Wednesday 26 April 2017

Takeley - Station Road

Takeley FC
Station Road
Bishops Stortford
CM22 6QA

Ground Number: 693
Tuesday 26th April 2017
Takeley 0-0 Basildon United (4-3 pens)
ESL Challenge Cup Semi-Final


The club was formed in 1903 and played in local leagues for the vast majority of their early history. They joined the Essex Olympian / Intermediate League in 1978, winning the title ten years later. Fortunes soon dipped however and in 1992 they were relegated to the second tier after gaining just 8 points all season. They soon recovered, however, winning promotion back up a couple of years later. They were runners-up in the Premier Division in 2008, finishing behind White Ensign, which was enough to see them accepted into the Essex Senior League. They've been there ever since, with their best ever finish of 3rd being achieved three times. This season, they will fall slightly short of matching that, but it's still a massive improvement from last seasons 18th place finish.

Takeley have enjoyed seven FA Cup campaigns, but have just one victory, this coming when they beat Newmarket Town in 2012 before losing to Grays Athletic in the Preliminary Round. The same season also saw their best ever FA Vase progress when they reached the 2nd Round before losing to Hertford Town, a feat that they repeated the following season, with the victors this time being Brightlingsea Regent.Locally, they won the Essex Premier Cup in 2007, beating Ongar Town 1-0 in a final played at Thurrock FC's Ship Lane Ground.


With the end of the season approaching, choices of games were getting more and more limited, with many leagues bringing the curtain down on their seasons. Thankfully, most of the ones packing up were more southern based ones and with Anwar available on a Tuesday for the first time in a while, that wasn't too bad a thing. I presented him with a list of games at the Wycombe game on Saturday and we both agreed that Takeley, being the closest option, would probably be the best choice. Amazingly, against the league leaders Doncaster Rovers, we played well and came away with a 2-1 win, a total contrast to the drab defeat to Mansfield the previous week. It was about the only good news in a pit of despair for me personally. Work continued to be a trial, and the first quote that I'd got to repair the damage a kamikaze fox had done to my car last week was nearly £1200. I've got the option of searching elsewhere or part exchanging 'as is' but I'm still going to have to take a big financial hit through bad luck and no fault of my own.

On the day of the game I did my usual walk down town on my day off. The afternoon was pretty productive, with me listing a good chunk of the stuff I wanted to sell on eBay. It's one of those jobs that I've been putting off for ages, thinking that I'll leave it until the end of the season. Though it's unlikely that I will make much off of it, it felt good to get it up and have a tidy up in the process. This took me 3 hours to do, and although I've still got a fair amount to list, it was good being able to listen to the Jon Holmes show on TalkRADIO whilst doing it. After getting my things together and making up a flask, I left just before 4.30, meeting Anwar in Aylesbury at 5. We made decent time with just a 15-minute delay on the M25 due to a crash, but for once it was pretty well dealt with. We got to Takeley at 6.30 and after having saveloy and chips plus a samosa from the shop next door. We then went into the ground and met up with Dan and Maurice, some Braintree fans that we know. We had a good chat while we waited for the game to start, seeing some other hoppers that had come along for the game.

It was an unseasonably chilly evening with temperatures more suited to winter. Basildon had bought some good vocal support and some flags but it was Takeley that had the best of a goalless first half. It started openly enough, with some good chances in the first 20 minutes but then it descended into a game of misplaced passes, mistimed tackles and wayward free kicks. Basildon came back into it in the second period but it was not until the last ten minutes that the game started to liven up.  Takeley had the best chance of the game when there was a clear sight on goal but Basildon keeper Leader made a great save with his feet. It certainly looked as if the Essex Senior League suffered from the lack of a step 6 feeder league. With very little threat of relegation, complacency sets in and the overall standard is pretty poor from what I've seen. I was, therefore, glad that I didn't have to endure extra time and that the game went straight to penalties. The first two penalties were saved - Basildon's via a great save from the Takeley keeper Yates to tip the ball over the bar, only for them to blast their own first effort off target. Penalties were then despatched with aplomb until Basildon's 4th was saved by the keeper to send Takeley into the final next Monday where they face Sawbridgeworth at Redbridge's Oakside Stadium.

It was now 3 degrees outside and freezing. I said my goodbyes to Dan & Maurice and made my way back to the car. Myself & Anwar listened to the results coming in, although with a limited number of games there weren't any memorable outcomes. Leaving at 9.50, there were a couple of lane closures, but thankfully nothing major. I dropped Anwar off in Aylesbury at 11.05 as the temperatures got as low as zero degrees before getting home myself 20 minutes later. I got into bed pretty much straight away, going to sleep just after midnight. With me up at 4 am for work, I didn't get much sleep, though I felt OK in the morning.


STATION ROAD is a well-appointed ground for step 5 football. The main stand holds around 100 and has no pillars to impede your view and decent leg room. The same can be said of the smaller stand that holds just after 50 and there is also a further covered standing area holding around 100. The rest of the ground is open, with a couple of steps of terracing behind one goal. There is no bar at the ground although there is a tea bar. Nearby is a chippy and an Indian as well as various shops.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Knypersley Victoria - Knypersley Sports Club

Knypersley Victoria FC
Knypersley Sports Club
177 Tunstall Road

Ground Number: 692
Monday 17th April 2017
Knypersley Victoria 0-6 Ball Haye Green
Staffordshire County League - Premier Division


The original club was founded in 1969 and competed in local leagues such as the Staffordshire County League (North) and during financial difficulties in the 1970s, the Leek & Moorlands Sunday League. In 1984 they became founder members of the Staffordshire County League and were highly successful at their, new, higher level. Up until 1991, when they joined the West Midlands (Regional) League, they never finished outside of the top five, including a runners-up spot. 1993 saw them win the WMRL Division 1 and gain promotion to the Premier Division. They spent one season here before moving to the Midland Alliance. They had their best ever finish of 5th in what was then a step 5 league during the 1995/96 season. Results fell away over the next few seasons, with bottom-half finishes the order of the day. The club's name was changed to Biddulph Victoria in 2002 in an attempt to gain more support locally but the clubs fortunes did not alter. After a series of lower mid-table finishes, the original club went bust in 2011, their final placing being 17th in the Midland Alliance. The name of Knypersley Victoria was resurrected in 2013 and returned to their former home of the Staffordshire County League. Starting out in its second tier, a 4th place finish was a solid start for the new club. That placing was repeated the following season when they earned promotion to the Premier Division. Last season saw a debut finish of 9th and although they currently sit 3rd bottom, they appear to be in no danger of relegation.

In the FA Cup the original Knypersley Victoria reached the 4th Qualifying Round in 1997. Notable results over Atherstone United, Gresley Rovers and Spalding United set up again against NPL Premier side Boston United. In front of a record crowd of 575, they were narrowly edged out 1-0, missing out on an away game at Ilkeston Town in the process. The FA Vase 3rd Round was reached in 2009, where they lost 3-1 to Causeway United. The most notable local honour came in 1987 when they won the Staffordshire FA Vase. Famous people from Biddulph include former referee Phil Dowd and Manchester United striker James Wilson. The town itself was once the UK's sole producer of Velcro.


I left my previous game at Skelmersdale at 4.55 and headed for my next game at Knypersley. Originally I was going to divert and have a look at the set of the old set of former TV soap Brookside which is actually a real road in West Derby, Liverpool. However, on the way up I heard that the M6 was in its usual poor form and so with time tight I decided to head straight for the ground. I listened to local radio to hear what had been going on elsewhere, but the result that really mattered to me was that Wycombe had won 2-0 at Barnet to keep their playoff chase alive. The M6 did indeed prove to be in poor form, and after 20 minutes delay I parked up at the ground at 6.15. I'd already decided my pre-match plan, which was a Wetherspoons in nearby Biddulph. I got there at 6.30 and was not impressed by the outside, with half the letters missing. It was run down inside too with everything looking well-worn and no menus on the tables. Things didn't get much better when ordering with my expected Mexican Monday meal deal having been stopped and no real cider. Instead, I ordered a New York Deli Burger and Hazy Hog cider which were both nice enough without being exceptional. At least it was reasonable value and a nice chance to have a sit-down meal for £7.40.

From there I made my way to the ground, arriving at 7.15. I paid the nominal entrance fee of £1 and after getting some pictures I took up a place on the halfway line on the cricket field side of the ground. The hosts were near the bottom and the visitors in the upper reaches of the table, but even so I wasn't expecting the margin of victory that followed. Ball Haye opened the scoring on 8 minutes with a composed finish by their number 9. Four minutes later, the lead was doubled when an angled shot found the bottom left-hand corner. On 37 minutes it was 3-0 when a cross from the right was bundled in by the number 7 from around 6 yards. Just before half-tim, the game was put beyond doubt with a 4th - this time the keeper was rounded before a simple finish into the empty net. Seven minutes into the second period it was 5, this time number 9 finished a cross from the right from a few yards. It was a similar 6th and final goal on 54 minutes when despite a foul in the build up Ball Haye Green managed to complete a right thrashing in a very one-sided game. Knypersley had been restricted to a few chances, but even with their manager in goal who made a couple of good saves, they couldn't score.

There had been around 45 at the game, which was a decent attendance for step 7 and included a healthy following from the visitors. I left around 9.30 and made good time on the journey home. First I had to fill my car up, and this proved to be more difficult than it needed to be. First I tried the nearest station, Asda, but it was closed while they refuelled. The next, Morrisons, had the barrier across for some reason, despite usually having 'pay at the pump' facilities. Finally, I got filled up at Tesco and headed for home. I caught up with my podcasts on the way home, getting back around midnight. My Dad was still up, so I watched the League 2 goals with him whilst having a couple of ciders. I then caught up with my YouTube subscriptions before going to sleep around 1.30am.


TUNSTALL ROAD is a great ground for step 7 having seen service at a higher level previously. It's shared with the local cricket club and so one side is completely open. The main accomodation is behind one goal and comprises a covered stand that holds around 100 seated, plus a few more standing. The other side is quite narrow and doesn't offer the best of views due to it being behind some netting. The far end is like the cricket side - open, but offering clear sight lines.

There's a tea bar at the ground, though I didn't use it on my visit. There's also a bar at the ground which was quite large and offered the usual range of drinks. Around 15 minutes walk away is the town of Biddulph which offers a tatty Wetherspoons as well as a few other pubs and various takeaways.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Skelmersdale United - Stormy Corner

Skelmersdale United FC
Stormy Corner
Selby Place

Ground Number: 691
Monday 17th April 2017
Skelmersdale United 0-3 Marine
NPL Premier


SKELMERSDALE UNITED were formed in 1882 and their origins came from a local youth team from the Wesleyan Day School. They joined the Lancashire Combination in 1891 and would go on to have varying degrees of success. Their best finish of third in the top tier came in 1966 and then again in 1968. That year, they joined the Cheshire League and enjoyed three very good seasons before joining the NPL in 1971. Their time here was unspectacular and they returned to the Lancashire Combination and Cheshire Leagues. When the North West Counties League was established in 1982 Skelmersdale United were founder members. Starting out in Divison 2, they didn't do especially well but were promoted to Division 1 in 1987 after finishing 9th. They'd go on to have their best ever finish of 7th in 1991/92. They spent a couple of years back in Division 2 following relegation in 1996 but gained promotion back in 1998 after finishing as runners-up to Oldham Town. This time they were a lot more successful and by 2006 they were promoted to the NPL after finishing as runners-up to Cammell Laird. Starting out in Division 1, a mid-table finish of 15th was followed up with a period of great success. They didn't quite haver the finishing touch though with three playoff failures. They finally broke their hoodoo in 2013, lifting the NPL D1 North title with 102 points. They enjoyed their best ever finish the following year, finishing 6th and just missing out on the playoffs. Since then there has been steady progress, despite financial issues. This season has proved too much though, with the club sitting bottom of the league. The last month has been fraught with relegation confirmed, the loss of their ground due to failing a new lease and near extinction because of the latter event. Thankfully Prescot Cables have stepped in to offer them a home for next season, though it will mean them playing 12 miles away from their home town.

In the FA Cup Skem have progressed to the first round on three occasions, losing to Scunthorpe United in 1968, Chesterfield in 1969 and Tranmere Rovers in 1972. The club was hugely successful in the FA Amateur Cup, never progressing to any less than the semi-final. They were runners-up in 1967 as they lost to Enfield in a replay before going one better when they beat Dagenham 4-1 in the final of 1971. The club's best season in the FA Trophy came in 2013 when they lost 2-0 at Luton Town in the 3rd Round, whilst in the FA Vase they reached the 4th Round Twice, losing out to Taunton Town and Frome Town on each occasion. Various local honours have been won, including the Lancashire Junior Shield and Lancashire Cup.


I woke up at 7.15 on the day of the game, having a bath before eating a few snacks for breakfast as I couldn't be bothered to drive to a supermarket. I caught up on my YouTube subscriptions before leaving at 9.30. I got to my first game at Atherton Colleries at 10.10, some 50 minutes before kick-off although as I've already sone a sizeable blog on my previous visit. I helped them out as I was still hungry by buying a pie, which sadly once again came with no peas or gravy. Though the catering was distinctly on the southern side, it was the same northern welcome as I'd received last time and I was made to feel nice and welcome. They were running away at the top of the North West Counties Premier and outlined their promotion aspirations with a comprehensive 5-1 win over struggling AFC Darwen to take another step towards securing a place in the Northern Premier League.

Whilst other hoppers headed off to various places, mainly the next official hop game at West Didsbury & Chorlton. Any other day, I'd have been joining them but with Skem leaving their ground in the very near future, I was going to get it ticked whilst I could. It was an attractive game too - a local derby against fellow strugglers Marine - a club who had given me a great welcome when I'd visited a couple of years ago. I left Atherton at 12.50, getting to Skelmersdale at 1.30. I stopped in the town as I needed to get some cash out and also got a chilli beef slice from Pound Bakery and some cider and Irn Bru from Home Bargains. I got to the ground at 2, paying £9 to get in, plus £2 for a thin but well-presented programme. I said hello to Mark Lund who I'd met at Prescot Cables last season and who is fundraising money for his son Alfie who sadly has the life-limiting disorder MECP2 syndrome. 

The facilities on offer at Skem were really impressive. There was a decent club shop with club merchandise and old books and programmes. I bought a smart pen for £1.50 which also had a torch on it, which was the first time I've ever seen anything like that. I also picked up a couple of books in return for a donation which amounted to another £1.50 which was all the change I had in my pocket at the time. From there I headed to the bar and had a pint of Strongbow before getting some curry sauce and chips for dinner.

I took a spot on the halfway line near some Marine fans that I'd encountered briefly before and we had a good chat whilst listening to the decent pre-match tunes that were being played on the tannoy. With Skem marooned at the bottom, it was always going to be a tough ask for them to win, even against Marine who sat a few places above the relegation zone. They made things difficult by conceding as early as the third minute when Daniel Mitchley's curling shot found the top corner. A Matthew Hamilton header on 37 minutes found the opposite top corner after an excellent cross to make the task even harder for the hosts. They had an ideal opportunity to get back into the game when they were awarded a penalty in the second half, but the Marine keeper Paul Phillips saved well. The visitors sealed the game on 64 minutes when Mitchley got his second when he followed up after some hesitant defending by the hosts. It was just reward for Marine who were by far the better side and who bought some great support with them, including some vocal youngsters who represented their club well. As for the hosts, they were another friendly club from the Merseyside/Lancashire area, and I really hope that they do better for themselves next season and return home as soon as possible.


STORMY CORNER is a great setup, so it's a shame they will be leaving soon. The ground itself is nothing amazing although at least the around 300 capacity metal seated stand is elevated above pitch level so you get decent views. There's further cover behind the near goal for around 700 whilst the rest of the ground is open standing with steps of terracing.

It's the extra facilities where this ground excels. The club shop was my favourite part with a decent range of old programmes and books that are available in return for a donation. There is also a good range of souvenirs including pens with a torch on the end which are available for a bargain £1.50. The bar is also nice and offers the usual range of drinks but also has club related stuff on the walls and Sky TV. The tea bar is also good, with a nice range of food at reasonable prices. The best thing though is the overall friendly feeling around the ground which seems the trend with clubs around this area. The ground is a bit out of the way on an industrial estate although it is excellently signposted from the motorway.