Sunday, March 17, 2019

Haywards Heath Town FC

Haywards Heath Town 3 Whyteleafe 1 - Isthmian League, South East Division

Haywards Heath is a town in West Sussex. It lies 36 miles south of London, 14 miles north of Brighton, 13 miles south of Gatwick Airport and 31 miles east northeast of the county town of Chichester. The name Hayward comes from Old English meaning an official who protected hedged enclosures from wandering livestock. There is a local legend that the name comes from a highwayman who went under the name of Jack Hayward. Haywards Heath as a settlement is a relatively modern development. Following the arrival of the London & Brighton Railway in 1841, its size has increased considerably. Haywards Heath railway station opened on 12 July 1841 and served as the southern terminus of the line until the completion of Brighton station on 21 September. The position of Haywards Heath, and its place on both this railway and near the main road (A23) between London and Brighton, enables it to function as a commuter town, with many residents working in London, Brighton, Crawley and Gatwick Airport.

The club was formed in 1888 as Haywards Heath Juniors. The club was renamed Haywards Heath Excelsior in 1894, before becoming simply Haywards Heath in 1895. They were founder members of the Mid-Sussex League in 1900, and were runners-up in the Senior Division in 1901–02, 1902–03, 1903–04 and 1905–06. The club dropped out of the Senior Division in 1908, but won Division Two in 1911–12. In 1919–20 Haywards Heath were Mid-Sussex League champions without losing a game. A move to the Hanbury Stadium in 1952 allowed Haywards Heath to join the Metropolitan League, but after several seasons of struggling in the new league, they finished bottom of the table in 1960–61 and re-joined the Sussex County League. In 2012–13 Haywards Heath were Division Three runners-up, resulting in promotion to Division Two. The division was renamed Division One in 2015 when the league was rebranded as the Southern Combination and the club went on to win the Division One title in 2015–16, earning promotion to the Premier Division. They finished top of the Premier Division the following season and were due to be promoted to Division One South of the Isthmian League. However, after being penalised with a nine-point deduction for fielding in several matches a player who was serving a ban, the championship was awarded to Shoreham. The club went on to win the Premier Division in 2017–18, earning promotion to the newly formed South East Division of the Isthmian League.

The journey to Haywards Heath was made using the Thameslink service direct from St Pancras International. The fare with a railcard discount was a very reasonable £7:85. Speed restrictions due to high winds meant an additional fifteen minutes added to the journey, which usually takes around an hour.

To reach the ground from the railway station on foot takes a little over twenty minutes. The route I followed took me through Clair Park, which contains a cricket pitch (Haywards Heath Cricket Club). There is a two-tiered bank overlooking the playing area containing lots of park benches. I would imagine many a summer has been spent and enjoyed there by the locals, such is the magnificent setting.

That banking at the cricket field is not the only spectacular sporting structure in Haywards Heath. I have long intended to visit the football ground, having seen pictures of the marvellous grandstand, I was not dissapdisapp! It is the standout feature of the ground and also contains the changing rooms and clubhouse facilities. The only other spectator viewing area at the ground is a small one-step standing area beside the turnstiles (a welcome retreat on a blustery day).

It was in the homely clubhouse that I was able to sample a couple of beers from the local Bedlam Brewery. Pale (4.8%) is brewed using US hops and was very pleasant indeed. However, I resisted the pull to have another, instead opting for the Porter which did not disappoint and set me up nicely for the match.

Currently in the play-off positions, the home side was looking to assert themselves in this match. However, in very strong winds, it was Whyteleafe that were the more composed early on and it was no surprise when they took the lead through Junior Aikhionbade. A vastly improved second half performance from the home side saw them takes the points following Andy Dalhouse’s leveller and two goals from Callum Saunders. The walk back to the station enabled me to catch the 17:17 return Thameslink Service. I enjoyed my visit to Haywards Heath Town and can now cross the Hanbury Stadium off my bucket list!

Attendance: 127
Admission: £8:00
Programme: £2:00 (36 pages)
Tea: £1:00
Chips: £1:50

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Frenford FC

Frenford 1 White Ensign 1 - Eastern Counties League, Division One South

Frenford clubs was founded in 1928 by Jack Carter, originally as a boys club. By 1930 it had grown into a sports and social club. The football club was established during World War II by the Frenford Sports and Social Club under the name Frenford Senior. They later joined the Ilford & District League, and were Premier Division champions in 1975–76. In 1995 the club joined Division Two of the Essex Intermediate League, going on to win the division at the first attempt and earning promotion to Division One. The 2003–04 season saw them win the Essex Premier Cup and the Capital Counties Feeder League Trophy. They finished second in Division One again in 2004–05, after which the league was renamed the Essex Olympian League.

The club were Division One runners-up for a third time the following season. In 2006–07 they won the Senior Challenge Cup and despite only finishing eleventh in Division One, they were promoted to the Premier Division. Frenford were Premier Division runners-up in 2008–09. In 2010–11 the club won the Essex Premier Cup, and the following season saw them become Premier Division champions. They retained the title in 2012–13, also winning the Senior Cup and the Senior Challenge Cup. The club went on to win the Senior Challenge Cup again the following season and the Essex Premier Cup in 2015–16. In 2017 the club dropped Senior from their name, and the 2017–18 season saw them win the league's Senior Cup. They moved up to the newly-formed Division One South of the Eastern Counties League the following year.

The journey to the Jack Carter Centre was relatively straightforward. I was able to catch a train from Cheshunt to Stratford and then took a Central Line train to Gants Hill. The walk from the station to the ground took around 15 minutes, although you see the ground much earlier, but there is no access at the earlier stage.

As a new entrant to senior football, Frenford’s ground and associated spectator facilities are at the embryonic stage and there is a lot to do in order to maintain their current status. Plans are in hand to enhance the facilities, which will include the installation of floodlights and an artificial playing surface.

This match was proceeded by a presentation made to Frenford’s long serving manager David Forbes for whom the previous match was his 500th as manager of the club. The 15:06 kick off on an overcast gloomy February day without floodlights was probably not the best way to commence proceedings but matches at this level do not always start on time.

I would describe this match as a slow burner, with both teams taking time to discover some rhythm. White Ensign had the greater initiative early on but as the first half progressed, the home side was making their mark. The second period had a higher tempo and exploded into life when the visitors took the lead courtesy of a long-range lob over the keeper.

The home side levelled through another strike over the keeper and the two goals provided a bit of excitement that was not in keeping with the overall quality of the match. Most would agree that a draw was a fair result between two committed teams. Phil Bayley was on hand to provide a lift to Redbridge Station, which meant I was able to catch the 17:30 train from Stratford.

Attendance: 56
Admission: £4:00               
Programme: £1:00 (16 pages)
Tea: £1:00

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Airbus UK Broughon FC

Airbus UK Broughon 1 Presyatyn Town 2 - Cymru Alliance

Broughton is home to a large aircraft factory at Hawarden Airport. This was completed in 1939 for use by Vickers Armstrongs, who built 5,786 Wellington bombers. De Havilland Aircraft took over the factory in 1948 and built 2,816 planes of several designs. Today, the plant is the Airbus wing factory, manufacturing wings for the A320, A330/A340, A350, and A380 aircraft. Airbus wings produced in Broughton are flown out in Airbus Beluga planes with the exception of the large A380 wings, which are transported by barge along the river Dee to the nearby Mostyn docks. The Broughton factory was featured in the 2011 BBC Television programme How to Build a Super Jumbo Wing. The ITV1 drama series, Midsomer Murders has used Broughton as a filming location. Broughton war memorial institute is situated on the main road opposite entry to Broughton hall road, this building was built in lieu of a memorial stone to commemorate the sacrifice by residents of the village in military conflicts between 1914 and 1919, to hosts groups and events for the benefit of local people year round.

The football club was formed in 1946; the club has known several different names as the ownership of the factory has changed over the years. Originally called Vickers-Armstrong, it has variously been named de Havillands, Hawker Siddeley, British Aerospace and BAE Systems. The club's early years were spent in the Chester and District League and the Wrexham area leagues. The club won the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division Two title during the 1991–92 season, when they won 28 of their 34 matches and scored 130 goals to finish 19 points ahead of their nearest rival. After four years in the Premier Division the club was promoted to the Cymru Alliance at the end of the 1999–00 season. At the same time the club changed its name to Airbus UK. In 2003–04 the club earned promotion to the top level of Welsh domestic football for the first time. The 2016–17 season produced only five wins and saw first round exits from both the League Cup and Welsh Cup, ending with the Wingmakers finishing in bottom place and being relegated back to the Cymru Alliance ending 13 seasons in the Welsh top flight.

With the Tranmere Rovers v Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup tie being switched to the Friday evening for TV broadcasting, I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to visit a new venue in the vicinity the following day. To reach The Airfield by public transport is relatively straightforward. There are a number of frequent bus routes connecting Chester and Broughton with routes 4 and 12 stopping directly outside the ground.

On arrival at the ground, which is situated within the vast Airbus complex, I was able to go inside and take some photographs. The extremely helpful club official (Steve) that I met, was clear that although it is ok to take pictures of the football ground, it is not permissible to photograph the airfield runway and associated structures. There is a company social club across the road from the ground and prior to the match I went there for a pint (no real ale so opted for Guinness) and was able to watch some televised FA Cup football.

The ground boasts an artificial playing surface, one of a number I have seen in Welsh football. Along one side of the pitch is the main club building which houses the changing facilities along with a boardroom/sponsor’s lounge. In front of this building is a small covered seated stand. Also along this side is an extremely well stocked club shop and a refreshment trailer, serving hot drinks, burgers etc.

On the opposite side of the pitch is a larger covered seated stand and yet another stand (also seated and covered) is situated behind the end of the ground that backs on to the airfield. The remaining end of the ground is where the turnstile entrance is located, but there are no further spectator facilities.

This match saw top of the table Airbus host twelfth placed Prestatyn Town. The visitors were well supported and those that had made the trip from the coastal town were rewarded when Prestatyn took the lead in the first period. An equaliser early in the second half looked to pave the way for another home victory. However, the visitors claimed all three points following the second goal capping a battling performance against the team favourites to win the league. The winning goal was adjudged to have crossed the line by the assistant referee. Not a popular decision for some but this Pieman saw it the same way and believe he got it right. A bus within ten minutes of the match ending meant I was back at Chester station just after 5pm with plenty of time to catch my connection to Crewe.

Attendance: 227
Admission: £6:00
Programme: £2:00 (48 pages)
Tea: £1:00

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Woodbridge Town FC

Woodbridge Town 1 Brantham Athletic 1 - Eastern Counties League, Premier Division

Woodbridge is a town in Suffolk, about 8 miles from the coast. It lies along the River Deben and has a population of about 11,000. The town is served by Woodbridge railway station on the Ipswich–Lowestoft East Suffolk Line. It lies within a short distance of the wider Ipswich urban area. The earliest record of Woodbridge dates from the mid-10th century, when St Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, acquired it. The Doomsday Book of 1086 describes Woodbridge as part of the Loes Hundred. Much of Woodbridge was granted to the powerful Bigod family, who built the famous castle at Framlingham. In 1943, the Royal Air Force (RAF) constructed a military airfield east of Woodbridge. During the Cold War, the United States Air Force used RAF Woodbridge as the primary home for two Tactical Fighter Squadrons until 1993. Woodbridge has a brass band, the Excelsior, which was formed in 1846, making it the oldest community brass band in East Anglia.

Woodbridge Town FC was formed at a meeting held on 23 July 1885, and the first match was played between the club's own members on a pitch at Farlingaye Hall. The club's first match, against St Helens of Ipswich, resulted in a 10–0 victory. The Suffolk County Football Association was formed in the same year, and the club were a founder member, as well as winning the first Suffolk Senior Cup by beating Ipswich Town 3–1 in the final at Portman Road. In 1908–09 they won the Junior Cup by beating RFA Ipswich 2–1, and in 1912–13 were champions of the Ipswich and District League's Senior Division. They won the Junior Cup again in 1927, beating Southwold Town 4–2. In 1929 they reached the final of the Senior Cup, but lost 5–0 to Ipswich Town.

Making use of a complimentary Greater Anglia voucher. I was able to make a return journey from Cheshunt to Woodbridge via Stratford and Ipswich. The total cost of £5:00 representing fine value. On arrival at Woodbridge, my 25-minute walk to Notcutts Park was interrupted in order to take refreshment at The Cherry Tree (Adnams), where this Pieman delighted in his pint of Broadside.

Notcutts Park is a tidy, if basic, venue. All the main facilities are situated along one side of the ground. The main clubhouse building incorporates a licensed bar, snack bar and a function room. The changing rooms and turnstile area are also part of this block. A short distance along from the clubhouse is a covered standing area, adjacent to which, is a covered seated stand.

The pitch is fully railed and there is a concrete hardstanding surrounding the perimeter, with the exception of the area immediately behind the dugouts. This side of the ground backs onto the busy A12. There is housing behind one of the goals (it is via this estate that you access the ground) and a sloping open field behind the other.

This match saw the 5th placed hosts, pitted against their 8th placed visitors. A win for Brantham Athletic would see them leapfrog Woodridge Town in the table, although the latter had two matches in hand. The first period saw the visitors lead following a header from a corner and try as Woodbridge did, they were unable to get past some resolute defending.

The second period commenced with a couple of substitutions for the home side. This clearly had the desired effect, as the hosts were more assertive and levelled with another headed goal from a corner. Although finishing stronger, the hosts could not find a winner. I was back at Woodbridge station in plenty of time to catch the 17:18 service to Ipswich, from where my onward connection to London was on time. Special thanks to Martin Norton for the rail voucher.

Attendance: 226
Admission: £6:00
Programme: £1:00 (28 pages)
Tea: £1:00
Cheesburger: £3:00

Thursday, December 13, 2018

FC Barcelona U19

FC Barcelona U19 0 Tottenham Hotspur U19 2 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Barcelona is located on the north-east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea, on a plain approximately 3 miles wide limited by the mountain range of Collserola, the Llobregat river to the south-west and the Besòs river to the north. According to the Köppen climate classification, Barcelona has a maritime Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and warm to hot summers, while the rainiest seasons are autumn and spring. The Port of Barcelona has a 2000-year-old history and a great contemporary commercial importance. It is Europe's ninth largest container port. Barcelona is served by Barcelona-El Prat Airport, located around 11 miles from the centre. It is the second-largest airport in Spain, and the largest on the Mediterranean coast. Barcelona is a major hub for RENFE, the Spanish state railway network. The city's main Inter-city rail station is Barcelona Sants railway station, whilst Estació de França terminus serves a secondary role handling suburban, regional and medium distance services.

On 22 October 1899, Hans Gamper placed an advertisement in Los Deportes declaring his wish to form a football club; a positive response resulted in a meeting at the Gimnasio Solé on 29 November. Eleven players attended – Walter Wild (the first director of the club), Lluís d'Ossó, Bartomeu Terradas, Otto Kunzle, Otto Maier, Enric Ducal, Pere Cabot, Carles Pujol, Josep Llobet, John Parsons, and William Parsons – and Foot-Ball Club Barcelona was born. FC Barcelona is one of three founding members of the Primera División that have never been relegated from the top division since its inception in 1929, along with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid. In 2009, Barcelona became the first Spanish club to win the continental treble consisting of La Liga, Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League, and also became the first Spanish football club to win six out of six competitions in a single year, by also winning the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

The 15,276-seat Mini Estadi is situated across from Camp Nou, the home stadium of FC Barcelona. The stadium is currently home to FC Barcelona B (reserve team), as well as FC Barcelona's women's team. It has also been home to the Barcelona Dragons, a NFL Europe American football team, until they were disbanded in 2003. It occasionally hosts the national team of Andorra. Queen performed at the stadium during their Magic Tour on 1 August 1986. David Bowie performed, on two consecutive nights, at the stadium during his Glass Spider Tour on 7–8 July 1987. Elton John performed at the stadium during his One Tour on 21 July 1992. My visit was timely as it is expected that the Mini Estadi will be demolished following the conclusion of the 2018–19 season, when the Estadi Johan Cruyff is finally opened. This is an impressive two-tiered venue with decent view from all angles. Only one side of the ground is covered.

Having witnessed all five preceding matches for Tottenham Hotspur in the Group Stage of the UEFA Youth League, I was determined to get along to the Mini Estadi for this final encounter. We became aware that Internazionale had defeated PSV, which meant that Spurs had to win this match in order to qualify from the group along with their hosts.

I had been impressed with the quality of performances from the U19 team this season and like the first team, they are an accomplished side, balanced with ability, tactical nous and dogged determination. This particular match epitomised that spirit. From the outset it was clear that they were not going to allow their hosts to intimidate them and with the exception perhaps of a ten-minute spell during the second half, Spurs were in complete control of proceedings.

Gary Mabbutt, the much travelled Adam Carne and Ledley King pose for the Catalan media
Troy Parrott's strike after 17 minutes and substitute Rodel Richards' goal with his first touch having come off the bench in the final minute are the recorded statistics. However, it should be stated that this was an immense performance and every player deserves credit for making a decent home side look rather ordinary.

The watching Ledley King and Gary Mabbutt will have been impressed with the performance as were the decent gathering of Spurs supporters attending this match as an appetiser before an emotionally charged encounter over the road later in the evening.

Attendance: 870
Admission: Free
Programme: None
Team Sheet : Free

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Leicester Nirvana FC

Leicester Nirvana 5 Oadby Town 2 - United Counties League, Premier Division

It is believed that the Romans arrived in the Leicester area around AD 47, during their conquest of southern Britain. The Corieltauvian settlement lay near a bridge on the Fosse Way, a Roman road between the legionary camps at Isca (Exeter) and Lindum (Lincoln). It remains unclear whether the Romans fortified and garrisoned the location, but it slowly developed from around the year 50 onwards as the tribal capital of the Corieltauvians under the name Ratae Corieltauvorum. In the 2nd century, it received a forum and bathhouse. In 2013, the discovery of a Roman cemetery found just outside the old city walls and dating back to AD 300 was announced. The remains of the baths of Roman Leicester can be seen at the Jewry Wall; recovered artefacts are displayed at the adjacent museum. Henry Walker was a successful pork butcher who moved from Mansfield to Leicester in the 1880s to take over an established business in High Street. The first Walker's crisp production line was in the empty upper storey of Walker's Oxford Street factory in Leicester. In the early days the potatoes were sliced by hand and cooked in an ordinary fish and chip fryer.

Thurnby Rangers were established as a Sunday league team and played at Dakyn Road in Leicester. They won the Charnwood Sunday League Premier Division in 1988–89 and went on to win the title in each of the next three seasons. In 2008 Thurnby Rangers and Leicester Nirvana merged to form Thurnby Nirvana, retaining Rangers' place in the Premier Division of the Leicestershire Senior League, although Leicester Nirvana continued as a youth club. In 2009–10 they finished third in the Premier Division and were promoted to the East Midlands Counties League. The club won the League Cup in 2010–11 and the league title in 2013–14, earning promotion to the Premier Division of the United Counties League. They were runners-up in the Premier Division the following season. At the end of the season the club were renamed Leicester Nirvana. They were Premier Division runners-up again in 2015–16, missing out on the title on goal difference.

With the Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur fixture rescheduled for a 19:45 kick off, this Pieman was presented with an opportunity to visit another ground within the city. I had seen Leicester Nirvana previously in an away fixture at Peterborough Northern Star a few years ago. It was good to get to see a home match at Hamilton Park.

To reach the ground by public transport it is very straightforward. Arriva buses operate routes 58 and 58a (five services per hour for each) from Humberstone Gate in the city centre. The two routes run in a loop and it is worth bearing in mind that the 58a service is quicker before the match and the 58 service is quicker after the match. The bus stops are just a couple of hundred yards from the ground.

Hamilton Park is a tidy venue. There is a small covered seated stand along one side of the pitch and next to this is a covered flat concrete based structure, both areas providing shelter from adverse weather which was certainly needed on this particular afternoon. The fine clubhouse building is on a raised level behind one of the goals. Apart from the changing rooms, this block also contains a refreshment area. There is also a slight overhang from this building providing a little more cover. With the exception of the dugouts, situated on the opposite side of the pitch, there are no other facilities.

This match saw 9th placed Leicester Nirvana host 4th place Oadby Town. The match was effectively a local derby with Oadby being located just outside Leicester. In tremendously blustery conditions, the home side were playing with a tailwind and really took the game to the visitors. Two early goals set the scene and by half time the score was 5-0.

Playing with the wind in their favour in the second period, Oadby pulled a couple of goals back and with a little more good fortune, could have made the match closer. However, when considering all factors, Leicester Nirvana displayed enough quality over the 90 minutes to deserve their victory. The half dozen Tottenham Hotspur supporters attending this match appreciated the warm welcome from the host club and the Spurs fan on the Oadby Town bench. Special mention to Robert Davies, one of the Spurs fans in the crowd, who probably touched the ball more than the home goalkeeper.

Attendance: 72
Admission: £5:00
Programme: £1:00 (28 pages)
Tea: £1:00