Non League Club

A massive gesture

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on August 21, 2011

James Drobka reports on an afternoon of Blue Square Bet South football from the banks of the Thames.

Staines. Probably most famous for being the setting to the Ali G movie, however to the council this is more hindrance rather than help. So much so, they changed the name to Staines-Upon-Thames. However to most people it is, ‘the staines massive’, home to Staines Town FC, Blue Square Bet South. Evidence of the football club not being bothered by tagline can be seen on their website, www.stainesmassive.info

Staines have been in the Conference South for the past two seasons, finishing a superb 8th in their first season and 15th last season. Hopes are high amongst management that this could be a good season, they have kept the nucleus of the squad from last season and added a few additions, most notably Dave Wheeler from Lewes (ED – OUR Dave Wheeler), helped by the fact he’s studying at Brunel university and relocating to the area. They have lost their most promising player in Mario Quiassaca, who had his contract terminated immediately after being named and shamed as taking part in the recent riots in London.

When I flew the nest of Gillingham and moved to ‘the massive’ five months ago, I found myself living in a house a stones throw from Wheatsheaf Park, a nice perk when needing my fix of non-league football. This was first weekend I have had since starting a new job, so was fully intent on watching any football, so off I trundled down to the ‘Beehive’ pub for Saturdays lunch time kick off of Arsenal v Liverpool. Having been suitably bored, I looked up who Staines were playing and low and behold they were at home to Salisbury City. Better yet still, entry was FREE.

However this free entry was tinged with the sadness that their long-serving Chairman Alan Boon had passed away and his family’s gesture was to allow free entry to everyone to this game. I could not turn this opportunity down of watching what my local team is now for free.

I stepped in Wheatsheaf Park expecting a few hundred in the ground due to the inclement weather, however to my surprise the ground was abuzz with many young kids getting their 1st taste of live football, seasoned ‘Swans’ fans, families and the expected crazy old guy who has supported them since year dot. The ground itself is very nice indeed, 300 covered seats, 800 covered terrace and plenty of space to stand behind the goal and sidelines, it could easily hold 3000. In fact their biggest crowd was set in 2007 against Stockport County in the 1st round of FA Cup, standing at 2862. Their average attendance last season was around 2-300 people, in fact their commercial manager recently made this plea to stay away fans: ‘We have one of the best grounds in the league, where families can come and enjoy a game of football without subjecting their kids to bad language or behavior that often occurs at a higher level.’ Having seen the game, I can tell you there was its fair share of fruity language.

STAINES TOWN 0 SALISBURY CITY 1 – WHEATSHEAF PARK – SATURDAY 20TH AUGUST 2011
I walked through the turnstiles and soon found the programme seller. £3 for the match day programme, but this wasn’t just any programme. Oh no, this was the winner of Blue Square South programme of year 2011 and you can see why. Stacked full of content, from previous game reviews to a big interview with their new signing David Wheeler.

The teams were lined up on pitch as the stadium announcer introduced the Boon family to crowd with a touching speech about his life and then followed by one minutes of applause. The pitch itself was in superb condition and with the earlier rain, looked like a footballers dream pitch.

Having been soaked from the walk from the pub, I found a seat in the covered stand. As soon as I sat down, the sun came out. I sat there with my notepad and pen (pretending to look important) and started taking down names and numbers from the programme only to find out all the numbers for the Salisbury players and names in fact were incorrect. I did get hold of a team sheet to correct myself so alls well. Anyway, on with the game.

Salisbury started with a 4-5-1 formation with a big Jake Reid up top and Matthew Wright playing just behind. Staines went with a standard 4-4-2 formation. The opening stages very scrappy and the only bit of action, barring a man falling up the stairs, was a good save by the Staines number 1 Louis Wells saving from a terrible defensive header almost nestling in the top corner. The first corner kick came on 15 minutes, the ball spending more time off the pitch than on it. In the 41st minute we were treated to the first shot by either team, coming from Callum Hart (ex-Bournemouth), a daisy cutter from 25 yards comfortable for the keeper. And that was first half. Sounds exciting hey?

At half time, I made my way to the burger bar for the obligatory burger and Bovril. I’m delighted to say the burger was huge and handsome. The Bovril in case you’re wondering was standard. The Salisbury players came out 5 minutes early and took part in some drills. The same drills teams do before a game, an odd thing to see I thought but it turned out to be a masterstroke by their manager Darrell Clarke.

Salisbury came out all guns blazing, passing the ball around and stretching the game from side to side and the on the 51st minute the breakthrough came. In fortuitous conditions I have to say, the ball passed back to the swans goalie, his clearance charged down by Matthew Wright and rebounding into the top corner. Salisbury 1-0 up and fully deserved. Almost immediately from the restart Staines almost equalized through Warren Harris, drawing a good save from Conor Gough following a sweeping move.

Little more football action followed, however a boxing match did break out. Andre Scarlett throwing at least 2 punches towards a Salisbury player after handbags. It was not spotted by any of officials and he was only booked for his part in instigating said incident.

As the game edged towards the final 10minutes, Staines almost scored through a close range header from their outstanding performer and captain Danny Gordon. Only a cracking save from Gough keeping it out. This was to be the last footballing action of the game; however the boxing match was not over. Staines’ Gareth Risbridger thinking it was fine to hand off a player. The ref spotted this one and duly sent him off to a crowd not applauding him, but calling him names due to his petulance. I put it down to a case of frustration as he had been run ragged all game and was by far the worst performer on the pitch.

And that, was that. Staines failing to give the 1,002 strong crowd a win. The club will be hoping some of them fans will start coming on a regular basis, at £8 normal entry for adults, I will return.

Oh and congratulations to Staines Simon Jackson on winning sponsors man of match. His prize… a bottle of Asti with a bit of paper stuck over label saying ‘man of the match’. He’ll enjoy that I’m sure.

James Drobka (@jamesdrobka on Twitter)

A HOUSE OF CARDS – Lewes 0 Woking 4

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on February 26, 2011

Lewes 0 Woking 4 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 26th February 2011
They say a picture paints a thousand words, so below is twenty thousand of them summing up a depressing afternoon at The Dripping Pan.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible we hope.

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ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE…SEND – Ebbsfleet United

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on January 2, 2011

Now if you are reading this it means that for once Easyjet actually managed to fly one of the those airplane things from Copenhagen to London Stansted on time (and if not you have somehow broken my tough password for the admin area of my blog).  That may sound easy but in the last few weeks they have failed to do that on a number of occasions, often simply leaving passengers holding their boarding cards at 1am in a strange airport as they announce the flight is cancelled.  Personally I have voted with my feet, so to speak, changing my weekly commute to BA, but on this occasion as the whole family were flying back from our New Year revelries in Denmark, it was Hobson’s choice.

And of course assuming they did get me back on time it was dependent on our loveable Border Control people at Britain’s least favourite airport, Stansted (I refuse to use the moniker London for an airport two counties away from the capital) realising that they need to have appropriate numbers of staff to cope with the number of airplanes landing.

Oooh – bitter aren’t I, and 2011 is just a few hours old as well.  Once a grumpy old man, always a grumpy old man as my dear Nan used to say.

So, assuming everything was on time then at 2.30pm I would be walking through the turnstiles of Stonebridge Road, home of Ebbsfleet United ready to watch Lewes try and claw their way out of relegation trouble.  This was always be a game that the Rooks would have marked up as a zero return one.  Ebbsfleet had surprisingly been relegated on the last day of the season from the Conference National last season, and few would have backed against them making an immediate return.  With their games in hand due to the poor weather, the club would have been within a point of Braintree Town at the top of the table, whilst Lewes would have been bottom if Borehamwood and St Albans City would have played all of their games.

So virtual top versus virtual bottom was not the start that Lewes probably wanted to 2011.  2010 had been a bit of a nightmare to say the least, starting and ending the year with defeats away to Dover Athletic. In between quite a few bits that the fans would want to forget, although there is still a sense of optimism about what the club is trying to achieve on and off the pitch.

Due to the weather, this was to be our first Lewes game in five weeks.  In that people they had played just one league game (versus Dover on Tuesday) so you could understand some of the rustiness the team will have felt.  It also has an impact on the fans too, with double handbag winner Deaksy (he won them both in the Lewes Christmas draw if you believe him although why he has to now take them to all away games “just to tell people” is baffling) and Cynical making their second trip to Kent in just a few days.

My first “hats off” award for the New Year goes to Ebbsfleet for charging just £5 for adults and £1 for children for this game.  Coming off the back of the bumper attendance for the “keenly fought” local derby with Dartford where the crowd was well over 2,000, they could have been complacent and kept admission the same, but instead they slashed in.  The club are still groaning along under the control of Myfootballclub.  The internet fad that had started off with such a bang back in 2008 had lost its way in recent months and it was clear from standing in the bar pre-match with signs placed on the wall that every penny counts now, and the club is absolutely desperate to get back into the Blue Square Premier.

Ebbsfleet United 1 Lewes 0 – Stonebridge Road – Saturday 1st January 2011
After the goal in the first minute at Dover Athletic on Tuesday the travelling dozen or so fans breathed a sigh of relief when the big hand passed the sixty second mark.  O’Shea had put out an attacking side with George Porter and Paul Olima up front, and David Wheeler back in his favourite advanced right midfield role.  And despite the gap in points and league position, Lewes took the game to Ebbsfleet, pushing them onto the back foot as the ball pinged around a wet midfield.  The highlight of the opening ten minutes had to be my very tasty jacket potato with chilli from the food cabin – a highly unusual combination to be found at a football ground, and served by a girl who was talking on her mobile throughout the transaction.  Was it wrong of me to wish she would drop her Blackberry into the steaming hot pot of chilli?

Lolly was not impressed and decided she wanted chips and went across to the other side of the ground to queue there, as too did the Rooks2 (Patrick and Charlie on duty today) who didn’t like the rain.  The first bit of excitement came when Deaksy found his hot sausage roll was actually frozen in the middle.  He took it back and waited for another for a few minutes, before one of the girls actually asked him if he wanted a replacement, or was he just there as a public service announcement that frozen pork is not good for the stomach (Charlie says, for those old enough to remember).

But back to the football.  Ebbsfleet came close to opening the scoring on 12 minutes when Anthony Barness had to clear off the line, and then huffed and puffed for the rest of the half.  Apart from a shot from distance by Nathan Green in the dying seconds of the half it was relatively tame…for tame read dull.  And for those amongst you questioning my parental responsibilities, I didn’t just leave Lolly queuing up for 35 minutes on her own in the rain, I did go to the bar and get her a Coke (and then went back into the bar myself).

The second half started much the same as the first really.  Ebbsfleet tried to push forward but Lewes’s defence, bolstered by new signing Stephenson seemed to be able to cope with their approach.  Fleet managed Daish made changes on the hour mark, bringing on Scott Ginty whilst ToSH had to take off the injured Porter, replacing him with live wire Tom Murphy.

Lewes seemed to have done enough to get a point as the game entered the final few minutes.  However, they were to leave empty handed as for the seventh away league game this season (out of eleven) they were to lose by a single goal.

An uncharacteristic mistake from Hutchinson allowed a cross from the right to evade him and grateful sub Scott Ginty was able to capitalize and turn the ball past Winterton, much to the delight of the whole team with even Edwards running half the pitch to join in the wild celebrations.

Ironically, Lewes made the most of the closing moments. Substitute Tom Murphy was just beaten to a long ball by keeper Edwards, but in the next attack, a hopeful punt upfield found its way to Murphy again but his clever angled near-post header was pushed away by Edwards to preserve all three points for the  hosts.

Lewes’s rotten away form in the Garden of England continues.  It is now almost three years since the Rooks won in Kent, and with three defeats out of three so far this season, with only Dartford still to face the hopes are not high to stop that run.

So my mammoth 643 mile trip to a football match was over, and it was the train back home for me.  Easyjet had been on time.  Stansted airport had treated me well.  The M11/M25 had been as calm as a mill pond now could SouthEastern deliver for once on a cold wet night?  Amazingly they could.  A perfect day apart from the three points we all so badly needed.

More pictures from the day can be found at our Flickr stream here.