Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Wisbech Town FC - Fenland Park

Wisbech Town FC
Fenland Park
380 Lynn Road
PE14 7AL

01945 581511

Ground Number: 1116
Tuesday 5h October 2021
Wisbech Town 3-2 Pinchbeack United
United Counties North


Though another Wisbech Town existed in the 1890s, the current club was established in 1920, following the merger of three local teams. They initially played in the Peterborough & District League where they were champions five times. In 1935, they joined the United Counties League, turning semi-professional in the process. Following the end of the Second World War, Wisbech Town were three-time champions before they left for a couple of mid-table seasons in the Eastern Counties League. They then played in the Midland League for six years, finishing as runners-up in 1958. The next stop was the Southern League with the club alternating between the two tiers. Their best finishes came in the first couple of seasons - 9th in the North Western Zone in 1959 and 10th in the Premier Division in 1960.  The club would return to the Eastern Counties League in 1970 and would spend 27 years here, being champions three times. After a runners-up spot behind Wroxham in 1997, Wisbech Town took the step up to the Southern League. A credible 5th place finish in the Midland Division in their first season was followed by fortunes declining and following a bottom-placed finish in 2002, they were relegated to the Eastern Counties League. In 2013, they finished as runners-up to Dereham Town but were then transferred to the United Counties League. A number of decent seasons were spent here before they finished as runners-up to Yaxley in 2018, earning promotion to the NPL's second tier. Finishes here have been unspectacular since returning, with them in the relegation zone in the two abandoned seasons. Last season saw them finish bottom of the NPL D1 Midlands and suffer relegation to the United Counties League.

Wisbech Town have had a number of decent runs in the FA Cup and their best progress has been the 2nd Round which they have reached twice. In 1957, they triumphed 1-0 over third division Colchester United before a narrow 2-1 defeat at Reading. Whereas they played in six rounds during their first run, 40 years later they beat Gloucester City and Billericay Town before a 2-0 home defeat to Bristol Rovers. The club has never pulled up any trees in the FA Trophy but they have twice reached the semi-final. In 1985, they lost out to Halesowen Town in a replay at Nuneaton Borough after the two semi-final legs were drawn on aggregate. In other times, they would have triumphed on away goals but they were to suffer disappointment again the following year. This time Southall triumphed 5-2 on aggregate, though they would go on to lose to Halesowen Town who would win the trophy for the second season in a row.  In terms of league cups, the Eastern Counties League Cup was won in 1951, 1970, 1971, 2011 & 2013 and the United Counties League Cup in 1936. In County Cups, they have won the Cambridgeshire Invitational Cup eight times, the East Anglian Cup in 1988 and the Peterborough Senior Cup three times. The club's record attendance of 8,044 came for a 1957 Midland League game against local rivals Peterborough United. The club record appearance holder is Jamie Brighty with 731 outings and the club top scorer is Brett Titmarsh who scored 246 games between 1931 & 1937. A number of well-known players have turned out for Wisbech, these include Paul Agnew, Keith Alexander, Paul Bastock & Matt Carmichael.  The latter also played for Wycombe Wanderers and the two sides also met in an FA Cup match in 1959. The town of Wisbech is located in North East Cambridgeshire and has a population of 31,000. Other local sides include Wisbech St Mary.



We decided upon these games last Tuesday. I was keen to make use of the blogs that I'd started, only to have trips pulled from under me for some reason. There were eleven in all. some as far back as 2018 such as Fryston Miners Welfare whose opponents left me down for a Sunday League game. It boiled down to a choice of either Wisbech Town v  Pinchbeck United or Shirebrook Town v Nostell Miners Welfare. The former I had tried to visit in September last year, however, the game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. It was slightly nearer than Shirebrook where I had attempted last week, only to have to go nearer to home due to the late arrival of Colin. I'd not be deciding until on the day and would make a decision based on traffic conditions.
After a brilliant groundhop on Friday, I had what I hoped would be a glorious return to Adams Park on Saturday. This proved not to be the case, but it started off well enough. I was pleased with a nice new pair of shoes from Sports Direct for £22. It was then the usual pre-match routine of the Rose & Crown and Prime Pizza, plus a stop at the local shop for a top-up. A meet-up with Anwar amongst others was also great and it was all going swimmingly until around 3:07. That was when Plymouth scored the penalty that they were awarded and that was the only goal of the game. Wycombe saw plenty of the ball but barely got a shot in and therefore slumped to a disappointing defeat. It was then a lazy walk home, a singular pint at the pub before heading for the unpleasantness of Sunday.
The day of the game came and I'd already lost a couple of games for the coming week. Firstly my trip to Asfordby in Leicestershire tomorrow as fellow hopper Chris had suspected Covid. I was grateful for his considerate stance as I didn't want to put my trip to the Netherlands this weekend in jeopardy. Talking of my Dutch trip, I decided to give the middle game on Saturday the elbow as time was tight and I'd also have to get a taxi between the games. It was my usual walk down town where I got a few things I needed. I then spent the afternoon at home before leaving around 3.50. I got to Amersham at 4.05 and Colin was with me five minutes later. It was a bit of a slog over to Anwar with us getting there at 4.50. We then headed to Wisbech, getting there just after 6.40. Toppings was our takeaway of choice and I had a half-pound inferno burger meal for £8.70. This was very decent, even if the prices are creeping up. Talking of that, entry at the ground was a pricey £9 but at least it was a decent ground, albeit let down by a poor main stand.
 Wisbech Town were in disappointing form and had lost five league games in a row, They were in 16th and had last won on 27th August as they triumphed 2-1 at basement boys Heather St Johns. There had at least been some salvation in the FA Vase as they beat Eynesbury Rovers 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw. Pinchbeck were in 13th but were in better form despite a 5-1 reverse at Kimberley Miners Welfare on Saturday. They'd won 2-1 at Potton United in the Hinchingbrooke Cup, 3-0 against Deeping Rangers in the FA Vase and 5-0 against Selston in the league. Former Notts County man Spencer Weir-Daley lined up for the visitors and they edged the game in the early stages. They were ahead after six minutes when Weir-Daley headed home from a corner. It looked to be the same old story for Wisbech but they soon came back into the game. It was a lovely equaliser on 13 minutes, Mo Janneh chipping over the keeper into the top left-hand corner. Soon enough, they were ahead, Chris Assombalonga charging down a botched clearance by the keeper and slotting into the vacant net. It had been an entertaining first half, but Wisbech attempted to close the game out, which made it for a dull encounter. Pinchbeck looked to have grabbed an equaliser on 87 minutes, a shot from Andre Williams that flew in the top corner from some way out. However, there was a late sting in the tail. With the last touch of the game, Chris Ward headed home to win the game 3-2 for Wisbech.
It had been a decent game but a tad harsh on Pinchbeck. The attendance was 115, although it seemed a lot more than that, possibly as everyone was on one side. We got chatting to a nice old bloke during the game and he said that the club had a bit of debt. Maybe that was the reason for their struggling and the higher-than-average admission. I wasn't bothered though, it had been a decent night and game. We left around 9.45 and despite slow roads at the start and finish, I dropped Anwar off at 11.40. Colin was dropped off at 12.05 with me getting home at 12.20. I stayed up until 1 and was glad of my later start at work for once.


The Fenland Stadium is a great ground for the level. Three sides are superb, long terraces behind each goal and a smart side where you come in that has a small bit of cover. I believe one of the ends suffered storm damage, so it's good that it's been fixed. The one side that lets it down slightly is the small metal seated stand, the standard arena unit holding around 100. This has been supplemented by more seats behind the goal and on the other side to get it up to standard for step 4. A good part is the barrier around the pitch has a flat top so you can use it to rest stuff on - unlike when circular poles are used.

The car park is very big and has plenty of space. It is also not far from the town which has a huge range of takeaways and some pubs including Wetherspoons. It's fairly compact from what I saw of it. Decent, well-priced food is available at the ground. They also do a programme, a raffle and merchandise.

Friday, 30 September 2022

Ashland Rovers - Kingsway Park

Ashland Rovers FC
Kingsway Park
Hodgkinson Road
Kirkby in Ashfield
NG17 7DJ

07876 190546

Ground Number: 1115
Friday 30th September 2022
Ashland Rovers 0-8 Mansfield Hosiery Mills
Central Midlands South


As with several clubs at this level, the history of the club is up for debate. They were formed around the turn of the Millenium as Sutton Trinity, a team of youngsters who appear to have no link to the side that competed in the NCEL, CML and Midland leagues during the 1980s. They initially played in the Mansfield Chad Sunday League but when they made the step into adult football, they moved to the Elizabethan League. Their stay here was fairly short and they were known as Arumac FC during this stint. They changed to their current name of Ashland Rovers when they made the move to the Midlands Amateur Alliance. They won the Division 3 title and cup in their first season and progressed to the Premier Division. A spell in the Notts Alliance followed before they joined the Notts Senior League in 2013. They were runners-up to Moorgreen in Division 2 in their debut season. 6th, 5th & 3rd & 2nd place finishes were achieved in Division 1 before they made the move to the Central Midlands League in 2018. They've tended to be around the lower reaches of the table since the move, their best season of 6th came during the abandoned 2020/21 season.

The club plays in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, a market town in the Ashfield District of Nottinghamshire, near Mansfield. The population is around 25,000. The town was once an important centre of coal mining and railways in west Nottinghamshire, with three active coal mines and several railway junctions. Local politics have been dominated by the Labour Party for much of the 20th century; however, Ashfield attracted media attention in the late 1970s with a shock by-election win for the Conservatives. From the 2010 General Election until her stepping down in 2019, the MP was Gloria De Piero, best known for her work with GMTV. She took over from Geoff Hoon, one-time Secretary of State for Defence during the premiership of Tony Blair. In 2019, Conservative Lee Anderson won the seat. He defected from the Labour party in 2018 and caused controversy when he announced via social media in June 2021 that he would not watch any England national football team matches at Euro 2020 in protest at the players' decision to take the knee. In May 2022, Anderson was criticised by opposition politicians, Conservative politicians, food poverty campaigners and charities for suggesting in parliament that there wasn't "massive use for food banks" in the UK and that what use there was related to a lack of teaching on budgeting and cooking. He also invited opposition MPs to visit a food bank in his constituency where he claimed that meals could be made for 30p a day and that also provided a mandatory teaching course to its users.


This game was pencilled in a month ago when Chris spotted that Ashland Rovers were at home this Friday. Options for us to do a game together are few and far between due to Chris' unavailability on most Tuesdays and my reluctance to drive on a Saturday. We had been in the area before, picking up a Chinese on the way to Mansfield Hosiery Mills in 2018, ironically the team that would be providing the opposition on the night that we visited. The game was part of the Central Midlands Floodlight Fridays where games were switched to a Friday evening in a bid to attract more fans. It felt like they hadn't done one for a while, at least not at a new ground with Ashland Rovers being on the radar for a fair while.

Since my last hop at Studley, I'd been to one more game. It was a pleasant walk, nearly an hour each way to watch my second most local side Penn & Tylers Green play Shrivenham in the Berks & Bucks Cup. The hosts were surprisingly struggling in the Combined Counties D1 whilst the visitors were doing little better in the Hellenic Premier following their promotion last season. It was a heck of a journey for a midweek game, around 60 miles and some outdated geography with Shrivenham actually in Wiltshire, however, the Berks & Bucks FA opted to use the 1958 boundaries when it was in Berkshire. As a result, they had a number of players missing but still managed to win 3-2 in an end-to-end game. Both sides showed potential, but also why they were struggling with some questionable defending, but it was great to watch. I was in good company too with a couple of familiar faces and also a friendly person called Dave who was a big volunteer at Flackwell Heath.
I was working on the day of the game but was out at 3, a luxury that I will soon not have with a small tweak to my hours. It was an incredibly busy day, both in terms of orders and people in the store and I got away by 3.10. Busy roads meant that I was not with Chris until 4.35 and then there were more delays on the M1. Overall, nothing unexpected for a Friday evening though. We were at the ground by 6.40 and as the weather had been absolutely rancid, we headed to the ground to check the game was on. The pitch was in excellent shape and with fears allayed, we headed to the Lucky Star Chinese down the road. I had my usual salt and chilli pepper chips, plus a Satay Fantastic. Both were incredible, amongst the best that I've had and were well worth the wait. We eat it in the car park before going in. It was nice that the rain had finally stopped before we went in. The entry was £3 and the programme £1.
It was a clash between the league's bottom two sides who had not had a win six games in. Ashland Rovers had at least won in the Buckingham Insurance Trophy, 3-1 away at CML North strugglers Kiveton Miners Welfare. Other results in September included a 3-1 defeat at Linby Colliery Welfare and a 6-0 loss at Mickleover Reserves. Their last home game had come on 20th August with a 3-0 loss to South Normanton Athletic and their only point in the game before that as they drew 0-0 at Teversal. Mansfield Hosiery Mills had also tasted joy in the Buckingham Insurance Cup, a 6-2 win against lower tier North Of England Academy. They'd gained a point in a 0-0 draw at Derby Singh Brothers in the game before that but had lost 7-0 to Clay Cross Town in early September. Their other point had come in a 1-1 draw at Arnold Town. The game was less than a minute old when the visitors opened the scoring, a swift break and a low finish from the edge of the area by #9. The visitors were much the better side and they had three efforts disallowed for offs, although the whistle had gone long before the first 'goal' was in the net. It was another goal on the break that made it 2-0 on 28 minutes, a left-sided cross was headed home by #8. Ten minutes later, it was 3-0, another swift break and this time it was #11 who was left virtually unopposed to slot home in a very similar fashion to the first. Ashland did have some half chances at the start of the half but on the 55 minutes it was 4-0, a cross from the right was slid home at the back post. The goals kept coming, a fifth was deflected home from point blank range and the sixth, a low shot that the keeper really should have done better on. 7-0 was a low shot deflected in on 63 minutes. Ashland had a good spell around 70 minutes, hitting the bar but the ball just wouldn't go in. Any hopes of a comeback were put to bed with the goal of the night on 85 minutes, a superb shot from a tight angle to make it 8-0.

It was a real shame for Ashland as a club, they had been great hosts and part of a superb league. Around 35 were in attendance and I was in great company. As well as Chris, there was another Chris (Berezai) who was fixture secretary of the league and head of Groundhop UK. Sadly, the dates have not worked out for me on a lot of the weekends but I'm hoping for a weekend in Scotland next March. Also present were fellow hopper Dave Woodings and another hopper Karl Arrowsmith who captured all the goals. This was useful as a couple were up the other end from where I was initially standing. We left around 9.45 and made good time home. I dropped Chris off around 11:15 and got home myself just over an hour later. I typed this blog up and intended to stay up until 3 at the latest with Wycombe Wanderers v Plymouth the next day.

KINGSWAY PARK is a good venue for step 7. It's just the one side that is available to fans, this is railed off and tarmacked. There is plenty of space for a stand to be put in and with that, they'd be good to go for step 6. The club are friendly and they do a good programme. Food and drink facilities are basic, but there's plenty within a ten-minute walk including a Wetherspoons and an excellent Chinese called Lucky Star.