Saturday 28 July 2018

Shifnal Town - Phoenix Park

Shifnal Town FC
Phoenix Park
Coppice Green Lane
TF11 8PD

07986 563156

Ground Number: 785
Saturday 28th July 2018
Shifnal Town 0-0 Lye Town


The club was established in 1964 as St Andrews Youth Club and initially played in the Wellington & District League at their local Idsall School Ground. There was soon a name change to Shifnal Juniors before settling on Shifnal Town in 1972. After a spell in the Shropshire League, Shifnal joined the West Midlands League in 1976. Starting in the second tier, they were an immediate success, champions three years later after two 7th placed finishes. The Premier Division title was won twice in 1980 and 1981 but Shifnal were unable to take promotion due to lack of facilities, pertinently, the lack of floodlights. They were playing at Admirals Park at the time but the termination of their lease and a return to Idsall School saw them drop back down to the Shropshire League. Eventually, they established a home at Phoenix Park (currently called the Acoustafoam Stadium for sponsorship purchases). 1993/94 saw them take the step up to semi-pro football and they've generally spent most of their time at step 6 of the current non-league pyramid ever since. They've been members of the West Midlands Regional League since 2010, only dropping to the second tier for the 2015/16 season when they were champions. Their best ever finish in the Premier Division was 9th in their debut season, but they have the facilities in place to gain promotion should their on-field play merit it.

The club has had a number of FA Cup campaigns but their best progress came in their debut season of 1981/82. Here they beat New Mills and Matlock Town before a 3-0 defeat to Runcorn in the 2nd Qualifying Round. In the FA Vase, the 4th Round has been reached thrice, most recently in 1984 when they lost out to Stamford. The town of Shifnal is fairly small, with a population of just over 7,000.


With the Wolverhampton Sporting Community game kicking off at 12, I had a decent choice of 3PM kickoffs to go to. The list was whittled down to a choice of 3 that I presented to fellow hopper Anwar and between us, we chose Shifnal Town v Lye Town over other alternatives at Wolverhampton Casuals and Dudley Town as it looked the best ground. It also had the bonus of free entry which was a great gesture. I left my previous game at Wolves Sporting pretty hungry, though there was a relief when my car warning light went off and it started to drive properly again. It was a decent trip across with us opting to head for the town centre first. We got there at 2.20, searching for a place for lunch. We eventually opted for a place called the 'Shifnal Fryer' where I had a half pound burger with a decent sized portion of chips for £5.30. It was pretty decent and filled me up. Next stop was the shop across the road, Shifnal Wines where I found a local cider 'Cider House Special' to take home with me.

From there, we headed to the ground, arriving at 2.55. It was absolutely bucketing down by now, so I was glad that the smart ground had a large stand to watch the game from. Not that there was a huge amount to watch on the pitch and it was a very dull game. The visitors had the majority of the chances, with Shifnal relying on chances on the break. The visitors were not helped by the sending off of their number 10 Joe Lawley apparently for dissent. It was a crude challenge that led to the referee having a word, and the official probably called it right. Overall though, he didn't help the game flow, breaking it up and allowing it to run at a slow pace rather than hurrying players up. It was the most disappointing game I've seen this season, with some pretty wayward finishing.

We left at 4.50, having a decent journey home. There were a number of crashes on the way back, but fortunately, none delayed us, nor looked any more serious than a minor prang. The journey home dragged for some reason, with me dropping Anwar off at 6.45. I got back myself at 7.05 and spent the evening catching up on things as well as typing my blogs. I had a few cans of cider before going to bed around 10, hoping for a good night's sleep with me being up at 4 am.


PHOENIX PARK is a smart, modern and well-kept venue. The only cover is in the large main stand, this holds around 300 and offers great views and leg room. The best of the ground is open flat standing and also grass banking. Other facilities at the ground are a bit limited - the tea bar only offers hot and cold drinks and snacks. There was no bar that I could see. The town is just under a mile away and offers a wide choice of outlets. It's a nice place to visit, not that modern but very smart and well kept.


Wolverhampton Sporting Community - Pride Park

Wolverhampton Sporting Community FC
Pride Park
Hazel Lane
Great Wyreley

Ground Number: 784
Saturday 28th July 2018
Wolves SC 0-3 Rushall Olympic


The club was formed in 2001 and were initially known as Chubb Sports due to their association with the lock manufacturer. A name change to Harth Town Rangers followed after the factory was closed down and sold for housing. That lasted until 2010 when they changed their name to Wolverhampton Sporting Community. Entering the West Midlands (Regional) League in 2006, the club started in the step 8 Division 2. They won the league at the first attempt and then gained a second successive promotion the following year after finishing 3rd behind Birchalls United and Bridgnorth Town Reserves. Though they finished 8th in the 2008/09 season, seasons of struggle in the Premier Divison with Wolves Sporting not recording another top third finish until 2016. The form has dramatically improved since then and after finishing 4th and 3rd in previous seasons, the club won the league last season and will compete in the Midland League Premier Division this coming season.

Wolverhampton Sporting Community have had two FA Cup campaigns - both ending at the first hurdle in the Extra Preliminary Round. A 2-1 defeat to Tividale in 2016 was matched by a 3-2 loss to Haughmond last season. Last term also bought a record FA Vase Run- starting in the 1st Qualifying Round, wins over FC Oswestry Town (5-0), Heath Hayes (3-0), Staveley Miners Welfare (4-2), Rugby Town (2-0 in a replay after a 2-2 draw), Shepshed Dynamo (5-0) & Cogenhoe United (3-2) before a pulsating 4-3 defeat to Leighton Town that was much delayed due to poor weather. Local cup wins include the Staffordshire Challenge Cup in 2008 and the West Midlands (Regional) League Cup in 2018. Though the club originally hail from Wolverhampton, they are currently based in Great Wyreley which has a population of just over 11,000. Famous people who lived in the town include the famous West Bromwich Albion player Ronnie Allen who made 638 appearances for the Baggies as well as gaining international honours for England and managing at The Hawthorns.


This double was only decided on Thursday evening whilst fellow hopper Anwar and I were at Mursley United. Initially, I’d fancied a double involving a competitive game at Sleaford Town in the evening, but with Anwar needing to be back home by 9, an alternative plan was needed. Luckily, Wolverhampton Sporting Community had a midday kickoff against Rushall Olympic and so we could still do a double. It was all a bit of a rush though and I had a busy Friday night researching club histories and planning routes. I also had to factory reset my phone as it was playing up and although I hope to get a new phone soon, I had to do it as it had become frustrating to use. I had a few drinks whilst doing it, and later on, listened to the Two Mikes before going to sleep just before midnight.

The morning of the game came and I woke at 6 am. I had breakfast and also bought a Windows tablet as a replacement for my laptop. At only £108, it had mixed reviews, but should hopefully be a bit more portable and useful for typing my blog on the move. I also got an 8x nectar points offer, so it was a good time to buy. After getting ready, I left at 9, meeting Anwar in Aylesbury at 9.30. It was a decent journey up, even if Google Maps did try taking me via the M6 toll, which I ignored. My woes with my Renault continued, a fuel injection warning came up on the dash and the car felt underpowered. Luckily it was drivable though, but another in a long line of issues that I’ve had with the car. We got to the ground at 11.40 and I got pictures of the ground and caught up online while I waited for kick off.

It was a decent game, Wolverhampton Sporting Community edged the opening exchanges, but it was Rushall Olympic that took the lead on 7 minutes. Good work and a square ball from Lewis Archer set up Danny Waldron to tap home from a few yards out. Both sides had chances after that, the home keeper especially making a good save, but it was still 1-0 at the break. The second half brought the expected drizzle, so we retired to the stand. Rushall Olympic had started to take control by now and they doubled their lead on 49 minutes. A free-kick was put in by Simeon Maye and Joe Hull got the deftest of touches to take it past the home keeper. The game was wrapped up on 86 minutes, Kyle Delaney with a great through ball to Danny Waldron for the player to complete his brace with a low shot from around 10 yards to make it 3-0.


PRIDE PARK is a decent venue for step 6. It is a bit worn in places, but that's what gives it it's charm. Both of the covered areas are behind the goal and both are seated, holding around 300 between them. The rest of the ground is open, mainly flat but with a couple of steps of terracing in places. There's a bar upstairs, this is large and pretty smart. Hot drinks are available too, but no food when I visited. The town is around a 15-minute walk away and has a number of takeaways and pubs.


Friday 27 July 2018

Mursley United - Station Road

Mursley United FC
The Playing Field
Station Road
MK17 0SA

Ground Number: 783
Thursday 26th July 2018
Mursley United 6-0 Hanslope


The club was established in 1947, joining the North Bucks League upon formation and winning the league's 2nd Division in 1964. Though they folded in 1977, they reformed the following year as a Sunday League side. Mursley United rejoined the North Bucks League in 1993, winning the Intermediate Division two years later. In 1996, the club joined the Spartan South Midlands League and have played there ever since. They started out in Division 1, later renamed Division 2 which sits at step 7 of the non-league pyramid. They were champions of the league in 2002, but couldn't take promotion as they don't have the required facilities in place. Local cup wins include the Spartan South Midlands Division 2 Cup as they beat Luton based 'The 61' FC in the final of 2017. The village of Mursley itself has a population of just 611 with its most famous landmark being the water tower that features on the club badge.


I'd not really considered Mursley United as a place to visit. That was until I saw an article purporting to name 'the 5 best grounds in Bucks'. Though all of the nominations were in North Bucks, I'd visited 4 of them. The one remaining one was, of course, Mursley. It was a very basic setup, just a rope around the pitch, but it did have an attractive clubhouse as a backdrop and a bit of cover thanks to this. Had it been a distant ground, it would probably have been off my radar, but with it being less than 25 miles from me, I decided to pay it a visit. Fellow hopper Anwar was up for a visit too, and with his place being en route, it didn't take us long for us to find a suitable weekday evening for a visit.

On the day of the game, it was the standard day at work, with me getting home around lunchtime, I spent the afternoon catching up on various things, including to plan future groundhops. I'd confirmed with the club that the game was on yesterday, but even so, I had a backup plan in Old Bradwell United v Wooton Blue Cross planned. I had a nice dinner before leaving home at 5.45. I was in Aylesbury 25 minutes later to meet Anwar and we were soon on our way. We discussed our options for Saturday, eventually plumping for a double Of Wolverhampton Sporting Community v Rushall Olympic and Shifnal Town v Lye Town. We got to the ground 10 minutes before kick off, getting some pictures on what was a pleasant evening for watching football. We eventually took a spot on the far side, standing on the halfway line.

The hosts' pre-season results had been mixed so far. They'd lost 4-0 at home to Buckingham Athletic on 14th July but had recovered sufficiently to overcome Great Lingford 3-1 on the following Saturday. Visitors Hanslope play in the North Bucks League, finishing 5th in it's Premier Division last season and although I couldn't find any of their results, I found that they had a near 30 mile round trip for tonight's game. The game was to be played in three thirty-minute thirds, rather than two halves. Mursley started on the front foot and could have been ahead in the opening 30 seconds. They eventually took the lead on 11 minutes, though it's one the Hanslope keeper will want to forget. He came out to get the ball but was beaten to it by the Mursley #11 who rounded him and slotted into the empty net. Mursley were well on top and the same player wasted a great chance on 18 minutes, blazing over from a few yards out when it looked easier to score. The visiting custodian made up for his earlier hesitancy with a string of fine saves and there were a few shots cleared off the line too, the score still 1-0 at the end of the first third. The second third was a little less frenetic, the only goal coming on 45 minutes. #7 for Mursley completed a good run down the left by cutting in and finishing past the keeper from a tight angle to make it Mursley United 2-0 Hanslope.

The final third saw the hosts further assert their dominance. Two minutes in, they extended their lead to 3-0 when #16 capitalised on hesitant defending to poke home from close range. Four minutes later, it was four, #11 getting his second of the game with a finish from a tight angle that hit the right-hand post on its way in. Another couple of goals wrapped the game up around 83 minutes, firstly a square ball and a tidy finish made it five before the game was wrapped up for a final score of 6-0. It was a powerful shot, pretty much straight at the visiting keeper. He, however, couldn't get enough behind it to prevent it going in and the goal was given. We left at 8.45, with me dropping Anwar off 20 minutes later. I got back myself at 9.30, sorting out my photos before getting into bed at 10 and watching TV.


STATION ROAD is a tidy and attractive step 7 venue. Though there is no rail, lights or stand, there is still a nice looking club building and this provides cover for up to 50 at a push. The scenery around the ground is very nice, but with it being open and flat, it's one to do on a warm summers evening rather than a crisp winters afternoon as it gets quite windy. I'm unsure of the facilities at the ground, but the village with such a small place, there is just the one pub, although 'The Green Man' gets good reviews on Google.