Saturday 30 October 2021

Bexhill United FC - The Polegrove

Bexhill United FC
The Polegrove
Brockley Road
Bexhill On Sea
East Sussex
TN39 3DP

Ground Number: 1018
Saturday 30th October 2021
Bexhill United 1-1 AFC Uckfield Town
Southern Combination Premier


The club was established in 2002 following a merger between Bexhill Town and Bexhill Amateur Athletic Club although the latter reformed on their own four years later. Bexhill Town themselves were formed as a part of a merger - this time in 1927 between Bexhill United and Bexhill Town and were originally known as Bexhill FC. They've played in the Sussex County League for pretty much all of their history, winning it for the first time in 1957 and finishing as runners-up to Arundel the following season. The title was won again in 1967 and 1968 with them finishing runners-up in 1969 to Chichester City by virtue of a slightly inferior goal ratio. They'd remain in the top tier until 1981 but the early 1980s saw some real struggle with them finishing bottom of Division 1 in 1981 and bottom of Division 2 in 1985. They'd bounce back as runners up in Division 3 to Seaford Town in 1986 and would be back in Division 1 as Division 2 champions in 1990. Bexhill never really pulled up any trees in the top tier and by 1994, they were back in Division 2 and just as last time, could not arrest the slide, going down to Division 3 in 1997. This time they would stay in the bottom tier for longer, finishing a record low of 13th in Division 3 in 2002. The years between 2005 and 2010 saw them bouncing between Division 2 and Division 3, with two runners-up spots in this time. Since 2010, they had been in what is now called the Southern Combination Division 1 which sits at step 6 of the non-league pyramid. Last season was abandoned due to the pandemic but following an excellent showing, winning 10 and drawing 1 game. They are now back at the level that they last played at in 1994 and sit 5th in the table.

In the FA Cup, Bexhill's best progress has been to the 2nd Qualifying Round which they last reached in 1972, losing to Sittingbourne in a replay. Their best run in the FA Vase came during the 1976/77 season with them beating Horley Town, Deal Town, Faversham Town and Eastbourne United before a 3-2 defeat at Epping Town in the 4th Round. Local cup honours include the John O'Hara League Cup in  1956, the Sussex County Division 3 Cup in 2000 & 2008, the Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Cup in 1958 and 1974, the Hastings Senior Cup in 2012 and the Sussex Intermediate Cup in 2008. The club is based in Bexhill on Sea, not far from Hastings and has a population of around 43,000. The town was the location for the UK's first-ever motor race in 1902 and draws much of its economy from tourism, with there being several pieces of architecture. Other local clubs in the area include Sidley United and Little Common whilst rugby is played at Hastings and Bexhill Rugby Club. Famous former residents include TV inventor John Logie-Baird, celebrity chef Fanny Craddock, writer Spike Milligan, actor Andrew Sachs and actress Gwyneth Strong.


For this Saturday, I had a ton of options to choose from. These were eventually whittled down to ten choices and included a revisit to Fleetwood Town for Wycombe's game up there and a local trip to 61FC Luton for the completion of the Spartan South Midlands D2. However, I'd put a fair few miles on my car during the week and fancied a day out on the train. I looked for the best bang for my buck, as well as places with decent pubs and it came down to two options - Worthing United and Bexhill United. The latter was 20 miles extra each way by car and only a fraction more cost-wise. The fare of £31.65 was already reasonable compared to driving costs - including servicing - of £40 - £45 what with the way petrol prices are going. However, I managed to knock another fiver off by using split ticketing, bringing the fare down to £26.20 with my Network Railcard. This practice is above board, but it's a shame you have to do it and don't get the best price by default. I decided to leave it until the day of the game to buy the ticket in case of any late changes but it was shaping up to be a good day out, with an hour stop in Hastings to sample some of their pubs too.

The day of the game came and I awoke at 7.10, ten minutes before my alarm was due to go off and feeling fairly decent despite only around five and a half hours sleep. I had a wash, got dressed and had a porridge pot for breakfast before leaving at 7.55. It was a rainy morning, but it didn't really amount to anything more than drizzle so I was happy to walk to the station as planned. I was there just after 9 and after buying my tickets, headed to the platform. It wasn't the greatest of starts, the train that I was due to take was cancelled and it was the decent service that went straight to Marylebone. I had to wait another 8 minutes for the slower service but it didn't matter too much as I should still make my connection. That I did with 20 minutes to spare, following a Bakerloo line train. I'd have gone to the pub for a swift pint but it was not yet open. I got the 10.45 train to Hastings which made slow but steady progress down to the south coast. The passengers were the usual mix of chronic coughers, mindless witterers and the other 99% of normal people. I got to Hastings at 12.20 and it was just a change of platform and a couple of minutes wait for my train to Bexhill. I was there at 12.34 and walked the short distance to the Brickmaker's Alehouse for a pint of Battle Organic Special Vintage Reserve which was superb. It was disappointing that they didn't have the other Battle cider listed, so I headed off to Spoons, The Picture Playhouse, 214 in the chain. The Cider selection was poor so I had a pint of Strongbow with my hot and spicy chicken. It was decent, though not as good as fish and chips. I then had a bottle of Hooch. A real nostalgia trip for me, a return to the Orchard Nightclub in Holmer Green when I was a young whippersnapper. I'd not had it for 20 years or so, but it made a nice change. From there it was to the ground where I paid £6 entry and also got a pint of Thatchers Gold for £4. The pint was not planned, but at least it helped out the club.

Bexhill United were in excellent form and unbeaten since a 4-1 defeat at Saltdean United on 11th September. Recent games had seen them beat Wick 3-0, East Preston 6-1 and Loxwood 5-0 as well as drawing 1-1 at Horsham YMCA and Broadbridge Heath. AFC Uckfield were in disappointing form. Having beaten Loxwood 3-1in recent times, they'd also lost 5-2 at Lymington Town, 1-0 at Peacehaven & Telscombe and 1-0 at Pagham as well as drawing 0-0 with East Preston. The hosts lead 1-0 on 14 minutes, Evan Archibald heading home a cross. The equaliser came on 32 minutes, a brilliant corner was put in and this was headed home, scorer unknown, as was the attendance as of writing this at 7PM. The second half petered out, maybe Bexhill deserved the win but AFC Uckfield played their part. It was just a shame it wasn't the same team that I saw triumph 4-3 against Langney Wanderers in 2018.

I left around 4.50, the final pint not helping illuminate a dull second half. Elsewhere, Wycombe has drawn 3-3 up at Fleetwood, not a disastrous result but given that we were 3-1 up after an hour, a disappointment. I was back at the station with a couple of minutes to spare but the train was a minute early. I was in Hastings in good time but I hadn't really planned that well. I stopped at Poundland for a couple of Irn Bru Cans and some biscuits. It wasn't great planning on my part, I walked to the Albion pub for a pint of South Downs Sucker Punch. It was one I'd had before and one that was average at best but what was done was done. A revisit was needed as I'd really been craving another pint of Battle Cider, but I'll do my research next time. I was back at the station with ten minutes to spare, making sure to board the train that went via Sevenoaks to comply with the terms of my split ticket. I was back at the station with ten minutes to spare, making sure to board the train that went via Sevenoaks to comply with the terms of my split ticket. The 606 phone-in provided entertainment although the signal was a bit patchy in places. A group of lads on the piss got on at St Leonard's, making a racket but rather than being annoyed, I wished I could have joined them. The plan was to get off at London Bridge and get the 9 PM train to Wycombe but the in-between bits were unclear at the time of publishing this blog.


The Polegrove is a nice venue. There's just the one stand, a large structure holding around 500. The view from here is not the best in a lot of places but it really is a lovely building. The club room is OK, it sells drinks and food but there are better options in town, ten minutes walk away. The town has its own train station which is well served and there is also a range of buses and plenty of parking available.

Friday 29 October 2021

Totton & Eling - Millers Park

Totton & Eling FC
Millers Park
Salisbury Road
SO40 2RW

Ground Number: 890
Friday 18th October 2019
Totton & Eling 2-2 Romsey Town
Wessex D1


The club was formed in 1925 as Bramtoco, changing its name to BAT Sports in 1971 and then Totton & Eling in 2007. The reason for the first two names was that they were established by the workers of the British American Tobacco company. After 50 years of playing local football, they joined the Hampshire League in 1975. Playing in both tiers of the league, they were Division 1 champions in 1988 and 1989, after which they moved to the Wessex League. Whilst the league was a singular division, finishes ranged from 3rd in their debut season to 19th in 1997.  Multiple divisions were added in 2004 and the club remained in the top tier until 2007 when they were demoted two leagues due to the loss of their ground. After finishing 5th in Division 2 and with a new ground on the way, they rejoined Division 1 in 2007.  They won the league, losing just once all season in 2009, gaining promotion to the Premier Division. Despite an excellent 7th place finish in their debut season, they couldn't build on this and in 2015 were relegated after finishing second-bottom. Since then, they've been struggling in Division 1 and this season has been no exception with them 15th at the time of the game.

The best progress in the FA Cup has been the 1st Qualifying Round, a stage reached on six occasions. The latest of these came in 2012 when they beat Fleet Spurs and Hamble before taking Southern Premier side Weymouth to a replay, losing 3-0 after gaining a 2-2 draw at home. The FA Vase 3rd Round has twice been reached, the latter in 2004 saw them face AFC Wimbledon, a 'home' tie that was switched to Kingsmeadow and drew a 3,000 crowd with BAT Sports narrowly losing 1-0. Local cup wins include the Hampshire Intermediate Cup in 1938, the Russell Cotes Cup in 1990 and 2010 and the Southampton Senior Cup in 1976 and 1989. The town of Totton & Eling has a population of around 29,000 and is made up of several smaller villages. Totton & Eling share the area with Southern League side AFC Totton with their stadium being adjacent. There's also a successful cricket club and a rugby club that is based at the local college.


Totton & Eling had been a long term target for me, as they had been down as a Friday night game a few times. However, the weather had always thwarted things due to them not having the greatest pitch. I think it had been two failed attempts, the latest had been for an October 2019 game against Ringwood Town. I love a bit of Friday night football and so do other hoppers it would appear, looking at the vastly increased attendances. It was just a shame that after Totton & Eling made the effort to stage a game, the weather had other ideas. It looked as if the same would be the case for this visit - when I looked on Thursday there was rain on and off up until 1 PM. At least this gave them time to call off the match before I left, to save a wasted journey. This was something that they had been excellent about on my two aborted attempts, making sure people knew early. I was keen to see any game on this night, so had revisits at Canterbury City (Faversham Town) and Britwell (Burnham) in reserve.

The day of the game came and I hadn't been getting the greatest nights sleep again. It was a busy day at work, as per usual for a Friday but I still got out at 3. I'd sold my old camera overnight, making a small profit on it which was a bonus. I wanted to get the label printed so that I could send it ASAP, so that took up most of the half an hour I had at home before leaving. It was all a bit of a rush, with me also getting ready for an early start for a train trip to Bexhill tomorrow. I left just after 4, stopping at Tesco to drop off the parcel. I picked Colin up at 4.30 and we were soon on our way. It was not as easy as Tuesday, journey wise. Due to the M3 being knackered, we had to come off at Basingstoke and go through the back end of beyond. We were in Totton at 6.30 and had a decent range of takeaways to choose from. There were 3 Chinese so I went for the New Happy Palace for salt and chilli chicken wings and salt and pepper chips. Both were excellent and portions were huge, though they did take a while to come with it being Friday night. We eat them back at the car, getting to the ground at 7.20. Entry was £6 and I'd downloaded the programme earlier. There were a few groundhoppers in Attendance and I recognised several familiar faces.


Totton & Eling had been in mixed form recently. They'd beaten Infinity 5-1 in their last game and also overcome New Milton Town 3-1. However, they had lost 6-0 to Bemerton Heath Harlequins recently as well as a 3-1 defeat at Downton and a 2-1 loss at Verwood Town. Fawley's only win in the last five had come against the bottom side Fleet Spurs as they triumphed 4-2. They'd lost 3-2 against Newport IOW, 3-0 against Verwood Town, 3-1 against Andover New Street and 4-0 at Laverstock & Ford. Totton and Eling were edging the game and had a goal disallowed for offside. But it was Fawley that took the lead on 33 minutes. It looked like the home keeper failed to gather the ball on the deck and Dylan Knight was on hand to put in the rebound. On 52 minutes it was 1-1, Yusuphe Badjie putting home across. He had been excellent all night and deserved the goal but the goal disrupted the game and the play became a bit wayward, at least in terms of clear-cut chances. On 79 minutes, the hosts took the lead, Alex Sawyer finishing from 10 yards following a ball into the box. It was all square on 85 minutes, Knight heading home a right-wing cross from around five yards out. Fawley looked the most likely to get a winner but in the end, there were no further goals. The game finished bang on 9.30 and five minutes later, we were away. I needed to stop for petrol at ASDA in Eastleigh but I dropped Colin off at 11.20 and got home 20 minutes later. I typed my blog whilst having a drink or two, my target being getting to sleep by 1.20 so that I could have six hours of sleep before my morning alarm.


MILLER PARK is a nice venue for step 6. The stand is large, holding around 300 on a mixture of benches and seats. There's also a further covered terrace behind the goal holding 100 and further cover under an overhang for another 20. The rest of the ground is open hard standing. There's a basic tea bar at the ground and I believe they make use of the AFC Totton bar if you fancy a drink. They also share a car park with their adjacent neighbours and there is a kebab van nearby. Otherwise, the town is a mile away and is reasonably well served by local bus routes.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Hythe & Dibden - Clayfields

Hythe & Dibden FC
Claypits Lane
SO45 5TN

Ground Number: 1016
Tuesday 26th October 2021
Hythe & Dibden 2-6 Blackfield & Langley
Wessex Premier


The club was established in 1902 as Hythe & Power United. In 1947, they had their first spell in the Hampshire League but were generally unsuccessful and would drop down to the Southampton League in 1962. They won Division 2 in 1971 and were runners-up in Division 1 the following season to reach the Premier Division. However, by 1975, they were back in Division 2 and would yo-yo between Division 1 & Division 2 for several years. They'd return to the Premier Division in 1986 and stay there until 1994 when they rejoined the Hampshire League. They were runners-up in Division 3 in their first season, winning promotion to Division 2 in the process. Four mid-table seasons followed before league reorganisation saw the club placed in the Premier Division in 1999. Despite some fairly unremarkable seasons, Hythe & Dibden would join the second tier of the Wessex League in 2004 as founder members. Their best finish of 3rd came in 2019 as they finished 3rd. However, they did enough over the last two abandoned seasons to win promotion to the Wessex Premier for this season.

In the FA Cup. Hythe & Dibden's best run came in 2019. They managed a 2-2 draw at AFC Portchester before triumphing in the replay. They then beat Horndean 2-1 before a 4-2 defeat to Kidlington in the 1st Qualifying Round. This remains their only success in four seasons of participation. The record of success in the FA Vase is even rarer, with eleven seasons played and only getting past the first hurdle twice. Their best run came in 2013 as they beat Oldland Abbotonians and Totton & Eling by 3-2 scorelines before a 4-1 defeat at Alresford Town. Up until 2014, the club played at the Ewart Recreation Ground, sharing with the cricket. From then on, they moved around the corner to the Clayfields Sports Centre. 

Hythe is a small town near Southampton, with the name of the place meaning 'haven'. It is located by the shore of Southampton Water and has a ferry service connecting it to Southampton. Hythe has a small shopping area, a pier, and a marina for yachts. Hythe was a village up to the 1950s, but the expansion of Fawley Refinery led to a demand for more houses for workers, and Hythe and Dibden Purlieu were allowed to expand into a small town. In 1983, following the growth of Hythe, the parish of Dibden was renamed to Hythe and Dibden, to reflect the importance of Hythe as a new focal point of the Parish. Today, it has a population of around 20,500.


I'd almost certainly be on my own this day. Both my regular Tuesday hoppers were busy with Anwar off to his beloved Arsenal and Colin off to his new love, Berkhamsted. With that in mind, I would be heading south and also keeping the miles down. I'd also be avoiding ones with decent pubs and ones that were easily doable on public transport. With that in mind, games at Bearsted and Worthing were held back and I also discounted AFC Stoneham, as it had a 3G pitch and could be saved for a rainy day. It boiled down to a few choices, AFC Portchester, Hythe & Dibden and Chipping Sodbury. In the end, I went for the middle-distance option of Hythe & Dibden with me making the final decision on Monday night. It had been a tough and busy couple of days at work, a complete contrast to the joy of Saturday. Once again, Wycombe had grabbed a last-minute winner, this time to beat Crewe Alexandra 2-1. The win was great, but the mad celebrations at the end, with people that I care about and have known for years, put the icing on the cake.
The day of the game came and I was on my usual day off work. I had a good lie-in and didn't get up until after 9. After having breakfast, a shower and getting dressed, I went out for a walk, getting back around 1. A couple of Chilli Cheeseburger pies were had for lunch which more than helped undo the calories burned on my walk. After an afternoon at home, I left at 4.50. It was a good journey down and I was in Hythe at the Golden Stir Fry Chinese Takeaway by 6.40. I ordered my usual salt and pepper chips which were £3.30. They were decent, but not the biggest portion for the money. I eat my dinner before making my way to the ground, arriving around 7.10. Entry was a well priced £6, with a programme a further £1. Hythe & Dibden were in wretched form, having lost all sixteen of their games so far. Conceding 73 goals in the process, their worst defeat of the season came on 4th September as they were thumped 8-0 by Fareham Town. On Saturday, they had one of their better days, losing 4-2 at Christchurch but in their last game, they lost 6-0 to Moneyfields. I'd seen the visiting team, Blackfield & Langley, earlier this season in the FA Cup. They were sitting in mid-table and had been in mixed form recently. They'd defeated Wokingham & Emmbrook in the FA Vase on Saturday and had also won 5-1 at Christchurch & beaten Fareham Town 2-1 in recent times. On the flip side, they had lost 4-1 to Brockenhurst and 3-1 to Shaftesbury.

The hosts started brightly, though not creating much. Blackfield & Langley soon took control and they hit the post when clean through after 8 minutes. They took the lead on 13 minutes, Rafa Ramos getting away from the defence before sidestepping the keeper and putting the ball in the net. It was 2-0 on 36 minutes, a well-worked move ended with Sami Makhloufi netting in off the right-hand post. A minute later, the lead was halved, Hythe & Dibden pulling a goal back on the break. The visitors had been the more skilful side and deserved their lead but the hosts had worked hard. Hythe & Dibden started the second period well, but Blackfield & Langley hit the post on the break. On 58 minutes, the visitors made it 3-1, a corner from the left had headed in from around six yards out. On 68 minutes, it was 4-1, an error by the home keeper Jack Hunt.  He came to the edge of the area and realised he could only palm the ball into the path of Rafa Ramos who claimed his second goal of the game. On 75 minutes, it was 5-1, Owen Fee being put down the centre and finishing past the keeper. Blackfield & Langley made it 6-1 on 90 minutes, thanks to a penalty. The attacker appeared to handle the ball in the build-up and a home player was sin-binned for his protests. There was still time for a Blackfield & Langley man to be sin-binned and for Hythe & Dibden to grab a late consolation to make it 6-2. There had been a good crowd of 187 for this local derby and I left at 9.45. It was my usual listen to Andy Crane on Greatest Hits Radio on the way home and as usual, guessed the year correctly of 1994. I was back in at 11.15 and went to bed pretty quickly. I couldn't get to sleep for ages so I was pretty tired the next morning. 

One result I'd wanted to keep an eye out for was Yate Town v Dover Athletic. I was rooting for the home underdogs as this game should have been played last Tuesday. There had been problems with the floodlights and the referee set an 8.30 deadline for them to be fixed. The home club got in help and they were fixed by 8.34. The hosts and the referee were all ready to play but Dover refused and so the game was called off. No doubt they had bought some fans with them and they and the players had made a 380 mile and eight-hour round trip. It baffled me that they would go home and do it all again for the sake of four minutes. It showed complete and utter contempt for the public that paid their wages, not to mention the environmental impact. I also wondered where the money for two coach trips was coming from when Dover had financial issues last season, so much so that they had refused to play. I agreed with them on that occasion, as they had been forced to play with no fans, and it was ludicrous to expect them just to take a loan and get on with it. In the end, the season was abandoned anyway, but the league saw fit to still dock them 12 points and fine them £40.000. But in the blink of a floodlight, they had gone from victim to pariah. As it happened, Yate Town won 1-0 and will go on to play Yeovil Town in what will be the first time two 'Y' teams have faced each other in the competition.


CLAYFIELDS or the HYTHE GARAGES STADIUM as it is known for sponsorship purposes is a decent venue for the level. There are two main covered areas. On the far side, there's a seated stand - half benches and half seats, holding around 200. On the near side is some covered standing, holding another 200. The rest of the ground is open and is well-kept. There is a bar and a tea hut but I didn't try either. The ground is around 20 minutes from Hythe centre which is served by buses. There's a car park at the ground which might get full for bigger matches, otherwise, there is street parking nearby.