Ground Number: 650
Wednesday 24th November 2016
Hadley 3-3 Sun Sports
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
HADLEY FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
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.