Ampthill Town FC
Ground Number: 330
Saturday 15th February 2014
Ampthill Town 3-1 Hanwell Town
FA Vase 5th Round
AMPTHILL TOWN FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was established back in 1881 and they played in very minor leagues before they joined the South Midlands League in 1952. They won the title in 1960 and were runners-up to Hemel Hempstead United the following year. In 1965, they moved to the United Counties League, starting out in Division 2. They struggled at first but in 1969, they finished 6th and were promoted to Division 1 which was later renamed the Premier Division. Again, they took time to find their feet at the higher level, the best they could manage was two 7th place finishes. In 1987 they finished bottom and were relegated back to the second tier, now called Division 1. After four mediocre seasons, they left the league and rejoined the South Midlands League. They spent a couple of seasons in the third-tier Division 1 before reorganization saw them placed in the Senior Division. Four seasons were spent here before the league was merged into the Spartan South Midlands League. They were placed in the second-tier Senior Division but finished bottom and were relegated to Division 1. They bounced back immediately as runners-up to Bridger Packaging and the following season they were runners-up to Tring Athletic in the Senior Division. However, they were denied a second successive promotion due to ground grading issues. The division was renamed Division 1 soon after and remains under that name to this day. Ampthill Town remained here until 2012 when with the ground improved, they finished as runners-up to London Colney to win promotion to the Premier Division. An excellent first season saw them finish 5th and the following season they were runners-up to Hanwell Town. This remains their record finish but the following season they finished second bottom and were relegated back to Division 1 in 2015. Ampthill Town had four mid-table seasons prior to the two abandoned campaigns. This season however has seen them improve greatly and finish as runners-up to Stotfold, earning a place in the end-of-season playoffs.
Following their debut in 1981, Ampthill Town have played twelve campaigns in the FA Cup, however, they've only won four games and never got beyond the 1st Qualifying Round. They did have a number of good seasons in the FA Vase around a decade ago. The best came during the 2013/14 season when they beat Barking 7-0, Beckenham Town 2-1, Norwich United 3-1 and Hanwell Town 3-1 before a 2-1 defeat at Eastbourne United in the Quarter Finals. Local cup wins include the SSML Premier Division Cup in 2014, the South Midlands League Championship Shield in 1959 & 1960, the Bedfordshire Intermediate Cup in 1999 and the Bedfordshire Senior Trophy in 2012 & 2016.
Ampthill is a town in Bedfordshire, located between Bedford and Luton, the population is just over 8,000. The name 'Ampthill' is of Anglo-Saxon origin. The first settlement was called 'Aemethyll', which literally means either 'ant-heap' or 'ant-infested hill'. Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to Ampthill Castle, and it was there that Catherine of Aragon lived from 1531 until divorced in 1533, when she was moved to Kimbolton. Today a park remains just north of the town centre, the site of Ampthill's former castle, where Henry VIII would come and hunt. It was in the castle's Great Dining Room that Queen Catherine defiantly received news of the end of her marriage. Ampthill is a commercial centre for surrounding villages; it has several pubs, restaurants, a Waitrose supermarket and a selection of small independent specialist shops. It is one of the most expensive places to buy a house in Bedfordshire, even in comparison with other mid-Bedfordshire towns such as neighbouring Flitwick, and Cranfield. As well as another Sunday League club called Queensmen, there's also Ampthill Rugby Club which play in the sport's second tier, and a cricket club. Ampthill hosts its own annual festival weekend in the summer. This event includes two music events: a live rock music event "AmpRocks", which has hosted acts such as Razorlight and Toploader, and the "Ampthill Park Proms", where classical music is performed by bands such as Ampthill Orchestra, Ampthill Band and Redborne Jazz Band from the local upper school. This event is held in Ampthill Great Park, where a temporary soundstage is erected to entertain local residents.
MY FIRST VISIT
Wycombe's long wait for a win continued with 2 draws since I last did a groundhop. Firstly on Saturday, we drew 0-0 with Accrington in an uninspiring draw. After that, I was convinced that we would be playing non-league football next season. I couldn't see us getting anything out of Fleetwood at home and Torquay were at home to Northampton in the battle of the bottom two. If they won and we failed to, they would move above us and dump us in the relegation zone in the process. As it happened a much-improved performance saw us draw 1-1, which I would have taken beforehand. And Northampton came out of the game with a win to move them within 4 points of Torquay. We still have a battle on our hands though, and with only 1 win in the last 18 games, it will be a fair while before we can dismiss my initial thoughts as cynical negativity if indeed we can at all. Off the field, the trust announced its intention to bring in external investment which would see a large percentage of the club go to a mystery consortium, but the ground and club memorabilia would be protected, and a few other stipulations would have to be adhered to. More news will come out next week, before the idea is voted on at the Trust AGM on 26th February.
I had a very long, busy, and tiring week at work. I was looking forward to some Friday night football, a rare treat on my favourite day to a game. I ran myself into the ground at work, as it was the busiest day of all and I needed to meet Laurence, who I was going with, in Oxford at 2. I even cut short my break at work to get off as early as I could. Finally, at 1.10 I had finished my duties, quickly got changed, and went up the motorway to Headington near where he lives. I was just getting my things together when I got a phone call to inform me that the game was off. Laurence had made contact with the Bangor secretary and he informed him that it would not be on. I had expected it and had made the first leg of the journey more in hope than expectation, but at least we hadn't wasted any more time and money. 90 minutes later it was called off officially so it was good to know early. I couldn't even console myself with a pint and lunch at the highly-rated pub The Masons Arms (our agreed meeting point) as it didn't open till 5PM. Instead, I made my way home and watched Twitter as multiple games were called off earlier. I was pleased to see that my first choice - Ampthill Town v Hanwell Town was not one of the casualties and the home club remained optimistic that it would go ahead.
Several games had already bitten the dust, including Wycombe's game at Cheltenham. Looking on the bright side, following our two draws and no midweek game, we would be a fortnight unbeaten come next Saturday's game at home to Chesterfield. Ampthill was going to be on according to my groundhopper mate Jim, and also the away team Hanwell Town, but I was waiting for official confirmation from the home side before counting my chickens. The game was officially confirmed on at 10am and I was buzzing for some proper cup action. I still didn't know whether I would have any passengers, but just as I typed this line, usual groundhopping partner Anwar called to say he would come. The plan was to leave at 10.30, meet Anwar at 11, and go into Aylesbury before heading off to the game. I had spotted a nice pub in Ampthill called The Albion and would find somewhere for lunch too. I was very much looking forward to my 80th game of the season. Hanwell had special significance for me, as they were the closest team to where I was born - the now-defunct Perivale Hospital overlooked the ground. I finally visited there a couple of seasons ago for a pre-season friendly against Wycombe. They had reached this stage by beating London APSA, Great Yarmouth Town, Lordswood and at the seventh attempt after several postponements Ashford Town. The tie was only played on Thursday beforehand so it wasn't helping them get the best preparation for this game. I had never been to Ampthill before, but they got this far with victories over Barking, Beckenham Town, and Norwich United.
I left home as scheduled and went to Aylesbury, picking up Anwar en route. We went into town and Anwar got the Mario game that he wanted. I didn't buy much, just some food and drink to take to football. It was 12 when we left and after an hour's drive, we were in Ampthill. I had earmarked a half-decent pub. The Albion as I knew that they made an effort with real cider. I had a pint of Weston's Traditional Scrumpy which I had not had for a while and relaxed while I found out all the latest on Facebook. We saw a bloke in an MK Franchise shirt and loudly discussed and criticized his club. When we left he ran out after us shouting something. I thought 'here we go' but all he wanted to tell us was that our (Wycombe's) game was off. We went to the chippy which at first sight seemed pretty naff with tiny portions. Again I spoke a bit loudly about it and we turned out getting a reasonably sized one. They were decent chips too from proper potatoes as opposed to the frozen cash and carry ones that a lot of chip shops use.
We then made our way to the ground. A nice touch was that the programme was included in the price of entry, which was £7 for adults and £3 for concessions. I was still peckish so I had a burger, which was half decent and was only £2. I was in greedy mode, having a chocolate bar, some crisps and a slice of rocky road at half time. It was a hell of a game with plenty of great goals, a punch-up that saw 3 players sent off, and a bit of crowd aggro which saw a female steward throw 5 blokes out. There were huge celebrations at the end of the game, with Ampthill winning 3-1 after extra time.
I was pleased to meet a few people I know at the game. Firstly I met Jim the Northampton fan as arranged. He turned out to be a decent chap as you'd expect. I also met fellow groundhopper and Wycombe fan Dave Finch as well as around 10 Wycombe fans including Lana, Ben and Howsy. So, all in all, a very sociable and entertaining day. Due to the extra time, we didn't leave Ampthill till 5.50 and it took a tiny bit longer to get home, thanks to slow people on single-lane carriageways. I was still home just after 7 though, after dropping Anwar back at his. Sadly I didn't have any TV football to look forward to as it was on at the stupidly late time of 11.20 - ITV continuing their woeful management of football coverage, much to my annoyance.
MY SECOND VISIT
When I was looking for a game this Tuesday, all of the options were a fair distance away. With Anwar unavailable, I chose to do a local revisit and happily, Colin was happy to join me. I had already done a pretty substantial blog on my first visit to Ampthill in 2014 but I'd not researched the club history and so I decided an update was in order. Following my last game on Saturday, I had the usual hellish Sunday. I was expecting more of the same on Bank Holiday Monday, but in the end, it was generally calmer. I came home in the evening and researched Ampthill Town's history. I got a fairly early night and so had a decent night's sleep before my day off on Tuesday. It was the usual routine of a walk to town and back and I got some nice fish burgers for lunch. I came back and spent the afternoon at home and it was good to have a rest. I left just before 6 and headed over to pick up Colin. The M1 was closed due to an accident some 15 hours earlier so we had to go cross country. We were there at 7 20, paying £6 to get in and met Dan who had just passed his driving test and also Karl, a FC Clacton fan. As it turned out, a decent crowd of 403 were in attendance and made a great atmosphere.
Hosts Ampthill Town had finished 2nd in the league behind runaway leaders Stotfold with 83 points. The visitors Wellingborough Whitworth had finished in 5th on 76 points. When the two sides met on 9th October in Wellingborough, the hosts won 3-1. When the two sides met in the return fixture on 18th December, Ampthill gained their revenge, winning 1-0. The hosts came into this game on the back of four straight wins, the latest being a 6-0 win over Penn & Tylers Green on Saturday. The visitors confirmed their place in the playoffs on the same day by winning 4-3 against 3rd place Winslow United. They'd won their last six games including an 8-0 win over Burton Park Wanderers and a 5-0 victory at Long Crendon. The opening was cagey but Wellingborough Whitworth were awarded a penalty for a foul just inside the area. They converted the spot-kick on 40 minutes to put them ahead. They did a good job of defending their lead and doubled it on 56 minutes with a shot from a tight angle by Richie Bailey. On 59 minutes, Ampthill pulled a goal back with a superb 25-yard volley that flew in the top corner. The hosts were greatly improved after this and they had a series of chances including a shot that clipped the bar. They equalised on 65 minutes thanks to a penalty from Jamie Cerminara. The match went into extra time and was won by Wellingborough thanks to a lob from Matthew Judge who caught the home keeper out of his goal. Ampthill pushed for an equaliser but the game was seen out fairly comfortably. A draw and a penalty shoot-out would have been a fair reflection, but it wasn't to be.
WOBURN STREET is a ground that is typical for this level. There is just the one stand, though it is one of the bigger ones at this level. It's a mixture of seating and standing although on my visit everyone stood so we could fit more people in there. I reckon there were a good few hundred in there at its fullest point. It does have a bit of a design fault though - when you sit in the front row of seats the view of the pitch is blocked by the railing. It is a nice design though and beats the prefabricated ones you see at so many grounds nowadays. The rest was open standing.
The programme was a bargain - free. It was well presented and printed on excellent quality paper. There wasn't a huge amount of stuff to read in there, and it could have done with some stats - like how the 2 teams got to the 5th Round of the Vase, but you can't complain for free I guess. The bar was quite basic with only Magners and Kopparberg bottled cider plus other drinks. There was a half-decent range of merchandise but it seemed expensive, probably due to companies charging them a lot for small orders. The tea bar was the best bit with a wide range of items at good prices. The town is a short walk away and the Albion pub is a pretty good bet if you like your real ales and ciders.
Here are some pictures from my second visit, the ground was basically the same but the ground had seen some refurbishments and cosmetic improvements.
Here are some pictures from my second visit, the ground was basically the same but the ground had seen some refurbishments and cosmetic improvements.