Wednesday 15 January 2014

Hatfield Town - Gosling Stadium

Hatfield Town FC
Gosling Stadium
Stanborough Road
Welwyn Garden City

01707 331056

Ground Number: 326
Tuesday 14th January 2014
Hatfield Town 1-2 Holmer Green
Spartan South Midlands League - Premier Division


I had stopped to take pictures of Hatfield Town on the way to Stevenage Borough a couple of seasons ago and had been impressed with the size of the main stand. One drawback though was the fact that there was a velodrome and an athletics track in between the stand and the pitch, however, fellow hopper Laurence assured me that that could be alleviated by the sheer height of the stand and advised that the best place to watch from was the bar. Not that I was thinking of drinking, one of my New Years' resolutions was to cut down a little bit and I would be out for my Mum's birthday tomorrow in any case. As for Hatfield Town themselves, Wikipedia revealed little but I did find out that they were playing at the highest level that had ever been, having been promoted twice in recent times. The best they had done in the FA Cup was the second qualifying round on four occasions, the most recent being 2011/12 when they beat Sawbridgeworth Town before gaining 2 notable scalps in Enfield and Barton Rovers. However, their dream was ended as they lost 3-0 to Leighton Town. Looking at the league table for tonight's game, and having followed it all season in the Non-League Paper, Holmer Green in a mid-table position of 12th. Usually, they were struggling, being one of the smaller teams in the league. They were usually embroiled in a scrap to stay up and that was where tonight's hosts, Hatfield Town found themselves. They were in 21st place but with only one side going down, they still had a cushion of 4 points over the bottom side, London Lions.


Originally the plan for tonight had been to go to Kettering Town v Redditch United in the Red Insure Cup. I had been planning to go last week too, but an afternoon postponement saw me having to change my plans. That week I went to Leiston, a hell of a trek for me for a midweek game, which surprisingly had little effect on me the next day, surprising as I was up at 4am and only got a couple of hours sleep. On the day of the game I was fully expecting the game to go ahead, so much so that I spent the morning doing some research on Kettering Town and writing my blog, or at least starting it anyway. They had a game at home on Saturday which they won 5-1 and there hasn't been a huge amount of rain since. Things started to look dodgy around lunchtime when they announced a pitch inspection. Sure enough at around 2.30 it was called off and I was texting Anwar with a list of alternatives. I had no real preference, possibly swayed to Mickleover Sports v Scarborough Athletic, but happy to go anywhere. I got a reply saying he didn't want to go far, so we settled on the nearest - Hatfield Town v Holmer Green in the Spartan South Midlands League - a league in which I had done a fair amount of games in.

One benefit of going so local was that I could leave late, this meant that I could leave later and eat dinner at home. I had arranged to meet Anwar at 6.15, so left at 5.35, allowing 40 minutes to get to him with the rush hour traffic. I had a nice beef rendang for dinner which set me up nicely for the evening. I got to Anwar's 5 minutes early and we had a pretty good journey to Hatfield, or to be more precise Welwyn Garden City where the ground is located. The entrance was quite hard to find and in the end we ended up taking the players entrance down a muddy bank. We paid the gateman who gave us a free programme and told us a lot of people make the same mistake. The ground was a strange one but a pretty good one for an athletics stadium. We went around taking some pictures before going out again and watching from the bar. It was nice to sit in the warm for a while and the view from the balcony was excellent.

During the first half we got chatting to a nice couple of people. A bloke who lives in Enfield but who goes to every Hatfield game home and away. And a lady who lives nearby but who is a Newport fan. The talk helped an entertaining first half go quickly. The game was pretty even. Holmer Green took the lead first - dodgy marking at a corner left a player unmarked for an easy finish. But a much better goal was Hatfield's equaliser, their Morrocan number 7 Adam Murad powered in a shot from outside the area. He was their best player but the teams were fairly even and it was all square at the break.
The second half was more of the same. Hatfield had some gilt-edged chances but just couldn't put them away. It was fairly even but it was visitors Holmer Green that won it when they finished off a nice move. There was still time to get it back, but it just didn't happen. It was a quick journey home, dropping Anwar off at 10.30 and getting home just before 11. There were some interesting football results - Kidderminster overcoming Peterborough in the FA Cup, happily though there was no giant-killing as Wigan put MK Dons out. Barrow won 2-1 at Brackley which is a great result for them and some of my mates. But my poor mate William went all the way down to Forest Green. 5-6 hours on a coach, only to see the game abandoned due to a floodlight failure. A nice touch that I saw was that local team Cleethorpes Town were offering free entry to their game tomorrow to anyone with a ticket from the trip. Finally, what a win for Hyde, winning 2-0 at Welling to beat a barren run of 27 games since tasting victory.


GOSLING STADIUM doesn't sound that appealing when you think of it being an athletics stadium. After finding your way in which is a bit of a mission in the dark you get down to the pitch side which is quite elevated and offers a reasonable view. The stand probably holds a few hundred and there is covered terracing too. Overall I'd say there is room for a few thousand. The best view is to be had in the bar. From the balcony it's like the view from a Premiership upper tier. The bar itself is smart and modern and offers a fair range of drinks. Their is also a tea bar which sells hot drinks for cheap prices. The only club merchandise they had was metal badges but overall I'd say this friendly club are well worth a visit. 

Sunday 12 January 2014

Merthyr Town - Penydarren Park

Merthyr Town FC
Penydarren Park
Park Terrace
Merthyr Tydfil
CF47 8RF

Official Website

Ground Number: 325
Saturday 11th January 2014

Merthyr Town 3-2 Paulton Rovers
Southern League Division 1 South & West


The town of Merthyr Tydfil itself had not enjoyed the best of press in recent years. In the papers for being the sickness and dole capital of Wales. But I take any reports like that with a pinch of salt, especially as they often have a not very well hidden agenda, and I'd much prefer to judge a place on my own experiences. It's most famous residents include fashion designer Laura Ashley and footballer Mark Pembridge. The team has been as high as the Conference, with one of the biggest grounds too at the time Wycombe were in it. In 2010 the old Merthyr Tydfil club went into liquidation and reformed in the summer of that year. They have made great strides in the few years since that, gaining 2 promotions to be in their current league. They have some way to go to recapture former glories, but with excellent support, you'd not bet against them bringing more success to the town. The former clubs most famous moment came when they won the Welsh Cup in 1987. In those days the winner of that got a European place and Merthyr made the most of theirs giving Italians Atalanta a real tough tie before going out 3-2 on aggregate. I always remember them for having some good players back in their Conference days - goalkeeper Gary Wager and midfielder Dave Webley to name just 2. Their more famous stars include John Charles, Bob Latchford and Tommy Hutchison.


So after a good groundhop at Leiston, I saw out the rest of the week at work, eagerly awaiting Saturday for my next game. In that time I discovered that I might be changing my plans for the 25th when Wycombe travel to Mansfield. Originally I was keen but it transpires that they have a ridiculous policy of making ALL games for away fans all ticket. Apparently, it is down to them wanting to get extra capacity at the ground, and having to abide by this rule to get it. I really can't be bothered to jump through hoops if that is how they treat people, especially with our poor form and me having been there many times in the past. It remains to be seen what I will do that day, possibly Worksop if I can get some Wycombe fans to come along - after dropping them at Mansfield it's only 14 miles away. 
Merthyr is a ground I have been looking forward to visiting for quite a while. The old club, Merthyr Tydfil were in the Conference and played Wycombe a fair few times. We had an excellent record against them, as indicated by a recent feature in our club programme. They were our first league opponents under legendary boss Martin O'Neill as we gained a 1-1 draw in Wales. The 3 times I had seen them against Wycombe we had won - two 4-0 victories in the league and a 3-1 win in the FA Cup in 1992. I also saw them lose to Hungerford in last years Southern League Division 1 South and West playoff final, so I had not bought them the best of luck so far. I'd even picked up a pennant of the old club - a bargain 50p from the Leamington club shop and it came with a free keyring too.

I woke at around 4.30 on the day of the game, around about the time I get up for work. Probably something to do with the fact that I had an early night the previous night, but annoying all the same, I watched TV till 7.15, then had a wash and got dressed, before leaving to meet Anwar at 8, arriving in Aylesbury at 8.20. Soon enough we were off and were in Merthyr by 11.15. As I had time to kill I decided to drive to ASDA, hoping to pick up some of my favourite Welsh cider. As it turned out, they didn't have any, so I went back to the ground and parked up in a side street. 
It was still only 11.50 at this time, so we made our way into town. After a fairly uninteresting browse around the shops, we made our way to the local Wetherspoons - Y Dic Penderyn - for lunch. I took full advantage of being in Wales, having a couple of bottles of the Gwynt y Ddraig cider that I like. I also had a Welsh special off the menu - Faggots, Mushy Peas and Chips - taking the phrase 'When In Rome' to the maximum extent. All was very nice indeed and so after a very patriotic lunch, we made our way to the ground, arriving just before 2PM. I had heard nothing but good things about the ground itself, it being well known as a real gem for groundhoppers. The praise was well founded, so I took a fair amount of pictures before having a look at what else there was in the ground. I was still peckish so I bought myself Sausage and Chips before finding a place on the big side terrace to watch the game, a report of which is pasted from the non-league paper below.

After the game, I was reasonably happy with Wycombe's 1-1 draw at Morecambe when I checked the final score on my phone. We made pretty good time, but it was disappointing to see that Man U had beaten Swansea to arrest their recent slump. It was amusing to watch, almost as funny as the Home Alone mickey take that I had seen a few weeks ago, based on Man U players. I stopped at Tesco before we got out of Merthyr and I managed to pick up the stuff I had wanted earlier. We were back in Aylesbury by 8.15, with me getting home at 8.40. I was glad to put my feet up and relax after a long day.


PENYDARREN PARK is a proper old school ground with plenty of terracing and a big capacity of 10,000. It also has 1500 seats, the majority of which are situated along the side where you come into the ground. There are a few seats behind the goal to the left, which also has terracing and is fully covered. Opposite is expansive terracing, mainly covered, whilst the remaining end is open terracing. The bar is pretty much your standard clubhouse but has a good view of the pitch from its windows. The club shop is a bit of a disappointment, not having much at all, especially for a fairly big team. One good point though is the tea bar, which has a great range of stuff at good prices and the double sausage and chips were very nice too at £2. It's one of few grounds of its type left, the people are friendly and with all the bad weather that we have been having lately, the 3G pitch ensures that you won't have a wasted journey.