Sunday, 4 December 2022

Polonia Coventry - Massey Ferguson Sports Ground

Polonia Coventry FC
Massey Ferguson Sports Ground
40 Summerhill Lane

Ground Number: 1138
Saturday 3rd December 2022
Polonia Coventry 3-0 Coventry Warriors Gurdwara GNP
Coventry Alliance D1


The club was established in 2017 to represent the Polish community of Coventry. Polish is the third most popular language spoken in the city, with around 6.200 people, or roughly 2% of the population having it as their first language. The Poles have been coming over to Coventry for some time, starting around World War 2 although they haven't always received the warmest of welcomes from ignorant people, despite doing vital jobs. They started out in step 11 of non-league, the Coventry Alliance Division 3. A 4th place finish in their first season was a good start and this earned them promotion to Division 2 where they finished 5th in 2019, earning them promotion to Division 1. They were 7th when the season was cut short due to the pandemic in 2020 and a place higher when the same happened the following year. Last season saw them finish bottom of the league but avoid relegation.

They are based at the Massey Ferguson Sports Ground, the former home of the team of the same name. They are the works team of the tractor manufacturer and are still playing Sunday league football in Coventry. They started out in 1956 and initially played local football in the Coventry & Warwickshire League and the Coventry Alliance. They were highly successful here and as a result joined the Midland Combination Division 2 in 1993. Two successive titles saw them reach the Premier Division and they played sixteen seasons here, their highest finish 3rd in their debut season. This division sat at step 6 of non-league football. They resigned from the league in 2011, taking the place of their reserve team in the Coventry Alliance Division 3. Local cup wins included 3 successes in the Coventry Evening Telegraph Cup, 3 in the Foleshill Charity Cup, 2 in the Bedworth Nursing Cup, and once in the Benevolent Cup.


I always like to do a game by public transport if possible on a Saturday, and this was no exception. There was very little inspiring me though and I'd loved to have done an FA Vase game. However, the only option open to me was Hartpury University but that was a pricey and long-winded trip via public transport. If I'd been able to double it with the 12 PM kick-off at Tuffley Rovers ( a revisit) I'd have been happy, but that wasn't working out public transport-wise between the two games. I was still keen to do a double though and the Midlands would provide me with this at a push. The Midland U21 League would usually provide me with my morning game but on this occasion, it was not obliging. It was a real shame as I fancied going to the Post Office Vaults in Birmingham but that will have to wait for another time.
Instead, it was the thought of a post-match mini pub crawl in Coventry that clinched this hop. I'd put out my idea of a double on Twitter to gather the thoughts of other hoppers. Kiz was first to respond and he warned me that the FA Full Time site for the Coventry Christian League was a bit hit-and-miss. This did make me a bit indecisive and I searched for alternate doubles without luck. Thankfully, the Coventrians Holy Family were part of the bigger Coventrians side and they had a fairly well-run Twitter feed to allay my fears of problems. The second piece of correspondence that I got was from well-respected hopper Pie Man who runs the excellent Pie & Mushy Peas blog. He confirmed that the Broomfield Tavern was a cracker just before 8 am without a care in the world. By the end of the morning, he was dead, thanks to a heart attack. It's crazy how things can change and it's a real reminder to enjoy life while you can and not work too hard.
From my last game at Coventrians, I headed out hoping to catch the 11.44 bus. That didn't turn up, nor did the 11.56, nor the 12.08. Two eventually turned up at 12.14 which meant a relaxing couple of pints in Wetherspoons along with lunch would become rushed. I eventually arrive at the Flying Standard Wetherspoons at 12.45, eating up the half hour I saved on the early kick-off. At least service is immediate and I have a pint of Black Dragon for £3.25. I then ordered my meal, the excellent chicken strips basket. This only took 4 minutes to come. As I was finishing my meal, my second pint of Black Dragon turned up. I walk to the bus stop and as befits today's service, it is both late and packed. Part of it is due to the city centre being rammed with cars, personally, I'd ban them and make them park on the outskirts. There is also a little brat screaming its head off, but two pints of Black Dragon deep, I am not so bothered. I get to my bus stop as kick-off is approaching, but still have 20 minutes of walking to do. I make up some time by jogging but then lose time thanks to Google Maps' dodgy directions. I eventually find the edge of the ground and follow the fence around, arriving just under 20 minutes into the game.
The hosts were in 6th place following this game. They had played more games than any other team though and had the worst goal difference in the league. They'd lost their last game 2-0 at Christ The King and had taken some heavy beatings - 10-1 at Brinklow and 7-1 to Stockingford. Victories had come with a 3-1 at Folly Lane and a 3-2 win over Christ The King. Coventry Warriors Gurdwara GNP were in 10th. They'd won their last two games - 3-1 at Stockingford and 6-1 at Triumph Athletic. Polonia Coventry were in all red, befitting their national team colours. Coventry Warriors Gurdwara GNP had an unusual choice of a Paris St Germain kit, an attractive navy strip. It was already 1-0 to the Polish side by the time I'd got there, Alex Kiselov the scorer. Kiselov got the second after 40 minutes too, a cross from the left poked home. On 68 minutes, he completed his hat trick, a shot blasted into the net from a quick break. That was how it ended, but a special mention for the Polonia keeper. He was a fairly big lad but gave a reassured performance between the sticks, claiming all the high balls and pulling off some good saves. I was talking to the referee assessor who agreed and it was nice to see. 15 were in attendance at the game.
There was more woe with the buses on the way back. I'd seen that the bus was scheduled to leave at 16:16 and was there five minutes early. It was a no-show, as was the 16:24. Finally, at 16:55 after over 40 minutes of waiting, the bus finally arrived. My destination was the Broomfield Tavern, near Coventry Rugby and Coventry United's ground. This place was superb although its packed nature meant that I had to sit outside if I wanted a seat. They didn't have my first choice of Normandy Cider, so I had to have one of the other around 20 on offer. I opted for a retry of Badgers Spit and then had a new try of Barbourne Oak Cask. With both at 7.5% I thought I'd better get off home but was peckish. I got a bottle of Irn Bru from a shop and then went to a takeaway called Blue Rooster. There I had 7" Tandoori Hot Pizza, chips and a drink for £3.90. It was great for the money and it was nice to sit in the warm and have my meal. By then, I fancied another drink and so headed to the Hops D'Amour where I had a pint of Devon Jasper. This was a more sensible 5% and it was a decent micropub, even if not as brilliant as my earlier watering hole. I ambled my way to Coventry station and after finding my platform and train, got to Leamington. I had 45 minutes wait for my train south, very frustrating, though I was in no mood to do my blog in the cramped waiting room. Eventually, I was back in High Wycombe by 9.50. I stopped at my favourite Chinese, Peking Chef, for my usual order of salt and chilli pepper chips. These were great as ever and I eat them whilst walking home. I was in by 11.30 and had a cherry beer whilst watching YouTube videos, going to bed around 1.

Although the Massey Ferguson ground no longer has the stand it once had, it's still a good setup. The pitch is fully railed and also has floodlights. It's set in pleasant and peaceful woodland and has hard standing most of the way around. There's a club building, although I didn't check inside. Parking is plentiful and it is near a few bus routes, though these are unreliable.

Saturday, 3 December 2022

Coventrians - Colliery Sports Gtround

Coventrians FC
6 Bennetts Road

Ground Number: 1137
Saturday 3rd December 2022
Coventrians Holy Family 1-4 Sacred Heart
Coventry & District Christian League Division 1


The formation of the football club is unclear but the rugby part of the club was established at around the time of the First World War. Football-wise, they have been in the Midland League Division 3 which sits at step 8 of non-league or level 12 of the English league system overall. They joined in 2015 but it wasn't until last season that they achieved their best-ever finish of 3rd. The club has a whole host of teams, both male and female at all age levels. The one I was going to see was Coventrians Holy Family and they played in the off-pyramid Coventry & District Christian League Division 1. Records only go back to 2020 but Coventrians Holy Family were champions that season.  Despite that league win, they dropped down to Division 2 which they won at the first attempt. Funnily enough, it was today's opponents Sacred Heart that won Division 1 last season and both clubs now find themselves there for the current term.


I was going to go up to my local ground at Holmer Green for a youth game on Thursday but in the end, I couldn't be bothered. I'd done a fair few games recently and fancied a rest, especially with all the research for this weekend. As for my research, it was a good job I double-checked as the trains didn't line up as Google Maps promised and I'd be getting up 40 minutes earlier as a result. However, this was better than discovering too late and my trip being ruined. A late change to a double in Fareham was discounted as the train journey took three hours. I thought the 35-minute stop at Leamington was bad but without my Network Railcard discount, it would have cost a disgraceful £60 for this journey. I just wished my railcard applied for the whole country rather than just the South East as £30 would have become £20 with a third off.
I was quite keen to get home from my Friday night game in Thamesmead as I had a very early start on Saturday. In the end, I arrived in just after midnight and it took me nearly an hour to get to sleep. Luckily, I can survive on four hours of sleep and despite taking a while to get going, I had a quick breakfast before leaving at 6.10. I had to get a bit of a shift on, but I was at High Wycombe station after a brisk walk around 8 minutes before my train. I purchased a ticket, which included buses for £33 and although this wasn't the greatest value, it wasn't outrageous either. I caught up with the research for this blog and was concerned by the tardiness of the away team, They'd forfeited three games already this season and only played a game more on the field. Had I seen this before penciling it in, I might have changed plans but now I would just have to hope for the best. It was a quiet and comfortable train for the first leg of the journey up to Leamington Spa, though the 37-minute stop on a chilly platform there was not what I really wanted. I killed some time 'brown ticking' the station and then went and took refuge in the waiting room. Twitter confirmed that my first game was on, though I'd have to get my skates on with the kick-off earlier than scheduled. I got to the station as scheduled but where to get the bus into town was unclear. Instead, I jogged the 15 minutes to the required bus stop with me getting there a minute before the bus. It was the 17 to Keresley that dropped me a few minutes from the ground at 9.48, allowing me to get there with just under ten minutes to spare.

 Coventrians Holy Family were 5th in the league and had won their last game, 2-1 at Christ The King. They'd also won 3-2 at Bilton Evangelical Church and 4-3 at Fisher United. They'd drawn 2-2 at Meredith Baptist Church but lost 2-0 to Christ The King (cup game), 2-1 at CLM and 3-0 to St John Fisher. They'd also forfeited a home game on 12th November against AFC Hope Church. Sacred Heart were in 7th, perhaps due to a lack of commitment as they'd forfeited three games already this season. When they had played, results had been mixed but they beat St Marks 6-3 in the cup last week. They'd also won 3-1 at CLM but lost 2-1 at Bilton Evangelical Church and 3-2 to St John Fisher. The game was played on the back pitch and I was the only one in attendance. Sacred Heart had much the better of the opening period but didn't really test the keeper. 35 minutes in, they were done on the break. Coventrians broke down the left, slotting home from a narrow angle from ten yards. Three minutes into the second half, it was all square, a shot on the turn into the bottom right corner. Two minutes later, Sacred Heart led 2-1, a spill from the keeper bundled home from close range. Sacred Heart continued to dominate and it was 3-1 on 69 minutes, a square ball from the left tapped over the line. 76 minutes saw them make it 4-1 with a drilled shot from the edge of the area.


COVENTRY COLLIERY SPORTS GROUND is a good setup for the level. There are two pitches, one fully railed with dugouts and another part railed. There is also a club building for changing rooms. Parking is limited but there is a bit of street parking. Regularly scheduled buses operate from Coventry, service 16, though the service is a bit patchy. 


Friday, 2 December 2022

Thamesmead Town - Bayliss Avenue

Sporting Club Thamesmead FC
Bayliss Avenue
SE28 8NJ

Ground Number: 269
Tuesday 30th April 2013
Thamesmead Town 3-2 Witham Town
Isthmian D1 North - Playoff Semi-Final


The original tenant of the ground was Thamesmead Town FC. They were established as Thamesmead in 1969 and absorbed Southlake in 1973 in a merger, retaining their original name. They started out as a community team for local youngsters, playing in local leagues. They changed their name to Thamesmead Town in 1985, shortly after joining the Spartan League. A 3rd place finish in 1987 in Division 1 was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. After a few unremarkable seasons, they joined the Kent League and stayed in its top tier until they win the title in 2008, having finished as runners-up to Deal Town in 2000 and Cray Wanderers in 2004. Promoted to the Isthmian League Division 1 North, they coped well with the step up and by 2013, they'd finished 3rd which entitled them to a playoff place. They overcame Witham Town and Maldon & Tiptree to reach the Premier Division. This was the height of the club's history but they only lasted one season before being relegated. They spent the rest of their history pottering around the Isthmian Division 1 North & South. A groundshare with Dartford and the loss of manager Keith McMahon proved the death knell for the club and they resigned from the league partway through the 2018/19 season in October.

Thamesmead Town's best progress in the FA Cup came in 2016 as they beat Guernsey, Chertsey Town & Hanwell Town before losing at Merstham in the 3rd Qualifying Round. The 1995/96 season saw Thamesmead Town have a good FA Vase run. They beat Chipstead, Ashford Town, Arlesey Town, Brentwood and Chichester City prior to losing 201 at Canvey Island in the 5th Round. They also won the Kent Junior Cup in 1984. Well-known players to play for them include Ryan Liburn, Richard Pacquette and Derek Duncan. Thamesmead has a population of just under 32,000. It is one of the most diverse areas in the capital with the population being more Black British by a tiny percentage than White. It is a fairly new area, only being built in the 1970s, located close to the River Thames. One semi-famous resident is Stella English, who is from Thamesmead and won 'The Apprentice'

 SPORTING CLUB THAMESMEAD can trace their history all the way back to 1900 when they were established as Seven Acre Sports.. They played in local leagues such as the South London Alliance and Kent League and changed their name to Seven Acre & Sidcup following a move to Sidcup Conservative Club. Playing in what is now the SCEFL D1 where they remain to this day, they moved to Thamesmead in 2014. They changed their name to Sporting Club Thamesmead in 2016, following the demise of Thamesmead Town. The clubs' best finish came in 2013 when they finished 5th in the Kent Invicta League. Their best FA Cup run came in 2015 when they beat Sevenoaks Town before losing to Sittingbourne in the Preliminary Round. They reached the FA Vase 2nd Round, beating Ringmer and FC Elmstead before losing to Sutton Common Rovers. They've won a few local cups over the years, the Erith Hospital Cup in 2018 the only one since the move to Thamesmead.


I had several options for a game this week. But one of the playoff games was my top priority. I had been to an epic 4-4 draw between Bognor Regis Town and Godalming Town in last season's playoff games, which Bognor won on penalties, before beating Dulwich Hamlet in the final. The first choice for me was Merthyr Town v Swindon Supermarine, as I had always wanted to go to Merthyr and had a soft spot for Supermarine after watching them a couple of times this season. But a couple of things put paid to this visit. Firstly the fact that I didn't have anyone to go with and to help out with fuel costs. And the fact that I had to be up at 4am both on the day of the game and the day after, as I was doing overtime. Altrincham v Brackley in the Conference North playoffs was discounted for a similar reason. As was Kings Lynn v Sheffield in the Northern Premier. So I was left with a few options. The 2 favourites were Faversham Town v Hythe Town and Thamesmead Town v Witham Town, both in the Ryman League playoffs. The latter was half the distance and slightly less time, so I opted for that, even though it would mean a gruelling commute through London rush hour traffic. Looking through the websites of both teams, I didn't recognise any of the players for either side. Thamesmead had finished 3rd with 88 points, 9 ahead of Witham in 4th. The winners of this game would be playing the winners of Maldon and Tiptree v Aveley, who were playing at the same time. The home side, Maldon were unbeaten at home, so I was hoping it would be them, as the highest-ranked side got home advantage. The game would be on Sunday and I was planning to go to it. With me giving up my Cashline job with Wycombe and my parents away, it would be the ideal opportunity to do a Sunday game. I had previously been to Thamesmead, just to take photos of the ground, way back in 2005 on the way back from Welling. They were in the Kent League at the time, and I would be very surprised if they had not had to improve on the ground, as it was pretty basic, although it was well kept and had a smart clubhouse from what I remember. The people there were friendly too, which thankfully is the norm in Non-League.

As I had been working, I only had the afternoon free and was planning to have dinner early and leave at 5.30, to allow an hour extra for traffic. In fact, I left at 5.20 after demolishing a delicious homemade pizza, confident that I would arrive well in time. My Sat Nav seemed to think so, with live traffic info, I should have arrived at 7.20, even with delays. This dropped down to 7.09 at one point, rising to 7.39 as I was going down the A40. It was at this point it wanted me to turn around and go on the M25, adding an extra 40 miles to the journey. No thanks. I was more or less going fine until I hit the Hangar Lane gyratory, and then it all slowed down. Crawling through London, on so-called main roads, which were little more than back streets, and passing through mainly right grotty areas as well as a few landmarks like the London Eye and the River Thames. I'm not a huge fan of driving in our capital city for the most part, and I can certainly see why lots of people take public transport, as the roads are pretty woeful. The estimated arrival time crept up to 8.15 at one point and the roads were slow all the way to the ground, thanks mainly to cyclists and buses slowing things right down. Eventually, I managed to find a proper road, about 5 miles from the ground and it was a pretty decent journey from then on. I eventually arrived at a few minutes before 8, to find packed roads with cars parked on both sides. Luckily I found a space quickly and slung my car in it, before jogging to the ground, getting there just as my watch said it was 8pm. There was a smell of sewage in the air, and I was hoping that was not a sign that the game was going to be a stinker, as it turned out, I needn't have worried. 
After paying to get in and getting a programme, I was pleased to find out that I had not missed any goals. There was a crowd of 206, which may sound unimpressive, but at the corresponding league game, which was on a Saturday, there were just 40 at the game. In that game, the visitors won 1-0 and Thamesmead were doing their best to make sure there would be no repeat this time. The job that their manager Keith McMahon has done is nothing short of fantastic. With the second-worst average attendance in the league, he has put together a side that has every right to be fighting for the playoffs.

They played good football too, dominating the first half and getting their reward on 21 minutes when Baff Addae was tripped in the box and Chris Edwards scored from the resulting penalty. They continued to have chances to extend their lead with Witham restricted to the occasional chance on the break, but it remained 1-0 at the interval. It was getting seriously chilly, so I rushed back to my car and got my coat. Even with that on it was still nippy without gloves. I thought I had spotted my Facebook friend Mishi, who is a Dulwich fan during the first half, but wasn't 100% sure as I'd not seen mention of him going. I didn't fancy going up to a complete stranger and getting it wrong, but luckily he spotted my Wycombe top and so I spent the second half with him and some Dulwich fans and spent the rest of the half talking about football and checking out some of the other playoff scores. On the pitch, it was the complete reverse of the first half with Witham having the lion's share of play. Like their opponents, the visitors got a penalty on 54 minutes, with Rob Whitnell converting. Witham continued to dominate, having several good chances and the home side was restricted to chances on the break. But they got lucky on the balance of play, but there was no luck about the finish that gave them the lead for the second time, the best of the night. The Witham keeper sliced his clearance, but still, Baff Addae had plenty to do as he lobbed the defence and keeper from way out. It was all square again, pretty much straight away though. A cross was put in and although Sam Taylor saw his initial shot saved, he followed up on the rebound to equalise. But instead of spurring Witham on to victory, Thamesmead started to have the better of the game again. Stuart Zanone got the winner on 78 minutes and although there were chances for both sides after that, it was the home side that looked more likely to score. But 3-2 was how it stayed and so it was Thamesmead that went through to the final on Sunday, at Maldon & Tiptree, after they beat Aveley. I am hoping to go to this game. After the game, I said goodbye to the Hamlet fans and made progress a bit quicker, though it was still slow on some of the inner city roads. Once I got to Hangar Lane though, it was a lot quicker and I was back home just after 11.30, staying up for about half an hour before going to sleep.


I decided upon a revisit to Thamesmead last week when Colin decided to go with Dan to Margate rather than head out West with me, It was one of my earliest groundhops, back in the early days of blogging and so I fancied a revisit. It would be especially nice to do it on the train and having a rest. It's sometimes nice to look back at my old blogs and see how my modus operandi has changed and I definitely made an error driving to so many grounds in London. Other errors were not embracing step 7 sooner, not discovering National Express earlier, and making massive detours to pick up other hoppers. You live and learn as they say and like this blog I feel has improved, I think that a bit of knowledge makes me hop better.
It was a mixed day at work on the day of the game. In any case, I finished at 4, and the traffic over to Amersham. I parked up and jogged to the station. Luck was smiling on me for once and I walked straight on the platform and onto the Chiltern Line train to Harrow on the Hill. It was then the Metropolitan to Finchley Road, the Jubilee to Bond Street, and the Elizabeth Line to Woolwich. It was then a five minute walk to the Great Harry, my 244th Wetherspoons. I ordered a Christmas Panini, chips and a pint of Thatchers Gold for £7.45, great value for this part of the world. No wonder tables were at a premium on a Friday evening. Being busy, the service was not great and I waited 15 minutes for my drink. The food was also stacking up due to the lack of staff but one guy was doing his best. In the end, 20 minutes was not unreasonable and you got a good portion for your money. Once you went to the bar, service was immediate and I had a pint of Old Rosie for £3.75. With all that consumed, I headed for the bus stop, an 8-minute wait for the 472 which dropped me a couple of minutes from the ground. It was a few minutes' walk to the ground. I paid £7 to get in, the guy taking my money was a fellow Wycombe fan. I got some fresh pictures and was already enjoying my second visit more than my first.


Sporting Club Thamesmead were in decent form in recent times. They had won 2-1 at Lewisham Borough (Cup game) in their last game and had also beaten Bridon Ropes 3-2 and Bermondsey Town 4-1 in recent times. But they'd drawn 1-1 in the league at Lewisham and also lost 3-1 at AFC Whyteleafe. Despite the good form, they were 13th whilst visitors FC Elmstead were 7th. They'd also been victorious in their last game, beating Bridon Ropes 2-0 who they'd also beaten 4-1 on the road. Elsewhere, they'd drawn 1-1 at Tooting Bec, 1-1 against AFC Whyteleafe and 0-0 at Staplehurst Monarchs United. It was a lively opening period, but not many clear cut chances. Elmstead hit the bar with a deflected header from a corner after 20 minutes. The visitors went on to dominate the first half without really threatening. Right on half time, Thamesmead broke into the box and a player was tripped. The resulting penalty was blasted into the net to give them the lead. The second half was more even, but still with Elmstead the better side. Thamesmead held firm though and saw out the game for a win.


BAYLISS AVENUE is much changed since I last paid a flying visit in 2005. And for the better too. Most impressive is on the left side of the ground as you come through the turnstile. This stand is yet to open but looks impressive, being raised above the ground and having some facilities behind it, maybe more clubhouse facilities. What appears to be the old main stand is now behind the goal, it is one of those metal ones, holding around 150 fans. There is cover behind the other goal too, with open flat standing along the dugout side. The clubhouse is not as bright and airy as I remember it, looking a bit gloomy now and instead of seeing the pitch out of the window now, you just see a load of building gear and the back of a stand, hopefully, they will tidy that up in the future as the ground evolves.