National Conference League
Division Two
Kells 56 Castleford Panthers 22
H-T 28-12
Gate £2
Atten 150

There was a bout of “Cumbrian flu” in West Yorkshire early this morning as Cas put together a patchwork squad for the long trip to League leaders Kells. I was even asked if I had my boots with me ! Despite the earlier panic Cas put up a very decent performance and played their part in a very entertaining encounter. But in the end a powerful and energetic Kells squad took control to run out comfortable winners. Must admit I did find it strange that the match ref wanted to control everything himself without any linesmen to assist. 

Kells ARLFC are based high above Whitehaven but the pitches are a brisk 5 minute walk from the clubhouse. My reason for going was to watch a match at the 'Big Waite' an exposed coastal location high up on the cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea and in the shadows of Haig Pit Mill which dates back to the thirteenth century . But the game was played at their secondary location on the village rec which also commanded fantastic views over the Cumbrian countryside as far as the eye could see.

In hindsight it did not really matter as the Haig Colliery Pit Mill is covered in scaffolding whilst they attempt to bring it back to its former glory.
According to the locals there are only 21 roads in Kells itself. There are others but you are unable to drive on them.

This is only Kells' second season in the conference leagues and they look set to secure a second title in the coming weeks and continue through to higher leagues after a rich history of dominating the local Cumbria & Cumberleand scene on a regular basis. They were excellent hosts and the post match meal was delicious and went down a treat.

All seemed peaceful in the North Lakes as we drove past the Bassenthwaite Lake. One could only look and admire how beautiful it looked and marvel as to what mother nature has produced. It was simply stunning.

The Cas Party bus was bouncing all the way back to base. You would never have guessed that they lost as much laughter, music and singing could be heard. I shudder to think what will happen when they record their first away victory of the season.

Another superb day out in the NCL - just brilliant.

Leigh Miners Rangers

National Conference League
Premier Division
Leigh Miners 36 Egremont 24
Gate £2.50
Atten 175+

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Match & Ground Enjoyment 10/10

Leigh Miners Rangers are one of the most respected amateur rugby league clubs in the country, with a proud history of producing talented players who go on to make a name for themselves in the professional game. It is not hard to see why because the the whole attitude around the Club is very impressive.

Today's game against the tough tackling visitors from Cumbria was a ding-dong, rip-roaring, end to end crackerjack of a game. A real credit to the league.
Miners took a 20-6 HT lead but Egremont came powering back in the 2nd Half to get within two points. From then on it was end to end action with Miners securing the victory after enduring a sustained period of Egremont pressure and numerous crunching tackles.

Twist Lane is a great venue. Situated just a 5-Iron away from the Leigh Sports Village the place was a hive of activity. Upon arrival the welcome given by the clubs officials was very excellent and made you feel at home right away. The Club produces a very good programme of decent reading and a superb Award Winning Website all put together by the very likeable and very professional Jeff. who like many at this level gives up his time for the club for love,not money. He does a brilliant job.
A special mention to Joint 1st team Managers Allan & Paul who are both fantastic guys and could not be more welcoming. They showed impressive class.

As Chubby Checker used to sing "Let's do the Twist again we did this Summer .." and as a result of today's experience i certainly will be coming to Twist Lane sooner, rather than later, as it is simply superb in everyway.

Best RL day out this season by far.

Onion Bag Awards 2013-14

The Fourth Annual World Famous
The Onion Bag Awards 2013/14

Most Friendly Club Welcome
Lincoln United  

Sometimes a ground exceeds all expectations and for me Ashby Avenue did just that. It had never been on my radar or my 'grounds to visit' list and i dont know why i really decided to come here, but boy i am so glad i did for this place is a hidden gem. My day started with a wander around Lincoln culminating with a visit to the magnificent Cathedral. However in order to reach the Cathedral i was unaware that one needed the aerobic capacity of a Nepalese Sherpa, so steep was the climb.
All four sides have cover with a somewhat eclectic mix of structures. Surrounded by high trees behind the Cricket Club the setting is most pleasant.

However the highlight of the visit for me was the welcome given by every member of Staff at Lincoln United. Each to a man (and Woman) they were superb and could not do enough for the Visitor. They made me feel at home immediately upon arrival and their warmth and genuine smiles never let up the whole afternoon. It was simply superb.

2nd Place
Horden Colliery Welfare 
Wearside League

I struggled to get the car door open upon arrival in County Durham outside Horden Colliery Welfare as the biting wind was so strong. Suddenly I heard a voice “Welcome, ya wanna cup o' tea ?” It was the Manager calling me from top of his ladder whilst putting the nets up. What a great welcome ? And it got even better as he gave a personal tour and then invited me out down the road at the nearby cafe  for a bacon and sausage sandwich !.Manager Keith is a top guy with a great attitude and a thick Geordie accent.

My visit to Horden will live long in the memory not for the game itself but for the genuinely warm hearted people that my visit so wonderful. Genuine down to earth people where football is a religion. But what impressed me most was their willingness to share what they have and what they are proud off and a place they are proud call their home. Just try and stop me going back at the first opportunity !

Very special mentions to these clubs for their welcome ...
Whitley Bay, Selby Town , Guiseley , Hyde , Rossington Main, Ossett Town, Boston Town, Goole, Atherton Collieries, Bridlington Town, Crook Town, Buxton , Bacup ..... plus many others

 Best Ground Visited
Easington Colliery 
Wearside League

Upon arrival on Wearside I was greeted with beautiful autumn sunshine. But the chilly wind reminded me where i actually was.I was reassured with the knowledge that Welfare Park spectators could treat themselves to a panoramic, picture postcard vista of the Durham coastline and the North Sea should the standard of football slip. 

Today's competition was the beautifully named Wearside Shipowners Cup.The hard working, multi-tasking and loyal Staff somehow keep this club a float often performing a thankless task. When I arrived today the wrinkly's were already in action on the adjoining pitch in the Welfare Park. Moments later the committee were cleaning out the changing rooms in preparation for the first teams arrival in a few minutes, reminiscent of an airline cleaning staff turning around a jumbo jet at Heathrow airport. 

The football ground is lovingly maintained, the terraces along the nearside smart and neat, an immaculate small seated stand. The well run tea bar must have one of the finest views from their serving window of any sports stadia in the country. There is nothing fancy here in every respect. But what they do have is well used and well loved. I also loved the place and is one of my all time favourites and if you go you will understand exactly what i mean !

 Runners Up
Crook Town

Some grounds just reek history , and Millfields, home of Crook Town is one one of them. In fact it hit me in the face as soon as I reached the top of the steps and the two iconic stands first came into view. You could just feel what it had been like when 17,000+ crowd crammed in to watch a cup tie. The place is superb albeit a little frayed at the edges. There is talk of them moving very soon, let us hope it is just that ..... talk, as the place is a historic gem and a must visit for any football lover.

Harwich & Parkeston

 A few years ago I was in Harwich on business and when I asked the hotel receptionist what the best thing about Harwich was , without even looking up from her What's On TV magazine she replied “the road out”. However after my visit I know she was wrong as the road in brings you to the Royal Oak , home of Harwich & Parkeston FC.As you enter through the turnstile you enter a whole new world. Like a precious stone on a jewellers cloth a new 'gem' sparkling in the summer sunshine, unfolds before your very eyes.The Imposing Main stand is simply superb. Showing more decay than in a dental practice , with its missing or broken seats, the bird droppings, the graffiti and greenery that would have Percy Thrower turning in his grave. You can not help but love this place and it is true what they say …. The Only Way is Essex !

Most Disappointing Ground Visited
Bentley Colliery 
Drab , dirty, impersonal - say no more
 Best Food Served

This was the 'Daddy' of them all ! Homemade chunks of tender steak gently simmered in a rich gravy complimented by superb crisp puff pastry, with chips, mushy peas, extra gravy and mint sauce. My only advice is to get to the ground early on matchday because if you dont you will miss out !  
 Runners Up
Glossop North End  
Succulent tender pieces of Steak and Kidney in a delicious gravy wrapped in perfectly cooked pastry make this sumptious culinary experience.The meat and potato pie is equally enjoyable , i know because i sampled both and took an extra home with me as these "little beauties" were that good.

 Special Mentions for
Bacup & Rossendale 

Winner for the last two seasons the Bacup Pie is one of my favourites and i always go back for second helpings. Debbie does a great job and puts lot of effort into making it and her efforts are much appreciated by many on matchday.

 Tadcaster Albion 

Hot Roast Pork Bap freshly carved before your very eyes served with apple sauce and delicious stuffing made this a most enjoyable feast.

Worst Food Served
Cammell Laird FC
 The sausage rolls served were tasteless and the smallest known to man.
Measurement was approx 1-2 inches and they were very 'ambitiously' priced !
 Best Match of the Season
Bamber Bridge 2 Ramsbottom 3 (aet)
NPL Div One - Play Off Final 

This was a rip roaring Lancashire 'hotpot' Derby and had everything from end to end action,  goals galore, flares, world class flying finger tip saves , injury time penalties, and a bumper crowd at a gem of a non league ground. The best match was saved for the last match of a long season.I really felt for Brig but despite their defeat they showed impressive 'class' and made many new friends , including me. Pulsating stuff !

Special Mention for 
Hyde 2  Nuneaton 2 (Conf Prem)
Very entertaining game throughout as Hyde tried to get their first home win of the season. They thought they had, when they went 2-1 up in stoppage time. Their fans were still singing, dancing and celebrating as Nunny hit straight back with a superbly taken goal with the very last kick of the game.

Buxton 1 Ilkeston 2 (NPL Premier)
End to end action in this Derbyshire Derby ! Plenty of chances with Buxton leading 1-0 in the 94th minute.Buxton had been playing with nine players for twenty minutes and had been under pressure. Two minutes later the final whistle blew and they had lost when Ilson scored two quick fire goals. 
The fans were still shaking their heads in disbelief as they made their way home with the sting in the tail of an intriging match.
Sheffield 4 Bedworth 4 (NPL Div 1 South)
Bedworth were a player and 4-1 down with only a few minutes left  and duly scored 3 goals in as many minutes, it was an extrordinary ending to an enjoyable game. Sheffield were in a state of shock as the ref blew for full time.

Worst Game of the Season 
Armthorpe 1 Wakefield 0 
This was just awful , dull, no action, no atmosphere, a complete waste of time, utter dross all in the shadows of an overlooking major supermarket.

Worsborough Bridge 0 Cleethorpes 0 
Northern Counties East

The only two highlights of this drab affair was the second minute sending off and the half-time scones (alas no plum preserve). Both teams were lucky to get 'nil' on a bitterly cold and wet evening.

Best Matchday Photo Set 
FC Sobemai Maldegem
By Jurgen Vantomme

This set from Jurgen is just brilliantly simple and once you look through it you will realise why it gets my vote.

Hopping Around Hampshire 
By Andrew O
There are many football blogs out there some are decent, some are not so good, sometimes you stumble upon and excellent one. I did just that a couple of seasons ago with Hopping Around Hampshire. Very well written and is a most enjoyable read and is one of a few i follow every week. Andrew has a 'fetish' not one of the more common fetishes but a 'fetish' never the less for of all things Rollers and most other ground maintenance machinery. The more bizarre the better. I must warn all groundsman in Southern England please dont try and hide or camouflage your rusty rollers because Andrew will find them every time , so trained is his rusty roller 'eye' and his prediliction. Basically nothing escapes this experienced professional proboscis.

I highly suggest you follow the link and like me enjoy following his adventures and having a good chuckle along the way.

Staff Member of the Season
 Emil Anderson - Secretary
Atherton Collieries 

Atherton Collieries was one of my favourite visits of the season. This gritty northern venue just oozes 'ramshackleness'  and it is here that you will find Emil. Fiercely loyal to his beloved Colls, Emil is great company. Opinionated in all football matters.Emil is what Non League Football is all about and i cant wait to drop by the Colls at some point next season to enjoy another game .

                                                 Adie Towers - Chairman
Adie is the driving force behind the scenes at Nethermoor.
He does a great job and is always ready to give his time to chat despite his busy schedule. It was a pleasure to spend time with him during my visit.
Infact the folk at Guiseley FC deserve a special mention as they epitomise what the world of NL Football is really all about.
Matchday at Guiseley