Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Steyning Town - The Shooting Field

Steyning Town FC
The Birchwood Ground
Shooting Field
West Sussex
BN44 3RX

Ground Number: 881
Tuesday 24th September 2019
Steyning Town 5-1 Crowborough Athletic
Sussex Senior Cup


The club was established in 1892 and was originally known as Steyning. They spent their formative years in local football, playing in leagues such as the West Sussex and Brighton Hove & District. In 1964, they joined the Sussex County League, starting in Division 2. They found the going tough at first, 7th place was an early highlight in 1969, but generally, they struggled, even finishing bottom in 1974. Steyning recovered sufficiently to win the league in 1978 and win promotion to Division 1. The following year, the 'Town' suffix was added to their name and this bought about a good period of success with the club becoming Sussex League champions in 1985 and 1986. The next few years were turbulent times for the club with them being moved into the Wessex and then Combined Counties leagues. They returned to the Sussex County League in 1993, albeit a level lower in Division 2. A bottom-placed finish in 1997 saw them relegated to Division 3 and it took them five years to bounce back with them finishing as runners-up to Pease Pottage Village in 2002. There were some close scrapes with relegation but Steyning Town remained here until last season when they finished as runners-up to Alfold in what was by now the Southern Combination Division 1. They've enjoyed a decent start to the season, sitting 9th at the time of the game.

Success in the FA Cup has been limited - their best run came in 1988 when they beat Corinthian 5-1 only to lose 3-1 to Whitehawk in the 2nd Qualifying Round. A good run in the FA Vase during the 1984/85 season saw Steyning Town beat Southwick, Wigmore Athletic (a forerunner to Worthing United), Whyteleafe, Crawy Wanderers, Finchley & Torrington prior to a defeat to eventual winners Halesowen Town. Local cup wins include the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup (1986 & 1989). the Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Charity Cup (1981 & 1985), the John O Hara League Cup (1979, 1984 & 1986), the Southern Combination D1 Cup (2019), the Sussex League D2 Cup (1966), the Sussex Junior Cup (1902) and the Vernon Wentworth Cup (1934). The small town of Steyning has a population of just under 6,000 and famous people fo come from the town include athlete Sally Gunnell.


It was my week off and originally on this day, I was due to be in Bulgaria watching a cup game at Botev Ihtiman. But with my Mum hurting her leg, the trip was cancelled and I had to make alternative plans. Both my usual hopping partners were unavailable - Chris for his usual reasons on Tuesday and Anwar as he had committed to watching Arsenal on the assumption that I'd be away. So, on my own, I did what I usually did in these situations and looked at options in the south. There were seven options in all and as I couldn't decide which one to do, I put a poll up on Twitter. Bearstead would have probably been my choice in good weather. I was planning to dump my car at the ground and walk the three miles into Maidstone with its decent choice of pubs and a Museum that featured a lot about the history of Maidstone United FC, something I was keen to see. But with rain set to interrupt my walk back to the ground and possibly ruin the match. Bearsted indeed won the poll and with the weather looking dodgy, I figured that the last point I could change my mind and divert to the 3G option at Steyning was Leatherhead. In the end, I checked the weather and with heavy rain due in the 4 hours kick before kick-off, I decided to leave it for when I could make a day of it. The safe option was Steyning Town v Crowborough Athletic, assured to go ahead in most cases, so I plumped for there.

The morning of the game came and I was still partially in work mode, waking up naturally around 5 am after an early night. I tried to drop off again without success, eventually getting up at 7 am. A bacon and egg sandwich was a good start and it was around this time that I made the decision on where to go tonight. There wasn't a lot near the ground - I'd been hoping that there would be a Wetherspoons near the ground so I could participate in steak night, but the nearest was miles away. Taco Bell in Woking was a bit too early into the journey but after checking Horsham and finding nothing I fancied there, I decided to have a light lunch and leave a bit early. I spent the morning researching the club history while catching up with some podcasts and the afternoon watching Toy Story 4 and some YouTube videos. I left around 3.45, stopping at a shop for drinks before heading off to Woking. The M25 was it's usual self and there was traffic in Woking, but nothing unusual for the rush hour. I parked in Morrisons as it was as good as any place and walked to Taco Bell. I had to get take out as I was pushed for time, but service was pretty slow and it took 15 minutes to get my food. It was good when it came and good value too, but I didn't get away until 6.15. Luckily the roads were on my side for once and I made kick off with a couple of minutes to spare. It was at this point that I realised that I'd left my camera at home and only had my phone which wasn't ideal. I parked on a nearby street and made my way to the ground. Entry was a well-priced £6.

Looking at the form, Steyning had started the month going out of the FA Vase to Peacehaven & Telscombe. They'd also drawn 1-1 with the same opponent in the league before victories at East Preston (3-1) and at home to Loxwood (2-1) had lifted the mood. Crowborough play in the Southern Counties East League and were struggling, sitting second-bottom. September had seen defeats at K Sports (1-2) & Deal Town (0-3) as well as a heavy 6-0 defeat at home to Chatham. The only bright spot had been a 2-0 win at Midhurst & Easebourne which continued a good run in the FA Vase. The Steyning fans were in good voice and their team were giving them plenty to cheer about. Grant Radmore gave them the lead on 15 minutes when he tapped home from close range after a corner was not defended properly. Radmore got his second on 35, from a rare  Crowborough attack, the hosts broke swiftly and the chance was finished from the edge of the area in the bottom left-hand corner. The goals continued in the second half, on 48 minutes Josh Maher's cross-cum-shot found it's way into the net. Crowborough's Alex Kendall was not best pleased with his teammates' efforts and he let them know in no uncertain terms. The same player was also involved in a mini-spat with Steyning's Grant Radmore who had quite the eventful night. There was nothing more than a bit of pushing but they had to be separated by the linesman and earned a booking each for their troubles. Kendall had put in a real shift for his team and fashioned their first real effort on goal, hitting the bar with a curling shot from 20 yards after 70 minutes. Five minutes later a great goal from Tiago Andrade made it 4-0, a great shot from 20 yards but in all honesty, he was pretty much unmarked. Ten minutes from time, Crowborough got a goal through Luke Leppard who ran down the left, cut in and curled a shot into the net for what was probably the goal of the game. The game was wrapped up a couple of minutes from time, Radmore rounding the keeper to complete his hat trick and make it 5-1, amid strong claims of offside. The victory had been deserved for Steyning, Crowborough had never really got going and let their heads drop, put simply, the home side had wanted it more and the majority of the 52 crowd went home happy.

After the game, I made my way back to my car and headed towards Horsham Tesco as I was low on petrol. I wasn't best-pleased to be paying 126.9 - 5p a litre more than my last tank, but it was the cheapest in the area. I listened to the results coming in and there was a real shock with Colchester beating Spurs on penalties in the league cup. Despite them being Wycombe's bitter rivals in the 1990s, I was pleased for them. It was another good run home and I was back by 11.15. Looking at the games that I missed out on, they all went ahead. I missed out on some right crackers. Bearsted had drawn 3-3 with Corinthian and Sittingbourne had drawn 4-4 with VCD Athletic before beating them on penalties. Other options had seen AFC Stoneham win 1-0 at Shaftesbury, Peacehaven & Telscombe had won 3-1 at Amesbury and Lordswood had drawn 1-1 with Canterbury City. I'd enjoyed my choice but perhaps been over-cautious with the weather. I was surprised that so few clubs tweeted out about the games in the few hours before kick-off - after all, it only takes a few seconds and gives people reassurances. Next up for me is Brigg Town tomorrow with hopping pal Chris and I will be glad of the company and help with fuel costs.


THE SHOOTING FIELD may have had a new 3G pitch, but it still retains some old charm. All the cover is on one side and comprises of three small stands. Two of these are seated, holding around 50 each and the other is an area of flat standing, with space for around 30. The stands are set a fair way back from the pitch and the rest of the ground is open hard standing. I didn't try any of the facilities at the ground but the bar was fair-sized and smart and had sports TV. There was a decent selection of real ales in bottles and lager on tap, but cider wise, they only had Bulmers in bottles. I didn't see the tea bar menu, but they did have a deal of burger and chips for a fiver, which looked good. I didn't see much in the immediate vicinity of the ground.

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