Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Newcastle Benfield PvsP West Allotment Celtic (12/01/11)

This should have been my 2nd game of my little North-East “holiday” visiting my girlfriend (who I have been instructed under strict rules not to call my “missus”) in Newcastle. It was a big Northern League derby between Newcastle Benfield and West Allotment Celtic, who are just 2.2 miles away from Benfield in Longbenton.


I had even planned this game meticulously and went to Benfield the day before just to take pictures in the day time which is dotted around this report. Sam Smiths Park is the first Northern League ground I’ve seen in the flesh and so I would have to compare it to other Level 9 grounds I’ve seen (Western Premier, basically) and it compares quite well too, as there are two covered stands on both sides of the pitch as well as a covered standing area next to one of the stands as well. The rest of the ground is uncovered but has ample space for standing which makes this a great wee ground.



The game was meant to be a Northumberland FA Senior Cup QF game with the victors joining Blyth Spartans and Ashington in the Semis already. (The other QF is between Newcastle Utd Reserves and Bedlington Terriers) However, just as I had paid my admission fee and programme (£5), all the lights went off…. And while some did come on again, forcing the teams to start warming up, the rest couldn’t come back on and so at 8pm, the game was called off.

IMG_0389 (What’s wrong with playing in that?)

So my 1st Northern League ground will have to wait and the rescheduled game is actually taking place tonight (Wednesday 26th Jan) yet I cannot make it due to the fact I am 391 miles away in Devon. Although Benfield did give me a pass to use so the day I actually do return, I want in with the pass!

Image (4) (The game that never was)

IMG_0394 (I’ll be back Benfield!)

N.B – It was nice to meet up, albeit briefly with Ian “Percy Main” Cusack who told me a bit of information about the teams and the ground, excellent stuff! Read his blog here.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Road to Wembley 2010/11 (3rd Round)

After ending Swindon Supermarine’s excellent run to the FA Cup 2nd Round, Colchester United now had the chance to inflict a wee cup shock of their own as they travelled to Championship side Swansea City. In all honesty to Colchester though, it was probably not the draw they would have wanted. A 520 mile round trip going to a club, who despite their lofty status this season, are not a glamour club compared to the Premiership sides in the draw.


In the end, Colchester needn’t had bothered. While I was watching a close game at Sunderland, Swansea City cruised into the 4th Round with a 4-0 hosing of Colchester. Goals from Garry Monk, Darren Pratley, Cedric van der Gun and Scott Sinclair put the Swans through to another home game, this time against League 1 side Leyton Orient.


Looking at Swansea’s and Orient’s current form, I can only see the Welsh side making it into Round 5 where I hope (for the sake of this feature!) that they have an away draw! But this is the FA Cup, and stranger things have happened….

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2010/2011:

EXTRA PRELIMINARY ROUND: Elmore 1-5 Hamworthy Utd (Horsdon Park, Att: 247)

PRELIMINARY ROUND: Hamworthy Utd 2-2 Sherborne Town (County Ground, Att: 122)

PRELIMINARY ROUND Replay: Sherborne Town 3–0 Hamworthy Utd (Raleigh Grove, Att: 154)

1ST QUALIFYING ROUND: Wimborne Town 1-3 Sherborne Town (The Cuthbury, Att: 226)

2ND QUALIFYING ROUND: Sherborne Town 1-2 Hungerford Town (Raleigh Grove, Att: 138)

3RD QUALIFYING ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 4-0 Hungerford Town (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 365)

4TH QUALIFYING ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 0-0 Bath City (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 551)

4TH QUALIFYING ROUND Replay: Bath City 3-4 Swindon Supermarine (Twerton Park, Att: 665)

1ST ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 2-1 Eastwood Town (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 1,159)

2ND ROUND: Colchester United 1-0 Swindon Supermarine (Colchester Community Stadium, Att: 3,047)

3RD Round: Swansea City 4-0 Colchester United (Liberty Stadium, Att: 7,005)

Friday, 21 January 2011

Sunderland vs Notts County (08/01/11)

Match 104

Ground #: 71

Ground: Stadium of Light 

Competition: FA Cup 3rd Round

Kick Off: 3:00pm

Cost: £15

Programme: £2

Attendance: 17,582

Sunderland 1

Bent (pen) 81’

Notts County 2

Westcarr 5’, Hughes 75’


Being up in the North-East for some quality New Years time with my girlfriend gave me a chance to yet again take a sneaky look at some games on in the area that I could toddle off to on the only Saturday I was here and get another “bonus tick” this season. Having spent a lot of time in the lower echelons of the English Football Pyramid recently, I was looking higher up at Gateshead’s game against Kidderminster and then Darlington vs AFC Wimbledon (Darlo wanting £18 to watch that!!) but when I noticed Newcastle’s lovely red and white friends from over the Wear, I decided to get a rare 92 ground in and head to Sunderland.


Sunderland is a major city in the North-East (probably 2nd to Newcastle although they’d hate to admit it!) Historically part of County Durham, there were 3 original settlements on the site of the city today. Monkwearmouth, Bishopwearmouth and the port of Sunderland were all around when Sunderland was granted a charter in 1179. Sunderland then became a major port trading coal and salt before the ship building really began to take off in the 14th Century. This is quite possibly where the nickname Mackem comes from as the Sunderland dockers would make the ship (mack em’) and then the Newcastle dockers would take it away to be fitted. (tak em’) However looking at a study complied by the Oxford English Dictionary – the earliest time Mackem has been seen in print is 1988, which suggests that the shipbuilding nickname story is a Geordie fishwife tale and is probably bollocks. Today, Sunderland has seen a mass amount of regeneration work under the ambitious UDP (Unitary Development Plan) to try and seen a modern Sunderland into the 21st Century. New industries such as the Nissan Car Factory will help as will modern developments such as The Holmeside Triangle and of course the area surrounding Sunderland AFC’s new(ish) ground.


The Stadium of Light has been home to the Mackems since 1997 when they moved from their dilapidated Roker Park as a result of the bureaucratic’s wet dream in the Taylor Report. The SOL is now a 49,000 capacity bright light of the NE as its one of the most atmospheric and best loved grounds in the Premiership. There is also room for expansion up to a massive 64,000 capacity (which will then see the SOL be bigger than St James Park down the road) but that would need to wait until Sunderland were title contenders most likely. That being said, this season is shaping up to be a very good one for the Mackem’s and they were in 6th place in the Premiership going into this FA Cup game. I managed to blag a seat (although in the end I could have just sat anywhere judging by the amount of spare seats!) in the Premier Concourse which provided me with an excellent view running down the pitch for only £15. Although every seat for adults was this price, that didn’t stop Sunderland fans not turning up in their droves as the attendance for this game was around 20,000 down on their current season average.


League 1 Notts County on the other hand were really up for this and all but filled their 3,000 space in the South Stand behind the goal Sunderland would be attacking in the 1st half. Notts County – the lesser Nottingham side (you are, lets be honest), have had a turbulent couple of seasons and this one has been no different either. I predicted back in Summer 2010, that taking on Craig Short as manager was a risk that was only going to backfire and Short was unsurprisingly sacked in October and the horrid, abortion of a man, Paul Ince was appointed soon after and has taken County to the reasonably high position of 14th but only 7 points off the relegation zone. I don’t mind Notts County as a club, in fact I have no real opinion of them at all, however I despise Paul “lets play the race card to get me a job” Ince and after being a shit for most of his footballing career, he is now a big manager shit and his very face just pees me off. Luckily I was sat behind the dugouts and far enough away from his face to not annoy me as much.


Considering Sunderland had a real good chance of progressing quite far in this competition, I was surprised to see Steve Bruce had played a weakened side for this game which would have surely added fire to the Notts County desire to win this game. I was disappointed that the World’s “3rd Best Goalie”, Craig Gordon had not even made the bench with relative nobody Simon Mignolet starting in goal and after a relative open start from both sides, on 5 minutes he was center of attention. When Craig Westcarr flicked the ball on towards goal, Mignolet looked like he’d easily catch it. However he was barged out the way by a combination of Lee Hughes and a Kieran Richardson to give County a shock lead. From where I was as a neutral, this looked all the World to be a foul and even the County players waited on a whistle before celebrating. Sunderland fans around me were a bit peed off but felt that they would come back into it over the remaining 85 minutes. Those fans were in for a shock however, as Notts County just battered Sunderland and Alan Judge and Ben Davies in particular causing the home side all sorts of problems. Sunderland, amazingly nearly grabbed an equalizer which would have been a travesty when Andy Reid fired just wide after good work from Gyan. Notts County almost snatched a 2nd right on half-time though when Sunderland failed to deal with the ball in the air, again and Craig Westcarr forced a brilliant, low save from Mignolet to keep Sunderland in the game at HT.


Sunderland made no changes for the start of the 2nd half and the continued incompetent display from these “players” really started to piss off the locals who began to make their anger known after more mis-placed passes were in evidence. The first 15 minutes of this half was a non-event as everyone in the ground could see that County were comfortable and Sunderland would need to make changes. These came on the hour mark when Jordan Henderson and Ahmad Elmohamady were thrown on and started creating chances when Steed Malbranque sliced his shot just wide and then Darren Bent missed a good headed chance as Sunderland upped the pressure. Then in almost laughable circumstances, County went up the other end and scored when Lee Hughes converted a deflected pass after his first shot was well saved by Mignolet. Two Sunderland defenders desperately appealed for offside, despite them being stationed on the goal line. Learn the offside rule lads. The vast amount of County fans were really making themselves heard now with “LETS ALL DO THE HUGHESY! LETS ALL DO THE HUGHESY!” in response to his well-known dance goal celebration. Amazingly though, Sunderland pulled a goal back when Darren Bent converted a penalty after Andy Reid had been barely touched in the area, but the referee was probably thinking of the neutrals who wanted a big finish – good man. In fact Bent had a golden chance on 90 minutes when he had a free diving header but could only fire it over the bar. And with that, Notts County were through and we had a cup shock!


Sunderland fans moods were lightly lifted later when near neighbours Newcastle could only crash 3-1 at footballing giants Stevenage but it didn’t hide the fact that Sunderland’s B-side are so poor. A lot of these players will probably rarely play for the club again as the first XI can breathe easy at the lack of competition. Since this game (sorry its been so long) – Sunderland snatched a barely deserved point in their derby against Newcastle and now top scorer Darren Bent has joined Aston Villa for a mindblowing £18m. He will be replaced (it appears) by Ricardo Fuller who is on his last legs as all the major news outlets have stated he would fail a medical. As for Notts County, they can look forward to a money spinning 4th Round tie at home to rich boys Manchester City which has also been picked for live TV. For me, it was good to see a game in the NE and good to pay a reasonable amount of money for it too! As for the city centre of Sunderland, its a bit of a dump, eh?

Photos from Sunderland vs Notts County


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (not great for a neutral)

- Value for money: 7/10 (well done Sunderland for charging reasonable admission)

- Ground: 7/10 (I liked it – bit of character inside)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (all created by the County fans)

- Food: N/A – due to prices (£3.40 for a lamb wrap for example), I did not eat in the ground – large choice though if you have wads of money

- Programme: 7/10 (good read)

- Referee: Stuart Atwell – 4.5/10 (in my eyes, got the big decisions wrong)

Image (2)

Image (3)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Royal Marines AFC vs Witheridge AFC (03/01/11)

Match 103

Ground #: 70

Ground: Endurance Park 

Competition: Throgmorton Cup 3rd Round

Kick Off: 1:30pm

Cost: £4

Programme: With Admission

Attendance: 57

Royal Marines AFC 2

Finneron 39’, O’Brien 82’

Witheridge AFC 1

Ebdy 59’ 


Most people for a “New Years Resolution” will try and either take up exercise or “get fit”, lose weight, etc. For my first game of 2011, I would see a group of people who were absolutely on their peak fitness. They’d have to be as they represented the Royal Marines – the amphibious infantry part of the British Royal Navy. As a Royal Marine base was near me in South Devon, and home to Royal Marines AFC – the footballing machine of the Marines, I popped down to see them potentially hand a beating out to some civvys in their Throgmorton Cup 3rd Round match.


The Royal Marines were formed as part of the Naval Service in 1755, but can actually trace their history to 1664 when English soldiers went to fight the Spanish at sea to stop the Spaniards reaching Gibraltar. They have had an illustrious history before and after their creation as Royal Marine Commandos in 1942 and hold the title as the first ever military unit to perform an air assault insertion by helicopter during the 1956 Suez Crisis. Today, under the ‘leadership’ of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, the RM Commandos are based around the country in Taunton, Plymouth and Arbroath amongst other places. The camp at Lympstone, Devon is a training camp from what I can gather and so it puts the Marines through some of the gruelling training exercises such as 9-mile speed march and the Tarzan Assault Course which really sorts the men from the really physically fit men.


The football section of the Royal Marines are also really on the up currently. Smashing their way through the Navy FA in the Navy competitions they are now seriously starting to challenge other local civilian clubs in the Southwest. Having won the Southwest Peninsula League Division 1 East last season, the Marines are now playing in the SWPL Premier and have settled reasonably well after a dreadful start and found themselves in 10th place and a comfortable 13 points clear of the drop. Royal Marines AFC have also been attracting attention nationally as (picture above) they had a feature about them in January 2011’s FourFourTwo magazine which followed them during a routine 2-0 home win against lowly Wadebridge Town. The article commented about how the team are looking to qualify for the FA Cup and would anyone want to play them……?


Sadly for two reasons that won’t be happening for a while. Firstly their ground Endurance Park does not have floodlights – a requirement to enter FA competitions. (They could groundshare I suppose at nearby Exmouth Town) Endurance Park is a decent ground opposite the Marine base and around a 15 minute walk from Exton station. A small, but cosy clubhouse is in one corner of the ground that sells some decent food too as I nailed an excellent pasty before the game. To the side of each dugout is the covered seating stand. (Pic below) which I sat in for the whole game due to it peeing down once I arrived! The rest of the ground is a mix of hard and grass standing with it being railed off all around. As around the ground is a complex of other pitches such as hockey and rugby, it does suggest that expansion could happen and floodlights may one day be installed.


The Throgmorton Cup is the SWPL Cup as only members of the 3 SWP Leagues can enter. Buckland Athletic are the current holders after winning it last season and are still in the competition, although are yet to play the 3rd Round tie at Penryn Athletic at the time of writing. Royal Marines to reach here, had dispatched of Cullompton Rangers (4-2) and Budleigh Salterton (2-1) to finally have a home game this season. Their opponents were fellow Premier Division side Witheridge who after seeing beat Tiverton in 2010/11 pre-season had undergone changes after sacking manager Warren Patmore following a poor start and were right down there in 16th place (out of 20). They struggled past Division 1 East side Bickleigh (2-0) to reach here and were looking for something to spark their season back to life.


Under the cover, I had inadvertently sat with the Witheridge subs and some management staff as clearly the Marine dugouts were a tad small. I was intrigued to see the Marines play and see if any of their training would do them good. Early on it did appear that they were the stronger side as the had the early possession and pressure but couldn’t do much with it with Martin Finneron and Richard Hope up front trying to feed off scraps. Despite that, Witheridge should have been 1 up on 13 minutes when they closed down a clearance from the Marines and the Withy striker ran through, but shot just wide. After this though, the Marines stepped it up and began creating the better chances and deservedly took the lead on 39 minutes. From a corner, Witheridge could not clear the ball at all and when another ball was put in for what seemed the 4th time, Wearing in the Withy goal went walkabout and Finneron was at the back post to slam home a diving header to give the Commandos a 1-0 HT lead.


Whatever Withy boss John Cornforth said at HT, it worked as Withy came out the much better side and created two excellent chances early on which Marines goalie Laim Jones did well to keep out. However on 59 minutes, Witheridge’s goal scoring machine Steve Ebdy crashed home an equalizer after good work down the right found him with a low cross and his shot smashed off the bar and in. From then on, Witheridge were still the better side but the game became niggily and both sides were getting bogged down in the midfield area. As Throgmorton Cup games are settled on the day, I was preparing myself for Extra Time when on 82 minutes, O’Brien received the ball in the area after some good holdup play by Hope and he curled the ball away from Wearing and Royal Marines snatched the lead and saw out the remaining 10 minutes or so with ease.


The Marines now have a Quarter-Final tie against Teignmouth or St Blazey at home. The Teignmouth game is set to be played 5th February and it will be a game I am hopefully at! As for this game, it was a decent, albeit rainy start to 2011. A much better experience than I was expecting and with the Marines on the up, could be playing a much higher level of football in the future. The Commando. ITS A STATE OF MIND.

Photos from Royal Marines vs Witheridge


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (slightly better than average)

- Value for money: 7/10 (good for admission + prog for £4)

- Ground: 5.5/10 (better than expected)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (Witheridge always bring a decent number)

- Food: 8/10 (superb pasty for £1.50 – top notch)

- Programme: 6/10 (decent enough and free)

- Referee: Lee Dudman – 5/10 (a tad fussy)


Sunday, 2 January 2011

Bodmin Town vs Wadebridge Town (27/12/10)

‘A389 Derby’

Match 102

Ground #: 69

Ground: Priory Park 

Competition: Southwest Peninsula Premier League (Level 10)

Kick Off: 2:00pm

Cost: £5 (including £1 to transfer to stand)

Programme: £1

Attendance: 216

Bodmin Town 2

O’Hagan 50’, 81’

Wadebridge Town 0


Sometimes, and I stress sometimes, there are upsides to living here in the deep Southwest. While I was hearing and reading horror stories from other football fanatics that they hadn't seen a game in a month, during the recent cold spell, there had been a trickle of games always on in Devon & Cornwall and the the 27th December was no different. It wasn’t my first choice at Cullompton Rangers but when I heard that Bodmin’s derby against local town Wadebridge had beaten the cold this was a no brainer. Down to Cornwall!


Bodmin is a major town in Cornwall situated just a wee bit away from Bodmin Moor. It was the county town of Cornwall until Truro took that mantel away from them and the County Courts too. The town was founded by St Petroc apparently when he set up a monastery in the town in the 6th Century. It is also the only Cornish settlement to be recorded in the Domesday Book in the 11th Century. Bodmin has always had something going on, from the Black Death wiping out 50% of its population to 3 Cornish uprisings. (Probably due to the lack of pasties one morning) Today, Bodmin has such sites of interest as the Bodmin Gaol, the first prison to hold prisoners in separate cells, the Shire Hall and of course, the Beast of Bodmin – a wild panther like cat which apparently exists on nearby Bodmin Moor. (It doesn’t)


While the weather was fine in Cornwall, the same could not be said in icy Devon where I could only get to this game after my parents had pushed me out of the carpark. (Name check!) Upon arrival at Bodmin’s Priory Park I was a bit surprised to see how basic the ground was as Bodmin are arguably Cornwall’s 2nd best team (behind Truro) after their recent successes. As you can see from the picture above, the main grandstand at Priory Park dominates in the ground (mainly as its the only thing here) while the rest of the ground is uncovered, hard standing. Behind where I stood to take this photo is the clubhouse which was quite reasonable inside and the car park. As it was peeing down I took the sensible option to sit in the big stand which Bodmin then charged me an extra £1 to sit in, really Bodmin? £5 in at Level 10?


After being big guns in the South Western League and winning the title in 2005/06, they started where they had left off when the new Southwest Peninsula League was set up for the 2007/08 season. They won the Premier Division twice in the 1st two seasons and even picked up the League’s Throgmorton Cup during those two seasons too. Despite last season the Cornwall club relinquished their title and cup to Buckland Athletic, they still managed to win the Cornwall FA Senior Cup after beating Camelford in the Final. Going into this game they were in 4th place and 6 points behind leaders Buckland, however Bodmin had 2 games in hand and Buckland’s game against Bovey Tracey being called off, the Cornish side had the chance to close the gap. Their rivals from just down the other side of the A389 were having an absolute disaster of a season. Wadebridge Town were bottom of the league and had only picked up 8 points from their 1st 18 games, being 6 points away from 18th and safety – Cullumpton Rangers. The fact that Wadebridge were looking at playing in SWP Division 1 West next season and the fact they hadn’t beaten Bodmin since 2003 meant the home side were overwhelming favourites for this one.


As the rain had showed no signs of relenting at kick-off, football along the floor became extremely hard to achieve as it began to look like a Cornish version of “It’s a Knockout” with both sides slipping and sliding everywhere about the place. In fact the Wadebridge goalie even fumbled a tame shot early on. Fun and spills at Priory Park! When Bodmin did get going they unsurprisingly caused Wadebridge problems as Wade goalie Josh Grills saved well from a Bodmin header. And apart from a Bodmin corner flying straight onto the bar that was it for the 1st half. After my 0-0 bore draw at my previous game seeing Cockfosters, I was a tad concerned about the score being 0-0 at HT here as neither side really looked like opening up each other. That all changed 5 minutes into the 2nd half when Sam Matthews slipped Danny O’Hagan through and despite the whole ground noticing he was offside, he rounded the keeper and opened the scoring. Understandably Wadebridge were not happy with this and had surrounded the referee and assistant as soon as the ball had hit the net. Wade nearly had an outstanding equalizer on 57 minutes when a free kick some way out was only kept out by a tremendous save from Bodmin keeper Kevin Miller. Nothing else of note occurred until 81 minutes in when a Mark Berry corner was easily headed in by O’Hagan. That was game over and Bodmin played out the last 10 minutes in comfort.


I had actually planned a potential visit to Bodmin in January but when this was the only game on in miles, Bodmin had to be done. I was surprised at Priory Park and how basic it was. To be honest, it needs a bit of TLC as its currently a bit of a dump. That being said, it was nice to get to another Cornish ground and end 2010 with a decent game to cap of a great year for me football wise. Happy New Year!

Photos from Bodmin Town vs Wadebridge Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (decent enough)

- Value for money: 5/10 (£5 for Level 10 is pricey)

- Ground: 4.5/10 (disappointing, one big stand doesn’t make a ground)

- Atmosphere: 6.5/10 (good to begin with)

- Food: 7/10 (excellent cheeseburger for £2.50)

- Programme: 6.5/10 (good balance between skeleton data and match facts)

- Referee: Simon Robins – 6/10 (decent game)

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Image (3)