Wednesday, 26 August 2015

East Grinstead Town - East Court

East Grinstead Town FC
East Court
College Road
East Grinstead
RH19 3LS

Ground Number: 512
Tuesday 25th August 2012
East Grinstead Town 0-1 Peacehaven & Telscombe
Isthmian League D1 North

I'd be without Anwar, my regular groundhopping pal for my football this week, as he was away on his annual visit to see his Aunt in Ipswich, so I was looking for something as near as possible. The nearest mileage wise was Broxbourne Borough v Leverstock Green at 37 miles away. But I decided to save it as I could do it as a nearby one when Anwar would be in attendance. Usually when I am on my own I will head south as it's usually uneconomical to do so when I have to go via Aylesbury. That said, though I've not done many recently, I've ticked a fair few of them over the years. For that reason, Dorking v Banstead Athletic in the Combined Counties League was next nearest at 53 miles. However, that game was being played at Horley Town while Dorking's own ground was being refurbished and so I decided to save it for when the host club are at home.For that reason I settled on East Grinstead Town v Peacehaven & Telscombe in the Isthmian Division 1 South. At 63 miles away it was a bit further than I had hoped for, but all things considered I felt this was the best option.

EAST GRINSTEAD TOWN were founded in 1890, but they did not play their first competitive game until 10 years later. Playing in the Mid Sussex League until 1920, they were founding members of the Sussex County League, where they have spent almost all of their history. Flitting between it's 2 Divisions over the years, they won the Division 2 Championship in 2007/08 to win promotion to it's top tier. For the first time since the 1970's the club enjoyed an extended run at this higher level and in 2014 they finished as runner up behind East Preston. As the Champions' ground was deemed unfit for step 4, they were offered promotion and accepted it. They struggled a bit in their first season, finishing 22nd. For the second season in a row fortuned smiled on them, and they were saved by a reprieve due to other goings on in the pyramid. Form in the league so far has been patchy - despite a win at Whyteleafe they have suffered defeats to Molesey, Tooting & Mitcham and the latest reverse came on Saturday as they lost 4-2 at home to Worthing. This left them in 19th place in the table, after 4 games played.

In the FA Cup they have reached the 2nd Qualifying Round on 2 occasions. The latest came in 1971 as they beat Ringmer before losing 3-0 to current football league side Crawley Town. It was also the 1970's that saw their best FA Vase run when they reached the 3rd Round. Whitehawk and Shoreham were beaten in the first 2 rounds, but Tunbridge Wells bought an end to their Cup run in the 3rd Round. Last season saw their first appearance in the FA Trophy and despite getting a decent 0-0 draw at Walton Casuals they crashed 6-1 in the replay on their own ground. Local Cup success came in the form of the delightfully monikered 'Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Cup' which they won in 2004 and the 'Baldwin Cup' which was captured in 1952.

Since my groundhopping exploits up north last week, I had been taking a bit of a rest, mainly because I was waiting for payday to come up. On Saturday my own team Wycombe had a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to bottom side Dagenham & Redbridge. That was only obtained after a last minute equaliser. That goal resulted in jubilant celebrations, even involving ballboy Taylor Hunt. The incident has received attention from all over the place, and a TV crew from Norway even came over to interview the little lad. Closer tonight's destination, we were reminded that football is just a game. At the Shoreham Air Show a pilot lost control of his plane, smashing into the adjacent dual carriageway and killing 11 people. 2 of those happened to be Worthing United players on the way to their club's game with Loxwood and the resulting tragedy has been felt across football, not least at the clubs local to them in Sussex. The loss of Matt Grimstone & Jacob Schilt will be felt for a long time and my thoughts go out to all concerned, as they do with the other people involved in the incident.

On the day of the game, I had the day off work as usual for a Tuesday. I'd had a good nights sleep before and didn't get up until 9.30. I had a fair few things to do, addressing and sending some parcels I'd sold on eBay and walking down town for a bit of exercise. After coming home and having lunch I spent the afternoon researching tonight's blog and watching a few Youtube videos. Seeing as the journey involved a large chunk of the M25, which is awful at the best of times, let alone in the rush hour, I had an early dinner before leaving just after 5PM.

I made reasonable time getting to the game. Of course there was the delay near the 'ugly bridge near Heathrow' on the M25 around Chertsey. The traffic always slows to a crawl round there and the wait is not made any better by having to look at that monstrosity. There were a few other slow spots but in the end around half an hour delay was reaonably acceptable, which really illustrates what low expectations I have when using that motorway. Once I got off near Redhill it was 'A' roads all the way to the ground and I even passed Lingfield FC, who play in the Southern Combination. I got to the ground around 7, going straight in. I paid £8 for entry and £2 for a well presented programme. After taking some pictures of the ground I sat in the stand and caught on Facebook. As kick off was about to get underway I was very surprised to see my mate Eddie, who is a Grimsby fan that lives in Wakefield. He was down in the south for a few days and had come along to the game.

There was a minutes silence for the Worthing United players who died on Saturday before the game, which was impeccably observed as you would expect. As for the game Peacehaven had the better of the opening 10 minutes but the hosts soon got back into it and both sides came close. The visitors were always the most dangerous in the final third and it was the number 11 Jamie Brotherton who was making it all happen. On 23 minutes he hit the bar with a curling cross and a couple of minutes later the same player forced a good save from East Grinstead keeper Chris Winterton. It wasn't all one way traffic though and the home side shot just wide on 28 minutes.  Five minutes before the interval they were awarded a penalty after an infringement in the area. Trevor McCreadie stepped up and struck the ball low to the keepers' right but Amadou Tangara puled off a great save to tip the ball round the post. A couple of minutes later they were made to pay when Layton Schaaf rose highest to head home to give Peacehaven the lead.


In the second half the visitors again started the stronger side, going close a couple of times. On 55 minutes East Grinstead came close to an equaliser as their shot was tipped over the bar. The resulting corner was cleared as well. They had another good chance to draw level from a free kick 3 minutes later after the visitors Stacey Freeman was booked for holding back his opponent but the attempt was wasted. That turned out to be the last clear cut chance for the hosts but Peacehaven still had a few chances and were unlucky not to double their lead around 70 minutes when a succession of chances were well saved. In the end East Grinstead's failure to win their aerial battles and their lack of cutting edge in the final third was the difference between the sides.

There was around 9 minutes of injury time due to a number of players receiving treatment earlier on. The game ended amidst home fans arguing with each other. A couple of blokes in the terrace behind were criticising players for their lack of application and an irate lady told them in no uncertain terms that they should not come if they are not going to get behind the team. In the end it was just before 9.30 when I left. 
Initially I tried to listen to Radio Kent to try and find out how Tonbridge Angels had got on as I knew my mates Joe & Tristan had gone to the game and were keen fans. However they were not even doing sport coverage that night so I was out of luck. Instead I listened to coverage of the League cup games on the way home and it was an exciting night with plenty of goals going in.The highlight was Luton taking Stoke City all the way to penalties but sadly losing in the shootout. I got home an hour and 10 minutes later and after watching a bit of TV went to bed just before midnight.

EAST COURT is a smart and well kept venue that I initially visited around 2009 on the way to Eastbourne Borough v Wycombe. It was a well kept venue and as such was ready to go when they won promotion to the Ryman League a year or so ago. Since I last visited quite a bit of black and yellow has been added to give it a colourful and imposing presence. All the covered accommodation is one one side with 2 stands comprising of around 200 seats and 200 terrace spaces. Both stands are up on a bank and it's nice to see that they are proper structures rather than the increasingly popular metal flat pack stands. The elevation also gives fans a decent view wherever they sit or stand.

The rest of the ground is open flat standing. I didn't try the bar and tea bar or clubhouse but they both seemed pretty decent. Also there was a good range of merchandise all at good prices. A particular favourite was scarves at a fiver and it was only lack of space on my ceiling that stopped me indulging. The ground is tucked up a long narrow road and it's a bit of a walk to the nearest amenities, so it's just as well the facilities at the ground are pretty good. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Bacup Borough - West View

Bacup Borough FC
Brian Boys West View Stadium
Cowtoot Lane
OL13 8EE

01706 878655

Ground Number: 511
Wednesday 19th August 2015
Bacup Borough 2-3 Atherton LR
North West Counties Division 1

I’d initially hoped to go to an FA Cup replay on this day, which would be the last of my mini break in the north west. But despite 7 possible chances, none of them came in, the last was Padiham who triumphed 2-1 over Whickham, a game which I took keen interest in following whilst I was at the Epsom & Ewell v Erith & Beledere game. I made my choice while stuck on the M25 on the way home from that game from a shortlist of 3. The other 2 contenders were Padiham v Barnoldswick Town (lost out due to not obliging with an FA Cup replay) and Eccleshall (who were discounted due to it being two thirds of the way home. I almost considered a complete change of location for my trip just to get an FA Cup game in though. But in the end I looked back at my pictures from when I visited for pictures back in January 2008 before Wycombe’s 2-0 win at Accrington Stanley. It was a proper old  school ground, but I was hoping for better weather on this visit as the whole place was deep in snow on that winters morning.

BACUP BOROUGH were founded in 1875 under the fantastic name Bacup Baldies. This is not the only name they have used - plain old ‘Bacup’ was used up until 1920. They were known as ‘Bacup & Rossendale Borough from 2013-15 and this attracted the attention of Sky Sports and other media outlets due to them believing a curse had been put on the club because of the name change. Manager Brent Peters is a club legend having been manager since 1997 and he was on Sky Sports News talking of all kinds of strange goings on. He had a point, in their 2 seasons under the new name they struggled finishing second bottom and then bottom. In the first instance they had a reprieve  but the second time resulted in their relegation to North West Counties Division 1 for this season. Previously they had played in the Lancashire Combination and all 3 divisions of the North West Counties League. A best ever finish of 8th in the North West Counties Premier was achieved in 2008-09

Also that season, the club had their best FA Cup run of recent times when they reached the 2nd Qualifying Round. Atherton Collieries, St Helens Town and Camel Laird were beaten before Evostik League side ended their run with a 4-1 win, It was their best ever progress since the 1950’s when they reached the 3rd Qualifying Round. The few seasons in the FA Trophy that they had proved unsuccessful but they did reach the 3rd Round of the FA Vase back in 1993-94. A couple of local cups have been won, most recently the North West Counties Challenge Cup in 2011-12.

On the day of the game I woke just before 7. After a breakfast of fondant fancies and grapes of had a shower and got on my way at 8.30. I had to stop at Morrisons to get some cash out. To my dismay I only had £20 without going into overdraft so I drew that out. Thankfully it's only a quid a say interest if the worst comes to the worst but I'm still hoping pay day comes along soon. I got to Bacup around 9.20 and parked up near the ground. After a brisk walk into town I only had a few minutes wait to get a bus which cost me £4.70 return to Rochdale. It was about the same again for the Rochdale to Manchester leg and by 11.30 I was in the city centre.

I'd planned to meet Sam, a Macclesfield Town fan who I knew off of Facebook. We had a brief look round the football museum before going for a pint at a pub called 'Fringe Bar' After we had lunch at Taco Bell in the Arndale Centre before we said our goodbyes. It was good to meet a fellow footy fan as I had plenty of time on my hands. After that I went to some more shops and walked halfway across Manchester to go to The Font bar which did a great range of cider. I settled for a pint of 'Butcher's Boy' before making my way to the tram stop.

It was raining by now but not too heavy. By 3 I was back at Picadilly Station and on the way to Rochdale for my connecting tram. I had time to kill so I had a look round Rochdale for a bit. I got a drink and some crisps from Poundland as well as walking around the shops. The rain was a bit heavier by now but it started to abate as I got on the bus.

It was still light rain though, even when I got to Bacup at 5.45. I had a 10 minute walk around town before going in a pub, The Queens, to keep dry. I had myself a pint of Somersby to kill time before walking up to the ground. I was looking forward to my pie later which is a homemade speciality at the ground. Even so, I still got myself some chips to eat on the way.

When I got to the ground I paid £6 to get in. I also picked up the famous Prem Pie and a programme. The pie was mainly vegetables and normally I don't like that sort of thing but it was delicious. There was a friendly dog called Dexter too, in fact everyone at the club was really nice. I bought a copy of the North West non league magazine for a bargain £1 and checked Facebook while I waited for the game to start.

I was chatting to the referee who somehow knew I had come from Wycombe. He had been referee at one of the Eastern Counties hops that went on a couple of years ago. I also talked to a friendly Oldham fan who had been at the Coleshill Town 11-0 Ellesmere Rangers game I was at last Friday.

After really struggling and barely winning a game for the past 2 seasons, Bacup Borough had started the season in an entertaining but defensively disorganised fashion. On the opening day they threw away a 4-1 lead to draw 5-5 with Cheadle Town. This was followed up with a 5-2 defeat up at Barrow based Holker Old Boys. They started this game well in control and took the lead on 23 minutes with a well taken goal from inside the area. Atherton LR did improve as the half wore on but spent a lot of the time protesting the refrees decisions. They may have had a point with some of them but the official was doing his best and was never going to change his mind.

At half time I got my picture with Pedro the Panda, the Bacup Borough mascot. The visitors were much the stronger side as the second half kicked off and had one cleared off the line. But gradually Bacup came back into it and they further extended their lead on 65 minutes when they got away from the visiting defence and slotted past the keeper. There was a suspicion offside and the players and officials of Atherton LR were not shy to let their feelings be known. They got a goal back a few minutes later with a header from a great cross. The equaliser came with 10 minutes to go coming off the post and bar and a  minute later the visitors had the lead leaving Bacup completely shell-shocked. They stepped up their game and had a shot cleared off the line with around 5 minutes to go.

After the game I had a huge 4 hour drive home, with me leaving just before 10. A whole load of roadworks didn't help my progress, but at least we kept moving. I also had a couple of stops - first at Knutsford for a toilet stop and then at Frankley as I felt exhausted. A couple of energy tablets, a can of Irn Bru and a couple of cakes perked me up a bit and I was back by 1.35am. I unpacked before watching Corrie and some of Wheeler Dealers. It was 3am when I got to sleep and I had a good nights kip for once, getting up at 11.30. It had been a great few days away, but a highly expensive one, costing me about £200 all in, of which £150 I added to my 'football costs' for the season.

WEST VIEW (or the Brian Boys Stadium as it is known for sponsorship purposes) is a cracking little ground and a very good one for step 6. It would probably be good enough for step 3 at a push.  The main stand holds around 150 and has great leg room as well as decent views despite the supporting pillars. Opposite is a covered terrace holding around 400. Behind one goal there is cover, but it is closed off due to safety reasons. The remaining end is open with a small bit of terracing.

This end houses the clubhouse and this is the hub of the club. There's a huge range of old pictures and articles on the wall. Drinks wise there was Strongbow for cider drinkers as well as a range of other drinks. For food, the famous "Prem Pie' lived up to it's reputation, being very nice. Scarves and pin badges were also available. All in all it was a nice visit to a very friendly club and was well worth going out of my way to visit.