Saturday 24 February 2024

Lane Head - Grosevenor Park

Lane Head FC
Grosvenor Park
Somerfield Road

Ground Number: 1265
Saturday 24th February 2024
Lane Head 2-0 Hampton
Midland D2


The club was founded in 1974 under the name of Lane Head Strollers. They played mainly junior football and were considered a well-run outfit. In 1999, the club was absorbed into the now-defunct Blakenhall FC. It was a partnership that would only last a few years as in 2002, Blakenhall merged with Bloxwich United who decided to strip funding for the club. For a brief time, they returned to junior football under the name of FC Strollers, but they too folded. In 2004, Lane Head FC were reformed, starting up again as a junior side having several teams of all ages. Things went full circle in 2018 when the club established a senior side, following the dissolution of Bloxwich United FC. They took over their ground and joined the Midland League Division 2. They have been there ever since, never really pulling up any trees. Their best finish was 10th in their first season but this season is shaping up to be the best in their history.

Previous clubs to have played at the ground are numerous. The first Bloxwich Town was established in 1976 as Peel Football Club, representing the Sir Robert Peel pub which still exists on Bell Lane. They were known as Carvers for a while due to sponsorship reasons, then Bloxwich before finally settling on Bloxwich Town in 1989 They spent a single season in the Southern League Midland Division during the 1998/99 season but won just once all season. This was following their best-ever season when they won the Midland Alliance and reached the FA Vase 3rd Round. In 2001, the club merged with Blakenhall to become Bloxwich United, though this short-lived merger would last less than a season. They took over the Blakenhall's place in the Southern League Western Division. However, after 19 games of the 2001–02 season, the controlling Blakenall contingent amongst the joint ownership abruptly pulled out of the merger and resigned the club's place in the Southern League causing their record to be expunged.

Another Bloxwich Town was established in 2002, but they would only last until 2005, progressing through the Midland Combination. Next up was another Bloxwich United, formed out of Birchills United who had recently won the Wolverhampton Combination and then the West Midlands (Regional League) Division 1. They changed their name to Bloxwich United in 2008 and were twice runners-up in the WMRL Premier. One-time Wycombe Wanderers loanee and Aston Villa starlet Steven Cooke played for the club in 2009 but they went bust in 2012. Attempt number four was formed out of works team Rostance Edwards who had won the Wolverhampton Combination in 2013 and then were promoted as runners-up behind Austrey United in the Midland League Division 3 in 2015. They changed their name to Bloxwich Town but the curse struck again as they only lasted until 2018. Several smaller clubs have also played in the town.

Bloxwich is a market town and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Walsall, West Midlands, England. It is located between the towns of Walsall, Cannock, Willenhall and Brownhills. The population is around 25,000. Bloxwich has its origins at least as early as the Anglo-Saxon period when the place name evidence suggests it was a small Mercian settlement named after the family of Bloc (Bloxwich, earlier Blochescwic, meaning "Bloc's village"). Bloxwich grew rapidly in the 18th century around coal mining, iron smelting and various manufacturing industries, as part of the Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing in the area consisted of bridle bits, stirrups, keys, cabinet locks, plane irons, buckle tongues, chains and saddles. Its most famous product of manufacture was awl blades, which it is reputed to have surpassed all other places in the United Kingdom in manufacturing. The most famous former resident was Slade's Noddy Holder who was born in the Caldmore area of Walsall before moving to the Beechdale Estate in Bloxwich. Former Cardiff, Wolves, Celtic, Cardiff, Derby County & Accrington Stanley footballer Lee Naylor was born in the town and went to Sneyd Comprehensive School.


Once more, it was time to decide what game to go to on a Saturday. As ever with a weekend game, my first stipulation was that I didn't want to drive. There were also other areas such as value for money and quality of pubs, as well as how difficult the journey was. As usual, all the working out was done on a spreadsheet and the initial favourite was Gillingham Town as I'd been considering it last week. Fleetdown was the best value for money and Gala Wilton and Swanage Town & Herston were the best for pubs. Futbology was my friend as ever, and many fixtures weren't even considered for various reasons. I was scrolling through the list when one fixture popped out at me - Lane Head v Hampton. I recognised both names vaguely but it was the ground where it was being played that interested me. The Old Red Lion Ground, Grovesnor Park or whatever name it went under had been used by several failed Bloxwich clubs. The latest tenants were Lame Head of the Midland D2. The train fare worked out also, owing to one of the several quirks of ticket pricing, it was the same price from High Wycombe to Bloxwich as it was to Birmingham. This made it a decent value fare and there were also a few pubs worth a look. The only thing that could ruin my plans was the weather, so I was hoping that it would behave in the few days before.

This was all decided on Wednesday afternoon. I'd had a good day at work and arrived home to see that I'd had a failed delivery from Royal Mail for a mobile phone I'd bought from Cash Converters online. Rather than the carefree ways of Yodel or Evri, they'd not just left it on the doorstep and had taken it back to the depot. For whatever reason, I'd have to wait until Friday until they could leave it at my local post office. Perhaps covering their backs but going from previous experience, maybe not. In the evening, I watched Bradford City v Wycombe Wanderers, along with a few drinks. I needed them as on a pitch that resembled the Battle Of The Somme, Wycombe were outplayed but not outfought. A scrappy last-minute goal and a rare moment of quality saw Wycombe bag a trip to Wembley in the Football League Trophy final. Bradford's wayward finishing counted for nothing but I won't be at Wembley. It is on a Sunday so I will be working and I've been boycotting the competition since the introduction of Premier League U21 teams. Thursday brought much frustration after a gruelling day at work. I got home to find another failed Royal Mail delivery and a notification from Evri that my parcel had been delayed. At least one of those contained a case for my phone. Thursday evening saw me finalise my research including Bloxwich's footballing history and backups in case the game bit the dust.

Friday was another tricky day, busy and full of questions from people who couldn't be bothered to read the product packaging. As if I'd know the intimate details of 22,000 products just because I work there. It was also extremely busy and I didn't get out until 4 after being constantly pestered by customers all day long. I picked up my new phone from the Post Office and all was good as far as I could see. It did take an absolute age to get everything set up though and I spent all evening re-setting up banking and everything. The day of the game came and I woke up early as ever. This meant I had plenty of time for breakfast before leaving at 7.50. Walking to Wycombe station, I was 15 minutes early for my 09:28 train to Birmingham. I was really pleased to see that the game was confirmed as on as the train pulled into Bicester, a relief given some of the frost and fog that was outside.
I was in Birmingham at 11:05. It was then a 25-minute walk to my final Wetherspoons I needed to complete the Birmingham set, the Figure Of Eight. Black Dragon was available which was good. It was a fairly jaded Spoons but I was not ready to leave yet so I ordered a pint of Stowford Press. Service was variable but I was content and relaxed as I made my way to New Street to get the 12:45 to Bloxwich that arrived at 13:14. It was then a ten minute walk to the Bloxwich Showman where I ordered chicken wings basket with a bottle of Hooch for just over a tenner. There were some late call offs, not least at Walthamstow where a soggy patch near the sideline meant that the officials trousered half their fee for fifteen minutes work. Nice work if you can get it.  A nice ground had been spotted near Walsall and I later found out that it was Sunday side ISSA FC, part of the independent Walsall FC supporters club. Well worth a visit, but sadly for me, primarily a Sunday ground. I had passed up the chance of an extra pint in Spoons for one in the Lane Head FC bar. After paying £4 to get in, it was £3 for a bottle of Bulmers, fairly reasonable. As ever, I was disappointed by my laptop battery discharging completely for no good reason so I was unable to get started on my blog.
Lane Head were in 5th whilst Hampton were in 7th. The hosts were in missed form, winning two and losing two of their last four games. Their last game was a fortnight prior as they beat AFC Coventry Rangers 2-0 at home. The visitors were unbeaten in four league games and also enjoyed some good cup results. Their last game was a week ago as they beat Coventry Alvis 2-0. Hampton had a lot of possession early on but Lane Head took the lead after six minutes, Jamie-Lee Tomlinson latching on to a long ball on the break. It was 2-0 on 19 minutes, a curling shot from the right flew in past the bemused keeper who was goal side of the ball, and Tomlinson again the scorer. The second half saw Hampton pressurise some more but they were so poor in the final third, they barely threatened. Lane Head had some chances on the break and never looked in danger of surrendering their lead. The contest had not been the greatest but it was a nice club to visit.
Wycombe had lost 1-0 at Stevenage, a result confirmed to me as I hurried back to the station to make the 17.14 to Walsall. I was there with a couple of minutes to spare and it was only six minutes journey. Walsall was a strange old place, I exited the station not into barriers but a shopping centre that took me back a couple of decades. It was a dated place but the people nice. A walk took me to the St Matthew's Hall Wetherspoons and after a wait I got myself a pint of Black Dragon for £3.45. That was consumed before I headed to the Fountain Inn, a nice backstreet boozer in a nicer part of Walsall. A pint of Dorset Nectar Organic Medium was enjoyed without much of a plan going forward, other than to play it by ear as to whether Banbury or High Wycombe would be my next destination. The 18:50 back to Birmingham fitted the bill and then it was a walk across Birmingham for the 19:43 to London Marylebone. The train was fired up early and power to my laptop was gratefully received.


GREOSVENOR PARK is a smart setup, Decent neighbours help the club out. There's a basic bar at the ground which also serves snacks. Officially, only a quarter of the ground is available to fans. Realistically, the only place out of bounds is the stand behind the goal but they are happy for you to discreetly take pictures. Parking is plentiful and town is around 15 minutes walk away.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Ringwood Town - Long Lane Community Stadium

Ringwood Town FC
Long Lane Community Stadium
Long Lane
BH24 3BX

Ground Number: 1264
Tuesday 20th February 2024
Ringwood Town 4-0 Frimley Green
Wessex D1


The Ringwood Almanac says that the Ringwood Town Football Club was formed in 1879. The club was first mentioned in county records in 1886 when it used the title of Ringwood Hornets. The team was disbanded during the 1914–1918 war and was re-established in 1918 as Ringwood Comrades, consisting mainly of servicemen returning from the battlefields. In 1936, the club reverted to the name of Ringwood Town Football Club but was disbanded again during the Second World War. In 1946 the club was listed as Ringwood & Welworthy Football Club but soon reverted to the title of Ringwood Town and has played under that name ever since. They played in local leagues at first, joining the Hampshire League at some point.

In 1976, they were Division 3 runners-up behind Horndean. They remained in Division 2 until 1986 when another promotion was achieved as they finished 3rd. Two seasons were spent in Division 1 before the team was relegated in 1988. They were relegated again in 1994 and spent three of the next four seasons in Division 3, the exception being when they were champions in 1996. They had a stroke of luck in 1999 when reorganisation saw them placed in the Premier Division. Finishes here were unspectacular and in 2004 the top tier was merged with the Wessex League. Ringwood spent a couple of seasons in the lower tier before a 9th-place finish in 2006 was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division following changes further up the pyramid. Two seasons were spent in the Premier Division, with a club record finish of 19th at step 5 in 2007. They've been in Division 1 since 2008 with two 5th-place finishes their best showing. Last season saw their lowest finish yet of 17th but they were well clear of relegation. This season has seen a slight upturn in fortunes with them in 14th place.

Ringwood Town have participated in six FA Cup campaigns. Their best run came in 2010 when they beat Cowes Sports 5-0 and Yate Town 4-1 before a 5-0 defeat at Cinderford Town. They have competed in the FA Vase every season since 2004 but it took until 2014 for them to get their first win when they were 3-2 victors at Cadbury Heath. They went out in the 1st Round, losing 3-1 to US Portsmouth and that remains their best progress, matched again in 2020, albeit with an extra qualifying round on the latter occasion. Local honours include four Bournemouth Senior Cups and the Russell Cotes Cup in 1980.

Ringwood is a market town in south-west Hampshire, on the River Avon close to the New Forest, northeast of Bournemouth and southwest of Southampton. It was founded by the Anglo-Saxons and has held a weekly market since the Middle Ages. Its current population is just under 14,000. Ringwood is home to Ellingham and Ringwood Rugby Club who play at Parsonage Barn Lane. There are also two Cricket clubs, Ringwood Cricket Club who play at Carvers Recreation Ground and Ellingham Cricket Club who play at Picket Post. Until 2022, Speedway has been staged at nearby Ringwood Raceway at Matchams Park. The team, known as the Ringwood Turfs, featured in the Southern Area League in the mid-1950s. The swimming pool, sports hall and exterior scenes of the BBC television comedy series The Brittas Empire were filmed at Ringwood Health and Leisure Centre, at the time known as Ringwood Recreation Centre. Some scenes from some episodes of Not the Nine O'Clock News were also filmed in the town.


It had been a pricey old time since my last new ground with my annual car MOT and service. After a relatively cheap year last year at 5p a mile, this year was much more expensive at 8p a mile. This was mainly due to some swine crashing into my car and driving off without exchanging details. Though I had no claims bonus protection, I still had to pay a £350 excess to get it repaired when it was due to someone else's negligence and dishonesty. Add in three new tyres and a new set of brake pads and my bills for the year came to over £1,000. As I factor in servicing to my football travel costs, it meant that I'd paid more than I had charged my passengers this season. I feel this is the fairest way to compare the cost via public transport and doesn't include insurance or depreciation as cars will always cost you plenty however little you use them. I was pretty happy with my Kia Rio. The fuel economy is not the greatest, worse than my last three cars but the build quality is far superior and it's well designed and nice to drive.

The lack of new grounds was frustrating with the nearest on Friday being either Swansea or a basic 3G cage in Nottingham. Therefore it would have to be a night in. I had by then decided to go to Wycombe Wanderers v Oxford United on Saturday. Plenty of groundhops interested me, most pertinently Gillingham Town and they had reasonable train fares. However, with just a couple of Saturday home games left that I could make, I decided to go down and support my team as the quirks of the fixture list had not worked in my favour versus other commitments. As it was, Gillingham Town was called off as I left to go to Wycombe, so a bullet dodged there. The usual excellent pre-match in the Rose and Crown was enjoyed but I fancied a curry too. The Dhansak Curry and Keema Naan were pretty good. The game itself was not bad, though it was 0-0. It was the usual day of junk food and booze although I did walk over 16 miles.

Sunday was the usual hell at work, packed out with crying children, daft questions and general stress. I also got the news that I would be without Colin as he was off to Concord Rangers. Monday was far better but it was still a pain getting to and from work due to badly managed roadworks (or more accurately abandoned hole in the road) by Thames Water. I offered Uttoxeter Town to Anwar, again having to pay more to make it reasonably priced for him but he was waiting on fellow hopper Richard's intentions. I decided that if he could come, I'd do Uttoxeter, if not I'd do Ringwood as it was fiddly on public transport. New Milton was far easier on the train so I decided to leave that for the time being. Another option was Pelsall Villa Colts but I preferred to leave that ground for a Sikh Hunters game. Anwar turned down Uttoxeter for the second time, opting to stay local although it was postponed a fortnight ago and they'd hardly played recently. This wasn't all bad news as I'd be getting home an hour earlier, with a 5 am start, this was most welcome.

It was a standard Tuesday for me, a day off and a walk to town and back. Nine miles and a can of Irn-Bru later I was back home, having some chicken for lunch. I had a few hours at home before leaving, sorting out some stuff to sell on eBay. With so many games off, even locally, I was glad to see that Ringwood had no issues and had indeed not had a home game called off this season. I left at 4.20, hoping for a good journey. It was not a bad one, with the bulk of the half-hour delay coming on the M3 at Eastleigh. I was in Ringwood at 6.40, going to the China Town takeaway for a pancake roll and salt and chilli chips for £6.90. Happily, they took card, a rarity for a Chinese takeaway and it meant I didn't have to worry about getting cash out to get in. These were decent but the chips cost above average at £4.60. After eating them I filled up with petrol at Esso and went back to the ground. It was a pain to find a parking space in the small car park at first but there were a few spaces spare. The club also took card and it was a nice friendly welcome as ever.

Ringwood Town were in 14th place, having gained 35 points from their 31 games so far. Frimley Green were in 18th with 17 points from 26 games. The hosts had won two and drawn two of their last four including a 2-1 win over Andover Town on Saturday. They'd had two unexpected draws this season, drawing 1-1 at leaders Downton but providing New Milton Town with one of their two points in a 2-2 home draw. The visitors had lost their last six league games, including a 2-0 defeat to Newport IOW on Saturday, They had last won on 23rd December, when they beat Ash United 3-2. The game kicked off late at 7.50. Ringwood Town started on the front foot and were awarded a penalty on five minutes for a trip in the area. Harry Smith stepped up to convert the spot kick and make it 1-0. The rest of the half saw Ringwood dominate possession and Frimley Green play on the break. The keepers weren't really tested with the half ending at 8.39. Half time was exactly fifteen minutes and Ringwood started strongly again. They made it 2-0 on 47 minutes, with a header from a short corner by Davy Newbold. On 56 minutes, Ringwood made it 3-0, Lee Vint chasing down a sloppy backpass and finishing with a low shot. There was only going to be one winner from now on and the game got quite niggly. The hosts made it 4-0 after some persistence in the box on 69 minutes, Jamie Wintle finally getting the ball in. It should have been five right at the end. A great curling shot from the edge of the area smacked the right-hand post and was followed up, only for the goal to be ruled offside.

With me having been to tonight's game, it left me with just Downton, Hamworthy Recreation, New Milton Town and Verwood Town to visit in this division, plus Portland United and Sherborne Town in the Premier Division. Most are doable for evening games but it's a shame that the stubborn Wessex League are so dead set against a groundhop event from what I understand. A notable result from the league tonight saw the bottom two face off. New Milton Town got their first win of the season at the 23rd attempt, beating AFC Aldermaston 3-0. I left just before 9.50 and had a decent journey home. Some podcasts kept me company and although the M3 was closed for a couple of junctions, it was well-managed. I was back in at 11.35, typing my blog before going to sleep. It had worked out around £40 in travel costs, more than I'd have liked but not too bad.


LONG LANE or THE RINGWOOD SPORTS HUB is a ground very much in transition. This is due to building work on a new pavilion and as a result, parking is quite limited. It is around a mile from town should you come on public transport. There is a basic clubhouse at the ground and it was only drinks and snacks when I visited. It is quite large though. The ground is restricted to one side while the work is ongoing. This includes a large stand with bench seats, holding around 150. It is still a pleasant place to watch a game but will be better once everything is completed.