Tuesday 27 August 2019

Winchester Castle - HCC Sports Ground

Winchester Castle FC
Hampshire County Council Sports Ground
Petersfield Road
SO21 1HB


Ground Number: 874
Monday 26th August 2019
Winchester Castle 1-4 Stockbridge
Hampshire County Premier Senior Division


The club was originally established in the 1960s but was dissolved in 2001, reforming five years later. They played in local leagues until 1971 when they joined the Hampshire League. Starting in Division 4, they were promoted after a 3rd place finish in their debut season. They were champions of Division 3 in 1984, earning promotion to Divison 2. Despite only finishing 11th in 1986, they earned promotion to Division 1. They'd struggle here and after a couple of seasons, were relegated back to Division 2. A further relegation followed in 1992 to Division 3 and it took the club a while to recover. By 1997, a runners-up spot was good enough to see promotion back to Division 2 and then in 1999 third place was good enough to win promotion to Division 1. In 2001 they finished as runners-up in Division 1 but were dissolved into Winchester City. It took them until 2006 to reform, sing the players of Winchester City's 'A' side. The Hampshire League had changed to a single league by then and Winchester Castle remains here to this day. The best finish came in 2013 when they finished 4th in the Hampshire Premier Senior Division. 

The City of Winchester is the county town of Hampshire. There's a population of just over 45,000. Winchester Castle plays second fiddle to Winchester City who play in the Southern Premier. The city is some to the annual Hat Fair and has one of the largest farmers markets in the country, with over 100 stalls. Famous people from Winchester include actor Colin Firth and footballers Danny Ings and Wayne Bridge.


For the second part of my Bank Holiday double, I really fancied going to Winchester Castle, as it looked one of the step 7 grounds worth visiting. It was still a bit of a hard sell to fellow hopper Anwar though, who prefers bigger grounds, but eventually, a compromise was reached where I'd drop him at Winchester City for their 'away' game against Basingstoke Town, who ground shared there. We left our previous game at Alfold at 1 and there must have been a problem with our intended route as we had to go a longer way, adding 10 miles to the journey. We needed lunch, so navigated to a local Tesco where I got some chicken & sausages from the hot counter, a slice of cake and some diet Irn Bru. I then dropped Anwar at Winchester City, before taking the 10-minute drive to Chilcomb, where the Hampshire County Council Sports Ground was. I had a look around the clubhouse before walking over to the main pitch. There was a slight disappointment when I saw that the area of cover I was expecting had gone, but with me having made the effort to get there, I was gonna make sure I enjoyed my visit. I sat on the grass bank, eating my lunch while I waited for the game to start. Winchester Castle had seen a torrid start to the season and were sitting bottom of the league and having lost all 5 so far. Home defeats to Hayling United (1-3), Colden Common (0-5) Overton United (2-3) and Bush Hill (1-8) as well as an away defeat at Sway (2-8) represented a difficult start to the 2019/20 campaign. Stockbridge meanwhile, were sitting in 4th, in with a chance to push for a return to the Wessex League, should they want that. They had an impeccable home record with wins over Overton United (6-1), Lyndhurst (3-0), Liss Athletic (8-2) and Paulsgrove (1-0). Away form had been less pretty, with two defeats to Fleetlands (1-3) and Infinity (3-4) but surely they would be favourites for today's game.

The hosts started well but didn't really create any chances. The first real effort came for the visitors after 15 minutes when a Winchester Castle defender hooked a goalbound shot off of the line. After 22 minutes, Stockbridge took the lead when a cross from the right was knocked on by their number 8 allowing Callum Buck to finish from around 15 yards. Both sides were still creating chances and there were some moans from both sides about offside decisions as both linesmen were supplied by the clubs, as is the standard at this level. Referee James Crascall said that he backed his linesmen, despite claims of bias. Winchester Castle equalised on 35 minutes, an excellent free-kick by Pierce McNamara from 25 yards giving the Stockbridge keeper no chance. There was plenty more moaning from both sets of players, but the referee handled it well. Stockbridge were given a penalty in the final minute of the first half for an obvious handball. The home player was yellow carded and Sam Walsh dispatched the penalty to give his side a half time lead. Winchester Castle came close to equalising on 53 minutes, set-piece specialist McNamara hitting the bar with another free-kick which was from a similar position to his goal in the first half. The argumentative players proved too much for the referee, as a few minutes later, Sam Walsh was 'sin-binned' for talking back to the official. The hosts didn't take advantage of their extra man and weren't really creating anything from open play. In fact, it was the visitors who looked more dangerous, a home player being booked for tripping a Stockbridge man to prevent him from getting away from the defence. Winchester Castle pressed the self-destruct button on 72 minutes, switching off and allowing the returning Walsh to nip in and score to make it 3-1 in what was the only goal of the game I didn't catch on film. There were vociferous claims by the home players that they'd heard the referee's whistle to stop play and this resulted in at least one of them being sin-binned. A few minutes later, the outcome of the contest was decided after the home number 6 cynically tripped an attacker in the area and Sam Walsh completed his hat trick from the penalty spot. They nearly scored another after Winchester Castle switched off again, but their captain could only find the side netting. The hosts had a couple of chances to score a consolation, but timely tackles from the visiting defence prevented any further goals.

Winchester Castle didn't really look like a side that had lost every game this season, but their failure to create clear cut chances from open play and some mistakes at the back had allowed a decent Stockbridge side to win comfortably. In terms of possession, there wasn't too much difference between the sides. The game finished at 4.50 and after walking back to my car, I drove back to Winchester City to pick Anwar up. I couldn't get as near to the ground as I wanted as traffic was too busy, so I text Anwar to meet me at the top of the road. The message took a while to send, so I went and met him halfway. We had to stop for petrol at Tesco on the way home, annoyingly, it was 127.9 a litre, the most I had paid in months, but it was still the cheapest in the area. We listened to some podcasts on the way home and it was a good journey with us getting back to Aylesbury at 6.45. I dropped Anwar off before sticking at Lidl to get a 4 pack of cider and a pizza. I got back home at 7.30, having my drinks and pizza while I watched Solihull Moors v Eastleigh. I also put my blog of the first game of the day shortly after. It had been a very unhealthy Bank Holiday weekend, but I was determined to enjoy it as it may be my last, as work are forcing through a new contract which may see me have to work all of them. Normally I don't drink from Sunday to Thursday and the plan is certainly to not have any more booze until next weekend.


The Hampshire County Council Sports Ground is one of the better venues at step 7, despite the ramshackle cover that appeared in other groundhoppers blogs. The main pitch is fully railed and there appears to be a set of brick dugouts being built in place of the cover. There's a grass bank on one side that gives an elevated view of the game. There's a clubhouse offering a basic range of drinks and snacks and a large car park. The ground doesn't appear the best for public transport though and there's little in the way of pubs or food nearby from what I saw.  

Monday 26 August 2019

Alfold - The Recreation Ground

Alfold FC
The Recreation Ground
Dunsfold Road

01403 753132
Official Website

Ground Number: 873
Monday 26th August 2019
Alfold 2-0 Pagham
Southern Combination Premier


The club was established in 1920 as Loxwood & Alfold until 1923 when the clubs split. They've played in local leagues for the best part of the history including the Rudgewick & District, Cranleigh & District, Horsham & District and latterly, the West Sussex League. In 2015, they made the step up to the Southern Combination, starting in Division 2 which sits at step 7 of the non-league pyramid. They found the step up tough at first, but a 4th place finish in 2017/18 was enough to see them promoted. Last season saw an excellent season with them winning the title and gaining promotion to the Premier Division. The club has yet to make its bow in the FA Cup and will only make their FA Vase debut on Saturday when they travel to Midhurst & Easebourne. Local cup wins include the Tony Kopp Cup in 1971, the Chichester Charity Cup in 2011, the Surrey County Lower Junior Cup in 1978 as well as a couple of league cups in 1954 as they completed the treble in the Horsham & District League. The village of Alfold has a population of just over a thousand and sits on the Surrey & Sussex border.

For a more in-depth view of the history of the club, read David Bauckham's excellent article HERE. As usual, my facts came from the Football Club History Database (FCHD) and Wikipedia.


I was glad when fellow hopper Anwar said he'd be up for a game on this Bank Holiday, as we'd enjoyed a good double this time last season at AFC Uckfield and Eastbourne Borough. Initially, Anwar fancied going to Weymouth, a ground I fancy revisiting, but it seemed a pretty pricey day out for me, all told. I favoured a double, with Winchester Castle in the afternoon as they had a nice looking set up for step 7. Winchester City was an easier sell to Anwar, so I agreed to drop him off there on my way, as I'd already done it, back in 2015. There was just the question of where to go beforehand and thanks to me making a customised map with all the possibilities on Google Maps, I was able to see which were closest. Godalming Town (a revisit for us both), Alfold, TD Shipley & Roffey were the possibilities and eventually, we decided on Alfold, which was the second closest, still around 50 miles from Winchester though. I was pleased to see that Alfold were only charging £5 entry, surely one of the cheapest at step 5, where some clubs charge up to £9. I'd say a sensible price would be £6 personally for this level. The day of the game came and I awoke a lot earlier than intended at 6.15. At least it gave me time to catch up on things, listening to podcasts while making a start on this blog. After breakfast and a freshen up, I left at 8, meeting Anwar as arranged at 8.30. It was a decent journey over, with the only slow spot being where people were slowing down to look at a car fire on the other side, which had created a big tailback with police stopping traffic. We had to navigate Guildford’s joke of a road system and I fancied getting some drinks for the game, so programmed in Sainsbury’s to the sat nav. It was nowhere to be seen, at least not in the specified location. We had to make do with a Budgens Petrol station which was very limited, but at least I had a drink for the first game. From there, it was a short drive to the ground, arriving at 10.25. After a brief look around, we went in, me catching up online while I sheltered from the sun.

Alfold had seen a good start to the season, with them sitting 5th. They'd only played one game so far thanks to cricket taking priority, but they'd beaten Horsham YMCA 5-3 on Tuesday 6th August. Away from home, they'd won at Peacehaven & Telscombe (2-1), drawn at Horley (3-3) and lost to Broadbridge Heath (0-1). Pagham, by contrast, were struggling a bit, sitting in 18th. They'd lost both of their away games at AFC Uckfield Town (0-2) and Steyning Town (0-2) as well as at home to Saltdean United (0-3) Their sole victory had come with a 1-0 home win over Hassocks. The game started evenly, but true to form, Alfold soon took control. Kelvin Lucas came very close on 6 minutes, curling a shot narrowly over, but the hosts soon had the lead. A cross from the right by captain Jack Stafford found Jonden De Meyer who bundled home from close range. The lead was doubled three minutes later, this time it was very slopping marking by Pagham that allowed Kelvin Lucas to score a goal which was similar to the first. The visitors had missed a good opportunity in between the goals to equalise, thanks to a great save by Alfold keeper Luis Correia and that proved to be a recurring theme throughout the afternoon. The glovesman was at it again on 26 minutes, he managed to make a good save and palm the ball away to safety to prevent the deficit being reduced. After a short drinks break, Pagham had another good chance, but this time the shot was blazed over the bar from fairly close range. There were further chances in the rest of the game, but nothing really clear cut. The game finished around 12:50 when it was time to make our way to Winchester.


The Recreation Ground is a fairly basic but very well-kept ground for step 5. One side of the ground is closed off, but the remaining three sides are hard standing. There are a couple of covered areas on the far side - one your typical 'Arena' seated stand, holding 50 seated. The second is more attractive, a metal and wood homemade stand, probably holding another 50 as it is only flat standing. Unusually, the pitch barrier is wooden also, which looks nice. All the food and drink action goes on in the clubhouse, I saw bacon rolls and snacks in terms of food and hot drinks, soft drinks and a limited bar range (including real ale) in terms of drink. There wasn't much near the ground from what I remember and I understand that public transport is not the best, the car park is quite small also. It's most certainly worth a visit though and I'm glad I went.

Friday 23 August 2019

Christchurch FC - Hurn Bridge

Christchurch FC
Hurn Bridge Stadium
Avon Causeway
BH23 6DY

01202 473792
Official Website

Ground Number: 872
Friday 23rd August 2019
Christchurch 1-2 Badshot Lea
FA Cup Preliminary Round


The club was established in 1885 and spent the first hundred or so years of its history in local leagues, mainly the Hampshire League but also the Bournemouth League for a short spell in the late '20s and early '30s. Highlights of their spell in the Hampshire League included a Division 3 title in 1953 and Division 2 titles in 1938, 1948 & 1986. The move to their current ground which was the former sports ground of British Aerospace allowed them to make the step up to Semi-Pro football. The Wessex League was joined in 1987 after they finished 4th in their only season in Hampshire League Division 1. The Wessex League remained as a single division until 2004, during this time, Christchurch's best finish was 5th achieved in their debut season and then again in 1996 and 1999. When the league split into two divisions, Christchurch were put in the top tier and even had two third-place Premier Division finishes in 2012 & 2013. Fortunes soon declined however and by 2015 they were relegated to Division 1 after finishing bottom of the table. They won promotion back up as champions in 2018 and last season finished 16th in the Premier Division. 

In the FA Cup, Christchurch's best progress has been the 2nd Qualifying Round, a stage they have reached on three occasions. The latest of these runs during the 2005/06 season saw a notable 3-0 victory over higher league Gloucester City before they lost out to Cirencester Town. There have been a couple of notable runs in the FA Vase, not least during the 2008/09 season when they overcame  Hartley Wintney, Petersfield Town, Cove, Tunbridge Wells, New Milton Town & FC Clacton prior to a 4-0 defeat to Chalfont St Peter. Local cup wins include the Wessex League Cup (2012), the Hampshire Intermediate Cup (1987), the Hampshire Junior Cup (three times), the Bournemouth Senior Cup (three times) and the Bournemouth Pickford Cup (1977). Well known players to have played for the club include current Luton Town forward Harry Cornick who scored 17 goals in 33 appearances right at the start of his career during the 2012/13 season. Jody Craddock, a centre back who played in the Football League with Cambridge United, Sunderland & Wolverhampton Wanderers also started out at Christchurch, making his debut during the 1992/93 season. They are of (or at least were) one of the few clubs at step 6 or above to maintain amateur status and not pay players.

The town of Christchurch itself has a population of 48,368 and whose MP is Christopher Chope who hit news headlines in 2018 for objecting to a bill that proposed to make taking 'upskirt' photos and videos of women illegal. It has one of the oldest populations in the country with over 30% of residents aged 65 or over. Famous residents include former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson whilst footballer Jamie Redknapp attended Twynham School in the town. The town is twinned with its namesake in New Zealand, Aalen in Germany, Tatabanya in Hungary and Saint-Lo in France. Tourism plays a big part in the town's economy, the harbour, beach, nature reserves and historic buildings attracting 1.5 million visitors a year and netting the local economy £76m.


My opportunities to see an FA Cup game had been extremely limited thanks to bad luck with fixture scheduling of Wycombe home games. Seeing as I love a bit of Friday night football, it was inevitable that when a new ground came up as a Friday night fixture, I'd be attending. It was a tad further than was ideal, especially if I was on my own, but I was hoping to get people to come with me. It was certainly a good one to do by car, as the public transport links were a bit ropey. The match was being played on Friday night as Christchurch share with the local Cricket club and their season had not quite finished yet. I gave up a potential Tuesday night game to help with costs for tonight's game, instead staying in and doing research for this game and listening to Wycombe's trip up to Fleetwood on the radio. I'd have loved to have headed up there, but with work at 4am the next morning and the night out costing in the region of £55 before any food or drink had been purchased, I decided against it. As it was, we gained an excellent 1-1 draw up there and could have even grabbed a win had it not been for a last-minute equaliser that could have been easily prevented. As expected, I was unable to persuade Anwar to come, he's hardly the most enthusiastic hopper at the best of times and after an expensive trip to Fleetwood in midweek, it was understandable that he's opted against it, despite me offering him cheaper than usual petrol expenses.

Work had been very quiet all week, but Friday was a bit busier. Even so, I was out by 12 and able to return home for a freshen up and change of clothes. The news or at least my Twitter timeline was dominated by the potential demise of Bury FC. Their cancerous owner, the loathsome Steve Dale was refusing point blank to sell the club, despite four bids being submitted. He even had the nerve to appear on national radio, asking for fans to donate money to 'save' the club. Whatever happens, if the club do go to the wall, he stands to make a good bit of money out of it and so has little interest in listening to any offers. It's a real shame, as Bury are one of the nicest and most friendly clubs I have visited. The FA and EFL of course, just stand by and do nothing as they have no powers to remove and no fit and proper owners test in place, not one that actually protects clubs anyway. The problem is football wide, ever-increasing player wages mean that most clubs are racking up debts and charging a lot more than the product they are selling is worth in terms of admission. Rather than saying to the players - this is what you bring in, so this is what we can pay you, it's a case of 'how much do you want?'' and then they try to find the finances to pay them. It's why I prefer non-league, or at least the lower levels, as most clubs operate on a more sensible basis. I'd earmarked a couple of places to visit on the way and so I left at 3, bearing in mind the issues that Friday night traffic could pose. As it happened, there were delays, but they were minimal and I was in Christchurch by 5.40. I was planning on getting some take out cider from a local micropub, but with free parking limited, I gave up. I headed to my second place of interest, the Top Wok Chinese takeaway where I had Hoisin Spicy Chips and Chicken Satay skewers. It was one of the pricier ones that I'd been to, but the food was top-notch, some of the best I've had. From there it was a five-minute drive to the ground.

I had a quick look in the bar before going into the ground. It was a great value £6 to get in and this included a paper ticket, so I didn't bother with a programme. They were playing some great tunes on the tannoy pre-match and this put me in a good mood for the game. I stood on the halfway line on the cricket pitch side and waited for the game to start. Christchurch have seen a decent start to the season, with them sitting 9th at the start of play. Owing to them sharing with the local cricket club, all three games have been away resulting in a 1-1 draw at Hamble Club, a 2-1 defeat at Bashley and a 1-0 victory at AFC Stoneham. To get this far, they beat Amesbury Town in the Extra Preliminary Round 7-2, an impressive away performance. The last time they progressed past the Preliminary Round stage was in 2012 with them eventually losing out 2-1 at Fareham Town in the 1st Qualifying Round. Opponents Badshot Lea were enjoying a good start in the Combined Counties Premier Division, sitting 5th. They'd enjoyed victories at Sutton Common Rovers (4-1) and over Frimley Green (5-0) in the opening two games of the season, but lost 3-1 at Sheerwater last weekend. To get this far, they had beaten Ascot United 2-1. They were bidding to reach the next round for the first time since 2012 when they enjoyed their record progress, reaching the 3rd Round before losing 3-1 at Chippenham Town.

It was the hosts who made the brighter start to the game. They had a great opportunity to take the lead on five minutes following a trip on a home player as he made his way inside the area. Kyle Graham was tasked with taking the spot-kick, but his poor effort was blazed well over. Christchurch didn't have long to wait to go ahead after 7 minutes sloppy defending saw Callum Butler presented with a chance and his shot on the turn found the top left-hand corner from just inside the area. The game continued with the home side well on top with a shot just wide on 11 minutes. A minute later the Badshot Lea keeper Kallum Lunn sipped a shot around the left hand post with his foot. Shortly after a header just wide was yet another chance that Christchurch failed to take. Badshot Lea had a productive spell, but despite plenty of possession, they weren't really creating much in the way of clear cut chances. There were a few meaty tackles and this resulted in a bit of handbags between the players, causing the referee to calm things down. The score remained the same at the break and although Christchurch started the second period the better side, chances were few and far between. There was another coming together on 55 minutes when Badshot Lea's Zak Hawker came in with a late challenge. There probably wasn't much intent, but it looked bad and it earned him a booking. I was beginning to think that Badshot should be renamed 'no shot as after two and a half hours of watching them, they'd still yet to muster a serious shot on target. That all changed around 70 minutes in and the broke their duck in style. Jordan Carter's effort from 25 yards giving home keeper Max Frampton no chance. This seemed to invigorate the visitors and they had further decent efforts, curling a shot just wide of the top left-hand corner. They completed the turnaround around 12 minutes from time, Frampton was caught out of his goal, the ball was squared across the line for Danilo Cadete to tap home at the back post.

That turned out to be the winner and despite being on top for the majority of the game, they only had themselves to blame for not taking their chances. They had plenty of the ball, but didn't really create anything, bar a low shot that went just wide of the right-hand post. They had to try and mount their comeback a man light however as right-back Manny Ohajeme was sent off for an incident that was spotted by the linesman. It was time to head home, the journey back being a lot quicker than the journey there. I listened to music for the first part of the journey, putting on TalkSPORT as I arrived back in Bucks. There was good news regarding Bury as it appeared a saviour my be on the horizon, but with only the word of the EFL and Steve Dale, I won't be counting any chickens. I was back by 11:30 and had a couple of ciders while typing my blog and watching Corrie. Next up for me was Wycombe v Southend on Saturday, then something on Monday with Anwar who has hopefully rediscovered his groundhopping mojo. It had been a good and enjoyable night of groundhopping for me and despite the additional expense, I was glad I'd gone.


The Hurn Bridge Sports Ground is a lovely venue, sat in pleasant Woodland, similar to Loxwood that I went to earlier this year. Happily, both stands are solid structures rather than metal ones. The Stephen Bernard stand sits on the halfway line, holding around 150. Behind the goal is another seated stand, the William Pickford stand, holding around 50. There's also covered standing for around 20 behind the same goal while the rest of the ground is open hard standing. The bar offers Thatchers Gold and a couple of real ales from Ringwood Brewery. It's quite spacious and has Sky TV. The tea bar had a good range of burgers with bacon rolls etc as well as snacks and drinks.