Wellington Amateurs 1 Bilston Town (2007) 0

Saturday 28th March 2009
Wellington Amateurs 1 Bilston Town (2007) 0
West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1
At: School Grove
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 40 (headcount)
Weather: cold wind, showers, sunny spells
Duration: first half: 47:29; second half: 48:08

I’ve finally seen a Wellington Amateurs home game some three years after my first attempt failed miserably.

Back in May 2006, when Wellington were members of the Shropshire County League, I set off one Saturday afternoon to watch their home game with Clee Hill. I headed for the ground at Grainger Road in the Leegomery district, only to find a pitch with no sign of goalnets, corner flags, spectators, fans, etc. So I returned home only to establish later that Wellington had in fact moved from there to School Grove some 18 months before in October 2005!

This time round there were no problems with finding the correct venue, which I approached from M54 junction 5. At roundabout I was first left onto Rampart Way and onto A442. Then I left the A442 at next junction and took the second exit (into Holyhead Road, signed Ketley without a road number). After passing the red brick church on the right, I turned turned right into Vicar Street, then first left by the bus shelter into School Grove. The ground was at the end of the road into the car park.

The entrance to the ground was at the end of School Grove and the pitch ran widthways to the right (orientated north-south). On the near touchline, on halfway was the changing rooms building with covered standing in front and it also incorporated Dan’s Diner which offered hot and cold refreshments and programmes (£1). The other three sides were open with hard standing all round the pitch perimeter; dugouts with on halfway on the far touchline. A factory was located behind the fence behind the near goal.

The Diner presumably was named after Dan Braddock, the popular matchday Secretary, with whom I’d received messages for the Football Traveller website in the past. It was good to meet him and he epitomised the friendly nature of the club.

With Wellington looking to move up to the Premier Division at the end of the season, School Grove will be undergoing a transformation over the next few months with a 100 seats purchased from Lancashire CCC’s Old Trafford (to go under the roof in front of the changing rooms) and floodlights.

Promotion would continue a great period of success for Wellington and they would move up a division for the third consecutive season if things go to plan over the next six or so weeks. In 2006/07 the finished second in the Shropshire County League to move into West Midlands League Division 2 which they duly won last season at the first attempt.

The Ams, as they are nicknamed, went into the game on top of the Division 1 table, 10 points clear of second-placed Bridgnorth Town Reserves with seven games to go including this one. However, they had suffered a bit of a hiccup in the recent weeks, having lost last week at Bilbrook and drawn the game before that. Visitors Bilston were in fourth position and still hopeful of gaining promotion to the Premier Division as well but really needed the three points today.

Wellington (red shirts, black shorts and black socks) got the game underway defending the factory end in the first half. Rain fell during the opening 20 or so minutes and Bilston attacked with the aid of a strong wind. Sensibly I opted to watch the game from under the shelter in front of the changing rooms.

There were few clear-cut chances during the first half and the visitors (wearing the familiar Bilston colours of orange shirts, black shorts and orange socks) could have taken the lead in the 40th-minute. Jamall Pinnock forced Ams keeper Steven Bray into mistake on the edge of his own area but Ryan Bradshaw’s follow-up shot hit a defender with the goal unguarded.

Before the interval, there were a couple of further chances, one for each side with Bilston’s Lee Hughes heading straight at the keeper from Brett Haywood’s free-kick. At the other end in stoppage time, Bruce Harper delivered a free-kick into the area which was headed out to Mark Admaczyk who volleyed straight at visiting keeper Ben Astley.

The half-time whistle signalled a return trip to Dan’s Diner for another cuppa. During the interval, round came the raffle tickets with some decent prizes – once again I was out of luck.

The home side were denied what looked like a certain goal a minute after the restart. Astley produced a superb reaction save to keep out Gavin Davies’ volley. Danny Hickling also fired just over the Bilston bar before Wellington made all three substitutions within nine minutes around the hour mark. I was pleased the ‘number 14’ came on as he was no other than former Stafford Rangers striker Steve Clifford.

A mistake by Harper allowed Ward Morgan to run down the left and fire a low shot which Bray got down to hold. The visitors went even closer in the 77th minute when Pinnock saw a close-range shot cleared off the line.

Eventually, Wellingtom made the breakthrough in the 80th minute. Lewis Welch got down the right into the area and pulled the ball back for substitute Chris Brownlow to fire into the bottom left corner of the net.

Perhaps the game’s main taking point came three minute later. The referee appeared to award Bilston a penalty for a foul on Morgan, only to change his decision to a free-kick on the edge of the area on the advice of his assistant. Unfortunately for Bilston the resulting free-kick hit the wall.

Things were tense in the closing stages and during three minutes of stoppage time. Near the end Astley produced another save to deny Brownlow a nerve-calming second goal.

A great roar from the Wellington players greeted the final whistle, thankful for the three points. With Bridgnorth held to a 2-2 draw at home to Riverway, Wellington extended their lead at the top to 11 points with Bilbrook going second thanks to a 3-0 home win over Dudley United. However, Bilbrook do have three games in hand on the Ams.

NEWI Cefn Druids 6 GAP Connah's Quay 0

Friday 27th March 2009
NEWI Cefn Druids 6 GAP Connah's Quay 0
Principality Building Society Welsh Premier League
At: Plaskynaston, Cefn Mawr
Kick-off: 7-30 pm
Attendance: 150
Weather: mild, rain during the second half
Duration: first half: 47:12; second-half 47:32

Just like last Saturday’s trip to Penrith, tonight’s journey to NEWI Cefn Druid’s Plaskynaston ground was another case of ‘now or never’.

An article in this week’s Football Traveller mentioned that the club had obtained planning permission for a new ground, as had a supermarket to redevelop Plaskynaston – though both had been referred for final confirmation (as an article in the programme stated).

Home side NEWI Cefn Druids (NEWI comes from North East Wales Institute of Higher Education) can rightly claim to be the oldest football club in Wales; well the Druids part can. Founded well over 100 years ago in 1872, Druids FC once reached the FA Cup quarter finals in 1882/83 and a couple of years later beat my old club Stafford Rangers in the same competition. Druids FC merged with Cefn Albion in 1992 to form present-day CFN Druids. The club are nicknamed ‘The Ancients’.

While I was pleased to set off on a pleasantly-sunny Friday afternoon, the aforementioned sun became a real nuisance, of the low on the horizon variety, particularly between Stone and Whitchurch. Via a quick detour through Bangor-on-Dee and past the racecourse then onto the A539, I arrived at the A483 near Ruabon with a dilemma. Which way? Turn left to head down the A483 towards Oswestry or go under the bypass and keep on the A539 (signed Llangollen)? Just like my orienteering, but in the car and without my map to hand! I chose wrong by heading down the bypass before making a hasty U-turn at the next roundabout.

Once I’d sorted out which way to go, finding the ground wasn’t difficult and the directions I’d copied from the club website took me straight there. Leave the A483 at Ruabon, following signs for Llangollen A539. At next roundabout turn left onto B5605 signed Cefn Mawr. After 1 mile turn right at the Plough Inn (Rhosymedre) into Cefn Mawr. Cross railway bridge and after passing the Somerfield supermarket (previously a Kwik Save) on left-hand side, fork left down narrow lane for the ground and car-park.

There appeared to be one entrance, to the right of the brick building sporting the welcome sign, and I picked up a copy of the excellent programme (£1-50p, 48 pages, plenty of read).

Through the entrance, which was at the top of the bank, the pitch (orientated just about north-south) ran widthways to the left. In front was an area of open terracing near the corner flag with yellow crush barriers. Down below to the right was the first of two stands. This one named the ‘Brian Mackie Stand’ contained blue seats and housed the ‘Food Bar’ as well. Behind was the clubhouse and to the left, almost directly behind the goal was the club shop. There was another stand, positioned on halfway along the near touchline, from where I chose to watch the game from the back of six rows of blue individual tip-up seats. On the opposite touchline were the dugouts, spaced apart either side of the halfway line, along with a television gantry. Behind the far goal and down the touchline either side of the stand were grass banks.

Teams were announced over the tannoy but I’d already had a look at the teamsheet for those all-important line-ups.

The need to pick up three points was important to both sides but the requirement for third-from-bottom home side was more pressing than 12th-placed Connah’s Quay. Even though the Ancients were unbeaten in the last four games they were a mere four points clear of second-bottom Caersws.

Druids got the game underway attacking the Brian Mackie Stand end, in the first half, or left to right from my seat.

Early in the game, I decided to have a punt at the raffle – surely my turn for success this time? Soon after Gerard McGuigan, the Druids keeper’ produced a near-post save to prevent Nomads (wearing all yellow) the lead.

The home side (black and white striped shirts with black sleeves, black shorts and white socks) almost took the lead in the 14th minute. Lee T. Jones’ free-kick, hit forward into a crowded area, was missed by Nomads’ keeper Terry McCormick attempting a punch and the ball was hooked clear from in front of goal.

Despite plenty of attacking endeavour, both defences were on top with chances limited and I feared a first 0-0 draw of 2009.

I quickly joined the queue at the Food Bar during the interval and it was a pleasure to enjoy a cuppa from a proper mug. I do know why most clubs use plastic or polystyrene cups but this was a nice treat. Sipping my drink, I had no idea what was to follow.

The deadlock was broken three minutes after the interval. A free-kick delivered deep from the left by Lee T Jones appeared to hit a defender and Jon Rush (son of the Liverpool legend) slotted home from a few yards out.

Nomads had a great chance to quickly get back on level terms. The defence failed to deal with a left-wing cross and defender Andy Alston, up for a corner, fired over at close range.

The lead was doubled in the 56th minute when Kevin Holsgrove buried a low shot from the right into the opposite bottom left corner of the net.

The visitors made the first change on the hour and, like he did for every goal and substitution, the tannoyman kept the crowd informed by announcing that Paul Addo replaced Craig Jones.

However, a spectacular strike in the 66th minute put Druids three up. Ricky Evans took a long run up and hammered a 25-yard free-kick low past the wall into the bottom-left corner.

Another set piece put Druids well and truly in command with a fourth goal scored in the 78th minute. From out of the left, Lee T. Jones curled a right-foot free-kick towards the far post which eluded everyone and ended up going straight in. The goal was almost identical to one I’d seen recently – Chester-le-Street’s second goal at Penrith last Saturday.

I was almost five, a couple of minutes later, but McCormick produced a fine save to tip over Andrew Edgar’s header from Joe Price’s corner.

However, the fifth one did go in for Druids in the 86th minute. Rush set up Holsgrove who fired home his second of the game from eight yards out.

Someone near me wanted a sixth goal and that came in the first minute of stoppage time. Price’s left wing cross was too high for Rush and substitute Michael Taylor volleyed home across the face of goal at the far post.

At the end, the Druids fans couldn’t believe the result which was their side’s biggest win of the season. More importantly, the three points took them up two places in the table and seven points clear of Caersws who visit Airbus UK on Sunday.

Alas, my strip wasn’t the winning strip when the lucky raffle numbers were read out early in the second half. Better luck, may be, at Wellington Amateurs tomorrow?

Spookily there were 6 goals, 6 substitutions and 6 bookings. Even the Devil would have enjoyed this one.

Penrith 0 Chester-le-Street 2

Saturday 21st March 2009
Penrith 0 Chester-le-Street 2
skilltrainingltd Northern League Division 1
At: Southend Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 130 (headcount)
Weather: sunny spells
Duration: first half: 48:05; second-half 48:11

In the latest edition of Groundtastic and also in an article on the News & Star newspaper’s website, I read that work on Penrith’s new ground at Frenchfield on the edge of town is expected to restart within weeks after funding was provided by the North West Development Agency.

The newspaper article continued to say that the completion of the new ground would allow the club’s current ground in the middle of the development site at Southend Road to be knocked down, freeing the way for work to restart in town on the New Squares and new supermarket, once further funding is made available.

The historic ground on Southend Road was one I’ve always wanted to visit so with the news of its potential imminent demolition and Saturday home games running out, we just had to make the trip to Penrith – even though it meant a 300-mile round trip. The fact there was a castle and presumably coffee shop amongst other things in the town made it a family day out as well.

I was pleasantly surprised we got off before 9-30 am. A couple of stops on the way, including the excellent Westmoreland services at Tebay and a detour on the A6 through Shap, and we were in the temporary pay and display car park outside the ground just after 1 pm. There was time for me to have a quick walk to the castle before the turnstiles opened up.

The turnstile was a proper turnstile, only opened when the gateman pressed a pedal to release the lock. Through the entrance, the pitch ran widthways (orientated north-west to south-east) with a seated stand containing wooden benches immediately on the right, straddling the half-way line. Immediately to the left was the refreshments kiosk. Also on the near touchline adjacent to the left-hand corner was the changing room building, another remainder along with the stand of the ground’s long history. On the far touchline behind the dugouts was an area of covered standing. At the left-hand goal, with the new leisure centre behind, was a hospitality building.

Programmes (£1 for an attractive and informative matchday magazine) were available at the entrance and I picked up a teamsheet from a friendly club official which whom I enjoyed a chat about the future of the ground and the 1979 FA Trophy Final. Line-ups were also announced over the tannoy

Both sides went into the game just above midtable with ninth-placed Penrith one point and two positions better off than visitors Chester-le-Street. The visitors had played three games more than their hosts. Penrith could also boast an impressive home record of 12 wins from 15 league games with their two defeats both coming in consecutive games back in September. With games running out, leaders Consett on 64 points looked out of reach.

The teams came out together and exchanged fair-play handshakes, before Penrith got the game underway. They attacked the Leisure Centre end in the first, or right to left from my vantage pointon the back row of the stand in marked position ‘85’.

Penrith (blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks) almost took the lead in the second minute when visiting keeper Jonathan Carmichael somehow turned over Graham Anthony’s rising shot hit from the edge of the area. On the quarter hour, Wayne Gredziak turned and hit a right-foot volley from near to the left corner of the Penrith area. The ball flew just wide of the near post with the visitors appealing for a corner, presumably they felt keeper James Holland got a touch.

The home side enjoyed a good spell around the midpoint of the first half and they almost took a 22nd-minute lead. Dan Robinson rose in front of goal and got in a free header which rebounded off the inside of the left-hand post straight into the arms of a relieved Carmichael.

Moments after I wondered if the game would end up as a 0-0 (genuinely I was!), the visitors took the lead in the second of three minutes of first-half stoppage time. Liam Robertson hooked the ball home via the right-hand post and Holland was left frustrated with himself for not dealing with Josh Home-Jackson’s initial cross.

Within a minute of the restart, Chester-le-Street (wearing a change strip of all yellow) had a good opportunity to double their lead. Home-Jackson met Liam Robertson’s cross but couldn’t direct his header on target.

The action went up the other end where Carmichael blocked a bullet header from defender Alan Gray, direct from Dean Douglas’ corner.

Chester-le-Street scored a vital second goal in the 52nd minute. From out of the light, Craig Price curled a right-foot free-kick into a packed area and the eluded everyone to end up in the far side of the net. Fluke goal, it may have been, but they all count and the visitors were on course to do the ‘double’ having won the reverse fixture 3-2 back in October.

Would Penrith suffer their first home league defeat for six months or could they find two goals?

After leading scorer Michael Reed went off injured, the home side pushed tall defender Wayne Robertson up into attack. Penrith won four corners in just about as many minutes without success. On the hour, however, there was another chance for the visitors when Gredziak sent a first-time shot over the bat from just outside the area.

As the second half wore on, Penrith just didn’t look like making inroads into their two-goal deficit. Chances simply became scare at both ends. In the 83rd minute from the first of four successive corners, Andy Armstrong had a header cleared off the Penrith line by substitute Michael Brown.

My wife and daughter got back from the town to see the last 10 minutes and they saw Penrith almost get a consolation goal in stoppage time. Carmichael dived full-stretch to his right to turn a low shot from Douglas round the left-hand post.

On the way home, we first stopped a short distance down the A6 at Eamont Bridge to see a couple of English Hertitage sites – the earthwork known as King Arthur’s Round Table and the impressive Mayburgh Henge – as well as the Eden Memorial Monument. Down the road was Shap and an opportunity to have a look at the Shap Memorial Field, home of Shap FC, with its area of covered standing.

During the game I felt the corner count appeared higher than the norm and a quick count-up later on had Penrith winning 13 corners and Chester-le-Street 12 corners.

Shap FC

Kimberley Town 2 Hatfield Main 4

Thursday 19th March 2009
Kimberley Town 2 Hatfield Main 4
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division
At: The Stag Ground
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 30 (headcount)
Weather: cold, dry, windy
Duration: first half: 46:20; second-half 46:30

Thank goodness for Thursday night football at Kimberley Town – otherwise it would have been another blank midweek.

For me, Thursday has been Skins night over the past few weeks but, unlike the first two series, I’m finding the current series with new cast a bit too extreme (and at times traumatic) for my taste. So a trip to see my seventh consecutive CML game gave me a perfect excuse to sidestep the televisual viewing on E4.

Kimberley play at The Stag Ground, off Nottingham Road – presumably named after the pub near the far corner of the ground. I approached the ground from the M1 junction 26 and approached Kimberley via the A600 and turned left into Kimberley Road. After passing the Stag Inn on the right, I went downhill for about 1/4 mile before turning right into a narrow entrance between Roots Emporium (interesting shop selling ‘wooden Buddhas, cats, and elephants and other carvings as well as stone jewellery, handmade mulberry paper and much more besides’) and the HAMA medical centre. As the Roots website says: “if you reach the mini island you have gone too far.” Parking was the end of the drive on the right, behind the north-west end of the ground.

Through into the ground from the entrance, where the programme was sold for 50p, the pitch (orientated north-west to south-east) ran lengthways to the left. All the facilities were behind the near goal, known as the Noel Street end, with changing rooms, a club house and area of covered standing. Dugouts faced each other on halfway with the home dugout on the far side, which ran parallel to the main road, and the dugout on the near touchline. Grass banking on the far touchline in front of the gardens provided a potential elevated vantage point.

Kimberley Town, nicknamed The Stags, joined the Central Midlands League in 1986, following a four-year stint in the Northern Counties East League of which they were a founder member. Over the past 23 seasons in the CML, Kimberley spent the majority in the Supreme Division and regained their position in the top flight last summer after spending the 2007/08 season in the Premier Division.

Both sides went into the game in the bottom half of the Supreme Division table. Kimberley, third from bottom with 14 points from 23 games, were no doubt buoyed by last Saturday’s victory at Clipstone in the evening Bonanza game. Twelfth-placed Hatfield, 28 points from 21 games, were looking to extend their current run of three straight wins.

I sampled the clubhouse before the game and also a welcome cup of tea as well, before opting to watch the game near the away dugout.

With the Hatfield skipper opting to turn the teams around having, presumably, won the toss, Kimberley (wearing all navy blue) got the action underway attacking the far end and took the lead in the 12th minute. Jason Russell slipped the ball forward to Aaron Russell who slotted it home.

It was clear from the shouts on the pitch and from the sidelines that both sides wanted to up the tempo of the game.

Hatfield (yellow shirts with blue sleeves, blue shorts and socks) almost scored in the 25th minute when Craig Wiggleworth’s initial shot was blocked by Kimberley keeper Mike Oxbrow. The ball looped up and Oxbrow comfortably held a follow-up header.

The visitors, however, levelled things up on the half hour. The Kimberley defence failed to deal with Darren Brown’s ball into the area and Darren Langton hammered home the equaliser.

The goal was a wake-up call for Kimberley but they fell behind five minutes later in the 35th minute. Brown was again the provider with a ball into the area from the right and Wiggleworth hooked a spectacular right-foot shot past the helpless Oxbrow.

Kimberley went agonisingly close to an equaliser before the interval. Jason Russell fed namesake Aaron who lobbed the advancing keeper only to see the ball narrowly miss the unguarded goal.

After another warm drink for me at half-time on a cold evening, there was almost a goal less than two minutes after the restart. Frazer Burns swung in a corner from the right and Ryan Saunders saw a header cleared off the Kimberley line. Wiggleworth’s follow-up shot from the loose ball ended up well wide.

Hatfield extended their lead in the 59th minute. Langton’s initial shot was blocked and Burns forced the ball home at close range. At 3-1 to the visitors, a fourth straight win looked a certainty. However, The Stags bounced back to restore the deficit back to just a single goal within 138 seconds. A free-kick delivered into a packed area wasn’t cleared and Aaron Russell hit a low shot which the diving keeper couldn’t keep out of the bottom right corner despite getting a hand on the ball.

Game back on until Hatfield scored a fourth goal in the 72nd minute. Burns’ low cross from the left was flicked in at the near post by, I think, Darren Fell.

This was a hammer blow to Kimberley who thought they denied a goal in the 84th minute. Jason Russell’s corner fell to Tom Reville who saw his shot cleared off the line. The well-positioned assistant decided the ball didn’t cross the line even though the Stags’ players felt strongly that it did. I couldn’t tell from my position on the touchline.

The home side’s pressure led to another chance. Substitute Joe Gregson fed Jason Russell who slipped the ball past the advancing Murray only to see it narrowly miss the target.

Back home, I caught the last few minutes of Skins and apparently tonight’s episode wasn’t as ‘traumatic’ as some of the earlier ones. Still, I’m pleased I went to Kimberley.

Subsequently, I read on his blog that Mr ‘On the Road’ was at the game – strange I didn’t spot him in a crowd of around 30.

Sixth CML Bonanza 2009

Rob Hornby and Chris Berezai, together with everyone involved in front of and behind the scenes over the two days, put on a truly memorable 2009 ‘Bonanza’. For me, it was good to finally complete a full ‘hop’ itinerary and be part of a well-organised occasion that was a credit to the Central Midlands League.

This was the sixth hop organised by the league and despite the current ‘difficult times’, it attached fans from all over the UK as well as French, Swedish, German, Australian and Japanese enthusiasts. Normally, the event is held over Easter but for this year and the next two the CML has vacated that spot in favour of the South-West Peninsula League.

All five games produced plenty of entertainment and goals, despite a strong blustery wind that must have made life difficult for those on the field. With around 126 advance tickets sold, each club attracted over 100 additional paying customers with the final game at Clipstone having the highest attendance of 306.

Friday 13th March

Rolls Royce Leisure 3 Ollerton Town 4
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division
At: Rolls Royce Sports Ground, Watnall Road, Hucknall
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 236
Weather: cold, dry
Duration: first half: 46:55; second-half 49:00

Saturday 14th March

Bulwell Town 1 Thorseby Colliery Welfare 1
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Black Dragon Premier Division
At: Goosedale Sports Club
Kick-off: 10-15 am
Attendance: 298
Weather: sunny, strong blustery wind
Duration: first half: 47:43; second-half 47:37

Kirkby Town 5 Newark Flowserve 1
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Black Dragon Premier Division
At: The Summit Centre, Pavilion Road
Kick-off: 1-15 pm
Attendance: 264
Weather: sunny, windy
Duration: first half: 45:35; second-half 48:05

Forest Town 2 Harrowby United 1
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division
At: Forest Town Welfare
Kick-off: 4-15 pm
Attendance: 237
Weather: sunny, windy
Duration: first half: 45:43; second-half 47:45

Clipstone Welfare 1 Kimberley Town 2
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division
At: Lido Ground
Kick-off: 7-00 pm
Attendance: 306
Weather: cold, dry, windy
Duration: first half: 48:05; second-half 51:25

Clipstone Welfare 1 Kimberley Town 2

Saturday 14th March 2009
Clipstone Welfare 1 Kimberley Town 2
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division
At: Lido Ground
Kick-off: 7-00 pm
Attendance: 306
Weather: cold, dry, windy
Duration: first half: 48:05; second-half 51:25

Clipstone Welfare (white/red/red): 1. Dale Sheppard, 2. Liam Pride, 3. Barry Stokes, 4. Matt Pinnick, 5. Craig Beastall, 6. Scott Curley (capt), 7. Craig Buchannan, 8. Gary Buchannan, 9. Aidey Carter, 10. Chris Hewitt, 11. Carl Russo. Subs: 12. Jamie Hardwick (for Stokes, 58), 14. Adam Hartley (for Beastall, 40), 15. Dom Jones (for Carter, 78).

Kimberley Town (yellow/blue/blue): 1. Michael Oxborrow, 2. Somin Passo, 3. Rod Sarni, 4. Tom Reville, 5. Andrew Jachman (capt), 6. Kevin Owusu, 7. Steve Kirkham, 8. Nathan Ryan, 9. Aaron Russel, 10. Jason Russel, 11. Emmanuel Brianto. Subs: 12. Gavin Mee, 14. Clarence Mandindo (for Jason Russel, 85), 15. Joe Gleeson (for Brianto, 69).

Referee: H Rowbotham.
Assistants: G Eccleshall and S Longley.

Forest Town 2 Harrowby United 1

Saturday 14th March 2009
Forest Town 2 Harrowby United 1
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division
At: Forest Town Welfare
Kick-off: 4-15 pm
Attendance: 237
Weather: sunny, windy
Duration: first half: 45:43; second-half 47:45

With today’s two Premier Division games done and dusted, the Bonanza dipped into the Supreme Division for the final two matches on grounds less than two miles apart to the east of Mansfield. – first at Forest Town and then under the lights at Clipstone Welfare.

I’d driven past Forest Town Welfare a couple of times so knew the pitch was situated on a larger expanse of grass with a cycle track running round the perimeter. Previously it was used for cricket (hence the size) with football being played due south at the back on what is known as ‘The Clod’. It was on ‘The Clod’ that Forest Town previously staged a groundhop game back in April 2005 when they drew 0-0 with AFC Barnsley in front of a crowd of 252.

Since then, Forest Town have moved from ‘The Clod’ into the ‘Arena’, and so can join a small band of clubs who have hosted more than one groundhop game.

The ground was located on Clipstone Road West, B6030, adjacent to the crossroads with Old Mill Lane and Oak Tree Lane. From the lights follow signs to Clipstone past the ground before doubling back to the car park by turning first right into Main Avenue then first right again into First Avenue.

The entrance was round to the right of the Welfare building and pitch (orientated north-east to south-west) ran widthways inside an impressive bowl enclosed by a black tarmaced cycle track. Between the elevated building and pitch on the near touchline was an area of open seating, roughly on halfway, consisting of four rows of red individual tip-up seats, numbering around 128 (4 x 32). To the left of the seats was an area of opening terracing – eight steps in total. Behind the right hand goal was the changing rooms building, a one-story white pavilion-style structure, and tea bar known as the ‘Arena Cafeteria’. Over in the far right corner was a relic from the ground’s previous use – an impressive cricket scoreboard.

The present day Forest Town FC began life back in 1981 as a Mansfield and District Sunday League team called Village FC. That club changed its name two years later to Smith Street FC and then to Mansfield Colliery FC when they moved to the Forest Town Welfare in 1986. Two years later, the name Forest Town Welfare FC was adopted when the colliery closed. The club eventually moved into Saturday football and joined the Central Midlands League in 2000, moving up from the Premier Division to Supreme Division in 2007. There is a more comprehensive history on Forest Town’s website. It is interesting to note that ‘Forest Town’ is the name of the village rather than ‘Town’ being a traditional football team name suffix.

Forest Town have enjoyed a great 2008/09 campaign and went into this game in third position (48 points from 22 games) with games in hand on the top two. Harrowby, in contrast, were third from bottom in the 18-team Supreme Division with 14 points from 28 games.

Just like the games at Rolls Royce, Bulwell and Kirkby, the line-ups were prominently displayed. Here, they were written on a white board and also announced over the tannoy.

Before kick-off, I spotted good friend ‘Boro Mike’ and I decided to watch the first half from the open seating – back row in seat 24 to be precise.

The teams turned round after the toss with Forest Town defending into the low sun and attacking the pavilion end – left to right from my vantage point. The home side (wearing red shirts, red shorts and white socks) got the action underway and created a couple of early chances. Mark Carter’s close-range shot was parried by Chris Bennett and cleared for a corner, from which Carter glanced a header wide.

Harrowby wore their change kit (blue and white hooped shirts, blue shorts and blue socks) with red numbers which, to be honest, were difficult to decipher especially for players over on the far side.

It was the visitors who opened the scoring in the 13th minute. The ball was played across the face of goal from the right and Kyle McAllister slotted it home at the far left post.

Things were all square again seven minutes later. Danny Tighe curled a right foot free-kick from the right towards goal and Carter stayed onside to fire home from barely a couple of yards out. I initially credited the goal to defender Ryan Gregory, who also went for the ball, though the YouTube footage showed it was Carter who applied the finishing touch.

Forest Town then took a 32nd-minute lead. Craig Jackson hit a first-time right-foot shot over the keeper from the edge of the area. “Excellent goal,” was the comment and I agreed.

My first-half seat wasn’t available – it didn’t matter – so I moved to the third row back and into seat numbered 40.

The home side dominated the second half through they didn’t put the outcome beyond doubt until the third minute of stoppage time at the end. Jackson was on hand to score his second goal of the game. This time he fired a right-foot drive wide of the diving Bennett into the far right side of the net after his initial shot was blocked.

Forest Town (red/red/white): 1. Jason Johnson (capt), 2. Adie Hall, 3. Jamie Batty, 4. Danny Tighe, 5. Ryan Gregory, 6. Jack Townrow, 7. Mark Robinson, 8. Craig Jackson, 9. Louis Grougher, 10. Mark Carter, 11. James McCann. Subs: 12. Dominic Elliott, 14. Lee Bowler (for Hall, 78), 15. Gary Castledine.

Harrowby United (blue and white hoops/blue/blue): 1. Chris Bennett, 2. Paul Chappell, 3. Ben Newton, 4. Lee Winters, 5. Niall Cartwright, 6. Jim Neil, 7. Rob Mills, 8. Simon Bolland, 9. Jamie Gyory-Hales, 10. Aaron Conboy, 11. Kyle McAllister. Subs: 12. Matt Chappell (for Mills, 72), 14. Martin Proctor, 15. Kelvin Couchman.

Referee: Mark Senior.
Assistants: Roger Evans and James Hall.

0-1 McAllister (13)
1-1 Carter (20) YouTube
2-1 Jackson (32)
3-1 Jackson (90+3)

Kirkby Town 5 Newark Flowserve 1

Saturday 14th March 2009
Kirkby Town 5 Newark Flowserve 1
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Black Dragon Premier Division
At: The Summit Centre, Pavilion Road
Kick-off: 1-15 pm
Attendance: 264
Weather: sunny, windy
Duration: first half: 45:35; second-half 48:05

Kirkby Town (Black and white stripes/black/black): 1. Paul Stanhope, 2. Kris Seymour, 3. Scott Thorpe, 4. Steven Roebuck, 5. Lee Dawson, 6. Max Pempleton, 7. Johnny Upton, 8. Matt Fletcher (capt), 9. Richard Ranshaw, 10. Craig Hall, 11. Carl Haslam. Subs: 12. David Bramwell (for Ranshaw, 60), 14. Jamie Hudson (for Fletcher, 53), 15. John Seymour.

Newark Flowserve (orange/orange/orange): 1. Elliot Walters, 2. Steven Crawford, 3. Richard Dyson, 4. Martin Wilson (capt), 5. Ryan Stafford, 6. Dan Ragless, 7. Rhys Lewis, 8. James Young, 9. Cal Fraser, 10. Rob Gregory, 11. Danny Purves. Subs: 12. Jamie Pennell (for Young, ht), 14. William Sutton (for Purves, 83).

Referee: Gareth Moffatt.
Assistants: Graham Taylor and Adrian Cresswick.

1-0 Pempleton (2) YouTube
2-0 Upton (17) YouTube
2-1 Gregory (25)
3-1 Haslam (40) YouTube
4-1 Pempleton (73) YouTube
5-1 Upton (86)