Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Bovingdon FC - Green Lane

Bovingdon FC

Green Lane
Hemel Hempstead

Ground Number: 587
Tuesday 3rd May 2016
Bovingdon 1-1 Evergreen
Herts Senior League - Premier Division

Once again I'd be on my own for groundhopping and so I wanted something local and low cost. I'd actually tried to visit here back in April, but was thwarted by an afternoon downpour which meant that their game against London Lions was postponed. That was replayed last Thursday and resulted in a 2-2 draw - however I only noticed a few minutes before kick off that it was being played. Instead I chose tonights encounter against Evergreen as the game to go to. As it was only 13 miles from me it was ideal. I'd actually been considering visiting here back in May 2014 but chose Belstone instead. They both play in the Hertfordshire Senior County League at step 7 of the non-league pyramid, or level 11 of football overall. I had been to the village of Bovingdon several times before, mainly for it's market. Pretty much every single stall is full of knock offs so if you want a DVD of the latest cinema release, a moody Rolex or fake Gucci tracksuit, then this is the place to go.

BOVINGDON FC were formed in 1910 and spent their early years in the West Hertfordshire League. In 1955 they joined the Herts Senior League, winning its second tier in their first season. That earned them promotion to the league's Premier Division and it is there where they have spent most of their time ever since. Their worst spell came in the mid 60's where 2 successive relegations saw them relegated to Division 2, finishing 10th to mark their lowest ever league position and spending 3 seasons in total at the lower level. They've been in the Premier since 2007 and last season had their joint best ever league placing when they finished 3rd. They sat 6th before this evening's game, with a mathematical chance of finishing 2nd due to games in hand, however, this is extremely unlikely.

In terms of cups, they have never entered the FA Cup or FA Vase, probably due to lack of floodlights. They have won every local cup competition going though with the Apsley Senior Cup, Watford Peace Cup, Webster Cup, Chiltern Villages Cup, Herts Junior Cup, St Mary's Cup and most recently in 2005 the Rickmansworth Cup. The village has one notable sporting resident - former Arsenal and England keeper David Seaman. Opponents Evergreen were struggling and lost 2-1 at home to London Lions on Saturday, while Bovingdon lost 4-1 at Buntingford Town to carry on a run of 3 games without victory.

It was the usual Tuesday drill of my day off and a walk down town. After I came back I spent the afternoon checking out some stats on tonight's game and carrying on watching my 'Goodnight Sweetheart' box set. I spent the last part before dinner going through my savings accounts for the first time in a couple of years, trying to make the most of the pitiful rates on offer. After a dinner of chilli con carne I left at 5.45. It was a very cross country route with plenty of tiny roads, but at least it avoided the traffic in the most part. I arrived at the ground at 6.15, parking in the nearby tennis club car park. After getting some pictures of the ground I picked a spot near the halfway line and settled down to watch the game.

The game started fairly open but without many clear cut chances. It came alive on 38 minutes when Bovingdon were awarded a free kick just outside the area. The effort was off target but the referee spotted a push in the area and awarded a penalty. The effort was initially saved but the linesman adjudged that the keeper had come off his line and ordered a retake. Though the keeper made a decent effort at saving it, the ball just crept past him to make it 1-0 to the hosts. Shortly before half time Evergreen also had an effort but it was well over the bar. The second half was pretty even too and Evergreen got their equaliser just before the hour mark. A decent corner was put in, the Bovingdon keeper flapped at it and there was a player on hand to force it over the line from close range. That was how it stayed, thanks in no small part to a number of great saves from the Evergreen keeper. It hadn’t been as good as Monday’s game at Eversley & California, but it was still a decent evenings entertainment. The game was over by 8.10 and I was home 20 minutes later. This made a pleasant change to the usual scenario of getting back well past midnight, then being knackered as I was up for work at 4am. I even had time to put this blog up, as well as catching up online before watching TV in bed and getting to sleep at a reasonable hour.

GREEN LANE is an excellent ground for the Hertfordshire League and with the addition of floodlights could easily serve as a step 6 ground and a step 5 with the addition of a small stand. There is just the one area of cover, but it’s pretty big and you could probably get a few hundred in standing up. It is however mainly used for seating with around 30 spaces on the back row. Leg room is unlimited and the view is good despite a number of supporting poles. It's also in a nice peaceful area and very well kept, with pride taken in the grounds appearance, which isn't always the case.

The bar is also a decent place, with a number of choices on draught, including Thatchers Gold for cider heads like me which costs £3 a pint. I didn’t indulge on the night, but also available are hot and cold non alcoholic drinks. I didn’t see any food for sale, but the kitchen has a 5 star rating from the health authority. Programmes are issued sporadically, with them tending to issue for the bigger weekend games, so none available tonight. But that’s no concern for me, I saw a reasonable game of football in a friendly atmosphere and best of all it was free entry and is so for every single game. I'd certainly consider visiting again, and would recommend a visit to any hopper.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Eversley & California - Halls Way

Eversley & California FC
Halls Way
Fox Lane
RG27 0NS

Ground Number: 586
Monday 2nd May 2016
Eversley & California 2-3 Bedfont & Feltham
Combined Counties D1

I knew I’d be working this day and given that it had been busy day, I was expecting a late finish and a quick dash to football and limited choice of games. Even so I did consider some longer trips, giving my fellow groundhopper Chris a lift if I went via Milton Keynes. A potential double was on the cards with a few evening kicks offs, but I thought the chances of it happening were slim. In between my last groundhop and now I’d seen another Wycombe game as yet another disappointing showing saw us lose 1-0 at home to promotion chasing Accrington Stanley. The main problem is goalscoring - with us having scored just 14 goals in our last 23 games since the turn of the  year. For once I was glad that the season at home was over for Wycombe, but I was still looking forward to some groundhops, though not so much to our trip to Oxford United next Saturday where the chances of a happy outcome are slim - at least for the Wycombe supporters. There were a number of choices if I did do a game on my own, but pretty much the front runner was Eversley & California which would only be around a 60 mile round trip if I left from work. With me ever keen to save a bit of money this was ideal and it was a game that had something riding on it, even at this late stage of the season. I did think that Eversley & California saounded a bit like an obscure 1970's rock band though, even so I was looking forward to a fairly local trip.

EVERSLEY & CALIFORNIA were formed in 2012 as the result of a merger between the 2 clubs. EVERSLEY were a senior side, competing mainly in the Surrey Leagues whilst California were a junior team for youngsters in the next village. Prior to the merger Eversley had been promoted to the Combined Counties League back in 2009 and had made a steady start, finishing as high as 5th in their last season under their former name. With the 2 clubs now working together they could now raise vital funds for ground improvements needed for promotion. The village of Eversley is one of the most affluent in the UK, though with that money comes the self interested and NIMBY attitudes of local residents. It was for that reason that they never got full permission for floodlights, having to use a temporary solution as and when needed and as a result were denied promotion in 2014. They fell away last season, finishing in 9th but this season has seen a climb up the table and at the start of the game they sat in 5th place. Even better, they now have permission to use the floodlights for the whole season - meaning that if they finish in the top 3 in future, they will be able to take up the promotion that they deserve.

The club have not yet competed in the FA Cup and only have one FA Vase appearance. That was in 2014/15 where they hosted Hellenic League side Tuffley Rovers who would go on to gain promotion that season. An entertaining 3-3 draw was played out and with the 2 sides a fair distance apart, it was agreed to settle the tie on the day. It went down to a penalty shoot out and Eversley lost out 6-5 in the shootouts after over 2 hours football had been played in the 2nd Qualifying Round tie. The club won the Surrey Intermediate League Cup as well as the leagues itself in the double winning year of 2009. They can name ex football league player Andy Clement as one of their former coaches whilst rugby player Will Carling and football manger Nigel Adkins have links to the town.

On the day of the game, I was not too chuffed to be working the Bank Holiday, but I have to do two a year and it was good to get one of them out of the way as soon as possible. Thankfully it was a nice easy day and I was out by 10.15, getting some chicken to take with me to the game, as well as various other bits I needed. In any case I was getting paid until my normal finish of 1PM, so it was win-win for me. I had time for an hour at home, despite having to drive right past work I decided to use this, rather than go early and ‘tick’ Wokingham Wetherspoons. I had enough time to catch up on social media and also do a little bit of research for today’s game, as I hadn’t fully decided where I was going until 7.30 that morning. I left at 11.40, getting to the ground at 12.25, the first bulk of the drive being exactly the same route as I took to Fleet on Friday night. After having a look around and finding the clubhouse closed I made my way into the ground.

Sadly there was no programme, nor team information but at least it was fairly reasonable at £5 to get in. I had a walk around the ground, sitting and eating the chicken I had bought on the covered terrace. The match started bang on time and was an open encounter with both sides playing well on the break. The hosts took the lead on 6 minutes after a delivery from a corner was put in, wasn't cleared and Dan Griffiths effort from the edge of the area looped over the keeper to give his side the lead. Bedfont actually had the better chances from then on but were not helped by bickering amongst themselves and it remained 1-0 at the break. It was Eversley who made it 2-0 on 50 minutes - a decent ball down the line led to the chance and it was a great 20 yard strike from Lewis Robson that doubled their lead. They looked more like extending their lead but eventually Bedfont had a decent spell and the pressure told. Firstly on 73 minutes the ball was played through and Bedfont's Michael Campbell knocked the ball between the onrushing keepers legs. He completed his double two minutes later with a lovely lob over the keeper. The turnaround was completed on 78 minutes after a penalty was converted by Jacob Lambe following a foul in the area. Eversley's number 2 was sent off a few moments from time for kicking out in frustration and although the tackles got quite meaty at times it was generally a good natured game with the offender laughing and joking as he was sent off, even after his manager mentioned the prospect of a fine.

It had been a thoroughly decent afternoon’s entertainment between two good sides but the hosts ran out of steam in the end having gone 2-0 up. They were carrying a number of injuries and as a result had to name a central defender in goal who actually made a number of excellent saves, and could also name just the one substitute. In the end Bedfast just about deserved the win and may well pip CB Hounslow United to the title in the unlikely event that they fail to beat basement side Epsom Athletic next Saturday while the hosts finish in a credible 5th place. I drove home, listening to the Two Mikes on TalkSPORT where pompous food critic Jay Rayner got upset when they asked him questions that he didn’t fancy answering. The journey home was decent, though I was glad of the 1PM kick off as it started to rain quite heavily on the way back. I got in at 3.45 and typed my blog as well as doing some other paid work online. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and watching TV, safe in the knowledge that it was my day off tomorrow with a match at Bovingdon to look forward to in the evening. 

HALLS WAY is situated amongst pleasant greenery and is part of a big sports complex including a cricket club. It’s pretty flat and open so could suffer on a windy day, so my visit in mild sunshine was an ideal time to visit. It’s quite basic with just 2 arena metal type stands - one holding 57 seated and the other around 75 standing fans, This is more than enough for the attendances they get while the rest of the ground is open hard standing. There was no programme not bar open when I went, though there were a couple of pubs locally which were in the real ale guide, but not listed for real cider. The tea bar offered the usual range of burgers, hot dogs and bacon rolls as well as a good range of chocolate bars and hot and cold drinks. 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Fleet Spurs - Kennels Lane

Fleet Spurs FC
Kennels Lane
GU14 0ST

Ground Number: 585
Friday 29th April 2016
Fleet Spurs 0-3 Downton
Wessex League D1

After going to a game on almost every Friday this year, I wasn't sure at first whether I would make a game tonight. All my hopping friends were busy and with the nearest game being at Framlingham near Ipswich it would be an expensive night out. However, a saviour came in the Non-League Paper fixture list last Sunday in the form of Fleet Spurs. It was ideal being just 40 miles from home which was one of my closest grounds that I've not visited. I'd be able to eat at home before going to save even more money, and I was bound to know a few people there with Norwegian groundhopper Anders choosing the game as part of his trip over here.

FLEET SPURS were established in 1948 and started playing competitive football 3 years later after initially playing only friendly games. They initially competed in local Aldershot, Surrey & Hampshire League, experiencing plenty of success. After being very successful in the Hampshire League, this competition merged with the Wessex League where the club found success hard to come by at first. However things have gradually improved and in 2010 they had their best ever finish of 3rd in the Wessex Division 1, scoring 102 goals in the process. This season they were in 10th place with a game to go, and could either move up or down a place dependent on other results.

Success has been limited in the FA competitions with them yet to win in 2 attempts in the FA Cup. The FA Vase has also been quite barren with only the 2nd Qualifying Round being reached, though they did have a notable 6-1 victory over Petersfield Town in their debut season of 2010/11. Local cup wins include the Peter Benyon Cup in 1991 and both the Aldershot Junior Cup & the Hampshire Junior Cup in 1953. The club was the attention of Tottenham Hotspur lawyers in 2013 as their badge was deemed to be too similar to the Premiership clubs cockerel and they were forced to change for it the following season. Though they have no official links to their illustrious neighbours the club was set up as a homage to Spurs by those returning from World War 2. 

It was a brutal day at work, one of my busiest in a while which left me knackered and glad to get out of the place at 2. I went home and had a bath and had another look at games for next week. Though the choice of leagues are thinning out, there are still plenty of games and I could have the situation where I am doing a game every night of the week. Not the best thing seeing as I'll only get a few hours sleep with me being up at 4am every day but I wanted to get in games while I could before the season ended. I spent the afternoon watching some of my 'Goodnight Sweetheart' DVD box set that I'd bought off of eBay recently. After having a nice dinner of lamb shanks and cous cous, I left at 5.45. It was a good journey, save for a few slow spots and I was at the ground by 6.50.

After paying £5 to get in which included a programme. I chatted to another hopper OxPete while I waited for Norwegian hopper Anders to arrive. He'd been filling his boots at the Reading Ale & Cider festival and I was a tad jealous when I found they had 150 ciders on offer. For my pre-match pint I'd bought a can of Blackthorn from home to save money. I chatted to Anders and another hopper from Mossley while we watched the game from under the cover as it had started to rain. Downton were slightly the better side and they took the lead on 25 minutes when Tom Aldridge's persistence forced an own goal from Fleet after a goalmouth scramble. I was a bit peckish at half time so I got myself a bacon burger for £3.50 which was excellent. Despite the hosts having a much better start to the second half they didn't make their dominance pay and they were punished on 74 minutes when a Downton forward picked up on a loose ball and fired home to double their lead from around 10 yards. Still the pressure came from Fleet Spurs but the game was wrapped up in the last minute with the goal of the game. Ross Bentall's low shot was driven into the bottom left hand corner. Very harsh on the hosts but a lesson in finishing their chances given on the night.

There were a number of hoppers present on the night out of a crowd of 37. I gave Anders a lift back to Farnborough North station so he could get his train back to Reading. As he was listening A-HA from his homeland of Norway were on the radio and it was the Absolute 80's Party that was my soundtrack on the way home. The journey took me back via the M3 which was full of roadworks and the M25 but there were no problems at this time of night. I got in at 10.30 and spent the rest of the evening chilling with a couple of ciders while I typed my blog. Later on I watched TV in bed, happy in the knowledge that I didn't have to be up for work in the morning.

KENNELS LANE is a fairly basic ground but it's extremely well kept. The only cover is around 50 seats in front of the clubhouse, similar to Pewsey Vale. The clubhouse offered some decent food plus a decent selection of cans of beer and cider. This is just as well as its a long way from anywhere and I can certainly recommend the bacon burger as it's as good as any that I've had in a football ground. It was a good value night out, the programme included with entry was very niceley presented, though it could have done with more in it, stats and reading wise.