Tuesday, 30 December 2014

PERSHORE TRIUMPH IN BAD TEMPERED DERBY CLASH



I'm keeping it local today with a morning visit to see Pershore Town hosting a local derby against the villagers of Littleton. It's an 11:30 am kick off, which suits me as according to the forecast, the weather could deteriorate this afternoon.

I take the bus at my local stop on the London Road in Worcester and 30 minutes later I am getting off the bus in the town centre of Pershore which has beautiful Georgian buildings as well as the nearby Pershore Abbey. 

There are not many shops open here today, just the local Asda, Tesco, Chip shop and 2 cafes. They probably realise that the shoppers are more likely to go to Worcester for the Sales.

So after having a cheeseburger and coffee I walk the short journey to the ground. It's located between the town centre and the nearby River Avon. Unfortunately for the club, the pitch is visible due to an open metal fence surrounding most of the ground. Also I notice later that there is a gap in the fence on the side facing the river, meaning that people can possibly walk in without paying if they don't have a conscience about it!

I pay the entrance fee but am disappointed when I'm told that all the programmes have gone. Due to financial restraints they don't print many even if it is a local derby taking place today.

On paper, I make Littleton to be the favourites as they occupy a respectable 8th place while the hosts are near the bottom of the table, although Pershore have home advantage and Littleton have not been in good form recently.

The teams come out and both are sporting their usual colours, with Pershore in blue and Littleton in red.



It's Littleton who are the better team for most of the first half. One of their best chances come after 10 minutes when their No.10 goes to the byline and cuts the ball back for the No.9 just in front of goal but while falling backwards he scoops the ball over the bar.

Against the run of play, Pershore's Joe Walsh, (no, not the Eagles guitarist) scores in the 38th minute. Then in the 45th minute, they go further in front when Joe Robinson scores direct from a free kick from the left and the Littleton keeper misjudges the flight of the ball and allows it to nestle in the top corner.

So the ref's whistle blows with it all to do for Littleton in the second period.

There looks to be a sizeable crowd today even though the weather is mainly cloudy and certainly cold. 

Pershore have been in the Midland Combination since 1988 after the merger of 3 clubs and now the Midland Football League. They won the Premier Division title in the 1993-94 season, and spent 6 seasons in the then newly formed Midland Football Alliance.The villagers of Littleton have been members of the Midland Combination since 2001-02. They have certainly progressed well in recent times, culminating in their second place finish in the Premier Division in the 2011-12 season and some of their success was due to having Joe Lolley and for a short time, Matt Smith playing for them up front. They have both gone on to be signed up by Football League clubs.

The first half has been a bit scrappy and niggly at times and in the first minute of the second half, the Littleton No.5 needlessly bundles over a Pershore player just in front of me and then kicks the ball hard in to his body while he's lying on the ground.

The ref calls him over then books him (as shown below).


                                 (Littleton's No.5 is on the far left of the picture)

Things get worse for the visitors when through some slack defensive work they concede a 3rd goal. The ball is being shepherded out by a Littleton defender to go out for a goal kick but a Pershore player manages to run round and push the ball in to the path of the incoming Walsh. He in turn takes the ball to the left of the Littleton keeper and then dinks it over his sprawling body and in to the net (as shown below).


    The keeper is rightly not happy with this turn of events but a few minutes later, becomes further incensed when stooping, ready to collect the ball, an onrushing Pershore forward catches him with a boot when they collide.

Still angry after conceding a 3rd goal and probably being at fault for the 2nd, he's not a happy bunny. He goes stomping round shouting and swearing, giving a goal post a hard kick and then is booked by the ref for his troubles. He also has a bit of a slanging match with one of the Pershore coaching staff too!

Littleton's No.3, Will Gayton also acts in a wild fashion later on and I personally think his vocal tirade against the referee is very unnecessary. There are quite a few unsavoury challenges between the sides and it doesn't make for a good spectacle.

Littleton do get a measure of recompense later on when they are awarded a penalty and Gayton duly despatches it successfully. 



So the game ends and Pershore have come out on top.Although they were mostly outplayed in the first half, they were certainly the more composed team in the second. I think I might be of good luck to the Pershore Town team because after watching them 3 times in the last 5 seasons, have seen them win every time.

Match entrance fee: £4
Match programme: all sold out
Match entertainment: 5/10
Match attendance: 112





Wednesday, 24 December 2014

EARLSWOOD RUE MISSES AS ENVILLE SNATCH LATE WIN


I have decided to go to a new ground today, that of Earlswood Town who operate in the 2nd Division of the Midland Football League. They will be playing in the 3rd Round of the Birmingham County FA's Saturday Vase competition against the village team of Enville Athletic, who are playing in the 3rd Division of the same league.

I'd spotted a write up of this ground by a ground hopper who'd visited it a few weeks ago. It sounded like a neat ground with nice surroundings, friendly club officials and it's relatively easy to reach by public transport. 

I emailed the club's Chairman, Mike Davies, and he got back to me saying that the club would love to see me there and I was very welcome to take photos of the game.

So I have gone by train from Worcester to Birmingham's Moor Street station and after buying my ticket to take me to the 'The Lakes' station on the Stratford-upon-Avon line, when the train comes in, I have to go to the back of this train and tell the guard my destination, as it is only a request stop. The guard, after making a note of my request, informs me that I will have to get a seat in the front coach.

25 minutes later and I can see that as I expected, it's a very short platform at The Lakes. It's situated in the countryside, just inside the Solihull Borough border, halfway between Solihull and Redditch. The station is named after the 'Earlswood Lakes' (popular with local fishermen) and is confusingly closer to Earlswood village than 'Earlswood' station, the previous stop on the line. As I walk up to the road above the station, I can see Earlswood's ground in the near distance. 

Within a few minutes I am at the gate leading in to the ground. There is a small car park and by a small gate there is a young lad, along with 2 club officials who takes my £3 entrance fee and an extra £1 for the programme. I have made it to my destination half an hour before the 1:30 pm kick-off, a big improvement on my late arrivals for my previous 2 recent trips. Along the right side of the ground is located the club house and changing rooms, opposite the dug-outs. The only shelter to be had in bad weather is a covered terrace in front of the club house.

I am curious to see this club too because of the fact that Worcester City forward, Michael Taylor, was signed from here following a great season here several years ago, when he scored over 40 goals in total. 

I go inside to see if there is any hot food available but the guy behind the bar apologetically informs that none is available today.Usually I eat before the game but today had only time to have a couple of small sandwiches. I have a good chat with him about the club and he tells me that their ground is rented on a one year rolling lease from the adjacent farm. The club had taken a voluntary relegation from the Premier Division of the Midland Combination at the end of last season, as the financial strain of ground sharing over the previous few years with the likes of Pilkington XXX and Bromsgrove Sporting etc was proving to be too much. They had been ground sharing with these clubs who have floodlights, a requirement needed for Premier Division participation.

I sign a visitor's book and buy a club badge that are available at the bar and then traipse outside to see the teams going out on to the pitch. Earlswood are in red and white striped shirts while Enville Athletic are in light blue shirts and dark blue shorts.

Seeing that Enville are occupying a mid-table position in the 3rd division and Earlswood are 4th in the table in the second division, I have predicted a home win of 2 to 3 clear goals but you can never tell with cup games?

Enville are the first to threaten with their No.10 shooting high over the bar from a good position.

Then in the 11th minute, Earlswood's No.11 goes down after a robust but fair challenge. He receives some treatment but is unable to continue.

Earlswood are now beginning to impose themselves on the game and win a free kick on the right near the opposition's goal. The kick is quickly whipped over but without anyone being able to get the decisive touch (as shown below).



In the 26th minute, Earlswood's lively No.9, Jouan Blake-Walker, skips past his marker but overruns the ball and it's collected by the keeper, when it looked he could have a shot on goal and probably score.

When Earlswood next have a good chance, the Enville keeper, Matt Redgrave, turns the shot away for a corner, (as shown below).




3 minutes later, Earlswood's No.4, Chris Morrison, has a shot saved from close in when he probably should have scored.

In injury time, just to remind everyone that Enville are still in with a chance, their dangerous No.10 has a shot saved after he has come in from the right. 

A disappointed Earlswood team have still not scored in this tie after a dominant display so far and I think if and when they do score they should win fairly comfortably today.

I go in to the club house for a nice hot cuppa and have a quick chat with 2 of the locals and agree with them that diving in our professional game needs to be stamped out.

I get back just in time for the start of the next 45minutes and what an unexpected turn this match takes!

Enville Athletic have been greatly encouraged to have survived the Earlswood onslaught earlier on and have much the better of the play in this half.

They have several good chances and look more comfortable on the ball than their opponents.


      Earlswood's attacking efforts look frantic in comparison and they are not displaying much confidence. One of their substitutes late on goes down on the edge of the penalty area and the ref is having none of it as he ignores the appeals for a penalty.



Just when I am starting to think the game will end with no score, the Enville No.7 scores in injury time after he had been played in from a pass on the left. Enville nearly score again when their No.9, Michael Davis shoots just over the bar.

The Earlswood Town Press Officer, John Snape, says he thinks that Enville Athletic thoroughly deserve their victory today and I agree based on their second half display, although I still think Earlswood would have won if they had taken their earlier chances.

So in conclusion, a game of the proverbial 'two halves', well done to Enville and any 'Hoppers' out there looking for a new ground to go to, in a nice rural setting, Earlswood certainly will make you feel welcome.

Match attendance: 38
Entrance fee: £3
Match programme: £1 
Entertainment value: 6/10

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

LADS CLUB MAKE THEIR EXTRA MAN COUNT


Today I am heading west to Hereford. I want to see the Herefordshire Football League clash between Hinton and the reigning champions, Ewyas Harold. They are currently occupying 3rd and 4th places in the Premier Division.

It's a fine day when I set out from Worcester on the train and it's a very pleasant journey, going through Malvern and then the rolling Herefordshire countryside. I duly arrive at about 11:40 am and I have plenty of time to have a look round the market in the city centre.

There is an arts market too today and some of it is worth a browse, especially some classy looking pottery. I have a sausage and bacon panini from one of the food stalls
and then I'm ready to go to the match!

As I am making my way down Barton Road, I look across the road to Hereford Rugby Club and can see that it's got flood water from the nearby River Wye on the pitch. As Hinton FC are located close to the river, I decide to change my plans and will go to Hereford Lads Club FC rather than risk the chance of being disappointed. I have seen their ground before on my trips to see Westfields FC. (I later find out that Hinton's match did go ahead, they lost 1-6, so their ground must be on higher ground than I thought!)

Unfortunately the walk to Lads Club's ground takes a bit longer than expected and so for the 3rd match in a row, I'm 10 minutes late for the game. There is no entrance fee and I ask one of the spectators, if there has been any goals so far? He says no and there hasn't even been a shot on goal yet either. It turns out that he is supporting his son who is playing at full back for the Team Dudley side, the visiting team today. They are the senior team from Dudley College and I saw them 3 months ago at Worcester Raiders, when they lost 1-10.

Lads Club are playing in an all blue strip while Dudley are in black and red stripes.

After watching a so far even looking encounter, Team Dudley take the lead after 21 minutes when their No.8 slots home the ball inside the left hand post.

Just a minute later, Lads Club go on the attack and win a corner. Dudley are not able to clear the ball and a mass scramble takes place in the visitor's penalty area (seen below).




Just after things are looking up for the students, after 29 minutes they have a player sent off! Their No.11,Jahmal Patterson, goes on a run down the right, is fouled and retaliates. Both players push and shove each other, the ref intervenes has a talk with the Dudley player and then shows him a red card (as shown below).



This looks a bit harsh to me but I didn't have a good view of the incident. 

Although now down to 10 men, Team Dudley are still very much in the game and in the 34th minute they go close scoring again when their No.10 shoots just over the bar from the right.

Lads Club do equalise though when they are awarded a free kick on the left. A well flighted cross comes over and their No.6, Danny Moon, races in behind the Dudley defence to plant a firm header in to the far side of the net. Good goal!

So it's all square at the interval and it will be interesting to see if Team Dudley can get a result against the odds.

Hereford Lads Club play at the County Ground of the Herefordshire FA, in the Widemarsh Common area. Just across the road from their ground are 3 football pitches and a cricket pitch. A football game is taking place there this afternoon although I have no idea who the teams are, although it's probably a Herefordshire League game of some sort. Also close by is the allpay Park ground of Westfields who play in the Premier Division of the Midland Football League. This afternoon they are playing Batsford United (and lost 0-2). It's a veritable hotbed of football round here!

The Lads Club have several junior teams and a ladies team too. I noticed also when coming pass the ground today that there is a boxing club here too.   

Play resumes and it's Lads Club who turn the screw, having the major share of possession, leaving Dudley to try and hit them on the break.

Dudley's keeper makes a good save after 49 minutes and ten minutes later he makes another crucial stop after a good through ball is played through his defence.



The home side though go into the lead after more sustained pressure in the 66th minute when Steve Dixon slots in the ball after being put in by a good through ball. 

Team Dudley hit back and go very close to an equaliser when James Hill hits a shot that comes back off the underside of the bar.

Lads Club go close 3 times before Team Dudley's James Hill hits a shot just wide a few minutes from full time. 



So it's been an interesting contest with Team Dudley defending well against the home team who stay in 4th place in the table although several teams below them have games in hand on them.

Entertainment value: 6.5/10
Entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Match attendance: 20-25 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

DARLASTON WIN BATTLE OF THE 'PHOENIX' CLUBS


I am off to a new ground for me today, namely the Illey Lane home of the new phoenix club called Bartley Green Illey, who have arisen out of the ashes of the now defunct Bartley Green FC. Six months ago, local residents Jamie and Chantell Marler took on the building of this new club by signing a five year lease of this ground with the landlords. They are looking to make it a community club and aim to develop a youth set up in the future and they already also have a Sunday team up and running too.

I work out my route on the 'Traveline West Midlands' website and decide to take the train from Worcester to Shrub Hill station and then catch the No.22 bus from the nearby stop in Colmore Row.

Bartley's opponents today are the current leaders of the West Midlands League, Div 2, Darlaston Town (1874) FC. Darlaston too are a new club this season, replacing the old Darlaston Town. It's good to see that there are people who do not want to see their clubs go out of existence altogether.

The weather is very promising when I leave home, nice and sunny although a little chilly. I'm glad that I am not going to the New Street station today as I know it's going to extremely busy due to the Christmas shopping frenzy.

When I get to Birmingham and go to catch my bus, of course it's about 10 minutes late. This bus takes me as far as Kitwell and then I have go on foot the rest of the way to the village of Illey. I have to make my way over the M5 very close to the Frankley Services M5 stop and then up the twisty route of Illey Lane, which is in the countryside and consequently has no footpath alongside for most of the way. Not the most pleasant experience and I find myself thinking that I must be crazy doing this.

This walk is taking longer than I thought and I know I will miss the 2 pm kick-off,  although I am heartened by the sight of floodlights in the near distance. At about 2:04 pm, I hear a cheer and guess that a goal has been scored already. A few minutes later I see the a sign on the roadside showing the turning for the ground.



As I trudge up the track to the ground, I hear another cheer for presumably another goal after 10 minutes. Damn, this is just like my trip last week!

So I turn to the right in front of the farm and can see the pitch above me. I walk through a small car park, then up some steps which are alongside a building which houses the changing rooms and a small clubhouse. I see the match that's underway with Bartley in their yellow and black strip with Darlaston in blue and white stripes.



I soon find out that the score is 2-0 in favour of Darlaston, which I strongly suspected  to be the case, ( I later find out that both goals have been scored by the No.9 and player-manager, Mark Swann. Although Bartley are behind, they are certainly fighting back strongly, with their centre-forward, Brian Badza, proving to be a real handful for the Darlaston defence. His battle with the Darlaston defender, Ravi Sohal, is looking to be a key contest in this match.

After 29 minutes, Brian Badza scores a goal for Bartley after he fires in a loose ball in the visitors penalty area (as shown below).


  
It's not great playing conditions for the teams, with the pitch proving to be quite sticky due to the muddy surface.


    
Half-time arrives with no further score and Darlaston will be relieved to be still in the lead.

This ground certainly has a country feel, with the nearby farms and plenty of trees around the ground. Even the Bartley club badge has an owl! It has a ramshackle look to it. On my right, by the side of the pitch are some shoddy looking portacabin buildings which don't look as if they are being used. Beyond them is situated the main stand which has 3 rows of seats. On my left are the team dug-outs and also a small stand with just room for a single row of seating.

The teams start for the second half and the conditions are not making it easy for either of them. 

It's Bartley who score the next goal after 59 minutes. A scuffed clearance by the Darlaston keeper goes straight to the dangerous Badza. He goes round the keeper and then evades a tackle to put the ball in the net. A bad mistake by the league leaders but they rectify this 10 minutes later. Some slick passing down the left and then a great through pass to their veteran striker, John Reeves, enables him to beat the advancing Bartley keeper.


                (Some of the Darlaston players congratulate the goal scorer, No.10)

It proves to be the last goal of the contest and is a worthy match winning effort! 

This win keeps Darlaston on top of the table, ahead of Oakengates their nearest rivals but Bartley must be heartened by the way they took them so close.

Near the end of today's game, I spoke to Darlaston's affable Chairman, Neil Chambers. He told me that although his team have their old ground available to go back to if they so wish, it was extremely unlikely to happen as it had now got into a derelict condition. So they will have to share with their new landlords, Red Star Alma, for the foreseeable future but it's a start and they have certainly made very good progress this season. He also tells me that he wrote a book telling about the history of the club. Sounds interesting.

Bartley Green Illey are also making progress to establish themselves again and I will be taking note of this in the future.

Match attendance: about 25
Entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Entertainment value: 6.5 /10







  

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

THE RAIDERS ARE RAIDED IN CUP DEFEAT



Due to time constraints today, I am going to a local game. It's going to be the Worcestershire (Saturday) Junior Cup game between Worcester Raiders and Fairfield Villa (who hail from the village just outside Bromsgrove) in the north of the county.

It's going to be my second visit to see the Raiders who play at Claines Lane, right on the northern edge of Worcester. I was very impressed by them when seeing their 10-1 win against Team Dudley 2 months ago and I have a feeling it's going to be a cracking game against a very useful Fairfield team, who ply their trade in the 2nd Division of the Midland Football League.

I take the No.144 Birmingham bound from Worcester bus station at 1:30pm for my short journey. I'm feeling pleased with myself as I should get to the ground with 10 minutes to spare. However when the bus is going past the Neel Park, the ground of Perrywood FC, to my dismay I see that their match is already under way. I then realise that they must have a 1:30 pm kick-off and I think that they too are playing in the Junior Cup too today. I later find out that they were playing Inkberrow in that competition. 

So when I disembark from the bus and walk the short distance to the ground, I'm not surprised to see the players moving around behind the tree cover from the road. Just shows that you need to check these things before the match. What a numpty!




As I am late I am able to walk in without paying the usual £3 entrance fee. I walk over to where the teams are playing and can see that both sides are in their usual colours. Worcester Raiders in red and black and Fairfield in yellow and blue.



After a few minutes I witness Fairfield miss a good chance when a shot from the left just goes wide.

Then Fairfield have a player sent off! On the left hand side of the pitch I see the referee stop play, then after talking to some Fairfield players I see one of their players trooping off the field. I have no idea why this has happened as I hadn't noticed anything untoward happening. I later find out his name is Olly Booth.

Then a few minutes later, after I have retrieved the ball for the Fairfield keeper, I ask him what the score is and he informs me that his team are already 2-0 up.

Worcester Raiders cut the deficit when their No.11 goes down the left and cuts back the ball for their incoming No.10 and captain, Richard Smith to score from close range. It looks like we are going to see a lot of goals this afternoon!  

Although Fairfield are down to 10 men, they are still the more dangerous looking team. They go close again when their No.9, Connor Collins, floats the ball over the advancing Raiders keeper only to see the ball skim the bar and out of play.




They do extend their lead soon after when the ball isn't cleared properly after a free kick and Connor Collins heads home. The same player scores again six minutes later, giving him a first half hat trick and his team a formidable looking 4-1 lead. 

I realise that the kick-off must have been at 1:45pm, even though it should have been 1:30pm. So I have been lucky and have only missed the first 5 minutes of the match. Enough to miss the the first 2 goals though!

I saw in the local press a few weeks ago that this ground is owned by the Worcestershire County Council and the lease will be ending soon. There are several teams that use the ground as well as Worcester Raiders and there is the possibility that the cash strapped council could sell the ground. This would be a great pity as we need to keep good sporting facilities like this one, especially now that the Raiders are are the premier football team in the city given that Worcester City are in exile at Kidderminster.

The teams come out again after a 10 minute break and Fairfield emphasise their dominance of the game by scoring a fifth in the very first minute. Collins takes the ball down the right and rolls the ball inside for the No.11 to hit home an easy chance.

Worcester Raiders aren't going down without a fight and 6 minutes later their No.7 hits a shot against the post when it looks easier to score. After about 20 minutes though Worcester score a second when the impressive Richard Smith guides in a header at the far post after meeting a cross from the left.

After 23 minutes Richard Smith runs on to a good through ball but pushes the ball just wide of the far post (as seen below).



Fairfield Villa score again though in the very next minute. A Fairfield player had taken the ball round the Raiders keeper, sees his shot cleared off the line only for Fairfield's No.12 to put in the rebound.

5 minutes later, the Fairfield No.10, John Pykett, slots home after being left unmarked at the far post after the ball is played in from the right.

Worcester Raiders get a third goal when Richard Smith completes a well deserved hat trick.



So the game ends with a 7-3 win for the visitors and a place in the semi-final awaits them in this competition. They played impressively today but have been helped by a woeful defensive display by the Raiders, who I think need to tighten things up in midfield and at the back. They play a cavalier attacking style that's good to watch, have a very good front man in Richard Smith but just concede too many goals I think to be serious title contenders in the West Midland Div One. I hope things turn out well for them as regards the future of their ground.

Match entertainment: 8/10
Entrance fee: usually £3 but got in free 
Match programme: Not sure if there was one today
Match attendance: about 25 

   

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

SUTTON COLDFIELD'S YOUNGSTERS CONTINUE WINNING STREAK


It's an early start on my travels this Saturday, as I am on my way for a 10:30am kick-off for the Under-21 clash at Sutton Coldfield who are taking on Bromsgrove Sporting in the Midland Football League's, Under-21 Challenge Bowl competition.

As I am not able to go to a match this afternoon, I have decided to go for an early kick-off and check out the form of Sutton Coldfield, who are doing very well at Under 21 level this season.

The weather forecast is for cloud for most of the day with the chance of a spot of rain. I catch the 7:35 am train from Worcester Shrub Hill station and I am surprised at the the number of passengers, possibly Christmas shoppers?

After changing trains at Birmingham New Street, I get the connecting train to Sutton Coldfield and get there quite early. I have time to get some breakfast and have a good look around the shops before walking to Coles Lane to the Central Ground, home of Sutton Coldfield Town, who also share with Romulus FC.

I had thought of going to see Paget Rangers Under 21's who play in Erdington but was worried their game might be called off due to the large amount of rain we had had yesterday, so I have gone for the safer option of Sutton's all weather pitch.

The ground has the main stand and changing rooms on the right as you enter the ground, where there is seating for 200 spectators. The club house (including tea bar) is situated in the far left hand corner and also on the far side is cover for standing spectators.

After buying a cup of tea just before kick-off I stand by the goal at the club house end. This match is in the Challenge Bowl competition. 

The teams have come out on the pitch with Sutton in their all blue strip and Bromsgrove in their all green away colours. I saw Bromsgrove play at Sporting Khalsa a few weeks ago and were a bit unlucky not to get a draw while eventually losing 1-3. Sutton Coldfield are going to be a different proposition though as they have been winning all their games so far.

Right from the kick-off, Bromsgrove are pinned back in their own half for long periods due to Sutton's pressing game, not giving their opponents not much time to settle on the ball.



After 16 minutes, Sutton Coldfield have the ball in the Bromsgrove net but is ruled out for offside.

The Bromsgrove goal is leading a charmed life, with a combination of good goal keeping and desperate last ditch defending. This is personified in the 26th minute when 3 shots by the hosts are either charged down or saved by the keeper in quick succession. In the very next minute a Sutton forward races through, taking the ball round the keeper, shooting at goal and the ball being cleared off the line by a covering Bromsgrove defender and then from the rebound another shot is saved by the keeper who has rushed back to his goal, (as shown below).


     Phew! I am wondering if Bromsgrove might survive with a clean sheet until half-time. This scenario does not come to pass as after 33 minutes, when the Sutton No.9, Ryan Boothe, takes the ball round the valiant Bromsgrove keeper and scores the first goal. The same player goes close again at the end of the half by hitting a post with another shot.

So it's 1-0 to the home side and they know that it should have been more. Bromsgrove Sporting have put up some very spirited resistance though and look determined not to have a repeat performance of their earlier 1-7 home defeat against the same opponents at their own Victoria Ground.

One of the Sutton Coldfield officials told me earlier on that their synthetic pitch had cost £300,000 and was funded by their wealthy Chairman. It's been money well spent as over the last few years it must have saved them and their tenants, Romulus, from many postponed games. Also the pitch does not suffer much from continued use, as the Sutton first team are playing here this afternoon.

When play resumes for the second period, it's Sutton who are still calling the shots. Indeed they should have scored after just 3 minutes when a cross from the right is headed just wide of the far post when it looks to have been easier to score.

The Sutton substitute, No.14 is the next to go close when he sees his shot saved after just coming on to the pitch. 

It's 2-0 soon after though when it's Ryan Boothe again shooting from the right in to the opposite top corner of the goal.

Bromsgrove Sporting though now have their best spell of the match.



First the Bromsgrove captain,Dennis Pickett, who looks like the smallest player on the pitch, flicks a header over the Sutton bar from a free kick. Then they pull a goal back after 79 minutes, when from another free kick, the ball bounces over a Sutton defender and a Bromsgrove forward runs round to hit the ball in to the top right hand corner.

Then Bromsgrove score again when a shot rockets straight over the top of the Sutton keeper in to the top of the net. A most unexpected turn of events and I'm wondering if we are going to see an upset?

Sutton Coldfield score in the very next minute though with their No.12 (another substitute) cleverly lobbing the keeper.

Just a few minutes later and Sutton Coldfield's No.7 scores from the penalty spot after their No.10, Troy Herbert, is brought down.

They have enough time to score a fifth through Troy Herbert who slides the ball in with the Bromsgrove keeper helpless to prevent it (shown below).



    The final whistle sounds soon after and Sutton Coldfield have a well earned win for their attacking efforts despite stubborn resistance from their opponents.

I will be very surprised if there are any better teams in the Under-21 divisions this season than Sutton and it will be interesting to see if they win both the Challenge Bowl and their division in the Midland Football League. 

They top their group in the Challenge Bowl competition and are guaranteed a quarter-final place after 5 wins out of 5, while Bromsgrove Sporting are rooted to bottom place with just one point from 5 games.

Entertainment value: 7/10
Match attendance: 25?
Entrance fee: none
Match programme: none available 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

THE WOOD SNATCH ANOTHER LATE VASE WIN !


Today it's FA Vase time again and also FA Trophy time too! I have decided though to see the Walsall Wood - AFC Bridgnorth tie in the Vase. The last time I went to Oak Park was the FA Vase, Quarter-Final tie when Walsall Wood played Guernsey, 2 years ago. It was a great occasion with a 650+ crowd, with the game going to extra-time but with no goals, although Walsall had the better chances. Guernsey won the replay, so now Walsall Wood will be thinking that maybe they can have another good Vase run.

I saw the Wood win at Malvern Town in a previous round and that result seems to have galvanised them after a fairly poor start to this season.  

When I leave Worcester, it's starting to cloud over after a bright start to the day but with no forecast of rain. I get to Walsall by 12:50pm and after having a quick look around for a place to eat, decide on using the Gardenia Cafe near the bus station, a place I have been on two previous visits, as it's a friendly place and good value. 

After a good filling breckie sandwich, I take the No.10 bus and 25 minutes later I am making the short walk on the path from Lichfield Road to Oak Park, which sits alongside the Oak Park Sports Centre. When I enter the ground, I can see the main stand on the left side of the pitch and the club house and changing rooms are on the right. 

AFC Bridgnorth are occupying top spot in the Premier Division of the West Midlands League before today's game, so should provide stiff opposition. Many of the same players who were with the club, in their previous incarnation as Bridgnorth Town, when that club were dissolved (due to financial difficulties) are still in the squad and have shown great loyalty to the club and their Manager, Mark Clyde.

So the teams come on to the pitch in their usual colours, Wood in all red and Bridgnorth in all blue. I also notice that there are 2 other photographers in attendance today and look like press photographers with their professional looking equipment.



The first half proves to be an even affair with neither side on top for long. It's all a bit scrappy and sometimes a bit ill tempered, with the referee having words with both teams to watch their step.

The best chance of this half falls to Wood's No.10, Leon Taylor, who blasts the ball high over the bar after having been played in to a good position from a pass that comes in from the right.

The main threat from Bridgnorth comes from the surging runs on the right flank by Anwar Olugbon (who is shown below).




For the last few minutes of the first period, Walsall Wood are on top. Leon Taylor sees his effort saved well by the Bridgnorth keeper and then with their last attack, one of their players makes a run in to the box and is brought down and everyone is expecting a penalty to be given. Instead the ref blows his whistle for half time. Of course the home side are incensed and swarm round the ref, dismayed that no penalty has been awarded. It's to no avail though, both teams troop off the field and so the first half ends on a more dramatic note than expected.

When I walk to the club house, I can look over the wall and see the commemorative sculpture of the Walsall Wood colliery that closed in 1964. I'm later told by a spectator after the game that for years, they had a big slag heap on that spot.

So the second half starts and I have decided to go to the other end of the ground which Walsall Wood will be attacking.

After 48 minutes, The Wood are awarded a free kick just outside the area. Their No.9 takes it and sends a shot crashing off the intersection of post and cross bar and the rebound is bundled in by the No.11 Corey Currithers. At last a goal and this galvanises the visitors.


                  (The reactions of the players say it all after the first Walsall Wood goal)

On 63 minutes Bridgnorth equalise after the rebound from Olugbon's saved shot is pushed in.

Walsall Wood respond immediately as a minute later, Walsall's Leon Taylor heads in from a corner (as shown below).



Then the same player 4 minutes later just misses a ball played in across the Bridgnorth goal when he slides in at the far post.

It's a very open game now and with just 5 minutes to go Bridgnorth equalise again to the dismay of the home crowd. The goal comes courtesy of a lob over the advancing Walsall keeper Kiesel.

By now I have given up on my photography as the light levels are proving to be unworkable but just as I am about to go on my way, Walsall Wood snatch a dramatic late win when their substitute, Drew Aiton, shoots in the ball from close range. So just like their first Vase tie this season, The Wood have triumphed right at the death of an absorbing contest.

So it's hard luck on a stubborn AFC Bridgnorth team who will be strong contenders in the chase for the West Midlands Premier crown this season and Walsall Wood will now face an away tie to league rivals Causeway United, who play at Halesowen's ground in the next round.

The size of the crowd was disappointing today but that may be due to the fact that nearby Rushall Olympic were also playing at home.  


                      (The backdrop of the match provided by the Colliery sculpture)

Match attendance: 89
Entertainment value: 7.5/10
Entrance fee: £5
Match programme: £1   

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

EVESHAM FOILED BY BROMLEY'S AGILE KEEPER



As I am unable to go to Worcester City's FA Cup tie against Greenwich Borough tomorrow, I have decided to make the small journey to Evesham to see their team play against Bromley in their 4th Qualifying Round tie. When I moved back to Worcester 6 years ago, Evesham United were sharing and playing at the old St.Georges Lane home of Worcester City while they collected the necessary funding for their present stadium. During that season of 2008-9, Evesham experienced a great FA Cup run and reached the 1st Round for the only time in their history. I saw 2 of their wins that time round, so as they have the possibility of achieving this feat again today, it's too good an opportunity for me to miss this tie.

Their worthy opponents today are Bromley, who ply their trade 3 steps above them in the Non-League pyramid in the Vanarama Conference South division and are currently lying in 5th place. After a dodgy start to their League campaign, Evesham have moved up to 11th place in the Calor Southern League, South & West division.

I take the 11:10 am bus from the London Road, just round the corner to where I live. I have to get off at the town of Pershore as the bus terminates there. It gives me time to have a quick look round the town centre and I am even able to see that there is a match being played at Pershore Town's ground this morning. Probably one of their youth teams.

When I am boarding the Evesham bus 30 minutes later, there are 4 guys in front of me who I hear from their conversation are going to the match too. I think there is going to be a good sized crowd there this afternoon!

After a journey through the scenic villages of Fladbury and Charlton we drive in to Evesham after about half an hour. The weather is cloudy today with the odd sunny interval with some drizzle thrown in for good measure.

I have time to have a look round the town centre and have something to eat. I notice in the Riverside shopping centre that there are 7 shop units currently vacant, including the closure of the independent record store called 'Rapture'. Sad but a sign of the times. It also comes to my attention that there seem to be a lot of people speaking in eastern European accents. Maybe this is because they are agricultural workers in the Vale of Evesham?

Anyhow, back to the game and I have walked down over the newly improved bridge across the River Avon and make my down the Cheltenham Road, where at the bottom of this road lies the Jubilee Stadium. 15 minutes later and I am walking in to the ground. As it's only 2:20pm, there seems to be a good crowd already and when I go in to the club house, there is another sizeable crowd. I go to the club shop desk in the corner and buy an Evesham club enamel badge to add to my small collection.

While enjoying a pre-match cup of tea outside, I chat to another bloke from Worcester who is has travelled here today and we are both hoping that Worcester City can make it past Greenwich Borough tomorrow.

I make my way to the southern end of the ground and just before kick-off I note that all four sides of the ground are lined by spectators, a very welcome sight.

Evesham United are in their usual red and white striped shirts and Bromley are decked out in yellow shirts.



Evesham United are the first team on the attack but it's the visitors who score after 4 minutes with their first attack. It's scored by their No.4, Danny Waldren from close range.

Evesham United are immediately back on the offensive but find themselves up against the Bromley keeper, Seb Brown (ex AFC Wimbledon) who is in great form. He makes saves from Evesham forwards, Lance Smith and Ashley Edenborough. Later, the home team's right winger, Elliot Kennedy, cuts in from the right and goes past 2 defenders before having a shot saved. 


                        (Evesham's Elliot Kennedy cutting in from the right wing)

Even though Evesham are having most of the play, Bromley are dangerous on the break. 

Ashley Edenborough, equalises after 37 minutes. He has a shot blocked by a defender and from the resultant corner, he heads the ball in. This is surprising as the the tall central defensive duo of Rob Swaine and Jack Holland have been commanding in the air so far.

Near the end of the first half, Bromley's ex-Brentford midfielder, Moses Ademola, has a shot cleared off the line by defender Linden Dovey. 

So, it's 1-1 at half time and everything to play for. It's announced that the attendance today is 811. That's about four times the usual home crowd and about 200+ on what I thought the attendance would be.

I think that Evesham United have played very well so far. Bromley certainly have some slick passing players but the hosts have showed plenty of grit and determination and in Edenborough have a quality player who will trouble most defences at this level.

So the match resumes and within the first minute, Evesham's lively midfielder , Carl Brown whips in a great shot from the right only to be foiled by a great athletic tip over by Seb Brown.

This seems to encourage Bromley who are now passing the ball very well. It soon results in them gaining a corner and it's that man Waldren again who scores with a glancing header after 49 minutes.


       ( Danny Waldren turns to salute the Bromley fans after scoring his second goal)

Both sides have more chances during this half but Evesham finish the game more strongly and have Bromley pinned back for long periods. Probably their best chance sees their skipper, Matt Sysum head just over the bar.




So for all their frantic efforts for a late equaliser, Evesham finish as the valiant losers in a very good cup tie and they certainly deserve the rapturous applause by their fans as they troop off the field.

So Bromley go through to the 1st Round and have been rewarded with a home tie against near neighbours Dartford Athletic, who are struggling in the Conference Premier.

Evesham United can feel rightly proud of their efforts today and with a bit more luck could have at least got a replay. I hope this helps galvanise their season and see them compete for a play-off place. Seb Brown though certainly was a major factor in their defeat and I can why he has been picked for the England C team in the past.

Match attendance: 811
Match entertainment: 7/10
Entrance fee: £9
Match programme: £2