Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Wellingborough Whitworth - Victoria Mill

Wellingborough Whitworth FC
Victoria Mill
London Road

Ground Number: 438
Tuesday 25th November 2014
Wellingborough Whitworth 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
United Counties League KO Cup

Happily I would have Anwar back in the passenger seat for tonights game, after a few games absence due to various reasons. We were both looking for something local and fairly inexpensive due to spending quite a lot recently. Initially we were split between 2 choices - Olney Town v Northmapton Spencer or Northampton Sileby Rangers v Thurnby Nirvana. We agreed on the latter, and were all set to go there. That was until I was checking Twitter to see the state of play regarding matches going ahead due to the rain that we had been having. Both of the clubs Twitter feeds had not been updated for a couple of days and so I checked the United Counties League Twitter account. That was where I spotted the very local derby between Wellingborough Whitworths and AFC Rushden & Diamonds, with the home sides ground being right next door to Wellingborough Town FC, where Rushden currently share. I had seen both teams play before - last season I saw AFC Rushden defeat Newport Pagnell Town at home, and earlier this season I saw Whitworths draw 0-0 away at Raunds.

WELLINGBOROUGH WHITWORTH were founded in 1973 as Whitworths FC, taking their name from the local flour factory, hence the nickname of the Flourmen. They had done well in the East Midlands Alliance and with the ground improvements needed in place, they moved up to the United Counties League Division 1 in 1985. They have remained there ever since, winning the league in 2007, but not taking promotion. In their only outing in the FA Cup, they lost 5-1 to Peterborough Northern Star and they have lost every single FA Vase game they have played in. Currently former Blackpool & Rochdale defender Tommy Jaszczun is assistant manager and plays for the team. They had a record attendance of 1150 when they played local rivals (virtually next door) Wellingborough Town on Christmas Eve 2005, as the 2 met in a league clash. They had been around the top places in the United Counties League Division 1 all season and sat in 4th place.

AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS of course, were formed from the ashes of their old club after the original Rushden and Diamonds went into financial meltdown a few seasons back. The club were formed in 2011, playing their first season as a youth side due to being unable to find a senior league to join in time. They finished 5th and won the NSYL Knockout Cup 4-1 against AFC Kempston Town. The following season they converted to a senior side, entering the United Counties League Division 1 and winning promotion at the first time of asking. The club shared at Raunds Town for the first year of their existence, however since becoming a senior side they had moved over to Wellingborough. Last season they finished 3rd in the United Counties Premier and had their best ever cup runs since reforming. In the FA Cup they reached the 3rd Qualifying Round, beating Cambridge City along the way but losing to Dover Athletic in the 3rd Qualifying Round. In the FA Vase, they for to the 4th Round, before losing to Leicestershire side St Andrews. With them being out of both cups already this season, there was no chance of beating that this season, although at least they were top of the league as they sought to gain promotion at the end of the season.

I had the day off as usual as it was a Tuesday, but I still did a couple of bits of work. I had some casual jobs down town which netted me £15 for an hours work and I got a bit of shopping down there too. I caught up on my blog in the afternoon when I had time, and it was then that I noticed a problem. For a very long time now, I had used Facebook as my photo host, and that had worked like a charm up until now. It gave me that chance to show off photos to my friends, and also a convenient storage space for them. It had worked fine for ages, until I looked today. I am guessing that Facebook must have changed the URL of some of my pictures, as checking on some of my old blogs, there were lots of dead links where pictures were meant to be. I guess I will sort the problem out for the existing blogs in future, but from now on I will be choosing a more reliable place to host my photos. Flickr seems favourite with it's large amount of free storage space, but it sure as hell won't be as convenient as having them on Facebook, plus I am not really looking forward to having to re check all my old blogs. In any case, that could wait for another time. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching TV and having a bit of dinner before leaving at 5PM.

I got to Aylesbury later than expected at 5.45, thanks to slow traffic on the way. Luckily Anwar was there waiting for me and we were on our way. Though it was very slow getting out of Aylesbury we were soon on our way and we made good time once the road opened up. I have a brilliant free sat nav app called Waze and it redirected us cross country when there was heavy traffic on our normal route. By 7.10 we were there and after parking on the main road we made our way in. It was most unusual not to see a barrage of double yellow lines and from the impression I get Wellingborough is a pretty car friendly place, unlike the rest of the UK.

We went into the ground, paying a very reasonable £4 for entry, plus £1 for a thick programme. As it was raining, we got some pictures of the ground before taking shelter along the side. I typed my blog and checked Facebook while I waited for the game to start.

It started off with Whitworth having the best of the opening 5 minutes but the visitors soon took control. They missed a couple of easy chances and were well on top. They were made to pay when the home side opened the scoring on 20 minutes - a cool finish after an excellent run made this possible. It was end to end stuff from then on and on the half hour mark the Whitworth keeper was hurt when he made a brave save to deny Rushden an equaliser. Happily he carried on, but still looked like he was carrying an injury. The visitors got their equaliser on 40 minutes, a cracking header that smashed in off the bar. The only problem was that it was an own goal! Whitworth hit the bar and had the ball in the net at the right end after a minute but the linesman flagged for offside. Rushden were ahead just before half time as a corner was headed in, the keeper looking to be hampered by the earlier injury as he missed the cross.

Rushden started the second half the brightest and smacked the bar with a shot within the opening 5 minutes. They had one cleared off the line within a minute of that too as they really applied the pressure. They then missed a sitter, with the striker ballooning the ball over bar from a simple shot. They were nearly made to pay when Whitworth broke, caused mayhem in the box and had one cleared off the line. The game was getting quite heated by now and punches were thrown. The referee only booked the offender and a Rushden player said he would 'see you after the game' to a Whitworth fan who gave him stick. Whitworth then had a man sent off as he bought down the last man. From the resulting free kick the keeper was forced into a good save but an equaliser remained possible for the hosts. To be honest Rushden should have  had a hatful but they were exceptionally wasteful in front of goal. In the end they had to settle for a 2-1 win in what was an entertaining and feisty local derby.

After the game I said my goodbyes to Jim, a fellow groundhopper and a couple of Rushden fans that we had been talking to. We got away fairly swiftly and had a quick journey home apart from a couple of slow drivers on the single carriageways. I dropped Anwar off in Aylesbury at 10.45, getting home myself at 11.10. I had a quick look on the internet before watching TV in bed and going to sleep shortly after midnight.

VICTORIA MILL is a great ground for step 6. There is a seated stand behind the goal as you come in, that holds around 100. There is over behind one goal, and along one side, these fairly small areas probably hold around 300. The rest of the ground is open. There is a smart new clubhouse that also houses the tea bar, that has only been recently built following an arson attack on the old one. This ground is well worth a visit and offered a great value night out for me. 


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Worksop Town - Sandy Lane

Worksop Town FC

Windsor Food Service Stadium
Babbage Way
Sandy Lane
S80 1UJ

07962 346514

Ground Number: 437
Sunday 23rd November 2014
Worksop Town 2-1 Ellistown & Ibstock
FA Vase 2nd Round

I'd wanted to go to Worksop Town for a while, and had indeed planned to go last year on the way home from up north. But an error in my Sat Nav file directed me a lot further south to their groundshare at Hucknall Town. It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise - I ended up at Matlock Town which was a cracking ground, and the person that I was supposed to meet could not make the game anyway as work called him away at the last minute. It was a shame that I would never get to see last season's side which scored (and conceded) so many goals and had just missed out on the playoffs. But it wasn't to be, and after financial issues in the summer, they were relegated to the Northern Counties East League, which was my favourite of the step 5's.

I first heard about this FA Vase game through another mate, Luke, who is a Chesterfield fan who lives in Worksop told me about it, and as my parents would be away that week, I said yes to it. I knew it would be tight getting out of work, and it would cost a fair bit in petrol, but then fellow groundhopper Anwar said he would come with me. Sadly he couldn't make it after all as he had a load of bills come in at the same time, and also he was ill. Had it not been for me meeting a mate, I'd have given it the elbow, but I had given my word and I wasn't backing out.

WORKSOP TOWN had a brilliant season last year, scoring goals by the hatful and finishing a playoff place in the Northern Premier League. They didn't progress and worse was to follow when the club owner pulled out all funding. The club jumped the gun and resigned from the NPL. This turned out to be in haste as the supporters trust were putting together a plan to save the club. They tried to withdraw their resignation, but the league stood firm, and were not letting them have their league place back. Luckily, the Northern Counties East League were happy to take them on, and they joined it's Premier Division. The league will still run with 21 teams though, owing to the demise of Wakefield, who were forced to resign due to financial difficulties. Worksop have not been without financial issues in the past, they lost the ownership on their ground to league opponents Handsworth Parramore (formerly called Worksop Parramore and Sheffield Parramore). This time out, a famous face stepped in to lend a hand, golfer Lee Westwood's generous donation getting them out of a tight spot earlier this summer. Hopefully the club can return to it's former glory - they once graced the Conference North not so long ago and got to the FA Cup 3rd Round in the 1950's.

ELLISTOWN & IBSTOCK have only been around for a couple of years, following the merger of Ellistown and Ibstock United. They play at Ellistown's ground and had a very successful first season, finishing in 3rd place in the East Midlands Counties League. They had a great FA Cup run, even beating former football league side Hereford United before a heavy defeat to Halesowen Town where striker Iyesden Christie was the difference, grabbing 6 goals. This was also the best of their 2 seasons in the FA Vase and they had already beaten Bromyard Town & Hanley Town to get this far. Neither of the 2 merged side had progressed further in the cups than they have progressed in the last 2 seasons, though Ibstock Welfare did match the achievement of getting to the FA Vase 2nd Round in 1999.

On the day of the game I had an unusually busy day at work for a Sunday, which was really the last thing I needed. I'd been checking Twitter every now and then, as well as the BBC weather site as I was a bit concerned about being on due to the rain. In the end I finished at 11, and had a quick 15 minute break to get ready before leaving at 11.15. I had one last check, and happy that the game would go ahead, I set off up north. With an ETA of 13:56 I made good time, and the journey was goos apart from having to go slowly through the extensive roadworks on the M1. I arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule at 1.45, parking as directed by the friendly steward.

After paying a very reasonable £5 for entry and £1 for an excellent programme, I made my way to the club shop. This little cavern of delights was one of the main reasons I wanted to come here, with a huge range of programmes and lots of other stuff. Though they didn't have any of the ones that I needed, I still got a couple of old 'Non League Digest' magazines, plus a Worksop Town pen. Sadly, shops like this are a dying breed, as clubs go towards a more profitable leisurewear only operation, or indeed not bothering at all.

As I was coming out of the shop, I bumped into Luke and we got a picture together and chatted about football and had a good catch up. I was hungry by then and so went to the tea bar. I got a decent sausage roll and chips which filled me up and cost me only £2.50. Normally I would have a pint too, but I'd had quite a lot over the past couple of days, so I gave it a miss. I was gonna go to a nice looking pub in town called 'The Mallard' but my later than wanted arrival put pay to this. I stood behind the goal that Worksop were attacking with Luke and a few other people he knew to watch the game.

THE GAME - a brief report from the Worksop Town FC website


I said my goodbyes and made my way back to the car. As I was about to drive off I saw my mate and fellow groundhopper Tony as he was parked in front of me and we said a brief hello and goodbye as we left for home. For me, it was a different route home. I'd come up the M40, M42 and M1 on the way up, but as I was going back home it took me down the A1. It was frustrating at first as both lanes slowed right down when lorries got in the 'fast' lane and bought everything down to 50MPH just so they could go a fraction faster than their fellow trucker. Soon enough it opened up to more lanes once we got into Hertfordshire and the M25 was even well behaved for once. I got in at 7.45 and I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and watching TV before going to sleep at 11PM

SANDY LANE is one of the better grounds at step 5, thanks to them being in the NPL last season. It's actually owned by the other Worksop team Handsworth Parramore, who also play in the NCEL Premier, though it was Town's ground originally. The main stand holds around 300, whilst there is more seating in the form of metal stands behind one goal, and a couple along one side near the dugouts. As for covered terracing there is s stand that holds around 250, whilst the seats total 1000. The ground holds around 3000 in all.

The other facilities are excellent. As mentioned the club shop is superb, and the tea bar is also very good. The bar is nice and modern, but quite small and only Strongbow on tap, cider wise. The town is not far away, so it might be worth heading there if you have time.  

Monday, 24 November 2014

Sun Postal Sports - Sun Postal S&S Club

Sun Postal Sports FC
Sun Postal Sports & Social Club
Bellmountwood Avenue
WD17 3BN

01923 227453

Ground Number: 436
Saturday 22nd November 2014
Sun Postal Sports 0-1 Stanway Rovers
FA Vase 2nd Round

I would be on my own again for this Saturday, and also for the Worksop Town v Ellistown & Ibstock game tomorrow. So I needed something local and cheap. Wycombe were up at Cheltenham and that would have been under my consideration had they not been charging £21 for away fans, while charging £10 for their own supporters. The ideal game came up in the FA Vase in Sun Postal Sports v Stanway Rovers. I had been to a game in all 3 rounds of the Vase so far, in fact this would be my 6th game in the competition. It would also complete the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division for me, and I had been aiming to do that ever since my penultimate one at Colney Heath around a month ago. It also ticked all the boxes cost wise - being less than 18 miles and little over half an hour from home, meaning I could have lunch at home to save even more.

SUN POSTAL SPORTS were founded in 1901. After playing in local leagues for around the first 100 years of their history, they joined the Spartan South Midlands League Division 1 in 2003 after twice finishing runners up to Oxhey Jets, another local side from Watford who were also promoted. They found life tricky at first, but last season had a change in fortunes as they were crowned champions and promoted to the Premier Division. The club were already breaking records being in the 2nd Round of the FA Vase as they had only reached the previous round in past seasons. They were yet to enter the FA Cup, but looking on their website, it appeared that they were trying for promotion to the Southern League, having paid to have a ground grading inspection.

STANWAY ROVERS were founded in 1956 and played in local leagues up until 1992 when they joined the Eastern Counties League. They generally did well in Division 1 and in 2006 were promoted to the Premier Division where they have remained ever since, with a record finish of 5th in 2011. In 2008 they reached the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup before losing to Hitchin Town, whilst in the FA Vase they had a great run to the 5th Round in the same year before losing to Coventry Sphinx.

On the day of the game, I was slightly concerned that the game might be off due to the rain forecast, so I was keeping a close eye on twitter for any news. I was also hoping to get some tickets to go and see Dave Gorman at the Alban Arena in St Albans in the evening. I only found out about the gig last night on the off chance, after wondering where he going to be at. The website said sold out, so I had a look on twitter to see if anyone was selling any spares, and I found someone who was giving them away for free, and around lunchtime I had confirmation that they were available. I had a lunch of Kung Po chicken before leaving at 1.30.

The journey there had plenty of traffic and even though it was one of my shortest journeys of the season, there was still 15 minutes delay and I got there just after 2.20. I took some pictures of the outside before going in the bar, paying for my entry and programme and reading it over a pint of Aspalls which was a very reasonable £3. With around 15 minutes to go, I drank up and went outside to the game, taking some pictures and taking my place under cover before kick off.

There were chances for both sides early on, but nothing really convincing. The first real incident of note came on 26 minutes when Stanway's number 6 was sent off, apparently for violent conduct. It seemed a tad harsh and I heard others say it should have been just a booking. From then on both sides forced good saves out of the keepers and Sun Sports even had a goal ruled out for offside on 35 minutes. The visitors took the lead on 40 minutes through a disputed penalty. It looked outside the area but was given. Despite the Sun Sports keeper guessing the right way, the spot kick still found its way into the corner to give Stanway the lead.
That was the situation at the half time break and for the first 10 minutes of the second half the visitors looked as if they might extend their lead. Gradually Sun Sports started to make their man advantage show with a number of chances, even hitting the bar on 70 minutes. Try as they might though, the equaliser wouldn't come and the Eastern Counties League held on to progress to the next round of the Vase.

I was overjoyed to hear that Wycombe had a brilliant 4-1 win at Cheltenham, just what we needed after Monday's defeat at home to Burton. There were mixed results for my footballing friends and there were various moods over Facebook. After the game I went over to Wheathampstead to pick up my tickets. After stopping for petrol I went to an excellent pub called The Mermaid which was cider pub of the year for the second time running, so naturally I filled my boots, legally of course, driving wise.

After a couple of pints, I started to look for food, hoping for something substantial and unhealthy. In the end I had to make do with a foot long sub from Subway which was very nice. I went and got some soft drinks for the show, and made my way to the theatre which was a couple of minutes walk away. The show itself was excellent, as you would expect from Dave Gorman, with his funny stories and easy going style. After the show I made my way home, getting in at 11.40 and chilling for an hour before going to sleep.

SUN POSTAL SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB is one of the more basic grounds at step 5, with just the one stand. It holds around 200, with slightly more standing than sitting, but other than that the ground is open. At least the seats offer a good view and good legroom. The bar at the ground is large, offers a good range of drinks, as well as hot food. The club were nice and friendly, and it was a pleasing way to complete the Spartan South Midlands Premier.