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Water, Water, Everywhere

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

From “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner” by

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)




Wednesday 22nd January 2014 Hellenic League Floodlite Cup k.o.:- 7.45pm
3rd Round

Shrivenham                                                      2
Lee Bowen 14, 25,

Tuffley Rovers                                                 1     

Warren Mann 77,

Referee:- R. Beveridge                             attendance:- 22

They say they’ve got it cold in North America on the Eastern seaboard – temperatures down to -30C. The obverse is that all that cold climate is blown on the Gulf Stream across to the United Kingdom where it turns up as high winds and heavy rain. Successive cyclones have been battering the land for several weeks, now, and there seems to be no end in sight!


Fortunately, on this particular Wednesday evening, there was a lapse in the meteorological cycle and though it was pretty cold, there was, at least, no rain! I’d had my car serviced today and there were raised eyebrows, at the service desk, at the 25,000 miles I had driven in the last ten months and the seriously filthy condition of my car. Part of the service is to clean and valet the car and some wag had written on my bill: ‘I’ve seen cleaner tractors’.


I drove down to Chipping Norton to pick up my son and to see my grandson. James hadn’t eaten all day, but they treated him well, as usual, at Shrivenham and he dined lugubriously on sausages and chips. Shrivenham itself is a dot on the A420 between Oxford and Swindon. It used to be in Berkshire, but is now, apparently, in Oxfordshire even though it is but six miles from Wiltshire’s county town, Swindon. It has a population of less than 2,500, but boasts of a strong British and American Services connection.


The Recreation Ground is a neat and tidy stadium with a small covered seated stand (perhaps 50 spectators) down the left hand side and a bar and club house behind the goal by the entrance. The area outside the bar, behind the goal is covered and there is limited spectator seating. Otherwise, there is a hard standing around the playing area, but no more cover. The welcome is friendly and helpful. I was able to obtain team sheets and the meagre official attendance was relayed to me, personally, at half-time.


Tuffley Rovers play in a division of the Hellenic league below Shrivenham and for much of the first half, it showed. By half time, they were two goals adrift and looking a well beaten side. In the second half, however, with the introduction of a couple of substitutes, they rallied superbly and controlled the play for long periods. They pulled a goal back with some fifteen minutes to play and with a little more luck, they could have snatched a draw and extra time.


It was not to be, however, for in the atmospheric, floodlit shade of the silvery line of trees on the far side of the ground, time ran out and Shrivenham squeezed past them into the next round. One of these days, I must get to Tuffley!

Friday 24th January 2014 Evo-Stik Northern Premier League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Division I North

Wakefield                                                    0
Farsley FC                                                   3
Paddy Miller 62
Aiden Savory 70
Adam Priestley 85,
Matt Dempsey penalty saved 35,
Aiden Savory penalty hit post 77,
Referee:- Anthony Murphy                        attendance:- 124

Games are hard to come by, this January. The rain continues to fall and football pitches everywhere are saturated. This was definitely the case at Wakefield FC who play at Belle Vue, The Wakefield Trinity Wildcats Stadium. The Rugby League Club are gearing up for the 2014 season in The Rugby League Championship. They were not happy about a match being played on their pitch in such miserable weather conditions. I got there just as the pitch passed a seven o’clock inspection, much to the chagrin of the groundsman and a meagre crowd shuffled into the arena and upstairs to the coffee bar for something warm to drink! Outside, the rain was teeming down!


I’d just managed to get a team sheet and was jotting the names down, laboriously, into my book when Alan from Leicester, who frequently sneaks up on me at the more esoteric of football outposts, came and sat down beside me, the better to copy the names down, too. He had come up with Ken, but whilst they had braved my terrible bête noir, the M1, I had taken the easier route up the A1 and crossed over to The M1 via the M18. He and Ken had been sat in a ‘slough of despond’, somewhere on The M1,  awaiting the outcome of the seven o’clock pitch inspection. They were relieved to hear that the match was unscathed and continued their journey northwards!


The rain was unremitting and the walk round to the main stand involved a lengthy dash through puddles and downpour. Wakefield are struggling. They lie at near the foot of The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North and could easily find themselves dropping into The Northern Counties East League – if foreclosure doesn’t hit them first! Their opponents, meanwhile, were Farsley FC, the phoenix that arose out of the demise of Farsley Celtic in 2009. This season, they are enjoying success and challenging for promotion from the Division 1 North.


Hospitality boxes behind the goal at one end of the ground


“It’s like watching football through the Niagara Falls”, opined Alan as the rain continued to fall and every nook and cranny of the main stand dripped water, not least this view across the halfway line. The pitch, however, surprisingly held firm and played pretty well, which was a tribute to the groundsman, but there will be plenty of repair work for him to attend to before the friendly Rugby League match on Sunday.


The first half was goalless, but that was only because Farsley had a penalty saved.In the second half, the away team flexed their muscles and put the game beyond their hosts with three goals in a twenty minute spell just after the hour, a period which also saw them squander a second penalty opportunity, the shot in this case bouncing solidly off the left hand upright!


Wakefield’s woes continue, but Farsley are making a determined effort to return to The Northern Premier League’s top division.

Saturday 25th January 2014 FA Carlsberg Vase k.o.:- 3.00pm
4th Round

Hanworth Villa                                                    2
Adam Turner 64,
Ross Cheetham 75,
Lee Morley s/s 117
Eastbourne United                                            7
Sean Ray 21,
Joe Dryer 25, 113, 116,
Ryan McBride 97,
Scott Dartnell 103,
Wes Tate 119,

After extra time – score at ninety minutes 2-2
Referee:- Ian Fissenden                                   attendance:- 210


“Strength comes from Belief”

Hanworth revel in their nickname and there is an air of irreverence about everything they do! Their mascot is a cardboard cut out of Marylyn Monroe (see below) and their more vocal supporters have T-shirts with HLF – Hanworth Liberal Front – emblazoned on them, with “FRONT” as one would expect, on the back! Johnny and Jimmy did admit that not all of their T-shirted friends are Hanworth Liberal Front, some of them have earned the less salubrious soubriquet of “Hanworth Lunatic Fringe”!


On a dull, but dry morning, Graeme and I had driven to Lutterworth where Chris picked us up and then at junction 13 on The M1, we all transferred to Craig’s car for the journey down to West London and Hanworth Villa’s basic homestead at Rectory Meadow, just off The busy A3. There wasn’t much to it. The only cover was down the nearside of the ground where a seated stand for maybe 100 spectators was complemented by a roofed standing area for perhaps the same number. The club house was small but perfectly adequate, unless there were five or six times the usual attendance! Today it was very crowded, but also very welcoming!


Eastbourne United, one of three teams in the town of Eastbourne and probably the lowliest of the three, were the lowest ranked team left in the competition. They were playing a team one step higher on the pyramid and they had brought a substantial following of confident and positive support. one of these was Mike, who, although he wouldn’t class himself as a ‘hopper’ has, nonetheless, visited many a non-league ground across the country, and, furthermore, he keeps a pretty detailed record of the matches he has been to! We are all number nutters, we groundhoppers! This was my 2,870th game and 885th new ground and I’m small beer compared with some really committed ‘hoppers’ I know!


All  went well, in the first half. Fortified with three cheese rolls and a couple of pints of the excellent ‘Doombar’, I risked standing out in the open behind the visitors goal. There was a brisk wind and it was the visitors who had the advantage of it. They scored two goals to send their supporters into paroxysms of delight, but the game was far from over yet!


How true the above rings! In the second half, the home side, aided and abetted by a rising wind, took the game to their lesser league opponents and pulled back the two goals before a terrific downpour, which, assisted by the strong winds, caused the referee to take the teams from the pitch and the spectators, by now completely drenched, to race for the shelter of the club house, not an easy task when there is only one door, and many of us got even wetter queuing to get in there!


The teams re-appeared some ten minutes later. The rain continued to lash dow and the wind continued to blow, but no more goals were forthcoming before the end of ninety minutes of normal time.


Just before the end of normal time, the Villains suffered a cruel blow when they lost one of their players through injury, but as they had already used their three substitutes, they had to play the whole of extra time with ten men!


Jimmy and John with the mascot (which has ‘FRONT’ on the front), HLF supporters

The pitch had turned to a quagmire and players were sliding around all over the park. There was a minor spat between a couple of opposing supporters, but it was quickly and efficiently dealt with, both parties being kept well away from each other! In extra time, Eastbourne scored five times without reply, and this, after looking likely to fall to the home-side’s onslaught in the second half of normal time. The Villains plight wasn’t helped when they were reduced to nine men after a sending off, but by then they were a well beaten team.


The angry swirling clouds – and this was after the vicious downpour which caused the temporary cessation of the match.

Besides the wind and the rain, it was also bitterly cold and we were all very glad to dive into Craig’s car after the match, teeth chattering and feet like blocks of ice! I might not return to Hanworth Villa, but I shall certainly never forget my visit there!

Matches this season – 130 New grounds – 92

Matches this year – 12 New grounds – 6

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