Thursday, July 15, 2021

Pitstone & Ivinghoe FC

Pitstone & Ivinghoe 0 Leighton Town 3 - Friendly

Pitstone is a village and civil parish in the Aylesbury Vale district of Buckinghamshire. It is at the foot of the central range of the Chiltern Hills, centred 6 miles east of Aylesbury and 5 miles south of Leighton Buzzard. The village name is Anglo Saxon in origin, and means 'Picel's thorn tree'.  In 1290 King Edward I spent Christmas in Pitstone at the estate of the Abbey at Ashridge and stayed for five weeks, during which time he held parliament in Ashridge. His stay caused great inconvenience to the local inhabitants of the village who were legally obliged to keep the king and his court. Pitstone directly adjoins the village of Ivinghoe, and the two villages share some facilities. For a village Ivinghoe has an unusual feature: a town hall, rather than a village hall. The village has some fine examples of Tudor architecture, particularly around the village green, with 28 buildings marked as listed or significant. 

The football club was formed in 1957 after the demise of Ivinghoe & Pitstone FC and started playing at Pitstone Recreation Ground. The club started in the West Herts League and in their inaugural season won the West Herts Challenge Cup. In the early 1960s, the club then joined the Aylesbury & District League, before returning to the West Herts League in 1966. In 1977, with improved facilities at Pitstone Recreation Ground the club was accepted into the South Midlands League and in doing so gained Intermediate status with the Berks & Bucks FA. At the start of the 1997/98 season with the merger of the South Midlands League and Spartan League, the club became founder members of Spartan South Midlands League Division One North. Since the 2004–05 season, the club has competed in Division Two of the Spartan South Midlands League.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to Pitstone (much appreciated Phil) and the journey took a little around 45 minutes with the M25 on good behaviour. Before heading for the ground, following some good research by our driver, we visited the Red Lion public house in the neighbouring village of Marsworth. In a delightful rural setting this Pieman enjoyed Side Pocket For a Toad (3.6%) from Tring Brewery followed by a pint of Roasted Nuts from Rebellion Brewery (Marlow). At 4.6%, this is “a deep ruby, complex and flavoursome beer, packed with intense and distinctive malt and hop character” – very nice it was too. Due to the pandemic I ordered the beer by text and it is to the credit of the bar staff that predictive text on my phone did not result in me receiving rotated nuts instead!

From said pub it took around twenty-five minutes to walk to Pitstone Pavilion and there is a roadside footpath (just about) covering the route. There is a decent sized car park adjacent to the very new pavilion. This building is very impressive for a club playing at this level and is a testament to the hard work put in over recent years. There is even a pay turnstile. The building contains a function room and a refreshment hatch, along with the changing rooms. The ground is fully enclosed although currently there is no railing around the perimeter of the playing area. I understand that floodlights are on the agenda for future ground enhancement.

The original dugouts from the previous era, when the club played at Pitstone Recreation Ground, are now resident at this venue and are a quirky reminder of the past. Some “senior” supporters use these as a viewing area and were very welcoming in conversation with this Pieman. I guess when raining these structures are used to provide shelter as would the overhang from the pavilion.

Visitors Leighton Town play three levels above the home side and early exchanges showed as much. However, Pitstone gradually played their way into the match and an even first half ended goalless. The second period saw a couple of early goals for the visitors but the hosts again found their feet and at times took the game to their higher league opponents, missing a few opportunities to get on the scoresheet. Despite the end result, Pitstone should be pleased with their performance.

This venue is probably not the easiest to reach by public transport. Ironically, the main West Coast railway line from London Euston runs within 100 yards of the ground. We were treated to the sight of a steam train (just the steam really) heading back to Euston late in the second half. A delightful place to visit and a swift journey home was enjoyed.

Attendance: ?
Admission: £2:00/£1:00
Programme: Not issued
Tea: £1:00

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Peckham Town FC

Peckham Town 1 Fisher 1 - Friendly

Peckham is a district within the London Borough of Southwark. It is 3.5 miles south-east of Charing Cross. “Peckham” is a Saxon place name meaning the village of the River Peck, a small stream that ran through the district until it was enclosed in 1823. Peckham was originally part of the parish of Camberwell in Surrey, which became the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell within the County of London in 1889. Peckham was the setting of the television sitcom Only Fools and Horses in its run as a regular series from 1981 to 1991, as well as Christmas specials until 2003.

The football club was established in 1982 by the then 13-year-old Bryan Hall, after he placed a poster on a tree in Peckham Rye Park saying he wanted to start a team. Four players turned up to the first session, but this soon grew. The initial name of the club was Brimington Park FC, and was named after the park that a group of friends used to hold kickabouts on every evening. In 1983 the club changed its name to Peckham Town Football Club. Progression through local leagues culminated in the club being promoted to the Kent County League in 2012. Two subsequent promotions have resulted in elevation to the Premier Division. The 2019/20 London Senior Trophy was won on penalties when AFC Cubo were beaten on penalties following a 0-0 draw after extra time.

My journey to the Menace Arena was via Stratford, Canada Water and Peckham Rye. The nearest station to the ground is West Dulwich. However, I opted for North Dulwich which was more convenient in terms of connections. From there it is no more than a fifteen-minute walk through the pleasant Dulwich Village and Dulwich Park which is adjacent to the rear of the ground. Our Queens Park Rangers correspondent, Chris Hewitt, advises that Bus Route 2 from Brixton Station will drop you at the ground.

I had heard that this quirky venue was worth visiting and was not disappointed. The ground itself is older than the club and sight of the clubhouse building confirms this. The place is awash with bright colour and the club have done amazingly well to enhance their surroundings. The perimeter of the pitch is fully railed. There is a covered seated stand opposite the clubhouse side of the pitch and some raised banking offering a good vantage point.

There is a further covered structure behind the goal at the end closest to the ground entrance, which would provide more than adequate cover in poor weather. Additionally, there is a very small covered structure by one of the corners providing a panoramic view for a very limited number. The clubhouse will have seen a lot of history and this is where the refreshment facilities are located.

On arrival at the ground the first twenty customs were offered a free bottle of Sxollie cider, which was a nice touch. Further refreshment was enjoyed in the form of craft beer from Brick Brewery (Peckham Rye). I was able to partake in Peckham Session IPA (4.2%) and Peckham Pale (4.5%) – very nice too. Phil Bayley won the 50/50 draw, which was ironic as he was the first admission to the ground! Unsurprisingly the home team entered the pitch to the Only Fools and Horses theme tune. It would have been a spectacular own goal if they had missed that trick!

William and Zola Evans

The match was good for a pre-season encounter and 11th tier Peckham Town would have been very pleased with their efforts. Taking the lead in the 5th minute with a great goal from Tidian Barry, the home side impressed against their 9th tier opponents. Fisher were awarded a penalty just after the half hour mark, duly converted by Lee Weemes. There were no further goals despite plenty of endeavour from both sides. The day was enhanced by the presence of local residents, William and Zola Evans, the latter attending her first football match!

Attendance: ?
Admission: £3:00
Programme: £1:00 (16 pages covers 5 pre-season matches)
Tea: £1:00

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Littlehampton Town FC

Littlehampton Town 2 Bognor Regis Town 2 - Friendly

Littlehampton is a town, seaside resort and harbour, situated in the Arun District of West Sussex, England. It lies on the English Channel on the eastern bank of the mouth of the River Arun. It is 51.5 miles south south-west of London, 19 miles west of Brighton and 10 miles east of the county town of Chichester. The South Downs National Park commences 3 miles north of the town. Littlehampton links to Amberley and Arundel by footpaths and railway as well as by roads. The town's status as both a port and a holiday resort led to economic success in the nineteenth century, with a railway line and a cross-channel ferry to Honfleur in France being introduced. In 1967, the town attracted attention by becoming the base for the first ever Blue Peter lifeboat. The world headquarters of The Body Shop is situated towards the north of the town, and is a major employer in the area. 

Littlehampton F.C. was formed in 1896, adding the Town suffix in 1938. The club became founding members of the West Sussex Football League in 1896, joining the Junior Division. In 1928 the club joined the Sussex County League. Despite finishing as runners-up in Division One on six occasions, they had to wait until 1990–91 before lifting the championship – the only time they have done so, having finished as runners-up to Wick the previous season – clinching the title on the last day of the season, at nearest rivals Peacehaven & Telscombe. That season was undoubtedly the finest in the Marigolds’ history. As well as finishing as Division One champions, the club also reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup where they were beaten 4–0 by Northampton Town in front of a crowd of 4,000 at The Sportsfield. A League & Cup ‘double’ was completed with a 3–0 win over Burgess Hill Town. If that wasn’t enough, Littlehampton also reached the semi-finals of the FA Vase.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to Littlehampton (much appreciated Phil) and the journey took a little over two hours. On arrival it was good to take advantage of the limited car parking space available (street parking nearby is also possible). The football ground is part of a much wider playing area, utilised by the cricket club. Accordingly, some of the perimeter railings are temporary.

All the spectator facilities for viewing the match are situated on the far side away from the cricket pitches. Straddling the half way line is a magnificent old seated stand. Either side of this are narrow covered terraces. These three options will provide plenty of shelter in bad weather and are certainly more than adequate for the Sothern Combination attendances that Littlehampton Town enjoy.

For this match, Littlehampton Town were using their new floodlights for the first time. The pylons supporting the lights are situated at the corners of the pitch with the exception of one which, due to the overlap with cricket, is situated near the clubhouse and the cricket stand. Said clubhouse with veranda, although set back from the football pitch, offers a high level view of proceedings. Upstairs is a bar and a hatch downstairs offers snacks (including superb burgers) and hot drinks etc.

The playing surface was excellent and we were treated to a decent contest, with the hosts giving their higher ranked visitors a good match. At the break, Littlehampton Town were 2-0 ahead and it was going to be interesting to see how Bognor Regis Town reacted. A number of substitutions (pretty much the whole team) completely transformed the match and at the end the home side were clinging on for a 2-2 draw.

Both clubs will be pleased with their efforts as preparation for the new season. The Sportsfield is a lovely setting for watching football (cricket too I should think) and I was impressed with the friendly welcome. The closure of a couple of junctions on the M25 meant a slight delay on the return journey, but this did not detract from a fine evening in West Sussex.

Attendance: ?
Admission: £6:00/£3:00
Programme: £1:00 (12 pages)
Tea: £1:00

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Atherstone Town FC

Atherstone Town 5 Earlswood Town 0 - Friendly

Atherstone is a market town and civil parish in North Warwickshire. It lies between the larger towns of Tamworth and Nuneaton and contains the administrative offices of North Warwickshire Borough Council. In Tudor times, Atherstone was a thriving commercial centre for weaving and cloth making. The town's favourable location laid out as a long ‘ribbon development’ along Watling Street, ensured its growth as a market town. While it remained an agricultural settlement in medieval times, attempts were made to encourage merchants and traders through the creation of burgage plots, a type of land tenure that provided them with special privileges. An annual tradition in Atherstone is the Shrove Tuesday Ball Game played on a public highway with large crowds. The game celebrated its 800th anniversary in 1999. The game is a complete free-for-all played along Watling Street at the point where it forms the main street of Atherstone town. The ball is decorated with red, white and blue ribbons that are exchanged for money by whoever is able to obtain one and is made of thick leather to make it too heavy to kick far. The match starts at 3:00pm when the ball is thrown from the window of Barclays Bank and continues until about 5:00pm. 

The original Atherstone Town club was formed in 1887. They reached the semi-finals of the FA Amateur Cup in 1907–08, losing 3–0 to Stockton. The following season saw them reach the semi-final stage again, this time losing 3–0 to Clapton. After playing in several local leagues, they joined the Birmingham Combination in 1911, and were runners-up in their first season in the league. Via the West Midlands (Regional) League, the club reached the Southern League and was playing in the Premier Division until folding in 1979. The club was immediately reformed as Atherstone United, taking the reserve team's place in Division One of the West Midlands (Regional) League. This incarnation also reached the Southern League before also folding midway through the 2003–04 season. The club was then reformed under the name Atherstone Town, joining Division One of the Midland Combination for the 2004–05 season. After winning Division One and the President's Cup in their first season, they were Premier Division champions and League Cup winners in 2005–06 and were promoted to the Midland Alliance. The club were Midland Alliance champions in 2007–08, earning promotion to Division One Midlands of the Southern League. Subsequent relegations and restructuring have resulted in the club currently competing in The Midland League Division One.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to Atherstone (much appreciated Phil) and the journey via Cockfosters (where we picked up the Fridge Magnet) took a little over two hours. Earlier research indicated that Sheepy Road was an old-fashioned venue and this was confirmed immediately on arrival. One notable observation was that there are five separate floodlight pylons positioned along each side of the ground. From memory, I’m not sure that I have seen that elsewhere.

The ground oozes history and I should imagine that there have been some memorable matches played in front of large crowds over the years. We were allowed to park behind the main stand. This stand is covered and contains a mixture of seating and standing accommodation. Toilet facilities are located at the rear, as is the Director’s Lounge. The changing rooms are also located on this side of the ground.

On the opposite side of the ground is a covered standing area which sits immediately behind the dug outs. Also close to this area is a refreshment hut (closed for this match) and a clubhouse selling refreshment and souvenirs (scarves and badges). Both ends of the ground are open and are terraced, providing an excellent vantage point to watch the match. It is a real shame that many new built non-league stadiums do not factor this in at the planning stage.

Earlier research also revealed that the Angel Ale House (North Warwickshire CAMRA pub of the year 2019) is less than ten minutes walking distance from the stadium. At this fine establishment I was able to enjoy Ground Zero (4.8%) from Norton Brewery in Essington Staffordshire – a refreshing pale ale. I followed this with Black Sun (5.0%) from Potbelly Brewery in Kettering - A blend of two award winning beers, Beijing Black and Crazy Daze. Fine refreshment and a recommended venue lying a couple of hundred yards from the historic High Street.

This start to the 2021-22 season is earlier than usual, but considering the disruption caused to the beautiful game over the last couple of seasons, just getting out there playing must be a relief to many. The 5-0 victory for the home side reflects their dominance in a match played against opponents from the lower division. We were treated to some good football and I hope the workout benefited both sides. Along with my fellow travellers I was glad to visit Sheepy Road, the club is extremely friendly and this was underlined by the invitation to stand in for the Earlswood Town officials for Coffee and biscuits at half time!

Attendance: ?
Admission: £5:00/£3:00
Programme: Not issued

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Punjab United FC

Punjab United 0 Chatham Town 3 - Post Lockdown Tournament, Group Stage

Gravesend is a town in northwest Kent, situated 21 miles east-southeast of Charing Cross (central London) on the south bank of the River Thames and opposite Tilbury in Essex. Located in the diocese of Rochester, it is the administrative centre of the Borough of Gravesham. Its geographical situation has given Gravesend strategic importance throughout the maritime and communications history of South East England. A Thames Gateway commuter town, it retains strong links with the River Thames, not least through the Port of London Authority Pilot Station. 

Punjab United FC was founded in 2003. Progression enabled the club to join the Kent County League Premier Division in 2016, and in that inaugural season won the Kent Intermediate Challenge Cup. They were finalists in the Kent County League Cup and were crowned the 2016-17 League champions. The club were the first Asian team to win the league and did so with the highest league points total in the history of the league. The club currently competes in the Southern Counties East League. Premier Division.

Even with the one 3rd discount afforded by my railcard, the fare from Cheshunt to Gravesend was showing as £18.50 for a cheap day return. However, by using my oyster card I could get to Dartford for £2.20 each way. From Dartford to Gravesend the rail fare was just £3.45 return, totalling £7.85. I decided to put this saving to good use and invested some of it in a cooked breakfast whilst tapping out of oyster at Dartford before catching a later service to Gravesend.

On arrival at Gravesend, I was in need of refreshment and with the teetotal Fridge Magnet I adjourned to The Mole Hole for some ale whilst he scoured the local charity shops for treasure. At this excellent micropub, situated only a short distance from where the Tilbury ferry docks, I was able to enjoy a chat with Tales from the Riverbank who was on a day out in Gravesend, having arrived on said ferry. Gresham Hopper (3.7%) from Titsey Brewing Co is “a hoppy pale ale with a refreshing kick”. Mole Hole Pale Ale (3.7%) from Iron Pier is the house ale and a very tasty session beer. I thoroughly recommend this friendly establishment.

Our walk took around 45 minutes. On a hot afternoon we were grateful to Bernie, a gentleman who offered us a lift after seeking directions. We were in the car all of twenty seconds before we spotted the entrance to the to the Steve Cook Stadium!! The ground is quirky in that it is made up of a number of different structures painted in red, the club’s dominant colour. This includes a couple of covered seated stands and a separate covered standing area (very welcome in the scorching heat), along with the clubhouse and refreshment facilities, situated along the main side of the pitch where you enter the ground. The changing rooms are situated behind one of the goals, along with some more red coloured buildings.

This match saw visitors, Chatham Town, take the early initiative. They really ought to have been out of sight, but a combination of missed chances and last ditch defending ensured otherwise. A sending off for a home player mid-way through the first period should have enhanced the trend, but strangely had the opposite effect. Punjab had a couple of half-chances themselves and you could see the frustration for some of the Chatham players.

As expected, the visitors took control of the second period and made their advantage in numbers count, scoring three goals for a comprehensive victory. An enjoyable match which Kerry Fairless will tell you was enhanced by the samosa and curry pancake roll that he enjoyed! Bernie was on hand to provide us with a very welcome lift back to the town centre after the match. My onward journey via Dartford, Greenwich, Canary Wharf and Stratford was straightforward. Although a bit longer than it could have been, it was a lot cheaper.

Attendance: 301
Admission: £5:00/£1:00
Programme: Not issued

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Rectory Park (Middlesex FA Ground)

Kensington & Ealing Borough 1 St Panteleimon 3 - Middlesex Premier Cup Final

The Middlesex Football Association was founded in 1883 by the Football AssociationNicholas Lane Jackson, who had helped found the Corinthians in 1882, organised the founding of the association, and became its first chairman. The association left the Football Association in 1907 to join the Amateur Football Association, but it soon returned. It moved to its previous headquarters at Roxborough Road in Harrow in 1975. It did not employ any full-time staff until 1992. The Middlesex F.A. covers the historic extent of Middlesex and the entirety of the boroughs of Richmond upon Thames and Barnet. This area overlaps with the scope of the London Football Association, the Surrey County Football Association and Hertfordshire County Football Association. This means that many clubs are eligible for affiliation with more than one county football association

Rectory Park has been the home of the Middlesex Football Association since 2018. The purpose built venue boasts two first class floodlit 3G football pitches, 120 square metres of community space available for function bookings, Executive meeting rooms, Cafe / Bar area, and Free Parking. Our QPR and TFL correspondent, Chris Hewitt, advises the following public transport option "if going to tube to Northolt, cross the road from station on left, take bus 120 or 282 drops you outside Rectory Park - takes 10 minutes to Wayfarer Road stop". 

The Middlesex FA Premier Cup is open to Second or Under 21 teams of Senior Clubs, First Teams of Clubs playing at Steps 6 and 7 of the National League System and other teams approved by the Committee. The competition was introduced in 1980 with the first winners being Yeading FC. The current season saw seventeen clubs enter the competition, with the finalists each winning three matches to reach this stage.

The Much Travelled Adam Carne described this venue as uninspiring and I can see what he means. The facility could also be described as functional, in that it lacks the personal charm of some club venues. Effectively, the main pitch and that adjacent to it, are housed in cages. The main pitch has additional spectator facilities in the shape of two identical covered seated stands. These stands are situated along the only side of the pitch that spectators have access too. Toilets and a rather smart refreshment café are located in the main clubhouse building and serve the entire complex.

Admission to the match was by ticket only and I suspect that a number of those disappointed at the quick take up of the 150 tickets made available, turned up and were able to watch the match through the fence. They witnessed a lively and often feisty match which saw a first half dismissal (two yellow cards) for a Kensington player. St Panteleimon missed an early penalty before eventually taking the lead.

Despite the reduction in their numbers, Kennington were themselves awarded a penalty which was duly converted and you could see that the second period was still going to be highly competitive. The referee was kept busy all night and further yellow cards were produced at regular intervals. As the match wore on, St Panteleimon were applying greater pressure and this told when they took the lead curtesy of an unfortunate own goal. A further strike clinched the cup for St Panteleimon, on a ground where they had played a few home fixtures in recent times.

It was good to witness such a competitive match as the month of May reaches a conclusion. I should also mention the sighting of a red kite over the ground before the match, thus continuing a recent theme. The journey home via the North Circular and A10 (thanks Phil) was swift, more pleasant and much quicker than the public transport alternative.

Attendance: 150 (number of tickets issued)
Admission: £5:00 (Concessions: Free)
Programme: On-line but printed courtesy of Chris Hewitt
Tea: £1:90