Thursday, 3 December 2020

Bedford Town - The Eyrie

Bedford Town FC
The Eyrie
Meadow Lane
MK44 3SB

01234 831558

Ground Number: 235
Wednesday 26th December 2012
Bedford Town 3-0 St Neots Town
Southern League Premier Division


The current incarnation of the club was established in 1989, some 7 years after the previous club was disbanded. They played in local leagues at first, having only basic rented facilities to use in Queens Park, near their old home. They joined the South Midlands Division 1 in 1991 and after a 4th place finish in their debut season, were champions in 1993, moving into their current ground in Cardington for the following season. The higher level did not faze them and they were Premier Division champions in their debut season, moving up into Isthmian Division 3. A third-place finish in 1995 was good enough for a hat trick of promotions. Bedford Town would remain in Isthmian D2 until 1999 when they were champions. In 2001, the club finished as runners-up to Boreham Wood in Division 1, earning promotion to the Premier Division. After a few mid-table finishes, including 2003 which saw their best-ever finish - 9th at step 3, reorganisation saw them transfer to the Southern Premier in 2004. This was after they lost an epic playoff game 5-4 to St Albans City to miss out on promotion to the newly-established Conference South. They were not to be denied in 2006, beating Bath City 1-0 and Chippenham Town 3-2 to reach the promised land. Their stay would be a short one with a bottom place finish and after a series of disappointing finishes, they were relegated to the Southern D1 Central in 2014. The club missed out on promotion in 2019, following a 4th place finish they lost 5-3 to Corby Town in the playoff semi-finals. Bedford Town were sitting in 12th when the league was cut short in mid-March but they've done a bit better this season with them in 5th place when the season was paused a month ago.

In the FA Cup, the reformed club's best-ever run in the FA Cup came during the 2001/02 season. After overcoming Leyton, Hednesford Town and Harlow Town, the club drew Football League side Peterborough United at home. They held them to a 0-0 draw at home before losing out narrowly 2-1 in the replay at London Road. As for the FA Trophy, their second debut season of 1999/2000 produced a memorable run with them beating Leatherhead and Newport County, prior to a 4-0 defeat to Yeovil Town in the 4th Round.  The previous season saw them enjoy a great run in the FA Vase, beating Biggleswade Town, Eynesbury Rovers, Ibstock Welfare, Fakenham Town and Wroxham before losing 2-1 against Tiverton Town in the 5th Round. The club's record attendance of 3,000 came for the ground opener against Peterborough United when 3,000 turned out for the game. Well known players to turn out for Bedford Town include Craig Mackail Smith, Anthony Elding and Paul Benson.

The old Bedford Town were active from 1908 until 1982, disbanding when they lost their ground after the Charles Wells Brewery refused to renew their lease, the area is now used for warehousing. League highlights include being crowned Southern League Champions in 1959, but it was the FA Cup where they really made their mark, with the 'proper' rounds of the FA Cup being reached on 13 occasions. The best of these runs came in the 1960s with them reaching the 4th Round twice in three seasons between 1964 and 1966. The latter of these saw them defeat Football League sides Exeter City and Brighton & Hove Albion prior to a 3-0 defeat to Everton which attracted their record attendance at Queens Park of 18,407. They also reached the FA Trophy semi-finals in 1975 before losing to Scarborough. Barry Fry both played for and managed the old club. An excellent site with a comprehensive history can be found HERE.

Bedford Town FC shares the town with Bedford FC, formerly known as Bedford United with the ground practically next door to their own. There are also five rugby teams in the town of various statures and codes. The most well-established of these is Bedford Blues who play in Union's second tier with a 5,000 capacity ground in the De Parys area of the town. Bedford itself has a population of just under 107,000 (or the borough of Bedford has a population of just under 158,000) with a large Italian settlement, according to a 2001 census, as high as 30% of the population had at least part Italian heritage. It was the filming location of several episodes of the sitcom 'Some Mothers Do Ave Em' during the 1970s. Famous people from the town include boxer Joe Bugner, Ski Jumper Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards and footballers Kelvin Davis, Calum Davenport, Barry Fry and Andy Johnson. Outside of sport, the town was also home to TV presenter Carol Vorderman and comedian Al Murray who went to the famous school in the town.


My second game of the day was to be Bedford Town v St Neots in the Southern League Premier Division. I was happy when Chaz said he would come with me to the second game, as football is always better with company. I originally had Cambridge City as a backup plan should this game be called off, but thankfully it was not needed as the pitch passed a 10.30am inspection and it was game on. After dropping Ryan off we were on our way and arrived at an already busy ground at 2.30. I had previously been to take pictures of Bedford Town and also Bedford FC's ground next door on the way to Peterborough in 2007 and had always fancied going back for a game. Especially when I heard the programme shop at the ground had a good reputation. And fully justified it was too, with everything laid out really neatly, with individual piles of programmes for each team, priced at 50p each. I could have spent ages looking, but I just looked for all the league ones I needed, picking up a Blackpool v Wycombe one from a game I went to in 2003. I also got the day's programme to add to my collection.

By the time of kick-off, it had started to rain and so after getting some chips we went and took shelter under the terrace at the near end of the ground. There was one name I recognised from each side. Nick Beasant for Bedford had a trial for Wycombe about 10 years ago. And for St Neots, it was the former Aston Villa and QPR striker Stefan Moore. The game was not as good as the previous one at Biggleswade and took a while to get started. The impressive crowd of 567 would have to wait until the hour mark for the opening goal, a curling shot from Will Green from around 15 yards. Good work down the left allowed Mark Bell to grab a second and an own goal from John-Paul Duncliffe wrapped up the game a minute from time. There'd not been a huge amount of difference between the sides in a dull game, but the formbook had rung true with St Neots going six games without a win.

It had been a good day, seeing two games of football and meeting some good people. The only downside of it was getting flashed by a speed camera on the way home. More fool me, as I have been past it a fair few times, but was just keeping pace with the car in front. Looking at my speedo I was only doing about 5mph over the speed limit, so hopefully, I will get lucky and won't be contributing to next years Hertfordshire Police Christmas party. Sadly, that was not to be the case as I tidy up this blog in 2020. I took my punishment and if I recall correctly, went on a speed awareness course later the next year.


Initially, Bedford Town wasn't high on my list of grounds to revisit as I'd already been there since I'd started my blog. However, the club had a really interesting history and so I really wanted to cover it in my blog. The opportunity came when football resumed after the second lockdown. It had been 29 days since my last game at Broadbridge Heath and I was looking forward to getting back. I've covered the break more in next Saturday's blog but I'd been hoping to get a ticket for the Wycombe Wanderers v Stoke City game. However, with capacity being limited to 1,000 and me getting my season ticket fairly late on, I was always going to miss out. Salvation came in the form of Bedford Town who had a couple of hour-long friendly games against Peterborough Sports, entry being just a fiver with no booking fee. I was hoping to rope fellow hopper Anwar in but he got one of the last tickets for the Wycombe game, being further up the list than me. It was a busy day at work for me, working from 5 am-3.30 pm and I didn't have much time at home, having a bath and some dinner before leaving at 5.15. It was a decent journey over once I'd got off of local roads and I arrived at 6.35. I found out on my emails that I'd been offered a ticket for the Wycombe game, but now it was too late, hopefully, I will return on Saturday week with more than a couple of hours notice. Getting in was quick, efficient and friendly. I got myself some chips to help the club out, they were a decent, freshly cooked portion for £2.50. I also got a small pennant for £3 and although I could have been watching my own team, I was going to enjoy my evening.

The first game was pretty open and Bedford hit the post on 7 minutes through Will Summerfield. Peterborough Sports gradually took control and they went in front on 17 minutes when Lewis Hillard attacked down the left and his shot went under home keeper Alex Street. The referee was in no mood for any backchat and the Peterborough Sports #7 was carded for protesting too loudly about a potential handball. The lead was doubled on the half-hour mark, thanks to another attack down the left, a diagonal shot from the edge of the area neatly found the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Peterborough Sports pulled one back on 45 minutes when a cross from Dan Walker was headed on for Connor Tomlinson to finish from point-blank range. The visitors restored their two-goal lead within a minute, so quickly that I was still writing down details of the initial goal. The hosts did pull one back on 59 minutes, a square ball across the edge of the area was neatly slotted home by Rene Howe. There was only a ten-minute break between the games, but they had Radio 5 over the tannoy to keep everyone entertained.

The second game kicked off at 20:13 and saw ex Wycombe player Craig Mackail Smith introduced for Bedford Town, one of a raft of substitutes made. Again, the visitors started the better side and they took the lead on 29 minutes, a shot rifled home from just inside the area which ended up in the top right-hand corner. Mackail-Smith was showing his class and causing the visitors all kinds of problems. He got away from the defence and this led to the #18 pulling him down as the last man. The referee initially sent him off, but after much pleading from the Peterborough Sports manager 'Please ref, we've got a Trophy game next week!' the man in black relented and let him stay on. It was good and sensible refereeing as it wasn't dangerous play or dissent and it was good to see the official listen to reason. The resulting free-kick was neatly dispatched by Will Summerfield to make the game all square on 48 minutes. Bedford Town took the lead and the second game when a good through ball found Mackail-Smith and he finished neatly past the keeper who got some gloves on the ball but couldn't prevent it going in. Peterborough Sports could have got a late equaliser, but it was ruled out for offside. It had been a great evening out, I'd enjoyed myself at a friendly club. It was about 9.20 by the time I left, an injury-ravaged Wycombe had just gone behind to Stoke as I was walking across the car park. It was how it stayed and it was the only disappointment of a good journey home, with me getting in an hour later. I stayed up for an hour before going to sleep, watching Corrie in bed.


THE NEW EYRIE is a smart modern ground that is probably good enough to grace Blue Square Premier Football, with the addition of more seats if the need arises. It has already seen Blue Square South action when they were in that league a few seasons ago. All 4 sides of the ground are covered. Along the side where the bar, changing room and club shop is, there is a seated stand holding around 300 fans. At the near end of the ground, there is a terrace that holds around 800 under over. Again like so many others it is a metal one, but it provides good shelter on what was a rainy day. The other 2 sides were mainly open, but they had small areas of cover, probably holding around 150 each.

As mentioned the programme shop is excellent, and there is another shop which sells the usual range of merchandise. The tea bar is pretty good too. As for the bar, I didn't go in, but it is probably the only option as the ground is a long way from anywhere


The ground is still a very neat set up and is ready to go for the Conference South. The floodlights are also very good for the level. The only difference is that the programme shop has disappeared, this is now an outside patio for the bar. The food is still decent and freshly cooked and the club shop is well stocked with items at great prices (you can check out the range on the club website). It's sad that a town the size of Bedford has only got a step 4 club, though a lot of it is down to apathy from the general public. They should support their local team more as everyone is nice and friendly and there's a lot of potential there.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Broadbridge Heath - Countryside Stadium

Broadbridge Heath FC
The Countryside Stadium
Wickhurst Lane
Broadbridge Heath
West Sussex
RH12 3YS

01403 283654

Ground Number: 942
Tuesday 3rd November 2020
Broadbridge Heath 0-4 Whitehawk
Sussex Senior Cup


The club was established in 1919 by demobilised soldiers from the First World War. They joined the Horsham & District League upon formation, winning the league and the league cup in their first season. The club would remain here for some time, right up until 1970 when the competition was absorbed into the West Sussex League. Starting in Division 3, Broadbridge Heath won promotion in their second season as well as winning the Charity Cup the season before. They won another promotion to Division 1 in 1976 but two years later left to join the Southern Counties Combination League. In 1983 this was merged into the Sussex County League. Broadbridge Heath started out in Division 3 and remained there until 1988 when a third-place finish behind Ifield and Midway was good enough for promotion. Despite struggling for a lot of their first spell in Division 2, they won promotion after a 3rd place finish behind East Preston & Eastbourne United in 1998. They'd only last the one season in Division 1 with the team winning just 4 games all season and finishing rock-bottom. Aside from a couple of good seasons, Broadbridge Heath continued to struggle and would be relegated back to Division 3 in 2008. a 5th place finish in 2012 was deemed good enough for promotion back to Division 2. This time they would fare a lot better in Division 2 and in 2014 would finish as runners-up to Eastbourne United to seal promotion to the top tier. The club has remained there ever since, though the league has been renamed the Southern Combination. In 2018-19 Broadbridge Heath enjoyed their best-ever finish in their history as they finished 6th in the Premier Division They were 16th last March when the season was abandoned and this time out they sit a place lower at the time of the game. 

Broadbridge Heath have a disappointing record in the FA Cup not yet progressed beyond the Preliminary Round. They were due to play Haywards Heath this season but the game was forfeited due to Covid regulations. Their record in the FA Vase is not much better though, in 2017-8, they did reach the 2nd Round. After beating Southwick, AFC Croydon Athletic and Kensington Borough they travelled to the eventual winners Thatcham Town and found themselves on the end of an 8-2 defeat. In local cups, they won the West Sussex League Division 3 Charity Cup in 1971. The village of Broadbridge Heath has a population of around 3,000 and is located a couple of miles from Horsham.


Sadly, a  second national 'lockdown' had been announced on Saturday evening and so, this was all set to be my last game for at least a month. Well, a lockdown of sorts, unlike last time the schools will be open - despite this being where the vast majority of infections occur outside of care and medical situations. The message seemed to be - no restrictions on working (unless you can work from home) but huge implications on your personal freedom. All par for the course with the worst government in my working lifetime and the opposition is as bad, if not worse as they are supposed to offer hope, yet bar Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, none of them are talking any sense. I was going to enjoy life while it lasted, but sadly I was unable to find a Monday game despite being happy to travel pretty much anywhere as long as it was in the 'medium' Covid tier and a new ground. The options on Tuesday were limited too, but fellow hopper Anwar was keen to come. Games at Wednesfield, Heath Hayes and Shirebrook Town were ruled out due to them being in the 'high' Covid tier - no point taking a risk when you don't need to. That left us with options at Holwell Sports, Stowmarket Town, Cribbs, Chipping Sodbury and Amesbury Town. Anwar chose the first option and that was fine by me, for once there looked to be no issues with the weather but it was going to be a chilly one. I've let my dislike for Sundays known on this blog many times, but this week was one of the worst. News of the lockdown caused panic buying, despite the supermarkets remaining open for the duration. Then there was the usual lack of social distancing and people not wearing masks properly or at all. Add to that, double-figure groups meeting and treating the shop like a social club and parents treating the place like a creche and letting their offspring run amok, scream the place down and get under your feet, it was a day from hell and due to the extra work, I was there for twelve and a half hours. The government must take the bulk of the blame for their handling of this pandemic, but a minority of the public has not helped and Sunday always seems to attract the dregs of society.

Thankfully, Monday was a far happier day with my shift lasting half as long and me leaving work in a far happier mood with the prospect of a day off the following day. I finalised my plans on Monday afternoon and picked a couple of potential places for dinner as well as researching the club history and team's form. I was really looking forward to my last game in a while, but others would not be so lucky with Covid calling some games off and the Southern League encouraging teams to postpone - madness when it is still legal and there will be a limited time to complete fixtures. The news that everyone was expecting came on Monday afternoon with the ruling that there would be no 'non-elite' football played during the lockdown. I had my usual early night on Monday and woke up at 7.30 on Tuesday to the disappointing news that my game had been called off. It was disappointing and another club history added to the 'draft' section of my blog, but it was the correct decision with a couple of the hosts' clubs players awaiting test results. I needed an alternative and with Anwar opting to go for a revisit at Risborough Rangers, I needed an alternative plan. Lots of options had already fallen but with me choosing to head south, a lot more opened up. I went for the Oakwood v Lancing Sussex Cup tie over options at Chipping Sodbury, Amesbury, Hamble Club, Hythe & Dibden & Broadbridge Heath. Yet another spanner was thrown in the works with a pitch inspection scheduled for the afternoon and with the pitch inspection failed, I decided to head for Broadbridge Heath which had the bonus of a 7.15 kick-off. I walked down town and stocked up with a few bits around lunchtime, before getting a lift home. I did more research in the afternoon, before leaving around 4.30. The journey was a mixed bad, the M25 providing 40-minutes delay, but I've had worse. My Salt & Chilli chip tour continued at Mandarin House in Horsham. Though they were pricey for the portion at £3.70, they were excellent and service was good. From there, it was ten minutes to the ground and I got there at 6.45, stopping for petrol at the local Tesco before parking up. I went past the old stadium which was still intact football-wise but being used for athletics. I was given a friendly welcome, paying £7 for entry and £1 for a programme.

Broadbridge Heath had enjoyed mixed fortunes in their last six games with three victories over Langney Wanderers (2-0), Hassocks (1-0) and AFC Uckfield Town (4-1). They'd suffered three defeats against Lancing (3-4), Saltdean United (1-2) and Alfold (4-5). Whithawk meanwhile sat in 16th in the Isthmian D1 South East and were in disappointing form. They'd beaten Phoenix Sports 2-0 and Barton Rovers 2-1, drawn 1-1 with Faversham but lost 3-0 to Cray Wanderers, 2-1 at Hastings United and 3-1 at Herne Bay. There was a notable name in the visitors line up, former Wycombe defender Adam El-Abd. He looked solid all night, a wise old head but wasn't really troubled. The exchanges were fairly equal early on, but gradually, they asserted their authority. They took the lead on 20 minutes, a header from a corner which was credited by the Whitehawk Twitter as an own goal. They doubled their lead on 40 minutes, James Fraser netting following a goalmouth scramble. They hit the bar too a few minutes later and were well in control at half time. I managed to get both goals on camera too, more by luck than judgement. The hosts started the second half brightly and had a few half-chances which came to nothing. Whitehawk sealed the game with a couple of goals around the hour mark. Firstly Robert Sobowale tapped home a low cross and then Lucas Rodrigues completed a fine run by cutting in from the right and curling a shot home. The rest of the game saw decent spells for both, the visitors looking the most likely to score but there were no further goals in this entertaining game. I left at 9.10, listening to Manchester City's game against Olympiakos on Radio 5 before getting in at 10.25. I was in bed shortly after 11 after finishing this blog. Tomorrow will be my last day of freedom, the plan is a couple of pints in town before coming home for the Birmingham v Wycombe game. That said, this lockdown is bodged, the figures week on week see a 10% reduction in cases, no coincidence that last week was half term, but I'm guessing there is no reasoning with the idiot decision-makers.


The Countryside Stadium is a smart but basic setup, but more than good for the level. There are two covered areas - one standing and one seated, holding around 50 each. The rest of the ground is open. There's a nice bar with Appleshed Cider a real ale and sports TV. The tea bar is quite basic with hot and cold drinks, snacks and Hot Dogs for hot food. There's also a Tesco nearby and plenty of parking, though if you park in Tesco, there's a time limit. The programme is £1 and is excellent value, having some decent content in it.