Tuesday, 20 October 2015


For my match today I am dropping down the divisions to the 2nd Division of the Midland Football League. The match I will be covering is the league clash between the basement boys of Earlswood Town against fifth placed Rostance Edwards (who play in Bloxwich).

The weather today will be mainly cloudy and cool, with the chance of sunny intervals and it's certainly cloudy when I set out from Worcester Shrub Hill rail station. I visited here last season and I have kept in touch from time to time with their Press Officer and Vice-Chairman, John Sharpe, as I have sent him a few photos from other games I have covered, for articles in their programme (which sadly is not published 

I get to Birmingham OK but then find out that there is only one train per hour that calls at Earlwood Town's local station, called 'The Lakes' and then it's a request stop. Oh well, it just means that I will miss the first few minutes of the match. The Lakes in question are the Earlswood Lakes (3 in total), that were man made in the 1820's in order to supply water to the nearby Stratford Canal, which it still does to this day. They are a local tourist attraction too, where there is a sailing club, it's a haven for anglers, there is a craft centre and there is a wildlife reserve there too!   

When I do reach my stop on the line, which continues to Stratford-upon-Avon, it's 2:59pm and after walking down nearby Malthouse Lane, I reach the ground entrance at 3:05pm.

As I had walked down the lane, I'd heard the shouts of the players but guessed that no goals had been scored in the first few minutes and I am proved right by the guys at the gate telling me so when I pay my entrance fee.

Earlswood, 'the Earls' are playing in their usual home strip of red and white striped shirts, with black shorts and socks. Rostance Edwards are in their usual all blue kit.

For the first 10 minutes, it's the home team who are the dominant team and Rostance are unable to get over the half way line.

Although Earlswood have the majority of play they can't press home their advantage and then the visitors start putting pressure on The Earls defence.

In the 16th minute a left wing cross is headed by the Rostance No.7, whose effort hits the bar and is then put in to the net by their No 10, 0-1!

Rostance Edwards twice more go close to scoring in the next 8 minutes and then the home team are awarded a penalty when their No.9, Matt Green, looks to have been shoved in the back while looking to shoot in the penalty area.

Unfortunately the spot kick is saved by the keeper and The Earls goal scoring problems continue.

 Both teams have chances to score but the first half ends with the visitors still a goal to the good. Earlswood have displayed some good approach play during the first 45 minutes but have shown a lack of composure in front of goal.

The Earls have had a disastrous start to the season and only last week managed to obtain their first point after a draw v Austrey Rangers. They have had to build virtually a new team this term after a mass exodus of their best players at the end of last season and as a result have suffered some heavy defeats.

So the second half starts and after 50 minutes are awarded a free kick but this is saved by the Rostance keeper when it's taken.

After 61 minutes the visitors show they are still hungry for goals when after a good break down the right and the ball is crossed to their No.9 who just fails to connect properly with an attempted scissor kick on the edge of the area.

5 minutes later and The Earls attack down the left which ends with a curled shot going just wide of the far post.

       (Earlswood Town No.7, Daniel Wallace, squeezes past 2 Rostance defenders) 

After 65 minutes, there is a double substitution, when their forwards, No's 9 & 10 are replaced. In the case of the No.9 it's probably a good idea because over the last few minutes he's been having a niggly running feud with the Rostance No 3.

Rostance Edwards think they have scored again when a cross from the right is swept in by their No.8 but it's ruled out for offside.

In the 86th minute, an Earlswood free kick from the right is headed just wide and then shortly after, when I look up after checking some photos on my camera, I see the Earlswood No.5, Bradley Morris, trooping off the field. I learn later that he was sent off for allegedly spitting at an opponent in front of the referee. Not a pleasant act and a deserved dismissal. 

With just 2 minutes to go, the visitors are awarded a penalty kick after Earls keeper, David Hancock, has been ruled to have brought down the Rostance No 11 (as shown below), and the same player slots the ball home to confirm his sides victory.

I leave the ground soon after, hurrying to catch my train which leaves in 6 minutes time. I hear the final whistle blown, just after I turn to walk down the road and know the final score has remained at 0-2 to Rostance Edwards, who have proved to be more ruthless in front of goal today.

So although Earlswood are still routed firmly to the bottom of the table, I have seen signs today that provided they can score a few goals, potentially they have the fight to move themselves up the table in the coming months. Rostance Edwards on the hand look as if they might be pushing for promotion.  

Match attendance: 36
Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: None available
Match entertainment: 6/10

Footnote: Earlswood Vice-Chairman John Sharpe informed me that he thinks the club earned the title of 'Town', when Earlswood, (which is clearly a village), is that about 40 years ago there were plans to have a large number of houses built in the area to take a lot of the Birmingham overflow but there was local opposition to this and the development never took place. The club though probably jumped the gun and renamed the club as Earlswood Town and remains that way to this day.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


It's Non-League Day today and I have decided to visit a ground that I haven't been to for a while and it's 'The Grove', home of Halesowen Town of the Northern Premier League. Also as it's NL Day the club have reduced ground entry to £5!

When I set out from Worcester on the train, it's a cool cloudy day with the promise of sunny intervals this afternoon. I get off at Cradley Heath station and catch the bus from the revamped Interchange bus station just outside. It's just 20 minutes on the bus to the Halesowen Bus Station in the centre of the town.

It's hard to believe that in the 19th century that Halesowen boasted at having 130 working coal mines in the local area (non existing now). They also had a nail making cottage industry that thrived for a few hundred years. Although the town centre has a lot of modern buildings I spot an older looking building opposite the main church (as shown below).

I have time to have a quick wander round the shops and have a meal of cheese omelette and chips in one of the local cafes. It amazes me that some eateries these days seem to serve up watered down tomato ketchup. It can't be that expensive?

The walk to the ground only takes 10-15 minutes and lies in the district of Hawne. When going through the main entrance to the ground (north side) you can see the pitch down below you with the other end of the pitch at the southern side of the ground. There is an uncovered bank of terracing on the eastern side while on the opposite side is located the main stand with covered seating, this is called the 'Harry Rudge Stand'. At the far, southern end of the ground is another area of banked uncovered terracing. At the northern end, is a covered standing area called 'The Shed'. With 3 sides of the ground at a higher level to the pitch, it gives it the feeling of a shallow amphitheatre.

        (A view from the eastern terrace looking across the pitch to 'The Shed')

After buying a badge from the club shop and a cuppa at the tea bar, I go to the southern terrace to take my match photos. The teams come out, with the home team in their usual blue and white kit while 'The Gladiators' of Matlock Town from Derbyshire are in their away strip of yellow and blue. Both clubs currently occupy a mid-table league position, so it promises to be a closely fought contest.

Looking at the team line ups, I see that Halesowen Town feature 3 ex-Worcester City players today, in the form of defender Asa Charlton and midfielders, captain Jay Denny and Rob Elvins. Their reserve keeper, Matt Sargeant is also ex-City too.

Both teams take some time to get going in a sluggish start but after 30 minutes Jay Denny sees his shot turned away for a corner by Willis in the Matlock goal. Soon after Halesowen's Danny Bragoli is played in to the box but sees his close range effort blocked by the keeper (as shown below).

Just before the end of the half, Rob Elvins goes close to scoring too. So it's 0-0 after 45 minutes but Halesowen have been looking increasingly dangerous.

During the first half I have chatted to a young photographer taking photos for the home team. He tells me that their main photographer has today been asked to cover the Football League 1st Division, top of the table clash at Walsall who are playing Burton Albion.

Just 2 minutes after the interval, Halesowen take the lead when defender Joe Hull volleys home following a corner kick. Six minutes later and the home side are really in the driving seat when midfielder, Danny Bragoli, puts in the rebound after his first shot is saved by Willis.

In a desperate attempt to salvage something from the match, the Matlock manager makes a triple substitution and this seems to have an effect when in the 69th minute 
captain Danny Holland, heads home from a left wing cross.

        (Halesowen's Kyle Morrison heads clear after Matlock's Danny Holland slips) 

Halesowen are still the dominant side though and after twice going close they look to have the game won, when substitute Greg Pearson heads in a free-kick with just 3 minutes to go.

Matlock go down fighting when Holland heads in his second goal at the far post, when a right wing cross eludes the home defence.

A deserved win for Halesowen in an entertaining match but both they and Matlock will not be able to make much progress this season unless they both iron out their respective defensive problems. 

Match attendance: 450
Match entrance fee: £5 ( Non-League Day concession)
Match programme: £2
Match entertainment value: 7.5/10

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


It's FA Vase time again, with 2nd the Qualifying Round taking place today and the winners of today's matches will pocket £800. I have decided to go to the Walshes Meadow ground on the River Severn of Stourport Swifts (Midland Football League, Prem Div) who are hosting the West Midlands Premier team from Rowley Regis, Black Country Rangers.

It will be my first visit there for 3 years and this season the Swifts have started well in their league campaign, currently lying in 5th place. Unfortunately they recently saw their captain and defensive lynch-pin, Jamie Willets, transferred to rivals Hereford FC and their defence does not seem as dependable as before. Black Country Rangers hold a mid-table league position but they are always tough opponents.

After travelling by train to Kidderminster, having a fish & chips at 'Captain Cod's Fish Bar' opposite the Severn Valley rail station, I walk down the hill to the town centre and catch the bus by the Town Hall. It's only a 15 minute ride to Stourport.

After a misty start to the day, it's now cloudy but with the chance of later sunny spells. I have time to have a quick look at the canal, buy some vitamin C for my cough & cold and then cross the bridge to get to the football ground which lies just on the other side.

Walking in to the ground, which is just past the local sports centre, the ground is immediately in front of you after turning left, with the club house and changing rooms on your left. This has an over hanging roof which provides shelter at this end of the ground. In the near corner on the left is the tea bar and the only other cover in the ground is to be found in the main stand on the right hand side of the pitch.

After buying my pre-match cuppa the teams take to the pitch, then line up for kick-off and the ref blows his whistle for the start of the match at 2:55pm! Stourport in their yellow and black kit are on the attack for the first few minutes.

Black Country Rangers are dangerous on the break with their speedy forwards and they take the lead after 13 minutes when their No.11 weaves his way down the left and manages to pass across the goal mouth for their No.7, Mc.Kerdy, to apply an easy tap in.

Just 2 minutes later and another quick break by the visitors sees their No.9 go past keeper Dominic Richards but he can only shoot in to the side netting.

It's only until the last 15 minutes of the half that Stourport really threaten the Rangers goal. First their No.11, James Baldwin, heads over the bar after a cross from the right then after 39 minutes, some good build up play culminates with their No.3 trying his luck with a dipping shot which clears the top of the bar.

In the last minute, the Rangers keeper parries a 20 yard shot by the Swifts No.4 for a corner and from this the ball is eventually cleared out to the Swifts No.11 who sees his shot again turned round the post. 

So it's 0-1 to the Rangers and Stourport will have to improve in front of goal to stay in this match as the visitor's defence has been coping well so far. The most dangerous attacker for Stourport has been their top scorer, Ben Maund but his chances have been limited.  

5 minutes in to the second half and the comeback for the home team has become much harder as Black Country Rangers score a second goal. They do so courtesy of their tall No.4, who leaps the highest to head home from a corner.

Stourport fight back and are rewarded somewhat fortuitously in the 23 minute when a Rangers defender slices in to his own net following a free kick played in to their penalty area. 5 minutes later and a Swifts player side foots the ball just wide at a corner kick.

Then Ben Maund turns well to then bend in a curling shot that goes the wrong side of the far post. After 37 minutes the Swifts go close again when their No.6 powers a header at a corner just wide of the goal.

The outcome of the match is decided at the death, when in a last minute break away down the left, the impressive  Rangers No.11,Ross Williams, slots the ball home which is followed by jubilant celebrations from the visiting team.

3 minutes later and the final whistle is blown and Black Country Rangers have deservedly gone through to the 1st Round proper as they have been resolute in defence and clinical in their finishing.

As I leave the ground, I realise that there could have only been one result today due to my presence. Whenever I have watched Stourport (4 times so far) they have always lost while on the other hand I have witnessed BCR win 3 times every time I have watched them. So apologies to Stourport and I promise not to visit your club too soon.

Match attendance: 99
Match entertainment: 7/10
Match entrance fee: £5
Match programme: £1