Wednesday, 29 October 2014


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

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


Mainly due to an unfavourable looking weather forecast for Saturday afternoon, I have decided to go for a morning kick-off game in the shape of the Under 21 encounter between Sporting Khalsa v Bromsgrove Sporting. It's in the Challenge Bowl competition in the Midland Football League.

Khalsa play at the Aspray Arena in Willenhall, the former home of Willenhall Town and Sporting Khalsa bought the ground in May 2010 when it went in to receivership.
I have been there before in 2011 to see Khalsa play in the FA Vase against Heath Hayes, when they were sharing the ground with Willenhall Town. 

When I make an early start on the train at Worcester, it's cloudy and a bit misty, with rain forecast for early afternoon. After changing at New Street I get to Walsall at about 9am. Plenty of time to have a cooked breakfast at 'Dino's Diner' near Walsall bus station.

I embark on the bus at 9:30 and 20 minutes later have reached Willenhall. This is the second week in a row that I am seeing a game in the Black Country and I remember reading that Willenhall was an area that specialised in the making of locks. Hence the football team having the nickname of 'the Lockmen'.

It takes me about 20 minutes to walk to the ground and I can see on the other side of Noose Lane, is the road haulage firm of 'Aspray', who I presume must sponsor the ground. On the one side of the ground is Fibbersley Primary School and on the other is Fibbersley Nature Reserve. At the front of the ground is the '442 Bar & Lounge'. It's not readily apparent where the entrance is but then I spy a chap who is walking to the left of the Bar area, follow him round and voila, there it is!

The ground has certainly changed since I last came here. I am at one end of the ground with a new looking modern stand, the main one, on my left (with blue and yellow seating) and a smaller one on the right which is for standing spectators only. At the far end, as far as I can recall, there used to be slope at the back but it's certainly not there now. This ground is a complete contrast to Lye Town's, where I went last week, modern and a bit characterless. It's neat enough and would seem a bit better if there were more spectators around.

When the teams come on to the pitch, it seems they are both playing in their away colours. Khalsa in red and black striped shirts and Bromsgrove in an all green kit.

It's an open game with play switching from end to end. Bromsgrove have a shot on goal from the left after 13 minutes but it's pushed round the post by the Khalsa keeper.

Sporting Khalsa's No.10 has a shot well saved 6 minutes later and then go ahead after good work on the left of the penalty culminates in a shot slotted in by their No.8.

Bromsgrove go close to equalising in the 35th minute, when their No.5 sees his header crash against the bar after the ball is cleared to him by the Khalsa keeper from a corner (as shown below).

Bromsgrove come back strongly in the next few minutes when the Khalsa keeper makes a great save from a header by the visitor's No.9 and then from a corner they see a header cleared off the line by the post.

Sporting Khalsa then increase their lead after 38 minutes when their No.9 takes the ball past the keeper and slots the ball home.

The hosts diminutive but lively No.6 then bends in a shot towards the top corner but it's tipped over the bar by the Bromsgrove keeper.

So it's 2-0 to the hosts after a closely fought first-half but they have looked to be the more dangerous side so far.

Sporting Khalsa ('Khalsa' meaning 'Brotherhood') were founded in 1991, firstly playing in the Walsall Sunday League. 

 In 2004 their first team joined the 2nd Division of the West Midlands Regional League and have made steady progress since then. They are now enjoying their best start in the Premier Division and are currently occupying 3rd place with games in hand on the top 2 teams of AFC Bridgnorth and Black Country Rangers. They have 3 Academy teams (including the Under 21's) and youth teams down to the age of 8, so have a steady stream of young talent coming through.

The sun has shone briefly twice in the first half but it's looking pretty gloomy at the start of the second period.

Sporting Khalsa are the first team to go close with a hard shot just going the wrong side of the post after 10 minutes by their speedy No 7.

But Bromsgrove come back strongly and in the space of 3 minutes have gone close to scoring 3 times. They are making most of their sorties down the right flank and after 21 minutes their No.4 again goes down the right, crosses across the face of the goal but again the chance is not converted.

                 (Bromsgrove Sporting starting yet another attack on the Khalsa goal)

They are finally rewarded 10 minutes later when their tall gangly looking No.8 (Luyanda Kwinana) shows good close control and composure to evade 3 challenges and place a shot past the keeper in to the far corner.

Sporting Khalsa however finish the game strongly.  In the last 10 minutes they go close twice from headers on goal and then deep in to injury time one of their forwards is brought down from behind by the Bromsgrove keeper near the edge of the penalty area. The penalty is put away for a 3-1 win for the home side. 

They have been pushed all the way today by Bromsgrove who could have got a result if their finishing had been better.

Match attendance: 12
Entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Entertainment value: 7/10 

Friday, 10 October 2014


The changeable Autumn weather today has helped change my plans. I had been eyeing up the FA Vase clash between Sporting Khalsa v Hanley Town (of the North West Counties League) but after checking the BBC Weather on-line site, I came to the decision that there will be better weather conditions at another Vase tie between Lye Town v Pegasus Juniors, who last season came 1st & 2nd respectively in the Premier Division of the West Midlands Regional League. So it's off to my first visit to the Black Country this season.

Now Lye Town are promoted to the Premier Division of the newly formed Midland Football League and are currently in a creditable sixth place. Pegasus, who are having an indifferent start to their league campaign currently lie in 12th place in the West Midlands Premier Division but with games in hand over the teams above them. I think it will be a close contest this afternoon between these 2 old rivals.

I take the train to Stourbridge from Worcester and get off at Stourbridge Junction about 30 minutes later. I decide to walk in to the town centre and have lunch there as well as visiting the monthly CD and Record Fair at a local church hall. Iv'e been to this Fair before and they usually have a good selection on offer. I make a purchase, a CD by Ian McNabb which I used to own some years ago but lost after moving house, so I'm very pleased to find another copy today.

I make my way back to the Stourbridge Junction station and make the short 4 minute train journey to Lye. The ground is just a 5-10 minute walk away from the station and I last visited 2 seasons ago when Lye played another Herefordshire team, Wellington, and only got a 1-1 draw, when they should have won comfortably after having a large share of possession that day. 

Lye's ground is full of character. Firstly they share it with the town's cricket club (a la Stourbridge) and their main stand looks as if it's being shored up by scaffolding, although this is actually part of the structure.

Iv'e arrived in plenty of time and so am able to buy my customary cup of tea + a cheese burger as I realise I'm still hungry (after smelling the fried onions). Also quickly perusing my programme, I see that the striker Mark Danks is now playing for Lye. I remember seeing him play for Worcester City a few seasons ago, so I know he's a useful player to have in your team.

The players come out in to the autumn sunshine, Lye in their blue and white strip and Pegasus in red and white.

                                    (The action taking place in front of the Main Stand)

I must admit that the first-half is a tedious affair with Lye having the majority of play but largely inept as an an attacking force. Pegasus are soaking up the pressure with 5 men at the back and looking to hit their opponents on the break.

Lye Town winger Overfield cuts in from the right but only hits a tame shot, when I was expecting the opening goal. 

                     ( Lye's striker Mark Danks, manages to find space for a run on goal)

The hosts best effort comes near the end of the half, with a good header from skipper Ben Jevons but it's well saved by the Pegasus keeper.

So a very forgettable 45 minutes but I'm sure that Lye will come out strongly in the second half. With this in mind I walk up to the other end of the pitch which is overlooked by a small steep slope.

Lye Town do look more purposeful when play resumes but it's the visitors who score the first goal after 57 minutes. The young Pegasus forward, Sam Pearson breaks away and shrugs off a challenge from Ben Jevons and shoot past Lye keeper Stevens.

Lye bring on substitute, the experienced forward Chris (Billy) Russell in place of Overfield, who has been largely ineffective although he has tried hard.

Despite Russell's presence giving an immediate boost to Lye's attacking efforts with his trademark surging runs, it's the dangerous Pearson who scores again for Pegasus from another breakaway after 69 minutes.

(Pegasus Juniors, clear another Lye attack from a corner. Note the cricket pavilion in the background.)

Lye though continue to press forward, albeit ever more desperately and it pays off with just 6 minutes to play when right-back Bissell delivers a great cross for substitute Shivlock to nod in at the far post.

It feels as if it's too little too late and so it proves to be with Pegasus rewarded with a place in the next round (a home tie with Aston) after their pragmatic performance today.  

I later find out that Sporting Khalsa and Hanley Town have played out a 3 all draw but I have enjoyed my second visit to Lye and I'm sure that they will have a good first season in the Premier Division.

As I am leaving the ground I have a quick conversation with a guy called Peter Ray, who has been videoing the game from the high ground at the back of the one end. He tells me he hails from Solihull and I later find his Blog called 'The Mowdog on the Road.' He certainly covers a lot of games and is worth a visit.

Entrance fee: £5
Match programme: £1
Entertainment value: 5/10
Match attendance: 74