Sunday, 27 July 2014

Amersham Town - Spratleys Meadow


Amersham Town FC
Spratleys Meadow
School Lane
Amersham
Bucks
HP7 0EJ





Ground Number: 388
Sunday 27th July 2014
Amersham Town Veterans 0-3 Watford Legends
Dave Bewley Memorial Cup




Amersham Town were one of the more local teams that I had not seen a game at. I had been to the ground to take pictures though, when I was in the area and on the way to meet Anwar for another game at Nuneaton v Luton in March last year. Anyway, when I rocked up at the ground to take some pictures, I was met by a really grumpy bloke who asked what I was doing. Eventually he gave in and let me take pictures, but it meant I was in no rush to return for a game, especially when Anwar told of a similar experience when he went. I had already attempted the ground a couple of time previously for a game, but was thwarted by the wet weather. But then I saw on Twitter that they had a game on a Sunday against Watford Legends, so with games scarce on that day, I decided to go for it.



Out of the Amersham Town line up, the only person I recognised was Roni Joe. I remembered him playing for Thame United and he in fact scored the only goal of the game on my only visit to their old Windmill Road ground. The club themselves played in local leagues until 1953 when they were founder members of the Hellenic League. In 1964 they won the Hellenic Premier, straight after promotion from the Division 1 the previous season. They transferred to the Spartan League in 1972, and had a torrid first 3 seasons, only winning twice in that trio of awful seasons. In fact in the 1974-75 season they lost all 30 games in the league. They have struggled in recent times too, and last season's 16th place was an improvement on previous seasons. They haven't played in the FA Cup since 1970 - in their first game they lost 13-0 to Wycombe in 1950. FA Vase wise, they had a decent run to the second round - beating Henley, Carterton and Flackwell. Then they came up against Rye United, winning 1-0 but being banned from the competition for fielding ineligible players under assumed names, something which also cost them 7 points in the league.




Watford were a lot more familiar name wise. Most recognised to me was Tommy Mooney. The talismanic striker joined Wycombe from Oxford in 2005 and went on to play 100 games, scoring 32 goals. He was a real fans favourite, but left for Walsall due to him believing that Wycombe had not strengthened their team enough to make a bid for promotion. Another well known name was Gary Phillips, the keeper who made his name at Barnet, and is well known for being on the own goals and gaffs videos for a mix up with a defender. I met him when doing work experience at Aylesbury United and he seemed a decent bloke, and in fact did a good job with the Ducks, getting them doing as well as they had done in a while. Other well known names included former Gillingham & Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler, former Carlisle player Rod Thomas who played against Wycombe in their first game in the football league. Last but not least, Northern Ireland international Gerry Armstrong who played in their heroic 1982 World Cup performance when they beat Spain on their own patch.


On the day I was working as our usual for a Sunday. Although I finished just before noon, I was still quite tired and so bought myself a 2 litre bottle of Diet Irn Bru to perk me up. I went home, and after having a bath and getting some lunch, I was ready to set off. I left around 2.15, arriving in a side street near Amersham's ground around 20 minutes later.


I was pleased to see that there were plenty of programmes left upon my arrival, and that they were included in the entry price of £5. After taking some pictures of inside the bar and a couple of other bits that I missed last time, I took a seat in the stand, read my programme and made a start on my blog. Soon enough though, kick off was upon us, and before kick off, they had a minutes silence for Dave Bewley, who also had the cup that they were playing for named in his honour.


The minutes silence was observed by most, apart from a couple of little kids who made noise. The game kicked off 15 minutes late in the end, due to the late arrival of some players. The early stages of the game saw Watford asking all the questions, but the Amersham defence was good and strong, even out muscling a tank like Tommy Mooney. Amersham did see a decent amount of the ball, but generally third forward players were unable to hold it up top and the ball went straight back down the other end. The weather had cooled off by now, and this was good for the fans, but also good for the players as it allowed the pace  of the game to be fairly reasonable. As a few of them looked the only sessions they did were at the pub as opposed to the gym, I wondered whether this would continue.  It was Amersham who had the first real chance on 32 minutes when they forced a smart save out of keeper Gary Phillips. A few minutes later however, Watford were in the lead, a defender deflecting Tommy Mooney's shot into his own net.


That was how it remained at the break and after a 10 minute half time break, it was Amersham who looked slightly stronger at the start of the second half. Despite this Watford extended their lead on 64 minutes with a well worked goal. There had been a lot of changes at half time, and this slowed the game down considerably and the game got quite dull. Even so Tommy Mooney got Watford's third with a decent strike from range. From then on, it was pretty much all Watford with Amersham having the occasional chance on the break. That was how it ended, and although the quality of the game had varied in patches, it was still well worth a fiver entry, and I had a good day.

SPRATLEYS MEADOW is a good ground for step 6, and would be fine for the next level up.  The only stand in the ground seats around 50, and probably twice that amount standing behind. View from this is very good, thanks to one side of the ground being on a bank. The rest of the ground is uncovered, but is in pleasant surroundings, and was nice to visit on a summers day.

The bar and tea bar did the usual range of drinks and food, all at reasonable prices. The programme was a bit of a generic cover design, and quite thin, but you can't complain for free, and the print quality and layout was good. Despite my initial experience, the club were really friendly on match day, and I'd say they were well worth a visit for a game.

            

Saturday, 26 July 2014

AFC Kempston Rovers - Hillgrounds Leisure


AFC Kempston Rovers
Hillgrounds Leisure
Hillgrounds Road
Kempston
Bedford
MK42 8SZ


01234 852346






Ground Number: 387
Saturday 26th July 2014
AFC Kempston Rovers 0-1 Aylesbury United
Friendly



I hadn't decided where to go on this day, right up until a couple of days before. Anwar said he didn't want to go far and said he would probably go to either Wycombe Wanderers v Reading, or Harrow Borough v Arsenal U21. I was all set on the former, but it really didn't excite me, as I would just be going as there was nothing better, and it was my team. So I went on the Kempster Non League Forum, and text Anwar with a list of the possible games we could do on there. He fancied AFC Kempston v Aylesbury United out of all of those, and so we decided to do that.

AFC Kempston Rovers founded in 1884, under the name of Kempston Rovers. They joined the United Counties League in 1953 and have remained there ever since. They were Champions of the Premier Division back in 1973-74, losing just once in the league all season.  In their best ever run in the FA Cup, they got all the way to the 4th Qualifying Round in 1978 before losing to Wealdstone. The FA Vase 5th Round was reached in 1974-75. Last season they finished 12th, and picked up an unwanted record for the lowest attendance in the league that season when 31 fans watched them in August against Stewart & Lloyds Corby, who went on to finish bottom.


In September and October 1996 I did work experience at Aylesbury United's Soccer In The Community office. Working with Pete and Bob I set up their computer for them, went out doing training at local schools and re-organised the club shop amongst other things. I had a great time, meeting players such as Gary Phillips (Aylesbury manager at the time), Paul Buckle and Stafford Rangers manager Brendan Phillips. Also whilst I was there Alan Smith got the sack from Wycombe, something I had been hoping for, for a long time. One of the perks in addition to all the freebies I got was free tickets for me, my Dad and my brother to their game with Yeovil in November 1996. They were really great people, and so I felt sorry for them when they lost their ground in 2006. That meant a groundshare - firstly at Chesham, and since 2009 at Leighton Town. This saw a rapid downturn in form, and the club that spent a season in the Conference at the end of the 1980s dropped as low as the Spartan South Midlands League at step 5 of the non league pyramid. It took them 3 seasons to get back up to step 4, finally going up as runners up in 2013, along with champions Dunstable Town. Rumours continue to persist of a new ground in Aylesbury, and the club certainly has potential to support a big team - they pulled in over 1000 fans a game during the good times in the late 80's. The original Buckingham Road ground lays derelict and almost beyond repair which is such a waste. 



I'd been out for a fair few pints the night before, so I was feeling quite groggy when I woke at 7am, I watched TV for a couple of hours before having a bath. After a look on the Internet,mi decided to go to Aylesbury early, leaving at 11.30. I got a Piri Piri Burger meal at a local shop, and also some batteries from a shop. I met Anwar at 12.40 and we arrived at Kempston an hour later.


Before paying to get in, I went in the bar and had a pint of Somersby Cider,while checking out what was going on with Facebook. I took my seat 10 minutes before kick off. It was a dull first half, with the home side on top, but going in scoreless. The second half commenced, and this time out Aylesbury were the side in control. They got their reward on 73 minutes when they opened the scoring with a header. Kempston had opportunities on the break, but fairly simple chances were missed. In the end, it remained 1-0 to the visitors.

HILLGROUNDS LEISURE is one of the better grounds at step 5, with the only stand covering almost the whole length of the pitch. This has a mixture of seating and stranding, probably holding around 800 in total. The bar is decent enough, with flat screen TV's and your usual range of drinks. I had already visited this ground last November on the way to Kings Lynn, and since my visit they changed the benches to proper seats.


   

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Chalfont Wasps - The Nest




Chalfont Wasps FC
The Nest
The Playing Fields
Crossleys
Bowstridge Lane
Chalfont St Giles
Bucks
HP8 4QN

01494 875050





Ground Number: 386
Thursday 24th July 2014
Chalfont Wasps 1-11 Marlow United
Friendly




Originally on this night, I had been planning to go to the delightfully named Eversley and California v Aldershot Town. This match had been announced months ago, and was one of the first I had planned in, as it was due to mark the opening off the home sides floodlights. I had looked a few weeks ago, and there was no mention of the game anywhere, nor any updates on the hosts site. Someone even mentioned to me that the club had bitten the dust, so I decided to scrub it off of the list. This date remained vacant until pretty much the day of the game, when I decided to go fairly local to Chalfont Wasps v Marlow United. I did consider this previously, but with seemingly no one manning the home club's Twitter, they were unable to tell me whether it was at their home ground or not. In the end, Marlow United Twitter confirmed it, so it was all systems go.

Chalfont Wasps were formed in 1922. They spent much of their history in local leagues until 1984, when they joined the  Chiltonian League. This league merged with the Hellenic League in 2000 and 8 years later Chalfont Wasps were crowned champions of the Division 1 East. They finished a superb 7th in their only season in the Hellenic Premier, but were demoted due to an insufficient ground. They have had a mixed bag of finishes since then, ranging from 4th to 9th. Last season saw a 6th placed finish. They have only ever played one game in FA Competitions, this came in the Vase in 2008, when they narrowly lost to Kidlington in the 2nd Qualifying Round.




Marlow United were formed in 1977 and have spent most of their seasons in the Reading League. Their heyday came in the mid noughties when they spent 4 seasons in the Hellenic League, even winning a promotion to the Premier Division in that time. They finished a best ever 15th in 2009, but little over a year after that, they had resigned from the league due to financial issues and returned to the Reading League. I was present at their first ever FA Cup game in 2007, where they lost narrowly to Cove of the Combined Counties League. The following season, they went one better - beating Hungerford Town before losing to Beaconsfield SYCOB in the Preliminary Round. In the FA Vase their best run came in 2006 when they beat Bournemouth Poppies before losing to Wantage Town in the 2nd Qualifying Round.

On the day of the game I was working, but only till 12PM and it was a pretty easy day. I spent the afternoon watching TV, typing my blog and chatting online before having dinner and leaving at 6.15.


I left on time and in the end the journey was a lot quicker than expected, with me getting there in 20 minutes. I parked up and checked my phone for messages before going off to find the football pitch. It was very basic with only the one area of cover and only a handful of people watching. There was a minutes silence before kick off, possibly for Kyrece Francis, the 13 year old nephew of former Wycombe player Lewis Cook, who died in an accident on the Thames in Marlow recently, such a tragedy when he had his whole life ahead of him.

The game was spilt into 3 thirds, and there were quite a lot of goals as you will see below. I’ve done my best to get the goal scorers and timings correct, but it was tricky to sport what number some of them were wearing. 

FIRST THIRD

06: Marlow United take the lead after number 15 lobs the keeper, a chance made possible by a good through ball. (0-1)

13: Home side had a chance to equalise, but no one connected with number 9’s cross. They paid the price as number 15 gets his second with a low shot from close range. (0-2)

15: Number 16 scores with an angled shot into the bottom right hand corner. It seems to be all one way traffic, but Chalfont did have a chance towards the end, number 10 being unable to make contact with the ball when it was fed into him. (0-3)


SECOND THIRD

40: Number 7 has an easy finish, he profited from poor zonal marking (0-4)

42: Poor marking again, allows number 4 to score with a today finish (0-5) 

47: Chalfont have actually seen some of the ball at the start of this second period, number 10 gets a goal back for them (1-5)

54: Keeper couldn’t keep out number 10’s powerful shot, the defender was unable to clear it off the line, and it’s getting embarrassing for Chalfont (1-6)


FINAL THIRD

65: The best goal of the night, a wonderful curling shot from number 15, tight from the corner of the box. It goes in off the post, and is worth the effort of going to the game for that goal alone (1-7)

74: A great goal by number 4, from the edge of the area, flies in the top right hand corner (1-8)

78: The first time I have seen a team score 9, the ball was chipped over the keeper by number 9 into no mans land and he was left with an empty net to head in to. (1-9)

84: It looked like the home side were trying to wind the clock down to avoid the ignominy of double figures. It didn’t work, as number 13 slots in the lose ball, following another defensive mess, (1-10)

88: Number 14 finds himself in the clear, rounds the keeper to make it a throughly miserable evening for Chalfont Wasps.

FULL TIME FROM THE NEST: CHALFONT WASPS 1-11 MARLOW UNITED

Well it’s taken me 1483 games to finally see double figures, the previous highest score coming in the mid 2000’a when AFC Wimbledon beat Cove 8-Marlow United were a league below their hosts too, though it was very much a squad game, with rolling substitutes. I’m not sure what to make of Chalfont, but one thing is for sure, Marlow United were mighty impressive and could have had 20. I’d back them to do well in the Reading Senior League next season. After the game, I drove home and was back within 20 minutes, having enjoyed seeing a bit of personal history made, I spent the rest of the evening digesting the figures, and set about writing by blog, before watching TV and going to sleep.


THE NEST is a very basic ground, as is generally the case in the lower divisions of the Hellenic. The only area of cover is not a brilliant design, having the dugouts bang in front of it. Even so, it was a nice enough place to watch football on a sunny evening. There was a very nice modern bar with a basic range of drinks on and TV’s showing the sports channels too. Chalfont St Giles Village centre is nearby too. 
         

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

St Margaretsbury - The Recreation Ground



St Margaretsbury FC
The Recreation Ground
Station Road
Stanstead Abbots
Hertfordshire
SG12 8EH


01920 870473





Ground Number: 385
Tuesday 22nd July 2014
St Margaretsbury 3-1 Cheshunt
Friendly



My pre season was continuing apace, as I was well into double figures, less than 20 days since the start of my season at Lincoln. The Spartan South Midlands League was one that I was getting close to completing, and with the weather being hot and the game being pretty local, it seemed like a good choice.

St Margaretsbury were formed in 1894 as Stanstead Abbots (the name of the village in which the club is located) , changing their hame to their present monicker in 1962. They played in the Hertfordshire League up until 1992, when they took the step up to the Spartan League. They won this league in 1996, but did not take promotion. A season later the league amalgamated with the South Midlands League, and the best finish since was 3rd, achieved in 2004. This was the same season as their best ever FA Cup run - beating Henley, Harpenden Town and Leighton Town, before losing 2-0 to Kettering Town in the 3rd Qualifying Round. The best ever FA Vase run came in 1985-86, their first ever season in the competition. They needed 2 replays to see off local rivals Arlesey Town in the Preliminary Round, eventually losing 1-0 to Wisbech in Round 3.


Cheshunt, or at least the present version of the club were formed in 1946, though originally there was a club in the town as early as 1880. They moved to their present home in the 1950's, at first spending a period away due to the poor condition of the pitch. The ground has seen several improvements over the years - in 1982 seating was added and these seats came from Spurs old West Stand at White Hart Lane, which had just been demolished. The club joined the Isthmian League in 1977 and have spent most of their time in and around the various divisions, aside from brief spells in the Spartan and Southern Leagues. They did have one spell in the Isthmian Premier Division in 2004/05, and that ended in a 19th placed finish. They transferred to the Southern League for a few years, with a best ever finish of 16th, but finished bottom the year after and were relegated to Isthmian D1 North, where they have remained ever since. In the FA Cup, they have reached the 4th Qualifying Round on a few occasions, the first time losing to Wycombe 8-0. The FA Trophy 3rd Round is a personal best, this coming in more recent times, back during the 2004/05 season.  I had seen the club play on 2 occasions - firstly a 0-0 draw with Southend Manor, then less than a fortnight ago, where they were unlucky to lose 3-2 to Wycombe.



I spent the day relaxing at home as it was my day off. I had plenty of time to spare but didn't feel like doing anything, but I did at least make a start on tonight's blog, before I left home at 5pm. After getting to Anwar's at 5.30, we were on our way. Even with 20 minutes delay on the severely flawed M25, we were still there at 6.45, a full hour before kick off. The gates weren't even open, so we waited outside in the sun until they did.

Eventually the gate opened just after 7.15 and we were given a friendly welcome after paying our £5 entry. Sadly there were no programmes though, so I started making one on my iPad as I have started to do with all games that don't issue. After that, I checked Facebook and took a seat in the stand for kick off.

St Margaretsbury who had finished 4th in their league the last 2 seasons in succession started brightly against their opponents who were a division above. They got their reward 10 minutes in when the home side opened the scoring with a cracking 30 yard thunderbolt that went in off the bar. They had the ball in the net again after 20 minutes, but the effort was ruled off for offside. Cheshunt had to make do with the occasional counter attack but that didn't stop one of their fans shouting out instructions every 5 seconds, which started to grate after a while seen as he was sat just behind me. In fact there were a fair number of fans from there making a bit of noise, although it was a bit one sided as I didn't see anyone cheering for the home side. In the end I moved out of the stand and stood further along the grass bank. The visitors soon started to get back into it, and on the half hour mark they got a cracking equaliser. St Margaretsbury had a penalty claim, and I found out they did have some vocal support when a fan raised the claim with the tubby linesman. The official replied by telling him to shut up, and when heckled again, told the fan he was boring.

I tried to get some chips at half time,but they didn't have any in stock. Instead, I had some grapes that I had bought earlier, while checking what games were on at the weekend. The second half was a lot more restricted in terms of chances, but St Margaretsbury did have another strong penalty claim though, which was turned down flat by the referee. As the game wore on, it looked as if my pre match prediction of 1-1 would be correct. The linesman copped some more stick and the Cheshunt keeper made a couple of great saves late on to deny the hosts a winner. They were not to be denied however, and right at the death they scored 2 quick goals. First the number 9 rounded the keeper to give St Margaretsbury a deserved lead, and then the same player had an easy tap in after Cheshunt failed to cut out a low cross, much to the fury of their keeper.

It had been a good game and an enjoyable evening, with a deserved victory for the hosts. The only downer was getting flashed by a speed camera on the way home, on the M25. I will have my fingers crossed that nothing will come through the post in the next few weeks, as I want to keep a clean licence.


THE RECREATION GROUND is a pretty nice venue to watch football. The only area of cover is a combined seat and terrace stand, which probably holds around 300 in total. It is up on a bank, so you get a good view, even though there is a floodlight pylon in the way. I didn't try the tea bar or clubhouse, but both looked pretty smart, and above average for this level.