Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Ibstock United - The Welfare Ground

Ibstock United FC
The Welfare Ground
Leicester Road
LE67 6HA

Ground Number: 696
Tuesday 16th May 2016
Ibstock United 4-3 Highfield Rangers
Leicester Senior League - Championship Division


Though there have been several previous footballing sides in the town of Ibstock, this club was only formed in 1979 and has eventually grown to comprise 25 teams of varying ages. The senior side is even newer, being formed in 2015 and taking over the old ground of the former Ibstock United, who merged with and moved to Ibstock in 2013. They started out in the Leicester Senior League, joining its second tier for the 2015/16 season. They finished a credible 5th in their first season as well as winning the Beacon Bitter League Cup. This season they went out of the League Cup at the first hurdle, losing 2-1 at home to Hathern. They've maintained their progress in the league though, sitting 5th prior to the game. They could finish as high as 4th, should they win and County Hall lose at home to leaders and potential champions Hathern. Opponents Highfield Rangers were sitting in 10th place and were a team they recognised and had visited, albeit when they hosted Leicester Nirvana's home games for a few seasons.


I'd planned this game on Saturday when I met fellow hopper Anwar on the train to our respective games in London. I was off to Fulham v Reading, whilst he went to the Combined Counties Cup Final at Bedfont. I had a good day in London, perhaps too good as after a few pints, I fell asleep on the train. I woke up in Stratford shortly before kick off, nice and refreshed, but on the wrong side of London. A mad dash across the capital ensued, but at least I caught the majority of the second half. The day of the game came, and I was glad to get my car back, even if I was faced with a £900 bill thanks to a rogue fox running out in front of me. My car's pathetically built front end, obviously designed to make Renault money through spare parts was to blame too, and as much as I was annoyed at the animal, I was glad that it was unharmed, trotting off as it was hit at under 15MPH.

I came home and double checked that the fixture was still on and was glad that a backup in Anstey Nomads Reserves had appeared, as neither participating club had mentioned the game on their Twitter feed. I did as much research as I could on my blog in the afternoon, though I had to hunt around a bit. I was hoping to listen to Jon Holmes on TalkRADIO, but he was off. Instead, I listened to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 whilst enjoying some Peri Peri chicken for lunch. I watched some Youtube videos later on, leaving at my usual time of 3.30 to meet Anwar in Aylesbury at 4. We had a good journey, apart from Milton Keynes where it was busy and we were at Morrisons in Coalville for 6. After popping in B&M Bargains to get some drinks for the game, we went across to Morrisons Cafe where we both had a curry each and a portion of chips between us. I'd noticed on social media that a few hoppers would be at our game, including both Jack and Ken who I knew. The meal was excellent, but my car also needed some fuel for the way home so I stopped at the petrol station before going to the ground. We arrived at 7.05, parking up and going in. It was free entry, and there were a few familiar faces enjoying the dying embers of the football season.

I found out later that the players even pay to play, that coming from a friendly coach who was chuffed to see we'd travelled so far to see his team. The game started in a fairly open fashion with the visitors having slightly the better of the game. It was they who took the lead on 12 minutes when Ezra Hillhouse's low shot hit the foot of the post before rolling across the line on its way in. It only took a few minutes for Ibstock to equalise, George Hickling headed in from a cross. Twenty minutes into the game a great chip from the edge of the area allowed Chris Reid to restore Highfield's lead. Narjah Francis finished a jinking run with a low shot from just inside the areas on 36 minutes, this gave the visitors a 3-1 half-time lead. Highfield Rangers deserved their lead at the break, but the hosts came out a changed team in the second half. It was a lovely curling shot into the left-hand side of the goal that allowed Chris Acott to reduce the arrears on 51 minutes. Highfield had the chance to score a 4th on 74 minutes, however, the goal was disallowed for offside. A couple of minutes later it was all square, Acott getting his second with a low shot into the bottom corner. The visiting manager was getting animated by now, constantly coming out of his area and barking at anyone who told him to get back inside. Ibstock had a couple of golden opportunities to win the game, but one shot was blasted over when it looked easier to score and another clipped the right-hand post on its way out. Right on full time, the Highfield keeper came charging out of the area and recklessly took out an onrushing home forward. Treatment took a few minutes and from the play that resulted from the free kick Luke Haberman headed come a great cross to give his side a late winner.

The goal prompted jubilant celebrations, which resulted in the bad loser of a Highfield Rangers manager calling one fan a 'disgusting bastard' It was a shame as his side had more than played its part in an epic game which had been one of my best of the season. We said our goodbyes before leaving at 9.30. We listened to the football highlights on Radio 5 for an hour before switching to the Two Mikes podcast. I dropped Anwar off at 11, getting home myself 20 minutes later. I went to sleep around midnight and with an early start at 4 am the following morning, I needed to catch up with an afternoon nap.


THE WELFARE GROUND is an excellent venue for step 8 football, having seen service a couple of steps higher in recent years. It's a bit rough around the edges but has bags of character. There are a couple of covered areas, one with seating on benches for around 60 people and the other some covered flat standing for around 150. In addition, there are plenty of steps of terracing to gain a good vantage point from.

There is a playground behind the near goal which you can watch the game from if you get up high enough and some chose to do this despite the free entry. There's not much in the way of food and drink - the tea bar is only open for bigger games whilst the social club is closed, pending a new leaseholder. There are a few places nearby including a Co-Op shop that does hot drinks and a chippy.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Stourport Swifts - Walshes Meadow

Stourport Swifts FC
Walshes Meadow
DY13 0AA

Ground Number: 695
Tuesday 9th May 2017
Alvis Sporting Club 2-3 Fairfield Villa
Midland League Presidents Cup Final


The club was formed in 1882 and played in local Worcestershire and Warwickshire Leagues for the early part of their history. They joined the West Midlands (Regional) League in 1979, starting out in Division 2. a 4th placed finish in 1986 was good enough for promotion to Division 1 and despite finishing second bottom in their first season, a massive turnaround saw them finish as runners-up in 1988 and earn promotion to the Premier Division. After finishing as runners-up two seasons in a row in 1997 and 1998, they joined the Midlands Alliance. They won that league in 2001 and were promoted to the Southern League. In their debut season of 2001/02, they recorded the best ever finish in the club's history, finishing 8th in the Southern League Western Division, which at the time, was a step 3 league. They couldn't keep up the momentum however and after a long run of lower-half finishes, they were relegated back to the Midland Alliance in 2012. Their first season back saw a good finish of 5th, and although they have dropped slightly since, they have still yet to finish outside the top half, with their latest season seeing a 12th placed finish.

In the FA Cup, Swifts best ever seasons came in 2001 and 2002 when they reached the 3rd Qualifying Round two seasons in a row, losing to Enfield & Hucknall Town respectively. The FA Trophy 3rd Round was reached in 2001/02 and they took former Football League side Chester City to a replay, before eventually bowing out 3-0 in Cheshire. The season prior they had a great run in the FA Vase, reaching the 5th Round before a 4-1 defeat at Tooting & Mitcham. Locally, the club have won the WMRL Premier Division Cup in 1993, the Worcestershire Senior Urn on 4 occasions and the Worcestershire Infirmary Cup four times. The club's record attendance of 1,321 came in a league game against Hereford in August 2015. Stourport-On-Severn is a fairtrade town and was once home to former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin as well as Wolves player Robbie Dennison.


This game had been decided upon on Saturday when myself and fellow hopper Anwar were at the Wycombe game. Despite most leagues having packed up for the summer, there were still a healthy amount of options available to us. The likes of Loughborough and Instock were considered but in the end, we plumped for the Midland League Presidents Cup Final. It was to be contested by Alvis Sporting Club, whose home I had visited earlier in the season with another hopper, and Fairfield Villa. Alvis had got this far by beating Sutton United 3-1, Knowle 5-1 and then Barnt Green Spartak 6-3 in a thrilling semi-final. Fairfield Villa had reached the final by defeating Paget Rangers 4-3, Continental Star 4-0 and Coton Green 4-0. I was hoping that with an average of over 5.6 goals a game that this final would be a thriller, as all too often, finals are tight and tense affairs.

Back to Saturday and by some kind of miracle, Wycombe provided an entertaining game, at least by our standards. All too often this season, the games have been painful to watch and although the 1-0 win over Cambridge doesn't sound much and meant that we missed out on the playoffs, it was a good game to watch and 9th place is not at all bad for a finish. It certainly meant that I looked less gloomily at the following busy two days at work, which included being treated like dirt by a complete jerk of a supervisor. I was, therefore, happy that the day of the game coincided with my day off. Normally I'd walk down town and get a lift back with my Dad, but as my parents were away, I had to do both legs. I did consider sacking it off and spending more time at home, but in the end I knew I needed the 8 miles walk for exercise. It was tarnished slightly by the bread pudding and bag of crisps I eat whilst walking though. I got back around 2.15, catching up on my YouTube subs and starting tonight's blog at the same time. I didn't get as much done on this and the blog I was updating for Reading FC, but by 3.35 it was time to get my stuff together and leave. I got to Anwar's just after 4, and he was there waiting for me. We had a good journey, listening to Jack FM and then Radio 2, arriving in Stourport at 6.10.

We still had 90 minutes left until kick-off and so went in search of dinner. Stourport was a pleasant town by the river. First stop was the local Co-Op. They quite often have some local ciders and this one was no exception with a couple of new ones from Barbourne and a retry of Wobblejuice that is one of the best ones I've tried in the past. After that, I went to Pat's Fish Bar across the road where I had a generous portion of Faggots, Chips & Mushy Peas for £3.20 which were also very nice. After eating up, we made our way back to the ground, stopping at Heron Foods along the way where I got some mint poppets. I also called in at the Bridge Inn where they advertised a 'new cider bar' but as I had already had the ones on offer, I decided to continue with my usual midweek abstinence. We got to the ground at 7.05, paying £5 to get in plus £1 for a decent programme. It was a pleasant spring evening and so I sat on the benches behind the goal while I caught up online and waited for the 7.45 kick off.

The game started brightly, but with Fairfield Villa well on top. Both sides had already hit the post and Stuart Hall had a goal ruled out for Fairfield when they eventually took the lead on 26 minutes when top scorer Connor Collins low shot went into the bottom right-hand corner. Less than a minute later, the same player doubled the lead, this time the Alvis keeper got a hand to the shot from just inside the area but couldn't prevent it going in. Five minutes from half time, the game looked as good as over, Collins completing his hat trick when he poked home a loose ball to make it 3-0. The break came and went and Alvis came out a different side in the second half. They pulled one back on 49 minutes when a free kick was swung in from the right and Kiam Galdins headed home from the edge of the 6-yard area. The game had got pretty niggly by this point and there were plenty of meaty tackles going in and plenty of protests to the match officials. The linesman on our side gave back as good as he got, telling the player in no uncertain terms that his opponent had won the ball and it was not a foul. Both keepers made great saves to keep their sides in the hunt before Dildale Linton set up a tense finish with 6 minutes to go when he charged down the Fairfield keeper's clearance to make it 3-2. Villa clung on after this, clearing two shots off the line in an exciting finish with the post also being hit when the Alvis keeper came up for the last few corners.

Overall, Fairfield Villa deserved their win though, having been the better side overall. We didn't hang around to see the presentation, however, as we both had work in the morning. It was 9.45 and we listened to Sol Campbell's 'My Sporting Life' on my podcast app on the way home. We got back to Aylesbury at 11.30, with me getting home myself 20 minutes later. I didn't get to sleep for another hour and despite being fine when I awoke at 4 in the morning, I was glad to grab 4 hours sleep the following afternoon. The fact that I had to drop my car in for repair and then walk 5 miles home probably helped me sleep, thanks to the recent damage caused by a wayward fox. This might impact on my footballing plans for Saturday would I be without a car. The preferred plan is a treble of Aylestone Park v Tamworth (played at Studley at 11) AEK Boco v Broadwell Amateurs (played at Stonehouse Town at 2.30 and Berinsfield v Saxton Rovers (played at Abingdon United at 7). However, should I be without a car, I'll probably be at the mercy of public transport and go to a cup final at Bedfont which would also put pay to my revisit to Hemel Hempstead on Friday night.


WALSHES MEADOW is a smart and well-kept ground which has seen service higher up the pyramid. The main seated stand holds 250 and the ground has an overall capacity of 2000 with the only other cover being thanks to an overhang on the clubhouse. The clubhouse is decent enough, with real ale in bottles and various drinks on draught such as Strongbow and Strongbow Cloudy Apple. The tea bar offers the usual burgers and chips, although the town is probably a better bet, with a wide range of places within a 5-10 minute walk.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Dereham Town - Aldiss Park

Dereham Town FC
Aldiss Park
Norwich Road
NR20 3PX

Ground Number: 694
Friday 5th May 2017
Wisbech St Mary 0-1 Kings Lynn Reserves
Eastern Counties League D1 Knockout Cup Final


The club was formed under the name DEREHAM FC in 1884 and have been known as EAST DEREHAM and DEREHAM HOBBIES at various points during their history. They settled on their current name in 1991. At the time they were playing in the Anglian Combination, having previously competed in its forerunner - the Norfolk & Suffolk League and the Dereham & District League. The 1997/98 season saw them crowned Premier Division champions and for the following season, they were promoted into the Eastern Counties League. Starting out in Division 1, they started with two solid 7th placed finishes before a runners-up spot behind Swaffham Town in 2001 was good enough to see them promoted to the Premier Division. Bottom half finishes were the order of the day in their first 5 seasons and they flirted with relegation on more than one occasion. However, things soon improved and after finishing as runners-up to Leiston in 2011, they were champions a couple of years later, earning promotion to the Isthmian League D1 North. They've been there ever since, with the best finish coming in their first two seasons when 7th place was achieved. The current season has seen results tail off a bit, with them finishing in 18th, but well clear of relegation. Since their promotion to the Isthmian League, they've fielded a reserve side in the Eastern Counties League, with a best ever finish of 13th in 2014 for a side mainly comprising of youngsters in between the youth and first teams. 

In the FA Cup, Dereham's best progress came in 2012 when they reached the 3rd Qualifying Round before losing in a replay to Metropolitan Police. In the FA Trophy, they reached the 2nd Qualifying Round in 2014 before going out to Sholing. In the FA Vase, the 5th Round was reached in 2008/09 where they lost to fellow league opponents, Needham Market. Local honours include the Dan Frost Memorial Cup in 1998, the Anglian League Cup in 1994 and the Norfolk Senior Cup on four occasions. The club's record crowd came in 2001 when 3000 saw their pre-season game against Norwich City.

The town of Dereham has been occupied since the Bronze Age, with tools following digging found in fields during the 1980's. Dereham was home to the Jentique factory, which manufactured boxes for instruments & bombs during World War 2. Notable people from the town include author Brian Aldiss, with the football club's ground named in his honour. Comedian Steven Fry also married his partner in the town during the summer of 2015.


Despite semi-regular Friday night games in the Eastern Counties League, Dereham had not yet come up as an option when I was available. I'd 'ticked' several in this league with my Braintree supporting pals, with it being a handy option if I wanted to pass through Essex. I was glad when another hopping pal, Chris, decided he fancied this, despite his usual disdain for visiting grounds other than when the occupant's first team are at home, decided he fancied some Friday night football. It was to be the Eastern Counties League Division 1 Knockout Cup Final between Wisbech St Mary & Kings Lynn Town. Wisbech started in the first round with tonight's hosts Dereham Town beaten 2-1. They then ca,e away from Diss Town with a 4-1 victory before a 2-1 victory against Framlingham Town set up a semi-final clash with Coggeshall Town whom they beat 2-1. Kings Lynn Town got a bye to the second round where they beat March Town United 4-0. Whitton United were beaten 3-0 in the Quarter Final before a 2-0 semi-final win over Team Bury set up tonight's final.

On the day of the game, it was a brutally busy day at work, not helped by the lack of equipment, staff and supervisors that pull their weight. As a result, I didn't get away until 3 PM and it was all a bit of a rush with me getting home at 3.25, getting changed and catching up on things before setting off for Milton Keynes half an hour later. The roads were a little busier than usual around Aylesbury, but even so, I was there to meet Chris just after 5. Fortunately, the roads were well behaved and we were at our pre-match meal stop at Swaffham. We'd visited the Hong Kong House Chinese takeaway when visiting Swaffham Town earlier this season and it had been one of the best that I'd been to. Again it didn't disappoint, and my chicken satay skewers and salt & chilli chips were delicious. From there we made our way to the ground, the journey taking a slightly longer than planned 25 minutes, owing to an accident closing the A47. For once it was well managed, with my sat-nav working out an alternative way. Hopefully, no one was too seriously hurt.

We got to the ground at 7.30 and were directed to a parking space by helpful stewards. After getting pictures of the outside of the ground, we went in, paying £5 entry plus £1 for a decent programme. First stop was the bar for a pint of Aspalls which was nicely chilled and well kept. As it was in a plastic glass, I was able to take it out pitchside to watch the game. It started fairly slowly, but King's Lynn's young reserve side were the better team. The only goal of the game came on 40 minutes and it was a stunning strike by Kyran Stannard from 30 yards that gave King's Lynn the lead and ultimately the game. At half time, I went and got some chips. Due to a bigger than anticipated crowd, the tea bar was overwhelmed and as a result, I had to wait 20 minutes for my food. At least when it came it was freshly cooked, tasty and great value at £1.20 a portion. The second half started in the same lethargic fashion as the first had ended. The last 20 minutes of the game were a little better with Wisbech St Mary crashed a shot against the bar. Generally, their shots were wayward too and during a rare but correct free kick awarded against them for a pass back they had a couple of players booked for dissent but the free kick for King's Lynn came to nothing.

I was keen to get away after the game, as I wanted to visit Morrisons before it closed at 10. The only problem was, I was trapped in due to us being parked tightly together. Any one of around seven cars could have moved and I'd have been fine, but they were all inside watching the cup being presented. I had to wait 15 minutes for everyone to emerge, but luckily I made the supermarket with 5 minutes to spare. The reason for this mercy mission? A box of Morrison's vintage cider that had been out of stock for weeks in the Wycombe store. It was one that I had yet to try and luckily there was plenty in deepest Norfolk. I got that along with a couple of bottles of Irn Bru before topping up my car with fuel and leaving at 10.15. There was little traffic around at this time of night and the Two Mikes podcast kept myself and Chris company as we headed home. I dropped him off around midnight getting home myself at 12.45. A couple of pints of cider were consumed whilst I watched TV and wrote up my blog, With tomorrow's Wycombe v Cambridge game not kicking off until 5.30, there was no rush for me to get to sleep and so it was a fairly late one for me.


ALDISS PARK is a well-appointed venue, just off the A47 and around a mile from the town. As a result, there is not a huge amount in the immediate vicinity of the ground, but there are a few places en route to the town. The facilities at the ground are decent though. The bar does Aspall cider which is a pretty decent one if all a little too common in these parts. There are various other choices on draught as well as bottled ales from a local brewery. The food choice is decent and tasty, although you may have a bit of a wait if it's busy. As for the ground, it's mainly open with a smart main stand and a small area of 'Arena' standing behind one goal. Total capacity is 2500, with covered seating for 150 and covered standing for 125.