STRANRAER (Stair Park)

A Scottish Bonus this one!

I was gearing myself up for a nice treble in Shropshire this weekend but a simple text message at around 11pm on Friday put a halt to those particular plans. The text asked me would I like to a lift to Stranraer? Too right i'd like a lift to Stranraer! So it was an early start and yet another (unexpected) trip north of the border.

It only when you actually go to Stranraer that you truly comprehend how bloody far away it is. Once you hit Dumfries there is still another 78 miles to go. Geographically, the town is closer to Belfast than it is to Glasgow! The ground is just on the left hand side as you enter the town and is situated in Stair Park (hence the name). There is a childrens playing area and a bandstand alongside the ground, which is namechecked in the title of matchday programme "Beyond the Bandstand".

It has been a season of struggle for Stranraer and today they have nothing but pride to play for, though the Editors notes in the programme did say they would like to finish above Annan in the table (to avoid the Dumfries & Galloway wooden spoon). Forfar on the other hand are on course to finish runners-up in the league and take their place in the promotion play-offs.

The first half was largely dominated by Forfar, who created chance after chance after chance, but a combination of poor finishing and absolutely inspired goalkeeping from David Mitchell kept The Loons at bay and it was The Blues who went into the interval with a two goal lead. Murray Henderson gave the homesters the lead after 4 minutes when he turned and hooked home, after a Scott Agnew corner was parried by Euan McLean. On the half hour it was Agnew who doubled the advantage, when he tucked home from the penalty spot after a (harsh) handball decision.

The second half was, quite frankly, dross as Stranraer were content to sit back on their lead whilst Forfar slowly ran out of ideas, though on the odd occasion they broke through they still found Mitchell in top form. David Mitchell was unanimously voted man of match by the sponsors, media etc which tells you all you need to know how this game panned out.

Great trip out and all that was left now was the long journey home, but this fortunately was broken up by a couple of Sneck Lifters in the quite superb Agricultural in Penrith...hic!


Main Stand

The Coo Shed Stand

The Town End

With the goalkeeper stranded, Murray Henderson (No5)
is about to turn and hook the ball into the top corner for the opening goal.

Scott Agnew makes it 2-0 to the blues, from the penalty spot.

The Coo Shed Stand

Wooden seats in the Coo Shed Stand

Saturday 24th April 2010
Scottish Football League Division Three
Stranraer 2-0 Forfar Athletic
Attendance: 337

VT FC (VT Sports Ground)

The second leg of my weekend double took me to the outskirts of Southampton and the Vosper Thorneycroft Group Sports Ground, the home of VT FC. Today they were playing Bridgwater Town as they set about their task of playing six games in ten days (imagine the uproar if Man Ure, Chelski or the Red Shite were forced to do that!). Today was also both teams second match in 24 hours, both winning 4-0 away from home on Saturday. It would be safe to assume fatigue would play a part today!

The ground was pretty easy to find, being just off the M27, and on entering it is not hard to be completely underwhelmed. Dont get me wrong, the ground is neat and tidy and very well maintained, but there is no 'wow' factor as it is basically a meccano job with an arena stand and terrace, the only compromise to character are a few trees along the perimeter fence.

Today was an important game for both sides as they both look to consolidate a place in the end of season play offs, but with games in hand it would be safe to say both VT and Bridgwater should make it.

As it turned it out, fatigue did play a part as the game was rather lacklustre. The bone hard surface and hot conditions didn't help much either as the ball was difficult to control on the bouncy surface. Both teams seemed to get around this by simply playing the long ball game.

The first chance of the half fell to The Boatmen after 7 minutes but Kevin Brewster's shot came back off the crossbar, but it was Bridgwater who took the lead after 26 minutes when the ball was lofted into the area and Matt Graham put the ball into his own net. The Robins had a great chance to extend their lead just before half time when Steve Orchard was tripped in the box, but Chris Young's tame penalty was easily saved. Bridgwater probably shaded the first half and just about deserved their lead.

The game was effectively over 90 seconds into the second when Young made amends for his penalty miss by crashing a superb volley into the top corner of the net. Bridgwater were content to sit back on what they had and VT never really troubled them until, out of the blue, Justin Porter was harshly adjudged to have handled in his own box (the ball bounced up and hit him and he really couldn't get out of the way) and The Boatmen had a lifeline, but this was not taken as Brewster blazed the penalty high over the crossbar. The game just fizzled out and the win confirmed The Robins' place in the play offs. VT meanwhile will have to wait a wee while.


Chris Young tamely misses from the spot.

Warren Hunt is cautioned after gobbing off at the referee once too often.

Tom Manley is down on the floor but the ball from Kevin Brewsters penalty is still going into orbit!

Sunday 18th April 2010
Southern League Division One South & West
VT FC 0-2 Bridgwater Town
Attendance: 214

FOOTNOTE: VT FC won 2-0 at home to Uxbridge the following Tuesday (20/04/10) to secure their place in the play-offs.

BASHLEY (Bashley Road)

The first game of this weekend's Hampshire double header took place in the heart of the New Forest, at Bashley Road. This Southern Premier League clash still had importance attached to it as Bashley were after a win to more-or-less cement their place in the end of season play-offs, whilst Leamington mathematically still had an outside chance of making the end of season lottery, if they were to bag the win. Lots to play for.

The ground is pretty basic, with all the coverage on one side of the ground, which consists of an "arena" stand and terrace. As the sun was beating down there was no need to shelter today as it was most definitely t-shirt and shorts weather today! As it was Bashley's last home game of the (regular) season they also gave away today's programme as a thank you, I certainly appreciated the gesture.

The heat did make the pitch solid and bobbley, which was not conducive to good football and to be honest we didn't see much of that today. Leamington probably shaded the first half on (half) chances but it was mostly utter, utter crap. The second half was marginally better, just, but at least there were goals. Luke Corbett fired The Brakes into the lead after 57 minutes but Bash levelled from the spot after 71 minutes when Dave Allen scored after a handball in the box.

In the end the point did nothing for Leamington as it killed off their play off hopes, while Bashley will spend a nervous week looking over their shoulder as the teams around them play their games in hand.


The executive seating!

Dave Allen scores from the penalty spot

Saturday 17th April 2010
Southern Premier League
Bashley 1-1 Leamington
Attendance: 462