Abbey Hulton United 0 Norton FC 2

Saturday 27th December 2008
Abbey Hulton United 0 Norton FC 2
Staffordshire County Senior League Premier Division
At: Birches Head Road
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none
Attendance: 20 (headcount)
Weather: cold, dry
Duration: first half: 46:12; second half: 48:04

I didn’t fancy travelling too far on a very cold Saturday 28th December so Abbey Hulton’s home SCSL Premier Division game with Norton FC fitted perfectly. But having been given the ‘game on’ over the phone, I arrived at the ground to find the odd doubt about the pitch which happily turned out to be nothing to worry about.

Abbey Hulton United, founded in 1947, are based at Birches Head Road in Stoke-on-Trent. By car, take the A5009 Leek Road and, if travelling north, turn left by Spoilt for Choice florist (opposite Hulton Abbey ruins) with the ground on the right past the narrow bridge.

The ground was a classic fully railed-off pitch with no cover, hard standing or floodlights though a grass bank along one touchline provides a slightly-elevated vantage point. The changing rooms and clubhouse werere next to the entrance and car park. Hot and cold drinks were available from the bar.

"It's freezing," said one of the Norton players as the teams emerged from the changing rooms and he was not wrong!

Visitors Norton FC (wearing black and white striped shirts, white shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the changing rooms end in the first half.

Norton took full advantage of Abbey Hulton's "slow start" by taking the lead in the 13th minute. Gareth Humphries ran into the area down the inside left channel and drilled a low shot past Ashley Pickins into the opposite corner of the net.

The lead was doubled midway through the second half in the 67th minute. Gareth Humphries squared a pass to David Carruthers who fired into the roof of the net from 10 yards out.

I got the impression that a warm welcome is guaranteed from a club on the road to recovery after suffering at the hands of vandals. It didn't matter that they don't produce programmes.

Abbey Hulton United (orange/black/black): 1. Ashley Pickins, 2. Daniel Bew, 3. Paul Colclough, 4. Ian Sayer, 5. Stuart Park, 6, Stephen Sayer (capt), 7. Adam Holdcroft, 8. Gary Gibson, 9. Richard Simcock, 10. Ben Campbell, 11. Mark Lawton. Subs: 12. Scott Bew (for Park, 69), 14. Anthony Murtagh (for Gibson, 69), 15. Daniel Timmis (for Lawton, 59).

Norton FC (black and white stripes / white / white): 1. Alex Graham, 2. Adam Dawson, 3. Josh Graham, 4. Jason Hulme, 5. Josh Moran, 6. David Carruthers (capt), 7. Kyle Diskin, 8. Danny Williams, 9. Gareth Humphries, 10. Matt Hughes, 11. Phil Dutton. Subs: 12. Sam Humphries (for Hulme, 84), 14. Steve Harrison, 15. Phil Thomas (for Hughes, 84).

Referee: A. Lawrence.
Assistants: P. Smith and S. Simpson.

0-1 Gareth Humphries (13)
0-2 David Carruthers (67)

Abbey Hulton: Stephen Sayer (YC, 26), Gary Gibson (YC, 42), Paul Colclough (YC, 79), Ben Campbell (YC, 90)
Norton FC: Josh Graham (YC, 26)

Friday 26th December 2008 (ii)

Shepshed Dynamo 2 Gresley Rovers 0
Unibond League Division 1 South
At: The Dovecote
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 463
Weather: dry, icy wind
Duration: first half: 45:23; second half: 47:13

Shepshed Dynamo (black and white stripes/black/black): 1. Gary Hateley, 2. Ricky Hanson, 3. Damian Magee, 4. Ian Screaton (capt), 5. Matt Millns, 6. Ian Robinson, 7. Rob Norris, 8. Adam Walker, 9. Shane Benjamin, 10. Evan Clarke, 11. Sam Saunders. Subs: 12. Ben Saunders, (for Clarke, 67) 14. Rhys Powell (for Sam Saunders, 81), 15. Michael Lyons (for Norris, 88), 16. Tim Wilkes, 17. Ritchie Butler.

Gresley Rovers (red with white sleeves/white/red): 1. Tom Allan, 2. Zak Callaghan, 3. Jordi Gough, 4. Chris Mawbey, 5. Harvey Hollinshead, 6. Carl Timms, 7. Craig Tucker, 8. Paul Edwards (capt), 9. Liam Hebberd, 10. Kevin Lock, 11. John Shales. Subs: 12. Nathan Tate (for Lock, 84), 14. Paul Hollis (for Callaghan, 70), 15. Tony Hemmings.

Referee: M Sutton.

1-0 Shane Benjamin (16)
2-0 Shane Benjamin (54)

Coalville Town 0 Friar Lane & Epworth 0

Friday 26th December 2008
Aspire Midland Alliance
At: Owen Street Sports Ground
Kick-off: 12-00 noon
Admission: £5; Programme: £1
Attendance: 220
Weather: sunny, dry, icy wind
Duration: first-half: 45:41; second-half: 47:56

Coalville Town (black and white / white / red): 1. Chris Gibson, 2. James Dodd, 3. Chris Waldrum, 4. Adam Goodby, 5. Ash Brown (capt), 6. Tommy Welford, 7. Michael Swan, 8. Craig Attwood, 9. Martin Thompson, 10. Luke Keen, 11. Lee Miveld. Subs: 12. Alvin Jarvis (for Keen, 70), 14. Craig Noble (for Dodd, 65), 15. Adam Smith (for Thompson, 80).

Friar Lane & Epworth (blue / blue / navy blue): 1. Thomas Holyoak, 2. Ross Trevor, 3. Andy Smith, 4. Nick Brett (capt), 5. Aaron Turner, 6. Ryan Robbins, 7. Lewis Gibbons, 8. Daniel Geary, 9. Daniel Gallagher, 10. Clinton Gunn, 11. Kelvin Phillips. Subs: 12. Luke Day (for Robbins, 89), 14. Aaron Dignum (not used), 15. Kieran Linnett (not used), 16. Lee Barrett (not used), 17. Darren Wheeler (for Phillips, 80).

Referee: G. Loades.
Assistants: N Collin and J Brooks.


Coalville: James Dodd (YC, 38)
Friar Lane & Epworth: Daniel Geary (YC, 38), Ross Trevor (YC, 43), Darren Wheeler (YC, 90+2)

Sporting Khalsa 1 Riverway 1

Tuesday 23rd December 2008
Sporting Khalsa 1 Riverway 1
FTL Futbol West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1
At: Abbey Park Stadium, Bloxwich
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none
Attendance: 20 (headcount)
Weather: cold, dry
Duration: first-half: 45:46; second-half: 49:07

I got back to my car after the full-time whistle and wondered how Riverway managed to draw a game they could have won with a sizable scoreline. They created chance after change, won numerous corners, yet managed just one goal for their efforts scored early in the second half by skipper Tom Duffy. However, Manjit Singh grabbed a late equaliser for his side.

Sporting Khalsa, a club I'd never previously seen play before, are based at the former home of Bloxwich AFC, located off Glastonbury Crescent on the Mossley Estate in Bloxwich. The ground is a venue I had previously visited on two occasions and most recently way back on a baking hot July day in 1990.

The club history on their website ( says the club was founded in 1991. They spent one season, 1996/97, in the West Midlands League Division 1 North and rejoined Division 2 in 2004. They were immediately promoted to Division 1 after finishing fifth and this season is their fourth in this division. In 2005, Khalsa became the first Asian semi-professional football club in the country to own its own ground, Abbey Park.

The entrance to the ground is through a (unmanned) turnstile from the car park behind the goal at the southern end of the ground. To the right in the corner are the changing rooms and to the left an area of covered standing with the clubhouse behind. Down the left-hand touchline is the seated stand with five rows of blue seats and benches. On the right-hand touchline are the dugouts and four tall floodlight pylons (two on each side) are positioned level with the edge of each penalty area. No programme was issued.

Both sides went into the game level on 15 points with Riverway in 12th in the 17-team league and Sporting Khalsa two places below by virtue of a worse goal difference. Though Riverway are a Stafford-based side, their home ground is barely a couple of miles away so I suppose this was a local derby!

I opted to watch the game stood on halfway near the seated stand looking across towards the dugouts. While the captain met the match officials in the centre circle, the remaining Sporting Khalsa players held a huddle. Riverway (all red) got the game underway attacking the entrance end with the referee saying, "OK Gents, enjoy it" before he blew the whistle.

Riverway won a very early corner and so did Khalsa (yellow shirts, blue shortsm yellow socks). Visiting keeper Sean Healey got down to hold a low shot from Leon Brown in the 10th minute before the visitors started to create a host of chances. The linesman on my side was a real character and I think he refereed the Wednesbury game I saw back in May against Wolves Development.

Just before the half-hour, Duffy latched on to a ball down the right, cut in and fired low towards the near post where keeper Jaswander Singh blocked at the expense of a corner. Half-time came with the scores level so I popped into the clubhouse for a welcome coffee.

In the 55th minute Stuart Simpson and Carl Grant combined down the right to create a chance for Duffy who forced a good diving save out of Singh. Duffy, however, opened the scoring with a downward header from the resulting right-wing corner delivered by dead ball specialist Matt Rhodes.

Singh produced a couple of further saves as Riverway pressed for a second goal before Hardreer Sidhu fed Gudjinder Ghahan sent a well-struck drive just over the bar. "A warning," said one of the Riverway players to his teammates, perhaps conscious his team had just a single-goal lead. Riverway continued to squander chances and win corners without adding to their lead. "We've still got some hard work to do, Riverway," was the cry.

With time running out, Sporting Khalsa equalised in the 87th minute. Leon Brown's initial shot was blocked by Healey and Manjit Gill forced the rebound over the line at close range.

The final whistle came after four minutes of stoppage time and singled a first league draw of the season for both sides.

Roll on Boxing Day and my 100th game of the season!

Sporting Khalsa (yellow/blue/yellow): 1. Jaswandeer Singh, 2. Tirth Singh, 3. Manjit Singh, 4. Gurwinder Deo (capt), 5. Sukhbir Sidhu, 6. Gurminder Singh, 7. Gudjinder Ghahan, 8. Hardreer Sidhu, 9. Charanjir Mannu, 10. Leon Brown, 11. Dharminder Singh. Subs: 12. Bhopinder Singh (for Mannu, 90+1), 14. Jagdit Khale (for Gurminder Singh, 80).

Riverway (red/red/red): 1. Sean Healey, 2. Mitch Green, 3. Matt Rhodes, 4. Rob Tomkinson, 5. Robert Webb, 6. Simon Dawson, 7. Jake Robinson, 8. Ben Bloor, 9. Tom Duffy (capt), 10. Carl Grant, 11. Stuart Simpson. Subs: 12. Jo Owen (not used), 14. Carl Mason (not used), 15. Dean Clegg (for Bloor, 80), 16. Garry Todd (not used), 17. Wayne Spicer (for Green, 73).

Referee: Adam Mullins (Burntwood).

0-1 Tom Duffy (55)
1-1 Manjit Singh (87)

Sporting Khalsa: none
Riverway: Simon Dawson (YC, 90+1)

Saturday 20th December 2008

Blandford United 0 Swanage Town & Herston 2
Dorest Premier League
At: Park Road Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 2-15 pm
Attendance: 20 (headcount)
Weather: mild, dry

Curzon Ashton 4 Chorley 1

Saturday 13th December 2008
Curzon Ashton 4 Chorley 1
Unibond League Division 1 North
At: Tameside Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £6; Programme: 1-50p
Attendance: 170
Weather: cold, dry
Duration: first-half: 46:05; second-half: 47:02

On a pitch which soaked up a lot of surface water in the hours before kick-off, two goals in each half gave Curzon Ashton a comfortable victory over visitors Chorley. Glyn Barker scored twice during the first-half before two goals in a minute soon after the restart effectively put the outcome beyond doubt. Barker thought he’d completed a hat-trick with a diving header only to be denied by a raised offside flag. Late on, Chorley scored a late consolation through Adam Farrell.

Curzon Ashton (blue/blue/blue): 1. Keith Jones, 2. Matthew Russell, 3. Danny Whelan, 4. David Birch (capt), 5. Adam Jones, 6. Alex Elliott, 7. Chris Woorsley, 8. Chris Curley, 9. Muchael Norton, 10. Glyn Barker, 11. James Ogoo. Subs: 12. Phil Edghill (not used), 14. Danny Verity (for Jones, 76), 15. Richard Bennett (for Elliott, 67), 16. Andrew Watson (not used).

Chorley (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Peter Collinge, 2. Mike Eckersley, 3. Rob Henry (capt), 4. James Mullineux, 5. Chris Smalley, 6. Michael West, 7. Adam Farrell, 8. Adam Crossley, 9. Chris Ward, 10. Jordan Goodeve, 11. Roger Sharrock. Subs: 12. Stephen Burke (for Crossley, 54), 14. Danny Finch (for Sharrock, 48), 15. Kieran Fletcher (for Smalley, 41), 16. Danny Nolan (not used).

Referee: Paul Norris.
Assistants: Roger Andrews and Neil Smitham.

1-0 Glyn Barker (33)
2-0 Glyn Barker (40)
3-0 James Ogoo (48)
4-0 Danny Whelan (49)
4-1 Adam Farrell (86)

Curzon Ashton: none
Chorley: Jordan Goodeve (YC, 25)

Stratford Town 1 Westfields 1

Saturday 6th December 2008
Stratford Town 1 Westfields 1 (after extra time)
FA Carlsberg Vase Third Round
At: Knights Lane
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Attendance: 219
Weather: sunny then cold
Duration (90): first half: 48:25; second half: 49:22
Extra time: first half: 15:34; second half: 17:36

I needed a stress-free afternoon on my return to Saturday football travelling and this game gave me just what I wanted. With my current stint for the local press over (my choice), it was back to having a full Football Traveller worth of fixtures to choose from apart, of course, those grounds I’ve already been to. I fancied an FA Vase game, to follow games in the three previous rounds, and opted for the all Midland Alliance clash between two teams with roughly the same record. Stafford took a first-half lead which was cancelled out by Westfields after the intervals and extra time couldn’t produce a winner.

Stratford Town have been based at the new Knights Lane ground since February this year having vacated their old Mason’s Road ground. I’d visited Mason’s Road twice – in January 1993 when Barlestone St Giles were the visitors and again in July 1994 for a Stafford Rangers friendly.

I knew that the new ground would be straight-forward to find and so it proved. Travelling through the village of Tiddington on the B4086 towards Stratford, I passed Alveston’s ground on the right and then the shops before taking a left turn into Knights Lane and the ground was on the right just past the school.

Programmes (£1) were available at the entrance which is adjacent to the stand, a brick structure with four rows of seats in blocks either side of the players’ tunnel. The rest of the ground was uncovered flat standing with the dugouts on the opposite touchline either side of the halfway line. The pitch was orientated roughly east-west

I spotted the refreshments kiosk on the far side of the stand away from the entrance and felt tempted to enquire about the ‘Chips and Curry £1-75’.

“Is the curry vegetarian?” I asked and to my delight a positive response came back so I tucked into a delicious vegy curry on top of a tray of chips.

Getting the line-ups couldn’t have been easier as a whiteboard with them on was hung on the side wall of the stand. There was also a team sheet pinned up next to the refreshments kiosk and they were also read out over the tannoy. I spotted a few chaps who looked like football travellers but none were familiar to me. Perhaps I should have gone over for a chat?

The place had a big match buzz of expectation and Stratford are one of the best supported sides in the Midland Alliance. The home side included two former International players namely Scotland’s Paul Devlin, who I remember playing for Stafford at the start of his career, and Jamaica’s Paul Hall. However, they were lacking four players who injured in a car crash a few days ago on Tuesday. Manager Michael Moore is a former Stafford Rangers player.

This was the third meeting of the season between the sides. Stratford won both of the previous two – an FA Cup tie back in August and a league game five weeks ago.

I took my place in the stand before kick-off and saw the players exchange those fair play handshakes which I think are a good addition to the game. Before kick-off, the name of the Stratford Player of the Month for November was announced and the winner, Micky Love, received a memento from the sponsor.

I presume Westfields (wearing claret shirts with sky blue sleeves, sky blue shorts and socks) won the toss as Stratford, attacking from left to right, kicked off defending into the low sun on the horizon to the west.

Stratford (wearing all blue) were the first side to threaten. Matt Blair got into the area from the right and fired straight at Westfields keeper Gareth Williams. They went even closer in the 6th minute when Micky Lowe’s downward header was cleared off the line by defender Jon Hill at the base of the left-hand post.

The half-time raffle ticket seller came round, and, as a complete coincidence, this coincided with the visitors starting to pose a threat. Jamie Edwards fired into the sidenetting from the left.

Jozsef Jakab missed a great chance to put the home side ahead in the 21st minute but miskicked in front of goal from Paul Devlin’s left-wing cross.

Just after the half hour, the official attendance of 219 was announced over the tannoy.

Stratford survived a scare as they were nearly punished for being caught short of men at the back. Paul Allam got down the right and squared a pass to Mark Davis, in a good position, who fired wide. A mistake by Nigel Niblett gave Jamie Cuss the opportunity to fire across the face of goal.

Having missed a few chances, it was an unfortunate own goal in the 42nd minute that gave Stratford the lead. Under no pressure, Scott Jackson headed Devlin’s cross into the left bottom corner of the net. “If Westfields had been one up you wouldn’t have argued,” commented one home fan sat near me.

Westfields had a chance to level in stoppage time. Nicky Mowl was booked for a foul on Allam, 25 yards out, but the free-kick taken by Edwards hit the wall. The visitors still had another opportunity until the flag was raised for offside.

The home side must have had a successful raffle as the winning ticket was 200 more than the number on the one I had bought. It was back for another tea at the interval and I felt the temperature had noticeably dropped since the sun dipped below the horizon. The pitch looked as if it was starting to freeze as well, or was it my eyes deceiving me.

Lights were on for the start of the start of the second half and Westfield missed a good early chance to level things up. Substitute Dan Hill knocked the ball down for the unchallenged Cuss to fire wide from barely eight yards out.

A second goal for Stratford would give the visitors a mountain to climb to simply force extra time and it almost came on the hour. Paul Hall found Mowl who took it forward and saw his 30-yard shot blocked by a defender. Blair picked up the rebound and drove over the bar and out of the ground.

“C’mon Westfield,” cried one fan and Hill forced a save out of Karl Lewis. Stratford quickly broke down the right and Jakab was thwarted in a one-on-one with the keeper. It was certainly an open cup tie and Steve Palmer sent a 30 yarder skimming the top of the Westfields bar.

Westfields got back on level terms in the 78th minute. Substitute Hill was given space on the edge of the area to hit a right-foot shot home at the near right post.

Before the restart, Tony Robinson replaced Devlin – did the substitute have a cunning plan to avoid extra time?

With five minutes to go, an announcement informed those planning their exit before the 90 minutes were up that it would be extra time if the scores remained level. Neither side could find a winner so an extra 30 minutes for my money! Never mind as it was an enjoyable game.

Westfields got extra time underway attacking from right to left and they had the best of few chances during the first period. From Mark Hibbard’s corner, Jackson sent a bullet header straight at Lewis.

On to the final period of extra time and, with no further replacements available, Wayne Brown the limping Stratford defender was forced to stay on the field and play up front on the left. I remember my Dad telling me stories from the days before substitutions were allowed when injured players stayed on the field.

Jakab’s cross from the left was cleared for Lawrence Rawlings to send a 25-yard shot flashing past the left-hand post.

In the 113th minute, a quirk of the new offside rule meant that Westfield’s Hill was flagged offside inside his own half after becoming active from an offside position.

A mistake by Hall, named Man of the Match, let in Jackson who fired straight at Lewis.

Full-time and as the programme said: ‘replay on Tuesday’. Stratford won it 1-0 with an early goal from Jakab.

Stratford Town (blue/blue/blue): 1. Karl Lewis, 2. Paul Hall, 3. Wayne Brown, 4. Nick Mowl, 5. Nigel Niblett, 6. Micky Love (capt), 7. Matt Blair, 8. Steve Palmer, 9. Jozsef Jakab, 10. Paul Devlin, 11. Lawrence Rawlings. Subs: 12. Kevin Brookes, 14. Richard Munday (for Niblett, 83), 15. Jamie Petty (for Mowl, 70), 16. Michael Crawford (not used), 17. Tony Robinson (for Devlin, 79).

Westfields (claret with sky blue sleeves / sky blue / sky blue): 1. Gareth Williams, 2. Sam Harrison, 3. Jon Hill, 4. Gareth Thomas, 5. Scott Jackson (capt), 6. Ashley Day, 7. Paul Allam, 8. Mark Hibbard, 9. Jamie Cuss, 10. Mark Davis, 11. Jamie Edwards. Subs: 12. Terry Green (for Jon Hill, 90+3), 14. James Upcott (for Edwards, 73), 15. Tom Harding (not used), 16. Danny Moon (not used), 17. Dan Hill (for Day, 40).

Referee: J. M. Law (Worcester).
Assistants: A. M. Daniel (Worcester) and R. Thomas (Worcester).

1-0 Scott Jackson (42 og)
1-1 Dan Hill (78)

Stratford: Steve Palmer (YC, 89), Lawrence Rawlings (YC, 90)
Westfields: Mark Hibberd (YC, 82), Paul Allam (YC, 88)

Bartley Green v Meir KA (OFF)

Tuesday 2nd December 2008
Bartley Green v Meir KA
Kick-off: 7-45 pm - postponed due to a frozen pitch
Midland Combination Premier Division

This game fell victim to a late postponment due to a frozen pitch even though both sides wanted to start what would have been, according to the Chairman, Bartley Green's first game under lights.

I'd contacted the Secretary before setting off who, quite correctly, told me the game was ON. And, having walked on the pitch myself around 7 pm, the majority of the pitch was soft with a hard area in the far goalmouth.

The ground, in a rural location a few miles south of Halesowen, can be reached from the M5 junction 3. Follow the A456 towards Kidderminster then left at the roundabout onto the B4551. After about 400 yards turn left into Illey Lane and the ground entrance is on the left down a farm track before entering Illey village.