Saturday 28 September 2013

Concord Rangers - Thames Road

Concord Rangers FC
Thames Road
Canvey Island

01268 515750

Ground Number: 301
Saturday 28th September 2013
Concord Rangers 4-3 St Ives Town
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round


Concord Rangers have a great nickname - 'The Beach Boys' - one of my favourites in non-league football. Sadly they are not named after the American rock band. Instead, it derives from the location of their original pitch. alongside Canvey Island seafront. I'd not seen them play before, but they had enjoyed plenty of success in recent years. In 2008 they won the Essex Senior League, not for the first time, but on this occasion, they were able to take the promotion. They didn't rest on their laurels however and 2 promotions later they find themselves in the Conference South, under the same management team that took them out of the Essex Senior League. This turned out to be Danny and Nicky Cowley who went on to achieve great success with Braintree Town & Lincoln City.

St Ives Town were also at step 5, as recently as last season. Being runners-up to Holbeach United in the UCL Premier Division was enough for them to gain promotion and they have adjusted well to life at the current level. I only have a few teams to do in the Southern League Central, so no doubt I will be visiting St Ives soon. That, I did and looking back as I give this blog a tidy up, five years later, I wish I'd written a better history for Concord Rangers and done my research more thoroughly.


After my continental midweek adventure in Rome, it was back to the UK and the second qualifying round of the FA Cup. I had been to at least a game in every round of the cup and was keen for this to continue. In fact, it was my 6th FA Cup game of the season and my 34th overall. In the weeks leading up to the match, I changed my mind about the game several times. I eventually settled on AFC Rushden & Diamonds v Cambridge City but a few days before Anwar pulled out of coming to go to Hull v West Ham instead. So I relooked at the fixtures, realised that one of the few Conference South teams that I needed to visit, Concord Rangers were at home and decided to go there.

On the day I woke up at around 7 and watched a bit of TV. After a bath, I set off at around 10.40 and had decided to go to Basildon for a look around the shops beforehand. I picked up a few bits and was finished by 1.40 and so made my way the final 10 miles to Concord's ground in Canvey Island, arriving at 2.10. I paid my £10 entrance money and bought a programme and headed to the bar for a pre-match pint. I don't usually go for fruit ciders, but on this occasion had a Bulmers black cherry as I had not tried it before. It was nice and freshened me up for the game. I then went and got some chips for the tea bar, took some pictures and settled on a space between the dugouts to watch the game. It made for some interesting listening to the banter between the 2 managers. One thing I did learn was about budgets. St Ives have £1000 to spend per week, whilst Concord Rangers have double that, with their manager saying 'I've got boys on £40 and £50 a week out there'

As for the game, it was a great contest. Concord quickly took a 2 goal lead but St Ives were unlucky and got a richly deserved goal back. But then disaster from one of their defenders as a terrible passback allowed Sam Higgins to nip in and get his teams third. Higgins was probably the best player on the park, so he deserved his goal. The visitors pulled another goal back and it was 3-2 at halftime. St Ives really looked like they could get back in the second half. But the game changed on a sending off for the visitors Jimmy Dean. It was probably the correct decision, but it put St Ives up against it. For the next period of the game their keeper Nick Bennion pulled off a string of fantastic saves to keep his team in it. Around 5 minutes from the end, St Ives pulled it back to 4-3 and I was really hoping for a replay, but it wasn't to be. In any case, it had been a magnificent game and proof that there is still plenty of magic in the FA Cup.

I left just before 5 and after a drive home was back at 6.40. I listened to 5 Live's 606 show and might have to again in future as it was decent. The only downer on the day was Wycombe losing up at Rochdale, but considering they were 3-0 down in 20 minutes, the 3-2 result was not too bad in the end.


THAMES ROAD is pretty basic by Conference South standards, looking more at home in the Isthmian League. But it's more than enough for Concord's needs. There is cover behind both goals and the main stand. There are also 3 smaller seated areas, giving a seated capacity of around 500 with cover for about the same again. The tea bar and bar are pretty good, which is good as it is a bit far away from any other pubs. They don't have a proper club shop, but they do sell scarves and hats in the bar. I enjoyed my visit there and not just because of the great game. 

Friday 27 September 2013

Lazio - Stadio Olimpico

SS Lazio
Stadio Olimpico
Via Foro Italico
00194 Roma

Ground Number: 300

Wednesday 25th September 2013
Lazio 3-1 Catania
Serie A


Lazio are one of Italy's biggest, most famous and well-supported teams. From an English perspective, their most famous player is Paul Gascoigne who spent a couple of seasons at the club in the early to mid 90's - though he is far from the only star to grace the club colours. They have only won the Serie A twice, the latest victory coming in 1999-2000 season. Also in comparison to their main rivals, Roma, they get smaller attendances, last beating their average in 1976. On top of their league titles, they have had several cup wins, the latest being the Coppa Italia, them being 6 times winner and holders of the competition.

Catania meanwhile are one of the minnows of Serie A and are struggling at present. Survival in the league would probably represent a good season for them. They have been reasonably successful in the past though, but have had to climb right back up from the bottom of the Italian Leagues. They have been in Serie A since the mid-2000's.


A few months ago, my parents planned a trip to Rome and I decided to go with them. I had waited eagerly for the fixtures to come out at the start of August. I was really pleased to find out that Lazio would play Catania at the Stadio Olympico whilst I was away. Although from my experience of watching Italian football on TV it had plenty of technical skill but was a bit too defensive for my liking. However, the atmosphere looked great, and it would be my first proper game abroad. I had been to Ibiza with Wycombe back in 2005 and also several trips to Wales, but this would be my first experience of a really different culture. I bought my ticket online a week before the game, it was good that I could choose the print at home option as this would guarantee that I had my ticket 'on me' and would cut out a lot of the language barrier problems.

It would be a welcome break from work, and my first week off in 7 months. I had wanted a couple of weeks off before now, but they had both been unavailable due to me moving department. I had to work my birthday for the first time in about 5 years and had missed out on a Champions League qualifier in Wales, amongst other things. I left home with my parents on Monday morning at 8.20. It was a surprisingly hassle-free trip and we were at the parking place around 50 minutes later. Arriving at the airport we discovered our flight was delayed by nearly an hour so we killed time by having a couple of pints in Wetherspoons and looking around the shops. The flight eventually took off at 2 after the delay caused us to have to wait for a spot to take off. 
As per usual with a plane journey, it was boring and seemed to take forever. The flight time was just over 2 hours and considering I have done flights that take over 10 hours, it seemed to drag more than usual. I'd stuffed my face with chocolate and other junk to help alleviate the boredom and vowed to eat a lot healthier in Italy, where I imagined pasta would be a lot more commonplace than chips and would hopefully get to try some nice seafood too.

We landed around 5.20 and was out by before 6. There was a bus called Terravision that offered good value transfers to the centre of Rome for 4 Euros, which took around an hour due to the rush hour traffic. Eventually, we got to our hotel, the Best Western Artdeco just before 7.30. After putting our bags in our rooms, we went out for a meal. I had some lovely fish - sea bream fillets, mussels and clams in a tomato sauce. And then some truffle ice cream for pudding. I stuck to orange juice for drinking, but all in all, it was a really nice meal. The WiFi in the room just about worked, albeit very slowly. Annoyingly I wasn't able to use my mobile broadband from 3 as I could get no signal. I assume this is due to the fact that you had to set up roaming, a fact that I was unaware of until it was too late. After getting increasingly annoyed, I bit the bullet and paid £3 a day for 100MB from Orange, still pretty decent value, and enough for checking Facebook and a bit of browsing the web. It was still a really nice hotel room though.

The Tuesday was spent visiting a few places that my Mum and Dad fancied like the Colosseum and The Spanish Steps. It was warm and nice to spend a day out in the fresh air. I was amused to see the view from my room that morning - the local sex Cinema! The evening was spent having a meal of pasta and a couple of drinks, but it was still an early night. I was pleased as a very strong Wycombe side won 4-2 at Chalfont St Peter in the Berks and Bucks Cup. Apart from our goalkeeping coach Lee Harrison playing in goal and Lee Angol, all the players had been heavily involved in first-team matters that season and the entire XI wouldn't look out of place starting a game in League 2.

On Wednesday I went to see the Vatican and it was really busy as the Pope was addressing the people at the time. You could see inside the stadium from the outside and the place was packed to the rafters. Not that any of that interested me much, I was wondering about the Vatican City football team (yes they do exist) They are actually a national side and they managed a 0-0 draw with San Marino once, despite San Marino being the overwhelming favourite for once. I also did a dummy run to the stadium, just to get my bearings for later, as time would be tight getting back. After we got back to near the hotel, I went to a bar for a couple of pints of Bulmers before going back to my room to relax and let my phone charge.

I left my hotel for the game at 6.30 and after an easy trip there, I was in the ground at 7.20. Normally I would hang around outside till the last minute but I was on unfamiliar territory and wanted to play it safe. There were several layers of security at the turnstiles. First, they checked that the ticket was actually for me - I had to show my driving license for that, to make sure that the name on the ticket matched it. There was then bag searches at 2 different points, though they seemed more concerned with bottles of water than anything else. But at last, I was in. I paid 35 Euros plus a booking fee for my ticket, which on reflection was good value. The seat was in the Tribune Tevere, which is along the side of the pitch. I was down one end near the corner, but view and legroom were excellent. The Lazio Ultras really added to the atmosphere with chanting and smoke bombs as well as shouting out the players' surnames when the teams were read out. There was also plenty of booing and whistling whenever Catania tried to attack. The game was a really good one. It was end to end stuff with both teams trying to attack and win the game. I thought that Lazio deserved to win, however, credit must go to Catania for giving it a real good go. Below is a report from the Forza Italian Football Website.

Lazio comfortably beat Catania 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday evening to extend the Sicilians’ winless streak. Ederson’s opener early on was cancelled out almost immediately by Pablo Barrientos, but goals from Senad Lulic and Hernanes in either half were enough to see off the challenge of Catania, who also had Giuseppe Bellusci sent off. The home side struck first during a frantic opening to the match. Antonio Candreva’s powerful free-kick from distance could only be parried by Mariano Andujar, and Ederson was quickest to take advantage of a static Catania defence as he spun his body and buried a shot into the corner from close range. However, Lazio’s advantage was short-lived. The Elefanti hit back almost instantly thanks to a howler from Lorik Cana. The Albanian defender attempted a shocking pass across the defence that was pounced on by the alert Pablo Barrientos, who made no mistake in chipping his finish over the outrushing Federico Marchetti to level the scores. Incredibly the drama continued as only two minutes later Lazio came close to retaking the lead. A deflected shot from Sergio Floccari was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Andujar, and from the resulting corner Senad Lulic found himself with space to shoot but saw his effort cannon off the line defender. A lively Ederson created a chance for himself out of nothing on the half-hour mark, showing great strength to shrug off his marker before smashing in a low shot from range that Andujar could only send over the bar with his legs. With five minutes to go before the break, the home side deservedly reclaimed the advantage. Again the goal was due to an individual error, and this time the culprit was Tiberio Guarente who saw his pass intercepted inside the Catania half by Lulic, and the Bosnian was clinical as he ran a few paces before striking a low right-footed shot off the post and in from outside the box.

Sergio Almiron’s spectacular bicycle kick was narrowly wide at the start of the second half, but Catania’s chances of getting back into the game were dealt a serious blow on the hour mark when Giuseppe Bellusci saw red for a cynical tackle from behind that ended Ogenyi Onazi’s dazzling run just outside the box. There were serious appeals for a penalty only a matter of minutes later as Ederson was caught in the face by the arm of Nicolas Spolli only for referee Massimiliano Irrati to wave play on. The home side continued to press for a third, and Sergio Floccari was played through on goal by an excellent pass from Ederson only to see his left-footed drive deflected wide by the foot of Andujar. However, their domination was rewarded with a last-minute angled strike by Hernanes that settled a confident win for the Biancoceleste.

After the game, I followed the road round to where I knew the bus went. I was a bit worried when I had to wait 20 minutes for it to come, but eventually, it turned up. It then struggled through traffic and I was a bit worried when it started going a different way to what I expected, but it soon got back on track. I got to the tram stop that I needed and then it was another 20 minutes standing on the platform waiting for my tram. It was a fairly quick trip back to the main station, called Termini, then I had to change and go one stop to the station nearest my hotel. The last train was there almost instantly and it was then a short trip back to my hotel, where I was staying. Arriving at 11.45, I didn't get to sleep till about 3, as I was still wide awake for what had been a fitting experience for my 300th game.


STADIO OLIMPICO is the ground shared by Rome's 2 football teams, Roma and Lazio. It had blue seats, favouring the Lazio side of things and holds around 73,000. The stadium has a running track around the pitch, but it didn't take anything away from the view that I had, where the view was excellent. The legroom was very good too and from where I was sat, I had an excellent view of the Lazio Ultras who were vociferous throughout.

The shop at the stadium is a bit limited, though there are lots of unofficial sellers outside the stadium, which I didn't get the chance to see. The tea bar is very expensive, 3 euros for a bottle of drink dispensed into a paper cup, but they did seem to have a pretty good range of stuff. There were plenty of sellers that were going up and down the rows selling their various wares to save people getting up from their seats. Another nice touch was the free newspaper-style programme that you can pick up outside the turnstiles.

Around the ground there are quite a few bars and restaurants, and these are probably a better option if you have time. One thing that could do with improvement is the public transport, which is a bit inconsistent and a bit of a pain to use. For those doing this trip, the metro you want is to San Pietro station, then bus 32 or 271 which stops outside the stadium, or take one of the stadium buses from the same tram stop. It was underused when I went and I had no problem getting a seat either way. 

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Horsham - Gorings Mead

Horsham FC
Gorings Mead
Brighton Road
West Sussex
RH13 5BP

Ground Number: 299
Tuesday 16th September 2013
Horsham 5-2 South Park
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round Replay


For my 299th ground and the one before my 300th at Lazio, I wanted to do an FA Cup game, as I had done one in every round of the cup so far. In fact, I had been to 4 so far and had seen some really good games. I had 2 options that I had whittled it down to - AFC Rushden & Diamonds v Cockfosters and Horsham v South Park. By virtue of it being a tiny bit closer and the home side being at a higher level, I opted for Horsham. I had actually been to Gorings Mead before, to take pictures on the way down to Brighton for an England game. I had seen them play once before, back in 2008. They gained a great result at AFC Wimbledon, beating them 4-2 and I remember a deaf player, called Lee Farrell having a really good game.
I had the day off on Tuesday as usual and got my haircut and went down town in the morning. Originally I was planning to leave at 5.30, but with me seeing that kick off was at 7.30, I thought I'd better aim for something nearer 5, just to allow for traffic. I'd had lunch quite late, so I packed a few things to eat later in my bag and set off at 5 on the dot. As usual, the M25 was its usual charmless self, but after around 45 minutes delay, I got to Horsham just after 7. It had been raining on and off all day, but luckily it was dry when I arrived.

After taking a walk around the ground and getting some pictures, I went and took a seat in the main stand. According to reports, Horsham really should have tied the game up on Saturday but in any case, they started strongly. Just 5 minutes in, Ross Morley shot through a crowded area to give them the lead. It was 2-0 on 11 minutes - Ryan Marriott's shot going in off the right-hand post. And it looked to be game over for South Park, as the home side took a 3-0 lead on 26 minutes, a shot just inside the area by Billy Dunn looking like the game had been all but won at a very early stage. From then on till half time the action died down a bit, but the few chances that there were fell to Horsham. 
It was pretty much the same for the first 25 minutes of the second half too. But then South Park had their first real chance of the game when they forced the keeper to save with his feet. From the resulting corner, the ball was cleared to Kieran Lavery whose shot found the back of the net. Less than a minute later it was 3-2. It was Lavery again, this time with an excellent long-range shot. South Park then took a grip of the game and it looked as if extra time was a huge possibility, despite it looking very unlikely with less than a third of the game gone. They had several chances to equalise, but on a break, Horsham got into the area and were awarded a penalty for a foul. Jamie Cade stepped up and obliged and the game looked dead and buried. Miles Mitchell added a fifth in injury time just to make sure, after good work from Billy Joe-King. It was a fair result in the end. Horsham had been the better side apart from a 15-minute spell where South Park looked like they could create some of that famous FA Cup magic and complete an amazing comeback. It had been a good game too with plenty of good goals. By now it was hammering it down with rain and as I had parked my car around 5-10 minutes walk away, I was glad I'd brought an umbrella. I got back to my car at 9.40 and had a good journey home, arriving back at 10.50.


GORINGS MEAD was originally the home of Horsham YMCA FC, and in fact still is. Horsham FC used to play at Queen Street, which backed onto the currrent ground. However this was sold for housing in 2008 and after a season's groundshare at Worthing and a failed attempt at getting planning permission for a new stadium, they moved back to the town and into Goring's Mead. They are still looking to get a new ground, but despite YMCA playing in the Sussex League, it is still a fairly decent ground.

It's mainly uncovered standing though. As you come though the turnstile, on the near side is a covered terrace, holding around 400. Behind both goals are open but on the clubhouse side there are 2 stands. The main stand is raised above pitch level and offers a good view. There is also an 'arena' type stand on this side which is half terrace and half green seats.

The tea bar looked good, but with no one to run it, they had to make do with selling teas from the club house, which is pretty basic with a limited range of drinks. It does however have Sky and there is some trophies and other photos on the walls. The club shop is only open on Saturday games, and you can see what they sell on their website. The town is a 15 minute walk away and has a decent selection of places from what I could see driving through it. You are probably better going here if you have the time pre-match, but nevertheless I enjoyed my visit here and saw a good game of football.