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. 

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