Saturday 25 February 2023

Guru Nanak - Guru Nanak Sports Ground

Guru Nanak FC
Guru Nanak Sports Ground
Trinity Road
DA12 1LU

Ground Number: 1151
Saturday 25th February 2023
Guru Nanak 0-1 Rochester City
Kent County League Division 1 Central & East


The club was established in 1965 by Punjabi students and construction workers. They took their name from the founder of Sikhism and the first of 10 Sikh gurus. They started out playing at the AEI Henley Sports Club, adjacent to the current ground of Punjab United in Dunkirk Close. They'd remain here until 2009 when an arson attack forced them to decamp to their current ground next to the Shri Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara Temple. They saw a great deal of success in the Gravesend League, now known as the North Kent Sunday League. In 2002, they made the step up to the Kent County League. Starting in Division 3 West, they were champions in 2004, being promoted to Division 2 East. That division was won in 2007 but despite a couple of stable seasons, they were relegated back down in 2010. It took them until 2013 to win promotion back, although they'd only finished 4th. They made the most of their elevation by winning Divison 1 East the following year, earning them promotion to the step 7 Kent County Premier Division. Guru Nanak recorded their highest-ever finish in 2015, finishing 5th. However, they endured a torrid 2016/17 season, losing all 29 games that they played. They even finished on negative points after having a point docked for an unfulfilled fixture. They've been in Division  1 West ever since - generally finishing around mid-table.

Though the club has never participated in the FA Cup & FA Vase, they have won a number of local competitions. The Kent Reporter Cup was won in 1982, 1993 & 2006, the Gravesend League Cup in 1980, Kent County Cups in 1987 & 2013 and the Coventry Khalsa Tournament in 1991. Around the time of the 1998 World Cup in France, future King, Prince Charles visited the club as part of a drive to kick racism out of football. Charlton Athletic had recently triumphed on penalties following an epic 4-4 draw against Sunderland. But the then Price managed to put a penalty past the victorious keeper Sasa Ilic in altogether less pressurised circumstances.

Guru Nanak shares the town of Gravesend with Ebbsfleet United who play in the National League South and Punjab United who play in the Southern Counties East League. The population of the town is 74,000. It has one of the largest populations of the Sikh community in the UK of more than 15,000. It is situated on the River Thames and Medway Canal and passenger ferries run to Tilbury. Pocahontas, the first female Native American to visit England. She was taken ill on her return voyage to America and died aged 21 after coming ashore at Gravesend. She was buried under the chancel of St George's parish church. Famous people from Gravesend include Paul Ritter of Friday Night Dinner and Harry Reid who played Ben Mitchell in Eastenders from 2014 - 2018.


It was the first free Saturday in a while for me, having spent the last two watching Wycombe home games. I was determined to do something on public transport via High Wycombe, getting my walk in and also being free to enjoy some pubs. It would be my first train trip since early December and I was looking forward to having a good day. I drew up a list, initially using the Futbology app to look at steps 6 and above. There wasn't a huge amount of inspiration to be honest - I'd drawn up a spreadsheet to work out which fare was the best value and used Trainsplit to work out the best value fare. I worked my way through a huge number of step 7 games and added them to the list. There was a clear standout winner, at 11p a mile, a train to Gravesend was great value at around £18. That was just a normal, straightforward ticket too, albeit with a Network Railcard discount, allowing me to use the quick trains. At the other end of the scale, a train to Scarborough worked out at 26p a mile, even with split tickets. There was a good ground at Guru Nanak and some decent pubs to visit.

The main topic of midweek was Gareth Ainsworth leaving Wycombe Wanderers for Queens Park Rangers. He's been with us since 2009 as a player and from 2012 as manager. Despite some rocky times in 2013-14 when we were nearly relegated from the Football League, he has been a brilliant manager in 550 games that he has managed us. In the same time, I'd managed to visit 933 new grounds, having been near the start of my groundhopping journey when he started managing us. It had been a reasonable week at work until Friday, which turned out to be a bit of a slog. I'll certainly be looking forward to my time off in a few weeks but for the time, a few drinks to unwind would do. I researched my options for the next day. Sadly the Invicta Bar had no decent cider - a shame as they had some decent food on.
The day of the game came and I was up at 7.30 after a restless night's sleep. After breakfast, a shower and getting dressed, I left just before 9. It was a pleasant walk to High Wycombe station where I got a return to Gravesend for £18.45. The platform was busy as it was the fast train, calling at London Marylebone only. The train was also busy but I was at Marylebone in 26 minutes. It was a quick jog over to Baker Street where there was a 3-minute wait for my train to King's Cross St Pancras. I knew that the fast train to Gravesend left at 20 minutes past the hour from platform 11. The ticket machines and websites had recommended a longer gap and getting a train an hour later but I was on my train just under ten minutes before it left. It was a pleasant train, Southeastern one of the better operators out there. I checked ahead at the Wetherspoons menu and was pleased to see that they still did Black Dragon. My revisit was confirmed when I found that they did the Highland Haggis burger I'd missed out on during Burns week. It turned out to be out of stock, so I had a Katsu Curry with my Black Dragon instead. I was still peckish after, so ordered a small bowl of chips and another pint as I had plenty of time to kill anyway. It was a pleasant and good value way to spend pre-match. A leisurely look around B&M to get some snacks was followed up by a pint of Dudda's Tun Haze in the Mole Hole Micropub. It was then the 15-minute walk to the ground where I was given a great welcome in lovely surroundings.


The two sides were struggling with Guru Nanak in 12th and Rochester City in 13th. In fact, only whipping boys West Farleigh were keeping them off the bottom of the table. The hosts had five games in hand over their rivals and had also had points deducted for failing to fulfil a fixture. In the last six, Guru Nanak had lost the last four games - 2-0 to Stansfeld, 3-1 at Cuxton, 5-1 to Ashford and 2-0 at Hollands & Blair Reserves. Prior to that, they'd beaten Snodland Town Reserves 2-1 and a 2-0 win at Long Lane in a local cup. Rochester City had won just one of their last ten, which was a 3-2 win over Sturry on 21st January. One of those defeats was a 3-2 loss to Guru Nanak in the reverse fixture on 19th November. It was a competitive first half but it remained 0-0 at the break. It wasn't much of a game but Rochester City took the lead on 69 minutes, a shot from outside the area evading the grasp of the home keeper. There wasn't too much of a response from the hosts and Rochester City had a second 'goal', placed into the roof of the net, disallowed. Not much response from the hosts, quite surprising, but the visitors defended well.

 From my game, it was disappointing to hear Wycombe concede a further goal to lose 2-0 at Shrewsbury. However, the Compass Alehouse was a pleasant and warm place to drown my sorrows. A Dunkertons Organic Dry fixed things for a bit. I left with plenty of time to spare and it was just as well I did as the route to my platform was not so clear. But nevertheless, nice platform staff meant that I didn't waste time with going to Platform 0, though an elongated trip to London Bridge would not be the end of the world. But after many failed attempts, a visit to the Euston Cider Tap was my aim. That would mean the train to King's Cross which was 4 minutes late. I did have some tinge of regret about not going into the temple, free food and all that. But it felt like trespassing into someone's home and I'd had a good day nonetheless. Of course, the Cider Tap was closed but I visited the brewery tap. I then got the 8 PM back to Wycombe where the pitiful bus services had already stopped. I got a pizza, walked halfway home and then got a taxi the rest of the way, In at 9.45 it had been a good day, but badly let down by certain sections of public transport.


GURU NANAK SPORTS GROUND is a nice venue. There's one large stand, which holds around 100 seating and standing. The rest of the ground is open hard standing and further friendly facilities are available in the temple. Otherwise, there's lots of parking and the town is 10 minutes walk away. 

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Swallownest - Miners Welfare Ground

Swallownest FC
59 Rotherham Road 
South Yorkshire 
S26 4UR

07555 943857

Ground Number: 1150
Tuesday 21st February 2022
Swallownest 1-2 Harrogate Railway Athletic


The club is fairly young, having been formed as recently as 2006. They were known as Aston originally, changing their name to Swallownest Miners Welfare in 2010 and Swallownest in 2015. They started out in the South Yorkshire Amateur League Division 1, finishing as runners-up to Kiveton Park Reserves in their debut season. This earned them promotion to the Premier Division which they won the following year. They then joined the Sheffield & Hallam County Senior League, starting out in Division 2 which they won in 2009. They then finished as runners-up behind Eccleshill Red Rose in Division 1 the following year. In their first season in the Premier Division, they won the title, remaining unbeaten all season. However, with insufficient facilities, they'd have to wait until 2017 for the chance to make the step up when they won the title for the second time. Swallownest have been in the NCEL Division 1 ever since, their best season came in 2019 as they finished 10th. 

Swallownest have not yet entered the FA Cup, but they've been playing in the FA Vase since 2018. Their best season came in their debut season as they beat Abbey Hey 1-0 and AFC Blackpool 4-1 before losing on penalties in the 1st Round to Garstang, following a 1-1 draw. The club originally played at the Leonard Kyte ground in the neighbouring village of Aughton. Upon joining the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League in 2008, the club moved to the Swallownest Miners Welfare ground on Sheffield Road, where they have played ever since. The village of Swallownest is located around four miles from Rotherham and seven miles from Sheffield and has a population of around 15,000.

I was meant to visit Swallownest in July for their pre-season Yorkshire Trophy game against Horbury. However, the game was moved due to pitch issues but not before I'd researched their history for my blog. Therefore, I was keen to go and pay a visit, though they didn't come up as an option very often. I thought I'd have to visit on a Saturday. This was no issue as it would involve a few pubs in Sheffield. But finally, it was an option on this Tuesday with both of my hoppers available. In fact, there was a wealth of options with 15 possible choices. I reckoned Swallownest was the best option and luckily, both of my fellow hoppers agreed.
It was another happy Saturday for me as Wycombe beat Bolton 1-0. Though it wasn't as epic as the 3-2 win against Derby a fortnight ago, it was our 5th victory on the spin. A fair few drinks were enjoyed although I did get something useful done. The Samsung camera I got from CEX was hopeless so I took it back for a refund and ordered a Nikon one instead. The following day bore all the hallmarks of a typical Sunday and Monday wasn't much better. There was concerning news about QPR approaching Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth. He's done a mainly brilliant job in the over ten years he has been in charge, and as a player for four years before that.
The day of the game came and I had a decent night's sleep, waking at 8.40. I was showered, dressed and had my breakfast and out within an hour of waking up. It was my customary walk down town and I got a couple of bits from Lidl for lunch as well as a couple of meals from Iceland. I was back around 1.15 and had nearly a couple of hours at home to kill. I was pleased when my new camera arrived from CEX so I could use it for tonight's game. Wycombe Twitter was very busy with rumours of Matt Bloomfield as Ainsworth's potential replacement, but nothing had been confirmed when I left at 3. I picked both of my hoppers up along the way. We had a good journey with the Wycombe news being confirmed around 5 pm. We were at Swallownest at 6.15 and walked to Zorba's takeaway. The Boss Burger I fancied was unavailable, so I got a Mexicano Burger. It was two chicken zinger fillets with hot sauce and nachos and was superb. With chips and a drink, it was under £7 and the service was great too. From there it was a quick journey to a local convenience store and to the ground. Entry was £6 and they were playing some great 90s tunes pre-match.
Swallownest were 17th in the table and had not won in 14 games. Their last victory came on October 29th as they beat Retford 3-1. Recent results had included a morale-boosting 3-3 draw at 5th place Wakefield, though they'd lost 2-1 at Shirebrook, 1-0 to Glasshoughton Welfare and 2-0 at Parkgate. Harrogate Railway were in 3rd, unbeaten in 13 and on a run of five straight wins. They'd beaten Staveley Miners Welfare 2-0, won 3-1 at Wakefield and 3-0 at Athersley Recreation, and beaten Worsborough Bridge Athletic 5-2 and Brigg Town 1-0. The hosts started brightly but didn't create much. The first real chance came when Harrogate smashed the bar on 18 minutes. They continued to pile on the pressure and took the lead on 39 minutes when Luke Stewart bundled home. Just before halftime, the visitors extended their lead with a free kick through Dan McDaid. They could have had more but for some great saves by the home keeper. It was a duller second half but Swallownest pulled a goal back through a penalty on 83 minutes through a penalty which was probably their first shot on target. They then had a late rally but never really tested the keeper.
We left at 9.45 and headed for home. We first put on Talksport initially to find out results before switching to Greatest Hits Radio. After hearing the 'Top Ten at 10' was a 70s year, we switched back as none of us was very clued up. Back to the football and the main talk was of how Liverpool had squandered a two-goal lead to lose 5-2 to Real Madrid. There were even some fake fans suggesting Klopp should be sacked after bringing them their first title in 30 years. We were considering options for April 15th and even though he had disabled railcard and was booking advance tickets, they wanted £92 for a return to Sca from Colin. Truly shocking and outrageous figures, using the Trainline app in that case. Maybe I could beat it down a bit, but the walkup fares would be even more expensive. It was a good journey generally and I dropped Anwar off at 12.10, Colin half an hour later and me in at just before 1. It took me ages to get to sleep, over two hours. I was a bit jaded after four hours of sleep but got through the day OK.

SWALLOWNEST MINERS WELFARE or the SWAL SIRO to give it its nickname is a good ground for the level and has a fair amount of character. Only two and a half sides are available to fans. Included in this are a seated stand along the side with room for 50 and another seated stand behind the goal for the same amount. In addition, there is another covered standing area behind the goal for another 50. There's also lots of room for expansion. 

Food at the ground looked good and is cooked in a building shared by the turnstile block. Adjacent is a smart bar with a  standard range of drinks. Within a few minutes are multiple takeaways and shops. Zorba's does great food at good prices and big portions. There's plenty of parking and I'd imagine the route is well-served by buses.