Saturday, 2 July 2022

Abbey Hulton United - Drayton Beaumont Park

Abbey Hulton FC
Drayton Beaumont Park
Birches Head Road
Abbey Hulton

01782 570302

Ground Number: 1081
Saturday 2nd July 2022
Abbey Hulton United 1-4 Congleton Town


Abbey Hulton United FC was established in 1947. They played in the Longton League at first, before moving to the Burslem & Tunstall League. They were champions of the latter in 1979. Later, they moved to the Fenton & District League where they were runners-up in 1982 before being crowned champions the following year. They moved to their current ground in 1985 and this allowed them to make the step up to the Staffordshire County League in 1987. Fortunes varied here but they were league champions in 1998. They then moved to the Midland League (no connection to the current competition of the same name) where after a series of mid-table finishes they were champions in 2004. The league merged with the Staffordshire County League after this to form the Staffordshire County Senior League. Abbey Hulton United generally finished in the top half of the table and in 2015 they finished 3rd. Two years later, they were league champions, winning promotion to the North West Counties League in the process. They've been in the league's second-tier ever since, which has been the regionalised South Division 1 since 2018. Their best finish came in 2019 when they finished 8th. 

The club has not yet entered the FA Cup, but they have played in the FA Vase. Their best run came in 2020/21 as they beat Shawbury United 3-2,  Ashby Ivanhoe 3-1 and Racing Club Warwick 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw. Their run came to an end in the 2nd Round as they lost 3-2 at Coventry United. Local cup honours include the Staffordshire County League Cup in 1998, the Fenton & District League & Charity Cup double in 1983 and the Burslem & Tunstall League Cup in 1979. Abbey Hulton is an area of Stoke-on-Trent, named after the abbey that existed between the 13th and 16th centuries. It has a population of just below 10,000. In the Domesday Book, Hulton is recorded as ‘Heltone’ meaning ‘hill town’. It is located a couple of miles from Hanley, one of the main Potteries towns and home of Hanley Town FC. There are also a few ex-Staffordshire League sides nearby, most notably Eastwood Hanley and Norton United as well as Football League side Port Vale, located in Burslem.


We were finally in July, which meant the games were starting to become more abundant. With the FA's 'advice' that no football was to be played in June, it has been a real famine. I'd have loved to gave seen a game on Tuesday, 28th June, one of the sixteen days of the year that I'd not seen a game on. However, there was nothing suitable available without a car full due to costs and all of my hoppers were either unavailable or off-route. The nearest available game for me was New Inn v Newport City, a 260-mile round trip. What with the rapidly rising costs of petrol, I decided to give it a miss, although I might have done it had it been a competitive game rather than a friendly. Has my original choice of Pagham v Farnham Town been on, I might have considered it as it was 'only' 190 miles but that was canceled. It was a shame as Sunday and Monday had been testing days at work and I really could have gone with something to look forward to. At least I had this arranged as early as Sunday evening, although it would mean a bit of compromise on my part. I'd have to drive to somewhere in Hertfordshire to the meeting point and it would be officially a reserve game and a revisit for my two games. However, the alternatives weren't amazing either, so I decided to go with it.

The week went by slightly quicker than last week, though there was still not much midweek football available. That would soon end with games planned on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of next week. I looked further ahead to my birthday weekend and put the finishing touches to my plans for a few days in Lancashire. I walked into town on Friday night and walked down the Rose and Crown. A couple of pints were had although with the chips I had, it undid the benefits of any exercise. I had a good night's sleep for once and was woken by my alarm at 6.15. I had a pot of porridge for breakfast before leaving at 6.30. I drove to our arranged pickup point, arriving five minutes early but the other guys were there waiting for me. We were soon on our way, stopping after just ten minutes as Dan wanted some food and drink. We made good progress and stopped at Eastwood Hanley for pictures, getting there just after 10. We stayed a good half hour as the club was really friendly and had a good chat. We then stopped at Six Towns Oatcakes where I had sausage egg and cheese & bacon egg and cheese oatcakes which were excellent. It's a shame they are only a local delicacy but I always treat myself when in this area. We got to the ground at 11.30 and as it was free entry, I got myself another oatcake and a Strongbow Dark Fruits for £5. It was not quite as good as the one I had earlier, but still great and very filling.

Congleton started well catching the hosts cold and scoring within 30 seconds. It was all square after five minutes, a goal following a free-kick that was hit into the wall. The visitors retook the lead on 10 minutes, a passing move ending with a low shot from inside the area. Congleton continued to dominate and made it 3-1 from close range after they hit the bar a few times on 55 minutes. Congleton hit the post a minute later and on 67 minutes an Abbey Hulton shot thumped the bar. The visitors made sure of the win on 85 minutes with a low-driven shot from the edge of the area. The win was well deserved although the hosts improved towards the end.

Following our first game, we made our way to Rocester for their game with Stoke City. It was good to try a new cider in their bar - Sharps Cold River but it was nothing special. I'd been before, so didn't need to do a blog. It was a decent game, Stoke winning 3-2 after Rocester had come back from 2-0 down to equalise. The game was a cup dedicated to the memory of Don Hill, the man who established their home ground. There were plenty of dogs about including one who jumped on Dan who had already had a rollicking from his Dad over the phone about his laundry. I was still full up from my earlier food to eat there but the food looked decent. We left just after 5 and made steady progress. I tried to do my blog on the way home but the internet speed was woeful. I was back at Hemel by 7.40 and home by 8.15. I was finally able to sort my photos and get my blog uploaded while enjoying a couple of drinks.


DRAYTON BEAUMONT PARK is a decent setup for the level. The best bit is the tea bar which does an excellent range of food including oatcakes. The bar is smart enough but only does cans and bottles. The ground itself is OK, in a nice setting with a couple of small 'Arena'' seated stands. It's worth a visit as everyone at the club is really friendly.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Chepstow Town - Larkfield Park

Chepstow Town FC
Larkfield Park
Newport Road 
NP16 5PR

01291 629220

Ground Number: 1080
Saturday 25th June 2022
Chepstow Town 2-0 Portishead Town


The club is one of the oldest in Wales, having been formed in 1878. They were known as Chepstow Castle for some time and have played at various grounds including Bulwark, which means 'defensive wall'. Other grounds include St Mary's Institute which is now occupied by a Tesco supermarket. Up until the start of World War 1, the club played in the East Gwent League but led a nomadic existence thereafter playing in the Welsh League at first before joining the Gloucestershire Senior Northern League which they won in 1932. During World War 2 their ground was taken over by the Ministry of Defence and used as a supply depot for the war effort. At the end of the war, returning local servicemen wanted to revive football in the area. The club was then reformed incorporating Chepstow Boys Club and Fairfield FC. They joined the Monmouthshire County League and great success was enjoyed here which led to Chepstow rejoining the Welsh League. They were Division 2 champions in 1965 but increased travelling expenses saw them drop back down to the Gwent leagues. Chepstow Town would rejoin the Welsh League in 1997 and would win promotion in their first season, finishing as runners-up in Division 3 behind Milford United. They had two credible 5th place finishes in Division 2 (their best ever at step 3) but fortunes soon tailed off and they were relegated to Division 3 in 2002 and then back to the Gwent County League in 2007. It took the club until 2012 to become champions and win promotion back. Chepstow Town continued to yoyo between Division 2 and 3 (steps 3 and 4 of the Welsh pyramid). The club were in Division 2 when the pandemic interrupted football. When they returned, it was at the same level in the Ardal South East where the club finished 9th last season.

Chepstow is one of the most easterly towns in Wales and is on the border with Gloucestershire. It has a population of around 12,500. Chepstow Castle, situated on a clifftop above the Wye and its bridge, is often cited as the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain. The castle was established by William FitzOsbern immediately after the Norman conquest and was extended in later centuries before becoming ruined after the Civil War. The port of Chepstow became noted in the Middle Ages for its imports of wine, and also became a major centre for the export of timber and bark, from nearby woodland in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. Chepstow is also well known for its racecourse, which has hosted the Welsh National each year since 1949. According to the 2011 census, 1147 Chepstow residents (9.2%) described themselves as 'Welsh speakers', with an additional 465 people having 'some Welsh skills'. The town also has a rugby club and famous sportsmen to come from the town include former Hereford United player and Welsh international Paul Parry as well as Eddie Parris, the first black player to play international football for Wales.


Our original choice of Devizes Town was a ground that I'd fancied visiting for a long time. During the lockdown, I eased the tedium by making a spreadsheet of grounds I needed to visit, what hopper it would be best to offer a lift to (if any) and public transport options in some cases. But most important of all, whether there were any pubs which were worth a visit to make a day out or trip away with it. Devizes was one of those that scored highly on the latter, but it was a bit of a pain on public transport, what with it not having a train station. Long before fellow hopper Dan passed his driving test, I implored him to take me to Devizes once he had passed, in return for all the lifts I gave him around 2015 & 2016. It didn't quite work out that way though. However, I was able to secure a lift with his regular driver Richard who had kindly given me a lift to Norwich United and the Hellenic Hop. It would be cheaper and quicker than the bus and all I had to do was get myself up near the M40 junction at High Wycombe to be picked up. This suited me fine and I was glad to accept the offer.

The midweek went very slowly, the general public not improving in their behaviour and with the sun blazing, they came out in their droves at work. Tuesday saw me pop up to see Colin to sort out our weekend away, which eventually turned out to be Bolton and Blackpool based. It took a lot of patience and planning on my part as Colin is not the best at that sort of thing. However, he was happy to pay for what I booked for him and I was glad to have him for the company and also to cut down on accommodation costs. It was also a bit of a dummy run to see what he was like to share with in advance of the potential Scottish hop later this year. Wednesday saw the hosts confirm the fixture which was great as there were not many options about. Thursday was not a great day, another busy day at work. Whilst I was toiling, I found out that Seend United had opted to pull out of the fixture on Saturday. It was very disappointing, but at least they gave a bit of notice. The Wycombe fixtures came out and I was initially pleased that we'd not had home fixtures on the first few FA Cup rounds but there were a lot more cons than pros. We'd had a lot of home games scheduled for when I was off work and half already booked trips or had groundhop days pencilled in which is one of the perils of an employer that demands that you book your entire year's holiday by the end of April. I'd rushed into changing my Eurostar to March which I later discovered was an international weekend. I wished I'd stuck with the original date, but they wanted £30 to change it back. The original date had been cancelled due to the pandemic and with unlimited pushbacks, there wasn't really any harm done. I did however doubt whether I will stick with getting a season ticket though, but I'm erring towards it as it's five games free.
I could have done with a drink after all that but decided to stay disciplined and wait until the weekend. At least I did have something to cheer as a replacement game was sourced. Chepstow Town v Portishead Town was a decent shout and Richard was still happy to drive. Chepstow was the home of one of my favourite cider makers, Troggi and so I contacted them to see if they had any stockists in the town. Sadly, they did not respond in what was a pretty hectic and unpleasant Friday. I was just glad to get home and have a few drinks to take the edge off of what hadn't been the best of weeks. I awoke early on the day of the game after a fairly typical five hours sleep. I did think about either walking to ASDA or going out for exercise, but in the end, I couldn't be bothered.

I drove up to work and parked, one of the few perks of the job. It was then a five-minute walk to Five Guys where we had arranged to meet. We left at 9.40 and the journey dragged a bit although I was in good company. We were there by midday, following a lengthy diversion after the M48 bridge was closed. Chepstow were super friendly and they have us a mini ground tour including showing us the new dressing rooms. We then headed to Tesco hoping to stock up on some Welsh goodies but the selection was disappointing with Black Dragon cider out of stock. We then headed to the Wetherspoons, the Bell Hanger where I had fish and chips with a pint of Black Dragon. It was a very nice Wetherspoons but service was pretty slow with my drink taking 15 minutes to come, although to be fair, there was an apology. The food took even longer, and very poor management left them short-staffed. My fish and chips were only lukewarm too, due to being the quicker of the two meals on our table but it was a lovely bit of fish. It was then a short walk to the Queen's Head Micropub. A fantastic place, I had a pint of Seidr O Sir Sych which was super dry and this was the sort of thing that I'd come for. It was a ten-minute walk from here to the ground where entry was free and so I'd really rate Chepstow as one of my favourite places in the UK.

The game was an end-to-end affair but just before half-time, Chepstow took the lead, with a goal on the break and a low finish. It was a fairly dull game with both sides getting back into the stride of things although Chepstow were well on top. The hosts made it 2-0 on 88 minutes, with a low shot from the edge of the area. We left around 5, the only bonus about the diversion was that it took longer to get back to England and the unwelcome parcel of muck that was Sunday. I was going to get my blog done on the way home but my camera was not transferring photos for whatever reason. We were back in Wycombe by 7.30 and with me peckish, I headed to the Mandarin House Chinese. I got myself salt and pepper chips and house special chow mein. The portions were very generous and the chips filled me up. I got home at 8.10 and saved my Chow Mein for the next day's lunch at work.


LARKFIELD PARK is a decent setup for the level, not especially characterful but very well kept. There is just the one covered stand with around 100 seats and there is further cover around the bar area. The bar itself is a smart place with a basic selection of drinks. The town is a ten-minute walk away and includes an excellent Micropub called Queen Victoria which had a great range of drinks. There is also a Wetherspoons and various takeaways nearby. The club are really friendly and I couldn't recommend a visit more.