Monday, 30 July 2012

Gateshead Thunder vs London Skolars (22/07/12) [RL]

RL Match 4

RL Ground #: 4

Ground: Filtrona Park 

Competition: Co-operative Championship 1 

Kick Off: 2pm

Cost: £10

Programme: £2

Attendance: 186

Gateshead Thunder 16

Tries: Stamp 1, O’Mara 1, Brown 1

Goals: Beasley 1, Stamp 1

London Skolars 64

Tries: Price 3, Junior 3, Thorman 1, Hopkins 2, McLean 1, Thomas 1, Skee 1

Goals: Skee 8


Imagine supporting a team that hadn’t won for 61 league games in a row, 61. That stretches over multiple seasons and includes many, many hammerings. Welcome to the world of a Gateshead Thunder fan. When I first got into rugby league and was asked to pick some teams out of a hat to support, I did draw Gateshead Thunder out to support but my first love has been Wakefield as Thunder lurked around in the background. I was up in the area and Thunder were playing away from their usual home, it was off to South Shields to see if they could finally pick up that elusive win.


Since I last saw Thunder back in July 2010 when Oldham RLFC cruised to an easy win, the club have obviously struggled on the field and have lost every league game played. Their last league win was March 2010 when they beat the London Skolars 24-18 but still finished bottom of Championship 1 on –2 points after losing 6 for entering administration. An away draw against Skolars were their only two points for 2011 (and finished bottom again) before this season has saw them lose all of their games so far but narrow defeats to South Wales Scorpions (30-32) and Whitehaven RLFC (18-30) has seen them pick up 2 bonus points and so they have already equalled last season’s points total with 5 games still left to play (including this one).


While on the pitch is a struggle, Thunder off the pitch have vastly improved since their financial troubles ended in 2010. Being a local community club and a better business model, they have made a profit each year under the Thunder Rugby Ltd company since November 2009. They have also brought in a lot of local based players to try and expand the game in the North East which is very much a rugby union area (with Newcastle Falcons being the biggest team around here for ruggers). This off the field work hasn’t gone unnoticed as they won the 2011 The Co-operative Community Programme of the Year. With a local core that will improve as time goes on and profit being made off the field, Thunder do look in a reasonable position currently. Although results will have to improve at some point before attendances really drop and the sponsorship dries up.


Gateshead were playing this game at Filtrona Park in South Shields as the International Stadium’s pitch was being relaid over the summer. Filtrona Park is currently home to South Shields FC, however the owner of the site is looking to sell up and so SSFC’s days playing here could be over shortly. (They are currently listed on the Northern League website as playing here still for 2012/13) The ground itself is actually a fairly bland one at the end of a industrial estate. Only one side of the ground has any features with a small covered standing area as well as a small seated stand that sits along side the clubhouse area. The rest of the ground is just uncovered hard standing which doesn’t help the atmosphere. There are suggestions that Thunder want to pay the £350k for the ground for their use and share it with South Shields. Whether this happens it remains to be seen but hopefully they would change some of the ground as the matchday experience can be improved. Only two sides of the ground are actually open (not sure why) which is quite frustrating and the PA system needs some TLC to make it actually understandable but like most places, it does have some potential.


London Skolars were actually themselves whipping boys not a long time ago but have seen some investment into the club and a very good academy show that for London rugby league, it is not all about the Broncos. Going into this game with 3 wins to their name and 2 bonus points, the Skolars actually had an outside chance of the play-offs which would be a great achievement for them. Thunder looked at this game with one they could possibly take something from and as they kicked off towards the Skolars, there was some belief about them that this could be the day. However, that kick off went straight into touch to hand the initiative to the away side. The Skolars took full advantage and didn’t even need to complete a full set as Joe Price managed to go over after just over a minute. Oh dear. It got worse as the Skolars scored 3 quick tries soon after as the score went to 0-22 very early on. Thunder were also becoming increasingly frustrated with referee Tom Crashley who gave some awful penalty decisions against them which Skolars scored from. On 24 minutes, Gateshead did have a try back when Paul Stamp showed some great turn and pace to highlight the Skolars weak defence as he scored under the posts. It didn’t matter too much however as Skolars added another 4 tries before HT, with Thunder’s right hand side getting carved open far too much. At HT it was 38-6 and the game was pretty much over already.


“Stay strong early on!” Thunder didn’t manage this for the 2nd half as Joe Price went over the line within 5 minutes to complete his hat-trick after an overlap was created through the middle. Skolars added more points when Andy McLean went over as Thunder’s full back had completely given up (at least make a challenge man!) by this point. The home side did have a few opportunities in the half to have a real go at the Skolars back line and it was no surprise to see them score on 62 minutes through Olly O’Mara. Skolars kept coming forward though and added more tries through Matt Thomas, Brad Hopkins and Dylan Skee for the Skolars to declare on 64. Gateshead did have the final say of the day however when they added their 3rd try through Joe Brown to get them into up onto 16 points.


This wasn’t a massively enjoyable day out with a match that really wasn’t a contest at a ground which I am not a fan of. Gateshead Thunder are at a crossroads here and I hope they can start to improve on the pitch (which will surely happen over time) to compliment their already excellent off the field work and situation. I was slightly disappointed with the Skolars attitude during the game too with some disrespectful remarks and actions which showed this is a side that isn’t used to winning. The Skolars scored 64 again in their next game with a 64-6 win over the South Wales Scorpions. This is probably the team Thunder need to look at catching up with rather than the Skolars. As I left the ground I overheard a conversation, “we need to be given straightjackets!”, “another crushing defeat”, “na, just a defeat”. These guys do it every week. They’ll win one day.

Photos from Thunder vs Skolars


Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (not enjoyable)

- Value for money: 5.5/10 (a reasonable Co-op Champ price)

- Ground: 3.5/10 (not a fan – soulless)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (home fans right behind their team)

- Food: 7/10 (decent and well priced pie)

- Programme: 4/10 (light on content)

- Referee: Tom Crashley – 2/10 (awful performance)

Thunder vs Skolars prog

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Boreham Wood vs Stevenage (14/07/12)

Match 160

Ground #: 125

Ground: Meadow Park

Competition: Pre-season Friendly

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £12

Programme: £3

Attendance: 388

Boreham Wood 1

Effiong 32’ 

Stevenage 1

Haber 47’


55 days. That is 79,200 minutes without football. Yes, I did have the Euros and got to see another “brave” England exit but there is nothing like turning up at ground and watching some live football. Thankfully the barren off-season was over and my 2012/13 season was ready to begin. The first big choice was where to begin? The friendly lists for this pre-season weren’t some of the best I’d seen so I decided to copy what I did to open my 2011/12 season. A Blue Square South club vs a Football League one.


Borehamwood is a town in southern Hertfordshire, situated 16.5 miles north of central London and is in the parish of Elstree & Borehamwood. One of the earliest mentions of Bosci de Boreham (Wood of Boreham), is in 1188 in Matthew Paris’ Chronica Majora which states,

“In 1188 Pope Clement granted to the kitchen of the monastery the whole land of Elstree. He also gave to the Abbey the wood of Boreham for the feeding of the swine.”

Up until 1909, the town was part of the ancient parish of Elstree and the two still share a local council. From the 1920s onwards, the town became known as one of the main centres of the UK film, and later television, industries due to the presence of production studios. “British Hollywood” saw many well-known movies including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moby Dick, The Dam Busters, and The Shining as well as the first three Indiana Jones films and the first three Star Wars movies being partially filmed at the former Associated British Studios in Shenley Road. These were partly demolished in the 1980s to make way for a supermarket and an office block complex. Following World War II, the town's population greatly increased, with large areas of council housing set up for displaced Londoners, many of which are now in private ownership. Fast train connections to central London have resulted in the town becoming a primarily residential suburb. Boreham Wood is currently undergoing a substantial housing transformation which has seen hundreds of new homes built over the last five years. There are currently two further developments being built and more are expected.


Boreham Wood are actually a fairly new club (compared to others) as they were formed in 1948 as a result of a merger between Boreham Rovers and Royal Retournez. It’s early days were spend in the Mid-Herts League and the Parthenon League before joining the Spartan League at some point (most likely) in the late 1950s. After finishing 2nd in two out of three seasons they made the step up to the Athenian League 2nd Division in 1966 and quickly launched up to the Premier Division by 1970. Their upward spiral continued in 1974 when they joined the Isthmian League 2nd Division and were playing in the top flight by 1977. Their first relegation happened in 1982 when they finished bottom of the Isthmian 1st Divsion and they weren’t promoted back to the top flight until 1995. After showing bouncebackability in 2000 for an instant return to the Isthmian Premier, they floated around until 2009/10 when they finished 4th and qualified for the play-offs where they saw off Aveley and Kingstonian to seal promotion to the Conference South for the first time – the highest level they have ever played.


Finishes of 14th and 8th suggest an improving side and Wood boss Ian Allinson has been given the task of promotion this season and backed with a decent core squad and the excellent PASE (Programme for Academic and Sporting Excellence) system starting to show more and more promise, the future looks good for the Wood. Their Meadow Park ground is an easy walk from Elstree & Borehamwood station and fits in well in the surrounding area. Behind both goals are uncovered standing terraces that provide decent enough views. Running down one side is a covered standing area that provides a shallow terrace where as the opposite side is the large seated main stand. With some tall trees around and the overall suburban feel, Meadow Park is a nice venue and one that is recommended. A final shout out to the BW clubhouse which takes over Hillingdon Borough’s as “most like a nightclub” – a very slick venue.


The Wood were playing all of their PSFs against Football League/Premiership opposition and after a credible 1-1 draw against a West Ham XI in their first game they welcomed League 1 Stevenage. I had tipped The Boro for relegation last season and was promptly proved completely wrong (again) as they finished 6th and in a play-off place. They were unlucky to lose in the Semi-Finals to Sheffield United (before they laughably balls up their promotion too) and come into this season with Gary Smith’s first full one in charge. It appears the HOOF ball tactics adopted by ex manager Graham Westley have been dropped (now taken up at Preston North End, managed by, Graham Westley) for a more slick style of play under Smith. Signings such as Marcus Haber and ex Hibee Filipe Morais look decent for League 1 and they appear to be dark horses yet again this season. (I won’t be tipping them for relegation)


Stevenage played a different XI for both halves and it became clear very quickly that for the 1st half it was a team mainly made up of youth and reserves as the home side started to dominate. Wood’s “big man up front” Inih Effiong had the first chance of the game when Chez Issac picked him out in the box with a high cross but he fired over the bar. Issac was actually dominating in midfield and the Wood man was pulling the strings as Stevenage’s Anthony Grant and Nathan Evans were struggling to contain him. The home side looked the most likely to score and did so on 25 minutes. Effiong was put through on the left and his powerful shot took a deflection to beat Chris Day at his near post. Stevenage did improve slightly after the goal as they began to get a bit more possession and Robin Shroot was unlucky to miss a cross from Lee Hills as the League 1 side were 1-0 down at HT.


The Stevenage team for the 2nd half saw more of the big guns such as Morais, Freeman and Haber come out and Stevenage equalized within 2 minutes of the start. They won a corner and Morais sent an excellent delivery in for Haber to power home a head past James Russell. At this point I thought Stevenage would end up scoring 2 or 3 more with this team as they had Wood completely on the back foot. Morais had an excellent free kick saved by Russell and then had to defend well from some excellent crosses as Haber was showing himself to be a great target. BW surprisingly nearly re-took the lead as David Hutton fired in a long range effort but 2nd half goalie Steve Arnold was comfortable. Stevenage’s best chances to win the game came late on when firstly Haber cut back to Dom Knowles who hit the post with his shot and then Freeman forced Russell into an excellent save. Haber should have won it even later on when he was put through one on one with Russell but the Wood goalie made an excellent save. BW managed to hang on to get a 2nd good draw against Prem/FL opposition in their PSFs.


This was a decent but low key start to my 2012/13 season with a game that was actually far better than I expected. With both teams since this game doing quite nicely in pre-season (in terms of results) they could both be challenging at the right end for this coming season. Meadow Park is a nice enough ground and I’ll probably be back here some in the future. Boreham Wood were also extremely helpful in answering e-mails and really polite on the day so credit to this friendly club. It’s a shame they charged £12 for a PSF but they certainly aren’t in the minority to do this so nevermind. As for me, we’re off and running! Who knows what delights I’ll see this season!

Photos from Boreham Wood vs Stevenage


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (standard PSF)

- Value for money: 2/10 (>£10 for this? Really?)

- Ground: 7/10 (pleasant ground)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (fairly quiet – majority of fans were Stevenage)

- Food: 6/10 (good start for first grease of the season)

- Programme: 6.5/10 (was actually fairly decent – professionally done)

- Referee: Rob Whitton – 7/10 (nothing much to do – did it fine)

BW vs Stevenage prog

BW vs Stev stub

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Some places that I used to know (2012/13 preview)

For the first time since writing this blog I head into a season with (hopefully!) no real major changes coming my way in life so have decided to base this season partly on a theme. I’m going back to places that I’ve lived to see some quality football action and reminisce about all the “good” times I had. As I already got to Aldershot last season (yes, I lived there) here is the roll call of all the fabulous places that I will be gracing this season:

- Windsor


I lived in the Royal town in Berkshire around the mid-90s and even started school in the town so a trip to the Combined Counties League side of Windsor FC is coming. I used to live near their Stag Meadow ground so this visit will roll back the years. I could also cross the Windsor Bridge and go visit Eton Wick FC in the Middlesex County League. Or maybe not.

- Chippenham


Ah Chippenham. Spent my college days there and still remember the road sign that welcomed you into the Wiltshire town had been graffitied with “turn around, it’s shit!” Still kicking myself for not seeing a game at Chippenham Town’s Hardenhuish Park when I lived here so this needs to be rectified this season.

- Swindon


Just up the road from Chippers is Europe’s self-proclaimed teenage pregnancy capital (even beating Glasgow?!). I attended college in the town and despite it being it little bit rough round the edges, I always felt there was an unfair image of the place. If you were mugged, you would be mugged with a smile. I’ve already been to the County Ground, so I’ll be saying hello to Swindon’s 2nd team (Supermarine) this time out.

- Lancashire


Yes, I know, picking out a whole county is unfair, but I’ve been to Lancaster City (it’s a smashing ground!) during my time at uni here and a few others so I have to go back and mooch around the 2nd best county in the UK. As I write this I have no idea what Lancs ground I will end up at, but you can be damn sure it will be obscure.

- Edinburgh


It wouldn’t be a proper season without going back to the place where it all began. My self-imposed exile from Tynecastle means it won’t be a Hearts game, but there are still a few East of Scotland clubs in the capital that I would like to get to.

It’s not just visits based on some lame “theme” to make the blog more “interesting!”. Here’s the best of the rest for The Travelling Fan 2012/13:



As I live in London and during the game will be in a role that is extremely Olympic focused, it’s needless to say that I’m full of Olympic fever. I was also extremely lucky to blag some tickets for both the Olympics and Paralympics and so will be looking forward to posting some very different sports on here. I’ll also be right behind Team GB except in one sport, football. Stuart Pearce’s team selection has once again shown what a tool he is added to his woeful management skills. I’m still quite surprised he has this job after his talented England U21s managed to crash out of the group stages at last year’s Euro Championships. And don’t even get me started on Craig Bellamy. Never mind.

28th July – Beach Volleyball @ Horse Guards Parade (Draw TBC)

29th July – Water Polo @ Water Polo Arena (Romania vs Great Britain & United States vs Montenegro)

4th August – Football @ Wembley (Group B Winners vs Group A Runners Up)

4th September – Paralympic Athletics @ Olympic Stadium (Inc, Men’s Long Jump Final, Men’s 100m Final, Woman’s 400m Final)

9th September – Paralympic Football 7 a-side @ Riverbank Arena (Bronze Medal Match)

stuart-pearce-007(What do you mean we’re playing Uruguay?)


Every season some teams say goodbye to their home of X years in the attempt to move with the times to a brand new place. Other times they may just not be able to keep up with the rent and find themselves turfed out. Whatever the occasion it is annoying to miss these ‘classic’ venues, so a good effort is being made to catch some action at these before they go.

Worcester City (St George’s Lane)


“Hang on? Didn’t you put this ground on last seas…” Yes. Lightning doesn’t strike twice.

Cambridge City (Milton Road)


Thought I’d actually missed this one due to me not pulling my finger out and an earlier leave date, but Milton Road is still hanging on. Probably not for much longer though so this is the season to do it. I also used to live in Cambridge, maybe I should do a theme about going back to places?

Cheddar AFC (Bowdens Park)


The small Somerset side actually won promotion to the Western League 1st Division for this season and look set to only have one or two seasons left at Bowdens Park before it becomes a Tesco. As you can see from the comments, the locals are delighted by the news.

Cowdenbeath (Central Park)


The threat of “the Blue Brazil” leaving Central Park has been hanging over them for some time now with a formal application being handed in for the redevelopment of the site as housing and retail. I’ve been reliably informed that the ground is a must see so I’m keen to go this season before I turn up there in a couple of years to find some semi-detached housing and a Subway.



I really enjoyed my FA Vase run last season as I took in some glorious places such as Croydon, Church Gresley and Gateshead. Therefore its back on the road with the FA Vase as I’ll be starting 2012/13 with Colliers Wood United vs Badshot Lea in the 1st Qualifying Round. After that, who knows what weird and whacky places I’ll end up in chasing the FA Vase. I can’t wait.



I’ve finally this summer also pulled my finger out and got my passport renewed so I am determined to get an abroad game this season. I also joined the Scotland Supporters Club with the hope of getting a ticket to Belgium away (in October) and/or Croatia away (in June) so expect some hot Euro action soon.

And that’s it! Thanks again for reading, the opening game of 2012/13 is nearly here, an interesting friendly between Boreham Wood and Stevenage. I leave you with a picture of a bear falling out of a tree.