Friday, November 24, 2017

Bangor City FC

Bangor City 5 Bala Town 0 - Welsh Premier League

Bangor is a city in North Wales, and one of the smallest cities in the United Kingdom. It is the oldest city in Wales. The origins of the city date back to the founding of a monastic establishment on the site of Bangor Cathedral by the Celtic saint Deiniol in the early 6th century AD. Bangor itself is an old Welsh word for a wattled enclosure, such as the one that originally surrounded the cathedral site. The present cathedral is a somewhat more recent building and has been extensively modified throughout the centuries. Bangor lies on the coast of North Wales near the Menai Strait, which separates the island of Anglesey from Gwynedd unitary authority, the town of Menai Bridge lying just over the strait. Garth Pier is the second longest pier in Wales, and the ninth longest in the British Isles, at 1,500 feet in length. It was opened in 1893 and was a promenade pier, for the amusement of holidaymakers who could stroll among the pinnacle-roofed kiosks. Bangor Mountain casts a shadow across the High Street, Glan Adda and Hirael areas, so that from November to March some parts of the High Street in particular receive no direct sunlight.

Bangor City FC is one of Wales' older football clubs, and has an illustrious history of competition in European football, the English pyramid system and now the Welsh Premier League. The club has been a founder member of the North Wales Coast League in 1893, the Welsh National League in 1921, the North Wales Combination in 1930, the Welsh League (North) in 1935, the Northern Premier League in 1968, the Alliance Premier League (now Football Conference) in 1979, and in 1992 the League of Wales. On 12 May 1984 Bangor became the first Welsh club to play at Wembley since Cardiff City in 1927, when reaching the FA Trophy final against Northwich Victoria. The match finished 1–1, with local boy Paul Whelan scoring for Bangor. The replay was played in Stoke City’s Victoria Ground, and despite a goal from another Bangor lad (Phil Lunn), Bangor lost 2–1 conceding in the last minute.

An early departure from London Euston was disrupted by a number of delays, ranging from an earlier train failure and late arrival of driver, a member of train crew being delayed further along the line, a late running Virgin Voyager train and the inability of Virgin and Arriva Trains Wales to communicate. The latter issue enabled me to watch my connecting train pull out of Chester at the same time as my arrival. This meant having an additional hour in Chester, where the City Arms, opposite the station, provided a pleasant interlude.

On arrival at Bangor there was still plenty of daylight and an opportunity was taken to venture out to the ground. This Pieman was permitted entry to the ground by very friendly and welcoming staff, so the hoped for daylight photographs were secured. Walking back towards town, I suddenly encountered a massive shower of hailstones and within minutes the entire area was blanketed in white. A beautiful sight, but now very slippery under foot.

The Nantporth Stadium is a relatively new home for Bangor City, having relocated from Farra Road in 2012. There is a covered seated main stand. Although the wings of this structure are unusually open to the elements. On the opposite side there are two smaller seated stands, both of which are on the left-hand side when viewed from the main stand. There is hardstanding around the entire perimeter of the pitch, with two rows of shallow terracing at each end. The ground is situated adjacent to the Menai Strait and Anglesey is visible from the main stand.

This match saw fourth placed Bangor City host fifth placed Bala Town. A win for the visitors would have put them a solitary point behind the home side. A keenly contested, sometimes feisty, affair unfolded. The home side scored twice in the first period and could have scored more. Bala Town looked better in the second half and were unlucky not to score themselves. However, three further strikes, two of which were spectacular, sealed a comprehensive victory for the home side.

As a result of this win, Bangor City went top of the table. Bala Town will have been frustrated by the fine display of Matthew Hall, in goal for the home side. This match was a fine advertisement for the Welsh Premier League.

Attendance: 372
Admission: £9:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:00

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Borussia Dortmund U19

Borussia Dortmund U19 1 v Tottenham Hotspur U19 3 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Dortmund is a city located in the east of the Ruhr area, one of the largest urban areas in Europe, comprising eleven independent cities and four districts with some 5.3 million inhabitants. Dortmund comprises 62 neighbourhoods which in turn are grouped into twelve boroughs (called Stadtbezirke), often named after the most important neighbourhood. Three boroughs cover the area of the inner city (Innenstadt-West, Innenstadt-Nord, Innenstadt-Ost) and the remaining nine boroughs make up the surrounding area (Eving, Scharnhorst, Brackel, Aplerbeck, Hörde, Hombruch, Lütgendortmund, Huckarde, Mengede). Each Stadtbezirk is assigned a Roman numeral and has a local governing body of nineteen members with limited authority. Most of the boroughs were originally independent municipalities but were gradually annexed from 1905 to 1975.

Borussia Dortmund's training ground and Academy base Hohenbuschei is located in Brackel, Inside the complex, there are exercise training facilities for physical fitness and rehabilitation robotics areas, physiotherapy and massage rooms, and remedial and hydrotherapy pools. There are also sauna rooms, steam rooms and weight rooms, classrooms, conference halls, offices for the BVB front office, a restaurant, and a TV studio to interview the players and coaching staff for. There are five grass pitches, two of which have under-soil heating, one artificial grass field, two small grass pitches and a multi-functional sports arena. The site covers a total area of 190,000 sq ft.

Having stayed in Dortmund twice previously, I was keen to explore a different location and opted to base myself in Düsseldorf. On arrival at my hotel I was presented with a travel pass covering the full duration of my stay (spread over three days), offering free public transport throughout the region (including Dortmund). Whilst exploring Düsseldorf, I was able to sample the superb altbier, distinctive to this region. Altbier gets its its name from it being top-fermented, an older method than the bottom fermentation of other lagered beers. Those enjoyed were Kürzer, Schlüssel, Uerige, Frankenheim, Schlôsser and Schumacher.

This UEFA Youth League Group Stage match presented an opportunity to watch two matches between the same clubs on the same day. Over the last couple of seasons this has become the norm when travelling abroad for Champions League matches. The timing of this match meant having the best part of five hours before the latter match.

There are public transport options available to reach this venue. However, the bus service from one of the Brackel stations would have been at half-hour intervals. On a drizzly day, sharing a taxi for the twenty-minute journey proved to be a good choice. 

On arrival, a 4 Euro admission fee was charged (first time I have paid to get in to one of these matches). Having walked the perimeter of the ground to maximise photographic opportunities, it was time to sit in the covered stand which affords a fine view of proceedings.

We witnessed a fine performance from the young Spurs side, dominating their hosts for the entirety of the match. Samuel Shashoua put Spurs ahead after eight minutes and ten minutes later Jaden Brown increased the lead. A goal against the run of play, following a goalkeeping error just after the half hour gave Dortmund a chance but this was a mere blip, as just before the break, Kazaiah Sterling’s fine strike restored the two goal lead. Spurs were even afforded the luxury of a missed penalty in this period. This was the result at the end of the match following a steady second period in which Dortmund did little to trouble the visitors.

Attendance: ?
Admission: 4 Euros
Programme: None

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sittingbourne FC

Sittingbourne 1 Haringey Borough 1 - FA Trophy, 2nd Qualifying Round

Sittingbourne is an industrial town situated in the Swale district of Kent in southeast England, 17 miles from Canterbury and 45 miles from London. The town sits beside the Roman Watling Street and next to the Swale, a strip of sea separating mainland Kent from the Isle of Sheppey. The local clay was suitable for making bricks, and North Kent is geologically rich in chalk, which is not found in many other places in Europe in such abundance. This led to the development associated industries: water transport, paper, and cement, all of which continue today in the area. The area around Sittingbourne was subject to constant air raids by Zeppelins and aeroplanes during the First World War. The Germans used the town as a reference point for bearings on the way to London. The first visit by a German aeroplane happened on Christmas Day 1914. Guns at Sheerness fired at the lone invader but still one shell dropped into a field at Iwade. The next event was to occur on 16 January 1915 when another solitary pilot from a German aerodrome in Belgium bombed Sittingbourne. This aircraft, a Taube, was pursued by two local airmen, but managed to escape after dropping a couple of bombs.

Sittingbourne FC traces its lineage to 1886. The club moved to a field behind the Bull pub in 1892, where they were to remain for nearly 100 years. Senior status was acquired in 1893, and the following year the club joined the first incarnation of the Kent League, before withdrawing to enter the South Eastern League in 1905. Sittingbourne were Kent League champions in 1975–76, 1983–84 and 1990–91, the third title win earning them a place back in the Southern League. In 1992–93, by now playing at the new Central Park ground, they won promotion to the Southern League Premier Division, however a financial crisis led to relegation two years later. Although the team bounced back, winning the Southern Division title at the first attempt, they were relegated again in 1998 as the club hovered on the brink of being wound up completely. A move out of Central Park and a drastic reduction in the playing budget saw the Brickies through their troubles, but they flirted with relegation back to the Kent League for a number of years, only finishing in the top half of the table on one occasion in the next eight seasons. In 2006 a re-organisation of the English football league system saw Sittingbourne moved into the Isthmian League, starting in Division One South. The 2009–10 season ended with Sittingbourne winning the Kent Senior Cup for the first time in 52 years. In 2013 the club moved to their new venue - Woodstock Park.

I had visited Central Park in 1993 for a friendly v Tottenham Hotspur. However, I never got to attend a match at Bourne Park, the subsequent venue. Therefore, I was keen to get along to Woodstock Park for this match. The high-speed service from St Pancras conveniently stops at Stratford and from there it takes less than an hour to reach Sittingbourne.

The walk from the railway station to the ground takes around 45 minutes. However, pedestrians should be aware that there is a short stretch without streetlights and footpaths – a challenge. In town an opportunity was taken to visit The Golden Hope (JD Wetherspoon), an interesting establishment t also reflects the buildings former life as a courthouse, with the prison cells converted into private dining areas with distinctive booth seating.

On arriving at the ground and following a very friendly welcome, I took the opportunity to wander around the ground and get some photographs in the decent daylight. It is not possible to walk the entirety of the ground, as the far side where the dugouts are situated has no walkway. There are two covered seated stands and a two covered standing areas. There is also a raised bank between the clubhouse building and the pitch that also offers a good view.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

The match was preceded by a superbly observed remembrance tribute on Armistice Day. A full version of the last post and a two-minute silence in the presence of local veterans was very moving. Both teams are doing well in the respective Isthmian League Divisions (North and South) and those I spoke to predicted a close match. Valery Pajetet in goal for the visitors made a couple of fine saves in the first period but could do nothing to prevent Kane Rowland from prodding home a rebound to put the hosts ahead. The visitors equalised with the last attack of the half, a free kick to the edge of the six-yard box comfortably headed home by Ralston Gabriel.

The second period, although not providing further goals, was entertaining as both sides pushed for a winner. A draw was certainly a fair result with a replay at Coles Park having to determine which club progresses to the next round of the FA Trophy. The walk back to the station was in the dark and it was good to negotiate the rural part swiftly and get on to a footpath. It was good to return to Sittingbourne after so many years.

Attendance: 135
Admission: £9:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:20

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Brightlingsea Regent FC

Brightlingsea Regent 3 Harlow Town 1 - Isthmian League, Premier Division

Brightlingsea is a coastal town and an electoral ward in the Tendring district of Essex. It is situated between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea, at the mouth of the River Colne, on Brightlingsea Creek. Its traditional industries included fishery and shipbuilding. With the decline of these industries, the town is largely a dormitory town for Colchester. In the centre of the town is Jacob's Hall, reputedly the oldest timber-framed building in England, which was built during the fourteenth century. The Western Promenade has lines of beach huts, a skate park, swimming pool, boating lake and a paddling pool. It is a popular destination for tourists and Londoners. The Colne Yacht Club has recently renovated Bateman’s Tower, a local landmark by the sea, with help from a Lottery Fund grant. The Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea railway opened in 1866 and was a branch line that operated rail services from the nearby town of Wivenhoe into the town centre of Brightlingsea. The service unfortunately fell victim to the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, and was eventually axed in 1964 supposedly prompted by the high maintenance costs of the swing bridge over Alresford Creek, which was necessary to allow boat traffic to the many sand and gravel pits in the area. Brightlingsea railway station was located on the southern side of Lower Park Road where the town's community centre now sits. It stayed in place for four years after the railway's closure until it was destroyed by fire in 1968.

Brightlingsea United was founded in 1928 by a merger of Brightlingsea Athletic (originally established as Wesley Guild in 1908, before being reformed in 1921) and Brightlingsea Town (established as Brightlingsea Juniors in 1919). The new club played in Division One the Essex & Suffolk Border League, and in 1929 moved to the North Road ground. In 1972 the club joined the Essex Senior League. They won the title in 1988–89 and 1989–90, before joining the Division One of the Eastern Counties League in 1990. They finished as runners-up in their first season, and were promoted to the Premier Division. However, they returned to Division One after finishing bottom of the Premier Division in 1992–93. The club resigned from the league shortly before the start of the 2002–03 season after the manager and most of the players left, complaining about a lack of proper changing facilities. The first team replaced their reserves in Division Two of the Essex & Suffolk Border League and were relegated to Division Three at the end of the season. When Division Three was disbanded in 2005, the club was moved back to Division Two. That year the club merged with youth club Regent Park Rangers to form Brightlingsea Regent. The newly merged club won Division Two at the first attempt, and was promoted again the following season after finishing second. In 2010–11 the club won the Premier Division and was promoted to Division One of the Eastern Counties League. The 2012–13 season saw the club finish third in Division One, earning promotion to the Premier Division. The following season Brightlingsea finished second in the Premier Division, earning promotion to Division One North of the Isthmian League. The 2016–17 season saw them finish the season as Division One North champions, earning promotion to the Premier Division.

This was not my first visit to North Road as I had previously attended a match in the FA Trophy between the same two sides a year previously. On that occasion the match was abandoned due to a floodlight failure. The match had limped to half time with limited lighting but despite the best efforts to fix the problem the referee was forced to call a halt to proceedings just after the break.

The journey to Brighlingsea via the M25 and A12 was good and with time to spare, the Cherry Tree public house presented a refreshment opportunity. There is real ale available and I opted for Timothy Taylor Landlord. From the pub it was only a five-minute stroll to the ground.

North Road has been a senior venue for some time but in recent years a number changes have been made in order to bring it up to the required standard for this level of football. There are two covered seated stands on either side of the pitch. In addition there are two covered standing areas, one along the side of the pitch where the dugouts are positioned and one behind a goal. The main clubhouse building houses the changing rooms, social area including the boardroom, licensed bar and tea bar.

Struggling Harlow Town looked anything but in the opening period of the match. It was no surprise when Junior Dadson put the visitors ahead and this lead should have been extended when the same player was presented with another good opportunity. The home side rallied and went in at the break with a 2-1 lead. Brightlingsea grew in confidence and went further ahead with a fine strike from a free kick just after the interval.

This was followed by the bizarre substitution of the goalkeeper by the Harlow Town management. I was informed that this was because he had rolled the ball out contrary to instruction. A complete waste of a substitution by a manager whose tactics in recent seasons do little to attract higher attendances at Barrows Farm. Anyway, it was good to complete a full 90 minutes at North Road.

Attendance: 181
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:00


Other visits to this venue

12 November 2016 - Brightlingsea Regent 0 Harlow Town 0 - FA Trophy, 2nd Qualifying Round - Attendance: tbc (match abandoned due to floodlight failure)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Agrupación Deportiva Alcorcón FC

Agrupación Deportiva Alcorcón 0 Club Deportivo Lugo 1 - Segunda División

Alcorcón is a city in the south-west of the Madrid metropolitan area, Spain. The site appears to have been inhabited since prehistoric times. The name is of Arabic origin, but little is known of it before the Reconquista. An early written reference to Alcorcón is in a medieval document that dates from 28 July 1208. Alcorcón has a small historic centre (including the church of Santa María la Blanca), that is protected as an "archaeological zone". The centre is surrounded by modern developments, as it has been growing rapidly in recent times due to migration from other parts of Spain and Latin America. Alcorcón is linked to Madrid by Metro Line 10 and Line 12, Cercanías line C-5 and several buses (511, 512, 513, 514, 516, 518, 536, 541, 545, 546, 547, 548, 551, N501, N502, N504). There are two hospitals, the Fundación Hospital de Alcorcón (which is state owned, but run privately), and the Hospital Sur Madrid (a totally private hospital). The Alcorcón campus of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos teaches health-related courses. In February 2013, it was announced that Eurovegas would be built in Alcorcón. However, in December 2013 the Eurovegas project was officially cancelled.

Founded in 1971 by Dionisio Muñoz Jerez, the football club spent roughly its first 30 years of existence in between the fourth division and the regional leagues. In 2000–01, it made its Segunda División B debut, finishing in 12th place, and spending the following seasons immersed in mid-table positions. In 2008–09, a third place in the regular season meant Alcorcón was allowed to appear in the promotion play-offs for the first time in its history. After disposing of Sant Andreu and Alcoyano, the club was ousted by Real Unión of Irun in the final round with a 3–1 aggregate scoreline. On 27 October 2009, Alcorcón secured the most famous victory in its history defeating La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid 4–0 at home in the first leg of its round-of-32 match in the Copa del Rey. In the club's first ever official match against a team from the top flight, Real Madrid fielded nine international players in its starting eleven.

I was in Madrid ahead of the Champions League encounter between Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur and had been alerted to the possibility of attending this additional fixture within easy travelling distance of the centre. Suburban rail services run to Alcorcón and the local station is just a five-minute stroll from the Estadio Municipal de Santo Domingo.

On arrival at the ground there was not a lot of activity. My immediate thoughts were that this level of football in Spain attracts nowhere near the level of attention that the Championship or League 1 and 2 receive in England. However, I may be wrong, as this was my induction to Spanish league football having only seen matches in European competitions previously.

The stadium is tidy and compact and can boast four seated stands. However, it is only the main stand that is not open to the elements and we were fortunate that it did not rain. This Pieman viewed proceedings from the two-tiered stand opposite the main stand. I enjoyed an unhindered view of the match but further back in the structure you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Upper tier of the away end at Loftus Road! The fifty or so visiting supporters from Lugo were accommodated in a small section to one side of a goal.

I enjoyed the match, which for the main was quite competitive. The 3G surface enabled some good passing but as the match progressed I began to wonder if we would get to see a goal. The home side was on a dreadful run of form whereas the visitors were in the play-off positions. With it still 0-0 at 90 minutes, I think most in the stadium were thinking that was that. However, with a minimum of three additional minutes signalled, a free kick outside the box was headed home to clinch the points for the visitors, who moved up to second place in the table as a result.

One of our number had booked a taxi back to the centre after the match and the journey took around 25 minutes. It was nice to see a different level of Spanish football and full credit to the couple of thousand locals and the smaller contingent who had travelled a long way (particularly on a Monday evening) from Lugo, for making the effort to attend.

Match Programme

Attendance: 2,125
Admission: 20 Euros
Programme: Free (24 pages)

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Fisher FC

Fisher 1 Forest Hill Park 3 - Southern Counties East League, Division One

Rotherhithe is a residential district in southeast London, England, and part of the London Borough of Southwark. Historically, the area is the most northeastern settlement in the county of Surrey. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wapping and the Isle of Dogs on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklands area. It borders Bermondsey to the west and Deptford to the southeast. Rotherhithe has a long history as a port, with many shipyards from Elizabethan times until the early 20th century and with working docks until the 1970s. In the 1980s the area along the river was redeveloped as upmarket housing, through a mix of warehouse conversions and new-build developments.

Members of the Fisher Supporters Trust established Fisher FC in 2009 when Fisher Athletic was wound up in the High Court due to financial problems and closed down. The new club was accepted into the Kent League for the 2009–10 season, and unanimously elected into the Premier Division at the league's AGM in June 2009. Fisher finished bottom of the Kent League in 2010–11, but were not relegated. In 2013 the league was renamed the Southern Counties East League, and when the Kent Invicta League became its Division One in 2016, Fisher became members of the Premier Division. The club finished second-from-bottom of the Premier Division in 2016–17 and was relegated to Division One.

The club initially groundshared at Dulwich Hamlet's Champion Hill, where Fisher Athletic had been playing since 2004, but began work on a new ground on Salter Road close to Fisher Athletic's old Surrey Docks Stadium. St Paul’s Sports Ground opened in 2016. This Pieman visited the previous venue to watch Fisher Athletic play in the Southern League and the Conference and was keen to retrace those steps!

I arrived at Rotherhithe station at around 2:15 and knew that it was only a short walk to the stadium. Turn left out of the station and continue walking until you reach the ground on the left-hand side of Salter Road. On the opposite side of the road is the former site of the Surrey Docks stadium where Fisher Athletic played, now a residential estate.

The new place is compact, but has a good a feel about it. A 3G pitch is complimented by a covered seated stand immediately to the right as you enter the ground. On the left is the main club building incorporating the toilets, changing rooms and the refreshment area. Behind the end to the left is a small covered terrace (like the seated area this is of the Atcost variety). This terrace is where the vociferous home fans congregate. The opposite end of the ground is completely open and the remaining side houses the respective team dugouts and due to the tightness of the perimeter fence, it is not possible to walk all the way along this side, as the benched areas are adjacent to the fence.

How Fisher did not score a number of goals in the first twenty minutes of this encounter will remain a mystery. The opportunities created but not converted will have been a concern to the home side. A couple of these chances fit the “easier to score than miss” description. Visitors Forest Hill Park led twice before the break and added a third in the second period to ensure they took all three points.

I always think tea tastes better from a mug and at this venue both Colin Marshall (met him walking up from the station) and I enjoyed drinking ours from Fisher FC mugs! Although there is no draft beer on offer, I noticed that cans and bottles were available. A pleasant and easy to reach venue – it is good to see Fisher back in their traditional part of South East London.

Attendance: 159
Admission: Pay what you want - non league day 
Programme: £2:00
Tea (in a Fisher FC mug): £1:00