Sunday, 29 December 2013

Rushall Olympic - Dales Lane

Rushall Olympic FC
Dales Lane

01922 641021

Ground Number: 323

Saturday 28th December 2013
Rushall Olympic 3-1 Grantham Town
NPL Premier


It would be my first time seeing either team, although I had been to both grounds for pictures. When I visited Rushall in 2006 they had only just made it to step 4 of non-league and at the time were in the Southern League D1 Central. Since then they had transferred to the NPL and won promotion to the Premier Division. Before the game, they were in 12th place but were only 4 points of the last playoff place in 5th. They had the well known former football league striker Dele Adebola who had played for Notts Forest, Birmingham City, Hull City and Bristol City amongst others. Grantham was more famous for being the birthplace of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She was well known for hating football and wasn't ever seen down the South Kesteven Stadium.  They were well established at this level and had flitted between the Southern and NPL Leagues due to their fairly central geographical position. Their most well-known player was Nathan Stanton, who played 8 years for Scunthorpe but I remember him most for looking pretty solid playing for Rochdale against Wycombe.


Despite Wycombe's promising performance and 4-1 win at Northampton whilst I was watching Redditch v St Albans, normal service was resumed against Newport County on Boxing Day and we still have not had a win at home in the league since 12th October. Once again it was a very flat performance with little invention going forward, and it was only a good performance from our back 4 that prevented them having more chances. As it was, the winner for Newport was a really good goal - a great ball from Chapman to Flynn who scored with a delicate chip over Matt Ingram to give the visitors a deserved if unspectacular win. It was the end of my 3 days off from work and though they hadn't been the healthiest, they had been good fun. I had spent the first night chatting online all night to Barrow and Grimsby fans about football, meaning I stayed up for 41 hours until I went to bed at 9PM on Christmas Eve. Then more than a few drinks with the family on Christmas Day with my brother and his girlfriend. Finally, on Boxing Day, a couple more pints before footy, as they were selling them at the reduced price of £2.50. The performance that followed was especially galling as we had to kick off at 12.30, with a strong suspicion that it was due to the players wanting to get off early. They had Christmas Day off, as a reward for the win at Northampton in any case, something agreed before the game, which might have explained while they gave their best performance in a long time. At least I got some nice football related stuff for Christmas - Wycombe's away shirt and autobiographies of former Wycombe player Sergio Torres and John McDermott, who played over 700 games for Grimsby Town.

On the day I woke pretty early as my sleeping pattern was still out of kilter what with Christmas and early starts at work merging into one another. I watched Home Alone for the first time in ages, had a bath and then checked Twitter and other sources to see if the game was in any danger of being called off. It wasn't and so I set off just before 11, picking Anwar up at 11.25. After getting petrol we were on our way. The first part of the journey frustratingly slow. We got stuck behind a Tesco lorry that insisted on doing 40MPH in a 60 on a single carriageway road for 13 miles between Aylesbury and Bicester (though to be fair I think he may be obliged to by law) and then it was slow when we got on the M40. Soon enough though, we sped up and were in Walsall at Morrisons at 1.30. We had planned to have lunch in the cafe there. I had checked on the Morrisons site and they assured me it had a Cafe. However it wasn't until I had paid £1 for parking that I discovered there were 2 Morrisons in the town, and this didn't have a Cafe. It was pretty run down store too, with those blue lights in the toilets designed to stop druggies injecting themselves. So with a quid wasted as we stayed there no more than 5 minutes, it was a tiny bit too late to make our way to the other one and so we headed off to the ground instead, hoping to get food there. We got to the ground just before 2PM and went in and got a programme. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming and pleased that someone had come all the way from Wycombe to see their club. I had a look in the club shop and went and got something to eat from the tea bar. Luckily the range was good and the portions pretty decent - I had Sausage and Chips for £2.50 and that did for a meal. I also had a couple of cups of Bovril later on, made better by the fact that you could add pepper to it and make it taste even better. The game was an entertaining affair with plenty of meaty tackles flying in. I have pasted the report from the non-league paper below.

After the game, we made our way back home. My sat nav decided to try and take us back via the rip off M6 Toll so I had to stop and adjust it to save me flushing a fiver down the toilet. It added a bit of time to the trip but even so, we were back in Aylesbury just after 7, and me back home at 7.30. The next day saw another day at work, plus Wycombe at home to Fleetwood, the way we are playing at the moment, I'm not sure which one will be the most enjoyable!


DALES LANE certainly shows signs of originating from a lower league, but I quite liked the ground. The only original stand is a mixture of seating and standing along one side and is painted in the club colours. It has bench seating and covered standing. There have been 3 new stands put up at one end of the ground. Firstly on either side of the pitch at the top end of the ground, there are 2 covered seating stands, each holding around 150. Then there is a small covered area behind the goal, while the rest is open. It didn't look that big to me, but even I was surprised looking on Wikipedia that the official figure quoted is 1400 capacity in total as it looked bigger than that.

As has been mentioned before, the tea bar is excellent, so it's not so much of a pain that there is not a huge amount, food-wise, around the ground. The club shop was excellent too with a wide range of old programmes, though I didn't pick up anything. With no pens and pennants being a fiver, I decided to put away my money as I have hardly any wall space left. The bar was your standard clubhouse drinks wise and like a lot of club bars now, it had the live Premiership football on. And a special mention for the programme too. It was quite well known in non-league circles for being a nice thick one and at £2 provided great value. It was full of stats and other info. In the age of the internet, programmes have transformed into glossy affairs with little substance but this one has plenty to read and it's nicer to look at it that way than sitting down at a computer screen to browse information. 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Redditch United - Valley Stadium

Redditch United FC
The Valley Stadium
Bromsgrove Road
B97 4RN

Ground Number: 322
Saturday 21st December 2013
Redditch United 1-3 St Albans City
Southern League Premier


Unbeknown to me, the last game turned out to be my 1400th game of football that I had ever seen. It was only later in the week that I discovered this fact when I updated my total games spreadsheet after reading a topic on a forum. I certainly would have chosen something more special than Newport Pagnell Town if I had known beforehand. No disrespect to them, they are a perfectly fine club and I enjoyed my night there, but this match was chosen purely out of convenience as there were plenty of backups nearby, a fact that I had to consider due to the terrible weather conditions that had seen games called off. Not much happened in the week in between then and this game, but we already knew on Tuesday that Redditch would be our destination.  After doing a step 5 game on Tuesday, I wanted to get one higher up the pyramid ticked off and this one appealed. Not only is it at one of the highest possible steps at which I can go to, but there was also talk of them moving ground in the near future. I didn't want a situation like with Cambridge City where I ummed and arred and ended up not being able to see a game there before it closed.  I was actually thinking of going to see Bristol Manor Farm on Friday night, but Anwar was not too keen, despite thoroughly enjoying watching them play at Melksham last month. I certainly wasn't going to go on my own, not when I could work and earn myself nearly £50 for little over 3 hours work. So that one went by the wayside, and match 1401 would have to wait until the following day.

I had more work the following morning, this time £28 worth and so I decided to leave early and offset it against my football costs for this season. I left at 10.30 and after 2 hours work met Anwar at 12.30. He had an additional passenger in the shape of his daughter Aisha who had also come to watch Royston Town v Biggleswade Town with us last season. We made slow progress towards the M40 thanks to over 20 miles of single track road up to Bicester. When you are on these sort of roads, you are stuck at the speed of the slowest vehicle on the road when you are in a long line of cars, and boy were some people dragging their heels today. We sped up a bit once we got to the M40 and then the M42, and arrived in Redditch just after 2PM. With all of us hungry, we made our way into town, just under 10 minutes away. The ground was excellently located and had I known, I would have left a lot earlier and spent some proper time in town. We went to the Brittania Chippy, an Asian owned place, which did all sorts of nice stuff. I settled for a Sheesh kebab stick, a samosa and chips which came to £3.40. It was pretty nice too, not the best, but better than average. We then made our way to the ground, arriving about 2.45. I went and got my stuff from the car, and after paying to get in, bought a programme. It was pretty well presented but didn't have a huge amount to read though. First port of call was the club shop, which looked good, but didn't have any pens or pennants for me to buy. I then updated my Facebook before taking some pictures of the ground and then finding a seat behind the goal for the first half.

I had seen St Albans on 3 previous occasions. Firstly at their own ground in 1999 when they faced West Ham in a testimonial for their long-serving player Steve Clark. West Ham played a young team that day but still triumphed 5-0 with Gary Alexander getting all of them. He went on to have a reasonable lower league career, which was a bit less than his performance that night suggested. I had also seen them triumph 3-0 at Slough a year later, and then in 2005 get a 1-1 draw at Enfield Town in the FA Cup. I had only seen Redditch on one previous occasion. As recently as last season they were beaten 3-0 at Arlesey in a very one-sided game. One notable player in the St Albans lineup was Paul Bastock. He had played against Wycombe in 1993 for Boston United. His career was already 5 years old at the point, having made his debut for Cambridge United in his late teens back in the 1988/89 season. He was one of a number of good keepers and characters around at that time in the Conference and went on to make 625 appearances for Boston over 13 years. He was back for his third spell at St Albans City and seeing him at the ripe old age of 43 bought a warm feeling. Not just because in these times of mercenaries who grab all they can take from footy whilst not giving as much back, here was a keeper in his 25th year of senior football still performing admirably. Plus the fact that I was still a schoolkid when I first saw him play, it made me feel young for once rather than feeling like an old git and wondering where all those years had gone to. It was a decent game - the match report from the Non-League Paper is below.

I had enjoyed another good day watching football and on the way home first listened to BBC WM to see what was happening in the local football scene. After BBC Radio Oxford it was Radio 5 for 606 with Robbie Savage. There was talk about the idiot Vincent Tan who is ruining Cardiff City at the moment and wants successful manager Malky Mackay to 'resign or be sacked'. Yet another example of foreign owners (after shennaigans at Blackburn & Hull) ruling roughshod over fans wishes and traditions of the game. I for one hope Mackay screws them for every penny he can, and apart from a madman who tried to defend his actions later on in the phone in, everyone that I have spoken to agreed with me. I dropped Anwar off at 6.30, getting home just before 7. This will probably be my last game before Christmas, but knowing me I will be tempted to sneak another in if I can. I hope all my friends and all that are reading this have a great Christmas and a happy new year when it comes around.


THE VALLEY STADIUM is a traditional non-league ground, with plenty of interesting features. But if the club has their way, they will be moving out soon with high maintenance costs and a bad pitch being the clubs main reasons for them wanting a move. It will be a shame as it is one of the more interesting grounds in non-league. The main stand is particularly interesting with a strange 2 tier design. It also houses the bar and dressing rooms. Opposite is a covered terrace, whilst to the right is the same, except bigger and with a row of seats at the back to comply with ground grading regulations. The one remaining side had a temporary seated stand when I visited for pictures on a non-matchday back in their Conference North days, but now it is just open standing.

The bar is excellent with a decent selection of drinks, and Sky TV too. You can also watch the game from in here as it has views out onto the pitch. The club shop has a reasonable range of merchandise and old programmes too. The tea bar was decent. Despite not eating there I bought a Bovril and got a free mince pie thrown in, very nice and all in the festive spirit. The town centre is only 5-10 minutes away if you fancy a wider choice and have time to kill.