Thursday, 31 January 2013

Derby County vs Blackburn Rovers (26/01/13)

Match 185

Ground #: 145

Ground: Pride Park 

Competition: FA Cup 4th Round

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £12

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 14,013

Derby County 0

Blackburn Rovers 3

Kazim-Richards 44’, Dann 66’, Rhodes 71’


Despite the snow having some dreadful banter and wiping most of the games out across the county the week before, the nice people at East Midlands Trains allowed me to change tickets for a reasonable price. Therefore I could take in the rearranged Borrowash Victoria vs Ascot United clash for this Saturday. That was until the snow hit again and wiped it out, again. Not wanting to go begging to East Midlands Trains for the 2nd successive week, I searched for a match near to Derby train station. Derby County, job done.


Derby is a city in the East Midlands region of England and lies upon the banks of the River Derwent in the south of the ceremonial county of Derbyshire. The city has Roman, Saxon and Viking origins with Djúra-bý, recorded in Anglo-Saxon as Deoraby "Village of the Deer". This popular belief is asserted by Tim Lambert who states, "The name Derby is derived from the Danish words deor by meaning deer settlement". However some assert that it is a corruption of the original Roman name 'Derventio'. During the English Civil War, Derby was garrisoned by Parliamentary troops commanded by Sir John Gell. These troops took part in the defence of nearby Nottingham, the Siege of Lichfield and many other engagements in Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. 100 years later, Bonnie Prince Charlie set up camp at Derby in December 1745, whilst on his way south to seize the British crown. Derby and Derbyshire were centres of Britain's Industrial Revolution. In 1717, Derby was the site of the first water powered silk mill in Britain, built by John Lombe and George Sorocold, after Lombe had reputedly stolen the secrets of silk-throwing from Italy. The beginning of the next century saw Derby emerging as an engineering centre with manufacturers such as James Fox, who exported machine tools to Russia. An industrial boom began in Derby when Rolls-Royce opened a car and aircraft factory in the town in 1907. In 1964 the British Rail Research Division opened to study all aspects of railway engineering from first principles. Its first success was in drastically improving the reliability and speed of goods trains, work which led to the development of the Advanced Passenger Train. Trains are still a massive part of the City today with Bombardier residing in the town.


Derby County FC were formed in 1884 as an offshoot of Derbyshire County Cricket Club in an attempt to give players and supporters a winter interest as well as secure the cricket club extra revenue. The club’s first competitive match came in the 1885 FA Cup, where they were unlucky (apparently) to lose 7–0 at home to Walsall Town. Arguably the most important game in the club's history came in next season’s FA Cup, when a 2–0 victory over Aston Villa, already an emerging force in English football, helped establish Derby County on the English football map, which resulted, in 1888, with an invitation into the inaugural Football League. In 1895 the club moved to a new stadium, The Baseball Ground (so called because it was previously used for baseball), which became their home for the next 102 years and adopted their traditional colours of black and white. After turning into a yo-yo club during the 1910s, they upped their game in the First Division during the 20s and 30s and achieved some excellent finishes in the league. After a 1946 FA Cup win, the glory days came in 1967 when Brian Clough and Peter Taylor took over. Signing Hearts’ (arguably) best ever midfielder in Dave Mackay from Spurs, the Rams won promotion in 1969 and then won their first ever Football League title in 1972. They then reached the semi-final of the European Cup the next season before Clough-Taylor left in 1973. Such was their achievements, a statue (see above) was erected outside Pride Park some 37 years later. Despite winning another title in 1975, the club started to drop down the leagues and hit the Third Division in 1984. With Robert Maxwell now in charge off the field, his money being pumped in allowed Derby to move back up through the leagues and back into the First Division in 1987. When Maxwell died and his money gone, Derby unsurprisingly dropped back but did return to the Premier League in 1996 when under Jim Smith they finished 2nd in the second tier.


Their final season at the Baseball Ground saw Derby finish 12th before they moved to the 30,000 seater stadium at Pride Park. Based in the east of the City in an industrial park, it’s a short walk from the railway station. For the modern grounds, its fairly similar all round with the imaginatively name East, West, South and Derbyshire Building Society Stands, the ground is quite compact and provides all views from where ever you seem to sit. With a Greggs and Starbucks built into the ground and a Subway about 10 seconds away across the road, getting something to eat which isn’t football ground food is also fairly easy. A little known fact is that Pride Park is the 133rd largest stadium in Europe. (You can sleep well tonight) Playing at Pride Park, Derby managed to keep their Premier League status intact until 2004 when they were finally relegated while suffering from financial problems. They did return to the Premier League in 2007 but embarrassingly were relegated straight back down by March and with the League’s lowest ever points total. They haven’t been back since but now managed by Nigel Clough, they have achieved some solid finishes over the past few seasons. Yet the feeling remains that if Nigel didn’t have the relations that he does, he would have been sacked a while ago.


This season, Derby are on a much stronger financial footing, backed by General Sports Entertainment, they have invested in youth with Will Hughes (17) and Mason Bennett (16) already making an impact this season. Derby were in midtable coming into this game, in 13th and 9 points off the play-offs. The remainder of the season will be interesting for Derby fans to see if they push up or fall down. Their 3rd Round tie was against League 1 flyers Tranmere, so a 5-0 win against them was mightily impressive. Their opponents had rarely been out of the news this season as Blackburn Rovers 2012/13 shambles was in town. Starting off with an impressive start (as I predicted), their fans hounded Kean out of the club and so Henning Berg came in and proceeded to take them down the table. He was punted after only 57 days and Michael Appleton has come in with a view to try and manage every FL club. With the board in turmoil, a club that appears to be on the way down, Appleton has really taken a challenging job on. However with some class throughout the squad, Blackburn should really be aiming for the play-offs at a minimum and are only 9 points off them currently. An easily achievable target.


Before the match had even kicked off, the Derby fans had booed referee Stuart Atwell, claiming “we only get the shit referees”. Atwell hasn’t refereed a Derby game since November 2008 when he took charge of Derby vs Forest so something clearly happened then. I had inadvertently bought tickets to stand at the back row with the Derby “ultras” despite there being far more people there than seats available, but the stewards didn’t mind. And to be fair, the 13,000 that had shown up had very little to watch during the 1st half. Whilst not as bad as Palace v Stoke in the previous round but there was very little for us to cheer. Blackburn had the better chances that were created. Morten Gamst Pedersen fired a free kick in which Scott Dann headed wide before Pedersen fired a free kick straight on goal which Derby goalie Adam Legzdins did well to react to. While Derby struggled to create anything with Jamie Ward being played out of position and Conor Sammon generally useless upfront, (Ireland international? Really?!) Blackburn had Danny Murphy playing some excellent Hollywood balls across the pitch to create attacks. It was a surprise we saw a goal in the 1st half, but no surprise that Blackburn scored it. Some dreadful play allowed the away side to break up an attack and allow Colin Kazim-Richards to race through after Richard Keogh had made a meal of a tackle. The Coca-Cola kid then fired a shot that Legzdins could only palm into the net. It was good to see Blackburn have Kazim-Richards on their version of the ‘conga-song’. (Cover yourself in gravy, sing “Do do do Colin Kazim-Richards!” to this and you’ll pass off as a Rovers fan no problem)


Derby nearly snatched an undeserved equalizer right at the start of the half when Jake Kean’s clearance was blocked by Conor Sammon but he managed to collect Ward’s cross. That was really as good as it got for Derby as Blackburn then dominated for the remaining 40 minutes. Firstly Ruben Rochina fired just wide after some excellent build up play from Scott Dann. Then Rovers had a goal from Markus Olsson ruled out for offside as he tapped in from a Jordan Rhodes cross. Rochina then fired a low drive from the left which Legzdins did well to save. However, as is normally the case, Derby didn’t defend the corner and were promptly 0-2 down on 66 minutes. The initial cross was cleared, but there was Murphy and his Hollywood pass found Dann all on his own on the left and he was calm enough to take a touch before smashing a half-volley past Legzdins. At this stage, Derby had managed a massive zero shots on goal and fans now started chanting “4-4-2” as they demanded a change. Before Clough could react, the Derby defence went missing again and it was 0-3 as the ball broke around the penalty box and Jordan “Scotland’s Saviour” Rhodes finished easily for his 17th Rovers goal. That was game over as Rovers had chances to add more goals as by 85 minutes Pride Park was fairly empty. Derby managed a total of zero shots at the full-time whistle – dreadful.


Blackburn’s reward in the 5th Round is an away tie at Arsenal so will be exiting the competition at the next round. They were easily winners here as Derby were toothless, clueless and hapless as 3 goals could have easily been so much more. Derby’s fans are a passionate bunch though and when they lost faith, the gallows humour came out but they still made a fair bit of noise despite how badly their team played. Pride Park is never going to win awards for being a unique ground but its modern, provides good views and is therefore an enjoyable place to watch football. If Morecambe ever come here, I’ll be back but until then, it’s not a ram, it’s a goat.

Photos from Derby County vs Blackburn Rovers


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (was ok for the neutral)

- Value for money: 7/10 (£12 is far cheaper than their normal prices)

- Ground: 7/10 (good modern arena)

- Atmosphere: 8/10 (good atmosphere created by both sets of fans)

- Food: N/A – ate at Subway next door

- Programme: 7/10 (weird size, but only £2.50 and good content)

- Referee: Stuart Atwell – 7.5/10 (felt he was good)

DC vs BR prog

DC vs BR stub

Friday, 25 January 2013

Luton Town vs Skelmersdale United (12/01/13)

Match 184

Ground #: 144

Ground: Kenilworth Road 

Competition: FA Trophy 3rd Round

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £10

Programme: £2

Attendance: 2,479

Luton Town 2

Watkins 84’, Gray 90’

Skelmersdale United 0


Out of the 25 games I’ve seen this season, 14 of them have been in some form of cup competition. (Always supplying those useless statistics!) I’ve already discussed some of the reasons why I probably prefer these knockout clashes to a normal league game but there was a time when I enjoyed frequenting a league in the north of the country. A time when life was a little easier (actually it wasn’t) and where one could watch 22 northern blokes kick the shit into each other. That was the Unibond League. Now under a new sponsorship name of Evo-Stik, one of it’s teams had made a storming FA Trophy run and were playing at a ground I’d wanted to get to for a while – easy choice!


Luton is a large town and unitary authority of Bedfordshire, 30 miles north of London. The earliest settlements in the Luton area were Paleolithic encampments and settlements re-appeared after the ice had retreated in the Mesolithic period around 8000 BC. The first urban settlement nearby was the small Roman town of Durocobrivis at Dunstable, but Roman remains in Luton itself consist only of scattered farmsteads. The foundation of Luton is usually dated to the 6th century when a Saxon outpost was founded on the River Lea, Lea tun and is recorded in the Domesday Book as Loitone. By 1240 the town is recorded as Leueton and had a market for surrounding villages in August each year. The hat making industry began in the 17th century and became synonymous with the town. By the 18th century the industry dominated the town. (Giving rise to Town’s nickname – the Hatters) Hats are still produced in the town but on a much smaller scale. The town grew strongly in the 19th Century and in the 20th century, the hat trade severely declined and was replaced by other industries. In 1905, Vauxhall Motors opened the largest car plant in the UK in Luton. In 1914 Hewlett & Blondeau Aviation entrepreneurs built a factory which began Aircraft production built for the war effort, the site was purchased in 1920 by new proprietors Electrolux domestic appliances and this was followed by other light engineering businesses. The pre-war years, even at the turn of the 1930s when the Great Depression, were something of an economic boom for Luton, as new industries grew and prospered.


Luton Town FC were formed in April 1885 as a result of a merger of the two leading local teams, Luton Town Wanderers and Excelsior. Initially based at Excelsior's Dallow Lane ground, they became the first club in southern England to become professional. The club was a founder member of the Southern League in the 1894–95 season and finished as runners-up in its first two seasons. It then left to help form the United League before joining The Football League for 1897–98, concurrently moving to a new ground at Dunstable Road. Poor attendance, high wages, and the high travel that resulted from Luton's distance from the northern heartlands of The Football League crippled the club financially and they returned to the Southern League. The moved to their current ground of Kenilworth Road in 1905 and rejoined the FL in 1920. Luton’s first period of success in the FL came in the 50s when managed under Dally Duncan, had club legend’s Gordon Turner, Bob Morton and Syd Owen playing for them and they reached the top flight as well as playing in the 1959 FA Cup Final. (Where they lost to Forest) They turned into a yo-yo team during the 60s and 70s, but famously stayed up in 1982/83 when a late winner by Raddy Antić saved them at the expense of Man City and David Pleat did his jig across City’s Maine Road pitch. They won the League Cup in 1988 with a famous win over Arsenal but since then have fallen from grace and spent most of the time in the basement divisions, barring a brief stay in the Championship from 2005-2007. It got worse for them in 2008/09 when they were deducted 30 points and were relegated from the Football League to the Blue Square Premier where they have been stuck ever since. The closest to coming back up was a Play-Off Final defeat to AFC Wimbledon on penalties.


Luton are again up in the higher reaches of the Blue Square Premier this season and despite the slow start, they found themselves in 5th place during this cup break. While 8 points off leaders Wrexham, they did have 3 games in hand on them so Luton are “in the mix”. While the FA Trophy isn’t their highest priority, the week previous to this game they had beaten Championship Wolves 1-0 at home in the FA Cup to set up a 4th Round tie at Norwich City. Therefore showing their cup credentials. Their Trophy campaign had seen them beat Dorchester Town after a replay before winning a tricky away tie at Matlock Town to set this game up against the Skem. Despite playing 3 levels lower than Luton in the Evo-Stik 1st Division North, Skelmersdale United are currently having a brilliant run and should (from the position they are in now) achieve promotion into the Northern Prem Prem for 2013/14. Losing only once in 2012 was impressive enough but their league campaign going into this game was played 17, won 15, drawn 2. They weren’t top of the table however, but only 4 points off first and with 6 games in hand means by the time they have caught up the Skem should be out of sight.


One of the things I have been looking forward to when coming to Luton has been the famous away end that is built into the row of houses on Oak Road. It’s one of the reasons why I haven’t come here for a game until now (although I did do a Football Snapshots post at Kenilworth Road back in 2010) as I wanted to stand in the away end with a team I can support. With my love for the Evo-Stik it was a no brainer. Stick on a Scouse accent and support the Skem. The away end is a strange one – Oak Road Stand being a former terrace that seating was stuck on. Therefore the leg room in the stand is shocking, however massive credit to the Luton stewards for allowing us to stand all game. Being on the back row of this stand is probably the best idea as the pitch is actually higher than the front row of seats. The rest of the ground does show its age, which is expected considering Luton have wanted to move to a new ground since 1955. The rest of the ground is a mix between the dilapidated and the old with the Main Stand mixing between the two. Running down one whole side of the pitch are the Executive Boxes with the Kenilworth Road Stand behind the other goal. While it is now an all-seater stadium, it is a shame that the home fans have no designated standing area – however if Luton see themselves as a Championship side then all-seater, sadly, is the way to go.


In games like this, the one thing you don’t want to see is for the massive underdog to have a dreadful start and concede a daft early goal. I felt that Skem actually started quite slowly and panicked a few times early on. This allowed Luton to create some good chances with James Dance having the first shot when he fired wide following a good run from him. Skem though settled and backed by 220 fans (+1 plastic) ex Lancaster City striker Mark Jackson fired a volley over and then bizarrely they hit the post direct from a corner. Luton reacted well however and should have really done better when some excellent link up play between Scott Rendell and Alex Lawless created a chance for Jake Howells at the back post, but he headed wide. While Skem were stubborn and beginning to frustrate Luton, they did have to defend a free kick on the edge of the area when Lawless was brought down. This came to nothing however and apart from one long range effort which was easily saved by Skem goalie Sam Ashton, the Evo-Stik side were well worth the 0-0 scoreline at half-time.


Luton clearly didn’t fancy a midweek replay in Lancashire and so brought on Andre Grey to try and provide them something new for the 2nd half. It looked a good decision early on too from Paul Buckle as Grey had two chances which saw one deflected wide as his pace clearly troubled the away defence. Skem though started to push a few more men forward as they were still clearly in this game and Jackson had a glorious chance in the penalty area from a corner but he scuffed his shot and it was easily saved by Dean Brill. With time ticking on and Luton fans worried they would have to locate Skelmersdale on a map to visit, they brought on Stuart Fleetwood and his presence caused Ashton to flap a cross and Grey fired the chance over. Luton were getting a little closer now as both sides began to leave more space across the field. Lawless managed to whip a cross in and Grey flicked on into a packed penalty box but before Luton could take advantage, Ashton had collected the ball. Skem had that golden chance on 83 minutes to make history as a chance at the back post was fired towards goal and Howell headed off the line and over as Brill looked beaten. From the corner though, it turned from dreams to disaster as Luton counter attacked through Fleetwood who found Adam Watkins on the right wing. He cut inside and fired a low shot towards the far post which beat Ashton who probably expected a shot towards the far post. Skem nearly had the audacity to grab an equaliser late on as Matty Hughes took advantage of a defensive mix up and while he lofted the ball over Brill, it just bounced wide. Now into injury time, Luton added an undeserved 2nd when they counter attacked again through Fleetwood who set up Grey to dink the ball over Ashton to send the Hatters through to the 4th Round.


Skem deserved a replay from this as they held out well against a side three levels higher than them. The 220 roared their team off the field as despite the scoreline they were proud of that performance and putting the Evo-Stik on the map. Luton’s “reward” of winning that tie is an away trip to fellow promotion challengers Grimsby Town which could be good for the Trophy as two of arguably the stronger sides are meeting before the final. Despite the place probably having more atmosphere for a proper league game, it was still good to finally get to see a game at Kenilworth Road. A ground that is showing its age but still a decent place to watch football. Hopefully I’ll be back here next season with Morecambe, for a Football League game but good luck to both sides. I expect you’ll both be celebrating promotion at the end of the season.

Photos from Luton Town vs Skelmersdale United


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (interesting for more)

- Value for money: 8/10 (happy to pay this amount for this level)

- Ground: 7/10 (on the right side of classic, for now)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (mainly made by the away fans)

- Food: 5/10 (pasty wasn’t the best)

- Programme: 6/10 (professional looking but not enough to warrant £2)

- Referee: Charles Breakspear – 6/10 (fussy but kept control)

LT vs SU prog

LT vs SU stub

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Crystal Palace vs Stoke City (05/01/13)

Match 183

Ground #: 143

Ground: Selhurst Park

Competition: FA Cup 3rd Round

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £10 (concession)

Programme: £3

Attendance: 13,693

Crystal Palace 0

Stoke City 0


FA Cup 3rd Round day is one of those days that every football fan looks forward to. (Unless you’ve already been dumped out the Cup in the round before, cheers Coventry) This was the first 3rd Round day I would be spending in London so wanted to get to one of the many ties being played around the capital. Spurs v Coventry was the plan until it was sold out before I pulled my finger out and went for a ticket. No worries, it would be West Ham v Man Utd instead. When that was sold out too I had to scamper round and eventually plumped for Crystal Palace v Stoke – what a way to start 2013 on.


Crystal Palace is a residential area in south London named from the former local landmark, The Crystal Palace which occupied the area from 1850 to 1936. For centuries the area was occupied by the Great North Wood, an extensive area of natural oak forest that formed a wilderness close to the southern edge of the ever-expanding city of London. Local legend has it that Sir Francis Drake’s ship, the Golden Hind, had its timbers cut from trees in this area. The forest was a popular area for Londoners' recreation right up to the 19th century, when it began to be built over. It was also a haunt of Gypsies, with many local street names and pubs recording the link. The area still retains vestiges of woodland. The third quarter of the 19th Century brought the Crystal Palace and the railways. The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and glass building originally erected in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. Following the success of the exhibition, the palace was moved and reconstructed in 1854 in a modified and enlarged form in the grounds of the Penge Place estate at Sydenham Hill. The buildings housed the Crystal Palace School of Art, Science, and Literature and Crystal Palace School of Engineering. It attracted visitors for over seven decades. Today, the area still retains much of its impressive Victorian architecture, although housing styles are mixed, with Victorian terraces next to mid-war terraces side by side with blocks of modern flats.


Crystal Palace FC was formed on 10 September 1905 by the builders of the The Crystal Palace under the guidance of Aston Villa assistant secretary Edmund Goodman and initially played its home games at The Crystal Palace. The club joined the Southern League in 1905 and won the 2nd Division at the first attempt to achieve promotion. At the outbreak of WW1, the club lost The Crystal Palace due to the Admiralty requisitioning it and so were forced to move to West Norwood FC. Playing then at The Nest, (formerly of Croydon Common FC) Palace joined the Football League in 1920 at Division 3 before moving to the purpose built Selhurst Park in 1924 playing in Division 2. Playing in the lower tiers of the FL for the first half of the 20th Century, Palace finally moved on up in 1961 and two more promotions in the 60s meant they started 1969/70 in Division 1. Despite surviving for four seasons, it suffered successive relegations before bouncing back and becoming the ultimate yo-yo club, which they have arguably have been ever since. Their biggest moment on the national stage came in the 1989/90 FA Cup when despite losing to them 9-0 earlier in the season, Palace beat Liverpool in the Semi-Final when Alan Pardew’s last minute winner in the replay earnt them a final against Man Utd. Which they promptly lost in a replay. Since then they have graced the top flight every now and again, most recently in 2004/05 when they were relegated on the last day as a result of West Brom’s great escape.

0,,10278~11533884,00(Do do do the Pardew!)

The club this season are looking to get back into the yo-yo routine again, having only done the drop part from their last relegation. They have been riding high for most of the campaign and even recovered from former manager Dougie Freedman leaving them for Bolton. In came Ian Holloway who is always an entertaining manager and his season in the Premier League also showed he wants his teams to play in an entertaining way. Palace have dropped a few points since he took over, probably as they got used to his system, but they still went into this game in 3rd place – 9 points behind Premier League bound Cardiff City but 7 into the play-offs. An exciting 2013 is to be in store for Palace you feel. They welcomed Stoke City for this FA Cup tie who despite the rumblings surrounding Tony Pulis were an established Premier League side now under him. Coming into this game in midtable, Stoke even recently had an article on BBC published about how they were playing some excellent football now rather than the long ball side they are known for. Having such players on their books like Kenwyne Jones and Matthew Etherington also amplifies the new approach to their game.


Getting to Selhurst Park relatively early (it’s simple for me to get to) and having a good wonder round the area, you can appreciate the history of the place being 89 years old. It has the old school, with the Arthur Wait Stand (the stand I was sat in) being still with shallow views and wooden seats and even older Main Stand. This is combined with the modern and the more recent Holmesdale Road Stand which was built in 1995. The large two tiered stand behind the goal is where the louder Palace fans sit and looks fairly good from what I saw. The ground is possibly one for concern with Crystal Palace looking to redevelop the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre and move in there, however local residents and Bromley council rejected these proposals so the plan seems to be dead. With the redevelopment of their current home the most likely option. Which is needed in some areas of the ground.

IMG_0250(Probably no room to include Charlton, Millwall or Brighton then)

I normally write a paragraph per half on a game, however I would be hard pushed to write anything about the whole 90 minutes of this one. It started off so well, Jermaine Easter cut inside and fired a shot that was well saved by Stoke goalie Thomas Sorensen. Then it started to break down in midfield as both sides showed far from their normal emphasis and passion. Stoke’s best chance of the match came just 10 minutes in when Peter Crouch misfired an easy chance wide from a couple of yards. The 2nd half was even worse as both sides continued to waste the few chances that were created in the game. Stoke had Kightly fire a shot over while Palace had Moritz, Jason Banton and Peter Ramage wasted theres. The 2nd half was so bad that the guys behind me gave up on watching the game and instead started taking pictures of the Stoke fans to have some fun with them later. Dreadful.


When you normally pick something or someone that isn’t first choice, it normally isn’t great. And this game proved that. 90 minutes devoid of any entertainment and ITV must have thought the same when the highlights lasted less than 30 seconds. The club were fairly friendly though and offered the new option to me of printing an e-ticket and bringing it to the match. The ground is one to visit, but try not to get a seat at the back of the Arthur Wait Stand as your view won’t be the best. The replay actually saw some goals as Stoke marched onto the 4th Round when they won 4-1 after extra time to set up a tie against Manchester City. Good luck to them for that, they might need it considering their current form…

Photos from Crystal Palace vs Stoke City


Match Ratings:

- Match: 1/10 (nothing happened)

- Value for money: 7/10 (fairly decent price for this round)

- Ground: 7.5/10 (good piece of old school)

- Atmosphere: 8/10 (actually decent noise from both)

- Food: 4/10 (price was decent, food was not)

- Programme: 9/10 (a quite brilliant programme – excellent information)

- Referee: Neil Swarbrick – 8/10 (cigars out, shades on)

CP vs SC prog

CP vs SC stub

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Wingate & Finchley vs Hastings United (29/12/12)

Match 182

Ground #: 142

Ground: Harry Abrahams Stadium

Competition: Isthmian League Premier Division (Level 7)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £5 (concession)

Programme: £2

Attendance: 140

Wingate & Finchley 2

Brown 49’, Shulton 90’, Laird s/off 43’

Hastings United 2

Ellis 76’, Camara 86’, Jirbandey s/off 89’


It had been a busy 2012 for me football wise. This was going to be game # 43 for me to cap it off. While I had been here there and everywhere in the quest to watch some crap football, I decided to end it with a short journey in London. In fact, one that involved me not even having to change tube lines. It was up on the Northern Line to leafy Finchley to see one of the Isthmian Premier League’s smaller clubs.


Finchley is a district of North London, in the London Borough of Barnet. Finchley probably means Finch's clearing or finches' clearing in late Anglo-Saxon. It is not recorded in the Domesday book, but by the 11th century its lands were already included in those of the Bishop of London and its name first recorded in the 13th century. A road north, later the Great North Road, was rerouted through the Bishop of London's estates at the end of the 13th century to pass through Finchley, and a small settlement developed in East Finchley during the following century. By the 16th century the Great North Road passed across Finchley Common, and by the 17th century there was a large hog market as well as a number of inns and other trades associated with transport in the period along its route. By the 18th century Finchley was well known for the quality of its hay, which was the dominant agricultural activity until the second half of the 19th century. The Edgware, Highgate and London Railway (later the Great Northern Railway) reached Finchley in 1867. The route ran from Finsbury Park via Finchley to Edgware and the High Barnet branch opened from Finchley in 1872. This in turn led to development of suburban houses, and a gradual increase in population which enabled Finchley to become a proper suburb of London by 1914.


Wingate & Finchley were founded in 1991 as a result of the merger between Wingate FC and Finchley FC. (Who would have guessed that!) Wingate FC were formed in 1946 with the aim of fighting anti-semitism. They were originally based at Hall Lane in Hendon but named after Orde Wingate who had been involved in training the Haganah, the precursor to the Israeli Defense Forces. They were re-established in 1984 and were playing in the South Midlands League Premier when they joined with Finchley FC. Despite Finchley being higher, they took the place of Wingate’s place in the SML. Finchley FC were founded in 1874 and had spent time in the London League before joining Athenian League in 1912. After some decent FA Cup runs in the 40s and 50s, they joined the Isthmian League in 1973 and after becoming a yo-yo club and suffering financial problems, they entered into the merger. Playing at Finchley’s Summers Lane ground (but renamed Harry Abrahams Stadium after a long-term Wingate supporter) the new club ‘rejoined’ the Isthmian League in 1995 after a 2nd place finish in the SML. Some more yo-yoing between Divisions 1, 2 and 3 happened during the 90s – as well as a one season stint in the Southern League before 2009/10 where they finished 3rd in the league but lost to Enfield Town in the play-offs. They recovered from that in 2010/11 to win the play-offs and promotion to the Isthmian Premier when they defeated Brentwood Town in the final. A solid 13th place finish last season showed signs of promise to build on for the future.


The Harry Abrahams Stadium is a quirky ground and considering how unkeen I was to visit here (I had put it off), I could not be more wrong. A fairly decent walk away from West Finchley tube station, the main entrance to the ground is quite welcoming and leads to small drive up to the ground. The main feature that instantly stands out is the grandstand that was built in 1930. An art deco structure with only two pillars of support so views can be good an mostly unobstructed. What makes the structure even more fascinating is the 2nd side on the back which allows the next door rugby club of Finchley RFC to use the stand as well for seating. The rest of the ground looks like a stand Isthmian League ground with a small area of covered standing facing opposite the grandstand called the Jack Fisk Stand. Behind one goal is a small covered standing area while opposite this is another terrace that is uncovered. The terracing at this ground is also unusual in that it’s all one small step that is quite narrow. If W&F were to get a large crowd again at this ground, then it may be uncomfortable and the views may not be that great – grab a seat in the stand!


Despite being midtable last season, W&F have struggled this time out and were going into this game in 20th position, outside of the relegation zone by 1 point. They were also horribly out of form and hadn’t won a game since November 3rd against Kingstonian and hadn’t even scored a goal in 3 games. Reading on forums, some of their fans had started to look at teams in Isthmian Division 1 North to get a better idea of potential opponents for next season. Their opponents had recently made the national news for their FA Cup exploits in reaching Round 3 but were also having a mere in the league and sat one place higher than W&F. Since I watched their 1st Round win at Bishops Stortford, Hastings United then went on to knock Harrogate Town out on penalties in a replay. While they were looking forward to a trip to Middleborough, their league form had slumped and were right down there with W&F in a relegation battle. Since that FA Cup win I saw, the Arrows had played 6 and drawn 4 of them with 1 win and 1 defeat. 7 points out of 18 isn’t great form and that is why they were down there. With only a New Years Day game to come against Lewes, this was one of the final chances for Hastings to get ready for their trip to the NE. Or they could just rest players for those games to have everyone fully fit for that tie.


As the game kicked off, it was evidently clear what style of playing we would both be seeing in this game. W&F got up and at their opponents but lacked a bit of quality to put them under real pressure. Hastings on the other hand clearly were thinking about ‘Boro and looked like a team who were in a relegation battle. Hastings had a couple of shots from distance early on but home goalie Bobby Smith easily dealt with them. While W&F did have an Anthony Thomas shot that dragged just wide soon after, Hastings did continue to have more of the ball. After Bradley Goldberg fired over from a corner, the home side came back into it and had more of the play for the rest of the half. George Howard in the Hastings goal had to make some great saves from Scott Shulton and Andre Scarlett before making an outstanding save from a Thomas long range effort. While the half had got better (it couldn’t have got worse) as it went on, just before HT, W&F striker David Laird slid in and missed the ball, clipping a defender in the process. Sadly for Laird he had already been booked so W&F would play the whole 2nd half with 10 men.


This man disadvantage didn’t seem to harm them however as they took the lead just 4 minutes into the 2nd half. On as a sub, Daniel Brown collected the ball midway in the Hastings half and ran at the defence before firing a shot from 20 yards that Howard should have saved but could only get a hand to it. While Hastings were lucky not to have a man sent off midway through the half when already booked Lee Carey mistimed a tackle, the man advantage started to count as they began to bombard the home goal. While W&F had made a good go of it to keep them out, an equalizer always looked likely and arrived on 76 minutes when Danny Ellis cut in from the left and curled the ball past Smith. Hastings were now well on top and although Smith did exceptionally well to keep out a shot from Jack Dixon, they did snatch a late goal (which everyone thought was the winner) on 85 minutes. For W&F to defend so well for the majority of the half, falling asleep to allow Dee Okojie to cross in for an unmarked Bailo Camara to head home was just frustrating. It looked like Hastings would snatch an important 3 points in their battle against the drop, but late on more controversy occurred when Josh Jirbandey was shown a straight red card for a professional foul despite most of the crowd thinking he took the ball. Clearly incensed, Hastings were not totally switched on and while they defended the subsequent free kick, the resulting corner was curled straight in by Shulton for W&F to grab a late and great equalizer.


Hastings player/boss Sean Ray did himself and his side no favours in the aftermath of the game as he launched a verbal scathing of referee Andrew Parker when leaving the field. While Parker probably didn’t have a good game, calling him every name under the sun isn’t that clever and shows a complete lack of class. So much so that while the national media all wished Hastings luck at ‘Boro, I hoped they got an absolute pumping. Losing 4-1 is probably the scoreline they expected but more worryingly for them is that since this game they have played two more league matches, at home to Lewes and Wealdstone and have only picked up 2 points. Draws are killing them this season and as I write this, they sit 19th and only 1 point off relegation, albeit with 3 games in hand. W&F on the other hand have gone on a brilliant run since this match with wins over Wealdstone and Harrow Borough in the league before a cup win over Haringey Borough in the London Senior Cup. If they keep this up, a midtable finish will be fine. A really friendly club, I would recommend a visit and to see that great grandstand. Who knows what 2013 will bring, 2012 was (football watching wise) a great year.

Photos from Wingate & Finchley vs Hastings United


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (good late entertainment)

- Value for money: 7/10 (good concession price)

- Ground: 6.5/10 (excellent grandstand, reasonable elsewhere)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (good humour from W&F fans)

- Food: 6/10 (standard cheeseburger)

- Programme: 6/10 (ok, but bonus points for getting info from their Boxing Day game in there)

- Referee: Andrew Parker – 5/10 (got some big decisions wrong)

WF vs HU prog

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Kilmarnock vs Heart of Midlothian (26/12/12)

Match 181

Ground #: 141

Ground: Rugby Park

Competition: Scottish Premier League

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £15 (concession)

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 5,163

Kilmarnock 1

Kelly (pen) 27’

Hearts 0 


1,058 days. Or 2 years, 10 months and 24 days since the last time I had seen Hearts play. This wasn’t because I was unavailable – my blog visits will clearly show that – or too busy. This was a self-imposed ban due to the running of the club being an absolute shambles. This was even during the Scottish Cup win last summer and Europa League campaigns that were then promptly crushed by English sides. However, November 8th 2012 saw Hearts make an announcement that their upcoming home game against St Mirren could be their last. The money had gone, the walls came tumbling down. This was now no longer about enjoyment – this was about survival. This was the first Hearts game that I was in Edinburgh for and could make – this was a duty.

Broken Hearts

Kilmarnock is a large burgh in East Ayrshire. The name Kilmarnock comes from the Gaelic cill (church), and the name of Saint Marnoch or Mernoc who is also remembered in the name of Portmarnock in Ireland. It is believed by some that the saint founded a church there in the 7th century. The core of the early town appears to have lain around what is now the Laigh Kirk, (Low Church), although the oldest parts of the current building are no earlier than the 17th century. In 1668 the town was largely destroyed by an accidental fire and about 120 families lost most of their possessions and were forced to live destitute in the fields surrounding the town. These tradespeople had no other way of making a living and had already been driven to the edge of poverty by having troops stationed with them as part of the anti-Covenanter measures. Parish churches throughout Scotland collected money for the relief of these homeless citizens. A comparatively modest settlement until the Industrial Revolution, Kilmarnock extended considerably from around 1800 onwards. The whisky brand Johnnie Walker was situated in the town, where it had been since the 19th century. However it was moved to Fife and Glasgow in 2012.


Kilmarnock are the oldest professional club in Scotland having been founded in the very earliest days of organised football in Scotland. A group of local cricketers looking for a sporting pursuit to occupy them outside the cricket season looked to form a football club and on 5 January 1869 the club was founded during a general meeting at Robertson's Temperance Hotel. Although not amongst the founder members of the Scottish Football Association in 1873, Kilmarnock did join in time to compete in the inaugural Scottish Cup tournament in 1873–74. Their game in October 1873 against Renton FC in the 1st Round is also said to be the first game ever played in the Scottish Cup. Kilmarnock joined the Scottish League in 1895 and after winning consecutive Second Division titles were elected to the top flight for the first time in 1899. In 1920 Kilmarnock won the Scottish Cup for the first time beating Albion Rovers at Hampden. This was followed soon by their second success in 1927 where the beat massive favourites Rangers 2–0. Their greatest success came in 1965 where they won the title at Tynecastle, forcing Hearts into 2nd place. (If goal difference was the deciding factor, Hearts would have won by 12 goals) Since then they have been nowhere near the title and probably never will be again. Having spent some time in the 2nd Division (Level 2), they were promoted back in 1993 and have been in the top flight ever since. They have picked up cup success in recent years with the Scottish Cup back in 1997 and the League Cup in 2012.


Rugby Park is one of the biggest grounds (capacity wise) in Scotland, holding 18,128. It is an impressive venue too, which has been home to Kilmarnock since 1899. Pressures in the 90s from the Taylor Report meant that this stadium had to become an all seater and it underwent redevelopment in 1994/95. The Main Stand (in the right of the picture above) was the only one open during this time and is similar in style to the Main Stand at Tynecastle with the pillars in shorter style than the rest. The two stands behind the goals, the Moffat Stand and Chadwick Stand (for away fans) look identical, with the away fans only allowed to sit/stand in the top tier. The East Stand which is the biggest in the ground runs down the other side of the pitch and had the majority of the Killie support sat in it. It’s a modern stadium and one that looks good – it’s just a shame that Kilmarnock get nowhere near the 18,000 capacity so it can be quite flat in the ground at times.


Last season, Hearts as we all know had various money problems with wages not being paid on time constantly. While they slumped to a disappointing 5th place finish, the 5-1 Scottish Cup win over Edinburgh’s 2nd team saved the season and humiliated Hibs on the national stage, again. This season had seen some positives, but mainly negatives as boss John McGlynn tried to get a team who had no morale and not getting paid a lot of the time to perform. While pushing a dreadful Liverpool side close in the Europa League is a positive, selling our best player in the form of David Templeton, losing to Dundee (twice!?) and going out the cup to Hibs is just not great and that’s before all of the financial problems. With the club under threat and now a transfer embargo in place on the club, which was then appealed and made even worse (look out for that one going through the high courts) the short-term future of the club looks bleak. I do often wonder if it is worth just cutting our losses and starting again in Division 3, as long as Tynecastle can be kept. The fact is though, the current squad has some quality in there and if a buyer for the club can be found and we can actually sign some players – this club could easily compete at the top end of the league. That’s probably someway off though – let’s just survive this season, hopefully with our SPL status in tact.


Despite all of the current problems surrounding the club, Hearts (backed by a good away following of around 1000) made a reasonable, maybe even solid start to the game. Andrew Driver fired over the bar on 2 minutes after some good build up play around the Killie area. When you are as pessimistic as me when watching Hearts (especially away from home!) you do fear when the home side attack, but when Ryan McGowan produced an excellent block from a James Dayton shot, this had the look of a decent day. The away side continued to press and Ryan Stevenson had a deflected shot saved by Cammy Bell. This was looking ok – again the problem of not having a clinical striker to stick away these chances was causing us problems, but that has been the case since 2008. Killie did come back into it though and had a goal ruled out when Paul Heffernan was put through and slotted home, but was well offside. Despite looking solid we’ve always had that ability to self-destruct instantly and that happened on 26 minutes. Dayton was floating around on the right wing and made a burst into the area. Despite not really going anywhere and probably about to run the ball out of play, Webster made a foolish challenge and took him out. Penalty. Nobody in the away end had any complaints and Liam Kelly converted the spot kick. Massively harsh on Hearts and it was no surprise we spent the rest of the half with the ball, albeit not creating that much with it. When we did it caused the home defence problems and Gordon Smith had a brilliant equalizer ruled out as John Sutton had “fouled” in the build-up play to the goal. The last chance of the half again went to the away side as Driver ripped the Killie right back, again and his cross was just headed over by Sutton.


Hearts pushed on again in the 2nd half as they went for the equalizer they deserved. Driver went on a mazy run like he used to and fired a shot that again Bell did well to save. A ridiculous moment came on 52 minutes when Sutton slid in as Smith fired a cross/shot in but just missed the ball and caught Bell. The Killie goalkeeper made the most of it though which caused Sutton to pick up a yellow from the useless Steven McLean. We normally create one golden chance per game and this time it fell to Callum Paterson. The young striker did brilliantly to skip past two defenders and found himself one on one with Bell. However instead of keeping his cool, he fired straight at Bell and the chance had gone. By this point, I am unsure of how Killie were still in this game let alone winning as they were being pushed further and further back. Captain Marius Zaliukas then had his chance as he smashed a header wide from a corner when Bell had missed the ball. Zaliukas was lucky to stay on the pitch as the game went into the final stages when he headed the ball up and behind him and allowed Heffernan to be clean through. Captain Z however tugged back at his shirt just outside the area and brought him down. While Rugby Park expected a red card, McLean only handed him a yellow in another strange decision. Late on Hearts pushed forward and even sent up goalie Jamie MacDonald for a corner as Killie managed to hang on, just, as we couldn’t score.


Considering our poor recent record at Rugby Park and my awful record watching Hearts, this result really wasn’t a surprise. The performance however was more than acceptable as this should have been all 3 points for Hearts, nevermind deserving of a draw. It again showed the potential of the side, although McGlynn is a man under pressure with some fans unimpressed with his substitutions during the game and general tactics. Kilmarnock are a strange club. The stadium and general foundations that most will be jealous of, but a tiny tiny fanbase that makes you wonder how they do survive. I don’t know if staff at the club have considered this but surely it would make more sense to only have two stands open so the fans can get together and make better noise rather than the occasional chant that is currently there. If this is the last time I’ve watched Hearts in their current form, then it has been a great journey. I doubt I’ll get to another away game this season so I can only watch from afar and hope survival can be ensured. Anyone out there want to buy a football club?

Photos from Kilmarnock vs Hearts


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (actually entertaining)

- Value for money: 5/10 (this should be the normal price)

- Ground: 7/10 (standard modern ground)

- Atmosphere: 5.5/10 (all from away fans)

- Food: 9.5/10 (believe the hype, a Killie Pie is magnificent)

- Programme: 5/10 (not worth it)

- Referee: Steven McLean – 4/10 (needs to consider if he’s cut out to referee)

Killie vs Hearts prog

Killie vs Hearts stub