Friday, 29 April 2011

Bickleigh vs Appledore (22/04/11)

Match 116

Ground #: 83

Ground: Happy Meadow

Competition: Southwest Peninsula Division 1 East (Level 11) 

Kick Off: 3:30pm

Cost: £3

Programme: £1

Attendance: 478

Bickleigh 1

Rapo 52’

Appledore 1

Hevingham 66’


My 2nd part of 3 in 3 was to finally meet up with the SWPL Hop for the 3rd game of their trip with a to a ground that in the past I had been thwarted getting to on several occasions. For this game though, the sun was shining, a massive crowd was expected and I was finally getting to Happy Meadow. The home of Bickleigh FC. And I couldn’t wait.


Bickleigh is a small town in mid-Devon just a few miles south of Tiverton. According to the 2001 census, the village had a population of 239 which means for this Hop game, exactly double the amount of people in the village attended. Bickleigh is home to Bickleigh Castle, the village manor house formerly known as Bickleigh Court, has a Norman chapel and baptismal font. And Farmer Nick Lees and his family have constructed several maize mazes in a field near the village. The subjects include Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, the bicentenary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and 100th anniversary of the Scouting movement. It is also the location of one of the biggest vineyards in the South West of England, Yearlstone, which has a state of the art winery, winebar and cafe. Yearlstone is now 3.5 hectares, and hosts Devon Wine Week in the last week in May each year, a celebration of local food culture.


Yearlstone overlooks Bickleigh’s Happy Meadow ground in the quant surroundings of Mid-Devon. A team really on the up, their ground shows it and it was great to see the club had really made the effort for arguably the biggest game of their history. The main, permanent, facilities were down one side as a fantastic wooden chalet type building held the changing rooms along with some covered seating thanks to the wooden roof overhanging down the side. There was another area of seating covered by a similar overhanging roof from a metal structure towards the far goal. Food was available from the small tea hut in shot which I believe was available for every game. Behind one goal for this game though was a beer tent, BBQ (again couldn’t indulge in due to Lent) and hopper legend Rob Hornby’s programme stall with all proceeds going to charity. With hard standing in some of the areas, this is a fantastic ground in a wonderful setting. It really was worth the wait.


I had seen Bickleigh twice this season, in two away games (at Exeter Uni and Axminster) and they are an improving side. After finishing rock bottom in 2009/10, they were going into this game up in 12th (out of 16) on 31 points, well ahead of Axminster Town in rock bottom. Clearly improving on every season, it will be interesting to see how high this tiny village team can go. A promotion challenge to the SWPL Premier is still a few years off, but would they even want to go up? Possibly quite happy playing some fun football in Division 1 and getting decent crowds, they may have found their perfect level here. They welcomed Appledore from N.Devon who have also been playing at this Level (technically) for donkey’s years. Formed in 1912 as Appledore & B.A.A.C they played most of their football in the N.Devon regional leagues before making the step up in 1978 to the South Western League. In 1996/97 they joined the Devon County League which then lead them to the SWPL Division 1 East when that was formed in 2007. They do not have floodlights at their Marshford ground so cannot be considered for FA Comps currently. Success has come by their way though as they picked up the Devon FA Premier Cup last season, although crashed out in the 2nd Round this season to Exmouth Town. In 6th place coming into this game on 45 points, they were on the cusps of a promotion challenge if they can get the form sorted out in the future.


As the game was kicked off by ref Larry Cousins, one thing I noticed straight away was despite the 478 strong crowd in attendance, the atmosphere was quite flat as people just chatted away to each other whilst watching the football in a very respectful manner. So with a “Hop Atmosphere” Bickleigh made the early chances as they were wanting to show the crowd what they could do. On 5 minutes it should have been 1-0 when a great through ball saw Jordan Copp hit the opposite post as he rolled his shot onto it and then the rebound was smashed over from about 10 yards as the Bickleigh management stared in disbelief as they were still level. Then Larry Cousins got involved and handed out a needless yellow card to a Bickleigh player from a tackle that I actually thought was fair. This got Larry a lot of stick, including from Appledore manager Geoff Copp who was telling him so on the touchline. This made the rest of the half fairly niggly although Appledore did have a header cleared off the line from a corner. While it was 0-0 at HT, a lot of hoppers were looking at their no 0-0 games run crashing to a halt here.


2nd half started exactly as the first with Bickleigh taking the game to Appledore in an effort to try and find the opener. Bickleigh again blasted over in the box after some good build up work with another groan from the 400 odd hoppers here as that 0-0 was drawing closer. Then on 52 minutes, the home side struck. A through ball completely caught the Appledore defence out and Kieran Rapo easily finished past Appledore goalie Jimmy Thorne to make it 1-0. A goal! Appledore then woke up, and started to batter the home side. Firstly James Bateman shrugged off some weak marking in the box to fire a shot at Ben Mercy and then a couple of minutes later an Appledore defender had a header that hit the bar after Mercy and a couple of his defenders had gone missing at a corner. The warning shots were coming and it was no surprise on 66 minutes when they fashioned an equalizer. A great ball in from the right missed the first set of players but Appledore’s top scorer Richard Hevingham lashed home a half-volley to make it 1-1. Both sides did go out for a winner although only one real chance was created which was a low shot from outside the area which was well saved from Thorne. 1-1 it finished, a fair result.


Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was the crowd, maybe it was even the half pint of cider I’d had but this was a fantastic day out. The ground really is a must see, in a fantastic setting with every club member I spoke to a friendly one. This may be a different thinking if you go on a grim and wet day but with adequate cover at Happy Meadow, this shouldn’t be a problem. As for the hop, nobody spoke to me. (Haha!) But I still had a good time listening into conversations about hopping and grounds to see. I had been a bit concerned about going to games with a fluctuated crowd but it was a good experience and I went to carry that on the next day with my final “3 in 3” game at Camelford. As for Bickleigh, go visit, you won’t regret it!

Photos from Bickleigh vs Appledore


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5.5/10 (was ok)

- Value for money: 8/10 (normal at this level and great value)

- Ground: 8/10 (really was worth the wait)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (a “Hop Atmosphere”)

- Food: 9/10 (they did cheese + onion pasties! BBQ smelt excellent too)

- Programme: 6/10 (was ok, don’t think they normally charge £1 for it? ;) )

- Referee: Larry Cousins – 5/10 (early mistake but was ok for the part)

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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Ipplepen Athletic vs Abbotskerswell (21/04/11)

Match 115

Ground #: 82

Ground: Moor Road

Competition: South Devon League Premier (Level 12)

Kick Off: 6:30pm

Cost: £2

Programme: With Admission

Attendance: 124

Ipplepen Athletic 2

Sparkes 63’, Stacey 75’

Abbotskerswell 3

Shane Gagg 23’, Woodmore 50’, Dodson 78’


For hoppers, the Easter Bank Holiday weekend is a superb time to cram as many games as they can in. For the past few years too, the excellent SWPL Hop has been running on this extended weekend taking in the mixed and wonderful bag of grounds that currently host Southwest Peninsula League football. Although I’ve been writing this blog for just over 2 years now, I had the chance to go to the previous two but for one reason or another decided against it. Now with the final SWPL Hop coming for this 2011 Easter Weekend, I decided to get a bit involved. Although not straight away as the Thursday evening game was at Crediton United, a ground I had only just visited. So an unofficial “hop” game was sought, and found at South Devon League side Ipplepen Athletic, with their derby game against Abbotskerswell. Keen!


Ipplepen is a small village in South Devon which used to be home to the Ipplepen Priory before it seems disappearing of the face of the earth. (I cannot find, although I didn’t look for long, any real information about the Priory today) W.G Hoskins described Ipplepen in his book “Devon” (1954) as followed, “IPPLEPEN is a grey and rather dismal village, with much bad modern building. The church (St. Andrew) stands well at the head of the village, and is almost entirely a 15th century rebuilding. The Perpendicular windows of the nave are notably good. The font and rood-screen are said to be c. 1430- 50. The pulpit is a magnificent specimen of 15th century art, with canopied niches from which the statuettes have disappeared. There are also two par- close screens.” It sounds like an absolutely rocking place then!


I didn’t actually head into the village as Ipplepen’s Moor Road ground is situated to the north of the village down some tight country lanes. Upon arrival, the ground is certainly an excellent set-up for Level 12 and wouldn’t look out of place slightly higher in the pyramid too. Right next to the cricket club, you enter the ground either through or down the side of the clubhouse to a wide open grassy area and the actual pitch. Inside the clubhouse it is spacious and easily kept the big crowd (big for this league at least!) in and seated if they wished to watch the game from there, although it is set back some way from the pitch. The pitch itself is fairly basic. A wooden and mesh wire fence is railed off all around the pitch and at a good height (for me) too so I could lean on it! There is a small amount of hard standing down a wee bit of the clubhouse side that would probably need to be increased to host a higher level of football (which Ipplepen are hoping to do one day). Behind one goal the grass bank is raised so it can provide a decent view and apart from that there are no other spectator facilities, yet. One final point is behind the other goal is a small training pitch and car park which is surrounded by lights (check other photos). It would probably be fair to presume that they could erect floodlights around the pitch should they need to in the future.


While things off the pitch look good, Ipplepen on the pitch aren’t quite ready to make the charge towards the Southwest Peninsula Leagues just yet as this was their first season back in the South Devon League Premier and were not exactly troubling the top sides. Going into this game in 8th (out of 14) having got 28 points and only 3 (including this one) to play. This was their first season back in the Premier Division though and so they had achieved their target of not being involved in a relegation battle as footballing giants Ashburton and Waldon Athletic looked to be taking the drop. They welcomed Abbotskerswell to Moor Road who had made the short 2 mile journey down the A381 for this derby game. Coming into the match up in 5th, the away side were the favourites for this game and they having only played 19 games up till this one, they could still have a Top 2 position at the end of the season. So not only local pride to play for then!


The game kicked off in glorious sunshine and both teams made a positive start as they wanted to impress the larger than normal crowd who had turned up. Ipplepen did look good on the counter attack early on, but very quickly Abbotskerswell began to get on top, especially through their #3, the left back, Paul Sharland, who rampaged up and down early down and caused the Ipplepen right back all sorts of problems. They then went close from two free-kicks, the first one was quickly taken which caught out the home defence but the shot was fired wide and then Ipplepen goalie Scott Bond saved well from a driven free kick. The opening goal was coming and it was no surprise on 23 minutes when Abbots took the lead from a piece of individual brilliance. A long diagonal ball from the left found Shane Gagg on the right edge who cut inside and beat one man then fired home into the top left corner to give Abbots a great lead. Abbots should have increased their lead further on 34 minutes when a through ball put an Abbots player 1 on 1 with Ipplepen goalie Scott Bond and as he rounded him, the player could only crash his shot onto the underside of the bar and away as he had the goal at his mercy. Sharland then forced Bond into another good save as at HT the away side were looking at an easy win and I was looking at the most one-sided derby I’d ever seen. Ok, 2nd most.


The 2nd half continued in the exact same way as most of the 1st as Abbots only needed 5 minutes to increase the lead as another through ball put beefy striker James Woodmore onto goal. As he had a couple of defenders around him and looked quite big, I didn’t expect much to happen, but suddenly, Woodmore burst away and he had pace! He easily skipped past the last defender a la Maradonna c.2002 before easily slotting home and it looked game over there and then. That is also what Abbots must have felt too as they eased off so much that Ipplepen came right back into the game. At first, they looked fairly blunt up front and so the game was probably drifting to a 2-0 away win when the ‘Pen won a free kick on 63 minutes. The cross was floated in and Stewart Sparkes beat Abbots goalie Chris Jackson to the ball and so his header sailed into the empty net. Game on! Especially when Woodmore thought he scored his 2nd but in the build-up play to the goal, everyone in the ground noticed the blatant handball. On 75 minutes, ‘Pen won another free-kick, in round about the same area as they had scored their goal from so people took notice. This time the ball was hit in with pace and it went through everyone to arrive at the back post where Jack Stacey hammered the ball in from around 5 yards out. The home fans/bench were delighted as they had amazingly come back from the dead. (Insert Lazarus joke here) That revival lasted only 3 minutes though as yet another through ball cut the home defence to pieces and Paul Dodson finished his 1 on 1 chance easily and made it 2-3. Ipplepen came back though, they hit the bar after some head tennis in the box as Jackson looked extremely shaky on crosses and ‘Pen knew this. Abbots though let the game drift away though and won it 3-2 and celebrated at the final whistle like they’d won the World Cup. Would be some banter on those farms on the Tuesday!


So for my first game for the “3 in 3” it was a far better experience than expected. An excellent game played by two attacking teams in an excellent setting. Some good weather too (I wouldn’t like coming here on a wet day) made this a really worth while trip. An ambitious team who want to be some day playing in the SWPL, so while that may seem a fair bit away currently, who’s to doubt their advance in the future. A recommended visit.

Photos from Ipplepen Athletic vs Abbotskerswell


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7.5/10 (expectantly good entertainment)

- Value for money: 6/10 (ok, but a lot at Level 12 don’t charge)

- Ground: 6/10 (professional in a good setting)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (lively here and there)

- Food: N/A – still on Lent so couldn’t sample the BBQ

- Programme: 7/10 (was free and had the info you want, good stuff)

- Referee: Allen Johns – 7.5/10 (great game, kept control)


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Road to Wembley 2010/11 (Semi-Final)

WEMBLEY! WEMBLEY! WE’VE FINALLY REACHED WEMBLEY! Although as I’ve repeatedly moaned at before, not at the Final stage. This was the “bigger” Semi-Final. Citeh vs United. Blue vs Red. (Add other melodramatic face-offs if you wish) where the winner would have a crack at the FA Cup against either Bolton or Stoke.  

Manchester derby fizzles out, Chelsea extend gap(It’s all love love love)

Unlike in early rounds where only around 150 hardy souls would know (and care) about the result, considering this game was watched around the World by millions, it seems pointless for me to regurgitate any of the action. We all know City won 1-0. We all know Yaya Toure scored the only goal. We all know Paul “can’t tackle” Scholes was sent off for an awful challenge Pablo Zabaleta and we all know the World’s most expensive wind up merchant Mario Balotelli did his job and got Rio Ferdinand riled up like the hypocrite he is.

yaya-toure-925226349(Boom! 1-0!)

I managed to catch most of the game on shITV as I rushed back from Wellington and made a few observations. 1 – Paul Scholes needs to retire and retire now. He just looks off the pace and completely ineffective at this level. 2 – The FA Cup needed an “Original Top 4” free Final as I felt (especially with Chelsea and Man Utd) they want to win the bigger trophies like the League and CL so won’t be that fussed about missing out on the FA Cup this time. Andddd 3 – ITV is really shit. BBC please buy the rights to FA Cup games from them. I’m begging you. Good luck to Manchester City and Stoke City on May 14th.

Balotelli(I told you it was all love love love!)

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2010/2011:

EXTRA PRELIMINARY ROUND: Elmore 1-5 Hamworthy Utd (Horsdon Park, Att: 247)

PRELIMINARY ROUND: Hamworthy Utd 2-2 Sherborne Town (County Ground, Att: 122)

PRELIMINARY ROUND Replay: Sherborne Town 3–0 Hamworthy Utd (Raleigh Grove, Att: 154)

1ST QUALIFYING ROUND: Wimborne Town 1-3 Sherborne Town (The Cuthbury, Att: 226)

2ND QUALIFYING ROUND: Sherborne Town 1-2 Hungerford Town (Raleigh Grove, Att: 138)

3RD QUALIFYING ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 4-0 Hungerford Town (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 365)

4TH QUALIFYING ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 0-0 Bath City (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 551)

4TH QUALIFYING ROUND Replay: Bath City 3-4 Swindon Supermarine (Twerton Park, Att: 665)

1ST ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 2-1 Eastwood Town (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 1,159)

2ND ROUND: Colchester United 1-0 Swindon Supermarine (Colchester Community Stadium, Att: 3,047)

3RD Round: Swansea City 4-0 Colchester United (Liberty Stadium, Att: 7,005)

4TH Round: Swansea City 1-2 Leyton Orient (Liberty Stadium, Att: 6,281

5TH Round: Leyton Orient 1-1 Arsenal (Brisbane Road, Att: 9,136)

5TH Round Replay: Arsenal 5-0 Leyton Orient (Emirates Stadium, Att: 59,361)

QUARTER-FINAL: Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal (Old Trafford, Att: 74,693)

SEMI-FINAL: Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United (Wembley Stadium, Att: 86,549)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Wellington AFC vs Bishop Sutton (16/04/11)

Match 114

Ground #: 81

Ground: North Street

Competition: Western Premier League (Level 9)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £5

Programme: With Admission

Attendance: 54 

Wellington AFC 1

Herrod 3’

Bishop Sutton 1

Farmer 61’


The Western League was easily my favourite football league in this country before I got stuck into the SWPL more and it was sadly overtaken as the majority of WL clubs are situated in and around Bristol which is miles away from me. However, with my current campaign to “clean up” many of the grounds near to me before 2011/12, I was off to Somerset to visit Western League Premier strugglers Wellington and a ground that I had been planning to visit for quite some time.


Wellington, in Somerset (not to be confused with the Wellington in Shropshire or New Zealand!) is a small industrial town situated around 7 miles south west of Taunton, near the boarder with Devon. Known as Weolingtun in the Anglo-Saxon period, its name had changed to Walintone by the time of the Domesday Book of 1086. Wellington became a town under a royal charter of 1215 and during the medieval period it grew as a centre for trade on the road from Bristol to Exeter. Major rebuilding took place following a fire in the town in 1731, after which it became a centre for clothmaking. Wellington gave its name to the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, who is commemorated by the nearby Wellington Monument. Local industries, which now include an aerosol factory and bed manufacturers, are celebrated at the Wellington Museum in Fore Street.


The town’s football team play at the local playing fields in the town on North Street. They share the playing surface with the town’s cricket team who have their pavilion just set off from the football pitch. It is this sharing arrangement which is why Wellington’s North Street ground feels only like half a ground. On one side (where you come in) is a covered standing area that also has a few loose seats that can be sat on. (Obviously, or whatever else you would want to do to/with the seats) The dugouts are also both this side as well as the rear entrance to the small clubhouse. 3 sides of the pitch (not the cricket side) are railed off with hard standing around most of this section. Also, to play at this level, a seated stand is needed within the ground and this is situated randomly behind a goal with a plastic atcost structure that doesn’t really look right. The ground is “enclosed” due to metal shielding panels that run along the cricket side. This also looks out of place and while you have to remember the ground is situated in the town’s playing fields, it’s a shame that it doesn’t feel like a permanent structure or a place Wellington can really call home. One final point on the ground, I was interested to see how cricket was played in the summer here with floodlights et al, but in the programme, the club chairman was asking for volunteers to help take them down after their final home game of the season on Good Friday. Question solved.


The team itself hadn’t had a particularly good season on the pitch and were right in the shit, in terms of a relegation battle, to avoid the drop down to Western Division 1. After a shocking start where they didn’t pick up their first league win until 23rd October with a 2-1 home win over Corsham Town, they were playing catch up ever since and went into this game in 18th (out of 19) on 17 points, just 2 ahead of bottom club Welton Rovers and 6 behind Longwell Green Sports, but with a game in hand on them. While talking to a club official just before KO, Wellington are in the dark at the moment in terms of relegation from this league. Last season with 20 teams, two (Calne Town and Melksham Town) were the unlucky clubs to drop into Western D1. This season could be different however with only 19 clubs, it may only be one unlucky team to make the drop. Whatever does happen, Wellington would want to finish above Longwell Green Sports, just to make sure the threat of relegation does not haunt them at the end of the season. They welcomed Bishop Sutton for this game who were at the opposite end of the table as they approached this game in 3rd place (although Ilfracombe in 4th had two games in hand on them and only 1 point down). Located near Bristol at the other end of Somerset, BS is a horrifically difficult ground to get to and from via public transport but a few hardy souls (around 10, I noticed) had made the trip from the small village in the Chew Valley.


Wellington had played BS only recently and won 2-0 at Lakeview and looked like carrying on their recent good form against BS when they took an early lead. It was only 3 minutes in when Alex Pounde put a delightful through ball to set Craig Herrod on his way and his 20 yard chip sailed over BS goalie Chris Blammon for an exceptional start for the home side and the management team on the bench celebrated that goal like they had just won the World Cup. BS didn’t let that bother them however as they came straight back into the game with the vast amount of territory and possession. BS were also helped by Wellington’s midfield going completely missing at important times so the away side’s first barrier of defence they were coming up against was the actual back line which was putting Welly up against it time and time again. They were however still a small threat on the counter attack, although that ended midway through the half as Wellington’s most dangerous player, Jack Adams made a calf strain worse and was subbed, the 2nd sub Wellington had to make due to an injury already. It was nearly all 3 subs on 41 minutes when a frankly awful challenge on Craig Herrod had the Wellington management off the bench and running towards Craig with a first aid pack. The defender only got a yellow card which was a pathetic decision. I’m not one for wishing players get sent off but the tackle was nearly assault! The match was also now beginning to get spicy not helped by an incompetent referee who was ignoring every call his linesmen made and infuriated everyone at the game.


The 2nd half followed much of the same pattern as the 1st half with BS trying hard to get an equalizer that you have to say now their possession deserved. That equalizer did arrive on 61 minutes when a cross from the left found its way to the back post where Liam Farmer was on hand to volley his shot into the ground and bounce away from Ryan Lewis in the Welly net for the equalizer. From then on it was just one end to the other (although not that exciting) as both sides tried to find a winner. It was Bishop Sutton right at the death who had the best chances to take it. Firstly, some last gasp defending in the 6 yard box stopped BS getting a goal bound shot away before in the very very last minute, a free kick from the left again was poorly defended and a BS player somehow contrived to fire over from about 6 yards. 1-1 was the final score. A score that probably doesn’t do either team any good.


Bar the ground set-up (which is hardly the club’s fault), I enjoyed this day out and even got some excellent weather again for the 2nd half. Every person I spoke with involved with the club was extremely friendly and helpful and I hope they win their battle to stay up in the Western Premier. They are at home to Dawlish Town on Good Friday while other relegation candidates Longwell Green Sports are at home to Bitton. Should results go in favour of Wellington on that day, then a relegation crunch match on 30th April where the winners will stay up. And the loser, erm, might not.

Photos from Wellington vs Bishop Sutton


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (fairly entertaining)

- Value for money: 6.5/10 (normal amount for the league)

- Ground: 4.5/10 (doesn’t really feel like a ground)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (was decent enough)

- Food: 7/10 (extra points for doing Irn Bru, pasties look good too)

- Programme: 4.5/10 (not great, an ad fest but was free)

- Referee: D.Ricketts – 2/10 (woeful, assistants are there to help pal)

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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Crediton United vs Teignmouth AFC (09/04/11)

Match 113

Ground #: 80

Ground: Lords Meadow 

Competition: Southwest Peninsula Division 1 East (Level 11) 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £3

Programme: With Admission

Attendance: 34

Crediton United 0

Teignmouth AFC 1

Fay 37’


Now coming into the final few weeks of the season I was beginning to get well into the “tidying up” that I had started last week by visiting the closest ground to my house. With a move to London coming in Aug/Sept 2011, Devon reports would be few and far between after that so it was time to visit the closest SWPL ground that I was still yet to visit and so it was a trip to nearby Crediton. Delightfully I had picked a Saturday that the sun was shining and it was that hot it was 3/4 lengths and t-shirt weather! Who says it ALWAYS rains here?


Crediton is a small town just 7 miles north-west of Exeter and situated in the narrow vale of the River Creedy. It is split into two parts, the old town in the east and the new town in the west. The first indication of settlement at Crediton is the knowledge that Winfrith (Saint Boniface) was born here in c. 672. He propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century and is the patron saint of both Germany and the Netherlands. This is probably why Crediton has a grand church for such a small town with the grandiose Church of the Holy Cross situated in the centre. Crediton pre-20th Century was built upon the large woollen and serge industries but that has now been superseded by show-making and the manufacturing of cider, amongst other things. It has two business parks also, one at Fordton and the larger one at Lords Meadow which is also where the town’s football team currently play.


Crediton United are another one of these Devon/Cornwall based clubs that you don’t realise until you research it, that have actually played Western League football in their history. Established in 1910, this was actually their centenary season which was nicely shown on the programme with team photos from down the years on the cover. It was a shame that the cover was a shell and not updated for every game, but that’s just a personal thing. Crediton had first played in the W.League in 1990 when they made the step up from the Devon & Exeter League. After some top finishes in the Western Division 1, they were promoted to the Premier in 1992/93 after a 3rd place finish before dropping back down to D1 3 years later after finishing 18th in 1996. In 1998 they were voluntary demoted down to the Devon County League where they floated around in the lower end of the table until the SWPL was set up in 2007 and they were placed into Division 1 East. After a 14th place last season, Cred went into this game in 15th (2nd bottom) and well behind 14th place Newton Abbot Spurs, but 9 points clear of Axminster Town. With no relegation in this league, this season, Crediton would be safe for now but dropping anymore down the table could see Crediton back in the D&E League. To try and stop this slide, the club announced that ex Yeovil striker and former Wellington and Witheridge manager Warren Patmore would be taking charge beginning with this game.


They welcomed South Devon side Teignmouth to Lords Meadow who were in an interesting position due to their games in hand as they could stop promotion chasing Budleigh Salterton from going up by finishing in 2nd place and therefore the final promotion spot. (Top place Liverton Utd secured the title after this game but before this article was published but have not applied for promotion) I had seen Teignmouth once before, in a cracking cup tie earlier in the season and was looking forward to seeing them in action again. Playing in a glorious day at Lords Meadow probably skewed my opinion of the ground slightly, but I loved it. 3 separate areas of cover, including a seated stand (with wooden benches for seats) that provided a great view. The rest of the ground is railed off with hard standing and with floodlights in place, Crediton could easily host a higher level of football should they finally turn the tide and start to rise up the table.


The away side were the clear favourites going into this game (Teignmouth had won the reverse game 2-1 last month) so it was no surprise they came out and made the better start as some balls into the box had Cred goalie Fred Tonkin under pressure as he did not look comfortable at all with crosses. It nearly got worse on 16 minutes when Tonkin ballsed up another cross and Teign’s shot was cleared off the line by a defender. Teignmouth kept plugging away for the opener but were nearly caught on the counter on 29 minutes when pressure up field caused a defensive mistake but Teign goalie Nicky Moyse dealt with the shot well. Then on 37 mins Teign thought they had the breakthrough when a cross from the left handed a header to Teign striker Craig Stonelake who's header smashed off the underside of the bar and then appeared to be only cleared off the line by a defender’s hand. Yet Crediton didn’t learn, they could only clear the ball to the right when Teignmouth worked the ball back into the box where Adam Fay was all alone at the back post who side-foot volleyed past a helpless Tonkin to give Teignmouth the lead. It stayed that way till HT as neither side could create another good opportunity.


Due to finally having a decent radio app for my iPhone, I was slightly distracted for the start of the 2nd half due to the Grand National and 5Live’s coverage of the race. Maybe Teignmouth were slightly distracted by the race too as Crediton took the game to them and should have equalised early on when a floated free kick found 3 (THREE!) Crediton players unmarked at the back post but the header from one of them was easily saved by Moyse. Crediton kept the ball for most of the half but all I could write in my Travelling Fan notebook was “Crediton are so toothless”. Patmore, a striker in his time really needs to train his strike force up here as Crediton could not hit a barn door, etc. With 5 minutes to go however, Teignmouth were caught napping from a free-kick but Crediton had time to balls up the shot as one of their few clear cut chances was wasted. Right on FT, Teignmouth burst clear and worked the ball to the far right post area where a rasping drive crashed off the stanchion of the woodwork and bounced away. Was it over the line? We’ll never know, but Teignmouth easily held on in injury time to win.


On a beautiful day, I “ticked” another ground that had been a target of mine for some time. Crediton is the opening game for the 2011 Easter SW Hop so if you’re viewing to have a gander at what Lords Meadow is like, I fully recommend the ground. It’s a smashing venue and everyone I spoke to on the day were very helpful. The ground could easily host Western League football again, however with 2 teams expected to come up into SWP Div 1 East next season, relegation would be on the cards again and so Crediton must improve rapidly or they may never get near the Western League again. Teignmouth’s end of season run will be interesting to watch as they try and snatch 2nd place off Budleigh. Their game on the next Saturday (16th Apr) saw them lose 3-2 to Ottery St Mary so they are 9 points down on Budleigh, but with 3 games in hand and 5 to play. It’s all to play for.

Photos from Crediton United vs Teignmouth


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (decent enough)

- Value for money: 8/10 (normal amount for this league)

- Ground: 7.5/10 (smashing little set-up)

- Atmosphere: 2/10 (bit of a training game atmosphere)

- Food: 5/10 (didn’t taste pasties but had enough in cold drinks/snacks)

- Programme: 5/10 (was free, but less ads and more info would be nicer)

- Referee: Jamie Macleod – 4/10 (seemed he couldn’t be bothered)


Monday, 4 April 2011

Torridgeside vs BOCA Seniors (02/04/11)

Match 112

Ground #: 79

Ground: Donnacroft

Competition: North Devon League Premier (Level 12)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: Free

Programme: None

Attendance: 34 (h/c) 

Torridgeside 0 

BOCA Seniors 5

L.Ovey 41’, Deakin 59’, Sharp 67’, Davey 76’, 90’


Although I do travel around Devon and Cornwall watching the local leagues and levels most people wouldn’t even dream of touching, I had ignored completely a league that was right on my doorstep. Yes, I had visited 3 grounds used in the North Devon Leagues, but had never been to a league game in this 4 tier league. I had also never visited the closest ground to my current home so I decided to kill two birds with one stone, or game as you will, with a cheap visit to Torridgeside FC and their Donnacroft home.


Torridgeside FC (along with their Youth side, aptly named Torridgeside Youth) play at the Donnacroft complex on the East side of Torrington, in North Devon. They have two pitches that run parallel to each other (with a small gap in between) to give it a decent feel about the place. The main pitch is railed off on the dugout side and roped off down the other. The main pitch is also next to the changing room blocks and a tea room along with some storage boxes. This means it does have a footballing place about it (rather than a village side playing on a field) and little work would be needed on Donnacroft (in my opinion) if they ever wanted to make the step up to the Southwest Peninsula Leagues. The secondary pitch is basic but with dugouts and Torridgeside Youth have their own pitch which is gated off from the rest of the complex (see other pictures). Donnacroft is also home to Torrington RFC who play on a nearby rugby pitch and as I had to walk through the rugby section to get to this game, I noticed they were issuing programmes so a cheeky trip to them could be on the cards! (They beat Saltash 23-17 FYI)


Torridgeside are the 2nd team who play in Torrington, along with their neighbours Torrington FC who play in the village at Vicarage Field. Now they are both in the same division, the town’s local bragging rights are at stake and although Torridgeside are well above Torrie in the table (5th vs 11th), the “Super Greens” did dispatch Torridgeside 3-0 at Donnacroft last month. To avenge the 2-4 defeat at home in September. Strangely a 3rd Torrington team, the Torrington Admirals (see other pics) played here too until the 2009/2010 season when they pulled out of the league. The sole Donnacroft side are now heading towards the right end of the top tier in the North Devon Leagues going into this game in 3rd. (Albeit having played a fair amount more of games than the teams below them) Last season Torridgeside came a lowly 13th (out of 16) picking up 23 points but stayed well away from the relegated clubs due to the fact they were both rotten. With 11 more points already picked up, this season was infinitely better than the last but with the top dogs BOCA in town, this game was going to be a real test…


BOCA, since I witnessed their infamous 7-1 whooping of Exmouth Town at the tail end of 2010 have not stumbled at all since their surprise defeat at Barnstaple AAC, in September. With 16 games played in the league going into this game, they had won 15 and with that 1 defeat looked certain to re-take the title they had lost to Shamwickshire Rovers last season. Since that 7-1 win, they did lose in the QF of the Devon Premier Cup going down 1-3 to Budleigh Salterton but from the accounts of the game I had read, they were extremely unlucky to lose in extra-time. They had also crashed out of the Torridge Cup, again at the QF stage when they went down 5-4 away at Hatherleigh Town. Apart from those cup blips, BOCA have really been unstoppable this season and going into this game needed 7 more wins for the title. I had been quite disappointed with BOCA’s attitude in the previous game I saw them in but I’m all for giving teams and people 2nd chances so I looked forward to this game. (It had been in my “diary” since January!)


When the game kicked off in glorious sunshine it was quick to see why BOCA are where they are. Extremely positive football right from the start, Richie Joslin forced an excellent low save from T-side goalie Adam Williams. BOCA really dominated the early chances and had the majority of possession so it became early on just a case of seeing how long Torridgeside could hold out for. On 13 mins, Williams made another excellent save, reacting well to a deflected shot that was heading in. It looked like T-side had done their homework as they sat deep and did not allow BOCA the space to easily string their passes together. Still at 0-0 midway through the half, BOCA were becoming frustrated and they nearly went 1 down on 33 minutes when some excellent one touch football had the BOCA defence peddling back, but the T-side striker fired his shot over. It showed the BOCA defence could be got at and would give T-side a spring board to go on if they got to HT at 0-0. Sadly, they didn’t. On 41 minutes they conceded a corner that was taken short and as nobody pressured the BOCA winger, his ball in found an unmarked Lewis Ovey who had an easy header to make it 0-1. A ridiculously simple goal to give away and as someone who despises short corners for the reason they never work it also made me annoyed to see a goal given away like that. T-side looked visibly deflated at HT and needed picking up for the 2nd half.


BOCA clearly said at HT to try and finish the game off with a 2nd (and possibly 3rd) goal as early as possible as their superior fitness began to overpower T-side. The home team were getting picked off far more easily in this half as they could not clear their lines properly to mount any sort of attack at all. Ironically though, BOCA’s 2nd goal on 59 minutes came from a counter attack after T-side had lost the ball in the centre of the park. Some excellent play on the right hand side found Scott Sharp in the box and he laid the ball off to Matt Deakin who fired his shot low into the opposite corner to kill the game off pretty much then. Or so I thought, T-side showing they could still threaten as Nathan Walter went on a run and skipped past the BOCA defence only to see his shot saved by Babb and onto a post. On 67 minutes it was well and truly game over. Jake Crush received the ball on the left and got to the by-line where his low cross was just out of reach of Williams as Sharp nipped in for a tap in and #3. T-side’s shape began to go as they lost heart for the last 15 minutes as BOCA went in search of more goals. #4 came on 76 minutes as again a cross came in from the left which found James Davy who had just come on and his flick rolled past Williams and in as BOCA gave the scoreline some gloss. T-side still threaten to end BOCA’s clean sheet and Babb again had to save well from Walter as he was put through 1 on 1. Yet with the very last kick of the game, Crush yet again from the left got the ball into Davy who swivelled on the ball and lashed it past Williams into the top corner. 0-5 the final score.


I really enjoyed this day out at proper grassroots football as some excellent stuff was played by both sides. Torridgeside lost heart and so lost 4 goals in the 2nd half which they will have to work on in the future, but the do look a club on the up. As for BOCA, I’ll take back some of the harsh words I said about them when I last saw them in December 2010. This game was tougher for them but the off the ball stuff and bad temperament had gone. A couple of the T-side regulars moaned that BOCA moan at every decision that goes against them and I have to say, they do, but no more than other teams. And certainly not as bad as the professionals do. BOCA are now 6 wins away (presuming Appledore Reserves win all of their remaining games) but there is a problem in N.Devon. I feel that another couple of N.D sides desperately need to make the step up to the Southwest Peninsula Leagues and join Appledore’s 1st as this would improve the game locally. There is the argument about costs and expenses, etc as well as would the grounds be accepted for promotion (BOCA’s for example would be unlikely to without improvements and I don’t know if they are allowed to do that at the Tennis Centre) but a team needs to try in the near future. The 2 Torrington teams would pass (in my eyes) the ground criteria most likely but they don’t look likely to finish in the Top 2 of this league anytime soon. We’ll have to see what the future holds.

Photos from Torridgeside vs BOCA Seniors


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (good Sat afternoon entertainment)

- Value for money: 10/10 (it was free!)

- Ground: 7/10 (great little set up here)

- Atmosphere: 3/10 (not much)

- Food: N/A – didn’t do any, but they do serve hot drinks at HT

- Programme: N/A – they don’t issue 

- Referee: Michael Kearney – 6/10 (inconsistent bookings but decent enough)