Wednesday, 27 February 2013

St Neots Town - Rowley Park



St Neots Town FC
Rowley Park
Kester Way
St Neots
Cambridgeshire
PE19 6SN

01480 470012





Ground Number: 251
Tuesday 26th February 2013
St Neots Town 6-1 Hemel Hempstead Town
Southern League Premier Division







MY VISIT


After my busy and expensive week away last week, where I did 9 games in 7 days and must have spent about £500, I knew I had to be a bit more economical and sensible with my choices. Wycombe were down at Torquay, but that would mean a long journey and a costly one at that. My initial choice was Arlesey Town v Stourbridge, but that was called off due to Arlesey facing Leamington in the Southern League Cup. So I had a list of games, about 10 in all. After balancing it all up and discussing it with fellow traveller Anwar, we decided upon St Neots Town v Hemel Hempstead Town in the Southern League Premier Division. I had my usual day off on Tuesday and as I didn't have to leave home until just before 5, I was able to have a bit of free time. But I had a lot of catching up to do on my blog, having the latter part of 9 posts. I finished the last one, about my trip to Barton Old Boys about 4.55, which was about 10 minutes later than I had hoped. Nonetheless, I was glad to get it finished. I then had to rush off out, getting ever more expensive diesel at a local garage, before going to meet Anwar. I got to Aylesbury at 5.45 and we were soon on our way to St Neots. We made our way up cross country and into Milton Keynes and then across Cambridgeshire to St Neots. We arrived in the town just before 7 and both agreed that stopping off in town would be a good idea, even though we were pushed for time. I was glad of this, as there was a pub I wanted to visit, called the Pig n Falcon, which had 4 real ciders on, and was CAMRA Cider Pub Of The Year 2012 for Huntingdonshire. I had made a promise to myself to not drink during the week and eat better after last weeks excess, but what can I say, I am easily led astray, by no one else but myself! I had had 2 of the ciders on the list, with the other 2 unsure. So I opted for a half of the Skidbrooke Farmhouse Sweet and decided to leave the Olivers, the strongest of the 2, for another day, as time was not my friend, with kick-off fast approaching. Plus the fact that I had to drive to the ground of course. So I went in search of food and needing something quick, I got saveloy and chips for £2.85 and took it with me to the ground.



We got to the ground just before 7.40 and went straight in, both getting a programme and settling under a shelter to eat our chips. The ground was really impressive and soon the teams were out and ready to kick off. There were a few players I recognised in the line ups. For the home side,  defender Gavin Hoyte (though it later turned out he was not the former Arsenal player). And for Hemel, former Wycombe youth team players Ryan Parsons and David Pearce. The first half was dominated by St Neots. But it was nearly half time before they took the lead - Dan Jacob scoring a great shot in off the bar. This sent the home side in 1-0 up at the interval. They continued to pressurise and grabbed their second through Dubi Ogbonna on 52 minutes, It was 3 just 4 minutes after Dan Jacob got his second and it looked like Hemel were going to get annihilated. Former Watford player Jordan Parkes had other ideas though. He showed the quality he got from being at bigger clubs earlier in his career as his long-range shot reduced the arrears on 75 minutes. Sadly for Hemel though, this was only a brief respite as 3 more goals, a 12-minute hat trick from Ben Mackie totally blew them away. The tannoy announcer had been playing individual music for each player's goals and amongst the hat trick hero's ones were the Big Ben chimes and Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison.



So the game finished with a well-deserved thrashing for Hemel, which was a bit of a turn up for the books. Despite a relegation battle last season, they were in 2nd place in the league at the start of the game. St Neots meanwhile, had been struggling for form in recent weeks and had slid down the table into 14th place. Despite this result, however, Hemel are firmly ensconced in the playoffs and it looks a tall order for St Neots to make up the gap. If they can play like they did tonight every game, anything is possible though. We left the ground at around 9.45 and put on BBC 3 Counties Radio to try and listen to a report of Wycombe's  2-1 win at Torquay.  After going behind, Sam Wood and Matt McClure had turned the game on its head. This put an end to Wycombe's recent bad run. But they didn't even mention our game, skipping from League 1 to the Blue Square Premier. In the 50 minutes that I listened, they spent about 30 minutes pontificating over Milton Keynes FC, about 12 minutes on Stevenage and about 8 minutes on their previous pet team, Luton, who had lost 2-0 at Braintree. No mention of Wycombe or any of the local non-league football teams that play in the area. I think that if they cannot do the job of covering local sport with any degree of competence, then the BBC should stop wasting licence payers money and shut the station down. After a fairly quick drive home compared to recent trips, I was back home by 11.10. But as with most other football nights, I was in no mood to go to sleep and only got to sleep just after 1am getting only a couple of hours sleep, meaning I was a bit drowsy the following afternoon.



THE GROUND


ROWLEY PARK is a smart and modern non-league ground, having been built in 2008. It replaced a nearby ground that was used for housing and in return, they got this one built. I'd say it was Blue Square South standard at least and could be OK for the Premier. There are 2 identical terraces at each end, both covered and holding around 1200 each. The only side without cover is basically hard standing and this houses the dugouts and scoreboard in the corner. The seated stand is very smart and has a capacity of 250. They may need to improve this aspect of it in the future to meet ground grading requirements, but for their current crowds, it is perfect. 

To the side of the stand is a nice bar, nothing amazing on the drinks range but it is big and has a massive screen as well as other TVs. I didn't try the tea bar. There is a small club shop, but it was closed on my visit. I enjoyed my visit here and would say that it ranks as one of the best days out in the Southern Premier. The town is about 15 minutes walk away and is well worth going there if you have time. Researching, 6 years to the day in 2019, there's a Wetherspoons called the Weeping Ash, plus two other decent looking places - The Ale Taster and The Pig & Falcon.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Barton Town Old Boys - Marsh Lane


Barton Town Old Boys FC
Euronics Stadium
Marsh Lane
Barton Upon Humber
North Lincolnshire
DN18 5JD

01652 661871






Ground Number: 249
Wednesday 20th February 2013
Barton Old Boys 0-1 Bottesford Town
Lincolnshire Trophy Semi Final






MY VISIT

After the game at Parkgate in the afternoon, we were on our way again, this time to Barton Old Boys FC of the NCEL. I had originally been planning to see them play Retford United tonight, but the visitors had a county cup game. I went away thinking I would be going to Askern Villa that evening. But then I saw that Barton also had a county cup game - the Lincoln Senior Trophy game against Bottesford United, who play near Scunthorpe and whose grounds I went to for pictures on the way back from Scunthorpe last year. I left Parkgate in Rotherham at just before 4, along with mate William, a Grimsby fan who had decided to tag along for part of this football extravaganza. We had plenty of time to kill, and Brigg Town's ground was pretty much en route. So we stopped there for pictures there before going on. I was hoping to go to Winterton Rangers too, but we ran out of daylight. So straight to Barton, it was. We got there just before 5.30 and so had lots of time to kill. We went into town, looking for something to do. Barton upon Humber is a small but pleasant town, and quite upmarket going by some of the restaurants I had seen online whilst researching this trip. Having a pint would be a good way to kill time, so I fired up my CAMRA app on my phone, looking to see if I could sample a new cider anywhere. Nothing came up so I went to the nearest pub, the Coach and Horses and had a pint of Strongbow. It was a nice enough pub and had a good food menu, but I was not hungry at the time. We had a brief walk around and I had worked up an appetite and I saw a place called Pizza Jim, which I thought might cost me a bit considering the competition was not huge. But it turned out to be a right bargain. They had half-price pizzas on the night, meaning I got a Spicy Hot One 8" Pizza for just £2.20. And it was tasty too, one of the best pizzas I have had. After all that, it was a bit closer to kick-off time, so we made our way to the ground, arriving just after 7.


We got to the ground and I paid £5 to get in, plus another £1 for a smart-looking programme, which had an average amount of reading material. Everyone was nice and friendly. When I went to get a cup of soup to warm up, it was actually served in a china mug and was one of the cheapest I have had at a game, for only 70p. After taking some pictures of around the ground, it was time for kick-off. With Barton doing pretty well in their league and Bottesford not so well in the league below, this looked to be a home banker. Holbeach United had already reached the final and were Barton's opponents in the previous years final, and a repeat looked likely. But Bottesford had other ideas. Barton had the better of the early stages but the visitors started to get back into it. And they took the lead in the first half when a mistake from the home keeper allowed Chris Garth to score on 39 minutes. This turned out to be the only goal of the game, with Bottesford defending superbly. Their keeper pulled off some good saves when needed, but there was never any real danger of a comeback. They will now be Holbeach's opponents in the final, to be played at Lincoln City's Sincil Bank ground later this year. It had been a good day, and this second match had been the better of the 2 games. Sadly only 55 witnessed it, but Barton Town Old Boys was a nice club and place to visit. After the game, I dropped William back off in Grimsby and made my way to my hotel in Doncaster. At least I thought I had. There are actually 3 Travelodges in Doncaster or at least 3 that claim to be. I went to the wrong one initially and had to make my way to one of the others, over 20 miles away. It had been an expensive day going to the other side of the country, but one that I had felt was worth it, even though I will try and base myself in places nearer to each other next time I do one of my trips up north.

THE GROUND


MARSH LANE or The Euronics Stadium is a modern non-league ground, having been redeveloped recently. Like many at this level, it is mainly uncovered. There is a smallish 150 seater stand along the side, with an area of covered terracing behind the goal for around the same number of people. It's perfect for this level. The clubhouse is smart and nice inside, but the cider was off when I visited and was only Strongbow anyway. The tea bar is in here too and has a fair range at excellent value prices. There is a small range of merchandise available here. The town is nearby and I would recommend going here for a wider choice of things to eat and drink.

Parkgate - Roundwood Sports Complex


Parkgate FC
Roundwood Sports Complex
Green Lane 
Rotherham
South Yorkshire
S62 6LA

01709 871829




Ground Number: 248
Wednesday 20th February 2013
Rotherham United Reserves 1-1 Grimsby Town Reserves
Central League








MY VISIT

I was planning to spend the afternoon in Grimsby with mates I had met up there. So when the opportunity came to go to Rotherham United Reserves v Grimsby Town reserves, the opportunity was too good to turn down. It was to be played at Parkgate FC, a ground that I had taken pictures off, but not seen a game at. I only learned of the game on a forum on Monday evening, so this was a real bonus, making it 9 games in 7 days on my week off. My sat nav reckoned a 2-hour trip go Grimsby, so I left my hotel shortly before 10, arriving at Grimsby at just before 12 as arranged. It was then an hour and a half drive to Parkgate. I'd actually only found out about the game by chance as I was unsure where I would be going that evening. Originally I had been planning to go to Barton Old Boys v Retford United in that evening, but their game had been called off due to Retford's county cup commitments. But then they had a game rescheduled against Bottesford Town in the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy Semi-Final, so it was back on. My backup plan was Askern Villa, a team a league below, in Bottesford's league and based near Doncaster. I got into Grimsby just before 12 and waited for my mate William. I had a look in the local cash converters to pass time but soon we met up and were on our way. We got to Parkgate FC, near Rotherham at 1.20 with plenty of time to spare before kick off. So we stopped at a local chippy and got a pretty generous portion of chips for £1.50. We then drove to the ground and sat in the car eating our chips as it was freezing outside. It cost nothing to get in, but I did pay 20p for a teamsheet.

The game kicked off at 2PM. It was a young line up for both sides, with me not recognising any of the Rotherham squad. I did notice Frankie Artus, Andy Thanoj and Dayle Southwell from my game on Football Manager that I played on my Android tablet last year. I took the Grimsby side to the Championship on that game, most of it played whilst I was on holiday in Portugal. This game was slightly less exciting. Grimsby had the best of the opening 10 minutes of the game, but then Rotherham had a breakaway and scored from that. From then on the home side controlled the half, forcing several good saves out of the Grimsby keeper  Greg Fleming. At half time I went back to my car to change into my work shoes as they were warmer. Also, I got my scarf and gloves on. The second half continued with Rotherham dominating, but Grimsby were starting to get back into it more. Dayle Southwell got the equaliser after around an hour, and from then on Grimsby were the better side. Southwell even had a chance to score a last minute winner from the penalty spot but his effort was saved by Tony Thompson in the Rotherham goal. So although it had not been the best of games, it wasn't too bad. And I had enjoyed it in good company. After the game we made our way to the next game at Barton Old Boys, stopping at Brigg Town on the way to take photos.

THE GROUND


THE ROUNDWOOD SPORTS COMPLEX is a pretty decent non-league ground for the level that Parkgate play at, this is currently the Northern Counties East League at step 5 of the Pyramid. The ground is mainly uncovered. Unusually, the main stand is behind one goal, this is where you go in. There is a small covered standing area too, both areas holding around 150. Along the dugouts side, there is another small area of cover, holding another 150-200, this is where I chose to watch the game from. There is a small tea bar at the ground, which serves basic stuff, I am unsure of club shop or clubhouse details as it was only a reserves game. There are shops nearby, and pubs too, but not a huge amount of choice. 

Sadly I lost the photos I took of the ground on the reserves visit, luckily I had visited previously though the ground has changed slightly. I also made a subsequent visit in April 2015 when Parkgate lost 2-1 to Parkgate, but again I don't have the photos. 

Monday, 25 February 2013

Liverpool - Anfield


Liverpool FC
Anfield Stadium
Anfield Road
Liverpool
Merseyside
L4 0TH



0151 263 2361
Official Website
Twitter






Ground Number: 250
Thursday 21st February 2013
Liverpool 3-1 Zenit St Petersburg
Europa League






PRE MATCH RAMBLE

For my last game of the week, it was a trip to the one I had been looking forward to the most. It was also the one I had the most trouble getting tickets for. For although Liverpool has had a pretty mediocre squad the past few years and have not won the league in over 20 years, the support for the club is still fantastic, and they still sell out every week, despite some eye-watering prices. They have not looked like winning the league either. There was a summer about 5 years ago when they looked like by adding 2 or 3 new players they could make a real go of having a bash at the title. But instead, they lost Alonso and signed mediocre players instead. They had even struggled along at the bottom of the league at one point, under current England manager Roy Hodgson. And they had had the ignominy of going out the league cup to bottom division Northampton Town, at Anfield of all places.

But the club had a rich and proud history. From the great players and teams of yesteryear that dominated the football league for so long, to the sensitive and touching way they handled Hillsborough, they have always been a club to do things the right way. That was until Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra and they all wore t-shirts supporting him when perhaps it would have been better to keep quiet. But there is no doubt that 2 stadium disasters have been the low points in the club history 96 fans lost their lives at Hillsborough in 1989, due in part to inefficiency by the police, but mainly due to the barbaric design of the stadium, with its pens and high fences. Without a thought for spectator safety, these were designed to keep fans off of the pitch, even though the main problems with hooligans were outside the ground. And the event that possibly led to this crazy decision, in Heysel, Belgium in 1985. This time, hooliganism by a small number of people claiming to support Liverpool led to the death of 39 Juventus fans. Both events were a tragic waste of human life - you don't go to a game of football expecting to die.



MY VISIT

On the day I had to leave my hotel earlier than usual. I was planning to meet a fellow blogger and Sheffield Wednesday fan Tom Jellis in the Ship and Mitre pub in Liverpool, somewhere we had both enjoyed when we had visited on our own on previous occasions. I left my hotel in Doncaster at 9.30am and by 11.15 was parked up in a side street near Anfield, about 10 minutes walk away in fact. I then took the 40-minute walk into Liverpool city centre to the pub where we had planned to meet. 
Tom was not there yet, so I got myself half of a Swedish cider that I had not tried before. While I was finishing that, he arrived. We talked about everything from football to politics and sank a few drinks during that time. There was a beer festival on, with 7 ciders that I had not tried before. Luckily they did third of a pint glasses, meaning I could have multiple ones. I also had a Belgian Cherry Beer. At 4, we said our goodbyes and I went off in search of food. I found an excellent local chip shop, called The Mussel Pot I think. Anyway, Haggis and Chips was great, washed down with some Irn-Bru.



I set off for the ground about 6.50. After a look around, getting some chips and gravy and some biscuits I was ready to go in. I had a look at the souvenir stalls and visited the Hillsborough Justice shop, which is all about getting justice for the families of the stadium tragedy. This has been achieved in part, thanks to a recent court case that found South Yorkshire Police culpable for much of the blame. This is just part of the fundraising, the most famous example being the recently released single, which I was more than happy to stump up for. I entered at the ground at 7.30. I was a bit worried when the steward directed me to a seat right next to a wall, having seen some of the restricted view seats on the internet before. But I needn't have worried. The view was excellent and the atmosphere was good, making Anfield one of my favourite bigger grounds that I have visited. The tannoy announcer was also excellent and has an immediately recognisable voice that I had heard in the background of TV games at Anfield before. The man in question, George Sephton has done the job since the early 1970s. They have a random fan nominate the songs before the game and at half time and naturally, the Beatles, Liverpool's most famous musical export featured. This just added to the feeling of enjoyment as I like their music. Liverpool were trailing 2-0 from the first leg and things looked ominous when Hulk scored for Zenit after a mistake from Liverpool stalwart, and one of the few players that has consistently proved he is good enough to wear the shirt, Jamie Carragher. Liverpool were looking the all too familiar busted flush at this part, but thankfully things changed. The atmosphere was etched up another notch as goals from Joe Allen and a fantastic free-kick from Luis Suarez gave Liverpool a half time lead. 
By this time they were playing as good as any Liverpool side of old and had the crowd behind them. Sadly despite having most of the play, they could only add one more, another great free kick by Suarez. They were desperately unlucky not to score more and sadly went out on away goals, the earlier slip from Carragher being their undoing. Such a shame for a club legend and a spirited Reds performance.



I left the ground downbeat at the result but having enjoyed the matchday experience. It was ground 91 of the 92, with me still having Sunderland to do. It had been a fitting end to the week of football. Getting out of the ground, driving wise, seemed easy at first, having a clear run for about a mile. I had directed my Sat Nav to go to Asda for Petrol, the last mile of that took around 40 minutes and when I got there it was closed. This was strange seeing as it was a card only pump. I set my Sat Nav for home, hoping to pass a petrol station. It took me over an hour to reach the next station, just near the motorway. I then had to queue for another 20 minutes to get into the station, and the petrol was really expensive too, 5p a litre more than I paid last time out. I stuck in enough to get me home and I had been there so long that the road was now clear. During this time I had listened to a really good show on City Talk with a host called Pete Price, which was a lot better than most of the late night drivel that is on the radio. It was nearly midnight by the time I got on the motorway and it was nearly 3am by the time I got in. It had been a good week, but an expensive one. I had done 1280 miles and spent quite a bit. But I had a good time, and met some great people as well as seeing plenty of games and other stuff that was enjoyable. The next day my phone was whinging about lack of space, so I deleted my photo folder, thinking that they were all backed up online. But they weren't and a lot of my photos were lost, especially of the bigger grounds. Luckily for Anfield, I had been on a stadium tour a few years back and had some pictures from then. It was still annoying not to have some from matchday though and that applied for most of my visits that week.



THE GROUND

ANFIELD is a fantastic traditional stadium. While it isn't up there with a few stadiums in terms of modern facilities and capacity, it certainly has a lot of character and history. The capacity is 42000 and all 4 stands are of a similar size. I chose the Centenary Upper as it was the ideal medium between a good view and a cost-effective ticket. There is merchandise stalls galore and the same thing with takeaways. There are also a fair number of pubs, but the best is in the city centre, called the Ship and Mitre. The city is a brisk 30-minute walk away and is well worth the effort as there is plenty to see and do.