Friday, 9 August 2019

Wokingham & Emmbrook - Lowther Road

Wokingham & Emmbrook FC
Lowther Road
RG41 1JB

Ground Number: 870
Friday 9th August 2019
Wokingham & Emmbrook 2-0 AFC Aldermaston
Hellenic D1 East


The club as established in 2004 following a merger between Wokingham Town & Embrook Sports. Wokingham Town FC was formed in 1875 and even reached the heights of 2nd in the Isthmian Premier, finishing three points behind Slough Town. Despite a 5th place finish in 1992, fortunes soon declined due to financial issues and by 1995, the side was relegated after finishing bottom. Three seasons were spent in Division 1, another relegation followed in 1998 to Division 2. Worse was to follow the next year when the club had to sell their Lowthwe Road home due to mounting debts. Groundhares at Windsor, Flackwell Heath & Egham followed, their fortunes not changing. Emmbrook Sports were a Reading League side with basic facilities, but it was a ground in Wokingham, something that Wokingham Town had been without for 5 years. They played in the Reading Senior League, finishing as high as 4th in the Premier Division in 2003.

The team started out in the Hellenic Division 1 East, being allowed to play at Embrook's former home as ground grading regulations were less stringent at the time. A 3rd place finish in 2006 saw them miss out on promotion by three points but in 2010 they went up to the Hellenic Premier after finishing as runners-up to Thame United. A groundshare at Bracknell Town was required for the promotion. Despite finishing a best-ever 8th in the Hellenic Premier during the 2012/13 season, the club opted to return home and take a voluntary drop back to Division 1 East. Two seasons were spent in the lower tier, firstly finishing as runners-up in 2014, then as champions in 2015. A groundshare was once more required and this time it was at Henley Town, but only for one season as Woking & Embrook finished bottom of the Premier Division and were relegated back. Since 2017, they've been plying their trade in Division 1 East back at Lowther Road. After many years of waiting, the ground is finally floodlit and has a stand, allowing them to take promotion should results take an upturn following two 6th place finishes in the last couple of seasons.

In the FA Cup, the old Wokingham Town reached the 1st Round in 1982/83, holding them to a 1-1 draw at home before losing the replay 3-0 at Ninian Park. The current club had their best run in 2011, beating Holyport & Kidlington prior to a 1sr Qualifying Round defeat to North Greenford. Wokingham Town reached the FA Trophy semi-final in 1988, losing 3-0 to Telford United over two legs. They remain the only club from Berkshire to get as far as that stage and also reached the FA Amateur Cup Quarter Final in 1958, losing 3-2 at Crook Town. The new club has enjoyed little success in the FA Vase, reaching the 1st Round twice (compared to the old club's 2nd Round record), but entry has been sporadic over recent years due to the previous lack of floodlights. Local cup honours include the Reading Senior Cup, won on five occasions and for four seasons in a row between 2012 & 2015. The record attendance as Wokingham & Embrook came in March 2005 as 305 turned up for their league game against Binfield. The town of Wokingham means 'Wocca People's Home' - Wocca being a Saxon Chieftain. The town has a population of 46,745 and notable residents have included footballer Charlie Austin, manager Russell Slade and singer Will Young.


I always like a bit of Friday night football and this week was no exception, even more so when I'd had a blank week of midweek football. My first choice would have been an FA Cup game, but like the Saturday, there were no realistic new grounds in the competition. I'd have to wait a bit longer for my first game of the season in my favourite competition but at least there was something local. Wokingham & Emmbrook had led an occasionally nomadic existence throughout their history, but finally, with lights and a stand in place, they had a ground fit to call home. This Friday night game would be their first game under lights and even better it was only 25 miles from home, meaning I wouldn't have to fork out too much in fuel. I had a fairly easy day at work and was out by midday. With plenty of time to kill in the afternoon, I caught up on a few things but was really just counting down the time until I could leave. After a quick dinner, I left at 6.30, the journey a fairly decent one with me getting outside of the ground at 7.15.

After parking up outside, I went in, entry was £6 and a basic programme was £1. There was only a small seated stand, so I took my place on the far side, near the dugouts. The game took a while to get going, the first real chance coming for Aldermaston on 15 minutes. Some good footwork by Monay Mills-Chandler set up a teammate but the ball went narrowly wide from 10 yards. The game soon opened up and it was 1-0 to Wokingham & Emmbrook on 44 minutes, a curling shot from 20 yards by Adam Edwards that found the bottom left-hand corner. Aldermaston keeper Sean Saxty took a bit of a knock when conceding but he was OK to carry on. The second goal was the visitors shooting themselves in the foot. Alcides Madeleno held on to the ball for too long and allowed Elliott Rushforth to nick it off him. He squared the ball to Jake White who finished from around 15 yards out. Aldermaston did have chances, hitting the outside of the right-hand post from a tight angle. The chances generally dried up after that though, Wokingham seeing out a sometimes physical encounter. There was a fair few bookings and injuries and as a result, the game didn't finish until 9.45. It was a fairly simple journey home, with me getting back at 10.25. I caught up on the night Corrie whilst typing this blog and having a couple of ciders.


LOWTHER ROAD is a fairly basic venue. It's shared with the cricket club which results in it being very open to the elements. There's just the one area of cover, the obligatory metal stand, holding 100 seated. There's a whole load of them littering non-league, but this one did it's job on a drizzly night. The ground has a decent set of floodlights, making it a lot better venue at night, where it feels more closed in. There's a decent-sized bar with sports TV, this offers a basic range of food and drink. Otherwise, the town is around 20 minutes walk away and includes a Wetherspoons.

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