Saturday, 19 May 2018

Buntingford Town - The Bury

Buntingford Town FC
The Bury
London Road

07868 371686

Ground Number: 774
Saturday 19th May 2018
Buntingford Town 1-1 FC Lemsford
Herts County League - Premier Division


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.

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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.


Saturday, 12 May 2018

Tudor Sports - Oxford Road

Tudor Sports FC
Sidcup Conservative Club
Oxford Road
DA14 6LW

0208 300 2897

Ground Number: 773
Saturday 12th May 2018
Tudor Sports 0-4 Staplehurst Monarchs United
Kent County League - Premier Division


The current Tudor Sports side was founded in 2001 and was initially known as Erith 147. They joined the Kent County League in 2006, starting in Division 2 West. They always stayed in the top half of the table and in  2012, a runners-up spot behind Bexlians was good enough for promotion to Division 1. They celebrated their inaugural season with another runners-up spot, this time behind Fleetdown United. They've been in the step 7 Kent County Premier Division ever since and in 2016 merged with Tudor Sports, also taking their name. Their best finish so far has been 7th which they achieved in 2014, though they will be beating that this season as they sit 5th. Recent form has been inconsistent, winning 3, drawing 1 and losing 2 of their last 6 games. 9th place Staplehurst Monarchs United will provide a tough test, sitting 3rd in the form table and winning 4 out of their last 6 games.

The original Tudor Sports FC was founded a year later in 2002. They started out in the South London Alliance League before joining the Kent County League in 2006. Starting in Division 2 West, they earned promotion to Division 1 West as champions in their first season. Four seasons were spent here before 3rd place behind Farnborough OBG and Eltham Palace in 2011 saw them promoted to the Premier Division. Their debut season saw them finish a best-ever 5th. They couldn't keep the form going ever and in 2016 they finished bottom of the Premier Division. The club immediately joined the South London Alliance and following the merger, they became the club's reserve side.  This season, the league was renamed the Bromley & South London League and the club's reserve side currently top the table.


My season with Wycombe and most of Non-League down to step 6 might have packed up for the season but that didn’t mean there was a lack of choice. There were still plenty of action at step 7 and below and I drew up a list of 20 feasible options, the best of which was Thorne Colliery. It was a fair trek though and so I decided to do something on the train. It boiled down to two options- Peckham Town and Tudor Sports. In the end, the latter won as it had a nice micropub and a Wetherspoons nearby. I was loathe to use my car, which had been a pain in the backside once more. I’d already had a few incidents with minor encounters with wildlife causing expensive damage to the weak bodywork and the badly made Renault was at it again. I’d had to cancel a trip to Swanwick Pentrich Road at the last minute due to the wishbone snapping. The damage had also seen the bodywork bend and now the wing was rubbing against the door and another bill on top of the £470 I had paid so far (including two new tyres) and the Green Flag call out. I was getting fed up with my car, though it was nice inside with leather seats and Bluetooth, it was very poorly built on the outside and I'd regretted not sacking it off and getting another car ages ago. I was pleased that it was drivable though, as I'd turned up at work saddle-sore and tired after cycling to work for the past two days. As it turned out, the second part of the repair didn't bost as much as I'd first feared - £150, but it was still nearly 3 weeks wages for the whole lot.

I’d had a quiet evening the night before, so I woke on the day of the game feeling pretty decent. After having breakfast and getting ready, I left at 9.45, parking up near Amersham station and getting the train into London. After changes at Finchley Road and London Bridge, I got to Sidcup around midday. Normally I’d have stopped at London Bridge and gone to Borough Market but today, Sidcup would provide enough for a decent pre-match. I was peckish by now and not wanting to eat on an empty stomach, went to the local Co-Op and bought a bag of crisps. A couple of handfuls of these shoved down my gob, I headed for my first stop, The Hackney Carriage Micropub. This was a great place and with a huge range of ciders, I was able to choose 2 in my favourite style of dry. First up was a pint of Outcider by Eltham Gold, this kicked off my afternoon very nicely as it had plenty of flavour. Next up was even better, a pint of ‘Fighting Cider’ by Chant. The barman/owner had warned that only one person had liked it so far, but for me, it was excellent. Very dry and not one to sling back at a rapid rate, it was one to savour and enjoy. Luckily, I had plenty of time and when I left at 1pm, there was still plenty of time until kickoff. Drizzly rain interrupted my mile walk to Wetherspoons, typical after it had been sunny all week whilst everyone was stuck in work. I got to The Tailors Chalk ok though and although fairly scruffy, it was decent. I had a pint of Black Dragon cider along with Doombar pie, chips and mushy peas for about 9.50. So from there, it was to the ground.

More rain saw me get there at 2.30, there were no programme or entry fee. After getting some pictures of the ground I settled down under the cover. The visitors were the better side and they took the lead on 37 minutes, netting from inside the area. The lead was doubled a couple of minutes into the second half, a smart lob from the Staplehurst number 10 from a tight angle. The game was sealed on 80 minutes, a good ball into the area was put away with a neat finish for 3-0. Tudor Sports briefly flourished, a goal a few minutes later was ruled out for offside. A few minutes from time, it was 4-0, a low angled finish produced a scoreline that did not flatter the visitors against the underwhelming hosts.

The weather continued to be abysmal, with a wet walk back to Sidcup station. I considered getting a Chinese but decided to wait, getting to the station at 5.05. I had 10 minutes wait for the train, but I was at least able to take shelter in the waiting room. For once, all the connections were good and I made rapid progress towards home. Even with the half-hourly service towards Amersham, I only had to wait for 2 minutes to get my train. I got back to the station at 7 and fifteen minutes later I was back home. Normally, I'd be killing time until Match Of The Day, but tonight, it wasn't on, with all the games being played on Sunday. I had a game the following day too, Hampton & Richmond Borough v Braintree Town in the Conference South play-off final. I'd be up at 4 am for work, so I was aiming to get to bed by 9. I wanted to get my blog done though and so completed it whilst catching up on my YouTube subscriptions.


The ground is situated on Oxford Road and is part of the Sidcup Conservative Club. It's an excellent venue for step 7, there is a decent sized stand with space for around 200, fifty of which are seated. Across the other side of the pitch is a smaller area of cover, for around 50. Overall, it's a nice venue, but plenty of character but the lack of hard standing and floodlights prevent it being a step 6 venue, which is a shame.

At the ground is a bar, though I didn't check it out. You'll be well served by the town though, which is less than 10 minutes away. The pick here is the Wetherspoons, The Tailor's Chalk as well as a MIcropub, The Hoppers Hut. Back near the station, just under a mile away, is my favourite place of all, The Hackney Carriage Pun. Around 25 ciders, plus ales are available and there are plenty of takeaways, both here and in town. 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Cadbury Athletic - Triplex Sports Ground

Cadbury Athletic FC
Triplex Sports Ground
Eckersall Road
Kings Norton
B38 7SR

Ground Number: 772
Tuesday 10st May 2018
Cadbury Athletic 1-1 Ilkeston Town
Midland League D1


The club was formed in 1994 and is affiliated to the Cadbury confectionary firm. They originally played at the Bourneville Recreation Ground, which has a very pretty backdrop and hard standing of sorts, but no floodlights. They joined the Midland Combination upon formation, starting out in Division 3. A 9th place finish in their first season was good enough for promotion to Division 2. A series of mid-table finishes followed until 2001 when 4th place was good enough to go up to Division 1. Despite finding the first couple of seasons being a struggle, Cadbury Athletic soon improved and in 2005 a runners-up spot behind Atherstone Town saw the club promoted to the step 6 Premier Division. They generally did well with mid-table finishes including a decent 6th place in 2011. Despite a 12th place finish the following year, the club took the decision to drop back down to Division 1. A third-place finish behind Hampton and Alvis was followed up with their first ever league win in 2014. Now with the facilities in place, thanks to a groundshare at the Triplex Sports Ground (former ground of the now-defunct Pilkington XXX) they were able to make the step up to the newly formed step 6 Midland Division 1 for the 2014/15 season. Since the step up, finishes have been mixed but they achieved the best season in the club's history last season with a 5th place finish. This season the club has suffered a loss in form, sitting in 19th at present, but well safe from any relegation issues.

Cadbury Athletic have only won one FA Cup match in the six campaigns they have participated in. That came in 2015 as they beat Tipton Town 2-0 only to lose 4-0 at Sporting Khalsa in the Preliminary Round. They have a slightly better record in the FA Vase, having reached the 1st Round twice - being eliminated by Norton United in 2007 and Bromsgrove Sporting in 2016. Local cup wins include the Midland Combination Vase in 2001 and in the 1999/00 season, the West Bromwich Shield and the Prudential Cup. Notably, there have been a number of players that have played for Cadbury's youth teams before going on to bigger things - most notably Daniel Sturridge and Demarai Gray.


I'd originally been intending to go to this game on the 10th April. I'd put a lot of work into researching my blog, looking at the form for both teams and even finding a great looking place for dinner. However, all my work came to nothing as even at that time of year there were still multiple games being called off and sadly my choice was one of the victims. Cadbury Athletic had real troubles getting games on at that point in the season, but looking at the updated table, they must have had to play a fair amount of games to catch up. On that original night, I'd gone to Barrow Town instead and it turned out ot be a decent trip. I was always going to keep an eye out for this game when it was rescheduled and was pleased when I could make the new date.

On the day of the game, I awoke to the disappointing news that fellow hopper Anwar was unable to make the game due to illness. I had a good look at the Football Traveller magazine to see if I could find anything closer to save petrol but with the difference being marginal, I decided to stick with my original plan. I contacted another hopper Chris, to Chris, to see if he fancied a trip to AFC Bentley near Doncaster, but understandably he'd already made alternative plans at this late notice. I'd had a good night's sleep and so after waking at 8.30, I had a bath and got dressed before walking down town. I got some stuff from Morrisons, including a nice chicken burrito for my lunch before getting a lift back home with my Dad. After lunch, the afternoon was spent relaxing at home, including some planning for future games. I was delighted when my speculative text to Anwar resulted in the news that he had made a miracle recovery and would be joining me after all. I'd appreciate the company and more importantly, it would help out with costs, which were approaching £3000 for the 136 games that I'd seen so far this season. I left at 3.40 and after filling up my car with diesel, met Anwar at 4.15. The journey started well enough, the only delay being on the M42 and the 20-minute delay was all down to a broken down car on a roundabout. We got to the ground at 6.15 and after parking up, headed in search of food. A chicken shop called 'Chicken.Com' did the job and I had a chicken and salad pitta, chips and a drink for £3.50. It was tasty and portions were generous, so a definite win. From there we went to Heron Foods to get some snacks and drinks for the game. I also popped along to an excellent off license called 'Cotteridge Wines' where I picked up 4 new ciders for the weekend before we walked back to the ground. We got there at 7.30, paying £5 to get in and £1.50 for a programme.

With Ilkeston Town effectively a newly formed club at the start of the season following financial difficulties, the sole meeting between the clubs had happened at the end of March. True to current form, Ilkeston Town won the game 4-0. Personally, I'd seen both teams twice - Cadbury Athletic had won 1-0 at Barnt Green Spartak when I'd seen them in the FA Vase last season, but had lost 1-0 when I saw their league game at Studley earlier this season. Similarly, I'd seen Ilkeston Town (or the former club Ilkeston to be more precise) thump Stocksbridge Park Steels 6-1 at the New Manor Ground when I visited in 2014 but they'd been on the wrong end of a 2-0 defeat when I'd seen them play at Hednesford two years earlier. Current form was mixed for Cadbury Athletic - three wins at the start of April had secured their safety, but they'd followed that up with four straight defeats before getting back on track with a 4-0 home victory over Nuneaton Griff on Saturday to maintain 19th place. Visitors Ilkeston were in excellent form, having won 12 out of their last 13 games, the only blip being a 4-2 defeat at Racing Club Warwick on 17th April. Even so, they were still having to make do with 2nd place, four points behind Walsall Wood who also had two games in hand.

The game started with Ilkeston fans in good voice but both teams were fairly equal. As the half wore on, the visitors were the better side but neither team had much in the way of clear-cut chances and it was scoreless at the break. Despite being early May, it was a chilly, drizzly and windy evening, so we took shelter in the bar at halftime. The start of the second half continued at a slow pace and it wasn't until the 76th minute that the scoring was opened. Ben Morris had only recently come on as a substitute but a cross from the left was put in, the ball tapped back and it was he who rifled into the roof of the net. Their lead didn't last for long and less than a minute later. Sadly I didn't get this goal on the video, but it was a cracking volley from Stuart Butcher from the edge of the area which gave Ilkeston keeper Jamie Hannis no chance. Cadbury had enjoyed the better of the second half and they had a strong finish, Hannis making a great save to deny Butcher his second and a winner for the hosts. We left at 9.50 and generally it was a good journey home. I dropped Anwar off at 11.15 and got home myself at 11.35. It took me a while to get to sleep and so I needed a nap the following afternoon.


The Triplex Sports Ground is an old school non-league football ground. There is just the one area of cover, this comprises of around 50 seats and 100 standing. In addition, there are some steps of terracing behind one goal and partly along one side. The rest of the ground is open flat standing. As you would expect, there is no club shop at this level, though they do sell badges. There is minimal parking at the ground itself, but you can park in local factories for free.

Food at the ground looked decent with chips, curry sauce and burgers available for small prices. This is served from the large bar, which looks slightly dated and has a basic range of drinks including Carling, Carling cider and Guinness. There is a pub right near the ground, this also does food. There are also plenty of takeaways in the area so you won't go hungry.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Fairly standard step 6 ground, has some character (7)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
A reasonable amount of parking, near a train station and good for takeaways (7)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Pretty decent (7)

4: Value for money
Good value (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Reasonable Twitter, site fairly standard (6)

6: Programme
A good effort, plenty to read (8)

7: Game entertainment
Fairly dull, took until the last 15 minutes to get going (5)

8: Tea Bar
Looked good, but didn't try (7)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Large, but basic (5)

10: Club Shop
None (-)