Saturday 6 August 2016

Barking FC - Mayesbrook Park

Barking FC
Mayesbrook Park
Lodge Avenue

Ground Number: 603
Saturday 6th August 2016
Barking 2-0 Takeley
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round


1:  Barking FC are the main tenants of Mayesbrook Park, having played there since 1973 when the local council forced them to move out of their former home at Barking Park

2:  The club were originally founded in 1880 or 1896, the exact year is unknown due to confusion as to whether they were a continuation of Barking Rovers or a new club altogether, known as Barking Institute.

3:  Between 2001 & 2006 the name of Barking FC disappeared altogether as they merged with another local club to become Barking & East Ham United. The short-lived club had their best ever season prior to folding in 2006 when they finished 5th in the Southern League Eastern Division before losing to Stamford in the playoffs for promotion to the Southern Premier.

4:  Barking FC reformed as a club in their own right in 2006, competing in the Essex Senior League. They had their best ever finish in their new form in 2015 finishing 3rd, following it up with a credible 4th placed finish this term.

5:  Though the new club have yet to progress beyond the 1st Qualifying Round, the original Barking FC reached the 2nd Round on 4 occasions. The most notable of which was the 1979-80 season when they beat third division Oxford United before bowing out to Reading.

6:  Their record attendance was recorded the season before when 1,972 turned up for the FA Cup 2nd Round defeat to Aldershot.

7: The club were FA Amateur Cup Finalists in 1927 when they lost 3-1 to fellow London club Leyton.

8:  Barking were regular opponents of my own team Wycombe Wanderers in their Isthmian League days. As recently as 1986/87, our last season in the Isthmian Premier we played them with a 2-1 win at Loakes Park and a 4-3 win at Mayesbrook Park for the Chairboys. They finished a respectable 8th that season, but it was all downhill from there in terms of league placing.

9:  However times were better before that. They even won the Isthmian Premier in 1979, finishing a full 12 points ahead of local rivals Dagenham. At the time they were the joint best non-league club in the country, with it being prior to the formation of the Alliance League (now called National League) the following season.

10: Several local cup competitions have been won, most notably the Essex Senior Cup on 5 occasions, the last time being in 1990 when they thrashed football league side Southend United 4-0 in a replay after the original game ended in a 1-1 draw.


As it was almost the end of the season, choices were very limited as most leagues had packed up for the season. My searching method involved going through each of the listed fixtures and searching Google images for images of their ground. It was a fairly laborious process but then I hit upon an idea. I searched Google for a list of the step 7 clubs that had applied for promotion to step 6 earlier in the year, figuring that they would more than likely have some sort of ground in place. That helped a great deal and within a few minutes I had found a fixture in the Middlesex County League. It was West Essex v CB Hounslow Reserves. The hosts shared at Barking FC, a ground I had not yet visited. Even better it was under 60 miles away from home, meaning a not too expensive day in fuel costs, or as I was leaning towards, one I could do on the train for a reasonable price.

West Essex were just one of a number of clubs applying from the Middlesex County League with the others being British Airways FC, Cricklewood Wanderers, LPOSSA & Tooting & Mitcham Wanderers. There was a healthy amount of 56 clubs across the country in all applying to step up. In the case of Essex clubs there was a particular dearth of clubs at steps 5 and 6 with the Essex Senior being one of the smaller step 5 leagues and nothing at step 6 unless you moved down to the Eastern Counties Division 1. A merger with that league could be a possibility, though the travelling might get a bit much with clubs as far afield as Norfolk. As a result the lack of change had made the Essex Senior League one of the poorer leagues at step 5 in terms of standard of football. That and the fact that the M25 had to be negotiated during rush hour for midweek games meant that I’d not seen a huge amount in that particular league. That said I’d been keeping up to speed with goings on, thanks mainly to the excellent Grass Roots Football Show on East London Radio. To hopefully alleviate the problem Coggeshall Town & Holland FC had also applied to go up from the Essex Olympian although on the flip side Newham had already signaled their intention to resign from the league at the end of the season and drop down to step 7. 

WEST ESSEX FC were founded in 1989. There’s not a huge amount online about them but they were promoted from Division 1 of the Middlesex League in 2011 and have been in the Premier Division ever since. They used to be based in Highams Park, East London but a recent groundshare agreement with Barking FC has allowed them to be considered for promotion up to step 5 or 6. This has recently been ratified by the FA and in all probability they will be starting next season in the Essex Senior League. The season has been a highly successful one in the Middlesex Country Premier, with them being assured of the league championship with a game to go. The club also have a reserve side, a veterans side and a number of junior teams of varying age groups.

On the day of the game I woke at 6.30. After some toast for breakfast I watched the final episodes of my 'Goodnight Sweetheart' box set before having a bath and getting ready. After checking on Twitter to see that the game was on, I saw nothing and assuming that no news was good news I left home at 9.40. After getting a paper, some twirls and some diet Irn Bru from my local shop I was on my way, catching the 10.17 train into London. On the way I had a stab at the Daily Star big football crossword before listening to the Two Mikes podcast for the remainder of the first leg of my journey. Eventually, I arrived at Aldgate at 11.30 and from there it was a slow walk to the Stable Cider Bar as it didn't open until 12. 

There I had a pint of Cotswold Yellow Hammer and a pint of  Ham Hill Early Drop. It really was a wonderful place, even if it was a fiver a pint. It was worth it to try a couple of great real ciders and I only wish there was a place like this to supplement the woeful pub scene in High Wycombe. Suddenly coming on the train made perfect sense as to get anything decent in Wycombe means a drive to the cider shop in Chelmsford or my Orchard Box subscription, both of which carry costs but are well worth it. From there I took the district line to Barking, stopping at the Wetherspoons, The Barking Dog for a Gourmet Hot Dog with Strongbow Dark Fruits. After a look around the shops, I made my way to the ground, walking well over a mile and arriving just after kick-off. I was a bit concerned that nothing was going on on the pitch. My fears were released on seeing a bloke at the gate and being told that the original game had been called off, and an earlier friendly had kicked off at 1.30. Even worse a poor player had broken his arm and the game was already over. I had no alternative but to make my way home as there were no other games on within walking or public transport distance. I made my way home, which took another 2 hours before watching The FA Cup Final on TV.

To say I was annoyed was an understatement. Nothing had been announced on Twitter - the CB Hounslow feed, West Essex FC, Barking FC nor the Middlesex League had not been updated with news. The baffling thing was that the West Essex Twitter was constantly manned with a quick and helpful response when I tweeted them. The real disgrace, in this case, are CB Hounslow who apparently pulled out on the morning of the game. I don’t understand how leagues can be so lax about teams when they can’t be bothered to send a team. You make a commitment to fixtures when you sign up to leagues, so just to pull out on the day of the game is unacceptable. At the moment the game just gets awarded to the opponent but that is unfair on their league rivals who actually have to play the games. I’d go as far as to dock teams 5 points from the following season for each game they fail to fulfil, with the worst offenders to be kicked out of the league altogether.


Once the fixtures for Wycombe were released, I knew that I'd be doing a random FA Cup game today. That was because our first game was away at Crawley, and I'd been there last season, with no desire to revisit anytime soon. I was glad that it was FA Cup weekend, it meant that I'd be able to see a game in my favourite competition. I listed every ground that I'd either not been to, or fancied a revisit to, which were in a reasonable distance to keep costs down. I was left with the options of a new ground at Barking, Sawbridgeworth, Carterton or Croydon, or a revisit to either Wembley or Camberley. In the end, I opted for Barking, as I'd had a fruitless visit in May and already put a lot of work into the blog. The story of my wasted journey is recorded above for posterity.

On the day of the game, I was still to decide what I was going to do pre-match. I'd seen on Twitter that the food looked delicious at the ground, at least on that day anyway, but I needed to get some drinks for the game. Originally I was going to park at the ground and walk into Ilford but after spending the morning at home, I decided to knock that on the head, possibly driving instead if I had time. I'd spent the morning looking at hotels in Leeds for when I am going to a Lancashire Hotpots concert there in October. They were all very expensive and if you wanted somewhere that wasn't rated as a complete dive on TripAdvisor, you were looking at paying upwards of £70. Instead, I booked a Premier Inn around 6 miles away for the much more reasonable rate of £31.50. After having a bath and getting ready I left at 11.40, noting on Facebook that the M25 was on its usual woeful form.

It actually turned out to be not so bad. I arrived in Ilford at 1, purchasing some Irn Bru from Farmfoods and some cider from Lidl. I then made my way to Barking, arriving half an hour later. The small car park was completely full, so I had to make do with street parking around 5 minutes away. I took 2 cans of Irn Bru and one of cider with me and then went to a cash machine as I was running low. It was a short walk to the ground where I paid £6 entrance plus £1.50 for a programme. I then got my lunch - a Sloppy Frank hotdog and Paprika fries which were just about worth the £6.50 I paid for them. I caught up online and read my programme while I waited for kick-off. I sat in the stand first half as it was baking and I fancied some cover.

It started off as a game of few chances with both sides pretty equal. Barking broke the deadlock just before half time. The visiting keeper Josh Knight saved the initial shot but Petrit Elbi was on hand to follow up and send the hosts in ahead at the break. The home side continued to dominate in the second and it was nearly 2-0 when they caught visiting keeper Knight off his line, only for the shot to drift harmlessly wide. They did double their lead with just over 10 minutes to go - a lovely firm strike by Joe Pearman arrowed into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. There were a couple of niggly moments towards the end, but generally, it was a game played in the right spirit. Barking were deserved winners, though Takeley might have had a shout if they had a little more end product.

I walked back to my car and turned on the radio to BBC 3CR, knowing that it would be pretty depressing stuff, as Wycombe had lost 1-0 at Crawley Town. At least it was a good journey home after a decent day. On the way home I stopped at a craft beer shop in Chalfont, that had always intrigued me. Normally I drove past, as either time was tight to the place would have been closed. I was glad that I didn't on this occasion however as it's a cracking place. I picked up 2 pints of Hallets FX to take home with me, getting home around 6.20. I drank my cider which turned out to be delicious. I typed this blog and put in place plans for tomorrow when I will, fingers crossed, be completing the weekend with Littlehampton Town v Pagham. I chose this over Fawley due to the promising-looking Tap and Barrel pub that is located in the town, half a mile away.


MAYESBROOK PARK is a traditional non-league ground. Along one side is a long stand which has around 4 rows of seats, which total 200. There is also space for people who wish to stand. To the right are some steps of terracing, both uncovered and covered, while the rest of the ground is mainly flat standing.

The ground is located just over a mile from Barking town centre, though there are a great range of takeaways near the ground, and a few pubs. The food inside the ground is superb at least it was when I visited, with fancy hot dogs and burgers. A fine treat, though you might want to avoid if you have a limited budget. The bar isn't up to much, all cans, so you might as well bring your own, that said, the ones sold in the bar do have the benefit of being chilled.

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