Wednesday 30 July 2014

Ardley United - The Playing Fields

Ardley United FC
The Playing Fields
Oxford Road
OX27 7NZ

Ground Number: 389

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Ardley United 1-0 Oxford City


Ardley United was formed in 1950, and they played in local leagues, having real success in the early '90s. This allowed them to join the Hellenic League in 1993. After a series of good finishes, they were finally admitted to the Premier Division in 2004, and have remained there ever since. Last season saw their best-ever finish of runners up in the Premier Division, just 2 points behind Wantage Town, who won promotion up to the Southern League D1 South & West. Last season also saw a decent FA Cup run, with them beating Thame United & Hanworth Villa before losing to fellow Hellenic Leaguers Binfield in a replay. The best they have done in the FA Vase was in 2012 when they reached the 3rd Round before losing to Newport IOW. They have won many local cups in their time, most recently the Hellenic Floodlit Cup in 2013.


The games were coming thick and fast now. As well as tonight's game, I had a game at Chinnor tomorrow, plus the UCL/PDFL Groundhop on Friday and Saturday. With a game at Badshot Lea involving Spurs Legends on Sunday, it would bring my total number of games up to 8 in the space of the next 6 days, which would mean a lot of posts on here, as they were each at a new ground. Most of the viable grounds on this Tuesday were step 5, as I wanted to stay local, and with me having done a Spartan South Midlands one last midweek, I opted for a Hellenic one in Ardley United. They would play Oxford City of the Conference North, which should at least mean the chance of one or 2 familiar faces in their team. 
I was off as per usual for a Tuesday. I stayed at home relaxing apart from a quick trip down the shops to get some fruit and diet Irn Bru. In the end, I ended up drinking the whole 2 litres at home and just made up some squash to take to the game. I had a dinner of Chicken Arrabiata before leaving at 5.45, picking up Anwar in Aylesbury at 6.10. We were on our way soon enough, and it was a nice easy trip with us arriving at 6.50.

We paid a very reasonable £3 entry to a friendly gateman. He informed us that there were no programmes, but another nice guy who ran the small programme stall sorted us out with a couple of last seasons. He was really friendly, explaining that as they were a village club, tonight was a good attendance as they only got 15-20 for a league game. The first half was entertaining with chances for both sides. Ardley edged it and they had the best chance of the half on 10 minutes when their number 11 hit the post. The second half was less lively but still entertaining. Ardley won it with a penalty when there was a foul in the box. The taker dispatched it well, low and hard into the bottom right hand of the goal. Despite Oxford having the better of the second half, they couldn't equalise and it finished 1-0 to the home side in the night which was probably a fair reflection of the game. It had been another decent evening at a friendly club who deserve more support. I will certainly be looking for their results and potential games to go to when they are the away side, like with fellow Hellenic side Binfield, there are some really good clubs at this level. I dropped Anwar off at 10, arriving home myself at 10.20 and getting to sleep just after 11.30.


THE PLAYING FIELDS is a really nice modern venue set in nice surroundings. There is a standing cover behind the goal with a capacity of around 150, then the same along the side seating wise. The rest is open, apart from the far side which is fenced off. The bar was smart and had Thatchers Gold on tap cider wise and the tea bar was good too with a good range of food and drink. For programme collectors, they have a stall selling old issues from various non-league teams, plus they sell club badges too. Best of all, everyone at the club is really friendly and they deserve as many hoppers to get down there as possible, as the home support is small.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Amersham Town - Spratleys Meadow

Amersham Town FC
Spratleys Meadow
School Lane

Ground Number: 388
Sunday 27th July 2014
Amersham Town Veterans 0-3 Watford Legends
Dave Bewley Memorial Cup


The club was established in 1890 at the Crown Hotel, the initial founder was E.B Cooper, headmaster of the local Dr Challoners School. They played in the Wycombe & District League initially, winning the title on three occasions. They then spent time in the Spartan and Great Western Leagues before becoming founder members of the Hellenic League in 1953. They finished bottom of the Premier Division in 1961 before decamping to the London League for a season. When they returned to the Hellenic League the following year, they were placed in Division 1. Amersham Town were a lot more successful this time, winning Division 1 in 1963 and the Premier Division the following year.  In 1971, the club had another bottom-place finish in the Hellenic League and departed for the Spartan League the following season. This was a wretched time for the club, in three seasons they won just two games including the 1974/75 season when they lost all 30 games. Success was hard to come by in various incarnations of the Spartan League, in the 1970s when it merged with the London-Metropolitan League and in 1997 when it merged with the South Midlands League. Highlights include a runners-up spot in the Premier Division in 1980. Various reorganisations saw Amersham Town switch divisions, but it wasn't until 2002 that they were officially relegated, dropping down to Division 2. Despite a second-bottom finish, the club returned to Division 1 in 2004, thanks to expansion in leagues above and them having good facilities. The struggle continued and in 2015, they were once more relegated to Division 2. A sixth-place finish in 2018 saw them promoted back up to Division 1, where they remain to this day.

The FA Cup was not a happy hunting ground for Amersham Town back in the day. They lost 13-0 to Wycombe Wanderers on their debut and have failed to progress in each of their five successive campaigns. A good run to the FA Vase 3rd Round was enjoyed in 1977/78 - Frimley Green, Wantage Town & Kidlington were beaten before they lost out to Buckingham Town. Local cup wins include the Hellenic League Cup in 1954, the Berks & Bucks Junior Cup in 1923, the Wycombe Challenge Cup in 1924 and the St Mary's Cup in 1991. The town of Amersham has a population of just over 14,000 and is known for being the last stop on the Metropolitan Line of the London Underground. Famous people from the town include footballer Simon Church, football manager Eddie Howe and writer Tim Rice.


Amersham Town was one of the more local teams that I had not seen a game at. I had been to the ground to take pictures though, when I was in the area and on the way to meet Anwar for another game at Nuneaton v Luton in March last year. Anyway, when I rocked up at the ground to take some pictures, I was met by a really grumpy bloke who asked what I was doing. Eventually, he gave in and let me take pictures, but it meant I was in no rush to return for a game, especially when Anwar told of a similar experience when he went. I had already attempted the ground a couple of time previously for a game but was thwarted by the wet weather. But then I saw on Twitter that they had a game on a Sunday against Watford Legends, so with games scarce on that day, I decided to go for it.

Out of the Amersham Town line up, the only person I recognised was Roni Joe. I remembered him playing for Thame United and he, in fact, scored the only goal of the game on my only visit to their old Windmill Road ground. Watford was a lot more familiar name wise. Most recognised to me was Tommy Mooney. The talismanic striker joined Wycombe from Oxford in 2005 and went on to play 100 games, scoring 32 goals. He was a real fans favourite but left for Walsall due to him believing that Wycombe had not strengthened their team enough to make a bid for promotion. Another well-known name was Gary Phillips, the keeper who made his name at Barnet and is well known for being on the own goals and gaffs videos for a mix up with a defender. I met him when doing work experience at Aylesbury United and he seemed a decent bloke, and in fact did a good job with the Ducks, getting them doing as well as they had done in a while. Other well-known names included former Gillingham & Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler, former Carlisle player Rod Thomas who played against Wycombe in their first game in the football league. Last but not least, Northern Ireland international Gerry Armstrong who played in their heroic 1982 World Cup performance when they beat Spain on their own patch.

On the day I was working as our usual for a Sunday. Although I finished just before noon, I was still quite tired and so bought myself a 2-litre bottle of Diet Irn Bru to perk me up. I went home, and after having a bath and getting some lunch, I was ready to set off. I left around 2.15, arriving in a side street near Amersham's ground around 20 minutes later. I was pleased to see that there were plenty of programmes left upon my arrival and that they were included in the entry price of £5. After taking some pictures of inside the bar and a couple of other bits that I missed last time, I took a seat in the stand, read my programme and made a start on my blog. Soon enough though, kick-off was upon us, and before the game started, they had a minutes silence for Dave Bewley, who also had the cup that they were playing for named in his honour. The minute's silence was observed by most, apart from a couple of little kids who made noise.

The game kicked off 15 minutes late in the end, due to the late arrival of some players. The early stages of the game saw Watford asking all the questions, but the Amersham defence was good and strong, even out muscling a tank-like Tommy Mooney. Amersham did see a decent amount of the ball, but generally third forward players were unable to hold it up top and the ball went straight back down the other end. The weather had cooled off by now, and this was good for the fans but also good for the players as it allowed the pace of the game to be fairly reasonable. As a few of them looked the only sessions they did were at the pub as opposed to the gym, I wondered whether this would continue.  It was Amersham who had the first real chance on 32 minutes when they forced a smart save out of keeper Gary Phillips. A few minutes later, however, Watford were in the lead, a defender deflecting Tommy Mooney's shot into his own net. That was how it remained at the break and after a 10 minute half time break, it was Amersham who looked slightly stronger at the start of the second half. Despite this Watford extended their lead on 64 minutes with a well-worked goal. There had been a lot of changes at half time, and this slowed the game down considerably and the game got quite dull. Even so, Tommy Mooney got Watford's third with a decent strike from range. From then on, it was pretty much all Watford with Amersham having the occasional chance on the break. That was how it ended, and although the quality of the game had varied in patches, it was still well worth a fiver entry, and I had a good day.


SPRATLEYS MEADOW is a good ground for step 6 and would be fine for the next level up.  The only stand in the ground seats around 50, and probably twice that amount standing behind. View from this is very good, thanks to one side of the ground being on a bank. The rest of the ground is uncovered, but is in pleasant surroundings, and was nice to visit on a summers day.

The bar and tea bar did the usual range of drinks and food, all at reasonable prices. The programme was a bit of a generic cover design, and quite thin, but you can't complain for free, and the print quality and layout was good. Despite my initial experience, the club was really friendly on match day, and I'd say they were well worth a visit for a game.

Saturday 26 July 2014

AFC Kempston Rovers - Hillgrounds Leisure

AFC Kempston Rovers
Hillgrounds Leisure
Hillgrounds Road
MK42 8SZ

01234 852346

Ground Number: 387
Saturday 26th July 2014
AFC Kempston Rovers 0-1 Aylesbury United


AFC Kempston Rovers founded in 1884, under the name of Kempston Rovers. They joined the United Counties League in 1953 and have remained there ever since. They were Champions of the Premier Division back in 1973-74, losing just once in the league all season.  In their best-ever run in the FA Cup, they got all the way to the 4th Qualifying Round in 1978 before losing to Wealdstone. The FA Vase 5th Round was reached in 1974-75. Last season they finished 12th and picked up an unwanted record for the lowest attendance in the league that season when 31 fans watched them in August against Stewart & Lloyds Corby, who went on to finish bottom.

In September and October 1996 I did work experience at Aylesbury United's Soccer In The Community office. Working with Pete and Bob I set up their computer for them, went out doing training at local schools and re-organised the club shop amongst other things. I had a great time, meeting players such as Gary Phillips (Aylesbury manager at the time), Paul Buckle and Stafford Rangers manager Brendan Phillips. Also whilst I was there Alan Smith got the sack from Wycombe, something I had been hoping for, for a long time. One of the perks in addition to all the freebies I got was free tickets for me, my Dad and my brother to their game with Yeovil in November 1996. They were really great people, and so I felt sorry for them when they lost their ground in 2006. That meant a groundshare - firstly at Chesham, and since 2009 at Leighton Town. This saw a rapid downturn in form, and the club that spent a season in the Conference at the end of the 1980s dropped as low as the Spartan South Midlands League at step 5 of the non-league pyramid. It took them 3 seasons to get back up to step 4, finally going up as runners up in 2013, along with champions Dunstable Town. Rumours continue to persist of a new ground in Aylesbury, and the club certainly has potential to support a big team - they pulled in over 1000 fans a game during the good times in the late '80s. The original Buckingham Road ground lays derelict and almost beyond repair which is such a waste.


I hadn't decided where to go on this day, right up until a couple of days before. Anwar said he didn't want to go far and said he would probably go to either Wycombe Wanderers v Reading or Harrow Borough v Arsenal U21. I was all set on the former, but it really didn't excite me, as I would just be going as there was nothing better, and it was my team. So I went on the Kempster Non-League Forum, and text Anwar with a list of the possible games we could do on there. He fancied AFC Kempston v Aylesbury United out of all of those, and so we decided to do that. I'd been out for a fair few pints the night before, so I was feeling quite groggy when I woke at 7am, I watched TV for a couple of hours before having a bath. After a look on the Internet, I decided to go to Aylesbury early, leaving at 11.30. I got a Piri Piri Burger meal at a local takeaway, and also some batteries from a shop. I met Anwar at 12.40 and we arrived at Kempston an hour later.

Before paying to get in, I went to the bar and had a pint of Somersby Cider, while checking out what was going on with Facebook. I took my seat 10 minutes before kick-off. It was a dull first half, with the home side on top, but going in scoreless. The second half commenced, and this time out Aylesbury were the side in control. They got their reward on 73 minutes when they opened the scoring with a header. Kempston had opportunities on the break, but fairly simple chances were missed. In the end, it remained 1-0 to the visitors.


HILLGROUNDS LEISURE is one of the better grounds at step 5, with the only stand covering almost the whole length of the pitch. This has a mixture of seating and standing, probably holding around 800 in total. The bar is decent enough, with flat-screen TV's and your usual range of drinks. I had already visited this ground last November on the way to Kings Lynn, and since my visit, they changed the benches to proper seats.