"Like watching Chelsea v Dortmund"

Saturday 28th September 2013
Boston Town 5 Harborough Town 1
ChromaSport and Trophies United Counties League Premier Division
At: Tattershall Road, Boston
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Weather: warm and sunny

Let me start with a question. Have the holders of the FA Trophy ever been knocked out by a club who at the time were members of the Midland League? The answer is ‘yes’ and the team that achieved the feat was Boston Town (known at the time as simply Boston FC). After battling through three qualifying rounds in 1979/80 with victories over Heanor Town, AP Leamington and Oxford City, Boston were given a ‘glamour’ First Round tie to Stafford Rangers of the Alliance Premier League, who had triumphed at Wembley the previous May. I saw the tie at Marston Road in which Boston took the lead through Daly and Rangers salvaged a replay with Alf Wood’s second half equaliser. The replay took some playing due to bad weather and ended up being played on a Monday afternoon. Wood gave Stafford a half-time lead but Boston fought back to claim a memorable 2-1 victory thanks to second-half goals from Cox and Mallinder. Boston lost to Mossley after a replay in the following round.

School prevented me from watching the replay though at the time I wasn’t watching Stafford away from home in those days. So, over 33 years since that famous trophy run, I finally made it to Tattershall Road this afternoon at the suggestion of Wellingborough-based and Walsall-supporting groundhopper Neil Morris.

Strange as it may sound, I was actually making the opposite journey to Boston United who were away to Stafford Rangers in the FA Cup. I can’t say my journey was much fun – long delays on the A453 approaching Nottingham and temporary traffic lights at a key junction in Grantham – and instructions in the 2013 Non-League Directory made finding the ground from the A52 a bit of a conundrum.

Try these if approaching from Grantham: on the outskirts of Boston, turn left at the roundabout just past the Hammer and Pinches pub. Cross the railway and turn right at the roundabout that immediately follows and turn right into Sleaford Road. After about one mile take the first exit at the roundabout into Carlton Road then right at the lights into Fydell Street. Continue over the railway level crossing and river then, at the point the road straightens, turn sharp left and double back into Tattershall Road [this bit I missed]. The ground entrance is on the left after 0.8 miles signed ‘Boston Town Football Club’ and ‘Witham Way Country Park’.

The frustrations of the journey were soon forgotten after passing through the turnstile and experiencing a sense of ‘wow!’ with a first look the impressive Tattershall Road ground. A large covered terrace occupied much of the left-hand side, seats behind the far goal and both seats and covered standing down the right-hand side. I liked the fact that two of the three stands were named the Brian Curtis Stand and John Lyon Stand.

I touched on Boston Town’s history and they were formed in 1964 as Boston FC as a result of the temporary withdrawal of Boston United from senior football. They competed in the Eastern Counties League, Midland League, Northern Counties East League and Central Midlands League before commencing in 1991/92 an unbroken 22-season run in the United Counties League Premier Division. ‘Town’ was added to the club’s name in 1994. On thing I'm still in the dark about is this, 'Why are Boston Town nicknamed The Poachers'.

One thing I couldn’t help noticing about today’s match was its so-called billing as second-from-bottom v bottom with both sides still looking for their first league win of the season. The league record of Boston Town (18th with three points from six games) doesn’t tell a complete story as they are unbeaten in their last two games and also defeated Downham Town 6-0 in the FA Carlsberg Vase at the beginning of the month.

While Harborough Town (19th out of 19 with zero points from five games) have had no luck in the league so far this season, they have had some success in cup football. They have reached the FA Carlsberg Vase First Round and face Cleethorpes Town, the side I saw defeat Basford last Saturday.

Boston got the game underway attacking the clubhouse end and took an early 7th minute lead thanks to a lovely bit of skill. Josh Ford cleverly backheeled the ball into the path of Jordan Nuttell who fired low past Josh Carpenter from the edge of the area.

It was “like watching Chelsea v Dortmund in the Champions League” – Boston in blue with white socks and Harborough in yellow and black.

The lead was doubled ten minutes later after Daniel Pegg brought down Ford inside the area. Mr Cusick immediately pointed to the spot and Josh Ford drove home the resulting penalty.

Without wanting to sound unkind to the respective defences, this game continued to have goals written all over it and as someone suggested, “this could finish 7-4”.

Harborough, on a run of ten straight league defeats stretching back to the Saturday 20th April, got right back into contention in the 26th minute. “All the time in the world, Dave,” shouted the visitors’’ manager and Dave Goodman broke clear down the left and accurately placed a low right-foot shot past the dive of Ricky Drury into the far corner of the net.

The attacks continued and Nuttell missed an easy change in the 35th minute. Fed by Callum Stocks, he rounded Josh Carpenter but fired into the side netting rather than empty net. We felt this could prove to be a “crucial miss” wit Harborough back in contention.

Nuttell made amends four minutes after the restart by restoring Boston’s two-goal lead. The striker headed a deep left-wing corner delivered by Stocks towards goal which appeared to take a deflection as it crossed the line.

Drury produced a diving save to keep out a shot from Michael Cirelli before Boston made it 4-1 midway through the second half. Lori Borbely, at the far post, swept home George Stainfield’s low cross from the right.

Now with a match-winning lead, Boston continued to dominate and were denied a fifth goal by a world-class save from Carpenter. The Harborough goalkeeper acrobatically leapt up to his right to somehow turn round a 25-yard dipping volley hit by Frazer Bayliss than seemed destined for the top-left corner.

Boston did wrap up their first league win of the season by scoring a fifth goal in stoppage time. Like the fourth, Stainfield provided the cross from the right and Ford sent a low right-foot shot into the bottom-left corner.

Arriving in such a rush and having not visited the town of Boston since 1988, I just had to spent time exploring the town centre before returning home, especially on a lovely sunny evening. The extraordinarily tall tower on St Botolph’s Church, known as the ‘Boston Stump’ is the stand-out feature. Also catching my eye were the Maud Foster Windmill, Swan Building built in 1877, statue of Herbert Ingram and 109-year-old Municipal Building on West Street. I couldn’t help noticing the number of shops selling produce from places like Poland and Latvia, highlighting the fact that Boston has a very diverse community with more eastern European immigrants than any other town in England.

I headed home with memories of both a ground with a wow factor and pleasant town with the largest parish church in England. Seeing the Poachers' side applauded off the field by their fans told me how much the win meant. Also, it was good to catch up with old friend Neil as well. May be I’ll make a second visit to Tattershall Road if one my local clubs pays a visit in the FA Vase.

Boston Town (blue/blue/white): 1. Ricky Drury, 2. Luke Wilson, 3. Jason Field, 4. Ollie Pinner, 5. Michael Wood (capt), 6. Nick Jackson, 7. Callum Stocks, 8. Liam Bull, 9. Jordan Nuttell, 10. Josh Ford, 11. Lori Borbely. Subs: 12. Ollie Maltby (for Pinner, 79), 13gk. Matt Hocking (not used), 14. Frazer Bayliss (for Nuttell, 81), 15. George Stainfield (for Stocks, 63), 16. Ian Dunn (not used). Player-managers: Ian Dunn and Matt Hocking.

Harborough Town (yellow / black / yellow and black hoops): 1. Josh Carpenter, 2. Ben Easson, 3. Glen Robinson, 4. Chris Piazza, 5. Craig Jacobs, 6. Daniel Pegg, 7. Michael Cirelli, 8. Garry Calrke, 9. Barnes Gladman, 10. Jack Borrows (capt), 11. Dave Goodman. Subs: 12. Clemence Amadelis (for Gladman, 20), 14. Elliott Morgan (for Jacobs, ht). Manager: Chris Church.

Referee: Robert Cusick
Assistants: Chris Giles and David Avison

Attendance: 70 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:03; second-half: 47:31

1-0 Jordan Nuttell (7)
2-0 Josh Ford (17 pen)
2-1 Dave Goodman (26)
3-1 Jordan Nuttell (49)
4-1 Lori Borbely (67)
5-1 Josh Ford (90+2)

Boston: Luke Wilson (YC, 37)
Harborough: Craig Jacobs (YC, 17), Glen Robinson (YC, 74)

Vase upset at Basford

Saturday 21st September 2013
Basford United 0 Cleethorpes Town 2
FA Carlsberg Vase Second Qualifying Round
At: Mill Street Playing Field, Greenwich Avenue, Basford, Nottingham
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (16 pages + official teamsheet)
Weather: warm and sunny

Today’s football recipe consisted of four ingredients… (a) FA Vase tie; (b) at a ground never previously visited; (c) not a million miles from home; and (d) a decent story to recall whatever the result. Out of the 153 ties being played this afternoon, four leapt off the page of the Football Traveller and I was sent of my way to north-west Nottingham for an intriguing contest between two Toolstation Northern Counties East League sides. Both recently gained promotion – Basford at the end of last season from the East Midlands Counties League to the Premier Division and Cleethorpes in 2012 from the Lincolnshire League to Division One.

To me on paper, progressive Basford United looked to have the pedigree to move through several rounds or even make it all the way to the final at Wembley, especially after they found their goalscoring touch on Tuesday with a 5-1 against Heanor Town. On the other hand, I’d noticed Cleethorpes Town had made an impressive start to their second campaign in Division One. Who would prevail?

Had things turned out differently on one March Saturday last year, I would have already visited Greenwich Avenue. But I decided to miss the middle two games of the four-game Central Midlands League ‘Bonanza’ (Basford and Dronfield) in favour of a visit to Appleby Frodingham after the opening game at Clifton and before the final game at Glapwell.

Looking at photos from that Bonanza game on Laurence Reade's blog (link here), improvements have been made a plenty at Greenwich Avenue in the intervening 18 months. A new perimeter fence for starters, seats in the stand near the dugouts as well as an extra area of covered standing behind one goal and of course floodlights. Another new facility nearing completion is the pitch-side changing room block.

Arriving early, as is my preference, a club official kindly opened up the paybox – admission with souvenir match ticket (£5), programme (£1) and lapel badge (£3). Subsequently teamsheets were provided free of charge for those who purchased a programme, a nice and most welcome touch.

The current league table shows Basford sitting 11th with 14 points from 11 games. Goalscoring looks to be a problem this season with no more than two scored in a game until a thumping 5-1 home win over Heanor Town on Tuesday (watched by On The Road’s Malc and Kev http://ontheroad2013-2014.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/basford-utd-5-1-heanor-town.html).

Before the game I got chatting to an Ilkeston-based groundhopper wearing a Llandyrnog Summer League top who was making his first visit to the Mill Street playing fields for donkeys years.

One of Northampton’s finest, Mr John Revitt esq, also arrived for his second visit to the ground having seen a 0-0 draw a few years ago played over 40 minutes each way. He assured me that he’d not morphed into his mode of transport – the Tram! [a joke for groundhoppers and one no doubt totally lost on those not familiar with ‘Garstang Bob’]. I was good to meet up with John again.

The Basford United website (http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/basfordunitedfc/a/club-history-21149.html) provides an informative history of a club that had only come to my attention over the past couple of years.

Basford United's birthplace was the Old Pear Tree Inn in 1900. It wasn't long before they moved to the Dolly Tub pitch, which is now part of the Highbury Estate. In 1903 they moved to Catchems Corner where they stayed for 27 years until they moved to Vernon Avenue. A few years later they moved to Mill Street and in 1990 to Greenwich Avenue.

To their credit, Basford have risen from the 'lower reaches of Notts Alliance Division One' to Step 5 in little over 10 years. In recent times following a spell in the Notts Amateur League, they joined the Notts Senior League in 2006, then won the 2011/12 Central Midlands League South title at the first attempt after moving up a step and following this up by winning the East Midlands Counties League last season, also at the first attempt.

Five wins and two draws from their first nine league games is a pretty good return and enough to put Cleethorpes in third position in the Division One table. Defeated 2-0 at home by current leaders two weeks ago, they have bounced back with back-to-back wins over Hall Road Rangers in the league and most recently over Hallam in the League Cup.

Referee James Thornhill (injured refereeing the Walsall Wood v Wigan Robin Park Vase tie I saw back in January) led the teams out from the soon-to-be-old changing rooms and Basford (in amber and black) soon got the action underway. The visitors won the toss and decided to attack the far railway end in the first half with the sun on their backs.

Basford suffered an early blow when Ash Dyce picked up an injury around the nine-minute mark which forced the skipper out of the game.

The home side created a decent chance to take the lead midway through the first half. Jamie Walker on the left threaded a path to Tyeisse Nightingale who saw his low shot held by the diving Cleethorpes goalkeeper Scott Drury.

At this point, Cleethorpes had certainly been on top and they turned their dominance into an opening goal scored in the 28th minute. Luke Mascall on the left inside the area found Brody Robertson at the far post who fired a low angled shot across the Basford six-yard box. The ball rebounded off the far post and Nathan Emson slotted home the rebound to score his fourth goal of the season.

Having been forced to adjust following the earlier departure of one central defender, Basford lost their other to injury as well when Jack Davies limped off. The home side certainly faced an uphill task, a goal down and just one substitution remaining.

I made my way around to the stand and spent the latter stages of the first half in the company of the aforementioned Mr Revitt. Checking Twitter at half-time, I was left in admiration of the couple sat in front of me for their detailed account of the first half.

Here’s how they saw the goal… 27' 0-1 #NoMoreTeletext: Fantastic switch ball by J. Oglesby to @Mascall17, he passes one player, squares the ball to @brody_robertson.... who's shot hits the post and rebounds into the path of @NathanEmmo who smashes the ball home

The Basford tweeter had also been busy as well… Utd behind on 27 as really slack play allows a Cleethorpe forward to net off the post.

Elsewhere in the Vase, of particular interest to me,…Stafford Town losing 4-0 at Bromsgrove and down to ten men and Wolverhampton Casuals leading Brocton 2-1 at Silkmore Lane in a Staffordshire derby. March Town United, the club I visited seven days ago were losing 1-0 at home to Godmanchester.

No joy with raffle as my ticket no-so-lucky strip of 946–950 yellow turned out to be a million miles away from the winning 316–320. Tea from the hatch near the paybox was a good cuppa.

It got worse for Basford in the 52nd minute with a second goal for Cleethorpes. Home goalkeeper Alessandro Barcherini got down to cut out Jonathan Oglesby’s low cross into the area from the left, succeeded only in presenting Emson with a gift of a chance which he duly slotted home. Two goals for Emson! Could the home side respond?

“Any idea of the Forest score,” someone asked me. “Sorry, no,” I replied to an Italian-sounding man who couldn't be faulted for his vociferous support of the home team. Great to see characters like him watching non-league football.

With a two-goal deficit to close simply to force extra time, Basford needed to show some urgency and, to their credit, started to do so. Perhaps their best chance was a late 25-yard shot by Tyeisse Nightingale which flew past the goal. Even Barcherini went up for a corner near the end. The well-organised Cleethorpes defence did their job.

Disappointment for Basford at full-time and joy for Cleethoropes, winners in their first-ever FA Vase tie. Wonder who they’ll get in Monday’s First Round draw?

Elsewhere, according to Twitter, nine-man Stafford Town endured an FA Vase exit to forget with an 8-0 defeat at Bromsgrove while Brocton scored two late goals to snatch a 3-3 draw against the Cassies and force extra time [Brocton ended up winning 5-3]. Late goals were popular in Stafford as Rangers netted a winner in the 95th minute to defeat FC United of Manchester at Marston Road.

It was a pleasure to visit Basford United. Good luck to them for the rest of the season. Also good luck to Cleethorpes on the 'road to Wembley' and I'll be avidly following the tweets of #NoMoreTeletext. I'm sure I'll see both clubs again at some point during the season.

Basford United (amber/black/amber): 1. Alessandro Barcherini, 2. David Boafo, 3. Jamie Walker, 4. Ash Dyce (capt), 5. Jack Davies, 6. Martin Holt, 7. Theo Smith, 8. Jermaine Hollis, 9. Cashel Walters, 10. Tyeisse Nightingale, 11. Courtney Hastings. Subs: Martin Carruthers (for Smith, 63), 14. Lee Morris (not used), 15. Wayne Jones (not used), 16. Robert McCormack (for Davies, 28), 17. Kieren Kenton-Bradshaw (for Dyce, 15). Manager: Darren Saunders.

Cleethorpes Town (red/red/red): 1. Scott Drury, 2. Daniel Grant, 3. Lawrence Howard, 4. Richard Peck, 5. Matthew Coleman, 6. Alex Flett, 7. Luke Mascall, 8. Darren Hanslip (capt), 9, Nathan Emson, 10. Brody Robertson, 11. Jonathan Oglesby. Subs: 12. Mark Sawyer (for Oglesby, 83), 14. Marc Cooper (for Robertson, 59), 15. Matthew Oswin (for Hanslip, 88), 16. Lee McFarland (not used), 17. Reece Newell (not used). Manager: Marcus Newell.

Referee: James Thornhill
Assistants: James Oldham and Peter Bailey

Attendance: 74
Duration: first-half: 46:55; second-half: 48:06

0-1 Nathan Emson (28)
0-2 Nathan Emson (52)

Basford: Tyeisse Nightingale (YC, 67)
Cleethorpes: Alex Flett (YC, 62)

Footnote: Basford manager Darren Saunders resigned three days later after three successful years in charge and Cleethorpes were drawn away to Harborough Town in the First Round draw.

The old stand

Saturday 14th September 2013
March Town United 0 Great Yarmouth Town 4
Thurlow Nunn League Division One
At: GER Ground, Robingoodfellows Lane
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: free (32 pages)
Weather: sunny spells

‘The obvious focal point of the GER sports ground is the superb wooden main stand,’ wrote The Itinerant Football Watcher Peter Miles while Kerry Miller in the History of Non-League Football Grounds described the view from the old structure as ‘a maze of poles, pylons and tannoys obstruct the view of the pitch which is some 15 yards from the stand’.

Both Peter and Kerry are referring to March Town United’s famous 90-year old wooden stand which was arguably the main reason for today’s 250-mile round trip to the fenlands of Cambridgeshire. On the grounds of progress, it may not be around for too much longer.

Kerry describes the GER Ground in detail and the large grassed area on which the current pitch sits has in the past been used for a multitude of sports including cycling, tennis, skating, cricket and greyhound racing. The current wooden stand was erected around 1923 and once sported a blue and yellow striped decor.

So with such a build-up, you can imagine how my heart sank on arrival to see puddles on the car park and a team carrying kit bags walking AWAY from the ground. Thankfully, a small group of officials standing by the refreshments building eased my concerns by saying the game was DEFINITELY ON!

What’s in a name? March Town United are unusual by having not one but two suffixes – for a very good reason. March Town, founded in 1886, moved to the GER ground vacated after the War by March GER United, another local side which began playing during the early 1920s and folded less than 20 years later. ‘United’ was added to ‘Town’ in 1950 and retained ever since.

A stop on the way at what I call my ‘lucky’ McDonalds on the A14 near Rothwell and the relaxed drive up the A141 from Huntingdon via Warboys delayed my arrival. Still with time on my hands, a quick trip to the museum on High Street, with collections of railway memorabilia and cameras amongst other things, provided some background on the town I was visiting for the first time. The ornamental fountain, erected in 1911 to commemorate the coronation of King George V warranted more than a quick glance as did the interior of Wetherspoons in what was the Hippodrome Cinema.

Once inside the ground [free programme and raffle tickets available by the turnstile], my trip from Staffordshire aroused plenty of interest and the Chairman kindly gave me a tour of the stand. Team lineups were displayed on a large Thurlow Nunn branded teamsheet.

Having travelled a long way to see it, I just had to stand watching the first half from the stand despite the obstructions between my ‘seat’ and pitch. A well-known groundhopper, who I only know as the ‘March Hare’, and his trusty four-legged companion, filled me in on the season so far. In the 19-team Division One table, March (six points from seven games, two wins and five defeats) stood in 14th position while further up the table, visitors Great Yarmouth (11 points from seven games) occupied eighth behind leaders Swaffham Town.

Surprisingly, the game wasn’t preceded by fair-play handshakes and March (in amber and black) got the action underway attacking the Town End, right to left in relation to the stand.

The game turned out to be Mitch Forbes’s match as the Great Yarmouth forward scored all of his team’s four unanswered goals.

Not long after March were forced to replace injured central defender Lewis Cook, Forbes struck for the first time in the 17th minute. Joe Bryanton cross into the area from the left hit the bar via a defender’s head and Forbes forced home the rebound.

The lead was doubled shortly before the interval. An accurate throughball gave Forbes a clear run on goal and easily beat the helpless March goalkeeper Ben Collett with a low shot. By this time, I’d moved from the stand to a position behind the March goal and got a decent view of this second goal.

“We don’t concede this half,” was the instruction given to the Bloaters and they went in for half-time 2-0 up and very much in charge.

Then came a real bonus. The winning raffle number of “green 992” matched one of the five numbers on my lucky strip!

Facing an uphill task simply to gain a point, March faced a determined Yarmouth side told “don’t give them any hope, clean sheet important”.

The friendliness of the March officials made me hope they’d mount a comeback in the second half. Alas, those hope were all but ended in the 52nd minute when the Bloaters netted a third goal. The assistant put his flag across his chest to signify a penalty after David Jackson tripped Robin Andersen inside the area. Forbes buried the ball in the net past Collett to score his second hat-trick of the season.

March rallied and Bloaters goalkeeper Danny Cable needed to be alert to block Ash Blanchflower’s shot with his boot. With march continuing to show plenty of improvement and urgency, the visitors or rather Forbes ended any hopes of a dramatic comeback by scoring a fourth goal. The striker latched onto Alex Formoso’s throughball and confidently fired past Collett.

Late on, Forbes almost scored his fifth goal by thumping a pass from Joe McCabe against the bar.

Almost forgetting to buy a club label badge, I found them on sale at the tea bar and rounded off a superb visit to the GER Ground with a slice of Victoria sponge. Yummy!

I can’t praise March Town United enough for the welcome I received today. By the time I next make my way up Robingoodfellows Lane, whenever that may be, the view of the blue stand behind the fence will probably be much changed. Sadly, but in the interest of progress, the old stand is set for demolition next summer to make way for a modern clubhouse and new stand. I'm sure, however, the awaited facilities will play a big part in a new and exciting era for March Town United.

Happy memories!

March Town United (amber with black sleeves / black / black): 1. Ben Collett, 2. Gary White, 3. Ben Lemmon, 4. Marc Hipwell, 5. Lewis Cook, 6. Jon Gibbons, 7. David Jackson, 8. Lewis Thompson (capt), 9. Aaron McKenna, 10. Sean White, 11. Sam Darlow. Subs: 12. Ash Blanchflower (for Jackson, 64), 14. Stuart Dunlop (for White, 79), 15. Paul Richardson (for Cook, 14), 17gk. Alex Forest.

Great Yarmouth Town (sky blue with white V / white / sky blue): 1. Danny Cable, 2. Shaun Bartley, 3. Robin Andersen, 4. Alex Formoso, 5. Ady Ager, 6. Jordan Forbes, 7. David Grandao, 8. Joe Bryanton (capt), 9. Mitch Forbes, 10. Scott Woodcock, 11. Leighton Crux. Subs: 12. Joe McCabe (for Woodcock, 56), 14. Charlie McAra (for Grandao, 70), 15. Josh Thomas (not used).

Referee: Gerald Daish
Assistants: Peter Allen and Iain George

Attendance: 35
Duration: first-half: 46:19; second-half: 49:32

0-1 Mitch Forbes (17)
0-2 Mitch Forbes (40)
0-3 Mitch Forbes (52 pen)
0-4 Mitch Forbes (79)

March: Gary White (YC, 27), Lewis Thompson (YC, 54)
Great Yarmouth: none

Nine out of nine for the Badgers

Tuesday 10th September 2013
Brocton 2 Lichfield City 1
St Mary’s Hospice Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (36 pages)

It turned out to be a good night for football in Stafford with positive news from the Badgers, Town and Rangers. Brocton returned to the top of the Premier Division table with a hard-fought victory 2-1 over Lichfield City which extended their 100% league record to six wins. Stafford Town recorded a 4-0 home victory over Pelsall Villa and Stafford Rangers, with Andy Mutch in temporary charge, picked up their first point of the season thanks to a 2-2 draw at home to Marine.

The Badgers have made an awesome start to the season by winning every one of the eight league and cup games they’ve played, including a victory over tonight’s opponents Lichfield in the Vase three days ago.

WON Sat 10 Aug – Brocton 4 Coventry Copsewood 0
WON Tues 13 Aug – Pelsall Villa 1 Brocton 7
WON Sat 17 Aug – Nuneaton Griff 2 Brocton 3 (FA Cup)
WON Sat 24 Aug – Littleton 1 Brocton 3
WON Mon 26 Aug – Brocton 4 Stafford Town 1
WON Sat 31 Aug – Brocton 6 Ellesmere Rangers 0 ( FA Cup)
WON Tue 3 Sep – Atherstone Town 2 Brocton 4
WON AFTER EXTRA TIME Sat 7 Sep – Lichfield City 3 Brocton 4 (FA Vase aet)

The game on Saturday sounds like it was a real cracker of a cup tie, settled in extra time by the odd goal in seven at Brownsfield Road with David Abelwhite’s penalty.

However, despite their 100% record, Brocton went into tonight’s derby in 3rd position with 15 points from 5 games. The top two, Littleton and Southam United, held a one-point advantage having played nine and eight games, respectively. Lichfield arrived at Silkmore Lane in 14th position in the 19 team Premier Division table with 9 points from 9 games.

Despite having plenty of games to choose from, a quartet of local groundhoppers including ‘Cannock Rob’ and ‘Rugeley Mugsy’ had the same idea as me by heading to what on paper looked an intriguing contest – and that is what it turned out to be from start to finish.

Brocton (in green and white) got the game underway defending the changing rooms end in the first half. It was good to see captain Matt Skinner in the side and prolific goalscorer Paul McMahon played up front alongside a new name to me in Jack Lees.

Watching the first half (unusually) from between the dugouts rather than the stand, I felt Lichfield posed quite a threat during the first half hour. Liam Holt and Kyle Minto both forced smart saves out of Brocton’s in-form goalkeeper Adam Whitehouse and Minto fired against the bar as well.

Brocton, however, took the lead shortly before the interval. Following a foul on McMahon by Todd Perry, Craig Hulme delivered the resulting free-kick from the left to the far post where McMahon headed the ball across the face of goal. Liam Haycock took full advantage to slot home at the far post.

A set piece led to Lichfield’s equaliser scored in the 58th minute. Holt sent a long-range free-kick into the area which struck the head of Gary Fife and flew past Whitehouse.

Controversy twice reigned around the 70th minute when referee Dragon Kusmanovic awarded Brocton two penalties in as many minutes. The first one, for a push on McMahon, resulted in a great save by Craig Johnson to keep out Fife’s spot kick. McMahon put the rebound over the bar. Saturday’s hero Dave Abelwhite stepped up to take the second one after Ash Bennett brought down Sam Bell inside the area. Like the Vase game, he fired the ball past Johnson to score what proved to be the winner.

Lichfield should have snatched a point in the closing stages. Holt crossed from the right but unchallenged Minto sent a free header wide of the target.

On top of the table with six league wins out of six, Brocton travel to Halesowen on Saturday for their first-ever FA Cup First Qualifying Round tie. The Badgers are really buzzing [if I can use a bee-related adjective in connection with a four-legged black and white creature].

Brocton (green with white sleeves / white / green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. David Abelwhite, 3. Matt Skinner (capt), 4. Rob Tomlinson, 5. Dale Roberts, 6. Charlie Jones, 7. Sam Bell, 8. Liam Haycock, 9. Jack Lees, 10. Paul McMahon, 11. Craig Hulme. Subs: 12. Gary Fife (for Haycock, ht), 14. Damien Charie (for Lees, 71), 15. Mark Cooper (not used), 16. Jethro Jarrett (for McMahon, 79), 17. Mick Fox (not used). Manager: John Berks.

Lichfield City (red/red/red): 1. Craig Johnson, 19. Richard Deaville, 3. Jon Huckfield, 4. Todd Perry (capt), 5. Dan McLeod, 6. Dan Worrall, 18. Ash Bennett, 8. Dan Thurnstance, 9. Kyle Minto, 10. Liam Holt, 11. Ollie Budd. Subs: 12. Sam Griffin (not used), 14. Chris Milner (for Budd, 79), 15. Ross Adams (not used). Manager: Paul Holt.

Referee: Dragon Kuzmanovic
Assistants: James Cox and Phil Magness

Attendance: 50 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:35; second-half: 47:31

1-0 Liam Haycock (38)
1-1 Gary Fife (63 og)
2-1 David Abelwhite (71 pen)

Brocton: none
Lichfield: Todd Perry (YC, 71)

Banks-like save earns Fairfield a point

Saturday 7th September 2013
Fairfield Villa 1 Sutton United 1
St Mary’s Hospice Midland Combination Division One
At: Fairfield Recreation Ground, Stourbridge Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none
Weather: mix of sunny spells and dark clouds

I walked away from the Fairfield Recreation Ground thinking what a good advert for non-league football I’d just witnessed. Appropriately for the fourth annual Non-League Day, long-established Division One side Fairfield Villa and newly-promoted Sutton United served up an absorbing contest, the outcome of which was always in doubt until the referee’s final whistle bought a 1-1 to a conclusion. Villa’s early first-half goal scored by Nathan Davies was cancelled out when Steve Radzynski sidefooted home an equaliser for United just before the hour mark. But the highlight of the game had to be a wonder save by Fairfield's James Burrows which brought back memories of Banks against Brazil in the World Cup at Guadalajara all those years ago.

Unlike Tuesday at Wythenshawe, I arrived in plenty of time to obtain the lineups and explore this tree-enclosed and leafy venue which boasts a feature I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a football ground before. Easily spotted behind the goal closest to the clubhouse, a large two metre high ornamental sundial, perfectly aligned for GMT, neatly positioned amongst some benches and shrubbery. The dial itself is decorated with images that describe the village’s history. Nice feature. Another football-related feature that stands out (pardon the pun) is the area of covered standing near the two dugouts with a distinctive tall roof.

One fact being put right this afternoon was the one that said I’d never seen Fairfield Villa play before, home or away despite them being continuous members of the Combination since 1985. I’d seen Sutton towards the end of last season at home in Sutton Coldfield and they ended the 2013/14 as Division Two runners-up to gain promotion.

The current 2013/14 has been a good one so far for both Fairfield (8th out of 15 with eight points from five games) and Sutton (4th with 12 points from six games). Draw specialists Fairfield had suffered just one defeat and won both their home league games while Sutton won their first six league and cup games before losing at Hampton last Saturday.

Pre-match drama centred about one of the assistants failing to arrive so, much to my relief though I would have offered my services, a home club official ran the line.

Sutton (in dark green and black) got the game underway attacking what I’ll call the Sundial End and they certainly made an impressive start.

However, it was Fairfield who edged in front during the 13th minute. Adam Guest’s delicious diagonal ball forward from the left to the far post was met by the outstretched leg of Nathan Davies who deflected the ball past goalkeeper Matt Gough into the bottom right corner of the net.

During the interval, refreshments were served in the clubhouse and I had some time to read the dedication next to a red Manchester United shirt bearing ‘DAVIS 36’. It is displayed in tribute to Jimmy Davis, ‘a popular and talented young footballer who was tragically killed in a car accident in August 2003’. He played for both Feckenham and Knowle as a youngster before joining United at the age of 14.

Perhaps responding to some strong words during the interval, Sutton got back on level terms as the hour-mark approached. Phil Taylor, on the right, hit the bullseye with a perfect low cross into the area which Steve Radzynski swept home into the far left-corner of the net.

A wonderful save in the 73rd minute kept Villa on level terms, similar to the one by Gordon Banks during the 1970 World Cup. Radzynski got on the end of a low right-wing cross and hit a seemingly goalbound shot. However, similar to Banks at Guadalajara, Jamie Burrows got across to dive to his right and deflect the ball over the bar. ‘Wonderful save’ is probably understating the brilliance of the goalkeeper.

The Fairfield defence was forced to resolutely keep the Sutton attack at bay with all hands to the pump. Adam Watson, however, failed to convert an easy chance for the visitors during the final ten minutes. “That should have been the winner,” said someone within earshot as should a later chance which totally unchallenged Sam Simmonds fired wide.

Before making my way back up the M5 and home for the Strictly Come Dancing launch show, there was time to admire St Mark’s Church and locate the Nailers Arms in nearby Bournheath. Amongst the ales on offer at this the Cask Marque accredited pub was a new one for me in Bateman’s Yella Belly Gold.

There is certainly a lot to like about Fairfield Villa. Why did I leave it so long to pay them a visit?

Fairfield Villa (yellow/blue/blue): 1. James Burrows, 2. Jamie Hatfield, 3. James Cund, 4. Adam Guest, 5. Steve Frost (capt), 6. Chris Glover, 7. Ben Pearsall, 8. James Ashton, 9. Peter Jenney, 10. Nathan Davies, 11. Nic Briggs. Subs: 12. Gabor Yengel (for Cund, 70), 14. Oscar Collins (for Ashton, 76), 15. Kieran Evans (for Davies, 32).

Sutton United (dark green / black / black): 17. Matt Gough, 2. Phil Taylor (capt), 3. Matt Lewis, 4. Sam Simmonds, 5. Aaron Long, 6. Jamie Hunter, 7. Nick Bell, 8. Tom Hicks, 9. Steve Radzynski, 10. Ryan Simmonds, 11. Adam Watson. Subs: 12. Pete Bromley (for Taylor, 81), 14. Josh Duggan (for Bell, 76), 15. Lee Hooper (for Long, 23).

Referee: Jeff Widdett
Assistants: David Simons and club linesman

Attendance: 19 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:15; second-half: 47:07

1-0 Nathan Davies (13)
1-1 Steve Radzynski (58)

Cards: none