Sunday 29 December 2019

Needham Market Reserves - Bloomfields 3G Stadium

Needham Market Reserves
Bloomfields 3G Stadium
Quinton Road
Needham Market

01449 721000
Official Website
Academy & Reserves Twitter

Ground Number: 898
Saturday 28th December 2019

Needham Market Reserves 4-1 Cornard United
Eastern Counties D1 North


Needham Market FC's Reserves previously played in the Eastern Counties Reserve League, though I'm unable to find any information about where they finished. The improved status of their first team allowed the second-string side to make the step up to the Eastern Counties Division 1 in 2013 and in 2018, this was rebranded the Eastern Senior League Division 1 North as attempts were made to introduce a step 6 league for the Essex area, Finishes have generally been disappointing, the team's debut season produced a modest finish of 15th which is their best so far. The worst finish came in 2016 when the team finished bottom of the pile and this was the first of three seasons when they conceded over 100 goals over the season. Fortunes have sightly improved recently and this season the Reserves were given a home of their own, a 3G pitch and stand behind the main ground. The move has seen an improvement in results with the side sitting 11th at the time of play.


Due to the fixtures falling on unusual days of the week during the festive period, I had a free Saturday to groundhopping. Happily, fellow hopper Chris was now starting to become available on Saturdays and so I asked him if he fancied doing something. He was up for it and quickly we agreed on a visit to Stowmarket Town. I'd already written most of my blog as we'd originally planned to visit for the game against Leiston Reserves on 12th November only for the unreliable and vastly overpriced train system in this country to let Chris down on his journey back home from Devon. It had been a busy festive period for me with plenty to drink, so I'd opted for a quiet night in on Friday, rather than risk a trip to New Milton Town, what with the poor weather and ever-more cautious referees. Instead, I had an early night, going to bed at 9 and waking up at midnight for an hour before going back to sleep. I woke up just before 7, watching TV in bed for a couple of hours before getting up just before 9. After having breakfast and getting ready, I left at 10.15, happy that there was no rain nor pitch inspection forecast. I was with Chris just before 11.30 and we were at Stowmarket by 1.

We parked at the ground and took the ten-minute stroll to a local pub, the Walnut Tree. It was an excellent place with a wide range of cider. I had a pint of the only one I'd not tried and supped slowly while I caught up with Twitter. Chris was keen to sample a few local stouts and so I was happy to take it easy and look through some of the areas CAMRA magazines. We walked back, getting to the ground just after 2. The standard £7 was the entry fee and a decent programme £1.50. We headed to the tea bar, each having Southern Fried Chicken and Chips for £3.50. It was very nice, though they were a bit stingy with the chips. I noticed from the teams that ex-Wycombe loanee Dean Bowditch was due to turn out for the hosts. A spot on the halfway line was selected to view the game from. At least that's what I thought as I was settling in until at 2.52 when an announcement came over the tannoy that the game had been called off by the referee. There was a small area of the pitch that he was not happy with and although the groundsman said to give him 15 minutes and he would replace the turf, the referee refused to listen. I've had a bad experience before in this league when another petty official called a game off due to fog with a large crowd for the groundhopping weekend in the ground, the stupid thing was in the ten minutes that it took to get refunded and get out to the car, the fog had completely cleared. Back to today's game, my Futbology (formerly Groundhopper) app saved the day. Whilst Chris and I were waiting in the queue for a refund, I found out that Needham Market Reserves were at home on their second pitch which was a decent setup by all accounts. We were back in the car by 3.05 and at Needham Market ten minutes later, just grateful that we were going to see a game. We'd been a bit lucky that they were at home as the next nearest options were a fair way away.

Looking at the form, Needham Market Reserves weren't in great form, despite a mid-table placing of 11th. They'd last won at Debenham Leisure Centre, 4-1, back on 16th November. Since then they'd suffered defeats to Fakenham Town (2-3) and at Haverhill Borough (1-2) & Felixstowe & Walton Reserves (1-2) as well as draws at home to Downham (3-3) and Ipswich Wanderers (1-1). Cornard United were a place below them in 12th and in the same period and their form was not a lot better. Their two wins had come over March Town United (3-2) and Great Yarmouth Town (3-0) but they'd suffered defeats at Mulbarton Wanderers (1-4), Fakenham Town (1-2) and Ipswich Wanderers (1-7) as well as at home to Leiston Reserves (2-4). By the time we had arrived, George Valentyne had put Cornard ahead in the second minute. From what we saw of the first half, the hosts were having all the possession but not creating any meaningful chances. Indeed, Cornard came close to doubling their lead just before half time when they hit the post. Needham Market continued to dominate but now they were carving out some chances. The post was hit on 53 minutes and then four minutes later, they forced a great save out of Cornard keeper James Askew as the glovesman tipped a shot around the left-hand post. Finally, the hosts got a deserved equaliser with twenty minutes to go when they hit the bar only for Jose Santa De Le Paz to be gifted the follow up from around ten yards. Needham Market continued to pile on the pressure, forcing a few more saves out of Askew. On 75 minutes Cornard had a chance on the break, firing wide of the left-hand post. A minute later, Needham Market were ahead, a cross from the right was bundled home by Thomas Fitzgerald from a few yards out. Eight minutes from time, Needham Market all but sealed the win when Kai Fletcher rounded the goalkeeper. On 86 minutes Fletcher could have had a second when he got away from the defence but he fired wide of the left-hand post. In the last minute, Ben Harris made it 4-1 with a low shot from just outside the area.

There were a fair few hoppers in attendance including 'Burnley' who I'd seen on the Scottish Hop. It had been a decent contest in the end and a nice little setup for a second-string side. I'd popped up to the bar to get some chips at half time and despite the staff being overwhelmed, the service was pretty good and the chips freshly cooked. I left with Chris just before 5 and we had the football on the radio. Nothing really of interest though but good to listen to. I needed petrol so we stopped at Sainsbury's in Bury St Edmonds. The journey home went pretty quickly thanks to the 606 Football phone-in and I dropped Chris off at 6.45. I'd been hoping to stop at a shop in Aylesbury to pick up a few things, but they'd closed at 6. Instead, I headed straight for home, getting in an hour later. I had a catch up online, before starting my blog. Thanks to the moron of a referee at Stowmarket, most of my work was down the pan and with it taking me 3-4 hours to do each entry, I was only able to do some of my entry. I had a couple of cans and had been hoping to grab an early night. However, my body clock wasn't having any of it and so it was the usual Saturday night ritual of Match Of The Day before going to sleep around midnight.


Needham Market's reserve team setup is behind their first team pitch with some of the facilities shared. There's the obligatory metal stand, although at least it isn't from the bog-standard Arena catalogue. There's also further cover thanks to the clubhouse overhand and this building makes for a good looking backdrop. The ground is open on three sides, with the far side being closed. There's a bar and tea bar upstairs which also has a viewing gallery. There's a decent choice of food and beer but cider drinkers are let down with only Kopparberg available.

Saturday 21 December 2019

K Sports - Cobdown

K Sports FC
K Sports Cobdown
Station Road
ME20 6AU

Official Website

Ground Number: 897
Saturday 21st December 2019
K Sports 1-7 Sheppey United
SCEL Premier Division


The club was established in 1919 and was originally known as Aylesford Paper Mills and have been known as Reed International, APM, APM Mears and APM Contrast at various points during their history. Since 2016, they've been known as K Sports. They joined a Kent League (no relation to the present day competition) in 1928 and won Division 2 on three occasions. After spells in various competitions such as the London League, they joined the Kent County League in the late '50s, winning Senior Division West in 1960 and 1964. The club folded towards the end of the 1960s, but reformed in 1974, rejoining the Kent County League. They were champions of Division 1 West in 1988 and 1991. During their time in the league, they flitted between Division 1 and Division 2. Later years saw improved form and in 2011 a runners-up spot behind Bromley Green was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. They'd remain here until 2016 when a 4th place finish was good enough to see them accepted into the newly-formed step 6 Kent Invicta League. They finished 6th in their debut season before the league was merged into the Southern Counties East League. Placed in Division 1, a runners-up spot behind Punjab United was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. K Sports finished a respectable 12th last season and currently sit 14th prior to today's game.

The club entered the FA Cup in the late 40s and early 50s for four seasons, notable losing 10-1 to Bowaters Lloyd in 1949. They'd re-enter the competition in last season and despite taking Pagham to a replay, lost 2-0 down in Sussex and again against Redhill this season. A record run in the FA Vase came in 2017 as they reached the 1st Round, beating Colliers Wood United and Abbey Rangers before a 4-3 defeat at Canterbury City. The FA Amateur Cup Quarter Final was reached in 1938 where they lost 4-2 to Erith & Belvedere. Local honours include the Kent Senior Cup (three times) and Kent County League Challenge Cup in 1987. The club is based in the village of Aylesford, Kent which has a population of 10,660. Up until 2015, it was the location of the largest paper mill and recycling unit (Aylesford Newsprint) before it closed and that indeed is where the club got its original name from.


I had known almost a month in advance that I'd be working on this Saturday, my only working Saturday of the year as Christmas was fast approaching. That was fair enough, but it did put a limit on how far I could go as I didn't have a clue what time I'd be finished. I'd been lucky the past few days, starting at 4 am and finishing at 11, but I knew from experience that the favourite time for 'sick' calls was the weekend. Far more unpredictable was the weather affecting pitches and even on the Friday night my options at Taplow United, Old Bradwell, Roffey and New College Swindon had already bitten the dust. I ruled out anything I could do with fellow hoppers or easily on the train and was left with eleven possibilities. I favoured the early kick-offs at Wick and Fleetlands or the game at Totton & Eling whose blog I'd started after my visit there was thwarted by the weather for a Friday night game back in September. There was the safe option of K Sports on the 3G pitch but I was reluctant to pay £8 entry when Greenways charge a fiver for the same venue. The £3 is neither here nor there, but I'd rather go with a club that charges a more reasonable rate. My initial criteria had been new grounds within 75 miles of work, though I allowed Fleetlands on the list as it was likely free entry and I knew of a great chippy in nearby Gosport. A Twitter list was made so I could see at a glance the status of games.

I was up for work at 3 am on the day of the game and already a couple had gone. Though it was a slog, I was finished by 10 and a pigs in blankets bap perked me up. I was pleased to have time to go home for an hour or so after I'd done some shopping. More and more matches fell by the wayside until there was just two left standing - confirmed games on at K Sports and Hamble, so I chose the former seeing as they had a 3G pitch. My other option was Snodland and although there was no sign of life on their Twitter, the league website confirmed the game had bitten the dust. It was a bit of a rush to do all the research for my blog, including club history, but I left just before 1. There were the usual delays on the M25, around 20 minutes in all though I listened to the build-up to the Oxford v Wycombe game on BBC 3CR. I arrived at the ground at 2.40. Food-wise, there was a basic burger van outside and a bar with decent food although as time was tight I didn't bother. There was also homemade mulled cider, but I wasn't really in the mood. Around ten minutes before kick-off, I headed to the turnstile and paid my entrance fee.

Looking at the formbook, K Sports had been disappointing in league games, losing five of their last six, their only win since mid-October coming a fortnight ago as they defeated Canterbury City 2-1 at home. Visitors Sheppey United were on sparkling form, winning their last six including a 10-0 win at whipping boys Greenwich Borough amongst other handsome victories. The reverse game back on 24th August had seen Sheppey United triumph 2-0 thanks to a brace from Daniel Bradshaw. Sheppey United were dominant early on and they took the lead on 16 minutes. There was a trip in the area and Dan Bradshaw stepped up and converted the penalty. It was 2-0 on 21 minutes, Harrison Carnegie advanced into the area and crashed in a shot off the crossbar from just inside the box. K Sports pulled one back on 25 minutes with their first chance of the game, Jordan Ababaio chasing down a loose ball and putting it over the keeper. There was then a big rainstorm and I was soaked just as Wycombe went 1-0 down at Oxford and had Adebayo Akenfenwa sent off. Back at Cobdown, K Sports had a golden opportunity to equalise but Mat Gething screwed the ball wide from around 10 yards despite being unmarked. Danny Leonard made it 3-1 to the visitors on 43 minutes, scoring from a tight angle from the right hand side of the goal. The second half saw Sheppey continue to dominate, but the hosts were keeping things tight. The visitors could have taken the lead on 62 minutes, a long ball forward clipped the left-hand post on the way in but the linesman adjudged that a player in an offside position had got the final touch. Sheppey did get their fourth on 73 minutes, Bradshaw getting his second as he held off his marker and fired home a low shot from the edge of the area. It was 5-1 ten minutes later, a corner put in, a header partially cleared and Bradshaw completed his hat-trick, poking home from a goalmouth scramble. There was a chance for K Sports to reduce the arrears on 85 minutes, but again the ball was put wide from around ten yards. Another foul in the area following a poor first chance saw a home player getting a booking and Bradshaw get his fourth on 89 minutes. The rout was completed in injury time, a square ball across the box allowed Hicham Akhazzan a simple finish to make it 7-1 to Sheppey United.

I was pleased for the visitors, they'd been excellent hosts when I visited in September 2018 and it had been great for my blog too, with that particular entry had got around ten times the views of my average write up. K Sports had saved the day by getting a game on though, my other option at Hamble did go ahead, the visitors AFC Stoneham winning 2-0. They might not have done great on the field, but off it they'd done well, a bumper attendance that looked a lot more than the 83 quoted on 'Non-League Matters' website. Though I mentioned the entry fee above, they are far from the only club to charge £8 at step 5. By the time I left, it was 5 and unable to pick up BBC 3CR to listen to the analysis of Wycombe's 1-0 defeat to Oxford, I instead tuned to BBC Radio Kent. Their main focus was Gillingham's win over Milton Keynes, but the Non-League games did get a bit of coverage, including a mention of the game I was at. This gave way to a bit of Christmas music when I lost signal before I listened to the 606 phone in. I was back at 6.25 after minimal delay and had a dinner of Chicken Jalfrezi. I then went and typed my blog, having a couple of ciders whilst listening to the phone in. I went to bed around 9.30, as it was another early start for work, but I'd enjoyed my day watching football. On a sad endnote to the blog, RIP Martin Peters who died this afternoon. A footballing legend, but little more than a name from history for me. It came a day after another sad death of a decent friend and a Dulwich Hamlet legend Mishi Morath who was well-respected on the non-league scene. Both were taken from us far too soon.


COBDOWN is a neat and well-kept venue that is more practical than it is aesthetically pleasing. The ground is open on three sides. The near side where you come in has a bog-standard 'Arena' seated unit, holding around 100. The opposite side as a couple of scaffolded areas of covered flat standing, holing around the same amount. 

There's plenty of parking to be had. There's a burger van outside or the excellent bar has a decent range of drinks including real ale and meals too. There's also a chip shop around ten minutes walk away.