Wednesday, 16 December 2015

MORETON RANGERS 5 - 0 KIDLINGTON RESERVES


I am heading down south to the Cotswolds today as I really don't like the weather forecast for the West Midlands area. Instead I am popping off on the train to Moreton-in-Marsh to see Moreton Rangers play in the Hellenic League, Div 2 West.

Although it has been raining in Worcester this morning, by the time I set out for the train station it has relented. 20 minutes before my train is due to leave, I find out from the club that their pitch has passed 2 inspections this morning! The forecast for Moreton this afternoon is no rain and maybe some sunny intervals. When I do get to Moreton though at 11:50am there is thick cloud and a stiff wind. 

Moreton is a pleasant small town of approximately 3,500 inhabitants, with many of the buildings built with the golden cotswold stone. The main road running through the town follows the line of the old Roman road of the Fosse Way, which was originally built to connect Lincoln and Exeter. 


           (Redesdale Market Hall in the centre of Moreton-in-Marsh)

I have to time to have a light lunch in a local cafe and visit one of the local art galleries. I also note the location of a nice looking cheese shop (for later investigation) before I head off for the short walk to the football ground situated on the London Road.

I find there are no programmes to be had when I get there and also hear that only 4 opposition players have arrived so far, as they probably think it's a 3:00 pm kick-off rather than 2:00 pm. I have visions of the game being called off, which will be disappointing after my efforts to find a game to visit today.




Moreton Rangers were formed in 1997 after the previous club, Moreton Town, had disbanded in the middle of the 1994-95 season. Indeed, they were the reigning League champions at the time, so heaven knows what happened to derail the club. The club badge above shows a phoenix rising (the new club) out of a white lilly (the old club, who were called 'the lillywhites' due to their all-white strip). The ground has a short drive leading to the main pitch, with a training pitch on your left with a small skate park between that and the back of the main stand. When I walk in I find that the stand is just for standing room only as it is an unfinished structure. The toilets, kitchen and changing rooms are at the back, while there is a small wall under construction at the front of the stand. There is a rail enclosing the pitch, with the dug-outs on the far side and there are floodlights. I'm informed though that they are not operational and it will cost about £10,000 to get them working again. 

When the home team saunter on to the pitch they are followed at first by 4 players from today's visitors, Kidlington Reserves, a town situated just north of the city of Oxford. Then in dribs and drabs, the rest of the Kidlington players come on, even the substitutes too and they kick-off just 5 minutes late.

Moreton are in a red and blue strip, while Kidlington are in all green. Moreton are playing with the strong wind in this half and in the 6th minute have an effort cleared off the line.




Although Moreton are having more of the play, Kidlington are posing a threat to the home team. In the 18th minute, a break down the right wing sees a cross headed just wide by their No 10. Then just 2 minutes later, Kidlington's No.11 finds himself in a one on one situation with the home keeper,who rushes out to knock the ball away at his opponents feet (as shown below).


  
Kidlington experience a major setback soon after when their No.2 is shown a straight red card for what looks like an over the top tackle on Moreton's No.10, who needs treatment for a few minutes.

In the 30th minute, a mistake by Kidlington's No.5 lets in Moreton's No.10, Lee Brooks but he shoots wide. It's a brief respite for the visitors as the same player is put through 4 minutes later to shoot in by the near post.

In their next attack, the same player is put through again but this time looses his footing when he's about to shoot and the ball is cleared but he makes amends straight after when he shoots to beat the keeper for his and Moreton's second goal.


    (Lee Brooks on the right is congratulated by his captain, Sam Tyack)

The first half finishes with no further score and with Moreton Rangers well on top. Although Kidlington have only 10 players maybe they can use the wind to their advantage to put pressure on the home team?

The weather conditions are still the same and the low light levels are proving to be very difficult for my photography. There are cups of tea and coffee for sale though which is very welcome.

Kidlington do have an effort cleared off the line after just 4 minutes of the second period after one of their players had got past the Moreton keeper.

The visitors though are struggling to get back in to the match and when Moreton make a couple of substitutes, one of them their No.14 is soon making some great surging runs in to the Kidlington half. After 23 minutes the Kidlington keeper makes a great save with his legs from this player and then Brooks completes his hat trick just 3 minutes later.


      (Moreton Town's No.14 making a great run on the Kidlington goal)

The home team are now playing with a great deal of confidence and in their next attack, their No.14 shoots just the wrong side of the right post.

The same player goes down the left after 34 minutes and rolls the ball across the penalty area for the No.4 to side foot in to the right hand corner of the net. Classy goal!

Just a few minutes later and a fifth goal is scored although I miss it, as I had been checking some of my photos. Oh well!

Although Kidlington do go close to scoring in the closing stages, the score stays at 5-0 and Moreton have put on a great display of attacking football to cheer the home crowd.

I later find out that the Kidlington first team have gone through to the next round of the FA Vase after a fine away victory against fellow Hellenic team, Thame United.

So it's been a good new ground to visit today despite the weather . I make my way back to the town centre which is welcoming me back with it's Christmas lights and I go for a cup of coffee followed by a visit to that nice cheese shop before heading back to the train station.

Match attendance: 51 (official figure, although it seemed like 25-30 to me)
Match entrance fee: Free
Match programme: None available
Match entertainment: 7.5/10

  

    

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

CADBURY ATHLETIC RESERVES 4 - 2 BT


I am venturing to the land of the 'Purple People'. No I'm not on an LSD trip but am referring to the colours of the Cadbury Athletic football team. Their reserve side are playing Birmingham AFA, Premier Division team, BT, who play in the district of Sheldon. It's a Quarter-Final tie of the Birmingham Saturday Amateur Cup, which used to be called the Minor Cup.

It's a cool, cloudy and very blustery day but with thankfully no rain. Due to the large amount of Christmas shoppers, I have had to stand up for all of my journey on the train today. After alighting at the University station I backtrack to Bournville station on the next Redditch bound train.

I have enough time to walk in to the centre of Bournville for a meal at a local Cafe. Bournville is a nice area with good architecture and a 'village' feel to it and independent shops.



It's only a ten minute walk to Cadbury's ground in Bournville Lane. The first team now ground share at Pilkington XXX's ground in nearby Kings Norton as they have floodlights, a requirement for First Division teams in the Midland Football League.

I have described the Cadbury Recreation Ground in an earlier post in November 2013. It's situated at the back of the companies factory, the pitch allegedly has the same turf that is used at Wembley and 'The Pavilion' which houses the changing rooms at the bottom, is a fine looking building.

Although Cadbury Athletic are a relatively new club (founded in 1984), I have found out on the internet that one Daniel Sturridge had started his early football career on this very ground, by playing in of the club's junior teams on Sundays some years ago.  
With very few people around I talk to a guy who is standing by the dug-outs. He turns out to be a referee assessor, who is running the rule over today's man in the middle. Of course the assessor turns out to be an ex-referee himself.

The game starts at the early time of 1:30 pm and the 'chocolate men' of Cadbury are in their usual purple and white strip while BT are in yellow and black. It's the visitors who are dominant in the early stages of this game.



They force two early corners and after 15 minutes, their No.17 shoots wide when put through on goal. I reflect that he really should have scored.

After this Cadbury Athletic begin to get in to the game more and start to dominate possession, without really threatening their opponents goal but it's BT who take the lead in the 39th minute when under presure the Cadbury No.5 turns to chip back to his keeper,Fraser Oliver but unfortunately he has advanced to the edge of his area and the ball sails over his head and in to the net.

Cadbury do have a shot on goal in the fortieth minute but it goes well over the bar.




So it's 0-1 to the BT team at half-time and it's been a pretty unexciting game so far.
I go over to the Pavilion and along with another spectator and his wife, to find that the tea bar area is closed today, maybe because of the small amount of spectators. Shame, as I was looking forward to a nice hot cuppa.  

After their sluggish start to the match, Cadbury Athletic are making up for it right from kick-off in the second half. Their sustained pressure pays off after 53 minutes, when No.9 Adrian Parkes bundles the ball home from a great in-swinging corner (as shown below)



In their very next attack, Cadbury's captain, Eddy Fogg puts through their No.7 to round the BT keeper and put his side in to the lead.

BT are still dangerous on the break and they have a shot turned on the post and out by keeper Oliver.

Cadbury score a third when their marauding No.2, Craig Brooks, is brought down for a penalty. The penalty is saved at the foot of the right hand post by the visitor's keeper but Brooks races in to hit the rebound home in to the left corner.

A few minutes later another Cadbury attack sees the BT keeper bring down an attacker but the ball runs loose for their No.11 to score in the unguarded net.




BT do reduce the arrears when their impressive No.10 shoots in off a post which rounds off a great run past some bemused defenders.

So Cadbury Athletic have won handsomely in the end after a great 2nd-half display and are now through to the semi-final in the new year, while BT have pushed them all the way today and will be looking to improve their league position in the lower half of the table.

Match entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Match attendance: 10-15 (estimated)
Match rating: 7.5/10

Monday, 23 November 2015

WOLVERHAMPTON UNITED 6 - 1 SIKH HUNTERS


I am visiting a new ground today. It's the home of Wolverhampton United who play in the 2nd Division of the West Midlands League and is situated in Prestwood Road West in the Wolverhampton district of Wednesfield.

When I leave Worcester just before 10am, there is still a stiff northerly wind blowing although the sun is shining after the early morning rain. After our recent mild autumn weather, it's a shock to the system, so I am wearing a scarf and gloves for the first time since March.

When I get to Wolverhampton, I have time to have a good look around the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, where there is the annual exhibition of the local Arts Society (good quality), a show of the prints of the Japanese artist, Hiroshige, plus their permanent collection. Wolverhampton has a tradition of good sculptors and I can't resist taking a photo of a small statue of the legendary ex-Wolves and England captain, Billy Wright.




I have lunch in the cafe there before leaving to catch the number 28 bus from the bus station going to Willenhall. On the way I get off at Prestwood Road and soon I am at the the entrance of the football ground.



There is a driveway of twenty yards before you turn left in to the car park. Beyond this there is the gate with the pitch in front of you and the small club house on your left. There is a stand on the left hand side of the pitch with standing room only for the spectators, with room for about 80-100 people at a guess and the changing rooms are situated at the back of this. There is another pitch along side on the right of the main one.

Wolverhampton United are currently lying in a mid table position and were founded in 1976 after the amalgamation of Whitmore Old Boys and Oxley FC. They immediately joined the West Midlands League and were champions of Division 1b in their first season. In 1982 they won promotion to the Premier Division and entered the FA Vase 4 times in the 1980's, reaching the 4th round in the 1982-83 season. They have never reached those heights since then, being a bit of a yo-yo team between the Premier and 1st Divisions before being relegated to the 2nd Division two seasons ago.

Their opponents today are the Walsall based side called Sikh Hunters.
When the teams take the field, United are clothed in an all orange strip while Sikh Hunters are in yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow socks. It makes for a warm sight on a cold day. 



For the first 15 minutes, it's the visitors who are the dominant team. It's hard to believe that they are close to the bottom of the table in the league.

Their best spell of play after 30 minutes sees them twice go close to scoring from a corner and then soon after, their No.7 hits a long range shot that hits a post.

Very soon though it's United who make the most of their chances. After 32 minutes their No.3 goes on a run down the left then pulls the ball across for their No.7 to cleverly chip the ball over the Hunter's keeper and in to the top right hand corner.

With the Hunters defence looking vulnerable they concede another just 4 minutes later, when the United No.10 tucks away the ball after a break away.



On the stroke of half-time, after one of the United players goes on a good run down the left, the ball is crossed over. It should have been cleared but the ball eventually falls to their No.11 and he pokes the ball in to the net for a handsome lead.

There is still time in injury time for Sikh Hunters to see a shot hit the right hand post and out.

So it's 3-0 to Wolverhampton United. The Hunters defence has looked pretty shaky. I have noticed that they are not good at clearing the ball away out of their own penalty area. Sometimes they just need to clear the danger rather than trying to pass it around too much. They have some skilful players but I think they have to be more practical.    

Also I was surprised to see for the first 20 minutes that there were no substitutes on the Sikh Hunters bench! 2 did arrive later on in the first-half though.

I go to the kitchen area where there are free cups of tea and coffee on offer and one of the staff has kindly made a big plate of tasty chips for people to tuck in to. Nice to have on a cold day. It's good too that the wind has died down this afternoon.

I get talking to the United Match Secretary, the amiable Phil Gibbons. It turns out that he used to be involved with Darlaston Town when they played at their old City Ground in their previous incarnation, sadly a ground I never got to see. He's clearly a dedicated football man.

Maybe because of the inclement weather, my pen decides to stop working so I don't have many details of the second half to refer to.

When play resumes, Sikh Hunters immediately reduce the deficit when they go up the field and one of their forwards rifles in a shot in to the top right hand corner.

Sadly for them it's the hosts who continue to pose the greater goal threat.



They score 3 more goals in this half and probably could have scored one or two more.  

Their last goal near the end of the match kind of sums up Sikh Hunters woeful defensive display today. With the ball on the left, the Hunters No.7, instead of kicking the ball up field, manages to slice the ball over to the right to a waiting United player and they eventually score from close in even though it looks like the Hunters defence could stop them. They just look totally demoralised by now.




Thankfully the final whistle is blown soon after and today's win propels Wolverhampton United up to 4th place. Hopefully Sikh Hunters can get a morale boosting win soon, as they looked short on confidence.

So a new ground and plenty of goals, so it's turned out to be a better day today than I thought it would, after the earlier wind and rain.

Match attendance: 15
Match entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment: 7/10 



  


Monday, 9 November 2015

BARTESTREE 3 - 1 ST.MARTINS


Today I am watching the match between Bartestree and St.Martins in the West Midlands League, Division 1. Bartestree is a village just 4 miles to the east of the city of Hereford, while St.Martins hail from the Shropshire border town of Oswestry and ground share at the Welsh League champions, The New Saints.

The weather has been windy with rain this morning but is going to be just cloudy with sunny spells this afternoon and it's mild again. I have made the train journey to Hereford without any problems and have checked the bus time to Bartestree to be 1:15pm, (the game starts at 2pm) which gives me enough time to get a fish & chips at the bus station cafe. I also check by phone with the club's secretary to confirm that the match is definitely going ahead. 

When I catch the No.476 bus that goes to Ledbury it takes us over the bridge over the River Lugg then through the village of Lugwardine and I get off at the stop in Bartestree just past the club's ground.



It's set in the rolling hills of the Herefordshire countryside. The football club was only formed in 1992. When I go past the sign at the ground entrance I walk along the path which lies at northern end of the pitch. The club's Vice-Chairman is waiting as he is collecting the entrance fee and selling match programmes. He tells me that in a few weeks there is going to be a small stand constructed on the western side of the pitch to give some cover for spectators and the club have received permission to install floodlights at the end of the season.

He directs me to the club house where I can buy a cup of tea and also says there are club badges for sale. I can see that there is a slight slope down to the far end of the football pitch. There is hard standing on the western side with the modern looking dug outs on the other, with a hedge at the back of the far end. Behind the western side of the pitch is located the Village Hall. At the back of this is the cricket ground and another football pitch, overlooked by the club house and changing rooms.

After buying my pre-match cuppa, club badge and raffle tickets, I make my way to the pitch where the teams come out. Bartestree are in their black and white striped shirts, black shorts and white socks. St.Martins are in yellow shirts and black shorts.

Bartestree having been struggling so far this season and currently occupy 14th place while St.Martins are in a healthy fifth place.


  
The first ten minutes sees a pretty even game with both sides having shots that fly over the bar.

Then Bartestree are the dominant team and create several chances before taking the lead after 20 minutes when their No.8 backheads a cross which had eluded the visitors keeper.

This stings St.Martins in to action and they have equalised just 4 minutes later. They are awarded a penalty when a Bartestree defender is adjudged to have handled the ball while sliding in to tackle pacy centre-forward, James Melusi, (as shown below).



The penalty is put away for the equaliser and this is becoming one of the best games I have seen so far this season. It's an open flowing match with both sides willing to attack.

Bartestree retake the lead in the 37th minute when their No.5 slots home with a shot. Then in the 40th minute, Bartestree's top scorer, Shaun Prince shoots in to the side netting after running on to a ball that's played over the keeper.

So the first half ends with the home side winning 2-1 and it looks as if there should be more goals to come. I find it hard to believe that Bartestree are in the bottom half of the table after watching them today.

I find myself walking behind the players when I make my way to the club house.


 While I'm there, the draw is done for the raffle and I win the second prize of a packet of biscuits! 

I decide to take position by the goal at the end where Bartestree will be attacking for the next 45 minutes. I have seen 2 other photographers snapping away this afternoon. Dave Matthews the Vice-Chairman, who is also the Programme Editor is taking some. One of his photos adorns the cover of today's programme, which is a good standard publication. Also there is a guy who is taking photos with a good quality compact camera and I think he might be with the St.Martins club.

The home team go on the attack again in the early stages of this half and within 6 minutes they have increased their lead when Darren Andrews scores with a good shot from the right and he is enthusiastically congratulated by his team mates (as shown below).


  
This sets the tone for the rest of the half with the home team having the greater share of the play.

Shaun Prince goes close to scoring with a glancing header and a shot that is saved by the keeper. Then he has a free kick after 30 minutes that is tipped over the bar.

St.Martins occasionally threaten and have a free kick that just goes over the bar.


                  ( Bartestree's Mark Cooper goes on a run late in the second half) 

After 34 minutes the Bartestree No.11, Mark Cooper, receives the ball from a quickly taken free kick, cuts in from the left and his shot is well saved.

Then after 41 minutes, a great cross from the right is met by the home sides No.8 and his header skims just over the bar. That would have been a great goal!

So Bartestree have triumphed today 3-1 against a team that on paper I thought would have probably beaten them. I think Bartestree are probably in a false position and will start climbing up the table soon.

St.Martins have played their part in an entertaining match and although they fell away in the second half I think they will finish in the top half of the table.

I would recommend visiting Bartestree if you have never been before, as they are a friendly, well run club and they have a good quality playing surface that makes it easier to play good football.

I pay the price of not checking the times of return buses to Hereford before I set out this morning and rather than wait for the next one at 5:30pm ( a wait of 1.5 hours) I decide to walk all the way back to Hereford, which is not that bad as it's nice countryside with some good views, at one point I can see the Black Mountains on the Welsh border.

Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: £1
Match attendance: 33
Match entertainment: 8.5/10   

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

HIGHGATE UNITED 3 - 1 RADCLIFFE OLYMPIC


I am heading off to an FA Vase 1st Round cup tie at high flying Highgate United today. This will enable me to meet up with friends in nearby Birmingham later on. Another reason for my choice today is that Highgate's opponents are Radcliffe Olympic who hail from near Nottingham, play in the East Midland Counties League and will be the first team from that league that I will have seen.

It's an un-seasonly warm and sunny day for the end of October, great for playing and watching football. I get off the train at Whitlock's End station, with plenty of time to spare. I see that the football ground, directly opposite the rail station, which was the former home of the defunct Shirley Town, looks to be in good nick. I'm later informed by a fellow spectator at the match, that the ground might be used for Sunday football now. 

This area is a veritable hot spot of football grounds. Just round the corner down Tythe Barn Lane on the left is the pitch where ladies team, Leafield Athletic play and to the right can be found where the Wychall Wanderers veterans team (including former Villa favourite, Stillian Petrov, ply their trade on a Sunday.

Just a few yards further down and I am at the entrance to Highgate's ground, called 'The Coppice'.



I have been here twice before, once to see Highgate in an FA Cup match and then 2 years ago I saw their then ground sharing tenants, Blackwood, who are now defunct. Their ground sharers these days are Midland Div 2 team, Barnt Green Spartak.

The club's club house has had a recent makeover, the changing rooms are now in the same process and the stand which which runs along the whole of the nearest side of the football ground has had some much needed repair work.

The club had been demoted 2 years ago due to ground grading problems, duly finished champions last season and are now occupying a healthy fifth place in the Premier Division. So the future is definitely looking more rosy for the hosts. Their opponents are currently lying in a mid table position in the East Midland Counties League.

Highgate take to the field in their usual all red strip and Radcliffe are in red and blue striped shirts, blue shorts and socks.

It's a scrappy first half with Radcliffe looking to play an offside trap at every opportunity.


                   (Highgate midfielder, Dale Taylor, finds his way blocked)

This ploy backfires in the 13th minute when the ball is slipped through to Highgate's No.11 and top scorer, Lei Smith who only has to take the ball round stranded keeper Hadlee Dunne and stroke the ball home in to the empty net.


                          (Lei Brown fires in another shot on the Radcliffe goal)

Radcliffe's best chance comes after 28 minutes when a free kick from the right finds their No.11, Ian Yeomans, unmarked but he heads wide. Seven minutes later and again the ball is passed through to Lei Brown who the Olympic defence think is offside and he takes full advantage to place the ball past Dunne to double the lead. 

The Radcliffe No.5, Liam Motson just keeps complaining to the linesman and referee and results in his inevitable yellow card (as shown below).



There is no further score and the hosts are looking well set to progress to the 2nd Round. Radcliffe though have other ideas and start the 2nd half well.

They are rewarded for their attacking efforts after 58 minutes when after some sloppy play by the Highgate defence, Radcliffe are awarded a throw in on the right. The throw is received by their most dangerous player, Ryan Smith who passes to his left for their No.9 Jack Smith to run on to the ball and slot it in to the far corner of the net.

Ryan Smith then sees his shot saved well soon after by Highgate keeper Bradley Catlow.


                 (Highgate player, Connor Mooney is well marked in this attack)

The home side though take control of the game for the last 20 minutes and could have scored several more goals if it wasn't for the heroics of the Radcliffe keeper and some wasteful finishing.


                           (Lei Brown makes another attack on the Radcliffe goal)

They do make sure of their win though when the impressive Lei Brown runs down the left and delivers a great cross for his fellow striker, Shane Benjamin, to plant a powerful header in to the Olympic net in the 76th minute. 

Highgate finish well on top although they don't add to their tally. So in the end Highgate United have deservedly gone through to the next round where they will travel to play Nuneaton Griff who are top of the table in the MFL 1st Division and have been scoring prolificly. Should be interesting!

Match attendance: 46
Match entrance fee: £6
Match programme: £1.50p
Match entertainment: 6.5/10 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

EARLSWOOD TOWN 0 - 2 ROSTANCE EDWARDS


For my match today I am dropping down the divisions to the 2nd Division of the Midland Football League. The match I will be covering is the league clash between the basement boys of Earlswood Town against fifth placed Rostance Edwards (who play in Bloxwich).

The weather today will be mainly cloudy and cool, with the chance of sunny intervals and it's certainly cloudy when I set out from Worcester Shrub Hill rail station. I visited here last season and I have kept in touch from time to time with their Press Officer and Vice-Chairman, John Sharpe, as I have sent him a few photos from other games I have covered, for articles in their programme (which sadly is not published 
now).

I get to Birmingham OK but then find out that there is only one train per hour that calls at Earlwood Town's local station, called 'The Lakes' and then it's a request stop. Oh well, it just means that I will miss the first few minutes of the match. The Lakes in question are the Earlswood Lakes (3 in total), that were man made in the 1820's in order to supply water to the nearby Stratford Canal, which it still does to this day. They are a local tourist attraction too, where there is a sailing club, it's a haven for anglers, there is a craft centre and there is a wildlife reserve there too!   

When I do reach my stop on the line, which continues to Stratford-upon-Avon, it's 2:59pm and after walking down nearby Malthouse Lane, I reach the ground entrance at 3:05pm.



As I had walked down the lane, I'd heard the shouts of the players but guessed that no goals had been scored in the first few minutes and I am proved right by the guys at the gate telling me so when I pay my entrance fee.

Earlswood, 'the Earls' are playing in their usual home strip of red and white striped shirts, with black shorts and socks. Rostance Edwards are in their usual all blue kit.

For the first 10 minutes, it's the home team who are the dominant team and Rostance are unable to get over the half way line.



Although Earlswood have the majority of play they can't press home their advantage and then the visitors start putting pressure on The Earls defence.

In the 16th minute a left wing cross is headed by the Rostance No.7, whose effort hits the bar and is then put in to the net by their No 10, 0-1!

Rostance Edwards twice more go close to scoring in the next 8 minutes and then the home team are awarded a penalty when their No.9, Matt Green, looks to have been shoved in the back while looking to shoot in the penalty area.

Unfortunately the spot kick is saved by the keeper and The Earls goal scoring problems continue.


 Both teams have chances to score but the first half ends with the visitors still a goal to the good. Earlswood have displayed some good approach play during the first 45 minutes but have shown a lack of composure in front of goal.

The Earls have had a disastrous start to the season and only last week managed to obtain their first point after a draw v Austrey Rangers. They have had to build virtually a new team this term after a mass exodus of their best players at the end of last season and as a result have suffered some heavy defeats.

So the second half starts and after 50 minutes are awarded a free kick but this is saved by the Rostance keeper when it's taken.

After 61 minutes the visitors show they are still hungry for goals when after a good break down the right and the ball is crossed to their No.9 who just fails to connect properly with an attempted scissor kick on the edge of the area.

5 minutes later and The Earls attack down the left which ends with a curled shot going just wide of the far post.


       (Earlswood Town No.7, Daniel Wallace, squeezes past 2 Rostance defenders) 

After 65 minutes, there is a double substitution, when their forwards, No's 9 & 10 are replaced. In the case of the No.9 it's probably a good idea because over the last few minutes he's been having a niggly running feud with the Rostance No 3.

Rostance Edwards think they have scored again when a cross from the right is swept in by their No.8 but it's ruled out for offside.

In the 86th minute, an Earlswood free kick from the right is headed just wide and then shortly after, when I look up after checking some photos on my camera, I see the Earlswood No.5, Bradley Morris, trooping off the field. I learn later that he was sent off for allegedly spitting at an opponent in front of the referee. Not a pleasant act and a deserved dismissal. 

With just 2 minutes to go, the visitors are awarded a penalty kick after Earls keeper, David Hancock, has been ruled to have brought down the Rostance No 11 (as shown below), and the same player slots the ball home to confirm his sides victory.



I leave the ground soon after, hurrying to catch my train which leaves in 6 minutes time. I hear the final whistle blown, just after I turn to walk down the road and know the final score has remained at 0-2 to Rostance Edwards, who have proved to be more ruthless in front of goal today.

So although Earlswood are still routed firmly to the bottom of the table, I have seen signs today that provided they can score a few goals, potentially they have the fight to move themselves up the table in the coming months. Rostance Edwards on the hand look as if they might be pushing for promotion.  

Match attendance: 36
Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: None available
Match entertainment: 6/10

Footnote: Earlswood Vice-Chairman John Sharpe informed me that he thinks the club earned the title of 'Town', when Earlswood, (which is clearly a village), is that about 40 years ago there were plans to have a large number of houses built in the area to take a lot of the Birmingham overflow but there was local opposition to this and the development never took place. The club though probably jumped the gun and renamed the club as Earlswood Town and remains that way to this day.


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

HALESOWEN TOWN 3 - 2 MATLOCK TOWN


It's Non-League Day today and I have decided to visit a ground that I haven't been to for a while and it's 'The Grove', home of Halesowen Town of the Northern Premier League. Also as it's NL Day the club have reduced ground entry to £5!

When I set out from Worcester on the train, it's a cool cloudy day with the promise of sunny intervals this afternoon. I get off at Cradley Heath station and catch the bus from the revamped Interchange bus station just outside. It's just 20 minutes on the bus to the Halesowen Bus Station in the centre of the town.

It's hard to believe that in the 19th century that Halesowen boasted at having 130 working coal mines in the local area (non existing now). They also had a nail making cottage industry that thrived for a few hundred years. Although the town centre has a lot of modern buildings I spot an older looking building opposite the main church (as shown below).


   
I have time to have a quick wander round the shops and have a meal of cheese omelette and chips in one of the local cafes. It amazes me that some eateries these days seem to serve up watered down tomato ketchup. It can't be that expensive?

The walk to the ground only takes 10-15 minutes and lies in the district of Hawne. When going through the main entrance to the ground (north side) you can see the pitch down below you with the other end of the pitch at the southern side of the ground. There is an uncovered bank of terracing on the eastern side while on the opposite side is located the main stand with covered seating, this is called the 'Harry Rudge Stand'. At the far, southern end of the ground is another area of banked uncovered terracing. At the northern end, is a covered standing area called 'The Shed'. With 3 sides of the ground at a higher level to the pitch, it gives it the feeling of a shallow amphitheatre.


        (A view from the eastern terrace looking across the pitch to 'The Shed')

After buying a badge from the club shop and a cuppa at the tea bar, I go to the southern terrace to take my match photos. The teams come out, with the home team in their usual blue and white kit while 'The Gladiators' of Matlock Town from Derbyshire are in their away strip of yellow and blue. Both clubs currently occupy a mid-table league position, so it promises to be a closely fought contest.



Looking at the team line ups, I see that Halesowen Town feature 3 ex-Worcester City players today, in the form of defender Asa Charlton and midfielders, captain Jay Denny and Rob Elvins. Their reserve keeper, Matt Sargeant is also ex-City too.

Both teams take some time to get going in a sluggish start but after 30 minutes Jay Denny sees his shot turned away for a corner by Willis in the Matlock goal. Soon after Halesowen's Danny Bragoli is played in to the box but sees his close range effort blocked by the keeper (as shown below).



Just before the end of the half, Rob Elvins goes close to scoring too. So it's 0-0 after 45 minutes but Halesowen have been looking increasingly dangerous.

During the first half I have chatted to a young photographer taking photos for the home team. He tells me that their main photographer has today been asked to cover the Football League 1st Division, top of the table clash at Walsall who are playing Burton Albion.

Just 2 minutes after the interval, Halesowen take the lead when defender Joe Hull volleys home following a corner kick. Six minutes later and the home side are really in the driving seat when midfielder, Danny Bragoli, puts in the rebound after his first shot is saved by Willis.

In a desperate attempt to salvage something from the match, the Matlock manager makes a triple substitution and this seems to have an effect when in the 69th minute 
captain Danny Holland, heads home from a left wing cross.

        (Halesowen's Kyle Morrison heads clear after Matlock's Danny Holland slips) 

Halesowen are still the dominant side though and after twice going close they look to have the game won, when substitute Greg Pearson heads in a free-kick with just 3 minutes to go.

Matlock go down fighting when Holland heads in his second goal at the far post, when a right wing cross eludes the home defence.



A deserved win for Halesowen in an entertaining match but both they and Matlock will not be able to make much progress this season unless they both iron out their respective defensive problems. 

Match attendance: 450
Match entrance fee: £5 ( Non-League Day concession)
Match programme: £2
Match entertainment value: 7.5/10



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

STOURPORT SWIFTS 1 - 3 BLACK COUNTRY RANGERS


It's FA Vase time again, with 2nd the Qualifying Round taking place today and the winners of today's matches will pocket £800. I have decided to go to the Walshes Meadow ground on the River Severn of Stourport Swifts (Midland Football League, Prem Div) who are hosting the West Midlands Premier team from Rowley Regis, Black Country Rangers.

It will be my first visit there for 3 years and this season the Swifts have started well in their league campaign, currently lying in 5th place. Unfortunately they recently saw their captain and defensive lynch-pin, Jamie Willets, transferred to rivals Hereford FC and their defence does not seem as dependable as before. Black Country Rangers hold a mid-table league position but they are always tough opponents.

After travelling by train to Kidderminster, having a fish & chips at 'Captain Cod's Fish Bar' opposite the Severn Valley rail station, I walk down the hill to the town centre and catch the bus by the Town Hall. It's only a 15 minute ride to Stourport.




After a misty start to the day, it's now cloudy but with the chance of later sunny spells. I have time to have a quick look at the canal, buy some vitamin C for my cough & cold and then cross the bridge to get to the football ground which lies just on the other side.



Walking in to the ground, which is just past the local sports centre, the ground is immediately in front of you after turning left, with the club house and changing rooms on your left. This has an over hanging roof which provides shelter at this end of the ground. In the near corner on the left is the tea bar and the only other cover in the ground is to be found in the main stand on the right hand side of the pitch.

After buying my pre-match cuppa the teams take to the pitch, then line up for kick-off and the ref blows his whistle for the start of the match at 2:55pm! Stourport in their yellow and black kit are on the attack for the first few minutes.


  
Black Country Rangers are dangerous on the break with their speedy forwards and they take the lead after 13 minutes when their No.11 weaves his way down the left and manages to pass across the goal mouth for their No.7, Mc.Kerdy, to apply an easy tap in.

Just 2 minutes later and another quick break by the visitors sees their No.9 go past keeper Dominic Richards but he can only shoot in to the side netting.

It's only until the last 15 minutes of the half that Stourport really threaten the Rangers goal. First their No.11, James Baldwin, heads over the bar after a cross from the right then after 39 minutes, some good build up play culminates with their No.3 trying his luck with a dipping shot which clears the top of the bar.




In the last minute, the Rangers keeper parries a 20 yard shot by the Swifts No.4 for a corner and from this the ball is eventually cleared out to the Swifts No.11 who sees his shot again turned round the post. 

So it's 0-1 to the Rangers and Stourport will have to improve in front of goal to stay in this match as the visitor's defence has been coping well so far. The most dangerous attacker for Stourport has been their top scorer, Ben Maund but his chances have been limited.  

5 minutes in to the second half and the comeback for the home team has become much harder as Black Country Rangers score a second goal. They do so courtesy of their tall No.4, who leaps the highest to head home from a corner.

Stourport fight back and are rewarded somewhat fortuitously in the 23 minute when a Rangers defender slices in to his own net following a free kick played in to their penalty area. 5 minutes later and a Swifts player side foots the ball just wide at a corner kick.



Then Ben Maund turns well to then bend in a curling shot that goes the wrong side of the far post. After 37 minutes the Swifts go close again when their No.6 powers a header at a corner just wide of the goal.

The outcome of the match is decided at the death, when in a last minute break away down the left, the impressive  Rangers No.11,Ross Williams, slots the ball home which is followed by jubilant celebrations from the visiting team.

3 minutes later and the final whistle is blown and Black Country Rangers have deservedly gone through to the 1st Round proper as they have been resolute in defence and clinical in their finishing.

As I leave the ground, I realise that there could have only been one result today due to my presence. Whenever I have watched Stourport (4 times so far) they have always lost while on the other hand I have witnessed BCR win 3 times every time I have watched them. So apologies to Stourport and I promise not to visit your club too soon.

Match attendance: 99
Match entertainment: 7/10
Match entrance fee: £5
Match programme: £1