Friday 15 March 2013

Harlow Town - Barrows Farm

Harlow Town FC
Barrows Farm Stadium
Elizabeth Way
CM19 5BE

01279 443196

Ground Number: 254
Friday 15th March 2013
Harlow Town 1-1 Waltham Forest
Ryman League - Division 1 North


The club was formed in 1879 and spent their early years playing in the East Herts, London, Delphian and Athenian leagues. In 1973, Harlow Town joined the Isthmian League, starting in its second tier. Finishes were mixed but in 1979, they won the title and promotion to the Premier Division. Three seasons would be spent struggling before being relegated back to Division 1 in 1982. They bounced back immediately, finishing as runners-up to Worthing. The 1983/84 season saw the club enjoy its highest ever finish - 12th in the Isthmian Premier, which at the time was at step 2 of the non-league pyramid. Fortunes suffered a sharp decline in the mid-80s with two consecutive relegations with Harlow finding themselves in Division 2 North in 1987. Though they'd bounce back after a few seasons, issues with their old 'Sportcentre' ground meant that they would drop out of football for the 1992/93 season. When they returned, they'd start in the Isthmian Division 3 for the 93/94 season. A double promotion in the late-90s meant a return to Isthmian Division 1. Due to geographical reasons, Harlow spent between 2004 and 2006 in the Southern League D1 East. They'd return to the Isthmian D1 North for the 2006/07 season, sealing promotion with a 2nd place finish. A couple of seasons were spent in the Isthmian Premier before relegation to D1 North in 2009. They'd remain here until 2016, a couple of playoff failures behind them before a 3rd place finish beating Cray Wanderers and AFC Hornchurch to seal promotion. They've been in the Isthmian Premier ever since, narrowly avoiding relegation last season and sitting in the relegation zone at the time of my second visit.

Harlow Town's best ever run in the FA Cup came during the 1979/80 season. Starting in the  Preliminary Round, they beat Lowestoft Town, Hornchurch, Bury Town, Harwich & Parkeston, Margate and Leytonstone-Ilford. This presented them with a 2nd Round tie against football league side Southend United. They drew 1-1 in the away game at Roots Hall before winning 1-0 at home to set up a 3rd Round game against Leicester City. Again, they were drawn away and came away with a 1-1 draw. The replay was a record 9,723 attendance at the Sportcentre, Leicester City, featuring a young and under the weather Gary Lineker on the wing succumbed 1-0 to a scrappy 41st goal from John Mackenzie. The 4th Round saw Harlow drawn away at Watford where they went 4-1 down, restoring pride by grabbing two late goals back at the end of an incredible FA Cup run. They've gone as far as the FA Trophy 2nd Round on a number of occasions, the latest of which in 2016/17 saw them in a narrow 2-1 defeat against York City. Harlow Town's best run in the FA Cup came in the 1998/99 season as they reached the 4th Round before a defeat to Taunton Town. Local cup wins include the Essex Senior Cup in 1979. The town of Harlow itself has a population of 86,200 and is twinned with amongst other places, Stavanger in Norway. Famous people to come from Harlow include actor Rupert Grint (played Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films), footballing brothers Carl & Glenn Hoddle and Rik Mayall.


I only decided to do this one at the last minute. My usual Friday night of going round to my mate who I have known for over 25 years was off, as he was in London. And faced with the depressing thought of sitting in and watching the relentless scrounging (albeit for a good cause) and second-rate comedy on Comic Relief did not appeal to me. My usual travel companion, Anwar, would not be with me for this one, but at under 50 miles each way, it was just about affordable on my own. I checked the website of both teams for players that I recognised, but there was only one - former Maidenhead United keeper Chico Ramos. Tonight would be my 1300th game overall, if my calculations were correct, though I may have missed a few out as I only started recording what games I went to a few years back and had the long and arduous task of trying to work out what games I had been to in my 20 years of watching football. From a steady 24 in my first season watching football to a record 117 in season 2003/04, I had certainly seen a lot of football. And it had no doubt cost me a small fortune, but I had enjoyed it in the main and had lots of memories, even if most of them were lost the back of my head.

The weather was pretty grim and drizzly all afternoon, and so I was checking Harlow's twitter feed every so often up until I had my dinner, then just before leaving at 5.50. Before getting on my way I stopped at a cash machine and got £30 out as I only had a few quid in my wallet. As expected the M25 was being a right pain on a Friday night and so my sat nav advised me to get off and go via St Albans, Hatfield, Hertford and various other places. There were long and painful queues at each roundabout, but I got there at last just before 7.30. While I was driving I had a tweet and was dreading that it was going to say the game was off due to rain. My spirits were lifted when I saw the glow of the floodlights in the distance, then dropped when I saw a near empty car park. But luckily the game was on and the tweet was just from Facebook friend and Scarborough Athletic fan Rob Bernard who contributes to their excellent fanzine 'Abandon Chip'. It reminded me of how much I was looking forward to the Bridlington Town v Scarborough Athletic game as part of the NCEL Groundhop on Easter Saturday. 
After paying to get in and getting a programme I went around taking some pictures. Sadly the club shop wasn't open so I went and had a look in the bar instead. I left one of my website cards in there and as I heard the bell for the players to come out, I went and found a place to watch the game from. I spotted fans from Farnborough and Millwall before meeting up with Rob.

The game itself was pretty decent. Despite being in the better side, Harlow went in behind. On 40 minutes a smart finish from Jack Leachman gave the visitors the lead. Harlow did improve in the second half and it did look as if they were going to be getting nothing from the game. They had an injury to one of their players too. A hard but fair tackle where the Waltham Forest player took the ball but also the player led to him having to be stretchered off. This lead to the Harlow fans, who had given their team fantastic vocal support all night having a go at the Waltham Forest manager and he gave it back in equal measure, which all added to the entertainment value. The home side finally got their equaliser with a close-range finish and well deserved it was too. Within a couple of minutes the game was all over and although it was no thriller, it was still worth the effort of going over there, and with my mate moving to London full time, I can see me spending a few more Friday nights watching football in the future.

I thought the journey home would be a lot easier than the journey there, but how wrong I was. I stopped at ASDA on the way out of Harlow to get something to eat as I was peckish, and what with the game going on for quite a while, I didn't leave there until 10.15. Another bad thing that was I had to pay to park and didn't get a full refund in the shop, madness from the council. Then, the road that I needed to take was closed, with no diversion offered, so I had to travel out into the back end of beyond before my sat nav would stop trying to tell me to do the impossible and go down a closed road. Eventually, I got on a road towards home, and upon getting on the M25 was confronted by an average speed limit for miles on end, because of the invisible workmen that they had toiling away. I did eventually get home around 11.40 and despite the less than easy journey, was pretty happy and had a couple of pints before going to bed.


The original Woodford Town was established in 1937 and spent their early years. The first ten years whereabouts are unknown, but between 1946 and 1982, they had spells in the London, Delphenian, Southern, Essex, Metropolitan & Athenian Leagues. Despite only finishing 10th in the latter in 1982, they joined the Southern League. Finishes were generally in the lower half of the second tier Southern Division but despite a 3rd place finish in 1987, they dropped back into the Essex Senior League. They finished as runners-up to Brightlingsea United in 1993 but would go on to have a few seasons of struggle. 1993 saw them lose their Snakes Lane ground and transfer to the Spartan League, finishing as high as 5th in 1996. After a season in the London Intermediate League, they rejoined the Essex Senior League in 1999. After three consecutive bottom finishes they were voted out of the league and were dissolved in 2003. Notable cup achievements include reaching the FA Cup 1st Round in 1986 where they lost to Orient. They also played in Europe - losing both games in the Anglo Italian Cup in 1986 (4-0 to Piacenza and 3-2 to Merthyr Tydfil). Famous former players include Johnny Haynes and Jimmy Greaves.

The current club was established in 2007 as Goffs Oak, Playing in the Hertford & District League at first, they joined the Hertfordshire Senior County League in 2010/11 season, winning Division 1 at the first attempt. In their first season in the Premier Division (step 7) they finished 5th before changing their name to Bush Hill Rangers in 2012. After 5th and 4th place finishes in the next two seasons, the club would join the Spartan South Midlands League Division 1 for the 2014/15, finishing 11th in their debut season. That summer, the club would change their name to Woodford Town in memory of the previous club that existed from 1937 until 2003 when they were booted out of the Essex Senior League after finishing bottom three seasons in a row. They'd only last one season finishing 13th whilst playing at the former home of Brimsdown Rovers. The 2016/17 season was spent out of football before they were re-established a year later as 'Woodford Town 2017'. They started out in the Essex Senior League, finishing 12th last season. This year sees them in fine form, sitting in 5th at the start of play. They also have plans to move into a ground of their own next season for the first time in 26 years.


I was originally planning on revisiting Harlow for a Woodford Town game back on 14th December, however, due to health & safety issues relating to a gas problem at the ground, it was called off. The club were very good at keeping me in the loop which saved me a wasted journey.  They were regular providers of Friday night football, a rare thing in modern times, especially near to where I lived. I decided to visit when next convenient as fellow hopper Anwar was keen to 'tick off' Harlow Town and this Friday provided the perfect opportunity. I had a decent day at work for once, coming home at lunchtime and spending the afternoon catching up with various bits and bobs. After a dinner of pasta, I left just after 5 and headed out to meet Anwar in Aylesbury. It turned out to be a horrendous journey, what usually takes 25 minutes took over an hour due to the A413 being closed. Eventually, at 6.15 I reached him and despite grim predictions, the traffic behaved and we were there at 7.30. Leicester fan and hopper Ken ‘Lesta Blew Hopper’ was also in attendance and it was good to catch up.

There was a friendly welcome and entry was a reasonable £6. Woodford Town fans were in good voice and so we joined them on the far side. The same couldn’t be said for their team with West Essex having the better of the opening 20 minutes. However, the hosts opened the scoring on the break when a square ball found Andrea Mantovani and he slotted neatly home to give them the lead. This perked Woodford up a bit and improved the game with both sides having good chances soon after. West Essex equalised around eight minutes into the second half when Cameron Gray latched onto a loose ball in the area and finished well from around ten yards. It was West Essex taking the lead on the hour mark, a goal not too dissimilar to their first. Nick Walk found Michael Mignot with a great pass and the finish was calm and composed. Still, the Woodford fans backed their team vocally, but sadly their team were not doing the business on the pitch with West Essex firmly in control. The visitors should have won by a decent margin, but they were victims of a late equaliser. They only had themselves to blame, failing to clear their lines. The ball was crossed and it fell to Jaden Thompson-Brissett who drilled home from the edge of the area for the goal of the game and a dramatic equaliser. It was harsh, football wise but just reward for the home fans who didn't stop singing all night. They were a friendly bunch too and we shook hands with them all before leaving. It was 9.45 by the time we got going and I put TalkSPORT on the radio in preparation for the Two Mikes. It was a good journey home with me dropping Anwar off at 10.45 and getting home around 11. I was in no rush to go to sleep and continued to listen to the radio whilst typing this blog and having a couple of drinks.


BARROWS FARM is a smart and modern stadium, and although I never visited the old Harlow ground, I believe it is a big improvement on their running track infested former home. Harlow Town have had some financial issues in recent times, but at least they have a home to be proud of. I visited there once on the way back from a Wycombe away game, if I recall correctly, a 5-2 defeat to Norwich City as we embarked upon a pretty poor season in League 1, which ended in relegation. Although both ends are uncovered, the side stands are very good. The seated stand holds around 250, but has a great function room and bar facilities, which happened to be useful for getting into the ground on a non-matchday. The other side is also covered, a terrace holding around 750 supporters. This is more than enough to cope with normal league crowds and keep everyone dry.

The tea bar has a basic range, but what was coming out looked pretty tasty and it was all very well priced. The bar was modern and big enough to accommodate the support that they get, but only had a basic range of drinks. The club shop wasn't open on my visit, so I can't comment on that. But overall a nice friendly club with decent fans and a good value day or night out, I think most fans would enjoy visiting here, I just hope they have better luck with traffic than I did on my first visit. With three teams playing here you are spoilt for choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment