Saturday, October 12, 2019

AFC Telford United

AFC Telford United 1 York City 1 - National League North

Telford is a large new town in the borough of Telford and Wrekin. Telford is situated about 13 miles east of Shrewsbury and 30 miles north west of Birmingham at the terminus of the M54 motorway, a spur of the M6, linking the town with Wolverhampton and the West Midlands and on the A5 road between Shrewsbury and Cannock. Telford is the largest town in Shropshire. Telford and named after civil engineer Thomas Telford, who engineered many road and rail projects. The town was put together in the 1960s and 1970s as a new town on previously industrial and agricultural land and smaller towns. Like other planned towns of the era, Telford was created from the merger of other, smaller settlements, most notably the towns of Wellington, Oakengates, Madeley and Dawley. Many of the New Town's newer inhabitants were originally from Birmingham or Wolverhampton. The town has three railway stations on the Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton Line: Wellington, Oakengates and Telford Central.


Telford United FC, then playing in the Football Conference, experienced severe financial difficulties towards the end of the 2003–04 season following the collapse of the Miras Contracts business of chairman and sole shareholder Andy Shaw. The club went into administration, and although supporters raised around £50,000 in two months, the club's debts totalled over £4 million, resulting in liquidation on 27 May 2004. On the same day, Telford United Supporters Limited announced that a new club would be formed, which was named AFC Telford United. The following June the new club were placed in Division One of the Northern Premier League by the Football Association. Bernard McNally was appointed as manager and a new squad assembled. The club play their home games at the New Bucks Head Stadium. The ground was renamed following renovation in 2000, having previously been known as the Bucks Head.


The nearest railway station to the ground is Wellington. Within a few minutes walk from there is The Pheasant Pub and Brewhouse on Market Street. At this fine establishment, I was able to sample ales from the adjacent Rowton Brewery, Star Light (3.6%) and Ironbridge Gold (4.4 %). My other choice was a guest ale Dark Side of the Moose (4.6%) from the Purple Moose Brewery in Porthmadog. All three were in excellent condition and I also enjoyed a jacket potato with a rather fiery beef chilli.


From the railway station it takes around twenty minutes to walk to the ground and based on the route I took, there are no refreshment options along the way. On arrival at the ground, I was surprised to see a coach carrying Dagenham & Redbridge supporters parked next to the coach that had brought York City supporters. Dagenham’s match at Stockport County had been postponed due to an incident on the railway near Milton Keynes. The players had been unable to travel due to this. Full credit to the fans in the true spirit on non-league day for attending another match.


This venue had been on my radar for a number of years, but I had never got round to planning a visit, That said, I had seen pictures and heard good things. Therefore, it was no surprise when I entered the stadium to find excellent facilities. Three sides of the ground are terraced, with both ends being covered (including the segregated away end). The remaining side of the ground is also covered and houses an impressive seated stand along the full length.


This match was played almost twenty years since the ground was renovated, clearly with an aspiration to move up to the Football League. Once inside the main stand I was able to walk around the majority of the ground taking photographs and was impressed with the view from all areas. The terraces have high enough steps to facilitate this aspect.


Visitors York City topped the table going into this match and were certainly on top during the opening exchanges. Following a scoreless first period, York took the lead and looked strong enough to hold on for another three points. However, slowly but surely the home side began to assert themselves and following a spell of pressure, deservedly levelled. At the conclusion of the match, this neutral believed this result to be a fair reflection.












Attendance: 1305
Admission: £14:00 
Programme: £2:50 (48 pages)
Tea: £2:00

Friday, October 11, 2019

Cefn Druids FC

Cefn Druids 1 Newtown 2 - Cymru Premier

Cefn Mawr is a large village in the community of Cefn within the County Borough of Wrexham, Wales. Its name translates as "big ridge” The community of Cefn comprises the villages of Cefn Mawr, Cefn-bychan ("little ridge"), Acrefair, Penybryn, Newbridge, Plasmadoc and Rhosymedre and is situated on the northern slopes of the Dee Valley. Cefn Mawr was heavily industrialised in the 18th and 19th centuries, with large deposits of iron, coal and sandstone dominating the area. Iron was worked at several blast furnaces and forges throughout the area and coal was mined at pits in Cefn, Plas Kynaston and Dolydd. Stone was cut at quarries above Cefn Mawr. Much of the mineral wealth of the area was exported by canal over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Shropshire Union Canal, until the railway reached Ruabon in 1855.


Llewelyn Kenrick who would later go on to found the Football Association of Wales founded Cefn Druids Football Club in 1872. Following several mergers through the club's history it became Cefn Druids AFC in 1992 with the amalgamation of Cefn Albion FC and Druids United. The club is one of the oldest and most successful in Wales, winning the Welsh Cup 8 times and competing in 14 finals, most recently in 2012. In March 2009 planning permission was granted to demolish Cefn's old stadium, Plaskynaston Lane, and replace it with a Tesco supermarket. Delays to the beginning of construction put the project back by 12 months and the club moved into the new stadium, The Rock, in August 2010. The stadium is sited in a disused quarry and one side of the stadium features a sheer rock wall.


Having checked into my overnight accommodation at nearby Ruabon, I was keen to obtain some daylight photographs of The Rock. I walked to Cefn Mawr and would estimate that this took no more than 25 minutes from the railway station at Ruabon to the football ground. On seeking permission to enter the ground, I was delighted to meet Huw Griffiths, the manager of Cefn Druids.

Huw Griffiths
It was evident from the start of our conversation that Huw is a real football enthusiast, with a genuine passion for the sport. Once I had taken ground photographs, Huw gave me a guided tour of the clubhouse facilities and I was given a real insight into how a club operates at Cymru Premier level. The complimentary tea, provided by another club official, was also most welcome.


As is often the case at this level, the only covered spectator facility is the main stand, which affords an excellent view of proceedings. This is situated along the same side as the clubhouse building, toilets and refreshment kiosk. There is also a club shop at the end of the ground where the turnstiles back on to the spacious car park.


The sheer rock wall that runs along the entirety of the side of the ground opposite the stand is an amazing site. The earlier daylight viewing enabled me to see the graffiti, which in some instances would have involved some acrobatic athleticism to place. Huw informed me that there is local pressure to retain the graffiti as some of it links to the history of the quarry and the local community. This is also the side of the pitch where the dugouts and the purpose built camera gantry are located.


The home side went into this match struggling for form and were at the bottom end of the table. Conceding two early goals against a strong Newtown team will not have helped matters. However, for the latter period of the first half and the entirety of the second half, this neutral believes that the Druids were the better side and deserved more than their one consolation goal. The Rock is a delightful ground at which to watch football and one that I thoroughly recommend to the curious.








Attendance: 315
Admission: £7:00 
Programme: £2:50 (28 pages)
Tea: £1:00

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Olympiacos FC

Olympiacos 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2 - UEFA Champions League, Group Stage

Piraeus is located within the Athens urban area, 7 miles south-west from the city centre and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf. The Port of Piraeus is the chief port in Greece, the largest passenger port in Europe and the second largest in the world, servicing about 20 million passengers annually. Piraeus, which roughly means 'the place over the passage', has been inhabited since the 26th century BC. The city provides a wide variety of entertainment. Piraeus is famous for its tavernas and restaurants, renowned for their cuisine. Most are spread along the coasts of Mikrolimano and Piraiki, specialising in seafood and attracting many visitors, including tourists. The nightlife of the city is vibrant, with numerous bars and nightclubs. One of the most popular events in Piraeus is the Ecocinema International Film Festival, staged annually in late February. During this event, a number of films are screened at the Atticon Cinema and the Cineac Cinema, both of which are to be found within the city's Town Hall Square. In the summer, the Maritime Festival and the Piraeus Rock Wave Festival take place, while the Three Kings' Way Festival marks the beginning of the carnival, with all the associated costumes and entertainment.


Oλυμπιακός Ποδοσφαιρικός Όμιλος (Olympiacos Football Club) was founded on 10 March 1925. The club's initial aim, as stated in the statutes, was the systematic cultivation and development of its athletes' possibilities for participation in athletic competitions, the spreading of the Olympic athletic ideal and the promotion of sportsmanship and fanship among the youth according to egalitarian principles, by stressing a healthy, ethical and social basis as its foundation. Members of "Piraikos Podosfairikos Omilos FC" (Sport and Football Club of Piraeus) and "Piraeus Fans Club FC" decided, during a historical assembly, to dissolve the two clubs in order to establish a new unified one, which would bring this new vision and dynamic to the community. Notis Kamperos, a senior officer of the Hellenic Navy, proposed the name Olympiacos and the profile of a laurel-crowned Olympic winner as the emblem of the new club. Olympiacos is the most successful club in Greek football history, having won 44 League titles, 27 Cups and 4 Super Cups. The club's dominating success can be further evidenced by the fact that all other Greek clubs have won a combined total of 39 League titles, while Olympiacos also holds the record for the most consecutive Greek League titles won, with seven in a row in two occasions (1997–2003 and 2011–2017).


The Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium is the largest football-only stadium and the second largest football stadium overall in Greece. It is named after Georgios Karaiskakis, a military commander of the Greek War of Independence, who is considered a national hero and was mortally wounded in the area. It was used during the 1896 Summer Olympics as the Neo Phaliron Velodrome, where Frenchman Paul Masson took the three track cycling gold medals. It was renovated during the 1960s and hosted the European Winners' Cup Final in 1971. The stadium was completely rebuilt in 2004 into a 32,115 capacity, all seater venue ready for the football competition of the 2004 Summer Olympics.


I had been to the stadium the previous afternoon to take some photographs of the exterior of the ground. The final two photographs on this article were supplied by my good friend, the Much Travelled Adam Carne, the reason for which will be revealed. The stadium is situated next to the penultimate stop on the Metro Line to Piraeus and having got my bearings, I was able to walk back into town to enjoy some refreshment and gaze at some extremely large boats.


The following day and before the main event, I attended the U19 match in the UEFA Youth League between the two sides. A separate report will cover that match. As for the main match, Tottenham Hotspur threw away a two-goal lead as they were forced to settle for a point in this Champions League Group B opener.


Two goals in four first-half minutes put Spurs in control, with Harry Kane opening the scoring from the penalty spot before Lucas Moura's scorching 20-yard finish. Yet Mauricio Pochettino's side conceded shortly before half-time through impressive Portuguese winger Daniel Podence's quality finish. Olympiakos equalised from the game's second penalty, former France forward Mathieu Valbuena beating Hugo Lloris, the current Les Bleus captain, from the spot after Valbuena had been fouled by Jan Vertonghen.


Sadly I have to report that prior to the match I was attacked outside the ground a couple of hours before kick-off. The general consensus is that it was assumed I was carrying a Spurs flag and it was wanted as a trophy. I believe the Greek authorities turn a blind eye to this sort of activity rather than actually dealing with it (personal opinion). I am recovering and still managed to see much of the match. I am grateful to the Greek medical staff for their attention and outstanding courtesy and to Olympiacos FC for getting me back to the stadium. Also to the Tottenham Hotspur officials for their professionalism, assistance and concern. Lastly to all the Spurs fans for their compassion and concern – it really was humbling to know how much they all care.







Attendance: 31,001
Admission: 45 Euro
Programme: Free but not widely available (28 pages)




Olympiacos U19

Olympiacos U19 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Piraeus is located within the Athens urban area, 7 miles south-west from the city centre and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf. The Port of Piraeus is the chief port in Greece, the largest passenger port in Europe and the second largest in the world, servicing about 20 million passengers annually. Piraeus, which roughly means 'the place over the passage', has been inhabited since the 26th century BC. The city provides a wide variety of entertainment. Piraeus is famous for its tavernas and restaurants, renowned for their cuisine. Most are spread along the coasts of Mikrolimano and Piraiki, specialising in seafood and attracting many visitors, including tourists. The nightlife of the city is vibrant, with numerous bars and nightclubs. One of the most popular events in Piraeus is the Ecocinema International Film Festival, staged annually in late February. During this event, a number of films are screened at the Atticon Cinema and the Cineac Cinema, both of which are to be found within the city's Town Hall Square. In the summer, the Maritime Festival and the Piraeus Rock Wave Festival take place, while the Three Kings' Way Festival marks the beginning of the carnival, with all the associated costumes and entertainment. 



Oλυμπιακός Ποδοσφαιρικός Όμιλος (Olympiacos Football Club) was founded on 10 March 1925. The club's initial aim, as stated in the statutes, was the systematic cultivation and development of its athletes' possibilities for participation in athletic competitions, the spreading of the Olympic athletic ideal and the promotion of sportsmanship and fanship among the youth according to egalitarian principles, by stressing a healthy, ethical and social basis as its foundation. Members of "Piraikos Podosfairikos Omilos FC" (Sport and Football Club of Piraeus) and "Piraeus Fans Club FC" decided, during a historical assembly, to dissolve the two clubs in order to establish a new unified one, which would bring this new vision and dynamic to the community. Notis Kamperos, a senior officer of the Hellenic Navy, proposed the name Olympiacos and the profile of a laurel-crowned Olympic winner as the emblem of the new club. Olympiacos is the most successful club in Greek football history, having won 44 League titles, 27 Cups and 4 Super Cups. The club's dominating success can be further evidenced by the fact that all other Greek clubs have won a combined total of 39 League titles, while Olympiacos also holds the record for the most consecutive Greek League titles won, with seven in a row in two occasions (1997–2003 and 2011–2017).


The Olmpiacos Training Centre (Proponitiko Kentro Reti) is situated only a few miles away from the main stadium. A confusing place to access as virtually everyone I spoke to was sent to a different entrance before being redirected elsewhere. The venue boasts an open stand along one side of the main pitch, a refreshment block with toilets but little else. However, you are treated to a stunning view of the ancient Parthhenon temple as a backdrop!



Spurs started this match in the ascendancy and a well taken early goal from the in form Troy Parrot gave them the lead. Despite controlling most of the first period, Spurs conceded a leveller on 31 minutes to Georgios Fekkas. The match was played in the extreme heat of the afternoon and it was no surprise that the second period saw some tired legs.


Olympiacos: Tzolakis, Ntoumanis, Gkotzamanidis, Belic (Aslanidis 79), Martinis, Neofytidis, Nikolis (Liatsos 67), Fekkas, Sourlis (Syrmis 79), Katsavakis (Arsenidis 46), Voillis (c) (Bullari 65). Subsitiutes (not used): Stournaras, Tsavos.

Tottenham Hotspur: Oluwayemi, Lyons-Foster, Eyoma, Binks, White, Bowden (c) (Lusala 72), Maghoma, Markanday, Richards, R Clarke (Whittaker 89), Parrott. Substitutes (not used): Kurylowicz, Asante, Etete, Matthew Craig, Robson.









Attendance: ?
Admission: Free
Programme: No
Photographs: Kindly supplied by the Much Travelled Adam Carne


Saturday, September 07, 2019

Banbury United FC

Banbury United 2 Gainsborough Trinity 2 - FA Cup, 1st Qualifying Round

Banbury is a market town on the River Cherwell in Oxfordshire. The town is situated 64 miles northwest of London and 37 miles southeast of Birmingham. Banbury is a significant commercial and retail centre for the surrounding area of north Oxfordshire and southern parts of Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, which are predominantly rural. Banbury's main industries are car components, electrical goods, plastics, food processing, and printing. Banbury is home to the world's largest coffee-processing facility (Jacobs Douwe Egberts), built in 1964. The town is famed for Banbury cakes – similar to Eccles cakes but oval in shape. Banbury stands at the junction of two ancient roads: Salt Way (used as a bridle path to the west and south of the town), its primary use being transport of salt; and Banbury Lane, which began near Northampton and is closely followed by the modern 22-mile-long road. It continued through what is now Banbury's High Street and towards the Fosse Way at Stow-on-the-Wold. Banbury's medieval prosperity was based on wool


The football club was established in 1931 as Spencer Sports Club, a works team of the Spencer Corsets factory. They initially played friendly matches, with their first match against St John's of the Oxfordshire Junior League played on 29 August 1931 and resulting in an 8–2 win for St John's. In 1933 they joined the Banbury division of the Oxfordshire Junior League, at which point they were renamed Spencer Villa. Later in the season they were renamed Banbury Spencer, and went on to win the league title in their first season. They then joined the Oxfordshire Senior League for the 1934–35 season. After winning the league at the first attempt, they were elected to the Birmingham Combination. In 1965 the club was renamed Banbury United after a change in ownership, and at the end of the 1965–66 season they transferred to Division One of the Southern League. In 2014–15 Banbury won the Oxfordshire Senior Cup for a sixth time defeating North Leigh 4–3 on penalties in the final. The club was placed in the Premier Central division at the end of the 2017–18 season as part of the restructuring of the non-League pyramid.


The original plan was to attend Solihull Moors v Wrexham in the National League, but that match was postponed. With train tickets already purchased, a long overdue visit to Banbury was a perfect replacement. The fast service from London Marylebone takes around an hour to reach Banbury. Just before arriving, almost adjacent to the railway, you get the first sight of the Spencer Stadium.


However, before venturing to the ground, an opportunity was taken to head in to the town centre. Breakfast was consumed at The Exchange (J D Wetherspoon) before the obligatory visit to the Banbury Cross. From there, as a result of some earlier research, I headed for the Bailiff’s Tap. This superbly quirky micropub is clearly a labour of love and I could envisage locals spending many a happy hour there. For the short period of time that I was there, it was a delight to enjoy the Pale Ale (5.6%) from Burning Sun and Redcat Porter (4.5%)


Arriving at the stadium, it was good to meet up with my Fakenham based retired colleague who had driven across from Norfolk for the match. The ground is a superb relic from a bygone era, with lovely old terracing just oozing with history. There is a decent sized covered seated stand along part of one side. The clubhouse and changing facilities are also situated on this side. Behind one goal is an old covered terrace, the rear of which would strike the heads of all but the shortest of people. The opposite end houses a much smaller modern terraced structure. The remaining side of the ground, where the dugouts are located, houses a combination of terracing and hard standing.


This was the proverbial “game of two halves” with the visitors from Lincolnshire dominating the opening period. However, they only had a solitary goal to show for their efforts at the break, courtesy of a penalty. The second period was a complete transformation with the hosts eventually drawing level from the spot. Their continued dominance was thwarted when the visitors regained the lead.


With time ticking away it looked likely that the visitors would be heading in to the Second Qualifying round. This would have been harsh on the home side, but a final twist to this tale saw them awarded the third penalty of the match, which was duly converted. The resultant draw meaning that the teams would meet again three days later in order to settle the tie.









Attendance: 473
Admission: £10:00 
Programme: £2:00 (48 pages)
Tea: 80p/£1:00

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Weston Super Mare AFC

Weston Super Mare 1 Poole Town 1 - Southern League, Premier Division South


Weston-super-Mare, also known as just Weston is a seaside town in North Somerset, England, on the Bristol Channel 18 miles south west of Bristol between Worlebury Hill and Bleadon Hill. It includes the suburbs of Oldmixon, West Wick and Worle. Weston-super-Mare is a tourist destination, with its long sandy beach, Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare Museum, Grand Pier, SeaQuarium aquarium and seasonal Wheel of Weston. During World War II over 10,000 official evacuees were accommodated in the town, however only 130 spent four or more years in the town. The area was also home to war industries, such as aircraft and pump manufacture, and a Royal Air Force station at RAF Locking. The town was also on the return route of bombers targeting Bristol and was itself bombed by the Luftwaffe. Ritchie Blackmore, guitarist and founding member of Deep Purple and Rainbow was born at Weston-super-Mare.



The football club was formed in 1887. The team's first record of a competitive match being against near-neighbours Clevedon Town in a "Medal Competition" organised by the Somerset FA. In 1900 they joined Division two of the Western Football League, but left after two years. In 1910 they re-joined this league and played there until World War I. Between the wars, the club played in the local Bristol and District Football League and then the Somerset County League, but the club disbanded upon the outbreak of hostilities in 1939. The club reformed in 1948 and immediately re-joined the Western League, initially in Division Two. At this time the team played at the Great Ground in Locking Road, where initially there was no cover for spectators and the players had to change in a marquee. The club's most successful cup run came in the 2003–04 season, when the Seagulls reached the Second Round of the FA Cup. After defeating Dorchester Town, Chesham United (via a replay) and Welling United in the qualifying rounds, Weston secured a 1–0 away win against Farnborough Town to progress from the first round. They were awarded with an away tie against Third Division side, Northampton Town where they were eventually beaten 4–1. In the same season, Weston would equal their best performance in the FA Trophy, reaching the Fourth Round of the competition.



On arrival at Weston-super-Mare station, I was able to revisit the buffet bar “Off The Rails” where I enjoyed a very good pint of Gorge Best (4.0%) from the Cheddar Brewery. The route to the ground takes you over a curved road bridge and at the other side, adjacent to the rugby club is the Wooden Spoon café, where the Monster breakfast was consumed by this Pieman (just about managed it).



It takes no more than half an hour to walk from the station to the Woodspring Stadium, much of the route taken up by industrial and retail outlets. It is as you cross over another railway line that you get your first view of the ground, which is situated, in the shadow off Bleadon Hill, part of the Menidps, an imposing and impressive sight.



The stadium has clearly benefited from investment in recent times. The covered terrace behind one of the goals is impressive and provides a good vantage point from where to view proceedings. This structure also contains a few rows of seats towards the front in the centre. Along the main side of the pitch is a covered seated stand and behind the other goal is a basic covered area, which at least would provide additional protection from adverse weather.




This match was at times a feisty affair and the resultant red cards (one per team) underlined this. The home side took the lead with a well-taken goal early on. The visiting keeper was also called to make a fine save, just managing to tip the ball over the bar. However, Poole Town started to take the game to their hosts and following the dismissal of a home player, it was no surprise when they levelled shortly before the break.



A couple of delays ensued when firstly, the stanchion behind the goals snapped following a collision between a Weston forward and the post, the broken pole hitting the keeper on the head. Secondly, a dog (still attached to its lead) joined the match. The extreme heat of the afternoon must have taken its toll on the players and it is to their credit that they continued to play. Spectators too will have endured the hot conditions. This Pieman, on return to the station, took delight in Piston Broke (4.5%) from the Box Steam Brewery, before catching the 18:00 service to London Paddington.









Attendance: 579
Admission: £11:00 
Programme: £3:00 (40 pages)
Tea: £1:50