Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Arundel - Mill Road

Arundel FC
Mill Road
West Sussex
BN18 9PA

01903 882 548
Official Website

Ground Number: 787
Tuesday 7th August 2018
Arundel 0-0 Crawley Down Gatwick
Southern Combination Premier


The club was formed in 1889, becoming founder members of the West Sussex League in 1896. They stepped up to the Sussex League in 1949. Their best spell came during the late 1950's when they were twice champions of the top tier. For the vast majority of their time here, they've remained in Division 1, with four spells in Division 2. In all but one of these, they've bounced back within one season, the exception being the latter occasion at the end of the 1990's when they took two seasons to get back up. Continuous members of the top tier since 2000, the league rebranded as the Southern Combination in 2015, with Arundel playing in the Premier Division. Though Arundel were within two points of the title in 2009 (finishing behind Eastbourne United Association), lately finishes have tended to be more mid-table. Last season's 17th place was especially disappointing, just two points above the relegation zone. No doubt the club will be hoping for better this time around.

Arundel first entered the FA Cup in 1950 and have been ever-present since 1978. Their best progress has been the 2nd Qualifying Round, reached on six occasions. The last of these was as far back as 1987 when they lost 3-1 at home to Herne Bay. In the FA Vase, the club's best progress came in 2003 when they beat Hassocks, AFC Wallingford, Erith Town & Whitehawk before a 3-0 defeat at Bridlington Town in the 4th Round.  Local cup wins include the Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Cup on four occasions, the Sussex League Challenge Cup twice and the Sussex League Divison 2 Cup in 1977. The town of Arundel has a population of 3,475 and sits on the River Arun, hence the town's name. This river is known for its Mullets, which gives the club its nickname. The most famous landmark is Arundel Castle, built 1067 and a regular tourist attraction to this day.


I knew for some time that I'd be groundhopping on my own for this Tuesday. Usual hopping partner Anwar was away and another hopper that I know is rarely available on Tuesdays. So I set about looking for something in the south, as I rarely venture there. I wanted to make it as close as possible, but with the nearest in Lowood v Shoreham being nearly 60 miles away, I decided to put up a poll on Twitter and let the nation (or at least 55 of them) decide. The other options included a ground I've wanted to visit for a while in Arundel v Crawley Down Gatwick as well as options at Horndean v Hamble Club and Crowborough Athletic v Rusthall. Not surprisingly, Arundel was the runaway winner with 47% of the vote, which represented 26 people by my calculations. So on Monday afternoon, I did my research on the club and the town for my blog as well as trying to pencil in some future trips. I was hoping that the game would produce my first competitive goal - despite being by far the better side on Saturday, Wycombe had only managed a goalless draw at home to Blackpool.

The day of the game came and I got a reasonable night's sleep. As it was Tuesday, it was my usual day off, so I walked down town, which was a nice bit of exercise. After lunch, the early part of the afternoon was spent setting up my new phone - a Xiaomi A2 Lite. I was very impressed for the £180 I paid for it off eBay and hope that it will be as good as my now dated Moto G4. What I was less than impressed with, was my Renault Megane. In another of a long list of problems. the fuse for my cigarette lighter went, this was discovered when I checking the tyre pressures before my drive. Any other car I've had, this would be a simple fix, but not with greedy Renault who try and make it as difficult as possible so they can make money from you by getting a dealer to do it. For now, I'd have to sling my power bank in my bag and look at a YouTube video later to see if I could do it myself. In the long term, I hope to get an older Volkswagen Golf or Polo and sell my current car to pay for it. I left home at 4.15, hoping that the journey would not be too bad, with rush hour approaching. There turned out to be the usual delays on the M25, but nothing too serious and a couple of hours later I was parked up near the ground. I walked into the pleasant town and had a look around. All the places were pretty pricey, so I headed for the nearby Trawlers chippy where a healthy portion was had for £1.65. From there it was to the ground, a reasonable £6 to get in, but no programme. Of course, with me outside, it decided to rain for the first time all week, so I took shelter in the stand.

Both teams came into the game having drawn at the weekend. While Crawley Down Gatwick were sharing a goalless draw at home to Lingfield, the hosts were drawing 1-1 at Eastbourne United - a Ben Gray free-kick giving them a 67th-minute lead before they were pegged back 6 minutes from time. The match had a lively start, Crawley Down with the first chance, but the hosts generally dominated and forced a couple of good saves out of the keeper. Seventeen minutes in, the referee heard a clap of thunder and took the players in. After presumably, he’d been given a cuddle by his Mum, the players came out after another 10 minutes and resumed.  There were a couple of strikes of lightning as the players returned, ironically after a quiet period while they were inside. The game continued in the same vein, with Ben Gray smashing the bar with a fierce shot for the hosts. Crawley Down Gatwick having a very optimistic claim for a free kick after the home keeper ‘brought down’ their striker. It had hosed it down first half, but it was goalless at the break. The second half bought intermittent showers and a more even game, but it seemed no one could find their finishing touch. It was the visitors who finished the strongest side, though both sides had several chances to break the duck. Particularly dangerous for Crawley Down was their pacy striker who caused problems all night, especially on the break.

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So, my second 0-0 in a row, my 3rd in the last 4 games and still awaiting my first competitive goal of the season.  It wasn't a bad game though and despite his earlier over-caution, the referee did a good job in letting the game flow and got most decisions right.  I checked on my other options that I could have done tonight - Loxwood lost 4-2 at home to Shoreham, Crowborough lost 3-1 at home to Rusthall and Horndean defeated Hamble 4-1. Due to the delay, I didn't leave until 10. The first part of the journey was not the greatest, small, tight country roads and the windscreen kept huffing up and despite my best efforts, it was tricky to clear. Added to that, the radio was terrible, where there wasn't interference there was banal chat or awful music. As soon as I hit the A3, things got better. Decent music thanks to Radio Jackie and decent roads at last. Despite a few spots of roadworks on the M25, I was in by 11.35, though it took me a while to get to sleep, not great when I was up at 4 am the following morning. Next up for me is the FA Cup on Friday - Winslow United v Easington Sports and I was hoping that these two debutants would provide me with my first goal of the season proper.


MILL ROAD is in a very pleasant location, right near the town and in the shadow of Arundel Castle. Facilities at the ground are good and well kept, a couple of stands - one seated and one standing, both holding around 200 each. The rest of the ground is open, on my visit, there was no shop or programme.

Food and drink wise, you are pretty well catered for. The bar sells real ale from the local Arundel Brewery and cider from Thatchers Gold amongst its drinks. The tea bar is reasonably priced, this does burgers, hot dogs, bacon rolls and chips as well as drinks and snacks. Further afield, the town has a few takeaways, mainly Indian, Chinese and Fish and Chips. There are also a few pubs, but my research threw up nothing special.


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Middlesex FA - Rectory Park

Middlesex FA
Rectory Park
Ruislip Road

Ground Number: 796
Tuesday 31st July 2018
Harrow Borough 2-1- Egham Town


The Middlesex FA was established in 1893. Over the years, they have grown and now have 12 affiliated leagues which encompasses over 2,000 clubs. Higher up the non-league pyramid, they have a number of clubs who have made a significant contribution to the history of football. Their highest ranked club, Brentford play in the Championship, the second tier of English football. Their biggest county cup, the Middlesex Senior Cup is currently in its 125th year, with current holders Hendon being the record winners with 15 titles. One of the biggest supporters of football in Middlesex is celebrity astrologer Russell Grant who mentioned his love for local football when he appeared on the BBC show 'Fantasy Football League' in the 1990's and is currently writing a book about the history of football in the county.


There was a real lack of options on this Tuesday, presumably with quite a lot of teams starting their season on Saturday, they were looking to rest up ahead of the big kick-off. There were only about two options for fellow groundhopper Anwar & I to do and neither of those was especially enticing. For some reason, the step 3 & 4 leagues had decided to kick off later, a strange decision considering they also pack up early and end up with some teams playing 3 or 4 games a week in some cases due to bad weather. Still, their decision at least led to me finding a game - a friendly between Harrow Borough & Egham Town was being played at the new Middlesex FA facility. It was thanks to fellow hopper Luke that I found this game, as I'd not have spotted it without him informing me. With it being only just over 20 miles from home and free entry, it would hopefully provide a reasonably priced night's entertainment. I was a bit concerned when another hopper, Andy informed me that some cars had been broken into there the other week, so I was going to be careful not to leave anything on display, having already had an expensive week, thanks mainly to paying over £400 for my car insurance renewal.

I had a reasonable, if not brilliant night's sleep the night before the game. Waking around 8, I had breakfast and did my usual Tuesday thing of walking down town. After picking up a few random things, I got a lift back with my Dad. I'd also had my new Windows tablet delivered, which was a bit of a mixed bag, with it randomly restarting for no reason at all. At least with it being from the Argos store on eBay, it could get sent back if needs be, but it was not what I wanted. After having dinner around 5.45, I had half an hour to play with, so I spent that double checking that everything was OK for tonight's game. I left just before 6.30, the journey there being OK for the most part. I got in the vicinity of the ground around 7.10, though Google Maps had me in slightly the wrong place. This corrected, I drove another mile, though in truth, the ground was a few hundred yards down a footpath. I was pleased to see fellow hoppers Laurence and Luke (who recommended me this game). I had a brief chat before going in. There were two games going on adjacent pitches, the majority opting for my choice as it had the stands. Some hoppers went for the other game though, which turned out to be Potters Bar v Heybridge Swifts. Their reasoning was that there’d been a match by Tony Incenzo organised on the main pitch and they were intending on doing that. For me though, I was counting the whole complex as one ground.

As with every pre-season game I've been to, team lineup information was very thin on the ground. With both teams having red as their usual home colours, both opted to use their change kits - Harrow Borough who had finished mid-table in the Isthmian Premier last season has been transferred to the Southern Premier South were donning an all blue strip whilst Egham Town, a step lower having finished 16th in the lower tier Southern League East were in a luminous green number. Harrow showed their higher status in the first half and took the lead after a couple of minutes. A corner was not cleared properly and the lucky recipient poked home from close range. The next two goals were very similar, firstly the Egham equaliser on 6 minutes and what turned out to be the Harrow winner on 10 minutes. Both came from decent through balls which found the goalscorer faced with a fairly easy chance with the goalkeeper out of his goal on both occasions. Harrow continued to dominate the first half, having a number of chances before the defences tightened up and restricted shots at goal. It was certainly a competitive game, with keen tackles flying in from both teams. The second half saw Egham improve greatly and they had a number of chances to equalise in the latter stages of the game, though Harrow had chances to add to their tally too.

The game had been a pretty decent contest, though it was a shame there were no further goals after a hectic opening. I spoke to Laurence on my way out, as he'd opted to watch the Potters Bar v Heybridge Swifts game. It was 2-2, with Heybridge Swifts scoring a winner a few minutes later. He'd been lucky (or wise) enough to see the three goals in my game before his one kicked off and then what seemed like another good contest from the brief glimpses I'd seen of it. I made my way home, having a good journey and getting in at 10. It had been a fairly cheap evening for me, costing just over a fiver in fuel. It was the end of pre-season for me and after 15 matches I was pretty happy with my spend of £220, which worked out at under £15 per game, including travel and extras. This included a night away, this contributed to my 1,879 miles driven (125 miles per game). I'm certainly hoping to trim this figure down by using public transport whenever possible. I took ages to get to sleep, not drifting off until 1, something that is common when I wake up later. A few glasses of Irn Bru saw me OK the next morning at 4 am. Next up for me, barring a highly unlikely visit to Hamble ASSC on Friday will be Wycombe's first league game against Blackpool the following afternoon.


RECTORY PARK is a newly built facility and is the new headquarters on the Middlesex FA. I'd very much a facility for players rather than spectators, though both of the two 3G pitches have plenty of accommodation for fans. It is restricted to one side of the pitch though, with the main pitch having a couple of the standard 'Arena' type stands, seating around 150. Probably 500 fans in total could watch from this side. It's very similar to the back pitch at Aylestone Park and also Haverhill Borough, reasonable enough, though not a venue you'd fancy visiting every week. 

There is little in the way of food or drink that I saw at the venue, though there were a few shops in the vicinity, which was mainly a residential area. So, if you are after something substantial, you're better off eating en route. The car park is a bit restricted if both pitches are being used, but there is plenty of free street parking around. On public transport, Northolt tube station is within walking distance.


Saturday, 28 July 2018

Shifnal Town - Phoenix Park

Shifnal Town FC
Phoenix Park
Coppice Green Lane
TF11 8PD

07986 563156

Ground Number: 785
Saturday 28th July 2018
Shifnal Town 0-0 Lye Town


The club was established in 1964 as St Andrews Youth Club and initially played in the Wellington & District League at their local Idsall School Ground. There was soon a name change to Shifnal Juniors before settling on Shifnal Town in 1972. After a spell in the Shropshire League, Shifnal joined the West Midlands League in 1976. Starting in the second tier, they were an immediate success, champions three years later after two 7th placed finishes. The Premier Division title was won twice in 1980 and 1981 but Shifnal were unable to take promotion due to lack of facilities, pertinently, the lack of floodlights. They were playing at Admirals Park at the time but the termination of their lease and a return to Idsall School saw them drop back down to the Shropshire League. Eventually, they established a home at Phoenix Park (currently called the Acoustafoam Stadium for sponsorship purchases). 1993/94 saw them take the step up to semi-pro football and they've generally spent most of their time at step 6 of the current non-league pyramid ever since. They've been members of the West Midlands Regional League since 2010, only dropping to the second tier for the 2015/16 season when they were champions. Their best ever finish in the Premier Division was 9th in their debut season, but they have the facilities in place to gain promotion should their on-field play merit it.

The club has had a number of FA Cup campaigns but their best progress came in their debut season of 1981/82. Here they beat New Mills and Matlock Town before a 3-0 defeat to Runcorn in the 2nd Qualifying Round. In the FA Vase, the 4th Round has been reached thrice, most recently in 1984 when they lost out to Stamford. The town of Shifnal is fairly small, with a population of just over 7,000.


With the Wolverhampton Sporting Community game kicking off at 12, I had a decent choice of 3PM kickoffs to go to. The list was whittled down to a choice of 3 that I presented to fellow hopper Anwar and between us, we chose Shifnal Town v Lye Town over other alternatives at Wolverhampton Casuals and Dudley Town as it looked the best ground. It also had the bonus of free entry which was a great gesture. I left my previous game at Wolves Sporting pretty hungry, though there was a relief when my car warning light went off and it started to drive properly again. It was a decent trip across with us opting to head for the town centre first. We got there at 2.20, searching for a place for lunch. We eventually opted for a place called the 'Shifnal Fryer' where I had a half pound burger with a decent sized portion of chips for £5.30. It was pretty decent and filled me up. Next stop was the shop across the road, Shifnal Wines where I found a local cider 'Cider House Special' to take home with me.

From there, we headed to the ground, arriving at 2.55. It was absolutely bucketing down by now, so I was glad that the smart ground had a large stand to watch the game from. Not that there was a huge amount to watch on the pitch and it was a very dull game. The visitors had the majority of the chances, with Shifnal relying on chances on the break. The visitors were not helped by the sending off of their number 10 Joe Lawley apparently for dissent. It was a crude challenge that led to the referee having a word, and the official probably called it right. Overall though, he didn't help the game flow, breaking it up and allowing it to run at a slow pace rather than hurrying players up. It was the most disappointing game I've seen this season, with some pretty wayward finishing.

We left at 4.50, having a decent journey home. There were a number of crashes on the way back, but fortunately, none delayed us, nor looked any more serious than a minor prang. The journey home dragged for some reason, with me dropping Anwar off at 6.45. I got back myself at 7.05 and spent the evening catching up on things as well as typing my blogs. I had a few cans of cider before going to bed around 10, hoping for a good night's sleep with me being up at 4 am.


PHOENIX PARK is a smart, modern and well-kept venue. The only cover is in the large main stand, this holds around 300 and offers great views and leg room. The best of the ground is open flat standing and also grass banking. Other facilities at the ground are a bit limited - the tea bar only offers hot and cold drinks and snacks. There was no bar that I could see. The town is just under a mile away and offers a wide choice of outlets. It's a nice place to visit, not that modern but very smart and well kept.