Sawbridgeworth Town FC
Crofters End Stadium
Ground Number: 608
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sawbridgeworth Town 4-2 Tower Hamlets
FA Cup Preliminary Round
SAWBRIDGEWORTH TOWN HISTORY
The club were founded under the name of Sawbridgeworth FC in 1897, only changing to their present moniker in 1976. They played in local leagues such as the Herts County and Essex Olympian for the vast majority of their early history. In 1976 they joined the Essex Senior League and have been one of the mainstays of the league, remaining there ever since. Due to their being no step 6 league in the area, they have been spared relegation on the 2 occasions they have finished bottom, which were in their second and third seasons in the late 70's. In truth they are pretty safe, even today, due to lack of replacements. The early 1990's saw them have their most successful period, twice runners up is the best they have managed. The 1994/95 saw them lose out to Great Wakering Rovers on goal difference which is the closest they have come to becoming league champions of the Essex Senior.
Prior to today's game, the club had never been past the preliminary round of the FA Cup, and so my visit marked history being made. They now have a trip to Isthmian Premier side Harrow Borough in a couple of weeks time. They reached the FA Vase 3rd Round in 1980. bowing out to Kempston Rovers after a replay.
I was always going to be doing an FA Cup game this weekend, I knew that from the day that the fixtures came out and the news was that we were playing Blackpool away on this day. I'd have loved to have gone back there, it's a ground that's I've not been to for years, but it was a non-starter in eyes. I was boycotting the ground, until the current owners are removed. The Oystons have been damaging Blackpool FC for years, there is plenty to read on the internet about it and I may even go into more detail if ever I decide to redo my Bloomfield Road blog. It was a bit of a pain missing one of the best away games of the season, but I wasn't going to give any money to owners whose modus operandi I disagree with. But where would I be going?. There were 2 games that jumped out at me as top picks - Congleton Town v Farsley and Shildon v Kendal Town. Sadly these were all a long way away, and therefore petrol costs would be prohibitive as none of my hopping friends were available. So I whittled it down to 11 options that would keep the fuel costs down to £20 or less for the round trip. Trouble was, none of the options caught my imagination so I decided to leave my final decision until a couple of days before the game, so I could be guided by others choices.
I finally decided the day before the game. I really wanted to go to the National Museum Of Computing History in Cambridge, visiting there would in turn subsidise my football costs. I initially plumped for Wisbech Town v Peterborough Sports, as that was a fairly easy tie in. However, after driving past it on the way to another game at Sheringham, I decided to knock that idea on the head and looked for other options. After careful consideration I went for Sawbridgeworth Town v Tower Hamlets as this could be easily visited whether going to Cambridge or not, and could include a trip to Bovingdon Market as well. It would be the second year in a row that I'd seen Tower Hamlets in the Preliminary Round, but that was no issue. Last time out I'd seen them lose on their own ground to Cockfosters. They were from a notouriously tough area and this seemed to breed itself into the team, with great talent shown one minute, but liable to go off the handle the next, especially if provoked by wily opponents seeking to gain an advantage.
I awoke around 9am on the day of the game, and due to time constraints decided to leave the computing museum for another day. I still wanted to go to Bovingdon Market though, as there was a DVD of rare Only Fools And Horses episodes that I wanted that I saw last time I was there but didn't buy as I wrongly thought I already had it. I had a duck spring roll for breakfast, which I'd left over from last night's Chinese. After a bath and getting ready, I did some work on my blog before leaving at 11am. I got the DVD I wanted for a fiver, plus an Adidas zip top for a fiver and 3 bags of Oreo chocolate eggs for a quid. I'm unsure of the authenticity of my new garment but it was a good effort nonetheless.
It was a hassle free journey to Sawbridgeworth and I arrived at 1.15. I bought a programme before going in search of a pint. My initial plan was to go to a pub called The Queens Head in a nearby village which had won awards for its cider selection. However it was not as local as I thought and not fancying a 5 mile round trip I instead went to a pub called the Old Bell in the town. I got the new cider I desired in a pint of Snailsbank Appley Dapply which I was really pleased with. From there I walked back to the ground and on the way got a portion of chips for £1.70 which were a decent size but not as good as up North. I got my stuff from my car. Entry was a £7 including programme which was pretty reasonable.
In the FA Cup there had not been too much success for either side. Since entering the FA Cup for the first time in 2000, Sawbridgeworth Town had never got past the Preliminary Rounds, so today represented a great opportunity to create some history Tower Hamlets meanwhile had reached the 1st Qualifying Round in 2010, under their previous guise of Bethnal Green United where they had lost to Harlow Town in a replay. The home side had got this far by beating Southen Manor on penalties after a replay, while Tower Hamlets had won 4-2 at Enfield to set up today's clash to set up today's clash
There was rain on and off while I waited for the game so I stood under the cover for the first half. Sawbridgeworth had already gone close before they were awarded a penalty in the 9th minute following a foul in the area. This was dispatched in the bottom right-hand corner to give the hosts the lead. They continued to have the better of the game but it was Tower Hamlets that got the next goal when a neat finish was placed into the bottom left-hand corner just after the half-hour mark. 6 minutes before the break Sawbridgeworth went ahead with a strange goal. An innocuous looking high ball into the area evaded the Tower Hamlets defence and keeper and the hosts went into the lead at half time.
It was another long range goal that brought about the equaliser 10 minutes into the second half. Tower Hamlets' number 8 had been the best player on the park, showing some good touches and decent passing range. He got the equaliser with a great lob over the halfway line after he spotted the home goalkeeper off of his line. It was all in vain though, as a few minutes later Sawbridgeworth were back ahead when Micky Kennedy's cross-shot caught out the visiting keeper. This blotted his copybook, as he'd made some good saves to keep his side in it previously. Sawrbrigdeworth sealed the result on 65 minutes with Olly Fortune's shot from outside the area. There were further chances for both sides but no more goals. There was an amusing incident five minutes from time when the visiting number 17 went down far too easily. He picked up the ball expecting a free kick, but instead the bemused referee booked him for handball.
After the game I drove home, listening to BBC 3 Counties for news of the Wycombe game. I knew that we'd got a 0-0 draw, which was a fair result, but I was glad that I'd not gone as people were reporting back that it was a poor game. It was a really good journey home and on the way back I stopped at the craft beer shop in Chalfont to see what they had in. I got myself a couple of pints of Millwhites Coleshop Farm cider which turned out to be a cracking dry cider when I had it later on. As soon as I got in I started looking at the results of the other games and was content with the choice that I'd made. The only one of my considerations that bettered it was Shoreham 3-4 Dorking Wanderers and that would have cost me a lot more, and rendered me unable to visit Bovingdon pre-game. I also planned my next couple of games in - revisits to Beaconsfield SYCOB on Sunday (v Marlow) and Camberley Town on Tuesday (v Bishops Cleeve) There was also chances of games on Wednesday and Friday in what will be another busy week for me. I spent the rest of the evening doing work on my blog, and watching TV. As ever, Match Of The Day featured, even though it meant that I only got a few hours sleep as I was up for work at 4am the next day.
CROFTERS END is located around 5-10 minutes walk from the town of Sawbridgeworth which contains a reasonable amount of places to eat and drink. Pick of them is The Old Bell which does real ale and cider, though it is £4.30 a pint, albeit for some top quality drinks. Back at the ground a basic bar offers various beers for £3 a pint, plus cider in bottles. The tea bar does Burgers, Hot Dogs and Chips, again for reasonable prices.
All the cover at the ground is on one side, with a few stands, 2 older ones with a mixture of sitting and standing, plus a newly installed metal stand that was brought in to comply with ground grading regulations. The rest of the ground is open and on the far side is a second pitch which is used for friendlies and reserves games.