ECCLESHALL (Pershall Park)

With the cold and wet weather once again disrupting plans, I decided to play it safe today and head to a ground that hasn't seemed to have had any problems in recent weeks as regards to getting a game on, namely Eccleshall of the North West Counties League Division One.

Eccleshall is a Staffordshire town but not too far from the Shropshire border. Stafford is around 7 miles away to the south and Market Drayton is around 10 miles to the north. 

Eccleshall's ground is in nearby Pershall, hence it's name Pershall Park, which is just over a mile or so out of the town.

For a small town however, it boasts three entries in the 2012 GBG. Pre-match was spent in The George, which also happens to be 'the tap' for the Slaters Brewery. The 'Top Totty' went down very well!

Ashton Town (from Ashton-in-Makerfield) were the visitors today and, with both teams not exactly pulling up any trees this season, I wasn't expecting a classic. Ashton, however, seem to be in more turmoil than their hosts being third from bottom of the league and dispensing with their managers services during the week.

After a promising opening from the visitors in which Harry McGill had an effort cleared off the line, the homesters soon found their rhythm and after 15 minutes a cross from the left found it's way to skipper Daniel Hughes who hit it home from the edge of the box.

After 23 minutes it was Eccleshall's turn to have an effort cleared off the line when Josh Lane's header was booted away, however just 2 minutes later Eccleshall did double their advantage when Thomas Wakefield broke into the box and squared the ball to leave Hughes with a simple task of tapping the ball home. 

The homesters as you'd expect were now dominating the game and could easily extended their lead, but just before the break Ashton grabbed a goal back when McGill broke through and planted the ball into the corner of the net.

The second half momentarily began as the first half ended with Ashton on the attack but Eccleshall soon gained the advantage once again when Thomas Loraso fired narrowly wide on two occasions, however they soon bagged their third goal when Lane's cross on 61 minutes was swept home by Wakefield to seal the points for the homesters.  The cherry on the cake was provided by Danny Hughes on 64 minutes when he wriggled through the Ashton defence and scuffed his shot home to complete his hat-trick.

Eccleshall had plenty more chances to add to their goal tally but in the end had to settle for four. A deserved victory and, for me, a good day out in Staffordshire.

Saturday 28th January 2012
North West Counties League Division One
Eccleshall 4-1 Ashton Town
Attendance: 36

TIVIDALE (The Beeches)

For the second Saturday in succession I found myself in the West Midlands. Three weeks after I originally planned to go Tividale (the pitch was frozen that morning) I finally made it to The Beeches today, the 4th round of the FA Vase being an irresistible attraction.

Tividale is a 'blink and you miss it' place, the ground being situated on the main A4123 road between Oldbury and Dudley. The ground is in the middle of a housing estate just off this main road.

I arrived in good time to bag a parking spot near the ground as there were warnings that, with a larger than normal crowd expected, there may be problems. This allowed me to take advantage of the Tividale clubhouse where there was a choice of 3 ales on draft (I opted for a belated Skinner's Christmas Fairy ale).

The first thing you notice as you enter The Beeches is the slope. The ground is on a hill on the pitch gradient certainly reflects this. All the cover is along one side of the pitch, with wooden benches providing the seating requirements.

There was a decent attendance today, as the later rounds of the FA Vase tend to bring the crowds out. Both sides are slightly above mid-table in their respective leagues, Tividale in the Midland Football Alliance and Binfield in the Hellenic Premier League (step 5 v step 5).

Despite the windy conditions, and a heavy sanded pitch, a tight game was expected but, unfortunately for the visitors from Berkshire, the tie was effectively over after 15 minutes. Tividale, despite playing into the wind, raced out of the blocks and blitzed The Moles with a three goal salvo.

After 7 minutes Chris Russell skinned the full back and raced through to cross for Matt Jukes to tap home. After 11 minutes a ball was played high into the box, but the wind held it up, and it fell nicely to Lee Chilton on the edge of the area who curled it home. Tivi's third goal arrived after 15 minutes when a cross from Jason Chilton was hit home by Luke Paskin.

Tividale had chances to extend their lead but a shell shocked Binfield managed to avoid conceding anymore goals before the half time interval, even managing to get into the Tividale penalty area in the dying moments of the first half.

Whatever Binfield manager Mark Tallentire said at half time seemed to have worked as they started more positively and, after 53 minutes, Ian Davies got a goal back. Maybe there was a chance of a comeback? Tivi were rocking but on the hour Jukes broke through and rounded the keeper to restore the homesters three goal advantage.

Any faint hope Binfield did have was extinguished on 68 minutes when substitute Callum Whitty was shown a straight red card for an 'over the top' challenge. This allowed Tividale to run riot in the final period of the tie.

The superb Chris Russell again did the hard work to cross for Chilton to tap home his second (82). Russell finally got the goal his performance deserved when he ran through to dink the ball over the advancing 'keeper (85). In the 90th minute Jukes tapped home to complete his hat-trick.

This was the second successive game Tividale had won 7-1 and it deservedly put them into the hat for Monday's 5th round draw.


The was a big crowd at The Beeches but there was no need for
rooftop standing!

Jason Chilton (3) crosess for Luke Paskin (just out of shot) to run in and
score Tividale's third goal...

...who is then promptly mobbed by his teamates!

Tividale on the attack once more

The only time Tividale 'keeper Tim Beech was troubled in the first
half was when a corner kick caught the wind

Saturday 21st January 2012
FA Vase 4th Round
Tividale 7-1 Binfield
Attendance: 192


On a cold and frosty morning it's always worth having a few options to choose from. When the first 5 games on my shortlist bit the dust, or should that be bit the ice, I was starting to get a bit worried.

However, there is no point getting oneself worked up and, eventually,  upon calling Gornal Athletic I finally received an affirmative, so it was a short trip down the A41 to the West Midlands.

I had been tipped off by many groundhoppers that Garden Walk is an absolute gem of a ground with bags of character and they were not kidding.

The ground is dominated by a huge bank of terracing which immediately hits you as you enter through the gate. The ground, in keeping with most of Gornal, is built into a hill so when you enter at street level the pitch is below you. On the other side of the ground, at pitch level, there is a small covered stand, where the 25 or so 'Peacock Ultras' were gathered!

There are plenty of GBG's in Dudley (of which Gornal is part of) and the surrounding area to choose from but pre-match was spent in the Black Bear, which has it's own brew and a fine selection of guest ales, playing darts and admiring the views from the window (again this pub is another place built into a hill).

Gornal Athletic play in the West Midlands Regional League (step 6 of the pyramid) and are having a terrific season so far, lying in second place at the start of play, having lost only 2 games all season, seven points behind the leaders Black country Rangers, but with four games in hand.

Opponents Stafford Town were down in 16th position at the start of play, but again with plenty of games in hand on the teams in and around them.

The game was a routine win for the homesters, despite the best efforts of Stafford. Gornal were leading 1-0 at the interval through a Mark Swann goal after 28 minutes, when a superb through ball split the Stafford defence and Swann rounded the goalkeeper to fire home. The Peacocks could have extended their lead but were guilty of wayward finishing.

Early in the scecond half Stafford had a great chance to equalise but the No7 missed an absolute sitter. This was to prove costly as after 60 minutes Swann headed home his second goal of the afternoon.

Gornal began to dominate, as Stafford began to fade, but again wayward finishing and bad luck, kept the score down. Substitute Ravi Sangha added two late goals to give the scoreline a more accurate reflection of the game.

A good day out in the West Midlands and a visit to Gornal comes highly recommmended, but use public transport, if you know what I mean!

Saturday 14th January 2012
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
Gornal Athletic 4-0 Stafford Town
Attendance: 90 (h/c)