Monday 21 July 2014

Raynes Park Vale - Grand Drive

Raynes Park Vale FC
Grand Drive
Raynes Park
Greater London
SW20 9DZ

0208 540 8843
Official Website

Ground Number: 384
Saturday 19th July 2014
Raynes Park Vale 7-0 Aldershot Town XI


Raynes Park Vale FC was founded in 1995, following the amalgamation of Raynes Park FC and Malden Vale FC. They have been in the top division of the league, ever since it expanded in 2003. They had best-ever finish of 4th in 1998 and have generally been in the top half of the table for their entire history. They have reached the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round on 3 occasions, most recently in 2004 when they crashed out 6-0 to Folkestone Invicta. In the FA Vase, there has been a trio of appearances in the first round, last time out losing to Peacehaven & Telscombe in 2011. They are yet to win a trophy but can boast Jermaine McGlashan amongst their ex-players, who went on to play for Aldershot and Cheltenham. They are currently managed by former AFC Wimbledon player Gavin Bolger. I had seen them once before, back in February 2004, back in my phase of watching AFC Wimbledon. They got off lightly compared to others, 'only' losing 5-0 to the Wombles who destroyed all before them


As part of my football double on this particular Saturday, I needed to select a match at 3PM. I had a fair few options. But I had to be careful at clubs switching venues for the lower key pre-season friendlies. By far the easiest option would be Whyteleafe, a few miles down the road from my first game at Farleigh Rovers. But they had just had a new 3G pitch installed, and I wanted to save it for a rainy day. Besides, it was a venue I had wanted to visit for a while, and I felt that a league game would do it more justice than a friendly. The one I picked in the end, was Raynes Park Vale, who came into my footballing knowledge around 10 years ago, when they lined up against AFC Wimbledon on the Combined Counties Premier Division. Luckily for me, the previous match at Farleigh Rovers was prompt at finishing and so I was on my way just after 1.50. The journey showed lots of delays, and that was before I got further delays at Carshalton High Street. A bakers had caught fire and the police had closed the road. It was the only sensible option really, I have since read that it took 6 fire engines and 35 crew from 4 different stations to put the blaze out, and there was disruption for 3 hours. It was a poor journey in general, but eventually, I got there at 2.50. 
As they were not charging for entry, I decided to put something in the club kitty and bought a pint of Strongbow for £3. I then returned to inside the ground and sat down and drank my pint on one of the patio tables.


The first half of the game was largely even and without a huge amount of chances. The biggest point of note came when the Aldershot number 4 'Aaron' got stroppy after he claimed to have been hit in the face. He tried to start a fight with the perpetrator and had to be pulled away and substituted. At half time, I went and put my bag back in my car, and took my seat back in the stand for the second half. Aldershot made a lot of changes for the second half, bringing a flurry of youngsters on and being hammered 7-0 by the Combined Counties League side. After the game, it was a good drive of home, the only leg of the journey that was not severely disrupted by other traffic. I was home by 5.45 and had a dinner of various Chinese stuff. It was my last lie in before I returned to work on the Monday. I wasn't really in the drinking mood though and I only had a few before watching TV in bed and chatting on Facebook.


The club is a fairly new one and was established in 2012 as AFC Hillgate. They played in the Middlesex County League, starting in Division 2. In 2014, a third-place finish was good enough for promotion to Division 1 Central and East. After a 6th place finish in their debut season, they moved to the Spartan South Midlands Division 2. They finished 5th in their first season, this was good enough for promotion to Division 1. The summer of 2016 saw them change their name to Kensington Borough. They finished a respectable 12th in their first season but made the switch to the Combined Counties D1 in the summer of 2017. They've been there ever since, finishing 15th in both seasons, but have done a lot better this season and sit 3rd in the table. Last season, the club enjoyed their best ever FA Vase Run, beating Sandhurst Town, Northampton Sileby Rangers and Horsham YMCA before going out to Erith Town in the 2nd Round. The club has led a nomadic existence, playing at the Linford Christie Stadium, Avenue Park in Greenford, Amersham Town, Bedfont and up until a few days ago, Leatherhead. Today was their first game at their new home in Raynes Park.


I'd have loved a trip to Rotherham United v Wycombe Wanderers, but after a pricey trip to Blackpool in midweek, I was looking to save money this weekend. London was the obvious shout and one fixture stood out above all - Peckham Town v AFC Croydon Athletic Development. The only problem was, the rain spoiling things. Peckham's pitch was dodgy at the best of times, so I had a range of backups lined up. It was a venue that had frustrated me many times, firstly on 1st December 2018 when Peckham Town v Bexley was lost to a waterlogged pitch. Another attempt on the 9th February was also thwarted to a waterlogged pitch and so I planned in a visit on 25th May. But Chagos Islands v Cascadia was switched to Whyteleafe and with me at a beer festival that day, I missed out. The night before I'd enjoyed a fair few drinks as per usual and bemoaned the lack of Friday night football. I gathered together all the information I needed and was asleep before 10. I had a good nights sleep and woke around 7am. After watching TV for a bit and had breakfast and a shower before leaving at 9 am. I was parked up by 9.25 and so walked to the station after buying a paper. The Chiltern line train I planned to take was running late so I got the underground train. There was bad news as soon as we set off with Peckham being called off and I wasn't sure where I was going to head to. I arrived at Bermondsey station just before 11 and walked to the Hawkes Cider tap. A couple of ciders were enjoyed at considerable expense - a fiver for a can of American stuff and a tenner for a bottle of a Spanish one but I didn't really mind. Initially, I was considering a couple of options - a revisit to Kingstonian v Corinthian-Casuals or a new ground in Punjab United v K Sports. Whilst doing further research though, options in Brentham v Stonewall or Kensington & Ealing Borough v Epsom & Ewell popped up. In the end, I took a leisurely walk to Borough Market, having a browse around the stalls and getting some photos but not buying anything. With Punjab United failing to reply to my tweet, I wasn't going to risk spending £15 on a train and bus. I took the train to Waterloo to catch a train to either Kingstonian or Kensington & Ealing Borough. In the end, the latter won out and after a train to Raynes Park, I was at the ground by 2.40. I wnt to the bar and was happy to see that they did a cider from a local microbrewery, namely Acidic Freak by By The Horns. I then went into the ground, paying £5 to get in, though I could have watched from outside for free.

The hosts started very brightly and were awarded a penalty on six minutes for a foul on the edge of the area. However the penalty was well saved and Kensington's luck didn't get any better a couple of minutes later when they had the ball in the net, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. On ten minutes, they hit the post, only for the rebound to be blasted over. Epsom & Ewell started to get back into the game after this and they took the lead on 31 minutes. A great corner from Adam Heagney was put in from the left and Scott Murphy headed in at the near post. Four minutes later, the scores were level when Jamarl Joseph finished with a low shot from the edge of the area. Six minutes into the second half, the hosts had a free-kick which hit the foot of the post. Just after the hour mark, they took the lead, an initial shot being save but Omar El Bakkali followed up on the half volley. The game was wrapped up on 77 minutes, Walid Hirsi confirming the points for Kensington & Ealing Borough with a neat chip over the keeper. It was a decent game, but I needed to head back into London. I walked to Poundland in New Malden as I needed a cable to charge my phone. With that bought, I headed to the station and after a change, arrived in Parsons Green. I walked to a shop called Pilango Cider and picked up four bottles of various stuff. From there I walked to Taco Bell for dinner which filled me up nicely. I would have headed back into central London to get some photos of various spots but it was around 8 by now and I wanted to have a bit of a relax before Match Of The Day. I got back on the train at Fulham Broadway and after changes at Green Park and Finchley Road, I got the train to Amersham, only having to wait 8 minutes for my last collection. It was good to be able to use my Chromebook to type up my blog. I was back at Amersham at 9.30 and back home by 9.50. I finished off my blog and sorted out my photos whilst watching Match Of The Day. I was glad of an extra hour in bed that night, as Sundays are usually horrible.


GRAND DRIVE is a delightfully ramshackle ground that looks like it hasn't seen a lick of paint in years, and is a nice antidote to the grounds filled with Arena stands in this league. The main stand holds around 200 and consists of wooden benches. Despite the supporting pillars, the view is not bad from here. There is a further area of cover behind each goal, but the rest of the ground is open terracing. The clubhouse is pretty modern though and offers drinks at reasonable prices. I didn't try the tea bar, but other places are certainly walkable, I know this for a fact as I walked to the ground from the station when I visited for a few pictures in near darkness before Wycombe's game at Chelsea in 2007.

Update for my 2019 visit, the club has gone into partnership with a local brewery called 'By The Horns. This offers a real ale and a cider, making the bar well worth a visit. There's only Hot Dogs food wise aside from snacks. The main area of Raynes Park is a 10-minute walk away, including a train station and a Wetherspoons pub.


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