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. 

Wednesday 11 December 2013

St Ives Town - Westwood Road

St Ives Town FC
Westwood Road
St Ives
PE27 6DT

Official Website

Ground Number: 320
Tuesday 10th December 2013
St Ives Town 0-1 North Greenford United
Southern League D1 Central


St Ives had been promoted from the United Counties League last season despite finishing 2nd. Holbeach United won the league but did not apply for promotion, leaving the door open for St Ives to step in. They only finished 2nd by virtue of this year's runaway leaders Spalding Town fielding an ineligible player, an offence that also saw Spalding kicked out of the FA Vase last week. Someone really should shapen up on their paperwork! This hadn't stopped St Ives having a good season so far, sitting comfortably in mid-table with 28 points. I had seen them once already this season, as they went down 4-3 in an entertaining FA Cup game at Concord Rangers. I was hoping for a similar game tonight.


Last season I completed the Southern D1 Central, but due to changes, three new teams came in that I had not been to. The first of which, Potters Bar I went to a fortnight ago, and after tonight I would only have Kettering's 'new' ground at Burton Park to do. I and Anwar decided this one last week whilst we were at the AFC Rushden and Diamonds game. We were hoping we would be able to do these teams against Anwar's local team Aylesbury but the fixtures didn't fall right. I had actually been up this way recently on my trip to Kings Lynn but I purposely missed out St Ives despite visiting nearby Huntingdon and Godmanchester Rovers. I was certain I would be coming back and didn't want to spoil the surprise of what the ground would be like when I went for the game. Leading up to the game, the night before my crown came out for the second time in a month and this time I swallowed the damn thing. I'd have to wait over a week to even see the dentist and another tooth was a bit sensitive too. I had a productive day on my day off though - getting my haircut, getting my car washed and getting a few things to take to footy. I left at 4.15 with the intention of meeting Anwar in Aylesbury at 4.45.

I got there more or less on time and after around 20 minutes delay, we got there around 6.45. We parked in the nearby leisure centre and as we were both hungry decided to take the 10-minute walk into town. It turned out to be worth it, as we found a decent place called 'Hot and Spicy' in the town. I got a Mexican Burger with chips for £3.30. The portion sizes were great and they even threw in a free drink, a good un too, one of those Rubicon Mango ones. Best of all the food was delicious and I would certainly recommend eating there. I may even come back on the way to another game if it is near, as it was good value. We got a bit lost on the way back to the ground, going down 1 turning sooner than we should have but we still got back with 10 minutes to spare till kick off. We paid to get in and each got a programme for £1. For the price, it was a very decent effort, well presented and on good quality paper> There were a few typos, but it had plenty to read for someone who had not bought it before, with histories of both clubs and a few other articles. I'd say it's one of the better ones I have seen this season. I saved it till I got home and went and had a quick look in their bar to use the toilet.

The game was a reasonably decent one, with North Greenford deserving the win after having the better of the game. They got a last-minute penalty and despite St Ives keeper Barney McLaughlin initially saving it, the rebound was put in by Liam Hind for the only goal of the game. That was despite the visitors being down to 10 men as Carlton Stewart had been sent off for a couple of bookings. So while St Ives looked poor in comparison to when I saw them in the FA Cup at Concord, and especially considering their league position, North Greenford looked like a side that should come away from the bottom places with ease. It had been very close to being a 0-0 draw, which wouldn't have really reflected a half-decent game, a complete contrast to the last 0-0 I saw - a boring game between Enfield 1893 and London Tigers in August.

The journey home was a lot better, the only problem we encountered was the A418 being closed between Wing and Bedgrove, with no diversion signed. Luckily I just went down a road that seemed in roughly the same direction and eventually we found ourselves back on the main road. It was only a short delay and I was back at Anwar's house in Aylesbury by 11.10 and back at mine by 11.35. As usual, I didn't want to go to sleep when I got in and ended up getting just a couple of hours of sleep. Luckily I am used to that on a Wednesday morning and the tiredness does not affect me much now.


WESTWOOD ROAD is like Potters Bar in the respect that it was a traditional step 5 ground, and hasn't seen too much improvement to make the step up as it already met regulations. Although it is one of the more basic ones at this step, it has plenty of character with both stands being fairly old. On the side where you come in, there is a stand that has a mixture of standing and seating and this side also houses all the facilities like bar and dressing room. The other side is a slightly newer stand, all seated, though some seats are out of action, while they are being replaced. Other than that, it is all open, I'd say there was cover for around 500, which is all you need for this level.

The bar is your typical clubhouse with Sky Sports on, for cider fans, it is Aspalls on draught which makes a nice change. You can also order a small range of items merchandise wise, either online or in the bar. I didn't use the tea bar as I had already eaten, but prices seemed reasonable and the chips looked nice.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Coalville Town - Owen Street


Coalville Town FC
Owen Street
LE67 3DA

Ground Number: 318
Saturday 30th November 2013
Coalville Town 1-1 Grimsby Town
FA Trophy 1st Round


Now some more on that magical FA Cup run for Coalville. Or rather than to when we found out we were playing them. It was approaching the end of Tony Adams' miserable spell of manager of Wycombe. This consisted of horrendously boring football (though not as dreadful as the stuff we would experience under Peter Taylor a few years later). True to the form, we had suffered a mind-numbingly dull 1-0 defeat at Darlington and at the time I went on the coach, so faced a long journey home. The FA Cup draw proved a brief distraction as we waited to see who came out the hat. A lot of people on the coach were delighted when we were drawn at home to Coalville Town or Liversedge, though we would have preferred it to be away from home. We knew virtually nothing about either team as I didn't really follow that level of football at the time. But it was great to draw out someone that not many people had heard of - not because we were hoping for a big win, but because it would be nice to see something and someone different.  The replay between the 2 sides would be in Leicestershire the following Tuesday, the 2 teams having drawn at Liversedge's Clayborn ground up in Yorkshire on the day the draw was made. The game was the same day as we played Swansea City in the LDV Vans Trophy, which happily we won 1-0. These were the days when the mobile internet was in its infancy - well before the days of social networking like Twitter too. Even a message board would have been a long shot, as would the club websites at the time, certainly no chance of a real-time update anyway. I had to rely on the old-fashioned phone call. Having put the number of Coalville Town in my mobile before leaving home, I rang them up at full time to ask what the score was. The man on the other end confirmed that they had won, 2-0 I think it was and so we knew our opponent for the next round, which would be played in 10 days time. In the intervening time, Tony Adams resigned from his job as manager. But bizarrely he didn't tell anyone at the club - chairman Ivor Beeks found out on BBC News at teatime! A parting of the ways was a good thing - he left us in 17th in League 2. It was in the week after a 1-0 defeat at home to Yeovil Town. After the media circus died down, we got on with it and put Peter Cawley in charge for the upcoming game.

Coalville started in the very first round of the competition in August - the Extra Preliminary Round. They beat Daventry Town 3-0 before beating Gedling Town by the same score in the Preliminary Round. A 2-2 draw at Deeping Rangers in the next round saw them face a replay which they won 3-1. They then faced Rushall Olympic in the second qualifying round, winning that game 2-1. They won away to another Midlands side to set up a game at Willenhall, which again they came through. That saw them in the final qualifying round. Whilst the FA Cup draw had been fairly kind to them, their opponents Liversedge had a couple of giantkillings along the way, most notably beating Conference North side Harrogate Town. In the first game played in Liversedge records show that the home side had a goal wrongly chalked off for offside, a fact later backed up by the Sky Sports cameras that covered highlights of the game. But Coalville prevailed in the replay and so they would be the side to face Wycombe at Adams Park in the first round.

As mentioned above, the build-up to the game from Wycombe's point of view was tough, having lost a manager and been on a poor run of form in the league. Despite all this, the general consensus was that Wycombe would still win at a canter. Not that this dampened Coalville's enthusiasm at all - 908 fans travelled down to see the game. The first 10 minutes saw chances for Wycombe as the visitors started nervously. But on 15 minutes it took a smart save from Frank Talia in the Wycombe goal to keep out Chris Woodhall's free kick. Ashley Warner hit a shot into the side netting on 27 minutes as Wycombe lived dangerously. The home side did have a good chance before halftime though as Nathan Tyson headed wide. The second half was a bit more restricted chances wise and it took a solitary header from Roger Johnson to put Wycombe through on 70 minutes. Wycombe fans in the terrace unveiled a banner that said 'SACK THE BOARD' but it would take many more years of mistakes, incompetence and brinksmanship before the supporters finally got to take over the club. In many ways, it got worse with our very existence threatened due to financial mistakes.  Wycombe had avoided a big shock and can count themselves lucky not to have been on the end of an upset. Though we were the better side, there was no way at all that we performed to our full capabilities and the Coalville side and their fans that day can be rightly proud of their 9 game FA Cup run. The team got a great reception from the fans and deservedly so. Wycombe couldn't perform a giant-killing of their own and lost in the next round to League 1 leaders Luton Town 3-0 at Adams Park to end their interest in the cup.


I had waiting to go to Coalville for quite a while. Ever since we played them in the FA Cup 1st Round back in 2004 I had been interested in learning more about them. At the time they were at what is now step 5 level and we were drawn against them or Liversedge, another step 5 side who play in the NCEL League. In the intervening years I had stopped by and got some pictures from outside their ground on the way to a Wycombe game up north. They were still in the Midlands Alliance at the time and from what I could see it was your standard step 5 ground. Once I started doing groundhopping properly in 2011 I had vowed to return for a game. I tried to sell it to Anwar but he always fancied another option, so it remained unticked. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as a couple of weeks ago they were drawn at home to Grimsby in the FA Trophy first round. As regular readers of my blog know, I have a lot of friends from up there and will always select them as an option should they be playing at a ground that I have not been to before, unless Wycombe are playing at home of course. I announced my intentions of doing this game as soon as the draw was made and with Anwar looking to complete the 92 first and foremost, he asked could I drop him off in Leicester on my way up, as he had not done the Walkers Stadium yet. I was more than happy to oblige - it gave me company for most of the journey and just as important, helped me out with fuel costs. 
Things were nearly as bleak in the lead up to this weeks game. Wycombe had only won a third of their games at home and been on a very poor run. The latest showing against Exeter was again poor, we started well enough - taking the lead through Steven Craig on 8 minutes. But then, sadly as seems to be the case with Ainsworth's teams this season we time wasted and used gamesmanship to the extreme and are gaining an unsavoury reputation for using these sorts of tactics. It's not great to watch and it certainly doesn't make you proud to admit that your team uses them sorts of dirty tricks almost week in week out. Gareth Ainsworth has my full backing for the job, I still think he is the best we could hope for, as I do with the trust being in charge of the club. But I just wish we would cut out all the negative stuff as Exeter were there for the taking, having been on a poor run of form themselves.

But it wasn't Wycombe who I would be going to see this game. While Wycombe were playing at Dagenham I would be off to meet up with some mates from Grimsby as they faced Coalville. I had only met them a fortnight ago when I went up there for a couple of days. The next meet at Barnet in January seemed a long way off and so I was pleased when this draw came out. I had already seen Grimsby play this season as they scraped a 1-0 victory at Hyde back in August. As a strange coincidence, I also saw Grimsby last season when Wycombe were away at Dagenham. They drew 0-0 at Newport while Wycombe were losing 3-0 in Ainsworth's first game in charge. In fact, I had only seen 1 goal in the 3 latest Grimsby games that I had been to, as I saw a 0-0 at Telford the season before last. I had however seen a 1-1 draw as their reserves drew 1-1 with Rotherham, but it had been a poor goals return nonetheless. In the week leading up to the game I had another busy week at work, plus a couple of extra casual jobs so I was saving a bit thankfully, after having an expensive November. I was disappointed on Friday to learn that William wouldn't be coming, but he was like I got with the Wycombe games in that he didn't think he would enjoy it that much. When it gets to that stage, you are better off taking a break - I wen't home and away with Wycombe for 7 years and resented having to go back to the same old places that had little attraction for a day out. When the football got really bad under Peter Taylor I finally kicked the habit, but I wished I had done it earlier as I'd not been enjoying it for a while and was going out of habit rather than because I wanted to. It was costing me a lot of money too, that could be better spent on something I actually fancied. This season I am just going to the games that have something attractive about them - a meet, or more than likely in my case - a good pub. I have only done 2 so far and am only expecting to get 5 or so done in total.

On the day I woke pretty early and had a bath. I was thinking of Wycombe's game at Dagenham and recalled the first time I went there with Wycombe. It was a good occasion for them - their first game back in the football league. But it's the only ground I have been to where the BNP were actively canvassing. Luckily they got short shrift from everyone and are about as popular in politics as MK Dons are in football. I picked Anwar up at 10.30 and soon we were on our way. After a bit of traffic in Aylesbury I dropped Anwar off at Leicester at 12.30 and by 1 was in Coalville. I knew John and Tom, the 2 brothers that I knew would be coming today which was a great bonus as I get on really well with them, and they are the nicest people you could wish to meet. 
I had a couple of hours to kill, so I headed down to Wetherspoons in town, and had a pint of Black Dragon from my favourite brewer Gwynt Y Ddraig. I saw there was a cider I had not tried called Manza Loca. It was £3.15 for one bottle or £5 for 2. They were fairly small so I opted for 2. It was quite unique in that it had Tequilla in it, and most important of all I enjoyed it. The pub was packed full of Grimsby fans who had made their way down for the game. After that, it was nearly 2 and so I headed to a nearby chippy and bought battered burger and chips before going back to the car to collect my things for the game. I paid my £10 to get in and looking at the attendance, they must have made a bit of money which is great news for the club. Despite a visible police presence, there was not any sign of trouble, so hopefully, Coalville weren't made to waste money on that side of things. I was delighted to meet John and Tom and we had a good chat before the game started. The game wasn't the greatest performance by Grimsby, but like the last time I saw them, Coalville played very well and fully deserved their draw. I have included the report from the non league paper below.

After the game, I said my goodbyes and walked back to the car park with the lads as their coach was parked there too. There was an impromptu firework display to celebrate Coalville's result and it was around 5.15 before I left. I picked up Anwar from Leicester just before 6 and after a decent drive home, we were back home, having enjoyed our games. It was a lot better than going to Dagenham, that's for sure, what with Wycombe losing 2-0 and continuing their bad run of form.


OWEN STREET started life as a basic step 5 ground and this shows as it is one of the smaller ones at step 4. There are 3 covered areas - a seated area along each side I think (probably a few hundred seats in total) It still provides enough cover for even their highest league attendance so far this season (212) Completing the set is some cover behind one goal, probably holding around 300. The rest is open standing, and Grimsby got just under half the ground, all of it open. Luckily the weather was fine today though. The segregation was of a very temporary nature. It's a shame they had to have it as both sets of fans are well behaved in the general scheme of things. Though both do have a minority who like to come and cause trouble for the big games, sadly this means the club didn't make that much out of today after paying Grimsby's expenses and giving them half the gate too. 

They had a club shop which a steward very kindly took me round to see. It offered a fair range of stuff but no pens or pennants that I collect. There were temporary food and bar facilities in the Grimsby end, not that I used them as I had eaten beforehand. Overall I was happy I came here, the club was friendly and helpful and with them in second place in the NPL D1 South, they stand a great chance of going up. Special mention to the excellent programme which was well presented and with plenty to read in it as well.