Wednesday 27 January 2016

Stamford - Borderville Sports Centre

Stamford AFC
Borderville Sports Centre
Ryhall Road

01780 751471
Official Website

Ground Number: 550
Tuesday 26th January 2016
Stamford 4-1 Buxton
NPL League Cup 2nd Round


STAMFORD AFC was formed in 1896. Their nickname of 'The Daniels' comes from former Stamford resident Daniel Lambert, who was reportedly the fattest man ever in Britain and who was buried in the graveyard close to their former ground. The town was voted by the Sunday Times as the "Best place to live in Britain' in 2013 and is also the home of current Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Ferguson, more famous for being the son of former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

The club has played in various leagues in their history such as the Midland League and United Counties League. Winning the UCL Premier in 1998 earned them promotion to the Southern League. Starting in it's Eastern Division, they struggled at first, but after gradually improving a 7th placed finish in 2004 was enough to earn them promotion up to the Southern Premier. This was due to the non-league pyramid restructuring to allow the formation of the Conference North & South. Their adventure at the higher level lasted just one season, with only Solihull Borough keeping them off the bottom of the table. They bounced back quickly though and after beating Wivenhoe in the Southern D1 East playoff final of 2006. Despite an excellent 8th placed finish in their first season back, geographical reorganisation meant that they started 2007/08 in the NPL Premier. Though it was a close run thing, they were relegated after finishing second bottom and started the following season in NPL D1 South. After a series of varying finishes, they finally earned promotion back to the NPL Premier in 2013, after beating Chasetown in the playoff final. Since making it back they have struggled, but managed to keep their heads above water with 18th and 20th placed finishes. This season was a similar story - sitting in 22nd at kick off, but still well in touch with the teams above them.

Stamford's best ever FA Cup run came in 2013/14. After beating Grantham Town, AFC Wulfrunians and Ashton United, they lost out to Hednesford Town in the 4th Qualifying Round. The 5th Round of the FA Trophy was reached in 2005 where a narrow 1-0 defeat to Exeter City halted their progress. It's smaller brother, the FA Vase has seen even more success. As well as a semi final and 2 runners up spots they won it in 1980 after defeating Gusiborough Town 2-0 at Wembley Stadium. Local cup honours include the Lincolnshire Senior Cup, the Lincolnshire Senior Shield and the Hitchingbrooke Cup.


I was pleased to have Anwar back with me this Tuesday, after a number of games on my own thanks to commitments from both sides. There was plenty of choices, but with him having a limited budget for fuel costs, there were some that were ruled out. The weather would play a part as well, but with me wanting to see a cup game, Stamford v Buxton looked the best option. This was all worked out during half time at Wycombe Wanderers v Leyton Orient, a game which the Chairboys lost 2-0 with a pretty poor performance. It would be our second visit to Stamford after seeing them at their old ground when they beat Chasetown in the 2013 NPL D1 South Playoff final. We'd also seen them away at Barwell when they had current Wycombe keeper Alex Lynch in goal for them. Lynch was on loan to them from Peterborough United at the time and owing to the sale of Matt Ingram to Queens Park Rangers, has recently taken over as our first choice keeper, having only played a handful of games previously. I'd also seen Buxton on their own patch, as they beat Hednesford Town in an FA Cup replay, back in October 2012. Looking back at some of those entries in my blogs reminds me of how much it has evolved. As for some of the entries even further back they are very basic, hence why I have been doing a lot of revisits lately so I can update them.

I had a decent nights sleep on Monday as per usual. I normally walk down town on Tuesday to get a bit of exercise, though today I set off a little earlier to avoid the rain that was scheduled to arrive around midday. Typically I undid all the work by getting 6 different Christmas sweets items for £1.50 as they were selling them off cheap in Poundland. I also got some diet Irn Bru for tonight’s game, which was another good deal in Morrisons. I came back and spent the afternoon catching up on various bits before leaving for Aylesbury at 3.30. After getting to Anwar's at 4 we were soon on our way. There was around 20 minutes delay on the way, but it would have been more had we not diverted off the A1 onto another road after 2 lorries decided to have a crash. After going the back route we got to Morrisons at 6.15 with me having Scampi and chips for dinner. The place seemed a bit chaotic with kids running about and meals being sent back to the kitchen. Luckily ours were great, even if they took a while to come. After a short drive and mistaking the floodlights of Blackstones FC for the ground as it was a few hundred yards away, we got to the ground and parked up for tonight's clash.

The Northern Premier League  Challenge Cup (or Integro Doodson Cup) is a much-maligned competition, with managers often putting out under-strength sides. Indeed, between tonight’s 2 clubs, despite their collective many seasons in the NPL, they can only muster 1 runners-up spot between them.  However I have seen plenty of cracking games in the Southern League’s version of this competition, and it represents a decent chance of silverware if your season is not going to plan. I’ve seen games in this cup before - at Nantwich where they defeated Leek Town 5-0 and at Spalding where Coalville was beaten 5-1. Stamford would have to improve on a torrid home record if they were to change things in their favour - after over a year in their new ground, they had only won twice in over 30 attempts. Getting to the ground about 7 we took some pictures of the outside and went in paying £10 entry and £2 for a programme. After looking around the ground I went to the club shop and chatted to various people before kick-off. One notable name on the teamsheet was Paul Bastock in goal for Stamford at the venerable age of 46. He'd made his first appearance in football in around 1987 and I'd seen him a few times for Boston when they played Wycombe in the Conference, and he must be the Pilgrims' record appearance holder. I recognised a couple of other names too - namely the former Doncaster Rovers striker Ricky Ravenhill who was on the bench for Buxton, and one of the linesmen who I follow on Twitter. There was a decent selection of pre-match music on the tannoy as the start of the game approached, thanks in part to local station Rutland Radio.

The game started brightly with both sides looking to open the scoring early but it was Stamford who were on the front foot in front of a disappointing crowd of 105. Those who did attend witnessed a lively game with Jack Wightwick opening the scoring on 12 minutes, following up after the Buxton keeper parried an initial shot. It looked to be the same old story for Stamford as they conceded an equaliser on 19 minutes when Alex Wiles finished past Paul Bastock after the Stamford defence failed to cut out a cross. Nevertheless, they regained their lead within a couple of minutes with the goal of the game. Jake Duffy was some way out when he struck his shot, and although the wind might have helped it flew into the top left-hand corner. The hosts were bossing the game by now and 2 goals in the space of 3 minutes settled the tie. Firstly Jordan Smith headed the ball on into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 3-1 and then on 39 minutes Jack Wightwick got his brace and completed the nights scoring. There were fewer chances in the second half, Buxton having the better of them and forcing some decent saves out of Bastock as they looked to reduce the arrears.

We got away pretty quickly after setting the Sat Nav up. On the way back we listened to the rest of the Liverpool v Stoke City League Cup semi-final on Radio 5 which the home side won after a penalty shoot out. The journey home was nice and quick with me dropping Anwar off just after 11 and getting home myself 20 minutes later, though the quick drive meant my fuel economy was not as good as it could have been. I was glad I had made the choice to go to Stamford as opposed to other options. I really need to tick off AFC Fylde before it goes and the plan was to drop off Anwar at Blackpool. The weather looked too dodgy to risk it though and my fears proved well-founded. AFC Fylde was called off early afternoon and Blackpool played out a dull 0-0 draw with Sheffield United on a heavy pitch. After watching a bit of TV I got to bed just before 1am, which is a lot earlier than previous Tuesdays, which was welcome with me being up for work at 4am.


BORDERVILLE SPORTS CENTRE (or the Zeeco Stadium as it is known for sponsorship purchases) is nowhere near as nice as their former home in terms of character. However it is one of the better new builds, and although it's a fair way from town, a walk is not out of the question if you have the time. In any case, there are a number of places such as 3 supermarkets, a chip shop near Blackstones FC and a McDonalds nearby. If you choose to eat inside, the choice is decent and reasonably priced. I didn't see any pubs nearby but the bar is bright and welcoming. Though they didn't have any real cider (only Strongbow and a few bottles) they have their own ale, brewed by the local Oakham Brewery I'm led to believe.

As for the ground itself, most of it is open flat standing. The 2 stands that are there are both prefabricated, but they are not your usual arena type. The 250 seated stand has good legroom and decent views, despite floodlight pylons being sightline. There is also a decent sized terrace holding around 500. I've been warmly welcomed at both of Stamford's homes and that, coupled with a decent club shop make it well worth a visit.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Whyteleafe - Church Road

Whyteleafe FC
Church Road

020 8660 5491
Official Website

Ground Number: 549
Tuesday 12th January 2016
Whyteleafe 6-0 Farnham Town
Surrey Senior Cup 3rd Round


WHYTELEAFE FC was formed in 1946 after the end of World War 2. There had previously been a club called Whyteleafe Albion in the town prior to the war. For the early part of their history, they played in various local leagues including the Surrey Senior League, the London Spartan League and latterly the Athenian League prior to joining the Isthmian League in 1984. Initially starting in Division 2 they were promoted to Division 1 after finishing runners up to Dorking in 1988. They stayed at Division 1 level for some time, with a best-ever finish of 5th coming in 2003. By 2012 however, they finished bottom of Isthmian D1 South and joined the Kent League. After a 6th placed finish in their first season, the league was rebranded the Southern Counties East league and Whyteleafe to their newly named surroundings with aplomb, becoming champions and returning to the Isthmian D1 South. They break did them well and last season they finished in 5th place in their first season back. The current season saw them sitting a few places below in 9th prior to tonight's game.

The club had a couple of great seasons in the FA Cup towards the end of the last century. Firstly in the 98/99 season, they reached the 4th Qualifying Round before losing to Conference club Welling United. The following season they went one better and after beating Lancing, Croydon, Thame United, Langney Sports and Bognor Regis Town they took Football League side Chester City to a replay before bowing out 3-1 up in Cheshire. In 1999 the FA Trophy 4th Round was reached before a 3-0 home defeat to Kingstonian. In the FA Vase, the 5th Round has also been reached on a couple of occasions, most recently in 1986 where they lost out to Stevenage Borough. Whyteleafe's most famous former player is undoubtedly the current Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew, whilst the small town/village is served by 3 train stations despite having a population of fewer than 4000 people at the last count.


For this midweek hop, I would be without Anwar again - he'd dusted down his big book of excuses and chosen 'feeling under the weather' as his reason for not coming on a groundhop tonight. It might have been a blessing in disguise though as the weather was sure to decimate the 30 or so choices that we had open to us. My intended target was Whyteleafe, a ground that I had wanted to visit for some while and had pencilled in for a pre-season friendly against Fulham a few years ago before it was cancelled due to the pitch not being ready. With my fellow hopper having already been there twice and the 3G pitch offering assurances that it would not be postponed, it seemed a great choice for the night. That said, a bodged installation had led to a game in August 2014 being postponed due to waterlogging, but that had been remedied shortly after.

On the day of the game, I’d enjoyed my usual decent Monday nights sleep. It’s the only day I usually get some decent shut-eye in, as I’m usually working the next morning or indulging in having a good time the night before. I must have got about 10 hours sleep and so woke up feeling nice and refreshed. After a bath and breakfast, I walked down the town and got my haircut as well as buying a few things that I needed to pick up. The haircut was long overdue but the hairdresser I use has a lovely dog called Chester. When her kids are off though they look after him at home and so I’d purposely delayed my trim until I was sure they would be back at school. After coming back home I spent the afternoon researching this blog and trying to plan next Saturday’s game and other future fixtures that I would be attending. I knew that sometime next week I’d be attending Aston Villa v Wycombe Wanderers but the day remained a mystery thanks to the TV companies dawdling in announcing what replays would be televised. This meant that there were 6 days (or less) for Aston Villa to print the tickets, send them, Wycombe to sell them, and in some cases ship them out. With a flaky postal service and a 2 day weekend, that would be easier said than done. With regards to my Saturday game, I was hoping for something in the FA Vase. 2 long-running sagas would hopefully be resolved, with 2 ties on their 5th or 6th scheduled date after several postponements. Newton Aycliffe v Atherton Collieries was finally being played after being moved to Durham City’s old 3G pitch, whilst Welton Rovers v Bodmin Town finally got the go-ahead, with the hosts pitch finally in a fit state to play the game.

Back to tonight, the weather had been doing it’s best to disrupt the nights' action and I was glad that my choice of game was relatively assured to be taking place. I had a dinner of Chicken Rogan Josh before leaving at 5.40. For once the M25 played ball with a minimal 5-10 minute delay in getting to the ground. I arrived at 6.55 and after getting some pictures of the outside and in the bar I paid £9 to get in, plus a programme for £2. After catching up with Dulwich fan Mishi I went round the ground taking pictures before going into the club shop and getting a pennant for £2. The rest of the time until kick off was spent catching up on Facebook.

Whyteleafe started the favourites to win and this showed in the opening passage of play. The game was only a couple of minutes old when they opened the scoring with a great free kick from Sam Clayton that curled into the top left-hand corner. Not even 10 minutes into the game the lead was doubled when the ball was headed past the keeper by Ike-Robinson Feehi. The half continued in the same vein with the Combined Counties League side restricted to chances on the break though they did force a great save out of the keeper 5 minutes before half time. It was all to no avail - right on half time Whyteleafe made it 3-0 with a low drilled shot into the bottom left-hand corner by Tommy Smith. There had been some good tunes on the tannoy pre-match and they excelled themselves at half time by putting on some David Bowie as a tribute to the musician who sadly died earlier this week. The second half continued with Whyteleafe well on top, though the chances were not quite as regular. Even so they made it 4-0 just after 70 minutes with a goal that flew into the top corner with Tommy Smith getting his brace. Former Aldershot man Roscoe D'Sane made it 5-0 soon after with a well-placed shot into the bottom corner. Jamie Byatt made it 6-0 with a cracking shot in the top corner. It had been a good nights action, even if it had been quite one-sided.

It was freezing though and I was glad to get back to the car and whack the heaters on full blast. I was soon warmed up and on my way home. On the journey, I learned of the results in the Premiership where Aston Villa finally won a game as they beat Crystal Palace 1-0. Newcastle United and Manchester United played out a 3-3 draw while my favourite result came in the league below as MK Dons were humped 5-0 at home by Bromley. In the FA Vase, I was disappointed to see that Atherton Colleries had lost 1-0 at Newton Aycliffe but pleased that Bowers & Pitsea had beaten Broxbourne Borough as they now become my first choice for my next Groundhop on Saturday. I arrived home at 10.35 and caught up on all the results I had missed. After watching TV for a bit I went to sleep just after midnight.


CHURCH ROAD is a traditional non-league ground that has remained the same for a while, apart from the addition of a 3G pitch. There is cover on all 4 sides, albeit in small areas. The biggest of these is behind the goal where there are around 200 seats on a stand that is elevated above pitch level. This end also houses the dressing rooms and the tea bar. As you look to the left there is a smaller seated area for around 100 and this also has some steps of terracing alongside it. This side also houses the turnstiles and club shop. The far end has a small area of covered flat standing as does the remaining side. The rest is open with an overall capacity of 3000.

Though I didn't get anything from the tea bar or clubhouse, they both looked to have a good range. The club shop had a decent range of merchandise as well as old books and programmes with everything at reasonable prices. The programme was a good effort too, with all the facts you need and a few interesting articles. The town and a choice of 3 train stations are a short walk away, with quite a few takeaways and restaurants, but not many pubs from what I could see.