Saturday, January 22, 2022

Abbey Rangers FC

Abbey Rangers 3 Egham Town 0 - Combined Counties League, Premier Division North



Abbey Rangers Football Club was established in 1976, initially as a youth club and was named after the nearby Chertsey Abbey. Subsequently the club joined the Surrey & Hants Border League, winning Division one in 2004-05. In 2006 the club joined the Guildford & Woking Alliance and won Division One at the first attempt. The following season after finishing as runners up in the Premier Division, promotion to the Surrey County Intermediate League (Western) was secured. Via a further move to the Surrey Elite Intermediate League, Abbey Rangers gained promotion to the Combined Counties League in 2014. Promotion to the Premier Division was secured that first season.



Stand-up comic, William Evans (our good friend from Spurs), is said to be a former player for Abbey Rangers and I will confess that since I learned of this, I decided that a visit would be necessary. The club play their home matches at Addlestone Moor with the nearest railway station being Addlestone. The walk from the railway station is fairly straightforward and takes a little over fifteen minutes. The only real obstacle being crossing the busy A317 Woburn Road, along which it appears you are only eligible to drive along it, if you are travelling fast.



There are no public houses or other refreshment facilities on the direct route from the station. However, exiting the station in the other direction would satisfy as it leads to the main town centre. The excellent clubhouse building at Abbey Rangers is situated behind the near goal as you enter the ground and includes a superb refreshment bar “The Dugout”, along with a licensed bar.  Here I was able to watch the second half of Everton v Aston Villa, having a choice of three screens.


Many of the regular Abbey Rangers fans opted to watch the match in front of the clubhouse with their pints. The main spectator viewing areas are two covered seated stands and a further covered standing are. All of which are located along one side, which also contains the dugouts. The remainder of the ground is railed off, with hardstanding along the opposite side but not the far end.


I was struck by the community feel to the place. It was already busy when I arrived around 1:15 and there had been early football activity for youngsters. Outside the main playing area there are other pitches, including a 3G facility and the club is clearly ambitious, having already taken great strides. 

Assistant Referees 

 

A glance at the league table in the matchday programme revealed Abbey Rangers in third position and visitors Egham Town in fifth. Therefore, a decent match was anticipated. On a chilly afternoon it was the hosts that took the early initiative and were soon ahead, courtesy of a fine strike by Archie Vincent, Further goals (a brace from Mo Diakite) ensured a comprehensive lead for the hosts at the break



There were no further goals in the second period despite the best efforts of both sides. Egham Town will have been frustrated with their afternoon, with good build up play unrewarded. The final whistle blew around 16:55 leaving just enough time to get back to the station and cross the bridge to the London bound platform.






Attendance: 62
Admission: £7:00/£4:00
Programme: Free (24 pages) 
Tea: £1:00










Saturday, January 15, 2022

Fleet Spurs FC

Fleet Spurs 0 Romsey Town 2 - Wessex League, Division One





Fleet is a town in the Hart District of Hampshire and is situated 38 miles from London and 13 miles east of Basingstoke. The Fleet Pond nature reserve is a beauty spot on the northern edge of the town. Fleet Pond is the largest freshwater lake in Hampshire. In the past, the lake has frozen over which has allowed skating. A notable incident occurred at a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken at Fleet Services on 14 December 2016. A fire broke out damaging at least 60% of the building. A customer on site at the time said that the fire was caused by a faulty coffee machine. More than 100 firefighters from Hampshire and Surrey attended the scene. 



The football club was established in 1948, joining the Aldershot & District League in 1951. Having also played in the Surrey Premier League, the club joined the Hampshire League in 1991. In 2004 Fleet Spurs were placed in Division Three of the Wessex League and currently play in Division One. In 2013 the club was obliged to change their badge, which included a stylised cockerel, because its similarity to Tottenham Hotspur’s logo infringed that club’s copyright.



I was offered a lift to the Surrey/Hampshire borders and an early start facilitated some exploring of the delightful village of Thursley and its surrounds. A very English part of our world boasting a fine traditional public house. A lovely lunch was enjoyed at The Three Horseshoes, supplemented with a couple of fine local ales. Shere Drop (4.2%) from the Surrey Hills Brewery in Dorking and Lion Brewery Bitter (3.9%) from the Crafty Brewing co in Dunsfold. Both ales were in excellent condition.



Fleet Spurs play at Kennels Lane which is actually in Farnborough, only a short distance from the M3. The drive over from Thursley was straightforward and it wasn’t long before we were parked up and ready for the match. I soon received the news that the Premier League had agreed to postpone the following day’s North London derby, but at least I would be watching Spurs this weekend!

 


The ground is “basic” for this level of football, but of course ticks all the relevant boxes. Floodlights, hardstanding and covered seating. However, the latter facility is some distance from the pitch and the sightlines are poor. For the majority of the match nobody was seated. This would have been different if we had experienced rain I’m sure. The clubhouse building is smart and contains the changing rooms, boardroom and refreshment facilities. The matchday programme was online for this match as “the printer is on holiday”



As the teams emerged for the match it was obvious that there was a colour clash. Apart from some of the assembled spectators, nobody seemed to be bothered too much. An attempt was made to find an alternative strip without success. To be fair the teams and officials seemed to cope rather well with this but the officials will have had issues determining who was who at times! Romsey Town dominated the first period and were well worth their two goal lead at the break.



On a cold afternoon my half time cup of tea was just what the doctor ordered! The second period was a more even affair and the home side managed to hit the woodwork on a couple of occasions. That said I felt that the visitors were always in the driving seat and emerged worthy winners. It was nice to chat with some of the Romsey Town officials and likewise those representing the home side. As is often the case, there seem to be a very few people covering a number of posts. The journey home via the M3 and M25 was swift, although the traffic congestion on the latter heading in the anti-clockwise direction looked less appealing.





Attendance: 35
Admission: £6:00/£4:00
Programme: Not issued (the above is taken from the club website)
Tea: £1:50








Saturday, January 08, 2022

Meridian VP FC

Meridian VP 2 Greenways 2 Southern Counties East League, Division One



Meridian VP FC is located in Charlton, part of the London Borough of Greenwich. Founded in 1995 as Meridian S&S, the club joined the Dartford & District League, finishing as runners-up in 1999/2000 and lifting the league cup in 2002/2003. Following spells in the Kent County League and the Kent Invicta League, the club became a member of the newly named Southern Counties East League in 2016.



The club is based at the Meridian Sports & Social Club on Charlton Park Lane. The social club was established in 1921 by employees of Siemens who worked at the company’s factory in Woolwich and was funded by staff via contributions from their weekly pay. The Sports ground was purchased in 1933 and the clubhouse was built in 1937. The factory was closed in 1967 and the site lay derelict until reopening in 1977 when leased by Greenwich London Borough Council.



With heavy rain forecast, it was always going to be a bit of a gamble setting off for this match. There was no indication on the respective twitter accounts that the game was in doubt, but I set off in hope rather than expectation. My journey via Cheshunt, Stratford and Greenwich to Charlton was straightforward. The uphill walk from the station to the upper reaches of Charlton took a little over fifteen minutes.


I was rather pleased on arrival to find most people positive that the pitch was playable, importantly this included the referee who took a ball onto the pitch and soon announced that the match was on. At this point, I adjourned to the historic clubhouse building for refreshment in the form of cheeseburger and chips, washed down with a cup of tea. A number of television screens were showing the FA Cup tie between Millwall and Crystal Palace and whilst waiting for a train at Greenwich I had heard the crowd roaring at the New Den. This facility also houses a licensed bar.



The only spectator viewing facility at this venue is a decent covered seated stand, which housed all the spectators on a very wet afternoon with one exception. Despite the constant rain for much of the match, one gentleman watched the entire 90 minutes out in the open. The only other furniture surrounding the pitch is the turnstile block, situated by the clubhouse and the home and away dugouts opposite the stand.


It was only on reading the excellent match programme that I realised that both teams were struggling at the wrong end of the table this season. The first period of the match, played in difficult conditions, contradicted the league placings, as both sides adapted rather well. The match was end to end at times with the forwards testing the keepers, Greenways briefly held the lead before the home side edged their way back into the match.


The second half followed a very similar pattern and muddy shirts were worn with pride as the weather worsened. A couple of minutes before the end saw the rain intensify and I feared for my walk back to the station. The home side had taken the lead but were pegged back by the visitors to claim a deserved share of the spoils. I believe it would have been harsh for either side to have lost. Amazingly, the rain had stopped as I left the ground and my walk downhill to the station was swift and dry.  




Attendance: 20
Admission: £6:00/£4:00
Programme: £2:50 (32 pages)
Tea: £1:00

For a full set of photographs click here








Monday, January 03, 2022

Sheerwater FC

Sheerwater 3 Beckenham Town 2 - Combined Counties League, Premier Division South


Sheerwater is a residential neighbourhood within the Borough of Woking in Surrey. The border is defined in the north by a gently winding part of the Basingstoke Canal and to the south by the South Western Main Line. Sheerwater was also spelt Sherewater until the early 20th Century. It was since the Norman conquest, a high sandy heath and notable pond (small lake) of Pyrford. The pond was an extensive mere on the high Bagshot Sand, drained and planted at the time of its enclosure, 29 September 1815. Sheerwater was designed as a new neighbourhood by the London County Council and approved by the local Urban District Council allowing 1300 homes to be built in the early 1950s when over 5000 people settled in the borough. Notable former Sheerwater residents and pupils were Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler who together with other pupils of the then Sheerwater Comprehensive School formed The Jam. 



Sheerwater Football Club was founded in 1958, by John French, and they began life as members of the Woking & District League. After achieving Intermediate status, they joined the Surrey Intermediate League (Western) in 1967. The club was a founding member of the Home Counties League in 1978, which was renamed a year later to the Combined Counties League. Previously Sheerwater played their home games at Sheerwater Recreation Ground. The Jam played some of their early gigs at the clubhouse, before releasing their breakthrough song "In The City".



I had visited Sheerwater FC’s previous ground, Sheerwater Recreation Ground, in April 2016. That location was only a few hundred yards from the new venue which opened this season. My journey was made by train from Clapham Junction to West Byfleet, From the station it is just short of a twenty-minute walk to Eastwood Leisure Centre, a smart new complex situated behind Bishop David Brown School on Albert Drive.



Spectators enter the football ground through the main building and are directed to an impressive large clubroom with refreshment facilities, before proceeding out of the building to the entrance gate. In truth there is not a lot of room for spectators surrounding the artificial pitch, but it is possible to watch the match from all four sides. The side adjacent to the main building is covered with seating. The side is more spacious than the remainder of the ground but a decent view is afforded throughout.



I had to wait until the 96th minute of my previous match on New Year’s Day to see a goal, by contrast this afternoon the first goal was scored on 28 seconds. Sheerwater increased their lead a few minutes later and by the break were 3-0 ahead. However, visitors Beckenham Town had not played badly and had probably created more scoring chances than their hosts. Both sides were playing decent football enjoyed by a number of neutrals present.



The second period continued to provide entertainment and a couple of goals for the visitors gave the correct balance to the afternoon. The last twenty minutes saw the play switch from end to end and Beckenham Town can consider themselves very unlucky not to have got something from this match as they were more than a match for Sheerwater. Unfortunately, towards the end, the match took on a less pleasant feel as the atmosphere changed somewhat.



Sheerwater’s last home match had been abandoned when the opposition decided to walk off the pitch. This match was completed, but on the final whistle there was a mass brawl involving most of the players and many from the benches. It was all rather pathetic and not a good sight for the children watching (a little bit more than the usual handbags too) and I’m not sure how the match officials concluded matters. To be fair, some participants were trying to defuse the situation, with little success. A sour note to end what was actually a very good football match and a credit to the Combined Counties League.


Attendance: 148
Admission: £5:00/£3:00
Programme: £1:50 (36 pages)
Tea: £1:00

For a full set of photographs click here








Saturday, December 11, 2021

Needham Market Reserves FC

Needham Market Reserves 7 Wisbech St Mary 0 - Eastern Counties League, Division One North




The Suffolk town of Needham Market initially grew around the wool combing industry until the onset of the plague which gripped the town between 1663 and 1665. To prevent the spread of the disease, the town was chained at either end. Today there are two road names in the town with links to the plague. Notably, Chainhouse Road and the Causeway (a variation of Corpseway). The actress June Brown (Dot Cotton in Eastenders) was born in Needham Market.


Although records show the existence of a Needham Market football club during the late 1890s, the current club was established in 1919. The first team has progressed over the years via the Ipswich & District League, the Eastern Counties League and the Isthmian League. Currently the first team compete in the Southern League, Premier Division Central. The Reserve team previously played in the Essex & Suffolk Border League and currently compete in the Eastern Counties League, Division One North.


I initially set off to watch Lowestoft Town and had already enjoyed a pleasant rail journey via Ipswich and a pint at Britain’s easternmost point, before hopping back on a train to Norwich, another to Stowmarket and finally a further connection to Needham Market. The walk to Bloomfields from the station takes less than ten minutes and I reached the ground an hour before kick-off. I previously visited Bloomfields in February 2007 when the club’s first team played in the Eastern Counties League. The changes and improvements made to the ground since then are remarkable.


The most significant change is the addition of Bloomfields 3G, a completely separate ground adjacent to the main stadium. This facility was introduced in 2018 and is the permanent base for the reserve team. The impressive artificial surface is complimented by a 50 seat stand and changing rooms for players and officials. Upstairs is a café/bar with a separate area for club and visiting officials. There is also a covered balcony from where matches can be watched.


I enjoyed a couple of informative conversations with the Academy Director and it is abundantly clear that this facility is not just about the football, as it provides an educational platform for the players, as well as a pathway to the first team. Visitors Wisbech St Mary are having a torrid time this season and were propping up the league going into this match. They will not have enjoyed the home sides blistering start and at half time had already conceded four goals. This was due to a combination of slick passing and good finishing supplemented by a quality long range effort.


The second half followed a similar pattern with a further three goals for the hosts. For a young team, they showed great maturity and still showed respect for the opposition and match officials. Wisbech St Mary, another young team, never gave up and always attempted to play organised football. They just did not have enough, but will have better days. During the match it got progressively colder and just before the second half commenced the referee asked me if the temperature had dropped? I informed him that since he last blew his whistle, my gloves had gone on, which was an affirmative response.


Just a couple of minutes from Needham Market station is the Rampant Horse public house. With my train to Ipswich due at 17:47, I took the opportunity to take shelter. Refreshment was enjoyed in the form of Mole Trap (3.8%) from Mauldons Brewery (Sudbury) and Brandeston Gold (4.5%) from Earl Soham Brewery. Both were in superb condition and I am pleased to have been able to sample a couple of local ales. The connection at Ipswich was on time and the entire days travel cost £5:00 (thanks again Martin) with a discounted rail voucher.




Attendance: 69
Admission: £5:00/£3:00
Programme: Not issued (above taken from club website)
Tea: £1:20












Saturday, November 06, 2021

Kidlington FC

Kidlington 0 Harlow Town 0 - Southern League, Division One Central



Kidlington is a large village in Oxfordshire, situated between the River Cherwell and the Oxford Canal. It is located 5 miles north of Oxford and 7.5 miles south west of Bicester. The Church of England parish church of St Mary the Virgin dates from 1220, but there is evidence of a church on the site since 1073. The church is a Grade I listed building. Behind the church are archaeological remains of a three-sided moat. A causeway recently discovered may have been of Roman origin, In the 20th century, Kidlington grew to be a contender for largest village in England, with a population of 13,723. Its residents have so far resisted proposals to change the official status to a town. 


The football club was established in 1909. In 1945 the club joined the Oxford City Junior League, before progressing to the Oxfordshire Senior League in 1951. They were champions of the league in 1953 and moved up to the Hellenic League in 1954. When the league gained an additional division in 1956, the club was placed in the Premier Division. After winning the league in 2016, the club was promoted to Division One East of the Southern League. At the end of the following season, the club was transferred to Division One West. The club was transferred to the newly formed Division One Central for the 2018-19 season. 


Kidlington is easily reached by train from London Marylebone and the nearby Oxford Parkway station benefits from regular (often at half hourly intervals) services. A bit of shopping around and advanced booking, enabled me to buy a ticket for £3.55 outward and £5.25 return. The walk from the station is a leisurely half an hour stroll to the ground. Alternatively, there are regular bus services connecting Oxford and Kidlington that serve the railway station.



Some limited research in advance, facilitated a visit to the wonderful Kings Arms public house, which is situated just off the High Street in a lovely part of town (it really is a town based on size). A super friendly establishment boasting two bars and four handpumps. A magnificent range of varied conversation was supplemented by delicious fish and chips. My selected ales were Plum Porter (Titanic Brewery 4.9%) and Old Hooky (Hook Norton Brewery 4.9%) – both superb. It was interesting to see the club secretary of Harlow Town FC also enjoying the Kings Arms. Her entourage having carried out similar research!



It took a little over ten minutes to walk from the pub to Yarnton Road. My entry to the ground was delayed due to Solar Eclipse (4.5% from Dark Star Brewing Company) being available in the clubhouse. For research purposes, I felt obliged to partake and an excellent decision that proved to be. Once I managed to find my way to the turnstiles, entry to the ground was secured.



The ground is very basic in appearance, but clearly recent elevation to the eighth tier of the English game cannot have been made without the requisite spectator and associated facilities. There is a covered seated stand along one side of the pitch and this is complemented by a covered standing area along side. An additional covered standing area is situated at the clubhouse end of the ground. With the exception of the dugouts (both bearing the initials KFC – no bargain bucket for Phil Bayley on his recent visit to this venue!), there is no other furniture around the pitch.


This match was not the greatest spectacle (despite the cushion of some excellent ale). Struggling Kidlington and visitors Harlow Town huffed and puffed without creating very much. Harlow’s formation was different and it was difficult to see where goals might come from. Two red cards, one after the final whistle will have added to the frustration of those returning to Essex on the Ross Arnold omnibus. Kidlington and their friendly folk will have been pleased with a well-earned point. 





Attendance: 108
Admission: £8:00/£4:00
Programme: £1:50 (36 pages)
Tea: £1:00

                                                                                                        









Saturday, October 09, 2021

Harrogate Town FC

Harrogate Town 6 Scunthorpe United 1 - League Two



Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire. The spa water contains iron, sulphur and common salt. In the Georgian era, the town became known as the English spa and became a popular tourist destination as wealthy (sometimes sickly) visitors came in search of health treatment. Another significant attraction is RHS Harlow Carr Gardens. Managed by the Royal Horticultural Society it is their main presence and representation in the North of England. Bettys Tea Rooms on Parliament Street is an another iconic tourist attraction for Harrogate. The actor Jim Carter (Carson in Downton Abbey) was born in Harrogate.


Two previous incarnations of the football club were founded in 1914 and 1919 as Harrogate AFC and Harrogate Town AFC. The latter disbanded in 1932. Harrogate Hotspurs FC was founded in 1935, changing their name to Harrogate Town when football resumed after World War II. Since then the club has played in the West Yorkshire League, Yorkshire League, Northern Counties East League, Northern Premier League and Conference/National League. This culminated in promotion to the Football League in 2020. The club also won the delayed 2019/2020 FA Trophy final at Wembley Stadium in 2021, beating Concord Rangers.



Although I had previously completed “the 92” I often take a while to catch up when new teams are promoted to the Football League. The previous season being dramatically affected by the pandemic meant that Harrogate Town FC remained on my agenda. A ticket sale by LNER provided an opportunity to travel to Leeds for £10 each way and my plan was formulated. I was also able to secure cheap advance purchase tickets for the Leeds – Harrogate legs of the journey (just over £2 each way).


I should mention that prior to arriving at Harrogate my train passed over the Crimple Valley Viaduct. This Grade II listed structure offers stunning views and is met by a sharp bend when approaching from Leeds. On arrival at Harrogate Station, the adjacent Harrogate Tap provided an excellent refreshment opportunity. At this establishment I enjoyed a superb pint of Weight Less (4.2%), a session IPA from RedWillow Brewery (Macclesfield). A short walk then took me to The Little Ale House micropub where I reverted to Yorkshire tradition to enjoy an equally rewarding brew in the form of Gamekeeper (4.3%) from Wensleydale Brewery.


From the railway station the walk to Wetherby Road takes little more than twenty minutes. Some of which was via a well-trodden path that crosses a park. I suspect this was just a small track that the local authority paved over at some point, having conceded! The rapid rise of the club in recent years has necessitated many changes to the structure of the ground. First impressions are of a venue that has evolved into a really nice place to watch football. There are many covered structures around the ground, some for seating and others for standing. I hope the photographs included with this post help to paint that picture.


With this being a weekend set aside for international football an opportunity arose for many neutrals to visit Harrogate Town for the first time. This was underlined by the record attendance of 3180 for this venue. I spoke to a number of people before, during and after the match who were making their first visit. The match between high flying Harrogate Town and struggling Scunthorpe United commenced in spectacular fashion with the home side leading by three clear goals with just over a quarter of an hour played.


At half time it was 5-0 and it would be interesting to see how the visitors would react. They were out and ready long before their hosts and what was said at half time will most likely have been best left in the changing room. To be fair they showed themselves more resolute in the second period and managed a goal before Harrogate Town scored again from the spot, getting a man sent off for a second yellow card from this incident. The journey home via Leeds was good and I was able to reflect on an interesting first visit to Harrogate.








Attendance: 3180
Admission: £13:00 
Programme: £3:00 (48 pages)