Tuesday, 4 June 2019

MY 2018/19 SEASON REVIEW

It's been another enjoyable but expensive season. Over a total of 138 games, the costs have been a whopping £3563. Tickets have not been too pricey - a total of £968 which have included 16 games for free, the most expensive being a still fairly reasonable £22, this equates to an average of £7 a game. 'Extras' costs have been £382, though I have been sneaky with this - not including any real cider or times where I have had something special for food and also omitting some costs when Wycombe gain a positive result. It does include programmes though and works out at just under £3 per game. The big killer has been travel - fares for trains, buses and coaches, any hotels needed for overnight stops, petrol and for the first time ever, servicing and parts costs. I've not included tax, insurance or car depreciation in this, as some costs of owning a car are unavoidable. But it's by far the biggest cost factor, at £16 per game and is something that I am looking to fix next season. Certainly, I've not taken the servicing costs into consideration when asking my fellow hoppers for 'petrol' money and in some cases, I'll have ended up paying more than they did. I've worked out my costs to be 20p a mile, around 13.5p a mile in fuel and 6.5p in servicing and parts and will be using that as a barometer of both what to ask for in 'petrol' money and also when making a decision to go via public transport - or indeed whether to go to a game at all.

Surprisingly out of my two regular hopping partners, given that one hopper has a limited budget and the other is pretty generous, they both work out at the average cost of £26 or £27 a game. I assume that's because the more generous hopper lives much further away (meaning I have to spend more to get to them) and also the fact that our trips are much longer means that the servicing costs that I didn't factor in until season end are much higher. Driving to games on my own also works out at an average of £27 a game, this is due to me keeping costs down by driving fewer miles. Going via public transport (be it supporters coach, Groundhop UK coach or normal public transport) has cost me on average £30 a game all-in - the costs being pushed up by a long trip to Scotland with a plush hotel to pay for too. By far the cheapest way, unsurprisingly, has been walking to Wycombe games at an average of £15 all-in. This equates to £12 ticket cost and £3 on food and drink. Due to the dire pub selection in Wycombe, this is often cans from Lidl which keeps the odds down, as does 'treating myself' should we win. Overall, on average, football is costing me £26 a game - a figure that I want to get down next season. But now onto something more positive and the awards for the season.

FAVOURITE NEW GROUND - RAMSGATE
I've been looking to visit here for some while and when I got around to finally visiting Southwood, I was not disappointed. Extensive terracing and plenty of character as well as being close to a great town with a wide range of pubs were the main good points.



BEST DAY OUT - DONCASTER v WYCOMBE
A 3-0 defeat for my team might not sound like a great day out, but this was about so much more than the football. I went on the Independent Supporters coach, which always stops at a pub. These vary in quality but are generally reasonable. The one we stopped at before this game was excellent, with a great range of cider and superb. The best part of the day though was catching up with my mate Ben and his Dad, both of whom I'd not seen in a few years, these factors meaning that the result didn't matter, especially given the respectable performance.



BEST PROGRAMME - ROYAL WOOTON BASSETT TOWN
There's a lot of love for programmes on Twitter, although let's be honest, most of them are pretty dire with plenty of adverts and minimal reading material. It just seems like clubs are forced to put them out as a token effort and this shows. As a result, I don't always buy one now. One happy exception to this is Royal Wooton Bassett Town. This well-presented issue had plenty of stats, a good amount to read and was available for a very reasonable £1.50.



BEST GAME - AFC UCKFIELD 4-3 LANGNEY WANDERERS
This fantastic and pulsating contest was part of a Bank Holiday double and was the morning game. It was played in the right spirit, the referee letting the game flow and those in attendance being rewarded with rich entertainment. Sadly most games were run of the mill, though that does make games like this all the more special.



BEST GOALS - KINTBURY RANGERS
Either two of the ones for Kintbury Rangers against Shrewton United in a Friday night game I went to. One of 16 games where I got in for free, I was lucky enough to get both of the efforts on camera.


BEST TEA BAR - WORCESTER PARK
Not much debate here, Worcester Park were the clear winners with a superb range at great prices. You had to wait for everything to be cooked, but what came out was delicious.



BEST PUB - THE HARP, COVENT GARDEN
As usual, club bars were much of a muchness this season. But pubs on the other hand. There's probably been a couple with a better cider selection, but for overall consistency, my regular London pit stop of The Harp in Covent Garden is hard to beat. The landlord is very friendly and it's also very easy to check out what is on tap before I visit.



BEST SOCIAL MEDIA - SHEPPEY UNITED
As well as keeping people informed, Sheppey was also one of the few clubs that were kind enough to retweet this blog, meaning that I got a mammoth 1,616 views for this entry. By comparison, my second most read blog was my Bemerton Heath Harlequins on with 426 views, the latest one at Eton Wick getting 93 views which just shows what sharing can do. Sadly, most don't bother, which is a shame.

PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON

I've already been putting plans into place for next season and I'm hoping to start with Retford United v Mansfield Town on Friday 28th June, should it not be called off or my planned passenger has something come up. I also plan to be more cost-effective next season - a local team Prestwood, have a railed pitch and this is one that I plan to visit with the day out costing next to nothing as it is walkable from home and free entry. Overall, I plan to go for quality over quantity - the new Tottenham Hotspur ground will hopefully see me re-complete the 92, whilst Scarbrough Athletic will see me complete down to step 3 as things stand at this time. Megabus was a great find last season with a return to Newcastle being around £20 from London and it's certainly something I'm planning to use again. 

I had a great time on Groundhop UK's hops last season, although the dates didn't always fall as I'd like with Wycombe home games - a shame, as it's cost-effective 'ticking' multiple grounds for one lot of travel costs. In terms of Wycombe away games, there are 10 that I really fancy going to, the most anticipated being Blackpool, now that the Oyston's have finally departed - I've not been for around 16 years and accommodation up there is plentiful and cheap. Abroad, I'm hoping for a revisit to Frankfurt, a Eurostar to 'any Belgian station' -possibly covering multiple countries. I'd also like to do a really cheap country - somewhere over the Eastern side of Europe, although I've not really set my sights on anywhere in particular.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Eton Wick - Haywards Mead


Eton Wick FC
Haywards Mead
Eton Wick
Berkshire
SL4 6JN

01753 852749





Ground Number: 861
Saturday 18th May 2019
Eton Wick 1-4 Britwell Reserves
East Berks Division 2







ETON WICK FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 1881, moving to their current come in 1904. They've played in local leagues due to their basic facilities. A good spell in the 1950s saw them promoted from the Windsor, Slough & District League Division 2 in 1953 and then Division 1 the following season. They'd spend 37 consecutive seasons in the Premier Division, winning the title in 1975 and 1987. The club joined the Chiltonian League in 1991, winning Division 1 in their debut season and the Premier Division a year later. They joined the Combined Counties League in 1993, enjoying a credible 3rd place finish behind Peppard and Ashford Town in their first season. After two mid-table seasons, they rejoined the Chiltonian League, winning it in 1999 and finishing as runners-up the following season. That year, the league merged with the Hellenic League, keeping the latter's name. They remained in Divison 1 East for the entirety of their stay here, finishing as champions in 2005. A decision was made to drop down to the East Berkshire League in 2010, with the Premier Divison title being lifted in 2011 and a third-place finish being achieved in 2012. A disagreement saw manager Steve Evans resign and join Wraysbury Village, so Eton Wick sat out the 2012/13 season. They returned to the Premier Division in time for the 2013/14 season but a second-bottom finish in 2016/17 following years of struggling to attract players saw them only run a reserve team last season in East Berkshire League Divison 2 (step 9 of the non-league pyramid) with their first team taking its place at the start of this season. They currently sit in 4th place, though could finish as high as 2nd, although that would take a very favourable run of results with many teams having games in hand.

Though they've never entered the FA Cup, Eton Wick did enter the FA Cup for a couple of seasons in the mid-1990s. Their best season came in their debut season on 94/95 when they beat Rayners Lane, Southall and Andover prior to a 3-1 defeat at Met Police in the 2nd Round. Local honours include the Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy in 1993, the Maidenhead & Norfolkonian Cup in 2011 and 2012, the Sid Hurly East Berks League Cup in 2012, the Windsor, Slough & District League Cup in 1978 and the Slough Town Challenge Cup on five occasions. The village of Eton Wick is situated between the towns of Windsor Eton and Slough. It has a population of around 3,000 and up until 1974 was part of Buckinghamshire until it was taken by Berkshire that year and is situated near the River Thames. 



MY VISIT

The end of the season was rapidly approaching, but there was still some life in it, even if options were limited. I only had a choice of three games lined up and two of these were as far north as Knutsford and Silsden. Eton Wick was the one nearby one that interested me. Roughly 15 miles from home, there was a railed pitch and a pretty backdrop which was more than enough for me. Initially, the plan was to park up at the ground and walk a couple of miles to Windsor for some pubs, but with the high possibility of games falling due to clubs being unable to raise a team, I decided against this as I didn't want to be left with nothing to do for a couple of hours. Instead, I decided to go into Slough beforehand for lunch, with there being plenty of choice and value there from my experience. After an early and sober Friday night, I woke up not long after my usual work time, which was a bit of a disappointment as I was hoping to get a lie in. I spent a couple of hours watching TV before getting up and having breakfast. After a shower and starting this blog, I left at 10.40, still not 100% confident that I'd see a game as both teams and the league's Twitter accounts were only sporadically updated. It was still showing on the FA Full Time site, but even that had inaccuracies from time to time. Home Bargains and Lidl were visited on the way to Slough, various bits being picked up. For lunch, I just got a few bits from Tesco as I needed to pay for parking there. It was afew miles to Eton Wick with me getting there at 1.40. The busy roads assured me that the game was on and I was pleased when I saw two teams warming up when I got pitchside.



Hosts Eton Wick were defending a seven-game unbeaten run in the league, the last game coming on 27th April as they beat KS Gryf 3-1. Their last league defeat came on 16th February as they lost 4-2 at St Peters Iver. Visitors Britwell Reserves had a home walkover in their last game on Tuesday as opponents St Peters Ivers were unable to field a team. But other than that, they were in pretty decent form and had won 4 out of their last 5 games, most by a healthy margin. Ironically, their one defeat came in the reverse fixture of today's game with Eton Wick triumphing 6-2 at Britwell. It was slightly confusing with the hosts lining up in their away kit as Britwell had bought their black and amber kit which matched the hosts and it was something I only noticed once I saw one of the team's badges. Despite the hosts starting with just nine men, owing to player shortages, they were the better side early on. The linesman's job was staffed by volunteers and the one on my side spent the first half running the line with a pint in his hand. It was around 19 minutes in that saw the first chance, the number 6 for Eton Wick having a decent header from a cross, but the visiting keeper saved well. Britwell took the lead on 28 minutes though, a good move and ball into the area found a player who finished tidily from around 10 yards. A couple of minutes later, Eton Wick had a penalty appeal, but in truth, their number 14 lacked pace and went down easily after the defender caught up with him. He injured himself in the move, with his rib popping out, and although he gamely carried on, he was eventually replaced by a latecomer. The extra couple of men told in the second half, on 52 minutes the Britwell number 9 hit the right-hand post and the ball rolled across the line before eventually being cleared. The visitors made it 2-0 on 61 minutes, a good run and dribble into the area by their number 3 saw him slot home to double the advantage. On 73 minutes, Eton Wick got a goal back on the break, a long ball forward found a striker who latched onto it and finished from the edge of the area. Britwell made sure of the win on 83, making it 3-1 with a long-range shot that I just saw the aftermath of thanks to walking around getting some more pictures. The win was complete a few minutes from time, #15 got away down the left and squared for #16 to tap home from close range to make it 4-1. There was still time for the visitors to hit the bar from a tight angle as the game neared its conclusion.



I felt sorry for Eton Wick, I was given a nice welcome by one of their officials and unlike other teams who would cry off, they agreed to play with two men short. The game finished around 3.50 and so I made my way home, listening to the FA Cup Final build up on the way. There was drizzle along the way, but nothing serious until I was about a mile from home when the heavens opened. It meant that I got soaked walking the ten yards from my car to the house, with me getting home at 4.25. I poured myself a drink, watching the Cup Final on TV as I typed my blog. It was pretty dreadful first half, Watford playing it safe and being punished as Man City got a deserved 2-0 lead. There was a brief resurgence from Watford at the start of the second half, but in the end, City hammered them 6-0. Par for the course and I planned to be in bed before 8, getting a reasonable nights sleep before the usual terror of a Sunday morning at the workplace from hell.



THE GROUND

HAYWARDS MEAD is a fairly basic venue, but a decent one for the level they play at. The pitch is railed on two sides and offers the backdrop of Windsor Castle. Facilities at the ground include a club with a nice bar, this appeared to have a reasonable range of drinks and real ale from Rebellion, but I didn't really check it out. It also has sports TV. There didn't appear to be food at the ground, but there were plenty of shops near the ground. These included a Chinese/Chippy, convenience store, newsagent and Indian takeaway as well as a charity shop. There was also a pub near the ground.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Clapton CFC - The Stray Dog




Clapton CFC
The Stray Dog
Wadham Lodge Sports Ground
Kitchener Road
Walthamstow
London
E17 4JP

Official Website
Twitter








Ground Number: 860
Saturday 11th May 2019
Clapton CFC 3-0 FC Roast
Middlesex County League D1 East & Central








CLAPTON CFC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was only formed in 2018, but their origins can be traced back to 2012 when the Clapton Ultras were formed. They were a group of football supporters who priced out of league football, decided to lend their support to Clapton FC, a team established in 1878. It was a happy marriage at first, Clapton's crowds rose from an average of 20 in 2012 to an average of 335 during the 2015/16. The Ultras were proud of their anti-fascist stance and also did a lot of work for the community, helping out local food banks and publicising the cases of unfortunate people that had been betrayed by the authorities and ignored by the mainstream media. The partnership was not to last though. Disagreements between the Ultras and Clapton owner Vincent McBean over things like the Ultras using pyrotechnics, the club raising admission prices and McBean's attempt to liquidate the charity that owned the 'Old Spotted Dog' ground. The venue had become a victim of fly-tipping but supporters from the Ultras group helped tidy it up and make it safer for the other fans.

The new club set up home at an outside pitch at Walthamstow FC's Wadham Lodge stadium. Closer to the centre of Clapton (by 0.3 miles) by foot than Clapton FC's home in Forest Gate, it was christened 'The Stray Dog' and is only intended as a temporary home. On the pitch, the team joined the Middlesex County League Division 1 which sits at step 8 of the Non-League pyramid. Their division has been heavily affected by points deductions with over half the teams in the league facing a sanction for one reason or another. As a result, the team who have gained the best results over the course of the season - London Samurai Rovers find themselves 4th after a 15 points deduction. As one of the few sides to beat London Samurai, Clapton sit 2nd in the league, with a game in hand on leaders Stonewall who sit two points ahead. With just the one game left to play, Clapton can win the title with a victory in this game. In local cups this season, Clapton CFC got to the Anagram Trophy Final, only to lose 5-1 to Catholic United in a game played at Oakside, home of Redbridge FC. They had better luck in the Jim Rogers Presidents Cup, the competition exclusively for Middlesex League Division 1 clubs. After overcoming South Kilburn Reserves, Deportivo Galicia Reserves, London Samurai Rovers and Wilberforce Wanderers they faced Hilltop FC in a game played at Uxbridge. After a 2-2 draw, Clapton came through 5-3 on penalties to win the first silverware for the fan-owned club.



MY VISIT

I’d originally intended to visit Clapton CFC at the end of April but when I saw that they had a game on 11th May, I went to Worcester Park instead and had a very good day. With Clapton CFC playing at a fairly decent ground near Walthamstow, it was always a club I was keen to visit. More so, with their colourful fans, who had done well to form a new club after a falling out with the owner of Clapton FC. I’d really enjoyed my visit there back in 2014, even if I was ripped off at the turnstile when the said owner, Vincent McBean charged me £1.50 for a programme that was 2 sheets of black and white A4 paper. It was already a strained relationship between the owner and the fans back then, with the supporters refusing to spend any money in the ground, eventually, this led to boycotting games altogether after a hike in admission prices. The game that I had chosen was originally due to be a home game for FC Roast, but with limited capacity at their venue and a crowd of around 800 expected, it was switched to Clapton. If Clapton won, then they would be champions and earn promotion. Anything less then Stonewall would win the title, having completed their season already. I was aiming to get to the ground early, so had a sober Friday night and a decent night’s sleep. As well as a big crowd, rain was forecast and after suffering an unpleasant soaking at Horsham a week ago, I made sure that I took an umbrella.



The day of the game came and I woke around 6 but nodded off for another couple of hours. After having breakfast and getting freshened up, I left at 9.15. I needed to stop at Tesco on the way and pick up some stuff for the day and also to get some cash out. The latter was foiled after both cash machines were out of order, as was the one at Amersham station. I got to the station just before 10, but due to weekend engineering works, everything was up in the air and I had a 20-minute wait for my train. I took the Metropolitan line to Baker Street and the Bakerloo to Charing Cross, arriving around 11.20. It was then around 10 minutes walk to my chosen pub, The Harp for a couple of pre-match pints. It was a place that I’d visited many times before and even though I’d not been for a few months, the landlord recognised me. As usual, it was a Mecca for real cider and so I had a pint of Severn Brown Snout which was exceptional as ever from that brewer. The second pint, Ty Gwyn Medium Perry was another decent effort, though a little too sweet for my liking. I left just after 12 to heavy rain, passing several homeless people, equally disappointed at Prime Minister May as the unfortunate month that bore her name. It was Bakerloo to Oxford Circus, Victoria to Walthamstow where I bought some lunch.  Rather than mess around finding a takeaway, I stopped at  Lidl and Poundland and bought various bits including chicken. Finding the ground was a trial with several closed entrances but eventually, I was there at 2.15.





So, I popped to the toilet before going in, a few quid in the donation bucket was all it took. I was hoping to buy a scarf but on a busy day the merchandise was flying out and I was too late. I took my place for the first half in the commentary area with a couple of hoppers I knew, Chris and Giles. .The crowd was an incredible 1,266 and it was a fairly decent game. I've lost my notes on the game, so may have missed a few details. The opening goal came on 14 minutes when the ball was put across and Josh Adejokun netted from close range. It was 2-0 on 33 minutes when a long throw by Sherwin was nodded on and Adejokun poked home for his and his teams second. The game died down a bit after then with Clapton getting their third around 15 minutes from time. A cross was swung in and Adejokun volleyed home to complete his hat trick and put the game beyond all doubt. After getting a few pictures of the celebrations, I headed off towards the station. I spotted a bus which saved me some time but I was peckish again by now. I'd spotted a place called Cinar Grill when doing my pre-match research but had given it the swerve pre-match. But now, it was ideal and I had a hot lahmucan roll with chips for £4.20 which was pretty good. I got on the first train back to London, which happened to be Liverpool Street. Then it was the Bakerloo to Baker Street, it was a 4-minute wait for my train to Amersham, which made a nice change as I usually wait for ages. I was back through the door at 7.45 and spent the evening watching various quiz shows and catching up on YouTube subs. It was sad to think that this could be the end of my season, but all good things must come to an end. I was in bed by 10 but still didn't go to sleep as planned, instead watching TV until around midnight.





THE GROUND

THE STRAY DOG is a temporary venue for Clapton CFC, but that doesn't stop it from being reasonably decent. There's a covered area holding around 150, plus there are around two-thirds of the pitch available for spectators, probably 1,800 at a push. The bar is a shed load of crates of Tyskie, so bring your own if that's not your bag. Food was a nice little Indian street food stall, though I didn't try anything. Merchandise was shirts, stickers, badges and old programmes by the time I got there, but there's usually more and it was a decent range, in any case, The town of Walthamstow? 25 minutes walk with a wide choice, or there are various places on the walk to the ground.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Lancing FC - Culver Road


Horsham FC
c/o Lancing FC
Sussex FA Ground
Culver Road
Lancing
Sussex
BN15 9AX

01903 753547






Ground Number: 859
Friday 3rd May 2019
Horsham 2-1 Ashford United
Isthmian D1 South East Playoff Final



HORSHAM FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 1881, playing on local parks until 1904. That year they moved to Queen Street, which remained their home until 2008 when it was sold to property developers. For a couple of years, they shared at nearby Worthing, returning to Horsham in 2010 to share with Horsham YMCA whose old ground was near to their former ground. That lasted until 2017 when they moved into the Sussex FA Ground with Lancing FA. Plans are afoot to return to Horsham, a new ground is in the process of being built, with just the finishing touches being added. The town of Horsham itself has a population of around 55,000 and famous former residents include Harry Enfield, Alan Mullery, Paul Parker and Holly Willoughby.

The team started out in local leagues and were founder members of the West Sussex League in 1896 and were highly successful there, winning it on four occasions. They made the step up to the Sussex County League in 1926. They were highly successful there, winning the title on seven occasions. They left the league in 1951 and had spells in the Metropolitan & District League (winning the title in their debut season), Corinthian and Athenian Leagues. In 1973 they joined the Isthmian League, initially in its second tier. Despite a 5th place finish in 1979, they were relegated to Division 2 the following season. There then followed a barren spell for the club, reorganisation in 1991 saw them drop a further step to Division 3, but by 1995 they were champions and won promotion back to Division 2. This time, they fared a lot better and by 2002, a runners-up spot behind Lewes was good enough for promotion to the newly formed Division 1 South. Another promotion followed in 2006 and they spent 6 seasons in the Isthmian Premier, recording their best-ever placing of 8th in their debut season of 2006/07. After finishing bottom of the table in 2012, the club suffered a loss of form and in 2015 were relegated back to the Sussex League for the first time in 64 years, albeit with it being renamed the Southern Combination Premier. They won the title at the first attempt, returning to Isthmian D1 South at the first attempt. Following two mid-table seasons, they finished as runners-up to Cray Wanderers. Following victory over Haywards Heath Town in the playoff semis on Monday, they now face Ashford United for a place in the Isthmian Premier after their opponents overcame Hastings United on the same night.

The club's best ever FA Cup run came in 2007 when they beat Arundel, Bury Town, AFC Wimbledon, Chippenham Town and Maidenhead United to reach the 2nd Round. Despite taking the Football League side to a replay, they lost the second game 6-2 at the Liberty Stadium. The FA Vase 4th Round was reached in 1987 as they lost 3-1 at Collier Row in a replay. In the FA Trophy, the 2nd Round was their best progress, reached in 2003 when Horsham lost out to Thame United. Local cup wins include the Sussex Senior Cup (seven times), Sussex Floodlit Cup (twice), Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Cup (thirteen times) and Brighton Charity Cup (six times). The club's record signing is Lee Farrell, one of the few deaf players to play in semi-professional football, he signed from Lewes in July 2007. The following season, they recouped £10,000 from Tonbridge Angels for Carl Rook.



MY VISIT

With the end of the footballing season rapidly approaching, I was keen to get in some games whilst I could. This was especially true for my favourite time of the week to watch football, Friday night. There were a few decent choices, but in the end, I chose the best game in the Isthmian D1 South East Playoff Final at Lancing. I tried to get fellow hopper Anwar to come along too, but it was yet another refusal, with him going to Arsenal the previous evening which was fair enough. Even so, I was still keen to go, at under 90 miles each way, the petrol costs would not be horrendous. With the ground being close to the town of Lancing, it would be decent pre-match too. The day itself was a pretty good one, it had been a much more pleasant week at work and well over two weeks had passed since I was flashed by a speed camera and there was still no sign of a ticket. It was also a pretty easy day at work, with me out of the door at 11.15. With a few hours to kill before I needed to leave, I spent the afternoon looking at potential upcoming games. There wasn't a huge amount left and this will represent my quietest season since the 2014/15 season. Not that I'm fussed, I'm glad to have shown at last some restraint. I left at 3.30 and with the M25 on my journey, there was always going to be delays. In the end, things were not so bad and I was parked up in Lancing by 6. A car park a few minutes from the ground with tiny spaces did the job and with time to spare, I headed into town. The Stanley Ale House was my first stop where I had a pint of Big Nose Beardy Great Expectations was excellent, of a tad expensive at a fiver a pint. There were others that I'd not tried, but I stuck at a single pint as I had to drive later. In any case, the other producer, SeaCider had blocked me on Twitter after I'd criticised their products, so I was in no rush to try any of their ciders. From there I walked to a Chinese Takeaway, Lee House where I got Chilli and Peppercorn chips with a seafood pancake roll for £4.80. It was very nice, even if the potions were a bit tight.



By 6.50, it was time to go in, the entry fee of £9 above average for a normal step 4 league game, but acceptable for a playoff final. There was a good atmosphere building and the bright yellow and green colours of Horsham had lit up the town and the ground. Both sets of fans were in good voice, but it was a pretty dull start to the game. There's been a bit of drizzle on the way down, but for around 20 minutes the heavens opened and I got absolutely drenched. The rain eventually abated. It was a fantastic strike by George Hayward that opened the scoring on 39 minutes as he netted a half volley from the edge of the box. This opened up the game and Ashford were unlucky not to equalise when Horsham keeper Josh Pelling parried a shot and the rebound was hit against the underside of the bar before being cleared. They pulled level right on half time when a penalty was awarded for an apparent stray arm and Sam Corne converted confidently from the spot. At half time, I spent some time in the bar to dry off before going out and getting a Bovril and some chips. There was a huge queue, but credit to the staff, they whittled it down pretty quickly. The visitors were well on top at the start of the second half but it was Horsham that got the chance to go ahead around 20 minutes from time. A penalty was awarded but the Ashford keeper Sam Mott pulled off a cracking save to keep the scores level. This was part of a good spell for the hosts and they were unlucky not to snatch it right at the death when they had a shot cleared off the line. Extra time was required though and it was Ashford that had lots of possession, but without really doing anything with it. Horsham had a chance to go ahead tight at the end of the half but it wasn't to be. It was a half that seemed to drag on for ages and it was 9.55 before the second period of extra time started. Horsham took the lead on 110 minutes when a free kick was looped in and Rob O'Toole headed home what turned out to be the winner.



Ashford fought valiantly, but they couldn't equalise and so the penalty shoot-out that I'd been hoping for never materialised. It had been a decent contest for the 880 in attendance including a few people I recognised off of Twitter. It was 10.15 by the left and needing a drink, I headed to ASDA, one of the few places that were open and got a bottle of Ribena. I got back to my car and had a good journey home. Usually, travelling after 10PM is a bit of a lottery with road closures but my journey was OK aside from a few lane closures. The 1990s Football podcast and random music kept me company on the way back with me getting home at Midnight. I watched Corrie and YouTube as I typed this blog and sorted photos. It was 2 am before I got to bed, but with a late kick off for Wycombe the next day, I had no need to be up early. It had been a fairly costly night for me - £35 all in on my football expenses and that was with me not counting my Chinese and cider but it had been a good night out and well worth the visit.



THE GROUND 


CULVER ROAD is a smart and tidy venue. The only covered area is a seated stand holding a few hundred, plus more standing. The rest of the ground is open. Tea bar facilities are decent at the ground, a good range at fair prices. I didn't look at the bar in detail, but it was quite big and also had a small range of club merchandise available. The town of Lancing is on the doorstep, with plenty of places to eat and drink. The pick of these is a smashing Micropub called The Stanley Ale House which has a great range of ales, ciders and other drinks.