Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Pumpherston Juniors vs Fauldhouse United (27/05/13)

Match 201

Ground #: 158

Ground: Recreation Park

Competition: East Region Juniors South Division

Kick Off: 7:15pm

Cost: £5

Programme: None

Attendance: 82 (h/c)

Pumpherston Juniors 0

Fauldhouse United 0


Normally, by this time of the year my season has long finished and I’m plotting what tinpot towns to visit in my next instalment. However, this was an extended season for me and being back up in Scotland meant I could finally take in a Scottish Juniors game. Trawling through the fixtures the one that stood out was the mighty Pumpherston, who I tried to visit back in March. Grabbing my chance to go on a vaguely warm evening, it was off to Pumphy.


Pumpherston is a small dormitory village in West Lothian that was originally a small industrial village to the nearby shale mine. The most likely origin of the name of the town comes from the derivation, 'ap Humphrey', meaning son of Humphrey. Pomphray was probably one of the Flemish noblemen invited by King David I to settle in Scotland in the twelfth century. “Pomphray would have been granted the lands north of the Almond in return for serving the king in battle and would have grown up a little settlement and farm to house and feed his adherents and servants - Pomphray's town.” Today it now adjoins the town of Livingston which has grown far bigger than Pumpherston.


The original Pumpherston FC were formed in 1896 and played through the years in the Junior leagues before folding in 1977. The old club did reach the final of the Scottish Junior Cup in 1958 but lost 2-0 to Shotts Bon Accord. The “new” club reformed in 1990 and began plugging away in Division 2 but took 11 years to be promoted up to Division 1. In 2006, the SJFA restructured the leagues and Pumphy found themselves in the East Region South Division where they still play today. A few seasons ago, the club looked in real danger of folding again through a lack of volunteers but support has come back and the club now look to be on the up again. Recreation Park (or Servoca Park for sponsorship purposes) is a smashing place to watch football. With grass banking around the pitch and a large covered area that probably hasn’t been changed since it was first erected. I’ve been told its a typical Scottish Juniors venue and one that needs to be visited on a nice day!


The SJFA have restructured leagues again (as have the SFA in the Seniors) for next season and so the South Division had a fair few promotion spots up for grabs. This had led to a decent battle going on for one of the Top 4 spots and the chance to play in the East Region Premier League next season. Pumpherston were going into this game in 5th place on 42 points and 9 behind Haddington Athletic. However, as Pumphy had a fair chunk of their games wiped out, they still had 6 to play and 4 games in hand on Armiston Rangers and Livington United who were in 3rd and 4th place respectively. In toon for this game were the Champions as Fauldhouse United had wrapped the title and the promotion spot up in their previous game with a 3-1 win over Whitburn Juniors. With the Hoose having nothing to play for but pride, it was up to Pumpherston to push on and try and make a game of this.


After the nice touch of a guard of honour to welcome Fauldhouse onto the field, the game kicked off and it was the good old Junior way I’d been told about. Tough tackles, some nice play and a lot of swearing. Probably not helped by the referee looking about 12 years old. Despite Pumpherston having more to play for, Fauldhouse caused the early pressure with a few free kicks as Pumpherston playing 3 times a week was clear to see. While an early Gary Shanks volley over the bar promised signs of a good game, it wasn’t. Pumpherston didn’t have the fitness to sustain any meaningful attack and they had their goalie Mark Reid to thank for saving a one on one. Brilliantly Fauldhouse tried to claim handball outside the area for this which was met with a cry from a Pumphy fan of, “handball!? He’s the fucking goalie!” Fauldhouse had another two decent chances before the end of the half as firstly Dale Robertson volleyed over on 36 minutes before Kenny Martin missed a great header just 3 minutes later as both sides could barely hit a barn door. Or in keeping with the match, a fucking barn door.


For the 2nd half I stood under the covered terrace with the good number of Fauldhouse fans and their bottles of buckfast. Fauldhouse again made all of the running as Pumpherston just looked dead on their feet and Reid again saved the day from close range to deny Graham Baird. Pumpherston then progressed their “rope a dope” tactic as they tried to counter attack with a couple of fast breakaways led by David Swan. Pumpherston nearly had a remarkable lead on 72 minutes when Swan brokeaway again and cut the ball back to David Murray but his drive was well saved by Iain Stewart and pushed over for a corner. With a 0-0 approaching, Fauldhouse had the final chance of the half, on 89 minutes, with a free kick on the edge of the area. However Gary Shanks shot was poor as the ball clipped the wall and spun wide. Stalemate.


Football in late May is a novelty and even though this report may sound sarcastic in tone, I did enjoy this. For a debut in Junior football, it had elements I was told about before and it wasn’t the worst game I had ever seen. However it certainly was nowhere near the best either and I’m sure my next Juniors match will be substantially better. Pumpherston managed to hold their nerve in the end and win 4 out of their last 5 to not only be promoted but to finish 2nd in the league too. Good luck to both Pumphy and the Hoose in the Premier League campaigns next season. Both sides appear on the up.

Photos from Pumpherston Juniors vs Fauldhouse United


Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (poor stalemate)

- Value for money: 7/10 (reasonable Junior prices)

- Ground: 7/10 (big covered structure and grass banking)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (that unique Scottish atmosphere)

- Food: 4/10 (not a great pie, its got to be said)

- Programme: N/A – they don’t currently issue

- Referee: David Doig – 6/10 (decent performance)

Friday, 21 June 2013

Magic Weekend 2013 (25/05/13)

It was that time of year again for the annual RL Magic Weekend – a brilliant idea (which they really couldn’t do in football) where everyone plays each other over 1 weekend in the same ground and to spice it up, the games are the local derbies too. (There’s your reason why they couldn’t do it in football!) This year, the RFL had brilliantly timed the weekend for my birthday so I could do the Saturday as a nice jolly to celebrate another year and watch the Wakefield boys against that lot from Castleford. Up to Manchester!


The Magic Weekend first started in 2007 to showcase the sport of rugby league in one individual city and generally to allow fans to enjoy one big piss up. Starting in Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium, the event was generally seen as a success with just over 32,000 enjoying the opening games. Playing at a different stadium, mixing with fans and having local derby games (except in 2009 and 2010) appeals to fans and the event has grown from strength to strength with generally continued steady increases in the overall attendance over the weekend. Magic Weekend moved to Edinburgh in 2009 and 2010, before going back to Cardiff for one season and rocking up to Manchester’s Etihad Stadium last season. MW has offered some classic moments in its short period of existence, from Leeds scoring a last minute winning try via the bar against Bradford in 2007, St Helens thrilling 16-16 draw with Wigan in 2011 and of course Tim Smith’s last minute try last year to defeat Castleford. It’s an event that does split some fans, but it’s a unique concept that should be enjoyed while it’s here.


I’d been to the Etihad Stadium before but not since 2008 and Manchester City have come a long way since then! As I hadn’t pulled my finger out in time the bottom tiered unreserved tickets had all sold out so we had to make do with the more expensive 2nd tier tickets. The lucky ticket computer had stuck in us in the VIP area, right on the half way line. There isn’t much difference to where the “plebs” sit either side of the area. The seats have tiny armrests and a big door to go through but it was a pleasant experience regardless. Another massive plus for the day was the fact this is rugby league so beer can be brought to seats, even though it was the £4/pint for Carlsberg option. We arrived early enough to catch most of the opening game which was London Broncos vs Catalan Dragons. Most of the crowd were outside for this game and missed a reasonable first half as Broncos came back from 12-12, only to concede a ridiculous try on HT and then collapse in the 2nd half. And then, it was the big one...

IMG_0896(Possibly the greatest mascot in the world)

RL Match 6

RL Ground #: 5

Ground: Etihad Stadium

Competition: Super League

Kick Off: 2:15pm

Cost: £22.50 (Magic Weekend price)

Programme: £5 (Magic Weekend programme)

Attendance: 30,793

Wakefield Wildcats 24

Tries: Collis 2, Kirmond 1, Annakin 1

Goals: Smith 4

Castleford Tigers 49

Tries: Clark 1, Dixon 4, Ellis 1, Huby 1, Carney 1, Thompson 1

Goals: Ellis 6

Drop-goals: Ellis 1


Wakefield had easily won at Castleford earlier in the season with a feisty 37-16 win. With the Wildcats 4 points and 2 places above that lot from Wheldon Road, this on paper looked a Wakefield win. However, games don’t always turn out how you want them and this became an 80 minute birthday nightmare as one team showed up and wanted it far far more. (Hint, it wasn’t Wakefield) The game was only 4 minutes old when Castleford opened the scoring as Daryl Clark crossed the line after good work from Grant Millington when the Wakefield defence went missing. It was a common sight during the 1st half as the Tigers tore apart Wakefield and added more tries through Kirk Dixon, Jamie Ellis and Craig Huby before 25 minutes had been played. With Rangi Chase involved with all the good things that Cas were producing, Wakey had to wake up. They did, in a way with two quick fire tries through Dean Collis and Danny Kirmond to give the Wildcats fans hope but that was gone by HT as Cas scored another two through Dixon and Justin Carney.


Like the London Broncos game last season, it was all over by HT with a 34-12 deficit but with Chase still dominating play, Castleford added another two tries with Dixon and Jordan Thompson’s down in the bottom corner. By now, this was just a hammering and Dixon added his 4th and Castleford’s final try of the day with a sweeping move that saw the ball go from left to right and cut through the Wildcats defence. Beer was needed to just get through this game but a late try from Chris Annakin gave a cheer before the Tigers took the piss late on as Ellis fired a drop goal over. The game was over long before this and the majority of Wildcats fans had long gone but Castleford’s unlikely play-off push was back on. Wakefield needed to recover from this and quickly and an away win against Salford put them (sort of) back on track. Just a bad day at the office.


RL Match 7

RL Ground #: 5

Ground: Etihad Stadium

Competition: Super League

Kick Off: 4:30pm

Cost: £22.50 (Magic Weekend price)

Programme: £5 (Magic Weekend programme)

Attendance: 30,793

Hull FC 22

Tries: Whiting 1, Lineham 1, Yeaman 1, Green 1

Goals: Holdsworth 3

Hull Kingston Rovers 16

Tries: Eden 1, Hall 1, Brown 1

Goals: Dobson 2


The Hull derby was another match I was massively looking forward to. With it really being friends v friends and family v family, I’d love to actually go to Hull (yes really!) and watch one of the clashes. With the Magic Weekend games between the sides always a good one watch, I was up for this, especially after the previous 80 minute shambles. Both sides support was phenomenal with the FC fans behind the sticks and KR fans down our side, a full stadium with this lot would be absolutely rocking!


When FC scored after just 4 minutes as they took advantage of a 40-20 as Richard Whiting crossed over, a close match didn’t look on the cards. Yet KR, backed my some outstanding fans, slowly came back into it as FC began to implode. Their equalising try was the epitome of that with FC missing a few tackles and then bailed out by Shannon McDonnell, only for KR to score on the very next play, right in the corner through Greg Eden. You wouldn’t think it was FC who had won 8 out of the last 9 as they could only watch Craig Hall’s brilliant one handed catch and try as Kingston Rovers were 10-6 up at HT.


KR continued to look comfortable for the rest of the match and as Michael Dobson added a penalty and Alex Brown added a 3rd try after Eden’s brilliant cross field pass, a 16-6 win looked likely. 71 minutes in, I turned to a friend and wanted another FC try just to make the game interesting late on. Then came the next 9 minutes. FC got their 2nd try on 73 minutes when Tom Lineham powered through in the bottom corner. Daniel Holdsworth had to make the conversion and did via a post. It was now 16-12. And then came the equaliser. Kirk Yeaman took advantage of a high cross field kick and touched down right on the line. A long long wait for Steve Ganson in the Video Referees box to make his mind up as the try was given, but Holdsworth missed this conversion. With a draw looking likely as both sets of fans roared their team on, the clincher came on 79 minutes. Whether he meant this as a drop goal attempt or a desperate boot upfield only Danny Houghton will know but Eden forget the RL golden rule, “never let the ball bounce!” That bounced allowed Chris Green to nip in and send the FC fans wild. The try was given despite Green being offside and Ganson having around 2 minutes watching it on the video replay. Breathless.


The final game of the day we missed as sitting in the sun for 6 hours had finally taken its toll, but Warrington smashed St Helens 48-22 for an easy win. This was an enjoyable way to spend my birthday and despite the result for Wakefield was an excellent day out. The RFL have already announced that Magic Weekend 2014 will be back in Manchester, but 1 week earlier so will need to make another trip up north.

MW prog

MW stub

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Tunbridge Wells vs Spennymoor Town (04/05/13)

Match 200

Ground #: 124 (3rd visit)

Ground: Wembley Stadium

Competition: FA Vase Final

Kick Off: 3:00pm

Cost: £15

Programme: £4

Attendance: 16,751

Tunbridge Wells 1

Stanford 78’

Spennymoor Town 2

Cogdon 18’, Graydon 81’


PREVIOUS VISITS: 13/05/12 – Dunston UTS 2-0 West Auckland Town (FA Vase Final)

04/08/12 – Mexico 4-2 Senegal (Olympic Games)

Another season following the Vase finally concluded with the big one at Wembley. After an interesting season seeing some decent and not so decent Vase games, a pointless trip to the Isle of Wight and some sour grapes in the Semi-Finals, both Tunbridge Wells and Spennymoor Town were the lucky two to make it to the Final. Dragging along my housemate this year to enjoy the magic of the Vase, we were plastic Kent fans for the day, joining the 11,000 who had made the trip up.


Standing in their way were the NE cracks in the form of Spennymoor Town, themselves an excellent side in the Northern League. They had seen off Bridlington Town, Newcastle Benfield, Billingham Synthonia, Lordswood, Bemerton Heath Harlequins, Gornal Athletic before dispatching Guernsey in the Semi-Final with a 4-1 aggregate win. Their manager Jason Ainsley had described the competition as “the holy grail of non-league football” and so would be taking it extremely seriously.


Having attended last year with just an attendance of over 5,000, with Tunny Wells bringing 11,000 themselves, there was a good amount of people here for this. Sadly, I had seemed to be lumbered with the cretins who only know football on Sky and so this game was a bit of a culture shock for them. The atmosphere also came mainly from the other side of the pitch, the 5,000 fans from the NE outsang the Kent lot which probably affected the Tunbridge Wells performance on the pitch.


It was mainly men against boys for the majority of the game, but it could have been so different if Spenny goalie Robbie Dean hadn’t saved well from Josh Stanford’s early shot. The NE boys soon began to dominate however as Tunbridge couldn’t stop them rampaging forward and creating chances. The goal was coming and it arrived on 18 minutes with a well worked move. Keith Graydon whipped a cross in to the 6 yard box and the movement of Gavin Cogdon completely caught out the Tunny defence and the tiny striker headed past Chris Oladogba. Tunny were nearly blown off the pitch soon after as Spenny missed chances through Mark Davison and then Cogdon as Tunny scraped into HT lucky to be still in the game.


Spenny played even better in the 2nd half as Oladogba kept his side in the match with a string of outstanding saves. Cogdon received the ball in the area and after twisting away from some poor challenges fired a shot that Oladogba saved well. He also saved a shot from the resulting corner as Tunny were struggling. Spennymoor rarely had to defend but did look a tad ropey at the back midway through the 2nd half when Perry Spackman headed wide a great chance. The half did belong to Spenny as it looked like the match would peter out with a 1-0 win, but amazingly with 12 minutes to go, Tunbridge Wells grabbed the equaliser. Dean in the Spenny goal had already looked uncomfortable at crosses but God knows what he was trying to do when Jason Bourne whipped a cross in. Dean fumbled and Stanford hooked the ball back into the empty net. The 11,000 suddenly found their voice as the Final was back on, for two minutes. Spenny went down the other end and slipped the ball around the static defence and Graydon smashed home inside the penalty area. You’d expect in a final for the team behind to bombard the goal late on, but Tunny didn’t have it in them and Spennymoor won the Vase for the first time in their history.


And that was that! This year I didn’t bother to stay for the trophy being awarded and the majority of the Tunbridge Wells fans thought the same way. The right team (and fans!) won on the day so well to Spennymoor Town. Another season following the Vase was enjoyable and although I didn’t get to every round, its nice to follow it all the way through. I’ll hopefully do another “Road to…” next season but maybe its time to focus on another tournament after 2 seasons of the Vase. At the time, I also thought this would be my final game of the season and fitting to end on 200 games in total, but there was more to come…

Photos from Tunbridge Wells vs Spennymoor Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 4/10 (not a classic final)

- Value for money: 7.5/10 (far better price structure than last year)

- Ground: 6.5/10 (standard Wembley score)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (all came from the Spennymoor side)

- Food: 3/10 (tried a pie this time, it was £5 and it wasn’t round)

- Programme: 3/10 (only marginally better than last season’s effort)

- Referee: Michael Naylor – 7/10 (easy game for him)

FAVF 2013 prog

FAVF 2013 stub

Monday, 3 June 2013

Bedfont Sports vs Guernsey FC (30/04/13)

Match 199

Ground #: 157

Ground: Bedfont Sports Club

Competition: Combined Counties League Premier Division (Level 9)

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £5

Programme: With Admission

Attendance: 191

Bedfont Sports 1

Baldock 47’, Ryan s/off 63’

Guernsey FC 2

Heaume (pen) 14’, McKenzie 70’


Some clubs at various levels moan about fixture congestion. This is more evident at the end of the season when a ropey pitch and shocking weather means some teams have to play a lot. Step forward Guernsey FC, not only are they based 88 miles away from mainland UK, they were having to play just the 17 fixtures in April to try and chase a fixture backlog caused by gash weather earlier this year. I went along to see them on game #17 of the month, the final one, as the weary islanders arrived at Bedfont Sports.


Bedfont (historically East Bedfont) is a small suburban town in London, some 13 miles to the west of central London and only 2 miles from Heathrow Airport. Referred to in the Domesday Book as “Bedefunde”, the name is thought to be derived from Anglo-Saxon Bedfunta = "Bed’s spring", or Bydenfunta = "spring provided with a drinking-vessel”. West Bedfont today is indistinct, however neighbouring East Bedfont, on the Greater London side of the boundary, has developed into modern day Bedfont. During the English Civil War, both the Royalist and Parliamentary armies passed through Bedfont. By 1946 transport began to impact on the village when Heathrow Airport opened and became the largest employer in the area, with the effect of increasing the demand for local housing. The village of Heathrow was lost, as was some of the hamlet of Hatton. This sits beneath the airport's flight path, but The Green Man public house survives from around the 16th century together with a few period properties near the pub and London Underground station (Hatton Cross) on the edge of the airport.

Guernsey-FCs-intimidating-008(That’s 17! Count ‘em!)

Bedfont Sports were orginally a Sunday League side operating as Bedfont Sunday until 2002 when they switched to Saturday football. Joining the Middlesex Counties League and improving in there until they finished 3rd in the Premier Division in 2008/09 to achieve promotion to the Combined Counties League. Again they always improved upon the previous seasons, with a 9th, 4th and a 2nd place finish last season in Division 1 to achieve promotion to the Premier Division for this season. Their ground is a tidy complex called the Bedfont Sports Club that is around a 10 minute walk away from Hatton Cross tube station. Situated next door to The Orchard, home of Bedfont & Feltham FC, the ground is a reasonable one for this level. With a large clubhouse upon arrival, its a smart looking venue that has a covered area directly in front of the clubhouse and a seating area in the bottom corner. With a small covered area behind the dugouts on the opposite side and the rest of the ground hard standing, there is ample room to expand if they ever need to.


The island boys in Green had been given the fixture list from hell but had done well in April to try and keep their title hopes alive. Out of the 16 played previous to this, they had won 8, drawn 3 and lost 4 with a further fixture being moved to May. These defeats had allowed title rivals Egham to build up an 11 point lead but Guernsey did have 3 games in hand on them, with 5 to play. It did mean that if GFC slipped up here, then Egham could win the title on the night as they hosted midtable Horley Town. The home side had pushed GFC close last season in the division below and had also made a reasonable effort in their first season at this level. They were in 12th for this game, with nothing but pride to play for, however having lost the reverse fixture 5-2 in October, they would be looking for a bit of revenge.


I had read about Guernsey’s Blitzkrieg tactics in their games, where they go all out early on to batter the opposition and have the game won fairly quickly. Therefore it was no surprise to see the away dominate early on and have the Bedfont Sports defence on the backfoot quite often. Bedfont were also playing an outfield player in goal with Adam Turner in the net, although he saved well from Dom Heaume after a long throw had been launched in. The early goal did arrive however after 14 minutes, when Jacques Isabelle sent Nigel Hutton through and he raced into the box only to be taken out by George Marks for an easy penalty decision. Heaume stepped up and slotted past Turner to the delight of the majority of the fans there. Bedfont boss was quickly out telling his players to calm down with “it’s 1-0 with 10, I don’t want it 7 with 50!” His advice was ignored as they were constantly cut to pieces with Heaume having a goal ruled out for offside and then Scott Bradford missing an empty net as he fired a rebound over. So far, so good for the away side as this looked easy.


But yet again, the dominant curse struck right at the start of the 2nd half. Bedfont had offered little, never mind goal of the season contender so take a bow George Baldock. He chested a throw-in and tried to hook it back in the area with an overhead kick, instead the ball flew into the bottom corner to stun the away side. Let’s be honest, he’s not meant that, but it was game on. The game now seemed more evenly poised until Bedfont threw it all away on 63 minutes. Sean Ryan and Nigel Hutton were competing for the ball on the far side when Ryan flew into a challenge and Hutton at the top of the shin, oh dear. To exacerbate matters Ryan then stamped on Hutton just to make sure he was sent off. Idiotic behaviour from a club captain. Bedfont needed to hold out now but lasted just 9 minutes when GFC scored their fluke. A short corner (which I fucking hate – ban them) was played between Matt Loaring and Ollie McKenzie and the latter whipped the ball in to be missed by everyone. A defender did clear, however the linesman saw that the ball had already crossed the line and GFC were back in front. They did control the final 20 minutes, although nearly lost it in injury time when Bedfont Sports piled forward and Marks had an unmarked header straight at James Hamon to ensure the 2-1 win.

IMG_0798(GFC TV, like ITV but less shit)

As I attended this game straight from work, rocking up in only a jumper should have been enough for late April, however I was perishing. That did diminish the enjoyment of the game and meant I had to spend the 2nd half stood enough a lamp to get the heat it was giving out. With multiple promotion places available with the expansion of Level 8 for 2013/14, GFC could still go up if they finished 2nd and achieved that with 4 wins in 4 days, finished with the 1-0 win over Farnham Town. It meant their PPG was enough to go up to the Isthmian League, where clubs in Division 1 South are now planning a little jolly for their visit to the island. Bedfont were a reasonably nice club and I wish them well for next season. With the Orchard next door, I will have to be back in the area at some point!

Fellow blogger Dan was also at this game and you can check his report here: 

Photos from Bedfont Sports vs Guernsey FC


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (was average for neutral)

- Value for money: 7/10 (normal price for Level 9)

- Ground: 5/10 (basic, but does the job)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (good noise from the away fans)

- Food: 6/10 (normal burger)

- Programme: 4/10 (was free I suppose)

- Referee: James Amadori – 7/10 (decisions spot on and got on with it)

BS vs GFC prog