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.

Friday 9 May 2014

Langford - Forde Park

Langford FC
Forde Park
Langford Road
SG16 6AG

Ground Number: 370
Friday 9th May 2014
Ampthill Town 0-1 Barton Rovers
North Beds Charity Cup Final


The game would be held at Langford FC who had been relegated from the Spartan South Midlands League Division 1, providing that Hale Leys United who won the 2nd Division, satisfy the ground grading criteria. They had gone down on goal difference, with Arlesey Town Reserves being 20 goals better than them. It was a bit of a drop for a club who a few seasons ago had been in the league above and who as recently as 2008 had finished 6th in that league. The town itself had a fairly famous resident at one point - TE Lawrence's (Lawrence of Arabia) brother once lived there, and it's open to debate whether or not he popped down to Forde Park for a game every other Saturday

Ampthill Town was a club I had seen already this season when they beat Hanwell Town 3-1 in the FA Vase 5th Round. This tie was postponed multiple times and eventually played when I had a free Saturday. The progression represented a record progression in the competition for them as they reached the Quarter Final this season before losing to Eastbourne United. The best they could manage in the FA Cup was the 1st Qualifying Round was in 1983, 1985 and 1986  when they lost to Thame United, Oxford City & Halesowen Town. It was also a best ever league finish for them this season as they finished runners up behind Hanwell Town in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division. The club was founded in 1881, joining the United Counties League in 1965, before switching to the South Midlands League in 1991.

Barton Rovers were a team who I had seen for the first and only time in August 2008. It was their game that ended my 7-year unbroken run watching Wycombe Wanderers home and away. I missed an away game at Chesterfield to see them beat Burnham Ramblers 2-1 in the FA Cup. Wycombe won 1-0 that day but the football was so bad under Peter Taylor that I couldn't be bothered trekking up and down the country to watch it. In 2008 they signed some well known former Luton Town players including Tony Thorpe, Scott Oakes and Liam George. Founded in 1898, they joined the Isthmian League in 1979 after spending years playing in the South Midlands League. They switched to the Southern League in 2004 and that season had their best ever league finish, finishing 8th in the Southern League Eastern Division. They had some good runs in the FA Vase in the 1970's, reaching the final at Wembley in 1978 before losing to Newcastle Blue Star. A few years later they got all the way to the FA Cup 1st Round before losing 2-0 to Football League opponents Torquay United. They also had a good run in the FA Trophy reaching the 3rd Round in 2001 before a heavy 6-1 defeat to Forest Green Rovers. This season had been the best for many years as they missed out on the playoffs by a single place after 3 mid-table finishes in the past 3 seasons.

As I have stated before on here, I really do like a Friday night game of football, especially when it is local (ish) I had seen 2 Cup Finals already this week, one excellent, the other not so good and was happy enough to see another, even if I would be doing it without Anwar who decided to save money for tomorrow's mammoth trip to Wales. A nice little bonus was a good pub that I had been to before - the Engineers Arms - which did up to 7 real ciders. I could go early and have a pint or 2 with some food before the game. I had a hard day at work the day of the game, and it will only get busier so I heard with our store taking on more home shopping orders. I finished at 1 and went home, having a bath and doing the preparation work for tonight's blog after I had some lunch. I had some bad news when Anwar phoned to say that Carmarthen Town's game had been moved to Port Talbot's ground which I had already been to. So plans were hanging in the air with my favoured plan being Bangor City if my fellow groundhopper was up for it. I left home just before 5 in a bit of annoyed mood as I had already spent a couple of hours typing up and researching both teams for the intended game. The drive there wasn't bad for a Saturday night with around 15 minutes delay and I got to Langford's ground at around 6.20. So then for the main reason I came here, the mile walk to the Engineers Arms pub. There I had a Garlic Chicken pizza, a pint of a new cider - Hogan's Panking Pole and a pint of one I had before - Cornish Orchards pear cider. On the way I heard of my mate John who was walking 40 miles from Barrow to Keswick. I was pleased for him and wished him luck - I found just over 20 from Wycombe to Oxford tough going and there was no way I'd be able to do double that. I got to the ground at 7.15 and paid £6 to get in, plus £1 for a programme. I walked around the ground and got some pictures before finding a place near the halfway line to watch the game from.

The game started off at a pretty slow pace, the first real chance coming when Barton hit the bar on 25 minutes. Ampthill broke straight up the other end and had a chance of their own but the game still didn't wake from its slumber. Ampthill came close again on 37 minutes when the ball hit the bar and came down rolling across the line. It was a great shot from outside the area and deserved to go in. But it remained goalless at half time. At the break, I went and put my bag back in the car and fetched myself a Bovril from the tea bar. The game continued in its same dull fashion and the first incident of note was when the referee's son fell off the wall and cut his head. An ambulance was called as a precaution, but I know from experience having cut my head open twice when I was younger that it hardly takes anything as the skin is really soft - or maybe that's just me with a soft head! Certainly, I was questioning my wisdom at travelling 100 miles round trip to see such a poor game. In the end, there was a deciding goal 10 minutes from time. Barton Rovers' number 10 ran onto a loose ball and put it into the net for a winner. It was a scrappy goal to win a scrappy game and I didn't even hang around to see the cup being presented. I left at 9.40 and after filling up with petrol was home by 11. I had a quick look online and watched TV before going to bed just after midnight.


FORDE PARK is a pretty basic ground with just 2 small stands on one side, one seating and one standing. They probably hold around 300 between them. The tea bar was fairly good and reasonably priced. I didn't try the clubhouse, but there is an excellent pub nearby called the Engineers Arms which also does pizzas for a fiver. This is probably the best option as the chippy was rubbish last time I went and there isn't a huge range of hot food in the ground.