Saturday, 19 June 2021

Twyford & Ruscombe - East Park Farm


Twyford & Ruscombe FC
Charvil Pavillion
East Park Farm Road
Charvil
Berkshire
RG10 9TR







Ground Number: 965
Saturday 19th June 2021
Twyford & Ruscombe 5-7 Richings Park Reserves
Thames Valley League D2





TWYFORD & RUSCOMBE FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

Like a lot of clubs at this level, information on the club is scant. They joined the Reading League upon its formation in 1989. They actually started in the Premier Division but resigned midseason. They replaced their reserve team in Division 3 Thames to cut down on the mileage, but even then, they finished bottom and were relegated to Division 4 Thames. The club bounced back as runners-up in 1993 but only lasted a couple of seasons back in Division 3. In 1997, reorganisation saw Division 4 scrapped and the club back in Division 3 Thames. An upswing in fortunes saw the team promoted to Division 2 Thames in 199, following a 4th place finish. The 2001/02 season saw Twyford & Ruscombe enjoy their best-ever finish of 2nd in Division 2. The club remained mainstays of Division 2 for many years, though the league and division were renamed Thames Valley D3 in 2014. A couple of years later the team had a bad season and were relegated to Division 4. However, they bounced back as champions in 2018 and made it a double promotion a year later following a 3rd place finish. This season could see them survive relegation again with the right results.

Twyford is a large village situated on the River Loddon. It has a population of 6,600 and many facilities including a recreation ground which the club sometimes use. The adjacent village of Ruscombe has a population of 1,000 and was the resting place of William Penn who lived there from 1710 until 1718. He was the founder of Pennsylvania. For whatever reason, the club is playing a couple of miles away in Charvil. The only pub is the humble surroundings of a Hungry Horse as their 'local'. This hasn't stopped celebrities Uri Geller, David 'Diddy' Hamilton and Alan Titchmarsh living there though. The population is around 3,000 and the village is situated three miles from Reading. 


MY VISIT

I was hoping to get my 2021/22 season kick-started this Saturday, as I am aiming for the big 200 following two disrupted seasons. But there was nothing I really fancied and so I opted for one last game for 2020/21. The Thames Valley Premier League would again provide my game as it had a few times since the restart. My game of choice was Twyford & Ruscombe v Richings Park Reserves. This was for no other reason than the venue, East Park Farm. It was right near my brother's place and I'd been due to visit a few weeks back when visiting him. But Hurst pulled out of their game against Wargrave (with a couple of days notice to be fair) and so I had to make the longer trip to Reading City U23s instead. It was a terrible game as they drew 0-0 with Mortimer. It seemed to be a pitch available to all, with no permanent home team. The opportunity came up again for this Saturday, this time for a game in Thames Valley D2 between Twyford & Ruscombe and Richings Park Reserves. I spent the Friday night watching England v Scotland, which ended 0-0. It wasn't the greatest result, but there were plenty of people acting like it was the end of the world. Having started my England watching with a defeat to Holland followed by going 1-0 to San Marino within seven seconds, I was more realistic. As well as that, you had the England v Scotland factor in, which always ensures things are never simple.


I had a reasonable nights sleep, waking up just before 7. After having some breakfast, I decided to walk to town and back as it would be good exercise and I needed a few things anyway. Having had a decent walk, I had a Cumberland Ring and chips that I'd bought for lunch. It was massive, 400 grams but I managed to polish it off along with some chips. I had been tempted by their 'Godfather' steak which was twice as big as my sausage but decided against it. I left at 12.35, meeting Anwar and Colin at Wycombe Station at 12.50. The journey over wasn't the best, lots of delays and I didn't drop my passengers off at Henley Town until 1.35. The journey to my game also had a small delay. I arrived right on kick off to discover the away team not yet there which was becoming a trend after the hour late kick-off at Rotherfield on Wednesday. Richings Park finally got to the ground at 2.25 and the game kicked off around ten minutes later.

 
Twyford & Ruscombe were on a seven-game losing run, notable results being an 8-1 thrashing by Goring United, an exciting 6-5 defeat to Maidenhead Town and the reverse fixture of today's game which ended 7-2 to Richings Park Reserves. Their last win had come on 17th April as they won 3-1 at Hurst Reserves. Richings Park Reserves were in decent form and sitting 4th. Their last game had seen them beat Datchet 6-4 and their only defeat in the last 12 games was a 4-2 loss to leaders Henley Town. It looked to be the same old story for the hosts when Richings Park scored with the first chance of the game. Hesitation in the home defence allowed #9 to finish at the keeper's near post from a few yards out. On 7 minutes Twyford had the ball in the net, but the 'goal' was ruled out for a foul. A couple of minutes later, they did get the equaliser. A defender passed the ball back to the keeper who handled it. A free-kick was awarded for the pass back and Twyford quickly put the ball into the net. However, the referee had not blown his whistle, so it had to be retaken, but not before some dog dirt was cleared off the pitch. The second set-piece was well worked and levelled things up. Richings Park were awarded a penalty for handball on 14 minutes, but the resulting spot-kick was blasted over. The hosts took full advantage and on the half-hour mark, they were awarded a penalty of their own. This was scored to make it 2-1 and on 35 minutes they made it 3-1. It was an excellent cross that #9 headed home at the back post. On 39 minutes it was 4-1 when slack marking allowed #15 to head home. Twyford & Ruscombe were jubilant at halftime and it looked as if their bad run was coming to an end. The second period started slowly, but then suddenly there was a goal flurry. A well-worked goal on 52 minutes reduced the arrears to 4-2 but straight after the three-goal cushion was restored after some shoddy marking left a player with an easy finish. Another minute later, the arrears were reduced to 5-4 with a quick goal on the break. On 58 minutes it was 5-4, thanks to a Richings Park penalty. Twyford pushed forward but were caught on the break on 64 minutes with a shot that hit the post on the way in. Remarkably, it was 5-5 but the visitors were not done yet. Goals on 69 and 84 minutes gave them a win that seemed implausible at halftime.


There was a minor scuffle towards the end following a foul. The referee had hinted at an abandonment but the whole melee resulted in just a single yellow card. The man in the middle, Ian Scott handled things pretty well and let the game flow. The result was harsh on Twyford & Ruscombe and it was a brilliant game in front of 31 fans. However, they only had their own shambolic defending to blame. It was 4.25 by the time I left and I met Anwar & Colin at Henley Tesco at 4.40. Their game had seen a 1-1 draw with the home side getting the title at the expense of Goring United. I dropped them off at the station at 5.10, getting home myself 10 minutes later. The evening consisted of watching Germany beat Portugal 4-2 in the Euros, a pizza for dinner and the online pub quiz. It was my last game of the season but it all starts again next week with a trip down to Kent for a game at Herne Bay v Grays Athletic or if not, Folkestone Invicta v Ramsgate.


THE GROUND

EAST PARK FARM is a decent setup for the level, with a pair of pitches fenced in. It is in a public park and has a pavilion. Nearby facilities include a pub. There's a good-sized car park and it is on a couple of bus routes. 

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Rotherfield United - Bishopswood Sports Ground

Rotherfield United FC
Bishopswood Sports Ground
Horsepond Road
Gallowstree Common
Oxfordshire
RG4 9BT

0845 094 1206





Ground Number: 964
Wednesday 16th June 2021
Rotherfield United - Wargrave
Thames Valley D1





ROTHERFIELD UNITED FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

Rotherfield United FC was established in 1973. There is not a great deal about the club's early years online, but they joined the Reading League in 2012, this was renamed the Thames Valley Premier League a couple of years later. The club participated in the top tier Premier Division at step 7 for five seasons, the highlight being a pair of 9th place finishes. In 2017, the team were relegated to Divison 1. They've never really troubled either end of the table since their demotion, prior to today's game, they sat in 7th place. The club has many sides including first team, reserves, walking football and a number of junior sides.


There was a previous team who used this ground, Peppard (known as Sonning Common Peppard until 1990) competed in the Chiltonian, Combined Counties and Hellenic Leagues. The highlight of their history came in the 1990s when they were champions four seasons in a row from 1990-94 - twice in the Chiltonian and twice in the Combined Counties. They remained here until 2001 when ground grading forced a move to Palmer Park in Reading. However, they folded after one season here as the pitch was too narrow. The ground is in Gallowstree Common which is a hamlet in South Oxfordshire, near the Berkshire border. The nearest towns are Henley & Reading, whilst the larger villages of Peppard and Sonning Common are close by. It once had a pub called the Reformation from the Breakspear Brewery but this has since closed.

Sources used: Wikipedia, FCHD & Football, Wherever it may be.


MY VISIT

I'd had a visit to Rotherfield United pencilled in for some time, having seen it on the YouTube channel, Groundhopping FC. It was a decent facility, with a railed pitch, well worth a visit at just over twenty miles from home. Originally, I'd planned to go on a Monday in May, but crazily, it was called off due to a waterlogged pitch. There were two chances for me to go this season, either this Wednesday or the following Saturday. I opted for the midweek as it was local and there was more potential for games on Saturday. The day before I had my annual service and MOT. The result was a £632 bill or 6p per mile which was my best cost result for around seven years (since I had my Peugeot). The one negative was that I needed two new tyres - £213 for the pair when I could have got them done for £100 new or £50 part worn at other garages. To be fair, the tyre that they used was similarly priced at my preferred place, but I'd not have gone for such a fancy brand myself. Overall, I was pleased with the result though and I'd charged a fair price to other hoppers for lifts based on previous calculations. Over the years, the costs have worked out from 3p per mile (2013/14 when I did over 18,000 miles in my Peugeot) to 11p a mile (2008/09 when my Seat Ibiza was on its last legs).


I was working on the day of the game from 8-3, so I had time to go home for a bit before I set off for the game. Anwar was coming originally, but he pulled out early afternoon due to illness. Luckily, it was nice and local for me, so I'd still be making the trip. My only concern was the game going ahead, as lots of teams pulling out with the old chestnut of 'couldn't raise a side'. I've no problem with this when clubs gove good notice - there is other things in life than football, after all. But maybe persistent 'offenders' should be told that 'we couldn't raise you a place in next seasons league'. It had affected the integrity of the league in some ways, with Wargrave's title rivals Reading YMCA gaining a couple of walkovers in recent weeks. It was the same case a few weeks ago when I'd been due to go to Hurst v Wargrave, only for the hosts to pull out on Thursday. I used my time to catch up on TV and look for games for Saturday. In all reality, I think it will be another game in the Thames Valley League, probably Twyford & Ruscombe v Richings Park Reserves with Henley Town as a backup. With me aiming to make 200 games next season, it would have been great to crack on - however, the nearest unticked grounds were at Newtown & AFC Darwen. After getting my stuff together, I left at 4.50 with the game still showing as on. It was a reasonable drive over with me getting there at 5.40. Lots of people had parked outside and I saw why as there was vicious speed bump as soon as you got into the car park. There was a deluge of groundhoppers with a few familiar faces but no sign of the players. It turned out that the kick-off had been delayed until 7 which made perfect sense, I just wish that the league website had been updated. I killed the hour before the game looking at Football Traveller for fixtures and reading magazines on my tablet. There was an attendance of 33 and a kind hopper had produced a limited amount of programmes for the game. 


Rotherfield United had enjoyed a thumping 8-2 win against Cookham Dean Reserves on Saturday. However, their form had been mixed with defeats to Reading YMCA, FC Imaan Lions and Hurst in the previous three games. Wargrave were in a battle with Reading YMCA for the title and they'd been in sparkling form recently. They'd beaten Eldon Celtic 3-0 and  FC Imaan Lions 6-4. There were a couple of blips in May with them having only managed a 2-2 draw with Slough Heating Laurencians and a 3-2 defeat to Hurst but they'd won every other league game.  Wargrave needed to win all three games for the title, also hoping that rivals Reading YMCA slipped up in their last game. It was 1-0 to Wargrave on 28 minutes, a drilled shot from the edge of the area by Sam Wild finding the bottom left-hand corner. Wild got his second on 33 minutes, this time a high shot into the net from outside the area. The game was fairly equal and the hosts had plenty of chances but they were wasteful with them. Rotherfield ended up having a player harshly booked for a tackle. Later on, his teammate accused the tackled player of milking it in an attempt to get the player a £15 fine and in return got called a 'little bitch'. Wargrave were awarded a penalty on 53 minutes following a trip and Stuart Moss converted the spot-kick with aplomb. Rotherfield United pulled one back on 58 minutes, a back-post header right on the line by Kane Bateman following an excellent cross. Wild completed his hat trick on 70 minutes following a neat run and finish. The visitors had a fair few chances towards the end as they looked good value for their lead. The Rotherfield #9 hit the bar with a great shot but it ended on a sour note for #10 after he got frustrated at the referee refusing to tell him how long was left. The game ended 20 seconds later amid drizzle. I made a hasty retreat, leaving at 8.50 and got home 40 minutes later.


THE GROUND

THE BISHOPSWOOD SPORTS GROUND is a great venue for the level. It's a multi-pitch complex with the main pitch railed off. There are a few signs to let you know who plays there. Parking is plentiful. There are no facilities for food and drink at the ground from what I saw. There is a pub called The Greyhound not far away and a Chinese takeaway less than a couple of miles away if you are peckish. Overall, it's a well kept and pleasant place to watch a game of football.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Punjab United - Steve Cook Stadium


Punjab United FC
The Steve Cook Stadium
Elite Venue
Dunkirk Close
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 5ND







Ground Number: 963
Saturday 12th June 2021
Punjab United 4-4 Lordswood
Medway Post Lockdown Tournament








PUNJAB UNITED - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 2003 and played for some time in Sunday football, mainly the North Kent Sunday League. Although the club name may suggest otherwise Punjab United FC is open to members and players 'regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation or ability. Their ethos was to bring a more entertaining brand of football and a more ethical approach to football for all age groups. The club made the switch to Saturday football in 2016 and was an immediate success. They joined the Kent County League at their step 7 Premier Division, winning the league at the first time of asking. With the facilities in place, they made the step up to the Southern Counties East Division 1. Again, they won the league at the first attempt, gaining promotion to the SCEFL Premier in the process. Their first season at step 5 saw results tail off, as they finished 17th. The last two seasons have seen the team in 15th & 16th when the two seasons were abandoned.

Punjab United first entered the FA Cup in 2019 and the game was covered live on the BBC iPlayer and Red Button as they narrowly lost 1-0 to Broadbridge Heath. This season saw them share an exciting 3-3 draw at Stansfeld, but they went out in the Extra Preliminary Round again, losing 4-3 on penalties. In the FA Vase, the 2019/20 season saw the club's best run. They beat Selsey 5-0 and Loxwood 3-2 before losing 3-0 to Newhaven in the 1st Round. In terms of local honours, the club won the Kent Intermediate Challenge Shield in 2016/17. Punjab United share the town of Gravesend with Ebbsfleet United who play in the National League South and Guru Nanak who play in the Kent County League. The population of the town is 74,000. It has one of the largest populations of the Sikh community in the UK of more than 15,000 and is home to a very pretty Sikh Temple. It is situated on the River Thames and Medway Canal and passenger ferries run to Tilbury. Pocahontas, the first female Native American to visit England. She was taken ill on her return voyage to America and died aged 21 after coming ashore at Gravesend. She was buried under the chancel of St George's parish church.

MY VISIT

Once again, this was a game that I had planned in around a month ago when the fixtures for the tournament were announced. Once again, I'd be doing it on the train and thanks to my railcard, tickets were acquired for the bargain price of under £18 return from High Wycombe. The early kick-off meant that I'd have to alter my plans from normal Saturday, but it had its benefits. I'd be limited to Wetherspoons beforehand, but it looked like it was a decent one. There appeared to be great food at the ground and there was a nice looking Micropub called the Three Pillars for after. I planned it all pretty much down to a tee on the previous Monday, taking the fastest trains and avoiding an accidental trip to Haddenham & Thame Parkway as happened last week. It was a quiet week with no football and so I started planning for the future. To be more specific, looking at the fares that I can get with my railcard. The best value appeared to be in Kent where pretty much anywhere was affordable. Weymouth and that sort of area was less so, with fares appearing to be double the cost of elsewhere. Euro 2020/1 kicked off on Friday night and I watched a dull game as Italy comfortably beat Turkey 3-0. I had a couple of bottles from my new cider delivery but was in bed by 10.30.


I awoke early on the day of the game, around 4.30am. Unable to get back to sleep, I watched TV for a few hours before getting up. I had some breakfast and got dressed before leaving at 8.10. It was a pleasant walk to the station, taking around an hour. A return train ticket was secured for £17.80 with less than ten minutes to wait for my train. I got to Marylebone at 10.09, meeting Colin and Anwar before a quick dash across London on the underground. We were at St Pancras in plenty of time for our 10.55 train. It was a super quick train to Gravesend with us getting there at 11.17. I had a quick walk to the Robert Pocock Wetherspoons for a pint and a half of Black Dragon cider whilst the other two looked around the shops. The pub was fairly busy so it took 10 minutes for it to arrive. I had my drinks and started walking towards the ground. I was there at 12.40, meeting up with the lads. It was £5 entry and we got a nice free badge. I was keen to sample their food and over the course of the afternoon, spent a tenner on a curry pancake roll, a samosa, a chicken kebab and some chips. It was slightly more expensive than you'd expect to pay from a takeaway, given the portion sizes. But it was all delicious and helped the club out financially.


Both teams had mixed results so far in the tournament. Punjab United had lost to Sheppey United (2-3) and Chatham Town (0-3). They'd drawn 3-3 with Chatham Town and beaten Rochester United 4-1. Lordswood had lost to Sheppey United (2-4) and Chatham Town (0-3). Their only win had come against bottom side Rochester United where they won 1-0. In the reverse fixture, Punjab United had a comprehensive 8-0 win at Lordswood. On Tuesday, Lordswood played their game in hand, drawing 1-1 at Rochester. It was a quick start to the game and the hosts took the lead after just five minutes when Arun Suman finished from the edge of the area, following a square ball. It was a close-range effort on 20 minutes that levelled affairs. Suman put Punjab back in the lead on 42 minutes but not before trialist 'Jack' cleverly beat the offside trap before finishing past the home keeper. Sixteen seconds into the second half, Lordswood were awarded a penalty for a foul and up stepped Kieran Sharp to make it 3-2 to the visitors. On 59 minutes, Suman shot home the equaliser from the edge of the area to complete his hat trick. Lordswood retook the lead on 63 minutes, Harley Gorse seizing on a defensive error to see his side lead 4-3. The hosts had a penalty of their own on 70 minutes, Luke Adams stepping up to complete an incredible afternoon of scoring. There could have been more goals too, but it was not to be. Both sides had chances to win it, but couldn't convert.


Also in attendance was Mark, a Tonbridge Angels fan that I'd seen at Lordswood a few weeks back. It had been a great game, a real goalfest with lots of action. It was credit to both teams on what was a real scorcher of an afternoon. After the game, I made my way to my planned Microbar, the Three Pillars. It was disappointing for its selection of ciders, but seeing as I was there, I had a pint of Broadoak Pear & Chilli. It was a light one at 4% but too sweet for my liking. At least it was a fairly light one at 4%. From there, I headed to B&M Bargains, picking up a big bottle or Irn Bru for £1. It was a short walk to the station, with me getting there 15 minutes before my train left at 16:42. Hardly anyone was bothering with masks now, except in crowded areas. I think everyone was sick of the jerk in charge of the country lecturing people on what to do when it was he whose incompetence had let the Indian variant run wild. My ticket was not working when I got to the barrier, so the guard let me through. I stopped to tick off another Wetherspoons, the Barrel Vaults in St Pancras Station as I wanted to cool off. The now customary pint of Black Dragon was had for £4.99. Again it was busy and this time my drink took another ten minutes to come. It slipped down easy and I was in a good mood. From the station, I walked to the Underground taking a few nice photos on the way. It was good to see John Motson's dulcet tones on the tannoy reading various announcements. After my transfer across London, I got the 18.12 from Marylebone and this deposited me in High Wycombe at 18.50. I stopped at Wok Express to try out their salt and pepper chips. A pricey one at £3.95, a huge portion but fairly average taste. I was home at 8.20, playing Jay's Virtual Pub Quiz with the family. I'd eaten and drunk loads, walked 16 miles and got a bit sunburnt, but all in all, it was a good day.


THE GROUND

THE STEVE COOK STADIUM or ELITE VENUE is a decent ground for the level. All the covered accommodation is on one side, three small stands holding around 250 in a mixture of seating and standing. The rest of the ground is open hard standing with the dugouts providing segregation towards the two ends, should it ever be needed. There's also another railed pitch worth a visit in itself behind the far side.

Food is by far the best thing about Punjab, as well as the friendly welcome of course. There's a wide range of Indian food, all at fair prices. The best value for me was the Curry Roll and Chips or £3.50. Drinks are also available in cans. The town of Gravesend is just over 30 minutes walk away and of the two places I tried, the Robert Pocock Wetherspoons is your best bet.