Saturday, 26 July 2014

AFC Kempston Rovers - Hillgrounds Leisure


AFC Kempston Rovers
Hillgrounds Leisure
Hillgrounds Road
Kempston
Bedford
MK42 8SZ

01234 852346





Ground Number: 387
Saturday 26th July 2014
AFC Kempston Rovers 0-1 Aylesbury United
Friendly



I hadn't decided where to go on this day, right up until a couple of days before. Anwar said he didn't want to go far and said he would probably go to either Wycombe Wanderers v Reading, or Harrow Borough v Arsenal U21. I was all set on the former, but it really didn't excite me, as I would just be going as there was nothing better, and it was my team. So I went on the Kempster Non-League Forum, and text Anwar with a list of the possible games we could do on there. He fancied AFC Kempston v Aylesbury United out of all of those, and so we decided to do that.



AFC Kempston Rovers founded in 1884, under the name of Kempston Rovers. They joined the United Counties League in 1953 and have remained there ever since. They were Champions of the Premier Division back in 1973-74, losing just once in the league all season.  In their best-ever run in the FA Cup, they got all the way to the 4th Qualifying Round in 1978 before losing to Wealdstone. The FA Vase 5th Round was reached in 1974-75. Last season they finished 12th, and picked up an unwanted record for the lowest attendance in the league that season when 31 fans watched them in August against Stewart & Lloyds Corby, who went on to finish bottom.

In September and October 1996 I did work experience at Aylesbury United's Soccer In The Community office. Working with Pete and Bob I set up their computer for them, went out doing training at local schools and re-organised the club shop amongst other things. I had a great time, meeting players such as Gary Phillips (Aylesbury manager at the time), Paul Buckle and Stafford Rangers manager Brendan Phillips. Also whilst I was there Alan Smith got the sack from Wycombe, something I had been hoping for, for a long time. One of the perks in addition to all the freebies I got was free tickets for me, my Dad and my brother to their game with Yeovil in November 1996. They were really great people, and so I felt sorry for them when they lost their ground in 2006. That meant a groundshare - firstly at Chesham, and since 2009 at Leighton Town. This saw a rapid downturn in form, and the club that spent a season in the Conference at the end of the 1980s dropped as low as the Spartan South Midlands League at step 5 of the non league pyramid. It took them 3 seasons to get back up to step 4, finally going up as runners up in 2013, along with champions Dunstable Town. Rumours continue to persist of a new ground in Aylesbury, and the club certainly has potential to support a big team - they pulled in over 1000 fans a game during the good times in the late 80's. The original Buckingham Road ground lays derelict and almost beyond repair which is such a waste. 





I'd been out for a fair few pints the night before, so I was feeling quite groggy when I woke at 7am, I watched TV for a couple of hours before having a bath. After a look on the Internet, I decided to go to Aylesbury early, leaving at 11.30. I got a Piri Piri Burger meal at a local shop, and also some batteries from a shop. I met Anwar at 12.40 and we arrived at Kempston an hour later.

Before paying to get in, I went in the bar and had a pint of Somersby Cider, while checking out what was going on with Facebook. I took my seat 10 minutes before kick off. It was a dull first half, with the home side on top, but going in scoreless. The second half commenced, and this time out Aylesbury were the side in control. They got their reward on 73 minutes when they opened the scoring with a header. Kempston had opportunities on the break, but fairly simple chances were missed. In the end, it remained 1-0 to the visitors.



HILLGROUNDS LEISURE is one of the better grounds at step 5, with the only stand covering almost the whole length of the pitch. This has a mixture of seating and standing, probably holding around 800 in total. The bar is decent enough, with flat screen TV's and your usual range of drinks. I had already visited this ground last November on the way to Kings Lynn, and since my visit they changed the benches to proper seats.


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