Monday, 20 March 2017

Fisher Trawl Themselves From The Depths - Fisher vs. Lordswood

Standard hopper photo at St Paul's Sportsground
Last weekend I needed to be back in Central London sharpish  and so I needed a ground not too far from town. Luckily for me Fisher have moved into their new ground in Roterhithe at the start of this season and with them being at home in a relegation six pointer against Lordswood, this was the perfect opportunity to visit. Fisher were bottom of The Southern Counties East League (Kent League) with Lordswood two places and four points ahead of them. I'd seen both of these sides play before, both in cup competitions. I saw Fisher a long time ago in a London Senior Cup game at Clapton in my early days in London. I saw Lordswood in a destructive mood at Mile Oak in The FA Vase in more recent times. The reverse fixture in September saw a 4-1 win for Lordswood and Fisher were desperate to avoid a repeat today.

Kick off at The St Paul's Sportsground
There are chances galore at the start of the game. The first falls to Lordswood when a free kick into the area isn't dealt with and the Fisher keeper has to make a great reflex save from a half volley at the back post. Then the Lordswood defense also fails to deal with a set piece and their keeper makes a save from a shot from close range. Fisher come closer as a free kick results in a scramble in the box and the Lordswood keeper only just (if at all!) keeps the ball out. The Fisher keeper soon has to make another decent reaction save, this time from a powerful header from close range. It is Fisher who finally make the most of the many chances. The forward is played in on goal and when his initial effort hits the post, his team mate is there to power in the rebound. The Lordswood players are unhappy that a foul isn't given in the build up with the captain in particular very upset. Fisher have a couple of half chances before doubling their lead just before the break. The Fisher fullback picks up the ball deep inside his own half before embarking on a lung busting run into the Lordswood box where he is upended, winning a penalty in the process. This further upsets the Lordswood captain who is sent off for his protests. The penalty is dispatched as Fisher go in two nil up.

The Lordswood keeper punches away under pressure
Fisher should probably make it three when the left winger powers to edge of the six yard box and when he squares the ball the Lordswood defender is able to hack the ball over his own bar. This sparks Lordswood into life, prompting them to create a number of decent chances to get back into the game. Firstly, the Fisher keeper has to claim a well struck long range effort at the second attempt when he doesn't fully gather the first shot. Then the visitors put together a great passing move which ends with the forward being found in space in front of the goal but he puts the ball well over the bar. They continue to create a lot of chances which none fail to seriously trouble the home goalie and this leaves them open at the back. Fisher are able to break and they have the numbers on a least two occasions but the final touch is lacking. There are no further goals and Fisher claim a vital three points.

The Fisher defense copes with first half Lordswood pressure
 It only takes about half an hour to get to The St Paul's Sportsground from Central London. You can either get The Overground to Rotherhithe or The Jubilee Line to Canada Water with both being around a fifteen minute walk away. I only had the time to check out one pub which was The Brunel which did the job. Then from here I walked along the river to the ground which was better than the inland route. The bar at the ground had nothing on tap but had a great selection of cans from The Fourpure Brewery as as well as more conventional lagers. They haven't been there long but Fisher have made a great home for themselves.

View along the touchline towards The Shard

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Fog Fails To Prevent Thriller - Rottingdean Village vs. Alfold

Elevated view at The Rottingdean Sports Center
The weather was kind again this week (although it tried it's best to ruin things at the last minute) so I was able to plan a trip to a ground I have had in mind for long time. I've always enjoyed my trips to coastal grounds such as Newhaven, Saltdean and Mile Oak and so Rottingdean Village really appealed. Looking into the place itself it seemed a really great place to visit in general. Rottingdean play in division two of The Sussex County League and their opponents today were Alfold who were in their second season at this level. The two sides were only two places apart at kick off although Rottingdean were eight points ahead of their opponents. The home side were looking to complete the double over Alfold after winning 5-0 at The Recreation Ground in mid February.

Kick off in the fog that nearly derailed things
After ten minutes or so, Alfold win the ball in the midfield and the attacker is played in on goal. Unfortunately his lobbed effort goes well over the bar. Rottingdean first put pressure on the Alfold goal with a free kick from out wide that the Alfold keeper does well to punch away. Then from the resulting corner, the Rottingdean player is left all alone on the edge of the area and his half volley finds the back of the net. Alfold now try for the equalizer from a free kick in a decent position which goes just over the bar. They do however equalize shortly afterwards. The Rottingdean full back loses the ball and from the resulting cross the man at the back post is able to slot home to level things up. Both sides have half chances in the closing stages before Rottingdean regain the lead just before half time.

The Alfold free kick goes just over the bar
Alfold have an early chance to level but the Rottingdean keeper is equal to the half volley attempt. It is the home side however who score next. A corner from the left goes in off the Rottingdean midfielder to extend their lead. This sparks Alfold to life and it doesn't take too long for them to get back into the game. After a Rottingdean move breaks down, they quickly get down the other of the pitch and the attacker is in the right place to meet the pullback from the byline to get them back to within one goal. The game is now really open and Alfold are unlucky to see a free kick touched just wide. Then Rottingdean should really seal the points as a free header from a cross is put over the bar. It is another break away goal that settles the contest. Rottingdean win the ball back in the middle of the park and the man is found at the back post before he lashes the ball home. Alfold are reduced to ten men in the closing for something that wasn't clear from the side lines to end an entertaining encounter.

Panic in the Alfold box in the first half
To get to Rottingdean is fairly straight forward. You have to catch a train to Brighton from Victoria which takes around an hour. Then you can take one of the numerous buses that travel along the coast to Rottingdean. I took the 12X on the way out and the number 2 right back to the station afterwards. This part of the trip takes no more than quarter of an hour. I was looking forward to seeing Rottingdean but the thick fog which was present when I arrived ruined that but I still went down the sea front. Right next to the sea front is The Coach Horse which had a couple of Sussex beers on offer as well as some of the best music for a pub I've come across. Then a bit further towards the ground is The Olde Black Horse which is very much a gastropub but did have a wide selection of beers. The clubhouse at the ground was very friendly and had the usual drinks. There was also the sports channels and the burgers were among the best tried this season. Then before my bus I popped into the excellent The Queen Victoria  where I tried the Pale Ale from the Sussex based Gun Brewery. An excellent day all round despite the early heavy fog.

Wing play shot showing the rural nature of the ground

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Marine Score Super Winning Goal - Swindon Supermarine vs. Bridgwater Town

Cloud emitting dome at The Webbs Wood Stadium
This weekend I knew I was heading west I just didn't know where. It was one of Swindon Supermarine, Larkhall Athletic and if both of those were off I'd go to Bristol to see Roman Glass St George on the Gloucstershire FA's plastic pitch. News of Supermarine's pitch passing the early morning inspection came through at Paddington and so I set off to Wiltshire. I'd been through Swindon numerous times on my way to other places and so it was good to actually get off there and explore a bit. They were hosting Brigwater Town in The South And West Division of The Southern League and the visitors were rooted to the bottom of the table, fourteen points from safety. Swindon were looking good for the play offs but they lost their three league games in February and so were a bit back from the play off spots. The reverse fixture in Somerset ended in a 5-0 win for Swindon.

Kick off at The Webbs Wood Stadium
The Supermarine forward tries to make his mark on the game early on as he powers through the Bridgwater defense but he powers his effort well over the bar. Then a looping Supermarine cross hits the top of the bar with Bridgwater riding their luck early on. There is nothing lucky however about their opening goal. The attacker picks up the ball before hammering a dipping shot from distance past the Supermarine keeper. Bridgwater push on to try and extend their lead and the Supermarine keeper does well to punch away a swinging cross from under his cross bar. The lead doesn't last long however. A cross is delivered from the Supermarine right from which the Bridgwater keeper makes a fantastic close range save only for the rebound to hit the Supermarine forward and go into the net. In the closing stages of the half, a cut back finds the Supermarine man in the box but he doesn't get enough purchase on the shot.

Build up to a first half Supermarine attack
The rain begins to fall at the start of the half but this doesn't stop the two sides trying to play football. Supermarine have a lot of the ball without seriously troubling the keeper. The first clear cut chance of the half comes when a driven Supermarine cross is flicked on at the near post which forces the Bridgwater goalie into another save this time at his near post. When Supermarine do take the lead it takes a couple of efforts to score the second goal. A free kick from wide finds the man in the area and his first effort is saved by the goalie, the second hits the far post and then the third is forced home from close range to give the home side the lead for the first time. Bridgwater seem a little deflated and their next chance is a cross into the area which is headed away at the back post. Supermarine seal the win with a great goal. The winger is played in out wide before he delivers a brilliant ball which is volleyed in from close range to seal the points.

Supermarine attack the dome end in the second half
Trains to Swindon regularly depart from Paddington taking just over an hour. In all honesty I didn't see too much in Swindon but there was a couple of decent pubs. If you fancy ales then The Glue Pot had a lot on from The Hop Back Brewery as a couple of guest ales and is a great pub. If you want to watch the early kick off then The Queens Tap opposite the station does the job. The number seven bus from the bus station takes you very close to the ground. This part of the journey takes just under ten minutes. The clubhouse had a lot of good beers including one from the local Arkells Brewery the hot dogs were awesome too. 

Wing play in front of the stands

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

First Half Borough Blitz - Ampthill Town vs. Hillingdon Borough

Stand through the fence - I did of course actually pay to watch the game!
So after weeks and weeks of having match choices influenced by weather, engineering works on the trains further complicated things. I had thought about games at Little Common and New Milton but the dreaded rail replacement buses put paid to those ideas. Instead I stuck with original choice of Ampthill Town versus Hillingdon Borough in Division One of the Spartan South Midlands League. Both sides were in mid table although Hillingdon were nine points ahead of Ampthill. I visited Hillingdon Borough for a game against Chatham in my very early days of ground hopping when they were still in the Ryman League. This game may not have happened as Hillingdon did resign from the league only to be saved by former player Yannick Bolasie.

View of kick off from the stand
Hillingdon start off on the front foot. The best of the early chances come when the forward is able to round the keeper but the ball gets stuck in the pitch and his eventual shot is blocked by a defender. Then a header goes just over the bar from the resulting corner kick. Hillingdon take the lead in fortuitous circumstances when a shot is deflected past the keeper. They double their lead as the attacker is able to get to the byline and his pull back is lashed in from around the penalty spot. Borough go further ahead thanks to the forward being played in and he slots the ball home. Ampthill have a chance to get back into the game but the shot is dragged wide of the target. On my walk to the clubhouse I hear cheers and turn around to see the Hillingdon players celebrating their fourth goal.

One nil Hillingdon
Ampthill have a decent chance to get back into the game when a great ball is played but unfortunately for the home side, two players run into each other and the chance goes begging. Then Hillingdon have a chance to further their advantage which is wasted as a free header from close range is headed wide. Then Ampthill are able to get to the byline themselves but again, this shot is dragged wide. In the closing stages, Ampthill get the fifth goal to seal the victory.

Hillingdon deal with an Ampthill attack
It is fairly easy to get to Ampthill from London. You have to catch a train from St Pancras to Flitwick which takes less than an hour. Then from here you can catch the 42 bus to the town center. There are two 42 buses run by different companies but they both get you to Ampthill. Ampthill is a pleasant market town with a good selection of pubs. Right in the town center is The White Hart which offers beers from the local Ampthill Brewhouse. A little bit out of the town center is Albion which had an extensive selection of beers and I tried The Man Up from The Manning Brewers. Then on the walk to the ground is The Queens Head which is very homely. Ampthill Park is currently undergoing a major refit and only the main stand was open and the clubhouse was going through a refit. Refreshments are available in the cricket clubhouse overlooking the ground. I will absolutely revisit once all of the works are completed.

Front on view of the stand


Monday, 20 February 2017

Creeksiders Cam Away With Three Points - Fareham Town vs. Whitchurch United

Sunny afternoon at Cam Alders
It almost feels like spring is here as I was able to chose a game the preceding Sunday and not have to worry about the weather and end up not needing a coat on match day. This of course changes this week which a forecast of heavy rain in the middle of the week but it was good while it lasted. The game I had chosen was The Wessex League Premier Division match up between Fareham Town and Whitchurch United. This was an important match as both sides needed points to pull away from the relegation zone. I visited Whitchurch's Longmeadow Sports Club a couple of seasons ago for another Wessex League match with Brockenhurst and they achieved a three nil win on that occasion. Fareham won the reverse fixture two one back in September.

Kick off under clear blue skies
Whitchurch come close in the early stages but the attacker can't get enough on a recycled ball after the initial cross is cleared. Then from a corner shortly afterwards, the ball is headed over the bar. Fareham then have a couple of chances of their own, the first of which the Whitchurch goalie makes a great save (a recurring theme as the game goes on) with his feet from a close range effort. Then he has to tip a dipping shot over the bar after the winger is allowed to cut inside. Whitchurch are able to get in out wide but the eventual effort is lashed well wide of the target. Fareham have a double chance in the closing stages of the first half. A free kick on the edge of the box is blocked by the wall before the keeper makes a great low save from the follow up effort.

Fareham winger takes on the Whitchurch defense
Whitchurch almost gift Fareham the opener at the start of the second half. The Whitchurch defender misjudges his header back to the keeper but he is alert enough to get the ball first. The Whitchurch keeper then makes another brilliant stop after the ball is headed back in the six yard box and then comes the key moment of the match. When the ball is played back in, the forward is brought down and the referee points to the spot. The penalty is buried to put Fareham one up. Fareham now go for the kill and the Whitchurch keeper comes to the rescue again to make another save with his feet. Fareham have further chances to make the game safe but the game ends one nil. 

View from the back of the stand
To get to Fareham from London, you can take a direct train from Waterloo and you'll get there in around an hour and forty minutes. If you can navigate the roadworks outside the station, the walk to the ground takes only ten minutes. The town center is in the opposite direction to the ground. My favorite pub in the town center was The Golden Lion which had a good selection of beers as well as a couple of Fullers Ales. The Ironmaster also had a decent selection of drinks. Then half way to the ground next to the scenic waterside is The Castle In The Air which is a good half way spot. The bar at the ground doubles up as a nightclub but did have a reasonable choice of larger. The burgers are also absolutely worth trying out. I really liked the ground and as you can see, the view from the stand is pretty impressive.

View down the dugout side of the ground

Monday, 13 February 2017

Blues Win Mid Table Battle - Selsey vs. Southwick

Match details
My first choice fixture of the previous weekend was the top of the table clash in The Hellenic League West between Hook Norton and Fairford Town but when I saw the forecast temperatures coupled with how difficult it would've been to get to another game, I went for another option. Of course, my original choice beat the weather anyway. Whenever a lot of games fall foul to the weather, Selsey always seems to manage to beat the conditions and their regularly updated Twitter provided me with the assurance I needed. Their opponents in The Sussex League Division One match were Southwick. Having past Southwick's Old Barn Way ground several times while traveling on the West Coastway Line, I have been meaning to visit for a little while. The two sides were next to each other in the table, level on points but Southwick had played four more games then today's hosts. Selsey won the reverse fixture four two back in November.

Kick off at The Bunn Leisure Stadium
Southwick get into a crossing position early on which unfortunately lands in the grateful arms of the Selsey keeper. The Selsey forward is then played in on goal but he passes the ball wide of the target. Towards the end of the half, the Southwick keeper has to be alert to punch away a dangerous cross.

The Southwick keeper comes to claim a Selsey cross
Into the second half and the visitors have a lucky escape when a cross is heavily deflected and goes wide of the target. Selsey then come even closer as a free kick is headed onto his own bar by a Southwick defender and then goes out of play. The hosts do take a deserved lead when a corner is headed home from close range. In the later stages of the game, Selsey are then gifted the second goal. The Southwick keeper is unfortunate in letting a weak shot go straight through him and into the net.

A first half Selsey attack with the clubhouse in the background
It does take a little while to get to Selsey from London, but it is worth the effort. Firstly you have to take a train to Chichester from Victoria which takes an hour and forty minutes. Then from the bus station you can catch the 51 bus which takes around twenty minutes to get to Selsey and there are four buses an hour. I got off a little earlier then I intended to have a walk on the sea wall past the seafood stalls and the lifeboat station. Just behind the station is The Lifeboat which is good for a post beach walk drink. Then on the High Street, The Seal had the best selection of beers while The Crown was good for the early kick off. The ground is then just off the High Street, through the Co-Op car park (which took me a short while to work out). The clubhouse was friendly and had the usual selection of drinks as well as the sports channels. I really enjoyed my trip to Selsey and as I said it's worth taking the time to visit.

Another view of the stand

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

10 Men Romp To Victory - Stonehouse Town vs. Hardwicke

Glorious day in Gloucestershire
I'd had my eye on Stonehouse Town all week but the weather forecast had forced me to consider Steyning and their plastic pitch. However, a combination of the weather being a lot drier than predicted and communication with the club on Twitter, I was able to set off for Stonehouse, knowing that the game was going ahead. I had really enjoyed my trip to Gloucestershire earlier in the season to see Brimscombe and Thrupp and so I was looking forward to this trip. Stonehouse play in The Gloucestershire County League and while I'd seen games at this level in The Sussex and Central Midlands Leagues, this was my first game in this league. Their opponents were Hardwicke who were fifth from bottom at the start of play but had games in hand on the teams around them. Stonehouse were in second place and there were only four points separating the top four teams.

Kick Off At Oldends Lane
Hardwicke have an early sniff of goal when the Stonehouse midfielder is robbed of the ball but the move eventually breaks down. Stonehouse come close with a glancing header from a curling cross which goes just wide of the post. They come close again as a neat flick gets the forward in on goal and the Hardwicke keeper has to be quick off the mark to get to the ball first. Hardwicke then almost gift Stonehouse the lead when the keeper loses the ball at a corner but his mistake goes unpunished. The home side do however take the lead following a ball back into the box after a corner isn't fully cleared and the attacker makes no mistake from close range. Hardwicke come close to fashioning an equalizer but the centre back just there first. In the closing stages of the first period, Stonehouse double their lead. A quick break from a Hardwicke corner ends in the forward being played in on goal and he make it two nil. 

Hardwicke defend a first half corner
Hardwicke create a couple of chances at the start of the second half but none of them seriously trouble the Stonehouse keeper. They are then given a big boost when a Stonehouse player is sent off for presumably for something he said as the foul was barely a free kick in the first place. The visitors take immediate advantage as a pile driver of a free kick hits the post and the rebound is put in from close range. That would unfortunately be as good as it would get for Hardwicke. Stonehouse restore their two goal advantage as a driven corner kick finds the man in space who forces the ball into the net. Hardwicke have a chance which is lashed just wide before Stonehouse add two late goals. Firstly when a Hardwicke move breaks down, the forward gets in on goal before dispatching the ball past the goalie. The final goal of the afternoon comes as the winger cuts inside and places a low shot just inside the near post. 

A Hardwicke corner in the first half
To get to Stonehouse from London you first have to take a train to Swindon and from there you can get a train to Stonehouse. The whole journey takes an hour and forty minutes. The first pub I visited was The Woolpack Inn which had a couple of ales on as well as serving great looking food. Then half way to the ground is The Globe Inn which had a good choice of beers as well as the sports channels. The Magpies Sports Club at the ground also had the usual selection of beers as well as the football on a projector screen. I cannot speak highly enough of the welcome at the ground. As I mentioned earlier, it was through the  responsive Twitter account that I traveled in confidence that the game was going ahead and people were keen to ask where I'd come from for the game. A brilliant set up and great afternoon all round.

Another view of the stand