Tuesday, 7 February 2017


After just over 4 years of groundhopping around the West Midlands, I am bringing production of this Blog to a close, as I will be moving to Sussex in the next few days.

My first Blog post covered the FA Vase match at Gornal Athletic against their opponents from East Anglia, Wisbech Town (featured photo shown above). This was a good match to cover as there was a good sized crowd, including many ground hoppers and an unusual ground, with it's steeped terraces on one side of the pitch. An exciting game too with the hosts rallying after going behind 0-2 just 6 minutes in to the first half, taking the match in to extra time and winning 4-2!

Since then I have covered 106 matches and have been all over the West Midlands area. 

I have enjoyed visiting the smaller clubs the most, like the village team of Bartestree (featured above) situated just outside the city of Hereford. A very well run, friendly club who now ply their trade back in the Herefordshire Football League after being unable to get enough interested players to travel the longer distances in the West Midlands League last season. They are doing well now and are in 2nd place. 

Other friendly clubs I'd like to mention are Littleton (near Evesham), Evesham United, Westfields, Hinton, Droitwich Spa, Chasetown, Heath Hayes and Worcester Raiders.

In the last few months I have enjoyed taking photos for my 2 local clubs, Worcester Raiders and Droitwich Spa and have had some of these photos featured in the local press, thus helping to raise the profile of these clubs.

So I hope others have gained inspiration from my work over the last few years and will continue to enjoy the world of Non-League.

That's all folks! Kind regards, Jonathan.

Monday, 9 January 2017


Because of the weather forecast I have decided to travel west today to Herefordshire, to visit the Briarwood Stadium home of Leominster Town for the first time.

While on the train, I see that when we have come out on the other side of the Malvern Hills, there are pockets of mist still lingering and the cloud cover does not look like lifting soon. I change at Hereford for the Manchester bound train and get off at Leominster, which is the first stop.

It's an interesting place with many old looking buildings, some being black and white timbered ones. I have a meal at a local chip shop, have a quick look round the town centre and then make my way up to the ground.

This takes me about 15 minutes and I see the sign for the stadium and the Bridge Street Sports Centre. The football ground lies at the back of the Sports Centre and I find a footpath that takes me past some tennis courts on my right before going through the entrance to the waiting pitch.

There is a stand on the right hand stand of the ground and the dug-outs on the left. There are floodlights in place too.

The ground is enclosed on 3 sides by fencing while a hedge separates it from the Sports Centre complex. There is no clubhouse but I find out later that you can get refreshments in the Sports Centre. Including myself there appears to be only 8 spectators present but more come along just before the game starts and during the first half. It's obvious that the sun is not going to show today but at least it's dry.

The home team's opponents today are Orleton Sports, who come from the village of Orleton, just a few miles north of here. So it's a local derby between two mid-table teams. Orleton are currently occupying 8th place and 3 points ahead of Leominster in 9th place, in a 13 team division. Orleton have played 3 games more.

The teams come out on to the pitch, with Leominster in yellow and black and the visitors in green and white. For the first 5 minutes it's the home team who are on top but for most of the first half it's Orleton who are the team creating the best chances. 

They go close on 4 occasions before taking a deserved lead after 28 minutes when the Leominster keeper rolls the ball out to one of his team mates but he's robbed of the ball by the Orleton No.10. He then passes the ball to the No.9 who guides the ball past the keeper.

Leominster show they are still fighting in this match when 2 minutes later their No.6 is found free on the left of the penalty area but he shoots over the bar. They do get an equaliser after 35 minutes when one of their players is brought down in the penalty area and their No.11, Liam Watton, puts away the penalty (as shown below).

Right at the end of the half though, Orleton retake the lead when their No.11 goes down the left to pass inside for the No.10 but his shot is blocked and rebounds kindly for their No.9 to slot the ball home.

                          (The Orleton No.11 at the start of the build to their second goal) 

The whistle for the end of this half soon after sees the visitors back in the driving seat. They have been the more impressive team as they have supported each other better, especially in their build up play. Still things can change quickly in football so I'm sure Leominster will be looking to grab a quick equaliser.

I know Leominster a few seasons ago had gained promotion to the 2nd Division of the West Midlands League but I think only stayed in for one season and haven't been faring that well since then. Bartestree another Herefordshire team, had to relinquish their tenure in the West Midlands League last season because some of their players didn't like all the travelling involved, so maybe it's a problem for teams in this county.

I noticed during the first half that mist had started to form in the corner beyond the stand and had started to drift across the pitch but it was not enough to affect the visibility.

When play resumes, Leominster look determined to get back in the game. In the 4th minute their No.7 has a free kick tipped over the bar and 2 minutes later their No.6 has a shot saved.

                                                     (Leominster's Liam Watten goes on the attack)  

Orleton Colts though take a 2 goal lead when their No.11 goes through on the left to score.

This spurs Leominster on to to get back in the match but their efforts leave them susceptible to counter attacks by their opponents. 3 times the Orleton No.9  goes close to increasing his sides lead. Twice he has 2 headers that go just over the bar and on the 3rd occasion he goes past the Leominster keeper down the left side of the goal but the angle proves to be too tight an angle to get the ball in.

With just a minute to go the Leominster keeper makes a great save from a header in front of the goal and then his side get a second goal in injury time with a route one kind of goal. The ball is booted down field for their No.14 substitute, Terry Wiiliams, to beat a defender and lob the advancing keeper.

On the balance of play Orleton deserved to win today but Leominster have shown some great battling qualities and kept going right to the final whistle.

Match attendance: 23
Match entry fee: Free
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment: 7/10

Wednesday, 28 December 2016


It's Boxing Day and I'm heading off to see a top of the table local derby in the 2nd Division of the Midlands Football League. It's taking place at Fairfield Villa (2nd place) against the visitors of Droitwich Spa (3rd place).

Fairfield is a village situated a few miles North West of Bromsgrove. They play at the local recreation ground there. I am travelling with a group of 3 Droitwich supporters. The driver is Ben Lloyd, the club website and programme editor, with Andy and Luke, who he picks up in Fernhill Heath and Droitwich respectively. We make it to the club by 11:00am, an hour before kick-off. The ground is situated at the back of a row of houses on the Stourbridge Road (B4091). A small drive leads up to the car park. The one end of the pitch adjoins this and the club house/changing rooms are situated in the bottom left corner. Further along the left are the 2 dug-outs. The pitch slopes down after the half way line and the opposite end is bordered by woodland. The right side is bordered by a children's play area and Fairfield First School.

After some refreshments in the bar, we go outside just before kick-off. Fairfield are in their home strip of red shirts with black shorts and red socks. Droitwich are in their away strip of white shirts, black shorts and socks.

     (Droitwich's James Lennon, battles for possession with the Fairfield defence)   
Although it's a sunny day, there is a chill westerly wind behind my back which is blowing down the slope (the end that Fairfield are playing toward). Also the pitch looks a bit bobbly and not really conducive for flowing football.

So it proves in a scrappy, competitive first-half, probably typical of a local derby.

The home side create a chance in the 21st minute with a good attack down the right but Spa's keeper, Matt Oliver, saves the shot down to his left.

In the 32nd minute, Droitwich's Nick Seabourne collides with the home keeper, Chris Hancox, who takes most of the impact with his left shoulder.

Hancox carries on after some treatment but is clearly still in discomfort. Seabourne is booked but I don't know if he could have avoided the collision.

Oliver makes another good save from the Fairfield No.11 just before half-time to preserve their clean sheet. When the teams troop off the field, it looks as if this is the kind of game that will be settled by a single goal.

Fairfield Villa were formed way back in 1902, became members of the Bromsgrove League and won it in their first season. They moved to their current ground in 1959 and joined the Midland Combination in 1985 after years of success in the Bromsgrove and then Kidderminster Leagues.

They are a club who regularly finish in the top 6 plus they have won the President's Cup twice and the Worcestershire Junior Cup once (losing finalists, 6 times).

During the interval while enjoying a coffee in the club house, the guy serving behind the bar tells me that Fairfield have 5 first team regulars out today and their keeper is the reserve.

When I go back outside just as the teams are going back on the pitch I soon realise that Chris Hancox has been taken off and has been replaced in goal by an outfield player.

This seems to inspire Droitwich to up their game and with the wind behind them, they look more dangerous now.

In the 56th minute the Spa left back, Jamie Smith's free kick is parried by the keeper, it falls to Seabourne but he manages to shoot against the post from close in.

Just 4 minutes later, Crowther goes close when he places the ball over the bar after being set up with a lay off from No.9, James Lemon. Then another Spa defender ,Matty Hunt, then sees his header pushed over the bar by the substitute keeper, after a period of sustained pressure by the visitors.

Fairfield still look dangerous on the break and in the 81st minute, their No.9 Connor Collins goes on a determined long run to the right of the Droitwich goal and his cross shot goes wide of the far post.

           (Collins starts his run on goal after getting away from Andy Crowther)

2 minutes later though, Droitwich score the winner when their Man of the Match, Jamie Smith, crosses in to the box for substitute, Macaulay Finch to head in to the far corner of the net.

Lemon almost doubles the lead for Droitwich right at the end of normal time but his shot hits the post after he has rounded the keeper.

Droitwich have won and so they swap league places with their old rivals and have also done the league double over them too. I am sure though that Fairfield will be competing with Droitwich all the way for the rest of this season.

Match attendance: 50
Match entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment: 6/10


Wednesday, 30 November 2016


Today sees the much anticipated clash between local rivals, Droitwich Spa and Worcester Raiders in the semi-finals of the Worcestershire Junior Cup. Both teams have been in good form recently and Droitwich won against the Raiders in the Final of the competition last year by 3-2 in a very close game.

The Raiders chairman, Kevin Jenkins, has said in the local press that his team are looking to get revenge this time round. The 'Salt Men' of Droitwich will probably have different ideas though, especially after their record 10-1 league victory last week.

It's good weather today (a bit chilly) and after my short train journey from Worcester, have a cooked all day breakfast in town and then walk to the Spa's Briar Mill ground.

When I get there 10 minutes before kick-off (@2pm) I  have a chat with the Raiders secretary, George McPherson. He is a bit worried as his side have 2 regular defenders out today.

There looks to be a healthy 3 figure crowd today and I just know it's going to be a close game. Finally the 2 teams come out, with Droitwich in their home strip of red and black and the visitors in their alternative dark blue kit.

Straight from the kick-off, James Lemon puts through Nick Seabourne on the Raiders goal and his effort goes just the wrong side of the left hand post.

Both sides in the first 20 minutes fashion chances but it's the hosts who go in to the lead when in an attack down the left, the Worcester keeper, Dan Stevens, rushes out to the edge of his area to meet the Spa striker, James Lemon, changes his mind but it's too late as Lemon chips the stranded Stevens for an easy goal. 

From then on it's Droitwich who gain the upper hand and it's Lemon again in the 28th minute to score after being put through by Seabourne. Mr. McPherson's fears seem to have credibility. It gets worse for the visitors when the lively Luke Molloy heads home just 2 minutes later.

    (James Lemon hugs fellow forward, Nick Seabourne after scoring his 2nd goal)

Worcester Raiders have another set back when their No.5, Richard Tomkins, has to go off (as shown below) with an injury.

Fortunately it's not all doom and gloom for them, as they show their fighting spirit in the 42nd minute, by reducing the deficit when Martin Newman hits home from close range after the ball falls to him after a free kick from the left.

So 3-1 for 'the Spa' at half-time but Worcester Raiders are not down and out just yet.

Indeed they are getting more in to the game in the second half and after 13 minutes have a shot cleared off the line. Just 2 minutes later and they pull back another goal when their captain, Joel Hobbs, scores with a great near post header from a corner.

The almost inevitable equaliser comes from Martin Newman who smashes home his shot in to the roof of the net after good work on the right by Anthony Smith.

          (Martin Newman is mobbed by his team mates after hitting the equaliser)

Droitwich don't look such an attacking force in this half and a saved shot from Lemon is their only decent effort.

                                        (Worcester Raiders clear from this corner)

With full time and the prospect of a penalty shoot out looming, it's Raiders who seal a remarkable come back when their midfielder, Matt Tyler, shoots in to the net from the edge of the penalty area.

A few minutes later and it's all over. The Raiders are in the final and will face new club Montpellier, next April.

Most of the spectators here today would have agreed that this game was worthy of a final and it was also a great advert for the local football scene. So now Spa will have to focus more on their league campaign and Raiders will be looking to cut the points deficit with Hereford Lads Club in Div 1 of the West Midlands League.

Match entrance fee: free
Match attendance: 145
Match programme: £1
Match entertainment: 9/10

Monday, 14 November 2016


I visited Hereford for the second week running, as a local team of mine (Worcester Raiders) were playing the runaway leaders, Hereford Lads Club who have won all their 15 league games so far. I read in the Worcester News this morning that the Raiders Chairman, Kevin Jenkins, says the team are confident of a win today and will be bringing a coach load of supporters too!

It's a grey and drizzly day but with the promise of better weather, further west. I travel to Hereford OK on the train and after getting some lunch and a wander round the city centre, get to the ground just before kick-off at 2pm. Lads Club's ground is also the ground for the County FA and is situated very close to Westfield's Allpay Park, who are playing in the FA Vase today.

Lads Club are playing in a royal blue kit and Raiders are decked out in an all dark blue strip.

Lads Club go close after 10 minutes when their No.9 hits the bar with a header and in the early stages dominate the play. The Raiders defence is standing up well to the home sides lively attack and have certainly improved a lot from when I saw them in action in a pre-season friendly in July.

The Raiders threaten after 25 minutes when they have a shot on the right turned round for a corner and then take the lead when Martin Newman pounces to score from close range, eight minutes later.

Soon after Raiders forward, Richard Smith has a shot blocked by keeper Steve Bell and are well on top now. Their No.4 also shoots across Lads Club's goal but the league leaders do threaten in the last minute with a glancing header that just goes wide.

It's been a very lively and competitive 45 minutes and difficult to predict the outcome. I have talked to the photographer from the Hereford Times newspaper, Colin Maggs a bit and he is off now to the Westfields match. We both agree that the conditions today are making good quality photos difficult to take, with it drizzling when it was supposed to keep dry this afternoon. 

When play resumes it only takes 2 minutes for the visitors to extend their lead with their No.9, Nick MacPherson, shooting home after some good approach play on the right.

A few minutes later and things take a turn for the worse for the hosts when their No.11 is sent off for dissent apparently. This enables the Raiders to take control of the match and they look dangerous whenever they attack. In the 71st minute, the Lads Club keeper makes 2 very good saves in quick succession (shown below saving from striker Richard Smith).

The result is wrapped up by No.10, Richard Smith, when he beats a defender to the ball and then takes it round keeper Steve Bell before shooting in to the net from a tight angle (shown below taking congratulations from team mates).

A few minutes later and confusion reigns for a while when a Lads Club player goes back on to the pitch before be allowed to do so by the referee. The player is booked and then sent-off after swearing at the ref.

Richard Smith then heads wide a good chance from a corner.

There is a bit more drama near the end of the game when the Lads Club No.5 and manager, Danny Moon, moans at the linesman near me, something like, 'It's bad enough having just 9 players without having just ONE linesman!' He then moans some more at the official and then a Raiders fan who is stood nearby directs a comment to Mr.Moon saying that he's lucky to still be on the pitch. This results in expletives being directed at the fan and then the ref decides he's had enough and duly books the Lads Club manager.

I come across the Worcester Raiders secretary, George MacPherson, when I wander to the club house side of the pitch. He tells me that the club had indeed hired a coach but had been delayed a while in the traffic. This explains why it looked as though there were only about 30 spectators at the match when I arrived. 

The game ends soon after and the Worcester Raiders players are understandably elated.They have put in a great performance and I was particularly impressed by their defence. They have several games in hand on the teams above them and look to be good for a top 4 finish at least.

Lads Club definitely have some quality players in their side and it will be difficult for any other team even at this stage of the season to overhaul them, although Worcester Raiders who have 6 games in hand will give it a go I'm sure. 

Match attendance: approx 80
Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment value: 8/10  

Friday, 11 November 2016


On a glorious October day I have made the last minute decision to visit Hereford, for the intriguing FA Cup 1st Round tie between Westfields and Manchester based club, Curzon Ashton. It's been a great achievement for Step 5 club Westfields (Midland Football League, Prem Div) to get this far, albeit with the help of continual home draws after their Extra-Preliminary away win at Stourport Swifts (4-3).

They have had some great results in the previous rounds, most notably against Southern League Premier Div team, St Ives Town (4-0) and Leiston, the Ryman League Premier Div leaders (2-1).

Before I leave home to go the rail station I hear that the 'Football Focus' team headed by Dan Walker will be at Westfields today at 12pm. Yes, it's going to be quite an occasion.

I get to the ground at 2:10pm, to ensure I get a good vantage point and to be able to buy a match programme before they sell out. There are already plenty of supporters in the ground ( about 300) and I can see TV cameras dotted around Allpay Park.

Unfortunately by the time kick-off time arrives so have banks of cloud too, thus spoiling the sunny conditions that were originally forecast for the duration of the game.

When the teams come out, Westfields are in their usual claret & sky blue kit while Curzon are in a change strip of lime green shirts & black shorts and socks.

Curzon Ashton take control of the game but Westfields get awarded a penalty from their first attack when Aidan Thomas is adjudged to have been brought down in the penalty area. This is converted by Craig Jones past the Curzon keeper, Hakan Burton (as shown below).

The Westfield players and supporters go wild and I have difficulty in taking photos for a few seconds with all the jostling around me, ha ha! It's a great moment for the home team.

The game is turning out to be a cagey affair with Curzon dominating possession but Westfields looking more dangerous when they do manage to break out to counter-attack.

Home keeper, Kieron Blackburn, is called on to make 2 good saves to enable his team to keep their lead and Craig Jones reminds Curzon Ashton that Westfields are still a threat when he fizzes a free-kick over the bar just before half-time.

So it's 1-0 for Westfields and many of the home crowd must be wondering if their heroes can pull off a result today. The official attendance figure announced is 1178 and what would it have been had not Hereford FC been playing at home today?

After visiting the loo I decide to try and find a different spot to watch the match, as I had been facing a northerly wind and my hands had got very cold. My shutter finger at one point had seemed to lose all feeling! I find a more sheltered place at the side of the goal that Curzon Ashton will be attacking in the next 45 minutes and the sun decides to come out too!

When play resumes, the visitors pile on the pressure. They press the Westfields players very well and are quicker to the ball. 

Westfields defence though are well marshalled by their experienced skipper, Phil Glover. Curzon are faced by a wall of claret and blue whenever they attack. 

Despite Westfields 'parking the bus', Curzon do create chances. Joe Guest has strikes a shot against the post when he probably should have scored and later Neil Cummins puts the ball in to the net but is adjudged to be offside.

The home sides brave resistance is undone with just 9 minutes to go, when from a right wing corner, substitute Adam Morgan tucks the ball away after a header had bounced back off the cross bar. This sees some of the Curzon supporters stage a mini pitch invasion to celebrate their relief.

There are no more goals and it's probably a fair result, as Curzon for all their possession have not created that many chances. Both teams now go in to the hat for the 2nd Round draw. It's been a great occasion today and has given Westfields a taste of the big time in their 50th Anniversary year. Curzon Ashton are a club just 3 years older but have reached Step 2 in the Non-League pyramid, surely an inspiration to today's hosts.

Match attendance: 1,178
Match entrance fee: £10
Match programme: £1.50
Match entertainment: 7/10

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


I have decided to be adventurous today and venture close to the Welsh border to the small town of Kington to see their league match against the Black Country team of Wednesfield.

The weather is good, mostly cloudy but dry and not too cold either. I have taken the train to Hereford and then catch the number 461 bus from the bus station whose ultimate destination is Llandrindod Wells in Wales. It takes about an hour to get to Kington and it's a journey through some beautiful rolling countryside.

Kington is a very small but attractive market town of aproximately 2,700 souls that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, situated on the banks of the River Arrow. I have a lunch of cod and chips at the local chippy and have a quick look round the town and a browse in the Tourist Information shop. The ground in Mill Street is just a short walk away and soon I am paying my entrance fee and go in to the club house for my pre-match cuppa. It's disappointing that there are no match programmes and no club badges on sale either.

The ground is a pretty neat affair. The car park is found immediately after entering the ground, with the club house on the right and the changing rooms on the left. Also on the left hand side are the team dug-outs while on the opposite side is located a neat wooden stand, comprising of 4 rows of bench seating painted in the team's colours of black and yellow. It looks as if it can seat about 200 spectators.The bottom end of the ground is bordered by a small embankment, which separates the ground and a caravan park.

Kington Town have been members of the West Midlands League since the 1996-97 season. After gaining promotion to the Premier Division after their first season, they became league champions in the 1998-99 season. They had been relegated to the Herefordshire Football League by 2006 but rejoined the WMRL 3 seasons ago. Promotion was achieved at the first attempt and last season the club finished in a creditable 7th place. Town have struggled so far this season and lay near the foot of the table with just one win to their name.

Wednesfield on the other hand are doing better and were in 7th place before today's game. 

The teams come on to the pitch with Kington in their yellow and black striped shirts while Wednesfield are in a change strip of all white.

  The first ten minutes are quite even but the visitors increasingly begin to look the more dangerous side, their players pressing the Kington players and their forwards looking very speedy on the break.

In the14th minute the Wednesfield No.9 is put through on the left and his cross shot is pushed round the post by the Kington keeper. After sustained pressure, a cross from the right is met by a great leap by the diminutive Wednesfield No.7 and his header goes in off the underside of the cross bar in the 18th minute.

2 minutes later and Wednesfield's second goal is scrambled home after the first shot is saved.

        (Kington Town's No.10, Callum Davies, fires in a shot on the Wednesfield goal)

Although Kington are being outplayed they are still able to make sorties in to the Wednesfield half, especially down the flanks. On the left, their No.10 Callum Davies tries hard to get in to good scoring positions but is usually let down by his final ball or touch. On the right it's the No.11, Liam Jones who is prominent.

Wednesfield though continue to look the more dangerous side, with their speedy forwards always causing problems to the home defence, especially their No 9 and No 8. It's their No.8 who scores their third goal when out on the right of the Kington penalty area, he cleverly shoots in to near top corner of the goal, with the keeper probably unsighted thanks to one of his own defenders.

Kington in response step up their own efforts and in injury time, a cross is delivered from the right and their No.7 sends in a glancing header which goes just wide of the far post. Just one minute later and they score through a shot by their No.6, Matthew Watkins, put through by a good pass from the ever probing Liam Jones.

            (Goal scorer, Matthew Watkins is congratulated by his team mates)

The half time whistle goes soon after and Kington have been given a glimmer of hope of salvaging something from this match. Before play had started today, I had predicted a 2-2 draw but it looks as if there will be a lot more goals than that.

I have been impressed by Wednesfield so far and can't really see them slipping up in this match now. The only other time I have seen them was about 5 years ago, playing away at the Hereford side, Pegasus Juniors when an early season win had seen them go briefly to the top of the Premier Division. Sadly they were relegated to the 1st Division 2 seasons ago and where they finished in 4th place last season.

When play resumes, Kington promptly lose possession straight from the kick-off and Wednesfield's No.9 easily slips the ball past the home keeper.

Then Kington just 2 minutes later score their second goal when a great cross is powered home via the head of No.9, Ricky Dyer.

Kington are putting up a great fight and their No.2, Nick Layton is making some powerful runs down the left (as shown below).

Also Liam Jones on the right is still proving troublesome to the visitors defence but after 74 minutes Wednesfield restore their 3 goal advantage when substitute No.16 is put through to lob the goal keeper.

                            (The Wednesfield No.10 is foiled by a great save) 

Kington are going down fighting though and they score the final goal of the match when the ball drops for their No.7 to poke it home following a free-kick on the left.

It's been a very entertaining match played in a good spirit by both teams at this lovely ground. Thanks to the Kington Town Secretary, Nigel Bradley, for providing me with some of the names of the players for his team and I hope they start getting more points soon to help them up the table. Wednesfield could well be challenging for promotion in what promises to be an exciting season, although no team looks likely to catch the runaway leaders, Hereford Lads Club with their 100% record.

Match attendance: approx 40-50
Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment: 8.5 /10