Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Charlton Athletic vs Oldham Athletic (17/12/11)

Match 138

Ground #: 104

Ground: The Valley 

Competition: English League 1 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £10

Programme: £3

Attendance: 19,564

Charlton Athletic 1

Russell 60’ 

Oldham Athletic 1

Morais 84’


Apparently people still do Christmas shopping at actual shops. Where you have to deal with hordes of people all wanting to buy some cheap tat like a Michael Buble album to give to the one they love/their relation/one they want to shag. Other people, smarter people, avoid all this by doing their shopping online (or do none at all) and thus avoid this problem leaving them to do what they want peacefully. According to several clubs, the Saturday before Christmas is the toughest for them to get people in so they offer excellent prices for floaters like me who don’t need/want to shop to pop along for the day. The list was endless but in the end I decided upon top of the league Charlton Athletic and trip down The Valley.


Charlton is a district of south London and part of the London Borough of Greenwich. Charlton next Woolwich was an ancient parish in the county of Kent, which became part of the metropolitan area of London in 1855. Charlton is recoded in the 1086 Domesday Book as Cerletone. It is formed from Old English 'ceorl' and 'tūn' and means 'farmstead of the freemen or peasants'. It is a common English placename and the parish was also known as Charlton next Woolwich to distinguish it from Charlton by Dover. During the 19th century the riverside portion of the area became known as New Charlton. The flat land adjoining the Thames at New Charlton has been a significant industrial area since Victorian times. A notable establishment was the Siemens Brothers Telegraph Works opened in 1863, which manufactured two new transatlantic cables in the 1880s and contributed to PLUTO in World War 2. (Pipe Lines Under The Ocean)


Despite currently languishing in League 1, Charlton Athletic have spent the majority of their history in the top leagues, although rarely competing for the honours at the end of the season. They joined the Football League in 1921, coming into the Third Division South. After looking like becoming a bit of a yo-yo club in the early 30’s, their best spell was between 1934-37 when they achieved a double promotion to Division 1 and then came 2nd in their first season there. (Their highest ever finish) An FA Cup win in 1947 remains their only major trophy and they floated around the 2nd and 3rd tiers before joining the Premier League elite in 1998, albeit for one season that time, before rejoining and becoming safe members under Alan Curbishley from 2000-2007. After dropping back down again in 07, Alan Pardew and then Phil Parkinson led them to a surprise relegation in 2008-09 to League 1 where they still remain now.


Charlton’s home The Valley has been their home since 1919 apart from the wilderness years from 1985-1992. An impressive ground now with 4 towering stands that provide excellent views of the pitch too. However, The Valley has not always been a decent venue to watch football. The old East Bank was the largest stand in English football but with Charlton being out of the top flight for so long, renovation never came. When the club was bought out by the Charlton supporters club, they could not afford the required safety improvements and so they were forced to ground share away from The Valley for 7 years at Crystal Palace and then West Ham. The “new” Valley opened in 1992 and since then, 3 stands have all been rebuilt, with just the South Stand (away fans) to go. A 3/4 bowl of red, this is a decent ground and one that should be hosting football higher than League 1.


Charlton though seem to be going places with rookie boss Chris Powell in charge of them. They were going into this game top of the League and looking good to return back to The Championship under the guidance of an ex Charlton player. The away side were also managed by a former player who had just retired, marmite player Paul Dickov who was also cutting his managerial teeth with the Lancashire side. Despite finishing in a lowly 17th last season, the performances of the club have improved since the start of Dickov’s reign and going into this game in 11th and closer to the play-offs than the relegation spots suggests Oldham could be going places with Dickov, depsite a current lowly 28% win rate.

0,,10267~10300225,00(Dickov and Powell go head to head as players)

I shouldn’t have been surprised as before the game I kept reading that Dickov’s Oldham played a certain type of game much in the style of how he played. Hustling, harrying and physical, Oldham set their game plan out early on. Sadly, that game plan consisted of coming here for a 0-0 and showing no positive attacking play at all. I noted that only 22 minutes in, away goalie Alex Cisak was timewasting over a goal kick. Not a good sign. It was made worse by the fact that Charlton could not break down this anti-football tactic and so the 1st 45 minutes were some of the poorest I’d seen all season. Danny Green was occasionally a menace down the right as some crosses he swung in did cause the Oldham back-line some problems. And it was Green who had the best chance of the half when Kermorgant’s pass sent him through but he fired wide when he should have done better. Amazingly, just before HT, Oldham actually bothered to mount an attack and almost opened the scoring when Taylor hit a long range effort that was well tipped over by Ben Hamer. HT it was 0-0 and desperately poor. Luckily some work colleagues had also foolishly came along to this and so we could suffer together. Dreadful.


Charlton did look slightly brighter (although considering how average they were in the 1st half, that wasn’t hard) at the start of the half as Bradley Wright-Philips fired a shot into the side netting before Green again broke away from the Oldham defence and sent BWP through but Cisak reacted well and made the save. Charlton though were having a period of good possession and pressure but I had already presumed that this would finish 0-0 and my excellent run of games without a goalless draw would be over. Much to my surprise, Charlton took a deserved lead (they were the only ones attacking) on 60 minutes. The ball was moved across to the right where Matt Taylor was there and crossed the ball in. Darel Russell got ahead of the defender to headed the ball into an empty net as Alex Cisak had gone for a wander to try and claim the ball. This made the game interesting, Oldham would actually have to attack and lo and behold Cisak’s goalkicks started taking 5 seconds rather than 30 before the goal went in. Charlton strangely began to sit back and let Oldham actually show their attacking force as chances began to be created. Firstly Matt Smith hooked a shot from outside the area wide before ex Hibs bastard Filipe Morais got in behind the Charlton defence to cut the ball back where Shefki Kuqi’s shot was well blocked by Taylor. That cutback idea move appealed to Oldham though and so repeated it a few minutes later when Chris Taylor got in behind the defence to pull it back to Morais who slammed his shot into the bottom corner to send the 421 Oldham fans into delirium behind the goal. Oldham actually looked half decent up front so why the hell did they wait 75 minutes before actually showing us?! Charlton huffed in the final 5 minutes but they couldn’t create anything else as they lost 2 points to anti-football.


This was not a good game. If an Oldham fan reads this, do you play that negatively every week? In fairness to Dickov, Oldham came for a point and left with one so in his eyes it was mission accomplished. Charlton, for a top of the table side, weren’t that much better which does suggest the standard of League 1 is shocking this year. The Addicks followed this result up with a late 3-2 win at Yeovil, while Oldham slumped to a 1-0 home defeat to Hartlepool United. I’m glad to have got to The Valley as its a lovely ground but Charlton need to pull themselves out of this league ASAP before they start getting dragged down by mediocrity. Thankfully this was only £10, I couldn’t be paying more every week to watch shite.

Photos from Charlton Athletic vs Oldham Athletic


Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (not good at all)

- Value for money: 7/10 (reasonable for League 1, sadly not norm)

- Ground: 7/10 (different feel to other FL grounds)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (not much going on)

- Food: N/A – I don’t eat at FL prices

- Programme: 6.5/10 (was ok for £3)

- Referee: Lee Collins – 2/10 (no backbone allowed Oldham to get away with it)

Char vs Old prog

Char vs Old stub

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Fulham FC vs Odense BK (14/12/11)

Match 137

Ground #: 103

Ground: Craven Cottage 

Competition: UEFA Europa League Group Stage 

Kick Off: 8:05pm

Cost: £15

Programme: £3

Attendance: 15,757

Fulham FC 2

Dempsey 27’, Frei 31’

Odense BK 2

Andreasen 64’, Fall 90’ 


While normal European game prices would keep me away, this season the Europa League challengers (bar Tottenham) have sold their home games for a reasonable price allowing fans like me to plod along for the evening and watch (normally) a dire Europa League game against a team you were unlikely to see again. I had pre-bought a ticket for Fulham’s crunch game against Danish crack (or crap) side Odense BK fully expecting it to be a procession with Fulham already through. However, a defeat to FC Twente in their previous game meant this was a vital match. Excellent stuff.


Fulham is an area of southwest London in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and lies on the left bank of the Thames, between Putney and Chelsea. Fulham was formerly the seat of the diocese of "Fulham and Gibraltar", and Fulham Palace served as the former official home of the Bishop of London, (now a museum), the grounds of which are now divided between public allotments and an elegant botanical garden. Having been through many transformations in its history, today it is a green London area within very close reach of many famously extravagant places such as Chelsea and Kensington and this is reflected in the high local house prices and was included within Savills' 2007 list of "prime" London areas. One interesting fact about Fulham is that during the 18th century had a reputation of debauchery, becoming a sort of "Las Vegas retreat" for the wealthy of London, where there was much gambling and prostitution. Nowadays people who want to do that will probably just head east to Stratford and Westfield.


The area’s football team have come a long way from 10-20 years ago when they were struggling to stay in the Football League. Their first FL season was in 1907 when they finished 4th in the Second Division. A period of doing not a lot in the FL after that was ended in when they won promotion to the top tier for the first time since 1949 after winning the Second Division, although were promptly relegated back down in 1952. Around now, their best ever player was beginning his career as Johnny Haynes (or Mr Fulham) made his debut in 1952. 18 years and 657 appearances later, he played his last game for Fulham in 1970 before moving out to finish his career in South Africa. Fulham were back in the top flight from 1959-68 before being relegated and beginning their sink down the leagues before being relegated to the new Third Division (Level 4) in 1994. Being in relegation trouble in 1996 saw Fulham at their lowest ebb before their saviour rode in during summer of 1997.


Mohamed Al-Fayed (owner of the shit shop Harrods), bought the club for £6.25m and then proceeded by promising Premier League football within 5 years. And to be fair to Al-Fayed, he put the money in as Fulham romped up the leagues under the guidance of Ray Wilkins, Kevin Keegan, Paul Bracewell and finally Jean Tigana as Fulham achieved their target of Premier League football in 5 years by getting back to the top flight in 2001. Their ground, Craven Cottage has seen major development due to this promotion as they had to rebuild part of it to comply with all-seater regulations. Despite this, the ground is a cracking one, especially the Johnny Haynes Stand where I was sat for this game. The cottage in the corner is still there in pride of place, dating from 1905 – it was put in there because Leitch had forgotten to put changing rooms in the ground. Craven Cottage now hosts its fair share of European football due to Fulham’s fair play over the past few seasons and I was lucky in the fact this game still had something major riding on it.


Danish Superliga side Odense Boldklub were the side standing in between Fulham and the Europa League knockout rounds. Already out, the Danish side shot onto my radar in 2006/07 when they hilariously knocked Hibs out of the Intertoto Cup on away goals before going out that season in the group stage. (A group containing Parma, Osasuna, Lens and Heerenveen) They then knocked out Motherwell of the Europa League last season to continue their good record against Scottish clubs. Despite having not won the league since 1989, they have come 2nd for 3 years in a row. Although this time out, they are struggling slightly being down in 8th (out of 12) and a massive 14 points behind leaders FC Copenhagen. They had came into this game with the final Superliga match before the Winter Break with a 4-0 away win over SønderjyskE. For Fulham, the task was easy. Win and go through. Fail to win and hope that Wisla Krakow didn’t beat FC Twente. Odense were already out despite winning their first game against Krakow 3-1 before losing their next 4 to crash out.


Despite the game being fairly important, the opening spells of the match were dire and only 10 minutes in I was convinced that it would end 0-0. Odense, to nobody’s surprise, had come to put 11 men behind the ball and frustrate the home side, while Fulham didn’t seem to have any ideas about what to do. Slowly though, they did begin to open up quite a static defence and test Shaggy look-a-like goalie Stefan Wessels in the away goal. Firstly Chris Baird fired a long range effort in that was well kept out before Brede Hangeland had a header cleared off the line from a corner before the follow-up was shamefully skied over from 5 yards. (That player shall remain nameless. Purely because I couldn’t see who it was) Dempsey also had a shot cleared off the line before Fulham grabbed the deserved breakthrough on 27 minutes. Odense couldn’t live with Karim Frei and he burst away down the left before cutting the ball back to Bobby Zamora. He laid the ball off brilliantly for Clint Dempsey to arrive on time and smash the ball into the bottom corner. Fulham were well on top now and Odense were cut open again 4 minutes later when Moussa Dembele cut in from the right to put Frei clean through who finished well by sweeping the ball under Wessels and Fulham looked home and dry already. They easily got through the rest of the half, despite the Odense fans being in good voice with such classics as, “can you hear the Full-ham sing?!” Add the fact Krakow were only drawing 1-1 with Twente. Fulham could look forward to the knockout stages in 2012.


Fulham clearly decided to play it safe for the 2nd half and try to defend for 45 minutes to see what Odense were really made of. A bit of a bizarre tactic from Martin Jol considering how dominant Fulham were in the 1st half, but this did mean the Danes went for it. Despite being under constant pressure for the beginning of the half, Fulham still looked comfortable as the Danes looked really toothless as “up and coming prospect” Rasmus Falk guilty of giving the ball away a fair amount. He did win a free kick though on the edge of the area on 64 minutes after drawing a foul from Chris Baird. The group of men behind me cynically said that “this free kick goes in, Krakow probably score a 2nd and then Fulham are hanging on.” And that’s exactly what happened. Tsvetan Genkov had already put Krakow 2-1 up on 46 minutes in their game and Fulham’s wall for this free kick was in completely the wrong position that Hans Henrik Andreasen curled the ball around it and gave Neil Etheridge in the Fulham net no chance. Right then, the game completely turned. Jol’s tactics looked wrong, Odense looked half competent and Krakow now had a chance to qualify. Falk produced a half chance as the Fulham anxiety stakes rose up a notch before Aaron Hughes headed just over from a corner which would have sealed it. Late on Zamora, who had done nothing in the 2nd half, came off for Orlando Sa and it was Sa who went on a late bursting run up to the OBK penalty area before losing the ball because nobody had gone with him. This was 94 minutes in and OBK launched one final attack. (Surely not) Fulham looked dead on their feet and Espen Ruud ran down the right unchallenged. (Ref will blow up now) Nobody came to him and he swung the ball in, (someone will clear it) to allow Djiby Fall to nip in and get a header to loop towards the far corner, no, no, no, OH MY GOD IT’S GONE IN. OBK went mental as they’d snatched an equalizer and Fulham crashed out of the Europa League right then as the ref blew for full-time.


I have no idea what Fulham were trying to do for the 2nd half, but they only had themselves to blame for crashing out and not putting what looked a poor Odense side to rest. Martin Jol is a man under pressure and it was no surprise to hear shouts of “Jol out!” while he was coming off the pitch. Fulham did win their next relegation crunch match against Bolton, before coming back down to earth with a 5-0 home defeat to Man Utd. With games against Chelsea, Norwich and Arsenal coming up, it could easily be 0 points from 12 over the Christmas period. I do enjoy seeing European sides as it wets the appetite to pull my finger out and get a passport so I can do The Travelling Fan does Europe. Good luck to OBK for the rest of their Superliga season and for Fulham, Krakow got Standard Liege in the Round of 32 before likely playing Hannover 96 in the next round.

Photos from Fulham vs Odense BK


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (got better as game went on)

- Value for money: 7/10 (reasonable Euro prices)

- Ground: 8/10 (great classic ground)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (all made by the Danish fans)

- Food: N/A – Nachos for £4? No thanks.

- Programme: 6/10 (reasonable programme)

- Referee: Alon Yefet – 6/10 (fussy)

Ful vs OBK prog

Ful vs OBK stub

Friday, 23 December 2011

Chorley FC vs Nantwich Town (10/12/11)

Match 136

Ground #: 102

Ground: Victory Park 

Competition: Evo-Stik Premier (Level 7)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £9

Programme: £2

Attendance: 766 

Chorley FC 1

Foster 37’

Nantwich Town 0

McDonald s/off 71’


I went to many places in search of football when I was at Lancaster Uni for those 3 years. Some were good, some were bad but a few places I missed. Some are quite small places with little quaint grounds that is just for me, but some are actual glaring misses that really are worth going to. One of the top misses was the Lancashire town of Chorley. Home to the Magpies and a ground I had heard only good things about. Being up in the NW for a weekend, it was time to set that right.


Chorley is a market town in Lancashire and is the largest settlement in the Borough of Chorley. The town's wealth came principally from the cotton industry. As recently as the 1970s the skyline was dominated by numerous factory chimneys, but most are now demolished: remnants of the industrial past include Morrison's chimney and a few other mill buildings, and the streets of terraced houses for mill workers. Chorley, like most Lancashire towns, gained its wealth from the industrial revolution of the 19th century which was also responsible for the town's growth. Chorley was a vital cotton town yet today only three mills still remain working. In the 1970s Chorley was designated as part of Central Lancashire new towns, together with Preston and Leyland. The original aim of this project was to combine the three settlements into a single city with a population of around half a million. Although this never came to pass, and the project has since been abandoned, Chorley benefited from the urban renewal commonly associated with new towns. Strangely, Chorley saw the completion of the largest Mormon temple in Europe in 1998, known as the Preston England Temple.


The town’s football club is currently on a high following finally gaining promotion to the Northern Premier League’s top flight last season with a play-off victory over AFC Fylde. Chorley began playing football in 1883 after switching from rugby (good choice lads) and their first game was a victory against Wigan (no surprise). From then till 1968, they played in the Lancashire Combination with few successes from here to there. In 68’ they became founder members of the Northern Premier League before leaving at the end of the season (and rejoined and left again a few times after that). 1988 saw them promoted to the Vauxhall Conference (i.e – the Blue Square Premier – Level 5) and a first season finish of 17th saw them then relegated in 1990 after coming 3rd from bottom and 1 point behind Fisher Athletic. They have never been back since. Doing nothing in the Northern Premier League, they appointed Tony Hesketh in early 2008 and he arguably set the groundwork for the success they are having now with his attractive passing game and good results. He jumped ship to Lancaster in April 2009 but Garry Flitcroft came in eventually in May 2010 and he steered the club to promotion at the first attempt.


There is trouble in t’mill though. After club accountant Philip Haslam was arrested in September on suspicion of fraud and false accounting. This has led to a massive hole in the budget and Chorley are struggling. They have already had to release Chris Haworth, Nathan Fairhurst and Lee McEvilly to balance the books and boss Flitcroft is now calling on fans to get behind the team and local big boys Blackburn Rovers have also been involved helping the club out. On the pitch however, they seem to be doing fine as they are chasing a 2nd successive promotion up to the Blue Square North and currently sit in a play-off place while the rest of the league chase Chester FC. Their Victory Park home is still also looking sensational. A smashing ground that you really must visit. A large main stand with wooden seats dominates the scene and provides a good view. Behind both goals are two great standing structures and running down the other side of the pitch is an open end with grass banking. Sadly the banking is out of bounds now, but in days gone by, hundreds of people would have come down to stand on the banking and cheer the Magpies on.


Chorley welcomed the curiously named Dabbers or Nantwich Town for this game. After finishing a lowly 17th last season, Jimmy Quinn seems to be pulling the Dabbers in the right direction again, albeit slowly as they were coming into this game in midtable. Nantwich though, started off brighter as despite Chorley having a healthy attendance for this game, 766, the atmosphere was quite flat and it probably showed in the home side’s play. Around 15 away fans behind the goal nearly had something to cheer about when Ben Mills found space in the box but his shot was poor and the danger was over. After this, the game opened up and Chorley began to create chances with Chris Denham and Tom Williams going close. Jonny Brain in the Nantwich goal looked in good form and with the away side looking toothless up front, this could be a long day, the longer the match continued at 0-0. Nantwich did give Chorley a scare however as a looping header from Mills clipped the top of the bar that would have given the Dabbers a fluke lead. The breakthrough came on 37 minutes though as Chorley were given a free kick on the right and when the ball was played in, Nantwich tried a strange defensive tactic of not defending the free kick at all. This left Wayne Maden to head the ball across goal where goal machine Steve Foster had a simple finish. (Yes, it’s that Steve Foster who I saw score 5 goals at Lancaster in 2009) The rest of the half was scrappy as Nantwich looked like they had ran out of ideas already. Oh dear.


The 2nd half was played under the lights at Victory Park giving an even better look the ground, although the football on display was not the most impressive. Nantwich had a fair chunk of possession but time and time again when they brought the ball to penalty area, they instantly ran out of ideas and the ball was cleared. Chorley were not set up by Flitcroft to play on the counter attack and it was nearly tactics perfection when John Cunliffe scored, but he was way offside. The rain then started to pour and pour (cue some “its grim up north” joke) and the match began to get rather scrappy, especially for Rob McDonald, who managed to fly into two mistimed challenges and get himself sent off. With that, everyone in the ground knew Nantwich wouldn’t be equalizing today (they could be still there now and the ball wouldn’t be going in) and Chorley could play out time for an important 3 points in their quest for that 2nd promotion.


This wasn’t the best game I’m going to see, in fact it will be filled under, “instantly forgotten” and we’ll move on. However, I have now finally got to Chorley and seen the wonderful Victory Park which is a quality place to watch football at. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the future to the old place, but hopefully the changes (if any come) are not too dramatic. I also hope Chorley can survive and pull through this crisis. After years of doing f-all in the league, they now finally get going only for some nobhead accountant (you can’t trust them!) to plunge them into this. Good luck to them! Nantwich Town, learn to shoot and just generally attack.

Photos from Chorley vs Nantwich Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 4/10 (not great)

- Value for money: 5/10 (£9 for Level 7?)

- Ground: 9/10 (go visit it now)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (improved in 2nd half but was flat)

- Food: 7/10 (top pie, and gravy, oh they love gravy)

- Programme: 5/10 (not worth £2, but fair effort)

- Referee: N.Greenhalgh – 6.5/10 (did fine)

Chorley vs Nant prog

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Road to Wembley 2011/12 (3rd Round)

The Vase was starting to get into the really interesting stage as this was the last “regionalised” round before the country wide ties started and Wembley got even closer. Last season’s FA Cup road saw us go over to Essex for Colchester United, and for this round we were back in that general direction for a trip to nearby Southend. Or Saaaaafend!


Southend Manor have had a good season in the Cups, especially the FA Cup as they reached the 4th and final Qualifying Round of the FA Cup before crashing out to Blue Square Premier side Kettering Town 3-1 away from home. League form was also decent as they current sit in 3rd place and with games in hand on the top 2, meaning they have a real chance of the Essex Senior League title this season.


A tough game for Three Bridges it seemed then, especially away from home, however they managed to overcome the sending off of Joel O’Hara on 65 minutes and defending stoutly (including creating several chances of their own) for 120 minutes to earn a midweek replay. By this stage, both sides knew the winners would be going to Derbyshire for a 4th Round tie against Midland Football Alliance side Gresley FC. The replay was not as close, as a “scout” on the Gresley forum explains,

“It's finished Three Bridges 4-1 Southend Manor. They're a very good side - Southend are clearly not bad but they got outclassed in the first half (all goals were in the first 45) tonight by great pace and a solid midfield in a 4-3-3 formation from Three Bridges. More to follow when my fingers are less blue.”


Three Bridges are starting to look good it would seem but now have their toughest test yet against Gresley. I’m hoping to be at this game, although I do have one pressing question. Where the f**k is Gresley!?

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2011/2012:

1ST QUALIFYING ROUND: Croydon FC 1-2 Beckenham Town (Croydon Sports Arena, Att: 51)

2ND QUALIFYING ROUND: Beckenham Town 5-1 Fisher FC (Eden Park Avenue, Att: 58)

1ST ROUND: Three Bridges 3-0 Beckenham Town [After Extra Time] (Jubilee Field, Att: 68)

2ND ROUND: Rye United 1-2 Three Bridges (The Salts, Att: 105)

3RD ROUND: Southend Manor 0-0 Three Bridges [After Extra Time] (Southchurch Park, Att: 64)

3RD ROUND REPLAY: Three Bridges 4-1 Southend Manor (Jubilee Field, Att: 66)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Road to Wembley 2011/12 (2nd Round)

It was 2nd Round day and as I had other matters to attend to, I couldn’t pop down South to see the small town of Rye and their boys take on Three Bridges in the FA Vase.


Rye United play their football this season in the Sussex County League 1st Division and after coming 2nd last season, they are still doing well this time out in 2nd place going into this game, although they look like they could struggle to catch Pagham FC due to playing a few games more than the table toppers. Their home ground, The Salts also plays home to the local cricket club and so was a quaint little ground with a old school pavilion until it was destroyed in an arson attack in August 2010.

_wsb_517x251_Rye United - Southern Water 9

As Rye United and Three Bridges both play in the Sussex County League, they had already met this season at The Salts with Rye winning 3-0. I’ll let the Rye United website write up for this game do the talking. It makes for some interesting reading:

Bridges defender nominated for Oscar

It all started so well. Macca lobbed the keeper from 35 yards to give Rye the lead after 3 minutes. Then came one of two defining moments. First Liam Upton stormed down the left, lost the ball and lunged in to win the ball back. Foul, yes. Red Card, very harsh. Was the ref influenced by the Bridges defender rolling around screaming? Who knows? But why are we not surprised that he recovers and jumps to his feet as soon as the red card was flourished.

United were still running rings around the punching, stamping, Bridges journeymen until the second defining moment. 10 minutes into the second half, Luke Woodley is stamped on. The assistant looked to have raised his flag but play continued and Duncan flew in, two footed. A clear red card, yes, but no reference to the stamping which it appeared the assistant had witnessed. Still Rye held out until 12 minutes from time when Carney shot through a crowd to tie it up. Yet still the 9 men came back and Sam Adams hit the post before on 89 minutes, Carney proved there is no justice and gave the visitors the win.

Rye United 1 (McArthur) Three Bridges 2”

Even for me that is an exceptionally bias sounding report. I wasn’t there but it does seem to me that Rye lost their discipline and thus lost their place in the FA Vase. Three Bridges now have a trip to Essex for an away tie against Southend Manor as the Vase starts to get down to the exciting stuff. As for Rye v T.Bridges, Round 3 of this season’s clashes takes place at Three Bridges later in season (whenever Sussex County League decide to release the later fixtures). It promises to be fiery. Next up for this road, Saafend!

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2011/2012:

1ST QUALIFYING ROUND: Croydon FC 1-2 Beckenham Town (Croydon Sports Arena, Att: 51)

2ND QUALIFYING ROUND: Beckenham Town 5-1 Fisher FC (Eden Park Avenue, Att: 58)

1ST ROUND: Three Bridges 3-0 Beckenham Town [After Extra Time] (Jubilee Field, Att: 68)

2ND ROUND: Rye United 1-2 Three Bridges (The Salts, Att: 105)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dulwich Hamlet Youth vs Oxford United Youth (17/11/11)

Match 135

Ground #: 101

Ground: Champion Hill

Competition: FA Youth Cup 2nd Round

Kick Off: 7pm

Cost: £4

Programme: 20p

Attendance: 138

Dulwich Hamlet Youth 0

Oxford United Youth 2

Marsh 5’, Udumaga 90’


It had been a while since I watched my only Youth Cup match (at Blackburn) as I had waited for a really interesting match up to take place in the Youth Cup after that. Last season Dulwich Hamlet’s Youth Team got all the way to the 3rd Round of this competition before they were beaten by big boys Newcastle United 6-2 at their Champion Hill ground. This season, Dulwich had gone on a good run again and got another Football League side in the form of Oxford United. Down to the Hill I go!


Dulwich is an area of South London and consists of East Dulwich, West Dulwich and Dulwich Village. The first documented evidence of Dulwich is as a hamlet outside London in 967AD, granted by King Edgar to one of his thanes Earl Aelfheah. The name of Dulwich may come from two old English words, Dill, a white flower, and wihs, meaning a damp meadow, giving a meaning of "the meadow where dill grows". In 1538, Henry VIII seized control of Dulwich and sold it to goldsmith Thomas Calton for £609. Calton's grandson Sir Francis Calton sold the Manor of Dulwich for £4,900 in 1605 to Elizabethan actor and entrepreneur Edward Alleyn. He vested his wealth in a charitable foundation, Alleyn's College of God's Gift, established in 1619. The charity's modern successor, The Dulwich Estate, still owns 1,500 acre in the area, including a number of private roads and a tollgate. In the Second World War, Dulwich was hit by many V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets. A possible explanation for this is that the British military when announcing V-1 and V-2 explosions deliberately gave map co-ordinates four miles north of the truth in an attempt to protect densely populated central London and focus the drops on the open spaces in the suburbs instead. Today, Dulwich has its 3 distinct areas and remains a diverse and popular part of London.


The senior side of Dulwich Hamlet are currently having an excellent season in Isthmian Division 1 South (as I write this they are top of the table). Founded in 1893, their famous pink and blue colours have seen them play in front of 20k+ crowds, saw the start of many a professional’s career and reach the FA Cup 1st Round (last time in 1998). Dulwich moved into their renovated Champion Hill ground in 1993 (the old one had to be demolished in 1991) as part of a Sainsbury’s development of the area (their ground is right next to one). The main feature of the ground is the Tommy Jover Stand (pic above) which houses all the seats and the club’s clubhouse in the top of the stand. Opposite this is a covered standing area while the rest of the ground is uncovered and standing. Its a great wee place and the ample room for everyone and between the standing areas makes this a place I would happily go back to. It’s also popular as Kent League side Fisher FC play here whilst trying to get somewhere themselves as well as Millwall Lionesses LFC who play in the Woman’s Premier League Southern section.


While this was a good time for the Dulwich Hamlet youth side, they have had a long history of professionals playing for them and coming up through the youth ranks. George Elokobi, Simeon Jackson, Marlon King, Leon Court and even Alan Pardew have all come through the youth ranks at the Hamlet. The next big star appears to be in the form of Michael Chambers, captain of this youth side. Apparently, Man Utd to Bristol City are all interested in him and are monitoring his progress. From what I can find on the interweb, Dulwich Hamlet Under 18s play in Bexley & District Junior Football League where they are currently in 7th (out of 14), although have games in hand on everyone due to their FA Youth Cup exploits. Their run in this season’s competition had so far seen off; Molesey (4-0), Welling United (5-2), Whyteleafe (3-1) and then Ebbsfleet United (2-1) in the 1st Round. Oxford United’s Youth play their football in the South West Football League Youth Alliance were they are towards the bottom in 8th place (out of 11). They had entered into the 1st Round and had beaten Cheltenham Town 3-1 to get here. The winners were at home to Bolton in the next round, big game.


Game kicked off with Oxford taking the game to the home side and after only 5 minutes they took the lead. From an Oxford corner, Cole Hinchliffe forced home goalie Sean Bazell into a good save but Tyrone Marsh reacted first to give the away side the lead. I’ll be honest, after this I did fear for the Dulwich youngsters as an early goal could have wrecked their confidence. However, the Hamlet started peppering their goal as Shelton Frimpong smashed a long range effort which was well saved by Daniel Lincoln and then he saved again from a free kick to keep it 0-1 at HT.


The 2nd half was then just 45 minutes of pure entertainment. Both sides had chances one after each other as all 138 spectators were gripped as Dulwich went for the equalizer while Oxford just needed one to kill the game off. The away side started a bit better as Marsh should have added a 2nd when he was put clear, but lacked the composure after doing all the hard work and fired wide much to the amazement of the crowd. Dulwich themselves had some glorious chances to get them back into the game with Chambers doing some excellent running which showed why a lot of top clubs are after him. Frimpong then had an excellent chance as his pace got him away from the Oxford defence but he sliced his shot wide when he looked good to score. The last 5 minutes were held up when home goalie Bazell collided with an attacker and was stretchered off with a serious looking injury. (Hopefully not too serious, he had played well) On came Emmanuel Oweyemi who apparently isn’t a goalie but made a great low save to keep them in it. Sadly though for Dulwich and underdogs everywhere, Oxford got the all important 2nd right in injury time as they turned timewasting into a textbook goal. With a free kick down in the corner flag, it looked as if Oxford would just play keep ball. However when the two defenders came at the Oxford defender, he lofted the ball over them and sent Jermaine Udumaga on his way who fired a half volley past the goalie and sent them to the 3rd Round to play Bolton.


This was a great game and an excellent evening out at the Dulwich. Great ground? Check. Entertaining game? Check. Good referee who didn’t take any of the rare dissent? Check. I need to go to more Youth Cup games as you can see some of the stars of the future before they hit the big time and the matches are normally played in the competitive but fair spirit. I intend to come back to Dulwich one day to see the senior team so good luck to the whole club and good luck to Oxford United in the 3rd Round when they take on Bolton Youth.

Photos from Dulwich Hamlet Youth vs Oxford United Youth


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7.5 (great entertainment)

- Value for money: 7/10 (reasonable enough)

- Ground: 8/10 (smashing ground)

- Atmosphere: 6.5/10 (good stuff)

- Food: 5/10 (ok burger)

- Programme: N/A – not their normal issue, was good enough though

- Referee: Andy Mead – 8/10 (excellent performance)

Dul vs OxUYou prog

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Barking FC vs Bethnal Green United (12/11/11)

Match 134

Ground #: 100

Ground: Mayesbrook Park 

Competition: Essex Senior League (Level 9) 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £6

Programme: £1.50

Attendance: 47

Barking FC 4

O’Brien 10’, Port 29’, Jones 53’, King 62’

Bethnal Green United 0


It had been a long time coming but now was the time to finally hit 3 figures in terms of grounds visited with the magic 100 mark! It had been delayed by a week due to the death of a family member and so it was again back to the drawing board as to who would be the “lucky” team and ground to be the 100. Brentford, Leyton Orient and Tooting & Mitcham were considered before it was finally decided that Essex Senior League side Barking would be the side that would be the century.


Barking is a suburban town situated in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in East London. Its name came from Anglo-Saxon Berecingas, meaning either "the settlement of the followers or descendants of a man called Bereca" or "the settlement by the birch trees". Despite a long history, the earlier 20th Century neglected Barking and it now shows. Run-down would be one word to describe it. The place though is now going through a much needed regeneration with investment in new retail outlets and business centres as well as the more grand Barking Riverside project which aims to regenerate this part of East London with housing for 25,000 people and a new DLR station.


The football team also have a long history (or a very short one depending on how you look at it!) with a Barking Institute being formed around 1896. (the origins of the club are unclear) They had some early success in various local competitions such as the South Essex League, Leyton & District League and the London League which Barking all won from 1898 to 1910. In 1919 the club became Barking Town before going to Barking in 1932. They finally joined the Isthmian League in 1952 and won the league in 1979 which started their great FA Cup runs when they reached the 2nd Round four times (in 78/79, 79/80, 81/82 and 83/84) as Aldershot, Reading, Gillingham and Plymouth Argyle all ending Barking’s dreams in that round. (And to be honest, they don’t look close to getting anywhere near the 2nd Round again) They stayed in the Isthmian League Premier until 1991 when they were relegated to Division 1 and promptly relegated again to Division 2 in 1996. In 2001, Barking merged with East Ham United (a small Essex Senior League side) to become the powerhouse of Barking & East Ham United until 2006 when they disbanded and Barking reformed, ironically now in the Essex Senior League. (As a side note, East Ham United are still defunct) They have plodded along in this league as they slowly try and get back to the days of the Isthmian League and a 6th place finish last season shows there is still a long way to go.


Their Mayesbrook Park ground has been home to Barking since 1973 when the council moved them from Vicarage Field (which is now a shopping centre). Based at the northern end of Mayesbrook Park, the ground does have a definite non-league feel about it and retains enough character but stays away from being classed as a shit-hole. Coming into the ground from behind a goal, the covered stand that you first see is a decent area to watch the game, being raised from the pitch. Down one side of the pitch is a large covered stand which has a small standing area as well as some seats and a press box (for all of those journos who report on Barking!). The other two sides of the ground is uncovered standing but the ground is set in a nice place surrounded by trees and an (it seems) abandoned athletics track. The tea hut is down in the corner on the entrance side but sadly for this game it appeared they weren’t doing hot food. (Soup doesn’t count!) So be warned if you are making a trip to Mayesbrook Park.


The Essex Senior League is at Level 9 in the FA Pyramid and so is comparable to the Western League and North West Counties League in terms of grounds and football quality. Barking were going into this game in 9th place (out of 18) and way behind current leaders Witham Town with Enfield 1893 just behind. Their opponents for this glorious match were from nearby in the form of Bethnal Green United. Formed as a community club in 2000, they were granted senior status only two seasons ago after winning the Middlesex County League in 2009. They have been a success at their new level with finishes of 5th and 4th in the league and a League Cup win too in 2009/10. They were heading into this game in 5th place and 3 points clear of Barking. Tough game to call.


After an impeccable observed minute’s silence the game kicked off with Bethnal Green Utd on top and playing a very decent slick passing game with some good runs being made on and off the ball. Their bright start continued with some possession and spending the majority of their time in the Barking area so it was no surprise then when on 9 minutes they went 0-1 down. Barking won a corner from what seemed their first attack of the game and the ball in found Ben O’Brien unmarked for an easy back post header. BGU did carry on playing well though and were very unlucky not to be level after a free kick was only partially cleared and a low shot from outside the area was brilliantly kept out by Chris Clarke. Barking though were right back at the home side and should have made it 2 when a one on one chance was rolled under away goalie Michael Bowditch’s legs but the ball rolled along onto the post and cleared away. There was no stopping the home side now though as BGU were sloppy in midfield and lost the ball. When Bobby Port was put through on goal he made no mistake for the 2nd after 29 minutes. The rest of the half swung on two controversial moments, firstly Barking again cut through BGU’s piss poor offside trap but the last man brought the striker down. A free kick was finally given but no card at all. Strange. Right on HT, a Barking player flew into a strong two footed challenge on the sideline which unsurprisingly angered the away side. After a strong chat by the ref that seemed it, until bizarrely a BGU fan jumped onto the pitch wanting to start a fight with the player who caused the tackle. Everyone seemed slightly embarrassed for him and once he was off the pitch, the HT whistle blew. First taste of non-league Essex football and it lived up to expectation!   


BGU to be fair started the 2nd half well. They pushed forward in trying to get a goal back but that was always going to leave gaps at the back and lo and behold on 53 minutes Barking effectively killed the game off. Some excellent play down the left hand side led to a chance which was at first well saved by Bowditch but Ben Jones slid in and followed up the rebound to finish in an open net. After that for around 10 minutes, BGU just fell apart with Barking absolutely battering them and creating chance after chance. They did score one of these when a cross from the right found Jake King in the box, he controlled well and turned his defender before finishing well for #4. BGU did rally back as the manager shouted to “show some pride”. They deserve one as they pushed Barking back for long spells towards the end, but you always felt that if the home side upped a gear, they would go and score some more. They showed this by hitting a post right at the death. A handsome win in the end as the open Essex Senior League proved itself again.


When I first started writing this blog, ground #100 was the target. I did have some grand plans for that 100 but in the end Mayesbrook Park was that “lucky” ground as the 3 figure sum was reached. What next? Well, the next target is to finally complete a league although that will take a while unless I actually start concentrating on one in particular! For now, it will be continue to search out the interesting and historic as I start to nail the next 200. This was a reasonable game, and a decent start to watching the Essex Senior League. I can recommend Barking, although do get something to eat before the game if you are hungry! Here’s to the next 100 grounds! *Gets out map and fixture list*

Photos from Barking vs Bethnal Green United


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (standard league game)

- Value for money: 6/10 (London priced Level 9)

- Ground: 6.5/10 (slightly quirky, slightly a shithole but in a good way)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (not much from the 47)

- Food: N/A – they didn’t do hot food

- Programme: 6/10 (reasonable for £1.50)

- Referee: Mateusz Filipiak – 6/10 (dealt with a spicy game well)

Bark vs BGU prog

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Redbridge FC vs Ebbsfleet United (29/10/11)

Match 133

Ground #: 99

Ground: Oakside Stadium 

Competition: FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £9

Programme: £2

Attendance: 442 

Redbridge FC 2

Murray 80’, Gardner 89’

Ebbsfleet United 0


It had been a whole 28 days since my last game when I saw one smaller club in the FA Cup lose out to the larger boys when Hendon finished off Oxhey’s dreams for another season. 4 weeks later and 2 rounds on I was back to try my luck again to see a cup shock. This time it would have to be a major shock as midtable Isthmian League Division 1 side Redbridge took on Blue Square Premier cracks Ebbsfleet United. At stake was a place in the 1st Round proper of the Cup, a chance at a league club and some TV footage too. A big game.


The actual Redbridge in London is in the district of Ilford and the name comes from a bridge over the River Roding which was demolished in 1921. The bridge was made of red brick, unlike other bridges in the area made of white stone. The name was later applied to the wider London borough created in 1965. Redbridge FC though have an interesting history and the club was previously known as Ford United F.C, which dated from a 1959 merger between two older clubs, Ford Sports (Dagenham) and Briggs Sports, both of which were founded in 1934. As Ford United they performed well in the Aetolian League winning the title twice and finishing runners up once. The club though were in serious problems at the start of 1995/6 season, however, as sponsorship was lost and disbanding seemed a real danger, until Vice-Chairman George Adams enlisted Sky Sports as sponsors, rescuing the Club. The 2001/02 season was an interesting one for Ford United as they bought the lease to Barkingside’s Oakside Stadium who needed to find a permanent home to allow their progression up the football pyramid. Barkingside FC (Essex Senior League) still play at the Oakside Stadium and it allowed Ford United to progress up the pyramid. They were in the Conference South during 2004-05 and were promptly relegated and then relegated again the next season from Isthmian League Premier to Isthmian 1 North were they still play today. A play-off final loss in 2007-08 is the closest they have got to heading back up to the heights they were once at.


The Oakside Stadium is a decent venue situated right next to Barkingside tube station on the Central Line way out in the sticks of NE London. A good sized clubhouse awaits you when you first come through before you walk around and see an excellent standing, uncovered terrace behind one of the goals. Down the sides of the pitch are two covered areas, one being a seated main stand, the other being a shallow covered area. Behind the other goal is now condoned off but it is just a small standing area. Having to compare it to the Evo-Stik North grounds I’ve been to, it does compare well to places like Lancaster City and Bamber Bridge. Ford United/Redbridge do have FA Cup history as they had reached the FA Cup 1st Round before in 1998-99 (losing 0-3 at Preston N.E) and 2003-04 (losing 1-2 at home to Port Vale in a replay) and were hoping to make it to Round 1 for the third time against Blue Square Prem side Ebbsfleet United.


The Fleet themselves have had a recent public history with the curious experiment of MyFootballClub taking over in late 2007. Approximately 27,000 MyFootballClub members each paid £35 to provide an approximate £700,000 takeover fund and all own an equal share in the club but make no profit nor receive a dividend. Members also have a vote on transfers as well as player selection and all major decisions which seems a bizarre way to run things but never mind. Prior to the MFC takeover, the club were known as Gravesend & Northfleet before the name change and were regular members of the Conference National/Blue Square Premier before relegation to Blue Square South in 2010. Instant promotion through the playoffs were achieved last season and would provide a mighty tough test for Redbridge with most (if not all) of their current squad having some sort of Football League experience.


And it was no surprise that the away side made most of the early running by dominating possession and winning some early corners but Redbridge’s back line were well prepared for the barrage they expected to face. No surprise it was still 0-0 after 10 mins which disappointed some Fleet fans stood near me. The Fleet still plugged away though as the opening goal was only a matter of time away and Callum Willock should have scored when he latched onto a mistake made by Billy Sendall but home goalie Adam Rafis got down to his feet to frustrate the away side more. Rafis was a busy man. First saving from a deflected Ricky Shakes shot, (yes that Shakes, the ex Swindon man) before saving a Paul Lorraine header as it was becoming clear this would certainly not be a walk in the park for the Fleet. In fact, Redbridge had a wee spell of their own at the end of the half where they began to show some belief and nearly scored a fluke when Joe Gardner curled a cross/shot (still can’t decide what it was) that just landed on the top of Preston Edwards’ net. (Yes, THAT Preston Edwards) 0-0 at HT which annoyed Fleet fans, it was deserved though.


2nd half started like the first with Fleet trying to secure an early goal to knock the belief out of the home side and like the first, the home defence were up to the task. Ebbsfleet did have the best chance of the game early on though as Michael West had the opportunity to side foot the away side into the lead but just passed the ball wide. Oh dear. Soon after this I overheard two fans say “I’m surprised at Ebbsfleet, they are like an average Isthmian League side”. Harsh words, but maybe Redbridge heard this as for the rest of the match they dominated. It was amazing to see the players grow with belief and encouragement as Ebbsfleet began to look like they weren’t up for this. Edwards kept the away side in the game around the 70 minute mark when he brilliantly kept out Vinnie Durrant’s long range effort. While it was heading for 0-0 and a cold Tuesday evening replay before Durrant got a 2nd chance at a cross after a corner and his cross found big man Ryan Murray who powered his header into the bottom corner to send Redbridge fans mental with 10 minutes to go. It was deserved and while Ebbsfleet launched forward, they had completely ran out of steam and ideas as Durrant had another shot which flied past Edwards post before party time turned into dream land for Redbridge on 88 minutes when James Robinson sent Joe Gardner through on the left wing and he finished like Thierry Henry in his pomp by passing the ball away from Edwards. Game finished. Ebbsfleet were done and so were their fans, leaving in droves to discuss yet another 4QR exit.


At the final whistle the home players and officials were absolutely ecstatic as they were into the 1st Round for the 3rd time (and the 1st under the Redbridge FC name). They received a “winnable” draw in the form of a home tie against Southern League Oxford City with the winner looking for a FL team in the 2nd Round. (Or another non-league tie to have a better crack at reaching Round 3?) I thoroughly enjoyed this game. Even though it looked to be heading for 0-0, the game was tight and tense and produced a memorable cup shock at the end of it. While leaving the Oakside Stadium, I was delighted for them. I have no connection to Redbridge and have no opinion of Ebbsfleet Utd, but I had a smile on my face at what I had just seen. I had just seen the FA Cup at its best.

Photos from Redbridge vs Ebbsfleet United


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (FA Cup shock)

- Value for money: 6/10 (upped their normal price, but still under £10)

- Ground: 7.5/10 (good non-league ground)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (good noise made)

- Food: 5/10 (small burger)

- Programme: 6/10 (added mark for new feature of wank material in prog) 

- Referee: R Whitton – 7/10 (no memory of him at all)

Red vs Ebbs prog

IMG_1036(New feature for programmes – wank material. Excellent addition)