Ground Number: 324
Saturday 24th May 2014
Wadham Lodge 3-0 Newbury Forest
Essex Olympian League
For what was to be my 132nd and final game of the season, I was not going to have much choice of where to go. I wanted somewhere with a stand that I could photograph, and my first thought was Whitwell in the Hertfordshire Senior League who I was informed had a stand. I had enjoyed watching Belstone in the same league last week and so it seemed like a good idea. But then I saw that Wadham Lodge were at home in the Essex Olympian League. I checked with the club that they were playing in the stadium that Waltham Forest play in. They were very helpful via Twitter and so I decided to give that league a go, possibly doing something beforehand and making a bit of a day of it.
I couldn't find much information about Wadham Lodge FC but I do know that they were in 9th place in the league, with their opponents just above them in 2nd. The ground that they play at is mainly used for Waltham Forest FC who up until being relegated at the end of last season, played in the Isthmian League Division 1 North. The area of Waltham Forest itself is responsible for inflicting the music world with such bands as Blue and Blazin Squad and was also one of the host venues for the 2012 London Olympics. Though the area might have not done much for music, although to be fair, Damon Albarn of Blur fame was born there to balance things out a bit, it did at least supply David Beckham and Graham Gooch to the sporting world, as well as film director Alfred Hitchcock.
Newbury Forest were founded in 2003 as a Sunday League team and in the words of themselves 'lost almost every game'. But things improved, the club was expanded with other teams and they eventually made the switch to Saturday football in 2008 joining the Romford and District League, They won that at the first attempt and gained promotion to the Essex and Suffolk Border League and were placed in it's second tier. They won that at the first attempt too. After doing well in the Premier Division they transferred to the Essex Olympian League and are currently hoping to gain promotion to the Essex Senior League in the future, though this is dependent on them finding a home of their own or a suitable venue to share at.
I'd decided to go early on the day if the weather played ball and though the forecast for the weather was torrential rain all day, it was overcast and fairly dry when I woke. I initially intended to go to Bovingdon Market before the game as I had not been there for a while but had intended to leave about 11.30. After seeing there was quite a lot to do in nearby Walthamstow, I decided to leave an hour earlier and try and spend some time there pre match.
I got to Bovingdon just after 11 and it had completely changed from when I last went. There were some of the stalls that had been there for years, but happily for me it seems to have been taken over by fake clothes stalls. I got myself 2 branded genuine fake T-Shirts and a hoody for a tenner and it reminded me of years ago in Turkey when I used to bring back a load of stuff from my holiday. The T-Shirts were a bit thin, but the hoody was lovely quality - thick and soft inside and I was dead pleased with it. I wasn't overly hungry but I saw a stall selling Carribean food and fancied trying myself a jerk chicken dumpling. I was glad I did as it was absolutely delicious and something that I want more of. I also got myself some cherries for £1.
I got back to my car at 11.40 and put 'Waltham Forest' into my SatNav, expecting to get to the ground they share with Wadham Lodge. The POI file that I had downloaded off the non league forum had served me well, guiding me well most of the time and a lot more accurate than just a postcode or road name as it directed me spot on to the car park. At least most of the time I did. There were some times where the file was out of date or it got it's knickers in a twist and I ended up in the middle of some housing estate. But my main concern when putting the ground in was that for some reason there was 40 minutes delay on the M25, so I had to add on extra miles and go cross country. I thought it was a bit odd that I saw no signs for Walthamstow when I came off the big A road, but I persisted through the built up traffic. I was most dismayed when I pulled up outside the home of Ilford FC which isn't the most inspiring venue at the best of times, let alone when you are aiming for somewhere else altogether. I got there at 1.10 and had to reprogram my Sat Nav with the street address for the ground.
So I had to make the 7.2 mile journey back over to Walthamstow, arriving there at 1.40. My original plan was to walk into town and go to the Rose and Crown pub which was supposed to be half decent. But with less than an hour to kick off and it being 20 minutes walk each way, I had no realistic chance of going, having a pint and making it back, especially when I wanted food too. Luckily there was a row of shops and also a pub a few minutes walk from the ground. I went in a pub called the Dog and Duck and the choice wasn't great so I just got a pint of Strongbow while I checked Facebook on my phone. I then went to the fried Chicken Place next door and had a mediocre but filling chicken fillet and chips for the wallet-friendly price of £1.80.
As I had drunk all my Irn Bru while sitting in traffic, I stopped at a shop on the way back to the ground to get a few cans for the match. It was an East European shop and so I got a few Latvian ciders to take back to the car and to have with the Champions League Final later. I got back to the ground bang on kick off as the players were in tunnel, but needed to nip out to go to the toilet before I took my seat for the game. I got back in and the game was already underway, but I didn't miss any action. As they were playing, I walked round and got some pictures of the ground.
The game wasn't up to much and the most interesting thing of note was the weather which was clear and sunny one minute, then torrential rain, thunder and lightning the next. It was your typical end of season game with chances at a premium. The opening goal came on 35 minutes when a good cross was put into the box and Newbury Forest's big number 5 deflected it into the net. It was pretty equal in terms of play, but Wadham's number 7 who reminded me of Danny Wellbeck had been casing the visitors a few problems.
At half time I talked to a bloke who had been Marvin McCoy's youth manager at the now sadly defunct Leyton FC. He was surprised at the right back's release and thought he would do well. My thought was 'better the devil you know' as I liked Marvin as a player. We have signed a replacement - Sido Jombati from Cheltenham who has the self same description as Marvin - very good going forward, but not as strong at the back. I think we will need a defensive minded right back in our squad too, so I await developments with interest. After we had our chat I went back to my car to put my bag in the boot and went to the toilet, arriving back in the ground just as the players were coming out of the tunnel for the second half.
It was a bit more lively second half, with the home side, playing in white, looking the better side. Newbury had their chances though and they had the ball in the net on 58 minutes but it was ruled out for offside. They had also previously hit the post. The lead was doubled for the home side moments later as the experienced number 14 powerfully shot in from inside the area. The game was sewn up later on when the number 2 taped in from inside the area to make it 3-0.
It hadn't been awful, neither had it been a cracker. I think on balance that the Hertfordshire League game that I saw last week was a batter quality league than the Essex Olympian League, but it's hardly a scientific or fair experiment with just the single game in each. After the game, I went home, getting home at 5.30. I had a nice curry for dinner, doing the usual in the evening as well as watching the Champions League Final. It also marked the end of my season which started in Kent on the 29th June last year. Over £2500 and 14000 miles later, I had seen 420 goals as well as meeting some amazing people and seeing some nice places. It had cost a fair wedge, about 20% of my income, but all in all it had been worth it. Roll on next season, which hopefully will start on 28th June.
WADHAM LODGE was a good ground for Ryman League level and surely will be one of the best in the Essex Senior League and indeed the Essex Olympian League next season. With both goals having decent sized covered terracing and the main stand holding around 300 it is just the far side that is open.
None of the facilities were open today as it is mainly Waltham Forest's ground. But there is plenty around the ground in terms of pubs, shops and takeaways. It may well be nowt special, but at least it does the job.