Friday, 23 August 2019

Christchurch FC - Hurn Bridge

Christchurch FC
Hurn Bridge Stadium
Avon Causeway
BH23 6DY

01202 473792
Official Website

Ground Number: 872
Friday 23rd August 2019
Christchurch 1-2 Badshot Lea
FA Cup Preliminary Round


The club was established in 1885 and spent the first hundred or so years of its history in local leagues, mainly the Hampshire League but also the Bournemouth League for a short spell in the late '20s and early '30s. Highlights of their spell in the Hampshire League included a Division 3 title in 1953 and Division 2 titles in 1938, 1948 & 1986. The move to their current ground which was the former sports ground of British Aerospace allowed them to make the step up to Semi-Pro football. The Wessex League was joined in 1987 after they finished 4th in their only season in Hampshire League Division 1. The Wessex League remained as a single division until 2004, during this time, Christchurch's best finish was 5th achieved in their debut season and then again in 1996 and 1999. When the league split into two divisions, Christchurch were put in the top tier and even had two third-place Premier Division finishes in 2012 & 2013. Fortunes soon declined however and by 2015 they were relegated to Division 1 after finishing bottom of the table. They won promotion back up as champions in 2018 and last season finished 16th in the Premier Division. 

In the FA Cup, Christchurch's best progress has been the 2nd Qualifying Round, a stage they have reached on three occasions. The latest of these runs during the 2005/06 season saw a notable 3-0 victory over higher league Gloucester City before they lost out to Cirencester Town. There have been a couple of notable runs in the FA Vase, not least during the 2008/09 season when they overcame  Hartley Wintney, Petersfield Town, Cove, Tunbridge Wells, New Milton Town & FC Clacton prior to a 4-0 defeat to Chalfont St Peter. Local cup wins include the Wessex League Cup (2012), the Hampshire Intermediate Cup (1987), the Hampshire Junior Cup (three times), the Bournemouth Senior Cup (three times) and the Bournemouth Pickford Cup (1977). Well known players to have played for the club include current Luton Town forward Harry Cornick who scored 17 goals in 33 appearances right at the start of his career during the 2012/13 season. Jody Craddock, a centre back who played in the Football League with Cambridge United, Sunderland & Wolverhampton Wanderers also started out at Christchurch, making his debut during the 1992/93 season. They are of (or at least were) one of the few clubs at step 6 or above to maintain amateur status and not pay players.

The town of Christchurch itself has a population of 48,368 and whose MP is Christopher Chope who hit news headlines in 2018 for objecting to a bill that proposed to make taking 'upskirt' photos and videos of women illegal. It has one of the oldest populations in the country with over 30% of residents aged 65 or over. Famous residents include former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson whilst footballer Jamie Redknapp attended Twynham School in the town. The town is twinned with its namesake in New Zealand, Aalen in Germany, Tatabanya in Hungary and Saint-Lo in France. Tourism plays a big part in the town's economy, the harbour, beach, nature reserves and historic buildings attracting 1.5 million visitors a year and netting the local economy £76m.


My opportunities to see an FA Cup game had been extremely limited thanks to bad luck with fixture scheduling of Wycombe home games. Seeing as I love a bit of Friday night football, it was inevitable that when a new ground came up as a Friday night fixture, I'd be attending. It was a tad further than was ideal, especially if I was on my own, but I was hoping to get people to come with me. It was certainly a good one to do by car, as the public transport links were a bit ropey. The match was being played on Friday night as Christchurch share with the local Cricket club and their season had not quite finished yet. I gave up a potential Tuesday night game to help with costs for tonight's game, instead staying in and doing research for this game and listening to Wycombe's trip up to Fleetwood on the radio. I'd have loved to have headed up there, but with work at 4am the next morning and the night out costing in the region of £55 before any food or drink had been purchased, I decided against it. As it was, we gained an excellent 1-1 draw up there and could have even grabbed a win had it not been for a last-minute equaliser that could have been easily prevented. As expected, I was unable to persuade Anwar to come, he's hardly the most enthusiastic hopper at the best of times and after an expensive trip to Fleetwood in midweek, it was understandable that he's opted against it, despite me offering him cheaper than usual petrol expenses.

Work had been very quiet all week, but Friday was a bit busier. Even so, I was out by 12 and able to return home for a freshen up and change of clothes. The news or at least my Twitter timeline was dominated by the potential demise of Bury FC. Their cancerous owner, the loathsome Steve Dale was refusing point blank to sell the club, despite four bids being submitted. He even had the nerve to appear on national radio, asking for fans to donate money to 'save' the club. Whatever happens, if the club do go to the wall, he stands to make a good bit of money out of it and so has little interest in listening to any offers. It's a real shame, as Bury are one of the nicest and most friendly clubs I have visited. The FA and EFL of course, just stand by and do nothing as they have no powers to remove and no fit and proper owners test in place, not one that actually protects clubs anyway. The problem is football wide, ever-increasing player wages mean that most clubs are racking up debts and charging a lot more than the product they are selling is worth in terms of admission. Rather than saying to the players - this is what you bring in, so this is what we can pay you, it's a case of 'how much do you want?'' and then they try to find the finances to pay them. It's why I prefer non-league, or at least the lower levels, as most clubs operate on a more sensible basis. I'd earmarked a couple of places to visit on the way and so I left at 3, bearing in mind the issues that Friday night traffic could pose. As it happened, there were delays, but they were minimal and I was in Christchurch by 5.40. I was planning on getting some take out cider from a local micropub, but with free parking limited, I gave up. I headed to my second place of interest, the Top Wok Chinese takeaway where I had Hoisin Spicy Chips and Chicken Satay skewers. It was one of the pricier ones that I'd been to, but the food was top-notch, some of the best I've had. From there it was a five-minute drive to the ground.

I had a quick look in the bar before going into the ground. It was a great value £6 to get in and this included a paper ticket, so I didn't bother with a programme. They were playing some great tunes on the tannoy pre-match and this put me in a good mood for the game. I stood on the halfway line on the cricket pitch side and waited for the game to start. Christchurch have seen a decent start to the season, with them sitting 9th at the start of play. Owing to them sharing with the local cricket club, all three games have been away resulting in a 1-1 draw at Hamble Club, a 2-1 defeat at Bashley and a 1-0 victory at AFC Stoneham. To get this far, they beat Amesbury Town in the Extra Preliminary Round 7-2, an impressive away performance. The last time they progressed past the Preliminary Round stage was in 2012 with them eventually losing out 2-1 at Fareham Town in the 1st Qualifying Round. Opponents Badshot Lea were enjoying a good start in the Combined Counties Premier Division, sitting 5th. They'd enjoyed victories at Sutton Common Rovers (4-1) and over Frimley Green (5-0) in the opening two games of the season, but lost 3-1 at Sheerwater last weekend. To get this far, they had beaten Ascot United 2-1. They were bidding to reach the next round for the first time since 2012 when they enjoyed their record progress, reaching the 3rd Round before losing 3-1 at Chippenham Town.

It was the hosts who made the brighter start to the game. They had a great opportunity to take the lead on five minutes following a trip on a home player as he made his way inside the area. Kyle Graham was tasked with taking the spot-kick, but his poor effort was blazed well over. Christchurch didn't have long to wait to go ahead after 7 minutes sloppy defending saw Callum Butler presented with a chance and his shot on the turn found the top left-hand corner from just inside the area. The game continued with the home side well on top with a shot just wide on 11 minutes. A minute later the Badshot Lea keeper Kallum Lunn sipped a shot around the left hand post with his foot. Shortly after a header just wide was yet another chance that Christchurch failed to take. Badshot Lea had a productive spell, but despite plenty of possession, they weren't really creating much in the way of clear cut chances. There were a few meaty tackles and this resulted in a bit of handbags between the players, causing the referee to calm things down. The score remained the same at the break and although Christchurch started the second period the better side, chances were few and far between. There was another coming together on 55 minutes when Badshot Lea's Zak Hawker came in with a late challenge. There probably wasn't much intent, but it looked bad and it earned him a booking. I was beginning to think that Badshot should be renamed 'no shot as after two and a half hours of watching them, they'd still yet to muster a serious shot on target. That all changed around 70 minutes in and the broke their duck in style. Jordan Carter's effort from 25 yards giving home keeper Max Frampton no chance. This seemed to invigorate the visitors and they had further decent efforts, curling a shot just wide of the top left-hand corner. They completed the turnaround around 12 minutes from time, Frampton was caught out of his goal, the ball was squared across the line for Danilo Cadete to tap home at the back post.

That turned out to be the winner and despite being on top for the majority of the game, they only had themselves to blame for not taking their chances. They had plenty of the ball, but didn't really create anything, bar a low shot that went just wide of the right-hand post. They had to try and mount their comeback a man light however as right-back Manny Ohajeme was sent off for an incident that was spotted by the linesman. It was time to head home, the journey back being a lot quicker than the journey there. I listened to music for the first part of the journey, putting on TalkSPORT as I arrived back in Bucks. There was good news regarding Bury as it appeared a saviour my be on the horizon, but with only the word of the EFL and Steve Dale, I won't be counting any chickens. I was back by 11:30 and had a couple of ciders while typing my blog and watching Corrie. Next up for me was Wycombe v Southend on Saturday, then something on Monday with Anwar who has hopefully rediscovered his groundhopping mojo. It had been a good and enjoyable night of groundhopping for me and despite the additional expense, I was glad I'd gone.


The Hurn Bridge Sports Ground is a lovely venue, sat in pleasant Woodland, similar to Loxwood that I went to earlier this year. Happily, both stands are solid structures rather than metal ones. The Stephen Bernard stand sits on the halfway line, holding around 150. Behind the goal is another seated stand, the William Pickford stand, holding around 50. There's also covered standing for around 20 behind the same goal while the rest of the ground is open hard standing. The bar offers Thatchers Gold and a couple of real ales from Ringwood Brewery. It's quite spacious and has Sky TV. The tea bar had a good range of burgers with bacon rolls etc as well as snacks and drinks. 

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Bolehall Swifts - Rene Road

Bolehall Swifts FC
Rene Road
B77 3NN

Ground Number: 871
Saturday 10th August 2019
Bolehall Swifts 0-4 Moor Green Academy
Midland League D2


The club was established in 1953 and spent its early years in local competitions such as the Tamworth & Trent Valley League. in 1980, they joined the Midland Combination, starting in Division 3. This was soon renamed Division 2 and by 1985 they were champions. A fifth place in their debut season was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division, which is the equivalent to step 6 in modern terms. Aside from a two-year spell in the Midland Alliance in the mid-'90s (where Bolehall struggled), the club remained there until 2014 when the league merged with the Midland Alliance to form the Midland League. Finishes in the Midland Combination Premier ranged from 3rd in 1998 to 19th in 2002. The first season in Midland League D1 produced a decent 4th place finish, but results soon declined. They finished second bottom in 2018, meaning relegation to Division 2. The form didn't improve last season, another second-bottom finish, but they avoided relegation on that occasion.

Bolehall Swifts have got as far as the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup twice - losing tp Solhihill Borough in 1994 and local rivals Tamworth the following year. In the FA Vase, a couple of good runs to the 3rd Round were enjoyed in the mid-2010s with defeats to St Andrews in 2014 and Brocton the following year. Local cup wins include the Walsall Senior Cup (2002), the Coleshill Charity Cup (1956), the Fazeley Charity Cup (1976, 1985 & 2015) and the Birmingham Midweek Floodlit Cup (2014). Bolehall is a suburb of Tamworth, a Staffordshire town which has a population of around 75,000. Famous people from Tamworth include Robert Peel, founder of the modern-day police force, as well as footballers Tony Coton & Mark Albrighton.


Back when the FA announced the round dates for the FA Cup dates, I was hoping that a few of the FA Cup Preliminary Rounds and Qualifying Rounds would be free of Wycombe home games so that I could have free choices of games to go to in my favourite competition. But like with the dates of the organised groundhops, I had stinking luck with them all having home games on. That was apart from the Extra Preliminary Round and after extensive research, decided upon Malvern Town v Whitchurch Alport, a decent looking tie at a ground I wanted to visit for a while. I pre-booked the High Wycombe to Birmingham portion of my train tickets as it saved me £11 if I nominated trains to take and would have been even less had I taken an earlier train, but it made things too tight for time. I held off booking the train to Malvern, what with them ignoring my tweet I sent them to confirm that the game would be on Saturday. It was a good job that I didn't, as a week later, the game was moved to Westfields due to works at their own ground. So, therefore, an alternative was needed. I'd have loved to stick to the FA Cup, but games at Leicester Nirvana, Hanley Town & Haughmond were fairly unattractive ties and would have cost a lot in money and time. Luckily, there were plenty of options in the lower tiers of the Midland League, so I'd not have a wasted journey. Bolehall Swifts was in Tamworth and was a ground that I'd fancied visiting for a while, mainly due to the ludicrous selection of decent pubs for a place of its size. The club itself had fallen on hard times recently, finishing second bottom of step 7 Midland Division 2 last season. The only negative point was the train ticket prices - nearly £9 return for a 15-minute journey. Far from the worst offender, but pricey all the same. But as it stood out from the other options, I decided to stick with it.

I had around six hours sleep the night before, waking when my alarm went off at 7. I left later than intended, so had to get the bus into town. I was surprised when it cost £4.60 - the same as the travel card that got me to Reading and Maidenhead recently. I got to town with 40 minutes to spare, but barely anything was open, so after a stroll around I went to the station to wait there. My train was spot on, arriving at 8.34 and it was a fairly relaxed journey up to Birmingham. I was greeted by grey skies and drizzle when I arrived around 10. With an hour to kill, I had a look around the market and shops, getting a huge portion of salt and pepper chips from a place called ‘Lei’s Cuisine’ in the Bullring indoor market. It was a sit-down place too but after a little stroll, it was time for the first drink of the day. The Post Office Vaults is a place I visit whenever I’m up here and a pint of Butford Organics Draught hit the spot. The only annoyance was the iffy WiFi and phone signal, seeing as it is in a basement. It was a short walk to New Street Station and £8.60 for a return to Tamworth on a smelly, cramped Cross Country train. Fifteen minutes later I was in the town which had a great selection of pubs. The Kings Ditch Micropub was my hostelry of choice and it didn’t disappoint, with a huge selection of cider. I was on the halves and so sampled Dee Cider Medium, Three Cats Dry and finally Parsons Choice Medium Dry. The owner said that the latter was a rare one and indeed, I’d not yet sampled it. It was a pleasant walk along the river to Bolehall and so I got to the ground with 40 minutes until kick-off.

A friendly welcome was offered, £3 was a reasonable entry fee too and most welcome on a day where my transport costs were above average. After getting some pictures of the ground, I headed to the tea bar, getting a portion of chips for £1.50. The man serving was happy with the level of custom, saying that they only usually take £5 or £6 on a matchday and had made many times that today. The attendance was officially counted as 51 although my headcount was 55. A decent crowd for the level, but on the pitch, it didn't go so well for Bolehall Swifts on the pitch. Moor Green took the lead on 7 minutes. Good work down the right by Stanley Annaebonan set up Arman Khooshkoo to tap home from 6 yards out. The lead was doubled on 39 minutes, a cross from Gerrard Sam was put in from the left and Ryan Andrews headed home. The visitors were in full control as the game approached half time, but Bolehall had defended well. The same could be said of the second half, but Moor Green didn't score again until a couple of minutes from time. A good ball forward found substitute Costas Lautuaru who rounded the Swifts keeper and slotted into an empty net. The scoring was completed in the last minute when another substitute Stuart Gjeta finished from close range. Moor Green fully deserved their win, but it looks to be a long season for Bolehall Swifts, who did at least have a very nice shirt. That said, their management team disagreed with my assessment, saying that Moor Green have a lot more training sessions under their belt, but I certainly wish both teams luck for the season.

For Moor Green's view of the action, you can read their match report HERE

So after the game, it was time to head home. But not before a final half of Mr Whiteheads Devils Device at the Kings Ditch. I was well on time for my 18:01 train to Birmingham, but it was delayed, as was the 17:35. Horrendous given the price charged, but hey ho, gotta live with it. The train finally turned up 20 minutes late, ambling its way through the Midlands and taking twice the time it should have. I was glad I’d booked the later train, as I was too late for my connection. With around 50 minutes to kill, my destination was inevitable. The Post Office Vaults was brilliant once more and after a pint of Brecon Beacon Derw and a half of Greyfields No. 2, I played it safe and headed for the station. Even with a stop for food, I was at Moor Street 20 minutes before my train was due to depart. That turned up bang on time and the journey home was a pleasant one, with me getting back to Wycombe at 9.10. With around 45 minutes until the bus, I decided to walk home, getting in at 10:15, just in time for Match Of The Day.


RENE ROAD is a decent venue, fit for step 5. There’s plenty of covered standing, a small stand with over 100 capacity. There’s also a newer seated stand behind one goal,this holds around 150. There’s a reasonable tea bar inside and a bar outside too, as well as local amenities. Further afield, the town of Tamworth is just over a mile away and has a whole load of pubs, including the brilliant Kings Ditch Micropub.