Sunday, 25 April 2010

1 county 2 leagues

Hopping around Shropshire - 24th April 2010

Game 1
Shropshire County League Division 1
Hodnet Social Club, Shrewsbury Street, Hodnet, Shropshire

This is the first game on this years Shropshire County League (SCL) hop and also the first game I have ever attended in this league. The SCL sits at level nine and ten of England's non-league pyramid and is a feeder league to the West Midlands (Regional) League.

FC Hodnet were only formed in 2007 and played their debut season in the Shropshire Alliance. They subsequently won the league and cup double and with it promotion to the SCL. Their debut season in the SCL saw them finish in a creditable fifth place in the twelve team division. This season they currently occupy 4th place, though fifteen points behind leaders Ketley Bank United and thirteen behind today's opponents Newport Town. Hodnet itself is a village in central Shropshire some 6 miles south west of Market Drayton and 15 miles north east of Shrewsbury.

The ground is part of the local sports centre in the village with the pitch being roped off though permanent dugouts are in place. The social club is adjacent to the pitch and the club were well organised to cope with around 100 extra visitors to their club. Inside they had a selection of hot and cold food available including bacon baps, soup and sandwiches. The game itself ended in a 1-1 draw which on the overall balance of play I thought was a fair result. Hodnet were deservedly in front at half time through a well taken goal from their best player Scott Holiday. It was in the 22nd minute when he picked the ball up on the half way line and went on a run and when reaching the penalty area drilled a low shot past the visiting keeper into the right hand corner of the goal. The second half was a more scrappy affair with neither side exerting any authority on the game, this until the last fifteen minutes when Newport upped their game and put some sustained pressure on the hosts. Their equaliser came on 87 minutes when a very generous penalty was awarded and allowed captain Hendley to give his side a deserved point.

Admission: £2.50
Programme: £1 - first ever issue I believe. Very impressive.
Attendance: 103 (head count)
Match rating: 2 out of 5

Google maps driving time and distance: 1 hour 40 minutes and 85 miles

Game 2
Cheshire League Division 2
Yocklings Park, Black Park Road, Whitchurch, Shropshire

This game is not part of the SCL hop but myself and travelling companion Gary decided on this one instead of the second SCL game at St Martins. Whitchurch were formed in 1946 and joined the Shrewsbury & District League, but just two years later they became founder members of the Mid-Cheshire League (MCL). They have remained in the league ever since with the MCL changing name to the Cheshire League in 2007. The club are the only one in the league based in Shropshire and became league champions for the one and only time in 1970. The club were the last English club to win the Welsh Amateur Cup in 1974 before English clubs were barred from entering the competition.

Whitchurch is a market town on the northern edge of Shropshire with a population in 2001 at 8.673. The town is at a crossroads with Cheshire some 21 miles to the north, Wrexham 16 miles to the north west, Crewe 15.5 miles to the north east and Shrewsbury 21 miles to the south.  

This season Whitchurch are struggling and currently find themselves in 13th place in the 16 team division, recording just 28 points from the 24 games played. They have lost their last two games 2-1 @ Crewe and 2-0 @ Tarporley Victoria respectively. Grappenhall sit in mid-table having obtained 41 points from their 28 games. Like Whitchurch they have also have lost their last two games, 5-0 @ Warrington Town Reserves and 3-1 @ Crewe.

The ground is located on the edge of the town and for the level they play at it is a cracking little venue. You enter in the corner of the ground and ahead of you is the small but smart social club and a seated stand which also houses the changing rooms. The first half was not the best with neither side being better than the other. The only goal of the half came on 39 minutes when an angled ball across the box was controlled by the visiting number 13 and then hit a low shot back across the keeper into the corner of the goal. Ten minutes or so into the second half and the visitors thought they had scored a second but it was disallowed by the referree. Just a minute later on 57 minutes and they did get their second when the scorer rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home. This seemed to wake the home side up and they had their best spell of the game and for around fifteen minutes they created some chances and looked like getting back into the game. Grappenall weathered the storm so to speak and clinched all three points with a third goal on 81 minutes with an angled shot into the top corner. This was without doubt the best game of the three, though to be honest it did not have a lot of competition.

Admission: £3
Programme: none
Attendance: 48 (head count)

Google maps driving time and distance (from Hodnet): 19 minutes and 10.4 miles 

Game 3
Shropshire County League Premier Division
Weston Road, Morda, Shropshire

Hopper Gatherers @ Morda

Our third game of the day sees us take in the third game on the SCL hop at Morda United. Morda is a village on the southern edge of Oswestry. The earliest records I have for the club are in 1988 when they joined the Mid-Wales League. They were crowned Mid-Wales League champions in 1991, while three years later they joined the West Midlands (Regional) League(WML). Ten years were spent in the WML before joining the Shropshire County League in 2004.

This season Morda are in the bottom half of the table winning only six of their 18 games played recording just 20 points. They drew their last league game 0-0 v Telford Juniors and were hammered 8-0 against today's opponents in the Commander Ethelston Charity Cup @ Whitwhurch Alport FC. Ellesmere themselves sit in sixth place with 23 points from their 14 games played. They have lost their last two games 4-2 @ St. Martins and 3-2 v Impact United (Leegomery)
Morda play on Weston Road on the edge of the village with the ground fully railed off with a seated stand on the far side. The game was a strange affair with Ellesmere (as expected) having the chances and forcing the home keeper to make some good saves early on. Their opening goal came on 16 minutes when Lee Ruscoe converted a penalty. A few minutes later and the game was held up after the home keeper dislocated his shoulder and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance. With Morda not having a substitute goalkeeper an outfield player went in goal and it took a while for the game to get going again. Ellesmere scored their second on 44 minutes, and like the first was from the penalty spot and scored by Ruscoe. To make matters worse for Morda their captain was sent off for conceding the penalty. The second half was a stale affair with Ellesmere knowing they had the game sown up and Morda not looking like they were capable of getting back into the game. The three final goals came in the space of just eight minutes on 70, 73 and 78 respectively. 
Admission: £2.50
Programme: £1 (poor effort)
Attendance: unsure but a decent turn out from the locals along with the groundhoppers
Match rating: 1.5 out of 5

Google maps driving time and distance (from Whitchurch): 42 minutes and 22 miles

FC Hodnet:
Whitchurch Alport:
Morda United: http://http//

Monday, 19 April 2010

Battling Banbury

Southern League Premier Division
Saturday 17th April 2010
Keys Park

My choice of game today was influenced by having a prior arrangement in Tamworth to collect a stack of old football books that had kindly been offered to me, on top of which I also arranged to meet a friend at Tamworth station around 12.15pm. I had a shortlist of three games with the others being Dosthill Colts and Shenstone Pathfinder. Said friend chose Hednesford and we made our way across Staffordshire towards Hednesford and also find somewhere to eat and drink. The Toby Carvery @ Norton Canes was our chosen establishment though both of us had soft drinks with myself due to driving. Arrival at the ground was around 2.15 and we were charged £1 for parking. Keys Park has a capacity of 3,500 and was opened in 1995. A main stand straddles the half way line and houses the club offices, changing rooms and bar. On the far side is a covered terrace that runs along the whole length of the pitch, while behind the near goal is a stretch of covered seating and behind the far goal is a covered terrace. A couple of steps of uncovered standing is located either side of the main stand.

Time-line history:
1880.....formed through amalgamation of West Hill and Hill Top
1890.....joined the Birmingham League
1892.....left the Birmingham League
1908.....left the Walsall & District League
         joined the Birmingham Combination
1909/10..Birmingham Combination champions suspended due to First World War Birmingham League
1935/36..Birmingham Senior Cup winners
1937/38..resigned during the season. as Hednesford F.C. suspended due to Second World War
         re-joined the Birmingham Combination
1952/53..Birmingham Combination runners-up Birmingham League
1962.....Birmingham League changed name to West Midlands (Regional) League
1969/70..Staffordshire County Senior Cup winners
1972.....changed name to Hednesford Town
1973/74..Staffordshire County Senior Cup winners
1977/78..West Midlands (Regional) League champions
1983/84..West Midlands (Regional) League runners-up
         promoted to the Southern League
1991/92..Southern League Midland Division runners-up
         promoted to the Premier Division
         Welsh Cup runners-up
1992.93..Staffordshire County Senior Cup runners-up
1993/94..Birmingham Senior Cup runners-up
1994/95..Southern League champions
         promoted to the Conference
1996/97..reached 4th round of FA Cup
2001.....relegated back to the Southern League
2003/04..FA Trophy winners
2005.....promoted to the Conference North via play-offs 
2006.....relegated to the Northern Premier League
2009.....transferred to the Southern League 

Hednesford went into the game with their sights firmly set on the play-offs while Banbury sit in mid-table and will either finish in 12 or 13th place. At the start of place the hosts occupied the last play-off spot and are in a three-way battle with Cambridge City and Halesowen Town with  final day shoot out looking likely as Hednesford travel to Cambridge.  

The match itself was an entertaining one with chances being created by both sides and in particular Hednesford's Darryl Hoffitt looking dangerous and it was he who had the first chance but he dragged his shot wide on seven minutes. Four minutes later and it was the visitors turn to threaten but a looping shot hit the bar. Chances continued to be created by both sides with the majority being off target. The second half pretty much continued in the same vein with chance after chances being wasted, the majority of which by home side, while as the half wore on Banbury seemed to settle for for a point and play on the counter attack. One of the best chances for Hednesford came on 48 minutes when after a long ball Hoffit laid the ball back only for it to be blasted over. The moment of controversy in the game came on 76 minutes when Hednesford were awarded a penalty after subsitute keeper Mark Scott brought down Tyrone Barnett. Scott was sent off and midfielder Declan Benjamin went in goal and subsequently saved Adam McGurk's penalty before the ball was scrambled clear. The controversy was the fact that from my point of view Barnett pulled back a Banbury defender before being fouled and (in my opinion) a free kick should have been awarded to the visitors. Hednesford continued to push forward looking for the winner and with just eight minutes remaining Elliott Durrell had an effort ruled out for offside.

Overall a disappointing result for Hednesford especially as they now have three away games (Rugby, Farnborough and Cambridge) to finish their league campaign and hopefully secure a play-off place. If only they could have found their shooting boots. For Banbury it was a case of how you were, which despite being not really having anything to play for made things difficult for the hosts and battled right to the end. For me as a neutral I never look forward to seeing a 0-0 but this was one the better ones I have seen and at times I was a very enjoyable game to watch.

Attendance: 508
Admission: £8
Programme: £2
Badge: £3.50
Coffee: 80p
Google maps driving time / distance: 1 hour 14 minutes and 44.2 miles


Saturday, 10 April 2010


Saturday 10th April 2010
Leicester & District League Premier Division
Co-op Sports Ground

My choice of game today is a top two clash in the top division of the Leicester & District League. The scenario is that anything but a win for Kingsway would allow Belgrave to put one hand on the title. A brief history of Belgrave Football Club is outlined below in a timeline format:


1987...formed as "Last Straw 87 FC"
       joined the Leicester & District Sunday League Division 2
1988...started a Saturday side and joined the Mutual League Division 2
1990...promoted to division 1 of the Leicester & District Sunday League
1991...Saturday side switched to the Leicester City League Division 3
       stopped playing Sunday football
1992...Leicester City League Division 3 winners. Promotion to division 1
1995...Leicester City League Division 1 runners-up. Promotion to Premier Division
       League Cup runners-up
1996...changed name to Belgrave WMC
1997...Leicester City League Champions, Steve Jones Cup Winners
       League Cup runners-up
1998...Leicester City League runners-up, Steve Jones Cup runners-up
1999...Leicester City League runners-up
       transferred to the Leicester & District League Division 1
2000...Leicester & District League Division 1 Winners.
       Promotion to the Premier Division
       Leicestershire Saturday Shield Winners
       Changed name to Belgrave Jungle
2001...Leicester & District League runners-up
2003...changed name to Belgrave Blackbird
2006...changed name to Belgrave
2009...Leicester & District League runners-up

Belgrave currently play at the Co-op Sports Ground in Birstall on the outskirts of Leicester. The ground was home to former Leicestershire Senior League side Fosse Imps and is also home to Birstall Watermead Tennis Club and St. Margarets Co-op Bowls Club. There are two full size football pitches on the site, both of which are railed off and have dugouts. The one Belgrave use is the one furthest way close to Watermead Way.

Basic Directions
If coming from the A46 Western Bypass take the A6 exit towards Leicester, cross the set of lights in Birstall and you come to Redhill Island. Take you first exit onto Birstall Road and the ground is on the right hand side after half a mile or so.

With much at stake both sides started the game nervously and it was the visitors who had the first chance but Marc Aston shot into the side netting. Belgrave had a few half chances but it was again Kingsway who came close when their keeper made a good save with his feet. As the half wore on Belgrave started to take control and it was no surprise when they took the lead. A ball across from the left was hit first time back across the keeper by Dave Coleman on 33 minutes. The crucial second goal came on 55 minutes when Neil Ball having been put clean through slotted the ball past the Kingsway keeper. Just six minutes later and it was game over when following a mistake in the visiting defence Dave Coleman went through unapposed and put the ball past a stationary keeper. The remainder of the game saw the home side try and hit Kingsway on the counter attack but in the end neither side added to the score and Belgrave ran out comfortable winners.

Now they just need four points from their remaining three games to secure the title on the basis that Kingsway win their remaining four games. Such is a vastly superior goal difference that realistically just three points will be required.

Admission / programme: none
Attendance: around 30
Google maps driving time / distance: 15 minutes and 5.3 miles



Saturday, 3 April 2010

Lye Town

Saturday 3rd April 2010
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
Sports Ground, Stourbridge Road

This was one day in which I could not decide where to go so in the end I decided to head west. I had been looking at the fixtures in the Non-League Paper and online but found I had too much choice!!! Armed with a choice of six possible fixtures in the West Midlands and phone numbers for relevant clubs I set off down the M69, then along the M6 to the Corley services near Coventry. Call one was to Tividale - game off, call two to Wolverhampton United - no answer, call three to Lye Town - game definately on. Decision made and I made my way along the M6 and down the M5 before cutting across to Lye and arrived at the ground with around twenty minutes to kick-off. One note of caution is that parking is tight at the ground, though luckily I managed to get a space. 

The ground is located on Stourbridge Road and is an interesting affair. They share the land with the cricket club but have their own clubhouse etc. You enter the ground in the corner paying £3.50 for admission and a further £1 for a programme. Behind the near goal is a interesting structure with what can be described as a barrelled arched roof siting on 14 posts (see picture) and the "main stand" along the far touchline which comprises a mix of bench seating and standing areas. On the right hand side of the stand is where a small snack bar is located selling hot food and drinks.

The following history on the club is taken from their website: 

"Lye Town Football Club play in the West Midlands Regional Premier League. They are one of the longest established clubs in the West Midlands region.

Founded in 1930 they quickly found favour with the local cricket club and were allowed the southern half of the Sports Ground on Stourbridge Road to set-up their goalposts. The following year Lye Town joined the Worcester Combination and remained there for 8 years until the outbreak of the war.

On the re-start of football in 1946 following the war, Lye Town joined the Central Amateur League for one season before moving to the Birmingham + District League in 1947/48. The league changed its name in 1962 to its present name West Midlands Regional League, and Lye Town F.C has been in the top flight of the league since joining.

From 1976-1981, Lye Town were runners-up in four out of five seasons, twice on goal average. The League Cup was won in 1975/76 beating Dudley Town 1-0 in the final. Lye Town have also been finalists on 5 other occasions. The team have enjoyed good exploits in the F.A Trophy and more recently in the F.A Vase, and were finalists in the Worcestershire Senior Urn in 2003.

In 1997/98 season, Lye Town achieved their only Championship as well as League Cup finalists. However, they were refused promotion to the Alliance, supposedly due to not meeting ground regulations. Runners-up Stourport Swifts were promoted in their place.

Following severe financial difficulties in the early 2000's Lye Town have shown stability over the past few seasons. On the pitch a regular mid-table position has been achieved in recent seasons.

It is the aim of Lye Town Football Club to develop home grown players through their Youth Team. This aim has recently been strengthened by links with Oldswinford Youth F.C." 

At the start of play today Lye find themselves in the bottom three of the twenty-one team division, recording eight wins from their thirty three games played. The three previous games, all of which were away from home have resulted in a win (4-0 v Dudley Sports), a draw (3-3 v Wellington) and a defeat (4-2 v Bewdley Town). Opponents Ledbury Town sit in eighth place with sixteen wins from their thirty five games played. Their last encounter was a 4-1 home win against Wolverhampton Casuals last Saturday.

The game itself...

Ledbury go out of the blocks quickest and were nearly a goal up inside two minutes only for a Ledbury player to miss a sitting following a mistake in the home defence. A minute later and they did score with a low shot from 12 yards out past home keeper Andrew Barfoot. Chances were created by both sides but neither had the composure in front of goal and the half ended 0-1. Ledbury doubled their lead on 57 minutes when a free kick on the left was accidently flicked on by a home defender which allowed the ball to be volleyed home from four or five yards out. With Ledbury seemingly in control Lye got a goal back on seventy five minutes through Andrew Taylor. He picked the ball up in the middle of the pitch and went on a run past several Ledbury players before slotting the ball past the visiting keeper. This set up a tense finish but alas the home side could not find an equaliser.

Google maps driving time / distance: 1 hour 15 minutes and 60.3 miles
Attendance: around 60-70
Match rating: 2 out of 5 though the pitch made things difficult and made an impact on the game


West Midlands (Regional) League - full time:


With only five Premier Division games going ahead both teams remain the same positions they occupied at the start of play.