Friday 27 November 2015

FC Broxbourne Borough - Goffs Lane

Broxbourne Borough FC
Goffs Lane

01992 639207
Official Website

Ground Number: 540

Thursday 26th November 2015
Broxbourne Borough 2-1 Greenhouse Sports
FA Vase 2nd Round


BROXBOURNE BOROUGH FCwas founded in 1991 following the merger of 2 local clubs and were initially known as SOMERSETT AMBURY V&E. Starting in the Hertfordshire League they progressed through its divisions and were invited to join the Spartan South Midlands League for the 1998-99 season. They remained in it's Premier Division for the entirety of their history, with a best-ever finish of 4th in 2008/09. In 2012 financial issues saw the club fold, but they reformed for the 2013/14 season, finishing 6th in Spartan South Midlands Division 1. Last season finishing runners-up behind Bedford was enough to see them promoted back to the SSML Premier. The new season had seen them settle into a comfortable mid-table placing.

In the FA Cup, their debut season proved to be their finest year. Back in 2001, they beat Clapton and S&L Corby, scoring 8 goals without reply between the 2 games to reach the 2nd Qualifying Round. They were in for a rude awakening though as they were on the end of a 9-1 defeat when they travelled to Canvey Island. The FA Vase 4th Round was reached in 2005/06 - despite a notable victory over Maidstone United they lost 1-0 to VCD Athletic in the following round.


I was hoping for a bit of FA Vase action earlier in the week but fate (or to be more accurate the weather) had conspired against me and I'd had to make do with a normal league game. It was quite a lifesaver actually when on Tuesday I ended up at Boldmere St Michaels. As is often the case the unplanned hops turn out to be gems and this was a case in point, a good game, a nice venue and friendly people. I'd set out on the journey intending to go to the Vase game between Highgate United and Nuneaton Griff, but with me almost at the ground, the game was postponed. That was the second disappointment of the day, my original intention had been the game postponed from Saturday - which was Broxbourne Borough v Greenhouse Sports. I'd actually learned of this postponement from the away team's Twitter, which saved me a wasted journey. It was my nearest 'unhopped' ground at steps 1-6 of non-league, so I was delighted when it was rearranged for this Thursday.

On the day of the game it was a pretty standard day at work, and I got away at 1.30. I arrived home half an hour later and after having a bath spent the afternoon chatting online. News on the transfer deadline day front saw Wycombe sign a couple of young midfielders from Brentford. If they are as good as Alfie Mawson, Nico Yennaris and Sam Saunders who we had from the Bees last season, then we are in for a real treat. Signing of the day had to go to Barrow though who got Liam Hearn on loan from Lincoln who has already scored 8 goals this season. After watching The Chase and having a dinner of Lasagne, I left at 6. The roads were a little slow, as was to be expected at this time of day. 55 minutes later I was at Broxbourne Borough, nabbing one of the last few spaces in the car park. I paid £6 to get in, which included a programme - excellent value. As it was a bit nippy I went and sat in the bar and caught up on Facebook as well as reading the programme. The Quarabag v Spurs game was also on the big screen to keep me entertained and there were a few Spurs fans in there cheering their team on.

The game started with the hosts making all the running and ruling possession but they had little to show for it in terms of clear-cut chances. In fact, it was Greenhouse that had the first real chance on 10 minutes as a stinging shot was pushed over the bar by the home keeper. As the game wore on the visitors had their period of domination and missed a glorious chance to take the lead on 20 minutes. There were chances aplenty for both sides before the visitors took the lead on the stroke of half-time as a low drilled shot from the left was deflected in. The referee was having a good game, getting things generally right and talking to the players to show that respect works both ways, as a lot of them are too arrogant to justify their decisions. Tempers were frayed and a minor scuffle between the teams occurred with 4 players being yellow carded. Broxbourne pushed and pushed for the leveller and after having a shot headed off the line and a succession of corners, they finally got their equaliser with almost the last kick, and what a goal it was - a free kick from some distance out. Both sides had chances in extra time but it looked as if it was heading for penalties. But a few minutes from the end, the hosts won it with a header to send players and fans into delirium. It had been an excellent contest between two sides who gave their all. Perhaps it was a good thing that it was not settled by penalties but it was cruel on Greenhouse Sports who had played their part in a great game. It was nearly 10.30 by the time I left and thankfully it was a much easier journey home, with good progress bar a few slow drivers nearer home. I got in at 11.10 and typed some of this blog whilst watching Watchdog. I was most annoyed to somehow lose the first half of my blog which mean an hours work down the drain. Thankfully I'd done the second half in Apple's simple but excellent app 'Notes' which syncs my notes across my phone, tablet and iMac. As always after a good game I was wide awake, eventually getting to sleep at 1am, not good news when I was up at 4am.


GOFFS LANE is a smart ground, probably good enough for step 3. The seated areas of cover are split, with one along the side and one behind the goal. Around 300 sitting spaces between the pair. There is also a covered terrace along the side which has space for around 250 standing supporters. The rest is hard standing. There is a nice clubhouse at the ground with live sport on the big screen, whilst the tea bar is also in here. A reasonable range of food and drink is available from these outlets.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Boldmere St Michaels - Trevor Brown Memorial Ground

Boldmere St Michaels FC
Trevor Brown Memorial Ground
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B73 5RY

0121 384 7521
Official Website

Ground Number: 539
Tuesday 24th November 2015
Boldmere St Michaels 2-1 Lye Town
MFL Premier Division


BOLDMERE ST MICHAELS were formed in 1883, originally as a group of youngsters playing as a local church side. They progressed to a men's team once all the players grew older and played in various local leagues, being champions of the Midland Combination on 3 occasions. For the 1994/95 season, they joined the newly formed Midland Alliance which currently sits at step 5 of non-league and which was renamed the Midland Football League Premier Division a couple of seasons ago. In the last season of it being known as the Alliance, 2013/14, they had their best season in that league, finishing 2nd behind league champions Tividale. Prior to the game, they sat in a rather disappointing 17th place, though having seen quite a few teams play from the Midland League, this is one of it's strongest seasons yet.

Despite several attempts, the clubs best progression in the FA Cup remains the 2nd Qualifying round which they last reached in 1997-98. That year they beat Long Buckby & Wroxham before going out to Woodbridge Town. In their only season in the FA Amateur Cup, they reached the semi-final back in 1948 before losing to Barnet in a game played at Arsenal's Highbury Ground. In its replacement, the FA Vase, the club has reached the 3rd Round on a number of occasions, the most recent being 2010 when they lost out to Vase specialists Whitley Bay. Several local trophies have been won, most recently the Midland Football Combination Challenge Bowl in 2011.


I was on my own again groundhopping wise for this Tuesday and so I had free choice of where to go. I had a strong preference for an FA Vase game, having not seen a game in the competition since Ashford United lost 5-0 to Norwich United in January.  I was also hoping for a cheapish night out as the 2 last games at AFC Wimbledon and AFC Totton had cost me a bit, what with travel and other matchday costs. So I was really pleased when FC Broxbourne Borough v Greenhouse Sports came up on the fixtures for the FA Vase, what with it being one of my nearest 'ticks'. The weather seemed OK too with overnight rain forecast on Monday, but nothing that looked like it could put the match in danger. The original game had been postponed on Saturday due to the weather, and as a consequence, both sides had agreed to settle the game on the night - with extra time and penalties if needed. I did, of course, have backups in place, should the worst happen and the game be called off.

The weather had been absolutely freezing over the weekend, seemingly going from pretty warm to the ice age in the space of a week. Luckily it had gone back to more reasonable temperatures in midweek, or more games might have been in jeopardy. On the day of the game there was rain forecast in the morning, but luckily it never came, as I enjoyed my weekly 8-mile walk to Wycombe and back, where I got a few bits for dinner. There had been various stories of farce in the FA Vase, most notably in the Morpeth v 1874 Northwich game. Proving they had no common sense, the FA insisted the tie be played tonight after the original game was called off on Saturday. Unable to raise a team due to players working and the game being 190 miles away, 1874 were forced to forfeit when they couldn’t fulfil the fixture. And the competition is supposed to be regionalised at this stage as well. I spent the afternoon at home, watching some of the TV I had missed after going to bed at 8.30 last night. The latter part of the afternoon was spent checking that my originally planned game was on, sadly at 5.15 Greenhouse Sports (the away side) tweeted that the game was off, and it was announced that the game had also bitten the dust on the Non-League Matters Forum.

There still no confirmation from the home side to make sure there had not been a mistake 15 minutes later, indeed as of 4PM the following afternoon no one has updated their Twitter to inform the public that the game was off, so it's lucky I check multiple sources to keep in the loop. I knew that I'd have to get a shift on if I wanted to get to my second choice game, Highgate United v Nuneaton Griff in time. That was still scheduled as 'game on' and I sent a tweet to the club asking for confirmation. Fellow hopper Alex, who was in the Midlands and who also had the game on his radar was confident that it would go ahead. He said that there had been no overnight rain and that the pitch was normally OK. I did try to phone the number listed on the website for Highgate United, but it came back as an unrecognised number.

After getting my things together, I left at 5.40, making decent progress considering it was the rush hour. I must have been around Oxford when a tweet from Highgate came through 'confirming' that there were no problems and that the game was on. I was delighted that I'd not have a wasted journey and went up through Warwickshire in a decent mood. However, just as I passed the last place that I could exit the M40 I received another tweet, saying that the referee had called the game off with an hour before kick off. I read later that players and supporters were already there, and I was as annoyed as they must have been at the late postponement. Credit to the Highgate United twitter though for keeping me informed, but it was another 20 minutes before I finally found a place to pull over, which happened to be 2 miles from my original destination. I went to the boot to get my non-league paper and had a quick scan of any games that were in the Midlands. Boldmere St Michaels came up trumps and after checking their twitter, it was confirmed game on, but with me 20 miles away and my ETA 7.40 it was going to be tight to make kick off. Who knows if there was something closer, I wasn't going to hang around looking at other options.

I actually drove past Highgate United on the way back to the M42, which was now in darkness. Luckily I made up some time and got to Boldmere 5 minutes early, parking up at 7.35. I was at the turnstile a couple of minutes later and seeing that the teams were already on the pitch and playing, found out it was a 7.30 kick off. The gateman told me I'd not missed much and charged me a well-priced £5 to get in. This is what I feel is a fair price for step 5 football, but very few clubs are able to go this low due to operating costs. I also picked up another bargain, and an excellent programme for £1 which was very well presented with all glossy pages and a fair bit to read too. I watched the first 5 minutes from behind the goal in front of the turnstile before going round to the stand, getting pictures as I went.

As for the game, it was entertaining from the off, at least from what I saw of it. The visitors enjoyed most of the ball in the first half and had some chances but not many of them were clear-cut. In the second half, it turned around a bit, with Boldmere coming right back into it. 10 minutes into the second period they were ahead. Harry Howard's run and cross from the right found Simeon Maye. His drilled shot hit the left-hand post before rolling along the line and going in. Things got worse for Lye moments later - an accidental clash of heads between players led to Alex Dallison getting concussion and having to be stretchered off. Some tasty tackles were now flying in, but it was an off the ball incident that I didn't see which led to the visitors Dreniz Bala getting his marching orders, well spotted by the eagle-eyed linesman. 83 minutes in the hosts doubled their lead - again it was an excellent cross, this time picking out Matt Gardner who slid in at the far post. Lye did pull one back right at the death with a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner to set up a nervy finish for Boldmere. It had been a far from ideal start to the evening with me getting there late, although at least they still had programmes left, which isn't always the case, even well before kick off. I normally like to have a chill and a read of the programme before the game, but I didn't have the luxury this time. On the upside, it had been a good game to watch, the club had been nice and friendly and it was great value, even though I did blow my entire intended budget on fuel alone. It was another good journey home with me getting in at 11PM. I watched a bit of TV before going to bed around half past midnight.


THE TREVOR BROWN MEMORIAL STADIUM saw a fair bit of refurbishment over the summer and I was originally considering a Friday night pre-season friendly against Aston Villa for my visit, but for reasons I can't remember I didn't go. What has resulted is a smart modern ground with hard standing all around. It's good to go for Southern League Football with a seated stand holding 200, plus more stood behind. There is also some cover behind the goal where the dressing rooms and tea bar are and the ground has an overall capacity of 2500.

Talking of the tea bar, it looked to have a great range of food at nice prices, though I didn't sample anything. Neither did I check out the bar, but merchandise wise I know they do ski hats and pin badges. From what I remember from previous research there are a fair few places within walking distance if you have time. Overall, well worth a visit for a good value night out and a friendly club. 

Wednesday 18 November 2015

AFC Totton - Testwood Stadium

AFC Totton
Testwood Stadium
Salisbury Road
SO40 2RW

023 8086 8981
Official Website

Ground Number: 538
Tuesday 17th November 2015
AFC Totton 2-1 Larkhall Athletic
Southern League D1 South & West


AFC TOTTON was founded in 1886 and were initially known as Totton FC. Playing in local leagues initially, they joined the Wessex League as founder members in 1986/87. a 3rd placed finish behind Bashley and RS Southampton was an excellent start to their first season in the league. Indeed, despite a series of excellent finishes they didn't better it until 2006/07 when they were runners-up to Gosport Borough. The following season they went one better and won the league, meaning that for the 2008/09 season they were promoted to the Southern League Division 1 South & West. Two near misses in their first 2 seasons after they lost to Cirencester Town and Didcot Town in the playoffs were put right in 2011 when they were once more champions. I'd visited their old ground for pictures on the way to Southampton v Wycombe once, but it was time for pastures new as they moved into the brand new Testwood Stadium for their first season in the Southern Premier. They nearly made it a double promotion but lost to Oxford City in the playoff final after finishing 3rd. A mid-table finish of 14th followed in 2012/13 and the decline continued the following season when a 21st placed finish spelt relegation. After a 15th placed finish last season, they were in exactly the same position before tonight's game.

In the FA Cup, the 2011/12 season proved to be their best so far. In the qualifying rounds, they beat Fleet Town, Clevedon Town, Weymouth & Handsworth Villa to set up a first-round tie against fellow non-leaguers Bradford Park Avenue. Home advantage would have made them alight favourites but they totally blew the Yorkshiremen away, winning 8-1. Bristol Rovers were the opponents in the next round, but in front of a record crowd of 2315 saw them lose 6-1 to the football league side. In 2007 the FA Vase final was reached but in the first final to be played at the new Wembley Stadium they lost 3-1 to Truro City.  The FA Trophy 1st Round was reached in 2012/13, whilst the club has won a number of local competitions including the Perkins Charity Cup on 6 occasions. 


For the second out of three Tuesdays in a row, I would be without fellow groundhopper Anwar, this time because it was his son Hicham's birthday. The plus point of this was that I'd have free choice as to where to go, the bad news was that I'd be paying the full amount of petrol on my own. First choice was always going to be Farnham Town v Westfield - it was by far the nearest and it would also complete the Combined Counties Premier for me. But with the weather again looking dodgy and Farnham's pitch having let me down in the past, I was cautious about setting off without the word that it was good to go. So a series of backups were planned, attractions were meeting fellow hopper Sheridan who has a blog called The Stadium Trotter at AFC Totton v Larkhall Athletic. The match that I really fancied was Herne Bay v Bury Town in the FA Trophy, but that was busting the budget of £20 a match I had set myself for each game in fuel alone. It would be another day of finger crossing and Twitter searching before I knew where I was going.

On the day of the game I was stuck at home for most of the day waiting in for a parcel to arrive, but I wasn't that bothered as it was grotty out and I had no reason to want to go out until the time came to leave for football. Most of the afternoon was spent checking various Twitter accounts and forums, trying to establish where the evening’s football would be. The downsides of clubs been run by volunteers was that they had work and so for a lot of the games confirmation would not be forthcoming until it was too late for me to travel. Although they were initially confident that the game was on, the Farnham Town v Westfield game was called off at 5pm, meaning that it was third time unlucky trying to see a game there, with only Pontefract Colleries proving equally elusive. I’d tweeted and phoned up Herne Bay, but with no answer, so I didn’t want to risk a wasted journey. So after careful consideration, I opted to go to AFC Totton, who had confirmed that their game was on. I had a quick dinner of risotto before leaving at 5.15. Sadly fellow hopper Sheridan would not me joining me as the trains were messed up, a total farce considering the high prices they charge. My trip was reasonable though the M40 was slow. The M25 was patchy as usual but not as bad as it could be, and large parts of the M3 were down to 50mph due to roadworks, but at least it was moving. I got to the ground at 7.10, paying £9 to get in, £2 for a programme and £3.20 for a pint of Aspalls, which helped me chill after a frustrating time trying to find a game. I checked out Facebook and read the programme in the bar while I waited for the game to start.

AFC Totton totally dominated early proceedings forcing a number of good saves out of the visiting keeper Kane Mannings. But it was Larkhall who opened the scoring on the break, 8 minutes in. Left back Jamie Lyons picked up a loose ball in Totton's defence and slotted home from around the edge of the area. The game continued in Totton's favour and they looked particularly dangerous from the flanks. It was from one of these crosses that set up Jake Burgess's equaliser on 32 minutes. At half time it was still all square but it had been a good half with both sides trying to play good football. Due to having dinner early I was hungry by halftime and so got myself a decent sized portion of chips for £1.60. Larkhall started slightly the strongest but again it was good wing play that benefited Totton. A good low cross was put in from the right and Nathaniel Sherborne was left with a simple tap-in on 50 minutes. Despite the strong winds, both sides continued to play some good stuff and create clear chances, though nothing clear cut was really emerging. In the end, Totton clung on for the 2-1 win, sending the majority of the 200 strong crowd home happy, though Larkhall had played their part in an entertaining game. I left the ground at 9.40 and listened to the England v France game on the way home. England won 2-0 on a night that was more than about football following the murders by terrorists in Paris last week. The journey home went pretty well, though the M3 was still closed for the same section that had delayed me on the way back from Alton last week. So I came back via Basingstoke and Reading and saved myself 10 miles in the process. I got in at 11.05 and watched TV before going to bed just after midnight.


TESTWOOD STADIUM is a smart and modern venue, thankfully just before pretty much every new build had metal 'Arena' stands as the sole covered accommodation. Pride of place goes to the large main stand which is raised above pitch level and has a capacity of around 400. Views and legroom from here are excellent and as good as any ground you will find. Opposite is a smaller stand, fitted out with benches, holding around 200. The rest of the ground is open terracing, with the overall capacity being set at 3000. Entry was a couple of quid more than I'd liked to have paid but was in line with other clubs who obviously need to make the books balance. The programme was well presented and had a fair bit to read, with the free team sheet was worth the asking price of £2

There is a nice sized bar at the ground, and this is decorated mainly with AFC Totton memorabilia but also some things from other clubs, especially those they have played in big games such as Bristol Rovers. Drinks are good enough value, probably less than you'd pay in a lot of pubs. The tea bar has a good range, and the portion of chips I had was good value at £1.60. The club shop was closed when I went, so I didn't get to see what was on offer. I didn't venture into town, but I don't think it's too far away.