Saturday 7th May 2011

Stone Old Alleynians 1 Sporting Khalsa 1
West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1
At: Motiva Park (groundshare at Stone Dominoes FC)
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Attendance: 29 (headcount)
Weather: cloudy, dry
Duration: first-half: 45:50; second-half: 49:48

Familiar venue (fifth visit), familiar colours (black and white stripes), but unfamiliar home side. Shame on me not for not having seen Stone Old Alleynians play either home or away until today, considering I made just a short 13.3 mile trip from home to ground. I found such a welcoming club with the added bonus of a decent programme. Both sides had something to play for – visitors Sporting Khalsa needed to avoid defeat to secure third position which may be high enough for promotion to the Premier Division. Stone’s aim was to win and move up to fifth position, After Stone had created several chances, it was Khalsa who took a 20th minute lead through Satnam Sangha. The home side, who included former Stoke City and Stafford Rangers midfielder Jamie Cartwright and ex-Stafford youth player Darryll Johns, equalised in the 70th minute when Steven Millington fired home at close range. Stone finish the season in sixth position, the highest they have achieved in the pyramid during their 49 year history while Sporting Khalsa have to wait to see if third is high enough for promotion.

0-1 Satnam Sangha (20)
1-1 Steven Millington (70)

Monday 2nd May 2011

Church Warsop 1 Pinxton 0
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division
At: The Alley, Wood Lane
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: £3; Programme: none
Attendance: 40 (headcount)
Weather: Sunny, strong cold win
Duration: first-half: 47:20; second-half: 47:32

I arrived at The Alley around 20 minutes before kick-off to be greeted by Rob Hornby who told me that kick-off had been put back an hour to 2 pm and gave me some tips on the best places to park. This gave me time to visit the nearby old ground of Welbeck Welfare (which may be used again next season) and Warsop’s St Peter and St Paul Church. Laurence Reade, Lee West and Chris Berezai amongst other travellers duly arrived with Laurence heading for Ollerton before a planned return for Welbeck’s 5 pm kick-off at The Alley. As for the game itself, the strong blustery wind wasn’t conducive for entertaining football and neither side had anything to play for with Pinxton guaranteed third position. Plenty of chances were created and Church Warsop’s winner came from a 73rd minute penalty. Jamie Renshaw was penalised for handling Adrian Smith’s cross and Craig Cantrell fired home from the spot. At full time I made my way to the Summit Centre to catch the last 13 minutes of Kirkby Town v Dronfield Town, which finished 3-1 to Kirkby. All four goals had been scored by the time I’d arrived and it was good to spend some time in the company of Malcolm Storer (a pleasure to give an APTCOO donation), Kev Goodman, Eddie Fogden and ‘FredKirkbyTown’.

Church Warsop (navy blue / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Craig Tansley, 2. Adrian Smith, 3. Liam Middleton, 4. Craig Charlesworth, 5. Brett Crew, 6. Robert Camm, 7. Sam Ward, 8. Craig Cantrell, 9. Lee Eason (capt), 10. Liam Marsden, 11. Jordan Claxton. Subs: 14. Luke Cower (for Crew, 71), 15. Alex Marsh (not used), 19. Richard Preston (not used).

Pinxton (white shirts with black sleeves / black / black): 1. Dave McCarthy, 2. Josh Parker, 3. Ryan Kerlin, 4. Joe Riley, 5. Jamie Renshaw, 6. Liam Collins, 7. Frazer Thomas (capt), 8. Sam Hutsby, 9. Blake Vincent, 10. Martin Jones, 11. Martin Newman. Subs: 14. Jay Cooper (for Newman, 48), 15. Lewis Fantom (for Hutsby, 55), 17. Rory Davis (for Kerlin, 79).

Referee: Stephen Hall.
Assistants: Gareth Carlile and Martin Jones.

1-0 Craig Cantrell (73 pen)

Saturday 30th April 2011

Stalybridge Celtic 3 Stafford Rangers 2
Blue Square Bet North
At: Blower Fold
Attendance: 583

Stafford Rangers failed in the bid to avoid relegation to the third tier of non-league football, going down 3-2 to an impressive young Stalybridge Celtic side who played some delightful passing football on a decent playing surface. For the first 70 minutes, Rangers looked like dropping to the Evo-Stik League with barely a whimper as goals from Connor Jennings (13th minute) and Arthur Gnahoua (58th minute) looked like being part of a substantial win for the home side. Up to that point the only decent Stafford effort was a Luke Keen shot that rebounded off the bar. But, in the Blue Square Bet North’s ‘Old Firm’ game, Rangers halved Celtic’s lead with an Andre Francis header (63rd minute) and suddenly decided to go on the attack. Gaps at the back allowed Joel Bembo-Leta to restore Celtic’s two goal lead in the 74th minute, only for Marco Adaggio (or possibly a Jan Budtz own goal) to quickly reply for Rangers. Stafford pressed hard and Danny Edwards headed inches over the bar while Celtic should have scored again during an exciting finale. Deep into stoppage time Jermaine Johnson was sent off for a professional foul. In the end, it wouldn’t have matters if Stafford had won as Hyde triumphed 2-1 at Corby to leave Stafford four points from safety in the final league table. Even though I wasn’t a member of the press today, I particularly enjoyed rolling back the years by sitting in the press box and enjoying the company of Gary Hazlehurst.

Friday 29th April 2011

Wakefield 0 Curzon Ashton 1
Evo-Stik League Division 1 North
At: College Grove, Eastmoor Road
Attendance: 208

After enjoying the build-up to the Royal Wedding and the first half hour of the marriage service (hearing the next 90 or so minures on the radio), I headed north for Wakefield’s final league game at College Grove before groundsharing at Ossett Town next season. Just like Lutterworth on Monday, the home side was unable to mark the occasion with a victory as Curzon Ashton won with a single goal scored in the 40th minute by Daniel Broadbent. Curzon’s season isn’t over as they visit Chorley on Monday in a one-legged play-off semi-final as they continue their bid to reach the Premier Division and possibly face Stafford Rangers next season. Unlike Lutterworth, there was no celebratory atmosphere at College Grove due to the circumstances of Wakefield’s departure. There were a large number of travellers at the game and it was good to chat with Facebook friend Callum Smith at half-time. At full-time I headed along the M62 to Marsden for what I hoped was a 6-15 kick-off against Kirkburton. However, there were just two cars in the car park, one driven by Dave Johnson from Leatherhead who told me the game had been played earlier at lunchtime!

Monday 25th April 2011

Lutterworth Athletic 0 Aylestone Park 1
Everards Brewery Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division
At Steve Rendall Park, Dunley Way
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (pages)
Weather: warm and sunny
Attendance 120 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:05; second-half: 47:24

Lutterworth Athletic’ s badge shows ‘EST 1993’ and for the past 18 years they have been based at Dunley Way. Today, however, the ground hosted the final home league game before the club moves about a mile or so north to the Lutterworth Soccer Centre on Hall Lane. From the start of next season, the first team will play on the grass pitch currently used by Lutterworth Town. I was first aware of the club’s impending move from Dunley Way to Hall Lane a few weeks ago when reading Laurence Reade’s review of his visit to the ground on Facebook. And thanks to a message in the ‘Where are you going’ section of Tony’s Non-League Forum, which read ‘Lutterworth Athletic - Aylestone Park 3.00pm Last league game to be played at Dunley Way Admission £2 Programme £1’, I decided to make one of those ‘now or never’ trips along the A5 to the Leicestershire town. I’d actually been to Dunley Way once before, back in January 2009, more in hope than expectation that the game that day had survived a big freeze. The game was off and I headed instead to the Walkers Stadium.

The ground, known as the Steve Rendell Park and named in honour of one of three founders of the club who passed away late last year, was a pleasant and buzzing place. No covered standing or seats, though the trees down the west side of the ground provided shade for those, like myself, who wanted to avoid the strong sun. The ground was three-sided with no spectator access behind the south goal, hardstanding around the other three sides. The floodlights had been removed though some of the bases still remain. Close to the entrance was the club building which housed a bar, tea bar and changing rooms with patio in front.

For Lutterworth (4th place with 54 points from 29 games), the final home game was also their final league game of the season. Mathematically they still could finish third though in reality they needed to finish off with a win to hold on to fourth spot, not quite enough to earn the promotion spot which should go to third-placed Blaby and Whetstone. Visitors Aylestone Park (43 points from 28 games) occupied ninth position knowing that two wins from their last two games would seem then finish one place higher in the Premier Division table.

A bumper crowd enjoyed the warm April sunshine with several travellers in attendance (from Northampton, Kent and East Anglia, amongst others). The home side got the action underway a couple of minutes before 3 pm by my watch, defending the changing rooms end in the first half. To be honest the first 42 minutes were largely uneventful in terms of scoring opportunities though certain players on both sides were starting to test the qualities of the young referee. Aylestone defender Luke Baston picked up a booking for the second of a couple of fouls in quick succession. The tide then turned in favour of Aylestone Park during the minutes leading up to the interval. Nick Colford rattled the bar and Jack Limbert forced Atheltic keeper Sam Green to leap and palm over a rising 22-yard shot.

After the break, the visitors continued to create chances and they scored what proved to be the winner in the 71st minute. A low cross from the right was fired home at the second attempt by Gaz Seal. The elaborate goal celebration in front of their dugout was perhaps fitting for what will be the last first-team league goal scored at the ground. Kieron Neat’s header was blocked on the line by a defender as Aylestone looked to extend their lead while the closest Lutterworth came to an equaliser was an 81st minute header across the face of goal by Alex Heathcott.

Back home, I was surprised to find that, prior to today, I’d only ever watched one previous Leicestershire Senior League game (and that was back in 1989 at Friar Lane Old Boys) and two Tebbutt Brown cup games with an LSL club being the home team (1988 at Stapenhill and 1991 at Anstey Nomads). A few more trips next season to Leicestershire are long overdue.

0-1 Gaz Seal (71)

Saturday 23rd April 2011 (6-30 pm)

Aston 2 Northfield Town Reserves 0
imosports Midland Combination Division 3
At: Moor Lane
Attendance 10 (headcount)

I must admit this place wasn’t the most inspiring, being a railed off pitch on part of a much larger and featureless playing field. Home side Aston still have something to play for – second place – and they totally dominated the whole game. Surprisingly they only scored twice, in the 21st minute through Icse Nelson and at the end in second-half stoppage time through Felix Okome. After I sent him a text earlier from Burntwood, Mike Greaves made his way from Pelsall Villa for a second game of the day, and Paul Kingston was one of two other travellers also at the match.

Saturday 23rd April 2011 (3-00 pm)

Burntwood Town 1 Phoenix United 1
imosports Midland Combination Division 1
At: Long Lane, Essington
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none
Weather: warm and sunny, short heavy rain
Attendance 7 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:02; second-half: 45:39

I needed an afternoon game close to Aston (6-30 kick-off) and a ground with the guarantee of covered seating or standing with heavy rain forecast. So, with some kind of curiosity after their 22-0 midweek defeat, I opted for a revisit to Long Lane currently used by Burntwood Town where I’d previously seen Wyrley Rangers play Stafford Town in 2005. Back in October, prior to my visit to New Bradwell St Peter, I wondered how a side (visitors Sport London e Benfica) would react to a 16-0 defeat in their previous game. This afternoon was a similar occasion. How would Burntwood react? Well they took the lead through Andrew Highman in the 25th minute and held on despite considerable pressure from Phoenix. Would they win their first league game of the season? It seemed likely when Lewis Moseley produced a superb save late on to keep his side in front but the Burntwood keeper turned from hero to villain in the 90th minute by needlessly conceding a penalty. Steffan Morrison fired home from the spot to level things up with virtually the last kick of the game to leave Burntwood gutted and still searching for that elusive first league win on the season. And rain did fall heavily midway through the first half so the roof over the 100-seater stand came in useful!

1-0 Andrew Highman (11)
1-1 Steffan Morrison (90 pen)