Monday, 14 October 2019

Great Wakering Rovers - Borroughs Park

White Ensign FC
c/o Great Wakering Rovers FC
Burroughs Park
Little Wakering Hall Lane
Great Wakering
Southend On Sea

01702 217812

Ground Number: 889
Sunday 13th October 2019
White Ensign 4-1 Buckingham Athletic

FA Vase 1st Round


The club was established in 1951 and name comes from Naval connections. They spent their first 51 years in the Southend Borough Combination prior to joining the Essex Intermediate League in 2002. Starting in Division 2 (step 8 of the non-league pyramid) they were champions in their first season and this brought about a period of great success. White Ensign would be Essex Intermediate League (renamed Essex Olympian League in 2005) in four of the next five seasons. After the 4th of these wins in 2008, results tailed off somewhat but the club would remain in the Essex Olympian Premier until 2014 when they were relegated to Division 1. They'd bounce back as runners-up to Harold Hill in their first season to return to the Premier Division at the first attempt. Finishes had been mixed since their return, but 4th last season was their best in ten years. Due to the expansion of step 6, more specifically creating a league for Essex, they were invited to join the Eastern Senior League Division 1 South at the start of last season. They finished a very credible 4th in their first season, but have found the going tougher this season, sitting 13th before the weekends games.

This season saw White Ensign entered the FA Cup for the first time, beating Woodford Town in a replay but going out narrowly to higher division Takeley in the Preliminary Round. This season has also seen a record run the FA Vase - 3-0 wins over White Ensign & Blue Forest had set up my latest visit. Local cup wins include the Essex Olympian Senior Challenge Cup three times, the Capital Counties Feeder League Trophy on three occasions, The Essex Olympian Senior Cup twice and the Essex Premier Cup in 2008. White Ensign's most famous former player is Paul Benson who was snapped up by Dagenham & Redbridge after scoring an incredible 107 goals in 65 games for them.


Usually, Sunday is a pretty miserable day for me, what with having to work, but on this occasion, it was the last day of my week off. There's not usually that many games on a Sunday, but as it happened, there was an FA Vase game that I fancied in White Ensign v Buckingham Athletic. Even better, fellow hopper Anwar agreed to come and keep me company, and that helped with petrol costs too. The day of the game came and it was, yet again, raining. White Ensign tweeted that the game was on and so I was good to go. I spent the morning editing photos and videos and typing by blog from yesterday's visit to Epping, getting the bulk of work done before leaving at 12.10, getting to Anwar just after 12.30. I needed petrol, so we stopped at Tesco in Aylesbury en-route. The journey could have gone better, there was a hold up on the motorway due to a broken down car, so we sat at a standstill for ten minutes watching the speed cameras do brisk business on the other side of the carriageway. Talking of cameras, the A127 had loads of them, I reckon you could potentially lose your licence in five minutes. There were more delays on this road, another 20 minutes as half of the road was closed off, of course, with not a single worker in sight. Eventually, we got to the ground at 2.40, paying a reasonable £6 to get in. I'd been hoping for a portion of chips, but the tea bar was operating on a limited menu. The hot dog that I had was not great, £3 and the bun was not the freshest, obviously leftover from yesterday's Great Wakering Rovers game. It also had butter in for some reason. I scraped as much out as possible and added sauce, but regretted not stopping somewhere on the way.

White Ensign were on good form - in the last six games they'd recorded five victories (including an 8-2 victory over Newbury Forest in their last game) and drawn once. Buckingham Athletic were also doing pretty well, winning four (including a 6-0 win over Hillingdon Borough) and losing two of their last six.
The game started brightly with chances falling to both sides, but none were taken. The hosts took the lead on 27 minutes, Luke Skinner crashing a shot in off the bar from 10 yards out. Six minutes later, they doubled their lead with Andy George slotting home from close range. After 47 minutes, the game was as good as over, this time Brett Munyard tapped a cross home at the back post. Buckingham Athletic would reduce the arrears a couple of minutes later, Jeremiah Adams poking home after a goalmouth scramble. However, the three-goal lead was restored on 58 minutes, Robert Tapp scoring an own goal after he deflected a cross into his own net. The chances dried up after that, White Ensign content to sit on their three-goal lead and see the game out. We made better time on the journey home, with me dropping Anwar off at 6.35 and getting home myself at 7. I had dinner and watched Who Wants To Be A Millionaire before going to bed at 9 as I was up at 4 am for work.


BURROUGHS PARK is a smart and well-kept venue. The game is named after Roger Burroughs, the local farmer who played a big part in laying the foundations for the current ground and helping get it set up. The seated stand holds 250 and has seats from Bolton Wanderers old ground, Burnden Park in it.  There are further covered standing areas too. Opposite is an elevated stand behind the dugouts, this holds around 200. There's another covered area behind the goal, including an overhang in front of the dressing rooms, this holds around 200. The ground has a total capacity of 3,000. The bar looked spacious and smart, but the tea bar, despite promising much, was disappointing on my visit, so it may be worth stopping en-route as there wasn't much in the immediate area. Great Wakering had a club shop, but it wasn't open on my visit.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Epping Town - Stonards Hill

Epping Town FC
Stonards Hill Recreation Ground
Stonards Hill
CM16 6SP

Ground Number: 888
Saturday 12th October 2019
Epping Town 3-3 Hampton Town
Anagram Trophy


The original Epping Town started out in the Spartan League in 1936. They joined the London League in 1955, of which they were champions in 1964. Spells in various leagues followed, including the Metropolitan League which they won three times in four seasons between 1971 and 1974. They then spent three years in the Athenian League, winning promotion from Division 2 in 1976. Finally, they joined the Isthmian League in 1977, playing in Division 2. They generally struggled, the highlight being a 9th place in 1979. The club folded midway through the 1984/85 season, due to financial difficulties. They enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup in 1973, beating Corinthian-Casuals, Hounslow & Maidenhead United before losing out to Chelmsford City in the 4th Qualifying Round. They reached the FA Vase 5th Round in 1977, losing out to East Ham United after a replay.

The present Epping Town club was established in 1976 as Coopersale. They joined the Essex OIympian League upon formation and had a number of unremarkable seasons before they were relegated to the second tier in 1982. Results failed to take much of an upturn and in 1989, they suffered a further relegation to Division 3. 1992 saw a name change to Eppingsale and results gradually improved. By 1998, they finished as runners-up to Shell Club and were promoted to Division 2. The following year, they changed their name to Epping and were Division 2 champions in 2002, returning to the top tier. They achieved a best-ever finish in 2010, finishing 5th in what was now called the Premier Division, which sits at step 7 of the non-league pyramid. However, this was followed by a tricky few years for the club and they tumbled down the leagues, suffering three successive relegations. By 2013, they were back in Division 3, but results failed to improve and in 2016, they left the league for a season. Rejoining in 2017, they started out in Division 4. The club changed its name to Epping Town in 2018. After finishing as runners-up last season, they were placed in Division 2 for this season and are taking full advantage of their elevation, sitting top of the league having won all four games. Local cup wins include the Danny King Memorial Cup in 2006. 

The market town of Epping has a population of just under 11,500. Future Prime Minister Winston Churchill was local MP here between 1924 and 1945. Famous residents past and present include footballer Glenn Hoddle, politician Phillip Hammond, singer Rod Stewart, TV presenters Bradley Walsh Griff Rhys Jones & Ben Shepherd and actors Nick Berry & Jessie Wallace.


Non-League Day was celebrating its tenth anniversary on this day, but originally I thought I’d be heading to Ipswich Town v Wycombe Wanderers for my first Chairboys away game of the season. However, the match was called off due to a few Ipswich squad members being called up for their countries. Whatever the rights and wrongs are about giving certain clubs special privileges, I wasn’t too fussed as it meant a day out in London. Within twenty minutes of the call-off being announced, I’d booked tickets to go and see one of my favourite bands, The Lancashire Hotpots in London on that evening. I needed a game to go with it and drew up a shortlist. Games at Punjab United and Seaford United were considered as well as a game in the Anagram Trophy at Epping Town. In the end, the former was missed due to the high admission price - £8 at step 6 is ridiculous and even though it would make no difference to me financially, it’s the principle that counts. Seaford was just that little bit too far to make it back to London in time, so Epping won out. It had the disadvantage of a 2.15 kick-off and with me having earmarked a nearby pub for lunch and it being a 2.5-hour journey from home on public transport, it would mean an early start. Perhaps not the best tactic to have a late-night before then, following a game at Parson Drove and delays on the way back, I stayed up for a couple of hours to complete my blog. It was nearly 3am by the time I got to bed and I slept all the way through until my alarm went off at 8.30.

I was pretty quick off the mark, getting washed and dressed and grabbing a kit-kat and satsuma for breakfast before heading out of the house, little more than twenty minutes after waking up. I stopped at the local shop for a paper and had a bit of luck with the bus, only having to wait five minutes for my bus to Amersham which was £3.80 single fare. It was then a quick stop at Subway for further sustenance. Again, I had luck with public transport, arriving to a busy platform was a good sign and a train was with me within a few minutes, rather than the half-hour I sometimes have to wait. I got the Chiltern to Marylebone, the Bakerloo to Oxford Circus and finally the Central to Epping. I was at the station about 11.30 and was met by unexpected drizzle. It was a fair old walk to the pub, around two miles and past the ground, in fact, so I took the option of checking out the ground. The expected cover was missing and the goals were absent, but the pitch appeared fine. This was good news with other local games falling and the lack of Twitter updates from the club. I made my way to the Theydon Oak and was initially disappointed. Despite a big range of real ciders, they were only from two producers and I’d had them all before. My first choice was out, so I got a pint of Orchard Thieves from the bar whilst I perused the menu. In the end, I selected something off the specials board - Chicken kebabs, chips and salad. This was fairly healthy by my standards and tasty too - unusually for me, I even eat the salad. I was concerned about my own game with my backup at Newbury Forest being called off but I was feeling better after my second pint - Lilley’s Wild Dog. I was reassured when Epping Town tweeted positive news, eventually leaving the pub around 1.35. It was a precarious walk along a road with no pavement again, but thankfully, it wasn’t that busy.

I got to the ground around 1.50, reassured to hear the players warming up. A basic programme was purchased for £2, but it was more of a donation to the club than a purchase. It had turned out a more expensive day than I'd thought with me deciding to attribute half my meal costs and a pint to my football costs, but I was enjoying my day. Chances fell to both sides in the early stages, the Hampton keeper making a good save from a free-kick. The Epping keeper also made a good reaction save from the Hampton #7 at his near post but the same player made no mistake with his second chance on 14 minutes, finishing well from just inside the area. It was 2-0 after 21 minutes, hesitancy in the home defence allowed a Hampton man to finish from close range. A succession of corners saw Epping try to get back into the game but a well-worked free-kick by Hampton meant the game looked over after half an hour. Epping pulled one back after 43 minutes, Daniel Garfinkle getting enough on his shot to take it past the keeper. The hosts thought they'd pulled another one back soon after, but a header from a cross was cleared off the line. At the other end, the Epping keeper made a good save from point-blank range to keep his side in it. There were chances aplenty for the hosts at the start of the second half, but none were taken. In fact, they pretty much dominated the second half, having a goal ruled out for offside after an hour. A lovely strike from left-back Bradley Gayer finally reduced the arrears with 15 minutes to go as he fired home from outside the area. On 84 minutes they scored an equaliser that had seemed so unlikely earlier in the afternoon, a square ball found Dagyaren Taner who finished emphatically from six yards. Epping continued to press for the winner and it was only a great save from the keeper that prevented them from getting it in normal time. I was glad when the game went straight to penalties, Hampton eventually prevailing after a dramatic afternoon of football.

It had been a great afternoon’s entertainment for the 30 or so in attendance, even if the weather wasn’t playing ball. It was around 20 minutes walk to the station with a train there waiting for me. It took around five minutes to leave and was pretty busy with groups heading up to London for the night. After a couple of changes, I was at Charing Cross by 5.45. The place was complete chaos what with Extinction Rebellion in situ and several sets of roadworks. With me coming out a different entrance to usual, it was confusing and it didn’t help that several places were blocked off. Eventually, I found my intended place, The Harp Pub. Even if it was rammed and the prices had shot up since my last visit, it was still wonderful. Pints of Duckchicken Gigglejuice and Ross Citrus Dry Perry were enjoyed whilst I caught up with life. I got some food at Taco Bell before heading to the concert venue, arriving just before 8. A good evening was had with a few drinks although not too many as I was fairly sober when I left. With little else on offer, I headed for home. Annoyingly, all the online taxi services were unavailable and some that I rang wanted £30 for a six-mile journey. I eventually found one for £20, though as ever, there was a wait. Nearly an hour, in fact, meaning I got home at 1.30, spending an hour watching TV before going to bed.


STONARDS HILL RECREATION GROUND is a fairly basic setup with just a railed pitch and a small section of uncovered terracing. There is some shelter available under trees and the ground is located in nice surroundings. The town is around 15 minutes walk away whilst the pleasant Theydon Oak pub is around 10 minutes walk away the other way.