Monday 27 August 2018

AFC Uckfield Town - The Oaks

AFC Uckfield Town
The Oaks
Eastbourne Road
East Sussex
TN 22 5QL

Ground Number: 789
Monday 27th August 2018
AFC Uckfield Town 4-3 Langney Wanderers
Southern Combination Premier


The club was established as recently as 2014 and was the result of a merger between Uckfield Town (a club that played in the lower reaches of the Sussex County League and was established in 1881) and AFC Uckfield who were formed in 1988 as Wealden FC and who reached as high as step 5 in the non-league pyramid. The new club too AFC Uckfield's place in the step 6 Sussex League Division 2, earning promotion as runners-up behind Worthing United in their first season. Since then, finishes have been modest, ranging from 14th to 18th, but they have at least retained their place at the higher level. They'd enjoyed a mixed start to the season a 4-1 win against Eastbourne United, 1-1 draws against Newhaven and Loxwood a 4-3 defeat to Horsham YMCA to see them 11th in the table at the time of my revisit. 

Understandably, given the short history of the club, there have been no notable FA Cup runs, in fact, this season has been the standout performance - victories over Glebe (1-0) and Broadfields United have seen them reach the 1st Qualifying Round for the first time ever. Success in the FA Vase has been equally elusive with the sole victory in three campaigns coming over Raynes Park Vale last season (2-0) before they went out 3-0 at Canterbury City in the 2nd Qualifying Round. The town of Uckfield has a population of just under 15,000 and was the last known place that Lord Lucan was seen. The town is also the birthplace of 'Rag'n'Bone man, singer of one of the few decent modern songs in 'Human'


I was glad to be off work on this Bank Holiday, as it meant that I could do a double on this day. I knew fellow hopper Anwar had wanted to go to Eastbourne Borough for a while, so that beat Lewes for the 3PM kick off. There were, however, a number of options for the 11 am kick off with the whole of the Sussex County League having their traditional early kick-offs. After presenting the options to my fellow hopper, we decided on Peacehaven & Telscombe v Eastbourne United over games at Billingshurst, Little Common, AFC Uckfield Town, Worthing United and Ferring. That was until at 8 pm on the evening before when Eastbourne United announced they were unable to raise a side, just after I'd spent an hour researching the history of Peacehaven & Telscombe. Looking at the league table, it was not the first time that the players had let the club down this season, their lack of commitment summed up by the team's league position and an insult to the hard-working volunteers behind the scenes. Nevertheless, an alternative had to be sought and in the end, I opted for AFC Uckfield Town v Langney Wanderers. It was the most attractive ground and with the club recently formed, it saved a mammoth job in terms of writing history.

I'd actually visited the ground last time I went to Eastbourne Borough, taking pictures of the then home of Wealden FC en-route. The day of the game came and I was still a bit sleepy when my 7 am alarm went off, even though I’d woken up naturally about an hour before. I got dressed and ready, leaving at 7.30 and meeting Anwar in Aylesbury at 8. It was a reasonable journey until we hit the M25 where we encountered the customary delay, thankfully it was only around 15 minutes. There was further delay on the M23 due to restricted speed through the roadworks but we got to the ground at 10.30 in plenty of time. I met a couple of hoppers that I know, ironically both called Lee. These both provided good company throughout the game as did a couple of other locals. Entry was a good value £6 and this included a programme. When I tried to check in on the 'Groundhopper' app I discovered that they had mistakenly located the ground some 2 miles away. I contacted them to inform them but in the meantime downloaded an app that allowed me to 'spoof' my GPS location. This also allowed me to 'check in' to my afternoon game at Eastbourne Borough as well.

The game started with Langney Wanderers taking the game to the hosts. Wayne Wilkinson gave them the lead on 10 minutes, he ghosted in at the back post taking advantage of poor marking to give the visitors the lead. It was all square on 21 minutes. A cross from the right found Callum Smith who got his first of what was to be a very profitable afternoon by blasting into the roof of the net. His second on 40 minutes was even better with him running the ball down the left flank, cutting in and slotting the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. The second half bought rain with it but it didn't stop Smith completing his hat-trick on 49 minutes with a curling shot. The game looked to be fairly safe at this point, but the visitors had other ideas. They reduced the arrears on 65 minutes when some questionable defending allowed Dan Bateman to slot home from around 8 yards. They got the bit between their teeth and on 68 minutes Paul Rogers got the equaliser with a real poachers goal. The game got a bit feisty around this point and Langney keeper Dan Hutchins was clattered. The referee took no action, but luckily the player was OK. It had been a cracking game for the 52 fans in attendance and a draw would have been a fair result. Ace goalscorer Smith had other ideas, however, when in the 95th minute he poked home from a corner for what turned out to be the winner. Even then the visitors had a great chance to equalise but they just couldn't get on the end of a decent cross right at the death.


THE OAKS is a smart ground in a pleasant setting. Like most grounds at the level, it mainly comprises of open hard standing, in this case just three sides as the far side is closed to spectators. There are two covered stands, these have around 100 seats between them with plenty of space behind for people who wish to stand. There's a bar at the ground, this is of a reasonable size and has plenty of club memorabilia on the wall. The usual range of drinks are available as are hot drinks and cold rolls. Metal pin badges are available from the turnstile for £3 each. The ground is a bit of a walk from the town, although there is an Indian restaurant right next door if you fancy a meal.

Friday 24 August 2018

US Portsmouth - Victory Stadium

US Portsmouth
Victory Stadium
Burnaby Road

Ground Number: 788
Friday 24th August 2018
US Portsmouth 1-3 Sholing
FA Cup Preliminary Round


The club was established in 1962 as Portsmouth Royal Navy and was a works team. They joined the Hampshire League upon formation with a best ever finish of fifth in the 1st Division in 1984. In 1986 they joined the Wessex League as one of its founder members. Whilst it was a singular league, Portsmouth Royal Navy's finishes were generally poor and ranged from 11th in the 1994/95 season to rock-bottom on four different occasions. This was mainly due to them only being able to call on members of the services to represent their team. As a result, they rejoined the Hampshire League in 2001, finishing as high as 6th in 2004. That summer, a change to the infrastructure was brought about to allow civilians to play in the side and this resulted in a name change to United Services Portsmouth. They immediately joined the newly-formed second tier of the Wessex League and have played there ever since. Finishes have ranged from 3rd in 2009 to 13th in 2012. Last season US Portsmouth finished 4th and this allowed them to enter the FA Cup this season after a years absence.

Talking of the FA Cup, the best runs came in the late 1990's when they twice reached the 2nd Qualifying Round. Both occasions resulted in heavy defeats - losing 7-0 at Waterlooville in 1997 after taking them to a replay and 6-0 at Hungerford Town the following year. This season saw the club progress in the Extra Preliminary Round with a 5-2 win against Andover Town in front of a crowd of 42. The best run in the FA Vase came in 2014-15 when the side beat Swanage Town & Herston and Ringwood Town before losing to AFC Portchester in the 2nd Round. Local honours include the Russell Cotes Cup in 1968 and the Portsmouth Senior Cup in 2012.


I always love a Friday night game and am also a big fan of the FA Cup and was always bound to do a game on this day. Initially, I'd pencilled in a train trip to London and a revisit to Tooting and Mitcham. But then I spotted that US Portsmouth were at home to Sholing in a fairly local derby. As it was a new ground and reasonably close at around 85 miles away, I decided to go for it. The area around the ground looked great - some decent pubs, plenty of takeaways as well as the seafront and landmarks like the Spinnaker Tower. The only problem was parking, pretty much every street was restricted and it didn't seem to be very motorist friendly. To be fair, the council probably had it right - it was a very congested area and it would have been a nightmare for residents if it was a free-for-all. Thankfully, an email to the helpful local council clarified that parking was free after 6 pm and so thoughts of horrendous bills of around £12 to park for the match were dismissed. I'd still not want to get there much before 5 though and so did some research into what I wanted to do with that time. A bonus was the entry cost - confirmed as a fiver the day before the game which was very good value.

The day of the game came and it was the usual Friday at work, fairly busy, but I was out at 12.15. I got a few bits of shopping and some lunch before heading home for a couple of hours. I'd been warned by a local hopper down that way, Splodge, that the traffic would be bad, especially with the live 'Victorious' concert. I checked it out, expecting the usual modern rubbish but it looked pretty good for tonight with The Lightning Seeds and a Beatles tribute to Abbey Road as well as people like the Kaiser Chiefs and The Libertines. I left at 3.15 and made good progress. Happily, there was no issue with parking and so after arriving at 5.30 I paid £1.80 to park for the remaining half hour that they were charging for. With clear skies, I made a bee-line for my planned pre-match pub, The Lawrence Arms which was just over a mile away. About five minutes into my journey, the heavens opened and I got completely drenched. At least it sped me up though and I got to the pub earlier than planned. It was worth it too, the place had been nominated as CAMRA cider pub of the year at one point and it was fully deserved. I had a couple of halves, first Rum Tiddly Tum and then Ernie Boys Scrumpy. I'd like to have stayed, but I had more pressing matters. I stopped at a Chinese takeaway en route called Woks Wrong and had Garlic Chips and a pancake roll. That was all good and so via my car, I walked to the stadium, paying a fiver entry and a quid for a programme.

The start of the game saw US Portsmouth slightly the better side but it was Sholing who took the lead on the half-hour mark. A cross was put in and a home defender headed into his own net. It was another cross and close-range finish that made it 2-0 just before the break. Jake Hoole heading home, it was the same player who had provided the cross for the first goal. I had a Bovril at halftime for the first time this season but as I returned to my seat, the floodlights were out. They got one side working and thanks to a cooperative ref, the game was played. I'd imagine that the majority would have been wetting themselves with excitement at calling the game off on health and safety grounds so Mr Sean Phillips deserves credit. So, Sholing must have taken a dim view of proceedings, because ten minutes into the second half, the hosts had a goal back. A corner was put in and Lewis Beale headed home from close range. The hosts' joy was short lived though for on 65 minutes Lee Wort picked a spot in the bottom left-hand corner of the net to make it 3-1 to Sholing. The game calmed down a bit after that and there was never really any danger of a comeback, although the best player on the pitch, Jake Hoole hit the post for Sholing.

Funnily enough, I'd predicted 3-1 to Sholing before the game. I'd also predicted a good boost to the attendance and the final figure of 111 was more than twice what they got in the previous round and by far the biggest attendance that I could for a club that has recorded a gate of 3 in recent seasons. The Wessex League are pretty good at Friday night football, but it's a shame that other leagues are not as receptive. Certainly, it was a very nice club to visit tonight and they deserved the extra attendance from football fans, even if a good chunk of them came from Sholing. I wanted something to eat before I went and so I went to a kebab van around the corner to get a doner burger. This was pretty good, but it was past 10 by the time I left. I listened to the Two Mikes on the way home which made the journey go at a decent pace and I got in at 11.30. I carried on listening to the radio with a couple of cans while I typed my blog. With a coach trip to Bradford City v Wycombe Wanderers tomorrow, I didn't want to stay up too late, so went to bed at 1 am.


The VICTORY STADIUM is a pretty well kept venue, though sadly it has an athletics track. Even so, views from the 500 capacity main stand are decent and there is also additional steps of terracing and open flat standing. The tea bar is basic, offering hot and cold drinks and snacks and although I didn't visit the bar, it did look to be of decent size. If you want food, there's a catering van at the end of the road and there are choices to suit every taste within easy walking distance. I'd recommend a midweek visit as parking around the ground is crazy expensive for anything more than a couple of hours, though it is free after 6 pm. 

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Arundel - Mill Road

Arundel FC
Mill Road
West Sussex
BN18 9PA

01903 882 548
Official Website

Ground Number: 787
Tuesday 7th August 2018
Arundel 0-0 Crawley Down Gatwick
Southern Combination Premier


The club was formed in 1889, becoming founder members of the West Sussex League in 1896. They stepped up to the Sussex League in 1949. Their best spell came during the late 1950's when they were twice champions of the top tier. For the vast majority of their time here, they've remained in Division 1, with four spells in Division 2. In all but one of these, they've bounced back within one season, the exception being the latter occasion at the end of the 1990's when they took two seasons to get back up. Continuous members of the top tier since 2000, the league rebranded as the Southern Combination in 2015, with Arundel playing in the Premier Division. Though Arundel were within two points of the title in 2009 (finishing behind Eastbourne United Association), lately finishes have tended to be more mid-table. Last season's 17th place was especially disappointing, just two points above the relegation zone. No doubt the club will be hoping for better this time around.

Arundel first entered the FA Cup in 1950 and have been ever-present since 1978. Their best progress has been the 2nd Qualifying Round, reached on six occasions. The last of these was as far back as 1987 when they lost 3-1 at home to Herne Bay. In the FA Vase, the club's best progress came in 2003 when they beat Hassocks, AFC Wallingford, Erith Town & Whitehawk before a 3-0 defeat at Bridlington Town in the 4th Round.  Local cup wins include the Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Cup on four occasions, the Sussex League Challenge Cup twice and the Sussex League Divison 2 Cup in 1977. The town of Arundel has a population of 3,475 and sits on the River Arun, hence the town's name. This river is known for its Mullets, which gives the club its nickname. The most famous landmark is Arundel Castle, built 1067 and a regular tourist attraction to this day.


I knew for some time that I'd be groundhopping on my own for this Tuesday. Usual hopping partner Anwar was away and another hopper that I know is rarely available on Tuesdays. So I set about looking for something in the south, as I rarely venture there. I wanted to make it as close as possible, but with the nearest in Lowood v Shoreham being nearly 60 miles away, I decided to put up a poll on Twitter and let the nation (or at least 55 of them) decide. The other options included a ground I've wanted to visit for a while in Arundel v Crawley Down Gatwick as well as options at Horndean v Hamble Club and Crowborough Athletic v Rusthall. Not surprisingly, Arundel was the runaway winner with 47% of the vote, which represented 26 people by my calculations. So on Monday afternoon, I did my research on the club and the town for my blog as well as trying to pencil in some future trips. I was hoping that the game would produce my first competitive goal - despite being by far the better side on Saturday, Wycombe had only managed a goalless draw at home to Blackpool.

The day of the game came and I got a reasonable night's sleep. As it was Tuesday, it was my usual day off, so I walked down town, which was a nice bit of exercise. After lunch, the early part of the afternoon was spent setting up my new phone - a Xiaomi A2 Lite. I was very impressed for the £180 I paid for it off eBay and hope that it will be as good as my now dated Moto G4. What I was less than impressed with, was my Renault Megane. In another of a long list of problems. the fuse for my cigarette lighter went, this was discovered when I checking the tyre pressures before my drive. Any other car I've had, this would be a simple fix, but not with greedy Renault who try and make it as difficult as possible so they can make money from you by getting a dealer to do it. For now, I'd have to sling my power bank in my bag and look at a YouTube video later to see if I could do it myself. In the long term, I hope to get an older Volkswagen Golf or Polo and sell my current car to pay for it. I left home at 4.15, hoping that the journey would not be too bad, with rush hour approaching. There turned out to be the usual delays on the M25, but nothing too serious and a couple of hours later I was parked up near the ground. I walked into the pleasant town and had a look around. All the places were pretty pricey, so I headed for the nearby Trawlers chippy where a healthy portion was had for £1.65. From there it was to the ground, a reasonable £6 to get in, but no programme. Of course, with me outside, it decided to rain for the first time all week, so I took shelter in the stand.

Both teams came into the game having drawn at the weekend. While Crawley Down Gatwick were sharing a goalless draw at home to Lingfield, the hosts were drawing 1-1 at Eastbourne United - a Ben Gray free-kick giving them a 67th-minute lead before they were pegged back 6 minutes from time. The match had a lively start, Crawley Down with the first chance, but the hosts generally dominated and forced a couple of good saves out of the keeper. Seventeen minutes in, the referee heard a clap of thunder and took the players in. After presumably, he’d been given a cuddle by his Mum, the players came out after another 10 minutes and resumed.  There were a couple of strikes of lightning as the players returned, ironically after a quiet period while they were inside. The game continued in the same vein, with Ben Gray smashing the bar with a fierce shot for the hosts. Crawley Down Gatwick having a very optimistic claim for a free kick after the home keeper ‘brought down’ their striker. It had hosed it down first half, but it was goalless at the break. The second half bought intermittent showers and a more even game, but it seemed no one could find their finishing touch. It was the visitors who finished the strongest side, though both sides had several chances to break the duck. Particularly dangerous for Crawley Down was their pacy striker who caused problems all night, especially on the break.

A post shared by Russell Cox (@russ_wwfc) on

So, my second 0-0 in a row, my 3rd in the last 4 games and still awaiting my first competitive goal of the season.  It wasn't a bad game though and despite his earlier over-caution, the referee did a good job in letting the game flow and got most decisions right.  I checked on my other options that I could have done tonight - Loxwood lost 4-2 at home to Shoreham, Crowborough lost 3-1 at home to Rusthall and Horndean defeated Hamble 4-1. Due to the delay, I didn't leave until 10. The first part of the journey was not the greatest, small, tight country roads and the windscreen kept huffing up and despite my best efforts, it was tricky to clear. Added to that, the radio was terrible, where there wasn't interference there was banal chat or awful music. As soon as I hit the A3, things got better. Decent music thanks to Radio Jackie and decent roads at last. Despite a few spots of roadworks on the M25, I was in by 11.35, though it took me a while to get to sleep, not great when I was up at 4 am the following morning. Next up for me is the FA Cup on Friday - Winslow United v Easington Sports and I was hoping that these two debutants would provide me with my first goal of the season proper.


MILL ROAD is in a very pleasant location, right near the town and in the shadow of Arundel Castle. Facilities at the ground are good and well kept, a couple of stands - one seated and one standing, both holding around 200 each. The rest of the ground is open, on my visit, there was no shop or programme.

Food and drink wise, you are pretty well catered for. The bar sells real ale from the local Arundel Brewery and cider from Thatchers Gold amongst its drinks. The tea bar is reasonably priced, this does burgers, hot dogs, bacon rolls and chips as well as drinks and snacks. Further afield, the town has a few takeaways, mainly Indian, Chinese and Fish and Chips. There are also a few pubs, but my research threw up nothing special.