Sunday, 30 August 2015


It's FA Cup time again and today I am heading west to the city of Hereford, where Westfields (Midland Football League, Prem Div) are the hosts to Kidsgrove Athletic (Northern Premier League, Div 1 South).

As Kidsgrove Athletic just escaped relegation last season, I think today's contest can be a close one. Westfield's ground at Allpay Park is one of my favourite grounds too.

When I set out from Worcester on the train, it's a day of sunshine and scattered clouds, with a forecast of similar conditions for the rest of the day. After an hour I disembark and walk for 10 minutes to the city centre. After a quick look round some shops, I go to the Butter Cross indoor market and have a meal in the cafe there. I even have time to have a quick look at an exhibition of paintings done on different types of leather, which lends itself well to detailed work, such as pictures of elephants, tigers, dogs etc. The artist also does commissioned work on leather jackets. Check out his work on

I then walk to the match, going past Hereford FC's ground in Edgar Street, then turning left down Prior Street and this leads to a footpath which goes past the bottom of the Herefordshire County FA ground where another Hereford based club, Lads Club, play their matches. Then on my left at the end of the patch is the small road that leads to Allpay Park.

I just have time to drink a cup of tea after entering the ground, before the teams come out on to the field, with Westfields in their usual claret and blue strip while Kidsgrove are in their alternate colours of all-red as their all-blue kit would probably clash somewhat with their hosts colours.

Allpay park has the entrance in the one corner of the ground with the club house and changing rooms close by. On the same side about about half way along is situated the main stand. More cover is to be found on the opposite side with a small stand  (standing room only) with the dug-outs in the middle. Either end is open to the elements. There are plenty of trees round the ground which makes for a very pleasant atmosphere.

The first 10 minutes of the match is evenly contested but then Westfields start to take control and in the 11th minute should have taken the lead. Their No.8 and captain, Jamie Cuss goes down the left and crosses for No11, Ben Evans at the near post but he can't keep his shot down and manages to scoop the ball over the bar. 

Their pressure does pay off 12 minutes later though, when in a similar move Evans crosses for Cuss who though has his initial effort blocked, manages to follow up and guide the rebound home (as shown below).

Just 3 minutes later and the dangerous goal scorer, has a shot on the run coming down the left, which goes just wide.

Kidsgrove then start to get back in to the game, helped by some sloppy midfield play by Westfields.

After 33 minutes they blaze over a good chance and then just 4 minutes later are awarded a penalty when their No.10 is brought down. The penalty is neatly placed in the corner with the keeper sent the wrong way. Then in the 40th minute they have another shot which hits the post. Westfields manage to hang on though till half time.

It's been quite an even game so far, as I predicted and still everything to play for.

In attendance today, is the Hereford FC manager, Peter Beadle, who is taking the opportunity to view the opposition as his side are playing the home side on Monday.
I am also informed that sitting in the stand today is a former Jamie Insall, who has been on trial at Hibernian FC in Edinburgh recently and has reportedly signed a contract there. That's great news for him and for any aspiring footballers in the Non-League game. I look forward to seeing his progress north of the border. The source of my information today is an elderly Westfields fan called Eric who I have met several times before whenever I visit Allpay Park. He originally comes from Birmingham and used to play himself for local teams up there back in the day. He is quite chatty and has kept me and another younger Westfields fan entertained today with his stories.

In the second half, it's Kidsgrove Athletic who threaten to score first when after a deep cross from the left is met full on the volley by their No.7, Anthony Malbon, which fizzes just past the far post.

Westfields come back strongly though and Aiden Thomas goes close after 71 minutes and then 4 minutes later, Ben Evans comes in from the right and places his shot past the far post. It looks as if he should have scored and he is immediately substituted by the manager.

            (Westfields keeper, Matt Gwynne, reaches out to catch the ball from corner)

Kidsgrove do get the ball in the net in the first minute of injury time,when one of their forwards rounds the keeper to shoot in. It's blown up for offside though.

There is still time for Westfields to see another effort go wide when looking likely to score. So it's 1-1 and Westfields will be travelling to Kidsgrove (north of Stoke-on-Trent) on Wednesday night for the replay, after playing Hereford on Monday! They should have won this game today as they did create the better chances but I'm sure Kidsgrove will fancy their chances on their home turf.

               (The Kidsgrove Athletic No.9 lines up a shot on the Westfields goal)

So I say goodbye to Eric and his friend and make my back to the rail station. It was certainly a better game today after last Saturday's visit to Rugby Town!

Match entrance fee: £7
Match programme: £1
Match attendance: 118
Match entertainment value: 7/10

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


Originally I had planned to visit AFC Bridgnorth's game v Wolverhampton Casuals today but due to some dodgy looking forecasts for the weather in that area, I have chickened out of that idea and instead am going to Rugby Town's ground, in Warwickshire instead.
They are playing Belper Town who hail from Derbyshire, situated 8 miles north of Derby in fact.

I arrive in Rugby rail station at about 1pm, giving me a bit of time to have a look around the town centre and have some lunch.

It's certainly a hot sunny day,much better than the cold blustery weather I endured on my last visit here 5 years ago. After having a cheese burger from a chip shop on the walk in to the town centre, I have a quick look at the outside of the famous 'Rugby School' and take this photo of the statue of the founder of the game of Rugby, William Webb Ellis.

Also nearby on the other side of the road is a treat for real ale fans, 'The Rugby Tap' a combined micro brewery and pub. I then have to make the 25 minute walk to the football ground in Butlin Road.

Rugby Town have been moved from the Southern League, Central Division to the Northern Premier League, Division 1 South. Their opponents today had been relegated from the Premier Division.

I'm pleased that there are badges for sale today as I have steadily building up my collection over the last 2 years, even though this one is a bit on the expensive side at £4.

Butlin Road is a good ground for this level of football,with a capacity for 6,000 spectators. The main stand (which includes the changing rooms) is on the entrance side of the stadium and can hold 500 spectators. I am standing on the terrace of the 'Allotment End' which is all under cover. On my left there are 2 small covered standing areas, either side of a small seated stand (for 240 spectators) , while on the far side of the ground is another covered standing area, giving overall,cover for 2,800 spectators. The pitch looks to be a good playing surface and beyond the far side of the ground are located some astroturf training pitches with floodlights. A very neat set up all round.

Rugby are playing in their usual strip of light blue shirts and and dark blue shorts while Belper are in yellow shirts and black shorts and are attacking towards the Allotment End in this half.

Belper have started the match brightest but can't make any worthwhile chances, although their No.7 Wilson has a good effort with a free kick. Their No.11, Stevenson, has to go off after 30 minutes after an awkward fall to be replaced by recent signing, Ben Fairclough.

Both defences are on top and it isn't until near the end of this half that Rugby have their best chance so far, when danger man and No.9 Kolodynski, is put through by strike partner Liversedge only to put his effort over the bar.

Although the football itself has not been that great, the Belper Town fans at my end of the ground have been entertaining me with their singing. Although only numbering between 15-20, they are quite vociferous.

I see from my programme that Rugby suffered a 1-6 away defeat at Loughborough Dynamo last Saturday but beat Gresley at home during the week, while Belper have had a win and a draw so far.

In the second half, Rugby Town continue to have the best chances with Liversedge having a shot tipped over the bar by Belper keeper, Haystead and after 60 minutes, Kolodynski is again supplied by  Liversedge but his first time shot goes the wrong side of the far post.

           (Rugby's Liversedge is well held by Belper's Matthews as he heads the ball)

Belper Town's No.9, Garnett has a shot saved by Dutton and this match has 0-0 written all over it.

I have a chat with a guy who looks to be an official of some kind and he turns out to be a representative of the Northern Premier League who is there to welcome Rugby to their League. He tells me that he used to be involved with Chasetown FC.

Soon after I decide to leave (with just injury time to go) as I have a fairly lengthy walk to the train station. Not a great game to watch but it's been good weather (although not ideal for playing football) and a good ground to visit. 

Match entrance fee: £8
Match programme: £2
Match attendance: 212
Match entertainment value: 5/10 


Wednesday, 19 August 2015


So it's the 2nd week of the new season and also the first week of the season long journey of the FA Cup, in the form of the Extra Preliminary Round. I have chosen to see the all Midland Football League team tie of 'The Mikes' v 'The Romans', the nicknames of Boldmere St.Michaels and Rocester respectively. It's being played at the familiar (for me) Trevor Brown Memorial Ground in Boldmere, one of my favourite venues in the Birmingham area.

It's a mainly cloudy day with sunny intervals today and a temperature of 18c. Not bad for watching football.

After having lunch in Sutton Coldfield, I take the train to Chester Road station where it's just a 10 minute walk to the ground. I think Chester Road road, must be one of the longest in the region and could have been the route of a Roman Road, as it looks so straight as it disappears in to the distance. I am soon turning in to Church Road on my right and a few yards on my left is the small car park in front of the ground. After paying my entrance fee I walk through the turnstile, the pitch is in front of me, with the club house and changing rooms a few yards to my right. In front of this is small covered area for spectators to stand. On the far side is the main stand with enough seating for 230 spectators. On the opposite side are the team dug-outs and this and the far end of the ground are uncovered.

Boldmere St.Michaels are a well established club who date back to 1883, where they started life as a youth team from a local church. They became an open age team a few years later when the boys had grown older. One of their first claims to fame came in 1948 when they reached the semi-final of the old FA Amateur Cup, losing at Highbury 0-2 to Barnet. The club had success in the mid to late 1980's when they were champions of the Midland Football Combination. They were one of the original members of the Midland Football Alliance in 1994 and they also tasted success in 2006, 7 & 8 when winning the Walsall Senior Cup.

Their opponents from the Staffordshire village of Rocester, near Uttoxeter, were formed in 1876. Their main successes have come since 1986, when they achieved the double of being Staffordshire Senior Lge champions and also winners of the Staffordshire Senior League. They have also won the Midland Football Alliance in 1999 & 2004 and as a result of these acheivements briefly featured in the Southern and Northern leagues before relegation. Great achievements for a village side! Their Hillsfield ground is built on the former site of a Roman fort, hence 'The Romans' nickname. 

Both teams have had an inauspicious start to their league campaigns with both suffering two straight defeats so far. 

The teams come out on the pitch with Boldmere in their usual white shirts and black shorts. Rocester are in their away strip of all blue and it's the visitors who look the more dangerous in the early stages.

After just 2 minutes, Rocester score and I'm sure that wasn't in the script! Midfielder Tom Brown is the villain of the piece and it's not until about 10 minutes that Boldmere start to mount any serious attacks themselves.

Boldmere's strikers, Stuart Capaldi and Charisma Agbonlahor start to cause problems for the Romans defence but it's the visitors who score the next goal after 26 minutes when Robert Ritchie-Smith takes advantage of a botched clearance from Boldmere to shoot past the home keeper. 

 The Mikes hit back almost immediately with a good shot from Stuart Capaldi from the right hand side of the penalty area and Agbonlahor equalises with another good effort from a similar position with 4 minutes of the half remaining.

The match takes another twist when Rocester midfielder, Sam Griffiths, is sent off for a high tackle. 

So it's 2 goals apiece at half-time and as the teams seem evenly matched I think it could go either way. With prize money at stake to the winners today, they will both be trying their hardest although whoever wins will have the tough task of playing higher ranked Leek Town away in the next round.

I feel a bit sorry for the nearby bowls club which is just over the other side of the wooden fence in one corner of the ground. Twice during the game the ball goes over the fence and it must be quite disruptive to the bowls players who are playing today. I bet they don't have any important tournaments on match days.

The second half sees Boldmere St.Michaels doing most of the attacking and most of their best midfield play comes from their captain and No.8, Stephen Palmer but Rocester are proving to be dangerous on the break, especially the speedy No.10, Karl Demidh.

Boldmere's pressure finally seems to have paid off when they take the lead in the 89th minute. It comes from a goal mouth scramble following a free kick out on the right of the penalty area. The goal is accredited to Agbonlahor but it might have been an own goal.

                              (A photo of the Boldmere corner that led to their 3rd goal) 

Most of the crowd think that it's game over but Rocester have other ideas and in injury time they score a 3rd goal themselves when their captain and centre back, Tom Land, heads in from a corner.

                 ( Tom Land, on the far right celebrates with his team mates after his late equaliser )

Soon the whistle blows for the end of the game and we certainly got our moneys worth today. It was probably a fair result in the end although everyone associated with Boldmere will almost certainly disagree.

Boldmere St.Michaels are a friendly club with an attractive ground and I will probably be making another visit this season. 

Match entrance fee: £5
Match programme: £1
Match attendance: 123
Match entertainment: 7.5/10

PS. Rocester have won the replay 4-0 on Tuesday night.

Monday, 10 August 2015


It's a fine sunny day for the official start of the football league season. I have come to the Kings Norton ground of Pilkington XXX, where Cadbury Athletic have entered in to a 3 year ground share deal after leaving their previous residency at Alvechurch FC.

They are hosting the phoenix, supporter owned club of Hinckley AFC from Leicestershire, formed in 2014 after the demise of Hinckley United. While speaking to one of the Hinckley supporters, I find out that their club will be looking for their own ground (they currently share at Heather St.Johns FC) as Leicester Road FC who own the former Hinckley Utd ground will not be vacating it in the near future. It's a ridiculous situation but it will be interesting to see the competition between both the Hinckley clubs this season after Leicester Road's promotion to Div 1.

By the time the teams take to the field, I can see that there is a fair sized crowd for this level, with at least half the contingent from Hinckley who have brought along a number of colourful flags and banners with them.

Cadbury are in the company colours of purple and white while Hinckley are in red and blue.

For the first 10 minutes, it's Hinckley who are doing all the attacking with their speedy forwards, Javia Roberts (seen above) and Marco Adaggio causing the home team lots of problems. It's good to see Mr.Adaggio again, as he had a spell at my home club of Worcester City a few years ago when I moved back to the city. He was one of the best players at the time, scoring some vital goals in what was a struggling team and he would always give 100%.

The Cadbury No.9, Stuart Butcher then drags a shot wide in a break away attack.

After 38 minutes, Hinckley's Nathan Walker goes close to breaking the deadlock with a chipped shot over keeper Shaun Hayes, only to see it hit the bar and out of play. 

Hinckley are having a good spell of pressure at the end of this half, with their No.11 Luke Edwards having a shot from the left go just wide and then in injury time, a similar shot by Edwards (shown above) is parried by the keeper only for the ball to loop up obligingly and Adaggio leaps up to nod it home from close in.

A deserved lead for the visitors at half time but Cadbury Athletic are sure to come back strongly I think.

Edwards though is carrying on where he left off before the interval as he sees 2 of his shots go close in the early stages of the second half.

Cadbury Athletic begin to exert more pressure as the game progresses. Their diminutive No.11, Josh Harris-James, clatters in to a Hinckley player with his elbow raised and is lucky to get away with a booking, although to be fair it's been a pretty clean game. His team mate, No.10 Dean Lea gets involved by making a comment when some of the Hinckley players are crowding round and things get heated for a few seconds before settling down (as shown below).

With the increasing pressure for an equaliser by the home team, Hinckley keeper, Jack Hartopp manages to tip over a dangerous in-swinging corner and soon after makes a great save from close in to deny Cadbury's Ryan Spink a certain goal.

                           ( Jack Hartopp catches a Cadbury Athletic corner ) 

That's the closest Cadbury get to scoring and it's the visitors who are victorious today. On this showing I think Hinckley will feature in the top 6 this season and Cadbury Athletic will be in the top half of the table. 

Match attendance: 158
Match entrance fee: £4
Match programme: £1.50
Match entertainment: 6.5/10  

Tuesday, 4 August 2015


The beginning of August and my first game this season, a pre-season friendly at a new ground for me, at the 5 Acres ground of village team, Littleton FC in the Vale of Evesham. Their side who play in the 1st Division of the Midland Football League are taking on AFC Wulfrunians who hail from Wolverhampton and play in the Premier Division of the same league.

Littleton is comprised of the 3 villages, North, Middle and South Littleton which are all in close proximity to each other. Their ground just east of North Littleton, was purchased by the club in the late 1970's. The team was founded in 1893 and has made great strides in the seven years since I moved back to Worcester. In the Midland Combination, they had finished as the Division 1 runners-up in 2011-12 and runners-up again the following season in the Premier Division. Also they have managed to have won the Presidents Cup in 2011 and 2012.

I have travelled to the ground, first by train to the village of Honeybourne, situated on the Cotswold Line running to London, then I have a lift from the Littleton FC secretary, Marion Brighton who has kindly responded to my request for a lift by the club.

Five Acres is a very neat affair, with a car park in front of the club house and separate changing rooms, which are set back from the playing area . The club house also has a small decking area with table and chairs facing the pitch. I am pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness of the gents toilets to the side of the changing rooms when I make a pre-match visit ! The pitch which runs from a west to easterly direction. has a covered standing area on the side nearest the club house in between the dug-out's, on the opposite side is small seated stand and another small seated stand at the western end of the ground. Probably enough cover for about 150 spectators.

                (The Littleton FC clubhouse with the changing rooms on the right)

Wulfrunians come out in their away strip of all blue while Littleton are in their usual red shirts and white shorts. Play is pretty even until the 12th minute, when the visitors are awarded a free kick to the right of the Littleton goal. The Wulfrunians No.10,Jamie King, takes the kick and fools the keeper by smashing it in by the near post (as shown below).

A great goal and 2 minutes later the same player finds himself unmarked in a central position a few feet outside the penalty area. He tries to place it inside the post but his effort just rolls wide of the goal. As Mr.Shearer would probably say ' He should have tested the keeper'.

Play is again pretty even for the rest of the half but with the visitors looking the more dangerous. 

One of the more notable incidents takes place after about 20 minutes. A Wulfrunians attack fizzles out when one of their players is adjudged to be offside. Their No.3 is unhappy with this outcome and a few seconds later he appears to hear a comment from a spectator from the nearby stand and then has a bit of hissy fit. He is very angry and it ends with him being substituted, as he is not calming down. I am later told that the spectator concerned had just said to him that he couldn't possibly have been able to tell (whether the player had been offside) as he had been far from the area where it happened. I think the player must have misheard what was said.

Anyhow it's the visitors in the lead and the outcome is still in the balance. In the first half I had a good natter with the Littleton chairman, Paul Harrison, who tells me that he is a Manchester City fan having come from that area originally. It's always good to come across a fellow 'Citizen'.

The second half sees the home team pressing more, driven on by their combative No.8 in midfield and their No.7 and No.17 making some jinking runs. Their best effort, 10 minutes in to the second period sees their No.9 flick the ball against the post and out after the ball is played in from a corner (as shown below).

 They have another good effort after 41 minutes when they have a shot from the right go just wide of the far post.

There is still enough time to see Wulfrunians have a shot cleared off the line from close in by a covering defender. A great piece of defending.

The visitors have come away with a 1-0 win and will be looking to improve on their 7th placed finish last time out. I notice they had the attacking midfielder, Ben Jevons (formerly of Lye Town) in their ranks and he will be a useful addition to their squad.

Littleton gave them a good game and it will be interesting to see how their team will fare this season. They will have a stern test in their opening home game next Saturday, when they take on the free scoring Coventry United, the run away promoted winners of the Second Division.

They look to have some good young players coming through the ranks and a few seasons ago have seen ex-players, Joe Lolley and Matt Smith gain moves to Football League clubs and are now at Huddersfield Town and Fulham respectively. Also at the ground today, news has been circulating round that another ex-player, Jamie Insall has been snapped up by Scottish League club, Hibernian.

I am very kindly given a lift back to Honeybourne by committee member, Graham Bartlett (a record goal scorer in his day with Evesham United) and his wife who actually live in the village.

Littleton are a friendly well run club and I'm sure any visiting groundhoppers will be given a warm welcome.

Match attendance: about 25-30
Match entrance fee: no charge today
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment value: 6/10

More match photos at