Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ton Pentre - Ynys Park



Ton Pentre FC
Ynys Park
Llanfoist Street
Ton Pentre
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF41 7AF

01443 432813
Official Website
Twitter





Ground Number: 464
Friday 27th February 2015

Ton Pentre 2-1 Taffs Well
Welsh League D1





TON PENTRE FC - A BRIEF HISTORY


The club was formed in 1896 though some sources give it as 1935 when the club was reborn. They are one of the most successful clubs in Wales and have won their current league - the Welsh Division 1 on no less than 12 occasions. They were in the top tier of the Welsh pyramid for a long time, even competing in the current Welsh Premier League up until 1997 when the expenses became too much and they resigned, returning to the Welsh League Division 1. They were highly successful upon their return, winning the title 5 years in succession. Sad news was to follow when in 2010 they were relegated for the first and only time in the clubs history when reorganisation increased the number of relegation places. They were only in the drop zone for the final 20 minutes of the season, but it meant a single season in Division 2. They came back at the first time of asking, going the entire season unbeaten, and since returning have finished in a safe mid-table position. This season saw them sitting slightly lower than usual, in 13th place.

They had a great European adventure in the mid-1990s, though the costs of this would eventually lead to their resignation from the Welsh Premier League.  4 games were played against the likes of Heerenveen and Leiria and although they lost every single game without scoring, they did get to play against European greats such as Ruud Van Nistelrooy and John Dahl Tommason during their Intertoto Cup campaign.




Domestically Ton Pentre has won a number of competitions including the Welsh League cup, lastly in 2001. They made the Welsh Cup semi-final in 2002, their best progress since making the final in 1921 where they lost to Cardiff City. They even played in the English cup competitions for a while reaching the FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying round at the start of the '70s. Their most famous day came in 1986 though, when after beating Basingstoke Town, Sharpness, Clevedon and Minehead, they faced local rivals Cardiff City in the FA Cup 1st Round. They lost 4-1 but gained national recognition when they featured on Match Of The Day. The most recognisable player that has ever played for them is current Luton player Alex Lawless who started his career at the club.




MY VISIT

Researching the village of Ton Pentre on the internet, it appeared that there was not too much info on pubs, with no cider outlets listed. However, there was one called Fagins - I had been to an excellent pub of the same name in Taffs Well - and I was hoping this was of the same ilk. Most importantly I was hoping for a pint of Gwynt-y-Ddraig cider pre-match - the stuff is heaven sent, and although I would be off to Wales next week for a groundhop, I was still gonna try and get some to take home. I'd not be going hungry - the place had a decent range of takeaways for my dinner. They included the brilliantly named 'A Fish Called Rhondda' which I had seen in national newspapers for its inventive name. The village had once been thriving in it's coal mining days, but since they had closed there had been a sharp rise in unemployment. People moving there and commuting to Cardiff had helped out a bit, but it was still a far cry from it's heyday. I was once again indebted to my mate Matt's excellent Lost Boyos blog to glean some extra facts before I travelled.



I'd really enjoyed my Friday night football last week and once again was looking to end my week on an enjoyable note. I was even more determined when I found out that I would have no fixture on the Monday of my week off - that was unless I fancied a revisit to Curzon Ashton, Runcorn Town or Atherton Colleries. All 3 had produced great nights out before, but I couldn't justify that much money on a revisit. There was one game at a new ground, but it was MMU Cheshire in the Staffordshire County League - and they play at an athletics stadium. As per usual on a Friday, it was Wales offering up the bulk of the games. Under normal circumstances, I'd have considered the trips too far but seen as it was my week off, I thought I'd treat myself. Ton Pentre was the closest and happily, it was the one I fancied doing most. It would also mean seeing Taffs Well again - and I had a really good night on another Friday game, back at the end of September
In between the last groundhop and this one, I'd not been up to much, mainly watching football on the TV as it was European week. I was winding down at work, knowing that after Sunday I was having a week off from the place, something that I was really looking forward to, mainly for the opportunity to go to a load of football matches in Yorkshire and Wales. I was also planning a few nice pubs that I knew, and for that reason, I had abstained all this week and would be taking it easy at the weekend, though I would treat myself to a couple on Friday night.

It was a very busy day at work on Friday and so I didn't leave until 1.45. Before I went I took advantage of the free buffet that work had laid on for my lunch as well as buying a few things for the weekend. I felt pretty drained as I left, but eagerly anticipating my 117th game of the season. As I didn't fancy paying the ransom to get over the Severn Bridge, I had to go up via Oxford and Gloucester. The journey was a very slow one, thanks to lots of lorries obeying their own speed limit and slowing everyone else down. The M4 was very slow when I finally joined it too but once I was past Newport, it all sped up. I got off at the Rhondda Valley junction and was pleased when I saw a big Tesco. However, it turned to despair as they had stopped stocking my favourite Welsh cider. After I had written a complaint about it last time I got a funny reply from them and a £15 voucher, so I think I might try again. I spotted an ASDA near Tonypandy on the way up to the ground and I was hoping they would come up trumps. I finally got to the ground at 5.45. I had a false start initially as my sat nav directed me to the wrong side of the ground. However once I had put the road name in, I found where I wanted and confirmed I was in the right place by seeing the bridge and rabbits that Matt had mentioned. I went in search of a pub and after a bit of a walk found the Gelli Hotel. It was a smart establishment and the pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits went down a treat after a long trip and 6 days on the wagon. At £2.80 it was a good price too. I then went to the brilliantly named 'A Fish Called Rhondda' for my dinner, having Mexican Chicken Wrap and Chips. I was frustrated by the poor mobile signal which seems to be par for the course in lots of Wales, rendering me unable to access the Internet at anything less than circa 1997 dial-up speed. A plus point was that my dinner was excellent, especially for the £4 I paid for it. From there I made my way to the ground, paying £4 to get in, and £1 for a nice thick programme. I went around taking pictures of the ground before going back outside to the clubhouse. I was most delighted when I found that they did Gwynt y Ddraig in bottles and really enjoyed my scrumpy. I bumped into another groundhopper, Mark, who had come down from London for the game. I was in a happy mood now and was wishing I'd come straight to the clubhouse instead of looking for a pub.


I'd gotten a really warm welcome so far and got into the ground right on kick off. It was a cagey opening but Taffs Well scored after 9 minutes after neat footwork allowed them to complete a close-range finish. It had started raining by now so I was glad of the cover in the stand. I saw a lovely Springer Spaniel which reminded me of Maisie, the family pet we had from 1993-2006 and this dog was equally friendly. That was how it stayed until the break. At half time I went back to my car to put stuff in the boot and also have some of the Easter Egg I had bought earlier. It was a similar goal to the opener that got Ton Pentre on level terms on 65 minutes, just as I was getting another Cup of oxo - a bargain in a proper mug at 60p. A few minutes later the home side were ahead, pinball in the area resulted in the ball going in the net to send the majority of the crowd into delirium. On 75 minutes a Taffs Well player put in a challenge just outside the area which resulted in a good old fashioned session of handbags which the referee did well to break up. The visiting man got his marching orders and it was strange as he was the forward on this occasion. There were chances but no further goals as the hosts clung on for a valuable 3 points.



After the game finished, I said goodbye to my fellow groundhopper Mark and hoped to see him when I went to Goytre United next Friday. I nipped to the Spar down the road to see if they did any of the cider that I wanted, but no luck. ASDA’s also drew a blank, and with the brewer being uncommunicative via Twitter, I wished I’d bought a few from the football ground as the mark up was not that bad compared to what Tesco did charge when they actually stocked them. The journey home was a lot better, though it took me a while to get the Sat Nav started, due to the poor mobile signal. Luckily I remembered the way I had come until I got it started. After a brief toilet stop at Membury services, I was back home at 12.10. I had a couple of drinks while catching up on Facebook before going and watching TV in bed. I had spent over £50, with the bulk of it being fuel but it had been an enjoyable night.



THE GROUND

YNYS PARK is a nice and traditional ground. The standout area is the large covered terrace which covers the whole of behind the goal and probably holds 1000. There is also a small stand on the halfway line, holding around 150 fans. The rest of the ground is uncovered flat standing. There is an excellent clubhouse at the ground, full of memorabilia and with a great selection of drinks. I’d highly recommend it. As for food, the chippy ‘A Fish Called Rhondda’ was good though the food in the ground was great value. In fact the whole day out was great value - it was just a shame that they don’t sell diesel as that cost me plenty. The club is really friendly too, and I am looking forward to going to more grounds in this league. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Harpenden Town - Rothamsted Park



Harpenden Town FC
Rothamsted Park
Amenbury Lane
Harpenden
Hertfordshire
AL5 2HU


Ground Number: 463
Tuesday 24th February 2015

Harpenden Town 0-0 Bedford
Spartan South Midlands Division 1






HARPENDEN TOWN FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

HARPENDEN TOWN FC was founded in 1891 and after initially spending time in the Hertfordshire League, they joined the South Midlands League and have been there ever since, carrying on their membership when it merged with the Spartan League in 1997. In recent years most of their time has been spent at the Division 1 level, but for a long time they were a mainstay of the Premier Division. They were even Champions a couple of times, lastly in 1965. Since the leagues merged, the best they have managed is an 8th placed finish in 1998. They last competed in the higher division in 2006 when they finished bottom of the pile and have not been back since. They have finished in 7th place a couple of times since then and were having a decent season this time out. They sat 5th at the start of the game, with opponents Bedford in 2nd place. In the FA Cup, they reached the 1st Qualifying Round in 1998, which was their first season in the competition, but have not played in it since 2006. The FA Vase 2nd Round was reached in 1982 before a 4-2 defeat to Grays Athletic.



MY VISIT

Another week, and another groundhop before a very busy March which included two weeks up north and two groundhops. I knew on Monday that I would be without fellow hopper Anwar, as he was going to Arsenal on Wednesday and couldn't afford both. I looked at the list of games, listing everything that I still needed to do, plus a revisit to North Greenford United v Kettering Town, as I had yet to obtain a programme from there. I restricted the distance to 60 miles away, as it would keep down costs, and also allow me to have dinner at home and leave at 6PM. On the day I caught up with my blog from Saturday at Hallam. It was quite a long one as I had not really made any notes during the game. Also, Hallam has a fair bit of history and I was going to write about Eccleshill's too, as I am off there next Wednesday. I also had to pop up to Tesco in Amersham and do a weekly price check that earned me £10 for my troubles. When I got back, I had some lunch and finished my blog off before looking again at my list of fixtures. A few had fallen by the wayside due to the weather, while a few had been confirmed on. It boiled down to 2 games - a revisit to North Greenford v Kettering Town or Harpenden Town v Bedford.



I put the question out on social media, initially erring towards North Greenford. There were 2 reasons for this - firstly it was a degree warmer than Harpenden, plus Kettering had further to travel, therefore less chance of it being called off. But the support was overwhelmingly for Harpenden in the comments and tweets, so I decided to go for them instead. I spent the next hour or so preparing and researching this blog. After having a nice dinner of Lamb Rogan Josh before leaving home at 6PM. I had a good journey to the ground with only minimal delay considering it was the rush hour. It took me a while to find the ground as there were so many sets of floodlights. I walked past a load of tennis courts and the ground was nowhere to be seen. The next stop was an astroturf pitch before finally finding the ground. There was no one at the turnstile so I went around the ground getting some pictures before going to the clubhouse to get a programme. When I got back the bloke was at the table taking money and so I paid my £5. I sat down and read my programme which was basic but great value for 50p while I waited for the game to start.



The game started at a decent pace with some end to end football. The first real chance came around the half-hour mark when Harpenden forced a great save out of the Bedford keeper. There was then a flashpoint when a Bedford player took out his Harpenden counterpart which sparked handbags and a booking from the referee for the offender. There were chances for both sides but it remained goalless at the break. The second half started off at a slightly slower pace. A Harpenden player got his revenge for the first-half challenge with an equally meaty tackle and Bedford came close to scoring from the resulting free-kick. There were further chances for either side but the finishing was wayward. I felt the referee did well to handle what was a feisty game. He let it flow, but eventually, something had to give and a Bedford player was sent off in injury time for a second bookable offence. It certainly wasn't a 0-0 in terms of entertainment and I'd enjoyed the game. It was a late finish though with all the goings-on and there were some more handbags at the end. I left around 9.50, getting back at 10.30. I listened to the radio on the way home, where Man City had lost 2-1 to Barcelona and Joe Hart had saved a penalty from Messi in the last minute. I spent around 45 minutes online before watching TV in bed and going to sleep around midnight.



THE GROUND

ROTHAMSTED PARK is a pretty basic venue but it is set in a pleasant park along with a load of other sporting clubs. There is just the one stand - covered bench seating for around 50 people. The clubhouse is basic offering a few bottled drinks and basic snacks although it is soon due to be refurbished after the club had a grant accepted. The town is very close by and presumably has a decent choice of outlets.

Halllam - Sandygate


Hallam FC
Sandygate
Sandygate Road
Sheffield
S10 5SE

0114 230 9484
Official Website
Twitter







Ground Number: 462
Saturday 21st February 2015
Hallam 2-1 Eccleshill United
NCEL D1







HALLAM FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

HALLAM FC is one of the oldest clubs in the world, with only local rivals Sheffield FC being around for longer. They were formed in 1860 and despite the club dissolving and reforming in its early years, they are still going strong today. They were winners of the first ever trophy in football, the Youdan Cup in 1867. This was a tournament, sponsored by local theatre owner Thomas Youdan, which involved 12 local teams. Hallam beat Norfolk in the final to claim victory. The cup went missing soon after and didn't resurface until 1997 when a Scottish antique collector sold it back to the club for £2000. In 2014 it was valued at £100,000 on the Antiques Roadshow, but the club said it was not for sale.



The club played in various local leagues in their early days, staying as an amateur club despite being strongly urged to become professional. They joined the Yorkshire League in 1952 and when this league discontinued in 1982, they became founder members of the Northern Counties East League (NCEL). With around half of their time spent in the NCEL Premier, they have had 2 spells at the higher level, from 1987-1999 then a longer spell from 1994-2011. They had a best-ever finish of 3rd in 2001 - at the time this was before the formation of the Conference North and South, so it was step 4 of non-league. Since returning to Division 1, they have found life tough, and have always been in the bottom half of the table. Before the game, they sat in 14th place in the league.



In cup competitions, the best the club have managed in the FA Cup was the 3rd Qualifying Round, back in 1957. In modern times the 2nd Qualifying Round was reached in the 2006-07 season but a 5-1 defeat to Durham City put paid to any further progress. In the FA Vase, they reached the 5th Round in 1981 before going out to Guiseley. While little progress was made in the FA Trophy or FA Amateur Cup, they do have a number of local cup wins to boast, including the NCEL League Cup and the Sheffield & Hallamshire Cup.





MY VISIT

Anwar & I had long been planning to do a groundhop on this date. Neither of us fancied the long trek up to Brunton Park to see Wycombe play Carlisle United. Anwar was keen to tick another off of his aim of completing the 92, and he chose Barnsley. This was perfectly acceptable to me - I could tick off another ground in the NCEL - my favourite step 5 league. I drew up a list of 11 possibles, with Hallam FC at the top. I chose this one for 2 reasons - firstly it had a bit of history about it with it being the oldest football ground in the world. Secondly, It had been visited already on a previous NCEL hop, meaning that I wouldn't be looking at a possible revisit on any future event. I did have my list of backups though - the pitch at Hallam had a slope and tended to get flooded down the bottom end after heavy rainfall. On the day of the game, I woke around 5.30am, unable to get back to sleep, even though I had only had 4 hours sleep. I watched a couple of Youtube videos and then checked out the latest news online. I had a wash and got ready to go. My original plan was to leave at 8.30 and meet Anwar at 9, but I fancied myself a Subway breakfast, so left at 8.15 instead. The roads were nice and quiet, so I made good time. After having breakfast I made my way to Anwar's, getting there at 8.55. He kept me waiting as per usual and it wasn't till 9.05 that we left. We made pretty good time - apart from 40 miles of a pathetic 50MPH speed limit on the M1 where there were roadworks and we arrived in the town at 11.50.



On the way, we had passed Shaw Lane Aquaforce who would be on the upcoming NCEL Easter hop, the Saturday of which I am attending, and also trying to persuade Anwar to come along, to keep me company and help out with petrol First stop was Wetherspoons for lunch. In contrast to the one in Winchester last night, this was one of the poorer ones in the chain with only the basic cider range. I still got good value, however, with a pint of Stowford Press, along with Steak Pudding, chips and peas for just over £6. It was OK, but I have had better in chip shops when I have been up north for around the same price. Anwar enjoyed his jacket potato with coleslaw and cheese too. After that, we went to a few shops and as part of the conditions of me parking in the retail park that I was in, I had to get something from Lidl and something from Quality Save. Between them, I got an iced bun, some chocolates, some diet Irn-Bru and some batteries and that was enough to cover my 2 hours parking. From there I drove the 10 minutes to Oakwell, dropping Anwar off at 1.20. When I put Hallam FC into my Sat Nav, it predicted some traffic en route and that proved to be true, with a fair old bit of congestion near Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground, despite it not being a home matchday. I  eventually got to Hallam at 2PM and after parking in a side street, walked across the road to the ground.



I paid a very reasonable £5 to get in, but the programme wasn't that good for £2. At least it contained all the essentials. It was quite chilly, so I went in the bar for a pint of Strongbow for £3. It enabled me to sit down and catch up with goings on online and read the programme. Everyone at the club was nice and friendly. After I had looked at some of the memorabilia in the bar, I went outside to get some pictures of the ground. Lots of people had mentioned the slope at the ground, and it really has to be seen to be believed. It all adds to the character of the ground though. I was hungry again by now, so I got a hot dog and some chips, which were both great value and tasty. The match was pretty average, and there was even a brief snowstorm during the second half. A match report from the Hallam website is posted below.



The game finished at around 4.50. I had been keeping an eye on the Wycombe result all day and was delighted when I found out that they had won 3-2 up at Carlisle. I was hoping to listen to the coverage from our local radio station online via my phone app, but it couldn't find it. Instead, I had to make do with BBC Radio Cumbria, where I heard that Kendal Town had a surprise victory against Darlington and that Barrow had won to stay top of the Conference North. Most amusing of all was Carlisle manager Keith Curle's interview where he changed the subject on practically every question that he didn't like. I picked up Anwar at 5.40 and we listened to the 6-0-6 phone in on the way home. It felt like an age going through the 40 miles of roadworks and I finished up all the chocolate I had bought earlier as it was very tiring being bunched up with other cars to comply with a stupid speed limit. We eventually got to Aylesbury around 8.20, with me getting home myself 20 minutes later. I would have written this blog, or at least got some notes down for it but I just wanted to chill after a long day.  After catching up online I had a couple of drinks and watched Match Of The Day before going to sleep around midnight.



THE GROUND

SANDYGATE is the oldest football ground in the world, but you would never guess it, as it is all smart and modern. There are 2 covered stands. Along the side is a seated stand, holding around 250. It is elevated slightly so you get great views. Then there is a terrace behind the goal, holding around 200, while the rest of the ground is open. There are only 3 sides open to the public, thanks to sharing with the cricket, but there is a noticeable slope on the pitch which adds to the character of the place.

The bar has nothing special on the cider front but does have some real ales from the Kelham Island brewery. It is smart and modern and although it is quite small, it has lots of sporting memorabilia. The tea bar is excellent, run by a mother and son (I think) it offers a wide range of stuff at great prices and is very tasty too. Overall this friendly club is well worth a visit, even without the 'oldest ground' status.