Friday 30 October 2020

Wantage Town - Alfredian Park

Wantage Town FC
Alfredian Park
Manor Road
OX12 8DW

01235 764781
Official Website

Ground Number: 293
Friday 30th August 2013

Wantage Town 2-3 Didcot Town
FA Cup Preliminary Round


The club was established in 1892 and played in local leagues at first such as the Swindon & District, the North Berkshire and the Reading & District. They won four titles in the Swindon & District League and after the final of these, they moved up to the Hellenic League Premier Divison. Wantage Town have spent the vast majority of their Hellenic League membership in the Premier Division and have been champions twice - in 2011 and 2014. Their lowest Hellenic League finish was 17th in Division 1 in 1979. After the second Hellenic League title, Wantage Town moved up to the step 4 Southern League D1 South & West. They would stay here for three seasons but always struggled before being relegated back in 2017. They'd become Hellenic League champions for the third time in 2019 and last season competed in the Southern League D1 Central. They were one of the few beneficiaries of the season being abandoned - having gained just one win and one draw from 28 games when the season was abandoned. This season has seen a huge improvement with three wins from seven games so far with lessons obviously learned over the break.

Wantage Town's best FA Cup run came in 2018 when they beat  Oxhey Jets, Slimbridge and Bishops Cleeve before they lost to Hungerford Town on penalties in a 2nd Qualifying Round replay. The FA Trophy has not proved a happy hunting ground for the club and my latest visit would represent their best progress, whatever the outcome. Their best run in the FA Vase has been the 3rd Round, reached on four occasions. The club has won numerous local cups including the Berks & Bucks Intermediate Cup in 1955, the North Berks Cup in 1920 & 1921, the Reading Senior Cup in 1983, the Hungerford Challenge Cup in 1994, the Newton Greystoke Cup in 1992 & 1999 and a number of Hellenic League Cups. The club record attendance of 550 came for a friendly against Oxford United in August 2003. The historic market town of Wantage was part of Berkshire up until 1974 when it was reclassified as Oxfordshire. It has a population of just over 11,329 and was the birthplace of King Alfred The Great in 849, hence the ground's name of Alfredian Park. Other famous people from the town include poet John Betjeman. former football commentator Hugh Johns and jockey Lester Piggott.


With my trip to Rome in a months time, and my plans to see Lazio play, I was trying to make that ground my 300th. With me currently being on 292 before tonight's game, I had to get my skates on and do 3 in a week in some cases. So tonight was a great chance to get started, a local derby in the FA Cup and a nice Friday night to spend out watching football. I had been sorting some of my previous PC problems out since my last game, with stuff getting sold on and going back. Also, I had won £40 on bets during the week, and with Anwar back in the passenger seat and keeping me company for tonight's game, things were looking a bit better financially. I had spent the day working till 12.30, before going home and relaxing in the afternoon. I left home at 4.20 and went into Aylesbury for a look in a few shops. I had also been eyeing up a pub, the Royal Oak, just half a mile from Wantage's ground as they had up to 20 real ciders, with me hoping to try one or two, bearing in mind the fact that I had to drive home. I met Anwar at 5.45 and despite having a bit of trouble finding the ground as the entrance was not very clear, we were in there by 7. I paid my £6 to get in, plus another £1 for a programme. It's the 3rd out of 3 FA Cup games this season that I have paid for out of my car window, just like Harry Redknapp giving an interview on transfer deadline day!

I jogged down to the pub, getting there around 7.10. Time was really limited and so I only had time for a quick one. I chose CiderNiks Noveau and as it was a bit of a bitter and acidic one, the barman let me try it before I bought it. It wasn't the best I have had and was certainly different, but I wanted to make my judgement over a whole pint. It was certainly good value, especially for the south, coming in at £2.80 a pint. I only wish I'd had time to try more. After that, I went looking for dinner and as I was in a rush, there weren't many options and so I settled on a portion of chips for £1.50 from the local Chinese. They were pretty nice, but I was still hungry when I got back to the ground and got some more from them too. I got back with around 8 minutes to go before kick-off. I bumped into fellow groundhopper Laurence who introduced me to a few people off of the non-league message board that I go onto, including a Portsmouth fan who I chatted to throughout the night. I then went to find Anwar and we found a decent spot to watch the game from.

The game started at a good pace and the home side could have had a couple within the opening 5 minutes. However, it was a scrappy own goal that opened the scoring. Pablo Heynsham's cross was deflected into his own net by Sean Webb. Both sides had good chances to score, but it was an excellent curling shot from Jermaine Ferreira that gave Didcot a comfortable 2 goal lead at half time. It was a fairly slow start to the second half but Wantage got a goal back on the hour mark when Richard Claydon finished from close range but minutes later Heynsham restored the 2 goal lead with a great strike from distance. Claydon, who had only come on as a substitute in the second half got his and Wantage's second with time to spare to give it a real go. But despite giving everything, Didcot managed to hold on and Wantage's FA Cup dream was over for another season. After the game, it was a much quicker and clearer drive home and after stopping at Tesco and dropping Anwar off, I was back home by 11.05. I had a couple of ciders and watched Baker and Kelly on BT Sport before going to sleep.


There has been a desperate lack of Friday night football, given the fact that clubs could see a significant attendance boost when playing on a Friday night. Even in these days of limited capacities, the vast majority of clubs were not filling their grounds. I'd resigned myself to a night in this week but then on Monday, fellow hopper Adam pointed me in the direction of Wantage Town v North Leigh, a local derby in the FA Trophy. It would be a revisit with me having been in 2013 but my blog could have done with a spruce up and beggars can't be choosers. I had to book my ticket in advance and it was a reasonable £8.67 including booking fee. The only shame was that an excellent pub that I had gone to last time, the Royal Oak, was still closed for drinking in following the lockdown but I was hoping to get some cider to take away, though I couldn't make the early collection time stated on their website. Despite making initial contact, they hadn't replied since Monday which was annoying as I was looking forward to picking some stuff up to take home. I'd been tired in the days leading up to the game and was in bed by 9 on the night before. Thankfully, work was fairly easy and I was out by 11. I spent the rest of the day home and left at 5.20, meeting Colin at our friend Paul's house at 5.45. We were soon on our way, the roads were clear but there were a lot of small country roads to go down. We got to the ground at 6.50 and parked up. I was peckish and keen to help out the club so I got myself a portion of chips for £1.50. They were OK, certainly not as good as the ones I had at North Leigh though. I took a place on the dugout side for the game though it was quite busy all around the ground, though people were generally following social distancing rules.

Looking at the form, Wantage had enjoyed mixed results in the last six games. They'd beaten Thame United 3-2 in their latest game and Sholing 2-0 in the FA Trophy. They'd also picked up a 3-1 over AFC Dunstable. On the flip side, they'd lost heavily, 5-0 at Berkhamsted recently and also 3-2 at Kempston Rovers and 4-2 at Aylesbury United. North Leigh had also had a mixed bag of results with a 4-2 win over Thatcham Town in the previous round of the FA Trophy and a 1-0 win over Coleshill Town in the league. They'd drawn 2-2 at home to St Neots but had suffered some heavy defeats - 4-1 at Bedford Town and 5-0 at both Halesowen Town and Yaxley. The game started scrappily, Wantage having slightly the better of the chances. but it was North Leigh who opened the scoring on 32 minutes when Callum McNish headed home a cross from the left at the back post. McNish got his and his sides second from the spot on 42 minutes after a penalty was awarded for handball. A minute from the break it was 3-0 North Leigh and pretty much game over thanks to a spectacular long-range effort from Lance Williams. Williams then got his marching orders in the second half after tempers boiled over. Wantage were the better side in the second period, but they didn't create many chances. The hosts did pull one back on 58 minutes when a high ball was put forward and Ryan Williams nodded home. North Leigh sealed the win right at the death, it was a delightful run down the left by the North Leigh man, he cut inside and curled a delicious shot in at the far post to make it 4-1. We left around 9.25 and it was a much better journey home. I dropped Colin off in Amersham and got some petrol at Tesco before getting home at 10.40. There were strong rumours of a second lockdown - only this time, schools and universities would be kept open. You know - the very things that opened in September, just as the cases rocketed, but I'm guessing that's just a coincidence. Just as it was a coincidence that ever stat table I have seen has education as the place you are most likely to catch the virus. Just par for the course with this useless government and the robotic lockdown fanatic in charge of the opposition is little better.


ALFREDIAN PARK is typical of grounds at Hellenic Level, in that it only has one stand. But it is one of the best in the league, running the full length of the pitch and being a combination of terracing and seating. This is more than enough for most games. The rest of the ground is open and is used as a car park, so if it's cold you can sit in your car and watch the game. The tea bar is good and well priced, the chips I had were decent enough and hot drinks like Bovril were only 50p. There is a clubhouse that I didn't try, but no club shop that I could see. 

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Kirby Muxloe - Kirby Muxloe Sports Club

Kirby Muxloe FC
Kirby Muxloe Sports Club
415 Ratby Lane
Kirby Muxloe

Ground Number: 940
Tuesday 27th October 2020
Kirby Muxloe 3-2 Cadbury Athletic
Midland League D1


The club was established in 1910 and for the first 70 or so years of their history, they played in local leagues such as the Leicester Mutual League and Leicester City League. In 1982 they joined the Leicestershire Senior League in its second tier. After a 3rd place finish in 1985, they were promoted to the Premier Division. Kirby Muxloe enjoyed a credible 3rd place finish in their first season but would be relegated back in 1989 after a bottom-placed finish. They would remain in Division 1 until 1995 when they were champions and were promoted back to the Premier Division. They finished as runners-up in 1998 (behind Oadby Town) and then again in 2004 (this time behind Loughborough Dynamo). They were champions in 2008 and became founder members of the East Midlands Counties League at step 6 of the non-league pyramid. It was a highly-successful first season with Kirby Muxloe finishing as champions for the second successive season, earning promotion to the Midland Alliance in 2009. This merged into the Midland League in 2014 and in their debut season, Kirby Muxloe enjoyed the best finish in the club's history, finishing 5th in the step 5 league. They were transferred to the United Counties League in 2015 and results gradually tailed off. By 2019, they were relegated after a second-bottom finish. They moved back to the Midland D1 following relegation and last season were 7th when the season was abandoned and occupy a similar position at the time of this game.

In the FA Cup, Kirby Muxloe had their best run in 2016. That season, they overcame Bardon Hill, Bottesford Town and Leicester Road prior to a defeat to Boston United in the 2nd Qualifying Round. The FA Vase has seen little success, with their best run being the 1st Round, reached on ten occasions. Local cup honours include the Leicestershire & Rutland Senior Cup in 2007. The village of Kirby Muxloe has a population of just under 5,000 and has been home to actress Alison King who has played Carla Connor in Coronation Street and Lynda Block in Dream Team. The club used to have an interesting and picturesque badge but they changed to something more traditional a few years back.


Kirby Muxloe had been on myself and Anwar's 'to-do list' for some time but it never seemed to come up when we had a Tuesday free. At 75 miles from Anwar, it was one of the closest grounds we had not been to. I was, as usual trying to be reasonably careful with Covid precautions and despite nearby Leicester having had their problems, Kirby Muxloe was in the Blaby ward and was in the medium tier. The previous day I had a busy day at work, what with all the kids off for half term, the store was busy and I ended up doing a 5 am - 3.30 pm shift. It was a relief to come home and have an evening at home, knowing that I had the next day off. As usual, I had a good nights sleep on Monday, waking at 8 the following morning. The plan was to walk to town and back for lunch but with rain all over the few hours that I wanted it to stay dry, so I decided not to bother. Instead, I stayed at home, planning games for the future with an FA Trophy revisit at Wantage Town on Friday and something in the FA Trophy or FA Vase on Saturday - most likely Whittlesey Athletic, Fakenham Town or Malvern Town. What with the rain calling several games off, I was glad that I'd chosen a game on a 3G pitch, though it was a slim choice of options to choose from in the first place. I spent the afternoon wishing the time away and clock watching until the time came to leave at 4.10. I needed to get petrol on the way, but that turned out to be a bit of a faff. My local station had two pumps out of three not working and so with a big queue forming, I headed off to Aylesbury. Luckily, there was one that costed the same en route. There was then a road closure and lots of slow drivers, meaning I didn't get to Anwar until 4.50, ten minutes later than planned. Luckily, he was there waiting for me and we were soon on our way, making slow but steady progress up towards the M1 which we got on at near Northampton. It then sped up a bit and we were at our pre-match food place of Lee's House in Braunstone by 6.30. I had salt and chilli chips and a burger for 4.10. The food was great and service excellent and it went straight to the top of the league that I'd done on a spreadsheet for salt and chilli chips. From there, it was to the ground which we arrive at just before 7 amid chaos and a full car park. It turned out there were a load of kids practising on the pitch and so we had to park a few minutes away in a side street. The turnstiles were not open so we walked through the gate, a man coming and collecting our £6 entrance fee a few minutes later. I spent pre-match typing my blog, but only had enough time for a quick scan of social media before kick-off.

Kirby Muxloe were in 6th place at the time of the game. In their last six league games, they'd won three - beating both Uttoxeter Town & Stafford Town 3-2 at home and 2-0 on the road at Heath Hayes. An entertaining 3-3 draw at home to Studley and defeats at Quorn (2-5) and Leicester Road (2-4) were their other results. Cadbury Athletic were struggling down in 17th place and had lost all six of their last league games including a 7-0 defeat at Ashby Ivanhoe and a 6-1 defeat at Atherstone. A 1-0 win over Lichfield City in the FA Vase had provided a welcome break in the middle of this run. The hosts took the lead on 7 minutes, Jack O'Brien advancing down the left before powering a shot into the top of the net from 20 yards out. It had been fairly even up to that point and although Cadbury Athletic had a series of corners, they came to nothing. It was 2-0 on 34 minutes, hesitancy in the visiting defence allowed Daniel Barber to set up Adam Parry who finished from 10 yards. The half finished quite late and a long half time meant that the second period started at 8.54. The visitors started the second half brightly and they pulled a goal back on 47 minutes. The ball fell kindly for Ethan Hanks who scored with an excellent dipping shot from the edge of the area. It was all square a couple of minutes later, a well-worked move ended with Wade Malley finishing from the edge of the area. It was left to Kirby Muxloe's Zakari Adams to score a sensational winner, running from the edge of his own area, right down the left channel before cutting in and slotting home from inside the area.

It had been an excellent evening's entertainment for the 47 in attendance and such a match deserved more support. Back in Wycombe, Adams Park had been empty once more but Wycombe managed a point against Watford, their first in the Championship but it should have been all three but for some debatable refereeing and rotten luck. Certainly, it might have made a difference had fans been allowed in, even in limited numbers. But this stubborn government refuse point blank, despite it being one of the safest things you can do, what with it being outside. It was 9.50 by the time we left and local station BBC Three Counties had already packed up despite it being a local derby between two of their sides and it being less than ten minutes after the game ended. Instead, we had to listen to the 'Sports Bar' on TalkSPORT - pretty terrible on the multiple time I have listened before. But maybe I was in a good mood or maybe they have actually improved, but it was quite an entertaining listen, even of they did say Watford should be embarrassed for only drawing against Wycombe. They even had a Watford fan on, who was very gracious and decent and admitted that Wycombe should have won. I dropped Anwar off at 11.10 and put on a Podcast for the rest of the journey, getting home at 11.35. I was in bed within 20 minutes but it took me a while to drop off. I was up at 4 in the morning as per, so it wasn't ideal, but at least the day at work wasn't too long. Next up for me is a revisit to Wantage Town for their game against North Leigh on Friday and most probably Whittlesey Athletic v Mildenhall Town on Saturday.


KIRBY MUXLOE SPORTS CLUB is a smart community hub but quite plain from a groundhopping point of view. The pitch is a caged 3G but has plenty of space around all four sides for open hard standing. There are a couple of covered seating areas, one for around 100, another for 25. The latter one is brick-built with the former being the ever-common 'Arena' type unit. There's not much near the ground and all the food and drink facilities are outside, so I didn't check them out. Parking can be a bit of a nightmare if there are lots of community things going on, but I'd imagine it would be less chaotic at other times.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Redditch Borough - The MSS Ground

Redditch Borough FC
The MSS Ground
Redditch Borough Sports & Social Club
Cherry Tree Walk
B97 6PB

Ground Number: 939
Saturday 24th October 2020
Redditch Borough 2-3 Knowle 
Midland D2


The club is a fairly young one, having only been formed in 2006, initially as an Under 10's side managed by current first team manager Julian Workman and family relation Kim Workman. They progressed up the age groups playing in local leagues before joining open-age football and the Midland League in 2014. Starting in Division 3 (step 8) they finished a credible 4th in their first season. The following year, they finished as runners-up behind Leamington Hibernian. They have been in Division 2 ever since, their highest finish coming in their debut season of 2016/17 when they finished 4th. They were not enjoying the best of times last season, sitting second-bottom when the season was cut short in March.

Redditch Borough have played once in the FA Vase - in 2016 they played Rocester at home, losing 5-2. Local cups won include the Lee James Challenge Cup in 2019, the MFL Challenge Vase in 2016 and the Evesham Hospital Senior Cup in 2016, 2017 & 2018. The town of Redditch has a population of just over 85,000 and was once the centre of the needle and fishing tackle industry. Notable people to be born or live in Redditch include comedian Freddie Starr, politician Jacqui Smith and various footballers including Nottingham Forest's Joe Lolley. Borough share the town with Redditch United who play in the Southern League Premier Division.


After our morning game, fellow hopper Anwar & I needed an afternoon game. Several options were considered, but eventually, we came to an agreement that we'd do Redditch Borough. I'd originally meant to do this game on the train last year, but the enemy of the people, the weather rained off this and most of my backups and so I ended up doing Team Dudley on the 3G instead. I'd still had a great day out doing it on the train, getting cheap tickets and visiting some great pubs. It was an even bigger enemy, a global pandemic that meant that doing this game on the train would be unwise and also I was trying to avoid areas that were in the 'high' Covid tier. Redditch was fine in this respect and so plans were put in place to double up with a morning game. We left our game at Bartley Green and headed off for lunch. It was a slow old journey to AK Grill thanks to local roadworks, but we got there just after 1. The parking situation was not great and we had to park about five minutes away - not great with torrential rain in situ. Lunch was good though, I had a half-pound handmade burger with chips and a drink for £5.39 and it was excellent. From there, we headed off to Northfield Town FC to get some pictures and we both keen to return for a game. We got to the ground at 2.10 and as it was still raining, we went in the bar. I had a pint of Thatchers Gold for £3.20 in pleasant surroundings and with efficient table service. We went outside with 15 minutes to go with plenty of cover available. There was still plenty of rain too, so this was appreciated. As with the morning game, the players and the referee gathered in a circle, though this time there was a minutes applause as opposed to a minutes silence. It turned out to be for Dave Taylor who had been involved with Alcester Town and who had recently died.

Redditch Borough hadn't enjoyed the best of seasons last time out and the hangover had continued into this term with the team sitting 13th out of 16 teams so far. They'd won 3-1 at Coventry Alvis and drawn 2-2 at home to FC Stratford. However, they'd lost 3-2 to Barnt Green Spartak, 2-0 to Bolehall Swifts, 6-0 at Coton Green and 4-3 to Hampton. Opponents Knowle were in 5th place so far, having played a couple of games more. Highlights had included a 7-1 win against Lane Head and a 4-3 win over Fairfield Villa although they'd suffered a 4-0 defeat to Solihull United. The hosts started on fire and were ahead within a couple of minutes, a good through ball and a composed finish into the corner. On 8 minutes, it was all square when a corner from the left was headed home at the near post.  It was a similar routine on 14 minutes to put Knowle ahead, this time the ball cannoned in off the bar on the way in. It was all square on 19 minutes, in a similar style to the first goal, another good through ball and a smart finish. On 38 minutes, a long drop-kick from Knowle keeper Craig Johnson took an awkward bounce and deceived his opposite number and resulted in an extraordinary goal. It was all for nothing though, as the referee, maybe fancying a full days pay for half a days work, called the game off. Both teams wanted to play on with Knowle ahead and Redditch Borough having the advantage of playing down the slope in the second half. A number of volunteers for the home team worked on the pitch but the referee told them to fork off and defiantly called the game off. It was a shame and had been a well balanced and entertaining game, but there was nothing I could do about it. I was still going to count it as visited after seeing five goals though.

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Redditch Borough 1-2 KNOWLE already

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Anwar was keen to see the tail end of another game and so we headed off to Alvechurch v Needham Market where I'd already visited. It was nice for me to get some fresh pictures, even if I wouldn't be adding the game to my records. We even saw a late goal, a penalty winner in the last minute which helped the visitors win 2-1. We'd been following the Wycombe match all afternoon and feared the worst after they went 1-0 down after three minutes at Norwich. However, we equalised ten minutes after and looked to be heading for our first Championship point until a hotly disputed free-kick was dispatched in the last minute for the hosts, not the only questionable decision according to BBC Three Counties which we listened to on the way home. I'd decided to pay another visit to an off licence called Cotteridge Wines which was six miles away in the wrong direction though it was worth the effort as I got a load of ciders that I'd not tried before and it was indeed an excellent establishment. The 606 Radio 5 phone in kept us company on the way home and made the journey pass fairly quickly. I dropped Anwar off at 7.05, getting home by 7.30. I had a few of the ciders I's bought earlier as well as some beef burritos that I'd got from Lidl the previous day. I completed my blog from the morning game but as usual, was easily distracted and left this one until the next day. I watched the EFL Highlights and some of Match Of The Day before going to bed at 11. The clocks went back an hour and so I appreciated the extra hour in bed and although I'd have preferred more sleep, I felt fine the next morning. Next up for me is looking to be Kirby Muxloe v Cadbury Athletic on Tuesday, one of my nearest unticked grounds.


THE MSS GROUND is a decent venue for step 7. There are small areas of cover on three sides, these probably provide space for around 100 people to stay dry. There's a smart bar at the ground this is well priced and has sports TV. Cider drinkers have the choice of Thatchers Gold or Carling Mixed Berries. I didn't see any food but the town is 15-20 minutes walk away where there are plenty of takeaways and pubs including two Wetherspoons. There's plenty of parking at the ground but I'm not sure about public transport.