Friday 29 December 2023

Hornchurch - Hornchurch Stadium

Hornchurch FC
Hornchurch Stadium
Bridge Avenue
RM14 2LX

01708 220080

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


There have been three separate clubs representing Hornchurch. The first one, formed in 1881 played whilst football was still in its infancy and never really laid any foundations. The second were formed in 1923 and were known as Upminster Wanderers, then Upminster owing to where they played. Playing in mainly local leagues such as the Romford League, they moved to the Hornchurch Stadium in 1952 and changed their name to Hornchurch and Upminster. This move allowed them to compete in the Delphenian League and in 1959 they finished as runners-up to the club today known as Brentwood Town. They changed their name to Hornchurch in 1960 after moving to the Athenian League a couple of years previously. They spent most of their time in the top tier here, their best finish 5th in 1974. In 1975, they joined the Isthmian League, starting in the second tier but being relegated to Division 2 in 1978. They won promotion back as runners-up behind Feltham in 1981 but were relegated again in 1986. They then spent many years in the bottom tier of the Isthmian League, firstly in Division 2 North, then in Division 3 when regionalisation was ditched. Top-half finishes were few and far between but in 2002, they finished as runners-up behind Croydon Athletic. This was the start of some good times for the club as they finished as runners-up behind Northwood in Division 1 North in 2003. A 5th place finish in the Premier Division was a brilliant start and it was enough to see them make the cut for the newly-established Conference South. It was not all good news however as financial issues were to later dog the club. The following season, they finished 17th in the Conference South but would have been 9th had it not been for a ten-point deduction for entering administration. They also spent the second half of the season playing young and inexperienced players due to releasing the whole squad due to money problems. The losses proved too much to overcome as that summer they folded altogether.

A new club called AFC Hornchurch was immediately established and entered the Essex Senior League. They were champions in the first season and then won the Isthmian Division 1 North in 2007. It was always a triple promotion when they finished 4th in 2008, however, they lost 3-1 to AFC Wimbledon in the playoff semi-finals. The following season saw them come close again and it seemed they had not learned the lessons of the past as they entered administration once more. However, this time, they survived and managed to avoid any point deductions. By 2012 they finished 2nd in the Isthmian Premier and beat Bury Town and Lowestoft Town in the playoffs to win promotion to the Conference South. A single season was spent here but they were relegated by a single point. A good effort was made to make an instant return following a 5th-place finish. Kingstonian were beaten in the semis but Lowestoft got their revenge in the final, beating them to seal their promotion. The hangover carried on into the next season when they were relegated to the Isthmian D1 North. The following couple of seasons saw two failed playoff campaigns, firstly in the final to Harlow Town in 2016, then in the semis to Thurrock in 2017. The following year, they put that right by winning the title. They've been in the Isthmian Premier ever since and dropped the AFC Prefix in 2019. In 2022 they finished 4th but lost to Cheshunt in the playoff final. Last season saw them finish as runners-up but this time they lost in the final to Aveley. They are looking to put that right this season and currently sit top of the league with games in hand.

The previous incarnation of Hornchurch reached the 2nd Round of the FA Cup in 2003. They beat Billericay Town 2-1, Carshalton Athletic 5-0 and Paulton Rovers 1-0 in the qualifying rounds. In the first round, they caused a shock, beating Football League side Darlington 2-0. They were finally eliminated in the next round, losing 1-0 to Tranmere Rovers. The current club got to the 1st Round in 2008. They beat Saffron Walden Town, Bromley, Merstham & Weymouth before losing 1-0 to Peterborough United. Hornchurch won the FA Trophy in 2021. They beat Bowers & Pitsea, Wingate & Finchley, Tonbridge Angels, Dulwich Hamlet, Kings Lynn Town, Maidstone United, Darlington and Notts County to reach the final at Wembley Stadium. There they beat Hereford 3-1 having been a goal down with four minutes to go. The club also reached the FA Vase 5th Round during the 1974/75 season. Local cup wins include the Essex Junior Cup in 1946, the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy in 2006 and the Essex Senior League Cup in 2006. Famous players to turn out for Hornchurch are numerous. These include former Wycombe players Gavin Holligan, Steve Jones, Rob Lee and Paul McCarthy.


For my 101st and final game of 2012, I 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 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 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 which 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. 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 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 as they had 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.

I always like a bit of Friday night football, but with everything so far away, it would have to be a revisit. Hornchurch was ideal in that respect. I fancied a revisit but didn't want to use up a Saturday on it. This was the ideal opportunity and ironically, it was eleven years to the day that I had initially visited. I did all my research on Thursday, including the history of the club. I also planned pre-match, wanting to visit another Wetherspoons for dinner and drinks. This was easier said than done with nothing really en route train-wise. In the end, I opted for the Moon & Stars in Romford. This had Black Dragon cider and was a simple bus ride or train from the ground.
The day of the game came and it was an easy one at work with me out at 12. I had a nice few hours at home before driving to Amersham Station and getting the train into London which took a while to get going after sitting on the platform for ten minutes. I saw Colin waiting at Chalfont and Latimer, waiting for fellow Wy fan Dave Bassett on their way to Leyton Orient v Wycombe Wanderers. A decent away day but I'd been last year and with Wycombe poor at the moment, I gave it the swerve. I read the programme on the train and noticed that former Wycombe fringe player Lewwis Spence was now performing the same role with Hornchurch, some 15 years later. I had a go on my new console, purchased from AliExpress for £38 on Christmas Day and already delivered. It was a change at Finchley Road for the Jubilee to Bond Street and the Elizabeth to Romford. I was in Romford at 5.35 and it was just over five minutes to Wetherspoons. The Moon and Stars was my 292nd in the chain. There I had a Brie, stuffing, bacon and cranberry Panini, chips and two pints of Black Dragon for around £12, delightful. It was then a straightforward train journey to Upminster then a 15-minute walk to the ground. £12 to get in plus £4.50 for a pint of Aspalls, £2.50 for some chips and £3 for disposable glasses for myself Colin and Dan were reasonable value. It was then outside to get some pictures. Despite the running track, I got a decent view on the far side.
Hornchurch were top of the league and had beaten Canvey Island 2-0 in their latest game. They'd also won 3-0 at Kingstonian and beaten Potters Bar 3-0. They'd drawn 0-0 against Whitehawk and lost 2-0 at Chatham Town. Lewes were in 11th and had won 2-1 at Whitehawk in their last game. They'd also beaten Cheshunt 2-1 and Haringey Borough 4-1 but had lost 2-0 to Dulwich Hamlet and 4-1 at Concord Rangers. When the two sides had met in Sussex on 26th August, they drew 2-2. Hornchurch had switched from red to blue in between visits for whatever reason. The game was woeful for the most part, Lewes were better early on but Hornchurch getting better. The second half was no better. Hornchurch took the lead on 67 minutes, Liam Nash latching onto a ball forward. The attendance was given as 769 but with everywhere busy, it seemed more than that. Lewes bundled home an equaliser in injury time through Lumumbo-Kalala. It was probably deserved in that both teams were as dire as each other. An even worse game was at Leyton Orient where Wycombe drew 0-0 in yet another borefest.

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 some are 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.


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