Sunday, 30 September 2012

Newport County - Rodney Parade


Newport County FC
Rodney Parade
Rodney Road
Newport
South Wales
NP19 0UU

01633 674990
Official Website
Twitter







Ground Number: 218
Saturday 29th September 2012
Newport County 0-0 Grimsby Town
Blue Square Premier







MY VISIT

I had met my Grimsby mate Sam at the Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe game at the end of last season and we got on so well that we agreed another meet was a must. We were initially planning on going to Manchester City v QPR on the first of September as the City Of Manchester Stadium was one we were both keen to visit, mainly to contribute towards us completing the 92. But Sam wanted to go to Hereford v Grimsby that day and so after arranging another time to go to City, in March v Wigan, we looked at the fixture list to plan something else. I looked at Grimsby's away games as I was also looking to do every ground in the Blue Square Premier and spotted Newport County away on a day that I was free, and so it got pencilled in. I had previously been to the old ground at Newport on the way to Swansea (the year we got to the League Cup Semi Final) to take pictures, but this would be a whole new ground for me as they had moved to share with the Rugby club in the town, at Rodney Parade. I don't know about anyone else, but the first thing I thought of when I heard that was Rodney Trotter out of Only Fools and Horses!




On the day I set off around 8.40am. I wasn't feeling at my best, my stomach felt bad and I was worried about feeling crap for the whole day. However, I didn't need to worry. A rare treat of a breakfast sub from Subway and a couple of Belgian Buns from ASDA soon settled things down and I felt much better. So come 9.30, I was ready to leave Wycombe. But instead of going down the M4 which was the quicker route, I opted to go up and through Oxford to save myself the ludicrous £6 entry into Wales, via the Severn Bridge. It was roughly the same mileage and only half an hour extra, a sacrifice I was prepared to make. It was a bit slow going at times, but after a few small delays, I was in Newport just after 12. As it was just under 2 hours until the Grimsby supporters coach was due to arrive, I walked into Newport and had a look round the traditional looking town centre, buying a can of Belgian Elderflower cider at B&M Bargains before making my way to the local Wetherspoons. At first looking at the outside, I thought someone had pinched some of the letters as the words on the front of the pub made no sense whatsoever, and I had only had one can! Then I suddenly remembered I was in Wales, and their complicated language meant that signs like that were par for the course. I had a great pint of Gwynt Y Draig Gold Label cider which was a new and very nice tipple for me. By now, it was getting on for 1.30, so I made my way back to the ground, stopping off at my car to pick some stuff up on the way.


I had arranged to meet Sam and his mate, whose name escapes me at the moment, but he did remind me a small bit of Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter Films. We agreed to meet at the club shop at 2.15 and had a good chat about our teams. I was pleased to meet another decent footy fan as well. Normally we would get a pennant or something from the shop, but Newport were asking silly money, a tenner would you believe. So we left it and after taking some pictures of the outside of the ground. After meeting another Mariners fan, Will, that I had spoken to on Facebook, we found some decent seats for the game and settled down, with around 20 minutes to kick off.
The game kicked off, and after 2 minutes, Grimsby keeper James McKeown was called into action as former Wycombe player Andy Sandell's free-kick was heading for the top corner. He may have left Wycombe under a cloud, moaning that he didn't want to play left back anymore and wasn't enjoying his football. But he would walk into the current Wycombe side and for my money, he was Newport's best player. Newport had more chances than Grimsby, but the visitors were still holding their own. Newport's best chance game after McKeown came out to make a brave save,  but lost the ball, was left stranded and it was up to Nathan Pond to cleat off of the line to keep the scores level at the break. At halftime I heard that Wycombe were losing 1-0 at Dagenham, Gareth Ainsworth making a number of changes from the team that lost to AFC Wimbledon a week previously. Back to the game in hand, the second half started with Grimsby having the better of the game. They had their best chance of the game on 60 minutes when Joe Colbeck's shot was smartly saved by home keeper Lenny Pidgeley. Newport had their chances in the second half too, but it was Grimsby that looked the most likely to score in the dying moments. After the game I said my goodbyes to Sam and co, agreeing that March was far too long to wait before our next meet and that we would try and meet again before Christmas.

When I got back to the car, I was surprised to find that I could pick up BBC Three Counties Radio, despite being 200 miles away from the transmitter. I was disappointed to hear that Wycombe had lost 3-0 and would be even more depressed when I read and heard about how bad it really was. As ever the radio coverage of us was poor, and we, in fact, got more mentions on BBC Radio Bristol than we did on our own local station. I had decided to stop at Westbourne United FC on the way home, to take pictures. It turned out to be as much of a disappointment as the Wycombe result, as it was little more than a railed off pitch and a changing room block. Getting back on the M4 I made quick progress and was back in Wycombe by 7.30. After stopping off to get a few cans and a curry, I went home and had a relaxing evening, having had a good day with some great people.

THE GROUND


RODNEY PARADE is the original home of Newport Rugby club, Newport County having moved in at the start of the season. The ground is a mixture of new and old. The most impressive stand is the one we were in, a modern stand holding around 3500 from which the views and facilities are excellent. To the left, there is just a small seated area for disabled fans and their helpers, along with some buildings. Opposite is the old main stand, which has seats in its top tier with a terrace below. Whilst at the other end is an uncovered terrace. There is a bar and an overpriced club shop at the ground, and alcohol is served in the ground too. Though the bar looked pretty basic and so you would be better off taking the short 10-15 minute walk to the town centre.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Harefield United - Preston Park


Harefield United FC
Preston Park
Breakspear Road North
Harefield
Middlesex
UB9 6NE

01895 823474







Ground Number: 217
Tuesday 25th September 2012
Harefield United 1-4 South Park
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay








MY VISIT

Initially, I had been planning to go to Carshalton Athletic v Whitehawk tonight to see former Wycombe players Scott McGleish and Matt Lawrence play. And also to a retro games shop in nearby Croydon. But that game got called off, as Whitehawk had an FA Cup replay against Hitchin after drawing in Brighton at the weekend. My initial thought was to go to Tooting and Mitcham v Maidstone United, as I had read that Tooting had a programme shop and it meant I could still go to Croydon. However, after a long day at work on the Monday and a fairly costly trip to Newport County v Grimsby Town on Saturday, I wanted a cheaper and more local option. I opted for Harefield United v South Park in an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay, the 2 sides having drawn 0-0 in Surrey at the weekend. I hate 0-0 draws and was hoping not to see another one in the replay, but at least I would get the consolation of a penalty shoot-out if that did happen. And I do love the FA Cup, in my mind, it is the greatest cup competition in the world, miles better than the overhyped "Champions" League, where you can finish 4th in your domestic league and still be considered a "Champion"



On the day I was working till 2 and so spent the afternoon relaxing and had some dinner before leaving at 6.40. After a fairly hassle-free journey, though via some dodgy country roads, thanks to my SatNav, I arrived at 7.15, and keen to get a programme before they sold out, went straight in. I went and took some pictures of the ground and settled down in the stand before reading my programme and checking out Facebook and Twitter. In the end, I had more time than I thought. The South Park team coach got stuck in traffic and so kick off was delayed until 8.05 by the referee.
It was a very reasonable £5 to get in, plus £1 for a programme, which had a nice design, but not much in the way of stuff to read, though enough for what it cost me.


Harefield United could create history tonight, by making progression to the 3rd Qualifying Round for the first time. They had reached the current stage 4 times on 5 occasions since they first entered 33 years ago, back in 1979. They also hold the distinction of being the oldest club in Middlesex, having been formed in 1868. They play in the Spartan South Midlands League, along with the likes of AFC Dunstable, Hanwell Town and Aylesbury United, who I have already this season, along with my most local team, Holmer Green.

Their opponents South Park sound more like a tribute team to the American comedy of the same name, but they are in fact based in the suburb of Reigate which bears the same name. They play in the Combined Counties League along with the likes of Guernsey and Cove. They had already made history in FA Cup terms by getting to the second qualifying round, having made the first qualifying round last season on their only previous entry into the FA Cup. Wikipedia lists their nickname as "Eric Cartman's Barmy Army" , which I am not sure to take seriously or not. It certainly wouldn't be their traditional one anyway! 
The winners would face higher league opponents in Maldon & Tiptree or Brentwood Town, and would be only 2 wins away from meeting football league opponents.


The game started off fairly slowly, leaving me worrying that it might be a dull encounter. But my fears were to prove unfounded. On the half-hour mark Harefield took the lead, after having much of the game. Jack Higgins angled shot was drilled in from the edge of the box, a decent goal and one that the home side merited. However, the lead didn't last long. Little over a minute later Danny Bennell headed the equaliser and it was all square. South Park came more into it after this, but it was still 1-1 at the break. I used the interval to go and get my car, as I had parked about 5 minutes walk away, as it was busy around the ground when I arrived. But I spotted a nice spot just outside the ground and decided to take that, luckily it was still there when I returned. I also took the opportunity to change into a thicker coat as it was quite nippy and also put my camera and programme in the car, save me having to carry it. I just had enough time to get a Bovril from the tea bar before the start of the second half, they were just kicking off as I got back into the ground. I saw Lee, from the Hayes & Yeading club shop who recognised me, and we had a brief chat as the second half kicked off. 
The second half started off pretty evenly, with perhaps South Park having slightly the better of the game. It was they who took the lead on 65 minutes when Chris Smith headed home from a looping cross. By now they took the game by the scruff of the neck. They added a third nine minutes later when they scored a great free kick. A Harefield player was also sent off for the first of several protests about the referee's performance, certainly a lot of fruity language coming from the crowd, which seems OTT when it's another team, but perfect sense when it's your team you are shouting for. South Park completed the win 10 minutes from time with a 4th killer goal. By now tempers were starting to get frayed amongst fans and a Harefield supporter started dishing out the verbals to a South Park fan, which he took exception to, asking what was his problem. The Harefield fan said "Shut up, this is my f*cking manor" which riled the South Park fan even more. In the end, it took the intervention of other fans to split them up, and nothing more happened.



THE GROUND

PRESTON PARK is a smart but basic non-league ground. I actually visited in the past to take photos and it's not changed at all. It is mainly open standing, with an area of cover midway down one sideline. There is also a stand opposite, seating around 120, from where the views are OK but not perfect as there are pillars. The tea bar and bar are in the same place. The tea bar does a basic menu as well as hot drinks. The bar only offers a limited range of drinks, but is well furnished with SKY/ESPN on big screens, a good bar for this level. No club shop as you would expect for a club of this size, but in the main, a nice friendly club and worth a visit if you are in that neck of the woods.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Leighton Town - Bell Close


Leighton Town FC
Bell Close
Lake Street
Leighton Buzzard
Bedfordshire
LU7 1RX







Ground Number: 216
Wednesday 19th September 2012
Aylesbury United 2-0 Hanwell Town
Spartan South Midlands League - Premier Division




LEIGHTON TOWN - A BRIEF HISTORY 

The club was formed in 1885 with their formative years spent in the Leighton & District League, a competition that saw them enjoy great success. They’ve been known as Leighton Town for the most part but changed their name to Leighton United in between 1922 and 1963. They’ve mainly plied their trade in the Spartan South Midlands League (or it’s two forerunners), winning the South Midlands League in 1967 and 1992. Generally, they’ve played in the higher tier and finished no lower than 7th when they have dropped down. Brief spells in the Hellenic and United Counties League saw little success and saw them switch back to their usual home after a couple of seasons. Their most successful spell, league-wise came around the turn of the millennium. Joining the Isthmian League in 1992, Leighton Town spent time in the bottom two tiers, with a best-ever finish there of 10th in Division 2 in 1997. A reorganisation of the Non-League pyramid in 2004 saw them switch to the Southern League. A record finish of 11th in Division 1 Central (step 4) in 2011 was a high point, but it was all downhill from there. After years of struggle, Leighton Town finally succumbed to relegation in 2016, returning to the Spartan South Midlands League. A 16th place finish in the Premier Division has been followed up this year with much better form, the team sitting 4th, prior to the previous weekend’s games.



In the FA Cup, the best ever run came during the 2007/08. After beating FC Clacton, Ashford Town, Kirkley & Pakefield and most notably Boreham Wood, they succumbed 3-0 at Havant & Waterlooville in the 4th Qualifying Round. their victors going on to reach the 4th Round and enjoy a match against Liverpool. 2005/06 saw the best ever FA Trophy progress, with Eastleigh amongst their casualties, prior to a 1st Round defeat to Boreham Wood. In the FA Vase, Leighton Town reached the 5th Round in 2004, bowing out to Andover Town. They have the chance to better that this coming weekend, as they face a trip to this year's surprise package, Wolverhampton Sporting. The team represent Leighton Buzzard - home to Kriss Akabusi, Frank Bruno, Darren Gough and Bob Monkhouse at various points. The town has also contributed musically, with groups The Barron Knights and Kajagoogoo formed in Leighton Buzzard.




VISIT 1: AYLESBURY U 2-0 HANWELL T (SSML PREMIER)

My mate Anwar is a keen football fan and groundhopper like me. Normally we go to most Wycombe games, and always meet up for a chat. However, we like to do others and last week he suggested that we go to an Aylesbury United game as they were playing at Leighton Town and it would be a new ground. I was too tired from working long hours at work. But this week I had a bit more time off and so we decided to go to the game v Hanwell Town.

On the day I left home at 6.15 and got to Anwar's in Aylesbury by 6.50, the only bit of traffic coming near where I picked him up. As well as the social aspect, the fiver he chipped in for fuel was most welcome and helped bring the cost of the day down. After a hassle-free journey, we got to Leighton around 7.20 and after a few quick pictures of outside, we went in. This was where the costs were not so good, £7 was expensive for this level, but it normally included a programme. Not tonight though, owing to a cock-up at the printers. Cheekily, they still charged full whack, but in their defence, I later wangled a team sheet from the boardroom, which although not as good, was at least something.

After a walk around the ground and some more pictures, I got some chips for the wallet-friendly price of £1 and they were pretty decent, even if there wasn't much choice of sauces. It was soon time for kick-off and we picked a place to stand and started discussing grounds we fancied going to. Possibly coming with us in the future is Ryan Eyre, nothing to do with a dodgy airline, but a good lad banned on false accusations from Wycombe. Corby and Nuneaton were suggestions, and surprisingly it wasn't much extra in terms of miles or journey times to go via Aylesbury and pick Anwar up. As for the game, it was a fairly routine 2-0 victory for the hosts. Aylesbury United featured former QPR forward Kevin Gallen in their lineup and they controlled the game throughout. It was Gallen who came closest in the first half with a 25-yard effort that whistled wide, but it was goalless at the break. Stacey Field gave Aylesbury the lead minutes into the second half when he beat the offside trap and finished from close range. Jack Mulholland got the second, heading home powerfully from a corner to seal the win.

Overall, despite the pricey entry, it was a good night. To be honest it felt like an away game for both sides with no Aylesbury signage or presence around the ground. I can only hope that Aylesbury United returns to the town soon, as they would attract excellent support and had a smart facility at their old Buckingham Road ground. And I have a soft spot for the club after doing work experience there in 1996, a very friendly club and my most enjoyable job ever. Anyway, after a nice journey home I was back by 10.30 and after a quick look on the net and watching Corrie, I went to bed as I was up early again.



VISIT 2: LEIGHTON TOWN 2-1 COCKFOSTERS (SSML PREM, 23/1/18)

I'd not done a groundhop with Anwar in 6 weeks due to a variety of factors, so one was long overdue. With him going to Arsenal on Wednesday, he didn't want to go far and so it looked like a revisit was on the cards. The three that he suggested to me were Hemel Hempstead v Chelmsford City, Biggleswade Town v Hereford and Leighton Town v Cockfosters. My first choice would have been Hemel, but as it turned out that the ground was closer to me than it was to Anwar. Leighton Town was my next choice and thankfully I passed right through Aylesbury on my way there. Ironically, we'd be returning to the ground that we first did together, way back in September 2012. It would never have happened if Anwar hadn't randomly asked me if I fancied going to Aylesbury United v Hanwell Town, but I'm glad that he did. In the intervening 5 and a bit years, we've racked up 177 grounds with me driving, plus many more where we have met at the game. The grounds were drying up though, and from a best-ever 52 during the 2014/15 season, we'd only managed 12 this season and only 2 in the last few months. With many grounds not hosting games in midweek, due to playing in small leagues, the nearest options were often 100 or so miles away which meant a late and often pricey night for both of us. Add to that the usual miserable weather at this time of year and the choices were even more limited.

The game of the day came and it was my usual day off, with me getting a reasonable night's sleep and waking at around 8am. After having breakfast and getting ready, I walked downtown at 10.30, picking up my train tickets for my upcoming trip to Kidderminster at the weekend. I picked up a few things in town before meeting my Dad. We popped to Lidl where I got some things for lunch as well as a few cans for the weekend. After coming back home and having some lunch, I spent the afternoon at home doing research for this and other blogs. There were plenty of games being called off all over the country, but thankfully with the weather being dry, ours was not one of them. After having a Paella for dinner, I left at 6.15, not best pleased to hear rain outside. Thankfully, it quickly disappeared and despite a slow start, it was a decent journey over to Aylesbury. I picked Anwar up at 6.45, with it taking ages to get out of Aylesbury thanks to some poorly designed junctions. We soon got going though and by 7.20 we were at the ground. The car park at the ground was not great, minuscule spaces and not many of them at that. Thankfully, there was a Morrisons across the road with plenty of space and 3 hours of free parking. Entry was £6, good value and £1 less than I’d paid to see Aylesbury United at the same level 6 years ago.



I also picked up a programme as they were only £1. The ground had gone a bit downhill since my last visit, with areas taped off and the range at the tea bar scaled back. The Spartan South Midlands League always provides us with a good game but despite a lot of great crosses being put in by the hosts, the Cockfosters keeper wasn’t really being tested. A heavy pitch didn’t make for ideal conditions, but Leighton Town took the lead just before halftime with a nice ball into the box and a tidy finish from 12 yards by James Hatch. Cockfosters improved slightly in the second half and they got the equaliser on the hour when centre-back and captain Ian Salt headed home from a corner. This led to the visitors having a real spell of dominance, but they failed to capitalise on this. The game soon swung back in favour of Leighton and it was the hosts who got the winner on 70 minutes. Cockfosters failed to clear their lines following a spell of pressure and the ball was poked home from just inside the area by Hatch to complete his brace. There were chances to make it 3-1 to the hosts with the keeper making a good save to tip the ball over the bar and a defender clearing a shot off the line, but it wasn’t to be. In the end, the scoreline was a fair reflection of a decent night’s football in front of an attendance of 93.

It was around 9.45 by the time we got back to the car. The radio brought good news for us with the two teams in and around Wycombe - Notts County and Newport County, losing to Crawley and drawing with Morecambe respectively. As for the other games we were considering Biggleswade v Hereford had been called off earlier that day and Hemel Hempstead beat Chelmsford City 3-1. We'd been happy with our choice and the journey home was a lot better. I dropped Anwar off at 10:05, getting home myself at 10:30. After staying up until midnight, I went to sleep, although with me up for work at 4 am the next morning, a nap was needed the following afternoon.



THE GROUND

BELL CLOSE is a fairly decent home for Leighton Town, but really doesn't feel like home for Aylesbury United, despite the fact that they have been sharing there. There is a nice club bar which hasn't really got much in the way of real ales or ciders which is a shame. There is no club shop for either club to my knowledge. The tea bar is OK, with Bacon Sarnies, drinks and cakes. The ground is nearby the town, and that is probably your best bet if you want a good drink, there is a Morrisons with a cafe opposite the ground.

As for the main ground, 2 sides are open to the elements. Firstly behind the goal where the bar is. And then part of the side to the left, although most of it is closed due to the local cricket club sharing the ground. The other side has a decent sized seated stand holding around 200, with the rest open standing. At the other end is a fully covered terrace, holding at a guess around 600.

SCORES ON THE DOORS

1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Not as good as my first visit, but still decent (6)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Right near the town, parking OK (7)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Standard (6)

4: Value for money
£6 represented good value (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Both were OK (6)

6: Programme
Reasonable content, especially for £1 (7)

7: Game entertainment
A decent night’s football on a tricky pitch (7)

8: Tea Bar
Limited compared to last time (5)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Standard range of drinks, fairly spacious (5)

10: Club Shop
N/A (-)

TOTAL SCORE OUT OF A POSSIBLE 90: 56
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.22

GROUND PHOTOS