Monday, 28 April 2014


I am venturing in to the world of the new revamped Women's Super League today. As I was not able to go to a game yesterday, I have decided to go and watch Aston Villa Ladies play in the new Division 2 of this league competition.

They now play on the artificial turf at Sutton Coldfield Town's ground at Coles Lane. Their opponents today are the redoubtable Sunderland Ladies, champions over the last 3 seasons of the National League.

The forecast is nothing brilliant but I know that this stadium has plenty of cover and so I'm soon travelling to Birmingham in cloudy and cool conditions with a threat of showers. I have seen both teams before and it will be interesting to see how they have progressed in the mean time.

After alighting at New Street station I have a quick look round some of the shops in Birmingham and then I go back to catch the train going to Lichfield.

Half an hour later I'm in Sutton Coldfield, grab something to eat at the local branch of Greggs and then I make the 15 minute walk to the ground.
It's £3 for admission and £1 for the match programme. There seems to be a decent crowd of 100+ today which is encouraging. Villa used to play at the nearby Boldmere St.Michael's ground when I saw them before.

The teams come out in their usual club colours and Sunderland certainly start the better. Their No.7 shoots narrowly wide of the goal after just 4 minutes and then Villa, without heeding this warning find themselves 1 goal down 5 minutes later. Beth Meade, Sunderland's experienced striker slots the ball past the keeper in a one on one situation, as shown below.

Sunderland continue to call the shots and after 15 minutes Mead hits the post with another effort.

Villa's Carly Davies has a chance but shoots over the bar as they get in to the game more but Sunderland have other ideas and after 40 minutes, Beth Mead manages to score a second goal despite the close attentions of the keeper and defender, Jade Richards.

    ( The agony and the ecstasy. Villa's keeper, Caitlin Leach and No.6, Jade Richards can't believe Sunderland have managed to score their 2nd goal)

So the first-half ends with Sunderland very much in the driving seat and Villa have it all to do.

During the interval I talk to an old couple who have 2 grand daughters who play for the Villa girls Under-11's team and today these girls are also helping retrieve the balls on the touch line during the game today. The grand parents also tell me that the girls travel to play games all over the country, so it seems they get a lot of experience at an early age these days!

Also I walk over to introduce myself and say hello to Sue Gutteridge who takes photos for the Sunderland team. I remember sending her some photos after an WFA Cup game against Birmingham 2 years ago, which she kindly posted on her club's website. She looks to be busy as she has to send off some of her photos through her laptop. Her daughter Natalie plays for the team, although not today as she's recovering from injury.

The second-half starts and Villa impose themselves a lot more now. Soon Sunderland are having to clear the ball off their own goal line after their keeper, Rachel Laws can only partially stop a goal bound effort.

This spurs on the home team and they continue to increase the pressure on the Sunderland goal.

Villa's captain, Dani Petrovic, goes close with a diving header and later another shot is cleared off the Sunderland goal line.

So the home team have been having the better of the play in this half but have sadly not been able to press home their advantage. This proves to be costly as, the Sunderland forward, Abbey Joice scores her sides 3rd goal with just 2 minutes to go.

A heartbreaking result for the Villa Ladies but they have certainly shown that they have the skills and fitness necessary for this level of football. They just need to convert their chances.

There is another game taking place straight after this one today. The Villa 'Development' team are playing their counterparts from Liverpool in their competitions League Cup semi-final. So it's very good value package for the spectators and there is definitely a very family friendly feel to proceedings today.

Sunderland have re-enforced the view of many that they and Doncaster Belles (who both now occupy the first 2 places), will be the teams to beat in this division and they certainly have put in a ruthless display today.

I'm glad I came today and have been impressed by the standard of play and the 2 teams who have both seemed to have improved in the intervening period when I saw them last. 

Friday, 25 April 2014


So, it's Easter Monday and where will I go today. I had been hankering to go to see Rugby Town v Barton Rovers in a play-off clash in the Calor Southern League, Central Division but after seeing the previous day's late night weather forecast with the threat of heavy showers, I decided to head north again and go to another new ground today, namely the Marston Road ground of Stafford Rangers. Looking at the weather map, it looks more likely that if I go north then it's less likely to rain. 

I set off on the train from Worcester, a bit later than I wanted. After changing trains at New Street in Birmingham I am making way to Stafford on the Liverpool train. After 35 minutes I am getting off at Stafford and walk out of the station in to the spring sunshine and cross the road and find myself in Victoria Park. This is a pleasant entrance to a new town for me. The River Sow winds it's way through this park and there are plenty of families spending some leisure time in this pleasant area. On the other side of this I find myself in Stafford's town centre, with plenty of historical timbered buildings lining the main street.

After having a look around the town's shopping centre and partaking of a chicken burger and chips from the burger van in the town square, I make my way up the road for the 15 minute walk to the Stafford Rangers ground in Marston Road.

I'm surprised to find myself walking along side Stafford Prison and then streets of terraced housing. When I arrive near the entrance to the ground I find there are lots of fun activities mainly for kids, like bouncy castles etc. Good idea for a holiday weekend.

I pay £9 at the turnstile and part with another £2 for a programme.
For a few weeks now, Stafford have known for a weeks that after a bad season they are doomed for relegation. Their opponents, Nantwich, have achieved mid-table safety.

There is a crowd of 394 today with a noisy contingent from Nantwich who are providing drum led musical entertainment on the far side of the ground, which gives a livelier atmosphere to the proceedings.

The 2 teams take to the field with Stafford in their usual black & white stripes and Nantwich in their away strip of yellow shirts & blue shorts.

     (Stafford's  Saul Henderson is tracked by a Nantwich Town defender) 

There is lots of endeavour by both teams but not much composure in this half and consequently not many chances. 

Nantwich have the best chances with Meaney, White and Aaron Burns having efforts on goal.

Saul Henderson has the best effort for Stafford Rangers when he fires over the bar.

             (Stafford full-back, Oliver Davies looks to go on the attack)

So still 0-0 at the break and maybe some goals in the next 45 minutes? Stafford's ground has a capacity of 6,000 with one large main stand with seating on the Marston Road side and on the other side there is a covered standing area for most of the length of the pitch.

When play resumes, Stafford start to get more of the play. Substitute, Jack Edward's header hits the post and out and then their lively midfielder goes close too.

At the other end, Max Harrop fails to chip Stafford's keeper, Andy Jones (as shown below).

After 65 minutes, Rangers take the lead through Saul Henderson who after receiving the ball on the left, cuts inside to place a shot inside the far post. Also soon after he hits the side netting too in another attack.

Nantwich come back strongly but Aaron Burns shoots over the bar with their best chance.

  So Stafford Rangers have signed off with a win with their last home league game this season. It seems that the fans would like to see the current manager, Graham Heathcote, stay on and lead them back to this division as soon as possible.

They are certainly a club with potential and I would like to see them do well in the future. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014


Today I am partially rectifying my avoidance of the West Midlands League this season. This has been a major oversight on my part, particularly regarding the Premier Division as the title race is featuring 4 teams when for a long time it looked like that Lye Town would be the likely winners. They are in first place but have been stumbling a bit recently and had a morale sapping 2-3 away defeat at Bewdley in mid-week. The other teams in the mix are Pegasus Juniors, Wolverhampton Casuals and one of the teams I am going to see today, Shawbury United.  

So I am heading on the train to the small town of Oakengates, which is part of Telford in Shropshire where Wellington Amateurs have their ground. It's not a town I have ever visited before, although I have been to Shropshire several times in the past.

I make my way to Birmingham from Worcester and then board the Shrewsbury train. Within 50 minutes I have arrived at Oakengates and the weather is still cloudy and cold! Typical British holiday weather. 

I must admit I am not very impressed by this town's small shopping centre. There appears to be no cafes that are open, indeed there are not that many shops, definitely some charity shops and a rather grotty Co-op food store. Even visiting the public toilets is disheartening as I find the remains of burnt pieces of paper on the floor of the cubicle I go into. Looks like a local pyromaniac has been trying to torch the place!

There is good news for any real ale loving ground-hoppers who come this way as I note a pub, called 'The Fighting Cocks' that sells beer from the local Ironbridge Brewery. Indeed there seems to be several pubs all within a short staggering distance of each other.

So after having a snack at the local branch of Greggs, I make the short walk to the Wickes Stadium home of the 'Amateurs'. Founded in 1950, they were called by this name so as to avoid any confusion with Wellington Town who later morphed in to 'Telford United' and then the re-formed AFC Telford, who of course are going great guns at the top of the Skrill North this season. Wellington Amateurs have made steady progress since their formation and have featured in this division for the last few years. 

Shawbury their Shropshire rivals have been challenging at the top of the West Mid Premier for several seasons. They ground share at Wem Town, which is about 5 miles away from the village of Shawbury.

The entrance fee is only £3 + £1 for the programme.

So the teams troop out with Wellington in red & black and the visitors decked out in black & white striped shirts.

The match is not of the best quality to be honest. Plenty of endeavour but played at a quite frenetic pace at times, probably a typical local derby.

Shawbury who are attacking away from the southern end of the ground, where I'm standing, go close after 10 minutes when their No.10  shoots across the goal from the right side of the penalty area.

There seems to be a crowd of about 30-40 today. I was expecting a larger crowd but AFC Telford are at home today which can't help I suppose and I later find out that they had an attendance of 2,048 at their game, which is certainly impressive.

The game seems to be heading for a goal less first-half but Shawbury have been bossing the last 15 minutes and it's no surprise to me when they score a good goal in injury time. Again it's from an attack down the right and the Shawbury forward buries the ball in to the opposite corner of the net. 

The Wickes Stadium home of the 'Amateurs' has a small club house on the entrance side of the ground, which features a small seated stand in the front.There are toilets on the one side of this with what looks like a porta- cabin building on the other which probably houses the club's offices. 

There is another small covered area on the other side of the pitch and the team dug-out's  are located on this side too.

I had a chat with one of the locals in the first-half who is watching the game while walking his dog. It turns out that he went to the College at Worcester (now the University) in his youth and has fond memories of playing for the football teams there.

When the teams come out after the interval I am wondering if the home team will be able to get back in to the game. The weather has improved though and we are now basking in sunshine although it's still not that warm.

In response to my thoughts, Wellington press hard and start to give Shawbury's defence a few problems but without looking that threatening. They are lacking a bit of quality up front against their higher placed rivals.

During this half I start chatting to a guy who is a Shawbury supporter. He tells me that his team are looking to have their own ground in Shawbury in the future and also informs me that Wellington have been told that their present ground is not up to the required standard and will have to move elsewhere. This surprises me as although the standard of the pitch could be better I thought the ground itself was not too bad.

As the game progresses Shawbury become more and more of an attacking threat and on several occasions go close to doubling their advantage. With about 20 minutes to go they indeed do score again, their No.6 volleying in from the edge of the area, as shown below.

    A deserved score for the title-challengers for the all the pressure they have been putting on the home defence.

With the score still at 0-2 I make my way out of the ground with a few minutes to go as I'm a bit worried about missing my train which is only an hourly service back to Birmingham. I go on a different route this time and in the spring sunshine, Oakengates with wooded hills surrounding it looks a much better sight to me.

So it's been good to go to a new ground today and it will interesting to see if the Amateurs do have to move to another ground. It seems to be a nice friendly club and they do have talent coming through the youth ranks (as stated in the programme) as their Under-16 team won the County Cup the previous Sunday.

Shawbury United are still in with a shout with the league title this season and I'm sure it won't be decided till right at the end. 

PS. The Wellington club secretary, Graeme Mc.Dermott has kindly informed me that the club's ground and facilities have been passed fit for Level 6 football for next season, thanks to work carried out over the last 12 months.  

Monday, 14 April 2014


I find myself going back to Malvern today to watch another match in the Worcester Sunday League. Again it's at the Langland Stadium but this time it's to watch a Division 2 encounter between Malvern Rangers and the league leaders, Worcester Raiders.

When I set out on the train from the Shrub Hill rail station in Worcester, it's sunny but with a bit of a chilly breeze. Nothing too unpleasant though.
Again, I'm going to a Sunday match due to other commitments that rules out watching a match on a Saturday. Originally I had thought of going to see Lye Town play at Bilston Town in the West Midlands League on Saturday, as I still haven't made it to their ground for a visit yet.

After getting off at Great Malvern station I walk up hill to the town centre and get some breakfast at the local Costa Coffee shop as I can get a free coffee with my loyalty card.

When I get down to the stadium just before 10:30 am, I'm surprised that the game has already started! I hope they didn't start at 10am.

I quickly walk in to the ground and set myself up alongside the goal at the southern end of the ground. Worcester Raiders are playing in yellow & blue while Malvern are in a red & white kit.  

 The Raiders are showing why they are the league leaders as Malvern Rangers don't seem to be able to get out of their own half. Five minutes after I have arrived and Worcester take the lead. I find out at half time that I only missed the first 4 minutes but I'm still mystified as to the reason for the early kick-off?

Although Worcester Raiders are still the better team, for the next 30 minutes, Malvern put up a better fight of it, although they don't threaten the Raiders goal much.

Then Worcester score another goal and only a minute later have a third in the back of the net, (the shot is shown below).

While I am taking photos, a young guy in a track suit who I had seen pacing up and down the touch line nearby comes over to talk to me. He is with the Worcester Raiders team and asks me if I'm taking photos for the Worcester News. I tell him I'm just taking them for my Blog but will send the newspaper some photos just in case they have a use for them. I tell him that I had a photo published in the Malvern Gazette from a game 2 weeks ago and I give him the address for this Blog. Later I wish I had got his email address from him so that he could identify some of the Raiders players for me.

He did put me right on the fact that his team are different to the other Raiders team in Worcester, who are correctly called WCT Raiders and their Sunday team play in this league's Premier Division!

Back to the game and just before half-time, Rangers have a corner and their No.10 gets in a header which just goes over the bar.

So it's 0-3 at the interval and looks like a matter of how many Worcester Raiders can score to boost their goal difference. The interval only lasts for 5 minutes and then we're off again. These Sunday players are made of sterner stuff obviously! Either that or they wan't to get to the pub early.

   Raiders score another 4 goals in this half. They are usually quicker to the ball, have stronger players and some of the Malvern Rangers players look very young. One of them only looks about 15! So it's a bit of a mis-match football wise and it's obvious that the Raiders are destined for bigger things when they get promoted.

One of the highlights for me in this half is the Raiders fifth goal which is rifled in to the corner of the net by their No.9 I think. Very good shot.

Also I'm impressed by the skill of the Rangers No.10 (featured above) who at one point in this half keeps possession from 4 Worcester players in succession. 

So Worcester Raiders have gained a convincing win today at Rangers expense, who have looked a bit demoralised in the last 20 minutes.  

I reckon there were about 20 spectators at this morning's match. When I walk back to Great Malvern station, I look up at the Malvern Hills in front of me and can see that the sunnier weather has brought out the walkers in large numbers as I can see lots of people on the top of the Worcestershire Beacon, which is the tallest hill.

Just a few weeks to go till the end of the season and not many opportunities to visit new grounds.    

Monday, 7 April 2014


I am heading to the Autotech Stadium at Solihull today to watch the play-off hopefuls clash of Solihull Moors and Boston United. It's a cloudy day with a chance of a shower this afternoon. I set out at 12:17pm from Worcester Foregate Street station and reach Solihull town centre for 1:35pm. It just gives me enough time for a mooch around the excellent shopping centre here and a quick bite to eat before catching the No.966 bus for the ground.

We soon have 8 Boston fans boarding the bus and I think there will probably be a good sized contingent of their supporters today, as they seem to have a good loyal following.

20 minutes later I alight at the stop which is located near the back of the Land Rover works, right on the outskirts of the town and it's also close to Birmingham Airport.

I have a pleasant surprise when arriving at the entrance as I find it's only £9 to get in. At Worcester City it's £12 for an adult ticket and going up to £13 for next season. It's £2.50 for the match programme but it's a decent effort and it's the first programme Iv'e bought for a while now.

I also have some in interest in the match because Solihull feature several ex-Worcester players in their squad, most notably, Rob Elvins who is now their captain and the No.5 linchpin of the team. He was one of my favourite players at Worcester and was sad to see him leave at the end of last season when City vacated St.George's Lane. Their team today also features Michael Taylor at No.10 and Richard Taundry at No.8 who were at the City recently too. 

When the teams come out, Solihull are in this season's new colours of blue & yellow horizontal stripes and Boston in their usual gold & black kit.

                  ( Michael Taylor heads the ball in this Solihull attack )

Solihull seem to be relying a lot on long balls played to their strikers, the tall No.9, Omar Bogle and Michael Taylor. Boston seem to be a bit more composed on the ball and I am impressed by their No.3, Rene Steer who makes a couple of dangerous runs down the left.

The Solihull keeper, Jasinder Singh makes a good save after about 15 minutes and a bit later on their is a nasty looking collision between Bogle who stumbles while racing for the ball and crashes in to Boston's No.8, Junior Konadu.

                ( The players wait for the trainers to come on to the pitch )

After a few minutes of treatment though both players appear to be ok although a little shaken.

On 37 minutes though Boston take the lead when Boston's Ricky Miller is brought down in the penalty area, much to the delight of the Boston fans behind that goal and he fires in the resulting penalty to give the visitors the advantage.

Before the interval arrives though, Solihull have 2 penalty appeals themselves. They both feature their striker Michael Taylor and only the 2nd one is upheld by the ref. Omar Bogle though blasts the ball wide though and Boston go in still clinging on to their 1-0 lead.

There is a crowd of 459 today and I reckon that at least 200 of these are Boston fans. They have a very good fan base considering the population of the town is only about 35-40,000.

Solihull's stadium has been renamed this season due to be being sponsored by Autotech. It's probably the reason they have changed their team colours too. You can't blame them as they are not a well supported club and need the money to survive at this level. They have a strong looking squad this season and although they sat in ninth place before today's game, earlier on in the season had been amongst the pace setters in this division. Boston are sitting in 6th place, just one point behind Guiseley in the play-off positions and have been having a good run recently.

Solihull's ground has one main stand along the side of the ground nearest the entrance,which also houses the changing rooms and club house. There is also a covered seated area at the end near the entrance too, while brave souls like myself are out in the open. This is not much of a problem today as there was only a period of about 15 minutes when there was a light smattering of rain.

                ( The Moors defence stands firm from this Boston free kick )

Play resumes for the next 45 minutes and soon Boston go close when McGhee fires in a cross and Singh in the Moors goal almost lets the ball go behind him in to the net.

Solihull do equalise though in the 62nd minute when they are awarded a free kick on the left, 20 yards out. Bogle takes it and the ball takes a big deflection off a defender in to the net with the keeper having no chance of saving it.

                              ( Jay Dowie takes a shot at the Solihull goal )
Boston who are playing the better football in this half are awarded another penalty with 15 minutes to go. Singh brings down Miller in the area and Miller fires in the penalty in off the underside of the bar.

The visitors manage to see out the win and collect 3 vital points. This result puts paid to Solihull's last chance of making the play-offs this time round while Boston are still in with a chance. I notice that their last game is away to.....Worcester City! Should be quite a game.

I have been to this ground 3 times now and I notice that Birmingham City Ladies will be playing here in the Women's Super League in the summer after switching their home games from Stratford Town. Maybe I will visit again soon!