Saturday 31 December 2011

Hillingdon Borough - Middlesex Stadium

Hillingdon Borough FC
Middlesex Stadium
Breakspear Road

01895 639544

Ground Number: 118
Sunday 9th April 2006
Hillingdon Borough 2-1 Bury Town
FA Vase Semi Final 2nd Leg


The original incarnation of Hillingdon Borough was formed in 1872 as YIEWSLEY FC. They played in various competitions for the early part of their history, including the Delphenian and Corinthian Leagues before joining the Southern League in 1958. A name change in 1964 saw an upturn in fortunes and in England's World Cup winning year of 1966, they were promoted to the top tier of the Southern League, which at the time was the joint-highest level in non-league football. The 1968/69 season saw their best ever finish, when they finished as runners-up, just a point behind leaders and current football league side Cambridge United. Much of the 1970's saw stability in the Southern Premier, but the 1980's were much more turbulent, with relegation to the second tier of the Southern League in 1980, several name changes and eventual demise. A name change to Hillingdon in 1984 came amid a period of improved results, but the following season saw a merger with Burnham to become Burnham & Hillingdon. The new club would last until 1987 when Burnham dropped the Hillingdon suffix and reverted to their former name.

It would take another three years before the Hillingdon name would appear in football again, as in 1990 Hillingdon Borough were reformed. They started out in the Spartan Premier and although results were not great at first, they soon improved. It would take them until 2006 for them to gain promotion, the year of a memorable FA Vase run and a runners-up spot. Finishing in 2nd place on goal difference behind champions Oxford City was good enough for promotion to step 4, and three seasons were spent here, with a best ever finish of 13th in the Southern D1 South & West coming in 2008. They were transferred to the Ryman D1 North for the following season, with relegation back to the Spartan South Midlands League following at the end of the season. Since then, they've struggled and a further relegation in 2015 followed as they finished rock bottom of the SSML Premier. Last season saw a hugely disappointing 16th placed finish, though they have improved slightly this season and are 11th at the time of my latest visit. With Harefield United a place above in 10th, it was going to be a tight clash in terms of results.

In the FA Cup, the old club had a number of notable runs. The best came in 1970 as they reached the 3rd Round before losing out to Sutton United 4-1 in a replay, missing out on a home game against giants Leeds United in the process. They had to start in the 1st Qualifying Round and defeated Tooting & Mitcham United, Bromley, Tilbury, Dartford, Wimbledon and even football league side Luton Town to get that far. As for the modern club, the 3rd Qualifying Round defeat to Folkestone Invicta has been their best effort so far. 1970-71 saw a run to the FA Trophy final, with notable wins over Wigan Athletic * Hereford United along the way. A Wembley appearance followed, with them losing out 3-2 to Telford United. The 2006 run to the FA Vase is detailed below, but they've also had a few successes in local cups. The Spartan South Midlands League Cup was won in 1997 and the Southern League Cup in 2008.

The club looked as if it was going to fold earlier this year, but intervention from Crystal Palace star Yannick Bolasie saved them. He played for them as a youngster and reportedly had his goal bonus paid in burgers! He remains the most famous player to turn out for the new club, whilst the former club can count Jeff Astle, Jackie Milburn, Robert Rosario and former Wycombe and Brentford defender Terry Evans as former players. Barry Fry has also served as a manager in the late 1970's.


My first visit to Hillingdon Borough was for the 2006 FA Vase Semi Final. It was the second leg, the first game was drawn 1-1 in Suffolk, the previous weekend. This was by far Hillingdon Borough's best run in the FA Vase, and they would have to play nine games just to get to the two-legged semi-final. Starting in the 2nd Qualifying Round they faced Littlehampton Town, drawing 1-1 down in Sussex, before triumphing 3-1 in the home replay. Erith and Belvedere were next up, and despite being the away side, Hillingdon progressed with a thumping 5-1 win. The second round saw them take their second trip to Sussex, and the second replay as a 1-1 draw with Rye & Iden United was followed up with a 1-0 win. The subsequent rounds saw them get lucky in the draw, as they were drawn at home each and every time. Victories over Bideford, Brook House, Mildenhall Town and Squires Gate set up the two-legged semi-final clash

I had initially chosen to go to this game as ex-Wycombe player Steve McGavin was playing, as it turned out, he was on the bench, but did make a late appearance. It was back in the days when I got Sundays off, oh for that luxury now. Anyway, as it was fairly local for me, I didn't have to leave until 1PM. I got there within 40 minutes and found a side street to park down. The ground was pretty busy, with a much larger than average crowd attending the game. There wasn't much to do in or around the ground, so I went in, had a look around and read my programme until kick off.

In front of a disappointing crowd of just 723, Bury Town dominated the first half, with home keeper Ben Harris in fine form. However, the hosts took the lead six minutes from half-time when Danny Tilbury volleyed home at the far post following a cross from strike partner Dave Lawrence. The visitors continued to have the better of the game in the second half and they got their reward a few minutes from time when Daniel Thrower curled home an excellent free-kick to take the tie to extra time. Their joy was short-lived however as a couple of minutes in when NIck Rundell's corner went straight in to regain Hillingdon Borough's lead and that was how it stayed until the end. Bury Town have gone on to recover from the disappointment and currently play in the Isthmian League. Hillingdon would progress to the final, played at St Andrews, home of Birmingham City. There, they would face the then North West Counties side Nantwich Town, where they lost 3-1. Their opponents built on the win, and are currently in the NPL Premier, competing for a place in the promotion playoffs.


Originally on this day, I was planning to go to Crewe Alexandra to see my team Wycombe Wanderers play. But with tickets being another pricey one, £22, I was only going to go if I could drive and give others a lift. I'd put the feelers out with a number of people, most of whom said they would let me know. With the main reason for going to visit a couple of nice pubs, after having a fairly active weekend in that direction, I was looking to take a week off. That and the fact that Wycombe had produced the worst performance of the season at Stevenage on Saturday, with Crewe thumping Grimsby 5-0, the chances of a positive result were greatly reduced. With me having had a couple of fairly costly hops lately, and the nearest new ground being Sittingbourne, I decided that a revisit was in order. There were a number of grounds that I fancied revamping my blog on, and two of the closest options were North Greenford United and Hillingdon Borough. Both had cup games, with my opting for the latter's game against Harefield United, with just 2.2 miles between the two grounds for the Middlesex Cup Semi Final.

It was only when started re-doing my blog, that I realised what a lot of history that Hillingdon Borough had. It certainly meant that the update would take more time than I was expecting, but it was something I enjoyed doing. Work had been a lot better lately, after a tough time, but I was still looking forward to my day off on Tuesday. On the day of the game, I enjoyed my day off, waking at 8am and having breakfast before walking down town to get some shopping before getting a lift home with my Dad. The afternoon was a lazy but productive one, mending the remainder of my blogs that had broken picture links and rescuing some files off of a flaky hard drive. Less productive was the search to find games for my week off work. A weekend in Frankfurt was considered, but with the fixtures unattractive (at least for the outlay that I'd need to spend) that idea was knocked on the head. I could also potentially get a lift with my parents to Hartlepool United v Wycombe Wanderers (where they would be staying for a few days) but with no games yet scheduled for the days surrounding that date, that idea was also put on the back burner for now, as I'd still have to pay for my own hotel. 
After a dinner of Chilli Con Carne, I caught up on some other stuff before leaving at 6.55. The journey to the M40 was a bit slow thanks to dawdlers, but the post rush hour M40 was excellent and I was at the ground by 7.25. I'd had the luxury of being able to listen to BBC 3CR on the way to get Wycombe news, but with everything revealed I went straight in. I paid a very reasonable £5 entry and had a look around the impressive clubhouse before going outside to watch the game. 

The game started brightly and there were chances for both sides before Hillingdon Borough opened the scoring after 20 minutes from the penalty spot. There were not many protests and the taker calmly slotted it away despite a good effort from the visiting keeper to make the save. Three minutes later it was all square, again it was a penalty, only this time the home defender claimed he got the ball. It was the same outcome as the well-taken spot kick bought Harefield United back onto level terms. Despite a whistle-happy referee, the game flowed well. Both sides had chances to go ahead with the visitors hitting the post shortly before the break. The hosts had the better of the game at the start of the second half, forcing a couple of good saves out of the Harefield keeper. For their part, the visitors then had a good spell, but a succession of corners came to nothing. Fifteen minutes from time, Harefield went ahead around fifteen minutes from time when they bundled home from close range. Their number 9 had a chance to make the game safe late on, but he held onto the ball for too long, and the opportunity was gone. Hillingdon Borough were awarded a late free-kick and they equalised, lobbing home from around 25 yards. The game ended very soon after, and happily went straight to penalties. Hillingdon went on to win 6-5, and they will now face Broadfields United who defeated Rayners Lane 4-1 in the other semi-final.

I managed to catch the penalty shoot out on my phone, though the camera kept cutting out, so hopefully I got all of it. It was a shame that only 46 people (my headcount) were there to watch what was a decent contest. The game had been a pretty feisty one. There had been a clash between a Hillingdon striker and the Harefield keeper. There was nothing nasty in it, but both players required minor treatment before they could carry on. There was a mini-fracas around five minutes from time, again nothing serious and a lot of pushing, but there was a player booked from either side. As a result of that, I didn't leave until 10.05. I listened to the radio, hearing about Wycombe's late 2-1 defeat up at Crewe where they lost to a disputed penalty. The journey home was decent, and I got back at 10.30. I caught up online before watching TV and going to sleep around midnight


THE MIDDLESEX STADIUM is a great one for a team at Hillingdon Borough's level. The ground is mainly open like most in their league, but there is a covered stand behind each goal - one end has a stand, seating around 200, and the other end had covered standing for around the same amount. The ground is situated in a mainly residential area, though online research suggests there is a pub, The Woodman, a short walk from the ground. The town of Ruislip is around a miles walk away if you fancy more choice.

I have to say, I enjoyed my second visit to the ground better, as it's definitely better under lights. Not a lot had changed since my first visit, ground wise, but there was a flash new bar in place. Called 'The Clubhouse' this offers a basic range of drinks in nice surroundings. This also acts as the clubs tea bar, and while the food sounded nice, it is more in line with the usual pub prices as opposed to tea bar prices. There's plenty of seating, plus more outside too, and Sky TV as well as various fruit machines and arcade units. There wasn't a club shop that I could see, but the new raised bit where the bar 'garden' is gives you a good view of the game if you choose to stand there.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Burnham - The Gore

Burnham FC
The Gore
Wymers Wood Road

01628 668654

Ground Number: 49

Saturday 29th July 2000
Burnham 0-2 Wycombe Wanderers
Pre-Season Friendly


BURNHAM were formed in 1878 and for their early years played in strictly local leagues such as the Wycombe Combination, Reading Combination and Great Western Combination. In 1971 they joined the Hellenic League in its second tier and after two runners-up spots, they were promoted to the Premier Division. The higher level did not faze them and after a series of top-half finishes, they were crowned Hellenic League champions in 1976. Moves to the Athenian and Spartan Leagues followed before a move to the Southern League in 1985 coincided with a merger with Hillingdon Borough to become BURNHAM & HILLINGDON. 

They took Hillingdon's place in the Southern League and their new identity lasted for a couple of seasons before they reverted to their former name. 1988/89 saw their best ever finish of 9th in the then step 3 Southern League Southern Division. Results didn't last though and by 1995 a bottom placed finish saw them relegated back to the Hellenic League. Four seasons were spent here before returning to the Southern League as Hellenic Champions in 1999. They stayed in the Southern League's second tier up until 2013 when they were champions of Division 1 South & West. They spent two seasons in the Southern Premier, although the last few seasons have been a struggle, with a double relegation back to the Hellenic Premier. It's not got much better for Burnham this season, with them bottom of the Hellenic Premier and looking set to drop to step 6 for the first time since the non-league pyramid was established in 1979.

The 2005/06 season saw Burnham's best ever FA Cup run when they reached the 1st Round before losing to that season's Conference champions Aldershot Town. In the FA Trophy, the 1999/2000 season saw their best ever progress in the FA Trophy as they took Conference side Scarborough to a replay before bowing out 6-0. The FA Vase semi-finals were reached in 1982/83 before they lost on 4-2 aggregate to Halesowen Town. There's been a lot of league cups lifted in various competitions as well as the Wycombe Senior Cup and Slough Cup, both on nine occasions. The most well-known player to progress from Burnham in recent times is Ryan Bird who moved to Portsmouth, while former England player Luther Blissett managed the first team briefly this season and is now manager of the under 18's.


My first visit to The Gore was in July 2000. Wycombe's first team were away in Ireland on a pre-season tour, but our reserves were playing at Burnham and so I decided to go. And it was a 2-0 victory for our second string, a goal from Leeyon Pheelan and a Peter Holsgrove penalty were the scorers. I don't remember much about the game, but I do remember watching from the balcony of the old club bar and having a pretty decent view. As well as a couple more games involving Wycombe reserve sides, I also attended a 4th Qualifying Round game there when they beat Canvey Island 2-1 in a replay. This was part of their FA Cup run which ended in the next round with a 3-1 home defeat to Aldershot Town. The other two visits were for low-key Wycombe games - a pre-season friendly and a Berks & Bucks Cup semi-final where we were actually the home side as our reserve team were based at The Gore.


I'd recently discovered the Allied Counties Youth League when trying to figure out how to revisit some of my previously visited ground without using up valuable and limited Tuesdays and Saturdays. I'd already revisited North Greenford and Windsor and had been impressed with the standard and honesty of the football. It was also a more economical and most importantly, convenient way to update my blog. Tonight was the the first of six days of consecutive football games, all being well and I was left with the choice of two options. Burnham triumphed over Uxbridge by the virtue of it being nearer, and also the fact that they were slightly less likely to play Wycombe next pre-season, due to their lower league status. The day of the game was not too bad at work, with me staying on until 2, before going down town to get my car washed and do a few other things that needed doing. I came back and after having a bath and starting this blog, had dinner. After doing some research for my games later in the week, I left home at 7PM.

Like their first team, Burnham's youth side were also not having the best of seasons. That said, they were a long way off being bottom, and given the right run of results, could well still finish in the top half this season. Marlow were sitting in 4th, having had a decent season, but they had played more games than anyone else. It was a decent journey over to Burnham and I got there at 7.35, paying £5 to get in, which was a bit above average for this league. I recognised a couple of the officials - local referee Ernie Moore and linesman Dan Burford who I used to go to Wycombe away games with at one point. 

The game started with hosts Burnham well on top and they took the lead after 15 minutes. My view of the goal wasn't the best as I was up the other end of the ground. They continued to have the upper hand and Marlow's keeper made a good save, tipping the ball around the post to prevent a second. It took the visitors until 33 minutes to have their first real shot on target and when a looping cross was put in, their number 10 headed it home from 6 yards. This changed the game and they were the better side up until half time. They took the lead in the opening minute of the second period. Initially hitting the post, they followed up from close range, despite the best efforts of a home defender on the line. They were on top for a fair while, but like the hosts, they failed to seize the initiative. Burnham started to have a good spell and they got their equaliser on 78 minutes with a low shot from just inside the area. The best goal of the night was saved until last when Burnham retook the lead ten minutes from time. Tyrese Corbin-Chandler ending a mazy run with a confident finish into the bottom left-hand corner.

The result lifted Burnham up to 5th in the table, three points behind the side they defeated tonight and giving the table a really different complexion. The crowd of 29 was split fairly evenly amongst the two sides, with Marlow having the most vocal support. It was a close but entertaining game that I was pleased to have attended.It had only cost me £8 including petrol too. On the way home I listened to the aftermath of Chelsea's 1-0 win over Man U in the FA Cup, but the standout result of the night for me came in this league as bottom side Aylesbury gained their first win of the season with a 7-4 victory over Oxford City. I got in just before 10, typing up my blog, before watching TV in bed.


THE GORE has seen one major redevelopment in my visits there, a main stand with a small capacity but extensive hospitality facilities, which must bring in a decent amount of money for the club. Previously it was a smaller stand with basic facilities. The rest of the ground is open standing, with the exception of a small piece of covered standing on the other side. The bar was pretty smart, with a standard range of drinks, whilst I don't recall any tea bar or club shop details. The overall capacity of the ground is 2,500, with around 200 seats and a further 150 under covered standing.


Saturday 24 December 2011

Millwall - The New Den

Millwall FC
The New Den
Zampa Road
SE16 3LN
Matchday Number: 50
Saturday 26th August 2000
Millwall 1-2 Wycombe Wanderers
Nationwide League Division 2


Millwall FC were founded in were founded in 1885. In footballing and general public circles they are most known for the minority of hooligans that congregate within their support. The most famous incident came in the 1985 when football hooliganism was at it's peak. The Fa Cup Quarter Final between Luton Town took place on Wednesday 9th March 1985 and featured massive riots after Luton Town decided not to make the match all ticket and a huge following came down from South London. Despite this most of the 31 arrested for the disorder claimed to be Chelsea or West Ham fans and the incident led to bans on away fans by Luton Town and Margaret Thatcher's clueless Tory government wanted to roll it out nationwide, with no consideration for the normal decent fan.

On the pitch they have had plenty to shout about. There have been turbulent times with their peak coming in the late 80's when they spent 2 years in the top flight. Their best finish came in the 1988-89 season when they finished as the 10th best team in the country under John Docherty's stewardship, the period of success was kick started by Arsenal boss George Graham earlier in the decade. On the flip side a serious period of decline happened in the late 50's and early 60's when the club spent several seasons in the 4th Division, their lowest ever standing since joining the Football League in 1920.

In the FA Cup Millwall reached the final but lost to Manchester United in a game played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. As losing finalists, due to Manchester United's Qualification for Europe via other means, they were entitled to a place in the UEFA Cup. In their sole European outing they lost to Hungarian side Ferencvaros over 2 legs though they did gain a credible draw in the home leg. On the flip side they will want to forget FA Cup giantkillings against non league sides  Slough Town and Woking.  They have 3 League Cup Quarter Final appearances to their name and were Football League Trophy Finalists in 1999, losing to Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium.

For the club anthem, Millwall have the delightfully catchy and quintessentially London-esque song 'Let Em Come' which was written by fan Roy Green. Other famous fans include Danny Baker, Theo Paphitis, David Haye, Denzel Washington, Laila Morse, Ian Wright and the sadly departed charismatic union leader Bob Crow

VISIT 1: Millwall 1-2 Wycombe (L1, 26/8/00)

I made my first trip to The New Den just after the turn of the century and as I was not a groundhopper at the time, little did I know it was my landmark 50th ground. Wycombe were actually going well at the time but were not fancied to get anything from their trip to South London. This looked to ring true as Neil Harris gave the Lions the lead in the first half, but Wycombe had an ace up their sleeve. The fact that Millwall were down to 9 men, following a controversial refereeing performance from Phil Dowd might have had something to do with their second half collapse.

In any case Wycombe deserved a great amount of credit for coming back and having large spells of domination. Andy Baird got the equaliser before Dannie Bulman seized on a mistake by former Wycombe player Matt Lawrence to grab a 69th minute winner. Elderly coach organiser Harold was taking no chances on departing the ground, ordering all curtains on the coach to be closed so the natives couldn't see our delighted faces.

VISIT 2: Millwall 0-2 Wycombe (L1, 21/11/09)

If Wycombe hadn't been fancied in my previous visit The New Den, then a victory on the second visit was nigh on impossible. We were in the midst of a run of 14 games without a win as they travelled to the high flying Lions. This time I decided to go on the train with the rest of the Wycombe fans, stopping off at some fairly bland watering holes. This was before my quest for quality standards in pubs, mainly done on my own as other do not appreciate a good thing when they see it!

This game was notable for future Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth making his debut and his control of the midfield was what we had been crying out for as we had looked pretty pathetic in all aspects during the run, including a 6-0 thrashing at Huddersfield, live on Sky. This was a much improved performance with Wycombe winning 2-0 with goals from Chris Westwood & Kevin Betsy. Remarkably it was Millwall's first home defeat in 8 months and 14 games.

VISIT 3: Millwall 1-2 Wycombe (FAC2, 05/12/15)

When the draw was made for the FA Cup, I was bitterly disappointed to pull out Millwall away. It would be an exceptionally tough draw, especially with us not being in the best of form when the balls came out. I'd been hoping for Salford away or a meeting with mates and after listing the teams in order of preference, Millwall came out 23rd. After others confirmed that they would be attending, I decided to go along too. It had been a while since I'd been to The New Den, plus it would be a nice day out in London. I'd also get to update this blog and tickets were not too bad either at £15 a pop.

I'd had a fairly decent nights sleep the night before the game and woke up at 9.15. After having some breakfast, a bath and doing some bits online I was ready to go. I had to pick up a prescription plus a paper and some drinks for the journey from our local shops, but by 11 I was parked in a road nearby Amersham station. It seemed a little more busy and chaotic than usual but I still got my train OK, having to get the Metropolitan Line to Farringdon. I was tempted by my usual haunts at Euston as the train went past there but decided to stick with my current plan as it was only a temporary set up. I passed the time by doing the Daily Star football crossword and looking on Facebook. When I got to Farringdon I went overground to Loughborough Junction. I nearly missed my connection as I only noticed that the Thameslink train had parked about 100 meters down the platform. Even then it stopped for ages at each station and information was sparse, so I wasn't even sure if I had the right train.

Luckily it was though and around 12.45 I was at Loughborough Junction. The reason for that random location was for a pop up cider bar called 'The Platform Cider Bar' which was there for the weekend. It was a strange old place, sharing a building with an arts and crafts workshop but it was a diamond with some great stuff to try, run by a person who knew his stuff. First up was a pint of Guildford Dancing Juice which was very pleasant and kicked off my days drinking a treat . Second pint was Turners Dry which unbeknown to me I'd already had. Who cares though it was good stuff. Before I left I had a half of Monk's Delight Mulled Cider which set me up a treat for the 3 mile walk to Millwall, I'd chosen this option as the trains weren't much quicker. I stopped for chips at The Flying Fish chippy somewhere along the way but overall it took me an hour to get to Millwall, with me getting there bang on kick off.

So a brilliant and well  deserved victory for Wycombe which left me very proud of my team.  I joined my fellow Chairboys in the queue for the train back which came and got to London Bridge very quickly. The Jubilee Line to Finchley Road was reliable too, but as ever the connection to Amersham left me with a long wait. Rather than hang around at Finchley Road I got the Chesham train part way to Chalfont, then waited 15 minutes for the final leg of my journey. I got back to Amersham just before 7, stopping off at a shop to get some Irn Bru on the way. I spent the evening on my computer and watching MOTD before going to sleep just after midnight.

THE NEW DEN is a smart all seated venue. Despite Millwall's reputation, it's a fairly nice place to go to in the grand scheme of things. It has around a 20,000 capacity, with the away end seating around 3000 in the upper tier, though this can be extended to the lower tier. Views from all areas are excellent in my opinion and legroom is also good. There's all the usual amenities in the concourse, plus a well stocked club shop outside the ground. One notable fact is that the ground was used for the Sky One hit football drama 'Dream Team' with midlands based Harchester United using it as their 'Dragons Lair' ground when scenes were filmed there. 

Around the ground is not the best area, though it is mainly industrial units, so there are no pubs that I know of. There is however the Millwall Cafe on the industrial estate, which has been OK when I used it. However your best bet is to go on the train and eat and drink elsewhere in London, where the choice is great if you buy a Travelcard or use an Oyster Card or contactless payment.