Tuesday 21 November 2023

AFC Portchester - Wicor Recreation Ground

AFC Portchester
Wicor Recreation Ground
Cranleigh Road
PO16 9DP

01329 233833

Ground Number: 1245
Tuesday 21st November 2023
AFC Portchester 1-0 Blackfield & Langley
Wessex Premier


The club was established in 1971 as Loyds Sports. They joined Division Six of the City of Portsmouth Sunday League. After amalgamating with Colourvision Rangers in 1973 they gained a place in Division Two. In 1976 the club became Wicor Mill, after which they joined the Portsmouth & District League. The club were runners-up in the Portsmouth & District League in 1998 and were promoted to Division Three of the Hampshire League. The following year they adopted their current name.[4] Division Three was also renamed Division Two and the club were runners-up in 2000, earning promotion to Division One. They were champions in 2002 but were unable to take promotion due to the lack of floodlights. They'd started to struggle by the time they joined the newly established and short-lived third tier of the Wessex League in 2004. When it was disbanded in 2007, AFC Portchester made the cut for Division 1, following a 4th-place finish. In 2012 the club finished as runners-up to Verwood, Town, earning promotion to the Premier Division. They've been there ever since their best finish came when they finished 3rd in 2015.

The club has reached the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup on four occasions. This has included a number of higher-division scalps, perhaps the most notable came in 2017 when they defeated Southern League Premier Dorchester Town 1-0 in the 1st Qualifying Round. AFC Portchester have also twice reached the FA Vase 3rd Round. Local cup honours include the Wessex League Cup in 2015 and the Russell Cotes Cup in 2014 & 2017. Well-known former players include former Football League striker Brett Pitman whilst former Arsenal player Graham Rix was manager. Portchester is a village in the Borough of Fareham in Hampshire. It is 4 miles northwest of Portsmouth and around 18 miles east of Southampton on the A27 road. Its population is just under 18,000.


In terms of new grounds on this day, there were seven possible options with either one or both of my regular hopping pals. I fancied staying closer to home after doing a couple of long-distance games on the previous two Tuesdays, so was always going to choose the closest option that was going ahead. I've always said that I'd not let work affect my free time but I'd recently been moved to 6 am starts. Whilst I felt fine the following morning after getting back at 1 am, I think it caught up with me later in the week. For that reason. it would be just Colin coming with me to AFC Portchester. It was one of my nearest grounds still to go to in the top ten levels of football. I planned everything on Sunday, including an Indian takeaway for dinner.
It was my usual day off on the day of the game and for once, I actually got a decent night's sleep for once, around 8 hours. I still walked to town later than I'd have liked though, picking up some Currywurst hot dogs from Aldi for lunch. I walked over ten miles in all which would only partially make up for all the junk food I consume. These were decent but not exceptional and I probably won't bother again. I had enough time to spend a few hours at home before leaving at 4. Tesco in Amersham had the cheapest fuel in the area and it was conveniently pretty much on the way to pick up Colin.  I was with him on time and he was there waiting for me. It was the usual slow run around the M25, the bulk of the hour delay being due to the roadworks at junction 10 which take two years to complete due to them only working part-time. From thereafter it was a good journey with us getting to the pre-match takeaway of Nahidz at 6.50. I ordered Hara Chicken Tikka and lemon rice for £11.50. We ate it at the ground before the game and mine was excellent. Less welcome was the unrelated random nosebleed as I came to finish it. I cleaned up in the toilet and was out in time for the game.


AFC Portchester were 4th in the league whilst Blackfield & Langley were 18th. The hosts had suffered a setback on Saturday as they lost 2-0 to AFC Stoneham. They had been unbeaten in 13 games before that. The visitors on the other hand had lost five in a row, the latest a 4-1 defeat at Sherborne Town over a week ago. It was an even start until AFC Portchester opened the scoring on 13 minutes. A good through ball found Josh Benfield who slotted home from just inside the area. The hosts were always on top, but no further goals came before the halftime break. The second half was a more muted affair. Portchester with the better chances but Blackfield and Langley holding their own without really threatening. There were no further goals, Portchester seeing the game out for a valuable three points.
The ground had a friendly atmosphere and played some great tunes on the tannoy. At half-time, I met Lee Roberts who was doing a commentary on the game. It was great to see non-league clubs being proactive in spreading the word. AFC Portchester have decent support and 215 for this midweek fixture was a good effort. We left at 9.45 and despite a road closure, Goggle had us back at Colin's by 11.25. I was home a little over ten minutes later, staying up for around an hour to type my blog and watch TV.


WICOR RECREATION GROUND was a far better ground than I expected. There are several small stands offering cover, around 250 seated and 400 standing. The rest of the ground is open to the elements. Smart and functional rather than a classic, it's a shame there is not more orange. It's a friendly club and there is reasonable food and drink facilities. Outside the bar are a number of benches and tables which are very useful. There's also a decent amount of parking and card payments are accepted. Portchester centre and train station are half an hour's walk away. Nahidz takeaway is good for a midweek curry or the Delme Arms looked like a decent pub and they sponsor the club. As for the programme, it is online only but is a good effort. 

Saturday 18 November 2023

Ransomes Sports - Ransomes Sports Ground

Ransomes Sports FC
Ransomes Sports Centre 
Sidegate Avenue 

Ground Number: 1244
Saturday 18th November 2023
Ransomes Sports 3-2 Leiston St Margarets
Suffolk & Ipswich League Senior Division


The original Ransomes was established as Orwell Works, the works team of the Ransomes engineering company. They played in the Suffolk & Ipswich League, winning the league three seasons in succession between 1905 and 1907. They had one season in the East Anglian League in 1909, but continued in the Suffolk & Ipswich League, winning back-to-back league titles in 1961 & 1962, before changing their name to Ransomes F.C.. After winning the Suffolk Senior Cup in 1979, they won the Senior Division and Senior Cup double in 1981 and the League Cup in 1983. In 1986 they became RSSC Ransomes and won the league again in 1987. They also entered the FA Vase for several seasons during the 1980s, reaching the third round in 1982 and 1987. The club folded at the end of the 1994–95 season.

After the original football club folded, the Ransomes Sports Club invited Rushmere Athletic to take over the ground. Rushmere had been established as Fisons F.C. in 1948 but had been made homeless after their parent company sold their ground to Ipswich Town to use as a training ground in 1993. The club was renamed Ransomes Sports in 1997. In 1999 they finished runners-up in the Suffolk & Ipswich Division Two and were promoted to Division One. They were promoted again the following season, earning a place in the Senior Division. Although they were relegated back to Division One soon after, they were promoted to the Senior Division again in 2004. The club won the League Cup in 2006, 2009 and 2010. In 2011–12 the club was relegated back to Division One and to Division Two in 2014. They were promoted from Division Two in 2015 and were Division One champions in 2016, resulting in promotion to the Senior Division. However, they finished bottom of the Senior Division in 2018 and were relegated again. In 2020, they were promoted back to the Senior Division. They've been there ever since, finishing a credible 3rd in the last two seasons.


For this Saturday I drew up a list of potential games to go to. These were based on 'priority grounds'. These were where I had started a blog or clubs where I was close to completing leagues. There were for main contenders from my initial findings - these were Shawbury United, Whitton United, Uttoxeter Town & Whitchurch Alport. They were the four places that I could get to for reasonable value. The cheapest per mile was Shawbury United. It was not the most exciting ground but it completed the Midland Division 1. I remember Shrewsbury as a lovely town when driving through it a couple of years back too. However, the negatives were that it was a fair walk from the station and the pubs were not amazing on the Real Cider front.

I looked again on Thursday and pushed myself to make a decision. Not much was inspiring me but a special offer on the Trip.com app pushed me towards Whitton United. I'd initially dismissed it due to the bus replacement but it would be nice to look around Ipswich. I was able to shave another few quid off by making an early decision. It might have been foolish as the weather forecast worsened over the next day. At least Whitton appeared to have a decent pitch although fellow hopper Dan didn't think much of their ground or indeed Shawbury's. Neither club were prolific tweeters and so on Friday night, I prepared a list of potential backups just in case. It was over an hour's journey for Haverhill Borough, so I was hoping an early call would be made. 

I awoke well before my alarm on Saturday, only getting around five hours of sleep. I was still later leaving than intended. That hallmark of a UK Saturday was present - rain and plenty of it. I still walked though, getting to the station just under ten minutes before my train. It would be a bit of an elongated route but I'd saved plenty and also wasted less if the day turned out to be a washout. It was an easy trip across London to get to Liverpool Street and via Tesco for a meal deal. The signs were non looking great - GAME OFF was trending on Twitter and a lot of games had fallen in the area already. There were not many 3G pitches about either, the nearest being back in Essex where Dan was going at Tiptree Heath. It was very busy at Billericay but quite well organised. 
It was a slow journey due to traffic and some dirty pig in front of me kept coughing. The first piece of news was good with Ransomes Sports going ahead but then I found out that Whitton United had been called off, at least according to FA Full Time. Both clubs were silent on Twitter though which was disappointing and something to bear in mind for the future. It was especially slow getting into Witham. I missed one train by a minute and so would be getting into Ipswich at 12.30. With the earlier kickoff at Ransomes, it would mean alterations to my pre-match and post-match pubs but I was just grateful to have a game. The game has originally meant to be played at Leiston but was switched, so I got lucky in that respect. The train was a bit of a slow one, stopping at every station for ages and it had someone with serious B.O on it. I was glad to get off but the Wetherspoons was a 20-minute walk. Happily it was right opposite the bus station should I need it. The Cricketers was my 289th in the chain and I ordered the Christmas big cheeseburger meal and a pint of Black Dragon. I was disappointed that I was unable to stream the Wycombe game on my app but I was just glad of a pint. A pint of Strongbow was next up with me leaving at 1.35 to get the bus. There was finally confirmation from Whitton that the game was off and my bus was a few minutes late. I was at the ground five minutes before the scheduled kick-off.
Ransomes Sports were in 5th whilst Leiston St Margarets were in 12th. They'd seen a torrid end to September with a couple of defeats which included a 10-0 humbling at Halesworth Town and a 4-0 defeat at Trimpley Red Devils. They'd since won five in a row, the latest victory a 3-2 win over East Bergholt United. Leiston St Margarets were in more patchy form but they'd won the last two - 3-1 at Claydon and 4-3 at Haughley United. It kicked off a couple of minutes late but Ransomes in the red started on the front foot and hit the post after five minutes. Leiston got back into it and were awarded a penalty after 23 minutes but it was well saved by the home keeper. The visitors had a good spell, lots of play but not really threatening. The second half continued with Leiston the better side. They converted a penalty awarded for a trip just inside the area on 73 minutes to lead 1-0. The game appeared to have been sealed a few minutes later, a good run and finish by Pat Doyle who curled home from just inside the area. Ransomes pulled one back through twelve minutes from time, a square ball put away by Danny Allen from within the six-yard box. This spurred the hosts on and they smashed the top right angle of the post and bar as they sought a leveller. They got it right at the death equalising from the penalty spot through Ben Deacon. There was even the time for a winner, as they threw everything forward. The keeper could only parry the shot and the rebound was smashed past the keeper by Deacon for his second.
It was dusky by the time I left just after 4. I listened to Julian Dicks' Autobiography on Audible on the way to the Dove Inn. Originally my intention had been to get home in time for the last bus home but I grew less bothered after my plans had been disrupted. The pub was lovely and I had a pint of Wilkins Farmhouse first up. Then a pint of Ampleforth Abbey which was also good. From there, half an hour's walk to the station. With ad-hoc planning, I started to sober up. Nearly 30 minutes wait for the next train to London. Other passengers treating me as if I was the fount of all knowledge but to be honest, it was just as easy as reading a sign. The train came but there was no way to get around the rail replacement works as I fancied a stop in Colchester. There was an unwelcome wait in Witham but eventually, we were on our way. Billericay when this blog was finished and then home before work on Sunday.

THE RANSOMES SPORTS GROUND is a great setup for the level. There is plenty of parking and it is on bus route 6 from Ipswich. The ground is three-quarters railed and has a small bit of cover and hard standing near the clubhouse. It's a nice place to watch a game and the pitch is good in wet weather. The club is also pretty active on Twitter keeping people informed. I'd imagine upgrading to step 6 requirements would be doable, subject to funding and planning permission.