Thursday, 25 August 2016

Godmanchester Rovers - Bearscroft Lane

Godmanchester Rovers FC
Bearscroft Lane
PE29 2LQ

07950 367417

Ground Number: 609
Wednesday 23rd August 2016
Godmanchester Rovers 1-3 Eynesbury Rovers
FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay


Godmanchester Rovers were formed in 1911 and up until 2002 they playing in local Huntingdonshire & Cambridgeshire Leagues. That summer, they made a speculative attempt to join the Eastern League, despite being in the second tier of the Cambridgeshire League. To their surprise, they were accepted and joined the league at Division 1 level. After 12th and 7th placed finishes in their first 2 seasons, they had a bad 2004/05, finishing bottom. However, due to lack of teams in the league, they were not relegated. They did continue to struggle for the next seasons, but in time form improved. They won the league in 2012, beating Thetford Town to the title on goal difference. Since their elevation to the Premier Division, form has been excellent and two 5th placed finishes were followed up by finishing the last 2 seasons as runner-up. Both those occasions had seen them lose out to Norwich United for the title, but whereas it was a massive 26 points that separated the teams in the first instance, it was clawed back to a more modest 4 points last time out.

The club were looking to match their best ever FA Cup run on the night of my visit, bidding to reach the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round. Previously that was achieved in 2009/10 when they lost out to Northampton Spencer after defeating Haverhill Rovers and Rothwell Corinthians in replays in the previous 2 rounds. The furthest they have reached in the FA Vase is the 3rd Round, that was in the 2011/12 season when they lost out to United Counties League side Newport Pagnell Town. Other cup honours include the Eastern Counties Division 1 Knockout Cup in 2012, as well as League Cups from their times in the Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire Leagues. Future stars Joe Lewis & Darren Bent appeared for the club in their youth, whilst their record attendance came for an FA Vase game against Yaxley in 2014.


This trip was arranged on Sunday with my groundhopping pal Chris. I was keen to do as many FA Cup games as possible this season, and so we left it until all the Preliminary Round ties had been played until we made a decision.Chris finished work in Milton Keynes at 4, and the only viable game I could do was Godmanchester Rovers v Eynesbury Town. I did briefly think I was going to miss out as Chris had 'ticked' Godmanchester, but then he asked could I drop him at a game at Buckden, 5 miles from my eventual destination. It would mean a very early arrival at Godmanchester, possibly as early as 5PM if traffic was kind. But after some research, I discovered that the town of Huntingdon was just over 2 miles walk away. That had a Wetherspoons which would suit me for dinner, and a number of other decent pubs and attractions also, so I was happy to do this. I got in the mood for the game by watching Youtuber 'Awaydays' video of the original tie at the weekend where the game ended 1-1, setting up tonight's clash.

It was another short day at work, with me out by 11.15 after just over 6 hours work. I miss not getting my full hours, but I hope this continues onto Bank Holiday Monday as I get my full days wage, no matter what hours I do.  I had a bath and lunch before finishing off my blog. Normally I am rushing around when doing a groundhop with Chris and always end up leaving late. But today I had a bit of time to spare and didn't know what to do with it, despite having a lot of things I needed to do. At least I left on time,  getting to Milton Keynes with 10 minutes to spare and killing time by catching up on Facebook. It was another scorching day,  with temperatures well over 30 degrees. I met Chris at 4.05 and soon enough we were on our way. After a 10 minute delay at the Black Cat Roundabout, I dropped Chris in Buckden at 4.45.

There was another 10-minute delay as I was stuck at a level crossing for a while, but I was still at the ground just after 5. As I was expcting, there was no one at the ground, so I walked the just over 2 miles into Huntingdon. I headed for the Sandford House, which was my 105th Wetherspoons. There I had a half Peri Peri chicken with chips and a bottle of Hazy Hog cider which cost me a very well priced £7.49. It was nice too, not all dry like the last time I had it in Bangor a couple of years back. After that I had a pint of my favourite Black Dragon cider for £2.65. By now it was time to head back to the ground, but not before stopping at Sainsbury's to get some cans of diet Irn Bru. I left town at 6.45, getting to the ground at 7.25. I paid £6 to get in, and was glad that there were still some programmes left at £1 a go. It was a decent programme too, well worth the £1 asking price, so I sat and read it while waiting for the game to start.

The game was fairly equal in terms of chances, but it was the hosts to took the lead through Ben Keating who followed up after the initial shot was saved. Eynesbury Rovers were looking good for an equaliser and they got it on 38 minutes when Dan Moyes' long throw found Tom Coles who finished well. From then on, the visitors dominated and they went ahead just after half time through Matt Bannister, fis placed shot from close range finding the net. Rain and lightning carried on in the background as Eynesbury continued to dominate, though the players continued undeterred. Eynesbury wrapped it up on 65 minutes, when Bannister got his second, drilling a shot into the bottom left hand corner. There was a little bit of a scuffle towards the end as frustrations bolied over, but it didn't amount to much and finished without major incident. Eynesbury Rovers had reached the 1st Qualifying Round for the first time in 21 years and will face a home game against Southern Premier side Sutton Coldfield Town.

After the game I made my way back to Buckden to meet Chris, who had sampled every pub and takeaway in the village during his visit. We discussed our next football day, which will be on Bank Holiday Monday and will include a visit to Nuneaton Griff in the evening. The ideal location would be North Ferriby United, but it's unlikely that I will get out of work in time, even though, technically I really should be having it off, but for an uncommunicative manager. I was annoyed to lose my bet for the night as Worthing failed to beat Leatherhead, but I was still in a fairly good mood as we headed home, listening to the football on the radio where Accrington Stanley beat Burnley. I dropped Chris off at 10.30, getting home myself at 11.20. I tried to get to sleep around midnight, but it was tricky because of the heat. With 2 night short sleep in a row and me up at 4 the next morning, I was sure to catch up on some shut-eye the following afternoon.


BEARSCROFT LANE has an official capacity of 1,050 and was a ground that I visited on Saturday 2nd November 2013, prior to a trip with another groundhopping pal, Anwar, to watch Kings Lynn Town play. It was a similar story to another local side Huntingdon Town, with a couple of standard issue metal stands plonked down. However, it had a bit more to it than their local rivals, maybe it was the clubhouse painted a nice shade of blue, or the friendly welcome I got from the groundsman and his dog. 

In any case,  I was looking forward to a visit for a game, though I expected it to come a lot sooner than the 2 years it eventually took. When I did return I found another stand had been added. The bar and tea bar offered a decent range at reasonable prices and I enjoyed my chips for £1.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Sawbridgeworth Town - Crofters End

Sawbridgeworth Town FC
Crofters End Stadium
Crofters End
CM21 0DE

Ground Number: 608
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sawbridgeworth Town 4-2 Tower Hamlets
FA Cup Preliminary Round


The club were founded under the name of Sawbridgeworth FC in 1897, only changing to their present moniker in 1976. They played in local leagues such as the Herts County and Essex Olympian for the vast majority of their early history. In 1976 they joined the Essex Senior League and have been one of the mainstays of the league, remaining there ever since. Due to their being no step 6 league in the area, they have been spared relegation on the 2 occasions they have finished bottom, which were in their second and third seasons in the late 70's. In truth they are pretty safe, even today, due to lack of replacements. The early 1990's saw them have their most successful period, twice runners up is the best they have managed. The 1994/95 saw them lose out to Great Wakering Rovers on goal difference which is the closest they have come to becoming league champions of the Essex Senior.

Prior to today's game, the club had never been past the preliminary round of the FA Cup, and so my visit marked history being made. They now have a trip to  Isthmian Premier side Harrow Borough in a couple of weeks time. They reached the FA Vase 3rd Round in 1980. bowing out to Kempston Rovers after a replay. 


I was always going to be doing an FA Cup game this weekend, I knew that from the day that the fixtures came out and the news was that we were playing Blackpool away on this day. I'd have loved to have gone back there,  it's a ground that's I've not been to for years, but it was a non-starter in eyes. I was boycotting the ground, until the current owners are removed. The Oystons have been damaging Blackpool FC for years, there is plenty to read on the internet about it and I may even go into more detail if ever I decide to redo my Bloomfield Road blog. It was a bit of a pain missing one of the best away games of the season, but I wasn't going to give any money to owners whose modus operandi I disagree with. But where would I be going?. There were 2 games that jumped out at me as top picks - Congleton Town v Farsley and Shildon v Kendal Town. Sadly these were all a long way away, and therefore petrol costs would be prohibitive as none of my hopping friends were available. So I whittled it down to 11 options that would keep the fuel costs down to £20 or less for the round trip. Trouble was, none of the options caught my imagination so I decided to leave my final decision until a couple of days before the game, so I could be guided by others choices.

I finally decided the day before the game. I really wanted to go to the National Museum Of Computing History in Cambridge, visiting there would in turn subsidise my football costs. I initially plumped for Wisbech Town v Peterborough Sports, as that was a fairly easy tie in. However, after driving past it on the way to another game at Sheringham, I decided to knock that idea on the head and looked for other options. After careful consideration I went for Sawbridgeworth Town v Tower Hamlets as this could be easily visited whether going to Cambridge or not, and could include a trip to Bovingdon Market as well. It would be the second year in a row that I'd seen Tower Hamlets in the Preliminary Round, but that was no issue. Last time out I'd seen them lose on their own ground to Cockfosters. They were from a notouriously tough area and this seemed to breed itself into the team, with great talent shown one minute, but liable to go off the handle the next, especially if provoked by wily opponents seeking to gain an advantage.

I awoke around 9am on the day of the game, and due to time constraints decided to leave  the computing museum for another day. I still wanted to go to Bovingdon Market though, as there was a DVD of rare Only Fools And Horses episodes that I wanted that I saw last time I was there but didn't buy as I wrongly thought I already had it. I had a duck spring roll for breakfast, which I'd left over from last night's Chinese. After a bath and getting ready, I did some work on my blog before leaving at 11am. I got the DVD I wanted for a fiver,  plus an Adidas zip top for a fiver and 3 bags of Oreo chocolate eggs for a quid. I'm unsure of the authenticity of my new garment but it was a good effort nonetheless.


It was a hassle free journey to Sawbridgeworth and I arrived at 1.15. I bought a programme before going in search of a pint. My initial plan was to go to a pub called The Queens Head in a nearby village which had won awards for its cider selection. However it was not as local as I thought and not fancying a 5 mile round trip I instead went to a pub called the Old Bell in the town. I got the new cider I desired in a pint of Snailsbank Appley Dapply which I was really pleased with. From there I walked back to the ground and on the way got a portion of chips for £1.70 which were a decent size but not as good as up North. I got my stuff from my car. Entry was a £7 including programme which was pretty reasonable. 

In the FA Cup there had not been too much success for either side. Since entering the FA Cup for the first time in 2000, Sawbridgeworth Town had never got past the Preliminary Rounds, so today represented a great opportunity to create some history Tower Hamlets meanwhile had reached the 1st Qualifying Round in 2010, under their previous guise of Bethnal Green United where they had lost to Harlow Town in a replay.  The home side had got this far by beating Southen Manor on penalties after a replay, while Tower Hamlets had won 4-2 at Enfield to set up today's clash to set up today's clash

There was rain on and off while I waited for the game so I stood under the cover for the first half. Sawbridgeworth had already gone close before they were awarded a penalty in the 9th minute following a foul in the area. This was dispatched in the bottom right-hand corner to give the hosts the lead. They continued to have the better of the game but it was Tower Hamlets that got the next goal when a neat finish was placed into the bottom left-hand corner just after the half-hour mark. 6 minutes before the break Sawbridgeworth went ahead with a strange goal. An innocuous looking high ball into the area evaded the Tower Hamlets defence and keeper and the hosts went into the lead at half time.

It was another long range goal that brought about the equaliser 10 minutes into the second half. Tower Hamlets' number 8 had been the best player on the park, showing some good touches and decent passing range. He got the equaliser with a great lob over the halfway line after he spotted the home goalkeeper off of his line. It was all in vain though, as a few minutes later Sawbridgeworth were back ahead when Micky Kennedy's cross-shot caught out the visiting keeper. This blotted his copybook, as he'd made some good saves to keep his side in it previously. Sawrbrigdeworth sealed the result on 65 minutes with Olly Fortune's shot from outside the area. There were further chances for both sides but no more goals. There was an amusing incident five minutes from time when the visiting number 17 went down far too easily. He picked up the ball expecting a free kick, but instead the bemused referee booked him for handball.

After the game I drove home, listening to BBC 3 Counties for news of the Wycombe game. I knew that we'd got a 0-0 draw, which was a fair result, but I was glad that I'd not gone as people were reporting back that it was a poor game. It was a really good journey home and on the way back I stopped at the craft beer shop in Chalfont to see what they had in. I got myself a couple of pints of Millwhites Coleshop Farm cider which turned out to be a cracking dry cider when I had it later on. As soon as I got in I started looking at the results of the other games and was content with the choice that I'd made. The only one of my considerations that bettered it was Shoreham 3-4 Dorking Wanderers and that would have cost me a lot more, and rendered me unable to visit Bovingdon pre-game. I also planned my next couple of games in - revisits to Beaconsfield SYCOB on Sunday (v Marlow) and Camberley Town on Tuesday (v Bishops Cleeve) There was also chances of games on Wednesday and Friday in what will be another busy week for me. I spent the rest of the evening doing work on my blog, and watching TV. As ever, Match Of The Day featured, even though it meant that I only got a few hours sleep as I was up for work at 4am the next day.


CROFTERS END is located around 5-10 minutes walk from the town of Sawbridgeworth which contains a reasonable amount of places to eat and drink. Pick of them is The Old Bell which does real ale and cider,  though it is £4.30 a pint, albeit for some top quality drinks. Back at the ground a basic bar offers various beers for £3 a pint,  plus cider in bottles. The tea bar does Burgers,  Hot Dogs and Chips,  again for reasonable prices. 

All the cover at the ground is on one side,  with a few stands,  2 older ones with a mixture of sitting and standing,  plus a newly installed metal stand that was brought in to comply with ground grading regulations. The rest of the ground is open and on the far side is a second pitch which is used for friendlies and reserves games. 


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Sheringham - The Recreation Ground

Sheringham FC
The Recreation Ground
Weybourne Road
NR26 8HF

Ground Number: 607
Friday 19th August 2016
Sheringham 2-0 North Walsham
Anglian Combination Division 1


Sheringham FC were founded in 1897. They played in the FA Cup in the 1950's with their best run being to the 2nd Qualifying Round when placed there by default. In fact their only win in the competition out of 18 attempts came in 1950 as they defeated Felixstowe United in a Preliminary Round tie. Due to them being way down the pyramid they have never had the chance to enter the FA Vase, though they have enjoyed some successes in local competitions. Aside from League Cups, they have won the Cromer Lifeboat Cup on 9 occasions. In addition, the Norfolk Senior Cup final has been reached on 3 occasions - quite impressive when you consider the likes of Kings Lynn Town and even the youngsters of Norwich City participate in the competition.

They have played in the Anglian Combination for much of their history, and have won the Premier Division title twice, most recently in 2008/09. The facilities appear to be in place for promotion to the step 6 Eastern Counties League, but some work will have to be done on the field to get there. They've played in all 4 Divisions of the Anglian Combination in the last 20 years and currently reside in Division 1 which is at step 8 of the non-league pyramid, or level 12 of English football. They have also won a number of league cups including the Sterry Cup twice and the Senior Knockout Cup.



Plans were put in place for this trip last Friday while myself and fellow groundhopper Chris were attending another game in the east at Swaffham Town. Though it was a few levels lower than the game we were at, I was happy to attend as they had a stand, which is all that I really need to make me want to visit a ground.  It would be a bit further than our last journey - another 50 miles in fact, so I was hoping that the traffic would behave. In between the 2 games I'd seen a couple of Wycombe home games that had yielded a win and a draw, as well as making a 13th visit to Chesham United for their reserves game against Wodson Park. The main reason for this was to update my blog, something that took around 6 hours to do due to needing to research some of the games that I'd forgotten I'd been to.

It was a fairly easy day at work on the day of the game, and I was out by 12. After coming home I had a bath, as well as a decent lunch of a Jamaican Saltfish Pattie. I had a couple of hours to spare so I started tonight's blog, researching the clubs history. I'd sold my old computer on eBay and was not happy to receive messages from the buyer to the effect that the driver hadn't bothered to knock, so they'd missed the delivery. I don't know who to believe as the buyer (and the whole selling process) has been a bit of a pain. I was still to decide what game to go to tomorrow in the FA Cup, so I spent the final 15 minutes trying to make a choice. I fancied going to the National Museum of Computing History in Cambridge, so tried to tie in something out that way as it would subsidise my fuel costs. There wasn't too much choice, but I was still not 100% sure. Initial feelings were for Wisbech Town v Peterborough Sports in the FA Cup, as the weather looked OK in that part of the world.

With all that faffing around, I didn't leave home until 3.10, 20 minutes later than planned. My Sat Nav gave an estimated arrival time of 4.15, but I made up most of the lost time and was in Milton Keynes a few minutes after 4. I met Chris and soon we were on our way. As usual Chris used his local knowledge to avoid the Black Cat roundabout, which seems to have got it's name for the bad luck it bestows upon anyone unlucky enough to encounter it's long delays around rush hour. The journey was slightly better than last week, with only around 40 minutes delay on the initial expected arrival time. On the way we'd discussed my FA Cup options. With Chris not yet having done Wisbech yet, I settled on Sawbridgeworth Town v Tower Hamlets, as I could incorporate other stuff into my day if I went out that way. I was also pleased that my parcel had been delivered, though the buyer was soon whinging about something else. That said, the mobile signal was very patchy, so I did at least get a bit of peace for the evening.

We arrived at 7.10. The food and drink facilities were disappointing - no hot food and only cans of lager at the bar, but I didn't expect much at this level anyway. What was decent was the £3 entry which included a well-presented programme, which although thin, had a decent amount to read. It was the first game of the season in the Anglian Combination and North Walsham had bought a decent support for this local derby. They were boistrous and loud all game, with several amusing chants including the claim that they had all slept with their former player Dan Reynolds Mum! The game started with the home side knocking it about very nicely and coming close on a couple of occasions. North Walsham were still in it though and it was stile scoreless at the break.  The game sprang into life a few minutes into the second half when Aaron Kay opened the scoring with a fantastic strike. From fully 25 yards, his curling shot smashing in off the bar. Had it been in the Premiership, the Sky pundits would have been purring over it for weeks. They made the game safe around the hour mark, this time a decent through ball bamboozled the visiting defence and it was left to Chris Fuller to apply the finish past the goalkeeper.  Towards the end I noticed that one of the floodlight bulbs was out, making an area of the pitch slightly dim. In higher levels the official would have relished calling the game off at a drop of a hat, citing 'health and safety' but the referee just got on with it.

After the game we were a bit hungry and thirsty, so made our way into town. First stop was 'The Lobster' - a decent pub that had won awards. Happily there was real cider available, and we both had a pint of Weston's Country Perry which at 4.5% was a sensible one to have when driving. We then made our way to a Chinese takeaway called 'The Golden Bowl' where I had a decent portion of Duck Spring Rolls & Chips. Portions seem to be very generous in this part of the world, and so I saved one of my spring rolls for breakfast the next morning. We'd been in town around and hour before we left at 10.35 and a nice town it was too, with its amusement arcades and unspoilt feeling. I scanned through the radio looking for something to listen to on the way home. I was amused to find North Norfolk Radio which I thought only existed in the fictional Alan Partridge series. The great man was not on air himself, but they did have a decent selection of music playing. Annoyingly the signal was lost just south of Swaffham and this gave way to a depressing range of modern R&B dirge and easy listening songs that your gran would like. Nothing for fans of good music then, and this made the journey feel a bit longer than it needed to. I dropped Chris off at 12.40, getting home myself at 1.35. I have a couple of ciders whilst catching up online and watching some YouTube videos before going to sleep around 3am.

THE RECREATION GROUND is set at the back of a leisure centre, just under a mile from town. Catering facilities are basic, though this is to be expected at this level. Though the ground has just the one area of cover - enough for a good few hundred fans, it's a lot better than most at this level and is well worth a visit if you want to stick to grounds with stands in them.