Sunday 20 December 2020

Newport Pagnell Town - Willen Road

Newport Pagnell Town FC
The Pavillion
Willen Road
Newport Pagnell
MK16 0DF

01908 611993
Official Website

Ground Number: 321
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Newport Pagnell Town 0-2 Huntingdon Town
United Counties League - Premier Division


The club was established in 1963 as Newport Pagnell Wanderers. They joined the North Bucks & District League in 1964 and progressed through its leagues, winning Division 3 in 1966 and Division 2 in 1967. After winning the Division 1 title three seasons in a row, they moved to the South Midlands League Division 1, changing their name to Newport Pagnell Town the following year. They finished as runners-up in 1973 before transferring to the United Counties League Division 2. Newport Pagnell Town were runners-up in 1976, earning promotion to Division 1. In 1982 they won Division 1, losing just once all season and earned promotion to the Premier Division. Four seasons were spent here until the club was relegated back in 1986 and Newport Pagnell would remain in Division 1 until 1992 when they bounced back as runners-up behind Harrowby United on goal difference. Lower half finishes were the order of the day and the club was relegated back again in 1997. They were champions again in 2001 and 2001/02 saw the best finish in the club's history as they finished as runners-up to Holbeach United in the  Premier Division, at the time, a league that sat at step 4 of the non-league pyramid. The club remained in the UCL Premier for some years, 2009 and  2018 being highlights as they finished 3rd. In 2019, Newport Pagnell Town were transferred to the Spartan South Midlands League where they remain to this day.

It took Newport Pagnell Town eight attempts to win their first FA Cup game, but when they did, in 2008, they enjoyed their record FA Cup run. After beating VTFC and performing giant killings over  Cirencester Town and Marlow, they lost in the 2nd Qualifying Round at Fleet Town. In the FA Vase, the 2016/17 season saw the club's best-ever run. Daventry Town, Broadfields United, London Colney, Peterborough Sports and Sunderland Ryhope were beaten before a defeat to eventual winners South Shields. Local cup wins include the Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy in 2010 & 2011, the Berks & Bucks Intermediate Cup in 2002, the UCL D1 Knockout Cup in 1978 and various North Bucks & District League Shields in the late '60s.

The town of Newport Pagnell is near Milton Keynes and the M1 Motorway. It was home to the second ever motorway services to open in the UK and the first for all vehicles rather than just trucks when it opened in 1959. The hotel was mentioned in the ace sitcom 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads' when after the holiday company that Bob had booked his holiday with went bust, he was forced to spend a 'terrible' night in a Motel in Newport Pagnell when he instead should have been looking at the Bosphorus in Turkey.  The town itself has a population of around 15,000 and was once one of the bigger towns in Bucks. From 1954 until 2007, it was home to the car manufacturer Aston Martin before they upped sticks and moved to Warwickshire - indeed the works football team played a big part in the early years of the football club when it supplied them with many players. It is also home to the only remaining valium manufacturer in the UK. Famous people associated with the town include footballer David Oldfield and Eastenders actress Letitia Dean who plays Sharon Watts and went to school in Newport Pagnell.


As usual, I was looking for a bit of midweek footy with Anwar but was left with ever-decreasing options due to the weather. Essex was especially badly hit, with Witham Town biting the dust early on Tuesday and with other games in Essex going, first choice Brentwood Town looking increasingly dodgy, I spent the afternoon checking out alternatives. As it turned out, Brentwood's pitch was passed fit just before 3PM. However, following advice from a groundhopper in Essex, and the poor state of their pitch previously I was sceptical whether it would go ahead and so decided to leave it for another day. So as I left home at 4.10, I had no idea where I was going. The plan was to get to Anwar's and decide from there. I stopped off at the new ASDA in Aylesbury to get some stuff to take to the game, planning to get to his house at around 5. It was the first time I had been to the new ASDA in Aylesbury and I was left disappointed as it was a small store and didn't have the 2L diet Irn Bru that I wanted. I had to make do with a couple of small bottles for a higher price - though perhaps it's a good thing as I really must try and cut down! I got to Anwar's just before 5 and rang one of the options that we had left - Shortwood United, to see if the game was still on. There was no reply, and also no reply to my tweet I sent them - nor was there all evening despite them being active on the account. So we looked at the list of fixtures at step 5. The United Counties League looked the best bet, with plenty of games on and therefore lots of backups if our chosen game bit the dust. We eventually settled on the closest - Newport Pagnell Town, a team who we had seen just a fortnight ago at AFC Rushden and Diamonds. They were playing Huntingdon, who had only lost one game so far this season and were in with a shout of the title if things went their way. Newport Pagnell were near the bottom with just 4 wins all season and so would have their work cut out to get a result tonight. Neither of the sides had played above their current level, but Huntingdon had made good progress to get here from a lower level in recent years.

Despite Milton Keynes best efforts to delay us with a succession of roundabouts and busy traffic, we still managed to get there just before 6.30. We were both hungry and with no guarantee of getting anything at the ground, we decided to head off into town. On the way, we saw a house that had made a big effort with their Christmas lights, something that is always nice to see. After looking at various places, we settled for a kebab shop. I had a Kofte Kebab which was a fairly standard £4 and was reasonable enough. It was certainly a bit healthier than the usual takeaway, being grilled and having lots of salad on it. It was getting on a bit, so we decided to eat whilst walking back to the ground. After stopping off to get some drinks at a local shop, we got back to the ground at around 7.25. After paying to get in, we picked up a basic but well-presented programme for £1 and went and took some pictures of the ground. I was disappointed that it was too dark to get a picture of the back of the stand as there was a nice looking mural that I had seen in the Rushden and Diamonds programme a couple of weeks earlier. Try as I might. I couldn't get my flash to light up the back of the stand, so will have to make do with looking for a picture elsewhere. I bumped into fellow groundhoppers Splodge (who I had seen at Potters Bar a few weeks earlier) and Peter (who is a Southend fan, and like Splodge passed his 1000 grounds visited mark some time ago) We had a bit of a chat until the match started, before taking a seat in the newer of the 2 stands.

The game was fairly decent and had been pretty equal up until halftime. To be honest, the visitors should have been down to 10 men after a bad tackle on a Newport Pagnell player. As it was, there were chances at either end, with neither team dominating especially, but luck can play a big part when one team is up the top and the other is struggling. It was a scrappy goal that gave Huntingdon the lead seconds before halftime. Newport failed to clear their lines and Niks Savalnieks profited with a shot that wasn't going at any great pace. The second half continued in much the same vein with plenty of bad tackles going in, but the ref taking little action. Newport Pagnell certainly took their revenge for the tackle in the first half and the game was held up for nearly 5 minutes while the Huntingdon keeper received treatment for an injury. The game was sewn up 10 minutes from the end, and for once it was something positive to report. An excellent free-kick was smashed against the bar and would have been a worthy goal to seal the win. The rebound was met by a stooping header from Savalnieks to confirm the points for Huntingdon, who just about deserved the game on the balance of play.

Though it had not been a game that I had initially chosen, due to it not being in a league that I was looking to complete, the weather had really decided it for me. If I'd been able to see into the future, my destination probably would have been Shortwood but their lack of help and announcements via Twitter meant that that would have to wait till another day. Newport Pagnell are very active on Twitter and at times like this, it's essential when planning where to go. It was very lucky I took someone else's advice and used my judgement, as my initial target of Brentwood was called off about 6.30 after as predicted more rain fell in Essex It was also nice to get home fairly early. After dropping Anwar off I was back home just before 11 and ready to go to sleep just after midnight, meaning that for once I didn't feel knackered on the Wednesday morning, as I got 4 hours sleep, over an hour more than usual. Next plans on Saturday are for a game at Redditch, who play St Albans City. It will be nice to see a step 3 game and visit a ground that's days might be numbered, should Redditch get their wishes of a new ground.


I'd jokingly said at half time the previous Saturday, that I hoped Wycombe would go into tier 3, so dire was the performance against Coventry City. We played terribly for an hour, then vastly improved, so I was actually looking forward to the game. I'd originally planned to go to London Tigers v Langford at Amersham Town on Tuesday, but either the fixture was cancelled or it was in the Groundhopper app in error, either way, I had no live game to go to. Instead, I stayed in and watched AFC Bournemouth v Wycombe on the TV and again, we gave a fairly encouraging performance, so I was really looking forward to the QPR game this weekend when I booked my ticket at around 10.30 on Thursday morning. However, an hour later, a whole swathe of the UK was put into tier 3 Covid restrictions, meaning my ticket was cancelled. It was especially frustrating as I was in the midst of eight 3 am starts at work in a row and the shop was packed at times. It was ludicrous how this was considered safer than an open-air football stadium, but then again, has anything made sense with the current government. However, Non-League football was so available and so I set about looking for a game.

My preference was a new ground at step 7 but leagues were suspending fixtures left, right and centre. I'd fancied a revisit to Newport Pagnell for a while, so I could get better pictures and revise my blog. With draconian restrictions in place, this was the ideal time and even better, the game would be kicking off at 2 to save on floodlight costs. This meant that I'd be back in good time for dinner, a 3 PM kick-off would have been cutting it fine. Happily, fellow groundhopper Anwar was happy to join me, meaning I'd get some help with petrol and have some much-appreciated company. To be sure of getting in, I bought a ticket online, the booking through TicketSource was nice and simple and fee-free. The admission price was also very reasonable at £7. It was ironic that I booked my ticket precisely seven years to the day of my original visit. The day of the game came and it was my only Saturday of the year in work. The store was packed again and quite busy and I was glad when it came to the end of my 3-11 am shift. I'd bought a paper that had a £5 free bet at William Hill, so instead of going straight home, I headed for Aylesbury. After placing my Liverpool, Everton, Norwich & Swansea accumulator, I headed into Aylesbury. After parking up, I headed to the nearest takeaway, Southern Fried Chicken. All my first choices were out of stock, so I had a chicken burger meal for £4.80. The chips were great and freshly cooked, but the burger could have been better and so I added it onto my spreadsheet as costs for the games. After getting some drinks and a chocolate bar, I headed over to Anwar. He had bought his son Hicham and after a decent journey, we were parked up at the ground by 1.40. Gaining entry in was as easy as having a QR code scanned and so after doing a circuit of the ground, we found a space along the side of the pitch.

Newport Pagnell Town sat 9th in the table and were in fairly decent form in their last six league games. They'd won three - beating London Colney 5-1, Broadfields United 3-0 and Baldock Town 1-0. Draws had come against Leighton Town (2-2) and at Colney Heath (1-1), the only defeat coming in the return fixture at Leighton when they lost 2-1. Tring Athletic were in 17th place and were in mixed form. They'd beaten London Colney 3-1 (a game I was at) and won 1-0 at Broadfields United but had suffered defeats against Oxhey Jets (1-2), Dunstable Town (0-2) and Baldock Town (0-2) as well as at Wembley (1-4). Tring Athletic started brightly but didn't really create many chances. It was 1-0 to Newport Pagnell Town on 9 minutes. Jim Burnside held off his marker and used his pace to get away before smashing a great shot into the top corner. Tring had the chance to equalise a couple of minutes later with a penalty but the spot-kick hit the post and then the ball was cleared. They had a further chance on 21 minutes but it was a great tackle by a home defender that deflected the ball past the left-hand post. It was 2-0 on 38 minutes, nifty footwork and a shot fired into the top right-hand corner by Jack Stronge. The second half started just as the first half had ended and Burnside got his second and his sides' third as he tapped home a low cross from a few yards out after 48 minutes. Burnside completed his hat trick on 53 minutes with a low finish, although the Tring keeper got a hand to it. It was 5-0 on 62 minutes, Ben Ford's curling corner hit the post and Stronge followed up for his second from close range. Ford got on the scoresheet himself on 66 minutes, a long-range shot that the Tring keeper really should have done better on. On 72 minutes, Burnside smashed home into the top left-hand corner from 25 yards for his 4th to make it 7-0. The visitors pulled one back on 78 minutes through Callum Short, a great lob from around 25 yards. A penalty was awarded to Newport Pagnell on 81 minutes and up stepped Stronge to make it 8-1. Tring Athletic pulled another back, right at the end, another excellent lob by Short. It had been a decent game in the end and a deserved win for Newport Pagnell, though Tring did have some good spells. All in all, 128 were in attendance, but they were about to have their Christmas ruined by Boris Johnson.

It was around 3.50 by the time we left. The clown in charge of the country was due to be the centre of attention at 4 PM and so that ruined the second half commentary as he blundered his way through the announcement. Grim reaper Chris Whitty and his sidekick Wally Valance had declared that the science pointed to a new strain of the Coronavirus which was far more infectious. Originally, the plan for Christmas was to have complete relaxation of rules. However, the dictator completely cancelled that and ordered 'non-essential' shops and businesses to close at a few hours notice. Worst of all, instead of the five days meeting family, people in London and the south-east were ordered to go to work but not see family at all this Christmas, not even outside. So I am forced to work in a packed supermarket but I can't see my brother and his family who have been very responsible. The crank gave religion a free pass of course, as ever. I dropped Anwar off around 4.40 and was home myself around half an hour later. I'd not enjoyed the day as much as I could as the news about the impending doom had been leaked throughout the afternoon and distracted me from the game. It was a good curry for dinner and a few pints before an early night. Of course, there will be no football for the foreseeable future and although my employer has been pretty decent to me, this abhorrent government has ensured that there will be no reward for my hard work at the end of my marathon stint of shifts. That came about the following day, with shift 5 of 8, a huge ten-hour one, starting at 3 am, once again the store was packed in parts, but at least the store security did their bit, meaning there were around 30 people queueing outside when I left at 1. I had a nice walk whilst listening to the Non-League show on BBC Three Counties before coming back and finishing this blog.


WILLEN ROAD is a pretty decent ground for step 5, being similar to St Ives Town and Potters Bar Town who are a level higher. There are 2 seated covered stands along the side of the pitch. Firstly an older one which I would estimate was built when they moved to the ground in 1972. The other along the other side is one of those new metal type stands. Between the 2, I'd estimate that they hold around 200-250, whilst the rest is open standing. The bar is excellent and nicely decorated, though the selection of drinks is pretty standard. I didn't see a club shop, but I know a lady came round selling scarves along with raffle tickets. There were basic tea and coffee facilities, but no tea bar that I could make out, so the 15-20 minute walk to town is essential if you want something to eat. 


Wednesday 9 December 2020

North Leigh - Eynsham Park

North Leigh FC
Eynsham Park
North Leigh
OX29 6PN

07583 399577

Ground Number: 263
Thursday 4th April 2013
North Leigh 4-2 Didcot Town
Southern League Division 1 - South & West


North Leigh FC was established in 1908 and spent the first 72 years of their history playing in local leagues such as the Witney & District and Oxfordshire Senior League. Highlights of this period include twelve Witney & District League Premier Division titles, the latest of which came in 1990. That year, they moved up to the Hellenic D1 and after a couple of 4th place finishes were promoted to the Premier Division in 1993 after they finished as runners-up to Tuffley Rovers. Again they adapted well to the new level and in all but one of their seasons here, they finished in the top half of the table. They were champions twice in a row in 2002 and 2003 and runners-up in 2007, however, their ground did not meet the requirements of the Southern League. North Leigh were Hellenic League champions for a third time in 2008 and this time they had the ground up to scratch. They've been in the Southern League's second-tier ever since - up until 2018 in the South Western Division and ever since in the more geographically friendly Central Division. They started very well, finishing in the top half every season up until 2017, with two 6th place finishes their best effort. They've found things a little tougher since though - despite being in a credible 10th place when the season was cancelled last March, they currently sit in 18th prior to my latter visit.

North Leigh enjoyed a memorable run to the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round in 2016. They thumped Thame United 7-1 won 3-2 at Corinthian-Casuals and beat Folkestone Invicta 3-1 before a 6-0 humbling at Conference Premier side Eastleigh. The FA Cup also provided their record attendance when 426 turned out to see them hold Newport County to a 0-0 draw in a 2004 3rd Qualifying Round tie. Their best run in the FA Trophy came in 2016/17 when they beat Bridgwater Town, Yate Town, Folkestone Invicta and Kingstonian prior to a defeat to South Park in a 1st Round replay. The FA Vase 4th Round was reached in 2004 when North Leigh beat Redhill, Clapton (by a massive 11-0 scoreline!) & Southall before losing to Andover. Local cup wins include the Hellenic League Shield in 2008, the Oxfordshire Senior Cup in 2008, 2012 and 2017, the Oxfordshire Charity Cup in 1985 and 1989 as well as a host of trophies whilst competing in the Witney & District League. Well-known players to turn out for the club include Michael Pook & Matty Taylor whilst former Cheltenham Town man John Brough managed the club for a period. The village of North Leigh is situated near Witney and has a population of just under 2,000.


I had been to a game on the Monday of this week and was actually planning to go to a name every night of the week if I could, But with being tired, and an upcoming walk from Wycombe to Oxford this Friday night to raise funds for the club, I thought better of it. But there was still time to squeeze in a game on Thursday evening, the relatively short trip to Witney, to see Southern League side, North Leigh. The game would be against local rivals Didcot Town. I had already had 2 failed attempts on a Friday evening and a Tuesday evening, both ruined by waterlogged pitches. With the weather still being freezing well into April, I would be keeping a close eye on Twitter to avoid another wasted journey. Both sides had little to play for, ensconced in mid-table mediocrity, facing no danger of relegation, but no chance of the playoffs either. Local pride would be at stake though, and I'd imagine that North Leigh, a couple of places higher than their rivals would be happiest with their season so far.

I wanted to get this game done as quickly as possible, so left it as late as possible to leave, having my dinner pretty early and leaving at 6. By 6.30 I was in Aylesbury to meet Anwar, and we were soon on our way. It was a nice easy journey, better in fact than going from via Wycombe and we were there at 7.25. After paying to get in and getting a programme, we went in the bar for a bit to keep warm. I then went to the tea bar and got what turned out to be excellent chips for £1.50. A generous portion and cooked to perfection. We found a place along the side to watch the game from. It was rather one-sided, North Leigh playing some great football and taking a 2-0 lead through former Oxford United and Oxford City striker Connor McDonagh. They were then awarded a penalty which was saved by the keeper but followed up by former Wycombe youth teamer, Stuart Hole. McDonagh then completed his hat trick to make it 4-0. Didcot then rallied, getting a goal back when Alex Stanley headed in. And arrears were further reduced when Elliot Osbourne-Ricketts netted from the spot, to give the scoreline a more respectable look. It had been another good night out, to a nice club. It was mainly Didcot fans there, and I had a good chat to a few. On the way home I missed my turning off the A40 and had to go nearly 10 miles out my way via Watlington, but even that couldn't mess up an enjoyable evening.


Though it wasn't near the top of my list for a revisit (due to me already having done a blog on it), I was happy to do a revisit to North Leigh under the right circumstances. It was fairly local and the chips had been excellent when I visited last, plus as with most clubs, they'd been really friendly on our last visit. The opportunity came on this Tuesday, what with all the possible new grounds being over 100 miles away. Maybe I'd have made the long journey had their not been a number of attractive FA Trophy ties but after considering games at St Neots Town, Royston Town and Welwyn Garden City, myself and fellow hopper Anwar settled on North Leigh v Frome Town. It was the closest of all the options, never a bad thing when you have work at 4 am the following morning. Little had changed since my last visit, it would appear - even the admission fee had stayed at £8, pretty decent value for the level of football. The club had done pretty well to sustain football at this level, with the fourth-lowest attendance average in the league, although 118 was still fairly respectable for a village of their size. Local rivals Witney Town had been liquidated in 2013 due to a lack of interest, with the locals doing to the club the same as their club patron David Cameron (allegedly) did to a pigs head, so North Leigh prospering was even more credible. I'd checked the club website the day before the game and this had loads of useful information about the club on it.

I stayed up until 11.30 on the day before the game but still woke at my normal work time. I got back to sleep for a couple of hours but woke up again and had some breakfast. I then went back to sleep once more for a couple of hours before getting up and having a shower. I spent the morning at home, catching up on things. I was disappointed that North Leigh announced that the tea bar would be closed tonight, as I was looking forward to having their chips again. However, I understood why -  what with the authorities making it as difficult as possible for them. Around 11.40, I started to walk down town to get a few things and have some lunch. It turned out to be a bit of a manic day. I sold my camera on eBay and when I got back home in the afternoon, I posted that out. I then spotted its replacement on CEX and got together the PS3 that I've not used in ages to partially fund my new purchase. I'd have to take that down the following day but I was tight for time and so had a quick dinner before leaving at 6. The roads were fairly clear, although there were plenty of slow drivers on the single carriageways, both before and after I met Anwar at 6.30. We go there at 7.30, the entrance a bit tricky to find in the dark, but soon enough we were parked up. I'd spotted a sign on the way in, so we walked back up to get a picture of it. By the time we had walked back and paid to go it, it was pretty much bang on the advertised kick-off time. However, the kick off was delayed until just before 8 PM for whatever reason. The weather wasn't the greatest, chilly and rainy, though it never really got worse than the occasional drizzle. There was no physical programme tonight, but the online effort was excellent and had plenty to read. Unlike most hoppers, I prefer a digital copy anyway as they take up less space and don't get damaged.


North Leigh had got this far by winning at Melksham Town on penalties following a 3-3 draw, 4-2 at Thatcham Town and then 4-1 at Wantage Town, a game on a Friday night that I'd been at. A win tonight would see them make their best ever progress in the competition. Frome Town were in the adjacent Southern League Southern Division and sat in 9th place. They'd travelled just over 70 miles to get to tonight's game. They'd won on penalties against AFC Totton following a 2-2 draw and beaten higher-level side Farnborough 3-0 at home to get this far. They'd be looking to progress to the 2nd Round for the first time since 1985 when they lost 4-0 to Boston United. It was a scrappy game at first but the visitors were edging it and seemed to have more finesse in the final third. North Leigh had plenty of unity and team spirit though and they had the ball in the net on 14 minutes, but it was ruled out for offside. The game started to open up, especially after the break and the home keeper was on top form, making a number of great saves. North Leigh's #9 was tripped in the area on 56 minutes after showing quick feet to the Frome defender but was booked by the referee for simulation. The linesman on our side then gave a very marginal offside and during their best spell, the hosts weren't getting the rub of the green. A late tackle by a North Leigh man resulted in a large melee and as a result, the man was given his marching orders. Just as it looked like we would see a penalty shoot-out - and my first 0-0 in over a year, Frome's Jon Davies popped up with a winner in the third minute of injury time, as his shot was deflected past the unfortunate keeper. The hosts scrapped to get back into the game in the few minutes left but didn't really have a clear cut chance. It had been a decent game for such a low scoring affair but it was nearly 10 by the time we left. I dropped Anwar off at 10.45, getting home myself at 11.10. I didn't stay up for long and was in bed and asleep within half an hour of getting in.


EYNSHAM PARK is a ground set in the pleasant surroundings of woodland. Not that I would have noticed it at tonight's game, but I had already been on the way to a Hereford v Wycombe game one year. It's pretty basic, though more than enough for this level of football and essentially is a very nice place to watch football, though a mild warm Autumn afternoon would be far more suitable than the freezing evening I went to see the game on. Whilst the ground is mainly open standing, there are 2 areas of cover. Behind the goal there is some cover, holding around 300, whilst the main stand holds around 150 - more than enough for everyone to keep dry, going by their average attendances.

The clubhouse is small but nicely furnished, with plasma TV and a decent range of drinks.  The tea bar is also excellent, the chips and Bovril I had were perfect and as good as I had anywhere. There was no shop that I could see, but that's not too much of a shock given the small crowds that they get. It's a shame as they deserve more and it's a decent place to watch football at.