I am making my way today to the ground of Wrens Nest FC. They play in Kingswinford just north of Stourbridge at the Handrahan Stadium which lies just over the border in South Staffordshire.
A fellow photographer I know called Nigel Cliff, has told me about this club (who hail from the district in Dudley of the same name) and he said he will be there today. So it's a good opportunity to meet up again after 2 years, the first time being at a Stourbridge match at Amblecote. It will also be a new ground for me and 2 new teams as the visitors will be AFC Ludlow.
The weather forecast is not that promising but it does say that the rain should keep away this afternoon.
When I arrive in Stourbridge by train it's still cloudy but dry with a cool wind. I have time for a meal and then make my way to the Bus Station to catch the Wolverhampton bus which will take me as far as Wall Heath. It's a journey of about 20 minutes and then I walk down the Enville Road and then down Mile Flat which takes another 20 minutes before entering the ground on the left hand side.
I walk in to the car park area just after the gates and the pitch is to my right and immediately to my left is the club house. Looking down the pitch, on the left hand side is a small seated stand and on the right is a small stand with no seats, so there will be shelter if it does rain this afternoon.
When I walk in to the bar area, the only person in there is Nigel, who looks as if he's been watching the telly there. It's good to meet up with him again and he tells me during our conversation that he has won a ticket to go and see the FA Trophy Final that's being played at Wembley tomorrow, between North Ferriby Utd and Wrexham. He had entered a photographic competition for Non-League photos in the Non-League Football newspaper and won one of the prizes. Can't be bad.
He says he's been asked to take a team photograph today and he was willing to do this as he only lives down the road at Wordsley. With 5 minutes to go before kick-off he dashes out as he can see most of the home team assembling just outside.
I ask one of the club's friendly officials if they have any club badges for sale and lo and behold one is provided for me for the price of 3 goes on the club draw (£3). A nicely designed badge it is too.
Wrens Nest FC, started out in 1997 as an Under-9's team and have gone on from strength to strength since then. It would be interesting to know if they have still have any original players and officials still involved with the club.
When the teams come out, Wrens Nest are in a old gold & black kit while Ludlow are in a mainly dark blue kit apart from the red bottom half of the front of their shirts.
In the first few minutes, the AFC Ludlow No.10, scythes down a Wrens Nest player in a robust challenge. He's booked by the ref but the game does not become a particularly physical encounter. Looking at the No.10, I wouldn't be surprised if he's turned out for their local rugby club's forward line as he's a strapping lad (as shown below)!
Ludlow are certainly taking the game to their hosts and the Wrens are having difficulty in getting out of their own half.
In the 12th minute, the referee overrules one of his linesmen who had said the ball had gone out for a goal kick and says ' Sorry Joe but you got that one wrong' and awards Ludlow a corner, which of course displeases the Wrens players.
Wrens Nest manage their first effort on the visitor's goal after 15 minutes when their No.4 tries his luck with a long distance effort. Then 5 minutes later they carve out a great chance when with an attack down the right, one of their players heads the ball over to their No.10 in front of the goal but he can only manage to direct his header straight to the waiting keeper.
Nigel who had gone straight down to the far end of the ground to capture Wrens Nest's best attacking efforts decides to join me by the half way line to capture more of the action.
Although Ludlow have been the better team for most of this half, Wrens Nest have the best effort so far when they have a shot that is destined for the top left corner of the net but the Ludlow keeper makes a great save, a fingertip touch, just enough to divert it over the bar!
So it's been a half with plenty of endeavour but without many chances. It's a close game that echoes both of the teams close proximity to each other in the table.
At half time one of the club officials gets Nigel and myself a hot drink from the club house for free. Nice touch and they are very welcome on a cool day like today. There is another photographer in attendance today who confesses to us that he is more of a rugby fan but takes photos occasionally for the club and he sponsors one of the younger aged teams at Wrens Nest. His name is Stu Hubbard and both he and Nigel have good quality Canon camera equipment and compare notes on this. Yours truly has a bog standard Pentax camera and lens but I certainly aspire to maybe owning a good quality camera like the ones on show today.
The weather is deteriorating a bit when the second half starts and it starts to drizzle. Thankfully it does not last long and I am still able to take more photos in the next 45 minutes.
Wrens Nest are taking the initiative now and in the 54th minute they attack down the right through their No.11 who crosses and their No.7 just fails to connect with the goal at his mercy.
A few minutes later and the Wrens No.11 (and captain) then goes close with a shot from the left.
In the 60th minute the Wrens go close again when a free kick is crossed from the right and from the resultant incoming header, the Ludlow No.9 is on hand to make a timely clearance off the line (as shown below).
One goal kick by the Ludlow keeper shows how the gusty wind has been a problem during the match. He kicks the ball too high and it barely makes it out of his penalty area before curving out over the touch line.
The goal is enough to win this closely fought game. As I have to get my bus, I shake hands with Nigel, wishing him a good game to watch at Wembley tomorrow and I am on my way.
Wrens Nest are having a good first season in the 1st Division and have already booked their place in the Final of the Birmingham County FA's, Saturday Vase Final on April 25th.
Likewise AFC Ludlow too are having a promising season and a few weeks ago had been sitting in 2nd position in the table. Their secretary later informs me by email that after the club had reformed after the demise of the old Ludlow Town club a few years ago, the new club now have a policy of bringing through the best of the local footballing talent. In fact 7 of their players today were aged 20 years old or younger and her own son was playing at No 7.
Match entertainment: 6/10
Match entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Match attendance: about 30
You can see more of my match photos at https://www.facebook.com/wmtraveller
Nigel Cliff has photos available to view at https://cliffyphotos.weebly.com