Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Due to a distinctly unfavourable forecast for the Birmingham/Black Country area for this afternoon, I change my plans to watch a West Midlands League match and decide instead to head west for the city of Hereford. I am now going to see Westfields take on last years Midland Combination Premier champions, the village side from Brocton, situated close to Stafford. 

On arriving at Worcester's Shrub Hill rail station, I find to my dismay that there are engineering works on the Hereford line today. Of course this means I have to take the option of the replacement bus service. This will mean that I will not have much time to explore the city on my arrival as I'm sure the journey will take twice the usual time. 

Unfortunately this is the way it pans out but on the plus side, I can take in the glorious country views on the way. As we are nearing Hereford, I think I see where the Bartestree football ground is situated, who play in the West Midlands League and who I'd like to visit in the future.

We are taken to the forecourt of the rail station and I make my way on the 10 minute walk to the city centre. I decide to go to the bus station and there I go in to a nearby cafe and have a breakfast butty.

When I get to the pedestrianised High Street, I find that there are more food stalls than usual and am told by a stall holder that there is a food festival taking place.

I walk to the allpay Park ground of Westfields, which is just past the ground of Lads Club, who have a game that's already started, probably their reserve team who play in the Herefordshire League.

I pay the £6 entrance fee and £1 for the glossy programme. It's sunny at the moment but there are clouds coming our way. Rain wasn't forecast for around here today but you never know?

The Westfields team troop out in their usual claret and blue and visitors Brocton in their green and white. Brocton find themselves at the bottom of the table after 3 games played, so are finding life a bit harder after promotion last season.

When they kick-off with Westfields attacking the end where I'm stood, I'm surprised to see that Dene Whittal-Williams is playing at No.9 rather than his usual central defensive position.

 (Dene Whittal-Williams sees an intended cross snapped up by the Brocton keeper)

The dead lock is broken after 14 minutes when the ball is played to Zac Sirrell who cleverly finds space on the right and beating the off-side trap and pulls the ball back for Jamie Cuss to push in to the net.

Just 12 minutes later though, Brocton draw level, when a great cross from the left is met by No.9 Gary Fife, who guides the ball in at the near post.

                  (Jamie Cuss gains possession near the Brocton goal) 

Westfields go close near the end of the half when a left wing cross is met full on the valley by Jamie Cuss and his shot crashes against the cross bar and over. Could have been a spectacular goal!

The weather has deteriorated during the first 45 minutes and we had a brief few minutes of rain near the end. Although it stops during the interval, the oncoming clouds don't bode well.

The second half sees Westfields largely on top but without threatening the Brocton goal. In fact Gary Fife very nearly scores a second but fires over with a fierce shot from a few yards out.

Westfields however gradually get back on top and with their full backs pushing down the flanks are getting more urgent in their efforts to score the winning goal.

  The rain has come back too, the conditions adding to the drama of the last stages of the match.

With just 3 minutes to go, the hosts win a free kick on the right. The ball is driven in low, skidding of the wet turf and looks to deflect off a defender before going past the flailing arms of the keeper.

             (Here Westfields players celebrate their late second goal)

So Westfields have won the game at the death. They seemed to want it more than their opponents who maybe had settled on holding on for a draw.

It's been a disappointing match, with Westfields looking out of sorts and not the same team that was playing with a free flowing style 2 years ago. The attendance though was an impressive 148. 

Brocton I'm sure will improve after their stuttering start but definitely need to improve in attack because from what I saw today, only the experienced Gary Fife looks to be a threat up front.

When I am travelling back to Worcester, the rain soon stops and when the coach is climbing up the side of the Malvern Hills, I can see across Herefordshire over to the Welsh mountains, with the setting sun gleaming out from the rain clouds. We cut through the Hills at Wyche and start on our way down on to Great Malvern. Below us a rainbow is shining and makes me wish I could take a photo of this spectacle from the confines of the coach. 

PS. I sent some of my match photos to Brocton, which have been put on their website by their Publicity Officer, Adam Checkley. He also told me that any visiting 'groundhoppers' are always most welcome at the club. Very sociable!     

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


This weekend marks the start of this seasons road to Wembley. Yes, it's FA Cup time again! I have chosen to cover the tie at Coleshill Town who are playing Nuneaton Griff. So I will visit a new ground and see Nuneaton Griff for the first time too. Coleshill are currently 2nd in the Midland Football League, Premier Division while Nuneaton are competing in the division below them.

I am taking the train to Birmingham and then make the small rail journey to Marston Green. I can see the end of a runway at the adjacent Birmingham airport while getting out of the train. I then walk out to the front of the station to the bus stop to wait for the No.70 bus. This takes me over to Coleshill via Chelmsley Wood. I notice on the way that Chelmsley Town's ground is situated on this route.

When I get out on to the High Street in Coleshill, it's 1:40 pm and there are not many people about, in fact the major activity today seems to be 2 weddings taking place. There are some nice old buildings here in the centre of this small market town of approximately 6,300 souls, just inside Warwickshire. There has been a settlement here since Roman times apparently and the town was famous for it's coach houses at one time about 300 years ago, so must have been situated on a major route at one time (probably to Coventry).

After having a quick look round the town and stopping off at the local chippy for a good value chicken burger, I walk down the road to the ground at Packmeadow Lane. The ground itself is situated on the left of the road and soon I am walking through the stylish metal gates, with the clubs name on them. It's a neat looking ground with the car park immediately in front of me and the pitch just on my right. The club house and changing rooms are on the far side of the car park, with a burger/refreshment van in front. Along the both sides of the pitch are 2 small stands and to the east of the ground is another pitch, probably for training.

I take my place at the far, southern end of the ground and when the teams come out, Coleshill are in their white shirts and blue shorts, while Nuneaton Griff are in their change strip of all red.

Coleshill are starting this new season in great form. The other week they won 8-2 at newly promoted Brocton and have scored 14 league goals in 4 games so far. I have predicted a 6-2 win for the home team today if they hit top form.

For the first 10-15 minutes, it's an even contest. However Coleshill take the lead when their powerful midfielder, Jonathon Jones heads home from a corner. Just 6 minutes later it's 2-0 when Daniel Douglas heads in from a long throw. After this, Coleshill look dangerous whenever they attack and duly score again when Douglas scores with another header.

                  (Tom Weale on the ball in another Coleshill Town attack)

Nuneaton nearly hit back when their No.9 goes close with a free-kick but Coleshill score number 4 when new signing, Tom Weale puts away a well placed shot in the corner with Griff's keeper, Dave Watson well and truly stranded. Straight from the kick-off Coleshill sweep down field and their No.9 sweeps home the ball from a left wing cross.

So as a contest this match is well and truly over and can only be a damage limitation excercise for the visitors.

I see from the programme that Coleshill Town have revived a lot of their youth teams and will have 2 women's teams too for this season. It's announced at the break that the attendance today is 92.

It's soon evident that Coleshill are in mood to rest on their laurels and on 53 minutes, number 6 is scored following a defensive mix-up after the No.9, Benjamin's header rebounds out from the corner of the bar and post, as shown below.

For a while Nuneaton Griff get back in to the game but without really threatening the Coleshill goal.

This is short lived though and one of the Coleshill substitutes, the pacy Simeon Cobourne, picks up the ball in midfield and races through to score (as shown below).

This same player scores again a few minutes later. The Nuneaton goalkeeper looks round and asks me how much time is left till full time. After telling him it's just 5 minutes he then asks me what the score is, as he has obviously lost count now. Unfortunately for him, Coleshill have enough time to score 2 more.

Before that, Aden Moore of Nuneaton has a goal disallowed for offside. Then after 88 minutes, Cobourne scores the last goal of his quick fire hat-trick and then another substitute, Withers scores the final goal in injury time when in a one on one situation with the Nuneaton stopper.

Later, I read that Nuneaton had fielded a weakened team today but it was still a very impressive performance by a fast and powerful Coleshill team. Their manager has certainly put together a strong squad and are certain to challenge strongly for silverware this season. The 2 players that impressed me the most were hat-trick hero, Simeon Cobourne who is only 18 years old and the No.8, Jonathon Jones who was very effective in a midfield holding role.

As for Nuneaton Griff, they did themselves a lot of credit by keeping to playing in an attractive manner, right till the end. In fact it was a very clean game. 


Wednesday, 6 August 2014


So, the start of a new season and a new football league, namely the 'Midland Football League'. This comprises the joining together of the old Midland Alliance and Midland Combination leagues. The 'Alliance' is now the Premier Division (Step 5) of the new league and Division's, 1,2 &3 are made up of teams from the Combination. There are also 2 Reserve team divisions and 2 Under-21 team divisions transferred from the Midland Combination too.

I have decided to visit the historic town of Warwick today to witness the Racing Club Warwick v Lichfield City clash, in the Division 1 (Step 6) of this new league. 

I have been to this club twice before and have seen Lichfield over 20 years ago. I fancied seeing the town of Warwick again, as it is a pleasant place to visit with nice architecture, although it's football team are usually struggling and fighting off relegation in recent years.

As I set out from Worcester on the Birmingham train, it's cloudy and has been raining most of the morning, so I'm a bit worried if the game is going to be on. After looking at the forecast, it looks as if the further east I go, the better it should be.

I phone the Racing Club's secretary when I get to Snow Hill station in Birmingham but his wife instead answers the phone as he is on his way to the ground. She assures me though that the game should go ahead as it has not been raining in Warwick this morning. So I buy my ticket and about 35 minutes later have disembarked and am making my way down to Warwick town centre.

I see that the centre is decked out in bunting to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the town, giving it a slightly continental look (as shown in the photo below).

After having a quick look around the town centre, I make my way down towards the football ground. Near the ground is Warwick Racecourse and I pass along the back of it's Grandstand. Also on the other side of the A 4198 (Hampton Road) is situated the ground of Warwick Cricket Club, with it's cute looking white wooden pavilion.

Soon I am entering through the turnstile of the Townend Meadow ground which is situated close to the corner of the racecourse, hence the use of the 'Racing Club' name. It's £4 entry + 50p for a 12 page paper programme. I go in to the club house bar and get my ritual pre-match cup of tea and when I go back outside I notice that next door is situated the local boxing club which is housed in a long portacabin looking building. It does not look in good repair and some of the windows have broken glass, which looks as if vandalism has taken place. I presume that this same club is where the famous World Champion, English boxer of the 1950's, Randolph Turpin had learnt his trade, as his statue is to be seen in the town centre.

Before the game starts I see on the team sheets posted on the wall, that the diminutive but speedy striker, Ahmet Bilgimer (formerly of Walsall Wood) is playing for Lichfield today. I'm sure he will play an important part in the proceedings. His brother too is playing at No 2.  

Although the sun has been shining all the time I have been in Warwick, I can see dark clouds looming to the west end of the ground, which is where I take my place by the side of one of the goals, sheltering under some trees. As I look down the pitch, on my right is a small stand, with seating and a corrugated tin roof, with the team dug-outs either side of it.
On my left is another small stand longer in length, again with a corrugated tin roof.

The teams come on to the pitch with Racing Club in their colours of amber & black while the visitors are in their away colours of all red. There looks to be a crowd of about 40 today.

When play commences, the 1st half sees an evenly contested game. After 10 mins , Lichfield spurn a good chance when the ball breaks to their No.7 on the edge of the penalty area but he shoots wide of the far post.

Ahmet Bilgimer later turns sharply just outside the box but his shot is quickly blocked.

In one Racing Club attack, one of their forwards, Jake Brown, shoots over the bar from an acute angle (as shown below).

The best chance for Racing Club sees one of their forwards head just wide from a good left wing cross.

The weather has quickly deteriorated after just 10 minutes of play and rains, heavily at times for most of the first 45 minutes (as seen in the photo below)and I'm grateful for the shelter of these large trees in the corner of the ground.

Just as it seems like the game will remain goalless at half time, Bilgimer is brought down in the 42nd minute, after he bursts in to Racing's penalty area and a spot kick is awarded. Lichfield's No.8 duly steps up and scores to put his side in the driving seat.

The rain had stopped after 40 minutes and the sun has come out again but more rain clouds are not far away.

When play resumes with Lichfield attacking towards me, they seem to be more confident now and Bilgimer and their No.9, Kyle Minto looking dangerous. 

Their No.14 is finding space on the left too and after 70 minutes his pass finds Bilgimer who slides the ball home.

    Bilgimer (far right) is greeted by his happy team mates after scoring the 2nd and decisive goal.

Although Racing Club try to get back in to the game they don't really look like scoring. The rain had come back and lasts for most of the second period except the last 10 minutes, when the pitch is bathed in sunshine. 

So Lichfield City run out 2-0 winners and look as if they could have a useful season while the hosts look set for another struggle down the lower part of table on this showing.

I did not come back to the West Midlands until 6 years ago and did not realise that Racing Club had been members of the Southern League just 10 years ago. So it's a shame to see them struggling now and judging by the lack of advertising hoardings around the pitch they don't seem to be pulling in much needed money to help their cause.

I'd recommend a visit to Warwick, as it is an historic place with good shops and you can always visit the Castle too as well as taking in a game at Racing Club.