Wednesday 31 October 2018

Crawley Green - The Brache

Crawley Green FC
The Brache
Park Street

Official Website

Ground Number: 812
Tuesday 30th October 2018
Crawley Green 7-3 Amersham Town
SSML Challenge Cup 2nd Round


The club was formed in 1989 as three Sunday League clubs - Ramridge Rovers, Stopsley Harriers and The Wyvern. In 1992 they absorbed Somerset Tavern and made the move to Saturday football. In 1995, they joined the South Midlands League, which was to later become the Spartan South Midlands League. They'd spend three seasons in Division 1, with a 5th and two 4th place finishes, but then had to left for a season. Rejoining in 1999, they'd play in the third tier and were champions of Division 2 in 2005. Lack of facilities would mean that they could not take the promotion but in 2008, after finishing as runners-up to Kings Langley, they secured a groundshare at Barton Rovers which allowed them to make the step up to Division 1. They'd remain here until 2016 when a runners-up spot behind Edgware Town earned them promotion to the Premier Division. They remain there to this day, the best finish coming in their debut season where they finished in 11th place. Originally in intention was to redevelop their home in Crawley Green, but at the start of this season, the former home of Vauxhall Motors and current Luton Town training ground became available for use. Crawley Green have made a good start since moving, sitting in 8th place although the best form has come away from home with just 2 wins from 6 league games at The Brache so far.

In the FA Cup, Crawley Green's best FA Cup run came in 2010 when they beat Royston Town and Harefield United before losing out to Romford in a 1st Qualifying Round replay. In the FA Vase, they reached the 2nd Round last season - beating Tuffley Rovers, Langford & Harpenden Town before a disappointing 2-0 defeat at local rivals Biggleswade. Local cup wins include the Bedfordshire Senior Trophy on three occasions and the SSML Division 1 Cup twice. The junior teams of the club are still based in Crawley Green, a small area of Luton with a population of 7,230.


I'd be on my own again on this Tuesday as my regular hopping partner on this day, Anwar had decided that he didn't fancy a game. Normally I'd have saved Crawley Green to do with him and when it was colder or wetter owing to its 3G surface. But with it being fairly close at 30 miles away and the next nearest unticked ground at Billingshurst being almost 70 miles away. I did briefly reconsider the prospect of a revisit, but only one, Harefield United, was any less further than my eventual choice. The day of the game came and it was the last of my 5 days off from work. It was the usual Tuesday routine of a walk down town, getting some lunch and getting a lift back with my Dad. The afternoon was spent doing not much, though I did sort out some of the photos of games that I have seen on this day, something that I've been doing as I have a fair few duplicates and poor quality photos that I want to weed out. After having dinner, I left at 6.20. It was a decent journey over, with me arriving at 7.10. Initially, I parked on the road outside as I wasn't entirely sure where the entrance was. It turned out to be quite a walk away so after I confirmed where the car park was, I walked back and fetched my car. Entry was the standard £6 and a thick programme was £1. It initially looked very promising, but a lot of it was adverts and articles that would appear in every issue that season. Not bad for a one time visitor though and one of the better this season.

I got some pictures of the ground and took my seat in the stand which had a handy ledge at the front to rest all my stuff on. Amersham Town were the brightest side in the opening period. They opened the scoring on 16 minutes when a low cross was put in from the right and Tom Parry tapped home from the edge of the six-yard box. Up until that bit, there had only really been half chances, but the visitors doubled their lead a couple of minutes later. A right-wing cross was put in and Fabian Garcia headed home. After this, the hosts tried to get back into the game but could only muster a series of corners at that point. They did get one back in the last minute of the first half when Sam McClelland headed home at the back post. A goal deep into injury time made it 2-2, a free kick cannoned off the bar and McClelland got his second with a header. Crawley Green went ahead for the first time on 48 minutes when a good move ended with Billy Lobjolt volleying home from inside the area. But still the visitors would not lie down and on 62 minutes a fantastic 40-yard strike by substitute Josh Kurton levelled things up. Their joy was short lived however and a minute later the hosts were back ahead, this time Danny Watson reacted quickest to a loose ball to regain his side the lead. Both sides were still having plenty of chances with Crawley Green hitting the inside of the post. Nine minutes from the end of the game, the hosts gave themselves a bit of breathing space when Watson got his second, completing a surging run with a decent finish from just inside the area. Lobjolt made the game safe on 82 minutes when he calmly finished and also spurned the chance of a hat-trick when he hit the post. I was walking around towards the exit by now, so didn't have the best view. A goal in injury time allowed Danny Watson to complete his hat trick and make the score 7-3.

So in the end, a comprehensive victory for the hosts, not that it always appeared that way. In fact, Amersham had been in the game until the two late strikes and they'd had the better of the first half. Switching off late on was the cause of the lopsided scoreline and no doubt the visiting manager Mani Azare would have been unhappy as he'd certainly been vocal during the game. As ever with the Spartan South Midlands League, it had been a really good game and it was a shame that there were only 30 people there to see it as the club had been really friendly too. With all those goals and a couple of other stoppages, I didn't leave until 9.50 but it was a good journey home and I was back at 10.30. It took me a while to drop off to sleep and so I was tired when I woke up at 4 am the following morning.


THE BRACHE is a smart and tidy venue in a leafy suburb of Luton. The address is listed as Park Road but to get there from the M1 you'll just want to go straight up Cuttenhoe Road and use the entrance opposite. Parking is quite limited here, but there's enough for a normal matchday, plus free street parking outside. Facilities at the ground are fairly basic as this is primarily Luton Town's training ground and so I saw no signs that indicated that Crawley Green play there, nor any turnstiles. There's also no bar, but hot drinks are available in the pavilion, I believe.

The ground itself is the former home of Vauxhall Motors (Luton) who played in the Isthmian League, finishing as runners-up in Division 2 North in 1992 before going bust. It's in a nice setting, lined by hedges and trees and a wooden stand remains from the Vauxhall days - this has been refurbished and probably holds around 150 at a push. There's also a small area of covered standing for around 20. The rest of the ground is open and includes a couple of steps of terracing behind one goal.

Monday 29 October 2018

Romulus - Castle Vale Stadium

Romulus FC
Castle Vale Stadium
Farnborough Road
Castle Vale
B35 7LQ

0121 748 6212
Official Website

Ground Number: 811
Monday 29th October 2018
Romulus 0-1 Coventry Sphinx
Midland League Premier Division


The club was formed in 1979 and started out in Sunday football. In 1999 they made the step up to the Midland Combination, finishing as runners-up in Division 1 in their first season. That earned them promotion to the Premier Division which they won in 2004 after a series of excellent finishes. That year, they joined the Midland Alliance, finishing as runners-up to Lemington in 2007. That earned them promotion to the Southern League with Romulus placed in the Midland Division at step 4 of the non-league pyramid. They enjoyed three top half finishes, the best of which was 8th in 2010, the club's highest ever finish to date. They were transferred to the NPL Division 1 South the following season where results tailed off. There were a couple of near misses with relegation in 2012 and 2013 but finishes improved after that. That was until last season when they finished rock bottom and suffered the first relegation in the club's history. If there were hopes of a swift return, the club would have been disappointed with them sitting 15th at the time of the game.

Romulus' best progress in the FA Cup has been the 2nd Qualifying Round, a stage they have reached on four occasions - the latest of these coming this season as they put up a brave fight before losing 4-3 at Southern Premier side St Neots Town. The FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round was reached in 2013 with Hednesford Town halting their progress after victories over Mickleover Sports, Rainworth Miners Welfare and Hucknall Town. The FA Vase 3rd Round was reached in 2007 where Romulus lost to Billingham Synthonia after beating Shifnal Town and Oldbury United in earlier rounds. Local cup wins include the Birmingham Midweek Floodlit Cup and the Midland Combination Cup in 2004 and the Terry Alden Memorial Cup in  2005. Romulus has developed a knack for developing players with Dean Sturridge, Luke Rodgers, Darius Vassell, Pablo Mills, Stefan Moore, Luke Moore and Zat Knight all going on to play professionally after starting out in the Roms youth side. The club was formed in Sutton Coldfield and for a long time groundshared at Sutton Coldfield FC. However, at the start of this season, they moved to the newly refurbished Castle Vale Stadium which is also home to Castle Vale JKS, members of the Midland League Division 3.


With me having a few days off work, I was keen to get to as many games as possible, especially if I could get other hoppers to help out with fuel costs. I'd just had an expensive weekend in Newcastle, with £140 added to my football costs for the season. Normally fellow hopper Chris and I's jaunts are restricted to Fridays owing to our commitments on other days, so this Monday represented a good opportunity to do a game. There was really only one option available at Romulus but this was within a reasonable distance and was one neither of us had done. The day of the game came and I hadn't had the best nights' sleep. I was already up at 6.30 when I got a message from work asking why I wasn't in. Luckily, I was able to check online and confirm that I did indeed have the time off as holiday. After getting dressed, I walked down town, getting some much-needed exercise before meeting my Dad for a lift back. After having lunch, watching some videos on YouTube and getting my things together, I left home at 3.20.

It was a decent journey to Chris with me getting to him an hour later. It was also a reasonable journey via the M1, M6 and M42 despite long stretches of roadworks and reroutes due to traffic. We got to our pre-match stop of The Bishop Vesey in Boldmere at 6 where we both had some fairly reasonable chicken strips and chips along with a pint. We left and it wasn't too far to the ground with us getting there at 6.50. They were putting out some decent tunes pre-match, but it was apparent that winter was upon us with a real chill in the air for the first time this season. There were a fair few hoppers in attendance, positive proof that if you have the imagination to deviate from the usual Saturday / Tuesday schedule, you will gain people that would be otherwise unoccupied.  It also helped that entry was very well priced at £5 whilst a fairly standard programme was £2

The game started with chances at a premium, but the hosts were on top. Coventry Sphinx hit the bar just before the 20-minute mark, but there were no goals early on. The second half was a bit brighter and the visitors took the lead on the hour mark, Joel Grandison tapping home after a good sweeping move that by pure chance I got on camera. Romulus had a golden opportunity to equalise on 84 minutes when a penalty was awarded for a foul just inside the area. The visitors' keeper Tom Cross was the hero, diving right across the goal to save the spot kick and keep his side ahead. There was the odd chance for either side after, but in reality, Coventry Sphinx deserved the win. The referee didn't mess about and the game was over and we were away by 9.40. I dropped Chris off at 10.50, getting home myself an hour later. It had been a rare journey without a hitch and I even had time to type up my blog and sort my photos before I went to bed.


THE CASTLE VALE stadium is a pretty tidy setup, though there's just the one stand. This is a fairly smart one though with a few hundred seats. The rest of the ground is open hard standing. At the ground are a bar and a food hut, both look to have a decent range at good prices. There's plenty of parking and you are probably better off stopping en route as the area around the ground does not have the best reputation.

Sunday 28 October 2018

North Shields - Darren Persson Stadium

North Shields FC
Darren Persson Stadium
West Percy Street
North Shields
NE29 0LH

Ground Number: 810
Saturday 27th October 2018
North Shields 1-2 West Auckland Town
Northern League D1


The club was established in 1896 and were originally known as North Shields Athletic - a name they used from 1896 - 1915 and then again from 1995 - 1999. They were also called Preston Colliery between 1919 -1928 following the end of the first world war. Early years were spent in the  South Shields & District League and the Northern Combination. In 1908 they'd join the North Eastern League winning it in 1950 and remaining here until 1964 aside from a few seasons away in the Midland and Northern Counties League. Joining the Northern League in 1964, North Shields would finish 3rd in their debut season and runners-up the year after. By 1969 they were champions and they would remain here until 1989 when they joined the Northern Counties East Premier as the Northern League was not part of the non-league pyramid at the time. Three seasons were spent here, all successful and in 1992 they were champions following two runners-up spots. However, their joy was short lived as debts of £98,000 led to them losing their ground and nearly going bust altogether. They did manage to stay afloat but had to take a significant drop, restarting in the Wearside League Division 2 whilst groundsharing for a short period at the likes of Whitley Bay. On the field, they were runners-up in their first season, earning promotion to Division 1. The league was condensed into a single Division in the late 1990s and North Shields were champions in 1999, 2002 and 2004. The latter of these saw them make the step back up to the Northern League Division 2. Though they struggled initially, they were champions in 2014, earning promotion to Division 1. They've been there ever since and have generally fared well, finishing 3rd in 2017. Prior to today's game, they were sat in 7th place in the league.

In the FA Cup, North Shields have reached the 2nd Round on a few occasions. The most recent was in 1982 when they beat Eppleton CW, Horden CW, Gateshead, Barrow & Halifax Town (then a football league club) before a 3-0 defeat to Walsall. In 1969 the club won the FA Amateur Cup, beating Sutton United 2-1 at Wembley Stadium. They also won its replacement, the FA Vase in 2015, beating Glossop North End 2-1. The FA Trophy 2nd Round was reached in 1983-84 where they lost 4-1 at Barnet. Local honours include the Northumberland Senior Cup 13 times, the NCEL League Cup in 1992 and the Northern League Cup twice. The area of North Sheilds has a population of just under 35,000 and was the filming location for the TV series 'When The Boat Comes In which starred James Bolam, most well known for playing Terry Collier in 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads'. Famous people born in the area include actor Stan Laurel, footballer Michael Bridges and lifeboat inventor William Wouldhave who has the Wetherspoons in North Shields named in his honour. President of North Shields FC is Malcolm MacDonald, ace goalscorer for Newcastle United for England but remembered by me for his appearance on Fantasy Football League's 'Phoenix From The Flames' series in the mid-1990s.


After deciding that my morning game would be at Ryhope Colliery Welfare, I needed an afternoon game to go to. There were twelve options in all, all in varying directions and distances. I had no idea which to choose so after whittling it down to four options I put a poll out on Twitter. Horden Colliery Welfare, Whitley Bay, North Shields and Billingham Synthonia were the options, chosen as they were within walking distance of a town and a decent pub for pre-match. After an overnight poll on Wednesday, North Shields came out on top and so I set about doing my pre-match research for my blog.

From the game at Ryhope, I had a 20-mile drive to North Shields, arriving at 1.15. I parked up at the ground and walked 15 minutes into town to a great Micropub called Oddfellows where I had a pint of Gwynt Y Ddraig Pyder which was very nice. I then headed to a place called Pizza Cafe where I had a 12 inch Mexicana Pizza for £3.50. I got to the ground around 2.30, paying £6 entry plus £1.50 for a programme. The first incident saw West Auckland's Danny Parker carried off with a nasty looking dislocated knee. The 201 fans present saw a cagey first half with the visitors edging the game. Amar Purewal gave them the lead on 52 minutes with a low diagonal shot from just inside the area. The former Blyth Spartans man got his second 15 minutes later with a shot on the turn from 10 yards. After 77 minutes North Shields reduced the arrears when Gary Day netted from inside the six-yard box. It had been a fairly average game, but I was surprised to see that Purewal was playing at this level as he looked useful when I saw him playing for Blyth a few years back.

That was it for goals and West Auckland deserved their win. I headed for home after a decent couple of days away. The journey home was decent and went quickly thanks to listening to football phone-ins all the way home. Wycombe had disappointingly lost 3-2 at Walsall but there was perspective with a trio of bad news in football. Firstly Glenn Hoddle was taken ill and was taken to hospital. Then a Brighton fan died at the game and to cap it all, a helicopter crashed near Leicester City and killed their owner and the pilot. A really bad day for football overall. I got in at 9.30 and caught up on Twitter before having some of the cider that I'd bought in Newcastle with Match Of The Day. I was glad that I had a rare Sunday off work the following day.


THE DARREN PERSSON STADIUM is a smart, tidy and well-kept venue. There are two covered areas, one along each side. The standing one has space for around 50 whilst the seated stand holds around 150 on benches. The rest of the ground is open, with a few steps of terracing on the side of the seated stand. Facilities at the ground are fairly standard, though the town is 15 minutes away for a better choice. Oddfellows and Pizza Cafe are well worth a visit.