Thursday, 24 May 2018

2018 Stadium #13 - Recreation Ground (Sheerwater)

Date: 28th April 2018
Stadium: Sheerwater Recreation Ground
Location: Sheerwater, Surrey

My thirteenth stadium of 2018 was on Saturday 28th April at the Recreation Ground in Sheerwater, Surrey. The match was Sheerwater vs. Kensington Borough in the Combined Counties League Division One.

The Recreation Ground is located in the north of the village with two full-size pitches, one inside the stadium itself and one directly to the west. The stadium has housing to the north and south and a school to the east. The club played at the site from their formation in 1958 up until May 2018 when they vacated the site to make way for a widescale regeneration of the area which will see the demolition of the current Recreation Ground. The club will enter a groundshare arrangement at nearby Woking FC for the 2018/19 season.

The west side of the venue had a series of seating areas. The main one of this was a covered stand which straddled the half-way line - this had 67 seats spread across three rows. Behind this on a lower level was a club building which housed a small clubhouse as well as the dressing rooms. To the south of this stand was an uncovered all-seater stand with 65 seats across seven rows. Adjacent to this stand was an odd metal structure with 11 seats spread across six rows with two seats per row up to the final row with one seat. This area was earmarked for officials. To the north of the main stand was uncovered standing on a strip of concrete which ran until the end of the pitch with a grass bank behind.

With this site being an athletics stadium there was a six-lane running track encircling the pitch giving it an oval shape. The northern end had an uncovered grass bank with a footpath of concrete stones curving round for the whole side before petering out as it transitioned into the eastern side of the ground. The eastern side was uncovered grass with no hard standing area. The two structures on this side were the dugouts either side of the half-way line. There was a hammer/shotput cage in the south-east corner with the rest of the southern end a flat grass section with the curve resulting in it becoming fairly narrow at its middle point due to the adjacent houses.

With Sheerwater riding high in the league and aiming for promotion they were keen to get three points on the board to aid them to the Premier Division. They almost took the lead in the 3rd minute when Alex Headland took a shot on the left which was spilled into the path of Shane Rideout who took too long to compose himself and saw his shot blocked. In the 9th minute a Sheerwater header at the back post was tipped onto the bar and from the next corner a scramble on the line saw the hosts appeal for a goal which was not given. With all this pressure it was no surprise when Sheerwater did get in front after a quarter of an hour. The home side had had a lot of play down the left and once again left-back Alex Headland was unleashed and this time he no made no mistake shooting low across goal into the bottom corner. The home side went 2-0 up in the 19th minute as Shane Rideout received the ball 12 yards out and coolly slotted low past the diving keeper. The next goal came in the 25th minute and was a spectacular one with Andrew Rothwell's half-volley from 25 yards flying into the top corner. Sheerwater went 4-0 up in the 28th minute when a pass deflected off a defender back to Alex Headland who had plenty of space to knock low into the net from 12 yards out. Sheerwater had the ball in the net for a fifth time before the half-hour mark but this time Shane Rideout was denied by an offside flag. After a dismal opening to the game Kensington finally managed to get out of their own half and the run-up until half-time saw them give a much more competitive account of themselves as they created a few opportunities. They continued this better spell into the second half and got a goal back in the 53rd minute when a through ball to one of their strikers was slid under the advancing keeper. Sheerwater didn't take kindly to a potential comeback and a half-volley from Chris Machay five minutes later was only a crossbar away from restoring the four-goal lead. In the 66th minute Machay was able to grab his goal though as he was played in on goal, and though he was taken wide by the keeper he was able to get past the a covering defender and shoot at goal with a defender running back only able to help it across the line. Kensington were not happy with this goal as they claimed they had paused for a substitution to take place. Their gesticulations delayed the restart slightly and they were clearly still thinking about it as Sheerwater grabbed their sixth of the day straight from the kick-off when Shane Rideout having plenty of time to slot past the goalie with the away defence missing in action. In the 78th minute the hosts scored an extremely simple goal as goal kick was punted up field, headed on to Robbie Wilson who poked past the advancing goalie from the edge of the box. Three minutes later the score went to 8-1 as Michael Leech headed in a corner. In injury time Chris Machay did get the ball in the net as well but it was ruled out for offside. Apart from the middle half-hour of the game Sheerwater completely demolished their opponents and even without the two offside goals the number of chances they enjoyed could easily have seen them into double figures against a Kensington side which were wide open at the back.

Result: Sheerwater 8-1 Kensington Borough
Division: Combined Counties League Division One
Attendance: N/A

Monday, 14 May 2018

2018 Stadium #12 - Sincil Bank

Date: 21st April 2018
Stadium: Sincil Bank
Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire

My twelfth stadium of 2018 was on Saturday 21st April at Sincil Bank in Lincoln, Lincolnshire. The match was Lincoln City vs. Colchester United in Football League Two.

Sincil Bank is in the east of Lincoln less than a mile south of the city centre. The site is on the edge of a large residential area close to the South Commons park. The stadium gets its name as it is on the banks of the Sincil Dyke which runs along its western perimeter. It is bordered by a sports college to the south and a three-quarter size cage pitch to the east. To the north there is a car park and then the aforementioned housing. The venue is just over half a mile south of the city's railway station and has been the club's home since 1895.

The eastern side has the St Andrews Stand sitting by the half-way line. Despite only being built in 1987 this stand looks a lot older than it is - the budget for the stand was slashed during construction which left it smaller than its wooden predecessor. The stand has a couple of supporting beams in front of the seating in order to hold up the roof. The interior holds the reception, club shop, ticket office and boardroom. The area to the north of the St Andrews Stand is unused though an additional family stand was added to the south of the St Andrews Stand in 1994. With it only able to hold a couple of hundred fans the stand looks tiny compared the rest of the stadium. There are also club buildings in this area with the dressing rooms, treatment centre and a police control box.

The West Stand runs the length of the field and dominates the stadium. The single-tier stand with its cantilever roof was built in 1995 to replace an old terrace and with a capacity of 5,700 it accounts for over half the stadium's total capacity. The southern end of the stand contains the noisiest home supporters.  The stand behind the southern goal was opened in 1992 replacing the Railway End terrace and is the smallest structure in the venue. With only half a dozen rows of seating the stand has 17 hospitality boxes which run the whole way along the back of the stand. There are a couple of supporting beams towards the middle which reside in front of the seating area. Behind the stand there is an outside bar area for home fans. The Stacey West Stand is behind the northern goal and was opened in 1990. 12 rows of seating were added on top of the original concrete terracing in 1999 completing the stadium's conversion to an all-seater venue. The stand has three supporting beams which can restrict views and is now assigned to away fans. However, if home support is sufficiently high the stand can be segregated with home supporters allocated the western half and away fans allocated the eastern half. This is the arrangement for my visit.

Colchester had to win to keep their faint play-off hopes alive and started the game the better of the two sides. Chances though were at a premium throughout the half with the closest either side went being on the half-hour mark when Matt Green's 25 yard effort was pushed wide by Colchester keeper Sam Walker. After a dull goalless first half the second half was a more entertaining affair. Lincoln took the lead from the penalty spot in the 55th minute after Ollie Palmer was felled when he was about to shoot. Elliott Whitehouse tucked the penalty into the bottom corner with Walker diving the wrong way. The lead was short-lived though as the U's equalised in the 60th minute. A fortunate deflection saw the ball break to Courtney Senior on the left-wing, he then played a nice 1-2 with Mikael Mandron as he ghosted into the area to slot home from six yards out. The away side should have taken the lead in the 73rd minute when Sammie Szmodics had plenty of time to pick his spot from the left side of the area - his effort was saved by Ryan Allsop with the rebound being blazed well over by Mikael Mandron when he had an open goal to aim for. The hosts nearly went back in front in the 82nd minute when a spectacular 25 yard shot across goal by Ollie Palmer hit the underside of the bar and bounced to safety. A minute after this the task got harder for Lincoln as they were reduced to ten men when Michael Bostwick pulled back Mikael Mandron as he raced in on goal. With both sides needing a win Lincoln and Colchester threw players forward as the game entered an end-to-end finish. There was a dramatic end in the 94th minute as Alex Woodyard's hanging cross from the left saw Colchester keeper Sam Walker come to claim the ball. He missed his punch with Luke Waterfall stealing in to head into the top corner to secure three points for Lincoln as they took a big step closer to booking their play-off place.

Result: Lincoln City 2-1 Colchester United
Division: Football League Two
Attendance: 9,211

Friday, 11 May 2018

2018 Stadium #11 - Central Park (Cowdenbeath)

Date: 10th April 2018
Stadium: Central Park
Location: Cowdenbeath, Fife, Scotland

My eleventh stadium of 2018 was on Tuesday 10th April at Central Park in Cowdenbeath, Fife, Scotland. The match was Cowdenbeath vs. Montrose in Scottish League Two.

As the name would suggest the Central Park Stadium is part of a park in the centre of the town. The main green space area is to the north of the stadium site and there is more green space to the south. There is a large concrete area behind the western end which runs up to the edge of a housing estate while the eastern end has a car park in the north-east corner with the rest of this end taken up by trees separating it from a rail line. The stadium is a few hundred yards south-west of the town's railway station and has been home to the club since it opened in 1917 making this the third permanent home in Cowdenbeath's history after spells at Jubilee Park (1881-1888) and North End Park (1888-1917).

The stadium has hosted stock car racing since 1970 so the football pitch sits in the middle of an asphalt oval track. This results in the spectator areas being a way back from the action as well as meaning there is tall debris catch-fencing the entire way round the track. There are four floodlight pylons on each side of the field with none at the ends - as these are in front of the spectator areas they can cause restricted views but with current attendance levels this is not an issue. Three sides of the ground are uncovered concrete with the most spacious of these being the southern side which has a 19 row terrace with a flat section in front. At the very back of the middle area is a food outlet. The western end is similar in that is has a flat section at the front with a smaller 9 row terrace behind. The eastern end of the pitch does not have any terracing instead consisting of a flat section at the front and a large grass behind behind this.

The northern side used to have a single stand running the length of the field but half of this was destroyed in a fire in 1992. As a result the current arrangement is to have two separate stands, the original stand taking up the western half of this side and a newer stand built in 1995 taking up the eastern half of this side. Combined the two stands have a seating capacity of 1,622. The older stand dates from 1921 so consists of wooden seating with lots of supporting beams to hold up the roof. There is then a small gap the newer stand which has more modern seating and offers uninterrupted views due to the cantilever roof. There are hospitality boxes along the back and with the dressing rooms contained inside the players tunnel emerges from the bottom of the middle of this stand. At the back of this stand there is a food outlet. There is a Blue Brazil club shop towards the entrance in the north-east corner.

The game was between two sides encountering vastly different seasons - while Cowdenbeath were on course for a fourth consecutive bottom of the table finish Montrose were gunning for promotion only needing to avoid defeat to move to the top of the table. The opening 25 minutes were even with little quality from either side. The first action of note resulted in a goal as the visitors took a 26th minute lead. It occurred when the ball was played up to Lewis Milne who waited for it to come down before volleying into the ground with the ball then bouncing over diving home keeper David McGurn. This goal saw Montrose have the lion's share of the play until half-time though Cowdenbeath did go close just before the break when Harvey Swann's 25 yard shot skimmed the top of the bar. The visitors had the perfect start to the second half when they went 2-0 up barely a minute after the restart. A shot came in from outside the box, was spilled by McGurn and Martin Rennie tucked in the rebound from close range. The game was put to bed on the hour mark when Lewis Milne's superb curling free-kick into the corner put the away side 3-0 up. With the three points looking secure the encounter petered out with Montrose happy with their evening's work. Cowdenbeath came close to a consolation in the 86th minute when a cross from the right was met by a Robbie Buchanan shot which was cleared off the line. That would be the closest the hosts could manage to a goal as the result went the way of the form book.

Result: Cowdenbeath 0-3 Montrose
Division: Scottish League Two
Attendance: 378

Monday, 7 May 2018

2018 Stadium #10 - The New Lawn

Date: 2nd April 2018
Stadium: The New Lawn
Location: Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

My tenth stadium of 2018 was on Monday 2nd April at The New Lawn in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. The match was Forest Green Rovers vs. Colchester United in Football League Two.

The New Lawn is located on the western tip of the village of Nailsworth at the top of a fairly steep hill. The stadium is in a rural setting with fields to the north and west and trees to the south. To the east they are next door to a primary school with the residential areas all beyond this point. The remote setting means the nearest railway station is at Stroud some four miles north. The venue has been home to club since 2006 when they left the ground that gives the current one its name - The Lawn. Apart from a brief 3 year spell away for ground improvement works during the 1920s this had been Forest Green's home since their formation in 1889.

The stadium is dominated by the East Stand which runs the full length of the field of play. This all-seater stand has 1,881 seats with hospitality boxes running along the back of the stand. Unusually there are no dugout structures with two split areas of normal looking seating separated by a barrier from the rest of the spectators. Unlike other grounds in the Football League there is no barrier separating the seating areas from the pitch. Inside the stand itself is the reception, ticket office and a pub for home supporters.

The western side of the ground is made up of seven rows of concrete terracing and is entirely uncovered. This is the section of The New Lawn allocated to away fans. In the north-west corner there is a food outlet serving these supporters - Forest Green are well known as a vegan club so no meat products on offer! The northern end has a covered terrace running for around three-quarters of its length with the north-east corner taken up by another food outlet. Directly behind this stand was a tented area for away fans to congregate in which again sold food and drink. The southern end of the ground also has a covered terrace though this only takes up around half this end. In the south-west corner there is an additional building which serves as the dressing rooms with this leading out onto the pitch via the players tunnel.

The game started off perfectly for Colchester as they recorded the opener after just 16 seconds. A neat one-two between Sammie Szmodics and Mikael Mandron sent Szmodics down the left wing and his cross found a free Drey Wright who knocked the ball into the corner of the net from inside the six yard box. The U's found themselves on top in the first half and some nice interplay between Szmodics and Wright saw the ball crossed into Szmodics who blazed over on the volley from six yards out. Straight from the goal kick the ball was sent back up the home end with Mikael Mandron dragging a shot wide when he was just about in on goal. The hosts finally started to get into the game after this and shortly after Tahvon Campbell missed a close range header Forest Green were given the perfect opportunity to level the scores when Tom Eastman clumsily fouled Haydn Hollis in the box. Reuben Reid sent Colchester keeper Sam Walker to the wrong way to ensure the sides went in tied at the break. The visitors managed to replicate their fantastic start to the first half by netting very early on in the second half. This time it took 89 seconds after the opening whistle for Ben Stevenson to pick up the ball 35 yards from goal, run unchallenged to the edge of the area before smashing into the bottom corner. Forest Green generated a couple of nervy moments from free-kicks and corners before Drey Wright had a shot cleared off the line in the 70th minute. The final section of the match was all Forest Green as Colchester dropped deep. The away side rode their luck a little over these minutes but held on for a deserved three points.

Result: Forest Green Rovers 1-2 Colchester United
Division: Football League Two
Attendance: 2,869

Friday, 4 May 2018

2018 Stadium #9 - Oxland Parc

Date: 31st March 2018
Stadium: Oxland Parc
Location: Illogan, Cornwall

My ninth stadium of 2018 was on Saturday 31st March at Oxland Parc in Illogan, Cornwall. The match was Illogan Royal British Legion vs. Wadebridge Town in the South West Peninsula League Division One West.

Oxland Parc is located in the village of Illogan a couple of miles north-west of Redruth. The ground is bordered by housing on the northern, western and southern sides with a couple of additional smaller pitches on the eastern side with less dense housing beyond this. The nearest railway station is back in Redruth a couple of miles south-east.

The entrance to the stadium is in the north-west corner and leads into an area for car parking which is part on the western side and part on the northern side. The northern side has uncovered hard standing the whole way along and behind this is a clubhouse including a nice, spacious bar as well as a separate dressing room building. The western side of the ground has a food shed by the entrance followed by a small uncovered standing area in front of another club building and then the venue's main stand which ends just after the half-way line. This is a concrete stand with a wooden roof - thth spectator area consists of four levels of concrete with wooden benching attached to it. The southern half of this side is uncovered grass standing which gets progressively narrower due to the road running alongside the ground.

On the eastern side there is a very small stand near the half-way line which provides covered seating on wooden benching. Otherwise there is a pretty narrow spectator area of uncovered grass standing which runs between the pitch and the concrete wall separating it from the additional pitches at the complex. The two dugouts are also on this side. The southern end is the most sparse as it has uncovered grass standing which slopes gently uphill. Due to the proximity of a road and a two houses behind there is netting behind the goal to catch any loose balls. The venue does not currently have any floodlights so the club will be unable to progress beyond their current 11th tier status though they only reached this level for the first time in 2014.

With both sides in lower mid-table there was little to play for and the game was a rather poor affair in the early going. The first real action was in the 26th minute when a corner was dropped by the Illogan keeper but Kyle Flew snatched at the rebound and lofted over from close range. The best opportunity for the hosts arrived in the 33rd minute when a cross from the left almost beat Wadebridge goalie Rob Rosevear who had to stretch to tip over. Wadebridge were on top for much of the second period, ten minute after the break a free-kick unleashed a wing-back down the right and his cross in was perfect for Dan Jennings but the home keeper made himself big and saved Jennings' effort well. On the hour Jennings spurned another chance when a misjudged back header let him in on goal but he shot well over. For Illogan's part their best play of the match was in the 64th minute when a free-kick was headed towards goal requiring a really good save by Rosevear to keeper it goalless. The last meaningful chance came in the 86th minute when an Illogan shot was blocked on the line. The second half was decent enough as a spectacle but the finishing of both sides was poor resulting in a goalless draw.

Result: Illogan RBL 0-0 Wadebridge Town
Division: South West Peninsula League Division One West.
Attendance: N/A

Friday, 27 April 2018

2018 Stadium #8 - Minster Park

Date: 31st March 2018
Stadium: Minster Park
Location: Exminster, Devon

My eighth stadium of 2018 was on Saturday 31st March at Minster Park in Exminster, Devon. The match was St Martins vs. Alphington in the South West Peninsula League Division One East.

Minster Park is in a residential area in the village of Exminster. Housing borders the southern and eastern sides of the venue with a road to the north and a health and care centre to the west. The nearest railway station is Topsham which is 3 miles east on the opposite side of the River Exe.

The western side is the only populated side of the ground. A road runs all the way along the gap between the pitch and the health and care centre and this slope provides a makeshift spectator area when the crowds are unusually high as they were on this occasion. Towards the southern end there is a clubhouse building with a small bar and the dressing rooms inside. Due to the incline this is well above pitch level and there is a concrete section in front of this with picnic benches where people can watch the action from. In front of this is a steep grass bank leading down to pitch level where there is uncovered standing the whole way along as well as the two dugouts by the half-way line. The only stand at the venue is located in the south-west corner - this small structure provides a covered standing area.

The rest of the ground is uncovered grass standing. The southern end has little space behind the goal so there is no space for spectators here though the northern and eastern section have plenty of room. The eastern side in fact has a large grass section beyond the pitch which is used as a training and practice area. With the lack of any seating or floodlights the basic nature of the venue restricts the club from progressing up the league ladder.

Though St Martins had not applied for promotion from the league they were still embroiled in a battle with Newton Abbot Spurs for the division title. Alphington meanwhile found themselves at the wrong end of the table attempting to escape relegation. It only took until the 5th minute for the hosts to take the lead when a ball down the line let an attacker in on goal and he calmly rolled it past the advancing keeper from just inside the box. After this though it was fairly even and the visitors could even argue they edged proceedings - their best chance was on the quarter-hour mark when a free-kick went inches wide of the post. The hosts came out much stronger in the second half and almost went 2-0 up in the first minute when a cross from the right almost snuck over the keeper, ending up just past the post. The home side were denied by the offside flag in the 55th minute when a free-kick into the area was headed into the bottom corner. A couple of minutes after this an awful ball by an Alphington defender let a home attacker in and he beat two defenders before striking the post. St Martins continued to ratchet up the pressure and it finally paid off in the 61st minute when a low ball into the 18-yard box was met by a shot which went in off the crossbar. The next goal came in the 79th minute and was the best of the match - a St Martins midfielder picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and with few options decided to smashed a long range effort at goal which went into the roof of the net. The victory was rounded off in the 91st minute when a counter attack saw a striker put through and with the keeper diving early after anticipating the shot he had time to calmly roll the ball into the bottom of the net.

Result: St Martins 4-0 Alphington
Division: South West Peninsula League Division One East
Attendance: 383

Friday, 20 April 2018

2018 Stadium #7 - Treyew Road

Date: 30th March 2018
Stadium: Treyew Road
Location: Truro, Cornwall

My seventh stadium of 2018 was on Friday 30th March at Treyew Road in Truro, Cornwall. The match was Truro City vs. Hemel Hempstead Town in National League South.

Treyew Road is located on the southern outskirts of the city on the edge of the A390. The road runs along the eastern side of the stadium with fields to the western and beyond the car park at the southern end. The northern end has a small section of unused land before a road which splits the site from the Cornwall Council office complex. The venue is half a mile south of Truro railway station.

The entrance to the ground is at the southern end - upon going through the turnstiles there is a media centre and a Cornish pasty outlet to the right and to the left a clubhouse with a patio in front of this where you can watch the game from. The dressing rooms are also located in this building. In front of the patio there is uncovered standing with concrete standing towards the front and grass standing towards the back.

The only permanent stands are on the western side - on this area there are three separate structures which take up most of the length of the field. The stand towards the southern end is a covered flat standing area, the one in the middle is the main all-seater section and there is an extra small all-seater stand beyond this which was added later on. There is a small section of uncovered standing at the northern and southern sections with a food outlet and club shop towards the south-west corner. The club have had a rise up the leagues in recent years and this can be seen on the opposite side of Treyew Road where two temporary stands reside. The stand on the northern side of the half-way line is covered with the roof held up by a large number of supporting beams while the stand on the southern side of the half-way line is uncovered. There is another temporary stand directly behind the northern goal - this one is much smaller and is about the width of the goal. The rest of this end is uncovered standing.

This was an important game with both sides in a very tight race for the National League South play-offs. The visitors had a great start when they netted within a quarter of an hour. A deflected pass ended up at the feet of Karl Oliyde on the left side of the box and his cross looped over Truro keeper Tom McHale allowing David Moyo to bundle the ball in on the line. This lead was short-lived though as the hosts equalised in the 20th minute when a ball into the box from the left was brought down by Cody Cooke for Tom Owen-Evans to direct into the bottom corner from 12 yards. A couple of minutes later Owen-Evans almost grabbed a second as a pass from Niall Thompson found him a couple of yards from goal. Owen-Evans was on the stretch though and his shot didn't have enough power to sneak in as Hemel cleared their lines. The away side retook the lead in the 37th minute when a smartly worked free-kick saw Jordan Parkes lob the ball straight to David Moyo who nodded over McHale from the edge of the six-yard area. It looked like Hemel would take this lead into the break but in the final minute of the first-half Truro made it 2-2 with a lovely goal. Owen-Evans picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, played a nice one-two with Jordan Copp before outpacing a couple of defenders and squaring for Copp to stroke past Laurie Walker in the away goal. Hemel edged ahead for the third time in the 65th minute when a well-timed ball from James Kaloczi put Karl Oliyde in on goal. Though his initial shot was saved by McHale the ball bounced back to him and with the Truro shotstopper on the floor Oliyde bundled in the rebound. After this Hemel sat back meaning it was one-way traffic for the remainder of the match. The visitors had rebuffed all the corners and free-kicks in the second half but in the 94th minute they succumbed to a late, late equaliser. Niall Thompson played a good ball in from the wing and though Walker saved Andrew Neal's close range effort Tyler Harvey reacted quickest to the lose ball and smashed home to grab a point for Truro.

Result: Truro City 3-3 Hemel Hempstead Town
Division: National League South
Attendance: 527