Monday, 11 December 2017

Dockers Downed By Second Half Goals - Crawley Down Gatwick vs. Newhaven

Frosty Haven Centre
Owing to an mid morning appointment, I was planning on seeing a game within the M25 this weekend, but thanks to the excellent staff at St George's I was out in record time which allowed me to save Glebe for another time when I couldn't go too far. Heading south seemed to be the best option, I was heading to Ringmer with Lewes as a backup but I saw on Twitter that Crawley Down Gatiwck's match with Newhaven had been given the go ahead and changed course. I was adamant I'd seen Crawley Down Gatwick numerous times but the only time it appears I've seen them was during their Ryman League days at Folkestone. I'd visited Newhaven's fascinating Fort Road ground for an FA Vase tie with Littlehampton quite a few years which I think they lost in extra time. Both sides were level on points in the first division of The Sussex County League before kick off.

Kick off in front at The Haven Centre
Crawley Down are careless in possession in the opening stages but Newhaven are unable to punish them when they are gifted the ball on the half way line.Midway through the half, Newhaven believe they should be awarded at least one penalty. The second call comes when a Crawley Down defender and his keeper converge on the Newhaven forward following a ball forward, the referee is unmoved however. Crawley Down's best effort of the half comes with a shot from distance which goes just wide. In the closing stages Newhaven come very close as a driven cross is deflected just wide.

Crawley Down cross the ball in during the first half
After having most of the chances in the first half, Newhaven fall behind to a stunner at the start of the second half. A free kick from some distance bends away from the keeper and in to the net. Newhaven then have a great chance to equalize as the forward gets to the byline before an effort is cleared off the line. Crawley Down then repeat the trick at the other end, this time the Newhaven keeper makes a fantastic save. Crawley Down double their lead as the attacker is able to out muscle the defender and calmly slots the ball past the keeper. Newhaven still continue to attack as they get themselves in but the Crawley keeper saves with his feet with the ball eventually hitting the post.

One nil Crawley Down
My route to Crawley Down took me first to Three Bridges which can be reached from either Victoria or London Bridge taking around forty five minutes. Then from opposite the station you can take the 281 or 291 for the fifteen minute trip to Crawley Down. As far as I could tell, there are no pubs in Crawley Down itself. I got off the bus early at The Dukes Head which like the first few pubs in Warwick, looks very gastroey, but does have a wide selection of good beer. The Haven Centre is then a twenty minute walk away. The bar at The Haven Centre had the usual selection of drinks and seems to be the centre of the village. Big credit has to go the club for keeping the social media channels updated and for producing an excellent programme.  

Side on view of the stand

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

RCW's Race Is Run - Racing Club Warwick vs. Wisbech Town

Tree lined Townsend Meadow
After the entertainment of my impromptu FA Vase match at Sholing, I was keen to see a game in this round. I'd had half an eye on Racing Club Warwick for a while and this round of The Vase provided the perfect opportunity for a visit. They were playing Wisbech Town of The United Counites Premier Division who I saw in a thrilling FA Cup tie with Spalding United earlier in the season. There is a level between the two sides (Warwick play in Division One of The Midlands League) but both went in to the game in blistering form. Warwick had won their last eight games. In the first round of the competition, Wisbech beat run away Eastern Counites League leaders Flexistowe and Walton four nil.

Kick off in the third round of The Vase
The game has a cracking start with both sides coming very close to the opener. Firstly a poor Warwick back puts the home goal in serious danger but the defence recovers to scramble the ball away. Straight after this, Warwick pile up the other end but the free head is put wide of the target. The next chance comes as Wisbech are played in on goal with the eventual shot lashed against the post. The visitors get in on goal again, this time the forward is able to dink the ball past keeper whose defence comes to the rescue, clearing the ball off the line.

An early Wisbech chance in front of the clubhouse
Warwick have a free kick in a decent position at the start of the half which goes just wide. Then comes one of the games defining moments. On first viewing it looks like the Warwick attacker out muscles the Wisbech defender to get in on goal but the referee deems this to be a foul. After a couple of half chances Wisbech take the lead. After being played in, the forward goes past the keeper before squaring the ball allowing his team mate to tap the ball home. Warwick are then reduced to ten men. I'm a distance from the incident but it seems to be for an off the ball incident. In the closing moments, Wisbech double their lead to secure their deserved passage into the next round.

Warwick stand up to a Wisbech attack
There are direct trains to London from Marylebone that take around an hour and a half but these are only one an hour. The alternative is take a train to Leamington from the same station and change there for a connecting service. Warwick is a gorgeous place to explore pre match with a great mixture of buildings. There is the castle but it is pretty expensive to get in and the free museum in the market hall is the cheaper option. Pubwise, also on the market place is The Rose and Crown along with The Titled Wig that both appear a bit 'gastroey' but both have an excellent selection of beers. Then half way to the ground is the excellent Old Post Office which had five ales on and could be pub of the season. The clubhouse at the ground also has a couple of very good things going for it. First there is The Pilsner from sponsors Church Farm Brewery then there are the incredible samosas. The walk back to the station takes under half an hour and it is highly recommended to stop off at The Warwick Real Ale to get stocked up for the train home.

Side on view of the seated accommodation

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Wickers Build On First Win - Southwick vs. Lingfield

Sunset at Old Barn Way with Shoreham Power Station in the background
On numerous trips to Worthing, Littlehampton and Angmering over the years I'd seen a lot of Southwick's Old Barn Way from the train and I had been meaning to visit for a long time. I finally made last weekend for a Sussex County League game with Lingfield. Lingfield always seen to be full of goals and on the only other occasion when I saw them play in The Vase against Epsom and Ewell, they won 5-1 and there had been fourteen goals in their last two games. Southwick gained their first win of the season last weekend against Ringmer and were looking to push on. Lingfield were having a better season and they were fourth at the start of play.

Kick with the clubhouse in the background
Lingfield as expected, kicking down the slope, start quickly and the Southwick defence has to be switched on straight away to block a couple of chances. It is Southwick who should score first though. They get in behind the Lingfield defence but when the ball is squared, it is subsequently lashed over the bar. They don't have to wait long to get the first goal as a corner is powerfully headed home from close range. The lead doesn't last however. Lingfield go straight down the other end and the winger cuts inside before placing a low shot past the keeper. Just before half time Lingfield almost complete the turn around as a header from a looping cross hits the bar.

Southwick go one up
The second half takes a little while to get going with both sides not really creating much. The first chance of the half sees the home side retake the lead. It's another header, this time from a free kick to make it two one. The game now begins to open up and the Lingfield attacker should do better when found in space at the back post. From another broken down Lingfield attack, the hosts break out but the eventual chance is wasted. Lingfield are cranking up the pressure and their next chance from a corner is blocked on the line. They do get a second equalizer when the attacker powers through the home defence before hammering a shot past the goalie. Southwick have a brilliant chance to win it toward the end as the forward gets into a good position but he unfortunately puts it high and wide.

Moments before the first Lingfield equalizer
To get to Southwick from London you first have to catch a train to Brighton from Victoria and change there for a train to Southwick. If the line is actually running to time (which it won't) then the trip should take an hour and a quarter. After the disappointing pubs last week, Southwick produced a couple of great drinking spots. In the shadow of the aforementioned power station there is Pebbles On The Port and The Schooner Inn both of which offer ales and views of the harbor. On the walk to the ground is the homely Ship Inn which had a broad selection of drinks. The ground is a ten minute walk from the station and the clubhouse is worth getting there early for. As well as having the sports channels, it also has it's own lager. I really enjoyed my trip to Southwick and the fantastic programme also deserves a mention.

Side on view of the clubhouse and stand

Monday, 20 November 2017

First Half Strikes Lead To Soggy Stalemate - Risborough Rangers vs. Broadfields United

Standard hopper shot of Windsor's
After the arduous, but ultimately rewarding match day last weekend, I fancied something a bit more straightforward - although the weather did it's best to repeat the trick. Windsor's, the home of Risborough Rangers has appeared on many other ground hopping blogs and it certainly lived up to expectations. They were playing Broadfields United in Division One of The South Midlands League. Broadfields play at Harfeild United's ground which I visited for an end of season South Midlands Cup Final a couple of years ago on the day Liverpool infamously capitulated away at Crystal Palace. Risborough won their last home 10-1 against bottom of the table Hillingdon Borough and I was hoping for a similar number of goals.

Kick off in torrential rain
Risborough have the first chance when they drill a great cross across goal but there is no one there to apply the final touch. Despite kicking up the slope, it is the visitors who take the lead with a neat finish. The forward gets behind the defence out wide before dinking the ball over the onrushing keeper and into the net. Risborough soon have a great chance to level as the forward beats the keeper to a lofted ball forward but his header goes just wide. Risborough are now building up a head of steam and they have a succession of half chances with the final one going into the arms of the keeper. They come closer with a header from a corner which is needed to cleared off the line. They do however equalize just before half time when after a poor Broadfields corner, they are able to break with the ball and the forward is played in on and goal and he slots past the on rushing keeper.

Risborough looking for the equalizer
Risborough go looking for the second goal at the start of the second half and again when they drill the ball across goal there is no one there to take advantage. Broadfields are also looking to get back into the lead. A corner into the six yard box causes panic before the Risborough defence are able to hack the ball away. Another great Risborough ball into the box requires the Broadfields defender to bravely head away the ball and save a certain goal. The continuous rain begins to have an effect on the pitch towards the end of the game as both sides start to tire. The final chance of the game comes when the Broadfields attacker powers through before forcing the keeper into a great save at his near post. 

Risborough push forward in the second half
So to get to Princes Risborough you have to catch a train from Marylebone which takes just under an hour. The ground is then a short walk away - you can see it from the Banbury bound platform - but the final stage is unpaved and unlit which makes it tricky on dark, damp evenings. If you walk the opposite direction to the ground then you come to the town centre. The pubs were fine without being spectacular. The best being The Bell which had a good selection of beers as well as BT Sports. If you have a wait for your train, then The Bird In Hand is your best bet. The clubhouse was extremely welcoming and had a selection of cans. I didn't try any of the food - getting into shape for Christmas party season - but it did smell great. As you can see from the pictures, Windor's is a cracking and absolutely worth a visit. 

Far side of the ground - you can just make out the station after the trees

Monday, 13 November 2017

Mad Dash Around M27 Worthwhile - Sholing vs. Wellington

The Sholing winger takes on the Wellington defence
So Saturday just gone, I saw most of an entertaining Vase tie but this wasn't the original plan. Against my better judgement, I gambled on Fawley's Wessex League match with Verwood surviving the rain. The club were confident the game would go ahead so I took the bus from Southampton and was just about to leave the pub to head off for the ground when I found out the game was called off on arrival of the match referee. The first game I saw was still going ahead was Sholing (if I had realized AFC Totton had survived, that would have been a quicker, cheaper taxi) so we set off on a mad dash around the edge of Southampton. On to the actual match then, the only time I'd seen either side was back when Sholing were VT Sports (VT being a shipbuilding company I believe) and they were playing Godalming in The FA Trophy. Sholing were having a good season in The Wessex League while Wellington of The Western were towards the bottom of their table.

Normal kick off angle shot
Mercifully the roads behaved and I arrived just the ten minutes after kick off and the score was still nil nil. The first action I see is a Sholing free kick from the edge of the box which is deflected wide of the target. Sholing get in on goal and it takes a great tackle from the Wellington defender to prevent the shot on goal. Wellington have a flurry towards the end of the half, the first half chance is a ball into the box which the keeper does well to punch away. Then just before half time they take the lead. Following a corner the Sholing keeper produces an amazing point blank save but he is powerless to stop the rebound being forced home.

The free kick that deflected wide
Sholing begin to step on the gas in the second half. The Wellington keeper makes a great save from a header from a corner to keep his side in the lead. The home side are banging on the door without forcing the goalie into a save and it takes a possibly controversial goal to get them level. From behind the goal, it looked like the Sholing winger sent in a vicious cross which went straight in but the linesman raises his flag for offside. After a discussion between the aforementioned linesman and the referee, the goal is given. Both sides have guilt edged chances in the closing stages. Firstly when the Sholing keeper plays a poor pass when well out of his goal, the resulting Wellington effort goes well wide of the target. Then the Wellington defender thinks his keeper is a lot further away then he actually was and the ball goes past him and the dashing Sholing forward just can't get to the ball. Just as it looks like the tie is heading to extra time, Sholing get a late winner. The winger is chopped down just in from the corner flag and from the resulting free kick the ball is headed home from close range.

Sholing attack in the second half with the clubhouse in the background
Clearly I didn't have time for a pre match pint in Sholing and I'll save the Fawley pubs for when I revisit in the summer. To get back to Southampton Station I took the number nine bus which takes around twenty minutes. The ground is a fifteen minute walk from Sholing Station and to get to London from here you'll need to change at Southampton after taking a train from Waterloo. The clubhouse at the ground did the job, selling a selection of cans.

Dugout side of the ground

Monday, 6 November 2017

Wood Lord Over Ites - Lordswood vs. Sheppy United

Stormy skies over Martyn Grove
I've seen Lordswood away in a couple of cup games (Billingshurst in the vase this season and at Mile Oak in the same competition immediately spring to mind) and I'd meaning to visit for a little while. Saturday just gone they were playing Sheppy United in The Southern Counties East Premier and with the two teams in sixth and fourth places, it looked like it should be a good game. I visited Sheppy's Holm Park ground for a game with Hollands and Blair a couple of seasons ago in their Invicita League days and the ground has changed significantly since my visit. Lordswood had lost their last two games and the reverse fixture in September finished in a three all draw so I was hoping for a similar number of goals today.

Fortunately the rain cleared before kick off
Shepppy settle quickly and a decent passing move only falls short when the final ball is played just too hard. It doesn't take long for the hosts to settle too with Lordswood also lacking the final killer pass. Sheppy win a couple of free kicks in decent positions but the deliveries fail to find their targets. After the second Sheppy free kick, Lordswood break out with the final shot going just wide. Towards the end of the half, Lordswood twice come close to taking the lead. Firstly when the attacker gets to the byline he flashes the ball across goal but there is no one there to apply final touch. Then from a corner kick, they have a headed effort cleared off the line.

Lordswood attack the tree lined end
Sheppy start the second half like they did the first, getting behind the Lordswood defence and again the pass fails to find its target. The visitors get behind the Lordswood defence down the middle this time and it takes a great last ditch Lordswood tackle to stop the attacker in his tracks. Lordwood's first effort of the half comes with a shot from the edge of the box which goes wide and straight away, Sheppy counter with the Lordswood goalie making a great save with his legs to keep the scores level. The winner comes when Sheppy have two chances to clear a Lordswood ball into the box and Lordswood eventually take advantage to scramble the winner in from close range.

Sheppy look for an opening in the first half
To get to Lordswood from London you first have to take a train from Chatham from either Victoria or St Pancras with the journey taking between forty minutes to just over an hour. It looked like the best options for pubs was to stay in Chatham and I was more than happy to revisit The Northern Seaman which has a great selection of beers including The Golden Seahawk from The Cotleigh Brewery. Then just next door is The Britannia  where I had a pint of The Fine Light Ale from The Maidstone based Goachers. The 166 bus takes you to the Lordswood Tesco which is a ten minute walk from the ground - the bus taking twenty minutes depending on traffic. The football club share the clubhouse with the rugby club who were at home and provided the pre match and half time entertainment. The clubhouse had a great atmosphere as well having Sky Sports and a good selection of drinks. I really enjoyed my much belated visit to Martyn Grove.

A decent number of fans traveled from The Isle

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Wind Fails To Uproot Oakley - Little Oakley vs Leiston Reserves

Ball carried high on the wind
Looking through the fixtures in the week, no games were really standing out until I got to Division One of The Eastern Counties League. Little Oakley who were in their first season in The Eastern Counites were at home to Leiston Reserves and as the Tendering district of Essex was a big unknown area to me, it was an easy choice. Leiston is also an area I've never really been near before but the tricky nature of getting there means my trip there will require an overnight stay. So back to Little Oakley who won The Essex and Suffolk Border League to gain promotion were in the lower half of the table with a mixed set of results and had lost away at Diss the previous weekend. Leiston were up in seventh place before kick off.  

Haunting skies at kick off
It was actually winder at kick off then anytime during Storm Brian the previous weekend at Thame but this doesn't deter the two sides from playing football. It is Little Oakley who have the first chance with a shot on the turn from the edge of the area that goes over the bar. When Leiston first get in on goal, the run is abruptly ended by the Little Oakley keeper which leaves the referee no choice but to give a penalty. He redeems himself however as he saves the penalty and then gets up quickly to save the rebound. This inspires Little Oakley who create a couple of chances but fail to seriously trouble the Leiston keeper. They do however force the Leiston keeper into a critical save of his own late in the half. A cross from close range following a cross is saved and his defence then help him out as they block a shot on the line before the third effort is blazed over. 

Little Oakley get a ball in the box during the first half
There are few clear cut chances during the second period and in the opening stages, both sides lash crosses across the six yard box but fail to get the final touch. The Leiston winger is able to get to the byline but is forced off the ball at the last moment. The best chance (that I saw anyway) comes when the Little Oakley attacker gets in on goal and the Leiston keeper makes a decent stop at his near post. Then from the resulting corner a chance goes just over the bar as the points are shared.

Little Oakley just couldn't find the killer touch
To get to Little Oakley I took the train to Harwich as I figured they'd be more there, but the closest station is actually Dovercourt. To get to either of these stations you have to get a train from Liverpool Street to Manningtree and changing there for a connecting train. The whole train journey takes around an hour an a half. Harwich is an interesting mix of buildings and worth exploring beforehand. Before I caught the bus I popped into The Globe which had a good choice of bottled ales and real ciders as well and The Bell Inn which had a couple of ales on hand pull. I took the number 3 bus to and from the ground but there are a couple of routes that go to Little Oakley. In the village itself there is Ye Olde Cherry Tree which was a great village local with decent looking bar meals. The ground is then a short walk away. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks as well as Sky Sports. The ground is a work in progress and I really liked the welcome from the club and the programme is a great effort. A really good day out exploring a part of Essex I previously knew little about.

Dugout side of the ground