Monday 31 August 2015

Tower Hamlets - Mile End Stadium


Tower Hamlets FC
Mile End Stadium
Rhodeswell Road
Tower Hamlets
R14 7TW

Official Website

Ground Number: 514
Monday 31st August 2015
Tower Hamlets 1-5 Cockfosters
FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay


Tower Hamlets FC are a fairly new club, having been formed in 2000. Originally called Bethnal Green United, they changed their name in 2013 to represent their borough as a whole. They played in various local leagues for the first 9 years of their history, winning the Middlesex Counties League in 2009 and gaining Senior Status. For the 2009-10 season, they joined the Essex Senior League and have been there ever since. The highest they have finished is 4th, which they did do in 2011 and 2013. A sharp decline in fortunes followed and they finished 17th last season. A similar pattern has followed this season with them winning one and losing two of their 3 league games so far.

In the FA Vase, the club had a great run in the 2011-12 season, reaching the 5th Round. It all started with a game v Hoddesdon Town in the first round. A 3-1 home victory saw them progress to a tricky trip to Felixstowe & Walton United. Not that this fazed the players - they triumphed 7-0 in East Anglia to set up a home tie against Sporting Bengal United who they share the Mile End Stadium with. Another high scoring game - a 5-2 victory saw them safely through. A win in the 4th Round at Oxfordshire side Old Woodstock United set them up with a trip to Dunston UTS up in the North East. The tie proved too much for them, and they lost 3-0 to the side who would go on to win the trophy after beating West Auckland Town in the final. FA Cup wise the 1st Qualifying Round was the best they had ever achieved and today would see them equal that record. That mini-run came in the 2010-12 season. Basildon United and Kentish Town were beaten before they drew Ryman League side Harlow Town.  Despite drawing 1-1 on the higher placed teams ground they crashed 4-0 in the replay at home. Other cup successes include winning the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy when they beat Burnham Ramblers 4-1 in 2010, their first season at senior level.


Originally on this day, I was planning a double with a Combined Counties League game at Farnham. It would depend on work though and although I finished in time to get there, albeit cutting it fine, I decided to initiate my backup plan. That had been formulated yesterday and involved the FA Cup replay between Tower Hamlets and Cockfosters who had played out an exciting 3-3 draw on Saturday. It would mean a game at an Athletics Stadium, but I was pleased to be able to go and see another FA Cup game, and this one with the potential of extra time and penalties too. On the day of the game, I was working. I was hoping for an easy day after getting lucky yesterday but it proved to be a pretty busy bank holiday. Even so, I was still out of work by 10, not even taking a break, safe in the knowledge that they would be paying me until 1PM, as per the terms of my contract. I decided to pop into town on the way home to get some drinks for the game. I got back home just before 11, doing my research for today's game and keeping an eye on Twitter and the weather forecast. It had already proved a wise decision to skip the first game as it had fallen victim to a waterlogged pitch. I kept an eye on both clubs Twitter feeds but all appeared fine so I had lunch and left just before 1PM.

The journey down was a bit of a mixed bag. It started off well enough but then got really clogged up once I got on the A40. At least the slow traffic gave me the chance to read the tweet that the referee had confirmed the game as being on which I was very pleased about. While I was driving down I was keeping a mind on possibilities should my first choice game be postponed but in the end, I didn't need to worry. The roads really clogged up around London and the last 10 or so miles took an hour with me getting to the ground at 2.30. I was dismayed to see that only pay and display car parking but at least it was only £2. I had to get change though and popped into the club to buy a programme. The friendly and helpful gateman sold me my programme and informed me that I could park for free in a nearby road. Any other match I could have, but with restrictions to residents only running from 9-5PM Monday to Friday, I wasn't going to risk it, even if it was a Bank Holiday. 
So I drove back to the pay and display. £1 would have taken me up to full time, but I decided to pay an extra pound in case it went to extra time or there was lots of injury time.  I paid my £6 at the gate which was very reasonable. After taking some pictures of the ground and catching up on Facebook I took a set in the stand for the game.

Cockfosters started on the front foot, and they were ahead within a couple of minutes of the game starting. Gary Simmonds fierce low shot giving them an early advantage. It was a good competitive game with end to end football. The hosts got their equaliser on 33 minutes when an excellent corner was put in, the keeper flapped at it and it was headed home. Cockfosters were edging it though and they retook the lead just before half time through Shane Reid. 
At half time I went and got myself a snack pack of Oreos from the vending machine as I was getting peckish. The visitors started the second half as they had the first with Jacob Kalonda scoring in the opening couple of minutes. A low cross was put in from the right and he had the simple job of poking it over the line. There were strong protests of offside from Tower Hamlets and the restart was delayed while there were handbags between the 2 sides. The Tower Hamlets number 6 was sent off and he had to be pulled away from the Cockfosters bench as he walked around the pitch.  A couple of other players were booked too and it was a good 5 minutes before the game restarted. On 78 minutes the visitors sealed the victory making it 4-1. Great work by the right back Bradley Stylianou saw him pull the ball back for Shane Reid to slot the ball home.  They added a 5th a couple of minutes from time as the tiring home side were caught out of position and Ben Andreos capitalised. There was still time left for another Tower Hamlet's player to get his marching orders as their captain was sent off for a second bookable offence. Overall Cockfosters deserved the win, but the margin was harsh on the hosts who showed a lot of spirit. Sometimes too much as a fair few cards were handed out, but you couldn't fault the commitment. Cockfosters will now face Isthmian D1 North side Bury Town in the next round but will hope for a better result than the last time they reached the 1st Qualifying Round where they lost 8-0 to AFC Rushden & Diamonds. The journey home was a lot better than the one there. Only minimal delay was encountered and I was back home by 6.15. I spent the evening chilling, safe in the knowledge that I had the following day off.


MILE END STADIUM is another athletics stadium, and unlike the one at Ilford yesterday has a pretty wide track and other space separating you from the pitch. Luckily the elevated stand makes up for this and you get a reasonable view of the game. There's little else in way of accommodation with the rest of the ground is open flat standing. The tea bar was basic, with just a few vending machines and tea and coffee available. There was no club shop or clubhouse that I could see, but there are a fair few shops and takeaways around the ground. It's still worth a visit though, with the club being nice and friendly and it being well located near Mile End train station. 

Sunday 30 August 2015

Ilford - Cricklefield Stadium

Ilford FC & Barkingside FC
Cricklefield Stadium
3 Cricklefield Place

0208 514 8352

Ground Number: 513
Sunday 30th August 2015
Barkingside 1-2 Ipswich Wanderers
FA Cup Preliminary Round


Barkingside only won promotion to the Isthmian League a few seasons ago, 2nd place in the Essex Senior League was enough to see them promoted, as they finished just behind Burnham Ramblers in the league. After years of looking up to former ground sharers Redbridge FC, they were finally on a level footing. As recently as 10 years ago Redbridge were a couple of leagues ahead, but their recent fall from grace had put paid to that. Originally in the Spartan South Midlands League, they had to take a season out of football in the 1999-2000 season. They had actually won the league that season and were due to be promoted, but the ground graders had the final say and they were denied the chance to play in the Isthmian League. 

Also, they were well out of the boundaries of the SSML, at the time the FA would not allow clubs to move sideways and allow them to join the more geographically sensible Essex Senior League. The decision was made to withdraw from senior football for the season, and in their first season back they finished 3rd. After years of mid and top half finished, they finally won promotion the season before last. In that period, Redbridge, formerly named Ford Sports entered a groundshare agreement and between the 2 clubs, the ground was bought up to the required standard. Notable honours for the club include winning the London Senior Cup in 1996-97. The FA Cup 2nd Qualifying round has been reached on 2 occasions, most recently in 2007-08 when they lost narrowly to Welling United.


Originally I was going to do this ground just before Christmas 2014 when the fixtures were starting to dry up. For that reason, I was going to do a rare Monday night game due to the lack of games on Tuesday. That said, I would still be going to a game the following night, but it would be a revisit to one of my local sides Flackwell Heath as I had not managed to get a programme from there yet. I'd been to see Barkingside earlier that year as they beat Erith & Belvedere in a league game. But that was at their old ground, which is now owned by Redbridge FC, despite them being the original owners. They were a friendly club to visit and a magnet for groundhoppers and general football watchers due to them playing on Monday night. It was also a nice ground and had one of the best tea bars in football. So it was a sad day for their fans and anyone who had yet to visit Redbridge when they moved, although it was a bonus to groundhoppers like me, even though the prospect of watching a game at an athletics stadium did not overly appeal to me. It was all academic anyway as the game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch. I have to say, it was not a priority to visit, due to the Monday night football and the fact that the ground had a running track around it. However, the lure of the FA Cup got me back there when they had a game against Ipswich Wanderers, though it would depend on me being able to get out of work in time.

Happily on the day work was a breeze and I finished at 10am with everything done. I was annoyed that the Non-League Paper was not in again, that's 2 weeks in a row that they have not had it and that has put paid to me using my break to sit down with a highlighter pen and mark out the possibles and probables for the coming weeks' fixtures. However, it had the advantage of me being able to leave 15 minutes earlier to meet Anwar. I got there at around 10.40, messaging him to let him know I was there. I was pleased to find my prized non-league paper in the shop across the road. We left 5 minutes later, and amazingly had a hassle-free journey on the M25, arriving in Ilford at 11.50. 
We bagged our programmes at £1.50 each, before going to get some lunch. The whole road had lost of takeaways but we opted for the nearest one, both having Chicken Burger, Chips and a Drink for £3.50. It was fairly decent, nothing spectacular but it filled a hole and was decent enough value. After stopping at a cash machine we went in and were both quite surprised at the £9 admission price, which is a bit steep for step 4. Normally it includes a programme, but not today with the gate money being split 50/50 with Ipswich Wanderers. I had a look around, having half a pint of Stella Cidre in the bar before the game. There were a couple of faces that I recognised - the Asian lineswoman who had officiated at a Cheshunt game I went to years ago. Also, the Ipswich Wanderers barman who was very friendly when I visited there and was down supporting his team today.

Barkingside might have had home advantage and been a step higher, but they were having a torrid time in the league. They had played 5 games and gained just a single point gained from a 3-3 draw at Waltham Abbey 8 days ago. Visitors Ipswich Wanderers had won one, drawn one and lost one of their games so far. Though it was a step below, the Eastern Counties was of a good standard, though their refusal to plan their groundhops around already established ones and their keenness to accept reserve sides let them down a bit. 
The game started with Barkingside well on top for the first 10-15 minutes. Ipswich Wanderers soon took control though, knocking the ball around very nicely. They soon took the lead too when Ross Myhill followed up on a parried shot to score just before the half hour mark. The travelling fans were in good voice and they were in dreamland 8 minutes later. This time it was Billy Holland who headed home to double the lead. Despite this the visitors continued to have the upper hand. Barkingside did pull a goal back on 66 minutes when Jonathan Adebayo scored the goal of the game. It really was a cracker, the shot from some distance curling in the top left-hand corner before going in off the bar. This led to the hosts having a spell of pressure and an equaliser looking likely. However Wanderers held on, and now face a game against Canvey Island in the next round.


CRICKLEFIELDS is an old but much-loved venue. The running track spoils things, but it's actually not that bad along the side as the lanes are only narrow. However the same can't be said about behind the goal which is miles away and offers a very poor view. This is a shame as a large proportion of the extensive open terracing is located there. The 2 covered areas - a terrace holding around 300 and seats holding just under 200 offer a reasonable enough view.

I didn't try the tea bar, but the clubhouse is smart and modern with a reasonable range of drinks. There is also a club shop offering a decent range of reading material and other souvenirs. There is plenty around the ground and the nice welcome makes it a club well worth visiting.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

East Grinstead Town - East Court

East Grinstead Town FC
East Court
College Road
East Grinstead
RH19 3LS

Official Website

Ground Number: 512
Tuesday 25th August 2015
East Grinstead Town 0-1 Peacehaven & Telscombe
Isthmian League D1 South


EAST GRINSTEAD TOWN FC was founded in 1890, but they did not play their first competitive game until 10 years later. Playing in the Mid Sussex League until 1920, they were founding members of the Sussex County League, where they have spent almost all of their history. Flitting between its 2 Divisions over the years, they won the Division 2 Championship in 2007/08 to win promotion to its top tier. For the first time since the 1970s the club enjoyed an extended run at this higher level and in 2014 they finished as runner up behind East Preston. As the Champions' ground was deemed unfit for step 4, they were offered promotion and accepted it. They struggled a bit in their first season, finishing 22nd. For the second season in a row fortuned smiled on them, and they were saved by a reprieve due to other goings on in the pyramid. Form in the league so far has been patchy - despite a win at Whyteleafe they have suffered defeats to Molesey, Tooting & Mitcham and the latest reverse came on Saturday as they lost 4-2 at home to Worthing. This left them in 19th place in the table, after 4 games played.

In the FA Cup they have reached the 2nd Qualifying Round on 2 occasions. The latest came in 1971 as they beat Ringmer before losing 3-0 to current football league side Crawley Town. It was also the 1970's that saw their best FA Vase run when they reached the 3rd Round. Whitehawk and Shoreham were beaten in the first 2 rounds, but Tunbridge Wells bought an end to their Cup run in the 3rd Round. Last season saw their first appearance in the FA Trophy and despite getting a decent 0-0 draw at Walton Casuals they crashed 6-1 in the replay on their own ground. Local Cup success came in the form of the delightfully monikered 'Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Cup' which they won in 2004 and the 'Baldwin Cup' which was captured in 1952.


I'd be without Anwar, my regular groundhopping pal for my football this week, as he was away on his annual visit to see his Aunt in Ipswich, so I was looking for something as near as possible. The nearest mileage wise was Broxbourne Borough v Leverstock Green at 37 miles away. But I decided to save it as I could do it as a nearby one when Anwar would be in attendance. Usually, when I am on my own I will head south as it's usually uneconomical to do so when I have to go via Aylesbury. That said, though I've not done many recently, I've ticked a fair few of them over the years. For that reason, Dorking v Banstead Athletic in the Combined Counties League was next nearest at 53 miles. However, that game was being played at Horley Town while Dorking's own ground was being refurbished and so I decided to save it for when the host club is at home. For that reason, I settled on East Grinstead Town v Peacehaven & Telscombe in the Isthmian Division 1 South. At 63 miles away it was a bit further than I had hoped for, but all things considered, I felt this was the best option. Since my groundhopping exploits up north last week, I had been taking a bit of a rest, mainly because I was waiting for payday to come up. On Saturday my own team Wycombe had a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to bottom side Dagenham & Redbridge. That was only obtained after a last minute equaliser. Closer to tonight's destination, we were reminded that football is just a game. At the Shoreham Air Show a pilot lost control of his plane, smashing into the adjacent dual carriageway and killing 11 people. 2 of those happened to be Worthing United players on the way to their club's game with Loxwood and the resulting tragedy has been felt across football, not least at the clubs local to them in Sussex. The loss of Matt Grimstone & Jacob Schilt will be felt for a long time and my thoughts go out to all concerned, as they do with the other people involved in the incident.

On the day of the game, I had the day off work as usual for a Tuesday. I'd had a good nights sleep before and didn't get up until 9.30. I had a fair few things to do, addressing and sending some parcels I'd sold on eBay and walking down town for a bit of exercise. After coming home and having lunch I spent the afternoon researching tonight's blog and watching a few Youtube videos. Seeing as the journey involved a large chunk of the M25, which is awful at the best of times, let alone in the rush hour, I had an early dinner before leaving just after 5PM. I made reasonable time getting to the game. Of course, there was the delay near the 'ugly bridge near Heathrow' on the M25 around Chertsey. The traffic always slows to a crawl around there and the wait is not made any better by having to look at that monstrosity. There were a few other slow spots but in the end around half an hour delay was reasonably acceptable, which really illustrates what low expectations I have when using that motorway. Once I got off near Redhill it was 'A' roads all the way to the ground and I even passed Lingfield FC, who play in the Southern Combination. I got to the ground around 7, going straight in. I paid £8 for entry and £2 for a well-presented programme. After taking some pictures of the ground I sat in the stand and caught on Facebook. As kick off was about to get underway I was very surprised to see my mate Eddie, who is a Grimsby fan that lives in Wakefield. He was down in the south for a few days and had come along to the game.

There was a minutes silence for the Worthing United players who died on Saturday before the game, which was impeccably observed as you would expect. As for the game Peacehaven had the better of the opening 10 minutes but the hosts soon got back into it and both sides came close. The visitors were always the most dangerous in the final third and it was the number 11 Jamie Brotherton who was making it all happen. On 23 minutes he hit the bar with a curling cross and a couple of minutes later the same player forced a good save from East Grinstead keeper Chris Winterton. It wasn't all one-way traffic though and the home side shot just wide on 28 minutes.  Five minutes before the interval they were awarded a penalty after an infringement in the area. Trevor McCreadie stepped up and struck the ball low to the keepers' right but Amadou Tangara pulled off a great save to tip the ball around the post. A couple of minutes later they were made to pay when Layton Schaaf rose highest to head home to give Peacehaven the lead. 
In the second half, the visitors again started the stronger side, going close a couple of times. On 55 minutes East Grinstead came close to an equaliser as their shot was tipped over the bar. The resulting corner was cleared as well. They had another good chance to draw level from a free kick 3 minutes later after the visitors Stacey Freeman was booked for holding back his opponent but the attempt was wasted. That turned out to be the last clear cut chance for the hosts but Peacehaven still had a few chances and were unlucky not to double their lead around 70 minutes when a succession of chances were well saved. In the end, East Grinstead's failure to win their aerial battles and their lack of cutting edge in the final third was the difference between the sides. There were around 9 minutes of injury time due to a number of players receiving treatment earlier on. The game ended amidst home fans arguing with each other. A couple of blokes in the terrace behind were criticising players for their lack of application and an irate lady told them in no uncertain terms that they should not come if they are not going to get behind the team. In the end, it was just before 9.30 when I left. I got home an hour and 10 minutes later and after watching a bit of TV went to bed just before midnight.


EAST COURT is a smart and well-kept venue that I initially visited around 2009 on the way to Eastbourne Borough v Wycombe. It was a tidy venue and as such was ready to go when they won promotion to the Ryman League a year or so ago. Since I last visited quite a bit of black and yellow has been added to give it a colourful and imposing presence. All the covered accommodation is one side with 2 stands comprising of around 200 seats and 200 terrace spaces. Both stands are up on a bank and it's nice to see that they are proper structures rather than the increasingly popular metal flat pack stands. The elevation also gives fans a decent view wherever they sit or stand.

The rest of the ground is open flat standing. I didn't try the bar and tea bar or clubhouse but they both seemed pretty decent. Also, there was a good range of merchandise all at good prices. A particular favourite was scarves at a fiver and it was only lack of space on my ceiling that stopped me indulging. The ground is tucked up a long narrow road and it's a bit of a walk to the nearest amenities, so it's just as well the facilities at the ground are pretty good.