Saturday, 8 May 2021

Buckingham United FC - Lace Hill Sports & Community Centre

Buckingham United FC
Lace Hill Sports & Community Centre
Catchpin Street
MK18 7RR

07734 395513

Ground Number: 954
Saturday 8th May 2021
Buckingham United 3-4 Mursley United


Buckingham United FC was formed in 2011 by local footballers frustrated at the lack of opportunities in the town. It was understandable as Buckingham Town had left the town after losing their ground earlier that year, leaving Buckingham Athletic as the only club in the town. They played in local leagues at first, joining the North Bucks & District League Division 1 in 2016. They finished a respectable 5th in their first season in a league that sits at step 10 of the non-league pyramid. The 2017/18 season saw them finish as runners-up to Bletchley Park. I couldn't find any records for the 2018/19 season but for the following year, 2019/20, the club was elevated to step 7 Spartan South Midlands Division 2. They found the step up tricky last season, but still stayed comfortably away from the sole (potential) relegation spot. With seventeen games played, they'd won five, drawn three and lost nine to leave them 13th out of 15 when the season was abandoned. This season they improved slightly, sitting 9th when the season was once more curtailed.

In terms of local cups, Buckingham United won the North Bucks and District League Division 1 Cup in 2018. The town of Buckingham is in north Buckinghamshire and has a population of just under 13,000. It was the former county town of Buckinghamshire until Aylesbury took over in the early 18th century. It was established in the 7th century by the first Anglo-Saxon settlers, the name literally meaning 'meadow of Bucca's people. Buckingham Old Gaol is the town's museum which was established in 1993 in the historic town centre Old Gaol building. It also houses temporary exhibitions and the Tourist Information Centre. Rugby and cricket are also played in the town. Famous people associated with the town include footballer Sam Baldock, former House Of Commons Speaker John Bercow and controversial businessman Robert Maxwell who was the Labour MP for the town from 1964 until 1970.

There have been a few football clubs in the town over the years. Buckingham Town played at Ford Meadow from 1883 until 2011. They were famous for playing Leyton Orient in an FA Cup tie and were also very successful in non-league circles. They were forced out of their ground in 2011, sharing at Winslow for a season before moving to the Irish Centre in Milton Keynes. They subsequently changed their name to Milton Keynes Robins for a few years before merging with Unite MK to become MK Irish in 2020. Another side Buckingham Athletic still pay in the town, currently in step 6 Spartan South Midlands Division 1. There was also a Buckingham United that played in the Spartan South Midlands League in the mid-1990s. However, they resigned mid-season in 1998 and appear to have no connection to the current club. Finally, the University of Buckingham's football team plays in local leagues. On Google Maps, they are listed as playing at the former home of Buckingham Town.


Once again, it was time to look for a game for this Saturday. What with trying to find which grounds are worth visiting and which are also admitting spectators, it was tricky.  I spent around an hour coming up with a list of various places, but I needn't have bothered. Once I came up with the suggestion of Buckingham United, it was greeted with universal popularity on our groundhopping group. After nearly 10 years of having Anwar as my only companion (and struggling to get him interested at times, hopping had suddenly become popular. It was understandable, it is a great hobby after all and people, having only seen a few live matches in a year, wanted to give it a go. It got to the point where I didn't have enough space in my car to take all the new converts. I started making all the arrangements on Thursday night, which was when I knew I'd be oversubscribed. On Friday, it was a reasonable day at work but a tiring one and I enjoyed a couple of ciders as I researched my blog in the afternoon. Looking at clubs histories is something I really enjoy doing, just to get an idea of what the club are about before I visit. Teams at step 7 and below are trickier to research though, with the information generally fragmented across various sources. Buckingham United were no exception, but I did find out one surprising bit of information. This was that Buckingham Town's old Ford Meadow Ground was still visible on Google Maps and I learnt from fellow hopper Peter that it was indeed still there, albeit dilapidated. I also learned from the Football Traveller magazine that the club would be doing a programme and at £2 it would be a nice way to give a bit of money to the club. It would also hopefully fill in some of the gaps in my research. It was a relaxing Friday night and I had to turn down another hopper for the game, as my mate Giles, from Chesham, was also keen to see the game.

I awoke at 6 am, my usual work time, on the day of the game. I had been hoping to walk to town and back but it was bucketing down. Thanks to Karen Browne, the SSML fixtures secretary on Twitter, I already knew that the teams had nothing to play for, but I decided to investigate further as I couldn't find any table online. This also tied in with my researching the teams' form. I also decided that I was going to aim to complete the Spartan South Midlands Division 2, despite it having a couple of basic venues. I'd done a few pitches in the past, most notably last week when my intended game was called off at late notice and I was pretty happy to include them in my totals. I spent the morning at home, though I was just counting down the time until I was due to go. I made sure to keep an eye on Twitter and turn on notifications for Buckingham United's account in case of a postponement. Wycombe needed a miracle to stay up - a 13 goal win against Middlesbrough plus other results to go their way. They were 2-0 up when I left, which if nothing else, meant we were going out with a bang. I picked up Paul and George at 1.30 and we went 3-0 up before picking up Anwar. In the end, results went our way and we finished third bottom. We had a brief stop near Buckingham Town's old ground although the entrance that Google Maps directed us to meant that I had to use my zoom camera to get a picture. We got to the ground at 2.45 and met Colin and Thomas. The weather was dreadful, with strong winds and torrential rain but thankfully, it soon calmed down a bit.

Both teams were in disappointing form. Buckingham United had lost all three games - 2-1 against New Bradwell St Peter, 4-0 against MK Gallacticos and 6-1 against Old Bradwell United. Mursley United had managed a 1-1 draw against New Bradwell St Peter but lost 1-0 to Old Bradwell United and 6-2 to MK Gallacticos. As a result, both teams had nothing but pride to play for, with the other game deciding who went through to the finals. It turned out to be a cracking game, with no pressure on either side to get a result. Buckingham United started brightly but it was Mursley United who had the first serious chance when they hit the post. There were some fantastic goals scored and it was a shame that there are no details up at the time of writing this blog. The visitors took the lead on 15 minutes, the ball was laid back and the resulting shot found the top corner. I missed the second goal as a lady was taking down my details for track and trace. The first time in a long time and utterly pointless with it being outside but it's hard to knock someone with good intentions. Buckingham United pulled a goal back on 55 minutes, straight from the corner and a really decent effort. This really got the hosts playing and they had a number of good openings. However, it was Mursley United who extended their lead, a penalty converted after a trip in the area. Buckingham United pulled a goal back, an absolutely superb goal that flew in the top hand corner from 25 yards.  The visitors appeared to have a player sent off for a bad tackle near the end, though a red card wasn't shown from what I saw. He was told to go back to the dressing room but pointed out to the referee that they were out of action. From the resulting free-kick, a long ball was put in and somehow, a Buckingham man got a diving header in to level the scores. The hosts even tried for a winner, the keeper coming up for a corner. However, it proved to be their undoing, they were caught on the break and Mursley scored fairly easily without the glovesman in his net.

There were 33 in attendance, with six of these being Wycombe fans. We were all in a good mood after our team's commendable efforts this season and had a bit of a sing-song. Firstly, we christened one of the Mursley United players Allan Saint-Maximin thanks to his headband. He enjoyed the song and I think he got the opening goal. The player who scored Buckingham's first got a burst of Joe Jacobson's chant as it came from a corner, much as our hero had done on a number of occasions. The number 6 was christened 'Bayo' thanks to his bulky physique and seemed to enjoy that too. We also decided to get behind Buckingham United to liven the game up. The visiting number 12 took exception to this and gave us the 'V sign' when they got the winner, to which the group responded with a chant about his self-pleasuring habits, something that I chose not to join in with. It was slightly disappointing to see at the end, but it didn't detract from a brilliant game with both sides giving their all. It was a shame that Buckingham United got no points in this game and the cup as they were a credit to the sport. The game continued my good run of Spartan South Midlands League games providing great entertainment. We were drenched as we made our way back to the car. It was a shame that the only goal I got on film was a penalty as it was too wet to have my camera out. We said goodbye to Colin and Thomas who had a journey home on public transport. It had been my first random game with Paul for around 15 years and he'd really enjoyed himself. I dropped Anwar off at 5.20, Paul off at 5.50 and George off at 6, getting home ten minutes later. I had a nice kebab meal for dinner and a few drinks too with the usual blog writing, picture sorting and virtual pub quiz on a Saturday night.


THE LACE HILL SPORTS AND COMMUNITY CENTRE is a decent venue for the level and well kept. There's a railed pitch, bot no cover, save for a barn set back from the pitch. Parking was fairly plentiful, but there was not much open in the centre itself on my visit. However, there is a Costa and a Lidl nearby for food and drink.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Harrow Hill - Larksfield Road

Harrow Hill FC
Larksfield Road
Harrow Hill
GL17 9JP

01594 533737

Ground Number: 953
Wednesday 5th May 2021
Harrow Hill 3-0 Whitecroft
Reg Davis Memorial Cup - Group A


The club was established in 1932 and played in local leagues prior to joining the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League in 1953. They were runners-up in their debut season and also in 1959 & 1960. They would go on to win the league for the first time in 1963-64 and then again the following year as well as in 1971-72 and 1981-82. Following the latest win, Harrow Hill made the step up to the Gloucestershire County League. For 12 seasons, they were pretty much a mid-table team - the highest finish 5th (1986-87) and the lowest 13th (1991-92) in what was a 17 or 18 team league. In 1994-95, they finished runners-up behind Henbury Old Boys and were invited to join the Hellenic League. A 5th place finish in Division 1 was a credible start and in 1996-97 they finished 3rd behind Ardley United and Hallen, earning promotion to the Premier Division in the process. The club struggled with the step up and a 16th place finish in their debut season of  1997-98 was as good as it got, though it was the best finish in the club's history. They lasted until 2002 when they were relegated to Division 1 West but they bounced back with a runners-up spot behind Winterbourne United in 2005/06. Again, they struggled, this time lasting for three seasons before being relegated again in 2009. They'd only last until November of that season due to financial issues and would see their record in Hellenic D1 West expunged. Instead, they took their reserve team's place in the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division 2. The following season, 2010/11, Harrow Hill finished as runners-up behind Frampton and won promotion to Division 1. They remain there to this day, the best finish being 4th in 2013 and the worst 11th in 2017. When the season was curtailed after 9 games earlier this year, they were sitting 9th and seem like a club that are happy to be where they are, despite their superior facilities and history.

Harrow Hill participated in the FA Cup for four seasons between 2006 and 2009. They won just one game - beating Alresford Town in 2008 before going on to lose 2-1 to Chalfont St Peter in the Preliminary Round. The FA Vase was competed in regularly from 1985 until 2009 but the best progress the club made was the 1st Round on three occasions. In terms of local cups, the Gloucestershire Challenge Trophy in 2005 and the Gloucestershire Senior Amateur Challenge Cup (North) in 2011 are amongst their honours. The club drew crowds of 500-600 for local county cups in the 1960s and also an attendance of 350 for a game against Cinderford Town in 1992. However, the highest verified crowd came on Sunday 27th August 2006 when the Hellenic League Groundhop came to town and 268 saw Harrow Hill lose 1-0 to Slimbridge. The village of Harrow Hill is contiguous with the larger village of Drybrook which has a population of just over 3,000. Harrow Hill was known as Harry Hill for the earlier part of its history and the comedian of the same name wore a club badge on his show 'TV Burp' in 2008. Drybrook is home to a mechanical keyboard museum and was also a royal hunting ground. Facilities once included a railway station. Nowadays,  there are still a decent range of facilities on offer including a fish and chip shop and a Co-Op convenience store. The nearest larger town is Cinderford, whilst it is around half an hours drive from the city of Gloucester.


I was keen to continue my midweek groundhopping, but was probably going to stick to just the one day as all the options were a fair old distance. I put the options to our groundhopping group on Whatsapp which included games in Leicestershire on Tuesday and Gloucestershire on Wednesday. My pals indicated a preference towards Wednesday and the standout candidate was Harrow Hill. After all the hassle that the late cancellation of our game on Saturday, I had a backup in place at Lydbrook Athletic, plus there were other options at lesser grounds. I was glad to be finally getting Harrow Hill ticked off as it was a ground that I'd wanted to visit for some while. I was also hoping to go to Cotgrave v Keyworth United on Friday. I agreed to take fellow hopper Chris who lives in Milton Keynes, but less than 20 minutes later, he decided against it. He was concerned that there was no backup, what with what happened on Saturday and I don't really blame him to be honest. In any case, it might be for the best as I'm hoping to try for 200 games next season and will need all the help I can get to achieve that. Monday was a bit of a day from hell, work-wise. It had totally slipped my mind that it was a Bank Holiday as I'd made no football plans. It would have been a waste of time anyway. The store was jam-packed, with all the usual dregs of society that come out on weekends and bank holidays. Together with their vile offspring, who were screaming the place down and creating chaos, it was a very uncomfortable place to be. It was ludicrous that non-essential shops opened two months ahead of indoor pubs and football grounds, given that the latter's patrons had far more respect for their surroundings. I only discovered when I scrolled through social media and saw that the FA Vase Final, amongst other games, was on. It was confirmed when I left work and it was the usual rancid weather that you get on public holidays. The day off on Tuesday was most welcome and I walked to town and back. It was a decent bit of exercise but it was disappointing not to have a game to go to until the following day.

I'd done my research on the recent form the day before, thanks to the league's excellent and informative website. It was mighty impressive for a league that operated at steps 8 and 9 of the Non-League pyramid. The day of the game came and I was at work as usual. Thankfully, they were pretty flexible and so I could stay at work until it was time to leave for the game. It wasn't a bad day overall, but there were a few unpleasant members of the public who thought that it was fine to wear their masks on their chin. I pointedly ignored one such customer when they asked for assistance. After I had lunch, I met George at 2.50 and left Wycombe in blazing sunshine. By the time we had got to Anwar's at 3.30, we had encountered torrential hail and the weather was still miserable. There was the usual delays in Oxford thanks to their woefully inadequate road system and it was pretty much country roads for the rest of the way there. Not much fun when you are stuck behind a slow lorry and so it took nearly three and a half hours to do the 100-mile journey. The last part of the journey was really scenic and the roads around the ground were tiny. We got there at 6.10 and I typed some of my blog on my phone and got some pictures of the ground as we waited for kick-off. 

Both sides were doing pretty well in this post lockdown competition. It was named in honour of Reg Davis, a former official of the league. It has been played since 2004/05 and this season has seen an extended format compared to usual. Neither side had much of a chance of catching runaway leaders Lydney Town Reserves, but the hosts were in second. They'd won 4, drawn 1 and lost 3 of their 8 games so far. Their last 4 results were typical of their form with wins over Woolaston (2-1) and Lydbrook Athletic (4-2). On the flip side, they suffered defeats to Lydney Town Reserves (3-4) and Staunton & Corse (1-2). Visitors Whitecroft were in 6th and despite a good start, their recent form had been poor. In their last four games, they'd drawn with Woolaston (1-1) and suffered defeats to Lydney Town Reserves (2-3), English Bicknor (1-2) and Broadwell Amateurs Reserves (0-1). The two sides had met back on 10th April when Whitecroft recorded a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture. The visitors started brightly and had a succession of corners, but they didn't come to anything. Harrow Hill soon got into the game and they took the lead on 8 minutes with a beautiful curling shot by Matt Jackson which I managed to get on film. A couple of minutes later, it was 2-0, a low drive from outside the area which found the back of the net thanks to Jamie Addis. Harrow Hill continued to boss the game and they forced a great save and then a clearance off the line on 28 minutes, then another save to avoid a repeat of the first goal four minutes later. The game settled down after that and it wasn't until 55 minutes that the hosts extended their lead. A home player was tripped in the area and Addis stepped up to cooly convert the penalty to put the game to bed. There were a couple of chances apiece after that, but no more goals.

There had been 42 in attendance at the game on a pleasant evening. We'd chatted to a few friendly people including a set of lads who played for some of the local youth teams such as Harrow Hill and Cinderford Town. We left at 8.15 and made our way to a takeaway in Gloucester called Muchachos. It was a place we'd been to a few times before and was decent as ever. We'd spent half an hour here, waiting and eating and by the time we left, it was 9.10. We listened to the football on the way home as Chelsea recorded a comprehensive victory over Real Madrid. The traffic involved a lot of country roads but at least the traffic was much better. I'd had issues with wildlife a few years back so was on high alert for foxes on some of the more rural roads. A couple did jaywalk, but happily, I had my full beams on and a crisis was averted. I dropped Anwar off at 10.40, George off at 11.05 and got in myself at 11.20. It had been a great day and I spent half an hour relaxing before going to bed.


Larksfield Road is a beautiful venue in the heart of the countryside. It is set into a natural bowl which makes for a distinctive venue. There are two areas of cover, a small seated stand on the far side and some cover on the near side which has a decent bar. The view from the bank is superb and the views all around the ground are stunning. The bar itself has a wide range of drinks and also does snacks as well. Overall, a ground that any hopper should aim to visit. Nearby is a Co-Op store and a chip shop amongst other things. It's one to do by car unless you have plenty of time and there's enough parking for most games.