Friday 24 February 2017

Romsey Town - Bypass Ground

Romsey Town FC
Bypass Ground
South Front
S051 8GJ

Ground Number: 672
Friday 24th February 2017
Romsey Town 1-0 Hamble Club
Wessex D1


ROMSEY TOWN FC was formed in 1886 and for much of their early history played in local competitions, such as the Southampton League and Hampshire League. In 1986 they became founder members of the Wessex League and despite struggling in their first season, things soon picked up and by 1990 they were champions, with the then step 4 competition win being by far the most successful season, league placing wise, in their history. A change of management in the next few years saw them have a terrible 1992/93 season with a bottom-placed finish and relegation back to the Hampshire League. The next decade was an erratic one, with relegation to the second tier of the Hampshire League, but by 2004 they were back in the Wessex League, albeit in its new Division 2 step 8 league. Despite a bottom half finish in 2005/06, their good facilities saw them promoted to Wessex D1 and their new surroundings proved to be a catalyst to success, with a 3rd place finish in 2007, and promotion to the Wessex Premier. They'd survive there for 7 seasons, with a best finish of 8th was achieved in 2012. Following a relegation, they've played in Wessex D1 since 2014/ Mid-table finishes have been the order of the day ever since, with that continuing this season, with them sitting in 14th at time of kick off. They'd face a tough test in the form of runaway leaders Hamble Club who had lost just twice all season.

In the FA Cup Romsey Town reached the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round. After beating Frome Town, Chard Town, Stroud (now known as Forest Green Rovers) and Newport IOW, they lost out to Sussex League side Littlehampton Town and missed out on a plum home tie against Football League side Northampton Town in the process. They've never had a great run in the FA Vase, but have reached the third round twice, losing to Three Bridges in 1982/83 and Bridport in 1988/89. There has been success in local cups, with the most notable win coming in 1979 when they lifted the Hampshire Senior Cup, beating Farnborough Town 1-0 in a match played at The Dell, Southampton. Famous past residents of the town of Romsey include footballer Nigel Spackman, cricketer David Gower and TV gardener Charlie Dimmock. 


I love a bit of Friday night football to wrap up the week, with me normally heading northwards and giving other hoppers a lift to help out with fuel costs. However, with all of my contacts otherwise engaged, or geographically out of the way, I decided to head south for once. Romsey Town fitted the bill, as they were playing their first ever Friday night game, against league leaders Hamble Club in the Wessex League Division 1. It wasn't too far in terms of petrol costs and there were a couple of decent pubs near the ground. I started researching the club the night before and was really looking forward to the game, with me seemingly not being able to get enough football at the moment. I'd been past the ground before, as a passenger in a car on the way to somewhere on the south coast with my parents. Normally I'd have asked to stop and have a look, but at the time step 5 and 6 football wasn't really on my radar, with me not being a groundhopper at the time, and only really recognising football as low as the Southern, Isthmian and NPL leagues.

On the day of the game, it was a busy day at work, even so, I left at 1.15 as I still had a bit to catch up on at home. I came home, and had lunch and then a bath before I finished updating my North Greenford United blog, following my revisit on Wednesday. I just had enough time to draft up a list of possible games for next week, before getting my things together and leaving at 4. It was a bit slow getting out of Wycombe in the rush hour, but apart from a small delay on the M4, that was my only issue on the journey. I got to Romsey at 6, picking up a programme for £1 before heading into town. My first port of call was the Bishops Blaize. This promised 3 real ciders on tap,, but they only had Old Rosie which was pretty strong and one I'd had several times before. The Tipsy Pig was a lot better, with two new tries in Angry Orchard Dry and Orchard Pig Reveller. Being of low strength, both amounted to around the same as a pint of Old Rosie in terms of units. What was very useful, was that the venue was an Untappd Verified venue, meaning I could check on my phone what was on sale, and I wish more places did this as it would save me time. From there I went to Aldi, getting various bits plus some chicken for dinner. I picked up a few new ciders and it was proving a productive night on that front. From there I made my way to the ground, paying a bargain £5 entry. I was also still peckish, so I got some chips from the tea bar for £1.50.

The game started in a bright fashion, chances for both sides, but Hamble looking the most accomplished as you would expect from their respective league placings. The hosts started to settle and grow into the game as they had a good spell of possession and chances. It was Romsey Town who took the lead ten minutes before half-time when Tom Donaldson's half-volley from around 8 yards found the net. There were further chances for both sides, but the hosts clung on to seal an excellent victory. Initially, I'd been disappointed when I saw the attendance was 134, But upon further investigation, it was well up on Romsey's previous highest attendance of 85 and just one short of the best attendance of the season which involved Totton & Eling. Yet another example that Friday football works, but it's still a rarity. I can only hope that other clubs and leagues have their eyes open, as the extra revenue created must be invaluable. I left at 9.40, listening to some tunes on the way home as I drove home in a good mood. I was home by 11, having a couple of ciders and typing up my blog before going to sleep.


THE BYPASS GROUND is a decent and tidy ground for step 6 and would be probably acceptable for step 4. There's a decent sized stand with bench seating for around 150. There's cover on two other sides as well, with the rest being open and with an overall capacity of 1500.

The bar is quite basic, with Strongbow for cider drinkers, so your best bet is to head into town, where the Tipsy Pig is excellent and if you have the Untappd app on your phone, you can see what they have on. The tea bar is decent, with a wide range of stuff on sale. From what I saw in town, you are better off spending your money there as the takeaways in town are largely uninspiring unless you want to spend a packet.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Alvechurch - Lye Meadow

Alvechurch FC
Lye Meadow
53 Redditch Road
West Midlands
B48 74S

0121 445 2929
Official Website

Ground Number: 671
Tuesday 21st February 2017
Alvechurch 4-1 Pelsall Villa
Midland League Cup Quarter Final


ALVECHURCH FC was formed in 1929. They played in very local leagues up until joining the Worcestershire Combination in 1961. The club was hugely successful in this competition, never finishing below 7th. The league was renamed to the Midland Combination in 1968, but in their 12 seasons here, they were league champions on four occasions and runners-up five times. They joined the West Midlands Premier League in 1973, and the incredible success continued with them being champions for the next four seasons. They'd have to settle for a runners-up spot in the 1977/78 season, finishing a point behind Hednesford Town. This was good enough for them to be accepted into the Southern League. At the time the league was split into two regional divisions, and in 1980/81 they won the Midland section. A two-legged playoff was arranged against Southern Division champions Dartford and after a 3-3 aggregate draw, they were crowned overall Southern League champions after triumphing 4-3 on penalties. The organisation of the non-league pyramid in 1982/83 saw them placed in the Southern Premier and for the first time in their history, the form dipped and they had three consecutive bottom half finishes. Things improved in the mid 80's with Alvechurch finishing 4th in 1986, following this up with 8th and 7th placings in the next two seasons. This didn't last, however, and in 1990, they were relegated to the Southern League Midland Division. Another relegation followed in 1992  and despite a 9th placed finish in the West Midlands Premier, financial worries meant that the club folded at the end of the 1992/93 season.

Alvechurch would be without a football team for a year, but in 1994 a new club, ALVECHURCH VILLA were established. They joined the Midland Combination, changing their name back to Alvechurch in 1996. Despite unremarkable finishes at first, Alvechurch were champions in 2002/03 and were promoted to the Midland Alliance at step 5 of non-league, and they've remained there ever since, albeit in the renamed Midland Premier from 2014 onwards. They enjoyed their best ever finish of runners-up last season, amassing 101 points, but still finishing 7 points behind champions Hereford. This season, they are sitting pretty at the top of the league and barring a collapse, should be crowned champions at the end of the season.

Alvechurch's FA Cup record is mainly notable for having the record amount of replays to decide an FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round clash. Back in the 1971/72 season, it took a total of six games over less than 3 weeks. This duel also included a league game in between, plus the players had full-time jobs to cope with too. There were replays at Birmingham City, Oxford United (twice) before the tie was finally settled 1-0 at Aston Villa.They had to travel to Aldershot a couple of days later. Unsurprisingly, they were knackered and lost 4-2. As remarkable as that run was, they eclipsed that a couple of seasons later when they reached the 3rd Round.Starting in the 1st Qualifying Round, they battled through seven rounds, beating Football League side Exeter City along the way, before going out 4-2 at Bradford City.

Other notable cup runs include a run to the FA Amateur Cup semi-final in 1966, where they lost 1-0 to Wealdstone in a game played at Chelsea. In the FA Trophy, Alvechurch reached the 3rd Round of the FA Trophy in 1981 whilst last season they had their best run in the FA Vase, reaching the 4th Round before losing to Cleethorpes Town. There have been various local cup wins, the most notable of which is a hat-trick of Worcestershire Senior Cup victories. A host of famous players have played for Alvechurch including Rob Green and Graham Allner although the most well-known is former Leicester City and Arsenal striker Alan Smith. The village of Alvechurch has one unwanted former resident - Tracie Andrews who stabbed her boyfriend Lee Harvey 42 times in December 1996, before trying to blame it on a fictional road rage killer. She went on to serve a 'life' imprisonment term of 14 years for her crime. 


Originally, I'd arranged to go to Downham Town v Diss Town on this night, but due to the away side progressing in a local cup, fellow groundhopper Chris and I would have to head somewhere else to get our Tuesday football fix. I texted Chris a list of alternative options on Saturday night, and he picked out Alvechurch v Pelsall Villa in the Polymac Packaging League Cup. I was pretty happy with this as I'd remembered seeing a decent looking pub near the ground when doing research a while ago. Sadly, The Weighbridge was closed for refurbishment on the day that we were visiting so we would have to seek an alternative. Luckily there looked to be a few decent takeaways, but any hope of a decent cider within walking distance of the ground had been knocked on the head. I did draw up a couple of alternative plans, but a lot of it would depend on the traffic being kind to us.

Work had certainly been a lot more tolerable lately, but even so. I was looking forward to my day off. I'd had a patchy night's sleep the night before, but even so, I felt pretty refreshed when I woke around 8. In the morning, I walked down town and got a few things before coming back and spending a lazy afternoon googling various step 7 grounds to see if they are worth visiting. It helped that there were a few blogs where hoppers had been to games there, which helped me sort the wheat from the chaff. After getting my things together, I left home at 3.55, getting to Milton Keynes to meet Chris at 4.50. He didn't finish until 5, so I had a 10-minute rest and time to start my blog for tonight. Chris was out at 5.05 and miraculously it was a great journey with barely any delay. The soundtrack on the way up was Abbey Road, which is both myself and Chris's favourite Beatles album, with a number of feelgood tracks on it. Before the game, I'd arranged to stop at a pub in Finstall called the Cross Inn. What Pub website listed them as having a local cider from Bromsgrove called Tardebigge. However, the landlord has stopped stocking it due to the cost, but a pint of Black Rat was a great substitute, even if it was a retry. It was a great pub, a real friendly local place and traditional pub that is all too rare nowadays. From there we made our way to a Chinese takeaway called Trans, situated around half a mile from the ground. There I had Salt, Chilli and Pepper chips with some chicken satay. It was cracking, and probably the best Chinese takeaway I have ever been to, with great portions and tasty food.

After eating our dinner in the car, we made our way to the ground, arriving at 7.35. Entry was £6 and the programme £1.50. The latter was a decent effort for a one-time buyer, with a comprehensive history of the club, which made for interesting reading. The short time before the match was spent getting some updated pictures of the ground. The game itself started at a decent pace and the hosts were 1-0 up within 5 minutes when Jamie Willets headed in from a curling cross, with the ball hitting the right-hand post on the way in. It was all square a few minutes later, Ryan Wilkins slotting a loose ball into the bottom right hand corner to square things up for Pelsall Villa. Daniel Dubidat restored the hosts lead on 12 minutes with a peach of a volley after a free kick was headed on. The same player got his marching orders minutes later, and it was a strange one. The tackle seemed to be a ball winner and the player went without protest, but I guess it's modern rules where any potential imjury is considered to be a sending off.  This could have spelled a Pelsall Villa comeback, but it didn't materialise despite them having some chances. Alvechurch made it 3-1 six minutes before half-time when Ryan Edmunds finished off a jinking run when his powerful low shot went in off the post. The second half saw fewer chances but Ryan Edmunds got his brace when he converted a penalty. That was it as far as the scoring was concerned, but it had been a great game and an enjoyable night.

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We left the ground at 9.40 and headed home. There was more talk on the radio about Wayne Shaw, the Sutton United substitute keeper who had wound up abusive Arsenal fans by eating a pie on the touchline. There was a whole load of fuss as a betting company had offered odds of 8-1 on him eating a pie on camera and people were whining about him breaking betting rules after he tipped off mates. My view is, that if a bookie is going to be so disrespectful as to offer odds on a fat bloke eating a pie, then they deserve all they get when they lose due to a common stereotype. The keeper resigned the following day, after being forced to do so by Sutton United, and I think it's a shame that the club and game have lost a great character. There were a couple of road closures on the way home, but even so, I dropped Chris off by 11. I got home myself 40 minutes later, staying up for an hour or so before going to sleep.


LYE MEADOW is a ground I visited prior to a Wycombe game, sometime around early 2004. The ground was all locked up but a helpful local resident let me in through their back garden to get a shot of the main stand. The ground has an official capacity of 3000, of which the stand, holding around 200 is the only cover. At least that was the case on my first visit.

The second visit had seen a wooden fence added around the ground, and also some new cover behind the goal which had some interesting and extensive terracing. The bar was pretty smart, with club memorabilia on the walls. The burger van was also decent, serving up a generous portion of chips for £1.20 amongst other things. The town is around half a mile away and has a Chinese, a chippy and Indian and a few pubs, of which the Weighbridge looked the best. Sadly it was closed on our visit, and opens at 7pm for midweek games, so time would be tight unless you do a Saturday game

Saturday 18 February 2017

Sherwood Colliery - Debdale Park

Sherwood Colliery FC
Debdale Park
Debdale Lane
Mansfield Woodhouse
NG19 7NS

Ground Number: 670
Friday 17th February 2017
Sherwood Colliery 3-0 Pinxton
CML South


Though there was a Sherwood Colliery club that played in the FA Cup in the late 40's and early 50's, this incarnation of the club were only founded in 2008. They started out in local Nottinghamshire Leagues prior to joining the Central Midlands League in 2012. Starting out in the North division, they struggled, finishing in the bottom half of the table in all 3 seasons. However, a transfer to the South Division in 2015 has seen an upturn in fortunes. They finished 5th last season and have improved on that this season, sitting 3rd at the time of play, but some way off the pace for the sole promotion spot that could see them go up to the East Midlands Counties League or Northern Counties East League.

This season saw Sherwood Colliery enter the FA Vase for the first time, and they did themselves proud. Starting out in the 2nd Qualifying Round, they travelled to NCEL Premier side Clipstone. Despite their hosts sitting two levels higher, they came away with a 3-1 victory. They were made to travel again in the 1st Round, this time to NCEL D1 pacesetters Penistone Church. A victory was again achieved, this time by a 2-1 scoreline. Their journey ended in the 2nd Round when they were drawn away at Westfields. Despite putting up a heroic performance at then Midland League leaders Westfields, they lost 3-2 to a club that had a long unbeaten run this season and reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup around the same time.


I'd spotted this match a couple of weeks ago and thought nothing more of it. Both of the hoppers that I normally go to games with had turned down several opportunities in recent times, so when all the games were a fair way away on this Friday, I thought that it might be too expensive to afford on my own. However, one of the hoppers Chris contacted me out of the blue asking did I fancy Downham Town next Tuesday. After confirming that I did, I asked him whether he fancied doing this game. Happily, he accepted, so it meant that I'd be seeing some Friday night football for the first time in a while. I'd been hoping to do a revisit to North Greenford United on the Wednesday for their Allied Counties Youth League game against Sandhurst Town, but it was called off due to a deluge of rain, and so the second half of the week dragged a bit, what with work.

On the day of the game, I was working as usual, and it was a busy Friday. I didn't get out until 1.30, but at least I had a couple of hours rest before leaving to meet Chris in Milton Keynes at 3.55. The journey started well with the roads being lighter than usual. However, I hit a snag on the A413 near Leighton where a spot of roadworks caused a two-mile tailback and a 15-minute delay. It meant that I got to Chris's work at bang on 5 and only had to wait a couple of minutes for him. It was a fairly reasonable journey with us getting there at 7.05. The car park was already packed so we had to park out on the lane. The first priority was to secure a programme and after going to the turnstile, we were directed to the bar to pick one up. Due to the demand, they were printing them out to order and as it was an inkjet printer it took a fair while. All in all I was queuing for half an hour to get a copy, but at least I had a pint of Strongbow and other hoppers to chat to. Also, to the club's credit, everyone that wanted a programme got one, which isn't always the case if they order them from an external source. I was also pretty peckish, but due to the club hosting a 50th Birthday party, the tea bar was closed. It was a shame as the bumper crowd could have netted them vital funds in food sales.

I'd seen Sherwood Colliery once already this season - back in January, they showed their cup prowess against a full-strength Carlton Town side, going 2-0 up before tiring and losing 3-2 to a very late goal. This time they were on the winning side, without too much resistance from Pinxton. A ball across the six-yard box allowed Liam Theakstone to finish from a few yards out on 28 minutes. Nine minutes later, the lead was doubled. This time it was a close range finish from Ewan Robson that gave the hosts a 2-0 lead to take into the break. The second half was a bit more restricted in terms of chances, or maybe it was because I was busy chatting to other hoppers. The most notable incidents were a couple of robust challenges which thankfully were honest ones and didn't result in serious injury. The game was sealed in injury time when Jamie York's low shot made it 3-0. There was even time for another goal to be ruled out for offside as Sherwood Colliery cruised to a convincing victory.


There had been a bumper 138 crowd attracted to this game which was yet another example that Friday night football attracts several new fans, yet most leagues remain blind to this fact. It had also been a great opportunity to catch up with several hoppers that I'd not seen in a while such as Rob, Alan, Ken and Chris B amongst others. A decent evening in great company. We were both still hungry then, so after leaving around 9.50, we decided to pop into Mansfield on the way home. It was a town I know reasonably well, having been to see Wycombe there several times. First stop was the Beer Shack pub where I got a couple of pints of Ancient Warrior cider to take out. It's one I've had before, but it's very good and it would be a nice retry. We needed feeding, and really fancied a Chinese, but with the Vodafone internet slow and unusable in the town we had to settle for the Bodrum BBQ Grill where I had a mixed kebab calzone and Chris had a normal pizza. It was nearly 11 by the time that had been cooked and eaten and with lots of lane closures and even an entire closure on the M1 on the way home, I didn't drop Chris off until 12.30. I got in myself at 1.15. I'd planned to save my cider for Match Of The Day tomorrow, but it was just too irresistible to leave until then. So I had it while catching up on my YouTube subscriptions. Despite having been up since 4 am, I was still wide awake. At least my couple of pints helped me drop off, with me eventually getting into bed at 3.15.


DEBDALE PARK is a smart and tidy ground with a railed pitch and hard standing on 3 sides. There's also a small area of cover which has a few seats at the back but is mainly used for those who wish to stand. I didn't see much for sale bar programmes and badges in terms of merchandise. The clubhouse is pretty decent, with real ale as well as Strongbow and Strongbow Dark Fruits on tap. There are plenty of TV's showing live sport too. Normally there would be a decent looking tea bar, but due to a party, it was closed when I visited.