Saturday, 9 December 2017

Forest Hill Park - Ladywell Arena


Forest Hill Park FC
Ladywell Arena
Silvermere Road
Catford
London
SE6 4QX






Ground Number: 749
Saturday 9th December 2017
Forest Hill Park 0-5 Stansfeld
SCEL D1





FOREST HILL PARK - A BRIEF HISTORY


The club is a fairly young one, having been established as recently as 1992. The club got their hame from the local areas of Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park.Formative years were spent in the Crystal Palace & District Sunday League before a switch to Saturday football and spells in the Bromley & District & South London Alliance Leagues. In 2008, Forest Hill Park joined the Kent County League. They won Division 2 West in their second season, earning promotion to Division 1. They've been there ever since, though name changes meant the league became the Keni Invicta before settling on the SCEL D1 at the start of last season. Their best ever finish of 5th came in 2015, this season has seen a fairly average start and at the start of the game, the team sat in 13th place.

Forest Hill Park have not yet participated in the FA Cup, but this season they made their bow in the FA Vase. The 1st Qualifying Round saw an epic 4-4 draw with East Preston down in Sussex before they won the replay 1-0. However, they lost 5-0 in the 2nd Qualifying Round at CCL Premier side Balham. Local honours include the West Kent Challenge Shield in 2011. The club is based in Catford, most famous for hosting greyhound racing up until 2005. Famous people with links to the town include boxer Henry Cooper, singer Cat Stevens, army hero Andy McNab and comedians Ben Elton & Spike Milligan.



MY VISIT


Once again I’d decided to let the train take the strain for my Saturday groundhop. With nothing obvious that I fancied in the Birmingham area, I decided that it would be another trip to somewhere in London. It turned out to be a good decision - had I decided to head to Birmingham, I’d have to buy the tickets a couple of weeks in advance to get a good price. With predicted frozen temperatures proving true, it was good to be able to walk up and get a great price on the day. There were 4 choices of new grounds that were doable for me, these being Forest Hill Park v Stansfeld, Kent Football United v Sporting Club Thamesmead, Meridian VP v Gravesham Borough and Worcester Park v FC Deportivo Galicia. Despite being a fairly poor ground from what I’d seen, my preference was for Forest Hill, due to it being the only one with a couple of decent pre-match pubs nearby. It also had the benefit of a backup option on 3G at Cray Wanderers should the game suffer a late postponement. My backup was even offering free entry to all, which made up for the fact that it would be a revisit, albeit one that I fancied doing for a Bromley game.



I woke around 9am on the day of the game, following a late night. After watching Corrie and researching today’s game, I had a cheeseburger for breakfast before leaving at 10.40. I got to Amersham at 11, waiting 5 minutes for a train. After changes at Harrow On The Hill and Finchley Road, I got to London Bridge station at 11.10. Normally this is my pre-match venue thanks to a cider stall at Borough Market, but not today. Instead, it was a walk to the overground station before a train to Catford Bridge. On the journey, I turned on notifications for both of today’s games, should I need to head elsewhere because of a frozen pitch. The train even went past the ground, with the pitch looking ok. From the station, it was a 10-minute walk to my first pre-match pub, the Blythe Hill Tavern. It had an excellent range of ciders, around 12, although they tended to be on the sweet side, rather than my preferred dry. Even so, there was plenty of scope for new tries and a half of Turners Apple Pie cider kicked me off. I watched the first half of West Ham v Chelsea, with the hosts surprisingly 1-0 up. My second half was a Millwhites Hedge Layer, another nice cider. My third and final half was Millwhites Rum Cask, yet again decent. By now, it was getting on for 2pm so I decided to start walking towards the ground, looking for a cash machine and dinner along the way. All in all, the pub was a cracker, nice and friendly and a good choice of drinks. I stopped at Morley's takeaway, as recommended by sweary Youtuber John Gage and had a double steakburger with fries and drink for £3.50. It was OK, nothing more, but at least it was cheap and filling, even if there were better options.



I still hadn't found any cash machine by the time I reached the ground, aside from one that charged £1.85 for withdrawals. I decided to head towards the local Wetherspoons, the London & Rye in the hope that I'd find another. It came up trumps, £20 withdrawn at Halifax before I popped into the pub to see what they had on offer. With my favourite cider, Black Dragon on offer at £2.89 a pint, it would be rude not to, so a swift pint was sampled before I made my way to the ground, arriving just before kick off. I paid £6 to get in, this included a programme and was a fairly standard price for this level. The first half was fairly equal, visitors Stansfeld netting just before half-time through Adam Ball who slotted into the net after the initial effort was parried. The second half saw Stansfeld step up a gear and they doubled their lead on 49 minutes with probably the goal of the game when Michael McKenna's rising shot found the top corner from the edge of the area. A curling shot hit the bar for the visitors before they got their third on 57 minutes when Billy Jolley rifled into the roof of the net from the edge of the area. Billy Shinners capitalised on some indecision in the home defence on 80 minutes thanks to a mix up between the keeper and a defender, but it was a good through ball in the first place. Adam Ball got his second of the game on 84 minutes to wrap up the win for Stansfeld, the video of his first goal is below.


A post shared by Russell Cox (@russ_wwfc) on

After the game, I made my way to Ladywell station, just over 10 minutes away. It was a 10-minute wait for my train, which was a nice simple journey to London Bridge. I then transferred to the underground, changing at Finchley Road before my final train back to Amersham. I changed at Harrow On The Hill to get my final train to Amersham, which arrived just before 7. Somewhere in between, I lost my hat. I have many spares, but it was my favourite one and very warm. I was home at 7.20, trying to find out the goalscorers for today's game. The rest of the evening consisted of a couple of drinks, I'm a Celebrity and Match Of The Day. It will be London for the third trip in a row for my next game with QPR v Charlton Athletic in the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday.



THE GROUND

THE LADYWELL ARENA is not the most inspiring of grounds, with it having an athletics track, although you can stand on the track, unofficially, to get a good view of the game. The sole area of cover is a 100 capacity metal seated stand, whilst the rest of the ground is flat standing. The fence around the pitch means that people can stand outside for free and many people did that when I visited, albeit not for the whole game. There’s a reasonable tea bar at the ground, this doubles up as the bar too, with cans available. Less than 10 minutes away is Catford town centre, this has many outlets including the London & Rye, a decent Wetherspoons.

SCORES ON THE DOORS

1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
An athletics venue, but well kept (4)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Lots of choice food wise and good public transport links, unsure about parking though (7)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
A nice welcome from the gateman (7)

4: Value for money
£6 including programme was reasonable (7)

5: Social Media & Website
A bit lax on the updates, but not bad (6)

6: Programme
Not a lot to read, but free with entry, had all the facts (5)

7: Game entertainment
A bit one-sided in the end (5)

8: Tea Bar
Not bad for the level (7)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Very basic, only cans (3)

10: Club Shop
None (-)

TOTAL SCORE OUT OF A POSSIBLE 90: 51
AVERAGE SCORE: 5.66


GROUND PHOTOS

Friday, 8 December 2017

Fulham U23 - Motspur Park





Fulham FC Training Ground
Motspur Park
New Malden
KT3 6PT







Ground Number: 748
Friday 8th December 2017
Fulham U23 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion U23
Premier League 2






FULHAM RESERVES - A VERY BRIEF HISTORY

Fulham FC have long had a reserve team, although records on their exploits are very limited. The early 1900s saw them have two teams, playing both in the Southern League and London League. They were Southern League Division 2 champions in 1905 and London League Premier Division champions the following year. The 1980s and 1990s saw them compete along with my own team Wycombe Wanderers in the Capital League and the clubs met a number of times over the years. Large financial investment saw them rise to the top two tiers and in turn, they have joined the Premier League's academy setup. In 2002, they joined the FA Premier Reserve League South, staying here until 2012. Finishes ranged from a runners-up spot in 2003 and 2012 to a bottom-placed finish in 2003. Clashes with Wycombe include the 1997 Doxhill Cup final, which Wycombe won 2-0. Sadly, I couldn't find a report for that game, but I have found a clipping from less than two years later where the Cottagers backup team got their revenge, thumping us 9-0.



MY VISIT

I always love a bit of Friday night football, but this Saturday appeared to have drawn a blank. That was until Sutton United fan and fellow hopper Ryan contacted me to tell me that he was attending the Fulham v Brighton & Hove Albion U23 game, being played at Motspur Park. Despite being Fulham's training ground, it was actually a worthwhile venue and would be a decent setup for a step 5 team from what I'd seen. I decided it would be a nice trip on the train, the only doubt being the weather which had decided to suddenly suffer a big freeze. I decided that I'd just keep my eye on Twitter to minimize my chances of a wasted journey. The days before were very busy with work, a game at Bromsgrove, as well as catching up on my blog. I did at least manage to get some of this blog done, recalling the time when Wycombe's reserves were hammered 9-0 by their Fulham counterparts.



It was a busy day at work on Friday and as a result, I didn’t get home until nearly 2. There was just time to catch up on things and have a bath and a change of clothes before heading out at 3. I had to collect a prescription on the way, but with that done, I headed to the station, arriving just before 3.30. I got to the station in the nick of time, getting the 3.36 to Marylebone before changing again at Victoria before I got my final train to Raynes Park. Getting the train on this occasion was actually slightly more expensive and time-consuming than driving, but the ability to be able to put my feet up and type my blog, rather than get annoyed at the Friday evening traffic made it worth it. On the journey, I decided my game for tomorrow - Forest Hill Park v Stansfield. It was far from the best ground, but there were a couple of good pubs nearby, plus a couple of 3G backups not far away. It would be another train trip too, something I was enjoying after a recent large bill for my car’s service and MOT.



I got to Raynes Park at 5 and headed for what was my 150th different Wetherspoons - The Edward Rayne, named after the shoemaker who had emigrated from the USA to the UK to start up his business. It was busy, but well above average. To start, I had a pint of Thatchers Gold, along with the Brie and Bacon Christmas burger. My second was a nice pint of Marcle Hill, a retry but very nice all the same. Finally, I had a small mulled cider to warm me up for the final leg of my journey. I got to Motspur Park station at 6.15 but then had a near 15-minute wait as the level crossing went through its machinations. Finally, I was on my way, getting to the ground at 6.45. After paying a very reasonable £3 to get in, I met up with Ryan and also a couple of new people - Trent and Tony the Torch. Myself and Ryan went around and got some pictures of the ground before sitting in the stand for the first half.



The game was a turgid one, with very little attacking quality. When the goal did come though, it was a cracking effort by the Icelandic forward Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson who curled a shot home from the edge of the area. The hosts had started to have chances by now, but Brighton seemed content to soak up the pressure. The second half improved a bit, Fulham having the better chances, but it was Max Sanders who equalised ten minutes from time with his low shot getting Brighton’s equaliser. The hosts had a chance to win it, but a good double save from Brighton keeper Robert Lynch-Sanchez ensured the points weee shared. This ensured both teams continued their unbeaten runs, but it was far from inspiring fare. The company had been good though and with Ryan and his dad leaving 10 minutes before the end, I chatted to Trent about 1990s Fulham players that I recalled from past games watching them. 

There were plenty of delays and it wasn’t until 8.55 that I left. There was another lengthy wait at the level crossing, so it wasn’t until 9.15 that I got my train to Waterloo. I got there about 9.40, from where it was a long walk to the platform to get the Jubilee Line to Finchley Road. Astonishingly, the last two trains were almost instant with the last leg to Amersham more often than not involving a long wait. I got back to Amersham at 11 and was home 20 minutes later. I stayed up for a few hours, having a couple of drinks while I watched Corrie and typed my blog. 



THE GROUND


MOTSPUR PARK is Fulham’s training ground first and foremost, so it’s not really designed with the fan in mind. Even so, it’s a pretty smart venue, with a couple of areas of cover. The main stand has a capacity of 300ish and is built into the changing rooms. I believe the seats have been rescued from the old Johnny Haynes stand at Craven Cottage. There is further cover behind the the goal in the form of a metal terrace, this holds around 350. The best of the ground is open flat standing, with just the two sides open to spectators. The capacity is around 1000, with a tea bar being provided. Apart from that, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to Motspur Park station where a number of pubs and takeaways can be found.

GROUND PHOTOS

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Coventry United - Butts Park Arena


Coventry United FC
Butts Park Arena
Butts Road
Coventry
CV1 3GE

Official Website
Twitter





Ground Number: 747
Wednesday 6th December 2017
Coventry United 3-3 Bromsgrove Sporting (3-4 Pens)
FA Vase 3rd Round Replay







COVENTRY UNITED - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club is fairly young one, having been formed in 2013 by four supporters unhappy with the way Coventry City was being run. In one of many farcical decisions by SISU, the club had suffered an alarming fall from grace and was being forced to groundshare at Northampton following a failure to agree on a lease at the oversized Ricoh Arena. Their first season was spent in the Midland Combination Division 2 (then step 8) and despite a 28-0 win over Polesworth United (the club's record win) towards the end of the season, they would have to settle for a runners-up spot behind Kenilworth Town. It was good enough for promotion, however, with 2014-15 being spent in the newly formed Midland League D2. Again they were promoted, this time as champions and they repeated the trick when they were Midland D1 champions in 2015/16. Since then, they have competed in the Midland League Premier Division. Following a decent 8th place finish in their debut season. This season, they have moved to Coventry Rugby's Butts Park Arena, after previously sharing at Coventry Sphinx and the Alan Higgs Sports Centre and currently sit 6th in the table.



Coventry United have been entering the FA Cup for the past couple of seasons, having their best run in their debut season of 2016/17. Starting in the Extra Preliminary Round, they beat Shawbury United (after a replay) and Lichfield City before a 2-0 defeat at home to the local side and Southern League Bedworth United in the 1st Qualifying Round. As for the FA Vase, they are currently enjoying their best-ever run.Starting in the 1st Qualifying Round, they progressed with a 3-1 home win over Tipton Town.The next round saw a 2-1 victory on home soil against Stone Old Alleynians.They'd have to travel in the 1st Round, but came away from Lutterworth Town with a 3-2 victory. The last round saw a thumping 6-0 win at Quorn before Saturday's 1-1 3rd Round game at Bromsgrove Sporting. Locally they won the Midland League Presidents Cup in 2015 as well as being runners-up in the Birmingham FA Vase the previous year.




MY VISIT

With me completing the top 232 teams in England with my visit to Tiverton Town on Saturday, I was looking out for a midweek game. With step 3 having been finally completed, there were no other leagues that I was looking to complete and could, therefore, concentrate on the best grounds and games. One that ticked both boxes was the FA Vase 3rd Round replay between Coventry United and Bromsgrove Sporting with the original game having been drawn 1-1. It would mean having to do a game on Wednesday as opposed to my usual Tuesday, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make to see a decent game. Fellow hopper Anwar would finally be doing a game with me again after a few weeks break and he was in agreement that it was the best match to go for. So I planned it in, instead, spending my day off on Tuesday at home instead of going to a game. I spent some of the evening doing my research for the following day - both in regards to club history as well as parking and food options at the ground. I'd had a good night's sleep on Monday night, getting up at 11.30 on Tuesday morning, however, it was a problem when it came to the following night as I was wide awake and only got around an hours sleep before waking at 4 am.



As a result, I was knackered the following morning and was hoping for a light day. It turned out to be the case, but even so, I didn't get back home until 1. I managed to get a few hours sleep, waking up at 4.15, getting my stuff together and leaving at 4.30. The journey over to Aylesbury was a pain - usually taking 25 minutes, I arrived in Aylesbury an hour later to mean Anwar. The main culprits were an inconsiderate tractor driver who decided to take his 10 MPH vehicle out on a 60 limit road in the middle of the rush hour, plus a prang further along the route that was only just being cleared as we sped up. The general traffic was busy too, but even so, it's never taken longer than 40 minutes away. I eventually picked Anwar up and we were soon on our way. Thankfully the rest of the journey was a lot better and Simon Mayo on Radio 2 kept us company until we reached Coventry at 6.55. After navigating the city's complicated one-way system we parked up in a street near the ground. Some dinner was in order and we chose the Spon End Fish Bar near the ground which provided us with a reasonable portion of chips for £1.70. From there, it was a couple of minutes to the ground where a ticket was purchased for £7 at a booth before going through the turnstile. I didn't bother with a programme as I had a paper ticket but I did buy a pen from the club shop for £1. I bumped into fellow hoppers Laurence and Tony and it was nice to catch up. After walking around the ground, I took a seat in the stand which offered a great view of the game.



The visitors started very well and were ahead after just 4 minutes. A good corner was put in from the left, but the defending was poor and Guy Clark headed home unchallenged from inside the six-yard box. It was 2-0 on 18 minutes, the same sort of thing as the first goal, although this time the corner was from the right and Richard Gregory was the beneficiary from around about the same place as the first goal. The half-hour saw Bromsgrove nearly make it 3-0 but between defender Chris Cox and keeper Richard Morris, the hosts just about kept the ball out of the net. Coventry United's defending from set pieces had been questionable all night, but there was no denying that Jason Cowley's free-kick was a cracking effort on 40 minutes. This put the visitors into a commanding 3-0 halftime lead and with the stats reading 9 chances to 1 at the break. The first 35 minutes of the second half still gave no indication of what was coming. The hosts were certainly enjoying the lions share of the possession, but chances were limited and those that they did have were spurned. On 80 minutes, Lewis Rankin's cross-cum-shot from the right had side went in to give Coventry United what looked like a consolation, but suddenly they had their tails up. Aaron Opuku had come on as a sub and breathed fresh life into the Coventry side and when his cross set up Craig Reid, the striker looked set to score. He hadn't bet on visiting keeper Reece Francis making an amazing save though and so as the game approached full time, Bromsgrove still had a two-goal lead. IN the final minute, Jack Jayes put a cross in from the left for Coventry from a free kick and in the confusion, a deflection off of Bromsgrove defender Daniel Morris looped over his keeper. Game on seemingly, even with time running out. A huge scramble and a handball claim saw a corner awarded and a great save by Francis saw another corner, this time it was scrambled home by Jack Jeys.



It had been an absolutely bonkers comeback and the equaliser sparked jubilant scenes. Extras time saw the madness continue with Chris Cox clearing off of the line to prevent Bromsgrove retaking the lead before Opuku hit the post for Coventry. A last-ditch corner saw the hosts have a late chance to win the game, but another great save from Francis saw the game go to a penalty shootout. The first 6 penalties were all successful - Reid, Wint & Jones all scoring for the hosts and Quaynor, Cowley & Morris all netting for Bromsgrove. Reece Francis had been great all night and had come close to saving Morris's penalty. Jack Jeys stepped up confidently but the keeper guessed right and made a great save, Next up was Bromsgrove captain Craig Jones, but the kick was straight down the middle and was saved by Coventry keeper Richard Morris. Lewis Rankin stepped up for the 5th but shanked the ball wide with a pretty lame effort. All that John Pykett had to do was score to send the visitors through, but his shot hit the left hand upright. Coventry United breathed again but it was a shame when Francis made the save of the shootout from Opuku, the man who had played a big part in turning the game around. This time Max Loveridge made no mistake to send Bromsgrove Sporting through and spark jubilant scenes and a pitch invasion. It was heartbreak for the home side and something that no side deserved after a cracking contest. Highlights of the game are below, including a great commentary.



It had turned out to be an epic game, that I certainly didn't see coming at halftime, when Laurence joked that it was guaranteed to go to extra time and penalties with me up at 4 am. Though I'd be tired the following day, I was glad that it had, just for the entertainment levels. Talking about halftime, I'd an excellent portion of beans and chips for £1.50 which was much better than what was on offer outside. I was somewhat surprised with the declared attendance of 205, with it looking a lot more than that but Laurence confirmed that it was accurate. Certainly, Bromsgrove bought at large contingent and both sets of fans were in good voice. The atmosphere was good, but the game deserved a much bigger attendance than that. We eventually got away at 10.40, with me dropping Anwar off at midnight. I was home myself 25 minutes later, though I didn't get to sleep for ages. It was another tiring morning, but I did at least catch up with a few hours sleep the following afternoon.



THE GROUND

The BUTTS PARK ARENA is the home of Coventry Rugby club and is a pretty decent venue. By far the biggest area is the main stand and this holds around 2500. Views from here are excellent and legroom here is great. Behind both goals is open flat standing, with the 4th side closed for football. This is more open flat standing, with a small area of cover. Capacity is set at 3000 for football and 4000 for rugby. There is a car park at the ground, costing £2, or free street parking nearby. 

The club shop was above average for this level, with a good range of stock. The bar was pretty standard, but the tea bar was the best bit, offering great value and choice. There are even more options around the ground, plus some cracking pubs in the city centre, which is around 15 minutes walk away.

SCORES ON THE DOORS

1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
A decent stand, with as good as views as you are likely to find at this level. (7)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Plenty of street parking and food and drink choices. Walkable from the city (7)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Everyone I met was great (8)

4: Value for money
Slightly above average, but it was worth it for a game of this magnitude (6)

5: Social Media & Website
Both are decent (7)

6: Programme
Didn't purchase (-)

7: Game entertainment
First half didn't suggest what a game this would become (9)

8: Tea Bar
Excellent choice and value (8)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Average (6)

10: Club Shop
Good range, plus a few old programmes (7)

TOTAL SCORE OUT OF A POSSIBLE 90: 65
AVERAGE SCORE: 7.22
3RD OUT OF OVER 40 MATCHDAYS REVIEWED THIS SEASON

GROUND PHOTOS