Saturday, 21 January 2012

Halesowen Town - The Grove

Halesowen Town FC
The Grove
Old Hawne Lane

West Midlands
B63 3TB

0121 550 9433
Official Website

Matchday Number: 109
Sunday 21st August 2005
Stourbridge 3-0 Glossop North End
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round


Halesowen Town were formed in 1873, making them one of the oldest clubs in the West Midlands area. They started out in local leagues such as the Birmingham Combination and Birmingham & District league. In 1962 they joined the West Midlands Regional League, staying in its top tier for the entirety of their stay, this despite finishing bottom on 2 occasions. Things quickly improved however, and after being champions 4 times in a row, they joined the Southern League in 1986. Starting in its second tier Midland Division, they adapted to life in their new surroundings very well. Never finishing below 6th, they went up to the Southern Premier in 1990. 1993/94 saw them have their best league finish so far, 3rd in the Southern Premier, which at the time was at step 2 of the non-league pyramid. They've generally remained the ever since - in 2 out of 3 of the seasons they bounced straight back. The only extended spell at what is now step 4 came for 3 seasons between 2011 and 2014 with 2011/12 seeing them finish a disappointing 12th in the Southern League D1 South & West. The following season saw them switch to the NPL for geographical reasons, and they've remained there ever since. They earned promotion to the Premier Division in 2013/14 as champions of NPL D1 South and have since had a couple of mid-table finishes.

In the FA Cup the club's best progress has been the 1st Round, a feat that they have achieved on 9 occasions. The last of these occasions was in 2004/05 when they suffered a 2-1 defeat at Yeading. In the FA Trophy they have reached the 3rd Round on 3 occasions, but it's the FA Vase that has seen the most incredible successes. They won the competition twice in a row in 1985 (beating current football league side Fleetwood Town 3-1) and in 1986 (beating Southall 3-0). Locally they have won the Worcestershire Senior Cup four times, the Birmingham Senior Cup twice and the Staffordshire Senior Cup once. They also won the Thorne EMI 6-a-side tournament in 1983. Played at Crewe Alexandra, the prize was massive for the club at the time - a £20,000 set of floodlights that allowed them to realise their ambitions of Southern League football.

The club's nickname is the Yeltz - the reason is unclear, but it's thought to describe someone from Halesowen. The town itself is historically famous for its button factory and famous people to have lived in or be linked with the town include Led Zepplin frontman Robert Plant, comedian Frank Skinner, footballer Lee Sharpe and TV presenter Bill Oddie. The football club itself have produced a number of players who have progressed to the football league including Stuart Cash, Dean Spink, Andy Pearce and Sean Flynn. 


During the previous summer, I had decided to try and do a game in every round of the cup. Normally people consider the FA Cup as starting in November at the 1st Round or in January at the 3rd Round as it gets very little media coverage in the national press until these rounds. But it actually starts in (hopefully) sun-baked August afternoons, with clubs right down to the tenth level of the English league system. This match would be my first in the early rounds of the competition, but it's a thing I have gone to cherish and now I got to as many FA Cup games as I can manage each season. This game was between Stourbridge and Glossop North End, who were contesting a Sunday game at Halesowen's ground. They played here as Stourbridge's War Memorial Athletic Ground is shared with the local cricket club, and their games take priority during the summer months.

Due to the exhaust on my car being blown and making a hell of a racket, I had to get the train to this game. Birmingham to High Wycombe return was a reasonable £15 that day, even though I paid on the day which is normally stupidly expensive. Once I got into Birmingham I got the local bus to Halesowen, which dropped me off at the bottom of the road that the ground is in. As it was still 1PM, I had time for a few pints in the club bar, where I bought a programme and chatted to a fellow groundhopper whose partner was at the V Festival in Birmingham, hence him coming to see this game as it was local. I later got to know that hopper as Laurence, thanks to the power of social media, and he has gone on to be a good friend. After that I went into the ground and bought myself a lunch of Spring Rolls and Chips, served from an old caravan. In the end it was a decent game, and a hat trick from Mark Bellingham won it for Stourbridge in a game they dominated.


I'd been wanting to revisit Halesowen's ground for a long while, and it was also fairly near the top of fellow groundhopper Anwar's hit list. With there also being a great and cheap Asian takeaway & restaurant in the town, it was never going to be long before we paid a revisit. However, Halesowen very rarely came up in our lists of options when we were planning our games. So I was glad when the draw was made for the Doodson Cup and they were drawn at home in a fairly local game against Rushall Olympic. The competition is much maligned and managers tend to put out much-changed sides in these games. It's a shame as I've seen some great games in the Southern League's equivalent, the Red Insure Cup. It also went straight to penalties if it was a draw, without having to endure a period of extra time. So if I was going to see a goalless draw for the 3rd Tuesday in a row, there would at least be a bit of drama at the end of it.

I'd had a busy 11 hour day at work the previous day so I was glad of my normal day off on the Tuesday as it meant I could get a good night's sleep for once. Before I'd gone to bed I'd done a bit of research for tonight's game and found that entry was a bargain £5 which was most welcome. I also started doing some work on the blog for the game, though after half an hours work my poxy PC crashed and lost all my work which I was not pleased about. I woke on the day after a reasonable night's sleep. Normally I'd walk down town for the exercise, but on this occasion I couldn't be bothered. Instead I stayed in and started updating my blog, researching Halesowen's history and generally tidying up points about my last visit. I thought I'd kept the programme from my last visit, but I couldn't find it after a search, so I must have been mistaken. Whilst doing my research for tonight's blog I discovered that I'd seen both sides play, Rushall on their own patch when they beat Grantham in 2013 and Halesowen with away victories at Sheffield and Bedworth.

I left home at 3.40 as I needed to get some drinks for the game before I met Anwar. He was there waiting for me at our agreed meeting time of 4.30 and we were soon on our way. The traffic is usually OK this way, but tonight it was poor with lots of slow spots and 30 minutes delay overall. We got to AK Grill at 6.50. This was the third time we had visited this place for dinner, and it had been top notch every time. Tonight was no exception as I had the best Samosa I have ever had, along with a great curry and rotis, all for little over a fiver. From there we drove to the ground, getting there just after 7.30.

Paying £5 to get in plus £2 for a programme, there wasn't much time to spare until kick off,  thanks to the earlier traffic. I grabbed a few pictures but the game was soon upon us so I grabbed a spot standing on the halfway line. Halesowen went ahead on 15 minutes when George Bowerman's surging run was finished confidently from just inside the area. Rushall had a much better second half and they got a deserved equaliser with 10 minutes remaining through Alex Reid. It was a good strike from some way out, though my view of it wasn't the best of it as I was up the other end now, sheltering from the rain. Rushall were in the ascendancy now and they had the vast majority of the play in the closing stages of the game. However it was not enough and I'd be seeing my first penalty shoot out since Wycombe lost to Southend United in the playoff final at Wembley in May 2015. This shootout was really a lesson in how not to take penalties as only half were scored. Rushall had former Macclesfield Town keeper Jose Veiga in goal but a lot of the efforts were off target anyway as his side won 3-2. I caught the penalties on my camera and they are shown below.

Leaving at 9.50, Anwar checked to see what FA Cup games had gone to extra time. Amongst those that had was Solihull Moors v Yeovil Town. Despite it being in the same neck of the woods, it was actually 27 miles away and so there was no chance we could make a dash across and see extra time at another game. Instead I checked to see if BBC Radio Somerset had online commentary, which they did as Yeovil were one of their teams. It gave us something to listen to on the way home, though annoyingly the signal kept dropping out on my phone. Luckily it stayed in tact as Solihull completed a giant killing by winning the game on penalties. It was nice to hear that they had not segregated fans, as it's nice to mingle with other supporters, and you rarely get to do it as a football league team. The journey home was a lot better and we were back in Aylesbury at 11.15, getting home myself 20 minutes later. I was still wide awake so I caught up online, and watched 'Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish' before going to sleep at 1am. With work at 4am I had to catch up on sleep the following afternoon. 


THE GROVE was a ground I enjoyed on my initial visit, although as I wasn't a groundhopper per se at the time, I didn't grab many photos. With a decent sized seated stand and a terrace on a raised bank, there is plenty of covered accomodation in the overall 5,000 capacity, with lots of open terracing too. At the time of my initial visit, as well as hosting Stourbridge's FA Cup games, they also had the now defunct Causeway United sharing with them.

Returning made me really appreciate how good the ground actually was, with extensive open terracing and this ground would be more than good enough for the Conference North and probably the Conference National though they may need a few more seats for this. Facilities at the ground are excellent, with a decent looking tea bar, a clubhouse with real ale and a decent clubhouse and programme shop.


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