21
U21 Professional Development League 2



When I planned my week up North, I realised that I would have a lot of time during the day and so looked to find some reserves or youth football to fill my time. I had a few options, but eventually plumped for Huddersfield Town v Charlton Athletic in the Pro Development League 2. Huddersfield was a town I had enjoyed visiting before and it was also the closest game to where I was based in Manchester. I wasn't sure whether it would be played at their own ground or a local sports park, so I would keep an eye out on the day.

Wycombe couldn't have had more mixed fortunes against the two sides. It all started so well against Huddersfield with us doing the double over in the 1994/95 season. We even won the opening game at their new Stadium, with Simon Garner scoring a great goal for us to win 1-0. However in recent times fortunes have taken a serious decline. We have played them on Sky a couple of times recently, losing both games 6-0 with some of the most pathetic Wycombe performances I have ever seen. By contrast we beat Charlton 1-0 on the way to the league cup semi final in 2006. They were in the Premiership at the time and we were in League 2, but that counted for nothing as we won 1-0 at the Valley.

On the day of the game I didn't have a great nights sleep, waking up at around 4am and being unable to get to sleep. I also found my phone was completely dead and not charging, and for a moment I thought I'd have to get a new one. Luckily I tried another charger and it worked, otherwise I'd have been lost without it.  I  killed time by watching TV and having a bath before going to Tesco at 8am.I got myself some chicken and grapes for breakfast before going back to my room.

I left around 9.40, arriving in Huddersfield an hour later. I had an hour in the town before making my way to the training complex. I still had an hour to kill before kick off and so went to KFC for a bit of lunch. It was pretty average and when I went back to the training complex the food looked a lot nicer there. Like Wycombe, Huddersfield have really good facilities for their players, though Wycombe do not have the same facilities for the general public that the Terriers have.

It was around 20 minutes until kick off and so I went over to the pitch where the game was, picking up a teamsheet on the way. There were scouts from various clubs there - I spotted Mansfield, Hartlepool, Blackpool and Bradford amongst the crowd which looked to be well into 3 figures.

The game was not much of a spectacle to be honest. Although there was some neat play, the quality and invention in the final third was not present. That was until the 63rd minute when Charlton's number 9 raced into the box, cut in and finished well. It was deserved as the visitors had had more possession than their opponents and had spent more time attacking too. That was it for goals, but Huddersfield did have a proper go for the equaliser but it wouldn't come.


After the game I made my way to Travelodge in Didsbury where I was staying. There was traffic and it took around an hour and fifteen minutes to get there. The journey was made more bearable by a programme about eating rabbits on Radio 4. It's not normally my station of choice but I have had rabbit before in Malta and it was delicious. I'm very keen to try any new meat, and wish the UK was more adventurous in what it ate.

PPG CANALSIDE is a smart training complex for the Huddersfield Town youth sides to play their games and for other teams and the community to use for training. There are also good food and drink facilities for use at all times. The spectator facilities are restricted to one side of the pitch which is railed off, though with lots of room around they could probably add a stand and make it around step 5 of non league level if they wished.
      

Maine Road - Brantingham Road

 


Maine Road FC
Brantingham Road
Chorlton-Cum-Hardy
Manchester
M21 0TT




Ground Number: 424
Monday 20th October 2014
Maine Road 0-1 Ashton Athletic
North West Counties Premier



I'd not made the most of my last week off, staying at home and only doing a couple of games midweek. So I was disappointed in that respect, and made a special effort to make sure that this week off would not be wasted. The first fixture that I planned in was Maine Road against Ashton Athletic. It was just about the only game on Monday night at a ground I had not been to, and more importantly I had a meet on the cards, which in my mind is the best thing about football. Corin, a Chester supporter I know lived right near Maine Road FC, and suggested a meet. We only just started chatting a couple of months ago, but he's a top lad and shares my passion for football. All being well I would be seeing Bala Town v Port Talbot Town on the Sunday beforehand and Huddersfield U21 v Charlton U21 on the Monday afternoon, before going to my hotel in Didsbury.

Maine Road is famous in football for being Manchester City's former ground, and indeed their badge looks like one of the Premiership club's former badges. The club were formed in 1955 by a Manchester City supporters group from Rusholme, the district of Manchester well known for it's selection of Indian Resturants.  They played in the Manchester League for most of their history, joining the North West Counties League in 1987 when ground improvements allowed them to do so.  Initially in the league's second tier, they earned promotion within 3 seasons to gain a place in what is now called the Premier Division. Apart from a spell between 2002-04 where they were relegated, they have remained in the top division ever since. A best ever league finish of runners up was achieved in 2013. Before the weekend's games, they were 6th in the league, but still 21 points behind leaders Runcorn Linnets, even at this early stage of the season.

In the FA Cup the club have reached the 2nd Qualifying Round on a few occasions, most recently when they lost out to South Shields in 1997. In the FA Vase, the 4th Round was reached a couple of years previously where they were defeated by Leicestershire side St Andrews. Other cup honours include the Manchester Amateur Cup, the Manchester Premier Cup and most recently the North West Counties League Cup in 2008. 




Ashton Athletic were formed in 1968 and played in the Lancashire League until they became founder members of the North West Counties League in 1982.  They struggled and ground grading issues meant that they dropped out of the league and rejoined the Manchester League. However in 2006 they were able to make the step up again and were a lot more successful, winning promotion from the second tier at the second attempt. Since then they have remained in the Premier Division, finishing 6th last season, and improving even more this season and sitting in 4th before the weekends games. They have not had the greatest of success in the FA competitions, never getting past the Preliminary Rounds of the FA Cup, but they have won a few local cups, most recently the North West Counties Challenge Cup last season.



I got to my hotel at 4 pm and with Maine Road being only 15 minutes away I had a bit of time to kill. I put my phone on charge and sat and watched Deal or no Deal. There was still plenty of time so I watched The Chase and had a bath seen as I only had a lukewarm one this morning.

I left just before 6.30, knowing that I had to get dinner on the way or at the ground.  I saw a few takeaways on the way to the ground, but there was no parking at any of them so I made my way straight to the ground. I looked for takeaways in Google maps but it led me to 2 that didn't exist, so I went back to the ground.

Annoyingly there were no programmes and no change at the gate, so instead I headed to the tea bar to get some food. They had a good selection but I had to wait around 20 minutes for my curry, but at £1.50 it was a bargain. Although the picture I posted up on social media was littered with comments about how horrible it looked, it was totally delicious and amongst the best food I have had in a football ground.

Just before kick off I met Corin and his dad who turned out to be great people. We exchanged scarves and chatted about ground hopping and old Chester v Wycombe games. It was brilliant to meet people that share my passion for football and who were really friendly into the bargain.

As for the game it was 0-0 until the 86th minute and all the chances came for the visitors. But there were plenty and it was only a great performance from the Maine Road keeper that prevented it being a hammering. By contrast I don't think the home side mustered a serious chance on goal. 4 minutes from time a towering header for Ashton Athletic ended the Maine Road resistance and gave the visitors a richly deserved victory, much to the delight of their management team.

After the game I said my goodbyes and drove the 4 miles back to my hotel. I was still hungry and so I walked the mile to the Wetherspoons in town. They served food up until 11 and so I got myself a chicken burger, chips and pint of Strongbow for £5.49. A real good deal and the chicken was delicious too - proper chicken breast as opposed to breaded frozen stuff.  I was still enjoying chatting on Facebook so I tried a new American cider called Angry Orchards which was very nice. It was about 11 by then so I walked back to my hotel and watched Coronation Street. It was a toss up between Peter Barlow and Manchester United as to who has the worst defence in Manchester on that night after Louis Van Gaal's side struggled to a 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion but in any case I got to sleep at half past midnight, having had a good day.

BRANTINGHAM ROAD is a fairly decent ground for step 5. There are covered areas on each side. On the far side seating for around 100 and on the other side standing for around 200. The rest of the ground was hard standing.


There were no programmes on the night, and only badges on sale. The bar was closed too, which I heard was due to the local vicar not being there and them needing the church's permission to open. I can't help but think that the club are missing out on vital revenue. The saving grace was the tea bar which had a nice range of stuff including hotpot, chilli and curry as well as the usual pies.

   

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Gosport Borough - Privett Park




Gosport Borough FC
Privett Park
Privett Road
Gosport
Hampshire
PO12 3SX


023 9250 1042
Official Website
Twitter





Ground Number: 421

Tuesday 14th October 2014
Gosport Borough 3-0 Maidenhead United
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round Replay




Like Saturday I wanted to do an FA Cup game, this would now be 9th game of the season in that competition. There was a choice of 2 potential games - either Warrington Town against Colwyn Bay or Gosport Borough v Maidenhead United. I spoke to Anwar and we both agreed to opt for the latter, seeing as it was nearer. It would also mean that in the past 2 games I had completed the Conference South in terms of groundhops, adding it to the 92, the Conference Premier and the Southern League D1 Central in terms of leagues completed. I could only hope that the traffic would be kinder to me than it was on Saturday, and made up my mind to allow extra time for any problems that may crop up.


Gosport Borough were founded in 1944 and played in the Hampshire League until 1978, when they joined the Southern League. They had many successful years in this competition, finishing as high as 7th in the Premier Division in 1989, as the time that was step 2 of the Non League Pyramid, well before the formation of the Conference South. Sadly the club suffered a bad few years after that, suffering 2 relegations in 3 years and going down to the Wessex League. They never really looked like returning to the Southern League over the next 10 years, but at the turn of the century their fortunes gradually improved and in 2007 they were Champions of the Wessex League Premier Division, thus winning promotion to the Southern League D1 South and West. 5 seasons at that level ensued but playoff wins in 2012 and 2013 saw them secure a double promotion to the Conference South. After struggling at first, they recovered and finished in a mid table position of 12th. And that is where they sat, league wise, at the start of the game.


FA Cup wise, tonight would provide an opportunity for them to at least match their best ever progress in the competition. They previously got to the 4th Qualifying Round in the 2012-13 season before going out to Slough Town after a replay, and missing out on a game against Mansfield Town in the process. The FA Trophy has provided more glory for them, last season they had a fantastic run to the final but lost 4-0 to the Conference champions Cambridge United. As a Wessex League club, they reached the Quarter Final of the FA Vase on 3 occasions.




Maidenhead United are one of the oldest clubs in football, being formed as early as 1869. They provided regular opponents and a rivalry with my own team Wycombe for a large chunk of that history, but since I started supporting the Chairboys in 1991, contests have been restricted to county cup games involving our reserves and friendly games. They have recently become well known for signing up DJ Campbell, the former and hopefully for him future, professional footballer. He is one of a host of famous names to represent the club, in the past they have included current Wycombe loanee Alfie Mawson. With the club currently being 8th in the Conference South, they were enjoying one of their most successful periods. In the FA Cup they have reached the 1st Round on a few occasions, the latest a few seasons back when they lost to Aldershot Town in a replay, whilst the Quarter Final of the FA Trophy was reached in 2003-04.



It was my day off as per usual, so I spent the day chilling at home. I went down town with my Dad to kill time and also to see about repairing the PS3 console I bought recently. I took it into Snowies, who have a reputation for being pretty crap, the best review being this epic rant on Youtube. The fears proved to be correct, they wanted £70 to repair my PS3 Blu Ray and didn't seem that interested anyway. In the end I ordered a secondhand one from CEX online, at least that comes with a 12 month guarantee and I should get back the £25 that I spent on the old one with a bit of luck. I also got drinks and sweets for tonight, before going home and having lunch. As is often the case, I was restless in the afternoon, just wanting to get out and go to the game, and so I was glad when 3.15 arrived and I could make my way to Aylesbury to pick up Anwar.


I got to Anwar's at 3.40 and checked Facebook while I waited for him to get ready. Soon enough we were on our way, with minimal delays forecast. It turned out to be an hours delay, thanks to the rush hour traffic. Eventually we got to Gosport at 6.50 and parked up in a nearby side street. We had spotted a parade of shops including a chippy and Chinese takeaway. I was erring towards the latter because chip shops are usually rubbish down south but how wrong I turned out to be. This one was run by a Scouse lady and I was delighted to be able to have Haggis and chips which was a large portion and delicious too, and only £3.40.

We made our way back to the ground, picking up some stuff from the car on the way. We got in around 7.15 and after paying £13 entry and £2 for a programme, I eat my dinner. I thought £13 was  a bit steep for this level, feeling that around £9 would be more appropriate but it's around the average for this level with St Albans charging a ridiculous £15. At least the programme was a decent issue for the price. Before the game I had a look around the club shop which again was pricey at £10 for a pennant and no pens which I also like to collect. When I came out I chatted to a steward who did the same job at Wycombe around 15 years ago. I then got some pictures of the ground before taking a seat in one of the stands for the game.

THE GAME

Maidenhead had the better of the early exchanges but gradually Gosport stated playing some good football. The home side opened the scoring on 37 minutes with a good shot that went in off the bar. Gosport had the better of the game and on 57 minutes it was 2-0 as Dan Wooden got his second goal, the shot being one that the Maidenhead keeper really should have saved. They wrapped it up in the final minute with a great goal that lobbed the keeper from long range.

AFTER THE GAME


Having completed the Conference South for groundhops I was in a pretty good mood as I headed back up the M27, M3 and through Basingstoke. Then the roads went to pot. I attempted to get on 2 junctions of the M4 but they were closed with no warning and no diversion. I took a big detour to get to the second one near Bracknell only to have to come back on myself and go via Miadenhead. Just as I thought my problems were over, there was another closure on the A4010 from Wycombe to Aylesbury. After cutting though some of it by taking a narrow country road I stumbled across a Motts coach being escorted through and just followed that. It was possibly the same coach that took the Maidenhead team to the game, it was that late. I finally dropped Anwar off at 12.15, thanks to the disgraceful state of the roads I'd been delayed by 45 minutes. I got home myself 20 minutes later, but wasn't really in a mood for sleep until 2am, not ideal when I had to be up 2 hours later.

ELSEWHERE

Grimsby beat Lincoln City in the final of the Lincolnshire Cup 2-1 with the visitors bringing a laughable 26 fans for a local derby. In the other FA Cup game I was thinking of going to, Warrington overcame Colwyn Bay. Though my chances of seeing a replay next round are very slim, there are 7 chances for teams I have not been to to get through and preferably draw Wycombe at their own ground.

The home nations did fantastically well in the internationals, Northern Ireland made it 3 wins out of 3 when they won in Greece and there were good draws in Poland and Germany for Scotland and Republic of Ireland respectively. It would be great if all the UK nations could get through to Euro 2016, and Ireland as well would be a nice addition too.

NEXT UP

Something in Wales on Friday. There is plenty of choice, so I will head wherever the weather looks safest.


PRIVETT PARK is a smart little ground what has seen recent developments to bring it up to Conference South standard. The original stand is on the side you come in, and is elevated, but has pillars as it's quite an old stand. Opposite is a new modern stand, a pre fabricated one similar to the one at Guiseley. It offers good views and over the 2 stands there is covered seating for over 100 fans. Apart from a small area in front of the bar, the rest of the ground is open flat standing.

The clubhouse is a smart and welcoming venue with your usual range of drinks and the tea bar seems decent. There is a club shop which does a good range of stuff too. My personal recommendation is to use the nearby chippy, which is probably the best I have seen in the south, with a great range of nice stuff. There are also other shops along that parade, including a bookies and a convenience store, as well as a Chinese takeaway. It's conveniently situated 5 minutes walk from the ground.


       

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Whitehawk - The Enclosed Ground




Whitehawk FC
The Enclosed Ground
East Brighton
Sussex
BN2 5TS

01273 609736



Ground Number: 420
Saturday 11th October 2014
Whitehawk 4-4 Chelmsford City
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round




I was keen to continue my FA Cup trail, having seen 7 games in the competition so far. Fellow hopper Anwar was keen to do one of the ones he had left to do in the football league. On an occasion like this we come to an agreement - I drop him off at the league ground, and then go off to a non league game of my choosing. It's happened before with him at Leicester and me at Coalville and while I was at Shortwood United, he ticked off Conference side Forest Green Rovers. Originally I was dropping him off at Doncaster and going on to North Ferriby v Grantham. However, a couple of weeks before, the Donny game was called off due to international call ups. This was soon remedied - he would go to Crawley, and I would complete one of the remaining 2 I had left in the Conference South, namely Whitehawk, who were facing Chelmsford City in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round. I was originally going to come here on the opening day of the season, when they were playing Staines Town. But I decided to save the ground for a more attractive fixture and went to local side Reading Town instead.

Whitehawk were founded in 1945. They had been generally very successful in the Sussex League, which they had been in since their formation. In fact they had been winners 4 times and runners up 5 times, but it was not until 2010 that they took the step up to the Isthmian League. By now they had some investment behind them, and this allowed them to win the Isthmian D1 South at the second attempt, after finishing 3rd in their first season at the new level. They were promoted again the following season, finding themselves in the Conference South. Before the season started they tried to change their name to Brighton City, but this was rejected. On the field the momentum didn't carry on, they were in and around the relegation, but eventually achieved survival, finishing 19th. They were 10th at the start of play, but were aiming for promotion after signing several big name players. The most well known to me was Sergio Torres who was a real fans favourite at Wycombe and who I was looking forward to seeing play. There was also our former striker Matt Barnes-Homer, keeper Lance Cronin, defender Tom Cadmore and a host of other well known players such as John Sullivan, Exodus Geohagon and John-Paul Kissock.

In the FA Cup the club had had their best ever run in 1988-89 but lost out to Bognor Regis Town in a 4th Qualifying Round Replay. The FA Trophy 2nd Round was reached last season before they went out to Havant & Waterlooville and back in 2010, their last season at step 5, they got all the way to the semi final of the FA Vase before losing to Wroxham. They have also won a number of local cups, most recently the Sussex Senior Cup in 2012.  




Chelmsford City were formed in 1938 after the demise of Chelmsford FC, whose ground they took over. Certainly they have had some good players play for them down the years, recently Ricky Holmes, who I would love to see at Wycombe, but also in the past Aston Villa's Nigel Spink. They led a nomadic existence for a while, sharing at various grounds but in 2006 they got their current home at the Melbourne Stadium. It's not one of my favourites, having a running track, but what I do like about the town is the excellent Alehouse pub near the bus station. League wise they have spent most of their history in the Southern League, transferring to the Isthmian at the turn of the century and winning promotion to the Conference South in 2008.

They finished as high as 3rd in 2010, but lost out in the play offs. FA Cup wise they have reached the 2nd Round on a few occasions, back in the mid 80's beating Wycombe along the way. We got our revenge in 2010 however as we triumphed 3-1 at Adams Park. The club also got to the semi final of the first ever FA Trophy, losing to Telford in a game played at Swindon Town's County Ground, which makes very little geographical sense.


  This would be my first fixture since my last groundhop on Tuesday at Hoddesdon Town. It was a bit of a bare week - usually I like to get a fixture in on Friday night, but bar Torpoint Athletic, around a 500 mile round tip, there was nothing else, thanks mainly to the international break. Now I am keen on Friday football, but not keen enough to spend nigh on £50 on fuel alone, especially for one that not is at the top of my lists for completion.

On the day of the game, I woke at around 8am and watched some YouTube videos before getting out of bed and turning on my computer. I was browsing through Twitter when I noticed that our former player Sergio Torres was on a local TV channel in Brighton. I despaired initially when I saw that I couldn't get it as it was regional, but was pleased to find an online stream. He talked about how important the FA Cup was to Whitehawk FC amongst other things. Sergio was a real hero at Wycombe, and had an interesting story about joining us. Initially he paid his own air fare over here for a trial at Brighton, but that didn't work out. So he played for Molesey, eventually ending up at Basingstoke Town. It was here that he caught the eye of Wycombe manager John Gorman when we beat Basingstoke 7-2 in a pre season friendly. He was signed up and spent 3 years weaving his magic in Wycombe's midfield before moving to Peterborough United in 2008.

I had to pop down the shop to get my Mum some butter before I left, this in turn made me a bit late leaving. I had intended to go into Aylesbury beforehand, and still did, albeit rushing about. I got a couple of old games for my PS3 - Fifa 12 and Virtua Tennis 2009, as well as a couple of ciders I had not tried and few bits for the game from B&M Bargains. As a consequence, I was a tad late meeting Anwar, getting there at 11.40. I was also further delayed stopping for petrol, but was still due to get to Crawley at 1.15, and with me making up time like I normally do, I was hoping to be there by 1PM.

No such luck! My sat Nav kept adding on delays. First off there was the consistently pathetic M25 which had delays near that pig ugly bridge near the Heathrow turn off, which is constantly clogged up around there for no good reason. Then, some roadworks on the M23, with the usual invisible workmen. All in all I was delayed an hour, getting to Crawley to drop him and his little lad Hicham off. Programming the Sat Nav I was fairly content at arriving at 2.45, and with making up time, it was soon down to 2.35, but then I hit Brighton. I should have known from the first impression - it was a right tip! Not the fault of the area, it was quite nice, but there was all rubbish everywhere, thanks to the council's  obsession of recycling a million and one things. The pavement was littered with plastic boxes of bottles and cans, as well as bin bags. That didn't concern me though, but what did, was the horrific delays through the city's pathetic roads. I did about a mile in 40 minutes, cursing and stressing as I listened to BBC Sussex, which did an excellent job of providing goal updates. I'd already missed 2 goals that put the visitors 2-0 up in the first 5 minutes, then as I was getting out of the car at 3.15 I heard a big cheer as Whitehawk had got one back.


After parking up on some faded double yellow lines as close as I could get to the ground, I made my way in. I eventually got there at 3.20 and was charged £12 entry which happily included a programme, which was a pretty smart issue with a fair bit to read. My head was not in a happy state, and I needed a pint to calm it down. A pint of Strongbow was in order, and as you were officially not supposed to take it outside due to FA Rules that think we all turn into gobby hooligans if we have a pint when it's an FA Cup game as opposed to a league game, I stood near the clubhouse, ironically in the same spot the famous Wealdstone Raider made his name with a series of insults about Whitehawk.




There was no such ill feelings from me towards the club. Despite several people saying that it was 'a shithole' I quite enjoyed the ground. It was a strange and unique one I admit that, but that's what I like in some grounds, some individuality. Certainly everyone from the club that I bumped into were super nice, from the gateman to the tea bar ladies. I had to wait around 15 minutes for my chips at half time as they only had a small fryer, but at least they were freshly cooked.

THE GAME


AFTER THE GAME

I made my way back to the car, having seen around half of a cracking game as I didn't have clear sight of Whitehawk's equaliser, only seeing the ball go in through a crowd. I was pleased that Wycombe won 3-1 to go top of League 2 as our dream start to the season continued. I had to deal with the same road closures that I dealt with on the way in, with no diversion signposted. It was even worse for some Chelmsford fans I know as they didn't get to the game till nearly half time the poor lads. I got to Crawley at 6, and had the same crappy traffic on the M23 that I had suffered on the way there.

From then on it was fairly straight forward. I dropped Anwar off at 7.20, getting home myself at 7.50. I spent the rest of my night watching the Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands game, and even had a nice chat with my Grimsby pals, jubilant with their 1-0 win at Wrexham. I also did some of this blog and had a couple of pints before going to bed around 11.

NEXT UP

Something on Tuesday, hopefully FA Cup orientated. Favourites are Warrington Town v Colwyn Bay and Gosport Borough v Maidenhead.


THE ENCLOSED GROUND must have been a real pretty ground back in it's day. Certainly the far side which is out of bounds to fans, still looks great with it's banking where the ground has been carved out. The near side includes a small stand holding around 200. plus some hard flat standing. Both ends contain some seats from Brighton's old Withdean stadium, one covered, the other uncovered. They are not the prettiest, but they do the job I guess.

The bar and tea bar are standard football fare and do the job well. There was no club shop that I could see, but I'd recommend a visit to Whitehawk as they are a nice friendly club and it's a good relaxed atmosphere.