Tuesday 28 March 2017

London Lions - Rowley Lane

London Lions FC
Rowley Lane Sports Ground
Rowley Lane

0208 441 6051

Ground Number: 681
Tuesday 28th March 2017
London Lions 4-1 Chipperfield Corinthians
Herts Senior League - Premier Division


The club were formed in 1995 and for the first for years of their history, they were known as MALEX. The whole club includes around 40 teams, including Seniors, Juniors and Masters and they are the UK's most successful all-Jewish team. Joining the Herts Senior County League upon formation, they started out in Division 1. After four top-half finishes in a row, they were crowned champions in 2000, earning promotion to the Premier Division. In all but one of their 10 seasons here, London Lions finished in the top half of the table and were runners-up to Met Police (Bushey) in 2009. The following season, they went one better and were promoted to the Spartan South Midlands League Division 1. Again the success continued and they were champions in 2013, gaining promotion to the SSML Premier, at step 5 of the non-league pyramid. Their season here was not a happy one, with them finishing bottom and winning just three games all season. The strain of having to pay for groundshares at the likes of Hemel, St Albans and Broxbourne Borough had taken their toll and in 2015, they took the decision to resign from the SSMl and rejoin the Herts County League so they could use their own ground. Facilities are now in place, with a new stand and floodlights, and with the team having won the league on the Saturday before my visit, all looks good for a return to the Spartan South Midlands League.

London Lions became the first Jewish team to win an FA Cup tie in 64 years when they defeated Clapton in 2012. They went on to beat Oxhey Jets before a 4-2 home defeat to AFC Dunstable in the 1st Qualifying Round This remains their best progress so far, with them having lost every subsequent tie. That same season also saw a good FA Vase run, as they reached the 2nd Round before being knocked out by Brightlingsea Regent. Local cup honours include the Anagram Records Trophy, the Potters Bar Charity Cup, the Herts Centenary Trophy on three occasions and the Peter Morrison Trophy four times. London Lions' record win came in 2010 as they defeated Bedmond Sport and Social in 2009, whilst they gained their record attendance of 155 against Brightlingsea Regent in a 2012 FA Vase 2nd Round game.


This game was decided on Saturday afternoon whilst I was watching Wycombe's disappointing 1-0 defeat to Notts County' I'd bought a list of potential games that myself and fellow hopper Anwar could visit, and ask what one he fancied. He wanted a cheap evening, so London Lions game against Chipperfield Corinthians in the Herts County League fitted the bill perfectly. I was happy to save money too, after an expensive week off. It would be my third ground in the fairly local Hertfordshire league, having previously done Bovingdon and Belstone, the latter ironically against tonight's visitors, Chipperfield Corinthians.

On the day of the game it was my day off from work, and as usual, it involved a walk down town before getting a lift back with my Dad. I had a fair few jobs that had been lingering for ages to be cracking on with, and although I got some of them done, there were others that I couldn't be bothered with. One of these tasks was my continuing quest to find what step 7 grounds are worth visiting. It seems the further south you get, the less stands you get, but I did enjoy doing my research nonetheless. After a nice dinner of Chicken Dhansak, I got my stuff together, and left at 5.45, meeting Anwar in Aylesbury half an hour later. We got to the ground just after 7 and had to wait a while before we could go in. For the game, we stood along the side by the stand, though it was a bit chilly for what was nearly April.

Visitors Chipperfield had the first chance of the game, but the opening period was dominated by London Lions. They took the lead when a cross was headed home by Nick Landesburg just before the 20th minute. Though the visitors had the occasional chance on the break and came close to equalising a couple of times, it was London Lions who struck next. Just after the hour, a ball was played square across the six-yard box to be finished by an Adam Burchell from close range. The visitors efforts deserved a goal and they pulled one back fifteen minutes from time with a confident finish, blasting into the net from just inside the area. Austin Lipman immediately went up the other end and restored the two goal lead with a thumping shot from distance before they went 4-1 up when the same player danced through the defence before netting tidily past the keeper.  That was it as far as scoring was concerned and in the end the hosts were clear and deserved winners. It was an easy drive home, with me dropping Anwar off at 10.20 and getting home myself 20 minutes later. I even had time to type my blog up before watching TV and going to bed at around midnight.


ROWLEY LANE is a smart venue and is newly built. The stand holds 200 and unlike many modern structures is a bit more than a generic flat pack stand, looking really smart. There are another two sides open hard standing, with the 4th housing the dugouts. There isn't much in the way of tea bar facilities although it looks like there is one in the process of being built. If not, hot drinks are available in the clubhouse which also does a basic range including Magners and Strongbow for cider drinkers. I didn't see many alternatives on my drive in.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Whitby Town - The Turnbull Ground

Whitby Town FC
The Turnbull Ground
Upgang Lane
North Yorkshire
YO21 3HZ

Ground Number: 680
Thursday 23rd March 2017
Whitby Town 4-3 Middlesbrough
North Riding Senior Cup Semi-Final


The club was formed in 1880 as STREANESHALCH FC and has been known as WHITBY CHURCH TEMPERANCE, WHITBY and WHITBY UNITED before settling on their current name at the end of World War 2. After playing in various leagues during the early part of their history, they joined the Northern League full time in 1926 and remained there until 1997. During their time in this competitions, they were champions twice and runners-up on 5 occasions. Never relegated in their history, they had just one bottom-placed finish during their time in the Northern League, this coming in 1956. In 1997, they took the step up to the NPL, winning Division 1 at the first attempt and gaining promotion to the Premier Division for the 1998/99 season. They finished 7th in their first season which is effectively their highest ever finish in the non-league pyramid. The 2003/04 season saw them in playoffs for the newly formed Conference North, however, they lost 8-7 to Radcliffe Borough on penalties after a 2-2 draw. The following season, Whitby Town enjoyed their best ever NPL Premier finish of 4th. Since then, it's been mainly lower-half finishes, although this season has seen a huge improvement, with Whitby sitting just outside of the playoffs at the time of my visit.

In the FA Cup, Whitby Town's best run came during the 1983/84 season. Having beaten Harrogate Town, Durham Town, Lancaster City and Bishop Auckland in the qualifying rounds, they were given a tricky looking tie at then Football League side, Halifax Town in the 1st Round. After taking a notable scalp, winning 3-2, they were drawn away again, this time to Wigan Athletic. Despite giving them a close game, they went down 1-0. Whitby Town have twice been FA Trophy Quarter Finalists and were FA Amateur Cup runners up in 1965. They went one better in its replacement, the FA Vase, winning it in 1997 as they beat North Ferriby United 3-0 at Wembley. Locally, the club has won the North Riding Senior Cup on five occasions and the Northern League Cup six times as well as the Scarborough & East Riding County Cup and the Rothmans National & Overseas Cups.


I'd wanted to visit Whitby Town for ages, but with it being so far away from home, chances were limited. I finally got my chance on my week off, booking a room in Whitby for the original game night of Tuesday. However, a week before the game, it was switched to the Thursday. Luckily I was still able to cancel my hotel room in time and not lose any money, staying at home and going up on the Wednesday and Thursday instead. My original target the previous night had been the completion of the Conference North at Darlington v Bradford Park Avenue, but with that suffering a 4 pm postponement due to heavy rain, I went to Shildon v South Shields instead, after much drama trying to find a game that was on. As it turned out, just over half of my options went ahead, which was surprising given the volume of the deluge.

On the day of the game, I woke at 7.30 after setting my alarm the previous night. Normally I'd have liked a lie in, but with breakfast being served between 7 and 8, I had to be up early. After having a shower I went down and had breakfast before returning to my room until the check out time of 10 am, with me catching up on my blog whilst watching TV. Having lots of time to kill, I walked into town and had a look around before going to look at Darlington's new ground that I'd missed out on last night. It was still only 1 when I left Darlington and so with plenty of time to use up, I stopped at Stokesley Sports Club FC. It was a good facility for step 7, having previously hosted Northern League football. I needed some fuel to get home, so I stopped in Guisborough to fill up. Even after all that, I still arrived in Whitby at 3.15, some four and a half hours before kick-off.

First stop was the town's Wetherspoons, called the Angel Hotel. It was one of the better Wetherspoons I have been in, well kept and with my favourite Black Dragon cider on. I had a pint of this while reading my paper, mainly featuring the cowardly terrorist attacks of the previous day and the reasonable performance of the England team in Germany. After walking along the harbour and getting some nice pictures, I went to another tourist hotspot, namely Poundland, to get some snacks for tonight's game. I then went to the excellent Waiting Room micropub, where I had a couple of halves of Tutts Clump cider that I'd not had before. Whitby really was a nice town and I had enjoyed my time so far. I'd done some prior research and found that the best option for the traditional dish of fish and chips was Silver Street Fisheries. It was top notch with me having scampi and chips. The chips were cooked in beef dripping which made them all the better. I went back to my car to give my phone a charge while I waited for the turnstiles to open.

I went into the ground just before 7, paying £10 for entry. I then went to the club shop buying a programme, a pen and a commentator gaffes CD for a fiver. After walking around the ground and getting some pictures, I bought a Bovril and took a seat in the stand for the game. Middlesbrough took the lead on 36 minutes when Niall McGoldrick bundled home from close range. The hosts got back on level terms just before half-time when Michael Roberts headed in a cross. Whitby took the lead on 48 minutes, this time it was another header from Luke Bythway. Boro were level a couple of minutes later, but my view of the goal was blocked by some geezer bringing back his half-time teas. The hosts retook the lead on the hour when the ball was squared to Bythway who fired home from 8 yards to get his second. On 69 minutes the game looked to be safe when Bythway completed his hat-trick by heading home a free kick. There was an almost immediate reply for the visitors on 73 minutes when Bradley Fewster fired into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 4-3. Despite it looking like a potential comeback might be on, it was the hosts that had the better of the remaining chances but there were no further goals.

Despite it being a pricey couple of days for me, it had been a great game to end my time away. I had a long drive home ahead of me, with an estimated arrival back at home of 2.15. This actually got as late as 2.30 thanks to multiple sets of roadworks and lane closures. It was a slow start thanks to being stuck on single carriageways and the Two Mikes Podcast, the commentator gaffes CD I'd bought earlier, Viking Radio, The NPL Podcast, The Non-League Podcast and finally the Two Mikes on TalkSPORT kept me company at various points during the journey. I actually got home in good time, arriving home at 2 am. I caught up on my Youtube subscriptions before going to sleep around an hour later.


THE TURNBULL GROUND is a smart and tidy venue. Pride of place goes to the 505 seater main stand which is elevated above pitch level. Opposite is the only other cover in the ground which holds around the same amount. The rest of the 3,500 capacity ground is open hard standing with some steps of terracing. 

At the ground are a reasonable tea bar and clubhouse which do the job if you are pushed for time. If you've got time to spare, the town of Whitby is great, with a huge rain of pubs to suit all tastes. An excellent Wetherspoons and an even better Micropub called 'The Waiting Room were the ones for me. Food wise, Silver Street Fisheries came out top in Trip Advisor and it didn't disappoint. The club shop at the ground is very good, lots of club merchandise as well as loads of old programmes and other random stuff.

Friday 24 March 2017

Shildon - Dean Street

Shildon AFC
Dean Street
County Durham

07976 822453 (Secretary)

Ground Number:679
Wednesday 22nd March 2017
Shildon 1-4 South Shields
Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup Semi-Final


SHILDON FC was formed in 1890 and were known as SHILDON ATHLETIC up until 1923. They joined the North Eastern League in 1907 and enjoyed a best-ever finish of 3rd in their debut season. Shildon played in the Northern League for four seasons before that and they moved there full time in 1923. They've played there ever since and have lifted the title on six occasions - five times in the late 1930s after finishing as runner-up in their first season and then again last season. Despite their first championship in 77 years, they took the stance of many Northern League clubs and opted not to take promotion to the NPL due to extra travelling costs. Since the Northern League switched to a two-tier league in 1982, they've spent the vast majority of their time in the higher Division 1. Their worst finish came in 1986 when only the inappropriately named Esh Winning kept them off the bottom of Division 2. They've been ever-present in the top tier since 2002 and came into tonight's game sitting in 3rd place, a couple of points behind tonight's visitors South Shields.

Shildon were fairly regular participants in the FA Cup 1st Round in the late '50s and early '60s although the last time they reached this stage was in 2003/04. Victories over Workington, Durham City, Frickley Athletic, Shirebrook Town and Stocksbridge Park Steels rewarded them with a game at Notts County where they lost 7-2. The club reached the FA Vase Semi-Final in 2012 only to lose 4-3 over two legs to Tunbridge Wells. In other national competitions, Shildon have 2 FA Amateur Cup Quarter-Finals to their name as well as a couple of FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round appearances. Locally, they've won the Durham Challenge Cup twice and the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup on 9 occasions.


On the day of the game, I woke around 7 am. I decided not to bother with an afternoon game as it would most likely be a revisit to a ground I'd done in fairly recent times. It would give me the luxury of more time at home, with be being able to leave as late as 11 am if I so desired. I used the extra time to get some breakfast, finish last night's Cinderford blog, and indeed start tonight's one. It turned out to be a good choice, with the post coming just after 11 am and bringing my Football Traveller with me. Sadly it didn't offer any Friday night games to extend my stay up north, but it did at least present a couple more backups for tonight.  It was my Dad's birthday, so I wished him all the best, before leaving around 11.30. It was raining at home and the disgusting weather followed me all the way up the M1, with me stopping at Leicester Forest services for a comfort break and update on the weather. I got to my hotel at 4 and my worst fears were confirmed - My original game at Darlington v Bradford Park Avenue was off.

It didn't surprise me to be honest. The amount of rain that had fallen had been incredible for late March. I thought I'd be stuck in for the night, but really my problems paled into insignificance given what was happening in London. Once again there had been a terrorist attack, with some window licker using religion as an excuse to act like a complete scumbag. Luckily the death toll was not huge as I started looking around for alternative games, but one person dead is too many. There emerged 3 candidates that could possibly save me. The best game was Shildon v South Shields, this was my original choice before Darlington cropped up. The best weather-wise was Newcastle Benfield with no rain until 8. However, the pathetic accuracy so far today made me treat that with disdain. The most friendly by far was Stokesley who were extremely helpful and kind after what had been a frustrating day so far. Just before 6 came the news that Shildon had confirmed game on, and with this being the nearest I plumped for this one. I felt bad for turning down Stokesley after their great help, but this was the better game, with Newcastle Benfield a little further up the A1 should it suffer a late call off. I left just after 6, and by 6.40 I was parked up outside Shildon's Dean Street ground.

As it turned out, Stokesley was the better backup journey time-wise and I might well have needed it as a late downpour at Shildon put the game in doubt. I waited and waited for the result of the inspection and after assuming it was bad news, put Stokesley in the sat nav. Just as I started the engine, a tweet came through that the referee had said game on. Despite my extreme scepticism I switched the engine off and decided to stay. There was only 40 minutes to go until kick-off, so I went to a chip shop outside the ground and got curry sauce and chips for £2. I then paid £6 to get in, plus £2 for what was a very good programme. I went to the bar to keep warm, having a pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits for £2.50. There was heavy rain, just before kick-off but thankfully the referee held firm and played the game. I got a seat at the back of the stand and enjoyed the pork and stuffing roll and Bovril that I had purchased from the tea bar.

Visitors South Shields named former Sunderland player Julio Arca and ex Gateshead striker Jon Shaw in their line up. Shildon were the stronger team at the start and they took the lead after 5 minutes when Michael Rae got away from the static visiting defence and finished past the keeper. The game turned on 13 minutes when the hosts' defender Jamie Harwood was sent off for bringing down the last man. Carl Finnigan netted the resulting penalty to square things up for South Shields. South Shields went ahead on 52 minutes. A cross was put in, it was headed back across goal and debutant Jordan Blinco was there to slot home from six yards. Blinco got his second on 76 minutes when his low drive into the bottom corner of the net made it 3-1. Seven minutes before full-time, they made the game safe when a looping cross was headed home by Carl Finnigan headed home a looping cross for his second of the night. It had been a great contest, with many chances. Incredibly, it was South Shields 25th consecutive win, and yet they are still only second in the league. Hats off to referee Mr Fitzpatrick for getting the game played, when most would have called it off, despite the pitch being playable, if not perfect.

I made my way back to my guest house, getting there at 9.45. I grabbed my bag and walked the ten minutes into town. After stopping at a cash machine, I headed to the Old Victoria pub near the train station where I had a pint of Cock Bird cider. It was a new one for me, a bit too sweet for my liking, but the pub was great with a good range of drinks. I then headed to the Tanners Hall Wetherspoons where I had a pint of Westons Old Rosie. By now it was getting on for 11, so I decided to walk the 15 minutes back to my room to watch the England highlights. It turned out to be a decent performance, despite the Three Lions losing 1-0 to Germany, with plenty of positives to come out of this friendly. I watched Youtube for a while before going to bed around half past midnight.


DEAN STREET is a great ground for step 5. The main stand is of an interesting design, is elevated above pitch level. Overall it holds around 500 and has good views and great legroom despite supporting pillars. Opposite is a covered terrace that holds around 500 and runs for a good length of the pitch. The rest of the 4,700 capacity ground is made up of open terracing.

There are lots of takeaways near the ground, including a chip shop right near the turnstiles. The tea bar inside the ground is decent, doing amongst other things, a hot pork and stuffing roll with apple sauce for £3. This was of a decent size for the price paid and very tasty. Also available are various burgers and hot drinks. The clubhouse is decent, though a little small and this does Strongbow Dark Fruits for £2.50 a pint with a decent range of other options. The club shop offers a decent range of merchandise, as well as a large selection of old programmes and books.