Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kendal Town FC


Kendal Town 4 Harrogate Railway Athletic 3 - Northern Premier League, Division One North


Kendal, previously known as Kirkby in Kendal or Kirkby Kendal, is a market town and civil parish within the South Lakeland District of Cumbria. Historically in Westmorland, it is 22 miles north of Lancaster and 50 miles south of Carlisle, on the River Kent. It is the third largest settlement in Cumbria, behind Carlisle and Barrow in Furness. Kendal is known for Kendal mint cake, a glucose-based type of confectionery reputedly discovered accidentally by Joseph Wiper during his search for a clear glacier mint. Used on numerous expeditions to mountaintops (including Mount Everest and K2) and both poles of the Earth, its popularity is mainly due to the very astute decision of the original manufacturer's great nephew to market it as an energy food, and to supply Ernest Shackleton's 1914–17 Trans-Antarctic Expedition. By the time the business was sold to competitor Romney's in 1987 there were several rival mint cake producers, many of which are still in business. Kendal's early prosperity was based largely on cloth manufacture. In the 19th century Kendal became a centre for the manufacture of snuff and shoes; the K Shoes company remained a major employer in the town until its factory closed in 2003. Kendal's buildings, mostly constructed with the local grey limestone, have earned it the nickname the Auld Grey Town. 




Kendal Town FC was established in 1919 as Netherfield AFC by employees of the K Shoes factory. In 1945 they joined the Lancashire Combination, and were runners-up in their first season. They also reached the first round of the FA Cup, losing to Barrow. They won the Lancashire Combination title in 1948–49, a season in which they again reached the first round of the FA Cup, this time losing to Gateshead. In 1968 they were amongst the founders of the Northern Premier League. They finished bottom of the league in 1973–74 and 1976–77, but avoided relegation on both occasions. During the 1980–81 season they played seven matches against Bridlington Trinity in the second qualifying round of the FA Trophy before finally prevailing in the sixth replay. The repeated rematches cost the club £1,800, and the financial problems together with them finishing bottom of the league in 1981–82 and 1982–83 led to them moving down to the North West Counties League. The club returned to the Northern Premier League when it added a new Division One in 1987. In 1998 they were renamed Netherfield Kendal, before adopting their current name two years later.

Kendal Castle

The original intention was to visit Scotland to take in the match between Annan Athletic and Arbroath. However, rather late in the day, this plan was scuppered as Arbroath were to play at Montrose in a cup replay. This left Annan and this Pieman without a match. With advance train tickets already purchased it was a case of “where can I go?”. Carlisle United v Stevenage would have been an easy alternative, but I do prefer to visit somewhere new. Kendal Town’s Parkside Road soon became my preference and the 07:30 departure from London Euston was to be used. However, this train is fine for getting to Carlisle for onward travel to Annan but does not stop at Oxenholme. It seemed likely that a further £8:00 would be payable from Lancaster, although this Pieman was considering “other options”. On arrival in Preston, Virgin Trains announced that our service would not be going forward. We had to alight there and catch the next service. Our Edinburgh bound service was stopping at Oxenholme – problem solved!



A late morning arrival at Oxenholme was followed by a decent stroll down the hill to the town of Kendal. The Windermere branch line offers a different option and there are also buses connecting Oxenholme with Kendal. Our first point of call was to be The Miles Thompson (Wetherspoons) where an early lunch was washed down with Lakeland Gold (4.4%) from the Hawkshead Brewery. This refreshing, well hopped, fruity and bitter golden ale has complex fruit flavours from the blending of English hop, First Gold, with the outrageously fruity American hop, Cascade. En route to have a look at Kendal Castle, we chanced upon Burgundy’s Wine Bar and Brewhouse. This venue also houses a microbrewery (Kendal Brewery). The quirky bar alone is in itself worth a visit. The impressive range of ales is complimented by a selection of bottled beers from across the continent. This Pieman delighted in Dr Manning’s Red (5.7%) from the Kendal Brewery - a smooth and rich Red Windsor Ale that is full of flavour with just a hint of coffee.



It was a steep climb up to Kendal Castle but worth it to see the ruins of what must have been a very impressive structure in its day. The views from this location, of Kendal and the surrounding area, are spectacular. From the castle it is a relatively short walk to the football ground following a couple of well worn footpaths along the side of graveyards. On arrival at the ground with about 45 minutes to go before the match, we were able to take some photographs and chat to some of the club officials, all of whom were friendly and welcoming.



This venue is extremely well cared for with much of the surroundings sporting the club colours of black and white. There are three seated covered stands. Two along the main side and one behind the goal backing on to the clubhouse and bar/function room. The bar sells local real ales (more on that later). On the other side of the pitch, opposite the two covered stands, is another covered terraced area and some uncovered terracing. This ground offers many different vantage points, all of which provide a good take on the match action.



The match was very entertaining as the scoreline suggests. There were periods of dominance by both sides and the drama continued right to the end with a flurry of late goals. The match was played in good spirit by both sides and as a neutral I certainly felt I had had value for money. I would recommend this venue to anyone interested in classic stadiums and you would be sure to receive a friendly welcome. Hot food (Pie, Peas, Gravy an option) is also available pitchside and the function area upstairs also caters for hungry fans. Before the match this Pieman enjoyed a pint of Old School (3.9%) from the Winster Valley Brewery, a full tasting pale ale with floral aromas on the finish. After the match a pint of Kendal Gold (4.3%) from the Kendal Brewery wrapped up a very pleasant afternoon. The club reduces the price of ales on matchdays in an attempt to attract support. The walk back to Oxenholme Station was interrupted by a brief excursion to the 'Wee Chippy' on Natland Road before catching the 18:26 back to Euston. The Stevenage team including 55 year old substitute goalkeeper Dave Beasant, was also on our train home! We arrived in London ten minutes early!










Attendance: 181
Admission: £8:00
Programme: £2:00 (52 pages)
Tea: £1:00
 




Saturday, September 20, 2014

FK Partizan

FK Partizan 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - UEFA Europa League, Group Stage

Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. Belgrade lies 116.75 metres above sea level and is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans.The First World War began on 28 July 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Most of the subsequent Balkan offensives occurred near Belgrade. Austro-Hungarian monitors shelled Belgrade on 29 July 1914, and it was taken by the Austro-Hungarian Army under General Oskar Potiorek on 30 November. On 15 December, it was re-taken by Serbian troops under Marshal Radomir Putnik. After a prolonged battle, which destroyed much of the city, between 6 and 9 October 1915, Belgrade fell to German and Austro-Hungarian troops commanded by Field Marshal August von Mackensen on 9 October 1915. The city was liberated by Serbian and French troops on 1 November 1918, under the command of Marshal Louis Franchet d'Espérey of France and Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia. Belgrade is home to ethnic groups from all over the former Yugoslavia. Many people came to the city as economic migrants from smaller towns and the countryside, while hundreds of thousands arrived as refugees from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, as a result of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Between 10,000 and 20,000 Chinese are estimated to live in Belgrade; they began immigrating in the mid-1990s. Block 70 in New Belgrade is known colloquially as the Chinese quarter. Many Middle Easterners, mainly from Syria, Iran, Jordan and Iraq, arrived in order to pursue their studies during the 1970s and 1980s, and have remained in the city.



Fudbalski klub Partizan, commonly known as Partizan Belgrade or simply Partizan, is based in Belgrade, Serbia. It forms a major part of the Partizan Sports Association. The club plays in the Serbian SuperLiga and has spent its entire history in the top tier of Yugoslav and Serbian football. It is the second-most successful club in Serbia. Partizan was founded by young high officers of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in 1945 in Belgrade, as part of the Yugoslav Sports Association Partizan. Their home ground is the Stadion Partizana in Belgrade, where they have played since 1949.



The Pieman’s first visit to Serbia was always going to be an interesting experience. On arrival at Belgrade, I made my way to the hotel I had booked. The location was a little way out of town but I decided to walk and take in the sights. Within a few hundred yards of the Danube the hotel looked good. However, on arrival I was informed that it was a little too close to the river and there had been some flooding. To address my situation the hotel arranged for me to stay at their sister hotel on the other side of the city and paid for a taxi. Ironically the new hotel was fifteen minutes walk from Stadion Partizana.



The evening prior to match day I ventured into the City Centre and after a glass of the local Lav beer, I bumped into Mr Throp – a like-minded gentleman with a passion for quality beer. We made our way to a branch of The Black Turtle, where we enjoyed a few glasses of their homebrew stout – this proved to be an exceptionally good choice in a city where bland lager type beers are the norm. I invested in a taxi to return to my hotel, an easy experience once I had asked the driver if he knew the area where there is a large metal giraffe in the middle of a roundabout!



On the morning of the match, I ventured to the stadium, gaining access to take a few photographs and taking a tour of the cluttered but impressive trophy room. The stadium is an all seated venue and is mainly uncovered. The capacity is 32,710. From the city centre, trolleybus routes 40 and 41 run direct.

Tottenham Hotspur fans arrive at the Stadium

It has to be reported that the match was not one that will live in the memory. The most entertaining aspect was being able to watch and listen to the Partizan fans at the other end of the ground. I do wonder sometimes if these people watch the match but they certainly create an atmosphere!



We were locked in the stadium for an hour after the match (not an unusual experience in European competition) whilst the home fans dispersed. So another Europa League Group Stage has kicked off for Spurs. It will be interesting to see what treats this disjointed competition has in store this time!







Admission: 800:00 dinar but given free by Tottenham Hotspur!
Programme: Folded Card - no cover price but selling for 300 dinar by the opportunist club shop!
Attendance: 20,000



Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Nuneaton Town FC

Nuneaton Town 1 Forest Green Rovers 0 - Conference National


Nuneaton is located 9 miles north of Coventry, 20 miles east of Birmingham and 103 miles north-west of London. The River Anker runs through the town. Nuneaton's name came from a 12th-century Benedictine nunnery (parts of which still survive) around which much of the town grew. Prior to this it was a settlement known as 'Etone', which translates literally as 'water-town'. Nuneaton was listed in the Doomsday Book as a small hamlet. Nuneaton grew gradually from the 17th century onwards, due to its position at the centre of the Warwickshire coalfields. At the time of the first national census in 1801 Nuneaton was already one of the largest towns in Warwickshire, with a population of 5,000. During the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, Nuneaton developed a large textile industry. Other industries which developed in the town included brick and tile making and brewing. Author George Eliot, who was born on a farm on the Arbury Estate just outside Nuneaton in 1819 and lived in the town for much of her early life. In her novel Scenes of Clerical Life (1858), "Milby" is the thinly disguised market town of Nuneaton.




Nuneaton Borough moved into their new purpose built ground, Liberty Way, in time for the 2007–08 season. The ground is shared with Nuneaton Rugby Club. The ground was built in three phases by local building firm Ian Neale Construction and was completed in 2007. In 2008 the new directors of Nuneaton Borough FC soon found they had inherited excessive debts despite the sale of Manor Park to property developers. The new club reverted to its former name of Nuneaton Town and were demoted two divisions from Conference North to Southern League Division One. The club underwent complete restructuring with facilities being upgraded and revamped for the supporters. Following the demotion to the Southern League Midlands Division the club gained promotion following a 1–0 play-off final victory over Chasetown at Liberty Way. The 2011/12 season was to see Nuneaton gain promotion back to the Conference Premier for the first time in 10 years. After maintaining a high league position throughout the season Boro' were dealt a blow as the season entered its final few weeks when an administration error led to a 6 point deduction. This seemed to spur the team on and a final day 3–2 victory at Blyth Spartans ensured their play-off place.



On arrival at Nuneaton it was time for a refreshment break at The William White (Wetherspoon). The pub bears the real name of Larry Grayson who lived in Nuneaton for a number of years. This Pieman enjoyed a fine pint of Rutland Beast (5.3%) from the Grainstore Brewery to accompany his late lunch. This ale is strong yet exceptionally balanced. Dark earthy brown in colour, its' fantastic flavours blend together to produce a mind blowing great beer.



Liberty Way is around half an hour walk from the town centre. The ground has a very new appearance and clearly the club has done a lot to get the venue up to the standard enjoyed. Both ends contain covered terracing and although segregation was not enforced for this particular match, one of these ends would be given over to visiting support where necessary. On this occasion the non-league tradition of swapping ends at half time took place. In the second period, many of the home supporters took to the terracing on the larger of the two ends and this was a great sight.



Along one side of the ground is uncovered terracing which backs on to the rugby club building. This is a great vantage point to watch the action in good weather, as was the case on this occasion when the Pieman stood near the half way line. On the opposite side of the pitch is the main stand which is covered. In addition the club offices, corporate hospitality area and the main bar are housed on this side with the club shop in the corner. In the bar this Pieman enjoyed Elgoods Cambridge Bitter (3.8 %). This mild brown bitter with a good balance of malt and hop character give a pleasing session drink.  The finest pale ale malt (made from Maris Otter barley) is blended with torrified wheat, invert sugar and a small amount of roast barley, to ensure consistent colour.



This was a very good match and on reflection a draw would have been a fitting outcome. Forest Green Rovers played extremely well and their quick movement and passing deserved greater reward. However, Nuneaton Town FC has been suffering this season but they certainly gave their supporters some good cheer with this narrow victory. I overheard fans expressing positive comments about the effort and commitment in this match – a great advert for the top tier of non-league football.


This would not be a proper report if I did not include a picture of my evening meal - I am obliged to inform readers that none of this went to waste!





Attendance: 789
Admission: £14:00
Programme: £3:00 (48 pages - double issue including next match)
Tea: £1:50
Steak & Kidney Pie, Chips & Mushy Peas: £4:50

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Crowborough Athletic FC

Crowborough Athletic 1 Tunbridge Wells 2 - Southern Counties East League



Crowborough is a town in the Wealden district of East Sussex. It is situated on the Weald and at the edge of Ashdown Forest, in the High Weald Area of Outstanding National Beauty 7 miles south-west of Royal Tunbridge Wells and 35 miles south of London. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories, lived at Windlesham Manor in Crowborough for the last 23 years of his life. He moved to Crowborough from Surrey in 1907 when he married his second wife, whose family lived next door at Little Windlesham. Windlesham Manor is now a retirement home. Crowborough was part of the parish of Rotherfield until the 1880's, it was recorded as Crowbergh in the late fourteenth century. It was first recorded as Crowboro Hill in Speeds map of sussex 1610. The original Crowbergh is probably derived from Crow beorg (meaning crow's hill).



The club was formed in 1894 and started playing in the local Tunbridge Wells leagues. In the early 1950s the club moved to its present home of Alderbrook Recreation Ground (now Crowborough Community Stadium). They joined the Sussex County League in 1974, starting in division two, spending ten seasons in the division before being relegated to division three at the end of the 1983–84 season. The club won promotion back to Division Two in the 1986–87 season. They stayed in that division until they gained further promotion, as Champions, to Division One in the 1992–93 season. That season also saw the club make its debut in its first national FA competition, the FA Vase, however this debut only lasted one game as they lost to West Wickham 1–0. Two seasons later the club then made its debut in the FA Cup, but like the FA Vase, this lasted only one game, losing 9–0 to Corinthian of Kent. In 2008 the Sussex County League Division One Championship resulted in the club earning promotion to the Isthmian League Division One South. Their time in this league was short only lasting a single season finishing bottom of the league and being relegated back to Division One of the Sussex County League.



Moving on from Uckfield, the venue for the first match of our bank holiday 'double', it was a relatively short drive to Crowborough. We soon located the ground and the fact that stewards were directing cars into the car park indicated that this match had also survived the constant rain. We took the opportunity to adjourn for a pub lunch where this Pieman enjoyed an excellent pint of Harveys Sussex Best Bitter. This superbly balanced bitter with a prominent hop character was winner of the Champion Best Bitter of Britain title at CAMRA’s Great British Beers Festival in 2005 and 2006.




We returned to the ground with plenty of time to spare before the 3pm kick off. Immediately I was struck by how many volunteers were at work for the club in various capacities. It really is a community based club as the name of the stadium suggests.






Along one side of the pitch are three stands. The centre stand appears to be the original structure and is a smart 4 row covered seated stand. To the right of this structure is another covered seated area, again with 4 rows of seats. To the left is another covered area, this time for standing spectators. This was the area populated by the majority of the visiting Tunbridge Wells fans. Behind the goal at the clubhouse end of the ground is a good variety of facilities, snack bar, licensed bar and another covered terraced area.





Apart from the dugouts opposite the main stand there are no other structures but to be fair those already mentioned are more than adequate for this level of football. The club has invested well and this Pieman certainly benefited from 90 minutes in the dry!



Our match at Uckfield in the morning failed to produce a goal. Therefore it was a great surprise that Crowborough Athletic took the lead in this match after just 35 seconds when Roberts put over an inch perfect cross for Treleaven to head in from six yards out. The score was levelled when Spackman flicked on a long throw in to enable Cass to equalise after 41 minutes. Tunbridge Wells went 2-1 up in the 57th minute when Davis powered an unstoppable header in to the net from 8 yards out following good work by Beecroft. Considering the very wet conditions, this match was entertaining. The drive home was good and it was nice to reflect on a day when football beat the weather!




Admission: £6:00
Programme: 16 pages (free with admission)
Attendance: 253

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AFC Uckfield Town

AFC Uckfield Town 0 Bexhill United 0 - Sussex County League, Division Two


Uckfield is a town in the Wealden District of East Sussex. The town is on the River Uck, one of the tributaries of the River Ouse, on the southern edge of the Weald. The town was originally called Uccafield. Uccafield derives from the Celtic word for 'High' or 'Height' - Uchafedd, this in turn coming from the Indo European 'Uchch'ya'. When the Anglo Saxons heard this word they changed the 'fedd' part to something they understood - 'Feld' from which 'field' derives. Uckfield was the last place Lord Lucan was seen, at Grants Hill House, the home of his friends Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott. Uckfield is connected to London Bridge station by Southern rail services on its Oxted Line via East Croydon. Until 1969 the rail link continued to Lewes; after it was closed Uckfield became the terminus; the station building was rebuilt in 1991 to avoid the necessity of a level crossing. The Wealden Line Campaign hopes to reopen the closed section to Lewes.



It was announced in July 2014 that AFC Uckfield Town would take its place in Division Two of the Sussex County Football League for the forthcoming 2014/15 season after the merger of AFC Uckfield (previously Wealden FC) and Uckfield Town FC. The respective press release was worded as follows "The merger provides a promising future for football in Uckfield, with the newly-formed club hoping to attract support in the local community from the East Sussex town. The club promises to be pushing forward both on and off the pitch, with promotion to the top flight of the Sussex County League an aim for the front side." Accordingly the merger of the town's two senior clubs was viewed as the way forward and it will be interesting to watch developments.



An August bank holiday double was the order of the day. However, the traditional English holiday weather was trying hard to be a hindrance as it started to rain as soon as I left home for the short walk to get my lift. A trouble free journey around the M25 and over the Dartford Crossing enabled us to reach The Oaks, the home of AFC Uckfield Town.



The home side was playing Bexhill United in the Sussex County League, Division Two. The heavy rain did not appear to have put this fixture in doubt. It will have helped being so early in the season, as in the winter months it might have been different. There was just one corner of the playing area that was holding a bit of standing water as I toured the ground taking photographs prior to the match and this was minimal.



As you enter the site along a narrow lane, the clubhouse building is immediately in front of you. The turnstile is to the right of the small car park. Covered spectator accommodation in the form of two seated stands is available along a one side of the pitch and behind both sets of seats are areas where standing is possible under the same cover. On the opposite side of the pitch are the dugouts but it is not possible to view the action from this area due to the close proximity to the wooded area immediately next to the ground. It is possible to view from behind the goals, weather permitting!



Refreshments (hot and cold food) are available in the clubhouse and it is possible to bring mugs of tea in to the ground. We opted to stand behind a set of seats taking full advantage of the cover. The match took a while to liven up but both sides coped well with the conditions all considered. At half time a fellow spectator commented "for a 0-0 this has got 0-0 written all over it" and he wasn't wrong. Despite the best efforts of the players in the second period, which improved as a spectacle, 0-0 it was!



I liked this venue, the officials are friendly and helpful and there is a good feeling about the place. Uckfield railway station is probably between 30 – 40 minutes walk away and this would be a pleasant stroll on a fine day!



Admission: £5:00
Programme: 32 pages (free with admission)
Tea: £1:00 (in a mug)
Attendance: 20





Saturday, August 23, 2014

Rochester United FC

Rochester United 0 Erith & Belvedere 3 - Southern Counties East League


Rochester is a town and former city in the unitary authority of Medway in Kent. It is at the lowest bridging point of the River Medway about 30 miles from London. The town was for many years the favourite of Charles Dickens, who lived nearby at Gads Hill Place, Higham, and who based many of his novels in the area. Rochester has produced two martyrs: St John Fisher, executed by Henry VIII because he refused to sanction the divorce of Catherine of Aragon; and Nicholas Ridley, executed by Queen Mary as an English Reformation martyr. The town is home to a number of important historic buildings, the most prominent of which are the Guildhall, the Corn Exchange, Restoration House, Eastgate House, Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral. Many of the buildings in the town centre date from the 18th century or as early as the 14th century. The chapel of St. Bartholomew's Hospital dates from the hospital's founding in 1078.



Rochester United FC was founded in 1982 as Templars and joined the Sunday Medway Football League. There they changed their name to Bly Spartans and played for 15 years before being promoted to the Senior Division. In 1997, the club successfully applied to join the Rochester and District Football League Division One. The following season they won the title and were promoted to the Premier Division. They were accepted into the Kent County Football League in 2000, being placed into the Division Three West. After two successive promotions as runners-up the club was in Division One West by 2003. In the 2006–07 season they finished runners-up, and the following season, after being transferred to Division One East, won the title as well as two cup competitions and were promoted to the Premier Division. The club achieved Chartered Status in 2009 and installed floodlights in 2010, leading to their successful application to become founder members of the Kent Invicta League. In 2012, they became the inaugural champions of the Kent Invicta League and gained promotion to the Kent League (now Southern Counties Eastern League). In May 2012 the club announced that they had sought permission to rename themselves Rochester United from the start of the 2012–13 season.



The journey to Rochester involved a trip around the M25 where traffic congestion prior to the Dartford Crossing did put the Pieman’s attendance at this Southern Counties East League match in doubt. However, once over the bridge and £2 paid, the remainder of the journey to Rede Court Road, the home of Rochester Town FC, was swift and with ten minutes to spare we were removing bollards to secure a parking space!



According to signs there is still building work taking place at this venue but it is more than suitable for this level of football, with a large seated stand along the same side of the pitch as the clubhouse and associated buildings. It was good to be able to grab a cup of tea from the hatch on arrival. I noticed that more solid refreshment in the form of chip butties were available at £1:50.



On a pleasant late August Saturday afternoon, this Pieman opted to view proceedings from the opposite side of the pitch. Near the half way line between the respective team benches. Visitors Erith & Belvedere were already top of the league, having made a great start following relegation from the Isthmian League last season. Their quick passing and movement along with their smart ‘Blackburn Rovers’ outfits was impressive and at the break they were 1-0 up.



The home side had also played reasonably well but as a neutral I did not see how the continual swearing from both pitch and dug out was helping their cause. This worsened in the second half as the visitors began to take a firm grip on the match. The second goal was a superb free kick following a thuggish challenge by the foul-mouthed Rochester captain – he was later booked for another offence and really should have been red-carded. A third Erith goal following a neat turn in the box was deserved and it will be interesting to watch their progress this season.



I believe Rochester United to be a friendly club and hope that the antics of their captain and ‘frustrated’ manager’s language are not typical of the set up. A better side beat them, it happens to us all – get on with it! The journey home was problem free along a better-behaved M25 – this time!




Admission: £6:00
Programme: £1:50 (16 pages)
Attendance: 70
Tea: £1:00

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