Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Coventry City vs Leyton Orient (20/04/13)

Match 198

Ground #: 156

Ground: Ricoh Arena

Competition: English League 1

Kick Off: 3:00pm

Cost: £22

Programme: £3

Attendance: 11,234

Coventry City 0

Leyton Orient 1

Cox 45’


A part of this hobby is reacting to news about a ground that suddenly becomes “endangered” due to various reasons. Financial difficulties, building a new ground or a legal dispute with the owners are all good reasons. Having watched Darlington lose their ground as they went into the financial abyss and the Northern League, I was convinced that they would be fine and start this season still at the Darlington Arena. They didn’t. Fast forward 9 months and news that Coventry were in dispute with the owners of their ground and in danger of moving out. Lightning doesn’t strike twice – it was off to Cov.


Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of the West Midlands and is the 12th biggest city in the UK. It is likely that Coventry grew from a settlement of the Bronze Age and at that time large flowing river and lakes, created the ideal settlement area. The Romans founded another settlement in Baginton and another formed around a Saxon nunnery, founded in 700 AD, that was later left in ruins by King Canute's invading Danish army in 1016. By the 14th century, Coventry was an important centre of the cloth trade, and throughout the Middle Ages was one of the largest and most important cities in England. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Coventry became one of the main British centres of watch and clock manufacture and ranked alongside Clerkenwell in London. As the industry declined, due mainly to competition from Swiss Made clock and watch manufacturers, the skilled pool of workers proved crucial to the setting up of bicycle manufacture and eventually the motorbike, car, machine tool and aircraft industries for the 19th century. By the early 20th century, bicycle manufacture had evolved into motor manufacture, and Coventry became a major centre of the British motor industry. Coventry suffered severe bomb damage during WW2, most notoriously from a massive Luftwaffe air raid known as the "Coventry Blitz” on 14 November 1940. Firebombing on this date led to severe damage to large areas of the city centre and more than 4,000 houses were damaged or destroyed, along with around three-quarters of the city's industrial plants. More than 800 people were killed, with thousands injured and homeless. The Germans coined the term "Coventrate" to describe the tactics of complete urban devastation developed for the raid. Today, Coventry thrives from the diverse ethnicity of the population and is considered one of the UK’s safest cities.


Coventry City FC were founded in 1883 by William Stanley and were made up by employees from local cycle firm Singers. Singers FC then turned professional in 1892 before renaming themselves to the current Coventry City they use today in 1898. Playing at the Highfield Road playing fields, they turned this into their stadium and played here for the next 106 years. They were elected to the Football League 2nd Division immediately after WW1 and floated around there until a local legend took over, Jimmy Hill. The Chin led Cov to the 2nd Division Championship in 1967 and his revolutionary touch saw him introduce special sky blue trains to away matches, pre-game and half-time entertainment among other things. While Hill left to persue a TV career, Coventry started their 34 year journey in the top flight. After a brief Inter-Cities Fairs Cup campaign in 1970/71 (when they exited to Bayern Munich) and transforming Highfield Road into an all seater stadium in 1981 (until Leeds fans tore the seats up), their finest moment came in 1987. The FA Cup win over Spurs with a 3-2 AET win is their only major trophy to date and saw rise in Coventry’s league fortunes finishing 7th in 1989. However, during the Premiership years, Coventry began to push their luck with a series of final day and penultimate game escapes, before in 2000/01, they were relegated after a 3-2 defeat at Aston Villa.


They haven’t been back since. In fact, they struggled in the Championship with only an 8th place finish in 2005/06 to show for the 11 seasons they spent there. (One of the Project Premiership seasons) One highlight was in 2005/06 when they moved from Highfield Road to the modern Ricoh Arena. Hugely impressive on the outside, inside is rather more bland with 3 stands identical to each other and the slightly different West Stand (picture above). This has the corporate boxes attached to it and an exhibition centre to give some difference to a largely dull ground. Like most modern stadia, the ground is on the edge of the city (to the north) and also has a casino built next door, with a large Tesco “just” across the road for company. It was a tad disappointing if I must say so, but Coventry fans apparently like it.


Off the pitch, the Sky Blues have struggled for some time now and earlier in the season were deducted 10 points after an “administration event”. The occurred when club owners SISU placed a subsidiary which has no financial assets into administration, however the Football League saw past this and Coventry’s promotion hopes went with it. After relegation last season, Mark Robins (before he left for Huddersfield) and Steven Pressley had been making some improvements to the performances after a slow start and were coming into this game in 16th position. A lot of chat in the programme featured comments like “we will be up there next season” and praised the positive work that Pressley had done since joining from Falkirk in March. They welcomed one of London’s “forgotten clubs” as Leyton Orient were in town. The O’s were still having problems with West Ham’s Olympic Stadium bid, which now looks certain that the Hammers will be playing in there in the future. They had to win this game to ensure the final playoff spot would go down to the final day, although they had to hope Stevenage (with nothing to play for) would upset 6th place Swindon Town.


As he’s from the area (roughly) Stuart had come along for the fun as well although we quickly saw some of the worst football we’d seen this season. Both sides started off dreadfully as barely anyone could complete a pass, nevermind create a chance. The first shot though was fired after 5 minutes in, however John Fleck’s effort was easily saved by Orient goalie Jamie Jones. Coventry kept up the pressure as would have taken the lead when Carl Baker’s cross was falling straight to Danny Philliskirk’s head but Leon McSweeney got there first to head over the bar. Philliskirk had a glorious chance some time later when he was put through and rounded Jones, only to stumble and allow McSweeney to deny him again with an outstretched foot. HT was approaching and while Orient had been in the game, they had offered little as an attacking force. However, on 45 minutes, they broke down the right through Kevin Lisbie. His low cross was missed by a forward (no way was it a dummy) but it allowed Dean Cox to reach the ball and hit a first time shot that curled away from Joe Murphy and into the bottom corner. This game had barely deserved anything, but we did have a goal. Somehow.


The 11,234 people in the Ricoh Arena were begging for a better 2nd half. It didn’t arrive. Martin Rowlands nearly gave Orient a comfortable lead when he fired a free kick just wide early on, but it then turned into more stalemate as with Swindon 3-0 up, both sides knew they had nothing to play for. Coventry did have a couple more chances during the half as David Bell and Nathan Clarke both fired shots wide from close range. The final chance was fired wide (see a theme here?) on 86 minutes when Franck Moussa came forward but the finish summed the game up. The 893 away fans (including the two plastics) celebrated a win and while they were going to finish outside of the playoffs, they gave their support to the team and boss Russell Slade. A chorus of “he’s got no hair, but we don’t care! Russell Russell Slade!” (quite similar to a song Morecambe sing about Kevin Ellison) rang around the Ricoh as both sides were just delighted the game had ended.


I don’t watch much Football League action that doesn’t involve Morecambe and with 90 minutes of dirge like this, its easy to see why! Coventry will need to improve rapidly next season if they are going to improve upon their final position of 15th this time out. More importantly for them, they have not been able to agree a lease with Ricoh Arena owners ACL and so will be playing 2013/14 elsewhere. Walsall, Nuneaton and Rushden & Diamonds’ old ground Nene Park have all been mooted for them to play at. This was the final Coventry City game to be played at the Ricoh then and the dire performance probably sums their time up there. Good luck to Orient next season, I will try and get to a game in East London next time as they have unfairly seemed to have been forgotten by me for now. This game however, a distant memory.

Photos from Coventry City vs Leyton Orient


Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (dire)

- Value for money: 4/10 (I think we all know £22 is too much)

- Ground: 5/10 (outside impressive, inside isn’t)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (quiet at times, away fans did well)

- Food: 6.5/10 (reasonable for the FL)

- Programme: 6/10 (bog standard FL programme)

- Referee: Eddie Ilderton – 5/10 (quite fussy)

CovC vs LO prog

CovC vs LO stub

Monday, 20 May 2013

Dartford vs Grimsby Town (09/04/13)

Match 197

Ground #: 155

Ground: Princes Park

Competition: Blue Square Premier

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £8 (concession)

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 1,201

Dartford 1

Evans 26’

Grimsby Town 2

Cook 79’, Thomas 88’, Colbeck s/off 90’


A few months prior to this game I had made my way after work (currently helps I work on the East side of the capital) to Dartford hoping to see them claim another top team scalp in Wrexham. However, the rain yet again screwed me over and the game was played the next day. (With me elsewhere) Princes Park looks a ground that was worth making an effort for so yet again, after work, I travelled midweek to Kent.


Dartford is the principal town in the borough of Dartford and is situated in the northwest corner of Kent, 16 miles east south-east of central London. In prehistory, the first people appeared in the Dartford area around 250,000 years ago: a tribe of prehistoric hunter-gatherers. Many other archaeological investigations have revealed a good picture of occupation of the district with important finds from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. When the Romans built Watling Street (Dover to London road) it was necessary to cross the River Darent by ford, giving the settlement its name and villa were built along the Darent valley. During the medieval period Dartford was an important waypoint for pilgrims and travellers en route to Canterbury and the Continent and various religious orders established themselves in the area. At this time the town became a small but important market town. The sixteenth century saw significant changes to the hitherto agricultural basis of the market in Dartford, as new industries began to take shape. The earliest industries were those connected with agriculture, such as the brewing of traditional beers and ales. Sir John Spilman set up the first paper mill in England at Dartford in 1588 while Dartford later spilled into machinery and heavy machinery. From those beginnings in the 18th century was to come the industrial base on which the growth and prosperity of Dartford were founded. Today, the town appears to be on the decline with local press stating the the town centre has no future and a large majority of its residents commuting into London.


Dartford FC was formed in 1888 by members of the Dartford Working Men's Club, initially playing only friendlies. The club soon was entering cup competitions, reaching the final of the Kent Senior Cup in 1894. Following this, Dartford were founder members of the Kent League for the 1894–95 season, and entered the FA Cup for the first time the season after. Two seasons later, Dartford became founder members of the Southern League Division Two, winning the Championship at the first attempt. Around the same time the club found its first permanent home ground, Summers Meadow. In addition to the Kent and Southern Leagues, Dartford gained a reputation nationally by becoming the first club outside the Football League to reach the FA Cup 3rd Round in successive seasons. In 1935/36 Dartford lost to a star studded Derby County 3–2 at the Baseball Ground before the next season saw them lose 0–1 at home to Darlington. During the 70s they won 4 successive Kent Senior Cups as well as the Southern League which saw them apply for Football League status in 1974. The closest they have ever been. Trophies still continued to be won and after a dreadful first season in the Alliance Premier League in 1981/82 (finishing 2nd bottom) they came back for another spell between 1984 and 1986.

5darts_440x330(DFC’s old Watling Street ground)

Dartford in the late 80s and early 90s suffered like many other clubs after the Bradford City fire and were under pressure to modernise their ground. While Maidstone Utd offered some income during their time ground sharing at Watling St, when they went bust after a step too far into the Football League, this left the Darts in too much debt and they themselves had to pull out of the League and leave their old ground. After recovering in the Kent League, and doing a tour of shit Kent towns (Erith, Thurrock and Gravesend) the Darts moved back to the town into their new Princes Park in 2006. The ground is a very different new build as it is described as the “most ecologically sound ever built.” As well as having a grass roof on the outside and solar panels to generate its own electricity – Princes Park is a brilliant venue that features a bowl of standing terraces and seating. It reminds me of a small European venue and seeing an evening game here made the atmosphere even better. A special note to the giant wooden man who Dartford have also stuck on the terrace – probably the only wooden man (cue jokes) to be on a terrace in this country but it does add to the unique feel of the ground.


After rising out of the Kent and Southern Leagues, the Darts won promotion to the Blue Square Premier last season with a playoff win over Welling United. Despite being one of the few part-time teams in the league, they were having an excellent season and came into this game in 9th position. They looked to have an outside chance of a playoff place until recent poor form had most likely put them out of contention this season. Their opponents for this clash were ex Football League side Grimsby Town. The Mariners had been relegated in 2009/10 and spent the next two seasons being consistently inconsistent and finishing 11th both times. This season, they had upped their consistency and were in a prime play-off position in 5th. With an 8 point gap over 6th place Forest Green Rovers with only 4 games to go including this one. A win for Grimsby in this game, combined with Hereford winning at Forest Green would confirm the Mariners play off place. However Dartford had already beaten Mansfield (2nd at this time), Kidderminster (1st), Wrexham (3rd), Newport (4th) and a double over massive massive club Luton Town. Clearly a good team at home, Grimsby were going to have a tough game.


Grimsby had already looked slightly off the pace at the start of the match but when defender Ian Miller received a cut to the head and had to be subbed, Dartford easily took control. Charlie Sheringham first had a shot blocked on the edge of the area by Tom Naylor before he let fly with another shot that James McKeown had to save well from. Grimsby had rarely got out of their own half before they went 0-1 down on 26 minutes. Nathan Collier had a shot that was blocked and pinballed around before it fell to Jack Evans and his shot went in via a deflection. The home side should have made it 2-0 a little while later when Sheringham somehow saw his shot saved by McKeown – the start of a masterclass in goalkeeping from both sides. Grimsby did have a late corner at the end of the half but Joe Colbeck sent it out for a goal kick. They were deservedly down at HT.


Dartford started where they left off with Sheringham firing another long range effort that McKeown again was alert to. Then Grimsby started to test home goalie Csaba Somogyi as Andy Cook fired a low shot that he saved well before saving the follow up. Next it was McKeown’s turn to produce a good save as he again kept out a Sheringham shot as Dartford went for it. The 2nd half was back and forth and Grimsby should have equalised when Lenell John-Lewis was all alone on the Darts box but planted his header at Somogyi. The big Hungarian on loan from Fulham then came into his own as he brilliantly kept out a Cook header but Dartford were riding their luck. Grimsby did grab an equaliser when a daft free kick was given away and from Frankie Artus’ delivery, Cook was unmarked and planted his header into the bottom corner. Grimsby nearly threw it all away however as Dartford launched an attack instantly, only to see McKeown make another top save, before Elliot Bradbrook somehow headed over from a corner. The last 5 minutes were fairly breathless as both sides went for it, but Grimsby snatched the winner with just 2 minutes to go. Dartford again went missing at a set piece and Aswad Thomas crashed his header home to give the away side the 3 points. There was still time for Colbeck to be sent off for a stupid off the ball incident, but Grimsby became the only top 5 side in the league to win at Princes Park this season.


This result, combined with Hereford’s 1-0 win at the New Lawn meant that Grimsby had secured their play-off place. However, they crashed in the semi-finals to Newport County 2-0 on agg, who in the end went up to the Football League. The 4th place finish they achieved this season however is a massive improvement and with Barnet and Aldershot expected to make no impact in the Blue Square Premier next season, the playoffs should be another realistic target for Grimsby. Despite this minor setback, Dartford achieved their goal of finishing as the country’s best part-time side with an 8th place finish. A fantastic achievement for them, especially as they were so highly tipped for a relegation battle. Princes Park is a fantastic venue and one that I will be visiting again in the future. Good luck to both teams for 2013/14.


Photos from Dartford vs Grimsby Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (reasonable midweek action)

- Value for money: 7.5/10 (good pricing all round)

- Ground: 8/10 (how modern venues should be)

- Atmosphere: 6.5/10 (good away support built it up)

- Food: 6/10 (seem to remember it being good)

- Programme: 5/10 (not really worth £2.50)

- Referee: Michael Bull – 6/10 (got on with it)


DFC vs GTFC stub

Friday, 10 May 2013

QPR vs Wigan Athletic (07/04/13)

Match 196

Ground #: 154

Ground: Loftus Road

Competition: English Premiership

Kick Off: 4:10pm

Cost: £15 (special offer)

Programme: £3

Attendance: 16,658


Remy 85’, Zamora s/off 20’

Wigan Athletic 1

Maloney 90’


The company who I currently work for (they’ll remain nameless) do offer a few good perks (again they shall remain nameless). However, very few of those perks involve football. Yet when an offer to go watch Championship bound QPR came up at a reasonable price – this was one offer that I was always going to snatch up. While their opponents for the game on offer were unglamorous Wigan, as the relegation crunch set in it became clear that this would be an important game for both sides. Even better then!


QPR (unsurprisingly) settled to begin with in the Queen’s Park area of London which is an area of northwest London, located on the boundary between the London Borough of Brent and the City of Westminster. The neighbourhood lies between Kilburn, and Kensal Green and was developed from 1875 and named to honour Queen Victoria. In 1879 the Royal Agricultural Society chose Willesden as the site of its annual show. A 100-acre site was designed and in June the show was opened. Queen Victoria even attended as the show ran for a week, but made a loss of £15,000. A public campaign was launched to try to secure the whole 100-acre site as a park to ensure some green space was retained in a fast-developing part of London. In the end only the central part of the site was purchased. The park opened in 1886 and was named Queen's Park in honour of the reigning monarch, who was celebrating her Golden Jubilee the following year. Today, Queen’s Park still has the green area for people to enjoy as well as being a residential area that is fairly well served by transport links. It does have an underside though as Wikipedia states, “The younger generation of street youths from Queen Park's Mozart Estate are "beefing" with the younger generation of street youths from the South Kilburn Estate.”


QPR was founded in 1886 when a team known as St Jude's (founded 1884) merged with Christchurch Rangers (founded 1882). The resulting team was called Queens Park Rangers, because most of the players came from the Queens Park area of North-West London. QPR began by floating around various grounds in their early days with spells at Welford’s Fields, Home Farm and Park Royal Ground amongst other places before settling at Loftus Road in 1917. They did become professional in 1889 and floated around the lower leagues before they won their first title as winners of Division 3 South in 1948. Their greatest period in history though was during the 60s with Alec Stock as manager and Jim Gregory as Chairman. They won the 3rd Division championship in 1967 as well as the League Cup (the first 3rd Division club to do so) with a 3-2 win over WBA. 1975/76 saw Rangers finish runners up in the top flight behind Liverpool – the highest league position they have ever finished. They have since fluctuated between the top 3 divisions and still never have looked like recreating their 2nd place finish in 1976. More recently financial problems have hit the club with administration in 2005 before F1 chaps Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone invested in them in 2007 before another F1 guru Tony Fernandes bought out the two of them in 2011. He was extremely lucky to see a dreadfully poor side stay up last season on the last day and had invested heavily this season in both summer and in January on the side.


The club are looking to leave Loftus Road in the future, which is understandable as the ground does look a little on the tatty side. That being said, considering the Premier League is awash with soulless corporate bowls, this is nice little ground that stands out from them. When you arrive at the ground (when walking from White City tube station) you can tell this is a different sort of top flight ground with the houses hemmed in around it and the small staircases that lead up to the higher tiers. The group I was with were housed in the lower tier of the School End Stand which is a tight and narrow seating area that does afford some ok views of the action from the back row. The rest of the ground is similar with only the Ellerslie Road Stand not being two tiered. The small band of Wigan fans were situated above us and made not much noise (not sure on the exact number) throughout the match but I could quite happily come back here. One word of warning, don’t even bother trying to get food at HT – the queues I had in the small concourse meant that I would probably have missed most of the 2nd half if I wanted my chicken balti pie so I missed out, shame.


With Loftus Road being far too prohibitive to fully expand, the nearby BBC Centre was mentioned, however large parts of this development are listed, meaning the Hoops won’t be coming here. Where they do end up is a mystery, however it was clear even before this game they wouldn’t be a Premiership side for 2013/14. Coming into this game they were 19th and a massive 7 points off the drop. The game was seen as an unofficial last chance saloon for them to try and salvage a Premiership place. With some upcoming games against tough opponents and Newcastle (I’m joking Geordies!) they had to pick up 3 points in this game to try and get some momentum going. Their opponents were also in the relegation mess, but lets be honest, this game was in April and so Wigan Athletic usually are. They had already started their annual escape from the drop routine with 3 wins in a row leading up to this game against Everton, Newcastle and Norwich and a FA Cup Semi-Final place booked after this match. That being said, they were still properly in the shit (mainly because they are so bad in the first 4 months of the season) and also massively needed the 3 points. Entertaining game in prospect then!


Two contrasting styles were instantly noticeable as QPR preferred to hit Wigan on the counter attack while the away side decided to become Barcelona-lite and try a tiki-taka approach. Quite quickly it was seen that QPR, led well by Samba at the back, easily had this under control and started to threaten Joel Robles goal. They did almost have an early goal on 9 minutes when Loic Remy had a shot that bounced onto the post with Robles beaten. Wigan did occasionally break through however as Callum McManaman whipped a ball in that caused difficulty for the QPR defence. Then came a moment that looked to have turned the match. Bobby Zamora and Jordi Gomez both went for a ball, Gomez with his head, Zamora with his feet. Zamora caught Gomez badly in the head (accidentally, but badly all the same) and referee Phil Dowd sent him off. The home fans went ballistic as QPR looked right up against it now, although they did still look the most threatening. In fact as HT came, you couldn’t really tell which side were a man down as Wigan looked out of ideas and the home side looked comfortable.


That continued for the 2nd half too, with QPR happy to watch and soak up the ridiculously slow Wigan play and hit them on the counter. It wasn’t a great half of football however, as despite looking dangerous at the start of the break, the home side never troubled Robles in goal as their lack of quality showed. The majority of the half was poor however as a paragraph is heavy going to string this out. The action happened at the end of the half, as Wigan began to push forward to nick a rare away win. Firstly, James McArthur forced Julio Cesar into a brilliant save from a close range header before Wigan were awarded a freekick on 82 minutes. When the freekick was poor and quickly cleared, Stephane Mbia stormed forward and played a pass to Remy who shot first time with the inside of his foot and straight into the bottom corner. Loftus Road woke up and erupted as we had amazingly seen a goal. You did just wonder if QPR could hang on and that was answered in injury time when Mbia gave away a daft freekick. Up stepped Shaun Maloney who curled it brilliant past Cesar and into the top corner. Oh dear QPR.


With the shell-shocked fans leaving the ground afterwards resigning themselves to playing mighty Bournemouth and Doncaster next season, this was confirmed 3 games later when a dire 0-0 draw against Reading relegated them both. You do feel QPR are at a crossroads currently. Fernandes will surely not continue to pump silly amounts of money in and the majority of the team clearly do not give a shit about the club. London’s 7th biggest team will find it hard going next season and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them struggle at the bottom again. (Hello Wolves!) Wigan are also in the poo too. With a habit of giving silly late goals away, they are now (as I write this) 3 points away from safety with 2 games to go. The FA Cup Final might be a nice distraction, but is Wigan’s survival luck running out?

Photos from QPR vs Wigan Athletic


Match Ratings:

- Match: 4/10 (“best league in the world” – yeah ok)

- Value for money: 7/10 (good stuff for a top flight game)

- Ground: 7/10 (classic ground)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (not the best, despite being so close to the pitch)

- Food: N/A – beaten by the queue

- Programme: 7/10 (quite good)

- Referee: Phil Dowd – 7/10 (got the decisions right)

QPR vs Wig prog

QPR vs Wig stub

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Worcester City vs Oxford City (01/04/13)

Match 195

Ground #: 153

Ground: St George’s Lane

Competition: Blue Square North (Level 6)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £8 (concession)

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 597

Worcester City 3

Symons 3’, Morris 37’, Khan 65’

Oxford City 2

Pond 31’, Stanley 79’


For a while on everyone’s “must visit grounds list”, there has been one that has stood out from the rest. Mainly because at the end of the season the ground would disappear. Yet also, if groundhopping did porn, this would be it. St George’s Lane is a classic and had been on my “must visit” list for quite some time. Using the excuse of Easter Monday to get out of London, it was time, finally to see the Lane.


Worcester is a city and county town of Worcestershire in the West Midlands and is some 30 miles southwest of Birmingham. Occupation of the site of Worcester can be dated back to Neolithic times, a village surrounded by defensive ramparts having been founded on the eastern bank of the River Severn in around 400 BC. The position was used in the 1st century by the Romans to establish what may at first have been a fort but which soon developed into an industrial town. Roman Worcester was a thriving trading and manufacturing centre for some three hundred years, though by the time of the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 407 it had dwindled considerably in size. By late medieval times the population had grown to around 10,000 as the manufacture of cloth started to become a large local industry. Worcester was the site of the Battle of Worcester in 1651, when Charles II attempted to forcefully regain the crown but was unsuccessful. The Royal Worcester Porcelain Company factory was founded by Dr John Wall in 1751, although it no longer produces goods. A handful of decorators are still employed at the factory and the Museum is still open. During World War II, the city was chosen to be the seat of an evacuated government in case of mass German invasion. The War Cabinet, along with Winston Churchill and some 16,000 state workers, would have moved to Hindlip Hall and Parliament would have temporarily seated in Stratford-upon-Avon. Today, the factory of the world famous Lea and Perrins still is in the city and is worth a look should you visit Worcester.


Worcester City FC was formed in September 1902 following the liquidation of another local side, Berwick Rangers. They took over Berwick's fixture list in the Birmingham & District League. Three years later they reached the first round of the FA Cup, losing 6–0 at home to Watford. In 1924/25 they won the league for the first time, and the following season reached the FA Cup first round again, losing 2–0 to Kettering Town in a second replay. The club won back-to-back league titles in 1928/29 and 1929/30, and continued their good FA Cup form, reaching the first round in 1928, losing 3–1 at Walsall. In 1938 they joined the Southern League but during World War II the club returned to the Birmingham & District League for two seasons. After the war Worcester rejoined the Southern League and floated around in midtable. In 1958/59 the club had their best FA Cup run to date. After dispatching Chelmsford City, Millwall and Liverpool they qualified for the fourth round, where they lost 2–0 at home to Sheffield United. After floating around the Southern League, in 1979 they became founder members of the Alliance Premier League, finishing third in their 1st season. However, they were relegated in 1984/85. The club remained in the Southern League Premier Division until 2004, when a fifth-placed finish earned them a place in the newly established Conference North. Despite a brief spell in Conference South, the Blues have stayed at this level since.


St George’s Lane is easily walkable from both Foregate Street and Shrub Hill rail stations and is worth the walk for when you finally arrive. I make no apologies for saying how much I loved this ground and my record 42 pictures on my Picasa album for this game probably shows it. There is a main grandstand that has the classic wooden seats and columns to hold it up. Opposite this stand is a large covered standing terrace with some cracking graffiti on the wall underneath it. The rest of the ground is large uncovered terraces which are housed in by the residential houses surrounding the ground and a few trees too. This is quite simply a brilliant venue to watch football and considering Worcester had been at the ground since 1905 – it is steeped in history too. The ground had 3 games (including this one) to go as the board had sold the ground around 2008 to a housing developer without having a firm plan of their new ground. Oops. From next season, they will be playing at Kidderminster – a nice 30 mile round trip for their fans.


They did have a plan for next season, and that was to set a season ticket selling target of 1,500 so only £100 could be charged. Considering their average attendance was c.500, this probably was a tad ambitious but bravo for trying something different when things didn’t look so good. On the field, Worcester were having a good season, right up until February when it all started to go wrong. They were coming into this game having lost the last 8 league games and hadn’t even scored in the last 6. Danny Edwards consolation goal at Harrogate Town back on the 16th Feb was the last time they had scored. Unsurprisingly this lack of form had sent Worcester tumbling down the table and they came into this match in 14th place. Just one place behind and one point behind (albeit with 5 games in hand) were their opponents Oxford City. Having seen the bigger Oxford side on Good Friday, it was only fair I saw their smaller brothers for this. They have had a steady season (their first at this level) and being well away from the relegation zone is a good sign of success.


I’ll also be honest I say now, I was only here for the ground. As the game kicked off as I stood in front of the Main Stand, I was expecting another dreadful Level 6 bore but was pleasantly surprised to see two teams go for it. With Worcester desperately trying to score, they watched Adam Learoyd flash a header wide before going up the other end to take the lead. They got a little lucky, as the ball broke nicely to Mike Symons when Worcester rushed forward but he took has chance well and crashed it past Nick Townsend. That ended 639 minutes without a Worcester goal and the local were delighted with it. The game was a tad spicy before Matt Breeze launched an Oxford player into his bench next to the touchline, which obviously went down a treat. Some handbags and a yellow card to Breeze later the game had a more tense edge to it. Worcester had a couple of more chances to add to their lead before on 31 minutes they were done by a sucker punch. A nice counter attack down the right found Darren Pond in the box and his low shot took a deflection off Tyler Weir and in. Oxford started to have a little spell in the game and so it was no surprise to see them go 2-1 down soon after then. Oxford gave a daft free kick away and Tom Thorley’s delivery found Keiron Morris all alone at the back post to fire home. The referee started losing a control and fired out some more yellow cards before the HT break, but this was a compelling watch.


The 2nd half, thankfully saw more of the same as Worcester were on top, but you always felt Oxford would be dangerous on the counter-attack. That being said, Worcester looked to have won the game on 65 minutes. Thorley had a long range effort that was flying in until Townsend made a fantastic save to tip it over. From the resulting corner, nobody decided to mark Shabir Khan who powered his header in. Easy. Oxford now looked ragged and were beginning to come 2nd to every ball. Symons just chipped the ball over the bar and Worcester even had a 4th ruled out when Lee Ayres headed home a free kick, but was called offside. As I’ve seen many times before on my travels, when a team is playing so well, they normally go and concede. Oxford went on a rare counter attack through Nick Stanley and nothing looked on. He beat his defender on the edge of the area and managed to get a low shot into the bottom corner as a suddenly nervy Worcester would have to see out an uncomfortable last 10 minutes. Worcester went for a 4th, mainly through long range efforts as Oxford began to push forward and launch it quickly. They did have one final chance in injury time as Jamie Cook forced Matt Sargeant into a great save but Worcester squeezed through to pick up their first home win of 2013.


After this game, St George’s Lane only had two games left, as 828 saw them beat hapless Hinckley United 3-1 before a full house of 4,075 watched the very last game at the Lane. Champions Chester FC picking up a 1-0 win to leave the Blue Square North on a high. That meant Worcester finished in a reasonable place of 15th, although 25 points behind the playoff places suggests there is work to do. Oxford City have also had an interesting time since this game as their league finish of 10th was a result of a good end of season run in. However, they have been invested in by Thomas Anthony Guerriero who describes himself as “one of the most successful and influential people around the world.” With many reports about his previous dealings easily accessible on the web, look out for AFC Oxford City at a Hellenic League ground near you soon.


St George’s Lane was a brilliant ground and I was delighted that I managed to get here to see a game before it went. I do hope Worcester can get back to playing in their city ASAP – however bland the new ground may be compared to this. Otherwise they are in real danger of becoming another Gloucester City (I know their move was due to completely different reasons) and struggling off the pitch. With their 1,500 season ticket plan a bit of a failure (only 306 season tickets were sold) it remains to be seen what they can do in the short term. Good luck to them though, they were a really great club to visit.

Photos from Worcester City vs Oxford City


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (Blue Square entertainment shock)

- Value for money: 5/10 (pushing it a bit)

- Ground: 9/10 (brilliant, will be missed)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (decent atmosphere made by both sets of fans)

- Food: 6/10 (normal stuff on offer)

- Programme: 6/10 (ok, but have had better for same price)

- Referee: Daniel Meeson – 5/10 (lost a bit of control)

WC vs OC