Thursday 31 March 2016

South Normanton Athletic - Lees Lane

South Normanton Athletic FC
MJ Robinson Structures Arena
Lees Lane
South Normanton
DE55 2AD

Ground Number: 574
Wednesday 30th March 2016
South Normanton Athletic 0-1 Holbrook Sports
East Midlands Counties League


SOUTH NORMANTON ATHLETIC FC was formed in 1926, adopting their present name in 1990 after bring previously known as South Normanton Miners Welfare. In the same they joined the Central Midlands League, starting in its second tier. They were promoted to the Supreme Division in 1994, spending 3 seasons there before being relegated back. They bounced back straight away though when a 5th placed finish was deemed good enough to see them promoted. They joined the Northern Counties East League in 2003 initially at Division 1 (step 6) level. In 2007 they were promoted to the NCEL Premier when they finished in 3rd place behind Parkgate and Winterton Rangers. Despite having their best ever finish of 17th at step 5 in 2007/08, the club folded at the end of the season due to an ageing committee and no young blood to help. They remained dormant until 2009 when they reformed and joined the Central Midlands League Premier at step 9 of non-league. A promotion was achieved in 2011 to the Supreme Division, finally winning promotion to the East Midlands Counties League in 2014. After a 7th placed finish last season, they are looking to be in with a chance of promotion again this season, sitting in 4th at the start of play.

In the FA Cup, their first season was the most successful. 2005/06 saw them beat Arnold Town before losing 5-3 to Halesowen Town in the 1st Qualifying Round. They have also reached the 2nd Round of the FA Vase on a few occasions, the last of which was in 2007/08 when they lost to Dunkirk after a replay. The club's nickname of 'The Shiners' came from the 1750s when workers from the area worked in the ribbed stocking industry. The work involved sitting on stools for long periods, making the backsides of their trousers shiny, and therefore instantly recognisable. Nowadays the main area of industry is retail, with the East Midlands Designer Outlet being located close to the village. 


Normally I go groundhopping on a Tuesday night, but due to a combination of the Bank Holiday and the England match, there was not much to choose from. Add to that the fact that England put in a good shift on the Saturday in Germany, winning 3-2 with a good performance and I was happy enough to stay in. I still fancied a midweek hop though on the Wednesday or Thursday though, so I contacted fellow hopper Chris with all the viable options. Between us we chose South Normanton Athletic who were going well in the East Midlands Counties League which was fairly unexplored territory for me, having only been to a couple of games in this competition. That said I'd be going 2 games in a row, having seen Radford demolish Kimberley Miners Welfare 5-0 to go top of the league on Monday. It was a highly competitive league with several teams in with a chance of the title, tonight's host sitting in 4th place was one of them.

While sitting at home waiting for the England game, I was keeping an eye on what games had been postponed. It turned out I made a good decision as pretty much everything was ruined by the weather. There was a derby on the Isle Of Wight, which my mate Anders had come over from Norway to see. Despite the pitch looking fine, the typically fussy referee called it off, meaning he had a wasted journey. As for the England game, I watched it in bed sober. Though we lost 2-1 to Holland we showed some positive signs, despite the performance not being great. It was a fairly early night for a Tuesday, going to sleep at 11 as I was up for work at 4am. It was a fairly average day at work with me finishing at 12.30. I came home, having a bath and chilling before leaving at 3. I made good time, getting to the meeting point at Milton Keynes just before 4. It was also a good journey up the M1 with only roadworks with a speed restriction and rubber necking clowns looking at an accident on the opposite carriageway. Chris & I had so much time to kill in fact that we took a look at a couple of grounds at Pinxton and Blackwell. Both looked very good for step 7 or below and would probably do a good job should they wish to progress. Even with that, it was well before 6.30 when we got to the ground so after getting our programmes we went to our pre-match pub of The Devonshire Arms. There I had a couple of ciders from La Cantina, namely 'Yesterday's Dreams' and 'Moody Blues'. Both were excellent if a little sweet for my liking. From there we went to the Anchor Chippy, with me having Chicken Meat and chips. Later on, in the ground, I had Sausage Roll, curry sauce and chips and was still peckish.

I paid £5 to get in and visited the club shop, getting a good deal on a pile of randomly interesting programmes for £2. Holbrook had the better of the first half and went in ahead, thanks to a close range finish just before the interval. Despite the hosts having much the better of the second half they just couldn't create anything clear cut and it ended against the form book with a surprise away win. It was a shame on real decent hosts and a decent venue, but the things on the pitch didn't go according to plan. It was a simple journey home, with the only delay being a lengthy stretch of road resricted to 50MPH due to very slow moving roadworks. Even so, I dropped Chris off in Milton Keynes at 11.10, getting home myself at midnight. I couldn't get to sleep until well after 1 though, and so had the usual trick of catching up with a few hours sleep the following afternoon.


LEES LANE is an excellent venue for step 6 and is probably good enough for a few steps higher. There is plenty of cover with stands covering 300 seats and around 150 standing spaces. The rest of the ground is open hard standing, with the ground curved in what looked like it had on old speedway track previously. The club shop at the ground is very good with plenty of old programmes and books, though there were only really pin badges available souvenir wise.

For food, the tea bar is one of the best in non-league with plenty of choices and good value. More choice is available in the village with a surprisingly large number of outlets. There's a very smart bar with lots of club memorabilia on the walls, though it only has the standard range of drinks. For real ale and cider lovers, the Devonshire Arms is bang on the money whilst the Clock Inn is also worth a look. 

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Radford FC - Selhurst Street

Radford FC
Selhurst Street
Hyson Green

Ground Number: 563
Monday 28th March 2016
Radford 5-0 Kimberley MW

East Midlands Counties League


RADFORD FC was established in 1964, initially known as MANLOVE & ALLIOTS and later on RADFORD OLYMPIC. Following a move to Saturday football, they became the first amateur side in British football to wear advertising on their shirts. In 1983 they became founder members of the Central Midlands League. They stayed here until 2008, playing as members of the wonderfully named 'Supreme Division' In that year they became founder members of the East Midlands Counties League and remain there to this day, with a best-ever finish of 3rd last season. They were doing even better this time out, sitting 2nd and with a really good chance of being promoted.

Success in national cup competitions has been thin on the ground. They gained their first FA Cup victory this season beating Sleaford Town before going on to lose to AFC Bridgnorth in the Preliminary Round. The FA Vase has been a similar tale of woe with only the 1st Round reached, which again was matched this season. In terms of honours, the club won the Central Midlands League Cup in 1984. Radford itself has notable history as it was the birthplace for Raleigh cycles and Players cigarettes. The ground itself is located in an area called Hyson Green, notable for being the birthplace of former Notts County & Everton goalkeeper Fred Geary who played during the late 1800s and early 1900s.


When the fixtures for Wycombe came out, Notts County was one for me that I had a 50/50 chance of visiting. I'd been there many times before, but it was a good day out. A couple of weeks before the chances of me visiting were severely diminished thanks to the fact that I'd originally been scheduled to be in work. I eventually negotiated it off but in the end any chance of me visiting was put to bed by the disgusting £24 asking price for tickets in the Wycombe end. Fourth division football let's not forget and yet an asking price that was nearly as much as some Premiership games and significantly more than I had paid at Aston Villa, Mainz and Eintracht Frankfurt, who were all, for now at least, top-flight sides. There were Wycombe fans clamouring for a lift though and I was more than happy to oblige, especially as it gave me the chance of doing a hop whilst getting my fuel costs paid. I was initially looking at Carlton Town, but with not so much nearby to do pre-match, I decided on Radford which was just 3 miles away. They had a local derby against Kimberley Miners Welfare which was only a fiver to get in. Plus there was plenty of choice near the ground to eat and drink.

On the day of the game, I woke around 7am. I was dismayed to hear of games being called off all over the place, especially ones that were fairly near my eventual destination. Both Glapwell (which I’d been considering as part of a double) and Staveley Miners Welfare being called off. The horrible storm Katie had also caused lots of damage at various non-league clubs up and down the country, causing them repair costs that they can ill afford. That and the fact that clubs were losing out on a bumper bank holiday crowd must have hit them hard in the pocket. After stopping at Morrisons to get some drinks for the game I met Paul, Luke and Alex at the train station. We had a decent journey up but did have to come off a junction early on the M40 as someone had an accident and there were massive tailbacks. We had to go through some Northamptonshire backwaters but at least it saved us a frustrating delay. We got to Notts County at 12.15 and after dropping the lads off I made the 15-minute journey to Radford. After checking that the pitch was fine I walked just over a mile to the local Wetherspoons called 'The Gooseberry Bush'. It was a strange one, near the university and full of noisy students in fancy dress. They must have been off on holiday as the floor was littered with various suitcases though finding a table was no problem. It's not often I get to do 'Mexican Monday' but the pulled pork Quesadilla was excellent and came with a pint of Thatchers Gold for the £6.25 asking price. As the Wetherspoons didn't have any decent cider on I walked around the corner to the Golden Fleece. It was deserted, don't know why though as it was a great place. I had myself a pint of Farmer Fear Herb infused cider before walking back to the ground. It was strange, plonked in the middle of an Asian and Polish stronghold but the couple of lamb samosas I had were fantastic and probably the best I've ever had. I think that looking on Google Maps, the shop name was 'Laziz', but in any case, they had only just been freshly made and were all the better for it.

I made my way into the ground paying £5 entry and also getting a programme. After getting some pictures of the ground I settled down in my favourite position of between the dugouts for the game. The scoring started as early as the second minute with Jahred Russell scoring with a low diagonal shot into the bottom left-hand corner. The same area of the goal saw the lead doubled on 19 minutes as Casey Knight's shot was deflected in by visiting defender Chris Sankey. Just before the half-hour mark, it was three. A free-kick was initially palmed away by the visiting keeper Dan Turner but Joe Hegarty was on hand to fire into the roof of the net. I managed to capture the moment on camera, the video is below. The visitors managed to take the sting out of the game in the second half, but even so, they had chances to extend their lead. It took until 80 minutes for them to score again with Dan Hegarty getting his second after he got the last touch in a goalmouth scramble. Right on time, Radford got a 5th, this time it was Frazer Campbell who was at the far post to slot home. After the game I drove back to Notts County, listening to some of the game on the radio as it had lots of injury time. By all accounts it was a dour 0-0, making the high ticket price even more ludicrous. Despite reports to the contrary, Robin Hood is alive and well in Nottingham, only this time he is taking from football fans and giving to a bloated squad of underachieving players if some of the comments from their fans that I have seen are true. I met the lads but didn't leave Nottingham until 5.30. We made good time on the way home, with just the long-running and extensive roadworks holding us up, as well as traffic, being heavy as we came off the M40 at Wycombe. We got back just after 7.30 but with 3 drop offs to do, I didn't get home until 8. I spent the evening watching TV before going to sleep, having had a decent day.


SELHURST STREET is an old style non-league ground with a fair bit of character. It's hemmed in on all 4 sides by existing buildings so space is a bit tight. There are a few areas of covered standing, probably enough to keep 200 fans dry at a push. There is also covered seated stand with a capacity of around 100. There's a bar and a tea hut as well, though I didn't use them on this occasion. Around the ground is a very multicultural area, but at least that means you won't go hungry with several outlets offering decent food at cheap prices. Further afield there are some decent pubs, though I didn't use it 'The Lion' looks very good and is under half a mile away. Overall it's a good value day out at a friendly club and well worth making a visit.