Sunday 30 August 2015

Ilford - Cricklefield Stadium

Ilford FC & Barkingside FC
Cricklefield Stadium
3 Cricklefield Place

0208 514 8352

Ground Number: 513
Sunday 30th August 2015
Barkingside 1-2 Ipswich Wanderers
FA Cup Preliminary Round


Barkingside only won promotion to the Isthmian League a few seasons ago, 2nd place in the Essex Senior League was enough to see them promoted, as they finished just behind Burnham Ramblers in the league. After years of looking up to former ground sharers Redbridge FC, they were finally on a level footing. As recently as 10 years ago Redbridge were a couple of leagues ahead, but their recent fall from grace had put paid to that. Originally in the Spartan South Midlands League, they had to take a season out of football in the 1999-2000 season. They had actually won the league that season and were due to be promoted, but the ground graders had the final say and they were denied the chance to play in the Isthmian League. 

Also, they were well out of the boundaries of the SSML, at the time the FA would not allow clubs to move sideways and allow them to join the more geographically sensible Essex Senior League. The decision was made to withdraw from senior football for the season, and in their first season back they finished 3rd. After years of mid and top half finished, they finally won promotion the season before last. In that period, Redbridge, formerly named Ford Sports entered a groundshare agreement and between the 2 clubs, the ground was bought up to the required standard. Notable honours for the club include winning the London Senior Cup in 1996-97. The FA Cup 2nd Qualifying round has been reached on 2 occasions, most recently in 2007-08 when they lost narrowly to Welling United.


Originally I was going to do this ground just before Christmas 2014 when the fixtures were starting to dry up. For that reason, I was going to do a rare Monday night game due to the lack of games on Tuesday. That said, I would still be going to a game the following night, but it would be a revisit to one of my local sides Flackwell Heath as I had not managed to get a programme from there yet. I'd been to see Barkingside earlier that year as they beat Erith & Belvedere in a league game. But that was at their old ground, which is now owned by Redbridge FC, despite them being the original owners. They were a friendly club to visit and a magnet for groundhoppers and general football watchers due to them playing on Monday night. It was also a nice ground and had one of the best tea bars in football. So it was a sad day for their fans and anyone who had yet to visit Redbridge when they moved, although it was a bonus to groundhoppers like me, even though the prospect of watching a game at an athletics stadium did not overly appeal to me. It was all academic anyway as the game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch. I have to say, it was not a priority to visit, due to the Monday night football and the fact that the ground had a running track around it. However, the lure of the FA Cup got me back there when they had a game against Ipswich Wanderers, though it would depend on me being able to get out of work in time.

Happily on the day work was a breeze and I finished at 10am with everything done. I was annoyed that the Non-League Paper was not in again, that's 2 weeks in a row that they have not had it and that has put paid to me using my break to sit down with a highlighter pen and mark out the possibles and probables for the coming weeks' fixtures. However, it had the advantage of me being able to leave 15 minutes earlier to meet Anwar. I got there at around 10.40, messaging him to let him know I was there. I was pleased to find my prized non-league paper in the shop across the road. We left 5 minutes later, and amazingly had a hassle-free journey on the M25, arriving in Ilford at 11.50. 
We bagged our programmes at £1.50 each, before going to get some lunch. The whole road had lost of takeaways but we opted for the nearest one, both having Chicken Burger, Chips and a Drink for £3.50. It was fairly decent, nothing spectacular but it filled a hole and was decent enough value. After stopping at a cash machine we went in and were both quite surprised at the £9 admission price, which is a bit steep for step 4. Normally it includes a programme, but not today with the gate money being split 50/50 with Ipswich Wanderers. I had a look around, having half a pint of Stella Cidre in the bar before the game. There were a couple of faces that I recognised - the Asian lineswoman who had officiated at a Cheshunt game I went to years ago. Also, the Ipswich Wanderers barman who was very friendly when I visited there and was down supporting his team today.

Barkingside might have had home advantage and been a step higher, but they were having a torrid time in the league. They had played 5 games and gained just a single point gained from a 3-3 draw at Waltham Abbey 8 days ago. Visitors Ipswich Wanderers had won one, drawn one and lost one of their games so far. Though it was a step below, the Eastern Counties was of a good standard, though their refusal to plan their groundhops around already established ones and their keenness to accept reserve sides let them down a bit. 
The game started with Barkingside well on top for the first 10-15 minutes. Ipswich Wanderers soon took control though, knocking the ball around very nicely. They soon took the lead too when Ross Myhill followed up on a parried shot to score just before the half hour mark. The travelling fans were in good voice and they were in dreamland 8 minutes later. This time it was Billy Holland who headed home to double the lead. Despite this the visitors continued to have the upper hand. Barkingside did pull a goal back on 66 minutes when Jonathan Adebayo scored the goal of the game. It really was a cracker, the shot from some distance curling in the top left-hand corner before going in off the bar. This led to the hosts having a spell of pressure and an equaliser looking likely. However Wanderers held on, and now face a game against Canvey Island in the next round.


CRICKLEFIELDS is an old but much-loved venue. The running track spoils things, but it's actually not that bad along the side as the lanes are only narrow. However the same can't be said about behind the goal which is miles away and offers a very poor view. This is a shame as a large proportion of the extensive open terracing is located there. The 2 covered areas - a terrace holding around 300 and seats holding just under 200 offer a reasonable enough view.

I didn't try the tea bar, but the clubhouse is smart and modern with a reasonable range of drinks. There is also a club shop offering a decent range of reading material and other souvenirs. There is plenty around the ground and the nice welcome makes it a club well worth visiting.

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