Sunday, 17 June 2018

END OF SEASON AWARDS 2017/18

It has been a good season for me, albeit an expensive one with over £3,000 spent, though it was a shade less than last season. I also drove 10,000 fewer miles thanks to taking various coaches and I intend to get both down this season if possible. At least I enjoyed myself, visiting some great places and meeting some great people. Here are some of the highlights of the season.

FAVOURITE GROUND - SAFFRON WALDEN TOWN

A real gem of a ground with plenty of character. Lots of cover and good enough for a few steps higher. Pleasant location too.

BEST LOCATION - BARNSTAPLE TOWN
Close to an excellent town with all you could need for a day out at the footy.



FRIENDLIEST CLUB - QUORN
Pretty much everyone, so hard to choose. But gonna give it to Quorn, not often the team manager makes the effort to speak to you, but Dougie Keast also remembered his games against Wycombe back in the early 90's for Kettering.



LEAST FRIENDLY - NO ONE
Thankfully, I didn't encounter anything bad on my visits last season.

BEST VALUE FOR MONEY - EASINGTON SPORTS
Again, a strong category, with several offering free entry. But gonna give it to Easington Sports, a fiver with a programme was great value and it produced a decent game and the clubs record attendance. Good people too.



BEST SOCIAL MEDIA AND WEBSITE - ABINGDON TOWN
It was very disappointing that roughly only a third of clubs bothered to retweet my blog after the expense and effort taken to visit them. Though I didn't set up the blog to get views, more a way to note down my memories, it's still disappointing. I'm trying to promote visiting these clubs after all. One of those that did retweet was Abingdon Town. They also keep their Twitter up to date and went out of their way to message me about my original game choice being postponed. Excellent.



BEST PROGRAMME - SHOREHAM
It's sad to see the matchday programme dying, with most clubs putting together half-baked efforts, just because of rules. There were a few decent efforts though, Shoreham produced a decent one and it was only a quid - very cheap for step 4 and a decent amount to read as well as the essentials.




BEST MATCH - AFC ALDERMASTON 4-3 MILTON UTD
The dramatic late winner for Wycombe against Carlisle was probably the best game of the season for me. But whilst out hopping, AFC Aldermaston defeated Milton United by the same scoreline in a totally spellbinding game.



WORST MATCH - SWINDON TOWN 1-0 WYCOMBE WDRS
A truly miserable contest played in swirling winds. Both teams insisted on hoofing the ball and it wasn't very nice conditions for the fans either.



BEST TEA BAR - GLOSSOP NORTH END
Lots of competition here, but Glossop's varied, tasty and good value pie selection wins the day. Special mention to Bishops Lydeard for an amazing Thai Green Curry, but I think that was only available for the Western League Hop.



BEST BAR - CROCKENHILL
Understandably lacking in real cider, I barely drank in grounds this season. You can't expect teams to cater for minority tastes after all. Crockenhill deserves the award for decorating their bar with loads of scarves from different clubs, as well as cuttings detailing the clubs history. A real visual treat.



BEST CLUB SHOP - CHELMSFORD CITY
Again, thin on the ground. Rare that there was even a club shop, even rarer to see old programmes for sale. But Chelmsford City bucked that trend with an amazing selection of old programmes, books and mags as well as reasonably priced merchandise. A rare treat.



BEST PUB - THE DELIRIUM CAFE, BRUSSELS
Incredible place in Brussels with over 3,000 beers on offer. Loads of nooks and crannies and plenty of beer related stuff on the walls. Had a good few cherry beers, including some really rare local ones. The only problem was, it was so good I ended up spending a large chunk of my weekend away in there.



BEST WETHERSPOONS - THE WHITE BALL (TIVERTON)
If only all Wetherspoons were like this. Around 8 ciders on draught, plus a big fridge with around 40 different bottles in. It was in the public space, so you could browse and pick out the drink you wanted without keeping people waiting. All with Wetherspoons usual reasonable prices too.



BEST PINT - CHANT'S FIGHTING CIDER
One of two great ciders I had at the Hackney Carriage micropub before a game at Tudor Sports. Lovely and dry, had bags of taste and depth. too.



BEST MEAL - BUTCHERS FAGGOTS, CHIPS & MUSHY PEAS
@ THE PONY & TRAP, CULLOMPTON

The Pony and Trap didn't live up to its cockney rhyming slang name with this great meal. Sampled in Cullompton on the way to Exeter City v Wycombe Wanderers, it was streets ahead of meals that cost twice as much when travelling on the Wycombe Wanderers Independent Supporters Club coach. Nice, local fare and only a fiver

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Saffron Dynamo - Mary Linwood Ground


Saffron Dynamo FC
Mary Linwood Ground
Saffron Road
Wigston
Leicester
LE2 6TG







Ground Number: 775
Saturday 26th May 2018
Saffron Dynamo 8-2 Hathern
Leicestershire Senior Premier






SAFFRON DYNAMO - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 1963 by a group of friends, although not a lot of information exists online about their formative years. In 1994, they joined the Leicestershire Senior League, initially in the second tier. They finished 3rd in 1998 and 2007 and it was the second of those occasions that saw them promoted to the Premier Division. They've played there ever since, finishing 3rd in 2015 and then runners-up to Lutterworth Town last season.  This season sees them finishing 7th, but with the league being very tight, even at this late stage, they could finish as high as 4th. So far, Saffron Dynamo have had two FA Vase campaigns, but are yet to win a game, losing to Bartley Green in 2008 and Barrow Town in 2011.


MY VISIT

I was going to be on my own again on this Saturday, what with other hoppers being unavailable. With it being the last Saturday in May, most leagues had ended, but there was still plenty of choices. It would mean a fair old journey though, as anything decent nearby had long ago packed up. Originally, I'd decided to go to Swanage Town & Herston v Holt United and had a lovely day out planned. The weather looked fine at the start of the week, but not for the first time season, it conspired against me, gradually getting worse until on Friday afternoon, a thunderstorm was forecast. Even if the pitch wasn't submerged, my planned day out of fish and chips on the beach was well and truly ruined. I checked the other main area for games, the Leicestershire Senior League and luckily, it was nice and dry. I looked at the options available and eventually plumped for Saffron Dynamo v Hathern. Though it was being played on an adjacent 3G pitch at Aylestone Park, there were some good options for lunch and the club couldn't have been more helpful on social media. A late Friday evening research into their history was needed, but I was glad to have a game planned and was looking forward to it.



I didn’t have the best night’s sleep the night before the game, waking at 4 am after I forgot to turn off my work alarm and not being able to get back to sleep. I watched TV for a few hours before getting ready and leaving at 10.15. After a brief stop in Aylesbury, I headed for Milton Keynes and then the M1. There was a brief delay on the motorway, as there always is on the M1, but I was parked up at the ground by 12.45. It was disappointing that the club had not tweeted about the game, especially as they were so helpful last night, but after checking the FA Full Time site, I assumed game on as it was still on according to that source. I took the 25-minute walk to Aylestone, having a half of North Street cider which was decent. The Ale Stone was a very pleasant micropub and a good place to spend pre-match. My second half was Hallets Dabinett and this was nice too. I’d ideally have had more, but sceptical of late changes to my game, I laid off it and aimed to get to the ground a bit earlier. I got a couple of bottles to take away too, before going in search of food. Most takeaways were closed, but the Ocean Chippy did the job. It was full of Leicester City pictures, and so I had a decent portion of Black pudding and chips for £3.60. I eat it as I walked back to the ground, arriving at 2.40. I had to walk through the main ground to get to the 3G pitch. In a similar set up to Haverhill Rovers, the second pitch was a dull one-sided venue, but it did the job and it was very much game on.


The afternoon didn't start off very well for visitors Hathern when they brought with them a very similar kit to Saffron's red and black and so had to wear an assortment of bibs. The visitors did actually manage to take the lead when Stuart Gibson lobbed the home keeper on 12 minutes.  Saffron had been the better side up to that point and they got the equaliser on 21 minutes with a crouching header by Phil Howard. Poor defending had been to blame, as was the case when the hosts hit the post a minute later. After 32 minutes, Saffron did take the lead, Howard got his second when he sidestepped a challenge and netted from 10 yards. A couple of minutes later, it was 3-1, this time it was Josh Lee converting a cross from the left from close range. Five minutes before halftime they made it 4-1, Howard turning provider this time as he set up Jake Limbert to net from close range. On 50 minutes, Howard completed his hat-trick, slotting on to a ball over the top and sidestepping the keeper and slotting into an empty net. He got his 4th to make it 6-1 on 66 minutes with a close-range effort.  His 5th was another close-range finish to make it 7-1 three minutes later. Hathern had a brief respite on 72 minutes when they pulled one back through an own goal that clipped the left-hand post on its way in. The scoring was completed on 77 minutes when poacher Phil Howard got his 6th with another close range finish to make it 8-2.


The referee blew up for full time around five minutes early by my reckoning, but the result was academic in any case with Hathern well beaten. I wanted to go to Aldi to get some of their microwaveable breakfast buns - for my money they are better than both the McDonalds and Rustlers versions. By the time I picked up those and a few other bits, it was time to head home. I left just after 5, listening to a 1990's Football Podcast called 'Alive & Kicking' where they discussed the best England World Cup Squad of the 1990's. The omission of Peter Beardsley aside, it was a good listen and kept me entertained for most of the journey home. I got in at 6.45 and over the course of the evening had my two bottles of cider that I'd bought. Those were a Pink Lady one from the Grainstore Brewery near Oakham Town FC and a Samuel Smiths Organic Perry. Real Madrid won 3-1, thanks mainly to a couple of horrendous errors from Liverpool keeper Lorius Karius, with him looking devastated at the end. I went to bed straight after but a noisy storm woke me up, meaning I got a poor nights sleep with me being up at 4 am the next morning.

THE GROUND

The MARY LINWOOD GROUND is reached by walking through the main Aylestone Park FC ground. Saffron Dynamo have made it their own this season and I’d guess that it is good enough for step 6. There’s only one side available for spectators. This includes a covered stand with benches for around 50 and an overall capacity of around 500 with the rest being made up of open flat standing. Facilities are shared with the main ground but the tea bar was closed and I didn’t visit the clubhouse. Aylestone Centre is a mile or so away, this has a great Micropub called ‘The Ale Stone’ and a number of takeaways.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Buntingford Town - The Bury



Buntingford Town FC
The Bury
London Road
Buntingford
Herts
SG9 9HZ

07868 371686






Ground Number: 774
Saturday 19th May 2018
Buntingford Town 1-1 FC Lemsford
Herts County League - Premier Division




BUNTINGFORD TOWN - A BRIEF HISTORY

There isn't a whole load of information on Buntingford Town that I can find, but the club was established in 1897. They joined the Herts County League in 1958, starting in Division 1. In 1965, they were crowned champions and had a five-season spell in the Premier Division, with a credible 5th place finish in 1969. The following three seasons saw a rapid decline, just 9 wins over the next couple of seasons saw then suffer two relegations to find themselves in Division 2. Though they would stabilise, even finishing 3rd in 1974, the form again tailed off and Buntingford Town would again be relegated in 1978, this time to Division 3. A couple of mediocre seasons would follow, before they left the league altogether in 1980, presumably going back to more local leagues.  


The club would rejoin the Herts County League in 2002, again starting at Division 2. They were a lot more successful this time, champions again in 2005. Buntingford Town enjoyed their best ever finish of 3rd in the Premier Division in 2007, finishing just three points behind leaders Whitewebbs. They were relegated to Division 1 in 2009 and since then have spent their time alternating between the two divisions. The club are currently enjoying a three-season spell in the Premier, but look set to be relegated at the end of the current season as they are well adrift at the bottom of the table.


The small town of Buntingford has a population of just under 5,000. It was once home to a Sainsbury's distribution centre, but this was replaced in 2014 by a housing estate. There are a number of Georgian and Medieval buildings in the town, which sits on the river Rib. Twin towns include Luynes in France and Olvega in Spain. As well as football in Buntingford, the nearby village of Chipping has been home to the World Sausage Tossing Championship since 2014.





MY VISIT

With the end of the season fast approaching, there were fewer options for games with each week that passed, with only around five viable options for this Saturday. Most of those were in the Leicestershire League, but with that particular competition carrying on for a while longer, I decided to stay a little closer to home. The Herts County League had provided good games and decent grounds (for the level) at Belstone and Bovingdon in the past, so I was pleased to see they still had a few games left to play. I'd seen Buntingford Town's ground on our Groundhopping WhatsApp chat a couple of weeks ago and decided that it was worth a visit. Despite there being no cover or stand, it still looked worth a visit, with a club building on the halfway line, complete with viewing balcony. The pitch was also fully railed, which made it better than the basic fields elsewhere at step 7. As a bonus, I'd be able to pay my annual visit to Bovingdon Market, where knock-offs and fakes of all kinds were for sale in abundance, or at least they were when I last went. I was pleased when fellow hopper Anwar agreed to come with me, as it gave me some company and helped out with petrol. A couple of days before, Dan, a Braintree fan who I'd missed out on meeting last week, signalled his intent to come to the game, so I was looking forward to it more than ever as the weekend approached.



I had a few cans the night before the game, but nothing crazy as I looked to wind down from my week of work. Going to sleep around 11, despite waking a few times in the night, I didn't get up until 8. I awoke to a message from Anwar saying that he couldn't be bothered with today, blaming his fasting for his religion making him feel ill. I wasn't that bothered, as I had chosen this game with the fact that I might be on my own in mind. I got ready and left around 10.15, seeing just before I went out that the kick off might be even earlier now, 1 or 2PM to be confirmed. By the time I'd got to Bovingdon Market, the kick off was confirmed as 2, making it a bit less of a rush for me. I had a gander around the market, buying 5 T-shirts for a tenner, even though I didn’t really need any. I also had a currywurst roll for an early lunch, before getting back to my car at 11.45. I headed for Buntingford, planning to stop somewhere on the way, but another notification came through saying that ‘kick off will be when the players are ready, assume 1 pm. Luckily, this worked in my favour, and I was scheduled to arrive in time for kick off. On the way, I listened to Jon Holmes on BBC Radio Kent via my phone. It was the usual madcap show, including someone who claimed to have made a life-size model of the Royal Family using mashed potato, gammon and pineapple. I got to the ground at 12.45, buying a pint of Strongbow Cloudy Apple for £3.80. A bit more than I’m used to paying, but entry and a nice programme were free. It was good to meet fellow groundhopper Dan, who had also made the game and we had a good catch up.



The games started with Buntingford Town well on top.  They hit the outside of the right-hand post and the bar, following a header from a free kick but they just couldn't get the ball in the net, so it was goalless at the break. The dominance continued in the second half, but they looked a little off the pace. Their number two came close with a rising shot that went just over the bar on 55 minutes, but a couple of minutes later, FC Lemsford took a surprise lead. A decent through ball played in Evan Cowler and he finished smartly past the keeper. By some fluke, I got the goal on camera but the visitors had a decent spell after this with the goal knocking the stuffing out of the hosts. Buntingford were soon pressing for the equaliser, but they had to wait until the 90th minute to get it. The goal came from an attack down the right, the striker cutting in and his shot going in off the left hand upright, the draw being the least they deserved. It had certainly been a case of wasteful finishing for Buntingford, they created a number of openings, but just couldn't score, through a combination of wasteful finishing and great defending by Lemsford.

A post shared by Russell Cox (@russ_wwfc) on

It had been a lovely warm afternoon and a great place to watch football. The early kick-off helped me in a way, as I had other engagements. I stopped at Aldi in Hoddesdon as we don't have one near us, picking up some stuff for breakfast amongst other things. It was a good journey home, with the last hour of the Two Mikes and then the FA Cup Final build-up to keep me company. I also stopped at the Craft Beer Shop in Chalfont on the way home, picking up a couple of pints of Snailsbank Orchard Dry to have with the football. I got in at 4.45, catching up online and typing my blog while I watched the FA Cup Final. It was disappointing not to have Match Of The Day, but it did at least mean I could get an early night, most welcome with me being up for work at 4 am the next morning.



THE GROUND

THE BURY is a smart set up for step 7. Though there is no stand, there are plenty of tables with seats on the edge of the pitch and these are a great place to watch the game from. Above is a balcony, this is attached to the bar and offers an elevated view of the action. There is cover down below, but most of the ground is open flat standing, with a bank behind the goal. There's no food or club shop, but the bar is pretty good with TV sports and a range of drinks, I didn't go into Buntingford, but my research found no standout pubs, so you might as well bring cans or give your money to the club, if you are planning to drink.

GROUND PHOTOS

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Tudor Sports - Oxford Road



Tudor Sports FC
Sidcup Conservative Club
Oxford Road
Sidcup
Kent
DA14 6LW

0208 300 2897





Ground Number: 773
Saturday 12th May 2018
Tudor Sports 0-4 Staplehurst Monarchs United
Kent County League - Premier Division






TUDOR SPORTS - A BRIEF HISTORY

The current Tudor Sports side was founded in 2001 and was initially known as Erith 147. They joined the Kent County League in 2006, starting in Division 2 West. They always stayed in the top half of the table and in  2012, a runners-up spot behind Bexlians was good enough for promotion to Division 1. They celebrated their inaugural season with another runners-up spot, this time behind Fleetdown United. They've been in the step 7 Kent County Premier Division ever since and in 2016 merged with Tudor Sports, also taking their name. Their best finish so far has been 7th which they achieved in 2014, though they will be beating that this season as they sit 5th. Recent form has been inconsistent, winning 3, drawing 1 and losing 2 of their last 6 games. 9th place Staplehurst Monarchs United will provide a tough test, sitting 3rd in the form table and winning 4 out of their last 6 games.

The original Tudor Sports FC was founded a year later in 2002. They started out in the South London Alliance League before joining the Kent County League in 2006. Starting in Division 2 West, they earned promotion to Division 1 West as champions in their first season. Four seasons were spent here before 3rd place behind Farnborough OBG and Eltham Palace in 2011 saw them promoted to the Premier Division. Their debut season saw them finish a best-ever 5th. They couldn't keep the form going ever and in 2016 they finished bottom of the Premier Division. The club immediately joined the South London Alliance and following the merger, they became the club's reserve side.  This season, the league was renamed the Bromley & South London League and the club's reserve side currently top the table.



MY VISIT

My season with Wycombe and most of Non-League down to step 6 might have packed up for the season but that didn’t mean there was a lack of choice. There were still plenty of action at step 7 and below and I drew up a list of 20 feasible options, the best of which was Thorne Colliery. It was a fair trek though and so I decided to do something on the train. It boiled down to two options- Peckham Town and Tudor Sports. In the end, the latter won as it had a nice micropub and a Wetherspoons nearby. I was loathe to use my car, which had been a pain in the backside once more. I’d already had a few incidents with minor encounters with wildlife causing expensive damage to the weak bodywork and the badly made Renault was at it again. I’d had to cancel a trip to Swanwick Pentrich Road at the last minute due to the wishbone snapping. The damage had also seen the bodywork bend and now the wing was rubbing against the door and another bill on top of the £470 I had paid so far (including two new tyres) and the Green Flag call out. I was getting fed up with my car, though it was nice inside with leather seats and Bluetooth, it was very poorly built on the outside and I'd regretted not sacking it off and getting another car ages ago. I was pleased that it was drivable though, as I'd turned up at work saddle-sore and tired after cycling to work for the past two days. As it turned out, the second part of the repair didn't bost as much as I'd first feared - £150, but it was still nearly 3 weeks wages for the whole lot.




I’d had a quiet evening the night before, so I woke on the day of the game feeling pretty decent. After having breakfast and getting ready, I left at 9.45, parking up near Amersham station and getting the train into London. After changes at Finchley Road and London Bridge, I got to Sidcup around midday. Normally I’d have stopped at London Bridge and gone to Borough Market but today, Sidcup would provide enough for a decent pre-match. I was peckish by now and not wanting to eat on an empty stomach, went to the local Co-Op and bought a bag of crisps. A couple of handfuls of these shoved down my gob, I headed for my first stop, The Hackney Carriage Micropub. This was a great place and with a huge range of ciders, I was able to choose 2 in my favourite style of dry. First up was a pint of Outcider by Eltham Gold, this kicked off my afternoon very nicely as it had plenty of flavour. Next up was even better, a pint of ‘Fighting Cider’ by Chant. The barman/owner had warned that only one person had liked it so far, but for me, it was excellent. Very dry and not one to sling back at a rapid rate, it was one to savour and enjoy. Luckily, I had plenty of time and when I left at 1pm, there was still plenty of time until kickoff. Drizzly rain interrupted my mile walk to Wetherspoons, typical after it had been sunny all week whilst everyone was stuck in work. I got to The Tailors Chalk ok though and although fairly scruffy, it was decent. I had a pint of Black Dragon cider along with Doombar pie, chips and mushy peas for about 9.50. So from there, it was to the ground.




More rain saw me get there at 2.30, there were no programme or entry fee. After getting some pictures of the ground I settled down under the cover. The visitors were the better side and they took the lead on 37 minutes, netting from inside the area. The lead was doubled a couple of minutes into the second half, a smart lob from the Staplehurst number 10 from a tight angle. The game was sealed on 80 minutes, a good ball into the area was put away with a neat finish for 3-0. Tudor Sports briefly flourished, a goal a few minutes later was ruled out for offside. A few minutes from time, it was 4-0, a low angled finish produced a scoreline that did not flatter the visitors against the underwhelming hosts.



The weather continued to be abysmal, with a wet walk back to Sidcup station. I considered getting a Chinese but decided to wait, getting to the station at 5.05. I had 10 minutes wait for the train, but I was at least able to take shelter in the waiting room. For once, all the connections were good and I made rapid progress towards home. Even with the half-hourly service towards Amersham, I only had to wait for 2 minutes to get my train. I got back to the station at 7 and fifteen minutes later I was back home. Normally, I'd be killing time until Match Of The Day, but tonight, it wasn't on, with all the games being played on Sunday. I had a game the following day too, Hampton & Richmond Borough v Braintree Town in the Conference South play-off final. I'd be up at 4 am for work, so I was aiming to get to bed by 9. I wanted to get my blog done though and so completed it whilst catching up on my YouTube subscriptions.



THE GROUND

The ground is situated on Oxford Road and is part of the Sidcup Conservative Club. It's an excellent venue for step 7, there is a decent sized stand with space for around 200, fifty of which are seated. Across the other side of the pitch is a smaller area of cover, for around 50. Overall, it's a nice venue, but plenty of character but the lack of hard standing and floodlights prevent it being a step 6 venue, which is a shame.


At the ground is a bar, though I didn't check it out. You'll be well served by the town though, which is less than 10 minutes away. The pick here is the Wetherspoons, The Tailor's Chalk as well as a MIcropub, The Hoppers Hut. Back near the station, just under a mile away, is my favourite place of all, The Hackney Carriage Pun. Around 25 ciders, plus ales are available and there are plenty of takeaways, both here and in town.