Saturday, 22 April 2017

WEST HAM UNITED (London Stadium)


Today I made my way to that there London and my first taste of West Ham United's new home at the London Stadium (née Olympic Stadium). As it was my first ever first visit to E20 I thought I would add my two penneth worth by doing a brief write up on my day out.

This is The Hammers' debut season at their new surroundings after leaving their beloved, and intimidating, Boleyn Ground after 112 years at the end of the 2015/16 season.

I made my way to Stratford, from Euston via underground to Highbury & Islington then overground to Hackney Wick. The ground is a fifteen minute walk from here but, naturally, I went via the excellent Howling Hops Tank Bar and it's equally good next door neighbour, The Crate Brewery.

The London Stadium was built as the centre piece for the 2012 London Olympic Games and was obviously designed primarily as an athletics venue. Part of the post games legacy was the use for future events, with the stadium being converted into a multi-purpose stadium capable of hosting football, athletics and other non-sporting events. 

There was a bidding process to become the tenants of the London Stadium and West Ham were awarded, controversially in some eyes, a 99 year lease. The official capacity for football is around 60,000 (down from the original 80,000 capacity) but the club have currently capped this at around 57,000, of which approx 50,000 are season ticket holders. 

From the outside the ground is aesthetically pleasing and inside the views are unobstructed, there is plenty of legroom in the seats and the facilities are decent (even if they did run out of pies at half time).

However with the stadium still being an athletics venue, this has meant the installation of retractable seats to cover over the running track, this has created a huge gap between the supporters in the lower tier and those in the upper tier.

Today I was in the upper tier behind the goal, close to the back of the stand, and it felt like I was miles away from the action. My eyes are not the best anyhow so it was not a good match watching experience at all. Also with that aforementioned gap, the atmosphere was seriously affected, not that there was much to excite. 

The game was utter, utter dross. The Toffees did not register a shot on target in the entire 90 minutes. West Ham did create a few half chances, so they will probably more disappointed with the draw, but the match was not a good advert for the so called best league in Europe.

Post match I was directed towards Stratford station and, despite my best attempts to find the Tap East which is somewhere in the adjacent Westfield Shopping Centre, I soon made my way back Euston for a couple of more beers (in the Euston Tap and Bree Louise) before catching my train home.

Overall an enjoyable day in the capital, from a social perspective, but from a from football point of view I didn't think much of the ground as a viewing spectator. Hopefully any future developments may improve things.

If I was a West Ham fan though I would feel very disappointed having left the Boleyn Ground for this place but that's modern football I suppose and I would imagine I am in the minority. I won't, however, be in any rush to revisit the London Stadium.


Monday, 17 April 2017

TIDESWELL UNITED (Tideswell Sports Complex)


For my Easter Monday football fix I decided to stay a little closer to home (anywhere under 100 miles is closer to home these days) and head into the Peak District for arguably the Central Midlands League's match of the day.

Fourth placed Tideswell United were hosting league leaders Clay Cross Town with, starting today, the visitors needing just four points from their final three league matches to wrap up the title and promotion to the Northern Counties East League.

Tideswell is a village in the Derbyshire Peak District with a population of less than 2,000. The nearest major town is Buxton, where incidentally we stopped en-route for some liquid refreshment at the superb Ale Stop.

Tideswell United play their home games at the Tideswell Sports Complex, which is located on the grounds of Bishop Pursglove. The ground is superb for this level of football. You never know what to expect at a step 7 ground but the pitch is railed off, has a small covered stand and floodlights. There is also an elevated viewing area behind one of goals which gives a great view of the action and also the surrounding dales. The welcome from the club officials was also warm and friendly. Throw in the admission for the bargain price of £2 and what's not to like? 

This is Tideswell's debut season at step 7 having joined the Central Midlands League from the Hope Valley League in 2016. The club have had no trouble adapting to the higher league and look set for a top half finish.

The game this afternoon lived up to it's top billing with both teams producing a very entertaining game of football, with both teams getting the ball down and trying to play. The the visitors from Clay Cross though showed their credentials and just had enough to see off a spirited Tideswell side.

The game was end-to-end but it was Ant Lynam who broke the deadlock after 26 minutes to give Clay Cross the lead, when his low drive from the edge of the box found the bottom corner of the net (pictured below).

Goal! 1-0.

Tideswell had chances to level but it was Clay Cross who doubled their advantage after 58 minutes when the ball was finally fired home by Lee Clay, after initial efforts were saved. The home side set up a grandstand finish when substitute Daniel Hopkins drove home a tremendous dipping volley after 85 minutes but Lynam's second goal, in stoppage time, secured a vital three points for The Millers and put them within touching distance of that league title.

An enjoyable afternoon out and a visit to Tideswell United comes highly recommended.

Friday, 14 April 2017



For the next part of my Good Friday double I headed from Biggleswade to Essex where Witham Town were hosting Brightlingsea Regent in a Friday night bonanza at Spa Road. The club were certainly rewarded as a bumper crowd came through the gates.

The club was originally formed in 1876 but disbanded in 1938 and the club that is in existence today was "reformed" in 1948, hence the presence of a phoenix on the club badge. The club were founder members of the Essex Senior League in 1970 and were the inaugural champions. The club set up base at Spa Road in 1975 as they continued to progress.

The club joined the Isthmian League in the mid 1980's and, apart from a short spell back in the Essex Senior League in the mid-noughties, have been members since. The highest level the club have reached was the Isthmian Premier in 2014 but they only lasted one season at that level. The club are now back in Division One North.

The club can count pop star Olly Murs as one of it's former players, along with Cody McDonald who starred, amongst others, for Norwich City and Gillingham.

After the results of last weekend, there was nothing but pride resting on this game as Brightlingsea clinched the championship with three games to spare.  The travelling Regent fans were certainly in a party mood as the beer flowed and they conga'd around the terraces.

There was nothing between the teams in a tepid opening first 45 minutes but the game swung in Regent's favour during a crazy spell midway in the second half. Witham goalkeeper Reece Paine, who had made some decent saves up until this point, dropped a couple of clangers to hand the initiative to the Champions.

On 60 minutes Billy Hunt lobbed Paine from 35 yards to give Regent the lead. Two minutes Paine attempted to dribble the ball out but got dispossessed by Aaron Condon and his cross was headed home by Tom Richardson. Condon then scored from a free kick on 65 minutes and that was game over.

Brightlingsea could have easily added more goals as they pressed forward but it wasn't until late on that Condon (88) and George Doyle (90) ensured Regent went nap. The players were then happy to join the party with their supporters.



The first leg of my Good Friday led me cross country to Bedfordshire where Biggleswade Town were hosting Leamington in a Southern League encounter.

As the business end of the season fast approaches, the only thing riding on this encounter was a mathematical chance of Leamington winning the title. However, at the start of play, The Brakes were 8 points behind leaders Chippenham Town with three games left to play. However, clinching runners up spot would guarantee Leamington home advantage in the play-offs.

Biggleswade's play off hopes faded around February/March time with a run of one win in seven games. The side have recovered well after this run, winning five games out of six, but are currently in 9th position, 13 points adrift of 5th placed Merthyr. 

It looks like another season of consolidation for Biggleswade after they were promoted to the Southern Premier League in 2013 after defeating Rugby Town in the play-off final. The club joined the Southern League in 2009 after winning the Spartan South Midlands League title.

This championship coincided with The Waders first season at the Carlsberg Stadium. The club had left their previous home, Fairfield Road, in 2006. The ground, on Langford Road, has been known as the Carlsberg Stadium since it was built and has a capacity of 3,000.

It is another fine example of a modern non-league football ground with a large seated main stand and a couple of additional pre-fab terraces. It was on the terrace behind the goal that the 'Green Army' congregated in the first half and they certainly made themselves heard!

The home side had a couple of early chances, and the better of possession, but the match had an end of season feel to it with neither side really troubling the respective 'keepers. However, in the 35th minute, The Waders took the lead when Connor Hall was on hand to prod the ball home, at the second attempt, after his initial effort was saved by Tony Breedon (pictured below left). It was probably no more than they deserved.

 The second half was just four minutes old when a corner was whipped into the six yard box and Tony Burnett was on hand to flick the ball into the back of the net (pictured below).

This was effectively game over. Leamington did their best to try and get themselves back into the game but they found it difficult to get past a resolute Biggleswade defence. This result continued The Waders fine recent form and no doubt also sparked scenes of celebration down in Chippenham, as they were confirmed as Champions.