Sunday 31 May 2015

FC United Of Manchester - Broadhurst Park

FC United of Manchester
Broadhurst Park
310 Lightbowne Road
M40 0FJ

0161 769 2005
Official Website

Ground Number: 495
Friday 29th May 2015
FC United Of Manchester 0-1 Benfica


FC United of Manchester was founded in 2005. They were formed as an antidote to the expensive Premier League greed, in particular, the actions of the Glazer family who took over their own club Manchester United, saddling it with debt and alienating a large part of the fan base in the process. This was particularly pertinent in a week where FIFA had disgraced themselves yet again, with the Kim-Jong-Un of football, Sepp Blatter, clinging onto his job despite a sea of corruption allegations. As well as helping out the local community a big thing they do is set the tickets at sensible prices - for the coming season they will be charging £9 at Conference North level.

After their formation, FCUM enjoyed 3 successive promotions. Starting in the North West Counties League Division 2 they were Champions at the first time of asking, beating Castleton Gabriels 10-2 along the way. They won the North West Counties Division 1 as well and found themselves in the NPL D1 North for the 2007-08 season. Again promotion was won at the first attempt with them finishing runners up to Bradford Park Avenue before beating Skelmersdale United 4-1 in the playoff. For the following 7 seasons they remained in the NPL Premier, that was until this season when they won the League after a succession of playoff failures.

In the FA Cup, they enjoyed their best ever run in the 2010/11 season. Starting in the 1st Qualifying Round they beat Radcliffe Borough, Gainsborough Trinity and Norton & Stockton Ancients before meeting Conference side Barrow 1-0 in the 4th Qualifying Round. This saw them into the 1st Round for the first time where they met local rivals Rochdale in a game that was live on ESPN. They won 3-2 in a pulsating encounter. This set up a game against Brighton & Hove Albion who they took to a replay before losing 4-0 in a replay. Their only ever FA Vase campaign saw a 3rd Round defeat to Quorn, while in the FA Trophy this season saw them reach the Quarter Final before a 1-0 defeat to Torquay United.


For my final game and groundhop of the season, I wanted to go to FC United's official opening of their new ground, Broadhurst Park.My chances looked slim - tickets had all but sold out to members and the precious few were going on sale at 10am in Manchester when I'd be on my way to Wembley. But luckily my Macclesfield supporting mate George was on hand to get me one, which was very nice, as despite having me on Facebook for ages, we have not really spoken much. It was for that reason that I was a bit unsure about travelling all that way, especially when he didn't have a phone, making it almost impossible to meet. Luckily that was remedied the day before, and we were in regular contact for the 24 hours. On the day of the game, it was a reasonable day at work with me finishing at midday. I got changed and got my things together before getting a McDonalds for lunch and leaving at 12.30. The usually reliable M40 was very slow and stop-start pretty much all the way up, and this set the tone for the day. There were delays on the M42, the M6 was horrendous, so much that I had to go off at Stoke and through places such as Congleton and Kidsgrove to cut some of it out. Then the M60 was knackered, meaning I had to take the M56 instead. In the end, there was around 2 hours delay on our miserable, pathetic, overtaxed roads and I didn't get to Broadhurst Park until 5.45 which meant I was unable to go into Manchester for a couple of pints, which dampened the day a bit.

Luckily I had been in contact with George, and we had rearranged out meeting point to be at the ground. Parking was plentiful on the street and I parked a few minutes away from the ground. I then went off to meet George and I was relieved to finally get my hands on the golden ticket. It was good that he was also a top lad and after a brief search for a pub we decided to go into the ground and have a drink in there. The main bar was full but there was a bottle bar under the terrace, which had previously seen service at Northwich Victoria FC. We each had a Bulmers cider while we shared our thoughts about the game. After that we made our way back outside and looked at the merchandise stalls. I got the night's programme as well as a pen and also a few interesting programmes from games past. There were a large number of flags and banners dotted around the ground which I captured on my camera as comprehensively as I could. The rest of the time till kick off was spent eating from the excellent food stalls at the ground. First up was some very nice Peri Peri Chicken in a fresh roll which cost me £4. Still hungry, I then had a fantastic hot dog with jalapenos, sour cream and pulled pork chilli which was absolutely sensational and worth every penny of the fiver that I paid. For the game, we decided to stand at the top of the terrace behind the round where the FCUM faithful were creating a great atmosphere. As for the game, for so long it looked as if it was going to be a goalless draw. Not that it was dull, but despite some great skills there wasn't a lot of end product from either side. The home side probably shaded it, with Tom Greaves looking especially impressive before he limped off with an injury. It was with around 10 minutes to go that Diogo Goncalves jinked into the box before beating FCUM keeper Nick Culkin at his near post. This sparked jubilant scenes amongst the Benfica contingent, with more pyro lighting up a carnival atmosphere.

After the game, we hung around a bit to see what was going on. The players came to thank the fans but the biggest cheer of the game came when it was announced the bar would be open until midnight! We eventually got our way at 9.50 and it was very easy and quick to get away from the round. After a brief stop at Tesco, so we could get a drink and some snacks each, I dropped George off at Macclesfield Town's ground at 10.40. Handshakes and promises of more meets were exchanged before I set myself up for home with the sat nav programmed and my phone set up so I could listen to the Two Mikes podcast on the way home, which always provides good entertainment. Of course, there were delays on the way home, with the M6 being closed for 2 junctions, and various other inconsiderate roadworks. Eventually, though I got home at 1.40 and had myself a cider while checking out the numerous comments and messages from Facebook friends who had taken a keen interest in the game. I didn't get to sleep until nearly 4, which means I had stayed up for 24 hours without getting tired much. I went to sleep in a good mood, having had a great end to my football season. Talking of that season, it had been a real blockbuster. 169 games in all, which smashed my previous record of 132. Yes, it had been expensive, costing me over £3500 in total, but then again, you can't take it with you. I had also driven over 18000 miles, thankfully most in my old car which got traded in near the end of the season. My head says that I am a madman spending so much but my heart has enjoyed every single minute, visiting some great places and meeting some brilliant people. I am unsure of my intentions for next season at present, but I expect it to be geared towards meeting people for sure, as that is the best part of football.


BROADHURST PARK is FC United's first home that they can call their own, and it's an excellent building block for the future. The main stand and the terrace are large and make up a big percentage of the ground's capacity which stands at 4400 officially, but physically you could fit around 5000 in. There is seating for around 1000 and although the other 2 sides are flat standing they are at least covered. In keeping with FC United's community ethos, there are plenty of public facilities on hand, including a home for Moston Juniors who were resident when the area was just fields. For the football supporters, there is a bar at the top of the stand which sadly I was unable to visit due to it being full although there is a bottle bar under the large Danebank Terrace behind the goal which came from Northwich Victoria's old ground. Food was excellent when I went, with a number of stalls offering tempting and tasty treats way beyond the usual stuff you get in football grounds. The club shop is just a couple of stalls at the moment, although they do have a good selection at great prices.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Coggeshall Town - The Crops

Coggeshall Town FC
The Crops
West Street

01376 562843
Official Website

Ground Number: 494
Saturday 16th May 2015
Coggeshall Town 0-2 University of Essex
Essex & Suffolk Border League


Coggeshall Town FC was formed in 1888, making them one of the oldest clubs in Essex. Their best period came in the 1970s and 80's when they were in the Essex Senior League. Their best ever finish came in 1973 and 1974 when they finished an excellent 3rd in the Essex Senior League, plying their trade amongst such teams as Billericay Town & Witham Town who have now gone on to establish themselves in the Isthmian League. 1975 also saw the best ever FA Vase run, with them getting to the 3rd Round. They beat Bungay Town and Brightlingsea United before a home defeat to Clacton Town. Due to financial issues and the lack of floodlights, they have had to drop down to more local leagues. They were enjoying a decent season this year, sitting in 5th place. The opponents, University of Essex were sitting a place below, and could go above the hosts if they won.


As it was coming to the end of the season, the games were severely drying up, even for a Saturday. With all of the steps 1-6 complete, it would have to be something from step 7 of non-league or below. A basic grass pitch in Middlesex or Hertfordshire seemed my destiny, but then looking further afield I saw the Essex & Suffolk Border League. I remembered that Harwich & Parkeston who once played in that league had a cracking ground. Although they were not at home, a few others were and Coggeshall Town was one of them. They had spent a short amount of time at a higher level and had a stand, and it looked well worth a visit. Added to the fact that a couple of people I knew from Facebook might attend and I was sold. On the day of the game, I woke at around 9am, having had a good 6 hours sleep having not got to bed until 3am the previous night. I still felt pretty decent and had a browse on the internet before having a bath. I then had the rather unusual breakfast choice of Chilli Con Carne with some Irn Bru. I wasn’t really in a rush to go, so I edited some of the videos I had captured from the game I went to last night, as well as typing my blog. By the time I had done that and got a few other things sorted it was 12.15 when I left home.

After going down the local shop to use the Cash Machine, it was 12.25 by the time I left for the game. I had a decent journey over there, arriving at the ground at 1.50. As I was taking pictures of the signs outside the ground, I met Dan North, a fellow groundhopper and a Braintree fan. We had a great chat as we walked to the bar, where I had a pint of Somersby for £3.50. Dan told me there was a good chippy down the road, and so after checking that it was still open, I walked down there. Coggeshall was a pretty little town with bags of character and I wished I'd had more time to explore it. There was a DIY shop there called 'Four Candles' which was a nod to the famous 'Two Ronnies' sketch of the same name. I easily found the chippy and it was well worth it. The chips were freshly cut, not one was identical to another and they were delicious. It was a shame some of the other stuff was above average cost, but the chips were great value at £1.60. 
I eat them while walking back to the ground, meeting another Dan who had bought me along a couple of nice things. Firstly a scarf to add to my collection, and also a new mate in Maurice who as well as supporting Braintree, also followed Ipswich who had sadly lost 3-1 to Norwich earlier in the 'Farmergeddon' playoff semi-final in the Championship earlier that afternoon. There was more football chat, along with discussion of our plans and hopes for next season.

The first half was goalless but it wasn't too bad of a game. The second half saw the University of Essex take the lead on 53 minutes with an angled low shot into the bottom left-hand corner. The Uni keeper seemed very keen on charging out of his area. He had already got a yellow card earlier on in the game when he was involved in a collision with an opposing striker. This time he came out and was clattered himself. It took a lengthy time to treat him and once his head wound was patched up he had to change his shirt. This was slightly annoying for me as one of the iconic football pictures is of Terry Butcher in a bloodied England shirt and I'd encourage it, not make a fuss. The game was sealed deep into injury time as the University of Essex number 14 rounded the keeper and sealed the game by putting a ball into the empty net. 
After the game, I said goodbye to the lads. It had been a really good day and hopefully, we can make plans to meet soon, with the case of the second Dan, it will be at Wembley tomorrow for the Conference playoff final. It was a good drive home and I was back home by 6.30, even with stopping at Tesco. I spent the evening typing my blog, chatting online and watching TV.


THE CROPS is a great ground for step 7. With the addition of floodlights, it would easily be a step 5 ground. The stand has round 100 seats, plus the same for standing and there is a rail around 2 sides of the pitch. The bar is nice enough, with a basic selection of drinks, as well as a BBQ for food outside. The town is around a 15-minute walk away - it's very nice and has a fair choice of places to eat and drink. 

Huntingdon Town - Jubilee Park

Huntingdon Town FC
Jubilee Park
Kings Ripton Road
PE28 2NR

07525 185001
Official Website

Ground Number: 493
Friday 15th May 2015
Godmanchester Rovers 3-0 Yaxley
Hunts Senior Cup Final


The host club, Huntingdon Town were formed in 1980, despite a previous club going by that name in the town. Originally known as Montagu and then Sun FC they played in the Cambridgeshire and West Anglian leagues. Changing their name in 1996 to the current moniker, they moved to current home Jubilee Park in 2003 which allowed them to join the United Counties League. They struggled at first in Division 1 but gradually improved. In 2012 they were Champions, earning a place in the Premier Division for the following season. a 4th placed finish was an excellent debut season and they followed that up last season with the runners up spot. Sadly for them, this season saw a drop in fortunes with them finishing in 16th, but they did at least finish well clear of relegation. They didn't have much of a history in the FA competitions, their most notable achievement on this score is reaching the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round. The last of these was the most interesting - in a game against Sleaford Town, the game was abandoned due to a huge punch up and both teams were thrown out of the competition. The towns most famous resident is Himesh Patel, who plays Tamwar Masood in BBC soap Eastenders.

Despite finishing a massive 26 points behind title winners Norwich United, Godmanchester Rovers had enjoyed an excellent season in the Eastern Counties League, sealing runners up spot on the final day. They had already won in this competition in the first round, smashing Huntingdon Town 7-2. They received a bye in the semi final. Even more bizarrely Yaxley had not even had to play a game to get to the final, but they had also enjoyed a good season, finishing 5th in the United Counties Premier. I had seen them as part of the UCL Hop back in August as they defeated league whipping boys Long Buckby 3-1 at Leading Drove.


It was coming to the end of the season, and I was looking to complete as many games as possible before the boring summer break came along. Friday night was as good as any, and with my options scarce, I opted for the Hunts FA Cup Final between Godmanchester Rovers and Yaxley. It was not the most inspiring of venues, but it did at least have a decent choice of pubs, albeit with some of them being over 2 miles walk away, but with me not being bothered about a walk and needing to burn off the cider anyway as I was driving, it seemed as good a reason as any to leave early and avoid the rush hour traffic. A decision would be made on the day, depending on how I felt, but I was going to enjoy it nonetheless. It would be a bit more expensive than usual for fuel - my car was in for repair for a few days after a deer had run into the side of it. I was given a replacement - a huge and uneconomical Vauxhall Mokka, but with the season coming to an end, I was just going to have to bear the cost. On the day of the game, I was at work as per usual. Luckily it was a middling day in terms of business and so I was out and home before 1. That meant I had a couple of hours to spare and I spent it having a bath, having lunch and doing various other bits. I left around 10 minutes later than I'd have liked and although there were not any major traffic jams, there were the usual dawdlers who put 20 minutes on my journey. I was at Huntingdon Town FC at 5.15 which was the time I hoped to be in the pub by. I got myself in gear and with half jogging and half walking, I halved my journey, getting to the pub at 5.35.

After 2 and a half miles through parks, I was looking forward to having something nice. The Falcon came up trumps with about 10 ciders, and short of doing food, it was perfect. First up was a half of Lilley's Lemon and lime cider, which was very refreshing and a great one to have with me driving later, with it only being 4%. For my second, it was a pint of an old favourite, Gwynt y Ddraig Fiery Fox. Anything from my favourite brewery I will not complain about having again. That was my lot for the night and so I went in search of food. There was not much choice and I ended up going to a place called Bunters as I couldn't see much else. The Chicken wrap meal deal at £3.80 sounded good in essence, but it wasn't on reality. The only drink was coke (which I don't like) and they ended up ruining my chicken wrap by putting mayo on it without consulting me. I ended up picking the Chicken out and binning the rest. It was then a slightly slower walk back to the ground with me being fuller and checking Facebook on the way back. I got back to the ground at 7.15, paying an above average £8 for entry, though it did at least include a programme. I was trialling filming the game on my new camera, picked up for the princely sum of £25 off of eBay in the week. I don't think I will be doing every game but may stick to the FA Cup ones that I go to. The whole operation was very amateur but I did at least capture all 3 goals.  It was a convincing victory for Godmanchester Rovers as they easily beat Yaxley, with a Tom Meecham hat trick doing the damage. The video is below. After the game I watched the trophy being presented before leaving at 10. It was a much quicker journey home and I was back home by 11.15. I went on the internet for a bit and was wide awake, despite getting up at 4am after only a few hours sleep last night. I must have been up until about 3am, passing the time watching TV and stuff on Youtube.


JUBILEE PARK is a basic but well-kept venue which is around a couple of miles out of town. All the covered accommodation is on one side and is of the metal prefabricated variety. Just under 100 seats are supplemented by around the same in terracing. The ground has an official capacity of 1000, but could probably take more if needed. The town is walkable if you have a good pair of legs - if not, there's not much near the ground but there is a bar and food on site.