Alfreton Town

Saturday 24th July - Pre Season Friendly
Alfreton Town 3 v Luton Town 0
Attendance:  392   Admission: £6
Ground: A very neat and compact ground , new stand completed. Will look even better when the fourth stand is completed.Pitch looked excellent  8/10
Conditions: Beautiful warm summers day , perfect conditions
Food/Drink:  I had Steak Pie, Mushy peas and Gravy with mint sauce - was tasty but cost £3 ! Large Coffee 80p which burnt my tongue !
Journey/Mileage: 226

I woke up nice and early and could already smell breakfast from downstairs. When i went down the old boy was waiting for me staring out of his window and before i could even sit down my first cup of tea had already been poured closely followed by some toast - i prefer my toast later and still warm. I decided to decline the 'Full English' after yesterdays experience and opted for a poached egg on toast which is impossible to a be greasy. I was looking forward to todays game as a visit to Alfreton had been on my agenda for a long time. I was hoping the Impact Arena was going to live up to its name. I drove slowly through the countryside from Matlock was only 11 miles but enjoyable never the less. I decided to spent late morning looking around the town centre which seemed ok. Had a double expresso and a croissant for £3.50 a rip off ! and read the paper before making my way to the ground.
Main Entrance

Main stand newly built at both ends

Must admit i was very impressed with Alfreton's Ground , red everywhere apart from the blue seats , which i later learnt were from the old Filbert Street Ground in Leicester. As i walked around the grund i met Nigel who was just getting into place to film the match for the manager and backroom staff to watch later. Nigel was very helpful and was able to share lots of information about the club and players.

Nigel getting ready to film

The pitch looked fantastic and the game started and within 8 minutes the home side should have been already two goals to the good. They were playing slick , once touch football very easy on the eye and were rewarded after 13 minutes with an excellent headed goal by the No8 the best player so far. Luton were poor and outplayed for the rest of the half. H-T 1-0

At half time i met another ground hopper in the shop buying badges and today was his 560th tick !

Steak Pie Peas Gravy & Mint Sauce ..... Yummy !
On 70 minutes the reds made it a well deserved 2-0 a great build up , ball out wide , 2/3 one touch passes , with a quick pivot and shot ... straight in the Onion Bag ! Luton were shocked and within 60 seconds it was 3-0 as a result of a cheeky lob by the impressive Josh Law. Alfreton piled forward for more only to be denied on more than one occasion by the Luton goalie , but by then a jaded Luton were a well beaten team who were lucky to have all eleven players still on the pitch. After the game i visted the Reds bar and met the famous Wozza the Red from the non league forums, he was great fun and was pleased to meet the Onion Bag in the flesh ! I couldnt share a beer with him as i was about to endure the long journey home. I had an excellent day at £6 was very good value to watch next seasons Conference North Winners ??

Matlock Town

Friday 23rd July - Pre Season Friendly
Matlock Town 2 v Derby County 2
Attendance:  378   Admission: £8 (£2 too much !)
Ground: Set in a scenic location but with only three sides due to adjoining cricket pitch and building works lacked atmosphere - Pitch looked good 6/10
Conditions: Beautiful warm summer evening  , perfect conditions
Food/Drink: Steak &Kidney Pie,(but had chicken inside !) Mushy peas and Gravy  - was tasty and only £1.50 !  Coffee £1 Mars Bar 50p

I left the ground at Shepshed after a most enjoyable evening and now was left with a 45 mile journey to my home for the next two nights a quaint little B&B in Matlock. The B&B as it turned out felt like something from a different time zone , the decor was outdated to say the least. It was run by an old boy who was from the south, but who's wife died two years ago and he was still finding it hard to deal with. His inner thoughts and feelings were shared with me over breakfast. But i listened out of politeness. The rest of the day i spent walking in the countryside before returning for a quick nap and a shower to get ready for tonights game . I found the residents of Matlock to be rather a dull crowd and were hard to engage with. After finally finding a place to park i made my way to the ground which welcomed me with an overpriced £8 admission for tonights event against Derby County.
Back streets of Matlock where i parked my car

The ground itself has charm but mainly due to the backdrop of the local countryside. Tonight only two stands were open as a new one is being built. It will always be only three sided due to the Cricket Club next door. For tonights game the players got changed a hundred yards away in the cricket pavillion. The club shop was small and stuffy and didnt have much to offer. As i toured the ground i met  local who used to be a groundhopper , he even wrote a book a few seasons ago called "Gladiators on Tour" , that season he only watched 105 games !!. He was great to chat with full of information.
Had to wait ages for some hot food as the kitchen was less than well organised and when my steak & kidney pie came it was full of chicken and mushroom ! no probs as with the peas and gravy it was very tasty and a bargain at £1.50 only.

Run down stand by the road
The game started and Matlock had much the better of the first twenty minutes and through excellent movement from the No10 they took a well deserved lead. Some very slick one touch passing got them a penalty after half an hour, only to be well saved by the Derby goalie. H-T 1-0
Derby started the second half better and scored twice within five mins , one from a lucky deflection of a Matlock defender.
Matlock continued to play some good football and scored a great goal from a tight angle to make it 2-2.

The crowd was 378 and to be honest i was expecting more , but as they have another game tomorrow to open the new stadium at Chesterfield people are going there instead.

Matlock on this performance will have a strong season in the Northern Premier and may well finish in the playoff places.As the final whistle blew the 2-2 result was a fair one and enjoyable evening in perfect weather. I made my way up the hills back to my B&B in the knowledge it was time well spent visiting this ground.

Shepshed Dynamo

Thursday 22nd July -

Pre Season Friendly
Shepshed Dynamo 0 v Bedworth United 4
Attendance:  73
Gate: £4
Ground: I liked this little ground tucked away. Some stands a little old but that added to the character of the ground- 8/10
Conditions: Very Pleasant
Food/Drink: Had a yummy cheeseburger with extra oinions. Was freshly cooked and good value at £1.80 Coffee was good 60p and i later had a luke warm tea 60p with a kitkat 50p- 7/10

View all Photos from Shepshed (37)

After a long journey with M1 hold ups i still arrived in plenty of time in this Village in Leicestershire.
I met a nice chap on the gate who allowed me in in order to take some pics , we started to chat and he told me his life story with some very private details he was obviously in need of talking to someone and he chose me - had only met the guy for five minutes. I was made very welcome by all the Shepshed guys who were shocked to see a long distance groundhopper at their ground that evening. A few minutes later i got chatting to 'Colin' who turned out to be a life long Bedworth United fan - he follows them home and away with a group of them along with his son. Colin was great company telling me all his stories including the gang from the "Bedworth Bootroom".

They had even knew abut my blog and when they were able to put a face to a name a smile and a giggle broke out. I liked the ground and loved the quirky stands, there was no programme or even a teamsheet for tonights event , but that didnt really bother me as i am not a collector of programmes etc. Talking with the locals this was virtually a new squad with a new manager and if they manage to stay up next season they will be pleased.
The teams came out and paraded all what was missing was the National Anthem ! seemed a bit odd just for a pre season friendly. Shepshed made the brighter start for the first 20 minutes with Bedworth hardly touching the ball. Then the home team decided to play their version of 'crossbar challenge'  - the ball came in from the left flank and the golaie was beaten and with an open goal the forward headed the ball against the bar from 3 yards out and then as it rebounded a teammate did the same thing from 2 yards out  - two unbeleivable misses ! Then 3 minutes later Shepshed were made to pay , the goalie had a rush of blood came out of his area took a swing at the ball and missed completely. Instead of retreating he came further out only to find a Bedworth player No11 getting his 'Lob Wedge' out and chipping the ball in the top corner  , 1-0 !.

As so many Away fans were in the ground they kindly opened the Club Shop 

Bedworth were now in control of the game and on 29 minutes they made in 2-0 with a well worked goal. H-T 0-2.  The seond half started and within three minutes it was already 0-3 and i actually missed the goal ! i was watching but the ball hit the advertising board and as the Net was literally tied to it so there was no gap between the net and the advertising board so when the ball rebounded out the net didnt even ripple ! Luckily the Bedworth Gang were watching closer than i was !

The Tea Hut

Then a few minutes later there was mayhem !!!  The Bedworth Gang didnt know who had won the raffle and they were most concerned , it had become more important than the football ! and they couldnt relax until they found out who had won the 'start prize' - 6 small bottles of beer ! 
I then decided to go to the toilet only to find i had to leave the ground and walk hundred yards down the road behind the main stand- must admit it was the first time i have had to leave a stadium to go to the loo ! On my return Bedworth made it 4-0 and wrapped up a well deserved victory.

On the whole i had a really enjoyable evening plenty of good humoured groundhopping stories with some really nice people. The football was average at best and both teams will end up halfway at best in their respective league tables. Was the visit to Shepshed worth it ? YES it most certainly was !!

I leave the ground very happy in the knowledge that for my first new ground the ball has been in the Onion Bag no fewer than 4 times , a good start.