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April Showers

After the Baris Northern Counties East(er) Groundhop, there was barely time to draw breath before it was Bank Holiday Easter Monday and the enticing prospect of three games in a day! Three games in a day used to be pretty easy as teams scattered kick off times like confetti at a white wedding, but of recent years there has come to pass a boring standardisation of kick off times and indeed on this particular occasion there was only ONE evening kick-off! I started the day at Thrapston Town whose plight at the foot of the Premier Division of The United Counties League looks irretrievable and a clash with Wellingborough Town was indeed a stretch too far as they were easily overcome by 3-1 and never really looked “in the game”. There were showers around during and after the game as I vacillated about where to go for the middle game of the day. Eventually, I decided upon Cottesmore Amateurs of the Leicestershire Senior League who were entertaining Ratby Sports who had provided me with the lowest attendance of the season (15) last November! As I arrived, the heavens opened and a gigantic rainstorm engulfed the area and when I got to the ground, although it was before the advertised 3.00pm kick-off, play was already under way AND, there was no shelter! It seemed to have been a day for dithering, but I didn’t dither long at Cottesmore (who  eventually won a tight encounter by 3-2) and leapt back into my car with alacrity. The prospect of a long drive to a third game soaking wet through did not appeal to me and three games suddenly became two as I set out for the only evening game at Witton Albion.

Monday 9th April 2012: Chromasport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division – kick-off:- 12.00 noon

Thrapston Town                 1                Wellingborough Town                     3

Ben Morgan (pen) 75                              Ryan Cherry 10, Mark Redding 46, Dan Surridge (pen) 55

referee:- A. Wilson                                   attendance:- 98

Witton Albion's very pleasant and well appointed Wincham Park

Sat-nav took me via Melton Mowbray and I took the opportunity to endure a largely unsatisfactory meal at a large chain pub on the Nottingham Road out of the town. Even at 4.00pm in the afternoon the place was crawling with mewling puking babes and recalcitrant recidivist parents! I was glad to get away and through south Nottingham to the A50 and then the A500 to a brief acquaintance with the M6 before alighting at junction 17 and returning southwards to Northwich. When I eventually located the ground, I was pleasantly surprised to find a neat and well maintained stadium and my thoughts turned to the nearby Victoria Park, home of Northwich Victoria (the “other” team in Northwich) until recently, when they were ejected and forced into administration. Witton Albion may be a league beneath them, but they are in reasonable financial health and challenging for promotion! Tonight’s visitors were Warrington Town, perhaps half a dozen miles away as the crow flies and this was a tasty local derby and well supported by both sets of fans. Initially, this was a fairly evenly contested encounter, but then in the 19th minute, Warrington had a man sent off for injudicious use of an elbow in the face of a former teammate and thereafter, the traffic was mainly one-way. The final score was 5-0 and the result keeps Witton in the hunt for a play off spot! One hundred and thirteen miles home in ninety minutes!

Wincham Park, Chapel Street, Wincham, Northwich

Witton Albion 5 Warrington Town 0


Monday 9th April 2012 7.45pm: Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North

Witton Albion       5                                        Warrington Town            0

Ashley Stott 15, 25, 82

Christopher Gaghan 51

Daniel Andrews 79

referee: Nicholas Gibbons                                attendance:- 413


Tuesday saw me travelling to deepest Cambridgeshire for a Kershaws Cambridgeshire County League fixture and a first foray into those nether regions! Great Shelford is not far south of Cambridge just off the M11. The car park is shared with the local community hall and was pretty full when I got there, but it had a convenient loo for the aged and infirm of bladder! There were no floodlights and no entrance charge but a goodly crowd had turned up and I was kept well informed of proceedings by the manager of another of the league’s sides, whose name escapes me. He was there on official duty to run the rule over future opposition. Great Shelford were expected to win fairly comfortably as they were a top five side whilst West Wratting, a wonderfully evocative name for a football team, were struggling somewhat in the lower reaches of the division! It was West Wratting who took the lead however, just after half time and it took Shelford another twenty minutes to conjure up an equaliser. Then, the home side were stunned by two Wratting goals in the last six minutes and the form book went out of the window! The match was played on a pleasant, mild but overcast evening and was surprisingly good entertainment! I shall be back!

Tuesday 10th April 2012 6.15pm: Kershaws Cambridgeshire County League

Great Shelford            1                             West Wratting                        3

Shane Roberts 73                                          Danny Hill 52, 84    Craig Cutts 87

referee:- Nicholas Stobbs                              attendance:- 55


The following evening, Wednesday , there was a cup final on the agenda at Nene Park, Irthlingborough, the former home of the now defunct Rushden & Diamonds and presently the domain of Kettering Town. It was a surprisingly low key affair and the expected winners, Bugbrooke St Michaels from the Chromasport & Trophies United Counties League duly triumphed over their lower league opponents from the Chromasports & Trophies Peterborough & District League. Chromasports must have a lot of money to invest!

Wednesday 11th April 2012 7.30pm: Les Underwood Northants FA Junior Cup FINAL

Kings Cliffe United               1                        Bugbrooke St Michaels                       2

Matt Black 90+2                                                 Ashley Bradshaw 8 Lance Allen 70

referee:- Ellis Clarke                                          attendance:- 236


Saturday saw me take up the offer of a couple of games in the Nottingham area with Chris Berezai and I trained up to to Long Eaton on the 12.27 from Kettering and the 13.24 from Beeston and Chris duly picked me up in his luxurious limousine and we headed out to see Real United playing against Bilborough Pelican. When we got to their fenced pitch and artificial surface, they definitely weren’t playing there! Frustrated, we changed our plans and went to see Dunkirk at home to Alvechurch. Dunkirk had endured a torrid time of late shipping goals losing by large scores, but they steadied the ship and whilst they were unable to win the match, they at least, lost respectably!

Saturday 14th April 2012 3.00pm: Baker Joiner Midland Football Alliance

Dunkirk                    1                      Alvechurch                            3

Ryan Ejezie 10                                   Andy Nicol 32, Elliott Nash 52, 61

referee:-                                               attendance:-  46


For the second match of the day in increasingly bitter conditions, we travelled the short distance to Basford United for the final of the Floodlit Cup. The game was scheduled to kick off at 7.00pm even though it was a Saturday presumably because it was a floodlit cup final and should thus be played under floodlights! It was a match which Basford really ought to have won long before Newark Town equalised in the very last minute to take the tie into extra time. There is no real cover at Basford and the bitter wind was not conducive to enjoyable spectating. Basford somehow found a winner five minutes from the end of extra time and we all went home………..or so we thought! I had booked my rail tickets with a view to catching the 21.54 from Long Eaton back to Kettering and Chris made sure that I was there with five minutes to spare! However, there was no train leaving at 21.54 for anywhere near Kettering and, needless to say, no-one to ask what had happened to it – or any rail service south! Eventually, I took a train into Nottingham and consulted a lone station worker who said that there were NO TRAINS to Kettering until the following day! There was, however a service to Leicester at 23.10 if I wanted. Outside, the heavens had opened and the downpour was unforgiving. I rang home and persuaded a very unhappy and dubious lift provider to drive all the way to Leicester Railway Station to collect me at 00.10. Then I nipped across the road for two large scotches to calm my jangling nerves!

Saturday 14th April 2012 7.00pm Windsor Foods Central Midlands League

Phoenix Trophies Floodlit Cup South – FINAL

Basford United               2                      Newark Town                  1               AET

Darren Garmston 22                                  Mark Ellison 88 Martin Holts 115

referee:-Tim Walker                                   attendance:- 102



Jim strides purposefully to the minuscule Hook Norton main stand with an interesting selection in headgear!

On Tuesday evening, I popped down to see my son in Chipping Norton and we took in a game at Hook Norton. When they first arrived in the Premier Division of The Hellenic League in 2002/03, they played their home matches at Banbury United because they had no floodlights and I saw them smack Wantage 5-1 that season. However in five games since then on their own ground (with floodlights!) in Hook Norton, I have never seen them win! This evening’s game had barely started when my son received a phone call from his wife to say that she had forgotten the keys to the house and he had to borrow my car to go and let her in! Hook Norton are now back down in Division 1 West and at last I saw them win with an opening goal from Ben Tew who opens the batting for Chipping Norton CC and who is a cricketing team mate of my son. He joined us briefly after the match for a drink in the bar.

Hook Norton 2 Purton 1


Tuesday 17th April 2012 7.45pm: Uhlsports Hellenic League Division 1 West

Hook Norton                  2                           Purton                     1

Ben Tew                                                          Marcus Hall (pen)

Chris Tillcock (pen)

referee:- Mr Nicholas MacKenzie              attendance:- 35


Blackstones 1 Long Buckby 11 (eleven!)

The following evening I went to see probably the most amazing match of the season! It was not just showering, but pouring with rain, so much so that I rang the secretary before setting out to confirm that the game was on! Long Buckby, the visitors had just beaten Kings Lynn, the favourites for the league title the previous Saturday and with two games in hand had given themselves a realistic chance of overhauling them and clinching the championship. However, their goal difference was inferior by seven. Chatting to the lady in the tea hut before the game, she was happy for Long Buckby to win, because, along with many more UCL supporters, they didn’t want the nouveau riche Kings Lynn to take the title. She could hardly have had her hopes and expectations so ruthlessly granted! Blackstones is a lovely ground, one of my favourite UCL grounds. Threatened with being turned into a housing estate some years ago, the club took out an £800,000 mortgage to secure the land and to perpetuate football on the site. The clubhouse with Sky football on TV is always welcoming and the tea lady, whose name I have never learnt, always has time for a chat before the game! Tonight, Blackstones didn’t play badly. It just seemed that everything Long Buckby touched turned into a goal. They were five up at half-time and won the game by the astonishing away margin of 11-1!!!!

Wednesday 18th April 2012 7.45pm: Chromasports & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division

Blackstones                      1                      Long Buckby                          11

Simon Mowbray 13                                   Greg Ling 3, 60, 67                                                                        

                                                                  Fazel Koriya 10, 22, 51                                                                        

                                                                  Russ Dunkley 35, 47                                                                        

                                                                 Dan Quigley 44, Josh Davis 55,

                                                                 Stuart Smeather 59

referee:- Mr M. Wetherall                        attendance:- 65

Alvechurch 2 Ellesmere Rangers 1

The following night did feel a little bit like “after the Lord Mayor’s Party”!  Alvechurch, long renowned for their chronically waterlogged pitch had posted on the league website that the game was “DEFINITELY ON”. So despite the heavy and frequent showers, I set out for Worcestershire in a fairly positive frame of mind. When I got there, I was in plenty of time and decided to enjoy a pint in the bar. No such luck! There were about five different choices of lager on sale but no ale!!!!! When I enquired of the bar man, he said that with the game being on at short notice, they hadn’t had time to order any beer! I’ve heard some excuses but that one took the biscuit! I almost wanted Alvechurch to lose after that, but on my previous two visits, they had suffered four goal reverses and perhaps it would be good to see them win for a change. And win they did, but they left it late after each side scored in the opening four minutes, the winner came in the 89th minute!

Alvechurch FC, Lye Meadow, Redditch Road, Alvechurch, Worcs.


Thursday 19th April 2012 7.45pm: Baker Joiner Midland Football Alliance

Alvechurch    2  

Andy Nicol 2

Tom Elder 89

Ellesmere Rangers 1

  Darren Beech 4

referee:-           attendance:- 101



Alvechurch 2 Ellesmere Rangers 1 attendance:- 101


The following evening was a rare Friday evening fixture for me. I drove over to Irchester just off the A45, near Wellingborough for a match against Peterborough Northern Star.  Uncommonly, the rain had desisted, but there were still occasional showers. Irchester’s ground is gearing up for the cricket season and this was their last home game of the season……and probably their last in the premier division, but… never know with Northampton Spencer requesting demotion and Daventry United ceasing to exist at the end of the season! The point they gained with an injury time equaliser did nothing to help them away from second bottom in the Premier Division!

Friday, 290th April, 2012 7.45pm: Chromasports & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division

Irchester United                      1                   Peterborough Northern Star               1

Daryl Lawman 90+1                                           Jon Stead 24

referee:- L. Kowalski                                           attendance:- 70



There was no football over the weekend because the cricket season had started and the rain rejoiced! In the cricket season, I spend half the season (and more) scoring matches on my lap top and the other half of the season umpiring in a local league. This weekend, the public school where I score the matches opened with a fairly decisive victory, but with a young and pretty inexperienced team and they will struggle this season but be all the better for it next season. On the Monday, they played two T20 matches against a state school from Northampton and were soundly and embarrassing thrashed in both matches and then on Tuesday, they raised their game considerably to a narrow defeat to an MCC XI. Chasing an unlikely 211 for 4 from the MCC XI,  they were all out for 188 and that in the penultimate over despite a watchful 61 from Sam (whose dad, John, played Rugby Union for England) and 41 from the skipper, Guy. Sam had also scored 125 in the opening match on Saturday and I think he could prove to be a very handy all rounder! Anyway, when that was all over, it was back to the football and on Wednesday evening, I drove over to Carlton Town for a play-off semifinal in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League. Once again, the rain lashed down, and once again the “DEFINITELY ON” signs were posted on the website! Carlton Town, the home side were expected to defeat Leek Town who finished some ten points below them in the league and, indeed, the match seemed to be going languidly according to the script for an hour or more with Carlton building a two goal advantage. Completely out of the blue, Leek Town pulled the two goals back to force extra time and their noisy fans declaimed boozily on the supreme merits of their team, but no more goals were forthcoming and it would take penalties to decide it! Carlton missed the first one and you sensed it was not going to be their evening, but Leek missed their third penalty and we were all square again until at 7-6 to Leek, Carlton hit the bar and their hopes of higher league football next season were blown to smithereens! So were Leek Town’s chances a few days later when they lost the play off final at Ilkeston Town!

Wednesday 25th April 2012 7.45pm: Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 South Play-Off Semi-Final

Carlton Town             2                       Leek Town                2    AET (Leek Town won 7-6 on penalties)

Ruben Wiggins-Thomas 42               Tim Grice 75, 82 Sam McVicar 56

referee: William Smallwood               attendance:- 369



On Thursday, I made the comparatively long trip to Newport Pagnell Town, the UCL team I have visited least of all (only one previous visit in December 2002 and a 4-0 victory over Long Buckby!). This particular evening, the rains held off, at least for the duration of the match and I enjoyed a couple of pints of Theakstons in the bar before kick off. Newport Pagnell Town have been enjoying a good run of late with no defeats in eleven games. Their opponents, St Ives Town, however had been going even better with ten wins in a row! Something had to give and it was the St Ives defence who caved in spectacularly as Newport Pagnell continued their good run and substantially improved their goal difference at the same time.


Thursday 26th April 7.45pm: Chromasports & trophies United Counties League Premier Division

Newport Pagnell Town                     6                     St Ives Town                  0

Keith Williams 6, Matt Broomes 28,

Scott Mulkern 42, Dominic Lawless 50, 67,

Kyle Welch 88

referee:- N. Manolescu                                              attendance:- 107

Recreation Way, Mildenhall

Friday was another day of heavy showers with April living up to its reputation! It was 75 miles to Recreation Way in Mildenhall, Suffolk and in heavy traffic I only managed to get there in even time. It was the final of The Ridgeons League Division 1 Knock-out Cup and, surprise, surprise, perennial whipping boys Godmanchester Rovers (or “Goddy” to the faithful – and there were plenty of faithful there!) were not only contesting the final, but had finished the season as Division 1 Champions! Next season they will ply their trade in The Premier Division! Their opponents were third placed Whitton United who had shipped five goals at Goddy last Saturday and yet had still managed to finish third in the league! Intermittent showers, some heavy, littered this match and the sodden pitch and slippery conditions didn’t were not conducive to fine, free-flowing football! One goal early in the first half settled this dour contest and Whitton, although losing again, could console themselves with a much improved performance!

Friday 27th April 2012 7.45pm: Ridgeons Eastern League Division 1 Knock-out Cup FINAL

Godmanchester Rovers                    1                       Whitton United                 0

J. Turner

referee:- Mr Oliver Morris-Saunders                            attendance:- 190



Earlier in the week, I had rung my brother in Chorley to ask him to purchase tickets for the Northern Premier League Premier Division Play-Off Semi-Final. Northwich Victoria, although they finished second, were kicked out of the play-offs, some said because they had no ground (they have been locked out of Victoria Park since they went into administration and recently have  been playing their fixtures at Nantwich Town. They claim to have fixed up a ground share deal with Stafford Rangers for next season). Anyway, the fact that Northwich were booted out of the play offs meant that Chorley were in top play-off spot and FC United of Manchester who finished one place outside the play-offs were given the final spot and the daunting task of an away fixture at Chorley.

The author outside Victory Park, Chorley. Note the strong police presence. Had they rumbled me?


However, with all the wrangling, tickets were only put on sale on the Wednesday before the match, hence my frantic call to brother Michael Joseph! Chorley had already beaten FC United at Chorley this season and drawn at Gigg Lane, so my spirits were high as I drove over to Rugby to catch the 9.04 London Midland train to Stoke-on-Trent and the 10.17 Cross Country Service to Manchester Picadilly. I scooted over to a VERY crowded  platform fourteen for the 11.17 Northern Service to Barrow-in-Furness (second stop, Chorley) when the announcer proclaimed a platform change to platform thirteen B and we all trooped wearily across the concourse! The train wasn’t too late and I arrived on Chorley platform with Michael there to greet me and we walked over to his house where he had thoughtfully provided my favourite Lancashire dish of Butter pie, chips and mushy peas! On the television, Southampton were consigning West Ham United to The Championship Play-Offs while securing their own place in The Premiership by beating hapless (and relegated) Coventry City by 4-0. My brother-in-law Allister (his uncle Bill is the “Bill Stokeld” of Carlton Town’s Bill Stokeld Stadium) joined us for the short walk to the ground and for a couple of pre-match pints.

The main stand at Victory Park, Chorley

At this point, nothing appeared untoward and we were in good spirits. We elevated ourselves to the stand for the match and were very surprised to see the number of FC United fans who had infiltrated the stand which was supposed to be for Chorley supporters only. Let’s be blunt! Chorley just didn’t turn up for the races. They were lack lustre and languid, but FC United’s cause was assisted by a very helpful referee who seemed to turn a blind eye to their indiscretions and to magnify every Chorley error! He dis-allowed a Chorley goal and turned down a pretty obvious penalty appeal for the home side too. It was not to be. FC United of Manchester were the winners and I hope Bradford Park Avenue (who bashed Hednesford 5-0 in the other Play-off Semi-Final)  STUFF them in the final next week! It was a chastening journey home and I didn’t really feel much like watching MOTD, but I forced myself to, as a penance!

The Massed ranks of the FC united fans behind the goal at The Pilling Lane End


The doubtful handshake before the game commences.........why?

The massed ranks of the Chorley fans behind the goal at The Duke Street End!

Saturday 28th April 2012 3.00pm: Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division Play-off Semi-Final

Chorley                                   0                              FC United of Manchester            2                                                                                      

                                                                                      Michael Norton 63,

                                                                                      Astley Mulholland 79

referee:-                                                                     attendance:- 2,754


It really was April Showers, the wettest April for over 100 years and I think that several matches were played in difficult conditions which sometimes added to the excitement and at other times detracted from the spectacle. I had hope to make it 191 games by the end of April but when I got to S&L Corby on Monday evening, all was locked and barred and I presume that the game was off although nobody had thought to put it on The UCL website!!!! I was too late to go to Lincoln Moorland v Staveley Mineworkers or anywhere else for that matter, so it will be a challenge to see if I can get ten games in in May. Chris seems to think it will be a breeze. I hope that it is!

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