Ground Number: 302
Sunday 29th September 2013
Grays Athletic 3-0 Tilbury
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round
AVELEY FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was formed in 1927 and played in local leagues until the outbreak of the Second World War. Following the resumption of football, they joined the London League, before progressing to the Delphenian and Athenian leagues. In 1973, they joined the Isthmian League in what was the league's second tier. Despite a promising 5th placed finish in their first season, the next 13 seasons saw them finish in the top half just once and they were relegated to Division 2 North in 1986. They were promoted back four seasons later, but really struggled in the 1990's when they fell as low as Division 3, with a 14th placed finish in 1999 being the worst since they joined the Isthmian League. The turn of the century saw fortunes improve and in 2002, following league reorganisation, they were placed in Division 1 North. Their time here was punctuated by a couple of disappointing seasons in the Southern League Eastern Division due to their geographical location, but they soon returned to the Isthmian League. In 2009, they won the Isthmian D1 North title, gaining promotion to the Premier Division. Their first season here saw an incredible 3rd placed finish, the best in the clubs history. They lost out to Borehamwood in the playoff semi-finals and after a couple of seasons of struggle, they were relegated back to Division 1 North. They've enjoyed moderate success since their return in 2012, missing out in the playoffs in their first season back with defeat to Maldon & Tiptree. Last season saw a 7th placed finish, and they are no doubt hopeful that the new ground will push them on to better times on and off the pitch.
Aveley's best season in the FA Cup came in the 1970/71 season. They beat Braintree, Boreham Wood, Hayes & Leytonstone before losing out to fellow non-leaguers Yeovil Town in the 1st Round. The FA Amateur Cup Quarter Final was reached in the same season with a 2-0 defeat to Slough Town. The club has also reached the 1st Round of the FA Trophy (losing to Weymouth in 2003) and the 4th Round of the FA Vase (losing 4-0 to Wivenhoe in 1996). Locally Aveley have won the Essex Thameside Trophy three times, as well as the Isthmian League Cup in 1990, in the process becoming the only side in the competition's history to win it whilst in the bottom league. Their record victory of 11-1 came when they defeated Histon in 1963, whilst their record attendance of 3,741 came when they played Slough Town in 1971.
VISIT 1: GRAYS ATHLETIC 3-0 TILBURY
For my second FA Cup game of the weekend, I was off to Essex again for Grays Athletic v Tilbury. Grays had been without a ground of their own for a few years and were ground sharing at Aveley, who had rented their ground out to Romford for a few seasons before this one. It was the last day of my week off from work, normally I would be working Sunday so I was looking forward to making the most of it.
I left just after 11 and after getting the Non-League Paper and drawing some cash out, I was on my way. Despite a slow-moving tractor for about 4 miles and then 20 miles of roadworks where speed was restricted on the M25, I made pretty good time, arriving at 12.40. I discovered I had a perfect view of the pitch from the car park, but nonetheless paid my entrance fee and also bought I programme. I spent pre-game getting photos and checking Facebook on my phone.
I had been to see Grays Athletic twice in recent times. They triumphed 2-1 at Soham Town Rangers last year in one of the few games that was on that day. And then around a month ago I saw them crash 3-0 at East Thurrock in another game that was played in treacherous conditions. I had also been to see them play AFC Wimbledon at their old Recreation Ground stadium before financial worries meant that they lost their home.
I'd not seen Tilbury before, but they had a couple of notable names in their line up where I was concerned. Lee Weemes the former Wycombe youth team striker. And in goal they had the former Maidenhead keeper Chico Ramos who has also played for the Cape Verde national side. They were in the Ryman Division 1 North, where Grays came from last season. They sat around mid-table at the start of play. It was a real local derby with Grays original ground and Tilbury's current home being just 2.5 miles apart and there was plenty of banter between the 2 sets of fans that reflected this.
Unbeknown to me at the time, the Tilbury line-up also included former Wycombe player Nathan Ashton. The left back never really got his career going at Wycombe under Peter Taylor after signing from Fulham and was one of a number of signings by Taylor that made no impact at the club whatsoever. The game never really got going till well into the first half, but Grays were always in control and they took the lead on 35 minutes when after a foul in the area Joao Carlos stepped up to put the penalty away and give the home side the lead. A second was added right on half-time as Jack West scored.
It was quite chilly with Autumn starting to set in, so at half time I went and got my coat from my car and also bought my first Bovril of the season. As I was coming back from the tea bar, I noticed that they were interviewing a Grays fan for FA TV, who it turned out later were covering the game for their YouTube channel. The second half continued in much the same vein with Grays well on top. Jack West got his second of the game to wrap things up and despite a late rally from Tilbury, it was too little too late. Not that this deterred their fans, however, who were vocal throughout and backed their team to the hilt, even when the odds were against them. It was another game seen in the FA Cup, which takes my total up to 7 overall. I'm not sure if I will see a game in the next round, as I am busy during all the dates of the round and the replays, my only hope being that a game is moved to a Friday night. I got home after the game at around 4.45 and watched the second half of the Sunderland v Liverpool game, as well as relaxing before I started back at work the following day. Annoyingly after spending 2 hours writing this report, I had to rewrite it all again today, as blogger lost all my work. It took a lot of willpower to have the motivation to do it again, but I do like to keep a record of what I do and entertain a few others at the same time.
VISIT 2: AVELEY 2017 4-2 AVELEY 2009 (20/5/17)
With time running out to enjoy the last rites of the 2016/17 football season, I was keen to see a match on this Saturday. There were not a huge amount of options and initially I fancied Radcliffe Olympic v South Normanton Athletic in the one remaining East Midlands Counties League game. However, I couldn't persuade either of my regular hoppers to come with me, and in any case, Radcliffe cried off and rearranged the game for the following Wednesday, though given their reluctance to play the game, I am highly doubtful as to whether it will ever get played. That left me with two options, the first of which was the Christian Cup Final at Charlton Athletic, kicking off at 5.30. Normally I'd have plumped for this and made reference to players looking good on crosses, but in the end, I decided to go to Aveley instead. Their current squad were hosting arguably the greatest side in the club's history, the 2009 Isthmian D1 North Champions. Entry was free, but my main reason for going was that my groundhopping pals Dan & Maurice were coming from Braintree and it would be nice to have some good company after travelling on my own.
I'd spent the previous evening chatting to mates online whilst carrying on with my football manager game. I also searched for pubs for today's game but that was easier said than done with there not being much worthwhile. I eventually settled on stopping in Upminster en route which had a Wetherspoons and an interesting looking Micropub. On the day of the game, I woke at 7 am after a decent nights sleep. After having some breakfast and a bath, I chilled for a bit before leaving at 10.15. I caught the 10.47 train from Amersham and after a few changes got to Upminster at 12.40. I was initially disappointed that the Wetherspoons had changed hands and was now a Marston's pub. I decided against going in, instead making my way to the Upminster Taproom micro pub. They only had Weston's ciders, but I still got to try a new one in Special Reserve. I did some proper research and discovered that Hornchurch Wetherspoons was some way from the station. Instead, I went straight to Elm Park where I was due to get my bus for the final leg of the journey. I was peckish by now, and so got some black pudding and chips from a place called Rose Cafe. It was very nice and decent value for £2.50. After stopping at a shop for some soft drinks and a bag of crisps, I caught the bus at around 2. Getting to the ground just after 2.30, I went into the ground and saw Maurice and Dan before going to the bar. If they were gifting free entry, the least I could do is buy a pint of Strongbow for £3.50. I also picked up a team sheet in return for a charity donation before going out shortly before kick off. At half time I also had a bacon burger to help out the club. It was nice, though the bun could have been better.
The game kicked off promptly and on time, with me not recognising any of the players from all my years of watching football. The current Aveley side started much the stronger and they took the lead on 13 minutes as Jordan Peart squared the ball for Joe Paxman to fire home from point-blank range. Peart got a goal himself right on half time when he drilled a shot into the bottom right-hand corner from just inside the area and it was 2-0 at the break. A cross from the right allowed current Harlow Town player Junior Dadson to reduce the arrears as he finished from close range on 57 minutes. To add to the entertainment goalkeeper Lamar Johnson went up for for the 2017 Aveley, with defender Michael Toner taking over in goal. This gave the 2009 boys impetus and Ben Bradbury got the equaliser on 80 minutes when he completed a good run with a rasping shot from the edge of the area. Keeper turned striker Lamar Johnson was unlucky not to restore the current side's lead a couple of minutes after with a spectacular overhead kick. Josh Luther did put the 2017 side back in front on 84 minutes as his excellent chip beat keeper James Hussey. Finally, just before full-time Lamar Johnson had his moment, Freed from the shackles of playing in goal, he completed a run by blasting a shot into the top right-hand corner from outside the area. It ended 4-2 to the current Aveley squad and despite being played at a leisurely pace at times, it had been an entertaining game with some great goals.
After the game, I made my way back across the road to the bus stop. A 20-minute wait for a bus ensued with me getting to Rainham station at 5.20. I had a 10-minute wait for my train to Fenchurch Street before a short walk to Aldgate. I was going to go to a Wetherspoons but after seeing that it was quite pricey and there was nothing special on, I decided against it. I got the train to Harrow On The Hill before changing to another train to get back to Amersham. I had to wait another 20 minutes for my final train home, thanks to a Chiltern train not turning up, then as usual trains were going everywhere but the station I wanted them to go to. Eventually, I made it back though and just after 8 I was back in Amersham. By 8.30 I was home. I had a couple of drinks while I typed up my blog. With no Match Of The Day on, I watched some of 'Most shocking celebrity moments of the 80's' on Channel 5, but at least it meant that I got to bed at a reasonable hour with me at work at 4 am the next day.
MILL FIELD is a really old school traditional ground, and one of the last such places left in football. Right from outside the ground, it has some nice touches, starting with the chunky retro lettering on the back of the main stand. Talking of the main stand, it's elevated above pitch level but supporting pillars and tight legroom in some places take a little bit away from it.
There are other areas of cover too, an arena type stand to the left where the Tilbury fans spent the afternoon and then something more traditional but of a similar size opposite. The rest is open terracing, which goes quite high for a non-league ground and is similar to the ground of Hayes at Church Road before that was sadly knocked down.
There was no club shop for Grays that I could see, though they do sell stuff on their site. The tea bar was a little bit more pricey than most at this level with no chips but I did enjoy my cup of Bovril that was £1, not too weak and was of a decent size. The bar seemed pretty standard, with not a huge choice to choose from, but it did have Sky if I remember correctly.