Wednesday, 30 November 2016


Today sees the much anticipated clash between local rivals, Droitwich Spa and Worcester Raiders in the semi-finals of the Worcestershire Junior Cup. Both teams have been in good form recently and Droitwich won against the Raiders in the Final of the competition last year by 3-2 in a very close game.

The Raiders chairman, Kevin Jenkins, has said in the local press that his team are looking to get revenge this time round. The 'Salt Men' of Droitwich will probably have different ideas though, especially after their record 10-1 league victory last week.

It's good weather today (a bit chilly) and after my short train journey from Worcester, have a cooked all day breakfast in town and then walk to the Spa's Briar Mill ground.

When I get there 10 minutes before kick-off (@2pm) I  have a chat with the Raiders secretary, George McPherson. He is a bit worried as his side have 2 regular defenders out today.

There looks to be a healthy 3 figure crowd today and I just know it's going to be a close game. Finally the 2 teams come out, with Droitwich in their home strip of red and black and the visitors in their alternative dark blue kit.

Straight from the kick-off, James Lemon puts through Nick Seabourne on the Raiders goal and his effort goes just the wrong side of the left hand post.

Both sides in the first 20 minutes fashion chances but it's the hosts who go in to the lead when in an attack down the left, the Worcester keeper, Dan Stevens, rushes out to the edge of his area to meet the Spa striker, James Lemon, changes his mind but it's too late as Lemon chips the stranded Stevens for an easy goal. 

From then on it's Droitwich who gain the upper hand and it's Lemon again in the 28th minute to score after being put through by Seabourne. Mr. McPherson's fears seem to have credibility. It gets worse for the visitors when the lively Luke Molloy heads home just 2 minutes later.

    (James Lemon hugs fellow forward, Nick Seabourne after scoring his 2nd goal)

Worcester Raiders have another set back when their No.5, Richard Tomkins, has to go off (as shown below) with an injury.

Fortunately it's not all doom and gloom for them, as they show their fighting spirit in the 42nd minute, by reducing the deficit when Martin Newman hits home from close range after the ball falls to him after a free kick from the left.

So 3-1 for 'the Spa' at half-time but Worcester Raiders are not down and out just yet.

Indeed they are getting more in to the game in the second half and after 13 minutes have a shot cleared off the line. Just 2 minutes later and they pull back another goal when their captain, Joel Hobbs, scores with a great near post header from a corner.

The almost inevitable equaliser comes from Martin Newman who smashes home his shot in to the roof of the net after good work on the right by Anthony Smith.

          (Martin Newman is mobbed by his team mates after hitting the equaliser)

Droitwich don't look such an attacking force in this half and a saved shot from Lemon is their only decent effort.

                                        (Worcester Raiders clear from this corner)

With full time and the prospect of a penalty shoot out looming, it's Raiders who seal a remarkable come back when their midfielder, Matt Tyler, shoots in to the net from the edge of the penalty area.

A few minutes later and it's all over. The Raiders are in the final and will face new club Montpellier, next April.

Most of the spectators here today would have agreed that this game was worthy of a final and it was also a great advert for the local football scene. So now Spa will have to focus more on their league campaign and Raiders will be looking to cut the points deficit with Hereford Lads Club in Div 1 of the West Midlands League.

Match entrance fee: free
Match attendance: 145
Match programme: £1
Match entertainment: 9/10

Monday, 14 November 2016


I visited Hereford for the second week running, as a local team of mine (Worcester Raiders) were playing the runaway leaders, Hereford Lads Club who have won all their 15 league games so far. I read in the Worcester News this morning that the Raiders Chairman, Kevin Jenkins, says the team are confident of a win today and will be bringing a coach load of supporters too!

It's a grey and drizzly day but with the promise of better weather, further west. I travel to Hereford OK on the train and after getting some lunch and a wander round the city centre, get to the ground just before kick-off at 2pm. Lads Club's ground is also the ground for the County FA and is situated very close to Westfield's Allpay Park, who are playing in the FA Vase today.

Lads Club are playing in a royal blue kit and Raiders are decked out in an all dark blue strip.

Lads Club go close after 10 minutes when their No.9 hits the bar with a header and in the early stages dominate the play. The Raiders defence is standing up well to the home sides lively attack and have certainly improved a lot from when I saw them in action in a pre-season friendly in July.

The Raiders threaten after 25 minutes when they have a shot on the right turned round for a corner and then take the lead when Martin Newman pounces to score from close range, eight minutes later.

Soon after Raiders forward, Richard Smith has a shot blocked by keeper Steve Bell and are well on top now. Their No.4 also shoots across Lads Club's goal but the league leaders do threaten in the last minute with a glancing header that just goes wide.

It's been a very lively and competitive 45 minutes and difficult to predict the outcome. I have talked to the photographer from the Hereford Times newspaper, Colin Maggs a bit and he is off now to the Westfields match. We both agree that the conditions today are making good quality photos difficult to take, with it drizzling when it was supposed to keep dry this afternoon. 

When play resumes it only takes 2 minutes for the visitors to extend their lead with their No.9, Nick MacPherson, shooting home after some good approach play on the right.

A few minutes later and things take a turn for the worse for the hosts when their No.11 is sent off for dissent apparently. This enables the Raiders to take control of the match and they look dangerous whenever they attack. In the 71st minute, the Lads Club keeper makes 2 very good saves in quick succession (shown below saving from striker Richard Smith).

The result is wrapped up by No.10, Richard Smith, when he beats a defender to the ball and then takes it round keeper Steve Bell before shooting in to the net from a tight angle (shown below taking congratulations from team mates).

A few minutes later and confusion reigns for a while when a Lads Club player goes back on to the pitch before be allowed to do so by the referee. The player is booked and then sent-off after swearing at the ref.

Richard Smith then heads wide a good chance from a corner.

There is a bit more drama near the end of the game when the Lads Club No.5 and manager, Danny Moon, moans at the linesman near me, something like, 'It's bad enough having just 9 players without having just ONE linesman!' He then moans some more at the official and then a Raiders fan who is stood nearby directs a comment to Mr.Moon saying that he's lucky to still be on the pitch. This results in expletives being directed at the fan and then the ref decides he's had enough and duly books the Lads Club manager.

I come across the Worcester Raiders secretary, George MacPherson, when I wander to the club house side of the pitch. He tells me that the club had indeed hired a coach but had been delayed a while in the traffic. This explains why it looked as though there were only about 30 spectators at the match when I arrived. 

The game ends soon after and the Worcester Raiders players are understandably elated.They have put in a great performance and I was particularly impressed by their defence. They have several games in hand on the teams above them and look to be good for a top 4 finish at least.

Lads Club definitely have some quality players in their side and it will be difficult for any other team even at this stage of the season to overhaul them, although Worcester Raiders who have 6 games in hand will give it a go I'm sure. 

Match attendance: approx 80
Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment value: 8/10  

Friday, 11 November 2016


On a glorious October day I have made the last minute decision to visit Hereford, for the intriguing FA Cup 1st Round tie between Westfields and Manchester based club, Curzon Ashton. It's been a great achievement for Step 5 club Westfields (Midland Football League, Prem Div) to get this far, albeit with the help of continual home draws after their Extra-Preliminary away win at Stourport Swifts (4-3).

They have had some great results in the previous rounds, most notably against Southern League Premier Div team, St Ives Town (4-0) and Leiston, the Ryman League Premier Div leaders (2-1).

Before I leave home to go the rail station I hear that the 'Football Focus' team headed by Dan Walker will be at Westfields today at 12pm. Yes, it's going to be quite an occasion.

I get to the ground at 2:10pm, to ensure I get a good vantage point and to be able to buy a match programme before they sell out. There are already plenty of supporters in the ground ( about 300) and I can see TV cameras dotted around Allpay Park.

Unfortunately by the time kick-off time arrives so have banks of cloud too, thus spoiling the sunny conditions that were originally forecast for the duration of the game.

When the teams come out, Westfields are in their usual claret & sky blue kit while Curzon are in a change strip of lime green shirts & black shorts and socks.

Curzon Ashton take control of the game but Westfields get awarded a penalty from their first attack when Aidan Thomas is adjudged to have been brought down in the penalty area. This is converted by Craig Jones past the Curzon keeper, Hakan Burton (as shown below).

The Westfield players and supporters go wild and I have difficulty in taking photos for a few seconds with all the jostling around me, ha ha! It's a great moment for the home team.

The game is turning out to be a cagey affair with Curzon dominating possession but Westfields looking more dangerous when they do manage to break out to counter-attack.

Home keeper, Kieron Blackburn, is called on to make 2 good saves to enable his team to keep their lead and Craig Jones reminds Curzon Ashton that Westfields are still a threat when he fizzes a free-kick over the bar just before half-time.

So it's 1-0 for Westfields and many of the home crowd must be wondering if their heroes can pull off a result today. The official attendance figure announced is 1178 and what would it have been had not Hereford FC been playing at home today?

After visiting the loo I decide to try and find a different spot to watch the match, as I had been facing a northerly wind and my hands had got very cold. My shutter finger at one point had seemed to lose all feeling! I find a more sheltered place at the side of the goal that Curzon Ashton will be attacking in the next 45 minutes and the sun decides to come out too!

When play resumes, the visitors pile on the pressure. They press the Westfields players very well and are quicker to the ball. 

Westfields defence though are well marshalled by their experienced skipper, Phil Glover. Curzon are faced by a wall of claret and blue whenever they attack. 

Despite Westfields 'parking the bus', Curzon do create chances. Joe Guest has strikes a shot against the post when he probably should have scored and later Neil Cummins puts the ball in to the net but is adjudged to be offside.

The home sides brave resistance is undone with just 9 minutes to go, when from a right wing corner, substitute Adam Morgan tucks the ball away after a header had bounced back off the cross bar. This sees some of the Curzon supporters stage a mini pitch invasion to celebrate their relief.

There are no more goals and it's probably a fair result, as Curzon for all their possession have not created that many chances. Both teams now go in to the hat for the 2nd Round draw. It's been a great occasion today and has given Westfields a taste of the big time in their 50th Anniversary year. Curzon Ashton are a club just 3 years older but have reached Step 2 in the Non-League pyramid, surely an inspiration to today's hosts.

Match attendance: 1,178
Match entrance fee: £10
Match programme: £1.50
Match entertainment: 7/10