Saturday, 24 July 2021

Sheerwater - Eastwood Centre

Sheerwater FC
The Eastwood Centre
Albert Drive


Ground Number: 976
Saturday 24th July 2021
Sheerwater 2-3 Woking
Ex Players Friendly


The club was established in 1958 and originally played in the Woking & District League. They joined the Surrey Intermediate League in 1967 before progressing to the Surrey Senior League in 1972. Their best finish here was 6th in 1975. They generally finished in the bottom half but in 1978, the club joined the Combined Counties League as founder members. The league was known as the Home Counties League for the inaugural season and Sheerwater spent four seasons here before dropping back down to the Surrey Leagues. Despite never pulling up any trees, the club rejoined the Combined Counties League in 2003. Despite mainly finishing in the lower reaches of the table, the club survived relegation due to lack of suitable replacements from the league below. Tightening ground grading regulations meant that the club had to leave the Sheerwater Recreation Ground in 2018. It was just a basic railed pitch and so they shared with local side Woking for a few seasons so they could maintain their status. Their fortunes had already started to improve, but their new surroundings inspired them to new heights as they won the CCL D1 title in 2019. Their new ground is now ready on the site of Bishop David Brown School. Their first two seasons at step 5 have been abandoned, but they sat in mid-table on both occasions.

Sheerwater have played two seasons in the FA Cup, but have yet to win a game, losing 2-1 to both CB Hounslow United & Corinthian. They had a mini-run in the FA Vase in 2018, beating  Lancing & Chessington & Hook before losing to Southall in the 1st Round. They also reached the same stage last season, losing to Raynes Park Vale. Sheerwater is a small suburb of Woking and is famous for being the place where the band 'The Jam' formed. Three teenage residents formed the band in the 1970s while attending Sheerwater's secondary school including Paul Weller – the remainder of the band he led also attended the school. The population of the area is around 3,500 and local facilities include an ASDA supermarket and several smaller shops including takeaways, a cafe and a pharmacy. Sheerwater had one pub, The Birch and Pines. This closed in April 2017.


I was stuck for a game to visit on this Saturday. My hope was to visit somewhere using the London Underground for a cheap day out but the choice was not that inspiring. Plus, there was plenty of rain forecast and although it may not be game wrecking, it wouldn't be very pleasant to walk it. It was sod's law that after a baking hot week when people were stuck in work, the weather took a turn for the worse at the weekend. It happened time and time again, seemingly out of spite. I had a decent alternative though. Sheerwater wasn't too much of a drive and they were opening their new ground. There was also the bonus of two games as their ex-players were facing a team of Woking FC veterans at 12 before the main event. I was hoping that I might see a few ex-Wycombe players on show. The ticket for both games was a bargain £5 and I bought this online, the day before.


I had a good night's sleep on the day before the game, 8.5 hours when I usually get 6 at the most. After my late night, I woke up at 10.15 and had to get a moved on. I was up, washed, dressed and had my things together before leaving at 10.35. I stopped at Lidl to get some brunch which consisted of a goats cheese focaccia, a pretzel, a double chocolate cookie and a Belgian bun. Together with a tube of Pringles-like crisps, it came to less than £3. Why other supermarkets have not emulated this next level bakery and continue to pedal the same old tired crap is beyond me. The original plan was to bring or purchase a couple of cans of cider, but having only been awake half an hour, it didn't feel right. I'm trying to cut down anyway, so perhaps it's a good thing. Of course, the M25 was on it's usual woeful form and I didn't get to the parking place of Sheerwater Recreation Ground until 11.55. The direction from the stewards was excellent and after a pleasant ten minute walk, I was at the ground. I showed my ticket and purchased a programme for £1.50. Thankfully the game kicked off at 12.15 but it did consist of two 30 minute halves. 

No lineups were published, but Woking had a number of recognisable faces. Sky commentator Martin Tyler, ex Gillingham man Neil Smith, former Arsenal player Ian Selley and their current manager Alan Dowson. They also had a female player, Mia, who played number 8 for them. The hosts scored the first goal at their new home after 8 minutes. They capitalised on a lax defence to take the lead. It was all square on 18 minutes a volleyed drive into the bottom right hand corner by Ian Selley. Sheerwater retook the lead on 36 minutes, a lovely 25-yard dipping shot that just snuck under the bar. There were good saves from both keepers, especially the Woking man who kept his side in the game. Sheerwater was the much younger side but after Woking bought Tyler on, experience told. It was 2-2 on 53 minutes, a header was saved at the left-hand post and Selley volleyed home the rebound. A couple of minutes from time, Selley turned home a cross from close range to complete his hat trick and win the game for Woking. I met some fellow hoppers after the game including Braintree fan Dan. We had a nice chat whilst waiting for the game. I also went up to the bar and typed my blog on my phone to kill time.


I met a few other hoppers including Joseph, AKA Groundhopping FC plus Dan's mates Richard and Andrew. Woking put out a strong side including former Wycombe man Max Kretzschmar. They dominated the first period and they took the lead on 16 minutes. Josh Casey set up former Wycombe man Max Kretzschmar who finished well past the keeper. The scorer turned provider for the second goal, crossing for George Oakley to attempt an overhead kick of sorts to give his side a 2-0 lead on 23 minutes. Woking dominated possession and made a number of changes at halftime, twice hitting the crossbar. The game slowed down a bit and chances dried up, Credit to the hosts for taking the sting out of the game. The result was sealed on 85 minutes when a trialist smashed home from the edge of the area. The second game hadn't been a patch on the first, but I'd enjoyed the game anyway. The game had pretty much sold out and I'd estimate an attendance of 500 at most. I was back at my car by 5 and home by 5.45. The evening consisted of typing my blog, a few ciders and Jay's Virtual Pub Quiz.


The Eastwood Centre is a work in progress but it looks to be a good base for Sheerwater. The whole of one side is covered, a mix of seating and standing for around 500. It's refreshing not to see the standard metal stand plonked down though they could do with some elevated seating. The rest of the ground is open, with around another 1000 spaces. The bar and tea bar are smart but offer a limited range that just about does the job. For a better selection, the centre of Sheerwater is about 10 minutes walk away, but has no pubs to my knowledge. Takeaways include 'Best Kebab' and a Chippy. For drinks, cans from Londis.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Northwood - Northwood Park

Northwood FC
Northwood Park
Chestnut Avenue

01923 827148
Official Website

Ground Number: 193
Tuesday 13th March 2012
Northwood 1-0 Harefield United
Help For Heroes Middlesex Charity Cup - Quarter Final


The club was established in 1926 although other clubs existed in the area as far back as 1899. They played in local leagues at first, such as the Harrow, Wembley and District League which they won seven times. They joined the Middlesex County League in 1969 and in 1978 were crowned champions, moving up to the Hellenic League. They won Division 1 at the first attempt in 1979 and had a credible 7th place finish in their debut season. In 1984, Northwood joined the Spartan League and after finishing runners-up in 1990, won the league in 1992. They joined the Isthmian League following the win, starting in Division 3. In 1997, a third place finish behind Wealdstone & Braintree Town was good enough for promotion to Division 2. At the turn of the millennium, it was another promotion party as Northwood finished second behind Hemel Hempstead Town to go up to Division 1.  They were champions in 2003 and the following season, just about survived relegation. The 2003/04 finish of 21st was the best in the club's history as at the time, it was a step 2 league. However, they didn't make the cut for the newly established Conference South and continued to struggle. They were moved to the Southern Premier in 2005 and a couple of years later, suffered relation for the first time as a semi-pro club. They've been in Isthmian & Southern step 4 leagues ever since, their best finish of 6th coming in 2009.

In the FA Cup, Northwood's best-ever run came in 2000. That season, they beat Rothwell Town, East Thurrock United, Hemel Hempstead Town and Uxbridge before losing to Grays Athletic in a 4th Qualifying Round Replay. They made their FA Trophy debut during the same season and enjoyed their best ever run there too. After beating Dartford & Purfleet, they went out in the 3rd Round to Canvey Island. The 1996/97 saw the club reach the FA Vase Quarter Final. They beat Wooton Blue Cross, Chalfont St Peter, Harlow Town, Histon & Durham City before losing to Banstead Athletic. Local cup wins include eight league cups during their time as members of the Harrow, Wembley & District League and also three as members of the Middlesex League. In more modern times, they've won the Hellenic League Cup (1979), the London Spartan League Cup (1992) and three league cups in the Isthmian League. In terms of County FA Cups, the Middlesex Intermediate Cup was won in 1979m whilst they've twice won the Senior Cup and have lifted the Charity Cup on four occasions.

The club's record attendance of 1,642 came for a friendly against Chelsea in 1997. The club's top scorer is Marin Ellis who found the net 156 times between 1976 and 1985. However, Lawrence Yaku, who went on to play for Maidenhead United grabbed 54 goals during the 1999/00. Club legend Chris Gell is record appearance holder with 489 appearances over two spells. Northwood is an area of North West London in the borough of Hillingdon. It has a population of just over 22,000. It is served by two underground stations on the Metropolitan Line - Northwood and Northwood Hills. Famous people from Northwood include radio presenter Fearne Cotton and  Big Brother's Nikki Grahame, Back in the 40s, the area witnessed an air disaster. On 4 July 1948 a Scandinavian Airlines Douglas DC-6 on a flight from Amsterdam to RAF Northolt collided with an RAF Avro York coming from Malta over Northwood. Both aircraft crashed, killing all 39 people on both aircraft.


I had been meaning to visit Northwood for some time to see a game. It was one of the grounds that I had yet to see a game at and also it was in a league I was looking to complete - the Southern League Division 1 Central, having already seen games at half the grounds in that league. I had actually attempted to go to this fixture twice previously, but owing to the bad weather in February it kept getting postponed. Finally, it was rescheduled for mid-March and luckily I didn't have a game already planned that day. On the day, I left home just after 6.30, listening to the non-league podcast on the way. About 4 miles into the journey I realised I'd left my cake and drink at home, but couldn't be bothered to go back. I got to the ground at about 7.20 and despite there being hardly anyone in the ground, the car park was almost full, presumably from the players of both teams. I paid £5 on the gate which included a free programme - not bad value. I walked around the ground getting various pictures and had a look at Facebook on my mobile before the game started.

The game itself was not too bad, though there was only one goal. It was settled by a great strike from Jack Hutchinson who blasted a shot into the top corner from about 25 yards out. There were quite a few more chances for Northwood but they failed to capitalise on their dominance. Harefield were struggling in the league below - the Spartan South Midlands division. The gulf in class showed, although to give credit to Harefield, they soaked up the pressure well but rarely threatened themselves. Had they got the equaliser and it had stayed that way for 90 minutes, it would have gone straight into a penalty shoot-out with no extra time. But it wasn't to be, and now Northwood faces Bedfont or Uxbridge in the semi-final of the competition.


During the pre-season, I was taking the opportunity to revisit grounds that I'd not been to for a while and Northwood was one of these. During the early days of my blog, I'd not bothered researching the club history, so I did that on the afternoon of the game. It had been a hard old day at work in a packed shop and I was looking forward to a bit of Friday night football to help me relax. I'd have the pleasure or hindrance (depending on what way you look at it) of fellow hopper Colin for the game for the second night in a row. After having dinner, I left at 6.30, meeting my fellow hopper in Amersham ten minutes later. It was a good journey over with Colin paying my £5 entry in lieu of petrol money. I appreciated the ground more on my second visit, it had really been smartened up and if I wasn't mistaken, a new stand had been added. There were around 100 in attendance including Chesham fan Giles. I got a few raffle tickets during the game but didn't win. Even so, I was glad to help out the club.

The game kicked off at 7.35 and saw Chesham wear a really smart yellow kit. The visitors were ahead within a couple of minutes. A cross from the left was put in and Ronny Mfindwa nipped in to glance a header past Northwood's trialist keeper from close range. There was a good attempt for an equaliser on 8 minutes, a shot from outside the area that Chesham keeper Sam Beasant did well to tip around the post. Chesham thought that they had a second on 11 minutes, the ball hit the right-hand post and the rebound was bundled in. However, the effort was ruled out for a foul. Northwood came close on 37 minutes, shooting wide of the top right-hand corner. However, there weren't a lot of chances. The hosts made lots of changes at halftime and emerged in blue, rather than red shirts. Chesham sealed the win four minutes from time, James Richardson rounding the keeper and slotting into an empty net. We left around 9.20, having had a good evening. I dropped Colin off at 9.50, getting home myself ten minutes later. I had a couple of ciders while watching TV and typing this blog. I was glad I'd made the revisit, it was a ground well worth revisiting.


NORTHWOOD PARK is a typical ground for this level, similar in size to another local team, AFC Hayes. It is a bit run down in places with graffiti and broken seats, but overall it is more than good enough for this level, and probably the next one up too. 3 and a half sides are terracing, about half of which is open. The remaining part had about 100 seats, and despite a couple being broken, they have good legroom and a fairly decent view. There is also a bar at the ground, with Sky TV for showing televised football, but no club shop to my knowledge.