Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Brickies Refuse To Lay Down - Sittingbourne Town vs. Faversham Town

First half wing play in front of one of the numerous bits of cover
A game in Kent seemed to be my only choice for a new ground on Bank Holiday Monday. I had a back up at Glebe if I didn't fancy too long a walk but the weather was good and I felt fine and opted for Sittingbourne Town's derby with near neighbors Faversham Town. Faversham needed a win to keep their faint play off hopes alive and with the two towns being so close it promised to be a entertaining afternoon. I had seen a game at Sittingboroune's previous home but this was when Maidstone United were sharing the ground and they beat Tooting and Mitcham in The FA Cup on that afternoon. The only time I can remember seeing Sittingbourne play was a Ryman League match away at Chipstead back in my early groundhoping days. A couple of seasons later, I traveled to Salters Lane for The Kent League Charity Shield where Faversham played Herne Bay. The reverse fixture on Boxing Day saw the points shared in a one all draw.

Kick off at Woodstock Park
There is a contentious moment in the opening stages when the Sittingbourne players believe a Faversham player handled in the box but the referee is unmoved. Faversham's first attack comes when a ball is allowed to bounce in the box and the Faversham attacker's shot loops wide of the goal. They come closer as the Faversham attacker lays the ball off for his team mate before his low shot forces the keeper into a low save. They do take the lead when Sittingbourne give the ball away, prompting the Faversham player to go on a powerful which is ended by a Sittingbourne defender in the box and the referee points to the spot. The Sittingbourne keeper saves the initial effort but he cannot keep out the rebound as the visitors go one up. Sittingbourne come close to an equalizer as the Faversham defense fails to fully clear the ball and the Sittingbourne player lashes the ball against the bar.  

Sittingbourne defend in front of their fans in the first half
There is plenty of huff and puff at the start of the second half without too much being created and the game is starting to get a little tetchy. The first chance of note is a Faversham free kick from the edge of the box which is straight at the keeper. The game then gets really interesting when Sittingbourne get the equalizer. A looping cross gets to the man at the back post and he heads past the goalie to make it one each. Faversham now look to regain the lead when the forward gets his shot in but the keeper saves with his feet. It is Sittingbourne however who score the winning goal. After a couple of crosses are blocked, the next one finds its target and it is then flicked home to the delight of the home supporters.

Sittingbourne hit the bar in the first half
As with Rochester the other week, trains to Sittingbourne depart from either Victoria or St Pancras. I got the fast train from the later which took just under an hour. Unfortunately my first choice pub The Paper Mill was closed which was a shame as it looked like it had a great choice of ales. The best I visited in the town center was The Red Lion which had a selection of beers and ales. The walk to the ground then takes a grueling forty five minutes. I wouldn't recomend doing this for a night game as parts are along an unpaved, unlight road and you have to cut through a field also. On the way back I took the supporters mini bus which runs before and after the game and is a great service. The clubhouse had a wide selection of drinks and the burgers were fantastic. I fully recomend a visit to Woodstock Park as the welcome is second to none and everyone wants to help you enjoy your visit.

The Sittingbourne keeper claims with further cover and the clubhouse in the background

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Peacocks Strut Their Stuff - Bridgwater Town vs. Taunton Town

Double stands at Fairfax Park
For the second part of my Somerset double, I traveled 20 minutes on the train to Bridgwater for their match in The Southern League South And West Division match with Taunton Town. I'd seen Bridgwater not too long ago at Swindon Supermarine where I though they were bit unlucky to lose 3-1. The two teams have had very different seasons. Taunton are in second place only behind Hereford and were set for a place in the play offs. Bridgwater however haven't had the best season and are set for a return to The Western League. In the reverse fixture back towards the start of the season, Bridgwater were able to hold Taunton to a draw.  

Kick off at Fairfax Park
The game has a surprising start with Bridgwater taking an early lead. A long ball towards the edge of the box is headed over the keeper to give Bridgwater the lead. This irks Taunton and they go on the attack straight away and when the ball is squared to the forward, his shot hits the post. They do get the equalizer around twenty minutes in from the penalty spot. The ball hits the Bridgwater players arm from close range and the penalty is buried to make it one all. Taunton continue to pile forward with the forward powering through the defense before the Bridgwater keeper blocks his shot. Taunton do complete the turnaround when they beat the offside trap and this time when the ball is squared the ball is hammered in off the bar. They further extended their lead as a corner isn't fully cleared, the forward beats the keeper to ball to head the ball home. Just before half time they make it four. The Bridgwater forward is able to nod ball down for his team mate who gets the fourth goal.

One nil Bridgwater
Bridgwater try to get back into the game at the start of the second but they can't take advantage of a couple of balls that are put into the box. Taunton come close to a fifth when a ball to the back post leads to a scramble where Bridgwater eventually clear it for a corner. From that very corner there is a header that hits the post. They the post again, this time it is after the winger cuts inside and his shot hits the woodwork before the rebound is put well over the bar. Taunton do get their fifth as the attacker gets to the byline and his cross is headed home from close range.

The equalizing Taunton penalty
It takes a bit of time to get to Bridgwater from London. You first have to catch a train to Bristol Temple Meads and change there for a train to Bridgwater which takes around two and half hours, depending on connections. If you elect to stay over night then The Old Vicarage in the town is perfect. Th place itself is pleasant and it is worth having a look around. Pub wise, Vinos Ale And Wine Tavern had a good choice of craft beer. Next to the river, The Fountain Inn has a fairly wide choice of ales. If you want to watch the early kick off then Bunch Of Grapes close to the station does the job. The ground is nearly a half hour walk from the town and the clubhouse had a good selection of lagers. If you have a wait for your train, then The Commercial Inn is conveniently located for a beer.

Taunton attack the end housing their fans

Gate Closed In First Half - Weston-Super-Mare vs. Margate

View from the terrace at The Woodspring Stadium
There wasn't a lot of choice for a new ground on Good Friday and with extensive works around Bath, a lot of games in The Western League were out of reach. I therefore decided to make a weekend of it and went for Weston-Super-Mare against Margate in The Conference South. After conceding a very late leveler against St Albans, meant that Margate had to win to stand any chance of beating the drop. This was the first occasion I'd see Weston-Super-Mare play. I'd visited Hartsdown Road for a Ryman League match with Canvey Island a couple of seasons ago in a thrilling 2-2 draw and was hoping for something similar.  In the reverse fixture back in August, Margate won 3-1 and they needed a repeat today.

Final checks from the referee before kick off
Margate make the worst possible start. A Weston free kick from the edge of the box takes a big deflection to leave the keeper with no chance of preventing the opening goal. Weston look to extended their early advantage and after a ball in, the Weston player takes the ball away from own man before missing the target when he may have been better leaving it. Margate see off the flurry of chances and equalize midway through the half. A free kick from near the half way line finds the man in the box and he nods the ball home from close range. Parity doesn't last long however as Weston retake the lead - another time where I poorly timed my toilet visit. I do however see the third goal just before the break. The Weston forward controls the ball in the box and is then clattered from behind for a penalty. The penalty is duly dispatched and Margate have it all to do in the second half.

The Weston player takes on the Margate defense
Margate try to attack from the start of the second half and the Weston keeper does well to claim a free kick put into the box. The Weston attacker then manages to power through the Margate defense forcing the Margate keeper to make a good block. From another Margate free kick, the attacker is able to get the ball down before firing a low shot which the Weston keeper saves at his near post. Then from the resulting corner there is a scramble in the six yard box and the Weston defense is just about able to clear the danger. The final chance of the afternoon comes when the Weston winger is able to cut in, fire in a shot which the keeper saves with his feet.

A Weston corner in the second half
Although it is a long way to Weston-Super-Mare, the quick trains from Paddington take just over two hours. I really should have got an earlier train as I didn't feel that I was able to explore enough. A short walk from the sea front is The Imperial which had a good selection of beers. The just up the road is the excellent Brit Bar which had a couple of ales on and also had decent music on. The walk from the town takes a good forty five minutes. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks as well as BT Sports. If you've got a wait for your train then Off The Rails is perfect for a drink while you wait.

Another shot of the seated accommodation

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Corinthian Get Ahead - Rochester United vs. Corinthian

Not much wind at Rede Court Road
My parents were down for their annual Easter visit and so I needed an interesting town where there was a game on. I'd always been impressed with the look Rochester when I've traveled through to places like Faversham and Whitsable and with the gorgeous weather, this weekend seemed to be the perfect time to visit. Rochester United play in The Southern Counties East League Premier and their opponents today were Corinthian. Corinthian's Gay Dawn Farm is one of my favorite grounds I've visited in the South East and also provided the second highest number goals I've seen in a game - 10 - they sadly lost 9-1 to Maidstone in The FA Cup. The reverse fixture back in September was an entertaining three all draw and we were hoping for the same.

Kick off at Rede Court Road
Corinthian are played in out wide fairly on but the attack eventually comes to nothing. They are able to get the ball out to the man out wide again and this time the cross in just manages to elude the men in the box. Corinthian are well on top at this point and the next time they get in on goal, the attacker's touch is a bit heavy which forces the man wide before his cross is headed away. Rochester almost take the lead against the run of play but the Corinthian keeper is able to save the shot on goal. The Corinthian man is then able to get beyond the goalie who is relived when the attacker can't fully connect with his header. Both sides have great chances just before the break. Firstly a Rochester header from a great cross goes just wide before Corinthian get in on goal and the Rochester keeper does well to smoother the chance. 

The Rochester defense stands firm in the second half
The second half has a very end of season feel to it with a lot of huff and puff without a lot of end product. The key moment of the game comes from a Corinthian corner where the attacker is left all alone at the back post and his powerful header goes in off the bar. The other moment of note comes when the Corinthian attacker appears to be chopped down in the box and when the referee gives nothing, a heated debate occurs on the pitch which results in a booking for the Rochester player. In the dying moments, Rochester have a chance of their own from a corner which is headed over the bar.

Rochester look for a way through in the first half
The closest station to Rede Court Road is actually Strood, but it is worth staying on and exploring Rochester beforehand. Trains to Strood and Rochester can be caught from either Victoria or St Pancras with the quick trains taking forty minutes. From close to Strood Station you can take a bus which takes you close to the ground. If you do elect to explore Rochester, the castle and cathedral are worth checking out. At the very far end of the high street there are four pubs close together which provide a great choice of ales. We first checked out The Flippin' Frog which was homely and had four ales available. Then just up the road is The Northern Seaman which had even more ales on offer. If you want somewhere to watch the football then The Jolly Knight next to the castle does the job. The clubhouse had the usual selection of drinks and the food smelt fantastic as was the welcome provided.

Corinthian get a ball into the box with the clubhouse in the background

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Jammers Cover Spread To Continue Play Off Push - Maldon And Tiptree vs. Wroxham

View from the bank at Park Drive
I'd been planning to come to Maldon and Tiptree several times over the last couple of seasons but I'd always been frustrated by engineering works but last weekend the frustration was finally broken. The Jammers were at home to Wroxham in a Ryman Division One North match where they needed the points to cement their play off spot. Defeats to Cheshunt and fellow Essex side Brentwood had ended their title challenge and so their focus was now on the play offs. Wroxham had unfortunately been relegated the other week and were in a tussle with Great Wakering not to finish bottom. I'd visited their leafy Trafford Park home for an East Anglian match up with Needham Market a couple of Easters ago. The closest I'd come to seeing Maldon and Tiptree was a visit across the river to see Heybridge last season.

Kick off at Park Drive
In the opening minutes, both sides get dangerous balls into the box which force the respective defenses to hack the ball away from danger. Maldon take the lead midway through the half when the Maldon attacker turns his man before lashing in a great shot from distance past the Wroxham keeper. Maldon have a chance to double their advantage as the forward is played in on goal and the Wroxham keeper does well the block to subsequent effort on goal. Wroxham's first effort on goal is a free kick from the edge of the area which the Maldon goalie is equal to. Maldon then put together a brilliant passing move before the Wroxham keeper is able to smoother the resulting shot on goal. In the closing moments of the half, Maldon double their lead. The attacker beats the offside trap before slotting home.

The Wroxham keeper is first to the ball
The Maldon keeper appears to be in a generous mood at the start of the second half as he misskicks a ball in but the Wroxham forward drags his shot wide. The game then threatens to peter out before the Wroxham keeper is forced in a great save after a crossfield plays the Maldon man in. The home side do get the third goal when they break out following a Wroxham free kick and the Maldon player is played in and he makes it three nil.

The Maldon full back crosses in
To get to Maldon from London, you first need to take a train from Chelmsford from Liverpool which takes about forty minutes. Then from the bus station just next door, you take the 31 bus to Maldon and this portion takes half an hour. Maldon is a lovely place and it worth getting there early for a walk by the ships on the waterfront (or mudfront if the tide is out). Then pub wide, the first stop has to be The Mighty Oak Tap Room where I had a great pint of Maldon Gold. A short walk along the High Street takes you to the small but ale rich Farmers Yard. Here I had a bottle of the Puck's Folly and there is also a decent selection of ales from the brewery as well as a couple of guest ales. If you just want to watch the football then The Warwick does the job. There were also a couple of decent looking pubs by the water. The ground is then a short walk from the town. The clubhouse has a good selection of lagers and the food is also top notch. Ideally I would have spent sometime post match in Maldon but I may had struggled to find my home if I had.

First half action with the clubhouse in the background

Monday, 27 March 2017

Mother Of All Comebacks - Exeter City vs. Yeovil Town

The afternoon's entertainment
Last weekend I was visiting a friend in Exeter and fortunately Exeter City were hosting Yeovil Town in a League 2 match. While the two places are relatively close to each other it didn't feel like an intense derby but the large following from Somerset made for a good atmosphere. I'd seen both teams play Scunthorpe on numerous occasions and I'd always liked the look of St James Park on TV. Exeter needed the points to strengthen their position in the play offs while Yeovil were comfortably far enough ahead of the relegation places. The reverse fixture was on Boxing day which ended in a nil nil draw.

Kick off at St James Park
The first half is a bit of a non event, the main highlight being when the Exeter keeper makes a good save from a close range Yeovil effort. Then the game explodes in the second half. Exeter come flying out of the blocks and the Yeovil goalie makes two great saves (one from his own player) to keep his side level. Then as so often happens, Exeter are hit with a sucker punch, three of them in fact. All three were avoidable and the third goal prompted some Exeter fans to leave very early. The hosts then get a goal back with two minutes before time and then incredibly score another two in injury to win a share of the points. The match action can be viewed here.

Great terrace behind the goal
There are two ways to get to Exeter from London. The cheaper and slower option goes from Waterloo and takes nearly four hours. The quicker route is from Paddington which takes just over two hours. Over the weekend, I visited a few pubs and there were some very good ones. My favorite is The Tabac next to Central Station which had a wide selection of craft beers. For a better selections of ales then The Beer Cellar next door to the cathedral is a great choice. Our last stop before the game was The Old Firehouse which is another fantastic pub ten minutes or so at the ground. At the ground itself there is the main bar which had the sports channels as well as an ale bar. There is also an outside bar which was perfect considering the weather.

Away end


Another South London Six Pointer - Lewisham Borough vs. Crockenhill

Ladywell Arena from the railway bridge
I knew I would be visiting friends at the weekend and as part of that we would be taking in a Football League game and so I was keen to take in a non league in midweek. Luckily, Lewisham Borough were at home to Crockenhill in Division One of The Southern Counties East League. This provided a new non league ground as well as being a short journey home afterwards. If you've never been to Crockenhill's fantastic Wested Meadow ground with it's brilliant stand and well decorated clubhouse, then you really to get a visit in. I visited there for a bank holiday Kent Invicta League match with Orpington. This was another six pointer with bottom placed Lewisham Borough needing points to close the seven point gap to Crockenhill immediately above them in the league.

Kick off at The Ladywell Arena
Lewisham have the perfect start. The attacker is able to power through the Crockenhill defense and he beats the keeper to put Lewisham one up after only a couple of minutes. It doesn't take long for Crockenhill to carve out a chance of an equalizer. The Crockenhill player gets in on goal but he elects to square the ball rather than shooting and the chance goes begging. They get in on goal again, this time the Lewisham keeper makes a good save at his near post. Towards the end of the first half, Lewisham create a couple of half chances. Firstly a cross across the box from a good position is cut out by the Crockenhill defense before the visiting keeper saves an angled shot at his near post.

A first half Crockenhill attack with the clubhouse in the background
Lewisham get themselves in on goal early in the first half but the Crockenhill defender is able to get back and force the forward off the ball. Crockenhill are then reduced to ten men when the midfielder is given his marching after a foul on the half way line. Lewisham look to press home their advantage and they come close when a free kick from the edge of the area is deflected just wide. The hosts however fail to make the most of their numerical advantage as Crockenhill score two late goals.

Lewisham Borough player runs at the Crockenhill defense
It doesn't take long to get to the Ladywell Arena from Central London. Trains depart to Ladywell from London Bridge, taking just ten minutes. Then it is a steady ten minute walk down to the ground. Next door to the station is The Ladywell Tavern which is a very hip pub with a wide range of beers on offer. At the ground you can get a selection of cans and a very friendly welcome from everyone at the club.

Train running past the back of the stand