Saturday, 9 December 2017



I was quite lucky that I managed to get to a game today after the heavy snow that had battered my particular part of the country over the previous 24 hours. Despite it being bitterly cold there were no issues with the pitch, or indeed the motorway network, as I made my way south to Northamptonshire.

Kettering Town were hosting Stratford Town at Latimer Park, in the town of Burton Latimer. If you didn't know, Burton Latimer is the home of Weetabix, with the famous breakfast cereal having been produced there since 1932. You certainly got the smell of the wheat wafting over the football ground!

It has been a difficult last few years for Kettering Town. In 2011 they left their home of 114 years, Rockingham Road (which was demolished earlier this year) and moved to Nene Park, the former home of Rushden and Diamonds. The upkeep of the ground nearly cost the club their mere existence. The club did go into administration and dropped two divisions from the Conference National, of which they were founding members in 1979, into the Southern League.

In 2012, in mid-season, the club moved from Nene Park to Steel Park, the home of Corby Town before agreeing a groundshare with Burton Park Wanderers at Latimer Park. This has been 'home' since 2013, the year in which Kettering dropped another level to the Southern League Central Division, though the club were promoted back to the Southern Premier in 2015 as Champions.

Latimer Park has been home to Burton Park Wanderers since 1973. Last year Kettering Town agreed a 25 year lease to remain at the ground but are actively seeking a site within the town that would be suitable for a new stadium. Kettering had to bring the ground up to Southern League standards, with the addition of new stands to the ground.

Despite it being a groundshare, when I arrived at Latimer Park I got the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that Kettering were the more senior partners. For example, the signage around the ground, the posters in the clubhouse and even the stands themselves all gave me the impression that this was definitely Kettering's ground.

The Poppies made the breakthrough after just 4 minutes thanks to a somewhat controversial goal from Matthew Stevens. A corner from the right was curled into the box and there was a coming together between Stratford's 'keeper Louis Connor and Stevens. The ball and Connor ended up in the back of the net. In this day and age you would expect a referee to disallow such an effort but the goal stood and Kettering were on their way.

As Stratford failed to trouble the Kettering back line, apart from the odd free-kick, Kettering applied plenty of pressure but couldn't find that second goal. They thought they did in first half stoppage time when Rene Howe headed home but the referee disallowed it for (what was presumed to be a push) by the striker. Maybe he was was righting the wrong of the first goal?

The second half continued in a similar vein and as the game went on there was a feeling Stratford will get a big chance to level things. It never came. After Kettering's Tom Marshall had a goal disallowed for offside, the Poppies finally killed off the visitors stubborn resistance when Howe scored a fine individual goal with a couple of minutes remaining.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

KINGS LANGLEY (Gaywood Park)


For today's action I headed down the M1 to Hertfordshire for the Southern Premier League's "battle of the kings" as Kings Langley hosted league leaders King's Langley. Kings are now in their second season at Step 3 after gaining promotion in 2016.

When I initially planned this trip (as a stop off point en-route to Everton's capitulation at Southampton) it was supposed to be a Hertfordshire derby versus Royston Town, but their involvement in the FA Trophy meant a hastily re-arranged league game. Thank goodness for that! 

The club are based at Gaywood Park, which has been their home since 1997 after the spent nearly two decades ground sharing at various clubs after their original ground, Home Park, was sold off for housing development in 1980. 

The ground was named after Graham Gaywood, a well-known benefactor of the club who died soon after the stadium's completion.  The ground is also used by Watford Ladies, so there are plenty of images of the Hornets badge dotted around the ground.

This season the ground has been renamed the CRY Community Stadium in tribute to Cardiac Risk in the Young. The club launched a marketing campaign to give local businesses the chance to pay £1,000 for a ticket to enter a draw for naming rights at the stadium. Clement Estate agents won and decided on the name in tribute to Dale Tennent-Butler, the son of a supporter who died from cardiac arrest while playing football in 2007, aged 18.

The past few years have been heady days for Kings Langley as they achieved three successive promotions taking the club from the Spartans South Midlands League Division One to the Southern Premier League.

The ground has been brought up to the required standards necessary. There are two pre-fab stands, one along the side of the pitch and a small seated one behind the goal.

There is a large seated stand on the other side of the pitch, which was built by supporters with the blue and red seats coming from Nene Park, Rushden & Diamonds now demolished old ground. Today the club was re-opening the clubhouse after refurbishment. There were some excellent Jolly Boys Brewery beers on tap this afternoon which went down a treat!  

The game ended goalless as the home side defended resolutely against the King's Lynn attack. Despite enjoying most the possession the Linnets rarely troubled Martin Bennett in the Kings Langley goal. Michael Gash had an effort hit the post in the first half but that was as close as there was to a goal in opening 45 minutes.

It was more of the same in the second half as King's Lynn pressed forward but they could not find that elusive goal. With a few minutes remaining Josh Coldicott–Stevens could have won the game for the home side when he dispossessed Linnets goalkeeper Alex Street, who was outside his area attempting to clear a long ball, but the Kings Langley man failed to hit the open goal, the ball drifting agonisingly wide.

There was still time for one more chance for the visitors but Bennett produced a superb fingertip save to deny Ryan Hawkins, whose effort appeared destined for the top corner. In my opinion a draw was a fair result and, despite the lack of goals, an enjoyable afternoon's entertainment. 

Saturday, 11 November 2017



When the draw for the second round of the Vase was made, this was the tie that immediately leaped off the page as far as I was concerned - a clash between two teams from two of my favourite leagues as Northern League Ryhope Colliery Welfare were drawn at home to North West Counties League City of Liverpool FC.

Ryhope is a village that forms part of the city of Sunderland. Like most places in the area, the village was a mining village until the 1960's, when the pit was closed, and the football club was founded in 1892 by miners from the local colliery.

The football club has spent most of its history playing in the Wearside League but in 2012, after winning four competitions the Wearside League Title, Sunderland Shipowners Cup, Monkwearmouth Charity Cup and League Cup, a repeat of the previous season no less, the club accepted promotion to the Northern League.

Ryhope's fine form continued and the club finished runners up in Division Two, behind Crook Town, but instead of promotion to division one the club were relegated back to the Wearside League due to ground grading rules.

After bringing their Recreation Park up to the necessary requirements, including the extension of  the club’s changing rooms and separate referee facilities and public toilets, club returned to the Northern League in 2014 and won promotion to the top flight in 2016.

The official attendance for the game was 245 and I would say at least three quarters of the crowd had travelled up from Merseyside. They certainly made their presence felt with plenty of noise and colour. It certainly helped create an atmosphere in the ground. As well as getting behind their team there were some very interesting songs about a former British Prime Minister of the 1980's!

It was the Purps who dominated the opening stages as they launched wave after wave of attacks, but in truth they never truly tested Jonathan Ball in the Ryhope goal. The closest City of Liverpool came to breaking the deadlock was through a header from Daniel Dalton which came back off the underside of the crossbar.

Ryhope played themselves into the game and were finally getting forward however after 42 minutes City of Liverpool scored. After good work down the right, the ball was played into Joseph Camozzi in the area and with quick feet he managed to control the ball with his left foot and prod it past the 'keeper with his right. On the balance of the first half it was no more than The Purps deserved.

The second half was just six minutes old when a long ball was played into the path of Karl Noon and, after the ball was allowed to bounce, the midfielder struck a superb volley into the bottom corner of the net from around 20 yards out. A tremendous finish.

That wasn't the end of the quality goals though as Ryhope got themselves back in the game after 62 minutes thanks to a volley from Thomas Bott, which from a similar range out swerved and dipped over Karl Wills in the Purps goal.

This strike came after City of Liverpool had two glorious chances to wrap the tie up. The first when Elliott Nevitt burst through one-on-one but his effort was saved by the advancing Ball. Then soon after Nevitt burst through again but opted to square the ball to Noon rather than shoot and the chance was missed by the midfielder.

The game was more open in the latter stages of the second half as fatigue set in and it became end-to-end as a result. Ryhope piled on the pressure as the game drew to it's conclusion but despite six minutes of stoppage time they could not find an equaliser. It was City of Liverpool who won through and they will face another journey to the North East in December when they travel to Stockton Town in the 3rd round.