Saturday, 16 May 2015

Coggeshall Town - The Crops

Coggeshall Town FC
The Crops
West Street

01376 562843

Ground Number: 494
Saturday 16th May 2014
Coggeshall Town 0-2 University of Essex
Essex & Suffolk Border League

As it was coming to the end of the season, the games were severely drying up, even for a Saturday. With all of steps 1-6 complete, it would have to be something from step 7 of non league or below. A basic grass pitch in Middlesex or Hertfordshire seemed my destiny, but then looking further afield I saw the Essex & Suffolk Border League. I remembered that Harwich & Parkeston who once played in that league had a cracking ground. Although they were not at home, a few others were and Coggeshall Town were one of them. They had spent a short amount of time at a higher level and had a stand, and it looked well worth a visit. Added to the fact that a couple of people I knew from Facebook might attend and I was sold.

Coggeshall Town were formed in 1888, making them one of the oldest clubs in Essex. Their best period came in the 1970's and 80's when they were in the Essex Senior League. Their best ever finish came in 1973 and 1974 when they finished an excellent 3rd in the Essex Senior League, plying their trade amongst such teams as Billericay Town & Witham Town who have now gone on to establish themselves in the Isthmian League. 1975 also saw the best ever FA Vase run, with them getting to the 3rd Round. They beat Bungay Town and Brightlingsea United before a home defeat to Clacton Town. Due to financial issues and the lack of floodlights they have had to drop down to more local leagues. They were enjoying a decent season this year, sitting in 5th place. Opponents University of Essex were sitting a place below, and could go above the hosts if they won.

On the day of the game I woke at around 9am, having had a good 6 hours sleep having not got to bed until 3am the previous night. I still felt pretty decent and had a browse on the internet before having a bath. I then had the rather unusual breakfast choice of Chilli Con Carne with some Irn Bru. I wasn’t really in a rush to go, so I edited some of the video I had captured from the game I went to last night, as well as typing my blog. By the time I had done that and got a few other things sorted it was 12.15 when I left home

After going down the local shop to use the Cash Machine, it was 12.25 by the time I left for the game. I had a decent journey over there, arriving at the ground at 1.50. As I was taking pictures of the signs outside the ground, I met Dan North, a fellow groundhopper and a Braintree fan. We had a great chat as we walked to the bar, where I had a pint of Somersby for £3.50. Dan told me there was a good chippy down the road, and so after checking that it was still open, I walked down there. Coggeshall was a pretty little town with bags of character and I wished I'd had more time to explore it. There was a DIY shop there called 'Four Candles' which was a nod to the famous Two Ronnies sketch of the same name. I easily found the chippy and it was well worth it. The chips were freshly cut, not one was identical to another and they were delicious. It was a shame some of the other stiff was above average cost, but the chips were great value at £1.60.

I eat them while walking back to the ground, meeting another Dan who had bought me along a couple of nice things. Firstly a Braintree scarf to add to my collection, and also a new mate in Maurice who as well as supporting Braintree, also followed Ipswich who had sadly lost 3-1 to Norwich earlier in the 'Farmergeddon' playoff semi final in the Championship earlier that afternoon. There was more football chat, along with discussion of our plans and hopes for next season.

The first half was goalless but it wasn't too bad of a game. The second half saw the University of Essex take the lead on 53 minutes with an angled low shot into the bottom left hand corner. The Uni keeper seemed very keen on charging out of his area. He had already got a yellow card earlier on in the game when he was involved in a collision with an opposing striker. This time he came out and was clattered himself. It took a lengthy time to treat him and once his head wound was patched up he had to change his shirt. This was slightly annoying for me as one of the iconic football pictures is of Terry Butcher in a bloodied England shirt and I'd encourage it, not make a fuss. The game was sealed deep into injury time as the University of Essex number 14 rounded the keeper and sealed the game by putting a ball into the empty net.

After the game I said goodbye to the lads. It had been a really good day and hopefully we can make plans to meet soon, with the case of the second Dan, it will be at Wembley tomorrow for the Conference playoff final. It was a good drive home and I was back home by 6.30, even with stopping at Tesco. I spent the evening typing my blog, chatting online and watching TV.

THE CROPS is a great ground for step 7. With the addition of floodlights, it would easily be a step 5 ground. The stand has round 100 seats, plus the same for standing and there is a rail round 2 sides of the pitch. The bar is nice enough, with a basic selection of drinks, as well as a BBQ for food outside. The town is around a 15 minute walk away - it's very nice and has a fair choice of places to eat and drink. 

Huntingdon Town - Jubilee Park

Huntingdon Town FC
Jubilee Park
Kings Ripton Road
PE28 2NR

07525 185001

Ground Number: 493
Friday 15th May 2015
Godmanchester Rovers 3-0 Yaxley
Hunts Senior Cup Final

It was coming to the end of the season, and I was looking to complete as many games as possible before the boring summer break came along. Friday night was as good as any, and with my options scarce, I opted for the Hunts FA Cup Final between Godmanchester Rovers and Yaxley. It was not the most inspiring of venues, but it did at least have a decent choice of pubs, albeit with some of them being over 2 miles walk away, but with me not being bothered about a walk and needing to burn off the cider anyway as I was driving, it seemed as good a reason as any to leave early and avoid the rush hour traffic. A decision would be made on the day, depending on how I felt, but I was going to enjoy it nonetheless. It would be a bit more expensive than usual for fuel - my car was in for repair for a few days after a deer had run into the side of it. I was given a replacement - a huge and uneconomical Vauxhall Mokka, but with the season coming to an end, I was just going to have to bear the cost.

The host club, Huntingdon Town were formed in 1980, despite a previous club going by that name in the town. Originally known as Montagu and then Sun FC they played in the Cambridgeshire and West Anglian leagues. Changing their name in 1996 to the current monicker, they moved to current home Jubilee Park in 2003 which allowed them to join the United Counties League. They struggled at first in Division 1, but gradually improved. In 2012 they were Champions, earning a place in the Premier Division for the following season. a 4th placed finish was an excellent debut season and they followed that up last season with the runners up spot. Sadly for them this season saw a drop in fortunes with them finishing in 16th, but they did at least finish well clear of relegation. They didn't have much of a history in the FA competitions, their most notable achievement on this score is reaching the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round. The last of these was the most interesting - in a game against Sleaford Town, the game was abandoned due to a huge punch up and both teams were thrown out of the competition. The towns most famous resident is Himesh Patel, who plays Tamwar Masood in BBC soap Eastenders.

Despite finishing a massive 26 points behind title winners Norwich United, Godmanchester Rovers had enjoyed an excellent season in the Eastern Counties League, sealing runners up spot on the final day. They had already won in this competition in the first round, smashing Huntingdon Town 7-2. They received a bye in the semi final. Even more bizarrely Yaxley had not even had to play a game to get to the final, but they had also enjoyed a good season, finishing 5th in the United Counties Premier. I had seen them as part of the UCL Hop back in August as they defeated league whipping boys Long Buckby 3-1 at Leading Drove.

On the day of the game, I was at work as per usual. Luckily it was a middling day in terms of business and so I was out and home before 1. That meant I had a couple of hours to spare and I spent it having a bath, having lunch and doing various other bits. I left around 10 minutes later than I'd have liked and although there were not any major traffic jams, there were the usual dawdlers who put 20 minutes on my journey. I was at Huntingdon Town FC at 5.15 which was the time I hoped to be in the pub by. I got myself in gear and with half jogging and half walking I halved my journey, getting to the pub at 5.35.

After 2 and a half miles through parks, I was looking forward to having something nice. The Falcon came up trumps with about 10 ciders, and short of doing food it was perfect. First up was a pint of Lilley's Lemon and lime cider, which was very refreshing and a great one to have with me driving later, with it only being 4%. For my second pint, it was an old favourite, Gwynt y Ddraig Fiery Fox. Anything from my favourite brewery I will not complain about having again. That was my lot for the night and so I went in search of food. There was not much choice and I ended up going to a place called Bunters as I couldn't see much else. The Chicken wrap meal deal at £3.80 sounded good in essence, but it wasn't on reality. The only drink was coke (which I don't like) and they ended up ruining my chicken wrap by putting crappy mayo on it without consulting me. I ended up picking the Chicken out and binning the rest. It was then a slightly slower walk back to the ground with me being fuller and checking Facebook on the way back.

I got back to the ground at 7.15, paying an above average £8 for entry, though it did at least include a programme. I was trialling filming the game on my new camera, picked up for the princely sum of £25 off of eBay in the week. I don't think I will be doing every game, but may stick to the FA Cup ones that I go to. The whole operation was very amateur but I did at least capture all 3 goals.  It was a convincing victory for Godmanchester Rovers as they easily beat Yaxley, with a Tom Meecham hat trick doing the damage. The video is below.

After the game I watched the trophy being presented before leaving at 10. It was a much quicker journey home and I was back home by 11.15. I went on the internet for a bit and was wide awake, despite getting up at 4am after only a few hours sleep last night. I must have been up until about 3am, passing the time watching TV and stuff on Youtube.

JUBILEE PARK is a basic but well kept venue which is around a couple of miles out of town. All the covered accommodation is on one side and is of the metal pre fabricated variety. Just under 100 seats are supplemented by around the same in terracing. The ground has an official capacity of 1000, but could probably take more if needed. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Bardon Hill - Bardon Close

Bardon Hill FC
Bardon Close
LE67 4BS

01530 815569

Ground Number: 492
Friday 1st May 2015
Bardon Hill 6-1 Ellistown & Ibstock
East Midland Counties League

With the football season soon coming to a halt, plus the fact that I liked a Sunday night game, I was determined to go and see a game on the first day of May, and there was actually a decent choice for once. Top of my list initially was Fakenham Town v Newmarket Town in the Eastern Counties League, as I'd know about that one a while back. But then I spotted one that was a bit nearer in Coalville based Bardon Hill FC. They were facing Ellistown & Ibstock, who I had seen when they lost 2-1 at Worksop Town earlier this season in the FA Vase. I learned the day before that I would be doing the trip on my own as Anwar couldn't make it due to other commitments. I was glad that it was not too far as this season had been a very expensive one as I had really gone to town on matches, and it was only self discipline that had stopped me doing a whole load more.

BARDON HILL were founded in 1890. With it being a small village of only 500 people, they have done well to sustain a team at a decent level for so long. Joining the Leicestershire Senior League in 1994/95, this coincided with the move to their new ground in Bardon Close. Initially playing in Division 1, they finished runners up in 2006 behind Anstey Town to claim promotion to the Premier Division. They became founder members of the East Midland Counties League in the 2008/09 season, finishing a best ever 4th place in 2009. Since then they have finished in or around mid table. But amazingly this season they could be crowned champions in the very game I was going to! They would face stiff opposition form Ellistown & Ibstock though. Being local rivals would add a bit of spice to the game and although they lost 7-1 at Halesowen Town in the FA Cup, they had beaten the now defunct Hereford United 3-2 previously, a notable result considering the Edgar Street side were a couple of leagues above them.

The hosts themselves had been involved in a good FA Cup run in 2008/09. Disposing of Arnold Town in the Extra Preliminary Round, they faced their closest geographical rivals Coalville Town in the next round. In something of a surprise result, they beat the odds to triumph 1-0. They would go on to beat Barton Town Old Boys before falling to an 8-0 defeat to Northwich Victoria in the 2nd Qualifying Round. A couple of years later they got to the FA Vase 2nd Round where they fell to a 5-1 defeat to Tipton Town. They are based in the small village of Bardon and the team name comes from the local hill which was also a former volcano.

On the day of the game, it was horribly busy at work, and I didn’t get out until nearly 2PM. I could have been stuck behind for longer, but I decided that once my work was done, I was out of there. I didn’t even have a break I was in that much of a rush and I only had an hour at home to have a bath and get ready for the game. One thing I was pleased to see was a Hendon FC pennant and a programme from the game I went to at Claremont Road in 2000. I had been after this for ages, and the club were very helpful with them only charging me for the items and postage, with the pennant being a bargain at £1. They were supposed to be involved in the playoffs on Thursday but due to the Isthmian League and FA’s dawdling, the game was delayed. It was due to Enfield Town fielding an ineligible player - but the thing is, they were only told that they couldn’t use him a while after the game due to paperwork going astray. They reported themselves immediately and now face a 3 point deduction for something that was not their fault. For Hendon it means uncertainty over when they will play the game, or indeed the opponents - as things stand Metropolitan Police FC will step in if Enfield’s appeal fails. 

I wanted to leave at 3.30 and in the end left a few minutes later than I wanted to. I stopped at B&M bargains in Aylesbury to get some stuff for the weekend and this had the added bonus of cutting around 15 miles off the journey. As you would expect, it was busy in the roads and the M1 was it's usual pathetic self, often coming to a standstill, especially through the 20 miles of roadworks. I got into Coalville after 30 minutes delay at 6.30. For dinner I went to Fusion BBQ & Pizza house where I had Piri Piri chicken. It was served pretty quick and I ate it before leaving for the ground. Very nice it was too, had I arrived earlier I might have gone to Wetherspoons for a sit down meal, as they are very good value.

I was there and in by 6.55 but unbelievably they had already sold out of programmes, annoying many people and costing themselves a fair bit of money in the process. I went into the bar and got myself a pint of Strongbow while I waited for the game to start, with the crowd getting ever bigger for a pivotal match. I met AFC Bournemouth fan 'Cherry Hopper' off of the Kempster forum and while chatting to him I found out that he'd had the last programme a couple of minutes before I'd got there. I was hoping to get an electronic copy or a reprint. Either way I was not going to do what a certain hopper did after going to Maltby Main in Yorkshire. He had travelled nearly 200 miles, but upon hearing that programmes had sold out, he sulked in the car for 2 hours without going in while his mate watched the game. I also bumped into a few familiar faces as kick off approached including Chris and Jack who I had met several times before, with it being a big match and a Friday night, there were plenty of hoppers in attendance.

A brief summary of the game from my point of view - I have included the match report from the official Bardon Hill website below for a better and more concise opinion. Bardon Hill controlled the game from start to finish, scoring some cracking goals. Ellistown & Ibstock scored a penalty early on to much cheers from programmeless groundhoppers. But this was the home sides night. The pick of the goals for me was the 4th, a dipping volley into the top right hand corner by Carl Slater. The game was over at half time with it being 5-1. There was one more goal and a bit of handbags in the second half as tempers spilled after a meaty tackle from the visitors. The ref handled it well though and overall had a good game which was nice to see.

After the game I stayed around and watched the cup being presented. There was an impromptu fireworks display amongst jubilant scenes amongst the players and club officials. They had pulled off a real feat by winning the league and on the evidence of what I had seen before me, it was richly deserved.It was a shame that they had not produced enough programmes as it put me in a bit of a negative mood and meant that I didn't enjoy the game as much as I should have. I did get a couple of back issues from a kind club official though and that was better than nothing. In fact everyone at the club was really nice and I was pleased for their success. I had a decent drive home, getting back at 11.45 and chilling for a couple of hours before bed.

BARDON HILL CLOSE is a great little ground for step 6 and could probably serve the club up to step 4 level. There is a covered seated stand for around 200 and along that side uncovered terracing as well. The rest of the ground is flat standing. The bar is smart and does a well kept pint of Strongbow amongst other things. The tea bar also had a wide selection, though I didn't partake as I had already eaten. Overall a nice day out at a club run by good people.