Tales from Maidenhead and Stockport

It’s been a while since my last blog and four matches have passed. So I’ll just do a brief round-up.

Firstly, Maidenhead. Having beaten Kidderminster, my Quest team were the once mighty Stockport County. They headed south for a match against the Magpies in Theresa May’s homeland. Imagine that – a couple of bus loads of Corbynites invading May’s constituency. And they were in good voice too, both before the game in the pub and at the ground.

Maidenhead, who play in the National League, a level above County, have an odd setup. The ground has one seated stand directly below the main line between Paddington and Wales. It’s in here which I plonk myself for the first half. The other three sides are standing. The opposite side to the seated stand is not really a stand. It’s just an uneven bit of concrete with an indoor five-a-side footy pitch situated at one end and a bar at the other. It’s an old-fashioned bar, much different from the rather plush little shack on the other side. I don’t know what the away fans get in terms of refreshments as that area is segregated. Good job too, as both sets of fans – separated only by a metal fence – trade insults throughout. Also if you’re a rail enthusiast, it’s a great ground for train spotting as trains rattle past that main stand.

On the pitch, a very wet pitch due to the persistent drizzle, County take the lead in the first half only to be pegged back in the second. It was an entertaining game which the home side almost nicked but alas, it ended 1-1, so back to Edgeley Park on a Tuesday night it is.

Except, it wasn’t. The forecast on that Tuesday was for snow, and anyone who’s driven through Buxton in the snow – as I had for the County v Kiddy replay – will know it is not a pleasant driving experience. So, couple the inclement weather with childcare issues, I stayed at home and followed the game on Twitter. Missed a humdinger though. Maidenhead squandered a 2-0 lead only to lose 3-2 after extra time.

Next up is another trip to Stockport, this time without the worry of snow. Their opponents were Brackley, a team from the same league, and a team which I followed on my FA Cup Quest two years ago.

After a pre-match beer in the local Sir Robert Peel pub, a stone’s through from the ground, I decided to sit in the Danny Bergara stand which is pitch side, having been situated behind the goal for the Kiddy game.

Despite the sunshine, it was bitter, and the first half was probably the worst 45 minutes of football I’ve witnessed in a good while. And I’m a Forest fan!

Thankfully after the break things perked up and County fell behind as Ndluvu poked home to give Brackley the lead.

But the home side were soon level, when Ball nodded in a leveller. And that was that; another draw. Back to Brackley on a Tuesday night? Well no actually. I had it all planned. Babysitter booked, leave work a little bit early, get to Brackley in plenty of time for a pint in the pub. Alas, I fell ill, and had to once again rely on Twitter for my Quest fix.

Brackley ran out 2-1 winners and so it’s them whom I follow into the semi-final against Wealdstone on Saturday. Will I meet the Wealdstone Raider? Dunno, but I shall be going back to a ground which I visited three times in 2015-16 on my FA Cup run so it’s a ground I know well. And another plus point: at least there will be no more awkward sodding replays!

To Brackley, (again).

Pics from Maidenhead

Pics from Stockport




Stockport Take Two Attempts to Beat Kiddy

Second Round

Kidderminster 2 – 2 Stockport County

Replay: Stockport 3 – 0 Kidderminster

In the original fixture of this cup tie, Stockport will have been left scratching their heads as to what happened in the last 13 minutes to deny them their place in Round Three. Seemingly comfortable at 2-0, courtesy of a glancing first half header from Jason Oswell and a well-taken second from Darren Stephenson either side of a missed penalty from their hosts, it looked like they were coasting. But Kiddy had other ideas. From nowhere, they found an extra gear, and when Fraser Horsfall reduced arrears with 13 minutes left to play, it was game on.

Emmanel ‘Snoopy’ Sonupe, who had seen his earlier penalty saved, then restored parity with 10 to play as he latched onto a through ball and confidently slotted home the leveller.

There was even more drama late on. With just four minutes left, Fraser Horsfall was shown his second yellow card of the day and duly dismissed, and then they were denied the comeback of all comebacks when Stockport’s ‘keeper Ian Ormson not only kept out Liam Truslove’s driven attempt, but also blocked James O’Connor’s headed follow up to deny Kiddy a 3-2 win. That was the last action, so all back to Edgeley Park on the following Tuesday.

I can’t talk about Edgeley Park before mentioning (again) the food at Aggborough. Having tasted their famous soup in the last round, I opted for their famous Cottage Pie this time. And I tell you what, that is some meal. Loads of mash and meat and a thick gravy. Delicious. I suggest anyone paying Aggborough a visit tries the excellent matchday food.

Anyway, to Edgeley Park then, once the answer to the question: “What football league ground is closest to the River Mersey?”. Yup, back in the days when they enjoyed football league status, it was neither Goodison or Anfield that was closest but Stockport’s home, as the river snakes close by.

Getting to Stockport proved tricky. The forecast was for snow, and as I had to travel via Buxton – a Derbyshire town in which snow falls even in the summer months due to its height above sea level in the High peak – I was always going to hit the white stuff. At one point along the A6, between Buxton and Dove Holes, the snow came down heavy, and visions of my disastrous journey back from Manchester on my FA Cup run last season (in which my car skid out of control on a snowy hill near Glossop) came to mind. But I got through it, thankfully, and arrived with time to spare for a pint in the Sir Robert Peel pub, a stone’s throw from the ground. But to say it was freezing cold is an understatement. It was Baltic, with snow flurries greeting me and sporadic throughout the game.

The last time I was at Edgeley Park I saw my team, Forest, romp to a 4-0 victory en route to their promotion from the Championship to the Premier League back in 1997-98. Both Forest and Stockport have endured hard times since then, with The Hatters suffering a much worse fate, losing their league status and now sitting two tiers below League Two.

However, they can at least look forward to the FA Trophy Third Round, and dream of a trip to Wembley perhaps, courtesy of a 3-0 win in the replay. But it was far from as convincing as 3-0 suggests. In fact, Kiddy outplayed them for the most part, and if their players had had their shooting boots on, the scoreline and outcome would have been different. Harriers created a host of chances, 12 in all, all wasted, with shots not even testing keeper Ormson. And they were made to pay on 25 minutes when birthday boy Rhys Turner did well to keep the ball under control on a shimmying run before hammering it past the Harriers ‘keeper from close range.

Even after the break, the visitors dominated, and created more opportunities. But it wasn’t to be, and with a quarter of an hour left to play, a driven attempt from Ben McKenna deflected in before an injury time penalty, converted by Bohan Dixon, made the scoreline appear extremely harsh on Harriers.

But Stockport had finished the job they had failed to complete on Saturday, and it’s them whom I follow to Maidenhead tomorrow.

Images from Kidderminster

Images from Stockport

Harriers Taste Victory Over Holders York

First Round

Kidderminster Harriers 2 – 1 York City

First things first: the food at Kidderminster’s Aggborough stadium is outstanding.

The usual footy fayre is of course burgers, hot dogs, pasties et al, and all those are available if you like tradition. But at Aggborough, they also go way beyond that. Trays of chilli, award-winning cottage pie, the famous Aggborough soup… it’s worth visiting for its culinary delights alone.

I chose the Aggborough soup, having read about it online, and being intrigued to discover just why it’s so famous. Now I know this is beginning to read more like a foody blog than a footy blog, but it’s worth mentioning as part of the overall match day experience. It has a flavour which I couldn’t nail down; a spicy, warming element to its thin broth before the onslaught of meat, veg, potatoes and pasta awaits you at the bottom of your cup, which requires the spoon you’re provided with. Superb stuff. I think I’ll try the famous cottage pie when I return in January for the 2nd Round tie with Stockport.

And that brings me back to the footy.

Kiddy beat my FA Trophy Quest team – and the current FA Trophy holders – York City in the tournament’s first round, with two quick-fire goals from James Pearson and Emmanuel Sonupe in the 35th and 36th minutes respectively. Pearson’s goal was a simple affair – the defender following up on Ryan Crossdale’s saved shot. The second, however, had a stroke of good fortune about it. Sonupe raced onto a through ball and pulled the trigger at the same time as he was tackled by a City defender. But he got the rub of the green as the ball was diverted goalwards beyond the onrushing keeper.

York made a game of it when Amari Morgan-Smith curled a superb effort beyond Harrier’s keeper Brandon Hall from wide of the penalty area right into the corner with around 10 minutes to play.

That goal set up a frantic finish, and York will be wondering just how they failed to secure a replay, as Jon Parkin’s half volley was tipped over the bar in one of many City attempts to take the tie back to Bootham Crescent.

But alas, they couldn’t force their way past the Kiddy defence so it’s Harriers whom I follow into round 2.

Stockport County are the visitors next, another team from the same league. So it should be another even affair.

I’ll report back on just how good that famous cottage pie is.

Pics from the game

Holders Progress Thanks to Good Parkin

FA Trophy, Third Round Qualifying

York city 3 – 1 Coalville Town

Bootham Crescent is one of those classic-sounding grounds with oodles of character and history, apart from the PR disaster that was the KitKat Crescent era.

Of course labeling anything classic automatically dates it, and Bootham Crescent is certainly dated. That’s not a criticism, well, not too much of one anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I love a ground steeped in history and dripping with nostalgia. But at York, it’s as though time has stood still. Again, not a bad thing, and they are potentially moving into a purpose-built stadium, but my first experience of Bootham Crescent was a strange one.

There was an oddness to its layout. Once through the away turnstiles, and having reached the top of the stairs on the second tier of a two-tiered stand, a small but noisy gathering of Coalville fans were ushered into an area consisting of old wooden seats (not that anyone was actually sat on them much). Nothing wrong with that, but it soon became apparent that once in, there was no bar or food stall. I asked the steward if there was a bar. He seemed unsure. “Er…I think so. You’ll have to go down the stairs and out that door”, was his uncertain response, pointing to a door down the stairs next to the entrance but with no exit sign. So he gave me a slip of paper with ‘Admission’ printed on it – so I could return later – and I made my way through a door I wasn’t convinced I had permission to go through such was his uncertainty. But he was right. And out into the surrounding complex I went, where there was a food stall, toilets and a club shop. But where was the bar? Well actually you can’t get to it from the ground. You have to leave the complex, under the ‘Welcome to Bootham Crescent’ sign and onto the road. Turning right I spotted the door. Blink and you miss it, as many Coalville fans did, instead choosing a local pub for their pre-match beers.

Returning to the ground, I handed my ‘Admission’ slip to a steward who let me through the ‘exit’ and back into the stand. It was all very odd, and for punters with weak bladders, a thirst or a hunger, it’s certainly not ideal as you have to collect the admission slip and repeat the process every time you wish to pee, drink or eat.

Anyway, to the game. York, who managed to get back into the league a few years ago, are now playing in the National League North. Their visitors, my Trophy Quest team Coalville, are two steps below them in the non-league pyramid, playing in the Evo-Stik Premier Division. With The Minstermen being the Trophy holders, they were odds on favourites to win this Third Round Qualifying tie.

But the game is not played on paper, and it was fairly equal for large parts. But York eventually began to look slightly the better side and took the lead on 36 minutes through striker Gary Martin.

After the break they went further ahead when they were awarded a harsh penalty. Coalville midfielder Kyle Dixon was adjudged to have handled a cross from Sean Newton, but it was certainly more ball to hand than hand to ball, and the midfielder had every reason to air his frustration at the ref. However the decision stood, and Journeyman striker Jon Parkin tucked away the spot kick with consummate ease.

You’ll remember Parkin. He’s a striker who has always carried a bit of weight, even when he was playing league football. I remember being at Preston for a FA Cup tie with Liverpool and noticing his impressive beer belly. He’s still got it. But he also got his 16th goal of the season with York’s third goal, which sealed the game after Coalville had quickly gotten back into the game with a sweeping goal from Daniel Creaney, straight after Parkin’s spot kick.

Substitute James Gray was tripped by defender Dean Freeman and the ref once again pointed to the spot. Up stepped “Big fat Parkin” – not my words, but the words of a Coalville taunt – to seal the win for the home side.

So I now follow the holders as they go in search of a win at Kidderminster.

I’ll end by saying how excellent the Coalville fans were at Bootham Crescent. They hollered chant after chant, with some humour added in, with Parkin’s belly being the target for many a chant. He’ll have heard it all before though, he won’t mind.

I was pleased they had a goal to cheer because they deserved that, and, at 2-1, there was a real belief that their side could perhaps earn a replay.

So good luck to them for the season ahead. Meanwhile I’m off to the land of carpets on Saturday.

Pics from the game


Ravens Glide Past Plucky Church

A sending off. Six goals. The Home manager attacking one of Coalville’s players after the final whistle…

It’s fair to say this FA Trophy Second Round Qualifying tie was a humdinger.

Let’s begin at the start, shall we? First of all I was late leaving the house so the kind invitation via Twitter to meet a few Alvechurch fans in a local pub was unfortunately missed, although I did drive past the pub as I had to do a swift turn in the village after completely missing the ground’s entrance. To be fair to myself, it’s a very small, easy-to-miss entrance, as Church’s Lye Meadow Ground is plonked behind houses off a main road.

It’s a small ground with an uneven pitch and a welcoming club house which was showing the Donny v Rotherham game. After a quick pint, I positioned myself just left of the away dugout.

At this level, being so close to the pitch, you really do get to hear what goes on in the two dugouts. Alvechurch’s outspoken manager Ian Long always likes to air his opinion loudly in his West Midlands accent, while the Coalville gaffer also had a lot to say, including an argument with an Alvechurch fan. But petty arguments and officials-bashing was nothing compared to what was to come.

On the field, Church, who were missing their two-goal hero from the Cambridge City win, Babucar Sauane, were soon finding their opposition from a level above very tricky customers, and it wasn’t long before Coalville took the lead. A cross from the left wasn’t dealt with by the Church defence and Tom McGlinchey bundled home in front of the travelling fans from Leicestershire.

One became two when another excellent delivery from the left met Daniel Creaney’s head, giving Church ‘keeper Lewis Gwillians no chance.

Just after the break, in the 46th minute, there was a complete game changer as Coalville’s Kyle Dixon was given a straight red card, much to his chagrin. It was the catalyst for the home side to capitalise, and that’s exactly what they did. There was a renewed energy about them and after forcing two fine saves from Ravens ‘keeper Matthew Coton, he was eventually beaten by a floating header from Church defender Jamie Willets, which he met from a free kick on the left and which arced perfectly into the top right corner.

This should have been the start of the comeback, and sensing this, I moved my position to see the Church onslaught. But it never came.

Instead, having weathered the Alvechurch storm, Coalville grabbed a third, and in some style. Creaney latched onto a stray pass, saw Gwilliams off his line and, from just inside the Church half, sent a curling, lofted attempt goalwards which landed in the empty net much to the ‘keeper’s embarrassment and Creaney’s joy. In fairness, he had every right to milk the celebration. It was an excellently executed opportunistic goal.

From that point on, Coalville never looked back. Despite being a man down, they scored a further two goals – Creaney completed his hat-trick with a low drive into the left-hand corner of Gwilliams’ net, and then, in stoppage time, McGlinchey got his second with a rising drive into the opposite side.

That was the end of the goal action, but what followed was unsavoury to say the least. Church defender Jamie Ashmore attempted to clear his lines and made contact with a Coalville player on the follow through. This sparked a commotion, as tempers spilled over and insults were exchanged. But it also served as the catalyst for a bigger brawl upon the ref’s final whistle.

Unhappy with some of the Coalville players’ conduct during the recent fracas, Church boss Ian Long headed straight for a Coalville player and began to tell him in no uncertain words or actions what he thought of him. It kicked off a mass brawl which involved every player, members of coaching staff and probably the bar staff! It was a sad and unprofessional end to a cracking game.

I didn’t see any problems amongst supporters as they mingled over beers, but for me it was time to head back home.

I now follow Coalville into the Third Qualifying Round in which they go to Trophy holders York City in what will be a really stern test for them.

Not so long ago York were a league side, and have a ground worthy of league football, so it’ll be a big transition from Alvechurch’s quaint, cosy little home. But it’s another new ground for me so I shall look forward to November 25.

Images from the match





City not given a prayer by in-form Church

Arriving at St Ives’ Westwood Road Ground, the temporary home of Cambridge City, there was a feeling that this FA Trophy fixture could be a free-flowing, high-scoring affair.

In City’s previous game, they’d put seven past Arlesey, conceding two, and Church are riding high in the league, playing some entertaining football along the way, so all was set for a hi-octane game.

But that’s exactly what the crowd of 177 didn’t get, certainly not in the first half anyway, as both teams struggled to create clear cut opportunities, both frustrating the other.

As the half progressed, Alvechurch started to become more of a threat, but City themselves were unlucky not to take the lead when a free kick was floated into the area, and the ball seemed to deceive the visiting defence before going narrowly wide of the post.

Alvechurch were then gifted a chance whenthe home ‘keeper came out to clear a ball with his head, but only succeeding in getting it as far as Church’s in-form forward Danny Dubidat whose attempted lob over the stranded stopper hit the post.

What it lacked in quality it made up for in fight, and tempers frayed as a coming together near the Alvechurch corner flag saw a City player allegedly pushedinto the advertising hoardings. Cue much arguing and bitterness since that moment, with the away management team getting plenty of stick from the home support behind the dugout. I’m not sure one fan’s view of ‘typical dirty northerners’ was accurate in terms of both legitimacy or geography.

After the break it was the visitors who were progressively growing into the game and it was no real surprise when they broke the deadlock.

An effort was blocked by City ‘keeper Conroy’s feet but rebounded kindly to Babucar Sauane, who fired Alvechurch into the lead.

However, the home side were unlucky not to hit back immediately when Jordan Gent met a corner but his effort was cleared off the line.

But that chance was rued a few minutes later as Sauane got his second.

He skilfully avoided the challenge of two City defenders before firing home. He, along with Dubidat and Yusefi Ceesay, look like a dynamic trio capable of cutting through any defence.

It was enough to clinch the game for Alvechurch and they have been awarded with a home tie in the next round against Coalville Town.

It gives me the chance to see the team I’m following on my Trophy Quest on their home soil. C’mon Church!

Pics from the day.



Trophy Quest Begins as Belper Bow Out

In the absence of my FA Cup Quest this season due to family commitments falling on at least three FA Cup weekends and a music gig on another, I’ve decided to pursue a different trophy, The FA Trophy to be precise.

And so, on October 7, my FA Trophy Quest began at the Marston’s Stadium, the home of The Nailers, Belper Town. As the crow flies, Belper is the nearest town to my house so it was a no-brainer to start there. Also it gave me the chance to visit a local ground which I’d actually never visited before, despite regular social visits to the pleasant town.

The Nailers’ visitors in this Preliminary Round tie were fellow Evo-Stik Division One side, Alvechurch – a meeting of 13th versus 7th in the early standings.

Belper started the better, putting pressure on the Worcestershire (not Warwickshire as first published. Sorry Church fans) side’s defence. But it was the away side who took the lead as full-back Jamie Ashmore played Daniel Dubidat in behind the Belper backline to finish smartly across the Belper ‘keeper.

It was a good finish, but it would be bettered a few minutes later. An Alvehurch corner was cleared only as far as defender Tom Turton who smashed a brilliant volley past the outstretched arms of ‘keeper Roberts and into the back of the net, skimming off the crossbar on its way in. It’s since gained Sky Sports Grassroots ‘Goal of the Month’, and deservedly so. If I see a better goal on my quest this season I’ll be very surprised.

Belper responded, and marauded forward, and they got lucky when the referee ruled that the ball struck the arm of full-back Ashmore in the box and pointed to the spot. It was a harsh decision, but Keiron O’Connell had no mercy and clinically dispatched the ball into the ‘keeper’s bottom right corner.

In the second half the game became stretched, and both sides were intent on winning the game and some excellent attacking football was enjoyed by a crowd of just over 200.

The rain was coming down by now, too, making the ball skid about and challenges a little poorly timed, and it was no surprise on 77 minutes to see a red card as Belper’s John Guy was sent off for a late tackle on Church’s Josh March.

But despite the numerical advantage and some fine counter attacking football, Alvechurch just couldn’t finish Belper off and were nearly made to pay deep into stoppage time as captain Eric Graves fired wide from distance.

So although the game promised more goals at HT, it ended 2-1 to the visitors. They, and I, travel to Cambridge City on Saturday, October 28. As always with these quests, my allegiance switches to the victors, so I’ll travel to St Ives – Cambridge City’s temporary home – with Alvechurch as my Trophy team. Come on Church!

Here’s THAT goal from Tom Turton.


Welcome to Belper

Belper’s old and disused cotton mill, The East Mill, makes for an industrial backdrop.

The teams depart the pitch after the full-time whistle.

The travelling fans applaud their team off the pitch.