Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Wingate & Finchley - Harry Abrahams Stadium

Wingate & Finchley FC
The Harry Abrahams Stadium
Summers Lane
N12 0PD

020 8446 2217
Official Website

Ground Number: 208

Wednesday 1st August 2012
Wingate and Finchley 2-0 Wycombe Reserves
Pre Season Friendly


When Wycombe's pre-season fixtures were announced, I was disappointed with them as I had been to all the grounds on several occasions. All except this one, that is. So this was the one I was looking forward to the most. The day before I was most dismayed to find that I would be charged £10 for entry, the same as for league games. In my opinion, some Non-League clubs are taking the mick with their prices in Pre-Season games, for what is basically a training session against a youth team, it is too much, even if it's not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things. It would certainly affect how much I spent in the ground later, normally I would get something from the tea bar, bar and shop, but would be considering carefully on this occasion. On the day, I was working till 3PM and so decided to go straight from work as I had a parcel to drop off in Uxbridge en route, and would also go into the town of Finchley itself, to see what it was like and to grab a bite to eat and drink. After dropping the parcel off and getting my money, I headed over to Home Bargains in Southall to pick up some of the remaining cans of Fiery Irn Bru. It's not very popular so is only a limited edition, so I got myself 8 cans at 19p each - bargain! I then had a not very nice commute to Finchley, it took ages in traffic jams for about 10 miles until it finally cleared up about 5 miles from the ground, ironically at peak time in 'rush hour' Getting to the ground at 5.20, I walked into town and bought myself a Samosa and a can of cider before heading back to the ground. As well as the £10 entry, I was also charged £2 for a pretty thin programme.


I was pleased to have my car actually inside the ground though, it proved useful as my phone battery was dead and needed a charge, plus I could sit and listen to the radio to kill time. With about 20 minutes to kick off, I went and took some pictures of the ground and players warming up. I had actually been here before, when on a day out in London. I had become friends with the community officer at the club through Facebook and the Non-League Forum and so we had a chat about the game. Another mate, a Hayes fan was also at the game, so for once at a fairly random game, I had some good company. Wycombe had elected to field their development squad for this fixture - basically a youth team with a few trialists. Youtube sensation Jossi Jokkinen, the Finnish player who showed an amusing way to take penalties was present in the Wycombe side for the first time that I knew of. There were also a few trialists, as well as the usual youngsters like Josh Scowen, Max Kretczhmar and Ollie Taylor. Sadly the game passed Wycombe by. Though we played some good stuff at times, we were second best by some margin and it was men against boys - literally - as Wingate & Finchley won 2-0. I think Wycombe could have done with an experienced head or 2 to help the youngsters retain possession and use the ball more effectively, that would be of benefit to their development and progress. After the game had finished, I drove home. It was a pretty good journey with no traffic or delays. I stopped at an shop on the way back for a couple of cans before bed. I stayed up a bit later than planned, however, and didn't get to bed till 1 - not clever when you are up at 4am and have a long hard day ahead of you!


THE HARRY ABRAHAMS STADIUM is a pretty decent ground in pleasant surroundings. The main stand holds around 400 and is raised above ground level so that you get a nice elevated view of the game. In front of that is some uncovered terracing, should you wish to get closer to the action. There is a decent sized covered terrace to the left, behind the goal. Opposite is another covered terrace, but this time narrower and only a few steps. Finally at the other end is hard standing but uncovered. There is a basic bar at the ground, underneath the stand. Sadly no chips at the tea bar or programme shop though. Finchley town centre is about a 15-minute walk away and has a better selection of pubs and takeaways.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Holyport - Summerleaze Village

Holyport FC
Summerleaze Village
Summerleaze Lane

01628 627066

Ground Number: 207
Thursday 26th July 2012
Holyport 2-2 Windsor
Pre Season Friendly


Holyport FC was formed in 1934 but they disbanded from 1939 until 1956 due to the second world war. Playing in the Maidenhead and District and the Hayes & Giles League, they took the step up to the Hellenic League in 2002. They struggled in Division 1 East at first, but soon improved and by 2011 they were champions and were promoted to the Hellenic Premier. Four seasons were spent here, the best the club could manage was 13th in their debut season. 2015 saw them finish 16th out of 20, but a rather harsh relegation saw them drop down to Division 1 East, they were only a couple of points short of survival. They've resided in Division 1 East ever since they came closest to a return last season with a 4th place finish.

The FA Cup has proved a frustrating competition for Holyport with them going out at the first hurdle on all seven occasions, the highlight being when they took Abingdon United to a replay in 2014, only to lose 4-0. They've fared a little better in the FA Vase, in 2010 they beat Abingdon Town (1-0) and Baldock Town (1-0) only to lose 8-0 at Tunbridge Wells in the 2nd Round. Local cup wins include the Ascot & Fielding Cup and the Norfolkian Senior Cup double in 2000 and the Hellenic Floodlit Cup and Challenge Cup double in 2011. The record win of 13-0 came against Prestwood in a 2009 Hellenic League game whilst the record attendance was in a 2006 game against Eton Wick. The village of Holyport is very small, but it was used for the filming of the 1995 TV episode of 'Tee Off, Mr Bean'


I had first planned to go to Holyport on Tuesday, 13 July for their game against Slough Town, but all those plans changed when I decided to pick up a new laptop in Huddersfield. So on that day, I decided to go to Alfreton Town v Barnsley instead, owing to me being able to kill 2 birds with one stone and save petrol money for another trip up there at the same time. I've been meaning to go to Holyport for ages actually when I looked at the map of the grounds are needed to visit it always been so close to home, but I've never really found a convenient time, even just to take pictures. So I kept an eye on the pre-season friendlies and selected one v Windsor to go to. On the day, it was absolutely scorching, one of the hottest days of the year, and so I was glad to be getting out of the house. I had my dinner and left just before 7, getting to the ground at 7.30. After parking up, I made my way into the ground. Compared to the other friendlies I have been to, and other prices I have seen, £5 entry was a bit steep and was the same as their league price. Still, it's not a lot of money, and I did get a free teamsheet.


After wandering around and taking some pictures, I settled on standing on the side opposite the main stand, so the sun wouldn't be shining in my eyes. By now, a boiling day had settled into a pleasantly warm evening, perfect conditions for watching football. Holyport took the lead early on, Jamie Handscomb with a deflected shot from inside the area after five minutes. A couple of minutes later, Ben Harris rounded the Holyport keeper before finishing into an empty net. Windsor had the better of the chances before half time and they took the lead on 35 minutes with a smart finish from Ryan O'Toole. They had chances to extend their lead and were punished on 77 minutes with an equaliser, Daniel Sharp with the shot from the edge of the area to square it up for Holyport.


I'd briefly considered revisiting Summerleze Park around a month ago when tenants Langley were at home in a league game but decided against it. I enjoy the FA Vase and when I spotted this Sunday game, it looked to be a decent opportunity for a revisit. Usually, I'm not a fan of Sundays, but at least this game gave me something to look forward to after work. I'd had a heavy Saturday, booze wise and had worked from 5am to 12pm so I briefly considered giving this game a miss, but in the end decided to go. I left at 2.15 and had a good journey over to the ground, arriving at 2.50. I'd forgotten how far it was from the main road, not a great one to do by public transport. Entry was great value at £5 and it was good to see a few hoppers in attendance, one of whom I had a good chat to. Holyport had only played a couple of league games so far, securing a 2-1 win at home to AFC Aldermaston and drawing 3-3 at Chalvey Sports. Unite MK only had one FA Vase game under their belts, that was last season when they suffered a 10-0 drubbing at Leverstock Green. They'd also endured a 6-0 defeat to local side Old Bradwell United in their only league game so far, so the hosts started as overwhelming favourites.

The visitors matched Holyport first half, though the early talking point was the referee accidentally getting the ball smashed in his face. Unite MK took the lead on 32 minutes, and it was a fantastic strike from Jamie Parker that flew in the net from 30 yards out. Four minutes later, it was 2-0, Holyport keeper Jake Quelch was caught out of his goal and poor marking allowed Cole Rawson to chip the ball home from the right-hand side of the area. Holyport were frustrated by Unite MK playing the offside trap well and couldn't really muster much of an effort on goal until the last minute of the first period, a good low shot just wide from just outside the area. The hosts came out in the second half a reinvigorated side. Josh Lowther looked especially dangerous for them and they were starting to create chances, forcing the MK keeper to make a great save with his feet. The arrears were reduced on 68 minutes, a good through ball from Steve Deverall found Andy Frisky who finished from around 8 yards out, the ball clipping the right-hand post on the way in. It was all square on 72 minutes, Wes Sutherland with a delicate dink over the goalkeeper. Unite MK were given a chance to go back ahead when they were awarded a free kick in a good position, but the ball was blasted straight into the wall. The winner for Holyport came around 10 minutes from time. Andy Frisky beat the MK keeper to a long ball with the glovesman taking a knock in the process leaving the Holyport man to finish from a tight angle. The hosts generally looked the better side after this and saw out the game to win. They probably deserved it overall, but Unite MK gave it a good go and looked a lot better side than their previous results suggest. It was a simple drive home with me getting in at 5.30, having enjoyed my day.


SUMMERLEAZE VILLAGE has seen some redevelopment in recent years and is a pretty nice place to watch a game. The main stand is one of those Arena type ones, holding around 100 people and offering a decent and comfortable view. The only other stand in the ground is behind the goal, another metal one, this time a terrace holding around 200. The rest of the ground is just flat, with some hard standing behind the goals. The food bar looked to have a good range of stuff. Pub wise I am not sure as I didn't have anything, but there may be a bar at the local cricket club. It's quite a long way from anywhere, I didn't see much nearby, so that may be the only option.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Alfreton Town - The Impact Arena

Alfreton Town FC
The Impact Arena
North Street
DE55 7FZ

01773 870237
Official Website

Ground Number: 206
Tuesday 17th July 2012
Alfreton Town 1-2 Barnsley
Pre Season Friendly


I didn't know I would be going to this game until literally the day before the game. A great deal had come up on a laptop, but the catch was that I would have to pick it up from Huddersfield. But I didn't mind. Secretly I had been hoping that I could tie the 2 things in, my old MacBook was getting a bit long in the tooth, and I had wanted to go to Alfreton for a long time. I had originally been planning to go to Alfreton in October for their match with Grimsby. But league games at The Impact Arena are an eye-watering £18, and I didn't fancy shelling out on top of petrol. Cost for this friendly against Barnsley was a more wallet-friendly £8, and it freed up another date to see a different ground, a long trip to Barrow seems favourite at the moment. On the day, I left at 11am, first stopping at Blaby and Whetstone Athletic FC, just off the M1 in Leicestershire, a fairly basic ground, but well kept and with good community facilities for the youngsters. I wasn't due to get to Huddersfield till 5pm, so I went to see my mate David in Liversedge for a short while. I had not met him before, only chatted on Facebook. But I was delighted to find that he was just as great in real life as behind an iPad! I left plenty of time to get to Huddersfield and actually got there at 4.15. I didn't have to wait long and after checking over the goods and transferring the money, I was away just after 5 PM. It really was a great deal, a MacBook Pro 2010 model, 8GB Ram, 2.6ghz I5 processor, 500GB Hard Disk, Apple Mighty Mouse and Turtle Beach wireless headphones for £640. Usually, this sort of package would go for a good £200 more on eBay, so I was pretty chuffed with myself and it was turning out to be a good day, one of the best in fact! Before I left Huddersfield, I popped into one of my favourite shops, Home Bargains (you can tell I like saving money!) to get some stuff for the footy and a few other things. Eventually, I left Huddersfield at 5.30, and it was a reasonable drive for the rush hour, arriving in Alfreton at 6.45.

I saw they were charging £3 for parking but fancied saving money so used street parking instead. I must have gone back to the car 3 times to double check that my boot was locked. After I had sorted everything out, it was just before 7 when I got to the ground. I took a few pictures of the outside before going in, and straight to the club shop. It had an enormous amount of stock, tens of thousands of programmes, books, fanzines and other reading matter, bursting at the seams it was. And on top of that, a good range of club merchandise. It was tricky to find what you wanted, given the volume of the stock. In the end, I settled for 11 fanzines, 2 Brian Clough books, the days' programme and a scarf for £11.25. The match itself was pretty decent, with Alfreton doing well against the whole of the Barnsley first team squad. In the end, it was 2 goals from former Chesterfield striker Craig Davies that settled it, he came on in the second half along with one of my favourite players, hard-working midfield battler David Perkins. Alfreton never looked out of their depth though and pulled a goal back scored by a trialist wearing the number 16 shirt. All in all a very enjoyable evening, and a decent journey home, apart from parts of the M1 that delayed me for half an hour, due to those invisible workmen again. I got in just after midnight, and couldn't sleep, so I had a few rum and Irn Bru's and set about setting up my new laptop and erasing my old one ready for sale. Even at 5am, I was still wide awake, but forced myself to go to sleep, eventually getting about 2 hours sleep.


THE IMPACT ARENA is a fairly decent stadium for this level, though maybe with a few too many seats for my liking. The one end of terracing is given to away fans, at least partially anyway. It's quite big and only partially covered to the rear, however, the steps are a bit shallow so you might not get a great view if you are short. The most modern stand is the one with the bars and changing rooms at the back, around 500 can be located in this area, despite it stretching the full length of the pitch. The other 2 sides are blue seating, which doesn't blend in that well to the ground. Behind the goal is uncovered, and the other side is only partially covered, but at least you can get good legroom and a decent view, even if you might get wet! I'd imagine these were installed as an economical way to meet ground grading criteria, I am not sure what was there beforehand.

The best part of a trip to Alfreton is the club shop as I have already mentioned. There is also an excellent tea bar which serves really nice food. I liked the Gravy and Chips at £2. The bar was also decent, not an amazing selection bur lots of stuff on the walls to look at in terms of club history and others clubs pennants. Overall I'd give it the thumbs up and say it was well worth a visit, everyone I spoke to was really welcoming.