Saturday 28 May 2022

Sungate - Ilford Wanderers RFC

Sungate FC
IWRFC Sports Ground
Forest Road

Ground Number: 1077
Saturday 28th May 2022
Sungate 0-3 Canning Town
Essex Olympian Premier


The club was established in 2003 although from my research, it's unclear where they spent their early years. In 2008 they joined the Essex Olympian League, starting in Division 2. They were champions in their first season and finished a credible 5th in their first season in Division 1. However, in 2011, they finished second-bottom and were relegated. The slide did not stop and the following season, another second-bottom finish, this time amassing just five points after deductions. Sungate would spend four seasons in Division 3, finishing as runners-up behind Benfleet in 2016. This was the start of a rapid rise and they were Division 2 champions in 2017 before a 4th place finish in Division 1 the following year was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. and they have been there ever since. Their best finish came during the two pandemic interrupted seasons when they finished 4th on PPG. In terms of complete seasons, this year will be the best yet for the side, regardless of the result on my visit.

In terms of local cups, Sungate won this season's Essex Premier Cup. Starting in the 1st Round in September, they won 3-0 at Barnston. Next up was a thumping 6-0 win at Wivenhoe Town Reserves before a 4-0 win against Wakering Sports. In the 4th Round, Harold Hill were beaten 5-1 before they beat Basildon Town 5-3 after extra time in the Quarter Finals. The semi-final actually saw Sungate lose 2-1 to Catholic United although their opponents were subsequently removed from the competition as they fielded an ineligible player. The final was played at Billericay Town on 13th April with Sungate beating Woodford East 2-0.

The club uses a pitch at Ilford Wanderers Rugby Football Club for their games. They play in the 'London 3 Essex' league which sits at the eighth level of rugby union. The club is based near Hainault which has a population of around 12,000. They are based on the Ilford side of the district which has a population of just over 168,000. The main football team is Ilford of the Essex Senior League whilst Barkingside also play at the stadium which is also used for athletics. Famous people from Ilford include Tamzin Outhwaite, Noel Edmonds, Nigel Benn, Paul Ince and Sean Maguire.



When looking for games on my last Saturday of the season, Sungate was the one that stood out.  I did wonder if they had any connection to the old Collier Row FC, but they still exist in the lower reaches of the Essex Olympian League. Sungate was the name of their ground and this has long been demolished and appears to be now used as a coach park, somewhere near the Whalebone Garden Centre and Sungate MOT Centre. They were a famous old name in non-league and had a connection to the current Romford FC, so I'll probably delve deeper into their history when and if Romford returns home. Being right at the end of the season, the options were getting really thin. With a decent likelihood of a postponement due to 'unable to fulfill' I had some backups in place. The better two of these were both reserve teams. Woodnesborough had the better ground but Benfleet - who now were sharing at Canvey Island, had the more interesting history. There was also Southend Rangers at the Len Forge Stadium. 

The previous Saturday was Wycombe's big day at Wembley and I tried to make the best of it. It was a nice walk down town, followed by a pleasant couple of drinks at my usual pub. My lunch from German Doner Kebab was a bit mediocre but it was great to meet up with my brother. The organisation of the trains at the Wycombe end was also very good, but once we got to Wembley, it all went downhill. The Wycombe fan zone was closed before kick-off and the authoritarian rules prevented street drinking. Stewards just pushed people out the way when they wanted to get past and the turnstile queues took an eternity. At least my seat was good, a very decent view for £42 but the food in the stadium was limited and overpriced and there wasn't even a cider on offer. We didn't do much on the pitch either, losing 2-0 to Sunderland who were the better team. The worst bit was coming back, a two and a half-hour queue for the train due to poor organisation, lack of signposting and communication. Overall, a very poor experience at our national stadium and I hope that I never have to visit there again.

Looking forward to this Saturday, the game and venue were pretty decent. The only thing that was poor was the selection of cider pubs and so after much frustration, I came to the conclusion that I'd have to sort something in Central London. In the end, I settled for yet another visit to the Cider Stall at Borough Market where there was also a decent range of food stalls. There was a kebab shop near the ground in case I fancied eating later. With some doubts over whether the game would be going ahead, I was pleased to see that the two sides had drawn 1-1 the previous evening. The week progressed without much incident and it was a relaxed Friday night with a few ciders, the highlight as ever being from Ross, my favourite maker.
I got a fairly early night but had a rubbish night's sleep, around five hours. I woke at 4 and couldn't get back to sleep. I watched YouTube and listened to some podcasts for a few hours before getting up and having a shower and breakfast. After getting dressed, I left at 8am, forgetting my main camera but at least my phone does a decent job. I was at the train station well in advance of my 9.26 train but a faulty ticket machine led to delays and I made the train with a few minutes to spare. It was disappointing to see so many people out and about as I like my space but at least they were a fairly quiet bunch. I got to Marylebone and walked to Baker Street with the Jubilee line packed too. I was at Borough Market by 10.30. There was a disappointment on the cider stall front with me having to wait 15 minutes for them to open and then they only did so partially. Not the smartest idea to refurbish your shop on a Saturday but at least I got a pint of Nightingale Nightbird, a decent drop. I then found the nearest Wetherspoons that did Black Dragon, The Knights Templar. It was a pleasant walk along the Thames and Fleet Street but when I got there, it was closed. Luckily, an alternative was available and the Shakespeare's Head on Holborn provided me with my pint, albeit at London Prices of £5.10. The phone signal was not great though and online ordering was turned off, so I just had my pint and headed to the station. For a relatively obscure station such as Hainault, I needed a change at Woodford but at least I was on my way. The pitfalls of the Underground meant no Internet, so I had to make do with a saved audiobook to keep me entertained. It was nice to have a seat and after an 8-minute wait at Woodford, I was on my way. I was in Hainault by 1.20 and after going to a shop for drinks, headed to the Hainault BBQ. The Doner Lahmacun and chips were excellent for £9 and filled me right up. I was at the ground 15 minutes before kickoff, bumping into several hoppers who had come over.
 The two sides had drawn 1-1 on Tuesday and prior to that, the hosts were in mixed form. They'd lost 2-0 to Old Southendians but had won 4-2 at Harold Wood Athletic. Canning Town had lost 3-2 to Catholic United but beaten Bishops Stortford Swifts 3-0. Canning Town had triumphed 3-2 in a cup final at Bishops Stortford on 10th May, so it was shaping up to be a decent game. Canning Town were on top early on but Sungate soon took control and hit the bar on 15 minutes. They also forced a good save out of the visiting keeper on 35 minutes as he plucked a shot out of the top right-hand corner. Though Sungate had the better of the opening period, Canning Town took the game to the hosts at the start of the second. The game soon died a death though and it looked as if we may be heading for a 0-0. But nine minutes from time Callum Newson drove a shot into the roof of the net, though the defending could have been better. Thogo made sure of the result a minute from time He had not appeared in their team in recent times but had confirmed the result, tapping home a right-sided pass from a few yards out. In the last minute, Newson grabbed his second, making it 3-0 on the break.
Following the game, I said my goodbyes. I'd made the decision to visit the Hop Inn Micropub in Hornchurch, trying to get a bit of value out of my travelcard. The bus to Romford came every 8-11 minutes according to the sign and they were plentiful the other way, but I had nearly 20 minutes wait. I reflected on the game which had its bright spots but could have easily ended 0-0 after a lacklustre second half. I was at Romford by around 5.40. I could have got another bus but instead walked to the station and got the 5.11 to Emerson Park. It took a bit longer but was far simpler. The time really dragged but eventually, we were on our way and I got to Emerson Park at 5.16. The Hop Inn was a few minutes' walk away and well worth the detour. The people were super friendly and my first pint of Ross Dabinett and Bisquet was simply sublime, one of the best ciders that I've had. The next one was Pilton Labyrinth, also very pleasant, though not as good. It took a fair bit of willpower to tear myself away, but I did go to their shop next door. An Irish cider and a retry of the excellent Duckchicken Giggle juice set me back £16.50, but these wonderful businesses deserve support. I headed for home, Google Maps said to change at Stratford. It was there I spotted the Jubilee line and decided on the diversion of The Miller at London Bridge. I had a pint of Perry's Farmhouse, a bit sweet for my liking. But after a good relaxation, it was a convivial atmosphere on the way home with the usual admiration for Akinfenwa once people saw my Wycombe shirt. It just made me happier as I headed back to Baker Street. I had a walk to Marylebone and around 15 minutes wait for my train. I was back home around 9.20 and I visited our local Chinese for Singapore Vermicelli and chicken wings. These were eaten on the way home and I listened to random stuff before remembering there was a game on. 3rd place in the English league Liverpool played the La Liga Runners-up Real Madrid in the 'Champions' League final It was a win for the Spanish side with a lot of help from former Tottenham and Chelsea players. It baffles me how Liverpool managed to finish behind Manchester United last season as no one has been able to touch them and Man City this season.

I was back in by 11 and cracked open a bottle for the last of the night. I was hoping for bed by 1am, allowing 6 hours of sleep. In the end, I awoke around 6.15 the following morning. This will be the last blog for a while. The end of season awards and summary will be out in mid-June, but not before the servicing bills for my car have landed. I'm not expecting it to be cheap having had a few issues this year but that is the way I work out my expenses. Owning a car is always going to cost something, even if standing still and that is why I don't count insurance and depreciation in my football costs. Who knows what it will cost, but I'll use those figures to work out what to charge people next season and also to compare costs versus public transport.
So, that's it for new grounds this season. I was aiming to do games on every day of the year and 30th May will see me complete the month with a game at Leyton Orient between DTFC and Lymore Gardens. I've been to games on 4th June and 11th June and so it'll be a couple of days off for me. I did consider the National Christian Cup at Hemel on 4th June, but the £10 entry fee and the unreliable bus service put me off. It would have seen me tick another Spoons and also visit a Micropub but maybe Wycombe might get them in a pre-season friendly. My new season should start on 18th June with a game between Bermondsey Town and Estudiantes LDN, a revisit to Fisher I presume. Until then, I have the unappealing prospect of the worst weekend of the year. It might be a four day weekend for some, but it is just the standard Saturday off for me. All for something that it seems rather crass to celebrate a super-rich family who wants for nothing whilst a large number of people are forced to use food banks. A ludicrous £12m was spent on getting, at best, a lecherous old man avoiding criminal charges and I think it could have been spent better.


ILFORD WANDERERS SPORTS GROUND is an excellent setup for a step 7 side. The pitch was immaculate and fully railed. Rugby and cricket are also played there and there was a smart clubhouse which did food. Further afield is Hainault BBQ takeaway which was good and there are a few convenience stores too. The ground is well located for Hainault Station, less than ten minutes walk away. 

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