Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Saltash United vs Liskeard Athletic (26/12/09)

‘East Cornwall Derby’

Match 64

Ground #: 36

Ground: Kimberley Stadium

Competition: Southwest Peninsula Premier League (Level 10)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £4

Programme: £1

Attendance: 206

Saltash United 4

Farnham 31’, Menhenick 49’, Hughes 60’, Coulton 74’

Liskeard Athletic 0

Kanakh s/off 70’

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I’ll start this by being honest, when I woke up on Boxing Day morning, I couldn’t even tell you where Saltash was on a map such was its insignificance to me. I had planned to go to Somerset to watch Wellington’s game against Ilfracombe, or if worse came to it, Taunton’s clash vs Frome Town. However the “P” machine shot them down early on due to waterlogged pitches when the frost and snow began to melt over the past few days. Not to worry, tons of games on in Devon such as Credition, Cullumpton, etc. All of them however by 11am went and it was down to Launceston to give me a game to go to today from my list. That crashed and burned by 11:30 and it was either find a game quick or spend the afternoon with Jeff Stelling. I found Saltash on the “Football Grounds Map” application on facebook (its very good) and decided to drive the 50 miles to see a game. Their local derby against Liskeard Athletic.

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Saltash is a small town on the Cornwall/Devon boarder and is commonly known as the “Gateway to Cornwall”. Famous landmarks now include the Tamar Bridge which allows people to cross from Devon to Cornwall over the River Tamar, and also the story of the Saltash Ferry which allowed fisherman to cross the Tamar at around 1190AD. Apart from that there isn’t really much here to distinguish it from other small towns, although it is the largest in East Cornwall. The drive down from North Devon was rather straight forward (been a while since I got lost looking for a ground!?) and I passed through Launceston which means I know how to get to their ground which will probably be done over Easter. When arriving at the Kimberley Stadium, I was rather impressed as it actually looked like a proper ground compared to Holsworthy (the other ground I’d visited in this league) and also ample parking. The ground has one stand, which has benches and the tea-hut built into it, where as the rest of the ground is hard standing with no cover and its railed off. The clubhouse was also very nice and modern (and warm!) as I popped in to have a gander and then did the nerdy thing of walking around the ground taking pictures of the place and standing out like a sore thumb.

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Saltash United moved to the Kimberley Stadium in 1951 when the first season of the South Western League began where Saltash finished 7th out of 12. They floated up and down in the SW League before joining the Western League in 1976, where they won the 1st Division at the first attempt and became a permanent fixture of the Western Premier from then. They had won the division 3 times before dropping back down to SW League level in 1995 as the costs of running a team at a higher level became too much. A 5th place finish in the SW Peninsula Premier last season suggests that the club would be in the higher reaches of the division this season and they were currently 14th (out of 20), however did have at least 5 games in hand over teams above them, so expect them to rocket up the table when they could actually play some matches. Their opponents were based only 14 miles away in East Cornwall, at Liskeard and had made the short journey down the A38 to this game. Liskeard had also been a Western League side until 1995 also and when they dropped back down to SW League level they had been doing ok until the newly formed SW Peninsula League was formed in 2007. Finishes of 13th and 16th and their current position of 17th (with no games in hand) suggest the team is struggling to avoid the drop down to SWP Division 1. However, with derby games, form goes out the window and this game was right up for grabs.

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For the 1st half I sat in the packed stand and watched a far better quality game than I had been expecting with both teams playing some decent stuff early on, even more impressive with the fact that the pitch was resembling a bog so any balls played along the floor were getting caught up along the floor. Saltash though began to press and right winger Carlton Farnham began to rip Liskeard’s left back repeatedly to create chances. He first missed a one-on-one chance which Liskeard’s goalie Ian Baker did well to smother. However it was 1-0 on 31 minutes when Farnham picked the ball up on the right wing, cut inside on the edge of the area and got a fairly weak shot away which Baker managed to balls up and let it roll in, 1-0. Saltash then looked to add more to their tally in the 1st half while Liskeard had been clearly knocked back by conceding that goal and let Saltash’s Hughes again get away for a one-on-one chance but this time he put it straight at the keeper. Towards the end of the half, Liskeard did finally have some possession and won a free kick from the edge of the area, but it came to nothing. It was only 1-0 at half-time and both sides could look to take the win.

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I moved around to the uncovered hard standing section behind the dugouts for the 2nd half where I instantly felt the cold sea wind hammering right at me and wondered whether this was a wise decision, in the end, an entertaining half of football made me all but forget the cold (until the final whistle where I couldn’t feel my feet) as Saltash continued where they had left off and battered the Liskeard goal. Ex Bideford striker Jamie Densham had the first chance of the 2nd half but his shot was well saved by Baker. From the corner however Saltash defender Chris Menhenick rose highest and his header seemed to be looping straight into the keepers hand, until for some unknown reason Baker decided to jump and catch it. His jump was awful and the ball sailed over him and went in for Saltash’s 2nd goal. Liskeard had chances to get one back as Saltash began to get sloppy in their play but good blocks and a shot off the line meant Saltash kept their 2 goal lead. There was a horror moment at around 55 minutes in when a Schumacher/Battiston 1982 World Cup moment, Liskeard goalkeeper Baker ran out and smashed straight into Saltash striker Sam Hughes who was clattered to the ground instantly. He was ok, just blood coming out of his nose and was cleaned up before being sent back on with plugs up his nose to stop the bleeding. He had only just come back on (only a drop-ball was awarded) when a Farnham shot which had been set up by Densham was spilled by Baker and there was Hughes, plugs an’ all, to tap in for #3 on the hour mark. Then Liskeard started to come back into the game, into a moment of utter stupidity from Liskeard midfielder Demitri Kanakh who rose highest to handle the ball when Liskeard had won a corner. When you are 0-3 down, thats just silly. When you’ve also been booked previously to that, then that is ridiculous and he was sent off. Saltash added a 4th when Gavin Coulton caught a Liskeard defender in possession and fired home from 15 yards. Densham nearly added a 5th, but Baker did save well as Saltash cruised home to victory.

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A decent afternoon’s entertainment then down in East Cornwall as I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ground and football on show here. Might just need to start looking Southwards and Westwards instead of the opposite direction for games in the future! I also didn’t want to gauge my eyes out after this game, unlike the previous week’s abortion witnessed at Minehead. It got even better by the fact Hearts had managed to win at the Falkirk Stadium for 2 in a row! :o

Photos from Saltash Utd vs Liskeard Athletic

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (quite entertaining)

- Value for money: 6/10 (the norm at Level 10)

- Ground: 6/10 (pleasant surprise, it actually resembled a ground!)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (bits here and there)

- Food: 7/10 (quite tasty Cornish Pasty for a decent price served by an attractive blond – whats not to like?)

- Programme: 3/10 (at least they produced one, I suppose…)

- Referee: Andrew Tinkler – 5/10 (did ok)

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Sunday, 20 December 2009

Minehead vs Devizes Town (19/12/09)

Match 63

Ground #: 35

Ground: Minehead Recreation Ground

Competition: Western League Division 1 (Level 10)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £4

Programme: £1

Attendance: 63

Minehead 0

Devizes Town 1

Moffat 67’

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Firstly, I didn’t make Morecambe on Sat 12th but never fear Christie Park lovers! I will be doing a special “Goodbye to Christie Park” in May. As for my first game over Christmas in Devon, it proved that no matter what you plan and hope will happen, someone or something will normally p*ss all over it. Plan A was Witheridge vs Cullompton Rangers but that was shelved when Witheridge decided to play the game on Friday night (18th). Ironically the game was then called off for a frozen pitch – serves them right. Nevermind, Plan B was Bickleigh vs Exeter Civil Service, a slightly desperate game to choose, but I wanted out the house. Problem solved on Friday night. Saturday morning and having snowed in Devon, that game suffered the infamous “P” and left me with an afternoon in or go slightly further afield for a game. In the end I chose the Somerset coastal town of Minehead for their bottom of the table clash against Wiltshire based Devizes Town. Massive.

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Minehead is a small coastal town close to the boarder with Devon and Exmoor National Park. A touristy town by nature, the main “highlight” is the Butlins holiday camp that loads of people flock to if thats your thing. Throughout history Minehead has also been used as a port, primarily trading with Wales in such items as wool, butter and sheep. (No joke) The local team, Minehead FC were a massive non-league side in the past, for example they finished 2nd to Wimbledon FC in the Southern League in 1977, when Wimbledon were elected to the Football League. Since then, the only way has been down for the seaside team and they have found themselves playing in the Western League 1st Division since 2001, where they have never finished higher than 17th and last season they came rock bottom. The ground is a strange one as its essentially a public park (or Recreation Ground) with one massive stand which is fairly old and the clubhouse built underneath it. The rest of the ground is railed off with no paths, just grass and children’s play areas surround the ‘ground’. The visitors today were a side in more of a mess than Minehead, Devizes Town. The Wiltshire side had been relegated from the Western Premier last season and high fairly high hopes of mounting a return, however an appalling season so far saw them bottom of the table with just 8 points from 18 games, Minehead only 1 place and two points above them. A big game was on the cards. (Forgive me for trying to hype this)

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Early on it was clear that the quality would be lacking from both teams as hoof ball was in order for 90% of the passes. However, while the quality was low, the commitment was extremely high which is all you can ask as both sides started to create chances. Minehead struck first when Neville Southall look-a-like (but add 20 stone) Scott Armstrong had to chase a good throughball and smothered well from the onrushing Minehead striker. After that however, it was all Devizes as the theme of the game began to become clear. The strikers were crap. Chance after chance came for the Wiltshire team as one on ones were missed or an awful final stopped the away side taking the lead. The referee was also beginning to lose control of the game that could have been stopped with a showing of a yellow card, but it stayed in his pocket as both sides began to get frustrated, mainly due to their awful inability to finish. The best chance of the half fell to Minehead when a free kick was only cleared to a Minehead striker on the line. Wahey! A goal, surely! Only for the big goalie to make a great save, but that really should have been 1-0. HT came and went straight to the clubhouse with a bovril (hardcore) to keep warm.

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The 2nd half began with the exact same pattern as the 1st, with all 63 spectators screaming inside themselves as more chances were created and more chances were missed. The fear that this game would finish 0-0 came around the 55 minute mark when Devizes hit the bar twice and had 2 shots cleared off the line in the space of 30 seconds. A goal did finally arrive and I would like to take some credit for it as the ball went out for a throw in I walked over and picked the ball up and passed it to the Devizes player when Minehead were still arguing over the award of the throw in. Devizes took the throw quickly and a great first time cross found Nathan Moffat who’s header looped over the Minehead goalie to make it 0-1. Chances were still not over as Minehead still managed to miss an open goal and Devizes missed another one on one as the game finished with the one goal. Utterly frustrating, it should have been 8-8.

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While I was glad to get out the house on the day, I could have picked a far better game than this one, although hindsight is a wonderful thing. Minehead’s ground is slightly strange with it being a public park and the lack of hot food (except a Pot Noodle!?) also wasn’t that welcome on a day that was cold and also welcomed a hail storm too. Minehead are also now bottom of Western Division 1 and will need to improve remarkably and improve fast otherwise its another bottom finish for the seasiders. My next game on Boxing Day was meant to be Wellington and then a trip to Elmore, however Elmore have decided to put their game back to 12:30pm and thats leaves me stuck. So who knows where I’ll be with my turkey sandwiches!?

Photos from Minehead vs Devizes Town

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (so frustrating)

- Value for money: 6/10 (£4 is fine at Level 10)

- Ground: 4/10 (its a public park basically, but a nice single stand)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (none to speak of)

- Food: 3/10 (only had a bovril and Double Decker – not hot food!?)

- Programme: 4/10 (fair enough effort but a bit much for £1)

- Referee: Andy Gibbons – 4/10 (yellow card is there for a reason!)

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Friday, 11 December 2009

All I want for Christmas is….

……3 points at Falkirk on Boxing Day!

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Christmas Schedule (subject to change, weather, money, petrol and if I can be bothered – actually this is probably a list of where I won’t be going!)

12th December:

Morecambe vs AFC Bournemouth (Christie Park)

--> To say goodbye to uni friends over Christmas we’re off to watch in-form Morecambe take on promotion chasers Bournemouth. Should be good.

19th December:

Witheridge vs Cullumpton Rangers (Edge Down Park)

--> An E.Devon derby in the SWP Premier – quite concerned at a “frozen pitch” for this one, but we’ll see.

26th December (Boxing Day):

Wellington vs Ilfracombe Town (The Playing Field)

--> A dash across to Somerset at noon to watch (currently) top of the table Ilfracombe, then…

Elmore vs Minehead (Horsdon Park)

--> Whether I can be bothered to watch 2 games in one day remains to be seen, but a 3pm KO means we should make it from Wellington, should.

2nd January:

Ilfracombe Town vs Bideford AFC (Marlborough Park)

--> The “big-one”. 1st vs 2nd in the Western Premier and its a derby too.

I’ll be then back in t’north on the 5th or 6th of January and then its hello Unibond!

Have a great Christmas and hopefully your team(s) win! (Except for Dundee Utd tomorrow, Celtic on December 20th, Falkirk on Boxing Day, Motherwell on 30th December and Hibs on Jan 3rd)

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Hamilton Academcial vs Heart of Midlothian (06/12/09)

Match 62

Ground #: 17 (2nd visit)

Ground: New Douglas Park

Competition: Scottish Premier League

Kick Off: 12:45pm

Cost: £11 (student ticket)

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 2,003

Hamilton Accies 2

McArthur 5’, Mensing 24’

Hearts 1

Jonsson 39’, Stewart s/off 48’, Bouzid s/off 80’

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PREVIOUS VISITS: 31/01/09 – Hamilton Accies 2-0 Hearts (Scottish Premier League)

Maybe I’m a sucker for punishment but I wanted to see first-hand Hearts’ car-crash of a season with my own eyes. Hopes of maybe even challenging the Top 2 were whispered at the start of the season but a 0-2 defeat on the opening day to Dundee Utd has set the tone from there. Going into this game in 7th place at least we had a ‘cushion’ of a 5 point lead over bottom side Falkirk which could have been extended win a win over Hamilton. I had travelled to Hamilton last season in January which was the first match report I wrote for the blog (link above) and as its coming up to the blog’s 1st birthday I felt a return trip to Lanarkshire was in order. This time I brought two mates for the pain, although one decided to sack it off (wise, wise call) and go to the cinema instead. The game had also been picked for Sky Sports live coverage strangely, so the early Sunday start of 12:45 for kick off and 9:30 for leaving Lancaster was in order.

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Hamilton is a large town in Lanarkshire which according to Wikipedia, not a lot has ever happened here. There is a palace and a few grand houses around the town but that seems to be about it. Hamilton also is undergoing a large regeneration project with new retail parks and shopping centres springing up around the town. The drive up was relatively fine, just a lot of rain and a lot of roadworks but we made it to the nice free parking Hamilton have with plenty time to spare. I’ll be honest right away about New Douglas Park – its laughable. It is basically a Morrison’s Supermarket with a football ground attached to it. One main stand for home supporters and away fans have the “Spice of Life” Stand behind the goal. There is also a piss-poor temporary seating stand which I have never seen used and behind the other goal is just large scaffolding to block the view from the Sainsbury’s store which is right next to the ground. (And is on the site of Hamilton’s old ground – Douglas Park) The Accies are enjoying their 2nd season back in the SPL and have set their targets higher than just survival this time. Hearts on the otherhand are in real danger of being sucked into the relegation battle which none of our players would be ready for and worryingly there would be only one outcome. Trips to Raith Rovers and Ross County next season.

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Yet, Hearts had picked up a 2-1 away win at Kilmarnock the previous weekend and I was quietly confident we could pick up at least a point here to continue our good run. From kick-off Hamilton had all the possession but didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Until 5 minutes in when a hopeful through-ball took out hopeless Hearts defender Dawid Kucharski to let Mickael Antoine-Curier through on goal and while his shot hit the post, James McArthur still had time to run through and smash home the rebound. An awful start. Hearts then started to get a hold of the ball but with no movement from anybody, we were doing nothing with the ball. Hamilton then went and scored again when Simon Mensing took advantage of Janos Balogh completely missing the ball for him to make it 2-0 after only 24 minutes. I was sat in disbelief at the utter crap I was watching wondering why I had made the decision to drive a 314 mile round trip. At least Hearts boss Csaba Laszlo changed it by taking off Kucharski for David Obua and it was close to half-time when Obua took on Hamilton’s right-back and skinned him with ease, his low cross was turned in at the back post by Eggert Jonsson – game on! Half-time came and we were looking ok to mount a proper comeback in the 2nd half.

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That comeback lasted all of 3 minutes in the 2nd half after Hearts captain Michael Stewart tangled with an Accies midfielder and Stewart pushed the player away. (TV shows this) ‘Referee’ David Somers however decided to show a straight red card to the player for reasons beyond me. Somers then decided to give everything to Hamilton, including a great tackle from Craig Thomson on Flavio Paixao which earned the youngster a yellow card. Hearts though were still creating the odd chance here and there and showed how bad Hamilton actually were. Any realistic chance of an equalizer vanished on 80 minutes when Ismael Bouzid (who had already been booked) decided to chest the ball down and play out from near his own area before bringing down an Accies player. 2nd yellow – cheerio. Hamilton obviously had all the possession now but as they are shite, they couldn’t hit a barn door with any of their later chances. Hearts then in injury time were denied 2 penalties, 1 clear cut after Calum Elliot had been brought down twice in the area. Somers wasn’t going to give anything to Hearts today. Full time.

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The story didn’t end there however as there was a “brawl” in the tunnel after both teams were leaving the field which resulted in Hearts’ Ian Black and Suso Santana being sent off as well as Leon Knight to bring the red card total to 5 for the game. Rumours are abound at what started the mass brawl, but I did hear that the Hearts masseur hit the referee (if this is wrong – then I apologise) which if true is brilliant as Somers was quite easily the worst ref I had ever seen. While our performance wasn’t great on the day, we deserved a point from the game and I am fairly certain we would have achieved this with 11 men on the field, but it wasn’t to be. My awful record of watching Hearts continue and I am now really starting to believe I am a jinx. Back to watching games as a neutral I think!

Photos from Hamilton vs Hearts

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 4/10 (for the neutral, maybe entertaining but not for me)

- Value for money: 6/10 (£11 is fine for the SPL)

- Ground: 2/10 (worst ground in the SPL – some achievement when Fir Park is also in this league)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (none really)

- Food: 6/10 (didn’t brave the macaroni pie, but it sounds interesting)

- Programme: 5/10 (better than last season’s, but still advert-happy)

- Referee: David Somers – 1/10 (an abortion of a performance)

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Accies vs Hearts ticket

Monday, 23 November 2009

Barrow AFC vs AFC Wimbledon (14/11/09)

Match 61

Ground #: 34

Ground: Holker Street

Competition: Blue Square Premier (Level 5)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £10 (student ticket)

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 1,614

Barrow AFC 2

Lorraine (O.G) 32’, Walker 48’

AFC Wimbledon 2

Godfrey 63’, Main 76’

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Within every group of friends at school, college or university, you always have one, that is a little weird. One that doesn’t actually like football. We had one of these peculiar beings within our friend group at university until one day he told me that he indeed liked football and even supported a team, AFC Wimbledon. Wanting to go to watch some of the Dons Northern league games this season and not go on his own, I offered to go to the new English county of Atlantis (formally known as Cumbria – although the weather was fine when we went) to see Wimbledon take on Barrow as part of a possible Dons double this season. (Possibly off to a fancy dress party in Gateshead in April) Normally I travel to games by car and so miss a lot of the pre-match build up fans have on the train but anyone who has driven to Barrow-on-Furness will understand why I didn’t fancy driving down the ONLY road to get into the town and so me and my pal took the train. Getting on the train at Lancaster, we were both surprised by the large amount of Dons fans on the train including a group of 4 lads who had decided to make the 285 mile journey with coloured lycra covering the whole body, including their faces. Top effort, sadly I didn’t have the bottle to ask for picture of them.

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The train journey was also an experience including a whole carriage rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Sailing” when going over a bridge over Morecambe Bay. We arrived into Barrow with good time and made our way (once we picked up another fan – his Dad) to Holker Street. Barrow-in-Furness is an industrial town and seaport in Cumbria which did used to be part of Lancashire until 1974. Barrow then became a major exporter of steel during the industrial revolution and then became a major shipbuilder which is still in evidence today, as town is the largest manufacturer of submarines in the UK. Since most of the shipbuilders have left, unemployment has become a major part of the town and so it is hoped a new regeneration plan can help the town as its needed. The place is quite grim, although I have been to worse places. (I’m looking at you here, Newport) The town’s main team, Barrow AFC were members of the Football League until they dropped out in 1972 and have floated around in non-league football since. In 2008 they were promoted back to the ‘top-flight’ of non-league, into the Blue Square Premier where they have struggled being a part-time club and spent their 1st season narrowly avoiding relegation. This season has seen an improvement and they went into this game in 16th place (out of 24) but a good 9 points clear of relegation. Their ground, Holker Street is set amongst the picturesque background of Cumbrian mountains and is a fairly decent ground with lots of character. The home fans have two covered stands to chose from which both run down the side of the pitch – one is a seated stand and the larger stand the other side is terracing. Away supporters get an uncovered terracing area (shown below) that is behind one goal and also has two corner sections that could also be stood in. Behind the other goal was a tiny standing area, but was taken up by the club’s office building and bar.

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AFC Wimbledon are (in)famous in the non-league as they were the club born out of the relocation of the old Wimbledon FC who moved to Milton Keynes to become MK Dons. The club’s supporters were not going to let the Wimbledon name die and so set up their own club in 2002 and have risen up the leagues since then and clinched promotion into the Blue Square Premier for this season by winning Blue Square South in 08/09. A great amount of Dons fans had made the trip up to Barrow (337 of them) and were in good voice just before kick-off when the club’s management team came over to thank them for making the long trip. However as soon as the game kicked off, it was clear that the Wimbledon players did not fancy the cold (and slightly) wet conditions as Barrow over-ran them completely early on. It also didn’t help that when Wimbledon got into good positions in the Barrow half (that were few and far between), a hopeless ball or poor vision meant that Barrow easily got the ball away. It was no surprise then to see where the first goal went and summed up the Dons performance perfectly. Jon Main had the ball well inside Barrow’s half when an awful ball was played straight to a Barrow midfielder who attacked with pace through Craig Nelthorpe who’s cross was perfectly sliced in by Paul Lorraine. Shame he’s a Wimbledon player. 1-0. The rest of the half was a non-event as Barrow easily dealt with everything (and it wasn’t much) that Wimbledon had to throw at them.

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At half-time I bought what I presumed was a burger (my 4th choice) and that now romped ahead into “worst food of the season” as I couldn’t even finish it. And I was starving. We also at half-time met a Sunderland/Wimbledon fan who’s daughter was a Hibs fan (work that one out) and we all agreed that Wimbledon needed to improve and do something fast in the 2nd half to get something from this game. Three minutes into the 2nd half, they had done something. Gone 0-2 down as they had chance after chance to clear a corner and in the end it fell to Barrow’s top scorer Jason Walker who easily passed the ball into the net for a simple goal. It looked now like game over but Wimbledon did still try and battle back into the match. They were also helped by Barrow deciding to take it easy and the Dons sensed this as more chances started to come their way. They did get back into it on 63 minutes when a simple cross was spilled by Barrow “goalie” (I use that loosely – he was shite) Stuart Tomlinson and Elliot Godfrey was on hand to tap in. Wimbledon fans were finding their voice well now and we almost had a pitch invasion on 76 minutes when Barrow couldn’t clear a corner and again Tomlinson instead of trying to make something resembling a save, pushed the ball to Jon Main. Only one outcome here and it was 2-2. The final 15 minutes were great entertainment as both sides believed they could win the game as Wimbledon pushed more men forward to try and gain the win while Barrow hit them back on the counter attack. It was Barrow that came closest to snatching the win when they won a late free kick and Nelthorpe’s shot hit the post and heaven knows how Jason Walker then missed as Wimbledon just managed to get it clear. Wimbledon will be delighted with this point in the circumstances.

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Quite easily the most entertaining of the games I’d seen this season, and it was also great to travel with the Dons fans from Lancaster. Holker Street is a decent ground that could be redeveloped if needed, although I can’t ever see myself going back to Barrow now that I’ve been here. So this fancy dress away day in Gateshead on April 24th??

Photos from Barrow vs Wimbledon

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 7.5/10 (great Blue Square action)

- Value for money: 4/10 (I pay £10 at Morecambe, who are a league higher…)

- Ground: 6/10 (firmly in the “old school” variety)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (great noise from Dons fans)

- Food: 2/10 (no bacon roll, no hot dog or cheese – then an awful burger)

- Programme: 5/10 (fairly decent, not worth the £2.50 though)

- Referee: R.West – 5/10 (so so fussy)

Barrow vs Dons prog

Barrow vs Dons ticket

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Lancaster City vs Ramsbottom United (10/11/09)

Match 60

Ground #: 18 (2nd visit)

Ground: Giant Axe

Competition: Lancashire FA Co-Op Trophy 2nd Round

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £5 (student ticket)

Programme: £1.50

Attendance: 106

Lancaster City 4

Jarvis 10’, Farrell 96’,108’, Bowyer (O.G) 101’

Ramsbottom United 1

Edgington 43’, Morley m/pen 90’+1

(After Extra Time)

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PREVIOUS VISITS: 07/03/09 – Lancaster City 3-5 Salford City (Unibond Div 1 North)

Bit of an obscure match for number 60 as I took time out of a busy week (probably stupidly) to go watch Lancaster again. Its always good to support your local team and tonight they were playing in the Lancashire FA Co-Operative Challenge Trophy. A cup for senior non-league clubs who are members of the Lancashire County FA. It is officially the junior cup to the Lancashire Senior Cup (which features the Football League and Premiership teams of Lancashire), the trophy is still important to the clubs who enter as they on the whole, play their 1st teams in the competition. Also for this season, the final will actually take place at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium instead of the County FA Ground which is in Leyland. Being a night match I was also looking to see how the camera on my phone would cope as my patience is beginning to wear thin with it. As you can see from the picture below, not very well.

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(You can maybe just make out the fixture sign if you enlarge the picture!) This also being my first re-visit since I started writing this blog, I won’t go into much detail about Lancaster’s home, The Giant Axe as nothing has changed since I came in March. Although I did have a drink in the very nice clubhouse this time. If you do want to read more about the ground, click the “Previous Visits” link above. Lancaster’s visitors tonight were Vodkat Premier side Ramsbottom United who were having a decent season in the league below Lancaster and currently were in 5th place going into this game. Promotion however looks to have gone as Newcastle Town already look to have sown up top spot by winning 17 out of 17 games played so far. Ramsbottom were also dealt a blow in their last league game with a 5-1 defeat at high flying New Mills. Going into the game it looked like Lancaster were favourites but as a wise comment on the Dolly Blue’s Forum stated, “Do not underestimate the strength of the Vodkat” (the League, not the drink – I presume Vodkat is quite strong to drink)

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The game kicked off with both sides going on the attack with was good to see as this looked to be the makings of a very good cup tie. It was Lancaster who broke the deadlock on 10 minutes when a brilliant through ball from Mark Jackson put through Mike Rushton who cut back to Paul Jarvis who scored with ease from inside the 6 yard box. The game then quietened down only for a serious injury to hold the game up for a good 10 minutes when Dominic Ward collapsed into the turf with dislocated ligament damage in his left ankle. Ramsbottom used this stoppage to regroup and should have been level when another long through ball caught out the Lancaster defence but Anthony Johnson’s shot was straight at Neil Beesley. If that was a warning to Lancaster, they didn’t take it when two minutes before half-time, the Vodkat League side were level when a low ball drilled in from the right was poked home by Matt Edgington to make it 1-1 at half-time.

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The 2nd half was basically all Lancaster as fate and unluckiness contrived to deny them a victory. Shots were cleared off the line or just agonisingly went wide. (You can tell I’m writing this well after the event eh? ;) ) The major action of the half came right at the end when Neil Marshall allowed far too much space for John Robertson to run into and before he could get his shot away, he was clipped and a penalty was awarded! Marshall was also lucky to stay on the field, but I presume the referee couldn’t be bothered to send him off when the game was about to be won. Sadly though, although I was quite happy about it. Bernard Morley (who is a centre back) confidently strode up to take the kick, and his penalty flew far far away over the bar. Cue loads of laughter and the Ramsbottom players stunned. Extra time it was.

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Fitness played the part in Extra-time as Lancaster scored 3 times with ease as Ramsbottom had no real answer to the Unibond side. Firstly Farrell was found with a cross on the line and he scored from about 2 yards out, before Paul Jarvis had a cross diverted into his own net by George Bowyer and that was really game over. Lancaster did have time in the 2nd half of extra-time to wrap the game up with Adam Farrell drilling a low shot home from the outside the penalty area. Lancaster were through to the quarter-finals and closer to a game at the Reebok.

Firstly, another apology for this report being so late! (Barrow will be up by Friday) I was waiting for the Lancaster goal scorers being confirmed before I wrote this. I also dunno how many revisits I’ll do, depends if I keep going to see the same team really. And that Hearts season ticket seems an eternity away. Good game to see on a rare midweek match for myself and only for a £5. Oh so cold though.

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (good entertainment, and an extra 30 mins too)

- Value for money: 6/10 (no problems with £5)

- Ground: 7/10 (decent ground, can now compare it to other Unibond grounds too)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (lively)

- Food: 7/10 (always good at the Giant Axe)

- Programme: 6/10 (has improved on last season)

- Referee: Michael Salisbury – 5/10 (let the game boil over too much)

Lancs vs Rammy prog

Lancs vs Rammy ticket

Friday, 6 November 2009

Road to Wembley (November 09’)

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This was actually a feature I had wanted to do at the start of the season in August and update it every month and have only got round could be bothered to do it now. Basically, having seen a game in each of the three main FA Competitions this season and all of them in the very 1st round of that competition too, I just wanted to see how each victor from the games I saw got on and who they could have been playing, etc. I’ll update this once a month until May when the final of the FA Cup, Trophy and Vase take place so it should be an interesting few months ahead in the cups!

FA Cup:

Having seen Barnstaple dispatch Tavistock in the Extra Preliminary Round they then faced Wessex Premier side Poole Town who they only marginally lost 7-2 to. Poole then were favourites to beat fellow Western Premier team Willand Rovers but the Devon side managed a 1-0 win where they faced Bath City in the 2nd Qualifying Round. Bath won that 5-0 before also hammering Bishop’s Cleeve in Quali R 3 before a showdown at Twerton Park against AFC Totton. Bath raced into a 3-0 lead before two late Totton goals gave them a scare, but Bath were through to the 1st Round proper where they play Grimsby Town tomorrow. A game they actually might win as Grimsby are doing everything they possibly can to get relegated this season.

Summary:

Extra Prelim Round: Barnstaple Town 3-1 Tavistock (Att: 124)
Prelim Round: Poole Town 7-2 Barnstaple Town (232)
1st Qualifying Round: Willand Rovers 1-0 Poole Town (163)
2nd Qualifying Round: Willand Rovers 0-5 Bath City (422)
3rd Qualifying Round: Bishop's Cleeve 1-4 Bath City (398)
4th Qualifying Round: Bath City 3-2 AFC Totton (740)
1st Round: Grimsby Town - Bath City ()

FA Trophy:

Having not gone to Derbyshire to watch the Belper Town vs Clitheroe replay in the Trophy Preliminary Round, I was quite surprised to find out Clitheroe won 4-1 away at Belper to go through to play Bradford Park Avenue in the 1st Qualifying Round. Another surprise at Clitheroe won here 1-0 (maybe they can only play good football on a flat pitch?) to set up a 2nd Qualifying Round tie at Salford City. A game I was meant to be at and missed was an 8 goal classic (*sigh*) with Salford coming through 5-3. As the Qualifying Rounds are regionalised, Salford would have been delighted to find out that their 3rd Qualifying Round game is away at local rivals Kings Lynn. Only 164 miles away in Norfolk. Kings Lynn are also in the Unibond Premier meaning they are seen as a “Northern” club. Hmm… (Thanks to Google Maps for the picture)

the North

Summary:

Preliminary Round: Clitheroe 1-1 Belper Town (164)
Prelim Round Replay: Belper Town 1-4 Clitheroe (152)
1st Qualifying Round: Bradford Park Avenue 0-1 Clitheroe (310)
2nd Qualifying Round: Salford City 5-3 Clitheroe (143)
3rd Qualifying Round: Kings Lynn - Salford City ()

FA Vase:

The Vase doesn’t really get going until later this month so fewer games have been played in this competition even though we are now already in Round 2. Melksham’s win over Marlow United saw them take on another Hellenic Premier club in Fairford Town which Melksham cruised to win 5-2. They crashed out however in the 1st Round proper at Almondsbury Town who also are a Hellenic Premier team. They play Christchurch in Round 2.

Summary:

1st Qualifying Round: Melksham Town 3-1 Marlow United (61)
2nd Qualifying Round: Melksham Town 5-2 Fairford Town (50)
1st Round: Almondsbury Town 3-1 Melksham Town (40)
2nd Round: Christchurch - Almondsbury Town ()

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Bamber Bridge vs Ossett Albion (31/10/09)

Match 59

Ground #: 33

Ground: QED Stadium

Competition: Unibond Division 1 North (Level 8)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £4 (student ticket)

Programme: £1.50

Attendance: 128

Bamber Bridge 1

Eastwood 78’ (pen)

Ossett Albion 1

James 24’, Cook s/off 77’, Allison s/off 77’

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Planning for this game was a mess. Firstly Bamber vs Salford was the original game I had selected for Halloween until Salford’s FA Trophy run meant they now had a home game against Clitheroe and so plans were made to stay at a friend’s in Salford and make a day/night of it. Until the night before as they all bailed out. So on the morning I was faced with the prospect of doing nothing on a Saturday afternoon except grimace at every update from Hearts’ game at Fir Park or go outside and get some fresh air at a game. Although Lancaster’s FA Trophy game against FC United of Manchester was tempting I chose to drive to Bamber Bridge, my original destination, on my tod.

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Bamber Bridge or “The Brig” is a small village South of Preston which is about all I can say for the place! It housed an American camp during WW2 which saw some trouble break out in 1943 between the soldiers and locals. Also a small textiles industry was here like most Northern towns but that seems to be about it in terms of highlights for the place. (I’m sorry if I’ve missed anything major out!) Having left Lancaster at about 1:30, I arrived at the QED Stadium at around 2:10 as it was the easiest ground I’ve ever had to find. Parking was also on site and a friendly steward helped me get a space so a stress free journey was complete! The QED Stadium (or Irongate) is a ground I had wanted to get to for some time because of all the positive things I had heard about it. The ground itself has a main stand which is an impressive seating stand that runs down the side of the pitch. Opposite that is hard standing which is where the dugouts are and large nets to keep the balls from flying into houses behind the ground. Behind one goal is a decent covered terrace while the other side is the clubhouse side which has a small covered stand and also a strange balcony area which I presume is the director’s lounge. Bamber Bridge were having a rebuilding season after finishing last season in the Unibond Division 1 North in 11th place. Disappointing from their standards. Currently in 8th position going into this game, Bamber had played so few league games because of playing in several cups (FA Cup, FA Trophy, Lancs Cup, etc) which they had all crashed out of. Their ‘trick or treaters’ (last Halloween joke I promise) to the QED were Ossett Albion who were suffering from an awful start to the season down in 18th place, just outside the relegation places. The Albion from Yorkshire were looking to pick up all 3 points in this “War of the Roses” battle.

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Having watched the end of Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Spurs in the great clubhouse, I walked around the ground taking pictures before taking a seat in the main stand as I felt incredibly lazy and could not be arsed standing up today. The game kicked off with both sides looking fairly even although Bamber had an early chance to take the lead when a free kick from the right was dropped by Ossett keeper Lee Ashforth but the two Brig strikers could not react in time. From then on the game was played very competitively but with few chances as both teams were not using the width of the pitch to full affect. The game needed a bit of magic or stupidity to break the deadlock and we got one of them on 24 minutes. Thankfully it was a moment of magic. Ossett right winger Steve Smith picked the ball up in the corner and skipped by one poor challenge before he proceeded to rip the piss into the whole of Bamber’s left side with two nutmeg’s and skipped past another challenge before his shot was saved by Mike Hale but diverted into the path of Nathan James who smashed the ball into the roof of the net to make it 0-1. Bamber nearly equalized straight away as a great ball in found Phil Eastwood who’s acrobatic attempt was well saved by the Ossett goalie. The rest of the half was basically a non-event with some silly fouls and a yellow card for Ossett’s Martin Allison. Not many shots either apart from long range efforts and hit and hope. Off to the tea-bar at half-time for a good pie!

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The second half started much like the end of the first, with a lot of effort but no real quality as Ossett tried to extend their lead but a lack of final ball let them down. It wasn’t happening for Bamber either with the game seeming to pass most of their players by. Only a deflected shot wide was their only shot of note by the midway point of the 2nd half until a mental 3 minutes would shape how this game would end. Firstly, Bamber finally got behind the Ossett defence and a great ball in was well saved by the Ossett goalie, however before a Bamber striker could get to the rebound, Ossett defender Kyle Cook decided to use his hands to get the ball away. Woops! Red card and a penalty to Bamber. The drama continued however as a lot of the Ossett team had surrounded the referee and Martin Allison must have said something too much as he was shown a 2nd yellow and Ossett were down to 9. Allison came off the pitch in disbelief telling the main stand, “I wasn’t the one that said owt!” Who knows. Bamber striker Phil Eastwood smashed the penalty home on 78 minutes and Ossett would need to hang on for 12 minutes to claim a point. The final 12 minutes were Lancashire’s re-enactment of the Alamo as Bamber bombarded the Ossett goal and were a final touch or more self composure away from taking an undeserved 3 points. In the end both sides were unhappy with the result. Bamber ruing the missed chance to beat 9 men, Ossett angry that they ended the game with 9 men as one fan shouted at the referee when leaving the pitch. An entertaining finish.

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An enjoyable day out in Bamber Bridge as the game livened up towards the end. Bamber Bridge have shot right up the list of favourite clubs as every single person there today was friendly and helpful which makes the club so great. A decent ground and a great clubhouse (who are well known for their real ale’s but Lancashire Constabulary would have something to say about driving after drinking some of that!) makes the club a great one to visit. I recommend doing so! Another great advert for the Unibond League. Just a shame Hearts had to spoil the day with yet another pathetic performance at Fir Park.

Photos from Bamber Bridge vs Ossett Albion

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (fairly decent, great finish)

- Value for money: 7.5/10 (can’t argue for £4)

- Ground: 8/10 (great ground, great clubhouse)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (lively)

- Food: 7/10 (pretty decent pie and bovril – good price too)

- Programme: 8/10 (excellent effort)

- Referee: B.Copp – 5/10 (was ok)

BB vs OA prog

BB ticket

Sunday, 18 October 2009

St Helens Town vs Nelson (17/10/09)

Match 58

Ground #: 32

Ground: Knowsley Road

Competition: Vodkat Northwest Counties Premier Division (Level 9)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £5

Programme: £1.20

Attendance: 107

St Helens Town 4

Dyson 6’,89’, G.Mitchell 43’, P.Mitchell 74’

Nelson 0

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The thing with sitting up late at university is sometimes, with friends, you talk about utter rubbish. Conversation topics that nobody else would understand or care about. Earlier this week, a friend at uni (lets name him Andy) who originally hails from St Helens was appalled at the fact that Clitheroe played in the league higher than his town’s football team. He also joked that imagine a team who play at Level 9 in the football pyramid played at Knowsley Road, one of rugby league’s most popular grounds with a capacity of 17,500. So upon investigation it was found out that they indeed do play at the home of egg chasing in St Helens, another journey was organised to a ground I hadn’t expected to get to this season.

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St Helens is a large town in Merseyside that was famous in the industrial ages for being a centre of coal and glass making. Today the town is more of a commercial town with most signs of industry now being dormant with the large amount of chimneys that still are standing in the town but are not in use. The main industry in the town now is Pilkingtons Glass which is a “world leader” in its industry. Another famous presence in the town is the main rugby league team that play there – St Helens RLFC. One of the world’s first rugby league teams, they recently have become a major player in Super League, although having not won a Grand Final since 2006, they have lost the last 3, all to Leeds Rhinos. This town is a major rugby league town, but football is still played here, despite all the plastic scousers normally supporting either the red or blue side of Liverpool. The town’s team, St Helens Town, currently play in the Northwest Counties Premier Division which is set at Level 9 on the English League Pyramid. The league which is sponsored by Vodkat (dunno what that says about Northerners…) and normally feeds the Champion directly into Unibond Division 1 North. (Where last season’s Vodkat Champions, AFC Fylde are currently playing) St Helens were founded in 1946 and have a rich history of producing well known players in English football. Ex players include, Bert Trautmann, Bill Foulkes and Dave Bamber. In fact, Trautmann signed for Man City from St Helens exactly 60 years ago and the club were advertising an upcoming celebration game against a Man City Legend XI in mid-November. St Helens moved from their Hoghton Road ground in 2000 to move in with St Helens RLFC at Knowsley Road and were almost relegated from this league last season, but a late rally saved them and they went into this game in 5th place, 13 points behind 100% leaders Newcastle Town, but with a game in hand.

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After arriving at Knowsley Road with good time to spare, it took a while for the hardy band of us to find our way in, with only one stand open for football games. When we found the only open turnstiles, there was a strange sight of both teams warming up on the big pitch next to the stadium which is unusual as the rugby league season is finished now until early 2010, so the pitch isn’t needed to be great at the moment anyway. Once in, there was a programme seller almost dumped next to the side of the main stand entrance and with no food or bar facilities open that I could see, it was worrying that I would have to go through the whole game on an empty stomach. We positioned ourselves in the uncovered terraces next to the Main Stand when a steward demanded that my friend take no photos on his proper camera for the match. It meant that most of my pictures for this game were taken ninja style and when no stewards were near us in fear of getting caught. Knowsley Road is an impressive ramshackle ground with two covered standing stands, with an uncovered section behind one goal and to the side of the Main Stand. (More on the Main Stand later) St Helens hosted Lancashire team Nelson for this game who hail from just Southeast of Clitheroe and were only one place behind St Helens in the table, so a close game was expected. The game kicked off in the eerie silence of the empty stands we could see with the only noise coming directly from the players themselves with both teams resorting to long balls to bypass both midfields. St Helens were already getting early joy down their left side when a great ball was crossed in and found Grahame Mitchell who just headed wide. It was 1-0 moments later when Nelson played a too high line that allowed Phil Mitchell to feed the ball through the defence where captain Iain Dyson ran through and rounded the keeper to make it 1-0. The rest of the half was a non event really with St Helens having most of the possession but not really creating the chances to go with it. Nelson also were doing very little and it already looked like the game would finish with only 1 goal scored. However, coming up to half-time a superb through ball was played through to Graeme Mitchell who scored easily with the outside of the boot to make it 2-0 at HT.

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At half-time I investigated the smell of pies in the air and stumbled upon one open food stall where I bought a very decent meat and tattie pie and a bovril for £2.20. Also, again the winning raffle ticket was not mine, although I really wouldn’t know what to do with a bottle of whisky. For the 2nd half I decided to sit in the old main stand on some cracking wooden seats (no pun intended) for a better view as Nelson took the game towards St Helens with a couple of long range efforts that hardly troubled town goalie Graeme McCall. The problem with attacking so much to get back into the game is however that you are left open to a counter attack which is increasingly what was happening at Saints were looking for a 3rd and to wrap the game up as Graeme Mitchell had an acrobatic attempt blocked. Nelson didn’t learn from numerous close shaves when Phil Mitchell got up through on goal again and managed to get a lucky break off a defender that took the ball past the keeper and allowed himself an easy tap in for number 3. Both Mitchell’s scored today, so Peggy will be proud. It should have been 4 on 81 minutes when another break found St Helens outnumbering the goalie 3 to 1. However the first shot was saved and the rebound crashed off the bar and over much to the annoyance of the home supporters. Graeme Mitchell had another chance to get a 2nd when a volley from a tight angle was just fired wide as by this time Nelson had given even trying to defend or remotely play any football. St Helens did add a 4th late on when another 1 on 1 was cut back to Iain Dyson who made it 4-0 and the game was over. An easy win for St Helens.

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A strange day out then in Merseyside as St Helens picked up an easy 3 points over one of the worst sides I have seen this season. The “match experience” at Knowsley Road for watching football is a strange one, with it almost being like a younger brother is not allowed to touch a lot of his older brother’s stuff. The nomadic existence of the club may hinder the club in the long term, but the money is surely not there for a ground for themselves. Knowsley Road is also set to disappear in 2011 when both teams move to the new St Helens Stadium which will have a capacity of 18,000, a Tesco store and 2000 parking spaces. Maybe, the club might be playing Unibond football by then, but hopefully the club can draw some bigger crowds than the 107 that was in attendance for this game.

Photos from St Helens vs Nelson

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 4.5/10 (quite one sided with not much entertainment)

- Value for money: 6/10 (its ok for £5)

- Ground: 8/10 (great, classic ground)

- Atmosphere: 1/10 (107 fans in a 17,500 stadium – do the maths)

- Food: 7/10 (decent, good value pie)

- Programme: 8/10 (excellent value and articles)

- Referee: M.Rawcliffe – 6/10 (not much to do)

SHT vs Nelson prog

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Clitheroe vs Belper Town (03/10/09)

Match 57

Ground #: 31

Ground: Shawbridge

Competition: FA Trophy Preliminary Round

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £7

Programme: £1.50

Attendance: 164

Clitheroe 1

Coar 22’

Belper Town 1

Stevenson 12’

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This game wasn’t at all one I had planned to go to as I was looking to get to a midweek game during the 1st week at uni (where you get very little work to do) and Lancaster’s FA Youth Cup game against Chester City was the one I wanted to go to. Yet, with the game being scheduled for a Monday night and the fact I can’t make a Monday night means that idea went right out the window. So 3 of us at uni were checking games and places to go to that were is near driving distance. Kendal vs Kings Lynn came up as did AFC Fylde vs Leigh Genesis but in the end, it was immaturity that won the day. As we chose the Lancashire town of Clitheroe. On first look, you may think, “why is there a town called that"?” However as this is a family blog there will be no clit hero jokes here, and upon further investigation we realized that their opponents today in the FA Trophy (Belper Town) were nicknamed “The Nailers” – and that was that. We WERE going to this game.

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Clitheroe is a town which lies on the Southern edge of the Forest of Bowland (which is an utter pain in the arse to drive around – more on that later) and its main landmark is the castle which sits in the centre of the town. An old Norman keep which is also one of the oldest buildings in Lancashire has a massive hole in the middle of it which was ordered by the government in 1649 for reasons that are beyond me. The drive across the Forest of Bowland from Lancaster University should have been straight forward according to Google Maps. However after driving over a fairly big mountain, we got lost. Badly. Getting lost in the woods is always a problem, however with no or little phone signal and a fairly low amount of petrol (“if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”, I know!) this was fast becoming a major problem. We were bailed out by stumbling across the town of Goosnargh and we quickly made our way to Clitheroe coming in on the West side. (Google Maps stated we’d come in to the North – thats how badly it went wrong) By this time it was already 3:30 and then trying to find Shawbridge (home of Clitheroe FC) was also an effort, but it was found and we got inside at 2:57. One final point of how much I balls up this journey was I had forgot to get money out and only had £7 on me. Admission was £7.

Clitheroe play in the Unibond Division 1 North league which is the same league as Lancaster City. Currently having a poor start to the season, they lay in 19th position out of 22. Luckily they had another cup competition to distract them in the FA Trophy. The Trophy is only open for clubs in Steps 1-4 in the Non-League system and more often than not a Conference (Blue Square Premier) team will end up winning the Trophy at Wembley. Last year the winners were Stevenage Borough who beat York City 2-0. Clitheroe welcomed fellow Unibond Division 1 team Belper Town to Shawbridge for the game, who hail from Derbyshire. They however play in Division 1 South which meant a different set of faces from the norm for Clitheroe to play. They came into this game doing well and were in 7th place out of 22nd. This, after losing in the play-off final to Stockbridge Park Steels last season.

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Upon first viewing inside the ground (see picture above) is the pitch – which is frankly laughable. A ‘small’ incline going lengthways up the pitch hinders any sort of football played on here (as we were about to see) and probably hinders any proper ground improvements too until the pitch is flattened. As for the ground, its your typical Unibond ground with mostly standing, although they did have a small seated section running near the corner flag down one end of the pitch. As we were so late in, the game was just about to kick off as we arrived and so took a place near the dugouts to watch the first half which kicked off with Belper making the better chances early on as the wind also played havoc with both team’s game plan. Belper took the lead on 12 minutes when they swung a cross in from the right (up on top of the hill) which wasn’t dealt with well and Lee Stevenson managed to turn his defender and shoot past Danny Hanford. Belper then tried to double their lead as Clitheroe struggled to make any impression on the game, except Alex Brees (who looks about 14) making good runs down the right which Belper struggled to deal with. Clitheroe did grab an equalizer though on 22 minutes after a freekick was headed straight at Belper goalie Martin Kearney. For reasons beyond me though, he only pushed this out into a packed penalty area and ex Lancaster City striker Alan Coar scored a tap in from about a yard out. Not much else happened for the rest of the half as both teams looked fairly even and the wind was hindering both sides.

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For the 2nd half we all sat behind one goal and watched one of the least memorable halves I have witnessed in football. It actually was a blessing that two uni mates had made the trip as at least we could all talk to each other as the game was so dull. Brees needed to shoot on so many occasions after getting into good positions only to waste it by either trying to play a clever pass or make a successful pass to one of his team-mates who wasted each shot. Belper also had some play, as they actually thought they had won the game on 71 minutes when a Ben Walker shot managed to find its way in after a good cross, but the assistant referee ruled it out for a foul. The final chance of the game came late on when more good work by Brees set up the Clitheroe # 8 (he’s not even in the programme) who ballooned his awful shot over the bar. Full time. A replay to come, which I won’t be at.

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Firstly, sorry was the delay in publishing this (if you were so desperate to read about someone’s trip to Shawbridge!) I have had a surprising amount on in my 1st week back at uni. Secondly, on the game, it all seemed a bit rushed for me to totally enjoy the game. Its a lessoned learned and I have already started to make plans for my next game on Halloween at Bamber Bridge. Finally, as it has taken me so long to get this post out there, the replay actually took place on Tuesday night which Clitheroe managed to win 4-1 away at Belper to go through to the 1st Qualifying Round away at Bradford Park Avenue. (Which PA should win) Overall, a decent ground, a strange pitch and I hope to be back one day when I’m less stressed out!

Photos from Clitheroe vs Belper Town

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 4/10 (stalemate)

- Value for money: 6/10 (was ok – not the greatest quality for £7)

- Ground: 6/10 (the pitch!?)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (both sets of fans got behind their team)

- Food: N/A – had no money to buy any!

- Programme: 6/10 (decent attempt – good amount of info)

- Referee: G Hock – 6/10 (seemed ok)

Clit vs Bel Prog