GROUND LIST

Saturday, 11 September 2021

SELSTON FC (Parish Hall Ground)

FA VASE 1st QUALIFYING ROUND, SELSTON 2-1 BARROW TOWN, ATT: 122

After my initial plan of York City vs Hereford fell victim to an outbreak of Covid-19 in the away camp, the finger of fate led me to Nottinghamshire for an all United Counties League FA Vase tie between Selston and Barrow Town.

Selston is a former mining village 13  miles north of Nottingham. Selston Football Club was formed in 1968 as a Sunday league club before moving into the senior game in 1986 when they joined the Central Midlands League. They moved to the Midlands Regional Alliance in 1992 but rejoined the Central Midlands in 1997. They won promotion to the Supreme Division in 1999 but were relegated back to the Premier in 2002.

The first team went into abeyance for three seasons, as the club concentrated on its youth set-up, but returned in 2006 to re-join the Midland Regional Alliance, winning the Division Two title in 2008 before moving to the Nottinghamshire Senior League in 2011. In 2015 they rejoined the Central Midlands League, winning the South Division title in 2016 and again 2017, and they were then promoted to the East Midlands Counties League.

After the restructuring of the non-league pyramid in 2021 they were transferred across to the Premier Division North of the United Counties League.



Selston play their home games at the Parish Hall Ground in the centre of the village. The ground is three sided, as it is shared with the local cricket team.

This Vase tie was an entertaining game to watch. Barrow will probably be wondering how this game got away, but it proved the old adage that it's not how you start it's how you finish. 

The Riversiders were much the better team in the first half and, after taking an early lead when Nick Reeves (8) headed home from a corner, they failed to capitalise on their advantage. 

Selston equalised somewhat against the run of play after 19 minutes, when Lucas Brough broke clear but his effort was saved by Randall but the rebound fell to George Layton who fired home, despite the Randall recovering to get a hand on the ball. Even at 1-1 the visitors still looked the more likely as their two wingers were causing all sorts of problems for the Selston defence.

In the second period Selston nullified these threats and, after taking the lead on 65 minutes, when Layton drilled home his second of the afternoon, they were quite comfortable in seeing the game out as Barrow simply ran out of ideas.

An enjoyable game to watch on a pleasant afternoon in Nottinghamshire.









Saturday, 4 September 2021

SUNDERLAND RCA (Meadow Park)

FA CUP 1st QUALIFYING ROUND, SUNDERLAND RCA 2-4 STOCKTON TOWN, ATTENDANCE: 324

There were plenty of choices on offer today but I could not resist the lure of an FA Cup tie. After much deliberation, I decided to head to the North East for the match up between Sunderland RCA (of the Northern League) and Stockton Town (recently promoted to the Northern Premier League).

Sunderland RCA are based in the Ryhope area of the city and their full name is Sunderland Ryhope Community Association. The club was founded in 1963 and competed in local league's until the mid 1970's when the club folded after entry to the Wearside League was refused, as there was already a team called Ryhope competing in it.

The club reformed in 1978 and joined the Northern Alliance before becoming founding members of the Northern League Division Two in 1982. At this point the club were now playing at their own ground, Meadow Park, which is currently known as Sunderland LGV Park for sponsorship purposes. The Sunderland prefix was added in 2006 when the club joined forces with Springboard Sunderland and in 2010 they were promoted to the Northern League Division One.




It was a wise decision to head here to today as I witnessed an absolutely brilliant FA Cup tie.

The home side were fastest out the blocks and had a couple of efforts blocked within the first minute and had a couple of good chances after that but, against the run of the early play, Stockton took the lead when Kevin Hayes (14) scored from a free kick (pictured left). The visitors controlled the play after this and were 2-0 up after 22 minute, a superb flowing move culminating in the ball been played out wide for Mikey Roberts to run onto and fire into the bottom corner of the net.

Stockton nearly made it three but a quick counter resulted in Sunderland's Michael Annang-Colquhoun scrambling home after 28 minutes. This clearly lifted the home side and on 36 minutes they were level, Simon Jakab heading home.

There were chances for both teams before the break, Sunderland coming the closest when Mark Davison hit the crossbar in stoppage time.

After such an open first half the second half was always going to be a little more cagier but it was Stockton who always seemed to have the slight edge. It wasn't until 20 minutes from time that they finally pulled away when Hayes scored his second, via a slight deflection of a defenders heel (pictured right) and then substitute Nathan Steel wrapped the tie up with six minutes to go. 

A fantastic advert for the FA Cup and reaffirmed my belief that it is still the best Cup competition in the world. Stockton will now travel to Curzon Ashton in the next round, which should be another intriguing encounter.







Monday, 30 August 2021

STICK AROUND FOR JOY (Iceland)

A weekend of football in Reykjavik

Nearly 20 months after my last European football awayday, I was convinced by a friend to head off to Iśland for a few days in Reykjavik, the main selling point being a minimum of 4 games to enjoy.

At the time, Iceland was on the so-called green list so that meant we could fly in without the need for quarantine, provided we had the necessary documentation to travel such as proof of vaccination and a certificate to show we didn't have Covid-19 in the 72 hours prior to our departure.

The journey was straightforward, a 2hr 45m flight from Stansted to Keflavik Airport, followed by an hours bus journey into town. It was here that the first beers of the weekend were consumed and, yes, the beers were not cheap!

Tickets for all games in Iceland can be purchased easily via the Stubbor app and you show this in order to gain access to the ground. All very straightforward, with prices varying between £8 and £12.

The first game of the weekend took place 7 miles outside Reykjavik in the suburb of Breiðholt;

1800 Friday 27th August 2021
2.Deild Karla
Íþróttafélag Reykjavíkur 4
Knattspyrnufélagið Kári 1
Att: 74 (h/c)

My first ever dip into Icelandic football was a third tier game between IR and Kári. I had spent the day doing the 'Golden Circle' tour so by the time the coach arrived back in the city, time was very tight. It meant taking a £30 taxi ride to the Hertz Völlurinn in order to make kick off.

The ground is part of a complex which currently undergoing redevelopment. The game was taking place on a caged 3G pitch, which is the designated home ground for this season, and is adjacent to the grass pitch that was used previously. There is no furniture at the 3G pitch so the crowd were stood pitchside.

IR is part of the sports club founded in 1907 but the football department was not founded until 1939 and it was a further five years before a senior team took part in a national competition. The club has spent most of it's history in the lower tiers of Icelandic football, though it did reach the top flight in 1998, but were relegated on the final day of the season.

IR are currently mid table in the 2.Deild and tonight were facing bottom club Kári. Goals from Petur Fridriksson (27 & 35) Reynir Haraldsson (64) and Bergvin Helgason (90) gave the home side what seemed a comfortable victory but it was plain to see that Kári's problems are converting their chances. The visitors did create some very good opportunities but Gardar Gunnlaugsson's (87) effort was the only one to hit the net. During the game a distinct North East accent could be heard on the pitch and it belonged to IR's ex-Sunderland and England U20 player Rees Greenwood.

Post match it was a far cheaper bus journey back into Reykjavik city centre for a few night caps. Under the Covid restrictions most bars were winding down around 11pm so I was actually back in my hotel before midnight. Still managed a few drinks though and, yes, the beers were not cheap!






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1400 Saturday 28th August 2021
1.Deild Karla
Knattspyrnufélagið Fram 2
Íþróttafélagið Grótta 1
Att: 159 (34 away)

For the first part of Saturday's double header I made my way to the Fram Völlur, where Fram Reykjavik are currently playing their home games. Located in Safamýri, it is actually Fram's training complex. Fram previously used the national stadium, Laugardalsvöllur, for home games but are in the process of building their own stadium in the east of Reykjavik.

Founded in 1908, Fram are Icelandic football's third most successful club with 18 top flight titles to their name. There most recent success was in 1990, which was their third title in five years, however the club were relegated in 2014 and have remained there since, but that exile is about to come to an end as the club secured promotion back to the Urvalsdeid last weekend and look likely to wrap up the title in the next couple of weeks.

A victory today would help massively but they did it the hard way. Thorir Gudjonsson (7) gave Fram an early lead but they were reduced to 10 men after 27 minutes when Gunnar Gunnarsson received a straight red for a studs up challenge.

Grotta equalised on 69 minutes through Gabriel Eyjólfsson and it seemed that could be that for 10 men Fram. As all good sides do, the home side managed to find a winner and it was Haraldur Ásgrímsson who scored with nine minutes remaining to ensure Fram remain on course for the 1.Deild Championship.

The Fram Völlur consists of an open seated stand down one side of the ground. Luckily the rain held off but it was a bit chilly which necessitated heading back to town to get warmed up in one of the local craft ale bars and, yes, the beers were not cheap!








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1915 Saturday 28th August 2021
Úrvalsdeild Karla
Knattspyrnufélagið Valur 1
Stjarnan FC 2
Att: 250 (est)

For my second game of the day, I made my across the city to the Hlíðarendi for some top flight action as the current champions of Iceland, Valur FC, took on Stjarnan FC.

For sponsorship purposes the ground is currently called the Origovöllurinn and was completely rebuilt between 2004 and 2007. Like most grounds in Iceland it consists of one large stand along the touchline. The stadium was very easy to find as it is not far from the main bus station, which was where we first arrived from the airport.

Founded in 1911, Valur are Icelandic football's second most successful club with 23 top flight titles to their name. Athey look to defend their 2020 title, before tonight's game Valur were two points behind leaders Breiðablik, plus they still have to travel to Kópavogur. Victory was imperative.

However mid-table Stjarnan pulled off a 'smash and grab' win thanks to goals from Elís Björnsson in first half stoppage time and Björn Berg Bryde six minutes from time, both from set-pieces.

Inbetween, Tryggvi Haraldsson equalised for Valur on the hour but, with Breiðablik winning 7-0, it seems that they may have to settle for a European place this season.

Post match it was an easy 20 minute stroll back into the city centre, where post match analysis took place in various drinking establishments. Plenty of ale was sunk and, yes, the beers were not cheap!






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1700 Sunday 29th August 2021
Úrvalsdeild Karla
Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur 2
Íþróttafélagið Leiknir 1
Att: 350 (est)

The final game of my weekend was the one I had been looking forward to the most purely because it was a name that resonated with me, Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur better known as KR.

In September 1995, my beloved Everton played KR in the 1st round of the European Cup Winners Cup and just about scraped a 3-2 win in Reykjavik. Sadly I was unable to make the trip to Iceland to cheer on The Toffees as I was a skint student at the time. Today was the opportunity to right that wrong!

The Meistaravellir or KR-Völlur is an easy 20 minute walk from Reykjavik city centre and has been home to KR since 1984.

Founded in 1899, KR are Icelandic football's oldest and most successful club with 27 top flight titles to their name, including the inaugural championship in 1912. KR were the first Icelandic team to play in the European Cup in 1964, where they lost 11-1 on aggregate in the preliminary round to an English team that play in red.

KR still have a chance of European qualification this season so it was a necessary victory this afternoon. Leiknir were the visitors for this Reykjavik derby and, in a largely drab first period, they had the more clear cut chances.

Leiknir eventually made the breakthrough after 66 minutes when Daníel Matthíasson fired home. This was the proverbial kick up the backside KR needed and were level five minutes later when substitute Kristinn Jónsson scored. It was Jónsson at the double with three minutes to go when he was on hand to blast home a winner to send the KR fans into raptures. The result ensures KR remain in the hunt for a European spot for next season. I would love a revisit with Everton!







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So that was my first experience of Iceland and Icelandic football. I have to say it was throughly enjoyable. The standard of football was decent, the clubs were very welcoming and incredibly helpful to assist with any of my queries. Most people spoke English and it was great to engage with supporters. Reykjavik is a pretty compact city and most of the grounds are easy to get to on foot or by bus. I would certainly recommend a trip here and I will definitely return one day.

Finally, to the question I've been asked the most on my return home - Was the beer really that expensive? Let me think...

Þakka þér fyrir!