Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Today I am visiting the Queen Street ground of Bilston Town Community FC in the Black Country. This has been on my radar for some time and will be my second visit to this town. I had gone there last July in order to see a friendly match before the start of the new season but due to bad weather it was cancelled.
It's a cold but sunny day and I take the train from Worcester as far as The Hawthorns station and from there I travel on the adjacent Midland Metro tramway. About 20 minutes later I alight at the Bilston Central station and take the short walk in to the town centre.
I have a quick look around the Market area and then double back for a meal at the Cafe Metro which is situated opposite the Town Hall. After a some lasagne and salad at this eaterie which has a nice relaxed atmosphere I walk up the road to the Bilston Craft Gallery. It's situated within the same building as the local library. I visited it the last time I came here, when it had a good exhibition of glass ware. This time round it's not so interesting to me personally. It's about felt, the textile manufactured from wool, featuring sculptures as well as clothing.
On my way to the Gallery, I noticed the locally and probably nationally famous music venue called the 'Robin 2' which holds concerts most nights of the week. It's certainly a venue I would visit if I lived in this area.
I then make the 10 minute walk to Queen Street and soon I am walking through the gate to pay my entrance fee and buy a programme. The ground has a fine stand painted in orange, which backs on to Queen Street. By the side of it lies the club house. Opposite to the stand there is space for cars to park and behind them above the wall are cube like structures on top of the wall, which have netting that look as if they are there to stop any footballs leaving the ground.
I take position at the far end of the ground to the entrance. Today's opponents are Sporting Khalsa, who lie in 3rd place in the league table but who have plenty of games in hand on the leaders, Gornal Athletic and second placed AFC Bridgnorth and look likely champions.
The sun is still shining when the teams take the field, with Bilston in orange and Khalsa in their blue and yellow strip. It certainly makes for a colourful spectacle.
(The Bilston defence clear with Craig Bannister closing in)
Unfortunately today I was not able to make my usual notes during the game as my pen inexplicably decided to cease working even though I had just been using it for a week. Also, my camera's battery packed up after just 20 minutes. I'd noticed when I took it out of my bag that the it was already switched on so it must have been active for some time. So I have had to take notes from the Sporting Khalsa website match report for this Blog post.
The lively Khalsa forwards, Craig Bannister and Marvin Nisbett both go close to scoring in the first 10 minutes, especially Nisbett who shoots wide with just the Bilston keeper to beat and I was certain he would score. Although Khalsa have a few more chances they are unable to break the deadlock.
Although Bilston match the effort of their opponents they are not able to test the Sporting Khalsa as much as they'd like.
During the first half I realised that Khalsa have at least 5 ex-Gornal Athletic players from their West Midland Premier championship winning team of 3 seasons ago. This makes sense as the Khalsa manager is Ian Rowe who had managed that team.
I buy myself a cup of tea from the tea bar/club shop and also a club badge, with the help of the 2 friendly ladies working there. I am also impressed when just after play has resumed, one of the club officials, makes his way around the ground to make sure that everyone knows the winning draw ticket number.
The second half sees Sporting Khalsa stepping up their efforts and are soon seriously testing Bilston's defence. The home side finally concede the first goal when Craig Bannister fires home after 55 minutes. In the next 15 minutes they score 2 more to effectively make sure of the 3 points. First Nisbett scores with a lob and then Bannister strikes a great free kick in to the corner of the net.
Although Khalsa's keeper, James Pemberton, denies Bilston Town a consolation goal right at the end of the match, Khalsa have sealed a comfortable victory today. They have set themselves nicely up for their vital clash at Bridgnorth on Tuesday night.
(The Bilston No.5 clears from the watching Bannister and Nisbett)
I have been impressed by Bilston today. They are a friendly club who are striving to make a good connection with their local community. They run a local youth competition and also have started a soccer school for youngsters on Saturday mornings.
They have played at Southern League level in the past and it would be great to see them acheive that in the future.
Match entrance fee: £4
Match programme: £1
Match attendance: approx 50-60
Match entertainment: 6.5/10
Wednesday, 14 January 2015
I have decided to venture in to the Herefordshire Football League and visit the Palmer's Meadow ground of Tenbury United, which will be my first ever visit there.
Tenbury Wells is a small sleepy little town (approx population, 3300) in the north west corner of Worcestershire which is bordered by Shropshire (other side of the River Teme to the north and Herefordshire just to the west.
When I get up today at about 7am, it seems to be blowing a gale outside and it's raining too! I do know though that the weather conditions should be improving for the afternoon, so I'm not panicking just yet.
By the time I go to Worcester bus station, the weather has improved although it's getting colder. I catch the 12:00pm, No.758 bus for Tenbury Wells and about 50 minutes later, we arrive on the main shopping street (Teme Street). It's been a scenic journey, mainly along the Teme valley with views of the surrounding hills.
I find a chip shop for a pie and chips. Just the ticket! There's time for me to have a wander around before the game. It's the 3rd time I have been here, the last being 3 years ago. I remember seeing the Pump Rooms, which I see is described as being Chinese-Gothic in style! Well it's certainly an exotic sight in a rural English town, (as shown below).
They were constructed in Victorian times to house baths using the local mineral water when Tenbury Wells was being developed as a Spa town. It never really took off and it was closed down in the 1930's. They were renovated in 2001 and are used mainly as offices for the Town Council.
Just on the other side of the Knyre Brook to the Pump Rooms, Palmer's Meadow can be found. Housed here are a leisure club and the local swimming pool. To the back of this complex are 2 football pitches and 2 rugby pitches, plus a playground and skate park area. Tenbury United play on the pitch nearest the Brook. There is no hand rail round the pitch and the dug-outs are housed in a roofed metal cage construction. Very basic! I'm a bit surprised, as I know Tenbury had played in the West Midlands League until 2 seasons ago before deciding to go back to playing at a more local level for financial reasons. Maybe this was a good idea, as I had read in a local newspaper 20 minutes earlier that Ledbury Town (who had re-joined the West Midlands League after playing in the Herefordshire League for a short while) had folded due to those very reasons.
Just before the 2pm kick-off I notice another photographer from the local press. The 2 teams come eventually come out, with Tenbury decked out in black and white striped shirts and Hinton in their usual red and black stripes.
The game kicks off at 2:07 pm, which seems par for the course for a lot of Non-League games these days. Even the, game I saw at Sutton Coldfield the previous week,had started 5 minutes late.
It's the visitors who start the more strongly and look as if they mean business today.
The rather young looking Tenbury keeper saves a shot after just 3 minutes. Tenbury create a chance of their own after 14 minutes, when their No.9 has a shot saved when cutting in from the right. 7 minutes later though they should have taken the lead when one of their players found himself in a one on one situation with the Hinton keeper but fails to make a good enough connection while trying to lift the ball and justs end up guiding the ball in to the keepers arms.
Hinton are generally still the more dangerous looking team and after going close when their No.9,Damion Gallimore, can't make a good connection with a header in front of goal, they take the lead after 27 minutes. This time their No.10 is put through with a great pass to shoot past the keeper with a deflection off a Tenbury defender's boot (as shown below).
The first half ends with neither side having any more good chances. I notice the press photographer had left after about 25 minutes, so probably was going to another local match, maybe Bromyard Town?
It's certainly a chilly day and hot cup of tea would be most welcome but without a club house I have to go without and just have my whole nut chocolate bar to comfort me.
I wonder if Tenbury United can score a quick goal after the break and make a come back today?
They do create the first chance 3 minutes in to the second half when their No.9 is put through but his shot is well saved.
Tenbury have an escape 7 minutes later when their keeper drops the ball but a fellow defender manages to clear the ball to save his bacon. I don't think he is their regular goalkeeper as when I look on the United website, it looks as if he a midfield player called Robbie Farrar. I notice he is also struggling to get much distance with his goal kicks sometimes but the strong wind is certainly not helping him.
The next chance after 30 minutes falls Hinton's way when Damion Gallimore goes past 2 defenders but shoots straight at the keeper. They do increase their lead just 3 minutes later after Gallimore plays in a good ball for a fellow forward to shoot home.
Tenbury have a half chance a few minutes later when one of their players tries his luck with a stooping header but his effort proves to be of no trouble for the Hinton keeper.
The game ends in a fairly comfortable win for Hinton, which keeps them in fourth place while Tenbury drop a place to 9th, just above Leominster Town. Tenbury look to have a mainly youthful team and Hinton's more experienced team were certainly the more dominant in midfield today.
Overall I have enjoyed my trip to Tenbury but this ground I certainly don't recommend to visit if it's raining, as there is no immediate shelter except for the sports complex wall if it's raining from a westerly direction.
I do have time to have a warming cup of coffee at the 'Spotted Dog Gallery' which has some good paintings to view on the walls. Unfortunately the Regal Cinema (opened in 1932 and closed in 1966) nearby is just closing down for the day when I walk past. It has been restored recently with the help of Lottery money and has Art Deco style fixtures and fittings and would have been worth a quick wander round. As well as film showings they also feature live shows too. The last bus for Worcester arrives a few minutes later and I soon doze off in it's warmth on my journey home.
Match entertainment: 6/10
Match attendance: 20
Match entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Wednesday, 7 January 2015
With a dismal looking forecast for today I am not that hopeful of seeing a game at my choice of venue today, the Palmers Meadow ground of Tenbury United who play in the Herefordshire Football League.
I receive an email from their Fixture Secretary that their game is off today, so my Plan B is to go and see Barnt Green Spartak's game in Kings Norton. I receive a text from their Secretary just before reaching the University rail station in Birmingham that that game is off too. I would have had to change trains here to get to that ground.
So it's Plan C, to visit the 3G all weather pitch at Coles Lane to watch Sutton Coldfield Town's local derby against Stafford Rangers. As they are both riding high in the league table I reckon it could be a good game to watch. Not so good for photography though due to the 3pm kick-off with falling light levels in the second half.
After getting safely to New Street station in Birmingham, I get the next train to Sutton Coldfield. The weather is cloudy with occasional drizzle now. When I arrive at my destination, I have time to have a look round the shops and a bite to eat. It's a good place for shopping with most major stores located here.
Then I make the 15 minute walk to the ground. It's a place I have been to several times over the last 4 years, to watch the home side, plus also Romulus FC and Aston Villa Ladies, Sutton Coldfield and Romulus Under-21 teams and Walsall Wood when they had a re-arranged FA Vase tie played here.
Sutton have an average gate of approximately 150 so it will be interesting to see if it's a bigger crowd with the visit of nearby Stafford who usually have good support.
Both teams are riding high in the league this season, with Sutton top of the table and Stafford lying in 5th place. The teams come out with Sutton in their all royal blue strip and Stafford in black and white striped shirts.
I go to the far end of the ground and am joined by a contingent of the Stafford supporters just before kick-off. Stafford who are attacking the goal at this end, seem to be inspired by their fans in the early stages as they have the best of the play.
(Mc.Naught of Stafford Rangers has a shot blocked by Sutton Coldfield's defence)
Sutton do go close though when their No.8, Jamie Sheldon, has a shot that hits the post after the Stafford keeper, Adam Whitehouse, fails to hold on to an effort by Scott Lycett.
I am impressed by the Stafford Rangers No.9, Ryan Wynter, who is proving to be a lively opponent for the Sutton defence. He also has a distinctive shaving brush like hair style (shown below).
Wynter has a good effort saved by Lee Evans in the Sutton goal but the latter stages of this half, see Sutton Coldfield imposing themselves more on the game. So it's 0-0 and all to play for both teams in the next half.
I hear from a Sutton Coldfield fan, wearing a Villa scarf, that Birmingham City are 0-2 down at half-time, in their away 3rd Rd FA Cup tie at Blyth Spartans, so no wonder he looks to be in good spirits!
There seems to be a decent crowd at today's match and it's good to see 2 local teams doing well. Stafford were relegated last season and will be looking to book a play-off place. Sutton Coldfield have been there or close to it in the last few seasons and look to be a more consistent side this time.
I have a chat with a guy who is wearing a WBA scarf. He tells me that he doesn't watch the Albion very much these days but instead watches non-league matches, mainly at Tividale who now play in this division.
There are a number of Sutton Coldfield fans who come down to the end of the ground where their team will be attacking in the next period. They have some musical accompaniment with 2 guys playing a trumpet and drum respectively. They are both decent players and should have no trouble in getting a regular gig at home games.
It's Sutton Coldfield Town who are fast out of the blocks at the start of this 45 minutes. In the 48th minute, they take the lead courtesy of Justin Richards from a well struck shot.
(scorer, Justin Richards in the centre of the photo is congratulated by team mates)
Stafford Rangers come back at Sutton and Nathan Smith and Dan Cope have chances but it's Sutton who are the more threatening.
It's only some good goalkeeping from Adam Whitehouse that keeps the score line down to one goal as he makes saves from Sheldon and Turton near the end.
(Sutton Coldfield on the attack late on in the game)
So Sutton Coldfield have won against a useful Stafford Rangers team. They have done well to bounce back after their recent home defeat to Tividale, while this game marks the end of Stafford's unbeaten run.
Both Mickleover Sports and Spalding Town have games in hand over Sutton and are the current favourites for the league title and automatic promotion. Sutton Coldfield and Stafford Rangers both look strong for a play-off place at the end of the season.
Match attendance: 362
Entertainment value: 7/10
Match entrance fee: £8
Match programme: £2