Saturday 30th May 2009

Denso '07 1 Ketley Bank United 5
Telford Combination
At: Queensway Campus
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Attendance: 45 (headcount)
Weather: hot and sunny
Duration: first half: 45:00; second half: 46:21

Hats off to ‘Red Hopper’ for originally publicising this Telford Combination game which provided me with my 100th game of the 2008/09 season. And the added bonus of a league game deep into the month of May with something at stake for both sides and with a programme guaranteed, was something too tempting not to miss. It may have been cup final day but that didn’t matter as I’d hadn’t seen one from start to finish since 1994 when I was actually at Wembley to see Manchester United beat Chelsea 4-0.

Just two games remained to be played to bring this season’s Telford Combination campaign to a close– this one at Denso which kicked-off a 2-00 pm and a later 4.00 pm kick-off at nearby Atlas who were hosting third-placed Madeley Sports. Fourteen teams began the season but Wrockwardine Wood, Park Inn and Norton all failed to finish and had their records expunged.

My trusty borrowed SatNav got me to the ground without a hitch, located parallel with the main A442 road towards Whitchurch on the Denso complex in the Hortonwood district of Telford. Denso are, according to their website ‘a leading supplier of advanced automotive technology, systems and components for all the world's major automakers’.

The unroped pitch, orientated north-south, ran lengthways away from the changing rooms/clubhouse building that was located behind the near goal. Down the left-hand touchline were trees with the main road behind and one group of locals had pitched a tent to, no doubt, providing shelter from the sun rather than an unusual holiday destination. A slope down to a road bordered the near right-hand touchline. The factory was to the right as well. There was no cover.

Programmes (an eight-pager for £1) and refreshments were sold from the clubhouse.

In a league that awards two points for a win and one for a draw, Denso (11th and bottom with 6 points from 19 games) and Ketley Bank (2nd with 31 points from 19 games) went into this game, their final league fixture of the season at opposite ends of the table. Denso’s points haul would have been higher had the ‘double’ over Park Inn not been expunged

Ketley trailed leaders Shifnal United 97 Reserves by a point so a win over Denso would give them the title. A draw wouldn’t have been good enough as Shifnal had a superior goal difference. On the other hand, if Denso could end a long run of eight consecutive league defeats then they would move off the bottom at the expense of Impact United Reserves, the team immediately above with a far worse goal difference.

I’m not sure if this was the norm in the Telford Combination but the referee arrived shortly before kick-off at a time when some travellers were seriously worried that a delayed started would scupper the chances for making kick-off at Atlas.

As it turned out, the match started promptly with Denso getting the action underway attacking the changing rooms or northern end in the first half. I took up the suggestion of ‘Leatherhead Pete’ and opted for a vantage point down the left-hand touchline nearest the road.

It took dominant Ketley Bank over half an hour to get on the scoresheet. Chris Martin gave them the lead in the 33rd minute then quickly added a second goal two minutes later. It was fair to say, as the Ketley player-manager did at the interval, that the visitors had turned a rout into a tight game.

Lee Riedel netted the third goal in the 54th minute, only for a mix-up in the Keltley defence to allow Denso to reduce the deficit six minutes later through Aaron Taylor. Taylor's contribution last barely four more minutes as he was shown a staright red card for dissent.

A 74th-minute header by Paddy Kumar restored Ketley's three-goal advanatge and Karl Ainsworth rounded off the scoring in the 85th minute.

Despite the heat, I enjoyed my first taste of Telford Combination and will consider visiting other grounds in the league next season.

Denso ’07 (white/black/black): 1. Naz Duhra, 2. Darren Jones, 3. Kevin Houlston, 4. Mark Hubbard (capt), 5. Waleed Ahmed, 6. Jack Gibson, 7. Stephen Jones, 8. Tom Pittson, 9. Carl Ratcliff, 10. Lee Carline, 16. Aaron Taylor. Sub: 12. Vaclav Soltys (for Stephen Jones, 54).

Ketley Bank United (orange/black/black): 1. Wayne Martin, 2. Ben Bradley, 3. Chris McGivern (capt), 4. Ian Barker, 5. Mark Ainsworth, 16. Pete Brampton, 7. Rob Hitchin, 8. Karl Ainsworh, 9. Paddy Kumar, 15. Chris Martin, 11. Lee Riedel. Subs: –

Referee: Mr Jason Bailey.

0-1 Chris Martin (33)
0-2 Chris Martin (35)
0-3 Lee Riedel (54)
1-3 Aaron Taylor (60)
1-4 Paddy Kumar (74)
1-5 Karl Ainsworth (86)

I gave ‘Boro Mike’ a lift to the nearby 4 pm kick-off, also in the Telford Combination, between Atlas and Madeley Sports and we got there in time while the players were still warming up. But, after a bit of umming and arring, I didn’t fancy clocking up game number 101 with another 90 minutes in the continuing hot sunshine. Mike and an estimated 14 others saw Madeley win 1-0.

Saturday 23rd May 2009 ii

Ancaster Rovers 1 RHP Newark 5
Grantham and District League Memorial Cup Final
At: Ermine Street, Ancaster
Kick-off: 6-30 pm
Attendance: 110
Weather: warm and sunny
Duration: first half: 47:31; second half: 48:16

After the afternoon fun and games, I was mightily pleased/relieved to arrive at Ancaster and spot players warming up, a full car park, including a couple of travellers who had been to Ruskington, and what I presume was the RHP Newark team coach parked close by. The weather was superb to boot as well!

The village of Ancaster is situated midway between Sleaford and Grantham on the A153 road at its junction with the B6403, the famous roman road called Ermine Street. Ancaster Rovers’ ground is on Ermine Street, on the right just before the Ermine Way pub when travelling north.

The entrance is through the car park into a large recreation ground with the football pitch running widthways immediately to the left. To the right of the entrance was the clubhouse and adjacent changing rooms. On the far side of the football pitch was a cricket square with a pitch prepared, may be, for a game tomorrow. The pitch was roped off only from the near corner to half-way where the respective benches had a roped off open air dugout.

I knew in advance there would be a programme and the four-pager (£1) was sold from the table at the entrance along with raffle tickets. I found a ‘party atmosphere’ with plenty of people milling around – I think Mrs and junior ‘iwf’ would have enjoyed the ‘party’ atmosphere. I also spotted several other travellers including ‘London Don’ and ‘Leatherhead Pete’. There were quite a few WAGs at the game as well.

The referee reckoned I had ‘an honest face’ so willingly lent me the teamsheets.

Both sides came out in fair play fashion and soon Ancaster (wearing red shirts, red shorts and white socks) got the final underway attacking the far end, defending the clubhouse end, in the first half. I opted to watch the first half from the near side like much of the crowd also did.

Some 22 points separated the two teams in the final Grantham and District League Premier Division table. Home side Ancaster (29 points from 26 games) finished eight out of the 14 teams while RHP Newark (51 points from 26 games) ended the league season in four places higher.

A mistake in the Ancaster defence allowed RHP Newark to get off to a perfect start. In the 4th minute, Rovers keeper Dan Blankley received a backpass and opted to play it short to Liam Warner instead of booting it upfield. Warner was played into trouble and quickly robbed by Daniel Wharton who took the ball into the area and fired low into the bottom right corner.

RHP Newark (wearing green shirts with white sleeves, green shorts and socks) were temporality reduced to ten men in the 17th minute when Joe Craven left the field for some eight minutes of treatment over on the far touchline. During Craven’s absence, Martin Maclean had Ancaster’s first attempt on goal, a 20-yard right foot volley that flashed past the right-hand post. RHP skipper was yellow carded in the 23rd minute for kicking the ball away not long after being lectured for dissent by the referee. Liam Warner also saw yellow for a foul on Aaron Martin just outside the Ancaster area.

The home side could have got back on level terms in the 39th minute, had it not been for a timely challenge by Tom Samuels. The defender prevented Steve Johnson from getting in a close-range shot from Maclean’s diagonal ball across goal to the far right post.

RHP finished the first half on the attack. Hiller and Martin both fired wide from outside the area. In stoppage time, Craven propelled a long throw from the left towards the near post where James Lloyd headed straight at Blankley.

Both sides went back to the changing rooms at the interval and RHP got the second half underway having replaced Craven with Tom O’Leary.

A well-worked move early in the second half almost lead to an equaliser. Ben Bland bust through the RHP defence down the middle and played the ball forward into the area. Johnson got on the end in the inside right channel and fired across the face of goal.

Martin became the third player to enter the book in the 56th minutes and the second for kicking the ball away.

RHP thought they’d doubled the lead in the 64th minute. Martin got on the end of a right wing cross and fired home via the near right-hand post, only to be thwarted by a raised flag for offside.

Of course, the goal would have settled the nerves of the travellers present with the prospect of extra time and penalties. I spent the second half over the far side next to the company of three other travellers, one of whom was a Hull City fan wondering if his side would avoid the drop from the Premiership tomorrow. We also joked about how many times we’d touched the ball and also about ‘Tram’ and his 0-0 draws!

Back to the action and amazingly, Ancaster’s Chappell became the third player to be booked for kicking the ball away. Lloyd got into a good position in front of the home goal only to fire a first-time shot over the bar.

Eventually the second goal came in the 73rd minute. Hales fired home at close range after Hillier’s initial shot was blocked.

RHP added a third goal 10 minutes later to seal victory. Blankley left his line and made a mess of dealing with a long clearance downfield, allowing Todd to nip in and slot into an empty net.

Ancaster reduced the deficit in the 86th minute when Maclean headed home from Leonard’s right-wing corner.

But any hope the home side had of somehow forcing extra time were ended by two further RHP goals in stoppage time, both scored by Martin. Hales forced a good save out of Blankley only for Martin to fire home the fourth from the loose ball and Martin, again, dribbled through into the area and slotted home the fifth.

RHP lifted the Memorial Cup and Martin was named adjudged Man of the Match.

Ancaster Rovers (red/red/white): 1. Dan Blankley, 2. Rob Alderson, 3. Matt Leonard, 4. Andy Atter (capt), 5. Liam Warner, 6. Aaron O’Brien, 7. James Ballaam, 8. Ben Bland, 9. Steve Johnson, 10. Martin Maclean, 11. Paul Chappell. Subs: 12. Jim Clough (for Johnson, 60), 14. Simon Callery (for Ballaam, 83), 15. Eddie Wilcox (for Chappell, 83), 16. Aaron Tasker (not used), 17. Anderson Dos Santos (not used).

RHP Newark (green with white sleeves / green / green): 1. Lewis Cawthorne, 2. Ben Hage, 3. Luke Hutchinson, 4. Tom Samuels, 5. Lee Campbell, 6. Joe Craven, 7. Daniel Hales, 8. Ian Hillier (capt), 9. Aaron Martin, 10. James Lloyd, 11. Daniel Wharton. Subs: 12. Tom O’Leary (for Craven, ht), 14. Ricky Todd (for Wharton, 78), 15. Nick Arins (not used), 16. Andy Beasley (not used), 17. Wayne Ord (for Lloyd, 83).

Referee: Robin Dungworth.
Assistants: John Aspland and Andrew Hearn.
Fourth Official: Steve Parr.

0-1 Daniel Wharton (4)
0-2 Daniel Hales (73)
0-3 Ricky Todd (83)
1-3 Martin Maclean (86)
1-4 Aaron Martin (90+2)
1-5 Aaron Martin (90+3)

Saturday 23rd May 2009 i

What was it I wrote when describing my trip to Pinxton back in January?

‘Some would argue that I plan my football trips like a ‘military’ operation – make sure the game is on, know where I am going and make sure I arrive with bags of time to spare.’

That day I got away without a disaster, today it was a frustrating one game rather than two. I won’t make any Grantham League slip-ups again!

My plan was to watch one of the three Grantham and District League Premier Division games then go on to the Memorial Cup Final at Ancaster. There was also a Hospital Cup Semi Final at Whatton. I opted for Barkston & Syston v Buckminster United which the visitors needed to win to keep their title hopes alive, rather than the other league games at Grantham Squash Club and Ruskington Rovers.

I shouldn’t be simpler on a very warm May afternoon – just turn up in plenty of time for a 3 pm kick-off, relax and wait for the game to start. No need to check anything other than know where the ground was? Wrong! I even arrived in time for a 2 pm kick-off at the Barkston & Syston Playing Field only to find a deserted ground with no sign of any pending football action at all. Aaaarrrggghhhh!!!!

So, OK, there was still time to make a 3 pm kick-off at Ruskington and there was. The only problem was that the game had kicked-off at 1-45 pm.

I headed back to Grantham Squash Cup, who play in the village of Harlaxton, to again to find the match well underway and nearing its conclusion.

Subsequently, I learned for other travellers at Ancaster that Grantham and District League games nearly always kick-off at 1-45 pm and that the Barkston game was off because the home side couldn’t raise a side.

It was easy to look back in frustration to have picked the one game out of four to be off, especially as I had driven close to both Grantham Squash Club and also the Hospital Cup semi final at Whatton, who play just off the A52 just to the east of Bingham.

Anyway, the story had a happy conclusion as the Memorial Cup Final at Ancaster bettered my expectations!

Dawley Wanderers 3 Brown Clee 3

Saturday 16th May 2009
Dawley Wanderers 3 Brown Clee 3 Shropshire County League Division 1
At: Doseley Road, Telford
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 25 (headcount)
Weather: warm and sunny, occasional showers
Duration: first half: 45:43; second half: 47:20

Junior ‘iwf’ was competing in an orienteering event this morning so I had very little time to get to a game. So I was mightily pleased to take the chance to dip my toe into the Shropshire County League for the very first time. Dawley Wanderers and Brown Clee served up a decent game and it was good to spend the afternoon in the company of two other travellers, one of whom was a fan of Wolves and Hednesford.

Dawley Wanderers play home games at an enclosed railed-off pitch in, not surprisingly, the Dawley district of Telford at the end of Doseley Road with the entrance on Quarry Place. I approached from the M54 junction 5 and followed the B4373 southbound. From the Heath Hill Roundabout, I continued south on the B4373 and after 200 yards took a left turn into Station Road (signed Dawley Christian Centre). This road loops round to the right and becomes Doseley Road. Quarry Place was on the left just after passing the school.

Through into the ground from Quarry Place, the pitch (orientated just about east-west) ran lengthways towards Doseley Road. It was fully railed off apart from a few gaps for dugouts and access. There was no hardstanding or cover though the tall conifers down the left-hand side provided shelter from the wind and occasional rain showers. Next to the car park was the changing rooms block and this end could be described as the Church Lane end. The ground is also shared with Premier Division side Telford Juniors and Telford Sunday League side White Horse ’05 and is a previous home of Tibberton United and Dawley Villa.

Dawley Wanderers have been members of the Shropshire County League Division 1 for a few years and achieved third position in the 2003/04 season.

Though I didn’t arrive until 15 minutes before kick-off, there was sufficient time to get the line-ups before the action got underway. Just like at Royton on Tuesday, it turned out to be a good idea to have obtained squads from the club’s respective websites especially the one for Brown Clee as a club official kindly verbally provided his team’s line-up. Dawley have produced programmes this season but not today.

For both sides, it was their final game of the season. Home side Dawley (37 points from 21 games) went into it in sixth position in the 12-team division with Brown Clee (17 points from 21 games) four places lower in tenth. At the top Ellesmere Rangers Reserves needed two points from their final two games to guarantee top spot.

With the sun shining and the wind blowing, Dawley (wearing all red) got the game underway attacking the changing rooms end in the first half. Brown Clee midfielder Craig Evans had the ball in the back of the Dawley net in the 9th minute but from an offside position. The visitors had another good chance when Phil Brick turned just outside the area and a fired a left foot shot wide of the left-hand post.

Dawley almost took the lead midway through the first half. Steven Meakin got the better of two defenders near to the left corner, cut into the area and saw his low shot blocked by the legs of Clee keeper Steve Jordan.

I watched the first 20 or so minutes from the right-hand side, nearest to Quarry Place. With dark clouds gathering, I opted to move to the other side with the potential shelter of the tall conifers.

Jordan sent a long clearance down the middle which bounced deep in the Dawley half. The ball fell to Tom Yeomans who sent a right-foot volley over the bar.

Here comes the rain I thought around ten minutes before the interval and I’m sure I heard a clap of thunder as well. Just a few spots fell and the shower alert was over.

With the sun shining again, Dawley took the lead in the 41st minute. Dean Lowry, out of the left, crossed deep towards the far post where Steven Meakin got free of his marker to head home. The scorer, with a resemblance of Peter Crouch, resisted any temptation to celebrate with a robot dance!

A few spots of rain fell again and Clee defender Lee Delves went into the book in first-half stoppage time for one too many comments towards the referee.

Both sides stayed out at half-time and after a quick circumnavigate of the pitch by me, the action resumed with Brown Clee (wearing yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow socks) now attacking the changing rooms end. Clouds had given way to sunshine and a predominately blue sky.

Dawley almost doubled their lead four minutes after the restart when Charlie Knowles had a shot cleared off the line by defender Dave Martin.

For Knowles, his participation in the game last for just three more minutes as the striker received a straight red card for clashing with Delves who went down on the edge of the Clee area clutching his face.

Now playing against ten men, Brown Clee got back on level terms in the 63rd minute. Yeomans stayed onside to latch on to a ball down the middle and poked it into the net past the advancing keeper.

It got even better for the visitors when they took the lead five minutes later. Dan Griffiths was just about onside when he latched onto a throughball down the right and sent a pinpoint 25-yard lob over the head of keeper Alan Kennedy and just under the bar.

Cue more rain and the heaviest shower so far. I, the two other travellers and the Dawley bench moved next to the conifers to escape a soaking though the Brown Clee people over the other side had no such luxury. There was another chance for the visitors as John Pritchard fired over despite Matthew Abbott’s tackle.

It could well have been ten v ten when Gavin Ellis pulled back Bowker just outside the area. The referee decided Ellis hadn’t denied a goalscoring opportunity and brandished just a yellow card.

To their credit Dawley grabbed an equaliser in the 78th minute. Lowry sent a diagonal forward ball towards the far right post which Gary Byrne controlled and fired past Jordan.

However, there was still time for a couple of further twists in this entertaining game. Brown Clee scored what looked like being the winner in the 86th minute. A free-kick on the left was played forward into the area where Mark Gibbons forced the ball home at close range.

Dawley didn’t give up and snatched a point with a last gasp equaliser. Lowry delivered a delicious cross from wide on the left which Bowker headed home at the far post. The visitors barely had time to kick-off before the referee blew the full-time whistle.

Dawley Wanderers (red/red/red): 1. Alan Kennedy, 2. Gavin Ellis, 3. Jason Garbett, 4. Gary Meakin (capt), 5. Matthew Abbott, 6. Steven Meakin, 7. Gary Byrne, 12. Robert Bowker, 9. Charlie Knowles, 10. Stuart Owen, 11. Dean Lowry. Subs: 14. James Pitt (for Owen, 55), 16. Luke Phillips (for Steven Meakin, 81).

Brown Clee (yellow/green/yellow): 1. Steve Jordan, 2. Steve Low, 3. Dave Martin, 4. Phil Brick, 5. Lee Delves, 6. Jim Nutting, 7. Dan Griffiths, 8. Craig Evans, 9. John Pritchard, 10. Tom Yeomans (capt), 11. Mark Gibbons. Subs: 12. Jamie Porter (for Evans, 74), 14. Alan Jervis (not used).

Referee: Mr White.

Tuesday 12th May 2009

Royton Town 1 East Manchester 1
Bridgewater Office Supplies Manchester League Premier Div
At: Crompton Cricket Club
Kick-off: 6-45 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none
Attendance: 15 (headcount)
Weather: sunny, very strong cold wind
Duration: first half: 47:18; second half: 47:36

I guessed this was going to be the final curtain for my midweek games in the winter league season of 2008/09 and a first taste of action in the Manchester League Premier Division. Of course, I’d seen two games hosted by teams in this division – Prestwich Heys and Elton Vale – both in the Goldline Trophy back in the summer.

I opted for this one as, assuming no programme, both club’s had up-to-date websites which provided match reports containing line-ups. I turned out to be a wise move as my squad lists proved invaluable when obtaining the teams from the respective dugouts.

Problems on the M60 motorway by the Stockport Pyramid played havoc with the preparations of the match officials and East Manchester. The appointed referee, Joe Perselli, was stuck and unable to arrive so one of the assistants, only called up a day or so ago, took the middle and a club official ran the line of his Royton defence. The visitors were left short of key players at kick-off. Royton seemed to have problems as well and didn’t name any subs.

I too, approaching from the northern side of the M60/M62, arrived shortly before kick-off and I had to ‘abandon’ my car in a nearby sidestreet.

The ground was located in Shaw with Royton being the nearest town in the direction of Oldham. I approached from the southbound A627(M), down from the M62 junction 20, and took the A663 exit. Turn left in the direction of Royton passing close to Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park ground. It was straight over the A671 and a bit further than I thought to the roundabout. I took the second exit into Compton Way then left into Rochdale Road (B6194). After passing Warburtons on the right and the Star pub on the left, it was right into Glebe Street and left into Alison Street at the end. The ground entrance was on the right opposite Christine Street.

The walk from the complex entrance went to the left of an immaculate cricket ground with the football ground behind the clubhouse to the left of the steel fence. The pitch (orientated north-east to south-west) ran lengthways with the dugouts on half way down the left-hand side.

In terms of promotion or relegation there was nothing at stake. However, a win from either of their final two games (tonight and on Saturday at home to Hindsford) would lift East Manchester (in 11th position in the 18-team division on 44 points from 32 games) into the top half of the final table. A win for Royton Town (eighth position with 50 points from 33 games) in what was their final game of the season would have lifted them for a final position of seventh.

When the two skippers met in the middle prior to kick-off, there were only seven East Manchester players were on the field and no keeper. However, a pause of a couple or so minutes allowed the visitors to start with a full complement of eleven men.

A strong easterly wind blew ferociously down the pitch from the cricket field end which Royton (wearing yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow socks), who got the game underway, had to attack into during the first half. I opted to stand on the near side by the dugouts which meant as far as I was concerned that Royton were attacking from left to right in

East Manchester (wearing all blue) created a couple of chances during the opening five minutes. Michael O’Connor delivered a corner from the right which fell for Graham Byrnes to chip over from 10 yards out. O’Connor was then involved to set up Mark Wright with a neat diagonal throughball which the striker fired wide.

Tom Bogan battled to create a change on the edge of the East Manchester area which he sent wide with a left-foot shot.

The visitors were encouraged to “raise it boys” and Connor Hampson responded with a good effort which flew over the bar.

The wind was posing a real problem for the players and in particular Alex Perkins, the Royton keeper wearing an all orange kit.

Not content with the start they had made with the advantage of the wind, the East Manchester players got more encouragement: “Let’s try and make the most of it.” – ‘it’ being the wind!

Mark O’Connor, in goal for the visitors, was called into action to make a save midway through the half, holding Bogan’s low cross-cum-shot at the base of the near right-hand post.

East Manchester broke the deadlock in the 31st minute. Michael O’Connor delivered a right-wing corner which was headed home by Graham Byrnes. The visitors were temporarily reduced to ten men six minutes later as Wright limped off.

Before the break, East Manchester were awarded a free-kick 32 yards out for handball by Andrew Wade which Mike Kays sent over the wall and bar as well.

At the interval, Royton stayed on the pitch which the visitors returned to the changing rooms. Towards the end of the first half, more East Manchester players arrived having battled through the delays around Stockport, meaning they could make a double change for the start of the second half.

Soon after the restart, Royton’s Carl Caffrey looked to make used of the wind, firing a long-range free-kick over the bar. However, the home side suffered a blow in the 55tnh minute when Anthony Duffy limped off after treatment. With no available substitutions, Royton were forced to complete the game with ten men.

By the time the hour mark arrived, the cold wind was still blowing and the shadows were noticeably lengthening. The visitors created a decent chance to double their lead. Simon Harrison played a throughball into the path of Michael O’Connor, on the left inside the area, who fired straight at the advancing Perkins.

Despite only having ten men, Royton equalised in the 70th minute and what an excellent goal it was. From a position fully 35 yards out, Carl Caffrey hit an unstoppable shot which flew into the bottom left corner. Keeper Mark O’Connor tried to save with his legs but to no avail.

There was further danger for East Manchester and this time Mark O’Connor successfully used his boot kept out a shot from Michael Moss.

It wasn’t obvious that Royton, aided by the wind, had ten men as they continued to look for the winner. Andy Eastwood got the better of Simon Finegan just outside the area and fired over. The forward appealed for a foul by the last defender which the referee ignored. The home side again got forward as Bogan battled to the edge of the area, exchanged a one-two with Moss, and fired just over the bar.

Royton continued to press and the visitors bench again reminded their players that the opposition only had ten men.

With all of the pitch now in shadow, the home side never gave up and almost equalised during the final minutes. Wade sent a 30-yard free-kick flashing wide of the left-hand post and Moss got into a good position inside the area before firing across the face of goal.

That’s it till next season, I wrote in my notebook.

Royton Town (yellow/green/yellow): 1. Alex Perkins, 2. Anthony Duffy, 3. Jamie Peers, 4. Ryan Hulme (capt), 5. Andrew Wade, 6. Dave Yates, 7. Carl Dean, 8. Carl Caffrey, 9. Michael Moss, 10. Andy Eastwood, 11. Tom Bogan. Subs: none.

East Manchester (blue/blue/blue): 1. Mark O’Connor, 2. Chris Marsden, 3. Dominic O’Donnell, 4. Mike Kays, 5. Dave Noble, 6. Simon Finegan (capt), 7. Graham Byrnes, 8. Connor Hampson, 9. Mark Wright, 10. Tom Broadbent, 11. Michael O’Connor. Subs: 12. Keith Power, 13. Chris Stanley (for Michael O’Connor, 68), 14. Simon Harrison (for Moss, ht), 16. Andy Tomlinson (for Marsden, ht).

Referee: John Nisbet.

Footnote: It wasn’t my end of season as four days later I made my way to Dawley Wanderers, the first of a further eight games seen before the end of June!

Saturday 9th May 2009

Clements '83 1 Kenilworth Town KH 4
Midland Combination Division 3
At: Mackadown Sports and Social Club Sports Field
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 45 (headcount)
Weather: sunny spells, windy
Duration: first half 47:42; second half 47:16

During the season, I’ve read some really good and complementary reviews about Clements 83 FC so I decided to make the shortish journey down the M6 for their final league game of the season at home to Kenilworth Town KH.

Clements 83 are very much a family run club having been formed brothers Keith and Kevin Dutton back in 1983. From the previous Chairman William Barry Dutton (‘Dad’), who passed away recently, every member of the family has or still involved with a Dutton listed amongst the club officials in the roles of Vice Chairman, Secretary, Manager and Physio. This season is their first in the Midland Combination Division 3 as they decided to step up no fewer that ten divisions from the Birmingham AFA Division 9. The friendliness of the people running the club was evident, as other previous visitors had found.

Programmes (£1, glossy cover, colour inside) were available from inside the canteen area of the clubhouse and it certainly included plenty on celebrating Clements’ 2-1 victory last Saturday at Stratford Town FC over Henley Forest to win the Midland Combination Challenge Urn. It was mentioned in the programme that the Urn was the first cup won by the club in their 26 years of existence and there were plenty of photos of individual players proudly showing off the cup.

Around ten travellers had the same idea as me and I bumped into the ‘Tram’ inside the canteen when I popped in for my programme. ‘Northampton JR’ was also there and I hadn’t seen him for what must be at least six years.

I did my homework and found the ground on Mackadown Lane straightforward to find. I approached from the M42 junction 4 and followed the A45 westbound towards the centre of Birmingham. At the lights by the Sheldon pub (with the B425 turn on the left), turn right into Sheaf Lane and continue for around ¾ mile to the next roundabout by a parade of shops. Turn right into The Radleys then left after ½ mile into Mackadown Lane by the Proton/Hyundai garage. The entrance into the Mackadown Sports and Social Club Sports Field was 200 yards on the right opposite Lloyds TSB CarSelect.

There was a spacious car park with the clubhouse on the left. The pitch (orientated south-west to north-east) occupied the far side on an elevated position and was railed off with a red metal posts and rail. The dugouts were on halfway on the near side with a grass training area behind the tall net at the right-hand end. The embankment of the Birmingham to Euston railway line enclosed the pitch behind the left-hand goal (south-west goal) with fenced off open last behind the opposite touchline.

Interestingly behind the right-hand goal was an area of covered standing facing away from the current main pitch which must remain from times where the pitch had a different orientation. There were no lights – not surprising as the ground is short distance away from the end of the runway at Birmingham Airport.

I had assumed there was nothing to play for this afternoon. One of the travellers at the game suggested to the contrary that visitors Kenilworth (fourth with 41 points from 23 games) needed a win to make sure they retained fourth spot in the table which could result in promotion. Clements (seventh in the 13-team division with 29 points from 23 games) were simply looking to finish their final league game on a high to follow-up last week’s Urn triumph.

Kenilworth Town KH (wearing all red) were the first team to emerge from the changing rooms, quickly followed by Clements (wearing all blue) and the match officials.

It was Clements who got the action underway. They attacked the railway end in the first 45 minutes, or from right to left in relation to my chosen spot to the right of the home dugout. I just thought it might be usual to be nearer the goal that the visitors were attacking with black numbers on red shirts.

Barely a minute was up and the Clements net required a bit of attention from the referee. The corner that followed was scrambled clear by the home defence. With the wind gathering in strength, Clements defender David Faulkner got forward from the back and fired a low 30-yard shot straight at Town keeper Gareth Buckley.

Kenilworth took the lead in the 12th minute. Skipper Ricky Lee Moore sent a free-kick forward into the area which was knocked down by T’Challa Greaves for Matt Seeley to fire home from the left. Joy for the visitors who needed a win, relief for ‘Tram’ as he’d seen a goal and for me, well, I suppose it extended my own run without a goalless game to 39 games.

Clements keeper Alan Parker was called into action when he got down to hold a low shot from Matt Landon who had got the better of defender Keith Rogers on the edge of the area. However, Parker couldn’t prevent Landon doubling the visitors’ lead in the 16th minute. The wideman got forward to fire home at close range though the home side felt he had done so from an offside position.

It got a whole lot worse for Clements seven minutes later. Faulkner clashed with Seeley near the right corner flag in the home half and received a straight red card from the referee. I don’t want to get involved in debating refereeing decisions but I did get a clear view of the incident. Faulkner was guilty of an aggressive barge and, in my opinion, harshly treated.

To their credit Clements rallied and created some decent chances. Wayne Benton played a free-kick short to Adam Reece who sent a 20-yard right-foot shot curling wide of the right-hand post. A poor headed clearance presented Paul Dutton with the chance to fire across the face of goal and Benton’s free-kick curled around a three-man wall was held by Buckley. In the 35th minute, Clements unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty when Martin Campbell went down inside the area.

With planes swooping low over the pitch moments before landing at the airport and trains flashing past, the Mackadown Sports Field must be heaven for a plane- and train-spotting non-league football fan!

As the interval approached, the sky brightened up again and Paul Dutton saw ‘yellow’ for a tackle on Landon. The Kenilworth wideman, scorer of his side’s second goal, was unable to continue after treatment and replaced by Andy Handley.

Before the half-time whistle, Moore got forward down the left and fired a rising drive towards goal which Parker must have tipped over as the referee gave a corner.

I popped back into the canteen at the interval for another tea – they were serving bacon sandwiches which I do miss being a vegetarian. The players were out several minutes before the match official. For Kenilworth, with a two-goal advantage, it was a case of “final 45, end the season well”.

Now attacking the railway end, the visitors quickly got forward and Greaves’ well-struck shot bounced off Parker’s chest.

Following the injury to Landon towards the end of the first half, Moore was pushed further forward down the left and this prompted the Kenilworth bench, a bit ‘tongue in cheek’, to give him tips on how to play up front. It was just a bit of end of season fun.

Kenilworth made another change and the two subs nearly combined to produce a goal. From Moore’s long throw, Hanley headed towards the far post where Gordon Swain headed narrowly wide.

A couple more home players went into the book both for dissent before Kenilworth did add a third goal in the 67th minute. Swain put Seeley clear down the middle and the striker confidently fired pat Buckley into the bottom left corner of the net. Fourth position secured?

More bookings followed and ten-man Clements went three at the back in a bid to get on the scoresheet. Kenilworth had the ball in the home net again in the 82nd minute though Greaves did so from an offside position.

Clements got on the scoresheet in the 85th minute with the best goal of the game. Paul Haynes hit a first-time volley from the right over Buckley into the far side of the net.

Could the ten men of Clements fight back to snatch an unlikely draw? Well they had a go. Haynes went down just inside the area but the referee said ‘no’. Campbell’s cross from the left was cut out at the near post and Shane Hempenstall curled a shot wide from the resulting corner.

However, Kenilworth rounded off the scoring in the first minute of stoppage time. Greaves’ initial well-struck shot from the edge of the area bounced off Parker and Mark O’Donnell reacted to fire the loose ball home at close range.

As it turned out, Kenilworth needed the win to retain fourth position as fifth-placed Lichfield City thumped Coton Green Reserves 9-0. Clements finished the season where they started the day in seventh place. The Division 3 champions were Hampton who lost just one league game all season and finished 12 points clear of Henley Forest.

Clements 83 (blue/blue/blue): 1. Alan Parker, 2. Shane Hemensau, 3. Francis Bruce, 4. David Faulkner, 5. Keith Rogers (capt), 6. Sean Callaghan, 7. Paul Haynes, 8. Adam Reece, 9. Wayne Benton, 10. Martin Campbell, 11. Paul Dutton. Subs: 12. Nathan Brown (not used), 14. Barry Dutton (for Paul Dutton, ht), 15. Dean Sherington (not used), 16. Michael Sheahan (for Bruce, 72), 17. Thomas Duffy (not used).

Kenilworth Town KH (red/red/red): 1. Gareth Buckley, 2. Hardeep Athwell, 3. Ricky Lee Moore (capt), 4. Adam Thomas, 5. Danny Greer, 6. Mark O’Donnell, 7. Mitchel Lowe, 8. Nicky Playdon, 9. Mat Seeley, 10. T’Challa Greaves, 11. Mat Landon. Subs: 12. Scott Donnegan (not used), 14. Gordon Swain (for Lowe, 54), 15. Andy Handley (for Landon, 44), 16. Fazhan Hussain (for Seeley, 68), 17. Ben Main (not used).

Referee: A Cann.
Assistants: J Woodhouse and B Maydew.

0-1 Mat Seeley (12)
0-2 Mat Landon (16)
0-3 Mat Seeley (67)
1-3 Paul Haynes (85)
1-4 Mark O’Donnell (90+1)

Manor Inne 2 Kidsgrove Carpets 1

Monday 4th May 2009
Manor Inne 2 Kidsgrove Carpets 1
Staffordshire County Senior League Division 1
At: North Stafford Sports Club, Shamblers FC
Kick-off: 6-30 pm
Attendance: 30 (headcount)
Weather: overcast, no rain
Duration: first half: 45:46; second half: 46:20

Around 20 football travellers came from far and wide to complete Bank Holiday ‘doubles’ and ‘trebles’. Some had arrived from Coventry Amateurs; others had arrived from Stafford Town. Some had been to Enville in the morning. As for me, it was my only game as we’d spend the day at Beeston Castle in Cheshire.

Technically there was something at stake in this game though the prospects of Manor Inne not winning the Division 1 title were about as likely as Elvis Presley turning up to watch the game riding Shergar. Manor Inne (54 points from 24 games with a goal difference of +44) headed the table needing just a point from one of their last two games to guarantee top spot in the final league table. Third-placed Holt JCB (48 points from 24 goals with a goal difference of +20) were six points behind with two games remaining and had a worse goal difference by some 26 goals. Sandwiched in between Manor and Holt were Hanley Town Reserves, trailing Manor by five points with one game left (played this evening at home to Barton United).

Ninth-placed Kidsgrove Carpets (34 points from 24 games), the opposition for this game, took a four-match unbeaten run in the league into this game which was the penultimate fixture of their first Senior League campaign. They joined last summer from the Crewe League. Kidsgrove had hosted Manor Inne on the opening day of the season back in August and lost 4-1

Manor Inne play at the North Staffs Sports Club (aka Shamblers FC), which is situated in a rural location on Whisper Lane off the A5182 a couple of miles south west of M6 junction 15. I approached from Hanchurch crossroads (where the A519 meets the A5182 and B5038 from Trentham) following a sign for Market Drayton and Shrewsbury over the M6 until a sharp left turn into Whisper Lane after about 1.3 miles. The ground was a further half mile up a track to where pitches were on the left and parking on the right. The place turned out to be familiar as it was the base of an West Midlands League orienteering event I took part in earlier last year in the nearby Swynnerton Old Park.

Around and behind the Sports Club building was an ‘L’ shaped playing field with three pitches running parallel behind the building and one in front to the right. Manor Inne used the furthest pitch of the three which was surrounded on three sides by countryside, hedges and trees with the fourth side adjacent to the cricket square and the remainder of the playing field. It was roped off with dugouts opposite each other on halfway with Kidsgrove’s on the far side and Manor’s on the near side. Both benches kindly provided their respective line-ups and no programme was issued.

“Let’s keep this record intact”, was the cry from the Manor Inne bench as the visitors, Kidsgrove Carpets (wearing all blue) got the game underway attacking the far end in the first. I guess ‘this record’ refers to Manor’s current 11-match unbeaten run in the league. Like the majority of the crowd, I opted to watch the game from the near side next to the cricket square which meant Kidsgrove were playing from left to right.

The game took a while to get going and, in the 16th minute, Manor defender Chris Bailey got forward and curled a shot wide of the Carpets’ goal.

Manor Inne (wearing red and white stripes, red shorts and red socks) went even closer a minute later – in fact so close that they took the lead! Nathan Calvert crossed from the left for Neil Coxon to fire home at close range via the hand of the Kidsgrove keeper Matt Hollinshead.

The home side started to create all the chances. Jamie Derby played a free-kick short to skipper Glen Rae who saw a well-struck rising 25-yard drive tipped over by Hollinshead. Coxon headed wide as did Calvert. Chances continued to be created and Lee Bott sent a long-range drive wide of the right-hand post from some 35 yards out.

Manor Inne thought they’d doubled their lead in the 36th minute and so did I. Calvert got on the end of a right-wing cross and sent a downward header between the keeper and left post, only to see his effort disallowed.

Towards the end of the first half, Manor keeper Ben Lucas was finally called into action to push a dangerous corner from Ashley Stanyer over the bar. The resulting corner wasn’t cleared and Will Slater’s shot was gathered up by Lucas. A couple of minutes before the interval, Derby battled into the Carpets area and fired a low angled shot straight at Hollinshead.

Both sides stayed out at the half-time with the light not at its brightest as dark rain threatening clouds had gathered overhead. The Manor Inne manager was happy with this team’s first-half performance and he wanted them to kill off the game in the second half.

No doubt the boss was delighted when the lead was doubled barely 86 seconds after the restart. Calvert’s initial shot from outside the area was fumbled by Hollinshead and Coxon forced the loose ball home at close range. Surely the title belonged to Manor Inne, if it didn’t already.

However, Kidsgrove quickly pulled a goal back in the 49th minute. Steven Hackney was fouled inside the area by Lucas and Stanyer stepped up to convert the resulting penalty. Rae was booked for his protests and was into the ref’s notebook by five further names before the end of the game.

Around the hour mark, Tom Swindells fired just over the Carpets bar from outside the area and Derby headed Shaun Keates’ free-kick over the bar.

Looking for an equaliser in continuing gloomy light, Jamie Evans angled a shot across the face of the Manor goal which flashed past the left-hand post.

Both sides made a change and Kidsgrove manager Eddie Forrester brought himself on for the last five or so minutes. It was almost a fairy tale cameo by the boss and he almost equalised with a late downward header which Lucas held.

At full-time, two league officials emerged with the Division 1 trophy and skipper Rae was the grateful recipient. Well done Manor Inne!

Thankfully, the rain kept off for the whole game despite the dark clouds overhead.

Manor Inne (red and white stripes / red / red): 1. Ben Lucas, 2. Lee Bott, 3. Chris Bailey, 4. Glen Rae (capt), 5. Dave Cartlidge, 6. Damon Hill, 7. Shaun Keates, 8. Jamie Derby, 9. Neil Coxon, 10. Nathan Calvert, 11. Tom Swindells. Subs: 12. Dan Arrowsmith (for Swindells, 79), Chris Prior (not used), Craig Clewlow (not used).

Kidsgrove Carpets (blue/blue/blue): 1, Matt Hollinshead, 2. Will Slater, 3. Alan Smith, 4. Martin Moran, 5. Phil Wootton, 6. Richie Birchall, 7. Jamie Evans, 8. Matt Smith, 9. Steven Hackney, 10. Martin Smith, 11. Ashley Stanyer. Subs: 15. Eddie Forrester (for Birchall, 85), Joel Ward (not used), Simon Tinsley (not used).

Referee: –