Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Abingdon Town - Culham Road

Abingdon Town FC
Culham Road
OX14 3HP

01235 521684
Official Website

Ground Number: 191
Tuesday 28th February 2012
Abingdon Town 3-3 Windsor (Abingdon Town won 4-2 on penalties)
Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy - Semi-Final


The club was established in 1870 as Abingdon Football Club, changing their name to Abingdon Town in 1928.  They placed in local leagues in their early years such as the Oxford & District, Berks & Bucks, West Berks, Reading Temperance, North Berks and the Reading & District. 1953 they became founder members of the Hellenic League. They were champions three times in the late 1950s but would suffer relegation from the Premier Division in 1966, spending a season in Division 1 where they bounced back as league winners. Another Hellenic League title followed in 1987, then another title was lifted in 1989, this time in 1989 for their sole season in the Spartan League. This was a highly successful period for the club with them taking the step up to Isthmian Division 2, winning the title there in 1991 and winning promotion to Division 1. Abingdon Town would achieve their best-ever finishes in 1992 and 1993, finishing 6th in what was then a step 3 league.  They would suffer a decline in the late 1990s, being relegated two seasons in a row and finding themselves in Isthmian Division 3 by 1999. Restructuring of the Non-League pyramid saw the club placed in the Hellenic Premier where the team continued to struggle. A decision was made to drop down a couple of Divisions to the North Berks League in 2014 and the club spent the 2016-17 season inactive. They'd return to the Hellenic League in 2017, albeit in the step 7 Division 2. Despite only finishing 7th, they were elevated to Division 1 East for last season where they finished second-bottom. They've fared little better this season and currently sit bottom of the league.

Abingdon Town have reached the 4th Qualifying Round on three occasions, the last of which in 1992 saw them take the then Conference side Merthyr Tydfil to a replay before a narrow 2-1 defeat in Wales. The same season saw a run to the 1st Round of the FA Trophy where they lost 4-0 at Farnborough Town. They've also reached the FA Vase 5th Round on three occasions, lastly in 1990 where they lost out to Hythe Town after a replay. Local cup wins include the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup in 1959. Well known players to have played for the club include former Oxford United winger Joey Beauchamp and former Wycombe striker Jermaine McSporran. The town of Abingdon has a population of just over 33,000 and has another team, Abingdon United, who play in the same league. Famous people to come from Abingdon include TV's Kate Garraway and David Mitchell whilst the band Radiohead was formed by pupils attending Abingdon School.


I had previously been to Abingdon United's ground (a mile down the road) for a game v Chesham in 2005 and also visited this ground to take pictures. I didn't really have any intention of going back for a game, as it wasn't in a league I was looking to complete. That was until my mate Reece mentioned that he would come down and meet me if ever I saw a game at the ground, as he only lived close by. From then on, I kept half an eye on the fixtures, and after a while, this one came up.  It was also attractive to me due to the fact that it was Windsor who were the opponents. I used to watch the old club, Windsor and Eton a bit before they went bust in 2009, as there were several ex Wycombe players on the books at one point. The new club reformed the season after, and still had Wycombe stalwart Keith Scott in charge, as well as a few players who had played for the youth team. As it was, Reece couldn't make it on the night. But another couple of mates - Matty and another Reece could make it. I got on well with both over Facebook and so was still happy to travel the 40 odd miles over to Oxfordshire to see the game. I left about 6.20 and despite there being traffic, arrived little over an hour later. After paying a very reasonable £5 for a programme and entry, I waited around for the others to arrive. By then it was nearly kick off and all the programmes had sold out - I was lucky to get one of the last. That was not the only thing that sold out during the night. At half time I fancied a Bovril and a Mars Bar - both sold out, as had soup and burgers.

It was a really good game too. Windsor fielded former Wycombe Youth teamers Ryan Parsons and Leeyon Phelan, as well as a host of other players I recognised. And they shot into a 2 goal lead, first by Ryan Ashe on 3 minutes, then 10 minutes later Pheelan doubled the lead. Corey Forbes grabbed one back on 20 minutes before Michael Chennels restored Windsor's 2 goal advantage on the half hour. Abingdon got another back through Adam Lovegrove just before half time, to reduce the arrears to 3-2. At this point, despite it being a really open game with chances coming for both sides, it looked as if Windsor would add more in the second half. Windsor had looked solid at the back up until just before half time, but maybe it was the withdrawal of Windsor's experienced centre back, Dave Tilbury that made the difference. He was booked just before half time, perhaps that was the reason for manager Keith Scott taking him off Tilbury had played loads of games for the old Windsor club too, and the supporters had a unique chant for him, referring to his day job:

We've got Dave Tilbury
He'll paint your house for free
He paints and decorates
He quotes and estimates

The second half was a bit tighter than the free-flowing first. But Abingdon were the more positive side, and they got their rewards when they equalised on 72 minutes through Jamie Munday. I wasn't really looking forward to extra time, as I had to be up early the next morning, but no further goals were scored, meaning it would be a late night for me. Extra time bought no further goals, though Abingdon did have a perfectly good one chalked off right at the death after they scored directly from a corner. So after 120 minutes of good football, it was down to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out to decide who would go through to the final. After what seemed like ages, the teams finally got underway. Both sides converted their first 2 sets of penalties with ease - Warne and Munday for Abingdon as well as Fagan and Ashe for Windsor. Janes put Abingdon back in front before Gareth Walker saved Chandriham's penalty for Windsor. Harris gave Abingdon a 2 goal advantage again before Gareth Walker confirmed Abingdon's place in the final by saving Ryan Parsons' penalty. You can see most of the penalty shoot-out on Youtube here, sadly I missed the first goal, due to my phone being slow to start recording. 
By now it was 10.35, but it has been a great night with me meeting 2 smashing lads off of Facebook, having a good chat and seeing a good game too. I got back home after a hassle-free drive at around 11.20. After a drink and a bit of time on my laptop, I eventually got to bed just before midnight.


With me having had a busy week last week and an expensive Tuesday for Blackpool v Wycombe next week, I decided to stay local on this night. It would have to be a revisit and although I'd already done a decent-ish blog on the ground, my photos were not great. I was pleased when fellow hopper Anwar said he would come with me, as it would help out with fuel costs. The day of the game came and I was enjoying my day off work, having enjoyed a few cans the previous night watching England hammer Bulgaria. Sadly the headlines were all about the despicable racist chanting by a section of the Bulgarian fans. I was glad when the game was confirmed on by both clubs twitter feeds as although the weather had been fine, the 180-mile round trip for a minor cup on a Tuesday night was not the easiest for the visitors to endure. After a nice dinner of pasta, I left at 6, picking Anwar up at 6 and Thomas five minutes later. It was a cross country journey on small unlit roads but we were at the ground by 7.20. Entry was a very reasonable £5, though there was no hot food as they were short-staffed. I got some pictures of the ground, a real cracker that I'd not appreciated last time. The attendance was very sparse, what with the other Abingdon team playing.

Looking at the form book, Abingdon Town were really struggling. They'd started the season well winning at Woodley United but had lost their other six league games including a 9-1 defeat to Milton United, an 8-1 loss to Chalvey Sports and a 5-0 hammering at Marlow United. They'd also gone out of the Bluefin Cup and Berks & Bucks Trophy at the first hurdle but had recorded a 3-2 win over Holmer Green in the Banbury Litho Cup to set up tonight's clash. Hereford Lads Club were sitting 4th in Hellenic D1 West. They'd enjoyed some big wins this season including a 10-0 win at Tytherington Rocks and a 7-1 victory at Bourton Rovers. They'd got to this round of the cup thanks to a 4-1 win at Newent Town. I was predicting a 4-0 win for Hereford Lads Club, Thomas going for 2-1 away win and Anwar going for a 2-1 home win. Last time I'd seen the hosts, they'd crashed 17-0 at their local rivals Abingdon United's Reserve team. It was a similar tale of woe tonight as they lost 15-1 to a rampant Hereford Lads Club. James Fennessy got four goals, Adam Hockey notched a hat trick, Brad Williams and Ashley Lear got two each whilst there were also goals for Alex Lancett, Kiea Cowley-Hair, Jamie Cuthbertson and an own goal. Ironically the goal of the game came from the hosts, a brilliant 30-yard lob over goalkeeper Steven Bell but they were already 14-1 down at this point with a few minutes to go. We stood with some Hereford Lads Club fans including Adam Hockey's dad. It wasn't much fun to watch with the visiting side having 80% possession but at least no Abingdon players walked off this time, although they did go at least a player short due to injuries and having no replacements. We left at 9.40 and made good time on the way back. After dropping off the guys, I was home at 10:50, staying up an hour before going to sleep.


CULHAM ROAD is an excellent ground for Hellenic League Level. With cover along 3 sides and seating for around 250, it would be good enough for several levels higher. 2 sides are completely covered - the main stand has covered terracing either side of it which extends right along behind one goal. There is a small area of cover on the tea bar side which also houses the dressing rooms and a decent club bar. The town centre is nearby and offers more choice if you fancy a bite to eat and a pint. There is also no sign of a club shop at the ground, which is a shame, but it's well worth a visit if you've not been.


Sunday, 26 February 2012

Stoke City - The Britannia Stadium

Stoke City FC
The Britannia Stadium
Stanley Matthews Way
Stoke On Trent

0871 6632008
Official Website

Ground Number: 190
Sunday 26th February 2012
Stoke City 2-0 Swansea City
Premier League


Stoke had been on my to do list for quite a while, as it was one of the ones I needed to complete the 92. I had previously been there in around 1998ish just to take photos. It had also been the last game that I missed before I went 7 years without missing a Wycombe game home or away, in fact, it was the last time that Wycombe played at Stoke - ending in a 5-1 victory for the home side. So I was delighted when the opportunity arose to visit - mainly due to me using the "floating day" that I got from work for working over the Christmas period - normally I would be working every Sunday. I ordered my ticket back in January - even then they had sold quite a few already - surprising for what was one of the more low key fixtures in the Premier League Season. On the day, I left about 9.40, so as allow myself to pop into ASDA to get the Non-League Paper and some food and drink for the day. I left Wycombe at 10.10 and after a trouble-free journey got to Stoke about 2 hours later. Before I went to the ground, I stopped off at an Oatcake shop to have one of my favourite foods that is native to the Stoke on Trent area and that I had discovered on a previous trip to Port Vale. I left there at 12.30 and then it was only a short drive to the ground.

I parked up in the local Harvester, paying £5 for the privilege. I was surprised to find that they didn't have Sky, which was a bit annoying as I wanted to watch the first half of the North London Derby between Spurs and Arsenal. Luckily there was a local sports centre called Power League that was showing it. It might not have been the greatest of pubs/bars but it was showing the game and £2.70 was pretty reasonable for a pint of Gaymers. I watched pretty much all the first half, in which Spurs took and threw away a 2 goal lead to make it all square at half time. After that, I made my way to the ground after taking some pictures and going back to my car. I got in with 30 minutes to go before kick-off. The game was, to be honest, pretty boring. Stoke played their usual agricultural style and despite Swansea having the better of the early exchanges, took the lead through Matty Upson on 24 minutes. From then on, they took control of the game and grabbed a deserved second through Peter Crouch on 39 minutes. After that, the game fizzled out and it looked like both teams were going through the motions. A bit like the fans really. Despite Stoke having the prior reputation of turning their ground into an intimidating bear pit, they didn't really sing much apart from short bursts, which was sad as I was looking forward to a few renditions of "Delilah". As the game wasn't up to much, I left with just over 5 minutes to go, so as not to get caught in too much traffic. It turned out to be a decent decision, I was back home by 7 after another hassle-free journey, most unusual for me. Overall the day was pretty average, but it was nice to tick off the Britannia.


THE BRITANNIA STADIUM, like quite a lot of other new grounds, is pretty bland but functional. The Stoke fans are well known for getting a great atmosphere going inside the ground, but I didn't see it on my visit. With a capacity of just over 28,000, it is of average capacity for a Premier League stadium. There are 3 separate stands - one stretches along one side and joins in the corner and runs along behind one goal, while there are separate stands for the 2 other sides. Away fans are given part of the Marstons Pedigree Stand, behind one goal. There is very little in the way of pubs around the ground, but the Power League one was OK for watching the Sky game, and despite reports to the contrary, away fans were made welcome and there was no animosity from the Stoke fans, which is the way it should be.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Stourbridge - War Memorial Athletic Ground

Stourbridge FC
War Memorial Athletic Ground
West Midlands

01384 394040
Official Website

Ground Number: 189
Saturday 18th February 2012
Stourbridge 5-0 Bashley
Southern Premier


Since about August/September time I had been planning to go to Alfreton Town v Darlington on this date. But sadly, the main reason I was going, to meet my mate Dan the Darlington fan couldn't make it due to the supporters' coach not taking its usual route past the stop near where he lives. So at the last minute, I had to find an alternative. Even though it was not in a league I was looking to complete, I opted for Stourbridge v Bashley as I had wanted to go there for a while. Added to that I could go up most of the way on the train with the Wycombe fans, and hopefully gain a cheap train ticket through a 'Groupsave' offer, meant that I chose this one without too much thought. Unfortunately, when it came down to the day, lots of Wycombe fans had pulled out of going - understandable given our recent performances. So that meant I had to pay full whack for my train, but it still wasn't horrendous - £25, which is about the same as petrol would have cost.

So we all left Wycombe just before 9.30am and was in Birmingham just after 11. After a look around Birmingham City Centre and the Bullring Market to kill time, I got the train to Stourbridge, firstly to Stourbridge Junction station, then to Stourbridge Town station - the journey between the 2 Stourbridge stations was made using the smallest, most rickety old train I have ever seen! I got to Stourbridge just after 1 and after a quick look around the town, it was time to try and find the ground. The instructions provided on the club website were easy to follow, basically, follow the A491 to Wolverhampton and the ground is opposite a pub. I was there in under 10 minutes. As I had time to spare I went to the pub across the road, called the Royal Oak, to watch the rest of the Birmingham v Chelsea game. This was a pretty much run of the mill pub in appearance, no food to my knowledge. But they did have a pleasant little surprise on draught - Thatchers Traditional Cider - one that I can't remember having, certainly not for a while anyway. And very nice it was too. After that, it was just past 2PM, so I made my way across the road and into the ground. After paying a very reasonable £9 to get in, I made my way to the club shop, which my research told me was very good. And I was not disappointed, as I spent £11 and picked up some great bargains. For that, I picked up:

The Non-League Directory 2007: £5
Stourbridge FC Pennant £2
The day's programme: £1.50
A Wolves mini-kit £0.50
Assorted programmes/fanzines £2.00

After that, I fancied a bit to eat and so I had Curry Sauce, Sausage and Chips for a pretty reasonable £2.50. And very nice it was too. Sadly, the combination of chip fat and trying to text and take photos on my phone at the same time as eating meant I got grease on the lens and ruined a load of my photos. Luckily though, it was nothing that I couldn't retake. The game itself was really good and entertaining, ending 5-0 to the home side. Stourbridge richly deserved their win to end a period of indifferent form and postponements due to the cold weather. At the bottom of this paragraph is the report scanned from the non-league paper. The journey home was pretty easy, coming back the same way as I had come. Another stop in Birmingham was needed as I had to wait nearly an hour for a connecting train back to High Wycombe, but that time was filled by going to a Wetherspoons pub called The Square Peg for a pint of Thatchers Gold. After meeting the depressed Wycombe fans, our beloved team having crashed 2-0 at Walsall in another dire performance. The journey home was fairly upbeat, but with plenty of reflection on what looks to be a certain relegation. We got home at around 8.20, after which I had a long walk up a steep hill to fetch my car from its free parking space. Better that than have to pay £10 to park in the station car park though. Overall I was glad I went to Stourbridge, it was an interesting ground, a friendly club and a good game. And it sure beats getting depressed, frustrated and angry at Wycombe, it is meant to be an enjoyable experience, after all.


THE WAR MEMORIAL ATHLETIC GROUND is a charming little ground, but due to the ground graders, I am not sure if it would even make the Blue Square North, the next division up. These rules are proven stupid by the fact that Stourbridge have hosted 2 crowds of around 2000 already this year - against Plymouth Argyle and Stevenage, during their epic FA Cup run. As mentioned already, the club shop and tea bar are excellent. There is also a bar there which is large and has plenty of interesting memorabilia on the walls.

The ground itself is very pleasant. As you come in, to your right is the cricket pitch side, which has no accommodation for supporters. Directly in front of you is an open terrace behind one of the goals - looking at the way the turnstiles are set up, this could be the area that away fans are given, should segregation be needed in the event of a cup tie. This is called the Church End. After walking through there is the main stand, all covered along one side, with terracing either side of a seated area in the middle. Finally, the Shed End is a decent sized covered terrace, where all the noise from the home fans come from, and this was my choice of area for most of the game. Plans are afoot for ground improvements, should they be needed, though there are no firm timescales on this.