Sunday, 28 August 2016

Needham Market - Bloomfields

Needham Market FC
Quinton Road
Needham Market

Ground Number: 610
Friday 26th August 2016
Needham Market 5-1 Leiston
Eastern Counties D1


NEEDHAM MARKET were formed in 1919, although there has been evidence of a previous club in the town. They've played in local leagues for much of their history and it from their last, the Suffolk & Ipswich League, that they moved into semi-professional football. It was from there that they joined the Eastern Counties League, starting in it's second tier in the 1996/97 season. They started well, finishing 4th or 5th in their first 6 seasons. Although they tailed off to 2 lower-half finishes in 2003 and 2004, the 2004/05 season saw them finish runners-up to Ipswich Wanderers to earn promotion to the Premier Division. The success continued and they spent 5 successful seasons here. 2009/10 saw them beat Cambridge Regional College to the Eastern Counties Premier by a single point, and therefore promotion to the Isthmian League. Starting in Division 1 North, 5 seasons were spent here, including 2 playoff failures until they were champions in 2015. Last season saw a downturn in results, but they still survived a relegation spot by 11 points, thanks to Farnborough's demotion.

In the FA Cup, the club's best season came in 2013/14. They beat Haverhill Rovers, Brantham Athletic, Dunstable Town & AFC Sudbury before facing football league bound Cambridge United. They ran them close, losing 1-0 in the 4th Qualifying Round tie, though they did have the consolation of garnering their highest ever attendance of 1,784. Little success has been had in the FA Trophy but they did reach the FA Vase semi-final in 2007/08, losing to Kirkham & Wesham  (now called AFC Fylde) They would gain revenge on the newly named club the following season, beating them in the 4th Round before losing out to Chalfont St Peter in the Quarter Final after a replay.

In terms of local cups. there have been wins aplenty in recent times, with the Eastern Counties League Cup, Suffolk Premier Cup, Suffolk Senior Cup and East Anglian Cup all won since the turn of the century. Their reserves joined the Eastern Counties Division 1 in 2013 and have found things tough, finishing bottom of the league last time out, and shipping 120 goals in the process. A number of ex-professionals have played for the club, including former Wycombe man Ian Westlake and Kemi Izzett whose brother Muzzy starred in the Premiership for Leicester City. As for the town of Needham Market itself, the most famous person to hail from there is June Brown, who plays Dot Cotton in Eastenders.


I'd been wanting to visit the Museum for computing history in Cambridge for a while now,  but had struggled to tie it in with a game. The opportunity came on this Friday night when Needham Market were at home, so I decided to do it,  even though it was only the reserves. I figured that a visit to the Museum was worth about £20 all in,  so with the entry fee being £8, I could dock £12 of the petrol off my football costs. On the day of the game I was working until 12 and so after finishing I grabbed some chicken for lunch before getting on my way. Due to 30 minutes delay on the A414 at Hatfield due to some malfunctioning traffic lights I didn't get to Cambridge until 3. I went round the museum, and although it wasn't as big as I expected,  it was still worth a visit. I still wish I'd gone via Braintree to pick up mates instead,  but what's done is done. 

I still had plenty of time to kill after leaving at 3.40, so I stopped at Stowmarket Town FC to get pictures before making my way to the town's Wetherspoons. The Willow Tree was pretty average,  but I enjoyed my Vindaloo and chips for £2.99, plus a pint of Mr Whiteheads Midnight Special Perry for £2.85. I'd initially planned to indulge in fish Friday but as ever changed my mind when I saw the specials on offer. It was still only 5.40 when I left to make the short trip to Needham Market. After making a brief stop at Tesco for petrol I got to Needham Market at 6.10. With still over 90 minutes to go until kick-off I walked into town and went to what looked the best pub, The Rampant Horse. There I had a pint of Aspalls and caught up online. I've had the cider many times before, and it's a halfway house between the dross like Strongbow and Magners and the premium real cider. At least it was locally produced,  being a Suffolk cider. I had a look round the town,  which was very pretty but there was not a huge amount to do.

From there I walked back to ground, paying £5 entry plus £1 for a programme. After taking some pictures of the ground I stood between the the two dugouts for the game. Both teams came into this game in the lower reaches of the table, with the hosts especially disappointing with only 1 win from 7, ironically against today's opponents who they defeated 6-4 in the second game of the season. The goals had certainly been flying in, mainly at the wrong end as they had suffered 6-3, 8-2 and 12-2 defeats in the last 3 games. Visitors Leiston were similarly porous in defence with the second worst goal difference in the league of -14. Back to tonight, I was glad when the floodlights came on OK - during Tuesday's game against Canvey Island in the Ryman League, one side of the ground was left in darkness, and the referee, not happy with the reduced light, abandoned the game with the visitors leading 2-1 at the break.

Those defensive frailties did not translate into the first half of the game, with both sides struggling to create any quality in the final third. Needham Market had 2 goals ruled out by the linesman's flag as Leiston played the offside trap well. Though the hosts started  well on top, Leiston soon had a spell where they were dominant, during which they took the lead. On 24 minutes Ryan Sharman was fed a good pass and his deflected shot ended up in the back of the net. This was in the midst of their best spell and they will regret not capitalising on their chances. Just befor half time Needham Market were level when James Carragher finished from Tobie Stoller's excellent cross. The second half was a different story as Needham Market found their scoring boots.

It wasn't until the 67th minute that they did score though - Ben Frost's great run set up Santo Sarro-Haire and he showed ice cool composure to round the keeper and slot into an empty net. A minute later, scorer turned provider as he squared the ball to Max Booth who had an easy finish to make it 3-1. Leiston had a brief rally, racing up the other end and hitting the bar, but it was all to no avail. Needham Market broke, and the ball fell to Max Booth who got his second when he shot inside the keeper's near post. They rounded things off in the 83rd minute when a penalty was awarded for a trip in the area and Booth stepped up to complete his hat-trick. The linesman jokingly asked the home manager how many it was now as they had been having banter all night with the man in the dugout questioning  number of decisions without being abusive and the official taking it in good spirit.

It had been a good contest and the vast majority of the 129 crowd went home happy. I'm not a huge fan of reserve sides at step 6 and above but this showed that it could work with it providing a platform for youngsters to make the step up to the first team. The young sides do tend to struggle though as they don't have the experience and composure of the wily old pros,  but they don't lack talent. I made my way home, listening to Absolute 80s on the way and getting in at 11.45. I watched TV for a while, eventually getting to sleep around 1.30am.


BLOOMFIELDS is a pleasant and well kept non-league ground with cover on all 4 sides. There are 2 seated areas -  one which appears to be the original main stand and another arena type stand behind the goal which is named after a supporter and board member. There are 2 covered standing sides too - 2 areas of flat standing along the side and a newly erected terrace behind the goal. The ground is surrounded by trees, which make a good looking and aromatic backdrop.

Food and drink wise,  the tea bar looked promising but was closed on my visit. The bar was OK,  offering mainly bottled drinks. Town is less than 10 minutes away with a few pubs and takeaways and is fairly sedate and pleasant to visit. The programme for the reserve games is decent, quite thin, but well presented and with all the facts you need to know.


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Godmanchester Rovers - Bearscroft Lane

Godmanchester Rovers FC
Bearscroft Lane
PE29 2LQ

07950 367417

Ground Number: 609
Wednesday 23rd August 2016
Godmanchester Rovers 1-3 Eynesbury Rovers
FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay


Godmanchester Rovers were formed in 1911 and up until 2002 they playing in local Huntingdonshire & Cambridgeshire Leagues. That summer, they made a speculative attempt to join the Eastern League, despite being in the second tier of the Cambridgeshire League. To their surprise, they were accepted and joined the league at Division 1 level. After 12th and 7th placed finishes in their first 2 seasons, they had a bad 2004/05, finishing bottom. However, due to lack of teams in the league, they were not relegated. They did continue to struggle for the next seasons, but in time form improved. They won the league in 2012, beating Thetford Town to the title on goal difference. Since their elevation to the Premier Division, form has been excellent and two 5th placed finishes were followed up by finishing the last 2 seasons as runner-up. Both those occasions had seen them lose out to Norwich United for the title, but whereas it was a massive 26 points that separated the teams in the first instance, it was clawed back to a more modest 4 points last time out.

The club were looking to match their best ever FA Cup run on the night of my visit, bidding to reach the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round. Previously that was achieved in 2009/10 when they lost out to Northampton Spencer after defeating Haverhill Rovers and Rothwell Corinthians in replays in the previous 2 rounds. The furthest they have reached in the FA Vase is the 3rd Round, that was in the 2011/12 season when they lost out to United Counties League side Newport Pagnell Town. Other cup honours include the Eastern Counties Division 1 Knockout Cup in 2012, as well as League Cups from their times in the Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire Leagues. Future stars Joe Lewis & Darren Bent appeared for the club in their youth, whilst their record attendance came for an FA Vase game against Yaxley in 2014.


This trip was arranged on Sunday with my groundhopping pal Chris. I was keen to do as many FA Cup games as possible this season, and so we left it until all the Preliminary Round ties had been played until we made a decision.Chris finished work in Milton Keynes at 4, and the only viable game I could do was Godmanchester Rovers v Eynesbury Town. I did briefly think I was going to miss out as Chris had 'ticked' Godmanchester, but then he asked could I drop him at a game at Buckden, 5 miles from my eventual destination. It would mean a very early arrival at Godmanchester, possibly as early as 5PM if traffic was kind. But after some research, I discovered that the town of Huntingdon was just over 2 miles walk away. That had a Wetherspoons which would suit me for dinner, and a number of other decent pubs and attractions also, so I was happy to do this. I got in the mood for the game by watching Youtuber 'Awaydays' video of the original tie at the weekend where the game ended 1-1, setting up tonight's clash.

It was another short day at work, with me out by 11.15 after just over 6 hours work. I miss not getting my full hours, but I hope this continues onto Bank Holiday Monday as I get my full days wage, no matter what hours I do.  I had a bath and lunch before finishing off my blog. Normally I am rushing around when doing a groundhop with Chris and always end up leaving late. But today I had a bit of time to spare and didn't know what to do with it, despite having a lot of things I needed to do. At least I left on time,  getting to Milton Keynes with 10 minutes to spare and killing time by catching up on Facebook. It was another scorching day,  with temperatures well over 30 degrees. I met Chris at 4.05 and soon enough we were on our way. After a 10 minute delay at the Black Cat Roundabout, I dropped Chris in Buckden at 4.45.

There was another 10-minute delay as I was stuck at a level crossing for a while, but I was still at the ground just after 5. As I was expcting, there was no one at the ground, so I walked the just over 2 miles into Huntingdon. I headed for the Sandford House, which was my 105th Wetherspoons. There I had a half Peri Peri chicken with chips and a bottle of Hazy Hog cider which cost me a very well priced £7.49. It was nice too, not all dry like the last time I had it in Bangor a couple of years back. After that I had a pint of my favourite Black Dragon cider for £2.65. By now it was time to head back to the ground, but not before stopping at Sainsbury's to get some cans of diet Irn Bru. I left town at 6.45, getting to the ground at 7.25. I paid £6 to get in, and was glad that there were still some programmes left at £1 a go. It was a decent programme too, well worth the £1 asking price, so I sat and read it while waiting for the game to start.

The game was fairly equal in terms of chances, but it was the hosts to took the lead through Ben Keating who followed up after the initial shot was saved. Eynesbury Rovers were looking good for an equaliser and they got it on 38 minutes when Dan Moyes' long throw found Tom Coles who finished well. From then on, the visitors dominated and they went ahead just after half time through Matt Bannister, fis placed shot from close range finding the net. Rain and lightning carried on in the background as Eynesbury continued to dominate, though the players continued undeterred. Eynesbury wrapped it up on 65 minutes, when Bannister got his second, drilling a shot into the bottom left hand corner. There was a little bit of a scuffle towards the end as frustrations bolied over, but it didn't amount to much and finished without major incident. Eynesbury Rovers had reached the 1st Qualifying Round for the first time in 21 years and will face a home game against Southern Premier side Sutton Coldfield Town.

After the game I made my way back to Buckden to meet Chris, who had sampled every pub and takeaway in the village during his visit. We discussed our next football day, which will be on Bank Holiday Monday and will include a visit to Nuneaton Griff in the evening. The ideal location would be North Ferriby United, but it's unlikely that I will get out of work in time, even though, technically I really should be having it off, but for an uncommunicative manager. I was annoyed to lose my bet for the night as Worthing failed to beat Leatherhead, but I was still in a fairly good mood as we headed home, listening to the football on the radio where Accrington Stanley beat Burnley. I dropped Chris off at 10.30, getting home myself at 11.20. I tried to get to sleep around midnight, but it was tricky because of the heat. With 2 night short sleep in a row and me up at 4 the next morning, I was sure to catch up on some shut-eye the following afternoon.


BEARSCROFT LANE has an official capacity of 1,050 and was a ground that I visited on Saturday 2nd November 2013, prior to a trip with another groundhopping pal, Anwar, to watch Kings Lynn Town play. It was a similar story to another local side Huntingdon Town, with a couple of standard issue metal stands plonked down. However, it had a bit more to it than their local rivals, maybe it was the clubhouse painted a nice shade of blue, or the friendly welcome I got from the groundsman and his dog. 

In any case,  I was looking forward to a visit for a game, though I expected it to come a lot sooner than the 2 years it eventually took. When I did return I found another stand had been added. The bar and tea bar offered a decent range at reasonable prices and I enjoyed my chips for £1.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Sawbridgeworth Town - Crofters End

Sawbridgeworth Town FC
Crofters End Stadium
Crofters End
CM21 0DE

Ground Number: 608
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sawbridgeworth Town 4-2 Tower Hamlets
FA Cup Preliminary Round


The club were founded under the name of Sawbridgeworth FC in 1897, only changing to their present moniker in 1976. They played in local leagues such as the Herts County and Essex Olympian for the vast majority of their early history. In 1976 they joined the Essex Senior League and have been one of the mainstays of the league, remaining there ever since. Due to their being no step 6 league in the area, they have been spared relegation on the 2 occasions they have finished bottom, which were in their second and third seasons in the late 70's. In truth they are pretty safe, even today, due to lack of replacements. The early 1990's saw them have their most successful period, twice runners up is the best they have managed. The 1994/95 saw them lose out to Great Wakering Rovers on goal difference which is the closest they have come to becoming league champions of the Essex Senior.

Prior to today's game, the club had never been past the preliminary round of the FA Cup, and so my visit marked history being made. They now have a trip to  Isthmian Premier side Harrow Borough in a couple of weeks time. They reached the FA Vase 3rd Round in 1980. bowing out to Kempston Rovers after a replay. 


I was always going to be doing an FA Cup game this weekend, I knew that from the day that the fixtures came out and the news was that we were playing Blackpool away on this day. I'd have loved to have gone back there,  it's a ground that's I've not been to for years, but it was a non-starter in eyes. I was boycotting the ground, until the current owners are removed. The Oystons have been damaging Blackpool FC for years, there is plenty to read on the internet about it and I may even go into more detail if ever I decide to redo my Bloomfield Road blog. It was a bit of a pain missing one of the best away games of the season, but I wasn't going to give any money to owners whose modus operandi I disagree with. But where would I be going?. There were 2 games that jumped out at me as top picks - Congleton Town v Farsley and Shildon v Kendal Town. Sadly these were all a long way away, and therefore petrol costs would be prohibitive as none of my hopping friends were available. So I whittled it down to 11 options that would keep the fuel costs down to £20 or less for the round trip. Trouble was, none of the options caught my imagination so I decided to leave my final decision until a couple of days before the game, so I could be guided by others choices.

I finally decided the day before the game. I really wanted to go to the National Museum Of Computing History in Cambridge, visiting there would in turn subsidise my football costs. I initially plumped for Wisbech Town v Peterborough Sports, as that was a fairly easy tie in. However, after driving past it on the way to another game at Sheringham, I decided to knock that idea on the head and looked for other options. After careful consideration I went for Sawbridgeworth Town v Tower Hamlets as this could be easily visited whether going to Cambridge or not, and could include a trip to Bovingdon Market as well. It would be the second year in a row that I'd seen Tower Hamlets in the Preliminary Round, but that was no issue. Last time out I'd seen them lose on their own ground to Cockfosters. They were from a notouriously tough area and this seemed to breed itself into the team, with great talent shown one minute, but liable to go off the handle the next, especially if provoked by wily opponents seeking to gain an advantage.

I awoke around 9am on the day of the game, and due to time constraints decided to leave  the computing museum for another day. I still wanted to go to Bovingdon Market though, as there was a DVD of rare Only Fools And Horses episodes that I wanted that I saw last time I was there but didn't buy as I wrongly thought I already had it. I had a duck spring roll for breakfast, which I'd left over from last night's Chinese. After a bath and getting ready, I did some work on my blog before leaving at 11am. I got the DVD I wanted for a fiver,  plus an Adidas zip top for a fiver and 3 bags of Oreo chocolate eggs for a quid. I'm unsure of the authenticity of my new garment but it was a good effort nonetheless.


It was a hassle free journey to Sawbridgeworth and I arrived at 1.15. I bought a programme before going in search of a pint. My initial plan was to go to a pub called The Queens Head in a nearby village which had won awards for its cider selection. However it was not as local as I thought and not fancying a 5 mile round trip I instead went to a pub called the Old Bell in the town. I got the new cider I desired in a pint of Snailsbank Appley Dapply which I was really pleased with. From there I walked back to the ground and on the way got a portion of chips for £1.70 which were a decent size but not as good as up North. I got my stuff from my car. Entry was a £7 including programme which was pretty reasonable. 

In the FA Cup there had not been too much success for either side. Since entering the FA Cup for the first time in 2000, Sawbridgeworth Town had never got past the Preliminary Rounds, so today represented a great opportunity to create some history Tower Hamlets meanwhile had reached the 1st Qualifying Round in 2010, under their previous guise of Bethnal Green United where they had lost to Harlow Town in a replay.  The home side had got this far by beating Southen Manor on penalties after a replay, while Tower Hamlets had won 4-2 at Enfield to set up today's clash to set up today's clash

There was rain on and off while I waited for the game so I stood under the cover for the first half. Sawbridgeworth had already gone close before they were awarded a penalty in the 9th minute following a foul in the area. This was dispatched in the bottom right-hand corner to give the hosts the lead. They continued to have the better of the game but it was Tower Hamlets that got the next goal when a neat finish was placed into the bottom left-hand corner just after the half-hour mark. 6 minutes before the break Sawbridgeworth went ahead with a strange goal. An innocuous looking high ball into the area evaded the Tower Hamlets defence and keeper and the hosts went into the lead at half time.

It was another long range goal that brought about the equaliser 10 minutes into the second half. Tower Hamlets' number 8 had been the best player on the park, showing some good touches and decent passing range. He got the equaliser with a great lob over the halfway line after he spotted the home goalkeeper off of his line. It was all in vain though, as a few minutes later Sawbridgeworth were back ahead when Micky Kennedy's cross-shot caught out the visiting keeper. This blotted his copybook, as he'd made some good saves to keep his side in it previously. Sawrbrigdeworth sealed the result on 65 minutes with Olly Fortune's shot from outside the area. There were further chances for both sides but no more goals. There was an amusing incident five minutes from time when the visiting number 17 went down far too easily. He picked up the ball expecting a free kick, but instead the bemused referee booked him for handball.

After the game I drove home, listening to BBC 3 Counties for news of the Wycombe game. I knew that we'd got a 0-0 draw, which was a fair result, but I was glad that I'd not gone as people were reporting back that it was a poor game. It was a really good journey home and on the way back I stopped at the craft beer shop in Chalfont to see what they had in. I got myself a couple of pints of Millwhites Coleshop Farm cider which turned out to be a cracking dry cider when I had it later on. As soon as I got in I started looking at the results of the other games and was content with the choice that I'd made. The only one of my considerations that bettered it was Shoreham 3-4 Dorking Wanderers and that would have cost me a lot more, and rendered me unable to visit Bovingdon pre-game. I also planned my next couple of games in - revisits to Beaconsfield SYCOB on Sunday (v Marlow) and Camberley Town on Tuesday (v Bishops Cleeve) There was also chances of games on Wednesday and Friday in what will be another busy week for me. I spent the rest of the evening doing work on my blog, and watching TV. As ever, Match Of The Day featured, even though it meant that I only got a few hours sleep as I was up for work at 4am the next day.


CROFTERS END is located around 5-10 minutes walk from the town of Sawbridgeworth which contains a reasonable amount of places to eat and drink. Pick of them is The Old Bell which does real ale and cider,  though it is £4.30 a pint, albeit for some top quality drinks. Back at the ground a basic bar offers various beers for £3 a pint,  plus cider in bottles. The tea bar does Burgers,  Hot Dogs and Chips,  again for reasonable prices. 

All the cover at the ground is on one side,  with a few stands,  2 older ones with a mixture of sitting and standing,  plus a newly installed metal stand that was brought in to comply with ground grading regulations. The rest of the ground is open and on the far side is a second pitch which is used for friendlies and reserves games.