Saturday, 10 November 2018

Meridian Valley Park - Meridian Sports & Social Club

Meridian VP FC
Meridian Sports & Social Club
Charlton Park Lane

01322 551681

Ground Number: 816
Saturday 10th November 2018
Meridian VP 2-1 Lydd Town


MERIDIAN VALLEY PARK were established in 1995 as Meridian Sports & Social which they were known as up until they changed to their present name in 2013. Starting out in the Dartford & District League they were runners-up in 1999/00. 2003 saw them join the Kent County League. Despite finishing second-bottom in Division 2 West on three consecutive occasions, they were invited to become founder members of the step 6 Kent Invicta League in 2011. They remain there to this day, though the league has now been renamed the Southern Counties East Division 1. Meridian have generally struggled - their best finish coming in 2016 when they finished 12th out of 20 teams. This season sees them sitting 15th at the start of play, with a good chance of achieving their best ever finish if results go their way.

The club has not yet entered the FA Cup, but their record FA Vase run came last season. They beat Deportivo Galacia on penalties in the 2nd Qualifying Round before beating Hollands & Blair 2-0 in the 1sr Round. Their run ended in the 2nd Round with a 3-0 defeat to Horley Town.  Meridian were Dartford & District League winners in 2003 after losing the previous three finals. The club has a number of teams including a veterans side, for which 74-year-old Derek May scored his 1,300th goal in 2012. Meridian Sports & Social Club itself has been around since 1921, established by Siemens workers in the local Woolwich factory. The factory closed in 1967 and the site laid derelict for 10 years before being taken over by Greenwich Borough Council. Fellow SCEL Division 1 side currently share the ground whilst the now-defunct Thamesmead Town played there in the mid-1980's.


When I’d started planning my fixtures at the start of the season, the intention was to do an FA Cup game this weekend. It was a competition that I held in high regard and I always try to see as many games as I can. But the first round draw had thrown up some uninspiring ties, at least where my groundhopping was concerned. Not least for Wycombe who were handed a tricky tie at fellow League 1 side Luton Town. I did briefly consider Metropolitan Police v Newport County but with a paucity of decent pubs near there and having to chance getting a ticket on the day, I decided against it. I would be doing a game in London on the train though and out of the three options Meridian VP won out over Fire United Christian and Park View because I could have a reasonably decent pre-match in Woolwich. People say London is expensive, but in public transport terms, the walk up prices are a bargain. For no more than £12, you can enjoy unlimited travel in London if you use an Oyster or contactless card and I could get my return for as cheap as £8.20 if I was prepared to put a bit of walking in. Compare that to a return to Birmingham from High Wycombe at £25 and it’s a great deal, especially when the last train back is just after 9 pm making it utterly hopeless for midweek games.

The night before the game had been a late one, coming back from a game in Wales and staying up for a while and going to sleep at 3 am. I woke up around 8, had breakfast and a bath before heading out. I stopped at Tesco for a few bits for the journey before driving to a side road near Amersham station. I knew that trains left at 36 and 44 past the hour with me then having to wait another 22 minutes for the next one. With the clock showing 10:39 I had to run for my train, proving to myself how patently unfit I was in the process. I just about made it with a minute to spare. I got the Metropolitan to Finchley Road, the Jubilee to Canning Town and eventually the Docklands Light Railway to Woolwich Arsenal. To pass the time I read my paper and caught up on my podcasts as well as having a chocolate brownie and a couple of cans of Irn Bru that I’d bought earlier. I’d taken the opportunity to tweet three pubs to ask what ciders they did, but they were yet to reply. So I headed for the most promising, The Woolwich Equitable which was supposed to have 3 real ciders on. That it did and though not normally a fan of fruit cider, I opted for the Lilleys Tropical as it was the only one I’d not had. It wasn’t unpleasant, but I’d not be having it again, especially at £4.85 a pint, which was on par with what the Chiltern Taps in Wycombe ask for the same drink. It was a short walk across the square to my 176th Wetherspoons, The Great Harry. Happily, Old Rosie was available as part of a meal deal so I had Chicken, Brie and smoky chilli burger with all the trimmings, along with a great pint for £7.65. Invariably better than the offering across the road. l then walked to the ground. It was a mile and a half with me getting there at 2.45.

£5 entry was good value, but the basic programme was poor for £2 and made me wonder why I bother. Lydd took the lead after 15 minutes through Matt Martin as he converted a cross. I had a long wait for chips at halftime, around 20 minutes so I may have missed a goal. No mention of a goal on either Twitter but the Meridian account was saying it was 1-1 without mentioning the incident. It turned out that they had got the equaliser on 46 minutes through Thierry Fotso. The winner came on 85 minutes and it was the best goal of the game, a great low drive from the edge of the area by Alex Baccahim. That was how it stayed in what to be honest, was a pretty poor game. The rain had really started to come down by now and so I wasn’t in the best of moods as I headed for Woolwich station, chosen as I knew the way back. I got utterly drenched for the second day in a row, added to that Wycombe had lost 2-0 at Luton. I got to the station at 5.20 and had to wait nearly 20 minutes as the train was delayed. I decided against stopping to stock up on drinks and so after changes at London Bridge and Finchley Road I arrived back to Harrow On The Hill. I was soaked through but with no internet on the Underground, I had to make do with the Alan Partridge audiobook. It should have been a short wait for the final leg of my journey but the 6.55 to Amersham was delayed until at least 7.10 with it being put back time and again. Instead, I got a Chiltern Railways train back which was slightly quicker with me getting back to Amersham at 7.30. After walking back to my car and driving home, I was in by 8. The evening was spent with a few cans before watching MOTD and going to bed.


The MERIDIAN SPORTS & SOCIAL CLUB is a fairly basic ground with just the one area of cover. As is so common as a quick fix solution it's an 'Arena' stand holding around 70. It certainly earned it's keep today, providing cover and clear sightlines for the 10 people in attendance. The rest of the ground is open hard standing. There's a programme which is OK but overpriced at £2 though I do understand that the printing costs are expensive for a small scale operation. The club was nice and friendly and they deserved more than 10 fans turning up to watch them, even though the footy wasn't great.

The tea bar at the ground, or to be more precise, in the social club was excellent and had a wide range. The food is cooked to order, good for taste, but not great if you are in a rush. There's also a bar there, but I didn't check it out. Charlton and Woolwich Arsenal stations are walkable and I recommend the latter as it has a good Wetherspoons, the Great Harry and a few other places worth a visit.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Knighton Town - Bryn-Y-Castell Showground

Knighton Town FC
The Showground
Ludlow Road

01547 528999
Official Website (Archive)

Ground Number: 815
Friday 9th November 2018
Knighton Town 4-2 Felindre
Mid Wales League South


The club was established in 1887 and joined the Mid Wales League upon formation. They were successful here, winning it three years on the trot between 1902 and 1904. They were also a few runners-up spots but the outbreak of the First World War halted proceedings. When football returned, Knighton Town joined the Shropshire League, given their proximity to the English border.  They were runners-up in their first season but left to rejoin the Mid Wales League in 1924. A move to the North Herefordshire League came about in 1931 with the club finishing as champions in their debut season. War again intervened, with the Mid Wales League being rejoined once hostilities had ended. They'd remain here until 1992 when they were crowned champions for the 4th time. This led to the club joining the Cymru Alliance, which sits at step 2 of the Welsh football league system. Their best finish came in 1998 when they finished 4th but midway through the next season they left the league mid-season and their record was expunged. Since then they have alternated between the Mid Wales League (levels 3 & 4) and the Mid Wales South (level 5). In recent years, Knighton Town were Mid Wales Division 2 champions in 2015 and runners-up to Penryncoch the following year, missing out on the title by a single point. Recent times have been tougher and this season, things came to a head. The first day of September saw the first team lose 9-0 at home to Berriew whilst the reserves went down 21-0 at Penybont United, This led to them withdrawing the first team from the Mid Wales Division 1 and concentrating on their Mid Wales South team. Results have been a mixed bag this season with them losing 6-0 to league leaders Talgarth Town last Saturday but this was on the back of three straight wins against  Hay St Mary's Reserves (4-3), Llandrindod Reserves (5-4) and Brecon Northcote (8-1). They'd be hoping for a win against bottom of the table Felindre though who got their first point of the season at the 9th attempt on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against Presteigne St Andrews Reserves.

Knighton Town twice entered the FA Trophy in the early 80's, taking Clevedon Town to a replay in 1980 but ultimately exiting in the Preliminary Round on both occasions. They have also reached two Welsh Cup semi-finals during the early part of their history.  Local cup wins include the Radnorshire Cup (six times), Mid Wales League Cup (four times), Central Wales Challenge Cup (twice) and the North Herefordshire League Cup (twice). The record win of 16-0 came against Bucknell United in 2004 whilst they lost by the same scoreline to Cardiff City in the 1961 Welsh Cup. The record attendance of 2,211 came against Hereford United in a 1981 Welsh Cup 4th Round game. The town of Knighton has a population of 3,172 according to the latest census. The notable landmark Offah's Dyke has a well-preserved section in the town whilst it is one of the few towns to cover two countries, being on the English-Welsh border.


As ever, I was on the hunt for a game to go to on a Friday night, as fellow hopper Chris had agreed to keep me company. It would be quite a drive, but eventually we plumped for Knighton Town v Felindre. There were nearby backups at Ludlow and Presteigne St Andrews which was just as well as rain was forecast. Apart from these, the choice was very sparse in the rest of the country which was a shame, as I'd have preferred a shorter drive. It was good that the home side had a fair bit of info on them available on the web, despite the club website being down, leading me to use the Internet Wayback Machine. The league table was a different matter. The league's website was down and there was no archive. There was nothing either in the Non-League Paper or Non-League Matters either. After trawling through various club websites hoping it would be on there. Eventually, I found the 'All Wales Sport' website and this had the table on it. The team listed on their website was Knighton Town Reserves, but it was actually their first team with them having resigned from their own division earlier this season.

Despite it being the usual busy Friday at work, we had plenty of people in and so I was out by 12. After getting some shopping, I went home, had lunch and freshened up as well as catching up on things. I didn't have long, what with me being out by 2. I got to Chris just before 3 and after waiting 10 minutes for him to finish work, we were on our way. We hit delays on the M1, but these were minimal. The next part of the journey went swimmingly, nice and fast. The last 40 or so miles were not so good, crappy little roads that were little better than dirt tracks with twists and turns and slow lorries. We eventually got to the ground at 6.10 to be greeted by torrential rain but thankfully the game was not in doubt. It was a smashing ground, but we had the town to visit first. First stop was the chippy where I ordered faggots, mushy peas, gravy and chips which they bought next door for us. For the real jewel in the crown was Watson’s Ale House, a veritable emporium of great drinks. We had halves of Watson’s Cider, Skyborry Cider and Ralph’s Perry, sharing some of them so we could sample as many as possible. All three along with the meal were excellent and put me in a good relaxed mood after a long drive. We got back to the ground arriving on The prescribed kick off, paying £2 to get in.

We found out from the gateman that visitors Felindre were 1-0 up and that the game was 15 minutes old. It was a real scrappy affair, what with the difficult conditions. The first bit of quality saw Knighton equalise, a good setup found the number 11 who finished with precision past the Felindre keeper. A penalty was awarded after a fairly innocuous looking coming together and Knighton converted to put themselves 2-1 up, the half ending at 8:09, denoting that we had missed 6 or 7 minutes of action. The number 11 (or 17 possibly as the numbers had a narrow font) had a fairly simple finish following a cross from the right as he made it 3-1 and the same player added another from a couple of yards out following another cross. The home win was deserved but Felindre played well in parts and they pulled a goal back from a free-kick to reduce the arrears and make it 4-2. From there I stopped at the Watson's Ale House again, this time to get a couple of pints to take away as I'd not had the time or capacity to sample Skyborry Perry. I set the Sat Nav for Chris's, deliberately choosing the long way round as I wanted to stick to the big roads. Low and behold, there were diversions and we went back via local roads, albeit better than the ones that had taken us there. As ever on a Friday night, the Two Mikes kept us company on TalkSPORT with me dropping Chris off at 12.20 and getting back myself at 1.15. I'd had a few energy drinks to keep my alertness up, so I was still wide awake. I watched Corrie, typed my blog and enjoyed my takeaway cider before going to bed in the wee small hours.


BRYN-Y-CASTELL SHOWGROUND is a charming venue. The only covered area is an attractive 96 seater stand which was well used on my visit. The near goal is out of bounds to spectators but the other three sides provided hard standing so far as I could tell. There was a bar and tea bar at the ground, though I didn't really check what was on offer. They also sell a few souvenirs such as mugs. The town is a 10-minute walk (or in our case paddle) away and this has a good range of places. The Watson's Ale House is superb and the adjacent chip shop is also good, with both places being super helpful and friendly.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

White Ensign - Basildon Sports Village

White Ensign FC
Basildon Sports Village
Cranes Farm Road
SS14 3GR

Ground Number: 814
Tuesday 6th November 2018
White Ensign 6-2 Lopes Tavares
Eastern Counties League Challenge Cup 2nd Round


The club was established in 1951 and name comes from Naval connections. They spent their first 51 years in the Southend Borough Combination prior to joining the Essex Intermediate League in 2002. Starting in Division 2 (step 8 of the non-league pyramid) they were champions in their first season and this brought about a period of great success. White Ensign would be Essex Intermediate League (renamed Essex Olympian League in 2005) in four of the next five seasons. After the 4th of these wins in 2008, results tailed off somewhat but the club would remain in the Essex Olympian Premier until 2014 when they were relegated to Division 1. They'd bounce back as runners-up to Harold Hill in their first season to return to the Premier Division at the first attempt. Finishes had been mixed since their return, but 4th last season was their best in ten years. Due to the expansion of step 6, more specifically creating a league for Essex, they were invited to join the Eastern Senior League Division 1 South at the start of this season. White Ensign have made an incredible start to the season and sit in 2nd place at the time of the game, 3 points behind Halstead Town but with a better goal difference and a game in hand.

Following their move to the Basildon Sports Village. a move they needed to make as a condition of them being admitted to step 6, they entered the FA Vase for the first time this season. They went out at the first hurdle, losing 4-2 at Essex Senior League side Stanway Rovers. Local cup wins include the Essex Olympian Senior Challenge Cup three times, the Capital Counties Feeder League Trophy on three occasions, The Essex Olympian Senior Cup twice and the Essex Premier Cup in 2008. White Ensign's most famous former player is Paul Benson who was snapped up by Dagenham & Redbridge after scoring an incredible 107 goals in 65 games for them.


I was glad to have Anwar back with me hopping after he had taken a break for a few weeks. There wasn't a huge amount on offer, even more so if I wanted to stick to a lowe budget. The two most cost-effective options were Peterborough Northern Star v Sleaford Town and White Ensign v Lopes Tavares. After consulting my fellow hopper, we eventually plumped for the latter as it was slightly nearer. It was also an interesting tie with the visitors appearing to be made up of Brazillian & Portuguese nationals living in London. There were a couple of drawbacks though - as smart as the stadium looked, the viewing area was a fair while from the pitch thanks to the running track and other extras. Also, there were not a lot of dinner options, with most places in Basildon shutting at 6 as I discovered when I stopped there on the way to Bowers and Pitsea a couple of years back. So, with cost and time in mind, I planned in a stop at McDonald's en route. It wasn't the best food in the world, but I had a voucher for a Big Mac & Fries which I'd use if I could customise it to have without the sauce.

The day of the game bought about the usual drill on my day off whilst in the afternoon I looked at potential grounds to do on the train this weekend. An initial list of 30 was eventually whittled down to 4 after high costs ruled most out, the most likely being Meridian v Lydd Town which is near Charlton and is in the London Oyster card zone. I also sorted out some photos prior to leaving home at 4.30. I got to Anwar at 5 and once we had got through Aylesbury’s woefully inadequate road system, we had a good journey. I got to McDonald's at 6.40 and though I was unable to use my voucher due to it being a different franchise, I still got a double cheeseburger with bacon and large fries. Once I’d customised it on the machine to take out the bits I don’t like, it was decent for £3.28. From there we made our way to the ground, getting there at 7.10. Entry was a fiver, but for once I didn’t bother with a programme, seen as I am rapidly running out of space. I’m always sceptical about grounds with running tracks, but in this case, the view from the top of the stand was good enough. There were some decent tunes being played pre-match, so I listened to these while typing my blog before kick off.

There was no sign of the away team though, presumably they got caught in traffic. Eventually, they appeared at 7.55 much to the annoyance of the referee who let them warm up on the pitch for a few minutes before they made their way back in. He made them wait in the tunnel rather than go back to the dressing room, the game eventually kicking off at 8.03. White Ensign had the first chance, heading against the bar in the opening few minutes. The visitors were having chances of the own and headed against the bar themselves, heading the rebound home to lead on 9 minutes when they reacted quickest. Lopes Tavares had a few more chances, but the hosts equalised on 21 minutes. A corner was put in from the right, the ball was headed on and a grateful goalscorer nudged it across the line. White Ensign took the lead a minute later with a cracking goal, a shot from the edge of the area that flew in the top corner. It was 3-1 on 40 minutes, the goalkeeper being caught out of position and leaving the White Ensign man with a fairly simple finish from around 10 yards. The first half eventually finished at 8.49. Lopes Tavares pulled a goal back on 47 minutes, a low drive from inside the area reducing the arrears. The visitors came close to equalising a couple of times but White Ensign appeared to have made the game safe, the visiting keeper getting a glove on the low shot, but unable to prevent White Ensign making it 4-2. Another poor error from the visiting goalkeeper allowed White Ensign to make it 5-2 with a couple of minutes to go as he was caught out of position again. A penalty was awarded for a foul in the area in the last minute which was successfully converted to make it 6-2 and the hosts even found time to hit the bar in injury time in what was a comprehensive victory. Twitter and the league website were not forthcoming with what order the goals were in, but I know that White Ensign's were scored by Dominic Locke (2), Paoletti (2), Connor Barnby & Brett Munyard.

Due to the delay at the start, it was 10 by the time we left. We'd learned of Wycombe crashing out of the worthless Checkatrade Trophy after a 3-0 defeat at home to Oxford. The fact that we can win 2 out of 3 games and still not go through sums it up. By all accounts, we played poorly from what I heard, but my sympathy is limited for the 1000 plus Wycombe fans who turned up to support a competition that should be boycotted for the good of football. Whether the authorities admit it or not, it's widely believed that it's a sneaky way to try and get Premiership youth teams in the lower tiers of the Football League, which should not be tolerated. We had a good journey home, with me dropping Anwar off at 11:05. I got back myself at 11:30 and although I went straight to bed, it took me ages to drop off. Thankfully, I wasn't too tired when I awoke for work at 4 am the following morning.

The BASILDON SPORTS VILLAGE is part of a huge sporting complex and as a result, has plenty of parking. The stadium itself has a running track and a very attractive stand which seats 750. Views from here are surprisingly decent but really it’s the only official place you are allowed to view from. The rest of the ground has flat standing, but it’s quite a distance from the pitch. There are basic hot drink facilities at the ground, plus machines selling chocolate bars and cold drinks in the sports centre itself. Otherwise its a short walk to town or the Festival Leisure Park, both of which have a good range of eating and drinking options.