Sunday, 15 September 2019

AFC Mansfield - Forest Town Arena

AFC Mansfield
Forest Town Arena
Clipstone Road West
Forest Town
NG19 0EE

07973 491739

Ground Number: 779
Saturday 14th September 2019
AFC Mansfield 3-2 Rainworth MW
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round


The club was established in 2012 by three former Mansfield Town directors unhappy at how the club was being run. Having secured a ground at the local Forest Town Arena, the former home of the Central Midlands League side of the same name. They too were admitted to the CML, playing in the North Division. Despite beating Yorkshire Main 16-0 in September (a club record) and only dropping eight points all season, they would have to settle for a runners-up spot behind Dronfield Town. They'd win the title in 2014, earning promotion to the Northern Counties East League. AFC Mansfield would spend two years in Divison 1, winning promotion to the Premier Division in 2016 after finishing as runners-up to Hemsworth Miners Welfare. The success continued and in 2018, after a 3rd place finish, the club won promotion to the NPL D1 East. Despite a tricky start to the season, they recovered to finish 15th but were demoted back to the NCEL at the end of the season due to ground grading issues. A steady start has been made to the season, with the team sitting in 8th at the time of the game.

In the FA Cup, AFC Mansfield's best run came in 2016 when they beat Shepshed Dynamo, South Normanton Athletic, Stratford Town and Coalville Town, prior to a narrow 2-1 defeat to Stamford in the 3rd Qualifying Round. They matched that again the following season, going out to Boston United in front of a record crowd of 613. A good run was had last season, their only in the FA Trophy. They beat Soham Town Rangers and Hednesford Town before a 2-0 defeat at Pickering Town, all three ties going to replays. In the FA Vase, the 5th Round was reached in 2015 - Teversal, Holbrook Sports, Gedling Miners Welfare, Shepshed Dynamo, Mickleover Royals & Chadderton were beaten before a 3-0 home defeat to fellow NCEL side Tadcaster Albion. Local cup wins include the Notts Intermediate Cup in 2013, CML Challenge Cup in 2014 and the Toolstation Charity Cup in 2018. The club is based in Forest Town, a suburb of Mansfield which has a population of 11,812.


Around a week or so ago, I decided to drive to a Saturday game for once, as all the games that I could do on the train would mean expensive fares. I contacted Anwar and he said that he fancied either AFC Telford, Ilkeston or another that escapes my memory. After telling him the petrol costs, he opted for Ilkeston and with me having been there, I had to find an alternative. There were two FA Vase games roughly 17 miles away - Blidworth Welfare v Sherwood Colliery and AFC Mansfield v Rainworth Miners Welfare. I couldn't decide, so I put a poll on Twitter. The AFC Mansfield game took an early lead and held it, eventually scooping 61% of the 46 votes that were cast. I found out around 2PM on Sunday and spent that afternoon researching the club before I went to a game at Shefford Town & Campton in the evening. I'd had a late night, about 1am but had my best night's sleep in ages, waking up at 9. This meant that I didn't have a great deal of time to spare. I had breakfast and a bath before getting dressed and heading out to meet Anwar at 10.15. I was there half an hour later and I met him and his son Hicham with us soon on our way. The M1 must have been knackered around Milton Keynes as we were taken up to Northampton and put on there. It was also a slow start on the motorway where the 'smart' motorway is taken five years and counting to upgrade.


 We finally got to Ilkeston at 1 and went in search of lunch. The Bath Street Fish Bar did the trick, the deal was sealed when I saw that they did battered Mars bars, a treat I've not enjoyed since the mid-1990s in the Lake District. With gravy and chips eaten before that, the whole meal came in at £3. Time was running out by now and so I didn't have a look around all the shops that I wanted. I got some Irn Bru and crisps from B&M Bargains and headed back to the car After dropping my passengers off at 2.15, I headed off to my game. For whatever reason, the stream of BBC Three Counties wasn't working, so I had to make do with Radio 5. Surprisingly, Gillingham v Wycombe was one of their featured games and so it was nice to be able to listen to the build-up on my drive north. Google Maps had been an asset for avoiding traffic, but it just navigated to a random spot near the ground, arriving at 2.50. Not being sure where the car park was, I parked across the road and walked. It turned out to be a good move as the car park was pretty full. I paid my £7 entry which included a paper ticket and headed to the bar for a pint of Strongbow which came in at £3.30. The teams were already out on the pitch when I emerged from the bar and I got a good view from the raised area, despite the pitch being a long way away. Rainworth had bought decent support and both sets of fans got behind their teams. AFC Mansfield has enjoyed a fairly decent start back at step 5 level. They'd won both their home league games 2-0 against Knaresborough Town and Eccleshill but had yet to win on the road, a 4-2 defeat at Stavely Miners Welfare followed up by a 2-2 draw at Handsworth in their latest game on Tuesday. A 1-0 home victory over Graham Street Prims had got them this far in the Vase, but in the FA Cup, they'd gone out to Barwell following wins over Sleaford Town & Heanor Town. They were third-bottom a step below in the East Midlands Counties League and were yet to taste victory in the league this season with defeats at Clifton All Whites (1-2), Sherwood Colliery (0-1) and Clipstone (2-5) as well as home draws against Ingles (2-2), Belper United (2-2) and Hucknall Town (0-0). They'd got this far with a 2-0 victory at Saffron Dynamo. Just 3.5 miles separated the two clubs and it had been a pretty close run thing in last season's FA Cup clash with AFC Mansfield winning 1-0.

 It was the hosts that had the better of the early exchanges, but they didn't test the keeper. However, Rainworth would take the lead with their first chance on 11 minutes. A long goal kick from keeper Warren Squires appeared to have been dealt with by home player Nicky Darker, but his scuffed backpass was gobbled up by Cal Lytham who only had to slot the ball past the home keeper from just inside the area. There was then a spell of dominance by the visitors, AFC Mansfield having to rely on chances on the break, notably on 26 minutes when Ross Duggan's dipping volley forced Squires into a good save. Rainworth were reduced to ten men on 31 minutes, Jermain Palmer sent off for flinging an arm out into an opponents face. Despite being a man light, the visitors doubled their lead on 33 minutes, Declan Brewin's close-range shot was followed up by AFC Mansfield keeper Hugo Warhurst, but the same player was on hand to tap in the rebound. Three minutes into stoppage time, the hosts got a goal back. A great ball by Ross Duggan found Jordan Annable who smashed the ball home on the volley from around ten yards out. The first half had seen the visitors much the better side and maybe they deserved more than a single goal lead. The second half was a different story however and AFC Mansfield would equalise on 53 minutes when a weak goal kick was intercepted by Jack Warwick who nodded to strike partner Duggan who finished from out on the right from around 10 yards. Duggan nearly returned the favour on 62 minutes, providing a good square ball for Warwick, but his strike partner couldn't get a touch on the ball. The hosts got what turned out to be the winner on 82 minutes when a long throw caused chaos in the area and Brandon Webster drilled home into the bottom right-hand corner. Rainworth did have a couple of chances to equalise but home keeper Warhurst was quick off his line to avert any danger.

It had been an excellent contest for the fans in attendance, which has not yet been announced but looked to be around the 250 mark. It was 5.05 by the time I left and I needed to get petrol so stopped at the local ASDA. With me all filled up, I listened to the phone-in on TalkSPORT 2 before meeting Anwar and Hicham at Ilkeston, where they'd seen the home side triumph 3-0 against Market Drayton Town. At 6PM we switched over to Wycombe Sound, listen to coverage of the Wycombe game where we'd lost disappointingly 2-0 to struggling Gillingham. By all accounts, it sounded a poor performance. Our local side Risborough Rangers had enjoyed a notable win at higher league Wembley, winning 3-1. I was happy with my choice of game, the alternative in my poll had seen Sherwood Colliery triumph 5-0 at Blidworth Welfare. It had been a good day out at a nice club and with the others had enjoyed their day too we headed south in a positive mood. It was back to TalkSPORT 2 for the phone-in with Norwich City recording a shock victory against Manchester City one of the main talking points. We got back to Aylesbury at 7.50, stopping at Lidl on the way where I got a pizza for dinner and a four-pack of cider. I may have bought more had I known I'd got none at home, especially with the grim thought of work at 4am in the morning. It was probably for the best in the end, but I had to conserve my cans as it was nearly 11 by the time Match Of The Day came on. It was a later than usual night, with me going to bed as soon as the duller games came on. I wasn't in the greatest of moods the following morning and it turned out to be a typically miserable Sunday with me having a long shift thanks to others phoning in 'sick'.



THE FOREST TOWN ARENA is a venue that doubles up as speedway tack, so views from the flat area are not the greatest, especially with the five-foot-high fences. The far side is shut off to spectators in any case but the view from the elevated area is good. This comprises of some terracing and some mainly uncovered seats, as well as a covered seated 'Arena' stand at the side.  At a guess, I'd say there were around 200 seats and 300 terrace spaces, as well as room for a decent amount standing around the pitch. The best view is to be had from the top balcony where the bar is with another 100 spaces there. Talking of the bar, it's large and well decorated and has TV sports channels. The range is pretty decent and I believe there is real ale but no real cider. I didn't try the tea bar, but it looked to have a decent choice at good prices. There was no club shop, but I did see people wearing various bits of merchandise. I didn't see anything of note around the area, but it's not far from the centre of Forest Town.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Shefford Town & Campton - Shefford Sports Club

Shefford Town & Campton FC
Shefford Sports Club
Hitchin Road
SG17 5JD

Official Website

Ground Number: 878
Friday 13th September 2019
Shefford Town & Campton 0-6 Riseley Sports
Beds County Premier


The club was established in 1910 as Shefford Town and they would spend the first 40 or so years of their history playing local football. In 1952, they had a three-year spell in the South Midlands League, winning it twice and finishing as runners up once. A few years were spent in the Parthenon League where Shefford Town finished as runners-up in 1956. A four-season spell in the United Counties League followed more success with the team winning the league in 1961. In 1962, the club moved back to the South Midland League, winning the Premier Division in 1982 and 1983. They were relegated to the second tier in 1990 and left the league altogether in 1994, folding a few weeks later. It wouldn't be until 2009 when the club reformed, as a youth team at first, then entering the Bedfordshire County League. The following year, they merged with local side Campton and this bought about immediate dividends with the club winning the Bedfordshire County League Premier Division in 2012, 2018 and 2019. The latter of these coincided with them improving facilities and so for this season they took a place in the Spartan South Midlands League for the first time in 25 years. Their reserve side took the first team's place in the Bedfordshire County League Premier Division, but have yet to win, sitting 12th out of 16 teams.

Little success has been enjoyed in the FA Cup, with a couple of 1st Qualifying Round appearances in the 1950s. Likewise in the FA Vase, the club has lost every single of the five ties that they have played so far. There's been some success in local cups, the Bedfordshire Senior Cup in 1950, 1953 and 1955, the Brittania Cup in 2011 and 2014 and the East Bedfordshire Charity Cup in 2015. The town of Shefford has a population of just 5,800 but has it's own brewery, Banks & Taylor as well as a decent amount of other facilities.


With me having one of my 'drinking nights' with the England game on Tuesday, the plan was always to have a sober Friday and thankfully, a football match was available to fill the void of a few cans. Originally, it was due to be a revisit to Harefield United for the local derby between Broadfields United and Hanworth Villa. But looking at my blog, I'd already written a fair bit about my last visit there. Therefore, I was glad to see another option come up, slightly further away at Shefford Town & Campton but with the bonus that fellow hopper Anwar would be joining me. The day of the game was the usual hard slog at work, with my usual seven-hour shift. I spent the afternoon at home, finding out, that thanks to a poll on Twitter, I'd be off to AFC Mansfield v Rainworth Miners Welfare tomorrow. I was a bit late leaving, but thankfully traffic was good and I met Anwar and his son Hitcham as planned at 6.10. It took us an hour to get to Shefford as we had to use lots of small roads due to the remote location. I relaxed in the bar whilst waiting for kickoff and all in all it seemed a tidy setup. It gave me time to catch up on Twitter and get some pictures before the game started. I realised I'd left my drink at home, so got myself a pint of Magners Dark Fruits for £3.80 form the bar, slightly breaking my plans of not drinking.

The hosts were sitting in 12th, yet to win a game, having drawn 2-2 with Queens Park Crescents and losing 4-1 to Stevington and 1-0 to Flitwick. Riseley were doing a lot better, sitting in 5th. They'd won both their away games - 6-4 at AFC Kempston and 3-0 at Bedford Albion but losing 7-2 at home to AFC Oakley. The floodlights came on pretty late, just a few minutes before kickoffs, but the hosts never really switched on. The Riseley Sports #9 missed an open goal following an excellent attack down the left but it wouldn't be long before his side got on the scoresheet. The opening goal came after 25 minutes, a neat finish from just inside the area that took a slight deflection on the way in. Ten minutes later, the lead was doubled, this time a penalty awarded for handball was neatly tucked away by #10. On 37 minutes, the game was all but over, a well-worked move leading to a close-range finish. The visitors went on to have another goal disallowed before the break for a foul and just before half time, the one chance that Shefford created was blasted over the bar. Riseley Sports has another disallowed goal after the break, a player rounding the keeper but his effort was ruled out for offside. Just before the hour break, it was the goal of the game, the ball was played to #18 out on the left and he curled a great shot into the top corner. Ten minutes from time, it was 5-0, this time a half volley from inside the area which clipped the post on the way in. Shefford had their best chance just before the end, but the visiting keeper was on hand to make a good save. The visitors made it 6-0 with the last kick of the game, a lob over the keeper which compounded the home side's miserable night. We made a quick getaway and although the route was even more random than the one on the way there, thanks to road closures, we were back in Aylesbury by 10.40. We were all peckish, so stopped at the Jade Garden Chinese where I had salt and chilli chips. After dropping the lads off, I was back home by 11.20, watching Corrie before going to bed.


Shefford Sports club is a basic but smart and tidy venue for the level. The ground is fully open aside from a small area of standing cover, holding around 50. It looks as if a similar-sized seated unit will be added in the future, as the foundations are there. The bar is smart and of a fair size and drinks choices include Magners, Magners Dark Fruit, Coors, Fosters and Estrella on draught as well as bottles. There didn't appear to be any food tonight, but there is a tea bar that may open for first-team games. The centre was a fairly short way and although I didn't go, the Woolpack looks a good bet for a pre-match drink.