Staffs County League 2013-14 fans’ guide


thegroundhog:

As it’s had several updates I’m reblogging it

Originally posted on the groundhog:

The Staffordshire County League sits at step seven of the non league pyramid, along with a host of other county leagues. However, it is classed in the 7A category, the highest classification of step seven.

In general the clubs charge £2 for entrance in the top division, although some let you in for free. All the venues, while often basic, have good facilities, refreshments (even real ale at Norton and Redgate Clayton) and railed pitches. Some come with great views too. It’s superb value for money and a great way to support grass roots and local football. The Staffs County League feeds into the North West Counties League.

It comprises three divisions.

Map Staffs County teams (all three divisions): https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=204998316785790393085.00044942c2b9d11826b72&msa=0

Premier Division

This season the Premier division will start again with 17 teams. Departing are Hanley Town (promoted to the North West Counties League), Stretton and Biddulph Town (both resigned). Stone Dominoes resigned shortly…

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Step Seven Surprises No 3 (series of 6) – Middlewich Town


from a friendly on Saturday 3rd August 2013
Middlewich Town 3 Barnton Wanderers 1 ht: 1-0 att: 29 (hc)
at Seddon Street

Seddon Street in pictures

Middlewich Town FC (16a)Running out of new grounds close by, I was trying to pick the best out of some of the nearby county leagues last summer, when I went to Middlewich Town. It is a very old ground at just over 100 years, used since 1912, the year the Titanic sunk (although the two events aren’t related). The ground was first used by Middlewich Athetic who then merged with Middlewich Town Youth in 1988 to form the present club. They finished mid-table in the Cheshire League last year. Continue reading

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Ashton Town


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NWCL One (step six)
Ashton Town 2 Daisy Hill 2 ht: 2-1 att: 33

from Edge Green Street

 

With an off-white blanket of Sahara dust and pollution smothering the UK, I ventured north for some very rare Thursday night football at Ashton Town. Thursday, normally football’s day of rest, is an April necessity this year in the NWCL, due to the backlog of previously waterlogged fixtures. Water again made an attempt to log this fixture for the second time, but the pitch held up well until the end. Continue reading

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Step Seven Surprises No 2 (series of 6) – Whitchurch Alport


Relating to game in Mercian League on Wednesday 14th August 2013
Whitchurch Alport 1 Alscott 1

Yockings Park in pictures

The charmingly named Yockings Park is like the Maracana of County league football. Sizeable stand, floodlights, good signage and other trimmings; not what you’d expect if you were to stumble across a Mercian League game.

Whitchurch Alport were founded in 1946 and have spent most of their time in the mid Cheshire league, being the only non-Cheshire club to take the championship out of the eponymous county, to Shropshire in 1969-70. Recently they have moved to the even more obscure Mercian league, which doesn’t seem to appear in the pyramid anywhere. The top division has just 14 teams, including the reserves of Bridgnorth (of the step seven WMRL) and Wellington Amateurs (step six WMRL). Their El Clasico is against the nearby village team called Prees. Continue reading

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Step Seven Surprises No 1 (series of 6) – Tideswell United


Game from: Wednesday 21st August 2013 7.30pm Friendly
Tideswell Utd 1 Buxton Town 4 ht: 0-1 att: 20 hc

Tideswell Sports Complex in pictures

When people talk about non-league they’re generally referring to the leagues between the Conference (step one) and step six, such as the North West Counties division two (unless they like their football really agricultural). The number of leagues at these steps is 1-2-3-6-14-17 respectively.

Continue reading

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Acrefair Youth


Saturday 25th January 2014
Welsh National League Division Two
Acrefair Youth 0 FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay 3 HT: 0-0 att: c15
from The Bont

Lying humbly in the awning of the magnificent Thomas Telford construction – the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – is the Welsh National League side Acrefair Youth; neither a youth team, nor pronounced Aker-fare. Only a pitch really, but with one of the best backdrops in England and Wales. The canal boat bridge, pronounced Pont-cuh-sell-tee (give or take some spittle) was constructed between 1795 and 1805. It is both the longest and highest aqueduct in the UK, a Grade I listed building and World Heritage Site. It sits upon 18 piers made of local stone, which rise 38 metres up to the ironwork. The bridge carries the Llangollen canal in a cast iron trough, 307 metres long, 3.4 metres wide and 1.6 metres deep. Water is fed from the river Dee at Horseshoe Falls near Llangollen. Continue reading

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Welsh Premier League Guide 2013-14


The Welsh Premier League

welsh premier teams

The Welsh Premier League started in 1992-93, with Cwmbran winning the title. The format changed in 2010-11, when 18 teams became 12 – The Super 12, as they’re dubbed. The New Saints are the current champions. The Welsh Premier is the only league in Wales that isn’t regionalised, leading to some hefty away travelling across the very slow mid wales roads. In recent years the North has started to dominate, now having five teams (or seven depending on whether you class TNS and Bala as mid or north) compared to the South’s meagre three. Mid Wales has Aberystwyth and Newtown.

One of the reasons for poor showing from the south, is the sad demise of first Neath, and then Llanelli, in the last two seasons. It hasn’t always been this way, though, with the South traditionally being very strong in the league; with Cwmbran winning the inaugural season in 1992-93 and Barry Town winning seven titles in eight years between 1996-2003. In the early years, several other teams from the south were successful, but have now disappeared or are playing at a lower level – among them Inter Cardiff, Barry Town and Ebbw Vale.

The winners of the most titles is jointly held by Barry Town and TNS (both the Total Network Solutions and the The New Saints versions). They have won seven apiece, two thirds of the 21 on offer. The other seven were shared between Bangor City (three), Rhyl (two) and Cwmbran and Llanelli (one apiece). So only six teams have won this league, 12 have gone to the North and nine to the south. The mid wales teams have yet to secure a title, although Newtown did finish as runners up in 1996. A seventh team may be added to the list this season, as last season’s runners up, Airbus, are challenging for the title this year.

Welsh Premier League top three finishers 1993-2013

welsh finishers top three

Some of the Welsh Premier grounds are among my all time favourites. I’ve tried several times to rank them using various criteria, such as backdrops, stands and terracing etc, but I get very different results each time I do it. It is extremely difficult to quantify why you like certain grounds (let alone put into words), so I gave up on a list. However, the small set of Welsh Premier grounds, to me, all have something about them and some are very special indeed.

Most, if not all, have been improved in recent years, with many now UEFA compliant with the minimum 1,000 seats. These are the grounds at Aberystwyth, Bangor City, Carmarthen Town, Newtown, Port Talbot Town, Rhyl and TNS.

Ignoring any attempt at quantification and ranking, I can declare my favourites to be Aberystwyth Town and Newtown. Both have verdant hilly backdrops and many different and quirky stands and bits of terracing. They tick most boxes for the groundhopper.

The next tranche are difficult to separate, there not being much between them. At one point I’d say Rhyl was next best, the next moment Bangor, the next Port Talbot. There are six that I’d put into this category – Bangor City, Bala Town, Carmarthen, Afan Lido, Port Talbot Town and Rhyl. They all have their own character and quirks and some with great backdrops, but it’s difficult to say one is better than the other. Without offending any one team, I’d say the remaining four were not up there with the best, but by no means bad grounds; TNS, Prestatyn Town, Airbus UK Broughton and Gap Connah’s Quay.

The teams are listed below, with ground capacity, year founded and various statistical rankings.

welsh team facts

Aberystwyth Town – Park Avenue

Nearest Station – Aberystwyth 0.2 miles

Aberystwyth Town Park Avenue (19)

Park Avenue has three areas of seating. An old school steep stand along one side, with windowed edges, the Dias stand behind the goal and open terracing at the top of the other side to take the seating to 1,002 and UEFA compliance. A gnoll behind the tall stand gives a great backdrop.

Aberystwyth Town Park Avenue (17)

Aberystwyth Town Park Avenue (3)

Aberystwyth Town Park Avenue (11)

Action against Airbus UK Broughton in April 2011 (2-0)

Action against Airbus UK Broughton in April 2011 (2-0)

Afan Lido – Marston’s Stadium

Nearest Station – Port Talbot Parkway 1.7 miles

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The Lido ground has a stand each side of the pitch. The main stand is a 400 odd seater, with the structure the other side an unusual affair, three rows of seats totalling around 120 with TV gantry atop and the club name spelled out neatly in lurid red – a nice touch.

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Action against TNS in Oct 2013 (1-2)

Action against TNS in Oct 2013 (1-2)

Airbus UK Broughton – The Airfield

Nearest Station – Hawarden 2.7 miles

Airbus UK Broughton (14)

The Airfield is one of the more basic grounds, but still has a smart 500 seater main stand. A clubhouse sits on the opposite side. A quirky feature are the two retractable floodlights, that fold down on to supports, for when aircraft take off on the nearby airfield.

Retractable floodlight supports

Retractable floodlight supports

Action v Bangor City Nov 2008 (2-3)

Action v Bangor City Nov 2008 (2-3)

Bala Town

Nearest Station – Blaenau Ffestiniog 20.4 miles

Bala Town Maes Tegid (19)2

Within the last ten years, big improvements have been made to the Lakesiders’ ground, including floodlights and seating. While still one of the smaller of the Premier league clubs, it now has 504 seats, running down one length in a few stands, four rows up. An unusual TV gantry sits opposite, between the dugouts. A shipyard-container-style covered bit of terracing is behind one goal. Behind the other goal is a slope where you can get a great picture of the whole ground, similar to the one at Plaskynaston Lane (Cefn Druids’ old ground).

Bala is unfortunately horrendous to get to by public transport, being more than 20 miles from the nearest station.

Bala Town Maes Tegid (15)

Action vs Newtown March 2011 (0-2)

Action vs Newtown March 2011 (0-2)

Bangor City

Nearest Station – Bangor 1.2 miles

Bangor City FC Nantporth (5)

Bangor City moved into Nantporth in 2012. It is in a great location, just off the Holyhead Road overlooking the Menai Straight. For new builds, it is excellent with lots of character and a scenic backdrop. The main stand is a gleaming beauty. Opposite is another smaller stand, total seating is 1,100. I was there for their first European game there against Zimbru Chisinau, where standing was prohibited, due to European match rules. A full house should’ve seen a Bangor victory but, alas, it finished 0-0.

Bangor City Nantporth (13)

Smaller stand

Smaller stand

Action v Zimbru Chisinau July 2012 (0-0)

Action v Zimbru Chisinau July 2012 (0-0)

Carmarthen Town

Nearest Station – Carmarthen 0.5 miles

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Carmarthen Town has one huge stand, maybe the biggest in the league, seating 1,000. It stretches along for most of one side. Aside from this, it is just hard standing with a very shallow path at one end. The clubhouse it opposite the main stand. From this stand there is a scenic backdrop of a hill of rendered houses, giving it a continental feel.

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Action v Bala Town Oct 2013 (2-0)

Action v Bala Town Oct 2013 (2-0)

Gap Connah’s Quay

Nearest Station – Shotton 1.8 miles

Connah's Quay 1

Gap Connah’s Quay was only the second Welsh ground I went to. Due to my poor camera skills at the time and it being very much a one-sided stadium, my pictures are limited. The Deeside College Stadium is dominated by the tall main stand that sits atop the clubhouse and changing rooms, seating 500.

Having an eight lane athletics track around the ground is always going to compromise the atmosphere; however the main stand is large affording a good view.

Action v Airbus UK Broughton March 2009 (2-3)

Action v Airbus UK Broughton March 2009 (2-3)

Newtown

Nearest Station – Newtown 0.8 miles

Newtown FC Latham Park (1)

Everywhere you look in Latham Park there is something of interest, it is a real groundhopper’s ground. You can’t take enough photos here. With 1,150 seats it is second only to Rhyl for seating capacity. The largest stand sits on the side in one corner, with red seats. A smaller pitched roof stand sits aside it with blue seats, two very differing structures, but nestled happily together.

In the gap between this smaller stand and the smart brick clubhouse lies the snack bar. On the other side lie two more stands, holding around 150 each. One has a top deck that is the TV gantry. Between the stands are some turnstiles. Bright red and white paint spells out NFC. Behind one goal is a fifth stand. This one looks like a temporary drop-in style affair, holding around 300. behind the other goal is hard standing, but a rising slope leads to benches and the odd random crush barrier.

As if that wasn’t all, the view from this end is of rolling Welsh hills. Around the whole ground, where there are gaps the backdrop is a variety of tall trees, giving the whole ambience a picturesque pleasant feel.

Newtown FC Latham Park (13)

Newtown FC Latham Park (7)

Newtown FC Latham Park (15)

Newtown FC Latham Park (35)

Newtown FC Latham Park (30)

Action v Port Talbot Town November 2011 (2-0)

Action v Port Talbot Town November 2011 (2-0)

Port Talbot Town

Nearest Station – Port Talbot Parkway 1.5 miles

Port Talbot Town FC (2)

Port Talbot Town is a ground that has lots of nice little touches, making for good photo opportunities. There is a blue and white mural outside the ground with a player and a flag and the words ‘Forza PTT’ ‘Croeso I’r Sand Siro’. Another bit of art on a wall looks like a traffic sign adorned with PT AFC. Inside, another piece of art on the wall behind the terrace, spells PTT AFC in large 3-D lettering, with the club badge between. These touches elevate this ground from good to great.

There are big stands either side of the pitch – a 600 odd seater and a smaller 400 odd seater. The rest is hard standing but behind one goal is a natural ridge from which to get a bit of height. Behind the other goal are stunning views of Welsh hills.

Port Talbot Town FC (12)

Port Talbot Town FC (3)

Port Talbot Town FC (9)

Port Talbot Town FC (21)

Action v Bangor City Oct 2012 (1-1)

Action v Bangor City Oct 2012 (1-1)

Prestatyn Town

Nearest Station – Prestatyn 0.4 miles

Prestatyn Town FC (5)

Bastion Gardens, which lies only a stone’s throw from the seafront and the Irish sea, is the smallest and flattest of the Welsh Premier grounds. While the stand goes all the way down one side it only rises a couple of rows up, so getting an elevated view in the ground is not possible. The seating totals just 200. Aside from these, there is just hard standing around the other three sides. but the views are good, the location being very pleasant. The stand backs on to a cricket pitch, with the other side backing onto houses and a hill behind.

If you are driving to Prestatyn, a road called Hillside, off the A5151, that leads down to Prestatyn is a must, a twisty road that drops hundreds of feet quickly, with a viewing point where you can see all off Prestatyn Bay (and Bastion Gardens).

View from Hillside of Prestatyn Bay

View from Hillside of Prestatyn Bay

Prestatyn Town FC (18)

Prestatyn Town FC (11)

Action v Llanelli March 2012 (1-2)

Action v Llanelli March 2012 (1-2)

Rhyl

Nearest Station – Rhyl 1.0 miles

Rhyl FC (5)

Rhyl’s Belle Vue is the biggest of the venues, certainly in terms of seats with over 50% more than the next biggest, with 1720. In my view they’ve overdone the seats, especially when they smothered a wonderful multi-stepped terrace behind the goal with some seating and a couple of portacabins. If they’d left this terracing then Rhyl’s ground would be up there with Aberystwyth and Newtown as my joint favourite. As it is it almost feels a bit claustrophobic, but still a great venue. Bangor City borrowed it a number of times for their European ties, pre Nantporth. There are five separate stands with a modicum of terracing in one corner.

Rhyl FC (4)

Rhyl FC (21)

Rhyl FC (15)

Rhyl FC (3)

Action v Bodedern Athletic in the Welsh Cup Oct 2012 (7-0)

Action v Bodedern Athletic in the Welsh Cup Oct 2012 (7-0)

The New Saints

Nearest Station – Gobowen 1.8 miles

TNS The Venue 014

TNS, once Total Network Solutions and now The New Saints of Llansantffraid and Oswestry FC, to give them their full title, are the only team playing in England, near the Welsh border on the outskirts of Oswestry. They started out as Llansantffraid FC, playing at the delectable Treflan ground, in the tiny Welsh Village. This was before the contract with the Network Solutions company, but nice to see the village now part of the name. Treflan, thankfully, is still used by Llansantffraid Village FC, who were founded when the former residents moved to England. When I went, again Euro ruling said there was to be no access at all to three quarters of the ground. All the seats lie on one side, in front of the leisure centre and extending in what  looks a bit like a posh marquee; the total number 1,100 odd. The pitch is a 5G artificial surface.

TNS The Venue 019

Action v FRAM Reykjavik July 2009 (1-2)

Action v FRAM Reykjavik July 2009 (1-2)

Others

Llanelli’s Stebonheath Park was another cracker that I was fortunate enough to go to the season before last, in what turned out to be their final season in the League (for now). Stebonheath was another UEFA compliant venue, and had some nice terracing, too. By far the best athletics track ground I’ve been to.

Llanelli AFC (3)

Llanelli AFC (13)

Llanelli AFC (2)

Bangor City’s Farrar Road would make my top 5 list – it was a superb ground, an old-fashioned ground like a non-league great or even a lower English league ground. The mural on the back wall was particularly iconic, similar to the one at Port Talbot Town.

Bangor City Farrar Road (8)

Bangor City Farrar Road (7)

Bangor City Farrar Road (26)

Action v Prestatyn Town Dec 2010 (2-1)

Action v Prestatyn Town Dec 2010 (2-1)

I didn’t ever see TNS at Treflan, in Llansantffraid village, but did go to see the newly formed Llansantffraid Village FC. The ground was dominated by the large stand behind one goal. A path ran from the top of this stand down past the smaller stand down one side. The ground was situated just off the main high street through the tiny village – it seemed very out of place in such a rural setting.

Llansanffraid Village FC Treflan (Small)

Llansanffraid Village FC Treflan (23) (Small)

Llansanffraid Village FC Treflan (10)

Action v Tywyn and Bryncrug Dec 2010 (4-1)

Action v Tywyn and Bryncrug Dec 2010 (4-1)

Welsh premier progs

 

welsh premier progs

Links: Welsh Premier Official Site

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