Dynamo’s football charged right to the end.

Loughborough Dynamo are located just outside the town just near junction 23 of the M1 which is being totally remodelled to prepare for the building of approximately 3500 new homes. They were at home to Bury Town F.C. in the second round qualifying of the F.A. Trophy on Saturday 17th October.

The ground is in a very pretty leafy suburb, within a whole sporting complex which from what I could see includes other football pitches, an outside basketball court,tennis courts and a bowls club. The skies remained grey and overcast with the drizzle of early morning long gone. The pitch looked beautiful with an immaculate playing surface and the Covid restrictions were well organised and I felt relaxed. A microlight flew over the ground to provide unscripted pre match entertainment.

Both sides were evenly matched, Bury play in the Isthmiam League North Division winning both of their League games and Loughborough in the Northern Premier League Division One South East only losing one of their 6 starts.

Loughborough Dynamo were formed in 1955 by pupils at the local grammar school who wanted to play football rather than rugby and took the Dynamo name from Moscow Dynamo who were playing a series of friendlies at that time. The club played in many local Leagues and broke through into the Northern Premier League in 2008 where they still play.

Bury Town, formaly Bury St Edmunds, by contrast, are one of the oldest teams in the country having been formed in 1870 with one of their players being in the first ever F.A. Cup final playing for the Wanderers and he also played for England against Scotland in the first International. They changed their name to the current one in 1885 and have had an up and down journey twice spending some time in the Southern League but relegation and finnancial difficulty saw them drop down the pyramid system. A climb back to the Southern League resulted in them being moved to the Isthmian League Premier Division in 2010 but five years later they were relegated to their current level.

Loughborough Dynamo 1 Bury Town 0

Loughborough took control of the match from the start and within 20 minutes the Bury goalkeeper Joe Rose had made three amazing saves but despite being in control the teams were still level at half time.

The same pattern ensued in the second half but continual forays down the right started to become predictable and the Bury defence were able to counter these without gaining any real attacking momentum. Considering the score remained 0-0 the game was absorbing and the time seemed to fly by with Curtis Burrows effort for Loughborough hitting the post with 5 minutes left.

After another right wing play on 89 minutes Dynamo gained a throw in near the Bury corner flag. For the first time Danny Gordon tried a long throw into the Bury penalty area and after some different efforts to score and defend, like a pinball machine richocheting around, and another Joe Rose save, Alex Steadman hit home the winner. Despair for Bury, jubilation for Loughborough and on the pattern of play a deserved win.

The chips were very hot, tasty, a good colour and cooked in a fryer. They were served in a comfortable club house with a view of another game on an adjoining pitch. A score of 80 was very good.

Local Welfare Derby

I looked at the F.A. Vase Cup draw and was drawn towards two Miners Welfare teams playing each other. Hemsworth Miners Welfare F.C. v. Nostell Miners Welfare F.C. but Hemsworths pitch had been dug up to lay a new artificial one which meant Nostell were playing at home away. The home advantage may help to even up the fact that Nostell play in the First Division of the Toolstation Northern Counties East whereas Hemsworth are in the division above, the Premier Division. There was also the added ingredient that these two teams play only 4.3 miles apart, a true local derby.

To get to the Nostell ground you have to drive through some housing off the main road at New Crofton.  There was plenty of parking in the leafy surroundings of the Crofton Community Centre which appeared to have more than one ground a bowling green and a very good club house. Teams of all ages play here and everywhere was tidy and spotless. Covid restrictions still in play and a one way system led me into the ground and I decided to give the club house a miss but found a quieter food and drinks counter. 

The pitch must be one of the most secluded in the country one side bounded by a bank with a small seating area and  other three sides by mature trees which were swaying in the strong breeze. At one end of the flat pitch leaves were falling changing the green long grass into a mottled green and yellow patchwork. 

Most of the small 108 crowd were huddled under the covered seating area as the rain turned to bright sunshine and back to rain throughout the game. 

Hemsworth Miners Welfare F.C. was formed in 1981 after Hemsworth Coliery F.C. had folded but they soon gained promotions within the local leagues to be elected to the Northern Counties East League in 2008 and four years ago were elevated to the Premier league after being Champions of League 1.

Hemsworth have become a truly community club and their current laying of an artificial pitch will give greater access to everyone to play and in all weather’s. It should also generate an extra income stream.

Please if you have time watch this video made about Hemsworth by Barnsley F.C. It epitomises what a Non League club does within it’s community. One quote from the video says “Non League is honest “.         https://twitter.com/i/status/1182611803798245376

Nostel Miners football can be traced back to the 1890’s and the Miners Welfare formed in 1928 when the current land that is used today was bought. The club have played for most of their history in local leagues and in 2006 were promoted to their current League. Since the demise of the local pit the club has become  a community club.

Hemsworth M.W. 3 Nostril M.W. 0

Hemsworth took control of the game from the start and hit the bar and missed simple chances before they took the lead on 23 minutes when the ball was whipped in from the right after a corner on the left and Josh Wright nodded the ball unopposed for them to take the lead. 

Five minutes later the game was held up for some time as a Hemsworth player, Josh Wright, went down after a clash with what looked like a knee injury. After shouts of pain and treatment a stretcher was called and he was carried off the pitch. 

Hemsworth’s midfield continued to dominate the play and they finished comfortably ahead at half time.

Within 2 minutes of the restart Nostells no20 was sent off for a very strong tackle which left them with a mountain to climb and 5 minutes later Hemsworth doubled their lead when no.7

Valladolid Collins was able to tap the ball home following a good pass from the left.

The game was put beyond Nostells reach on 66 minutes when Hughes with his first touch, having just been brought on ,cut inside, steadied himself, and from 5 metres out curled the ball along the ground inside the post for an unassailable 3 goal lead.

That’s how it stayed at the end of 90 minutes so the away home team were unable to create a giantkilling upset and Hemsworth gained local bragging rites.

The snack bar was very reasonably priced and the chips were cooked separately and were mega hot, crispy, golden, good quantity and above all tasty. Only slightly below last week’s Ilkeston standard with a score of 83. Either the chips are getting better or I need to get out more.

 

Rain fails to wash out F.A. Cup.

With storm Alex sweeping across the country it was a case of sailing on the motorway until junction 26 and the heavy traffic on the A610 towards Ilkeston turned out to be for IKEA rather than turning left at the roundabout to Ilkeston like me.

The ground is reached over a one way traffic light controlled bridge over the Erewash 0canal leading to a large car park.

The river Erewash runs down the other side of the ground but the playing surface looked to have coped with the downpour. The pitch was flat and like other pitches I have seen this year has great grass cover.

Ilkeston FC’s badge shows the past coal mining tradition in the town but iron and steel production along with textiles were all important in it’s growth but all have almost now disappeared. For the second week in a row the home team are called the Robins.

The ground is very tidy and has good cover with a stand in one corner of the ground. There are two snack bars and a big bar/function building all of which were very busy.

The game was an F.A. Cup Second Qualifying Round between Ilkeston Town F.C. v Hanley Town F.C. Ilkeston play in the Northern Premier League Division One South East, one level above Hanley who play in the North West Countries League Premier Division.

Ilkeston Town F.C. have only been in existance since 2017 taking up the local mantle from Ilkeston F.C. who had only been reformed in 2010. The current team having been elected to the Midland Football League won back to back promotions before last season’s results were expunged and their support and ground could see them progress further over the next few years.

Hanley Town, one of the town’s that make up the Potteries has had a team since 1882 but this club hails from Sunday League football in the 1960’s and played most of their football in the Cheshire Leagues and after being denied entry into the North West Counties League in 1988 dropped back to regain momentum in the the last 10 years and reach Division One and the Premier Division of their current league.

Ilkeston Town 4 Hanley Town 1

Ilkeston started the game with intent and looked strong for the first 10 minutes with penetrating runs down the right wing. However as Hanley came more into the game they took a shock lead when number 9 for Hanley nodded the ball down to Nial Cope who buried it in the net under the goalkeeper after 20 minutes.. Hanley were now more adventurous but we’re undone 14 minutes later by Zak Goodson who received a ball on the right side of goal, beat an advancing defender and placed the ball home inside the post. Only 3 minutes later Zak Goodson again cut back a ball for Nat Watson to shoot the home team into the lead. Hanley upped their game but Ilkeston went in ahead at the break.

Hanley continued to push forward in the second half and had a shot cleared off the line but this left them exposed at the back and Ikeston came close as well. On 70 minutes Hanley bought on the ex Premiership player Richardo Fuller and within two minutes he had made an impact being brought down in the penalty area after some clever footwork. He stepped up to take the penalty and after a shimmy he struck the ball towards the right corner but Ross Currant in the Ilkeston goal made an amazing dive to his left to save the spot kick.

This seemed to sap Hanleys energy and resolve and Ilkeston pushed more and more on goal and were rewarded on 83 minutes when it was Zak Goodson again who controlled a pass and curled his drive into the centre of the Hanley goal to increase their lead. Then with minutes to go Nial Cope of Hanley was sent off for upending an opponent in the penalty area and Alex Troke put it away to make it 4 – 1 for Ilkeston who were into the next round. Hanley looked good despite the score line but their resolve waned after the penalty miss and heavy legs caught up with them.

 

On such a miserably wet day I was thankful for the £2 portion of chips which were amazing. They were hot, golden, tasty and I had to resist a second portion. A great score of 85 that will take some beating this season.

 

Swallows swiftly fly past Robins.

A trip to Selby to see Selby Town play Swallownest in a Northern Counties East League Division One fixture had the background of rapidly increasing Coronavirus infections but the game was on with Social Distancing and Track and Trace regulations.

Selby is an historic market town with a beautiful cathedral but as you drive in from the East you pass the gigantic Drax Power Station that dominates the sky line. The cooling towers will however be demolished in the future with the move towards more environmental energy generation.

Selby Town have been in existence since 1919 although a team of the same name and nickname had been dissolved nearly 10 years before. They were once in the Northern Counties East LeaguePremier Division but have spent most of their time at their current level.

Swallownest started life as Aston F.C. only 14 years ago changing their name to Swallownest Miners Welfare F.C. and in 2016 to Swallownest F.C. They have progressively moved up to their current level. Swallownest is on the outskirts of Sheffield in the middle of an ex mining area.

This is a compact ground tucked away down a street of pretty terraced houses and entry through the gate reveals a pretty flat surface with amazing thick grass cover. The only disappointment is the weather with its grey skies and blustery cold North wind. But a coffee and Kit Kat, no chips, from the newly built wooden refreshments hut and a seat out of the wind behind the goal soon makes the world OK. There are no prawn sandwiches on offer here, pork pies, sausage rolls, scratchings, Bovril and more. The 177 stalwarts in the ground used this and the bar to good advantage all afternoon helping the coffers of this community club. It was good to see the good mix of ages in the ground with perhaps 25% below 20 years old.

The Robins are in their all red and the Swallows in all blue with white shoulder flashes.

Selby Town F.C. 2 Swallownest F.C 3

It only took Swallowness 8 minutes playing against the wind to take the lead when Nathan Morritt was put through to slide the ball between the legs of the exposed goalkeeper. Swallownest kept control of the game and were worth their second goal when Matt Morton headed home a good cross from Alex Nightingale after a short corner. With the half coming to the end Charlie Clamp of Selby was put through for him to easily score to the right of the goalkeeper to make it 1-2 at half time.

Within a few minutes of the restart a revitalised Selby released Flanagan on the right edge of the penalty area and he curled the ball into the top right of the goal. After a period of Selby pressure a high ball into their penalty box was taken down well by Thomas Cropper who smashed it into the net for Swallownest to take the lead again.

Swallownest took strong advantage of the wind behind their backs and their dominance led to a penalty for them which was blasted over after 84 minutes. Despite some pressure from Selby they didn’t create any further chances and the away team were worthy winners.

It was the Selby keeper who impressed me with his distribution and none of the goals could be put down to him. I would expect to see him playing at a higher level in the not too distant future.

 

Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil.

A Chronicle of Coal, Cowdenbeath and Football. Written by Ronald Ferguson, published by Famedram Publishers 1993.

While reading “Can we have our football back?’ on holiday, I researched the author which led me to a quarterly Scottish Football magazine ‘Nutmeg’ which talked about the Blue Brazil?

To my amazement in Oban Oxfam shop I found this book which is all about Cowdenbeath F.C. a la ‘The Blue Brazil’.

There are many anecdotal reasons where the name came from but although touching on it that is not what the book is about.

The book takes you on a journey through Cowdenbeath F.C’s tumultuous season of 1992-93 and how it’s fans, players, manager, owner and other board members played their part.

This is though only one aspect of this multi layered book that takes you on other journeys in the town’s history, local coal mining, the Labour party, the church, the co op, the author and some I have missed. Page 121 gives a good insight into why the Labour Party lost its hold on its congregation.

This is a great social history book and I have seen it described as a cult classic but for me it is an Icon. With so much passion and skll in Scottish Football that ouzes from the pages in this book and has been shown by Sir Alex Ferguson, Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly, ‘Hooky Leonardd to name only a few I cannot understand why they fail so dismally at a higher level. Perhaps it is held back by the administtators in the game who fined Cowdenbeath £500 at the beginning of the Second World War for not fulfilling a fixture due to a large proportion of the team signing up, an injustice that still hasn’t been rectified.

A quote from early in the book: “Myths and dreams and pies and bovil may not mean much to the sophisticated who crowd into the hospitality lounges of big clubs several minutes before the half-time whistle has even gone; but if wee clubs are squeezed out, more than football will suffer”, shows Ron Ferguson’s deep rooted feeling and concern for football.

The author now lives on Orkney where at one time was Mister of St Magnus Cathedral. Even from there he has followed his beloved Cowdenbeath despite an inhospitable ferry journey and endless road miles.

I try not to make recommendations on what to read but this is a must, you will not be disappointed and you will follow Cowdenbeaths results for ever more.

Football at grass roots keeps going.

The chance of another live game could not be missed as the pandemic swirls around us with no short tem respite.

I made the trip to see Northampton Sileby Rangers F.C. play Bedfont and Feltham F.C. in the F.A. Vase first qualifying round. Sileby play at Fernie Fields in Northern Northampton perhaps the best kept ground I have ever visited at this level of Football. The pitch was lush, thick , flat grass that looked vivid green against the clear blue sky. The hedges on two sides of the ground are immaculately clipped and a spirit level must have been used to get them so perfect. The club house and catering facilities were spotless and even the fact that they didn’t do chips couldn’t spoilt it. The gateman and the catering staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful. Only a breeze kept the temperature down as we drifed towards autumn.

I was also at Fernie Fields to go with my son and grandson to his first paying football match at 4 years old. I’m sure he most probably will remember most beating his Grandad 8-6 at half time on a small patch of grass at one end of the ground.

His Dad went to his first game at three, a Luton home defeat on Boxing Day to Watford. He only lasted the first half and we left his Grandad to watch the second half while we walked back to the car in a multi storey car park. We drove to the top floor and while we listened to the end of the game on the radio he steered the car round and round sat on my knee. I think he enjoyed that more than the game. My own experience at my first match with my father when five was documented in an earlier blog when my attempt at pyrotechnics didn’t end well.

Sileby play in the United Counties League Division One and were formed as a works team in 1968 playing in a local Sunday League. They switched to Saturday football in the late 1980’s when they changed names to Vanaid due to a sponsorship deal. The name Northampton Sileby Rangers was adopted in 2000 having joined the United Counties League in 1993. They have reached as high as the Premier League but now play in the lower division.

Bedfont and Feltham F.C. have only been in existence for 8 years since the merger of Bedfont and Feltham and have spent their time in the Combined Counties League having taken over Feltham’s place. They too have been in their Premier Division only to drop back to League Division One.

Northampton Sileby Rangers F.C.4 Bedfont and Feltham F.C. 3

Both teams looked evenly matched considering their level in the Non League pyramid system but it was Sileby who took the lead on 10 minutes when Watkinson did well to get to the line and cross back for Mann to score. Bedfont came back into the game and deserved their equaliser when Collins found space to score. 

End to end play meant Sileby scored again on 34 minutes this time from a well directed header by Mann from a corner and this was how it stayed until half time.

The second half came to life when Nathan Smith hit a shot from near 30 yards that bounced and went under the bewildered goalkeeper. With the game level Sileby were awarded a penalty for an unforced handball which the goalkeeper made a great save to his right. More excitement led to a harshly deflected shot that beat the unfortunate Bedfont keeper to put Sileby 3-2 ahead. The mayhem continued when Pearce took a long throw into the goal area which the stretching goalkeeper palmed into his own net. Now at 3-3 it was anyones game but with 7 minutes remaining Vaughan crossed for Koriya to calmly hit the back of the net. 

Sileby played out the remaining minutes with Alex Marius who had been introduced in the second half stamping some confidence in the team.

The only disappointment was the meagre crowd, I understand many people’s reluctance to go out at the moment but the social distancing was well run. Come on Northampton, support this progressive local club.

Can we have our football back?

How the Premier League is ruinning football and what we can do about it….’

Written by John Nicholson. Published by Head Publishing 2019.

This book has been touted as one of the best published in the past 12 months about football so I devoured it on my recent holiday.

It set the historical creation of the Premier League and delivered on many aspects of how it has, is and will continue to take the game from the fans and football as a whole.

The book delivered everything I expected.

The book is well written and at first it feels like John Nicholson is ranting at you to wake up and get on with some action to regain control of Football. John analyses and explains what has happened and then proposes changes that are set out to achieve a more equitable game for fans, players administrators and all teams. I could say it is a type of socialism for top flight football but that would be wrong, it is a passionate call for some equity in the game and a revolution against the all powerful monolith that the Premier League has become.

The first part of the book is ten chapters of laying bare the Premier Leagues web of marketing myths and truths that have brought us to a belief that they are all conquering and the salvation of the game. Parts two and three talk of a revolution and dreams for the future culminating with the manifesto. Finaly there is a. Manifesto of what John want at achieve which I will leave for you to find out by reading the book.

Since reading the book some of John’s predictions have come true. He says that there is a myth about the League’s global dominance and continuous revenue stream. This has been badly dented with the announcement that they have had to cancel the £564M Three year contract with PPTV in China after non payment.

Fans have also campaigned successfully for a pay per view service to be able to see their clubs specific match rather than the broadcasters match scheduled. This was in the main what was available during lockdown and fans want it to continue.

Come the next round of negotiations for TV rights the playing field will have changed and part of the revolution will be in motion.

John, a really thoughtfull and engrossing book, up the revolution.

The real football season has begun.

The real football season began with The Extra Preliminary Round of the 2020/21 F.A. Cup and I missed it.

My predictive ability looks poor as I expected the season to start later and was away on a two week holiday on the Kintyre Peninsula in Western Scotland.

The games come fast now for Non League clubs with rounds of the 3 National cups already drawn despite the FA Vase and Trophy from last season not quite completed.

Who says there is no glamour in the F.A. cup anymore when you could be one of the 20 first time entrants in this year’s draw dreamimg of a trip down Wemley Way in far off May.

This could be, no will be, the year of the underdogs with preparations for all teams disrupted and finances fragile which could just turn a few things upside down.

I made it to my first match at South Emsall in West Yorkshire to see Frickley Athletic at home to Newcastle Benfield in the F.A. Cup Preliminary Round. As I wandered down Westfield Lane to the ground summer was still with us which was evident by the cricket match in play just before the car park.

The online ticket booking had been easy as the game was played under Covid restrictions and the attendance was limited and Track and Trace was in operation. In the event the crowd of 192 was not near the allowed number.

It was good to be seeing my first live game since March and it was a glorious end of summer day with blue skies and some high cloud. Sitting in the large stand the ground looked as if it had been lovingly worked on since the last game with lots of newly painted areas. The pitch was immaculate and looked very flat until I walked round the perimeter to see a large slope existed from the stand to the far edge of the pitch.

There is mention of Frickley Colliery Athletic Club as far back as 1908 but with the demise of the coal industry the Colliery name was dropped in the 1970’s. Evidence of the mining roots can be seen from the stand as it overlooks an old mining spoil tip that has been contoured and is now used as farm land with the hay bales in the fields which acted as seating for some people to overlook the ground and watch the game. Frickley ‘s best performance in the F.A.Cup was in 1985 when they reached the third round only to lose at home to local rivals Rotherham United. At that time they were playing their football in the highest level of Non League Football and were founder members of the Football Conference the following year. Since then they have slipped down some levels but are a well run and established club.

Benfield by contrast were only formed in 1988 and have had a few name changes on their journey to becoming settled members of the Northern League Premier Division. They have reached the quarter finals of the F.A. Vase and are always a hard team to beat.

Frickley Athletic 3 Newcastle Benfield 1

The game started competitively and Frickley soon stamped their physical advantage on the game but some accurate long passes to the Benfield forwards put them under pressure.

After only 6 minutes Frickleys Nyle Blake was played through and he was able to slide the ball between the advancing goalkeepers legs and into the net despite the efforts to clear off the line by a despairing Benfield defender. The same player should have doubled the score on 15 minutes but dragged his shot wide of the left post.

Benfield started to have the best of play and on 42 minutes their left back, Turnbull, who was my man of the match, was again fouled and the freekick from Noble was headed home at the near post by number nine Brayson.

Benfield lack of concentration let Grayson  restore Frickley’s lead only two minutes later and the home team went in 2 -1 up at half time.

Benfield had the most possetion in the second half but were unable  to get clear shots on goal and Jack Whightwick wrapped it up just before the end when he received the ball from a throw in and made a great turn and shot to put the home side into the next round.

I was excited to find Big Fellas Snack Bar and find chips on the menu. Unfortunately although hot they were a bit soggy and lacked taste. Good value and quantity but dropping half was not a disappointment. A score of only 53 to start the season.


	

Green shoots for football.

The local game made some tentative steps on the road to starting the season this last week.

The draws were made for the extra preliminary round of the F.A. cup to be played behind closed doors on Tuesday 1st September. There will be no replays this year with all games being played to a conclusion. The romance is still there and this year there are 20 new teams who have never competed in the cup before. Some of the teams have progressed from lower levels and Sunday League and show that the game is still developing despite the pressures put on Non League clubs as personified by Droylesden’s recent demise. Hope that they will be back in the future, stronger.

The F.A. also drew the initial rounds of the Vase and Trophy competitions.

The issuing of Premiership and ELF fixtures have also meant that other leagues can now progress theirs and should be out in the next few days.

20 MP’s have also written to the Government to request an urgent review of allowing spectators into lower level football matches as average crowds make it easy to Social Distance. It will also open club houses and generate some much needed income. These Community clubs need to survive and preserve the local game that helps in mental welfare, exercise and a lot more.

During the inactivity an army of volunteers have cleared, cleaned, painted and created some of the best pitch surfaced ever seen.

Finally my brand new copy of the Non League Club Directory for 2020/21 has landed on my door mat. I couldn’t wait for Christmas this year.

So some steps forward and I hope it will not be much longer until I can watch a live game of football again.

‘the miracle of castel di sangro’00o

‘the miracle of castel di sangro’ written by Joe McGinnis first published in the UK by Little Brown Book Company 1999.

20200814_133300

This book has been languishing in the garage for sometime and I should have retrieved it many months ago. If you didn’t know better you would think you are reading a football novel and not a true story.

The well known American author Joe McGinniss who has a love for football decides to follow the the first season of Castel di Sangro FC who have improbably been promoted to Serie B one off Italy’s Premier league after a decade of amazing progress from regional amateur football. He gets himself embedded and accepted within the team and officials and lives their amazing story as they battle to survive in a League that includes some well known former Serie A teams, e.g. Torino, Brescia. Lecce, Empolio and others.

The City of Castel di Sangro is situated in the hills mid way between Rome and Naples and boasts a population of just over 6000 which makes the achievement more amazing.

The tension of  the team, manager and games oozes through the pages as does the background wheeling and dealing. Do they survive in the League, do the individuals survive their life crises or does Italian intrigue spin out of control.

Yes it is a a novel, oh no it isn’t. 

Don t let the 400 pages put you off, you will read it in a few days because you won’t put this book down. 

If you feel the book tells a great story look up what has happened to the team since. Another story to be written?