Friday, 18 May 2018

SELSTON AND RAVENSHEAD IN GOAL FEST

SELSTON RES 3 RAVENSHEAD 4
NOTTS SENIOR LEAGUE 1 @ PALMERSTON ST WESTWOOD
17 MAY 2018 6PM [6.33PM]
This final game of a long season for both sides served up a veritable feast of goals specifically in the final 17 minutes with four hitting the back of the net.  Selston had taken an early lead but they were never to do so again as Ravenshead constantly took the adavatage again soon after the home sides levellers.
WESTWOOD THIS WAY
As the season draws to a close an opportunity to cross the border into Nottinghamshire arose for this fixture played at Westwood Rec away from The Parish Ground in Selston who now have cricket considerations and with their postponements due to waterlogging the club had sent a nice selection of their 2nd string fixtures on the road to Westwood which appropriately remains in the Selston Parish area.
With an early start this became a viable option on public transport with a small amount of time built in it became slightly later than planned when Ravenshead only arrived on kick off time and with many coming in twenty minutes later the start went further back.  It did seem an early start time and there must be a need for leagues to be more realistic with kick offs especially for fixtures in mid May.  The down time allowed for me to follow, like the Pied Piper, the chimed bells of the local ice cream van, sod the fish and chips today it was time to welcome in summer.
FISH AND CHIPS NO MORE
Westwood is the smaller of two villages, its neighbour being Jacksdale, that I'm fairly familiar with and having not been through the area for a while it was interesting to see the changes.  Jacksdale has lost a few shops sadly like many villages but there is still a great community feel with many groups and even a community magazine produced which is of the interesting variety unlike many others it remains a local feel.  The area has a fantastic industrial history with its pits, railway and canals alongside the former Butterley Works famous for many buildings including structures at St Pancras station.  While on a history diversion there was time to learn something new tonight about the Portland Tramaway that ran from the Portland Pits near Selston through Westwood and down the incline to Jacksdale and the wharf for the canal and railways.  The horse drawn transportation had a break house situated in Westwood to hold back the coal waggons from their steep drop to their ultimate destination.  Numerous information boards have been lovingly researched and can be seen along the route of the tramway with a leaflet available for anybody interested in tracking the route.  Before I sound like the tourist information office for the area back to the footy.
Westwood Rec is just what it says a park pitch with a large green metal cabin for changing rooms and it does everything it needs to do for what is effectively step 8 football.  The ground offers on this glorious evening some nice views over rolling fields back towards Selston and behind our backs the houses of Westwood look on to proceedings.
OPENING GOAL FOR SELSTON JORDAN BLACK
Having secured the teams from referee Craig Frisk who it should be noted had a good game and despite his early arrival at 5pm he performed well.  It should be noted this is Ravenshead first game since April 21st so credit to them for fulfilling this fixture.  An early lead for Selston saw Jordan Black nip in to slot past the visiting keeper Ross Hardwick and as it looked like the home side would go on to score more the chances went begging though and Ravenshead gathered themselves from their late arrival and equalised when Adam Martin converted at the back post.  On the half hour mark the same player put the visitors in front when he fired home from a goal line clearance and that's how we went into the break.
The second half saw Selston determined to get back into the game but the goal would not come that was until 73 minutes when Klarke Greenham converted a sharp cross goal finish.  More or less immediately the visitors re-took the lead when the unmarked Tyler Lambert headed home.  The goal flurry continued with Selston equalising again a long throw created doubt in the Ravenshead defence and as the ball was cleared from the goal line it struck the in running Reagan Marriott to go over the line.
We now had a game on our hands as play swung from end to end it was winner takes all and that fell to Lambert who cut in off the left and coolly fired past Jack Mills in the Selston goal with two minutes remaining.
An entertaining final game from both sides and a convoluted return journey via a walk to the Coop for hoppers provisions and bus change in Leabrooks and Alfreton saw arrival back at base far later than anticipated.

Monday, 14 May 2018

WHITCHURCH ALPORT ONE STEP AWAY FROM PROMOTION

WHITCHURCH ALPORT V SANDBACH UTD
NWCFL PLAY OFF SEMI FINAL @YOCKINGS PARK
12 MAY 2018 --- 3PM
WHITCHURCH ALPORT PLAY OFF FINAL APPEARANCE BECKONS
Alport secured a play off final berth with a strike 14 minutes from time thanks to a Joe Cuff strike and will match up against the bottom placed play off side Cammell Laird.  Sadly for Sandbach the effort took a deflection that gave the visiting keeper no chance at all however United had been denied earlier by a super save from the home custodian and missed a golden opportunity with the goal wide open.
The end of season tour continues and like any old rock band in the last week or so we have taken in gigs in Cheshire, Powys, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and today Shropshire or to give it that horrible name of a few decades ago Salop. Whitchurch Alport as with most of the last few new grounds had been on the radar before but due to the inclement weather of recent seasons had always looked an on its own risk but with the weather now showing signs of summer this fixture was a great option to visit.
EARLY CHANGE AT DERBY ALLOWED A SHOT OF THE NEW PLATFORMS BEING BUILT
Departure from base station twenty before ten saw changes in Derby and a fast one in Crewe onto the lengthy, in mileage, Manchester to Carmarthen train a packed of course Arriva Wales train but it was 20 minutes of standing so acceptable. 
Arriving in Whitchurch just at half past midday there was time for a gentle wander into town and first spot was the Turret clock manufacturers building a skill that the town is noted for but now operated by auctioneers.  Mind you not any old auctioneers but partner Christina Trevanion the popular BBC personality from shows of the ilk of Bargain Hunt, as we moved into the town the most notable attraction was the collection and variety of wonderful buildings and the architecture of them.  The town itself other than this is unremarkable and very much gives the feel of the border town that it is situated by the Welsh border.
A SMART WELCOME TO WHITCHURCH ALPORT FC
Having admired the buildings and resisted Watergate Bakery which had the biggest 'PIES' sign you could imagine in the shops window they either like pies around here or have poor eyesight.  You see temptation was resisted because on the way in we spotted Chesters fish shop so drifted back their to sample the goods.
ITS NOT ALL ABOUT THE LIGHTS THIS IS A SMART SET UP
On the way to Yockings Park we discussed the Alport part of the clubs name so given from Alport Farm in the town where local footballer Coley Maddocks, who had been killed in World War 2, lived.  Struggling to find the reason why its called Yockings Park I will leave that for another day but there is a further nice touch in the ground which after some excellent developments and new pitch side fencing the club left in one of the concrete posts that supported the former railing.  This bares a memorial plaque to Bert Nelson and with further class there is now an added floor encased light that shines onto the post.
THE FAR SIDE AND IT ALL SAYS SMART
The tight lane that gives up the approach road to the ground allows a first sight that says straight away smart set up, a warm welcome at the turnstiles just before 2pm allows us to pay in and collect the creditable programme.  With a crowd of around 500 expected and achieved the clubs toilet facilities were probably a worry and they had invested in three Portaloos the one I sampled worried me slightly as soon as I closed the door it wobbled around and I feared being transported to a football league ground!  Safely extricated from the plastic time machine and the ground descriptor the first most notable things are the floodlights four poles with a mass of floodlights on them its almost like being in one of those old school eastern European stadia.
NO WORDS NEEDED
To the right is the new hospitality/bar area with large fridges keeping drinks cool, nestled in between here and the small clubhouse are today a food van and ice cream van which on todays hot day was a further good move.  The bar is cosy but very smart and also offers the clubs on snack bar once again a smart impression with many of the volunteers kitted out in club polo shirts.  The main stand cuts off the terracing and to get to the far side you need to walk round but back to the stand a smart affair with new seats in small blocks give an executive box feel with large backs and seats and with the front sloping roof it looks loved.  Around the ground then to the left hand side an open terrace and onto the opposite touchline two separate pitch length covers split by the dug outs and within the far one a single row of the executive seats appear.  Behind the far goal its open but once again with the new meshed fencing you see at 3g facilities and new concrete hard standing continuing right round to the opposite end of the stand the overall feel is off a superb facility.  Behind this far goals the rolling fields of Whitchurch gives way to its farming and agricultural home. Club officials had been hard at work preparing for the game with balloons attached to the fence at regular intervals and before kick off a drone flew around with a Whitchurch flag wafting away.  We were not finished though as the teams came out externally to the ground a selection of corporate red coloured flares were displayed to add to the experience.
WARNING ALPORT CAPTAIN SIMON EVERALL WILL FEATURE HEAVILY ON HERE IS SOME OF HIS TATTOOS
As a neutral you couldn't but help like this clubs set up and admire the work that had clearly gone into the ground and was further promoted in advancing this club as a community based side, indeed the average crowds of 228 are astonishing and they are being appreciated and hopefully will continue to add to these numbers from the impression I gained today, superb effort everybody!
THE ICE CREAM VAN IS OVER THERE

To the game well play offs are often tense nervous dour affairs with moments of heartbreak for one side and complete joy for the other well that probably sums this encounter up.  Sandbach had won both previous league meetings and although Alport had finished higher the winner would have to be resolute.  Both sides were the latter word in the former sentence and also their work rate was unquestionable but the nerves and tension got them I guess in a dour first half  there really was little of note except for a substitution of the injured Nicky Porter by the in the end match winner Joe Cuff after 29 minutes.
I KNOW HE IS IN THE PICTURE AGAIN AS WELL AS THE ACTION
The second period continued in much the same game and the dreaded penalties were starting to warm themselves up but as time drifted it was Sandbach who had the chance to gain the advantage a tremendous 25 yard shot from Adam Clayton saw home keeper Adam Clayton fly to his left to push the ball effort around at full stretch for a corner.  Then on 63 minutes the one chance you ned in a game like this looked to be Sandbach's option Jordan Davies broke through rounded the keeper and from a tight, but achievable, angle with the goal open he found the side netting.
OK ITS £10 TO JOIN THE SIMON EVERALL FAN CLUB
Big let off for Whitchurch who within ten minutes had snatched their chance as home captain Simon Everall completely missed his kick on an edge of the penalty box cross the ball drifted through to Cuff who fired the ball towards the bottom left hand side of the visitors goal cue massive deflection and said corner was avoided and the ball nestled in the opposite corner to spark off wild scenes of delight.
Could Alport hand on......... you bet!  There was really on a melee on the stroke of time to note following a late challenge form a Sandbach player which I guess the referee and his assistants lost because how it wasn't a red card I'm not sure but following the calming down of reactions the ten minutes of stoppage time added were not too nervous and the red army can look forward to a Thursday night final.
Lets put on record here the blog enjoys the neutrality its given with not following one club or the other but I hope Whitchurch Alport go on to win the play off final and take their place in step 5 you just couldn't help but love the club on this visit today, I hope to return here soon.
An about turn to the edge of the town for hopper provision saw once again a busy service back to Crewe before changing to the one carriage bus on rails to Derby and a swift change to arrive back at base station just before 8pm.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

LEICESTER NIRVANA UPSET CHAMPIONS WITH CUP FINAL WIN

YAXLEY 0 LEICESTER NIRVANA 1
UCL KNOCK OUT LEAGUE CUP FINAL AT KILN PARK, RAUNDS TOWN FC
7 MAY 2018 --- 3PM
LEICESTER NIRVANA UCL CUP WINNERS 2017/18
An exquisite lob from Will Gonga just five minutes into this tense final was enough to secure the cup for Nirvana against Champions and favourites Yaxley.  However on a blisteringly hot afternoon it was the Leicester based side who got the victory through a fantastic work rate that never gave Yaxley time to develop much until the final few edgy minutes.
The United Counties League Cup Final has been a game I have tried to attend over the last few years and indeed my first ever was at Yaxley a few years back when the ever rising Rushden and Diamonds featured but todays final staged at Raunds Town was a club and area I wanted to take a few games in at.  Always requiring a bus ride from Wellingborough I had somewhat delayed the inevitable and today being a Bank Holiday with less services seemed like an interesting day to rise to the challenge!
Departure from base station just after half past ten saw a sharp change in Leicester before arrival at Wellingborough allowed 20 minutes and a brisk walk into the town to catch the X47 to our destination some 50 minutes away.
IT HAD TO BE DONE
The route seemed lenient in time but when we queued to get into Rushden Lakes Shopping Centre it was clear that the countries national hobby was not going anywhere too soon.  Through the busy little town of Rushden I strained to see Rushden and Higham's ground but failed to eye spy it, onwards to Higham Ferrers a smart village which offered up some smart old buildings so much so I wanted to get off for a look around but with time pressing we were soon back onto the A45.  Much additional straining to try to glimpse the now defunct site of Nene Park former home of Rushden and Diamonds which has by all accounts now been reduced to rubble, what a great shame.
Welcome to Raunds with the sight of a large black pool of smoke rising into the air close by the vicinity of the ground a worrying vision, anyway having departed early it was a for a specific reason and it just had to be done.  I can hear the tut's and grumbles its childish, schoolboy humour I know but I needed a picture of the gloriously named 'street' entitled Titty Ho!  Apparently nobody knows the origin of its name but a short while after I found myself walking a lovely back lane with a glorious selection of houses astride it only to find I was now on Rotten Row!
RAUNDS BOOTMKERS MARCH TO LONDON
There had of course been a little time to pop into the Coop for hoppers provisions, view the town hall and on this International Workers Day take a look at an impressive sign near the centre.  This bronze plaque drew your attention to the Raunds Bootmakers march to London in 1905 in a demand for better conditions and pay after the craftsman had made footwear for the soldiers.  Setting off on 8 May they were not seen by the hierarchy in London but on the 14 May were greeted at an open air meeting by 10,000 people and addressed by Keir Hardie The Labour Party founder, everyday is a school day certainly something learned again on the travels.
Having cut off the previously mentioned Rotten Row the evidence of the large fire was a shed that had gone up by the side of a house and the Fire Service were out in numbers cooling everything down.
KILN PARK HOME OF RAUNDS TOWN FC
The ever expanding town gives up Kiln Park on its northern edge surrounded by new housing developments, an Asda and joy of joys, even though there was not time, a big 'M's'!  This gorgeous day offered up a smart ground with an excellent looking pitch and after paying in and obtaining a programme a quick circuit was completed.  To the left and the far goal was open with the Macs behind it to the far side and the only disadvantage here is the pitch is set to far away from the pitch side railings the top side must have 30 yards between you and the action and it was somewhat like watching at an athletics track ground without the track, two smart brick built dug outs were unforgiving in blocking the view with these being built obviously by the touchline.
MIND THE GAP
Behind the opposite goal is more space used today for pre match by Nirvana and then we come back down to the entry side two separate brick backed terraces, a toilet block, the changing rooms, snack bar and the main stand with to the rear and outside the ground a functional bar area and finally by the entrance another covered terrace.  Here I have to say I'm not sure of the ground history, except to say the club played previously at The Berristers nearer to the town centre, today the ground has a 70's feel although it was build around 1991, however on this sweltering day there was some good cover for those who wanted it.
Yaxley had won the UCL and now their next challenge was to secure the UCL Cup and with Leicester Nirvana sat in a mid table position with a lot of games played recently due to wet weather  affecting the clubs season I guess most neutrals would be expecting a double.
JACOB LEHANE LINES UP HIS TEAM AND TODAYS CAPTAINS
This was forgetting how determined Nirvana were from the off and when after just five minutes the only goal of the game saw Will Gonga break away following a lovely through ball he lifted the ball over the Yaxley keeper Olly Sutton from 20 yards and wheeled away to celebrate as the ball fell inch perfect into the far side of the Peterborough sides goal.
WILL GONGA [7] GIVES NIRVANA THE LEAD
Both keepers proceeded to make excellent saves shortly afterwards but the remainder of the half produced little in goal mouth action terms, of course there was no shortage of endeavour and Nirvana set about their task to keep the Champions out.
A CALM DOWN MOMENT ON A HOT DAY
The second half showed Yaxley in determined mood but the superb physical effort from Leicester Nirvana was keeping them well at bay indeed it was themselves who went closest on 70 minutes when Mandeep Bains put in a cross for Matt Melbourne who fired over.  In the closing stages we finally saw Yaxley threaten the Nirvana goal with two free kicks the first superbly saved by Phil McGann and the second well held after efforts from Dan Cotton.  The final minutes had seen the Nirvana fans cheering on their encouragement something they had done all afternoon they were a lively yet friendly set of supporters who I had enjoyed spending some time with during the game.  Not missing out Yaxley fans looked resplendent in their clubs shirts and today they just didn't quite make it to be double winners.
YAXLEY PRESSURE AS STUBBS CLEARS
The presentation at the end was a double one with Nirvana firstly picking up the cup for todays hardworking and deserved victory and then after a moments celebration they sportingly formed a guard of honour as Yaxley were presented with the UCL Championship trophy.
YAXLEY UCL CHAMPIONS 2017/18
In addition the man of the match award was given to Leicester Nirvana captain Billy Stubbs an award that I don't think anybody could question he was awesome today standing out in defence and in his roll as captain.
Time to go after a close final that produced an enthralling game the return journey saw the X47 drop me in Wellingborough in time for hoppers provision and a gentle back street stroll to the station for two 125's with a change at Leicester base was arrived just after 8.30pm.

CONNAHS QUAY WIN WELSH CUP FOR FIRST TIME

ABERYSTWYTH TOWN 1 CONNAHS QUAY NOMADS 4
FAW WELSH CUP FINAL @ LATHAM PARK
6 MAY 2018 --- 2.45PM
CONNAHS QUAY NOMADS FAW CUP WINNERS 2017/18
Connah's Quay Nomads lifted the Welsh Cup for the first time in their history thanks to a first half that featured a brace from Michael Wilde and a Michael Bakare goal after the two had tormented the Aber defence.  Aber pulled a goal back in first half stoppage time from Ryan Wade before in the closing stages of the game Andy Owens lashed home a fourth to give the North Wales club a comprehensive victory.
The Bank Holiday weekend brought bright sunshine and the good lady decided a trip to Mid Wales for some football would be good and avoiding the train travel off we set on the roads, is there a nicer ground at the top level than Newtown to visit?  Just over two and a half hours later we were pulling into the town with a small delay on the way for the obligatory traffic jam thanks to a Bank Holiday car boot sale in the midlands.
LATHAM PARK LOOKING GOOD
The town was looking resplendent in the bright sunshine and the blue sky's just added to the occasion with a little time to go a meander around the town and a call into the local 'Spoons' for a meal which was the order of the day.  It was fairly full and the whole atmosphere was added to when a few moments after ordering around twenty Aber fans came in and proceeded to sing their songs with the odd expletive, by odd I mean every third word, at full throttle.
NEWTOWN AFC ANYWHERE BETTER IN THE TOP FLIGHT
Upon arrival we were actually queuing to get into Latham Park 45 minutes before kick off and once inside the place was a hive of activity, with seats secured in the Keith Harding stand a circuit was completed with players and officials out in full swing with pre match warm ups.  I won't re visit the ground descriptor because its been done before on here needless to say its a fine collection of different stands and nooks and crannies and there always seems a nice welcome from Newtown Fc, today was no different a very well run final by the club and The FAW.
BAKARE GETS AN EARLY SHOT AWAY
Pre-match saw The Scorpions display team parachute in with the match ball and then time for the teams to come out and after presentation of the teams to Wales manager Ryan Giggs it was time for the National Anthem one again I ask the question is there a better more passionate one?
The red hot afternoon saw his set right at the back of the stand but this would be a hot afternoon for all participants and although your heart backed Aberystwyth your head undoubtedly said Connah's Quay.
WILDE [9] HEADER MAKES IT 2-0
The opening stages were fast and furious with little controlled football but both sides were looking for a knock out blow without any real chances.  Then out of the blue two goals in a couple of minutes Bakare nipped in ahead of Aber keeper Chris Mullock to turn the ball into the Ceredigion sides goal and then Michael Wilde rose at the far post to head down a left wing corner into the net to make it two nil after 27 minutes.  The work rate and aerial presence of Wilde was proving a problem and if that was an issue the pace and step overs of Bakare was even getting the back row of the stand going the wrong way.  The green army were looking frightened of Bakare and he was in awesome form through this period of the game but the match looked to be put to bed on 41 minutes when Wilde latched onto a set up ball from Declan Poole and coolly slotted past Mullock to make it 3-0.
WILDE MAKES IT 3-0 WITH HIS SECOND
Aberystwyth were now struggling to compete and you hoped for a goal to give them a chance and so it came in the second minute of first half stoppage time when Ryan Wade looped in a beautiful header which Nomads keeper got a hand to but couldn't keep out.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU NOMADS KEEPER DANBY GREETS ABERS SHERLOCK
The west coast side had to do a lot better in breaking down a resolute Connah's Quay and they were struggling but the controversial moment that could have given them inspiration came on 62 minutes when they were denied a goal.  Malcolm Melvin picked up the ball before driving in a 25 yard effort that crashed off the underside of the bar fell over the line and bounced back into play.  From our lofted position the first shout was 'goal' and TV replays show this later although it has to be said its nearly impossible for an assistant referee to see this and catch up with a powerful shot from distance!
At 3-2 it could have been game on but Connah's Quay went back to their thwarting plan and Aberystwyth seemed not to have the ability to break down the strong defending as frustrations and time wore on at The other end Bakare had a shot cleared off the line before he forced Mullock into a good save.
STILL TIME FOR A CARD FROM IWAN GRIFFITHS
Aber were all but out now and on 90 minutes the final victory was confirmed when Owens made space and cut across the penalty box to fire home with Mullock unable to stop the shot.
So the cup would head back north and Connah's Quay for the first time in their history and a season and weekend to celebrate for the Andy Morrison and his club.
Time was now approaching to present the cup to Nomads captain George Horan before the bubbly was fired off at all angles and it was time to leave the celebration players and fans from north Wales after a tremendous event which as previously mentioned as superbly staged and a crowd of 1,455 was a tremendous turn out in a game that I feared would see a much lower attendance.
After a stop in the town for the much needed liquid at the big 'M's' we were back in 2 1/2 hours from a wonderful day out in Wales and a bit of history to boot.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

SUPERB FINAL SEES CONGLETON VR VICTORIOUS

ALSAGER TOWN 1 CONGLETON VALE ROVERS 3
CREWE AND DISTRICT FA CHALLENGE CUP FINAL @ CUMBERLAND ARENA
5 MAY 2018 --- 2PM
CONGLETON VR CAPTAIN CHRIS LAWTON WITH RICHIE BOOTH AND THE CREWE FA CHALLENGE CUP
It was Congleton Vale Rovers who came out on top in the clash of the two neighbouring county leagues of Cheshire and Staffordshire, with the formers side leading 3-0 at half time Alsager threw everything bar the kitchen sink at them in the second half but to little avail.  With Congleton reduced to ten men for the last 25 minutes Alsager could not break the Cheshire side down and even missed a penalty although they did finally pull a goal back 3 minutes from time.
As the season goes headlong into finals and titles this fixture was spotted as a potential and after a little studying it was a unanimous decision to watch this intriguing fixture that would pit two counties together with both sides in mid table positions in their league there would be all to play for if silverware was to be gained.
CREWE BUS STATION A WARM WELCOME TO ALL

A mid morning departure from base station saw a brief look at a transport extravaganza on the platforms at Stockport station before boarding the Carmarthen bound train as far as Crewe.  On cue outside the station a D and G bus service had just pulled in and it was hopped on for the 3/4 of a mile trip to the town centre which is a little walk from the station.
There was good, bad and ugly about today lets get the latter two out of the way first.  The railway town has been visited on a few occasions for changes at the station but the town only once before and I don't like to criticise on this blog as readers know but oh dear what is going on in Crewe its on a par with Scunthorpe.  I'm told parts of it are under planned renovation it probably needs to be all of it.  The bus station was the first sight of the town and although in corporate aquamarine further inspection shows grass and weeds strewn with the usual rubbish and the bright colour is actually on boarding that shows most of the station secured off.  All change for Crewe is the signage that greets you and I dare say it should probably read 're board to get away fast', anyway a brief walk around the town found me despairing and to top it all off the local farmer had decided to spray his fields with manure which was wafting over the town centre just adding to the whole ambiance about the place.
AN OVERVIEW OF CUMBERLAND ARENA WITH CREWE CLOCK TOWER IN THE BACKGROUND
Quickly moving out of the town and thankfully the Cumberland Arena for 'the good', the home of Crewe Fc of the Cheshire League, is a very short walk away and a massively pleasant uplifting place which lifted my mood after the previous 30 minutes.  It is of course a bright sunny afternoon but the whole feel of the arena was just right its £2.50 to get in plus a four page programme with some basic details included.  The ground is in the middle of a running track but its not like most others you are allowed to stand track side up by the pitch, where it is roped off, saving the horrible distant feel from the game.  While in conversation with a neighbour of the ground he told me American Football was played there previously but now its Crewe Fc and Crewe Alex Ladies Fc as well as the athletics, there is also a new 3g pitch for community use.
PREDICTABLE BUT I COULDNT RESIST
With a smart pavilion offering an inside viewing area and a selection of beverage and confectionery machines we are all set up for the afternoon!  Thanks to both sides for their help in obtaining the teams and for the greeting from todays match referee Jordan Brooks the Sandbach official had an excellent performance in a highly competitive game.
REFEREE BROOKS IN CONTROL
Onto the action and what a first half for Congleton the Booth St based side took the lead after just 9 minutes when Richie Booth sent away Brian Barton who lofted the ball over the keeper into the Alsager goal.  It was 2-0 just after the quarter of an hour mark when a misjudged pass from Alsager keeper Joseph Mellor fell to Aaron Cooke who hit a superb 30 yard finish straight back into the unlucky keepers goal.
1-0
Congleton were dominant and that was proved non more so two minutes before half time when they increased their lead Ryan Read cut into the edge of the box fired in a low shot that went under the body of Mellor and what looked an unassailable lead took the Cheshire side into the half time break three goals to the good.
CONGLETON FREE KICK AGAINST THE WALL
The second half would have to see Alsager turn in the performance of the season to get back into this game, after a half time chat they came out fired up and wave after wave of attack was thwarted by the Vale defence who were working as hard as I've seen any step 7 side this season.
THE BATTLE CONTINUES
Twenty minutes in and a life line referee Brooks awarded Alsager a penalty for a pull in the box but before it could be taken a melee had broken out and the resulting outcome was a straight red card for Read [8] and Congleton would be reduced to ten men.  The delay couldn't have helped Scott Edwards who seemed to strike his penalty reasonably well but Vale keeper Cameron Phelps who guessed right and stretched to push the ball away.  You now felt a golden opportunity had been missed and it was left to Will Slater to have a long range shot which fell just wide.
EYES ON THE BALL AS ALSAGER PRESS
Much as its a compliment to Congleton that their undoubtable work rate now with ten men was keeping the opposition out, Alsager in turn were putting in a tremendous effort to break down the door.  Finally they got a more than deserved goal with three minutes of normal time remaining and what a screamer Tom Kirkham unleashing an unstoppable effort from 25 yards out into the roof of the net.  As the Staffordshire side looked to narrow the margin even more Daniel Beigus somehow had his close range effort blocked by Phelps.  So it wasn't to be for Alsager and moments later the Challenge Cup was lifted by Congleton Vale Rovers captain Chris Lawton who had seen his side over the line in what had been once again a tremendous advert for step 7 football.
A GOOD OLD AERIAL CHALLENGE TO FINISH
A sharp walk back via some well signed short cuts to the station saw the noise from Gresty Rd were the 'Alex' were entertaining Cheltenham grab my attention but there was one thing for sure they would not have been any better entertained than the 50 or so who had witnessed todays final at The Cumberland Arena. 

FRIDAY NIGHT FESTIVITIES AS HOP SEES SWANWICK WIN

SWANWICK PENTRICH RD 3 ASLOCKTON AND ORSTON 0
CMFL SOUTH @ HIGHFIELD RD
4 MAY 2018 --- 7PM
SWANWICK PROGRAMME FOR THE START OF THE CMFL GROUNDHOP
Swanwick secured all three points against lowly Aslockton and Orston as this weekends CMFL ground hop got under way in bright sunshine on a lovely Derbyshire evening but it took until the second half for the deadlock to be broken even though the home side hit the woodwork three times during the 90 minutes the 3-0 score in the end was comfortable enough.
Arriving in the village just after 5.30pm the hoppers coach passed me and we knew we would be in for a good attendance, 194 declared, after a quick visit to the local shop for a few provisions the walk down to the ground saw many hoppers wandering back for a look around the village.
Having covered Swanwick quite a few times before like Alfreton in the previous blog I wont go into a ground descriptor although will mention that following the clubs resignation at the end of the season from the CMFL there does now appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel which will hopefully see this nice club remain in organised football.  The welcome on the gate was good with a handshake and a 'thanks for coming' always goes down well and the club also had things sorted well with food, snack bar, programme, team line ups board and a mini public address system-well done.  Aditionaly there was Terry's Badges in attendance plus The Football Traveller.
THIS OBSERVERS JOB IS A HARD ONE ITS JUST THAT MALC MAKES IT LOOK EASY
Of course there were many familiar faces whom it was good to catch up with again alongside CMFL officials and some of the evening was spent with the ever accommodating Stuart Walker also putting in appearance was Malc Gratton tonight's referees observer.  As ever it was good to see Mr Squires both junior and senior in attendance always a pleasure.
To the action and although a quiet first half there were chances Dean Owen broke through for the home side but his effort struck the post after beating the visiting keeper and then the woodwork intervened again to save Aslockton when Henry Brooks was denied.  Just before half time a melee broke out that should have seen a player from either side dismissed but the referee opted for the lenient yellow card option.
AND FINALLY A BIT OF MATCH ACTION
The scoreboard was troubled finally after 52 minutes when Guy Wilding nipped in to fire home and as Swanwick looked to up the tempo Owen saw his effort denied by the woodwork again as visiting keeper Tom Maxwell pushed his effort onto the bar.
With just over ten minutes remaining the game was finally settled with a second for the home side hard work from James Sessin allowed Brooks to finish and then on 85 minutes the best goal of the game saw Brooks get his second cutting into the box off the left he fired into the roof of the net.
An enjoyable night with a good all round effort by Swanwick Pentrich Rd and a well organised, of course, ground hop which continued on Saturday with three more league games.

Friday, 4 May 2018

NO MESSING AS ATHERTON COLLIERIES LIFT THE LEAGUE CUP

ATHERTON COLLIERIES 2 COALVILLE TOWN 1
INTEGRO NPL CUP FINAL @ THE IMPACT ARENA ALFRETON
2 MAY 2018 --- 7.45PM
JOSH MESSER [4] GIVES ATHERTON COLLS AN EARLY LEAD
When Josh Messer scored Colls opening goal after just 8 minutes the cup had the feel of heading to Atherton as the Lancashire side worked so hard to keep a determined Coalville at bay and succeeded when they added a second through Jordan Cover in the second half, Nathan Wilson pulled a goal back for the East Midlands side but it proved to be too late.
Once again The Impact Arena home of Alfreton Town was chosen to stage a prestigious game this time the Northern Premier League Cup Final, upon the announcement Mr R of the Buxton parish reminisced about the old finals at Maine Rd in Manchester and the crowds regularly in the thousands.  Well lets just add that tonight the supporters of Atherton Collieries made up the majority of the crowd and they were vociferous and loyal to the cause throughout the evening and with a long midweek trip to the East Midlands they had not come to muck about they wanted a trophy and they got it to further supplement the encouraging rise of the Colls over the last few seasons, what a journey they are on.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD
Talking of journeys over a few of my ground hopping trips I had spoke to Joe Gibbons who was at the time also producing some excellent blogs and photos documenting the sporting scene.  Well in the last few years Joe as joined the Collieries committee and tonight it was good to catch up with him for a brief moment looking resplendent in jacket and tie but still stood on the terraces enjoying the game.
Following heavy rain for most of the morning the pitch had held up well but the Alfreton grounds man had told me that it was running off the pitch mid morning.  No ground descriptor is required here with Alfreton being my closest senior non league ground and having been well documented before.
Just before kick off there was time to catch up with Bill Draper Alfreton supporter and announcer who showed me his award having in the last few weeks reached 2,000 consecutive games watching Alfreton, yes 2,000 just think about it.  Nothing has stood in Bill's way and it really is a remarkable achievement and one the club are duly proud of following his recent presentation.
COALVILLE THE FLAGS ARE OUT
The action then and it was Coalville who threatened early on and when Atherton got in a scrambled goal line clearance it looked like the Leicestershire side would be odds on for the lead but of course football is a funny old game.  Because in Atherton's first attack Gareth Peet got in an excellent cross that avoided all aerial attempts to connect that was until Josh Messer at the back post headed home.  Cue wild scenes of delight as the Atherton players celebrated with their fans and Joe tells me its Messer's first competitive goal in 5 years, nice timing.
The remainder of the first half seemed to find Coalville just off the pace as Atherton battled away for everything denying Town any way through and when the second half kicked off it continued in the same vein.  It was developing into a strange affair with Coalville trying hard to get back but moves were breaking down mainly due to the sheer determination of Atherton to win this game.
On 68 minutes it looked as though it would be all over but when Cover broke through and his effort struck the post the head in hand moment became joy a few seconds later when he slotted in the rebound to make it 2-0.
ATHERTON COLLIERIES NOT TO BE OUT DONE ON THE FLAG FRONT
Much as Coalville tried to get back into the game it wasn't happening and it just looked like it was not going to be there night having struck a post with a 25 yard free kick they did pull a goal back on 85 minutes with a sweet move that saw Wilson lift the ball over the out coming Atherton keeper.  In the final minute of five additional Jermaine Hollis was sent off for Coalville after he left a foot in on a challenge with Collieries keeper Greg Hartley.
At the final whistle the Atherton players were off to celebrate with their band of supporters and for Coalville that oh so terrible delay as runners up waiting for the trophy presentation would ensue before Danny Lafferty lifted the cup for Atherton Collieries to continue their remarkable recent successes.