Thursday, 22 September 2016

Northampton ON Chenecks - Old Northamptonians Sports Ground

Northampton ON Chenecks FC
Old Northamponians Sports Ground
Billing Road

Ground Number: 622
Wednesday 21st September 2016
Northampton ON Chenecks 3-4 Wellingborough Town
Hillier Cup 1st Round


The club was founded in 1946, and was initially established so that students at the rugby-playing grammar school could play football. The club's name comes from the school houses that originally made up the football team. After switching to adult football, the club joined the United Counties League in 1969. They've always been in the league's bottom division, but not without success. The lack of floodlights (until a couple of seasons ago) and other facilities at the ground has stalled their progress, but they still have league titles to their name, won back in 1978 & 1980. They've never finished bottom of the table, though they only achieved this feat by a fine margin in 1996 as goal difference meant that Irchester United were the unlucky party. Last season saw their best finish since the late 1970's as they were runners-up.This entitled them to promotion to the United Counties Premier and they've had a mixed start to the season, sitting 18th out of a 22 team league at the time of the game - not so bad when you consider that they were yet to play a home game as cricket took precedence at their ground.

Due to lack of floodlights, it was not until this season that they entered the FA Cup and they went out at the first hurdle, losing on penalties to Harefield United after 2 games could not separate the sides. The FA Vase was entered for the first time last season - after beating Sun Sports 2-1, they lost out to Berkhamsted in the 2nd Qualifying Round by the same scoreline. This season, they have again progressed, this time by way of an impressive 4-1 win at Raunds Town and have a chance to progress further on Saturday when they host Leighton Town. Local cup honours include the Daventry Charity Cup in 1985 and the Northants Junior Cup on 3 occasions.


This visit was arranged on Sunday and once again I'd be going via Milton Keynes with fellow groundhopper Chris. He'd suggested this game, and I was happy to go along with it. Our main reason for choosing this game is the several good pubs that Northampton has to offer. Chris fancied the Malt Shovels, but I suggested the slightly nearer Olde England which I visited back in April and which had 12 ciders on tap at the time. Whichever we ended up going to, we would have plenty of time - we were leaving Milton Keynes at 4 and it was only a 30-minute journey. I'd have to be careful with me driving later on, but even with me dumping the car at the ground and then walking the 30 minutes to town, we'd still have lots of time to kill.

On the day of the game I went to work with only a few hours sleep, but I felt fine, even in the afternoon when I usually have a sleep. Despite my worst fears when a couple of staff failed to show up for work, it was still an easy day and I was out by 11.30. I had a bath, and had some lunch, before updating my blogs and catching up on various other things. I left at 2.50 and with the traffic being fairly reasonable I was in Milton Keynes, ready to meet Chris in plenty of time for 4pm. We had a decent journey over to Northampton and were at the ground by 4.40. From there it was a 25-minute walk to the Olde England pub,  which was as good as I remember it. Chris was impressed as they had 15 ciders on and a decent looking menu. For my first drink I had a pint of Cuckoo Penny which was a light 4% cider and ordered some Beef Jerk Sausages and chips. Sadly we couldn't agree on a game for Friday and Chris is busy on Saturday, so I'll be on my own and doing something local to keep costs down. My second drink was Darkcider, which strangely was a Canadian one and had the the taste of one from America. From there we made our way to the ground, getting there with plenty of time to spare until kick off.

Entry was reasonably priced at £5 and there was also a programme for £1 which turned out to be a double issue with Saturday's game against Melton Town. I'd seen 8 goals the previous night at Tividale, and although I saw one less tonight, it was at least a lot more competitive. The hosts took the lead on 9 minutes as they capitalised on a defensive mix-up to take the lead. Wellingborough equalised with the best goal of the night on 21 minutes - a great shot flying into the top left-hand corner from outside the area. The half hour mark saw Chenecks retake the lead, this time as a free kick was deflected home. Though Wellingborough were looking most likely to score at this point it was the hosts that extended their lead on 40 minutes, with a goal on the break, slotted neatly past the keeper. Wellingborough pulled a goal back on 50 minutes, heading home from pretty much a yard out. It was 2 defensive errors that saw them equalise and take the lead and although Chenecks thought they had equalised 4 minutes from time, it was ruled out for offside.

It had been a good game then, and in summary Wellingborough's cutting edge had triumphed over a hard-working Chenecks side who perhaps deserved a share of the spoils. We left at 9.40, with me dropping Chris home at 10.10. I got home myself just before 11. As I was tired I dropped off to sleep pretty much straight away - usually I'll stay up for a good hour after the game as I struggle to get to sleep. Even with a better nights sleep than usual, I was still tired the next morning and was glad when I got home and was able to catch up with a 5-hour sleep. At least it allowed me to listen to the East London Radio Grassroots football show, which might help me decide where my game on Saturday will be at, as I'm not sure at present.


OLD NORTHAMPTONIANS SPORTS GROUND is part of a wider sports complex which also hosts rugby and cricket. There's not a huge amount around the ground, although town is around 30 minutes walk away and has several decent eating and drinking places. The ground itself has a bar which I didn't try and a tea hut. Though the range is quite limited the hot dog I had for £1.50 was decent enough value and quite tasty. The ground is mostly open, but there are 2 stands that you can sit or stand in, and these have around 400 capacity under cover.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Tividale - The Beeches

Tividale FC
The Beeches
Packwood Road
B69 1UL

01384 211743

Ground Number: 621
Tuesday 20th September 2016
Tividale 0-8 Walsall
Walsall Senior Cup 1st Round


TIVIDALE FC were formed in 1954 and originally played in local leagues such as the Handsworth & District and Warwickshire & West Midlands Alliance. They made the step up to the West Midlands Regional League in 1966. Originally playing in its second tier, they earned promotion to the Premier Division in 1973. They stayed here until 2011, save for a few seasons in the early 90's when they returned to Divison 1 due to the lack of floodlights at the ground at the time.  That 2010/11 season saw them have a great year, champions with 97 points and scoring 123 goals in the process. That earned them promotion to the Midland Alliance and saw the most successful time in the club's history. By 2014 they were promoted again, this time to the NPL Division 1 South. Despite an excellent 8th placed finish in 2014/15, last season saw them finish rock bottom with just 5 wins all season. This season has seen the struggle continue, with them yet to win and sitting well adrift at the bottom of the table.

In the FA Cup, their debut season of 1975/76 saw a memorable run to the 4th Qualifying Round as they defeated Heanor Town, Enderby Town and Alfreton Town (after a replay) before a narrow 3-2 defeat away at AP Leamington. They lost both of the FA Trophy games that they have played in but in the FA Vase they reached the 5th Round as recently as 2012, going out to Peterborough Northern Star. Local cup honours include the JW Hunt Cup in 2014 and the Walsall Senior Cup in 2003.


This groundhop was decided on Saturday evening, following Wycombe's 1-0 win over Stevenage. I'd met fellow hopper Anwar at the game and he was finally available for our first groundhop together since July. Back to that game, it wasn't one I was looking forward  to and as a result I didn't get there until 2.30, around an hour later than normal. However, I had no problem getting my normal parking spot and the place was still as deserted as it usually was. What followed was probably the reason for the low attendance - the usual dull fare, though we did at least grind out a win, which was only our second win in 16 league games. When I got home I had a look at the fixtures available. My requirements were simple - one with no decent pubs near it, as I wasn't planning on drinking, and none of the few unvisited teams that I still had standing in the FA Cup. Tividale v Walsall seemed a decent option, and thankfully Anwar was happy to do this one.

On the day of the game I was on my day off as usual and it was the usual walk down town to pick up some stuff for the game tonight. I came back and had lunch while watching some episodes of Citizen Smith, a Sitcom I have got into recently, on Youtube. I looked at food options for tonight's game and decided that a revisit to AK Grill the same place Anwar and I went to before Cradley Town last season seemed the best option. I spent the rest of the afternoon updating my Groundhopper App. It looked a long slog at first, with well over 600 grounds and several more games to enter, but upon leaving at 4PM, I'd got it down to 225.  I met Anwar at 4.30 and we were soon on our way. It was a decent journey, with only 10 minutes delay and most of that was getting out of Aylesbury. We arrived at AK Grill, our dinner place in Halesowen at 6.25 and I had a Piri Piri Panini meal whilst Anwar had a curry. It took a while and we didn't leave till 7. At least it was worth the wait though,  delicious and with chips and a drink for & 4.

We got to the ground at 7.15, paying £5 to get in and £1.50 for an excellent programme. After taking some pictures of the ground we took a place standing along the side. We got talking to the Walsall fans that had made the short trip and were pleased to discover that ex-Wycombe loanee Jason McCarthy was doing very well for them. They also informed us that 10 of the 11 players starting for them tonight were first teamers. With Tividale doing poorly some 7 levels below them, it looked as if it may be a long night for the Midland Leaguers and so it proved to be. Below are descriptions of the goals, plus highlights, courtesy of the Walsall FC YouTube channel.

3:  Close range effort by Amadou Bakayoko - went in off the bar after home keeper Kriskinans parried the initial shot (0-1)

14: A Walsall cross-shot by Josh Ginnelly from the right went straight in (0-2)

44: Tividale's number 6 gave the ball away, from there it was  a good run and finish from Amadou Bakayoko to get his second of the night (0-3)

47: A deflected own goal wrongfooted Kriskinans, who had made several good saves earlier on (0-4) 

55: Good run and shot from Maziar Kouhyar who finished well from around 10 yards (0-5)

56: A well-worked goal resulted in Josh Ginnelly getting his second from around 12 yards.(0-6)

61: Another well-worked goal resulting in a close range finish (0-7)

72: Saving the best goal till last, Amadou Bakayoko thunders a great shot into the top left hand corner from around 25 yards (0-8)

The result and goals reflected the balance of play, and in truth, Walsall were quite wasteful. Tividale had some chances of their own however and can consider themselves unfortunate not to get a goal on the night. It had been a good evening at a nice friendly club, and the well-priced entrance fee and excellent programme certainly helped this. By the time we left it was 9.40 and we put the radio on to listen to TalkSPORT and their coverage of the League Cup games on the way home. It made the journey pass pretty quickly and I dropped Anwar off in Aylesbury at 11, getting home myself just over 20 minutes later. I had work at 4 in the morning, but even so, I needed an hour or so to wind down before I could drop off to sleep. At least I don't have as far to go tomorrow for my next game at Northampton ON Chenecks v Wellingborough Town.


THE BEECHES is a traditional non-league venue and is pretty decent for the level that Tividale play at. Situated in a housing estate, there isn't a huge amount in the immediate vicinity of the ground, and parking is a bit sparse. This doesn't matter too much though, as the facilities at the ground are decent. Though I didn't use the bar, it's large and spacious with Sky TV and football stuff on the walls. It has a decent range of real ales, plus Strongbow and Thatchers Gold for cider drinkers. The tea bar has a decent looking range of food compared to most at this level.

The ground itself is open on 3 sides, but the one stand that that there is, is excellent. It stretches the whole length of the pitch and has enough room for 200 seated and around 500 standing under cover. The ground has a nice few touches to it, and you'll get a nice welcome and a great value day out, so it's well worth a visit. The programme is also very good, with plenty to read and full of information and stats. There is also supposed to be a club shop, but I didn't see it when I visited. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Wellington FC - The Playing Field

Wellington FC
The Playing Field
North Street
TA21 8NE

Ground Number: 620
Wednesday 14th September 2016
Wellington 2-1 Ashton & Backwell United
Western League D1


WELLINGTON FC were formed in 1896 and after nearly 100 years in local leagues they joined the Western League. They've spent the vast majority of that time in its second tier, apart from two spells of 3 years in the Premier Division between 1981-1984 and 2008-11. By far their best ever season came in 2008/09 when they finished 7th in the Western Premier. Since 2011 they've been in Division 1, with the closest they have come to going up was in 2015 when they finished 6th. After a 12th placed finish last time out, they were enjoying an excellent start to this season, sitting in 3rd place after the weekend games. This was all the more remarkable considering that the game I'd be attending would be their first home league game of the season.

Thanks to their step 6 status, the club have been sporadic entrants into the FA Cup over the years. Their best progress came in their debut season of 1981/82 when they reached the 1st Qualifying Round before losing to Bridgwater Town. The FA Vase 3rd Round has been reached twice, most recently in 2009/10 when a 3-2 home defeat to Combined Counties League outfit Epsom & Ewell ended their ambitions. The club have twice won the Western League Combination Challenge Cup in 1996 and 1999.


As I was visiting Truro on the Tuesday, I was looking for a game to break my journey home. I'd been hoping for an afternoon game but all my research drew blanks. I'd still be doing an evening game though and after looking at 10 options from the South West Peninsula, Western and Wessex Leagues, I drew up a list of options. My criteria was pretty simple - not too far west so as that I'd have too much time to kill during the day and not too far east that it was too close to home to make it a wasted opportunity. I also wanted a good selection of pre-match pubs and a nice town, and in the end Wellington v Ashton & Backwell United was the best option.

On the day of the game I'd slept soundly after a few drinks the previous night but woke around 8 feeling fine. I went downstairs and had breakfast which was decent. With a hell of a lot of time to kill - 10 hours when my evening game was a 2 hour drive away I decided to stop at a few places along the way. First off was Healeys Cornish Cider farm where I bought a bottle of their own cider. Then it was onto Bodmin Town who had a nice stand and as parking was free I had a look around the town, buying some sweets and a calendar. Then it was on to Launceston, a decent ground with a good sized stand, located on an industrial estate. As I got back on the dual carriageway I noticed that I had a flat tyre and so had to call out Green Flag as I wasn't 100% confident about changing it. At least it killed some time I guess. I was surprised when the bloke came within 10 minutes, though the bad news was that all my tyres were all on the verge of needing replacement. I drove a few miles to a local tyre place and thankfully they did me a good price for the full set. From there I still had plenty of time so I visited Topsham Town which was pretty basic before finally Willand Rovers which had been one of my game options for the night. This was my favourite so far and only narrowly missed out on being my game of choice.

I got to Wellington at 4.40 and seeing that the car park near the ground charged, I slung my car in a nearby side street as I didn't have any change. I had a look around the town, which didn't have much apart from a decent range of pubs which was a bit of a disappointment as I had plenty of time to use up. Luckily my first pub, The Dolphin, was half a mile away so that used up some time. It was the best pub of my time away to be honest with a great range of ciders and it was a shame that I'd have to drive home and limit myself to a couple of pints. I had Mad Apple medium cider, which a nice fairly dry one. From there it was off to Wetherspoons for dinner. It was an excellent example for others in the chain with a great range of cider. I had the Piri Piri half roast chicken with a bottle of Hazy Hog for £7.49 with both excellent as ever. I got to the ground about 7pm after collecting my things from my car. Paying £5 to get in, plus another £1 for a programme I walked around the ground getting photos. It wasn't the most developed ground I've done at this level, but it was a pleasant and relaxing place to spend a warm September evening. 

Wellington took the lead on 23 minutes with a powerful volley from around 10 yards and my fear of 2 stinking 0-0s in a row were availed. There was a few minutes delay at the end of the half whilst a visiting player received treatment for an injury before being taken off on a stretcher. There wasn't a huge amount between the sides but Wellington doubled their lead on 63 minutes as the attacker netted after shooting on the turn from around 10 yards. Ashton and Backwell grabbed one back shortly after when the keeper was unable to prevent the ball from squirming over the line, Calum Biggins eventually credited with the goal. The game had been pretty feisty and 10 minutes from time a visiting substitute was sent off for one outburst too many at the referee as there were lots of niggly tackles from both sides. One of these challenges resulted in another visiting player receiving his marching orders right at the end of normal time. There was even time for yet another Ashton and Backwell player to be sent off near the end, though this time it did seem a bit harsh for what looked a reasonable tackle.

The game had been a decent one, and although the referee got a bit of stick, it was only the final sending off that it had been debatable. It might have been a small crowd of 38, but some of the fans got involved too, with the Wellington number 11 getting some stick from visiting fans. He did respond on a couple of occasions, but generally did well to avoid the baiting. After the game I noticed I needed more fuel, so had to stop to fill up at Morrisons in Taunton. From there it was a decent journey home and I tuned into Liverpool's Radio City on my phone to listen to their chat show on the way back. It was Neil Fitzmaurice, who played 'Ray-Von' in the brilliant Peter Kay sitcom 'Phoenix Nights' that kept me entertained. I got in at 12.10, going to bed pretty much straight away and watching TV until 1am. I had a good nights sleep,l not waking until 10am. It was towards the end of my week off, and to be honest I saw no more football than I would on a normal week, though I had at least had a proper rest this time. It had been an expensive and unhealthy time too, but at least I'd got 2 long distance ticks done.


THE PLAYING FIELD is a fairly typical setup for step 6, and is set in a pleasant public park. Most of the facilities are on one side - the small original stand which is a mixture of seating and standing, plus the dressing rooms and bar which offers a satisfactory range. I didn't see any food or merchandise for sale, but the basic programme is decent for £1. In addition there is a newly installed metal stand with a capacity of just under 100 to bring them up to standard for step 5 football. The rest of the ground is open hard standing.

The ground is situated right next to a public car park, which charges up until 6PM, so you may wish to use the free street parking in Victoria Street which is near the Police Station. The town is out of the ground and to the right, this has an excellent Wetherspoons and many other pubs and takeaways. If you opt to go left towards the free street parking, you will find The Dolphin pub which is a real gem, and the best option if you are not looking to eat. There are also many takeaways in the immediate vicinity of the ground should you be pushed for time.