Thursday, 29 April 2010

Percy Main Amateurs vs Cullercoats (24/04/10)

Match 79

Ground #: 49

Ground: Purvis Park

Competition: Northern Football Alliance Division 1 (Level 12)

Kick Off: 2:30pm

Cost: £1

Programme: 50p

Attendance: 40 (h/c)

Percy Main Amateurs 2

Ritchie (pen) 16’, Morien 90’

Cullercoats 0


I know exactly what you are thinking when you first read this. Level 12!? However, Percy Main was too good an opportunity to miss and my wallet loved me for it. Spending a weekend away in Newcastle with el missus, I look around straight away to see what games on Tyneside I could go to. Newcastle at home to Ipswich? Seeing the Magpies finally win a trophy (of some description) was tempting but paying £30 was not. There was then Gateshead vs AFC Wimbledon, a game I actually had planned to go and see – however we were up for the weekend to watch Kevin Bridges and so going over to Gateshead may be cutting it just fine. West Allotment Celtic and North Shields were also looked at before I stumbled across the little village club of Percy Main, a rare issuer in the Northern Alliance and with admission only £1 – I was right on it. A short Metro trip to Percy Main station and a 2 min walk saw me to Purvis Park.


Percy Main is a village in North Tyneside, which lies on the outskirts of North Shields and its only main feature seems to be the Tyne Metro station which is found at the top of the village. (The village doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page) Purvis Park was originally called Middle Row Park (reference to three sets of cottages on site) but renamed in 1996 to Purvis Park named after Alan Purvis, who dedicated 50 years to the club as a player, Secretary and even Chairman. The ground today seems to be pretty decent for this level (compared to Level 12 in Devon), although I have no idea what other Div 1 Northern Alliance grounds are like. A building, which included the changing rooms, tea bar and toilets met you on site and a walk through the building brought you out onto viewing the pitch. The building has cover which is great when it rains (every 2nd day in Tyneside) while the rest of the ground is hard standing with most of it railed off. Behind one goal is the Percy Main Cricket Club, which is separated by a strange hedge (picture below) which allows spectators to view both games at once. (Cricket is a dire sport so I took no notice of the game going on)


Percy Main Am have had a decent history considering the small village they represent, joined the Northern Alliance in 1968 and they won the league two years in a row from 1980 to 1982. However recently, the team have struggled and were relegated from the Northern Alliance Premier in 2005/06 when they finished bottom of the league. Two seasons of relegation battles before a 5th place finish last season has seen Percy Main rise up and were involved in a promotion battle this time out and went into this game in 2nd position. 5 points behind Gateshead Rutherford but with a game in hand. However, 3rd place Amble Utd were only 2 points behind Percy Main, with a game in hand over them and so the promotion battle would most likely go right down to the wire. Their opponents were local(ish) rivals Cullercoats, from the village on North Tyneside coast, who have recently rejoined the Northern Alliance in 2006 and were promoted in 2008 to Division 1 and even finished in 4th position last season. This season, however Cullercoats had found their level and were in midtable, currently in 7th, although they were in no danger of relegation.


As the game kicked off it was great to hear 22 Alan Shearer’s shout and bark instructions to their team-mates and while the quality was really not great, the effort was there as Percy Main dug in to deny Cullercoats a foot-hold in the game. The first real talking point come on 4 minutes though when Cullercoats got the ball into the box but the chance was wasted when the shot went up and over the bar. Percy Main took the lead though on 16 minutes when Culyer managed to work his way to the edge of the penalty area when he was barged over needlessly and the referee gave a penalty. Without the benefits of replays it was tough to say if the barge was in the box, but Jason Ritchie was not bothered as he smashed the penalty to his left to give PM an early lead. The rest of the half was a midfield battle as both sides battered each other but no real goal scoring chances were created until 32 minutes when a lob shot from afar flew just over the Cullercoats bar. At half-time it was 1-0 and I made my way down past the hedge to watch the 2nd half from the other side.


Half-time was only 8 minutes long but when we did get underway again, Cullercoats clearly believed they could grab an equalizer as they began bombarding the PMA goal and area with long balls. 56 minutes in however, Cullercoats got a 1 on 1 situation when a long ball caught the PMA defence out, however Stewart Wright could only see his shot easily saved by PMA goalie Rob Rodgerson. Cullercoats kept going though and had their best chance of the game on 83 minutes when a deep ball towards the back post found Robert Watson but his volley was weak and easily saved by Rodgerson. When it looked like it would finish with just the one goal, PMA wrapped up the match in stoppage time when Liam Knox broke down the left and his great cross found Malky Morien who’s header was well placed past the Cullercoats goalie and wrapped the 3 points up with one of the last kicks of the game.


A great (and sunny) day near the Tyneside coast as my first dabble with the Northern Alliance was an extremely successful one. While the quality was not always the best on show, this is Level 12 – proper grassroots where a lot of teams in this league don’t even have an attendance price. PMA though produce a great programme and with admission only £1, you really can’t complain. The bright summer weather also made this better as even the cricket teams were watching with can of lager in hand, taking a break from their pishy sport. If you’re in the area and want some cheap entertainment on a Saturday afternoon, then Percy Main is really great fun – and they do cracking food too! In tribute for the real reason I was up in Newcastle, have some Kevin Bridges:

Photos from Percy Main Amateurs vs Cullercoats


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (grassroots standard)

- Value for money: 9.5/10 (can’t argue for £1)

- Ground: 6/10 (decent facilities for this level)

- Atmosphere: 3/10 (was quite empty)

- Food: 7/10 (great chips + gravy)

- Programme: 9/10 (one of the few to issue in this league and its a great effort)

- Referee: Paul Taylor – 3/10 (seemed to make it up as he went along)

PMA vs Cullercoats prog

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Rochdale vs Northampton Town (17/04/10)

Match 78

Ground #: 48

Ground: Spotland

Competition: English League 2

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £9

Programme: £3

Attendance: 5,025

Rochdale 1

O’Grady 23’

Northampton Town 0

(Rochdale are promoted)


Regular readers (or followers, no idea what you called someone who frequently reads this – if there are any!) will know that my other footballing friends at university support AFC Wimbledon, Spurs and Rochdale. Having seen a Wombles game in November and a Spurs game in March it was time to complete the treble with a trip to a Rochdale game, but not just any game, the game that could see Dale’s 41 year wait in Level 4 of the English League Pyramid come to an end with a promotion to League 1. My Dale supporting friend was obviously quite nervous when we made the hour drive to Rochdale down the M65 to see this vital game against a team who were chasing play-offs after relegation from League 1 last season.


Rochdale is a large market town in Greater Manchester which lies in the foothills of the Pennines NE of Manchester. As historically part of Lancashire, its history is dominated by the Industrial Revolution as a major mill town and a centre for textile manufacture. Rochdale was one of the first industrialized towns and the Rochdale Canal was a major route of commerce used for haulage until 20th Century when the decline of industrialized industries began hitting towns and cities hard, Rochdale included. Today, Rochdale is home of the Co-Operative Movement, which now is across many industries such as Retail, Banking and even Funeral services. Not much else I can say about ‘Dale, maybe I’ll mention that Rochdale was the birthplace of Lisa Stansfield and we’ll move on. When we arrived at Spotland, after a short detour to my mate’s house, there was a sense of expectation around the ground that THIS could be the day that Dale finally secure promotion. Even the media were ready for the party, BBC Football League Show presenter Mark Clemmit was even at the ground (picture below) ready for a possible promotion party.


Spotland has been mentioned by other people who have visited here as one of the best grounds in the Football League and with 3 decent seated stands and one terraced, it is a pretty cosy ground that could be expanded if need be (probably not) as all four corners could be built in. We were in the Twaites Beer Stand – behind one goal and the only non-seating stand in the ground. But what of the home team, why have they been languishing in Division 4 (then Division 3, then League 2) for so long? Mainly, because they are England’s worst professional (or at least, least successful professional team). Only one national cup final appearance, which was in 1962, where they promptly lost the League Cup final 3-2 to Norwich City. Dale under Keith Hill have been more successful, where in 2007/2008, they reached the play-off final but lost, 3-2 again to Stockport County, and last season, Gillingham dumped them out the play-offs at the semi-final stage. However, this season they have romped away in the league, and were leading the league until a late wobble has seen Notts County overtake them, who also could go up on the day as they played Morecambe at home. Dale fans, I don’t think, care that much as if you offered them promotion in any form in August, they would have snatched your hands off.


The team who were looking to stop the promotion party were Northampton Town who after relegation from League 1 last season were looking to bounce straight back up through the play-offs and went into this game in 10th place, but only 2 points off a play-off position. Dale could have secured promotion the previous Tuesday when they took on Blue Square bound Darlington at home, but in front of a season high 5,371 spectators, crashed to a 0-1 defeat. In this game, Keith Hill’s men were looking to stop a rot of 4 games without a win where they hadn’t scored a goal in those 4 games either. This also included a 0-5 raping at Torquay which I very nearly attended, but in the end couldn’t be bothered. At kick-off there was a very good atmosphere, also helped by a fairly decent travelling contingent of Cobblers who were put in the corner of the Westrose Leisure Stand and made a fairly decent noise now and then.


It was Northampton who adapted quicker to the game as Dale still looked quite nervy as the Cobblers resorted to long range shots in an effort to beat on loan Dale goalie Frank Fielding. However, they went extremely close as Liam Davis ran at a static Dale defence took on both centre backs, won and then rounded goalie Fielding but put his shot into the side netting from a tight angle. Steve Guinan and chubbster Kevin Thornton also went close to efforts outside the box, but after this Dale looked to be getting a foothold into the game and began impressing, especially Kallum Higginbotham down the left wing. Dale then won a corner on 23 minutes after more good work by Higginbotham and although Tom Kennedy’s corner was woeful, the first defender only managed to clear it behind him and into the path of Joe Thompson. His shot was weak, but this allowed Chris O’Grady to turn on it and smash the ball into the roof of the net past on loan ‘Hampton goalie Jason Steele and send Spotland into dreamland. Dale then had more good chances when Chris Dagnall and his “bulldog like energy” (FIFA 10 joke there) managed to force Steele into two good saves as Dale went into HT 1-0 up.


The 2nd half was always going to be more nervous when Dale only had a 1 goal lead and 41 years of near misses to call upon too and Northampton didn’t disappoint as they began to have a go at Dale, but were still, on the whole, restricted to long range efforts. The ground and Dale team began to get nervous, except for one man, Dale goalie Frank Fielding who seemed to cope with everything ‘Hampton threw at him and even had time to spill a shot and watch quite relaxed as his defence got it away. Dale nearly had a 2nd late on in a half of little action as Chris O’Grady and his porn-star ‘tache went on a barnstorming run and while his weak, deflected shot was well saved by Steele, his header looped over the goalie but only landed on the bar, before Thompson’s shot was blocked and went out for a corner. In the end, Northampton had given up on trying to equalize and Dale began to celebrate as even a Northampton equalizer would have sent them up anyway as Rotherham were only drawing 0-0 at home to Cheltenham. At the final whistle, it was pitch invasions galore, as Rochdale had finally done it. A Level 3 team next season in League 1. LEAGUE 1 (just for my Dale supporting friend)


This game was certainly not a classic, but these nervy promotion encounters never are, and will Rochdale fans care? No. I won’t speculate where they will be playing next season, although ex Premiership side Southampton and local rivals Oldham are definates at the moment. It was also great to see the team celebrate on the Main Stand after the final whistle and released all the tension that had been building up in recent weeks. It was a pleasure to come to Rochdale and see their promotion party. Northampton weren’t great and credit to their boss Ian Sampson admitting that his side didn’t deserve anything as their play-offs hopes to a huge blow. A few final thoughts, unlike Carlisle fans who were already on the pitch before the final whistle went for their invasion last season, Dale fans were extremely well behaved as one steward had an easy job keeping a whole stand at bay, fair play to them. The pitch was dreadful, although as the rugby league season has kicked off, Rochdale Hornets probably aren’t helping matters by playing on it. Finally, another well done to Dale, I’ll make a provisional promise to see them in League 1 at least once next season, although god knows where as I still have no idea what part of the country I’ll be in for the 2010/11 season!


Photos from Dale vs Northampton Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (not a classic, but expected)

- Value for money: 7.5/10 (£9 is great, although I’m not 19… ;) )

- Ground: 7/10 (great FL ground)

- Atmosphere: 9/10 (after 41 years of nothing, it was never going to be quiet was it?)

- Food: 7/10 (best non-Scotch pie I’ve had all season)

- Programme: 6/10 (fair enough effort)

- Referee: Andy Haines – 4.5/10 (must have had draw on his coupon)

Dale vs North T prog

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tiverton Town vs Chippenham Town (05/04/10)

Match 77

Ground #: 20 (2nd visit)

Ground: Ladysmead

Competition: Southern Premier League (Level 7)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £5.50

Programme: £2

Attendance: 270

Tiverton Town 0

Chippenham Town 0


PREVIOUS VISITS: 13/04/09 – Tiverton Town 1-2 Chippenham Town (Southern Premier League)

While I don’t do revisits often, there are some grounds and teams you meet on your travels that make you want to go back and see them again. Maybe like that thing in your life that you know is bad for you, but you keep going back because you enjoy it. (Hearts FC might loosely fall into the category) When I left Ladysmead last April, I decided to make a visit to Tiverton an annual thing, and as close to Easter Monday as possible. I do know some other people that do this, like a Scottish groundhopper that always visits Carlisle around Easter time. I have no idea why he’d punish himself like that once a year, but each to their own. I wonder if I will go away with Tiverton if for Easter Monday 2011, they end up away from home, especially if by that time they are playing at Level 8 in the Southern League Division 1 South & West. But this year I had got lucky, very lucky and old foes Chippenham Town were in, erm, town to play Tiverton in this vital Southern Prem clash.


As this is a re-visit, I’m not got to bore you with the extra information about Tiverton or Ladysmead. There have been some changes since I was last here though, firstly the league is no longer sponsored by British Gas, but by “trendy” drink Zamaretto. Described as “Amaretto for connoisseurs” – I was slightly hoping to have a free glass of this upon entry (sponsor the league up a bit!) – but there was none in sight. Or I didn’t look, as I’ll be honest, I don’t know what Amaretto is. Tiverton had also changed since I last saw them at home, they had become rubbish and were in a deep relegation battle to avoid the drop to S&W league where such footballing giants await as Frome Town and VT FC. They went into this game in 17th position (out of 22) and only 5 points off the relegation zone. Some fans round me were worried that if they did get relegated this season, they would fall straight through and back into the Western League. While this might be a wee bit extreme, clearly fans were worried. Chippenham on the otherhand were again in play-off chasing mode and were in 5th place in this game, the final play off spot. But were facing mighty competition from Cambridge City, Stourbridge and Leamington amongst others for it. So, in theory we should have had a decent game on the cards.


In reality this was possibly one of the worst games I had ever seen. Maybe only marginally better than the game I saw at Minehead in December. Chances were few and far between and the ones that did come were easily saved or missed. Steve Book, was expected the busier of goalies saving well from Chippenham’s strikers. Although in the 2nd half, Chippenham managed to blast an open goal wide when it looked easier to score. Tiverton, again changed both of their front 2 (just like when I saw them at Willand) in the previous week, but again the new pairing could not do a lot and Chippenham goalie Ian Gill never really had to make a save. At the final whistle, both sets of fans were relieved to hear it. As my record 25 game run with no 0-0’s had ended in quite boringly bad style. As a footnote, I had considered watching Tiverton’s other team, Elmore in their home game against Bridport, that finished 2-3. I’ll say no more.


As this is a re-visit, I don’t have much more to say or add, apart from Tiverton need to improve rapidly otherwise they can say hello to Taunton Town and Bridgwater next season. Chippenham may just nab that final play-off spot, but they have some massive games coming up. Massive. Here’s some more snap shots of the game.

P1458_05-04-10 P1503_05-04-10 P1516_05-04-10 P1525_05-04-10 P1543_05-04-10


Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)

- Value for money: 7.5/10 (bagged student discount this time round)

- Ground: 8/10 (Ladysmead is a great ground)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (few shouts here and there)

- Food: 7/10 (great selection and good cheeseburger)

- Programme: 5/10 (not worth £2)

- Referee: B Huxtable – 4/10 (very fussy and whistle happy)



Friday, 9 April 2010

Tavistock vs Launceston (02/04/10)

Match 76

Ground #: 47

Ground: Langsford Park

Competition: Southwest Peninsula Premier League (Level 10)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £4

Programme: £1

Attendance: 157

Tavistock 5

Carter 36’, Stringer 65’ (pen), 86’, Krac 75’, Bailey 76’

Launceston 2

Tilley 7’, Davey 79’


This had been the one Easter game I was really looking forward to, a fairly short trip to Bickleigh, just South of Tiverton to see the new team at Level 11 in their first season in the Southwest Peninsula League, but alas, Mother Nature was not playing ball and their game against Appledore was called off, my other plan to see Okehampton was also shattered by the rain and so that left me with some trawling to do on local league websites on Good Friday morning. I was even looking at games towards Bristol for my day out, although that seemed quite extreme. In the end it was the choice between Tavistock or Liskeard and I chose the shorter drive to see Tavistock in their “derby” game against Launceston. Worrying slightly by the strange weather conditions of peeing down one minute then sunny the next, I presumed the game would be on and took the easy route South to Tavistock.


Tavistock is a market town in West Devon which runs on the River Tavy (guess where the name comes from!) who’s population is over 11,000 making it massive in Devon proportions. The reason for the large population in Tavistock is a popular commuter town to Plymouth (despite having no rail links) and an ever growing popularity with retired people – making the town’s average age a massive 44. The town’s most famous son is Sir Francis Drake who was born in the town in 1540. Today, the small market town is home to the eastern Gateway of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site and the “Best Farmers Market in the South West”. Having left Torrington in N.Devon in the peeing rain, I was surprised and slightly delighted (I’ve spent too long down here) to find that the sun was shining down on Tavistock when I arrived at around 2pm. Having Googled Street-Viewed the ground (expect me to say that for EVERY match report from now on!) I cruised in with ease as getting lost is a thing of the past. Langsford Park seems to have undergone a recent referb as the new changing room blocks look extremely modern and an expanded car park was also modern looking where I parked Victor.


I got there early so wopped some pictures onto my phone and had a read of the programme (more on that joke later) before having to leave the ground to get something to eat from the clubhouse the other side of the road where I got a tasty ham and mushroom slice and a can of Pepsi (other soft drinks are available, like Irn Bru – which I can now drink again) before bimbling over back into the ground just before kick-off. Langsford Park is a fairly bog standard ground, with the new changing room blocks and two seated stands that are attached to it. On the other side of the pitch is another covered area that actually kept out the biting wind due to have a closed section down the side too. I chose to stand here because of that as the wind was really quite strong today. The rest of the ground is hard standing and railed off – like all other grounds I’ve been to in this league. There also seemed to be a decent crowd for this one as it would be the 2nd time in a week I would be watching Launceston after seeing their 4-2 win over Dartmouth the previous Saturday. I was also interested in seeing Tavistock again this season after seeing them lose unluckily (they only had themselves to blame actually) in the FA Cup against Barnstaple Town in August. Since then they have done fairly well in the SWP Premier and went into this game in 4th position, but 11 points behind leaders Buckland Athletic. They still believed they could challenge for the title and a win here would help that cause. Launceston’s game in midweek had been postponed and so this was their next game played after their win over Dartmouth the previous Saturday.


The game kicked off with some sun, but it had now become quite overcast and I feared it would absolutely pee it down later on but this seemed not to deter some Launceston fans next to me who were cracking out the beers as kick off came. When I last saw Launceston they hadn’t bothered to play most of the 1st half and as a result found themselves losing at half-time and maybe Tavistock had scouted this fact as they allowed Launceston to come at them early on not expecting much, however Launceston surprised everyone and took the lead after only 7 minutes when some great work down the right hand side saw the ball whipped in and Liam Tilley got his head to it and although the Tavvy keeper seemed to palm the ball about, the ball eventually went in – via a deflection I presume to give the Cornish side an early lead. Tavvy should have equalized straight away when a ball from the right found the whole Launceston defence asleep and big striker Adam Carter smashed his shot high and over the bar from about 5 yards out. Carter was clearly causing trouble for the Launceston defence as he had more chances in the half before he did equalize on 36 minutes when he was put through on the edge of the area and he cracked a shot, low into the bottom corner for a deserved equalizer for Tavvy. Launceston did have 1 chance right on half-time which was well saved by the Tavvy goalie. An interesting 2nd half ahead as it finished 1-1 at HT.


For the 2nd half, Tavvy had the wind behind them as they began putting Launceston under pressure straight away as Launey had to dig in deep to stay level. They could though have taken a surprise lead on 49 minutes when they had a 1 on 1 situation but hesitation let them down and the Tavvy defence got the ball cleared. After that early scare it was all Tavvy as they began to use the wind to their strength and create chance after chance. Tavvy first had a shot cleared off the line from a corner, and when it looked like Launey may just actually weather the storm and hang on for the point, the game changing moment happened when a harmless ball was crossed in from the left, took a knock off a Launceston player and the referee gave the penalty for handball. The Launey fans around me were incensed as it did look a harsh decision, however Will Stringer stepped up and confidently smashed home the penalty to give Tavvy the lead. Then, 10 minutes later, almost exact carbon copies of the same goal were scored within a minute of each other to put the game beyond doubt. Firstly Shane Krac ran forward and let fly from the edge of the area and the Launey goalie let it go through him to make it 3-1. Then, barely 60 seconds later Lance Bailey found himself on the edge of the area and was told to shoot. Quite optimistically we all thought, but his shot again beat the Launey goalie (who was at fault for both) to make it 4-1 and game over. Or that’s what we thought as Launceston on 79 minutes reminded us that they were there when a great through ball put Sam Davey through against the keeper and while his shot was partially saved, it had gone under the keeper which allowed Davey to put the ball in from a yard out. The scoring wasn’t finished there however as Tavvy got a 5th on  86 minutes when a shot or cross (who knows) was sliced into the area and became an inch perfect cross for Will Stringer to easily head home for the 5th and final goal. The end to a goal-fest.


Despite having 7 goals in this game, this was never really a thriller as the game was a ‘derby’, although the most tame derby I have witnessed. Fair play to Tavistock though for getting the game to go ahead and then for playing some decent football throughout to keep up their pressure on the top sides in the table. Launceston will be disappointed to lose this 5-2, but their 2nd half performance just had no answer to the Tavvy onslaught. It was also my last SWP game for a while. A league I discovered early in the season has seen me take in 4 games in this season and I will be looking to add to that hopefully in 2010/11. (Although who knows where I’ll be for that!) My last Easter game was a re-visit, although a great re-visit at that, to Southern Premier team Tiverton Town. As for Tavistock, a decent ground, although they do get some wind blowing through it!

Photos from Tavistock vs Launceston


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (despite 7 goals, it wasn’t a classic)

- Value for money: 7/10 (norm for SWP Premier)

- Ground: 5/10 (decent changing room block, but a little basic elsewhere)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (not much chat going on)

- Food: 6/10 (decent ham and mushroom slice)

- Programme: 3/10 (the same programme is produced for every game it seems, but the addition of a 4 page insert, so you are paying £1 for an insert)

- Referee: Lee Dudman – 4/10 (never heard a ref described as Hitler before, but he deserved it)


Friday, 2 April 2010

Willand Rovers vs Tiverton Town (29/03/10)

Match 75

Ground #: 46

Ground: Silver Street

Competition: Devon FA St.Lukes Bowl Quarter-Final

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £6

Programme: With admission

Attendance: 192

Willand Rovers 2

Norrish 26’, Stamp 55’, Hill s/off 49’

Tiverton Town 2

Box 3’, Piotrowski (pen) 29’

(Tiverton Town win 5-4 on penalties)


The weather down South after the weekend had only got so much worse and I fully expected this game to be called off, and to no surprise, a pitch inspection was called for this game at 5pm. When the pitch surprisingly passed, I made the slightly lengthy trek down the N.Devon link road and the B3181 to see this intriguing local Mid-Devon derby between Willand Rovers (in the Western Premier – Level 9) and Tiverton Town (in the Southern Premier – Level 7) in the Devon FA St.Lukes bowl. The Devon only club competition which is played every season (I presume, it was near impossible to find the history of this competition) and for me, another new Western Premier ground.


Willand is a small village in Mid-Devon which is fairly near Tiverton, Cullompton and Exeter. Home of the Devon version of Diggerland (what do you mean you’ve never heard of it!?) and thats really all about it. One main road which goes through the village is simply all there is to see. Even Willand’s Wikipedia page is quite desperate with it describing the “only pub in the village” being The Halfway House, so clearly Willand is a banging village that loads happens in. The local team, Willand Rovers play in the Western Premier League and has Wellington (Somerset) as its only nearby rivals. (One day I’ll get there) Willand are doing rather well this season in their league and were currently in 3rd position, 17 points behind leaders Bideford, but did have 4 games in hand over them. A club that also faces a decision soon as they are clearly a leading team in this league, but will they try to make the step up to the Southern League anytime soon? Their opponents, Tiverton were a Southern League side, but have struggled this season and were currently in a relegation battle to avoid the drop to the Southern League South & West. A battle they looked like winning currently in 16th place.


Silver Street – Willand’s ground, (guess what street its on!? ;) ) is a fairly basic Level 9 ground ,with 1 entrance from the main road leading into a ground with a tiny stand on one side of the pitch that holds probably about 50 at most. And then behind one goal is the clubhouse which offers cover, although this was another “members only” clubhouse if you wanted to buy drinks, still not sure why. The rest of the ground is uncovered with is being railed off. Strangely, for non league, this ground had no car park for fans on site, as the small car park next to the clubhouse was for players and officials only. (No sneaking in this time!) So when I arrived in Willand, I found parking in a side street that was a 30 second walk away from the ground and upon arriving in Willand, it promptly started lashing it down. I was already surprised that the game was on, and became astonished when I saw the state of the pitch, or a marsh to properly describe it. I have no idea how this game got the go-ahead, but I’m glad (and the other 191 attendees too) that it did.


The Devon FA St.Lukes Bowl is a county wide competition that involves all the top clubs from the county with the other smaller clubs having to play in the Senior or Premier Cup. The St.Lukes Bowl is currently held by League 1 side Exeter City after they beat Tiverton Town 2-0 in the final, which was actually played at Tiverton’s home ground, Ladysmead. Already into the Semi-Finals were the holders and fellow Western Premier League side Bideford, with this Quarter-Final still to be played and another between Barnstaple Town and Plymouth Argyle. Due to the erratic nature of this competition, nobody had any idea when or where the final would be played, but both teams had good records in this competition (Willand reached the final in 2007/08) and looked to progress. Tiverton had played on the Saturday and were due to play fellow strugglers Swindon Supermarine on the Wednesday and so had brought a mixture of reserves, youth team and the odd first team player for this game. Willand lined up with a full strength side as they tried to deliver a shock to their higher (and nearby rivals) league opponents.


I had chosen to stand in the elements as at Silver Street you got a better view of the pitch when standing down the side of the pitch and the small stand looked packed anyway as Willand kicked off and proceeded to get into Tivvy early on. The pitch, as you could expect did not allow for great football to be played upon it, and both teams who did kick off in a white strip and yellow strip soon found themselves in the similar colour of brown very early on. Willand though took the game to Tiverton and had hemmed them into their own half for the 1st 3 minutes until Tiverton played some delightful passing football that put Sam Box in on the right hand side of the area. When his closest defender slipped he had time to place a shot that the goalie should have saved, but the ball went underneath him to give the visitors an early lead. While some teams would have been deflated at this goal, Willand stepped it up and began battering Tiverton again and they had their bright man in orange to thank, Lloyd Irish in goal, to keep their lead as he made a great save from a corner. Irish could do nothing on 26 minutes though when a drilled ball in from the right found Rob Norrish who sidefooted with power past the goalie to give the Western League side a deserved equalizer. Willand though then shot themselves in the foot big time and gave away a penalty 3 minutes later when a silly trip in the box and Tom Piotrowski put the ball to the right to give Tivvy the lead again. However entertainment was still on hand when the Willand goalie went ballistic a late yellow card was handed out to a Willand player after the penalty was taken for dissent. His rant carried on for the rest of the half it seemed! Willand were also unlucky to go in a half-time behind as Irish saved a great free kick on 38 minutes and made an even better save on half time to deny Willand a 2nd goal.


For the 2nd half I moved around to the other side of the pitch to get a different view and mainly to keep warm as it had began spitting and the cold and the wind was really noticeable. The pitch by this time was also just a mud bath and football was extremely difficult to play on when the 2nd half kicked off. The task was made harder for Willand when Simon Hill was shown a 2nd yellow card for a stupid and needless tackle, although this just seemed to galvanize the side and they actually looked better when down to 10 men. They equalised only 3 minutes after the red card when another cross from the right was diverted in at the near post by Dean Stamp and this time Irish could do nothing about it. The rest of half was Willand trying to find a deserved winner, although they still had to be careful when Tiverton balls-ed up a counter attack that should have seen them score. The rest of the chances in 90 minutes were ALL Willand as Tivvy just tried to hang on, I was secretly urging any side to score so to avoid extra-time as I was now so cold I could no longer feel my face. Willand had two great headers saved by Lloyd Irish before the goalie rode his luck with 7 minutes to spare as Willand had two close range shots cleared off the line before in the final minute, Irish produced another great save when an acrobatic turn forced him to divert the ball over the bar. Extra-time it was.


There was a lot of effort in Extra-time, but mass tiredness and the pitch now resembling something like the aftermath of Paschendale meant there wasn’t much to write about. Again, it was all Willand as Tiverton’s strike force were being forced further and further away from goal as they had to defend against the 10 men. In the 1st half on Extra-time a great lob shot found its way over Lloyd Irish but also just over the bar as well. The 2nd half of ET was more incident packed as Willand thought they had won a penalty on 110 minutes when a blatant trip in the area was noticed by everybody in the ground, except the referee. Willand then nearly won it on 120 minutes when Irish again managed to produce a great save on the line as Tiverton had held out for penalties. Only just. It was my first penalty-shoot out ever when I’ve been at the match and saw Tiverton miss their 2nd spot kick when Alex Sanderson saw his penalty well saved. However Willand couldn’t take advantage on their 2nd spot kick however as David Steel put his penalty wide. After 5 pens each it was 4-4 and so we went to sudden death as Tiverton’s Jake Wannell easily scored his, it was down to Willand’s Danny Jee to keep them in the tie. However he ballooned his penalty high and well over the bar as Tiverton managed to win and meet Exeter City in the Semi-Finals.

Penalty Summary:

Tiverton (took first): -- Willand Rovers:

Shepherd scored -- R.Jee scored
Sanderson saved -- Steel wide
Piotrowski scored -- Baily scored
Wilkes scored -- Rodgers scored
Everett scored -- Stamp scored
Wannell scored -- D.Jee over


So a long and very cold night in Willand as Tiverton were extremely lucky to get through, but if you don’t take your chances… Credit to Willand Rovers though who put in an excellent performance, even more so playing on that pitch. Unsurprisingly Willand’s next two home games were both called off as the pitch had been absolutely battered on the Monday night and the weather made it worse over the week. (I’m writing this on Good Friday). The game was like the Battle of Stalingrad as both sides were not going to give up in the mud and it really wasn’t pretty. But some cracking entertainment and a decent crowd of 192 at Willand (their previous home game vs Welton Rovers had seen a crowd of 72) saw this as I will hopefully see Tiverton again on Easter Monday, in my now annual Tivvy watch.

Photos from Willand Rovers vs Tiverton Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (good – but too cold to enjoy fully)

- Value for money: 5.5/10 (sneaky to charge programme with admission for those who don’t want one)

- Ground: 5/10 (quite basic Western League ground)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (both fans got right behind their teams)

- Food: 7/10 (damn good Cornish pasty)

- Programme: 6/10 (fair enough effort)

- Referee: A Rodda – 3/10 (lost control and forgot about the conditions)

Willand vs Tivvy prog