Friday, 30 September 2011

Dagenham and Redbridge vs Morecambe (17/09/11)

Match 129

Ground #: 95

Ground: Victoria Road 

Competition: English League 2 

Kick Off: 3pm 

Cost: £22

Programme: £3

Attendance: 1,728

Dagenham and Redbridge 1

Lee 73’

Morecambe 2

Carlton 47’, Drummond 54’ 


Morecambe were back in London Town and I was off to see how Jim Bentley’s revolution would do next after his and his side’s fantastic start to the season. They came into this game top of League 2 after a sensational 6-0 win over Creepy Crawley Town before a credible 1-1 midweek draw at Macclesfield to set them up for this game. There was of course some history to this game as the last time Morecambe played here was in the 2010 League 2 play-offs. They lost 6-0.


Dagenham is a big suburb in east London, forming the eastern part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. It was historically an agrarian village in the county of Essex and remained mostly undeveloped until 1921 when the London County Council began construction of the large Becontree estate. The population of the area significantly increased during the 20th century, with the parish of Dagenham becoming an urban district in 1926 and a municipal borough in 1938. It has formed part of Greater London since 1965 and is a predominantly residential area, with some areas of declining industrial activity, including the Ford Dagenham plant. Vehicle assembly ceased at the plant in 2002 but it continues as a major production site with the capacity to assemble 1.4 million engines a year. In 2008 the plant produced around 1,050,000 engines and was the largest producer of Ford diesel engines globally. Employment at the plant peaked at around 40,000 workers in 1953, yet the plant currently employs around 4,000 people today.


Dagenham and Redbridge’s birth technically can be traced to 1992 when they were formed out of the merger of Redbridge Forest and Dagenham FC. You can still go back even further though and take 4 old amateur clubs who make up D&R today. Ilford, Leytonstone, Walthamstow Avenue and Dagenham all have their DNA in D&R. Ilford and Leytonstone merged in 1979 before absorbing a struggling Walthamstow Avenue in 1988 to become Redbridge Forest. After Forest left their Green Pond Road ground in Walthamstow, they groundshared at Redbridge’s Victoria Road ground with a good 7th place finish in the Conference National for the 1991/92 season before the final merge to bring the latest carnation of the club. Since then, they were finally promoted to the Football League in 2007 and adapted well to League 2 finishing 20th then 8th and then in 2010 after a 7th place finish, they won the play-offs (including an absolute roasting of Morecambe) to be promoted to League 1 for the first time in their history. Unsurprisingly for such a small club, they were promptly sent straight back down last season after being mullered by Peterborough on the final day to finish 21st. Under John Still (who has been at the club since 2004) the club have always made strides under him and is rightly seen as a club legend.


D&R were going into this game in a lowly 17th while my Morecambe boys were flying high at the top of the league after a sensational start. Considering I last watched Morecambe in League action back in March when they looked dreadful crashing at home to Macclesfield. Club legend Jim Bentley has turned it around brilliantly and were looking to avenge the unbelievable 6-0 drubbing they received here in 2010. Arriving at the ground from Dagenham East tube station, Victoria Road (or the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium) is a small tidy looking ground which is made up on a large covered terrace (picture above) named the North Stand while running around the corner flag is a small, uncovered terrace at the Bury Road End. Opposite the North Stand is two seated stands with the large Carling Stand running most of the way down the pitch while a tiny little seating area (the Family Stand) down in the corner. Away fans are situated at the back end of the ground in the seated stand there. Only 47 away fans had made the trip (which was announced during the game to ironic cheers from D&R fans – strange considering, I remember seeing them at Morecambe in January 2008 to which they brought around 20 fans) partly due to having to pay £22 for an adult ticket. This is League 2!!


Morecambe started the brighter of the two sides and Izak Reid had the first shot in anger when he broke to the right of the area but flashed his shot/cross wide (via a deflection). Dag & Red did create chances themselves though as Roche had to save and be alert from Damien Scannell and then Sam Williams as an early goal for the home side could have seen the 6-0 fear come straight back again. After that brief spell of chances the game became very scrappy as referee D Coote became very fussy yet missing other challenges. In fact the only other chance of the half was when Morecambe had a free kick cleared off the line by Scott Doe while the rest of the half was just a scrappy stalemate. The highlight of the half was actually the torrential downpour and saw streams of D&R fans rush from the open terrace to the cover. This also led to the great photo opportunity (pic below) as a rainbow came out. £22 to watch a rainbow. Was having a wonderful time.


The 47 away fans (although most other fans counted at least 70) wondered if the game would get better and lo and behold, only 2 minutes in and the away team took the lead! A long ball over the top from Kevin Ellison sent Danny Carlton away and as he skipped clear of Mark Arber, he kept his cool and slotted the ball past Chris Lewington. Morecambe fans burst into song with the “6-0! Who gives a f**k!? We’re top of the league and we’re going up!!” And soon after, Carlton was put through again but this time his shot was straight at Lewington. While the D&R goalie was the hero then, it was his fault for goal #2 on 54 minutes. When a simple cross was sent into the box, Lewington for some reason only palmed the ball out to the edge of the area where Stewart Drummond was stood and he sidefooted the ball into the bottom corner and it looked nearly game over already. A few minutes later came a major talking point when Kevin Ellison was brought down in box by Richard Rose. This to me looked a clear penalty, it looked to the away fans a clear penalty and it looked to this D&R fan a clear penalty, but the referee booked him for diving. To rub it in moments later, D&R got a goal back which is probably the best goal I will see all season. Oliver Lee stepped up and whipped a brilliant cross/shot over Roche and into the top corner. Sensational, if he meant it. While Roche looked a tad silly for not reacting to it, he had no chance and D&R were back in it. The final 20 minutes were a bit of a blur as Lee just shot wide, Ellison cleared a header from Woodall off the line while Roche made some excellent saves as Morecambe held on. Just.


An excellent start to the season continued for Morecambe with an excellent win at Victoria Road. It was touch and go towards the end but I feel the away side did just deserve all 3 points as they were the more positive team throughout and it’s nice to see the players come and thank you at the end for your support. They actually care you’ve come down (or up in my case) for the game. Take note Hearts. Since writing this Morecambe lost 3-2 to Bristol Rovers but remain very much in the Top 3 and I hope they can stay there till May! As for D&R, now I’ve been to see their ground and setup, it makes it all the more remarkable that they achieved promotion two years ago. This is a small club overachieving in League 2 and I hope they can stop the current rot and not get dragged into a relegation battle. There are numerous other teams who I would much rather see slide into non-league oblivion and never return.

Photos from Dag & Red vs Morecambe


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (not great for neutral, nerve-wracking for me!)

- Value for money: 2/10 (£22? For Level 4? No.)

- Ground: 6.5/10 (nice little ground, good views)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (D&R fans the quietest FL fans I’ve come across)

- Food: 7/10 (had a decent pie for a good price)

- Programme: 6.5/10 (not bad, reasonable for £3)

- Referee: D Coote – 4/10 (unimpressed)

D&R vs More prog

D&R vs More stub

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Croydon FC vs Beckenham Town (10/09/11)

Match 128

Ground #: 94

Ground: Croydon Sports Arena 

Competition: FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round 

Kick Off: 3pm 

Cost: £7

Programme: £1

Attendance: 51 

Croydon FC 1

Pratt 45’

Beckenham Town 2

Curran 18’, Slade 90’ 


The Road to Wembley was about to begin again for the 2011/12 season on The Travelling Fan and for the 539 teams who had entered the FA Vase this season. For most teams this also started their more realistic chance of playing at Wembley this season for a crack at the FA Vase and current holders Whitley Bay. The draw this season had paired a surprisingly high amount of inter-league games across the country, but one that did stick out was Croydon’s local derby game with Beckenham Town and amazingly, they play in different Level 9 leagues, despite only being 3 miles apart. The road started here.


Croydon is a town in South London, located within the London Borough of Croydon to which it gives its name. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 11 metropolitan centres in Greater London. Croydon is located on the natural transport corridor between London and England's south coast and historically part of Surrey. Croydon expanded during the Middle Ages as a market town and a centre for charcoal production, leather tanning and brewing. The Surrey Iron Railway from Croydon to Wandsworth opened in 1803 and was the world's first public horse-drawn railway, which later developed into an important means of transport – facilitating Croydon's growth as a commuter town for the City of London and beyond. By the early 20th century, Croydon was an important industrial area but by the mid 20th century these sectors were replaced by retailing and service economy. Croydon was recently on the news sadly as the riots really hit home in this area as scumbags looted local shops and even damaged the local Tramlink services as the copper wire was stolen. Croydon though has recovered and moved on.


Croydon FC were founded in 1953 as Croydon Amateurs (and so are older than Croydon’s “other” club, Croydon Athletic who I will get to another day) and were ex members of the Isthmian League before losing their place in 2006 as part of a non-league reshuffle. (Ironically, Athletic are now in the Isthmian League). They currently play in the Combined Counties League Premier Division, although only just, after finishing last season in 20th place. They probably aren’t helped by their current ground, which is the vast Croydon Sports Arena which you can see from pictures is an Athletics ground. Located on the edge of the South Norwood Country Park, Croydon Arena is home to the Croydon Harriers and features an 8 lane 400m track, a centre field for throwing events and a training area for the athletes of the future. But does this sound like a football venue? No. Spectators for football are positioned so far away from the pitch, you actually fail to appreciate the 388 seater stand (picture above) or on the other side of the ground, 3 good pieces of standing cover which at most other grounds would be an excellent place to stand, but not here. This is probably a great place to come and watch some athletics, but it is not a football ground. Shame.


Chatting to several members of the committee, it was clear Croydon FC do not have any money, therefore a decent run in the FA Vase would be excellent for getting some much needed funds in and the chance to take in some excellent places. They were hosting local rivals Beckenham Town to see who have the pleasure of hosting Fisher FC or Ash United in Qualifying Round 2. Beckenham play just down the road at Eden Park Avenue and were actually playing in the Kent League. After a 10th place finish last season, they were coming into this game in 11th place (out of 16) and with Croydon down in 21st place (out of 22), this could be a close game. Croydon and Beckenham Town had actually met in the FA Vase last season in the 1st Round Proper. Beckenham had come out on top in that game with an extraordinary 7-3 victory before they crashed out in the 3rd Round with a 2-1 home defeat to Kings Lynn Town. I doubt it would finish 7-3 again, but we could hope.


Game kicked off as I was standing over on the far side and felt like I needed binoculars as the action was so far away. Croydon made the better start as on 15 minutes a through ball caused the Beckenham back four all sorts of problems and a cross quickly delivered into the back post was only just cleared. Yet, just as you thought Croydon would get going, Beckenham went down the other end and scored. 18 minutes had passed when a fantastic cross came in from the right and Nick Curran was unmarked to place his header into the bottom corner and give Trams goalie Francis Ameyaw no chance. Croydon though did respond well and on 25 minutes, a long long punt from Ameyaw bounced all the way to the Beckenham goal which away goalie Nick Blue struggled to tip over his bar. The Trams kept plugging away and were rewarded with a deserved equalizer in 1st half stoppage time when a deep ball from the left was crossed brilliantly to the back post where Tom Pratt placed his header past Blue to give the game an interesting feel at HT. It wasn’t 7-3, but it was interesting!


Beckenham came out for the 2nd half and instantly took the game to the home side as some early crosses were only just cleared by some last ditch blocks and some excellent interventions from Ameyaw. Midway through the half though, Croydon managed to counter-attack and stretch the game as a shot was fired just over the bar from outside the area. The major talking point (before the late drama) came on 77 minutes when a Beckenham player burst into the area before Ameyaw completely took him out. Everyone in the ground expected a penalty, but amazingly one wasn’t given. As a neutral, it was clearcut! Croydon’s best chance to win it came on 82 minutes when Mark Cecil was all alone in the 6 yard area after a counter attack but he could only blast over the bar. Then when extra-time looked on the cards, Beckenham snatched it. Some excellent skill from their left winger saw another cross played in and when a home defender missed the ball, Ben Slade threw himself at the ball and his diving header flew straight in. The away side had nicked it and also took home local bragging rights. Again.


While this wasn’t the most exciting game I’d ever seen or the most skilful, this was compelling as you didn’t know which side would take it right until the final whistle. Beckenham were rewarded with a home tie in the 2nd Qualifying Round with a game against fellow Kent League side Fisher FC. A game I will be at! Not much else to say on Croydon FC. A nice club with a tiny but dedicated committee but sadly they play at an awful ground for football. Good luck to them for the future. The Road to Wembley 2011/12 has begun!

Photos from Croydon FC vs Beckenham Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (swung one way and then the next)

- Value for money: 4/10 (£7 for Level 9?!)

- Ground: 2/10 (this isn’t a football ground)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (average stuff)

- Food: 6/10 (reasonable burger for a reasonable price)

- Programme: 6/10 (normal non-league effort)

- Referee: Mark Parsons – 5/10 (missed that penalty…)

Croy vs Beck prog

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2011/2012:

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

Friday, 16 September 2011

Dolton vs Bradworthy (03/09/11)

Match 127

Ground #: 93

Ground: The Playing Field

Competition: North Devon League Premier (Level 12) 

Kick Off: 3pm 

Cost: Free

Programme: None

Attendance: 30 (h/c)

Dolton 0 

Bradworthy 3

Clarke 40’, Lapham 42’, Placinta 71’


My final weekend in Devon. A weekend that I wanted to just relax before the mayhem began and picked a local game that wouldn’t cost much, wouldn’t require much thinking and more importantly not much travelling. It was down to the North Devon League again to provide 90 minutes of entertainment as it was one I had ignored most of my time here. Looking at a map, I lived near Dolton. I’d never heard of the place either. Off we went.


Dolton is a small village in the Torridge District of Devon just south of Torrington. It is twinned with Amfreville in France and Hillerse in Germany and has a population of around 900 inhabitants, including the Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. (Does he? Really!?) The ground or, The Playing Field is situated in the south-west end of the village right next to St Edmunds Parish Church and down a tiny little track to come out where that man in shorts is standing in the picture above. Expecting very little except a field with goalposts, the ground is actually really surprising and would need little work to bring it up to standard for Level 11. The main focal point of the ground is the pavilion (see picture below) which houses both changing rooms and can also, apparently, provide tea and coffee, although there were none on this occasion. The pavilion also has a decent underhang section which provides a fairly decent view of the pitch, albeit slightly away from the action. Across the other side is another piece of cover which is a wooden shelter and is right next to the pitch and so provides excellent views! Considering I expected little and got a smashing ground in an excellent setting and some spectator facilities, this was an excellent start.


Dolton are only in their 2nd season back in the North Devon League Premier after spending just one season in the Senior League (which they came 2nd in). After a finish of 11th place last season they had started the season, four games in, with an average start. One win (against Shebbear United), two defeats (against Appledore Reserves and Torridgeside) and an excellent 4-4 draw against North Devon champs BOCA Seniors. With some decent form, Dolton looked a fairly decent team on paper and should have provided some challenge to the visitors, Bradworthy. Based near Holsworthy in the arse end of N.Devon, Bradworthy had the same start as Dolton picking up 4 points in the run up to this game, but played a game less. A win against North Molton, a draw against Shamwickshire Rovers (away) and a defeat to Shamwickshire (at home) set them up nicely for this game.


The North Devon League is not going to be blessed with Messis and Kevin Kyles, but all I want to see is effort and both sides gave that to begin with. Dolton started brightly as both defensives looked exposed and so goals looked likely. (I’ll explain later why I really wanted someone to score here) After a bright 10 minutes though, Dolton started to be pushed back and Bradworthy hit the post after the home goalie and defence didn’t communicate. Dolton’s back line came under more and more pressure though as they really were shambolic as more good Brad chances came and went until just before HT they finally took a deserved lead. Some excellent passing play cut Dolton’s defence to pieces before Gary Clarke received the ball in the area and finished with aplomb. Being 1 goal behind at HT was a blow to Dolton, however the 2nd goal, just one minute later killed the game off basically. A long ball from Bradworthy bounced towards the Dolton right where Nicholas Lapham looped a ball back into the box. The cross however took a nick of a defender and looped over the goalie and in at the back post to give Brad an unlikely 2-0 lead at HT.


2nd half was played in the rain as the clouds finally came over as Dolton went looking to get a goal back. They did create chances but they seem to be the Arsenal of Devon as they were trying to walk the ball into the net instead of testing Brad goalie William Radford who had made a brilliant save just before HT when he palmed a header onto the bar and over. Dolton’s best chance of the game came on 70 minutes when their striker Charlie Tubb was put through 1 on 1 with Radford but fired wide, much to the disbelief of the home bench. Just a minute after that chance though, it was game over. Tudor Placinta ran down the right wing skipping past all of the Dolton defence and he lofted the ball over the keeper and the ball rolled in. While Brad celebrated their 3rd and 3 points, there was concern for a home defender who clattered into the post a la Phil Babb, although the player screamed in agony, he did continue to play until the final whistle where Bradworthy cruised to 3 points.


Although my final game in Devon was “keeping it local” (or ‘barrel scraping’) it was enjoyable and when I am back visiting there, I would happily take in more games and grounds in the North Devon League. This game also saw me break my record for games in a row without a 0-0 bringing the running total to 26! Since this game, Dolton have won another game against Torrington before crashing to a 3-1 defeat at home to Ilfracombe Town Reserves and were in 11th (out of 16) place, although had played 7 games which is the most in the league. Bradworthy had only played once since this game which was a poor 2-1 defeat to Putford and so Brad were only one place higher in 10th and with 7 points too. (Although they had two games in hand). And Devon, that was it. For now. My next game and games after that for the foreseeable future would be in and around the big smoke as I am going to see what grounds it has to offer.

Photos from Dolton vs Bradworthy


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (effort was there!)

- Value for money: 10/10 (it’s free, so yes)

- Ground: 7/10 (an unexpected venue)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (not much)

- Food: N/A – None served, if you do come there is a shop nearby 

- Programme: N/A – They don’t issue

- Referee: L Cousins – 6/10 (refereed well, and gave support to some players too)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Millwall vs Morecambe (23/08/11)

Match 126

Ground #: 92

Ground: The New Den 

Competition: Carling Cup 2nd Round

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £10

Programme: £1.50

Attendance: 3,443

Millwall 2

Bouazza 34’, Mkandawire 45’

Morecambe 0


In my run up to moving to London, it was clear that I needed to drive to the big smoke and dump all my crap there otherwise it would stay in Devon. Picking Tuesday 23rd August to do it was made well in advance, but then closer to the time, the football fan in me began to investigate matches on in London and low and behold, my boys from the North-West were in town. This then became a test run of the many games I’d get to around London this season, but it wasn’t an ordinary test run, it was going to Millwall, as an away fan.


Millwall is an area in London, on the western side of the Isle of Dogs, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Originally known as Marshwall, its name derives from the large number of windmills built on the river wall, in the 19th century. Corn was brought along the River Thames to be ground into flour here, before being delivered to the bakers. In the 1860s the large Millwall Dock was built, extending from the Thames at Millwall into the centre of the Isle of Dogs. The spoil from the dock was left as the Mudchute. Like other parts of the Isle of Dogs, substantial redevelopment has been more or less ongoing since the 1980s, resulting in modern industrial and commercial buildings and hastily constructed contemporary housing beginning to dominate the remaining early 20th century "two up, two down" homes that once housed the dock workers and supporting communities of this area. However, mention ‘Millwall’ to most people and they instantly think of the club…

article-1209050-062E768F000005DC-426_634x423(Millwall say hello to their West Ham chums)

Founded in 1885 as Millwall Rovers before changing their name to Millwall Athletic in 1890 before dropping the Athletic in 1910. Their old ground of The Den was one of the most feared (or rundown shithole – delete as appropriate) grounds in the country and was never a nice place to go to. Having left for The New Den in 1993, they now play at the 4 standed all seater in South Bermondsey. Being in this new area allows away fans to actually be taken from the rail station of the same name and trundle to the ground in fear or proudness before entering the lions den. To be fair, now The New Den isn’t that tough a ground to go to. The Den was the first new all seater stadium to be completed after the Taylor Report on the Hillsborough disaster. It was designed with effective crowd management in mind (given Millwall's crowd problems at the Old Den), with the escape routes being short and direct. Millwall have had some success on the field (at both grounds) reaching the FA Cup Final in 2004 (before losing to Man Utd) and qualifying for Europe the next season. (Where they were knocked out the UEFA Cup by Ferencváros who then ironically knocked Hearts out) Of course, it’s hard not to talk about the hooliganism with the 1985 riot at Luton’s Kenilworth Road and the 2009 Upton Park riot against West Ham in the Carling Cup and other various incidents too. There is discussion though that a lot of the image and “fear” of ‘Wall is down to media sensationalism with the likes of scumbag papers such as The Sun and The Daily Mail. That though, is a discussion for another blog.


This was the 2nd Round of the Carling Cup and Millwall had dispatched of crisis club Plymouth with a 1-0 win in Devon where as my boys (in terms of who I would be supporting for this game) had knocked out Championship side Barnsley 2-0 at the Yorkshire club to set up this mouthwatering clash. Around 60ish (including me) Shrimps fans made the journey down (or across town) to hope that they could add Millwall to a growing list of impressive Carling Cup scalps which include Preston, Wolves and Coventry. This was also the first time (of hopefully many) that I would be seeing Jim Bentley’s revolution before my eyes after their impressive start to the season which left them right in the Top 6. Before the game, I was pre-warned by the two friendly stewards about the typical FL food and prices so popped before KO the Millwall Cafe for an excellent chips in curry sauce for only £2.50. Recommended!

IMG_1123(Some nice reading material for away fans)

As for the game, it wasn’t as much as a walkover for Millwall as I have read from some reports. Morecambe actually had the better start when Danny Carlton hit a shot from outside the area which just went wide. From then on though, the home side began to get the better of the play although they were not helped by two useless strikers (in my eyes) up front in Josh McQuoid and John Marquis. Barry Roche had made some good saves before Millwall took the lead in fantastic style. Kieran Charnock gave away a pointless free kick around 25 yards out (see picture below) and up stepped Hamer Bouazza who brilliantly curled the ball into the top corner and gave Roche no chance. Had Morecambe gone into HT at just 1 down, they would have had a decent chance however they conceded a killer 2nd right on HT which was a joke goal. When Marquis fell in the area and just lay there, I was a tad surprised that Millwall didn’t kick the ball out, especially as it was a head injury. I was even more surprised that the referee didn’t stop play. When Tamika Mkandawire received the ball on the edge of the area and smashed it into the bottom corner, Marquis was still on the floor in the 6 yard area and so was offside as he interfered with play. (Check the rules). Amazingly though the goal stood and Morecambe then faced a real uphill struggle for the 2nd half.


Morecambe still kept a lot of their good possession in the 2nd 45 minutes but were still getting hit on the break when they got to the final 3rd and couldn’t really produce anything to properly trouble the Millwall backline. When they did lose the ball though, ‘Wall’s nippy and fast counters did trouble Morecambe and Roche again had to make good saves from McQuoid, amongst others. Millwall though did offer some pity chances though, mainly through their hapless 2nd choice goalie Steve Mildenhall who managed to spill and fumble some easy shots from Carlton and show why he is always going to be a #2 goalie. The game fizzled out though as Millwall were easily through and Morecambe enjoyed their trip to the capital.


Millwall were through to Round 3 of the Carling Cup and were given a tough draw with an away game at Premiership side Wolves who do seem to be taking the League Cup seriously this season and will give the Lions a real test. As for Morecambe, it’s hard to judge their season based on this game. One cup match against a team two leagues higher up but since this game they have continued their excellent start to the season and it’s looking good for Jim’s Red Revolution. I got in and out of the Lion’s Den safely to see Morecambe another day. I’ll see them in Dagenham soon.

Photos from Millwall vs Morecambe


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (reasonable)

- Value for money: 7/10 (fair play Millwall for reducing the price)

- Ground: 5/10 (bog standard FL ground sadly)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (not much)

- Food: N/A – Millwall cafe doesn’t count. Beer + Pie for £7 though? I think not. 

- Programme: 7/10 (a strange fold-out one which turns into a Millwall poster)

- Referee: R Lewis – 5/10 (frustrating)

Millwall vs More prog

Millwall vs More ticket

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sidmouth Town vs Exeter Civil Service (20/08/11)

Match 125

Ground #: 91

Ground: Manstone Lane 

Competition: Southwest Peninsula League Division 1 East (Level 11) 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £3

Programme: With Admission

Attendance: 92

Sidmouth Town 2

Thompson 30’, Coombs 46’ 

Exeter Civil Service 1

Ashford O.G 42’


Come April or May into the previous season and your team has done it. Got promotion into a new league or next division and you just can’t wait over summer to see their first game in that new league. Last summer when the SWPL was taking new teams up to it’s 1st Division, I really wanted to go to whatever newbies were accepted into the East side before I headed away from the SW. That team were Sidmouth Town who had won the Devon and Exeter Premier last season and with their Manstone Lane ground being good enough for a higher level, Sidmouth came up and off I went on the opening day of the season.


Sidmouth is is a small town on the English Channel coast in Devon, South West England. The town lies at the mouth of the River Sid in the East Devon district, 15 miles south east of Exeter. Sidmouth appeared in the Domesday Book as Sedemuda. Like many towns on the south coast, it was a small fishing village. Though attempts have been made to construct a harbour here, none have succeeded, and a lack of shelter in the bay prevented the town growing as a port. It remained a small village until the fashion for coastal resorts grew in the Georgian and Victorian periods of the 18th and 19th centuries and still today on the town signs, states, “the regency town by the coast”. I was looking forward to visiting the town as I was wanting some chips on the seafront, however I’ll be honest now and say the place is a bit of a dump and vastly overrated. I could not find a proper chippy apart from a posh one which wanted £3.60 for large chips. Even Edinburgh and London don’t charge that. The beach is also pebbles and there is just the feeling of death around the place so I scurried up the hill with a cheap pasty to get to the ground.

IMG_1090 (A day by the beach? Maybe not.)

Sidmouth Town FC had been around the local leagues for the majority of their history before they won the Devon & Exeter League Premier last season by pipping local rivals Seaton Town to the title and as they had applied for promotion (the only club in the D&E League out of 4 who applied to actually be accepted) they were welcomed into the SWP League for the first time for 2011/12. Their ground at Manstone Lane is at the northern end of the town and is a public park, although Sidmouth have been allowed to build some features on the pitch to allow themselves to make the step up. On the far side, some hard standing has been put down with a rail down this end and the dugouts. In the future, plans are in place (and accepted by the local council) to have a stand at the ground too, which will most likely be a identikit stand but will provide some seating and cover. The clubhouse is set back slightly from the pitch and is a really nice one, with finally a large amount of ciders on offer! Most clubs in the SW only provide one! It’s a nice venue and one that will make the many visitors to it this season feel more than welcome.


The first SWPL visitors to Manstone Lane were Exeter Civil Service who are a completely different side from when I saw them last season in a Devon FA Premier Cup tie. After parting with their manager at the end of last season, new boss Russell Newcombe came in and then left just before this game despite only being in the position for less than 2 months. The reason was a lot of players who said they would play for him then went elsewhere (pretty much the same reason why Bickleigh had to withdraw from this league altogether this season) and left Civil Service, who also field a 2nd team in the D&E League, with barely any team at all. Enter new boss Mark Taylor who worked effortlessly over the final part of the close season to cobble together a side which mixes youth and experience to play this season and make Civil Service a complete darkhorse this season. They could be quite awful as a team a la the Star Wars Cantina bar scene or quite brilliant. Remains to be seen…


Game played in glorious sunshine was scrappy to begin with as both teams struggled with the match pace of the opening game. The first real chance actually took 15 minutes to arrive as Sidmouth finished off a good passing move with Barker shooting wide from outside the area. Civil Service though did have two major appeals for handball in the area which were both turned down by referee Cameron Mann. Both teams were slowly creating the other odd chance although I noted midway through the half that I was impressed with the Sidmouth bench did not argue with the ref when a decision went against them which was refreshing to see. By now the home side had the slight advantage and opened the scoring on 30 minutes when a great throughball sent Andrew Thompson away and after he beat his man, smashed home a shot to make it 1-0. In fact, Sidmouth nearly made it 2 just moments later when a player known as “Fez” missed a sitter from a corner. Civil came right back though and had a shot cleared off the line before their strange equalizer. They had a corner, but before the ball could be played in a stray elbow went wandering and Civil demanded a red card and penalty, Mann gave nothing except the call to give the corner yet when Ollie Burns wopped the corner in, Sid goalie Ashford fumbled the ball in for 1-1. I’ve put it down as an own goal. HT, that Cantina bar side are still in it, interesting.


Civil needed to be strong at the start of the 2nd half to avoid being punished, yet only 1 minute into the half a cross found Coombs completely alone in the box and his power header went straight into the bottom corner and the home side lead again. By this time, everybody on the pitch had noticed Sidmouth’s #9 and captain Ashley Barker. I have never heard a player swear so much at the referee and get away with it which says more about Mr Mann I suppose. Should Barker come up against a more tougher referee, he will getting a red card. Mr Mann was also starting to annoy both sides with some bizarre and hesitant decisions and even held the game up for around 30 seconds with both sides asking what he had given from a throw in, goal kick or free kick? (It was a throw in). The rest of the half had no real clear cut chances as the scrappyness came back into it and Civil couldn’t create a decent effort until the last minute when a shot from outside the area trickled wide and with that their chances of snatching a point trickled away too.


A good start for Sidmouth Town then as they picked up 3 points on their debut in the SWPL. Before their next game (away at Axminster) there was a shock as joint managers Paul Ashford and Phil Margrett both left leaving Simon Hudson in a caretaker role although 3 straight wins on the bounce (Axminster, 4-1, Appledore, 2-1 and Ottery St Mary, 1-0) has put them at the top of the table as I write this. A sensational start from the newboys. Civil Service have only played two other games since this one, a 5-1 hammering at Stoke Gabriel and a 2-0 home defeat to Exmouth Town so that Cantina scene is looking good. I’d really recommend a visit to Sidmouth, a friendly club off the field who actually play some good football and look to be on their way up. Good luck to them!

Photos from Sidmouth Town vs Exeter Civil Service


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (enjoyable early season opener)

- Value for money: 8/10 (normal price for this league and it’s good)

- Ground: 6/10 (will improve over time with additions)

- Atmosphere: 6.5/10 (decent home support)

- Food: N/A – didn’t eat at ground, actually didn’t see any hot food?

- Programme: 6/10 (good for free – too many adverts to charge)

- Referee: Cameron Mann – 2.5/10 (grow some balls man!)


Thursday, 1 September 2011

Be right back…


Currently in the process of moving myself and all my crap/items (delete how you want) to London. Blog reports from Sidmouth and Millwall will be up soon once I’ve got all the stuff I need together!

As for the 3rd September, decided to go barrel scraping/staying local (delete how you want again) and take in a North Devon League match at Dolton. Picture below shows how exciting life is in the bustling village.


Should be a thriller.