Wednesday, 25 February 2015


After dithering over which ground to visit this Saturday, I eventually plump for the Stafford based village side of Brocton who are playing Walsall Wood. Brocton are in their first season in the Premier Division of the new Midland Football League.

There are similarities between these 2 clubs. Both have won the title in the last 2 seasons of the Midland Combination Premier and both have had good cup runs in this season's FA Vase competition (both going out to Northern clubs in the 4th round).

I have a trouble free journey on the train from Worcester (via Birmingham) and get to Stafford in time for a spot of lunch and a look round the shops and town centre. I'd noticed that when coming in to the town that there is more cloud coming over and by the time I am waiting at the bus stop for my journey to the ground, the town is suddenly hit by a hail storm that lasts about 5 minutes. I'm glad it stops as I was worried it might affect the match. 

Even though my bus is nearly 10 minutes late, I arrive at Silkmore Lane in plenty of time. There is a prominent sign for the ground at the top of the drive that leads you down there.

Brocton moved to this ground in 2006 after getting a lease from the council. It used to be the Old Police Sports Ground but it had fallen in to disrepair over the years after the police had ceased to use it. With the help of various funding schemes including the National Lottery fund, Brocton have brought it up to the standard required for them to compete in the Premier Division of the Midland Football League.

There is a car park at the entrance that extends round to the north part of the ground and then a path leads to the portacabins that house the changing rooms, toilets and tea hut. Looking down the ground, to the right is the 100 seater stand, with trees lining the back and also the southern end. On the left there is another pitch that is used by the youth section of the club. It's a neat and tidy ground with a pretty good looking playing surface too.

I make my way to the tea hut area at the end of the portacabin area and get myself a cuppa that's served in a ceramic mug. Also I am able to buy a club lapel badge from here to add to my collection.

Before the game I meet Bill Ward the First Team Secretary of Walsall Wood, who I have met twice before this season at FA Vase games and who I sent photos once for publication in their club programme . He tells me about their Vase replay at Shaw Lane Aquaforce where he says they didn't get much luck at all in their cup exit.

Both teams come out in their usual first team colours, Brocton in green & white and Walsall in all red.

                                   (Walsall Wood captain, Harry Harris on the ball)

It's Brocton who start the strongest and go in to the lead after just 6 minutes. It's scored by their experienced striker Dave Berks after being set up by a pass from the right.

Walsall Wood go on the attack and one of their players goes close with an attempted chip from about 25 yards.

Brocton continue to trouble the Walsall Wood defence down the right flank where their No.7 Jack Edwards is proving to be a speedy opponent and he provides the cross in the 21st minute that Sam Bell dispatches in to the net for goal number 2.

The hosts go close again 7 minutes later when Berks sees his free kick fizz past the far post.

The Wood press strongly near the break and their No.7's shot is deflected off a defender and just over the bar. Their pressure pays off on the stroke of half time when they are awarded a penalty when the Brocton keeper, Callum Barrett is adjudged to have brought down a Walsall attacker. 

Walsall's Drew Aiton takes the spot kick which is saved but he slams in the rebound (as shown below).

So Walsall Wood have kept themselves in the game and it's all to play for in the second half. They are currently in seventh place and with their games in hand on the teams above them, have an outside chance of mounting a title challenge.

At half time I have a chat with a guy called John Miller who has travelled all the way from Edinburgh to see this match. He tells me he does this on a regular basis and has already visited many grounds in the north of England. A dedicated groundhopper! I later find out that another groundhopper called Nick Palmer is at the match and has covered the match in his Blog called simply 'The Groundhopper'. I had noticed him with his camera but had thought he might have been the official Brocton photographer.

The second half comes round and Brocton in the 16th minute have a volley from Sam Bell that sails over the bar. Walsall respond with a shot from their No.8 that is saved from close range. 

                    ( Carl Morris, the Brocton skipper looks to set up another attack ) 

The longer the game goes on the more Brocton get on top of the play and their threat is usually coming down the right with Jack Edwards (on loan from Stafford Rangers) the main danger. He scores the important third goal in the 26th minute (shown celebrating below).

Walsall Wood still pose the occasional threat and after 28 minutes minutes their No.8 goes round the Brocton keeper only to see his shot hit a defender and out.

Sam Bell sees his shot turned away by the Walsall keeper, Dale Faultless (great name for a goalkeeper!) The last action I see before leaving to catch my bus back to the train station is the Brocton No.12 shooting just over the bar.

I have enjoyed my visit today and am impressed with Brocton who from their humble pub team beginnings in 1937 have made steady progress over the intervening years and strike me as being a very well run club. Although they are in the lower half of the table in 17th place, when I saw them play at Westfields in August they then occupied bottom place,so obviously have improved. They looked full of confidence today after their 3-0 win at league leaders Lye Town in midweek.

Walsall Wood were outplayed today and need to regroup to consolidate their league position. They finished in a worthy sixth place in their first season in the Premier Division in 2013-14, so could well finish in a higher place this time round.

Match attendance: 89
Match entrance fee: £5
Match programme: £1
Match entertainment: 8.5 / 10   

Monday, 16 February 2015


Today I am visiting the Briar Mill ground of one of my local teams, Droitwich Spa. I had looked to see their recent semi-final of the Worcestershire Junior Cup v local rivals Fairfield Villa. Unfortunately the game was called off 2 weeks ago and then I was unable to make the re-arranged tie last week. They were the holders from last season but succumbed to a last minute penalty to go out 1-2 to Villa who now face old rivals Feckenham in the final.

So their game against the runaway leaders of Coventry United was a good opportunity to see them in their recent revival against the best in this division.

The weather conditions were not promising as I journeyed the short distance from Worcester by train. Cold and cloudy with possible sunny periods later in the afternoon.

When I get to Droitwich I have time to have a wander round, have a bite to eat and visit the Tourist Information to see what local walks I might do later in the year.

When I near the ground which is basically a railed off playing field near the canal in the Briar Mill area, I do spot a few spectators around, which means the match is on today. I have time to buy a pre-match cup of tea in the hockey club house which currently does the catering. The hockey pitches are located at the back and there is also a building close by which houses the local boxing club.

So to the match and when the teams kick off, there seems to be a sizeable crowd for this level. The pitch is looking muddy and Droitwich are in their usual red and black stripes while Coventry are in their 2nd strip of light blue shirts and white shirts and socks.

After just 5 minutes, Coventry's Rob Prinzel launches a speculative shot from 30 yards or more and although the Droitwich keeper, Matt Oliver, looks to have it covered, he manages to spill the ball in to the net by the post.

Then just a minute later, the Coventry captain Chris Cox tries his luck and with a terrific shot sees the ball loop over Oliver from 25 yards.

                    ( The Coventry United players congratulate an airborne Chris Cox )

Although it's good to have goals scored in a match you are watching I don't relish the prospect of 6 or 7-0 rout, which my mind is hurriedly calculating to be the outcome. Fortunately though Droitwich are made of sterner stuff these days and battle back in to the match. Indeed after 22 minutes they are awarded a penalty, when the referee spots a hand ball by a defender when a free kick has been played in to the Coventry penalty area. James Lemon, the young Droitwich No.9 who is on loan from Worcester City, takes the kick but places his shot too close to the Coventry keeper, Jason Fox, who pulls off a good save.

Six minutes later, in another Droitwich attack, the ball is chested down for Lemon but he's unable to keep his shot down low enough and sees it sail over the bar.

Coventry do look to be the more dangerous side and occasionally manage to put together some slick passing moves despite the unfavourable playing conditions. Also the Droitwich defence, well marshalled by Mike Seeley are proving to be a stumbling block to their attacking ambitions.

Half-time arrives with no more scoring and I think Droitwich will be looking for an early goal in the next 45 minutes.

I see that another blogger is at the match today. It's a guy called Peter Rae who lives in Solihull and runs 'The Mowdog on the Road' blog , who visits and reports on a lot of matches at this level. I see him having a long chat with one of the Coventry United coaching staff.

So the second half begins and it's Droitwich straight on the attack, with Macaulay Finch shaving the post with a close range effort. Then a few minutes later, United's No.11, Gift Mussa, cleverly beats 2 Droitwich defenders on the left before launching a shot that goes just over the bar.

In the 26th minute, James Lemon turns in the box to shoot just the wrong side of the post.

On 30 minutes from a Coventry corner, the ball is headed down for their prolific scorer, Josh Blake, who sees his effort well saved by Oliver.

There are no more goals in the game and Droitwich have battled well today after the setback of those early goals. They certainly gave the visitor's defence some problems with Lemon and Finch at times combining well and Coventry United have a talented team who look like likely champions. Both teams did well in trying playing conditions.

Match attendance: 55
Entrance fee: free
Match programme: usually £1 (was given one free)
Entertainment value: 6/10


Tuesday, 3 February 2015


Due to the adverse weather conditions today, I have had to change my travel plans. Originally I had been looking to see the Worcestershire Junior Cup semi-final at Studley between Feckenham and Inkberrow. This has been postponed so I am going with Plan B and am going south to see the Hellenic Premier League clash between Cheltenham Saracens and Oxford City Nomads. This will be a new ground and a new league for me too.

I haven't visited Cheltenham for at least 2 years, so it will be good to have a look around.The weather is cold and cloudy when I leave Worcester on the train. 30 minutes later I am walking out of Cheltenham station and I take the footpath to the town centre that follows the route of an old railway line.

When in town I come across the Art Gallery & Museum, which had undergone some refurbishment. There is a small collection of paintings, featuring a diverse range of artists and in the museum section is a great collection of Arts & Crafts period furniture, beautiful hand made pieces. Well worth a visit if you like a bit of cultchar!

After a bite to eat, it's time to catch the bus to the ground which is situated to the north west of the town centre, just off the Tewkesbury Road. The bus driver kindly stops as close to ground as possible after I had told him my destination and then I make the 3 minute walk to the ground. It's situated right along side the railway track on the east, with a housing estate to the north and west, with the River Chelt just behind it to the south.

After paying my entrance fee, I walk in to see that to my right is a small club house, with a toilet block on the other side. To my left is a small stand with the seats painted in the club colours of blue and yellow. Looking down the pitch, on the left are the dug-outs and beyond them is a small covered standing area for spectators. On the opposite side is another small stand with seats. The teams come out on to the pitch from the north west corner, down a path from where the changing rooms must be located.

Cheltenham Saracens are having a very tough season and find themselves at the foot of the 20 strong division with Nomads in 13th place. The Saracens have been in the Premier Division since the 2011-12 season. Their opponents today play at the same ground as Oxford City and are now an integrated part of their development squad. They were crowned champions of this league in 2012.

The teams are the very picture of colour co-ordination, with Cheltenham in royal blue shirts, shorts and yellow socks. Nomads are in yellow shirts, shorts and blue socks.

Cheltenham Saracens attack from the start and in the very first minute, go very close to scoring. They continue in this vein and after 5 minutes have the ball in the net...only for it to be ruled out,... for offside maybe? (as shown below).


They certainly don't look like a team rooted at the bottom of the table with just 5 points to their name so far.

After the first 10 minutes, Oxford City Nomads start to establish themselves in this contest and the 16th minute finds them too having a goal disallowed. 2 minutes later and they have a shot from the right that goes in to the side netting.

The first half is turning out to be an even affair and the Saracens are the next team to go close when their No.8 produces a dipping shot that just go's over the wrong side of the bar.

In the 41st minute, Nomads are awarded a penalty but their captain and No.5 has his shot saved by the keeper. No need to worry though as their No.10 shoots over the keeper and under the bar on the stroke of half-time.  

During part of the first half I chat to the Saracen's club photographer, who also happens to be their Chairman's brother. There is also a photographer in attendance from the local press. She leaves after 20 minutes, probably for another local sports assignment.

I warm myself up in the small club house and have a quick look at some of the match photos on the walls.

The late first half goal looks to have galvanised the Nomads and sucked the confidence out of the home team as the second half is a very one sided affair.

Oxford City Nomads increase their lead after 15 minutes from a header and 11 minutes later their No.6 taps in from close range after the ball is passed in from the right wing.

                          ( The Nomads scorer is congratulated by his team mates )

It gets worse for the Saracens when goal number 4 comes courtesy of a penalty which is awarded when their No.6 brings down a player. As he had stopped an almost certain goal scoring opportunity, he is duly shown a red card by the ref. The spot kick is dispatched by the Nomads No 10.

To my surprise Cheltenham get a consolation goal right near the end when their No.10, their best attacker in my opinion, cuts in from the left and beats 2 defenders before slotting the ball home.

So the game ends in a convincing defeat for the Saracens, which had been a bit surprising given their spirited first half display. 

Match attendance: Approx 25
Match entertainment: 7/10
Match entrance fee: £4
Match programme: £1