Saturday 28 October 2023

Cuxton 91 - Cuxton Community Ground

Cuxton 91 FC
Cuxton Community Ground
Cuxton Social Club
Bush Road

07851 416350

Ground Number: 1239
Saturday 28th October 2023
Cuxton 91 3-2 Hawkinge Town
Kent County Premier


Despite their name, the club was established right at the end of 1995 and was originally an Under 9's youth side. Frans Thorley was one of the founding members and he remains at the club to this day, serving as assistant manager and fixture secretary. He was the manager for a long spell and another player who was there from the start, Ross McCrae, served the club for over 20 years. The team progressed through the age groups and eventually transitioned into adult football. They joined the Rochester & District League where a previous side at the ground, Cuxton Social had played. In 2015, they finished as runners-up to Rainham 84 Rangers in the Premier Division and won promotion to the Kent County League. Starting in Division 3 East, they were runners-up behind Willesborough Athletic in their first season to earn promotion to Division 2 Central East. They won this on the first attempt in 2017 and then spent six seasons playing in Division 1 Central & East. never finishing outside the top five. Last season they were champions, winning 19 out of 22 games and earning promotion to the Premier Division for this season.

The village of Cuxton is located just over two miles away from the large town of Rochester. It has a population of just over 2,600. Archaeological evidence suggests the first human occupation was around 200,000 years ago. A hoard of 196 handaxes from the Acheulian era was excavated in 1962. This is now displayed in the British Museum. The name is believed to have developed from "Cucula's Stone". The area has several historic buildings and a Marina. This was the location of a gun smuggling bust by police in 2015. The National Crime Agency described the haul of weapons and ammunition seized by its officers as the largest of its kind in the UK. Industry in the past has included chalk extraction and cement.


As my car had a rattly exhaust, I was not too keen on driving far on Tuesday. Eastbourne United v Bearsted would have tempted me in the FA Vase. However, Colin was set to go to Sawbridgeworth with another hopper until a last-minute change with them claiming they were ill. They must not have wanted the hassle of taking him as he can be a pain at times. I've got more patience but this is severely tested at times. In the end, the said individual went to the game on his own. Not a good day for Colin. A fortnight ago he had paid £90 to have his phone repaired after smashing the screen. A week ago he left his phone on top of my car for two miles. This Tuesday he dropped his phone face down and smashed the screen again but luckily it was still usable. It was a shame that he didn't get more involved as it would be nice to have someone to share the driving on midweek. We both ended up going to Wycombe Wanderers v Bolton Wanderers. The usual walk down was healthy enough but was easily offset by three pints and a huge pizza, along with snacks. I never watch Wycombe sober and this game showed why. Our defence was the worst since Prince Andrew's Pizza Express alibi, a rare error from the usually imperious Max Stryjek and a daft penalty given away by a knackered 37-year-old Richard Keogh contributed to Bolton winning 4-2.

Wednesday brought better news with my car, it was just a bit of metal that needed straightening out and I wasn't charged. It was also a decent day at work. When I got home, it was time to take a closer look at my options for the weekend. I'd already started drawing up a list but most of the step 1-6 options were far away. The closest, at Downton, was a convoluted journey which would see me back in Wycombe at 9.35, just after the last bus left. So, something at the lower steps it would have to be, After looking at what was on offer, I decided it would be either Ledbury or Honourable Artillery Club. These combined value, convenience and a good day out. I'd have loved to have taken part in the Southern Combination Hop, organised by Groundhop UK. However, there was only one I needed in Bosham and apparently, the league had insisted that it be the middle kickoff on Saturday. This to me was madness, it would be by far the least hopped, so it would be better to have it as the early game to give experienced hoppers a better choice of 3 PM games. Most likely people will save it for a Bank Holiday when the league has early kickoffs and Bosham didn't usually charge admission or sell food and merch as they would on a hop game.

The Friday night would mark Groundhop UK's 600th game, each of them a compromise that saw hoppers able to visit multiple games in one day and clubs able to secure a decent payday if they did things right. In return, clubs and players had to play at different times and hoppers had to accept that things wouldn't always work out in their favour. It was a formula that had worked well, but despite this, some leagues were still reluctant to take part such as the Wessex League and possibly the Highland League. I always get a lot of time to think at work and it was on Thursday morning that I decided upon Cuxton. I'd pencilled it in weeks ago but it made sense. There was morning rain in Ledbury and they had floodlights. For HAC, I could save it for another time, perhaps when there is a National Rail strike. Thursday was one of my long shifts at work and I got home to disappointment when planning my trip. The Man Of Kent Alehouse further limited its opening hours by closing for half term. It was a great shame as they had a good cider range. I still had a new Wetherspoons and a bottle shop planned pre-match though. I was considering going up to Holmer Green in the evening for their Allied Counties game but I was knackered after work. In the end, the date had changed anyway. It was another night in on Friday, when checking the weather again I was disappointed to see that a couple of hours of rain had appeared pre-match on the forecast in Cuxton which though unlikely to be match-affecting, wasn't great. In any case, a Chatham Town revisit was not an unreasonable option.
It was a sober Friday night for me, bearing in mind I'd had booze on Tuesday. I spent it adding more step 7 leagues to this blog and watching old episodes of the Sky series 'Dream Team' on YouTube. I awoke half an hour before my 8:20 alarm on the day of the game. I had a shower and had breakfast before leaving at 9. After stopping at Tesco for a meal deal, I got to the station at 10.10. The Trainpal app stipulated that I could only get dinosaur paper tickets but that was made impossible due to the WiFi being down at High Wycombe. Even the automatic door was out of action and it was typical of Cowboy Railways incompetence to first have no backup plan and then to cram us onto the usual cattle sweatbox to London. It was trickier than I'd hoped to collect tickets at Marylebone. After queuing for five minutes at the machine, no facility to do so was available. It was back to the single ticket desk for a similar wait and I was on my way. The much-practised Bakerloo & Victoria line route got me to Victoria in plenty of time. There was even time for a pint at Wetherspoons, not a new one for me though. Given the location, £4.99 for a pint of Strongbow was reasonable. I was on my train well in time for the 11.40 to Ramsgate. A comfortable double seat, USB charging point and WiFi working was decent. I'd had a nice, helpful message on Twitter from the Cuxton 91 assistant manager who was confident of the game going ahead and also provided other useful information. My train was mainly full of Gillingham and Newport County fans with my preference for the latter. It's one I wouldn't mind revisiting one day.


The train was later than expected getting into Rochester, where my pre-match plans were based. It was a pleasant quiet town but I was there for the Golden Lion Wetherspoons. I chose my table carefully, there being a family so I wasn't going to sit near them. Up the other end of the pub, I went and ordered a Naga Chilli Vindaloo and a pint of Strongbow for £7.64. I'd originally fancied fish and chips but this caught my attention. True to form, the nipper had a two-minute session bawling its eyes out but I was far enough away for it not to be too annoying. With the guest ciders limited and pricier here, I left at 1:15 for the next pub. The Wolfe and Castle was a snug little Micropub. A small selection of cider was available, Turners Pear at £5.70 was a retry I think but the Internet was very patchy on mobile data. Overall, a very pleasant place and as with most of Rochester, an above-average amount of nice dogs. A pleasant day and I was at Strood Station well in time for the four-minute journey to Cuxton. The friendly staff had to deal with an amiable but persistent smoker who was on his 4th warning. In any case, he was on the incorrect train for his intended destination of Chatham. It was a short but pleasant journey to the ground after a walk. A pint of Aspalls was needed to get change for the programme as I only had a £20. I was in place a few minutes before kickoff and was glad of my umbrella as the rain started.
Cuxton had made a respectable start to life in the Premier Division and sat in 10th whilst Hawkinge Town sat in 2nd. The two sides had met in the Kent Intermediate Challenge Shield last week with Hawkinge triumphing 3-2. The hosts were in mixed form. In their last three league games, they had beaten Borden Village 2-0, lost 3-1 at Stansfeld and drawn 1-1 against Halls. The visitors had also been in inconsistent form. They'd lost on the road 8-3 at Ashford in their last league game but had won the previous five before that and this included a 7-1 hammering of Bexley. An even opening saw Cuxton edge it. They took the lead on 8 minutes after a penalty was converted by Caleb Bearman-Dyce. It was 1-1 on 17 minutes, Luke Reeve netting an equaliser as the result of a chased down clearance. The Hawkinge #11 had the ball in the net but it was ruled offside. They were now having the better of an entertaining game. Just before halftime, a great ball was played to Tommy Davey who advanced down the right wing before planting an excellent cross-shot into the bottom left-hand side of the net. Hawkinge had a lot of play in the second half, but they couldn't break down the resolute Cuxton defence. A goal on the break saw the hosts lead 3-1 on 64 minutes, a clearance fell kindly for Tommy Mitchell and deceived the off-guard goalkeeper. Lots of injury time was played due to a hold-up. In the eighth minute, substitute Tyla Clements smashed a goal in off the underside of the bar.
That was how it stayed, a really good game. I left just before 4.45 with the attention turned to Oxford v Wycombe. The Chairboys led 2-1 when I left but by the time I was at the Golden River Chinese takeaway, it was 2-2. I'd fancied an online stream but due to a weak signal, had to make do with the radio. The salt and chilli pepper chips were OK, but nothing special. Some wasteland allowed me to create a golden river of my own and I was at the station in good time for my train. The Wycombe game sounded competitive with me listening to the reports on our local stations. The 17:35 from Strood to Kings Cross was delayed by 6 minutes, but that was no issue. Unless a pub in Surbiton got back to me about their beer and cider festival, the plan was to take the tube across London, the 19:02 from Marylebone to Wycombe and then a bus home with me getting in at around 8. That was assuming everything worked correctly which wasn't a given. It was standing room only on the cattle truck, but at least it was quick, This turned out to be true as my bus home was ten minutes late. It also lashed it down again but I was back home pretty much on schedule.

CUXTON COMMUNITY GROUND is a pleasant venue. Three sides are available to spectators with two of the sides on a bank. This offers good views and the surroundings are pleasant. At the ground is a nice social club bar. This has Sports TV and a reasonable range of drinks. There is a Chinese takeaway and two convenience stores. Nearer the station is a pub, this is 10-15 minutes walk away. 

Saturday 21 October 2023

Catholic United - Len Forge Centre

Catholic United FC
Len Forge Centre
Eastwoodbury Lane

Ground Number: 1238
Saturday 21st October 2023
Catholic United 2-0 CSM London
Anagram Trophy 1st Round


Though there were many catholic clubs in the Southend area in previous years, the present Catholic United was established in 1959 at the Sacred Heart church hall. They originally played on a pitch in Leigh On-Sea which no longer exists due to redevelopment. The club progressed through the Southend Borough Combination in the early 60s, winning four promotions in five seasons to reach the Premier Division. They originally wore black and white stripes but in 1968 when they reached the Walton Cup Final, played at Southend United, Celtic FC gifted them a green and white hooped set of shirts and they have adopted those colours to this day. The kit was a lucky omen as they beat Haden 2-0 in the final to lift the trophy. They would go on to lift the Southend Borough Combination title in 1969 and 1970 as well as a host of local cups. In 2009, they were accepted into the Essex Olympian League. A number of seasons were spent in Division 3 before they listed the title in 2015. They progressed quickly, winning the Division 2 title in 2016 then finishing as runners-up behind Basildon Town in Division 1. They've been in the Premier Division since 2017 and have never finished outside the top 6. Their best finish came last season as they finished as runners-up behind Hutton.

The most famous player to turn out for the club is former Spurs and current Celtic centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers who played for the club as a youngster. The club has led a nomadic existence, early on playing at Nazareth House orphanage which made way for a school in the early 1970s. A lengthy stay at Wellstead Gardens in Westcliff on Sea followed before they spent the 2018/19 season before they made way for Hashtag United who could pay higher rent. Ever since, they have played at the Len Forge Centre in Southend which gives them potential for progression to step 6 should they wish. They played a single season in the FA Vase in 2018/19. A 6-1 win was gained at Clapton but they lost in the next round at Lopes Tavares.


Originally on this day, my intention was to go to Eastbourne United v Bearsted in the FA Vase. It looked a good game and it would complete the Southern Combination Premier for me. However, with it being a rainy week and more rain on the day of the game, I was cautious. I had some games on 3G as backup, namely Longwell Green v Dobwalls in the FA Vase and either Everett Rovers or Catholic United in the Anagram Trophy. I wasn't going to make a decision until the night before or even the morning of the game as it was a potentially late night before in Devon. In the end, the Honiton game on Friday night went ahead and so it was to be Catholic United.

I'd had a late night on Friday going into Saturday, getting to bed at gone 4. Four hours of sleep was good enough though when my alarm went off at 8.20. I'd allowed the minimum amount of time possible and after a shower, getting dressed and having breakfast, I was out of the door nearly ten minutes after my planned 9am departure. I considered a bus but the times didn't work out. Tesco was called upon for a meal deal - Hoi Sin Duck wrap, Ribena Light and a Tony's Chocolenly bar. I'd deliberately gone for pricier items to try and beat the system - little victories and all that. I had to jog the last mile as time was tight. It was a good job that I got there early as there were queues to use the ticket machines. For some reason, Trainpal had given me paper tickets but the random price of £22.82 was due to a voucher. Whilst on the platform at High Wycombe, I learned that my original choice of game at Eastbourne was off, vindicating my decision to go 3G. The 10.20 Chiltern train was rammed and standing room only. Cattle would feel hard done by being treated like this and it is one of the priciest operators in the country. Thankfully it was a less than half-hour journey in uncomfortable conditions.
The next part of the journey was more pleasant, a walk to Baker Street and a Tube to Liverpool Street on which I finally got a seat. The best part was the last leg. On the Greater Anglia to Rayleigh, I got a double seat and got to charge my phone. This was a blessing with the amount of grubby germ factories that passed as passengers. I've always found this operator to be one of the best in the country though and we got off on time at 11.33. I used the journey to research Catholic United's history. I got most of it done before we got to Rayleigh at 12.15. It was then a 15-minute walk to the Roebuck Wetherspoons. My 281st Wetherspoons was decent, with a few bag-in-box ciders according to the app. However, none were available with my steak meal, which with a chicken breast and pint of Strongbow, came in at £14.26. I noticed from Futbology that there were lots of options in the Anagram Trophy and with Rayleigh Town looking good, I think I'll follow this competition and do as many games as possible. I've been to the final at the Herts FA ground a few years back and also a fantastic game at Epping Town which finished 3-3 and was decided on penalties. My second pint was Purbeck Katy Perry and having caught up with my blog, I was in a good place. I walked to the bus stop and got the 9 to Shoeburyness. I was a bit later than I would have liked but the 13.57 was on time. I was at the ground ten minutes before kickoff. It was free entry and an excellent programme was £2.
The hosts were Catholic United who sat 4th in the Essex Olympian Premier. They were in poor form, having lost four games in a row, the last being a 4-1 defeat at Sungate. The visitors CSM London were second-bottom of the Essex Alliance Senior Division. This was the same step as the hosts and they had lost their last game 6-2 to Frenford Reserves. It was a fairly even opening with both sides having chances but not hitting the target. It was goalless at the break with quite a lot of injury time. The second half started at 3.35 after a slightly short half time. The game was really end to end but the quality of the finishing was not there. CSM had the majority of the chances but Catholic smashed the bar with a great shot on 68 minutes. Just a minute from the end of normal time, Catholic United made it 1-0, a short cross found Joe O'Kane who put a controlled header into the net. It was hard on CSM but a lack of quality up front had cost them. They pushed more men forward but the few chances that came along were wasted. There was a fair bit of added time and in the sixth minute, the hosts added a second, a square ball from the right and a low finish by Frank Craik.
Seconds later the final whistle blew and I was on my way. Not the best game but not the worst either. I got the Wycombe game on my tablet and walked back to the bus stop. It was just over 10 minutes till the bus came and the Wycombe game ended as we got back into Rayleigh. It was a decent 2-2 draw at Peterborough United for us but we looked by far the better team from what I saw. I had three minutes wait for the train and I was going to stop at Billericay to check out their Wetherspoons. The Blue Boar was OK, a lot less peaceful than the one earlier, what with people building up for Saturday night. A pint of Black Dragon took the edge off. It was nice to sit at a proper table and sort my photos. From there, it was almost time to upload my blog. My second pint was ordered via the app, Strongbow which came with a nice glass. The plan from there was to head back into London and catch the train on the hour back to Wycombe from Marylebone as that was the quickest. It might involve a pint in London, I had not yet decided.

THE LEN FORGE CENTRE is a decent setup for what it is, a community pitch used by a number of local teams. Only one side is open to spectators and this is a decent-sized viewing area with standing for 200 and seating for 150. There is a bar outside but this is quite basic and does food too. It is located on the bus routes between Rayleigh & Southend and has plenty of parking available. Overall, not the most exciting venue but a decent venue for use when the weather is bad.