Tuesday 30 August 2016

Nuneaton Griff - The Pingles Stadium

Nunteaon Griff FC
The Pingles Stadium
Avenue Road
CV11 4LX

Ground Number: 612
Monday 29th August 2016
Nuneaton Griff 1-1 Hinckley
Midland League D1


NUNEATON GRIFF FC were formed in 1972 and were initially known as Nuneaton Amateurs. They played in the local Coventry leagues up until 1999 when they joined the Midland Combination. They were an immediate success, winning the championship in their first 2 seasons. Things tailed off a bit, but they still managed to maintain a top half finish more often than not, with 2 4rd placed finishes and a runners-up spot in the intervening years. In 2014 they joined the Midland League at Division 1 level, which sits at level 6 of the non-league pyramid. After a disappointing 17th placed finish in their first season, things improved greatly last year and they ended the season in 3rd place.

The club's best run in the FA Cup came in 2012/13. They needed replays to beat Earlswood Town and Sporting Khalsa before winning a game at Dudley Town. The 2nd Qualifying Round saw them face former Conference side Hednesford Town where they were unlucky to lose 3-2. Since then success in the cup has been thin on the ground with a 10-0 defeat to Coleshill Town in 2014/15 and a defeat on penalties to Dudley Sports in a replay earlier this month. Last season;s FA Vase saw their best ever run to the 5th Round where they bowed out 3-0 to Salisbury. In local competitions, there has been plenty of success with the most notable win coming in 2001 when they lifted the Midland Combination Challenge Cup.


This game was planned late on Wednesday night after I had got back from an evening game at Godmanchester. I went with fellow ground hopper Chris, although he went to a nearby game instead. We were trying to figure out how we could squeeze 2 games in when I would be working for some of the morning. Initially we looked to be thwarted with all the evening games being in the far north. However Chris did some sterling research while I was making my way home and found a game at Nuneaton Griff. This was perfect as neither of us had been, plus the fact that it was easy to double up with a 3pm game. I wasn't sure what this game would be until the day before, but eventually we settled on Pershore Town which had the ideal combination of travel time and pre match refreshment.

We left Pershore at 4.50, stopping at Asda on the way so Chris could get a drink. I got some crisps myself and soon we were on our way. The M5 delayed us for a while through roadworks with no one working on them and so we didn't get to Nuneaton until 6.30. BBC Hereford and Worcester kept us company, bringing some excellent coverage of their non-league sides, though not a word about the insular Pershore. The initial plan was to walk to Wetherspoons but with not much time left, we settled for a pint a Toby Carvery. Before going we picked up an excellent programme for £1 each, so we didn't have the disappointment of missing out twice in a day. At the pub, a pint of Stowford Press refreshed us and I had a chance to catch up online, including all the football results I'd missed. From there we made our way to the ground. The entry was a bargain £4. Though the stadium was not the best - I'm not a fan of athletics tracks , the place had a lot more warmth and friendliness with a lady trying hard to sell her programmes and everyone making us feel very welcome, unlike earlier. I took a set up in the stand with Chris and awaited kick off in this local derby.

It started of typically tight, with only really half chances falling to each side. The hosts took the lead around 25 minutes in, converting a penalty that had been awarded for an infringement in the box. There wasn't much more in terms of clear cut chances, and it remained 1-0 at the interval. The second half saw Hinckley miss a gilt edged chance to equalise around 5 minutes in and for a long time it felt as though I was watching Wycombe with not a lot of quality in the final third. Nuneaton had some chances half chances too, but Hinckley finally did level on 75 minutes, firing home a diagonal shot from just inside the area.

From there we made our way home. It hab been a good day out, even if the football on display at both games had been uninspiring, as it had been in my last Wycombe game. I dropped Chris home at around 10.40, getting home myself around 50 minutes later. I went on the internet for a bit and watched some TV before going to sleep around 1am.

THE PINGLES STADIUM isn't the best ground in the world, being an athletics stadium with a huge track and area for other athletics related activities in between that and the stand. Neither are the facility's up to much, no bar and only drinks and chocolate bars to my knowledge.

They make good use of what they have though - entry is £4 and you get a nice welcome. The programme at £1 is excellent and better than others that charge more than twice that. Up the road is a Toby Carvery which has a reasonable range of drinks. It's the standard roast dinner food wise, though town is just under a mile away, and there's bound to be a good range there, possibly en route too.

Pershore Town - King George V Stadium

Pershore Town FC
King George V Stadium
King Georges Way
WR10 1QU

01386 556902

Ground Number: 611
Monday 29th August 2016
Pershore Town 0-2 Racing Club Warwick
Midland League D1


PERSHORE TOWN were formed in 1988, following the merger of 3 local clubs. They've been in the Midland League or its predecessors for their entire history with their best placing being 14th in the Midland Alliance in the 1995/96 season which at the time was step 4 of the the non-league pyramid. In current terms, they sit at step 6 of the pyramid with their best finish in recent times being 8th place in the Midland Combination Premier in the 2007/08 season. Generally though they have struggled, and have not recorded a top half finish since.

The club had an incredible run to the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round in 1993/94. After beating Racing Club Warwick, Northampton Spencer, Racing Club Warwick & Atherstone United, they were drawn against Yeading, a few divisions higher than them, They lost 3-1 and missed out on a lucrative tie against football league side Gillingham. The club has not entered regularly into the FA Cup since them but have taken part in the FA Vase. Sadly for them, it's been a while since they had  a good run, with their best effort being the 1995/96 season which saw a 3-1 third round defeat to Burgess Hill Town.


Originally on this day I'd fancied going to North Ferriby v Barrow, but my manager totally ignored my request for the day off, even though I am entitled to it according to my contract. So I looked for something nearer to do with fellow groundhopper Chris, hoping that work would allow me to get out nice and early. I still planned for the worst case scenario though - looking for anything that was within 2 hours in case I had to stay until 12. I only decided that I was going to go to this game the day before, as I was looking for something to double up with the evening kick off at Nuneaton Griff.  Chris had supplied me with a list of 75 possibilities and after I'd checked which ones had decent pubs, I got back to him with the 7 that looked the best. He picked Pershore Town v Racing Club Warwick, and I was happy with that as it looked a nice town and it was a ground that I'd fancied doing for a while.

One the day of the game, work was a breeze and I was out after 3 hours at 8am. Quite why the boss insisted on hauling me in, only he knows, but I wasn't hanging about. I let Chris know as soon as possible and arrangments were made for an earlier meet in Leighton Buzzard where he was picking up some records. I was glad to have some time to kill, so I went home and had a bath, before getting some fresh clothes. For some reason, I had it in my head that we were off to Bromyard, but a recheck of the fixtures soon had me heading to the correct place. I left home just before 10.10, planning to park up in Morrisons and meet Chris in the town.

I got to my destination at 10.55, going in Morrisons and getting some cans of Irn-Bru before meeting Chris at 11.10. We were soon on our way, and after 15 minutes delay due to bank holiday traffic, we were in the town at 1.20. The club were charging £3 to park, so I just dumped the car in a nearby side street and went into town. The place was packed, strangely not for the football but a plum festival. In fact they seemed a little too obsessed with plums with everything in a plum colour and mentions of it everywhere. We went to a pub called (naturally) The Pickled Plum for lunch, and we both had a burger and a pint of proper cider. It may have been pricey, but it was top notch stuff and was a very nice town. The welcome at the club was a tad underwhelming - quite insular and it felt like we were interrupting their private party. They'd also sold out of programmes (we didn't do many said the gateman) and more interested in selling parking than entry to the football. It was a real shame as the ground was nice too, but unlike other hoppers, I didn't go in search of another game when the programme had sold out. Others have done that, travelling as far as  a 400 mile round trip to Maltby Main before turning on their heel and going back south without seeing a game.

Given the home town's links with plums, it was most amusing to see visitors Racing Club Warwick line up in a purple plum coloured kit. The first half was limited in terms of chances but the visiting keeper pulled off a couple of decent saves to keep his team in the mix. Finally. the scoring was opened on 62 minutes when Racing Club Warwick took the lead from close range. Pershore rallied a bit but they were all aimless,  just like my own team Wycombe. The visitors rode their luck and grabbed a second 10 minutes from time when their number 10 completed a decent run by firing home from just inside the area. The game then faded to a conclusion with the away side strolling to a win despite being second best for a lot of the game.


KING GEORGE V STADIUM is a pretty decent venue, or at least main stand for step 6. What a shame then that it's not really looked after, with overgrown stinging nettles all around the ground and bits that feel like they've been abandoned. There was a feeling of having given up round the place, and perhaps that was reflected in recent league finishes.

There was one bright spot - the tea bar looked to be serving some decent grub at a nice price, though I didn't sample any. The town is very nice, well kept and buzzing place, albeit with a slight obsession with plums. In particular, the Pickled Plum is an absolute belter drinks wise and has amazing food too should you be happy to pay £11 for a burger. Back at the ground, there's a reasonable bar with the usual range of drinks on offer.

Sunday 28 August 2016

Needham Market - Bloomfields

Needham Market FC
Quinton Road
Needham Market

Ground Number: 610
Friday 26th August 2016
Needham Market 5-1 Leiston
Eastern Counties D1


NEEDHAM MARKET were formed in 1919, although there has been evidence of a previous club in the town. They've played in local leagues for much of their history and it from their last, the Suffolk & Ipswich League, that they moved into semi-professional football. It was from there that they joined the Eastern Counties League, starting in it's second tier in the 1996/97 season. They started well, finishing 4th or 5th in their first 6 seasons. Although they tailed off to 2 lower-half finishes in 2003 and 2004, the 2004/05 season saw them finish runners-up to Ipswich Wanderers to earn promotion to the Premier Division. The success continued and they spent 5 successful seasons here. 2009/10 saw them beat Cambridge Regional College to the Eastern Counties Premier by a single point, and therefore promotion to the Isthmian League. Starting in Division 1 North, 5 seasons were spent here, including 2 playoff failures until they were champions in 2015. Last season saw a downturn in results, but they still survived a relegation spot by 11 points, thanks to Farnborough's demotion.

In the FA Cup, the club's best season came in 2013/14. They beat Haverhill Rovers, Brantham Athletic, Dunstable Town & AFC Sudbury before facing football league bound Cambridge United. They ran them close, losing 1-0 in the 4th Qualifying Round tie, though they did have the consolation of garnering their highest ever attendance of 1,784. Little success has been had in the FA Trophy but they did reach the FA Vase semi-final in 2007/08, losing to Kirkham & Wesham  (now called AFC Fylde) They would gain revenge on the newly named club the following season, beating them in the 4th Round before losing out to Chalfont St Peter in the Quarter Final after a replay.

In terms of local cups. there have been wins aplenty in recent times, with the Eastern Counties League Cup, Suffolk Premier Cup, Suffolk Senior Cup and East Anglian Cup all won since the turn of the century. Their reserves joined the Eastern Counties Division 1 in 2013 and have found things tough, finishing bottom of the league last time out, and shipping 120 goals in the process. A number of ex-professionals have played for the club, including former Wycombe man Ian Westlake and Kemi Izzett whose brother Muzzy starred in the Premiership for Leicester City. As for the town of Needham Market itself, the most famous person to hail from there is June Brown, who plays Dot Cotton in Eastenders.


I'd been wanting to visit the Museum for computing history in Cambridge for a while now,  but had struggled to tie it in with a game. The opportunity came on this Friday night when Needham Market were at home, so I decided to do it,  even though it was only the reserves. I figured that a visit to the Museum was worth about £20 all in,  so with the entry fee being £8, I could dock £12 of the petrol off my football costs. On the day of the game I was working until 12 and so after finishing I grabbed some chicken for lunch before getting on my way. Due to 30 minutes delay on the A414 at Hatfield due to some malfunctioning traffic lights I didn't get to Cambridge until 3. I went round the museum, and although it wasn't as big as I expected,  it was still worth a visit. I still wish I'd gone via Braintree to pick up mates instead,  but what's done is done. 

I still had plenty of time to kill after leaving at 3.40, so I stopped at Stowmarket Town FC to get pictures before making my way to the town's Wetherspoons. The Willow Tree was pretty average,  but I enjoyed my Vindaloo and chips for £2.99, plus a pint of Mr Whiteheads Midnight Special Perry for £2.85. I'd initially planned to indulge in fish Friday but as ever changed my mind when I saw the specials on offer. It was still only 5.40 when I left to make the short trip to Needham Market. After making a brief stop at Tesco for petrol I got to Needham Market at 6.10. With still over 90 minutes to go until kick-off I walked into town and went to what looked the best pub, The Rampant Horse. There I had a pint of Aspalls and caught up online. I've had the cider many times before, and it's a halfway house between the dross like Strongbow and Magners and the premium real cider. At least it was locally produced,  being a Suffolk cider. I had a look round the town,  which was very pretty but there was not a huge amount to do.

From there I walked back to ground, paying £5 entry plus £1 for a programme. After taking some pictures of the ground I stood between the the two dugouts for the game. Both teams came into this game in the lower reaches of the table, with the hosts especially disappointing with only 1 win from 7, ironically against today's opponents who they defeated 6-4 in the second game of the season. The goals had certainly been flying in, mainly at the wrong end as they had suffered 6-3, 8-2 and 12-2 defeats in the last 3 games. Visitors Leiston were similarly porous in defence with the second worst goal difference in the league of -14. Back to tonight, I was glad when the floodlights came on OK - during Tuesday's game against Canvey Island in the Ryman League, one side of the ground was left in darkness, and the referee, not happy with the reduced light, abandoned the game with the visitors leading 2-1 at the break.

Those defensive frailties did not translate into the first half of the game, with both sides struggling to create any quality in the final third. Needham Market had 2 goals ruled out by the linesman's flag as Leiston played the offside trap well. Though the hosts started  well on top, Leiston soon had a spell where they were dominant, during which they took the lead. On 24 minutes Ryan Sharman was fed a good pass and his deflected shot ended up in the back of the net. This was in the midst of their best spell and they will regret not capitalising on their chances. Just befor half time Needham Market were level when James Carragher finished from Tobie Stoller's excellent cross. The second half was a different story as Needham Market found their scoring boots.

It wasn't until the 67th minute that they did score though - Ben Frost's great run set up Santo Sarro-Haire and he showed ice cool composure to round the keeper and slot into an empty net. A minute later, scorer turned provider as he squared the ball to Max Booth who had an easy finish to make it 3-1. Leiston had a brief rally, racing up the other end and hitting the bar, but it was all to no avail. Needham Market broke, and the ball fell to Max Booth who got his second when he shot inside the keeper's near post. They rounded things off in the 83rd minute when a penalty was awarded for a trip in the area and Booth stepped up to complete his hat-trick. The linesman jokingly asked the home manager how many it was now as they had been having banter all night with the man in the dugout questioning  number of decisions without being abusive and the official taking it in good spirit.

It had been a good contest and the vast majority of the 129 crowd went home happy. I'm not a huge fan of reserve sides at step 6 and above but this showed that it could work with it providing a platform for youngsters to make the step up to the first team. The young sides do tend to struggle though as they don't have the experience and composure of the wily old pros,  but they don't lack talent. I made my way home, listening to Absolute 80s on the way and getting in at 11.45. I watched TV for a while, eventually getting to sleep around 1.30am.


BLOOMFIELDS is a pleasant and well kept non-league ground with cover on all 4 sides. There are 2 seated areas -  one which appears to be the original main stand and another arena type stand behind the goal which is named after a supporter and board member. There are 2 covered standing sides too - 2 areas of flat standing along the side and a newly erected terrace behind the goal. The ground is surrounded by trees, which make a good looking and aromatic backdrop.

Food and drink wise,  the tea bar looked promising but was closed on my visit. The bar was OK,  offering mainly bottled drinks. Town is less than 10 minutes away with a few pubs and takeaways and is fairly sedate and pleasant to visit. The programme for the reserve games is decent, quite thin, but well presented and with all the facts you need to know.