Huntingdon Town 2 Bugbrooke St Michaels 1

Saturday 31th December 2011
Huntingdon Town 2 Bugbrooke St Michaels 1
ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Division 1
At: Jubilee Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Weather: sunny spells, cloudy, dry
Attendance: 95 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 49:33; second-half: 50:47

On the last day of the year, third-placed Huntingdon Town and second-placed Bugbrooke St Michaels served up a thrilling game worthy of being a top-of-the-table clash. Huntingdon took an early lead direct from a free-kick, awarded for a rarely-spotted offence by Bugbrooke’s goalkeeper. The home side extended their lead soon after the restart before both sides were reduced to ten men following an off-the-ball incident spotted by the close-by assistant referee. I didn’t see the incident. Bugbrooke soon halved the deficit just before the hour mark and had another player sent-off as Huntingdon held on to claim a vital victory.

I could say that this trip to Huntingdon was an unplanned bonus. My initial plan for today was to watch a ‘double’ with games at both Brocton and Stafford Town (my two nearest grounds) until that idea was scuppered on Thursday by the postponement of Town’s game. My thoughts then changed slightly further afield to a West Midlands ‘double’ starting at either Tividale or Castle Vale but both these 11am kick-offs fell victim to waterlogging. So with prospects not looking good close to home, I headed east towards the United Counties League with a specific game in mind though not knowing which of four shortlisted matches I’d be seeing. Thankfully I arrived at Jubilee Park, my preferred choice, to find a perfectly-playable pitch and another very welcoming club that was a pleasure to visit!

Huntingdon Town moved to Jubilee Park in 2003 around the time they gained promotion to the United Counties League Division 1. Easily found and signed off the A141 on Kings Ripton Road, the ground was fully railed off with an area of covered standing by the dugouts down the left-hand touchline. Plans are afoot to install a seated stand needed for promotion to the Premier Division. The whole complex boasts an impressive pavilion opened in 2009 and caters for other teams as well as archery.

I saw Bugbrooke (2nd position with 34 points from 13 games) defeat Buckingham Town on Boxing Day afternoon and their starting line-up showed two changes. Huntingdon (3rd with 31 points from 15 games) also made two changes to the side that defeated Bourne Town on Boxing Day. A win was vital for both sides, and particularly Huntingdon, as leaders Harborough Town (top with 39 points from 16 games) extended their advantage at the top with a 4-0 win over Olney Town last night.

Bugbrooke (in yellow shirts, blue shorts and yellow socks) got the game underway defending the pavilion end in the first half. However, hungry Huntingdon (in red shirts, red shorts and red and black hopped socks) quickly got on top and took the lead in the 16th minute. Bugbrooke keeper Antonio Aguilar-Rohan was adjudged to have carried the ball out of his area when making a clearance, an offence spotted by the assistant referee. Dan Moyes stepped up and sent the resulting 20-yard free-kick past the four-man wall and straight into the net.

Midway through the half, Aguilar-Rohan was well positioned to hold a deflected shot by Niks Salavankis after Declan Rogers’ initial effort was blocked inside the area.

With the home side on top, Bugbrooke’s Nick Worley took the ball forward to the edge of the Huntingdon area. Reds shirts, however, got back in numbers to defend by Worley laid the ball back for Ben Foster to fire over from 30 yards out.

In first-half stoppage time, Aguilar-Rohan dived to his right to produce a superb one-handed save to keep out a 30-yard shot from Rogers.

Bugbrooke were forced to make a change at the interval with Foster replaced by Chris Dickens and Ryan Dufty took over the captain’s armband. The visitors bench was encouraged soon after the restart by Michael Parkes’ tackle on Joe Jordan right in from of the away dugout.

However, Huntingdon doubled their lead in the 50th minute. Nick Ling impeded Jordan inside the area and Rogers converted the resulting penalty.

Both sides were reduced to ten men two minutes later for an off-the-ball incident near the home dugout which I didn’t see. The near-by assistant immediately flagged and after a lengthy chat, referee Mr Moore showed a straight red card to Huntingdon’s Ryan Spencer and Bugbrooke’s Chris Davies. The game was restarted with a Bugbrooke free-kick, delivered forward into the area and headed wide by Ling.

Huntingdon almost scored a third when Drane intercepted Dufty’s backpass and fired across the face of goal before Bugbrooke got back into contention with a goal scored just before the hour mark. Leading scorer Worley got clear and his initial shot was blocked by Dave Beeny. The ball spun in the area and fell kindly for Worley to slot home despite the efforts of a defender attempting a goal-line clearance.

With their tails up, Worley looked to get clear with no offside flag but defenders got back to prevent a shot. The visitors still had time to grab an equaliser – “got 20 minutes, a long time” the team were told.

During the second half, I stood next to a Slough Town supporter, along with two friends who followed St Ives, and he was pleased to read on Twitter that his side had taken the lead against Fleet Town. I briefly remembered to myself many a trip to Slough’s old Wexham Park ground when I lived in Bracknell.

Back to the action and into the last 10 minutes plus stoppage time with a decent chance for the visitors. Damon Herbert crossed from the left and substitute Michael Parsons hit a close-range volley which Beeny parried.

Aguilar-Rohan, not to be outdone, also produced a really good save two minutes later. Josh Crick found Stuart Eason who saw a close-range shot tipped onto the bar and over for a corner by the keeper. But before the corner could be taken, Ling said something out of turn and picked up a second yellow card. So Bugbrooke were down to nine men in the 84th minute.

Huntingdon almost added a third in stoppage time which, had a goal been scored, would have been controversial to say the least. The flag went up for offside but the player flagged didn’t make contact with the ball. Instead Eason latched onto a throughball from an onside position but fired a low shot wide of the target.

With the win, Huntingdon moved up over Bugbrooke into second place on goal difference, five points behind leaders Harborough having played the same number of games. Bugbrooke dropped to third with two games in hand on the top two.

Games are coming thick and fast with eight Division 1 games scheduled for Monday. Bugbrooke face fourth-placed Rushden & Higham United in an early 11 am kick-off which I’m tempted to see followed by a look at leaders Harborough who travel to lowly Northampton ON Chenecks (2 pm). Huntingdon are also away at Wootton Blue Cross.

Huntingdon Town (red / red / red and black hoops): 1. Dave Beeny, 2. Ashley Yeomans, 3. Ryan Spencer, 4. Declan Rogers, 5. Josh Crick, 6. Ricky Dear, 7. Dan Moyes, 8. Charlie Bowen, 9. Niks Salavankis, 10. Dan Drane, 11. Joe Jordan. Subs: 12. Stuart Eason (for Drane, 72), 14. Ben Colmer (not used), 15. Jack Warwick (for Jordan, 90+5), 16. Jake Waterworth (for Salavankis, 60), 17. Mark Peacock (not used). Manager: Ricky Marheineke.

Bugbrooke St Michaels (yellow/blue/yellow): 1. Antonio Aguilar-Rohan, 2. Daniel Barnes, 3. Damon Herbert, 4. Michael Parkes, 5. Ryan Dufty (capt 2nd half), 6. Nick Ling, 7. Ben Foster (capt 1st half), 8. Chris Davies, 9. Adey Redmond, 10. Nick Worley, 11. Adam Balme. Subs: 12. Chris Dickens (for Foster, ht), 15. Michael Parsons (for Barnes, 72), 16. Lee Herbert (not used). Manager: Lee Herbert.

Referee: P. Moore.
Assistants: K. Davis and A. Woollard.

1-0 Dan Moyes (16)
2-0 Declan Rogers (50 pen)
2-1 Nick Worley (59)

Huntingdon: Ryan Spencer (RC, 52)
Bugbrooke: Chris Davies (RC, 52), Nick Ling (YC/RC, 84)

Wolverhampton Casuals 0 Bromyard Town 0

Tuesday 27th December 2011
Wolverhampton Casuals 0 Bromyard Town 0
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Brinsford Lane
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Weather: cloudy, dry
Attendance: 45 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:11; second-half: 49:00

Part two of a Bank Holiday Tuesday ‘double’ took me from home down the A449 to Brinsford Lane, home of Wolverhampton Casuals. Even though the game finished goalless it was none-the-less one of the better 0-0 draws which both sides could have won in stoppage time.

Wolverhampton Casuals (green and white halves / green / green and white hoops): 1. Dan Ware, 2. Carlo Franco, 3. Luke Tudor, 4. John Cordy, 5. Darrell Francis, 6. Shaun Griffiths, 7. Tom Maydew, 8. Craig Love (capt), 9. Mike Hancox, 10. Mark Habbershaw, 11. Dean Clarke. Subs: 12. Dan Newman (for Tudor, 63), 14. Angelo Franco (not used), 15. Jordan Lee (for Hancox, 80), 16. Simon Rowley (for Clarke, 74), 17. Sean O’Callaghan (not used).

Bromyard Town (blue/blue/blue): 1. Dan Hollings, 2. Chris Edwards, 3. Matt Gary, 4. Josh Stafford, 5. Wayne Lloyd, 6. Rob Woodward, 7. Shaq Tulloch, 8. Gareth McCarthy (capt), 9. Knile Taylor, 10. Tom Coley, 11. Joe Mogg. Subs: 12. Tiago Ribiero (for Mogg, 74), 14. Dan Traylor (for McCarthy, 63), 15. Leon Campbell (not used).

Referee: M. Wharnby.
Assistants: P. Felton and P. Hill.


Casuals: none
Bromyard: Tom Coley (YC, 80), Tom Coley (YC/RC, 89), Tiago Ribiero (YC, 90+3)

Belper United 2 Nottingham United 3

Tuesday 27th December 2011 (2-00 pm)
Belper United 2 Nottingham United 3
Windsor Food Services Central Midlands League Black Dragon South
At: Alton Manor, Nailers Way, Belper
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Weather: cloudy, dry
Attendance: 80 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:07; second-half: 48:00

Just like yesterday at Winslow for the Buckingham game, the groundhopping community was again out in force, this time to visit a ground which may not be used beyond the end of the current season. Houses may swallow up Alton Manor and it doesn’t feature on March’s Central Midlands League Bonanza. We all saw an entertaining game which visitors Nottingham United came from behind to win by the odd goal in five thanks to a hat-trick bagged by striker Kieran Watson. Veteran Tony Hemmings rolled back the years for Belper as an attacking midfielder, having played in the Football League for Wycombe, Chester and Carlisle as well as a host of non-league clubs such as Hednesford and Alfreton.

Belper United (green/white/green): 1. Lewis Bamford, 2. Karl Payne, 3. Dave Bacon, 4. Paul Postlewaite, 5. Scott Slater, 6. Kyle Wadsworth (capt), 7. Rich Searston, 8. Tony Hemmings, 9. Joe Wheeler, 10. Jamie Wilde, 11. Mark Brewster. Subs: 12. Rich Clarke (for Brewster, ht), 14. Tim Sterland (for Bacon, 82), 15. Stu Marshall (not used).

Nottingham United (red/red/red): 1. Nathan Grundy, 2. Ryan Hall, 3. George Clarke (capt), 4. Kyle Ludlow, 5. Daniel Harding, 6. Joel Smith, 7. Kristian Watson, 8. Marc Walters, 9. Kieran Watson, 10. Triston Burrell, 11. Carey Knight. Subs: 12. Adnan Al-Ammaren (not used), 14. Thomas Cresswell (for Knight, 6), 15. Andrew Richards (for Burrell, 78), 16. Danny Cresswell (not used), 17. Lee Townsend (for Hall, 49).

Referee: Colin Marshall (Derby).
Assistants: A. Stevenson and J. Stevenson.

0-1 Kieran Watson (37)
1-1 Jamie Wilde (45)
2-1 Rich Clarke (62)
2-2 Kieran Watson (71 pen)
2-3 Kieran Watson (75)

Belper: none
Nottingham: none

Buckingham Town 1 Bugbrooke St Michaels 3

Monday 26th December 2011
Buckingham Town 1 Bugbrooke St Michaels 3
ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Division 1
At: Winslow Centre, Park Road, Winslow
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: £3; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Weather: cloudy, dry
Attendance: 60 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:34; second-half: 48:26

Many of the great and the good of the groundhopping world were out in force for what could well be Buckingham Town’s penultimate game at temporary Winslow Centre home. Mick Burt and Bill Berry were amongst those who saw title-chasing visitors Bugbrooke end Buckingham’s unbeaten home league record with a deserved 3-1 victory.

Following this coming Saturday’s game against Wootton Blue Cross, it is uncertain were Buckingham will be playing home games in 2012. I don't personally know what will happen so, for me like the hoards, it was worthwhile watching a game at the Winslow Centre while we could, especially as it could be combined with a shopping trip to Milton Keynes for the rest of the family!

At the end of last season, which Buckingham finished second-from-bottom in the Division 1 table, the Robins were evicted from the long-standing Ford Meadow ground and found a new home in nearby Winslow. The ground at the Winslow Centre is somewhat basic – sloping, roped off on three sides with no cover or hand standing – but sufficient to keep them in the United Counties League.

Programmes were on sale from a table adjacent to the car park and must say it was packed with articles, views and statistics.

Visitors Bugbrooke St Michaels (31 points from 12 games) have had a great season so far and went into this Bank Holiday fixture in second place, five points behind leaders Harborough Town with three games in hand. They lost their last game nine days ago to end their unbeaten start to the league season. With only 10 league games played so far, Buckingham Town (11th position in the 17-team division with 16 points) may well be in a false position, especially with an unbeaten home record and just two defeats away from home.

Bugbrooke (in blue and yellow halved shirts, blue shorts and socks) got this Bank Holiday derby underway attacking the car park end.

Through Buckingham (in all red) has the first attempt on target – a free-kick by Cory Lee punched clear by keeper Antonio Aguilar-Rohan – it was a lively Bugbrooke side that dominated the first half. Around the 10 minute mark, Ashley Bradshaw forced a decent block out of Robins’ keeper Mike Bell and Aden Redmond sent a right-foot shot flashing past the left-hand post. Damon Herbert then found Nick Worley who hit a rising angled diagonal shot not too far wide of the far top-left corner.

As I walked around the pitch, I was good to catch up with Martin Wray of ‘Football Grounds in Focus’ fame.

It was no surprise that Bugbrooke took a deserved lead in the 23rd minute. Herbert again found Worley with a diagonal ball to the right but this the striker fired home a low shot with just Bell to beat for his 14th league goal of the season (a bit blurred right). The visitors continued to create chances and Redmond volleyed over the bar.

Buckingham almost equalised in the 40th minute. Kyle Stimson got passed Nathan Lacey as he cut in from the left and found Rob Bannister who saw a shot blocked on the line. Appeals for a penalty were waived away by the referee.

The second half began with rain clouds continuing to gather above and Buckingham, now attacking the car park end, were urged to get going “straight from the off”.

However, Bugbrooke continued to impress and doubled their lead four minutes after the restart. Michael Parkes delivered a free-kick into the area which was partially cleared and Ashley Bradshaw smashed a shot home into the roof of the net.

Now two goals down, Buckingham looked to get a goal back as they tried to preserve their unbeaten league record at the Winslow Centre. Paul Hull dribbled from half-way to the edge of the Bugbrooke area but a defender got in a clearance at the expense of a corner. Another saving tackle by Herbert prevented Stimpson from getting a clear shot on the hour mark and captain Chris Robson volleyed over the visitors bar.

Eventually, after Riley gave his teammates some vocal encouragement, Bannister reduced the deficit in the 66th minute. Stimpson crossed low from the left and Riley let the ball continue for recent signing Bannister to slot home his third goal in two games.

From the restart, Bugbrooke quickly got forward and, from Chris Davies’ pass, Worley forced a save out of Bell who pounced on the resulting loose ball.

“Do we want this or what? Get it going,” shouted a concerned Bradshaw to his teammates, now with just a single goal advantage.

Bugbrooke should have settled the game in their favour in the 84th minute. Davies hit a measured throughball into the path of Redmond on the left who poked the ball past the advancing Bell only to see it narrowly miss the far corner of the net.

However, the miss didn’t matter as Bugbrooke made sure of the points a minute later with a vital third goal. Substitute Lance Allen, on the right, sent a rising right-foot shot into the roof of the net.

Buckingham weren’t done and Aguilar-Rohan needed to be alert to tip over a long-range shot from Stimpson.

With leaders Harborough not playing, Bugbrooke closed the gap to just two points with two games in hand and a superior goal difference. Buckingham slipped one place to 12th though the two teams immediately above them in the table have played five games more.

The whole afternoon was a pleasure especially as it remained dry despite the dark clouds overhead. It was good to meet up with old friends and the game wasn’t bad either.

My previous visit to see Buckingham Town play at Ford Meadow was on Tuesday 6th September 1994, a 1-0 win for visitors King’s Lynn in the Beazer Homes [Southern] League Midland Division, attendance 135.

Buckingham Town (red/red/red): 1. Mike Bell, 2. Daley Cross, 3. Daryl Phillips, 4. Pat Diamond, 5. Mark Gale, 6. Chris Robson (capt), 7. Nick Bines, 8. Cory Lee, 9. Rob Bannister, 10. Kyle Stimpson, 11. Paul Hull. Subs: 12. Ieuan Riley (for Phillips, ht), 14. Chris Bamber (not used), 15. Graham Sands (for Lee, 80).

Bugbrooke St Michaels (blue and yellow halves / blue / blue): 1. Antonio Aguilar-Rohan, 2. Daniel Barnes, 3. Damon Herbert, 4. Michael Parkes, 5. Nick Ling, 6. Nathan Lacey, 7. Ben Foster (capt), 16. Chris Davies, 9. Aden Redmond, 10. Nick Worley, 11. Ashley Bradshaw. Subs: 12. Lance Allen (for Bradshaw, 70), 14. Ryan Dufty (for Worley, 80), 15. Damon Black (for Foster, 70).

Referee: G. Gurney.
Assistants: M. York and J. Fowler.

0-1 Nick Worley (23)
0-2 Ashley Bradshaw (49)
1-2 Rob Bannister (66)
1-3 Lance Allen (85)

Buckingham: none
Bugbrooke: none

Atherstone Town 2 Coleshill Town 2

Saturday 24th December 2011
Atherstone Town 2 Coleshill Town 2
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Sheepy Ground
Kick-off: 12-30 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Attendance: 269
Weather: mild, sunny spells
Duration: first-half: 45:52; second-half: 47:51

With just two games on today in the entire Midlands, Atherstone Town were rewarded with their largest attendance of the season and the bumper crowd saw a thrilling local derby. Visitors Coleshill eased into a two-goal lead and looks set to claim the points until the Adders fought back to earn a deserved draw with two late goals.

The present Atherstone Town FC was formed in 2004 and, due to off-the-field difficulties, they voluntarily dropped down from the Southern League to the Baker Joiner Midland Alliance at the end of last season. Predecessors Atherstone Town (1897–1979) and Atherstone United (1979–2003) also played at the Sheepy Road ground.

Now, this ground should have a high position on any ‘grounds to do list’. Previously visited by me once before in 1986, it is a wonderful venue full of character and one which oozes history. I guess that most of the main features of the ground date back to the halcyon days when the original Atherstone Town were a Southern League Premier Division club. The main stand occupies most of the length of one touchline with a substantial area of seating and an area of covered standing at one end. It was named the 'Andy Rammell Stand' after a former player who left the club for Manchester United and subsequently enjoyed a successful professional career. Opposite behind the dugout isan area of covered terrace on half-way with plenty of open terracing around the remaining parts of the ground. Wonderful!

A message, yesterday, on both Atherstone’s official website and the Non-League Matters Forum convinced me to head east rather than to the day’s other possible game in Bloxwich: ‘After a local pitch inspection this afternoon, Atherstone Town Officials are pleased to confirm that tomorrow's home game with Coleshill (Christmas Eve) is Definitely ON. The weather forecast is dry this evening and sunny all day tomorrow’. So off I headed east along the A5, left at the roundabout on to the A4116 (signed Twycross and Sheepy Magna) then right at the next roundabout by the distribution centre on to Rowlands Way to the ground.

Raffle tickets were on sale and my lucky strip for today was a yellow one – 736–740. Lucky? Find out later!

Atherstone (19th out of 22 teams with 18 points from 20 games) got the game underway attacking the grass bank [south-west] end in the first half, though it was visitors Coleshill (13th with 27 points from 19 games) who made the better start.

Early on, a left-wing corner caused problems for the Atherstone defence and defender Guy Clarke fired wide past the right-hand post. A nice move almost led to a goal for the visitors. Former Willenhall striker Richard Gregory took the ball forward and laid it off to the overlapping Chris Laight who hit an angled right-foot shot which keeper Courtney Belton beat away.

It was perhaps no surprise when Coleshill took the lead in the 17th minute. Danny Carter pulled the ball back from the right bye-line to the far post for Gregory to fire back low into the right corner of Belford’s net.

Perhaps content with their lead, Coleshill allowed Atherstone to create all the decent chances up to half-time. Just before the half-hour, Will Stannage was forced to produce an acrobatic save to keep out Dale Farley’s shot from the left (see photo right). The home side needed a goal to get reward for their pressure and David Boal poked a shot inches wide as the interval approached.

Winning raffle ticket numbers were announced and, just like Pinxton in January 2010, I was one strip away from winning second prize (741–746)!

Right on the stroke of half time, Laight crossed from the right and Carter’s header forced a good save out of Belford who turned the ball round the right-hand post.

By this time, I’d made my way around to the covered standing area at the end of the stand where 'Stourbridge Tim' and 'Hednesford Rob' were stood with a few other travellers. They proved good company right up to the full-time whistle.

Coleshill (in white shirts, blue shorts and blue socks) made a bright start to the second half. Carter fed Gregory who saw his shot beat Belford but Dean Johnson got back to clear the ball off the line. A lovely passing move set up another chance for Gregory who fired wide.

The visitors were certainly playing some nice football and doubled their lead in the 55th minute, though I’m not certain what actually happened. They were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area for a trip by Chris Socket on the tricky Carter. Both Carter and Sam Wilson lined up to go for goal (se photo right) and I think it was Carter who took the free-kick. The ball was cleared off the line and Laight, following-up with Steve Hakner, put in the rebound. The assistant referee flagged and the referee appeared to assume that Laight was offside. However, a quick chat between the two officials led to the referee signalling a goal as Carter’s initial free-kick had crossed the line (see photo lower right).

Atherstone immediately threw on Kurtis Mewes and he picked up a yellow card within seconds for a foul. The Adders (in red and white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks) upped their game and brave goalkeeping from Stannage kept out efforts from both Boal and substitute Mewes during the same attack. A long throw from Tom Weale flew off a defender just after the hour mark and looked destined for the net until Stannage pulled off another acrobatic save.

Eventually, Atherstone pulled a goal back in the 79th minute when George Washbourne fired home during a scramble inside the Coleshill area.

Given a warning, Coleshill looked for a third goal and Belford (in the opinion of the referee) turned round a fierce near-post shot from Carter.

Could Atherstone bag an equaliser? Yes, they could from an unlikely source in the 84th minute which I think they deserved. Full-back Johnson ,out on the right, hit a cross-cum-shot which flew over the helpless Stannage and dropped into the far left side of the net.

Coleshill almost snatched a winner in stoppage time. Gregory pulled the ball back for captain Jason Lams who drove just wide of the right-hand post.

The other game in the Midlands I mentioned involved Sikh Hunters and Tenbury United and they served up a seven-goal thriller which the visitors won by the odd goal. This West Midlands (Regional) League game was played at the Red Lion Ground in Bloxwich which Sikh Hunters share with Bloxwich United.

Atherstone Town (red and white stripes / black / red): 1. Courtney Belford, 2. Dean Johnson, 3. Chris Socket (capt), 4. Matty Selvester, 5. Craig Ridsdale, 6. Liam Bailey, 7. Jordan Holmes, 8. Tom Weale, 9. Dale Farley, 10. David Boal, 11. George Washbourne. Subs: 12. Kurtis Mewes (for Farley, 56), 14. Connor Renchen (for Holmes, 73), 15. Nathan Rolph (for Socket, 88), 16. Brandon Hayes (not used), 17. Joseph Swift (not used).

Coleshill Town (white/blue/blue): 1. Will Stannage, 2. Barry Fitzharris, 3. Steve Hakner, 4. Jason Lams (capt), 5. Guy Clarke, 6. Ben Porter, 7. Chris Laight, 8. Rob Seal, 9.Richard Gregory, 10. Danny Carter, 11. Sam Wilson. Subs: 12. Nathan McBean (for Seal, 75), 14. Remi Williams (for Laight, 68), 15. Carl Adams (not used), 17gk. Paul Hathaway (not used).

Referee: C. Ward.
Assistants: P. Hewitson and E. Corbett.

0-1 Richard Gregory (17)
0-2 Danny Carter (55)
1-2 George Washbourne (79)
2-2 Dean Johnson (85)

Atherstone: Kurtis Mewes (YC, 57)
Coleshill: Will Stannage (YC, 75)

AFC Wulfrunians 5 Stafford Town 2

Tuesday 20th December 2011
AFC Wulfrunians 5 Stafford Town 2
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Castlecroft Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (44 pages)
Attendance: 30 (headcount)
Weather: rain
Duration: first-half: 46:57; second-half: 48:55

Even though AFC Wulfrunians recovered from a half-time deficit to take the points with five second-half goals, perhaps the story of the evening from my point of view concerned the injured referee Richard Gould. He was unable to continue after half-time and, with no fourth official, a frantic hunt commenced to find a replacement linesman to avoid the game being abandoned. Being a qualified but no longer registered referee, I offered my services and seemed set to run the line while someone more suitable arrived at the ground. However, with no disrespect to me, the home bench understandably were not happy with my ‘appointment’. Thankfully, a local official was eventually found and the game continued to a conclusion after a lengthy 45-minute half-time.

0-1 Sam Agar (44 pen)
1-1 Grant Joshua (54)
2-1 Ashley Burd (59)
3-1 Nathan Rose-Laing (61)
3-2 Sam Agar (66)
4-2 Nathan Rose-Laing (88)
5-2 Kyle Brady (90)

Wrens Nest 3 St Martins 1

Saturday 17th December 2011
Wrens Nest 3 St Martins 1
West Midlands (Regional) League Division 2
At: Handrahan Stadium, Mile Flat, Wall Heath
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none
Attendance: 15 (headcount)
Weather: rain
Duration: first-half: 47:23; second-half: 47:55

Another nostalgic revisit, this time to a ground previously visited 13 years ago in December 1998. Back then, Handrahan Timbers defeated Dudley Sports in the Midland Combination and this afternoon Wrens Nest recorded their sixth straight league victory thanks to a hat-trick from striker Ricky Hammond.

This morning, partly through looking out of the window at the sleet and partly through reading about postponements on the Non-League Matters Forum, I really wasn’t sure what was in store today. I’d also noticed games at Bromyard, Darlaston and Warstones were postponed but a quick phone call to Wrens Nest Chairman Malcolm Guy proved to be very positive. He suggested the pitch was thawing nicely and would phone me back if the game was off. Thankfully, no phone call was received and what was probably my first choice game went ahead as planned. Once at the ground, I was made to feel very welcome by Mr Guy and others, and enjoyed the company of visiting officials and fans during the game sat in the stand.

The ground, around 8 miles south of Wolverhampton, was easily found less than a mile from the centre of Wall Heath. Travelling on the A449 towards Kidderminster shortly after the junction with the A491, turn right at the second of two consecutive mini roundabouts into Enville Road, which becomes Mile Flat straight on after the traffic-lighted crossroads. The ground entrance was about 400 yards on the right.

Handrahan Timbers left the Midland Combination at the end of the 2003/04 and over the years the Handrahan Stadium (known as the Mile Flat Sports Ground in 1998) has also been home to Dudley United, AFC Wombourne, and currently Dudley United Ladies.

The pitch, with four floodlight pylons down each side, was fully railed off with changing rooms behind the near goal. At the far end along the near touchline was an area of covered standing with the words ‘DUDLEY UNITED FC’ on the roof. A small stand opposite on halfway, the ‘D.A.W. Stand’, contained a couple of rows of bench seating and proved to be good shelter from the elements all afternoon!

On the back of their winning run, Wrens Nest (22 points from 17 games) have risen up the table to sixth position with visitors St Martins (22 points from 14 games) one position above with a better goal difference. Both were 20 points behind leaders Haughmond.

Wrens Nest (in orange shorts, black shorts and socks) opted to attack the changing rooms end in the first half so St Martins (in yellow shirts, black shorts and yellow socks) got the action underway on a firm pitch with a soft top inch.

Rain soon started to fall and in the 11th minute Wrens Nest midfielder David Jones hit a fiercely swerving right foot drive that Carl Edwards did well to hold. Edwards then produced a decent one-handed save to keep out Scot Foster’s right-foot volley during “[t]his is a good start, this is” for the home side.

Wrens Nest suffered a blow when central defender Ben Podmore limped out of the game but that didn’t matter as they took the lead barely 20 seconds later in the 26th minute. Defender Chris Smout couldn’t stop Ricky Hammond latching on to a throughball and the tall striker rounded Edwards before slotting into the far right corner of the net.

Certainly in good form, Edwards pulled off a superb save to tip a rising drive from Jones on to the bar as the Wrens looked for a second goal. However, at the other end, Liam Bailey sent a 20-yard volley flashing past the home goal. Edwards soon excelled again to block another shot from Foster at the near post.

A foul by Smout on Foster inside the area – captain on captain – left referee Mr Read little option other than to award a penalty which Hammond confidently fired home to score his second goal of the game in the 33rd minute.

With Wrens Nest on top, St Martins were urged to “liven it” and they did just that by pulling a goal back in the 39th minute. Tim Allen played a free-kick forward into the area where Tim Mackerel sent a looping header past Grant Trevis into the net.

After Karl Bailey replaced his brother Liam in the St Martins defence soon after the restart, Wrens Nest restored their two-goal advantage in the 53rd minute. Jones crossed from the right and Foster saw his shot well saved by Edwards. However, the ball rebounded off the keeper’s hand straight to Hammond who fired home to complete his hat-trick.

Hammond almost scored a fourth goal with a well-struck 20-yard drive which thundered past the goal and Foster also fired against the bar just before the hour mark.

The woodwork denied Evans a place of the scoresheet in the 67th minute, The midfielder stayed onside to latch onto a ball down the right and saw his low shot rebound off the near post.

Hat-trick hero Hammond continued to look for more goals and the striker drove over from Ryan Yeomans’ pass.

Needing a goal themselves, St Martins created some decent chances during the final 15 minutes. Mackerel ran into the area and unleashed a low shot which Trevis kept out with his boot and the diving Wrens keeper did well in the 78th minute to turn round Allen’s shot at the expense of a corner.

In the end, Hammond’s finishing proved the difference between two evenly-matched sides. Wrens Nest were able to celebrate a sixth straight league win which moved them above St Martins in the Division 2 table.

I did wonder about detouring on the way home to watch the last half-hour of nearby Gornal’s home game with Sporting Khalsa. Good job I didn’t as this fixture was one of 11 West Midlands League games to fall foul of the weather. Nearby Dudley Sports and Team Dudley were amongst the postponements. I did pass Molineux (where Wolves lost 2-1 to Stoke) and Brinsford Lane (where Wolves Casuals beat Pegasus Juniors 2-0) on my way home.

Wrens Nest (orange/black/black): 1. Grant Trevis, 2. Sean Wynne, 3. Matthew Stevens, 4. Dean Stevens, 5. Ben Podmore, 6. Ryan Yeomans, 7. David Jones, 8. Dale Evans, 9. Sam Pearson, 10. Scott Foster (capt), 11. Ricky Hammond. Subs: 12. Richard Price (for Podmore, 26), 14. Keith Dalton (for Matthew Stevens, 69), 15. Paul Annis (for Evans, 82), 17gk. Dana Meddings (not used). Manager: Shane Stevens.

St Martins (yellow/black/yellow): 1. Carl Edwards, 2. Liam Bailey, 3. Wayne Batha, 4. Mark Coles, 5. Chris Smout (capt), 6. Joshua Sumner, 7. Daryl Davies, 8. Ryan Butcher, 9. Tom Mackerel, 10. Ashley Jones, 11. Tim Allen. Subs: 12. Lee Thomastone (for Batha, 85), 14. Karl Bailey (for Liam Bailey, 49), 15. Wayne Withers (for Davies 63), 16. Brian Wood (not used). Joint Managers: Paul Huggins and Tim Allen.

Referee: Neil Read.
Assistants: Steve Theo and Alex Thomas.

1-0 Ricky Hammond (26)
2-0 Ricky Hammond (33 pen)
2-1 Tom Mackerel (39)
3-1 Ricky Hammond (53)

Tipton Town 2 Highgate United 1

Wednesday 14th December 2011
Tipton Town 2 Highgate United 1
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Tipton Sports Academy
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Attendance: 48
Weather: dry, very cold
Duration: first-half: 48:15; second-half: 50:19

Tipton Town made good use of their game in hand on a very cold night at the Tipton Sports Academy. They took the lead with an easy goal from defender Richard Huckfield and Tom Tonks added a second in the 75th minute. The visitors pulled a goal back late through Luke Benbow and Tipton successfully wound down the clock to record a fourth win in their last six league games.

A shortlist of two games became a shortlist of one with the postponement of Dudley Town’s home game with Darlaston Town. Even though a return trip to the Dell Stadium will now have to wait until next year, I did enjoy my second game of the season at the Tipton Sports Academy, despite the freezing temperatures (see Bustleholme v Goodrich on Wednesday 31st August for daylight photos of the ground).

1-0 Richard Huckfield (3)
2-0 Tom Tonks (75)
2-1 Luke Benbow (88)

Stafford Town 0 Tividale 7

Tuesday 13th December 2011
Stafford Town 0 Tividale 7
JW Hunt Cup Second Round
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Attendance: 39
Weather: dry, very cold wind
Duration: first-half: 45:12; second-half: 45:00

Midland Alliance title chasers Tividale booked a place in the quarter finals of the JW Hunt Cup with seven unanswered goals at Evans Park. The visitors scored twice during in the opening nine minutes to make a perfect start and striker Matt Jukes ended up with a four-goal haul.

Stafford has been a happy hunting ground for Tividale over recent times and just a week ago they progressed to the FA Vase Fourth Round with a 2-1 victory at Brocton. Last season they recorded a 6-1 win at Evans Park in a league game on the way to winning the 2010/11 West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division title.

0-1 Adam Hill (3)
0-2 Matt Jukes (9)
0-3 Matt Jukes (26)
0-4 Matt Jukes (52)
0-5 Chris Russell (62)
0-6 Matt Jukes (81)
0-7 Adam Wattley (90)

Whitkirk Wanderers 0 Knaresborough Town 3

Saturday 10th December 2011
Whitkirk Wanderers 0 Knaresborough Town 3
West Yorkshire League Premier Division
At: Whitkirk Sports and Social Club, Selby Road, Leeds
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: cold, cloudy, sunny spells
Attendance: 55 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:36; second-half: 46:34

In a rare game for me in the West Yorkshire League, Knaresborough Town moved to the top of the Premier Division table thanks to three second-half goals against mid-table Whitkirk Wanderers.

One of the many things I like about a pre-Christmas trip to visit relatives near Leeds is the chance to watch a game in a league not normally on my radar. Two years ago, I made a short trip from the relatives to Sherburn White Rose and this afternoon it was an 11.5 mile round trip to Whitkirk Wanderers, based on the eastern edge of Leeds close to Garforth.

Travelling up, I was a bit concerned about a possible postponement due to the rain, ice and snow of the past few days. Thankfully, The Football Traveller Directory Part Two provided a phone number and I got the ‘game on’ message I wanted!

The directions on the league’s full-time website, enhanced by a bit of local knowledge from my cousin, made the ground easy to find. From M1 junction 46, follow A6120 Leeds to the second roundabout. Take the second exit signed ‘Halton Temple Newsam House’ to the lights by the Brown Cow pub. Go straight on and turn left down the drive immediately after the cemetery.

The ground itself was some 100 yards from the car park and Sports and Social Club, past the cricket ground and down a slope between railings. The sloping pitch ran lengthways from the entrance close to which was the changing rooms block which incorporated a tea bar hatch. Conservatory-style overhang provided shelter around two sides and it was possible to see all of the pitch from underneath the cover at the end. The pitch, which sloped from near-right corner to the far-left corner, was fully railed-off on three sides with no spectator access behind the bottom goal.

I’d read beforehand that Whitkirk were regular issuers and, true to form, a small pile of blue-covered programmes were on sale from a pay-table by the changing rooms.

Visitors Knaresborough (29 points from 16 games with a three-point deduction) went into this fixtures knowing that a win would take them top above leaders Beeston St Anthony who had no league games this afternoon. They had won their last five league games. Mid-table Whitkirk (20 points from 14 games) occupied eight position in the 16-team division. The teams met on the opening day of the season at Knaresborough with Whitkirk winning 5-2.

As Whitkirk opted to attack down the slope in the first half, Knaresborough (in red shirts, black shorts and red socks) got the game underway and almost scored with barely 20 second on the clock. The home side lost possession allowing Byron Littlefair to take the ball forward and curl a shot wide of the far right post.

Chances were scarce in highly-competitive game and Stephen Bromley headed a deep corner from Littlefair over the bar at the far post.

I think Whitkirk’s Simon Ndure was unlucky to pick up the game’s first booking in the 24th minute. The challenge on Tom Clarke was his “first tackle of the game”.

Whitkirk (in all blue) created their first decent scoring opportunity just before the half-hour mark. Karl Robinson threaded a delicious pass through the Knaresborough defence into the path of Steve Copley who steered his shot just wide of the left-hand post.

The visitors responded and, from Littlefair’s cross, Paul Stansfield saw a header blocked on the line.

The tea bar was certainly popular at the interval and three minutes after the restart, Tom Clarke curled a free-kick over the wall from 20 yards out straight into the chest of Carl Lill.

Knaresborough took the lead in the 55th minute. Joel Freestone ran into the area from the right and saw his shot rebound kindly off Lill for O’Hare to force the ball over the line at close range.

Just before the hour mark, Clarke fed Freestone who broke into the area only for Karl Robinson to produce a superb saving tackle to prevent a certain goal.

Whitkirk created chances to equalise – Ryan Robinson headed the best one straight at Jack Rushworth – but Knaresborough doubled their advantage in the 71st minute. A deep free-kick from near the right corner of the area was delivered to the far post where the ball was knocked down for Freestone to fire home from eight yards out.

A well-struck shot from Karl Robinson almost led toWhitkirk halving the deficit. Rushworth could only parry the ball to Will McGahan who fired across the face of goal.

Knaresborough wrapped up the win to take them top of the table with a third goal in the 83rd minute. David Thomas sent Lill the wrong way with a well-taken penalty.

Whitkirk Wanderers (blue/blue/blue): 1. Carl Lill, 2. Ryan Staniforth, 3. Danny Leaf, 4. Alex Wilson, 5. Phil Schoular, 6. Lydon Watson, 7. Mickey Eilliott, 8. Karl Robinson (capt), 9. Steve Copley, 10. Simon Ndure, 11. Matthew Dexter. Subs: 12. Ryan Robinson (for Dexter, ht), 14. Will McGahan (for Copley, 65), 15. Glen Hewitt (for Ndure, ht).

Knaresborough Town (red/black/red): 1. Jack Rushworth, 2. David Thomas, 3. Chris Ellerker, 4. Matthew Duerden (capt), 5. James Bradley, 6. Paul Stansfield, 7. Ian O’Hare, 8. Tom Clarke, 9. Stephen Bromley, 10. Joel Freestone, 11. Byron Littlefair. Subs: 12. Chris Hastings (for Stansfield, ht), 14. Daniel McDaid (for Littlefair, 84), 15. Colin Heath.

Referee: Martin Saville.
Assistants: Dan Mawer and Andrew Walker.

0-1 Ian O’Hare (55)
0-2 Joel Freestone (71)
0-3 David Thomas (83 pen)

Shifnal Town 4 Gornal Athletic 5

Wednesday 7th December 2011
Shifnal Town 4 Gornal Athletic 5
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Phoenix Park, Coppice Green Lane
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5 including 28 page programme and raffle ticket
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 50 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:45; second-half: 48:00

Shifnal Town and Gornal Town served up a nine-goal thriller on a not-that-cold an evening Phoenix Park to better the six goals I saw on my only previous visit to the ground in 1993. Tonight, both sides scored twice during the first half and both added a third goal before the hour mark. Shifnal edged ahead 4-3 just after the hour mark when Chris Henry completed his hat-trick only for Gornal to equalise again. However, Gornal striker Seb Craven took full advantage of a bad mistake by Shifnal’s keeper in the 79th minute to coolly score what proved to be the winner.

Despite being only 25 miles from home, I’d only been to Phoenix Park once before – one of the pleasures I’m getting this season is returning to long-since visited grounds like Heath Hayes last Tuesday and Shifnal tonight. My previous visit to Phoenix Park was 18 years and 3 days ago on Saturday 4th December 1993 in the era before lights were installed at the ground. Then Shifnal recorded an emphatic 6-0 win over Kings Heath in the Skol Midland Combination Premier Division.

Without looking at my old photos, I remembered a substantial stand and parking in the adjacent school car park before walking up to the pitch. The stand, holding around 200 seats, is still in situ with banking around all but the south end of the ground. On the Coppice Green Lane side was a Refreshments kiosk.

Visitors Gornal Athletic (47 points from 19 games) may have been 14 points behind seemingly runaway leaders Black Country Rangers in second position but have enough games in hand to take over top spot provided they keep on winning. Mixed form has, to me, hampered the progress of Shifnal (26 points from 20 games) who went into this game in 13th position in the 22-team division.

Teams were announced over the tannoy and Gornal (wearing blue shirts with white pinstripe hoops, blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the North End (right to left in relation to my seat in the stand).

Shifnal (in red and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks) took a 10th-minute lead with the game’s first attempt on goal. Chris Henry latched onto a ball down the middle and lifted a shot into the net past James Pemberton as defender Chris Waterhouse challenged. Waterhouse, hurt trying to prevent the shot, required lengthy treatment and was entually replaced in the 21st minute.

Despite losing their captain, Gornal equalised a minute after Waterhouse departed. Lee Wherton, now wearing the armband, ran into the area down the middle and stabbed the ball into the bottom left corner as home keeper David Maguire challenged. Wherton required treatment through was able to continue.

Wherton put Gornal ahead just before the half-hour with a spectacular left-foot shot from some 30 yards out which flew past Maguire into the left side of the net.

Maguire produced a diving save to keep out a shot on the break from Marvin Nisbett before Shifnal equalised in the 42nd minute. Henry got in a shot 15 yards out which Pemberton could only help into the bottom right corner.

“Shifnal, good half” said one home players encouragingly towards his teammates. I felt more goals were on the way in the second half – and I wasn’t wrong.

“Winning raffle ticket tonight is 845. Take it to the pay gate entrance gate”. Alas, with ‘830’, it wasn’t me!

Just before the start of the second half, one spectator relayed the news to anyone interested that “Man City winning, Man United losing”. Of course he was on about the Champions League action.

Even though Shifnal got the second half underway, Gornal almost went ahead within 35 seconds of the restart. Unmarked Kristian Green hit a well struck right-foot shot inside the area which Maguire scrambled round the post at the expense of a corner.

Gornal regained the lead in the 48th minute from a free-kick. Matt Martin delivered it from the left to the far post where Mark Swann knocked the ball down for Seb Craven to stab home at close range.

Goals continued to flow and Shifnal levelled things up at 3-3 just before the hour mark. Glynn Coney crossed from the left and Liam Bood looped at near post header over Pemberton into the far side of the net.

It got even better for the home side five minutes later when they made it 4-3.Henry robbed the dawdling Swann, ran towards goal unchallenged and lashed an angled shot past Pemberton to complete a hat-trick.

Matt Weyman replaced Martin and his introduction proved to be an inspired substitution. A minute after coming on Weyman got on the end of Craven’s right-wing cross and sent a looping header into the top left-corner of the net.

Gornal, who had won their last four league games, showed why they are challenging for the title by scoring what proved to be the winner in the 79th minute. Maguire raced to his line to clear a long ball into the area, kicked thin air under pressure and presented Craven with a simple task of slotting into an empty net.

I have never seen a 5-5 draw and Shifnal had a couple of late chances to snatch a point. Bood fired the wrong side of the right-hand post from ten yards out and deep into stoppage time, Pemberton dropped a free-kick inside a packed area only to quickly claim the loose ball.

Shifnal Town (red and white stripes / black /black): 1, David Maguire, 2. Adam Smith, 3. Tom Griffin, 4. David Howells, 5. Pat Ellis, 6. George Williams (capt), 7. Liam Bood, 8. Dan Martin, 9. Chris Henry, 10. Andy Thompson, 11. Glynn Coney. Subs: 12. Mark Adamczyk (for Andy Thompson, 59), 14. Danny Hill (not used), 15. David Robinson (nit used), 16. Matt Kent (not used), 17. Joshua Thompson (not used).

Gornal Athletic (blue with white pinstripe hoops / blue / blue): 1. James Pemberton, 2. Richard Young, 3. Robin Keates, 4. Conor Gater, 5. Chris Waterhouse (capt), 6. Kristian Green, 7. Michael Perks, 8. Lee Wherton, 9. Seb Craven, 10. Marvin Nisbett, 11. Matt Martin. Subs: 12. Matt Weyman (for Martin, 70), 14. Gurdeep Wilkhoo (for Nisbett, 80), 15. Ravi Sangha (not used), 16. Mark Swann (for Whitehouse, 21), 17. Ricky Nicholls (not used).

Referee: Tom Keady.
Assistants: M. Swinscoe and C. Griffiths.

1-0 Chris Henry (10)
1-1 Lee Wherton (22)
1-2 Lee Wherton (29)
2-2 Chris Henry (42)
2-3 Seb Craven (48)
3-3 Liam Bood (58)
4-3 Chris Henry (63)
4-4 Matt Weyman (72)
4-5 Seb Craven (79)