Tuesday 24 February 2015

Harpenden Town - Rothamsted Park

Harpenden Town FC
Rothamsted Park
Amenbury Lane

Ground Number: 463
Tuesday 24th February 2015

Harpenden Town 0-0 Bedford
Spartan South Midlands Division 1


The club was established in 1891, up until 1908 they were known as Hapenden until they added the 'Town' suffix that year. They were founder members of the Herts County Senior League in 1898 but left after two seasons. They also played in the Mid-Herts League, winning the league several times before rejoining the HSCL in 1908. They won the Western Division in 1911 but were runners-up in the subsequent three-team championship play-off. They retained the Western Division title the following season, winning the championship play-offs.  In 1921 Harpenden were Western Division champions again but finished bottom of the championship play-off. The following season saw the club finish bottom of the Mid-West Division, after which they left the league, rejoining in 1948. They were league champions in 1951, 1953 and 1955, finishing runners-up in the seasons in between.[The club was placed in Division 1A in 1956 for a transitional season and finished as runners-up before being placed into the Premier Division the following season due to a reorganisation of the league.

In 1957 the club moved up to the Premier Division of the South Midlands League. They were champions in 1962 and 1965 but were relegated to Division 1 in 1973. They bounced back straight away with a 3rd place finish and would last in the Premier Division until 1982 when they were once more relegated. This time their stay in Division 1 was longer, lasting until 1990 when they won the division in 1990. In 1997, the league merged with the Spartan League to form the modern-day Spartan South Midlands League. Harpenden spent three seasons in the top tier before being relegated in 2000. They bounced back in 2003 as runners-up behind Pitstone & Ivinghoe. Three years were spent in the Premier Division before they were relegated again. This time, their stay in Division 1 would last eleven seasons before they bounced back as runners-up behind Biggleswade in 2017. They have been in the Premier Divison ever since, finishing 3rd in 2018. This was their best finish in the non-league pyramid since it was established in the 1980s & 90s.

Harpenden Town have played thirteen seasons in the FA Cup but have never got beyond the Preliminary Round. Slightly more success has been enjoyed in the FA Vase. In 1981 they beat Selby 4-2 at the third attempt. They then beat Edgware 2-1 before losing 4-2 to Grays Athletic. League cup wins include the South Midlands League Shield  League Cup in 1971 and the Premier Division Trophy in 1990. Locally they've won the Herts Charity Shield in 1908 and 1968, the Herts Intermediate Cup in 1952 and the Herts Senior Cup five times, lastly in 1925. Harpenden is a town located near St Albans in Hertfordshire with a population of around 30,000. During the Second World War, Harpenden was used to evacuate children from heavily bombed London. However, Harpenden was not confident in its safety, as evidenced by the now decaying Bowers Parade air raid shelters. Famous residents of Harhave included TV's Eric Morecambe & John Motson as well as footballers Steve Bould, Lee Dixon, Tim Sherwood, Jack Wilshere & Ashley Young.


Another week, and another groundhop before a very busy March which included two weeks up north and two groundhops. I knew on Monday that I would be without fellow hopper Anwar, as he was going to Arsenal on Wednesday and couldn't afford both. I looked at the list of games, listing everything that I still needed to do, plus a revisit to North Greenford United v Kettering Town, as I had yet to obtain a programme from there. I restricted the distance to 60 miles away, as it would keep down costs, and also allow me to have dinner at home and leave at 6PM. On the day I caught up with my blog from Saturday at Hallam. It was quite a long one as I had not really made any notes during the game. Also, Hallam has a fair bit of history and I was going to write about Eccleshill's too, as I am off there next Wednesday. I also had to pop up to Tesco in Amersham and do a weekly price check that earned me £10 for my troubles. When I got back, I had some lunch and finished my blog off before looking again at my list of fixtures. A few had fallen by the wayside due to the weather, while a few had been confirmed on. It boiled down to 2 games - a revisit to North Greenford v Kettering Town or Harpenden Town v Bedford.

I put the question out on social media, initially leaning towards North Greenford. There were 2 reasons for this - firstly it was a degree warmer than Harpenden, plus Kettering had further to travel, therefore less chance of it being called off. But the support was overwhelmingly for Harpenden in the comments and tweets, so I decided to go for them instead. I spent the next hour or so preparing and researching this blog. After having a nice dinner of Lamb Rogan Josh before leaving home at 6PM. I had a good journey to the ground with only minimal delay considering it was the rush hour. It took me a while to find the ground as there were so many sets of floodlights. I walked past a load of tennis courts and the ground was nowhere to be seen. The next stop was an astroturf pitch before finally finding the ground. There was no one at the turnstile so I went around the ground getting some pictures before going to the clubhouse to get a programme. When I got back the bloke was at the table taking money and so I paid my £5. I sat down and read my programme which was basic but great value for 50p while I waited for the game to start.

Harpenden Town sat 5th at the start of the game, with opponents Bedford in 2nd place. The game started at a decent pace with some end-to-end football. The first real chance came around the half-hour mark when Harpenden forced a great save out of the Bedford keeper. There was then a flashpoint when a Bedford player took out his Harpenden counterpart which sparked handbags and a booking from the referee for the offender. There were chances for both sides but it remained goalless at the break. The second half started off at a slightly slower pace. A Harpenden player got his revenge for the first-half challenge with an equally meaty tackle and Bedford came close to scoring from the resulting free-kick. There were further chances for either side but the finishing was wayward. I felt the referee did well to handle what was a feisty game. He let it flow, but eventually, something had to give and a Bedford player was sent off in injury time for a second bookable offence. It certainly wasn't a 0-0 in terms of entertainment and I'd enjoyed the game. It was a late finish though with all the goings-on and there were some more handbags at the end. I left around 9.50, getting back at 10.30. I listened to the radio on the way home, where Man City had lost 2-1 to Barcelona and Joe Hart had saved a penalty from Messi in the last minute. I spent around 45 minutes online before watching TV in bed and going to sleep around midnight.

(4-0 v Chipperfield Corinthians, Herts St Mary's Cup QF 13/02/24)

Harpenden Town had been on my radar for a revisit for a while. It had been a long while since my first visit and the ground had also seen a complete refurb. There was also some pretty decent-looking food on sale. A couple of Friday night youth games had been dismissed as they were not publicly advertised and so I wasn't sure if fans were welcome. Due to it being a 3G pitch, it was an ideal one for the wet and cold and so I had it in mind for 9th January when such conditions were prevalent. However, the day before, the club tweeted the following: Due to a misunderstanding, our St Mary's Cup tie against Chipperfield Corinthians will not take place tomorrow (Tuesday). The date was to be rearranged and it would take well over a month. As it happened, the date was perfect for me, as it coincided with my car's annual service and MOT. I was unsure what time my car would be back with me but I was glad it was being checked over as it does a fair few miles. As it was going to be a big bill, I was hoping that the club would repeat their offer of £5 entry from the original game.
There had been another disappointing lack of new grounds. England has always been very poor for Friday night football and I didn't fancy risking a visit to Wales with the wet weather. For the same reason, I opted for Wycombe Wanderers v Peterborough United on Saturday and got drenched walking down to Wycombe. The usual pre-match haunt of the Rose and Crown was visited for pre-match drinks and it was a busy but happy place. I also had a decent lunch. The only letdown was the typically dreadful ID Mobile signal and I was seriously considering fronting up more than £100 to get out of the contract. A good lunch and a great game with Wycombe beating high-flying Peterborough United 5-2 meant it was a great day if typically boozy and unhealthy. Sunday was slightly more tolerable than usual and Monday was typically dull. The day of the game came and after getting my car collected, I walked to town and back, getting slightly wet from yet more drizzle. I was pleased to get my car back, albeit having to pay extra for a new set of brake pads and it's been an expensive year for motoring. It's worth it for the convenience and peace of mind though. After having dinner, I left at 6.15 for the game.
It wasn't a very nice journey, drizzly and forced on to a random back route due to traffic elsewhere. This did my fuel economy no good with me getting to the ground at 7.20. It was disappointing to have to pay for parking, especially when the council had blocked the card slot up. This forced you onto an app, a Google search for which sent you to a scam site which tried to trick you into signing up for a subscription. It took a while to accomplish what should have been a simple task but it was laborious and took ten minutes, plus it cost more to use.. I then had to work out how to get to the ground itself, getting to the turnstile just before kickoff. It hadn't been a great first impression but the club were great, the friendly gateman took £5 for entry via card and I got pitchside as the teams were coming out. I didn't see any food on sale but the club had smartened the ground up since my last visit. The rain continued to come down and many games were off, not least Biggleswade Town v Biggleswade which was called off right on kickoff.
Harpenden Town were 6th in the Spartan South Midlands Premier and fielded a mixture of first-team and fringe players. Chipperfield Corinthians were two steps lower in the Herts Senior County Premier, sitting 3rd. It was both teams' first game in the competition. The hosts were by far the brighter in the wet conditions and Chipperfield were restricted to chances on the break. On the half-hour, Harpenden went ahead. It was a good run and a low shot on the turn by Archie McClelland. It was nearly 2-0 seven minutes later but after a parried shot was followed up, it was ruled out for offside. Chipperfield responded well but they lack quality in the final third. Early in the second half, Harpenden were awarded a penalty for a trip and it was converted by McClelland for his second. Soon after, a free kick was awarded and a Chipperfield man went into the book for his protests but the effort came to nothing. The game was sealed on 62 minutes when a great run down the right was capped off my a smart finish from Archie Locke. On 67 minutes, McClelland completed his hat trick with a shot from inside the area. The game was one-sided by now and Harpenden twice hit the post with headers before the final whistle.

ROTHAMSTED PARK is a pretty basic venue but it is set in a pleasant park along with a load of other sporting clubs. There is just one stand - comprising of covered bench seating for around 50 people. The clubhouse is basic offering a few bottled drinks and basic snacks although it is soon due to be refurbished after the club had a grant accepted. The town is very close by and presumably has a decent choice of outlets.


The ground was almost completely different to my first visit. The Centenary Stand was the only recognisable bit from my initial visit. Even this had a facelift and its benches had been replaced by green tip-up seats. Around 100 can be accommodated in it and it is supplemented by a covered metal stand for 50 fans. This was most welcome on a wet night. There are also a few steps of open terracing along this side. The small bar sells a range of drinks and snacks and is nicely fitted out with club colours. There is also a small food hatch which was closed upon my visit. The only negative was the parking but there is a train station in the town.

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