How was it for you? Part 7 – Oh to be a Pilgrim

Andy Pickwell gives us the highs and lows of a season in the wilds of Lincolnshire.

Boston United fans know something about ups and downs, mostly downs… Cheating our way into the Football League, winding up with the same cheating fraudster taking us down five years later while doing his best to run the club into the ground. Skipping the Conference and being dumped into the Conference North before another demotion to the Northern Premier League. United almost dropped out of the NPL as the worst team to pull on amber and black won on the last day against Cammell Laird to stay up. The last few years have been about rebuilding; Rob Scott and Paul Hurst became the new managers and, with a complete revamp of the team, took United back to the Conference North at the first time of asking.

United’s Conference North season started with a couple of 1-0 wins which did little to indicate what was to come. Boston fans rocked up at a sunny Valley Stadium in Redditch to be greeted by a free buffet laid on by their Supporters trust. The afternoon got better as Boston notched up the Conference North’s record away win with a 9-0 drubbing. Credit to the Redditch support for singing when nine down! Continue reading

How was it for you? Part 3 – Ewch ar y Cymru

Rhys Wyne from the excellent website Your Supposed To Be At Home brings us his Non League story.

Colwyn Bay’s pre-season brief was simple – consolidation.

Getting promoted with an 88th minute penalty, a loss manager Neil Young to the new Chester FC and large scale restructuring of the squad due the gutting that followed, and it was no surprise that the Seagulls were 33/1 to get promoted, one of the outsiders. As a Bay fan myself, I’d have taken 11th place with open arms, and doom-mongers had predicted that the best we could hope for was 17th. An average pre-season lead to the first competitive game of Dave Challinor’s managerial career with North Ferriby United, one of the pre-season favourites and a tough game. A game that the Bay won 3-1 and saw Colwyn Bay on top of the table on day 1 of the season. This saw many a Bay record the moment on Sky Sports. Continue reading

“If Heskey can play for England so can Jay”

Celebrating another debut goal

Two weeks ago Fabio Cappello announced his provisional England squad for the World Cup of 30.  For some reason the Italian, as a number of the predecessors did, thinks that Emile Heskey is the answer to all of our problems.  The lumbering, accident prone striker was picked ahead of Carlton Cole for instance who would give the team so many more options.

And if Heskey’s good enough for England, then so is Jason Lee.  And why not?  The ex-Forest player has just finished his 22nd season as a player with Ilkeston Town in the Blue Square North league, his 17th club.  Whilst journeyman may be a tag some give him, those who know Jason will know he is a model professional who gives 100% at whatever club he is plying his trade at.  His goal record is impressive – 118 goals in 588 games gives him a strike rate on a par with Heskey. Continue reading

Has anyone seen Grays?

Last weekend was a busy one for the FA. Not only did we have the whole Lord Treason affair but in one of the backrooms at Wembley Stadium sat a man who decided the fate of literally hundreds of non-league clubs as he worked out the league allocations for the coming season.

Last season saw three high profile clubs go to the wall mid-season in Chester City, Farsley Celtic and Kings Lynn. Add to this a number of clubs who had breached league rules and some relegation/promotion enforced geographical anomalies and you can see what a difficult job was on the cards. So what was decided?
Last weekend was a busy one for the FA. Not only did we have the whole Lord Treason affair but in one of the backrooms at Wembley Stadium sat a man who decided the fate of literally hundreds of non-league clubs as he worked out the league allocations for the coming season. Continue reading

Wash your Eres out….

Ilkeston…Derbyshire’s riviera some say and home to a world record holder.  Have a wander around the Market Place on a Saturday and you may bump into William Roache MBE, better known as Ken Barlow, who holds the unique world record of playing the same character in a TV show for the longest period of time (52 years and counting)….Those long winter nights must fly by in the Guinness World Records department these days.

Ilkeston, sitting in the Derbyshire Borough of Erewash is almost in Nottinghamshire.  The M1 is used as the boundary between the two counties and is another one of those towns that doesn’t have a railway station.  It seems hard to believe that as a southerner I have the choice of three suburban stations within 2 miles of TBIR towers, yet here is a town of 40,000 that has no railway line.  It did used to have one but in 1967 Midlands Railways decided that jetpacks were the future and closed Ilkeston Junction.  Hardly handy when you have a football team in the town who were playing the biggest team in the league in terms of travelling fans.

Welcome to Ilkeston

Ilkeston Town, sitting just below the playoffs in Blue Square North with games in hand had gone through a troubling last few weeks after club owner Chek Whyte had been made bankrupt at the start of the season, throwing the club into some turmoil.  However, this week the club were finally rescued by Gary Hodder who completed the take over of the club.  This Easter period would be key for their play off challenge, starting with the home game versus AFC Telford United, arguably the biggest club in the division.  We had experienced the passionate away follow of Telford last season at Alfreton Town (see here for details of a classic match) and expected a similar level of noise from them back in the Midlands.  Ilkeston had somehow managed to stockpile lots of home games.  They had four consecutive home games to come and including these they will had played eleven of their last thirteen games at the New Manor Ground.  And it was this home advantage that they hoped would take them into the play offs.

So why was I here in the Erewash valley in the first place, apart from stalking Ken Barlow? On the trail of chips with gravy of course.  It was a family Easter and so we were decamped for a couple of days at Northern Steve’s so it would be rude not to take in a new ground whilst we were here.  The original plan was a trip to Retford or Grantham yesterday but the scum of the road, the caravan, delayed our arrived by nearly two hours after two of them flipped over on the A1.  Why do all other motorists have to suffer at the hands of these irresponsible contraptions?  Why can’t they be limited to 30mph and only travel between 1am and 3am?

Back in the day...

The Robins, as they are known, are managed by Kevin Wilson, the ex-Chelsea and Derby County managed who knew his way around this area and division thanks to spells at Kettering Town, Hucknall Town and Corby.  Wilson featured recently quite prominently in the book “The 39 Days of Gazza” (see our review here) as he was in charge before (and after) Gazza joined Kettering Town.  He had done a good job with the team, getting them within touching distance of the play-offs with just a few games to go. A seven game unbeaten run had set them up for the Easter weekend where six points could take them up to the dizzy heights of 4th. And in the week before the game he wasted no time in bringing in Ex-Nottingham Forest striker Jason Lee – you know the one…No?  Well let me just sing you a little song…”He’s got a pineapple…” Enough of that anyway.

So after a drive through some of Nottingham’s areas we ended up in the backstreets of Ilkeston.  I had left the trusted TomTom in the other car so was directing Northern Steve via my Google Maps but unfortunately the right turn we needed in the town centre was obscured by a smudge on the screen and we ended up taking a tour of closed down pubs that seem to litter the area (including the fantastically named Live and Let Live which was certainly dead!).  But eventually we found the ground, pulled up outside the turnstiles just as the game kicked off.  Chips and gravy would have to wait…

Ilkeston Town 2 AFC Telford United 1 – The New Manor Ground – Saturday 4th April 2010

Anyone got the time?

When was the last time you saw a clock tower at a football game?  With over 250 grounds under my belt around the world I have to say that I have never seen one, so one tick in the box there for Ilkeston.  There was also no tunnel, with the teams instead wandering along the front of the building in the corner after coming out of a door in the wall. They also had a dugout for the programme seller, which at £1.80 was also a first (Surely £2 or £1.50 would be easier to manage?).  The pitch was slightly raised, which meant poor little Lolly couldn’t actually see anything so we had a wander around the ground.  One thing that was noticeable was the average age of the home fans – if I was to say that Ilkeston flat caps were the biggest seller in the club shop you would get an idea what I mean.

Who let the horses on the pitch?

The first twenty minutes or so were hardly memorable.  Both teams seemed to find the pitch hard work, and it soon starting cutting up making the passing game quite hard.  Jason Lee, on his debut started well, holding the ball up and trying to bring in the Ilkeston wide men notably Josh Burge who came the closest to opening the scoring just after the half hour mark when he exploited a clearly struggling Killock at left band for Telford and then smashed his shot into the side netting, causing the usual cheers as if the ball had gone in for those fans on the opposite side of the pitch.  Both sets of supporters, standing side by side on the covered terrace did their best to try and raise some enthusiasm for the players.

3/10 for the chips with gravy

We took the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the main event – the Chips with Gravy test.  Signs looked good as we queued up with not only chips and gravy, but also mushy peas and cheese.  Northern Steve was in the seat for this one and even threw in a sausage cob (it’s a roll!  a cob is something that corn comes on!).  And the verdict?  Hmmm not good I am afraid.  Chips a bit underdone, gravy too runny and ended up swimming in the plastic tray rather than being absorbed.  Northern Steve gave it 3/10 meaning near rivals Hucknall Town still held the inaugural CaG trophy for this season.  Half time came and we sampled a lovely pint and a quarter of Theakston’s Mild (buy one get a quarter free) in the Robin’s club house and Northern Steve made up for his chip disappointment with a £15 win on the fruit machine, which he had absolutely no idea what he was doing.

Safe as houses

The second half was a much better affair.  Both teams had chances in an entertaining game.  Telford came close twice, firstly when Telford’s Matt Blair got in front of a Newton cross before the Ilkeston keeper but could not get his header down and it sailed over the bar.  Ilkeston responded and Rodney should have done better with his chance from a corner.  It was no surprise that the opening goal came from a corner though, and Ilkeston could have done much better in clearing a corner before the ball came over again and Adam Dugdale towered above the rest to head home.  One almost became two a few minutes later when substitute Thompson’s shot from 25 yards almost caught Ilkeston’s keeper out of place but he managed to get a hand to it and pushed it over the bar.

Dugdale off to get Mr Newman's MOTM award

The turning point was undoubtably the performance of man of the match Mr Newman the referee from Barnsley who got just about every decision wrong.  Quite what Adam Dugdale, the Telford United centre-back did to warrant a second yellow just after opening the scoring I will never know, but the referee let play continue before issuing his marching orders.  Ilkeston sensed a way back into the game and brought on Darren Caskey.  Now I remember Caskey when he was at Hornchurch as part of the ColdSeal revolution which saw other professional players such as Dimitri Karin play at a non-league level.  Now, at the age of 35 Caskey had dropped back into the holding midfield role and we counted 20 passes he made in those final minutes, all of which went backwards.

Home fans enjoyed that one

A few minutes after the sending off the game was all square as Ilkeston’s substitute Ryan Watts managed to get a boot to a ball in at the near post although their appeared to be a push on Telford’s Stuart Whitehead in the build up to the goal, but it would have been too much to expect such an ineffective official(s) to have spotted that.  The home fans around us started giving some “friendly” banter to the Telford keeper, and in one of the reasons why we love football at this level, he gave some back without any fear of reproach.

Jason Lee scores the winner

The last laugh of course was on him as with just five minutes left a deep cross from the right hand side was met at the far post by Jason Lee and he powered a header in via the crossbar to cap and impressive debut. There was still time for a good penalty shout for the home team when Whitehead appeared to bring down an Ilkeston forward.  “You are having a f@cking laugh mate” said the Telford defender to the fans around the pitch in response to their claims.  Good to see that players at this level willing to interact.

So the full time whistle went and within seconds we were back in the car having seen a potential pivotal moment in the Blue Square North season.  Good to see Jason Lee still doing the business, nearly twenty years into his career and top marks for another ground with character, although work is needed on the chip front!

For more photos from the game, click here.

About the New Manor Ground
A real mix of styles at Ilkeston as you have some traditional elements mixed with some new features.  The ground literally hugs the road meaning that expansion has been hard but the club have built an innovative administration block which sits in the north east corner of the ground, with covered seating on top of this and topped off by a clock tower.  Behind the north goal is a traditional covered terrace which is where the away fans tend to congregate.  At the opposite end it is a covered flat area and fans tend to stand against the fence around the pitch.  This extends around the east side of the ground where you will also find the club shop and the Robins social club.

How to get to the New Manor Ground
From M1 Junction 26, take A610 signposted Ripley. Leave the A610 at the first exit (signposted for Ikea) on to the A6096 signed Awsworth/Ilkeston. At the next island join the Awsworth by-pass, signed A6096 Ilkeston. Continue for approx. half a mile and turn right into Awsworth Road. Small signpost marked Cotmanhay. The ground is half a mile down this road on the left hand side.  There is a car park at the ground that is free of charge. If you are coming by train the best route is to either Derby or Nottingham and then get the Ilkeston Flyer or bus 59 from the former and 20/21 from Nottingham.

How to get a ticket for the New Manor Ground
Pay on the door for all despite the small capacity.  Admission for Adults is £9, one of the cheapest in the league although £6 for Under 16’s is quite expensive.  Programmes are £1.80.

Who is the fairest of them all?

Twenty years ago automatic promotion from the Conference to the Football League structure was introduced, with Scarborough becoming the first club to “step up to the big time” with Lincoln City falling into the unknown of Non-League football. For years many well run, well supported non-league clubs had been denied their chance in the league thanks to an anarchaic process that involved the chairman of the league clubs voting on who should stay in.



Wimbledon and Wigan Athletic were the last two teams voted into the league in the late Seventies, replacing Workington and Southport respectively. This decision was justified with both teams going onto reach the Premier League and a major domestic cup final apiece, whilst the teams they replaced are still knocking around in the Blue Square North. Who is to stay what the league structure would have looked like now if automatic promotion and relegation would have been put in place then. Twenty years later and we have seen new teams make an impact on the leagues, such as Wycombe Wanderers, Yeovil Town (who came within minutes of a place in the Championship a few seasons ago), Cheltenham Town, Dagenham & Redbridge and this season Burton Albion.

The process has also seen a number of teams fall out of the league, only to return much stronger, the best example being Doncaster Rovers who fell out in pieces with possibly the worst ground in the league, only now for them to be sitting in midtable in the Championship with a lovely new 10,000 capacity stadium. colchester United (also with their own new stadium), Carlisle United, Exeter City, Barnet (twice!), Shrewsbury Town, Lincoln City, Torquay United, Hereford United and Darlington have all returned to the fold after relegation. A few teams though have struggled. Macclesfield Town, Accrington Stanley and Morecambe all have struggled to adjust to full time life and the locals have not supported them in the new world of league football. Accrington recently had to rely on the generosity of Premier League newboys Burnley in playing a friendly at the Fraser Eagle Stadium to ease the financial pressure on them.

In total twenty seven diffrent teams have been promoted from the Conference since 1987.  Out of these Boston United and Halifax Town have almost disappeared back into the lower non-leagues.  Maidstone United and Scarborough have gone out of business and three teams are back in the Conference (Kidderminster, Chester City for the second time and Rushen & Diamonds).  The rest have made progress to varying extents in the league structure.  The conference was created in 1979 after Wigan Athletic’s promotion to the league.  In the seven years between formation and automatic promotion the league was won by five teams, four of which do not exist as they were today – Runcorn, Enfield, Wealdstone and Maidstone United.  Only Altrincham who won the first two titles in 1980 and 1981 are still in the same division but more by luck than judgement.

Take a look at the crowds on Saturday 12th September from the respective leagues. League Two had a high of 11,439 thanks to Bradford City, who are far and away the best supported team in the division. Two old non-league teams all got relatively disappointing crowds – Dagenham & Redbridge just over 2,000 and Macclesfield Town just over 1,100. Rochdale and Bury got under 2,400 each. In the Blue Squar Premier this situation was remarkable.

Five clubs got over 2,200. The highest, Luton Town’s 6,264, which only included 35 away fans from Barrow was higher than every League Two gate apart from Bradford City’s and the Sven-fuelled Notts County experience. It was also higher than five clubs in League One. In total seven clubs in this league average over 3,500. And all of these clubs, only one has technically never played league football – AFC Wimbledon. Of the others, Oxford United and Luton Town expect crowds of 6,000 + for most home games, significantly higher than all but a small handful of clubs in the division higher.  In contract eleven clubs in Division Two average less than this, of which NINE are former non-league clubs or have played in the non-leagues in the last twenty years.

A bit of a dramatic entrance

A bit of a dramatic entrance

So is it as simple as that? Not at all. Look at the other spectrum in the Blue Square Premier. Hayes & Yeading, promoted from the Blue Square South last season via the play offs got a crowd of just 355 for their game against Tamworth. Gateshead, promoted in the same manner from the north division 478. These clubs are simply out of their depth at this level. What would happen if they somehow were promoted? Would the crowds flock to see them? I doubt it. Gateshead obviously come from an area that is already supporting two huge teams in Sunderland and Newcastle United, but play in the very unfriendly International Athletics Stadium. With both the Geordies and the Mackems playing in front of empty seats week in, week out I do not see many being interested in a game against the likes of Salisbury City, let alone Barnet. Altrincham, once one of the great non-league teams now sees most young fans head up the metro to Old Trafford or City of Manchester stadium rather than watching their local team. Small local teams such as Forest Green Rovers, Eastbourne Borough, Salisbury City and Crawley Town survive on crowds below 1,000 but simply do not have the financial muscle to make an impact on the division now, so the final table will always have a familiar look – the top 6 today has 4 ex-league clubs in it.

One level below is the Blue Square North and South. Crowds down this far rarely get into four figures. Fleetwood Town, currently enjoying an excellent season just one point off top spot got 1,126 on Saturday, the best crowd in the division but most were around the 500 mark. In the South division four clubs often get over the 1,000 mark with Newport County, Woking, Chelmsford City and Dover. All of these clubs have played at a higher level for significant periods in the past and crowds have been used to success (Just under 30 years ago Newport County were in the Quarter Finals of the European Cup Winners Cup!). Dover, Newport and Woking are currently occupying the top three spots – any co-incidence?

Lolly's interpretation of "The Ball is Round"

Lolly's interpretation of "The Ball is Round"

So what does all this show us? Ex-league clubs get the bigger attendances? Sure, but just because you have big crowds is no pre-requisite for success. Or that in any league you will have big clubs and little clubs rubbing along in blissful harmony. Every team has its own hardcore of fans, following them through thick and thin. Cynical Dave and Deaks are two such fans, following Lewes all over the league, adding two to the attendance at Bath City and Chelmsford City in the past week.

Have we fallen out of love with the beautiful game, or have we been priced out? £10 for a ticket at virtually every club in the Blue Square South is good value considering how much it is to see a Premier League game, but what is the club doing to attract new fans? Nothing, and that is the fundamental problem with football. It’s been run for too long as an insular industry, encouraging the same people and ideas to be regurgitated at a commercial level…..but that is for another day.

Back beat, the word is on the street that the fire in your heart is out

Have you ever got so far only to fall at the last possible moment?  Well that is what the end of season Playoff’s are all about.  It doesn’t matter what division you look at the end of season playoffs are on a knife edge.  There is real fear in most games.  The rules of fairness always favour the team that “just misses out” but who wants to see that?  As a neutral you want to see the complete outsider win on the day and really upset the applecart.

Who didn’t laugh when Leeds United were tanked by Watford in May 2006 and then 12 months later were relegated (no disrespect to Leeds fans but everyone wants to see the big teams fail, as I should know), or when Crystal Palace came from the brink of relegation in 2005 to beat West Ham in Cardiff to secure a place in the Premier League.

In the lower divisions the rewards are just as rich.  This season the Blue Square North and South have been even contested with the final top positions only decided on the last day of the season.  I had already covered the race for the Blue Square South positions in my post from Hampton & Richmond v AFC Wimbledon which saw the former reach the Playoff final, and AFC gain automatic promotion.  So it was time to turn my attention northwards to the goings on in the Blue Square North.

The title had been won by Tamworth on the last but one day of the season, and three of the four play off spots were already sorted prior to the ultimate day.  A final win for Alfreton and Telford United saw them secure a play off spot and a double header against each other.  AFC Telford United are arguably the biggest team in the league in terms of fan base and tradition.  They actually rose out of the ashes of the original Telford United who were forced into liquidation in 2004 just months after reaching the FA Cup third round by Millwall and reaching the FA Trophy semi-final.  Through the efforts of the supporters trust the club reformed as AFC Telford United and have since worked their way back up the non league pyramid, followed at times by thousands of fans.

So hands up who could place Alfreton on a map?  CMF actually thought it was called Alfreston and she was actually born less than 30 minutes away.  It turned out that this mythical place was from the song she used to listen to when she was a wee nipper (on a few searches on T’Internet this proved to be the song Galveston by Glen Campbell).  Alfreton is located close to the M1 in the East Midlands and no more than a few miles from Mansfield.  It was once an important mining community but today is more reliant on chocolate as Thornton’s major factory is located here.

So what of the football club?  I have to say that until this season I have never heard of them or the “Impact Arena” where they play.  The club have actually been playing in the Conference North since 2005, and for a long time during the following season actually led the table under the leadership of ex-Forest and Leicester City player Gary Mills (who subsequently left and last season led Tamworth to the title).  Current manager Nicky Law, himself a local legend with Rotherham and Chesterfield has managed to build a team that has lifted the club to their highest ever league position.

The Impact Arena?  Sounds like it should be in the same vein as the Reebok or the JJB?  Well not quite.  It is actually called North Street really, and the naming rights were concluded some point in the past – despite searching at length about the deal I could find no details nor who “Impact” were. (Subsequently I discovered that Impact Marketing & Design Ltd are owned by the club’s chairman Wayne Bradley and are based locally – good on you sir!)

Alfreton’s season had been underpinned by a potent strike force of Paul Clayton and Liam Hearn whos 47 goals not only drove the promotion drive but has resulted in a call up for the England C squad – an amazing achievement considering the likes of Graham Morrison, Lee Boylan, Richard Brodie and James Constable playing in the higher league and scoring goals for fun.  They are in fact the only two non-Conference players in the sixteen man squad

I was to be joined on this jaunt into Derbyshire by Brother-in-Law Steve The Imp (He is a Lincoln fan and not a small devil) who was keen to sample some northern hospitality.  It was a simple 45 minute drive across from Lincoln and we found the ground, just a short hop from the A38 and parked up without any issues.  From outside the ground you could see the huge travelling contingent from Telford at the far end of the stadium, and despite there being 30 minutes before kick off they were in fine form.  We took up a place behind the “home goal” although there was very few home fans around.

Alfreton Town 4 Telford United 3 – The Impact Arena – Sunday 3rd May 2009

Butler makes it 1-0

Butler makes it 1-0

As the two teams took to the field we were suddenly surrounded by a large group of youngish fans who immediately broke into song.  “Alfreton is full of twats, full of twats, full of twats, Alfretonis full of twats poor old Mansfield”…We were confused – why would the home fans be singing this?  They followed it with “We’ve got hooligans, we’ve got hooligans, you aint”…A nice welcome.  Telford won the toss and changed ends meaning a very warm welcome to the Telford keeper, referring to him as a YamYam (I had to latterly look this up as I was unaware what it actually meant).

The atmosphere created by this group of fans was impressive.  I have no idea if they are regulars but they seemed to know a few songs.  They didn’t have to wait long for something more to sing and shout about as former West Brom defender Tony Butler headed the home team ahead with a header from close range.  The crowd went ballistic and with an old fashion surge we were pushed against the perimeter wall and found ourselves being hugged by complete strangers.  2-1 on aggregate soon became 2-2 and pandemonium as Anton Brown swivelled on the penalty spot and the ball rolled slowly past the Telford keeper and into the net.  Everything went flying at that point and in the melee we managed to find a few £1 coins on the floor and a crushed mobile phone that Steve handed back to a guy behind us who seemed too far gone to care.

Telford looked down and out and it seemed there would only be one winner.  That feeling lasted three minutes until Telford’s Danny Edwards turned the ball in from close range and then with the half time whistle approaching Danny Carey-Bertram equalised for the Bucks.  At this point we had taken leave from our spot behind the goal, scared for our health not due to the lively fans (keep it up guys) but the horrible dog shit smell that seemed to permeate around us as well as the Swine Fever carriers next to us who liked nothing better in the first half that a gob or three on the floor every thirty seconds.  Nice habit to get into in the current climate.

We headed to the snack bar and after a ten minute queue we were presented with an option of chips, chips with peas or chips in a butty (I assume we could have also peas or peas in a butty but they weren’t on offer) such had been the demand for traditional Alfreton fayre so far.  We noticed the number of policemen rising in the stadium, obviously concerned with the noxious local smell and headed back to the around the goal to the open air seats for the second half.

Alfreton came out fired up with their task at hand, knowing that an early goal was essential.  And that is exactly what happened as Paul Clayton scored from close range in the 49th minute.  Again they could sense victory but again Telford came back at them and it was 3-3 in less than five minutes as Carl Rodgers finished smartly in Telford’s first attack of the half.  The fans knew that the game was up and so they decided to turn their attention to some away fan baiting.  In groups of five or six they wandered past us to the barriers separating the two sets of fans.  This didn’t go unseen by the police who followed them around until it became so obvious what was happening.  Fortunately the team weren’t distracted and with fifteen minutes to go they were fortunate to get a penalty which after a delay for another booking (taking it to seven in the game) was slotted away by Anthony Howell to make it 4-3.

So one goal was all that was seperating the home team for a place in the final but it was not to be.  Steve Jagielka, brother of Everton’s Phil smashed a shot against the bar for Telford near the end but that was the last of the real action.  We moved around the pitch to get a vantage point for the imminent pitch invasion on the final whistle but it failed to materialise.  The Police smartly formed a line across the pitch including police dogs (so that is where the smell came from!) but the fans simply gave the players a huge round of applause and wandered off out of the ground.

Telford meanwhile headed off home to ready themselves for the final away to Gateshead on Friday.  It had been a great game of football, and on the whole the home fans were a passionate bunch, although a few of them had obviously worn their copy of Green Street out thinking it was a training manual for football in the current climate but it was harmless stuff.  Still, I don’t believe that anyone feels the way I do about you Alfreton!

About the Impact Arena
The Impact Arena is a typical non-league ground, made up of a mixture of small stands and terracing.  It has been home to the club since 1959 when the club were formed.  The ground is a real mixture of styles.  There is seating on three sides for around 1,500 although most of it is uncovered and just a few rows of seats bolted onto the terraces. The ground is smartly painted red and surrounded by trees giving it a really nice rural feel when the sun is shining.  The Reds Bar in the ground is very popular on matchdays.

The stadium was given its FA grade B licence earlier in the season meaning it is fit to host Conference football, although if their ambitions are for League football in the future significant work will need to be carried out.

How to get to the Impact Arena
Most fans will drive to Alfreton so from the M1 in either direction turn off at junction 28 onto the A38 towards Derby. Follow for 2 miles then take the slip road onto the B600. Turn right at main road towards the town centre. After ½ mile turn left into North Street. The Ground is 200 yards down on the right.  There is a free car park at the ground.

The nearest train station is Alfreton which is a ten minute walk away and on the Euston train line.  Come out of the station and turn right onto the Mansfield Road towards the town centre.  Take the second left into Prospect Street.  At the end of this road the ground will be ahead of you to the right.

How to get a ticket for the Impact Arena
The record attendance at the Impact Arena is just over 5,000 in 1960 for a local derby versus Matlock Town.  In recent years when the capacity has been reduced to 3,600 the average attendance has rarely got over the thousand barrier.  Almost every game (the exceptions are FA Cup ties) are pay on the gate and entry costs £10 for Adults and £5 for Concessions.  You can move freely between terraces to seats unless there is segregation in place.