Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Pickering Town v South Shields Sunday 15th August 2010 F.A. Cup Extra Preliminary Round

The Recreation Ground, home of Pickering Town had long been on my list of grounds to visit, so when I saw they were hosting South Shields in the F. A. Cup Extra Preliminary Round, I took the opportunity to make the visit.

Pickering play in the NCEL Premier whilst their visitors play their football in the Northern League Division One. Both sides were coming into the game on the back of two defeats and I was interested to see how Pickering would cope with their visitors having already seen them in pre-season away to Northallerton where they lost 1-0.
After having spent an enjoyable morning in one of favourite places, Sandsend, we headed over the North Yorkshire Moors to Pickering. The ground was easy to find and we parked up with a surprising number of cars already in the car park. These were not here for the game though, but a dog show on the pitch behind the ground.
As we entered we were greeted by Pickering officials who pointed us in the direction of the Clubhouse with the promise of the “Leeds on the telly”. However I made my usual amble around the ground to get my pictures first. The first thing you notice of course is the fact the ground is shared with Pickering Cricket Club and there is no stand opposite you as you enter. Instead, there was just a rope, beyond which was the cricket square. Apparently there is a fence put up once the cricket season is over but today it was still open as it had not yet finished. We head clockwise round the ground and the side we have entered has a two step hard standing leading to an elevated stand with three rows of seating sitting astride the half way line.

The dug outs sit either side of this stand meaning that the two benches are well apart during games. The hard standing continues along the side after the stand, leading you to the stand that is situated in the first third of the end. This stand has four rows of red seats with no supports to obstruct your view.

Beyond the stand there is more hard standing and several buildings that appear to belong to the cricket club. This then leads to the far side where the cricket square is situated but we decide not to walk down this side and so head back the way we came. There is a covered terrace at the end we came in which runs half way down the end and beyond this there is the Clubhouse and dressing rooms complex.

We go in and have a coffee. The Clubhouse has a bar and kitchen serving hot drinks and food. There are a number of South Shields fans in here, nearly all of them wearing shirts.
We go back outside and take up a seat in the stand behind the far goal and we see how big a slope there is running down from the cricket pitch touchline. There is a minutes silence before kick off for a former Pickering player, Joe Greening who was tragically killed earlier in the month.

From the kick off Shields are on the attack and a shot from Burnell from distance just goes over the bar. On 10 minutes Wightman is fouled from by a Pickering defender from behind in the box and a penalty is awarded. Lee Scoggins stepped and calmly put the ball into the back of the net. The goal does not really change anything and it is still Shields pressing forward while Pickering struggle to get anything going. Shields extend their lead on 30 minutes when Scroggins runs onto a great through ball and fires a great shot from the edge of the box past Kevin Martin in the Pickering goal. No further score sees the visitors go in 2-0 up at half time.

The South Shields fans join us at our end for the second half and I have to say what brilliant fans they are, really getting behind their team and the banter flying around was superb. Not so sure about the horn though! The second half continues as the first finished, with Shields on the attack. Scroggins finds himself on a one on one with the keeper but puts his shot just wide of the post. A minute later though he completed his hat trick. A lovely cross from the right was met with an equally good header to make it
3-0. This actually inspires Pickering and they almost reply a couple of minutes later when a good header from Andy Park is superbly saved by Carmichael in the Shields goal. But they do pull one back on 55 minutes when Tom Adams hits it from just outside the box and ends up in the corner of the net somehow avoiding everyone in the crowded box. Pickering are in the ascendancy now and they create more chances but Carmichael is equal to everything thrown at him. The game turns back in Shields’ favour after Chris Wynne is brought on. He has three great headers, but two great saves from Martin and a thumping header off the bar prevents him from scoring. On 90 minutes Wynne gets the goal his performance deserves when he cuts in from the right and puts a good shot into the corner of the goal. There were further chances even at this late stage of the game but there was no further score. Now as you know, I do not usually give man of the match awards but today that accolade has to be given to Lee Scroggins, but not just because of the hat trick. He totally ran the game and Pickering never got to grips with him. Also a special word for the South Shields fans. Their support was terrific and their good humour is to be commended. One of them asked the Pickering keeper if he was enjoying his day (this when his was losing 4-1), and his reply was “It would have been an awful day if it wasn’t for the banter with you guys”. Nicely summed up.

More pictures of the Recreation Ground here.

Pickering Town 1-4 South Shields
Att: 210
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.30
Teamsheet: £0.20
Badge: £2.50

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Handsworth v Glasshoughton Welfare Wednesday 11th August 2010 NCEL Division One

There are two new Clubs in the NCEL this season, Louth Town, whom I visited on the Groundhop last season and Handsworth FC. Now I have to admit that the only Handsworth I was aware of was the one in Birmingham, home of the British reggae greats Steel Pulse. But diligent research (oh alright, I checked out the NCEL Official site) informs me that it is in Sheffield and not only that, but that I passed within yards of the ground on my recent visit to The Don Valley Stadium. Using Google, I looked at the ground and it did not appear to have many facilities with only a stand hidden by trees on the photo. I took the decision that a visit here would be done early or late in the season. Once the fixtures came out their first home match was set for a Wednesday night and so I decided to check out the Handsworth Revolution (see what I did there? No, ok then) and go to the game against Glasshoughton Welfare.

The ground was easy to find and there were plenty of stewards to help point you in the right direction as this is a large complex catering for Handsworth Juniors FC too. I park up and get out to have a look round and notice how windy it is. I fall into conversation with a guy from Oldham (apologies, I realised afterwards I never asked your name). I head down to the entrance and find out that the Clubhouse is back up the way I came, so I buy a programme and head off to find it. It’s a fair hike, up hill all the way, and this is where the toilets are too! The Clubhouse is open, selling hot drinks and more impressively hot food. An all day breakfast is available but I just have a coffee. The changing rooms are situated here too and there is a practice pitch in front of here. I head back down to the ground and pay my entrance fee and but a badge from the friendly ladies in the hut which you go through to gain access.

As I saw from the pictures, there is only hard standing and a railing around three sides of the ground with one small stand on the side you enter. I wander round to take some photos and eventually work my way back in front of the stand just as the teams have completed their journey from the changing rooms. The pitch is surrounded by trees and this gives some shelter from the wind, but as I said before this is definitely one ground to visit early or late in the season, I could imagine it being very chilly in December/January.

I really did not know what to expect from the game as Glasshoughton had only played one pre-season game (which they won 6-1) as their manager quit and all other games were postponed. As I’ve already owned up, I knew nothing about the Handsworth team but I had read that some of their players had come from other NCEL teams having previously played for the Juniors. The establishment of Handsworth FC had been to provide a route for the Junior players who wanted to play at a higher level, so it was good to see some of their former players return.

The game started off fairly evenly and both teams looked a bit nervous to begin with but as the game went on they both settled down and we started to have one or two chances in front of goal. It was a pretty competitive game and there one or two hard challenges going in without it being dirty. The game turned after 27 minutes when Handsworth were awarded a penalty. The ball was played into the box and the Welfare defenders arms were around the striker and the referee awarded the spot kick. After some protests which led to a booking for the Welfare defender, Russell Hobson stepped and calmly sent the keeper the wrong for the opening score. (Pictured below)

Both teams continued going forward but it was Handsworth who scored the next goal. A short corner was then put in the box and a superb volley from Hobson flew past the keeper to make it 2-0 on 36 minutes. Four minutes later it was 3-0. A flowing move ended with Lee Brunt placing his shot into the corner of the net. I have to say that the scoreline was a little unfair on Glasshoughton, but the difference was in the finishing.
To Glasshoughton’s credit they came out for the second half attacking their hosts and were unfortunate not to get a penalty when Bird was pulled down in the box. They then hit the woodwork with a header from Bird. Handsworth did not play as well as they had in the first half but on 75 minutes they extended their lead. Ryan Johnson put the ball into the net but I’m not sure he knew a lot about it as it seemed to hit him rather than him heading it, but it still counts. The game petered out after this and it was Handsworth who looked more likely to score but some poor finishing left the score at 4-0.
I enjoyed the game and felt for Glasshoughton as the score was hard on them. I'm glad I visited Olivers Mount early in the season as I'm fairly sure it will a bleak place to visit in the depths of winter. But don't let that put you off, I'm sure the friendly welcome I got tonight will be replicated if you
decide to go.

More pictures of Olivers Mount here.

Handsworth 4-0 Glasshoughton Welfare
Att: 184
Admission: £2
Programme: £1
Badge: £2

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Selby Town v Maltby Main Saturday 7th August 2010 NCEL Premier

Today sees the start of the new season for the Northern Counties East League. A full programme gave me plenty of choice but I decided to visit Selby Town, a ground I’d been thwarted from visiting due to postponements. I arrive at the newly sponsored Rigid Group Stadium but they obviously have not got round to putting the new sign up as I met with a sign declaring “Welcome to the Selby Times Stadium”.

The turnstiles bring you into the centre of the ground with the Clubhouse immediately to your left. I decide to head anti clockwise round the ground for my pre-match amble. The side where I came in has a three step terrace to the right of the entrance which leads you to seated stand behind the right hand goal.

“Selby Town FC” is painted in large red letters leaving you in no doubt whose ground this is. The “seats” are actually long benches with no backs. I watch the second half from here and it is actually quite comfortable.

At the far end of the stand is the “executive box”.

The opposite side to where I came in has hard standing the length of it and the changing room complex is situated by the half way line.

I carry on to the far end which has a covered four step stand with hard standing running the length of the end.

This brings me back to where I came in and I head into the Clubhouse in search of a badge. Inside there is a table set with Selby merchandise including hats, tops, programmes and of course badges. I make my purchase, get a coffee and head back outside having noted that the telly has Sky Sports news on, half times scores can be checked later. Outside I sit on a bench which is against the outside of the Clubhouse, and I watch the first half from here in glorious sunshine.
The game starts brightly with both teams looking to play it about. Maltby play some nice football but without making any clear openings, while Selby struggle to get their passing game going but have the better of the chances in the opening period. The opening goal of the game comes from the penalty spot after a cross into the box is handled by a Maltby player and there are no protests as the referee points to the spot. Brenton Leister steps up to put the keeper the wrong and Selby take the lead after 23 minutes. (Pictured below).

The goal seems to settle Selby’s nerves and they continue to press for a second. Jack Debnam for Selby has already had a couple of good runs at the Maltby defence when he has another which he converts this time for goal number two after 42 minutes. The referee blows for half time with no further score.

I go back into the Clubhouse to catch up on the scores and with no texts from home or from Helen at Palace I assume it’s 0-0 for the Foxes. Imagine my shock when I see we are 3-0 down!
I go back out for the second half to find that it is pouring and so I head for the seats behind the goal to watch the rest of the game. Maltby come out well and are rewarded on 53 minutes when they are awarded a clear cut penalty when the Selby player takes down the Maltby striker from behind. Chris Dickman calmly stepped up and put it away. The game really came to life now and there was some excellent play from Selby which went unrewarded. Maltby had a couple of chances but their forward were not really on form and they were wasted without really testing the Selby keeper. Shahin and Debnam were causing problems for Maltby with their pace and Selby put a stranglehold on the game. The game gets a little tense as Maltby’s left back Wragg puts in a couple of challenges on Shahin which get the Selby faithful a little agitated but Selby are happy to run the clock down and nothing comes from the free kicks they are rewarded. The game ends with a 2-1 victory for Selby which on the balance of play they deserve.

More pictures of Rigid Group Stadium here.

Selby Town 2-1 Maltby Main
Att: 121
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50
Badge: £3.25

Mossley v Bala Town Saturday 24th July 2010 Pre-Season Friendly

I headed to Seel Park for their “international” pre-season friendly against Bala Town from the Welsh Premier League for my game today. It was a ground that was on my hit list and had received glowing reports from hoppers who had been there and I was looking forward to seeing the stunning views constantly mentioned.

An easy trip saw me arrive in plenty of time to have a good wander round the ground. I head down towards the turnstiles and this must be one of the most attractive approaches to a ground I’ve been to with the hills as a drop back.

You come in the ground more or less on the half way line with the main stand to your left and the Clubhouse and other facilities to your right. I head to my right to make my tour around the ground. There is a 12 step terraced area with two neat rows of white crush barriers which leads you to the covered terraced area which runs virtually the whole length of the end.

This is a smart stand, again with white crush barriers and the view is pretty good with the support pillars not obscuring much of the action.

I carry onto the far side of the ground which has a three step terrace running along it’s whole length with another covered terraced area which runs about a third of it’s length sitting on the half way line. As with the other parts of the ground it is well maintained and looks very smart. It even has an elevated area, presumably for wheelchairs, which gives a good view of the pitch.

I continue along this stand to the end where ground backs onto a school and there is just some terracing along the length of this end.

This brings me back to the side of the ground where I came and from the goal end there is more terracing leading you back to the main stand which has seating for about 200. It sits on the half way line and you have a good view of the pitch and the rolling hills behind the far stand.

I take my seat in the stand and there are a number of Bala fans who have made the journey for today’s game. The game gets under way and Mossley are on the attack from the start and Bala look out of sorts as they struggle to get their game going. Predictably it is Mossley who open the scoring and what a good goal it is. Chris Rowney put in a looping shot from the left hand edge of the box and the ball goes over the keeper’s head. It’s one way traffic mainly with only occasional forays into the Mossley half which came to nothing. No further score meant Mossley went in a goal to the good at half time.

The second half began with Bala having made a couple of changes, significantly Mike Thompson who looked very lively, and these had the desired effect as Bala looked far better from the kick off, their passing had improved and they looked a real threat. The deserved equaliser came on 59 minutes when Thompson cut in from the right and and put a well placed shot beyond keeper Tyrer. Bala’s confidence grew and we know had a decent game with both sides playing some nice football and both having chances to go ahead. Further substitutions disrupted the game towards the end and it looked like a draw was the likely outcome. But with only a few minutes remaining the Bala hit the self destruct button. Bala failed to clear their lines and Jordan Goodeve was able to put Mossley back in front after 87 minutes later. The defence was all at sea now and Mossley created several more chances and scored another on 89 minutes after Steve Moore was allowed to weave his way through the centre of the Bala defence and score a great individual goal. The whistle went soon after and although I’m sure Bala would be disappointed with the final score I’m sure they would take heart from their second half performance.

This really a nice ground with plenty of character and I do not think you would be disappointed with a visit.

More pictures of Seel Park here.

Mossley 3-1 Bala Town
Att: N/A
Admission: £5
Programme: £0.50
Badge: None available!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Rotherham United v Leicester City Tuesday 20th July 2010 Pre-Season Friendly

The Don Valley Stadium. The name sends a shiver down my spine. We went there two seasons ago for a Johnstones Paint Trophy game and witnessed the very worst performance from a Leicester team that would win the League One title that season in style. But that was not all. We got stuck in a traffic jam due to an accident on one of the approach roads which entailed us going back to the M1 and approach the ground from Junction 33. The weather was dreadful, we struggled to find a parking space due to our late arrival. To top it all I ended up having a row with a steward over the fact that we were forced to go out a totally different exit to where we came in miles from where the car was parked only to walk past the same spot 15 minutes later. And it was still raining!

So a pre-season friendly for the Foxes was not going to be on my agenda was it? Well due to a change in circumstances I do not have a Season Ticket for the Walkers this season and my City games will be restricted, so a relatively nearby game for £10 appealed.

However, a sense of déjà vu came as we hit a traffic jam outside Meadowhall. Bloody Rod Stewart! We didn’t move for ten minutes and I made the decision to turn round and head back to Junction 33. This time we were parked up just a short walk from the ground and in plenty of time. The Don Valley is the temporary home for Rotherham United and I have great admiration for the their supporters who go there. It really is not a football stadium and the view of the pitch is somewhat distant. The Club have made the effort to put up signs outside the ground and it does feel like their home ground as you walk to the away turnstiles. The stewards are very friendly, a total contrast to my previous visit, and once inside I’m able to get some photos with no hassle.
Leicester started with a strong line up and included new signing Kennedy at left back. City started brightly and had several chances before taking the lead on 12 minutes when a cross from Dyer was played back to Gallagher who put the ball in the back of the net. Not long after this another good move ended with Howard heading just over. City were playing well and looked comfortable but the good work was undone on 18 minutes when keeper Weale rushed to the edge of the box and flattened Elliott in his attempt to clear a short back pass. Adam Le Fondre converted the penalty to make it 1-1. This boosted the Millers and only a good save from Weale kept out Le Fondre. Rotherham created a few more chances but it was City who nearly took the lead again with a Campbell free kick just deflected wide. The teams went in for half time with no further score.

City came out for the second half having made 8 changes to the line up and they were nearly made to pay as a shot from Elliott came back off the post with keeper Logan beaten. After this though City looked the more likely to score and the pressure was rewarded on 60 minutes when another good move ended with Campbell scoring a with a clinical finish. To be fair to Rotherham they still were coming forward themselves but their finishing was fairly wayward. Any chance of an equaliser was snuffed out by a floodlight failure and after a few minutes of standing around it was decided to end the game.
Not a bad game and home for 11pm.

More pictures of The Don Valley Stadium here.

Rotherham United 1-2 Leicester City
Att: 1,131
Admission: £10
Programme: None available