Tuesday 28 September 2021

Wingate & Finchley - Harry Abrahams Stadium

Wingate & Finchley FC
The Harry Abrahams Stadium
Summers Lane
N12 0PD

020 8446 2217
Official Website

Ground Number: 208
Wednesday 1st August 2012
Wingate and Finchley 2-0 Wycombe Reserves
Pre Season Friendly


The club was established in 1991 as a merger of Wingate FC and Finchley FC. Finchley was the most prominent of these, having reached the FA Cup 3rd Round in 1953, the FA Amateur Cup Semi-Final in 1965 and the FA Vase 4th Round in 1985. They were in the Isthmian League Division 2 but the new club took Wingate's place in the South Midlands League. The club finished as runners-up behind Arlesey Town in 1995, winning promotion to the Isthmian League Division 3. Another runners-up spot, this time to Ford United saw the club promoted to Division 2 in 1999 but they only lasted a season at the higher level before being relegated. League reorganisation saw them placed in 2002 and aside from a couple of seasons when they moved sideways to the Southern League Division 1 East, they remained here until 2011. After failing in the playoffs the previous year, a third-place finish behind East Thurrock United and Needham Market, followed by victories over Harlow Town and Brentwood Town saw Wingate & Finchley promoted to the Isthmian Premier. The club remains there to this day, their best finish of 5th coming in 2017.

In the FA Cup, Wingate & Finchley have twice reached the 3rd Qualifying Round - losing 5-0 to Ilkeston Town in 1999 and 2-0 to Havant & Waterlooville in 2015. At the time of updating this blog, they have a chance to match or better that when they travel to Corinthian-Casuals on Saturday. In the FA Trophy, the 2018/19 season saw the club's best-ever run. That season they beat Sittingbourne, Tiverton Town, Chippenham Town and Dulwich Hamlet prior to a 4-2 defeat at Hemel Hempstead Town in the 2nd Round. In the FA Vase, 1994/95 saw their best run as they beat Welwyn Garden City, Bowers United and Leighton Town, prior to a 2-1 defeat to Basildon United in the 3rd Round. In local competitions, the club won the Isthmian League Cup in 2011 and the London Senior Cup in 1995 & 2011. The club record attendance of 528 came for the Brentwood Town playoff game in 2011 whilst their record win of 9-1 came in a South Midlands League game against Winslow United in November 1991. Marc Morris is the club's record appearance holder and goalscorer with 650 goals in 720 games.

The club is based in Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet. They play on Summers Lane. The ground was known as the Harry Abrahams Stadium from 1994 until 2016, named after a long-time supporter of the club. Since 2016, it has been known as the Maurice Rebak Stadium, named after the co-founder of the club that died earlier that year. The district of Finchley has a population of around 65,000 and is made up of three main towns - East Finchley, North Finchley and Finchley Church End. It has five train or tube stations - East Finchley, West Finchley, Finchley Central, Woodside Park & Whetstone. There is another football team in the area, Old Finchelians play in the Southern Amateur League at the basic Old Finchelians Memorial Ground. There is also a rugby club - Finchley RFC who play adjacent to Wingate & Finchley with their stands backing onto each other. Famous people from Finchley include politician John Bercow, singer George Michael and Spice Girl Emma Bunton. It is twinned with Jinja in Uganda, Le Raincy in France, Monthclair in the US and Siegen-Wittgenstein in Germany.


The club was established in 2016 by the former Brimsdown management team of Marvin Walker and Aaron Archer. Their ethos was to create a safe environment for people in the area at the risk of social deprivation who might otherwise fall into criminal activity without an outlet for their talent. They joined the Spartan South Midlands Division 2 upon formation and in their inaugural season finished 3rd behind Thame Rangers and Totternhoe. This was good enough for promotion to Division 1. They were moved to the Combined Counties Division 1 this summer and have generally finished around mid-table since their elevation to step 6.  Their best run in the FA Vase came in their debut season of 2017/18. That year they beat Canning Town, Woodbridge Town and Newmarket Town before a 4-2 defeat to Berkhamsted in the 2nd Round.


When Wycombe's pre-season fixtures were announced, this was the only one that would be a new ground for me. The day before I was most dismayed to find that I would be charged £10 for entry, the same as for league games. In my opinion, some Non-League clubs are taking the mick with their prices in Pre-Season games, for what is basically a training session against a youth team, it is too much, even if it's not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things. It would certainly affect how much I spent in the ground later, normally I would get something from the tea bar, bar and shop, but would be considered carefully on this occasion. On the day, I was working till 3 and so decided to go straight from work as I had a parcel to drop off in Uxbridge en route, and would also go into the town of Finchley itself, to see what it was like and to grab a bite to eat and drink. After dropping the parcel off and getting my money, I headed over to Home Bargains in Southall to pick up some of the remaining cans of Fiery Irn Bru. It's not very popular so is only a limited edition, so I got myself 8 cans at 19p each - bargain! I then had a not very nice commute to Finchley, it took ages in traffic jams for about 10 miles until it finally cleared up about five miles from the ground, ironically at peak time in 'rush hour' Getting to the ground at 5.20, I walked into town and bought myself a Samosa and a can of cider before heading back to the ground. As well as the £10 entry, I was also charged £2 for a pretty thin programme. The car park was inside the ground but I was glad of this as my phone battery was dead and it needed charging. I was pleased to have a brief chat with Mike Bayly, a Kidderminster Harriers fan who was a community officer at the club. He later told me that the club had reduced prices for the remaining pre-season games. After the game, I had a good journey home but ended up staying up until 1 and getting three hours of sleep before work the next day. A brief summary of the game is below.

Looking back retrospectively at the Wycombe lineup, it's interesting to see what became of the players, especially with the closure of the youth academy just before this game. It was hailed as a 'Development Squad' but as far as I can tell and remember, this was the last game for such a squad until the development squad was reintroduced in 2020, following the takeover of the club by the Couhig family. On the pitch, it was men against boys quite literally. Wycombe played some neat stuff but lacked an experienced head or two to control the play. Wycombe were second best all game and goals from Murat Karagul and Liam Smith won the game for Wingate & Finchley.

Matt Ingram - 125 appearances for Wycombe, currently at Hull City
Kortney Hause - 23 apps for Wycombe, currently at Aston Villa
George Ehui - 2 sub appearances for Wycombe, now at Marlow
Jesse Kewley-Graham 21 apps for Wycombe, last at Walton & Hersham (2018)
Josh Scowen - back at Wycombe via Barnsley, QPR & Sunderland
Max Kretzschmar - 73 apps, 8 goals for Wycombe, now at Woking
Emmanuel Ighorae - no apps for Wycombe, last club Dartford (2018)
Olly Taylor - 6 apps for Wycombe, last club Dorchester Town (2018)
Matt McClure - 110 apps & 24 goals for Wycombe, now at Gloucester City
Junior Morias - 25 apps for Wycombe, 106 apps & 18 goals for Peterborough United, Northampton Town & St Mirren, now at Kings Lynn Town.
(plus three unknown trialists)


A Tuesday would usually see me do a new ground with fellow hopper Anwar and indeed, he was keen to see a game on this day. Under normal circumstances, we would have been choosing between Wisbech Town, Saffron Dynamo & Thornbury Town would be considered. But these were not normal times. Lies, scaremongering and half-truths had been peddled by the media about a fuel shortage that initially only affected a couple of companies. They knew what they were going to create - that the significant minority of pea-brained morons that infest the country would go out and panic buy. That proved to be the case, all rational thinking was out of the window and people were queueing at petrol stations on Sunday and Monday. Despite intense pressure, the two petrol stations I go past on the way to work were still operational when I drove home on Monday afternoon. The queues were just the tip of the iceberg - on the news there were reports of fistfights, peoples fuel tanks being drilled into as fuel was stolen and even some stupid woman buying bottles of Evian, tipping the contents in the bin and filling them up with petrol. Working in retail for 24 years, I've long known how repulsive the British public can be and knew exactly what would happen. I had half a tank of fuel left and wasn't prepared to queue for ages to fill up, so on Sunday, I decided to revisit Wingate & Finchley for the game between Enfield Borough & London Lions. It was a ground that I'd not been to for over nine years and I felt that my blog could do with an update.

Sunday saw the last of my days off from work and was spent slightly hungover after five days of excessive drinking during my five days up north. I visited Hillingdon Borough for  third time as British-Somalian side Hilltop overcame Broadfields United 3-1. Monday saw me back at work and this, perhaps because of the idiots panic buying fuel, the place seemed more tolerable than usual. On the day of the game, I woke around 6.30am and caught up on YouTube videos. Normally, on Tuesday, it would be a walk to town and back but today I stayed in. This was mainly due to me wanting to give my blistered feet a rest, but also because it was raining on and off. I spent the morning doing research for tonight's blog before having lunch. My computer was playing up, with it freezing and shutting down randomly. I'll probably just wait until Windows 11 is released on 5th October and do a clean install of that. I switched to my Chromebook which I've always found more stable, though not as good at things like editing photos quickly. The afternoon was spent watching TV and looking at potential future games. Sadly, the options for this Friday are looking rather sparse with the nearest new ground at AFC Stoneham being 80 miles away for a FA Youth Cup game, the nearest first-team game being a massive 169 miles away at Briton Ferry. After a pleasant dinner of chicken and chips, I left at 6.20, trying to balance up potential traffic issues with the chances of a late postponement due to a waterlogged pitch. The journey over was good and I arrived an hour later. I parked next door at the rugby car park as the usual car park was full. I heard two petrol related stories - one of a stupid woman who queued for an hour to buy £8 fuel and another from an NHS worker who can't fill up for love nor money. 

Enfield Borough were in 13th place and had won 3, drawn 1 and lost 6 of their ten games so far. They'd lost their last three games - 3-2 to London Samurai Rovers, 2-1 at Eversley & Califonia and 4-3 at Whitton United in an enthralling FA Vase game. Prior to that, they'd won 6-0 at Cove and beaten Kensington & Ealing Borough 3-2. London Lions were in 3rd place having played a couple of games less. They'd won 7 and lost 1 of their games. In their last game, they have overcome Haverhill Borough in the FA Vase on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Prior to that, they'd won 2-0 at Woodley United, beaten St Panteleimon 2-1 and Langley 4-1. Their only defeat had come on Bank Holiday Monday as they lost an enthralling game 4-3 to Rayners Lane. Just eight miles seperated the two sides home grounds. Enfield Borough lined up in a two tone blue kit with London Lions in white shirts and blue shorts. It was a decent open game with both sides having chances. The first real chance came on 22 minutes for London Lions as a shot from outside the area heading for the top right corner forced the keeper into a smart save. The visitors took the lead on 39 minutes, Felix Shalom got away down the left, stripping the home #4 for pace and strength. He crossed in and although the first shot was parried, it was followed up by Austin Lipman. It was probably deserved on the balance of play but there wasn't a huge amount between the two sides. There was a break in play to cope with the monsoon conditions around five minutes into the second half and I thought it might be game abandoned, but they carried on. The break seemed to give Enfield Borough an extra spring in their step and they equalised with a long-range effort around 52 minutes in. They then came close a few minutes later with a goalmouth scramble but it was eventually cleared wih the London Lions keeper requiring brief treatment for an injury picked up in the melee. London Lions retook the lead on 78 minutes, Levi Levenfiche finishing from a tight angle into the top corner. The same player completed his brace a few minutes later, capitalising on a mix-up between goalkeeper and defence and finishing into an empty net. On 85 minutes, Enfield Borough made it interesting, pulling a scrambled goal back. But London Lions sealed the win a few minutes from time, Lipman getting his second with a chip over the keeper on the break.

I came out of the game having had a good evening and in a decent mood with Wycombe winning. However, my good mood was soon spoiled when I saw the gates to the rugby club locked and my car still in there. It had been full when I'd left my car and after ringing a number for the club, I was told that it wouldn't be open until tomorrow morning. I got absolutely drenched walking to the nearest station. It was a pretty miserable journey with no headphones and no internet for most of the journey but at least I was able to get home on the night. I could have saved a tenner going back via Amersham but it would have been an extra hour wait. I made contact with the club and they had very limited opening hours but at least they were helpful. It was my error after all, even if it was an innocent mistake. I had to go back the next day, all being well or wait until Saturday which would mean potentially missing the Wycombe game. I was back at Wycombe at 11.45 and home shortly after. I was very tempted to have a few drinks but I'd promised myself I wouldn't indulge until Friday at the earliest.


THE HARRY ABRAHAMS STADIUM is a pretty decent ground in pleasant surroundings. The main stand holds around 400 and is raised above ground level so that you get a nice elevated view of the game. In front of that is some uncovered terracing, should you wish to get closer to the action. There is a decent-sized covered terrace to the left, behind the goal. Opposite is another covered terrace, but this time narrower and only a few steps. Finally at the other end is hard standing but uncovered. There is a basic bar at the ground, underneath the stand as well as a tea bar.

There are good public transport links, but parking at the ground is a bit limited. Learn from my mistake and don't park in the rugby club, there is a fair amount of street parking nearby if needed, though check regulations obviously


Sunday 26 September 2021

Willington - Hall Lane

Willington FC
Hall Lane
County Durham
DL15 0QQ

01388 745912

Ground Number: 1003
Saturday 25th September 2021
Willington 1-3 Thornaby 
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round


The club was established in 1906 as Willington Temperance and they joined the Northern League five years later, dropping the Temperance suffix. They were runners-up in 1913 and would go on to win the league again in 1926 & 1930. Whilst the Northern League remained as a single-tier league, Willington also had poor seasons in 1924, 1963, 1968, 1981, & 1982 when they finished bottom of the table. The mid-80s was a tricky time for the club in with the Northern League introducing a new second tier for the 1982/83 season. Willington finished bottom again and were relegated to Division 2. They would go on to finish bottom of Division 2 in 1984 for their fourth consecutive basement finish. The team recovered to finish 7th in 1985 but would generally struggle and finish around the bottom reaches of the table. They'd finish bottom again in 1992 and 2005. After the latter of these finishes, they were relegated to the Wearside League, ending 94 years of continuous Northern League membership. Even at that lower level, they would still struggle, finishing bottom in 2009 & 2010. Eventually, the good times would return and in 2013, Willington would amass 101 points and finish second behind Stockton Town. They would still find things tough back in the Northern D2 but in 2018 would have their best season in years as they finished 7th. In the last two seasons, Willington were mid-table when proceedings were abandoned. This season they sit third-bottom, albeit with games in hand.

In the FA Cup, Willington have reached the 1st Round four times, although the first three was when the competition was very different to what it was today. The latest of these came in 1973 when they beat Stanley United, Durham City, North Shields & Ashington before being paired with football league giants Blackburn Rovers. They held them to a 0-0 draw at home but lost 6-1 in the replay. After reaching the FA Amateur Cup Final in 1939, only to lose to Bishop Auckland. They'd go on to win the competition in 1950, overcoming Wimbledon, Leytonstone and Barking prior to gaining revenge on Bishop Auckland with a 4-0 win. They would also reach the FA Trophy 3rd Round during the 1976/77 season, beating Lancaster City and Macclesfield Town, prior to a defeat to Nuneaton Borough. In the FA Vase, their best run came during the 1994/95 season. That year they beat Marske United, Crook Town and Oldham Town, prior to a defeat to Belper Town in the 3rd Round. Local cup wins include the Northern League Cup in 1957 and 1975.

The most famous manager to be in charge of Willington is Malcolm Allison. The flamboyant boss, most famous for his spell at Manchester City spent ten games in charge of the side in 1984, winning four, before leaving to take the Kuwait national team managers job. This was at the time when he was at war with the FA, refusing to pay a £250 fine. As a result, they banned him from the touchline and meeting the players. The former mining village of Willington is in County Durham and has a population of just under 5,800. The closure of the pit in 1967 hurt the village but since 2000 it has been enjoying a recovery with several new housing developments. As a result, the vast majority of the population work in Bishop Auckland or Durham.


For the second leg of my double this Saturday, I wanted to see an FA Vase game. I had five potential options in all, the favourites being Billingham Synthonia and Willington. The former has the best range of pubs, and at first glance, the more interesting back story. The latter was the better game - a division separated the two sides but was limited drinking-wise. In the end, simple geography played a part. Willington was far closer to my morning game at Sherburn Village and as a result, my Friday night hotel near Darlington. I did my research into the club on Friday morning and this turned out to be far more interesting than I'd anticipated. I used that time to finalise all my plans, including getting back to Newcastle after the game. From my game at Sherburn Village, it was a short walk back to the bus stop. I didn't have long to wait for my bus but the traffic was awful and it took 35 minutes to do the two or so miles back to Durham. Arriving at 12.40, the place was bustling with an attractive local market. I fancied a sit-down meal and so headed to my 210th Wetherspoons, the Waterhouse. I ordered a pint of Thatchers Gold and a Tennessee Beef Burger meal. Neither of these were the finest in their field but they were both nice. With them not having Black Dragon, despite doing so a couple of days ago, I decided to get an earlier bus than planned. I was at the stop at 13:20 for the 13:30 bus to Willington. This was ten minutes late and it was a hat trick of buses where the USB charging didn't work. The heating was also on which made it very warm. I was at the ground by 2.10 though and after buying some Irn Bru from a local shop, headed in. Entry was a well priced £5 and a decent programme £1. I also got a can of Strongbow from the bar for £2.

Willington were sitting third-bottom in the Northern League D2 and had beaten local rivals Tow Law Town to get this far. Thornaby were third in the Northern D1 and had won 5-0 at Washington in the previous round. The hosts were in blue and the visitors in orange and 35 league places separated the two sides. Around 28 miles separated the two sides. Both sides had good vocal support but I felt that the game deserved more than the 102 that turned up. The game started according to the form book and Elliott Beddow opened the scoring with a great shot on 12 minutes. From the edge of the area, he found the top right-hand corner. Willington sought an equaliser and they forced the visiting keeper to tip over the bar from a free-kick on 19 minutes. A well-worked move on 25 minutes saw the visitors shoot narrowly wide of the right-hand post. Despite this, Thornaby were the better side and they doubled their lead on 42 minutes, Craig Hutchinson progressed down the right flank, cut in and found the bottom corner from the edge of the area. The visitors had a strong penalty claim just before halftime, the linesman appeared to signal but then put his flag down, much to the fury of the visiting fans. Willington pulled one back with an Adam Storey free kick on 55 minutes but Thornaby sealed the game on the hour, Hutchinson getting his second and his sides third on the break.

Thornaby deserved the win but Willington had given it a good go. There had been some good banter between both sets of players and fans too After the game, I made my way to the bus stop, just missing the 16.54. I had to wait 20 minutes which wasn't bad. My power bank was nearly empty so I was glad that I finally got some working USB sockets to charge both that and my phone. I was back at Durham by 5.30 and as I needed the toilet, headed back to other Wetherspoons as I knew they had Black Dragon on. The place was absolutely rammed and unusually they held my bag as it had food in. I only stayed for around 20 minutes before heading for my bus which I only had to wait a couple of minutes for. It was a decent service up to Newcastle with me there at 7.15. It was then 20 minutes walk to The Free Trade Inn on the banks of the Tyne. Sadly they had fallen into only doing table service, so it took a while to get my pint of Covid compliant Olivers Farmhouse. That said, it was nice to get some breathing space compared to the hectic Wetherspoons earlier. The cider was an absolute cracker too and with four hours to go until my coach home, I didn't need to rush. I briefly walked down the Tyne for some more pictures before heading off to the Cumberland Arms. They were doing table service too and once again the annoyance was balanced by having plenty of space. The Ross On Wye Four Apple Blend was excellent too, as it always is from my favourite Cidery.

 From there it was another pub, The Cluny which promised 'an extensive range of real cider and perry' yet did anything but and I had to settle for a Rekorderlig, with it being a low strength one, that was probably a good thing. I then went to get some food, I was planning on going for a curry but laziness led me to going for a half-pound doner burger and chip from a local takeaway. I was back at the coach stop half an hour before departure, I popped into the adjacent nightclub for a pint of Strongbow which was quite pricey at £5 but at least it helped me sleep on the coach. I got a few hours of sleep in but woke up when they stopped at Woodall Services. From then on, I was kept aake by the mindless witterings and stupid noises of two girls who rabbited on incessantly for the entirety of the journey. The coach was back in London by 6.15, 40 minutes ahead of schedule. My power bank had not charged despite me having it plugged in, I was seriously considering heading for home. I walked up to Buckingham Palace to mull it over and in the end decided to go home. After five days of excessive drinking, I was giving the booze a rest until at least Friday in any case. For once, the trains were spot on, even if after a deserted London, the Victoria Line was absolutely rammed at 7.30 on a Sunday morning. The other lines were quieter and for once, my connections all worked out well, with my final bus home seeing me get back at 9.30. I was still going to go to football later though, but the far more local option of Hilltop v Broadfields United which I didn't need to do a blog for. I caught up with the two blogs that I'd not finished in the morning but was glad of a brief rest after a hectic few days.


HALL LANE is a great ground and place to watch football. The main stand at the ground is large and has bench seating for around 500. It looks great and had the club's name picked out on the roof. There are also a few other covered areas with space for around 250 in all. There are plenty of steps of terracing too as well as grass banks to stand on. There is a decent tea bar and the clubhouse sells cans. There's plenty of choice of shops, pubs and takeaways near the ground. There's plenty of street parking and a car park whilst the ground is on a few bus routes from Durham.