Monday 28 December 2015

Hythe Town - Reachfields Stadium

Hythe Town FC
Reachfields Stadium
Fort Road
CT21 6JS

01303 238256

Ground Number: 546
Sunday 27th December 2015
Hythe Town 2-1 Folkestone Invicta
Isthmian D1 South


HYTHE TOWN FC was formed in 1910, being formed from the ashes of another side in the town, Hythe Wednesday. They were for a long time an amateur side playing in very local leagues, but in 1976 they joined the Kent League, as well as moving into their current home. A fair bit of investment by the then chairman Tony Walton saw the ground built up to Southern League standards and success followed on the pitch with them winning the Kent League title in 1989 and winning promotion to the Southern League. 3 respectable finishes were not enough to stop the club from folding in 1992, but a new club, Hythe United took over the tenancy at the ground. Though they remained as an amateur outfit for the first few years, they soon made the step up to the Kent League, changing their name back to Hythe United at the turn of the century. After years of consolidation and near misses they finally won the league in 2011, to earn promotion to step 4. Since their last adventure at this level, the geographical boundaries had changed, and so it was the Isthmian D1 South that they won promotion to. Their best season came in 2013 when they finished in 4th, but lost in the playoffs to fellow Kent side Faversham Town. Prior to this game, they were sitting in 14th place in the table.

They reached the FA Cup 1st Round in 2011. Starting in the Extra Preliminary Round the beat Bookham, Deal Town, Epsom & Ewell, Erith & Belvedere, Concord Rangers and Staines Town. This set up a game against the league side Hereford United who promptly beat them 5-1. Though there has not been much progress in the Fa Trophy, it’s little brother the FA Vase has seen them have a number of successful seasons. The highlight came in 1990 when they reached the semi-final. Despite winning the home leg 3-2 in front of their record crowd of 2,147, they lost in Middlesex 2-0 to go out on aggregate. A number of local cups have been won, most recently the Kent Senior Cup in 2012. The town of Hythe itself once had Michael Howard as their member of parliament and he would go on to lead the Conservative party, albeit without success in a general election.


Originally on this day, I'd been planning to stay at home with the family as we were having relatives around. That usually involves a fair bit of drinking and so with that in mind, I tried to get the next day off of work as I didn't want to be driving early after what would be a heavy evening. When my manager refused me it off, despite me doing the company favours on several occasions and being one of the few that does not go off sick whenever they fancy it, I thought of a plan. A football match in the afternoon would see me get home a lot later and see me fit for the 4am start. I'd still get to spend a bit of time with the family of course, and it would be nice to catch up. Choices were a bit limited but after careful consideration, I opted for Hythe Town v Folkestone Invicta as it was a decent local derby and a fitting game to visit what looked a very decent ground. I'd also get to see my Hythe and Gillingham supporting mate Louis, who I'd met briefly when I went to Ashford Town at the start of this year. Work wouldn't be a problem, usually, it's quiet at this time of year and in any case, I could get out at 12 at the latest. I'd actually been to Hythe's ground as a kid and even seen a game, even if it was a small sided game involving, amongst others, my cousin's team Capel Court FC as we were visiting them at the time. But as I didn't consider that a 'tick' I was going to do a revisit.

On the day of the game, it was my first day back at work after 3 days off for Christmas. Thankfully the period between Christmas and the new year is always quiet and today was no exception with me out of work by 11. I was soon on my way and though the weather was gloomy and wet, I was in a decent mood. The journey started well enough, that was until I joined the M25 which was its usual deplorable self. I'm guessing that, just as one day Quasimodo will win a beauty contest, or one day Penn and Tylers Green might win the Champions League, I might actually circumnavigate the M25 without delay. Nearly an hour it added to my journey, but once I'd left and got on the motorways through Kent, it was all flowing freely. I got to Hythe at 1.45, going straight in. After getting some pictures I went to the club shop and got a few old bits, including a Fulham handbook signed by Newcastle legend Malcolm McDonald. I had been hoping to get some programmes from Dover and Folkestone that I needed but they seemed to have every one but the one I needed. I met up with my mate Louis who supports Hythe, and also fellow hoppers Andy (from Sudbury) and Anders (from Drobak in Norway). After all the delays I had endured on the way there, I went up to the bar and got myself a pint of Thatchers Gold for £3.20 which helped me relax for the game. I then had a couple of portions of chips for £1.40 each before joining Louis behind the goal for the game.

The kick-off had been delayed for 5 minutes as it was a bumper attendance. Hythe started by far the strongest, which made a mockery of the league positions. However, it was Folkestone that opened the scoring against the run of play with a dubious penalty which was well converted by Ian Draycott. Hythe continued to be the better side but Folkestone were good at killing the game off, just as they were when I saw them in a dismal 0-0 draw when they drew at home to Leatherhead a few years back. I found out that there were 1527 fans in the ground which is about 8 times the usual attendance down at Reachfields. The hosts continued to have the better of the game but were continually delayed by a strong Folkestone defence. Hythe finally got their equaliser with 20 minutes to go - Frankie Sawyer with a mazy run through the box before finishing well, though the Folkestone keeper will have been gutted allowing the ball to go straight through him. Folkestone were reduced to 10 men on 78 minutes when Josh Vincent received his second yellow card. 6 minutes later Alfie May grabbed the winner with a close-range finish which was richly deserved. It had been a pulsating encounter in a great atmosphere, and I had met up with some good people too. The journey home was a lot better, with just a few minutes delay on the M25 and by 7 I was back home with the family, having a couple of drinks and catching up with everyone.


REACHFIELDS STADIUM is a great stadium to visit and it has plenty of character. The focal point is the main stand, which also houses the bar and dressing rooms. This is unique in having a number of balconies which are like executive boxes, only without the window at the front. Some are reserved for directors but the remaining ones are available for fans to use at the cost of £2 per person. Underneath is a normal stand with metal benches, with a covered capacity of around 400. One end and a side have covered terraces, which could probably fit 2400 in at a push. Views from all these areas are good, while the remaining end is uncovered flat standing, with plenty of space behind to expand, should the need arise. One side is actually flanked by a MOD shooting range, with plenty of notices confirming this fact.

The club shop is a cracker, with plenty of old programmes and a reasonable range of merchandise. The bar does it’s job with a fair range, though it would have been nice for them to have a few bottles of local  Biddenden Cider for people like me. The tea bar is very good, and the service is quick and efficient., with prices in line with other establishments at this level. I’d most certainly recommend a visit here, hopper or not. Everyone is very friendly and it’s a cracking ground. The town is not too far away, and if I’d have had more time, I’d have gone and checked out ‘The Three Mariners’ which has a range of local beers and ciders and is in the CAMRA guide. The programme is also a very good effort with lots to read in it. 

Friday 18 December 2015

East Preston - The Lashmar

East Preston FC
The Lashmar
Roundstone Recreation Ground
Lashmar Road
East Preston
West Sussex
BN16 1ES

01903 776206

Ground Number: 545
Friday 18th December 2015
East Preston 0-0 Worthing United
Southern Combination Premier


EAST PRESTON in its present form was established in 1966, though there was a previous club of the same name that disbanded around 10 years earlier. Playing in local leagues at first, they became a founder member of the Sussex County League in 1983. All but one season up until 1995 was spent in Division 3, but that year they won promotion to Division 2 after finishing runners up to Midhurst & Easebourne. 7th and 6th placed finishes in their first 2 seasons were great progress but this was trumped in 1998 when they were promoted to the Sussex League’s top tier. Since that elevation, they have spent all but 4 seasons at what is now step 5 with them being champions in 2013/14 but opting not to take promotion to the Isthmian League. At the start of the season, the league was renamed the Southern Combination Premier Division. So far they have struggled, with only pointless St Francis Rangers keeping them off the bottom of the table.

The best ever FA Cup run came during the 2004/05 season. Rye & Iden United were beaten after a replay in the Preliminary Round before impressive victories over Merstham & Uxbridge set up a 3rd Qualifying Round game against Billericay Town where their run ended with a 2-0 defeat. Their championship season of 2013/14 also saw their best ever FA Vase Run where they got all the way to the 5th Round before losing to Leicestershire side St Andrews. In terms of local competitions, there have been a number of cups won within the Sussex County League as well as the Sussex Intermediate Cup in 1995, the Brighton Charity Cup in 2010 and the Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Charity Cup in 2013. The village itself is near to Littlehampton and was once home to, in my mind, the best football presenter ever in Des Lynam.


In what could be my last groundhop before Christmas, I was faced with 3 choices. Fo a long while I’d had a revisit to Braintree pencilled in, as they were playing Wrexham live on BT Sport and were doing tickets for £10. But then the group of hoppers I talk to on WhatsApp announced that most of them were off to East Preston v Worthing United in the Sussex County League. It would be a few miles nearer and a new ground, so I decided to go for that instead. I’d been hoping that Anwar could come along with me, unlike many of my recent hops, but due to having a lot of expenses lately, he was unavailable, A lot of that expense was for the Wycombe Wanderers v Aston Villa tickets, which at £25 were over twice the cost of what I pay per game with my season ticket. I wasn’t that fussed to be honest, the club has to maximise their revenue opportunities where they can, though I’d preferred them to have done the season tickets mega cheap, even though my cost of £11.20 a game is acceptable. In fact, the main thing people were moaning about on the forums was that Aston Villa had been given the old Main Stand, and the amount of time it took to get through on the phone, I got the engaged tone until the 10th attempt, then sat on hold for 25 minutes, before bagging one of the better seats in the house.

The rest of the week was pretty quiet. I went to Wycombe v Notts County on Tuesday, and yet another underwhelming home performance saw us draw 2-2 with mid-table Notts County, despite the opposition having 10 men for an hour of the game. It was a hard week at work, so I treated myself to a few pints on Wednesday while watching Whitehawk’s unlucky FA Cup defeat to Dagenham. The day of the game at work was very quiet for a Friday and I was out by 12.30. I was disappointed that I couldn’t have the 28th off as I have family around the day before and was planning on a few drinks. I should have done what most of the other sods do at my work and taken it off sick but I’m far too honest for that. I spent the afternoon relaxing at home and was very surprised when Braintree Town v Wrexham was called off due to ‘player safety’ concerns. It hadn’t rained for 2 days and although they gave people fair warning to save wasted journeys, it’s pretty pathetic for a club at that level. Happily, there were no reported problems at East Preston, so my evening was not ruined, which it would have been had I opted for a revisit Essex way.

I was pretty bored for the last part of the afternoon and was glad when it came to just before 4PM and it was time to leave. The journey started off well enough although getting through Beaconsfield was slow. However, as soon as I hit the M25 the misery predictably started. It's always bad around the Heathrow area and tonight was no exception. In fact, it wasn’t until I got past junction 10 for Kingston that things got going, but from then on I made up time. Even so, I was still an hour behind where I wanted to be, as I suddenly remembered I needed to get some cash to get in, and also feed myself. I stopped in Angmering which was the nearest town to the ground. There was a Co-Op there, which had a cash machine but it was out of service. Luckily they did cash back and they had something decent to buy in a local cider. Co-Op always tend to stock local products and I hit the jackpot in Frome before with £30 worth of new cider. This occasion was on a smaller scale but I still managed to pick up 3 different bottles from local producer Wobblegate who were based down the road in Bolney. I also got myself a generous portion of chips before driving to the game. I eat my dinner outside the ground before going in the bar to meet Luke, Andy and Vinny who as fellow hoppers had come to the game. I had myself a pint of Strongbow while chatting to the lads with subjects ranging from Wonky Head (a well-known groundhopper) and Milfs. With 5 minutes to go, most of us made our way out to the game, though Luke opted to remain in the bar until 10 minutes from the end of the game, which turned out not to be the worst decision in the world. I was happy later to win £10 off a 50p scratchcard in the bar, with me enjoying some luck this season after pocketing £20 at Harrowby on another lottery.

I was still slightly peckish when I got in the ground, so I got myself a Sausage and Chips for an excellent value £2 from the tea bar. It came served in a proper plastic bowl as well as the tea coming in china mugs. The main thing of note from the home side was a brilliant set of youngsters who were the self-styled ‘East Preston Ultras’ They were in great voice all game, with a varied repertoire of songs and even a conga at one point. Absolutely fantastic support and a refreshing change from armchair fans. Sadly they did not have much to cheer about. Worthing United dominated the first half, hitting the woodwork on a number of occasions. The hosts improved in the second, having some bright spells at the start but soon the game settled back into the Worthing dominating and East Preston hanging on scenario. It had been a reasonable game but there had been little in terms of clear cut chances. East Preston will have been pleased with the clean sheet after conceding 25 in the last 5 games but will have been disappointed in their performance overall. I made good time getting home, walking through the door before 11 and having a cider while I typed my blog and watched Youtube videos.


THE KASHMIR is a pretty well-specced ground for step 5, There is an area of covered standing on one corner of the ground, probably holding around 200 and at one point, this was the only cover at the ground. Recently though a metal stand holding 150 has been added to the ground while further open standing gives the ground an overall capacity of 2000. The bar offers a fairly basic selection of drinks, whilst the tea bar offers a great range of items at good value prices. The village is a short walk away, with a range of places, though I didn’t have time to explore further.