Friday 28 February 2014

Cammell Laird - Kirklands

Cammell Laird FC
St Peters Road
Rock Ferry
CH41 1PY

07931 761429

Ground Number: 333
Tuesday 25th February 2014
Tranmere Rovers Reserves 1-1 Morecambe Reserves
Final Third Development League - West Division


Originally this ground wasn't a target on my week off. Instead I was going to have a look round a town, probably Southport before the evening's game there. But then I asked on the Non League Forum if there was any games on and to my delight someone mentioned Tranmere Rovers reserves. They said it would either be at Tranmere's home ground of Prenton Park, or at the home of NPL D1 North side Cammell Laird. I was hoping for the latter when I tweeted Tranmere Rovers on the week before and was chuffed when they replied that it would be played at Cammell Laird. This ground had actually been up for consideration for a visit at the end of last season, when the playoffs were on. However I chose the closer option of Stamford, which turned out to be a decent choice and a good Friday night out.  On the day, I had a decent lie in, waking up at 9am. I watched the second half of last night's Corrie on my iPad, as well as looking around various sites. By then it was just after 10 and so I had a bath and a relax and left the hotel at 11.30am. After stopping at Asda to get some lunch, I made my way to the ground arriving at 12:45. I met my Tranmere supporting friend David who would be joining me for the evening's match at Southport, and had a good chat to some other Tranmere fans about how our respective clubs were not doing as well as they should be. I picked up a very comprehensive teamsheet which also had other news and info on it, It was free and combined with the £3 entry, made for a good value day out.

I recognised 2 names from Tranmere's line up with Wycombe connections. Firstly their keeper Jason Mooney who had been playing Semi Pro in Ireland when he came over to England and worked for the club in a non football role. Soon enough the playing side heard of his talent and he was given a chance. He did well and despite doing well at Oxford City on loan for a season (he won their player of the year award) , he was released and snapped up by Tranmere. Another player, left back Evan Horwood was a transfer target for Wycombe under Tony Adams, however that move never went through. As for todays game, both players did well, and the game ended in a decent 1-1 draw, James Rowe opening the scoring for the hosts after 10 minutes tanks to a shot into the bottom left hand corner. Both sides had further chances but Morecambe squared it up in the last minute with a Chris Doyle header from a corner. After the game we left pretty quickly, having to pay to go through the Mersey Tunnel. We also visited both Marine and Formby to take some pictures, but more of that in the next blog.


KIRKLANDS is one of the more basic grounds at step 4 level, and it's quite easy to see, however unfair and daft it is, why they were demoted from the NPL Premier for an insufficient ground. There are a couple of seated areas, along with some more standing under cover, but the rest of the ground is open. There was a club shop, but obviously it was closed on the day of my visit. The tea bar sold basic food and drink, but one nice aspect was that you could add pepper to the bovril, which makes it a whole lot better. The ground didn't appear to have anything around it, though I didn't really have time to check.

Ilkeston - New Manor Ground

Ilkeston FC
New Manor Ground

0115 944 4428

Ground Number: 332
Monday 24th February 2014
Ilkeston 6-1 Stocksbridge Park Steels
NPL Premier


Ilkeston FC was formed in 2010 after Ilkeston Town went into liquidation. The original club got as high as the Conference North, even finishing 8th in the last complete season before their demise. But on the 14th September 2010, the club went into liquidation, having only played 6 games of their season. Supporters rallied round and after playing youth football for the rest of that season, they entered the NPL D1 South for the following season. Season 2011/12 turned out to be a successful one for the new club with them gaining promotion in the playoffs after finishing 3rd and beating Leek Town in the final. This meant they were just one promotion away from reaching the previous club's pinnacle. They finished in a safe mid-table position of 11th in their first season and were hoping to make a real push for promotion this season. At the time of this game, they were in mid-table again and would need a very good run of results to achieve their aims. All this information and more can be found on the info-packed IlsonFootball website.


Initially, I had planned to go to Southport on the following Saturday, but the fact that they were playing Grimsby and I could meet some mates again made me have a rethink.   I could also go to Burscough on the Saturday instead as that ground may not be around for much longer. Try as I might, I couldn't persuade Anwar to come with me, and so I decided to make the trip over a couple of days as I was up early at 4am on both the Monday and Wednesday. I started looking for games on Monday and had the choice between 2, Ilkeston and Atherton Collieries. At the time of planning I thought that I would be going to Atherton on my week off in a months time, however, this turned out to be false as they had moved the fixture that was planned for the Monday of that week back to the coming Saturday. This left me without a game for that Monday at present, but I will find something for sure. Fortunately, it was a fairly easy day at work on Monday so I was able to go home and have a bit of a chill before driving to Ilkeston. I also had lunch at home too and discovered that I could go and take a look at Marine and Formby's grounds on the way to Southport. It was good to have a break, I could have left straight from work but I didn't want to get to Ilkeston too early.

I left about 1.15 and despite some slow moving traffic on some of the single carriageways, I made up time and was parked up outside Ilkeston's ground by 4pm. I checked out Facebook and then walked into town to have a look round the shops. There wasn't a huge amount there but I picked up some sweets for the game from B&M Bargains. I then went off to the pub, having arranged to meet an Ilkeston fan, Alan, at a place called Spanish Bar. There I had a cider I had not tried before with ginger in it and also a half of Scrumpy. There was still plenty of time left before kick off and so I went to another pub and got Burger, chips and a pint for a fiver. It wasn't the most amazing burger I had ever had but it filled a hole and was great value compared to a takeaway. By then it was just past 6 so I took a slow walk done towards the ground and collected my camera and a few other bits out of my car. Due to being a club member, Alan got me in for half price which was a nice saving. I bought a programme for £2 and went to the club shop. It was all very modern but sadly nothing I fancied so I roamed around taking pictures until kick off time. The game ended in a comprehensive 6-1 win for the home side and Stocksbridge Park Steels look certain to be relegated come the end of the season with that performance and the fact that they are so far adrift from safety in the table. Video highlights from the game are included above and were provided by the home club's official website. After the game, I said goodbye to Alan and thanked him for the help he had given me with finding some good places in town. I then made my way to my hotel in Crewe, which as per usual for me was a Travelodge. They are by far the cheapest hotel chain, have the convenience of a 24-hour reception so you can turn up when you like and are clean and comfortable. True to form the room was fine and so after around an hour looking around on the internet and watching an episode of Coronation Street on ITV Player I went to sleep, getting the best nights rest I'd had in a while.



The NEW MANOR GROUND is a smart and modern ground, which is all geared up for the Conference North and possibly the Conference National too. The most striking feature is the elevated stand in the corner which looks like it is for season ticket holders only. It has a clock on its corner too, looks smart and looks like it offers a good view. There is further cover provided around the ground, including some seating along one side.

The tea bar is pretty good and the chips that I had were fine. The club  shop offers mainly leisurewear and more expensive items and no old programmes. The bar is big, but none of the money goes to the club I was told, so you are probably better off drinking in the nearby town where there are some nicer places, with more choice. The programme was quite unique in its small size. It was well presented with an average amount of stuff to read, though it did lose points for being an old issue (for the original postponed game) with no insert.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Barnet - The Hive

Barnet FC
The Hive
Greater London

020 8449 6325

Ground Number: 331
Tuesday 18th February 2014
Barnet 2-1 Grimsby Town
Skrill Premier


I have plenty of history of watching both teams and they have plenty of connections with my own team Wycombe. The shortest of the 2 is Grimsby Town. Our record against the Mariners is pretty decent, winning 7, drawing 7 and losing 2. I went to most of these - the bulk of my 7 years not missing a home or away game for Wycombe was when Grimsby followed us around the bottom 2 divisions. I missed the most famous of these wins though. Back in 2001, we got past the FA Cup 3rd Round for the first and only time in our history. This was the year that we reached the semi-final against Liverpool, narrowly losing 2-1 at Villa Park. Grimsby would have been firm favourites, being a division above after the initial tie was drawn 1-1 at Adams Park. But Lawrie Sanchez's charges had different ideas and not for the last time that season they upset the form book, winning 3-1 up at Blundell Park. Since the last time the 2 sides had met in 2009, social media had evolved a great deal and I had met several great people from up that way, so after initially not missing Grimsby that much from our annual fixtures, I was now keen to have them back in League 2 as soon as possible.

Barnet had a much longer history of the Chairboys, stretching right back to our non-league days. The record was pretty even with the 44 meetings providing 16 wins apiece with 12 draws. 2 unwanted stats will haunt Wycombe fans. They failed to win at Underhill, the Bees old home for 24 years between 1987 and 2011. And although the record at home was a bit more fruitful, we had to suffer the ignominy of a 7-0 home defeat in September 1987, as we struggled in the Conference. I started following Wycombe just under 4 years later and had to wait a couple of years before my first clash between the sides, a 1-0 victory in the Autoglass Trophy in the Autumn of 1993. Over the games between the 2 sides, there weren't many memorable ties although there were several players that played for both sides. Probably most notably Sean Devine who signed towards the end of the 1998-99 season and scored a fair few goals to help keep Wycombe in the third tier by the skin of their teeth. Wycombe were also Barnet's last opponents for a competitive game at their old ground, Underhill and luckily I got the opportunity for some decent photos from around the ground.


At the start of the season, I only had 3 grounds left to do in the Conference. I had decided that if possible, I wanted to do them with Grimsby Town, as I know plenty of great people up there that are a pleasure to spend time with. I'd accomplished the first one, Hyde, back in August and a great day had been had. I'd met the lads again at the derby between Cleethorpes Town and Grimsby Borough back in mid-November, also making a few new mates there too. And at the end of that month, I went and saw Grimsby at Coalville Town on the first leg of their FA Trophy adventure, which will hopefully end at Wembley in March. To achieve that however, they will have to overturn a 2-1 defeat to Cambridge in the second leg of their semi-final on Saturday.

On the day I was on my day off and decided to get my hair cut, quite appropriate considering I was off to Barnet later. I also filled my car up with diesel and spent the rest of the day chilling before leaving at 5.15. I had made sure I had booked tickets before leaving and had printed them out as they were offering no concessions on the day. Also despite offering Quid a Kid for home fans, they were not offering it for away fans as well. Wycombe used to use this shoddy practice under their old ownership, but since the supporters trust took over, this dubious approach has been kicked into the long grass. I'm a firm advocate of treating fans equally, which is why I like the lower reaches of non-league so much more, without the segregation and over zealous stewarding that you sometimes encounter in League football.

I left home at 5.15 after having a Levi Roots meal for my dinner. Despite it being rush hour and having to travel across London, delays were minimal and I arrived in a side street near Barnet's ground around an hour later. I checked Facebook and posted an update while I was still in my car and then made my way down to the ground. I got some pictures of the outside of the ground and had a look in the club shop, buying a programme. I then went and waited by the away end and only had to wait a few minutes for the supporters coach to arrive at 6.45. On it that I knew were William (who I have met several times before and the one who I probably know best out of all the Grimsby lads) Kieran (who I met at Cleethorpes Town v Grimsby Borough last November) and Aaron who I also met briefly that day. Plus a couple of newbies - Rob - Aaron's brother and Louis, who I had known on Facebook for a while but not really chatted to much.I'd already got William his ticket to save him paying extra on the night but the rest of the group had to go and collect theirs from the club shop. Soon enough everyone was ready to go in and so we watched the Grimsby players warming up and got a few photos. Aaron was especially excited to get one with his favourite player Sam Hatton and he didn't stop smiling for the rest of the night.

The game didn't start on a great note for Grimsby. Only 2 minutes had elapsed when Mauro Vilhete, one of the shortest players on the pitch, headed in from a corner. It was nearly 2-0 on 5 minutes as Daniel Lopez broke clear but smashed his shot against the post with Mariners keeper James McKeown just doing enough to put him off. The next half hour Barnet were on top with the Mariners unable to impose themselves on the game. However, the last 10 was all Grimsby with a succession of well-delivered corners causing problems and leaving the home side on the back foot. It continued that way after the break but it took until the hour for parity to be restored. It came as Craig Disley's looping header found it's way past Jupp in the Barnet goal. Grimsby pushed and pushed for the winner with Barnet having the occasional breakaway. Sadly for the 343 Grimsby fans who had made the long trip down one of these rare forays paid off. Andy Yiadom crossed and former Wycombe transfer target Jake Hyde was left with a simple finish. Grimsby had a couple of chances in the dying embers of the game but couldn't equalise for the second time. Grimsby fans and their team deserved better. 343 is a great number to bring down on a Tuesday night for a Conference club, around 200 miles. I looked in the programme and it was the 3rd biggest support, only being beaten by Luton and Cambridge which were both on Saturdays and far nearer. I said goodbye to the lads and made my way back to where I had parked. Again it was an easy drive home and I got back at 10.45. I had a quick look on the internet and watched some TV in bed. I was hoping for a decent nights sleep but didn't get much at all, only a couple of hours at most despite wanting more.


THE HIVE is very much a temporary venue, with Barnet planning to move back to their own borough if the local council ever do the decent thing and give their team the support it deserves. Originally this was earmarked to be a stadium for Wealdstone FC but due to financial constraints, one thing led to another and they now play in Ruislip. So pretty much every stand is designed so it can be taken away to another site if needs be. Away fans are primarily housed in the North Terrace which holds 871 supporters. It's matched by an identical terrace at the other end. Despite both of these being metal terraces they offer reasonable views and you can get a good atmosphere going under them. Away fans are also given 350 seats out of the 2700 capacity West Stand, which is by far the biggest stand in the ground. Completing the set is the East Stand, which also houses the bar and changing rooms. but only 750 seats.

The away fans are given their own bar and tea bar, and although I tried neither, the bar looked very good. Rather than some draughty concourse like some other grounds this was a place you could actually sit inside and have a drink in the warm. The club shop is pretty much the same temporary one as they had at Underhill with a decent range of merchandise but no old programmes. Bargain of the day (if you are a Bees fan) were sweaters reduced to just £2 each. There were a few other food and drink places within walking distance if you wanted more variety. Overall I enjoyed my night at Barnet. They have always been a good day out at their old place and this has continued at their new home with friendly and relaxed stewards and decent home fans, even if they weren't that vocal on the night. The programme is also one of the better I have seen with plenty to read for both sets of fans and it's well presented.