Buntingford Town FC
Ground Number: 774
Saturday 19th May 2018
Buntingford Town 1-1 FC Lemsford
Herts County League - Premier Division
BUNTINGFORD TOWN - A BRIEF HISTORY
There isn't a whole load of information on Buntingford Town that I can find, but the club was established in 1897. They joined the Herts County League in 1958, starting in Division 1. In 1965, they were crowned champions and had a five-season spell in the Premier Division, with a credible 5th place finish in 1969. The following three seasons saw a rapid decline, just 9 wins over the next couple of seasons saw then suffer two relegations to find themselves in Division 2. Though they would stabilise, even finishing 3rd in 1974, the form again tailed off and Buntingford Town would again be relegated in 1978, this time to Division 3. A couple of mediocre seasons would follow, before they left the league altogether in 1980, presumably going back to more local leagues.
The club would rejoin the Herts County League in 2002, again starting at Division 2. They were a lot more successful this time, champions again in 2005. Buntingford Town enjoyed their best ever finish of 3rd in the Premier Division in 2007, finishing just three points behind leaders Whitewebbs. They were relegated to Division 1 in 2009 and since then have spent their time alternating between the two divisions. The club are currently enjoying a three-season spell in the Premier, but look set to be relegated at the end of the current season as they are well adrift at the bottom of the table.
The small town of Buntingford has a population of just under 5,000. It was once home to a Sainsbury's distribution centre, but this was replaced in 2014 by a housing estate. There are a number of Georgian and Medieval buildings in the town, which sits on the river Rib. Twin towns include Luynes in France and Olvega in Spain. As well as football in Buntingford, the nearby village of Chipping has been home to the World Sausage Tossing Championship since 2014.
With the end of the season fast approaching, there were fewer options for games with each week that passed, with only around five viable options for this Saturday. Most of those were in the Leicestershire League, but with that particular competition carrying on for a while longer, I decided to stay a little closer to home. The Herts County League had provided good games and decent grounds (for the level) at Belstone and Bovingdon in the past, so I was pleased to see they still had a few games left to play. I'd seen Buntingford Town's ground on our Groundhopping WhatsApp chat a couple of weeks ago and decided that it was worth a visit. Despite there being no cover or stand, it still looked worth a visit, with a club building on the halfway line, complete with viewing balcony. The pitch was also fully railed, which made it better than the basic fields elsewhere at step 7. As a bonus, I'd be able to pay my annual visit to Bovingdon Market, where knock-offs and fakes of all kinds were for sale in abundance, or at least they were when I last went. I was pleased when fellow hopper Anwar agreed to come with me, as it gave me some company and helped out with petrol. A couple of days before, Dan, a Braintree fan who I'd missed out on meeting last week, signalled his intent to come to the game, so I was looking forward to it more than ever as the weekend approached.
I had a few cans the night before the game, but nothing crazy as I looked to wind down from my week of work. Going to sleep around 11, despite waking a few times in the night, I didn't get up until 8. I awoke to a message from Anwar saying that he couldn't be bothered with today, blaming his fasting for his religion making him feel ill. I wasn't that bothered, as I had chosen this game with the fact that I might be on my own in mind. I got ready and left around 10.15, seeing just before I went out that the kick off might be even earlier now, 1 or 2PM to be confirmed. By the time I'd got to Bovingdon Market, the kick off was confirmed as 2, making it a bit less of a rush for me. I had a gander around the market, buying 5 T-shirts for a tenner, even though I didn’t really need any. I also had a currywurst roll for an early lunch, before getting back to my car at 11.45. I headed for Buntingford, planning to stop somewhere on the way, but another notification came through saying that ‘kick off will be when the players are ready, assume 1 pm. Luckily, this worked in my favour, and I was scheduled to arrive in time for kick off. On the way, I listened to Jon Holmes on BBC Radio Kent via my phone. It was the usual madcap show, including someone who claimed to have made a life-size model of the Royal Family using mashed potato, gammon and pineapple. I got to the ground at 12.45, buying a pint of Strongbow Cloudy Apple for £3.80. A bit more than I’m used to paying, but entry and a nice programme were free. It was good to meet fellow groundhopper Dan, who had also made the game and we had a good catch up.
The games started with Buntingford Town well on top. They hit the outside of the right-hand post and the bar, following a header from a free kick but they just couldn't get the ball in the net, so it was goalless at the break. The dominance continued in the second half, but they looked a little off the pace. Their number two came close with a rising shot that went just over the bar on 55 minutes, but a couple of minutes later, FC Lemsford took a surprise lead. A decent through ball played in Evan Cowler and he finished smartly past the keeper. By some fluke, I got the goal on camera but the visitors had a decent spell after this with the goal knocking the stuffing out of the hosts. Buntingford were soon pressing for the equaliser, but they had to wait until the 90th minute to get it. The goal came from an attack down the right, the striker cutting in and his shot going in off the left hand upright, the draw being the least they deserved. It had certainly been a case of wasteful finishing for Buntingford, they created a number of openings, but just couldn't score, through a combination of wasteful finishing and great defending by Lemsford.
It had been a lovely warm afternoon and a great place to watch football. The early kick-off helped me in a way, as I had other engagements. I stopped at Aldi in Hoddesdon as we don't have one near us, picking up some stuff for breakfast amongst other things. It was a good journey home, with the last hour of the Two Mikes and then the FA Cup Final build-up to keep me company. I also stopped at the Craft Beer Shop in Chalfont on the way home, picking up a couple of pints of Snailsbank Orchard Dry to have with the football. I got in at 4.45, catching up online and typing my blog while I watched the FA Cup Final. It was disappointing not to have Match Of The Day, but it did at least mean I could get an early night, most welcome with me being up for work at 4 am the next morning.
THE BURY is a smart set up for step 7. Though there is no stand, there are plenty of tables with seats on the edge of the pitch and these are a great place to watch the game from. Above is a balcony, this is attached to the bar and offers an elevated view of the action. There is cover down below, but most of the ground is open flat standing, with a bank behind the goal. There's no food or club shop, but the bar is pretty good with TV sports and a range of drinks, I didn't go into Buntingford, but my research found no standout pubs, so you might as well bring cans or give your money to the club, if you are planning to drink.