Leverington Sports 2 Peterborough ICA 0

The second match of the day, my third and last on the Hop, was a Peterborough League Premier Division fixture at LEVERINGTON SPORTS. Leverington, a few miles north-west of Wisbech, play at the Sports & Social Club on Church Road. The ground is a large playing field with the football pitch running parallel with a long row of tall trees on the far side away from the road and clubhouse. It was roped off on three sides apart from the far side which has a fixed wooden barrier adorned with advertising boards.

Like Long Sutton, there was a good community atmosphere and it looked ominously like being another goalless game for me at half-time. However, Ryan Alexander gave Leverington a 52nd-minute lead and Ivaylo Raychev sealed a 2-0 win, scoring the second goal in stoppage time. Leverington Sports issued an eight-page programme which included a history of the club formed in 1946.

GBG’s Rising Sun Inn is a few hundred yards further down Church Lane towards Wisbech.

I certainly enjoyed setting up the Football Traveller stall using my table, which has the nickname ‘Stonehenge’, and having a chat with so many people.

Long Sutton Athletic 0 Tydd St Mary 0 (abandoned)

The early start on a lovely sunny morning was well worth the effort to visit LONG SUTTON ATHLETIC’s delightful London Road ground. It is located on the left, around 300 yards south-east of the centre. Surrounded by plenty of greenery, the ground which hosted Eastern Counties League football between 1988 and 1995 has a nice stand on halfway down the right-hand side of a roped-off pitch. Nowadays, Long Sutton play in the Peterborough League Division One and this Hop fixture pitted them against neighbours Tydd St Mary who gained promotion in the summer after finishing fourth in Division Two.

Sadly, the game was abandoned after Long Sutton’s Glen Wells sustained a badly broken leg in the 10th minute. Long Sutton issued a 20-page programme, sold for £1, which explained the present club was established in 1983 and have long-term ambitions to return to the Premier Division which they last graced in 2008.

With the early finish, there was time to explore this Lincolnshire market town and particularly St Mary’s Church which has a 13th-century lead-covered timber spire. According to Wikipedia, it is of a similar design to Chesterfield’s twisted spire but Long Sutton’s spire is straight. It is the highest, oldest and best-preserved lead spire in England and possibly Europe.

With the next match just nine miles away, I took a detour to Tydd St Giles and specifically the Cask Marque-accredited Crown & Mitre, with Adnams Southwold and Hook Norton’s Old Hooky as guest beers.

Huntingdon Town 0 Pinchbeck United 0

The fourth United Counties League and Peterborough & District League Groundhop again provided a perfect start to the English season. The eight-match extravaganza commenced on Friday evening with an interesting UCL Division One fixture between HUNTINGDON TOWN, relegated after finishing bottom of the Premier Division last season, and newboys Pinchbeck United, who finished 2016/17 as Peterborough League Premier Division runners-up.

Huntingdon play at Jubilee Park in a rural location to the north-east of the town on King Ripton Road off the A141. The railway station is 3.5 miles from the ground. I’d visited the ground once before on New Year’s Eve in 2011. Since then, two additional seated stands have been added to complement the covered standing on halfway behind the dugouts. Jubilee Park also has an impressive modern clubhouse.

On the field, there were few chances with Huntingdon indebted to their goalkeeper for a couple of fine saves but neither side could find the net.

On my way home, I deviated off the A14 to the Cask Marque-accredited New Sun Inn at Kimbolton with Wells Eagle IPA being my choice.

Boldmere St Michaels 3 Hednesford Town 2

Friday 30th June 2017
Boldmere St Michaels 3 [Jack Skinner (31), Mark Danks (55, 64)]
Hednesford Town 2 [Danny Glover (34), Luke Rodgers (77)]
Pre-season Friendly
At: The Trevor Brown Memorial Ground, Church Road, Boldmere B73 5RY
Attendance: 257
Admission: £3; no programme

The last game of the 2016/17 season or the first one of 2017/18?

Yes, for both questions I think, as my season typically runs from 1st July to 30th June the following year. I’ve not been to a pre-season friendly in June before to have such a dilemma and on this date 23 years ago in Dallas I saw Argentina v Bulgaria at the Cotton Bowl.

Since my last visit in July 2015, the Trevor Brown Memorial Ground has undergone a major transformation. The sloping grass pitch has been replaced by a level 3G surface and the stand, now named in honour of Harry Peakman, extended.

Considering this was the first pre-season outing for both sides, Boldmere St Michaels and Hednesford served up an entertaining encounter. The home side, 12th last season in the Midland League Premier Division, took the lead just after the half-hour through Jack Skinner. Hednesford levelled things up three minutes later when Danny Glover got on the end of a Lewis Wright cross to head home the equaliser.

Former Stafford Rangers striker Mark Danks, who also played for Hednesford, turned the friendly in favour of Boldmere with second-half goals in the 55th and 64th minutes. Luke Rodgers pulled one back for the Pitmen in the 76 minute but it was merely a consolation goal for the Evo-Stik League Premier Division visitors.

While Chester Road and Wylde Green stations [on the Birmingham to Lichfield line via Sutton Coldfield] are both around 0.6 miles from the ground, I alighted at Erdington to visit a couple of Cask Marque pubs – Wetherspoon’s Charlie Hall on Barnabas Street followed by the Yenton on Sutton Road, in the vicinity of Chester Road station.

Good friend and Football Traveller subscriber Mike Greaves and a hopper from Mansfield provided excellent company, and Mike and I ‘put the world to rights on the near 30-minute wait at Chester Road station and on the train back to New Street’.


Saturday 19th December: Renfrew

IMG_3960 (2)Saturday 19th December 2015
Renfrew 4 Thorniewood United 2
McBookie West of Scotland League Central Division One
Attendance 165 (headcount)

The story of my trip to RENFREW FC on Saturday 19th December began in early October. Well before the McBookie.com West of Scotland League fixtures for that day were revealed, I booked a bargain £27 return ticket from Stafford to Glasgow Central, a real saving considering the on-the-day price would have been a massive £112.50. The cut-price deal committed me to leave Stafford on the 07.34 Virgin Pendolino and return the same day on the 18.40 departure from Glasgow. No problem with that as the seven or so hours in Glasgow fitted perfectly with a match and a visit the city’s Christmas Bavarian Market. I opted to visit Renfrew’s brand new New Western Park ground and saw them go top of Central Division One with a 4-2 victory over Thorniewood United, attendance 165 (my headcount).

The new ground, on Argyll Avenue off Inchinnan Road at the entrance to Renfrew Retail Park, is less than a mile from the old ground. Built on the site of a former Comet store, it is a neat and tidy venue with a 3G pitch, small stand and a clubhouse incorporating an excellent ‘Snacks & Drinks’ bar. Spectators only have access to two sides of the pitch; behind the near goal where the club buildings are located and down the left-hand side, which includes the stand. I walked there and back from Paisley Gilmour Street station though the 101 bus would have saved a hefty three-mile walk in each direction. At least I got to see the old ground, which has yet to be redeveloped, and also the exterior of the impressive Town Hall.

Warmly welcomed at the entrance to the ground, I had a chat with Stewart Davidson, who produces the annual Scottish Non League Review as well as filling the role of Renfrew’s programme editor. For this game with Thorniewood, an impressive 24-page publication was on sale for £1 containing plenty to read. Line-ups were written on a whiteboard which saved a ‘statto’ like me from seeking the teamsheets.

I enjoyed the game which had a few twists, turns and surprises. Renfrew took the lead on the half-hour, arguably against the run of play, and scored another five minutes later to go in 2-0 up at half time. Amongst the crowd of around 165 were a few visiting fans from Thorniewood decked in red and black scarves and they saw their side get back on level terms with goals in the 55th and 74th minutes. However, Renfrew regained the lead in the 85th minute and secured top spot in the table with a fourth goal scored in stoppage time to earn a 4-2 win.

Wednesday 26th August 2015: Maplas

Wednesday 26th August 2015
Malpas 2 Crewe FC 2
Hallmark Security Cheshire League Premier Division
Admission £3 including eight-page programme
Attendance 60 (headcount)

The prospect of seeing Stafford Rangers legend Robin Gibson play for Crewe FC tempted me out on a Wednesday evening. Gibson, as I found out from the Crewe Secretary, doesn’t usually play in away games but the lack of his presence didn’t spoil what turned out to be a super trip to the Malpas and no doubt my forthcoming write-up in The Football Traveller will tempt others to this part of south Cheshire.

Malpas gained promotion to the Cheshire League Premier Division at the end of last season and during the summer they replaced a former area of cover with a new 58-seater stand. Programmes have also been reintroduced this season as well. The ground has great views to the west, all the way to the hills the other side of Wrexham.

Ian Carr gave Crewe an 11th minute lead which was cancelled out by Alex Hughes’ 37th minute equaliser for Malpas. The second half, in contrast to the opening 45 minutes, tested the skills of the match officials starting with a hotly-disputed penalty on the hour which Nathan Southern converted to put Crewe 2-1 up. A stiff challenge by Lee Smith in the 67th minute led a bout of ‘pushing and shoving’ followed by a straight red card for the Malpas no. 11. Malpas thought they’d equalised in the 83rd minute when Chris Bevan’s header hit the bar and bounced down on to the line. A review to ‘DRS’ may well have led to a goal being awarded. Eventually, in the 89th minute, a goalmouth scramble led to Malpas substitute Andrew Morris firing home the equaliser which, I think, the home side deserved.

Malpas are very much a club on the up with long-term ambitions of bringing NWCL football to the village. As well as programmes, two different designs of pin badge were on sale at the bar, priced at £3 each.

If you do visit Malpas, arrive early and explore this picturesque village with a stone cross and a significant number of listed buildings. Super evening.

Saturday 22nd August 2015: Underwood Villa

Saturday 22nd August 2015
Underwood Villa 1 Bingham Town 0
Precision Notts Senior League Premier Division
Attendance 21 (headcount)
Programme £1 (16 pages)

The Precision Notts Senior League Premier Division was the focus of my attention on Saturday 22nd August. FC Cavaliers have been a bit nomadic since leaving a ground off Mapperley Hall Drive in Nottingham, where I saw them play a few years ago. This season they are based at the Forest Recreation Ground and their home game with Unity appealed but news of an expected 80,000 people attending the adjacent Nottingham Caribbean Festival prompted a change of plan.

Instead, I met up with Peter Ford at UNDERWOOD VILLA, who were hosting Bingham Town in their fourth game since promotion to the Premier Division. The village of Underwood is located a few miles south-west of M1 junction 27 and their tree-lined Bracken Park ground on Felley Mill Lane is fully railed off though without any football furniture other than permanent dugouts. A smart new modern clubhouse has been constructed to replace the building visible on Google Streetview.

In a quirk of the fixtures, Underwood played at Bingham in a league game on Saturday 15th August, the same day I was at Sileby, and lost 7-1. The return fixture turned out to be a lot tighter and Underwood bounced back from that heavy defeat to record a 1-0 win thanks to a second-half headed goal scored by Nicklaus Thorpe, attendance 21 (headcount).