Friday, 30 August 2019

28/08/19 Review: Nuneaton Griff vs Coventry Copsewood

Nuneaton Griff 1-2 Coventry Copsewood (Midland Football League Division One)
Pingles Stadium

One night on from the gut-wrenching news of Bury being thrown out of the Football League, I decided to take my mind off the mainstream doom and gloom and make my way easterly to Nuneaton for a bit of Midland League action. To put things into perspective for those reading the latest rumours, Bury could well be playing at this step on the pyramid next season should they be authorised to enter their local equivalent- the North West Counties Division One North. A big drop, to say the least, as the Shakers fans may have to adjust to swapping away days at Portsmouth for trips to the likes of Cleator Moor Celtic, Golcar United and Daisy Hill.

There isn't always a light at the end of that tunnel

This Wednesday evening's outing to the Pingles Stadium would be my eleventh new ground of the season and I would be watching Nuneaton Griff take on the side who presented with me with my first of the 2019/20 campaign. That's right, I'm talking about Coventry Copsewood, who sat just four points above their bottom-placed hosts before this encounter. With just five games gone, it's probably too early to call this one a relegation battle, but it certainly was an important early battle between two of the basement sides. Pointless Griff were desperate to get off the mark, whilst Copsewood made the 10 mile jaunt up the A444 in search of a first away win since the opening day trip over to Oldfields Sports Ground in Uttoxeter- a ground I had the pleasure of visiting on Boxing Day 2016. I made a prediction for a 2-2 draw as I walked from the station through Riversley Park to the ground. A lovely summer walk, apart from the rain falling down on me.
As my Dad used to say, "it's only water"

For those of you who've visited Pingles Park, you'll know that it is a tip top condition athletics ground with a fancy gym and swim site next door. Interestingly, this is the second stadium I've been to that belongs to the Everyone Active group, having ticked off Clevedon Town's Hand Stadium back in May 2017 as I watched Wrington Redhill versus Fry Club in the Somerset County League Premier. If you are a first time reader you'll know by now that I only visit the best of the best! And indeed the facilities are undoubtedly the best, with all the mod cons ranging from a soggy sandpit for the long jumpers, all the way to even having an electronic turnstile that buzzed you in upon payment. Having come straight from work, the one major downfall for me was the lack of food available and as I'd foolishly walked through a park I didn't even find a scummy chippy to hone in on before kick-off. The helpful lady at reception did point me in the direction of something, but I gave up when I saw a posh pub and instead treated myself to a beer.

Safe to say that I didn't eat there... a bread roll was on the menu at over three quid!
By now I had that beloved mix of feelings that compiled of soggy, starving and sleepy, a concoction that can only be remedied by the beautiful game! Half past seven rolled around as it so often does and I headed into the sheltered main stand which seemed to be fairly well filled. A good sign for a sodden midweek match and it appeared that plenty of Copsewood followers had come along too- thankfully for them, they would not be disappointed!

Ready? steady? Let's go!
The opening exchanges in the match were fairly tepid and in truth I didn't recall a strike on target within the first half an hour. By this stage I was wondering if my 2-2 prediction was more stupid than optimistic, but thankfully Isa Abrahams had a pop and although it was a tame volley, it at least signalled intent from the visiting side. If that was a warning for Griff, the punishment would soon follow and just before the break Ellis Layfield showed class and finesse to turn in a Jamie Hastings cross from the right-wing. Griff 0-1 Copsewood. The goal had been coming and in many ways I was pleased it did, as it gave me hope for more of a gritty second-half battle. There was no sign of the rain lightening up and when the Ref blew up for half-time I peeped my head into the clubhouse for a change of scenery. It would be unfair to say that The Pingles Stadium isn't a good ground, because it really isn't, but I did feel that the natural occurrence of it being a part of a corporate chain of leisure facilities made the stadium feel a bit too "business like" for my liking. Yes, there is a nice main stand with a fairly decent view of the ground, but with the addition of the running track around the edge and the almost too neat layout as I looked around, I did feel that the place could do with a bit more in the way of character. Thankfully, the people serving behind the kiosk counter added plenty of character in one respect and that at least kept me entertained during the break.

To be honest, I just think personally I like being a bit more up close and personal
I may be wrong, but the only ground with an outer track I can recall going to and appreciating was the one at Enfield's QE2 Stadium, but that was on a sunny CONIFA afternoon so I might be being biased! Back on the pitch the match had restarted and within just a couple of minutes we were treated to a second goal, the equaliser from Griff. David Boal it was who rammed home a long-range effort and despite taking a deflection along the way it managed to beat Dale O'Donnell and level up the game. Griff 1-1 Copsewood. Could it be that the hosts would gather up their first point of the campaign? They certainly would if Ryan Slinn would have anything to do with it- the bulging midfielder decided he was going to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and by the time we reached the hour mark he was on rampant form. Unfortunately for the home side though, goals are what count and when Dave Freeman was unleashed from the Coventry bench they would ultimately send on the match winner. He played well from the moment he entered the field of play and as we went into the last twenty minutes, he would take the ball down the left wing, set up a good chance that was well saved, before getting back into position around the six yard box, ready to tap in a poacher's goal following a second reaction save made by Griff's Joe Salisbury. Griff 1-2 Copsewood. The remains of the second-half continued to have chances, whilst also maintaining the cagey, gritty, ugliness that makes football at this level the best of all! At one end, Griff pushed, whilst at the other Salisbury went close to doubling his tally, but ultimately the game would come to a close with the away side picking up their second win of the season. A classic on the field, albeit with more of a winter match feeling. Cheers to both sides for a good game, hopefully Griff will eventually pick up a few points than the 17 last season that saw them finish rock bottom of the division.

Good night Pingles Park, thanks for the footy!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

10/08/19 Review: Shepshed Dynamo vs Maltby Main

Shepshed Dynamo 2-4 Maltby Main (FA Cup Qualifying Extra Preliminary Round)
The Dovecoat Stadium

With the season just about underway, it was time for me to kickoff my FA Cup campaign with a trip over to Leicestershire to see what The Dovecoat Stadium in Shepshed had to offer on a gusty Saturday afternoon that would see Maltby Main hop down from eastern Rotherham. There was a strong choice of fixtures for the afternoon and after finishing up at work by 2pm I took my chances on the 50 minute commute from Coventry, along the M69, north on the M1 and over to the hilariously named street upon which Dyanmo's ground lays.

Thanks to the Shepshed steward for taking this legendary pic
Arriving just before kickoff, I parked up and rushed over to the ground just in time for the squads coming out to the field. First impressions of the ground were good overall, with the highlights being the amount of decent undercover stands on three sides of the ground. Behind one goal was a small stand which could've easily been designed by Easyjet due to its backless seating, meanwhile the majority of the fans stood under the roofed standing area behind the dugouts which is adjoined to a raised stand and the Dynamo Diner. Finally, across the pitch was a long three tiered seating stand that housed the one "ultra" fan who shouted out chants throughout. There is even some bark around the edge of the pitch- very fancy indeed.

Better than a lot I've seen at this level
Although I've been groundhopping in the Midlands for over four years now, today's match would be the first United Counties League ground I'd get to visit and after Dynamo started their league campaign last weekend with a 5-0 demolition job on Northampton Old Northamptonian Chenecks (yup, I checked and they definitely do have Northampton twice in their own name!), the home side for today's match would be hoping to continue off the back of that success as they welcomed Maltby Main, a side who play in the same league as my hometown club Bridlington Town. My money for the game was on the visiting side and I opted for a 3-1 away win, a prediction solely made on the basis that one of my former Macc Town favourites was playing up top for the Yorkshire side. Waide Fairhurst may well have put a bit of timber on since he was scoring halfway line volleys in the Conference in 2015, but the lad must still have a goal or two in him, right?

This lad will certainly hope not
The hosts got things started with an early goal, managing an opener inside the opening 12 minutes with a great strike from John King- the forward gave it his all with a fine solo run before unleashing a tasty strike into the top corner. Dynamo 1-0 Maltby. The next goal would also be scored by a King, this time in the Gavin variety, and it would come from the spot as a Maltby equaliser came just before the half hour mark. Maltby's striker stood firm, ran up and coolly dispatched the spot kick to ensure this was very much going to be a closely fought contest. Dynamo 1-1 Maltby. This turn in the tide would mean that the play shifted to the advantage of the visiting side, but in fairness the Ref did seem to let them off lightly on one or two fouls against Dynamo players. The ultra to my left screeched out "I'd get ten years for that if I did that to someone in town", but in fairness the lad looked like he'd just been released.

Joking aside, his chanting was top draw!
Back on the field it was almost half-time and I was pleased to see my man Fairhurst get a goal that would see his side take the lead just before the break- and the former Donny Rovers forward couldn't have picked a better time to get it. Dynamo 1-2 Maltby. The disgruntled home fans made their way into the bar for a halftime pick me up and I joined them too as I made my final observations on the Dovecoat. It was a basic and small bar, but certainly had all of the necessities to please your average fan, with a couple of choices of beer and Sky Sports News on the TV to make the fifteen minute break fly by. Despite the scoreline so far, the contest was still very much an open book and I spoke to an old fan who suggested the next goal would decide the result. I asked him if he'd go to a replay in Maltby and he simply shook his head and returned to his bag of cheese and onion crisps. I forget that not all football fans are mentalists who travel up to Yorkshire for a midweek away day.

Having said that, it's never stopped me
In the second half we'd see chances at both ends but ultimately it wasn't until the final fifteen minutes or so that the key moments would take place. In the meantime, I hopped over to the Dynamo Diner and grabbed myself a tray of chips- which may or may not have come with a free burger courtesy of the delightful kitchen staff. With lunch consumed, I made my way behind the Maltby goal and found myself hoping to see the hosts grab the equaliser they'd battled for since the break. It eventually came in dramatic fashion as captain Jake Betts chested the ball in the box before flopping to the floor to hit home an acrobatic volley. Dynamo 2-2 Maltby. Now into the last ten, the Miners' subs were looking to make the difference and that's exactly what happened as one of them grabbed a late goal from a good Maltby break. Surely this would be the end of the action... or not. Dynamo 2-3 Maltby.

The Dynamo lads had only just got back level
And things would go from bad to worse for the weary Shepshed players as they conceded a second penalty of the afternoon in stoppage time. Another bench boy had his chance to shine and did so from the spot by hitting home the sixth and final goal of the game, practically upon the final whistle. Dynamo 2-4 Maltby. The hopeful replay scenario that had seemed likely for all of three minutes had all of a sudden disappeared and that, as they say, is the magic of the cup. On a day where Sporting Khalsa had beat Rugby Town 5-4 and Harrogate Railway Athletic had been thumped 10-1 at home, this result wasn't as emphatic or exciting as some of the ones up and down the country, however it was still a roller-coaster ride for those of us in attendance and a game that I'd thoroughly enjoyed- and when all is said and done, how often can you say you've had a lovely afternoon full of gusty Butthole action? (Sorry, I had to get one joke in there before the end!)

Friday, 9 August 2019

09/08/19 Review: Chirk AAA vs Penycae

Chirk AAA 0-1 Penycae (Welsh National League Premier)
Holyhead Road

Although many will remember Friday 9th August for being the day that the Premier League restarted in England, for me the main event was taking place 50 miles south of Anfield as I visited the small Wrexham Borough town of Chirk to see a Welsh National League Premier match at Holyhead Road, which for those of you not keeping up is one of the divisions in the third tier of Welsh football. Incidentally, this would be my fourth Welsh ground (if you count Park Hall!), with a trip to see TNS in 2016, a Good Friday jaunt to The Rock in 2017 and most recently Goytre's Plough Road last season offering my only servings of Welsh football until this evening.

We go again
The opponents for this 6:30pm kickoff were from just over the road and scooted down from the village of Pen-y-cae, which is practically a stone throw compared to the 100-mile round journey I made to see the beautiful game. This opening encounter would see two sides who finished in the bottom half last season and the season before do battle, with both looking to see what the 2019/20 campaign could bring. My whole journey had consisted of staring at the back of caravans and the consistent swish of my windscreen wiper, so I decided to be conservative and make a 1-1 pre-match prediction. Although to be honest, I'm just glad it wasn't called off. The last Friday night game I'd been to had been a drab 0-0 in the rain, so I wasn't feeling too hopeful.

Fans out in shorts despite the rain, my kind of people
As I entered Holyhead Road for my 167th stadium and 10th match of the season, I was greeted by a splendidly chirpy chap who took £2 off me for entry, before pointing me over to the game. The clubhouse, which I didn't have time for until the break, was looking pretty lively and it appeared to be holding a private party in the end room. I made my way straight over to pitchside just in time for kick-off and after doing a rough headcount there looked to be about 110 folk here for the game. A really good effort in my books. As you'll be able to see from the photo above the facilities are in good order, with a nice undercover cafĂ© hatch doubling on to the changing rooms. Further across- and strangely placed by the corner flag- is The Kronospan Stand, which is a sub-100 seater stand that was opened in 2011 by Welsh legend and then National Team Manager Gary Speed. As half six approached the lads emerged from inside and as they did the sun peaked its head out between the dark clouds to allow for a nice backdrop for the opening of the game. The Chirk side, in a fetching red outfit, got the game underway and it would be sooner rather than later that we would see the game's only goal.

Chirk sub as the lino- yup, it's Welsh rules here at Holyhead Road
No more than two minutes had passed when Ryan Jones of Penycae was offered the chance to test the home keeper and he took full advantage by smashing home a 30-yard strike that went straight into the top left corner and sparked early applause from all in attendance. Chirk 0-1 Penycae. The early setback from Chirk meant that they would start the match on the back foot and they began to try and rectify that with some attacking play of their own. The host's number 7 set his sights in the 10th minute but curled one wide, whilst later on the red number 12 struck the woodwork from two yards out. It wasn't as bad as you'd think!

Meanwhile the Penycae Manager literally walked around on the pitch- twelfth man?
I had a patrol around the pitch to see if I could catch some good action and to be honest I mainly just spent my time wondering how on earth the Ref was going to cope with 90 minutes having no linesmen. Not to be too rude to the man in the middle, who must've been at least 87-years old, but he mainly just spent his time trotting around in the centre circle trying to keep up with play. Poor old lad, I think he just wanted the game to be over so he could have a few pints a couple of ham butties. Thankfully for him, it was almost half-time and despite the lumps and bumps in the playing surface it had been a decent opening half and in all honesty Chirk probably had been on top, albeit without grabbing the crucial equaliser.

The number 12, an early sub up front, has looked lively so far
During the break, I thought I'd best do my bit and check out the beer on offer. It would be rude not too, right? With a San Miguel in my hand and a seat in the club, I appeared to get too comfy as I missed the kickoff for the second-half. Thankfully, no goals were missed and I headed back out to see how the game would conclude. Most fans didn't rush back outside, but then again there was at least one chap in a Man United cap and a lad wearing a Wrexham top so I don't know how bothered they were about missing out.

A proper Clubhouse for proper fans
Unfortunately for the hosts, the first 45 was as good as it got in terms of chances and if anything they were lucky to keep the score at 0-1. In fact, as the ballboy for the Chirk keeper, I think I had more touches of the ball than the hosts' forwards throughout the latter stages of the game and the only moment of real action on the pitch was when Penycae's number 8 slid in a second goal only for it to be ruled out by the linesman referee. With the game burning out, I had a brief natter with one of the club officials from Chirk and he was explaining to me that their opponents this evening had "put a bit of money" into their squad this season so would be expecting to challenge the top sides in the division. To be fair, I did think I saw Mr. Bale sat on the Penycae bench- although I think he'd more likely be around the corner at the golf club!

Game over- 0-1
With the game over I was on my jolly way back home to Stafford knowing that I'd made the right choice to cross the border once again for a good evening of football. It's not like me to keep an eye on the lower leagues of Welsh football, but after tonight I will no doubt find myself in the area at some point in the future. Good luck to both Chirk AAA and Penycae for the rest of the season and cheers for having me on this fine Friday!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

06/08/19 Review: Leamington vs Brackley Town

Leamington 2-0 Brackley Town (National League North)
The Phillips 66 Community Stadium

Finally, after eight pre-season outings varying from the highs of last weekend's outing to the gorgeously rustic Peel Croft for a historic Invitational Cup game to the lows of a drab draw on a rainy Friday night at The Hawthorns, it is time for 'Pint of Football' to get to a first competitive fixture and I would be getting things kicked-off in style by attending the New Windmill Ground- aka The Phillips 66 Community Stadium- for a National League North encounter between two of the league's most Southern sides. Yup, it certainly seemed weird to tell my old pal who lives in Scarborough that I was attending a National League NORTH match whilst two-thirds down the country. I won't get into the National League regional divide in this write-up though, don't want those boys in Weymouth having a go!

One thing is for sure though, I should have brought a long sleeved top
I was looking forward to the match as I anticipated a good bout between two clubs who are separated by just 25 miles on the M40. For me, it was well over 60 miles each way from my Stafford home, but as I finished work in Coventry at 7:15pm it was ideally placed to accommodate my need for a midweek match. My initial plan was to visit the Phillips 66 Community Stadium on Saturday for their match against Curzon Ashton, but I just could not wait. The evening's visitors from Northamptonshire arrived after an opening day victory over Alfreton on Saturday, meanwhile the hosts were looking for a first victory following a decent away point in a 2-2 draw at Aggborough- arguably my favourite National League North ground of the six I've visited so far. Actually, I don't know, Bootham Crescent was pretty spectacular.

To be fair though, first impressions in Leamington weren't that bad neither
A smart and modern clubhouse was my first sighting once inside the ground and more to my delight it was only the second ground at this level I've been to that allows you to take a pint out to pitch side in a plastic. East Thurrock United's Rookery Hill was my first, although they are back where they belong in the Isthmian League by this point. The rest of the ground was pretty standardised, amber seating in numerous small stands along one edge of the pitch, with a decent undercover standing zone behind one goal and a standing terrace behind the other. Usually I tend to find the modern new-style stands a bit boring and uninspiring to write about, but in all honesty this one felt a bit different because it had a good mix of tattyness and generic new builds. There was a shed selling old programmes, the behind goal terrace was littered with LFC flags and the ground looked pretty filled out to give for a decent pre-match ambience. They've done a good job considering this is only scheduled to house the Brakes for the next few seasons before they move closer in to town to a new stadium.

Decent little terrace behind the goal
For many, Brackley would have been the pre-match favourites after their 1-0 opener on Saturday, mixed with the fact that they've finished 3rd in the past two seasons only to lose out in the playoffs to Spennymoor Town in 2018/19's semi-final and Harrogate Town's promotion final in 2017/18. This was only Leamington's third campaign since winning the 2016/17 Southern League Prem, but after a struggle in their first, the last season was much more convincing and saw them finish in a respectable 13th place- just four points outside of the top-half. Knowing that the hosts will want to progress and crack the top ten this season, I predicted them to put up a good fight against a well established side and grab a point in a 1-1 draw.

How wrong can one be?
The hosts started the game strongly and, despite losing star striker Colby Bishop in the summer to Accrington Stanley, it was the Brakes who took the lead inside the opening twenty minutes. The home side made the most of a free-kick as the ball was floated in, nodded on by their big target man in the box and then finished off solidly with a second header coming from Jack Lane, the centre-back who began his career with my beloved Macc Town. Up the former Silkmen! Leamington 1-0 Brackley. The Saints, who also had an ex-Silkmen defender on the bench in the form of Thierry Audel, seemed to be unable to cope with the height from the Leamington set plays throughout and as the fans in the CEX stand began to chant out "ohhhhhhh Leamy Leamy, Leamy Leamy Leamy Leamy Leamington!" it would be interesting to see how the visitors could respond.
Game on!
With the smell of cheese wafting around the ground, which was bad, but not as bad as the smell of sewage that you get at the Castle Vale Stadium (home to Romulus), the fans were in high spirits at both ends and Brackley's boys behind the goal started to get excited as their side tried to work their way back into controlling the game. A cross on the half-hour mark hit the bar and there was lots of play in the right part of the pitch, but still no equaliser. At the other end an effort from Jack Edwards was brushed wide after being redirected off of a Josh March header. That would've been an ideal way to end the half, but when Aaron Bannister blew the whistle it would be 1-0 at the break. I took shelter from the light drizzle in the clubhouse and before we knew if, the second 45 was underway.

Meanwhile, Brackley's lads spent the intermission praying for an equaliser
The biggest and best chance for the visitors of getting a goal in the game came and went within the opening few minutes of the half as somehow a corner was kept out. First of all a shot from close-range rattled the bar, was flapped off the line by the keeper, then headed goalwards again by a Brackley attacker only to fall into the loving arms of Jack Weaver. The shot-stopper could not believe his luck when he peered down to see the ball in his grasp, but from the stands the home fans began to chant out the big question- "will you ever, will you ever, will you ever score a goal?"

Spoiler- the answer is no!
When I watch matches at the higher end of non-league I always seem to fall into some sort of scout mode and end up focusing on a standout player. On this occasion, it was Connor Dudger at left-back who caught my eye with his pace, persistence and ability to sweep the defence where needed. Seeing that he's spent most of his career with local sides such as Tamworth, Hinckley United and Worcester City, I'd be interested to see if the 26-year old progresses into the National League at any point. One lad who has played at a higher level is wing-wizard Jordan Murphy, formally of League Two Walsall and more recently Solihull Moors, and the number 7 would eventually have the final say in the outcome of this evening's match as he received an excellent outside of the boot pass from midfield, controlled it well, turned the opposing left-back inside out with stepovers before placing a cool strike passed Danny Lewis in the Brackley goal to put the points in Leamington's pockets. Leamington 2-0 Brackley. The final goal came in the 71st minute and despite there being chances at both ends after that, the game would finish with a very impressive result for the Brakes. A good display all-round and, despite Mr Bannister's stop-start refereeing style, this match was another good advert for football at this level. Best of luck to both sides for their matches against Curzon Ashton and York respectively at the weekend. I'd be surprised to see either of these clubs in any sort of trouble this season.

Monday, 5 August 2019

03/08/19 Review: Netherseal St Peters vs Renishaw Rangers

Netherseal St Peters 1-3 Renishaw Rangers (Pre-season Invitational Cup)
Peel Croft

In a world full of hidden gems, a world full of non-league brilliance, a world full of strange grounds and matches to attend, Saturday's trip to Peel Croft in Burton to see a first football match there since 1910 will go down as the highlight of pre-season for me, as I'm sure it will for many others who made the trip to the East Midlands to see the Invitational Cup match between Netherseal St Peters and Renishaw Rangers. The midday kickoff was perfect for me as it was just a stone throw away from my 2:30pm match over in Shenstone that I was planning to attend. Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Football returns to Peel Croft

Not only would this one be a rare chance to attend an old school ground in a place that no longer holds football, but it was also a big opportunity to get down to this legendary field before it closes its doors to become a retail park. Boooo! Yes, since the 1870's when Burton Rugby Club were formed, the 5,500 capacity ground has housed the egg-ball team during two separate spells dating pre-1890 and post-1910, which were only broken up within the twenty years that Burton Swifts and Burton United had a go at running the place. Once the footy sides cleared out by 1910, RFC was back and has remained the only sport to be played there- until Saturday 3rd August 2019 rolled around. Two matches were lined-up for this sunny Saturday afternoon, with the Chairman's Cup being the latter fixture that I did not attend between Pinxton and Bakewell Town.

And what a stunning setting for it!
My midday match was being played by visiting sides from South and North Derbyshire, with St Peters nestled on the borders of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffs in Swadlincote, whilst Rangers were as near as damn it to being over the Yorkshire border- which instantly made them my team to cheer on today and I predicted they'd grab the win by 4-3 today. It's not often I get my predictions correct, especially when I don't know too much about the sides on display, so I grabbed myself a pint and made my way pitchside ready for some football in the sun- this is what August outings should be like. The opening ten minutes were pretty eventful too, with both sides knocking in an early goal. Unfortunately, my toilet timing caught me out for the first time this season as I missed the first from Renishaw which gave the orange side the very early advantage. Netherseal 0-1 Renishaw. Thankfully I'd sorted myself out in time for the 8th minute leveller as the St Peters forward finished off a strong move down the right. Netherseal 1-1 Renishaw.

A good view from the beautiful wooden main stand
With the rest of the half being fairly tame, it gave me a chance to have a good walk around the ground and take in the stunning views on the sun soaked Peel Croft. The stadium, which is sadly to be destroyed soon enough, is a true piece of art and it was so good to see it hustling and bustling with fans of all walks. There was everything from a Pontefract Colls fan to a weird guy in a Huahin City shirt!
Yup- the weird guy was me!
As well as having a stunning ground and a classic old-school clubhouse onsite, there was also a delicious canteen that served up all the good stuff from bangers to chip butties. Had I not been attending a BBQ later that day, I'd have almost certainly given the nosh a go too. I honestly couldn't find a fault with the rustic old ground, apart from it belonging to the wrong sport- and so when the second-half kicked-off I turned my attentions back on to the action on the pitch. Renishaw, of the 11th tier, were starting to dominate by this stage and on the hour mark their captain had a good strike denied by the St Peters keeper, followed by a corner that rattled the bar. In the end, it would be a strike of luck that gave the oranges their deserved goal with fifteen minutes to go, as a deflected goal bobbled in against the resilient but tiring defenders wearing black and white. Netherseal 1-2 Renishaw.

The deadlock is broken, at last
Renishaw were in their stride now and it took them just three minutes to grab another goal as their number 9 got a well deserved final goal with a good left-footed drive to ensure the invitational cup would be heading north. Netherseal 1-3 Renishaw. Into the last ten minutes we could've seen more goals were it not for the heat exhaustion the lads were clearly feeling by this point. The Ref, who's lino looked like she could be related to Bruno Mars, ended the game and queued my signal to rush off to the car and head down the A38 in search of more pre-season goodness. I didn't get to see the Rangers lads lift the trophy, but well done to all involved for a great afternoon of football at one of the finest semi-pro sports grounds I've seen. Well worth a visit and fair play to those rugby lot for keeping it in good nick!

Bruno, that you?

Thursday, 1 August 2019

30/07/19 Review: Graham Street Prims vs Wolverhampton Sporting

Graham Street Prims 1-6 Wolverhampton Sporting
(Pre-season Friendly)
The Fred Harding Ground

When the weather is atrocious and every club in the region are cancelling their matches, there's always one club that comes in to save the day- enter Graham Street Prims of Derby, the saviours of Tuesday night football. And as if that wasn't enough, I was even able to make the most of my last minute plans by enticing my old pal Bennett to come along to his first game in what he reckons was at least twenty years. In truth, he's not really a footy fan, so I wasn't sure how he'd feel about overseeing a match in a glorified field in the windy rain, although to be fair his preferred team are Port Vale so I doubt he would notice a difference in standards as we emerged at the Fred Harding Ground just moments before kickoff.

Not my initial plan, but at least I made it to a game

Having booked a week off from work to do a bit of gardening at home and of course some groundhopping, there was almost a guarantee that we'd get rain every day and with Tuesday bucketing it down in Stafford, a lot of my initial plans were washed away. With Sikh Hunters versus Sporting Khalsa being my original choice over in Great Wyrley, I began to look for alternatives as 6pm approached. The standout option would be Redditch United's Trico Stadium but with Google Maps telling me that the M6 was up it's usual tricks, I grabbed my keys and jumped in the car to head along the much better behaved A50. An hour passed and I'd made it to Borrowash, a village name that wouldn't sound out of place in the world of Lord of the Rings.

I don't think you'd find Frodo Baggins knocking about in here though
The two teams that would be facing off on this evening would be East Midlands Counties League side Graham Street Prims and their recently relegated former Midland Premier League opponents from Wolverhampton, Sporting. I goaded Bennett into making a pre-match prediction and we both agreed that the visitors would grab the victory- he went for a 5-2 prediction and I opted for 4-1. We weren't a million miles off and with just three minutes on the clock we found ourselves stood in the perfect place behind the Prims goals to see the Wolves number 6 strike an early one from range that nestled perfectly in the corner of the net. Prims 0-1 Sporting. With the Prims being on the back foot so early, despite playing a side who play in the same tier of non-league football, we made our way over to the halfway line to stand and watch the half whilst also doing our best to avoid the light drizzle that had ko'd most of the county's games. Twenty minutes passed and Sporting were able to double their lead after an attack down the right ended up with a couple of decent headers to set up the easy finish from a visiting striker. Prims 0-2 Sporting.

To quote Bennett, "two noggins make a right"
The Wolverhampton based side would continue to dominate the remains of the first-half and with left-back Moussa standing out with his darting runs we were treated to a third just before the break. Sporting's number 9 ran past the flatfooted back four of Graham Street and on the bounce he lofted the ball over the keeper, who was stranded after running out to try and win the ball. Prims 0-3 Sporting. We used half-time to drive into Borrowash village in search of a couple of cans for the second-half, being as the tea hut wasn't licensed and sometimes a mug of tea just doesn't hit the spot at the footy. Making it back into the Fred Harding just as the Ref restarted proceedings, we got back in place just in time to see the hosts have a rare chance that rattled the bar from six-yards out. It looked easier to score than miss, but still at least it showed encouragement for the couple of dozen fans in attendance.

The Main Stand struggling to maintain themselves after that strike
Bearing in mind the last game I'd attended was a 0-0 bore draw between West Brom and Bournemouth and before that I had seen a great match in Telford between Wellington Amateurs and Eccleshall, so to be back at another non-league ground in which the goals were aplenty was a great feeling. Can't believe I even entertained the thought of seeing pro teams in pre-season, what a joke! On the hour mark Wolves Sporting grabbed their fourth goal and it came from the number 9 again, as he tucked away a goal on his final touch before being replaced with the game done and dusted. Prims 0-4 Sporting. The lad who'd come in for the last thirty was soon involved in the game and the substitute number 14 took advantage of a tired Derbyshire defence to finish off a break and make it 0-5. Prims 0-5 Sporting. Although my pre-match 1-4 prediction was off the table now, Bennett still had a chance if the hosts could notch two late goals- that was until a penalty was conceded in the last ten minutes and converted by the Sporting number 10. He'd been desperate for a goal all night. Prims 0-6 Sporting.

Nice pen from the number ten
To keep things interested we both made a prediction on which team would score the final goal of the game and knowing that the pub was calling, we put the first round on the line. Much to my pal's delight, his persistent faith in the home side paid off as a stoppage-time volley was blasted home on the left as the number 11 ensured that the first drinks would be on me as we headed back to Chaddesden to start a night of darts, beer, pool, beer, music, beer and roulette. That's what Tuesdays are all about, right? Prims 1-6 Sporting.