Thursday 28 March 2019

Newcastle Benfield - Sam Smith's Park

Newcastle Benfield FC
Sam Smiths Sports Ground
off Benfield Road
Newcastle Upon Tyne

Ground Number: 841
Wednesday 27th March 2019
Newcastle Benfield 3-2 Whitley Bay
Brooks Mileson Cup Semi-Final


The club was established in 1988 and have been known under various guises during their history including Brunswick Village, Heaton Corner House, Newcastle Benfield Saints, Newcastle Benfield Park and Newcastle Benfield Bay Plastics prior to switching to their current name in 2007. They started in the Northern Alliance Division 2, winning promotion as champions in 1990. A runners-up spot in 1994 was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division and despite being crowned champions in their first season, they'd have to wait until their second title in 2003 to gain promotion to the Northern League Division 2.  They were runners-up to Ashington in their first season, earning promotion to Division 1 where they've remained ever since. They won the title in 2009 but chose not to take the promotion. Aside from a sticky patch around 2013-14, they've always finished in a top half spot and currently sit 9th in the table.

In the FA Cup, their best run came in 2006. They beat Ryton, Cammell Laird, Hyde United and Guiseley prior to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Conference side York City in the 4th Qualifying Round. There have been several FA Vase runs, bur 2014 represents their best progress where they lost out to St Andrew's in the Quarter Finals. Local cup wins include a trio of Northern League Cups and the Northern Alliance League Cup In 1995.


Originally, on my week off, I’d been planning to do a game with fellow Milton Keynes based hopper, Chris. However, our options were very limited. I was hoping to persuade him to do Steeton, but he didn’t want to travel that far with work in the morning. The only viable option was Tipton Town, a ground with a running track, which I didn’t fancy. I thought about it for a couple of days, finally deciding to get a cheap Megabus up to Newcastle and also a room for Tuesday night. Having done Dunston UTS on Tuesday, I had the choice of two options for my Wednesday game. Both were solid options without being exceptional but in the end, I chose the cup semi-final at Newcastle Benfield over a league game at Heaton Stannington. The day of the game one and I’d had a fairly late night, with plenty of drink but I awoke feeling fresh as a daisy when the fire alarm went off at 5 am. It turned out to be a false alarm, but I couldn’t really get any decent sleep after that. I watched some YouTube videos and browsed through Twitter before getting up just before 8. I had a shower and got my things together before sitting down to write up last night’s blog. I would have sorted the pictures and uploaded them but due to my Windows tablet randomly restarting, I had to abandon that idea. It was still under guarantee, so I fired off a tweet to Argos to try and sort the issue.

I still needed breakfast, so I headed to Greggs to have a steak baguette, fairly healthy by my standards. I then went to the Metro station to get my day pass, £7.50 which should cover all of my plans today. A metro and a bus later, I was at my first stop, The Angel Of The North. After getting some pictures, I made my way back into Gateshead. I considered going to Gateshead Leam Rangers to get pictures but it was a basic ground and quite a way out. I also dismissed a pint as it was still only 11.30 at that point. Instead, I had a walk around the town before getting back on the Metro. I got a Metro to Tyne Dock, walking to Harton & Westoe who had a smart setup for a step 7 side. From there I got a bus to Boldon CA, right next to Jarrow Roofing where I’d been a few years ago. From there I made my way back I was ready for some refreshment by now so I headed back to Newcastle for a decent lunch at Taco Bell. Fast food, but miles better than McDonald's, there are sadly not many of them about. A Metro to Byker allowed me to visit a pub there, The Cumberland Arms. It was a great pub I'd been to before and seen a Skiffle band at, whilst in the pursuit of good cider. I had a couple of pints, one new one which made me feel good. There was one ground I wanted to visit that had lost out to tonight's game, Heaton Stannington and it was a single bus from outside Morrisons to go and get some pictures. From there, back to Newcastle as I needed a lead to charge my iPad and then a bus along the Tyne to the excellent Free Trade Inn where I had a new cider from Nightingale Cider called Discovery. With an hour until kick off, it was time for me to head to the ground, hopefully finding food on the way. Nothing was found, but I wasn't really hungry anyway.

Getting to the ground just before 7, I paid my £6 entry and £1 for an excellent programme. I was given a nice welcome by the editor who told me to come to hospitality at half time. I headed off to the bar which was very smart. I had a pint of Woodpecker for £3, not real cider but a pint that I'd not had in a while and it was very pleasant. Looking at the form of each side, Benfield were in erratic form, having won 3 and drawn 3 of their last 6 games. Whitley Bay had recently lost 5-1 to Bishop Auckland and 9-0 at Hebburn Town and had made a managerial change with Nathan Haslam taking the hot seat. Since then, they were unbeaten, winning 3 and drawing 1 of their last 4. I went out to watch the game, getting some chips for £1.50. The visitors started on the front foot but it was Benfield that took the lead on 10 minutes, Dennis Knight finishing excellently into the top corner from outside the area. It was all-square four minutes later when sloppy defending allowed Ollie Martin to score with a shot that looked like it may have taken a deflection. Whitley Bay were still on top in the first half of limited chances, they came close to taking the lead when they tried to lob the home keeper. Benfield made it 2-1 on 39 minutes, Knight got his second when a cross was put in from the right and his close-range shot was deflected home. I had some nice homemade soup in the hospitality area at half time and had a brief chat with some of the people at the club. It was a much better second half from the hosts and they looked to have sealed the game on 78 minutes when Knight completed his hat trick when a good ball from veteran striker Paul Brayson found his striking partner who curled a shot past the keeper from around the edge of the area. Whitley Bay got a goal back on 87 minutes, a close-range finish by Andrei Ardelean. The same player looking to have equalised right at the death, but his shot hit the side netting. This sent the majority of the 351 crowd home happy, though Whitley Bay had bought a decent following. Newcastle Benfield will now face West Auckland Town in the final which will be played on Easter Mond

After the game, I walked back to the Metro and headed back to the city centre. I collected my bag from the hostel and went in search of liquid refreshment. There was a disappointment on that part, a pint of strawberry beer at £7 in a pub called Bacchus was followed up by my third disappointing Wetherspoons of the trip. The Mile Castle had been good last time I was in the area, but this time there was no bag in box cider. I had a bottle of Hazy Hog before walking back to the bus stop. I’d been hoping to make myself a bit drowsy to aid sleep but in reality, I was wide awake. My bus arrived 20 minutes early so I got on. £9.73 was the price I paid which was good value. It was pretty uncomfortable though and I didn’t get much sleep as I didn’t get a double seat to myself. Leeds seemed to love a Megabus, both times the bulk of the people got on here. There were a couple of characters, firstly a bloke that stank of weed, then another without a ticket who spent 5 minutes unsuccessfully try to bribe the driver £100 to let him on. ‘I canna dee it mun’ was repeated several times in a heavy Geordie accent before we left on time. A few driver changeovers later and we were on the outskirts of London around 7. The bus arrived ten minutes ahead of its scheduled arrival time despite plenty of traffic in the city. It was a walk to the tube station and a couple of trains across London to Marylebone. There, I only had a five-minute wait to get my train to Chalfont & Latimer. London had been a lot quieter than on Tuesday for some reason and it was nice to get a seat. I got back to the station at 9, getting home half an hour later. As ever, it had been a good but unhealthy couple of days away.


SAM SMITHS PARK is a decent setup with plenty of cover. On the far side is an attractive wooden shelter that houses some gym equipment. Next to this is a seated stand, holding around 150. There's another stand of similar size along the other side with a covered terrace alongside it which holds around 200. The rest of the ground is open hard standing. There's hardly anything around the ground that I saw, just a residential area. The bar is excellent, offering a good range in pleasant surroundings. The tea bar is well-priced and also has a good range of items. 

Dunston UTS - UTS Stadium

Dunston UTS FC
UTS Stadium
Wellington Road
Tyne & Wear
NE11 9HE

0191 493 2935
Official Website

Ground Number: 840
Tuesday 26th March 2019
Dunston UTS 3-1 Guisborough Town
Northern League D1


The club was established in 1975 and was initially a works team of the Office of Public Sector Information. Known at their inception as Whickham Sports, they've also been known as Dunston Mechanics, Dunston Federation and Dunston Federation Brewery up until changing to Dunston UTS in 2009. They started out in local leagues such as the Newcastle City League, Northern Amateur League and Newcastle Combination. In 1987, they joined the Wearside League, winning it in 1989 and 1990 as well as finishing as runner-up to Eppleton Colliery Welfare in 1991. The following season saw them join the Northern League Division 2. They were champions within a couple of seasons and have remained in Division 1 ever since with a high of3rd in 2012 and a low of 15th in 2017. This season sees them sitting atop the table with a clear lead and games in hand and with mandatory promotion now in place, it looks inevitable that they will be playing NPL football next season.

As well as having a great season in the league, this season has also seen their record run in the FA Cup. Beating Hebburn Town, Pontefract Collieries, North Ferriby United, Irlam and most notably Conference North playoff contenders Chester, they found themselves in a 4th Qualifying Round game against Conference high-flyers Gateshead. In a game live on the BBC FA Cup stream, a sloppy start saw them lose 4-0 although they did record their record attendance of 2,520 for the game. Dunston UTS won the FA Vase in 2012, overcoming Blackwell Miners Welfare, Parkgate, Wisbech Town, Bethnal Green United, Peterborough Northern Star and Staveley Miners Welfare on the way to a 2-0 victory over fellow Northern League side West Auckland Town at Wembley Stadium. In terms of local cups, they've won the Northern League Cup six times, the Cleator Cup five times, the Wearside League Cup in 1991 as well as others whilst in lower leagues. Their most notable former player and current manager is Chris Swailes who played in the Football League for Rotherham United and Bury. He is well known for scoring the opening goal for Morpeth Town in the 2017 FA Vase Final. The club is based in the Dunston area of Gateshead, most well-known for being where footballer Paul Gascoigne spent his early years.


Usually, on Tuesday's, I do a groundhop with fellow hopper Anwar, But he was not really in the mood at the moment and extremely fussy, so when I saw the dreadful selection of games available to us, I knew it would be a hard sell. I thought about it for a few days, trying to find inspiration from the limited selection. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I night saw would be in order, even if it meant giving my Wednesday night trip to Tipton with another hopper, Chris, the elbow. Despite it only being around 4 days before departure, I was able to secure a return on the Megabus for little more than £20 and also a single room for £18 for the Tuesday. My bed would be a coach seat on Wednesday night, but compared to the train which would cost me around £50 each way plus an extra night in a hotel, it was a good deal. The night before was a decent one, watching another great England performance as they beat Montenegro 5-1. The only negative point was some racist chanting by a small section of backward inbreds claiming to support Montenegro. I had a few drinks with the game, although not too many and I was in bed just after 10. I woke early just after 5 am and watched TV for a bit, getting up at 6.30. I freshened up and got my things together before having breakfast and leaving at 7.20. There was a small delay on my way thanks to roadworks but soon enough, I was parked up in Cumberland Close, the nearest road to Chalfont and Latimer station without restrictions. I'd allowed extra time and it was just as well as there were 'severe delays' on the Metropolitan Line thanks to a signal failure at Aldgate. I waited 15 minutes and caught the Chiltern Line to avoid the issues. It was then the usual journey across London to Victoria, then a 15-minute walk to the coach station.

I got to the station just after 9 and walked to bay 20 where my coach was leaving from. It was a pretty efficient service, being called to board five minutes before departure and leaving bang on time. I was pleased to bag a seat at the front with a good view, but not so chuffed when a bloke decided to sit next to me, despite there being plenty of seats available. Once we got going, I moved back and bagged a double seat to myself. Generally, it was a decent, if long trip and I’d certainly recommend it for the bargain price of £11.10 that it cost me. I found out from the North East Non-League podcast that Dunston UTS would be crowned champions if they gained just a point tonight, a real achievement at this point in the season. I got to Newcastle at 3.50, ten minutes ahead of schedule. It was a couple of minutes walk to the Euro Hostel where I got a fairly nice room for £18 a night. After unloading, I headed out on a pub crawl. The City Tavern was my first stop. They did their own cider, Hector’s Cloudy House. It was pricey at £4.95 a pint but tasted nice, very similar to Weston’s Old Rosie. Next up was the Mean Eyed Cat, a favourite of enthusiast ‘Cider Mike’ on Twitter where I had a pint of Gwatkins Farmhouse. I needed food by now, so headed to Wetherspoons. The Five Swans was a disappointing outlet, only a Mango fruit cider so I opted for a Strongbow with my double Tennessee burger which was £9.20, drink included. I stopped at a convenience store en route but after a pint of Hunts Cider at the Split Chimp, it was time to head off to the game. Catching a bus from Newcastle Central to St Omers Road, it was a 5-minute walk to the ground. There I paid £6 entry plus £1 for a decent programme and £1.50 for a great mince pie.

The two sides pre-match form could not have been any different. League leaders Dunston UTS were flying, winning 9 out of their last 10 league games, the only defeat coming at Sunderland RCA when they lost 3-0. Struggling Guisborough had not won for 6 games, their last win being in mid-January when they beat North Shields 2-0. It was no surprise then when the hosts took the lead after a few minutes. The goal was an extraordinary one though. An 85 yard shot from Liam Brooks was hooked off the line by a backpedalling Jordan Nixon but Mark Fitzpatrick followed up with a header. The visitors were still in the game and they got the equaliser on 14 minutes with a decent effort from Dan Earl. Neither side was consoling which made for a decent game. Guisborough had a good spell either side of half time and may well have upset the form book, but it wasn’t to be. A quick break and decent through ball from Brooks allowed Jack Elliott to slot home after an hour. From then on the hosts had much the better of the game, Elliott getting a third on 75 minutes with a low drive into the bottom left-hand corner from just outside the area. They held out for the final whistle as jubilant celebrations greeted their league title win.

So after the game, I headed back to the bus stop, practically meeting my bus at the bus stop. I had two pubs I wanted to visit. Firstly Beer Street, a nice little Micropub. The cider range was unremarkable but nevertheless, I had a pint of Weston’s Family Reserve. It was then a 10-minute walk to my second underwhelming Wetherspoons of the day, The Quayside. No real cider, so I had a pint of Thatchers Gold. The setting was nice though, right on the banks of the Tyne. I gave some spare change to a homeless bloke, cos well, some of us have been screwed over by the government more than others. I stopped at McDonald's on the way, getting a chicken selects meal before bed. It wasn’t the best but it was one of the few places that were open. I was back to my room well before midnight, where I watched Porridge and had a can of Irn Bru before going to sleep just after midnight.


The UTS stadium is a decent setup for step 5 football. I didn’t visit the bar, but the tea bar was very good, a decent range at fair prices and the pies were very nice. I can’t recall if there was much around the ground, but my pre-match research indicated that there were no pubs that I fancied visiting. The ground itself is decent, an area of cover on each side holding around 200 seated and 300 standing whilst the rest of the ground is open hard standing.

Saturday 23 March 2019

May & Baker - Gale Street

May & Baker FC
Barking Rugby Club
Gale Street

020 8595 7324

Ground Number: 839
Saturday 23rd March 2019
May & Baker 0-4 Frenford
Eastern Senior League D1 South


It's unclear what year the club was established but they were originally a works team on the May & Baker chemical company started by John May & William Gerrard Baker in Wandsworth, back in 1839. Thanks for various mergers, it no longer exists but the first records of the football club date back to 2005 when they played in the Essex Business Houses League. They joined the Essex Olympian League the following year, initially in its third tier. A runners-up spot behind Potter Street in 2006/07 was good enough for promotion to Division 1 where they finished runners-up to the same club. 2008/09 saw an excellent finish of 5th in the Premier Divison, though they were demoted back for some reason. This time they were Divison 1 champions and so from 2010 until 2018 they were in the Premier Division, finishes ranging from a high of 3rd in 2017 to a low of 11th in 2012. At the start of this season, May & Baker were invited to join the newly formed Eastern Senior League with them currently sitting 8th in Divison 1 South.

May & Baker entered the FA Vase for the first time this season, thrashing Burnham Ramblers 8-1  before a comprehensive 4-1 victory at Saffron Walden Town. A 4-2 win over North Greenford United required extra time to separate the sides but they'd go on to lose 1-0 at home to Swaffham Town in the 2nd Round.  It was still an impressive debut season in the competition though, defeating a couple of sides from a higher league.  Local cup wins include the Essex Junior Cup in 2017, the Essex Business Houses League Cup in 2006 and the Danny King Memorial Cup in 2012. They currently play near Becontree, home to one of the largest council estates in Britain and with a population of nearly 96,000. Notable former residents include Sir Alf Ramsay, Terry Venables, Max Bygraves and Dudley Moore.


I was limited in terms of distance of where I could go today as I had to be back home in time for my Dad’s 70th birthday meal. A trip to London on the train was a sound choice, but with me having been to most grounds in the capital, I only had one option. May and Baker were supposed to be vacating their current home at the end of the season, so it was a decent choice. I’d try to visit them a few Tuesdays ago, but the game was moved to Barking FC which I’ve already visited. The night before the game, I’d had a good few drinks celebrating England’s excellent 5-0 win over the Czech Republic and am really enjoying the side under Gareth Southgate’s stewardship. I got to bed at 11, falling asleep through booze and despite waking at around 5 the following morning, I felt great. I caught up on my YouTube subscriptions in bed before sorting some photos and tidying up my blog of a ground I’d previously been to on this day - in this case, Soham Town Rangers. After a bath and breakfast, I left home at 9.20, driving to Amersham station and parking up in a side street. I had time to get a paper before getting the 9.47 train into London, changing at Finchley Road and getting to London Bridge for Borough Market just before 11. I’d planned this area in as it was pretty much en route and had my usual cider stall stop plus other attractions. Of course, New Forest Cider was my first stop and although it's getting ever difficult to try something new having sampled so many, I managed to do so with Wilce's Vintage. It was excellent and full of depth, one of the better ones I've had. I had lots of time and places to go, so I walked to Bermondsey, passing a vintage market with a football stall along the way. My next Destination was the Hawkes Cider Tap, a venue I’d been meaning to visit for a while. There was plenty to be had here and I opted for a pint of their own Soul Trader, made on the premises. It wasn’t as good as the last one I had, but I still enjoyed it. There was a good music selection too, so I was in no rush to leave.

My final stop before footy was the Pommelers Rest Wetherspoons. Here, I had an early preview of their festival and Katy Perry was nice. For little over a tenner, I had a meal deal with smoky chilli and cheeseburger with all the trimmings. It was a 15-minute walk to Bermondsey station with me changing at West Ham and getting to Becontree at 2.40. It was just over 10 minutes to the ground, where I got a friendly and helpful welcome. The guy on the gate pointed out some statues across the road of Alf Ramsey and Bobby Moore amongst others, so I went across at half time. Meanwhile, the first half was pretty one-sided in favour of the visitors. The goalscoring was opened within 8 minutes when Harry Daly tapped home a cross. It was 2-0 to Frenford after 20 minutes, this time a scrappy chance from a few yards went down as an own goal. May & Baker were much improved in the second half but the game was over on 80 minutes, Larry Asare following up after his header was saved to make it 3-0. This knocked the stuffing out of the hosts and it was no shock when a cross from the left was met by a downward header from Charlie Fairhead to make it 4-0 a couple of minutes from time. I left promptly after the game after being thanked by a nice bloke from the club for coming. I made my way back to the station, getting there just after 5. I got on a train fairly quickly and after changes at West Ham, London Bridge and Harrow on the Hill, I was back at my car by 7. I'd have been there sooner had it not been for a 15-minute wait at Harrow, a result of a delayed earlier train, though I was cutting it fine. I was back at Amersham by 6.50 and home 20 minutes later. I dumped my car at home and bag inside and walked up to the Greek restaurant we were having dinner at. The food was nice, but the service was poor. It took 40 minutes for them to come and take our order and then another 2 hours for the main course to come. This meant that we weren't home until 10.15, though with no work in the morning and no Match Of The Day, I wasn't that bothered.


BARKING RUGBY CLUB or GALE STREET is a decent venue for a step 6 side. There's only one stand, a metal one which is elevated for a decent view. Across the other side is a viewing balcony which offers a great view. Included in this building is a large bar with a decent range of drinks, though I didn't see any food. There are a few takeaways near the station whilst there's plenty of parking to go round. Admission is a good value £5 which includes a basic programme. Overall, I'd recommend a visit to this friendly club.