Stafford Town 2 Lichfield City 5

Tuesday 30th April 2013
In the penultimate home league game of the season at Evans Park, a hat-trick from Liam Holt played a big part in Lichfield City recording an impressive 5-2 victory over Stafford Town in this Staffordshire derby. The visitors were quick off the mark with two goals in 95 seconds during the opening eight minutes from Jon Huckfield and Josh Houghton. Not to be outdone, Paul McMahon soon pulled a goal back for the Reds before Holt scored either side of the interval to put City 4-1 up. McMahon converted a penalty to score his second goal midway through the second half but Holt completed a hat-trick directly from a free-kick.

Stafford Town 2 Lichfield City 5
Athium Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1
Weather: mild and dry, chillier during the second half

Nobody knows for certain how many points clubs in the Athium Midland Combination Premier Division need to qualify for 2013/14 FA Cup. So, tonight, three points could be useful to both sides in their bid to play in the ‘oldest cup competition’ next season and also end the current campaign in the top ten.

Going into this derby, Stafford (51 points from 31 games) stood in seventh position with Lichfield (47 points from 31 games) three positions below. Both have two games to play after tonight: Stafford at home to Littleton and away to Racing Club Warwick, Lichfield both away and home to Bolehall Swifts (which is an unusual way to finish the season).

Stafford Town (in all red) got the game underway attacking the cricket ground in the first half, which tonight could also have been described as the rugby training end as well. With just 32 seconds on the clock, Alex Rowland tried his luck from fully 30 yards out and fired straight at Lichfield goalkeeper Craig Johnson.

The game quickly came to life with no fewer than three goals in a 132-second spell before the ninth minute.

Lichfield took the lead in the 6th minute. A cross from the left wasn’t cleared and defender Jon Huckfield, up in the Stafford area for a corner, volleyed wide of the diving Richard Stone into the bottom-right corner of the net.

The visitors doubled their lead within two minutes. Kyle Minto, on the left pulled the ball back for Josh Houghton to fire low into the same corner as Huckfield did, again out of reach of the diving Stone.

Stafford were stunned but pulled a goal back less than a minute after Houghton struck. Leading scorer Paul McMahon was allowed to run to the edge of the City area and lifted the ball past the advancing Johnson into an unguarded net.

What a start! 1-2 in the 9th minute.

After Ryan Fox and Francis Dacres both went close to an equaliser for Stafford, Huckfield could have scored another for Lichfield. Found unmarked at the far post by Ollie Rudd’s deep left-wing corner, the defender blasted a first-time shot wide of the target.

With the lights on, chances continued to be created and just after the half-hour, Rowland sent a 30-yard left-foot shot flashing just wide of the left-hand post.

Someone sat behind me the stand shouted “that’s a goal” as a 29 yard free-kick from Liam Holt flew just over the bar.

Holt, however, was on target in the 40th minute to score Lichfield’s third goal. Minto got down the right to the bye-line and pulled the ball back for Holt to hammer a right-foot shot into the bottom-right corner from around 10 yards out.

To the shout of “C’mon Town, let’s want it, all of us”, Lichfield got the second half underway and further extended their lead in the 56th minute. A free-kick delivered by Dan Worrall from near the left corner was headed on by Ryan Baker to the far post where Holt headed home his second goal of the game.

Needing to quickly get back into the game Town threw on Steve Bennett and James Cresswell in place of Rowland and the injured Fox. And, they were reduced the deficit in the 65th minute. Will Evans brought down Darryll Johns inside the area to, in my opinion, deny a goalscoring opportunity but wasn’t even booked by the referee. Mr Stonier decided a penalty was sufficient punishment which McMahon hammered home off the hands of the diving Johnson. Now 2-4 with around 25 minutes to play.

It wasn’t to be the start of a famous comeback as Holt completed a hat-trick in the 72nd minute to score Lichfield’s fifth goal. Out on the left, he tried his luck with a long-range free-kick which looped over Stone and dropped into the far side of the net.

Late in the game, McMahon almost completed his hat-trick. Cresswell played the ball down the right into the path of Stafford’s leading scorer who sent a first-time volley just wide of the far post.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Richard Stone, 2. Tom Hind, 3. Joe Woodward, 4. Mat Dockerty (capt), 5. James Price, 6. Ryan Fox, 7. Darryll Johns, 8. Jason Cunningham, 9. Paul McMahon, 10. Francis Dacres, 11. Alex Rowland. Subs: 12. Luke Woodward (for Joe Woodward, 75), 14. Jamie Cartwright (not used), 15. James Cresswell (for Fox, 62), 17. Steve Bennett (for Dacres, 62). Manager: Adam Cunningham.

Lichfield City (blue with white 'V'/ blue / blue): 1. Craig Johnson, 2. Will Evans, 3. Jordan Hunt, 4. Todd Perry (capt), 5. Jon Huckfield, 6. Dan Worrall, 7. Ollie Rudd, 8. Liam Holt, 9. Kyle Minto, 10. Josh Houghton, 11. Ashley Evans. Subs: 12. Jacob Snape (for Houghton, 62), 14. Ryan Baker (for Evans, 23), 15. Lewis Bourne (for Holt, 77), 16. Richard Deavall (not used). Manager:

Referee: Paul Stonier.
Assistants: Lee Stevenson and Matt Brattley.

Attendance: 51

Duration: first-half: 47:26; second-half: 46:00

0-1 Jon Huckfield (6)
0-2 Josh Houghton (8)
1-2 Paul McMahon (9)
1-3 Liam Holt (40)
1-4 Liam Holt (56)
2-4 Paul McMahon (65 pen)
2-5 Liam Holt (72)

Stafford: Mat Dockerty (YC, 52), James Cresswell (YC, 68)
Lichfield: Liam Holt (YC, 51)

Sutton United 0 Barnt Green Spartak 1

Saturday 27th April 2013
Barnt Green Spartak must now be odds-on favourite to become Champions of the Athium Midland Combination Division Two following a narrow 1-0 victory over Sutton United. They moved over Sutton into second position in the table and closed the gap with leaders Perrywood to just a point with three games in hand. In a tight contest from start to finish, the winner came just before half-time from a header by Chris Hanson. Sutton had a great chance to equalise during the second half from the penalty spot but Jared McGivern fired over the bar. Sutton’s ground on Hollyfield Road is fully railed off with no spectator covered standing or seats, as well as having an impressive smart clubhouse.

Sutton United 0 Barnt Green Spartak 1
Athium Midland Combination Division Two
At: Hollyfield Road, Sutton Coldfield
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (8 pages)
Weather: sunny and showers

Sutton United (dark green / black / black): 1. Matt Gough, 2. Tom Narine, 3. Matt Lewis, 4. Sam Simminds, 5. Richard Seager (capt), 6. Phil Taylor, 7. Simeon Townsend, 8. Pete Bromley, 9. Jared McGivern, 10. Lee Hooper, 11. Ben Coleman. Subs: 12. Aaron Long (for Seager, 83), 14. Richard Ledden (for Coleman, 83), 15. Tom Hicks (not used), 16. Adam Watson (not used), 17. Ryan Simmons (for Narine, 66).

Barnt Green Spartak (blue/blue/blue): 1. Colin Matthews, 2. Rio Bakala, 3. Carlos Knight, 4. Chris Hanson, 5. Michael Varley, 6. Craig Vale, 7. Jaziah Campbell (capt), 8. Darren Green, 9. Ashley Thorpe, 10. Django Farrell, 11. Myron Semper. Subs: 12. Warren Sewell (not used), 14. Joe Simms (for Thorpe, 85), 15. Ryan Froggatt (for Campbell, 81), 16. Andre Tulloch (for Green, 30).

Referee: G. Williams.
Assistants: C. Farnworth and A. Jeffrey.

Attendance: 95

Duration: first-half: 46:45; second-half: 49:39

0-1 Chris Hanson (41)

Cards: none

Rocester 0 Loughborough University 3

Thursday 25th April 2013
All the goals came during the opening 32 minutes after Loughborough University recorded their third victory of the season over Rocester. Sam Cook headed the students into the lead in the 11th minute and Ebby Nelson-Addy added a second goal 14 minutes later. Rocester, playing their 11 game in 25 days, struggled during the first half and the Midland Alliance’s leading scorer Daniel Nti scored the third goals just after the half-hour mark. Rocester fought back after the interval with a much-improved performance and deserved a goal which proved elusive. The Romans, suffering their fourth straight defeat, remain in 13th position in the Midland Alliance table while Loughborough move up one position to fourth.

Rocester 0 Loughborough University 3
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Hillsfield
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: free A4 teamsheet
Weather: mild, cloudy, showers

Rocester’s punishing end-of-season fixture list of 14 league games in 32 days is nearing an end. Following tonight’s home game with Loughborough University, they have just three games left to play: away at Heather St John and Tividale before finishing at Hillsfield a week tonight against Ellesmere Rangers. The last game could be crucial if Ellesmere still need points to avoid relegation.

Tiredness resulting from playing a game virtually every other day this month has no doubt played a part in the Romans slipping out of contention for a final position in the top half of the table.

Since my last [brief] visit to Hillsfield for the end of the Westfields game on Tuesday 9th April, Stratford Town have been confirmed as Baker Joiner Midland Alliance Champions. Also, relegation-threatened Highgate have announced their resignation from the league.

As I did for Wolverhampton Casuals in my blog of Tuesday's visit to Brinsford Lane, I think it is worth mentioning a few words about the history of Rocester FC and the Hillsfield ground (with acknowledgement of Barry Smith’s extensive history published on the Rocester FC website).

For many years it was widely believed that Rocester FC was first formed in 1890, and indeed the club held a highly-successful Centenary Tournament in 1990 to mark the occasion. However, since then further research has revealed that the origins of the club date back at least another fourteen years. The earliest reference found so far dates back to Saturday 16th December 1876, when an edition of the Staffordshire Advertiser newspaper briefly mentions a match played the previous Saturday at the Rocester ground between Tutbury Mill and Rocester, which ‘resulted in a draw in favour of Tutbury’.

The club played in various leagues including the Stafford and District Amateur League before becoming a founder member of both the Staffordshire Senior League in 1984 and Midland Alliance in 1994. Rocester have subsequently had spells in both the Southern League and Northern Premier League before commencing their current unbroken eight-season run in the Midland Alliance in 2005.

The Hillsfield ground, overlooked by Arkwright’s Mill (now a JCB Academy), has improved considerably since my first visit in 1989 and today has two stands and a nice clubhouse.

Over the past few seasons since I stopped following Stafford Rangers home and away, Hillsfield has become one of my regular favourite grounds to visit, so much so that my Pitch-Side Stories articles appear in the programme! As always, I was thankful to Secretary Barry Smith for a teamsheet and warm welcome. A copy was also pinned up next to the tea bar hatch as well. One new attraction at Hillsfield is free WiFi in the clubhouse!

Rocester (48 points from 38 games) went into tonight’s game in 13th position and mathematically safe from relegation. So they were looking to end a run of four straight defeats against a Loughborough University side (71 points from 39 games) still harbouring hopes of finishing in the top four. The sides have met twice this season with Loughborough winning 2-1 in the League Cup at Hillsfield back in February and 5-1 seven days ago in the reverse league fixture at the University Stadium. Danirel Nti scored of the five goals.

Referee Mark Murfitt, who has the ability to progress all the way to the Premier Division at some point in the future, took change of tonight’s game and Loughborough (in all purple) got the action underway defending the mill end in the first half.

Rocester quickly won possession and, with just 16 seconds on the clock, Edwin Ahenkorah hit a low shot from the edge of the area straight at Loughborough goalkeeper George Lawton.

Sadly, for the Romans, it wasn’t a sign of what would following during the first half and the visitors took full advantage of tired legs to score three match-winning unanswered goals.

Richard Froggatt was soon called into action. A slip at the back allowed Daniel Nti a run into the area on the right but the alert Rocester goalkeeper left his line to block the resulting shot.

It was no surprise when Loughborough took the lead in the 11th minute. Hesitancy at the back set up a chance for Nti who again saw his shot saved by Froggatt. From the resulting short corner, the ball was crossed from the right towards the far post where Sam Cook headed home.

A nice move down the right almost led to an equaliser. Ryan Pirrie crossed into the area where Joe Rogers saw a header held by Lawton.

However, the visitors always posed a threat going forward and doubled their advantage in the 25th minute through Ebby Nelson-Addy who hit the headlines on Saturday by netting a hat-trick in four minutes against Boldmere St Michaels. Nti slipped a pefect pass through the Rocester defence into the path of Nelson-Addy who guided a low shot past Froggatt from 12 yards out.

It wasn’t all one-way as Rogers fed Ahenkorah in the area who saw a resulting shot blocked by a defender at the expense of a corner.

Loughborough striker Nti, scored of four goals in a 5-0 win against Rocetser seven days ago, is honing in on the Midland Alliance Golden Boot and added another to his tally just after the half-hour mark. Cook robbed defender Darren Bullock of possession 35 yards out and took the ball forward. He then fed Nti on the right inside the area who clinically fired low past Froggatt into the far corner of the net.

It could have got even worse for the Romans when unmarked Cook glanced a header wide from Seb Baxter’s cross.

Rocester showed some positive signs just before the interval as Ahenkorah latched on to a pass from Chris Sterling and forced a near-post save out of Lawton.

I didn’t hear it myself but someone say that the Rocester players were given a *******ing by Dave Langston during the break and whatever was said did the trick. The Romans started the second half well and, within a minute of the restart, Ahenkorah pulled the ball back for Carl Allen to drive over the bar. Jack Langston then crossed from the left and Ahenkorah headed straight at Lawton.

While chances at both ends were scarce, the Romans continued to impress, so much so that manager Dave Langston encouraged them to “keep doing it” during the last 15 minutes. They deserved a goal and it almost came in the 80th minute, Sterling exchanged passes with Rogers and thumped a 35-yard shot just wide of the right-hand post.

At the other end, Bullock produced a brave last-ditch tackle inside the area to prevent Jordan Barker from getting in a clear shot on goal.

The final chance of the game fell to Loughborough’s Michael Emmerson who received a pass from Nti before firing over the bar and fence to send the ball hurtling towards the mill.

Louughborough moved up one position in the table to fourth with the win while Rocester remained in 13th minute. The Romans need a point to make sure they finish no lower than 13th and a couple of wins from their last three games could see them move into 12th position.

On a final note from a groundhopping point of view, this visit to Rocester was my 18th and Hillsfield is now fourth most visited grounds behind Stafford Rangers’ Marston Road, Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane and Stafford Town’s Evans Park.

Rocester (amber and black stripes / black / black): 19. Richard Froggatt, 2. Ryan Pirrie, 3. Carl Allen, 4. Jacob Sturgess, 5. Darren Bullock (capt), 6. Lee Spencer, 7. Joe Rogers, 8. Jack Langston, 9. Dean Bromley, 10. Edwin Ahenkorah, 11. Chris Sterling. Subs: 12. Kieran Mortiboys (for Spencer, 82), 14. Wayne Johnson (not used), 17. Adam Swain (for Bromley, ht). Manager: Dave Langston.

Loughborough University (purple/purple/purple): 1. George Lawton, 2. Daniel Wilkinson, 3. Seb Baxter, 4. George Nash (capt), 5. Tom Peberdy, 6. Callum Williams, 7. Charlie Turnbull, 8. Tom Nadin, 9. Daniel Nti, 10. Ebby Nelson-Addy, 11. Sam Cook. Subs: 12. David Tarawali (for Baxter, 68), 14. Michael Emmerson (for Nelson-Addy, 68), 15. Jordan Barker (for Nadin, 78), 16. Alun Webb (not used), 17. Jack Howard (not used).

Referee: Mark Murfitt (Stoke-on-Trent).
Assistants: B. Heath (Great Wyrley) and P. Magness (Wednesbury).

Attendance: 45

Duration (45): first-half: 45:00; second-half: 46:14

0-1 Sam Cook (11)
0-2 Ebby Nelson-Addy (25)
0-3 Daniel Nti (32)

Rocester: Ryan Pirrie (YV, 87)
Loughborough: none

Wolverhampton Casuals 2 Shawbury United 1

Tuesday 23rd April 2013
A six-pointer tonight in the race to finish third in the Premier Division table and Casuals moved back into the top three with come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Shawbury United. In what was an entertaining end-to-end encounter, Robbie Millington put Shawbury in front midway through the first half. The visitors held the lead for just 11 minutes until Matt Bailey hammered home an equaliser for Casuals. Bailey scored what proved to be the winner four minutes after the restart and Shawbury finished with ten men after Paul McMullins picked up a second booking in stoppage time. The win extended Casuals’ current unbeaten run to 15 league games.

Wolverhampton Casuals 2 Shawbury United 1
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Brinsford Lane, Coven Heath
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Weather: mild and dry

Even though they feint hopes of lifting the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division title have ended during the past week, Wolverhampton Casuals still have plenty to play for during the closing weeks of the season. With five games to go including tonight’s fixture, they were very much in contention for a top three finish and also had a 14-match unbeaten run to extend as well as a JW Hunt Cup Quarter Final against Heath Hayes to look forward to. Standing in the way of Cassies this evening were Shawbury United, the side currently in third position, two points better off with a game in hand.

For those of you unfamiliar with Wolverhampton Casuals, they are based on Brinsford Lane in Coven Heath, to the north of Wolverhampton off the southbound A449 between the Three Hammers Golf Complex and M54. The ground has a small stand containing fourth rows of benches. Founded in 1899, the club began as Wolverhampton Old Church FC and was first remained Wolverhampton Amateurs in 1914 and then Staffordshire Casuals in 1946 following a short-lived post-War merger with Old Wulfs FC. A further change of name to Wolverhampton Casuals came in 1981 when the club joined the West Midlands League where they have remained for over 30 years. Last season, they finished in third position with 85 points.

Programmes were on sale at the pay box just inside the entrance and, as always on my visits to Brinsford Lane, I was thankful to the club official in the hospitality room for letting me copy down the line-ups. They were also announced as the teams entered the pitch; announcements of goal scorers and substitutions continued during the game as well. Julie’s Cassies Café was a good place to head before kick-off and at half-time. As I mentioned to the man on the gate, one of the two programmes I purchased will be heading 'down under' to New South Wales in a couple of weeks time.

The programme editorial explained some significant facts about tonight’s game between fourth-placed Casuals (84 points from 37 games) and third-placed Shawbury (86 points from 36 games). By winning all of their remaining games, Casuals could reach 99 points and Shawbury 104 points. Casuals won the game at Shawbury earlier in the season 4-3 with an injury-time winning goal. Recently Shawbury visited Brinsford Lane and left with a crushing 7-0 victory over Darlaston Town.

The last sentence of the editorial whetted my appetite for the game, if it wasn’t already: ‘Spectators should enjoy quality football in a top of the table clash between two very strong sides.’

Casuals (in familiar green and white) got the game underway attacking the far end (A449 end) in the first half. While play was end-to-end, chances were scarce until Shawbury took the lead in the 21st minute. Lee Constantine got into the area down the left and pulled the ball back for Robbie Millington to fire home a low angled shot into the bottom left corner past the wrong-footed Stephen Taylor.

After captain Craig Love was replaced by Tom Maydew, Casuals got back on level terms in the 32nd minute. From a narrow angle on the right, Sean Williams hit a near-post shot which Shawbury goalkeeper Nick Ashley could only parry. The loose ball fell to Matt Bailey who hammered home the equaliser from a few yards out.

From a position where they needed to raise their game, Casuals were now in the ascendency though they needed a save from Taylor just before the break to keep the score at 1-1. The Casuals goalkeeper dived to his left to keep out a near-post shot from Millington.

Looking at Twitter during half-time, I spotted that second-placed AFC Wulfrunians (94 points from 38 games at the start of the evening) were losing 2-0 at Wednesfield. Leaders Lye Town (99 points from 39 games) don’t play again until Saturday when they visit Wolverhampton Sporting Community.

The second half couldn’t have started any better for Casuals as they took the lead in the 49th minute with what proved to be the decisive winning goal. Ray Facey played the ball low down the middle into the path of Mark Bellingham who appeared to be tripped. Before the referee had time to make a decision, the ball had run free to Bailey who slotted it into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Soon, Casuals threatened again as poor defending gifted a chance to Maydew who drove over the bar.

Shawbury thought they’d equalised in the 64th minute when Lester Alderson forced the ball over the line from Millington’s corner. But the referee spotted a handball and awarded a free-kick instead. The visitors continued to look for a second gaol and Casuals needed a last-ditch clearance by George Williams to keep out a goalbound shot from Harry Murphy.

Like Shawbury, Casuals also had a goal disallowed and the [correct] decision denied Bailey a hat-trick. Bekir Halil, Wearing the captain’s armband following the earlier departure of Love, fed Facey on the left who crossed low for Bailey to sidefoot home, albeit from an offside position.

Ashley produced a diving save in the 89th minute to turn a well-struck shot from substitute Chris Henry round the left-hand post.

After keeping his cards hidden for the first 75 minutes of the largely good-natured contest, Mr Price then produced four yellows in 15 minutes, two in the direction of Shawbury’s Paul McMullins who headed for the changing rooms a few minutes before the rest of the players.

Casuals cleverly wound down the clock in the closing stages to record their 27th league win of the season. I must be a lucky omen as my own run of recent Casuals games extended to seven without defeat with the last five being victories!

Wolverhampton Casuals (green and white stripes / white / green): 1. Stephen Taylor, 2. Ray Facey, 3. Luke Tudor, 4. John Clapp, 5. Daniel Lloyd, 6. George Williams, 7. Bekir Hahil, 8. Craig Love (capt), 9. Mark Bellingham, 10. Matt Bailey, 11. Sean Williams. Subs: 12. Angelo Franco (not used), 14. Adrian Jones (not used), 15. Tom Maydew (for Love, 25), 16. Barry Evans (for George Williams, 84), 17. Chris Henry (for Bellingham, 84). Manager: Carl Abbott.

Shawbury United (red/red/red): 1. Nick Ashley, 2. Harry Murphy, 3. Adam Groom, 4. Paul McMullins, 5. James Askey (capt), 6. Marc Stelland, 7. Lee Constantine, 8. Dan Beddows, 9. Robbie Millington, 10. Tom Ward, 11. Lester Alderson. Subs: 12. Dale Williams (for Beddows, 67), 14. Steve Giles (not used), 15. Stefan Holliday (not used), 16. Dan Stevens (not used), 17. Owen Lloyd (not used). Manager: Dave Richards.

Referee: J. Price.
Assistants: T. Ahern and R. Scott-Mullen.

Attendance: 50 (headcount)

Duration (45): first-half: 46:46; second-half: 47:21

0-1 Robbie Millington (21)
1-1 Matt Bailey (32)
2-1 Matt Bailey (49)

Casuals: Matt Bailey (YC, 76)
Shawbury: Marc Stelland (YC, 80), Paul McMullins (YC, 84), Paul McMullins (YC/RC, 90+1)

Brocton 4 Coventry Copsewood 3

Saturday 20th April 2013
Gary Fife scored all four of Brocton’s goals as the Badgers completed their home league fixtures with a narrow 4-3 victory over Coventry Copsewood. The second leg of today’s football ‘double’ followed a drive back from the morning game at Selston FC and part of the Save Stafford Hospital march, which started at 2 pm. In warm sunshine, Copsewood took the lead against the run of play and held it until just after half-time when Fife equalised. Danny Fraser regained the lead for Copsewood before Fife added three more unanswered goals to put Brocton in a winning position. A late goal from Matt Fowler gave the visitors hope but Brocton held on and remain fourth in the Premier Division table.

Brocton 4 Coventry Copsewood 3
Athium Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Silkmore Lane Sports Ground, Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Weather: warm and sunny

Full report to follow...

Brocton (green/white/green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. Richard Jones, 3. Jamie Evans, 4. Dave Ablewhite, 5. Rob Tomlinson, 6. Charlie Jones, 7. Sam Bell, 8. Sam Hollinsworth, 9. Gary Fife (capt), 10. Carl Morris, 11. Jordan Bloor. Subs: 12. Dan Lomas (for Evans, 69), 14. Andy Bourne (for Hollinsworth, 78), 15. Liam Haycock (not used), 16. Andy Chandler (not used). Manager: John Berks.

Coventry Copsewood (blue/blue/blue): 1. Richard Olimpeh. 2. Henry Hkinsi, 3. Danny Fraser, 4. Adam Civzelis, 5. Michael Lancy, 6. Matt Fowler, 7. Rob Wimbush (capt), 8. Tom Murphy, 9. Fabian Spence, 10. Petajon Gordon, 11. Liam Cairns. Subs: 12. Andy Felton (for Spence, 85), 14. Sean Quirke, (for Civzelis, 78) 15. Scott Furlong (for Cairns, 90). Manager: Darren Dixon.

Referee: Trevor Sharratt.
Assistants: Brian Heath and Peter Dobson.

Attendance: 57

Duration (45): first-half: 45:37; second-half: 49:00

0-1 Rob Wimbush (7)
1-1 Gary Fife (49)
1-2 Danny Fraser (59)
2-2 Gary Fife (68)
3-2 Gary Fife (75)
4-2 Gary Fife (83)
4-3 Matt Fowler (83)

Brocton: Jordan Bloor (YC, 14), Rob Tomlinson (YC, 32)
Coventry Copsewood: Petajon Gordon (YC, 51), Tom Murphy (YC, 63), Henry Hkinsi (YC, 81)

Selston 2 Wollaton 2

Saturday 20th April 2013
Other things over the weekend meant I could only make the opening Saturday game on the inaugural five-game Notts Senior League Bonanza. Selston FC did a superb job in hosting a bumper crowd of 358 and were also rewarded on the field with a point secured with the last kick of the game from Tim Moore. On a warm and sunny morning, they took an early lead through Richard Barnes but visitors Wollaton bounced back with second-half to move into what appeared a match-winning lead. While the masses moved to nearby Underwood, I returned home to take part in the Support Stafford Hospital march before the second part of today’s football ‘double’.

Full report to follow...

Selston 2 Wollaton 2
Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League Senior Division
At: Selston Parish Hall Ground, Mansfield Road
Kick-off: 10-10 am
Admission: £3; Programme: £1 (8 pages)
Weather: warm and sunny

Selston (blue and black stripes / black / black): 1. Luke Wigley, 2. Tom Smith, 3. Ben Griffiths, 4. Gareth Ellis, 5. Grant Hackett (capt), 6. Logan Baston, 7. Damien Curren, 8. Dominic Airey, 9. Richard Barnes, 10. Sean Gregory, 11. Tim Moore. Subs: 12. Daniel Severn (for Gregory, 82), 14. Craig White (for Griffiths, 53), 15. Shaun Dickens (not used), 16. Ryan Bromyard (not used), 17. Sam Cox (not used). Managers: Karl Steed and Andy Haslam.

Wollaton (sky blue / navy blue / sky and navy blue hoops): 1. Paul Stanhope (capt), 2. Luke Humphries, 3. Steve Wilkinson, 4. Alan Corah, 5. Wayne Hallcro, 6. Rich Ranshaw, 7. Georgio Vitale, 8. Tom Cooper, 9. Dane Ranson, 10. Paul Marcowski, 11. Roy Killaney. Subs: 12. Paul Harrison (for Marcowski, 84), 14. Aaron Huseyin (for Renshaw, 82), 15. Liam Dirs (not used). Manager: Geoff Pallett.

Referee: Andy Rolph.
Assistants: Ian Smith and Lewis Saunders-Johnson.

Attendance: 358

Duration (45): first-half: 46:06; second-half: 48:58

1-0 Richard Barnes (4)
1-1 Dane Ranson (46)
1-2 Rich Renshaw (82)
2-2 Tim Moore (90+4)

Selston: Damien Curren (YC, 43), Gareth Ellis (YC, 49), Grant Hackett (YC, 66)
Wollaton: Wayne Hallcro (YC, 26), Luke Humphries (YC, 64), Rich Renshaw (YC, 66)

Cray Valley (PM) 2 Beckenham Town 2

Tuesday 16th April 2013
Cray Valley (PM), nearing the end of their second season in the Kent League, stunned visitors Beckenham Town with two very late goals to salvage an unlikely point. The visitors looked set to take home all three points with a first-half own goal netted by Sam Gent and a super strike from Alfie Nunn. Then with time running out, Luke Tanner pulled a goal back for Cray in the 90th minute before Gent made amends for his earlier own goal with a dramatic equaliser deep into stoppage time. The Middle Park Avenue ground has been significant upgraded over the past couple of years with two new stands erected and floodlights installed.

Cray Valley (PM) 2 Beckenham Town 2
Kent Hürlimann League Premier Division
At: Badgers Sports, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Weather: mild, dry

Cray Valley (PM) (green/black/black): 1. Matt Bailey, 2. James Golding, 3. Steve Springett, 4. Joe Matthews, 5. Ryan Sawyer, 6. Sam Gent, 7. Michael Brown, 8. Jamie Miller (capt), 9. Luke Tanner, 10. Chris McGinty, 11. Dan Gunner. Subs: 12. Jay Smale (for Golding, ht), 14. Reece Grant (for Brown, 56), 15. Paul Gross (not used), 16. Tunde Aderonmu (for McGinty, ,61), 17. Elie Kayembe (not used). Manager: Steve Chapman.

Beckenham Town (red and white / red / red): 1. Ashley Bourne, 2. Nathan Paul (capt), 3. Jordan Clark, 4. Byron Beard, 5. Malik Fofana, 6. Jake Britnall, 7. Frankie Warren, 8. Jake Turner, 9. Damo Ramsamey, 10. Alfie Nunn, 11. Lewis Sprosen. Subs: 12. Darren Wise (for Ramsamey, 67), 14. Gio Fulione (not used), 15. Jack Delland (for Sprosen, 80), 16. Danny Tipples (for Turner, 61), 17. Elstrom Dye (not used). Manager: Jason Huntley.

Referee: R. Whitaker.
Assistants: A. Back and D. Proctor.

Attendance: 45

Duration: first-half: 46:17; second-half: 50:06

0-1 Sam Gent (34 og)
0-2 Alfie Nunn (53)
1-2 Luke Tanner (90)
2-2 Sam Gent (90+5)

Cray Valley: Ryan Sawyer (YC, 38)
Beckenham: Byron Beard (YC, 84), Jake Britnall (YC, 90+1)

Biggleswade Town 2 Thatcham Town 1

Saturday 13th April 2013
Captain Steve Gentle scored an 89th-minute winner to earn fourth-placed Biggleswade Town three valuable points in their bid to secure a place in the end-of-season playoffs. It started well for the Waders when they took an early lead in the 12th minute through Paul Barnes. Defender Rob Why, however, stunned the home fans by scoring Thatcham’s equaliser 13 minutes later and during the second half it looked as if Biggleswade would pay for missing a series of decent chances. Then, dramatically, Gentle headed home the winner with time running out to send the Waders fans home happy and relieved. The Carlsberg Stadium is a relatively new venue opened in 2008 to replace Town’s old ground that was situated on the northern outskirts of the town.

Biggleswade Town 2 Thatcham Town 1
Evo-Stik Southern Division One Central
At: Carlsberg Stadium, Langford Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £8; Programme: £1 (44 pages)
Weather: rain

Full report to follow…

Biggleswade Town (green and white stripes / green / green): 1. Michael McEntergrat, 2. Max York, 3. Matt Clifford, 4. Peter Gatti, 5. Steve Gentle (capt), 6. Lee Allinson, 7. Craig Daniel, 8. Luke Knight, 19. Brett Donnelly, 10. Paul Barnes, 11. Jon Woolf. Subs: 12. Leon Osei (not used), 14. Joe Reynolds (for Woolf, 59), 15. Joel Mason (for Knight, 59), 16. Ricky Case (not used), 17. Alex O’Brien (for Barnes, 90+3). Manager: Chris Nunn.

Thatcham Town (blue and white stripes / blue / blue): 1. Aaron Bufton, 2. Rob Why, 3. Alex Charlick, 4. Kieren Maylen, 5. Ben McCready, 6. Dave Asker, 7. Callum Willmoth (capt), 8. Peter Raines, 9. Josh Coventry, 10. Denilson Vicente, 11. Sam Hamilton. Subs: 12. Lee Hamilton (for Asker, 73), 14. Gareth Brown (not used), 16. Chase Jewel (for Vicente, 84), GK. Ashley West (not used).

Referee: W. Norcott.
Assistants: D. Lawson and P. Perkins.

Attendance: 123

Duration (45): first-half: 46:45; second-half: 49:55

1-0 Paul Barnes (12)
1-1 Rob Why (25)
2-1 Steve Gentle (89)

Biggleswade: Jon Woolf (YC, 56), Paul Barnes (YC, 60)
Thatcham: Sam Hamilton (YC, 37)

Kimberley Miners Welfare 1 Selston 0

Tuesday 9th April 2013
A evening with a difference as I saw one and a half games without watching any of the 7-45 pm kick-off I’d originally set out to watch. I arrived at Digby Street later than the scheduled start time but around 15 minutes before the actual kick-off time. So instead of a brief stop to take some photos, I ended up watching a full 80-minute match which Kimberley MW won with a single goal scored by Jake Fisher during the second half. Then on the way home, I took a detour at Uttoxeter to catch the last 40 or so minutes at Hillsfield where Rocester suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Westfields.

Kimberley Miners Welfare 1 Selston 0
Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League Senior Division
At: Digby Street, off Eastwood Road
Kick-off: 6-00 pm (scheduled); 6.26 pm (actual)
Admission: none; Programmes: none
Weather: dry, cold wind

During the afternoon, Plan A (Kimberley Miners Welfare v Selston followed by most of Basford United v Borrowash Victoria) became Plan B (a quick stop at the Digby Street ground followed by a full 90 minutes at Basford United) with a later than planned departure from home. Delays on the way made it harder to reach Kimberley in plenty of time before 6 pm so I'd settled for an unpressured drive to Basford . However, driving up the track at the end of Digby Street to the ground at around 6-10 pm, I could see that players warming up and immediately had a choice. Should I stay to watch the whole match as it was clear that the game was going to kick-off late?

The decision came with a dilemma. The ground will feature on the Notts Senior League Bonanza in 11 days time though I don’t know what I’m doing on Saturday 20th April so played safe and stayed at Digby Street. Tonight's visitors, Selston, will also host a Bonanza game as well.

Before continuing, I ought to mention the games that will feature on the inaugural NSL Bonanza, which is being enthusiastically organised by Rob Hornby:

Friday 19th April
Magdala Amateurs v Bilborough Town (6-30 pm)
Saturday 20th April
Selston v Wollaton (10-10 am)
Underwood Villa v West Bridgford (12-45 pm)
Awsworth Villa v Cotgrave (3-30 pm)
Kimberley MW v Keyworth United (6-15 pm)

The Digby Street ground is located at the western end of Kimberley close to large retail park, which includes IKEA, and the B6010/A6096 exit off the A610 bypass. It is railed off on all four sides and slopes down to the far right corner in relation to the entrance. The clubhouse included a most-welcome tea bar.

The last time I dipped into the Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League back in October Kimberley Miners Welfare were the visitors at FC Cavaliers for a game which finished 0-0. Back then ‘Kimbo’ were eighth in the table. They went into tonight’s game two places lower in 10th with 27 points from 21 games while visitors Selston stood four positions higher in the 16-team Senior Division table with 34 points from 20 games.

I offer thanks to the home club official for letting me have the Kimberley line-up.

Some 26 minutes after the scheduled kick-off time, Kimberley (in red and black) got the game underway defending the clubhouse end (or north end) in the first half.

The home side made a bright start and went close in the 18th minute when Liam Baker hit the post.

I took around half an hour for the game to really come to life and, from that point onwards, plenty of scoring opportunities were created during the remaining 50 or so minutes.

A 20-yard drive by Asher Phythian forced a diving save out Selston goalkeeper Luke Wigley and Red Wilmott held off the challenge of one of his teammates (true) before firing just wide from outside the area.

A nice move during the closing stages of the first half almost led to a goal for the visitors. Grant Hackett slipped a perfect pass into the area to Richard Barnes on the right who hit a rising first-time snap shot which Matt Walsh did well to stop.

Just before the break, Matt Parratt and Jake Fisher combined to set up a chance for Phythian which Wigley held.

Players continued where they left off at the break and continued to create chances during the second half.

Walsh produced a superb save in the 54th minute to keep his side on level terms. Sean Farnworth played a free-kick into the area from 30 yards out for Tom Smith to get in a header which the Kimberley goalkeeper tipped over the bar.

Kimberley thought they’d taken the lead just before the hour mark. Wilmott fed Simon Hutchinson on the right who closed low into the six-yard box where Leon Roberts fired home. But the assistant raised his flag and said that “far guy with the gloves on” was offside, i.e. Roberts.

The only goal of the game came in the 66th minute. An initial shot from Wilmott wasn’t cleared by the Selston defence and Fisher fired home the loose ball to put Kimberley in front.

The Kimberley bench kept on encouraging their side from the technical area and wanting the workrate to be maintain right up to the final whistle.

“If we lose the ball we have got to get it back”

“We’ve got to work harder”

The players in red and black did just that as Selston mounted a late bid for an equaliser. Walsh did well to leave his line and narrow the angle before Dominic Carragher shot just wide of the right-hand post. In stoppage time, Daniel Severn fired low across the face of goal.

Kimberley’s hard work paid off as they kept a clean sheet to record a narrow 1-0 victory and move up in the top half of the table. Since the game, the record of Clifton has been expunged leaving just 15 teams completing the season.

Heading back home, I called in at the familiar venue that is Hillfield, home of Baker Joiner Midland Alliance side Rocester. When I arrived around five minutes into the second half of the 8 pm kick-off, I found out from Dan Bishop that the score was 1-1; Rocester had taken an early lead but visitors Westfields had equalised shortly before half-time. The night ended in disappointment for the Romans as Jamie Cuss scored a second-half winner for the visitors; attendance 41.

Basford recorded 13th consecutive league victory – 2-0 against Borrowash Victoria – and need just five points from their remaining four games to win the East Midlands Counties League title. No doubt I’ll get the opportunity to visit Greenwich Avenue next season, probably in either the Midland Alliance or Northern Counties East League.

Despite missing out on meeting ‘On the Road Malc’ at Basford, I enjoyed my visit to Kimberley and I’m sure the 150+ groundhoppers will do so as well in 11 days time.

Kimberley Miners Welfare (red and black stripes / white / white): 1. Matt Walsh, 2. Red Wilmott, 3. Andrew Tinsley, 4. Matt Parratt, 5. Liam Baker (capt), 6. Asher Phythian, 7. Leon Roberts, 8. Simon Hutchinson, 9. Jake Fisher, 10. Danny Chaplin, 11. Karl Beecham. Subs: 12. Tony Harbould (for Baker, 67), 14. Alex Sheffield (for Phythian, 55), 15. Michael Murphy (not used), 16. Tom Whittingham (for Chaplin, 62). Manager: G. Hulley.

Selston (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Luke Wigley, 2. Grant Hackett, 3. Josh Gregory, 4. Gareth Ellis, 5. Sean Farnworth, 6. Dave Spencer, 7. Tom Smith, 8. Dominic Carragher (capt), 9. Richard Barnes, 10. Dominic Airey, 11. Daniel Severn. Subs: 12. Tim Moore (not used), 14. Nick Olden (not used), 15. Jake Spencer (not used), 16. Ryan Bower (for Ellis, 78). Manager: Andy Haslam.

Referee: David Hague.
Assistants: John Middleton and David Hale.

Attendance: 20 (headcount)

Duration (40): first-half: 40:39; second-half: 42:17

1-0 Jake Fisher (66)

Cards: none

Colney Heath 3 Haringey Borough 0

Monday 8th April 2013
This turned out to be my longest midweek football trip for what must be almost five years and one which could have had a frustrating conclusion before arriving at the ground (more below). Colney Heath, who were playing in the Herts Senior County League when I lived in the south-east, took an early lead with a scrambled goal credited to Richard Cooke. Watching the game in the company of Southend-based Peter Miles, the home side doubled their lead with a super strike from Ryan Foley and wrapped up a first win in eight league and cup games with a third goal scored within two minutes of the restart by Jamie Hazell.

Colney Heath 3 Haringey Borough 0
Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
At: Recreation Ground, High Street
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £6 including £1 programme (32 pages)
Weather: mild and dry

The dates of various forthcoming home games influenced my choice tonight and I opted for a rare trip these days into the previously-familiar Spartan South Midlands League, which I got to know well during the 1990s. After tonight, Colney Heath still have eight games to play before the end of the month through none of their three remaining home games fall on a convenient date for me. Not that there is any particular urgency to visit their Recreation Ground, it is another Step 5 ground on my ‘to do’ list and, being midweek during British Summer Time, an opportunity to see the place in daylight.

The village of Colney Heath is located a few miles east of St Albans and according to Andy of Kent’s website is some 4.5 miles from the nearest railway station. There is a bus but still out of reach for me on a Saturday by public transport because of the time of the last train home from Watford Junction.

I must admit to checking my spreadsheet and the club history because of a bit of confusion on my part whether I’d visited tonight’s destination Colney Heath or nearby London Colney. As Colney Heath were members of the rarely-watched Hertfordshire Counties Senior League when I lived in the South East, I must have previously seen London Colney [19th March 1997 v Milton Keynes at Cotlandswick]. Confusion over!

OK, I suppose I have to briefly tell the story of how I nearly ended up with a wasted journey. Doubling back on the A414 a roundabout too early, I got terribly confused driving up and down the High Street trying to match my directions to the landmarks without success. Thankfully, someone on the phone at Colney Heath pointed out that the Deep Sea fish and chip shop I was parked close to was in fact in of LONDON COLNEY – the wrong town! With much appreciation from me, he gave me directions to the correct High Street via the ‘Dog Bone’ roundabout and I easily found the ground though with no more than 15 minutes to spare. Perhaps the shock of finding out that the M10 had been downgraded to an ‘A’ road added to the confusion, may be? No time, alas, to spot any of the coal posts that Laurence mentioned in his blog on Colney Heath FC.

Colney Heath and Haringey Borough have been hit the hardest of the 22 clubs in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division and none of the others had played as few as 33 games. Tonight both played the third of eleven April league fixtures and both are in action again tomorrow evening.

I suppose it is a good job, bearing in mind the fixture pile-up, that Colney Heath (13th position with 46 points from 33 games) and Haringey Borough (12th position with 48 points from 33 games) sit comfortably in mid-table with no prospect of either promotion or relegation. Saying that, I’m sure both would rather be challenging for the title, which will be won by Dunstable Town.

I touched on a bit of club history earlier and it is worth mentioning that Colney Heath FC was founded in 1907 and they joined the Spartan South Midlands League in 2000, progressing from the Division One to the Premier Division in 2006. The Recreation Ground has hard-standing all round with floodlights and a 100-seater stand in front of the clubhouse.

Programmes were on sale at the pay box and included in the admission change, extra copies on sale for £1. While trying to find someone with the teamsheets, I met Peter Miles, the Southend and Essex expert, for the first time who already had the important 32 names duty noted. Thanks.

Haringey Borough (in Norwich-like yellow and green) got the game underway attacking the entrance end in the first half.

Looking to end a run of eight league and cup games without a win, Colney Heath got off to a perfect start with a goal in the 12th minute. It was somewhat confusing goal during a scramble that ensued following Dean Parratt’s right-wing corner. Central defender Richard Cooke was credited with forcing the ball over the line but I’m not sure (photo right).

The home side continued to impress. Jamie Hazell hit a low left-foot shot which Haringey goalkeeper Erbil Bozkurt held and Parratt sent a rising drive just over the bar from the edge of the area which drew some “good effort” compliments.

It was no surprise when Colney Heath doubled their lead midway through the first half. Ryan Foley hot an unstoppable 25-yard shot that flew into the right-side of the net past the diving Bozjurt.

“Heads up,” the Haringey players were told but their task was made harder with an injury to defender Audras Molnar.

The home side continued to create chances and the boot of Bozkurt kept out a low shot from Hazell and in the next attack a slip by Lewis Laws presented Ben Agyekum with a chance which he fired low across the face of goal.

Just before the break, Haringey almost pulled a goal back. Dimitri Gbo hit a low shot from the edge of the area which the diving Tom Blackwall turned round the right-hand post. From the resulting corner, Nick Nicou headed over at the far post.

During the interval, we picked up a Colney Heath badge (£3) and were directed towards the larger of the two bars where we spotted the tea bar. Much-needed cobs were on sale in the smaller bar.

Colney Heath made it 3-0 within two minutes of the restart. Sam Margerrison delivered a corner to the near post from where Hazell sent a glancing header into the far side of the net.

Just after the hour mark, Margerrison played a free-kick on the right forward into the area where Ricky Perks headed wide.

The home side had certainly ended their winless run and now it was a case of ‘how many?’, but poor defending gifted a chance to Haringey but Gbo fired straight at Blackwell.

Perhaps with one eye on tomorrow’s league game at Hanwell Town, Colney Heath made a double change, replacing Margerrison, who had been delivering some excellent set-pieces into the area, and Hazell, the scorer of the third goal.

Bozkurt produced a decent save to turn round a low shot from Agyekum and Parratt fired just wide as Colney Heath looked for a fourth goal.

After drawing 0-0 at home to Hillingdon Borough, I’m sure Blackwell was keen to record a clean sheet and did well to keep out a shot from Ceon Samuels. Gbo’s followed-up shot from the rebounded deflected off a defender at the expense of a corner. Late on, Lawrence Constanti not only drove over the bar from the edge of the area but cleared the trees behind the goal as well.

In the end, a good 3-0 win for Colney Heath which moved them up one place in the table, swapping places with the team they’d defeated. Even though I needed a short sleep at Watford Gap on the way home, I certainly enjoyed visiting this friendly club and watching the game in the excellent company of Peter Miles.

Colney Heath (red and white stripes / black / red): 1. Tom Blackwall, 2. Jamie Rayner 3. Sam Margerrison, 4. Glen Draper (capt), 5. Richard Cooke, 16. Nick Martin, 7. Dean Parratt, 8. Ryan Foley, 9. Ricky Perks, 10. Jamie Hazell, 11. Ben Agyekum. Subs: 12. Andie Dawkins (for Hazell, 68), 14. Jordan Peregnko (for Margerrison, 68), 15. Jake Eley (not used). Manager: Frank Patrick.

Haringey Borough (yellow/green/yellow): 1. Erbil Bozkurt, 2. Aristides Savva, 3. Jack Christidolou, 4. Dewayne Clarke, 5. Andras Molnar, 6. Lewis Laws (capt), 7. Gabriel Mmieh, 8. Nick Nicou, 9. Bradley O’Donovan, 10. Dimitri Gbo, 11. Adam Andreou. Subs: 12. Lawrence Constanti (for Molnar, 35), 14. Jermaine Mitchell (for Savva, 68), 15. Rakim Richards (not used), 16. Ceon Samuels (for O’Donovan, 75), 17. Kyri Neocleous (not used). Manager: Tom Loizou.

Referee: A. Anastasiou.
Assistants: G. Blackmore and L. Koskas.

Attendance: 28

Duration: first-half: 46:59; second-half: 47:55

1-0 Richard Cooke (12)
2-0 Ryan Foley (22)
3-0 Jamie Hazell (47)

Colney Heath:
Haringey: Dewayne Clarke (YC, 62)

London Bari 2 Bethnal Green United 1

Saturday 6th April 2013
Perhaps appropriate for the 6th April, I fancied a trip that wasn’t going to be too ‘taxing’ and plumped for an overdue return visit to the Old Spotted Dog Ground. London Bari, new to the Essex Senior League this season, hosted neighbours Bethnal Green United and won a lively contest by the odd goal in three. A perfectly-placed header from William Drake gave Bari a first-half lead which they held until Siao Blackwood converted a penalty in the 77th minute. Ashley Fashanu, a forward with a famous uncle, scored a late winner for Bari to earn a much-needed victory which meant a lot to the players.

London Bari 2 Bethnal Green United 1
Essex Senior League
At: Old Spotted Dog Ground, Upton Lane
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: free (8 pages)
Weather: mild and sunny

Twice last month, I was thwarted in my attempts to watch a London Bari home game by waterlogged pitches so decided today to try and make it ‘third time lucky’ with the number of Saturdays left in the season fast diminishing.

To me, there is something magical about the name ‘Old Spotted Dog’. There aren’t many of the iconic old amateur grounds left in London as most have been demolished. The likes of Walthamstow Avenue’s Green Pond Lane and Dulwich Hamlet’s original Champion Hill spring to mind (which I had the pleasure of visiting both on one occasion) as well as Leytonstone, Romford and Ilford’s former homes which I never got to see in the flesh.

The Old Spotted Dog is a survivor from a bygone age though much of the fabric of the place has long since disappeared. As my previous visit came on a dark January night back in 1991, I just HAD to see the ground in daylight and today was the day to finally do it.

Time was against me as my delayed train didn’t arrive at London Euston until 12.55 pm. I took Andy of Kent’s advice and headed to the nearest station, Forest Gate, and as all of the connections fitted perfectly, had a bit of spare time to sample the Ionian Coffee Porter at JDW’s Hudson Bay not far from the ground.

My previous visit to the Old Spotted Dog was over 22 years ago in January 1991 for a London Senior Cup tie between Clapton and Boreham Wood. Even though the old stands that stood on the Disraeli Road side and adjacent to the Upton Lane entrance have long since been demolished, the ground today oozes character. The ground now has a modern 100-seater stand on the Upton Lane side which was erected during the 1990s. Opposite, between the dugouts is an interesting area of covered standing of a ‘scaffolding design’. There is also a small open terrace complete with two crush barriers on the grass bank behind the far goal. Outside the ground on Upton Lane, The Spotted Dog Inn stands derelict and in a poor state of repair.

Two Essex Senior League clubs share the Old Spotted Dog this season – Clapton and London Bari – and this afternoon the latter hosted neighbours Bethnal Green who play home games at nearby Mile End Stadium. Going into today’s derby, both sides were level on 33 points with Bethnal Green United (12th position after 26 games) having played two games more than London Bari (11th position after 24 games). The programme mentioned that Bari were on a run of three straight league and cup defeats during which they conceded ten goals and scored just two. Visitors Bethnal Green had picked up just one point from their last five league games.

I must thank the member of the London Bari coaching staff who lent me the teamsheets and also the chap behind the bar inside the clubhouse, as well as the Bethnal Green supporter who spotted where the programmes were!

“As you are, green kick,” announced the referee with the captains in the centre circle, so Bethnal Green (appropriately in all green) got the game underway attacking the clubhouse end in the first half. The warmish spring sunshine was a welcome contrast to the recent freezing temperatures – the weather forecasters promised mild air and they were correct!

The first chance fell to the visitors in the 6th minute. Chris Hubbard delivered a deep cross from the left to the far post where Kadir Jama hit a well-struck right-foot volley. To me, from my vantage point in the main stand ‘press box’, the shot initially looked unstoppable but Bari goalkeeper Lewis Amos reacted to parry the ball into the air at the near post. Good save.

Play was certainly a bit frantic on the hard playing surface. Bethnal Green had a good shout for a penalty waived away by the well-positioned referee when Stephen Opoka went down inside the area under the challenge of Jack Sawyer.

It was London Bari who took the lead in the 24th minute. Abs Thompson did well to keep the ball in on the right bye-line and deliver a delicious cross which William Drake headed into the far right-hand side of the net. As Harley the Bethnal Green goalkeeper said: the striker peeled off the shoulder of the defender and placed the ball in the only place he could not reach (photo right).

Stung by conceding the goal, Bethnal Green looked to respond. Perry Dobkins played a lofted free-kick forward into a packed penalty area which Amos failed to hold and Jason Fox fired the loose ball over the bar.

Bari were forced to replace the injured Abs Thompson with Patrick Damali-Song in the 31st minute. Bethnal Green struggled to make an impact before half-time and Bari comfortably held their lead up to the half-time whistle.

The visitors were encouraged to “show a bit of quality” and “lift it up a few levels and work harder”. Could they do that in the second half?

They certainly made a positive start to the second half. Kingsley Francis played the ball forward towards Luke With in the area who saw his shot blocked by a defender.

I watched the entire second half from a seat in the ‘Press Box’ and Bethnal Green continued to threaten. Ben Protheroe made an impact as a 58th-minute substitute and his excellent right-wing corners caused problems for the Bari defence.

Perhaps noticing the visitors were posing quite a threat, one Bari player commented: “same workrate all the way through, it isn’t finished”.

It certainly wasn’t going to end 1-0 as Bethnal Green equalised in the 76th minute. Protheroe delivered a great cross from the left into the area where the referee responded to a challenge on Joc Killingback by awarding a penalty. Siao Blackwood stepped up to send Amos the wrong way from the spot.

Bethnal Green certainly now ‘had their tails up’ fancying a winner but so did Bari who, after Danny Hammett replaced Drake, were told to mount “one more big push”.

The visitors quickly got forward and Killingbeck lashed a shot wide of the target.

Bari responded. Former Bethnal Green player Remi Nelson fed Les Thompson who got between two defenders and hit a ferocious shot which was brilliantly pushed clear by the leaping Harley. From the corner, the referee turned down penalty appeals for handball.

Eventually, in the 84th minute, London Bari scored what proved to be the winner. Ashley Fashanu, nephew of former Wimbledon striker John, nipped in between a defender and goalkeeper to flick home an accurate throughball into the area.

With time running out, Bari looked to wind down the clock, helped by a couple of free-kicks in the Bethnal Green half which allowed them to keep possession.

Judging by the reaction of the Bari players at full-time, this 2-1 win over Bethnal Green United meant a lot to them.

After savouring one last lingering look at the Old Spotted Dog ground, I quietly made my way to Stratford station hoping to pick up the two Cask Marque scans needed to reach the 25 milestone. JDW’s Goldengrove was a bit too busy for a quick drink and so got the scans needed first at the Langthorne and second the Goose. The prize for the 25th scan is a fridge magnet bottle opener.

What a ground! #addtoyourbucketlist

London Bari (sky blue / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Lewis Amos, 2. Daniel Smith (capt), 3. Leika Saku, 4. Jack Sawyer, 5. Zaeem Husein, 6. Remi Nelson, 7. Abs Thompson, 8. Les Thompson, 9. Lee Springer, 19. Ashley Fashanu, 11. William Drake. Subs: 20. Patrick Damali-Songe (for Abs Thompson, 31), 21. Danny Hammett (for Drake, 79), 22. Shane Campbell (not used), 17. Ricky Eaton (not used). Manager: Ricky Eaton.

Bethnal Green United (green with white ‘V’ / green / green): 1. Russell Harley, 2. Perry Dobkins, 12. Luke With, 4. Jason Fox, 5/15. Emeka Nkindirim, 14. Kadir Jama, 7. Chris Hubbard, 8. Siao Blackwood (capt), 9. Stephen Opoka, 10. Alex Donker, 11. Kingsley Francis. Subs: 3. Ben Protheroe (for Francis, 58), 6. Danny Dobson (not used), 18. Joc Killingback (for With, 69), 16. Danny Gabriel (not used). Manager: Anton Stephenson.

Referee: Steve Parmeter.
Assistants: Scott Tappin and Ray Wells.

Attendance: 11 (headcount) which had grown to 20 during the second half

Duration (45): first-half: 47:46; second-half: 48:40

1-0 William Drake (24)
1-1 Siao Blackwood (76 pen)
2-1 Ashley Fashanu (84)

London Bari: Les Thompson (YC, 75)
Bethnal Green: Chris Hubbard (YC, 90+3)