Sunday, 27 September 2009

Louth Town

Saturday 26th September 2009
Central Midlands League Supreme Division
Park Avenue

Louth (population 14,200) is a market town situated on the River Ludd in the East Lindsey District and lies on the eastern edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds. The town centre is a maze of narrow streets which is of mainly Georgian and early Victorian architecture. The Church of St James’ (built 1515) dominates the surrounding landscape with its 295ft spire – the largest church spire in England. The town is also noted for the Greenwich Meridian crosses the town on Eastgate, near to the junction with Northgate.

Websites / sources:

The town has two football clubs that have Louth in their name, one of which though plays is the nearby village of Saltfleetby. Louth Town currently use the Park Avenue ground on the eastern edge of the town which was home to Louth United for many years. Town were formed in the summer of 2007, and they secured a short term lease on the Park Avenue ground after United were served notice by the developer who owns the land to leave, and moved out to the afore mentioned village of Saltfleetby and as such left the Central Midlands League and re-joined the Lincolnshire League. ‘Town took United’s place in the Central Midlands League and finished a creditable 10th place in a twenty team Premier Division in their debut season. Last season Louth won the division winning twenty five of their twenty eight league games and with it secured promotion to the Supreme Division. This season they have continued where they have left off and at the start of play find themselves in second place behind Newark Town, unbeaten in seven games securing six wins. They are also through to the 1st Round of the FA Vase having seen off East Midlands Counties League side Blackwell Miners Welfare with an emphatic 6-2 away win. Their reward is a home tie to United Counties League side Sleaford Town. Opponents today are Nottinghamshire side Calverton Miners Welfare are in their fourth season in the league having previously been members of the Notts Alliance and Notts Senior League. They secured promotion to the Supreme Division in their second season when they finished runners-up behind winners Ollerton Town. Last season they finished in 3rd place in the Supreme Division but have found the going tough so far this season, currently lying in 14th place after nine matches played.

The journey up to Louth took around two hours going via Newark and Lincoln and I managed to park in the town centre, conveniently right outside a chip shop – exactly what I was looking for. After a brief pit stop I arrived at the ground with around 40 minutes to kick-off. I was charged £3 for the admission, £1 for a programme and a further £3 for pin badge. The club could not have been more welcoming and hospitable having found that I had travelled from Leicester and I was even offered a tour behind the scenes and given a copy of the team line-ups. The clubhouse is above the stand, from which allows unrestricted access to the playing area, ideal if the weather is of an inclement nature, but on a day like today being outside is the only option. Credit must also be given to the groundsman for the excellent playing surface.

Louth started the game without six first team regulars and at times during the first half it showed, the first twenty minutes being a scrappy affair with neither side being able to take control of the game. It was not until around the 25th minute that the home side started to get their passing game together and created a couple of good chances. They deservedly took the lead on 35 minutes when right-back Jason Callaby put in an excellent cross, which was headed back across the goal for Jamie Rowbotham to tap the ball home from a couple of yards out. The half ended with no further scoring. Calverton shocked the home side with the best goal of the game when on 51 minutes Callum Kitchen volleyed home spectacularly from the edge of the area after the Louth defence could not clear the ball. It took just two minutes for Louth to restore their lead when Mark Wood crossed the ball for Danny Kilmore to score with a powerful header. A further three minutes passed and it was 3-1 when substitute Callum Hyland’s shot from the edge of the area crept over the line by a yard or so after Michael Randell could not gather it cleanly. That was the last of the scoring but home sub Mark Fairburn had two chances towards the end to put the icing on the cake, only for the first to be well saved by Randell and the second was put wide with only Randell to beat.

Overall a comfortable win for the home side despite the afore mentioned absence of the six players. It does make you wonder what the scoreline might have been if Louth had a full squad to choose from. Having seen Sleaford themselves play as well this season the Vase tie should be a cracker and I would not be surprised if Louth took something from the game.

Friday, 25 September 2009

1st Welsh

Wednesday 23rd September 2009
Welsh League Division 2
Parc Emlyn

One thing I don’t normally do is take a holiday during the football season mainly due to give my wife a break from me talking about the game, but a four night break in Cardiganshire and more specifically the village of Oakford sees me able to take up this rare opportunity. I have never been to a game in Wales before and to be honest when I did go it would have been a team that represents one of the border towns, Welshpool being a good example. Oakford is small village near to Aberaeron and New Quay and is around a thirty minute drive north of Newcastle Emlyn. Sometimes you get lucky regarding finding a fixture and tonight’s game is no exception as it is the only midweek fixture in the area. This will be the first fixture on the British mainland outside of England that I will have been to, though I have attended four fixtures in the past while on holiday in Belgium, Portugal, Slovenia and Italy. The last one was in June 2007 when I took in Rimini’s final game of the season at home to Mantova in the Italy’s Serie B. The other clubs to join my illustrious list are Racing Club Mechelen, Uniao Madeira and NK Bled.

Newcastle Emlyn play in the third tier of Welsh football in the Welsh League Division 2, a league that covers south Wales and is a feeder league (along with the north and mid-Wales based Cymru Alliance) to the Welsh Premier League. They joined the third division of the league in 2000 from the Cardiganshire League and spent eight years in the lower division, before a runners-up spot in the 2007/08 season secured promotion.

The town itself according to as tourist brochure is a lively, picturesque, friendly and very Welsh market town, nestling in the Teifi Valley. The river runs around three sides of the historic castle which was built on the site of an old fortress. It divides Newcastle Emlyn (Carmarthenshire) from Adpar (Ceredigion / Cardiganshire). Other buildings of note include the old market hall with its clock tower and one of the smallest theatres in Britain, a 19th century church, a magistrate’s court which houses the library and several chapels. The town stands on the banks of the River Teifi and claims to be the site of the last dragon which was slain in Wales after it had alighted at the castle breathing fire and smoke.

The ground is situated on New Road in the town, behind a public car park. The car park is a pay and display one, though is free after 6pm. It was £2 for the admission and a further £1 for a forty four page programme which doubled up for the forthcoming Saturday game against Tredegar Town. There is a 100 seated stand on the left hand side of the ground and a small overhang in front of the building that houses the changing rooms and clubhouse. Hot drinks were available from a room between the changing rooms and the bar.

At the start of play Newcastle had only won one of their opening four league games and find themselves in thirteenth place in the eighteen team division. Opponents Ammanford had obtained seven points from five games and occupied seventh place. The game kicked off seven minutes late but it took all of 45 seconds for Newcastle to open the scoring. A free kick was awarded for offside five yards inside their own half, from which the ball was headed across goal and volleyed into the net from their number 8. Ammanford then dominated the half in terms of possession and created the better chances but could not find a way through the home defence, which at times was at sixes and sevens. The game was played at a high pace throughout and did not let up at all during the game. The second half was a more even affair with both sides having chances but it was the visitors who got an equaliser with just four minutes remaining when the ball found ‘a player’ 10 yards out who made no mistake. The referee somehow found around seven or eight minutes of added time in a game that was not particularly dirty or nasty. From the point of view of a neutral spectator I would say both teams would be satisfied with a point and from an enjoyment angle I would rate the game 3* out of five.

And finally...I could not recommend a visit to Newcastle Emlyn highly enough. I was made to feel most welcome from the gateman to the former chairman. Whether it was to do with my middle England accent who knows? Top marks.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


Saturday 19th September 2009
Notts Senior League Senior Division
The Village Green

Today is another case of making the most of the warm weather to get up early and take in a game. My chosen destination is Nottingham and specifically the suburb of Attenborough which lies to the west of the city. The fixture of choice sees me take in another Notts Senior League game between Attenborough and defending champions Bilborough Pelican. The home side were founder members of the league when it was formed in 2004 with their best finish coming in the 2005/06 season when fourth place was achieved. Bilborough Pelican are currently in their third season in the league joining in 2007 after a spell in the Central Midlands League. Both teams were previous members of the now defunct Notts Alliance. The ground and facilities are shared with Attenborough Cricket Club with both pitches overlapping. For match days the club rope off the pitch though there is no hard standing and spectator cover and no admission is charged or programme issued. Behind the ground is Attenborough Nature Reserve which is a complex of flooded gravel pits and islands and covers 145 hectares. It provides an ideal habitat for birds, plants and other wildlife and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The drive up to Nottingham is as routine as it comes and would have took around 45 minutes to get there, but an accident between the East Midlands Airport exit and junction 24 caused a short delay and I arrived at the ground with about five minutes to kick-off.

At the start of play both teams were sitting in mid-table though with the hosts having played two games more. Pelican started the stronger of the two teams and nearly went in front after only a couple of minutes when the keeper produced a fine save from a shot from outside the box. It took only ten minutes for the first goal when Danny Blanchard scored with a shot on the turn from 12 yards or so to give the visitors a deserved lead. Two minutes later and it would have been two-nil only for the assistant to rule the goal out for offside. Attenborough got a lucky break on 22 minutes when Dave Constable equalised with the ball falling kindly to him following a long punt up field. Another excellent chance went begging one of the Pelican forwards put the ball wide when one on one with the keeper. The half ended with both teams cancelling each other out – Attenborough playing the long ball game and Pelican the short passing game. The second half saw the home side dominate the proceedings in terms of possession, chances and territory, but were hit with a sucker punch on 77 minutes when Sean Allen scored from close range to put them in front. Six minutes later and the game was effectively over when Liam Thompson made it 3-1.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Green Army

Sleaford Town 1-2 Matlock Town
Tuesday 15th September 2009
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round Replay
Eslaforde Park

Sleaford is a town of around 15,000 inhabitants in the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, some 14 miles north east of Grantham and 17 miles west of Boston. The name of Sleaford comes from the Old English “esla-forde” – meaning ford over a muddy stream. Why the ground is named as such becomes apparent.

Sleaford spent 35 years in the Lincolnshire League before joining the United Counties League in 2004. The club were champions of the Lincolnshire League on two occasions, the first coming in 1981 and the last in their final season in the league. In their second season in the United Counties League their won the division 1 title and finished runners-up the following season and promotion to the premier division. On the cup front Sleaford have won the Lincolnshire Senior ‘B’ Cup on six occasions, the last being in 2006 and the Lincolnshire Junior Cup once in 1969. The club up until 2004 played in the town which did not meet United Counties League grading requirements and spent three seasons at nearby RAF Cranwell. In 2007 they moved into the purpose built Eslaforde Park on the outskirts of town on the Boston Road. The main pitch is fully enclosed with a seated stand on the far side and a small section of covered standing behind the goal on the Boston Road side. One large single storey building houses the changing rooms, clubhouse, catering facilities and toilets. Behind the main pitch are a series of pitches that are home to the clubs junior teams.

The journey to Sleaford is around 50 miles each way and takes around 90 minutes from Leicester going through Melton Mowbray and Grantham. I got a list from a fellow grounhopper and parked my car at my workplace on the edge of Leicester, close to junction 21 of the M1 at 5pm and arrived back at 11.

Admission for tonight’s game was £4 with a further £1 for a programme and the club were rewarded with an attendance of over 400 for their biggest game in their history. The first game at Matlock, who currently play two divisions higher than Sleaford in the premier division of the Northern Premier League ended in a 1-1 draw, with Sleaford unlucky not to come away with the victory when, with four minutes remaining Tom Siddons lobbed goalkeeper Adam Sollitt only for the ball to rebound off the crossbar.

The first half was an even affair with Sleaford creating the early chances through a succession of corners, from which one chance was cleared off the line. Matlock got a foothold in the game and opened the scoring on 23 minutes when James Lukic was unmarked in the area and headed past keeper Andrew Scott. Sleaford’s equaliser came twelve minutes later against the run of play when Adam Sollitt fumbled the ball in the area from which Miles Hunter scored with a simple side footer into an empty net. Two minutes later and Sleaford were close to taking the lead when Ryan Hunter headed against the bar from a corner. Matlock scored the decisive second goal from the penalty spot on 55 minutes which was dispatched by Ross Hannah. This seemed to deflate the home side and they never really threatened the Matlock goal and in the end the visitors were deserved winners. A home time against Southern League Bury Town is up next for Matlock, while Sleaford will have to concentrate on the league and FA Vase.

This was a club that had been on my hit list for several seasons now and one in a league that I am close to completing. Four clubs and three grounds is all that I need to visit in the United Counties League – Boston Town, Eynesbury Rovers, Olney Town and Rushden & Higham United.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Nott again!

Saturday 5th September 2009
Notts Senior League Senior Division
Roko Health Club

Admission / programme: none
Attendance: 32 (h/c)

My original plan was to head to a game in the North Leicestershire League, but with games in this league kicking off at 2pm this makes this difficult due to working nights. Instead I decided to make the short trip to West Bridgford for another game in the Notts Senior League between Magdala Amateurs and league leaders Basford United. This was to be my third game in this league and fifth new ground visited in Nottinghamshire this season already.

This piece on the club is taken from

“There are two pitches at the Roko Sports Ground which, up until the 2005/06 season, were shared between Magdala & Notts Police. Until the Force vacated for pastures new, historic, yet little known about Magdala, would usually play on the left hand pitch, with Notts Police playing on the other slightly superior right hand pitch.
Playing second fiddle is something which isn't particularly new to Magdala. To anyone affiliated with Midland Amateur Alliance outfit Nottinghamshire Football Club, it would be easy to deride Magdala as having always played 'second fiddle' to them. Why? Well, go back a hundred odd years and this was indeed the case.
In 1895, Bishop Gwynne founded Notts Magdala Football Club. However, up until 1902 the Club did not play any competitive fixtures, only local friendlies. By which time, interest in the Club had grew to such an extent that a second XI was formed. Not content with life in the reserves, this group of players decided to break away to form a new club called Notts Magdala Amateurs, a title kept until 1906, when they became the Magdala Amateurs that still exist today.
Had they not broken away, The Amateurs could have soon found themselves being part of a Club which would play friendlies against such distinguished opposition as Corinthian Casuals (who at that time made up the majority of the England team) and Old Carthusians (who were beaten F.A. Cup finalists in 1881).
Still, the fact that Magdala Amateurs are on a higher rung of the football pyramid then Notts Magdala, now Nottinghamshire Football Club, perhaps provides some small comfort for this historic second XI.”

The ground is owned by the Roko Health Club and there are two pitches, the main one used my Magdala is fully railed off though there are no dugouts or hard standing. Catering facilities are available inside the health club through a Costa Coffee franchise.

Magdala have not had the best of starts to be fair having lost all of their opening four games while leaders Basford had won four and drawn one of their opening five encounters. One this basis you would expect a comfortable away win. As things turned out this could not have been further from the truth. It was a game of very few clear cut chances but was at times compelling due to the effort and work rate put in by Magdala and they did not allow Basford to play the passing game I saw them in their last fixture v Bulwell. The only goal of the game came on the fortieth minute through an Austin Wallace header, though the home side were somewhat aggrieved as it looked like there was a foul from the player that made the assist. The second was held up for twenty minutes when Basford forward John Manders suffered a broken leg and had to be taken to hospital. I did not have a good view of the incident being on the other side of the ground, but it looked like two Basford players and a Magdala player went for the ball with Manders coming off considerably worse. When play resumed it was a case off as you were with Basford looking to and unable to break down a spirited Magdala side, who played some pretty good football themselves in search of an equaliser.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

ABH - part 2

Monday 31st August 2009
Central Midlands League Supreme Division
The Summit Centre

Following on from the midday kick-off between Bulwell and Basford United I made the short drive north to Kirkby-in-Ashfield and specifically The Summit Centre, home of Kirkby Town Football Club for this 3pm kick-off against Blidworth Welfare. The Summit Centre is situated on Lowmoor Road in the town and took around 25 minutes to get there from Greenwich Avenue. Admission to the ground is £3 with a further £1 for a programme. Cover is in the form of a stand on the right hand side of the ground while a grass bank provides an elevated view on the other.

Kirkby Town were formed as Sutton Junction in 1998 playing in the Mansfield Sunday League, firstly changing their name to Walkers FC and then in 2005 to the present title which was also when they were offered use of the pitch at The Summit Centre. Kirkby entered a Saturday team for the first time last season when they were accepted into the Central Midlands League (CML) Premier Division and finished in a creditable 3rd place behind league champions Louth United and Westella & Willerby. Opponents Blidworth have been around much longer being formed in 1926 as Folk House Old Boys, changing their name in 1982 to their current title. Blidworth are currently in their second spell in the CML, rejoining in 1998 having spent the four previous seasons in the Northern Counties East League.

Overall a fair result on the balance of play with Blidworth scoring more goals today than in their previous four outings.

After the weekends results Kirkby found themselves in eighth place and had obtained seven points from their opening five games, while Blidworth had achieved a solitary win, scoring only one goal in the process and were in 15th place in the 19 team division. The game was disrupted in only the 3rd minute when, after a heavy but fair challenge a Kirkby player had to go to hospital for an apparent dislocated shoulder. The home side took the lead on 15 minutes through a Leroy Wilson finish. Three minutes later and Kirkby were awarded a penalty after the keeper shoved over their no.10 after originally making a fair challenge for the ball. The chance was not taken however as Jay Edwards had his shot saved by the keeper. It didn’t take long for the home side to go two in front when a free kick from Edwards was headed in by a Blidworth defender. The away side then got into the game more and had two excellent chances to get themselves on the score sheet, the first coming on 32 minutes when the ball was put over from a few yards out after a good cross from the left hand side, and the second coming on 40 minutes when they hit the post with a header. Blidworth did get a goal back on 59 minutes when the ball was headed home from a corner. Both sides had chances to add to the scoring only for the visitors to get a 90th minute equaliser which came about from a free kick given just inside Blidworth’s half.

ABH part 1

Greenwich Avenue
Monday 31st August 2009
Notts Senior League Senior Division

A rare chance for me to get to a game on a Bank Holiday, this being the first since Easter Monday 2008 when I saw two games in the Central Midlands League. One of my contracted nights at work is a Sunday but having done three previous bank holidays this year already I opted out of this one and took full advantage. An early kick off in the Notts Senior League (NSL) saw me make the 45 minute journey north on the M1, then the few miles towards Nottingham and specifically Greenwich Avenue which is home to both of these clubs with Basford being the landlords and Bulwell the tenants. When arriving at the ground I was surprised to find a programme had been issued for this game and cost £1 which included admission. The main pitch which is to the left of the entrance is part of a complex with at least three other pitches and is enclosed and fully railed off. A tea hut is located within the setup of the main pitch. I believe the only requirement that would be needed for Central Midlands League (CML) football is some hard standing, though on a today like today is was certainly not needed.

Bulwell, not to be confused with Bulwell Town of the CML were only formed in 2006 and played their first two seasons in the Notts Amateur Alliance (NAA), winning the Premier Division title two seasons running. A promotion to Division 1 of the NSL followed and another title league title followed as they won the division at the first attempt. Promoted was granted to the Senior Division but only after Basford United allowed them use of the main pitch at Greenwich Avenue as the other pitches did not meet the required standard of the Senior Division.
Basford United meanwhile are currently in their fourth campaign in the NSL having been invited to join the league in 2006 following Calverton MW’s promotion to the CML. Previously Basford were in the NAA and won the league championship in the 2005/06 season along with the Nottinghamshire Intermediate Cup. In their three campaigns to date they have finished 3rd, 5th and 3rd respectively.

At the start of play both sides had started the season in a positive fashion – Bulwell collecting six points from their opening four games while Basford were sitting at the top of the table unbeaten from their opening five games, and conceded only once. The game was a typical local derby with no quarter given or even expected and played at a good pace throughout with some good football from both sides played. It was the visitors who scored the opening goal on 13 minutes when Austin Wallace forced a save from home keeper Matt Singleton only for the ball to fall kindly to John Manders who tapped in from a couple of yards. Bulwell protested for an offside decision and it was their captain Jay Knight who protested too much and was sent off three minutes for foul and abusive language to one of the referee’s assistants. To be honest I didn’t even notice that Bulwell were down to ten men and only noticed it later on in the half. Bulwell were not fazed by the disadvantage and continued to give Basford a game of it. A crucial second goal for the visitors came on 34 minutes when following another shot from Wallace it was Manders again that was in the right place to tap home his second goal. Three minutes before half time and it was 3-0 when Manders proved he is more than a goal poacher when he drilled in a low powerful shot from a narrow angle on the right hand side which gave Matt Singleton no chance. The second half saw Basford guilty of missing numerous chances and Bulwell gave the game a much needed boost when Dave Warden struck home on 65 minutes. Ten minutes later and it could have been a one goal game only for an offside flag to disallow the goal. Basford had further chances to wrap up the game but could and did not take them.

Overall an enjoyable game in a league I am becoming to like a lot. The attendance was around the 70 mark which was boosted by a number of ground hoppers taking advantage of the early kick-off, which gave the chance to take in another game with a 3pm kick-off. I myself headed off to Kirkby Town in the Central Midlands League while others made their way towards Melton Mowbray and Sileby Town in the Leicestershire Senior League.