Football grounds and clubs visited

Out with the old

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Saturday December 28th 2013, kick off 3pm. DSC02766

Calor Gas Southern League D1 South & West Division.

At ‘The Spiers and Hartwell Jubilee Stadium’.

Evesham United (Red’N’White Stripes/White) 2-6 Wimborne Town (Yellow/Navy Blue), Att 183.

Admission £9, programme £2, jumbo hot dog £2.50, coffee £1.

For my last game of 2013 I made the 86 mile journey west and north-west to the new home of Evesham United to re-complete again the South & West Division of the Calor Gas League (The Southern League to us old timers). My enthusiasm for the ground was low, having heard and read of a similar design to the new (ish) home of Thame United. Actually I was pleasantly surprised. Yes like Thame, the main stand has been frustratingly built far too many yards from the edge of the pitch, and the cover behind one of the goals could have been enhanced by a few steps of terracing, but it is the wrap around of the local hills that gives some character and a pleasing outlook and ambience, and why I’d left this one for daylight.


By chance I had been at Evesham’s last ever league game at the old ground at Crown Meadow in 2006. The long running dispute over who pays for the new access road (from the main ‘a’ road  roundabout, which runs alongside the new ground) had rumbled on, seemingly for ever, before the Robins could take full ownership of the jubilee stadium, which they opened in the Summer of 2012. Arriving after a hassle free drive, and parking my bum at a table in the clubhouse, I felt a warm feeling for the club when an official came round handing out team sheets, a nice touch, one which I wish more clubs would think about.


What ensued was a very eventful match, which turned on one major decision a minute or two before the half time break. There was no indication of a goal fest as early end to end exchanges did not result in clear-cut chances until the 5th minute when Lance Smith put the Robins ahead deftly turning in a left-wing cross. The game remained pretty even until after 29 minutes another cross from the left fell to the head of Griffin who looped a well placed header over the keeper into the far corner to level it up at one each. And a few minutes before the break debut making Robins keeper Louie Barnfather got in a mix up with a defender, crucially hesitated and had the ball taken from him by Magpies striker Mark Gamble who rolled the ball into an empty net, 1-2. Just a minute later Gamble followed a ball into the box and was, according to the referee taken out by the keeper Barnfather, penalty, and a red for Barnfather, a debut to forget! From my position on the other side of the penalty area it was impossible to see if the decision had been correct. But, as you would expect, the Evesham fans did not believe it was. The ref left the pitch at HT to dogs abuse after Gamble converted the penalty with Evesham keeper coach Gary Baines taking over in goal, 1-3 ht.






Penalty, 1-3.
Penalty, 1-3.

I hadn’t expected an early second half goal from Evesham, but only a few minutes after the break, a very tidy finish indeed from that man, the impressive Lance Smith again, gave fresh hope for the 10 men, 2-3. For a while it looked like Evesham may get back in the game, but on a sticky pitch the extra pair of legs started to tell, and two great strikes from George Webb, and another goal, and hat trick from man of the match Mark Gamble, gave a slightly flattering scoreline of 2-6. The last third of the game however was spent admiring the heroics of stand in coach/keeper Gaines who made a string of great reaction saves, and left most of the crowd around me in the main stand wondering why he had not started the game rather than the unfortunate Barnfather.

To finish 2013 wth eight goals was an unexpected bonus, as was the warm welcome from the car park to the clubhouse. A friendly club who will hopefully flourish at their long awaited new out of town venue.





A bad day at the office

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Saturday December 21st 2013, KO 15:00.
Barclays Premier League
Selhurst Park Stadium – Official Attendance: 24,936
Crystal Palace (RedNBlue/Blue) (0) 0 Newcastle United (Yellow/Blue) (2) 3
Admission  – Season ticket, programme 3.00, Balti pie 4.00 and coffee 2.20.

Maestro on the Palace BBS  ……”One goal was a deflection, one was an O.G and one was a pen”

Kevin W on Tony Kempster Forums, ‘where did you go’ …..”I blame the weather”

Hopticklist says….

The difference was that Newcastle had two world-class performers on the day in Johan Cabaye and Fabricio Coloccini. Cabaye dominated the midfield highlighting our lack of quality in not being able to  consistently pass to a red and blue shirt. And Coloccini, a Puyol lookalike gracefully and seemingly effortlessly sweeping everything up at the back. I expect both to make an impression at Brazil 2014 for France and Argentina. 

Our lack of strength in-depth was evident today, which hopefully will be partly rectified in the January transfer window, whether by permanent or loan deals, Wilf Zaha please? Although a raid on Stoke by Tony Pulis may be more likely scenario?
Following on the back of an encouraging and battling 1-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge last Saturday, in this game,  we were never really in it as the football gods, lady luck, call it what you like, turned away and did not smile on us. A couple of square pins in round holes did not help with Joel Ward having to switch from right full back to cover centre midfield for the injured KG and O’Keefe, and Dean Moxey returning from injury at left back but not looking match fit, and having to be replaced at half time by Jonny Parr. As a result we looked weak down both flanks when defending in the fist forty-five.
An early fifteen yard snap shot from Cabaye took an unfortunate deflection and wrong footed Speroni. And then Danny Gabbidon stuck out a foot and diverted at a hopeful cross swung in from the right to again wrong foot Speroni, and firmly left us with the proverbial ‘mountain to climb’.

An improved second half performance couldn’t hide our deficiencies although sub Bolasie added some much-needed pace and trickery. But overall Newcastle just had too much quality and composure on the ball.
This again was emphasised when they were able to bring on the skillful Ben Arfa for a ten minute maestro performance, his encore being a well struck penalty late on. And so the SE25 faithful dolefully trooped out into the wet and windy night contemplating a tough Xmas with away games at Villa and Man City, closely followed by the massive six pointer against the Canaries on New Years Day. A ‘fussball team’ we hope will not be of the same quality as Newcastle!
The only real positive of the day was the return from injury of fans favourite Jonny Parr, his first game since early spring, calmly filling in at left back at half time, and already looking a potential stronger long-term proposition than Dean Moxey.






On borrowed time at the Stadio Vincente Calderon

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Sunday December 15th 2013, at the ‘Stadio Vicente Calderon’, KO 9pm, La Liga.

Atletico Madrid (RedNWhiteStripes/Blue) 3-0 Valencia (White/Black)

Ht 0-0, att 46,200. DSC02749

Admission 50 Euro (central area in the middle tier opp main stand). Programme n/a, badge 3 euros.

It’s only five stops from the centre of Madrid using the blue line on the Metro system (from Gran Via to Pirimedes), before you disembark for a mere ten minute walk to the historic Stadio Vicente Calderon in the Arganzuela district of Madrid.  Well when I say historic, in reality it was opened in 1966, but it feels and looks older. The steep rake of the stands hang over the pitch, but concrete is evident everywhere, particularly when climbing the steps to the upper tiers and the outside of the stadium looks rather like the Camp Nou, which in reality means it’s rather ugly.



In 2016 they plan to leave the wonderful Vicente Calderon stadium and move into the re-built La Peineta Stadium, which is planned to have a capacity of 70,000, an increase of 50K from its current 20,000.

Atletico were formed in 1903 by students from Bilbao living in Madrid. They are a team currently threatening to become one of the European biggies and certainly under ex Argentina player, coach Diego Simeone, they have been gaining respect and kudos after their Europa league win a few years ago. And their current form that sees them pushing their bitter rival Real and Barcelona all the way this season for the La Liga title. Because of the Bilbao connection Atletico also wear the same Red and White Stripes, and are nicknamed ‘The mattress makers’ because of the similarity with old-fashioned striped mattresses, apparently! The stadium has the Manzanares river running alongside, as well as a motorway, neither apparent or visible from our position high up in the middle tier.



Whatever their long term ambitions, today, certainly in the first half Atletico looked far from a European giant. Valencia had the edge all over the pitch, and shaded the half. Action in the penalty areas was very thin on the ground, and I was starting to worry that our wonderful sunny weekend (to celebrate my 51st) in this great city would be spoilt by a dull nil all to take home to England. I needn’t have worried, as I suspect some harsh Argentinian Spanish were spoken at half time, as Atletico looked a different proposition in the second half. Diego Costa looked a very fine player, very direct with the ball at his feet. Apparently he has been linked with a move to England (which he has denied any interest in), and on this performance displayed a very English type of game, and he was the dominant performer.



It didn’t take long, just fourteen minutes into the second half as Costa ran towards and into the Valencia box before cutting a shot across Diego Alves into the net, 1-0. With the Ultras now enthusiastically urging the rest of the crowd and team on, just five minutes later it was two as Raul Garcia, took advantage of a mis hit defensive clearance to snap a shot from 10 yards into the back of the net, 2-0. Not long after this, Costa had the chance to make it three from the spot as Victor Ruiz conceded a penalty, but a good save from Diego Alves kept it to two, at least for the time being.


Nine minutes from time, another penalty was conceded, and this time Costa made no mistake by blasting the ball into the roof of the net, 3-0. A scoreline we really had not expected at half time. Valencia coach Miroslav Djukic was relieved of his job after this defeat, and the points sent Atletico joint top with Barcelona. Only time will tell if they will be able to sustain the challenge and break the domination of Barca and Real. The game finished at 22:50 local time, and such was the efficiency of the local metro system we were back in our central hotel by 23:30 🙂


Saved penalty
Saved penalty



There are good grounds, and there are ‘great’ grounds

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Saturday November 30th 2013, KO 15:00 at ‘The Rapid Solicitors Stadium’ AKA Belle Vue.

Northern Premier League Division One North.

Wakefield (Royal Blue/Royal Blue) 0-3 Bamber Bridge (Red/Red), attendance 46.

Admission £9.50, programme £1, badge £3.50, hot dog £2.40, coffee £1.

Over breakfast on the morning of the game I was still undecided about my eventual destination. Ros who’d accompanied me on this little jaunt, wished to photograph Wakefield cathedral in/out, and in the dark, as part of her project to photograph all 42 of the English Anglican cathedrals. So, I would be going to Wakefield regardless, but I had a nagging desire to take in a new ground at NL Step three, so I was still toying with visiting Frickley Athletic, which would have meant a thirty mile roundtrip from Wakefield to South Elmsall and back again to collect Ros. Ultimately also nagging at the back of my brain was the knowledge that Wakefield are currently playing at a Rugby League venue. So, I thought two things could, and probably would happen in the future, a/ They may move away from this venue, and it could be lost to football for ever, and or b/ the ground is modernised and redeveloped, which I believe will happen. So, Wakefield FC it was to be.

A lovely relaxed forty something mile drive across the northern edges of the peaks gave us plenty of time to kill in the centre of Wakefield, a city much ignored by those outside of Yorkshire, but once you are there, you realise what a large place it is, population circa 77,000. Rather overshadowed by its noisy neighbours, specifically Leeds with its splendid Victorian and Georgian architecture, Wakefield is less glamorous, but is like most of this region solidly working class and solidly white rose Yorkshire! I’d driven passed Belle Vue in the past, but had no idea of where the entrance to this substantial stadium was located. Driving up the main Doncaster Road you can see the back of the stands and the floodlights but no obvious entry point into a car park. I found out, having parked elsewhere, that the car park for the stadium sits behind another car park for wimpy/superbowl, a sign would not have gone amiss, hey ho I should have read the website, which tells you exactly that!

Once I had retrieved my car, and parked in the correct location, I was soon into the stadium. It was an immediate wow factor, on entrance a stand that ran virtually from corner flag to corner flag, with terracing in front. At the other end of the stadium  substantial covered terracing. At the nearest end behind the goal, a large rather ugly corporate hospitality structure, and opposite more terracing, some covered, with portacabins raised up in the centre which housed the match day refreshments etc. All in all, it had a very strong feel of a football ground from the 1960s/70s before the all seater requirements were introduced. A cheesy grin was playing around my face, pleased that I’d decided on this venue, of course being the home of Rugby League Wakefield ‘Trinity’ Wildcats the stadium is used to hosting super league fixtures in front of 5,000 rather than the 50 or so expecting today.

Built in 1895, the current capacity is listed as somewhere between 11 or 13,000 depending on which source you view, and the record crowd was 28,254 v Wigan in 1962. Or 29,235 for the challenge cup final in 1923 again depending on the source. Many scenes from This Sporting Life were filmed at the Belle Vue Stadium during Wakefield’s third round Challenge Cup match against Wigan in 1962.

Wakefield Trinity have long been in negotiation with the local council to find an alternative site, as the present Belle Vue stadium does not comply with the proposed standards required by the Super League. However, there have been difficulties in agreeing with the council on a suitable alternative site. Plans for a new stadium in partnership with Wakefield City Council were rejected after the council decided that it would be difficult to deliver within budget on an appropriate timescale. Plans for a 12,000 seater stadium near junction 30 of the M62, in Stanley, were unveiled on 17 April 2009, with the development proposed by Yorkcourt Properties and a community trust, chaired by former Rugby Football League chairman Sir Rodney Walker.

On 8 June 2011 it was announced that the club will totally redevelop the existing ground to a capacity of 12,000 to meet the Super League criteria.It is hoped that this will safeguard the Wildcats future in the Super League as this was seen as the main reason the club could be demoted out of the top flight. On 26 July 2011 Wakefield were granted a grade ‘c’ so  Belle Vue stadium will be redeveloped. So the message is, ‘Get there soon’ if you want to see it in its current incarnation.

I’d got chatting to a fella in the car park, and also met him in the ground, Brendan from Scunthorpe was also ticking the ground, and had been pleased to tick a Wetherspoons in Hemsworth on the way over. It was good to catch up with Brendan at times during the game and at HT, to talk all things football and grounds. Such a shame then that only 46 of us rattled round this wonderful old ground. Maybe the lack of local support is due to the city being a rugby league stronghold, that Leeds United are so popular locally, and more likely because of the clubs recent history which was not in Wakefield at all. The club was based in the little village of Emley. Emley AFC were playing at their quaint three-sided ground, but their fortunes on the pitch had meant they needed to leave for ground grading purposed to allow the club it’s promotion up the pyramid. So in 2000 they decamped to Wakefield and became Wakefield Emley FC, it seems the support did not move with them, as AFC Emley were formed later and continued to play in the village, as they do to this day.

Since those early days they have played at College Grove in Wakefield and also recently at Ossett Town FC, before moving back to Belle Vue this season, they also dropped the old colours once AFC Emley had been formed. Going into this game the ‘Bears’ of Wakefield were still without a home league victory, whereas visitors from Lancashire Bamber Bridge were happily top three and looking set for a strike at an automatic promotion place. Well this form never really looked like being overturned. As early as the 14th minute Wakefield conceded a penalty, but a good save from keeper Dan Trueman from Tom Williams kept the score at 0-0. However it was only another 8 minutes before Williams made up for this aberration, striking home from inside the area. Further second half strikes from Chris Marlow n 57 and Alistair Waddecar on 81 only emphasised the difference in quality between the two sides. I spent much of the game seeking out the nooks and cranny’s of the wonderful old stadium and had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.















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Friday November 29th 2013, KO 19:45pm at ‘Church Lane’, New Mills, Derbyshire.

Evo Stick Northern Premier League D1 North.

New Mills (Amber/Black) 0-2 Salford City (Sky/Navy Blue), attendance 140.

Admission £6.50, programme £1.50, badge £3, coffee £1.


Scheduling a Friday night fixture, for a ground hopper is like throwing a stick for a dog. Especially in my case, because I needed this ground, and it being in a part of the country where the Saturday ‘new ground’ options would be numerous. New Mills FC were experimenting to see if they could entice more through the gate. I suspect what they gained in the many ground hopping faces present, they lost in locals who preferred to stay home, or at the pub on a cold evening. The gate of 140 was about average for the season, so I’m not sure they’d view it as a total success?


New Mills is in the North West of the Peak District, only fifteen miles from Manchester and bordering Cheshire, but just in North Derbyshire. Historically, apart from being a tourist magnet for its very good walking and hill climbing country, economically it’s prosperity was through coal mining and cotton-spinning and bleaching.

One of my main employers now for the local population of about 10,000 is sweets manufacturer Swizzels Matlow who produce popular brands which include, ‘Parma Violets, ‘Refreshers’ ‘Drumstick lollies’ and ‘Lovehearts.
These are all sweets from my youth which are as visible in the shops now as then. Apparently Swizzels Matlow moved to New Mills during the second world war during the blitz of London, and have stayed ever since.


By the time we arrived in nearby Hayfield at our overnight stay, the GBG listed ‘George Hotel’, it was already dark, and so even though we were in the ‘High Peaks’ of the Peak District, enjoyment of the views would need to wait until the Saturday morning. Never has a ground been more appropriately named, with the church of ‘St George’s ‘ being literally twenty yards across the lane, in fact the club were once known as New Mills St George’s and for the first time in my 43 years of watching live football, we were treated to some very loud bell ringing for long periods of the game!


Even before kick off I was recognising a few faces from previous weekend groundhops, and I soon fell into a conversation with another hopper from Watford, up for Fri/Sat fixture, and then later with the kit man (no less) of Maidstone United, who’d been up North all week, because “The Stones don’t have a game this week”. He’d been quite chuffed to have taken in a Europa League fixture the night before at the DW Stadium home of Wigan Athletic for just fifteen pounds admission.


The Millers and Salford were both lower mid table, with New Mills having the slightly loftier league position. As the game progressed you’d not have guessed this, as Salford started with pace and intention. Immediately taking a grip on the game with a six-minute fifteen yard strike from Purcell.  The Millers cause not helped by early injuries and substitution of Danny Shaw and Daniel Douglas-Pringle. On the half hour I made my excuses from chatting to my fellow hopper friend from Maidstone and made my circuit of the ground, stalling at a point opposite and between the two dugouts, where after what had seemed a short break the bell ringers were in full flow again, and where I experienced the juxtaposition of some glorious (but loud) church bells, and the expletives and anger of the two benches (Salford being the worse). Made me wonder why so many bores and morons are attached to our wonderful game, that they think communication is always only possible with regular usage of foul and abusive, and haranguing of officials, shame really. On that note, all power to the Northern League with their secret shopper campaign, although I do wonder if this is the equivalent of trying to push an elephant up a stairway? At least they are trying. Having just spent a month watching Rugby League during the world cup, where the behaviour from the players and bench is impeccable I’d love to see improvement in our game, but I believe it is probably just to ingrained for any impression to be made long term.


The second half like the first saw more of the same, Salford created more clear-cut chances, and but for some poor finishing and some good goalkeeping from Pete Collinge, they did not add a second until the 52nd minute when Daniel Browne scored, and although New Mills tried hard for a route back into the game, it was the twenty or so Salford fans that would have had the happier journey home. The second half had been spent under the low slung cover chatting with my new Watford and Maidstone friends and chewing the fat on grounds visited, and where we might all be the following day. At that point in time Mossley and FC United of Manchester were my friends prefered options, whereas mine (at the time) was Frickley Athletic.


And so I journeyed back the three miles to the George hotel to enjoy a few pints with Ros by the warming log fire, and reflect on another enjoyable football evening, amongst the company of a group of red shirted ‘mountain rescue’ volunteers, reminding me that clearly I was not in Berkshire!




Pie Eaters

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Saturday November 16th 2013, KO 15:15pm at Victory Park.

FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round.

Chorley (BlackNWhite Stripes/Black) 2-0 Matlock Town (Yellow/Yellow), attendance 772.

Admission £9, Programme £2, Pie and Coffee £2.70 (or thereabouts). Badge £3.

Sad that I am, I keep a note on my phone of grounds not yet visited that other hoppers have recommended to me. Victory Park was high on this list. And fitting in nicely with a weekend taking in Rugby League World Cup quarter-final fixtures in Wigan (Sat eve, Eng v France), and in Warrington (Sun, Samoa v Fiji), Chorley was ideally situated just ten miles north of our overnight billet in Wigan.


Chorley is deep into Lancashire, and the local dialect reflects that. Although only about twenty miles west and north of Manchester, the nasal Manc drone is replaced by a more fulsome Lancastrian burr. My telephone enquiry midday to their office that the game was definitely on met by a quizzical tone, until I explained I’d recently been caught out with a postponement at Sheffield FC. But no such worries here I was advised. And I arrived in the once Cotton rich market town with plenty of time to spare.


Chorley FC are going through a bit of a renaissance, currently vying with nearby Skelmersdale for top spot in the Evo Stick Northern Premier League, errrr Premier Division, and, drawing healthy gates through their turnstiles, one had the feeling of a club on the up, and they look ideally places to push for automatic promotion to the Conference North. The club shop and office is situated in the car park before you pay into the ground. Exchanging pleasantries with the Middlesbrough supporting chap in the office, then chatting to the young lads selling the programmes, I was firmly aware I was Ooop Naaarth, Why? Because people have the time of day to stop and chat, little things, like “Enjoy the game”, can mean so much, when you have been all morning on the road to reach that particular fixture, and people are genuinely interested in why you might be at their game.


Victory Park is an old-fashioned venue, a little rusty around the edges, but characterful for that reason. A large main stand dominates with covered terracing at either end. Opposite the main stand it’s largely flat, although a little rise on a bank on this side appealed to many spectators who took up residence there, behind me. Kick off was delayed due to an ambulance being called to attend to a spectator behind one of the goals, apparently I found out later an elderly man had been knocked down by a ball struck by a Matlock player during the warm up, a pure accident, and it was reported the following day that he was fine. This delay was to have a knock on effect later, as Ros was standing in a dark car park at nearby Astley Manor soon after 16:30, and because of the delayed KO I did not arrive until 17:15, Ros was fine (ish) about it, but this is the time of the year when I’m not comfortable about her standing around dark street corners or car parks, and wished she drove, so she could have the car and I can wait for her outside the football ground.


Pre-match from the walk in tea bar, I sampled the staple diet of a visit to a football ground in Lancashire, the meat pie of course. And the steak pie was very edible indeed, pukka in fact! A pie experience always reminds me of my initial forays up north in the 1970’s with Palace, when meat pies were nowhere to be seen on southern menus, but guaranteed in Lancs/Yorks and usually in the West Midlands. Having that, it is still rare to find a pie at a non league venue in the South, although most league grounds have cottoned onto their popularity and stock them.


I’d seen Chorley play and win 1-0 in the first qualifying round of the trophy at Whitby Town in October, and liked what I saw. Today up against same division and sixth placed Matlock Town, ‘The Gladiators’ of Derbyshire, I was expecting a close game. And that was exactly what I got. On another day Matlock may have progressed or at least of taken Chorley back for a replay. But although their committment was total, their end product was lacking, on many occasions undoing much neat approach play. Having said that, on a day when the Magpies had their feathers ruffled, they kept working so hard to stay in the game. Striker Darren Stephenson, who caught my eye at Whitby, was forever tracking back into midfield, and the back four put their bodies on the line to block numerous efforts from Matlock. Chorley came more into the game as the minutes ticked by, and although they failed to create much in the way of clear-cut chances, this tie was hanging in the balance late on. That is, until the intervention of super sub Josh Hine, who struck two very late goals (84 and 90+2), blasting home from about ten yards out, then in injury time meeting a cross at the far post to notch again with a diving header. Honestly, the result had been pretty cruel on Matlock, but Chorley are a very good side, looking capable even on ‘off days’ of grinding out a victory, and I believe it will take a very good team to knock them out of the trophy this season. 


Victory Park is a classic timeless venue, if you want to visit a NL ground that still looks like something from the 1970s, visit, you won’t regret it 🙂



NOTE: Chorley have since progressed from Round One with a 2-1 home victory over Northern Prem D1 North side Curzon Ashton to set up another home tie with Forest Green Rovers in Round Two with Josh Hine again striking the winning goal on ninety minutes!




Bees Lack Sting

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Tuesday November 12th 2013, KO 19:45pm.
The Skrill Premier.
Barnet (Amber/Black) 0-0 Welling United (Red/Red), att 1,274.
Admission 21.00, programme 3.00, pukka pie 2.70, coffee 1.50.

‘The Hive’ had been a long time in the planning, and finally this summer Barnet got to move in to their plush new home. Without doubt, the old Underhill ground, its charming quirky nuances aside was well past its ‘use by’ date for hosting crowds at football league matches in the modern era.
So I’m sure the new complex looks and feels like a large slice of juicy apple pie to many Barnet fans. Although one does wonder what they think about the six-mile journey across a busy North London to Edgware, especially for mid-week games after work?

Perhaps the attendance to tonight’s game part answered that question, as somewhere between one and two hundred had travelled across from North Kent, and yet only a crowd of just over twelve hundred was declared, their second lowest, the smaller crowd also being for a mid week fixture.
I shall certainly have a keen eye on the attendance for their attractive Saturday fixture v league leaders Cambridge United this coming weekend.
The new stadium and it’s training pitches behind is most impressive. Dominated by a large stand down one side that towers over the rest of the venue, my only criticism is that I’d like them to have built up one of the terraced ends a little steeper. But the sheer size of the complex took me by surprise. As well as the aforementioned all-weather training pitches behind the right goal, in use continually during the game I might add, in front of that was an enormous car park, similar to that at Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium.
The main stand has an excellent rake, with plenty of leg room and comfy seats to boot, so all in all the ingredients were in place for an exciting nights entertainment on a smooth looking pitch.

Sadly, although not a bore draw, the game never really exploded into life. Having said that, both teams tried to play attractive football, and as both my friend Dave Lewis and I agreed, the football on show was light years away from the quality on offer in this league back in the 1990s when I regularly used to get along to Gander Green Lane to watch Sutton United. The professionalism in this league has definitely been ratcheted up a few notches since then.
Barnet, coached by ex Netherlands International Edgar Davids, played a neat slow passing style, that was attractive and frustrating in equal measure. A little more urgency in the final third may have allowed them to pressurize without so many Welling players back behind the ball?
Whereas Welling themselves when advancing up the Barnet end were more incisive and played with a little more pace.
But ultimately the defences were on top, and I lost count of the number of last-minute blocks or deflections for corners.
Although Barnet shaded the game, Welling were solid and have made a most impressive start after promotion from the Skrill South last season.

On reflection, I thought Barnet, relegated from League Two last season certainly look good enough to make a bid for a play off place, and I would say I’d be happy to return to the Hive to watch again, but my evening was rather soured by a couple of angry stewards, in the minority I think, who seemed intent on sending spectators home with a flea in their ears.
Snapping at people because they were hovering in the massive sterile area (between the stand and the terracing) in injury time, “Either sit down in a seat or go home” one barked, whilst another informing me I couldn’t take a photo of the main stand. “No photos, no photos” I was told.
IMHO, it’s this sort of behaviour that’ll send the casual spectator to other local venues in the future rather than spend their money at the Hive, after all over twenty pounds to watch level 5 football is not a cheap night out!
With the rather alarming turnout tonight, I’d say this is something they should nip in the bud, and soon, as to be one of the big fish in this league these days you really need to be pulling in 2K + plus attendances on a regular basis.

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