Wednesday 28 April 2021

Queensmen FC - Lawrence Park

Queensmen FC
Lawrence Park
Woburn Road
MK45 2GU

Ground Number: 951
Wednesday 28th April 2021
Ampthill Town Development 4-0 The 61 FC Reserves
Beads County League Supplementary Cup


Having been home to Ampthill Town's reserve and development sides at various times in the past, Lawrence Park is currently home to Queensman FC, or Store Retail Solutions Queensman FC for sponsorship purposes. They play in the Bedford & District Sunday League First Division and were leading the division when the season was called to a halt in 2020. It is occasionally used by other sides and this was one such occasion.  Ampthill Town Development plays in the Bedfordshire County League and presumably usually use their normal home ground. I visited the first team back in 2014 in a FA Vase 5th Round game as they beat Hanwell Town 3-1. They've let results slip a bit since then and find themselves in Spartan South Midlands League Division 1, a step lower than when I saw them. The park is opposite Ampthill Town FC's first team ground and also home (albeit across the park) to Ampthill Rugby Club who play in the Championship - the second tier of rugby union. The town of Ampthill is in Bedfordshire and has a population of just over 13,000. It is one of the most expensive and desirable places to live in the county. The town holds its own festival every summer and has hosted acts such as Toploader and Razorlight in the past.


I'd seen this ground when fellow hopper Peter posted a picture on our groundhopping group and it looked well worth a visit. The only problem was that it was mainly used for Sunday games - the only day of the week I can't attend due to work. However, I randomly saw that the ground was being used in the Bedfordshire County League when looking for something on a railed pitch on Wednesday - the best I thought I could hope for in the current climate. I was pleased when I saw that Ampthill Town Development were playing The 61FC Reserves at the ground. I checked with fellow hopper Anwar as to whether he fancied the visit as I went close by where he lives on the way. As usual, he said he'd let me know, but I was going to make the journey even if I was on my own as it wasn't too far. In the end, Anwar opted not to come, due to him having to fast for his religion. It's not a hobby that's ever interested me, but I could see why people find comfort in it, especially during the lockdowns we've been having. All my other hoppers were also unavailable. The day of the game came and I was tired all day at work. I've been trying to cut down on fizzy drinks but had to have some to perk me up. After working from 7-2, I came home to find that my copy of Football Traveller had not arrived yet. I had a bath to freshen up and by the time I was out, the post had arrived. I had a decent look through the fixtures but planning was a real pain with trying to work out which were allowed fans and which were not and I wasn't much closer to making a decision than I was earlier. I left at 4.30, hoping that the game was still on, as a few sides had pulled out. There was no reliable Twitter feed for either team but I decided it was worth the risk given that the ground wasn't used often and it was fairly local. The journey over was reasonable enough for the time of day and I was at the ground by 5.50. I got some pictures of the ground before going in the stand as it was drizzly and cold.

Since football had restarted, Ampthill Town Development had enjoyed mixed results. They'd lost 3-0 at St Joseph's in the Bedfordshire Intermediate Cup but in the supplementary cup had won 4-0 at Cranfield United Reserves and 2-0 at tonight's opponents The 61FC Reserves. The visitors had not had a happy return to football - as well as the defeat in the original game, they'd also lost 3-0 to Totternhoe, 5-2 at Sporting Lewsey Park and 5-2 at Cranfield United Reserves. There were 22 spectators braving the weather to see the game. It was end to end stuff but Ampthill were generally on top. Their number 10 was especially good, he got away from the visiting defence after some hesitancy but chipped over the bar. The 61FC keeper made a good save to keep it goalless on 15 minutes but the hosts weren't to be denied much longer. On 27 minutes, a quick ball over the top allowed #10 to get away down the right-hand side and he wasn't going to miss from 15 yards, placing a good shot past the keeper from 15 yards. The visiting keeper made another couple of good saves before half time, but there still wasn't a lot between the sides, just the fact that Ampt were more effective in the final third. The 61FC manager gave his half time team talk, constructive criticism and made four changes to try and turn the game around. The game continued in the same vein though and on 52 minutes #10 had all the time in the world to put the ball past the keeper for 2-0. The visiting keeper made a good save on 65 minutes but he could only parry the ball wide. The ball was put back in and finished from close range for 3-0. The 61FC went right up the other end from the restart, put a good ball across the face of the goal but no one could take advantage. Ampthill caused a goalmouth scramble shortly after, but couldn't add to their lead. The visitors then went up the other end and forced the home keeper into two decent saves to preserve his clean sheet. The 61FC keeper made another good save but 10 minutes from time it was 4-0 when #17, on as a substitute shot home off the right-hand post. There were a couple of minor scuffles during the game, but generally, the referee did well to stop it from boiling over. The game ended and I made a quick getaway, stopping at Tesco in Flitwick for petrol. at 119.9, it was 2p cheaper than back home and 5p less than I paid in Bath on Saturday. I was in just after 9 and typed my blog whilst watching Paul O'Grady's For The Love Of Dogs before watching Coronation Street in bed.


LAWRENCE PARK is an excellent venue for Sunday League football with a large stand, capable of keeping 200 standing under cover. There are also club rooms behind the stand although these were closed on my visit. The ground is set in public woodland and is very pleasant. There's plenty of parking, plus Ampthill Rugby and football clubs are also close by. The town is a short walk away and offers a decent selection of places to eat and drink. 

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Watlington Town - Watlington Sports Ground

Watlington Town FC
Watlington Sports Ground
Shirburn Road
OX49 5BZ

Ground Number: 950
Tuesday 27th April 2021
Watlington Town 2-0 Stokenchurch
Hellenic League Chairman's Cup


As ever with clubs at this level, information about the club is hard ti come by. Their badge denotes an 1887 formation date and an original name of Watlington FC. They played in local leagues up until 1964 when they joined the Hellenic League Division 1. Results were mixed but they enjoyed their best-ever finish in 1966 when they finished 6th. Various reshuffles saw them change divisions but they'd remain in the Hellenic League until 1977.  They'd leave for local football, save for a couple of mediocre seasons back in the Hellenic Division 1 between 1997 and 1999. They switched to the Oxfordshire Senior League and were in the Premier Division in 2003 when they enjoyed a decent 3rd place finish. In 2008, they finished bottom and were relegated to Division 1. Results did not improve and after a 6th place finish, their best in many years, they left the league in 2014, joining the North Berks League Division 1. Again they struggled and finished bottom and the misery did not stop there as they suffered a double relegation to find themselves in Division 3. Finally, they had something to cheer, winning the league at the first attempt in 2017, stabilising for a season before winning Division 2 in 2019.  The team were a credible 4th when the season was called to a halt in March of last year. Last summer, they rejoined the Hellenic League, this time in Division 2 East and were 4th with just five games played when the season was once again curtailed.

Watlington is a small market town with a population of just over 2,700. It is situated in Oxfordshire, two miles from the Buckinghamshire border. It lies at the foot of Watlington Hill, which has the 'Watlington Mark' a spire shape cut into the side of the chalk soil on the side of the hill. As well as football there is also a cricket club in the town and tennis, squash and lawn bowls are also played at the Watlington club. Actors Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack live in the town whilst it has also been used as a filming location for shows such as Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse.


After a blank midweek last time out, I was keen to get to at least one game. Though there were very limited options on Tuesday, there was a local game at Watlington, around 20 miles from home. I'd seen the hosts draw 1-1 at Prestwood in a friendly back in August and that was when I found that they had a railed pitch and that was good enough for me to pay them a visit in the future. I'd also seen Stokenchurch earlier this season as they crashed 4-0 at Chalvey Sports and also on their home ground back on Christmas Eve 2016 as they beat Henley Town 4-1. With just six miles between the sides, this was a real local derby. The day of the game came and I was off work as usual. I walked down town and got the few things that I needed before going up the cash and carry to meet my Dad. I'd got a prior warning from fellow hopper Laurence that parking around the ground was not great around the ground. A look on Google Maps confirmed this, so I arranged to meet mate George ten minutes earlier than planned. I came home and watched TV for a while whilst typing some of this blog. I had the Salt & Pepper Chips that I'd bought from Iceland and these were pretty decent for what I paid. After leaving at 5, I got to ASDA just before 5.30 to meet George. The journey was far better than expected and we were at the ground by 5.45. Typically, after days of no rain, it started to tip down although it was just drizzling by the time we got out of the car. We got some pictures and took shelter under some trees just in case. With time to kill, I caught up online and typed my blog on my phone. We met a groundhopper and Farnborough fan who provided good company whilst we waited for kick-off. There was a friendly dog called Scooby out enjoying an evening walk too. He didn't stay to watch the game, but there were 24 people watching at the start.

After a decent showing in the league season, Watlington Town had continued their good form since the restart, beating Risborough Rangers Reserves 3-2 and winning 4-1 at Holmer Green Development although they suffered a setback on Saturday when they could only draw 1-1 at Hazlemere Sports in what the club Twitter described as a poor performance. Stokenchurch had lost all three games in the league and after starting back a week later than the hosts, they crashed 5-1 at Risborough Rangers Reserves before regaining some pride on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against Holmer Green Development. Watlington started on the front foot and they were ahead after four minutes when a well-worked move led to a well-placed shot that was put home from 15 yards. There was a shirt pull in the build-up to the goal and the Stokenchurch manager was not happy. Referee Tom Lathey told him in no uncertain terms that he was in charge and wasn't one to be swayed into changing his mind. The hosts were bossing the game but both sides lacked quality in the final third. Three minutes into the second half, the hosts smashed the underside of the bar but the ball was cleared. Just before the hour mark, Watlington did make it 2-0. Their striker beat the keeper to the ball but the defence did well to force him wide. However, they didn't count on him managing to squeeze the shot in from what seemed an impossible angle. The visitors did have a good spell around 70 minutes forcing a couple of decent saves in quick succession from the goalkeeper. On 73 minutes, a real goalmouth scramble saw the hosts unlucky not to score. Stokenchurch had one final chance to reduce the arrears, forcing the Watlington keeper into a good save from a free-kick six minutes from time but it wasn't to be. The light was fading near the end, but the referee still played four minutes of injury time and it was pretty dark when we left. I dropped George off at ASDA and he'd really enjoyed himself and had clearly got the groundhopping bug. He was great company too and I was back home by 9. I managed to finish off my blog and sort my photos before getting into bed around 10.


WATLINGTON SPORTS GROUND is a fairly basic venue but excellent for the level. There's a rail on two sides, plus chains behind the goals. There's also a pavilion whilst the town is around ten minutes walk away with pubs and a chip shop that comes with some good recommendations. Everything is very well kept and it's set in pleasant woodland. Public transport isn't the greatest and parking can be limited at times.

Sunday 25 April 2021

Tunley Athletic - Tunley Recreation Ground

Tunley Athletic FC
Bath Road
Tunley Road

Ground Number: 949
Saturday 24th April 2021
Tunley Athletic 0-5 Peasedown MW
Somerset County League Junior Cup


Like many clubs at this level, information is very scant on the club. They were formed in 1912 and have links to the local Miners Welfare club. After playing in local leagues, they joined the Somerset County League in 1985. In 1990, they enjoyed their best-ever finish of 9th in Division 1. The mid-1990s saw a decline in results and they were relegated to Division 2 in 1992 and Division 3 in 1996. Five years were spent in the bottom tier before they won promotion back as runners-up in 2001, then again in 2003 as they finished in 3rd place in Division 2. They repeated their best-ever finish of 9th in the step 8 Division 1 in 2005. Results again declined and Tunley were relegated back to Division 2 East in 2008. A further relegation followed in 2018 after years of disappointing finishes. Last season was wiped from the record books and this season has seen the disappointing form continue with them winless in the 8 games played so far. Tunley is part of the small village of Camerton. It's situated 6 miles southwest of Bath and has a population of just 655.


It's always great to get a double in, but very few opportunities come up, even less so in these times of restrictions. There were possibilities in both Suffolk and Essex, but even then, it was not clear if fans were allowed. Another opportunity arose in the west and so I was hoping for Shrewton United and Trowbridge Town. However, these two were soon dismissed with the latter not being allowed fans and the former switching venue. This opened up a new opportunity - Frome Collegians was a decent railed pitch, but I needed a double. After much searching, I found another in Tunley Athletic v Peasedown Miners Welfare which was being billed as a Miner's Derby. It was another decent venue but would probably mean missing the first ten minutes or so of the game. With it being a long journey though, I decided it was worth the sacrifice, especially when I got both of my two hopping partners on board. We left our first game at Frome Collegians just after 2.45 and had a decent journey over. After parking up, we got to the ground six minutes into the game. It was another great area and there was also a small covered area on one side. Happily, no goals had been scored when we got there.

Tunley Athletic were in poor form, having not won in seven games. Their latest result had been a 4-0 defeat at home to Glastonbury last Saturday in this competition. Peasedown Miners Welfare sat a division above and were in far better form - they'd won four, drawn three and lost two of their games in the curtailed league season. Their game last week against Radstock Town Reserves had been abandoned due to a injury player injury meaning their last competitive game was a 5-1 win over Castle Cary on 12th December. After 9 minutes, the game went according to the formbook, a good run and shot by the Peasedown #10 was parried by the home keeper but the rebound was put into the net to make it 1-0. The glovesman had a busy afternoon and made loads of great saves. Sadly on 25 minutes, it was 2-0, down to a keeper miskick straight to an opponent. The visitors continued to dominate and hit the right-hand post from a tight angle. Tunley forced a good save from the visiting keeper just before half time but it had been all one day traffic in the first period. The game was over as a contest on 47 minutes when a cross-field ball was slotted home from close range. It got worse for the hosts a minute later, they had plenty of opportunities to close down the move, but after a number of passes, the ball was poked home from a yard out. The visitors got a 5th later on after more hesitation in defence. A deserved win for Peasedown Miners Welfare then, but the hosts never let their heads drop and kept playing for their team. It had been a nice afternoon to watch a game for the 45 in attendance.

There was disappointing news for us as we left, Wycombe had lost 2-1 at Cardiff and were all but relegated. In truth, it's been a lost cause for a while but overall it's been a season the team can be proud that they gave their all. Hopefully, lessons will be learned, it was a slow start with us taking seven games to get our first point and we were far too conservative until it was too late. We left at 5, and I stopped at a Co-Op so that Colin could get some snacks. It drew a blank for local cider sadly, probably one of the worst stores I've been to, no bigger than a broom cupboard. We also stopped for petrol before we left and made slow progress through Bath. It was a lovely city when I went there on foot, but not great to drive through. The pavement cafes and pubs were packed with people enjoying the sun although it all appeared safe. The Bluetooth on my car had packed in, one of the numerous complaints about my sound system. Like a politician, it promises lots but delivers little with poor DAB  reception and an out of date Android Auto system that the greedy sods at Vauxhall want £100 to do a five-minute job that is a fault of their making. Once we got on the M4, it was a good journey, though huge stretches of road were closed due to them 'upgrading' to less safe 'Smart Motorways'. I'd opted to drop Colin off first to avoid the congestion in Oxford that we'd encountered earlier. I dropped Colin off at 7.30, Anwar 25 minutes later and finally got through the door at 8.15. I played Jay's Virtual Pub Quiz with my parents, aiding them with my more modern knowledge. I also had a few drinks as it helped me to wind down. I stayed up later than usual, with Match Of The Day on in the background as I edited my photos. It had been a good day, but disappointing that I bought nothing nice home. There had also been little time to relax and do other stuff but it had been nice to do two grounds in one journey.


Tunley Recreation Ground an excellent venue for what is the 14th level of English Football. It's set in lovely countryside and has great views and bags of character. There's also a decent-sized cover with club branding, upon a raised bank and holding around 30 at a push. There was an outdoor bar on my visit, selling cans of Carling and Thatchers for £2.50 as well as snacks. The area is a bit out in the sticks, but mobile coverage is good and there is a bus stop right outside. Opposite is a pub, The King William Inn which does food and real ale and cider.