Wednesday 28 November 2018

Ashby Ivanhoe - NFU Sports Ground

Ashby Ivanhoe FC
NFU Sports Ground
Lower Packington Road
LE65 1TS

07807 261975

Ground Number: 821
Tuesday 27th November 2018
Ashby Ivanhoe 5-1 Ingles
Leicestershire County Cup Quarter Final


The club was founded in 1948, joining the Coalville & District League upon formation. A transfer to the Burton & District League followed in 1967 where fortunes were mixed. The late 1980s saw them join the North Leicestershire League, winning its Premier Division on four occasions. The club made the step up to the Leicestershire Senior League in 2005, starting out in its step 8 Division 1. Ashby Ivanhoe performed well and by 2008, a runners-up spot behind Ashfordby Amateurs was good enough to gain promotion to the Premier Division. Finishes again were excellent, with the Premier Division title being lifted in 2011. A 3rd place finish in 2014 was good enough to see the club promoted to the East Midlands Counties League, although they only missed out on winning the title due to goal difference with Allexton & New Parks and Melton Mowbray finishing above them. Finishes in the EMCL have finished from 3rd in 2016 to 17th last season. This season has seen a slight improvement, with Ashby Ivanhoe sitting 13th at the time of kick off.

In the FA Cup, the club entered for the only time in the 2016/17 season. They beat Quorn 4-3 and Loughborough Dynamo (a significant giant-killing as they were the away side at a team two levels higher) before a 6-0 home defeat to Ilkeston in the 1st Qualifying Round (although this game produced the club record attendance of 693). The 2016/17 season also saw the club's best ever FA Vase Run, beating Pelsall Villa and Stone Old Alleynians before losing to Hucknall Town in the 1st Round. Local cup wins include the North Leicestershire League Chairman's Shield twice, the Cobbin Trophy in 1997, the Ivanhoe Shield in 1981, the Ashby Charity Cup in 1997 and the Coalville Charity Cup in 2011. Famous names in the dugout include Tony Hemmings with the former Wycombe striker managing the club between 2013 and 2015. The club is based in Ashby-De-La-Zouch, a small town with a population of  13,759. It is well-known for being the home of the snack manufacturer KP. Famous people to come from the town include footballer Russell Hoult and radio and TV presenter Max Rushden. Fictionally, Adrian Mole lived in Ashby-De-La-Zouch during his lifetime with his girlfriend Pandora Braithwaite later becoming MP for the town, although she'd sacked him off long before then.


There was a really limited choice of games on this Tuesday, what with the weather getting colder and wetter. I'd have Chris with me for a change and it was due to the weather that we decided to opt for a league game to play it safe, despite our initial preference being Clay Cross Town. Our options boiled down to two - Sheffield Wednesday & Leicester City. I'd visited both of course as I'd completed the 92, but with both visits coming in 2012, I was happy to revisit to update my blog and get better pictures. The day of the game came and I'd had a reasonable night sleep. After getting ready, it was my usual walk down town where I got some soup for lunch, plus a few other bits. I came back and did my final bits of research for tonight. Lots of games had already been called off before I left at 3.30, but these were tending to be down south, where the weather had hit earliest. I got to Chris about 4 40 and had fully intended to book tickets for Leicester. I'd not booked them at home in case of any late changes or car problems and thought it would be simple enough on my iPad. I was completely wrong, a series of failed CAPTCHA's and complaints that my perfectly valid landline number was not valid meant we tried to ring the ticket hotline. Only to be greeted by a recorded message of Jamie Vardy telling us to ring back between 9 am and 6pm. With it being 5 pm now and 20 minutes already wasted, we decided to search for what was still on. Thankfully, I had a directory of all the names and numbers of club secretaries. Though the Ashby Ivanhoe man didn't answer, he called back within a few minutes and confirmed that the game was on.

For once, the journey was a really good one, with only minimal delays. Most surprising at that time of night. After arriving at 6.40 and checking in at the ground to confirm that the game was on, we drove back into town for dinner. I wasn't expecting much from Nick's Fish Bar, but it turned out to be pretty decent with a tasty and generous portion of chicken curry and chips costing £3.50.  We got back to the ground at 7.10 and paid an excellent value £4 to get in. There were no programmes, but with me rapidly running out of space, it doesn't bother me to be honest. The game was a 7.30 kick off, so I had barely any time to catch up on things before it started. The hosts started very brightly and they took the lead on 5 minutes. A Ben Minshull corner was put in and Joel Earps headed home. There was some debate as to whether it was over the line as it bounced down off of the bar, but the referee gave it. After 12 minutes it was 2-0, a really well-worked move resulting in a close-range finish by top goalscorer Kerr Horn. This was a just score given the hosts' early dominance, but Ingles were starting to come into the game and had a really good spell. They saw plenty of the ball but didn't really trouble the home keeper too much. It was 3-0 just before halftime, just like the first goal it was a Minshull corner and an Earps finish, this time a low, close-range effort. Ingles continued to have the upper hand in the second half, but again, the finishing was lacking. Ashby Ivanhoe made it 4-0 with a goal on the break, a good run from Sam Carline set up Mitch Woodbine who slotted calmly past the keeper. The visitors got a much-deserved goal back on 84 minutes, Kyle Fowkes heading in a cross. The rout was complete in the last minute when Horn got his second, rounding the keeper and blasting into the top corner.

The scoreline had been very harsh on Ingles and although Ashby Ivanhoe deserved their win, it should have been by a one or two goal margin. It had been a really good pick too, only 3 out of 7 step 2 and below games were on and even Football League side Mansfield Town called their game off at 6.30, very poor considering the opponents had travelled from Crawley. The club had been very friendly and it had been a much better ground than I expected. I was delighted to hear on my way home that Wycombe had grabbed a late winner to win 2-1 at Accrington. Incredibly, that lifted us up to 10th, a great position considering our expectations at the start of the season. We'd also dodged a bullet at Leicester, reporter Alan Green made snoring noises to describe their 0-0 draw at home to Southampton, with the hosts eventually winning on penalties. Elsewhere, Manchester United grabbed a late winner yet again as they fluked their way to victory over Swiss side Young Boys. They've done this on a number of occasions and I reckon this side is not much better than some of the sides that have been relegated from the Premiership in the past. Radio 5 kept us company until we got to Chris's at 10:40, then I switched on my Podcasts. After going back via the M1 and M25, I got in an hour later. As per usual, I couldn't get to sleep until 2 am, my lie in the previous morning meaning that my body clock would not let me go to sleep. I caught up with a nap the following afternoon though, but I didn't feel that tired when I woke at 4 am on Wednesday for work.


THE NFU SPORTS GROUND is a great little ground for the level, though it's located a fair way from town, around a mile in fact. At the ground are food and drink facilities, these offer a fairly basic range but at good prices. The ground itself was a lot better than expected. The side where you come in (behind the goal) has two wooden structures - a seated stand holding 50 and covered standing for around 150. On the side is a small metal stand provided by Stadium Solutions, this holds around 50 and is a lot better than the more common 'Arena' efforts. The rest of the ground is open hard standing although only two sides are officially available to fans due to it being a multi-sports venue. This adds to the charm though and with the club being really friendly, I'd definitely recommend a visit.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Clipstone - The Lido Ground

Clipstone FC
The Lido Ground
Clipstone Road East
Clipstone Village
NG21 9AB

Ground Number: 820
Tuesday 20th November 2018
Clipstone 1-2 Sherwood Colliery
EMCL Cup 2nd Round


The club was established in 1928 as Clipstone Combine and have also been known as Clipstone Boys Brigade and Clipstone Welfare at various points during their history. Early leagues included the Colliery Alliance League, the Mansfield & District League, the Sutton & Skegby League, the Notts Spartan League and the Notts Alliance. The latter proved to be a period of great success with them winning the league twice in 1993 and 1994. It was after the second of those wins that they made the step up to the Central Midlands League, starting in its second-tier Premier Division. They were champions in 1995 and 1997, the second of these occasions saw them make the step up to the Supreme Division where finishes ranged from 5th in 2007 to bottom the following season. In 2011, the league was restructured into two regional divisions, with Clipstone finishing 4th in the CML North. This was good enough for promotion to the step 6 NCEL D1 in 2012. They won this league in 2015 and were promoted to the Premier Division. The 2015/16 season saw the club's record finish of 13th in the NCEL Premier, but results soon fell away. Last season was an especially dreadful one, going the entire season without a league win and only managing two draws - at home to Hall Road Rangers (2-2) and away to Staveley Miners Welfare (0-0). Obviously, this meant relegation, in this case to the East Midlands Counties League. This season started poorly with two defeats, but finally, on 18th August they recorded their first league win since 18th March 2017 as they won 1-0 at Teversal. It's been an unspectacular but steady season since then with the team sitting in 14th at the time of my visit.

Clipstone first entered the FA Cup in 2014, beating Harrowby United and Loughborough University before losing to Grantham Town in the 1st Qualifying Round, a feat they matched the following season. In the FA Vase, the best run came during the 1992/93 season as they beat Hall Road Rangers, Hatfield Main, Glasshoughton Welfare & Hucknall Town before a 1-0 defeat at Hinckley Athletic. Local cup wins include the CML Floodlit Cup in 2007, the Notts Spartan League Cup & Notts Intermediate Cup in 1956, the Notts Senior Cup twice and the Notts Alliance League Cup on four occasions. Clipstone itself has a population of 3,500 and is a small ex-coal mining village with the pit closing in 2003. The Welfare Ground in Clipstone was used as a location in the 2007 film 'Control' which told the life story of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.


Once again, it was time for Anwar & I's Tuesday groundhop, though I wasn't sure if he would be available as his appearances have been rather sporadic of late. Thankfully he was and he was happy to go further for once, thanks to his mate Scouse Carl coming with us. It had been over 4 years since he's made an appearance, but his presence was welcome, even though they got to choose where we went due to them putting a good proportion of the petrol costs in. They opted for Alfreton v Leamington, a ground that I'd enjoyed and might have considered a revisit to, had it not been for the hefty £14 entrance fee. They've always been an expensive club to visit in my experience, but in fairness, the cost was in line with a lot of other clubs in the division. The options were fairly sparse and in the end, boiled down to two options - Swallownest or Clipstone. I opted for the latter as the ground looked a lot better. I got all my research done, including finding a reasonable place for dinner in Alfreton.

The day of the game came and I had a great night's sleep, making the long trip all the more sensible as I can never get to sleep early the following night. The morning bought the disappointing news that fellow hopper Chris had pulled out of Friday's trip to Chadderton and although I was disappointed, I was thankful for the notice. Although it looked rainy, I decided to proceed with my plans to walk to town and back, 7 miles in all, mainly for the exercise. I purchased a few small bits down there as well as having a very nice 'Pigs Under Blankets' toasted baguette from Greggs. I'd left fairly late and got back at 2, so I only had an hour to spare before I headed out again. My decision to choose Clipstone over Swallownest had proven to be a wise one, as Swallownest had been postponed at 2 pm due to a waterlogged pitch. I got my flask and headed out at around 3 as I wanted to go to a shop in Aylesbury called B&M Bargains to get a few bits that I'd been unable to get in Wycombe for my desired price. I managed to get some things and picked up Anwar & Carl at 4.05. We were soon on our way but were delayed by a broken down bus getting out of Aylesbury. There was then the usual fun of getting through Milton Keynes then roadworks on the M1 with around 30 minutes added to our journey which went pretty quickly with us chatting and catching up. I dropped the lads off at 6.45 and it was half an hour to Clipstone. I had planned to stop for dinner in Alfreton, but with time tight, I'd driven straight to the ground. I paid £5 to get in, £1.50 for a programme and £2 for sausage and chips from the excellent Cafe in the ground. I then caught up on Twitter as I waited for kick off.

There was drizzle on and off, so I took shelter in the stand. It was a keenly contested local derby and very physical at times. Sherwood always looked a cut above and they took the lead on 38 minutes, a header at the back post from 5 yards by Kieran Wells following a good run and cross from the left. Halftime came soon after and I had another portion of chips for £1. The second half continued with the visitors on the front foot but Clipstone did have some good spells including hitting the post from a free kick on 55 minutes. Clipstone were the better side second half and they equalised 5 minutes from time with a scrappy goal that saw the ball eased over the line by Mark Carter. As much as I was pleased for Clipstone, I wasn't really fancying extra time with two mates to pick up and so I was glad that both teams were going in search of a winner. It came within a couple of minutes when Sherwood put a cross in from the right, home keeper Charlie Dando could only parry it into the path of Connor Nowaczyk who scored an unfortunate own goal for Clipstone despite his side having the better of the second half. I left at 9.45 and it took me half an hour to get back to Alfreton at 10.15. It was a reasonable journey home and despite long stretches of roadworks and them throwing us off the M1 a junction early. I dropped Anwar and Carl off at 12:20 and was back home myself at 12.45. As expected I couldn't get to sleep for ages and only got an hours sleep, needing a catchup nap the following afternoon.


THE LIDO GROUND is a great venue for step 6 and is probably good enough for step 3 or 4. Most of the far side is covered, comprising of a stand that holds 100 seated and another that holds 200 standing. Behind the goal where the turnstile is, there's a further covered standing area which holds 100 plus a few seated. Behind the rest of the ground is hard standing, as is the dugout side. The far goal is grass banking and is closed to fans. Facilities at the ground include a great value cafe with decent food and a small choice of alcohol in cans. The ground is situated near the village of Clipstone, but I didn't check out what was there. The club is nice and friendly and well worth a visit, the programme is one of the better ones I have seen this season and is good value at £1.50.

Saturday 17 November 2018

Rusthall - Jockey Farm Stadium

Rusthall FC
The Jockey Farm Stadium
Nellington Road
Tunbridge Wells

Ground Number: 819
Saturday 17th November 2018
Rusthall 0-1 Fisher
SCEL Premier


The club was established in 1899 and started out in the Tunbridge Wells League. It was a competition they would go on to win for the first time in 1905 and 11 times in total. They'd make the step up to the Kent County League in 1983 where they were champions of Division 2 West in their debut season and also won Division 1 West the following season. They'd remain there until 2003 when they were relegated back to Division 2 West. The bounce back was immediate with a 3rd place finish in 2004 being good enough for promotion and they were champions of Division 1 West for the 2nd time in 2005, This time they took the promotion to the Kent County Premier where they enjoyed mainly mid-table finishes. In 2013 Rusthall were founder members of the step 6 Kent Invicta League, where they continued the mid-table finishes. The league was renamed the Southern Counties East League Division 1 in 2016 and after finishing second-bottom the previous season, the clubs fortunes dramatically improved and they were promoted to the SCEL Premier after finishing as runners-up to Glebe. Last season saw a second-bottom finish, but relegation was averted due to the re-organisation of the non-league pyramid. That's where Rusthall sit prior to my visit although a win on my visit against second-placed Fisher could see them climb out of the relegation zone if results went their way.

Rusthall have only entered the FA Cup a couple of times but it was this season that they enjoyed their best run, beating Wick 3-0 before a credible performance in the Preliminary Round against Isthmian D1 South side Cray Wanderers where the higher division side required a replay and a penalty shoot-out to get through. It's a similar story in the FA Vase which was first entered in 2016 with two 1st Round exits in the past two seasons, the latest coming this season as they went down at Newhaven. Local cup wins include the Tunbridge Wells Senior Cup on 13 occasions and the West Kent Challenge Shield in 2004. The village of Rusthall is near Tunbridge Wells and has a population of 10.460. The place got its name from the rusty nature of the water in the local cold water baths, the foundations of which still remain today. 


Originally I was due to be going to Sunderland v Wycombe on this day. I’d been reasonably recently but it would be great to see Wycombe play there. But two things counted against it. Firstly my parents were on holiday. Usually, we will make the trip as a family and they will help me out by paying for some of it. I ummed and arred for a bit, but despite the fact that it would cost me nearly £60 for coach and ticket alone, I initially decided to go for it. I rang up the Independent Supporters Club, booked the coach and asked what pub they were stopping at. It turned out to be the place they were going did no real cider, meals were around £15 - £20 and it was miles from anywhere. My rules are that if the food and cider are good, they would not be added to my football costs. This was not the case here, and so, with a potential £90 added to my costs for the season, I quickly phoned and cancelled, making up the excuse that work had called me in, so as not to offend the pub picker. The places they pick are generally excellent, but they have picked a few that I’ve not enjoyed and they usually tend to have the sort of owners that do not take constructive criticism on TripAdvisor well. So where to go, well, it would be on the train and it would be outside London, the lack of options within the capital had led to my inclination to visit Sunderland in the first place. I’d still be going through London and it would be Kent as SouthEastern offer the best value for where I travel from. I selected four options with good pubs - Hollands & Blair, Deal Town, Herne Bay and Rusthall. After considering several factors, I booked the train to Tunbridge Wells, the cost with my petrol to the station and train into London would not be much more than if I drove, plus I’d be able to enjoy myself more.

The previous day, I viewed the programme online and found that Rusthall had lost 9 games in a row and that included a 9-1 thrashing against Cray Valley PM. The day of the game came and I woke a few minutes before my alarm went off at 8 am. I had considered setting out early and calling in at Borough Market but in the end, I opted to stay at home for a bit longer, leaving at 9.15. 20 minutes later I was parked up near Amersham station and after a short walk, I got the 9.44 train towards London. It was a well-rehearsed journey by me and after a change at Finchley Road, I got to London Bridge at 10.50. I then had plenty of time to change to the main station with me getting the 11.09 train to Tunbridge Wells which arrived at 12. I headed to an area called the ‘Pantiles’ which takes its name from the Georgian Colonnade and well which gave the town its name. My port of call was the Pantiles Tap, a cracking pub with a massive selection of cider. I had a pint of Ascension Pilot before a pint of Nightingale Russett. Both were great and unique and it was a shame that I couldn’t stay longer, though they did have bottles to take out, making it a potential post-match drink venue. From there I headed towards Wetherspoons, but not before stopping at the market to buy some John Boys cider, which cleaned me out of cash. With my wallet refilled at a cash machine, I got to the Opera House, my 179th Spoons at 1.20. It was packed, but thankfully people were not bright enough to try upstairs where a multitude of tables were available. Sadly, real cider had run out, so I made do with a  pint of Strongbow with my Christmas Brie & Bacon burger. From there I stopped at  I stopped at Poundland en route, but it was a fair old trek to the ground with me arriving bang on kick off.

After paying £7, I got in. No sooner than I'd arrived had Fisher taken the lead, Pat Geddis scoring after 3 minutes. That was it for goals sadly, not that both sides didn’t try which made for an OK game. According to the hosts, they were notoriously slow starters which was the difference as to be honest you would never guess the two sides were poles apart in the league. The game finished and I was happy to see that Wycombe had gained a great draw up at Sunderland. Strangely enough, a long string of Wycombe games that I’ve intended to go to but not attended have all ended in draws. I listened to the reaction on Wycombe Sound on my phone which kept me company on the two-mile walk back. The Pantiles Tap was again my destination, being on the ‘right’ side of town. A pint of Wise Owl dry cider was enjoyed and although I wish I’d booked a later train, I did have to drive in a few hours, so it was probably for the best. I arrived back at the station with 15 minutes to spare, getting the 6.09 train back to London Bridge. I got back there just before 7 and hopped on the Jubilee Line to Finchley Road. It was then a 15-minute wait for my final train to Amersham. I got back at 8.30 and stopped at Tesco to pick up some Irn Bru amongst other things. I got home just after 9 and with no Match Of The Day, I got to sleep around 10.45.


JOCKEY FARM is a pleasant ground, not far from the large village of Rusthall. All the covered accommodation is on one side and includes an area of covered standing, a 125 seat ‘arena’ stand and a further stand of bench seating. The rest of the ground is open hard standing and there’s even a second pitch with a small stand. Bar and catering facilities are fairly standard. Nearby is the village which has a number of takeaways and pubs. A couple of miles away is Tunbridge Wells, this has a much better choice including the excellent Pantiles Tap. It’s also the location of the nearest train station.