Sunday, 27 September 2009
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Welsh Premier League
Bangor City 0 The New Saints 1
Tea hut purchases: Tea 50p, Cheeseburger £1.50p
Weather: Cloudy with sunny spells
Parking: My only option was a city centre car park at £4.50p!
Apparently the current home of Bangor City FC at Farrar Road is living on borrowed time. The local council describe it as an eye-sore and if any redevelopment cash could be extracted from potential investors the ground would be knocked down for fancy shops, a bowling alley and some new flats. Bangor City would be packed off to a new stadium at Nantporth adjacent to the Menai Straits and the Island of Anglesey. Ok, Farrar Road is looking a bit tired and tested but it does have a certain charm, I reckon the people calling it an eye-sore are going too far, the same councillors would be much better employed on sorting out the absolutely terrible traffic problems in the gridlocked streets, which seem to be snarled up all around the city. Oh yes... and not forgetting the extortionate parking rate policy, give people nowhere to park and then rip them off in expensive car parks, very nice business indeed (not). I had to park well away from the shopping centre and they still took me for £4.50 for little more than a 3 hour stay, its not like Bangor is a major tourist attraction so why the robbery? Having got in the ground you get a feeling this is a friendly little club with a fan base who expect some success, this season has been pretty much average for Bangor so far and the match against The New Saints was not going to be easy. Around half an hour before kick off the tea hut opened its shutters and I fancied a cup of tea. Only 50p but it was one of those small plastic cups, the type that give you a couple of slurps and thats your lot. I had to get another one at half time. It was on this second trip to the hut that I ordered one of the cheese burgers, they were only £1.50p and they appeared to be most customers chosen purchase. I put my tomato sauce on and admired what appeared to be a deep, succulent and well browned burger, it sat resplendent in between a fresh welsh bun awaiting imminent demolition. Oh dear what a let down! The burger tasted horrible, it had a very greasy, sickly, fatty taste and I really struggled to finish it, perhaps in hindsight I shouldn't have? It probably wasn't anything to do with the burger but I did feel sick for a few days after this event. Definitely one of my worst burgers for a long time.
This game was on Welsh tv and we duly kicked off 5 minutes late, probably due to a late tv feed and lots of over-running adverts about daft loans, old peoples stair lifts and dogs running around with bog rolls around their necks. The game was entertaining enough with TNS looking slightly more of a quality product than the resolute but basic home side. Shame there was only a handful of TNS fans making the trip, especially as they were second in the table. The expanse of the TNS game plan seemed to take the wind out of Bangor in the second half and chances came and went but still no goals. It was only in the 87th minute that TNS got the goal that had been so elusive and meant so much to their title challenge, there was no coming back for a fagged out Bangor City. All 7 of the TNS fans went mad with delight. Game finished and it was time to take the 10 minute walk back to the car park where some local entertainment had been put on by a car owner who had left their volkswagon golf parked on a slope without the necessary handbrake. It had rolled down the car park and ploughed into a nearby car just four bays away from mine, I was lucky it wasn't me coming back to a badly dented vehicle... now that would really have got me moaning?
With the redevelopment plans in the pipeline that may be my last trip to the Farrar Road ground. My advice would be to get your trip in while you can (but best to skip the burger).
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Vodkat North West Counties Premier League
Ramsbottom United 0 Formby 2
Tea hut purchases: Tea 60p, Crisps 40p, Meat & Potato pie £1.20p
Weather: Clear but slightly chilly evening
Parking: Club car park, easy getaway
Halfway between Bury and Rawtenstall, beside the River Irwell and the East Lancashire Railway rests the Riverside Ground at Acre Bottom, Ramsbottom, the excellent little home of Ramsbottom United FC. I've previously passed this scenic ground on the train and had always wanted to pay it a visit. Tonight, hopes were high amongst the locals as United had already climbed to a nose bleeding sixth in the table whilst the visitors from Merseyside, Formby, had somewhat struggled to gain early season momentum. I arrived early and picked up a programme, a very good read as well, then it was 'tea hut time'. The bright little hut was very well kept and offered a small seating area with club photographs on the wall. Just as I got to the counter with my pie money burning my hands a hungry looking family group entered from the side door and out manoeuvred me, I shouldn't have lost concentration, now I was forced to take a back seat while the group leader ordered half the hut, blast! They took the steak pie stock in one go! Eventually I got a chance myself, how nice to get a good cup of tea in a proper mug and only 60p. Have to say my meat and potato pie was a bit dry but at £1.20 it certainly wasn't a rip-off.By 7.40pm we were almost in darkness and I almost thought one of the heritage trains was about to pass by on the adjacent railway line, not to be, the noise was the trusty generator and on came the floodlights, match time! I took up a great seat in the small main stand, with plenty of space between the rows and comfortable arm rests as well, this was North West Counties League luxury at its finest.
Ramsbottom looked like a side that wanted to play passing football and get the ball wide, this was unfortunately hampered by bobble-factor 10 on the bumpy surface, when added to a shock Formby strike in the 9th minute, which was doubled after half an hour and then to top it off 3 first half injuries, well, the home teams original game plan looked a lost cause. Matt Edgington played well before going off injured and joint player manager Bernard Morley remained a threat throughout the game but Formby did a job on Ramsbottom by keeping it tight and hitting them hard on the break, this was a valuable and well earned away win and all credit to the Formby keeper for some great saves on the night. I considered it a competitive decent game of football and well worth the admission fee.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
Glossop North End 2 Chorley 3
Tea hut purchases: Tea 60p, Steak Pie (Wonderful) £1.40p
Weather: Glorious sunshine but not too hot
Parking: Roadside, directly next to the turnstiles, easy getaway
I'd seen the pies as I entered the ground. The tea hut was conveniently positioned next to the turnstiles. There they lay, carefully packed into the glass fronted warming cabinet, all in order with each shelf clearly identified for accurate order-picking. Even though it was only 2.15 there was already a bit of a rush on, a tell tale sign that the grub must be good. I got to the front and was spoiled for choice, they all looked good pies and there was plenty to choose from. I opted for a steak one and politely asked the ladies about its origins. They didn't seem to know the name of any bakery only that these Glossop pies were award winning delicacies and they had been carefully baked close to the ground. I handed over my cash (£1.40 for the pie and 60p for a large cup of tea) and hurried away to a secret corner to scoff my pie in private. I'm telling you, this was the best pie I had devoured all season, it was wonderful. Light golden pastry, not over flooding with gravy and absolutely packed with proper steak, it was fantastic. I could have got back in the car there and then and gone home a happy man. This FA Cup clash was off to a good start and I settled down to enjoy the charismatic surroundings of Glossop North Ends Surrey Street stadium.The clubhouse bar had been doing a roaring trade and it was a noisy start to the match proceedings. The Chorley contingent were soon singing their delights at a quick lead and the away side soon established a comfortable early dominance. We were well into the half when Glossop had their first serious attack and to most peoples surprise they promptly banged in the equaliser. Chorley lost the plot a bit after that and the home side started to take command only for Chorley to get an undeserved second goal. The second half was a stop-start scrappy affair and Glossop struggled to put anything cohesive together, Chorley had the bulk of possession with the tall Chris Amadi proving to be a real handful down the left flank. When Chorley got the third goal the tie was nearly done and dusted. Despite a Glossop goal right at the end and a scrambled Chorley clearance just before the final whistle the tie finished 2-3 to the Unibond First Division side. It had been a gloriously sunny September afternoon and the perfect location for an early round of the FA Cup but the real star of the show wasn't the weather, it wasn't even the skilful Chris Amadi...... it was that wonderful steak pie from the tea hut!
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Blue Square Conference North
Eastwood Town 1 Stalybridge Celtic 3
Admission: £10 (Concessions £6)
Programme: £2 (Very good publication)
Tea hut purchase: Tea 80p
Weather: Persistent swirling rain during the first half
Parking: On Nottingham Road about 800 yards away
I must have coaxed the rain south with me. It was close on my tail all the way down the M1. Apparently the Midlands had been basking in glorious sunshine all day? That soon changed! Conference North new boys Eastwood Town had been up the top end of the table early doors and there seemed to be a positive air of confident expectation around Coronation Park as I entered the stadium. First things first I must comment on what a jolly good programme was on offer, a refreshing value for money effort with lots of interesting reading. Next, onto the ground and the immediate impression is that of a low-level tidy set up with a small main stand slightly set back from the pitch, this is positioned adjacent to what appears a new build tea hut and a smart looking club house. The main characteristic of your first viewing has to be the slope, it is significant and sweeps unevenly downwards towards the fire station end of the ground. Something the home side probably put to productive tactical advantage.
The rain started right on kick off and didn't let up until half time, to say it was from the Noahs Ark category was an under statement. It soon had the locals dashing for the available cover, those choosing to show off their new Forest tops were doubtless wishing to have brought a sensible coat. I thought the weather stifled the football during the first half. Both sides passed the ball as they could and 'attack' seemed to be very much on the agenda but the conditions certainly made it difficult. What seemed to shock the Eastwood support was that Stalybridge appeared to be very much up for the challenge and this became all the more evident when they took the lead after 25 minutes. A well worked equaliser soon calmed the locals but having a home player sent off really wasn't what they wanted and as the sodden sides trooped off at the break you could detect that this was now going to be much more of a struggle for Eastwood than they had anticipated. Especially as Stalybridge now had that favourable slope to call upon.
Stalybridge have a respected manager in Steve Burr and he certainly applied the correct tactics to exploit ten man Eastwood. Come the second half the rain had stopped, the wind had dropped and the Burr masterplan was to get the ball wide and pass-and-move the home side right-out of the game. The Celtic players provided some excellent football and carved out chance after chance, two of which they took but to be honest it should probably have been a lot more. One can argue that the sending off hit Eastwood hard and it did, however, the stuff Stalybridge put on in that second period was very good indeed and no wonder the travelling support were jovially singing the Brazil song. It was intriguing to over hear the locals mumbling that this Stalybridge lot looked a good side and had pulled Town down a few pegs during the evening. You could conclude that it's all part of the learning process, I had seen enough from both of these sides to assume that they will both be 'around' come the shake up.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
UniBond NPL Premier League
Guiseley 2 Kings Lynn 4
Tea hut purchases: Tea 70p, Steak & Kidney pie (Pukka) £1.50p
Weather: Rain had cleared to leave a cloudy and breezy day.
Parking: Roadside, directly beside the ground on Otley Road.
Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire! chanted the over 60's Flat-Cap Army. They'd ransacked the bar, chased the raffle ticket seller and overturned the tea hut. No they hadn't really, it was more like flasks of bovril and warm woolly blankets to keep your knees warm. Still, I always liked that Yorkshire chant and you always seemed to catch a rendition when visiting white rose grounds. The only visible loony impersonator in town today (apart from me) was the deranged Kings Lynn manager Carl Heggs. I say that in the nicest possible way as Carl did come across as a decent sort. His touchline performance during the second half of this entertaining match was a pure rebel ballet of anarchic proportions. He was in and out the dug out like a jack in the box, lambasting officials, players and even members of the Guiseley Flat-Cap Army, he called the little chap in the tweed hat "a muppet"! Yes, one could genuinely make a case that watching Carl go through his repertoire was worth the 7 pounds admission price all on its alone. What got Carl so worked up was that his side had taken a 3-0 lead pretty much against the run of play and during the second half Guiseley were really making a big effort to reverse the balance. The home sides pressure witnessed a disallowed goal and a missed penalty before finally getting the scoreline back to 2-3, Carl was going potty! It all ended soon enough when Kings Lynn broke free of an almost non existent defence to send the small bunch of Norfolk based supporters into ecstasy with goal number 4 in injury time. It had been a fine game and a good visit. Despite the tricky drive around the Bradford ring road, Guiseley seemed a nice enough place, even the earlier rain had packed up for the proceedings.
Another 'plus' for the place was the Pukka Pie shrine just along from the main stand. The bright orange sign acted like a beacon amid the gloom, guiding the 'struggling ship to safe harbour', or in this case, me, Johnny Fatbottom to the tea hut. I sampled a fantastic steak and kidney pie for £1.50p which for a glorious Pukka pie (one of my favourites) was tremendous value for money.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
UniBond NPL Premier League
Ossett Town 1 FC United of Manchester 2
Programme: £1.50p (Terrible)
Tea hut purchases: Mushburger £2.50p
Weather: Freakily warm and sunny (raining down the road)
Parking: Roadside, about 10 minutes walk from the ground, easy exit.
As expected when FC United are on tour there was a decent crowd at the Ingfield Stadium. Most of the people in the ground at half past two were stood outside the function room bar basking in the warm sun and the weirdly warm humidity. I almost expected to see Lou Macari and Gordon McQueen with their hawaiian shirts and pints. How reassuring to see everyone being monitored by policemen in stab-vests and stormtrooper boots. The homely Ossett experienced could be summed up even further by the polite massive sign by the turnstiles "ANYBODY WHO BRINGS FOOD OR DRINK INTO THIS GROUND WILL BE EJECTED". Surely this was an assisting message to waywardly minded fans stupidly thinking that their cheese and pickle wholemeal butties might be better than the Egon Ronay catering in the tea hut? On entering the tea hut it appeared a few FC fans were a bit miffed that they didn't sell pies (this is a football ground remember), some of them left in disgust, a wise choice. Me, Johnny FatArse, bought a cheeseburger for two pounds fifty. It immediately won the stale-bun-of-the-season award even though we are still in August. What I sampled from the filling (which was supposed to be the meat bit) can best be described as horse mush, and this club stop you bringing in your own food, very negative I'm afraid. Walking around the place before kick-off you cannot help notice that most of the buildings are painted black, somebody must have come across a job lot of the stuff for free because surely you would want to brighten up your football ground (wouldn't you)? The teams entered the pitch from the Wendy House changing rooms, which was a nice feature of the touchline stands and soon we were underway. A disastrous defensive error by one of the FC centre backs let Ossett in for a well taken lead and the match took on an ebb and flow which promised a decent game. This proved a false dawn as 15 minutes later the proceedings seemed to run out of steam (possibly due to the warm atmosphere) and everything went very scrappy and niggly. United got the equaliser in the second half and then snatched a dramatic winner in injury time, a bit unfair on Ossett as they deserved the draw over the 90 minutes. I left the ground to the massed ranks of United fans chanting 'Margentina'? A link to FC manager Karl Marginson. My final comment is to advise Ossett Town football club to be a bit more reasonable about the food and to get a proper programme, it only cost £1.50p but I could re-write the valid content on the back of a stamp. You can possibly tell from the vibe of this visit report, this wasn't one of the better trips!