Thursday, 31 October 2013

Barnet vs Macclesfield Town (24/09/13)

Match 212

Ground #: 168

Ground: The Hive

Competition: Skrill Premier

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £21

Programme: £3

Attendance: 1,179

Barnet 1

Vilhete 74’, Mengerink m/pen 9’

Macclesfield Town 2

Jennings 27’, 35’


Wasn’t planning to do much on this Tuesday evening but when my Macclesfield Town supporting work colleague asks if I want to watch some tinpot football, we all know what that answer is going to be. Amazingly this would be my 4th time watching Macclesfield but this game being right on my doorstep (give or take 5 miles) it was time to see The Hive and of course, fucking Edgar Davids!


Barnet have now moved to Canons Park, which is residential suburb, situated in the north west London Borough of Harrow. "Canons" refers to the canons or monks of the Augustinian priory of St Bartholomew in Smithfield who owned the manor of Stanmore before the Reformation. Canons Park is largely located on the site of Cannons, a magnificent early 18th-century country estate built between 1713–25, by James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. Although the original Cannons mansion no longer exists, the later building on the site, erected by the gentleman cabinet-maker William Hallett in 1760, now houses the North London Collegiate School. A large portion of the original gardens of the Cannons estate now form the public pleasure gardens of Canons Park, which are a registered Grade II Historic Landscape and contains several listed buildings.


The Hive has had a difficult and controversial history that I must be careful to discuss as I may end up annoying supporters from other clubs, mainly Wealdstone. Construction at the Prince Edward Playing Fields began in 2003 as a home for the Isthmian League club, however just one year later the construction partners went into liquidation and the construction stopped. Harrow Borough Council then put the site up for tender and in came Barnet. Bit controversial and you can read a far more detailed and informed history here. Today the ground just feels like a temporary venue, a smart one nonetheless, but temporary. With a path through from the opening of the training ground and to the side of a few training pitches, you rock up to the small East Stand which has the strange look of an office building with some seats and a roof attached to it. Behind both goals are some small covered standing areas with the large West Stand dominating the ground and providing a decent view of the action. Sadly away fans were placed in this large stand meaning that it was a nice £21 (TWENTY ONE) to get in and watch non-league football.


Despite Barnet beating Morecambe 4-1 towards the end of last season and giving it the big large, they were still hilariously relegated with a brilliant loss of form at the end of the season. With Edgar D still in charge (sort of, its a coach sharing arrangement going on these days apparently), Barnet had been making decent inroads back in the Conference (or the Skrill Premier) until defeat at FC Halifax Town had saw them lose all form and slumped to 8th in the table. Davids, who has now given himself the #1 shirt as some form of twat badge, hadn’t made his Conference debut, until this game… They were playing a team also completely out of anything, form, money, fans (sorry) as the Macc Attack were in town. Relegation hit them hard and they went for instant promotion, helped by a FA Cup run to the 4th Round, but they fizzled out and finished in 11th. With a new boss and generally new team the Macc Attack were in the relegation coming into this game, trying to emulate near neighbours Stockport in hosting giants like Vauxhall Motors and North Ferriby United. Someone’s form had to improve!


Unsurprisingly the home side went for it early on against a team with a goal difference of –5 as Mark Byrne and Edgar fucking Davids fired shots wide. Davids played the role of everywhere as every pass, throw in and free kick had to come through him. One of these such attacks should have resulted in a goal as Marciano Mengerink was taken out by Paul Turnbull with one of those “what are you playing at?” tackles. Mengerink stepped up but the former SDV Barneveld player had his penalty saved by Rhys Taylor. Barnet kept going but the Macc Attack pulled off the brilliant rope-a-dope tactic on 27 minutes. Winning a free kick from a rare attack Peter Winn’s cross found Connor Jennings all alone and he side-footed the ball past Graham Stack. Macc Attack then produced the unthinkable with a 2nd goal to stun the silent crowd into, silence. Barnet tried playing some total football in their own penalty area instead of clearing the ball away, they lost it and after some misplaced passes, the ball fell to Jennings who fired the ball into the top corner. Those Macc fans who paid £21 to see this were beginning to think it was worth it!


Macc Attack brought on the 41 year old Efe Sodje to tighten the defence up as Davids now took up the role of sweeper as the Bees launched forward. In fact both sides seemed content let the game fizzle out for a wee bit as only long range efforts were being fired at both goals. After 20 minutes of the half, Sodje’s knees couldn’t take it anymore and so he was replaced by Lewis Chalmers as the Macc Attack began to be pushed further and further back. It was already attack v defence when Luisama Villa fed Mauro Vilhete who lashed the ball in. I hadn’t seen a game like the Alamo for some time but for the remaining c.20 minutes, Barnet battered the Macc Attack in trying to find an equaliser. Ex Gretna dwarf John-Paul Kissock came on to run after long balls but Barnet couldn’t offer that much in the last few minutes and the Macc Attack pulled off a famous win. With a 50% win ratio when I see them, I’m clearly a lucky mascot.


With my work colleague Phil a happy man and the rest of the hardy bunch of Macc fans (around 100 of them) off back to Cheshire, it was good to see Barnet lose, I’ll be honest. Macc Attack have woken up since this game and have taken 10 points from the last 12 and a 7-0 win over Vauxhall Motors in the FA Cup. Currently in 15th, their relegation fears have eased somewhat and will now look to chase current 5th place side Braintree for the playoffs. 9 points to catch up. Barnet look like they will be down in the Skrill for quite some time and things have got worse since this game with the large West Stand I sat in, now in trouble with Harrow Borough Council as they have broken planning regulations over the height of the stand and the floodlights. On the pitch, they are still in 8th as Davids has got used to the Skrill Premier but elbowing Wrexham’s X in their recent league game and picking up a suspension. It’s a strange club, currently playing at a strange ground which isn’t really their home in a strange league. Do I feel for them? No.

Photos from Barnet vs Macclesfield Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 4/10 (pretty dreadful)

- Value for money: 1/10 (it’s non-league and it’s > £20, really?)

- Ground: 4/10 (it’s always going to be a training ground)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (Barnet fans just do not sing)

- Food: N/A – after paying £21 was never going to eat here

- Programme: 6/10 (improvement upon last season)

- Referee: Kevin Johnson – 7/10 (quite solid)

Bar vs MT prog

Bar vs MT stub

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Lazio vs Legia Warsaw (19/09/13)

Match 211

Ground #: 167

Ground: Stadio Olimpico

Competition: UEFA Europa League Group Stage

Kick Off: 9:05pm

Cost: €35

Programme: Free

Attendance: 11,769

Lazio 1

Hernanes 53’

Legia Warsaw 0


It had been decided a while back to head out to Rome for a family holiday. Keen to enjoy the tourist sites and nice weather I also fancied a bit of calcio whilst out to my first visit to Italy. When the dates were confirmed that we were out there I had a look to see and lo and behold, Lazio were playing a Europa League tie on our last full night in the Italian capital. It was almost like I had suggested those dates to see this game…


I could write about 20,000 blog posts on the history of Rome, spanning through the Roman era, Renaissance, the Mussolini reign and recent political turmoil but I’ll just state that it’s a brilliant city to visit. We did most of the major tourist hotspots and while it was extremely busy with hundreds of people around the top top places, the warm weather and friendly nature of (most!) locals, meant it was another capital that I would recommend a visit to. I also did a wee tour of the other 1960 Olympic Games stadia that are still in site today (and will be a future blog post!) just to add a bit of sporting history to the trip!


Società Podistica Lazio (or SS Lazio) was founded in 1900 making it Rome’s oldest football team. Wanting to encompass more than just the city of Rome that they were from, the club's original founding members chose Lazio, the same name as the region of Italy in which the club is located. After some early friendly activity, Lazio officially gave birth to its football section in 1910 and joined official league competition in 1912 as soon as the Italian Football Federation began organising championships in the center and south of Italy. In 1927 Lazio was the only major Roman club which resisted the Fascist regime's attempts to merge all the city's teams into what would become A.S. Roma the same year. This was due to Giorgio Vaccaro, a general in the Fascist regime and influential in the sporting landscape. A true Lazio fan, Vaccaro defended the club's right to keep its identity and Lazio were the sole opposition to the new team in Rome’s new football landscape. The club have never been the most successful in Italy with only 2 Serie A titles (in 1974 and 2000) as well as having to spend some time in Serie B. Mainly due to corruption scandals and subsequent points deductions.


The Stadio Olimpico is part of the still standing infrastructure of Rome’s 1960 Olympic Games (future blog post!) and dominates the northern part of the city. The stadium dates from well before that however with the original ground opening in 1937. Called originally Stadio dei Cipressi it was part of the overall Foro Mussolini (later renamed Foro Italico after the war) and explains the large monument to Mussolini built by the entrance nearest to Duca D’Aosta Bridge. Today, a beautiful venue that takes a lot of ideas from classic Roman architecture but with a modern twist after modernisation work was completed on the ground in 2008. Today, the Olimpico is dominated by 4 main areas, the Curva Nord and Sud (home to the Lazio and Roma ultras respectively) which run behind both goals. While the side of the ground houses the Tribuna Tevere and Monte Mario and provides great views of the ground. Considering the history of the place and some of the matches to take place here, such as 4 Champions League finals or the 1990 World Cup Final, I felt extremely lucky to attend a game here and will remember this for some time to come.


Lazio had only finished 7th in Serie A last season but a famous Coppa Italia win over Roma had put them straight through to the Europa League Group Stage. Drawn in the intriguing Group J alongside Trabzonspor, Apollon Limassol and the opponents for this game Legia Warsaw. Lazio’s Serie A form had been ok up to this point, expected wins over Udinese and Chievo with a 4-1 pasting at Juventus in between them. It left them in 7th position and with the big, big Derby della Capitale (Rome derby) upcoming on the Sunday after this game, the arrival into Rome of the Polish champions was seen as a good warm up. Legia won the Ekstraklasa last season but then proceeded to to crash out of the Champions League in the Play-off Round with an away goals defeat to Steaua Bucharest. Going well in the Polish top flight and with 3 rounds of European football already this season it was a tough one to call.


The Legia fans also need a paragraph to themselves as despite the excellent reputation Lazio’s Curva Nord have, the Legia Ultras were outstanding. Around 3,000 mental Polish fans brought with them flares, constant chanting, clearly rehearsed routines and generally a brilliant atmosphere that fired a football trip to Poland far up my “to-do” list. The pic above was taken just before KO and shows the Legia fans enjoying themselves early on and something I just haven’t experienced before. Fantastic. The Curva Nord were also in good voice with a smaller display during the game (they were warming themselves up for the Sunday) and despite the stadium only being 16% full, it was an atmosphere that sounded like the ground was packed out.


As the game kicked off and the smoke from Legia’s flares died down, it was clearly quite evident that this wouldn’t be a high scoring game. Lazio were saving themselves for the derby and Legia sitting back and trying to hit the home side on the break. Despite this conservative approach, Legia should have taken the lead on 21 minutes when some nice build up play found Jakub Kosecki alone in the area. He controlled the ball well and smashed it towards the roof of the net only to see Federico Marchetti produce an outstanding save to tip it over. Kosecki had the Lazio fans on edge just minutes later when he curled a shot just past the post as the Biancocelesti hadn’t got going. Clearly Lazio boss Vladimir Petković gave them a bollocking at HT as they took the lead within 6 minutes of the restart. Keita Baldé was making his first ever senior start and his cross from the left was met by Hernanes who powered his header past Wojciech Skaba. Hernanes nearly made the game safe soon after when after his mazy run, he fired a shot off the post. In the end, Legia didn’t have anything to answer for that Hernanes goal and Lazio started off the group stage well. The Legia fans though, they were still singing.


Despite the football being naff, this was a brilliant experience. A ground steeped in history (even Psy has played here, no really, he has) with an outstanding atmosphere, it is one I would recommend to everyone. To purchase tickets just don’t forget your passport! Lazio lost that Rome derby 2-0 as Roma ride high in Serie A, but they are steady in Group J with draws against Trabzonspor and Apollon as they are looking good to reach the next stage of the competition. Legia have lost all 3 games so far without scoring a goal so it looks likely they will have just domestic duties to look forward to in 3 games time. I’ll be back in Italy one day to catch some more calcio, but now my Italian team is firmly the boys in blue from Lazio. Forza Lazio!

P.S – Action from the Legia Ultras on the night can be viewed here.

Photos from Lazio vs Legia Warsaw


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (never really got going)

- Value for money: 6/10 (about £28, which is fair for European football)

- Ground: 8/10 (brilliant, steeped in history)

- Atmosphere: 9/10 (LEGIA! WARSZAWA! Add some flares and keep going for 90 mins – outstanding)

- Food: N/A – ate from a van on the River opposite the Foro Italico, was good

- Programme: 7.5/10 (was free and worth a read, big newspaper style)

- Referee: Kristinn Jakobsson – 7/10 (was fine)


L vs LW stub

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Linlithgow Rose vs Nairn County (14/09/13)

Match 210

Ground #: 166

Ground: Prestonfield Park

Competition: Scottish Cup 1st Round

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £3 (concession)

Programme: £2

Attendance: 850

Linlithgow Rose 2

Mackintosh (O.G) 26’, Meechan 85’

Nairn County 0


A rare visit to Scotland for the start of a holiday was timed perfectly for the start of another Scottish Cup campaign. A brave 36 clubs entered at the First Round in the Road to Somewhere (Hampden will be undergoing work for the Commonwealth Games in May and so the 2014 Final is likely to take place at Ibrox) and with a low choice of games I could get to from Edinburgh, the only option was thankfully the stand out tie at Linlithgow.


Linlithgow is a Royal Burgh in West Lothian and an ancient town. The chief historic attraction of Linlithgow is the remains of Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots. The present Palace was started (on an older site) in 1424 by James I of Scotland. It was burnt in 1746, and, whilst unroofed, it is still largely complete in terms of its apartments (though very few of the original furnishings survived). Linlithgow was also the site of the Battle of Linlithgow Bridge at the western edge of the town although the bridge no longer stands. The roadway to Linlithgow over the River Avon is described by scholars as a lifted road. Besides the Palace, a second attraction, standing adjacent, is 15th century St. Michael's Church, the most complete surviving example of a large late medieval 'burgh kirk' in Scotland. Its western tower originally had a distinctive stone crown spire, of the type seen also on St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, or Newcastle Cathedral, but it was removed in the early 19th century. In 1964 a replacement and controversial spire in aluminium in a modern style by Scots architect Sir Basil Spence, representing Christ's crown of thorns, was added.


The town’s main football team were formed in 1889 so an official organised team could be in the town. They have been in the Junior ranks throughout their history and have won the coveted Junior Cup on 4 occasions, the last being fairly recently in 2010. They have also dominated the East Region leagues at times too with multiple titles including 3 Super League titles since that format was adopted in the mid 2000’s. The Rose are the current East Region Champions with a Super League win last season that was near perfection with 19 wins, 3 draws and 0 losses to leave them 19 points clear of 2nd. Clearly a very good side and managed currently by ex Hearts midfielder Mark Bradley, who played an almighty 2 games for the Jambos before being sold to Doncaster in July 1998.


Prestonfield Park is a reasonable walk away from Linlithgow station through the classic town and is worth the walk being one of the top grounds in Junior football. Down one side of the ground is the large Main Stand that not only features great views from the seats up the top, but has a European style standing area under the Stand to catch the game. Opposite this is a large standing area that includes the all important tea hut. Behind the goals were standing areas, but one (see pic above) was a brilliant grass bank that you were allowed to stand on which offered a fantastic view of the pitch and the whole ground. The other side was a short standing terrace with the flag display to add to the overall feel of Prestonfield Park. A brilliant venue, that could quite easily play host to some SPFL if they wanted to ever move in there. (And the can of worms is open…)


This was an interesting tie as it featured the rare chances in the season for a team in the Juniors to “get one over” the Senior footballing teams. It looked like a home banker really with Linlithgow in brilliant form since winning the East Region in 2012/13. They went into this game top of the East Region Superleague again, being unbeaten this season and a point clear of near rivals Bo’ness United. It was just the 171 miles for Nairn to “pop down” to Linlithgow from the Highlands as the Highland League team looked to make it through to Round 2. They had suffered from inconsistency so far this season with 3 wins and 3 defeats to stick them in midtable. Nairn though, did have a good Scottish Cup run last season with wins over Preston Athletic and Clyde before crashing out to Forfar Athletic in the 3rd Round. With this Cup form and Highland League Player of the Year from last season in Conor Gethins in the team, it could be on for the Wee County.


Despite Linlithgow being the home team, I felt Nairn went for it more early on as the Rose was more than happy to sit back and hit the Highland side on the counter attack. Rose goalie Scott Christie was the busier of the two, having to keep out a couple of low drives from the edge of the area. Once these were cleared, Rose would normally charge forward on the counter but Nairn would just clear their lines. In a fast and frantic game much like the Junior Leagues I had been told about, both sides went for the first goal with Gethins having a one on one saved by Christie before Shaun Webb had a goal disallowed for offside as Nairn really went for it. With the Wee County making all the running, of course the opening goal went in at the other end! A nothing ball into the Nairn box should have been cleared but Wayne Mackintosh managed to divert the ball over Calum Donaldson and in with a brilliant header. Easy early winner of own goal of the season award. Linlithgow then went for it for the remaining of the half as Nairn were stunned that they were actually behind. Donaldson kept the score at one though and so they were still in the game for the second half.


The second half was far less interesting than the first as a midfield battle broke out with Linlithgow still slightly on top. Nairn had a shot cleared off the line as Robbie Duncanson nearly grabbed an equaliser. For the Rose though they continued to hold off Nairn as the long the game went on, it looked more likely that the home side would make it through to Round 2. Luckily, I had the pleasure of standing next to Linlithgow’s unofficial manager for the 2nd half down in the far corner of the ground. Passion doesn’t even remotely describe him as he kicked every ball and made every tackle of the sidelines all whilst looking like he was going to have a heart-attack. Calm down lad, its only a game! Sadly there doesn’t appear to be any YouTube videos of him, but if you go visit Prestonfield Park, have a walk around, he’ll be there! The Rose made it safe with 5 minutes to go as the Nairn County defence went missing at a corner and Steven Meechan was unmarked at the back post to volley it straight in. Rose were hosed and went marching on.


A really enjoyable game north of the Boarder and makes me appreciate that I need to see more Junior football when I next venture up there. Despite the ropey start they made, Linlithgow deserved to go through to the 2nd Round where they were given a tough away game at Deveronvale who are currently 5th in the Highland League. Roles reversed then as the Rose face a 170 mile trip up to Princess Royal Park. They’ve only played 1 more league game since this match due to the huge amount of cup competitions played in the Juniors, but a comprehensive 4-1 win over Musselburgh Athletic suggests they will be right up there again come the end of the season.

Photos from Linlithgow Rose vs Nairn County


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (slowed down after frantic start)

- Value for money: 9/10 (can’t argue much with £3)

- Ground: 8/10 (really great ground)

- Atmosphere: 7.5/10 (home fans sang, away fans brought a bagpipe…)

- Food: N/A – ate in Linlithgow town instead.

- Programme: 6/10 (not worth £2, but they rarely issue to good effort)

- Referee: Nick Walsh – 5/10 (tad fussy)

LR prog

LR vs NC stub