Wednesday 30 October 2013

Stotfold - Roker Park

Stotfold FC
Roker Park
The Green

01462 730765

Ground Number: 309
Tuesday 29th October 2013
Stotfold 1-2 St Margaretsbury
Spartan South Midlands League - Premier Division


I had been to both these teams before to take pictures. Stotfold listed Holmer Green, the team less than a mile from my home as their longest trip of the season at 48 miles, edging out Harefield United by 1 mile. They had a couple of fairly notable players. Former Manchester United youngster Graeme Tomlinson, but more recently tragic former Stevenage player Mitchell Cole who died of the same heart condition that I have - Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which might get you a good score in Scrabble, but it can prove fatal. Luckily mine is kept well under control with medication and doesn't affect my life in the slightest, save for a yearly checkup at the hospital.

25 miles separated the home team and tonight's opponents St Margaretsbury. I couldn't find any former well-known players for them, but they did have a good FA Cup run on a number of occasions, most notably beating then Ryman Premier side Billericay Town in 2005. And they had the advantage over Stotfold in terms of league positions, sitting safely in mid-table with 17 points from 12 games, leaving them in 12th. The home side were in 20th position, in danger of relegation with just 7 points from their 12 games. Their 2 league victories had come at home to Hillingdon Borough on the opening day and just over a month ago as they triumphed at Hadley.


There was a distinct lack of games at steps 1-4 this week. I was hoping for an FA Cup replay but the only viable one was Poole Town v Staines - and that was a 0-0 draw and not the greatest match at the original game in Middlesex on Saturday. Add the fact that it was 2 and a half hours away on a good day, due to slow roads and lack of motorway for a lot of the journey and I was not keen, considering that I had to be up at 4am on Wednesday. The leagues didn't provide much more inspiration - the only sub-100-mile trip would have meant a trip more than halfway around the unpredictable M25 and a game at VCD Athletic, near Dartford. So I was looking at step 5 and 6 and came up with 3 options. There was Frimley Green v Hanworth Villa in the Combined Counties League, one of the first step 5 leagues I envisage completing. Or there was a game at London Colney, that came in at 10 miles less, around 25 miles. But a meet was what I really fancied, considering I'd be without Anwar again who was going to see his beloved Arsenal play Chelsea in a League Cup game. I spotted Stotfold v St Margaretsbury and remembered a good lad who I chat to on Facebook, a Luton fan called Alex. We get on great and are always chatting about footy, even non-league. He lived near there and confirmed he could make it, and from then on it was game on, that is providing the weather didn't mess it up.

The expected storm did arrive on Monday, and despite causing chaos over the country, near me wasn't affected that much. There was a light breeze when I drove to work at 4.40 in the morning and some drizzle, but no signs of destruction. There was a tree down on the same route when I came back after leaving at lunchtime, a fairly substantial looking one, but apart from having to pause for a few seconds to let some cars through, my journey was just the same as any other day. I was a bit annoyed to find no power when I got home so I couldn't get a decent internet signal, have a bath or watch TV. It was off for 10 hours in all and was one of several homes across the UK that were affected. On the day of the game, I spent most of the day relaxing apart from a quick trip down town with my Dad. I had dinner around 5.30 and left pretty much soon after, just before 6. Annoyingly my phone holder had fallen off the window and was refusing to stick back on. No amount of moisture or cleaning would make it work and so after wasting about 5 minutes trying to sort it out I gave up and put the phone elsewhere, making a mental note to order a new one off of eBay when I got back home later that night. The motorway, yes the M25 again was still buggered from an earlier crash when a lorry driver overturned his lorry and sadly died. Amazingly and luckily no one else was involved or hurt, a surprise given the size of the vehicle. My sat nav estimated that I would be caught in the tail end of it, just missing kick off with a 50-minute delay, but in the end, I got there at 7.20. The only problems I encountered were a slow-moving idiot in a Volkswagen that insisted on driving at well below the speed limit on a single track road where it was too risky to overtake. Also, there was a bit of a queue to get on the A1M, but nothing too serious. 
I got to the ground, paid money for entry and a programme out of my car window. I checked my phone for Facebook updates while I waited around for Alex who arrived about 5 minutes before kick off. We had a good old chat about football and it was nice to have some company at the game. Some of the classic non-league elements were there - a fat linesman being one of the more amusing ones and tea served in china mugs being a nice one.

The game started scrappily with neither side being able to retain possession for very long and not many clear-cut chances being created. Stotfold took the lead around 20 minutes into the game. It summed up the game, the visitors' keeper was down injured, causing confusion in the box. The ball was laid across the area for the Stotfold player to score with an easy chance to put the home side 1-0 up. It looked like they may have been on course for an unlikely win as despite having more possession, St Margaretsbury weren't really coming close to scoring. This was to change, however, just before halftime the Stotfold number 4 was sent off for a second bookable offence, but they got to the break with their lead still intact. 
In the second half, St Margaretsbury started to carve out some chances and they got the equaliser around the hour mark.  It was another scrappy goal, maybe the Stotfold keeper could have done better but it was the visitors number 10, Ricky Light who scored it. It was a deserved goal as they had been the better side for much of the game. Their cause was not helped by their keeper who came flying out of his area and handballed, leaving the referee with no option but to send him off, despite his teammates' protests. That left them with the last 20 minutes to play and it was anyone's game with an outfield player having to go in goal. However 6 minutes later St Margaretsbury scored out what turned out to be the winner when Ryan Wade tapped in from close range to seal the points.

After saying goodbye to Alex I popped into the bar to the toilet while some of the car park cleared. By the time I had got back and set my sat nav for home it was around 9.50. I listened to TalkSport on the way home and there were some pretty decent scores going on in the League Cup. Leicester beat Fulham 4-3 and it was 4-4 between Birmingham and Stoke before the Potters triumphed on penalties. More interestingly to me, there was a great result in the FA Cup as Shortwood United won at Aldershot to set up a home tie with Port Vale. As Wycombe have a fairly dull game at home to Crewe, I will give that tie serious consideration if I can get tickets. Of the other games I was considering going to it was Poole Town 0-1 Staines Town & London Colney 0-0 AFC Dunstable and no mention of the Frimley Green game so it looks like I made the right choice for once, as the game was OK and livened up by the 2 sending offs. There were some right hammerings handed out on the night - Droylesden losing 10-0 at home to AFC Fylde and Chippenham losing 9-0 on their own patch to Stourbridge. After watching a bit of TV I went to sleep, not getting a huge amount which is becoming pretty standard for a Tuesday night, luckily I was fine the next morning.


ROKER PARK has a much more famous namesake as it was Sunderland's old ground, a stadium that I never got the opportunity to visit. The differences between the 2 are huge obviously, but Stotfold have a pretty decent set up for this level. There is a main stand holding just over 100, plus next to it some additional cover, but the rest of the ground is open, as is the norm at this level. The tea bar looked excellent with a decent range of food and there was a bar too which is also hired out for functions to garner the club some extra income on non-matchdays.

The programme was a decent effort. Not huge amount to read, but well designed with most of the info you are likely to need. There was an article from well-known groundhopper Brian Buck in there too. It was my 45th game of the season tonight, well ahead of most of my mates. But Brian was on his 104th game of the season at pretty much the start of October!. He was also coming up to his 11,000th game and had been to 3246 grounds, the latest being the Hive at Barnet. How he can afford it I don't know, but it seems like a whole lot of fun.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Hartley Wintney FC - The Memorial Playing Fields

Hartley Wintney FC
The Memorial Playing Fields
Green Lane
Hartley Wintney
RG27 8DL

01252 843586
Official Website

Ground Number: 308
Saturday 19th October 2013
Hartley Wintney 4-2 Petersfield Town
FA Vase 1st Round


Hartley Wintney were on a fantastic FA Cup run and had beaten higher league Clevedon Town down in the west country 4-3 on Monday, so I was intrigued to go and see what it was all about. They had to battle through the rounds right from the start, at the extra preliminary round in mid-August. A 1-1 draw at Hellenic League Kidlington was followed up by winning the replay 5-2 at home. Next up in the Preliminary Round they defeated fellow league side Badshot Lea on their own patch, this time 3-2 without needing a replay. It was another opponent from their own league that stood in their way and after drawing 0-0 at home, won 2-0 at Camberley. In the next round, their most incredible result yet. They travelled to Ryman Division 1 South side Eastbourne Town and trounced them 5-1, despite being a division lower. Then last of all they hosted Clevedon Town, again from a higher league, drawing 1-1 before winning the replay 4-3 on Monday night. They now face one more game, against Daventry Town who are also a league above. If they win that then they have the chance of pulling any League 1 or 2 side out of the hat. It will be easier said than done. Whereas the 2 previous higher sides have been struggling, Daventry are absolutely smashing their league, winning every competitive game bar one this season. For either side to make the first round would be special, but for someone from step 5 of non-league, like Hartley Wintney, it's very rare to see them get that far.


I had originally been planning to go to Bristol Rovers today, along with a nice cider tour of Bristol. But I'd had a few last night, partly in celebration that my video of the Harrogate Railway announcer had got on national TV, on the excellent Baker and Kelly VSPO show on BT Sport. They have all sorts of weird and wonderful football related things on there, I thought that would be right up their street and it turned out I was right. I woke up the following morning and really didn't feel like going to a ground that I had been to several times before. Especially as I had been spending a fair bit lately and was also really enjoying my groundhopping. So I started to look around for fixtures. The FA Trophy games were considered, games at Kettering and Coalville. But that would defeat the object of saving money, as it was still a fair old trek. So I looked in the FA Vase, and the 2 nearest - Oxhey Jets and Reading Town held limited appeal. For 10 or so miles further, I could go to Hartley Wintney which had far more appeal.

I saw my Mum and Dad off who were off to see Wycombe play at Bristol Rovers on the independent supporters club coach. I then had myself a bath, got dressed and wrote out my blog for one of my latest groundhops at Farsley on Wednesday. After watching a bit of TV and chatting online I got myself a bit of lunch and left the house at 12.50. I stopped at ASDA on the way to get some Irn Bru for the game amongst other things, and was away from there by 1.25. It was a fairly short drive to Hartley Wintney and I parked up nearby to the ground at around 2.05. I had done my research on my CAMRA app and found that there was a pub serving real cider in the town, called the Waggon and Horses. I always like to support these type of places and shun the places with no imagination, because as I see it, when I go out, if I am paying a premium I want something new that I have not had before that I can't usually get at home. They did Westons Wyld Wood which I had tried before, but I thought I may as well have a pint while I was there, as it's not that common. The pub was a strange one, really small and everyone seemed to know each other. I felt like a bit of a stranger really, with everyone keeping themselves to themselves. I find you get that less up north, where people are more outgoing. Anyway, I enjoyed and finished my pint, and made my way to the ground, getting there about 2.35.

I paid my entry fee and also got an excellent value programme, well presented and full of interesting things to read about for just £1. I will be reading that later as it contains some stuff about their FA Cup run which interests me. For a fairly small audience, it's pretty impressive, clubs higher up the pyramid charge twice that for a lot less content. For the 20 minutes before the game, I took some pictures and checked my phone, though not very quick as the signal was a bit iffy for the internet. Today's visitors were Petersfield Town, who were having a very good season in the Wessex League, a fact that I learned from their matchday programme. This is another decent production and is available for free download on their site. They play at the delightfully named Love Lane, another ground that I have been to for pictures on the way to a game elsewhere. Their interest in the FA Cup this season had ended at local rivals Horndean, their only defeat so far this term. Yet they were still only mid-table in their league, thanks to the fact that they had only played around half the amount of games that their rivals had. They'd already beaten Welton Rovers and Fawley to get this far in the Vase, entering earlier than the home side due to the fact that they played a level lower at step 6.

The game started at a huge tempo and within the first couple of minutes, the home side were 1-0 up thanks to a long-range shot deceiving the Petersfield keeper. I thought it looked like it could be a long afternoon for the visitors, not knowing their record this season at the time of the game. I soon changed my mind anyway, as they were back on level terms within 5 minutes when their number 7 Mike Asare dribbled through the area before finishing well. He was the best player on the park and could easily play a couple of levels higher I reckon. And the game was turned on its head a few minutes later when their number 4 drilled a shot into the bottom right-hand corner to give them a lead. Keeper Matt Short was perhaps lucky to escape without being carded on a couple of occasions. Around the 20 minute mark he charged out of his area and bought down at Hartley Wintney forward, but despite protests from the home side, no other action than awarding a free kick was taken. From then on though, Petersfield were the better side and as they went in for the halftime break I was left thinking that Hartley Wintney would have to up their game if they wanted to progress in the FA Cup. Maybe it was the workload of that run that was getting to them, as the second half started in much the same fashion. That was until the 55th minute when Sam Argent tapped in from close range to equalise, From then on it was mainly Petersfield on the back foot as the home side seriously improved their game. They were ahead 2 minutes later when Stevens got another, this time a lovely lob over the onrushing keeper. They got their 4th around 10 minutes from time when from a cross Shane Hollamby wrapped things up. There was only going to be one winner from then on, and only the bar prevented the home side from adding to their tally.

It had been a decent game, with 2 very good sides battling it out for progression to the next round. In the end, being a league higher and the extra class won the day for Hartley Wintney, but I fancy Petersfield to be joining them at this level next season, especially if they can keep hold of some of their better players like Asare. After the game it was a short walk back to my car, then an easy drove home with me getting in just before 6. It was to be the last late night of my week off and I looked forward to watching Match Of The Day without worrying about being up at 4am the next morning. I was also very pleased to see that Wycombe had won 1-0 in their game at Bristol Rovers, a place that has not always proved a happy hunting ground for us.


THE MEMORIAL PLAYING FIELDS is a pretty basic ground, even for this level and I think they would have to make improvements if they were to step up a level. When I visited in 2006 with the team a step lower, there was little more than a railed off pitch. Since then they have added a metal stand, holding around 150, but this remains the only bit of cover in the ground unless you wish to stand a bit back from the pitch near the clubhouse

Talking of the clubhouse, this is the main hub of the stadium. It has big screens and Sky and a very good selection of drinks (cider wise at least) for a clubhouse. Food is also served from here, and although I didn't have anything, there looked to be a good choice. Club shop wise, they sell badges and polo shirts, but not much else. I am wishing them luck in getting through in the cup, maybe they will bring out more then if they draw a big team. In any case, I enjoyed my visit here, the football was good and the atmosphere was friendly.

Farsley Celtic - Throstle Nest

Farsley AFC
Throstle Nest
LS28 5BE

0113 2557292

Ground Number: 306
Wednesday 16th October 2013
Farsley U19 4-1 Halifax U19
CYA North Under 19's League Cup


For the last of my days up North, I was a bit stuck for something to do in the afternoon, and so started looking for games. A friend and fellow groundhopper Tom had seen Halifax U19's play at Brighouse Town FC and so I looked on their website. Happily, they had a game, this time playing away at Farsley in a cup competition. I left my hotel at the latest possible checkout time and after 40 minutes was in Farsley. It was a fairly short walk to the town so I parked up at the ground and as it was only drizzling. I didn't bother with an umbrella. It was a decision I turned out to regret as it absolutely lashed it down and I got soaked and had to change into some dry clothes. I still got my lunch though, a very nice green Thai Curry and rice for just £2.95. After having little else but chips for the past couple of days, it was nice to have something marginally healthier. I jogged back to the car so didn't get too cold, as there was no shelter anywhere along the way.

The Farsley side, from what I understand are drawn from Leeds University. They certainly looked a good standard of player and the link-up may prove very useful when they are looking for players for their first team. I learned later that Halifax had 7 absent players, which may explain their poor performance. Certainly, their marking was not up to scratch for Farsley's first on 15 minutes. Will Chappell equalised for the visitors soon after with a decent goal and a tidy finish. A close-range finish restored the hosts lead around 5 minutes before halftime after a tidy finish. I went back to my car at halftime as the rain was starting to ease off, I put some stuff in the boot to save time later on. The game continued in the same vein as the first half with Farsley dominating. The visitors added to their own problems on 65 minutes as their keeper was sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity, and also allegedly stamping on a player, judging by the referee's reaction. The game was wrapped up 20 minutes from time when Farsley's number 3 finished easily when unmarked from a cross. It had been a decent game, especially considering that it had been free to get in, and had been well worth the effort going, even though I did get a bit wet.


THROSTLE NEST is one of the bigger and better grounds at this level, due to their one season in the Conference. There are 2 covered sides, one completely seated and the other a terrace with seats put in the middle to comply with ground grading regulations. The rest of the ground is open terracing. I didn't see the shop, tea bar or bar as it was a youth game, but the town and train station is around a mile away and offers a reasonable choice of places to eat and drink.

Friday 18 October 2013

Matlock Town - Causeway Lane

Matlock Town FC
Causeway Lane

01629 583866
Official Website

Ground Number: 307
Wednesday 16th October 2013
Matlock Town 2-1 Barwell
NPL Premier Division


After leaving the Farsley game, I had decided to visit a couple of grounds on the way to my next game. First up was Shaw Lane Aquaforce who play in the NCEL Division 1. They had won the Sheffield and Hallamshire League last season and gained promotion, although there were doubts over whether they would be accepted due to their ground, at least that's what I read on a forum anyway. So I wasn't expecting much but was pleasantly surprised to find a really modern and smart venue. The stand was of a smart design too, not one of those prefab metal ones that are so popular nowadays. The ground was part of a huge sports complex and is shared with the local rugby club. 
Next stop was a few miles away at Worsborough Bridge Athletic, a club that I learned later was where Wycombe signed a player called Kevin Day from in the 1980s. That was way before my time supporting Wycombe, but I recall seeing his name in some old programmes. Anyway, they play at the same level as Shaw Lane and their ground is a lot older, but it still has decent facilities and is set in pretty green surroundings. It was by now approaching 5PM, and so I set my Sat Nav for Worksop Town (using a file I got off of a non league forum a few years back) I thought it was a bit further than indicated and was surprised when I was directed past the Worksop turn off on the M1 and made to travel for another 20 miles down the motorway. I thought it might be due to the heavy traffic that was on the slip road and that I was being sent a different way around. I first thought something was up when I turned off at the junction and it was for Mansfield and Hucknall. I then had a horrible feeling - I did remember that Worksop shared at Hucknall a few years back and pulled over at the next safe point to investigate further. My fears were then confirmed. The file was around 4 years old had indeed sent me to Hucknall. So instead of going to Worksop Town v Stafford Rangers, I decided to find an alternative. I looked at the nearest grounds to me, and after consulting my non-league paper and double checking on the internet to make sure it was still on, I opted for Matlock Town v Barwell.

It was actually a blessing in disguise. It had been under consideration for the night, but the extra mileage needed had put it to the back of my mind. Then a few days before, Seb, the mate who I was supposed to be meeting at Worksop, had to go down to Birmingham and would miss the match. I was still pressing ahead though, as I had wanted to go to Worksop for a while, due to the decent programme shop and a decent pub nearby. But it would be better to do it with a mate, and Matlock was another that I had fancied for a while. On the way, I listened to Football Heaven on Radio Sheffield and as ever it was great listening, even though I don't have any strong allegiance to either of the City's sides. I even heard my mate Mick The Owl on there having some of his messages read out. I arrived just before 7 and parked up nearby. I was surprised to see that the ground was right in the town centre, but I found free parking easily enough. I had actually been to the ground, sometime around 1993 to take photos while on a family holiday to the Peak District and I remember the delightful entrance to the ground which is still there thankfully. In fact, only one side had changed since my last visit and it had given the ground a great facelift and better facilities, while not spoiling the old charm in any way. The old stand is pictured above. After paying to get in and purchasing a programme, I went to the club shop and got myself a pen. Even though I had chips and gravy in a chippy before going into the ground, I was still hungry and so bought myself a sausage roll from the tea bar, which was great value and very tasty at £1.30.

I'd never seen Matlock play before, but had visited Barwell recently and seen their 1-1 draw with Stamford. The visitors were in mid-table whilst Matlock were just on the fringes of the playoffs in 7th place. Tonight's game was enjoyable as well, resulting in a 2-1 home win. Corey Gregory could have given the hosts the lead as early a 5 minutes in, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Matlock did go ahead ten minutes later, Mickey Harcourt with a great 30-yard free kick that had Barwell keeper Liam Castle well beaten. A few minutes later, a trip in the area saw Barwell gifted the chance to equalise and Luke Barlone did the honours, smashing the ball straight down the middle to beat Jon Kennedy in the home goal. Matlock had a few more chances, but it was all square at the break. They did retake the lead on 53 minutes, Darryl Thomas following up after an initial shot had been saved. Despite Barwell having some chances to equalise, the hosts held on. 
After the game, I went back to my car, set the Sat Nav for home, which was a good 3 hours away. I knew I would claw back some time but it wasn't helped when part of the M1 was closed and I had to take a big diversion. Eventually, though, I was back home by 12.30, having had a really nice few days away.


CAUSEWAY LANE is a great little gem, or 'ground porn' as some fellow groundhoppers call it. As you go in through the pretty entrance, there are 2 parts of the ground that have remained unchanged for years. To the right is a seated stand that runs the length of the pitch, and may have at one time been terracing. In front of you, there is a covered terrace for those that prefer to stand behind the goal. The other end is not in use, as it has a cricket pitch. The one new side has an excellent new stand, as well as hosting the bat, tea bar and medical facilities, and the dressing rooms.

The bar is brand spanking new and well decorated, though I didn't drink on that occasion. The tea bar has a limited range but if the Sausage rolls are anything to go by, the food is of a good standard. And the club shop does old programmes as well as a decent range of club merchandise. As mentioned the town is nearby, making it well worth a visit.