Thursday, 3 November 2011

Chelmsford City - Melbourne Stadium

Chelmsford City FC
Melbourne Stadium
Salerno Way

01245 290959

Ground Number: 138
Saturday 26th July 2008
Chelmsford City 2-1 Wycombe Wanderers
Pre Season Friendly


Although the town's original club, Chelmsford FC were formed in 1908, the current Chelmsford City was formed, shortly after the old club folded. They joined the Southern League upon formation and stayed there for many years, competing more often than not in the Premier Division. High points whilst here include lifting the championship on 4 occasions, whilst their worst showing was in 1978 when they finished 8th in a rare season in the second tier. In 2004 they were switched to the Isthmian League for geographical reasons and after some good seasons, they were champions in 2008. Since then, they have been in the Conference South, attaining top half finishes in 6 of their 8 seasons so far. This includes four failed playoff attempts, including three at the semi-final stage. Last season they made the final, only to lose 2-1 to Ebbsfleet United. Currently, they are poised for another crack at promotion, sitting in 5th, two points behind leaders and local rivals Braintree Town.

In the 1938/39 season, Chelmsford City enjoyed an incredible FA Cup run in their debut season. After beating Dulwich Hamlet, Kidderminster Harriers, Darlington and Southampton, their run came to an abrupt end in the 4th Round with a 6-0 defeat at Birmingham. In recent times, they've got as far as the 2nd Round twice - losing to Wycombe Wanderers in 2011 and Macclesfield Town (after a replay) the following year. They also had a great debut in the FA Trophy, reaching the semi-final before losing 2-0 to Telford United at Swindon Town in 1970. In the 1976/77 season, they had ex England international Jimmy Greaves playing for them and made their sole venture into Europe, namely the Anglo-Italian Cup. They drew with Cremonese and lost to Bari, Lecco and Turris. Local honours include the Essex Senior Cup on eight occasions, the Essex Professional Cup five times and the Eastern Floodlit Cup six times.


Despite playing a friendly against Stevenage on Friday night, Wycombe still had a game on Saturday, this time against Conference South side Chelmsford City. Out of the 2, this was the one I was most looking forward to going to, as it was a new ground. On the way down, I visited a few grounds, the best of which was Chelmsford's local rivals Billericay, where they shared for many years between grounds. The people there warned me not to expect much, and said their own ground was better, which turned out to be true actually!

We got to Chelmsford mega early, before 1pm, but with not a lot around the ground, we had no option but to go in. After a couple of pints and a chat with some other Wycombe fans who had come down for the game, it was just past 2 pm and so I thought I'd take a look around the ground and take some photos. The game was played out by the whole squad, with everyone getting a chance. It showed as the home side ran out easy 2-1 winners. They went into a 2 goal lead through Ollie Berquez and Ricky Holmes. Gary Holt did pull one back for Wycombe though, in what was a decent first half. The second half was really poor though, as both teams made changes, and there wasn't much further action at either end. I was really impressed by Holmes and wasn't surprised when he got snapped up by Barnet and went on to have a good career in the Football League.


Originally on this day, I'd been planning on driving up to my Tuesday game at Carlisle early and stopping at Whitchurch Alport on the way up on Monday. However, after lots of fruitless searching for a reasonably priced hotel, I looked at other areas just to make sure, but the places were either utter hovels or £40 a night or more. So I left it until the Saturday night to decide what to do and was glad when an FA Cup replay came up. I'd missed out seeing a game in the 3rd Qualifying Round, so was keen to get back on track as soon as possible. Fellow hopper Anwar had always wanted to visit Chelmsford City and although I was keen to do a revisit to update my blog, the ground wasn't the best, so I was saving it for a decent game. A contest to see who would get into the FA Cup 1st was as good as any, especially seeing as the draw was being shown live before the game. I was hoping that Wycombe would pull out a good draw, as well as a decent tie to make tonight's game more interesting. Last time I'd seen Chelmsford in the FA Cup, they'd been involved in a cracking 4-4 draw at Whitehawk a few years ago.  This was far more preferable than the dull goalless draw that led to this replay.

On the day of the game, I woke around 8.30. After having breakfast and getting changed, I walked down town before meeting my Dad. We went to Wycombe Wanderers to pick up tickets for upcoming games. Carlisle tickets were already off sale, although my Dad treated me to the Swindon one, just as well, as it was a wallet busting £23. I came back home and started doing my research for upcoming games, including my Wednesday game at Crook. At 4, I left for Aylesbury, meeting Anwar just after 4.30. It took a while to get out of Aylesbury and then it was a good journey until we hit Chelmsford's awful road system. It took about half an hour to do a mile, so I checked on Google Maps where our proposed takeaway was. Luckily it was only half a mile away, so we dumped the car in a nearby side road, checked the signs to make sure we were OK and started walking. It was only 10 minutes walk to Mrs Cod where we got 2 large pizzas for £12.90. We eat those while walking back to the car, hoping that the traffic would die down. Thankfully, it was OK and we had a clear journey to the ground.

Arriving at the ground at 7.10, the car park was already full, so we parked in a nearby side street. We walked the 5 minutes to the ground and paid £13 to get in. I'd been hoping to watch the FA Cup draw in the bar but it was packed. Instead, I headed to the excellent programme shop, paying £2 for 12 old fanzines. When I came out, the draw was good news, provided they could get through v Solihull Moors, and it was a big if, we would have Ossett Town away. With tonight's winners away at Gateshead, there was disappointment when the teams came out at 7.30. Storm Ophelia was blowing up and so we went to sit in the stand. The game started with both teams trying to create something, but lacking any real quality. The first incident of note was Anthony Church going off injured and ex-Wycombe man Scott Davies coming on in his place. With Bath fielding Anthony Straker, there was one ex Chairboy per side, neither pulling up any trees during their time at the club. The first half saw Bath the better side, but wasting multiple chances and Chelmsford coming closest. The hosts started the second half the strongest and went ahead through Michael West on 50 minutes, a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner from just outside the area. There were not too many chances for either side, and the game was a bit of a damp squib, despite a strong start from Bath. After walking back to the car, we left Chelmsford at 9.35. with me dropping Anwar off at 10.50. I was home myself 20 minutes later and typed my blog whilst catching up with my YouTube Subs. After watching Corrie in bed, I went to sleep around 1 am.


Chelmsford City returned to Chelmsford and the MELBOURNE STADIUM in January 2006 after groundsharing for nine years at Maldon and Billericay. It's a couple of miles away from the excellent city centre (slightly less if walking) and has a capacity of 3000. THat's where the good news ends though as the owners of the stadium, an athletics association, insist on having a running track around the pitch. The poor view can be avoided if you stand on one of the small open terraces that are behind each goal. Otherwise, you'll have the track to contend with - either in one of the 1300 seats situated in two stands or on the open flat standing around the pitch. 

On my second visit, I sat in the bigger of the two stands, the view from here was not too bad, despite some extra apparatus in addition to the track. The extra facilities were decent, the bar looked smart and there seemed to be a good range of food. In addition, there was a parade of shops nearby. Best of all was the club shops, one selling a range of merchandise and the other a huge stock of programmes, books and other reading material.