Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Gosport Borough - Privett Park

Gosport Borough FC
Privett Park
Privett Road
PO12 3SX

023 9250 1042
Official Website

Ground Number: 421

Tuesday 14th October 2014
Gosport Borough 3-0 Maidenhead United
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round Replay

Like Saturday I wanted to do an FA Cup game, this would now be 9th game of the season in that competition. There was a choice of 2 potential games - either Warrington Town against Colwyn Bay or Gosport Borough v Maidenhead United. I spoke to Anwar and we both agreed to opt for the latter, seeing as it was nearer. It would also mean that in the past 2 games I had completed the Conference South in terms of groundhops, adding it to the 92, the Conference Premier and the Southern League D1 Central in terms of leagues completed. I could only hope that the traffic would be kinder to me than it was on Saturday, and made up my mind to allow extra time for any problems that may crop up.

Gosport Borough were founded in 1944 and played in the Hampshire League until 1978, when they joined the Southern League. They had many successful years in this competition, finishing as high as 7th in the Premier Division in 1989, as the time that was step 2 of the Non League Pyramid, well before the formation of the Conference South. Sadly the club suffered a bad few years after that, suffering 2 relegations in 3 years and going down to the Wessex League. They never really looked like returning to the Southern League over the next 10 years, but at the turn of the century their fortunes gradually improved and in 2007 they were Champions of the Wessex League Premier Division, thus winning promotion to the Southern League D1 South and West. 5 seasons at that level ensued but playoff wins in 2012 and 2013 saw them secure a double promotion to the Conference South. After struggling at first, they recovered and finished in a mid table position of 12th. And that is where they sat, league wise, at the start of the game.

FA Cup wise, tonight would provide an opportunity for them to at least match their best ever progress in the competition. They previously got to the 4th Qualifying Round in the 2012-13 season before going out to Slough Town after a replay, and missing out on a game against Mansfield Town in the process. The FA Trophy has provided more glory for them, last season they had a fantastic run to the final but lost 4-0 to the Conference champions Cambridge United. As a Wessex League club, they reached the Quarter Final of the FA Vase on 3 occasions.

Maidenhead United are one of the oldest clubs in football, being formed as early as 1869. They provided regular opponents and a rivalry with my own team Wycombe for a large chunk of that history, but since I started supporting the Chairboys in 1991, contests have been restricted to county cup games involving our reserves and friendly games. They have recently become well known for signing up DJ Campbell, the former and hopefully for him future, professional footballer. He is one of a host of famous names to represent the club, in the past they have included current Wycombe loanee Alfie Mawson. With the club currently being 8th in the Conference South, they were enjoying one of their most successful periods. In the FA Cup they have reached the 1st Round on a few occasions, the latest a few seasons back when they lost to Aldershot Town in a replay, whilst the Quarter Final of the FA Trophy was reached in 2003-04.

It was my day off as per usual, so I spent the day chilling at home. I went down town with my Dad to kill time and also to see about repairing the PS3 console I bought recently. I took it into Snowies, who have a reputation for being pretty crap, the best review being this epic rant on Youtube. The fears proved to be correct, they wanted £70 to repair my PS3 Blu Ray and didn't seem that interested anyway. In the end I ordered a secondhand one from CEX online, at least that comes with a 12 month guarantee and I should get back the £25 that I spent on the old one with a bit of luck. I also got drinks and sweets for tonight, before going home and having lunch. As is often the case, I was restless in the afternoon, just wanting to get out and go to the game, and so I was glad when 3.15 arrived and I could make my way to Aylesbury to pick up Anwar.

I got to Anwar's at 3.40 and checked Facebook while I waited for him to get ready. Soon enough we were on our way, with minimal delays forecast. It turned out to be an hours delay, thanks to the rush hour traffic. Eventually we got to Gosport at 6.50 and parked up in a nearby side street. We had spotted a parade of shops including a chippy and Chinese takeaway. I was erring towards the latter because chip shops are usually rubbish down south but how wrong I turned out to be. This one was run by a Scouse lady and I was delighted to be able to have Haggis and chips which was a large portion and delicious too, and only £3.40.

We made our way back to the ground, picking up some stuff from the car on the way. We got in around 7.15 and after paying £13 entry and £2 for a programme, I eat my dinner. I thought £13 was  a bit steep for this level, feeling that around £9 would be more appropriate but it's around the average for this level with St Albans charging a ridiculous £15. At least the programme was a decent issue for the price. Before the game I had a look around the club shop which again was pricey at £10 for a pennant and no pens which I also like to collect. When I came out I chatted to a steward who did the same job at Wycombe around 15 years ago. I then got some pictures of the ground before taking a seat in one of the stands for the game.


Maidenhead had the better of the early exchanges but gradually Gosport stated playing some good football. The home side opened the scoring on 37 minutes with a good shot that went in off the bar. Gosport had the better of the game and on 57 minutes it was 2-0 as Dan Wooden got his second goal, the shot being one that the Maidenhead keeper really should have saved. They wrapped it up in the final minute with a great goal that lobbed the keeper from long range.


Having completed the Conference South for groundhops I was in a pretty good mood as I headed back up the M27, M3 and through Basingstoke. Then the roads went to pot. I attempted to get on 2 junctions of the M4 but they were closed with no warning and no diversion. I took a big detour to get to the second one near Bracknell only to have to come back on myself and go via Miadenhead. Just as I thought my problems were over, there was another closure on the A4010 from Wycombe to Aylesbury. After cutting though some of it by taking a narrow country road I stumbled across a Motts coach being escorted through and just followed that. It was possibly the same coach that took the Maidenhead team to the game, it was that late. I finally dropped Anwar off at 12.15, thanks to the disgraceful state of the roads I'd been delayed by 45 minutes. I got home myself 20 minutes later, but wasn't really in a mood for sleep until 2am, not ideal when I had to be up 2 hours later.


Grimsby beat Lincoln City in the final of the Lincolnshire Cup 2-1 with the visitors bringing a laughable 26 fans for a local derby. In the other FA Cup game I was thinking of going to, Warrington overcame Colwyn Bay. Though my chances of seeing a replay next round are very slim, there are 7 chances for teams I have not been to to get through and preferably draw Wycombe at their own ground.

The home nations did fantastically well in the internationals, Northern Ireland made it 3 wins out of 3 when they won in Greece and there were good draws in Poland and Germany for Scotland and Republic of Ireland respectively. It would be great if all the UK nations could get through to Euro 2016, and Ireland as well would be a nice addition too.


Something in Wales on Friday. There is plenty of choice, so I will head wherever the weather looks safest.

PRIVETT PARK is a smart little ground what has seen recent developments to bring it up to Conference South standard. The original stand is on the side you come in, and is elevated, but has pillars as it's quite an old stand. Opposite is a new modern stand, a pre fabricated one similar to the one at Guiseley. It offers good views and over the 2 stands there is covered seating for over 100 fans. Apart from a small area in front of the bar, the rest of the ground is open flat standing.

The clubhouse is a smart and welcoming venue with your usual range of drinks and the tea bar seems decent. There is a club shop which does a good range of stuff too. My personal recommendation is to use the nearby chippy, which is probably the best I have seen in the south, with a great range of nice stuff. There are also other shops along that parade, including a bookies and a convenience store, as well as a Chinese takeaway. It's conveniently situated 5 minutes walk from the ground.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Whitehawk - The Enclosed Ground

Whitehawk FC
The Enclosed Ground
East Brighton

01273 609736

Ground Number: 420
Saturday 11th October 2014
Whitehawk 4-4 Chelmsford City
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

I was keen to continue my FA Cup trail, having seen 7 games in the competition so far. Fellow hopper Anwar was keen to do one of the ones he had left to do in the football league. On an occasion like this we come to an agreement - I drop him off at the league ground, and then go off to a non league game of my choosing. It's happened before with him at Leicester and me at Coalville and while I was at Shortwood United, he ticked off Conference side Forest Green Rovers. Originally I was dropping him off at Doncaster and going on to North Ferriby v Grantham. However, a couple of weeks before, the Donny game was called off due to international call ups. This was soon remedied - he would go to Crawley, and I would complete one of the remaining 2 I had left in the Conference South, namely Whitehawk, who were facing Chelmsford City in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round. I was originally going to come here on the opening day of the season, when they were playing Staines Town. But I decided to save the ground for a more attractive fixture and went to local side Reading Town instead.

Whitehawk were founded in 1945. They had been generally very successful in the Sussex League, which they had been in since their formation. In fact they had been winners 4 times and runners up 5 times, but it was not until 2010 that they took the step up to the Isthmian League. By now they had some investment behind them, and this allowed them to win the Isthmian D1 South at the second attempt, after finishing 3rd in their first season at the new level. They were promoted again the following season, finding themselves in the Conference South. Before the season started they tried to change their name to Brighton City, but this was rejected. On the field the momentum didn't carry on, they were in and around the relegation, but eventually achieved survival, finishing 19th. They were 10th at the start of play, but were aiming for promotion after signing several big name players. The most well known to me was Sergio Torres who was a real fans favourite at Wycombe and who I was looking forward to seeing play. There was also our former striker Matt Barnes-Homer, keeper Lance Cronin, defender Tom Cadmore and a host of other well known players such as John Sullivan, Exodus Geohagon and John-Paul Kissock.

In the FA Cup the club had had their best ever run in 1988-89 but lost out to Bognor Regis Town in a 4th Qualifying Round Replay. The FA Trophy 2nd Round was reached last season before they went out to Havant & Waterlooville and back in 2010, their last season at step 5, they got all the way to the semi final of the FA Vase before losing to Wroxham. They have also won a number of local cups, most recently the Sussex Senior Cup in 2012.  

Chelmsford City were formed in 1938 after the demise of Chelmsford FC, whose ground they took over. Certainly they have had some good players play for them down the years, recently Ricky Holmes, who I would love to see at Wycombe, but also in the past Aston Villa's Nigel Spink. They led a nomadic existence for a while, sharing at various grounds but in 2006 they got their current home at the Melbourne Stadium. It's not one of my favourites, having a running track, but what I do like about the town is the excellent Alehouse pub near the bus station. League wise they have spent most of their history in the Southern League, transferring to the Isthmian at the turn of the century and winning promotion to the Conference South in 2008.

They finished as high as 3rd in 2010, but lost out in the play offs. FA Cup wise they have reached the 2nd Round on a few occasions, back in the mid 80's beating Wycombe along the way. We got our revenge in 2010 however as we triumphed 3-1 at Adams Park. The club also got to the semi final of the first ever FA Trophy, losing to Telford in a game played at Swindon Town's County Ground, which makes very little geographical sense.

  This would be my first fixture since my last groundhop on Tuesday at Hoddesdon Town. It was a bit of a bare week - usually I like to get a fixture in on Friday night, but bar Torpoint Athletic, around a 500 mile round tip, there was nothing else, thanks mainly to the international break. Now I am keen on Friday football, but not keen enough to spend nigh on £50 on fuel alone, especially for one that not is at the top of my lists for completion.

On the day of the game, I woke at around 8am and watched some YouTube videos before getting out of bed and turning on my computer. I was browsing through Twitter when I noticed that our former player Sergio Torres was on a local TV channel in Brighton. I despaired initially when I saw that I couldn't get it as it was regional, but was pleased to find an online stream. He talked about how important the FA Cup was to Whitehawk FC amongst other things. Sergio was a real hero at Wycombe, and had an interesting story about joining us. Initially he paid his own air fare over here for a trial at Brighton, but that didn't work out. So he played for Molesey, eventually ending up at Basingstoke Town. It was here that he caught the eye of Wycombe manager John Gorman when we beat Basingstoke 7-2 in a pre season friendly. He was signed up and spent 3 years weaving his magic in Wycombe's midfield before moving to Peterborough United in 2008.

I had to pop down the shop to get my Mum some butter before I left, this in turn made me a bit late leaving. I had intended to go into Aylesbury beforehand, and still did, albeit rushing about. I got a couple of old games for my PS3 - Fifa 12 and Virtua Tennis 2009, as well as a couple of ciders I had not tried and few bits for the game from B&M Bargains. As a consequence, I was a tad late meeting Anwar, getting there at 11.40. I was also further delayed stopping for petrol, but was still due to get to Crawley at 1.15, and with me making up time like I normally do, I was hoping to be there by 1PM.

No such luck! My sat Nav kept adding on delays. First off there was the consistently pathetic M25 which had delays near that pig ugly bridge near the Heathrow turn off, which is constantly clogged up around there for no good reason. Then, some roadworks on the M23, with the usual invisible workmen. All in all I was delayed an hour, getting to Crawley to drop him and his little lad Hicham off. Programming the Sat Nav I was fairly content at arriving at 2.45, and with making up time, it was soon down to 2.35, but then I hit Brighton. I should have known from the first impression - it was a right tip! Not the fault of the area, it was quite nice, but there was all rubbish everywhere, thanks to the council's  obsession of recycling a million and one things. The pavement was littered with plastic boxes of bottles and cans, as well as bin bags. That didn't concern me though, but what did, was the horrific delays through the city's pathetic roads. I did about a mile in 40 minutes, cursing and stressing as I listened to BBC Sussex, which did an excellent job of providing goal updates. I'd already missed 2 goals that put the visitors 2-0 up in the first 5 minutes, then as I was getting out of the car at 3.15 I heard a big cheer as Whitehawk had got one back.

After parking up on some faded double yellow lines as close as I could get to the ground, I made my way in. I eventually got there at 3.20 and was charged £12 entry which happily included a programme, which was a pretty smart issue with a fair bit to read. My head was not in a happy state, and I needed a pint to calm it down. A pint of Strongbow was in order, and as you were officially not supposed to take it outside due to FA Rules that think we all turn into gobby hooligans if we have a pint when it's an FA Cup game as opposed to a league game, I stood near the clubhouse, ironically in the same spot the famous Wealdstone Raider made his name with a series of insults about Whitehawk.

There was no such ill feelings from me towards the club. Despite several people saying that it was 'a shithole' I quite enjoyed the ground. It was a strange and unique one I admit that, but that's what I like in some grounds, some individuality. Certainly everyone from the club that I bumped into were super nice, from the gateman to the tea bar ladies. I had to wait around 15 minutes for my chips at half time as they only had a small fryer, but at least they were freshly cooked.



I made my way back to the car, having seen around half of a cracking game as I didn't have clear sight of Whitehawk's equaliser, only seeing the ball go in through a crowd. I was pleased that Wycombe won 3-1 to go top of League 2 as our dream start to the season continued. I had to deal with the same road closures that I dealt with on the way in, with no diversion signposted. It was even worse for some Chelmsford fans I know as they didn't get to the game till nearly half time the poor lads. I got to Crawley at 6, and had the same crappy traffic on the M23 that I had suffered on the way there.

From then on it was fairly straight forward. I dropped Anwar off at 7.20, getting home myself at 7.50. I spent the rest of my night watching the Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands game, and even had a nice chat with my Grimsby pals, jubilant with their 1-0 win at Wrexham. I also did some of this blog and had a couple of pints before going to bed around 11.


Something on Tuesday, hopefully FA Cup orientated. Favourites are Warrington Town v Colwyn Bay and Gosport Borough v Maidenhead.

THE ENCLOSED GROUND must have been a real pretty ground back in it's day. Certainly the far side which is out of bounds to fans, still looks great with it's banking where the ground has been carved out. The near side includes a small stand holding around 200. plus some hard flat standing. Both ends contain some seats from Brighton's old Withdean stadium, one covered, the other uncovered. They are not the prettiest, but they do the job I guess.

The bar and tea bar are standard football fare and do the job well. There was no club shop that I could see, but I'd recommend a visit to Whitehawk as they are a nice friendly club and it's a good relaxed atmosphere.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hoddesdon Town - Lowfield

Hoddesdon Town FC
Lowfield Sports Ground
Park View
EN11 8PX

01992 463133

Ground Number: 419
Tuesday 7th October 2014
Hoddesdon Town 1-1 Stotfold
Spartan South Midlands Premier

After all the recent long trips, I was looking to stay a bit more local. It was also good to welcome fellow hopper Anwar back to do a game, as it would give me company and also help out with fuel costs. As I was only 3 grounds away from completing the Spartan South Midlands Premier, I decided to try and find something there. The only one of the 3 I required at home were Hoddesdon Town who were playing Stotfold in a league game. Initially, I was going to Hoddesdon Town v Arsenal Veterans the previous Sunday, but a combination of things changed that and I ended up heading north to 1874 Northwich v Wigan Robin Park in the FA Vase.

Hoddesdon Town were founded in 1879 and as a consequence are the 3rd oldest club in Hertfordshire. They were the first ever winners of the FA Vase when in 1975 they beat Epsom & Ewell in the final at Wembley Stadium. They have reached the 5th Round of that competition since, in 1993 when they lost to Bilston Town, but apart from that have never come close to repeating their feat. They have also not had a good run in the FA Cup for a while, their best ever run coming in 1969 when they lost to Braintree & Crittall Athletic in the 3rd Qualifying Round. They have played in various leagues over the years, joining the South Midlands League in 1984 where they have remained ever since. In 1997 it joined forces with the Spartan League to become the Spartan South Midlands League. They were also in the Spartan League previously and were champions in 1971 during the clubs most successful period. They have mainly been in the Premier Division, but from 2005-2013 they were in Divison 1. Last season was their first season back at the higher level and they did very well, finishing 6th. At the start of play they were 13th.

Stotfold were a place below in 14th. The club were founded in 1904 and I had last seen them play when they lost 2-1 at home to St Margaretsbury last season. They had had several well known players turn out for them in the past, including Mitchell Cole, Graeme Tomlinson, Phil Gray and Liam George, thanks mainly to their close proximity to Luton Town FC. They have had good runs in both major cup competitions, reaching the 3rd Quaifying Round of the FA Cup in 2007. They beat higher league Chesham United before bowing out to Tonbridge Angels. They have reached the 4th Round of the FA Vase on 4 occasions, most recently in 2010 when they lost to Shildon. League wise they have spent most of their history between the United Counties League and the South Midlands League, with them being champions of the United Counties League Premier Division in 2008. During that time they had been asking to switch to the Spartan South Midlands League to cut down on travelling costs and eventually in 2010 that request was granted and they remain there to this day.

It was my usual Tuesday off on the day of the game and for once I declined to go down town with my Dad. Normally I would get some diet Irn Bru which doesn't normally help me getting to sleep and the chocolate bars that I usually have are not exactly healthy. Besides that, I had Sunday's blog to catch up on, plus I wanted to start tonights one too. It's surprising how long one takes, especially with all the distractions you get looking at club histories and other stuff. I spent the rest of the day on Facebook and planning some future games and had dinner of Roast Pork Shanks in Pepper Sauce before leaving at around 5.15. While I was looking at my records I noticed that the last time I had seen a game on this day, it had been Wycombe's 7-0 defeat to Shrewsbury Town in the Johnstones Paint Trophy. Oh dear.

I left just after 5.20 in the end. Traffic was quite busy and I got to Anwar's just after 5.50. We were soon on our way and got to the ground at 7.10 after a couple of small delays. There was no parking at the ground and so we parked in a nearby side street, before making our way yo the ground. It was £6 entry and £2 for a monster of a programme which will have huge amounts to read. Before the game I checked Facebook and typed my blog before going round and taking pictures of the ground. They had a good selection of 80s music on the tannoy pre match. During the game we chatted to a groundhopper who had done over 4200 grounds, which makes my count, a tenth of that, seem rather feeble.


It wasn't up to the usual Spartan South Midlands League standard sadly. I have been used to some right end to end encounters with entertainment galore in every game I have seen. This one was a bit limited in goalmouth action. Hoddesdon took the lead with a penalty in the first half but it was Stotfold who edged it. The visitors got their equaliser 5 minutes from time with a diving header and in the end  draw was a fair result. 


It was an easy drive home and we were back in Aylesbury by 10.30. I was back home myself by 10.55. On the way home I was most delighted to hear that AFC Wimbledon had won 3-2 at the Franchise. I checked Facebook, typed my blog and watched some YouTube videos before going to bed at around half past midnight. I had to be up at 4am but this was more sleep than I usually get on a Tuesday night.


Ground Number: 419 (Groundhop Number 69 with Anwar)
Game 56 of the Season (1525 of all time)
20th out of 22 in the SSML Premier (Sun Sports and Colney Heath to do)
Entry £6, Programme £2. Total spend this season inc. fuel: £985.60
Miles Driven: 122. So far this season: 6144


Whitehawk v Chelmsford City in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round on Saturday. Made possible by dropping Anwar at Crawley Town on the way. Sadly no Friday night football for me due to the international break - Torpoint Athletic is just that little bit too far, as I can't afford nigh on £50 in petrol just for one game.

LOWFIELDS is a smart and tidy setup. Pride of place goes to a neat stand that holds around 150 fans. Opposite is another area of cover, this time standing, holding around the same number. The rest of the ground is open and space is very tight at each end. It is all very well kept though, unlike a lot of grounds at this level.

The tea bar and looked above average for this level, though I didn't try anything. The town is close by anyway, should you fancy a wider choice. Pride of place goes to the programme which is huge, more like a book and easily the biggest I have seen, with plenty to read in it.