Monday, 26 May 2014

Windsor vs Frimley Green (19/04/14)

Match 231

Ground #: 183

Ground: Stag Meadow

Competition: Combined Counties League (Level 9)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £6

Programme: £2

Attendance: 165

Windsor FC 5

Day 13’, 24’, Jones 39’, Jeffery 88’, Lucas 90’

Frimley Green 0

Taylor s/off 83’

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Easter always brings out a great load of games over the extended weekend and gives fans the chance to see their team lose twice in quick succession. For the neutral, the grand choice of games gives them a hard choice. After last Easter’s major excursions out of London to Oxford and Worcester, it was time to stay a bit more local. Having lived in Windsor as a young wee boy (c.1995!), it was a trip back to the royal town and down to the Meadow.

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Windsor is a town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the Royal Family. The early history of the site is unknown, although the site may have been settled many years before the medieval castle was built as there is ample evidence of Anglo Saxon settlement in the area. Windsor Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in the decade after the Norman conquest of 1066, a timber motte and bailey structure. The town of New Windsor, as an ancient demesne of the Crown, was a privileged settlement from the start, apparently having the rights of a 'free borough' for which other towns had to pay substantial fees to the king. New Windsor was a nationally significant town in the Middle Ages, as its prosperity came from its close association with the royal household. The repeated investment in the castle brought London merchants to the town and provided much employment for townsmen.

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The town however began to stagnate about ten years after the Reformation. The castle was considered old fashioned and shrines to the dead were thought to be 'superstitious'. The early modern period formed a stark contrast to the medieval history of the town. Most accounts of Windsor in the 16th and 17th centuries talk of its poverty, badly made streets and poor housing. Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor is set in Windsor and contains many references to parts of the town and the surrounding countryside. The substantial redevelopment of the castle during Queen Victoria's residence from 1840, as well as the coming of two railways in 1849, signalled the most dramatic changes in the town's history. It catapulted the town from a sleepy medieval has-been to the centre of empire with many European heads of state coming to Windsor to visit the Queen throughout the rest of the 19th century.

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Windsor FC are only 3 years old in their current state after the former club, Windsor & Eton FC folded during the 2010/11 season. Mounting debts for the former club, despite a promotion to the Southern League Premier in their final full season, saw them finished off and the new club started the 2011/12 season down in the Combined Counties League. After a decent first season where they finished 2nd in the league, chairman Kevin Scott came back from the 2012 Olympic Games to remove the playing budget as “the club had already lost its way.” Despite most of the playing staff leaving, new boss Mick Woodham came in and led Windsor and their new young team to a very decent 6th place finish. If they can continue this upward trend, Windsor may well find themselves back at their original level in the not too distant future and in a far better financial state than their previous form.

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Stag Meadow is found on the southern edge of Windsor and is part of The Great Park that wraps around the town. The ground was placed there in 1911 after an order from the Monarchy that stated an area of The Great Park should be for football. Therefore, an extremely scenic ground that also offers some decent facilities for this level. A Main Stand straddling the halfway line dominates the place, while opposite this is a fully covered standing terrace. With some uncovered terracing around the pitch and a small clubhouse down in the far corner of the ground, Stag Meadow could easily go back to hosting football from a far higher level if Windsor FC ever get there again. Considering some of the dross that is at Level 9 currently, this is one of the best grounds at this level.

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Being one of the best grounds at this level was just as well, as Windsor were nowhere near the promotion spots going into this game. A dreadful run of form had seen them win in the league in 7 attempts and had lost the last 4 games. Despite the lousy form, they were still in 6th place, although a long long way behind runaway league winners South Park. They had however won their first trophy under their new form in the week leading up to this with victory in the Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy win over Reading Town. With a place in the top 5 up for grabs, there was still a good amount to play for The Royalists.

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In town for this clash were the mighty Frimley Green who hail from Surrey. Down in 11th, they were only 7 points behind Windsor, which was a fantastic achievement from the club that won the Combined Counties 1st Division last season. The two clubs had met way back in October, when Windsor romped home to a 5-2 win. However, with Windsor in poor form and Frimley looking to finish as high as they can, this game wasn’t meant to be a forgone conclusion.

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That’s really what it was however, as Windsor tore the Green to shreds. With the away team only turning up with 12 players, it didn’t take too long for Windsor to open the floodgates. When Matt Day crashed the ball past Stuart Norman on 13 minutes, you feared for Frimley and they did well to only keep it at 3-0 at HT. With Day adding another and Kane Jones ending the game as a contest on 39 minutes. The second half was a complete procession with Windsor happy to kick the ball around and Frimley Green getting nowhere near testing Carl Dennison in the home net. Frimley could not deal with Windsor’s #11, Kyle Lucas all game and after Joey Taylor was sent off late on for a daft 2nd yellow, Lucas set one up and scored in injury time to give Windsor a bit of gloss that their domination deserved on the day.

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Windsor managed to keep this up for the close of the season as they only lost one of the last 5 to secure another 6th place in the league. However with club captain Dan Hicks moving up a level to join Marlow, Windsor may find it tough again with no budget to try and have a tilt at promotion for 2014/15. Frimley finished 12th for an excellent season back at Level 9 and will look to try and go a wee bit further for next season. Having caught them on a barethread day, and with only 7 fit players who actually started, it is maybe a tad harsh to label them as completely rubbish. Having lived just a 5 minute walk from the ground way back in the early 90’s, it is nice to finally see the place and is well worth the trip down. On a nice day, the excellent setting and the good quality of football that Windsor play make this a recommended visit.

Photos from Windsor vs Frimley Green

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (fizzled out in 2nd half)

- Value for money: 5/10 (seems the norm for Combined Counties League)

- Ground: 7/10 (great setting)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (the home fans did try)

- Food: 5/10 (standard stuff on offer)

- Programme: 4/10 (decent stuff but had better for £2)

- Referee: Isaac Jempeji – 6/10 (fussy, but wanted it played the right way)

Win vs FG prog

Win vs FG stub

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Cadbury Athletic vs Feckenham (12/04/14)

Match 230

Ground #: 182

Ground: Cadbury Recreation Ground

Competition: Midland Combination 1st Division (Level 11)

Kick Off: 3:07pm

Cost: Free

Programme: None

Attendance: 43

Cadbury Athletic 2

Carline 45’, Mooney 60’

Feckenham 1

Bennett 88’

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You have those moments in life where you might catch the image of something, or see something just for a fleeting moment and you think, wow! While I’ve seen many pictures of Jennifer Lawrence since that first glance, for example, and always thought the same, I remember seeing a picture of a fantastic ground at uni. The quirky place of the Cadbury Recreation Ground with a brilliant classic pavilion type building. A ground that had been on my mind for some time (a different part of my mind to where Jennifer lies I might add), was in sort of danger to have no football played on it again for some time soon if Cadbury won the league this season. I wasn’t missing this again, not on my watch.

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In 1824, John Cadbury began selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate in Birmingham before joining forces with his brother Benjamin to become the “Cadbury Brothers”. After going into decline, John’s sons Richard & George took over in 1861 with a new focus on chocolate. The major breakthrough came however in 1878 when the brothers decided to move the factory to the countryside, 4 miles outside of Birmingham. With better access for milk and cocoa to the estate, it was renamed Bournville and George built a “model village” around the factory to “alleviate the evils of modern more cramped living conditions” which included the playing fields. From then, the rest is history with Dairy Milk (1905), Flake (1920) and Crunchie (1929) all being released to take Cadbury’s from strength to strength.

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Cadbury’s Quaker roots changed in 1969 when they merged with Schweppes and took a more capitalist venturer approach to business. With acquisitions such as Peter Paul, Cadbury' Schweppes were a key player in the global food and drink industry. However a demerger was announced in 2007 as well as the closure of the old Fry’s Somerdale Factory in Keynsham. Cadbury’s as we know it were no more after 2010 too, with Kraft eventually getting through a hostile takeover to acquire the company. Kraft then split into two, with the confectionery business becoming Mondel─ôz International. (The name was brought by Kraft employees with Monde being French for world and delez an alternative to delicious – a clear reason why you never let employees name a company!)

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Despite the history of the Cadbury brand, Cadbury Athletic were only formed in 1994 and joined the Midland Combination 3rd Division. The club was affiliated with the Cadbury's factory based in Bournville, using the company's logo as its badge and even playing in the Cadbury's corporate colours of purple and white. Despite their short history of only 20 years, the Athletic have been up and down all the way through the Midland Combination in that time, even making the Premier Division in 2005. However, a lack of floodlights at the Rec meant they had to share with local club Pilkington XXX, but played FA Vase and FA Cup football in that time. Going ok in the Premier Division, the club felt the need to drop down back to Division 1 after 2011/12 and finished 3rd in the 1st Division last year as they sort out potential ground problems.

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I would politely describe Birmingham as an absolute shithole, however just a 10 minute train ride away is the beautiful town of Bournville, which I recommend a visit to. The Cadbury Recreation Ground is right next to Cadbury World (I had given up chocolate for Lent this year so it would not have been wise to visit) and was really worth the trip. Set in brilliant scenery around the old factory, the highlight of the place is the old, classic pavilion that dominates the place. With some stunning rooms inside such as the Memorial Room and a balcony on the 1st floor to provide an excellent view of the pitch, it is a classic building. With a small terrace area running down the side of the pitch too, it is a far better place than I was even expecting. The pitch at the Playing Fields apparently has links to Wembley Stadium too as it is one of 4 pitches in the country to use the same Northumberland turf that is used at the National Stadium. Go and visit.

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On the pitch, Cadbury are doing fine as well and were seeing this game to try and Boost their title chances. (1st chocolate pun!) Before this game they were top of the league, only on goal difference from Aston, but had 5 games in hand over them. They were easily the strongest side in the league being the highest scorers and meanest defence and were just 14 points away from the title, under the assumption that all of the chasing sides won their remaining games too. What made this game even more daunting for Feckenham, was that Cadbury had not lost in the league since August, when they were defeated at Phoenix United. The small village in Worcestershire had their team 9th out of 15 for this clash, but again had games in hand over some of the sides around them and so could cause a few problems for Cadbury.

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Every game in the country it seems kicked off at 3:07pm on this date to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and the minute’s silence was perfectly observed. With the game underway, Feckenham instantly showed the threat they were going to be as an early free kick from them was fired just wide. Content to break up play in the middle of park and then counter, Cadbury struggled at first to deal with this but slowly managed to get some momentum going and should have taken the lead on 10 minutes. A weak header away from a Feckenham defender saw Anthony Clarke put clean through but he fired his shot well wide with a shot befitting of Level 11. The pace of Clarke and Dean Lea were causing the Feck problems as their defence were being to Flake away. (Another choco pun!) It did look however that it would be 0-0 at HT, but right on HT Lea skipped away down the right and while his cutback at first was blocked, the rebound fell to George Carline who lashed in.

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You felt Cadbury only needed one more goal to make the game safe as Feckenham hadn’t really resembled an attack force since early on. Lea was still causing the away team problems down the right as he pulled off all sorts of Twix. (I know its a Nestle bar!) Cadbury’s main threat however was from corners as Carline had a header cleared off the line from one on 52 minutes, but Feckenham were to regret giving a needless corner away on 60 minutes. From the cross, Ben Mooney powered an easy header home to make it 2-0 and looked like game over. While Cadbury for the final 30 minutes did try and make it 3, the intensity of the game had gone and it looked like it would play out to 2-0. However, Feckenham did pull a goal back late on as Cadbury went to sleep when a cut back from the left was deflected in. While it gave the final few minutes a bit more interest than there would of been, Kenny Sanders in the Cadbury goal wasn’t tested again. A good win for the league leaders, and certainly wasn’t a Picnic. (Last one I promise)

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Cadbury were only needing a few points now for the title as rivals began to lose games in the chase to catch them. They confirmed the title, ironically at Feckenham a few weeks later with a 1-1 draw. In the end, they won the title by a comfortable 11 points and should now take their place in the Midland Combination Premier next season. With a confirmed groundshare at Alvechurch now in place, only Cadbury’s Reserves will be playing here next season. Will the first team be back? Maybe one day and hopefully with floodlights as this place is a real gem.

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Photos from Cadbury Athletic vs Feckenham

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (fizzled out in the 2nd half)

- Value for money: 10/10 (was free!)

- Ground: 7.5/10 (such a great place)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (ripples now and again)

- Food: 7/10 (home made rolls and a decent cup of tea)

- Programme: N/A – do issue now and then but not today

- Referee: Tom Staten – 6/10 (did the job fine)