Tuesday, 31 March 2015


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 home team's pressure does yield results eventually though after 80 minutes, when their combative No.8, Todd Warner, shoots home past the advancing Ludlow keeper (seen below).

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  

Monday, 16 March 2015

DUDLEY TOWN U-21's 3 - 2 FC PREMIER 2008

I am making my way today to the Birmingham County FA HQ in Ray Hall Lane, for the final of their Saturday Junior Cup competition. This is my second visit to this venue as I saw the Veterans Cup Final there last May.

I have taken the train from Worcester to Birmingham and have taken the train again to Tame Bridge Parkway station. I have a walk through a housing estate, then it's across the river bridge, a railway pedestrian crossing and under the flyovers of the M5 motorway too. Not scenic but certainly interesting.

I have arrived in good time with 20 minutes to go before the 2pm kick-off.

I pay my £3 entrance fee at the gate and included in the price there is a copy of today's programme. There is a van just round the corner selling refreshments, so I can have my usual pre-match cup of tea after all.

Today's protagonists are FC Premier 2008, who play in the top division of the Birmingham AFA League and they are playing the Under 21 side of Dudley Town who play in the Under 21 division of the Midland Football League. FC Premier should feel more at home as they play on the pitch, between this one and the nearby railway line.

I notice in the programme that FC Premier had beaten the reserve team of fellow Birmingham AFA team Silhill in the semis. Dudley had beaten several Birmingham AFA teams on route to the final, including Wake Green Amateurs in their semi-final. 

There is quite a good crowd in attendance today, about 60 at a guess. When the 2 teams come out on to the pitch  I see in my programme that Dudley are in black and red while FC Premier are in an all white kit, a la Real Madrid.

The weather is cold with an overcast sky but with the chance of sunny intervals, according to my phone's BBC weather app.

(The FC Premier keeper clears the ball towards the Birmingham County FA Headquarters building)

It's certainly a cracking start, with Premier taking the lead through a header by their powerful No.9, Chris Johnson after only 2 minutes.

Not to be outdone and in their first attack, sees the Dudley No.10 Andy Hudson receive a good pass on the left and he slots the ball home past the advancing keeper after 4 minutes. 5 minutes later and the same player scores again from a similar position.

Then FC Premier's Johnson goes close with another header. After 13 minutes, a poor FC Premier corner is cleared to the Dudley No.11 who passes to a colleague who rounds the Premier keeper but sees his effort cleared off the line. 

The next piece of action sees the FC Premier No.17 shoot on the turn and pushed past the post by the Dudley keeper. From the resultant corner, a header is cleared off the line.

The next goal is scored in the 29th minute when FC Premier have a corner and the ball is headed down and Chris Johnson scores his 2nd goal, shooting through 3 Dudley defenders and their keeper, (as shown below).

Phew, only 30 minutes gone and it's already 2-2. Alan Hansen would probably be having a field day criticising the defensive play if he was watching! It's great for the spectators though.

A few minutes later a Dudley player tries to lob the keeper from about 20 yards out but sees his effort just go over the bar.

I also have time to chat with a photographer who works for the company called 353 Photography, who are the official photographers for the County Cup Finals played here. His name is Gary Griffiths who comes from Wolverhampton and his company are also the official photographers of Black Country football clubs, Bilston Town and Wolverhampton Casuals. Check out their website for some good action photos.

Two minutes before half time in this crazy game, Dudley Town score again through their No.7, Joe Phillips (shown below on the left being congratulated by Andy Hudson).

 Half-time has arrived and both players and spectators can get their breath back for the final 45 minutes.

The sky is getting lighter and we do see some sun in the second half for about 15 minutes.

When play recommences it's FC Premier on the attack after 49 minutes. It's that No.9, Chris Johnson again who powers on a run down the left but his progress is brought to a shuddering halt by a tackle on the edge of the box by the Dudley Town No 3. It results in both players needing treatment from their respective physios.

After 65 minutes sees a good through ball to Chris Johnson whose shot is well saved. Johnson is certainly a dangerous player, with his power, speed, heading ability and he's got a good long throw at throw-ins too.

 With 15 minutes to go, the ball is cleared out to the Dudley No.8 who makes a great shot that cannons off the bar. 

               (FC Premier's No.10, Nathan Wall's run is shadowed by 2 Dudley players)

In the last few minutes, FC Premier have 2 efforts on goal. First their No.7 shoots wildly over the bar from the left and then they have another shot from the left that just goes past the far post.

There is still time for Dudley's Andy Hudson to shoot across the Premier goal before the ref blows for full time. The outcome of this game had been in doubt right till the end. It's been a true showcase final and has been a credit to both teams who have given a great display of attacking football.

I make my way to the other end of the ground to witness the awards being given out. Firstly the officials are given some medals, then the Man of the Match award is given to the Dudley No.10, Andy Hudson, who scored 2 goals and produced a skilfull display of forward play and looks a great prospect.

The gallant losers trudge along to collect their medals and finally the Dudley captain, Elliot Haydon, is presented with the trophy and he joyfully holds it aloft surrounded by his happy team mates.

Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: free with entry
Match attendance: approx 60
Match entertainment: 8.5/10

Monday, 9 March 2015


After much prevarication I have finally decided to go to watch the Div 3 top-of-the-table clash between 2nd placed Rostance Edwards against the visiting leaders of Alcester Town, today at Grosvenor Park in Bloxwich, in the Midland Football League.

Originally I had been looking to go to either Kington Town or Highgate United for their respective top table matches but thought I'd give this game a go as I have been meaning to check out Alcester for a while now.

After making my way on the train from Worcester to Walsall, the weather has turned in to a bright sunny day but with a stiff south-westerly wind. I get an egg & chips at the Gardenia Cafe and then I stroll over to the nearby bus station and catch the No.301 bus that takes me in to Bloxwich.

I have been to this ground 3 times before in the past. When I get there, I make a mistake at first by trying to get in to the club house as this was the entrance route last season. The have re-opened the turnstile gate now though and when I get in I have plenty of time to have a cup of tea and a look at the 50p programme (which has some good jokes inside).

Alcester Town and Rostance Edwards are the top 2 teams but they are being chased hard by Austrey Rangers, who are playing at 3rd placed Smithswood Firs this afternoon. 

The teams come out in their usual first team colours, Rostance in their all-blue strip and Alcester in their red and black striped shirts.

This ground has a slope going down from the entrance end (north), where a low seated stand can be found. The club house and tea bar are to be found along the western side opposite the dug-outs and there is some high fencing that encloses the southern end of the ground, which is where I go to take photos.

The game is turning out to be an even affair with the visitors threatening after 11 minutes when their No.9 curls in a cross from the left that one of his fellow forwards just fails to connect with in a good position.

In the next 3 minutes, Rostance Edwards (who are kicking up the slope) hit back with 2 free kicks that are awarded to them on the right. The first is well held by the Alcester keeper, who then tips over the next one over the bar after it had been on target to go in to the top right corner. 

I can't help noticing that the Rostance Edwards No.5 looks as if he's had a few good lunches recently. Joking aside though he's proving to be the main prompter of some of their attacks.

On 27 minutes, from the half way line and using the following wind to good effect, he arrows in a good ball to one of their forwards on the left who then puts in a good shot across the visitor's goal.

Six minutes later and the home side have taken the lead. I must admit I have missed this due to fiddling around with my camera at the time.

       (The dejected Alcester players watch the Rostance players celebrating their goal)

A few minutes later and Rostance Edwards have a lucky escape. Alcester are awarded a free kick to the left of the home goal and from it the ball is flicked on where a desperate defender touches it on to the post and out!

Their reprieve does not last long when in the 43rd minute, the Alcester No.11 runs on to the ball in to the Rostance penalty area and is adjudged to have been pushed in the back by a defender.

The fouled Alcester player takes the penalty himself and slots the ball in to the net for a vital equaliser (as shown below).

Half time sees both teams with still everything to play for and I must admit I can't see how it will go. I do know that it will be another tight contest, as these two teams look evenly matched.

With the home side attacking the southern end where I'm stationed, I see that their No.11 looks to be impeded in only the 2nd minute but nothing is awarded.

In the 21st minute the Alcester No.6 is helped off the pitch after injuring his right knee.

3 minutes later and a good ball sees it go to the Rostance No.11 on the right. He manages to turn past a defender only to see his shot saved. Another home attack sees them go close again when a header comes back off the post, hits the keeper's knee and goes out for a corner.

In the 38th minute, a cross from the left by the home team sees a desperately attempted clearance by an Alcester defender hit his own arm but penalty appeals are dismissed by the referee.

Then in the next Alcester attack, one of their forwards is allowed a free header but it's just not strong enough to trouble the keeper.

An honourable 1-1 draw for both teams which keeps Alcester in top spot and 3 points ahead of Rostance Edwards. I later find out that Austrey Rangers have displaced Smithswood Firs in 3rd spot after thumping them 5-1. They are now 4 points behind Rostance but with 3 games in hand over them and Alcester.

It's been a keenly fought if at times scrappy contest, no doubt not helped by the blustery wind blowing up the pitch which hindered goal kicks going over the half way line, even down the slope.

Match entrance fee: £2
Match programme: 50p
Match attendance: approx 35
Match entertainment: 6.5/10