Manchopper in….Sutton Coldfield

Result: Sutton Coldfield Town 3-0 Dunstable Town (Southern League Division One Central)

Venue: Coles Lane (Saturday 27th April 2019, 3pm)

Att: 206

The final weekend of the regular season for most of the non-league clubs around the country saw surprisingly little games with much riding upon them – well, those that were of any interest to me, that is. However, one game offered up something a little different, with both sides having something to play for, but ultimately at the end of very different seasons. Hosts Sutton Coldfield were looking to secure a play-off spot, whilst Dunstable Town aimed for survival. Decision made and off to the Midlands I headed.

Trains via Manchester and Birmingham had me arriving into a blustery Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield (to give it its full title) at just a tad after midday. Upon getting my bearings, I eventually traipsed up a fairly steep short hill to the town hall (which is haunted by an ex-caretaker apparently – thanks to Dion Dublin for that nugget) for a bit of a peruse before heading down to the nearby main road and the Royal Hotel that has its rear facing opposite. Spotting a rare opportunity for a pint of Asahi that doesn’t include a ‘Spoons, I duly opted for a pint of the Japanese lager (£4.80) whilst watching the early part of the West Ham-Spurs game on TV prior to heading on a few doors down to the nearby ex-coaching inn – judging by the old, repurposed entrance looking corridor down its middle -the Three Tuns for a lovely (and surprisingly fairly cheap) Warsteiner. A good start!

Haunted Town Hall. Woooooooo.

Royal Hotel

Three Tuns

After supping at this whilst watching the game continue, it was eventually time to move on, but this time I’d be heading slightly away from the pedestrianised centre of town and to the King’s Arms. However, I hadn’t truly factored in the walk there and back (only about 6-7 mins combined, mind you) but this mean the Moretti had to be dismissed somewhat quicker than what I’d have ideally liked. Not to worry, this was completed and I also got to meet the lovely Tilly the Labrador too. Nice.

The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield is a town and civil parish within the city of Birmingham which it lies 7 miles to the north of. Considered a rather affluent part of the city, Sutton Coldfield was historically a part of Warwickshire before becoming a part of Birmingham and the wider county of the West Midlands in 1974 and, in 2015, it was elected as a parish town/council in its own right. It derives its name from being the “south town” (of Mercian capital Tamworth) on the edge of the “col field”, with the suffix usually being mentioned upon the existence of charcoal burning pits in the area or land that was open to the elements. It is thought the area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, when excavations for the M6 toll uncovered remnants of burial mounds etc., and Iron Age houses have also been found ranging from 400-100 BC. The iron age hill slopes mentioned in 18th century works have since been decimated and are only really noticeable from the air nowadays.

The Romans also inhabited the area during their invasion and later settlers created a gravel-based roadway connecting Metchley Fort in Edgbaston to Letocetum (now Wall, Staffordshire) of which some 1.7 miles is still preserved. After their era had come and gone, the Anglo-Saxon period saw the area become part of the kingdom of Mercia and it is believed that Sutton Coldfield came into being around this time as a hamlet with a hunting lodge for the Mercian leaders located close by. The Manor would go by the name of Sutone and was held of Edwin, Earl of Mercia, in the reign of Edward the Confessor but upon Edwin’s death, the manor and Mercia itself fell under the control of William the Conqueror. The area of Sutone forest became a Royal Forest and Sutone itself was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Sutton Coldfield

The area remained in royal hands through to King Henry I in when he exchanged it for areas in Rutland with Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick with the town becoming Sutton-in-Coldfield. It would remain in the Warwicks hands for a span of 300 years (with many breaks due to royal feuds and the like) but in 1640 it passed to the Mountfort’s under King Henry VI, however Richard Neville of the Warwicks regained influence an the manor in turn, with it going into Plantagenet hands for a time, with Anne Neville never quite able to get it away from her, despite her seeming best efforts! It was only in her death in 1492 that it again went back to the Crown’s ownership, where it would stay through to its incorporation in 1528. The town began to grow through from its market beginnings in the year 1300 and got a military connection when Sir Ralph Bainbridge gained a life-long lease of the area from the Earl of Warwick and it became an important training area for English soldiers for the wars with France.

Sutton Coldfield

It would decay somewhat through the Wars of the Roses and rekindled importance in industrial means during the 16th century as watermills and pools became the area’s focus. The English Civil War starting in 1642 saw the Battle of Camp Hill and despite Birmingham being pillaged by Royalist forces, Sutton Coldfield emerged unscathed although it was visited by both armies at differing times. The Priestley riots centred on anti-Presbyterian feelings saw Joseph Priestley take refuge in the town’s Three Tuns pub for a time and another who had his house attacked, William Hutton, was eventually forced to move on to Tamworth due to locals’ fears of the safety of both the town and themselves due to his presence. The railway arrived during the 19th century and Sutton Coldfield duly became a tourist spot for those escaping the city and then a commuter town later on, with the wealthier starting the move away from the pollution initially before the rest of their workforces could begin to join them.

Barracks would be added during the 1800’s to house the Edinburgh and Sussex militias and the 7th Dragoon Guards as well as a unit of artillery. The town continued to grow through the 20th century with the rural fringes of the district being swallowed up after WWI. WWII saw both German and Italian PoW’s held around the town and after hostilities ended, the town was regenerated in the 1960’s with a new centre being built, though many weren’t too impressed with the new arrival. The merger with Birmingham came around in 1970’s before 2015 saw it gain powers as a civil parish separate from Birmingham.

King’s Arms

‘Spoons. Bwoah.

Duke Inn

After a quick stop for a refreshing Kopparberg in the unspectacular ‘Spoons (the Bottle of Sack, after a line in Shakespeare’s Henry IV that mentions Sutton Coldfield in it), I decided it’d be safer if I popped into the little micropub not too far up the road pre-match. This would prove a shrewd move as it would turn out, as you’ll see later. This unplanned diversion saw me only have time for a half and I opted for a Paulaner which was decent enough before I finally made a more direct route for Coles Lane….not before one final stop-off at the Duke Inn on the way there for a pint of Thatcher’s before finally making my way to the ground in earnest.

Arriving at the gate around ten minutes prior to kick-off, with the turnstile being located almost in the corner, between a marquee-thing and the lovely, old main stand. Pretty much directly opposite the entrance is a far newer covered seating stand, neighboured by the clubhouse which also houses the food hut – the latter of which I utilised for some decent enough cheesy chips. The far end is home to a small covered terrace of only a few steps, though this runs about three-quarters the length of the end. It is flanked by open, hard standing between it and the main stand, with some portakabins hosting “facilities” in the middle, whilst the open half of the far side between the two other stands is home to open terracing. A small “dog training area” is also in situ behind the covered bit. That’s Coles Lane and this is the story of “The Royals”. Sutton Coldfield Town….

History Lesson:

Sutton Coldfield Town Football Club was founded in 1879 and originally competed in the local Central Birmingham League, Aston & District League, Small Heath League and Suburban League through to around the 1930’s. Then, upon their move from Sutton Park to Coles Lane, they began to compete in the higher Birmingham Alliance and Birmingham Combination with little success. Post-WWII and competing under the name of Sutton Town until 1964, the club played in the Walsall League and spent a time back in the Birmingham Combination before moving leagues once more, this time into the Birmingham & District League (soon to be renamed as the West Midlands (Regional) League) in 1954.

Arriving at Coles Lane

After spending a decade here, which saw the club promoted to the top division in 1960 after a 3rd placed finish in Division 2, the club eventually met financial issues and after having to field teams of amateur players, took the step down into the Worcestershire Combination (which would go on to be the Midland Football Combination) and won the title here twice prior to heading back into the West Midlands (Regional) League in 1979 – a return which was far more successful immediately as the club became champions at the end of their first season back. Finishing as runners-up in 1982, Town were promoted to the Southern League’s Midland Division and were again immediately successful, being promoted to the Premier Division at the first go of it, though would be relegated back after just the sole season in the top division.

There they would remain there right through until 2010, through its name change to the Western Division in 1999 and being placed in the newly created Division One Midlands upon league re-organisation in 2006, when they were switched over to the Northern Premier League’s Division One South, though did miss out in a play-off for a spot in the newly restructured pyramid in 2004 to Banbury United. 2011 saw Sutton Coldfield Town appear in their very first Birmingham Senior Cup final which they won 1-0 over Nuneaton Town and a switch to the 3G pitch was made that close season.

SCTFC – spot the weirdo taking pics of signs!

Long-serving manager Chris Keogh left the club after 12 years at the helm, being replaced by his assistant Neil Tooth. Tooth went on to oversee the club’s promotion in 2015 to the NPL Premier Division through the play-offs, defeating Newcastle Town and Leek Town in doing so, prior to their relegation last season, upon which they returned back to the Southern League’s catchment and took up a spot in the Southern League Division One Central, where they qualified for the play-offs and would meet Corby Town.

The game got underway with Sutton Coldfield striking almost immediately. Winning a corner shortly after kick-off, the resultant ball in was met in the middle by Mitchell Clarke, whose header back across goal was met by James Hurst who crashed the ball home from a matter of feet out. They went close again shortly afterwards when Jonathan Letford cut inside his man and advanced into the area, only to see his shot rebound off the upright via a slight deflection from a defender.

Match Action

Match Action

Letford finds the net

Dunstable grew into the game after a sluggish start and Davide Pobbe saw his header well saved by Royals’ keeper Lewis Gwilliams, but Sutton Coldfield would seemingly put the game to bed before the break with a second goal just before the half-hour. Reece Gibson robbed the ball in midfield and advanced into the space left behind, prior to playing in Letford who clinically fired home. Ryan Nesbitt then went close too, forcing Dunstable stopper Coulson into a decent stop before Alex Moore & Hurst again both almost sealed the victory just before half-time as both saw an effort kept out on the line by a fine defensive block and a superb save respectively. Half-Time, 2-0.

An uneventful break came and went and we were soon back and playing once again after a school-style bell alerted the teams that their break time was up. Dunstable, perhaps unsurprisingly table-wise, never really looked like a threat to their play-off chasing hosts in the second half, with that second goal really seeming to have taken the stuffing out of them, and after Nesbitt had rattled the crossbar Gibson sealed the three points and the Royals’ place in the play-offs as he hammered a shot from just outside the area high into the roof of the net.

From on high

Down the side

Match Action

A couple more close shaves followed as the hosts looked to add some gloss to the score-line, with a volley flashing wide but that would largely be that and the Royals had done enough to secure a shot at promotion, whilst Dunstable’s game effort came to nought as their relegation was confirmed despite the efforts of striker Chris Wreh (no, I don’t think that one’s still going!). However, at least it wasn’t one of those close-call, heartbreak moments, I suppose – although I guess that won’t be of much solace.

My post-match plans were immediately scuppered as I overheard a conversation in the covered terrace about trains being cancelled and thought I’d best look and there it was – everything was done for due to a fallen tree. It hadn’t been THAT gusty, come on. Grow a pair (of roots)! Poor tree-related (I hesitate to call it a) pun aside, I now had I dilemma in how I was about to find my way back to Birmingham, never mind compile a full trip home. I opted to pop into the station neighbouring, and imaginatively named, The Station for a pint of Amstel to hopefully come up with some kind of plan that would lessen the impact of some rather large wood.

Post-match avian sighting

The Station. Looks like God approves.

As it came about, I eventually saw that tickets were being accepted on the buses back which meant only a twenty minute or so extension to my trip, though a connection was going to be tight to save an hour. All this meant I sadly had to give the other pub there a miss, though it had become a Craft Union chain pub so wasn’t too disheartened due to that. Grabbing one of the X-whatever buses, I was whisked off back to the second city, which I haven’t been so happy to see since the start of the year and my pair of cross-country trips down to Plymouth and Exeter. Knowing little of the make-up of Birmingham, I eventually found my way back to New Street and made the train back with moments to spare. Disaster averted and the rest of the journey went smoothly, thankfully!

So another trip rounded off as we approach the season’s end. As for Sutton Coldfield, I really did enjoy my experience of the town (despite the efforts of Storm Hannah) and its pubs were decent offerings too. Ground-wise, Coles Lane is a nice, smart set-up and its main stand is certainly appealing to those who appreciate something a little different, though the rest is fairly standard. The artificial pitch wasn’t too noticeable to take away from the overall ambience either, which was a bit of a worry, though makes my thoughts on eventual trip to Bath more optimistic! Food, programme etc. all fine too. On to next week and yet another double and another double the one after. Pile ’em on….

 

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Banbury

Result: Banbury United 4-1 Kettering Town (Southern League Premier Division Central)

Venue: Spencer Stadium (Saturday 15th December 2018, 3pm)

Att: 371

A rare dip into the Southern League and to a place I’ve wanted to visit for quite a while. With it being an easy, direct journey as well, there was little excuse not do pay the Puritans of Banbury a visit as they welcomed high-flyers Kettering Town to the Spencer Stadium. All I had to do then was hope that the weather was ready to play ball. However, this is Britain and that was never going to happen now was it?! Upon grabbing the 9.30-ish train out of Manchester, the drizzle started just outside of Leamington and never ceased pretty much throughout the day, only getting worse to a point of near freezing come the end of the match. But there’s a fair bit to report in the midst of the day before that, so let’s get on with it.

Arriving at just before midday, I quickly set about somehow getting lost when trying to make my way to the north of the town and the pair of pubs there, so retraced my steps back to the centre’s J.T. Davies pub instead, where I discovered I was just across a carpark from my intended target. Not too bad in the end and I ended up watching the start of the Manchester City-Everton game in here whilst having a pint of the Shipyard Pale Ale, prior to heading over to the pair of pubs I should have started off in – the neighbouring Three Pigeons and Bailiffs Tap. The first of the two I visited would be the latter, a somewhat strange little set-up, whilst being rather brilliant in its own way. The bar area was pretty much non-existent, with just the beers and the like populating the front room, along with a few chairs and tables. More were set down the back along a small, long room and I decided to sit in there along with an IPA. The couple (I assume) who run the Tap were very friendly as well and its definitely worth a trip, if only for the fine pint, which came in at a fair £3.60.

Banbury

JT Davies

Bailiffs Tap & Three Pigeons

Next up was the Three Pigeons, an old, low-ceilinged pub with steps leading down a little from street level to the bar. This was a fair bit more costly, a Peroni costing a cool £5.50, but the place had a fair option on and I just fancied one as I had my peruse of the offerings. The Three Pigeons is a quaint, dimly-lit place with a fair bit of character about it, and I certainly enjoyed my lounge in one of the armchairs there before it was time to brave the increasingly cold wind and walk slightly uphill back towards the famed Banbury Cross. However, before I got there, one or two stops were on offer, the first being the Dog & Gun, which looked far more interesting outside than within where it had sadly been, in my opinion, overly modernised into the sports bar-like place it has become. Still, it was pretty cheap and allowed me to watch some more of the game along with a Dark Fruits though I did swiftly finish up and continue onwards to the Cross and its neighbouring drinking holes the Horse & Jockey and The Swan.

Banbury is a historic market town on the banks of the River Cherwell in Oxfordshire. The name derives from ‘Banna’, a Saxton chieftain said to have built a stockade there, or possibly ‘Ban(n)a’, a byname for a felon or murderer and ‘burgh’ meaning settlement and is informally called “Banburyshire”, a term used by market towns in the 19th century to describe themselves. The Saxon spelling was Banesbyrig and appears in the Domesday Book as Banesberie and had also been known as Banesebury around these times. The area dates from at least the Iron Age of which remnants of where found dating to 200 BC and a Roman villa was later found in nearby Wykham Park. The area was settled by the Saxons in the 6th century and in around 556, Banbury was the site of a battle between the Anglo-Saxons of Cynric & Ceawlin and the local Romano-British. The Saxons would go on to develop under the influence of the Danes and built two towns – Banbury on the West bank of the river and Grimsbury on the other which later became part of Northamptonshire prior to being absorbed into Banbury in 1889. Neithrop is one of the older areas of the town, recorded as a hamlet from the 13th century before also being incorporated into Banbury the same year as Grimsbury.

Inside the Three Pigeons

Banbury Cross

The town stands on a junction of the ancient roads known as the Salt Way (now a bridle path) and Banbury Lane which is closely followed by the modern road and continued on through Banbury High Street towards the Fosse Way. The town grew up around these links with wool the main money-maker in medieval times, with a castle being added by 1135 by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln and Banbury Castle survived through to the Civil War when it was besieged. During the Civil War the town was, at one stage, a Royalist town on account of its proximity to the King’s capital, Oxford, but the inhabitants were strongly Puritan and so welcomed the Roundhead forces. The castle was demolished after the war, during which the town was a base for Oliver Cromwell and is reputed to have planned out his battleplan for Edge Hill in a back room of the Reindeer Inn. The later opening of the Oxford Canal in 1778 gave Banbury access to coal and included a boatyard upon the extension through to the city’s opening. The town used to be home to a cattle market in Merton Street, Grimsbury – a street which had its own rail station until the ’60’s – though this was closed in 1998 and is now built upon.

Sadly, the first of these was surprisingly shut as I attempted the door in vain and so across the way to the Swan it was. The Swan was fine if unspectacular and I settled on a pint of normal Strongbow on this occasion (£3.30) prior to setting my bearings for the Spencer Stadium, although upon exiting the Swan I would come immediately across Banbury’s Wetherspoon’s offering – the Exchange. As such, I decided to pay it a visit and a quick Hooch then rather than post-match, thus giving me a little more time to finish up in the older few in the town centre, which I considered a far better option. Indeed, the Spoons was solid if (again) unspectacular and so I traipsed off up the road and down past a Morrison’s before eventually passing along the railway and to the ground itself. Programmes were still fairly abundant upon my arrival with around five minutes to kick-off, though one had been kept back just in case, which was kind of the club, so thanks to them (I didn’t receive the notification until far later on so was unaware of this at the time).

Dog & Gun

Swan

‘Spoons

The Spencer Stadium is an interesting ground and is full of character. The Main Stand sits right in front of the turnstiles as you enter and straddles the half-way line and is flanked by offices on the turnstile side and the clubhouse/food bar and tunnel on the other. Behind the far end goal is a small, atcost-style seated stand, with open, hard standing at that end otherwise, the far side being the same, but becomes slightly more terraced as it runs towards the covered standing “Town End” to the right of the turnstile, where there is also a tea hut. That’s the ground in a nutshell and this is the story of Banbury United….

History Lesson:

Banbury United Football Club was founded in 1931 as Spencer Sports Club, the works team of Spencer Corsets factory. They initially played friendly matches before joining the Banbury Division of the Oxfordshire Junior League in 1933 and renaming as Spencer Villa and later that year, Banbury Spencer. They went on to win the league in their first year there and so joined the Oxfordshire Senior League for the following year where the club again won the league at the first attempt and were then elected to the Birmingham Combination for 1935-’36, whilst also entering a side in the Central Amateur League.

After the Second World War, 1947-’48 saw the club turn professional and finish runners-up in the Birmingham Combination and also reach the FA Cup First Round for the first time where they lost out to Colchester United. In 1954, the Combination folded and so Banbury Spencer moved into the Birmingham & District League and were allotted a place in the Birmingham & District League, finished 4th in 1954-’55 and were promoted to the Premier Division. The league would latterly be reduced to a one division competition in 1960 before becoming the West Midlands Regional League two years later for the season after Banbury’s second FA Cup 1st Round appearance, where they were again knocked out by stronger opposition, this time in the form of Shrewsbury Town.

Arriving at Banbury United

BUFC

1965 saw the club re-named Banbury United after a change in ownership before they undertook another move, this time into the Southern League Division One for the 1966-’67 campaign. When this division was regionalised in 1971, Banbury were placed in the ‘North’ section and went on to reach the FA Cup First Round in successive years in 1972-’73 & ’73-’74, but again they would bow out at that stage on both occasions, though they did force Northampton Town to a replay in the latter instance. After winning their first Oxfordshire Senior Cup in 1978-’79, the following season’s league re-organisation meant the club were again moved, this time into the Southern League’s new Midland Division and remained here until relegation to the Hellenic League Premier Division in 1990, their only real success in that time being a second Oxfordshire Senior Cup in 1988. They would go on to spend ten seasons in the Hellenic Prem before winning the Premier Division title in 2000 and promotion to the Southern League once more, but again would be in a “new” division – the Division One East.

Finishing 8th in 2003-’04, the club were promoted to the Premier Division on account of many clubs above being placed into the newly formed Conference North & South divisions and this season also saw silverware in the form of the club’s third Oxfordshire Senior Cup title, adding a further two of these to their trophy cabinet in 2006 & ’07 respectively. However it would take eight years for them to repeat the feat, lifting their sixth Senior Cup in 2015, but this time the season saw relegation to the Division One South and West (yet another new ‘un) in juxtaposition to their prior cup win. Banbury became community-owned ahead of the following season and this change in ownership saw United finish runners-up and qualify for the Division One South & West play-offs, whereupon they defeated Winchester City in the semi-finals before going on to defeat Taunton Town in the final to achieve an immediate return to the Southern League Premier. Upon yet more restructuring, the Puritans saw themselves in another Southern League divisional variation, this time the Southern League Premier Central Division for the 2017-’18 season, where they finished up in 9th place. In addition, the club have also won the Buckinghamshire Charity Cup on five occasions (2001-’02, 2011-’12, ’12-’13, ’13-’14 & ’15-’16).

The game got underway with the rain and wind becoming ever more prevalent and it certainly wasn’t the type of weather that you envy the players having to play in, that was for sure! Despite having some understandable early struggles with the conditions, the two teams put on a good display as they continued getting to grips with what they were facing. Kettering were unbeaten away from home in the league this year and this record has led them to be title contenders at this stage and the Poppies started strongly here with the vast majority of the play, though failed to truly create real chances.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Indeed it was Banbury who created the first sights of goal, with both Greg Kaziboni and Steve Diggin seeing efforts miss the target before the visitors then had a strong penalty shout waved away by the referee but it would be the hosts who would grab the opener with around ten minutes to play in the first half, when Charlie Wise met a corner from the right flank and powered his header beyond the helpless Paul White in the Kettering goal and allow most to get some feeling back in their feet. Kettering would have a late chance when re-debutant Adam Cunnington saw an effort well saved at close-range by White’s opposite number Manny Agboola as the half came to an end and I headed into the clubhouse for a warm and ended up meeting back up with the Kettering supporting Ellis clan once again. As such, I decided to afford myself a bit of warmth in numbers for most of the second-half and piled into the small stand along with them.

It appeared to have been a shrewd move in terms of the action being at close-quarters when Kettering won a penalty soon after the restart when the fiery George Nash brought down Marcus Kelly in the area and the spot-kick was duly awarded. Dan Holman stepped up and sent Agboola the wrong way to level up the scores and it looked set for the second-placed side to go on and dominate the game from there. How wrong that outlook proved to be when, just five minutes later there was a first (I think anyway) for me at a game as Ravi Shamsi’s in-swinging corner somehow evaded White’s grasp and flew into the far side of the goal unaided. A direct goal from a corner and I was delighted at that; those around me meanwhile…..er, not so much!

Holman equalises from the spot

Match Action

Match Action

Shamsi seemed to single-handedly decide to grab the game by the proverbial scruff of the neck at that point and he almost immediately added his second when firing in a shot from range that clipped the top of the crossbar on its way over before Greg Kaziboni would net the all important fourth goal of the game when he received the ball in the inside-right flank, cut inside and beat his man with nice skill before firing across White’s frame and into the far corner. Despite White pulling off a fine double-save soon afterwards to keep his side somewhat in the contest,  it would get even worse for the Poppies as Banbury’s probable best performance of the season so far was rounded off when the impressive Shamsi slammed home into an unguarded net from around the penalty spot after an unselfish pull-back. Shamsi also had a late chance to claim a hat-trick but could only hit his effort straight at White as the game came to a close to round off a fine win for the hosts, whilst the away fans down the far end from me at this point, were left to bemoan what they perceived to be a pointless team switch-up.

As for me, a quick exit was bid through the freezing rain conditions and I eventually found my way back to the town centre via getting lost at the Morrison’s en route, though Maps soon came to my rescue and directed me to the respite of The Wheatsheaf, an old and fairly unassuming pub that was unfortunately completely empty on my arrival, though did fill a little by the time I would leave. After a quiet pint of Aspall’s at the pincely £4.70, I again got put slightly off-track in my pursuit to find the neighbouring hostelries of the Old Auctioneer and Ye Olde Reindeer (the extra “e” isn’t needed in ‘olde’, of course) prior to discovering a small alleyway was the way to go. Back in the warmth of the bar area, the Old Auctioneer’s Heineken set me back the same as my previous stop, before the Reindeer would be a little, and I mean a little, easier on the pocket with a pint of Stowford Press costing £4.50.

Wheatsheaf

Old Auctioneer

In the Reindeer to finish (excuse the rain blur!)

Finishing up my final drink in Banbury, the short walk back over to the station was undertook and I grabbed the direct train back to Manchester having agreed with myself that it would be easier to do so than have to change at Birmingham. It definitely did prove good as it allowed me to have a nap and waste away the journey time before awaking at Stockport ahead of a final “one for the road” in the Piccadilly Tap after a long time away. In this case, the “one for the road” is accurate as it would again be a bus back from the Gardens for me as the RMT and Northern continue to do f*ck all bar make life difficult for everyone who relies on them for Saturday trips. Surely enough is enough on one of their accounts and, at this point now after so long, I don’t really care which. Anyway, I’m not getting into that mess.

So what of the trip as a whole? Well, Banbury was what I expected really, a mix of old and new with some historical pubs to enjoy within the pretty town centre, the church being the jewel of that. The ground was brilliant too and is right up there with my favourites and the food (hot dog and chips at £3 I think, I can’t really remember) and programme were both good efforts, though the chips were at a bit of a premium. Otherwise, all went smoothly in terms of transport and the drink prices were to be expected on the whole. Next up comes the festive season and the lack of transport (though not as impactful as recent years obviously as they don’t turn up anyway) sees me restricted to local matches. Not that this is a bad thing, though, as a Wythenshawe double sees me visit Town, Amateurs on Boxing Day for the first Wythy semi-pro derby clash then hopefully to FC St. Helen’s on the following Saturday. Have a good one all and I hope, like me, you wont be dr*hic*ing too much….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 9

Food: 6

Programme: 8

Value For Money: 7