Sunday 30 March 2014

Sholing - Silverlake Arena

Sholing FC
Silverlake Arena
VT Sportsground
Portsmouth Road
SO19 9PW

Ground Number: 349
Saturday 29th March 2014
Sholing 2-2 Eastbourne United Association
FA Vase Semi Final 1st Leg


Sholing were originally known as Vospers Thorneycroft up until 2010, or to be more precise VTFC. They were a works team of the British shipbuilding company, but when the American owners offloaded that part of the business they needed a new name and chose one the reflected the local district of Southampton that they played in. I think it sounds a lot better and they pay homage to their former guise with their nickname of 'The Boatmen' The club started in the Hampshire League, progressing to the Wessex League in 2004. It took them just 4 seasons to go up again, this time to the Southern League D1 South & West, where they yet again did well. They gained their best ever position of 2nd in 2010/11 but lost out in the playoffs to Frome Town, having led the league for a lot of the season. Despite finishing 7th, they took the decision to resign from the Southern League and return to the Wessex League due to financial constraints. It was certainly paying dividends as they were enjoying their best ever run in the FA Vase, with a potential Wembley trip in the offing.  They gave their best ever performances in the FA Cup and FA Trophy last season, getting to the 3rd Qualifying round in both. They are currently 2nd in the Wessex League Premier but with so many games in hand, it will take an almighty collapse to stop them finishing as Champions.

Eastbourne United Association ply their trade at a step lower than their opponents, the same can be said of St Andrews in the other semi final against West Auckland Town. The club were in their current guise thanks to a merger with Shinewater Association in 2003. Since then they had bounced between the Sussex League's 2 Divisions. As Eastbourne United, their record finish was 4th in the Isthmian League Division 2 in the 1979-80 season, whilst the year before they had their best run in the FA Cup getting to the 4th Qualifying Round. They included ex England manager Ron Greenwood amongst their former coaches. Like the home side they were enjoying their best ever season in the FA Vase whilst in the Sussex County League Division 2 they were clear at the top with a game in hand.


Originally on this day, I had been planning to go to Weston Super Mare with Anwar, as it was one of the few that I had left to do in the Conference South. But he decided to go to Birmingham instead, and knowing that he was keen to do WSM and that I could get help with petrol, I started looking for alternatives. There were a few possibilities, but one that jumped out was the FA Vase Semi Final between Sholing and Eastbourne United. The home team were based in Southampton, so it wasn't a huge way to go and I had enjoyed my Vase games at Hartley Wintney and Ampthill so far this season. I woke up at 8, watching a bit of TV and having a bath. I did my blog form the Chatham game on Thursday, really I should have had it done before but I spent so long looking for and ordering a phone and then the same with the case. I was especially keen to get something with proper protection after what happened to my current phone after dropping it in the week. The branded ones were either of dubious authenticity or stupidly expensive, so I got a rugged looking generic one, and see how it goes. Normally I like to start my blog with history for both of the teams before I even go to the game, but in this case, I was just glad to catch up after a busy week and even left late to get it done. I was planning to go down town after posting a programme to someone but the queue in the post office was so stupidly long that I didn't have time and had to go straight there. I did stop at their local Tesco though, picking up some chicken, Irn Bru and a can of cider for the game, as well as some bread and fruit that I needed for home.

I got to the ground about 2 and saw a groundhopper I had bumped into a few times this season. He used to go to Wycombe home games regularly many moons ago but now just goes to random games all the time. I paid a highly reasonable £5 to get in (their normal adult league price) and £2 for a special edition programme. I would have bought some merchandise too, but it was pricey at £10 for a scarf - one of the perils of being a smaller club and not being able to order in large quantities I guess. I had a look at the temporary area set up behind the goal and it was selling food from a burger van and cans of booze. As there was nothing special I had one of my cans from Tesco to save a bit of cash, as well as my chicken and crisps. It was a shame that the normal bar was used for corporate people as there might have been something better in there. I took my place along the side of the pitch and noticed it was in fantastic condition, which is a miracle after the winter we have had. During the game an amusing tannoy announcement went out..... 'Would Barney Cook please go to the entrance of the ground as he has locked his wife out of the house!!' This bought much amusement from the Sholing fans who were really vocal throughout the game, as opposed to their Eastbourne counterparts who I hardly heard all afternoon. As for the game, the match report from the Non-League Paper is below.

I was delighted throughout the afternoon to see that Wycombe were drawing 0-0 at Scunthorpe, who were 23 games unbeaten and in the automatic promotion spots. Ainsworth said on Thursday that he was going to play a counter-attacking game and to give him his dues, he was 100% right to do that. He's not made the correct decision on lots of occasions this season, but he was spot on today. Northampton and Torquay lost too which helps us out. The only dark spot was Portsmouth winning and going above us, but at least we did our part. There was comprehensive coverage of the Portsmouth game on Radio Solent and they gave a good amount of coverage to the regions non-league teams too which is nice to see. The journey home was fine until I got to the A404 going onto the Handy Cross Roundabout. I was delayed for 25 minutes due to a car breaking down in one of the lanes but still got in just after 7.


SILVERLAKE ARENA is typical of many league grounds nowadays, being that it has prefabricated stands. They are both on one side - seating for around 200 and standing for 150 It must have been good enough for the next step up as they were in the Southern League D1 South and West last season. I didn't try out of any of the facilities as they had bought in external suppliers to cope with the large crowds but in any case, they were a really nice club and worth a visit, especially as they are not greedy with the admission price. There wasn't a whole lot near the ground from what I could see, either in the way of pubs or takeaways. 

Saturday 29 March 2014

Chatham Town - Maidstone Road Sports Ground

Chatham Town FC
Maidstone Road Sports Ground
Maidstone Road

01634 812194
Official Website

Ground Number: 348
Thursday 27th March 2014
Chatham Town 1-2 VCD Athletic
Isthmian League D1 North


Chatham Town had spent most of their existence in the Southern and Kent Leagues before switching over to the Isthmian League for the 2006-07 season. They have only ever been in the regional 1st Divisions of those leagues and their record finish came in the 1986-87 season when they finished 9th in the Southern League South Division. With them being well down in 14th this season, they had no chance of beating that this season, such was the points difference. But they did have their best ever season in the FA Cup this year, in modern times at least, getting all the way to the 4th Qualifying Round before losing 2-0 to St Albans City. The FA Trophy and Vase have proved pretty barren for them, with not even a sniff of getting anywhere near Wembley. They have won a number of local cups though, but none for a good while. The most well-known player to appear for the club is Danny Kedwell who started his career at the club, before progressing on to the football league with AFC Wimbledon & Gillingham.


After getting to bed at 3.30 the previous night, I was not looking forward to getting up at 8am the next morning. However, I woke up naturally an hour before, watched a bit of TV in bed, before having a bath and leaving the house at 9. 
The reason for this early rise was that I was off to watch Wycombe train. As a thank, you for raising over £4000 for the club by walking to Oxford, I and the group of walkers, amongst others had been invited to watch the team train. I enjoyed the day but had mixed feelings about the hopes for our season. While the team spirit is still fantastic and the players are running through brick walls for him which probably wouldn't be the same for most managers in the past, there were still some concerns. Ainsworth was convinced we were creating plenty of chances when I and the rest of the group couldn't say we agreed. The shooting practice was more of a concern - only about 15% of the shots on goal went in, with the keepers excelling in that respect. We had a young Italian keeper on trial who seemed to do well and are obviously thinking ahead as Matt Ingram has been one of the better players this season and his understudy Charlie Horlock has looked more than capable than doing a job if needed. After the training session, we went back to the ground where the club had food laid on for us, and a drink on them. I had Scampi and Chips with a pint of Thatchers Gold which was nice. It was a really nice touch and showed that even if mistakes have been made this season and in hindsight, decisions could have been made better, they really are the best people for running the club, certainly in terms of having the best interests for the club. Miles ahead of what we had previously - a businessman who was only after the club to try and make a fast buck. The same can be said of the manager, who despite still learning the trade and not playing the most attractive football we have seen at the club, really cares as much as the fans do about getting a result. There was a concern later in the day when the club seemed happy to allow our best player Josh Scowen out on loan and signed an inexperienced defender from Rotherham when we needed something going forward, but the reality of our situation is that we have no money and have to make do with what we have.

I went home for half an hour before going off to meet Anwar in Aylesbury at 2.30. I was surprised to see the fact that I had done 8 new grounds since we last went to a game a fortnight ago. We had planned to get into Chatham early and have a look around the shops, leaving mid-afternoon also had the benefit of avoiding the rush hour. We still got stuck in traffic though, plus had to go through the pathetic 20 miles of roadworks at 50MPH and it took us nearly 2 hours to get there. I got myself 3 Buzz quiz games for the PS2 and a set of buzzers which cost in total a very reasonable £3.75. Apart from that, it was a pretty unproductive trip. I was hoping to get a new phone - as well as it being recently damaged, I was also getting fed up of my current one. I had my eyes on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, but the shops were asking silly money - more for a used one than I could get a new one for online. After shopping, we were looking for somewhere to eat and chose our usual haunt of Morrisons. While it was mainly excellent and good value for dinner, the Strood branch was pathetic. I had to make do for my 5th choice on the menu and Anwar his 3rd choice. I mean it's not as if they haven't got a huge supermarket just feet away, is it? They also said it would be half an hour for food, which was making it tight, but in the end it took half that time, and my Spicy Tomato Chicken was nice. 
We left, and drove to the ground, getting there at 7.15. After getting some pictures, I went and had a look at the club shop which sold all manner of weird and wonderful things. 2 items that I wanted - a pennant and a book about the history of the Isthmian League were out of stock, but I got a pen for 50p. After that, I got myself a Bovril and went on stood along the side of the pitch.

Chatham had some right noisy fans, mainly students and good lads. They even sang a couple of songs about Wycombe, complimentary ones thankfully. It was sad to see that they could not travel to many away games due to the Isthmian League's decision to place them in the North Division, despite them being far better suited to the geography of the South. It also cost the club lost revenue where they did not get many local games, but like the anomaly of the likes of Oxford City playing in the Conference North, they are victims of circumstance, with a far bigger proportion of teams at that level plying their trade in the South. The game was a pretty decent one. Both sides were on top form with Chatham winning their last 7 games and VCD Athletic being top of the league. After a pretty even opening period, VCD took control and opened the scoring on the half-hour mark through Michael Power. That was it for goals until the 83rd minute despite chances for both sides. It was worth the wait though as it was a cracking goal by Lea Dawson to double the visitors lead. The consolation for Chatham 4 minutes later scored by Ade Yusseff and it was a shame for their vocal fans that an equaliser would not come despite their best efforts. Overall though, VCD had deserved it and were the better team and you could see why they were top of the league, whereas the same couldn't be said when I saw them play on their home ground against Needham Market around a month ago. After the game we made our way home, the journey being a lot nicer than the one earlier. Good time was made and despite the 20 miles of roadworks and a road closure, I was back in Aylesbury by 11.10, getting back to mine about 11.35. I watched TV for a bit, before going to sleep shortly after midnight.


MAIDSTONE ROAD SPORTS GROUND is a real mixture of old and new, and for once it's one of the new parts that is the most aesthetically pleasing. That comes in the form of the terrace behind the goal which is all lit up, has a nice roof design and houses all the club facilities and dressing rooms. Along the side to the left of that is a newish stand, holding a few hundred and is bland in comparison to the rest of the ground. The other goal is just open standing, whilst where I stood is an old stand with bench seating and a bit of standing, and despite the supporting pillars, this is probably the best place to watch the game from. The other facilities are pretty decent. As mentioned the club shop is a bit of a treasure trove with all manner of old books, programmes and random stuff. The tea bar offers the usual range, while the bar is smart and modern having recently been refurbished. There are probably some more local places too, but the town is about a mile walk away if you fancy more choice.