Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Kettering Town - Latimer Park


Kettering Town FC
Latimer Park
Polwell Lane
Burton Latimer
Kettering
Northants
NN15 5PS

01536 217006




Ground Number: 327

Tuesday 21st January 2014
Kettering Town 4-5 Redditch United
Red Insure Cup






PRE MATCH RESEARCH

My first visit to see Kettering on their own patch was at Rockingham Road in October 1992. Kettering Town FC was suffering financial issues at the time, a scene that was to be repeated many times over the years. I remember them charging £1 (quite a lot of money at the time!) for a very thin programme which repeated the message about being in the brown stuff financially. Wycombe romped to a 4-0 win and I remember at the time thinking what a huge stand Kettering had, as it was only the 4th ground that I had visited. My other times watching Kettering consisted of 2 games during the 2 seasons I had watched Wycombe in the Conference. Firstly in March 1992, we beat them 1-0, thanks to a remarkable own goal from Paul Nichol which probably would have won goal of the season had it been in the right net. Though this was part of a run of 8 successive Conference victories, the season was to end in tears as we lost out on goal difference to Colchester United for the title, despite getting 94 points from 42 games. The next season saw us win the league and trophy double and Kettering's 2-1 win at Adams Park was a rare blip in that season. I saw the Poppies play once more before tonight - last season they narrowly lost 2-1 to Leamington despite being on a poor run of form at the time and Leamington being on their way to promotion. I remember the Kettering keeper most from this game - he looked like Mr T from the A-Team!!

I had watched visitors Redditch United as recently as December 21st on their own ground. They were unlucky to lose to St Albans on that occasion. I had also seen them lose away to Arlesey, so neither side had the greatest of records when I was watching them. Both, however, had made good progress in this competition. Redditch had an amazing 6-4 victory at Stratford Town before beating Rugby Town 3-2 on their own ground. Kettering had won 5-0 at home to Daventry before travelling to Arlesey and winning 3-0. So plenty of goals and I was hoping for more of the same on the night. It would go to extra time and penalties in any case, so at least I would see some action.


MY VISIT

For the third time this year I'd be visiting a ground that I had never been to before, not even to take pictures, With regular trips to watch Wycombe in the past all over the country, I had stopped off at a whole load of grounds en route and so it was becoming ever rarer that I'd be seeing a ground for the first time when I went to see a game there. This would be the fourth Kettering Town 'home' ground in under 3 years. Up until 2011 the club was based at Rockingham Road, their home of 114 years. However former chairman Imran Ladak couldn't wait to get out of the ground, despite the lease on it still having time to run. They then moved to rivals Rushden & Diamonds former home. The original tenants went bust and Kettering could have followed had they stayed there, such were the costs of upkeep. The club vacated the premises and moved to groundshare with local side Corby Town mid-season, staying there for around 6 months. Eventually, for the start of this season, they moved to another ground share, this time with Burton Park Wanderers, a team based in a part of Kettering called Burton Latimer. They have had to make some improvements to the ground, as the home team played at step 6 of non league in the United Counties League Division 1. The criteria for stadia is much lower at this level, so it remains to be seen whether this will be a permanent groundshare, or indeed how long it will last. Rivals Rushden and Diamonds are doing much the same thing a division lower with Wellingborough Town, and that's a pretty good setup so it would be interesting to see what tonight's game would bring.



I had actually been meaning to go to this game twice previously. But the rain and waterlogged pitches meant I went to Leiston and Hatfield instead. I was glad when it was finally confirmed as on as I needed this one to re-complete the Southern League Division 1 Central, having finished it last season before 3 new teams entered into the fray. I spent my day off from work chilling and planning a few more trips for the rest of the season. I left home at 4, picking up Anwar in Aylesbury at 4.30. We put Morrisons in Kettering, where we were planning to go for dinner, into the sat nav. The first part of the journey was fine, with not too much traffic apart from the usual in Milton Keynes. But when we hit Northamptonshire, it really clogged up with the A43 and A45 being especially rubbish. Even though they were dual carriageways they crawled along at a snail's pace for miles on end. We eventually got to Morrisons at 6.30 and went to the cafe. Usually, at lunchtime the cafe is spot on, with freshly cooked food and a big menu. However I had to choose from a greatly reduced menu for the evening, and when it came the chips weren't particularly hot (only warm) and the burger though tasting OK was nowt to write home about. Still, it was only £3.50, and it filled a gap. It was just before 7 by the time we had finished dinner and as parking was supposed to be limited at the ground, we got on our way, arriving at 7.15. We took a quick look in the clubhouse, not much going on so we went into the ground. I picked up a programme and in between taking some pictures of the ground, I chatted to 2 groundhoppers off of Facebook. One of them I had met before, Peter, the Southend fan. Also for the first time, I met Stephen, a Crewe fan. We discussed the best grounds we had been to and the ones that we planned to visit. It was getting quite cold now, so I resolved to get myself a Bovril if possible at half-time. I took my place along the side of the pitch for what would turn out to be an epic encounter, as described below There is also footage of the first goal that I got on my mobile.



15: Penalty to Kettering, smashed against the bar by Dubi Ogbonna but Andy Gooding followed up. This followed an extremely harsh and wrongful sending off for James Mutton whose accidental handball led to the penalty kick. (1-0)

18: Jermaine Hylton raced down the left and cut inside before finishing past the Kettering keeper, a decent goal created by the Redditch man's pace. (1-1)

27: A good break allowed Moreman to get in a cross that James Jepson headed in. (2-1)

34: Pretty much a replica of the first goal and Jermaine Hylton scored his and the visitors second. (2-2)

HALF TIME: KETTERING TOWN 2-2 REDDITCH UNITED

56: That man Hylton involved again, except this time he was the provider. His cross found Sterling James on the right whose shot went in off the left-hand post. (2-3)

57: Less than a minute later it was all square. Louis Hamilton sped down the right, crossed and Josh Moreman was there to fire home. (3-3)

59: Moreman's second and a great finish to turn the tie on it's head in double quick time (4-3)

69: Jermaine Hylton completing his hat trick as he evaded 2 Kettering tackles, before levaing himself with a simple chance (4-4)

77: Hylton involved yet again as he set up Ashley Sammons, his cool left-foot finish past the Kettering keeper proving to be the winner (4-5)

FINAL SCORE FROM LATIMER PARK: KETTERING TOWN 4-5 REDDITCH UNITED




It had turned out to be an amazing game with plenty of chances for either side. A draw probably would have been fair and myself and Anwar were praying for a draw so we could see the drama of a penalty shoot out. But it wasn't to be, it was a great way to finish the Southern Division 1 Central football-wise. They were also a friendly club and I chatted to a number of Kettering fans during the evening. Sadly it was time to get back to real life though. We left at about 9.50. The drive home was a lot quicker and I was back at Anwar's in Aylesbury by 10.55. A quick drive home saw me get back to mine just before 11.20, though I was still wide awake from the football so I didn't get to sleep till after 1, getting just 3 hours sleep before I had to be up for work. As a footnote, things did not go as well in an equally exciting game for Wycombe, who played at Beaconsfield SYCOB in the Berks and Bucks Cup. Despite having 371 appearances for the Wycombe Wanderers first team between them, a Wycombe side who have started many times this season managed to lose on penalties after drawing 3-3. I'd had a premonition on the way home that it would be 4-2 on penalties as soon as we heard it had gone into extra time. Jon Barrie Bates, who will be 42 in April and who has hardly played the last few years even managed to get on the scoresheet, as Beaconsfield rotated their squad. Where we go from here is anyone's guess, as this season lurches from one crisis to another, certainly, the next 4 games will shape our season and we could have a real battle to stay up, being only 2 points above relegation at the time of writing.

THE GROUND

LATIMER PARK is the original home of Burton Park Wanderers, they play at step 6 of non-league, or level 10 of the English league system as a whole. The ground before Kettering was a decent one for this level, comprising of a small seated stand and a covered terrace behind the goal. Since Kettering arrived they have added a couple of new stands, interestingly one of which was at Ford Sports Daventry FC originally. This brings the seating capacity up to around 400, with at a guess another 300 under the cover behind the goal. The remaining 2 sides are uncovered and you can't even access the far side at this present time. The ground does have a very temporary feel to it, as Kettering's future here is uncertain. They are just glad to have a home in or near their town. The ground is probably average for this level and is surrounded by some nice greenery.

There wasn't much in the way of extra facilities on the night. There was no club shop that I could see, nor was there one mentioned on the website. The tea bar was closed too. There were hot pies and beef rolls on sale in the clubhouse, which had your average range of drinks. So it's probably best to eat and drink before you come. Even with that said, it was still a good day out with a friendly club and of course helped by a cracking game of football.


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Hatfield Town - Gosling Stadium


Hatfield Town FC
Gosling Stadium
Stanborough Road
Welwyn Garden City
Hertfordshire
AL8 6XE

01707 331056








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








HATFIELD TOWN - A BRIEF HISTORY


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.



MY VISIT


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.



THE GROUND

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
Wales
CF47 8RF

Official Website
Twitter






Ground Number: 325
Saturday 11th January 2014

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





PRE MATCH RESEARCH

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.

MY VISIT

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.



THE GROUND


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.