Friday, 24 September 2010

Accrington Stanley 3-0 Lincoln City

Sorry for not posting much over the last few weeks or so i have been working night shifts and have had very little time to do anything else other than work, eat, sleep, and arse about. I am bearing up though however.
Sometimes in life a night that you thought was going to be crap turns out to be fantastic. Sometimes you build yourself up to a night you think is going to be fantastic and it ends up being one big let down; this one is without question in the second category.
I had been looking forward to this game all week. We were solid enough against Barnet at home the week before and i really thought we could follow that up with an away win at Stanley. Shows what i know doesn't it.

It all started so well. I had a few beers in town before we set off and all was well in the world. The journey over to Accrington went well apart from a missed turn off that was blamed on a discussion between the driver and myself as to which political party represents Guinea Pigs best(it wasn't the only time in the evening that his memory deserted him). As it turned out missing the turn off didn't really make much difference and the pigs were forgiven.

We got parked up and headed over to the Crown pub. Its a decent pub which is fine with away fans going in there. We all got our drinks (Well apart from one of our number who got his son a drink but forgot his own Doh! I had a quick flick through the programme which wasn't great to be honest and certainly wasn't worth £3 and we made our merry way into the ground.
And thats when it went tits up.

The Accrington home end used to be full of flag, banners, and colour. Now for some reason all flags have been banned as i found out when i tried to hang up my Canadian flag. Having been a steward in Lincoln for six seasons i know there is a right and a wrong way to do the job and the Stanley stewards most definately fall into the second class. Their whole attitude and the way they went about there job stank. From the way they failed to react quickly enough to a Lincoln fan who had a nasty fall on the concrete terrace, to the reason flags aren't allowed being quoted as "they are deemed to be a safety hazard". Yet out dated crumbling concrete terracing apparently is fine. In all fairness the Stanley fans are pretty pissed off at the flag ruling as well. I am sure that the Muppet's could have done the job better. When you see poor workmanship like this it makes you realise how well Gary and the gang do their job on the Stacey west end at Lincoln.

Right from the first whistle Stanley were on top. The Imps couldn't even get the ball let along do anything with it. On the rare times we did get the ball we just booted it high and long to the front man and with no support for him it just came straight back. Stanley scored two goals on 17 and 21 which as good as killed the match off as a contest.

The side pretty much curled up and died in the second half. What summed it up for me was the third goal when Adam Watts was shoved of the ball as if he was a bunny rabbit and their player ran on to make it 3-0 at the end where the Lincoln fans were stood. The only other action of note was when Scott Kerr who had only been on the field for about 15 minutes was shown a straight red which prompted a 20 man bust up. To be fair to Scott their player did make a meal out of it but if you make that sort of challenge then you run the risk of a card. For my money it was only worth a yellow.

Stanley then took their foot off the gas and the match petered out. City wasted a couple of half chances but that's all they were. We were well beaten and i can't remember City putting in such a negative performance away from home. I am sure that given time, this one will be looked back and viewed in the same class as Chesterfield and Wycombe away in 1998 and Halifax in 2000.

On this showing we are heading for the drop. I can take losing but there is a right and wrong way to lose and this was in the latter section.
On the plus side we had an excellent Kebab on the way back and for only £5! I will post the menu when i dig it out. This has the lot. Lamb Donner with Kofte, Lamb and chicken sheesh all served in a fresh naan bread! There is always light at the end of the tunnel!!

Admission £15
Programme £3 Crap
Ground Crap
Imps "performance" 0/10 Crap
Man of the match - All the Imps fans who travelled to watch this shit

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Northwood 3-1 Finchley and Wingate

Last season i was able to see all bar one of the six qualifying rounds for the FA cup. This season due to Lincolns home games clashing with when the cup rounds are due to be played i will miss them all bar one. So a chance to take in this extra preliminary round reply wasn't one to miss! The first game between these two non league London heavyweights finished goalless so something had to give....didn't it?

Thankfully the tube was in full working order so it was a straight forward enough journey up to Northwood hills from my central London base (passing Wembley stadium on the way). The road the ground is on is only about a ten minute walk from the station but finding the lane that leads up to the ground isn't quite as easy. If you go to the bottom of the lane and come to a posh gym with loads of fancy cars outside then you have gone too far. What you are looking for is a small crappy sign pinned up about half way down the road near to some allotments.(see below) The ground is about 500 metres down from here. To get to the bar you have to go past the turnstile block.

The bar is a tad on the small side but does have a cosy feel to it. There is a hatch serving hot food as well. I didn't have any as i had a Roasted beef salad with goats cheese and wholemeal bread washed down with tomato juice for lunch at a top London eatery. As i was tucking into this the rest of the Retford Imps were eating Kebabs 100 plus miles north in Rotherham ahead of the Imps JPT Match there. No way would this humble scribe eat such slop (And if you believe all that....)
I guzzled my pint and admired all the signed football memorabilia on the walls. Club badges cost the standard £3.50 and were available from behind the bar. On overhearing that they hadn't printed that many programmes i quickly downed my pint and took a brisk walk to the entrance to purchase one. Yes i am that sad that I rushed my pint down to make sure I got a programme that will more than likely be worth precisely nothing in years to come.

It was £8 to get in tonight. I decided to have a stroll around the ground as there was over 30 minutes to kick off. As i wandered to behind the goal where the visitors were warming up, one of the subs managed to boot the ball over the crossbar and into into the grave yard and nettle beds behind that end. "Can you get that mate" he said. Needless to say i didn't and just wandered on. If its in the ground i don't have a problem with fetching the ball but if he thinks i have come all the way to London just to fetch balls from a grave yard covered in nettles, dog piss, and god knows what else he can think again. In the end he gave up and went for it himself and the starting 11 headed into the changing room.

The ground isn't too bad. There is plenty of covered seating and standing and there does seem to be room for further expansion if required. The side opposite the seating area is raised up which gives a good view. I sat down as i was knackered from a tough days sightseeing and i had a front row view as well!

As the scoreline from the first match shows the two sides were very well matched and cancelled each other out. Both sides had a quick forward lines and were looking for the ball over the top alot although both sides looked to play the ball on the ground hell of alot more that most of the evo stick league sides i have seen (The northern version of this league). The coaching does seem to be geared to playing the passing game down south as oppose to the kick and run style of the north which is both a shame and a curiosity as to why the coaches up this end continue to play this way.
Finchley and Wingate took the lead when their number 9 Leon Smith beat the offside trap on the left and smartly rounded the keeper before tapping into an empty net for a very well taken goal.
Northwood drew level on 44 min when Leon Osei scored from close range, and with that it was back to the bar for more ale! In the second half Northwood grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and it was no surprise when they took the lead on 72 through Aaron Cato. Again this was a well taken effort; A long range shot came in from Northwood, which the visitor's keeper dived full length to beat out, but only into the path of Osei who did well not to either sky it or blast it into the keeper on the floor. Cue wild celebrations you could see how much the FA Cup means at this level to the players and fans. Northwood made the game safe with a penalty on 85 minutes from John Christian. A minute later they had another one but this one was fluffed and 4-1 would have been harsh on Finchley and Wingate. Good luck to Northwood in the next round.

The only down side to the night was my bladder. I knew I'd had a few drinks at the game but i was sure my bladder was empty enough as i left the ground. However London underground again had other ideas. The train back rattled and bounced along the track way too much for my liking and then had to stop at baker street. It didn't take long till the next one came but when you are busting for a piss it seemed like a life time finally the fucking thing got into Kings cross and i waddled like a duck to the gents. Thankfully i didn't have to pay and there were no gentlemen "sharing" toilets. There really are no words i could use to express how relieved i was after that piss, pure bliss it was.

Admission £8
Programme £2 again very good 8/10
Ground 5/10
Badge £ 3.50
Match quality 7/10

Friday, 3 September 2010

AFC Hornchurch v Wealdstone

A five day break in London seemed the perfect reason to catch a couple of non league games in that great capital city of ours. First up on Bank Holiday was a trip out to East London to watch AFC Hornchurch lock horns with Wealdstone. My plan was to go on the tube but as this was Bank holiday engineering works on the district line thwarted my plans so instead i grabbed the tube to Fenchurch street and got an over ground train to Upminster.(Which cost me an extra 7 quid) nothing is ever simple when i am involved it would seem.

Upon alighting at Fenchurch i went straight into the pub next to the station where Fosters was advertised at £1.60 a pint on Mondays. However once inside you discovered that they had run out of the aforementioned Fosters so i reverted to the normal £3 a pint for crap beer that is a feature of London life. The ground is a pleasant 15 minute walk from the town centre and is in a sleepy residential area. It was 9 quid to enter and £2 for the programme. As ever the first port of call on a warm summer day was of course the bar. It is situated in the corner of the Stadium and is elevated over the pitch. There are a few tables outside the bar as you enter so you can take your pint outside and chill which was my preferred option. To the far side of the bar there is another outside seating area where the club officials, WAGS and hangers on sit to watch the game (Well that's how it seemed although i am sure anybody can go out there if they wish.)

I sat outside and read the programme in the sun. It was actually quite a good effort. Not too much fancy colouring but plenty to read which is how programmes should be. All in all well worth the £2. The managers story about why the first team keeper will be out for a while was well worth reading.

The ground seems as if it was designed for athletics first and football second; with a running track around the pitch, pole vault and long jump at the bar end of the ground and a hammer/discus area at the other area. You can stand behind either goal but the view isn't the greatest. On one side there are two small stands with red and white seats in.(nice colour choice) On the other side there is another seated area and a terrace area where the most vocal Hornchurch fans stand.

Next mission was to try to get a club badge. The clubshop is a portacabin which sold more or less everything but badges. However help was on hand; one Wealdstone follower (I assume the chap who runs their club shop) Had a stall selling a large number of football badges. So i was able to pick one up from him. I also bought a Wealdstone badge and an Imps one from him that i didn't have.

Before the match a grabbed a burger; very nice it was too, and then went and sat on the far side on the halfway line for the first half.
The first half was quite dull; the ref didn't let the game flow and the match was littered with free kicks. Chances were few and far between but Hornchurch just about shaded it. Sorry if this seems a tab brief but there really isn't that much to tell about the first half. Wealdstone built up a head of steam and had a few corners late on in the half but that was that.

For me the star of the day was the club PA announcer. He is one of the few chaps who sounds like he like doing the job and is very enthusiastic about his work. Although he does like to repeat himself a bit e.g
"On Thursday Ladies and Gents its a Capital league game yes a Capital league game".
"Next up folks its away travel yes away travel!!"

I would still say though he is one of the best comperes i have heard over the past three seasons of watching non league football. Certainly much better than the chap we have at Lincoln doing the job.

Thankfully the second half was much better. I stood on with the Wealdstone fans over on the corner where they were attacking. On 53 minutes they took the lead when a great chip just crept over the line before the keeper punched it out. It was a bold call from the linesman to give it but the correct one in my humble view (I was smack in line with it). After that point, Hornchurch seemed to have run out of ideas till the Wealdstone defence took pity on them and conceded a needless penalty for a hand ball on 71 minutes. The penalty was rammed into the net and it was very much game on once again.

The game turned on its head two minutes later when the home side took the lead and it was from one of those goals that is so simple yet incredibly tough to defend against. A low cross was hit into the box with pace and met by the striker as he got across his defender from about 7 yards and turned it in. It was played brilliantly in that grey area between the Keeper and defender that is just a total nightmare to defend against. As a keeper if you go for it you run the risk of a deflection or bobble taking it away from you where as the defender doesn't want to go for it and bring the striker down.

Wealdstone huffed and puffed but never really tested the Hornchurch keeper after that. The home side held on for the points in what was a hard game that was at times ruined by the whistle happy ref. Both sides looked decent and i would think they will both be nearer the top than the bottom of the table come may.
All in all a decent day out and a trip to recommend.

Admission £9
Programme £2 9/10 good show all round here chaps.
Food Burger £3 decent enough 7/10
Clubhouse 8/10
Ground 6/10
Match Quality 7/10

The only problem of the day was the fact i managed to get lost coming out of fenchurch station when looking for the tube on Tower hill. Can there be a more annoying breed of person than the Japanese Tourist? Curse you London underground for your engineering works!