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.

Monday 16 July 2012

Hitchin Town - Top Field

Hitchin Town FC 
Top Field 
Fishponds Road 
SG5 1NU 

 01642 459028 

Ground Number: 205
Monday 16th July 2012
Hitchin Town 0-1 Luton Town
Pre Season Friendly


HITCHIN TOWN FC was founded in 1928, though there was another team in Hitchin active from 1865-1911. In their early years, they played in the Spartan and Athenian Leagues but took the step up to the Isthmian League in 1963. 6 years later they had their best ever finish when it was just a singular division when they finished runners-up to Enfield. Since the expansion of the league, they have spent time around its top 2 divisions. Their best ever finish was 5th in the Premier, last achieved in 1994/95 when the league was at step 2 of the non-league pyramid. In 2004/05 the Conference North & South were introduced and due to the Isthmian League switching it's boundaries eastward, Hitchin transferred to the Southern League. All but 2 seasons have been spent in its top tier - between 2009 and 2011 they spent 2 years in Division 1 Central, finishing 2nd on both occasions. This meant playoffs and after losing out to Slough Town in the first season, they overcame them the following season, then going on to beat Daventry Town to seal promotion. Since returning they achieved their best-ever finish of 9th last season. This season was going even better, with them sitting in the playoffs at time of kick off

In the FA Cup, the club have reached the 2nd Round of the FA Cup on 4 occasions. Most recently and one which I remember was in 1994/95. They started in the 1st Qualifying Round with a 2-1 win at Newmarket Town. coming back from a goal down to clinch victory. Faced with what looked like a fairly routine home game against Tiptree United in the next round, they were alarmed to find themselves 3-1 down with the final whistle in sight. However, 2 injury time goals, the second one set up former Wycombe left back Gavin Covington earned them a replay. They triumphed 4-2 and found themselves facing Cambridge City in the 3rd Qualifying Round. Another spectacular 3-3 draw meant a replay was once again needed with Hitchin emerging 3-2 victors. A tricky tie at Burton Albion saw them progress as they won 1-0 and set up a first round tie against football league side Hereford.

With the Bulls scraping round at the bottom of Division 3, a giant-killing was sensed and the nation suddenly heard of Hitchin Town. The tie would see them travel to Edgar Street. 2 goals from Shaun Marshall put them in dreamland with them being 2-1 up at the break, but Hereford got 2 goals of their own and a replay at Top Field was needed. Despite twice going behind, the non-leaguers emerged 4-2 winners, hitting national headlines in the process.

The victory set up a game against my own team Wycombe Wanderers, and the scramble for tickets became desperate. Wycombe only got a small allocation of 500 and a ballot was introduced as even demand from season ticket holders outstripped supply. Those Chairboys not lucky enough to procure a ticket even travelled to Hitchin to get one in the home end. I myself was not there, but remember seeing highlights on Match Of The Day at my Nan's house in Folkestone, despite suffering a dodgy stomach. Despite Martin O'Neill's concern at the tricky tie, Wycombe ran out 5-0 winners with chain-smoking forward Simon Garner showing why he was Blackburn Rovers' highest ever scorer by notching a hat-trick.

Other cup successes have been in the FA Amateur Cup when the Semi Final was reached in 1963. That competition also saw the clubs record attendance of nearly 8000 when Wycombe Wanderers were the visitors back in the 1950's. The 5th Round of the FA Trophy was reached in 1999, with Hereford United again becoming giantkilling victims. Enfield & Weston Super Mare were also beaten before a defeat to Forest Green Rovers ended their Wembley hopes.

This history research was created with the help of the FCHD website, Wikipedia Game of The People Website & Hitchin Town official website. The match report was scanned in from the Bucks Free Press and the match photo was via user 'Newbury Wanderer' on Flickr.


I had been wanting to go to Hitchin's Top Field ground for a while, having had a quick look at it from the outside on the way to a Wycombe away game at Peterborough and it had seemed a really traditional ground. I had also heard good things about the club shop in the way of old programmes. So when the opportunity to visit in a pre-season friendly came up, it was pencilled in immediately. At the time of planning I had been expecting a warm summers evening, basking in the sunshine. But come the day of the game, nothing could be further from the truth. It had rained almost constantly for the previous month, completely washing out the summer. I had quite a few Luton supporting friends, but at on the day of the game, I only knew of one that was going, and a meet up was duly arranged.

I had spent the afternoon of the game, looking at getting a new laptop - a Macbook pro - on eBay and various other sites, but no one was replying to any offers or questions as they were all at work or otherwise engaged. So I spent the last couple of hours before I left looking for stuff to kill time, chatting on Facebook and the like. Eventually the time came to leave, around 5.15 as I needed to get diesel on the way out, and wanted to get there in time to have a good look in the shop, get a good parking space and take some photos. Typically for me, I left around 20 minutes late, this due to some last minute activity on my laptop sale. I had finally secured what I wanted at a good price. But I would have to go to Huddersfield to collect it. A long way, but it meant I could tick off Alfreton Town's ground for their friendly against Barnsley. And it was still a good deal with the petrol money taken into consideration. So after getting Petrol, it was about 5.50 before I was fully on my way. Annoyingly I encountered a delay almost straight away, a large section of road was coned off for no reason at all, with no sign of workmen either. It was a 5 minute delay waiting at a set of traffic lights, but luckily was not a sign of things to come. The M25 was as smooth as clockwork, and although the M1 was a bit slow, it didn't affect the journey time that much.

I arrived at Hitchin just after 7 and took some pictures of the outside of the ground. I went in and bought a programme for £1 (despite the cover price being £1.50) and also a Brian Clough book for 50p and a teamsheet for 10p. No pennant this time, £8.50 was too expensive for me, especially with my wall getting ever fuller. The club shop had a great selection of books and about 10 boxes of old programmes, none that I fancied though. After that, I went and took some more pictures of the ground, a really nice and traditional stadium. I went back to the entrance to meet my mate Alex who I had previously only chatted on Facebook. It was well worth it, he was a great lad and we had a good chat as we watched the game.

As for the game, it was no classic. But not too bad for a pre-season friendly. The only goal of the game came halfway through the first half. Adam Watkins was left unmarked and he had an easy job to put it past the home keeper. There were plenty of chances for both sides, but no one else could find the net. Most of the evening was spent singing anti-Watford songs and some funny ditties about Elton John, which aren't really fit to be published here.

Now a lot of people have it in for Luton and given their past, you can see why. They had a horrible 'plastic pitch' back in the 80's which gave them a strong advantage to them at the time, but resulted to some nasty injuries to players. And then there was an away fans ban - you had to have a Luton Town Membership to attend games at one point in time. This was as a result of some trouble at a game versus Millwall back in the mid 80's where thousands of pounds of damage was caused by the South London mob. It would have been rolled out across the board for all clubs had then sports minister Colin Moynihan had his way, but luckily it was discontinued after a fairly short time and never seen again. And then, of course, is the less than pleasant experience of watching a match at Kenilworth Road. Set in one of the worst parts of town, the ground has horrible legroom even for a short-arse like me. Several attempts have been made to move Luton to a new stadium, but a less than co-operative local council and severe financial constraints put paid to that idea. And finally, their fans have a reputation for not being very nice to put it mildly. But I think this last point is unfair. I have loads of Luton mates that are all great, and I chatted to quite a few Luton fans tonight who were top class and wished Wycombe well for the season. And I have never encountered any of their so-called 'bad fans'. The journey home was a lot easier, taking under 50 minutes. I got in and started making plans for the following day, it was starting to be a busy week off work for me.


As with the last time I visited here, it was the start of my week off. Originally I was planning to stay up north and go to AFC Fylde but in the end I decided to base myself at home to save money on an admittedly cheap area for hotels in Blackpool. The main reason was that I would have little to do during the day without my home comforts. However, I was determined to see as much football as possible and with the nearest 'new' ground for me being at Daisy Hill near Bolton I decided to do a revisit to a ground that is my personal favourite. Hitchin had drawn 1-1 in the original tie at Peterborough on Saturday, with the home keeper in inspired form to take the game to a replay.

On the day of the game, I was enjoying my day off work but was waiting for the FA Cup draw to come out. The FA were not giving out any clues and being very secretive with when it was going to be done. Eventually, around 12.30 it was completed and I spied 25 potential groundhops in the next round. The winners of tonight's game faced a trip to Kirkley & Pakefield, a ground which I have yet to visit. However that one is a long shot, and my game of choice will almost certainly be Paulton Rovers v Aylesbury as my hopping friend Anwar is an Aylesbury fan. However, they will need to progress against Chesham United in a replay tomorrow night and if that doesn't come off then Hook Norton Town v Weston Super Mare is currently favourite. 

I spent the afternoon of the blog researching Hitchin's history for this blog, which involved quite a bit of digging. I had a small job to do and these 2 things together took up most of my afternoon. I had dinner and left home around 5.50. Looking at the opponents, it was Peterborough Sports' first season for a long while in the FA Cup and they had got this far by beating Eynesbury Rovers and Newmarket Town, being the away side in both cases. The journey over to Hitchin was pretty good, with the only delay coming when I joined the M1 where traffic was slow but at least it was moving. I there around 7PM, having listened to BBC 3 Counties Sports show on the way, which to be honest wasn't great. They seemed to be more interested in talking about aftershave and TV adverts and although they mentioned the draw for the next round it wasn't very professional with them interrupting each other.

I paid £10 at the gate for entry before visiting the club shop. I bought a team sheet for 20p, plus a pen for 80p. I also got myself a drawstring bag to replace the Blyth Spartans one that I normally use as it's getting a bit tatty. The guy who sold it to me didn't exactly fill me with confidence about it's durability saying 'Don't put anything too heavy in it - I put a flask in it, and smash!, it went straight through the bottom' After getting some pictures of the ground, I took my place on the far side, standing near the halfway line. 
The game started with the home side well on top, but gradually Peterborough Sports worked their way into the match. And it was they who opened the scoring on 15 minutes with an absolute screamer from 25 yards. Jordan Macleod's stunning strike flew into the top right-hand corner and was the first shot of any quality, as up until then, the attacking play had been pretty scrappy. Being the home and higher placed side Hitchin put pressure on their opponents. They had already come close with a free kick just over the bar and they got their equaliser on 24 minutes when Robbie Burns bundled in from close range. On the half-hour mark former Wycombe keeper Charlie Horlock made a great save to tip a Peterborough Sports free-kick over the bar. He was left red-faced 8 minutes later as he fumbled a simple cross and Avelino Viera took advantage to put the visitors 2-1 ahead. A minute from halftime it was back to level pegging as Kane Smith's shot from the edge of the area went through a crowd of players and into the bottom left-hand corner.

At halftime I moved to the other side and sat in the stand. I was joined by fellow hopper and Middlesbrough fan Lee and we had a good chat while we watched the second half unfold. As with the first, Hitchin were well on top but the visitors were weathering the storm. The hosts came close to scoring on 56 minutes when they shot narrowly over the bar and were even more unlucky on 75 when they hit the bar and the ball bounced on the line before being cleared. Peterborough Sports were given hope around 10 minutes from time when Will Wright was sent off for the hosts after he prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity with a foul, This led to them having a bit of a chance and it looked to have evened up a game that they had not really been in for large chunks of the second half. Hitchin had a golden opportunity to win it on 87 minutes but Kane Smith hit the post when clear with only the keeper to beat.

Into extra time it went then and it was getting quite tense with the more partisan fans of either side snapping at the referee as the prospect of penalties loomed. In the end, they were not needed, even though the tiring visitors might have wanted them. Hitchin continued to dominate and they won it with 2 extra time goals. They had already come close minutes earlier with a shot that went narrowly over the angle of post and bar but on 108 minutes they took the lead for the first time on the night. It was Johnny McNamara's curling shot into the top right-hand corner that set them on course to win. There was little sign of an equaliser and 3 minutes from time the impressive Kane Smith rounded the keeper to make it 4-2 and confirm Hitchin's trip to Kirkley & Pakefield in the next round.

Peterborough Sports players looked dejected but they had played their part in a great FA Cup tie and had enjoyed an excellent first season in the competition. To put it in context it was the equivalent of Morecambe taking West Ham to a replay in a later round of the FA Cup, and with the Premiership side taking it seriously too. I'd enjoyed my night out and went home in a happy mood. It was a good trip home, taking less than 50 minutes, with me getting back at 23.10.  


TOP FIELD is a cracking little football ground, steeped in tradition and unique - quite unlike any other ground, I have visited. Along one side is a largish stand, holding around 500 people. Then to the left of that, is a large uncovered terrace, one of the bigger ones in non-league football. These 2 stands alone make it well worth a visit, but the other 2 sides are even more interesting and unique. They are wooden terracing (or they could be used as benches should people wish to sit) They are pretty steep in height and so offer a good view, and a lot of them are covered too to protect from the elements. Luckily, not a drop of rain tonight, despite being wet all day.

In addition to that, there is a good tea bar, which sadly had sold out of chips by the time I had the chance to sample them, but the sausage baguette was nice that I had. And as mentioned before, the club shop was pretty good too. There is also a bar at the ground, not that I tried it, having had a heavy weekend on the sauce. There is also a local pub, and plenty of street parking too. The town centre is also walkable, should you have time on your hands and want a wider choice.

Sadly I read in the programme that Hitchin have plans for a new ground. It would be really sad to see this unique ground full of character be replaced by another identikit stadium, so get down to see a game while you can - you won't regret it. Thankfully since then, the stadium has been 'saved' from demolition by failing supermarket chain Tesco thanks to hard work from their supporters who opposed the landowners - The Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust to sell up.