Wednesday 31 January 2018

Easington Sports - Addison Road

Easington Sports FC
Addison Road
OX16 9DH

Ground Number: 753
Tuesday 30th January 2018
Easington Sports 1-2 Banbury United
Oxfordshire Senior Cup Quarter Final


The club was formed in 1946, just after the end of the second world war. They played in the Oxfordshire Junior League at first, progressing to the Oxford Senior League in the late 1950's. They won two Premier Division titles whilst here, after the latter in 1958, they made the switch to the Warwickshire Combination, staying until 1964. Easington Sports then rejoined the Oxfordshire Senior League, winning the 1st Divison in 1966 and Premier Division runners-up the following season. They joined the Hellenic League in 1971 and have been in its second tier for almost all of their stay here, which continues to this day, albeit now on a regional basis in the Division 1 West. The highest finish so far came in 1975 when Easington Sports finished behind Maidenhead Town and Morris Motors for a 3rd place finish. On the flip side, there have been three rock bottom finishes, including 2 at the start of the 1980s. The first of those seasons saw just one win all season - Rayners Lane being beaten 3-0 to save them going the whole season without a victory. Since regionalisation was introduced at the turn of the century, Easington Sports have spent all but two seasons in the Western Section. Recent seasons have been fairly successful and if the good results continue, they could still achieve their best ever league position and potential promotion to the Premier Division.

The installation of floodlights at the start of the season saw the club participate in the FA Vase for the first time in 27 years. They are still awaiting their first win after a 4-0 defeat to Highworth Town made it 3 defeats from 3. The FA Cup has not yet been entered, but with floodlights and a stand now in place, they could soon make their debut. Local cup wins include the Ben Turner Trophy twice whilst members of the Oxford Senior League and the Ron Thomas Memorial Cup in 1999. The record attendance of 300 came for a 1956 Oxford Senior Cup tie against Witney Town. The club gets their name from a local area and housing estate in Banbury and are nicknamed 'The Clan'.


I'd be on my own again on this day, as my fellow hoppers were busy. Chris had originally said he'd be up for a game but had to pull out due to other commitments. Anwar was also unavailable, he'd signalled a long time ago that he was off to Luton Town v Wycombe Wanderers. This game wasn't for me, I'd been to Luton many times, most recently little over a year ago. It would also involve a trip on the Independent Supporters Club coach, with a pub stop. After a heavy Saturday in that respect, I was keener than ever to keep up my midweek abstinence. The most logical option then would be to go south and do a ground that would be impractical to do with my hopping pals. The likes of Broadbridge Heath, Billingshurst and Midhurst & Easebourne fitted the regard in that respect, but each would involve a trip around the unpredictable M25. There was another interesting option, and despite being fairly close to home, I'd not once seen it come up as an option in all my time of midweek groundhopping. This was probably due to that fact they played in a league with 15 teams - meaning just 28 games a season and little need for midweek games.

However, an interesting local derby had popped up in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup as they faced local side Banbury United in the Quarter Final. Just one and a half miles separated the sides and it was quite a big game for the hosts, with United being relative giants, playing 3 leagues above in the Southern Premier. The two sides had met briefly in league games when Banbury United's Reserves played in the Hellenic Division 1 West for two seasons between 2006 and 2008. The results had fallen very much in Easington's favour, with 3 wins out of 4 unbeaten matches including 7-1 and 5-1 victories. There was some doubt as to whether the game would go ahead due to some rain the previous day, but I was hopeful that it would, despite having three backup plans in place. The day of the game was a pretty standard day off, though I wish I'd got a better night's sleep rather than keep waking up. After getting ready, I did my usual walk down town, meeting my Dad at Morrisons where I bought a chicken curry meal before getting a lift home. The afternoon at home was a very dull and lazy one and I just wanted the game time to come. Luckily, there were no forecast issues with the pitch, meaning I could go ahead with my original plan. After a dinner of salmon stir-fry, I left just before 6pm, hoping I'd still make the 7.30 kick off.

The journey over went without a hitch and I arrived just after 7. After parking in a local school as instructed, I went to the entrance. Entry was excellent value at £5 including a programme. I went to the bar to catch up online in the warm, seeing several hoppers who had also chosen this game and boosted what felt like a decent attendance. Before the kickoff, there was a minutes silence for Jimmy Hay, who had recently lost his battle with Alzheimer's. Hay had played for my team Wycombe Wanderers, playing between 1960 and 1963, later going on to manage Easington Sports. Also laid to rest was Banbury's former player Wayne McDowell - he was a good servant for the Puritans, making 233 appearances and scoring 77 goals between 1983 and 1985. Banbury's local radio station, Puritans Radio, based at United's stadium was covering the game and from the few minutes that I heard of them, they were doing a great job of commentating. Banbury United had brought a great and from what I heard, they had named a strong lineup.

Perhaps then, it was no surprise that the visitors dominated the opening ten minutes. However, it was Callum Convey who gave Easington the lead on 11 minutes, heading home a left-wing cross from close range. This led to the hosts gaining confidence and having a strong spell just after they scored, but they didn't really test visiting keeper Jack Harding that much. On 19 minutes, it was all square when a great ball forward allowed Ricky Johnson to score with a looping header. This came a minute after Connor McDonagh had seen his shot cleared off the line by Conor Grant. The rest of the half saw the visitors continue to dominate and they'd already seen a header ruled out for an infringement. A minute before halftime, they did take the lead, Charlie Wise heading home from a corner. The second half was played out with few chances being created and was a bit of a let down after an entertaining first period.

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The game had attracted Easington Sports' record attendance, at 305 it had beaten the previous record set all the way back in the 1950's. The club had been great hosts and their team had put up a great fight. Despite a great first half, the second half had been a quiet one. There was great news for Wycombe who had won 3-2 at Luton in what sounded like a great game. I listened to the coverage on BBC 3 Counties radio on the way back, this made the journey go a lot quicker. The journey was all going well until there was a long delay on the M40, thanks to a multi-vehicle accident further up. I'd just passed the junction for Thame at 10.05 when the traffic came to a standstill. After a 45 minute wait, I discovered that it happened a few hundred yards in front of me, luckily it just looked like vehicle damage. The delay was certainly preferable to being there a few minute earlier and getting my car smashed up, especially with the luck I’ve had with my current vehicle. I got in at 11.10, shortly followed by my Dad, who had been to the Luton Town v Wycombe game. I had a quick drink of squash before watching YouTube videos until midnight, not the best of situations with me being up at 4 am, but I can never get straight to sleep straight after returning from football. Of course, that meant a sleep the following afternoon, but as ever, it was worth it.


ADDISON ROAD has seen plenty of recent developments to bring the ground up to the satisfaction of the ground graders. This includes the standard 50 seat metal stand and a set of floodlights, after years of objections by some local residents, but thankfully an agreement was reached to allow them to remain at step 6. There's also a covered overhang in front of the clubhouse and the whole ground has a nice, homely feel. There isn't much around the ground, but they have a reasonable bar with a decent selection of drinks, and a tea bar that I didn't get a closer look, but heard good things about.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Fairly basic, but homely (6)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
1.5 miles from the town, not much near the ground, but plenty of parking in a local school (6)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
A nice welcome at the gate (7)

4: Value for money
Great value at a fiver including programme (9)

5: Social Media & Website
Decent website and an interactive Twitter (8)

6: Programme
Good effort for a freebie (7)

7: Game entertainment
Good first half died down in the second (7)

8: Tea Bar
Didn't get a close enough look (-)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Reasonable range of drinks (6)

10: Club Shop
Didn't see one (-)



Sunday 7 January 2018

Eastbourne Town - The Saffrons

Eastbourne Town FC
The Saffrons
Compton Place Road
East Sussex
BN21 1EA

Ground Number: 752
Saturday 6th January 2018
Eastbourne Town 1-3 Windsor
FA Vase 4th Round


The club was formed in 1881 as Devonshire Park, changing their name to Eastbourne 8 years later before finally settling on Eastbourne Town in 1971. The first league they have a record of calling home was the Southern Amateur League where they stayed until 1946, though they spent one season away in 1920/21, finishing 3rd as founder members of the Sussex County League. A spell in the Corinthian League followed, two 7th place finishes were the highlights. In 1963 Eastbourne joined the Athenian League at Division 1 level, though they struggled and were relegated to Division 2 after a few seasons. They eventually recovered, winning the league in 1976 and rejoining the Sussex County League. They'd remain in the top tier for most of their stay here, even being crowned champions in their first season. They were briefly relegated to Division 2 in 2001, though a runners-up spot behind Rye & Iden United in 2003 was enough to see them promoted back up. This was followed by their second Division 1 championship in 2007. This time Eastbourne Town opted to take the step up to the Isthmian League, playing in Division 1 South. Their best ever finish in the modern pyramid came in 2013 as they finished 11th, however, they were relegated the following season. Since returning to the Sussex League, it has been renamed the Southern Combination. Finishes have been excellent, with the club always being in the top 5. Prior to today's game, they sat 3rd, with a real chance of gaining promotion at the end of the season.

In the FA Cup, Eastbourne has reached the 4th Qualifying Round four times, the latest coming in 1967 as they lost 9-0 at home to Margate. Success has been hard to come by in the FA Amateur Cup and FA Trophy but a number of good runs have been enjoyed in the FA Vase. The best of those came in 1976 when they narrowly lost 1-0 at Barton Rovers in the 5th Round of the FA Vase.Local honours include the Sussex Senior Cup on 12 occasions and the Royal Ulster Rifles Cup six times. The club's record attendance of 7,378 came for an FA Cup game against Hastings United in 1953.

Eastbourne Town has two main supporters groups. The brilliantly named 'Pier Pressure' help out the club, producing the match day programmes, maintaining social media channels and selling merchandise. The edgier Beachy Head Ultras also lend their support, both bringing a display of banners, flags and occasionally smoke bombs on matchdays. Unlike at Clapton, the supporters have been welcomed and embraced by the club. Contrary to the town's traditional Tory support, these fans are unapologetically left wing. They have supported local causes, including the Eastbourne Foodbank and anti-racist charities. Their latest cause is to help out the Windsor Homeless Project, an organisation in the hometown of today's visitors. The homeless in Windsor have been treated with callous disregard by their local council with leader Simon Dudley wanting to clear the streets of the homeless before the upcoming 'Royal Wedding' - even going as far as to contact the police to make sure the protocol gets followed. The crazy thing is, this should not be happening in a civilised country. Giving every single person who needs it a hot meal and a warm bed for a night will cost a fraction of what the aforementioned wedding will eventually total up to.


Usually, I look forward to FA Cup 3rd Round weekend and get to a good game. This year, however, it had been a right rubbish draw, with very few decent ties. The media might have been getting themselves excited about Liverpool v Everton, Crystal Palace v Brighton and Middlesbrough v Sunderland, but these ties were ten a penny with the sides being in the same league. My own team Wycombe had been 'rewarded' with an uninspiring home tie against Preston North End. Normally I'd have gone regardless, but with the game not capturing my imagination and the £20 ticket price put me off. Don't get me wrong, it's not an outrageous amount, but usually, I pay £11.80 a game for the league games. Whilst many clubs had decided to reward loyal season ticket holders with a discount, mine had seemingly taken theirs for granted and were charging them full price. I started seeking out alternatives - Birmingham City v Burton Albion was a dull tie, but I'd not been to St Andrews for years. They were offering their own season ticket holders a discount of a fiver and it was still only £15 otherwise. However, I'd left it too late to get a cheap train. I started looking at other competitions, namely the FA Vase. For me, the best tie here was Eastbourne Borough v Windsor. I checked the Windsor FC Twitter to see if they had any spare coach places - they did have on the players' coach, so I nabbed one. The best thing was, it was completely free, as visiting clubs have their expenses paid for FA Competitions. With entry at £6, it was ironic that I could get a ticket, travel to Eastbourne and much more for what I'd have paid if I'd gone to Wycombe. Windsor was one of my most seen clubs, having seen them play 22 times (although some were under their former guise of Windsor & Eton) and I always enjoyed a visit to their home ground, Stag Meadow.

The night before the game was spent with a few cans, playing my lasted football manager game, which was my European journeyman save. After starting off unemployed, I got the job at second-tier Romanian club CF Balotesti and was doing pretty well. I got a fairly early night, waking at 7am the next morning. After playing a few more games, I had breakfast and a bath before leaving for Windsor at 9.40. By 10.15, I was at the ground and after parking up, I popped down the local shop for a paper. We had a bit of a wait for the coach to depart as one of the players was stuck in traffic. We eventually got away at 10.55. Luckily the journey was decent, with some players coming up the front of the bus to sing. After a rather ropey rendition of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’ they gave up. We stopped at Peace Pottage services for 20 minutes where I had a lukewarm and mediocre steak and cheese slice at Greggs, though at least it only cost £1.30. We got to the ground at 1.20, parking up on the road outside.

There were two Wetherspoons pubs that I wanted to 'tick' both within walking distance. I went to the better-looking one first, the London and County and wasn't disappointed. One of my favourite ciders, Black Dragon was on offer at the usual wallet friendly Wetherspoons prices and I was able to watch the Fleetwood v Leicester FA Cup game there. The second Wetherspoons, the Cornfield Garage was pretty crap - no real cider and no tables to get food. At least some of the Windsor fans there cheered me up, remembering me from when I used to watch them regularly under Dennis Greene. 'Have you bought the baldy geezer' they asked, in reference to Paul, the mate who I roped into going to watch random games. I wasn't a groundhopper at the time and wished I'd started earlier, but always enjoyed my visits to Stag Meadow. After the second pint, I went in search of takeaways. I found one place, RFC and ordered a strips and chips meal for £4. It was pretty poor - the chips and drink were fresh, but the strips tasted like they’d been sitting around for hours. After that, I made my way to the ground. I arrived at 2.20, paying a reasonable £6 to get in. The programmes were already sold out, no issue to me as I got a team sheet, but they missed out on some revenue. I was still peckish, so went and got some chips from the tea bar. Service was really slow, about 20 minutes to serve a small queue but I was out in time for the game.

I'd been hoping to cut and paste a match report from the Non-League paper below, but alas, a reporter was not sent. Even if they weren't interested, the public was with the day's second-best crowd in the FA Vase of 596. Windsor had bought a fair number of fans, mainly by train and they would have been pleased as their team made a bright start. Home keeper Greg Nessling made a couple of good saves, including one from former Football League striker Barry Hales, still going strong despite being 46 in May. It was against the run of play that Eastbourne Town took the lead on  Hesitancy in the Windsor defence allowed Evan Archibald to net from close range to give his side the lead on 27 minutes. Eastbourne took the game by the scruff of its neck for a long while and it was only a great save from Windsor keeper Hugo Sobte that prevented the lead from being doubled. It was the hosts that had much the better of the second half, but Windsor were awarded a penalty on 78 minutes. Kieran Knight stepped up and converted well, the balance of play now tipping back in the visitors favour. With a couple of minutes of normal time remaining, substitute Nadir Shafi rifled into the roof of the net to give Windsor the lead. Shafi turned provider deep into injury time, setting up a goal on the break. It was a simple finish for fellow sub Matt Stockhill who slotted into an empty net after the ball was squared. The final whistle prompted wild celebrations from the Windsor players who were jubilant at the result.

After the game, I made my way into town to get some drinks and snacks from Poundland. Irn Bru and Chocolate Creme bars bought, I made my way back to the first Wetherspoons. Here I had half a Black Dragon as it’s a fairly rare treat for me. I was back at the coach for 5.40 and had a good chat to the driver who was just as keen to get home as me. The Windsor players deserved their celebrations though, pulling off a result against the odds and putting in their best FA Vase performance since 1982 and indeed in the entire reformed club’s history. Sadly, I won’t be able to join them as the football league has scheduled Wycombe home games in every round, just as they did with the FA Cup Qualifiers. We left at 6.20 with the players in great spirits which ensured a lively journey home. There was a stop at Tesco Express which allowed the players to get some well deserved liquid refreshment. I’d have loved to have joined them, but it would have been lunacy with me driving in a couple of hours. We eventually got back at 8.25, me having had a good day out, all for less than the price the ticket alone would have cost at Wycombe. I got back in at 9 and from there it was the usual Saturday night ritual of Match Of The Day, despite me being up at 4 am the next morning. I await the draw with interest, although barring the game being on an unusual day, will not be able to attend.


THE SAFFRONS is a decent ground for step 5, having seen service at a higher level. There’s an area of standing cover along one side, but the main area is behind the goal with around 200 seats and 350 standing under cover. The rest of the ground is open to the elements and includes lots of steps of terracing. In addition, there’s a decent tea bar and reasonable bar. The town is right on the doorstep, your best bet is to eat and drink at the London and County Wetherspoons, well above average for the chain.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Good ground for step  (7)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Right near the town, but decent parking (8)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Good officials, compassionate ultras (9)

4: Value for money
Solid value at £6 (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Well updated and interactive (8)

6: Programme
Sold out (-)

7: Game entertainment
A decent game (7)

8: Tea Bar
Decent value (7)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Fairly sized, Sports TV, OK drinks selection (6)

10: Club Shop

None that I saw (-)



Thursday 4 January 2018

Bermondsey Town - Crystal Palace National Sports Centre

Bermondsey Town FC
Crystal Palace National Sports Ground
Outdoor Stadium
Ledrington Road
Crystal Palace
SE19 2BB

Ground Number: 751
Wednesday 3rd January 2018
Bermondsey Town 1-2 AFC Kumazi Strikers


The club was formed in 2013 and started out life in the Metropolitan Sunday League. Their first ever competitive game came on Sunday 29th September 2013 as they defeated Old Bromelians 4-1 thanks to two goals apiece from Gibbons and Manning. Records are unclear as to whether the games were completed that season, but in any case, the following season saw a 3rd place finish in Division 2. The 2015/16 season saw them crowned champions of Division 2. Last season they went even better, finishing 3rd in 
the Ron Hope Premier Division and getting to the final of the George Harley Cup. Following this successful season, they switched to Saturday football. This season has gone well, as Bermondsey Town recorded their biggest ever win as they defeated Ashtead 12-0 in November and currently sit in 5th place prior to the Christmas and New Year break.


With a really limited choice of games this week, I was glad when an option at an interesting venue came up. Combined Counties League club AC London had briefly used the Crystal Palace National Sports Ground a couple of years ago when they were in the Kent Invicta League, but the costs had quickly become too much to bear. With no new tenants taking their place at the ground that was built on the site of the former FA Cup Final venue. However, in the final few days of last year, I was alerted of a game that would be played at the venue by a fellow hopper. It was only a friendly and I hadn't heard of the two teams - Bermondsey Town and AFC Kumazi before, but it was free entry. With little else on and it being a rare game at an unusual venue, it would be a good chance to meet up with some other hoppers who were also attending.  It had certainly generated a lot of interest, thanks to their very decent website and social media channels. There was even a programme being produced, but I wanted to find out as much as I could about the host club as possible before I went. It did involve a bit of digging around various websites but I got a rough idea. It was interesting to note that their opponents, AFC Kumazi Strikers had spent their history playing in the hosts' former home of the Metropolitan Sunday League.

On the day of the game, it was my first 4 am start of 2018. Unusually, work was busy for a Wednesday and I didn’t finish until 1. I drove straight home and got into bed, taking a while to drift off, which was a shame as I hadn’t had the best night of sleep due to the rain the previous night. I eventually did drop off, waking at 4.45 when my alarm sounded. After checking Twitter and seeing that the game was on, I had a lasagne for dinner before leaving at 5.15. Twenty minutes later, I was parked up near Amersham station, with me clocking in 5 minutes later. After another 5 minutes, I was on my scheduled 5.45 train. I’d decided against this, rather than braving the M25. It was doubly good for me as I needed to catch up online and it gave me a chance to start my blog. The sooner Google gets on with inventing self driving cars, so I can do this on every trip, the better. I was glad of my free copy of the Metro on the underground, as there was no phone signal. After a change at Finchley Road, I got off at London Bridge to get my overground train. Usually, I stop here for the brilliant Borough Market, but on this occasion, it was a train to Crystal Palace. The Southern rail service sat around for 10 minutes, before finally kicking into gear 10 minutes after it’s scheduled departure time. It got to Crystal Palace station at 7.30.

From there it was a few minutes walk to the ground which was easy to find. Locating the entrance and then the pitch was easier said than done. I walked up with Mishi, a Dulwich fan, thanks to directions from other hoppers, we had a vague idea of where we were going. It involved the totally illogical method of walking in the opposite direction towards the leisure centre and then going down into their basement. After following signage, that then stopped, we eventually found our way thanks to some helpful people. A lot of the players were lost too, which is probably why the game finally kicked off at 8.15. A lot of the 47 in attendance were groundhoppers including my Braintree supporting mate Dan, his mate Luke, Ken who had come down from Leicester, a couple of hoppers from Sutton and Chris from Kings Langley. There was even a hopper in attendance from Germany who had passed up the chance of a revisit to Arsenal for a rare tick. With entry and a single sheet programme free, he certainly saved a fair bit of money.

The game kicked off with both teams keen to open the scoring. Bermondsey Town came closest in the opening couple of minutes- good work down the right allowed a cross to be put in with the effort thumping the left hand post. It was another cross from the left that opened the scoring for the visitors on 14 minutes with the initial shot being saved but the rebound being put away. Less than 30 seconds it was all square, a thumping shot from a decent distance that gave the keeper no chance. There were chances for both sides, but a lot of times when the game went flat. Bermondsey Town had a kit and possibly team change at half time, but it was the AFC Kumazi who got the winner on 71 minutes. A penalty was awarded for a foul on the edge of the area and it was duly dispatched by Gerald Akosa who slotted confidently into the bottom left-hand corner. A few minutes later, referee Nathan Buckle was forced to call a premature end to proceedings as the lights were switched off thanks to a local curfew.

After the game, I said my goodbyes and walked to the station with a few other hoppers. Google Maps had recommended all kinds of routes, but I decided to play it safe and go back the way I’d come. A 10-minute wait for my train to London Bridge went quick enough, then it was a short wait at Finchley Road to get my final train home. I got into Amersham at 11.25, getting home 20 minutes later. I got straight into bed and tried to get to sleep, however, it took me ages to drift off. I was pretty tired when I woke at 4 am the following morning and needed a couple of hours sleep when I got home the following afternoon. Up next for me, is a game on Saturday. Wycombe Wanderers v Preston North End looks to be the likely choice but leaves me uninspired. Therefore I'm exploring my options and will decide soon.


THE CRYSTAL PALACE NATIONAL SPORTS CENTRE is an interesting and historic venue, with a 16,000 capacity. The athletics facilities make it far from ideal for watching football, but if you sit at the top of the stand, the views are acceptable. Getting in is a bit of a lottery, though I’d imagine things would be more organised if there was a regular team playing here. Facilities at the ground are limited, a few vending machines were about it. Public transport options are good, plus there was plenty of parking. The closest station is Crystal Palace, which has a limited range of takeaways around it. West or East Penge are fairly close and these have a better choice. As for pubs, I’m unsure as I didn’t look.