Monday, 28 March 2011

Witton Albion v Skelmersdale United Saturday 26th March 2011 Evo-Stik Division One North

So as you saw from the Northwich entry, the game had already started when I arrived back at Wincham Park, but fortunately I’d only missed a minute or so of the action and no goals. As I’d anticipated that it would be tight to get back to Witton’s ground and take my photos I’d decided that I would head there in the morning to see if I could get in and take them before I headed to Northwich’s ground.
As I enter the car park I spot the sight that brings joy to all ground hoppers hearts, an open gate! There is a car parked outside so I’m fairly sure that I’ll find someone inside to ask if it’s ok to take some photos. In fact there are several people inside and I’m told that if I’m coming to the game later that I am more than welcome to wander round the ground. One of them turns out to be the groundsman and I have a nice chat to him about the Club, the ground and the pitch. He heads off to carry on with his work and I start to make my way around the ground. I entered the ground where the main stand is situated, which is to my left.
I head to my right and make my way anti clockwise around the ground. Behind the goal to the right there is a six step terrace with a covered area behind the goal.
There is a sign at the back of the stand which announces that this is the “John Yarwood Terrace”, dedicated to a former Director and benefactor of the Club.

As you reach the corner there is a toilet block and a snack bar (although it was not open today).

There is also a turnstile block in this corner. The grounds man also told me that he had opened the gate to the practice pitch and that I could have a look at it. I went outside to have a look and the pitches are very impressive. They certainly have more grass on them than Championship side Scunthorpe’s Glanford Park!

I go back into the ground and carry on my journey. There is another six step terrace running the whole length of the ground. There is an identical covered section to the one behind the goal and is situated astride the half way line.

Two thirds of the way down there is fencing across the terrace with a gate that can be shut in case segregation is required.

This brings you to the end terrace which is basically identical to the opposite end.

In this corner there is another toilet block and just after the turnstiles, another tea hut, which I find open on my return to the ground. One nice touch all around the ground is the use of the Club badge on all the signs including the toilets.

This brings you back to the impressive main stand which is all seated.

In the centre of this stand are the press box, medical centre and Stadium Control Room. There is also an entrance into the Social Club here too. I notice the grounds man looking for me and I guess I may have outstayed my welcome. I head towards him expecting to be kicked out so he can get on with his job only to be told that he is going to take me into the dressing rooms and Boardroom! Great stuff. I’m introduced to the kit man who politely informs me that I will not be taking his photo. I’m shown into the home dressing room where all the kit is already hung up for the game.

We then move onto the Boardroom which had memorabilia hanging on the walls. Then onto the impressive Social Club. After this we are outside where I am shown the shortcut over the river to Northwich’s ground. I decide to leave the car here and I’m shown to a parking space near the turnstiles I will exit. This has been a great experience and I’m really grateful to the volunteer staff of Witton Albion for allowing me the access to the ground.

I have to say that this game was a vast improvement on the first game of the day. Witton had the early chances with one chance wasted as the ball flew over the bar. Their best chance came on 20 minutes when a shot from Ennis hit the foot of the post and ran along the goal line before being cleared. After this Skelmersdale gradually took control of the game and started to create the better chances. The only goal of the game came on 44 minutes when Shaun Tuck was played in and after beating the defender calmly placed the ball past the keeper.

At half time I made my way to the Club Shop/Museum in the corner of the ground. This is well worth a visit with plenty of memorabilia on display charting the history of Witton Albion.

In the second half Witton found it hard to break down the Skelmersdale defence and it was the visitors who looked more likely to score.

The only dampener for Skelmersdale came very late on in the game. A ball was played through the Witton defence and after a tangle of legs Karl Donnelly was left on the ground. O’Donnell immediately gestured for assistance, keeping his leg firmly placed on the ground. There was a lengthy delay while he was attended to and unfortunately I found out later he had a broken fibia. I hope he speedy recovery and I wish him all the best for the future.

I have to say that I liked Witton’s ground more than Northwich which is too new to have the character of Wincham Park. A long day, but the welcome from Witton made it worthwhile.

More pictures of Wincham Park here.

Witton Albion 0-1 Skelmersdale United

Att: 343

Admission: £8.50

Programme: £2

Northwich Victoria v Ossett Town Saturday 26th March 2011 Evo-Stik Premier Division

I decided on a double header for today taking in both Northwich Victoria and Witton Albion, whose grounds are very close together. As you will see from my report on Witton later, I'd already been to Wincham Park to take my photos of the ground. Leaving Witton's ground I made use of the path pointed out to me which leads you to a small wooden bridge over the water that seperates the two grounds and which is the shortest route between the two grounds. I would not neccessarily recommend this path for a night game or if the weather was extremely wet but in todays conditions I had no problems. The Victoria Stadium is just to the right as you come over the bridge.

This route takes you past the bar area, the main entrance and the Club shop (which was not open as I went past it, only an hour before kick off). I wander past this large stand and head towards the car entrance to take a few shots.

As I head back to the ground I go to the ticket office as everyone has to buy a ticket before you enter the ground.

I head to the right of the ticket office to find an open entrance to the ground. There are not many people about and not many turnstiles are open either. I end up at the far end of the ground and enter the ground through the Dane Bank Stand entrance.

This brings me into the ground in the corner with the huge Dane Bank terrace to my right and a large one level standing area behind the goal in front of me.

Here is the vast Dane Bank terrace.

I carry on to the standing area behind the goal and at the far end there are toilet facilities but not much else other than crush barriers at the front of the standing area. As you reach the corner there is nothing to stop you heading towards the seated Victoria Stand.

The stand has 1,180 seats and the Clubs initials are picked out in the green seats.

Parked up against the side of the stand was the Official Supporters Tour Bus!

Looking back from this corner you can see that the ground is situated on an industrial estate, with old industry as can be seen behind the stand and newer, modern industrial units near the entrance/exit to the ground.

I head back to the Dane Stand, the huge terrace which was brought from the Vics old ground, Drill Field. I walk up the steps to take a few shots.

I walk along the terrace to the other end which is basically a carbon copy of the end I came in, an uncovered flat terrace. This is used for the away fans with the Dane Stand also available for them too, as it can be segregated when necessary. There was no segregation today, I think there were only a few Ossett fans here, although they did use the uncovered terrace in the second half.

Now, normally I would give you a bit of a match summary at this point. But I have to be honest and tell you that this game was garbage. I got the impression that neither team had met their teamates before today, as the passes by both teams seemed to miss their intended target so many times! Northwich had the majority of possession but did not really threaten the Ossett goal often enough.

Ossett created the better chances on the day but some poor finishing kept the game goalless. It looked like being a 0-0 for most of the game. But on 84 minutes an Ossett free kick was only parried by the Vics keeper Spencer and substitute David Boardman pounced on the loose ball to fire home.

With no further score Ossett secured the three points and the Vics fans were very unhappy with their teams performance.
I just have one final comment to make about this game. It kicked off 2 or 3 minutes late which made my journey back to Witton a little bit tight, especially after the ref found 5 minutes additional time to add on at the end of the second half for one short injury and four substitutions. To compound matters, the official at the Witton game either kicked off dead on three or earlier as when I look at my watch inside Wincham Lane it is one minute past three and the game has started. Nothing like consistency is there!

More pictures of The Victoria Ground here.

There are pictures of the ground, action and the fans here.

Northwich Victoria 0-1 Ossett Town
Att: 277
Admission: £10
Programme: £2

Monday, 21 March 2011

Rossendale United v Formby Saturday 19th March 2011 Vodkat League Premier Division

I recently totted up how many grounds I had been to and was surprised to find that I was closing in on the 200 mark. Now I know this is small fry in the world of hopping, but I wanted to make ground number 200 a decent one, not a new build. So looking for a ground with a bit of character, I decided on Dark Lane, home of Rossendale United.

This was also a new League for me too after my aborted trip to Holker last year. The ground is fairly easy to find and although the car park is limited in spaces we have no trouble in parking up. The ground has a ramshackle appearance on the outside, just as I like them, plenty of character and I'm confident I've made the right choice of ground for today.

The turnstiles are situated in the corner of the car park and they bring you into the ground in the corner with a covered terraced stand in front of you with the main stand to the left.

The setting for the ground is stunning with some beautiful countryside beyond the limits of the perimeter fencing. There is a table selling raffle tickets and another selling programmes as you enter where I am mistaken for a Manchester City fan before apologies are offered when they realise I am not. We spend a few minutes talking about the ground and they inform me that it can be pretty cold in the winter with the ground being very open to the elements. Fortunately for us the weather today is pretty good and not very cold. We carry on to make our way anti clockwise around the ground.
The terraced stand has three steps with the top step a wide one to the back of the stand. There is a crush barrier running along the first step in the first section which runs to half way behind the goal.

There is a small dividing wall half way along with a gap at the top to enter the second section of the stand. This becomes a four step terrace with no crush barrier.

Once past this terraced section the ground narrows as you go towards the corner and a very smart blue fence runs from this stand right down to the other corner on this side. You can see the views from this picture too.

The far side of the ground has hard standing running down it's length with a well tended grassy area behind it running to the fence.

There are two large dugouts situated on this side too and this picture gives you sneak preview of the main stand.

This brings you to the opposite end to where we came in . There is hard standing running the entire length with a basic cover which also runs the entire end. The blue fencing ends a little way along and there is then a variety of fencing, trees and bushes.

This is a more general view of the end from the side of the ground.

Leaving this end brings to the side of the ground with the impressive looking main stand.

The ground widens up again on this side with hard standing running to the stand and a grassy area up to the fence.

There is access to the seats on the end of the stand and there is a terraced area in front of the seats with the entrance to the dressing rooms half way down the stand.

We go up the steps to take a look at the seated area. The "seats" are in fact long benches with the seat numbers painted on with a line separating each seat. Very old school and fantastic to see.

At this point we meet a Club official who is due to man the tannoy system. He asks us why we are here and where we've travelled from. We explain what we are doing here and he goes on tell us the Club are having problems at the moment financially but how they are hoping to get through them. A really nice guy and very friendly.
There is another section of seating in the centre of the stand for Directors and officials with another section of benches after this.

After the stand there is some uncovered terracing with a couple of portacabins at the back of it.

Neither of today's two teams are doing too well in the Vodkat Premier with Rossendale in 21st and Formby in 20th in a league of 22 teams, so this was the cliche six pointer. The game began fairly scrappy with both teams struggling to hang onto the ball. Formby had plenty of possession but it was Rossendale who were creating the best chances.

On 19 minutes the ball broke to Rossendale's Stephen Burke who found himself one on one with the keeper and calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the net. Formby lost their way briefly and began arguing over every decision which did no help their cause. Rossendale used this to their advantage and looked likely to score more but some good defensive work by Formby kept them at bay. Formby gradually worked their way back into the game and got their reward on 37 minutes when good interplay between Robinson and Stancombe resulted in a low shot that beat the Rossendale keeper from Stancombe. Formby also hit the woodwork before half time but there was no further score and so we went in level at the break.

Early in the second half Formby's King was shown the red card after a reckless challenge leaving Rossendale with the advantage. However Formby galvanised themselves and looked very solid at the back and were even pressing forward making light of their disadvantage. Formby were awarded a free kick just outside the Rossendale box and when it was cleared the danger looked over. But Jack Sinnott picked it up 25 yards out and hit a superb half volley which dipped over the keeper and into the net. Formby still went forward and Rossendale were finding it hard to create anything. But on 74 minutes they had their equaliser. Rossendale exploited their man advantage and some good passing play resulted in Burke being found unmarked on the edge of the box and he found the back of the net for the second time.

They were not level for long though. Formby immediately went on the attack from kick off and Robinson surged into the box only to be brought down by the keeper and the penalty was awarded. Phil Stafford stepped up and put away a good penalty to restore Formby's lead. Formby's players continued to work hard and this made it very hard for Rossendale to get any sort of game going. Formby saw out the 4 minutes additional time to secure a vital win in the relegation battle and deal a blow to Rossendale's own hopes of survival.

An enjoyable game and a superb ground made for a good day out and I would recommend you to make a visit to Dark Lane in the near future.

More pictures of Dark Lane here.

There are pictures of the ground, action and the fans here.

Rossendale United 2-3 Formby
Att: 84
Admission: £5
Programme: £0.50

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Northern League Day 9th April 2011

I'd just like to bring your attention to Northern League Day which has been scheduled for Saturday 9th April 2011. Here are the idea and reasons behind the day:

"Inspired by the nationwide success of last September’s Non-League Day, the first ever Northern League Day will take place at the traditional kick-off time of 3 o’clock on Saturday 9th April 2011.

With Middlesbrough at Sheffield United and Newcastle United playing in the lunchtime televised fixture away at Aston Villa the following day, we hope as many fans as possible will turn out to support their local non-league football teams.


We’ll be at Ryton (bottom of Division One at the time of writing with three points from thirty games and a goal difference of minus one hundred and three). After promised sponsorship money failed to materialise in the summer, Ryton had to sack their management team and every single player except one followed them out of the club. £5 of your money here would go a very long way. They play Billingham Synthonia, where Brian Clough started his career and perhaps the only club in world football to be named after an agricultural fertiliser. The nearest train station to Ryton is Wylam (15 minutes from Central Station), home of the famous Boathouse Inn. Remember when you could enjoy a Saturday afternoon out with your mates, watch a game of football and have a couple of beers for a tenner? You still can."

There is more information at the website set up for the day here.

This is a great idea and I hope that some of you may be able to make the day, you never know, you might even get to meet me, but don't let that put you off!

There are other games to go to on the day if you do not fancy Ryton and you can check these out the Northern League Day website or the official Northern League website.

See you there!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Parkgate v Thackley Saturday 12th March 2011 NCEL Premier

The weather had put paid to a couple of visits to new grounds, so my football fix came via following Grimsby Borough at home to Emley and away to Louth Town. So this Saturday the weather was good and so the world was my oyster. After a bit of consideration I decided upon Parkgate's home game to Thackley, a top of the table clash, 3rd versus 7th in the table. Now today saw me have a pang of pain missing going to see the Foxes as I saw the supporters buses turning off the M180 heading to Glanford Park as I headed on towards Rotherham. Ah well, just have to settle for the updates from Mrs who would be attending the game with our daughter.

Parkgate's ground was not too hard to find but I did miss the turn off despite seeing the sign for the golf club that is next to it. A quick double back and I headed down the lane leading to the ground. There is a large car park but it was fairly full due to the golfers who were taking advantage of the decent weather. As you enter the car park the golf course is to the left and the ground is reached by walking a little way uphill to the right.

This takes you past the Roundwood Pavillion which houses the changing rooms, bar and other facilities, and it is here you have come back to if you want the toilet as there are none in the ground. The path continues past the Pavillion and onto the turnstile.

You enter the ground at one end more or less level with the left hand edge of the 18 yard box. I head to the left as I enter, but as you can see, it is not possible to go all round the ground today.

The hedge runs all the way down the side of the pitch and there is a drop towards the bottom of it and on the other side of it it drops away more steeply to another pitch outside of the ground. One thing that struck me was how good the pitch looked, a fact pointed out to me by the Parkgate manager as he made his way onto the pitch. Apparently Rotherham United also use the pitch and their groundsman spends some time here looking after it. Immediately behind where I took the picture above is the entrance to the ground from the dressing rooms and this gives you an idea of the elevated position of the ground.

This is the view from the same position looking back to where I came in, you can see the blue turnstile door and the hard standing does not go all the way to the corner.

Heading back to where I came in brings you the only cover in the ground. The first area is a terraced section with a couple of benches at the back three crush barriers on the top step.

There is then a brick tea hut with protective fencing in front of it to stop wayward shots knocking your tea out of your hand. This in turn leads to the seated area where the first few seats are not covered but the rest have a roof in place after this.

The hard standing continues after this and takes you to the side of the ground that has a two step terrace running most of it's length but with another broad step near the dugouts.

This is a view looking back at the end where you enter from the terracing.

Here's a picture of the three step terracing. As you can see, the houses behind cause the hard standing to narrow up, but you can access the end behind the goal.

Behind the goal there is a narrow strip of hard standing that runs the length of the end with a breeze block wall separating it from the pitch. There is a wide grassy area behind the hard standing.

This is the view from the end of the ground looking back at the terraced side with the dugouts in front.

And so to the game. Parkgate get off to a flying start and are 1-0 up after only three minutes. Chris Wood was alert as the ball bounced around and put his header over Bower in the Thackley goal. At this stage it was all Parkgate with Thackley struggling to keep them at bay. Thackley's first real chance came after 25 minutes when a fierce shot from Josh McLean just failed to find the target. I thought they were going to equalise on 30 minutes when a superb shot from Ross Daly was heading for the top corner only for James Jenkinson to pull off a great save to deny him.

The game was now literally end to end with chances for both sides but there was no further scoring before the end of the half.

Thackley started the second half as brightly as Parkgate had the first but it took them 6 minutes to get their equaliser. Nickey Mathews' shot found it's way past a crowd of players to level the game. Parity did not last long. A ball into the box found Ashley Worsfold unmarked and a clever header found the net. Thackley responded straight away and a header from Rob Morgan from a corner only just went past the post. Parkgate went straight up the other end and a good cross from Tom Jowitt was met by Woods who headed over the advancing keeper to make it 3-1 after 62 minutes.

Six minutes later it was 4-1. After good work by sub Grant Allott, whose lob beat the keeper but came back off the underside of the bar, another shot from Allott was parried by the keeper and after a scramble Wood completed his hat-trick by putting away the loose ball. This looked like it was all over for Thackley but to their credit they continued to go forward and were rewarded on 80 minutes when Higmaan ran in at the far post to lash the ball home. Five minutes later Thackley had the ball in the net again but this one was ruled out for offside and with it went their chance to get something from the game. A really entertaining match.
The Green Lane ground is a pretty basic venue but the welcome was very warm and the entertainment good and I would recommend it for a visit.

More pictures of Roundwood Pavillion here.

There are pictures of the ground, action and the fans here.

Parkgate 4-2 Thackley
Att: 83
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.20