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