Sunday, 5 December 2021

AFC Green Court - Green Court Sports Club


AFC Green Court
Green Court Sports Club
47 Green Court Road
Crockenhill
Swanley
Kent
BR8 8HF

01322 666442





Ground Number: 1028
Saturday 4th December 2021
AFC Green Court 1-4 Eltham Town
Kent Junior Cup B






A HISTORY OF FOOTBALL AT GREEN COURT ROAD


ALMA SWANLEY FC (1982-1994)

The ground appears to have been established in 1982 and was a new ground for ALMA SWANLEY FC who were established in 1963. They were named after a local pub (owned by the brewer Courage) which later changed its name to 'The Birchwood' in 2005. The pub closed in 2010 and was located on Birchwood Road, near the A20. It now appears to have been demolished and the land converted for housing. The club played at Swanley Recreation Ground originally and started out in the Dartford and District league, with ex Swanley Comprehensive Schoolboys. They had to include "Swanley" within their name for senior status. Between 1965 and 1972, they played in the Greater London League, moving on to the Spartan League. They were founding members of the London Spartan League in 1975 following the merger of the London League and the Spartan League. They remained in the top tier for the entirety of their stay, their best finish coming when they finished as runners-up to Cray Wanderers in 1977. The move to the new ground allowed them to switch to the Kent League, the league that was renamed the Southern Counties East League in 2013. Again, they stayed in the top division all the time they were there. They were league champions in 1986 but were not offered promotion, presumably due to their lack of floodlights. The team would carry on until 1994 when they dissolved following the death of their manager. 

The club competed in the FA Cup on six occasions. Their best run came in their final season, 1992/93 when they reached the 2nd Qualifying Round. They won 3-0 at Three Bridges before a 1-0 win over Purfleet. They would go on to lose 7-1 at Isthmian Premier side Yeading. The club's best ever FA Vase run came during 1980/81 when they were still playing at the Swanley Recreation Ground. They won 2-1 at Uxbridge, 3-2 at Bowers United and 3-1 at Cheshunt. They were finally given a home tie against Coventry Sporting where they won 2-0. Though they drew 2-2 against Windsor & Eton in the Quarter Final, they would lose the replay 4-1. Alma ended their final season 1993–94 as winners of the Kent Senior Trophy. They defeated Folkestone Invicta 3–1 in the final. One of their goalscorers was Peter Smith who afterwards played first-team professional football for Brighton & Hove Albion. He had played in a memorial match for the club’s manager who had died at the end of the season played at Greenwich Borough and a scout spotted him. The club also won the Kent League Cup in 1989 and the Spartan League Cup and Benevolent Cup in 1974. The club colours were red & black. Their record attendance of 1,500 came for a London Senior Cup game against Enfield in 1977. There appears to be an attempted revival in 2013 but this doesn't appear to have amounted to anything more than a couple of tweets.


DANSON FURNESS/ FURNESS / SWANLEY FURNESS (1992-2005)

The roots of this club start in 1968 when Furness FC was established. They played at Brackley Road Beckenham in the London Shipping League and the South London Alliance. Danson, later adding the (Bexley Borough) suffix from 1985 - 1991. They played at the Crook Log Leisure Centre and competed in the London Senior League, London Spartan League and Kent League but tended to struggle here. The new club,  Danson Furness moved to Green Court Road following the merger and took over Danson's place in the Kent League. They reverted to the Furness name in 1993 and this bought about great success with vastly improved finishes. Two runners-up spots and a 3rd place finish was achieved but the highlight was winning the Kent League title in 1996, finishing above many established clubs. However, as with Alma Swanley, the lack of floodlights meant that they were unable to take promotion to the Southern League. A name change to Swanley Furness saw them finish 4th but the floodlighting issue forced them to drop down to the Kent League Division 2 . In those intervening years, they changed their name back to Danson Furness and were placed in Division 1 North following a league restructure, though this in essence, was a renaming process with them remaining at the same level. The geographical leagues were dropped the following season in favour of a singular division. The club would remain here until 2005 when they folded. A notable run was achieved in the FA Vase during the 1995/96 season, their run to the third round amounted to eleven games thanks to replays with them eventually losing 5-2 to Raunds Town following a second replay. 

Near the end of the 1995/96 season, Green Court Road hosted what was then a record crowd for the reformed Kent League. 1,055 turned up for what was effectively the title decider between Furness FC and Dartford. Furness went on to win the league on goal difference from the Darts.

ORPINGTON FC (2002-2017)

From 2002 until 2017, Orpington FC played here. A number of teams took that name, but this incarnation of the club was established in 1939. They had senior status up until 1970 when they lost their ground to make way for St Olave's Secondary School. They moved up the road to Orpington Sports Club but in 2002, having joined the Kent County League, their facilities were deemed insufficient. Therefore, they moved to Green Court Sports Club. During their stay, they won Division 2 West in 2004 and Division 1 West in 2007. Despite finishing as runners-up in their debut season in step 6 (at the time) Premier Division, they were relegated in 2010. A year later, they became founder members of the Kent Invicta League, returning to step 6 football in the process. A highlight here was their 5th place finish in 2014. In 2016, the league became the SCEFL D1 and Orpington would play here for one season before the lack of floodlights saw them return to Orpington and a groundshare with Westcombe Park Rugby Club. Starting out in Division 1 West, they finished bottom in their first season and were relegated to Division 2 West, where they remain to this day.

ELTHAM PALACE FC (2011-2014)

Eltham Palace FC was established in 1961 and played in local leagues for much of their history. Playing on local pitches, they joined the Kent County League in the 1970s and came to prominence in 2002 when they were promoted to Division 2 West. They finished as runners-up to Forest Hill Park in 2010 and then as runners-up to Farnborough OBG in Division 1 West the following season. The promotion meant that they had to improve their facilities to comply with the Premier Division standards and so they became tenants at Green Court Road. They finished 3rd in their first season before becoming founder members of the Kent Invicta League. This in turn became the SCEFL D1 but by this time, Eltham Palace had left and played at Sidcup Conservative Club before then merging with Stansfeld O&B to become Stansfeld. Following the merger and needing a floodlit ground. they moved in with Glebe FC at Foxbury Avenue.


AFC MOTTINGHAM (2017-2019)

Established in 1998, this club missed a trick not calling themselves Mottingham Forest, instead opting for the more vanilla AFC Mottingham. The club encompasses several adult and youth teams. Having progressed from youth football into the South London Alliance. they joined the Kent County League in 2011. Starting in Division 2 West, they won promotion to Division 2 West in 2013 after finishing third behind Peckham Town and Long Lane. They remain in the league to this day, achieving their best finish in 2014 when they finished 7th. They spent two uneventful seasons at Green Court Road between 2017 and 2019 before leaving for pastures new. This summer they scrapped their adult team but still appear to be active in youth football.

AFC GREEN COURT (2019-PRESENT)

The latest tenant of the ground is AFC Green Court. They were established in 2019 and comprise of a first-team, reserve team as well as a Vets team and a number of junior sides. They joined the Sevenoaks & District League upon formation which is off-pyramid. Starting out in Division 4, they were sitting in 6th place when the season was abandoned due to Covid. The 2020/21 season saw them win the league with all fixtures completed. AFC Green Court won the league, losing just once all season. Following promotion to Division 3, the team have continued their good form and are unbeaten, sitting 2nd in the table. They have a couple of games in hand on the leaders and could go top if they win these.

The town of Swanley has a population of 17,500 and was the birthplace of footballer Reuben Loftus-Cheek. Other local football teams include Crockenhill FC who play in the Kent County League.

Sources used: Wikipedia, FCHD, FA Full Time, eBay (for programme photos), Google (for badges), Orpington FC archived site and this very helpful forum post on Non-League Matters.

MY VISIT

Originally, I'd been intending to go to this game on 6th November but following me signalling my intention on Twitter, Eltham Town told me that the game had been scrapped in favour of their game in the London Junior Cup. This was news to Green Court, with the competition's organiser neglecting to inform them and so the first they heard of it was when I did. I saw that Eltham's ground looked decent and decided to pay it a visit. I was expecting to see Eltham Town v Wanstead in the London Junior Cup. However, some confusion over the location led to me seeing an entirely different game - Red Velvet Reserves v Farnborough OBG Third Team whilst Eltham played across the road on their academy pitches. Though it was a tad confusing at first, I saw a game at the ground I wanted to and saw a close 3-2 game rather than the 10-1 pummelling. When I again, had a free Saturday, owing to Wycombe getting knocked out of the FA Cup, I signalled my intention to go. The Eltham Town Twitter who had been so helpful last time said that they hoped I got the right pitch this time! Having been so friendly, I thought it would be slightly rude to point out that it was THEY that had the wrong location, at least according to the FA Full Time website. I decided that I wanted to do some research into the history of the ground at Green Court, knowing that the original tenants were Alma Swanley. The Non-League Matters forum proved superbly helpful, although it did turn into a time-consuming job, what with the fragmented nature of the information. There were also plenty of distractions as I got sidetracked trying to find out about other teams and grounds that have long since ceased to exist.

 

I'd had a late night on Friday, what with catching up on things when I'd got back from Wales. I was glad to be using the train again on Saturday. As well as being able to enjoy a nice day out, it was a break from the problems with my car which I was hoping wouldn't turn out to be too pricey. I woke up at 7.30 when my alarm went off and took a while to get going, what with only having had four hours of sleep. I got dressed and had a quick bit of breakfast before getting my things together and leaving at 8.10. This was later than expected so I had to get a move on, but even so, I was at the station ten minutes before my train. It turned out to be longer than that as after I'd bought my ticket, I found out that the train was delayed due to a fault. It seems a common occurrence with the 9.25 and so I had to get the slower 9.33 instead. Not that it bothered me as I'd allowed plenty of time to do what I wanted. The train was very busy but I was glad to get a seat, albeit next to some old biddy with a cold. I was in Marylebone at 10.05 and after transferring to the underground, had a five-minute wait for my train to Charring Cross. When I got up to the main station, I saw the 10.30 train that I was aiming for pull away and so I had to wait 15 minutes for the next one. I got to Orpington station around 11.15 and was dismayed to find out it was a mile from Wetherspoons. Added to that, Google Maps had the wrong destination for the pub and so it wasn't until 11.40 that I got to The Harvest Moon, my 216th Wetherspoons. Things started to look up from there, with Black Dragon, the best cider that Spoons do, at a ludicrous £1.99 a pint. I was well chuffed and once I'd got to my table ordered the Big Cheese Christmas burger, sadly having to make do with a pint of Strongbow. The app was charging £3.10 for Black Dragon so I checked if I could get a later bus and discovered I'd make the match by the skin of my teeth. I think regular readers will know what option I took and so it was a very boozy pre-match for me with another pint of Black Dragon. I walked to the bus stop which had no sign on the information board of my prescribed bus and I thought it was going to be a taxi job. Luckily it turned up and I was on my way. We took the country route and the onboard charging wasn't working but at least I was on my way to the game.

 
AFC Green Court were in decent form. In their last game, they had beaten Farnborough OBG 4-2 in the Sevenoaks Charity Cup. They'd also beaten St Lawrence 4-1 and Southborough 4-0 in the League. They'd drawn 0-0 at Cudham United with the only defeat being a 3-2 reverse to TJFC in the Smiths League Cup. Eltham Town meanwhile had been in equally good form. They'd beaten Hammersmith 3-1 and Wanstead 11-1 in the London Junior Cup as well as Old Bexley Town and OLAHM 6-4 in the league. Their only loss had come to Red Velvet where they went down 4-3. It was the visitors who were dominant early on and it was no shock when they took the lead on 15 minutes. It looked like an own goal that opened the scoring, a home defender sliding into his own net. It was 2-0 a minute later, a parried shot being followed up from ten yards. The game was as good as over on 19 minutes, this time a goal on the break after Green Court had been having a good spell. The shot was finished from just inside the area. The hosts continued to have a good spell but they didn't really test the keeper. Three minutes before halftime, it was 4-0, the keeper parried a corner away and the rebound was put home from around 10 yards. AFC Green Court were the better side in the second half but all they had to show for it was an excellent free-kick from 20 yards on 59 minutes. The hosts came closest to narrowing the gap further on 81 minutes but it wasn't to be, the shot being headed against the post. The Eltham Town goals were credited to a Max Finch hat trick and Erol Hassan.


It had been a decent contest in nice surroundings in front of around 15 folk and some nice dogs too. It deserved more. I had the offer of a free drink but decided to beat a hasty retreat to the station. It was a pleasant walk through leafy Crockenhill to Swanley station. I was there around ten minutes before my 15:37 train. I got that as intended and was pleased to be able to type my blog on my Chromebook and charge my phone too. I headed back to London Bridge and had a nice pint at Borough Market. I then made my way to The Miller pub and had another couple of pints. I don't really remember much about that, aside from a very friendly dog. I made my way to Marylebone via an assortment of walking and trains and got the 8 PM train back to High Wycombe. The local Chinese provided me with salt and pepper chips and a Thai Green Curry but I was still feeling the effects of an afternoon drinking. The heavens opened and I got utterly soaked which sobered me up but I was glad to get in at 10 and get everything on charge. The usual Saturday night was had with Match Of The Day interesting as I'd not heard the results yet. I went to sleep around midnight, having enjoyed a decent day.


THE GROUND

The GREEN COURT SPORTS CLUB is an excellent venue to watch a game at. There's just one stand, holding around 250 on bench seating. The rest of the ground is open hard standing. It is surrounded by woodland so has a very pleasant rural feel. There is also a bar at the ground. Swanley doesn't have much from my memory but the Wetherspoons in Orpington is very good and is around a half-hour bus ride away. Overall, well worth a visit to this historic venue.


Friday, 3 December 2021

Risca United - Centre For Sporting Excellence


Risca United FC
Centre For Sporting Excellence
Caerphilly Rd
Ystrad Mynach
Hengoed 
CF82 7EP

01443 864767 (ground)






Ground Number: 1027
Friday 3rd November 2021
Risca United 2-1 Ammanford
Cymru South







RISCA UNITED FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 1946. They played in the Monmouthshire League for ten years before joining the Welsh League in 1956. They played in Division 2 East until 1961, their best finish being 5th in their first season. In 1965, the club nearly folded. only being saved when their ground sharers Fernlea AFC joined forces and took the clubs name. They had a golden period in the 1970s, finding great success in the Monmouthshire League. When the league was absorbed into the Gwent County League in 1980, the competition was tougher but Risca United were league champions in 1985. They rejoined the Welsh League Division 2 in 1990 and would finish as runners-up to Cardiff Civil Service in their first season. They would go on to do well at the higher level but Division 1 was renamed Division 2 in 1992, this was in effect the third tier of Welsh Football, following the establishment of the League Of Wales that year. Promotion to Division 1 followed in 1995, as Risca followed as runners-up to Penrhiwceiber. They would spend a couple of seasons here before being relegated back to Division 2. The club was briefly known as Risca & Gelli United although this coincided with relegation to Division 3 and a number of seasons were spent in the doldrums. Fortunes started to improve as the club entered the 2010s and in 2014, a third-place finish behind Barry Town and Llanwern was good enough for promotion to Division 2. A second promotion was achieved the following year, this time another third-place finish behind Barry Town United and Aberbargoed Budssaw them promoted to Division 1. They finished 10th in 2016, which was the best-ever season in the club's history, given that it was the second tier of Welsh Football at the time. Again though, Risca United found the going tough and they were relegated back to Division 2 the following year. They stayed in the Welsh third tier until the start of this season when they were placed in the Cymru South (tier 2) following a restructuring of the Welsh Pyramid. This was supposed to occur in 2020 but was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The team currently sit 14th, just outside of the relegation zone. 


Risca United enjoyed a run to the Welsh Cup 4th Round during the 1994/95 season. After drawing 2-2 with Llanwern in the 1st Round, they won the replay 4-1. After defeating Ammanford Town 3-0 in the 2nd Round and Pontypridd Town in the 3rd Round, they faced off against Football League giants Cardiff City. At Ninian Park against a full-strength Cardiff City in front of 1,200 spectators, for an hour the score remained 0-0 but eventually, the Bluebirds ran out 4-0 winners. Local honours include multiple Monmouthshire League Cups and several Monmouthshire Challenge Cups. In 2001 the club took part in a two hour BBC Wales TV football drama, “Score”. Filming lasted a week at Ty-Isaf Park where some TV stars, including, Sue Johnston (Brookside & The Royle Family), Eve Tyler (Belonging & Torchwood) rubbed shoulders with The Cuckoos. Some of the club's players even took part in filming at Elland Road in front of 40,000 Leeds United fans. Since 2018, the club has played at the Centre Of Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynach as the Welsh FA deemed their facilities insufficient. The council-owned venue has a 3G surface and is also home to Cardiff City Ladies.


The town of Risca is located near Newport and has a population of just under 12,000.  Risca RFC plays in the Welsh Rugby Union Division 1 East, at Stores Field. Both teams are nicknamed the Cuckoos. Historically, a cuckoo is said to have sung in Risca and inspired locals so much that they built a wall to try to keep it with them all year round, albeit unsuccessfully. The Risca Cuckoo, a £46,000 structure was erected near the Tesco store on the Pontymister Industrial Estate. Artist Sebastien Boyesen created the sculpture illustrating the bird’s association with the town. Risca also has an award-winning male voice choir.


MY VISIT

For an entire month, I'd been enjoying Friday football in Wales, appreciating the vast amount of choice on offer compared to what was on in the English leagues. Although I had taken a week off last week due to the freezing temperatures, I was keen to get back to it this Friday. Happily, fellow hopper Colin was keen to come, though his interest was due to the fact that Cardiff City Women play there and he was looking to complete that league. There would be no worries with the wet or cold weather as it was a 3G pitch. There was a potential spanner in the works though. A warning light came on in my car and so there was no way I was going to 'Risca' trip to South Wales without getting it seen to. Luckily, my local garage was able to look at it on Thursday and so although I was without my car for a busy day at work, it was all sorted. The £130 bill was not as bad as I was expecting, it just turned out that the PCV valve needed cleaning which had something to do with emissions. This will all be taken into account when calculating my final travelling costs at the end of the season so as to give a fair comparison compared to public transport.



 
I did my research into the club on Thursday evening, once I'd confirmed that I'd have the use of my car. I noticed that Port Talbot Town were bottom of the league, having lost all 15 games. I'd really enjoyed my visit there in May 2013 as it was my first non - Wycombe game in Wales. They'd fallen a long way since then, having been in the playoffs for the Europa League back then. At least this had me avoiding the error of going to the address on Google Maps which was their old ground. On the downside, the new venue lacked the character of the old one and the plethora of takeaways that were nearby. Instead, these were replaced by assorted colleges, hospitals and industrial estates. I worked out that this was further, but I'd agreed on costs with Colin and was going to stick to what I'd said. It would mean me putting a bit more in but driving had got more expensive as it was, what with the reduced fuel economy experienced with the new type of unleaded. I also wondered if the new fuel had anything to do with my car needing to be fixed.


The day of the game came and of course, I had worked as usual. The store was packed as ever, but at least the vast majority of people were showing respect and masking up. Though I noted, that it must be a genetic thing with whole families choosing not to 'do their bit' to keep things under control. The workload was decent, enough to keep me occupied but not so much so, that I was rushed off my feet. I met Colin as planned at 3 and we were soon on our way. It was a good journey down, with the only delay at Newport on the M4 where it is always bad. We were in Ystrad Mynach by 5.50 and headed for the High Street. There were three places competing for our cash and Chicken and Pizza land won out over a Chinese and a chippy. I opted for a 12" Mexicana Pizza for £8.50 which was cheaper than it said on the menu. It was pretty decent and filled me up nicely, though not as nice as the place in Wycombe that I use. We were at the ground an hour before kick-off, paying a fiver to get in before going to sit in the stand. I was glad to get cracking with my blog as it passed the time and saved me doing it at home. The crowd was largely made up of local youngsters who had just been using the pitch and ran around the stand pre-match. By kick-off, they had scarpered though but there was still a decent number of people in attendance.


 Risca United sat 14th in the table. They were in disappointing form recently, having drawn their last two games - 1-1 with Goytre United and 2-2 in the reverse fixture at Ammanford. They'd beaten the side below them - Undy Athletic - 3-0 but suffered two defeats - 3-1 at Briton Ferry Llansawel and 5-0 at Cambrian & Clydach. Ammanford meanwhile were in 9th place, six points above Risca. Aside from the earlier clash, they had beaten Trefelin Boys & Girls Club 5-3 but lost 4-0 at Pontypridd Town, 4-3 to Cambrian & Clydach and 2-1 to Afan Lido. The game started off slowly, with lots of passing but little in terms of efforts on goal. If anything, Risca spent plenty of time in Ammanford's half but it was the visitors who took the lead on 36 minutes. It was a low placed shot from ex Swansea man Lee Trundle which didn't have much in the way of pace on it but was beyond the keepers reach. Four minutes later it was all square. There was a trip on the edge of the area and a penalty was awarded. Leon Thomas converted the penalty into the bottom left-hand corner and it was 1-1. The second half started in a niggly fashion and within a few minutes, Trundle had gone into the book with the crowd revelling in getting on his back. Ammanford were the better team at the start but Risca soon started carving out some opportunities of their own. A well-worked goal on the break gave the hosts the lead on 68 minutes, Harry Selway with a good ball to Thomas who grabbed his second. Near the end, it took a great save from the Risca goalkeeper to preserve their lead as he saved a one on one, Trundle blasting the rebound over. 

The attendance, in the end, was given as 152. A game that started as a slow burner turned into a decent contest and it was another good advert for Welsh football. It was also good to see Lee Trundle still playing - someone who I'd have loved to have seen in a Wycombe shirt. We left around 9.20 and made good progress at first. There was plenty of fog on the way home but we were kept company by an audiobook - Josh Widdicombe's 'Watching Neighbours Twice A Day' - a book about 90s TV shows. It was all going swimmingly until we got back to Wycombe and headed down the M40 towards Beaconsfield. All of a sudden, the traffic came to a stop, waited for five minutes and then got going again. That was not the worst of it though as the light on my dashboard that I thought I'd got rid of was back with a vengeance. It went off when the car was restarted but the car doesn't seem to like sitting in traffic. There was also a rattling noise coming from somewhere around the exhaust. It's something that will inevitably end up costing me money in the future but after all the drama and 15-minutes delay, I dropped Colin off at 12.15. He as ever took a while to get all his things together but had been good company. I was home 15 minutes later. I sorted a few things before typing my blog. I'd been planning on getting an early night but as ever, I didn't fancy any sleep and got off around 2.30 am.


THE GROUND 

THE CENTRE FOR SPORTING EXCELLENCE is a functional venue and is part of a bigger complex that includes a rugby pitch and other indoor facilities. There's just one stand, this has a couple of hundred seats in it. It has more space for standing and is strange in that it has seats placed randomly rather than all together. Entry is through the main reception. Although it is neat and tidy, it lacks personality or any sign that  Risca United play there.

There's a cafe at the ground, but I didn't try it. There was no bar to my knowledge. Around 10 minutes walk away is Ystrad Mynach High Street and this should have enough to keep you occupied pre-match. Overall, it's an ideal game for a Friday night, the 3G pitch meaning that the game will be on and there are places with more character to go on a Saturday. The club also deserves your visit as do every non-league club.