Monday, 23 December 2013

KNOWLE PREVAIL AGAINST HIGHWAY


I am travelling to yet another new ground today to cover the Birmingham County FA (Saturday) Vase 3rd Round tie between Knowle (Midland Combination, Div 1) and Highway Coundon Court (Coventry Football Alliance). The venue is Knowle FC's, Robin's Nest ground, in Hampton Road, B93 0NX.

I catch the Stratford-upon-Avon train from Worcester, which takes me to my stop at Dorridge without having to change in Birmingham. I have a quick look round the small shopping area before buying a chicken burger & chips for lunch at the local chippy.

I then make my way by foot to Knowle. I could have gone by bus but as it was a last minute decision to go to this match, didn't leave myself enough time to check the local routes before leaving home. It takes me about 40 minutes to walk to the ground but it gives me a chance to work off a few calories from all the chips Iv'e just eaten!

I must say that judging by the houses that I walk past, that it is an affluent area. On my way I also see the cricket ground for the Knowle & Dorridge club who are one of the best in the Birmingham area. I make it in to Knowle village's centre and there is an impressive array of shops. From here it's just 10 minutes walk to Knowle FC's ground.

The ground has a car park in front of the pitch and on the other side there is a small stand with seats and the club house is along side of this. I have just made it with a few minutes to spare as it's a 1:30 pm kick-off.

When the teams come on to the pitch, I am uncertain as to who is who. I had thought Knowle would be in red & black but find out a bit later that for some reason they are wearing their away strip of yellow & black. Highway are in an Inter-Milan looking blue & black striped kit.


   
For the first 10 minutes the visitors have most of the play and Knowle are struggling to get going. Also one of the Highway mid-fielders has a passing resemblance to Fellaini of Man Utd due to his luxuriant afro hairstyle.

Knowle get more in to the game as the game progresses and their forwards are looking increasingly dangerous but it's the visitors from Coventry who score the first goal after about 30 minutes.

This setback spurs on the home side and they renew their efforts in search of an equaliser.



They achieve this just in to stoppage time and it's a very good goal.
A Knowle forward cuts in from the right and hits a fierce first time shot in to the far corner of the goal despite the best efforts of the Highway keeper.

I retire to the club house for my half-time cuppa and a Yorkie bar. I notice that their is another man with a camera. I think he must have been in the stand as I hadn't noticed him around during the first-half. There looks to a crowd of 15-20 spectators at this game today.

So the 2nd half starts and Knowle carry on looking to have the greater goal scoring threat. I talk to one guy who it turns out used to be the groundsman at the club. He says that Knowle seem to have a few reserve team players in their line-up today. He also tells me that Knowle used to play in the Premier Division of their league a few years ago and even have permission to erect floodlights at their ground but the team has gone downhill since then and have been struggling a bit this season. They do have a strong youth set up at the club which might ensure a better future for them and they also have a women's team too.


                         ( 2 Knowle players celebrate their 2nd goal )

Knowle score a second goal with a header from a corner and they look the more likely winners but to their credit Highway go looking for an equaliser and get one with minutes to spare. Their No.9 shoots in despite the close attentions of a Knowle defender, as shown below.



So full-time arrives and it's all square. The 2 sides re-assemble for extra-time but I decide that I am going on my journey home in order to beat the football crowds in Birmingham on way back to Worcester.

Later on I see on the web that Knowle have got through to the next round after scoring another goal. Highway did give them a tough game today and maybe they will be looking to move in to the Midland Combination in the future?

  
   

Sunday, 15 December 2013

FIRST-HALF DISPLAY CLINCHES IT FOR CHELMSLEY TOWN


Hello sports fans! I am travelling to yet another new ground for me today, namely that of Hampton FC's, at the Field Lane Sports Ground, Lugtrout Lane near Solihull for their Midland Combination, Division 1 clash against near neighbours, Chelmsley Town. 

Originally I had been looking to visit Malvern Rangers ground but have been put-off this choice because of the weather forecast, which implies there will be rain in that area by early afternoon.

It takes me about 1.5 hours to get to Solihull by train and when I arrive it's quite sunny and there are plenty of people in the town centre of course doing their Christmas shopping. Solihull is a great venue for shopping with it's branch of John Lewis and the indoor Touchwood Shopping centre to hand. I do a bit a spot of window shopping and after a cheap snack of a bacon butty, chocolate eclair & a coffee, I'm on my way by foot to Hampton FC. 

Unfortunately, I get a bit lost and what should have probably been a 30 minute walk turns in to a 50 minute walk and my late arrival. So I'm here with 20 minutes already been played. The ground is in the countryside and I walk through the gate in through the car park. I pass the club house and changing room complex and see the ground in front of me. There is a rail surrounding the pitch with 2 small covered stands either side of the team dugouts on the west side with banking at the southern end. On the eastern side are other playing fields.

I take a position at the southern end, sheltered from the stiff breeze (with now cloudy sky) and see that Chelmsley are attacking in my direction.They are in a sky blue kit while Hampton are in their colours of red shirts and black shorts & red socks. I am told there is no score yet but within 5 minutes, Chelmsley take the lead. Their No.7 heads the ball in at the near post from a corner, as shown in the title photo. Later on I realise I have seen this player before. He used to play, usually at left-back for Pilkington XXX. He certainly took the goal well.




Hampton are struggling to contain their visitors and sure enough, Chelmsley double their lead a few minutes later with one of their forwards shooting in from from the edge of the penalty area. 

Hampton come in to the game more now, determined to peg a goal back.



Despite Hampton's best efforts though, Chelmsley score another goal on 41 minutes and what a little cracker it is too! Their No.11 cuts in off the left-wing and curls the ball across and over the Hampton keeper in to the far corner.

I didn't expect to see Hampton 0-3 down at this stage of the match as they were 6th in the league table before this match and they are playing at home.

After a cup of tea in the club house, I venture in to the cold again just as the teams are coming back on to the pitch. There are only 10 spectators apart from myself (maybe due to the proximity of Christmas no doubt).

The second period proves to be a more even affair and Hampton are awarded a penalty after just 3 minutes. The Chelmsley keeper barging in to the back of a Hampton forward in front of the ref! The spot kick is duly dispatched and there is hope again for the home side.


  
I am mystified later on when the Hampton keeper rushes out and stops a shot with his arm. To me, albeit being at the opposite end of the ground, it looked as if he had run out his area. The ref, books the keeper and awards a free kick. I'm sure the shot was going close to the goal too. Very puzzling!




Despite the best efforts of both sides though, the score remains 3-1 in Chelmsley's favour. I thought both teams played pretty well considering the unfavourable conditions today.

Chelmsley look a strong team but I can't see them catching Cadbury Athletic at the top of the table.

I make my way back to Solihull rail station without any mishaps this time (reading the map properly helps!). 

Monday, 9 December 2013

IT'S A RUGBY SCORE AT HINTON TODAY!



I am going west today on my latest football excursion. In fact I am investigating uncharted territory for me, namely the Herefordshire Football League. A new ground in Hereford, that of Hinton FC and their league match against the basement boys of Bartestree Reserves.

Today's forecast is pretty good as I catch the train from Foregate Street station. Mainly cloudy with sunny intervals with a slight chance of a shower.

When the train heads west of Ledbury, we hit blue skies and I am looking forward to seeing Hereford again. It's been about 8 months since my last excursion there.

I arrive at this historic city at 12:15, just enough time for me to have a quick look around the city centre and have a meal. The Saturday street market is in full swing in the High Street and I also have a wander round the Cathedral and Church Street area before heading off to Broomy Hill, the area west of here where Hinton's ground is located. I walk along the Barton Road before turning left down the road called Broomy Hill and then 5 minutes later I turn left again down the path leading down to the ground. Also just across the road from the football ground, is the Hereford Waterworks Museum, which showcases water engineering machinery of all kinds. I see that it's usually open on selected weekends from March till October.

Hinton's ground nestles under the edge of a hill not far from the River Wye. Close by are the playing fields of the Hereford Cathedral School and they are playing a rugby match this afternoon, watched by a crowd which looks to be 100+ in size.

There is a small car park and a building that houses the changing rooms and the small refreshment stall. I buy a cup of tea there and find that I am being served by the friendly Chairman, Graham Andrews. He says that it's ok to take photos and hands me an information sheet about the club.

Hinton were founded in 1947 and that makes them older than the present two leading clubs, Westfields (founded 1966) and Pegasus Juniors (founded 1955). Although they have their ground is situated to the north of the river, the club have their roots south of the river, from the area around Hinton Road. 

Bartestree's first team are doing well in the West Midlands League as they acheived promotion to that League's First Division at the first attempt. Bartstree is a village just a few miles to the east of the city. Their reserve team however are not doing well in the Herefordshire Premier and have been suffering heavy defeats lately.

The 2 teams take to the field, Hinton in black & red while the visitors are in black & white. It doesn't take long for Hinton to score the first goal after 8 minutes, although surprisingly it comes against the run of play.


(Bartestree clear the ball out of defence, with the Waterworks Museum in the background)

One thing that surprises me is that I seem to be the only real spectator in the ground apart from the Chairman and Paul Trattle, who is the Reserve Team Assistant Manager. More spectators do arrive at half time and during the second-half, so at one point there are about 17 watching.

Hinton score another goal after about 18 minutes and then from the 25th minute till half-time, score another 5! Although the Bartestree defence is not playing well, Hinton at times are playing some great first touch football. With one of the goals, a Hinton forward plays a sublime back heel for a colleague to smash a shot in to the net.


 (The Bartestree keeper manages to push the ball on to the post and out )    
Bartestree do manage to have one effort hit the bar after 30 minutes, so it's not all one way traffic. So half-time arrives and Hinton are looking to greatly improve their goal difference before the game ends. I begin to think that the score in this match might end up greater than the score in the nearby rugby match.

So, the second half starts but unfortunately for Bartestree, they keep shipping in goals at regular intervals despite the heroics of their overworked keeper.


       (A Hinton substitute keeps up the pressure on the visitor's defence)

During this half, several spectators from the rugby come over to watch for a while. They seem to know the Hinton No.9 and have a quick chat and then walk back over the school playing fields to their match.


                              (The Hinton No.10 shapes up for a shot)

Bartestree have 2 or 3 chances to score in this half but their finishing is very bad. It's evident that many of their players are lacking in confidence.

So the game ends with the score at 13-0, even though the Bartestree keeper has made several good saves in this half. Although in a way it's good to see some goals it doesn't beat seeing a good competitive game. Before the game I thought Hinton would probably win by a 3-4 goal margin today judging by the two teams league positions.

Hinton have certainly improved their goal difference and maybe they will start to move up the Premier Division table for the next part of the season. They have future aspirations to move up to the West Midlands League, like their near neighbours, Lads Club and Bartestree and with floodlights already in place and hard standing and a small stand there too, maybe they just need to have to build a proper club house to immediately improve their facilities.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

DROITWICH SPA ARE CHEERED BY CUP SUCCESS


I am travelling to a new ground today but surprisingly it's close to home as I am visiting the home of Droitwich Spa at the King George Playing Field in Briar Mill for their match against Perrywood from Worcester. So it's just an eight mile rail journey to this historic small town for the Quarter-Final tie in the Worcestershire FA Quarter-Final.

Droitwich are languishing next to bottom in the 1st Division of the Midland Combination while Perrywood occupy a creditable 6th place in the division below them.

Today is a cool but sunny day and when I leave the rail station and take the 5-10 minute walk in to the town centre I find that there is a farmer's market in the town square. I think I will have a closer look there after the match.

I like Droitwich, it's got some interesting old buildings in the centre and it has an interesting history linked to the it's salt mining roots (dating back to Roman times). Also recently the local canal's refurbishment was completed and it's well worth visiting as it's just situated a stone's throw away from the main shopping area. 

Below is a photo of the canal basin in Vines Park when the canal was officially re-opened in July 2011.



So enough of the tourism plug and back to the match. I make my way to the Briar Mill home of the football team by walking in a westerly direction along the canal tow path and then taking the path along the River Salwarpe which runs along the playing fields where the local sports complex lies. There is a large building where the changing rooms are and there is a building that houses the local boxing club along side it. There are 3 football pitches as well as the Droitwich Spa FC pitch which is enclosed with a rail fence. At the back is an all weather pitch for the local hockey club.

There are about 20 spectators for the match and there is also a match taking place featuring the reserve team in a Worcestershire Minor Cup game, two pitches away against Worcester Raiders.

The 'Worcester News' newspaper had informed me that the match was starting at 1:30 pm but in fact it starts at 1:45 pm. Droitwich Spa are playing in their red and black strip while Perrywood are in blue and white.



Droitwich dominate the early stages of the match although they don't create many chances. However their diminutive No.10, weaves his way into the box and is hacked down from behind for a stonewall penalty! 
The resulting penalty kick is placed too close to the Perrywood keeper and is easily saved. This seems to be a continuation of their league form, playing well but not converting their chances.

Perrywood come more in to the game and the rest of the half is quite even. Defences are on top and the teams go off at half time with the game still goalless. 

When I go to the toilets which I find are at the end of the corridor where the changing rooms are, I find there is a hatch open for refreshments where I buy my cup of tea and am surprised to find there are programmes for sale (groundhoppers take note). The programme features recent match reports and photos (advertised for £1 but sold today for 50p) and is the handiwork of the Secretary, Barry Schuck. One half is for the 1st team and the other features the reserves.

When play resumes, Droitwich are very much on top and after 20 minutes they eventually do take the lead with a good shot in to the top right hand corner from No.4, Mike Seeley, shown below walking back to his own half.


  

Although still the dominant team, Droitwich are finding it difficult to finish off the game with a decisive second goal. The longer the game goes on Perrywood sniff a chance of getting an equaliser.



With a few minutes to go Perrywood rattle the bar with a looping shot and this acts as a wake-up call because right near the end of normal time, Droitwich Spa make sure of progress to the semi-final with another goal, scored by substitute, Matthew Purser.

It's been a hard working performance by Droitwich but they didn't make it easy for themselves.

Droitwich Spa's ground is probably worth a visit on a good weather day as there is only cover to found in a small covered area in one corner of the pitch, probably enough for about 20 spectators.

Droitwich now have 4 away matches in December and Perrywood next play their League's league leaders, Paget Rangers.


  

Monday, 18 November 2013

CADBURY ATHLETIC SCORE FIVE IN THE VASE.


I am travelling to the pleasant leafy 'village' of Bournville, in Birmingham today to see some Cup action. It's the 2nd Round of the Birmingham FA Saturday Vase, that sees Cadbury Athletic, of the Midland Combination Div 1, at home to the visiting team of Team Dudley, from the West Midlands League, Div 2.

This is a new ground and a new competition for me. I have had my eye on a visit here for a while now and with a 1:30 pm kick-off, it means I will be able to take photos in natural light for 90 minutes.

I arrive at the ground in Bournville Lane after leaving the nearby rail station.It's a cool,cloudy day and I arrive 15 minutes before the game starts, enough time for a cuppa in the refreshment area on the ground level of the magnificent Pavilion building that is also home to the cricket club. The changing rooms are just to the back of this area.

The teams come out with the Cadbury team in their usual colours of purple and white (the same as the company's) and Dudley are in all-red.
Cadbury Athletic are currently at the top of their League table while Team Dudley are also doing well in 2nd place in their's. Dudley ground share at Dudley Town's Dell Stadium and are the senior team of Dudley College.

Their are 2 main football fields at Bournville Lane along with 2 smaller pitches. There is also a Bowls Green in the corner and in the summer months cricket is played here too. 

As the game kicks off there seems to be about 30 spectators around the pitch. Cadbury Athletic have started off brightly and the visiting keeper has to be on his toes.


            ( Cadbury's Cordell Jones, fends off the Team Dudley No.5)

Dudley though do get some attacks going and it's quite an even game. Cadbury though take the lead on 20 minutes when Cordell Jones, acrobatically volleys in from the edge of the penalty area, taking everybody by surprise.


             (A kneeling Cordell Jones, watches the ball cross the line)

Within the next 11 minutes, Cadbury score another 3 goals and the tie as a contest is over. The Dudley coach is not a happy man and it looks as if the score is going to be 8 or 9-0 at this rate.

The students however manage to make it to the interval with no more goals conceded. Cadbury are a very good attacking team and should be in the Premier Division of their League on this showing.

Team Dudley seem to having more of the possession in the 2nd half although they are not troubling the Cadbury keeper in to action much.


                                      ( A rare Team Dudley free-kick )

Although Cadbury's score another goal, Dudley manage to score a consolation goal a few minutes before the end and they have certainly kept battling to the end, which does them credit.


             (Cadbury striker, Stuart Butcher attacks the Dudley defence)

So Cadbury have booked their place to 3rd Round and it will be interesting to see who they play next in this competition.

Cadbury's Recreation Ground is well worth a visit even though there is not much in the way of cover, unless you can shelter under The Pavilion.



Sunday, 17 November 2013

PILKINGTON ARE HELD AT THE TRIPLEX GROUND.


Today I am going to cover the Midland Combination match at the Triplex Sports Association ground in Kings Norton. The home team, Pilkington XXX, who are lying next to bottom in the Premier League table are taking on 10th placed Stafford Town.

Indeed this is the second time in the last week that these 2 teams have locked horns. The previous game, a Les James Cup tie at Stafford's Evans Park, was a bit of a classic, the game went to extra time and Stafford triumphed in a 6-4 win. I think both team's managers must have had a few sleepless nights this week contemplating this match. Although both teams played in that recent exciting game, the attendance looks to be a poor one with kick-off just 5 minutes away. I can only count another 8 other spectators in the ground at this point. Thankfully there are some latecomers and a few more emerge from the club house. 

Due decorum is observed, when after both teams take to the field, a minutes silence is observed in respect of the fallen in the World Wars.

Stafford have to wear their 2nd strip of all yellow today while Pilkington are in their red and dark blue kit. The day has a definite autumnal feel to it, distinctly chilly with the sun having to struggle from out of the clouds.

Pilkington start off in attack mode and are definitely looking to make amends for last week's result. Stafford have great difficulty in breaking out of their own half for the first 10 minutes.


    
Although Pilkington are in territorial control of the game so far, they are struggling to put the ball in the net. Stafford though do come back in to the match for the last 20 minutes of the first half.


             ( Odane Barnes battles against two Stafford defenders)

In my view the best chance of the half, sees Stafford's No.11 attempting to clear the ball from his team's penalty area but only succeeds in giving the ball to the Pilkington centre-forward, who opts for placing his shot and sees it turned around the post by the keeper. Should have been 1-0! 

All in all, I think Pilkington should be ahead at half-time and I'm sure the Manager will be telling the players that too.

The second-half sees Pilkington still in the ascendancy and after 63 minutes they take the lead! Their lively muscular forward, Odane Barnes, who scored a hat-trick in the cup game at Stafford the previous Saturday, is left unmarked at a free-kick and duly obliges by rising up and flicking the ball with his head in to the net.


     ( Goal scorer, Odane Barnes is engulfed by excuberant team mates)

While the players are trekking back to the half way line, a member of the Pilkington coaching team who is passing by, shouts encouragingly 'Come on The Pilks, let's build on this!'  Unfortunately his words seem to goad the Stafford team to act in retribution and within the next minute have equalised. I didn't even see the goal as I was quickly checking on my camera if I had captured the Pilkington goal (I got the player on screen but not in focus).


So Pilkington are trying desperately now to recapture the lead but Stafford Town are dangerous on the break.



The game ends with the teams all-square but I thought Pilkington shaded it on the day and their display bodes well I think for the rest of the season.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

CRADLEY TOWN EVENTUALLY OVERRUN BY RANGERS


A few days ago I realised that I had ignored the West Midlands League so far this season, so decided to rectify this, this Saturday. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to visit a new ground too and 2 grounds came to mind while scanning over the fixture list, namely those of Cradley Town and Dudley Sports. Both are reachable by bus from Stourbridge too.

So today I am travelling by train to the Stourbridge Town station and the forecast is not too bad, cloudy but not much rain. After getting to Stourbridge Junction station I see the connecting shuttle train to the 'Town' station just disappearing round the corner. Rats! So instead of waiting another 10 mins for it to come back, I decide to stretch my legs and take the 15-20 minute walk to the town centre.

I get in to town and have a look round the shops, noting along the way that they have completed the new shopping area by the new Tesco and the new entrance for the Library. Also I find a Record/CD fair at a local church, which I find out is to be found there on the first Saturday of the month. There are some good potential buys there but decide not to be extravagant today.

After a good meal at a French style cafe/restaurant I phone up the number for Cradley's ground and am told the good news that the game is going ahead despite the recent rain. I take the No.142 'Diamond' bus for Halesowen which passes near the Cradley ground. After a 20 minutes bus journey I take the five minute walk to Beeches View Avenue where the driveway to 'The Beeches' ground can be found.

I get to the entrance and part with £4 entrance fee + £1 for a programme, which proves to be a good read. It has recent match reports with photos too!

Cradley's ground is a bit of a ramshackle affair. By the ground entrance is the Club House and the eastern end of the pitch. This is covered but with no seats. The ground is situated on the side of a hill overlooking the nearby countryside. The pitch slopes a bit from one side to the other. There is a small stand with 2 rows of seats on the higher side of the pitch and at the western end of the ground is another stand with more seats in the middle. I go to this end as I will be sheltered from the stiff wind and won't be taking my photos in to the sun.  

When the teams take to the pitch I see that Black Country Rangers are in their 2nd strip of all pale blue as Cradley play in all red. Rangers are doing very well with 12 wins from 13 matches and lie 3rd in the table. Cradley meanwhile are in 9th position.


  
     (Full-back, Alex Hammond (left) lunges in to tackle this Cradley player)

I see that there is another photographer nearby and find out it is another 'ground hopper' I met at an FA Vase match at Walsall Wood last season, who has travelled from Market Drayton in Shropshire. He tells me that he came here before...20 years ago!

The match is being played in autumn sunshine and for the early part of the 1st half, the visitors are looking the more dangerous. However Cradley get in to the game more and go close a couple of times before they take the lead, when Scott Devlin fires in a great free kick in to the net from the right.


 

         (Scott Devlin, seen here being congratulated by his team mates)

There is another photographer who joins us at this end of the ground. It's the Club Secretary's wife, Jean Attwood, who takes the photos for the Cradley programme. She is very pleased that she has captured a snap of the goal.

Rangers are awarded a penalty when one of their players is pushed over in the box. With five minutes to go to the interval this will put them back on track. However their penalty taker shoots too close to Matt Jones the Cradley keeper and he blocks the shot with his legs.

So 1-0 to Cradley at half-time and an upset is on the cards as the home team are playing well.

The weather is taking a change for the worse though and we have a shower for 5-10 minutes. Although the rain goes, the cloud doesn't and when the teams come back, it's decidedly murky. For the first 10 minutes of this half, it's pretty dark and then the nearest set of floodlights come to life. It takes another 10 minutes for the other floodlights to come on, one after the other down the pitch.

Back to the football and Cradley start the brighter, fashion out 2 good chances and the fancied Rangers are looking decidedly rattled. Gradually Black Country do get back back in to the match and after 57 minutes, equalise through their No.9, Jozsef Jakab. I wonder if he comes from Poland? 



                          (Jakab is congratulated on his equaliser) 

Black Country Rangers finish the game, well on top and score a third before the end, although I don't think it's a fair reflection of the whole match. I think Cradley have played well today and were certainly in the running for the first 60 minutes.



                       (Jozsef Jakab goes close again with a header)

The attendance today looks about 50-60 to me and Black Country move in to 2nd place in the table behind the leaders, Cradley's Black Country rivals, Lye Town.

The Beeches is a 'homely' quirky little ground, that's certainly worth a visit, with plenty of shelter from the elements at this time of year. 


  

Monday, 28 October 2013

WORCESTER GO CLOSE TO CUP GLORY



Today is FA Cup, 4th Qualifying Round day! All the teams taking part are just 90 minutes away from the 1st Round draw.

I have decided to watch my home club's game against Lincoln City, at their temporary home at Kidderminster's ground of Aggborough. It will be the first time that I have seen them this season and I'm looking forward to it as we have plenty of new faces in the team. Although we are struggling in the League, our defence is functioning well and our problem (as usual) is scoring enough goals.

I take the train to 'Kiddy' and as soon as I reach the station I walk the few yards to the other train station, where the Severn Valley Railway starts. It's always an interesting visit and I have a quick look in the shop where they sell railway memorabilia.

I then have a look round the town and then get to the ground with 20 minutes to go and take my place in the North Stand. The Lincoln fans are in the stand opposite and the rest of the Worcester fans are sat in the western side of the ground.

Worcester take to the field in their blue & white striped shirts while Lincoln City are in their away strip of green & white. Lincoln from the Conference Premier League had played here in a 1-4 defeat against Kidderminster the previous Saturday, so I'm hoping their confidence is not that good as a result.



( Worcester's No.3 Ellis Deeney, battles for possession watched by captain Tom Thorley)

It's soon apparent that Worcester are not overawed by their higher ranked opponents. Danny Glover goes close with an early header and the pace of Daniel Nti and especially loan player, winger Niall Thompson are causing Lincoln problems.

It's a full bloodied cup tie and twice Worcester's defender, Graham Hutchinson has to receive treatment after heavy aerial clashes. 

Lincoln cause the Worcester defence some problems too and our veteran keeper, 36 year old Jose Veiga, has to make some smart saves.

When half-time arrives I am more hopeful of a good result for Worcester than I was at the start.

During the interval, it's announced that there is to be an important meeting of the Supporters Club next month who are submitting their plans for the proposed new stadium. It's also announced that today's attendance of 1,019 is the club's biggest so far this season.

In the second half, Worcester take the lead on 57 minutes when Niall Thompson shoots across the goal and substitute, Aaron Williams makes sure by tucking the ball in to the net by the far post.


   
          (The Worcester players celebrate their goal in front of their fans) 
     
Lincoln are stung in to action and Jose Veiga makes some good saves but after 77 minutes the visitor's pressure pays off with Andy Boyce shooting in from close range after a corner is not cleared.



             (Niall Thompson's run is halted by this Lincoln defender)

For the rest of the match though Worcester step up the pressure on the Lincoln goal but the visitor's hold firm for a deserved draw.



               (Andy Boyce heads clear from this late Worcester attack)

So Worcester go to Sincil Bank for Tuesday's replay. It will be tough but with a bit of luck not an impossible task for us, as I think on this evidence our defence are up to the task.

I was impressed with Worcester's performance today and I think manager Carl Heeley is building the team on the right lines, considering the financial constraints he and his team are having to work within.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

WULFRUNIANS BRUSH ASIDE ATHERSTONE IN THE FA VASE


Today sees the 1st Round proper of the F.A. Vase taking place. I have decided to visit the leafy Wolverhampton suburb of Castlecroft to see AFC Wulfrunians of the Midland Alliance take on Atherstone Town of the Midland Combination.

I arrive in Wolverhampton at about 12:15 pm have lunch soon after and then make my way to the Art Gallery for a spot of culture. It's a place Iv'e been to before and I can thoroughly recommend it as they display a good mix of sculptures, contemporary and older paintings. Today I see that the Wolverhampton Society of Artists have their exhibition opening and I manage to have a quick look round amongst the crowd of people. Good quality work on show too!  

After this artistic interlude I go outside and catch the No.3 bus and 20 minutes later have arrived in Castlecroft which lies just over the Staffordshire border.

The Castlecroft Stadium of AFC Wulfrunians is an impressive facility. On the one side of the pitch is a big stand with changing rooms at the bottom with seating on top and the clubhouse above that. The pitch is of good quality too and a steward there told me that it is being used by the FA to stage schoolboy internationals. Wolverhampton Ladies team use the pitch too on Sundays.

So Wulfrunians are playing Atherstone who this season have already had an impressive FA Cup run after defeating Redditch United and Coalville Town.

The teams take to the pitch with Wulfrunians in their red strip and their opponents in their second strip of yellow and black.

Wulfrunians take the lead early on when their No.7, Jake Webb, evades a tackle, goes inside and drills the ball in to the corner of the net after 7 minutes. Atherstone go close to scoring soon after but it's the hosts who are looking much more dangerous.



Wulfrunians deservedly score a second goal when Nathan Rose-Laing heads home a goal, as shown below.



Atherstone manage to reach the interval without any further damage. I see that there are plenty of rain clouds coming from the south-west and sure enough it starts raining before the start of the second half and I have to take shelter in the stand for the rest of the match.

Soon Wulfrunians go 3-0 up when Dave Asbury shoots in from close range when the ball falls at his feet.

The same player makes it 4, with 20 minutes to go when when he volleys home from a corner.




Atherstone are looking demoralised and Wulfrunians are totally in control of the game, slicing through the visitor's defence with almost every attack.

They score a fifth goal with their player taking the ball round Smith in the Atherstone goal with 15 minutes to go. They could and should have scored 2 more goals before the referee brings a halt to proceedings.




AFC Wulfrunians have put in a very impressive display of attacking football and it just hasn't been Atherstone's day this time round.

Maybe Wulfrunians can have a good run in this year's Vase?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

DETERMINED DISPLAY BY CINDERFORD IN NARROW WIN


Due to a dire weather forecast for the West Midlands region on Friday evening I decided to scupper my plans for seeing the Hednesford v West Auckland FA Cup tie and instead headed south to the West Country.

So today I am going by train to Gloucester and although as I am heading south from Worcester, the sky is going a dark grey I'm almost certain that it will brighten up later on.

When I arrive at Gloucester, I make the short journey to the bus station and check the times of buses to Cirencester whos'e team have a cup tie against Weymouth. I decide against it as the last bus back is at 5pm which does not give me much leeway. Instead I go for Plan B and go on the bus to Cinderford on the other side of the River Severn in the Forest of Dean for their Southern League game v Godalming Town. By the time I get on the bus, the sun has come out and it's a scenic journey to my destination. Cinderford is a small town, with a population of aproximately 9,000. There is only a small shopping area but I manage to find a decent Cafe for my lunch.

Trouble is I'm not sure where the ground is and unusually for me I have no map. There are none for sale in the local newsagents and am also informed that the nearest Tourist Information Centre is in Coleford. In the end I ask a guy in the street for directions and he tells me he will personally show me the way as it's on his way home. We turn left up a footpath by the local Co-op store, a 10 minute walk through a housing estate and the ground is there on the right. I thank him gratefully and he turns off down the road in front of the ground for his house.

I walk through the car park and to the turnstile and pay my £8 admission + £1.50 for a programme. This is a new ground for me today and also 2 teams I haven't watched before. Cinderford's ground has 3 covered stands on the west side of the ground, the main one with seating being in the centre. Soon the teams come on to the pitch with the hosts in white and black and Godalming in yellow and green.

Cinderford start off in lively fashion and go close a few times to scoring in the first 20 minutes.



  Godalming are quick on the break although they are not creating many chances. 

The Cinderford No.9, Lewis Sommers is a bit of a handful for the visitors defence as he looks to be be about 6' 5'' tall and of course quite useful in the air.

There is no score by the time the interval arrives. At half-time the draw is made for of bottles of whisky and red wine and I miss out by 3 numbers for a prize.

The start of the 2nd half sees Cinderford in a more determined mood and Dualah, the Godalming keeper is covering himself in glory with some fine stops, especially when Somers nods down for a colleague who fires in a volley which he spectacularly tips over the bar.

Also Cinderford have a strong penalty appeal turned down when one of their players goes flying from a mistimed tackle after flying in to the Godalming penalty area.

On 67 minutes though their impressive midfielder Dale Evans, bursts through the centre of the visitors defence, has a shot blocked by Dualah but fires home the rebound.


(Evans wheels away after scoring and is congratulated by his team mates)

Godalming immediately mount an attack from the kick-off and have the ball in the net only to be ruled offside!




Both sides go close before the end of the game but Cinderford have hung on for a deserved win, which breaks their recent winless streak.

I'm glad I came today as it was an entertaining game in this rural outpost and I later find out that the official attendance figure for the match was 122.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

CASTLE VALE TRIUMPH IN COMBINATION BASEMENT BATTLE


Wow, I can't believe it, I am actually going to a game today! September just didn't happen for me this year, all those Cup games I had lined up but in the end I just couldn't see for one reason or another.

I have decided to see 2 teams I have never seen before who are taking part in an early season basement battle in the Midland Combination Premier, namely Blackwood v Castle Vale JKS. Indeed Castle Vale JKS did actually finish bottom last season but earned a reprieve presumably because Bloxwich United went out of existence.

It's a game that's easy to get to for a rail traveller like me, as Blackwood play at The Coppice ground of Highgate United of which they are tenants and it's located a few minutes walk away from Whitlock's End station which is right on the south-east outskirts of Birmingham on the line to Stratford-on-Avon.

I get to Whitlock's End at 2:30pm and as I walk out of the station I can see the ground of Shirley Town, another Midland Combination team and as I cross over to Tythe Barn Lane, I pass the ground of a womens team called Leafield Athletic on my left. It's a nice rural location but I admit I am not that impressed by The Coppice ground. It has a covered area along the entire nearest side as you approach the pitch, with seating available for one half of it. The club house and changing rooms are near the entrance and there are several full size and mini-soccer pitches there too.
As Highgate are going very well in the Midland Alliance at present I don't think they have much chance of achieving promotion if they win their championship, if they wish to do so.

I see from the programme that prior to last season, Blackwood had gained 3 successive promiotions, quite a feat!

So 3:00pm arrives and Blackwood take to the field in their Inter Milan style
kit and Castle Vale in blue and yellow. The crowd looks to be in the region of 25-30.

Blackwood dominate most of the early play but it's Vale who take the lead in the 11th minute when their centre-forward is left with an easy close range header.


  
For the rest of this half Blackwood are just the better team and look more likely to score. 


  
             (The Castle Vale keeper clings on to this Blackwood cross)

Blackwood do score a deserved equaliser in the 41st minute, I think it's their No.6 sweetly turning on the edge of the penalty area and slotting the ball in to the top right hand corner of the net.

Even-stevens at half time and everything to play for! 

During the interval I notice that there is a rugby match taking place on the pitch at the back of us behind the hedge. Yes,there are plenty of different clubs in this area.

The second-half is quite even but Blackwood seeming to be the more dangerous side. One of the features of the game for me is the contest between the Vale centre-half and captain versus the dangerous looking Blackwood No.9. It's the No.9 who has Blackwood's best effort in this half when he shoots from about 20 yards out and the Vale keeper makes a great save to turn it around the post. Another player who catches my eye is the No11 for Castle Vale, very lively and good dribbling skills.

Disaster strikes for Blackwood with 10 minutes to go when one of their defenders in trying to clear the ball from his penalty area just skies the ball straight in to the air and Vale's, Jem Mills is waiting to head in to the net.

After this Castle Vale comfortably keep Blackwood at bay for a win that sees them leapfrog their opponents, who must feel they don't deserve to lose this contest.



So it's hard luck Blackwood and on this showing it looks as if both teams will struggle again this season.