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Early Season Blues

Ahhhh! Slowly, slowly, the drug begins to take effect! Meaningless little friendly matches at first, but very early on a new ground to add to the list speedily followed by four more. It is only the silly season really,  still warm, sunny and light in the evenings. Wait till it’s Winter and the gales howl and the rain lashes down (mind you, we’ve had that all this summer!).

There’s never any time in the summer when every day seems to be taken up with cricket and that, even in a summer as wet as this one! However, half way through August and with the Mid-Wales Hop looming large on the horizon, I can at least list the paltry few matches I have been able to get to so far this season!


Saturday 21st July 2012         Pre Season Friendly             k.o: 3.00pm

Corby Town               2            Northampton Town        1

Ricky Miller 18, 42                  Jake Robinson (pen) 69

referee:- Martin Dexter (Leicester)        attendance:- 830


Monday 30th July 2012    Lincolnshire Senior Shield Semi-final   k.o.:- 7.45pm

Stamford AFC       3                       Boston United               3

Andy Hall (pen) 6                          Mark Newsham 62, 64, 70 (pen)

Greg Smith  36

Ricky Miller   87                           no extra time, Boston United won 5-3 on penalties

referee:- Wayne Porter                   attendance:-  220


Yes, it was the same Ricky Miller who scored nine days earlier for Corby Town. It seems that he is looking for a new club after leaving Spalding United at the end of last season. He is a bit of a fiery character, it seems, and begins this season with a three game suspension held over from last season and I rather suspect that it will be Corby who retain his services rather than Stamford, despite the silver tongue of former Corby Town and now Stamford boss, Graham Drury.  Andy Hall and Greg Smith also played for Corby Town last season and if Mr Drury can retain them, he should have a fair side in this season’s Northern Premier League Division 1 South! Add to that the news that Stamford have received outline planning permission for a new ground out at Ryhall on the other side of the town. The word is that the present owners of the ground who are the Burleigh Estates, wish to develop the site commercially, it being so close to the town centre and railway station. They have offered alternative land out at Ryhall, free of charge I believe, but without any financial assistance towards the building works. The new ground may be in place by 2014/15.


Tuesday 31st July 2012          Pre-Season Friendly              k.o.:- 7.45pm

Rugby Town                    1                 Corby Town             1

Seb Lake Gaskin 49                          Leon McKenzie 56

referee:-                                                attendance:-  296


Friday 3rd August 2012              Northern Counties East League          k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

AFC Emley                          2                         Hallam                        1

Ashley Flynn 11                                              Danny Wiltshire 13

Sean Hazelden 42

referee:- Luke Watson (South Yorkshire)        attendance.:- 155

AFC Emley 2 Hallam 1

I collected Chris from Nottingham on the way up (brave man, accepting a lift from the maniac driver!) This was a first visit for me, though I think Chris had been before. I had been before too, on a raw bitingly cold February afternoon maybe twenty years ago when I had come with my son Michael and we had even got as far as a pie and a cup of tea before we were mercifully informed that the match had been postponed! Chris felt that Hallam deserved something out of the game, and maybe he was right. You could hardly have pushed a cigarette paper between the two teams. It was good entertainment though and possibly the very first league encounter of the new season across the whole country!

AFC Emley 2 Hallam 1


Monday 6th August 2012   Westerby Challenge Cup FINAL     k.o.:- 7.45pm 

Loughborough Dynamo          1                         Leicester City        0

Matt Langham (pen) 17

referee:- Amy Fearn                                             attendance:- approx.: 400

This was the challenge final between the two Westerby cup winners and Chris and I had been at the final where Loughborough Dynamo beat Hinckley United to win the Westerby Cup. Indeed, in the programme for this evening’s game, there was a picture of the crowd at Leicester City’s ground for that game and conspicuous amongst the throng was this nerd in glasses who strongly resembled yours truly!

I had a word to the gate man at half time and asked him had he totalled the attendance for the match. Not a chance! He said it wasn’t worth doing because there were two turnstiles and  he couldn’t count them both! Perhaps he was genuinely disinterested in the attendance (there are some hoppers who really have to know the OFFICIAL attendance!), or perhaps…………. No, that couldn’t be true…………….could it?


Tuesday 7th August 2012             Midland Combination                       k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Lichfield City                  0                Bloxwich United           3

                                                                        John Reeves, John Charters (2)

referee:- Neil Read                            attendance:- 120

Lichfield City 0 Bloxwich United 3

Lichfield City 0 Bloxwich United 3

Where did Lichfield City come from? They certainly weren’t in The Premier Division last season! The ground is fairly basic (another new ground for me) but it has floodlights and there is evidence of some substantial development along one side of the ground. They got a good tanning from Chris’ favourite team of the moment and deservedly so! There were glossy programmes on sale for £1.00 which detailed the efforts in Lichfield’s rise and the recent opening of their floodlights with a match against Tamworth of The Blue Square Bet Premier. However, there were no names listed for the away team or the referee and linesmen (the referee kindly volunteered his own soubriquet), but just as the match commenced, a team sheet appeared at the makeshift turnstile!


Wednesday 8th August 2012           Bob Cummings Trophy                  k.o.:- 7.45pm

S&L Corby                            1                    Corby Town                4

David Sheridan 7                                       Avelino Vieira 9, 22

                                                                        Josh Moreman   14

                                                                         Paul Malone 28

referee:- Mr C Henry                                  attendance:- 135

All over by half-time and the second half was a yawn! This so called competitive match was, in truth, little more than  another pre-season warm up. I was a bit skeptical about any official crowd being posted,  so I went round and counted just after half time. From my calculations, there were at least 270 people there which is just twice the officially posted attendance!


Thursday 9th August 2012         Olympic Women’s Football              k.o.:- 1.00pm

Bronze Medal Match

Canada                       1                           France                       0

D. Mattheson 90+2

referee:- Jenny Palmqvist (Sweden)             attendance:- 12,465

This was a comedy of farce! It was like being in a brothel run by nuns! I must have been to The Ricoh Arena (only you can’t call it the Ricoh arena during the Olympics because it might upset the sponsors!) half a dozen times in the last two or three years and each time with a considerably larger crowd that there was today. It took me twenty-two attempts to purchase ludicrously expensive (£60.00 each) tickets for my son and myself. I also booked a parking space for £5.00 and then found that I had to pay a LOCOG surcharge of £2.50. Worse than that, when we arrived at the car park, which was more than a mile from the ground, we found that it was CLOSED!!! Eventually after fairly unhelpful advice from police and officials we were let into a park only a few hundred yards from The City of Coventry Stadium. From there, it was all walk in convoy chaps like Russian prisoners of war waiting to be shot! Once at the arena, airport style security took over, take out your metal valuables and trouser belts and put them in the box, walk through the security porch, get swabbed down with a metal detector. Then as we were about to put the ticket into the automatic barrier release, we were given plastic bags. I was suddenly apprehensive, worried that I was about to be asked to perform into it! But no, we were to empty out our valuables yet again and put them into the plastic bag for…….? Once inside the stadium, the valuables went back into pockets and the plastic bag was consigned to the bin!

I began to realise just how John McEnroe occasionally felt on the tennis court when I went up to the bar and casually requested a pint of bitter. They didn’t have any beer!!!!!!!! The sponsors apparently only make lager!!!! Worse than that, the sponsors had apparently banned beer from sale but not wine which came in exploitatively priced 18.5 cl. bottles. They were prepared to sell wine, the national drink of France but banned beer, the national drink of Britain!

The game itself, Michael and I both agreed was pretty good. France were dominant ,  especially in the second half, hitting both bar and post and having more than one shot cleared off the line. It was Canada, however, who took the bronze with a goal in the second minute of added time right at the death. Canada’s number 6, a tall, statuesque blonde much enthused over by Chris, only appeared midway through the second half and was largely ineffectual, though pleasing on the eye as Chris had intimated!

After the match, I decided to avoid the crocodile convoy and walked with Michael to cross the dual carriageway unprotected, whereupon we were accosted by a member of Her Majesty’s finest, who bade me to step away from the barrier and rejoin the convoy. After a few minutes discussion I was threatened with arrest for obstructing traffic, although I did point out that I was unlikely to cross the carriageway whilst traffic was in full flow. The altercation continued with Her Majesty’s plod asking what I had against policemen. I told him that I had listened carefully to his sound and solid advice, but that as this was still, to my knowledge, a free country I would decide for myself how to access the far side of the carriageway and if he wished to add to his list of arrests for the day…..that was up  to him! With that we crossed the carriageway at the next break in traffic!

Canada 1 France 0 Olympic Women's Football Bronze Medal Match

Canada 1 France 0 Olympic Women's Football Bronze Medal Match. Attendance:- 12,465


Friday 10th August 2012    FA Cup sponsored by Budweiser        k.o.:- 7.45pm

Extra Preliminary Round

Thrapston Town                     2                   Cogenhoe              0

Jamie Gilsenan 45+1

Ryan Gormley  54

referee:- P. Howard                                      attendance:- 156

Newly relegated Thrapston stung their Premier Division rivals in this all  United Counties League FA Cup clash and it was impressive to see evergreen Jamie Gilsenan, who must be in his mid-thirties by now, getting onto the score sheet! I suspect that Thrapston will not languish long in the lower reaches! It was good to see that they had the foresight to arrnge the match for a Friday evening, which probably trebled the gate! Cogenhoe (pronounced “cook-no”), from Northampton just weren’t at the races!

Tuesday 14th August 2012    FA Cup sponsored by Budweiser    k.o.:- 7.45pm

Extra Preliminary Round REPLAY

Desborough Town             2                     Wisbech Town                        5

Ryan Morgan 89                                         Rogan McGeorge 48

Jack Burrows 90                                          Chris Bacon 62, 71 (pen)

                                                                          Matt Lunn 67, Simon Mowbray 82

referee:-                                                           attendance:- 120

One of my favourite teams, Desborough have not enjoyed the best of good fortune of late. Three years ago, their club house was burnt down and at one stage there was talk of the club folding. They hold the record for the longest continuous stretch at the same level in football, having never in their long history been outside the top flight of The United Counties League. They were last Champions, however, in 1963 when Ian, a former colleague in the education service was playing for them. The club house is now rebuilt and I contributed five bricks towards the refurbishment, one each for me and my sons and one for my grandson!

This evening, they were outclassed by Eastern League opponents who themselves have acquired a new ground – a soulless affair in the fens outside the town – and on the night were too good for an under strength Desborough Town, missing both the Mills brothers, one to suspension and one to annual holiday! The usual bunch were there, but not surprisingly, Ian. Probably also away on holiday!

Wednesday 15th August 2012      Athium Midland Combination       k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Littleton                 5                                          Castle Vale JKS               1

Oliver Manouchehri (2)                                  Richard Learnihan

Tim Beattie,  Jamie Anthony Clarke

Joseph Lolley

referee:-                                                                   attendance:- 86

Littleton FC

Oliver Manouchehri turns away after heading in the first Littleton goal from a corner

Littleton 5 Castle Vale JKS 1 Midland Combination Premier Division

This was a first, too, newly promoted to the Premier Division and with floodlights recently installed, the tiny village of Littleton, not far from Evesham (or Bidford-on-Avon) was hosting a higher level of football than they had ever reached since their formation in 1893. In actual fact, the ground is in North Littleton, one of three villages (the other two being “South” and “Middle” Littleton). Playing in The Midland Combination is quite appropriate as this league was formerly The Worcestershire Combination from its formation in 1927 until 1972 and it was round about this time that Littleton made their first appearance in the league. Tonight, they were far too strong for Birmingham side, Castle Vale JKS (anyone know what JKS stands for?).


Friday 17th August 2012   Baker Joiner Midland Football Alliance  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Tividale                        3                        Westfields                 4

Ashley Edwards 8                                 Scott Jackson 3

Kyle Brady 75                                         Will Loughman 24

Adam Hill 86                                          Aiden Thomas 89, Craig Jones 90+2

referee:-                                                     attendance:- 98

This was a cracker! Phil, from Watford always reckons that there are more goals in non-league football and with 46 goals so far from 12 games this season, I aint doing too badly! This was the first time I had actually seen Tividale play here! On previous visits, it had always been the tenants, either Oldbury United or Causeway United. I wound up with a pre-match special, chicken curry with rice and chips and naan bread (£3.00) and a fine pint of ale (thank God the Olympics are over!). Then I repaired pitch side to increase the methane volume in the atmosphere and enjoy a thoroughly pulsating match….well last ten minutes at least, when the home side pulled back from 2-1 down to lead 3-2 only to shoot themselves in the foot, conceding two very late goals to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!


Saturday 18th August 2012         East Midlands Counties League  k.o.:- 3.00pm

Aylestone Park                        7                    St Andrews                 1

J. Limbert (2), L. Ramsey (2)                    K. Linnett

L. Seal (2), E. Williams

referee:-                                                             attendance:- 33

Newly arrived in The east Midlands Counties League

Aylestone Park FC have a relatively new ground.......but no seating!

I’ll find the ground, I thought and then repair to a local hostelry for a bite to eat.  Finding the ground was easy, but I never did find a hostelry serving food! I tried in Wigston, Countesthorpe and Blaby, five pubs in all, three advertising food none of them serving it! I had to settle for an unsatisfactory cheese sandwich in the last one! When I got back to the ground, I found in the clubhouse, the remains of a mighty buffet laid on for visiting Canadian footballers who had spent the morning at the club and were now off to see Leicester City. I was able to help myself to two fairly hefty portions of cheesecake. A lot of money has been ploughed into this club, but still, there was no seated viewing area and it still had the feel of a Leicestershire Senior League side despite their recent promotion. The game hinged on a sending off just after half time when the scores were level at 1-1. The St Andrews man was dispatched for a pretty vicious tackle and the floodgates opened!


Monday 20th August 2012     Blue Square Bet South          k.o.:- 7.45pm

Chelmsford City                   2                 Welling United                 3

Craig Calver 18                                          Ross Lafayette 26

Craig Parker 90                                         Luis Cumbers 32

                                                                       Fraser Franks 57

referee:- Mr A. Sannerude                       attendance:- 868

A pretty turgid motto and a very expensive football outing!

The evening draws in on Chelmsford City's Melbourne Park, where they lost on this occasion by 3-2 to Welling United!

Talk about London weighting, it was an expensive evening! This was my first visit to Chelmsford’s Melbourne Park Sports and Athletics Arena, but not my first visit to see Chelmsford City, who used to share their football ground with the county cricket side and it was there in December 1992 that I first saw Chelmsford City in a home game with my son, Michael. There is a small uncovered standing area behind one goal and a larger covered area behind the other goal and seating along both sides of the ground, but the running track and the huge throwing netted area do cause viewing problems (unless you are up in the main stand). They had a guest ale on at £3.00 per pint and I had a couple of those to wash down two large cheese baguettes and then silently cheered Welling United to victory!

Tuesday 21st Aug 2012  Baker-Joiner Midland Football Alliance k.o.:- 7.45pm

Loughborough University           3          Coventry Sphinx               1

Daniel Nti 45+4, 83                                    Kyle Rhodes (pen) 55

Callum Williams 69

referee A Parker                                             attendance:- 54

This was a state of the art recently opened stadium which (apart from lack of cover on three sides) would have graced a League 2 or League 1 team. There was terracing all around the ground and an upstairs refreshment and viewing facility as good as anything in non-league football!

It was a good match too, despite the filthy weather with heavy rain and occasional flashes of lightning, the young students tore into their opponents with some surprisingly measured football and deservedly took the match by 3-1

A little surprisingly, the programme was a single sheet of A4 with club history and squad names for the opposition slipped inside a glossy two sides of A4 with more squad information and club history for the home team, and all expensively priced for a programme at £1.50!

It wasn’t the easiest ground to find! For a start, you had to receive a pass into the university campus with a warden guarded entrance and barrier. Then, with a vast multitude of car parking space, but no indication of where the stadium was, I found myself following several other cars trying to locate the ground. At last, I parked near to a barrier where we could walk down to the stadium car park (“why can’t we park down here?”, I asked the club secretary. “Health and Safety”, she tersely replied. After the match, with the rain teeming down, I got thoroughly soaked on my hike back to my car!

The chicken sandwiches were very acceptable, however, as was the can of John Smiths ale!

The impressive main stand at The Loughborough University Stadium

Well, I didn’t go to football yesterday, but I did see a quite delicious game of cricket at The County Ground in Bristol, where South Africa defeated Gloucestershire by three wickets despite Dan Housego’s 132 for the home side. The best of it was that we (my youngest son and I) went with hospitality and, even better, the weather after an initial sharp shower, just got better and better!

They say (well, Chris says) that the weather for the four day hop starting tomorrow is going to be – in his words – “heavy rain, rain, heavy rain and rain!”. Not even the weather could spoil a football hop…………I well remember the heavy rain and mud at Godolphin Atlantic and the unrelenting precipitation at Rhosgoch as they thrashed poor Talgarth Town 10-0. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough, whatever the weather!


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