Saturday 31 July 2021

Snodland Town - Pontyns Sports Ground

Snodland Town FC
Pontyns Sports Ground
Paddlesworth Road

07999 457864 (secretary)

Ground Number: 979
Saturday 31st July 2021
Snodland Town 4-1 Westside


The club was established in 1948 as a boys club called Snodland Nomads. They progressed into men's football in 1956, changing their name to Snodland FC. The town suffix was added in 2012 and they also bought the Nomads name back for their junior teams. Up until 1992, they played in local leagues such as the Maidstone & District and Rochester & District. They played far more and were more successful in the former and won several titles. These include the Premier Division in 1960 and 1984, Division 1 in 1974, Division 2A in 1958 and Division 3B in 1957. They joined the Kent County League in 1992. They were runners-up in Divison 2 West in 1995 and Division 2 West champions in 1996. The upward progress continued with the club taking the Division 1 West title in 1998 and the Premier Division title in 2000. In 2003, they finished bottom of the league but were not relegated They remained in the division until 2016 when they finished 3rd behind Faversham Strike Fores and Kennington. They were then elected to the SCEFL Division 1, where they remain to this day. Their best finish of 6th came in 2018.

Snodland Town have not yet entered the FA Cup but they have played four seasons in the FA Vase. Their best progress came in 2019 when they beat Kent Football United 1-0 and Bridon Ropes 3-2 before a 5-1 defeat to Sutton Common Rovers in the 1st Round. In local cups, wins include the Kent Junior Cup in 1962, the Rochester & District Quarter Centenary Cup in 1964, the Sittingbourne & Milton Charity Cup in 1984, the Maidstone & District Challenge Cup in 1984 and the Bill Manklow Cup in 2001. The small town of Snodland is located near Tonbridge in Kent and has a population of just over 10,000. Lime working has been the town's main industry in the past but nowadays it is the home of the offices of South East Water. The town is twinned with  Moyeuvre-Grande near Metz in France and has had its own railway station since 1856. There's also a cricket club in the town. The white reggae singer Judge Dread (real name Alex Hughes, 1945–98) lived in Snodland. Alex Hughes Close is now named after him. Several Judge Dread songs refer to Snodland, such as "Belle of Snodland Town" and "Last Tango in Snodland".


After doing a lot of driving recently, I was keen to do a game on the train this Saturday. I was glad that competitive football was back and was keen to take in a league game. There were a fair few options that I could use my railcard for but I narrowed it down to a final two of Worthing United and Snodland Town. In the end, I opted for the latter as it was a tenner cheaper and I'd had a pricey time lately. I planned in a stop at Strood as there wasn't a great deal of choice in Snodland itself. I had to change train there anyway, so it worked out well. I did my club research on Thursday, some that I enjoy. I found out that Judge Dread came from Snodland, a music artist with who I was vaguely familiar. I decided that it would be my pre-match music on Saturday, should I remember. I revisited Hanwell Town on Friday night as they had a friendly against Wycombe. It was my third visit to the ground closest to where I was born and a thoroughly decent night was had. I met several familiar faces and saw a team of Wycombe trialists triumph 3-1.

On the day of the game, I awoke early at around 6.30, having had around 6 hours of sleep. This wasn't the greatest amount but was better than the last two nights. I got dressed and had a quick breakfast before leaving at 8.30. It was a pleasant walk down town and I got to the station an hour later. I checked on Twitter to see if there were any problems with the game before getting my return ticket. It was £21.30 thanks to my railcard. My pre-match plans meant that I could divert to Bearsted if there was a call off more than two hours before the game. It was a nice smooth journey with me getting to Marylebone, walking to Baker Street and getting the Metropolitan Line to King's Cross. I had time to kill so I had a swift pint of Gwynt Y Ddraig Black Dragon at the Barrel Vault Wetherspoons at St Pancras. It was then a short walk to platform 11 for my high-speed train to Strood. My pre-match soundtrack had been the Kent Non-League podcast and Judge Dread as I tried to absorb the local culture as much as possible.

I was at Strood by 11.58. It was around ten minutes walk to The 10.50 From Victoria Micropub. Ciders on offer were mainly silly fruit ones but I did manage to have a pint of One Vision cider from the Double Vision brewery. It was a sensible strength at 5.2% and was brewed locally in Maidstone. From there it was a walk to Wills Fish and Grill for a double Smokin Gun burger with Peri-Peri fries. It was fairly decent but pricey, but it's good to treat yourself now and again. Moderation was the name of the game as I didn't bother stopping at the Steam Packet pub for a pint. Instead, I got the 13.34 train to Snodland which arrived ten minutes later. It was just under 20 minutes to the ground where I paid £5 to get in, plus £2 for a printed programme. I probably could have got a digital copy for free, but it was nice to help out the club. For the same reason, I got myself a Strongbow Dark Fruits for £2.50. It was twice the shop price, but an important purchase to help keep clubs going. It had been a sensible pre-match, unlike my previous venture to Kent. Herne Bay turned into a bit of a blur as there were far too many good pubs in the area. The weather took a turn for the worse before the game, so I sheltered in the stand before the game.

Despite the programme and corner flag colours, Snodland started in all white with Westside in all blue. The visitors were actually the better side early on and they had a shot just over on 8 minutes. The pitch had a significant slope with Westside playing downhill in the first half. They took the lead on 11 minutes with a great shot from 20 yards. Snodland were level a minute later, a well-worked move and a good finish from 15 yards by Omar El Mantawy. They were ahead on 19 minutes, Lee Friend capitalising on hesitancy from the visiting defence to shoot home on the turn from just inside the area. Friend was having a great game, piling on the pressure with Snodland hitting the bar on 25 and 30 minutes. On 36 minutes it was 3-1, a good sweeping move from ten yards for Friend's second. The game died down after this with the hosts confirming their win on 82 minutes. Friend completed his hat trick, heading home and excellent cross. I made a hasty exit after the game, it was just under 20 minutes to the station. I made the 5.15 train to Strood by ten minutes, which saved another hour wait. 


PONTYNS FIELD is a basic venue but it does the job. There is just one stand and area of cover, this holds around 100 seated. The rest of the ground is open. There's a smart clubhouse with a basic range of drinks. There's also a tea bar. The town is about 10 minutes away and has a train station. There's plenty of parking at the ground. 

Thursday 29 July 2021

Bestwood Colliery - Bestwood Miners Welfare Club

Bestwood Colliery FC
Bestwood Miners Welfare Club
High Main Drive
Bestwood Village

Ground Number: 978
Wednesday 28th July 2021
Bestwood Colliery 5-3 Holbrook St Michaels


There is very little information on the club online, but they were established in 1908. They appear to have spent a lot of their history in the Notts Alliance, winning the Division 1 title in 1947 and the Senior Division in 1963. They also won the Notts Amateur Alliance in 2018. However, the current incarnation appears to have been reformed in the last couple of years. The club will compete in the Notts Senior League Division 2 for the coming season. This league sits at step 9 on the Non-League Pyramid or level 13 of English football overall. The club competed in the FA Cup in the early '50s, their only win coming in 1953 when they beat Cinderhill Colliery 3-1 before a 7-1 defeat to Cresswell Colliery in the 2nd Qualifying Round. Bestwood was once a colliery village but is now a ward in north Nottingham with a population of just under 17,000.


At first, it didn't appear as if there were many games on this Wednesday but fellow hopper Chris was keen to do a game. Deeper digging on various blogs threw up various options, the best of which looked to be Bestwood Colliery v Holbrook St Michaels. This looked to be a decent venue with a stand behind one goal. The club Twitters were not the best at this level, as the clubs are mainly for players, rather than fans. So we had a number of backups planned, mainly around the Sheffield area. I'd planned the journey the week before but only researched the club history the day before the game. It was easier said than done, with very little online. Talking of the Internet, I had to purchase an extra 2GB of data from EE at a price of £10.50. Pricey, but I'd run out of my allowance and needed it for the journey. 
The day of the game came and there hadn't really been any confirmation of the game on Twitter. Chris made contact with the club and also Notts Senior League ambassador Rob  Hornby and both confirmed it was on. I was in a bit of a rush in the morning and forgot my lunch. This meant forking out for McDonald's for lunch, but at least it was partially healthy, with salad in my wrap. I still had backups for tonight in place just in case, but a few fixtures had changed since last week. I was out of work and away by 3.05 but the journey was not the quickest start due to a couple of road closures and me having to take a back route to the motorway. From then on though, it was a decent journey. I was with Chris by 4.15. It was a decent journey up the M1 and the only slow traffic was once we got off. We were at Ai Wok at 6 and at the ground ten minutes later. I'd ordered salt and pepper chips and Thai red curry. Both were very decent and the chips came out as the best that I've had out of 27 establishments reviewed.

There was rain and a storm in the air so we sat in the stand behind the far goal for the game. Bestwood Colliery were in white shirts and black shorts and played in step 9 Notts Senior League Division 2 North. They'd drawn 2-2 against the brilliantly named Aston Village in their last game. I couldn't find any results for Holbrook St Michaels but they were in yellow and black and played in step 7 Central Midlands South. The visitors were on top early on, as the form book would suggest and the Bestwood keeper made a great save to tip a shot around his right-hand post. Holbrook took the lead on 27 minutes when #7 crossed and #9 finished into the roof of the net. A minute later, it was all square. A shot hit the bar and Macca Tinsley was on hand to put away the rebound. The Bestwood keeper was on fine form and produced a great triple save on 40 minutes to keep the scores level. In fact, he was decent all night, organising his defence well. On 42 minutes, the hosts took the lead, 'Rothy's shot dipping over the visiting keeper into the bottom left-hand corner. The hosts had started to get into the game more by now, so the goal wasn't entirely against the run of play. Bestwood's defence remained resolute and shortly after their #9 had put a shot wide when one on one with the keeper, they took the lead. Around 65 minutes had elapsed when it was 3-1, a shot from the edge of the area by Jake Fisher hitting the post on its way in. On 70 minutes, it was 4-1, a great cross from the right was met by a stooping header by Kasey Fisher. A couple of minutes later, Holbrook pulled a goal back, a cross and a header following poor marking by the home defence to make it 4-2. On 78 minutes, Bestwood regained their three-goal lead, a penalty was awarded for a trip and Charlie Breslin converted the spot-kick. There was time for one more goal, in the last minute Holbrook poked home a loose ball following some lax defending by the hosts to make it 5-3.

It had been a really entertaining game and it was a shame that there had only been around 15 there to witness the game - around 2 people per goal. It had been a nice place to watch a game at and there was a lovely, friendly French bulldog who like a bit of attention. We left around 8.30 and I put the second half of the Wycombe Wanderers v Leicester City friendly on the radio. The commentary by Wycombe Sound was excellent and got me in the mood for the season. Wycombe won 1-0 in the end, thanks to a goal by Daryl Horgan. They also announced the signing of Welsh international forward Sam Vokes before the game. I'd been holding off buying a season ticket until now, fearing that our catastrophic government will reimpose restrictions. However, I'm now likely to take the plunge, that is unless they offer a good deal on a multiple match ticket as I've suggested to the club. I dropped Chris off at 9.55 and switched on Greatest Hits Radio to listen to Andy Crane. This provided decent entertainment until I got home an hour later. I was in bed within 20 minutes and watched Coronation Street and was hoping for a good night's sleep. However, I couldn't drop off for hours and felt groggy the following afternoon.


BESTWOOD MINERS WELFARE CLUB is an excellent venue to watch football at. The dugout side has a bank that you can watch the game from and used to have a small stand that you could watch the game from. However, access is not the easiest as the path is narrow. Behind the far goal is a small stand and the club building. Together, these provide cover and seating for around 100 people. The cricket field side is open and is the only side that doesn't have a rail. Completing the ground is the near goal which is open standing. I didn't really explore the village but I understand that the main club, a short walk away, offers food and drink. There is no car park, but there's plenty of street parking. The village is also on a few bus routes.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Binfield - Hill Farm Lane

Binfield FC
Hill Farm Lane
RG42 5NR

Ground Number: 288
Monday 19th August 2013
Binfield 3-2 Flackwell Heath
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay


The club was established in 1892 by employees at the local brickworks and farm labourers. After playing in the Ascot & District League, they joined the Great Western Combination and were champions in their first season and runners-up the season after. In 1951, they joined the Reading League and during their time here were Division 2 champions in 1987 and Division 1 champions in 1976 and 1988. The club transferred to the Chiltonian League in 1989 and were Division 1 champions in their first season. They were then Premier Division runners-up in 1992 before winning the league in 1996. The league was absorbed into the Hellenic League in 2000, with Binfield being placed in Division 1 East. The club were champions in 2009 and were promoted to the Premier Division. They were always in the top half of the table but never quite challenged for the title. However, with two abandoned seasons in a row and the restructuring of the Non-League pyramid, Binfield were rewarded with a place in the Isthmian League D1 Central for the coming season. 

Binfield had their best FA Cup season following my first visit in 2013. They beat Flackwell Heath, Cheltenham Saracens and Ardley United (all after replays) before a narrow 2-1 home defeat to Leatherhead in the 2nd Qualifying Round. They matched that progress in 2018, losing 3-0 to Cirencester Town at the same stage. In the FA Vase, the club reached the final last season. After beating Newhaven, Deal Town, Fakenham Town, Hadley, Long Eaton United and US Portsmouth, they lost 3-2 to Warrington Rylands at Wembley. Local honours include the Hellenic Floodlit Cup in 2012 & 2018, the Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy in 2012 and the Fielden Cup in 1924. The village of Binfield has a population of around 8,000 and is located near Bracknell in Berkshire. As well as football, there is also a cricket club in the village. Binfield FC shared here before moving to their current home in 1980.


After Friday night's dull goalless draw between Enfield and London Tigers, I had decided to give the FA Cup a rest until the next round. Especially as I am concentrating on steps 1-4 and those clubs have not entered the FA Cup yet. And also Monday is a pretty good night for TV, especially compared to the dross on other evenings. But then I saw that a mate on Twitter, Dan, was going to the game, and he was bringing his dogs! That was me part sold, as I love dogs and upon checking it on Google Maps it was only a 23 mile and 40-minute journey away (traffic permitting) so it would be fairly cheap too. I went to bed that night thinking there was a good chance that I would go, but I wasn't committing myself.

On waking the following morning I was really sleepy and thought that an early night instead of footy would do me good. But then sat on the toilet at work, I tapped into the excellent 'The Real FA Cup' website and was inspired by some of the reports on there, one of them being on the original game of tonight's tie, which also finished a disappointing 0-0 draw. But tonight there would be goals, or at least one goal anyway. In the best case scenario, a cracking 4-4 draw with a tense penalty shootout at the end. Worst case scenario - a game as dull as Friday's with a scuffed shot providing the only goal of the game, all whilst I am looking away at my mobile phone or something. Certainly, if it was as good as the game fellow groundhopper and friend of the site Ben's game at AFC Emley was yesterday, then I will be happy. Visitors Wigan Robin Park were leading 2-1 going into the full-time whistle. But goals in the 94th and 100th minute won the tie for Emley. 

Both sides play in the Hellenic League Premier along with sides such as Bracknell Town and Thame United. Both of tonight's teams had enjoyed solid starts to the season, both being in the upper half of the table at this very early stage. Usually, the beauty of the FA Cup is sides from different divisions being pitted against each other, but not on this occasion. It didn't matter to me though, as I had never seen Binfield play and had only seen Flackwell play once - that being back in 2008 when they hosted Wycombe in a friendly to celebrate their anniversary. Annoyingly, although I got a programme from that night, I threw it out some time ago, before I made a target of getting a programme or a ticket from each ground that I had been to. I have been looking for one on eBay for a good year, but have yet to find a copy.

I left home at 6.20 and was surprised to have a traffic free journey, arriving at the ground at just after 7PM. I paid £5 to get in and £1 for a programme from a friendly gateman who told me where I could park my car. As it was quite early still, I sat in my car, listening to TalkSPORT and reading my programme. The publication was excellent, well designed and laid out, with plenty to read. There were lots of stats too, and helpfully both stats and pen pictures for the home side - useful for neutral fans like me. Considering this would have had to have been put together at extremely short notice - the original game was on Friday and the programme must have had to be at the printers on Saturday it really was a triumph. Easily one of the better ones at step 5 and probably putting many higher division ones to shame too. And all for only a quid - remarkable. 
I didn't know it before I left, but a hopper I had met a couple of times before, Laurence Reade was going to the game. He has a website called 'Football wherever it may be'. He loves footy and visiting new grounds as much as I do, and my favourite comment of the night was 'Women are OK, but you can't beat the real thing!' He also tells a great story really well and I only wish I had his experiences to share, or his ability to tell stories off the cuff and keep you hooked.

The game kicked off on a pleasant fairly warm evening and from the start, it was a huge step up from the bore draw I had seen on Friday. There had already been chances when Flackwell were awarded a 10th-minute penalty for handball. This was harsh on the 'offender' Joel Havermans as he had his arms down by his side. Former Marlow player Adam Dickins completed this job, giving the keeper little chance with a good shot to give the visitors the lead. Binfield were only behind for 5 minutes, Dan Rapley equalising with a simple finish. The chances continued to come and minutes after the Binfield keeper Dan Weait made a great save to prevent the home side going behind again. Looking at reports from Friday night, he really kept his side in it and had to be in top form tonight as well. The home side had the lead on 30 minutes, a well-worked move ending in a tidy finish on the volley from Havermans, who had certainly made up for giving away the penalty earlier in the game with hard work and no lack of skill. Binfield further extended their lead in first-half stoppage time, again with a penalty, Earlier goalscorer Rapley was tripped in the area, this time there could be no arguments about the penalty. Carl Davies duly obliging and giving Binfield a bit of breathing space.

It had been an enthralling first half, and the second turned out to be just as good. For the first 20 minutes of the half, it looked as if Binfield would extend their lead, with them having several good chances. However, Flackwell played their part too and had several free kicks awarded around the Binfield penalty area. One of these was converted brilliantly by Adam Dickins, for his second goal of the night. From 25 yards out his curling shot beat Dan Weait and set up a tense finish. There were chances for both sides, but despite good saves from both keepers another goal just wouldn't go in. There was also a fair share of handbags, which led to Flackwell captain Jeff Brown being sent off for a second yellow card right at the death. It has been a great game and I was hoping that there would be an equaliser so I could enjoy more action, but it wasn't to be.

In the end, I was really pleased that Binfield won. They were a really nice club and the ground is set in nice surroundings too. They now face Cheltenham Saracens or Slimbridge in the next round, to be played on 31st August, and it's certainly one result that I will look out for. After saying my goodbyes, I drove home. Another traffic-free journey meant that I was home by 10.15PM. It had been a great night and had reignited my love for the FA Cup, which had never really gone away, to be honest. I will certainly be seeing more action in this competition this season, though judging on the 2 games I have seen so far, midweek replays are the way to go.

v Met Police, Friendly - 27/07/21

I'd been in the habit of revisiting local grounds and this day was no exception. With me off to Nottingham (and potentially further) tomorrow. I wanted to keep things local. I'd initially favoured a new ground but none of the limited options for me had games on. I'd narrowed it down to two options, either walking to my local team Holmer Green for a revisit or driving to Binfield. In the end, I chose the latter for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the club was nice and friendly, both on my initial visit and then again when I went with them on the coach to Deal Town a couple of years back. Secondly, their burger came highly recommended by 'Groundhopping FC' AKA Joseph who I had met at Sheerwater on Saturday. He had rather the Binfield burger as the best he'd ever had and that was good enough for me to want to give it a go. The day of the game came and I was off as usual for a Tuesday and I walked to town and back in the morning. I spent the afternoon at home researching and planning future games amongst other things.

After dinner, I relaxed for a little bit before leaving at 6.40. I was there by 7.15, paying my entry out of my car window and parking up. The first stop was the tea bar where I got a very decent burger for £3. It was freshly cooked and came with cheese and onions. Maybe some bacon may have made it even better, but it was excellent nevertheless. I did a circuit of the ground to get pho before settling for a spot on the far side. The visitors made all the early running, hitting the bar through Jack Mazzone on 8 minutes. The same player forced a good save out of Binfield keeper Hayes before Liam Ferdinand scrambled a shot home from close range after 10 minutes. Met Police continued to have the edge but Binfield got into the game more, having a few decent efforts of their own. Binfield started to have more chances in the second half, following a load of changes but their finishing was generally wayward. The hosts would eventually find their equaliser on 82 minutes when Joe Gater headed home at the back post following a cross from the right. A minute later, they were ahead. A swift and well-worked move was finished off by Sean Moore. Both sides had half-chances after that, but there were no further goals. I left at 9.40 and was home half an hour later, having enjoyed a pleasant evening of football.


HILL FARM LANE is a pretty basic ground, though this is the norm at Hellenic League level. There is only one main area of cover, this being a stand that holds around 100 fans. For additional cover bring an umbrella or if you are lucky you might get to stand in the disabled area behind the clubhouse. I think this ground would need a bit more expansion should they want to progress up the leagues, but its surroundings are certainly pleasant.

There is a tea bar behind one goal, which remained busy all night - always a good sign. And the bar was good too, with a big screen showing Sky Sports and lots of club memorabilia adorning the walls. Drinks-wise, there were a few draught pumps as well as a decent selection of bottles. There was no club merchandise for sale that I could see, but then again I didn't ask.

I'd thoroughly recommend a visit to this friendly club, though it's probably best done by car on a midweek as the ground is a bit out in the sticks. They were certainly on the ball putting this game on a Monday night, as it would be unlikely that I would have attended otherwise and I would have missed out on a great night.