Monday 16 March 2020

Chester FC - Deva Stadium

Chester FC
Deva Stadium
Bumpers Lane

01244 371376
Official Website

Ground Number: 92
Tuesday 10th April 2004
Chester City 0-2 Wycombe Wanderers
Coca Cola League 2



The club was formed as Chester FC and was established in 1885 as an amalgamation of Chester Rovers and Old King's Scholars. They added the 'City' suffix in 1983. In 1999, American Terry Smith took over the club and despite no knowledge of English Football insisted on becoming the manager and baffling the players with bizarre tactics. Steven Vaughan took over as owner in 2001 and initially appeared to be a saviour. However, during his controversial reign, the club entered administration in 2009. Laughably, the FA allowed the club to be taken over by a company owned by the Vaughan family. Unsurprisingly, the season was a complete disaster with the club starting the season with a 25-point penalty due to debts not being paid. A record-low attendance of 425 was recorded for the 1-0 defeat at home to Salisbury on Tuesday 19th January 2010 as fans stayed away in protest. The club's final game on Saturday, February 6th 2010 recorded an attendance of just 460 for a 2-1 defeat at home to Ebbsfleet United. The club failed to fulfil their next fixture at Forest Green Rovers and were thrown out of the league and their record expunged.


Former grounds include Faulkner Street, The OId Showground, Whipcord Lane and Sealand Road. The latter was Chester's home from 1906 until 1990. Following the failure to gain a safety certificate for the venue, the land was sold to a supermarket and the club was forced to share with Macclesfield Town for two years. They moved into their purpose-built Deva Stadium in 1992, the first match coming on 25th August with a 2-1 defeat to Stockport County. The club's nickname of 'The Seals' is a nod to the name of their former home. 


Chester started out playing friendlies only before joining the Combination in 1890. They'd remain here until 1910, save for between 1899 and 1901 when the club was temporarily disbanded as they did not have a home ground. They were champions here in 1909, following five runners-up spots in a row. The Lancashire Combination was next up, with Chester staying between 1910 and 1914 before the outbreak of World War 1. When football resumed in 1919, they played in the Cheshire League and were champions in 1922, 1926 and 1927. They'd leave for the Football League in 1931 but return in 2000, spending four years in the Conference before winning promotion back as champions in 2004. Following another relegation in 2009, the club would return to the Conference but would go out of business later that season with their results being officially expunged.


The club would have two spells in the Football League, the first lasting from 1931 until 2000 and the second from 2004 until 2009. Their best season would come in 1978
when they finished 5th in the third tier and the joint worst being in 1953 and 1954 when they finished bottom of the 3rd Division North which was the bottom tier at the time. The club was not automatically relegated though but they'd finish bottom of the lot again in 2000 and this time they were relegated.


In the FA Cup, the club's best-ever run in the FA Cup has been to the 5th Round twice - firstly in 1977 when they lost 1-0 at Wolves and then again in 1980 when they went out 2-1 at Ipswich Town. Chester reached the League Cup semi-finals in 1975, losing 5-4 to Aston Villa over two legs. Cup wins include the Welsh Cup (three times) and the  Bob Lord Trophy (Conference League Cup) in 2001. They also reached the area final of the Football League Trophy in 1987 (losing to Mansfield Town) and the semi-final of the FA Trophy in 2001 (losing 4-0 on aggregate to Canvey Island)


Chester have a bitter rivalry with local rivals Wrexham. The vast majority of Chester's stadium is actually in Wales and just 12 miles separate the two clubs. The rivalry is so intense is that the game is one of the only in the UK to be designated a 'bubble match' where away fans are forced to travel to the games on official coaches. Wrexham held the upper hand over their rivals with 66 wins to Chester's 49 with 31 games ending in a draw. Big wins include a 6-1 win for Chester in February 1965 and a 7-0 win for Wrexham in April 1953.


Chester's record income from a transfer came when they sold Ian Rush to Liverpool for £300,000 in 1980 and the record spent was £150,000 for Kevin Ellison from Tranmere Rovers. Record football league appearance holder is defender Ray Gill who played 406 times between 1951 and 1962. Their record scorer was Stuart Rimmer with 135 goals in 361 games over two spells in the 1980s and 1990s.


The two clubs were regular opponents during the early 1990s and mid-late 2000s. Over the 14 meetings, Wycombe very much holds the upper hand with ten wins to Chester's two with the other two games ending in draws. Chester City was Wycombe's opponent for a home game in 1993 with Wycombe winning 1-0 thanks to a Keith Scott goal. By coincidence, Wycombe would be the first-ever opponent for Chester when we beat them 2-0 in August 2004.  

Several players have played for both clubs.....

Cyrille Regis - sadly no longer with us. A great player who scored 9 in 35 for Wycombe and 7 in 29 for Chester.

Tony Hemmings - another good one for Wycombe, the pacy striker scored 12 goals in 49 for us and 2 in 19 for Chester.

Terry Howard - cultured defender who made 61 appearances for Wycombe in the 90s, on loan at Chester as a youngster in 1987.

Jermaine McSporran - great striker picked up from Oxford City for £75k in 1998, 41 goals in 186 apps for Wycombe. Single outing for Chester.

Iain Turner - young Everton keeper (at the time) who had loan spells at both clubs.

Carlos Lopez - a single appearance for both as a defender, the worst player ever to play for Wycombe in the Football League.

Brian McGorry - another hopeless player, a midfielder with 4 appearances for Wycombe and 14 for Chester. 

Drewe Broughton - a well-travelled striker who made 3 apps for Wycombe and 14 for Chester scoring 2 goals.

Alex Lynch - a goalkeeper who made 4 appearances (covering injury) for Wycombe and 27 for the new Chester club.


Following the demise of the old club, Chester fans would get together to form a phoenix club. Chester FC was formed in 2010 and would start out in the NPL D1 North (step 4 of non-league) Three straight league wins saw them promoted to the Conference / National League, but they struggled, with a best-ever finish of 12th in 2015. They were eventually relegated in 2018 and remain in the National North to this day. The club remains fan-owned and are currently managed by no-nonsense pair Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley who became well-known thanks to the BBC documentary about Salford City where they managed previously. 


The walled city of Chester dates back to Roman times and is close to the Welsh border. It has a population of 79,645 and is twinned with Sens in France, Lorrach in Germany and Senigallia in Italy. Famous people from the city include radio presenter Mike Parry, actors Daniel Craig and Malcolm Hebden, comedians Russ Abbott and Bob Mills and footballers Tom Heaton, Danny Murphy, Michael Owen and Ryan Shawcross.


I've made five visits to the Deva Stadium in all, but don't really have any strong memories of them. All of them were made during my seven-year run of not missing a game home or away for Wycombe but it was never a ground I really looked forward to visiting, owing to its isolated location. Nowadays with Google Maps, it wouldn't be so much of an issue, but I had a rotten sense of direction and no knowledge of the local area. On the upside, the Chester fans were always very decent and friendly and the stewarding fairly relaxed.

My first visit came in August 2004. The two teams were getting used to League Two - Wycombe after being relegated the previous season and Chester playing their first home game back in the Football League after a four-year absence. I travelled on the official supporters' coach and had a pretty decent Tuesday evening with Wycombe running out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Mike Williamson and Danny Senda. The same method was used for the following seasons game. Chester triumphed 1-0 thanks to a goal from Stuart Drummond as we slumped to a fifth consecutive defeat. I also used the same coach for our game there in January 2007, Wycombe winning 1-0 under Paul Lambert thanks to a Jermaine Easter goal.

I'd be roped into driving for our game during the 2007/08 season where we shared a 2-2 draw with Chester City. Sergio Torres opened the scoring on 13 minutes for Wycombe but Chris Holdroyd would equalise for the hosts three minutes later. They turned the game on its head, taking the lead through a John Murphy goal but John Sutton would equalise for the Chairboys. My final visit in August 2008 would be the final game of my seven-year run as I got fed up watching dull football at the same old places. I went on the Independent Supporters Club coach this time with my Dad and as always, we stopped at a pub. On the day goals from John Mousinho gave Wycombe a 2-0 victory. The season would end in contrasting fortunes for the clubs, Wycombe unconvincingly winning promotion under Pater Taylor playing dreadful football which was preferable to Chester City's season as they were relegated out of the Football League.


THE DEVA STADIUM is a smart but unremarkable ground that opened in 1992 and was not unlike Wycombe's home at the time. Three sides are seated with a capacity of 5.500 seats although the away end was originally terraced. Now the only standing area is the Hary McNally Terrace whose 1000 capacity is for home fans only. The food and club shop is fairly standard fare from what I remember. There's a small bar at the ground, otherwise, your options are limited to retail parks (10 minutes walk) or the city centre (25 minutes walk)

Sunday 15 March 2020

Allscott Heath - Allscott Heath Sports & Social Club

Allscott Heath FC
Allscott Heath Sports & Social Club
Shawbirch Road
TF16 5EQ

Official Website

Ground Number: 911
Saturday 14th March 2020
Allscott Heath 0-2 Bromyard Town
West Midlands (Regional) D1


The club was established in 2011 and immediately joined the Shropshire County Football League. Starting in Division 1 (which is at step 10 of the non-league pyramid, or step 14 of the league system overall). They were champions in their debut season but the league folded and Allscott were transferred to the West Mercian Regional Premier which was a step higher than where they were). They'd spend four seasons here, finishing as runners-up to FC Oswestry Town in 2016. This earned them promotion to the West Midlands (Regional) League Division 2 where they finished 3rd behind Telford Juniors and West Bromwich United to win promotion to Division 1 in 2017. They've been there ever since and are set for their best season ever this year following two 9th place finishes in their first two seasons.


To say the start of my holiday had been a disappointment would be an understatement. Back in September, I’d booked on the Eurostar and was looking forward to spending the weekend away there. But the spread of Coronavirus across Europe was quickening and so, understandably, my main game at PSV Eindhoven was called off on Tuesday. Sensing that others would quickly follow suit, I bailed out of the trip altogether and managed to get my money back on everything but the Eurostar train. The weather had also been up to its usual tricks and so after playing havoc with my midweek in Manchester, it also ruined my plans for Friday at AFC Totton. I was pleased when fellow hopper Anwar said he’d join me for Saturday, following the cancellation of the Football League games, understandable given the large and tightly packed crowds. What was disappointing was to see so many lower leagues follow like sheep when crowds rarely exceed a few hundred and you’d be in more danger with a visit to a shop or pub. Our treble in Wales at Cambrian & Clydach, Pontyclun and Cardiff Met Uni had bitten the dust after Wales called everything off.  Luckily, there were some carrying on and so Friday afternoon was spent trying to keep up with leagues decisions on whether to play or not after the FA had left it up to them to decide. There were just under 40 options available and so after consulting with my fellow hopper, we decided upon a double. The Midland League still had U21 games on and there was a reasonable ground with a railed pitch at Barlestone St Giles for our morning game between NKF Burbage and Milton Keynes College as well as backups should we need them. As part of a double today, I needed a second game. Fellow hopper Anwar was had been keen on going to AFC Telford for a long time, but with me having already visited in recent times, this was never really considered as an option on my part. However, with choice severely restricted on this day, I looked at what else was nearby and was pleased to see that Allscott Heath were at home. I'd spotted them on a fellow hopper Gareth's blog a couple of weeks ago and fancied a visit as it looked pretty decent for the level.

On the day of the game, I woke at my usual work time around 4 am, my body clock still not figuring out I was on my time off. With the decision being left so late, I'd not had time to research club history and form so I used the time to do just this. I ran out of time in the end, getting my things together and leaving just before 8. I was with Anwar by 8.20 and he was there waiting for me, so we got on our way. It was a decent journey up and we were at the Barlestone St Giles FC by 10.10. Sadly the referee decided to call it off around five minutes later, much to the annoyance of the MK College team from whom it was a 100-mile round trip and both teams were happy to play. Luckily, we had a backup in place, so after getting some pictures of the ground we made the ten-mile dash to Quorn, a revisit for me but a new ground for Anwar. Opponents Beaumont Park were already 1-0 up when we arrived ten minutes into the game in what was a decent contest on a 3G surface. Both teams played some decent football and there were plenty of saves made by both keepers. The visitors got a second from a tight angle around twenty minutes from time and probably deserved their win. We left at 12.20 and it was another easy journey across to Shropshire. We'd been hoping to find a takeaway en-route but saw nothing obvious and so after dropping Anwar at 1.40 I looked on my phone and found a chippy. As I was getting near, I spotted a Morrisons and decided to go there instead as I needed a drink as well. I got myself some chicken for lunch as well as a few other bits before carrying on to the ground. I arrived at 2.30 and went straight in, paying £3 for entry and a basic programme. I had a brief chat with Gareth whose blog inspired my visit whilst I was walking around the ground taking photos before settling on a spot near the halfway line for the game.

Hosts Allscott Heath were in 2nd place going into today's game but were in indifferent form with one win (3-2 at FC Darlaston), two draws (1-1 against Wrens Nest & 2-2 at Willenhall Town) and one defeat (2-3 at Sikh Hunters since the start of February. Bromyard had played a game in this period but had won one (5-3 against Wellington Amateurs) drawn two (1-1 at Wrens Nest and 3-3 against Wyrley) and two defeats (0-4 against Westfields and 1-2 against Droitwich Spa). The start of the game was delayed slightly after the referee ordered someone to apply some tape to the goal nets as they were coming away from the post. Allscott started brightly and the Bromyard keeper made a couple of smart saves to keep the scores level. Generally, though, real chances were at a premium in what was a physical game with robust challenges from both sides. I thought I was going to see a dull 0-0 but on 65 minutes the scoring was opened in strange circumstances. I didn't have the best view as I was up the other end but a home defender appeared to slot the ball past his own keeper with the glovesman well out of his goal. Two minutes later the score was doubled, this time a short backpass left the keeper with little time to make a proper clearance with Lewis Page charging the ball down and deflecting the ball into the net. To compound Allscott's misery they had Armando Wood sent off and missed a good chance to pull a goal back near the end.

I left the ground at 4.55 and turned on BBC Radio Shropshire to listen to the footy. Anwar had seen Telford beat Kettering 3-1 and that was the main talk with all the football league games off. I reached him by 5.10 and we made our way home. The radio was dull without football phone-ins so I listened to a few podcasts instead. After stopping for petrol at Tesco, I dropped Anwar off at 7.20 and made my way home. There was a road closure with a couple of miles diversion, so it was 7.50 before I got in. I spent the evening typing some of this blog and catching up on things, although with no Match Of The Day, it was a rare sober Saturday for me with no Match Of The Day which was probably for the best as I'd had a fair few drinks in the previous few days. It's sad to think that this could be my last football match for some time, but I'll just have to wait and see what decisions are made in the coming days with regards to postponing leagues schedules.


ALLSCOTT SPORTS & SOCIAL CLUB is a decent setup for step 7. The pitch is fully railed and has hard standing on two sides. There's a small area of cover for around 20 standing and a few sitting on a bench. There is a basic clubhouse selling cold beer and cider, hot and soft drinks as well as snacks. There are a couple of pubs nearby and a reasonable amount of parking but no public transport. The nearest train station is Wellington, over three miles away and getting to the ground involves a walk along roads without pavements.

Thursday 12 March 2020

Golcar United @ AVRO - Vestacare Stadium

Vestacare Stadium
Whitebank Road
Greater Manchester

AVRO FC Website
AVRO FC Twitter
Golcar United NWCFL Page
Golcar United Twitter

Ground Number: 910
Wednesday 11th March 2020

Golcar United 5-3 Ashton Town
NWCFL D1 North


The location was originally the Whitebank Stadium and this hosted Oldham Borough until they left in 2012. They were established in 1964 as Oldham Dew, changing their name to Oldham Town and finally Oldham Borough in 2009. Highlights of their history included a North West Counties Division 2 title in 1998, though the stadium lacked the facilities needed to take the promotion. Cup highlights included a run to the 2nd Qualifying Round od the FA Cup in 2003 before they lost to Radcliffe Borough. The FA Vase 2nd Round was also reached on four occasions. The club would go on for three further seasons in exile - two years at Atherton Collieries and one at Mossley before resigning from the North West Counties League in 2015. Pictures of the ground as it was in February 2008 are below -  at least the outside of it. These I took whilst passing through the area.


The stadium would remain without a tenant until 2017. AVRO FC, long term members of the Manchester League had won the step 7 Premier Division three times but their facilities had stopped them gaining promotion on the first two. In a move that suited all parties, the local council used their old Lancaster Club for housing and refurbished the stadium for them including lights and a 3G pitch. It was named the Vestacare Stadium in a partnership with a local care provider. AVRO won the Manchester League in their first season at the new ground and made it a double promotion last season by finishing as runners-up to Longridge Town in the NWCFL D1. There was also a notable run to the FA Vase 3rd Round before a loss to West Auckland Town. Latterly, Huddersfield based club Golcar United have been using the ground due to the weather rendering their home ground unplayable.


When I planned this little trip away, I tried to factor in an afternoon game. The only real choice was an NPL Academy game at Runcorn Linnets and so the North was my destination of choice. I planned in a couple of evening games and tried to do a couple of days as cheaply as possible by getting a cheap room and an overnight coach back home. There'd been a bit of drama on Tuesday, several games being called off so I had to go to a game at Manchester City's Academy Stadium. My weekend jaunt to Holland was also sabotaged by PSV calling off their game due to the Coronavirus and although the refund policy on the ticket itself is unclear, I did manage to cancel all my hotels and coaches on time. Time will tell if I'm able to salvage anything from the £108 I've invested into the Eurostar ticket.  I was hoping for better luck on Wednesday and I got a reasonable enough night's sleep, waking up 15 minutes ahead of my 7.30 alarm. After a shower and getting dressed, I was away at 8, walking the hour or so to the coach station as it was only marginally slower than taking the bus. I had half an hour to kill in Manchester, but soon enough, it was time for my coach to Liverpool, at a bargain £5 return. As I was arriving in Liverpool though, the game was called off, luckily before I'd headed to Runcorn.


I decided to make the best of a bad situation and have a day in Liverpool. The Albert Dock was close by and so I had a nice time wandering around there, seeing several Atletico Madrid fans over here for their Champions League clash with Liverpool. I needed a few bits and so set my Google Maps for Home Bargains. However, I spotted a Wetherspoons en route and so stopped off at my 199th in the chain for a pint of Black Dragon which was a pocket-friendly £2.99 a pint. I was feeling a bit better after this and so after spending an hour slowly drinking while I caught up with life and typed this blog, headed for my original destination at 12.30. I bought my bits and also had some lunch in the form of salt and pepper chips from a chippy called the Lobster Pot. They were great and a speciality on Merseyside apparently. After grabbing a few bits, I realised I had plenty of time to kill and so got a bus to the set of the old Channel 4 soap Brookside, which is now a real-life housing estate. It was smaller than I remember but instantly recognisable from TV. It was 3 by the time I got my bus back to Liverpool, so I had time for another pint or two. The bus seemed to stop at every stop and so time was not as generous as I'd hoped. I had a pint of Yarde's Devon cider and a half of Unruly Raspberry Lager which was brewed on the premises and a change from my usual selection. I was at the stop ten minutes early but my coach was a few minutes late anyway. I was glad to get a double seat to myself again as three devices were low on battery and I needed the USB sockets. We got to the coach station good and early and so that gave me plenty of time to dash across to Picadilly Gardens which was just as well as the stops were poorly signposted. My 6.50 bus left more or less on time with me paying £5 for the return which was OK, but I've had better value. I got to the ground at 7.30. Entry was £4 and a basic programme was £2. I also had a quid on the raffle and got a pie and a pint for £5.30 before going out to watch the game.


Golcar United were going well in the league, sitting 5th, just below the four promotion places. Their last six games included three wins (including a notable win 5-0 wins over St Helens Town, two draws (including 4-4 draw against Cleator Moor Celtic) and a 3-1 defeat to AFC Blackpool. Ashton Town were a place below in 5th, but both teams had considerable ground to make up on 4th place Shelley, albeit with a few games in hand. They were in slightly less favourable form, winning two, drawing one and losing three of their last six and this included two defeats to lowly Garstang during this period. The hosts started the brighter side and nearly went ahead after a couple of minutes after #7 fired into the side netting after a couple of minutes. They did take the lead on 18 minutes, #8 firing a free-kick into the all before Michael Tunnicliffe followed up with a shot that thundered in off the bar. Ashton Town would equalise a minute later. A free-kick was put into the area, Chad Whyte's shot was saved and Anthony Walsh followed up from close range. But almost immediately, Golcar were back in front when Karl Jones capitalised on a weak header by nipping in and putting the ball past Chris Cheetham. It was 3-1 on the half-hour, Alex Hallam showing strength to win the ball from his opponent and composure to finish well in the bottom corner. Ashton Town pulled one back on 34 minutes, Chad Whyte advancing into the area before slotting the ball in the bottom corner. Half time came in what had been a pulsating game and on 49 minutes, Walsh got his second, capitalising on indecision in the home defence to equalise for 3-3. The visitors were much the better side at this point and they fired into the side netting on 62 minutes and seeing lots of the ball. Ashton were denied a penalty soon after, leading to the Golcar manager to brand the felled player a 'cheating fuc*er' and a fan in the stand called him a 'big doylem' according to Urban Dictionary, that's a Geordie word for 'complete and utter idiot'. That was after Golcar dispatched a penalty of their own on 68 minutes, Nathan Tayo scoring after a push inside the area. The scoreline was harsh on Ashton, who had bought a good few fans, though both teams deserved a win from a game like this. The points were sealed on 86 minutes, Hallam getting his second with a shot that clipped the left-hand post on the way in to make it 5-3. It had been rich entertainment for the 48 in attendance that had braved stormy conditions to watch the game and for me, it was my game of the season.

I left the ground at 9.50, having to wait 15 minutes in the drizzle for my bus. It took half an hour to get back into Manchester and I got dropped off near my favourite pub in the city, The Crown and Kettle. But for the second day in a row, it was closed. I did consider trying the one Wetherspoons in town that I'd not been to, this would have taken me up to a landmark 200 visited, but it was a bit far. Instead, I headed straight for the bus stop, hoping to spot something on the way. Limited cash funds meant I could only afford a pint, I really could have done with more to send me off to sleep, but it wasn't to be. I was at my coach stop 20 minutes ahead of time and it turned up 10 minutes later, the service quite a popular one. We left on time at 11.45 and stopped at various places - Leeds, Wakefield services, Sheffield, Loughborough, Leicester and Milton Keynes en route. The seats were uncomfortable compared to National Express, but then that service would have been an extra £20. I barely got any sleep, if any at all, not helped by them blasting out announcements at ear-splitting volumes or perhaps I was sitting under the only speaker on the coach. There were delays on the M1 due to roadworks and this meant we got back to London at 6.05, twenty minutes late. It was a serene and peaceful walk along deserted streets to Victoria Station and I got there well before 6.30 when the cost of my journey home would go up by £3. The Victoria Line was very busy, even at that time in the morning and after switching to the Bakerloo Line, I opted to head to Marylebone instead of Baker Street to get the more pleasant Chiltern Line back to Chalfont. I was back by 7.30 and home just after 8, having enjoyed a couple of days away, despite the setbacks. It had not been as cheap per game as I'd hoped due to losing my middle game, but it still wouldn't ruin my footy budget too much. Bad news was received as I type this blog - all football suspended in Belgium, so that's my weekend over there off, thankfully refunds were claimed on all but the Eurostar, leaving me £108 down.


The Vestacare Stadium is a decent setup, with a combination of old and new. The new is a large metal stand, capacity around 150,  although this is enhanced by it being elevated. There are also two covered areas - one behind the goal and another opposite, capable of holding 100 between them. The rest of the ground is open, with a few steps of terracing in places. Food and drink facilities are fairly limited - there are two well-sized bars with your usual clubhouse selection and Hollands pies too - sample cost - £5.30 for a pie and a pint. There is AVRO merchandise available, but not on my visit as it wasn't their game. There is also a convenience store a couple of minutes walk away, but not much else in the area. Travel wise bus 76 gets you there from Manchester at a cost of £5 return (day ticket) while there is plenty of parking on the streets around the ground.