Friday, 21 March 2014

Hullbridge Sports - Lower Road

Hullbridge Sports FC
Lower Road

01702 230420

Ground Number: 343
Thursday 20th March 2014
Hullbridge Sports 1-2 Basildon United
Essex Senior League

At 12.25PM as I was finishing work, I was expecting to have a quiet night in front of the TV and be early to bed. But that all changed when Laurence messaged me on Facebook and asked me if I fancied going to Basildon. After thinking it about it for a few seconds, I messaged him back and said sod it, I will go. I went back into the store and got a bottle of Diet Irn-Bru to take to the game and made my way home to check on my computer who they were playing. It was a blessing that I did. It's not often Laurence gets things wrong, but it turned out they had an away game at Hullbridge Sports. Happily he was still up for going and it was a slightly better one for me, I'd been to Basildon to take pictures on the way to Southend, but Hullbridge was completely unvisited for me, meaning the ground would be a nice surprise. I held back from looking on Google for pictures to give me any clues.

I couldn't find a huge amount of information on Hullbridge Sports on the internet. They are a reasonably new club, having been formed just after the Second World War in 1945. Initially playing in local Southend Leagues,  they joined the Essex Olympian League Division 2 at step 8 of non league in 1984, winning promotion  to their Division 1 at the first attempt. They were however relegated straight back. Despite this, the Essex Senior League at step 5 accepted their application to join in 1990. Despite them never looking like getting out of the league, they had a best finish of 6th in 1997/98. They have only ever reached the FA Cup Preliminary Round, the latest occasion being this season when they lost 3-0 to FC Clacton. As for the FA Vase, they reached the 2nd Round in 2010/11 before losing 5-1 to Leverstock Green. Their biggest attendance was 800 for an FA Youth Cup game against Blackburn Rovers in the 1999-2000 season, a great feat for such a minnow to get that far. At the time of the game, Hullbridge were in a comfortable mid table position of 11th and with the potential to improve that if the results went for them in the games in hand they have on other teams.

Basildon United were formed even later in 1967 although they did exist as a junior team called Armada FC for 4 years previously. After playing in local leagues for the first few years of their existence, they joined the Essex Senior League in 1971 as founder members. After doing incredibly well, they switched to the Athenian League in 1980, getting promotion to the Isthmian League at the first attempt.  After joining Division 2, they were promoted to Divsion 1 at the first attempt. However, these heady days could not continue, but they did last for 5 seasons before being relagated back to Division 2. They took the decision to leave and return to the Essex Senior League in 1991. Despite winning the League and Cup double 2 season later, they elected not to return to the Isthmian League and have remained a fairly successful team at their current level ever since, though they have been finishing in the lower reaches of the league for a fair few seasons now. They have reached the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup on 2 occasions, most recently in the 1998/99 season when they lost 3-0 to St Albans.  They were not a huge hit in the FA Trophy, though they have reached the Quarter Finals of the FA Vase twice, losing to Northamptonshire sides Irthlingborough Diamonds and Raunds Town on each occasion. The club has an excellent tradition of having players to go on to play in the Football League. Ken Charlery, Johnathan Gould, Michael Kightly and Steve Tilson are just some of the names that have progressed. Ex Chelsea man Kerry Dixon also played for the club at the end of his career. The clubs record attendance at the ground came at it's opening in 1970 - Geoff Hurst and Jimmy Greaves were just 2 of the 4000 fans present that day.

I didn't have too long at home after getting in from work before Laurence picked me up at 5. I filled the time by catching up on Facebook and doing a little bit of research on tonight's teams. I also opened my post, all 8 parcels (7 Playstation 2 games & a power bank for my phone) so the postman must have been cursing me this morning! We eventually set off at 5.10 and after a brief delay were there at 7PM. We paid our entrance and got a pretty decent programme with lots of stats for a quid. It ranked in the middle between Bracknell and Barkingside for the 3 I have had so far this week. I had time to kill so I went into the bar and had a pint of Stowford Press cider. The bar was mainly a base for the darts section of Hullbridge Sports Club but was very modern and neat. I then went out and got a bacon sarnie which was very good - 3 slices of crisp bacon in white bread for £2. I went back later and got some chips for £1, but sadly they had no Bovril. Overall a very impressive effort for step 5. Before the game we discussed the possibility of factoring in a game in Norway before the Sweden groundhop, and also the chances of doing a game next Thursday. Needham Market was initially favourite, but that turned out to be the Thursday after and it would be pushing it a lot considering I have to be up at 4am both days surrounding the game, as I will be back at work after my week off then.

Laurence had said not to expect much from the Essex Senior League compared to other step 5 leagues and he was sort of right. It was a very mixed bag on terms of quality with good play one minute,then scrappiness next. In any case it was Hullbridge that took the lead on 23 minutes. It looked like an error from the Basildon keeper as a speculative shot form the edge of the area went in without a great deal of pace. But in fact from the view from behind the goal it was noted that the ball caught a gust of wind on it's way in. It was then I noticed the linesman looked like your stereotypical retired headteacher - think Mr Snoddy in Roald Dahl's 'Danny - The Champion of The World' which happened to be my favourite book as a kid. Hullbridge continued to boss the half and made Basildon look very ordinary. 

But as is often the case with football, it was the cliched game of 2 halves. Basildon were much more in control and they equalised on 53 minutes when a free kick from outside the area curled in, evading everyone including the keeper. And it was 2-1 on 70 minutes, their number 7 rifling into the roof of the net for a really neat finish. Hullbridge had a couple of half chances to get back into it, but Basildon soaked up the pressure well and never really looked like surrendering their lead.

It had been a good evening again in fine company. Our discussion subjects varied wildly on the way home, as long as they involved football that was.I'm pretty poor at starting conversations, but I love a good old chat and debate and luckily Laurence has plenty to say, all of it very interesting thankfully. I was home about 11.20 and listened to a radio show with Pete Price on Radio City in Liverpool until midnight, as I was still wide awake.

LOWER ROAD is a typical step 5 ground for this neck of the woods. All the covered accommodation is down one side with 2 small arena type stands for seating, and a covered area in the middle of them for those who wish to stand. The rest is open and there are various other sports nearby as it is part of a sport and social club.

As you would expect there is no club shop at this level. But there is a very good tea bar servi
ng burgers, chips, pasties and sandwiches amongst other things. The bar is smart and modern and is used by the village's darts team. If you want more choice, there are a couple of pubs and takeaways in the village which is within walking distance.


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