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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


APOEL 0 Tottenham Hotspur 3 - UEFA Champions League, Group Stage

Nicosia has been in continuous habitation since the beginning of the Bronze Age 2500 years BC, when the first inhabitants settled in the fertile plain of Mesaoria. Nicosia later became a city-state known as Ledra or Ledrae, one of the twelve kingdoms of ancient Cyprus built by Achaeans after the end of the Trojan War. Remains of old Ledra today can be found in the Ayia Paraskevi hill in the south east of the city. By 330 BC, Ledra was recorded to be a small unimportant town. According to tradition, the city was rebuilt by Leucus, and named after him as "Leucoton" or "Lefkotheon. The main activity of the town inhabitants was farming. During this era, Ledra did not have the huge growth that the other Cypriot coastal towns had, which was primarily based on trade. In 1960 Nicosia became the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, a state established by the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 1963, the Greek Cypriot side proposed amendments to the constitution, which were rejected by the Turkish Cypriot community. During the aftermath of this crisis, on 21 December 1963, intercommunal violence broke out between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Nicosia was divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot quarters with the Green Line, named after the colour of the pen used by the United Nations officer to draw the line on a map of the city. On 15 July 1974, there was an attempted coup d'état led by the Greek military junta to unite the island with Greece. The coup ousted president Makarios III and replaced him with pro-enosis nationalist Nikos Sampson.

APOEL is the most popular football team in Cyprus and is the most successful with an overall tally of 26 championships, 21 cups and 13 super cups. The club was formed as POEL (Greek: ΠΟΕΛ; Ποδοσφαιρικός Όμιλος Ελλήνων Λευκωσίας, Podosferikos Omilos Ellinon Lefkosias, Football Club of Greeks of Nicosia) on 8 November 1926. APOEL's colours are blue and yellow. Blue symbolises Greece and yellow symbolises Byzantium. The logo is a blue and yellow shield with the name of the club written diagonally in blue. After the club won their 20th championship (2008–09 season), two stars were added above the logo to symbolise the 20 championship titles (one star for every ten championships won). Other than that, the badge has remained the same since the establishment of the club.

The Pancyprian Gymnastic Association Stadium (GSP Stadium), although small by international standards, it is the largest stadium in Cyprus, with a capacity of 22,859 and was opened in 1999. It serves as the home stadium for the two Nicosia's biggest clubs APOEL and Omonia. It is also the home stadium of the Cyprus national football team. A stadium under the same name, the old GSP Stadium, existed from 1902 until 1999 in the centre of Nicosia and had a capacity of 12,000. Designed by Theo. David Architects, the new GSP Stadium opened for use on 6 October 1999.

Having enjoyed refreshment following the U19 fixture in the afternoon, it was time to head off to the stadium for the main match. This venue is a fair distance from the city centre and public transport options are best described as limited. The taxi we had been using all day had seen better days, but it did the trick and enabled us to reach the ground with plenty of time before kick off (19:45 local time).

For once it was relatively easy to secure match programmes before entering the away supporters section. We even took the opportunity to sample the food in a supporter’s refreshment room along the main side of the ground. My choice was a cross between a hot dog and a sausage roll (pastry surrounding a frankfurter). This was good and bridged the gap until the obligatory kebab in the early hours back in town (quality grub that too).

Although not a straightforward as the scoreline suggests, Harry Kane’s perfect hat-trick (left, right and head) enabled Spurs to chalk up a second successive group stage victory. There would also be time for Mauricio Pochettino to bring on the 20-year-old winger, Anthony Georgiou – a Cypriot youth international – for his debut.

Our taxi driver had been unable to get into the car park after the match due to the sheer volume of traffic. However, this proved to be an advantage, as it would have taken a long time to get out! We met him where he had parked near a roundabout and within twenty minutes we were back in town to enjoy the locally brewed Keo beer.

Attendance: 16,324
Admission: 25 Euros
Programme: Free (16 pages)


APOEL U19 1 Tottenham Hotspur U19 0 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Nicosia is the capital and seat of government of Cyprus, and as such is the farthest southeast of all EU member states' capitals. It has been continuously inhabited for over 4500 years and has been the capital of Cyprus since the 10th century. The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities of Nicosia segregated into the south and north of the city respectively in 1963, following the crisis from 1955–64 that broke out in the city. This division became a militarized border between the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus after Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, occupying the north of the island, including northern Nicosia. Today, North Nicosia is the capital of Northern Cyprus, a state recognized only by Turkey, that is considered to be occupied Cypriot territory by the international community. Apart from its legislative and administrative functions, Nicosia has established itself as the island's financial capital and its main international business centre.

Makario Stadium (Μακάρειο Στάδιο), is an all-seater multi-purpose stadium in Nicosia. It was the largest and main sports venue of the capital up to the construction of the GSP stadium in 1999. The stadium holds 16,000 seated spectators. The playing field is surrounded by a running track and can be adapted to hold most track and field events. Apart from corporate boxes and the press centre, there are no coverings for spectators. It is built in the Nicosia suburb of Makedonitissa, close to the grounds of the Cyprus State Fair, with which it shares a large car park. Over the years it has served as the home ground for Nicosia teams such as AC Omonia, APOEL and Olympiakos. The Cypriot national team has also played home matches there in the past. All those teams have now relocated to the New GSP stadium. The Makario stadium was built in 1978 and is named after Makarios III, the Ethnarch of Cyprus; Archbishop and first President of Cyprus. It has hosted many Cypriot Cup and Super Cup finals and was the main venue for the 1989 Games of the Small States of Europe.

To reach the Makario Stadium from the city centre is probably straightforward if you know where you are going! However, our task was made easier as we had engaged the services of a local taxi driver for the day. Admission to the match was free, as is usually the case for this competition.

All of the Spectators for this match were housed in the main stand, where on a hot afternoon, it was possible to take advantage of the limited shade available. Refreshments were on sale in the administrative block below close to the media facilities. The changing facilities for the teams are located beneath this level. Two clubs from the Cypriot first division, Doxa Katapias and Olympiakos use the stadium.

The match was a very one-sided affair with the young Spurs side dominating possession and play. However, it was the home side that secured victory direct from a free kick. Despite pushing hard for an equaliser, Spurs lacked a cutting edge. APOEL had lost their previous group fixture 10-0 to Real Madrid, so you could understand their excitement at the final whistle.

Our taxi arrived shortly after the conclusion of the match and we were soon on our way to Murphy’s bar which doubles as the Spurs Supporters Club for Nicosia. Don’t be put off by the name as that is pretty much the only pseudo Irish aspect as this bar and is decently priced with a good food and drink selection. We were in need of some liquid refreshment before venturing out again for the main fixture that evening.

Attendance: ?
Admission: Free
Programme: No

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Bath City FC

Bath City 1 Poole Town 0 - Conference South

Bath is the largest city in the Somerset, England, known for its Roman-built baths. Bath is in the valley of the River Avon, 97 miles west of London and 11 miles south-east of Bristol. The city became a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city became a spa with the Latin name Aquæ Sulis ("the waters of Sulis") c. AD 60 when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then. Archaeological evidence shows that the site of the Roman baths' main spring may have been treated as a shrine by the Britons. Water bubbling up from the ground as geothermal springs originates as rain on the Mendip Hills. The rain percolates through limestone aquifers to a depth of between 9,000 to 14,000 ft where geothermal energy raises the water's temperature to between 64 and 96 °C. Under pressure, the heated water rises to the surface along fissures and faults in the limestone. Hot water at a temperature of 46 °C rises here at the rate of 257,364 gallons daily.

Most buildings in Bath are made from the local, golden-coloured Bath Stone, and many date from the 18th and 19th century. The dominant style of architecture in Central Bath is Georgian. The most spectacular of Bath's terraces is the Royal Crescent, built between 1767 and 1774 and designed by the younger John Wood. But all is not what it seems; while Wood designed the great curved façade of what appears to be about 30 houses with Ionic columns on a rusticated ground floor, that was the extent of his input. Each purchaser bought a certain length of the façade, and then employed their own architect to build a house to their own specifications behind it!

Formed in 1889 as Bath AFC, Bath City's history is entirely in non-league football. They changed their name to Bath Railway in 1902 before settling on the name Bath City FC. In 1908 they commenced playing competitive league format football, joining the Western League Division Two. For the 1921–22 season they moved up to Southern League, English section. After the War the club resumed playing in the Southern League which they won in the 1959–60 season. In the 1977–78 season the club won the Southern League title for a second time. For the next season they fell short of election to the Football League by a narrow margin so they became founder members of the Alliance Premier League, now the Conference National. They finished runners-up at this level in 1985 but champions Wealdstone did not meet Football League stadium capacity requirements, so Bath City were allowed to apply for election to the Football League Fourth Division (the election system was in its penultimate season before the introduction of automatic promotion and relegation). They narrowly missed out on election to the Football League.  A year later they were runners up in the same league. In 1989 however they were relegated back to the Southern League but were promoted back next season. Here they remained until they were relegated once more to the Southern League in 1997. The club narrowly missed out on promotion to the Conference South in the season 2005–06 season finishing second in the Southern League and lost to Bedford Town. However, the following season they won promotion as winners of the Southern League in their second season under manager John Relish.

On a busy bank holiday weekend, the trains out of London Paddington were particularly busy as there was engineering work taking place to the west of Swindon. This meant that the services to Bristol Temple Meads were rammed. However, my train kept good time. On arrival at Bath I took the opportunity to have a wander around the centre before venturing out towards the ground.

En route to Twerton Park,  I was pleased to visit the Royal Oak micro pub. At the bar I requested something dark and local. In return I received a pint of Sirius (4.5%) from Ralph's Ruin. Brewed on the premises so you can't get any more local than that!  A fine ale indeed!  Anyone with an interest in good beer and visiting Bath City FC will enjoy this pub, less than ten minutes’ walk from Twerton Park, on the main road.

I had visited this magnificent venue back in 1989 when I saw homeless Bristol Rovers play Notts County in a Football League match. Since then I had long yearned for a revisit to watch a Bath City match. I have to say that Twerton Park is even better than I remembered it to be. A couple of covered seated stands are situated on the main side of the pitch. These are complimented by vast terracing for the remaining parts of the ground. In particular, the side terrace is fully covered and is a tremendous spot from where to watch football. The tea bar is on a raised level meaning that you can continue to watch the match as you queue!

Bath City FC ground out a narrow victory in an entertaining match for their third straight win, following defeat in their opening three fixtures. Immediately prior to catching my return train to Paddington, I visited Graze, adjacent to the railway station, this "trendy" establishment is also home to the Bath Ales microbrewery. I enjoyed a pint of Platform 3 (4.5%).

Attendance: 484
Admission: £13:00 
Programme: £2:50
Tea: £1:00
Pasty: £2:00


Earlier visit to Twerton Park

2 September 1989 - Bristol Rovers 3 Notts County 2 - League Division Three - Attendance: 4,753

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Forest Green Rovers FC

Forest Green Rovers 4 Yeovil Town 3 - League Two

Nailsworth is a town in Gloucestershire, lying 4 miles south of Stroud, in one of the Stroud Valleys in the Cotswolds. In ancient times Nailsworth was a settlement at the confluence of the Avening Valley and the Woodchester Valley, on the Nailsworth Stream. Among many notable historic medieval buildings in the area are Beverston Castle and Owlpen Manor. In the modern era Nailsworth was a small mill town and centre for brewing. It was connected directly to the UK national rail network between 1867 and 1947 with a station that was the terminus of the Stonehouse and Nailsworth Railway. The River Frome, which runs through the town, was also the site of an important trout fishery. These days Nailsworth is visited in the summer by walkers. It holds a farmers' market every fourth Saturday in the month.

The football club was established in 1889 by Reverend E.J.H. Peach, representing the Forest Green area of Nailsworth. The name Rovers was adopted in 1893, and the following year the club were founder members of the Mid-Gloucestershire League. The first home league match on 6 October was a 1–1 draw with Brimscombe and the club went on to finish the 1894–95 season in third place. Forest Green were amongst the founders of the Gloucestershire County League in 1968, where they played until moving up to the Premier Division of the Hellenic League in 1975 under the management of Peter Goring. Forest Green's first season in the Hellenic League Premier Division saw them finish fourth. Although they then spent two seasons in lower mid-table, a third-place finish in 1978–79 was the start of a successful four years, culminating in the 1981–82 season, in which they won the Hellenic League and reached the final of the FA Vase. At Wembley they defeated Rainworth Miners Welfare 3–0 to win the trophy. At the end of the season the club were promoted to the Midland Division of the Southern League. Although they finished third in their first season in the new league, the next six seasons were spent in mid-table.

In 1989 the club was renamed Stroud Football Club. Another season in mid-table was followed by two in which they finished in the bottom five. After reverting to their original name, the club continued to struggle in the league until they were transferred to the Southern Division in 1995. The 1997–98 season saw them win the Southern League Premier Division, securing a second successive promotion and entry to the Football Conference. In Forest Green's first season in the Conference they finished twelfth, as well as reaching the final of the FA Trophy, becoming the first team to play in the final of both the FA Vase and the FA Trophy. A third consecutive play-off campaign was secured with a third-place finish in 2016–17. After beating Dagenham & Redbridge 3–1 in the semi-finals, the club defeated Tranmere Rovers by the same scoreline in the final at Wembley, earning promotion to League Two. This made Nailsworth the smallest town ever to host a Football League club.

The New Lawn has been the home stadium of Forest Green Rovers since 2006. The stadium has a capacity of 5,147, of which 2,000 is seated. It replaced The Lawn Ground as Forest Green Rovers' home stadium. The stadium was due to cost the club £3 million and was approved in October 2003 by local council members, despite much local opposition due to the controversial siting of the development on school playing fields. Work started on the stadium on the 3 May 2005. The new ground has facilities to house 230 car parking places, 3 coach parking places. The stadium also has a leisure club, gym, sauna, conference and meeting facilities.

To reach the ground by public transport, I travelled by train from London Paddington to Stroud. The journey after Swindon through the start of the Cotswolds is picturesque and set the scene for Forest Green. At Stroud I was able to catch the half hourly 63 bus service to Forest Green, the ground being only a few minute's walk from the bus stop. The surrounding area is a mixture of residential or countryside. The nearest retail or refreshment options are down the hill in Nailsworth. However, for this match and probably most, the club restaurant was open to all (vegan fare) and there is also a secondary bar area at the end of the main stand. Both of these facilities had real ale (vegan) from the Stroud Brewery.  

I sat in the main stand which is the only seated part of the stadium. Behind each goal is covered terracing. The remaining side of the ground is open terracing used to house the sizable away following from Yeovil. This match was tremendously entertaining. Yeovil Town took the lead early on and added to this with a further goal from the penalty spot. Forest Green Rovers hit back with a goal a few minutes later, only for the Somerset outfit to restore their two goal cushion. Immediately before the break the home side pulled another goal back and straight after the interval levelled the scores at 3-3.

The comeback was completed when they scored a fourth and decisive goal. Both sides continued to attack for the remainder of the match. I felt a draw would have been fair but am pleased to have witnessed history being made as Forest Green Rovers won a Football League match for the first time. Getting back to Stroud was not as easy as the earlier. It seems that the 17.06 bus left earlier than timetabled or terminated its journey at an earlier stop. This appears to be a regular occurrence as the drivers avoid the steady stream of football cars leaving the ground at the end of matches. However, the next bus did run and by this time the football traffic had almost gone. There is a Wetherspoons public house (The Lord John) very close to Stroud Station and further refreshment was taken before catching the 19.35 service to London Paddington.

Attendance: 2615
Admission: £19:00
Programme: £3:0

Friday, April 14, 2017

Yaxley FC

Yaxley 3 Peterborough Sports 3 - United Counties League, Premier Division

Yaxley is a village and civil parish in Cambridgeshire and lies approximately 4 miles south of Peterborough, just off the A15 road. Yaxley is situated within Huntingdonshire which is a non-metropolitan district of Cambridgeshire as well as being a historic county of England. The village is located near the Hampton township, and is approximately three miles north-east of junction 16 of the A1(M) at Norman Cross. Yaxley once belonged to the Abbey of Thorney, and at one time had a weekly market and an annual fair. The manor was the property of Colonel Proby in 1910. There was once a small mere on this spot called Yaxley Mere and navigable water between Yaxley, Holme and onwards to the sea at King's Lynn. The peat of the fen here used to be over 10 feet thick with occasional outcrops of Oxford clay, but there is no sand or gravel.

The current Yaxley FC was established in 1962 and joined Division Three South of the Peterborough & District League. In 1963 they were renamed Yaxley British Legion and in 1965 were promoted to Division Two. Although they were relegated back to Division Three South in 1967, they returned to Division Two after winning Division Three South in 1968–69. They won Division Two in 1970–71 and were promoted to Division One. The following year they dropped British Legion from their name. After finishing second in the league for four consecutive seasons, they were promoted to the Premier Division in 1975, the same season in which they won the Huntingdonshire Senior Cup for the first time. The following season they retained the Senior Cup. The club won the Premier Division in 1976–77 and again in 1983–84, a season in which they won the Hunts Senior Cup for the second successive season. In 1986 they were renamed Coalite Yaxley as part of a sponsorship deal. In 1988 they became founder members of Division One of the Eastern Counties League. A change of sponsor in 1990 saw the club renamed Clarksteel Yaxley. In 1992 the club were expelled from the ECL as their Middleton Road ground did not meet the league's requirements (it was in a park, had no stands and needed temporary dugouts to be put in place on matchdays). The club dropped into the Huntingdonshire League. In 1995 the club finally moved to Leading Drove and were accepted into Division One of the United Counties League and won the division at the second attempt, and were promoted to the Premier Division.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to Leading Drove, the journey via the M11, A14 and A1(M) was swift and we arrived at Yaxley in good time to take some early photographs of the ground before venturing along the High Street in search of refreshment. A good Chinese take-away assisted in this respect. Yaxley is clearly a mix of old and new with a number of thatched roof dwellings interspersed with more recent buildings.

It is clear that the ground at Yaxley has undergone tremendous change in recent times, the most notable aspect of this being the installation of a very impressive artificial playing surface. There is a decent sized covered seated stand adjacent to the main club building, which houses the bar, tea bar and changing facilities. This building is L shaped and fits very neatly into the corner of the ground. There are two additional covered areas, much smaller but housing a single row of seats. These are situated along either side of the ground, diagonally opposite each other.

This Good Friday evening fixture probably benefited from not clashing with Peterborough United who played in the afternoon. Also being a local derby, the foresight of the clubs was rewarded by a bumper crowd of 250. Peterborough Sports FC are the newly crowned champions of the United Counties League and were given a guard of honour by their hosts as they entered the pitch before the match. Yaxley themselves are also having a good season, sitting in 3rd place and therefore this fixture promised to be an interesting encounter.

Yaxley led twice in the first period before being pegged back at 2-2 by the interval. An improving Peterborough Sports began to show why they have had such a good season and soon in the second period had taken the lead for the first time. As the match progressed both sides created chances and it was fitting that Yaxley grabbed a 3rd goal in the closing minutes to gain a well-deserved draw. The quality of football was a great advert for the United Counties League – a very enjoyable evening out. This Pieman was back home in Cheshunt for 11pm and as ever, grateful for the lift.

Attendance: 250
Admission: £6:00
Programme: £1:0
Tea: £1:00