Greenwood Meadows 1 Heanor Town 2

Saturday 31st October 2009
Greenwood Meadows 1 Heanor Town 2
East Midlands Counties League
At: Old Lenton Lane
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (16 pages)
Attendance: 51
Weather: mild, weak sunshine
Duration: first-half: 45:39; second-half: 51:47

I’d not been over to Nottingham for a couple of months – apart from, that is, nipping round the southern bypass on my way to and from Lincoln United – and I’d not seen an East Midlands Counties League (EMCL) side action since Bardon Hill’s wonderful FA Cup win last month.

So, last night I pondered where to head today with the above thoughts in mind and spotted something really exciting in the EMCL. The fixture compiler couldn’t have planned a much better end to October and produced what I called the ‘East Midland Counties League Super Saturday’. Leaders Heanor Town were at fourth-placed Greenwood Meadows and second-placed Gedling MW (level on points with the leaders) entertained third-placed Dunkirk (one point off the top). I’d been to Gedling earlier in the season so my destination this afternoon had to be Meadows’ Lenton Lane ground.

A quick glance at the top of the league showed just how tight things were around the summit. Just two points separated the top five and any one of the top five could have been top come 5 pm this evening. Fifth-placed Bardon Hill had more than a good chance of picking up three points at lowly Anstey Nomads.

I approached Nottingham on the A453 passing the Radcliffe Power Station and Clifton before heading north, briefly, on the A52 signed Derby. No sooner had I joined the A52, I took the second exit, signed ‘Lenton Industrial Estate’, down to the roundabout below. Lenton Lane was immediately on the left after taking the ‘Boots Ind. Est. (West)’ exit, Greenwood’s ground being 200 yards on the right just past the turn for the Riverside Golf Centre.

Immediately through the gate, I was directed to a parking space next to a camper van and the pitch (orientated north-west–south-east) ran lengthways behind a fence that separated the car park from the rest of the ground. The entrance was to the left, where I picked up a programme, and beyond was the clubhouse and changing room building.

A smaller training and warm-up pitch was situated behind the near goal with two stands and dugouts down the left-hand touchline. The nearest stand contained a couple of benches while the far one had two rows of individual blue tip-up seats, around 40-50 seats in total.

Before kick-off, I was made to feel very welcome in the clubhouse and got myself a tea and chips, as well as a nice lapel badge from behind the bar.

Teams were announced over the tannoy. Heanor’s line-up included two players with well-known fathers – goalkeeper Sam the son of former FA Cup winner Steve Ogrizovic and Ashley the son of current Glapwell and former Stafford striker Neil Grayson.

Greenwood went into the game in fourth position on 23 points from 11 games, two points behind the leaders Heanor who had also played the same number of games. They had won four of their last five league games, including the last two at Radford and Blackwell.

Heanor arrived at Old Lenton Lane on a run of eight league games without defeats and had won their last four games. Coincidently their last league defeat came at the end of August when they visited Dunkirk, Greenwood’s very near neighbours.

After the fair play formalities were conducted, Greenwood held a huddle minus their captain who was with the opposition skipper and match officials in the centre circle. The teams stayed as they were and said captain Dave Boafo joined his teammates for the conclusion of the huddle which broke to a large shout of “Greenwood”.

Heanor (wearing all white with blue trim) got the game underway defending the near Lenton Lane end, and, after Greenwood’s Rory Francis fired an early chance over the bar, took a 5th minute lead. Gary Webster, out on the right, delivered into the area and fell for Lee Hodgson to gratefully fire past Paul Farnsworth at close range. Quite a few Heanor fans were at the game, which attracted Greenwood’s biggest league home crowd of the season so far, and made themselves heard with a celebratory roar as the ball went in.

I got quite a good view of the goal, having opted to stand in the half attached by the visitors. But the flies were proving a nuisance.

Greenwood (in green shirts, black shorts and green socks) created a decent chance in the 10th minute. Jourdain Blair crossed from the right towards the near where Chris Atkins sent a diving header just wide. The home side won no fewer than five corners during the opening 23 minutes and from the fourth one Kristian Stephens glanced a header across the face of goal.

By this time, the flies had got the better of me so I moved nearer the clubhouse into the half attacked by the home side. Greenwood’s black numbers on the back of their green shirts also played a part in my decision to move near to the goal there were attacking.

The referee had a word with Heanor’s Danny Williams after a foul on Dave Boafo who, moments later, brought down a Heanor player around the halfway line. Lee Stevenson sent the resulting free-kick forward into the Greenwood area and central defender Adam Kay powered home a header. The visitors were two-up in the 27th minute and any hopes Greenwood or the other three chasing sides had of snatching top spot appeared over. I felt the goal was tough on the home side considering the amount of possession they had had.

A very long bouncing clearance by home keeper Farnsworth caused uncertainly in the Heanor defence and Sam Ogrizovic was unable to prevent another corner. Ashley Harrison delivered it accurately into the area where Kieran Walker headed over from just five yards out.

Callum Mason drew applause from the visiting faithful with a 25-yard dripping volley just wide of the target before, in the 37th minute, Atkins missed a simple chance to halve the deficit. Found unchallenged at the far left post just six yards out, the striker miscued his shot and fired across the face of goal. “How did he miss that,” wondered one spectator stood near me. I felt the same from my new vantage point next to the goal that Greenwood were attacking.

I popped back into the clubhouse and joined the queue for the tea bar before opting to stand down the right-hand touchline facing the dugouts and stands.

Ashley Grayson became the first of two Heanor players to pick up a booking. He was yellow carded for a foul on Francis in the 52nd minute.

The floodlights came on around the time of the booking just before Heanor almost further extended their lead. Grayon looked to put Williams clear only for a brave saving tackle to prevent a clear shooting change. Farnsworth, the Meadows keeper, was mightily impressed with his defender.

Reflecting around the hour mark, I felt that Heanor were comfortably holding their two-goal advantage despite Greenwood raising their game.

The home side made a double change in the 64th minute. Ashley Whitt replaced Atkins and Rob Burton came on for Robinson. In a reshuffle, central defender Romaine Graham was pushed forward as an extra attacker alongside new man Whitt and Blair.

Greenwood were “ticking” when Blair fired an angled shot wide of the far left post and their hard work was rewarded with a goal in the 74th minute. Blair created himself a chance inside the area and fired past Ogrizovic from 8 yards out.

Heanor were urged to “focus” as the home side pressed for an equaliser which had seemed so unlikely after the visitors’ 27th-minute second goal.

A third and final substitution for Greenwood saw Craig Meakin replace Francis and so began their “most important 10 minutes of the season so far”. And the final 10 minutes plus stoppage time certainly didn’t lack excitement.

Greenwood appealed for a penalty for handball against Tom Burgin turned down though I felt that the referee may have assessed things differently had he had the my view of the incident.

Hodgson went down with what looked like cramp and was replaced in the 84th minute by tall striker George Walker. Williams went in the booking three minutes later for a foul and at the same time one member of the Heanor dugout was ‘sent off’, presumably for protesting the decision.

Into stoppage time and Heanor replaced Mason with Danny Roberts. “How long?” asked the Heanor keeper, “five, four?”. I didn’t hear the referee’s answer but there was enough time for Ogrizovic, under pressure, to palm Meakin’s deep free-kick over the bar. The visitors broke upfield following the resulting corner and Williams was denied a shooting chance by Kieran Walker’s brave tackle.

With over six minutes of injury time already played, Heanor again wanted to know “how long?” The answer quickly came – Farnsworth parried Webster’s low shot and the referee blew for full time to end a pulsating second half.

Before setting off, I popped into the clubhouse to the final scores and noticed a good result for my old team – a 2-2 draw at home to Northwich to follow Tuesday’s win at Ilkeston. Manager Chris Brindley’s hard work looks to be paying off.

Heanor had banished all the talk of one of their four nearest challengers knocking them off top spot. Dunkirk won 5-3 at Gedling Town to move up to second while wins for both Bardon Hill (11-0 at Anstey Nomads) and Gresley FC (6-2 at home to Graham Street Prims) pushed Greenwood Meadows down to sixth, admittedly just five points behind the leaders.

Greenwood Meadows (green/black/green): 1. Paul Farnsworth, 2. Dave Boafo (capt), 3. Ashley Branson, 4. Kieran Walker, 5. Romaine Graham, 6. Kristian Stephens, 7. Rory Francis, 8. Nathan Robinson, 9. Jourdain Blair, 10. Chris Atkins, 11. Ashley Harrison. Subs: 12. Craig Meakin (for Francis, 80), 14. Rob Burton (for Robinson, 64), 15. Ashley Whitt (for Atkins, 64).

Heanor Town (white/white/white): 1. Sam Ogrizovic, 2. Lee Stevenson, 3. Tom Burgin, 4. Callum Mason, 5. Michael Norbury, 6. Adam Kay, 7. Gary Webster (capt), 8. Ashley Grayson, 9. Danny Williams, 10. Lee Hodgson, 11. Graham Wells. Subs: 12. George Walker (for Hodgson, 84), 14. Dean Randall (not used), 15. Danny Roberts (for Mason, 90+2), 16. Anthony Bedward (not used).

Referee: A Smith
Assistants: P Wade and J Shaw.

0-1 Lee Hodgson (5)
0-2 Adam Kay (27)
1-2 Jourdan Blair (74)

It is well known there are a number of clubs and sports catered for amongst the vast Lenton Lane playing fields and, with time on my hands before kick-off, took a walk to check out the others – Dunkirk FC, Bilborough Pelican FC and Notts Unity Casuals CC, University of Nottingham’s Grove Farm Sports Ground, the aforementioned Golf Centre and Pelican Colts FC’s Dave Eastwood Sports Ground. Bilborough Pelican were also at home and I purchased a Pelican FC lapel badge from their clubhouse but there was no programme issued.

Wells City 1 Bridport 0

Saturday 24th October 2009
Wells City 1 Bridport 0
Toolstation League Division 1
At: Athletic Ground, Rowdens Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Attendance: 98
Weather: sunny, winndy, occasional showers
Duration: first-half: 46:27; second-half: 50:00

It’s FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round day but my bid to watch a game in each of the six qualifying round on a new ground came to an end at the final hurdle.

We had long planned to be in Devon this weekend at the start of half-term, and when the draw was made my only FA Cup option was Truro City v Forest Green Rovers, as long as Truro won their Third Qualifying Round reply. Mangotsfield put a stop to that idea with a win on penalties so they instead hosted the Blue Square Premier side.

No need for the violins, however, as a club I’d long wanted to visit, Wells City, were at home and, better still, were top of the league as well.

I opened the curtains this morning to a worry sight – rain steadily falling and large puddles of water on the road outside. I contemplated the first ‘fun’ day of the season trying to find a match that was on? Would fate have me ending up at the FA Cup tie at Paulton, a ground I’d visited many years ago?

Anyway, before setting off, I phoned Wells and got no reply which I assumed was good rather than bad news. I needn’t have worried as we arrived in the Cathedral City to sunshine and a perfect playing surface. We approached Wells up the A39 from Glastonbury and turned right onto East Somerset Way (A371 towards Shepton Mallet) at the roundabout next to R. Tincknell & Son. Rowdens Road was first left and the ground was at the end doubling back almost to the Glastonbury Road.

With bags of time (which I thought might have been needed to find another game), we walked into the city centre, past the Star Hotel, where my mother-in-law and the father of Mrs ‘iwf’ stayed on honeymoon back in the fifties, to the Cathedral. I returned to the ground down Priory Road into a stiff wind that was to have an impact on the game.

The Athletic Ground at which Wells play is a multi-sport venue consisting of a large playing field. At the entrance I noticed a gate commemorating ‘Mary Bignal Rand 1960 1964’ and a plaque told of Mary Rand’s long jumping achievements including a world record at the Tokyo Olympics Games of 1964. There was a paybox where the matchday programme was available and the pitch (orientated north-south) ran lengthways occupying the left-hand side of a much larger recreation ground. All the facilities were down the far left-hand touchline with a seated stand – ‘The Mike Cornish Stand’ – on halfway, behind the dugouts, containing four rows of benches with individual places marked out for around 180 spectators. Veronica’s Teas was adjacent to the stand and I couldn’t resist tea in a proper yellow mug and slice of jam swiss roll. Alas no lapel badges were available.

Before kick-off, I met fellow traveller ‘RS Cavendish’ and spent an enjoyable afternoon in his company. The home manager and referee provided the teamsheets but the line-ups were announced over the tannoy as well.

Before the game, the Wells squad had their team photo taken along with the shirt sponsor.

As mentioned, Wells went into the game on top of Division 1 on 31 points from 13 games, three points clear of second-placed Westbury United who had three games in hand. They began the season unbeaten in their opening 13 league and cup games, winning all except for a draw against Minehead. In his programme column, the Wells manager Tim Moxey explained his team had suffered the ‘Manager of the Month’ curse as they spluttered this month, losing to both Gillingham and Elmore, after he picked up the September award. Last Saturday, Wells got back on track with a 2-0 win at lowly Chard.

Visitors Bridport (11 points from 11 games) went into this game in 15th position in the 20-team division. Wells boss Moxey mentioned that the meeting between the teams at Bridport earlier in the season was a tight affair which was won by Wells with a single goal scored by Ian Howse.

A local junior football team provided a guard of honour from the teams as they emerged from the changing rooms behind the match officials before exchanging handshakes lined up in front of the stand.

I opted for a seat on the back row of the stand, alongside ‘RS C’ even though the near right corner was obscured by the changing rooms. Bridport (wearing red and black striped shirts, black shorts and socks) got the game underway defending the Rowdens Road end in the first half and attacking into the strong wind.

The game’s major talking point came with barely five minutes on the clock. Steve Murray saw a low shot, fired from outside the area, hit the arm of defender Chris Senior who had flung himself in the way of the ball. The referee pointed to the spot and Murray fired home the opening and, as it turned out, match-winning goal, timed in the 6th minute.

Chances were extremely scare as Wells (wearing blue shirts, blue shorts and white socks) did most of the attacking with the aid of the wind. They won several corners that came to nothing and, midway through the half, Bridport keeper Simon Evans got down to hold a low left-foot shot from Jake Brown hit from the right side of the area.

The home side were inches away from doubling their lead on the half hour. Steve Sokol hit a thunderous shot which hit the inside of the left-hand post and rebounded across the face of goal.

Bridport created their first decent chance in the 37th minute. Hesitancy in the Wells defence allowed Senior, up with attack following a free-kick, to get in a right foot shot which keeper Terry Punchard blocked.

After staying put and chatting to ‘RS C’ at half time, the second half soon got underway and Bridport had another chance five minutes after the resumption. Shane Evans got into the area down the left and pulled the ball back for Wise who couldn’t keep his shot down. Roger Cummins was unlucky to narrowly miss the target with an acrobatic overhead kick which deserved better.

I wondered if Bridport were going to equalise, especially when Punchard did well on the hour to tip over a rising long-range drive from Senior.

Drizzle started to fall, briefly, and play was momentarily halted when a blue umbrella was blown onto the pitch from the far side.

Senior was booked in the 68th minute for a foul on Jack Malone, who was able to continue after treatment, and three minutes later Mat Condliffe saw yellow as well for dissent.

Bridport boss Trevor Senior made a change in the 73rd minute when Carl Bulman replaced Alan Hill, just before a rare Wells chance fell to Ian Howse but Simon Evans made a comfortable save.

Wells brought on Dan Jenkins, in his distinctive yellow boots, in place of Murray in the 75th minute and two minutes later Wells midfielder Ross McErlain picked up a booking for a foul on Wise.

Still hoping for an equaliser, manager Senior asked the near-by assistant how long was left. “11 minutes came the reply,” and the boss made a second substitution in the 82nd minute, replacing Shane Evans with Dom McAllister.

Bridport continued to press forward in search of the elusive equaliser, without success and had to return home with Dorset with a narrow defeat. Wells defender Mark Randall was booked for handball in stoppage time (90+3 minutes).

Unknown to me sat on the back row of the stand, the lights had been switched on sometime during the game - the nights are certainly drawing in especially with the clocks going back tonight!

Wells City (blue/blue/white): 1. Terry Punchard, 2. Jack Malone, 3. Mark Randall, 4. Jamie Gowers, 5. Kyle McErlain (capt), 6. Nathan Truckle, 7. Steve Sokol, 8. Ross McErlain, 9. Ian Howse, 10. Jake Brown, 11. Steve Murray. Subs: 12. Steve Osgood, 14. Steve Griffin, 15. Dan Jenkins (for Murray, 75).

Bridport (red and black stripes / black / black): 1. Simon Evans, 2. Alan Hill, 3. Matt Condliffe, 4. Chris Clarke, 5. Chris Senior, 6. Ryan Hayter (capt), 7. Tom Coggins, 8. Dan Wise, 9. Ashley Clarke, 10. Shane Evans, 11. Roger Cummins. Subs: 12. Carl Bulman (for Hill, 73), 14. Dom McAllister (for Shane Evans, 82), 15. Trevor Senior.

Referee: I Harley.
Assistants: P Bell and P Mawhood.

1-0 Steve Murray (6 pen)

Heathtown Rangers 5 Lye Town 0

Tuesday 20th October 2009
Heathtown Rangers 5 Lye Town 0
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Cottage Ground
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1-50 (20 pages)
Attendance: 20 (headcount)
Weather: mild, occasional drizzle
Duration: first-half: 45:31; second-half: 47:42

There are quite a few groundsharers in the West Midlands (Regional) League and one of them is Heathtown Rangers, who play home games at Wednesfield’s Cottage Ground on Amos Lane.

So, tonight’s Premier Division game fell into the category of a ‘bracketed tick’ where I saw Heathtown play a home game for the first time on a ground I’d previously visited. Admittedly my previous two visits to the Cottage Ground were over 20 years ago both to see Wednesfield play a home WMRL game – first against Harrisons in 1987 and then against Stourport Swifts in May 1989.

Programmes were on sale at the entrance to the ground and I was interested to read the history of Heathtown Rangers, particularly its origins. The club owes its roots to the local lock industry and were formerly known as Chubb Sports FC. When the Chubb factory closed down, which resulted in the pitches being sold for housing, the present name was chosen by the players who also designed the club’s badge in 2001. Heathtown joined the West Midlands League from the Bilston League in 2005 and swiftly moved from Division 2 to the Premier Division with immediate back-to-back promotions. Last season, their first in the Premier, saw them finish in a creditable eighth position. Previously, Heathtown played home Bilston League games at Fallings Park.

I approached the Cottage Ground via the southbound A460 towards Wolverhampton from M54 Junction 1. Next to the Pear Tree pub, there was a left turn into Pear Tree Lane (B4484) and the ground entrance was one mile ahead on the left just past Cottage Close, having gone straight on at the two roundabouts. Pear Tree Lane by the way became Lower Knowle Lane and then Amos Lane.

Through the gates, the pitch ran lengthways beyond a small training pitch with Wednesfield’s clubhouse, changing rooms and hospitality room all behind the far goal. Down the near left-hand touchline on halfway was a stand containing six rows of benches with individual numbered places marked out. Opposite were the dugouts spaced about 20 yards apart either side of the halfway line.

Both sides went into the game on 12 points in a lowly league position in the 21-team division. Heathtown, having played 15 games, occupied 18th position and were one position below visitors Lye Town who had played three games less.

I had a chat with the club official manning the entrance, who incidentally knew the Stafford Rangers Chairman Jon Downing, and he told me about Saturday’s home game against Darlaston (lost 3-0) when the Heathtown keeper was sent off early on.

Heathtown was a welcoming club, as were the Lye officials as well, and I obtained the team line-up from the hospitality room as well as a cup of tea.

I was the only person sat down when the teams exchanged fair-play handshakes in from of what one person on the field described as the ‘packed stand’. I’d like to think they appreciated my presence. I opted for position 107 in the third row and soon was joined by others.

As the official had told me earlier, this game was a real ‘six-pointer’ as the winning side had the opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom two clubs Bromyard on seven points and Shawbury on four points.

“Big and strong all round,” urged the Lye captain, “we’ve got the wind with us.” He also told his side to be aware of the “short pitch”.

Heathtown (wearing blue shirts with white sleeves, blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking towards the Amos Lane end into the wind and took the lead with just 58 seconds on the clock. Lye keeper Matthew Jones spilled Paul Harris’ initial shot and John Holdcroft slotted home the loose ball by the left-hand post.

It got even better for the home side with a second goal scored in the 12th minute, and with the help of an error from Matthew Jones. This time, the keeper failed to hold a low right-wing cross delivered by Michael Flavell and Holdcroft again got forward to slot home at close range.

Lye (in yellow shirts, green shorts and socks) quickly got forward and Andrew Morris made a brave block at the feet of the onrushing Mathew Poyner. The visitors won a corner from which Darren Field rose to head wide.

Lye skipper Danny Adams prevented a third goal with a saving tackle on Harris to prevent the striker having a clear shot on goal.

Just before the half-hour mark, hesitancy in the Heathtown defence prevented a chance for Jimmy Darcy and Andrew Morris produced a diving save to turn round a well-struck 25-yard right-foot shot. The diving keeper did well again to keep out a curling right-footer from Brett McGilliam at the expense of a corner.

Heathtown moved further ahead in the 41st minute with a third goal. Harris found space inside the area on the right and smashed a low shot into the near bottom corner from 15 yards out.

Before the interval, Lye were inches away from making inroads into the deficit. Poyner’s lob cleared Andrew Morris but agonisingly dropped just over the bar. The same player also sent a 30-yard drive just wide of the target as well.

I popped back into the hospitality room at the interval for another tea (I settled my debt from earlier caused by a lack of change on my part) before returning to the stand, this time into position 186 on the fifth row.

Heathtown got forward after the resumption and Flavell was given the time and space to charge down the middle before unleashing a powerful shot which flew past the left-hand post.

A quick spate of booking started in the 54th minute when Lye’s Field received a yellow card for chopping down John Cordy. A minute later Heathtown’s Nathan Jones was booked for a needless deliberate handball inside the Lye area and Cordy followed his teammate into the book in the 57th minute for a late tackle on Adam Cross.

Lye changed their forward line in the 63rd minute when Ash Greenaway replaced Adam Meacham but it was Heathtown who next found the net with their fourth goal scored three minutes later. Harris stayed onside to latch onto a pass played out to the left by Flavell and crossed low into the area. Nathan Jones was perfectly placed to fire home at the far post.

The visitors made a second change in the 71st minute. Meacham’s strike partner Poyner also went off and on came Adam Wooldridge. But ‘lightning’ did strike twice as Heathtown found the net within 34 seconds of the substitution. A slip by Tony Arnold just inside his own half allowed Flavell to run all the way to the area where he fired an angled low left-foot shot into the opposite bottom right corner.

Before the game restarted after the goal, Cordy went off for Heathtown and on came James McKerdy. Harris picked up a booking for preventing Lye from taking a quick free-kick in the 75th minute and two minutes later both sides made a further substitution; Lye brought on Mark Whitehouse in place of Mathew Foster and Leon Spence replaced Matthew Jones for Heathtown.

Bookings continued in what was anything but a dirty game. Skipper Leon Pugh talked his way into a yellow card after impeding the progress of Arnold inside the home ‘D’. The resulting free-kick, taken by Cross, flicked the four-man wall and then the top of the bar as well.

Lye didn’t stop looking for a goal and almost got one in the 84th minute. Whitehouse fed Greenaway who saw a low shot parried by the diving Andrew Morris. The ball went out as the keeper attempted to recover the loose ball and to the frustration of the visitors, the nearby assistant signalled a goal kick.

The arrival of Ryan Nash in the 87th minute wrapped up the evening’s substitution when he replaced home striker Flavell.

There was time for one chance. McKerdy battled on the edge of the Lye area to get in a shot which Matthew Jones kept out with his leg at the expense of a corner.

Deep into stoppage time, Heathtown won a final corner which, despite winning 5-0, they decided to keep in the corner. I suppose I prevented any change of spoiling the clean sheet.

Heathtown Rangers (blue with white sleeves / blue / blue): 1. Andrew Morris, 2. Nathan Cain, 3. Leon Pugh (capt), 4. Gavin Harvey, 5. Daniel Lloyd, 6. John Holdcroft, 7. Nathan Jones, 8. John Cordy, 9. Paul Harris, 10. Michael Flavell, 11. Ryan Jones. Subs: 12. Leon Spence (for Jones, 78), 14. Ryan Nash (for Flavell, 87), 15. James McKerdy (for Cordy, 72), 16. Craig Quinn, 17. Tom Griffiths. Manager: Lea Cain.

Lye Town (yellow/green/green): 1. Matthew Jones, 2. Tony Arnold, 3. Mathew Foster, 4. Adam Cross, 5. Darren Field, 6. Danny Adams (capt), 7. Mark Hill, 8. Jimmy Darby, 9. Mathew Poyner, 10. Adam Meacham, 11. Brett McGilliam. Subs: 12. Adam Wooldridge (for Poyner, 71), 14. Mark Whitehouse (for Foster, 78), 15. Ash Greenaway (for Meacham, 63), 16. Mark Bache. Manager: Mark Bache.

Referee: A Luckett.

1-0 John Holdcroft (1)
2-0 John Holdcroft (12)
3-0 Paul Harris (41)
4-0 Nathan Jones (66)
5-0 Michael Flavell (72)

Ellesmere Rangers 3 Wolverhampton Casuals 1

Saturday 17th October 2009
Ellesmere Rangers 3 Wolverhampton Casuals 1
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Beech Grove
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £3; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Attendance: 80 (headcount)
Weather: mild, sunny
Duration: first-half: 46:46; second-half: 48:14

I learned quite a bit following the recent trip to Retford about what sort of places to take Junior ‘iwf’. We both felt that, even though Retford was a good place to visit, it was a touch too far to travel.

Today Mrs ‘iwf’ was enjoying the delights of a scenic railtour to Carlisle out via the Settle and Carlisle line and back via the Cumbrian coast line. So, once again, Junior was with me. We opted for a short journey and she chose West Midlands League leaders Ellesmere against midtable Wolves Casuals for the shortlist I offered.

On the way, we talked about the difference between an ‘optimist’ and a ‘realist’. For this game, an ‘optimist’ would think Casuals had a chance of at least a point while the ‘realist’ would be certain of three points for Ellesmere come full time.

The 47-mile journey took us via Newport and Whitchurch before an unexpected twist – we crossed into Wales a few miles west of Whitchurch before returning to England along the A495 before reaching Ellesmere. We passed the famous Mere and then through the town centre before following Oswestry signed (still A495) before turning right into Trimpley Street (B5058 signed St Martins). It was left into Cambria Avenue and the ground entrance was clearly signed on the right just after the crossroads.

A short drive between houses led to a large recreation ground and we parked on the left facing the grass before the clubhouse. There were three pitches, one straight ahead running lengthways and two on the right running widthways with the enclosed Ellesmere ground being the nearest of the latter two. A metal fence with tarpaulin-like material attached separated it from the rest of the recreation ground and made sure no one could watch without paying!

The turnstile was on the far side of the clubhouse and a decent programme was on sale there for £1. Admission prices were prominently displayed – £3 for me and £1 for Junior. Through into the ground, the pitch (orientated south-east–north-west) ran widthways to the right. Adjacent to this near corner was the adjoining clubhouse/tea bar and changing rooms building. On halfway down the near touchline was the stand with covered standing and around 109 individual tip-up seats in four rows. Opposite were the dugouts wither side on the halfway line.

We felt warmly welcomed in the tea bar. We didn’t spot the ‘golden arches’ on the way so Junior was pleased with here chips and also a club badge for £3 prominantly featuring a white swan. The home Secretary took time to lend me the teamsheets even though the line-ups were going to be announced over the tannoy.

The programme cover acknowledges the fact that 2009 is Ellesmere’s 40th anniversary and next month both an Anniversary Party and Sportsman’s Dinner with Lee Sharpe are being held to commemorate the milestone. Ellesmere are nicknamed the ‘Swans’.

Also included was a league table which showed Ellesmere (29 points from 23 games) on top of the table, one point better off than Shropshire rivals Ludlow Town, with just one league defeat. Visitors Wolverhampton Casuals occuplied 14th position with 13 points from their 12 games.

We opted for seats on the back row, numbers 81 and 82, and saw Ellesmere get the game underway attacking from left to right towards the far end. Within a minute, the raffle ticket seller reached us – would strip 861–865 be lucky?

As expected, the league leaders made a dominant start and soon Casuals’ keeper Steve Booth was called into action to turn a right-foot shot round the left post with a diving save. Danny Barton headed over at close range from the resulting corner.

A fan sat near us with a radio provided an early update of scores elsewhere – Lewis Neal with the first goal of the day and an own goal by Zat Knight.

The ball had been mostly in the Casuals half until the visitors got forward in the 13th minute to take the lead very much against the run of play. Anton Daley inside the area received a pass from Mark Walpe and saw an initial shot blocked. The rebound fell to Luke Tudor, wearing three but playing on the left side of midfield, who fired low into the bottom-left corner. Junior said to me that the ‘optimist’ was right so far!

Casuals grew in confidence and Rangers keeper Andy Mulliner turned round a good effort from unmarked Mark Webb.

The worried fans to our right had something to cheer when defender Mark Walpe sliced an attempted clearance straight out for a throw.

Booth was again called into action in the 23rd minute. Ian Rowlands exchanged a one-two with Andy Ford down the right and the former delivered a dangerous low cross which the keeper got down well to cut out.

“Arsenal 2 Birmingham 0,” was the latest from the Emirates. I predicted a 1-0 scoreline, which now couldn’t happen, so I hoped Arsenal would stay in front to give me a correctly predicted home win.

Kenny Paul fired across the face of the Casuals goal before Ellesmere got back on level terms in the 29th minute. Following a foul by Matt Turner on the Ellesmere right, Andy Reeve delivered a free-kick into a populated area and Barton rose to power home a header. The ‘realist’ must have been pleased!

The home side were on a roll. Rowlands did well out on the right and got in a goalbound shot that was blocked by Jon Clarke. The resulting corner fell to Scott Graham at the far post who went for goal. Adam Edmunds got hurt putting his body in the way though was able to continue after treatment.

However, a fine reaction save from Mulliner prevented Casuals from regaining the lead in the 36th minute. The keeper somehow stopped a first-time bullet header and the loose ball was scrambled clear.

Just before the break we had another score update, this time informing us that ‘Valencia got the second’. Presumably the Manchester United player had found the net rather than the Spanish giants!

After popping back to the tea bar at half-time, I had a change to my normal routine. I usually take my ground photos before kick-off but this time we circumnavigated the pitch during the interval for a change.

I was back to seats 81 and 82 for the second half and the two Ellesmere WAGs, one wearing leopard skin print leggings, were still in position on the front row near us. Alas, no joy on the raffle.

Ellesmere were awarded a penalty in the 51st minute for a trip by Clarke on Barton. Mark Walpe was unimpressed with the decision and picked up a booking for dissent before Barton sent Booth the wrong way from the spot – “Ellesmere’s second goal scored by Danny Barton!,” announced the tannoy man.

Casuals bounced back and almost equalised. David Walpe saw his shot blocked by a defender but Daley couldn’t take advantage of the rebound.

Edmunds was booked in the 56th minute for dissent just before we heard that “West Ham have scored at Stoke.”

Booth got down to save a well-struck shot from Barton before Edmunds received what looked like a final warning from the referee for more dissent. Just after the hour mark, Booth again did well and turned a long ball forward by Reeve round the post at the second attempt.

Reeve was replaced by Chris Catterall in the 65th minute and Ellesmere scored their third goal two minutes later. Booth did well to keep out a long-range shot from Graham but Catterall squared the loose ball to Barton who slotted home to compelte his hat-trick.

Casuals made they only substitution in the 68th minute with the unimpressed Mark Walpe replaced by Tom Chew.

Barton fell victim to the current interpretation of the offside rule two minutes later. He was certainly puzzled when flagged offside for touching the ball a few yards inside his own half. The striker had strayed offside moments before in the Casuals half and the flag had gone up when he became active.

Confident the points were in the bag, Ellesmere took off hat-trick hero Barton in the 75th minute to loud applause from the home faithful and brought on Gaz Meredith. Strike partner Kenny Paul went off four minutes later to give Jack Keating a taste of the action.

Casuals’ John Turner picked up a booking in the 90th minute for a heavy challenge on Ian Rowlands who required treatment in order to finish the game.

The fan near us asked the nearby assistant how long was left and the helpful official told us that the referee had signalled two minutes of added time – sufficient for the man with the radio to tell us that ‘Defoe sent off’ and ‘Liverpool 1-0 down’.

I thought Casuals gave the league leaders a good test and the visitors held an in promtu team meeting sat on the pitch after the full-time whistle.

On the way home, we stopped off at The Mere (which puts the ‘mere’ into ‘Ellesmere’) – a highlight for Junior ‘iwf’ with the opportunity to see and photograph an assortment of swans and ducks. I think it was the highlight of her day.

Ellesmere Rangers (sky blue / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Andy Mulliner, 2. Ian Rowlands, 3. Andy Reeve, 4. Andy Ford (capt), 5. Craig Fear, 6. Carl Harris, 7. Nathon Leonard, 8. Eddie Hope, 9. Danny Barton, 10. Kenny Paul, 11. Scott Graham. Subs: 12. Jack Keating (for Paul, 75), 14. Chris Cattrall (for Reeve, 65), 16. Gaz Meredith (for Barton, 75), GK. Sam Jones.

Wolverhampton Casuals (green and black stripes / green / green): 1. Steve Booth, 2. John Turner, 3. Luke Tudor, 4. Matt Turner, 5. Jon Clarke, 6. Nick Jones, 7. Mark Walpe, 8. David Walpe, 9. Mark Webb, 10. Anton Daley, 11. Adam Edmunds. Subs: 12. Tom Chew (for Mark Walpe, 68), 14. Matt Hard, 15. Dennis Robinson, 16. Michael Allen.

Referee: Dell Hill.
Assistants: DC Plant and B Polak.

0-1 Luke Tudor (13)
1-1 Danny Barton (51 pen)
2-1 Danny Barton (29)
3-1 Danny Barton (67)