Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sittingbourne FC

Sittingbourne 1 Haringey Borough 1 - FA Trophy, 2nd Qualifying Round

Sittingbourne is an industrial town situated in the Swale district of Kent in southeast England, 17 miles from Canterbury and 45 miles from London. The town sits beside the Roman Watling Street and next to the Swale, a strip of sea separating mainland Kent from the Isle of Sheppey. The local clay was suitable for making bricks, and North Kent is geologically rich in chalk, which is not found in many other places in Europe in such abundance. This led to the development associated industries: water transport, paper, and cement, all of which continue today in the area. The area around Sittingbourne was subject to constant air raids by Zeppelins and aeroplanes during the First World War. The Germans used the town as a reference point for bearings on the way to London. The first visit by a German aeroplane happened on Christmas Day 1914. Guns at Sheerness fired at the lone invader but still one shell dropped into a field at Iwade. The next event was to occur on 16 January 1915 when another solitary pilot from a German aerodrome in Belgium bombed Sittingbourne. This aircraft, a Taube, was pursued by two local airmen, but managed to escape after dropping a couple of bombs.

Sittingbourne FC traces its lineage to 1886. The club moved to a field behind the Bull pub in 1892, where they were to remain for nearly 100 years. Senior status was acquired in 1893, and the following year the club joined the first incarnation of the Kent League, before withdrawing to enter the South Eastern League in 1905. Sittingbourne were Kent League champions in 1975–76, 1983–84 and 1990–91, the third title win earning them a place back in the Southern League. In 1992–93, by now playing at the new Central Park ground, they won promotion to the Southern League Premier Division, however a financial crisis led to relegation two years later. Although the team bounced back, winning the Southern Division title at the first attempt, they were relegated again in 1998 as the club hovered on the brink of being wound up completely. A move out of Central Park and a drastic reduction in the playing budget saw the Brickies through their troubles, but they flirted with relegation back to the Kent League for a number of years, only finishing in the top half of the table on one occasion in the next eight seasons. In 2006 a re-organisation of the English football league system saw Sittingbourne moved into the Isthmian League, starting in Division One South. The 2009–10 season ended with Sittingbourne winning the Kent Senior Cup for the first time in 52 years. In 2013 the club moved to their new venue - Woodstock Park.

I had visited Central Park in 1993 for a friendly v Tottenham Hotspur. However, I never got to attend a match at Bourne Park, the subsequent venue. Therefore, I was keen to get along to Woodstock Park for this match. The high-speed service from St Pancras conveniently stops at Stratford and from there it takes less than an hour to reach Sittingbourne.

The walk from the railway station to the ground takes around 45 minutes. However, pedestrians should be aware that there is a short stretch without streetlights and footpaths – a challenge. In town an opportunity was taken to visit The Golden Hope (JD Wetherspoon), an interesting establishment t also reflects the buildings former life as a courthouse, with the prison cells converted into private dining areas with distinctive booth seating.

On arriving at the ground and following a very friendly welcome, I took the opportunity to wander around the ground and get some photographs in the decent daylight. It is not possible to walk the entirety of the ground, as the far side where the dugouts are situated has no walkway. There are two covered seated stands and a two covered standing areas. There is also a raised bank between the clubhouse building and the pitch that also offers a good view.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

The match was preceded by a superbly observed remembrance tribute on Armistice Day. A full version of the last post and a two-minute silence in the presence of local veterans was very moving. Both teams are doing well in the respective Isthmian League Divisions (North and South) and those I spoke to predicted a close match. Valery Pajetet in goal for the visitors made a couple of fine saves in the first period but could do nothing to prevent Kane Rowland from prodding home a rebound to put the hosts ahead. The visitors equalised with the last attack of the half, a free kick to the edge of the six-yard box comfortably headed home by Ralston Gabriel.

The second period, although not providing further goals, was entertaining as both sides pushed for a winner. A draw was certainly a fair result with a replay at Coles Park having to determine which club progresses to the next round of the FA Trophy. The walk back to the station was in the dark and it was good to negotiate the rural part swiftly and get on to a footpath. It was good to return to Sittingbourne after so many years.

Attendance: 135
Admission: £9:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:20

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Brightlingsea Regent FC

Brightlingsea Regent 3 Harlow Town 1 - Isthmian League, Premier Division

Brightlingsea is a coastal town and an electoral ward in the Tendring district of Essex. It is situated between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea, at the mouth of the River Colne, on Brightlingsea Creek. Its traditional industries included fishery and shipbuilding. With the decline of these industries, the town is largely a dormitory town for Colchester. In the centre of the town is Jacob's Hall, reputedly the oldest timber-framed building in England, which was built during the fourteenth century. The Western Promenade has lines of beach huts, a skate park, swimming pool, boating lake and a paddling pool. It is a popular destination for tourists and Londoners. The Colne Yacht Club has recently renovated Bateman’s Tower, a local landmark by the sea, with help from a Lottery Fund grant. The Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea railway opened in 1866 and was a branch line that operated rail services from the nearby town of Wivenhoe into the town centre of Brightlingsea. The service unfortunately fell victim to the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, and was eventually axed in 1964 supposedly prompted by the high maintenance costs of the swing bridge over Alresford Creek, which was necessary to allow boat traffic to the many sand and gravel pits in the area. Brightlingsea railway station was located on the southern side of Lower Park Road where the town's community centre now sits. It stayed in place for four years after the railway's closure until it was destroyed by fire in 1968.

Brightlingsea United was founded in 1928 by a merger of Brightlingsea Athletic (originally established as Wesley Guild in 1908, before being reformed in 1921) and Brightlingsea Town (established as Brightlingsea Juniors in 1919). The new club played in Division One the Essex & Suffolk Border League, and in 1929 moved to the North Road ground. In 1972 the club joined the Essex Senior League. They won the title in 1988–89 and 1989–90, before joining the Division One of the Eastern Counties League in 1990. They finished as runners-up in their first season, and were promoted to the Premier Division. However, they returned to Division One after finishing bottom of the Premier Division in 1992–93. The club resigned from the league shortly before the start of the 2002–03 season after the manager and most of the players left, complaining about a lack of proper changing facilities. The first team replaced their reserves in Division Two of the Essex & Suffolk Border League and were relegated to Division Three at the end of the season. When Division Three was disbanded in 2005, the club was moved back to Division Two. That year the club merged with youth club Regent Park Rangers to form Brightlingsea Regent. The newly merged club won Division Two at the first attempt, and was promoted again the following season after finishing second. In 2010–11 the club won the Premier Division and was promoted to Division One of the Eastern Counties League. The 2012–13 season saw the club finish third in Division One, earning promotion to the Premier Division. The following season Brightlingsea finished second in the Premier Division, earning promotion to Division One North of the Isthmian League. The 2016–17 season saw them finish the season as Division One North champions, earning promotion to the Premier Division.

This was not my first visit to North Road as I had previously attended a match in the FA Trophy between the same two sides a year previously. On that occasion the match was abandoned due to a floodlight failure. The match had limped to half time with limited lighting but despite the best efforts to fix the problem the referee was forced to call a halt to proceedings just after the break.

The journey to Brighlingsea via the M25 and A12 was good and with time to spare, the Cherry Tree public house presented a refreshment opportunity. There is real ale available and I opted for Timothy Taylor Landlord. From the pub it was only a five-minute stroll to the ground.

North Road has been a senior venue for some time but in recent years a number changes have been made in order to bring it up to the required standard for this level of football. There are two covered seated stands on either side of the pitch. In addition there are two covered standing areas, one along the side of the pitch where the dugouts are positioned and one behind a goal. The main clubhouse building houses the changing rooms, social area including the boardroom, licensed bar and tea bar.

Struggling Harlow Town looked anything but in the opening period of the match. It was no surprise when Junior Dadson put the visitors ahead and this lead should have been extended when the same player was presented with another good opportunity. The home side rallied and went in at the break with a 2-1 lead. Brightlingsea grew in confidence and went further ahead with a fine strike from a free kick just after the interval.

This was followed by the bizarre substitution of the goalkeeper by the Harlow Town management. I was informed that this was because he had rolled the ball out contrary to instruction. A complete waste of a substitution by a manager whose tactics in recent seasons do little to attract higher attendances at Barrows Farm. Anyway, it was good to complete a full 90 minutes at North Road.

Attendance: 181
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:00


Other visits to this venue

12 November 2016 - Brightlingsea Regent 0 Harlow Town 0 - FA Trophy, 2nd Qualifying Round - Attendance: tbc (match abandoned due to floodlight failure)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Agrupación Deportiva Alcorcón FC

Agrupación Deportiva Alcorcón 0 Club Deportivo Lugo 1 - Segunda División

Alcorcón is a city in the south-west of the Madrid metropolitan area, Spain. The site appears to have been inhabited since prehistoric times. The name is of Arabic origin, but little is known of it before the Reconquista. An early written reference to Alcorcón is in a medieval document that dates from 28 July 1208. Alcorcón has a small historic centre (including the church of Santa María la Blanca), that is protected as an "archaeological zone". The centre is surrounded by modern developments, as it has been growing rapidly in recent times due to migration from other parts of Spain and Latin America. Alcorcón is linked to Madrid by Metro Line 10 and Line 12, Cercanías line C-5 and several buses (511, 512, 513, 514, 516, 518, 536, 541, 545, 546, 547, 548, 551, N501, N502, N504). There are two hospitals, the Fundación Hospital de Alcorcón (which is state owned, but run privately), and the Hospital Sur Madrid (a totally private hospital). The Alcorcón campus of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos teaches health-related courses. In February 2013, it was announced that Eurovegas would be built in Alcorcón. However, in December 2013 the Eurovegas project was officially cancelled.

Founded in 1971 by Dionisio Muñoz Jerez, the football club spent roughly its first 30 years of existence in between the fourth division and the regional leagues. In 2000–01, it made its Segunda División B debut, finishing in 12th place, and spending the following seasons immersed in mid-table positions. In 2008–09, a third place in the regular season meant Alcorcón was allowed to appear in the promotion play-offs for the first time in its history. After disposing of Sant Andreu and Alcoyano, the club was ousted by Real Unión of Irun in the final round with a 3–1 aggregate scoreline. On 27 October 2009, Alcorcón secured the most famous victory in its history defeating La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid 4–0 at home in the first leg of its round-of-32 match in the Copa del Rey. In the club's first ever official match against a team from the top flight, Real Madrid fielded nine international players in its starting eleven.

I was in Madrid ahead of the Champions League encounter between Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur and had been alerted to the possibility of attending this additional fixture within easy travelling distance of the centre. Suburban rail services run to Alcorcón and the local station is just a five-minute stroll from the Estadio Municipal de Santo Domingo.

On arrival at the ground there was not a lot of activity. My immediate thoughts were that this level of football in Spain attracts nowhere near the level of attention that the Championship or League 1 and 2 receive in England. However, I may be wrong, as this was my induction to Spanish league football having only seen matches in European competitions previously.

The stadium is tidy and compact and can boast four seated stands. However, it is only the main stand that is not open to the elements and we were fortunate that it did not rain. This Pieman viewed proceedings from the two-tiered stand opposite the main stand. I enjoyed an unhindered view of the match but further back in the structure you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Upper tier of the away end at Loftus Road! The fifty or so visiting supporters from Lugo were accommodated in a small section to one side of a goal.

I enjoyed the match, which for the main was quite competitive. The 3G surface enabled some good passing but as the match progressed I began to wonder if we would get to see a goal. The home side was on a dreadful run of form whereas the visitors were in the play-off positions. With it still 0-0 at 90 minutes, I think most in the stadium were thinking that was that. However, with a minimum of three additional minutes signalled, a free kick outside the box was headed home to clinch the points for the visitors, who moved up to second place in the table as a result.

One of our number had booked a taxi back to the centre after the match and the journey took around 25 minutes. It was nice to see a different level of Spanish football and full credit to the couple of thousand locals and the smaller contingent who had travelled a long way (particularly on a Monday evening) from Lugo, for making the effort to attend.

Match Programme

Attendance: 2,125
Admission: 20 Euros
Programme: Free (24 pages)

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Fisher FC

Fisher 1 Forest Hill Park 3 - Southern Counties East League, Division One

Rotherhithe is a residential district in southeast London, England, and part of the London Borough of Southwark. Historically, the area is the most northeastern settlement in the county of Surrey. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wapping and the Isle of Dogs on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklands area. It borders Bermondsey to the west and Deptford to the southeast. Rotherhithe has a long history as a port, with many shipyards from Elizabethan times until the early 20th century and with working docks until the 1970s. In the 1980s the area along the river was redeveloped as upmarket housing, through a mix of warehouse conversions and new-build developments.

Members of the Fisher Supporters Trust established Fisher FC in 2009 when Fisher Athletic was wound up in the High Court due to financial problems and closed down. The new club was accepted into the Kent League for the 2009–10 season, and unanimously elected into the Premier Division at the league's AGM in June 2009. Fisher finished bottom of the Kent League in 2010–11, but were not relegated. In 2013 the league was renamed the Southern Counties East League, and when the Kent Invicta League became its Division One in 2016, Fisher became members of the Premier Division. The club finished second-from-bottom of the Premier Division in 2016–17 and was relegated to Division One.

The club initially groundshared at Dulwich Hamlet's Champion Hill, where Fisher Athletic had been playing since 2004, but began work on a new ground on Salter Road close to Fisher Athletic's old Surrey Docks Stadium. St Paul’s Sports Ground opened in 2016. This Pieman visited the previous venue to watch Fisher Athletic play in the Southern League and the Conference and was keen to retrace those steps!

I arrived at Rotherhithe station at around 2:15 and knew that it was only a short walk to the stadium. Turn left out of the station and continue walking until you reach the ground on the left-hand side of Salter Road. On the opposite side of the road is the former site of the Surrey Docks stadium where Fisher Athletic played, now a residential estate.

The new place is compact, but has a good a feel about it. A 3G pitch is complimented by a covered seated stand immediately to the right as you enter the ground. On the left is the main club building incorporating the toilets, changing rooms and the refreshment area. Behind the end to the left is a small covered terrace (like the seated area this is of the Atcost variety). This terrace is where the vociferous home fans congregate. The opposite end of the ground is completely open and the remaining side houses the respective team dugouts and due to the tightness of the perimeter fence, it is not possible to walk all the way along this side, as the benched areas are adjacent to the fence.

How Fisher did not score a number of goals in the first twenty minutes of this encounter will remain a mystery. The opportunities created but not converted will have been a concern to the home side. A couple of these chances fit the “easier to score than miss” description. Visitors Forest Hill Park led twice before the break and added a third in the second period to ensure they took all three points.

I always think tea tastes better from a mug and at this venue both Colin Marshall (met him walking up from the station) and I enjoyed drinking ours from Fisher FC mugs! Although there is no draft beer on offer, I noticed that cans and bottles were available. A pleasant and easy to reach venue – it is good to see Fisher back in their traditional part of South East London.

Attendance: 159
Admission: Pay what you want - non league day 
Programme: £2:00
Tea (in a Fisher FC mug): £1:00

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


APOEL 0 Tottenham Hotspur 3 - UEFA Champions League, Group Stage

Nicosia has been in continuous habitation since the beginning of the Bronze Age 2500 years BC, when the first inhabitants settled in the fertile plain of Mesaoria. Nicosia later became a city-state known as Ledra or Ledrae, one of the twelve kingdoms of ancient Cyprus built by Achaeans after the end of the Trojan War. Remains of old Ledra today can be found in the Ayia Paraskevi hill in the south east of the city. By 330 BC, Ledra was recorded to be a small unimportant town. According to tradition, the city was rebuilt by Leucus, and named after him as "Leucoton" or "Lefkotheon. The main activity of the town inhabitants was farming. During this era, Ledra did not have the huge growth that the other Cypriot coastal towns had, which was primarily based on trade. In 1960 Nicosia became the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, a state established by the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 1963, the Greek Cypriot side proposed amendments to the constitution, which were rejected by the Turkish Cypriot community. During the aftermath of this crisis, on 21 December 1963, intercommunal violence broke out between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Nicosia was divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot quarters with the Green Line, named after the colour of the pen used by the United Nations officer to draw the line on a map of the city. On 15 July 1974, there was an attempted coup d'état led by the Greek military junta to unite the island with Greece. The coup ousted president Makarios III and replaced him with pro-enosis nationalist Nikos Sampson.

APOEL is the most popular football team in Cyprus and is the most successful with an overall tally of 26 championships, 21 cups and 13 super cups. The club was formed as POEL (Greek: ΠΟΕΛ; Ποδοσφαιρικός Όμιλος Ελλήνων Λευκωσίας, Podosferikos Omilos Ellinon Lefkosias, Football Club of Greeks of Nicosia) on 8 November 1926. APOEL's colours are blue and yellow. Blue symbolises Greece and yellow symbolises Byzantium. The logo is a blue and yellow shield with the name of the club written diagonally in blue. After the club won their 20th championship (2008–09 season), two stars were added above the logo to symbolise the 20 championship titles (one star for every ten championships won). Other than that, the badge has remained the same since the establishment of the club.

The Pancyprian Gymnastic Association Stadium (GSP Stadium), although small by international standards, it is the largest stadium in Cyprus, with a capacity of 22,859 and was opened in 1999. It serves as the home stadium for the two Nicosia's biggest clubs APOEL and Omonia. It is also the home stadium of the Cyprus national football team. A stadium under the same name, the old GSP Stadium, existed from 1902 until 1999 in the centre of Nicosia and had a capacity of 12,000. Designed by Theo. David Architects, the new GSP Stadium opened for use on 6 October 1999.

Having enjoyed refreshment following the U19 fixture in the afternoon, it was time to head off to the stadium for the main match. This venue is a fair distance from the city centre and public transport options are best described as limited. The taxi we had been using all day had seen better days, but it did the trick and enabled us to reach the ground with plenty of time before kick off (19:45 local time).

For once it was relatively easy to secure match programmes before entering the away supporters section. We even took the opportunity to sample the food in a supporter’s refreshment room along the main side of the ground. My choice was a cross between a hot dog and a sausage roll (pastry surrounding a frankfurter). This was good and bridged the gap until the obligatory kebab in the early hours back in town (quality grub that too).

Although not a straightforward as the scoreline suggests, Harry Kane’s perfect hat-trick (left, right and head) enabled Spurs to chalk up a second successive group stage victory. There would also be time for Mauricio Pochettino to bring on the 20-year-old winger, Anthony Georgiou – a Cypriot youth international – for his debut.

Our taxi driver had been unable to get into the car park after the match due to the sheer volume of traffic. However, this proved to be an advantage, as it would have taken a long time to get out! We met him where he had parked near a roundabout and within twenty minutes we were back in town to enjoy the locally brewed Keo beer.

Attendance: 16,324
Admission: 25 Euros
Programme: Free (16 pages)


APOEL U19 1 Tottenham Hotspur U19 0 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Nicosia is the capital and seat of government of Cyprus, and as such is the farthest southeast of all EU member states' capitals. It has been continuously inhabited for over 4500 years and has been the capital of Cyprus since the 10th century. The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities of Nicosia segregated into the south and north of the city respectively in 1963, following the crisis from 1955–64 that broke out in the city. This division became a militarized border between the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus after Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, occupying the north of the island, including northern Nicosia. Today, North Nicosia is the capital of Northern Cyprus, a state recognized only by Turkey, that is considered to be occupied Cypriot territory by the international community. Apart from its legislative and administrative functions, Nicosia has established itself as the island's financial capital and its main international business centre.

Makario Stadium (Μακάρειο Στάδιο), is an all-seater multi-purpose stadium in Nicosia. It was the largest and main sports venue of the capital up to the construction of the GSP stadium in 1999. The stadium holds 16,000 seated spectators. The playing field is surrounded by a running track and can be adapted to hold most track and field events. Apart from corporate boxes and the press centre, there are no coverings for spectators. It is built in the Nicosia suburb of Makedonitissa, close to the grounds of the Cyprus State Fair, with which it shares a large car park. Over the years it has served as the home ground for Nicosia teams such as AC Omonia, APOEL and Olympiakos. The Cypriot national team has also played home matches there in the past. All those teams have now relocated to the New GSP stadium. The Makario stadium was built in 1978 and is named after Makarios III, the Ethnarch of Cyprus; Archbishop and first President of Cyprus. It has hosted many Cypriot Cup and Super Cup finals and was the main venue for the 1989 Games of the Small States of Europe.

To reach the Makario Stadium from the city centre is probably straightforward if you know where you are going! However, our task was made easier as we had engaged the services of a local taxi driver for the day. Admission to the match was free, as is usually the case for this competition.

All of the Spectators for this match were housed in the main stand, where on a hot afternoon, it was possible to take advantage of the limited shade available. Refreshments were on sale in the administrative block below close to the media facilities. The changing facilities for the teams are located beneath this level. Two clubs from the Cypriot first division, Doxa Katapias and Olympiakos use the stadium.

The match was a very one-sided affair with the young Spurs side dominating possession and play. However, it was the home side that secured victory direct from a free kick. Despite pushing hard for an equaliser, Spurs lacked a cutting edge. APOEL had lost their previous group fixture 10-0 to Real Madrid, so you could understand their excitement at the final whistle.

Our taxi arrived shortly after the conclusion of the match and we were soon on our way to Murphy’s bar which doubles as the Spurs Supporters Club for Nicosia. Don’t be put off by the name as that is pretty much the only pseudo Irish aspect as this bar and is decently priced with a good food and drink selection. We were in need of some liquid refreshment before venturing out again for the main fixture that evening.

Attendance: ?
Admission: Free
Programme: No