Sunday 27 September 2015

Hook Norton - The Bourne

Hook Norton FC
The Bourne
Hook Norton
OX15 5PB

01608 737132
Official Website

Ground Number: 522
Saturday 26th September 2015
Hook Norton 1-2 Weston Super-Mare
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round


HOOK NORTON FC was founded in 1898 and played in various local leagues before joining the Hellenic League in 2001. Starting in Division 1 West they were champions in their first season and were promoted to the Hellenic Premier. However, they had to groundshare at Banbury United and in their first ever season they had their best ever finish of 12th in that league. Despite this, they finished third bottom the following season and were relegated back down. They had to wait until 2007 for their next promotion, but at least this time they had the facilities in place to use their own ground. This time their adventure lasted 3 seasons before they were relegated once more. They have remained in Division 1 West ever since with their best finish since coming last season when they finished 5th. At the time of kick off they were 9th, but with plenty of games in hand to catch up, due to their cup exploits.

Talking of the FA Cup, this was only their second season in the competition. In their only previous season, they exited at the first hurdle after a 6-1 defeat to Laverstock & Ford. This season had seen them improve greatly. In the Extra Preliminary Round, they thrashed Combined Counties League outfit Frimley Green 5-0. They then faced Southern League Division 1 South & West side Burnham. After a 1-1 draw on their own patch, they appeared to be rank outsiders as they travelled to The Gore. But they stunned their hosts with a 4-2 victory, securing the tie in extra time after home side went down to 9 men. Their reward was a trip to Wessex League side Eastbourne United Association, playing a step above them in the Wessex Premier. In a tight game, they came through 1-0 to set up this game. It was the second highest gap between teams so far in the FA Cup this season, with only Bodmin Town v Bath City beating it by virtue of Weston Super-Mare's lowly league placing.

Hook Norton's best run in the FA Vase came in the 2008/09 season came when they reached the 2nd Round. After beating Fairford Town in a replay, they also disposed of Flackwell Heath. Despite drawing 1-1 against VTFC (now called Sholing) they lost 4-0 in the replay down in Hampshire. The clubs sole cup win came last season when they won the Hellenic League Supplementary Cup. The village itself is probably most famous for its brewery whose beer is sold all over the country and focuses on taste and quality rather than mass production. Sadly as a cider drinker there appeared to be nothing special available on that front for me to sample.


As a keen fan of the FA Cup, I was pretty pleased when Wycombe were scheduled to play at Exeter on 2nd Qualifying Round day. Though I'd consider a revisit to Exeter as I have only been there once and do not have a programme or ticket from there, it would be an expensive day out. So I started looking at the FA Cup ties that had been drawn. In terms of grounds, AFC Fylde or Marine appealed most, but the one tie that stood out for me was step 6 side Hook Norton facing off against struggling step 2 side Weston Super-Mare. There was a brief reconsideration as fellow groundhopper Anwar fancied going to Burnley but the petrol was too much for him on his own. He also turned down a visit to Hook Norton, preferring instead to go to Tooting & Mitcham on the train. At least at 55 miles away it was the shortest possible journey for me, meaning I could eat at home if I wanted to and wouldn't need to spend as much on fuel costs. In the week leading up to the game, I had been really busy at work what with a lot of colleagues being off for Eid. I'd been doing 10 hour days and was pleased when Saturday and my day off came. I spent the Friday evening watching an under 21 game at Wycombe as Porto beat Schalke 1-0.

On the day of the game, I woke up really early at 6am. After catching up on the TV I had missed last night I went on my computer for a bit before getting ready and leaving at 11am. It was a fairly decent trip up to Banbury where I stopped and looked around the shops. I bought a few bits from Poundland plus some new ciders from a very good off licence called SH Jones. By the time I'd finished looking around it was getting on for 1.30 and so I made the 20 minute trip across some lovely countryside to the small village of Hook Norton. I paid a bargain £5 entry with a very good glossy programme after parking in the car park around the corner. I went into the ground and went for a pint in the bar. I had a pint of Stowford Press which was a bit steep at £4 a pint but bearing in mind the great value so far I didn't mind too much. I then went outside and had a burger for £2.50 while chatting to fellow hopper Peter. I also chatted to another hopper who is a Wycombe fan. He’d been to a beer festival which had some good ciders and it was only just up the road, so I was disappointed to miss out. I also chatted to some nice people from the club who had seen me interacting with them on Twitter in the week. As kick off was approaching I bagged myself a space near the halfway line as the ground was filling up quickly.

With precisely 100 places between the two sides, this game was the equivalent of Braintree Town playing Manchester City. The report for the game from The Non-League Paper is below. So, a disappointing result for most of the bumper 523 crowd that came. It was a great attendance, smashing their previous best of 244 v Banbury United in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup in 1998. It seemed as if half the village had turned out to give them some enthusiastic support. I was really gutted for a great club and a game that had really lived up to ‘the magic of the FA Cup’ tag. They’d scored a cracking goal and really pushed a side 4 leagues higher to the limit. At least Wycombe had won though, an excellent 2-0 win at Exeter. It was a decent journey home, save for a couple of very slow drivers holding me up before I got on the motorway. I got back at 6.15 and spent the evening chilling before watching Match Of The Day and going to bed just before midnight.


THE BOURNE is a pleasant venue which is probably best visited on a warm day as it’s very open. All the stands are on one side and of the metal ’arena’ type, probably 100ish seats and double that covered standing. The clubhouse is very nice, with Sky & BT and also some real ales from the local Hook Norton Brewery. There is a good choice on cider too, though nothing special. Cans work out the best value as opposed to Stowford Press. They also had a BBQ when I went for food, but no club shop, though I did see mugs & pens advertised.   

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Horley Town - The New Defence

Horley Town FC
The New Defence
Court Lodge Road

07545 697234
Official Website

Ground Number: 521
Tuesday 22nd September 2015
Horley Town 3-0 Sutton Common Rovers

CCL Premier


HORLEY TOWN FC was founded in 1895, known back then as Horley FC. In 1975 they changed their name to the present moniker. Initially playing in the local Surrey Leagues they were members of the Combined Counties League from 1984-96 when it was just a single tier league. They finished a best-ever 5th in 1995 but finished bottom of the pile the following season, and were relegated back to the Surrey Intermediate League. They rejoined the Combined Counties League in 2003 have been an ever-present in the Premier Division apart from one season in 2006-07 where they spent a season in Division 1 due to ground grading issues. They have had a best-ever finish of 5th on 2 occasions, in 2006 and 2008.

Their best progress in the FA Cup had been the 1st Qualifying Round which they have reached on 3 occasions. The most recent was in 2013 when they got past Sevenoaks Town and Holmesdale before losing to Whyteleafe. The following season saw them reach the 3rd Round of the FA Vase where they lost 3-1 to Greenwich Borough. A few local cups have been won, most recently the Surrey Junior Cup in 2009, while their most famous former player was Nicky Forster who starred for the club as a youngster before going on to have an excellent career in the Football League.


For a change, on a Tuesday I'd be on my own. My usual hopping companion Anwar was on a tight budget as he was going to Arsenal on Wednesday and he also had to look after his kids on Tuesday. With the nearest potential groundhop being Lutterworth Athletic, he decided against it and so I was left to search for something on my own. I looked through the Non-League Paper for the shortest journeys and I plumped for Horley Town as I was getting close to completing the Combined Counties League. Croydon Athletic v Beckenham Town was the shortest trip but I didn't fancy tackling rush hour London. Lingfield and Loxwood were also in the reckoning and I kept them in mind should my original choice be weather affected. 
On the day of the game, I was off work as per usual for a Tuesday. Usually, I'd walk down town for a bit of exercise but sadly due to the rain I had to get a lift down with my Dad. I picked up some Irn Bru before coming back home. At least the extra time gained allowed me to catch up on the TV I had missed by going to sleep early last night and also do a few other jobs that I'd been needing to do. I had dinner and left at 5.15 as I needed to fill my car up with diesel if I wanted to get there and back. It wasn't a  bad journey over for the time of night with only 15 minutes delay around the usual problem area on the M25 at Heathrow. By 6.50 I was at Horley's ground, paying £6 to get in. I went for a walk around the ground, going to toilet before doing a  circuit of the pitch and taking pictures. By the time I'd gone round the programmes had arrived and with 35 minutes until kick off I went and sat in the bar and flicked through the programme as well as catching up on Facebook.

The visitors dominated the opening 10 minutes without really threatening but it was Horley who had the first real chance on the break when Liam Cox's cross from the right flashed across the goal-line before going just wide of the left hand post. Though Sutton continued to press it was another cross from the right that opened the scoring. The ball hit the post only for the visiting defender Kieran Wright to deflect the ball into his own net, despite being under no pressure. The game quietened down a bit after that with the hosts looking comfortable in possession but Sutton did spurn a great opportunity to make it all square just before the break. Horley had the better of the game at the start of the second half and they doubled their lead on 54 minutes when Ryan Brackpool netted from close range. An error in the Sutton defence was taken advantage of by Leyton Regards on 70 minutes to give Horley Town a 3-0 lead and seemingly settling the game. After the game, I made good progress on the journey home. Initially, I tried to listen to BBC Radio Surrey, knowing that the area's Conference teams had been in action. But there was no sports programme so I stuck my Two Mikes podcast on instead and that kept me entertained until I arrived home an hour later. I caught up on Facebook and watched a bit of TV before going to sleep just before midnight.


THE NEW DEFENCE is a smart and modern ground. The main stand which is built into the main building is nicely designed and holds just over a hundred people. There is further cover behind both goals, probably adding around another 200 covered standing. The rest of the ground is open standing. There is a bar and tea bar but I didn't make any purchases from either on the night, though they looked to be your usual football fare.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Bradford Town - Bradford-on-Avon Sports & Social Club

Bradford Town FC
Bradford-on-Avon Sports & Social Club
Trowbridge Road
BA15 1EX

Official Website

Ground Number: 519
Wednesday 16th September 2015
Bradford Town 2-0 Hungerford Town
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round Replay


BRADFORD TOWN was FC established in 1992 in an attempt to bring senior football to the town. They groundshared at Trowbridge Town for the first two years of their history and played in the Wiltshire League up until 2005 when they won promotion to the Western League. Starting at Division 1 level, they gradually improved season on season and in 2014 they won the league and were promoted to the Premier Division. An excellent 8th placed finish in their first season represented decent progress. This season had seen a slow start due to cup distractions and saw them in 19th place at the start of the game.

In the FA Cup, the club has at least equalled their best ever progress in the FA Cup as they reached the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round last season. That year Wooton Bassett Town and Moneyfields were their victims before they lost 4-0 to Poole Town. This season had seen them have 2 victories at home, firstly over United Services Portsmouth in the Extra Preliminary where they won 2-0 before a 6-3 win over Christchurch set up last Saturday's clash. Last season saw their best ever in the FA Vase when they reached the 5th round before losing to Highworth Town. 


It was the third of my 3 FA Cup replays on my week off work and with it being Wednesday my choices were severely restricted. There were 3 possible options for a groundhop, and with Whitby Town and Guisborough being over 500 mile round trips, financially they were out of the question. A much more reasonable journey, clocking in at around 200 miles was Bradford Town v Hungerford Town. The 2 sides had played at Bulpit Lane on Saturday, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. On the day of the game, I was a bit concerned about the weather as I didn't want a wasted journey. So I tweeted the club to ask if there was going to be a pitch inspection. They were very helpful but were confident it would go ahead. I spent the day at home relaxing and catching up on TV and the internet. Due to the rain, I decided to delay my departure until around 4.15 and hoped that the traffic would not be too bad.

I had a tricky time getting through Wycombe thanks to heavy traffic but as soon as I got on the A404 and M4 things started to speed up. I kept using Siri (a voice recognition app) on my iPhone to check Twitter and although it took a few goes to get right sometimes I was able to keep up to date with pitch news. I listened to BBC Radio Wiltshire to see if they mentioned the game but the only thing they mentioned was Swindon Town who weren't even playing. Having enjoyed my time at Swindon Supermarine I'd argue that they are not even the best team in Swindon, let alone Wiltshire. I did learn that Chippenham was the birthplace of new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn though and it was there where I stopped at Sainsbury's as I needed the toilet. I also got some chicken and some grapes for dinner. I was pleased to see confirmation that the game was on via Twitter and so I made my way to the getting there at 6.55. I paid a bargain £5 including programme and had myself a can of Natch cider in the bar while I waited for the game to start. I got myself a hot dog too, again great value at £1.

It was a real end to end game but clear cut chances were fairly rare. Hungerford did have the ball in the net around the 20-minute mark but it was ruled offside. 5 minutes later the visitors went down to 10 men and Bradford were awarded a penalty. The number 7's shot was saved by the keeper but it was followed in to put them 1-0 up. Minutes later they missed the chance to get a second as a rocket of a shot smashed the inside left upright and defected clear. Hungerford started to press but the score was still 1-0 at the break. For some reason, the tannoy played Ricky Martin's 'Livin La Vida Loca' for the entirety of the half time break, whilst a drenched and unenthusiastic looking teenager walked around the pitch with a board showing the winning raffle numbers. Again chances came and went and Bradford were unlucky not to double their lead when they had a shot tipped round the post after  64 minutes. Hungerford had chances of their own, on 82 minutes the home keeper saved smartly with his feet to keep his side ahead. It turned out to be a pivotal point as on 87 minutes the Bradford Town victory was all but confirmed. Good work and a low cross on the right allowed the number 14 to tap home an easy chance to seal the victory and a notable giant-killing.

It had been a good game, and I was really pleased with the 3 games I had chosen on my FA Cup adventure this week. Bradford Town would now face Chippenham Town in the next round, a 2 division gap just like tonight. It will be a real local derby with around 10 miles separating the 2 towns. From what I saw tonight, and also last Friday night in the Frome v Chippenham game, I reckon they have a chance. I had a decent drive home and was back in by 11.15, watching TV and going online before going to sleep around 1am.


BRADFORD-ON-AVON SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB is a typical step 5 ground. Both the seating area (around 100 seats) and covered standing (around 200) are on one side of the pitch in the corner. The rest of the ground is open standing. There was an excellent good value tea bar with simple and tasty food, and a bar attached to the bowls club which did mainly cans. There are lots of pubs and other establishments nearby if you have more time. Overall I had a great value night out at a really nice club who are well worth a visit.