Ground Number: 754
Friday 2nd February 2018
Cornard United 1-3 AFC Sudbury Reserves
Eastern Counties D1
CORNARD UNITED - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was founded in 1964 and spent their formative years in various leagues such as the Sudbury Sunday League, Bury & District League and the Colchester & East Essex League. Joining the Essex & Suffolk Border League in 1976, they progressed through the divisions, making the step into senior football in 1989. Joining the Eastern Counties League, the first season was a huge success, with the side being crowned champions at the first attempt. A six-season spell in the Premier Division followed, with the club's best ever finish of 3rd coming in the 1991/92 season. Results gradually tailed off though and after a few seasons of struggle, Cornard United were finally relegated in 1996 after finishing bottom. They've remained in Division 1 ever since, but have generally struggled, with finishes ranging from 9th in 1999 to three consecutive bottom place finishes between 2011 and 2013. This season has been above average by the low standards set - 13th at the time of writing and a real possibility of matching their best finish this century if results go their way.
The best ever run in the FA Cup most recently came in the 2008/09 season when Whitton United & Ipswich Wanderers were both beaten after replays before a 5-0 home defeat to Leiston in the 1st Qualifying Round. This season also saw the best run in the FA Vase - Eynesbury United and Wisbech Town were beaten before a 2nd Round defeat at Wivenhoe Town. Local honours include the Suffolk Senior Cup and the Essex & Suffolk Border League Cup in 1989 and the Eastern Floodlit Cup in 2002. The biggest attendance at the ground came in 2001 for a friendly against West Ham United. The 2011 census put the population of Great Cornard at 8,908 with the most famous former resident being Perry Groves, who played for junior side Cornard Dynamoes before going on to play for Arsenal.
This local derby between Cornard United and AFC Sudbury Reserves had first been suggested to me by Milton Keynes based hopper Chris, who fancied doing the game. I was keen too, so we pencilled it in. However, in the week before, he pulled out, due to other commitments. I still fancied it though, and with it being so close to Braintree, I thought it would be a great chance to catch up with some mates in that part of the world. Sadly Dan pulled out thanks to his selfish employer calling him in at short notice, but I'd seen him fairly recently anyway. I also contacted follow hopper Anwar to see if he could come - I could easily pop by Aylesbury on the way and the help with fuel money and company would be most welcome. Sadly, he was unwilling to help, due to concerns with the weather and no backups in place. It was something that I'd have to bear in mind and check before I left, but at least Josh and Maurice had confirmed their attendance.
I must admit to having second thoughts and thinking of not bothering on the day of the game. However, once it was confirmed that the game was on, I decided to place my trust in the club and make the journey. It had been a busy day at work, though extra help was drafted in and I was finished by 1. I came home, had lunch and a bath and relaxed for a couple of hours. Thanks to the 'Wuntu' app on my phone, I was planning to eat at a Mexican place called Las Iguanas before meeting my pals, the app had an offer that allowed me to have a Burrito for £3 rather than the usual £12. At least that was the plan if the traffic went well or I managed to persuade Anwar to come. Amazingly, the latter happened with me planning to pick him up from Princes Risborough at 4.30. It would be tight, but we'd have 45 minutes to play with, so I was hoping the M25 would behave. After getting my stuff together, I left at 4 and thanks to a good journey was in Princes Risborough by 4.20. Luckily, Anwar was there waiting for me and soon enough we were on our way. It was a fairly decent journey, just a couple of minor hold-ups. We were in Braintree by 6.10 and with time fairly tight, we decided on picking some stuff up from Lidl. I got myself a couple of veggie pizzas for £1, some chicken for £2, plus some cider for when I got home later. By 6.25, we were with Maurice, 20 minutes later we were in Finchingfield to meet Josh, my first meet with these two for 11 months. It was a journey along some pretty woeful twisting and turning roads that took us ages to navigate, especially behind a dawdling Citroen.
We got to the ground at 7.20 and went straight in. The entry was £6 and a basic programme was £1. After catching up on Twitter, I walked around getting some pictures of the ground before going to the tea bar to get a decent portion of chips for £1.50. As for the game, it was a bright start for the hosts, but they soon faded and the game got to half time without either keeper being overly troubled. The second half started much the same, a single chance for Cornard before the game drifted into mediocrity. It seemed as if we were all set for a dull goalless draw until the hosts opened the scoring with a low shot from the edge of the area. It was a mistake from the Cornard goalkeeper that allowed Nathan Read to equalise, the custodian being caught in possession leaving an empty net for Read to shoot into. Soon after, AFC Sudbury were ahead, a well-worked move down the right allowed Liam Bennett to take a great first touch and finish from a tight angle. The hosts only had themselves to blame after looking well in control and as they pushed forward for an equaliser, the visitors made sure of the points with the third. This time it was Adam Hanson finished a good run with a tidy left foot finish from inside the area.
It was probably a deserved victory for Sudbury's reserves, even though they took a while to get going. It was 9.45 by the time we left, I opted to go to Braintree first this time. Thankfully, the roads were a lot better and we dropped Maurice off by 10.15. By 10.30 I was saying my goodbyes to Josh and heading back to Aylesbury. The Two Mikes on TalkSPORT kept me company on the way back, as Anwar was asleep. It passed really quickly thanks to a great show and by 11.55 I was dropping Anwar off, having completed my 99th game of the season. No doubt we will meet tomorrow before Wycombe v Carlisle, it's good having great football mates. I was wide awake still, getting home 20 minutes later. I listened to the rest of the Two Mikes with a few cans, before watching my YouTube videos. Despite having woken at 4 am the previous morning, I was still wired and so I took the opportunity to type my blog, getting to sleep almost 24 hours after I'd woken up.
BLACKHORSE LANE is a fairly standard step 6 setup. There's a decent sized stand, holding maybe 200 on bench seating. This offers good views and decent legroom. The only other cover is the overhang on the clubhouse, this keeps around another 100 under cover. The rest of the ground is open, a capacity of around 1500 overall. The bar is fairly mediocre, but the tea hut is well above average for this level, offering a great range at decent prices. There's a good amount of the parking, but it does seem a bit in the middle of nowhere.
SCORES ON THE DOORS
1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Fairly standard (6)
2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Good car parking. but in the middle of nowhere (5)
3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
4: Value for money
Slightly above average, but not unreasonable (6)
5: Social Media & Website
Decent on both counts (8)
Basic, but only £1 (6)
7: Game entertainment
Dull for the most part, but a good ending (6)
8: Tea Bar
Well above average for this level (8)
9: Bar / Clubhouse
Drinks range limited (5)
10: Club Shop
TOTAL SCORE OUT OF A POSSIBLE 90: 56
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.22