Monday, 27 January 2014
As my train heads out of Worcester Shrub Hill station, the weather is fine and sunny, a respite from the continual rain of yesterday. There is rain forecast for the afternoon and I still haven't found out which game to go to yet.
I phone a number for the Solihull Moors secretary but find out it's a wrong number as the guy answering tells me his number has nothing to do with that club. So I must have wrote it down incorrectly. Instead I phone the mobile number for Chasetown FC's secretary, John Richards. I leave a text message for him after hearing his voice mail message and a few minutes later he's kindly rang me up and confirms that their match has been given the go ahead after a 9:30am pitch inspection.
After arriving at Birmingham Snow Hill I make my way to New Street where I take the next train for Cannock. When I get there 40 minutes later, I grab a take away meal of cheeseburger & chips from a van near the shopping centre and soon, suitably refreshed, am boarding the No.60 Lichfield bus. Although I visited Chasetown's ground early last season, I'd forgotten what a long and winding route the bus takes to get there. During this journey, the sky suddenly turns very dark and there is a terrific, violent deluge of hail for a few minutes. It plants a thought in my mind that the match will be called off after all!
However when I arrive in Chasetown, the rain has eased off considerably and I walk through the gates at 2:45pm. I soon find out that the kick-off has been delayed for 15 minutes while ground staff and volunteers are busy getting the pitch ready.
I take my place at the front of the small stand at the western end of the ground to get out of the returning rain and to finish my cup of tea. The Scholar's Ground has been Chasetown's home since 1983 and the club itself are celebrating 60 years of existence. They find themselves in 12th position in the league table and are unbeaten so far this month. Lincoln their opponents are 4 places below them.
As planned the teams troop on to the pitch at 3:15pm, Chasetown in their blue strip and Lincoln United in white.
It's Lincoln who start the better and take the lead after 11 minutes, their No.11 slotting home at the near post.
The home fans are re-assured 4 minutes later when their No.9, Nick Wellecomme returns the compliment to make it 1-1 after Jonathan Gould lays on a pass for him after going past a few defenders . This game has all the makings of a classic,....prediction of a 4-4 draw anyone?
I shouldn't have got so excited as there is no more score until very late on in this half. Chasetown are the better side for long periods, with Wellecomme and Luke Bottomer, in particular being very lively up front.
Luke Bottomer puts Chasetown deservedly in the lead after 47 minutes when after a mazy run, cutting in from the left he beats the keeper in a one on one situation. Great goal!
During half-time I go in to the club shop and purchase a club badge, thinking that I will start a collection, as I did have some years ago but they were taken in a burglary in my flat, when I was living in Southampton at the time. I have a good chat with the friendly guy in charge and one of the coaching/playing staff who has come in to see him.
The second half again sees the home side mainly on top and after 10 minutes they score number 3 when their defender, Richard Teasdale scores with a header from a corner.
Nick Wellecomme finishes off the scoring in the 76th minute and a few minutes later I make my way out of the ground as I am unsure what time my bus will be, as I remember the last time I came here, I had along wait at the bus stop. Of course I find out when I get there, that I could have stayed and still have had just 10 minutes to wait.
I enjoyed my visit today at a friendly club who, from what I have seen, play good attractive football. The ground staff and their volunteers did a very good job to get this match played at all and I hope it was appreciated by the 147 spectators who attended today's match. I know I certainly did and I wish them well for the rest of this season!
Sunday, 12 January 2014
Today I am making my way to my first ever Under-21 match in the Midland Combination. The game in question is between the unbeaten league leaders Romulus and the village side from Warwickshire, Austrey Rangers.
It's a 10:30am kick-off so I have to get up early (7:15am) and have breakfast at Worcester Shrub Hill station before catching the train for Birmingham Snow Hill. It's a lovely sunny morning and after arriving on time I walk the short distance to New Street and catch the 9:35 train for my destination of Sutton Coldfield.
I walk the short distance to the town centre after my 20 minute journey and make my way through the extensive shopping area to Sutton Coldfield Town's ground in Coles Lane, which Romulus share. I have made such good time that the tea bar has not quite opened for business yet!
The wet artificial turf is glistening like jewels in the morning sun and soon I am supping a welcome warm cuppa.
I am meeting friends in Birmingham this afternoon, so thought it was a good opportunity to watch a game for the first time in this competition.
Romulus FC (founded in 1979) have a very good reputation for bringing on young local talent. Former players include ex-Football League stars like Dean Sturridge, Darius Vassell and Zac Knight. All this from a club that was formed initially to develop the best schoolboy talent in the north Birmigham area! I'm also intrigued by Austrey Rangers who were only formed in 2005 and they have only joined the Midland Combination this season.
There looks to be a crowd of between 30-40 spectators today.
Romulus take to the field in their usual red & white stripes while Austrey are clad in green & white hoops.
The artificial turf makes for a fast game of football. I can see it's easy to over hit the ball on this kind of surface and also at first some players have difficulty in being able to get enough height in their attempted crosses.
I am surprised by Austrey Rangers having more of the possession in the first 30 minutes although they aren't creating many goal chances.
Romulus open the scoring though when their No.7 is found unmarked on the edge of the penalty area and he coolly slots the ball home.
Austrey Rangers hit back in injury time when their No.6 tenaciously manages to get in to the Romulus penalty area only for his legs to be clipped by a Romulus full back (shown above). The penalty is duly dispatched and half-time sees a score line that's a fair reflection of the game so far.
During the break I talk to a guy whose son plays for the Romulus first team after recent promotion from the Under-21 side. He also informs me that about half the Austrey Rangers team is made up of former Tamworth players from their now disbanded academy team. Now I fully understand the quality of their side and why they are sitting well up the table.
Romulus step up their efforts in the second period and after 10 minutes have won a penalty after their dangerous No.11 is brought down with a clumsy challenge. The Austrey keeper is sent the wrong way for Romulus to take the lead.
For the rest of this half Romulus look very dangerous, especially with their tricky wingers getting plenty of the ball.
Austrey though are still dangerous on the break and their No.5 makes a sortie up field in their most dangerous attack and after playing a neat one two with a colleague, shoots just over the bar.
(A Romulus forward looks to break through in this attack)
The game ends in a well deserved win for Romulus despite the plucky efforts of their visitors. I have been impressed by the good standard of play by both teams today and will look to watch another game in this division before the end of the season.
Monday, 6 January 2014
A gale lashed UK is not a great place for outdoor sports at the moment and I was getting worried that maybe all the local football in the West Midlands was going to fall foul of this inclement weather.
At first I was looking to be adventurous (for me) and travel to a new ground at Shifnal in Shropshire but a phone call at 10:30am on my way to the train station found the pitch there had failed the pitch inspection. So I phoned my second option and am told the match at Rostance Edwards FC in Bloxwich had been given the go ahead.
They are playing in the Quarter-Final of the Staffordshire Challenge Cup against Lichfield City Reserves. Both teams compete in the Midland Combination league, Rostance in the 2nd Division and Lichfield in Reserve Division 1.
As it is a 2pm kick-off, I have to get the next train to Walsall as soon as I can when alighting at New Street station. I arrive in Walsall about 12:55 and have just enough time to snatch a bacon & sausage sandwich before taking the bus from the nearby bus station for my 10 minute journey to Bloxwich.
The Red Lion ground where the match is being played is not a new ground for me as I watched the now defunct Bloxwich United play here about 4 years ago. Rostance Edwards are a new team for me though and I have just found out a bit more about them before writing this post today. The name is derived from a company of Chartered Accountants based in Cannock and was formed in 1998 by the sports enthusiast,David Rostance and Barry Edwards (who is also the club's Chairman). I don't know how long the team have been going but do know that they acheived entry to the Midland Combination this season.
When I get off the bus and make the short 10 minute walk to the ground, I start to wonder if they have already kicked off, even though it's 1:40pm. It sounds as if they are playing when I walk in to the entrance of the club house and the guy who is taking the £2 entrance fee tells me it was changed to a 1:30pm start because it is a cup game. Oh well, it's good to be watching a game of some sort today, rather than having a wasted journey like what happened to me last week when travelling to see Mahal FC in Smethwick only to find the gates locked.
Rostance are playing in blue and Lichfield in their away strip of all red. Lichfield are on top for the first 10-15 minutes which I watch.
However Rostance are the first to score when their skilful No.7 goes down the left wing and crosses for one of his fellow forwards to nod past the Lichfield keeper.
(These Rostance Edwards players celebrate their first goal)
Their lead is short lived however and Lichfield equalise from a corner a few minutes later (as shown below).
This galvanises the Rostance team and they restore their goal advantage just before half-time.
It's been a good game so far,despite the pitch being quite muddy in places and I'm glad I came today. Iv'e noticed that there is quite a slope on the pitch from the north end , where the stand with seating is situated to the southern end. At the side where the entrance can be found, are also located the clubhouse and refreshment bar. This ground also has floodlights (although I don't know if they are used at all).
There is a good crowd of about 40 from what I can see, which is good for this level of football.
So after my half-time coffee I just have enough time to get ready for the next 45 minutes of action.
Although Rostance Edwards are the more dangerous looking team going forward, Lichfield at times do have more possession of the ball.
A third goal is duly scored by the home side though and Lichfield lose heart a bit. With the home team becoming more dominant it's only a matter of time before they score a fourth with about 10 minutes to go.
So Rostance Edwards have deservedly won today, with their forwards playing well, although their No.9 was injured just above his left knee and had to hobble off the pitch with assistance after scoring the last goal.
I'm sure they will be hoping for a home draw in the Semi-Final of this competition now.