Monday, 23 December 2013
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
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
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
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.