Friday, 9 June 2017

2017 Stadium #14 - Pavilions

Date: 16th April 2017
Stadium: Pavilions
Location: Runcorn, Cheshire

My fourteenth stadium of 2017 was on Sunday 17th April at Pavilions in Runcorn, Cheshire. The match was Runcorn Town vs. Barnton in the North West Counties League Premier Division.

Pavilions is located in an industrial area close to the banks of the River Mersey. It is bordered by a chemical site to the west, a vehicle hire centre to the north, the A557 Weston Point Expressway to the east and a former football ground and cricket pitch to the south.

The spectator areas are split across the western and eastern sides of the ground. There is a small sheltered area in the south-east corner with the clubhouse next to this which includes a bar and the players dressing rooms. To the right of this three rows of covered terracing - this stand was originally larger but the back section has been cordoned off limiting the space. The two dugouts are split by the half-way line and the remaining half of the east side is uncovered standing. With the curve of the A557 the area by the pitch gets progressively narrower as you go north and the northern end itself just consists of a narrow walkway behind the goal.

The western side has a club shop and tea hut in the south-west corner and then an area of covered flat standing. The corrugated iron protection in these areas has seen better days so wasn't ideal for the wet weather on the day. The longest stand in the ground is an all-seater structure which straddles the half-way line. As with the opposite side of the ground the northern section of this side is uncovered standing. Behind the southern goal there is a narrow walkway with the car park a level down from this. Directly behind the car park is an overgrown former football ground with one stand still remaining. Heading south from here takes you to the cricket pitch and the Pavilions Club itself which gives the complex its name.

Runcorn took the lead in the 16th minute when a penalty was awarded for a foul on the edge of the box. Craig Cairns shot the spot-kick straight down the middle. The remainder of the first half was a drab one played out in torrential rain which didn't help proceedings. The rain eased off towards the end of the half allowing a couple more chances - in the 41st minute a Runcorn corner was cleared off the line and on the stroke of half time Cairns had a goal ruled out for offside. The hosts came sprinting out of the blocks in the 2nd half and barely a minute after the restart went 2-0 up when a ball into the box found Mark Reed. The Barnton keeper saved his effort and a follow-up from Cairns but the ball then fell back to Reed and it was third time lucky for Runcorn as the ball ended in the back of the net. The two goal lead became three in the 55th minute - Simon Thelwell played a terrific 40 yard ball from the back which put Craig Cairns in on goal and he slotted past the keeper. Reed came close to grabbing his second in the 71st minute when he won a 50-50 tackle with the keeper but his goalbound shot was cleared off the line by a covering defender. A couple of minutes later Barnton got a consolation as Jason McShane dinked a curling effort into the bottom corner from 25 yards out. This was against the run of play and the respite didn't last long as Runcorn added another goal in the 76th minute. The one was a stunner worthy of a much higher level than the North West Counties League - the hosts played out from the back with a slick passing move which culminated in a cross from the right and a superb scissor kick from Mark Reed from 12 yards out which flew past the keeper. Two minutes after this Joseph Holt was put clean through but a good save from the keeper prevented a 5th goal for the home side. Barnton can count themselves fortunate the score was kept to 4-1 as Runcorn were brilliant going forward in the 2nd half and could've had more.

Result: Runcorn Town 4-1 Barnton
Division: North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 335

Monday, 5 June 2017

2017 Stadium #13 - Edge Green Street

Date: 16th April 2017
Stadium: Edge Green Street
Location: Ashton-in-Makerfield, Greater Manchester

My thirteenth stadium of 2017 was on Sunday 16th April at Edge Green Street in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Greater Manchester. The match was Ashton Town vs. Stockport Town in North West Counties League Division One.

Edge Green Street is in a residential area in the west of Ashton-in-Makerfield. It is bordered by housing on the northern, southern and western sides with a football pitch and a primary school to the east. The ground is 1.5 miles south-east of Bryn railway station and has been home to the club since 1964.

There are two stands on the southern side of the ground. The smaller of these is an all-seater stand towards the eastern end of the ground which has around 70 seats. The larger stand is close to the half-way line and consists of three levels of concrete. This is mostly standing though there are two rows of seating which have been bolted into the floor which adds around another 50 to the seated total.

The eastern end is uncovered standing with a car parking area behind the goal. In the north-east corner by the entrance there is a club bar and food outlet. Further down the northern side there is the dressing room building which has a thin concrete viewing area in front of it. Past this building there is a decent sized grass area behind the barrier with the two dugouts and a gantry as well. The western end has a smaller grass area with netting behind the goal in light of the housing estate behind.

With Ashton having only recorded five wins all season while rooted to the foot of the table it was unsurprising to see the visors start the game off better. In the 15th minute the ball was sent out to the right of the box and Ben Halfacre's shot stung the palms of the Ashton keeper. In the 26th minute a penalty was awarded to Stockport after a push on Adam Stubbs on the edge of the area. Stubbs landed awkwardly and was stretched off with the delay meaning it wasn't until the 30th minute when Halfacre stepped up and dispatched the penalty low to the keeper's right. A few minute after this the away side went close again when a crossfield ball found Alec Mudimu who saw his shot come back off the post. In first half injury time only a point blank save prevented Jamie Hinchliffe from making it 2-0. During the opening minutes of the second period the hosts had their first meaningful chance of the game when a defender flashed the ball wide from close range. Any hope of getting back into the game was extinguished in the 57th minute though as a cross from the right found Halfacre in the area and he headed downwards past the keeper to give Stockport a two-goal lead. The remainder of the game was comfortable for Stockport though late injuries to Aaron Dwyer and Syrone Allen meant they had to finish the game with only nine men. Even then Ashton failed to really threaten as they went out with a whimper.

Result: Ashton Town 0-2 Stockport Town
Division: North West Counties League Division One
Attendance: 315

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

2017 Stadium #12 - Brocstedes Park

Date: 16th April 2017
Stadium: Brocstedes Park
Location: Ashton-in-Makerfield, Greater Manchester

My twelfth stadium of 2017 was on Sunday 16th April at Brocstedes Park in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Greater Manchester. The match was Ashton Athletic vs. Squires Gate in the North West Counties League Premier Division.

Brocstedes Park is situated on the northern edge of Ashton-in-Makerfield - it is surrounded by fields or parkland on three sides with the M6 motorway bordering to the east. The venue is just over a mile from Bryn railway station to the south-east and Garswood railway station to the south-west.

The ground entrance is close to the half-way line on the western side of the patch. There is a demountable club shop directly by the entrance and then further forward a clubhouse with a bar, food outlet and dressing rooms. In front of this is a flat concrete area with a couple of picnic benches. There is a small roof overhang which provides a single line of covered viewing. By the half-way line itself there are the two dugouts and adjacent to this is a stand which runs almost half the length of the field down to the southern end. This covered stand is a mixture of seating and standing areas. There is a much smaller all-seater stand in the north-west corner of the ground which allows for another covered viewing area.

The remainder of the ground is uncovered standing. There is a large grass area behind the northern goal and it is a similar story on the eastern side where the confines of the ground run right up to the trees which border the M6. The area behind the northern goal is a narrow concrete walkway with a second full size pitch directly behind the stadium at this end. There is netting behind the goal to prevent wayward balls ending up on this pitch.

The game burst into life early on as the visitors scored in only the 2nd minute of the tie. It came about when a shot at the near post was dropped by the keeper and Joseph Noblet reacted quickly to smash into the roof of the net. It took until the 10th minute for Ashton to equalise when a cross from the left of the box was backheeled into the corner from 10 yards out by Danny Smith. The rest of the half was fairly even but not many shots were on target so there wasn't a huge amount for the keepers to do. Ashton managed to get on top in the 2nd half and were clearly the better side in the final 45 minutes. They took the lead in the 63rd minute after a quick break down the left wing saw the ball squarded for Lee Vaughan to slot home from 12 yards out. The visitors best chance was in the 83rd minute when a free-kick was missed by the Ashton goalkeeper and the subsequent header was cleared off the line by a covering Ashton defender.

Result: Ashton Athletic 2-1 Squires Gate
Division: North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 298

Friday, 26 May 2017

2017 Stadium #11 - Central Avenue

Date: 15th April 2017
Stadium: Central Avenue
Location: Billingham, County Durham

My eleventh stadium of 2017 was on Saturday 15th April at Central Avenue in Billingham, County Durham. The match was Billingham Synthonia vs. Willington in Northern League Division Two.

Central Avenue Stadium is part of the Synthonia sports grounds located opposite the former site of the ICI chemical plant. The northern end of the ground is bordered by a rail line with local rivals Billingham Town the other side of the line. The town's railway station is half a mile north towards the centre of the town. The venue was home to Billingham Synthonia from 1958 until April 2017 with this being their final game at the stadium.

The stadium's focal point is an impressive cantilever stand which runs the entire length of the pitch on the eastern side of the ground. This stand consists of ten rows of concrete with the southern and northern thirds given over to standing and the middle third to seating. This middle third has benches attached to the concrete floor and includes a media box at the back of the stand. In front of the stand is a flat concrete standing area with two rows of barriers - the two dugouts are in front of the furthest forward set of barriers.

Within the stand there is a large bar containing a club shop and a separate small lounge room. There is also a tea bar which faces out towards the flat concrete area between the stand and the pitch. In April 2017 Billingham Synthonia released a statement referring to the maintenance costs of this stand as a key factor behind the decision to leave Central Avenue. The remainder of the ground is uncovered standing. There is a gravel track encircling the pitch meaning the viewing areas are oval shaped. A strip of concrete runs round almost all of the rest of the venue - these are designated spectator areas. The steep grass banks behind both goals have signs discouraging supporters from climbing to get a better view of the action.

The opening few minutes was an even affair with Willington going close in the 5th minute when the ball was crossed into the area from the left and Will Preston steered the ball just the wrong side of the post. In the 8th minute it was Billingham's turn to go close after Steven Huggins dispossessed Adam Cromby in midfield and laid off the ball for Chay Liddle who's shot was cleared off the line. The hosts spent more time in the attacking final third but their tame efforts didn't really test the goalie. In the 55th minute Synthonia took the lead - the ball was clipped over to Chay Liddle on the left side of the area and he smashed the ball across the keeper into the bottom corner. There was almost another goal in the 67th minute when Nathan Steel stroked the ball inches wide after a scramble in the area. The key moment came just after this in the 71st minute when Billingham broke down the left, squared the ball for Liddle who saw his shot saved only for Nathan Steel to knock in the rebound. The visitors offered little in the final few minutes so it meant mixed emotions for Billingham who clinched promotion from the league in their final game at their Central Avenue home.

Result: Billingham Synthonia 2-0 Willington
Division: Northern League Division Two
Attendance: 315

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

2017 Stadium #10 - Kirklees Stadium

Date: 14th April 2017
Stadium: Kirklees Stadium
Location: Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

My tenth stadium of 2017 was on Friday 14th April at Kirklees Stadium in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. The match was Huddersfield Town vs. Preston North End in the Football League Championship.

Kirklees Stadium, currently known as the John Smith's Stadium for sponsorship purposes, is on the banks of the River Colne to the north-east of Huddersfield town centre, just under a mile from Huddersfield railway station. The stadium is the centre piece of a retail/business park and is a few hundred yards from the site of the club's old Leeds Road stadium which was vacated in favour of their current home in 1994. At the same time the Huddersfield Giants Rugby League side moved with the football club and have resided at the stadium since.

The Kirklees Stadium's sweeping stands mark it apart from most of the raft of new stadiums from the last two decades. With all the stands differing from each other there is also good variety at the venue. The largest stand in the ground is the West Stand, also known as the Riverside Stand. This two-tier stand has hospitality boxes in between the two tiers with the middle section of the lower tier carved out for the media and club staff. The two dugouts are directly in front of this section with the tunnel back to the dressing rooms splitting the dugouts. On the outside of the stand there is the club reception, shop and ticket office.

Opposite this is the large single tier East Stand which can hold around 7,000 supporters. The southern end of this is given over to a flat platform for disabled spectators and there is also a TV gantry hanging from the roof. The 4,000 seat South Stand is the smallest in the stadium and is generally given over to away fans (though with Huddersfield's current high levels of support it is currently being split between home and away fans). As this end of the stadium is built into a bank you need to go up a flight of stairs before emerging at ground level into the stadium car park. The North Stand is another two-tier structure with a small lower tier of 14 rows and then a larger, steeper upper tier. As with the West Stand there are hospitality boxes between the two tiers. There is a building appended to the back of this stand which contains a leisure centre as well as a club bar. The corners of Kirklees Stadium are bereft of seating but due to the vast roof supports flowing down to the ground the venue feels enclosed.

Hudderfield went into the game still with a shot at an automatic promotion place and had much more attacking intent in the first half. In the 23rd minute Preston's Aiden McGeady picked up the ball just past the half-way line, beat a defender and hit a wicked curving effort from 20 yards which flew into the top corner. This was Preston's first effort on goal and completely against the run of play. The hosts were keen to get back on level terms before the break and they managed it in the 43rd minute after dreadful Preston defending from a corner. Despite having twice as many men in the area as Huddersfield when the ball was whipped in the static Preston defence allowed Elias Kachunga a free header at the back post. The home side got their noses in front for the first time in the 70th minute - Nakhi Wells crossed to Tommy Smith on the far side of the area and Smith's volley back across goal took a deflection into the path of Jack Payne who headed in from a couple of yards out. This lead didn't last long as the visitors equalised in the 79th minute when Tom Barkhuizen's excellent cross from the right was headed in by Jordan Hugill. Just when it looked like the game would end tied there was an off-the-ball incident in the penalty area between Hugill and Kachunga. The referee consulted with his assistant before awarding Huddersfield a penalty. It took until the 96th minute for the penalty to be taken and Aaron Mooy's spot-kick was saved by Preston goalie Chris Maxwell the quickest to react to the loose ball was Collin Quaner who just managed to get to the ball before a defender and shot low into the net to win a dramatic game for Huddersfield.

Result: Huddersfield Town 3-2 Preston North End
Division: Football League Championship
Attendance: 21,254

Thursday, 11 May 2017

2017 Stadium #9 - Scotchman Road

Date: 13th April 2017
Stadium: Scotchman Road
Location: Bradford, West Yorkshire

My ninth stadium of 2017 was on Thursday 13th April at Scotchman Road in Bradford, West Yorkshire. The match was Campion vs. Dronfield Town in Northern Counties East League Division One.

Scotchman Road is in the Manningham area of Bradford in the north-west of the city. The ground borders a primary school to the west and to the south there is another primary school as well as houses and a patch of allotments. There is more housing to the north of the ground and a cricket pitch to the east. The venue is 1.5 miles west of Frizinghall railway station.

The western side has the only stand in the ground - this consists of a slightly raised concrete platform which runs from near the southern end to just beyond the half-way line. Most of this is covered but the area by the half-way line has no roof. In this stand there are 31 seats on the raised concrete section and 22 seats in front of this giving a total of 53. The remaining half of this side is uncovered standing behind the barrier next to the pitch.

The northern and eastern side are both uncovered standing areas and due to the cricket pitch behind the eastern side has plenty of room behind the field to watch from. The southern end has a walkway behind the goal for spectators though this is thin due to the car park behind. The community centre is just to the right of the goal and this contains dressing rooms on the lower level and a bar looking out over the pitch on the upper level. This gives a very good view of the action so plenty of people were watching the game from here.

The first half was bereft of chances as both sides cancelled each other out. The two were largely limited to speculative efforts which failed to trouble either goalkeeper with the only chance of note coming in the 10th minute when Campion's keeper came out on top of a one-on-one with a Dronfield attacker. This all changed just 40 seconds into the 2nd half when Dronfield's Danny Wood picked up the ball 25 yards out, turned and unleashed a spectacular shot into top corner. Straight from the kick-off the ball ended up back in Dronfield's box and when Eli Hey was tripped it allowed the hosts a fantastic chance to level things up again. Jason Davis stepped up and smashed the penalty low past the keeper. In the 70th minute Dronfield gifted Campion a goal when a mix-up saw two of their defenders go for the ball in the area at the same time. They managed only to deflect the ball into the patch of Daniel Cunningham who shot low into the corner from 6 yards out. In the 76th minute Campion stretched their advantage when a throw-in on the right went to Ben Kendall who controlled the ball, advanced into the area and produced an excellent curled shot into the corner of the net from 15 yards. The scoring was rounded off in the 86th minute when Eli Hey picked up ball 30 yards from goal, ran to the edge of the box and shot low towards goal. As it was going through it took a deflection and scooped past the helpless keeper into the bottom of the net. The game was very much one-way traffic in the final 20 minutes but the 4-1 scoreline was a little harsh on Dronfield who had matched Campion up until this point.

Result: Campion 4-1 Dronfield Town
Division: Northern Counties East League Division One
Attendance: 268

Monday, 8 May 2017

2017 Stadium #8 - Welfare Ground

Date: 11th April 2017
Stadium: Welfare Ground
Location: Armthorpe, South Yorkshire

My eighth stadium of 2017 was on Tuesday 11th April at the Welfare Ground in Armthorpe, South Yorkshire. The match was Armthorpe Welfare vs. Bridlington Town in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division.

The Welfare Ground is close to the centre of the village of Armthorpe just to the east of Doncaster. The eastern end of the ground backs onto a community area including a community centre, a church and additional sporting facilities. The club are also neighbours with a Morrisons supermarket to the north with housing surrounding the remainder of the ground. The venue is four miles east of the nearest railway station at Doncaster.

The entrance to the ground is in the north-east corner and immediately to the left of this is a building holding the players dressing rooms. Opposite this is a separate building for officials dressing rooms and next to this is a demountable with a club office and bar. In front of this is the Philip Mitchell Stand which runs from the eastern penalty area to near the half-way line. This stand has three levels of concrete with wooden benches attached to them. The western half of this side of the ground is uncovered standing.

There is one further stand which sits directly behind the western goal. This covered standing area consists of two levels of concrete so is small in nature. Next to this stand is a decent sized grass area and there is netting for most of this end to protect the properties behind. The rest of the venue is uncovered standing. On the eastern, and particularly the southern sides there is a concrete strip of hard standing with large grass areas behind. The southern side also has the two team dugouts.

Armthorpe went into the game rooted to the foot of the table with Bridlington riding high in 3rd. It was then a real surprise when the hosts took the lead in the 3rd minute - the ball was passed through the defence to Gary Collier on the left wing. Everyone seemed to stop as Collier headed in the direction of goal and lifted the ball over Bridlington keeper Nick Baxter. After this early set back the visitors dominated the game and attacked the eastern end with a huge number of corners. One of these corners paid off in the 36th minute when it was only cleared as far as the edge of the box and Jake Day rifled a shot into the roof of the net from 20 yards. A couple of minutes into first half injury time Bridlington got their noses in front in similar circumstances - again it was a corner cleared to the edge of the box and drilled back in from 20 yards by Jamie Forrester. In this case Liam Copley was able to save but only palmed the ball as far as Brett Agnew who tapped in the rebound. Bridlington continued to be well on top in the second period but if they were hoping for the floodgates to open they would be disappointed. In the 56th minute Jordan Harrison shot low in the area, Copley saved well but Harrison picked up the ball again and curled an effort off the top of the crossbar. A couple of minutes after this the home side had their one chance to equalise when a corner was whipped into the near post and the resulting header was cleared off the line. In the 72nd minute Bridlington were denied by the woodwork for a second time after Jamie Forrester slipped in Jake Day in the box and Day controlled the ball before shooting back off the post. On the whole the visitors were pretty wasteful in front of goal and couldn't kill the game off until the final whistle. When that whistle came it confirmed relegation for Armthorpe ending a 32 year stay in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division.

Result: Armthorpe Welfare 1-2 Bridlington Town
Division: Northern Counties East League Premier Division
Attendance: 90