Saturday, 17 May 2014

Belstone - The Medburn Ground

Belstone FC
The Medburn Ground
Watling Street

Ground Number: 373
Saturday 17th May 2014
Belstone 5-2 Chipperfield Corinthians
Herts Senior County League


Belstone FC was formed in 1983 by 4 friends and originally played at the old GEC sports ground in Wembley. After the owners decided to sell this, the club played at a couple of temporary grounds before moving to their present home. They had to move on some travellers and spend quite a bit of money to get it back to standard as it was in poor condition when they took it over. They made their debut in the Herts Senior County League in 2010 and a season later they finished runners up and gained promotion to the Premier Division of this league. That season also saw them do well in the cups, getting to the Quarter-Final of the Auberry Cup and the Semi-Final of the Herts Intermediate Cup. The team had a chance of the League title if things went their way, sitting in 2nd place after the game.


The football season was quickly running out and options were thin on the ground. With all step 6 and above options 100 miles or more away I decided to look at step 7. I asked on the Tony Kempster Non-League Forum whether there were any grounds with stands at step 7 and was quoted 2 - Bovingdon FC and Belstone FC. My initial thought was to go to Bovingdon as I could visit the Market there. I had not been for a few years and so a visit was well overdue. But I found out that they were not doing a programme. The other option, Belstone, said they might, and if not I could pick up a back issue. On the day of the game, I woke up quite early, just after 6 and watched TV in bed. Just before 9, I went out for a 2-mile jog before coming back and having a bath. I needed a couple of things and also wanted a look at some clothes so I went down town. My hunt was unsuccessful clothes wise so I went online and ordered a pair of trainers. I then had lunch before leaving around 1.30. The drive there was not bad and so I arrived at 2.15 and went in the clubhouse for a bottle of Bulmers which was slightly expensive at £4. They didn't have any programmes for today's game but they did give me a couple of back issues which is better than nothing and gave me something to look at pre-match. I watched some of the build-up to the Scottish Cup Final before going outside and getting some pictures. I did a head count and reckoned on there being 16 people in attendance including myself. The game was pretty even early on but with Belstone having the better of the chances. One name I did recognise from one of the old programmes they gave me was Lawrence Yaku who played in the Conference South with Maidenhead a few years back, though I had no idea if he was playing this afternoon. Also former Windsor & Eton captain Dave Tilbury.

 The home side took the lead on 23 minutes after number 25 for them won a penalty and got himself injured in the process. The Chipperfield manager wasn't too pleased but in any case, it was put away very well into the top left-hand corner to make it 1-0. Right at the end of the first half, the lead was doubled as the Chipperfield keeper made a mistake and allowed a weak shot to squirm past him. There was still time though for the visitors to have their best chance so far and they forced a good save out of the Belstone keeper who pushed it wide for a corner. At half time I went back to my car and listened to the radio for a bit while waiting for the second half to start. The second half continued to have plenty of chances for both sides and the woodwork prevented Belstone further extending their lead. The home side was on top but it was the visitors pulled one back with the best goal of the game on 75 minutes when a long range shot was drilled in.  That awoke the visitors a bit and they started to push forward and create more.  This was however at the cost of leaving gaps at the back and on the break, Belstone regained their 2 goal advantage with a simple finish from a good free kick. Almost immediately it was 4-1 with another effort from not far out and it looked to be game over. It was 5-1 on 85 minutes with a really well-worked goal as the Belstone number 9 was given a chance on a plate and he obliged with an easy finish. A couple of minutes later it was the same again, only up the other end as the visitors pulled it back to 5-2. It had been a decent game and well worth a visit to a decent club. It would be interesting to see whether they play evening matches as the floodlights didn't look up to much. Probably OK for finishing a game in poor light, but not for when it is pitch black. As for the game, I'd say the scoreline was a fair reflection of the game. Belstone were well on top but Chipperfield with their number 4 who looked about 50 years old played their part in an entertaining contest. After the game, I drove home and listened to the FA Cup final where Hull City roared into a 2 goal lead against Arsenal. On the road, an idiot sat at the green light for about 10 seconds and then proceeded to drive at 30 in a 60 limit. When I overtook him I saw why - he was on his mobile phone. There were a few more slow drivers before I got home at 5.30 where I watched the rest of the cup final and had dinner.


THE MEDBURN GROUND is one of the more basic grounds I have been to, but it's still pretty decent for step 7 and with the addition of better floodlights would be as good as or better than some of the step 6 grounds I have been too. There is just one stand and that has 12 seats in although there is cover for a lot more people standing. The clubhouse is pretty smart and does a basic range of drinks along with snacks like chocolate bars. It's quite pricey, but considering it was free entry with a couple of old programmes free too due to them not issuing today, I didn't mind paying £4 for a bottle of Bulmers. If you want more choice you can turn right out of the ground and go to a pub a few minutes walk away but I have no idea what it's like as I didn't go.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Burnham Ramblers - Leslie Field

Burnham Ramblers FC
Leslie Field
Springfield Road
Burnham On Crouch

07957 494679
Official Website

Ground Number: 372
Tuesday 13th May 2014
Haringey Borough 0-1 Hullbridge Sports
Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy Final 


I hadn't seen Haringey Borough play before, but I had seen an Enfield 1893 FA Cup game at their ground back in August. The game was a dreadful 0-0 draw with London Tigers, but at least the ground was decent. The club itself was formed in 1973, initially playing in the Athenian League, then the Isthmian League for a few seasons in the 1980s, before switching to the Spartan League and remaining there until last seasons transfer to the Essex Senior League this season. Their best ever run in the FA Cup came in 1986 when they reached the 3rd Qualifying Round while in the FA Vase of 1978 they got to the Quarter Final before losing to Barton Rovers. They've not had a huge amount to shout about recently but as well as reaching the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round this season, they also finished runners up in the Essex Senior League to Great Wakering Rovers by just a point and of course reaching tonight's final.  

I couldn't find a huge amount of information on Hullbridge Sports on the internet. They are a reasonably new club, having been formed just after the Second World War in 1945. Initially playing in local Southend Leagues, they joined the Essex Olympian League Division 2 at step 8 of non-league in 1984, winning promotion to their Division 1 at the first attempt. They were however relegated straight back. Despite this, the Essex Senior League at step 5 accepted their application to join in 1990. Despite them never looking like getting out of the league, they had a best finish of 6th in 1997/98. They have only ever reached the FA Cup Preliminary Round, the latest occasion being this season when they lost 3-0 to FC Clacton. As for the FA Vase, they reached the 2nd Round in 2010/11 before losing 5-1 to Leverstock Green. Their biggest attendance was 800 for an FA Youth Cup game against Blackburn Rovers in the 1999-2000 season, a great feat for such a minnow to get that far. I had seen them lose to Basildon United back in March and it had been a bit of a mixed bag of a game but had been a nice club to visit. They had gone up a couple of places since my visit, finishing a very respectable 9th place.

The game was to be played at Burnham Ramblers, who themselves had been in the Essex Senior League very recently, having been champions last season and gaining promotion to the Isthmian Division 1 North for the very first time, They had had a steady first season, finishing in 17th place and well clear of the relegation scrap. The town of Burnham on Crouch itself has quite a small population of 7500. Despite this is has 22 licensed drinking establishments and there is a twice a year pub crawl organised to raise money for the Samaritans which started in 2007.


While I was at the Spartan South Midlands Division 1 Final last week, I checked at half time for fixtures and they were very thin on the ground. The best I could find was one at Cradley Town's ground. It looked a decent venue, but really I'd have preferred to save it for one of their home games. It was also one I could do fairly easily on the train and combine with a trip into Birmingham, with cheap tickets too if I booked in advance. An opportunity to go elsewhere came when I looked at the Non-League Paper and that was the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy Final between the 2 Essex sides Haringey Borough and Hullbridge Sports. 

I spent the morning lazing around and briefly considered going out for a jog first thing, that was until it started tipping it down. I was a bit worried that the match might no go ahead, but my Twitter correspondent Dan, who is the expert on all things about Essex non league football assured me that there would be no problems and that their pitch was 'like a carpet' As well as doing preparation work for this blog, I also watched some YouTube videos and TV before leaving at 3.30PM to pick up Anwar in Aylesbury. After leaving Aylesbury we stopped off at B&M Bargains to get stuff for the match, but we were soon on our way. It was a mixed journey with delays on the M25 and Southend Arterial road, around 30 minutes in all. But it was clear elsewhere and we got to the ground at 6.30. We walked into town which was about 20 minutes away. There wasn't a great deal of choice but I got myself a Saveloy and chips for £2.80 and walked back to the ground.

By the time we got back, it was around 7.20 so we went in and picked up a nice looking programme for £1.50. I read this, typed my blog and checked Facebook while I waited for the game to start. In the end, it didn't kick off till 8.05 due to Haringey Borough being caught in traffic. We chatted to a hopper I have seen about on Facebook called Jack about our favourite grounds.  The game started off quite open with chances for both side but we soon hit a lull. Hullbridge opened the scoring on 30 minutes when the ball was hit against the bar and the rebound was put in by number 11. On 40 minutes the Hullbridge keeper was forced into a great save to keep their lead intact, diving to his left to keep out a powerful shot. The second half was a bit less lively but Haringey were trying to get back into it. Hullbridge had a couple of chances too but neither keeper was seriously tested. In fact, on 80 minutes Hullbridge had the best chance so far. A great break from them found their striker one on one with the keeper but he could only shoot straight at him. And that was how it ended. I said goodbye to Jack and another groundhopper and we made our way home. After a slow start, thanks to winding roads and then an average speed check on the M25 we winged the last part of the journey and I dropped Anwar off at 11.35, before arriving home just before midnight. I watched TV for about an hour before going to sleep.


LESLIE FIELD is a pretty smart non-league ground with a fair bit of character. Pride of place goes to the main stand which has a really nice design and holds around 200. Opposite is some cover holding just under that, while the rest of the ground is open. I didn't go to the tea bar or clubhouse. The town is a 20-minute walk away, where there are a small number of places to eat and drink.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Bangor City - Nantporth Stadium

Bangor City FC
Nantporth Stadium
Holyhead Road
LL57 2HQ

Ground Number: 371
Saturday 10th May 2014
Bangor City 1-0 Newtown

Welsh Premier League - Europa League Playoffs Semi Final


Bangor City FC was formed in 1876. After playing in local Welsh and English Leagues for the first part of their history, the joined the English Northern Premier League in 1968. They were generally very successful in this and this led to them spending 4 seasons in what is now the Conference with their best ever finish coming in their debut season of 1979-80 when they finished in 9th place. Eventually though, they were relegated back to the NPL and that was where they stayed, up until they joined the League Of Wales (later to become the Welsh Premier League) Whilst in the English Leagues they had some good runs in the FA Cup, the best being in 1983-84 when they got to the second round before losing to Blackpool in the 2nd Round.  That season saw them reach the final of the FA Trophy where they lost in a replay to Northwich Victoria. In Wales, they have won the Welsh Premier League 3 times and the Welsh FA Cup 8 times (though 3 of those victories came whilst still in the English Leagues. Like most Welsh clubs, Europe has proved tough for them, but there have been some high points. In 1962 they drew over 2 legs to Italian giants Napoli but lost out in a replay played at Arsenal's Highbury stadium. In 1985 they beat Norwegian side Fredrikstad on the away goals rule before going on to lose 3-0 to Atletico Madrid over 2 legs. Since being in the Welsh Leagues their only victory came when they beat Finnish side Honka 3-2 over 2 legs in 2010 which was a sweet victory as they lost to them the season before. They went on to play Maritimo of Portugal, losing 10-3 on aggregate.


The end of the season was fast approaching and I was looking for games to go to. Pretty much all of step 1-6 in English Non-League Football had packed up, bar the odd cup final. So I started looking further afield. Last season my final game of the season was the Welsh Premier League promotion playoff between Port Talbot Town and Bala Town. Anwar my usual travelling companion and I had a great time, so as soon as these fixtures were announced in January and they were after the normal English season had ended, we made formative plans to go to them again. One big bonus was that I could stock up with my favourite Welsh Cider 'Gwynt y Ddraig' which is virtually impossible to get in the shops in England. You are even doing well if you can get it in the pub and I knew for a fact you could get it in Wetherspoons near their ground which would go down nicely with my lunch. Initially I had been planning on going to Carmarthen Town on this day, however, due to some unknown reason, they moved it over to Port Talbot, which obviously I had already done. It was only by pure chance that Anwar saw it, so although it was probably an extra 150 miles round trip to change the destination, at least it saved a wasted journey.

It was an early start for me on Saturday morning, waking up at 7, having a wash and getting dressed before leaving home at 7.30. I picked Anwar up at 8 and although getting out of Aylesbury and onto the. M40 was slow, we made good progress onto the M42 and M6 before getting on the M54 towards Telford. It started off well enough on the A5 but then slowed to a dawdle, as people drove well below the speed limit. It also had lots of bends, which made overtaking difficult. To compensate there was plenty of beautiful scenery. Even if all the Welsh places and signs looked like they had been decided by a drunk bloke picking out random Scrabble tiles. We got to the ground around 12 and walked the 25 minutes into town. First stop was The Black Bull, the Wetherspoons in town. I had Peri Peri Chicken and Chips, plus a pint of Strongbow for £7. I then had a pint of Black Dragon from my favourite Welsh cider maker before heading off to a bakery for pudding and walking back to the ground. We got there about 2 and after paying £8 to get in plus £2 for a bulky programme, I went and had a look at the club shop. There was nothing there I fancied but the bloke in there was really friendly. We learned that the Carmarthen game had been moved as their own ground was susceptible to flooding. I then walked around the ground and got some pictures before taking a seat in the stand for the game. Before it started I went and got some chips and a Bovril from the tea bar. Whilst I was down there I got talking to a Leeds fan who lived in Bangor and who had done the 92 English league grounds including Wycombe. We had a good chat before the game started.

The game started off at a fairly slow pace but with the home side on top. It continued that way until half time but with Newtown having a couple of good chances towards the end of the half. At half time I noticed my feet were damp and decided that I would stop off at Tescos on the way home. I needed some Welsh Cider anyway and my black shoes for work were showing their age so I thought I'd get myself a pair of black trainers or shoes. The teams came out for the second half just after 4pm and I was hoping for a better half than the first. It started off slowly again but on 59 minutes the referee played a good advantage. One striker back-heeled it, played it into the path of his partner who finished well. That was 1-0 to Bangor and they continued to pressurise with them hitting the woodwork and coming close on a few occasions. Newtown had the occasional breakaway but their cause was not helped when they had a player sent off for a second bookable offence on 85 minutes. So that was how it ended with Bangor having home advantage next Saturday against Rhyl. Their fellow north Wales side triumphed at Port Talbot, where Carmarthen had moved their home game to. The winner gains a place in next seasons Europa League qualifiers and is probably worth a 6 figure sum, which is a hell of a lot of money to clubs at this level.

After the game, we went to Tesco. I picked up some Welsh cider, though I was disappointed that there was only one box left and I had to dig to the back for that. I also picked up another wonderful Welsh creation from the hot counter. The lamb and mint slice was delicious and perked me up for a journey home. The first part of the journey was a right pain, 60 miles on a single carriageway with some inconsiderate people driving at less than half the limit. There was also practically no radio signal which made it even more boring. It took 1 hour 40 to do the 60 miles. From then on it was a lot better, completing the remaining 160 miles in under 2 and a half hours. I dropped Anwar in Aylesbury at 9.30 before encountering one last Captain Slow on my way home. I got back around 5 minutes later than expected at 10pm and after looking on the internet and watching TV, I went to bed just before midnight.


NANTPORTH STADIUM is the newest ground in the Welsh Premier League. To comply with regulations that allow them to host European games they have 1300 seats, the bulk of which are in the excellent main stand. It's elevated so it offers a great view of the action. On the other side, alongside the TV gantry are 2 smaller metal type stands, which are also covered. The rest of the ground is open with a few steps of terracing. Though they were raising funds to build a covered terrace behind one of the goals, which when completed will make the ground better than some in the English Conference. The tea bar was very good, with wallet-friendly prices and good choice. Though I didn't buy anything from the club shop, there was a decent range of items, with old programmes too. I didn't check out the clubhouse. The town is around a 20-minute walk away and offers a wide range of places to eat and drink.