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Turkeys for Christmas

Talking Turkeys!!

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas

Invite dem indoors fe sum greens

Let dem eat cake and let dem partake

In a plate of organic grown beans

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas

And spare dem de cut of de knife

Join Turkeys United and dey’ll be delighted

An yu will mek friends ‘FOR LIFE’.

Benjamin Zephaniah (1958 – )




Boxing Day 26th December 2013 Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League k.o.:- 11.00am
Division 1

Halstead Town                                                                  2
James Regan 20
Jordan Hutchings 35,
Saffron Walden Town                                                     4
Matt Snelling 30, 62,
Craig Claver 38,
Stuart Wardley 45+1
referee:- Mr A. Tampani                                     attendance:- 173


And so it was, on Boxing Day, on a cold but bright morning, Graeme and I found ourselves down on the Essex/Suffolk border for a top of the table clash in The Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League Division 1.


I like Halstead Town. I have only been there on two previous occasions, once in 2004 and again, the following year, (Saturday, March 27th 2004 Ridgeons Eastern League Premier Division Halstead Town 3 Mildenhall Town 0 attendance:- 84. Tuesday, March 22nd 2005 Ridgeoons Eastern League Premier Division Halstead Town 2 Wisbech Town 0 attendance:- 95). Admission to those two previous matches was £4. Today, the admission price was £6, then, as today, programmes were £1 each.


It is this big lovely old fashioned stand that attracts me so much to Halstead Town. Ten years ago, when I last came, there were wooden benches to sit on, but today, plastic seats had replaced the benches and I felt that this detracted somewhat from the romantic setting, seen in my minds eye on the journey down. Behind the stand is a fairly big club house where, at half time, festive mince pies were freely on offer! There was an excellent selection of bottled beers and by the end of half time, the lady behind the bar was able to give me the official attendance, already calculated by the club treasurer.


Saffron Walden Town came into this game in fifth place in the table, some nine points behind their second placed rivals. They brought with them a large following and – more importantly – a great deal of confidence born of a long unbroken winning streak. It was Halstead who scored first, somewhat against the run of play in the 20th minute. An exchange of goals saw them maintain that lead until two goals in the final seven minutes of a hectic half, saw the visitors take a 3-2 half-time advantage. The second half was much more pedestrian. Saffron Walden Town continued to dominate, but only added one more goal to their total on the hour mark. That was enough to seal an emphatic victory and substantially dent the home side’s delusions of grandeur!

Behind the goal, above, the brick wall separating the football club from some local commercial enterprise, had fallen down in parts and substantial swathes of that area were supposedly sealed off. The large crowd generally ignored the barrier ropes and the ruins and were probably more at risk from the lengths of hose pipe and pump machinery left lying alongside the pitch and which had been used successfully to ensure the match was played despite some recent rotten weather!


Boxing Day 26th Thursday December 2013 Sky-Bet League One k.o.:- 3.00pm

Colchester United                                                            4
Blair Turgott 10
Jabo Ibehre 13,
Craig Eastmond 25, 77,
Stevenage                                                                        0
referee:- G. Ward (Surrey)                                  attendance:- 3,919


After the match at Halstead, it was a drive of some twenty five minutes to Colchester United’s ‘Weston Homes Community Stadium’, just off the A12 on the outskirts of Colchester. I had been to see Colchester United once before ( Saturday 21st February 1976, Football League Division III Colchester United 3 Cardiff City 2, attendance: 3,248). That match, of course, was played at Layer Road, Colchester United’s previous ground (I stood on the terraces for 65p). They have been in their new stadium since the start of the 2008/09 season. Everyone remembers their epic defeat of Leeds United in The FA Cup in 1971, but it should also be noted that in the season 2006/07, they were in The Championship and, indeed, finished in 10th place, their highest ever league standing,  higher in the league than all of their East Anglian rivals (Ipswich Town, Norwich City and Southend United) despite having the lowest average attendance of the division. Sadly, the following season saw them relegated in bottom place back to League One.The new stadium has a capacity of just over 10,000, with a record crowd of 10,015 for a League One fixture with Norwich City. Layer Road had its capacity reduced to 6,000 over the years. The record attendance for that ground was 19,042 for an FA Cup match against Reading in 1948, a game that was eventually abandoned due to fog!


The new stadium is just off the A12, but unless you have a car parking pass, there is no parking anywhere near the stadium that either of us could see. This is probably the main reason why I have been somewhat tardy in adding this ground to my collection! It is pretty impressive from the outside and is set in a large, wide expanse, an area with extensive club parking and not a lot else. The ground itself is very similar to Shrewsbury Town’s Greenhous Meadow Stadium, in that there are four discrete stands with the four corners of the stadium empty and open to the elements. I bet it is a chit billy on a cold February afternoon, when there is an icy easterly blowing through the arena! Today, in still, bright sunshine, it was very pleasant.


Graeme and I had decided to do the job properly and award ourselves a Christmas football outing with hospitality! It was Julie Ager, a Commercial Sales Executive, who advised on the appropriate level of hospitality and I was very impressed that she remembered me from our telephone conversation when we arrived at the stadium! Even more impressive was a telephone call I received the next day, following up on our visit!


It had been a bad December for The ‘U”s. There were thrashed 4-0 at home early in the month by bottom of the table Notts County, and their only other December fixture saw them slide to a 2-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic. Today, Stevenage were the visitors and December had been much kinder to them, starting with a 4-0 FA Cup defeat of Stourbridge and then three draws, 1-1 at Swindon Town, in The Johnstone’s Paints Trophy (lost on penalties), 2-2 at high flying Port Vale and 0-0 at home to Sheffield United, with both f the final fixtures in League One.


As a contest, this match was over after a quarter of an hour when the home side went 2-0 up, following a couple of goalkeeping howlers and any confidence Stevenage may have brought into the game with them, visibly drained away. A third goal from the impressive Craig Eastmond was conceded on 25 minutes and a cricket score looked on the cards! The Boro’ were much better after half time, however, without really threatening the home goal and the scoring was wrapped up with a fourth for The ‘U’s from man of the match Craig Eastmond, after  77minutes.


Graeme with The ‘U’s mascot – a lovely couple!

We stayed behind after the match for half an hour or so digesting the rest of the football results from Sky TV and then found getting away from the stadium relatively easy


Friday 27th December 2013 Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League k.o.:- 3.00pm
Premier Division

Hadleigh United                                                       5
Ollie Canfer 2, 40,
og 21,
Josh Mayhew 4,
Paul Donnelly 36,
Brantham Athletic                                                    1
Simon Mann 84 (pen)
referee:- Nicholas Cooper                                attendance:- 245


I had been to Hadleigh United’s Millfield ground once before, some seven or eight years ago. On that occasion, the match was called off , just as I arrived, due to a waterlogged pitch. This time, I took the precaution of ringing the ground in advance (and keeping FC Clacton up my sleeve in case of a late postponement). In the event, FC Clacton was called off, but Hadleigh United went ahead!


The major covered area is a seated stand (maybe 150 spectators) on the far side of the ground. There is some covered standing area near the entrance to the ground, but otherwise, behind each goal and along the rest of each side, there is a flagstone’s width of hard standing and very little else. The ground is hard by the River Brett. No doubt that is why 1) the team are called The Brettsiders and 2) the pitch can become waterlogged in wet weather. Today, despite the recent rain, the pitch held up well. There is a club house adjacent to the entrance to the ground and the teams are displayed in the window just before kick-off.


Brantham Athletic had arrived for the match in the midst of an injury crisis. They were missing five players including a couple of central defenders and had to replace them with players from their midfield. They found themselves two goals down inside the first five minutes, conceded an own goal on twenty-one minutes and two minutes late had James Turner, a central defender, sent off for violent conduct. The future looked bleak when two further first half goals were scored against them and I really did think that they might end up  with double figures in the goals against column!


In the second half, they had re-grouped, reorganised and added some steel to their determination. They fought well and kept top of the table Hadleigh United at arms length throughout. The icing on the cake was a disputed penalty which allowed them to pull one goal back. As one of their more optimistic fans was heard to say on the way out:- “We won the second half 1-0”! In truth, a strong Hadleigh side had over run them in the first half and eased up in the second, as they stretched their lead at the top of the table to thirteen points.


It was just over one hundred miles back to my Northamptonshire lair, but I was in no hurry. I had enjoyed my second visit in two days to Suffolk and added another Eastern Counties League ground to the list!


Saturday 28th December 2013 Everards Brewery Leicestershire Senior League k.o.:- 3.00pm
Premier Division

Cottesmore Amateurs                                           0
Melton Mowbray                                                    5
Ash Palfreyman 17, 37,
Jack Baker 21,
Arron Black 39,
Adam Bishop 45
referee:- Vernon Turner                                       attendance:- 45


Although this will go down in my annals as a first visit, I had been here before to watch a football match. My son Michael had played a youth match here at the beginning of the nineties (Sunday 27th January 1991 – Stamford & Rutland U-16 League Cup Quarter-final Replay: Cottesmore 1 Kingswood 0), but since then, the ground has been quite substantially improved. There is covered standing on both sides of the pitch, floodlights have been installed and even a tea hut, which besides selling beverages, also peddled club badges and ‘fridge magnets sporting a scantily clad female bespattered in Cottesmore mud and reclining on the pitch!  I parted with £3 for the privilege of acquiring one of them!


There were no programmes, and the collection in lieu of entrance charge never materialised.


I had seen the two teams in action against each other when Melton played the home fixture on 25th September this year. On that occasion, Melton were somewhat fortunate to gain a 1-0 victory.


There was nothing fortunate about their victory in the return fixture. They had two goals before the midway point in the first half and a further three goals more by half time. There was no way back for the home team, but at least in the second half, they played with greater determination and conviction to stem the haemorrhage of further goals. Melton helped, too, by utilising all of their substitutes!


This must be the nearest ground to my home that I had not yet visited. There was a three o’clock kick-off and I was home by 5.30pm!

Sunday 29th December 2013   Sky-Bet Championship k.o.:- 3.00pm

Leicester City                                                               5

Danny Drinkwater 6,

Anthony Knockaert 38,

Tim Ream (go) 41,

Lloyd Dyer 75,

Gary Taylor-Fletcher 89

Bolton Wanderers                                                     3

Andre Moritz 15, 39,

Jermaine Beckford 20,

referee:- Mick Russell                            attendance:- 26,614


I took my nephew Conor and his friend, Brad, to this match at The King Power Stadium in Leicester. This was my nineteenth visit to Leicester City’s new ground (to add to the thirty-four visits to Filbert Street) and for the first time for a long time, there was a match with goals, verve, flair and passion, all of which are usually in short supply in The Sky-Bet Championship.


Conor, my nephew to the forefront, and his friend, Brad!

Leicester City are currently top of The Sky Bet Championship and today’s win extended their lead to four points. The first half was a crazy affair with six goals and the lead changing hands on four occasions! Jermaine Beckford, the Bolton striker formerly with Leicester City, was roundly booed whenever he touched the ball, but silenced his critics with a sweet strike in the twentieth minute to put Bolton temporarily in front. At half time, it was all square at three goals each!


Both Conor and Brad pronounced themselves starving at half time (despite having despatched a Yorkie bar each during the first half) and whilst Brad opted for chicken curry and rice with naan bread, Conor, more prosaically, chose bangers and mash! Refuelled, they returned to their seats for the second half. Leicester had a David Nugent penalty saved by Andy Lonergan in The Wanderers goal as they cranked up the pressure. Fifteen minutes from time, Lloyd Dyer burst down the left wing and fired in a low shot from an acute angle to restore The Foxes lead, and right on time, substitute Gary Taylor-Fletcher took advantage of a defensive mix-up to extend the home side’s lead, and the match was won.


What is not immediately obvious from this picture is that the Bolton playing kit was ALL bright orange!

This season   Matches – 118   New Grounds – 86

This year   Matches – 218     New Grounds – 142

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