Friday, 10 February 2017

2017 Stadium #1 - Dog & Duck

Date: 28th January 2017
Stadium: Dog & Duck
Location: Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

My first stadium of 2017 was on Saturday 28th January at Dog & Duck in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. The match was AFC Rushden & Diamonds vs. Loughborough Dynamo in the Northern Premier League Division One South.

The Dog & Duck is in the south of Wellingborough and is one of two football grounds on the site with neighbours Wellingborough Whitworth FC having a separate pitch on the eastern side of the Dog & Duck. The western side of the ground is directly next to a Beefeater and a Premier Inn with a recently built retail park behind the northern end. The southern end is bordered by fields making it the only side not surrounded by developments. Wellingborough railway station is 1 mile north-east of the ground which was opened in 1901 for Wellingborough Town. AFC Rushden & Diamonds have played at the venue since 2012 though will be leaving in 2017.

The entrance to the ground is on the north-west side and there is a small club shop facing outwards close to the turnstiles. Once inside this end has a raised flat platform which takes up the western corner of the ground. On the platform there is the clubhouse, a food outlet, dressing rooms and the players tunnel. Directly behind the goal there is a covered metal terrace consisting of 7 rows of standing.

There is a single all-seater stand on the north-east side of the ground. This staddles the half-way line and has 163 seats for spectators including an officials area in the middle and a press box at back of stand. Close to the stand there is an additional beverage area with a demountable known as Dale's Bar. The remainder of the ground are taken up by standing areas with just one covered area on the south-west side running for around a third of the length of the pitch. Due to the Premier Inn car park bordering this side it is fairly tight on space though this ceases as you get to the south-east section of the field meaning a lot of space behind the goal at this end.

Rusden & Diamonds took barely a minute to opening the scoring when the first corner of the match was headed clear as far as Joe Curtis on the edge of the box and he returned the ball with a smart volley into the corner of the net. The hosts went 2-0 up in the 21st minute as Fazel Koriya ghosted into the box, fooled a couple of defenders with some nice skill before squaring for Curtis to rifle the ball into the roof of the net from 6 yards out. Loughborough were not holding out well against the R&D attack and conceded again in the 25th minute. This time Curtis was the provider as he ball into the box found Tom Lorraine who was able to control the ball and turn and shoot low past Jack Tolley in the away goal. After racing into a three-goal lead the home side were able to take their foot off the gas a little with their next best chance not coming until first-half stoppage time when Liam Dolman hit the bar with a free-kick. The visitors were much improved and matched R&D as both sides were limited to half chances only. There was one more goal though which came in the 82nd minute when Lewis Lesley lifted the ball into the box and despite no home players being in the vicinity a mix-up in the Loughborough defence saw goalkeeper Tolley and defender Carl Sibson go for the ball at the same time resulting in Sibson heading it over his teammate into own net.

Result: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4-0 Loughborough Dynamo
Division: Northern Premier League Division One South
Attendance: 461

Thursday, 2 February 2017

2016 End of Year Review

Total stadiums visited: 31
Number of stadiums visited for the first time: 27
Games seen: 38
Number of goals: 125
Goals per game average: 3.29
Highest number of goals in a game: 8 goals (South Park 6-2 Molesey)
Lowest number of goals in a game: 0 goals (Taunton Town 0-0 Slimbridge, Saltdean United 0-0 East Preston)
Largest margin of victory: 6 goals (Amesbury Town 0-6 Sholing)
Highest attendance: 25,275 (Norwich City 1-2 Huddersfield Town)
Lowest attendance: 30 (Amesbury Town 0-6 Sholing)
Team most seen: Colchester United (10)
Stadiums by country: England (31), Denmark (1)
Stadiums by county: Surrey (4), Wiltshire (4), Essex (3), East Sussex (2), Suffolk (2), West Sussex (2), Berkshire (1), County Durham (1), Devon (1), Dorset (1), Hampshire (1), Lancashire (1), Leicestershire (1), London (1), Norfolk (1), North Yorkshire (1), Northamptonshire (1), Oxfordshire (1), Somerset (1)

Saturday, 28 January 2017

2016 Stadium #27 - The Haven Sportsfield

Date: 27th December 2016
Stadium: The Haven Sportsfield
Location: Crawley Down, West Sussex

My twenty-seventh stadium of 2016 was on Tuesday 27th December at The Haven Sportsfield in Crawley Down, West Sussex. The match was Crawley Down Gatwick vs. Horsham YMCA in the Southern Combination League Premier Division.

The Haven Sportsfield is on the northern tip of the village of Crawley Down. The football pitch is part of the community centre known as The Haven which was opened in 1991. The building itself runs along the southern side of the ground with housing to the east and open fields to the west and north. The nearest railway stations are East Grinstead to the east and Kingscote to the south, both of which are just under 3 miles from the ground.

The community centre and social club building is behind the southern part of the venue and this contains the boardroom, a club bar and players and officials dressing rooms. Moving into the confines of the football ground there is a 186 seat stand just over the half-way line towards the western end. The remainder of the southern side is taken up by uncovered standing.

The uncovered standing continues round the western end and the northern side of The Haven. The northern side also includes the two dugouts by the half-way line. The eastern end is mostly uncovered standing but has a small terrace known as the Brian Suckling Stand. This structure has 4 levels of standing and is located towards the southern end of the ground. Near to this in the south-west corner there is a food van for supporters.

On a bitterly cold night Crawley Down started brightly and took the lead after just 6 minutes when Oli Leslie snuck in behind the defence and was slipped in by Lee Thomas allowing him to slot past the goalie in the box. The hosts should have extended their lead in the 19th minute when the ball was played from the right into Gianfranco Mici who lifted over the bar from close range. Crawley Down continued to have the best of the chances and again found themselves clean through just before the half-hour mark although on this occasion Sam Smith saved Lee Thomas' shot. The wasteful finishing of the hosts came back to haunt them in the 49th minute when Max Howell picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, beat a couple of defenders and stroked past Martin Hopkins from 12 yards to equalise for Horsham. The home side went close again shortly after when Dan Sullivan hit the foot of the post from a free-kick but the game then descended into a niggly affair with lots of fouls disrupting the flow of the event. The visitors took a surprise lead in the 76th minute - it came about when Dan Evans controlled an overhit pass well and then mis-hit a crossed into box. Fortunately for him this poor cross ended up looping over Hopkins into corner of net. The home side did not deserve to come out of the game with nothing and in the 81st minute a mix-up in the visiting defence let Sam Cane in on goal and he clipped the ball over advancing goalie from 15 yards to level the game up at 2-2.

Result: Crawley Down Gatwick 2-2 Horsham YMCA
Division: Southern Combination League Premier Division
Attendance: 104

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

2016 Stadium #26 - St George's Field (Reigate)

Date: 27th December 2016
Stadium: St George's Field
Location: Reigate, Surrey

My twenty-sixth stadium of 2016 was on Tuesday 27th December at St George's Field in Reigate, Surrey. The match was South Park vs. Molesey in the Isthmian League Division One South.

St George's Field is part of the South Park area of Reigate on the south-western edge of the town. The ground is part of the South Park Sports Association with a cricket pitch to the north of the football area. The other three sides of the ground are surrounded by fields. Just over a mile and a half south of Reigate railway station, the venue has been home to South Park since 1925.

There is an impressive modern-looking clubhouse in the north-east corner of the sports area lying adjacent to the cricket pitch. A walk past the cricket pitch then takes you towards the football ground where there is an astroturf mini-pitch by the entrance. This is on the eastern side of the main football pitch and this side also has the dressing room building level with the half-way line which provides two covered standing areas and a snack outlet. The remainder of the east side is uncovered standing.

The western side opposite is uncovered standing though there is a decent sized grass area behind the strip of concrete. This side also has the two dugouts which are positioned either side of the half-way line. The area behind the northern goal is also uncovered and there is netting positioned directly behind the goal to prevent the balls from going onto the cricket pitch behind. The southern end is mostly uncovered but does have two all-seater stands as well. The larger of the two is a 105 seat structure on eastern side of the goal while the smaller 50 seat structure is on the western side of the goal.

Molesey had the best chance of the early going when a long distance swerving effort by Joe Pratley-Lewis almost caught out Calum Thomas in the South Park goal. South Park started to get on top as the half progressed though and in the 36th minute took the lead when Kieran Lavery picked up the ball down the left wing, cut into the box, used a couple of stepovers to make space for himself and drilled the ball into the corner from 6 yards. Molesey's first half ended badly when one of their players was sent off for dissent while leaving the field after the referee had blown to end the half. Less than 60 seconds into the second period things got worse for the visitors as they went two goals down. This one was scored by Jack Stafford who played a smart one-two with a teammate before curling the ball into the roof of the net from 20 yards. In the 63rd minute South Park hit the crossbar but the respite for Molesey was short-lived as Dylan Merchant headed in the resulting corner. In the 69th minute the away side managed to grab a goal after being awarded a penalty for Josh Andrew being tripped on the edge of the box. Joe Nwoko smashed the penalty down the middle into the roof of net. With ten minutes to go Asa Rixon-Nicholls bundled in a corner to restore South Park's three-goal lead but Molesey kept going and a few minutes later Joe Nwoko grabbed his second when a cross from the right found him 12 yards out and he steered home. With the visitors back within two again they pushed forward but were then undone twice in two minutes. In the 89th minute Molesey gave the ball away allowing Chris Smith a clear run at goal. He was able to lift over the advancing keeper to notch up South Park's 5th. Straight from the kick-off the home side got the ball again, ran into the box and though the initial shot was saved Smith was at the back post to score again to finish off a frenetic final ten minutes to the game.

Result: South Park 6-2 Molesey
Division: Isthmian League Division One South
Attendance: 126

Thursday, 5 January 2017

2016 Stadium #25 - Recreation Way (Mildenhall)

Date: 17th December 2016
Stadium: Recreation Way
Location: Mildenhall, Suffolk

My twenty-fifth stadium of 2016 was on Saturday 17th December at Recreation Way in Mildenhall, Suffolk. The match was Mildenhall Town vs. Haverhill Rovers in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division.

Recreation Way is on the southern outskirts of the town with fields directly to the south of the ground itself. It is bordered by housing to the west, a social club to the north and to the west there is a retail park with Mildenhall Swimming Pool directly behind this side of the ground. The nearest railway stations are Shippea Hill and Lakenheath which are 8 miles north. However with these being two of the least used stations in the country the more convenient locations include Ely, Stowmarket or Bury St Edmunds stations which are all over 10 miles away. Recreation Way has been the home of Mildenhall Town since 1945.

The entrance to the ground is in the north-west corner and leads into a covered standing area. Next to this is a nice clubhouse which includes a snack outlet in its exterior. Continuing to work along the pitch there is then a covered seating area which contains 3 rows of benches. At the back of this area are the dressing rooms. The remaining run down to the southern end of the ground is uncovered standing.

The eastern side of the venue is uncovered except for a small 50 seater stand near to the north-east corner. The only other item of note on this side are the two dugouts by the half-way line. The areas behind both goals are pretty limited for space so just have a thin area of uncovered standing. With the club aiming for promotion they are planning to build an additional 50 seater stand to meet Step Four ground grading requirements.

Mildenhall went into the game on a fantastic run having won 19 of their 20 league games so far. As if things weren't going to be difficult enough for Haverhill they were reduced to ten men after just 11 minutes. It came about when the visiting goalkeeper Charlie Turner dropped a cross at the feet of Mildenhall's Chris Bacon. Turner reacted by rugby tackling Bacon to the ground to stop him scoring and was duly dismissed. Without a substitute keeper it was left to defender Sam Holmes to take over and his first act was to save David Cooper's penalty. For the remainder of the half Holmes was not often tested as despite Mildenhall having the lions share of play they did not have their shooting boots on so lots of efforts went high and wide. The 2nd half was completed one sided as the hosts peppered Haverhill's goal with shots but Holmes was putting in an excellent performance to frustrate Mildenhall. The ball barely got out of Haverhill's half for the whole of the second period and finally the defence was breached in the 82nd minute when a cross from Lee Clift to back post found Stephen Spriggs who headed in on the line. The visitors then ventured into opposition territory and looked dangerous as they sought an equaliser. However as they pushed forward the one man disadvantage came back to bite them as in the 89th minute Mildenhall killed off the encounter with a second goal. Dan Brown drove an effort off the bar and when the ball rebounded it was Spriggs who reacted quickest to slot the ball home and grab his second of the match.

Result: Mildenhall Town 2-0 Haverhill Rovers
Division: Eastern Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 110

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 Stadium #24 - Hill Park

Date: 26th November 2016
Stadium: Hill Park
Location: Saltdean, East Sussex

My twenty-fourth stadium of 2016 was on Saturday 26th November at Hill Park in Saltdean, East Sussex. The match was Saltdean United vs. East Preston in the Southern Combination League Division One.

Hill Park is on the northern tip of the village so is surrounded by fields except for a single house to the north and a caravan site to the south. The nearest railway station is Brighton which is six miles west of the ground. The venue has been home to the club since they were formed in 1966.

Outside of the confines of the pitch the eastern side of the ground has a smart club bar with an additional club building containing the dressing rooms. In front of this into the ground itself the eastern side is hemmed in by trees so there is just room for a single strip of concrete for uncovered standing.

The west side of the ground has uncovered standing by the pitch and behind this a large steep grass bank which has an extra football pitch at the top of this. Built into the grass bank is the only stand which is a concrete structure which has several rows of benches to sit on. The area behind the southern goal starts off with a narrow area of standing but expands the further west you go leaving a grass area in the corner. There is scaffolding directly behind the goal which holds up netting to prevent balls going into the caravan park. The north of the ground is confined by the neighbouring house and trees so this is inaccessible to fans. There is fencing to mark the boundary of the stadium but no space for supporters to go.

The opening half-hour was a dull affair with the most interesting moment coming when play was stopped after a dog ran on the pitch. East Preston were on top though and on the half-hour mark Jared Rance beat his man down the left, crossed the ball into the box and a Saltdean defender's clearance hit the outside of his own post. The second 45 minute saw the pendulum swing back to Saltdean as they dominated. The closest they came was in the 65th minute when a cross from the left wing found Wes Millis who headed onto the post from 6 yards out. The hosts had a large number of corners which prompted several penalty area scrambles but each time East Preston were able to clear the ball away. The visitors only had one decent chance a few minute from time when Dan Huet slipped in Jared Rance but Rance's shot was saved and the match ended goalless.

Result: Saltdean United 0-0 East Preston
Division: Southern Combination League Division One
Attendance: 43

Friday, 23 December 2016

2016 Stadium #23 - Bonnymead Park

Date: 15th November 2016
Stadium: Bonnymead Park
Location: Amesbury, Wiltshire

My twenty-third stadium of 2016 was on Tuesday 15th November at Bonnymead Park in Amesbury, Wiltshire. The match was Amesbury Town vs. Sholing in the Wessex League Premier Division.

Bonnymead Park lies to the west of Amesbury in a rural setting. The football stadium is part of a recreation ground which also contains a skate park, basketball court, playground and a large grass area. The closest railway stations to the venue are Grateley or Salisbury, both of which are around 8 miles away.

The northern end of the ground has a flat standing area directly behind the goal with a grass bank extending up from this area. There are then a couple of standing areas at the top and a park bench for seating. The clubhouse is in the north-east corner and as well as housing a small bar also contains the players and officials dressing rooms. This has a roof extending out to form a canopy providing a decent covered viewing area.

The only stand in Bonnymead Park is level with the half-way line on the eastern side of the park. This small stand has 4 rows of wooden benches and the two dugouts are placed either side of it. The remainder of this side as well as the whole of the western and south sections of Bonnymead Park are given over to uncovered standing.

Sholing thought they had taken the lead in the 12th minute when Jamie Bulpitt went through on goal and brushed off defender but just as he was stroking the ball past the keeper the ref stopped play for his foul on the defender and disallowed the effort. The visitors did not have to wait much longer to have a goal recognised though - in the 19th minute Zac Mouland did well to cut in from the right wing and his drilled shot took a deflection to take the ball away from keeper and into the bottom corner. Just before the half-hour mark Amesbury could've pulled level when Curtis Angell had a shot cleared off the line from a corner. As it turned out this was the high point of the match from Amesbury as Sholing dominated from this point onwards. They had another goal disallowed in the 30th minute when a long ball found Lee Wort who rounded the keeper and netted only to see the flag go up for offside. Wort was disappointed for barely a minute though as from the restart Byron Mason broke into the box and though his shot was saved Wort was able to tuck the rebound into the empty net. Amesbury were under real pressure and 60 seconds after this they headed the ball off the line from a Sholing corner. The hosts stablised enough to keep the score down to two at the break. In the 53rd minute Sholing went 3-0 up after a Amesbury defender completely missed the ball when trying to clear it allowing Dan Mason to slot in from two yards out. Sholing had another header cleared off the line in the 63rd minute but a couple of minutes after this they went 4-0 up when the ball was crossed in from the right and Byron Mason's shot squeezed past the keeper and over the line. The 5th goal occurred in the 83rd minute and was a bizarre one stemming from the linesman flagging for a foul. Amesbury reacted to this by stopping but the referee had not blown his whistle so Sholing too advantage and swung the ball into the box for Lee Wort to head into an empty net. An emphatic win was rounded off in the final minute of the ninety when a Sholing counter attack saw the ball crossed from the right and Nick Yeomans was able to get in front of his man to steer home.

Result: Amesbury Town 0-6 Sholing
Division: Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 30