Saturday, 24 May 2014

Waltham Forest - Wadham Lodge

Waltham Forest FC / Wadham Lodge FC
Wadham Lodge Sports Ground
Kitchener Road
E17 4JP

Waltham Forest Official Website
Wadham Lodge Official Website
Waltham Forest Twitter
Wadham Lodge Twitter

Ground Number: 324
Saturday 24th May 2014

Wadham Lodge 3-0 Newbury Forest
Essex Olympian League


I couldn't find much information about Wadham Lodge FC but I do know that they were in 9th place in the league, with their opponents just above them in 7th. The ground that they play at is mainly used for Waltham Forest FC who up until being relegated at the end of last season, played in the Isthmian League Division 1 North. The area of Waltham Forest itself is responsible for inflicting the music world with such bands as Blue and Blazin Squad and was also one of the host venues for the 2012 London Olympics. Though the area might have not done much for music, although to be fair, Damon Albarn of Blur fame was born there to balance things out a bit, it did at least supply David Beckham and Graham Gooch to the sporting world, as well as film director Alfred Hitchcock.

Newbury Forest FC was founded in 2003 as a Sunday League team and in the words of themselves 'lost almost every game'. But things improved, the club was expanded with other teams and they eventually made the switch to Saturday football in 2008 joining the Romford and District League, They won that at the first attempt and gained promotion to the Essex and Suffolk Border League and were placed in its second tier. They won that at the first attempt too. After doing well in the Premier Division they transferred to the Essex Olympian League and are currently hoping to gain promotion to the Essex Senior League in the future, though this is dependent on them finding a home of their own or a suitable venue to share at.


For what was to be my 132nd and final game of the season, I was not going to have much choice of where to go. I wanted somewhere with a stand that I could photograph, and my first thought was Whitwell in the Hertfordshire Senior League who I was informed had a stand. I had enjoyed watching Belstone in the same league last week and so it seemed like a good idea. But then I saw that Wadham Lodge were at home in the Essex Olympian League. I checked with the club that they were playing in the stadium that Waltham Forest plays in. They were very helpful via Twitter and so I decided to give that league a go, possibly doing something beforehand and making a bit of a day of it. I'd decided to go early on the day if the weather played ball and though the forecast for the weather was torrential rain all day, it was overcast and fairly dry when I woke. I initially intended to go to Bovingdon Market before the game as I had not been there for a while but had intended to leave about 11.30. After seeing there was quite a lot to do in nearby Walthamstow, I decided to leave an hour earlier and try and spend some time there pre-match. 
I got to Bovingdon just after 11 and it had completely changed from when I last went. There were some of the stalls that had been there for years, but happily, for me, it seems to have been taken over by fake clothes stalls. I got myself 2 branded genuine fake T-Shirts and a hoody for a tenner and it reminded me of years ago in Turkey when I used to bring back a load of stuff from my holiday. The T-Shirts were a bit thin, but the hoody was lovely quality - thick and soft inside and I was dead pleased with it. I wasn't overly hungry but I saw a stall selling Carribean food and fancied trying myself a jerk chicken dumpling. I was glad I did as it was absolutely delicious and something that I want more of. I also got myself some cherries for £1.

I got back to my car at 11.40 and put 'Waltham Forest' into my SatNav, expecting to get to the ground they share with Wadham Lodge. The POI file that I had downloaded off the non-league forum had served me well, guiding me well most of the time and a lot more accurate than just a postcode or road name as it directed me spot on to the car park. At least most of the time I did. There were some times where the file was out of date or it got its knickers in a twist and I ended up in the middle of some housing estate. But my main concern when putting the ground in was that for some reason there was 40 minutes delay on the M25, so I had to add on extra miles and go cross country. I thought it was a bit odd that I saw no signs for Walthamstow when I came off the big A road, but I persisted through the built up traffic. I was most dismayed when I pulled up outside the home of Ilford FC which isn't the most inspiring venue at the best of times, let alone when you are aiming for somewhere else altogether. I got there at 1.10 and had to reprogram my Sat Nav with the street address for the ground. So I had to make the 7.2-mile journey back over to Walthamstow, arriving there at 1.40. My original plan was to walk into town and go to the Rose and Crown pub which was supposed to be half decent. But with less than an hour to kick off and it being 20 minutes walk each way, I had no realistic chance of going, having a pint and making it back, especially when I wanted food too. Luckily there was a row of shops and also a pub a few minutes walk from the ground. I went to a pub called the Dog and Duck and the choice wasn't great so I just got a pint of Strongbow while I checked Facebook on my phone. I then went to the fried Chicken Place next door and had a mediocre but filling chicken fillet and chips for the wallet-friendly price of £1.80. As I had drunk all my Irn Bru while sitting in traffic, I stopped at a shop on the way back to the ground to get a few cans for the match. It was an East European shop and so I got a few Latvian ciders to take back to the car and to have with the Champions League Final later. I got back to the ground bang on kick off as the players were in the tunnel, but needed to nip out to go to the toilet before I took my seat for the game. I got back in and the game was already underway, but I didn't miss any action. As they were playing, I walked around and got some pictures of the ground.

The game wasn't up to much and the most interesting thing of note was the weather which was clear and sunny one minute, then torrential rain, thunder and lightning the next. It was your typical end of season game with chances at a premium. The opening goal came on 35 minutes when a good cross was put into the box and Newbury Forest's big number 5 deflected it into the net. It was pretty equal in terms of play, but Wadham's number 7 who reminded me of Danny Welbeck had been causing the visitors a few problems. It was a bit more lively second half, with the home side, playing in white, looking the better side. Newbury had their chances though and they had the ball in the net on 58 minutes but it was ruled out for offside. They had also previously hit the post. The lead was doubled for the home side moments later as the experienced number 14 powerfully shot in from inside the area. The game was sewn up later on when the number 2 taped in from inside the area to make it 3-0. It hadn't been awful, neither had it been a cracker. I think on balance that the Hertfordshire League game that I saw last week was a better quality league than the Essex Olympian League, but it's hardly a scientific or fair experiment with just the single game in each. After the game, I went home, getting home at 5.30. I had a nice curry for dinner, doing the usual in the evening as well as watching the Champions League Final. It also marked the end of my season which started in Kent on the 29th June last year. Over £2500 and 14000 miles later, I had seen 420 goals as well as meeting some amazing people and seeing some nice places. It had cost a fair wedge, about 20% of my income, but all in all it had been worth it. Roll on next season, which hopefully will start on 28th June.


WADHAM LODGE was a good ground for Ryman League level and surely will be one of the best in the Essex Senior League and indeed the Essex Olympian League next season. With both goals having decent sized covered terracing and the main stand holding around 300 it is just the far side that is open. None of the facilities were open today as it is mainly Waltham Forest's ground. But there is plenty around the ground in terms of pubs, shops and takeaways. It may well be nothing special, but at least it does the job.   

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.