Ebbsfleet United

National Conference League
Ebbsfleet United 1
Dagenham & Redbridge 1
atten 1,684

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Stonebridge Road has changed somewhat since my previous visit in July 2011. The cracking covered terrace stand has been replaced by a very modern looking seated stand which hospitality and meeting facilities. The rest of the ground looks similar with its nooks and crannies. It really is a must visit for any football enthusiast.

The match itself was an enjoyable and skillfull one with both teams showing why they are having a good season. Daggers had the early pressure but it was Fleet who broke quickly on the counter attack to score first. Fleet forward No9 Kedwell was a right handfull all game and gave a superb forward's display as he dragged the Daggers defenders all over the pitch. 

Daggers pressed in the second half and eventually with 4 minutes left grabbed a deserved equaliser. Then in stoppage time both teams could of grabbed a winner. It was an exciting finale roared on by the bumper Fleet crowd. Great day out in East Kent.

Ramsbottom United

Northern Premier League
Rambottom United 2 
South Shields 3
atten 354

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The NPL is one of my favourite leagues & full of wonderful people and has plenty of cracking grounds.A trip to Rammy is right up there with the best of them.
Lucky for me i arrived at the perfect moment as the East Lancs Steam Railway Train was in the station and letting of plenty of noise & steam. What a sight it was !.The Ramsbottom station is like a throwback to the 1940's , it looked fantastic. 

Adjoining the football club is the impressive Ramsbottom Cricket Club , formed in 1845.The pavillion architecture is a work of art.
A typical Lancastrian welcome by the Ramsbottom officals was received followed by a trip to the tea hut for pie & peas which was already throbbing with South Shields fans .... and plenty of them !.To be honest the pitch didnt look great and was heavy underfoot, but both teams did their best. Shields look a solid outfit and they look shoo-ins for promotion.But Rammy fought well , never gave up and very nearly nicked a point. But in truth you always felt Shields had them at arms length.

Special mention for the invasion of Geordies from South Shields as they really do bring a great atmosphere to the occasion. They are fanatical about their football , and even more fanatical about their team. Its more of a religion for them i think. As i sat in the tea hut i could over hear three South Shields fans discussing what team they think will play today's game, and which formation they will adopt. Moments later the condiments was being moved around the table to replicate their hoped team formation. It was great to see that, as for a moment it was like being back in the good old days.

Dodworth Miners Welfare

Sheffield Assoc Cup 
Dodworth Miners Welfare 3 
Penistone Church 4
atten 200ish

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Last Season these two teams played each  other in the final of this competition and they produced the best match of the season . So much so it was a winner in the 2016-17 Onion Bag Awards .Today , unbelievably they trumped that final and produced pulsating cup tie which swung backwards and forwards all afternoon.

Dodsworth Miners Welfare is located just west of Barnsley and seems a busy place with Bowling , Junior and Senior football teams and a thriving Bar and Social Club.
They reached the dizzy heights of Yorkshire League Division Two until they left in 1979.Since then they have flirted between other leagues (Wakefield & District , Sheffield & Hallam and South Yorkshire Amateur League).Today they find themselves running away with Div One of the Sheffield & Hallam League and they have ambitious plans for progression. The main terraced stand is fantastic.

Today's game was an end to end classic as both teams went toe to toe. Miners scored midway through the first half, Church equalised within two minutes.

HT 1-1 

Then with about twenty minutes left the fireworks really started.Miners went back in front and then like the first half Chirch quickly equalised to make it 2-2. Both teams attacked and missed plenty of chances. 15 Minutes left Church then counter attacked and scored a great goal to take the lead for the first time 3-2.With time running out Miners equalised to make it 3-3. This was then followed by two misses of the season by both teams. First Miners forward was 6 inches from goal and toe poked it to their goalie , who was lying on the ground. How he failed to score nobody knows. Then amazingly minutes later Church missed a very similar goalden chance much to the utter disbelief to the vocal crowd.

But then minutes later Church snatched a winner. Cue the big pile up of players and coaches in celebration. Miners came back for more to force the game into extra time but sadly just fell short. Both teams were applauded off by everybody in recognition of a fantastic game of football.

There is a chance they could be drawn to face each other in the League Cup later in the season. If they are , i will make sure i am there for this was as good as it gets. 

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves 2 Aston Villa 0

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Esh Winning

FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round
Esh Winning 0 Penrith 2
Atten 50ish

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North Lancashire League - Division One
Millhead 0 Cartmel & District 3
Atten 9

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Millhead FC’s ground should be preserved as a national treasure. The area is noted for its limestone deposits and several quarries have been excavated.This is one- two sides of the pitch back on to the walls of the abandoned quarry with the ball frequently bouncing back off the unforgiving surface. Behind the far goal a darts board-style target has been painted several feet wide and upwards of the goal. ‘Dave’s Target’ is scrawled the message- it turns out that the home side’s no5 is indeed called Dave.

He doesn’t disappoint'.He adds: 'On the nearside is a small covered standing area bearing the legend ‘Iodine Park’ an ironic name given after many players over the years have incurred cuts and bruises from the rocks appearing through the surface'.

The ground itself is locted in Warton a hamlet literally under a mile from Carnforth and is a little tricky to locate. If you past the Warton sign and fail to 'rubber neck' you will miss the sign for the Village Hall where the players change. The pitch is about a 100 yard walk behind the Village Hall.

I think i picked the perfect day to visit Iodine Park for throught the day it was bathed in glorious Lancastrian sunshine. This was my first expereince of visiting the North Lancashire League and i hear there are some more 'gems' to be found in some fantastic scenic locations. I will be back !

Boston United

National North
Boston United 2 Chorley 0
atten 934

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Bramley Buffaloes

Yorkshire Mens League – Division 2  
Bramley Buffaloes 26 Hunslet Parkside 24
Gate £2
Atten c150
Catering – Steak Pie (tasty) & Coffee £2

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The ground is shoe-horned between the streets of red brick terraced housing , very typical of the Leeds area. The large clubhouse displays some interesting historical photography.The kitchen was purveying homemade chicken curry tasty and sold at sensible prices.

Who needs pre-season Football friendlies when you can have non stop explosive Rugby League entertainment such as this ? This game had more spice than a Bombay Market stall.This game had it all , bone crunching tackles , 2 red cards , 3 sin binned , plenty of fisticuffs , and a pulsating fightback by Bramley.
Buffs found themselves 4-24 down with only twenty minutes remaining but some how fought back to score the winning try with the last play of the game. 

It was an exhilerating finish to a very spicy 'Leeds derby'. The noise coming out of the Bramley changing rooms after, showed how delighted they were with their victory.
Fantastic afternoon's entertainment. It does not get any better !

2016-17 Onion Bag Awards

7th Annual
Onion Bag Awards
2016-17 Season 

Best Ground Visited 
 Cappielow Park - Greenock Morton

When you first step inside Cappielow Park you know instantly that you have arrived in a special place.The whole place just oozes history and charm.

The main stand covers the full length of the pitch. On the opposite side is a massive covered terrace which takes you back to the good old days of watching football. Both ends behind the goals are open standing and very spacious. The pitch was in fantastic condition.
Catering was of a high standard and the prices were both value & sensible. The whole feel around the ground was relaxed and enjoyable

Cappielow has been home of Morton since 1879 and in its early history hosted International football , Athletics ,track cycling, and even unlicensed greyhound racing events. Its a cracker of a ground and is a 'must' visit for any so called football enthusiast.It is a fantastic ground, and i loved it !.

Non League Ground Visited

 The Giant Axe - Lancaster City
I spent a fantastic day visiting Lancaster and the Dolly Blues.The Giant Axe was immaculately presented and looked fantastic in the August sunshine.With its eclectic mix of stands.It feels wonderfully spacious and gives the impression its a proper non league ground. 

It is already known the club formed in 1905 as Lancaster AFC, folded in 1910 and was believed to have been replaced by Lancaster Town FC in 1911. However the new club would only have been permitted to join the Lancashire FA if it had satisfied the authorities it had no connection whatsoever with the previous Lancaster club. Today they are certainly a club on the up-curve and have played some excellent football this season and also gained promotion to the Northern Premier League.

The views from the ground are wonderful , which include Lancaster Castle.

 Hall Lane - Willington AFC
The club was established in 1906 and joined the Northern League in 1911.They finished as runners-up in their second season, and won the league in 1913–14. In 1925–26 they won the league again, and in 1927–28 they reached the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup, losing 2–1 to Cockfield in a replay. They won a third Northern League title in 1929–30, and in 1938–39 they reached the final of the Amateur Cup, losing 3–0 to Bishop Auckland at Roker Park, Sunderland.
In 1949-50 they again reached the Amateur Cup Final played in front of nearly 100,000 at Wembley where they beat local rivals Bishop Auckland. That the day the whole town had migrated south for the day.

In 1973 Willington reached the FA Cup 1st Round where they played the mighty Blackburn Rovers. The crowd was 4,600 (or so), the wind was blowing a gale, the result a goalless draw. “We should have won it, Tommy Holden missed a sitter with just a few minutes left,” recalls former player-manager Brian Newton.

“Mind,” he adds, “tremendous player, Tommy Holden.”
It was the Winter of Discontent. The miners were on strike, electricity rationed.No floodlights allowed, even if Willington had had them, and none for the replay, either. The replay was played on the Monday lunchtime. Though Rovers had fallen on relatively hard times, briefly in the third division, they were mill town millionaires compared to the thin seam toilers of the former colliery town of Willington.
Today Willington AFC looks fantastic & the iconic main stand and facilities are beautifully maintained by the club's loyal team of volunteers.
Its a very special place and just reeks of history. In my mind its a 'temple' of north east football. Quirky, charming, and beautiful.

 Most Friendly Club Welcome 
 Due to the amount of possible winners i have split this into North & South categories as to choose only one winner would be impossible.
 WINNER  - South  
Bowers & Pitsea FC

Bowers & Pitsea FC is located just a '5 iron' away from Basildon in TOWIE land and to use the local vernacular is 'reem' ! The club was established in 1946 by Bert Salmon as Bowers United and initially played in the Thurrock and Thameside Combination and today ply their trade in the dizzy heights of Isthmian League North. Having just completed their first season in the league finishing a very creditable sixth place just one win short of the play-offs. They are certainly a club whose future looks very positive. First team manager Rob Small is a classy guy and is doing a brilliant job for the club . The club were originally based at what later became Pitsea Market, before moving to Gun Meadow. When the A13 was built, the Gun Meadow ground was subject to a compulsory purchase order, resulting in the club moving to its current home on Crown Avenue.

What a fantastic group they are , real football people ,and my welcome from everybody was as if I was a long lost son coming home. I suppose being surrounded by West Ham fans only made the visit more enjoyable being a lifelong Hammer myself. On the pitch I think I caught them on an off day as local rivals Witham Town banged five goals passed them. But they conceded the defeat with dignity, which only added to my regard for them.

Fantastic day spent with Bowers in every respect and I cant wait to go back at the earliest opportunity.

WINNER  - North 
Willington AFC 
As early as September last year I had this earmarked for an OB Award for the visit was that good. Star of the day was Shaun ,Vice President / Groundsman / Tea Maker / Teams Organiser etc etc he took multi-tasking on a match day to new levels. Am not sure how many 'hats' he was wearing but he always had time for the visitor and make them feel special and welcomed. I saw him in the boardroom one minute then next minute I passed him using the grass strimmer to ensure Hall Lane did not have a blade of grass longer than any other.

Shaun has been there boy and man and it shows. His passion and incurable optimism for the club shines through so brightly. The boardroom is a treasure chest of football memorabilia and Shaun even took the time to offer me a personal tour. Everybody else was very welcoming and caring and went out of their way to ensure my visit was enjoyable. The levels of their friendliness held no boundaries.They deserve an OB Award and a visit to Willington comes with my very highest recommendation.

Special Mentions for :
Prescott Cables , Ball Haye Green , March Town United and Prestatyn Town

 Least Friendly Club Welcome
Fortunately no clubs visted this season merited consideration. 
Therefore Margate FC retain their trophy for the 5th season running. Congratulations.
However there was one club in the Northern League who self-inflated ego's seemed out of control. But at least they were not foul mouthed
             Most Enjoyable Match 
Dodworth MW 2 Penistone Church 2
What a cracking match this was between two teams low in the football pyramid.
The match itself was play on neutral ground at Emley. Depite their lowly status both teams were very well supported. Dodworth (Barnsley) brought three coach loads of support.

The roar from the crowd as each team scored or got on top was impressively loud. The game swung back wards and forward and was exciting from start to finish. Even extra time could not split these two teams and in the end Dodworth won the penalty shoot out 5-4. Fantastic match and totally unexpected. It was so enjoyable that even the Emley fans said it was the best game at their ground all season. Enough said !

Worst Match of the Season 
Glasshougton MW 0
Worsborough Bridge 0 
That's two hours of my life I wont ever get back. This was dross and utter rubbish. No chances on goal. The less said about this evening last September the better !
This was the 4th time i had watched Worsborough Bridge and each time they have failed to score . In fact i saw them receive more red cards than scored goals !

 Most Memorable Match Day

Edale 8 Stoney Middleton 4
Hope Valley League
An astonishing day in the Hope Valley that will live long in the memory for a variety of reasons

The journey over to Edale was a nightmare in every respect. We endured substancial delays at every moment. Getting held up behind a Bride in a vintage car just west of Barnsley , then temporary roadworks hold up at Silkstone , Penistone and Millhouse Green. Then getting stuck behind a horse box , then large lorry on the Woodhead Pass. Missed the turning for Glossop , Then enduring delays behind a learner driver through Glossop. Then at Hayfield near Kinder Scout getting caught up with Mountain Rescue , blue lights flasing every where.

Upon finally arriving in Edale we could not find the football pitch and in the end ran out of petrol. Thankfully a kind resident of the village went home to grab a can of petrol they had saved for such emergencies. The nearest garge was five miles away in Hope. God bless those lovely people !

Edale FC play in the Village playing fields adjacent to a play park. Players change in the portacabin.The ground has no furniture of sorts but has spectacular views to Kinder Scout which more than make up for the lack of facilities. The pitch was long and bumpy all over. The touchlines were hardly white and were more like deep grooves.

The match itself was non stop entertainment including some fantastic goals including a 25 yard screamer in to the top corner, an up-and-under from level with the corner flag. A 20 yard free kick curler into the top corner , a clever chip over the goalie , and plenty more.

Stoney Middleton actually went 2-1 up midway through the first half and looked in control and had plenty of chances to go further ahead. But Edale equalised before half time. HT 2-2. After a four minute break off they went again and suddenly Edale went beserk scoring 4 goals in no time to make it 6-2. Stoney grabbed one back to make it 6-3 , but then Edale scored 2 more quick goals to make it 8-3 and there were still 15 minutes left to play.Then a Stoney player was at least ten yards offside …. yes I did say ten yards ! and the ref played on for them to score and make it 8-4. It was another 'keystone cops' moment in this astonishing match.

Moment later the ref blew the final whistle to end a most breathtaking afternoons entertainment. For the many near misses , excellent saves this game could of ended 11-8 very easily. The Stoney Middleton players were still shaking their heads as they returned to the changing rooms whilst the Edale players were taking the nets down. Then quite bizarrely within minutes the whole place was empty as if nothing had happened …

 Best Photo Set of the Season
 Ben Webster - Fair Isle

Just stunning photography work from Ben. Take a look at his collection, but beware that you will spend more time salivating than expected.
All his photo sets can be viewed HERE

My personal favourite set is from Fair Isle have look here …  
Just WOW !!!!!

 Non League Person of the Season
 Mr Michael Clegg - Atherton Colls

What a guy Cleggy is , what a season had by Atherton Collieries. He deserves all the applause he can get after securing promotion with Atherton Colls to the Northern Premier League for the first time in their history. He deserves a knighthood.

The way he has knitted together the most 'tightest' group of players. The bond they have within their squad is like no other I have seen in non league football.
They football they have played has been excellent and the banter throughout the season has been amazing.For all his hard work over the last three seasons and the progress made by Mr Clegg he fully deserves an OB Award.

It would be no suprise in seasons to come bigger clubs will come calling for him and his backroon team, for he is that good. Quality guy in every respect.

 Best Tea Hut

 Stocksbridge Park Steels 
Homemade Carrot & Ginger Soup 
Delicious food served by Steels and the homemade soup was so tasty.
The night I visited we had sleet and rain storms so it made the homemade soup a real winner. All served with a warm crusty bread roll.