Monday, 22 September 2014


Due to temporary financial constraints I have decided to go to another local game today and it will mean a new ground to visit.

The game in question is a local derby between Powick Rangers and Malvern Under-21's at the Malvern Vale Community Centre that was built 2/3 years ago in a brand new housing estate, located in the area of Upper Howsell in Malvern.

It's a bit of a shot in the dark for me as I don't know what kind of ground it is and because it's so new, it's not that clearly defined on Google Maps and it's certainly not marked on my hard copy map of the Malvern area.

There is a steady light rainfall when I leave for the train at Shrub Hill station but with the promise of dry weather later on. I arrive at Malvern Link station and the rain has soon gone. I have decided to visit Malvern Library after reading in my local newspaper that there is an exhibition by a local photographer specialising in infra-red photography. It's very interesting, giving well known local views an ethereal look.

After having a bite to eat in Great Malvern, it takes me about 25 minutes to get to the Community Centre, which wasn't that difficult to find in the end. When I reach the entrance I can see there are 2 football pitches, with the one on my right being the one to be used for the match. 3 sides of it are bordered by a high wire fence while the other has a rope to separate the spectators from the pitch. Not great for photography but at least I will have my back to the sun that has been appearing from time to time.

Powick Rangers are a new club, being a merger of the old AFC Powick village side who have been a major force in recent years in the Worcester & District Football League and Malvern Rangers. However as the Saturday division of this League has been disbanded due to the withdrawal of 5 teams, Powick threw in their lot with Malvern Rangers who were already playing at this ground in the West Mid Div 2.

Malvern Town Under-21's are a revamp of their old reserve team who also were plying their trade in the Worcester League.

When the teams come on to the pitch, Powick (pronounced Poik) are in white shirts and blue shorts and Malvern in their usual strip of blue,claret and white.

The opening exchanges are even with Powick's No.9 hitting the post with a shot on the right and Malvern's No.8 having his shot well saved. Just a minute later Powick's keeper deflects a shot with his legs. 

For the rest of this half though, Powick look the more dangerous side and have several chances that go begging. They even have the ball in the net in the 27th minute but it's ruled out by an offside flag.

 In the 30th minute Powick's No.10 who has been one of their best players, has a great shot on the turn but is turned over the bar by the Malvern keeper.

Half-time arrives and it's surprisingly still 0-0 despite the best efforts of both the teams. It's been a keenly contested match so far and it's difficult to predict the likely outcome.

I don't bother looking to see if there are any refreshments on sale as I have brought some of my own and after checking some half-time scores, I see that the teams are coming out 5 minutes early.

Malvern look to be in better form and have a great chance when their No.9 is put through by a lovely pass and finds himself in a one on one situation with the keeper. His shot though bounces off the home keepers legs and out (as shown below).

It looks to be a costly miss as after 70 minutes, Malvern carelessly give away possession in their own half and it ends up with Powick's No.9 having an easy chance to shoot past their keeper.

Malvern Town though immediately fight back with a very soft goal. Their No.9, has a tame looking shot on goal that makes it's way through the covering Powick defenders  legs and with the keeper seemingly rooted to the spot, the ball slowly goes in to the corner of the goal. It looks as if the Powick goalie was expecting the ball to go wide. He's very upset with his error and is loudly berating himself!

A woman Malvern Town supporter who has been watching with her husband, close to where I'm standing is very pleased about this and seeing me with my notebook open asks me 'Do you want to know the scorer's name?' I reply that I do and she laughs and says it's their son called Jack Cullity.

                  ( Goal scorer Jack Cullity is congratulated by his happy team mates )

With 10 minutes to go, Malvern's No.12 out on the left, bends in a shot towards the far post but is pushed round the post by the home keeper.

Close to full time, Powick are awarded a free kick on the right. The ball is crossed over and is flicked on by a Powick player to the far post for their tall No.6 who nods it in to the net.

A great time to score a goal but the best goal of the game comes in injury time a few minutes later when Powick's No.11 finds himself with the ball at his feet on the right side of the goal and then blasts it straight in to the top corner.

So 3-1 for the home side and the whistle blows soon after. Powick have deserved to win today but it's been close.

I think they could do well in this division this season and Malvern Town should avoid trouble but will have to be more clinical in front of goal.

Match attendance: 30-40.
Entrance fee: free
Match programme: none 
Entertainment value: 7/10  

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


I have decided to visit a local team today, namely Worcester Raiders who play at Claines Lane on the northern outskirts of my home city. Last season they were promoted from the 2nd Division of the West Midlands League and are doing well this season too. Their opponents today are Team Dudley, who are the senior team of Dudley College and I saw them play last season at Cadbury Athletic in the Birmingham Vase.

Also I didn't see many games in this league last season and want to rectify this this season as it is this League's 125th anniversary season.

I have transport problems at the bus station as the No 144 bus does not leave until 2:40pm rather than the advertised 2:30pm. The slowness of the driver making his way from the staff room to the bus is a sight to behold and is a good reminder of why I try to avoid using their services as much as possible. It amazes me that this does not seem to faze my fellow passengers.....they must be resigned to having such a crap service!

I make it to the ground just before kick-off and I'm quite surprised to see 2 young lads sitting at a table which acts as a turnstile for the ground. When I came here 2 years ago to see the now defunct Archdales FC, there was no charge. I pay the £3 entrance, £1 for raffle tickets and receive a free four page programme. I certainly don't mind paying the money as I'm sure the club have plenty of expenses.

As I walk the short distance to the pitch I realise the teams are just about to kick off. The Raiders are in a red and black strip while the Dudley side are in all blue.

Just as I am getting my camera out of my rucksack, I quickly look up to see the ball nestling in the corner of the net after Worcester Raiders have scored direct from a corner (courtesy of Anthony Smith I find out later). This leaves me inwardly cursing the bus company for helping me miss the goal.

Fortunately I don't have to wait long for the next one! After 5 minutes, the Raiders striker, Jamie Insall, steals possession off a Dudley defender (as shown below) and slots the ball past the advancing keeper.

Just 3 minutes later, the Raiders win a free kick which is quickly taken and No.17, Joey Haines lifts the ball over the keeper for goal number 3, (as shown below).

The Raiders front line is certainly causing the students a lot of problems with their movement and tenacity in hunting down the ball. This is typified by Jamie Insall, who has a proven track record of goal scoring at this level. Team Dudley also make life difficult for themselves at times by not clearing the ball quickly enough.

After 28 minutes, Insall has scored his second after lobbing the keeper.

It's certainly not all one way traffic though and Team Dudley pull a goal back when after a mistake by a Worcester defender, their impressive No.7 lobs the ball over the advancing home keeper.

Also the visitors nearly get a second when after good work by their No.9 a shot is well saved by the young Jackson Huxley.

So it's 4-1 to the Raiders at half-time and now looks to be just a matter of how big the winning margin will be.

It's a very pleasant day to watch this game and the ground has a rural feel to it with trees on 2 sides, more trees behind the higher ground at the back, with another pitch on the left hand side. There are a set of steps leading up to the club house and changing rooms between the 2 pitches. Some of the spectators have been watching the contest sat outside the club house where they must have a good elevated view of the ground. On the right hand side of the pitch is a small covered area flanked by both dug-outs. There are no floodlights and I wonder if Worcester Raiders will be looking to erect some if they qualify for promotion?

After Iv'e checked the Premiership's half time scores, the teams are trooping back on to the pitch and the Raiders have soon scored again after some slack defending and their No.6 has again lobbed the keeper.

Team Dudley soon go on the attack and twice go close to scoring themselves.

Then it's that man Insall again with him blasting the ball home after having his first shot blocked and the defence failing to clear it. 2 minutes later he's scored his 4th goal after shooting in the ball off the outside of his boot.

3 minutes later in the 66th minute, it's goal number 8 when the Raiders No.6, Ben Harbourne has headed in from a corner and before he is substituted, Insall sees a shot crash off the underside of the bar and out!

The Raiders last 2 goals are scored by their No.10, Richard Smith, who has scored 7 goals already before today. 

Team Dudley have most of the play in the last 15 minutes and their No.7 has a good run and shoots just past the post.

             (Team Dudley's No.7 is stopped in unorthodox fashion by his marker)  

So 10-1 is the final scoreline and as a result of this big score, Worcester Raiders jump up to second place behind Bromyard Town in the league table.

The Raiders certainly have a dangerous forward line with Insall and Richard Smith always likely to score goals in most games and Richard's brother Anthony, providing the unexpected and unusual with his dribbling skills. It will be interesting to see how they fare against stronger, more experienced opposition this season.

Team Dudley were promoted to this division from last season and they could struggle in this one although they do have some skilful players, especially up front.   

Match attendance: 25-35?
Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: free
Entertainment value: 8/10             

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Today is 'Non-League Day', a good day to stay local. So as Worcester City are playing in Barrow-in-Furness I have decided to go to travel the short distance to see Malvern Town in their FA Vase tie v Walsall Wood.

I have been watching with interest, the upturn in fortunes of Malvern over the last few months, both on and off the field. On the field Malvern Town find themselves on top of the West Midlands League and off the field the club house has been spruced up and the pitch re-laid. So it will be good to see them in action and take note of the improvements.

I have enough time to have a quick look around the town in Great Malvern after leaving the train and then have a bite to eat at a local cafe. It's very pleasant walking down the hill towards the ground on a beautiful day. After 20 minutes I'm walking through the car park in to the club house. I pay my entrance and obtain a programme and step out on to a nice new decking area where there is a large gathering of supporters. Looking over to to the pitch I can see that is looking in good nick too.

Over the last 6 years since I came back to the Midlands, Malvern Town have been in a slow decline. After watching a couple of local Sunday League games at this ground at the end of last season, I could see the pitch looked a bit threadbare in places and the club buildings looking a bit neglected.

Last September, the club was in danger of folding after it came to light that the club had debts over £200,000 and it looked like they would have to sell the ground as a result. To the rescue in stepped 2 enthusiastic young businessmen, Chris Pinder and Ted Grizzell. Pinder is the co-founder of local company, HD Connectivity and Grizzell is the manager of Zig-Zag coaching and is also an academy coach at West Bromwich Albion.

They are organising a new youth set up at the club to nurture local talent and have set up the club as a Community Interest Company (CIC). They are a not for profit organisation and can look for extra funding from organisations like The Lottery, Sport England as well as local businesses.

So to the match and there is some bad luck for the home side before the kick-off, with main striker, Bryan Craven having to withdraw from proceedings because of a foot injury sustained during the warm-up. As he is currently his League's top scorer with 9 so far, then this is quite a blow for Malvern.

The match kicks off with the home side in a strip of mainly white but with sky blue and claret too. Looks like their old away kit. The Wood are in their usual all red strip.

The opening exchanges are quite even with plenty of attacking intent from both teams and I can't see this contest ending in a stalemate. Then Walsall Wood start to dominate the play.

After 14 minutes Walsall Wood's No.11 goes past 3 Malvern tackles before sending a shot past the post and then 'The Wood' take the lead with a goal from Dean Holgate.

This proves to be very short lived though as in the very next minute, Malvern go on the attack, win a corner and then score with a tap in by their No.6 I think.

After 37 minutes I'm impressed by a great double save by the Malvern keeper to keep his side in the game. This reprieve only lasts until the last minute of this half as the Wood's No.11 is left with a tap in at the far post after a pass comes in from the left. 

So Walsall Wood have their noses back in front in this tie. They have been the classier team so far and just about deserve their advantage.

Walsall Wood only 2 seasons ago had a great run in this competition, losing only after a replay in the quarter-finals, when maybe they should have won in the first match after having the best chances.

The first 15 minutes of the second half sees Malvern Town using all three of their substitutes, which shows they mean business in getting back in to this game.

The balance of the match shifts in the home sides favour when in the 68th minute, Walsall's No.11 is sent off. I miss the incident but Wood's Match Day secretary who I have been chatting to, says he had kicked out at another player.

Then in the very next minute, Walsall Wood probably should have had a penalty when one of their players is pushed down in the area but his sides pleas are waived aside as it looks like the linesman thought the ball had already gone out of play.

    (Malvern Town defender Chris Allen, looks to close down this Walsall Wood attack)

Malvern then go close after 79 minutes when their No.15 has a dipping shot sail just over the bar. Five minutes later another home attack produces a diving header, again going over the bar after a good cross from the right.

Their pressure finally pays off when their No.11 manages to push the ball past Walsall's keeper.

Just after this goal's scored I'm thinking that Walsall Wood won't fancy playing extra-time with only 10 men. Then they go and score!

A good run by their No.3, Craig Deakin, in the area is impeded by a Malvern defender and he goes to ground, with the ref blowing for a penalty. This is duly despatched by their No.6, Danny Forrest, as shown below.


There is still time for the Malvern captain Joe Endacott to have an eyeball to eyeball confrontation with Walsall's No.16, who carries on their spat just a bit too long, which is a bit silly seeing that his side look they are about to win the game and go through to the next round.

It's been a great cup tie and although they lost today, Malvern Town showed great grit and determination against their higher league opponents. With their new regime, newly revamped ground and future plans, they seem like a club with a future now.  

Walsall Wood's reward for their efforts today is a home tie in the next round against old rivals, Pershore Town, when they were both in the Midland Combination. 

Match entrance: £5
Match programme: £1
Match attendance: 137
Entertainment value: 8/10

Monday, 1 September 2014


I am sending myself to Coventry today, yes...I won't talk to myself all day, which will be a relief to all the locals there. It's Preliminary Round day in the FA Cup and the local derby between Midland League's, Coventry Sphinx and Bedworth United from the Calor Southern League. It will be my first visit to this ground.

I haven't been to Coventry for 3 years now and then it was on my way to see Bedworth in action.

When I leave Worcester on the train, it's cloudy and likely to remain so for most of today. By 1pm I am walking out of Coventry rail station and to my dismay the pedestrian walkway is still surrounded by hoardings, giving things a decidedly unfinished air. To be honest, Coventry is not one of my favourite places. There are some great things to see, like the Cathedral, Art Gallery etc but the city centre is a bit of an eyesore in places.

I am visiting the Transport Museum today before going to the game and it's certainly worth a visit. Of course the displays provide a great insight in to the history of Coventry as a major centre for the bicycle, motorcycle and auto-mobile industries in the UK. Looking at a list on the wall, I can see there have been hundreds of companies based in the city over the years. Not so many now of course! 

I have a bite to eat in the museum cafe and then find the relevant bus stop for my 10 minute journey which takes me close to the Coventry Sphinx sports ground.

Sphinx Drive is situated off Bull's Head Lane in the Lower Stoke district and ground has a bowling green and a rugby ground as well as the football pitch. The football ground itself has a rugby pitch on one side, separated by a rope. On the other side is situated the only stand. Everywhere else you are open to the elements, apart from the club house of course, which is by the entrance. At the back of the club is where you can find the bowls club.

Coventry Sphinx come out in their sky blue and white striped shirts, dark blue shorts and socks while Bedworth United (the Greenbacks) appear in their all-green strip.

There looks to be a good crowd to see this local contest and as often happens in such matches, play is scrappy and the pace frenetic and the windy weather does not help either.

Sphinx have the better of the early exchanges and after 5 minutes go close to scoring. A free kick awarded on the right is met well by a Sphinx captain, Ashley Jackson's head but the ball flashes past the far post.

After 15 minutes another Sphinx attack, down the left this time, sees the Bedworth keeper race out of his goal, he's lobbed but the ball goes just wide of the goal.

  (Alex Naughton, the Bedworth No.9 attacks the Coventry Sphinx goal) 

Bedworth though do get more in to the game and the later stages of the first half sees them gain the upper hand without creating any clear cut chances.

So it's all square at half-time and I'm hoping there will be some goals in the next 45 minutes. The weather has taken a turn for the worse with darker clouds coming over and it rains for the next 20 minutes or so. The half-time draw sees a guy near me winning a bottle of whisky and makes me wonder if I would have won that if I'd bought a ticket as I don't think anyone else near me had bought any.

Bedworth United leave their hosts waiting on the pitch for a few minutes before play starts again. Maybe they are trying to psych them out?

It's still a physical battle in this half too although Bedworth do test the Sphinx keeper a few times but he and his fellow defenders hold firm. Although you can't fault the commitment of both sides the match is desperately calling out for a bit of quality.

     (This Coventry attacker is held at bay with some strong arm tactics)

The final whistle blows with both teams unable to break the deadlock. Although it hasn't been a brilliant match there has been some entertaining banter at times in the crowd near me.

The teams will resume their battle on Tuesday evening with the winners visiting Boldmere St.Michael's in the next round.

I noticed that Coventry Sphinx looked to have a young team out today and I saw on their website the other day that last season, their Under 10,11,13 AND 14 teams won their respective League Cup competitions. That's quite an achievement and shows they have some quality players coming up for the future.

Match attendance: 334
Match entrance: £7 
Match programme: £1.50
Club badge: £2 
Entertainment value: 3/10