Monday, 23 November 2015


I am visiting a new ground today. It's the home of Wolverhampton United who play in the 2nd Division of the West Midlands League and is situated in Prestwood Road West in the Wolverhampton district of Wednesfield.

When I leave Worcester just before 10am, there is still a stiff northerly wind blowing although the sun is shining after the early morning rain. After our recent mild autumn weather, it's a shock to the system, so I am wearing a scarf and gloves for the first time since March.

When I get to Wolverhampton, I have time to have a good look around the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, where there is the annual exhibition of the local Arts Society (good quality), a show of the prints of the Japanese artist, Hiroshige, plus their permanent collection. Wolverhampton has a tradition of good sculptors and I can't resist taking a photo of a small statue of the legendary ex-Wolves and England captain, Billy Wright.

I have lunch in the cafe there before leaving to catch the number 28 bus from the bus station going to Willenhall. On the way I get off at Prestwood Road and soon I am at the the entrance of the football ground.

There is a driveway of twenty yards before you turn left in to the car park. Beyond this there is the gate with the pitch in front of you and the small club house on your left. There is a stand on the left hand side of the pitch with standing room only for the spectators, with room for about 80-100 people at a guess and the changing rooms are situated at the back of this. There is another pitch along side on the right of the main one.

Wolverhampton United are currently lying in a mid table position and were founded in 1976 after the amalgamation of Whitmore Old Boys and Oxley FC. They immediately joined the West Midlands League and were champions of Division 1b in their first season. In 1982 they won promotion to the Premier Division and entered the FA Vase 4 times in the 1980's, reaching the 4th round in the 1982-83 season. They have never reached those heights since then, being a bit of a yo-yo team between the Premier and 1st Divisions before being relegated to the 2nd Division two seasons ago.

Their opponents today are the Walsall based side called Sikh Hunters.
When the teams take the field, United are clothed in an all orange strip while Sikh Hunters are in yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow socks. It makes for a warm sight on a cold day. 

For the first 15 minutes, it's the visitors who are the dominant team. It's hard to believe that they are close to the bottom of the table in the league.

Their best spell of play after 30 minutes sees them twice go close to scoring from a corner and then soon after, their No.7 hits a long range shot that hits a post.

Very soon though it's United who make the most of their chances. After 32 minutes their No.3 goes on a run down the left then pulls the ball across for their No.7 to cleverly chip the ball over the Hunter's keeper and in to the top right hand corner.

With the Hunters defence looking vulnerable they concede another just 4 minutes later, when the United No.10 tucks away the ball after a break away.

On the stroke of half-time, after one of the United players goes on a good run down the left, the ball is crossed over. It should have been cleared but the ball eventually falls to their No.11 and he pokes the ball in to the net for a handsome lead.

There is still time in injury time for Sikh Hunters to see a shot hit the right hand post and out.

So it's 3-0 to Wolverhampton United. The Hunters defence has looked pretty shaky. I have noticed that they are not good at clearing the ball away out of their own penalty area. Sometimes they just need to clear the danger rather than trying to pass it around too much. They have some skilful players but I think they have to be more practical.    

Also I was surprised to see for the first 20 minutes that there were no substitutes on the Sikh Hunters bench! 2 did arrive later on in the first-half though.

I go to the kitchen area where there are free cups of tea and coffee on offer and one of the staff has kindly made a big plate of tasty chips for people to tuck in to. Nice to have on a cold day. It's good too that the wind has died down this afternoon.

I get talking to the United Match Secretary, the amiable Phil Gibbons. It turns out that he used to be involved with Darlaston Town when they played at their old City Ground in their previous incarnation, sadly a ground I never got to see. He's clearly a dedicated football man.

Maybe because of the inclement weather, my pen decides to stop working so I don't have many details of the second half to refer to.

When play resumes, Sikh Hunters immediately reduce the deficit when they go up the field and one of their forwards rifles in a shot in to the top right hand corner.

Sadly for them it's the hosts who continue to pose the greater goal threat.

They score 3 more goals in this half and probably could have scored one or two more.  

Their last goal near the end of the match kind of sums up Sikh Hunters woeful defensive display today. With the ball on the left, the Hunters No.7, instead of kicking the ball up field, manages to slice the ball over to the right to a waiting United player and they eventually score from close in even though it looks like the Hunters defence could stop them. They just look totally demoralised by now.

Thankfully the final whistle is blown soon after and today's win propels Wolverhampton United up to 4th place. Hopefully Sikh Hunters can get a morale boosting win soon, as they looked short on confidence.

So a new ground and plenty of goals, so it's turned out to be a better day today than I thought it would, after the earlier wind and rain.

Match attendance: 15
Match entrance fee: free
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment: 7/10 


Monday, 9 November 2015


Today I am watching the match between Bartestree and St.Martins in the West Midlands League, Division 1. Bartestree is a village just 4 miles to the east of the city of Hereford, while St.Martins hail from the Shropshire border town of Oswestry and ground share at the Welsh League champions, The New Saints.

The weather has been windy with rain this morning but is going to be just cloudy with sunny spells this afternoon and it's mild again. I have made the train journey to Hereford without any problems and have checked the bus time to Bartestree to be 1:15pm, (the game starts at 2pm) which gives me enough time to get a fish & chips at the bus station cafe. I also check by phone with the club's secretary to confirm that the match is definitely going ahead. 

When I catch the No.476 bus that goes to Ledbury it takes us over the bridge over the River Lugg then through the village of Lugwardine and I get off at the stop in Bartestree just past the club's ground.

It's set in the rolling hills of the Herefordshire countryside. The football club was only formed in 1992. When I go past the sign at the ground entrance I walk along the path which lies at northern end of the pitch. The club's Vice-Chairman is waiting as he is collecting the entrance fee and selling match programmes. He tells me that in a few weeks there is going to be a small stand constructed on the western side of the pitch to give some cover for spectators and the club have received permission to install floodlights at the end of the season.

He directs me to the club house where I can buy a cup of tea and also says there are club badges for sale. I can see that there is a slight slope down to the far end of the football pitch. There is hard standing on the western side with the modern looking dug outs on the other, with a hedge at the back of the far end. Behind the western side of the pitch is located the Village Hall. At the back of this is the cricket ground and another football pitch, overlooked by the club house and changing rooms.

After buying my pre-match cuppa, club badge and raffle tickets, I make my way to the pitch where the teams come out. Bartestree are in their black and white striped shirts, black shorts and white socks. St.Martins are in yellow shirts and black shorts.

Bartestree having been struggling so far this season and currently occupy 14th place while St.Martins are in a healthy fifth place.

The first ten minutes sees a pretty even game with both sides having shots that fly over the bar.

Then Bartestree are the dominant team and create several chances before taking the lead after 20 minutes when their No.8 backheads a cross which had eluded the visitors keeper.

This stings St.Martins in to action and they have equalised just 4 minutes later. They are awarded a penalty when a Bartestree defender is adjudged to have handled the ball while sliding in to tackle pacy centre-forward, James Melusi, (as shown below).

The penalty is put away for the equaliser and this is becoming one of the best games I have seen so far this season. It's an open flowing match with both sides willing to attack.

Bartestree retake the lead in the 37th minute when their No.5 slots home with a shot. Then in the 40th minute, Bartestree's top scorer, Shaun Prince shoots in to the side netting after running on to a ball that's played over the keeper.

So the first half ends with the home side winning 2-1 and it looks as if there should be more goals to come. I find it hard to believe that Bartestree are in the bottom half of the table after watching them today.

I find myself walking behind the players when I make my way to the club house.

 While I'm there, the draw is done for the raffle and I win the second prize of a packet of biscuits! 

I decide to take position by the goal at the end where Bartestree will be attacking for the next 45 minutes. I have seen 2 other photographers snapping away this afternoon. Dave Matthews the Vice-Chairman, who is also the Programme Editor is taking some. One of his photos adorns the cover of today's programme, which is a good standard publication. Also there is a guy who is taking photos with a good quality compact camera and I think he might be with the St.Martins club.

The home team go on the attack again in the early stages of this half and within 6 minutes they have increased their lead when Darren Andrews scores with a good shot from the right and he is enthusiastically congratulated by his team mates (as shown below).

This sets the tone for the rest of the half with the home team having the greater share of the play.

Shaun Prince goes close to scoring with a glancing header and a shot that is saved by the keeper. Then he has a free kick after 30 minutes that is tipped over the bar.

St.Martins occasionally threaten and have a free kick that just goes over the bar.

                  ( Bartestree's Mark Cooper goes on a run late in the second half) 

After 34 minutes the Bartestree No.11, Mark Cooper, receives the ball from a quickly taken free kick, cuts in from the left and his shot is well saved.

Then after 41 minutes, a great cross from the right is met by the home sides No.8 and his header skims just over the bar. That would have been a great goal!

So Bartestree have triumphed today 3-1 against a team that on paper I thought would have probably beaten them. I think Bartestree are probably in a false position and will start climbing up the table soon.

St.Martins have played their part in an entertaining match and although they fell away in the second half I think they will finish in the top half of the table.

I would recommend visiting Bartestree if you have never been before, as they are a friendly, well run club and they have a good quality playing surface that makes it easier to play good football.

I pay the price of not checking the times of return buses to Hereford before I set out this morning and rather than wait for the next one at 5:30pm ( a wait of 1.5 hours) I decide to walk all the way back to Hereford, which is not that bad as it's nice countryside with some good views, at one point I can see the Black Mountains on the Welsh border.

Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: £1
Match attendance: 33
Match entertainment: 8.5/10   

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


I am heading off to an FA Vase 1st Round cup tie at high flying Highgate United today. This will enable me to meet up with friends in nearby Birmingham later on. Another reason for my choice today is that Highgate's opponents are Radcliffe Olympic who hail from near Nottingham, play in the East Midland Counties League and will be the first team from that league that I will have seen.

It's an un-seasonly warm and sunny day for the end of October, great for playing and watching football. I get off the train at Whitlock's End station, with plenty of time to spare. I see that the football ground, directly opposite the rail station, which was the former home of the defunct Shirley Town, looks to be in good nick. I'm later informed by a fellow spectator at the match, that the ground might be used for Sunday football now. 

This area is a veritable hot spot of football grounds. Just round the corner down Tythe Barn Lane on the left is the pitch where ladies team, Leafield Athletic play and to the right can be found where the Wychall Wanderers veterans team (including former Villa favourite, Stillian Petrov, ply their trade on a Sunday.

Just a few yards further down and I am at the entrance to Highgate's ground, called 'The Coppice'.

I have been here twice before, once to see Highgate in an FA Cup match and then 2 years ago I saw their then ground sharing tenants, Blackwood, who are now defunct. Their ground sharers these days are Midland Div 2 team, Barnt Green Spartak.

The club's club house has had a recent makeover, the changing rooms are now in the same process and the stand which which runs along the whole of the nearest side of the football ground has had some much needed repair work.

The club had been demoted 2 years ago due to ground grading problems, duly finished champions last season and are now occupying a healthy fifth place in the Premier Division. So the future is definitely looking more rosy for the hosts. Their opponents are currently lying in a mid table position in the East Midland Counties League.

Highgate take to the field in their usual all red strip and Radcliffe are in red and blue striped shirts, blue shorts and socks.

It's a scrappy first half with Radcliffe looking to play an offside trap at every opportunity.

                   (Highgate midfielder, Dale Taylor, finds his way blocked)

This ploy backfires in the 13th minute when the ball is slipped through to Highgate's No.11 and top scorer, Lei Smith who only has to take the ball round stranded keeper Hadlee Dunne and stroke the ball home in to the empty net.

                          (Lei Brown fires in another shot on the Radcliffe goal)

Radcliffe's best chance comes after 28 minutes when a free kick from the right finds their No.11, Ian Yeomans, unmarked but he heads wide. Seven minutes later and again the ball is passed through to Lei Brown who the Olympic defence think is offside and he takes full advantage to place the ball past Dunne to double the lead. 

The Radcliffe No.5, Liam Motson just keeps complaining to the linesman and referee and results in his inevitable yellow card (as shown below).

There is no further score and the hosts are looking well set to progress to the 2nd Round. Radcliffe though have other ideas and start the 2nd half well.

They are rewarded for their attacking efforts after 58 minutes when after some sloppy play by the Highgate defence, Radcliffe are awarded a throw in on the right. The throw is received by their most dangerous player, Ryan Smith who passes to his left for their No.9 Jack Smith to run on to the ball and slot it in to the far corner of the net.

Ryan Smith then sees his shot saved well soon after by Highgate keeper Bradley Catlow.

                 (Highgate player, Connor Mooney is well marked in this attack)

The home side though take control of the game for the last 20 minutes and could have scored several more goals if it wasn't for the heroics of the Radcliffe keeper and some wasteful finishing.

                           (Lei Brown makes another attack on the Radcliffe goal)

They do make sure of their win though when the impressive Lei Brown runs down the left and delivers a great cross for his fellow striker, Shane Benjamin, to plant a powerful header in to the Olympic net in the 76th minute. 

Highgate finish well on top although they don't add to their tally. So in the end Highgate United have deservedly gone through to the next round where they will travel to play Nuneaton Griff who are top of the table in the MFL 1st Division and have been scoring prolificly. Should be interesting!

Match attendance: 46
Match entrance fee: £6
Match programme: £1.50p
Match entertainment: 6.5/10