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Like Adelstrop!

The steam hissed.  Some one cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform.  What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

From “Adelstrop” by Edward Thomas (1878-1917)





Monday 24th February 2014 Calor Southern League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Division 1 Central

Beaconsfield SYCOB                                                     2
Zak Joseph 45+2
Kefi Lockhart-Adams 90+2
Dunstable Town                                                            3
Christopher Marsh 39, 64,
Nathan Frater 76,
Referee:- Adrian Gillett                                            attendance:- 90


SYCOB? Slough Youth Club Old Boys

Despite the abysmal weather (it was raining once again), this match was ‘ON’ and Graeme and I met up as usual at Blisworth and motored sedately down the A43 and M40 to junction 2 where services had appeared since my last visit (Monday 18th February 2008 – Spartan South Midlands League Challenge Cup Quarter-final Beaconsfield SYCOB 0 Brimsdown Rovers 1 aet, attendance:- 40). There was even a Wetherspoons pub – ‘The Hope & Champion’ – and, needless to say, we took advantage of it!


The heavy rain had taken its toll of the car park and we had to dodge the puddles to gain entry to the ground, only to find that we had to come out of the ground again to get into the club house!


The ground is pretty featureless with a big seated stand down one side and covered terracing behind the near goal. There was no cover anywhere else, except under the awning of the burger van opposite the main stand. The pitch was in pretty good condition considering the downpour, and it played up well throughout the match!


Both these teams had recently been promoted from The Molten Spartan South Midlands League – Dunstable Town as recently as last season – and both were challenging for promotion to the Premier Division of The Calor League. Dunstable Town look the better equipped for a promotion push, eight points and two places better off than The Rams. However, the SYCOB defeated Dunstable on their own ground on the first day of the season and were fresh from a 1-0 away victory at table-topping Rugby Town.

Tonight, the margin of victory did not flatter the visitors. They were the better side throughout, stronger and more incisive and, frankly, with the better players. There s still a ways to go before the final places – and the play-offs – are allocated, but I expect Dunstable to feature at least in the play-offs. The future is less certain for SYCOB!


Tuesday 25th February 2014 Calor Southern League k.o.:- 8.00pm
Premier Division

Banbury United                                                            0
Stourbridge                                                                  4
Ben Billingham 33,78,
Luke Benbow 38, 58,
Referee:- Ian Rathbone (Northampton)                       attendance:- 162


I saw my grandson, Sonny, today in Chipping Norton and then, his father and I drove over to Banbury United, to The Spencer Stadium, just adjacent to the railway station. We were there in plenty of time – before even the programmes arrived, and we enjoyed a goodly helping of pie and chips, which we washed down with ale, or in Jim’s case, Guinness! Teamsheets were available from the boardroom – “Come in, help yourself!” they said – and we had good seats in the stand where James brought a further two pints of Guinness  (one poured in error for which he didn’t have to pay!


Somebody had give Station Approach a lick of paint to match the team’s colours, but it couldn’t hide the general air of dilapidation which hung over the ground. For all that, it is a stadium that we both like to visit. There is plenty of room in the club house and Sky football on TV (not that James was too impressed with Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat at Olympiakos in The European Champions League) and the food is plentiful and reasonably priced. Added to that, there is a programme full of interest, even for the neutral supporter.


Sadly, Banbury United are marooned in lower table mediocrity, whilst their rivals, Stourbridge, are challenging for a play-off spot behind run-away leaders, Hemel Hempstead Town. Brittle Banbury were battered beyond belief and were lucky to get away with only a four goal deficit! So, for the second time this week, the away team took the spoils!

James took his score of Guinness up to six with three second half pints, singlehandedly creating a substantial dent in the home teams Irish reserves! I poured him back into my car at the end and decanted him back in Chipping Norton.


Wednesday 26th February 2014 Chromasport & Trophies United Counties League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Division 1

Thrapston Town                                                          0
Oadby Town                                                                8
Courtney Meade 10,
Cameron Powell 50, 59,
Julian Joachim 69,
Ryan Whatley 70,
Jon Stevenson 76, 89,
Livo Dube 88,
Referee:- Junior Jones-Eyre                                  attendance:- 52

File:Thrapston Town F.C. logo.png

I might have guessed where a third away win in three matches might come from, and maybe subconsciously chose Thrapston Town to keep that run going! Cricket used to be the dominant sport at Chancery Lane and years ago I can remember my sons playing on this park.The football team has come alive of late. There are new changing rooms and a tea room, but one side is still open to the cricket field.

My camera packed up this evening – the battery was flat – so all these pictures were taken a couple of mornings later, on my way to Hunts County Bats in Huntingdon to put my son, Michael’s, bat in for repair ahead of the new cricket season. On the evening, the three seated stands which hold a combined total of around fifty seats, were all locked and barred (see below) and when I enquired, thinking that some over zealous jobs worth had decreed them unfit for human consumption, I was told that it was an ‘oversight’ – someone had forgotten to unlock them. It was a pretty chilly evening, too!


Thrapston lie in fifteenth place (out of twenty-two) in Division 1 of The UCL, whilst Oadby Town are the runaway leaders, some ten points clear of the field. They also had some pretty impressive recruits, probably the most famous of whom was Julian Joachim, formerly of Leicester City and Aston Villa. In addition, they had two other former Leicester City players in Levi Porter and Jon Stevenson.

It was always going to be a mountain for Thrapston to climb!

To make matters worse, they had just been beaten at home by Rothwell Corinthians by 3-0, a performance deemed ‘abject’ by the manager. In a quiet first half, the home side seemed determined to put past woes behind them and, but for a Courtney Meade strike on ten minutes for the visitors, they would have gone into the interval all square.

The second half was an entirely different kettle of fish!  Oadby imposed their will on the game and scored regularly throughout the half, notching up seven further goals to add to the one in the first half and including a close range strike from Julian Joachim. Poor Thrapston were reeling like punch drunk sailors on a storm tossed quarter-deck. Oadby were worth their win!

Ken was there, but not Alan, who had traipsed off to pastures further afield. I think he said they were both going to VCD on the morrow. That’s a long way to go from Leicester for a night game! Nice ground, though!


The new changing rooms on the right and the club house on the left.

Thursday 27th February 2014 Ryman Isthmian League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Division 1 South

Three Bridges                                                                      2
Tim Rivers 77
Tony Garrod 83,
Burgess Hill Town                                                               2
Patrick Harding 49,
Spencer Slaughter 50,
Referee:- Peter Killip                                                   attendance:- 132

File:Three Bridges F.C. logo.png

Three Bridges? Never heard of it! Before 1841 you probably would never have heard of  it, but then the London to Brighton Railway came and Three Bridges became an important hub with the branch line to Horsham in 1848 (and onwards to Portsmouth) and the branch line to East Grinstead in 1855. The town also acquired an engine shed and marshalling yards. Contrary to popular opinion, the three bridges do not cross the railway line, but are earlier crossings over streams in the area, tributaries to The River Mole. Then, in the late 1940s, along came Crawley New Town and Three Bridges was subsumed into the new town as one of thirteen ‘Neighbourhoods’.


I took the train from Bedford which goes direct to Brighton and nineteen stops down the line, comes to Three Bridges. I suppose I felt a bit like the poet, Edward Thomas, when the train stopped at Adelstrop, on the Worcestershire/ Gloucestershire border in the late summer of 1914, suddenly caught in a time warp and for a split second completely disorientated. Despite having a wife and young family, Edward Thomas joined the army at the late age of 36 and was killed by concussion from a shell blast, three years later, on his first day of action at The Battle of Arras on Easter Monday 1917.


Before I left, I phoned Club Secretary, Lorraine Bonner, who confirmed that the match was ‘on’. By the time the train reached St Pancras, it was beginning to fill up and very soon, there was standing room only. At Three Bridges, it seemed like the entire complement disgorged onto the platform. As I came out of the underground walkway and outside the station, I was very glad to see, a little way down the road, the floodlights of Three Bridges FC!

Three Bridges is an impressive little club, in its second season in The Ryman Isthmian League Division 1 South, after gaining promotion as Champions of The Sussex County League. I was impressed with the quality of the fencing around the pitch and the barriers on the stand beside the club house. There was a fine stand with seats for about 150 opposite the club house, but no other covered protection.I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was only £5 to get into the match and so I payed the full amount rather than claiming my OAP status! The club house had a directors room where I was welcomed when I requested a team sheet – ‘Please take one!’, was the refrain. The teams were also posted on a sheet outside the club house. I enjoyed a fine pint of ‘Doombar’ before the match and an equally fine hotdog from the food bar outside at half-time.

At half-time in this match, I posted that ‘this game has 0-0 written all over it’! How wrong I was! The home side are not enjoying the most successful of seasons and Burgess Hill Town (The Hillians), their opponents were much higher up the league table. However, Three Bridges have enjoyed a mini-revival of late and had high hopes of taking something from the game. At the start of the second half, those hopes were dashed with two strikes – one a real ‘thunder bastard’ from Spencer Slaughter – to put The Hillians in complete control. It took a very patient and incisive approach from the hosts to piece together a recovery. They pulled one back on 77 minutes and equalised with but seven minutes left and could easily have snatched a winner at the death. However, overall, a draw was probably a fair result.

The 22.12 from Three Bridges decanted me at Bedford Station at eight minutes past midnight and I drove home for one o’clock after an enthralling evening’s entertainment and still savouring the warm hospitality from the home side. If you get the chance, make a visit to this very friendly club!


Saturday 1st March 2014 EBAC Northern League  k.o.:- 11.00am

Division 1

Marske United                                                                         0

Liam O’Sullivan s/o 36,

Guisborough Town                                                                  4

Daniel Johnson 31, 90+2,

Callum Martin 66,

Michael Roberts 86,

Referee:- Stuart Campbell                                             attendance:- 433


Another ungodly, early start saw me pitch up in Derbyshire for 7.30am and there I jumped into Laurence’s car for his usual efficient drive, this time up to the Teeside coast for the first match of three on the third of four Northern League ‘hops’ to mark the 125th anniversary of its existence.

Marske is a tiny village on the coast, a long way north of Whitby and a short way south of Redcar. There is a dour parish church with a dark grey tower which dominates the landscape and is especially visible from the football ground. The ground itself, nestles in a fold at the top of the town. There is a stand for about 100 spectators along one side of the ground and a small covered standing area behind one goal close to the corner flag, but the rest of the stadium has hard standing only. The hard standing is raised behind the dug-outs on the far side of the pitch which gives  a pretty good view of the match – and most of the rest of Marske, but doesn’t quite stretch as far as the sea!


The main stand at Marske United FC


Outside the ground is a club house and a Bowling Club and in the clubhouse, we were able to obtain hot chocolate before the match. Inside the ground, the hot snacks van provided me with a sausage bap for breakfast! The teams were writ large in chalk on a board adjacent to the main entrance and, as usual a gathering of hoppers were penning the names into jotters! The hoppers weren’t the only reason for the large attendance. United’s opponents today were Guisborough Town from perhaps ten miles away inland, and they had brought considerable (and vocal) support for what was a local derby.


Guisborough were probably the stronger side, but the game hinged on an incident in the 36th minute which saw the sending off of Marske United’s number 3, Liam O’Sullivan. He tangled with the feisty Guisborough number 10, Daniel Johnson in the home penalty area and words and pushes were exchanged, but, outside the area, after play had continued, there was no doubt that he kicked out at the striker. It was an action noticed by the linesman, who brought it to the attention of the referee and O’Sullivan was dismissed. It was probably the correct decision, but I felt that Johnson, too deserved some form of punishment!


At the time of the incident, the home side were already a goal behind. They held on, however until half-time, but in the second half, as will power flagged along with tired muscles, they conceded three more goals, much to the delight of the band of travelling away supporters, and to the verbal chagrin of the home support, who felt that their team had been harshly treated.


On two sides of the ground a motley array of houses overlooked the stadium. Some of them were fairly recent, maybe even this century, but others were from the 1950s onwards (see the picture above and below).


Saturday 1st March 2014    EBAC Northern League    k.o.:- 2.30pm

Division 2

Stokesley                                                                                1

Greg Upton 69,

Tow Law Town                                                                     2

Dean Thexton 19, 27,

Referee:- D. Pill                                                      attendance:- 169


Stokesley is a small market town of perhaps 5,000 souls on the very northern edge of The North York Moors and the top of what was once The North Riding of Yorkshire. It can trace its antecedents back toThe Domesday Book and a charter dating back to 1223. Today, the town centre has an olde-worlde feel with a good mix of independent shops and old fashioned hotels.


This was not my first visit to the Broughton Road Stadium on the edge of the town. I came here in 2009 when my son was celebrating his stag weekend and I took time out (Saturday 29th August 2009 – FA Cup Preliminary Round: Stokesley 1 Spennymoor Town 3 attendance:- 227).


Broughton Road is a pretty new development. The first phase was completed in 2003 and floodlights and seating were added a year later. It is the home of The North Riding County Football Association (NRCFA). In 2006/07, Stokesley were runners-up in the Wearside League  and gained promotion to The Northern League Division 2. They spent a couple of seasons in the top flight – the second season ending in ignominy with four draws and thirty-eight defeats  in their league season! This season, they are perched in the lower half of the Division 2 table.


In the club house, there was Sky Sports News on the large screen TV and an excellent portion of pie, peas and gravy to be had for the princely sum of £2.

Outside, the air had grown decidedly more cool, but Tow Law Town, who had entered The Northern League some one hundred and twelve years before their hosts today, warmed the match up with two goals inside the first half hour. One or two of their players were, perhaps, on the portly side, but they had the skill to keep their hosts at bay for nearly seventy minutes and deservedly won the match, despite a crashing header in the final minute from the home side which should have billowed the net, but instead sailed harmlessly over!


Saturday 1st March 2014   EBAC Northern League   k.o.:- 6.30pm

Division 2

Darlington Railway Athletic                                           2

Steve Allison 34, 86,

Thornaby                                                                              3

Lee Bythway 11,

Joseph Melvin 22,

Liam Woodhouse 85,

Referee:- Mr. Peter Osgood                                  attendance:- 195

Darlington_Railway_Athletic_F.C._logoThe last match of the hop on a very cold evening was at Brinkburn Road, home of Darlington Railway Athletic. The club had first been formed in 1913 with the active and enthusiastic support of the North Eastern Railway and its chief designer, Sir Vincent Raven. They didn’t play their first matches until the 1919/20 season and then spent the next five years in the Northern League. The North Eastern Railway had promised a sports facility to compete with the best in the north east, but after 1925, the club reverted back to The Darlington and District League and there languished for the rest of the century and beyond!

A year before Stokesley gained a Northern League place, Darlington Railway Athletic were themselves champions of The Wearside League (with Stokesley as runners-up) and took their place in The Northern League Division 2 where they have remained ever since!



There is only one seated area at the ground (see above) and that is The Paul Adamson Memorial Stand behind the goal closest to the entrance to the ground. Behind the goal opposite, there is a covered standing area, but down both sides of the ground, there is no cover at all. The players get changed in what looked like a couple of large converted containers at the far end of the ground. Adjacent to the covered seating was the club house which was warm and friendly and seemingly well stocked with 190 pies brought in after the hired snack van failed to turn up! 190 pies was never going to feed the hordes of hungry hoppers, why, even Chris had two of them!


On the left, what looks like the improvised changing quarters!


With Darlington RA in tenth position and Thornaby in fifteenth, it seemed reasonable to expect a home victory. Not a bit of it! Thornaby, from the edges of Middlesbrough, tore into their hosts  and found themselves two up in a little more than twenty minutes. They were pegged back by a strike from the lean and athletic, Steve Allison, Darlington’s outstanding player, but restored their two goal advantage with but five minutes to go, only for Allison and Darlington to reduce the arrears once again a minute later! that was the end of the scoring and the away side deservedly collected the points!


It says a lot for Laurence’s driving, that I didn’t remember much of the journey back down to Derbyshire to collect my own car. Without too much effort, the journey in my car,back to Northamptonshire, which normally takes seventy-five or eighty minutes was comfortably accomplished in sixty minutes and I got back in time to see all four of Bolton Wanderers goals in the drubbing of Blackburn Rovers!

The hop was well organised and we saw three pretty good matches and twelve goals, but I couldn’t help the feeling that it was no different to the occasional day when, by happen chance, you manage to catch three games in a reasonable vicinity. It lacked a special something that some hops, notably the Welsh and North Berks hops bring to proceedings. Perhaps it was razzmatazz or the sense of the grand occasion. It was good, but it didn’t feel special!

In case you hadn’t noticed, there were seven matches this week and not a home win amongst them! That must be something of a record. In fact, I have only seen ONE home victory in the ten games since coming home from Holland!

Matches this season:- 152   New grounds:-  102

Matches this year:-  33    New grounds:-   16





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