Sunday, 30 December 2012

AFC Hornchurch - Hornchurch Stadium



AFC Hornchurch
Hornchurch Stadium
Bridge Avenue
Upminster
Essex
RM14 2LX

01708 220080






Ground Number: 236
Saturday 29th December 2012
AFC Hornchurch 1-0 Billericay Town
Blue Square South






MY VISIT

For my 101st and final game of 2012, I had decided to go to Hornchurch. It would be my 51st new ground for a game in 2012, a lot more than I'd thought I'd done. The costs were mounting up - over £1000 now for the 63 games that I have seen this season - that's including entry, travel, food, drink and anything spent on programmes and in the club shop. Plus the costs of a hotel where I stayed overnight on a couple of occasions, thus saving on fuel. I'd certainly enjoyed it, visiting some great new places, seeing some good games and drinking in some excellent pubs. Maybe I will do a 2012 awards for a few categories in a separate post if I get the time. But most of all I have enjoyed meeting several great people, football really would be a lot duller without company and as well as going to games with people I have known for years, I have met some fantastic new people through Facebook and the like. So despite the hefty outlay in time and money, I'd still say it was worth it.

I hadn't really been looking forward to Hornchurch to be honest, and I would be on my own for once. I had planned to go to a game with someone, but as more and more games bit the dust, my options became severely limited and so I went for one that was confirmed as on, Hornchurch ticked the box and there was also the Ryman Division 1 North game between Heybridge Swifts and Redbridge, should I need a backup. The reason for my reluctance to go to Hornchurch was because of a running track around the pitch. I've had plenty of dreadful views in this situation, most notably at Brighton and Rotherham's old grounds, which really spoilt the day for me. On a positive note, I now only have Truro City and Weston Super-Mare to visit for a game in the Conference South. Under most circumstances, I would be looking to complete both as soon as possible. Weston Super-Mare would be a long journey, around 3 hours but Truro would be double that. So maybe I will hold off completing this league until next season, secretly hoping that Truro's form does not pick up and that they are out of this league by next season. Or more ideally that Wycombe gets a cup game down there, as I would never wish ill on any club apart from the MK Franchise.




On the day we had family around, which was my main reason for staying fairly local - Wycombe were playing at Plymouth and that was miles away and I needed to get back. I left home just after 1PM, checking Twitter every time I stopped at traffic lights, convinced that the latest band of rain would screw up my plans. And as soon as I got anywhere near Essex, I tuned into the local BBC radio station so I could keep up to date with any news on the game. Thankfully all was OK and the game went ahead as planned. I got to Hornchurch around 2.25 and with the last takeaway or shop I saw being about half a mile away, I decided to go straight in. The club car park was full, but luckily there was plenty of street parking and I found myself a good spot. I made the short walk down to the ground, paying £7 to get in and £2.50 for a programme. I was quite hungry by this time and so I got myself a portion of chips for £2, and later on at halftime, a Bovril as it was getting a bit chilly by then. I saw signs for the club shop and so after finishing my chips, I made my way in and had a good look. There was a good selection of programmes, including lots of foreign ones from Germany and Spain. Also some books, as well as the usual range of stuff that you get in shops nowadays. Sadly no pennants though, so I wasn't able to add to my collection, but seeing as there is precious little space on my wall, it was probably a blessing in disguise. After taking some pictures of the ground it was time for kick off and so I found a place on the terrace and settled down for the game.




The game wasn't the best. As per many local derbies, it was cagey with neither side wanting to give much away. But in the end, Hornchurch were good for the win, and deservedly got it, winning 1-0. Billericay were a different side to the attacking and adventurous side that I had seen play Tonbridge Angels back in September at their own ground. An attendance of 503 witnessed Tambeson Eyong gave Hornchurch the lead in the 29th minute, firing into the net from outside the area. It was well deserved asthey hadd the best of what chances there were. And that continued into the second half. To compound Billericay's misery, they had a man sent off on 78 minutes when Joe Benjamin got his tackle on goalscorer Eyong all wrong and was given the red card. Amazingly he had only been on the pitch a minute, having come on a substitute just before the tackle. After around 7 minutes of injury time, it was time to leave, and thankfully it was as easy a trip home as it was there. I was astonished to hear the score of one game, Heybridge beating Redbridge by a massive score of 11-0. And I nearly went to it. The most number of goals I have seen in a game is 9 - most recently Woodford United's 5-4 defeat to Leighton Town, so that would have been a new record. After Wednesday, I was a bit more careful driving past the speed camera that went off - and this time, the dirty flasher was dormant. I got back in about 6.30, and spent the rest of my night catching up with family, drinking and playing Trivial Pursuit, before watching Match Of The Day.



THE GROUND

HORNCHURCH STADIUM was not as bad as I first thought it would be. Despite having a running track around it, it's as narrow as they could possibly make it, so from the sides, the view is not bad. Along the sides are mainly metal arena type stands, though there is some terracing too, some covered and some uncovered. It's behind the goals that are the problem, just a narrow path to stand on and it's miles from the action. Although it's not as bad as I first thought, I still think it would need a lot of improvements to be accepted into the Blue Square Premier. I had been to the ground before, before Hornchurch had financial issues and reformed as AFC Hornchurch and it hasn't changed much since then.

The other facilities are a bit better, there is a nice spacious bar, which although offering nothing special in the drinks stakes is warm and comfortable and it has Sky TV too. And although the tea bar costs a bit  more price wise than others in this league, the food is nice. And as mentioned  before, the club shop has a good selection of rare and foreign programmes, and although there was nothing I fancied, it's certainly worth a look.


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Biggleswade Town - Carlsberg Stadium



Biggleswade Town FC
The Carlsberg Stadium
Langford Road
Biggleswade
Bedfordshire
SG18 9JT

01767 318202



Ground Number: 234
Wednesday 26th December 2012
Biggleswade Town 2-1 Royston Town
Southern League - Division 1 Central



BIGGLESWADE TOWN FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

BIGGLESWADE TOWN FC was established in 1974 though they only switched to their current name at the end of World War 1 having previously been known as Biggleswade and then Biggleswade & District. They played only friendlies until the late 1890s when they joined the Biggleswade & District, Bedford and District and Northamptonshire League. The latter would go on to be the United Counties League, where the club would remain until 1955 when they joined the Eastern Counties League. Biggleswade generally struggled here, the highlight being a 9th place finish in 1962. A year later, they would rejoin the United Counties League and despite having two 3rd place finishes, they'd be relegated to its second tier in 1976. Another change of league came in 1980 as Biggleswade Town joined the South Midlands League. Finishes ranged from 13th in the second tier in 1984 to Premier Division champions in 2009 by which time the league had merged with the Spartan League. This league win allowed them to make the step up to the Southern League for the first time in their history. They'd remain in Division 1 Central until 2013 when after a 4th place finish and playoff wins over Godalming Town and Rugby Town, they were promoted to the Premier Division. They've survived at the higher level ever since, a best ever finish of 7th coming in 2017. Before my latest visit, Biggleswade Town sat in 6th place with a good chance of making the playoffs in the Southern Premier Central.



Biggleswade Town's best run in the FA Cup game during the  2013/14. After overcoming Wingate & Finchley 4-3 in a 1st Qualifying Round replay, Conference South side Chelmsford City were beaten 2-0 in the 2nd Qualifying Round. Leatherhead were then hammered 5-1 in the 3rd Qualifying Round before a 1-0 victory over Canvey Island in the 4th Qualifying Round. Cup specialists Stourbridge ended their dream in the 1st Round with a 4-1 victory. The FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round has been reached three times whilst the FA Vase Quarter Final was reached in 2009 before a 5-2 defeat at eventual winners, Whitley Bay. Local cup honours include United Counties League Cups, South Midlands League Cups, three Bedfordshire Premier Cups, eight Bedfordshire Senior Cups and five Huntingdonshire Premier Cups. Well known former Biggleswade Town players include the sadly deceased Mitchell Cole and current Wycombe Wanderers midfielder Nick Freeman.

Biggleswade FC was established in 2016 as a result of Biggleswade Town's successful U18 side. They joined the Spartan South Midlands Division 1, winning it at the first attempt.  After finishing 5th in the Premier Division last season, they sit 3rd before my visit. Best runs have been to the 4th Round of the FA Vase last season where they lost 2-1 to Thatcham Town, though they could match that this season. The FA Cup Preliminary Round was reached this season, before a 5-3 defeat to Soham Town Rangers. Despite having a population of just over 16,500, the town of Biggleswade has a third non-league team playing in the town, with Biggleswade United just below them in the SSML Premier.  The town was part of the Great Western Railway, opened in 1850 and was the first town in Bedfordshire to have a railway station.  Famous people from the town include novelist and 'Songs Of Praise' presenter Pam Rhodes.



VISIT 1: BIGGLESWADE T 2-1 ROYSTON T


I had been meaning to visit Biggleswade Town for some time now. I have quite a few mates in the area and they had agreed to come to the game with me if I ever visited. My first 2 attempts had been thwarted - the midweek league game against Slough Town had been twice rearranged due to the visiting side's cup commitments and had even been rearranged again in between me deciding to make this visit and actually going. I was planning to do 2 games today, firstly this one at 12, then Bedford Town v St Neots in another local derby at 3PM. This was in preference to going to Cheltenham v Wycombe, a ground I had been to many times before. They were also charging £20 to get in, and up until Christmas Eve, the game was all ticket - the Gloucestershire side finally reversing their decision after poor ticket sales compared to the support that Wycombe usually took there.



Despite consuming pretty much my weekly allowance of booze on Christmas Day, I didn't feel tipsy in the slightest on the day, and the same applied on Boxing Day as I woke up as fresh as a daisy. There was a pitch inspection due at 9am with the possibility of the game being called off due to a waterlogged pitch. But I was happy to see the news on Twitter that it was game on/ After a quick breakfast, I was on my way just before 10. I had arranged to meet Chaz in Sandy at about 11.15 and that went without a hitch. Then it was onto Biggleswade to meet Jordan, but when we went to see him he was still in bed, so we popped in for a chat for a bit before picking up Ryan in the town and heading off to the ground, getting in to the ground just as it kicked off. Biggleswade were on fantastic form prior to the game, having won 5 out of their last 6 games and drawing the other. Royston were challenging near the top too, but their form had tailed off recently and they had only on 2 out of the last 6, losing 3 games in that period. I had seen one of those performances, as they lost 2-1 at Rugby Town, giving a good account of themselves, and having the better of the start of the game before Rugby came back into it and deservedly won. I was well on my way to seeing a game at every ground in this league but had only been to take pictures at Royston, that being on the way to Histon v Barrow back in 2010.




The game was a typical feisty local derby, with plenty of meaty tackles flying in and it shaping up to be a decent game. It was a tricky pitch to play on with all the rain and Royston just about edged the opening stages of the game. But the home side were coming into it more and more and the game turned when a Royston player made one of the most blatant handballs I have seen, tipping the ball over the bar with both hands, as if he were a goalkeeper. There was only going to be one outcome - a sending off, ans a penalty to Biggleswade. Lee Allinson duly scored in and from then on the home side were well on top. Craig Daniels got a second on 37 minutes with a decent strike and with it being 2-0 at half time it looked to be an uphill task for the visitors in the second half. Biggleswade looked to shut up shop and attack on the break during the second half with Royston not looking like making a comeback until the last 10 minutes. Kaan Fehmi eventually got one back around 5 minutes from time and despite having the better of the game from that point on, Royston never looked like seriously threatening an equaliser. It had been a good game with decent company, and happily, Chaz had agreed to come with me to Bedford. But Ryan had family around and so after going into town to place our bets, I dropped him home and headed off to Bedford. Overall I had enjoyed my day at Biggleswade, it was a nice place to visit, and having the company of mates just made it better.



VISIT 2: BIGGLESWADE 0-0 LEIGHTON T (SSML PR 15/1/19)

Biggleswade Town was a ground that fellow hopper Anwar had wanted to go to for a while and with my pictures and blog of it not being the best, I was happy to go along for a revisit. We'd be attending for a Biggleswade FC game as opposed to a Biggleswade Town one as it worked out cheaper. The initial plan was to visit a couple of Sundays ago for a FA Vase game, but I was too tired in the end following a late night on Sunday. However, when we looked at this weeks options, it came up, so whilst at the Wycombe game against Doncaster on Saturday, we decided to do their game against Leighton Town the following Tuesday. Back to Saturday's game, Wycombe looked dead and buried at 2-0 but managed to rally in the last 10 minutes to win 3-2. On the day of the game, I walked down town, buying a few bits and getting a lift back with my Dad. The afternoon was spent trying to get an iPega gamepad to work, a fruitless task and the second poor product I've had from that company. Luckily I'd bought it from Amazon, so returning it was free and fairly painless. I'd already got a refund before the night's game had even kicked off too.



After a dinner of Jambalaya, I left at 5.35. Thanks to a slow tractor deciding to use a busy road during rush hour and some additional roadworks, I didn't get to Anwar until 6.15. He was there waiting and we were soon on our way. The roads on the way to Biggleswade were not much better, all crappy country roads that weren't pleasant to drive on in the dark. Google Maps had the ground location wrong too, but eventually, we got there at 7.30. After getting some pictures of the outside and paying £6 to get in, we got in just as the teams were coming out. Biggleswade started the brightest and they had the ball in the net on 24 minutes when Pat McCafferty headed home a hanging cross, but the goal was ruled out for offside. It had been a poor first half and the second period was not much better, with the game being a scrappy and niggly contest. There were few chances for either side, but I did recognise one of the Leighton subs who looked a bit like Seb from Coronation Street and who had played for Totternhoe when I saw them last season. Kyle Davison-Gordon was sent off for Leighton Town, a foul just outside the area earning him a second yellow card. From the resulting free kick, a well-worked move saw a shot whistle narrowly past the right-hand post after an effort by Lawrie Marsh. The final whistle blew at 9.45 to end the worst game I've seen in a long time in the usually entertaining Spartan South Midlands League. The game finished quite late and we didn't leave until 9.50 with me dropping Anwar off at 10.50 and getting home myself at 11.15, going to sleep around an hour later.



THE GROUND

THE CARLSBERG STADIUM is s smart modern ground and despite being built as recently as 2008 was Biggleswade's first home of their own, having previously shared with the town's cricket club. I had previously been to the ground when it was being built back in 2007 on the way to a Peterborough v Wycombe game. Mostly it was open standing with not too much development but this is the norm with most new grounds at this level. There was a covered stand on each side, one seated and one standing, holding around 200 people in each.

There was an excellent bar which had a better selection of drinks than Wycombe's own Vere Suite, but then again, where doesn't? It has various football memorabilia on the walls, including some shirts from some Premiership teams, and also big screens that could show football when needed. There was also a club shop that looked to have a good selection of old programmes for sale, but it was not open today. Talking of the programme, it was great value at only a quid, with a fairly good amount of stuff to read, especially for what it cost. The paper was a bit thinner than most, and it had a bit of a homemade feel, but that gave it a certain charm. Most other clubs, even in this league charge £2 and while a lot of them are a bit slicker, they don't have much more content and certainly aren't twice as good as this one



2019 PICS

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Maidstone United - Gallagher Stadium


Maidstone United FC
The Gallagher Stadium
James Whatman Way
Maidstone
ME14 1LQ

01622 753817






Ground Number: 233
Saturday 22nd December 2012
Maidstone United 2-2 Worthing
Isthmian League - Division 1 South








MY VISIT


I had not been planning to go to a new ground today, in fact the only thing on my mind was how Wycombe were going to do against Bradford City. I knew several Bradford fans and was looking forward to meeting a few of them. They were due to bring a huge support, as their chairman had paid for their tickets and given them subsidised coach travel. But it all came to nothing. I was just doing my last bits of work on a rare Saturday in, when the twitter message had come through that the game was called off. I can't remember having a game postponed for ages, certainly not since we had the undersoil heating as part of the deal with having London Wasps squat at the ground. There had been a few abandonments, most famously earlier in the season with Bristol Rovers, but we had always managed to get the game started. Naturally, the first thing that came to my mind, was where else could I see football. I did initially think Maidstone but didn't think they would be at home, as they had been playing at home quite recently. Looking at the games, Carshalton was still on, and that was a long time target of mine. But before long, that went by the wayside. Leatherhead was another one that looked promising, but that too was called off due to a waterlogged pitch. A couple of mates, Sean and Louis suggested Keynsham, but I didn't really fancy it as it was a long old way and was in a fairly low league when I was aiming for step four and above. So I was delighted when I found out that not only did Maidstone have a home game v Worthing, but it also was confirmed as going ahead by their twitter feed. So my destination for the day was decided.



I had no previous experience of watching these 2 teams that I could remember. Maidstone United were once mentioned in EastEnders, back when it was half decent. And Worthing's ground was just down the road from where my family got our pet Springer Spaniel, Maisie, back in 1993. I had a look at Worthing's ground over a fence that day, and really should return to get a few pictures and see a game. They had played Wycombe in a pre season friendly a month before my visit there, with us winning 8-2, prior to our first season in the football league.



After finishing just before 11 and getting home at 11.15, I had a bath and got dressed before confirming all the details I  needed. I was conscious about getting to the game in time as it had the potential to sell out, and so I left at 12.20. After stopping to get some cash, I was well on my way and everything was going fine until I hit the hideous abomination that was the M25. The bit between the M4 turnoff and  the M3 turnoff had been a pig before, and so it proved to be again, adding around a 50 minute delay to my journey. So my arrival was looking to be around 2.45. So not thinking about my fuel economy, I put my foot down and made up some time, getting to the ground around 2.30. After paying to park on the roadside, a nice little £3 for the council, I made my way to the turnstile and was happy to see that there was still plenty of space. After paying £10 to get in and £2 for a programme, I needed a drink and so went into the bar and got a pint of Thatchers Gold to take the edge off the journey. It went down very well. Normally I'd be a bit pissed off about paying a tenner for that level when I feel that something like £7 is more appropriate. Especially after paying for parking. But today I didn't mind, as I was just glad to be at a game. After getting some chips and taking some pictures of the ground, I picked a spot to watch the game, just by the players' tunnel. I have pasted a copy of the non-league paper's report further down this page.




Overall it was a decent game, and I was glad to be able to see some football when most others were called off. The 3G pitches are controversial in some quarters, currently, they are not allowed at the next level up, so it will be interesting to see what happens if Maidstone remain at the top of the league. They certainly get great support - an average of around 1500 fans per game. At today's game, there were nearly 1800, what with it being the only football on and being a top of the table clash. My personal view on 3G is that they should be allowed. I am not sure if I'd want Wycombe to have one, but I certainly don't mind other teams having them, especially with clubs hard pressed to generate income. The consistent surface encourages good football and the only real difference with a game on grass is that there was a slight reduction in slide tackles, but that was not detrimental to the game at all. One last mention of praise, to the referee Thomas Ellams who had an excellent game and got most decisions right. He also communicated really well with the players, earning respect from the players for doing so. Some of the jokers we get in League 2 could learn a thing or 2 from this.



I left and got home without any further delays. I listened to BBC Radio Kent's excellent non-league coverage. I am not sure that they give such large amounts of time on normal days, but today they had in-depth reviews of the 3 games that went ahead involving Kent teams - Dartford's 5-1 loss at Kidderminster, Cray Valley's 4-0 win at Erith Town in the Kent League and the Maidstone game that I went to. They also gave mention to Charlton who are on the edges of Kent but gave much more preference to the proper Kent teams. I am not sure if they are this good normally, but the local station for Wycombe, BBC Three Counties is dire. If their beloved Luton, MK Dons or Watford are not in action, they are not interested. We are lucky to get a few minutes in a 4-hour show. And for non-league, forget it, they might read out the results at ten to six, but even that is not set in stone. I am sure that if Wycombe was the only game on, they would play music or replace the sports programme with a cookery show or something.



THE GROUND

THE GALLAGHER STADIUM was opened in July 2012 with a game against Brighton and Hove Albion. It was their first proper ground in the town after over 20 years of exile, much like Dartford who they initially shared with, before going bust. They had spent the last decade at Sittingbourne, who themselves have suffered ground and financial issues. It's a smart modern stadium with a capacity of 2200 and has been well populated in pretty much every game that they have played there. Even at a few months old, it could do with expanding, given the massive support they attract. The main stand is decent, holding around 450 people, with every seat normally sold out. The only 2 areas of cover are small metal stands behind each goal, which also fill up quickly. The rest was hard standing, open to the elements. I was certainly glad that I took my umbrella today.This would be a fantastic ground for most sides at this level, but Maidstone look to have outgrown it already. It must be great to be home.

There is a smart bar, that does the clubs own bitter and lager as well as other brands. Cider fans are catered for with Thatchers Gold, which is probably the best of the mainstream ciders. May be nice to get something from Kent producers Sheppy's though - they do it with Shepherd Neame for beer. The club shop is in this building too, no pennants or old programmes, but a good selection for this level, if a tad pricey. The one van that serves food was good for the £2 portion of chips I bought, cooked to perfection and big enough to tide me over until I got home for dinner. Overall, I'd recommend a visit here, everyone I spoke to was helpful and friendly, and there was a good atmosphere. But I'd say do other places first and save this one for when the weather is bad. It does cost a few quid more than a day out at other places at this level, but you will not mind so much when it's the only game on.