Saturday, 3 December 2016

KING SUPER STRIKE CROWNS COVENTRY PERFORMANCE

COVENTRY SPHINX 1 V HEANOR TOWN 0
MIDLAND FOOTBALL LEAGUE PREMIER @ SPHINX DRIVE
3 DEC 2016 --- 3PM
SPHINX DRIVE ACTION
A lovely free kick from Thomas King allowed Coventry the chance to claim all three points in this close affair that saw the visitors Heanor reduced to 10 men late on in the game when Chris Smith was shown a second yellow card.
The idea was not to go too far today but when this one came onto the radar last night I decided to go for it having seen Sphinx at Walsall Wood last season a visit to Sphinx Drive was on the cards.
As ever departure from base station found me sitting down on the first train of the day admittedly hopping between reserved and non reserved seats anyway at Derby I had the pleasure of getting into conversation with Bob a Hammers fan who was off down to see West Ham take on Arsenal.  Football clubs are so lucky with the loyalty fans show with Bob holding a season ticket making regular trips down to the former Olympic Stadium, as ever it was great to catch up with a fellow football fan and the 20 minutes to Leicester flew by.  The next part of the journey is always difficult with 2 carriage XCountry trains being the order of the day and this weekend its the Birmingham Christmas Market, something I was not aware of before deciding on this game.  Heaving platform became heaving train with double standing down the aisles and the door entrance area being a no personal space zone still we all got on with it and thankfully I was off after 20 minutes in Nuneaton leaving some people another 40 minutes of this.  Hopefully when the fares go up soon somebody can buy some more rolling stock? A dash over to platform 1 saw the London Midland service offering 2 carriages but it was once again a standing opportunity with many people travelling an alternative way to Birmingham.  Approaching Coventry we stopped at the Coventry Arena station for The Ricoh Stadium now home of The Wasps and of course Coventry City and sadly not safe enough to be used on match days!
THE MODEST SIDE OF LADY GODIVA
Soon departing in Coventry and let me say here a city I have visited on quite a few occasions in the past and always enjoyed it, but today it seemed so dated.  Most of the centre including the station was like a retro visit to the 70's, I'm normally ok at navigating around places but even with the phone maps turned on I was constantly checking and took a few wrong turns.  There does seem to be a distinct lack of street name signs in evidence and the overall sprawl of this centre doesn't make navigation easy.
THE OLD AND NEW COVENTRY CATHEDRAL
After a stroll around the market and a look at Lady Godiva astride her horse I took the footpath that dissects Coventry old and new Cathedral I wont go into the history most will of course know the story but it never ceases to amaze me £6 to go into the new Cathedral!  Having declined the offer there was time to take a trip down memory road, Highfield Road, to take a look at where the former Coventry City FC home was.  On quite a few occasions in the past I visited this ground with its sky blue tip up seats it became England's first all seat stadium and produced one of the smallest, size wise, programmes in the football league in the 80's.
ON THE PITCH AT THE FORMER HIGHFIELD ROAD HOME OF COVENTRY CITY
The new houses were built on the site of the former stands and car parks and interestingly the space in the middle was left as a green area and play ground and this was on the pitch site.  So albeit a few years late I stood on the Coventry City pitch today, of sorts, it was warming to see that the area has a little plinth with a blue plaque marking the clubs former ground its home since 1899.  After a moments pause it was time to leave Signet Square and if you listened quietly you could still hear the roar of the crowd.
JOSEPH LEVI CLOCK
Off to the Binley Rd and the Stoke Green area and on the walk to the ground a lovely local landmark the Joseph Levi clock left in memory of the local philanthropist thankfully local people had got together to restore it and a credit to the area it is.  It was soon time to turn off towards Siddeley Avenue and herein lies another story.
The site of the Coventry Sphinx Sports club is the former home of the Armstrong Siddeley group, makers of the unique car, sports club site.  A long road leads you to the club house which is smart inside but also has that 70's Coventry feel about it from outside.  Anyway a small deposit was left behind the bar before entering the ground through a large full size turnstile at this point you immediately cross the players entrance which is a nice little leg stretch from the changing rooms which are upstairs above the club.
THE BUSINESS END
Behind the goal are the clubs business features raffle seller, tea cabin and programme sellers hut with small selection of items available too.  The ground is a 2 3/4 side affair we have come in behind the goals and walking around the far side has The Willie Knibbs Stand which is split into bench seating and covered, but all flat standing.  Towards the far goal its hard standing and the opposite touchline is a non spectating area.  The boundaries around the ground are a few yards from the pitch and its always a shame to be a little away from the action.  The ground is quite exposed in this cool afternoon with the main pitches surrounded on 3 sides by other playing areas.
MAIN SPECTATOR AREA
Thankfully the teams were easily obtained and even though the crowd was a small 52 with I guess 20 from Heanor the club made good PA announcements and posted a full team sheet inside the ground.  The match programme at £1.50 is also a creditable effort, lovely to have something to read in a programme for a change well done Coventry Sphinx.
So to the game and Heanor have picked up some form of late and are pushing up the table but Sphinx are not far behind and a tight affair looked on the cards and so it proved.  Nick Hall tested Scott Dutton in the home goal before all sorts of chaos developed in the Heanor goalmouth that somehow resulted in a Sphinx effort being blocked when a goal looked a certainty.  On 39 minutes King went off on a weaving run for Sphinx but after all his good work he fired over from close range.  On the stroke of half time Jay Cooper worked hard to create an opportunity to cross and when the ball found Nathan Benger at the far post it would not come down quick enough and he fired over.
SOMEHOW THIS ONE STOPPED OUT
The first half had got a little feisty in stages and in fairness to what I shall mention later the referee was probably dealing with a fair bit of attention from both sides.
The only goal of the game came on 57 minutes as Heanor were looking off the pace and lethargic they conceded a free kick 20 yards out and when substitute King stepped up he crashed the ball in off the underside of the bar.
SPHINX LIVEWIRE MANAGER STAURT DUTTON POINT TO THE TOP OF THE TABLE
It looked game over for the visitors but they did muster themselves into some efforts in the closing stages but as they pushed on they were in danger of course of leaving themselves open at the back.  Dutton saved well for the home side on 76 minutes to give Heanor a corner but it was game over on 87 minutes when referee Richard Cutts harshly showed a second yellow card to Chris Smith and reduced the visitors to ten men.
Here is the observation that I find hard because I very rarely comment negatively on referees I like to acknowledge their difficulties and I'm sure today was a tough game to control in the middle.  I didn't keep a card count but we must have been nearing a Clinton Card festive box of 10, it just seemed way over the top with I believe an assessor in attendance its the same old story.  Referees under pressure who of course want to progress but as ever when the 'assessor is in the stand' the cards come out and fussiness takes over.  The frustrating thing is officialdom never admits it but it would be interesting to see the referee when there is no assessor there and I guess today we may have seen 3-4 cautions.
COLLECTORS ITEM THE REFEREE DOESNT HAVE A CARD IN HIS HAND
By the final whistle the result had just about gone the correct way thanks to a lovely strike and we were soon on the way back into Coventry on the bus and trying to negotiate myself to the railway station.  As I meandered around the food stoppage area and then the toilets I very nearly missed the train I though it was to depart 20 minutes later than it was scheduled too!  Back in Nuneaton and upon arrival it was to be another breathe in journey at least this time at Hinckley the whole carriage eased up to allow comfortable standing.
In Leicester the connecting train was running late and when it did arrive in there was a concern with Leicester Tigers fans out in numbers that seats would be at a premium but thankfully one was secured and we were back in base station at around 8pm.
Today was a nice journey back to a city I had not visited for a while I must take a look here again soon and find my way around a little better than I did today.  For those concerned readers there were no fish and chips consumed today!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

CRISP FINISHES FROM JASON SECURES SELBY VICTORY

SELBY TOWN 2 V GRIMSBY BOROUGH 1
NCEFL 1 @ THE FAIRFAX PLANT HIRE STADIUM
26 NOVEMBER 2016 --- 3PM
SELBY TOWN FC
Two sweet strikes from Selby number 9 Jason Crisp were just enough to secure the three points against form team and the team sitting in second spot Grimsby Borough.  The first half lead was secured by Crisp and in the second half a winning strike form a 35 yard free kick proved enough for the North Yorkshire side to gain victory in an entertaining encounter.
The blog elected for a shorter journey this week and with fog threatening many parts of the country the option to visit Selby, town and ground, for the first time was taken up.
As ever dear reader the rail network provided a talking point throughout this day with the start from base station finding overrunning engineering works seeing us take the short trip to Sheffield on a delayed train, standing of course.  We opted for an all stopping train to Leeds and securing a seat from our platform 3 departure we had a good start mind you by the time the 2 carriage Northern Rail train arrived in Leeds it was as usual rammed the full length of the train.  Here the fun started we hopped onto the 1150 on the adjacent platform for the stopping train to Selby only to jump off a few moments later when a points failure appeared to make the train redundant.  The staff could give no further information when this would be fixed but National Rails website was advising 2.45pm, great!  Plans were in place on the platform for alternatives when the guard declared 'get on were off'.  Well we were precisely 200 yards towards the end of the platform but now situated on the central track and grinding to a halt.  The thought process was they had got us off the platform and here we would sit, there was now a regret of not making the change of plans while on the platform as now we could not get off!
CLASSIC SELBY STATION
Thankfully after a further wait the driver announced 'were going' and off we went by this stage we had taken to a standing position and entered into a fantastic conversation with Barbara from Selby and Michael from Todmorden who had just been on a break to Tenerife.  Barbara sold us on Selby and for a lass from Doncaster she was proud of her new town and the Abbey which she advised us to visit upon departure.  Our stress levels reduced massively and this was once again one of the joys of travelling when you meet people like this genuine people who love to have a chat and we passed the hour away, normally journey time about 35 minutes, with ease so much so that very little of the passing landscape was admired.
We were in Selby before we knew it thanks guys and of course to our train crew who were great, fellow traveller Mick undertook some suitcase duties for Barbara, I managed to avoid this but for the last stretch over the rail bridge I succumbed and helped with a carrier bag, gentleman to the end!
Time to depart and our fellow travellers were off for a rest after their travels back home and we were in Selby Abbey within a few strides.
SELBY ABBEY
  A fantastic place of worship that stands proud from the main shopping area and internally this building is as impressive as any I have visited, if you get the chance pop along and have some time in Selby.  As we turned off the main shopping area to Mickletgate we located Mr C's todays fish and chip establishment to be sampled purely for research purposes of course!  The business has won many awards and has a pleasant building were you can recline to eat or you may sample the excellent corporate logo boxes for a take away, but don't try and read them while your foods inside.  The premises are smart, clean and modern with a descriptor telling you were todays fish is from trawler wise and who farmed todays potatoes.
FOR THE FISH AND CHIPS VIEWERS
I went for fish and chips and they were of a good standard looking like they had been cooked in 'real' fat and within a small walk around the square they were all gone!  Some people have suggested the blog does a fish and chip league and I have to say it is getting closer, the only problem is I will have to re visit all the fish and chip shops covered so far!!
A short walk away is Richard St the entrance road to the Fairfax Plant Hire Stadium home of Selby Town FC nestled in between Selby Auto Spares, Selby Leisure Centre and Selby Community School once inside though this is a cavernous ground.
TOWARDS THE CHANGING ROOMS AT RICHARD ST
The old descriptor comes out because this is the stereotypical ground of 'character' lots of interest with lots of works in progress.  To the right as we enter is a stepped terracing and towards the corner a small toilet block.  Behind this near goal is the main stand at Richard St which starts a little way in after the corner flag with deep wooden bench seating all built in as a block at the far end of the stand is a small sectioned off area with tip up seats placed within, as we come to the next side terracing re appears.
COMFY SEAT FOR ME
The far touchline has plenty of ground behind it, the first area years ago appears to have been the site for a stand no longer in situ we then arrive at the changing room block and dug outs before passing through to the flat standing the other side which to the rear sees the ground covered in Astroturf recovered from some long lost playing ground.  Behind the far goal is a solitary and lonely looking Atcost terrace stand and then we are back to the main business end.
ASTROTURF TERRACE ANYONE
Here we have a media and club shop cabin, again here it is great to hear a public address system operated really well and audible around the ground.  Its operated by our man from Sheffield which is non more so noticeable than when before the game starts he welcomes all to 'beautiful down town Fairfax Plant Hire Stadium' in reference to Bramall Lane.  A lofted hospitality area sides onto the cosy clubhouse which features a bar and snack bar area which is well operated by the ladies of Selby today.  To the front of this area is a bench seated facility which commands a nice view of proceedings.
SEATING AT THE FRONT OF THE CLUB
Today was developing into a foggy and miserable day but I quite like the ground it has character and is not bland and although with some more volunteers I guess Selby could develop it nicely.  One area of note was that the pitch in front of the stand was under water early in the week and the ground here must be the only one in the country to have its own mini moat/stream around it.
For those blog readers who like the game information here it is and with apologies for pictures my camera did not like the dark foggy day, sorry.
Scott Jones for Selby was first to test the Grimsby goal with his shot just over the bar before Crisp saw his effort saved and then Gary Lumley with the follow up found Scott Drury its equal in the visitors goal.  On the half hour mark Borough got in a couple of efforts Dan Trott saw his shot blocked and Adam Drury just missed giving Grimsby the lead.  A few minutes later Drury was through on goal but with just Peter Laurie to beat in the home goal he fired wide.
THE ABBEYS OUT THERE SOMEWHERE
Selby took the lead on 39 minutes a superb ball up the right hand side from Craig Maynard set Crisp away he was fouled around the edge, or just inside the box, and with the linesman flagging for the infringement he recovered his composure to lash the ball home.
The lead didn't last long just 1 minute with Paul Ashton and Caine Winfarrah involved the ball finally fell for Dan Trott who took the chance to level the scores.  With the mist descending we entered into the snack bar area with thoughts of second half problems but upon emerging 10 minutes later conditions had improved.
The second half saw a determined Selby sensing victory against Borough and on 65 minutes they secured the lead that was to be unsurmountable and it was a second for Crisp 35 yards out wide on the right the home side were awarded a free kick and the ball flew off the number 9's boot high into the roof of the net.
THE MIST DROPS AS GRIMSBY ATTACK
Who would tire now?  Selby looked up to defending this and maybe increase their lead but they were grateful to Gary Lumley when he cleared Adam Drury's effort off the line and then with 10 minutes remaining Jack Debnam saw his 25 yard effort clip the Selby bar.
The final stages of the game seemed to enter a slow farcical stage with referee Munday taking an age for two cautions around 88 minutes after 2 consultation with his linesman.  So many of the chats and cards seemed laboured but as ever referees have to be seen to be active when they have an assessor present.  Home keeper Laurie secured the points with a super save on 90 minutes when he went full stretch and his legs blocked Jack Bradbury's effort.  Then when we thought we were moving nicely to the final whistle we had a stoppage for net repair to the Selby goal!  With the whistle going just before 4.55 we thought our chances of a departure on the 5.10 were nil.  Having taken the shortcut towards the Abbey we went for it arriving back just after 5 past 5 and with the train announced we had done it or had we?  You've guessed it the train was stuck outside the station and would finally arrive just after 5.25, hilarious we could have ambled back instead.
With Leeds arrived at just behind schedule there was still time for a comfort stop and a vegetable pasty, pasty league anyone [?], from the lovely stand at Leeds Station before departing on a late train back to base station arriving just before 7.30.
An eventful day and maybe we need to give the trains a few weeks off now as for Selby well worth the visit a nice little town with a ground of character.  The game was agricultural but you could not doubt the effort and I found it a highly entertaining encounter with lots of chances to keep the neutral happy.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

CONWY SUFFER NARROW DEFEAT TO GUILSFIELD

CONWY BOROUGH 1 V GUILSFIELD 2
HUWS GRAY CYMRU ALLIANCE @ Y MORFA
19 NOVEMBER 2016 --- 2.30PM
Y MORFA HOME OF CONWY BOROUGH FC
A double from Guilsfield's Jake Cooke was enough to see off the challenge of a hardworking Conwy under new manager Brian Pritchard who had Chris Quinn to thank for their first half goal.
The shortage of journeys to Wales last season was reversed here with the second trip in 3 weeks following the delightful trip to Bala a few weeks ago.  Having made the arduous journey to Maes Tegid 2 weeks back today gave the opportunity to visit Y Morfa home of Conwy Borough and one that had been on the 'to do list' for too long.  Having been to Conwy on a few previous occasions a chance to take a look at the town was also an additional highlight.
EARLY START ALL MADE WORTH IT WITH THIS VIEW OF CONWY
Here we go with the early repetitive stuff an early start saw us depart on the 8.20 from base station to Liverpool with our first change at Manchester.  The first 1 hours 20 minutes was spent stood with no space at all on a train that was only 2 carriages and packed the full length with standing customers [?].  As ever Mick and myself got in conversation with a variety of people who were around us as we all laughed and joked away the situation!  There was a Mansfield Town supporter off to Haydock races alongside a Liverpool fan off to the city to watch the reds away game in Southampton with his mates in a local public house, cheers guys you helped the journey move along.  We finally departed to a packed platform at Manchester Piccadilly for a comfort stop before this all started again for the Arriva Train service to Llandudno.  Thankfully although the train was busy there were enough seats to secure us a fairly comfortable ride and start to enjoy the North Wales coastline after we departed Chester.
DEGANWY AND THE GREAT ORME IN THE BACKGROUND
Our departure was on time and we opted for the 1 mile walk into Conwy to enjoy the beauty of the estuary, Conwy Castle, Deganwy and as we turned around the Great Orme at Llandudno was in full view.
WALLED TOWN ALLOWS IN HUNGRY BLOGGERS
The lunch time weather was beautiful and this expanded us a superb view of this beautifully scenic town as we entered the harbour area Mick had popped off to visit the RNLI shop and the lady serving enquired "Are you here to run the half marathon tomorrow"?  My reply involved  my expanding waistline and that I was just here for Mars never mind a marathon.  Anyway after a look around the glorious harbour area and a quick visit to the smallest house in Wales, closed for winter, of which I well remember the lady in full Welsh costume who is normally on guard we took a look at a section of wall that encases this town before going of in search of lunch.
FISHERMANS FOR THE HUNGRY FISH AND CHIP SHOP SEEKERS
Fish and chips something you often here in this blog was sampled at 'Fishermans' and off we went searching out the tourist information centre eating.  A quick look at the train station which is a short platform affair with the towns wall having an archway over the entrance to the hub.  We arrived back in town to the superb bakery shop that is directly opposite the fish and chip shop now here were the largest of cakes on display but thankfully I opted for a couple of Welsh bakestones of which I kindly donated one to my fellow traveller.
Y MORFA VENUE AND THE BUSINESS END
With the clock passing 1pm we opted to take a walk out to Y Morfa along the Bangor Road its always a good way of getting a further feel for the area we are visiting and as we approached the tidy little housing estate just before the railway line dissected the road upon its bridge we saw a yellow traffic sign advertising the next home game except there were no opponents listed.  After a short amble along Penmaen Rd we came to Y Morfa and Conwy Borough FC the far side of the stadium was the main entrance that allowed us access to this little beauty.
STAND AT THE TOWN END WITH CONWY MURAL
We duly paid our admission monies, purchased programmes and a raffle ticket before setting off on a photographic mission while Mick enjoyed his usual chatting to visitors and locals alike.  Firstly the ground has a good PA system although probably a limited amount of music never the less its great to be able to hear it and a club use it.
TALL DUGOUTS IN CORPORATE COLOURS
 At out entrance is the clubs main business area but we will set off to the left toilet block all very smart and along the near touchline a small covered flat terrace before high roofed dugouts and beyond continuation of hard standing terracing to the town end goal which had a large stand with mural to Conwy painted on its wall.  This stand is currently closed with roof work needed although it looked smart enough, the club aim to remove the seats after the repairs and it will make another extra covered terrace area.  Back along the far touchline with has steep stepped terracing to either side of a centrally positioned stand, this area offers an excellent view.
TERRACING WITH MAIN STAND AND RAILWAY LINE BEHIND
Behind this is a small amount of ground before the embankment for the railway line to Bangor and Holyhead to the west and of course Conwy to the east sadly I missed all cues to get a photo as various trains passed by although in my defence the trees have grown a little over the years since I saw some of the pictures previously taken.  Once again behind this further is the most fantastic back drop I've seen for a while at a ground the Conwy Mountains, so I'm told they are locally known as.
STAND TO STAND
Back to the business end and a hospitality cabin on stilts, breezes blocks to me and you, offers an excellent view and is a great addition.  The main expanse then has the newly installed/refurbished clubhouse forming Y Morfa Venue, secretary's office, snack bar with external hatch and then in a separate building the changing rooms and we are back at the turnstile entrance area.  My impressions well I had seen quite a few pictures on research and although the club have some new projects to see through this is an excellent ground to view from and one of which I very much enjoyed in my short stay.  Its really a question of where to view from the road side gives a superb view of the game with the mountains as a back drop but the opposite side offers a superb view with steep terrace to welcome you, I guess I need to visit a few more times and watch from different parts of the ground!
NEW MANAGER BRIAN PRITCHARD POINTS THE WAY FORWARD WOOLLY HAT AND ALL
Having picked up a couple of warm drinks from the snack bar we got into conversation with a chap from Hednesford who was running the half marathon tomorrow hope that went well, a guy visiting his son at Bangor University and taking in the game plus during the game a former player and in one of my wanders a friendly supporter who had brought along his dig for the half an hour he could get along to watch the game and once again a was friendly to the visiting blog, thanks guys you make the day!  I had managed to find the secretaries office and Paul supplied me with a team sheet and a little bit of information on the clubs plans including adding 2 further stands to either side of the one already in situ now on the terraced side.
MATCH ACTION FEATURING THE MOUNTAINS
Todays game would be Brian Pritchard's first game in charge at Conwy, formerly of Witton Albion as a player and manager and the latter at Barnton, Brian played and talked his way through every ball this afternoon and if his enthusiasm rubs off on the players it wont be long before Conwy lift themselves from second bottom position.
CONWY KEEPER WILLIAMS IN EARLY ACTION
Guilsfield from Powys were comfortably sat in mid table and I expected the home side to start strongly and indeed they did but the game soon settled down into a fairly even affair but it was the visitors who took a lead after 34 minutes when Cooke turned home a lovely cross goal shot into the far corner of the Conwy net from wide right of the penalty box.
COOKE [FAR RIGHT] GIVES GUILSFIELD THE LEAD
Ten minutes later Conwy deservedly levelled when captain Quinn headed home despite the efforts of the Guilsfield defence to clear the ball before it crossed the line.
FURTHER ACTION AT Y MORFA
It was all square at half time and the second half continued to be a similar close affair it was agricultural at times but never lacking effort from both sides indeed new manager Pritchard must have been very happy with his sides commitment even though ultimately they lost to a penalty in the second half what looked a clear push saw referee Hughes award the spot kick for Cooke to get his and Guilsfield's second.
A GOOD PERFORMANCE FROM REFEREE MIKEY GRAY
It proved enough to gain the 3 points but Conwy worked hard in the final minutes without creating to many clear cut chances although on 89 minutes Joe Choplin fired in a sharp shot that Dave Littleford did well to hold onto in the visitors goal.
DETERMINATION FROM CONWY WAS WELL ON SHOW
Not to be for the Tangerines of Conwy today but I reckon their new manager will get things on the upward curve soon.  As ever it was time to depart and when you have enjoyed a visit its always with a tinge of sadness.
JUST BEFORE OUR DEPARTURE AN EMPTY FLOODLIT GROUND
We opted not to rush back for the 4.50 train and walk back into Conwy which thankfully allowed for some lovely evening views of the castle and town.  Arriving back at Llandudno Junction station at about 5.15 with just over half an hour to wait for our train to Manchester.
CONWY IN THE EARLY EVENING
  The journey back to Manchester was comfortable, at last, we assisted a visually impaired lady onto and off the train at Warrington after a kind request from the local British Transport Policeman at the station and she was a lovely lady making a long journey back to Blackpool.  A 50 minute wait at Oxford Rd saw us amazed at how busy this station was tonight but thankfully our train was soon taking us back over the Peak District even though we got a seat on it the tired travellers were unfortunately disturbed by some football league fans who had probably sampled a few drinks, ha,ha.
Base station was a welcoming site just shy of 1000pm and once again a trip to Wales had resulted in a steady little game but a wonderful visit to a lovely town and a very enjoyable football club, if you haven't visited either its definitely one I recommend.  I cant wait to visit again soon.
AN ARRIVA TRAINS 175 DROPS US AT LLANDUDNO JUNCTION

Friday, 18 November 2016

FLETCHER DOUBLE SECURES A POINT FOR PARKGATE

AFC MANSFIELD 2 V PARKGATE 2
NCEL PREMIER @ FOREST TOWN ARENA
16 NOVEMBER --- 7.45PM
EXTRA LIGHTING AT THE FOREST TOWN ARENA
A double strike from substitute Craig Fletcher secured bottom club an unexpected point at Mansfield but it will be a blessing for recently appointed manager Graham Nicholas who will see a turn a round following this creditable performance.
Night time games are always a challenge for the blog with public transport a constant issue however one of the enjoyable reasons for a visit to Mansfield is the superb, there's 2 words you don't normally here in a sentence associated with Mansfield, bus station.  Its a middle sided affair which is well staffed with a shop open until 7pm for any tea time provisions the sad thing is a decreasing amount of evening buses.
FINE EXAMPLE OF A NEW BUS STATION
The 15a dropped me off ten minutes after departure and just after 7.30pm the ground beckoned first thing of note was the new turnstile block under construction and The Bulls are also planning a new Atcost stand at the opposite end to their current stand.  I wont describe the ground again its not one of my favourites for viewing but their a friendly bunch and Bullys snack bar is an asset with a chip cob sampled tonight just for those wondering about my diet.
The evening was spent in the company of Tony from Heanor Town's their media man and we spent most of the evening around the raised area by the corner flag to help viewing.
DEVELOPMENTS AT AFC MANSFIELD
The Bulls took a lead after 15 minutes with Gary Bradshaw firing the home side ahead but it was Parkgate who threatened and Myles Wright the Mansfield number 1 was alert on more than one occasion to deny the visitors.
We started the second half expecting AFC to extend their lead but 15 minutes into the 2nd half Parkgate were level thanks to substitute Fletcher who lashed home a superb edge of the box finish.  Mansfield re took the lead on 70 minutes with their own substitute Ryan Williams providing the cross off the left for Oliver Fearon to rise and head home.  With eleven minutes remaining it was all square again and that man Fletcher was on hand to fire home the loose ball to set of scenes of joy on the visitors bench.
This was probably a fair result with some real determination showed from the Parkgate players as for AFC Mansfield its a little blip in a game they failed to close out after that early lead.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

3 IMPORTANT POINTS FOR SKELMERSDALE

SKELMERSDALE UTD 2 V ILKESTON 1
EVOSTIK NPL PREMIER @ STORMY CORNER
12 NOVEMBER 2016 --- 3PM

This battle of the wrong end of the table turned into 3 points for Skelmersdale thanks to Max Hazeldine's tap in with the scores level at 1 apiece, but just as influential was the second half sending off for a second caution of Ilkeston's Mark Shelton.
The return of the rain after a few weeks away was making the decision of todays game a possibility of 3g calling, however with the north west looking to clear up first and a late Friday look at Skelmersdale it was off to the new town we would go.
OK THEN
Saturday was spent in the company of 'match off' notifications around the north west, including Atherton LR which we were to later pass, but thankfully Skelmersdale had updated their website to say 'game on'.  Departure to Manchester from base station was the usual all standing affair to Sheffield and then with seat secured at steel city it was time for others to become familiar with the same.  On arrival at Piccadilly we had a sharp walk over to Victoria and before setting off we had noticed a 15 minute delay on all services to Wigan via Atherton.  Sadly the ticket inspector from our friends at Northern Rail proved to be having a humourless day and held us up for a few more seconds than necessary.  Patience tested a busy Manchester city centre finally allowed us to make a 20 minute walk to Victoria for the 1210 to Wigan.  Herein started probably the most stressful journey of the season so far courtesy of Northern Rail, again, a few minutes late out of the station saw the train held up by the late running Blackpool train and then the all stopping train that should have been 4 minutes behind us was put in front and you guessed it before we entered every station there was a delay of 5 minutes.  The 40 minute journey took 1 hour and 5 minutes and by the time we arrived our preferred bus to 'Skem' was missed and we wandered over for the 1329 aquamarine service 395.
ILKESTON'S STEVE WELSH HAS A PRE MATCH CHAT WITH THE OFFICIALS
  This part of the journey went well and we departed in our destination today at just after 2pm.  It was a first time to Skelmersdale but sadly there was not time to look around this new town that catered for the overspill of people from Liverpool that has one of the largest collections of roundabouts in the country and whose town has no traffic lights.  The centre is very much a mini shopping precinct surrounded by park and walkways oh yes and the towns biggest employer The Coop.  There are very few footpaths by the roadside and a networks of pathways through the greenery take you to the nearby estates and our preferred point of Skelmersdale UTD FC today Selby Place.  Now in the utopia world of design these things are all very well with good sign posting but this seems missing as we sought out our destination without google maps it would have been a struggle today.  The ground is a fair old walk at around 35 minutes away to the north western edge of the town on an industrial estate that houses a large Asda distribution centre.  Having marched off to the ground we arrived about 2.45pm and upon entry purchased the programme before taking a few pictures and securing the team line ups.
PRE MATCH DUTIES FOR THE SKELMERSDALE LADIES
The ground is a quirky affair much like the town itself and its star attractions of to the right an elevated double Atcost type of stand with changing rooms to the rear behind this and to the corners is a grass banking.  The far end is grass banked with hard standing to the front and to the left of our entrance a nice uncovered terrace with you've guessed it a grass bank behind.  By the entrance is most of the supporters activity area with snack bar, hospitality in a lofted cabin, bar and function room, toilet block, nice little programme sellers area and the club shop which is a very small affair.  A good public address system kept the pre match proceedings going well.  Mick had gone off chatting to a few of the locals and a fair few Ilkeston supporters who had also made the trip up from Derbyshire.
For those of you wandering about the chip intake so it was non so far and would remain so today.
ITS BEHIND YOU
The match itself saw both these two teams in need of points the home side probably more so than the visitors at present.  But it was Ilkeston who started off brightly and were playing with a real pace and determination however you know what's coming.  Skelmersdale nearly opened the scoring on 11 minutes when Luke Wall off the left smashed an effort off the bar and amazingly it then flew off the post too but it was the same player whose corner off the right gave the home side the lead after 23 minutes when Michael Grogan headed home.
 
Ilkeston continued to push forward although Skelmersdale were looking threatening with Wall a constant danger.  The visitors did though equalise on 42 minutes when a right wing corner form Rory Coleman saw the ball loose in the box for Malachi Lavelle-Moore to fire home.
Just before half time we had a little chat with Skem player Jonah O Reilly, who is injured, and his dad and managed to get a quick picture of Molly and Kipper who were non too interested in the game but enjoying a day out in the fresh air all the same.
MOLLY AND KIPPER
Ilkeston started the second half strongly and looked to extend their lead however on 63 minutes Mark Shelton went down on the edge of the box when the goal was beckoning, referee Bannister flashed an immediate yellow card, his second, followed by a red.  The 'diving' decision seemed a funny one with the player more or less in on goal but only he will know.

The course of the game was changed with Skelmersdale now given the confidence to power forward and after a few scrapes they took the lead on 77 minutes when Chad Whyte squeezed a shot past Ross Durrant in the Ilkeston goal and with the ball about to be cleared on the line Hazeldine made sure to convert the ball and claim three oh so valuable points for Skelmersdale.
REFEREE BANNISTER FINDS A YELLOW
The final minutes were spent enjoying the ability of Luke Wall and some superbly crafted left foot crosses into the visitors penalty box.
Our return journey took us along the same route and the journey to The Concourse bus station saw us arrive with about 15 minutes leeway, time enough to take a quick look in the upper deck mall.  The place was already looking like its bus station fairly empty.  Although there is a leisure centre and library adjacent to the centre the whole project feels disassociated with the housing estates that expand beyond the green park areas that surround.  Indeed many local people believe the town was never properly finished its a shame there is no rail station something that has been looked into on more than one occasion apparently. 
I hope to re visit for a look around the town and it surrounds but I'am clearly going to have to book a little more time to do this as Skelmersdale, for me, is not an easy place to reach.
Our return journey saw us arrive at Wigan North Western for the 1829 train to Warrington Bank Quay were we walked across the town to Warrington Central for the 1919 direct back to base station arriving at just short of 9pm.  It was nice to get a brief look at Warrington a town that had only been previously viewed from the train and this offered us an alternative route back to the troubled Atherton corridor of earlier.
Quite a few people have mentioned they want to pop along to Skelmersdale and hopefully they will take the plunge I guess its easier to do in a car but as ever do not let the potential shortfalls of public transport put you off.  At times today its was a rush re arranging plans and it can spoil the day but I enjoyed the visit and an entertaining open game of football which is what its all about.
A BUSY EARLY EVENING SKELMERSDALE BUS STATION