Tuesday, 2 February 2016
After several weeks out of action I will be finally reporting on a game today. Mainly due to the poor weather I haven't been able to see a match so far this year apart from last week, when I travelled to the village of Fairfield near Bromsgrove with a view to seeing Fairfield Villa in action against local rivals Droitwich Spa, only to find a deserted ground. I did manage to get to see nearby Bromsgrove Sporting play but as I had got there 10 minutes late (and missing the first goal in the process) , I didn't feel in the mood to take any photos but I did see Sporting put on a good display of attacking football in beating Bolehall Swifts 4-1.
The fixture I have plumped for today is the FA Vase 5th Round tie between Midland Football League, Div 1 high fliers, Nuneaton Griff v Salisbury (league leaders of the Wessex League, Premier Division), who are managed by ex-football league footballer and TV pundit, Steve Claridge.
I have no problems on the journey by train, apart from having to sort out my tickets at Birmingham upon discovering that I had been sold a return journey to Nottingham rather than Nuneaton. Uhh?
Although I arrive at Nuneaton, 30 minutes later than planned I still have time for a wander round and get something to eat.
There is a street market in the town centre on a Saturday but I don't have time for that today. Instead I have gone to the Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery where I have some lunch and looked at the small exhibitions. I find out in the museum that the area used to be famous for it's coal mining, as part of the North Warwickshire coalfield and one of the local pits was called Griff Colliery, situated in the village of Chilvers Coton (now part of the town). I find out later that Nuneaton Griff were formed in 1972. Called at first by the name of 'Nuneaton Amateurs' most of the players moved to play at the Nuneaton Griff & Coton Miners Welfare Ground, hence the present name!
The Museum is situated in Riversley Park and is just a short walk away from the Pingles Stadium where Nuneaton Griff play. You just follow the path along side the Wem Brook (which is nearly flooding) through the tunnel underneath the railway line and the sports complex where the ground is situated immediately comes in to view. The entrance is round the back past the car park, which judging by the number of parked cars and coaches bodes well for a good sized crowd today.
The stadium is a sports centre for the local community, which includes swimming pools, tennis courts, a gym and an athletics track which encloses the football pitch. It's my first visit to this stadium.
When I get in to the ground, I look for the club secretary, Peter Kemp, who I'd emailed yesterday to ask about taking photos. I soon find him inside the hospitality area and he tells me that I can take photos on the running track. When I get outside I can see there are another 4 photographers.
I decide to camp myself on the side opposite the main stand (seating for 450 spectators) but soon a steward tells me and the rest of the fans that we have to move to behind the barriers either side of us about 20 feet away both ways. I quickly tell him that I have been given permission to take photos and he tells me that I am welcome to go by the nearest goal. I do and also grab a chair that has been left on the track, as I don't want to spoil the fans view, who are behind me. Soon after I have settled down the teams come on to the pitch to big cheers from the crowd, which is comprised of a large contingent of Salisbury fans.
Nuneaton are in their usual blue and white striped shirts, blue shorts and socks while Salisbury are in their change kit of red shirts, white shorts and socks.
Salisbury kick-off in to a stiff wind attacking the goal at the end where I'm seated.
(Running track in view behind the players with ball boy ready to help)
Nuneaton are the first to go close to scoring with midfielder Brehon just shooting wide and then their No.9, Ashby, has a shot blocked by Searle the Salisbury keeper.
Salisbury are looking dangerous though, especially their speedy left-winger, Daniel Young, who is proving to be a handful for the home defenders.
They take the lead after 32 minutes when midfielder, Callum Brockway is brought down in the area. No.9, Sam Wilson scores from the spot to put the visitors in to the lead (as shown below).
Salisbury also have a shot cleared off the line by Griff full-back, Anton Astley.
When half-time comes it's still 0-1 to Salisbury and with the way things are going I can't see Nuneaton Griff getting back in to the game as the visitors defence have been playing very well so far.
I notice that a lot of fans have gone to stand in the area where we had been told to vacate before the start of the match. It's a shame that there is a running track around this pitch but with a big crowd, there is plenty of atmosphere.
Nuneaton Griff start the second half in determined mood in their best spell of the match and after seven minutes are awarded a penalty, when their forward John Ruff is brought down after a good run in to the penalty area.
Defender, Ashley Wilks takes the kick but Searle dives to his left to claw away the ball for a great save! Could this be a turning point in this tie?
Although Nuneaton are trying very hard to get back in to the game, Salisbury are looking to be more in control of the game, the longer it goes on.
Both sides bring on all their substitutes in a bid to win this match between the 52nd and 75th minutes and soon after Salisbury's No.10, Brian Munday, has to go off injured.
Nuneaton twice go close to equalising but the next goal is scored by that man Wilson again in the 85th minute and are now looking the likely winners.
I decide to stop taking any more photos now, as the light levels are far too low for my camera and the call of nature is proving to be too strong for me in these cold conditions.
While walking back along the pitch, Salisbury score again through Sam Wilson in injury time, courtesy of a deflected shot, to complete his team's win and his hat-trick.
So the Wessex League leaders are through to the 6th Round and must be one of the competition's favourites. Nuneaton Griff have put up a very good display today against higher ranked opposition and will be looking to improve their league position. Promotion looks to be a tall order, with them currently in 5th place and 11 points behind leaders Bromsgrove Sporting.
I make my way to the local shopping centre and have a warming cup of coffee before going back to the train station.
Match attendance: 870
Match entrance fee: £5
Match programme: £1.50p
Match entertainment: 6/10