I then attended Planning Summer School as usual; this time in Bangor, Gwynedd. Coming from South Wales originally, I was heartened to find so many locals of all ages using Welsh as their first language. Bangor City at home on Sat.6 Sept. – 1430 KO. Friendly people with a crap ground near the station, but they're hoping for planning permission for a new ground near the Menai Bridge. Peter Davenport had taken over as manager, & after an equal start Bangor gained the upper hand, leading 3-1 at the break. Davenport had drafted in one of his old mates from his Old Trafford days; can you take seriously a sentence saying that Clayton Blackmore scored the best goal of the game? Yes indeedy: from right midfield, he just hit it off barely a run & it screamed past the Cwmbran keeper from over 25 yards. A closely-fought game saw Bangor squeeze a narrow win 7-2.
The next week we went on holiday, and on Sat.13 took the train to Ludlow. I left Claire to fight through the food fair crowds, & headed north out of town. There were no directions to the new ground; I went to the town end of the road named on the website and asked a local resident, and eventually steamed into the ground just in time to grab a cold Guinness. The Coors Stadium was opened in Aug.'03; just inside the north end of the A49 by-pass, it has no more than a path round 3 sides and a 2-storey building on the south side, but ample space to expand. The first-floor bar & lounge has a balcony (no glasses). The opposition, Rocester, had just come back down from the Southern League Western Division to the Midland Alliance, and the experience showed: 1-2. I met a fellow ground-hopper there; as a Millwall fan of years ago, his first visit to Dean Court was my first-ever game, Easter '66!
Still on holiday, I took in Kiddie-Lincoln. Our fixture there had been postponed through the FA Cup draw & I couldn't make the new date. Aggborough's a tidy stadium, low stands covered all round, and still a non-league feel. No problems accessing the social lounge, with 5-6 real ales inc. some local micros, & friendly home fans. Pity about the 1-2 scoreline.
Oct.4 – to Hornchurch. The latest sugar-daddy (a multi-bankrupted millionaire) is rebuilding the ground, with a new social lounge after the big fire. More like a palm-court with flowers, cane chairs, little round tables, but bottles only. They'll be in Conference II next season – a club to watch if the money keeps coming. Saw Steve Jones a couple of times around the ground – he's recovering from a back injury, & reputedly on at least a K a week. Keith Rowlands came on as sub. for about 15 minutes. The Sutton captain was a certain Mark Watson, back where he started; he was subbed on about 75 having run around a lot with little up-front support. Result – 3-0, and bumped into my old trade-union mate Mark who's a Sutton fan, & found we were headed for the same pub in SW London…
Oct.11 – on my way to Canvey Island for the FACQ3 tie home to Dover, I realised my back wasn't up to it so I retraced my steps & barely moved the rest of the weekend. Rats.
Oct.25 – to Grays: FACQ4 home to Margate. This meant again having to go through suburban Essex, a journey of unremitting tedium. One looks out in vain for any item of visual interest; here a house painted red, there a window in mock-Georgian style. All else is just ticky-tacky and they all look just the same. Even worse – the train went past Lakeside shopping centre. And Grays is just an armpit. The people are OK, though – often the way – with a warm friendly welcome at the Theobald pub near the wharf, & excellent range & quality of real ale. The ground is similar to Hornchurch with the social club (good range of real ales) being set above the ground so ramps & steps take you to pitch-side. The lower part of the social club is behind the south end goal, with an almost blank face as at Tiptree so shots high &/or wide bounce back. Grays included ex-league players Eddie Youds (Ipswich etc.) & Leroy Griffiths (Orient?); Manny Omoyinmi, once a Cherries loanee, was in the Margate squad but not even on the bench, contrary to the programme and Sunday newspapers. Margate played the classy stuff; Grays were more direct & punished sloppy defending with 2 goals (expect them in Conference II next season) before they were pulled back with a penalty almost on half-time. They restored the 2-goal advantage well into the second half, but then sub. forwards were thrown on, the direct style was adopted, and twice from corners Margate scored with headers – the equaliser with barely time to restart the game. Great stuff; "all the magic of the Cup".
Pete Wicks, Greenford