Friday 30 June 2023

AEK Boco - The LA Clarke Pavillion

The LA Clarke Pavillion
Greenbank Road
BS15 3RZ

0117 947 7331

Ground Number: 1195
Friday 30th June 2023
AEK Boco 2-1 Thornbury Town


The club was established in 2003 as a result of a merger between local clubs AEK Rangers and Boco Juniors. Boco Boys was formed in 1978 by Bob Boyd, a former director of Bristol City FC, and John Cummins. Named after the 1978 Argentinean Champions Boca Juniors, as it corresponded with the year that Argentina first became World Champions. Initially playing in the Bristol Premier Combination, they joined the Gloucestershire County League in 2014. They were runners-up to Cheltenham Civil Service in their first season before winning the title in 2016. With the facilities not yet up to standard, they would have to wait a few more years for elevation to the Western League. Their time came in 2021. Following two pandemic-interrupted seasons, their record was considered good enough over this period to win promotion to the Western League Division 1. They have finished 8th and 11th in their two seasons so there far.

Yet to play in the FA Cup, AEK Boco made their FA Vase debut last season. However, they were heavily beaten 10-1 by eventual winners Ascot United. The club is based in Hanham, a suburb in the southeast of Bristol. Its population is just over 6,000 or over 10,000 if you include Hanham Abbotts. Famous people from the area include comedian Stephen Merchant. It was also one of the first places to act as a blueprint for carbon-free homes, built on the former site of Hanham Hill Hospital. The Blue Bowl in the town has been claimed to be one of the oldest public houses in the country.


This game was decided a week before when fellow hopper Dan offered me a place in his car for the journey. This suited me fine as I could get picked up from work and be able to relax and enjoy the journey. Originally, we were due to go to Avonmouth but AEK Boco was considered a better option. This had been on my radar for a while, as I'd spotted them whilst members of the Gloucestershire County League. At the time, they had a railed pitch and a smart-looking clubhouse. Since then, a standard pre-fab stand had been added to get the ground up to standard. A dull and predictable option, but one that gets increasingly popular. It was not considered the greatest by other hoppers but the area looked good for a pre-match pint or two.

The club's name had always reminded me of the Four Tops hit 'Loco in Acapulco' and I wondered if they'd adopted it as their club song. For the journey, it appeared as if Martin would be joining us. This meant that Colin would miss out. He had been banned from Dan's car again in the week for the constant abuse that he gave him, calling him a fat bastard in front of Dan's Dad. Colin was confident that he would not need Dan for a lift again so he saw no harm in abusing him. Though surely common decency in treating someone who has helped you out well is due but it fitted with Colin's general lack of respect for people who act as his personal taxi service. I had a lot of research to do for the upcoming month, getting a lot of it out of the way on Thursday night.

The day of the game came and it was one of my easier shifts at work. That said, the place was full of screaming children and it gave me a sneak preview of the horror show that is Sunday. I finished at 3 and went and got my bag from my car before meeting Martin. Daniel and Richard were delayed by 20 minutes due to the call of nature but were with us by 3.35. Talking of nature, typically after a sunny week, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and was now grey, damp and miserable. We were near the ground at 5.35 with us all going in the Wetherspoons in Kingswood called the Kingswood Colliers. I opted for a pint of Blackthorn for £3.19, a rare sighting of something dry. Whilst the others had a meal, I went across the road to the Lyons Den Micropub. This was a superb place and I had a half each of Bristol Beer Factory North Street and Brislington Brain Twister. From there it was to The Jolly Sailor Wetherspoons, Hanham. This had a poor cider selection for the area but service was good for my spicy meat feast pizza and Aspalls.


From there it was to the ground, with me arriving five minutes before kickoff. £2 was the entry fee, great value. Thornbury Town took the lead on four minutes, a close-range finish. The game was end to end, just before half-time Thornbury blasted narrowly wide from outside the area. During the game, I confirmed Barry Town United and one other for my birthday weekend. I wanted something booked and the coach at £22 return and the the hotel at £50 with the the facility to cancel was too good to turn down. Colin was unwilling to commit but I couldn't be waiting a week for him to respond. Boco equalised a few minutes into the second half, a cross from the right and a firm header. Boco took the lead in the second half, an opportunistic shot made it 2-1 around 70 minutes. That was it for the attendance of 89 fans. The game was no classic, but it was a good night out.


THE LA CLARKE PAVILLION comprises of a smart clubhouse with some cover. This offers a great range of drinks including several ciders. There is also a prefab stand, not the best but it does the job. The rest of the ground is open. Ten minutes away is Hanham with a mediocre Spoons and some takeaways. 20 minutes away is Kingswood, a far better Spoons and a wider range of places.

Saturday 24 June 2023

Carmarthen Town - Richmond Park

Carmarthen Town AFC
Richmond Park
Priory Street
SA31 1LR

Ground Number: 1195
Saturday 24th June 2023
Carmarthen Town 2-2 Goytre


The club was established in 1948 and was elected into the Welsh League five years later. Despite the name suggesting otherwise, this competition was primarily for South Wales teams. Starting in Division 2 West, they were always amongst the front-runners and in 1960 were champions, winning promotion to Division 1. They'd only stay for a single season though, finishing bottom and being relegated back. Another promotion would follow in 1964, this time as runners-up to Clydach United. They'd suffer a relegation in 1970 but rebranding meant that they would remain in Division 1 as the top tier was renamed the Premier Division. Another relegation to the third tier followed in 1976 but they would bounce back as runners-up to Newport YMCA in 1979.  Relegation came calling again in 1982 but reorganisation two years later saw Carmarthen return to Division 1. The late 80s and early 90s saw all kings of movement as Wales finally established a national top tier in 1992. In 1996, Carmarthen won the Welsh League Division 1 title to gain promotion to the League Of Wales. This was rebranded a number of times and is currently known as the Cymru Premier. Carmarthen Town's best showing has been two 3rd place finishes in 2001 & 2014. They were second-bottom when the season was cut short in 2020 and after a season with no football, they were placed in the Cymru South when things started up again. So far, they have finished 5th and 4th.

Carmarthen Town have had four forays into Europe. Their best showing came in their 2005 UEFA Cup campaign. They overcame Irish side Longford Town 5-3 on aggregate before a respectable 4-0 aggregate defeat to Danish side FC Kobenhavn in the 2nd Qualifying Round. They were not helped by having to play their 'home' legs at Cardiff City and Newtown but these appearances helped them bring their own ground up to scratch to host European games. After twice being losing finalists, Carmarthen won the Welsh Cup in 2007, beating Afan Lido 3-2 at Llanelli. Other honours include the three Cymru Premier Cups, the Welsh Football League in 1996 and the West Wales Senior Cup in 2004.

Carmarthen is the county town of Carmarthenshire and has a population of around 14,000. Carmarthen Castle is a ruined castle in the town. First built by Walter, Sheriff of Gloucester in the early 1100s, the castle was captured and destroyed on several occasions before being rebuilt in stone during the 1190s. The castle was captured by Owain Glyndŵr in 1405. Henry VII's father died at Carmarthen Castle in 1456. During the Wars of the Roses, the castle fell to William Herbert and, during the Civil War, was captured by Parliamentary forces. It was dismantled by order of Oliver Cromwell in the mid-1600s. It was used as the site of Carmarthen's gaol until the 1920s. The remains of the castle were given a Grade I heritage listing in 1954 and is currently a tourist attraction and site of the town's Tourist Information Centre. Rugby and gold are also prominent in the town. Famous people from or with links to Carmarthen include footballer Joe Allen, First Minster of Wales Mark Drakeford and comedian Rhod Gilbert as well as several others.


My first Saturday game of the season was a lot harder than it needed to be, thanks to the ever-dictatorial FA. They'd found another excuse to stop football and decreed that the whole of June was off-limits. Whether it was a two-bob insurance policy as had been rumoured, we didn't know as they had not divulged the reason why. I'd seen countless matches in June before in any case but this year, the authorities seemed dad set on ruining people's enjoyment. This might have been all well and good when the season started in mid-August, but now it started in late July, it was a ludicrous stance. The FA have never been forward-thinking though, stuck in the past and reluctant to change. That was why English teams were stuck with the archaic FA Full Time system whilst Wales had the far superior Comet system.
It would be Wales where I'd be heading in the end. What limited pickings there were nearby were uninspiring school pitches. So well done the FA for doing their bit to increase carbon emissions. At least I roped in Anwar and Colin as passengers, though as usual, I found out through someone else that Colin had wanted to come as I write this blog two days after asking him, he had yet to respond to my message. I'd much rather have taken public transport but that would have to wait for now. There was the rumour of a game at Montpelier Villa but details were sketchy so I decided to stick with Wales. It would be my 50th Welsh ground visited and I'd had some good days out, not least at opponents Goytre.
It was an unusually sober Friday for me, as I'd drunk on Tuesday. As much as I fancied a few, I try to stick to only drinking two days a week to kid myself that I practice moderation. The evening was spent on updating all the league changes on my blog which is a mammoth task and I only got some of it done. I also looked at Wycombe fixtures and whether they clashed with time I've booked off work. In all likelihood, I won't be getting a season ticket and am aiming for in between 8 and 16 home games next season to work the decision financially work for me. Despite trying for an early night, I had a poor night's sleep, only around 5 hours before getting up at 6.45. I watched YouTube for a bit before getting ready and leaving at 7.40. Via Colin, I headed to Anwar. I got my usual breakfast from there of chilli hot dog and cornflake bar. It wasn't a bad journey down, we had a stop at Magor Services, arriving in Carmarthen at 12.30.
After paying £1.80 for parking, we headed to the local Wetherspoons, Yr Hen Dderwen. It was pleasant enough, but the drinks selection was poor. The service for drinks was terrible. Though the food came within five minutes, the drinks took half an hour to come. It was a poor selection too, one of the worst Wetherspoons I've been to. We then went to Poundland where I got a can of Irn Bru. We headed back to the ground, via the car. Getting in ten minutes before kickoff, we paid £3 to get in. Due to the heat, we took shelter in the stand. It was a typical pre-season friendly, nice moves but little in the way of end product. It was not for the want of trying though and both sides had chances. Carmarthen came closest, clipping the bar on 33 minutes. Despite the hosts having the better chances, it was Goytre who opened the scoring on 54 minutes with a great free kick. They scored again two minutes later, heading home from a corner after another spell of pressure. Carmarthen got back into the game, having a string of chances and clipping the bar. They finally pulled a goal back on 70 minutes, a low shot on the turn from just inside the area. They hit the bar on 86 minutes from an excellent free-kick before equalising a minute later with a finish from a tight angle wide on the right.

The crowd was 142, as head counted by fellow hopper Chris. For a pre-season friendly, it had been a pretty good game, especially in the second half. We left at 3.55, filling up at the local Texaco with fuel to get home. It was very reasonable at 139.9 a litre, 3p cheaper than back home. My journey home was constantly interrupted by Braintree-based hopper Dan's checking on Futbology at Halstead Leisure Centre. I presume the reason was to get a Lionel Messi badge. I've always found these pointless, awarded when you check in at a game on the birthday of a player. Magor Services was our first port of call for a comfort stop. We were then taken via Gloucester which of course gave us the opportunity to visit the superb Farm Shop services. There I picked up some cider, a wild boar sausage roll, a brownie, some crisps and a lemon and mint lemonade. I had the brownie and lemonade before leaving. Via Aylesbury & Amersham, I was back at 8.45, having had a great day out in great company. There was a lot of catching up to do and I had some cider and the sausage roll whilst doing my blog and watching YouTube. The sausage roll was sublime and I wished I'd got more.

RICHMOND PARK is a superb venue for the Cymru South. Built with European football in mind, the main stand is huge for the level, holding a thousand. It's open flat standing for the rest of the ground. Everyone is really friendly and the facilities include a club shop and tea bar. There's also a bar, but this was closed for a kids' party today. The town is ten minutes away and includes a disappointing Wetherspoons. Nearer the ground is a pub/hotel and some takeaways. There is plenty of parking, but it is all chargeable. Priory Street car park offers good value, £1.80 all day. This is half the price of the bigger car park on the other side of the ground.