Ground Number: 342
Tuesday 18th March 2014
Bracknell Town 4-0 Henley Town
Hellenic League Cup 3rd Round
BRACKNELL TOWN - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was formed in 1896 and were initially known as Old Bracknell Wanderers. During their formative years, they had spells in the Ascot & District League, the Reading & District League, the Great Western Combination and the Surrey Senior League. In 1970, Bracknell Town joined the Spartan League. They were runners-up in 1976 and despite a 4th place finish in 1979, they were relegated to the league's Senior Division. Promotion back up followed in 1981, this was in the midst of a very successful spell for the club with them being Premier Division champions in 1983. After being turned down by the soon to be defunct Athenian League, they joined the Isthmian League in 1984. Starting in Division 2 South, they were promoted to Division 1 after finishing as runners-up to Southwick in 1986. They finished 3rd in Divison 1 (at the time, step 3 of non-league) in 1987, which remains their best ever league finish. After struggling in subsequent seasons, they were relegated back three years later and then due to reorganisation they were placed in Division 3 in 1991. Promoted as champions in 1994, they'd spend until 1999 in Division 2 before being relegated back. Another reorganisation in 2002 saw Bracknell Town placed in Division 1 South. Two seasons later, they were transferred to the Southern League due geography, but they continued to struggle. After several near misses, they were finally relegated to the Hellenic League in 2010. Starting in the Premier Division, they'd suffer a further relegation in 2012, being placed in Division 1 East. Despite only finishing 5th, they were promoted back at the first attempt. Since returning to the Premier Division in 2013, times have been better with a runners-up spot being achieved last season. Prior to tonight's game, they sat 4th in the table.
The best FA Cup run came during the 2000/01 season. After beating Hillingdon Borough, Ashford Town, Merstham, Banstead Athletic & Aylesbury United, they lost 4-0 at Lincoln City in the 1st Round. During their time in the FA Trophy, there were no notable runs, but they do have two 5th Round appearances to their name. The least of these came in 1983, though they could add to or better that if they win tonight's game. Local cup wins are numerous and include the Fielden Cup on nine occasions, the Spartan League Cup three times and the Stimulus Cup in 199. Last season there was a trio of cups won with Bracknell Town lifting the Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy, the Hellenic Challenge Cup and the Reading Senior Cup. The record attendance of 2,500 came for a 1971 FA Amateur Cup game against Newquay.
Some of the more well-known players to pull on their boots for Bracknell include Damian Markman who played 4 games for Wycombe and also played for ROPS in the Finnish Premier League and Jermaine McGlashan who is now a midfielder in the Football League, having played for Cheltenham Town, Gillingham & Southend United. Another former Wycombe man (albeit only 4 loan appearances is former Spurs, Sheffield United and Palace defender David Tuttle was the manager of the club during the 2009/10 season. The town of Bracknell itself has a population of just under 83,000. I couldn't find any interesting facts or former residents of Bracknell, but this 'Alternative Guide to Bracknell' site amused me.
VISIT 1: BRACKNELL T 4-0 HENLEY T
Originally on this day, I was planning to Redhill for my second Isthmian League match in 2 days. But I wasn't too keen on braving the M25 and fancied leaving home a bit later so I looked for something closer to home. I looked at the Hellenic League site to see if either of the Reading clubs (Reading Town or Highmoor IBIS) were at home as they were amongst the closest to me. They weren't but Bracknell Town, a ground I had also not seen a game at were at home in a Hellenic League Cup game against Henley Town.
I spent the day on my day off and actually had a good nights sleep. I felt quite jaded but alert enough. probably as I drink shed loads or diet Irn-Bru and that usually keeps me up at night. But I'd not had any for a couple of days, and was hoping to get another decent nights sleep before work tomorrow. I spent the first part of the day after getting up catching up on some of last night's TV that I had missed. I then walked down the post office to send a parcel and came back and did some of my blog.
During the afternoon I had tweeted the club asking if they were doing a programme and how much it was to get in. They replied pretty quickly and even though I thought £6 was a quid too much for a small cup like this, I still decided to take the plunge and go. After a bit of dinner, I left just after 6.30, arriving around 45 minutes later after a journey with minimal delay. One annoying thing is that the 3-way cigarette adaptor for my car stopped working, so I had to have the phone wire stretched as it is far too short for using the phone as a Sat Nav. I made a note to order one ASAP as I need it for my trip away next week.
I paid my entry and got a programme. With around 20 minutes to go to kick off at that point, I was going to write some of my blog on my iPad, but it was then that I realised that I'd left it at home. So I looked at the programme instead, and it was worthy of it's 'award-winning' status. There were plenty of stats in it and also some interesting articles - one that especially interested me was about Harry Redknapp and his dodgy foreign signings at West Ham. The most famous being Marco Boogers who was sent off for an awful tackle on Gary Neville in only his second match. He was reported to be living in a caravan in Holland, however, this was untrue as the reporter that broke the story had misheard the West Ham official, and therefore an incorrect story had been printed in The Sun.
After walking around the ground and taking some pictures, I settled down for the game. Bracknell were quick out of the blocks. They made all the early running but then Henley started to come back into it. On 13 minutes the home side took the lead, Sam Barratt finishing from close range after a good through ball. That was how it was at half time with the home side well on top, so I went to get a Bovril to warm up and the person who runs the club's Twitter account came after and said hello after he recognised the Wycombe badge on my coat.
The second half produced a lot more goals, all for the home side. Shane Cooper-Clark got Bracknell's second on 75 minutes with slotted it past the keeper from the edge of the area. Sam Barratt got his second on 80 minutes when he came in down the right wing, cut inside and finished from a tight angle. Barratt completed his hat-trick with the last kick of the game after he converted a penalty awarded for a foul in the box.
It had been a reasonable if a little one-sided game. I was pleased to hear that Wycombe had gained a 1-1 draw at Cheltenham which was a decent result. But with top of the league Rochdale at home and title challenging Scunthorpe away in the next 2 games, we would do very well to get anything from them. I noted with a slight disappointment that I missed a 7 goal thriller at Redhill where Burgess Hill Town triumphed 4-3, but I had a decent night at Bracknell, plus due to its closeness I was home and in bed by 10.30.
VISIT 2: BRACKNELL 2-1 BLACKFIELD & LANGLEY (9/1/18)
Once again I would be on my own on this Tuesday, as fellow hopper Anwar wasn't sufficiently interested in any of the 10 games that I selected as options for tonight. So I looked at options nearer home, with 2 possible candidates being identified, both revisits. The ground I wanted to visit more was Basingstoke Town, who had a Southern League Cup game against Basingstoke Town. They had a Southern League Cup game against Marlow, a competition that has provided me with some decent games in the past. But the £12 admission charge was too much in my mind. Even for step 3 football, it's one of the pricier, let alone in a competition where squad rotation was utilised. Usually, I'd think of a club being greedy by doing this, but Basingstoke Town were not in the best situations financially and were very helpful and friendly. Sadly for them, another game won out. Bracknell Town v Blackfield & Langley was an attractive looking FA Vase replay, was nearer to home, plus entry was a bargain £5. I'd seen a decent game in the Vase on Saturday when Windsor triumphed 3-1 at Eastbourne Town and was a big fan of the competition. Whilst all this was occurring, though an even better game was going on down in Hampshire as Blackfield & Langley were drawing 3-3 with Bracknell Town to set up tonight's replay.
Had this been a normal league game, I'd have been Basingstoke bound, but the lure of the FA Vase was too much. It was my day off on the day of the game, so I was glad to have my best sleep for ages, waking up at 10 am. However, this meant that I was too late to walk to walk down town, so after getting ready, I got a lift down with my Dad. After picking up my Mum's birthday present and card, I came back and had lunch. Although I'd done a blog just 4 years previously, I decided to give it a spruce up, so I spent a couple of hours tidying it up and expanding the club history. After some pasta for dinner, I got my stuff together and left just after 6.30. The journey over was fine, though when I got there the place was packed. Getting parked was a bit tricky as the car park had been reduced in size thanks to the new housing development that had funded the 3G pitch. The ground had completely changed - for the worse sadly, but it was still a reasonable venue for step 5. There was a lot less cover and the ground was hemmed in, however, the 3G pitch will provide much-needed revenue and it was the right decision for the club, financially. After paying my fiver, I went to the bar to keep warm while I caught up online. It was interesting to note whilst there, that they had a cider that I'd never had before - Orchard View. However, I decided not to indulge as I like to avoid drinking during the week. It is, however, one I will look to try in the future.
I went outside and saw fellow groundhopper and Wycombe fan Dave Finch and we had a brief chat. He's not been to the ground since 1984 when Wycombe played Bracknell in a Hitachi Cup replay (Wycombe won 4-0 after a 3-3 draw in the original game) The game started with the hosts well on top and they took the lead after 10 minutes. Seb Bowerman provided a great cross from the left and the much-travelled TJ Bohane netted from close range. Bowerman turned scorer on 28 minutes after a foul on Joe Grant, converting the resulting penalty which was placed low to the right. Bracknell continued to dominate and just after the half hour, Grant hit the bar but the ball was cleared. The second half continued in much the same vein as a ball was flashed across the face of goal bit no one could get the final touch. Blackfield & Langley had largely had to rely on chances on the break, but they did have a bit of a rally with 20 minutes to go. Franklyn Clarke reduced the arrears from the spot with 8 minutes to go following a foul from home keeper Chris Grace, but they never really threatened to find the equaliser.
Though the ground had a lot less character than the last time I visited, I'm aware that the rebuild and resulting 3G pitch provides much-needed revenue. It also allowed the club to take the gamble of reducing entry to the bargain price of £5. They were rewarded with a decent crowd of 396, despite the cold evening, this was nearly 160 above their league average and just 13 short of being the highest of the season. As it is, Bracknell Town's average is the best in the Hellenic and over double the next best, Windsor. Elsewhere, 110 fans saw Basingstoke Town go out of the Southern League Cup with a whimper, losing 3-1 at home to Marlow, despite only making a few changes from their first team. The big story on the radio, however, was Manchester City beating Bristol City with a last minute goal in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final. After leaving at 9.45, I got home at 10.20, staying up to watch TV for around an hour. I still needed my nap the following afternoon though, what with the usual 4 am start.
LARGES LANE is probably one of the bigger step 5 grounds and it's clear to see that it was a former venue of a higher league. Along the side where you come in, there are 3 covered stands, 2 seating and 1 standing. There is a decent sized terrace behind one goal which looks really smart painted in the club colours of red and white, while the rest of the ground was open.
The bar is smart and cosy, while the tea bar also doubles as a cafe on non-matchdays. I didn't see any club shop, but if you want a wider choice of food and drink, the town is a short walk away.
A revamp in 2016 saw the ground completely rebuilt and a new pitch laid down. Now the ground is a lot more hemmed in, reducing the capacity to around 1,500. The seated stand holds around 150 whilst there is further cover for about 250. One thing that has improved is the bar - now a lot more modern and offering ales and a cider from Kent brewer Shepherd Neame.
SCORES ON THE DOORS
1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Seats and a small amount of standing cover (6)
2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Parking was OK if not plentiful, near the town, so potential good day out (7)
3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Fairly standard, though it was very busy (6)
4: Value for money
Superb value at a fiver (9)
5: Social Media & Website
Both are decent and have good updates (7)
Excellent one from my first visit (8)
7: Game entertainment
Reasonable for both games (6)
8: Tea Bar
Preheated burgers etc at the bar (5)
9: Bar / Clubhouse
Decent, ales and cider from Shepherd Neame, quite small though (7)
10: Club Shop
Basic range of souvenirs, but more than most at this level (6)
TOTAL SCORE OUT OF 100: 67
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.7
GROUND PHOTOS (2014)