Where's The Tea Hut reflects upon local football South West style with a few trips further afield. Keep the faith & stay safe.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Gateway to Dartmoor

Saturday 5th September 2020

South West Peninsula League East


Attendance: 80 (dodgy head count)

Admission: Bargain £4 or £2 concessions

Programme: Bit slim but only 50p

Weather: Plenty of sunshine, occasional scattered cloud

Parking: Club car park, beware, its small & you get blocked in

Left Cornwall early afternoon and bribed the guards at the Tamar Border Control (the bloke in the booth selfishly took 2 quid off me). I was soon jaunting up the A38 dodging erratic homeward bound holiday makers still razzled from their last night binge in the caravan.

Bovey Tracey is a lovely little place on the eastern edge of Dartmoor. I'd visited this area when I lived Up North. I had a contract to do Safety Inspections at a premises on the nearby Heathfield Industrial Estate. Usually took me 2 hours and I got expenses to stay in a big flashy hotel in Torquay, those were the days.

The big match witnessed classy Crediton visiting the leafy splendour of Mill Marsh Park. They brought a bit of support with them, it's only the other side of Exeter so not too much of a trip. Hope they got somewhere to park, it's not easy dumping the car near the ground, I got The Match Shed in the last gap against the fence in the tiny club car park, I was feeling rather pleased with myself until some other cars followed me in and promptly blocked me in. I'm never a fan of grid-lock parking especially as the chap who did for The Match Shed decided to have a leisurely chat at the clubhouse following the final whistle.

Great to see the home club respecting Covid 19 precautions, they had a signing in book for track & trace and automatic sanitiser units both at the entrance and the clubhouse. Also got the luxury of hot water, plenty of liquid soap and plentiful paper towels in the toilets, bit like that fancy hotel I mentioned back in Torquay. Benches and a few tables had been appropriately well spaced outside the clubhouse and it was nice to see people casually having a drink or a snack before kick off. The social distancing pitch side was pretty much ok, you'll always get a nob-head who ignores it but I only had to move the once so the matchday experience wasn't too anxious. Full marks to Bovey Tracey.

Mill Marsh Park is a picturesque place to watch football with scenic views through the trees to the Dartmoor foothills. There aren't the old school trappings that groundhoppers crave but the place is neat and tidy, has a great looking pitch and there is a small stand with seating and a similar covered unit on the far side for those wishing to stand up (probably a popular spot when the winter kicks in).

The match itself was a keenly contested affair with little to choose between the sides. There was the obvious early season rustiness but plenty of free flowing play which often resulted in near misses or the dreaded fluffed sitter. Crediton went into a two nil half time lead with a couple of well taken goals and their solid defence obviously posed a problem for home side objectives to turn things around.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first but gradually Bovey Tracey expanded the pressure and took more of a grip. What probably had a deciding affect on the proceedings was the strange occurrence of Sean Finch, one of the home teams strikers, being sin binned for dissent not once but twice! The second occasion quickly followed the first and witnessed a gobsmacked Sean trudging off the pitch after he'd just knocked a 25 yard free kick into the Crediton net. Apparently the Referee adjudged there was a Bovey Tracey player illegally affecting the Crediton wall. 

Rumour has it a voice was heard telling the Referee to F-Off, the Referee thought it was Sean although those around the incident were of the opinion that the abuse came from a spectator on the touchline. Having a cracking goal disallowed and going back to 10 men really put the home side up against it and despite grabbing one back with a scrambled goal in the last minute and then the drama of a last gasp free kick Crediton took the 3 points.

Enjoyable visit.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

FA Cup treated with respect shocker!

 Tuesday 1st September 2020

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round


Attendance: 247

Admission: £5 & £3 concessions

Programme: £1 on cover but given out free

Parking: Back up the nearby housing estate

Weather: Calm sunny evening, ground looked lovely

Thankfully there were no millionaire opinionated Managers & pampered players sat on sun loungers in exclusive foreign hotels instead of turning out for the FA Cup tonight, we'll be spared that embarrassment until mid winter. The disrespectful antics of Klopp & Co couldn't be further from the pride Millbrook Football Club had for our greatest Cup Competition this evening. This was their first ever FA Cup tie in their 132 year history. It is a sad fact of money-mad modern football that only non league clubs and a diminishing number of lower football league sides treat the competition with the respect it deserves.

That very same respect and the work and effort Millbrook have applied to get a continually improving Jenkins Park ready for this occasion was rewarded by an impressive turn out of football supporters. 

Jenkins Park, (named after local Millbrook born professional footballer and my boyhood hero centre forward Reg Jenkins who still remains a legend at the Spotland home of Rochdale AFC) was buzzing with eager anticipation when I arrived. There was half an hour before kick off and the car park was full. I've been here a good few times before and its the first time I've had to dump The Match Shed in the nearby housing estate. There was ale and al fresco burgers everywhere as punters enjoyed the vista of the well kept ground from outside the clubhouse. I just hope many of those enjoying the occasion will be back for the bread and butter games in the South West Peninsula League East.

Bridgwater Town play at the level above Millbrook, Step 5, in the Toolstation Western League. They provided stern committed opposition, this included the ability to play free flowing football alongside the craft of rugged defending. It is a credit to the current standard of football in the SWPL that Millbrook not only matched their esteemed visitors, they actually out played them. The pressure the home side applied in the second half would have seen most sides crack open, not Bridgwater, they dug the trench and defended it with all they'd got. It was one of their rare counter attacks that broke the spell of the magical Jenkins Park spectacle. A speculative shot from the corner of the 18 yard area on a rare jaunt forward somehow slipped into the corner of the Millbrook net and a multitude of groans hummed across the local fields down to the Tamar beyond. Bridgwater got the shovels out and dug the trench deeper. Millbrook threw all they'd got at them, goalmouth scrambles and battered woodwork ensued but the Bridgwater ranks held firm.

Wonderful cup tie.

Makes me cower with shame when I think of our big wig, big gob cash ridden big club Managers. Just watch them put the stiffs and the kids out next time they play a lower league club in the 3rd round proper. Get to an FA Cup match now if you can, it's miles better with the non league clubs involved.

If you've not been to Jenkins Park yet, try it, you won't be disappointed, lovely clubhouse, proper tea hut grub wise, a charismatic main stand and some jolly decent football to watch. Nice picturesque village to sample too. 

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Keep the faith... don't let it ruin your football

 Saturday 29th August 2020

Pre Season Friendly


Attendance: 30 (head count)

Admission: Free

Weather: Long sunny spells, cloud built up second half

Parking: Adjacent school car park

Callington is a quiet little town in Cornwall not far from the Devon border. Apart from a Tesco, Spar shop, B&M and a Chippy its main focal point is the big Ginsters Pasty Factory. Depending which way the breeze is blowing you can often smell the Ginsters delicacies drifting over the town. No wonder the football club are nicknamed The Pasty Men, saying that I didn't notice any bloaters in the Callington team for this fixture.

The football ground, Marshfield Parc is located at the back of the local community school just north of the tiny town centre on the A388. Look out for the roadside sign near the entrance. Follow the entrance road through the school until you reach the car park, from here follow the path through the green metal fence until you see the club entrance.

Last week I went to a match in Cornwall and was put off by the lack of Covid 19 precautions, after a few days wondering if I should carry on going along to games during these stressful, anxious times I decided to not let this horrible virus rob me of what I've enjoyed doing for the best part of my life, so sod it, Corona disease can bugger off, I'll do my own Risk Assessment and keep myself safe at the grounds I visit irrespective of whether they provide a full range of protective measures or otherwise. We need to keep the faith and support grass roots non league football. Rant over.

I'd initially seen Callington promote this attractive looking fixture with Newton Abbot Spurs on Twitter, it came with the strap line of "better get here early" on the basis of only 150 spectators would be allowed in. I rolled up ten minutes before kick off and was the 7th person in the ground. The groundsman had just started marking out the pitch. On the plus side it was a lovely day so I wasn't too miffed at the game kicking off a little later than it should have done.

On the subject of the ground staff I must mention that the playing surface looked an absolute treat.

The ground itself is one of those mixed bag locations. Parts of it are stunningly attractive (especially in the sunshine) like the large clubhouse with its patio overlooking the pitch at the top of the grass banking, then we have the rather more ordinary looking vista of the changing room buildings behind the goals at the School End, functional yes and perfectly acceptable but that clubhouse spoils you with it's glorious profile. 

Seating is available in one of the small standard flat pack stands you witness at so many places these days. I counted only around 30 people watching today so there was plenty of room to safely watch the game from various pitchside locations around all sides of the ground.

Callington Town play in the South West Peninsula League West, their visitors are members of the East section of the same League.

I had gathered that both sides were involved in squad rebuilding programmes for the upcoming season so it was a good opportunity to gauge the standard and judge how things were progressing.

What I witnessed was a decent quality friendly, which is a bit of a rarity these days. Newton Abbot Spurs in particular looked very impressive indeed. They appeared strong all over the pitch and obviously believed in knocking the ball about. They were soon creating a significant amount of chances and had romped into a 3-0 lead by half time, with no disrespect to a gallant Callington outfit it could have been a much bigger margin.

Callington applied more composure in the second half but the visitors still retained the upper hand. Plentiful substitutions obviously affected the flow of football but the game still kept the small crowd interested, we even got the bonus of a pre season friendly punch up which emphasised just how committed both sides were. The referee had a good game keeping a lid on the proceedings and establishing down to earth communication with both sets of players. 

Newton Abbot eventually ran out worthy 5-0 winners and will surely take confidence from the outing. For Callington I feel it is more of a work in progress but there definitely is a foundation to build upon, they have some talented individual players, especially the keeper, he had a very impressive performance, that 5-0 scoreline would be far greater without some top class keeping on show.

All in all a good little friendly which importantly made me feel much more confident about going along to football again.

Visit Rating 7/10

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Spectators return to South West Non League

Following agreement that Step 6 and above non league clubs would partake in Risk Assessment disciplines and apply appropriate precautions to protect spectators from Covid 19 threats the Government agreed to let controlled levels of people watch grass roots football again.

There has been lots of publicity on Social Media about the positive steps non league clubs are taking to keep spectators safe with the intention of allowing people to feel comfortable in attending grounds.

I put this to the test in Cornwall last Saturday. I went along to a keenly advertised pre season friendly featuring a well known prominent Step 6 South West Peninsula League side. As expected, a good number of their supporters attended the game.

Upon arrival I was shocked and surprised the host club hadn't applied any Covid precautions for the game whatsoever. The type of measures being expected by the authorities are well known and extensive, I shall not bore you with the lengthy list only to state not a single discipline was in place, nothing. It was like the pandemic had never happened.

There wasn't a large crowd at the game but the bulk of those in attendance grouped together directly behind the dug outs in quite sizable numbers. On the opposite side of the pitch another few groups of people could be seen, not ones or two's but groups of 8 to 10 who all seemed to know each other. There was also a bar serving ale pitchside where another large group of people gathered. The concern with all the aforementioned groups is that none of them were socially distancing. People from the bar were even bringing their pints down to the touchline. I decided to keep apart from what was going on which resulted in me constantly having to move into open space. When those passing me from the dug out area or public bar came past they failed to consider keeping even a metre separate from me despite 10 yards of open space behind me.

The whole event was a complete farce as regards even the faintest degree of compliance with Covid safety precautions.

I can sadly understand some people won't have a problem with breaking the rules and ignoring safety considerations, personally I found the experience uncomfortable and concerning, certainly something which doesn't inspire me with confidence for watching football in Cornwall.

Like many situations relevant to Covid 19 precautions in Cornwall, especially during the holiday season, it appears a sizeable proportion of the population seem to think Corona Virus controls do not apply to them. 

I sincerely hope what I witnessed was an isolated incident and the rest of non league clubs down here don't fall into the same mess I endured at this particular club. 

Cornwall has unfortunately become an environment more akin to Tombstone in the Wild West than part of the United Kingdom, especially in the seaside resorts and beauty spots. Lets just remember nearly 50,000 people have died in the UK from Covid so far!

I shall not be naming the clubs who were involved in this fixture but on the off chance they read this article I would welcome them starting to take notice of what is happening in this country at the moment.

There weren't that many Cornwall friendlies on Saturday 22nd August so it shouldn't be too hard to identify who made a mockery of things.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

It's Off!

Seems we won't be getting in to watch a football match for the foreseeable future.

A sizeable number of Non league clubs jumped the gun on advice that caution should be exercised in welcoming back supporters until they had received a green light on suitable and sufficient risk assessment controls.

The clubs in question heavily promoted their local friendlies on social media which in turn resulted in those attending boasting about how they broke current football ground lockdown criteria and attended the match.

Some clubs had around 200 people in their grounds. A number, South West included, used the excuse of being able to enter the clubhouse for a pint of ale as an excuse for entering the ground. Tales abounded of clubhouse exit doors being left open for people to wander pitch side for a bit of fresh air or a cigarette (you couldn't make this rubbish up).

It was obvious to everyone but the clubs in question that the Government and the FA would set an example in re-establishing their authority and control over the situation. If nothing else transpires they have to be seen to be in charge.

What we have now is a blanket ban on spectators attending any football match friendly or otherwise down to the very lowest level, basically leagues below Step 7 in the football pyramid. Check beforehand if you're contemplating that pub league encounter down the local park.

The doubts that clubs could sensibly compile appropriate Risk Assessments have been realised. A local friendly between two well known Devon and Cornwall clubs last night had a warning from the respective hosts on Twitter that no spectators were allowed. After the game various posts could be seen on the Twitter platform that a sizeable crowd was in attendance. That's what you call a Risk Assessment failure and exactly the reason the authorities have come down hard.

Many people are now fed up with the situation and there is little hope that I or anyone else will be going along to a football match anytime soon.

No wonder there is a rising lack of interest. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Bring it on baby, the probability of a 2020/21 football season has emerged

Whenever non league football returns to the South West 'Where's The Tea Hut' will be there.

Rumours abound when the games will start with most experts in the know plumping for September. There is even talk of a few friendly matches being organised for August, this may even extend to local league cup semi finals carried over from last season? Nothing is official yet but things seem a lot more promising than just a few weeks ago.

I'll be trying to visit some of the grounds I have yet to tick off down here, the main focus will be upon Cornwall and Devon but a few further afield destinations will be on the schedule too. A selection of old favourites will also get a trip.

All of these hopes rest upon further progress in reducing the risks associated with Covid 19. Watching football is great but everyone's health and safety is a far higher priority and must continue to be totally respected. 

Further updates will appear on the Tea Hut in due course.

In the interim please allow me to post a few pictures from the archive of what I feel typifies the wonderful world of non league football, it's more than just a game you know. It's been sadly missed for sure. 

A number of the locations below may be familiar to some of you, be surprised if anyone gets them all though? I'll start you off with the first one. The 'Pies' picture was taken at a very wet Colne ground when their game against Maine Road was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch 30 minutes before kick off. Owd Ned hobbling along the side of the puddles in the car park said the Referee didn't fancy it because he'd had his hair done that morning? Ned headed off to the betting shop cursing to himself.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

ECPL Cup Semi Final

Saturday 29th February 2020
East Cornwall Premier League Cup Semi Final
Attendance: 62 (head count)
Admission: £1
Programme: Free team sheet
Tea Hut Stuff: Mug of tea £1
Parking: On the road directly adjacent to the halfway line
Weather: Icy wind, lengthy sunny intervals, couple of showers
Colours: MG green shirts & shorts, FS white shirts & black shorts

Steered the Match Shed up from Cornwall and participated in the compulsory 2 quid scam to cross the Tamar Bridge into Devon. 

Mount Gould is in Plymouth just up from the large Laira Railway Depot. The club play at the charismatically titled Tothill Enclosure bang opposite Lanhydrock Road. 'Welcome to Tot-Hell' reads the daunting sign positioned above the entrance to the dressing rooms.

The ECPL is on the lower slope of the football pyramid so don't go along expecting fully furnished stadiums. Mount Gould have done up the one building at the ground which has seen the introduction of good quality changing room facilities, ample clean toilets and a welcoming refreshment unit which acts as a tea hut for spectators pitchside. There are no other structures at Tothill although the close proximity of the housing estate directly alongside one of the touchlines does bring some colour and contrast to the vista.

MG are managed by Wayne Gamble who has built a reputation as a canny tactician who seems to kick every ball. Wayne is so keen he spent most the first half a good 3 metres on the pitch, Referee Ian Spurling diplomatically instructed the boss to retreat within the roped off technical area. Mr Spurling went on to have an impressive afternoon of officiating which can't have been easy considering the magnitude of the fixture.

Wayne's MG side are top of the league in the ECPL (East Cornwall Premier League), bit strange that a Devon side ply their trade in a Cornish League but they've definitely impressed this season. Out of 16 games they've won 14, drawn 1 and only suffered 1 defeat. 

Foxhole Stars (alongside a fast improving St Dominick) are one of their main title challengers so the fact we got both of them in a tense hotly contested Cup Semi Final was a direct bonus. I'd seen Foxhole in a recent game at St Cleer and they've got a reputation for playing the game the right way and certainly posed a major threat to Mount Gould.

Like the whole of the British Isles the South West has been battered by wind and suffered relentless periods of rain (for month upon month). Hardly a game at non league level passed a pitch inspection today. What a credit to Mount Gould that their pitch surprised most the spectators for being in such a playable decent condition. Apparently Wayne Gamble had been up early morning forking the thing, don't think you'd find the likes of winter-break jessies like Klopp & Co getting their pants messed up with the mud?

I got a free team sheet A4 fold over from the nice lady at the admission table upon entering and had a warming mug of tea from the refreshments hatch. Over 60 odd punters came along today and I don't reckon anyone would be disappointed with the commitment and intensity of this relentlessly hard fought encounter. It was never going to be tippy-tappy pretty football with half a gale blowing in off the coast but the rivalry between two of the best sides in the ECPL was plain to see.

First half honours went to MG. They had the wind and used it to full potential. Any ball ending up in the Foxhole 18 yard area was going to be difficult to defend, Mount Gould went 2-0 up. The visitors struggled to make in roads with the gusts playing havoc, chances were few and the break couldn't come soon enough.

Second half Foxhole re-grouped and with the wind at their backs started up their passing game. 

MG didn't flinch and gave as good as they got. It was never a dirty game but both sides gave it everything. When Foxhole banged home a penalty to reduce the deficit to 2-1 the visiting supporters looked a lot more hopeful that they could escape the lions lair with the spoils after all? It wasn't to be, Waynes mob romped up the field and finished off the tapestry they'd carved out in the first half. The Semi Final ended 4-1 to a very impressive Mount Gould who will now meet St Dominick in what looks to be one hell of a Final. 

*St Dominick beat Plymouth Marjon 1-7 away in the other Semi, don't ask me why there are Devon clubs in the Cornwall League (re: Plymouth Marjon), I've only been down here 4 and a half years.

A nice touch I read about on Social Media after the game was that some of the Mount Gould players welcomed the Foxhole lads into their cars for a lift to their home pub for some post match refreshments, well done indeed.