Chesterton AFC 2 Wolstanton United Reserves 3

Saturday 30th March 2013
Needing to stay within an hour of Longton today, I did as instructed and opted for a first visit to Chesterton AFC’s Red Street Community Centre ground. Not really an ideal location at the top of a hill on a cold afternoon but that didn’t matter as Chesterton and Wolstanton Reserves served up an entertaining game between two evenly-matched sides. The lively Kyle Cooke scored twice for Chesterton but ended up on the losing side as the visitors won by the odd goal in five when two-goal Tom Bisson scored an 87th minute winner. The added bonus of a tea bar open before the game and during half-time was much appreciated, as was the help of the two respective managers!

Chesterton AFC 2 Wolstanton United Reserves 3
Staffordshire County Senior League Division One
At: Red Street Community Centre, Talke Road, Red Street
Kick-off: 2-30 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none; Hot Drinks: 50p
Weather; cold, dry, sunny spells

Like yesterday, I decided again not to drive to Yorkshire to attend the second and final day of the 2013 Northern Counties East League Groundhop which featured games at Bridlington Town, which I visited over 20 years ago, Pickering Town and Tadcaster Albion. Instead, a family commitment in Longton to celebrate a friend’s birthday meant, ideally, I needed to find a match in North Staffordshire or South Cheshire. Knowing I had 3-00 pm backups at both Alsager Town and Kidsgrove Athletic, I headed to the Red Street Community Centre ground for a first-ever visit where Chesterton AFC were entertaining Wolstanton United Reserves, kicking off half an hour earlier at 2-30 pm.

I didn’t think for one second that the game could be in doubt until the piled snow by the side of Talke Road made me wonder if it was. At the top of the hill, the sight of cars parked in the community centre car park reassured me, as did the players warming up on the pitch. Snow was still evident on the extremities of the playing side though nothing to threaten the game.

The football pitch, which sits on a larger playing field, was roped off on three sides with no spectator access being the top goal. Dugouts were positioned on half-way on the right-hand side. Chesterton don’t issue programmes but an added bonus was a small tea bar open both before the game and during half-time.

Before going any further, I must say "thank you" to the respective managers for going out of their way to let me have the lineups – much appreciated.

The league handbook mentions that Chesterton AFC was formed in 1969 and honours include being the 2005/06 Staffordshire County Senior League Division 2 Champions and 2011 Presidents Trophy Runners Up.

A quick look at the league table showed Chesterton (18 points from 18 games) in 12th position and Wolstanton (30 points from 17 games) four places higher in the 17-team Division One. Leaders Uttoxeter Town topped the table by one point from MMU with three games in hand.

After the getting the game underway attacking the far end, Chesterton (in all blue) made a good start and took an early lead in the 6th minute. Kyle Cooke dribbled into the area down the right and fired a low shot which Wolstanton goalkeeper Alastair Grainger could only fumble into the bottom right corner of the net.

The home side continued to impress and Sean Vaughan powered a header just side from Dan Beardmore’s deep corner. Dean Beardmore then burst through in the 17th minute, got free into the area and drew Grainger off his line only to see his low shot narrowly miss the target.

Wolstanton got back on level terms in the 19th minute, arguably against the run of play. Joe Humphries delivered a perfect diagonal lofted ball forward to the left side of the area where unmarked Chris Darlington headed the equaliser past Craig Wilson.

The visitors quickly threatened again straight from the restart. Darlington fed Chris Tatton who got forward to fire a low shot straight at Wilson.

Both goalkeepers kept their side on level terms with decent saves before in the interval. A nice Chesterton move on the left in the 26th minute saw Shaun Morgan find Cooke who crossed into the area where Dean Beardmore had a close-range header pushed round the post by Grainger.

The diving Wilson got down well to show “good hands” as he held a low 20-yard drive from Bisson while, at the other end in the 41st minute, an initial shot from Matt Clowes was blocked by a defender and Grainger turned round Dean Beardmore’s rising follow-up shot from the resulting loose ball.

Cooke, looking for his second goal, with a header and Marc Holmes with a rising 30-yard drive both went close at the start of the second half before Dean Beardmore forced a near-post save out of Grainger and Chris Tatton cleared the loose ball before Cooke could get to it.

It was Wolstanton who made the breakthough by taking the lead just before the hour mark. Chesterton failed to clear an attack allowing Joe Humphries the time to set up Bisson who clinically fired low into the bottom-right corner of the net.

Chesterton quickly bounced back four minutes later to level-up the scores once again, just after Dean Beardmore sent a first time volley crashing onto the left-hand post. In the next attack, Cooke, fully 30 yards out, hit a rising 30-yard right-foot drive which flew over Grainger and dropped into the net via the underside of the bar.

With a 2-2 draw looking the likely outcome, Wolstanton scored what proved to be the winner in the 87th minute. A long ball forward into the area caused confusion between Wilson and a defender, allowing Bisson to slot home into an empty net.

Chesterton still had time to respond and an angled shot from Dan Beardmore was saved at the near post by Grainger and booted out for a corner.

In stoppage time, substitute Liam Shaw crossed from the right and Wilson produced a great save to keep out a header from Bisson and deny the striker a hat-trick.

Chesterton AFC (blue/blue/blue): 1. Craig Wilson, 2. Darren Howells, 3. Shaun Morgan, 4. Luke Sinclair, 5. Sean Vaughan (capt), 6. Tom Gibson, 7. Simon Dale, 8. Dan Beardmore, 9. Kyle Cooke, 10. Dean Beardmore, 11. Matt Clowes. Subs: 12. Oliver Swann (for Sinclair, 64), 14. Andrew Smith (for Dean Beardmore, 84), 15. Rob Hanning (for Clowes, 72), 16. Ashley Doney (not used). Manager: Carl Gibson.

Wolstanton United Reserves (red/red/red): 1. Alastair Grainger, 2. Chris Tatton, 3. Marcus Thorp, 4. John Smith, 5. Matt Rogalski (capt), 6. Joe Humphries, 7. Lee Hughes, 8. Lee Ratcliffe, 9. Tom Bisson, 10. Chris Darlington, 11. Marc Holmes. Subs: 12. Liam Shaw (for Ratcliffe, 67), 14. Ryan Lockyer (for Hughes, 79), 15. Chad Martin (not used). Manager Stephen Killeen.

Referee: Jonathan Maskery.
Assistants: John Powner and Jack Armstrong.

Attendance: 20 (headcount)

Duration: first-half: 46:47; second-half: 46:57

1-0 Kyle Cooke (6)
1-1 Chris Darlington (19)
1-2 Tom Bisson (59)
2-2 Kyle Cooke (63)
2-3 Tom Bisson (87)

Chesterton: none
Wolstanton: Marcus Thorp (YC, 22)

Altrincham 1 Vauxhall Motors 0

Friday 29th March 2013
Playing on Good Friday for the first time in 41 years, Altrincham maintained their promotion push with a sixth-consecutive victory. Early on, it looked like of case of how many the Robins would score against an initially hesitant defence, yet ended up winning by the narrowest of margins thanks to James Lawrie’s 78th-minute winner. Vauxhall became a threat on the break and hit both bar and post during the first half, and had two strong penalty appeals turned down. Little appears to have changed inside Moss Lane since my last visit in 2008 but the houses visible behind the terrace have replaced the old Chequers nightclub.

Altrincham 1 Vauxhall Motors 0
Blue Square Bet North
At: Moss Lane
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £15 (seat); Programme: £2 (44 pages)

Weather: cold, sunny, dry

Full report to follow...

Altrincham (red with black sleeves / red / red): 1. Stuart Coburn (capt), 2. Shaun Densmore, 3. Scott Leather, 4. Jake Moult, 5. Gianluca Havern, 6. Danny Hall, 7. James Lawrie, 8. Danny Boshell, 9. Duncan Watmore, 10. Damian Reeves, 11. Nicky Clee. Subs: 12. Matt Doughty (for Reeves, 71), 14. Pat Lacey (not used), 15. Carl Rodgers (for Moult, 67), 16. Ryan Brooke (for Watmore, 90+3), 18gk. Tony McMillan (not used). Manager: Lee Sinnott.

Vauxhall Motors (yellow/green/yellow): 1. Zac Jones, 2. Connor Roberts-Nurse, 3. Steve Wainwright, 4. Tom Hannigan, 5. Andrew Nicholas, 6. Karl Clair, 7. Craig Mahon, 8. Danny Fearnehough, 9. Karl Noon, 10. Ashley Stott, 11. Mike Burns Subs: 12. Obi Anoruo (for Stott, 82), 14. Gary Martindale (not used), 15. Tom Rutter (not used), 17. Craig Ellison (not used). M

Referee: D. Meeson.
Assistants: N. Evans and S. Mulhall.

Attendance: 930

Duration: first-half: 46:08; second-half: 48:12

1-0 James Lawrie (78)

Altrincham: Gianluca Havern (YC, 88), James Lawrie (YC, 90+1)
Vauxhall Motors: Mike Burns (YC, 53), Danny Fearnehough (YC, 59

Alsager Town 1 Bootle 3

Tuesday 26th March 2013
Title-chasing Bootle recorded a comfortable 3-1 victory over mid-table Alsager Town and will go top of the table if they win their three games in hand on current leaders Padiham. It was no surprise when Bootle took the lead in the 25th minute through Jamie Hay. Light snow fell during and after the interval but didn’t stop the visitors extending their lead with two further goals in five minutes from Daniel O’Connor and Lee Thompson around the midpoint of the second half. A great shot from Sam Aspinwall gave Alsager a late consolation goal. The LAW Training Stadium is still a pleasant ground and now has an impressive new clubhouse.

Alsager Town 1 Bootle 3
North-West Counties League Premier Division
At: LAW Training Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1-50 (36 pages)
Weather: cold, light snow during second half

Alsager Town (black and white stripes / black / white): 1. Michael Langley, 2. Alex Hedley, 3. Elliott Ledwards (capt), 4. Liam Prince, 5. Raphale Evans, 6. Ryan Mitchell, 7. Sam Aspinwall, 8. Tom Parkes, 9. Jack Kenny, 10. Leigh Skellern, 11. Jed Davies. Subs: 12. James Lunn (for Kenny, 81), 14. Andy Stockton (for Davies, 85), 15. Joel Mills (not used), 16. Dave Woodvine (for Evans, 75). Manager: Andy Turner.

Bootle (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Dean Porter, 2. Mark Kilroy, 3. Paul Byrne (capt), 4. Neil McQueen, 5. Liam Dodd, 6. Kurtis Gill, 7. Neil Prince, 8. Jamie Hay, 9. Daniel O’Connor, 10. Jack McCabe, 11. Lee Thompson. Subs: 12. Kevin Black (not used), 14. Nathan Martland (for McCabe, ht), 15. Phil Green (for McQueen, 75), 16. William Smart (for Gill, 68), 17. James Olsen (not used). Player-manager: Neil Prince.

Referee: J. Hayes (Manchester).
Assistants: S. Osiadacz (Manchester) and A. Coop (Altrincham).

Attendance: 41

Duration (45): first-half: 47:05; second-half: 48:21

0-1 Jamie Hay (25)
0-2 Daniel O’Connor (64)
0-3 Lee Thompson (69)
1-3 Sam Aspinwall (87)

Alsager: Alex Hedley (YC, 56), Leigh Skellern (YC, 56), Michael Langley (YC, 78)
Bootle: none

Maidstone United 2 Eastbourne Town 0

Saturday 23rd March 2013
Following over 24 hours of near continuous snow, I was correct to assume that virtually all of the local games would be postponed and so headed instead by train to Kent and specifically Maidstone United’s new Gallagher Stadium. No lying snow spotted south of Watford, so no problems with the 3G pitch. Ryman League Division One South leaders Maidstone took the lead just before the interval though from captain Shaun Welford from the penalty spot. Visitors Eastbourne Town, on a decent run of one defeat in ten games, provided difficult opposition and the outcome wasn't settled until deep into stoppage time when Ade Olorunda scored the second goal with virtually the last kick of the game.

Maidstone United 2 Eastbourne Town 0
Ryman League Division One South
At: Gallagher Stadium, James Whatman Way
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £10; Programme: £2 (40 pages)
Weather: cloudy, dry, occasional flakes of light snow

Maidstone United are enjoying a tremendous first season playing back in the town at the new Gallaghers Stadium, opened last July with a pre-seaon friendly against Bighton and Hove Albion. After reforming in 1992 as Maidstone Invicta, the Stones initially played home game on a pitch close to the old London Road ground before groundsharing for a number of years at Sittingbourne. They went into today’s fixture on top of Ryman League Division One South, holding a six-point advantage of second-placed Dulwich Hamlet who had two games in hand. Maidstone's next game in three days time is a trip to Dulwich.

I visited the old London Road ground on three occasions with Stafford Rangers for Gola League and GM Vauxhall Conference fixtures including the last league game in April 1998 (photo right). There weren’t many grounds around with a greyhound track enclosing the pitch and I can only think of the old Wembley Stadium, old Canterbury City ground, Lisburn Distillery and Glastonbury’s Abbey Moor Stadium amongst those I’ve visited. Maidstone subsequently gained promotion to the Football League and I saw them lose a Barclays League Division Four Play-off Semi Final Second Leg 2-0 against Cambridge United before a crowd of 5538 at Dartford’s Watling Street ground.

Most recently in 2000, though 13 years ago, I headed back to Maidstone to the small ground next to the old London Road stadium and saw reformed Maidstone United defeat Crockenhill 3-1 in a British Energy Kent County League Premier Division fixture, attendance 110 (

Today, the weather must be bad around my area if Sutton Coldfield Town have to postpone a home game! Heavy snow that had fallen almost continually since Thursday evening convinced me to look further afield, even as a far as the Bundesliga (no fixtures due to World Cup qualifiers). Kent looked to be the sensible option with Maidstone United playing at home on a 3G pitch and nothing worse than light snow forecast.

The easiest route from Euston station to Maidstone is via St Pancras and Strood. With time to spare, I took a short detour off the Euston Road to Mabel’s Tavern on Mabledon Place (four Shepherd Neame ales to choose from and I opted for Kent’s Best, appropriate for my eventual destination). For some reason, South Eastern Trains decided not to hold the Maidstone-bound train at Stood for customers, like me, on the slightly late running train from St Pancras. Anyway after an exciting half-hour on Stood station, I was on my way again to Maidstone Barracks station and a short walk over the railway bridge (following a sign for Maidstone East) and north along the side of the River Medway to the ground.

Through the turnstiles, programmes were on sale in plentiful supply an hour before kick-off, and the pitch ran lengthways, orientated south–north. All the facilities were down the right-hand side with the main stand containing spectator 442 seats, club offices and changing rooms, and the Spitfire Lounge, a lively bar with the club shop in an adjoining room. Behind the near goal was the Loucas End covered terrace with a larger covered terrace, perhaps double the capacity, at the far north end known as The Henry Reeves & Co Stand. Dugouts were positioned stralling the halfway line down the left-hand side closest to the river.

As I mentioned, Maidstone United (69 points from 33 games) went into this fixture at the top of the table. Visitors Eastbourne Town (46 points from 31 games) arrived at the Gallagher Stadium as an in-form side on a decent run of one defeat from their last ten games.

Teams were announced over the tannoy and I spent the whole game watching from either Henry Reeves stand or the pitch barrier in front. All tickets in the main stand had been sold in advance.

No handshakes photo as the Maidstone players were each accompanied by young supporters and Eastbourne Town (in an interesting red and amber kit) got the game underway attacking the Loucas End in the first half.

Maidstone quickly got the fans excited as they made their way down the side to the Henry Reeves stand at the end their side were attacking. Rory Hill volleyed across the face of goal from the right and Alex Flisher forced a save out of Eastbourne goalkeeper Josh Pelling who couldn’t hold the initial shot and bravely pounced on resulting the loose ball.

The Stones certainly enjoyed plenty of possession but found Eastbourne’s defence difficult to penetrate. Hardly a spot remained around the pitch barrier and many Maidstone fans decided to stay up the other end during the first half to secure a decent second-half vantage point at the Loucas End which they side were going to attack after the interval.

Flisher hit a 35-yard drive wide of the right-hand post as the Stones looked to open the scoring.

It was interesting to hear the thoughts of the fans stood around me in the stand. Just before the half-hour mark, one comments that “so far Danny Lye is my Man of the Match, good pass completion ratio”. Another observed the formation with “Welford as the one striker with Draycott in a withdrawn role”.

Also on the half hour, a long clearance from Deren Ibrhaim was knocked down by Welford into the path of Hill who fired across the face of goal. The Stones continued to threaten. Pelling produced a decent near-post save to keep out a shot from Alex Brown and, in the 40th minute, a header from Welford was blocked on the line.

The deadlock was eventually broken and home nerves calmed in the 42nd minute. There was no dispute when Steve Elliott brought down Welford inside the area, giving the nearby assistant an easy decision to place his flag across his chest. The referee agreed and Welford himself blasted the resulting penalty past Pelling.

Eastbourne responded by finishing the half on the attack and Ross Treleavan saw a decent shot blocked in front of goal.

As I predicted, the fans at the Henry Reeves end made a mass exodus to the other end of the ground, leaving my end a lot quieter.

In Flisher, Maidstone have a ‘Rory Delap’ long throw expert and the one he delivered soon after the restart almost led to a goal. Lye flicked the ball on but Brown couldn’t direct his shot on target at the far post.

Today’s’ attendance… 1657. Certainly a far cry from the 110 who saw the Crockenhill game I attended back in 2000.

Eastbourne weren’t out of it and they won a couple of corners just before the hour mark which, frustratingly for the visitors, came to nothing. Maidstone, however, continued to create the better chances and Welford sent a looping header over the bar from Hill’s cross.

I felt that the introduction of pacy substitute Kaiyne Woolery posed problems for the Eastbourne defence after the striker shot straight at Pelling with his first touch.

There was no doubting the strong vocal support from the fans at the Loucas End, they just needed a second goal to settle any nerves. Again the Stones went close in the 88th minute when Flisher lashed a shot wide of the target.

The lack of a second goal could have proved costly as the visitors, with defender Ben Austin pushed forward, again won a couple of corners which came to nothings.

Probably with the points already in the bag as the fans were chanting “we are top of the league” etc., Maidstone put the outcome beyond doubt with that much-needed second goal deep into stoppage time. Flisher crossed low from the left and substitute Ade Olorunda sidefooted home at close range to scored his 11th of the season.

The beauty of having a Virgin return from London Euston is that my day in the south-east can continue up to the last train home at 21:00. So, consulting my Cask Marque app, I spotted a four-pub route from the Gallagher Stadium to Maidstone West station via the Society Rooms (Brookman’s Winter Ale), Swan on County Road (Thwaites Big Ben), Bull Inn on Boxley Road (Greene King Abbot Ale) and the Muggleton Inn on the High Street (Flack Catcher). A half in each rounded off my time in Maidstone which was nearly extended into a night in London as I caught the Javelin back to St Pancras with seconds to spare because the train up to Strood from Maidstone ran several minutes late.

Looking back, I’m pleased the weather at home forced me to head south to Maidstone. After the problems surrounding the demise of the old club and finding a new home in the town, I was pleased to find a club on the up with buzzing fans supporting the team in large numbers. I’ll be keeping an eye on the score in three days time when the top two meet at Dulwich Hamlet.

Maidstone United (amber/black/black): 1. Deren Ibrahim, 2. Tommy Osborne, 3. Jon Harley, 4. Tom Mills, 5. Graeme Andrews, 6. Alex Brown, 7. Rory Hill, 8. Danny Lye, 9. Shaun Welford (capt), 10. Ian Draycott, 11. Alex Flisher. Subs: 12. Ade Olorunda (for Welford, 81), 14. Dan Stubbs (not used), 15. Tim Olorunda (For Draycott, 87), 16. Kaiyne Woolery (for Hill, 69), 21gk. Tony Kessell (not used).

Eastbourne Town (red/amber/red): 1. Josh Pelling, 2. Luke Denton, 3. Ross Sutton, 4. Steve Elliott, 5. Ben Austin (capt), 6. Ethan Strevett, 7. John Lansdale, 8. Ross Treleavan, 9. Danny Curd, 10. Aaron Hopkinson, 11. Matt Cabb. Subs: 12. Romone McCrane (for Lansdale, 69), 14. Sam Crabb (not used), 15. Dan Rogers (not used), 16. Richard Greenfield (for Hopkinson, 77), 17. Evan Archibald (for Curd, 67).

Referee: Keith Yeo.
Assistants: Edward Smith and Dean Skipper.

Attendance: 1657

Duration: first-half: 46:20; second-half: 50:12

1-0 Shaun Welford (42 pen)
2-0 Ade Olorunda (90+5)

Maidstone: Shaun Welford (YC, 24)
Eastbourne: Ben Austin (YC, 65), Matt Crabb (YC, 74)

Newcastle Town 1 Brigg Town 1

Tuesday 19th March 2013
Always a great place to watch a floodlight match, tonight I made a long-overdue first visit to the Aspire Stadium since the 2008/09 season to keep a promise made on Twitter back in January. Newcastle Town got off to a perfect start by taking a sixth-minute lead through a stunning 30-yard dipping volley from Christian Millar. They looked to be heading for a first home league win since early December until, in the first minute of stoppage time, Brigg’s leading scorer Paul Grimes latched onto a throughball into the area and nipped it past the advancing Dave Parton into the net to score a dramatic equaliser.

Newcastle Town 1 Brigg Town 1
Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division One South
At: Aspire Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £6; Programme: £1-50 (64 pages)
Weather: cold, dry

Newcastle Town (blue/blue/white): 1. Dave Parton, 2. Matt Lowe (capt), 3. James Askey, 4. Mark Ruddock, 5. Aaron Carter, 6. Christian Millar, 7. Kyle Diskin, 8. Andy Nicholls, 9. Tim Sanders, 10. Nathan Sutton, 11. Ricky Bridge. Subs: 12. Callum Kenny (not used), 14. Jon Hughes (for Nicholls, 88), 15. Jordan Cole (for Bridge, 88), 16. Josh Gordon (not used), 17. Tom France (not used). Manager: John Diskin.

Brigg Town (green/green/green): 1. Miles Fenty, 2. Oliver Fisher, 3. Mark Dudley, 4. Josh Davies, 5. Scott Helliwell, 6. Martyn Gee, 7. Liam Davis, 8. Gregg Archer (capt), 9. Bruno Holden, 10. Paul Grimes, 11. Danny Buttle. Subs: 12. Ryan Paczkowski (for Holden, 63), 14. James Windle (not used), 15. Elliot Broughton (for Buttle, 82), 16. James Playford (for Josh Davies, 63), 17. Robert Zand (not used). Manager: Mick Gray.

Referee: Marc Perry (Sutton Coldfield).
Assistants: Vass Koni (Sutton Coldfield) and Mark Brooks (Solihull).

Attendance: 52

Duration: first-half: 45:12; second-half: 49:46

1-0 Christian Millar (6)
1-1 Paul Grimes (90+1)

Newcastle: Unused sub (YC, 84), Matt Lowe (YC, 90+4)
Brigg: Liam Davis (YC, 65)

Leyton Orient 4 Carlisle United 1

Saturday 16th March 2013
Amid suggestions that a trip by train to London wasn’t the brightest of ideas after an awful lot of rain, I pressed ahead regardless in the hope that London Bari’s Essex Senior League game would survive. It didn’t, so instead I re-routed to Leyton Orient for a first visit to the transformed Matchroom Stadium on Brisbane Road since November 1990. The O’s maintained their recent good form by scoring twice in each half to record a 4-1 victory over Carlisle United who had goalkeeper Mark Gillespie sent off. Romain Vincelot, Shaun Batt, Kevin Lisbie and Dean Cox all scored to maintain Orient’s push for a play-off place. Matt Robson super shot briefly gave Carlisle hope of salvaging a point during the second half.

Leyton Orient 4 Carlisle United 1
npower League One
At: Matchroom Stadium, Brisbane Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £25; Programme: £3 (68 pages)
Weather: sunny spells

The lure of a couple or three more pubs on the Cask Marque Ale Trail and a long-desired return visit to the Old Spotted Dog Ground tempted my to London for the first time in four weeks. No problem with the pubs but I headed down to Euston more in hope that expectation that the London Bari v Stansted game wouldn’t be a victim of waterlogging.

Liverpool Street station looked a sensible place to base myself over lunch and I spent a pleasant hour in first the Railway Tavern on Liverpool Street itself (half of Mordue Bunny Hop) and then the Lord Aberconway, located a few yards away on Old Broad Street (half of Stroud Brewery Organic ale). Not being able to establish whether or not the London Bari game was on, I threw caution to the wind and headed to Stratford.

For once, Twitter and Mitoo let me down and now know I should have looked harder as the on/off answer was on Non-League Matters and Essex Senior League’s Full Time website. Where it be tiredness or not, for some reason I alighted my train from Liverpool Street at Stratford station rather than reducing the walk to the ground by a third by continuing to Forest Gate. After a half-hour trek to the Old Spotted Dog ground, I realised it was ‘game off’ and faced a dilemma of heading instead for either Leyton Orient (definitely on as they had tweeted team news) or Sporting Bengal United at Mile End Stadium (which wasn’t flagged anywhere as off).

My head ruled my heart by opting for the O’s, though that game between Sporting Bengal United and Eton Manor did go ahead. Half-an-hour later, after a jog back to Stratford [as least I knew the way!], then one stop on the Central Line to Leyton and a short walk up the High Road, I was in my seat in the East Stand at the Matchroom Stadium.

Some people find it strange that I actually want to revisit grounds on a Saturday outside my area. My previous visit to Brisbane Road came 22 years ago – Monday 12th November 1990 v Fulham in the Leyland DAF Cup – and my memory of that dark evening is hazy. A good enough reason for revisiting the place in daylight especially as the ground has subsequently changed beyond recognition?

I remember sitting in the East Stand, which is the only stand or terrace that has survived the intervening 22 years, but not the attendance of 1359 nor the two late goals by Fulham’s Phillip Gray and Kelly Haag. The ground is now all seater. An interesting new main West Stand, Baskin Robbins North Family Stand which replaced previous terracing and the Tommy Johnston Stand at the south end have all been built. Another interesting feature are the floodlights in each corner with a apartment block behind each named after a Leyton Orient legend – Cunningham, Kitchen, Bloomfield and Johnston. Apartment blocks also tower above the stands behind both goals.

Leyton Orient (10th on 57 points from 38 games) went into today’s fixture needing a win to keep up the momentum towards a place in the top six and a place in the end-of season playoffs. They’d won their last two games and were unbeaten in their last five. Further down the table, it looks like visitors Carlisle (17th with 45 points from 37 games) just need a couple of wins from their remaining nine games to ensure they finish above the relegation zone. A run of one win from their last eight league games by Carlisle was in contrast to Orient’s recent good form.

It was Leyton Orient (in red) who got the game underway attacking the Tommy Johnston South Stand end in the first half.

The first significant moment came in the 13th minute when Carlisle goalkeeper Mark Gillespie picked up a booking for handling outside his area.

Orient took the lead in the 32nd minute when Dean Cox crossed from the right and Romain Vincelot powered a header past Gillespie. It was the Frenchman’s first goal for the club.

A period of pressure by the home side led to a second goal in first-half stoppage time. The Carlisle defence failed to clear Moses Odubajo’s right-wing throw into the area allowing Lee Cook to play a low ball across the face of goal which Shaun Batt turned in to score his third goal of the season.

Gillespie, having already been booked, picked up a second yellow followed by a red card in the 68th minute for tripping substitute Charlie MacDonald inside the area. ‘Super’ Kevin Lispie sent substitute goalkeeper Adam Collin the wrong way with the resulting penalty to give Orient a decisive three-goal lead.

However, home fans must have felt the odd nerve when Carlisle got themselves back in contention with a super goal from matt Robson in the 78th minute. The defender got forward down the left and hit a low long-range shot past Jamie Jones into the far corner of the net via the post.

Cox seems to be a popular player at the Matchroom Stadium and he restored Orient’s three-goal cushion with a late goal scored in the 89th minute. Cook’s cross found Cox around the penalty spot and he volleyed home.

With time to spare after the game before my train home, I headed back to Euston and spent a bit of time in the nearby Crown & Anchor on Drummond Street. Four ales were on offer and I sampled a half of both Robinson’s Optimus Prime and Redempton’s Urban Dusk while keeping an eye on the Wales v England Six Nations clash which had attracted many to the pub.

Again this was another good day out even though Plan B was needed. Five goals at the Matchroom Stadium plus four halves of real ales at pubs I’d not previously visited. I wonder if I can get away with another London trip in seven days time when London Bari host London APSA?

Leyton Orient (red/red/red): 1, Jamie Jones, 2. Leon McSweeney, 4. Romain Vincelot, 5. Scott Cuthbert, 7. Dean Cox, 15. Nathan Clarke (capt), 17. Moses Odubajo, 21. Lee Cook, 22. Martin Rowlands, 28. Shuan Batt, 9. Kevin Lisbie. Subs: 3. Gary Sawyer (not used), 11. Jimmy Smith (not used), 14. Charlie MacDonald (for Batt, 67), 27. Elliot Omozusi (not used), 39. David Mooney (for Lisbie, 72), 19gk. Charlie Grainger (not used). Manager: Russell Slade.

Carlisle United (green/green/green): 20. Mark Gillespie, 2. Frank Simek, 3. Matt Robson, 4. Jon-Paul McGovern, 5. Danny Livesey, 12. Paul Thirwell (capt), 16. Brad Potts, 17. Mark Beck, 21. James Berrett, 22. Jordan Mustoe, 23. Sean O’Hanlon. Subs: 6. Peter Murphy (for Livesey, 29), 7. Andy Welsh (not used), 8. Liam Noble (not used), 9. Rory Loy (not used), 11, Danny Cadermarteri (not used), 19. David Symington (for McGovern, 59), 1gk. Adam Collin (for Berrett, 68). Manager: Greg Abbott.

Referee: Simon Hooper.
Assistants: Adrian Gillett and John Magill.
Fourth Official: Paul Kelly.

Attendance: 4387 (431 away fans)

Duration (45): first-half: 47:30; second-half: 48:06

1-0 Romain Vincelot (32)
2-0 Shaun Batt (45+1)
3-0 Kevin Lisbie (69 pen)
3-1 Matt Robson (78)
4-1 Dean Cox (89)

Leyton Orient: Nathan Clarke (YC, 73)
Carlisle United: Mark Gillespie (YC, 13), Peter Murphy (YC, 33), Mark Gillespie (YC, 69)

Lichfield City 2 Nuneaton Griff 1

Tuesday 12th March 2013
After winning impressively at Walsall Wood two weeks ago, Lichfield City claimed the scalp of another Premier Division title contender with a 2-1 victory over Nuneaton Griff. On the night when the new stands were used for the first time, all the goals came after the break with City coming from behind after Mitchell Thompson gave Griff the lead nine minutes after the restart. Jon Huckfield levelled things up on the hour before Josh Bambury scored a 77th-minute winner. Brownsfield Park has certainly been transformed since my previous visit in August 2011 with the addition of a perimeter fence, two new stands and floodlights amongst other improvements.

Lichfield City 2 Nuneaton Griff 1
Athium Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Brownsfield Park, Brownsfield Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £3; Programme: £1 (12 pages)
Weather: cold, dry

After the sub-zero wind chill at Coles Lane last night, together with hard ground in my local area and a dusting of snow overnight, I honestly expected all local games to be postponed tonight due to frozen pitches. Somewhat surprisingly this afternoon, Lichfield City tweeted that it was ‘game is on tonight, pitch is in great condition’. At the end of last week, they had also said the new stands were complete.

Even though, closer to home, Brocton were hosting Bolehall Swifts in tonight’s other Premier Division fixture, I fancied a return visit to Brownsfield Park to see how the ground had changed.

Previously a railed-off pitch on a larger playing field, the ground is now fully enclosed with a green fence and two new stands erected, one containing 75 seats and the other a covered terrace. Floodlights have also been installed as well. Future plans include rebuilding the changing rooms and moving the pitch around 10 feet away from the hedge to be closer to the relocated dugouts. The place certainly has been transformed for Premier Division football since my previous visit in August 2011 (

Promoted to the Premier Division at the end of last season, Lichfield (11th with 37 points from 23 games) went into tonight’s fixture in good form. They’d lost just one of their last eleven league game, the defeat coming ten days ago at Coventry Copsewood. Two weeks ago Lichfield won 2-1 at title favourites and FA Vase heroes Walsall Wood.

A programme article I wrote for the weekend mentioned that the Premier Division title would be won by either Littleton or Walsall Wood, unaware that Nuneaton Griff would move within two points of the leaders by winning their games in hand. So, after defeating Pershore Town 2-0 at home on Saturday, Griff went into tonight’s game in 4th position with 44 points from 22 games. A win by three or more goals over Lichfield would lift them up to second. I ought to add that Lichfield are very much in contention for a top five finish as well.

There were quite a few familiar faces in the crowd – ‘Albion Steve’ who was at Coles Lane last night, ‘Cannock Rob’, ‘Orange Hat Coxy’, ‘Mugsy’ and ‘Wolves Stan’, plus Stafford-based referee Mat Randles.

Lichfield (in blue) got the game underway defending the changing rooms end in the first half. Both sides created an early chance with City’s goalkeeper Craig Johnson safely holding a 35-yard drive from Kyle Baxter and Ollie Budd shot wide of the Griff goal.

In what was a midfield battle with defences on top, scoring opportunities, however, were few and far between during the first half. Occasional shots and free-kicks came to nothing though a run down the left by Keiron Brehon ended with a near-post shot into the sidenetting of the Lichfield goal shortly before the interval.

Though not as cold as Romulus last night, we all needed to pop into the clubhouse for a half-time warm.

As I continuing to watch the game from the half-way line opposite the dugouts in the company of the aforementioned familiar faces, Lichfield were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Josh Bambury by Todd Perry within 40 seconds of the restart. But Ashley Evans fired against the wall. Another free-kick from Dan Thurstance, a few minutes later, did hit the target and Dave Watson produced a straightforward save.

Nuneaton Griff broke the deadlock in the 54th minute. From a free-kick on the right delivered into the area, Mitchell Thompson hit a well-struck from inside the area which had too much power for defender Jon Huckfield to keep out.

The two handwarmers I resisted using during the first half both came in useful as the cold started to make an impact on hands and toes (though they couldn’t be warmed).

Lichfield got back on level terms on the hour also from a free-kick. Ryan Baker played the ball into the area which was flicked on by Perry for Huckfield to head home at the far left-hand post.

Griff responded and should have regained the lead in the 65th minute. Aden Moore on the right bye line pulled the ball back for totally unmarked Josh Ruff who somehow shot wide. As someone near me said, it was “easier to score than miss”.

Having survived that scare, Lichfield scored what proved to be the winner in the 77th minute. Richard Deaville got down the right and crossed low to the far post where Bambury sidefooted home.

Late in the game, Lichfield brought on Ashley Bennett who picked up a booking for continuing after the referee’s whistle within seconds of replacing Budd.

Referee Mat Randles had a decent and trouble-free game with nothing controversial or nasty to deal with in a good-natured contest.

Near the end, Griff almost equalised when Ruff saw a low shot cleared by Huckfield from in front of goal.

The win lifted Lichfield up several places to seventh in the table. Brocton also moved up to sixth with a 4-3 win at home to Bolehall Swifts with Gary Fife bagging a hat-trick. On a good night for the local sides I follow, West Midlands League Wolverhampton Casuals won 3-1 at Cradley Town and a brace from Edwin Ahenkorah gave Rocester a 2-0 victory at Highgate United in the Midland Alliance. Heath Hayes drew 1-1 at leaders Stratford Town, also in the Midland Alliance.

Lichfield City (blue with white V / blue / blue): 1. Craig Johnson, 2. Richard Deaville, 3. Jordan Hunt, 4. Todd Perry (capt), 5. Jon Huckfield, 6. Dave Worrall, 7. Ollie Budd, 8. Ryan Baker, 9. Kyle Minton, 10. Josh Bambury, 11. Ashley Evans. Subs: 12. Will Evans (not used), 14. Ashley Bennett (for Minton, 84), 15. Dan Thurstance (for Worrall, 31), 16. Lewis Bourne (for Budd, 66), 17. Dan Billings (not used). Manager: Paul Holt (away); assistant manager: Alex Milner.

Nuneaton Griff (red/black/black): 1. Dave Watson, 2. Corey Faulconbridge, 3. Tom Lillicrap, 4. Jamie Geenway, 5. Ryan Millerchip (capt), 6. Kyle Baxter, 7. Mark Williams, 8. Mitchell Thompson, 9. Aden Moore, 10. Josh Ruff, 11. Keiron Brehon. Subs: 12. Adam Sullivan, 14. Danny Pritchard (for Thompson, 73), 15. Dave Barnett (for Williams, 73), 16. Dan Robinson (not used). Manager: John Falmer.

Referee: Mat Randles (Stafford).
Assistants: Rob Palmer and Nicola Arrowsmith.

Attendance: 72

Duration (45): first-half: 45:33; second-half: 48:27

0-1 Mitchell Thompson (54)
1-1 Jon Huckfield (60)
2-1 Josh Bambury (77)

Lichfield: Jon Huckfield (YC, 53), Ashley Bennett (YC, 85)
Nuneaton: Ryan Millerchip (YC, 45), Josh Ruff (YC, 52)

Romulus 2 Mickleover Sports 2

Monday 11th March 2013
Romulus increased the gap between themselves and bottom side Hucknall Town to seven points following a 2-2 draw against Mickleover Sports. On a bitterly cold night, reportedly one of the coldest in March for 25 years, Kevin Grocott gave Sports a slender half-time lead with a goal in the 27th minute. After the break, Romulus fought back by first equalising and then taking the lead after the hour mark thanks to two goals in the space of eight minutes from Daniel O’Callaghan and then Ibrahim Diarby. However, Sports, who lost 2-1 against Sutton two days ago, avoided another defeat at Coles Lane with Ben Spargo’s 75th-minute equaliser.

Romulus 2 Mickleover Sports 2
Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division One South
At: Coles Lane, Sutton Coldfield
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £8; Programme: £1 (20 pages + car sticker)
Weather: very cold, dry

I can’t remember when I last travelled to and from a midweek evening game by train, perhaps as long ago as the 2001 game between Fisher Athletic and Dorchester Town. Recent perusing of rail timetables showed late night trains departing Birmingham New Street for home at 22:30 and 22:55. Trains from Sutton Coldfield after the full-time whistle to New Street left at 21:51 and 22:21 meant that, for once, I could leave the car at home especially with snow forecast – and enjoy a beer!

The connection on the way to Sutton gave me around 45 minutes in Birmingham so there was time to first head up Bennetts Hill to the Briar Rose (half of Wibbler’s Hoppy Helper) and then the Shakespeare on Lower Temple Road (half of Sharp’s Doom Bar). Once at Sutton Coldfield station, the walk to the ground took around 15 minutes.

On my 17th visit to Coles Lane (moving the ground into joint fourth on my most visits list), I don’t need to describe the ground other than continue to rave about the wonderful old stand. Soon I was joined by good friend ‘Albion Steve’, white-bearded Dave Cox and the irrepressible ‘Groundhopper Dave’. No curry sauce on tonight, so a nice change to have mushy peas with my usual Coles Lane chips.

As I mentioned, Romulus (21st with 22 points from 32 games) and Mickleover Sports (26 points from 32 games) occupied second-and third-bottom positions in the table. I believe that only one side will be relegated to step 5 and Hucknall Town were six points adrift at the bottom with just nine games left to play.

Teamsheets were handed out in the clubhouse and lineups announced on the PA before kick-off.

Romulus (in red and white) got the game underway defending the clubhouse end in the first half. Mickleover created the first of three chances during the opening 20 minutes with Sam Kellog firing low straight at goalkeeper Lewis Exall from the edge of the area.

With Romulus struggling to make an impact in attack, the deadlock was broken in the 27th minute when the visitors took the lead. A diagonal forward ball from the right to the far post was knocked back by Matt Harris for Kevin Grocott (playing in midfield) to head home. Mickleover took the lead against Sutton Coldfield two days ago but ended up losing 2-1.

It took Romulus 36 minutes to create their first serious chance. Ashley Jackson ran at the Mickleover defence down the right into the area and hit a rising right-foot shot which goalkeeper Joe McCormack pushed over the bar.

Before the break, Liam Francis, who had stayed up after a corner, fired over the Sports bar and just before the half-time whistle, McCormack saved a low shot from Daniel O’Callaghan.

While some of my fellow travellers left the stand for the warmth of the clubhouse and a second-half vantage point on the other side, I decided to stay put, perhaps frozen to the spot!

Mickleover created a couple of chances early in the second half. Martin Smythe sent a well-struck 30-yard shot flashing past the left-hand post past the diving Exall. Alex Steadman then fired a low drive across the face of goal from the left.

With two substitutes on by the 53rd minute, Romulus certainly pushed for an equaliser in what must have been difficult windy conditions. Cameron Lee crossed from the left to Ibrahim Diarby who saw a resulting shot hit McCormack.

Romulus had only scored two goals in their last five league games so were delighted to find an equaliser in the 62nd minute. Dexter Ravenhill delivered a deep cross from the left to Diarby who played the ball back into the six-yard box for O’Callaghan to volley home.

It was substitute Diarby who put Romulus ahead eight minutes after the equaliser. McCormack left his line to attempt to clear a perfectly-weighted throughball into the area. The goalkeeper failed to make contact, allowing Diarby to get in a shot which the backtracking Smythe attempted to clear without success.

Could Romulus hold on to their lead to end a run of five straight defeats with a win?

Mickleover, themselves without a win in the league since mid-December, wanted to take home at least a point and got back on level terms in the 75th minute. John Guy delivered a free-kick from the right near to the corner flag to the far post where substitute Ben Spargo headed home.

Both sides could have won in stoppage time. Exall held on to a deflected long-range shot from Spargo and, just before the final whistle, Romulus won a corner which was hooked clear by a defender.

Full-time after five minutes of stoppage time and a brisk run back to the station to catch that 22:51 train with seconds to spare.

Romulus (red and white stripes / red / red): 1. Lewis Exall, 2. Robert Evans, 3. Cameron Lee, 4. Sean Robinson, 5. Liam Francis (capt), 6. Graham Parkin, 7. Ashley Jackson, 8. Luke Keen, 9. Daniel O’Callaghan, 10. Ethan Mannion, 11. Dexter Ravenhill. Subs: 12. Richard Munday (not used), 14. Thomas Turton (for Robinson, ht), 15. Jermaine Clarke (for Keen, 87), 16. Joe Price (not used), 17. Ibrahim Diarby (for Mannion, 53).

Mickleover Sports (blue/blue/blue): 21. Joe McCormack, 2. Kevin Grocott, 3. Joe Congleton, 4. Sam Kellog, 5. Joe Pheasant, 6. Nick Wood (capt), 7. Martin Smythe, 8. Anthony Tansley, 9. Nathan Benger, 10. Matt Harris, 11. Alex Steadman. Subs: 12. Robbie Ritchie-Smith (not used), 14. John Guy (for Congleton, 68), 15. Mark Farthing, 16. Ben Spargo (for Harris, ht), 17. Tom Kellog (for Sam Kellog, 75).

Referee: Declan Bourne.
Assistants: Colin Hunter and Reece Tyler.

Attendance: 42

Duration (45): first-half: 45:51; second-half: 50:00

0-1 Kevin Grocott (27)
1-1 Daniel O’Callaghan (62)
2-1 Ibrahim Diarby (70)
2-2 Ben Spargo (75)

Romulus: none
Mickleover: Kevin Grocott (YC, 35), Nick Wood (YC, 57)