Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Harefield United - Preston Park

Harefield United FC
Preston Park
Breakspear Road North

01895 823474

Ground Number: 217
Tuesday 25th September 2012
Harefield United 1-4 South Park
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay


Initially, I had been planning to go to Carshalton Athletic v Whitehawk tonight to see former Wycombe players Scott McGleish and Matt Lawrence play. And also to a retro games shop in nearby Croydon. But that game got called off, as Whitehawk had an FA Cup replay against Hitchin after drawing in Brighton at the weekend. My initial thought was to go to Tooting and Mitcham v Maidstone United, as I had read that Tooting had a programme shop and it meant I could still go to Croydon. However, after a long day at work on the Monday and a fairly costly trip to Newport County v Grimsby Town on Saturday, I wanted a cheaper and more local option. I opted for Harefield United v South Park in an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay, the 2 sides having drawn 0-0 in Surrey at the weekend. I hate 0-0 draws and was hoping not to see another one in the replay, but at least I would get the consolation of a penalty shoot-out if that did happen. And I do love the FA Cup, in my mind, it is the greatest cup competition in the world, miles better than the overhyped "Champions" League, where you can finish 4th in your domestic league and still be considered a "Champion"

On the day I was working till 2 and so spent the afternoon relaxing and had some dinner before leaving at 6.40. After a fairly hassle-free journey, though via some dodgy country roads, thanks to my SatNav, I arrived at 7.15, and keen to get a programme before they sold out, went straight in. I went and took some pictures of the ground and settled down in the stand before reading my programme and checking out Facebook and Twitter. In the end, I had more time than I thought. The South Park team coach got stuck in traffic and so kick off was delayed until 8.05 by the referee.
It was a very reasonable £5 to get in, plus £1 for a programme, which had a nice design, but not much in the way of stuff to read, though enough for what it cost me.

Harefield United could create history tonight, by making progression to the 3rd Qualifying Round for the first time. They had reached the current stage 4 times on 5 occasions since they first entered 33 years ago, back in 1979. They also hold the distinction of being the oldest club in Middlesex, having been formed in 1868. They play in the Spartan South Midlands League, along with the likes of AFC Dunstable, Hanwell Town and Aylesbury United, who I have already this season, along with my most local team, Holmer Green.

Their opponents South Park sound more like a tribute team to the American comedy of the same name, but they are in fact based in the suburb of Reigate which bears the same name. They play in the Combined Counties League along with the likes of Guernsey and Cove. They had already made history in FA Cup terms by getting to the second qualifying round, having made the first qualifying round last season on their only previous entry into the FA Cup. Wikipedia lists their nickname as "Eric Cartman's Barmy Army" , which I am not sure to take seriously or not. It certainly wouldn't be their traditional one anyway! 
The winners would face higher league opponents in Maldon & Tiptree or Brentwood Town, and would be only 2 wins away from meeting football league opponents.

The game started off fairly slowly, leaving me worrying that it might be a dull encounter. But my fears were to prove unfounded. On the half-hour mark Harefield took the lead, after having much of the game. Jack Higgins angled shot was drilled in from the edge of the box, a decent goal and one that the home side merited. However, the lead didn't last long. Little over a minute later Danny Bennell headed the equaliser and it was all square. South Park came more into it after this, but it was still 1-1 at the break. I used the interval to go and get my car, as I had parked about 5 minutes walk away, as it was busy around the ground when I arrived. But I spotted a nice spot just outside the ground and decided to take that, luckily it was still there when I returned. I also took the opportunity to change into a thicker coat as it was quite nippy and also put my camera and programme in the car, save me having to carry it. I just had enough time to get a Bovril from the tea bar before the start of the second half, they were just kicking off as I got back into the ground. I saw Lee, from the Hayes & Yeading club shop who recognised me, and we had a brief chat as the second half kicked off. 
The second half started off pretty evenly, with perhaps South Park having slightly the better of the game. It was they who took the lead on 65 minutes when Chris Smith headed home from a looping cross. By now they took the game by the scruff of the neck. They added a third nine minutes later when they scored a great free kick. A Harefield player was also sent off for the first of several protests about the referee's performance, certainly a lot of fruity language coming from the crowd, which seems OTT when it's another team, but perfect sense when it's your team you are shouting for. South Park completed the win 10 minutes from time with a 4th killer goal. By now tempers were starting to get frayed amongst fans and a Harefield supporter started dishing out the verbals to a South Park fan, which he took exception to, asking what was his problem. The Harefield fan said "Shut up, this is my f*cking manor" which riled the South Park fan even more. In the end, it took the intervention of other fans to split them up, and nothing more happened.


PRESTON PARK is a smart but basic non-league ground. I actually visited in the past to take photos and it's not changed at all. It is mainly open standing, with an area of cover midway down one sideline. There is also a stand opposite, seating around 120, from where the views are OK but not perfect as there are pillars. The tea bar and bar are in the same place. The tea bar does a basic menu as well as hot drinks. The bar only offers a limited range of drinks, but is well furnished with SKY/ESPN on big screens, a good bar for this level. No club shop as you would expect for a club of this size, but in the main, a nice friendly club and worth a visit if you are in that neck of the woods.

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