Friday, 17 November 2017

FC Elmstead - The Dale



FC Elmstead
(groundshare with Holmesdale FC)
The Dale
7 Oakley Road
Bromley
Kent
BR2 8HQ










Ground Number: 743
Friday 17th November 2017
FC Elmstead 1-3 K Sports
SCEL D1






FC ELMSTEAD - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was founded in 1958 as Elmstead Rovers, changing their name to the present one in 1964. After starting out as a Sunday League side, they progressed to local Saturday football. The club has progressed greatly in recent years. After joining the Kent County in 2013, they enjoyed two promotions in a row. Firstly in 2013/14, they finished as runners-up to Stansfield OBC Reserves in Division 3 West and then again to the same team in Division 2 West in 2014/15. In 2015 they joined the Kent Invicta League. This was rebranded as the Southern Counties East League Division 1 the following season and FC Elmstead have posted two 11th place finishes so far. This season, they have improved greatly and are in 4th place prior to tonight's game.

FC Elmstead have not yet entered the FA Cup, but they do have a couple of years FA Vase experience under their belt. They made their best progress last season - beating Southwick and AFC Uckfield before losing to Sporting Club Thamesmead in the 1st Round. The most famous player to play for FC Elmstead is defender Colin Foster - he went on to play for Nottingham Forest, West Ham United, Leyton Orient & Watford. The club have been based in Chislehurst and Coney Hall in the past, but currently groundshare at Holmesdale FC in Bromley



MY VISIT


I always enjoy a bit of Friday night football but had been unable to find any for around a month. What with the weather getting worse, the choice was limited, so I was glad when FC Elmstead announced a home game on this Friday. It had the bonus of being doable on the train, meaning that I'd be able to leave my car at the station and use the train for the most part. The only drawback was that the ground was a couple of miles away from the station, but at least buses were fairly regular.  After checking the weather earlier in the week, I spent the latter half looking forward to the game but was unsure whether to stop in central London en route or go straight to Bromley. On the day of the game, it was a busy day at work, and I didn't get out until 1,15, after buying some shopping. I came home, had some burgers for lunch before having a bath. I had a few things to sort out at home, so after getting ready, I left at 3.25. My decision had been made for me with regards to what to do before the game, with time not on my side, I decided to go straight to Bromley South station.



I got to a side road near Amersham station and parked up. Typically, I just missed the train. The platform was very busy and despite charging peak prices, they were offering an off-peak service, with another 20 minutes to wait until the next train. I got the train at 4.06 and was glad to grab a single seat. I read my paper and listened to the Two Mikes podcast to pass the time. After changing at Marylebone, Oxford Circus and Victoria, I got to Bromley South station at 5.35. It was straight across the road to Wetherspoons number 148, the Richmal Compton where I had their festive chicken and stuffing burger. I had to make do with Strongbow as they were out of Thatchers Gold, but it was decent for £8. Even if they diddled me out of the two pigs in blankets, a point that I couldn't be bothered to raise, even if they are my favourite thing about Christmas. With the other Wetherspoons in Bromley being a mile away in the opposite direction and me not fancying another pint, I decided to walk the 2.5 miles to the ground. I got there at 7.15, seeing Dulwich fan and groundhopper in denial Mishi at the turnstile. Entry was a good value £6 including programme and after getting some pictures of the bar, I went outside to get some snaps of the ground. There were no flat pack stands here, it was refreshing to see everything built from scratch, with the ground in a nice setting too.



The game started off bang on time, maybe a bit early in fact. The first chance fell to the hosts, with a low shot behind flicked wide of the right-hand post and it was indeed Elmstead that started the brightest. K Sports fashioned a similar chance on 10 minutes as the sought away back into the game, with one of their players requiring brief treatment as he collided with the pitch surround. It was 1-0 to the visitors on 17 minutes, a diagonal ball played into the box and a low finish from the edge of the six-yard box by James Alderman. The visitors had capitalised on a spell of dominance, but the hosts kept having chances of their own. It was 2-0 on 31 minutes after poor marking allowed Bailey Pearce to finish with a low shot from the edge of the area. FC Elmstead grabbed a goal back six minutes from the break as the visiting defence was caught napping and Charlie Sharman finished from just inside the area. The halftime break came and I got a decent portion of chips from the tea bar. The hosts came close to equalising on 49 minutes, the K Sports keeper needing to be at his best to tip a speculative shot over the bar. Ten minutes into the second half, the visitors sealed the game, an initial shot was saved, but Caine Smith followed up by chipping the ball over the stranded keeper. Both sides had chances after that, most notably the home side had a shot cleared off the line, but it wasn't to be their night. The visitors slowed the pace of the game down and as a result, the last 20 minutes saw very few chances.



After the game, it was just under 10 minutes to the bus stop, as I didn't fancy the long walk. I went via Orpington station this time, as it was slightly more convenient. The bus got to the station just after 10 and I then had just over 10 minutes to wait before my train. I went to London Bridge, ironically one of my favourite parts of London, what with it having Borough Market and a few good pubs. The market was long closed and I avoided the temptation of a pint as I had to drive after my train journey. The train was really smart, nice and modern with tables and comfy seats, me wishing they were all like this. It was a fair walk to get to the underground station, which was a lot busier. I was just a bit too late to get the earlier train, but after changes at Finchley Road and Harrow on the Hill, I got back to Amersham at just after midnight. It took me another 20 minutes to get home after walking back to my car. I got in and had a can of cider whilst writing this blog and watching YouTube videos, having enjoyed my end to the week.



THE GROUND 

The Dale or Oakley Road as it is sometimes known is a classic non-league ground. Both the areas of cover have a very rustic feel to them, built with scaffolding. The seated stand is steep and as such offers good views, despite the supporting poles. The seats are padded too and the stand holds just over a hundred undercover. There is standing behind the goal for the same amount under cover, whilst the rest of the ground is open and despite being old is well kept. 

There's an average bar and a decent tea bar present, but no club shop that I saw. The ground is a bit off the beaten track and you face a fair walk (or a bus) from either Bromley or Orpington. The former is probably your best bet if you fancy something pre-match - it has two Wetherspoons and a range of other pubs and food places. It's also the nearest town. Parking at the ground is limited, but there is a fair amount of street parking available. 

SCORES ON THE DOORS

1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
A classic non-league ground, worth a visit and offers all the cover you will need on a normal match day (8)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
A few bus routes are a short walk away, parking limited, not much in the immediate vicinity (5)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness

A nice welcome at the turnstile. (7)

4: Value for money
Common sense value at £6 including programme (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Interactive Twitter, website not up to much though (7)

6: Programme
Cover price of £1, few bits to read and some stats (7)

7: Game entertainment
A decent clash lost its spark towards the end (6)

8: Tea Bar
Burgers, chips and hot drinks, more than most at this level (7)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Basic but homely (5)

10: Club Shop
N/A

TOTAL SCORE OUT OF A POSSIBLE 90: 59
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.56


GROUND PHOTOS

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Desborough Town - Waterworks Field



Desborough Town
Waterworks Field
Braybrooke Road
Desborough
Northamptonshire
NN14 2LJ

01536 761350







Ground Number: 742
Tuesday 14th November 2017
Desborough Town - Kirby Muxloe
United Counties League - Premier Division






DESBOROUGH TOWN FC - A BRIEF HISTORY


The club was formed in 1896 and joined the Northamptonshire League in their first season. This became the United Counties League in 1934 and Desborough Town have played here for their entire history, save for a break during the second world war. Incredibly, they have remained in the top tier of the league for the entirety of their stay, though they had seasons to forget in 1955 and 1956 as they gained just one league win in the latter season and finished bottom of the league for the only times in their history. They've been champions on nine occasions, though not since 1966 and runners-up on a further six occasions. Recent seasons have tended to produce bottom-half finishes, with last season's 4th place finish being their best since 2007/08. This season, they've done fairly well and sat in 10th prior to tonight's clash.

Desborough Town reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup for the first and only time in their history in 1926. They travelled to football league side Doncaster Rovers and were eight minutes away from gaining a home replay before the game was abandoned due to fog. They lost the rescheduled match 3-0 and in recent times their best effort has been the 2nd Qualifying Round, last reached in 1996 when they lost to Bilston Town with a replay. Desborough had a barren run in the FA Trophy in the 1970's, but have had a few good runs in the FA Vase. Their best progress came in 1980 when they defeated Newfoundpool WMC, Stapenhill, Ledbury Town, Rushden Town and Friar Lane Old Boys before a 5th Round defeat to eventual winners, Stamford. Local cup wins include the United Counties League Cup twice, the Northampton Senior Cup four times, the Northampton Junior Cup five times and the Maunsell Cup in 1924.



MY VISIT


I'd been wanting to visit Desborough Town for a while, but on the occasions that it did come up as an option, I'd avoided it due to the weather looking ropey and there being no backups nearby. This week, however, there were no such issues forecast and with it being the closest ground, that myself and fellow groundhopper Anwar had yet to visit, so we planned it in. The night before, I was in bed asleep by around 9.15, hoping to get a decent night's sleep in. I managed that, but still woke around 6 am which was annoying.  After watching TV in bed for a couple of hours, I woke up and had some eggy bread for breakfast. After a bath and getting dressed, I did my usual day off ritual of walking down town before getting a lift back with my Dad. After lunch, I spent the afternoon watching TV and updating my blog for tonight and other upcoming games. I needed to get some fuel for tonight's game, so I left home at 4.15. Annoyingly, my local station was closed, so I'd have to get some en route. Surprisingly, the usually overpriced 'Jet' station was the same price as Morrisons had been that morning, so I filled right up with diesel.



I met Anwar at 5 and we were soon on our way. There was the usual slow getting out of Aylesbury and then through the roundabout loving Milton Keynes. All the constant directions on the sat nav were annoying when I was trying to listen to the confession on Simon Mayo's Radio 2 show. We got to Desborough at 7 and went in search of food. With it being a very small town, there were not many choices for dinner that were immediately obvious. All too often, the lack of competition, the prices are expensive and portions small, but not in this case. We went to TA Brothers Fish Bar where I had spring roll and chips for £2.50. Everything was freshly cooked, portions were decent and it tasted nice, so a thumbs up from me. It was also nice to be able to eat our dinner in the warm shop, rather than outside, albeit standing up. We got to the ground at 7.30, paying a bargain £5 to get in, plus another £1 for a programme. After getting some pictures of the ground, we settled down along the side, near the halfway line and waited for the game to start. Desborough had triumphed 7-4 against Pinxton in the FA Vase at the weekend in a real goalfest, whilst Kirby Muxloe had won 5-2 at Sleaford in the league. I was, therefore, hoping for a few goals, but it turned out not to be the case.



Before the game, the referee James Wetherall called the two captains together, asking for their support. 'We're only human, we might make mistakes, but please respect us' were his words, which seemed fair enough. One of the Kirby Muxloe bench had a bit of a whinge at a few decisions, but there was no bad language, which was a nice change from other games at this level. The visitors would have been happy with their start, with them forcing a series of corners early on and restricting Desborough to very little play. One of the Kirby Muxloe forwards charged home keeper Chris Jones and though a free kick was rightly given, it didn't stop the custodian making a couple of great saves. It was still goalless at the break and although Desborough had a great chance at the start of the second half, it was Kirby Muxloe who took the lead five minutes into the second period. Home keeper Jones lost track of the ball and felled a Kirby Muxloe forward. A penalty was awarded and with a successful conversion, the visitors led 1-0.  Kirby Muxloe remained on top throughout and despite a late rally by Desborough, they hung on. There was a brief delay near the end, as the balls had run out, meaning that after sorting my stuff out, we didn't leave until 9.45. Listening to the football on the way home, with England having drawn 0-0 with Brazil and Ireland having crashed 5-1 at home to Denmark, I dopped Anwar off at 11.05. I got home myself at 11.30 and after staying up for around 25 minutes drifted off to sleep around midnight.



THE GROUND

The Waterworks Field is one of the better grounds at step 5 and has plenty of cover. The old stand has bench seating and a capacity of 250. There's further cover to the right-hand side and also behind the goal for a further 800 spectators (approx) With the rest of the ground being open, there's an overall capacity of around 2000. The town is close by and has a decent choice, whilst at the ground is a bar, although I didn't encounter the tea bar.

SCORES ON THE DOORS

1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
A decent venue (7)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)

Parking limited, around half a mile from town (6)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
A nice welcome (7)

4: Value for money
A fiver at this level is excellent (8)

5: Social Media & Website
Reasonably regular updates on both (7)

6: Programme
Not a huge amount to read, had all the essentials and only £1 (7)

7: Game entertainment
Average, a little one sided (5)

8: Tea Bar
Didn't see (-)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Cosy, not a huge selection, had Doombar for real ale drinkers (6)

10: Club Shop
N/A (-)

TOTAL SCORE OUT OF 80: 53
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.63


GROUND PHOTOS

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Gornal Athletic - Gornal Walk Stadium



Gornal Athletic FC
Garden Walk Stadium
Garden Walk
Dudley
West Midlands
DY3 2NR









Ground Number: 741
Saturday 11th November 2017
Gornal Athletic 1-0 Willenhall Town
West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1




GORNAL ATHLETIC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was formed in 1945 and were known as Lower Gornal Athletic until a name change in 1972. They started out in the Worcestershire Combination, with finishes ranging three 5th places to a low of rock bottom in 1955. In 1963, they joined the West Midlands Regional League, finishing 4th two years later and staying in the Premier Division until relegation in 1980. A long spell in Division 1 followed, with Gornal Athletic remaining here until 1994 when they finished runners-up behind Stafford Town. A mixed spell followed and although the club would drop back down to the second tier for the 2003/04 season, they bounced straight back as champions. This sparked one of the most successful spells in the club's history with them finishing as runners-up to Tividale in 2011, before winning the WMRL Premier the following year. This earned Gornal Athletic promotion to the Midland Alliance and 2012/13 saw the best finish in the club's history with a 3rd place in what was then a step 5 league. Their joy was short-lived however and the club was relegated back to the West Midlands (Regional) League in 2014. Despite a brief recovery in the 2014/15 season, where Gornal finished 3rd in the WMRL Premier, the poor form continued, culminating in relegation to the WMRL Division 1 at the end of last season. This season has seen a slight improvement in results, with the club sitting in 7th place prior to today's game.

Gornal Athletic's best ever run in the FA Cup came during the 1975/76 season. Starting in the 1st Qualifying Round, they beat Highgate United and Belper Town before going out to Nuneaton Borough after a 3-0 Third Qualifying Round replay. Four seasons previously, they reached the same stage of the FA Trophy, but they have mainly come in the FA Vase. The best run came in 2012/13 as Gornal Athletic beat Atherstone Town, Nuneaton Griff,
 Lye Town, Coventry Sphinx, Boston Town, Wisbech Town & Bodmin Town before a 3-1 Quarter Final defeat to eventual winners Spennymoor Town. Local honours include the Birmingham Midweek Cup, won in 2012 with a 3-0 victory over Black Country Rangers. Gornal is made up of two parts - Lower Gornal and Upper Gornal and is a part of Dudley. The population of Gornal is 12,992 and famous residents have included the former BBC Newsreader Sue Lawley.



MY VISIT

Back in mid-October, I realised that I had a free weekend for two weeks in a row. As ever I was keen to cut down on driving and so I decided that a trip on the train was in order. The previous week, I had been to London and more specifically Croydon, and so wanted to go somewhere different. Thanks to booking a couple of weeks or so in advance, I was able to secure a return from High Wycombe to Birmingham, plus bus options at either end for a shade over £17. Initially, I'd been hoping to go to Wolverhampton Sporting Club v Rugby Town in what looked a very good FA Vase tie. However, my bus ticket didn't stretch that far and not wanting to waste it, I started looking closer to Birmingham. Bustleholme and Cadbury Athletic were the closest options, both under an hour away.  When I put some options out on Twitter to garner opinion, it was spotted by Gornal Athletic's physio Wayne Shakespeare who recommended going to their game. After looking online and seeing that their ground looked very good, I was sold and planned the game in, with it being an hour and ten minutes away on the bus. Gornal had been relegated from step 6 football at the end of last season but were still in a pretty strong league. Their game was against another club who had played at a higher level but had also fallen on hard times lately. Whilst Gornal were looking comfortable in 7th place, Willenhall were rock bottom, having played Southern League football as recently as ten years ago.





On Thursday night, I started doing my research for the game. There was an incredible array of pubs worth visiting - in Birmingham, in Dudley and even in the village of Lower Gornal itself. As a huge fan of trying new ciders, I'd be in my element, but I'd have to be careful as I have a penchant for falling asleep after a few drinks - which would prove disastrous if I missed the match or my train. I also looked further at Willenhall's decline, which was astonishing. They'd already lost 13-0, 11-0, 9-0, 9-2 and 7-1 prior to their latest 10-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Casuals on Tuesday. In fact, their only win of the season had come on the 14th October as they won 3-2 away to Telford Juniors. Gornal Athletic were fresh off of a 4-0 victory against Bromyard Town. I noticed that the league had already had three clubs resign so far this season, Barterstree, Penncroft and Shenstone Pathfinders had all opted not to continue at various points through the season - I don't think I've seen a league with so many flaky clubs. 



The night before, I watched the England v Germany game on TV. Usually, I’d be disappointed with a goalless draw, but on this occasion, a very inexperienced team did well, and it was nice to be positive about our national team for once. I had a few drinks with the game, more than intended, but still ended up going to bed around 11. On the day of the game, I woke around 6 am, usually, that would be annoying, but I’d set my alarm for 6.50 anyway. It was a pleasant autumnal morning, albeit a bit drizzly but after getting watching some YouTube videos, I got out of bed when my alarm sounded. I got dressed, had a cranberry juice and left home at 7.10. Ten minutes later, I was on the bus, thanks to a plus bus ticket that cost me 10p less than a single would have. I had an hour to kill before my train, so went in search of breakfast. Hardly anywhere was open, so I had to settle for a McDonalds Sausage and Egg Bagel. It was ok, but I’d have preferred a Subway. Poundland also didn’t open until 9 so I couldn’t get any drinks for my journey. I got to the train station at 8 and with half an hour until my train, I bought a Daily Star to read. I got the 8.36 train which arrived in Birmingham at 10.15 after a delay at Solihull due to a 'distressed passenger'.



First stop was Poundland for drinks and a USB cable to charge my phone as the one I'd bought with me wasn't working properly. With my phone battery down to 50%, it was a godsend. I had a quick look around some other shops before getting the 11.00 bus to Dudley. Usefully, it had a socket to charge my phone, so I didn't need to use my power bank. I got to Dudley at 11.50 and after a brief look around the shops, I headed for my first pub. The Court House was a cracking place with a good range of ale and cider. I opted for a Napton Red Devil, made in Southam which was excellent. The pub was also playing some good music, with no modern rubbish. My second stop was Fellows, owned by Holden's Brewery and doing their own cider called Marcher Lords. Another good musical selection was present, I was feeling a bit envious of people who had these pubs on their doorstep, rather than the limited selection in Wycombe. After that, I went to Pound Bakery, having a festive turkey slice where the filling was as hot as lava, meaning I burned my lip badly, but it was tasty all the same. I got a bus at 1.50, with the journey to Gornal taking around 25 minutes. By 2.15 I was in Gornal, stopping at a pub called The Old Bulls Head for a pint of Black Rat. It was one I've had before, but was very nice, Gornal seeming a big place for a village.


Gornal had a marvellous ground for the level. I paid £4 to get in, plus £1 for a programme and had a walk around the ground. There were huge amounts of terracing and plenty more of interest. Gornal started on the front foot and hit the bar in the opening minute and then again 8 minutes in as they looked for the win. Despite chances for both sides, it was goalless at the break. The second half saw the contest die down a bit, both sides had half chances to nick it. The hosts got a late winner, around five minutes from time, a scrappy effort which I caught on video. It was harsh on Willenhall, who had battled hard after a shaky start, but that's the way your luck goes when you are down the bottom. I walked back to the bus stop and was lucky enough to get there at the same time as the bus. I decided to go straight back to Birmingham, rather than stay in Dudley.


I got back to Brum about 6.25 and headed for the Post Office Vaults. Unusually, I found it easily and was glad when I found the usual 15 ciders on tap. First up was a Betws Cider, which was very tasty as all Welsh ones tend to be. The place was rammed and with no phone signal, I was grateful for their WiFi. Another half, of the Village Green dry was sampled before I was out of time. I walked to Moor Street, a more complicated operation than it should have been to get my train. I didn’t get to eat though, the risk of missing my train too great for a quick nip to a takeaway.  I arrived a few minutes before my train departed at 7.55 with me getting back to Wycombe at 9.30. I went to the Chinese in Wycombe, Peking House located right outside the station and offering spring rolls and salt and chilli chips for £4. Suitably fed, I walked to the bus station and caught the next bus to Hazlemere, a mile from home. I got through the door around 10.30, watching TV for 20 minutes before going to bed at 11.


THE GROUND

The GARDEN WALK STADIUM must be one of the biggest at their level, with a capacity of 3000. The bulk of this is on the side that you enter and is a huge bank of terracing with around a 2000 capacity. This also has a number of seats and a small area of cover. This is open, much like most of the ground, with the only cover being on the far side - a small stand containing around 50 seats and terracing for 150. There is a small bar and tea bar at the ground, although a surprisingly large choice of pubs and takeaways can be found in the nearby village.

SCORES ON THE DOORS

1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Excellent ground for the level, and well kept. (9)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Plenty of parking and food and drink choices (8)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Decent enough (7)

4: Value for money
Decent value for the level (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Had all the relevant info, sporadic updates on Twitter (5)

6: Programme
A good effort, especially for £1 (7)

7: Game entertainment
Started brightly, but faded (5)

8: Tea Bar
Good value and choice (7)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Small, but welcoming (6)

10: Club Shop
N/A (-)

TOTAL SCORE OUT OF 90: 62
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.77

GROUND PHOTOS