Thursday 24 November 2016

Hadley - Brickfield Lane

Hadley FC
Brickfield Lane

Ground Number: 650
Wednesday 24th November 2016
Hadley 3-3 Sun Sports
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division


Hadley FC were formed in 1882 and started in the North Middlesex League. Various local leagues have been entered since then, including the Barnet & District, North Suburban, Mid Herts, Herts County and Southern Olympian. In 1999 they joined the Herts Senior County League. They were very successful here, starting in its second tier and winning promotion up to the Premier at the third attempt. 2002/03 saw an 8th placed finish at their new level and even better they won back to back titles in the following two seasons. This was followed up with a 3rd and 2nd placed finish, so they applied to join the Spartan South Midlands League. Sadly the Herts Senior County League did not want them to progress and blocked the move, leading to the club taking the decision to drop down to the West Herts Saturday League. Champions in their only season, they finally realised their Spartan South Midlands League ambitions, joining at Division 2 (step 7). Two quick promotions, achieved by finishing runners-up to The 61 FC and Holmer Green respectively saw them take their place in the Spartan South Midlands Premier where they remain to this day. Last season saw them records their record best finish of 6th, though this year has seen them in the lower reaches of the table thanks to indifferent form and cup commitments.

This season saw a great run in the FA Cup when they reached the 3rd Qualifying Round, taking Conference South side Eastbourne Borough to a replay. After beating Brantham Athletic, Hertford Town and London Colney, they faced Southern Premier outfit Kings Langley. Despite plying their trade two levels below their opponents they won 2-1 and carried the heroics with a goalless draw in Sussex against Eastbourne Borough. Due to a strict curfew on the use fo their floodlights they had to play the replay at Potters Bar Town and ended up bowing out 4-1. The FA Vase has seen them progress to the 2nd Round a couple of times whilst locally they have won a number of cups including the Barnet Cup, Potters Bar Charity Cup, Mid Herts Shield, Herts Centenary Shield, Aubery Cup and Herts Charity Shield. One notable player to turn out for them is Charlie Goode who played who played a handful of games and is now at Scunthorpe United.  


When Hadley moved into their own ground at the beginning of this season, it meant that I'd need to visit there to keep up my record of seeing a game at every ground in the Spartan South Midlands Premier. I didn't want to use a Saturday for such a short trip, but midweek fixtures at home were in short supply, due to local residents being touchy about the use of their own floodlights. Finally in mid-November, one came up, and so I planned the game against Sun Sports in. On the day of the game, I only had a couple of hourss sleep before I went to work at 4am, so I was glad when it was an easy day at work. I came home and struggled to sleep, but at least I got a couple of hours in. After catching up online, having dinner and various little other things that needed to be done, I left at 6.30. Thankfully, after taking a risk and leaving late, the traffic was fine. I got to the ground with 10 minutes until kick off, paying £7 including a programme, to get in.

I've mentioned before on here that the Spartan South Midlands league is generally a good standard of football, and has never let me down for entertainment. This was no exception, and for a while it looked as if Hadley were set to get their first home win in the league. It was a free-kick from the right that set up the first goal, with Sam Lyon heading in right in the corner on 15 minutes. The visitors missed an immediate chance to equalise straight after when it looked easier to score. A low cross was put in and the striker was left with just the keeper to beat, but the ball was blasted over the bar from 6 yards out It was that way at half-time, with no indication of the goal-fest that was to come in the second half. Hadley looked to have a firm grip on the game when they doubled their lead on 55 minutes and it was a decent shot from the right that was placed into the corner of the goal by Zaine Gangadeen. However, Sun Sports completely turned the game on its head with a blistering 15-minute spell. 57 minutes saw the start of their comeback when sloppy defending allowed Andy Brennan to slide home. 8 minutes later, it was all square with Dominic David bundling home at the far post. 73 minutes saw Sun Sports take the lead and it was an unfortunate Hadley defender that headed into his own goal, right on the line. Though for the second night in a row, it had been a highly combative game, Hadley deserved a share of the spoils. They got that with just over 10 minutes to go when Tyrone Mullholland's free-kick when straight in. It was a good effort, but the visiting keeper will have been disappointed not to get a firmer hand on it to prevent it going in. Both sides had half-chances to win it, but had to settle on a draw, which was probably a fair result, all told.

So this result leaves Hadley still searching for their first-ever league win, though they did gain only their second ever point and first score draw at their new home. It had been an excellent way to complete the Spartan South Midlands Premier, though, given the entertainment and close locations, I'm bound to be revisiting some in the future. It was also a fitting contest to mark my 650th ground. I left straight after the game, and owing to the terms of them playing at the ground, the floodlights were out before I'd even started my engine to keep the local residents from frothing at the mouth. It was a good journey home and I was back by 10.15. Like the previous night, I couldn't go to bed straight away and it was past midnight before I eventually attempted to get to sleep.


Brickfield Lane is situated in the village of Arkley, and although it has been home to Hadley FC previously, it has only been a Spartan South Midlands League venue since August. There are plenty of stipulations that come with its use, including the fact that the floodlights have a strict curfew of 9.30PM leading to some cup games needing to be played at their old groundshare at Potters Bar. The ground is situated in a nice part of the world and has a pub right outside it, though I've no idea what its like.

Back at the ground, there is a bar, though I'm not sure what is on offer, drinks wise. Food is burgers, hotdogs and bacon rolls, and the nice aroma was tempting me even after my dinner. The ground itself is your standard modern venue with the obligatory 100 seater Arena stand. Opposite is a tiny bit more interesting, offering flat covered standing for around the same number. The rest of the ground is open, though the pleasant surroundings and use of wood to good effect make it feel a little more homely and a nice place to visit.


Stansted - Hargrave Park

Stansted FC
Hargrave Park
Cambridge Road
CM24 8BX

Ground Number: 648
Tuesday 22nd November 2016
Stansted 1-2 Wadham Lodge
Essex Senior League


Stansted FC were formed in 1902 although there are records of football in Stansted for some 10 years prior. They spent their formative years in the London, East Herts and Hertfordshire leagues. In 1971 they made the step up, becoming founder members of the Essex Senior League. They only had one win all term in their initial season, although the next year of 1972/73 saw them improve dramatically and finish in 3rd place behind Billericay Town and Basildon United.  Ten years later they improved that, with a runners-up spot behind Heybridge Swifts. They finally won the Essex Senior League in 2009/10 and came close to retaining it the season after, when only a points deduction prevented them from retaining the title. They'd wanted promotion to the Isthmian League, but with their ground not meeting the criteria they fell away badly, finishing in the bottom 4 for the next 3 seasons. Since then, they have recovered, finishing in the top half for each of the next 2 seasons. They've continued that this season, sitting in 4th place at the time of kick-off.

Stansted's best run in the FA Cup came in their second season in the competition, 1996-97. Impressive victories over higher league sides Aveley, Hemel Hempstead and Hampton saw them reach the 3rd Qualifying Round before a 5-0 defeat at St Albans City. 1983/84 would see them win the FA Vase as they defeated Stamford in an enthralling 3-2 victory at Wembley Stadium. Local cup honours include the East Anglian Cup, Eastern Floodlit Cup and Stansted and District Challenge Cup. Famous former players include Dwight Gayle whose goals propelled them to the Essex Senior League title, Gary Hart and Alfie Potter. 1983/84 saw them set two records - beating Coggeshall Town 15-0  to record their record margin of victory, whilst also recording their record attendance of 828 against Whickham in the FA Vase.


My choices were limited on this Tuesday, as fellow hopper groundhopper Anwar had to work until 5.30. The cold weather didn't help, with not many games scheduled and the potential for those that were to fall victim to the weather. With the fact that Anwar's work was on the way to Milton Keynes and the M1, Stansted was initially dismissed as a choice due to its geographical location and the fact that there were no backups around there. Of all the options on the M1, Kirby Muxloe was the nearest as they hosted Rothwell Corinthians. I also had backups in place at Birstall United, West Bridgford, Ashby Ivanhoe and Radcliffe Olympic in place should our original choice be postponed.

The day of the game came, and it was my usual day off work. I originally planned to walk to town and back but after finding some good offers at my local shop, decided not to bother. As it turned out, I needed to go down town anyway, as whilst I was walking back home I got a notification to say that my laptop was ready to pick up, but I decided to come back and have a rest before taking the car down. It was during this downtime that I discovered that my second choice for tonight, Birstall United v Dunkirk, had already bitten the dust. With that in mind, and the fact that their pitch was looking good, I bought Stansted back into the fold, and set up a Twitter list to keep an eye on the remaining games. After going to pick up my laptop, which I was very pleased with, I came back and as the afternoon wore on, more options were being postponed. With me down to 2 options at 2.30PM, Stansted had gone from an afterthought, to the favourite after they and West Bridgford had tweeted that their pitches were fine. I texted Anwar and he gave his preference as Stansted which was fine by me, as it was by far the closest.

I spent the rest of the afternoon researching the club, as well as catching up on various other things, before leaving at 4.45PM. The traffic on the smaller roads was bad thanks to dawdling drivers and so I was about 5 minutes late to our meet. It also took a while to get out of Wingrave thanks to roadworks. Thankfully the rest of the journey was fine, and we were in Stansted by 7. First job was to find something to eat, in the end I opted for a pancake roll and chips from a Chinese takeaway which was £4.10. It was pretty average but at least it was a decent portion size. From there we went to the ground. We got there around 7.20 and were given a nice friendly welcome. Even better for my finances, it was only a fiver for entry and that included a decent programme. Some clubs charge £7 for entry alone in the Essex Senior, so to get a programme thrown in for £2 less was a real bargain. After a brief chat with the chairman we went and sat in the stand and ate our dinner while we waited for the game to start.

The hosts took an early lead with just a couple of minutes in. It was a bit of a scramble, but Jack Hayes bundled home from close range to give Stansted the lead. They'd shaded the first half, but just before half time, Wadham Lodge equalised. There was a loose ball just inside the area and Larry Asare pounced to fire the ball into the roof of the net to level things up. It was a pretty tough game to referee, with plenty of full-blooded tackles going in, and objections to the referee about his decisions. However Mr Gray generally handled things well, being fairly consistent and keeping the game flowing with no unneeded sending offs. Wadham Lodge were by far the better side second half, and to be fair overall. They got their reward late on when they got a winner, Valdut Gabriel-Sighiaurau using his pace to get away from the defence and rolling the ball in the bottom left-hand corner.

It had been quite a physical game, but an entertaining one. In the dying embers of the game we were delighted when news came through of a late winner for Wycombe at Newport County. Naturally we were delighted, and tried to listen to BBC Three Counties online. However in keeping with their incosistent coverage, there was no stream available due to copyright. This didn't stop us getting coverage on Saturday from BBC Radio Cambridge, so it was disappointing not to be able to listen to the post match analysis. Insted we had to make do with the irritating Andy Goldstein on TalkSPORT as they talked about Spurs exit from the Champions League as if it was the only game in the country that night. I dropped Anwar off, before driving home. Though it was a pretty early night home for me, I couldn't get to sleep for ages, so I watched 'Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish' amongst other things. Eventually I got to sleep at around 2am, though with me being up at 4am, I had to catch up the following afternoon.


HARGRAVE PARK is a classic non-league ground, which is deemed suitable for step 5 and below. This is despite a 200 seater stand, though there could be so-called 'safety concerns as the leg room is not great, and access can be tricky. Next to that is an area of cover, with enough space for 100 people. I didn't use the bar or tea bar on the night, but it seemed to be the standard fare at a reasonable price. The ground is shared with the local cricket club, meaning that some early games, mainly in the FA Cup, end up getting moved to Bishops Stortford. Overall it's a nice friendly place to visit, great value and a pleasant change to bland, modern stadiums.

Monday 21 November 2016

North Ferriby United - Grange Lane

North Ferriby United FC
EON Visual Media Stadium
Grange Lane
Church Road
North Ferriby
East Yorkshire
HU14 3AB

01482 634601
Official Website

Ground Number: 648
Saturday 19th November 2016
North Ferriby United 2-1 Sutton United
Conference Premier


North Ferriby United were formed in 1934 and spent their formative years in the East Riding Church League, winning the title in 1938, The Second World War interrupted proceedings and when they returned to football it was in the East Riding Amateur League. They progressed onto the Yorkshire League in 1969. Starting in its second tier, they progressed to Division 1 in their second season and would remain in the top tier for all but one of their subsequent seasons here. In 1982 the Yorkshire League was swallowed up by the Northern Counties East League and North Ferriby became founder members. Starting in its second tier, they earned promotion to the Premier Division in 1986. A 3rd placed finish in their first season would put down a marker and for the rest of their time they would never finish below 9th. They celebrated the millennium by becoming NCEL champions and earning promotion to the Northern Premier League. Again they adapted well to their new surroundings and were NPL Division 1 champions in 2005. They'd go on to reach the playoff final in their first season, losing to Farsley Celtic before things levelled out with a trio of mid-table finishes. 2010 and 2011 would see playoff heartbreak, losing to Boston United and Colwyn Bay in consecutive semi-finals, After a series of good finishes, they'd eventually win promotion to the Conference North in 2013. A 2nd placed finish in their first season ended in disappointment as they lost in the playoff semi-finals to Guiseley. They matched that feat last season, only this time wins over Boston United and AFC Fylde saw the village club complete the incredible feat of promotion to the top tier of non-league football. Though they sit bottom at present, they are still well in touch with the clubs around them, and a good run of results could still see them survive relegation.

The club have never reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup, having suffered 4th Qualifying Round heartbreak on no less than 5 occasions. Better times have been had in the FA Trophy with North Ferriby winning the competition in 2015 with a giantkilling over Wrexham. The side were deadlocked at 3-3 after extra time, and Ferriby triumphed 5-4 on penalties. They also reached the final of the FA Vase in 1997, though there was no cup glory this time as they lost 3-0 to Whitby Town. Locally, the East Riding Senior Cup had been lifted on no less than 17 occasions, whilst they have also tasted success in league cups - namely the NPL Challenge Cup back to back in 2012 and 2013 and the NCEL Presidents Cup on 3 occasions. Despite being a village of less than 4,000, past residents of North Ferriby have included anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce and football manager Phil Brown whilst he was in charge locally at Hull City.


On the day of the game I woke up at 7am when my alarm went off. I'd not had the best nights sleep, having had a late night the previous evening after coming back from Framlingham. I had to push on though, and had a slice of toast and the rest of my Battenburg cake before leaving at 7.40. It was a freezing morning, with the temperature being -1 as I drove to meet Anwar at 8am. We had a good journey up, even with the long-running roadworks on the M1 for 20 miles. On the way up I tuned my phone into Viking 2 and listened to some great tunes. There was also a 'guess the year' competition on the station, and I was glad to say I got it bang on as 1988, whilst Anwar had guessed 2 years earlier. As a result of the traffic being good, we had bags of time to kill, so I had a look to see what grounds were on our route. I was pleased to see that Thorne Colliery was, as it was one that interested me. It was all secure, so I was lucky that someone was there working on the ground and therefore it was open. It was a cracker too, with a large stand with enough space for 500. Currently they sit at step 7 in the Central Midlands League, but with the addition of some hard standing and floodlights it would probably be not far off step 3.

We'd arranged to stop at Goole on the way to have lunch, arriving at 11.30. There had been a great cash converters I had seen when visiting Goole AFC a few weeks ago. I was tempted by a Sega Saturn for £45 as it was second only to the Amiga as my favourite computer. However I resisted the temptation to take a nostalgia trip as I hardly get the time to play the machines I already own, and I'm a bit of a nightmare for buying stuff on impulse, especially after a few pints and a trip onto eBay. Just after 12 we made our way to the local Wetherspoons, the City and County. The new Christmas menu had just landed and there were a number of things I fancied trying but I opted for the burger. I'm not sure that beef, bacon and breaded deep fried brie screams traditional Christmas, but it was delicious and a bargain at £7.25 along with a bottle of hazy hog cider. It was over 2000 calories with all the trimmings, so not the healthiest. From there we had a look around the rest of the shops before going back to the car.

I stopped at Morrisons in Brough to get some fuel for the journey home before arriving at the ground at 1.35. I paid £15 to get in, which is below the average for the Conference, but still I feel around a fiver too much for the level of football. Sadly running costs and players demands push the prices up, especially when only a small fraction of the community support the club. For such a friendly and welcoming club as North Ferriby, it's a shame the majority of the local football loving populous choose to watch some dodgy Albanian stream of the 3PM Premier League game or get the train up to Hull to watch the local Premiership side. I went in the bar and watched the Manchester United v Arsenal game and to keep warm which ended 1-1. After that I took a place on the side terrace towards the end that the home side were shooting, and chatted to fellow fans. The match report from the non-league paper is below.

So on reflection, visitors Sutton were unlucky not to grab a share of the spoils after spending the final half-hour battering the Ferriby goal. Up until then the hosts had been the superior side, but the game changed when visiting manager Paul Doswell made some inspired substitutions. Especially impressive was winger Chris Dickson who terrorised the home defence, in fact both wingers for Sutton looked excellent. There had been a delay in the Wycombe game and so we listened to the last 5 minutes after I found that BBC Radio Cambridge were doing live commentary. We went mad after Wycombe scored a last-munte winner to take the three points, though the post-match analysis was more interesting. The Cambridge contingent were not happy with the referee, not happy with their manager and not happy with Wycombe's 'gamesmanship. The last point was a salient one as it's the main reason I barely watch Wycombe away from home.There was also a nasty injury to a Cambridge player and racial abuse thrown at Wycombe player Adebayo Akinfenwa, which were both sad incidents to hear about. BBC Radio Cambridge gave way to Danny Kelly on TalkSPORT and that kept us entertained on the what was a good journey. This journey was broken by a visit to the Beer Shack Micropub in Hucknall where I got some cider to take home for Match of the Day. I dropped Anwar off at 8.20, getting home myself at 8.45. The rest of the evening was spent chilling before watching MOTD and going to bed around midnight.


GRANGE LANE is a ground I visited in October 2010 whilst on the way to Hull City v Portsmouth. It was a small but well-appointed ground, and as they were in the NPL Premier at the time, I was looking forward to seeing how it had changed with them having progressed 2 levels since my last visit. At the time there was a long stand which provided a mixture of a few hundred seats and some covered standing, while on the opposite side was a smaller area of cover for around 100 fans.

Things hadn't changed a whole lot since my initial visit when I went back for a game. Some seats had been renewed in the main stand and had increased in number. The bar was decent, not the biggest selection of drinks but it had Sky TV and club memorabilia on the walls. I didn't try the tea bar, but prices seemed reasonable, whilst the club shop had a decent range of stuff as well as old North Ferriby programmes. Overall, a nice friendly club to complete the Conference on, and well worth a visit.