Thursday 9 June 2011

Chesham United - The Meadow

Chesham United FC
The Meadow
Amy Lane

01494 783964

Ground Number:7
Chesham United 1-0 Dover Athletic
Saturday 30th January 1993
FA Trophy 2nd Round


The club was founded in 1917 as a merger of the clubs Chesham Generals and Chesham Town. They played in local leagues for the early part of their history, moving on to the Corinthian and Athenian Leagues before settling into the Isthmian League in 1973. Starting in its second-tier they remained there until 1986 when a season to forget saw them relegated to Division 2. They bounced back immediately and this was a springboard to success. By 1991 they were Division 1 Champions, earning them promotion to the step 2 Isthmian Premier. After a 4th place finish in their first season, they were Isthmian Premier Champions in the 1992/93 season which is their best finish to date. However, due to ground grading, they were unable to take promotion. This had a bad effect on them and by 1995 they were relegated. It took them a couple of seasons to bounce back, and that was generally the story of the remainder of their life in the Isthmian League with most of their time spent in the Premier, but with occasional relegations.

Due to a geographical shift following the establishment of the Conference North & South, Chesham United have been in the Southern League since 2004. After a mid-table finish in their first season, they were relegated in 2006 with them playing in Division 1 South and West in the 2006/07. Their worst season in a while saw them finish 15th, though things improved when they were switched to Division 1 Central the following season. Promotion was achieved back to the Southern Premier in 2010 after they finished 4th and hammered Slough Town 4-0 in the playoff final. Things have been a lot better since they returned with them appearing in 3 consecutive playoffs between 2012 and 2014, and a best finish of 2nd in the 2013/14 season.

Last season the club enjoyed their best-ever run in the FA Cup for many a year. Though their best progress remains a third-round defeat to Cambridge United in 1979, their exploits last time out will live long in the memory. After beating Aylesbury, Paulton Rovers, North Leigh & Enfield they were handed a very tough looking tie at League 2 Bristol Rovers. Ryan Blake shocked the Pirates with his second-half goal to give his side a shock 1-0 win in Bristol. They lost 4-0 to Bradford City in the next round to end their great run.

Other cup exploits include reaching the FA Amateur Cup Final in 1968 only to lose 1-0 to Leytonstone at Wembley. Their best run in its successor, the FA Trophy came in 1997/98 as they lost 2-0 to Hendon in the 4th Round. In terms of local cups, they are one of the most successful sides in the Berks & Bucks Cup with 15 wins - only Maidenhead United and Wycombe Wanderers can claim to have more wins with 18 and 29 respectively.



My first couple of visits to The Meadow were certainly memorable and really showed the club at it's best. Chesham United were an excellent team at the time and they were sitting pretty at the top of the Isthmian Premier, which at the time was the second tier of non-league football, prior to the Conference South being formed. The Generals would go on to win the Isthmian Premier that season, 5 points ahead of nearest rivals St Albans City. However, both were to be denied the chance to ply their trade in the Conference, due to ground grading regulations. This was despite several similar or worse stadiums being in the league at the time.

The first game was against Dover Athletic, who were at the time top of the Southern Premier which was also at step 2. They'd narrowly lost out to Bromsgrove Rovers the previous season for promotion, but would make no mistake this year, finishing 13 points ahead of Cheltenham Town. This was billed as the tie of the round and drew a huge attendance. My Dover supporting relatives were up for the weekend, so I went with my Dad, Uncle, brother and cousins to see Chesham triumph 1-0 in a tight game, in front of a crowd of 2000.

My second visit came a month later and was a rip-roaring local derby against Marlow in front of another large crowd. Football in Buckinghamshire was going through somewhat of a golden period with a lot of local teams doing well. It was certainly the best time in Marlow's history - permanent fixtures in the Isthmian Premier and regulars in the FA Cup 'proper' rounds. Earlier that year they had played Spurs, and despite losing 5-1, a great David Lay goal for them will live long in the memory. This game was a corker too with Chesham United winning 4-3. Sadly I don't have a report to hand, but I do remember there being 7 penalties awarded and a number of sending offs in a feisty encounter.


I'd visit The Meadow and off down the years - firstly on the bus in 1993 for their game against Harrow Borough as a 14-year-old as I couldn't afford to go to the Wycombe away game at Chester City. I enjoyed my newfound freedom after passing my driving test by going to a game towards the end of the 1998/99 season. The first was an unremarkable 1-1 draw against Billericay, though the second was a bit more entertaining.

I'd learned from my schoolmate Jeff Hall that Chesham and Bromley had a bit of a rivalry back in the early '90s, owing to one incident or another. So it must have delighted Chesham's fans to relegate their foes, albeit if the needle had died down by then. Bromley were awful that night, and team spirit was most certainly not in evidence. After the second goal went in, two visiting defenders had a heated discussion over whose fault the goal was. This led to fisticuffs and the referee had no option but to send both players off, putting them down to 9 men after around 40 minutes. The rest of the team held firm though, not capitulating and managing to keep the score to a fairly respectable 3-1.

VISIT 7: CHESHAM 3-2 WYCOMBE (B&B QF 28/10/03)

My next 2 visits to Chesham came in the Berks & Bucks Cup. The first saw The Meadow chosen as the neutral venue to play Maidenhead United in the final with the game coming just a few weeks after my previous couple of visits. Wycombe were in the middle of an improbable escape from relegation in Division 2 - having looked doomed in February, Lawrie Sanchez came in and revitalised the squad and we had beaten Man City and Wigan in the previous few weeks. As such, it was a scratch squad that contested this game, made up mainly of youth players. Wycombe were outplayed on the day, but we took it to extra time thanks to John Cornforth's goal. The Ryman D1 side got a deserved victory though, scoring 3 times in the additional 30 minutes to lift the cup.

It was another defeat in a Quarter-Final tie against Chesham just over 4 years later. Again it was a young side for Wycombe, with the most notable player being Roger Johnson who went on to sign for Cardiff the next year. Wycombe fell behind to a Paul Aldridge header on 10 minutes but Andy Bell equalised a minute later, latching on to a good through ball. Wanderers had the chance to go ahead on 25 minutes but Richard Harris saw his penalty saved. They continued to dominate and were awarded another penalty on halftime. Goalscorer Andy Bell stepped up this time and saw his weak penalty saved. A triple substitution at halftime saw the strength of the Wycombe side diminish, but even so, Charlie Mapes put them ahead on 46 minutes. However, inexperience showed as Gary Sippets grabbed a second-half brace to win the game for Chesham, much to the delight of the majority of the 250 strong crowd.


My next four visits were for fairly unremarkable games. Three friendlies against Wycombe sandwiched a game where Aylesbury United used the ground as their home stadium prior to playing at Leighton Town and Thame United. Most galling was the 5-0 defeat in 2008 thanks to a Dan Burnell brace and Sammy Winston hat-trick. It was mainly a youth side, but even so it was pretty depressing stuff and before he had even played a competitive game I was fed up with new manager Peter Taylor's negative football. That was before he had even played a competitive game, and a few weeks later I missed my first away game for 7 years as I broke a long-standing run and now only do half of the games. Goals from Ben Strevens, Jon-Paul Pittman and Kiorn Murtagh meant that I finally saw a Wycombe in at Chesham, with the Chairboys now bossed by Gary Waddock.

A further visit was recalled when looking through my photos when I thought that I'd completed this blog. It occurred on Sunday 15th May 2005 and was a charity game between Harchester United from Sky One's Dream Team football drama and a Celebrity XI managed by the then Chesham manager Luther Blissett. There is very little about it on the internet, so I don't even know the score and only got the limited info as I had a date on the photo. In any case, it raised some good money for Iain Rennie Hospice at Home who had organised the event.


I'd wanted to revisit the Meadow for a while, but I was ideally saving it for a bigger game and one where I could check out some of the pubs in the town, a number of which looked to be pretty decent. However, I'd spotted this game in the non-league paper on Sunday and there was a small part of me that was considering going. It was only on the afternoon of the game that I decided to take the plunge. With the weather boiling hot it would be nice to spend some time outside watching football. I had dinner but still had around an hour to go before I had to leave so I started having a look at updating my blog - my main reason for going and getting a fresh look at the ground through the eyes of a ground hopper. It was while I was doing my research that I'd missed off a couple of visits to Chesham on my records - namely a Berks & Bucks Cup Final and a game when Aylesbury United were tenants at the ground back in 2008. Thank goodness for the internet, which helped me find out the details and add them to my records which were initially completed in the boring summer of 2013 when there was no football.

I left for the game around 7.10, arriving at the ground 20 minutes later. I grabbed a few pictures of the outside before going in via the bar. Entry was a reasonable £4 plus £1 for a thin but well-presented programme with a decent amount of information in it. I met my next door neighbour Sam unexpectedly as he was with his Chesham supporting wasn't a good evening for the home side, though they started slightly the better side. The Chesham keeper Matt Nolan had already scuffed a clearance to the feet of an opposing player and got away with it. He'd made a couple of good saves to redeem himself but could only parry a header in the 33rd minute. Jordan Halls followed up, rifling into the net to give Wodson Park the lead. They doubled their lead on 51 minutes following a foul just inside the area. Pete Sawyer stepped up and netted into the bottom right-hand corner from the resulting spot-kick. Chesham would go onto play some good stuff, coming very close on a number of occasions but all to no avail. The visitors had another penalty right on full time, but it was wasted, being blasted over the bar and out of the ground.

Though it was only Chesham United's reserve side, plying their trade a few levels lower than their first team, it was still a bonafide league with mainly first teams providing the opposition. The Spartan South Midlands League has always provided great entertainment for me - after seeing a number of games in the league I'm yet to see a dull game. It might not be as strong as other Step 5/6 leagues, nor may it have the best grounds or places to visit but for the quality of football, I'm yet to find better. I'd also enjoyed revisiting The Meadow for the first time in ages, especially for a game under the lights which always makes it a nicer experience. I drove home, getting in just after 10PM, I watched TV for a bit, before going to sleep around 11.30.


THE MEADOW is a great non-league ground, and well worth a visit for any hopper. It's not seen too many changes in the years that I've visiting, but this is for the better. It is situated a brisk 10-minute walk from the town, which has a range of decent takeaways and pubs. I can recommend the Red Squirrel Brewery Shop, where you can sit in and have a pint, or take some out, as I did. It does a range of their own ales, plus guests and real ciders too. At the ground is a pretty standard club bar in terms of drinks, though it is nice to visit and has recently been refurbished. There is a basic tea bar on the far side and for first team vans a burger van visits and parks behind the near end goal. There used to be a decent club shop with lots of old programmes but this has now gone and I am unsure what they sell now. Car parking wise, there is plenty at the ground, as well as a nearby National Trust car park with free spaces just under 10 minutes away.

THE MAIN STAND SIDE is comprised of a 224 seater stand and is probably the oldest part of the ground. It is flanked by extensive open terracing on both sides and contains the majority of the facilities including the dressing rooms and clubhouse. The stand is currently sponsored by local insurance firm Asprey Harris.

Opposite is the RYAN MORAN TERRACE. It was renamed in 2013 in tribute to former Chesham player Ryan Moran who lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 31. It has extensive cover for around 600, plus another 300 uncovered. It also houses the toilets and tea bar for hot drinks and snacks

THE MEADOW END is a part covered terrace that in the end has been sponsored by local paper the Buckinghamshire Advertiser. It can hold around 300 under cover and around 800 in all.

At the other end is the TOWN END. This was uncovered on my first visit but around the turn of the century, a metal terrace was added with a covered capacity of around 300. This ensures that their ground has everything in place to advance to the Conference South if they gain promotion.

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