Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Mildenhall Town - Recreation Way

Mildenhall Town FC
Recreation Way
IP28 7HG

01638 713449

Ground Number: 924
Tuesday 15th September 2020
Mildenhall Town 1-0 Godmanchester Rovers
Eastern Counties Premier


The club was established in 1898. There's not a lot of information on the club's early years on the internet, but they joined the Bury & District League in 1945 before progressing to the Cambridgeshire League in 1969, progressing Divisions 2B & 1B and reaching the Premier Division in 1975. They made the step up to the Eastern Counties League in 1988 as founder members of the new Division 1. After five consecutive bottom half finishes, they finished 4th in 1994 and then in 1999 they were promoted to the Premier Division after finishing as runners-up to Clacton Town. They had a number of good finishes and were runners-up to Wroxham in 2007. They went one better ten years later and were champions, going up to the Isthmian Division 1 North. They spent a couple of seasons here though they struggled and were relegated back in 2019. In their last season back, they were in 8th place before the season was cancelled.

Mildenhall Town enjoyed their record FA Cup run in their debut season of 2000/01. That year, they beat Ilford, Northampton Spencer and Beaconsfield SYCOB before a 2-0 defeat to Grays Athletic in the 3rd Qualifying Round. In the FA Trophy, they reached the 3rd Qualifying Round - beating Kings Lynn Town & Barwell before a 1-0 defeat at Lancaster City. The 5th Round of the FA Vase was reached in 2006 and 2007 but went out with 4-0 defeats at Hillingdon Borough and Billingham Town respectively. Local cup successes include the Eastern Counties League Cup (2016 & 2017), the Cambridgeshire Invitational Cup (1996, 2010 & 2011) and the Suffolk Junior Cup (1900). The record attendance of 450 came for a friendly against Derby County in 2001. The small market town of Mildenhall has a population of just over 10,000 and is home to a large RAF base. It is referenced in the Pink Floyd song 'Let There Be More Light'.


Once again, I was looking for some Tuesday night football and happily, fellow hopper Anwar was keen to join me though. There wasn't a huge amount of choice, especially with me up at 4 am for work the following morning. There were a few options in Bristol, but from Aylesbury, where I'd be coming from, involved a lot of slow country roads. There was also the Coronavirus rates to consider with me now wanting to ruin my week off next week, but also wanting to get games in whilst I could. Mildenhall Town came out as the best option, with a fairly decent journey and it was also the shortest in mileage too. The only disappointing part was the hefty £9 admission charge. It would be the most I've ever paid for a step 5 game and a price more suited to the level above. For me, £6 for this level is the ideal price, anything less is a complete bargain. £7 is acceptable and I've paid that on a few occasions, but anything more has me feeling negative before I've even entered the ground. It's not a feeling I like as I want to promote the joys of non-league football through this blog and try and be positive. To be fair, it might be a hangover from their Isthmian League days and at least they are upfront about it, clearly displaying the price on their website. In any case, it was a tiny difference financially and the overall trip price including petrol was the most economical on the night. I did my usual research in advance, researching the club's history and spotting places to eat. The location of the ground was great, right on the edge of the town centre.

Monday came and I had a busy day at work. However, I got home to good news for my time off next week. I was hoping for a game in Devon or Cornwall in the FA Cup and I got a decent one in Saltash United v Cirencester Town. Wanting to put something concrete down, I pre-booked a ticket for £7 and also a tent pitch at a nice looking site around 4 miles away. I like a nice walk, so the distance wasn't a problem. I also put in place plans to go to Crediton on Monday and Newton Abbot on Wednesday as well as some trips to Fawley and Holland (the seaside town based in Essex) whilst I was based at home. I had a decent night's sleep and woke around 7 am. I did some more planning for my week away as well as having a shower. I walked down town and got quite a bit of shopping before getting a lift back home with my Dad. I had a nice pizza for lunch and spent the afternoon finalising the finer points of my trip away and had pretty much everything planned in by mid-afternoon. I also made sure that the tent my brother was lending me was in order before watching TV for a bit and leaving just before 4. I needed petrol, so stopped on the way, meeting Anwar at 4.30. We had a good journey over, aside from a few crappy country roads. We were there by 6.25, parking near the ground. We popped to a local Chinese takeaway called China House and bought salt and pepper chips which although costing £3.60 were a large portion and pretty tasty. I'm thinking of doing a spreadsheet to keep track of my favourite dish and how various establishments shape up. The town was extremely pleasant and we found a nice seating area to have our dinner. From there it was to the well-kept ground, we had to walk around a bit to find the entrance. £9 was paid and a programme was thrown in too when I asked. I caught up online and got some pictures before kick-off before we met fellow hopper Maurice - a Braintree fan and Ben - a Colchester fan, opting to stand on the far side.

Mildenhall Town had played just the one game in the league, drawing 2-2 at Newmarket Town. Their games in the FA Cup were certainly entertaining - a 4-3 win at Hadleigh United was followed up with a 4-3 win on penalties over higher league Corby Town. Godmanchester Rovers had gone out of the FA Cup to Ely City on penalties on the opening day. Since then, they'd drawn 1-1 at Haverhill Rovers and lost 3-2 against Walsham Le Willows. The hosts were wearing their usual gold and black and kicking down the slope whilst the visitors were in red. Mildenhall were dominant early on but Godmanchester had the first real chance on 10 minutes when on the break they forced home keeper Daniel Crump to tip the ball onto the bar. The hosts thought they had taken the lead three minutes later when a long-range shot was followed up after Godmanchester keeper Niall Conroy parried but the 'goal' was ruled offside. The game was being played at a really high tempo and on 16 minutes, the visitors had to be alert to survive a goalmouth scramble. On 21 minutes Mildenhall came close again when a shot hit the inside of the post and bounced clear. The hosts continued to pour forward and after wasting a few more chances, they had another shot cleared off the line on 36 minutes. Two minutes later Godmanchester keeper Conroy made a great save to keep the score level, diving low to his left. After the break, the one-way traffic continued and on 50 minutes a visiting defender threw himself in front of a shot to prevent a goal. There was another cross deflected over six minutes later but Godmanchester almost won it on the break on 85 minutes when Crump was forced into a great save, tipping the ball out for a corner. Just as it looked as if it might be the most entertaining game ever, a corner was put in and substitute Casey Phillips leapt highest to head home in the 92nd minute. It was a deserved victory for the hosts and a good night. We all said our goodbyes and got back to the car at 9.40. Radio 5 was listened to for catching up on the night's League Cup games before Union Jack provided some music for the rest of the journey. I dropped Anwar off at 11.15, getting home myself 25 minutes later. It took me a while to get to sleep, which wasn't ideal with me up for work at 4 am.



RECREATION WAY is a very well-kept ground. The main accommodation is on one side, comprising of a bench seated stand holding 50 and a standing area for around the same amount. This has had a facelift in between my picture taking visit in 2009 and my game 11 years later. Also added on the opposite side is a metal 'Arena' type stand, holding another 50 seated. The rest of the ground is open standing. The ground is immaculately kept and it's nice to see pride being taken in the place. There's a bar at the ground which does a decent range of drinks including two local real ales. There's also a BBQ selling burgers and hotdogs. There's plenty of choice of takeaways in town plus a couple of pubs, all within a few minutes walk. There's a small car park at the bottom of Sainsbury's car park (avoid Sainsbury's itself which has a 2-hour limit) plus street parking.


Saturday, 12 September 2020

Newhaven - The Trafalgar Ground

Newhaven FC 
The Trafalgar Ground
Fort Road
East Sussex

07768 508011

Ground Number: 923
Saturday 12th September 2020
Newhaven 1-2 Corinthian
FA Cup Preliminary Round


The club was established at the town's 'Bridge Hotel in 1889 and was initially known as Newhaven & Cement Works. They played in the East Sussex League from 1889 until 1909 finishing as runners-up twice and winning the title in 1905, 1906 and 1909. The league was disbanded for a couple of years during which time Newhaven joined the Mid Sussex League, winning it in 1910 and 1912. After the end of the war, the club played briefly in the Brighton, Hove & District League before becoming founder members of the Sussex County League. They remain members to this day, the only club to be ever-present in the league structure throughout its entire history. High points include being league champions in 1954 and 1974, they were also Division 2 champions in 1972 and 1991 as well as Division 3 champions as recently as 2011. Low points include a second-bottom place finish in Division 3 around the turn of the millennium, they spent 13 consecutive seasons there between 2000 and 2012. A surge up the leagues saw them win promotion in 2011 before they finished as runners-up to Littlehampton Town in Division 2 in 2012 to win promotion to the top tier. They've been there ever since and even finished as high as 3rd in 2015, scoring 120 goals in the process. The league has since been rebranded the Southern Combination and last season Newhaven were in 4th place before everything was cancelled.

Newhaven reached the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round in 1926, though results were unavailable at the time of writing due to copyright reasons. Success in the competition has been thin on the ground in recent times and a win today would represent progress to the 1st Qualifying Round for the first time since 1962. In the FA Vase, the club has reached the 3rd Round on two occasions - in 2016/17 they lost 3-1 to Chichester City and last season they lost 1-0 at Glebe. In local competitions, Newhaven have won the Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Cup on four occasions, the Sussex Intermediate Cup in 2012, the Sussex County League Cup in 2015 and the Sussex League Invitation Cup in 1949. The port town of Newhaven has a population of just over 12,000 and is the main shipping route to Dieppe in France. Famous former residents include Vietnamese revolutionary and politician Ho-Chi-Minh who was a pastry boy on the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry route. It was also one of the last known places where Lord Lucan was sighted, his car being found in the area with two types of blood on it.  


As ever, when the FA Cup rounds came in, I was keen to get see a game in the world's best cup competition. I tried to rope in my regular hoppers to come with me, but to no avail, so I was on my own. Originally, I was going to head to OJM Black Country v Matlock Town on the train but that fixture was reversed due to ground issues. I decided to head south and so after much deliberation over a limited choice of fixtures, I opted for Broadbridge Heath v Haywards Heath which was my nearest tie and one that was being billed by Phil 'FA Cup Factfile' Anets was billing as the 'Heath Derby' -the first-ever game between two teams with the 'Heath' suffix. It was my nearest unvisited ground and I was looking forward to doing it. However, their game on Tuesday was off due to a player testing positive for Covid and I had a sneaky feeling that it might affect my game of choice. So it proved to be, with a total of three of their squad infected. It's good that clubs are being sensible in the current climate and my best wishes go to the individuals that have become victims through no fault of their own. I did consider going down to step 7 for a game, but there was nothing nearby that tickled my fancy, so back to the FA Cup it was. A number of options were considered - Cribbs v Berkhamsted edged it as the best game and AFC Stoneham v Pagham and Sherborne Town v Clevedon Town was also considered, but in the end, I opted for the game at the most interesting ground which was Newhaven v Corinthian. I could have doubled it up with Langney Wanderers v Harrow Borough - a really cracking-looking game but I'd been to Eastbourne Borough (where they groundshare) as recently as last season. What with the current situation and track and trace, I didn't want to push my luck, especially with a couple of weeks off work coming up. It's not the small chance of being infected that concerns me, it's more the fact that you could be forced to self isolate if someone else shows symptoms and tests positive which would really mess up my plans.

I decided my second game choice on Thursday and decided to try and leave a bit earlier and have a stroll down the beach. Also, on Friday afternoon, my Googling led me to the National Collection of Cider and Perry at Middle Farm near Lewes which seemed to offer an incredible range of ciders to take away. As a keen cider drinker, it would be great to pick some up to take home with me. I was also chuffed to identify a chppy that did my favourite of battered haggis, something that is incredibly hard to find down south, hence I last had it two years ago. There were a fair few games called off or moved to behind closed doors on Friday afternoon, as the media gleefully reported the rise in Coronavirus cases like the grim reaper. All down to vastly increased testing in the worst-affected areas of course, but concerning that things might get shut down in panic. I spent Friday evening watching a team of Wycombe trialists lose 2-1 at Chesham United and thanks to a great contact I was able to find out the Wycombe side. It was fun seeing fans guess who was playing. Well, here's one to test if you are reading this blog guys - former Nantes defender Hugo Lafosse and another French trialist called Gamil Abdourazakou, also from Nantes. I stayed up until 12.30 the previous night, waking around 8 hours later, though it wasn't the nest nights sleep. I had a shower and whiles away a couple of hours before leaving home at 10.30. It was a good journey down, aside from a brief delay on the M25 and speed limits for invisible roadworks on the M23. I got to Middle Farm - The National Collection of Cider and Perry in Firle near Lewes at 12.20 and the cider barn was every bit as brilliant as I'd hoped. I've had nearly 1,500 different ciders but even so, I bought 14 different ones and was only scratching the surface. Everything was reasonably priced too. I spent around 25 minutes there before leaving and it should have been an easy journey. However, due to level crossings, cyclists and roadworks, it took three times as long to get to Newhaven as it should have. I was there at 1.20 and with parking not the best, I found a spot on the road outside. I then took the 15-minute walk to Newhaven chippy, getting Haggis and chips for £5.90. It was a 20-minute wait what pitch all the Covid protocols but worth it, the haggis was enormous and delicious too. I was back near the ground at 2.15 and after taking a quick look at the Marina, I went in. It was a well priced £6 to get in, plus £1 for the programme which was smart and glossy. After doing the track and trace and getting some pictures, I got a pint of Somersby for £3.10. It's not the best cider, but I was parched and wanted to help out the club. I had a nice relax as I waited for kick-off.


The hosts came into this game having drawn 0-0 at Horley Town last week in their opening league game. They'd defeated Lingfield on penalties to get this far having had some good results in pre-season - beating Billingshurst 7-0 and local rivals Seaford Town 5-1. I'd seen Corinthian last week as they were unlucky to lose to Hebburn Town on penalties in the FA Vase semi-final. They'd beaten Sheerwater 2-1 in the previous round as well as beating Lordswood 2-1 in the SCEFL Premier on Tuesday. They'd travelled around 60-70 miles to get here (dependent on route) so not exactly local. Newhaven were the better team early on, plenty of the ball, but they weren't creating any chances. Someone from the Corinthian bench was a right moaner, constantly getting on the linesman and other officials backs. Nothing out of the ordinary of course, but it really stood out as I was right behind him, as I didn't have too much choice with social distancing. His side picked up later on in the half and following an injury which stopped the game for a few minutes, they scored a minute before the break. The ball was played down the right, a cross was put in and Jack Billings headed home from six yards out. The visitors continued to dominate into the second half and they missed a great chance to make it 2-0 on 54 minutes. Josh Stirman did the hard bit rounding the keeper, but he put the ball into the side netting, despite having an open goal to aim at. They continued to have the better of the play, but they weren't creating much. On 71 minutes, Newhaven had a chance out of the blue on the break, it was a real goalmouth scramble with Lee Robinson having a shot cleared off the line. This sparked a dull game into life and four minutes later, Newhaven were level. I was lucky enough to get it on camera, Harry Watson heading into the roof of the net following a corner from the right. I'd moved down the other end by then for respite from the Corinthian bench's barbs but it was the visitors who finished on top. Dane Tasker made a fantastic save to keep the scores level, diving to his right to pluck the ball out of the net. Corinthian threw everything at getting a winner, a disputed free-kick was blasted into the wall and a clearance off the line prevented them from retaking the lead. Newhaven had a chance on the break, a shot was narrowly deflected wide of the left-hand post and the resulting corner was headed over. Newhaven were hanging on, the ball being headed inches wide from a Corinthian corner. It was lax marking that allowed the visitors winner on 86 minutes but it was a smart finish from Frankie Morgan who surged into the area and fired past Tasker to put his side in the 1st Qualifying Round. Newhaven rallied late on, but they never seriously troubled Corinthian keeper Aidan Prall.

I was gutted to have missed out on a penalty shoot-out, but it had been a great day overall and Corinthian had deserved their win. I made my way back to my car, leaving shortly after 5 PM. It was a good journey home and BBC Radio 5 made the journey go quickly, first with the round-up and then with the phone-in with Robbie Savage and Chris Sutton. I was back by 6.45 and caught up with things, as well as updating my blog and sorting out my photos. I had some of the cider I bought back and the Pennard Organic Dry was fantastic. Before I uploaded, I checked the results of the FA Cup games that could affect my few days in Devon. Most of my targets sadly went out, but I was pleased for Bideford, Tavistock and Saltash and hoped they got a home draw in the next round. I planned to stay up and doing my blog until around 9, what with me up for work at 4 am. I'd had a brilliant day, but wished I'd left earlier and made more of a day of it. I'm unsure of what my next game will be, but I'll be enjoying it while it lasts, what with the way the world is at the moment.  I'll hopefully get another hopper on board, but if not, I'll be picking the area with the lowest infection rate and the lowest potential attendance to minimise chances of being told to self-isolate through track and trace.


THE TRAFALGAR STADIUM is one of the more interesting at this level. The main stand is large and elevated, this was apparently only part-built due to financial issues, but even so, it's impressive. The top deck has 150 seats, whilst the bottom deck had around the same. I think the seats came from Brighton & Hove Albion's old Withdean Stadium, as Whitehawk have very similar. There are more of these in the open air behind both goals and in the centre of the other side, probably another 500 in all. The rest of the ground is open hard standing. There appears to be a former terrace at one end of the ground which is now unusable due to having seats in front of it. Around a third of the ground is closed off to fans - the whole of the far goal and a third of one side for some reason. There are bar and tea bar facilities at the ground, I only tried the bar, but it wasn't bad. Nearby are a Co-Op, a pub plus a chippy, Chinese and kebab house around 15 minutes walk away.