Saturday, 18 February 2017

Sherwood Colliery - Debdale Park

Sherwood Colliery FC

Debdale Park

Debdale Lane
Mansfield Woodhouse
NG19 7NS

Ground Number: 670
Friday 17th February 2017
Sherwood Colliery 3-0 Pinxton
CML South


Though there was a Sherwood Colliery club that played in the FA Cup in the late 40's and early 50's, this incarnation of the club were only founded in 2008. They started out in local Nottinghamshire Leagues prior to joining the Central Midlands League in 2012. Starting out in the North division, they struggled, finishing in the bottom half of the table in all 3 seasons. However, a transfer to the South Division in 2015 has seen an upturn in fortunes. They finished 5th last season and have improved on that this season, sitting 3rd at the time of play, but some way off the pace for the sole promotion spot that could see them go up to the East Midlands Counties League or Northern Counties East League.

This season saw Sherwood Colliery enter the FA Vase for the first time, and they did themselves proud. Starting out in the 2nd Qualifying Round, they travelled to NCEL Premier side Clipstone. Despite their hosts sitting two levels higher, they came away with a 3-1 victory. They were made to travel again in the 1st Round, this time to NCEL D1 pacesetters Penistone Church. A victory was again achieved, this time by a 2-1 scoreline. Their journey ended in the 2nd Round when they were drawn away at Westfields. Despite putting up a heroic performance at then Midland League leaders Westfields, they lost 3-2 to a club that had a long unbeaten run this season and reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup around the same time.


I'd spotted this match a couple of weeks ago and thought nothing more of it. Both of the hoppers that I normally go to games with had turned down several opportunities in recent times, so when all the games were a fair way away on this Friday, I thought that it might be too expensive to afford on my own. However, one of the hoppers Chris contacted me out of the blue asking did I fancy Downham Town next Tuesday. After confirming that I did, I asked him whether he fancied doing this game. Happily, he accepted, so it meant that I'd be seeing some Friday night football for the first time in a while. I'd been hoping to do a revisit to North Greenford United on the Wednesday for their Allied Counties Youth League game against Sandhurst Town, but it was called off due to a deluge of rain, and so the second half of the week dragged a bit, what with work.

On the day of the game, I was working as usual, and it was a busy Friday. I didn't get out until 1.30, but at least I had a couple of hours rest before leaving to meet Chris in Milton Keynes at 3.55. The journey started well with the roads being lighter than usual. However, I hit a snag on the A413 near Leighton where a spot of roadworks caused a two-mile tailback and a 15-minute delay. It meant that I got to Chris's work at bang on 5 and only had to wait a couple of minutes for him. It was a fairly reasonable journey with us getting there at 7.05. The car park was already packed so we had to park out on the lane. The first priority was to secure a programme and after going to the turnstile, we were directed to the bar to pick one up. Due to the demand, they were printing them out to order and as it was an inkjet printer it took a fair while. All in all I was queuing for half an hour to get a copy, but at least I had a pint of Strongbow and other hoppers to chat to. Also, to the club's credit, everyone that wanted a programme got one, which isn't always the case if they order them from an external source. I was also pretty peckish, but due to the club hosting a 50th Birthday party, the tea bar was closed. It was a shame as the bumper crowd could have netted them vital funds in food sales.

I'd seen Sherwood Colliery once already this season - back in January, they showed their cup prowess against a full-strength Carlton Town side, going 2-0 up before tiring and losing 3-2 to a very late goal. This time they were on the winning side, without too much resistance from Pinxton. A ball across the six-yard box allowed Liam Theakstone to finish from a few yards out on 28 minutes. Nine minutes later, the lead was doubled. This time it was a close range finish from Ewan Robson that gave the hosts a 2-0 lead to take into the break. The second half was a bit more restricted in terms of chances, or maybe it was because I was busy chatting to other hoppers. The most notable incidents were a couple of robust challenges which thankfully were honest ones and didn't result in serious injury. The game was sealed in injury time when Jamie York's low shot made it 3-0. There was even time for another goal to be ruled out for offside as Sherwood Colliery cruised to a convincing victory.


There had been a bumper 138 crowd attracted to this game which was yet another example that Friday night football attracts several new fans, yet most leagues remain blind to this fact. It had also been a great opportunity to catch up with several hoppers that I'd not seen in a while such as Rob, Alan, Ken and Chris B amongst others. A decent evening in great company. We were both still hungry then, so after leaving around 9.50, we decided to pop into Mansfield on the way home. It was a town I know reasonably well, having been to see Wycombe there several times. First stop was the Beer Shack pub where I got a couple of pints of Ancient Warrior cider to take out. It's one I've had before, but it's very good and it would be a nice retry. We needed feeding, and really fancied a Chinese, but with the Vodafone internet slow and unusable in the town we had to settle for the Bodrum BBQ Grill where I had a mixed kebab calzone and Chris had a normal pizza. It was nearly 11 by the time that had been cooked and eaten and with lots of lane closures and even an entire closure on the M1 on the way home, I didn't drop Chris off until 12.30. I got in myself at 1.15. I'd planned to save my cider for Match Of The Day tomorrow, but it was just too irresistible to leave until then. So I had it while catching up on my YouTube subscriptions. Despite having been up since 4 am, I was still wide awake. At least my couple of pints helped me drop off, with me eventually getting into bed at 3.15.


DEBDALE PARK is a smart and tidy ground with a railed pitch and hard standing on 3 sides. There's also a small area of cover which has a few seats at the back but is mainly used for those who wish to stand. I didn't see much for sale bar programmes and badges in terms of merchandise. The clubhouse is pretty decent, with real ale as well as Strongbow and Strongbow Dark Fruits on tap. There are plenty of TV's showing live sport too. Normally there would be a decent looking tea bar, but due to a party, it was closed when I visited.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Hucknall Town - Watnall Road

Hucknall Town FC
Watnall Road
NG15 6EY

Ground Number: 669
Saturday 11th February 2017
Hucknall Town 2-0 Eastwood Community
Central Midlands League Cup Quarter Final


The club were founded in 1943 as HUCKNALL COLLIERY WELFARE. They started out in local Nottinghamshire leagues, and in 1987 changed their name to HUCKNALL TOWN. For the first 2 seasons, the rebranded club remained in the Notts Alliance, finishing as champions on both occasions. For the following season, 1989/90, they joined the Central Midlands League, in it's wonderfully named Supreme Division. The success continued, with a further 2 championships  in their first two seasons at the new level, then after finishing as runners-up in 1991/92, they joined the NCEL for the following season. They were an instant hit here, finishing as runners-up to Lincoln United in their first season, and winning promotion to the Premier Division in the process. They struggled for the first few seasons, but improved to finish 6th in the 1996/97 season. The following couple of seasons saw a repid rise up the leagues. The NCEL Premier championship was followed up by a runners-up spot in the NPL Division 1 as they lost out to Droylsden on goal difference.

The turn of the century saw them compete for the first time in the NPL Premier, and after 4 seasons of consolidation, they won the league in 2003/04, gaining promotion to the newly formed Conference North. That season remains their highest ever finish, as their new home was actually at the same level on the non-league pyramid. Under normal circumstances, they'd have gone up in to the Conference Premier, but their ground was deemed insufficient for the top-tier of non-league football. Despite finishing 10th in their first season, the nest few seasons saw a gradual decline and after being reprieved from relegation in 2007/08 they went down the following season, after a bottom placed finish. Back in the NPL Premier for the 2009/10 season they spent two seasons here, then another two in the NPL D1 South following another couple of relegations. Their last season of 2012/13 saw another basement finish, with 4 wins all season and 171 league goals conceded. Financial issues had been dogging them for a while, and as their namesake Mick Hucknall once sang 'Money's Too Tight To Mention' For that reason they took the decision to drop 3 leagues into the step 7 Central Midlands League South. 2013/14 saw a season of rebuilding and consolidation, but for the past few seasons they have been trying to start the road to recovery. 4th and 3rd placed finishes have been followed up with another promotion challenge this season, sitting 4th with games in hand at the start of the game.

The club were FA Trophy finalists in 2004/05. Despite taking the scalp of former football league side Hereford United in the Quarter-Final they lost in the final on penalties to Grays Athletic, in a match played at Villa Park. Hucknall Town have never actually made it to the 1st Round of the FA Cup, though they have reached the 4th Qualifying Round five occasions. There have also been a couple of good runs in the FA Vase, reaching the 5th Round in 1990 and 1998. Locally, several league cups have been won, as well as the Notts Senior Cup on six occasions, as well as the Notts Intermediate Cup and Notts Junior Cup.

A number of famous players have turned out for the club, including future football league goalkeepers Saul Deeney and Stuart Nelson. The dugout has also seen a number of football league players including Phil Starbuck, Kevin Wilson, Andy Legg and Des Lyttle.  Hucknall was once a mining town, and until more recently was the home of Rolls-Royce for engine testing purposes. Former residents include former Nottingham Forest defender and one-time Wycombe loanee Steve Blatherwick. The town is twinned with Kramolna, a small village in the Czech Republic.


I'd been wanted to visit Hucknall for a few years, as it was a decent ground. The town also looked a decent one too, with me visiting the excelllent Beer Shack micropub to get some takeout cider on the way back from North Ferriby earlier this season. Time was running out though, as they were leaving the ground for pastures new at the end of the season. With them playing in a small, 15-team league, midweek chances were extremely rare. I had tried to visit them for a game in March last season on my way back from Manchester. But after getting as far as Stoke, the game was called off and I had to turn on my heel and make my way back up to Cheadle Town, one of the few games on that night. The Saturday I chose to visit, Wycombe were at Stevenage, and although I'd have liked to go, there was no way I was paying the ludicrous £24 they were charging.

Even with me having to bear the cost of travel on my own to Hucknall, the day out would still probably work out cheaper than Stevenage. I'd tried to persuade fellow hoppers Anwar and Chris to accompany me, but they were busy elsewhere, despite the former having Hucknall as a ground he really wanted to visit. I always like a bit of Friday night football, and on the previous day I was overwhelmed with choice. The two favourites were Appleby Froderingham (involving an overnight stay before my game at Hucknall the following day) and Ely City v Haverhill Rovers. I'd discounted the former as it was a bit too far, and that was just as well as it was called off at lunchtime. On the day of the game, it was a busy Friday at work as per usual, and I finished at 2PM. As I travelled home, I was sceptical whether the game would actually go ahead, however a morning tweet by Ely City said that there were no pitch inspections planned. I had myself a bath and came back to see an update that there had been snow, and they would let us know if there was any inspection planned. No news was communicated for a while, and at 4.30 I decided against risking it, instead spending the evening catching up on things at home.

On the day of the game I woke around 8.30. having had a late night the night before. I grabbed some breakfast and had a bath, before going online. Even at this hour, plenty of games were falling to the weather, including one of my preferred backups at Retford. I made up my flask before leaving at 10.15. On the way I listened to The Two Mikes on TalkSPORT and the journey started pretty well. As soon as I hit the M1 though, the delays were frequent. In the worst part of the jams, I was able to check my phone and see matches falling like dominoes in the area that I was visiting. I was seriously worried that I'd be struggling for a game. However, simultaneously, Hucknall Town tweeted that the game was on, and the traffic magically cleared. From there on, there were no more issues and I arrived in Hucknall after half an hour delay at 1PM. To save time, I decided to park up halfway between the ground and town.

First stop was the brilliant Beer Shack micropub, an establishment I had stopped at to get some takeout cider on the way home once before. It didn't disappoint, having 12 real ciders on offer. My first half was a retry of Kentish Pip Craftsman, and I went on to try a new cider in Lyme Bay Honeydrift. As a fan of dry ciders, the former was definitly the better one. I also got a couple of pints of Lyme Bay Driftwood to take out. This was the only one I didn't get to try in last years Wetherspoons Cider Festival. I was glad to get my hands on it at last, and it would be my last of the evening, as I was saving it to have with Match Of The Day later on. From there I went for a wander down to to the town, which was a lot smaller than I expected. It does the job fairly reasonably well for shoppers, but it is a drinkers paradise, with a number of other decent establishments including a Wetherspoons and another Micropub. I was in the hunt for food, but after nothing grabbed my fancy, I started walking back to the ground, hoping to get something en route. However, all the places I had eyed up on the way to the pub were now shut, so I ended up walking back into town. It turned out to be a good choice - I went to a place called 'Hank Marvin's' where the Breakfast Bap and chips turned out to be generous in portion and very tasty.

With time not on my side, I walked back towards the ground. I paid £4 to get in, plus £2 for a mediocre programme, that was sold for about twice what it was worth. It had some decent stats, but the rest was mainly adverts and stuff that was cut and pasted. The ground was certainly impressive though, and very similar to North Ferriby. You have to wonder if the rules have become more relaxed, and where Hucknall Town would have been now, had they been allowed to compete in the Conference Premier following their promotion, and given a years grace to make improvements, as I believe Ferriby were. The game was a decent contest, if not a classic, with both teams fairly equal up until Hucknall Town opened the scoring on 39 minutes. It was a good cross from deep on the right hand side that was headed in at the far post by Matthew Brian. The hosts started to have the better of the game from then on, and they doubled their lead fifteen minutes from time. This time it was a bit of a mistake from Eastwood keeper Jack Walker, when he came out to clear, but didn't make proper contact with the ball. It hit a Hucknall player and the ball was deflected to Jaylee Hodgson to finish into an empty net.

That was how it stayed until the end, and Hucknall progress into the semi finals, though with the other 3 ties postponed today, they will have to wait to see who they are playing. The game finished quite late, and what with going to Tesco to get a couple of bits I needed, I didn't leave Hucknall until well after 5.30. I'd enjoyed my day, and was certainly glad that I'd decided to visit Watnall Road before it went, opposed to paying £24 to watch Wycombe lose 3-0 to Stevenage, in what was described by manager Gareth Ainsworth as our 'worst performance of the season. I got home just before 8PM, spending the evening doing very little. I enjoyed the Football League highlights and Match Of The Day, having my cider that I'd bought earlier. I had planned to go to the FA Sunday Cup game between Omonia and Chessington United the following day, but a combination of a late night and forgetting to set my alarm meant that I overslept by nearly four hours. I turned up 3 and a half hours late after rushing in, but I thought it would have been disingenuous of me to walk out at my normal time. Luckily it was a pretty easy day, but it meant that my next game would be on Tuesday when I am revisting Hillingdon Borough for their Middlesex Cup semi-final game against local rivals Harefield United.


WATNALL ROAD is an excellent ground for the level, with it being fully covered on two sides. The ground has a capacitu of 4000, around half of which is covered, and 270 which are seats. There is a covered terrace at the far end of the stadium, whilst the one remaing side is open flat standing. There is a club shop at the ground, but it was closed on my visit, instead they were selling hats, scarves and badges behind the bar.

Talking of the bar, it's pretty decent, though it does get a bit crowded at half time. Here is where they also sell food, and though I was disappointed at the lack of pies, my half time chips at £1.50 were decent value. If you want more choice, the town is 15 minutes walk away. Here, The Beer Shack is excellent for real ales and ciders and Hank Marvin's is pretty good for food.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Sutton Athletic - London Hire Stadium

Sutton Athletic FC
London Hire Stadium
Lower Road

07788 446495 (secretary)
Official Website

Ground Number: 668
Tuesday 7th February 2017
Sutton Athletic 1-4 Whitstable Town
SCEL Challenge Cup Quarter-Final


Sutton Athletic were formed in 1898 and for the first 70 years of their existence would stick to strictly local football. In 1968 they made the step up to the Kent County League. Times were generally successful here, both in leagues and cups, but they did suffer relegations from time to time. In 2007 they found themselves in the Kent County League Division 2 East, at step 9 of the non-league pyramid. That year, they finished runners-up, wich was good enough for promotion, and what followed was a highly successful time at the club. Promotion followed again at the end of the 2008/09 season, again as runners-up, this time in Division 1 West and they followed that up with an impressive 3rd place finish in their first season in the Kent County Premier. DEspite an 11th place finish in the league the following season, they were invited to join the newly established Kent Invicta League at step 6 of the pyramid, therefore earning themselves promotion. They've remained there ever since, with a best ever finish of 3rd in 2013/14. This season, the league has been renamed the Southern Counties East Division 1 and Sutton Athletic sit in 5th, some way off promotion, but looking good to maintain their record of never finishing outside the top half.

Though the club have not yet entered the FA Cup or FA Vase, they can boast of a good record in local cups. The Erith Hospital Cup has been lifted on 11 occasions, whilst they have won the Dartford League Cup seven times. Probably their most impressive feat was lifting the Kent Senior Trophy in 1975, whilst there have also been wins in the Inter Regional Challenge Cup and the Mallinson Hospital Cup as well as a host of League Cups during their time in the Kent County League.


With fellow hopper Anwar going to Wycombe's Checkatrade Trophy game at Coventry City, I knew I'd be on my own this Tuesday. I'd been boycotting the competition due to it's inclusion of Premiership reserve teams and so I wasn't even tempted to have a night off and watch it on Sky. As I was on my own, it would be a rare trip south for me, with me saving anything north of Aylesbury for when I had him with me. There were ten first choice options in all, with me creating a Twitter list so I could keep an eye on all the feeds at once. It had been the usual miserable Monday at work, so I was just glad to get home after nearly 11 hours slog, and chill before a decent night's sleep.

On the day of the game, I awoke just after 9am, feeling nice and refreshed. I caught up with things and had breakfast and a bath before walking down town to get some shopping. Whereas last week I had not bothered, it was double my usual walk this week as I didn't have my Dad to give me a lift back, given that my folks were on holiday. When I got back around 2.30, I put all the results into a map online, to see which were closest together. I also eliminated Sheppey United and Poole Town (potential for good pubs would be wasted when I wasn't drinking) and Hillingdon Borough (a revisit that could be saved for when time was tighter) There were two that were close together - Sutton Athletic and Corinthian. I chose the former as it was a cup game, therefore there had to be a goal. Fellow hopper Splodge had this game as one of his possibles, whilst John was heading for my backup at Corinthian. It would mean that I'd be 'ticking' a ground in the SCEL D1 for two games running, having been to Eltham Palace on Sunday. I received disappointing news that fellow hopper Anwar didn't fancy Chelmsford City v Tranmere Rovers tomorrow, so unless I find something very near or in the south again, it will be a night off.

After a dinner of sweet chilli sausages and sweet potato fries, I left at 4.45. Amazingly, there was minimal delay on the M25 and I was in the vicinity of the ground at 6.25. However the postcode given was a bit of a dud, and I couldn't see the ground for love nor money. No matter how slow I drove, I couldn't see the entrance, nor was it apparent on the satellite view of Google Maps. I thought the only option was to ring the number given on the website, and this sorted me out a treat. It turned out I was a mile off, and once given the instructions, found the ground with ease. I was given a really friendly welcome as the gateman shook my hand and offered me a go on the football card. I accepted and chose Wigan as my team. An excellent thick programme was included in the entry fee of £6, and I knew despite initial troubles, I'd made the right choice for tonight. I went in the bar and watched some of the build up to the Coventry City v Wycombe Wanderers game on Sky. I'd hoped to watch some of the game, but there was a 15-minute delay to kick off meaning it kicked off in tandem with my own game, rather than the advertised 7.30 kick off. I went outside with around ten minutes to kick off, and found myself a spot on the halfway line.

The hosts came into the game in excellent form, having won their last 3, including a 9-0 victory over Snodland Town on Saturday. Whitstable were no slouches either, despite their last game a week ago when they lost 1-0 to Ashford Town. Last time I'd seen them they were in the Isthmian League, but having been relegated at the end of last season, they were in 6th place in the SCEL Premier. The game started well, with both sides having spells of pressure but it was visitors Whitstable that took the lead on 25 minutes. A low cross was put in and Kane Rowland netted from a rebound following an attempted clearance. Home keeper Charlie Beardsley had to be in good form to prevent the lead being doubled a few minutes after. The respite only lasted five minutes though, for on the half-hour Bola Dawodu headed in from a few yards out. It was another header from a corner that reduced the arrears for Sutton Athletic back into it on 40 minutes, this time it was Mick Mills who brought them back into the game. Beardsley continued his fine form in the home goal with a couple of great saves, so it was still competitive going into the half-time break. Whitstable Town made the game safe in the second half - on 61 minutes came the goal of the game as Charlie Smith curled a shot into the top corner from 30 yards, then seven minutes from time, Smith turned provider as his cross was bundled home at the far post by Kane Rowland for his second of the night.

At half time I saw that Wycombe were losing 2-0 to Coventry. However, my mood was heightened when it was announced that I had won the football scratch card and pocketed myself £20. Wycombe went on to pull a goal back and lose 2-1. It was a bit of a double edged sword for me, yes it was a worthless competition and I'd get fed up of people asking why I wasn't off to Wembley had we won, but it had been good financially for the club and it would have been nice for the fans that did want a day out. I left at 9.45 and made good time home. Without anything decent on the radio, I put on the Grange Hill CD that I'd bought off of eBay recently and had some decent 1980's tunes to accompany me on the trip home. There were a plenty of lane closures on the M25 and some poor sod got flashed by a speed camera. I was wise to the scam and so was going slow enough to avoid getting fined. There was further delay to my journey a mile or so from my house, where some roadworks had faulty traffic lights that were permanently stuck on red. After sitting there for 3 minutes I got fed up and went through a fairly small patch of roadworks with no issues. I got in at 11, relaxing for a bit and catching up online before going to sleep just after midnight.


THE LONDON HIRE STADIUM can be a bit tricky to find if you use the stated postcode, so to save anyone who is thinking of visiting, it's a mile from the town, it's listed under White Oak Wanderers on Google and the nearest turning is School Lane. Once you get there you are given a lovely welcome and £6 gains you entry and an excellent programme. The bar is bright and welcoming, and has Fosters and Strongbow Cloudy cider on tap, as well as bottles in the fridge. There is also hot food such as burgers and chips available, a very good range for the level.

The ground is very basic, with just the one small area of cover for 50 people and a few random benches dotted around for those who wish to sit. I heard that no plans are in place to expand the ground, and the club are happy at step 6, so hopefully the authorities will leave them be. The people there are really friendly and the programme is excellent and included in the admission price. Well worth a visit overall in my opinion.