Saturday, July 02, 2022

Benfleet FC

Benfleet 3 Sawbridgeworth Town 0 - Friendly

The name of Benfleet originates from the time of the Saxon settlers in the 5th century, when the area was largely marshland. They named the area Beamfleote, meaning tree stream, being the area where the creeks from the Thames adjoined the wooded area to the north. The battle of Benfleet took place between the Vikings and Saxons in 894. This was towards the end of the Saxon period and the Thames made the area vulnerable to Viking attacks. The Vikings were defeated in the battle by the army of King Alfred under the command of his son Edward the Elder.

The football club was established in 1922, initially as Benfleet United and subsequently Benfleet Rangers. During their time playing in the Southend & District League, the club won the Essex Junior Cup in 1967-68. After winning the league in 1971-72, the club joined the Essex Olympian League and dropped the Rangers part of the name. In 1988-89 Benfleet won the league and the Essex Intermediate Cup. At the end of the 2017-18 season, Benfleet successfully applied for promotion to the new Division One South of the Eastern Counties League, a massive jump of three levels.

To facilitate this, Benfleet are playing their first team matches at Park Lane, Canvey Island FC. The remainder of the club’s teams remain at Woodside Park in Benfleet where they play their matches. Therefore, this was an opportunity to visit this ground to see a first team match at a venue they will not use during the regular season. A similar situation to that at Virginia Water FC in recent years.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to and from Upminster Station for this jaunt. The alternative is by train to Benfleet (C2C) and the best part of a three mile walk through town. The football club is situated in a scenic area on the edge of town. On a warm Saturday in summer, it was reassuringly English to see a cricket match being played nearby. We were able to park near the clubhouse building and take a few photographs with over an hour to go before the 3pm kick off.

On adjourning to the clubhouse building, it was good to enjoy a couple of pints of chilled cider. The canteen area had been busy earlier, catering for the various youth sides and so refreshments were not available. However, the extremely friendly folk at the club went out of their way to provide both myself and hungry groundhopper Phil Bayley with enormous cheeseburgers. These were delicious and were generously given free of charge. We thoroughly recommend ‘Cindy’s burgers’ and the associated hospitality.

For the club to host senior football at this site, it will require council approval. The use of Canvey Island FC is ongoing and the process for upgrading this venue is likely to take some time for it to come to fruition. However, the club is clearly ambitious and rightly proud as they look to celebrate their centenary this year.

For a friendly, this was quite an entertaining match to watch. Although it was step 6 v step 5, last season’s form when Benfleet reached the play-offs and Sawbridgeworth Town avoided relegation proved to be good marker. The three-goal margin of victory was about right. A highlight was when local spectator Richard Smith, superbly controlled a stray ball with one touch. Sadly, his boss Kerry Fairless was elsewhere. This was certainly good match practice for both sides as they prepare for the new season. My journey home via Upminster, Barking, Blackhorse Road and Seven Sisters was only tainted by London Overground providing a four car train on a day when drivers on the other line were on strike and there were various other events taking place, not least a concert at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Attendance: ?
Admission: Free
Programme: Not issued

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Chelsea FC

Chelsea U18 3 Tottenham Hotspur U18 2 - U18 Premier League South

Cobham is a large village in the Borough of Elmbridge in Surrey, centred 17 miles south-west of London and 10 miles north-east of Guildford. Historically, Cobham and other outlying farms comprised two developed areas, Street Cobham and Church Cobham. The former lay on the Portsmouth-London Road and the building now known as the Cobham Exchange, was once a coaching Inn. The latter grew up around St Andrew's church, which dates from the 12th century. 

Stoke D’Abernon is a village and former civil parish in the Borough of Elmbridge in Surrey. It is situated on the right bank of the River Mole and south of Cobham. Yehudi Menuhin founded his music school to the south of the village. England cricketer Bob Willis grew up here and played for Stoke D’Abernon before his professional career. The railway station for the two villages is situated here.

The Chelsea Training Centre is situated on a 140 acre site that houses all of the club's football activities. It features training, rehabilitation, medical, pitch and media technology. As a condition for receiving planning permission, none of the buildings in the complex were permitted to be taller than others in the surrounding area. The main building has a turf roof in order to help it blend in within the locality. Water from the surrounding area is collected in a reservoir for use on the pitch irrigation system.

My journey to Cobham involved a break at Surbiton (last stop where I can use the oyster card). Whilst waiting for the next train, I had time to visit the Coronation Hall (JD Wetherspoon), where for £1.69, I enjoyed a refreshing pint of Greensand IPA (4.6%) from Surrey Hills Brewery. After this brief interlude, I was on the train for the short journey to Cobham & Stoke D’Abernon. From the platform, down a flight of steps is an electronic gate providing an entrance to the training ground. On identification I was able to gain access to the facility.

The main pitch at the training ground boats three separate covered seated stands. One of which is only available to Chelsea players and officials. The pitch also has eight floodlight pylons. Spectator access is restricted to one side of the pitch, as is common for these matches at training grounds. Refreshments are provided from a mobile catering van situated behind this side of the pitch. Toilet facilities are also housed close by.

The young Spurs side will be disappointed not to have come away with at least a point from this match having dominated for large spells. Conceding a goal in the first minute did not help, but having levelled twice before the break, it was again disappointing to concede in the closing minutes. A comprehensive report, courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur can be found here.

After the match I left by the main entrance which involves a slightly precarious walk until you reach some paving before crossing over the railway. This route to the station takes around ten minutes, but was longer on this occasion, due to me being beckoned by Bob Goodwin to The Old Plough public house where once again I was able to enjoy a beer from the Surrey Hills Brewery. On this occasion it was Shere Drop (4.2%). This is the flagship beer for the brewery, the wonderful hop bitterness is complemented by a balanced malt flavour. A nice conclusion to my afternoon in Surrey!

Attendance: ?
Admission: Free
Programme: Not issued
Team Sheet: Electronically provided via Bob Goodwin

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Bournemouth FC

Bournemouth 1 Hamble Club 5 - Wessex League, Premier Division

Bournemouth is a coastal resort town in Dorset. With Poole to the west and Christchurch in the east, Bournemouth is part of the South East Dorset conurbation. The town centre has notable Victorian architecture and the 202-foot spire of St Peter’s Church, one of three Grade 1 listed churches in the borough, is a local landmark. In the 12th century. The region around the River Bourne was part of the Hundred of Hoddenhurst. The Hundred later became the Liberty of Westover when it was extended to include the settlements of North Ashley, Muscliff, Muccleshell, Throop, Ilford, Pokesdown, Tuckton and Wick, now incorporated into the Manor of Christchurch. Bournemouth has two universities: Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth, both of which are located across the boundary in neighbouring Poole.

The football club was founded as Bournemouth Rovers on 11 September 1875 at a meeting held at Abbotts Auction Mart in Old Christchurch Road. In 1988 the club changed their name to Bournemouth Dean Park. A further change of name to Bournemouth FC came in 1889, when the club merged with local side Bournemouth Arabs and moved grounds a season later to Victoria Park. In 1896 the club became a founder member of the Hampshire League.

Whilst in Bournemouth I was able to enjoy the delights of two Micropubs where they brew on the premises. The first of these is the Poole Hill Brewery where I enjoyed Stroller, an Oatmeal Stout (4.6%) followed by Headlander Bitter (4.2%).  Just a short walk away was the Brewhouse & Kitchen where I delighted in Churchill’s Fall (4.0%), a traditional caramel bitter. This was followed by Supermac (5.0%), an amber ale. All of the beers brewed at the establishment are named after significant facts relating to Bournemouth. The latter being Ted MacDougall for his nine goals against Margate in an FA Cup tie and the former, for when Winston Churchill suffered a nasty fall whilst in the area.

It takes around 45 minutes to walk from the railway station to Victoria Park, significantly longer for me on this occasion as I was walking from the Poole Hill area in town. The entrance to the ground is tucked away at the very end of Namu Road and is enclosed by residential housing on three sides. In the immediate vicinity of the ground, I did not see any public houses or eating establishments.

The clubhouse building, incorporates the changing rooms and refreshment facilities, including a licenced bar. As part of this structure, there is also a covered seated stand. Immediately opposite are the dugouts. There are no other structures at the ground with both ends being open to the elements.

I had received a warm friendly welcome with the officials manning the gate. This match pitted struggling Bournemouth against mid table Hamble Club, from the Southampton area. Although the visitors were ahead early in the match the home side drew in confidence and had spells when they were in the ascendency. That said the opposition could have added to their tally before the break. The second period was a very open affair and the final score did not flatter Hamble Club. 

In the latter stages of the match, the home side fashioned a number of chances and although they only scored once, there was enough to suggest that on another day they would fare better. It was nice to watch a match in sunshine if a little breezy. My journey back to London involved a rail replacement from Bournemouth to Southampton Airport Parkway Station before the connection to London Waterloo.

Attendance: 84
Admission: £6:00/£4:00
Programme: £1:00 (20 pages)
Tea: £1:00
Hot Dog with Onions: £1:50

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Manchester City FC

Manchester City U18 1 Everton U18 0 - U18 Premier League North

Manchester was one of the centres of textile manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution. The great majority of cotton spinning took place in the towns of south Lancashire and north Cheshire. Manchester was for a time the most productive centre of cotton processing. The Manchester Ship Canal was built between 1888 and 1894, in some sections by canalisation of the Rivers Irwell and Mersey. This enabled ships to sail right into the Port of Manchester. Manchester has been a centre of television broadcasting since the 1950s. A number of studios have been in operation around the city and have since relocated to Media City in Salford. Notable residents of Manchester include Frank Sidebottom and the artist L S Lowry.

Manchester City Football club was founded in 1880 as St Mark’s (West Gorton), becoming Ardwick Associated in 1887 and subsequently Manchester City in 1894. The club entered the Football League in 1892, winning the FA Cup in 1904. The club had its first major period of success in the late 1960s, winning the League, European Cup Winners Cup, FA Cup and League Cup under the management of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. In 1998 the club was relegated to the third tier of English football for the only time in its history. Celebrity supporters have included Liam Gallagher and Eddie Large.

A late afternoon match for Spurs at Old Trafford facilitated the opportunity to double up with this earlier match. However, this was far from plain sailing. A couple of early enquiries as to accessibility, were made via social media to a Manchester City associate, but fell on deaf ears. A subsequent enquiry to the club was met with a polite but firm “we don’t sell tickets for our U18 matches”. In truth, I had pretty much given up on the idea. However, my train was due to arrive into Manchester just after 10:00 and I decided to take a stroll in the direction of Eastlands.

The Etihad Campus sits alongside the impressive looking Academy Stadium. I eventually found an access gate and asked about the U18 match v Everton. My London accent may have been confused with scouse and at the same time I may have been mistaken for a parent of a player. Anyway, I was granted entry and directed to the pitch. This self-contained area, complete with floodlights and a covered seated stand, is impressive and as expected the playing surface is superb.

Toilet facilities are situated in a nearby lounge area in the main Campus building. This is also where refreshments can be purchased. Tea and coffee is available to parents free of charge and I was grateful for this before the match and again at half time. Properly printed colour team sheets were also distributed shortly before kick-off.

This was a very closely contested match played to a high standard. The most impressive aspect for me was how well drilled and efficient the Everton defence were. Manchester City showed similar traits in terms of passing, to that of their first team. A solitary goal scored in the first period was enough to secure the points for the home side. An entertaining match played in the right spirit.

As the match progressed the assembled crowd appeared to mutate in size. This was contradicted by the lady on the gate telling me that it was supposed to be behind closed doors! For me it is difficult to understand how matches for this age group are restricted and yet matches for the same teams in the FA Youth Cup are attended by paying spectators. Anyway, my stroll back into town and onwards to the other place was interrupted by a brief stop at the Gasworks Brewbar on Jack Rosenthal Street where a couple of pints of Bernstein (4.2%), which is brewed on the premises, went down a treat.

Attendance: ?
Admission: Free
Programme: Not issued
Team Sheet: Free
Tea: Free to Parents

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Whitton United FC

Whitton United 1 Lakenheath 0 - Eastern Counties League, Premier Division

Whitton is an area of Ipswich, although it was once a separate village. It is now a ward of Ipswich Borough Council. The old village was centred on what was the main Ipswich to Norwich road. Some old buildings remain including the Whitton Maypole, a popular local pub. There was a second pub, The Crown, but this was demolished in 1994 and was replaced at the time by a Landrover sales garage. The remains of a Roman villa were excavated in 1931 and again in 1949 before residential building started. Coins were found along with a mosaic floor which is on display in Ipswich Museum.

Although a Whitton United football club existed in the late 19th century, the modern club was established in 1926 and initially played on a pitch behind the Crown pub. Initial success was achieved by winning the Suffolk Minor Cup in the first season. The club won the Ipswich & District League in 1946-47 and 1947-4, when they also reached the final of the Suffolk Senior Cup, losing 3-1 to Lowestoft Town at Portman Road in front of 8000 spectators. Success in this competition came in 1959 and 1960, on both occasions beating Bungay Town. A third success came in 1992 with victory over Long Melford. Promotion to the Eastern Counties League was secured in 1995 and further Suffolk Senior Cup finals were won in 2011 and 2012.

There were no trains from between Liverpool Street and Colchester to Ipswich which would have meant catching Central Line services to Newbury Park and then a bus to Colchester. Accordingly, I opted for an alternative route of train from Cheshunt to Cambridge followed by a train to Ipswich via Bury St Edmunds. The entire days travel cost £5:00 (thanks again Martin) with a discounted rail voucher. The distance from Ipswich station to the King George V Playing Field is around three miles.

The most direct walk takes you along Portman Road and then in a straight line along Norwich Road until you reach Whitton. There are not that many public houses along this relatively busy road. My refreshment stop was for a late breakfast at a café at a shopping area just as you enter Whitton. The floodlights are visible before you reach the ground and access is via narrow road leading to the spacious car park. When I arrived lots of cars were leaving following a junior match on an adjacent pitch outside the main ground.

I was able to gain access to the ground for a photo opportunity on arrival. The main covered seated stand is situated behind the near goal and it is at this end where the refreshment kiosk is also located. On one side of the pitch there is a small covered standing area. On the opposite side where the dug outs are located is an older covered area spanning the majority of one half of the pitch. The changing rooms are located just outside the ground. The far end of the ground is not in use for spectators. The clubhouse (bar, satellite TV, toilets etc) is situated across the car park from the ground entrance and was a welcome retreat on a cold afternoon. By contrast there was a warm welcome throughout the afternoon from the Whitton officials and volunteers.

Both the hosts and visitors, Lakenheath, were in mid table prior to this match with the latter just two points ahead. Therefore, a close match was anticipated. The conditions were not suitable for good flowing football with a strong wind throughout the contest. Lakenheath, will have been disappointed not to have made the most of the first half when attacking down the slope with the wind at their backs. The solitary goal for the hosts in the second period came from a mistake and was enough to clinch the points, taking them above the visitors.

Ruel Fox (remember him?) is part of the set up at Whitton United, having started out there as a youngster, I met him briefly before the match and informed him that I been present at every competitive match he had played for Tottenham Hotspur. His immediate response was to offer me a refund! The walk back to the railway station was slightly quicker being predominantly downhill and it was good to be able to board the warm 18:20 to Cambridge early.

Attendance: 87
Admission: £7:00/£3:00
Programme: Not issued
Tea: £1:00

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