Wednesday 22 April 2015

Gresley - The Moat Ground

Gresley FC
The Moat Ground
Moat Street
Church Gresley
DE11 9RE

01283 216315
Official Website

Ground Number: 491

Tuesday 21st April 2015
Gresley 2-1 Chasetown
NPL D1 South


GRESLEY FC only formed in 2009 to replace Gresley Rovers who were liquidated due to financial difficulties. They managed to keep their own ground however and this was an important launch pad for a good start to the new club. They started in the East Midlands Counties League, which is at step 6 of the non league pyramid. In their first season they finished runners up to Nottingham based side Dunkirk, but the following season saw them win the league and gain promotion to the Midland Alliance. They won that in the first season and so for the 2011/12 season took their place in the NPL D1 South. Finished of 11th and 9th in their first 2 seasons marked a good start and a gradual improvement. This season had seen further progress, and at the start of the game, they were outside the playoffs only on goal difference. A win would get them into the playoffs - indeed they could finish as high as 4th. Worst case scenario would be 7th which would still represent a good season.

Though the newly formed club had done well in the leagues, they were yet to win any cups. They had a good run to the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round in 2012/13 but lost out to Ilkeston. The club had made good progress in each of it's 3 FA Vase seasons, the best of which saw them reach the Quarter Final in 2009/10 before losing to current Conference South side Whitehawk. The FA Trophy had seen good progress too - they fought through the qualifying rounds and only went out in the 1st Round after a narrow 2-1 defeat to eventual winners Wrexham.

The previous club, Gresley Rovers had seen some great times before they went bust in 2009. Season 1996/97 had seen them Southern Premier Champions, but ground grading issues saw them denied promotion to the Conference. Derby County even offered them the use of their recently vacated Baseball Ground while the required improvements were made, but this was rejected by the stubborn footballing authorities. It's staggering to think that they finished well above current Football League sides Crawley Town, Burton Albion, Cheltenham Town and Newport County that season. This saw a gradual decline in fortunes and by 1999 they were relegated to the Southern League D1 West and despite a 5th placed finish in  2002 and 2006, they never really recovered and finished 2nd bottom of the NPL D1 North in their final season of 2008/09.

The old club made good progress in the cups too. Several local competitions were won and they were FA Vase Finalists in 1991 going down 3-1 to Guiseley in a replay after an epic 4-4 draw at Wembley in the first game. The FA Trophy Quarter Final was reached in 1995/96 with them beating Accrington Stanley along the way but they lost to Macclesfield who would go on to win the Conference the following season. They also reached the FA Cup first round twice - the latest of which in 1998-99 saw them narrowly beaten by football league side Walsall. Several notable players turned out for them, the most well known of which was Kevin Hector who won the league title under Brian Clough at Derby County in the 1970s. He made 38 appearances for them between 1982 and 1984, scoring 3 goals.


At our last groundhop on Friday, Anwar and I were looking at our stats and after seeing that our next groundhop would be the 100th that we had done together, we decided to go for as good as one as we could. The choice was limited, but we decided to go for as high as step as possible. With the nearest step 3 game being at Trafford, that was just a bit too far with it being located in Manchester. They would be step 4 next season anyway, so looking at that level we picked out 2 options - Tividale and Gresley, who would go on to play out a 1-1 draw the following day. After much consideration, I called Gresley - mainly as I really want to get a picture with their brilliantly named mascot 'Elvis Gresley' who really is nothing but a hound dog, as the famous song goes. After a brilliant game on Friday night with 7 goals, I was destined to see my first 0-0 when Wycombe went to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday. It was a good day out though, with a few pints in London and all of them new ciders. The less said about the game the better - it was dire, though I did at least get an article published in the AFC Wimbledon programme. Normally a point would be a good result at Kingsmeadow, especially given our poor league record against them. But with Bury winning, it meant that our quest for automatic promotion was out of our hands with both Bury and Southend having a game in hand - indeed they would play each other on the night of this Gresley game, and that would go a long way to deciding our fate.

I had the day off as per usual for a Tuesday and so spent the morning jogging down town to get my hair cut. My ankle started to hurt and I hope this isn’t the same condition that stopped me jogging last year as I want to get fit. The haircut took about 90 minutes in all as there were so many people in front of me. After getting a lift home with my Dad, I got in and had lunch and a bath, before an hour relaxing time before I left to meet Anwar at 3.15. I picked Anwar up as arranged at 3.45 and the journey started well enough. There were some good tunes on the radio too. As soon as it hit 5pm though everything slowed down due to the rush hour. After going a bit wrong on the route due to a dodgy postcode, we were at Morrisons for dinner by 6pm. It was 2 meals for £9 and that included a drink. I enjoyed the Chicken Tikka Masala and Anwar had Scampi and Chips. I had a cheeky free refill on my apple juice as it was very nice. From there it was a mile to the ground and after we parked up, it was just before 7pm when we went in. £7 was a good price for this level and so I went to the bar and had a pint of Thatchers Gold while I waited for the game to start. After that, I went outside and took some pictures of the ground, which had plenty of character. I saw my brother was in the Manchester area and so I told him he could get free entry to the Bury v Southend game that would have a lot to say on whether Wycombe went up or not. I bought myself a mug for a fiver and saw a lovely pug dog that was dressed in a Gresley coat. It turned out it belonged to the teams centre back and his girlfriend. Sadly there was no Elvis Gresley around as he only normally makes it to the Saturday games.

We were hoping for a decent game for our 100th groundhop and this turned out to be the case with a real end to end game. Gresley chasing for the playoffs were the stronger side early on. Chasetown had their chances too. The home side took the lead though on 21 minutes with Alex Steadman's 23rd goal of the season. He finished after the Chasetown defenders failed to cut out a cross and he wasn't going to miss a fairly easy opportunity.  It was all square 6 minutes later, a Chasetown player was tripped just inside the area and Simon Brown scored the penalty, finishing hard and low to the keepers left. The goals for the first half and indeed the game were wrapped up when Chasetown's Francino Francis scored an unlucky own goal on 33 minutes. His passback caught the keeper out and it bounced over his head to give Gresley all 3 points. Though there were further chances for both sides, no more goals came, despite further chances for both sides. In the end, the keepers were the difference were the keepers as the Gresley custodian made several great saves and distributed the ball really well, nearly always picking out a teammate with his goal kicks. Chasetown can count themselves unlucky not to get more from the game, but in the end, the hosts did just enough to win. 

It had been a good night and with the roads appearing clear, I was hoping for a good journey home. All was going very well until we got on the A41 Bicester to Aylesbury road. We had noticed some road resurfacing going on on the way up and thought that it might be closed. However, what we were not expecting was the morons at the Highways agency not providing a diversion. With all the places being country roads and the sat nav kept wanting to take us back to the closed road, it added 9 miles and 25 minutes to the journey. We even arrived back at the road and got some directions from a workman who was equally baffled at why alternative arrangements had not been put in place. He said we were one of many lost and we saw loads of cars looking lost around the country roads due to the organisers' incompetence. Eventually, after making our way cross country, we reached Aylesbury around 11.50. I dropped Anwar off, arriving home myself around 20 minutes later. I wasn't tired at all so I stayed up until 2am. With me being up at 4am I was obviously tired and had a good 4 hour sleep the following afternoon.


THE MOAT GROUND is a traditional non-league ground that sadly may not be around for much longer if plans for a new venue go ahead. There is plenty of cover, the biggest of which is a stand for around 300 people. There are a small number of additional seats on the other side as well as covered terracing for around another 100. The ground probably holds around 2500 in all but one side behind the goal is closed off due to lack of space. The tea bar looked decent when I went and the bar is very good also with a decent range of drinks. There is a club shop too which sells a fair range of items as well as old books and programmes. The people at the club are really friendly and the ground is well worth a visit. The programme is also excellent, well produced and with a decent amount to read in it.

Friday 17 April 2015

Bugbrooke St Michaels - Birds Close

Bugbrooke St Michaels FC
Birds Close
Gayton Road

Official Website

Ground Number: 490
Friday 17th April 2015
Bugbrooke St Michaels 3-4 Buckingham Town
United Counties D1


BUGBROOKE ST MICHAELS FC was founded in 1929. They played in local Northampton leagues up until 1987 when they joined the United Counties League. They have spent most of their time at Division 1 level, that was apart from 3 seasons between 1999-2002 when they were in the Premier Division. That first season at the turn of the century saw them gain their best ever league finish of 10th in the UCL Premier. Since their return to Division 1, they had a best finish of 3rd in 2011 & 2012. Last season they finished 18th but had improved greatly this season and were in 10th place.

They had not really made much progress in either of the national cups. In their limited FA Cup experience, their best ever run came in 2012/13 when they reached the 1st Qualifying Round. 2009 saw their best ever FA Vase Run, reaching the 2nd Round before exiting to Leiston. They won the Northamptonshire Junior Cup in 1990 and were runners up in the same competition in 2009. Bugbrooke is a village 7 miles south of Northampton, with one of it's most notable features being its Anglican church. It is dedicated to St Michael, which is where I am guessing the football teams' name comes from.


Once again it was time for a spot of Friday night groundhopping. For once I could have Anwar's company on a Friday night - he is usually unavailable on a Friday. There were 2 options for a game - Haverhill Borough v Needham Market in the better standard Eastern Counties League was the first. The other was in the United Counties League Division 1 between Bugbrooke St Michaels and Buckingham Town. That would probably not be as good as the game in Cambridgeshire going on previous experiences but seen as Anwar only had a tenner budget for travel, I decided to go for the nearer option. There was not much around the ground, so I'd arranged to stop off in Towcester on the way to get something for dinner on the way to the ground. I'd been without a groundhop this so far this week, due to Wycombe commitments, in fact with the last one being nearly a week ago after Wycombe's 2-1 win over Cheltenham when I went to the North Berks League Cup final. We had another 2-1 victory against Exeter on Tuesday, but this time in far more dramatic fashion. We had not won at home on a Tuesday for 37 months, our last victory coming in March 2012 as we beat Leyton Orient 4-2. This time it took a penalty in the 12th minute of injury time cueing wild celebrations from all the Wycombe faithful including me. It came at a cost though as we are down to the bare bones with half our small squad on the treatment table. It was very harsh on Exeter for their long journey home as they had played their part in one of the best games I have seen in ages. On the day of the game, I had worked as per usual, and unusually for a Friday, it was not that busy. I was out by 12.15 and after going home, having a jog and relaxing, I spent the afternoon relaxing before leaving at 4.30 to pick up Anwar. We had a decent journey, stopping in Towcester along the way where I got Pancake Roll and Chips for £3. From then on it was only 15 minutes to the ground. We got there at 7 and initially, there was disappointment at there not being a programme. We paid £5 each to get in and were relieved to get an old programme free from the bar. To thank them I bought a couple of pints of Stowford Press at £3.30 each and also a club pen. We chilled for half an hour before going out for the game.

Bugbrooke were slightly the better team early on but it was visitors Buckingham Town that took the lead with a header after 15 minutes. They started to control the game and doubled their lead on 35 minutes with a great long-range shot. Straight away Bugbrooke got one back, finishing from fairly close in after a well-worked move. Realistic hopes of a comeback were quashed soon after - another close-range header restored their 2 goal lead on 40 minutes. Half time came and it was chilly for a spring evening so I went to get a coat from my car. The game started with Buckingham trying to extend their lead but the home side pulled one back on 55 minutes after a goalkeeping error. This completely changed the game and soon after Bugbrooke were on level terms when they equalised after heading in from a corner. Despite further chances to take the lead it was Buckingham who scored next. A great run ended in the attacker dribbling round the keeper and finishing well. There were chances for both sides in a really good game, but after hardly any injury time the referee blew his whistle to signal an away win. We were in no rush to get home, with it being a Friday night. I got a picture of the players coming off the pitch and popped inside to use the toilet. By the time we had come out, the ground was in darkness, the floodlights having been turned off double quick. It was a decent journey home and after dropping Anwar off just after 10.30 I was home 20 minutes later. We discovered during the match that this was our 99th groundhop together and so we wanted to make 100 a special one. The likely destination is Gresley who are chasing promotion in the NPL D1 South.


BIRDS CLOSE is quite a basic step 6 ground, but it is at least a very smartly kept venue. There are seats for around 70 people, plus standing for around 50. The rest of the ground is open. I enjoyed my visit there, everyone is friendly and the bar is nice with a decent range of drinks. I didn’t try the food, but they seemed to do a fair range considering their playing level.