Sunday, 29 January 2012

Gresley FC vs Three Bridges (21/01/12)

Match 143

Ground #: 109

Ground: Moat Ground 

Competition: FA Vase 4th Round 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £6

Programme: £1.20

Attendance: 524

Gresley FC 1

Turville 54’

Three Bridges 1

Rivers (pen) 5’

(After Extra Time)


It was FA Vase time again and for the first time since the 2nd Qualifying Round, I would be able to see “my team” in the flesh as I continued the Road to Wembley for the Vase Final on 13th May. With the competition now at the national stage, I was slightly concerned that now I would be able to see some ties, Three Bridges would get Whitley Bay away and an almighty (and expensive) journey would be ahead. Instead it was up to Derbyshire (and £13 for a train ticket) to see parts of the new national forest and the quaint village of Church Gresley.


Church Gresley is a village and former civil parish in the South Derbyshire district very close to the town of Swadlincote, between the town and Castle Gresley. According to the 2001 census the parish had a population of 4,805. The toponym "Gresley" is derived from a term for a grassy clearing atop a hill, surrounded by forest. The Domesday Book records it as Gresele. In about 1800 the Mason Cash pottery was founded at Church Gresley and has become a well-known English pottery, producing many kinds of ceramic mixing and baking ware. It acquired T.G. (Thomas Goodwin) Green in 2001 and became part of the Tabletop Group in 2004. There is also the St George and St Mary’s Parish Church which sits in the centre of the village and that’s about it for the small village to the east of Burton upon Trent.


Gresley FC in their current form have only existed since 2009 after their previous incarnation, Gresley Rovers were liquated at the end of 2008/09 season. Rovers had a substantial history after being formed in 1882 and moved into their Moat Ground in 1909, where they still play today. They slowly built themselves up after doing well in the Central Alliance, Birmingham Combination and Leicestershire Senior League before being founding members of the (newly named) East Midlands Regional League in 1961. After being in the top 5 of that league every season until 1975, they moved across to the stronger West Midlands League where again they took some time to get going but after finishing 2nd in 1986, they never looked back with some more excellent finishes and even winning the league twice in a row. They also reached the 1991 FA Vase final where they played Guiseley who romped into a 3-0 lead before Gresley pulled them back and scored in injury time to take it into extra time. Gresley took the lead but were pulled back for a full time score of 4-4, however they lost the replay at Bramall Lane 3-1. In 1992, the reached the Southern League for the first time being placed in the Midland Division when they were promoted up to the Premier Division and even won this in 1997, but their ground was not good enough for the Football Conference (Derby County even offered their vacated Baseball Ground but this was rejected by the FA). From that rejection, Gresley started a downward spiral and were relegated back to Southern 1 in 1999 and then across to Northern Premier League 1 in 2004 before being liquidated in 2009…


…they came back however as the new Gresley FC and entered the East Midlands Counties League which they won on the 2nd attempt and were in the Midland Alliance this season trying to shoot back up to where they were in 2009. Their Moat Ground is a smashing venue that looks like the typical Unibond League ground with a mixture of terracing, stands and cover that gives the ground a proper non-league character and could easily deal with the 500+ that were here for this game. On the pitch, Gresley are looking very good for a title tilt and currently are in 3rd place but with the games in hand needed to go ahead of Coventry Sphinx and gain promotion. They also haven’t lost a game in any competition since a 3-2 defeat to Rocester in the League Cup 1st Round in early October. A nice 19 game unbeaten run. Off the pitch the club seem very well run now and boast possibly the best website I’ve ever seen at non-league level as well as local hero (possibly) and club mascot Elvis Gresley. He’s a busy chap and even has his own fan page on the Gresley website. Pic below.

Elvis_gresley(He ain’t nothing but a hound dog!)

Three Bridges had made the long drive up from Sussex for this and were also going well in their league and were 4th for this game but also had the games in hand to overhaul old chums Rye United and gain promotion to the Isthmian Leagues. They had a tough partisan crowd to contend with though as well as some shocking wind conditions and a slopey pitch but took a surprise lead as early as the 5th minute when Abu Touray intercepted a poor ball and ran into the area only to be taken out by goalie Gary Hateley. He had just come back from his honeymoon and was tanned up proper and probably not as sharp as he should have been to give that away. Tim Rivers easily stepped up and smashed the ball in to give the Sussex side the lead. No surprise when Gresley got right back into the game however and started to pepper the TB goal but one man stood in their way. The Three Bridges goalie Simon Lehkyj. He was a man inspired as he and his defence put in last gasp blocks and saves from Marc Goodfellow and Dean Oliver before Gresley somehow contrived to miss the ball completely when Goodfellow’s cross was flashed across goal. Three Bridges were rarely going forward but looked dangerous on the break through Touray and Elliot Romain who are pacey and direct.


The 2nd half was going to be tougher for Bridges as they were now fighting against the slope and the wind as it showed by the amount of goal kicks that Lehkyj kicked straight out purely because the wind blew them out. Bridges thought they’d doubled the lead early in the 2nd half as Touray finished from close range but it was ruled out for offside. It was a tight call, but I was down the other end of the pitch so couldn’t see it properly. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the linesman getting it right. Gresley still weren’t in full flow yet and Romain smashed a shot into the side netting which woke the home side up and they promptly equalized on 54 minutes. For the first time in the game, the TB defence was moved all over the place as Goodfellow picked out Spencer who cut the ball back to Royce Turville to easily finish and make it 1-1. By this time, it was all Gresley, but it was Lehkyj in goal and Nigel Brake at the back for TB who were outstanding in keeping the home side out. The match had now turned a bit spicy too with tackles flying in and the Gresley fans behind the goal giving Lehkyj dogs abuse but the big man stood up to it well by continuing to make saves. By the end of the 90 minutes, we now had that stage of “don’t want to lose it, rather than win it” and so Extra Time was inevitable.


Gresley were clever and started ET kicking down the slope and were right at Three Bridges with Goodfellow forcing yet another good save out of Lehkyj and then Jordi Gough somehow had his shot cleared off the line as the tension around the ground was immense. Three Bridges’ tactic for this first 15 was I felt just to defend but on 105 minutes they hit the bar from a counter attack as Rivers beat Hateley but not the bar. The last 15 of ET was almost like a basketball match, without the scoring. One team would go down and have a shot and then almost immediately there would be a chance at the other end. Goodfellow missed an open net as shots before hand were blocked as this was now edge of your seat stuff. And I was a neutral! Turville was put through, only for Lehkyj to again deny the home side and Hateley had to save well from Touray when he was put through before making the best save of the lot right at the end when he tipped Brake’s shot over the bar. It had finished 1-1 after an outstanding 120 minutes of football and all supporters in the Moat Ground showed their appreciation at the end.


Gresley would now have to travel down to Three Bridges and Sussex for the Replay but you still couldn’t tell what way it would go. This was quite easily the best game I’d seen all season (as well as for quite some time!) and I was glad it had finished as a draw as neither side really deserved to lose. Gresley are a friendly bunch and although some yobbos behind the goal may have taken the “banter” a tad too far on occasions, both sides on and off the pitch had mutual respect for each other well before the replay had took place. United Counties side St Ives Town were now awaiting in Round 5, but before then we had a replay to contend with…

I watched this game with top bloke and fellow groundhopper @GrahamYapp who writes the excellent Modus Hopper Random blog. He is far more organised and his report from this game can be found here already. (With match highlights!)

Photos from Gresley FC vs Three Bridges


Match Ratings:

- Match: 9/10 (an outstanding game of football)

- Value for money: 6/10 (fair enough to charge this at Round 4 stage)

- Ground: 7/10 (good ground with character)

- Atmosphere: 7.5/10 (got heated now and again, but good on the whole)

- Food: 7/10 (a solid burger)

- Programme: 7/10 (well presented and good reading material, top stuff)

- Referee: Ricky Wootton – 8/10 (kept his head while others around him lost their’s)

Gre vs TB prog

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)

4TH ROUND: Gresley 1-1 Three Bridges [After Extra Time] (Moat Ground, Att: 524)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Hillingdon Borough vs Tring Athletic (14/01/12)

Match 142

Ground #: 108

Ground: Middlesex Stadium 

Competition: Spartan South Midland League Premier (Level 9) 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £6 

Programme: £1

Attendance: 44

Hillingdon Borough 0  

Tring Athletic 4

Thomas 31’, Jarvis 41’, Eldridge (O.G) 51’, Hall 73’


It was another Saturday, it was a Saturday where I would be situated in London and Kentish Town were at home. Perfect, 3rd time lucky for the Copthall Stadium. Sadly though winter seems to have crocked the creaky athletics ground and that match was moved to Hanwell Town. (This is now an obsession) Back to the game list and 7th vs 6th in the underwhelming SSM League was one that interested me. How do you pronounce Ruislip?


The London Borough of Hillingdon is the westernmost borough in Greater London and it’s population was recorded as 243,006 in the 2001 Census.The borough incorporates the former districts of Ruislip-Northwood, Uxbridge, Hayes and Harlington and Yiewsley and West Drayton in the historic county of Middlesex. Today, Hillingdon is home to Heathrow Airport and Brunel University, and is the second largest of the 32 London boroughs. For administrative purposes, the borough is split into North and South Hillingdon with more industrial units to the south and residential suburban areas in the north. Much of the residential areas were expanded with the extension of the Metropolitan Railway from Harrow on the Hill to Uxbridge in the early 1900s and the gradual establishment of stops along the line, becoming known as "Metro-land". Today, many top businesses have their main Head Offices in the Borough with British Airways and Cadbury plc being amongst others. Also, The borough maintains over 200 green spaces, totalling around 1,800 acres. Since much of the area is within the Metropolitan Green Belt, and as it is one of the least densely populated of all the London boroughs, there are large areas of land properly called open space. They range in size from the Colne Valley corridor to the smallest of gardens.


While many other clubs play in the Borough, the one named after Hillingdon itself play on the edge of Ruislip at the Middlesex Stadium. The club have had a varied history since being founded for the first time in 1872. Their original name was Yiewsley FC and played park and local football until 1951 when they became founding members of the Delphian League. 1958 then saw them join the semi-pro ranks of the Southern League and even had ex Newcastle legend Jackie Milburn play for them briefly in the early 1960’s at the end of his career. They became the Hillingdon Borough FC we all know and love in 1964 in line with new local government changes and were playing at the top of the Southern League in the late 60’s when they came 2nd to Cambridge United, reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup in 1969/70 and reached the FA Trophy final the following season before losing to Telford United. The 80’s saw some tough times however and they disappeared from sight in 1987 before being resurrected in 1990 when Bromley Park Rangers took over the ground in Ruislip and changed their name. They have had some success as this new entity by reaching the FA Vase final in 2006 (before losing to Nantwich Town) and even played in the Southern League 1st Division and Isthmian League 1st Division before finishing bottom of this in 2009, being a massive 18 points from safety.


Now playing down in the Spartan South Midlands League, Hillingdon Boro haven’t pulled up any trees and after finishing last season way down in 16th, they were coming into this game in the better position of 7th (out of 22) but a massive 23 points behind leaders Royston Town. One position and 4 points above them were Tring Athletic who were in town for this game. Having finished 2nd last season (the highest finish in their history), being down in 6th is slightly disappointing for Athletic. But having never played higher than this level, days of hosting Southern League football at the Grass Roots Stadium seems to be closer than ever. Hillingdon Borough’s Middlesex Stadium shows clear signs of hosting a higher standard with a silly seated stand behind one goal which reeks of ground grading requirements. The whole ground is quite spacious and the hard standing areas around the pitch are actually set back quite far (for non league level) so you never feel that close to the action. One final mention for the clubhouse, I don’t know the full details but I presume the The Clubhouse is owned by a different company as when I walked in, it felt like I was in a nightclub with funky lights and and staff wearing uniform. Pic below just to highlight the funkyness.


The return game played at Tring earlier in the season had finished 0-0 but was overshadowed by the leg break of Tring defender Brett Court who is still recovering and add the fact that Hillingdon Boro had only conceded 22 goals all season (joint best in the league) I wasn’t expecting many. The home side shot straight out of the traps with Michalis Livesey forcing a save within 2 minutes before a later free kick was curled just wide of the post as Tring already looked on the back foot. The away side came back into it though and on 13 minutes were denied a great goal when a corner was only cleared to Chris Salmon but his half volley was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Sam Beagle. Defensive errors were starting to creep into both sides though as Tring’s Andy Hughes’s backpass was hopeless and with goalie Mike Underwood now in no man’s land he was lucky to see a shot fired wide. Boro wanted in on the poor defence act and on 31 minutes were made to pay when a poor pass was given away in their own area which allowed Graham Hall to run towards goal. While he was crowded out, he slipped the ball through to Reon Thomas who lifted the ball over the keeper for a great opening goal. 10 minutes later the lead was doubled when a poor defensive error lead to Tring having a free kick and it was played in to some seriously poor head tennis which was finished when Matt Jarvis powered a header past the goalie to put Tring 2 up at HT.


Unlike the 1st half, Tring started out the 2nd 45 dominating play and had the goal which ended the game as a contest just six minutes into the half. When Tring counter attacked, Sam Mitchell was sent away and his low cross was diverted in by Luke Eldridge for an own goal. Boro were now a mess as the back as backpasses were being missed by the goalie and other defensive shambles meant they were normally on the backfoot. This was shown in a textbook example on 73 minutes when a woeful backpass missed keeper Beagle completely only for a defender to just clear the ball off the line. His clearance was only to the edge of the area in true Keystone Cops style which allowed Tring to patiently pass the ball around until Graham Hall smashed home to make it 4-0. Boro did try and get a consolation goal but it never looked like coming. For a side that had only let in 11 home goals all season, this game was not a good day at the office.


I was really surprised at how poor Hillingdon were in this game as although Tring did occasionally play some good stuff. All 4 goals were of their own making and can have no complaints. Hillingdon recovered though and handed Hertford Town a 3-0 whooping in their next game away from home while Tring Athletic drew 0-0 at home to Holmer Green. Whilst the Middlesex Stadium is a nice venue, crowds are low and so a return to the Southern League for now is a distant pipe dream. A friendly club though so do pop down to Ruislip to pay them a visit!

Photos from Hillingdon Borough vs Tring Athletic


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (bit of comedy now and then)

- Value for money: 6/10 (there are cheaper Lv 9 clubs out there)

- Ground: 6/10 (decent, but a bit distant from the pitch)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (not much)

- Food: N/A – you have to order food from the bar – couldn’t see that

- Programme: 6/10 (professional looking, but slightly too little content)

- Referee: J.Panconi – 6.5/10 (was fine)

HillB vs TA prog

Monday, 23 January 2012

Newcastle United vs Manchester United (04/01/12)

Match 141

Ground #: 107

Ground: St James’ Park

Competition: English Premiership 

Kick Off: 8pm

Cost: Free (Was a gift, original price £47)

Programme: £3

Attendance: 52,229

Newcastle United 3

Ba 33’, Cabaye 47’, Jones (O.G) 90’

Manchester United 0


Well this was a surprise! I was determined to see a game on my annual January visit to Newcastle to see the girlfriend (not the missus, breadknife or any other term that would get me into trouble) and while I fully expected to go to the Gateshead vs Stockport clash, I was given a ticket to this almighty clash by hers truly which even before the game was a sensational present. It was Toon Army time.


Newcastle upon Tyne is the major city of the North East and has a vast and diverse history and interest about it. I could expand upon facts from Wikipedia about it’s history (lots) or it’s most known features (shipbuilding and beer) but I’ve decided to ask some actual Geordies, i.e – the people who know it best, about their opinion on Newcastle:

Ms Close (A special Geordie) “I think that Newcastle has a great big-city vibe while still being small enough to feel friendly and personal. It has a massive cultural background with a significant musical, artistic and industrial history. Geordies are proud of their heritage and most especially their football!”

Andy Hudson (Geordie’s Indiana Jones, blogging at Gannin’ Away) “Bobby Robson once said:

"What is a club in any case? Not the building or the Directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It's not the television contracts, get out clauses or the marketing departments or the Executive boxes. It's the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city"

The final sentence sums up Newcastle perfectly. In the north-east, all roads lead to Newcastle, and the biggest sense of pride in the city is reserved for the football club.

You can taste that pride on matchday, when the city truly comes alive: pubs are rammed; there’s a buzz in the air; all conversation seems to be centred on what’s happening at St James’ Park (and let’s face it, with the shenanigans of the Mike Ashley regime over the years and, before him, Freddie Shepherd’s disastrous stewardship of the club, that keeps fans busy pretty much all week).

Visually, the city has changed a lot since the 1990s; any visitor to the Quayside area before then, when buildings were ugly and empty, would be forgiven for thinking they were in a different place when comparing to the present day developments of the Baltic and the Sage. As much as the city has changed, the Magpies home ground at St James has been redeveloped to become one of the most impressive stadiums in the country. Gone are the terraces behind each goal, with giant stands replacing them. A sanitised atmosphere may prevail at many games – where doesn’t it in the Premier League where spiralling ticket prices have signalled a new type of football fan? Yet scratch beneath the surface, on days when Manchester United are despatched 3-0 or, more importantly, when local rivals Sunderland are on the receiving end of a Geordie hammering, or even any game that really has a major impact upon the season, and as well as the atmosphere travelling from Gallowgate and piercing through the shoppers on Northumberland Street, every pub from Blaydon to Tynemouth, packed out at 3pm on a Saturday or whenever television companies dictate the kick-off time to be, will be heaving with only one football club being the centre of attention.”

Ian Cusack (Mr Percy Main and blogs at Payaso del Mierda) “I loathe my childhood and all that remains of it…” (Jean Paul Sartre, “Les Mots”).

As a teenage existentialist, I could have picked a better place to be dragged up than Felling, a scenic fishing village on the south bank of the Tyne. Actually, the eastern exurb of Gateshead wasn’t that bad a spot in the late 70s; lax licensing laws in the local off licences and easy access to Newcastle meant gigs, pubs and St. James Park were always in reach. Until I turned 18, I’d always wanted to escape the North East forever; I craved London applying to University there and scanning the NME gig guide each week as I was convinced I’d make a home there. Sadly, a Grade E in my French A Level (never could get my head around le subjunctive) stalled my progress. Instead of Goldsmiths in Lewisham, the University of Ulster in Coleraine was my destination. Three years of Guinness, cheeseburgers and draw later, I emerged without a short terms memory but with a Iii. This was 1986; it was menial jobs in London, the dole on Tyneside or teaching. Post PGCE in Leeds that hadn’t become a Yorkshire Milan, but still espoused a David Peace “Red Riding” ambience, I found myself back in Newcastle. Property, partner and a profession meant I’d never leave. The season ticket and son cemented my stay, until 1999 when I threw it all up to embrace a mid-life crisis in the shape of a Slovak odyssey in Bratislava. Running out of options in 2002, I came back to High Heaton; I’ll leave feet first in a box.

Newcastle is a great city; small enough to navigate, large enough to hide. It’s safe and hedonistic; it’s against conformity and in favour of brotherhood. I’m nearly 50 so I use it for gigs and real ale. The Ouseburn Delta is my spiritual home; The Tyne, The Free Trade & The Cluny provide all you need for a night out. If you want the city centre, The Bodega, Tilleys, The Head of Steam, The forth and The Newcastle Arms have it all. The Quayside is shit, but the Crown Posada should be visited once in your life.

In the 47.5 years I’ve had on this planet, 39 of them have been spent within 3 miles of St. James’ Park. I don’t regret that at all.”

There you have it. Newcastle, possibly the greatest place on Earth.

_42839973_newcastlefan270 (Newcastle, he’s loving it.)

In 1892 when Newcastle West End and Newcastle East End merged to form Newcastle United FC it started the story of one of Britain’s best supported clubs and one with a massively diverse history. (Hard to stick in one paragraph!) Joining the Football League in 1893, Newcastle have never dropped below the 2nd tier and have only missed two of the Premier League seasons, they are normally up amongst the big boys. Despite this, Newcastle do have a monkey on their back in the form of lack of major trophies, despite being a well supported club. Only 4 league championships, 6 FA Cups and a Fairs Cup in 1969 is a poor return and the supporters demand a trophy sooner rather than later as this is a major drought. Their recent history can be summed up through words such as Premier League, Keegan, “I’d love it if we beat them”, FA Cup Runners Up, Champions League, Shearer @ The San Siro, Sir Bobby Robson, back comes Keegan, down go Newcastle, Bananas in pyjamas, up go Newcastle and Alan Pardew comes in. A whistlestop tour of Newcastle United from 1992.


Their ground today of St James’ Park is a fantastic venue and is one of the modern grounds that I would be happy to go back to. Despite being a lop sided ground with one half being much taller than the other, I was situated in the Milburn Stand on the 2nd front row so had a fantastic view of the pitch. St James’ Park underwent its most dynamic change when Newcastle Utd were ran by Sir John Hall as The Leazes End that had been demolished was finally rebuilt, and opened as the Sir John Hall stand for Newcastle's debut in the Premiership in 1993. The Gallowgate End was rebuilt, the Milburn Stand modified, and a new pitch, drainage and floodlights were installed. More expansion took place in 1998 when the club was now run by Freddy Shepherd and included work done to the Milburn Stand and Gallowgate End to make the ground how it is today. Newcastle’s fans, The Toon Army fill the 52,387 ground most weeks despite having a new owner since Shepherd in the form of Mike Ashley. A really unpopular owner, he had made a new “signing” for this game as the transfer window was open with Virgin Money becoming the new sponsor mid-season for some good pre-match.


On the pitch, Newcastle have been more than excellent this season despite their recent sketchy form going into this game as the started the night in 7th place but only 4 points from 4th place Chelsea. Backed by the goals of Demba Ba and led at the back by Fabricio Coloccini, Newcastle were well placed for a European tilt at the end of the season. Excellent work from Alan Pardew. In town (sorry, toon) for this game though were one of the World’s biggest clubs and the current champions. Manchester United themselves are under a bit of pressure, going into this game they had lost at home 3-2 to Championship bound Blackburn as well as trailing rivals Man City in the league and that 6-1 defeat. So much so, that FourFourTwo published this cover for Fergie’s 70th birthday basically writing him off. (cover below)


When the game kicked off, I didn’t expect much from Newcastle early on as I thought Man U would play the role of wounded animal and take the game to the home side. In fact, Newcastle started well, testing United’s 2nd choice goalie Lindegaard with shots from Cabaye and Tiote that were saved. It wasn’t a surprise though when the away side started to create chances themselves and begin to have a bit of possession themselves. Firstly Nani fired a shot from the area which Krul fumbled but collected before an onrushing Wayne Rooney could capitalise on. Then Berbatov then hit the outside of the post when he got his head to Evra’s cross. Newcastle though always had more of the energy and drive you felt in this game and after creating a few chances again, they took a deserved lead 33 minutes. Demba Ba has been outstanding so far for Newcastle this season and it always seemed on the cards that in his last game before he left with Senegal for the African Cup of Nations, he collected a flick on from Shola “big man” Ameobi and brilliantly hooked the ball into the top corner for an excellent goal. St James’ Park had been loud before hand with Newcastle’s encouraging play, that goal was met with an almighty cheer. While there was a few half chances for both sides, that was the last of the major action for the 1st half so the locals were delighted at HT.


“Never write off Man Utd” we are always told and so at the start of the 2nd half I was expecting a red onslaught. So imagine my surprise when Demba Ba runs at the Utd defence meaning Phil Jones had to take him out and receive a booking. Up stepped Cabaye from the free kick and he crashed his shot in off the bar to put Newcastle in dream land. Man U came back at the home side as off came Berbatov for Welbeck and they began to create some openings. The best of these chances fell to Rooney after some excellent work down Utd’s right found the ball in box and Rooney four yards out. An easy finish was denied by ex Utd player Danny Simpson as you began to feel this was going to be Newcastle’s night. As the match went on, the crowd got even louder and the obligatory fatman got his shirt off. Could it get even better? With the match drawing to a close for a famous Geordie win, Tim Krul’s long goal kick was about to bounce in the area for Jones or Lindegaard to deal with. In the end, Jones took command and headed the ball back towards goal for Lindegaard to pick up, but he wasn’t there. Poor communication meant that the ball rolled in for a hilarious 3rd goal and seal Newcastle’s night to be even better. The crowd loved it and so did I.


A massive thanks to the girlfriend for this one! And for her brother and father to pop along for the entertainment too. It’s always good to see Man Utd get a beating and to be beat so comprehensively was even better. The title race still has a long time to go and Newcastle will probably play a part in deciding where it goes at the end of the season with some really important games coming up. St James’ Park is a fantastic ground and can be really rocking on occasions like this. Good luck to Newcastle for the rest of the season and their quest for European football. And if Newcastle ever need a result at home, just invite me up. I’m clearly a lucky charm. *wink*

Photos from Newcastle United vs Manchester United


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (entertaining for the neutral)

- Value for money: 10/10 (was free, for me)

- Ground: 8/10 (fantastic venue)

- Atmosphere: 9/10 (best crowd I’ve heard in this country)

- Food: N/A – Didn’t sample a Mag Pie, didn’t look good either

- Programme: 7/10 (for a PL programme, it was a good effort)

- Referee: Howard Webb – 2/10 (completely inconsistent and overly fussy, best ref in this country? Really?)

NU vs MU prog

NU vs MU stub

Friday, 13 January 2012

Amersham Town vs Buckingham Athletic (02/01/12)

Match 140

Ground #: 106

Ground: Spratleys Meadow

Competition: Spartan South Midland League Division 1 (Level 10)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £3

Programme: With Admission

Attendance: 30

Amersham Town 2

Derewenko 16’, 67’

Buckingham Athletic 1

Hodges 29’


After seeing 3 professional games in a row it was time to start the new year with a back to basics and the non-league, the real low non-league. My first choice was a 2nd attempt to get to the Copthall Stadium before Saracens or Barnet take it over and change it beyond recognition. However when some emergency works had to take place, it meant it was a no to Kentish Town, again. When looking for a back-up it did become clear that one of my new year resolutions was to see more of London and what better way than to take the Metropolitan Line right through the city and out to Amersham, one of it’s termini. Oh and Amersham were playing at home! Off we go.


Amersham is a market town and civil parish within Chiltern district in Buckinghamshire, 27 miles north west of London, in the Chiltern Hills. Amersham is split into two distinct areas: Old Amersham, set in the valley of the River Misbourne and Amersham-on-the-Hill, which grew rapidly around the railway station in the early part of the 20th century. The area of the town now known as Amersham on the Hill was referred to as Amersham Common until after the arrival of the Metropolitan Line in 1892. After this date growth of the new area of the town gradually accelerated, with much work being done by the architect John Kennard. It is now known locally as "Top Amersham","the Top Town" or "the New Town". Early trade at Amersham Market was in local grain, much of which was sold to London merchants. During the 18th century a key industry in the town was brewing. After a number of changes of hands during this time William Weller of High Wycombe purchased the brewery in 1775. He, and his heirs, expanded the business by buying a number of local public houses during the next 150 years. In addition to brewing, tanning, lace manufacture and brickmaking all had a prominent place in the manufacturing past of the town. During World War II, the Radiochemical Centre, a scientific research establishment, arrived in the town. This became Amersham International, then Amersham plc, and now, after a number of changes of ownership and name, is part of GE Healthcare.


The town’s local football team play around a mile away from the station at Spratleys Meadow. Located on a country lane leading out of the town towards Little Missenden, the ground is a fairly basic, but picturesque one. Being railed off on all sides, although you are only able to stand on 3 of them, the main two aspects of the ground are located down the sides. (Pic above) The Mike Gahagan Stand (or Graham Taylor Stand, both are named on either side!) allows a decent view of the pitch with some seats and a small standing area at the back. Across the way, behind the dugouts, is an old building that is falling down. This did used to have a tree growing inside of it but that has now gone but the old building does add a bit to the surroundings of the Buckinghamshire countryside. The clubhouse is also on site, an old barn style building that does a good pint and has friendly staff. So recommended so far!


The club currently reside in the Spartan South Midlands League 1st Division after spending all of their football history in the local leagues with not much success. Starting off in the Wycombe & District Combination League they then moved to the Spartan League in 1947, were founding members of the Hellenic League in 1953 (and they won the top flight of that league in 1963) before rejoning the Spartan League in 1972 which then became the Spartan South Midlands League in 1997. They were relegated from the SSML 1st Division in 2002 and were only promoted back after a restructure – where they haven’t looked like challenging for promotion at all. This season it was no surprise then to find themselves in another struggle and were going into this game in 2nd bottom (out of 22 teams) and needed to pull clear of the struggle (bottom side Sun Postal Sports are 7 points behind) to avoid playing such footballing legends as The 61 FC and Aston Clinton next season. Their opponents were also in that relegation struggle being only 1 place and 1 point higher than Amersham. Buckingham Athletic have also paddled around the local leagues in their history with their best achievement only reaching the 2nd Round of the FA Vase in 1998/99. With two teams in dire form and 30 hardcore fans ready, this would either be a classic or reality, a Level 10 struggle.


While the temperature was getting colder the match slowly plodded along with all you would expect from a Level 10 relegation clash. Amersham did create some early pressure and fired a shot wide after 4 minutes. Buckingham though did like the ball played up front quickly and looked to hit the home side by bypassing the midfield completely but their strike force lost the ball constantly. I always expect to see at least one goal at Level 10 and it arrived on 16 minutes when ironically, Amersham played a long ball forward which should have been dealt with easily by their #5, instead he completely missed his kick allowing Carl Derewenko to run through clean on goal and lift the ball over Buckingham goalie Jack Bridges to give Amersham the lead. An excellent finish that was worthy of much higher than Level 10. The away side though didn’t lose their heads and fired in a deserved equalizer just 13 minutes later. Some excellent play down the left hand side after some patience build up allowed a cross to come in which was only cleared to the edge of the area. Simon Hodges composed himself and fired in low under goalie Perry Cheadle to give the away side a route back into the game, much to the delight of their travelling fans.


For the rest of the game, it was sadly a Level 10 relegation battle. Both sides went for it but it became a battle that didn’t really fire past the point of average. What made it worse, was the cold starting to get really bad and so I spent the last 20 minutes moving constantly as it was more exciting than the game. By this time, Amersham had surprisingly taken the lead out of absolutely nothing. When the ball got to Derewenko on the edge of the area, nothing looked on. The final ball in this game had been woeful so I was expecting a misplaced pass. Instead he chipped the ball towards goal and it lofted over Bridges’s head and into the far corner. A fantastic finish, again. Buckingham looked stunned and proceeded to play the rest of the game getting near the penalty area only to lose the ball (and likewise for Amersham). The only chance they created was deep in injury time when a long ball over top found Buckingham’s #16 who ran onto it and hammered his shot off the bar. Had that gone in, it would have been a travesty. The #16 had come off the bench midway through the 2nd half and spent most of the game fouling off the ball and getting frustrated. He didn’t deserve a goal and to be honest, neither did Buckingham Athletic. 2-1 it finished.


While this SSML clash was better than the last one I saw at Cockfosters, I was disappointed with this game, and cold, so cold. Amersham is a really friendly club so I am tempted to head back in the future – although in the summer months! Both sides should have enough of a points gap to stay above Sun Postal Sports and play SSML 1st Division football next season. This game was an ok, but cold start to 2012. Here’s to the next 12 months!

Photos from Amersham Town vs Buckingham Athletic


Match Ratings:

- Match: 4/10 (wasn’t great)

- Value for money: 8/10 (excellent value for money)

- Ground: 6/10 (basic, but picturesque)

- Atmosphere: 3/10 (not really any)

- Food: N/A – They did do food, but had already ate in the town

- Programme: 6/10 (it was free – so can’t grumble too much)

- Referee: John Costelloe – 4/10 (didn’t look up for it)

AmT vs Buck Ath prog

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Chelsea vs Aston Villa (31/12/11)

Match 139

Ground #: 105

Ground: Stamford Bridge 

Competition: English Premiership 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £30

Programme: £3

Attendance: 41,332

Chelsea 1

Drogba (pen) 23’ 

Aston Villa 3

Ireland 28’, Petrov 83’, Bent 86’


People can sometimes slate social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter but if you use them in a positive way then you can gain a lot of out it. Through Twitter, I’ve met some of the various hoppers and general football fans out there and it was some Chelsea lads who got me a ticket for a reasonable price by borrowing a season ticket for this game so I could finally get to Stamford Bridge! I’ll be honest from the start, I have a soft spot for Chelsea, dating way back to the late 90’s when Zola, Vialli, Di Matteo and Poyet were all in the side that occasionally won a cup. Needless to say, I was looking forward to this.


Chelsea is an area of West London bounded to the south by the River Thames, where its frontage runs from Chelsea Bridge along the Chelsea Embankment, Cheyne Walk, Lots Road and Chelsea Harbour. The word Chelsea originates from the Old English term for "landing place [on the river] for chalk or limestone.” By 1694, Chelsea – always a popular location for the wealthy, and once described as "a village of palaces" – had a population of 3,000. Even so, Chelsea remained rural and served London to the east as a market garden, a trade that continued until the 19th-century development boom which caused the district finally to be absorbed into the metropolis. The street crossing that was known as "Little Chelsea", Park Walk, linked Fulham Road to King's Road and continued to the Thames and local ferry down Lover's Lane, renamed "Milmans Street" in the 18th century. Chelsea's modern reputation as a centre of innovation and influence originated in a period during the 19th century, when the area became a Victorian artists' colony. It became prominent once again as one of the centres of 1960s "Swinging London", when house prices were lower than in the staid Royal Borough of Kensington. The Swinging Sixties was defined on King's Road, which runs the length of the area.


Founded in 1905, Chelsea have represented the swinging and trendy area of London well (although Stamford Bridge is actually in Fulham) since their election to the Football League soon after 1905. They soon became known as a club for signing big name players and entertaining the crowds, but not much success came their way in the early years. After the war Ted Drake became manager and his modernisation of the club, led the Blues to their first league championship (in 1955) and a challenge for honours throughout the 60’s (now led by Tommy Docherty and later Dave Sexton). The next two decades were poor for Chelsea as troubles on and off the pitch began to emerge. The team were relegated to Division 2 and nearly dropped into D3 for the first time in 1982. There was also a hooligan element amongst the support which plagued the club throughout this period, during a time when football hooliganism was rife anyway. Ken Bates then bought the club in the early 80’s for £1 and began to slowly build the club up again, although their form in the newly created Premier League was poor until Dutch legend Ruud Gullit took over as player-manager and the trophies (and big name players) started to arrive. In 2003, the club then changed again, dramatically when Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over and spent that summer buying everybody. I remember coming home from school everyday just to see who Chelsea had signed as they gorged over £100 million on new talent. No trophies came however until The Special One arrived…


Love him or hate him Jose Mourinho changed football in this country, and in my eyes, for the better. His impact (positive or negative) is a debate for another day but his record at Chelsea was superb. Two Premiership titles, 1 FA Cup and two League Cups means Mourinho is Chelsea’s most successful manager. Since his days however, the Stamford Bridge club have never looked like replicating his success after he’d gone in 2007, although Ancelotti did win the double in 2009. Current boss Andre Villas-Boas is in his 1st season and is under pressure after a less than successful start that has seen the Manchester clubs fly away and even Tottenham have seemed to have leapfrogged them as Chelsea were coming into this game in 4th. Aston Villa also have new blood in charge this season with ex Hibs boss Alex McLeish taking over. Villa had started reasonably well, albeit defensively, but a shocking run of form has seen them tumble down the table to 14th and McLeish needs to turn this around quickly otherwise he would be on for a second successive relegation. Villa did have some hope for this game though as their recent form against Chelsea was good and had recently taken part in some crackers at Stamford Bridge with a 3-3 draw, a 7-1 defeat that famous 4-4 draw back in 2007.


Sat in the Shed End behind the goal, you get some excellent views of Stamford Bridge – although the classic fans would probably want to see The Shed back to terracing. (maybe one day!) Chelsea started reasonably ok as well I though as it was no surprise Villa had set their stall out defensively and looked for the pace of Agbonlahor and N’Zogbia to hit them on the counter attack. The home side though created chances, firstly Mata (who Chelsea always looked to for anything) was unlucky when he tried a flick on that went wide and then Daniel Sturridge fired over after some good work down the right. Chelsea had clearly spotted a weakness in Villa’s left back position with Steven Warnock struggling to contain the home side at times. In fact when Chelsea took the lead on 23 minutes you had to think it would be a long afternoon for Villa if they were just going to play counter-attacking football. Ref Mark Halsey let Chelsea play on after a foul in the middle of the park and Ramires bombed forward while Villa backtracked to lay the ball off to Sturridge. He was fouled off the ball as he came forward but Halsey played on again to allow Drogba to run into the box where he was cynically taken out by Richard Dunne. Clear cut penalty. Drogba himself got up and dispatched it to equal Peter Osgood’s 150 goals for the club and he pointed to the penalty spot where Osgood’s ashes were scattered. A nice touch. Villa though, actually went for it and with Steven Ireland starting to boss the midfield, they were level soon after. He sent N’Zogbia away down the left and he skipped past a bizarre tackle/block/not anything from Paulo Ferreira to cut it back to Ireland. His first shot was blocked on the line by Terry but he coolly slotted home the rebound to make it 1-1. Chelsea were frustrated and for the rest of the half played like it.


The second half saw Villa pinned back for the majority of the play, but never really looked in too much danger apart from a couple of scary moments. In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest they were comfortable on occasions. Mata nearly ended this right before it started when he fired a cross/shot along the face of the goal but nobody was there to fire home. Villa though, showed they could still attack when some neat passing on halfway sent Agbonlahor through but his glorious 1 on 1 chance was well saved by Cech. This woke Chelsea up, they needed to get back in front in this game and fast. Lampard came on to the delight of the crowd and started to get the ball around quicker and then Torres came on as well as Chelsea went for it. Torres very nearly scored a wonder goal with his first touches as on the edge of the area, he skipped away from a tackle before unleashing a shot which cannoned off the bar with Brad Guzan completely beaten. Drogba then had an excellent chance on 73 minutes when Lampard put him through, but he rushed his shot and in the end dragged it wide. The last 10 minutes belonged to Villa, firstly McLeish signalled his intentions by bringing Darren Bent on and the England striker should have won a penalty when Terry brought him down in the area. The ball wasn’t really cleared and so when Clarke’s through ball cut straight down Chelsea’s defence, Stiliyan Petrov had time to pass the ball away from Cech and into the bottom corner. Amazingly Villa led and with 4 minutes to go, they added a 3rd. Lampard for reasons beyond me tried a square ball across the halfway line which Steven Ireland gobbled up and ran clear, along came Bent who had an easy tap in to end the game there and allow Villa to take the 3 points back to Birmingham.


This was not good from Chelsea and they knew it. Some of the pressure (maybe a minimal amount) came off Villas-Boas as Lampard turned hero in their next game when he scored a 89th minute winner to beat Wolves while Villa were back to normal, crashing 2-0 at home to Swansea. Chelsea need a lot of work on the side to bring them near the Manchester clubs and challenge for the title again. Their 2-1 win earlier in the season over Citeh, shows there is some quality there though and once Villas-Boas makes his mark on the team, they will be back up there, although it remains to be seen if AVB will get the time he needs. Villa can look forward to a midtable finish this season under McLeish and nothing more. Glad to have finally got to Stamford Bridge and thanks to Yasser on Twitter for the ticket while he was away! I do aim to go back again, hopefully to see a Chelsea side in their swagger rather that in transition.

Photos from Chelsea vs Aston Villa


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (not a classic)

- Value for money: 5/10 (what I paid is just about acceptable for football, £57 for the seat I was in is not)

- Ground: 7/10 (good ground with some history)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (not great really)

- Food: N/A – Didn’t even look at food prices

- Programme: 6/10 (ok effort)

- Referee: Mark Halsey – 6/10 (reasonable game)

Chelsea vs Villa blog