Saturday 27 May 2023

Prestatyn Town - Bastion Gardens

Prestatyn Town FC
Bastion Gardens
LL19 7LU

Ground Number: 1193
Saturday 27th May 2023
Bangor 1876 4-2 Cefn Albion
Ardal North


The club was established in 1910, although a lot of Prestatyn teams plied their trade around that time. They've played in local leagues for most of their history, this culminated in them winning the Clwyd League in 1992. They then joined the Welsh Alliance, enjoying a couple of runners-up spots early on. A split in the club meant a couple of seasons back in local football in the late 1990s. Prestatyn were Welsh Alliance champions in 2006 and Cymru Alliance champions in 2008.  A spell in the Welsh Premier saw record 5th-place finishes in 2011 and 2013. Relegation followed in 2015 but the Cymru North title in 2017 saw another season back in the top tier. They were relegated back to the Cymru North and though they won the title in 2020, Flint Town United were promoted instead as they had a better TV gantry. Since then, Prestatyn Town have cemented themselves as a solid Cymru North side.

The most prestigious domestic honour came in 2013 when they beat Bangor City 3-1 at Wrexham to win the Welsh Cup. This gave Prestatyn Town a brief stint in Europe in 2013, being one of the few Welsh sides to gain a positive outcome. Liepajas Meltalurgs of Latvia were beaten on penalties when the aggregate scores finished level. An 8-0 aggregate defeat to Rijeka of Croatia followed in the Europa League campaign. Prestatyn is a seaside town in Denbighshire, North Wales with a population of around 19,000. The local Pontin's Holiday Centre was the location for a 1973 film of the popular British TV series, On the Buses. Notable people from Prestatyn include ex-deputy PM John Prescott.


Despite the season coming to an end, there was still a reasonable amount of choice of games for me to choose from. The original plan was a trip on the train and a lovely day out. However, with Martin offering to drive, I could cast my net further afield. From Futbology's minimal options, I found a potential double in Prestatyn. It would mean that we'd probably miss the start of the second game at Prestatyn Sports but with it being so far away, I didn't mind. It would be an early start though. These two were further away from home than some games in France. Luckily, when I mentioned it in our group, everyone was keen, so I didn't even have to look at the Traveller for alternatives.

For my first game of the day, I'd be off to Prestatyn Town. I'd have preferred to save it for a Prestatyn Town game but the chance of an important playoff game was too good to pass up. Especially when it was on a day when a lot of the higher leagues had stopped playing. There was one annoying thing though - segregation. For the most part, Welsh league games don't require segregation. There had been an incident at Denbigh Town back in February where there had been a brawl between people that had been at the game. I won't call them supporters, more pond life that had infiltrated the respective fan bases. It was disappointing but predictable that the authorities had taken the option to tar everyone with the same brush and so mixing was forbidden.
In fact, it would probably be just one game. On Friday evening, Prestatyn Sports pulled out of the game, citing injuries. It was frustrating, but at least they'd made a reasonably early call. At that point, I had done very little research towards the game. It had been a busy week at work but I used Friday evening to have a few drinks and do some planning and research. A second game involving Denbigh Town Reserves was considered but it turned out that it was being played at Llangollen Town, an hour south. We had to be content with one game then, but with everyone happy, it was still go-ahead for a distant destination.
The day of the game came and although it was an early start, I woke ten minutes before my 6 am alarm. I got ready and had a porridge pot before Martin arrived at 6.35. It was then on to Anwar with us stopping at Budgens. I got my usual chilli cheese hotdog and chocolate cornflake bar. It was not the best journey with the roads clogged up, especially as we got nearer our destination. Pre-match plans of going to the pub were cancelled with us arriving just before 11.45. It meant that I'd miss out on the Burning Hot burger I'd earmarked for lunch and indeed going into town or the beach. I went straight in and it was a nice atmosphere. Very well organised too, though £4 for a can of Strongbow was a bit steep. With the relaxed stewarding, I could have got away with taking cans in. However, I was glad to support the club financially, as entry was a well priced £5. It was a novelty having hot food in a Welsh ground and the chips were decent for £2. The service was not the quickest and I eat them with another can of Strongbow.

Cefn Albion had finished 2nd in the North East behind Caersws. They'd been formed in 2014 and won the Clwyd East League (step 5) in their first season. They then won the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division One the following year. They won this the following season and have been at step 3 ever since - firstly in the WNL Premier and then the Ardal North East. They'd travelled around 45 mles to get to the game. Bangor 1876 were established in 2019 and had been formed in response to serial club killers Vaughan Sports Management taking over Bangor City. The Gwynedd League was won in the first season before a two-season break due to Covid. They were North Wales West Coast League runners-up last season, finishing behind Bodedern Athletic. This season they finished as runners-up to Denbigh Town. They'd travelled just over 40 miles to the game. Cefn were the better side early on, with lots of possession but no real threat. Gradually Bangor got into the game and Cefn's case was not helped when they had Dion Gibbins sent off for a wild tackle. The mobile internet was very poor which didn't help with updates. Around 50 minutes, a cutback from the right was blasted into the roof of the net by Corrig McGonigle to give Bangor the lead. The lead was doubled three minutes later, a header by Tom Clarke. The game went a bit quiet from there but it was game on with five minutes remaining. A long-range effort from Ryan Kershaw left the keeper standing flat-footed as it whizzed past him. Right on time, Cefn got a penalty with the kick being scored by Ryan Kehoe to equalise. The extra time saw chances for both but Bangor appeared to have won it with a curling low shot from the edge of the area by Liam Morris. The game was sealed in the last minute, Cefn had a man sent off for the challenge through a second booking. Morris dispatched the penalty to make it 4-2.

There was an impressive 610 at the game. After, we headed down to the beach. It was a pleasant warm day and pretty busy. I'd rather have got off home but Martin was keen to relax on the beach before we headed South. We set off around 4.45, stopping at a local shop before getting on our way. I got some Thatchers Gold although wish I'd got something stronger as the journey home dragged. The frustration of extremely slow mobile internet did not help my mood.


BASTION GARDENS is a pleasant venue. Situated right near the town and beach, there's plenty of parking and nearby amenities. At the ground, the bar has a limited offering but the tea hut is decent. The ground itself is three sides open. The seating runs the whole length of the pitch and holds around 300.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Hemel Hempstead Rovers - Reith Fields

Hemel Hempstead Rovers FC
Reith Fields
Hemel Hempstead
HP12 4DE

Ground Number: 1192
Wednesday 24th May 2023
Hemel Hempstead Rovers Res 2-3 Croxley Green Res
Herts Senior County League D4


The exact formation date of the club is unclear. However, in 1955 they joined the Herts County League Division One "A". After an unremarkable season, they were placed in the Premier Division upon reorganisation. A record high of 3rd was achieved in 1961. They endured a difficult couple of seasons in 1967 and 1968, two successive relegations saw them go down to Division 2. A couple of third-place finishes were achieved but in 1973, they were relegated to Division 3. A couple of seasons were spent there but 1975 and 1976 saw two runners-up spots saw them back up to Division 1. They struggled however and relegations in 1978 and 1980 saw them back down in Division 3. Just one season was spent here as they were placed back in Division 2 following a reshuffle. They appear to have gone down in 1987 and no records exist for this period. They appear to have won Division 3 last season, or at least gained promotion. This season saw them win Division 2 and also the Herts Intermediate Trophy and Bingham Cox Cup. They have a reserve side that plays in Herts Senior County League D4.


With time running out towards the end of the season, I was keen to make the most of the time while I could. I'd attempted to visit mainly grounds in the Hertfordshire League. This would be the case tonight, at the Met Police Sports Ground in Bushey, usually used by Oxhey FC, I believe. But it would be a game in the Middlesex League that I would be attending. They seemed pretty hot at updating the site, in fact too hot. I was all set to go to Pitshanger Dynamo on Saturday, but the website informed me that they'd been suspended. This turned out to be a temporary suspension, but the fixture appeared back, albeit at a different but slightly unclear venue. Ironically, the opposition was Indian Gymkhana, an interesting but basic-looking venue. However, I'd passed on that, as neither side was especially active on Twitter.
This was an issue with this game too with FC Irish Of London last tweeting in 2016 and Harrow Bhoys last posting in February 2022. This was understandable with both sides being for players rather than spectators, but it didn't help with planning. I decided to place my trust in the league updating the site. It was unlikely to be weather affected although they seemed quite good at updating for other reasons. For last week's FC Irish match, the two teams had been unable to agree on a kickoff time and this had been noted down on the page. Football Mitoo was a bit old looking but it was more informative than the FA Full Time Site. Just in case of issues, we had Ware Sports as a backup, reachable should there be any issues with our game.

The day of the game came and it was a longer-than-expected one at work. It was pretty busy and as the managers are pretty decent, I agreed to stay on for an hour. It meant that I didn't have much time at home. I had just enough time to cook dinner and catch up on a few bits before I left at 5.20. The traffic was a lot heavier than yesterday and I got to Colin shortly after 5.40. There was more traffic and we took around 40 minutes to make the fairly short journey to the Met Police Sports Club in Bushey. I had to pay a quid to park but we made our way over to the railed pitch where there was not a lot going on. I walked over to the far pitch which appeared to have a load of parents and kids warming up so I decided to cut my losses and go elsewhere, It turned out that was the game that I was intending on going to, as another hopper was in attendance there. It kicked off a bit late, but by that time, I'd made the 15-minute drive to Hemel to another game.
In terms of positions, it was 5th v 2nd with it being Hemel's last game of the season. Croxley had one more game and could still win the league. Croxley were the better side early on, having the lion's share of the play early on. They took the lead on 37 minutes, a good finish into the bottom left from ten yards. They doubled their lead right on half time, a good attack down the left and a shot into the bottom right-hand corner. Hemel Rovers were awarded a penalty on 47 minutes following a trip. However, the chance was spurned, the shot going wide of the left-hand post. They eventually pulled a goal back on 50 minutes, a lob that I didn't have the best view of as it was down the other end. It was a physical game at times but the ref did well to keep things under control. Hemel were vastly improved in the second half and they got their equaliser on 68 minutes. It was a cross from the left. a header against the post before the rebound was headed in. The goal of the game won it on 73 minutes, a good through ball found #20 who blasted the ball home from 20 yards to give Croxley all three points and a chance at the title. This was not before Hemel had a chance against the post and Croxley had a shot narrowly over.
Although it had not been the game we had intended, it had been a good game at a basic but pleasant venue. We had considered going to Ware Sports which looked a great game. However, again, neither team tweeted about the game and Ware Sports was a pretty reliable account. Colin needed some shopping so we headed to the Co-Op. With him suitably stocked up, it was a fairly easy journey home with him getting home at 9, and me twenty minutes later. I had quite a bit to do with starting my blog basically from scratch. I later found out that Bush Hill Rangers had won 5-0 at Ware Sports, a win which gave them the title. As of putting this blog up at 11.30 on Thursday night, my original choice of game's result had not been entered into the league website.

REITH FIELDS is a very basic but pleasant ground. The highlight is the red building behind one goal, this has a bit of overhang which acts as cover. It gives a bit of presence to the place. Sadly there are no club signs nor anything to say where you are, at least from what I saw. The pitch is hemmed in on three sides with only the far side having a vast expanse. Car parking wise, it is restricted to street parking and a car park at the shopping centre. This set of shops has a wide range of takeaways and other shops. Public transport wise, bus 302 passes outside the ground.

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Belstone - The Medburn Ground

Belstone FC
The Medburn Ground
Watling Street

Ground Number: 373
Saturday 17th May 2014
Belstone 5-2 Chipperfield Corinthians
Herts Senior County League


Belstone FC was formed in 1982. The name Belstone comes from the players coming from Belmont Circle and Wealdstone areas of North West London. They originally played at the GEC sports ground in Wembley until the owners decided to sell up in 1989. It is currently an open play area and home to youth side AFC Wembley. A couple of temporary venues in Harrow were rented until they moved to their current home, the Medburn Ground in 1992. It was originally a rugby ground but owner Lord Aldenham gave the club permission to use the land. They had to tidy it up and move some travellers on but at least they had a place to call home.

The club were a Sunday League side at first, playing in the Harrow Sunday Challenge Football League in their early days. They won three titles before leaving to join the  Marathon Sunday Football League in 1988. They won the Division 1 title at the first attempt and went on to lift the Premier Division eight times. The league was disbanded in 2003 and Belstone would return to the Harrow Sunday Challenge Football League for six years.

 In 2009, they made the switch to Saturday football and the Herts Senior County League. Starting in Division 1, they finished as runners-up to Whitwell in 2012. This earned them promotion to the Premier Division where they finished as runners-up to Bedmond in 2014. This was a highly successful time for the club as they won the title the following year. The club applied for promotion to step 6 but were turned down due to their lack of floodlights. Another runners-up spot followed in 2016 as they finished behind Standon & Puckeridge. Last season saw Belstone win the title for the second time. Cup honours include the Herts Senior Centenary Trophy in 2014, the Herts Senior County League Aubrey Cup in 2016 & 2018 and the Herts Senior County League Charity Cup in 2016 & 2017. They've also won a host of competitions as a Sunday League side.

The club is based in Radlett, Hertfordshire which has a population of just over 10,000. Located between St Albans and Elstree (where Eastenders is filmed), It is one of the wealthiest places in Britain and the second most expensive town to buy a house outside London. It has a theatre of sorts, the Radlett Centre with a 300-seat auditorium for various performances. In 1823 the town was the site of the Radlett murder, a notorious crime which became the subject of numerous books and stage plays. The victim, William Weare, was killed on Gills Hill Lane (subsequently popularly known as Murder Lane), with the site gaining such notoriety that it became a tourist attraction for some time. It is home to War Of The Worlds musical author Jeff Wayne and actresses Pam St Clement and Lacey Turner.


The football season was quickly running out and options were thin on the ground. With all step 6 and above options a hundred miles or more away, I decided to look at step 7. I asked on the Tony Kempster Non-League Forum whether there were any grounds with stands at step 7 and was quoted 2 - Bovingdon FC and Belstone FC. My initial thought was to go to Bovingdon as I could visit the Market there. I had not been for a few years and so a visit was well overdue. But I found out that they were not doing a programme. The other option, Belstone, said they might, and if not I could pick up a back issue. On the day of the game, I woke up quite early, just after 6 and watched TV in bed. Just before 9, I went out for a two-mile jog before coming back and having a bath. I needed a couple of things and also wanted a look at some clothes so I went down Wycombe. My hunt was unsuccessful clothes wise so I went online and ordered a pair of trainers. I then had lunch before leaving around 1.30. The drive there was not bad and so I arrived at 2.15 and went into the clubhouse for a bottle of Bulmers which was slightly expensive at £4. They didn't have any programmes for today's game but they did give me a couple of back issues which is better than nothing and gave me something to look at pre-match. I watched some of the build-up to the Scottish Cup Final before going outside and getting some pictures. I did a head count and reckoned on there being 16 people in attendance including myself. The game was pretty even early on but with Belstone having the better of the chances. One name I did recognise from one of the old programmes they gave me was Lawrence Yaku who played in the Conference South with Maidenhead a few years back, though I had no idea if he was playing this afternoon. Also former Windsor & Eton captain Dave Tilbury.

 The home side took the lead on 23 minutes after number 25 for them won a penalty and got injured in the process. The Chipperfield manager wasn't too pleased but in any case, it was put away very well into the top left-hand corner to make it 1-0. Right at the end of the first half, the lead was doubled as the Chipperfield keeper made a mistake and allowed a weak shot to squirm past him. There was still time though for the visitors to have their best chance so far and they forced a good save out of the Belstone keeper who pushed it wide for a corner. At half-time I went back to my car and listened to the radio for a bit while waiting for the second half to start. The second half continued to have plenty of chances for both sides and the woodwork prevented Belstone from further extending their lead. The home side was on top but it was the visitors pulled one back with the best goal of the game on 75 minutes when a long-range shot was drilled in.  That awoke the visitors a bit and they started to push forward and create more.  This was however at the cost of leaving gaps at the back and on the break, Belstone regained their two goal advantage with a simple finish from a good free kick. Almost immediately it was 4-1 with another effort from not far out and it looked to be game over. It was 5-1 on 85 minutes with a really well-worked goal as the Belstone number 9 was given a chance on a plate and he obliged with an easy finish. A couple of minutes later it was the same again, only up the other end as the visitors pulled it back to 5-2. It had been a decent game and well worth a visit to a decent club. As for the game, I'd say the scoreline was a fair reflection of the game. Belstone were well on top but Chipperfield with their number 4 who looked about 50 years old played their part in an entertaining contest. After the game, I drove home and listened to the FA Cup final where Hull City roared into a two-goal lead against Arsenal. On the road, an idiot sat at the green light for about 10 seconds and then proceeded to drive at 30 in a 60 limit. When I overtook him I saw why - he was on his mobile phone. There were a few more slow drivers before I got home at 5.30 where I watched the rest of the cup final and had dinner.

Belstone 3-1 Cuffley - HSCL Premier - 23/05/23

I'd been enjoying watching a few games in the Hertfordshire League lately. This Tuesday was no exception and my original plan was Hemel Hempstead Rovers. It was one of my nearest unvisited grounds and although basic, I was keen to complete the league. That plan soon bit the dust as they won through to a cup final and their league game was moved. I was then presented with two options - Bengeo Trinity and Allenburys Sports. However, the former disappeared from the fixture list and the latter was moved to Ware Sports. I could have done AFC Cressex as an ultra-local one but it didn't appeal. As it was within easy distance of my work, I decided to save it for a more appropriate time.
I'd enjoyed my first visit to Belstone and so decided to visit again. I went more depth into their history than I had done back in 2014. My attitude to groundhopping had changed in the past nine years. A stand nor programme was no longer seen as essential items and I was seeing a whole lot more places because of it. Belstone still had an outside chance of the title, though this would require a slip-up by Bush Hil Rangers and Belstone winning all three of their final games. Belstone had done themselves no harm, winning six, drawing one and losing one of their last eight. The highlight was a 9-0 win at Oracle Components, whereas they'd drawn 1-1 against leaders Chipperfield Corinthians and lost 2-1 at 5th place Royston Town U23. Cuffley were in 7th place and likely to finish the season there. They'd won 1-0 against Cockfosters Reserves but this was their first win in six games. They'd suffered a 5-1, defeat to 2nd-place Bush Hill Rangers but three of those previous five games were draws.
It was the standard Tuesday routine for me with me leaving at 5.15. I was with Colin 15 minutes later although I had to wait another 15 as he was asleep and then took a while to get ready. It was a reasonable journey over with the usual traffic at that time of night. We arrived at 6.20, ten minutes before kickoff. The club was nice and friendly and had teamsheets and old programmes for free as well as free admission. There was also a lovely boxer dog in attendance too. Hoppers had come from far and wide and I saw some familiar faces. Alan had come down from Leicestershire and Andy from Norfolk and the club was grateful for their presence.
No scorer details were available at the time of updating this blog. But Belstone were the better side in the first half, Cuffley doing well to nullify their attack. On 14 minutes, it was 1-0 to the hosts, an attack down the left and a finish from a tight angle. Cuffley equalised just before halftime. It was a bit of an error from the keeper and my initial thought was that it had been disallowed in the build-up due to the reaction but the goal stood. The start of the second half saw Cuffley raise their game, although they had enjoyed quite a long half-time break compared to Belstone. They had a couple of chances but on 52 minutes Belstone were awarded a penalty. However, the spot kick was saved. On 65 minutes, the home keeper made up for his earlier error by pulling off a great save to stop Cuffley from taking the lead. The game was sealed in the last few minutes. Firstly a header from a left-sided corner on 87 minutes and then a minute later, a penalty was awarded for a trip. This was converted to make it 3-1.

THE MEDBURN GROUND is pretty decent for step 7 and with the addition of better floodlights would be as good as or better than some of the step 6 grounds I have been to. There is just one stand and that has 12 seats although there is cover for a lot more people standing. The clubhouse is pretty smart and does a basic range of drinks and snacks like chocolate bars. It's quite pricey, but considering it was free entry with a couple of old programmes free too due to them not issuing today, I didn't mind paying £4 for a bottle of Bulmers. If you want more choice you can turn right out of the ground and go to a pub a few minutes walk away but I have no idea what it's like as I didn't go.