Tuesday 20 July 2021

Harefield United - Preston Park

Harefield United FC
Preston Park
Breakspear Road North

01895 823474

Ground Number: 217
Tuesday 25th September 2012
Harefield United 1-4 South Park
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay


Harefield United is the oldest club in Middlesex and indeed one of the oldest in football, having been formed in 1868. They were known under various names during their early years including Harefield Victoria and Breakspear Institute. In 1934, they merged with local club Harefield to become Harefield United. During their early years they played in local competitions such as the Uxbridge & District League, the Great Western Combination (champions in 1951) and the Parthenon League (winners in their debut season of 1964/65. In 1966, the club joined the Middlesex League, winning the title in four out of their five seasons here. In 1971, Harefield United joined the Spartan League, their best finish of 3rd coming in 1975. After this win, they joined the Athenian League, achieving a couple of 6th place finishes. In 1984, they joined the Isthmian League Division 2 and in 1989 achieved their best-ever finish of 5th. This was the best finish in their history as at the time, it sat at step 4 of the Non-League pyramid. In 1993, Harefield United were relegated to Division 3 and then in 1996, they transferred to the Spartan League. It was the start of a difficult period for the club, in 1997 the league merged with the South Midlands League to become the Spartan South Midlands League. The club suffered relegation in their debut season and would remain in the second tier until 2002. That season, they finished as runners-up to Greenacres to win promotion to the Premier Division. The club were twice runners-up here, coming closest to the title in 2009 when they finished as runners-up on goal difference to Biggleswade Town. Harefield United were relegated to Division 1 in 2016 but would bounce back as champions in 2019. The last two seasons have not been completed but the team was in 15th and 9th positions respectively when the plug was pulled.

In the FA Cup, the club has reached the 2nd Qualifying Round five times. I was at the latter of these games on my first visit. In 2012, they beat Hillingdon Borough, London Colney and Colney Heath before drawing 0-0 at South Park. Despite having a home advantage in the replay, they crashed out 4-1. In the FA Vase, the club had their best run during the 1989/90 season, beating Sun Sports, Tiptree United, Bracknell Town, Greenwich Borough and Bashley before going out in the Quarter Final to eventual winners and local rivals, Yeading. Local Cup honours include the Middlesex Premier Cup in 2019, the Chesham Cup in 1948, the Spartan South Midlands League Cup in 2002 and the SSML Challenge Trophy in 2003. Their record attendance of 497 came for a game against Hatfield Town during their title winning season of 2018/19, during which they went unbeaten. Harefield is a borough of Hillingdon and has a population of 7,400. It is most well known for its hospital which is a world leader in heart and lung surgery. It once treated TalkSPORT host Mike Parry, saving his life. There's also a cricket club in the area and it was the birthplace of astrologer Russell Grant.


Initially, I had been planning to go to Carshalton Athletic v Whitehawk tonight to see former Wycombe players Scott McGleish and Matt Lawrence play. And also to a retro game shop in nearby Croydon. But that game got called off, as Whitehawk had an FA Cup replay against Hitchin after drawing in Brighton at the weekend. My initial thought was to go to Tooting and Mitcham v Maidstone United, as I had read that Tooting had a programme shop and it meant I could still go to Croydon. However, after a long day at work on Monday and a fairly costly trip to Newport County v Grimsby Town on Saturday, I wanted a cheaper and more local option. I opted for Harefield United v South Park in an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay, the two sides having drawn 0-0 in Surrey at the weekend. I hate 0-0 draws and was hoping not to see another one in the replay, but at least I would get the consolation of a penalty shoot-out if that did happen. And I do love the FA Cup, in my mind, it is the greatest cup competition in the world, miles better than the overhyped "Champions" League, where you can finish 4th in your domestic league and still be considered a "Champion"

On the day I was working till 2 and so spent the afternoon relaxing and had some dinner before leaving at 6.40. After a fairly hassle-free journey, though via some dodgy country roads, thanks to my SatNav, I arrived at 7.15, and keen to get a programme before they sold out, went straight in. I went and took some pictures of the ground and settled down in the stand before reading my programme and checking out Facebook and Twitter. In the end, I had more time than I thought. The South Park team coach got stuck in traffic and so kick-off was delayed until 8.05 by the referee.
It was a very reasonable £5 to get in, plus £1 for a programme, which had a nice design, but not much in the way of stuff to read, though enough for what it cost me.

The game started off fairly slowly, leaving me worrying that it might be a dull encounter. But my fears were to prove unfounded. On the half-hour mark, Harefield took the lead, after having much of the game. Jack Higgins angled shot was drilled in from the edge of the box, a decent goal and one that the home side merited. However, the lead didn't last long. A little over a minute later Danny Bennell headed the equaliser and it was all square. South Park came more into it after this, but it was still 1-1 at the break. I used the interval to go and get my car, as I had parked about 5 minutes walk away, as it was busy around the ground when I arrived. But I spotted a nice spot just outside the ground and decided to take that, luckily it was still there when I returned. I also took the opportunity to change into a thicker coat as it was quite nippy and also put my camera and programme in the car, save me from having to carry it. I just had enough time to get a Bovril from the tea bar before the start of the second half, they were just kicking off as I got back into the ground. I saw Lee, from the Hayes & Yeading club shop who recognised me, and we had a brief chat as the second half kicked off. 
The second half started off pretty evenly, with perhaps South Park having slightly the better of the game. It was they who took the lead on 65 minutes when Chris Smith headed home from a looping cross. By now they took the game by the scruff of the neck. They added a third nine minutes later when they scored a great free-kick. A Harefield player was also sent off for the first of several protests about the referee's performance, certainly a lot of fruity language coming from the crowd, which seems OTT when it's another team, but perfect sense when it's your team you are shouting for. South Park completed the win 10 minutes from time with a 4th killer goal. By now tempers were starting to get frayed amongst fans and a Harefield supporter started dishing out the verbals to a South Park fan, which he took exception to, asking what was his problem. The Harefield fan said, "Shut up, this is my f*cking manor" which riled the South Park fan even more. In the end, it took the intervention of other fans to split them up, and nothing more happened.

Harefield United 1-1 Welwyn Garden City, Friendly, 20/07/21 

I was always open to a revisit to Preston Park to tidy up my blog and also to add the club's history to this entry. Indeed, I attempted to see an FA Sunday Cup game between NLO and Bentons in 2018. The ideal opportunity came this Tuesday. Initially, I was looking to visit either Oakwood or AFC Totton as I'd started blogs for these, only to see games postponed. However, both of these games were being played on alternative pitches. All my usual hopping pals were busy and having had an expensive start to the season, I decided that a revisit was in order. Harefield United fitted the bill perfectly, as it was only 14 miles from home. I researched the club history on Monday night, something that I really enjoy about blogging. Tuesday was the last of my five days off work and it consisted of a morning walk, steak and chips for lunch and an afternoon of updating the leagues on my blog. This would be a fair old job at the best of times, but with the huge amount of changes over the summer, it was a bit overwhelming. After a dinner of salmon and couscous, I left at 6.45. The journey over there was a bit cross country, but I was there in half an hour. The car park was a bit chaotic, but I found a space. I was given a nice welcome by the friendly bloke on the gate and stuck a few quid in the donation bucket. 

In previous pre-season games, Harefield United had lost 4-0 to Hanwell Town and 3-2 at Ardley United. Visitors Welwyn Garden City had been in better form, beating Walthamstow 1-0 and Letchworth Garden City 5-1. They'd also drawn 1-1 to Royston Town and lost  5-2 to Hanwell Town. Harefield lined up in their usual red and black kit whilst Welwyn Garden City were in pale blue shirts with white shorts. Around 30 were in attendance. Harefield had the better of the opening exchanges but without creating any real chances. Welwyn had the first real chance of the game, flashing a header wide of the post after a good move. The visitors would have the majority of the play and would take the lead just as halftime was approaching. Welwyn capitalised on a mix up between two defenders and with the keeper out of position, finished from just outside the area into an empty net. The two defenders had a bit of a moan at each other about it before getting on with the game. The goalie redeemed himself a couple of minutes later, saving a header from point-blank range following a great cross. The visitors' dominance continued in the second half and another good save from the keeper from a long shot kept it 1-0. Harefield thought they'd equalised 20 minutes from time, but it was ruled out for offside. This spurred them on and on 75 minutes a player curled a fantastic shot into the top right-hand corner from 20 yards out. They scored another goal on 79 minutes, a low drive into the bottom left-hand corner but this was ruled out for an infringement. A couple of good saves at the end prevented the hosts from getting a late winner. It was a case of a game of two halves, with Welwyn Garden City bossing the first but Harefield United having the better of the second. It had been a decent contest on a pleasant evening. It was a nice easy journey home with me getting in at 10:05.


PRESTON PARK is a smart but basic non-league ground. I actually visited in the past to take photos and it's not changed at all. It is mainly open standing, with an area of cover midway down one sideline. There is also a stand opposite, seating around 120, from where the views are OK but not perfect as there are pillars. The tea bar and bar are in the same place. The tea bar does a basic menu as well as hot drinks. The bar only offers a limited range of drinks but is well furnished with SKY/ESPN on big screens, a good bar for this level. No club shop as you would expect for a club of this size, but in the main, a nice friendly club and worth a visit if you are in that neck of the woods.


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