Saturday, 25 March 2017

Whitby Town - The Turnbull Ground

Whitby Town FC
The Turnbull Ground
Upgang Lane
North Yorkshire
YO21 3HZ

Ground Number: 680
Thursday 23rd March 2017
Whitby Town 4-3 Middlesbrough
North Riding Senior Cup Semi-Final


The club was formed in 1880 as STREANESHALCH FC and has been known as WHITBY CHURCH TEMPERANCE, WHITBY and WHITBY UNITED before settling on their current name at the end of World War 2. After playing in various leagues during the early part of their history, they joined the Northern League full time in 1926 and remained there until 1997. During their time in this competitions, they were champions twice and runners-up on 5 occasions. Never relegated in their history, they had just one bottom-placed finish during their time in the Northern League, this coming in 1956. In 1997, they took the step up to the NPL, winning Division 1 at the first attempt and gaining promotion to the Premier Division for the 1998/99 season. They finished 7th in their first season which is effectively their highest ever finish in the non-league pyramid. The 2003/04 season saw them in playoffs for the newly formed Conference North, however, they lost 8-7 to Radcliffe Borough on penalties after a 2-2 draw. The following season, Whitby Town enjoyed their best ever NPL Premier finish of 4th. Since then, it's been mainly lower-half finishes, although this season has seen a huge improvement, with Whitby sitting just outside of the playoffs at the time of my visit.

In the FA Cup, Whitby Town's best run came during the 1983/84 season. Having beaten Harrogate Town, Durham Town, Lancaster City and Bishop Auckland in the qualifying rounds, they were given a tricky looking tie at then Football League side, Halifax Town in the 1st Round. After taking a notable scalp, winning 3-2, they were drawn away again, this time to Wigan Athletic. Despite giving them a close game, they went down 1-0. Whitby Town have twice been FA Trophy Quarter Finalists and were FA Amateur Cup runners up in 1965. They went one better in its replacement, the FA Vase, winning it in 1997 as they beat North Ferriby United 3-0 at Wembley. Locally, the club has won the North Riding Senior Cup on five occasions and the Northern League Cup six times as well as the Scarborough & East Riding County Cup and the Rothmans National & Overseas Cups.


I'd wanted to visit Whitby Town for ages, but with it being so far away from home, chances were limited. I finally got my chance on my week off, booking a room in Whitby for the original game night of Tuesday. However, a week before the game, it was switched to the Thursday. Luckily I was still able to cancel my hotel room in time and not lose any money, staying at home and going up on the Wednesday and Thursday instead. My original target the previous night had been the completion of the Conference North at Darlington v Bradford Park Avenue, but with that suffering a 4 pm postponement due to heavy rain, I went to Shildon v South Shields instead, after much drama trying to find a game that was on. As it turned out, just over half of my options went ahead, which was surprising given the volume of the deluge.

On the day of the game, I woke at 7.30 after setting my alarm the previous night. Normally I'd have liked a lie in, but with breakfast being served between 7 and 8, I had to be up early. After having a shower I went down and had breakfast before returning to my room until the check out time of 10 am, with me catching up on my blog whilst watching TV. Having lots of time to kill, I walked into town and had a look around before going to look at Darlington's new ground that I'd missed out on last night. It was still only 1 when I left Darlington and so with plenty of time to use up, I stopped at Stokesley Sports Club FC. It was a good facility for step 7, having previously hosted Northern League football. I needed some fuel to get home, so I stopped in Guisborough to fill up. Even after all that, I still arrived in Whitby at 3.15, some four and a half hours before kick-off.

First stop was the town's Wetherspoons, called the Angel Hotel. It was one of the better Wetherspoons I have been in, well kept and with my favourite Black Dragon cider on. I had a pint of this while reading my paper, mainly featuring the cowardly terrorist attacks of the previous day and the reasonable performance of the England team in Germany. After walking along the harbour and getting some nice pictures, I went to another tourist hotspot, namely Poundland, to get some snacks for tonight's game. I then went to the excellent Waiting Room micropub, where I had a couple of halves of Tutts Clump cider that I'd not had before. Whitby really was a nice town and I had enjoyed my time so far. I'd done some prior research and found that the best option for the traditional dish of fish and chips was Silver Street Fisheries. It was top notch with me having scampi and chips. The chips were cooked in beef dripping which made them all the better. I went back to my car to give my phone a charge while I waited for the turnstiles to open.

I went into the ground just before 7, paying £10 for entry. I then went to the club shop buying a programme, a pen and a commentator gaffes CD for a fiver. After walking around the ground and getting some pictures, I bought a Bovril and took a seat in the stand for the game. Middlesbrough took the lead on 36 minutes when Niall McGoldrick bundled home from close range. The hosts got back on level terms just before half-time when Michael Roberts headed in a cross. Whitby took the lead on 48 minutes, this time it was another header from Luke Bythway. Boro were level a couple of minutes later, but my view of the goal was blocked by some geezer bringing back his half-time teas. The hosts retook the lead on the hour when the ball was squared to Bythway who fired home from 8 yards to get his second. On 69 minutes the game looked to be safe when Bythway completed his hat-trick by heading home a free kick. There was an almost immediate reply for the visitors on 73 minutes when Bradley Fewster fired into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 4-3. Despite it looking like a potential comeback might be on, it was the hosts that had the better of the remaining chances but there were no further goals.

Despite it being a pricey couple of days for me, it had been a great game to end my time away. I had a long drive home ahead of me, with an estimated arrival back at home of 2.15. This actually got as late as 2.30 thanks to multiple sets of roadworks and lane closures. It was a slow start thanks to being stuck on single carriageways and the Two Mikes Podcast, the commentator gaffes CD I'd bought earlier, Viking Radio, The NPL Podcast, The Non-League Podcast and finally the Two Mikes on TalkSPORT kept me company at various points during the journey. I actually got home in good time, arriving home at 2 am. I caught up on my Youtube subscriptions before going to sleep around an hour later.


THE TURNBULL GROUND is a smart and tidy venue. Pride of place goes to the 505 seater main stand which is elevated above pitch level. Opposite is the only other cover in the ground which holds around the same amount. The rest of the 3,500 capacity ground is open hard standing with some steps of terracing. 

At the ground are a reasonable tea bar and clubhouse which do the job if you are pushed for time. If you've got time to spare, the town of Whitby is great, with a huge rain of pubs to suit all tastes. An excellent Wetherspoons and an even better Micropub called 'The Waiting Room were the ones for me. Food wise, Silver Street Fisheries came out top in Trip Advisor and it didn't disappoint. The club shop at the ground is very good, lots of club merchandise as well as loads of old programmes and other random stuff.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Shildon - Dean Street

Shildon AFC
Dean Street
County Durham

07976 822453 (Secretary)
Official Website

Ground Number:679
Wednesday 22nd March 2016
Shildon 1-4 South Shields
Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup Semi-Final


SHILDON were formed in 1890 and were known as SHILDON ATHLETIC up until 1923. They joined the North Eastern League in 1907 and enjoyed a best-ever finish of 3rd in their debut season. Shildon played in the Northern League for four seasons before that and they moved there full time in 1923. They've played there ever since and have lifted the title on six occasions - five times in the late 1930's after finishing as runner-up in their first season and then again last season. Despite their first championship in 77 years, they took the stance of many Northern League clubs and opted not to take promotion to the NPL due to extra travelling costs. Since the Northern League switched to a two-tier league in 1982, they've spent the vast majority of their time in the higher Division 1. Their worst finish came in 1986 when only the inappropriately named Esh Winning kept them off the bottom of Division 2. They've been ever-present in the top tier since 2002 and came into tonight's game sitting in 3rd place, a couple of points behind tonight's visitors South Shields.

Shildon were fairly regular participants in the FA Cup 1st Round in the late 50's and early 60's although the last time they reached this stage was in 2003/04. Victories over Workington, Durham City, Frickley Athletic, Shirebrook Town and Stocksbridge Park Steels rewarded them with a game at Notts County where they lost 7-2. The club reached the FA Vase Semi-Final in 2012 only to lose 4-3 over two legs to Tunbridge Wells. In other national competitions, Shildon have 2 FA Amateur Cup Quarter-Finals to their name as well as a couple of FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round appearances. Locally, they've won the Durham Challenge Cup twice and the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup on 9 occasions.


On the day of the game I woke around 7 am. I decided not to bother with an afternoon game as it would most likely be a revisit to a ground I'd done in fairly recent times. It would give me the luxury of more time at home, with be being able to leave as late as 11 am if I so desired. I used the extra time to get some breakfast, finish last night's Cinderford blog, and indeed start tonight's one. It turned out to be a good choice, with the post coming just after 11 am and bringing my Football Traveller with me. Sadly it didn't offer any Friday night games to extend my stay up north, but it did at least present a couple more backups for tonight.  It was my Dad's birthday, so I wished him all the best, before leaving around 11.30. It was raining at home and the disgusting weather followed me all the way up the M1, with me stopping at Leicester Forest services for a comfort break and update on the weather. I got to my hotel at 4 and my worst fears were confirmed - My original game at Darlington v Bradford Park Avenue was off.

It didn't surprise me to be honest. The amount of rain that had fallen had been incredible for late March. I thought I'd be stuck in for the night, but really my problems paled into insignificance given what was happening in London. Once again there had been a terrorist attack, with some window licker using religion as an excuse to act like a complete scumbag. Luckily the death toll was not huge as I started looking around for alternative games, but one person dead is too many. There emerged 3 candidates that could possibly save me. The best game was Shildon v South Shields, this was my original choice before Darlington cropped up. The best weather wise was Newcastle Benfield with no rain until 8. However, the pathetic accuracy so far today made me treat that with disdain. The most friendly by far were Stokesley who were extremely helpful and kind after what had been a frustrating day so far. Just before 6 came the news that Shildon had confirmed game on, and with this being the nearest I plumped for this one. I felt bad for turning down Stokesley after their great help, but this was the better game, with Newcastle Benfield a little further up the A1 should it suffer a late call off. I left just after 6, and by 6.40 I was parked up outside Shildon's Dean Street ground.

As it turned out, Stokesley was the better backup journey time wise and I might well have needed as a late downpour at Shildon put the game in doubt. I waited and waited for the result of the inspection and after assuming it was bad news, put Stokesley in the sat nav. Just as I started the engine, a tweet came through that the referee had said game on. Despite my extreme scepticism I switched the engine off and decided to stay. There was only 40 minutes to go until kick-off, so I went to a chip shop outside the ground and got curry sauce and chips for £2. I then paid £6 to get in, plus £2 for what was a very good programme. I went in the bar to keep warm, having a pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits for £2.50. There was heavy rain, just before kick-off but thankfully the referee held firm and played the game. I got a seat at the back of the stand and enjoyed the pork and stuffing roll and Bovril that I had purchased from the tea bar.

Visitors South Shields named former Sunderland player Julio Arca and ex Gateshead striker Jon Shaw in their line up. Shildon were the stronger team at the start and they look the lead after 5 minutes when Michael Rae got away from the static visiting defence and finished past the keeper. The game turned on 13 minutes when the hosts' defender Jamie Harwood was sent off for bringing down the last man. Carl Finnigan netted the resulting penalty to square things up for South Shields. South Shields went ahead on 52 minutes. A cross was put in, it was headed back across goal and debutant Jordan Blinco was there to slot home from six yards. Blinco got his second on 76 minutes when his low drive into the bottom corner of the net made it 3-1. Seven minutes before full-time, they made the game safe when a looping cross was headed home by Carl Finnigan headed home a looping cross for his second of the night. It had been a great contest, with many chances. Incredibly, it was South Shields 25th consecutive win, and yet they are still only second in the league. Hats off to referee Mr Fitzpatrick for getting the game played, when most would have called it off, despite the pitch being playable, if not perfect.

I made my way back to my guest house, getting there at 9.45. I grabbed my bag and walked the ten minutes into town. After stopping at a cash machine, I headed to the Old Victoria pub near the train station where I had a pint of Cock Bird cider. It was a new one for me, a bit too sweet for my liking, but the pub was great with a good range of drinks. I then headed to the Tanners Hall Wetherspoons where I had a pint of Westons Old Rosie. By now it was getting on for 11, so I decided to walk the 15 minutes back to my room to watch the England highlights. It turned out to be a decent performance, despite the Three Lions losing 1-0 to Germany, with plenty of positives to come out of this friendly. I watched Youtube for a while before going to bed around half past midnight.


DEAN STREET is a great ground for step 5. The main stand is of an interesting design, is elevated above pitch level. Overall it holds around 500 and has good views and great legroom despite supporting pillars. Opposite is a covered terrace that holds around 500 and runs for a good length of the pitch. The rest of the 4,700 capacity ground is made up of open terracing.

There are lots of takeaways near the ground, including a chip shop right near the turnstiles. The tea bar inside the ground is decent, doing amongst other things, a hot pork and stuffing roll with apple sauce for £3. This was of a decent size for the price paid and very tasty. Also available are various burgers and hot drinks. The clubhouse is decent, though a little small and this does Strongbow Dark Fruits for £2.50 a pint with a decent range of other options. The club shop offers a decent range of merchandise, as well as a large selection of old programmes and books.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Cinderford Town - The Causeway

Cinderford Town FC
The Causeway
Edge Hills Road
GL14 2QH

07896 887162
Official Website

Ground Number: 678 
Tuesday 21st March 2017
Cinderford Town 4-2 Frome Town
Southern Premier


Cinderford Town were formed in 1922 and played in the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League where they were runners-up twice and champions once. They joined the Bristol Charity League in 1939 due to the outbreak of World War 2. Upon resumption of football, the club joined the Western League, initially at Division 2 level. They were champions in 1957 and finished 10th & 11th in the following two seasons before dropping back down to the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League. For the next 30 or so years, they switched between the Gloucestershire and Midland Leagues on a regular basis, before finding a new home in the Hellenic D1 West for the 1990/91 season where they were league winners at the first time of asking, winning promotion to the Hellenic Premier. They adapted well to the higher level, never finishing below 6th prior to winning the Hellenic League Championship in 1995. This entitled them to promotion to the Southern League and up until this season, they spent their time in various regional Division 1 leagues. 2015/16 saw Cinderford Town crowned Southern League D1 South & West champions. They initially turned down promotion due to increased costs, and the whole thing became a bit of a mess with the FA forcing them to go up, and the knock-on effects were felt across the pyramid with Stamford being relegated after initially being told that they had been reprieved. Given the fact that they are operating on a much-reduced budget, it's perhaps no surprise that they are 9 points adrift at the bottom of the league. Although all is not lost, it will take a very good run for them to survive.

The FA Cup 2nd Round was reached in 1995/96. Starting in the first qualifying round they recorded several notable victories along the way, beating Tuffley Rovers, Gloucester City, Forest Green Rovers, Bath City and Bromsgrove Rovers before facing Gravesend & Northfleet. They took the Kent-based side to a replay before losing 3-0, missing out on a 3rd Round tie against Aston Villa in the process. 2003/04 saw Cinderford Town get to the FA Trophy 2nd Round, whilst their best run in the FA Vase came in 1991/92 when it took three games for Chertsey Town to prevail in a 3rd Round tie. The club have had a few notable wins in local cup competitions, none more so than 2001 when they defeated Bristol City to lift the Gloucestershire Senior Cup.


I'd been wanting to visit Cinderford Town for a while, especially when they became the sole team I needed to complete the Southern Premier. However, whenever they came up as a choice, they promptly had their match called off due to issues with the pitch. To the club's credit, they were always quick off the mark in letting the public know if there were any issues. Right throughout January and February, games were called off due to rain, with me not really surprised given that the pitch was not the greatest. Finally, in mid-March, the opportunity presented itself for a visit. I was off for the week, and so didn't want to do anything too near. Fellow hopper Anwar had a budget of £15 towards petrol costs and so I drew up a list of possible games.

On the day of the game, I'd drawn up a list of 10 possibilities. Cinderford Town were my first choice, given that I'd typed up a lot of my blog for my abandoned visits.I was glad when the club tweeted that there were no issues with the pitch, although just in case I had a backup at Tuffley Rovers planned. I spent the morning walking down town to get some things for my upcoming couple of days away. After coming back I started planning my Wednesday & Thursday away, which, fingers crossed, will include visits to Darlington 1883 & Whitby Town in the evenings. That said, with the weather looking wet once again, I made sure I had plenty of backups with 11 alternatives planned for the Wednesday night should the match fall victim to the weather. However, with my room booked in Darlington, half a mile from the ground, it was something I really wanted to avoid. There was doubt over my afternoon game too - I was originally planning on the 1.30 game at Rothwell Juniors between FC Halifax Town and FC United of Manchester. But with there appearing to be no cover, I was considering either switching to a revisit at Basford (11 am), Farsley (2 pm) or indeed just going straight up.

After leaving at 3.30 and meeting Anwar at 4, we made our way across slow roads on the way to the game. It was especially bunged up in Witney and Gloucester, with us opting to stop at Morrisons Cafe in the latter for dinner. With a late burst of rain, we were concerned at there being a late postponement at Cinderford, so were trying to minimise the chances of a wasted journey. Here I had Sausage, egg, chips and beans for the bargain price of £3. Before I left, I also filled up with diesel as it was nice and cheap. There was no further news on Twitter, and the rain had not been as heavy or as lengthy as the BBC Weather site had predicted. So we made our way to the ground, getting there at 7.20. I was surprised when we got there are were asked if we had brought the Frome kit with us. That has to be a first for me in all my years of hopping and I was fearing the most random reason for a postponement ever, but thankfully it all passed off OK. After paying £10 to get in, plus £2 for a thin programme, we had a walk around the ground getting pictures.

For the game, we took a place along the side in the stand. Cinderford looked nothing like a side that were rock bottom of the league. Frome, who were donning Cinderford's old yellow away strip, thanks to them forgetting their own were distinctly second best. The home side had already had a decent effort ruled out before they took the lead on 20 minutes. The ball was not cleared properly and Nick Harrhy was there to poke home the rebound. The same man made it 2-0 just before the half hour when he converted a penalty that had been awarded following a foul in the area. Callum Mconie gave them a 3-0 lead five minutes later, again it was some slack defending that allowed him to finish with a low shot from around 10 yards. Sam Teale did pull one back with a shot from the edge of the area shortly before hhalf-time but overall the hosts were good value for their lead. That said, the goal did give Frome impetus and they were by far the better side for large periods after the break. They made it game on just before the hour mark when Jack Jackson converted a penalty that had been awarded for a foul on the left hand side of the area. The way the game was going, it looked as if it was only a matter of time before they would equalise, dent Cinderford's confidence and go on to win the game. The hosts were restricted to chances on the break, but it was during one of these chances that they gave themselves some breathing space. A nice move was rounded off by Mconie who grabbed his second, firing across the visiting keeper Kyle Phillips from 15 yards. A vital win was made all the more possible when Frome's Conner Roberts was sent off for a second bookable offence, after tripping a Cinderford forward who was getting away from the defence.

With the visitors down to ten, their chances of getting back into the game were greatly diminished. Despite lots of chances and even a disallowed goal for Frome, there were no further goals and the hosts got a win that was celebrated wildly at full time. This gave them an outside chance of survival, only a glimmer of hope, but if they show the spirit that they did tonight, then anything is possible if luck goes for them. It was quite a late finish, 9.50 before we got away and so after dropping off Anwar at 11.30, I got home myself 20 minutes later. After staying up watching TV and writing some of my blog, I got to sleep around 1.30am.


THE CAUSEWAY is a fairly old and ramshackle ground, and all the better for it. The needed improvements for step 3 are currently being put in place, although the ground was more than adequate already for the crowds they get, upon my visit. All the covered accommodation is along one side, with the main seated area. This has a capacity of 250 and is flanked either side by standing areas. The one nearest the turnstiles is a strange one - you actually stand around a foot below pitch level, which gives a strange but perfectly acceptable view of the action. Up the other end is a work in progress, a smaller area currently being extended and out of bounds on my visit. The other three sides were open hard standing, with a couple of steps of terracing on the far side.

Facilities at the ground are reasonable. The clubhouse has a bit of a retro feel to it and offers a reasonable range of drinks, though cider drinkers are restricted to Strongbow, Stowford Press or a few bottles, with nothing local on offer. The food looked decent, although I didn't indulge. The club shop was the best part, with a decent range of souvenirs, lots of pennants from random clubs and a large selection of old programmes. Talking of programmes, the one on the night was not the greatest. Very thin for the asking price of £2, not too much to read and no list of previous results. In its defence, it was well presented with good print quality and design.