RAMBLINGS INDEX 2005 - 2006 

(60) 13/05/06 - Mauritius Sports (0) 0 Stonewall (3) 4 (Middlesex County League Prem Div)    (59) 13/05/06 - Mountnessing (1) 2 Canning Town (1) 1 (Essex Olympian League Div 2)           (58) 06/05/06 - Great Bentley (0) 1 Glemsford & Cav (0) 0) (Essex & Suffolk Border Lge Div 1)(57) 02/05/06 - St.Edmunds 65 (1) 3 Woodbridge Ath (0) 1 (Suffolk & Ipswich League Div 1) (56) 29/04/06 - Wyrley Rangers (1) 1 Dudley Town (1) 2 (West Mids Region League Prem) (55) 22/04/06 - Mersea Island (0) 0 Gosfield (2) 3 (Essex & Suffolk Border League Div 1)      (54) 20/04/06 - Glemsford & Cav (1) 2 Bradfield R (1) 2 (Essex & Suffolk Border League 1) (53) 17/04/06 - Fulbourn Institute (1) 3 Stowmarket Town (0) 0 (Eastern Counties League 1) (52) 14/15/04 - CML Bonanza Easter Ground Hop (featuring seven games in two days)             (51) 08/04/06 - Heyford Athletic (1) 1 Kislingbury (0) 0 (Northants Comb Prem Div)             (50) 02/04/06 - Bury Town (1) 1 Hillingdon Borough (1) 1 (FA Vase SF 1st Leg)                    (49) 01/04/06 - Bilborough Pelican (1) 1 Ollerton Town (0) 1 (CML Premier Division)               (48) 25/03/06 - Ashby Ivanhoe (0) 4 HM Desford Sports (0) 2 (Leics Senior League)                  (47) 23/03/06 - London APSA (0) 2 AFC Hornchurch (1) 2 (Essex Senior League)                    (46) 18/03/06 - Rusthall (0) 0 Bromley Green (1) 2 (Kent County League Premier Division)   (45) 11/03/06 - The Wilberforce Wands (1) 4 Harefield Ex-Servs (1) 6 (M'sex CFL Div 1)    (44) 04/03/06 - Newmarket Town (1) 1 Cammell Laird (0) 2 (FA Vase 6th Round)                  (43) 18/02/06 - St.Osyth (1) Essex University (0) 2 (Essex & Suffolk Border Lge Prem)               (42) 15/02/06 - England National Team XI (1) 3 Italy (1) 1 (European Challenge)                  (41) 11/02/06 - Squires Gate (1) 2 Newcastle Benfield BP (1) 1 (FA Vase Round 5)                    (40) 04/02/06 - Ongar Town (3) 3 Writtle (0) 2 (Essex Olympian League Div 3)                     (39) 31/01/06 - Cambridge University AFC (0) 1 AFA (1) 1 at Grange Road (Rep Game)        (38) 28/01/06 - Welwyn Garden City (1) 2 Newmarket Town (0) 1 aet (FA Vase 4th Rd rep)(37) 25/01/06 - Hadley (0) Sandridge Rovs (0) 0 at WL (Herts County Sen League Prem Div) (36) 21/01/06 - Buxton (1) 1 Ashville (0) 0 (FA Vase 4th Round)                                             (35) 14/01/06 - Southwold Town (3) 6 Horsford Utd (0) 0 (Anglian Combination League 1)       (34) 07/01/06 - Calverton MW (0) 0 Ruddington Utd (0) 1 (Notts Senior League)                     (33) 02/01/06 - Chelmsford City (1) 2 Billericay Town (0) 1 (Ryman League Premier Division)(32) 31/12/05 - Cradley Town (0) 3 Rocester FC (0) 3 (Midland Alliance Football League)       (31) 31/12/05 - Mile Oak Rovers (0) 1 Handsworth Utd (0) 3 (Mid Comb Footb League Div 1) (30) 24/12/05 - Reepham (0) 0 Mundford (2) 4 (Anglian Combination League Division 2)          (29) 17/12/05 - Willingham (3) 5 Soham Utd (1) 2 (Cambs League Sen B Division) (28) 16/12/05 - Brighton & Hove Albion (2) 2 Hull City (1) 1 (Football Championship)              (27) 10/12/05 Arundel (0) 1 VCD Athletic (1) 2 (FA Vase 3rd Round)                                    (26) 03/12/05 Worcester Park (4) 8 Sheerwater (0) 0 (Combined Counties Lgue Division 1) (25) 26/11/05 - Burton Albion (0) 1 Kidderminster Harriers (0) 0 (Nationwide Conference)(24) 19/11/05 - Bishops Cleeve (1) 1 Newton Abbott (0) 0 - abd 50 mins. fog (FAV 2)(23) 16/11/05 - Cambridge University AFC (1) 1 Birmingham University (0) 3 (Rep Match)(22) 12/11/05 - North Mymms (0) 0 Hertford Heath (0) 3 (Herts Senior County League Div 1)    (21) 05/11/05 - Wickham Market (1) 2 Thurston (2) 3 (Suffolk & Ipswich League Division 1)      (20) 29/10/05 - Sidley United (0) 3 Shoreham (0) 0 (FA Vase 1st Round)                               (19) 22/10/05 Old Roan (0) 1 Bearsted (0) 1 (Kent County League Premier Division)          (18) 15/10/05 - Tooting & Mitcham Utd (1) 1 Wealdstone (0) 2 (FA Trophy 1st Round Q)    (17) 08/10/05 - Tring Corinthians (0) 2 Totternhoe (0) 1 (Spartan South Mids League Div 2)(16) 01/10/05 - Brodsworth Welf AFC ((0) 3 Blackpool Mechs (0) 0 AET (FA Vase 2nd Round) (15) 24/09/05 - Football Championship - Coventry City (0) 0 Hull City (1) 2             (14) 17/09/05 - FAV1 - Ellistown (0) 1 Castle Vale (3) 4                                             (13) 10/09/05 - Herts Sen County Lgue Div 1 - Allenburys Sports (2) 3 Old Parmiterians (0) 1 (12) 03/09/05 - Cambs League Senior B - Haddenham Rovers (1) 6 Debden (2) 3                   (11) 02/09/05 - Cambs League Senior B - Great Chesterford (0) 1 Milton (2) 0                   (10) 29/08/05 - Hellenic League: Div 1 East - Bisley (1) 2 Badshot Lea (0) 0                       (09) 29/08/05 - Sussex County League 2 - Wealden (2) 4 Saltdean (0) 1                                (08) 27/08/05 - Herts Senior County League Division 1 - Knebworth (0) 0 Allenburys (1) 3        (07) 24/08/05 - Cambs League Senior A Division - Wickhambrook (1) 2 Hundon (0) 0               (06) 23/08/05 - Peterboro Lge - Prem Div - Wimblington OB (2) 2 Whittlesey Utd (2) 4(05) 20/08/05 - Essex Olym Lgue - Division 3 - Hannakins Farm (1) 1 Writtle (1) 1      (04) 17/08/05 - Cambs League - Senior B Div - Soham Utd (0) 0 West Row Gunners (1) 1 (03) 16/08/05 - Cambridgeshire League - Premier - Fordham (0) 0 Waterbeach (0) 0         (02) 09/08/05 - Football Championship - Leicester City (1) 4 Stoke City (0) 2                            (01) 06/08/05 - Football Championship - Stoke City (0) 0 Sheffield Wednesday (0) 0

REPORTS

No.16 - Sat. 1st October 2005; FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round (att: 31; prog: 1.00 for 40pp)

Brodsworth Welfare AFC (0) 2 Blackpool Mechanics (0) 0 AET

As we came out of the Welfare Ground car park there was no doubt in our minds that the meat pies and mushy peas were the highlight of our visit. We had just witnessed one of the poorest games ever imagineable. For the most part of ninety minutes neither side managed to string three passes together. As the tie entered its final moments we jointly prayed that someone would score to break the deadlock and save us from extra time. It was not to be and therefore inevitably meant that we would have to endure a further thirty minutes.

And then something vaguely interesting happened. The hosts were awarded a penalty by the referee. He was quick to spot a defender's hand firmly grasping a green Brodsworth shirt. I just couldn't look. With hands close to my face I peered through a gap between my fingers and saw the ball travel beyond the keeper into the back of the net. It was a goal. The stop watch showed that 99 minutes had elapsed. We all agreed that this had come nine minutes too late!! But there was more 'excitement' to come.

The Mechanics were running out of time and needed a desperate equaliser if they had any chance of keeping their Vase hopes alive! They were awarded a corner and literally sent everyone up for it. Old Sloppy and young Walker, who were both sitting next to me, yelled at the keeper to join them. He did. The kick was a poor one and Brodsworth easily cleared to set up a counter attack. With the Mechanics' keeper stranded, a cross-field ball fell to the unmarked, greenshirted Radford who calmly struck the ball home to earn a second and put his side into the next round. The frustrated keeper ran towards the referee appealing for an offside. The official was sticking by his decision and pulled out a yellow card for dissent. The player pressed the self destruct button. After a string of expletives (too rude to mention on such esteemed pages) he sarcastically applauded this sanction (in keeping with the latest Rooney fashion) only to see further red in the mist that was already descending on him! The crowd were merciless as the player made his long sojourn off the pitch, passing in front of the main stand on his way to the changing rooms at the far end of the ground! It is amazing how many swear words Old Yorkshiremen can fit into one sentence. Thankfully it wasn't long before the final whisled signalled an end to this charade and in doing so put everyone out of their misery!

The game was watched by a meagre thirty or so spectators including a few 'hoppers. The 40-paged photocopied programme (which looked as though it had been thrown together at the last minute) had the visitors name scribbled in pen on the front page. For some reason it didn't even contain the line ups or the names of the officials. Unusually the player profile reviewed one of the youth team players (aged thirteen). But at least they issued! The tea bar did a roaring trade throughout the game and the northern delicacy of meat pie and mushy peas (costing an incredible 1.20) went down really well (literally) with both sets of supporters.

Most of the facilities are along the side nearest to the main entrance. A small row of steps leads down to the pitch which has a concrete perimeter path and breeze block wall surrounding it. To the left is a refreshment hut incorporating a club shop (selling club key rings). The main stand beyond straddles the half-way line and is built into the grass embankment; there is plenty of seating with five rows of benches. There is a high roofed stand behind the furthest goal.

The club which is a few miles from Doncaster can be approached from the A1(M). We came off at junction 38 and followed the main A638 towards Doncaster along the Great North Road for about a mile. Take a left turn down Welfare Road in Woodlands. The ground can be found behind the old Welfare Institute with the Leisure Centre and some distant chimneys visible in the background. Interestingly the players use the Welfare site as a main changing area before and after the game but return to a smaller one in the ground at half-time.

FGIF Rating 1*.

Click here for a map showing Brodsworth Welfare AFC

No.15 - Sat. 24th September 2005; Football Championship (att: 21161; prog: 3.00 for 68pp)

Coventry City (0) 0 Hull City (1) 2

The chance to see your club play at a new ground and come away with all three points is absolutely brilliant! 

After a string of three consecutive defeats without scoring, the Tigers finally managed to turn things around with a  2-0 victory and pull away from the bottom of the Championship League table. The large number of travelling fans sitting behind the goal in the Jewson Stand had to bite their nails for most of the ninety minutes though, as Hull keeper Boaz Myhill pulled off several magnificent saves to keep their side in the game. For the record it was young striker John Welsh (on loan from Liverpool) whose brace helped to secure victory: a low driven shot after seventeen minutes and a delicately placed curling lob from outside the box near the end did the damage. Micky Adams' side had more of the play but just couldn't convert their chances. The Tigers made things more difficult for themselves too when they were reduced to ten men, after Mark Lynch's dismissal for a second bookable offence, mid-way through the second half.

The new Ricoh Stadium is a travellers' dream. The impressive ground is only a few minutes from junction 3 of the M6 motorway and there is plenty of parking within a decent walking distance. Frances (my long suffering wife) and I arrived an hour before kick-off and soaked up the atmosphere as supporters from both teams congregated in the main concourse. The huge red sponsors logo which towered above our heads stood out against the backdrop of sky blue and white. We stopped for a while beneath the NTL stand and marvelled at the splendid 'Wall of Fame' (containing framed bricks donated by fans). Each section is named after one of the distinguished Coventry City legends - Tommy Hutchison, Ernie Hunt and Jimmy Hill are all there! We continued on our leisurely tour around the perimeter taking pictures from every vantage point we could - the images will save giving a detailed ground description.

The building work on site is now complete and the Ricoh boasts an enclosed, all-seater capacity of  32,200. All safety precautions have been lifted for the first time for this home game. With light panels in the roof of the stadium viewing and sight lines are excellent. The pitch itself looked pristine. According to the programme it is only the second pitch in the country, along with Oxford's Kassam Stadium, to boast the revolutionary Xtra Grass system which sees natural grass growing within a synthetic turf fabric; apparently the synthetic fibres which are designed in Holland take on a natural turf-like appearance. Work on the pitch started at the beginning of this year when the under-soil heating and hi-tech irrigation system were installed with 4,000 tonnes of sand being dressed in April.

The contrasting fortunes of Coventry and Hull over the last thirty to forty years meant that this game was the first league encounter between the two sides since the 1966/67. Back then sky blues won 1-0 with a Dietmar Bruck goal on the opening day of the season at Highfield Road under the management of Jimmy Hill. How times have changed!

FGIF Rating 4*.

Click here for a map showing Coventry City FC at the new Ricoh Arena 

No.14 - Sat. 17th September 2005; FA Vase 1st qualifying round (att: 56; prog: 20pp)

Ellistown (0) 1 Castle Vale (3) 4

Mission accomplished! The club which we had tried to visit (unsuccessfully) on several occasions over the years has at last been 'ticked' off the list. There were no problems with postponements or traffic hold ups on the motorway this time around!! In fact the Wraymobile pulled into the Ellistown FC car park at 2.15pm - arriving at the ground far earlier than is usually the case. But we weren't taking any chances on what was our third attempt to reach Terrace Road. 

And so with the luxury of time to spare before kick-off, the 'Newmarket Three' made their way into the clubhouse. By now travelling companions Old Sloppy and Young Walker, a new recruit to the hopping fraternity, had got in the teas and chip butties. The gentleman standing to my left sporting a smart blazer and offical Ellistown club tie turned out to be the new matchday programme editor. For this game 16 colour pages, inside a stiff card cover, containing match stats, line ups and a potted history about both teams were on offer. As far as I can remember programmes at Ellistown have been, in recent times, as rare as gold dust! So thank you Mr.King! 

Interestingly Ellistown was formed originally from a couple of local colliery sides which brought about a change in name; this can be seen by the letters UCFC (United Collieries Football Club) marked out on the back of the stand nearest to the clubhouse. Their opponents today, Castle Vale, have also undergone a period of change in recent years. Founded as Kings Heath, at the local Horse Shoe pub in 1964, the club played in the local Birmingham League before moving to the MCFL in the early eighties. After groundshares with Shirley Town; Alvechurch and Kenilworth Town, the club took over the former Paget Ranger's Vale Stadium (after Romulus moved out). The club became known as Castle Vale Kings Heath (or KH for short). In the summer of last year plans were mooted to move the first team to Kenilworth, but officials and supporters kept the club at Castle Vale and the 'new club', Castle Vale FC hopes to settle down after a rocky and nomadic existence.

The Terrace Road ground site, next to the local bowls club, is fully enclosed with a small pay box entrance behind the brick clubhouse. There are two small sections of concrete standing cover; one on either side of the halfway line. The pitch has a perimeter rail marked in alternate yellow and blue sections like the goalnets ( to match the club colours). A practice pitch on the far side runs parallel to the main one. The narrow clubhouse has changing rooms; a bar and refreshment room. A range of hot snacks were available throughout the game.

Ellistown lost many players at the end of last season and not surprisingly are struggling in the Leicestershire Senior League at the start of this campaign. They found their MCFL oppponents a strong match and within twenty minutes were three goals down. We were looking at a double figure goal defeat but after half time the side redeemed itself and managed to pull one back before eventually losing 4-1 in front of nearly sixty spectators (including a number of 'hoppers).

To reach Ellistown we left the M1 at junction 22 and travelled west towards Coalville along the A511. On the outskirts of Bardon fork left and follow signs for Ellistown/Ibstock. At the staggered cross-roads turn left along Whitehill Road which becomes Ellistown Terrace Road. Before reaching open countryside the entrance to the ground is marked on the right hand side. A large wheel (taken from a local colliery) has been erected on a grassed area in the car park and adds a bit of atmosphere to the place.

A cracking day out and well worth the wait!          

FGIF Rating 3*.

Click here for a map showing Ellistown FC 

No.13 - Sat. 10th September 2005; Herts Senior County League Division 1 (att: 10; prog: 12pp)

Allenburys Sports (2) 3 Old Parmiterians (0) 1

With news that Allenburys were issuing programmes once again I headed to Ware for this Herts Senior County League Division One fixture against Old Parmiterians. Despite some really heavy rain (mixed with thunder) which made driving very difficult en route, the conditions thankfully improved and the sun managed to make an appearance just before kick-off. The hosts took control of the game literally from the start and scored their first goal after only thirty seconds of play! In truth the young visitors from Watford never really recovered and found the going tough despite pulling one back just before the end. The game was watched by only ten spectators (which is one of the smallest 'crowds' I have ever witnessed in this league)!

Allenburys Sports & Social Club (with bar facilities) is based in Harris Lane just behind the large GlaxoSmithKline plant. However to reach the football ground travellers should continue along the main Park Road (passing St.Catherines School and Fanshawe Swimming Pool on the right) and turn left into the entrance marked Private Car Park (opposite Wengeo Lane). After negotiating a couple of severe speed bumps the long driveway opens up into an extensive car park on the right with the changing pavilion and playing fields tucked away behind some trees at the far end: it is necessary to climb over a wire fence to gain entry!

The 'Westfield' site (which shares with cricket) is magnificently manicured and benefits from the services of a full time groundsman. The wooden pavilion houses the changing rooms and has a small veranda (the only cover) at the front. The main pitch is about a hundred yards away to the left and is fully roped off. It is also bordered by trees on one side. There are two small wooden benches, one on each side of the pitch (complete with a marked technical area), for use by the coaches and subs of each team. The main A10 runs behind the goal at the far end.

A 12-page photocopied programme was freely available for the match. I managed to track down my copy from inside the home dressing-room as no attempt is made to sell/hand them out at pitchside. This contains all the necessary info including match stats; line-ups; previous match reports and even photos. Refreshments were not served.

To reach the club I took the main A10 South from Standon (from M11/A120 Bishops Strortford) and came off at the first turning for Ware. After passing Wodsons (Ware FC) follow signs for the town centre and then turn right into Park Road. Although there are several 'Road End' signs ignore these and keep going past the GlaxoSmithKline factory.  

FGIF Rating 3*.

Click here for a map showing Allenburys Sports FC

No.12 - Sat. 3rd September 2005; Cambs League Senior B (att: 26; prog: No)

Haddenham Rovers (1) 6 Debden (2) 3

What a cracking game! This was one of the best I have at this level for some time. The hosts, newly promoted to Senior Division B, had yet to win a game in this current campaign. Haddenham had played some good football in the first period and were unlucky to be 2-1 down at half-time. In truth their Essex-based opponents had scored two brilliant goals, both made from outside the box, to give them the lead. But the best was yet to come. Within minutes of the restart Rovers tore apart the Debden defence and netted twice from close range headers. Debden replied; as before from another well struck long range effort. With the sun beating down, the players took a short break to re-hydrate from the searing heat, and re-grouped. Young Kenny Holmes, a burly striker, complete with pot belly, tattooed chest, red boots and ornately shaven head, received the ball on the edge of the box, turned his defender and slotted home from the tightest of angles to restore the lead. The home fans went wild and this seemed to inspire the reds. By ninety minutes they had nicked two more to seal a tremendous comeback and gain three well earned points.

The club is based in the fenland village of Haddenham some 10 miles from Soham on the A1123. There is a wooden pavilion on site which is next to a small car park. This building is used for changing and toilet facilities. A small veranda would provide cover for several spectators in the event of wet weather. The main pitch which is roped off, has a considerable slope (in fact there is a drop of about eight feet from one side to the other). To the left a mini pitch is used by the junior teams. A large water tower and electricity pylon dominates the landscape but provides a useful landmark for travellers.

To reach Haddenham Rovers you can make a cross-country route using the A1123 from Soham, passing through beautiful Wicken (and its famous National Trust Fen), Stretham and Wilburton or by coming off the main A10 (at Stretham) and turning onto the A1123. The ground (in New Road) is on the left hand side just after the turn for Aldreth and before reaching the main crossroads in the village.

FGIF Rating 5*.

Click here for a map showing Haddenham Rovers FC 

No.11 - Fri. 2nd September 2005; Cambs League Senior B (att: 19; prog: No)

Great Chesterford (0) 1 Milton (2) 0

With the World Cup Qualifying games being played, several travellers took advantage of this re-arranged Cambs League fixture. An excellent match followed and was a credit to both sets of players and a splendid referee who contributed to a fast, flowing game. The final result though did not reflect the balance of possession. The home team dominated for much of the ninety minutes but couldn't put the ball in the net; the visitors from Cambridge had few chances in front of goal but took advantage of theirs.

The beautiful village of Great Chesterford is just off the All/M11 (Stump Cross) junction. Follow signs for Saffron Walden and then Great Chesterford. The club are based at the local recreation ground (on the Newmarket Road). A long driveway leads you to a most impressive Community Centre which is at right angles to the main pitch. The overhang of this building would provide much needed shelter in the event of poor weather. High netting behind both goals prevents the ball from being lost. The site also shares with cricket, tennis and a children's play area.

Note: The long serving Milton secretary/defender (25 years at the club) was intrigued at the number of 'hoppers present. He was most helpful and explained that travellers might be interested to know that newcomers JM Sports (based in Royston) are an amalgamation of players from Melbourn (relegated from this Division last season) and Bassingbourn (folded).     

FGIF Rating 4*.

Click here for a map showing Great Chesterford FC 

No.10 - Mon. 29th August 2005; Hellenic League: Div 1 East (att: 79; prog: 24pp, 50p)

Bisley (1) 2 Badshot Lea (0) 0

The second of our Bank Holiday games saw us at the Lion Sports Ground, home of Bisley, in the Hellenic League Division One East. By now the heat was really beating down, with temperatures fast approaching the 80's. After scoring from the spot in the first ten minutes, the hosts made heavy weather of adding to their slender lead, but a beautifully executed lob by Andy Sayer (ex-Wimbledon and Cardiff) sealed victory just before the final whistle. On balance of play it was Badshot Lea who enjoyed a greater share of the possession and should have won the game if only they had converted their chances. However on this performance I reckon they will be in the top half of the table come next May.

A smart glossy professionally produced programme was issued for the game which attracted about eighty spectators, including a number of travellers. Refreshments were available from the clubhouse during the game. Thankfully plenty of cold drinks were on sale.  

The ground has seen much recent building work with some new wooden changing rooms in one corner (next to a large pile of rubble) and a new clubhouse in the other. A smart main stand, sporting the club logo 'The Lions', is positioned next to the halfway line on the car park side. There is seating for about fifty spectators. The pitch, which looked in immaculate condition for the game, has a periment fence enclosing it. Behind the top goal is a practice pitch with floodlights.

Bisley Football Club is found about three miles to the north of Woking. It can be reached by taking the A322 Guildford Road. After passing the National Shooting Centre, take the first right turn into Bisley village by turning down Clewes Lane and then left again at the T-junction into Church Lane. After about half a mile along this road, the main entrance can be seen on the right hand side. A driveway leads you around to a small car park situated behind the main stand.   

FGIF Rating 3*.

Click here for a map showing Bisley FC       

No.9 - Mon. 29th August 2005; Sussex County League 2; (att: 70; prog: 16pp, 50p)

Wealden (2) 4 Saltdean (0) 1

Report to follow.    

FGIF Rating 5*.

Click here for a map showing Wealden FC.

No.8 - Sat. 27th August 2005; Herts Senior County League Division 1 (att: 23; prog: No)

Knebworth (0) 0 Allenburys (1) 3

My last visit to Knebworth was back in April '93 for a Herts Senior County League fixture against Croxley Guild. How time flies! Since then the club has moved a few miles up the road from their former base at Old Knebworth Lane (now a Health Spa) to the recreation ground which is nearer to the town in Watton Road. 

To reach the ground you can come off the A1(M) at junction 7 (signposted Knebworth House). Follow Broadhall Way and then take a right turn along the B197 (Stevenage Road), passing Stevenage Borough FC. Just before reaching the town centre turn left into Watton Road. Beware the speed bumps! The narrow main entrance to the recreation ground is about a hundred yards down here on the left hand side (just before the road forks to Bragbury End). 

The extensive playing fields are bordered by large trees and have several pitches on site. There is an impressive new changing facility (recently completed with aid from Football Foundation funds) at the end of the main driveway. The main pitch is immediately in front of this. Sadly it was not available for the game. As the cricket club use the park until the end of August, the football club must wait a few weeks before erecting the perimeter fencing, goal posts etc for their matches. 

So for the second time in a week Knebworth made use of a temporary pitch some two hundred yards from the pavilion. They played Lemsford in a local derby on Tuesday (2-3). The surface was bumpy to say the least. This obviously affected play, making control difficult. A bad tempered game followed with a stronger home side beating their opponents from Ware by three goals to nil. The turning point came when the visiting keeper made a clumsy challenge which resulted in a converted penalty. 

The sectretary's son (who was making notes for a local newspaper report) told me that club do not issue programmes. With only twenty spectators likely to be in attendance he feels it is not necessary! However on a more positive note, paper chasers may be interested to know that Allenburys have started issuing again on a regular basis. 

FGIF Rating 2*.

Click here for a map showing Knebworth FC 

No.7 - Wed. 24th August 2005; Cambs League Senior A Division (att: 37; prog: No)

Wickhambrook (1) 2 Hundon (0) 0

After a day of heavy rain falling in East Anglia it was quite a surprise that the game went ahead at all. Indeed the pitch held up well as the earlier downpour abated. For a few moments in the second half the sun came out to provide a magnificent rainbow on the horizon. Unfortunately the game itself did not create such a good impression. Both sets of players contributed to one of the most ill tempered local derbies I have seen for a long time. The number of bookings reached double figures and it was unbelievable that no one was sent off the field of play. This was a credit to a superb referee who took a lot of flak from both players and spectators. The hosts, newly promoted from the Senior B League at the end of last season, took all three points with a 2-0 victory. On reflection a draw would have been fair.

The club is based in Cemetery Lane and is just off the main road (B1063) midway between Newmarket and Clare. The adjoining village of Lidgate is one of the most beautiful in Suffolk with many traditional thatched cottages fetching over a million pounds on the property market. You know you are 'in the sticks' when local sign posts warn drivers to be careful of frogs and ducks!

The facilities at the recreation ground include a village hall and children's play area. The main pitch, nearest to the changing rooms, is fully roped off. There is no cover. As with other clubs in this League Wickhambrook do not issue programmes. There was no charge for admission.   

FGIF Rating 2*.

Click here for a map showing Wickhambrook FC       

No.6 - Tues. 23rd August 2005; Peterborough & District League - Premier Division; (att: 23; prog: No)

Wimblington OB (2) 2 Whittlesey Utd (2) 4

The current champions of the P&D league had apparently not made a very good start to the new campaign. Following a 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bels at the weekend, a couple of visiting fans were already writing the club off:   ' We've lost seven players so we ain't going to win owt are we?' remarked the older of two rather portly gentlemen leaning against a fence post. His companion nodded in affirmation. Indeed their beloved United team had brought in a host of new faces to the club after many players had departed during the summer. But their worries soon evaporated as their heroes took an early two goal lead and were playing some good football. Alas this was only short lived as a spirited Wimblington side battled back and were level just before half-time. True to form our two friends were moaning again: 'What do you expect? They're just a bunch of kids!' As before his companion nodded in affirmation. The cynics were soon silenced as the manager pulled a master stroke, introducing a couple of subs midway through the second period. The champions took advantage of some poor marking in the Wimblington defence and grabbed two more goals. This sealed a win and three precious points. To my right I could hear the fickle comment: 'It's early days I suppose'. This was unsurprisingly followed by a customary nod! There's just no pleasing some folk. I could not help smiling as I walked back to the car.

To reach the club I took a scenic Fenland route using the A142 from home through Ely and up to Chatteris. From here the A141 takes you to the village of Wimblington, some three miles from March. The ground is visible after turning left into Old Station Way and right into Chapel Road. Parkfield is a large sports ground bordered (on three sides) by fields and housing. A smart brick built clubhouse, comprising a bar and changing rooms is adjacent to the half way line. Several picnic benches offer some seating. The site shares with cricket and on this occasion archery! The local arrows club were practising their skills on the second team pitch which runs parallel to the main one. Understandably the Wimblington football club secretary was not impressed and exchanged a few words with his counterpart before kick-off.

The club do not issue programmes but refreshments are available from the clubhouse.    

FGIF Rating 3*.

Click here for a map showing Wimblington OB FC

No.5 - Sat. 20th August 2005; Essex Olympian League - Division 3; (att: 14; prog: No)

Hannakins Farm (1) 1 Writtle (1) 1

Hannakins Farm are one of three new clubs joining the EIL third division this season (the other two being Ongar and Westhamians). This was their second home game in a week, having drawn 2-2 on Wednesday with  Leytonstone United. Today visitors Wriitle (from Chelmsford) had brought a depleted side to the Community Centre ground and were surprisingly a goal up after only fifteen minutes. The hosts rallied and levelled things before half-time, following a cracking free-kick from just outside the box; the sweetly struck shot dipped over the three-man wall and slotted into the bottom right hand corner of the goal net beyond the diving \keepers grasp. A spirited game followed with plenty of decent football played by both teams. The final result remained at 1-1.

The club is based at the Hannakins Farm Community Centre on the outskirts of Billericay. The complex caters for several sports and there is an indoor sportshall on site. Two football pitches are found around the back of this impressive building in a large and well manicured, tree lined playing field. A number of changing rooms, bar area and patio are behind the nearest goal with some tennis courts and a sizeable astroturf pitch running parallel to the main roped-off pitch. The new goal nets are painted in black and white stripes matching the club colours. No cover exists at present but an alcove near the main building would provide some cover and a decent view of proceedings.

To reach the club we followed the B1007 from neighbouring Chelmsford. On reaching Billericay take a right turn at the main roundabout into Queens Park Avenue. Pass the golf course before taking a right turn into Rosebay Avenue. The ground is about a mile down this road on the right hand side. We were rather surprised to see several fire engines present on our arrival - it wasn't an arson attack as we first feared but the local fire brigade who were holding one of their open days in the sportshall!!

Click here for a map showing Hannakins Farm FC       

No.4 - Wed. 17th August 2005; Kershaw Cambs League - Senior B Division; (att: 17; prog: No)

Soham United (0) 0 West Row Gunners (1) 1

The following evening I took almost the same route from Newmarket on my way to watch another local game. This time it was a Senior B Division match between newly promoted Soham United and West Row Gunners. It was United's first game in what is the third Division of the Cambridgeshire League. 

On arriving at the ground I was greeted by a border collie and two large and very mean-looking alsation hounds who appeared to be roaming freely and were eyeing up anything that moved; whilst sipping a cup of Tetleys tea the lady behind the counter in the pavilion explained the creatures belonged to the manager and were quite harmless. Despite my fondness for canines (my pet Lucky is a border collie) I wasn't going to wait long enough to find out and so beat a hasty retreat past a rather large waterbowl resembling a feeding trough and inceased my pace towards the main roped off pitch to my right. At the moment the facilities are quite basic; there is no cover apart from two dug outs positioned near the half-way line. 

It was now twenty past six and the kick-off had been delayed. Apparently the referee was unhappy with the state of the pitch. A pick up truck duly arrived with a load of sand on the back. Both sets of players and committee members began to fill in small potholes and cracks which had caused a rutted playing surface. Whilst waiting several large aircraft passed overhead on the flight path to and from the American airbases at neighbouring Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

The game started some twenty minutes later and the Gunners (who just avoided the drop last season) quickly took command. United, without seven key players and fielding almost a make-shift youth side, were soon on the back foot and succumbed to a header in the box after only nine minutes. Locals feared the worst. The youngsters soon got into their stride though and helped to play out a cracking end to end game. Remarkably at full time the score remained the same. Despite prevoius concerns the pitch had held up well.

Although a programme wasn't issued, there were plenty of refreshments on offer (hot food and drinks) from a tea bar in the wooden changing pavilion before and during the game. The ground address is listed in the League handbook as Qua (pronounced kway) Fen Common. To reach the club follow the A142 from Newmarket towards Ely. Follow the new Fordham by-pass and then join the Soham by-pass. Take the second left turning marked Town centre (just past the Soham Lodge Hotel which patriotically displays a union-jack at full mast). After crossing a cattle grid the ground can be seen on the left hand side before reaching the residential area; there is parking on the lane passing the main entrance. The site, which has two pitches, is enclosed from surrounding fen land and by a rickety wooden perimeter fence. FGIF Match Rating 3*

Click here for a map showing Soham Utd FC                

No.3 - Tues. 16th August 2005; Kershaw Cambridgeshire League - Premier; (att: 67; prog: No)

Fordham (0) 0 Waterbeach (0) 0

At last the non league season had started! My choice of ground was probably the nearest one to home (other than that of the beloved Town Jockeys) and fitted in nicely with having to pick up my daughter from training. I chose to attend the Kershaw League fixture between Fordham (only four miles away) and Waterbeach, kick-off 6.15pm. The league traditionally opens with midweek matches - Premier games are staged on the Tuesday and Senior A and B Divisions the following evening. The rec in Fordham is off Carter Street and only a stone's throw from the Crown pub (which serves Greene King IPA). The site is at the end of a driveway and shares with cricket. A changing pavilion is adjacent to the car park and some hundred yards from the pitch which is roped off on all sides. A small stand made from breeze blocks sits behind the half-way line. I along with many others paid the groundsman a compliment remarking on the state of the pitch. He explained that this was only used for Kershaw games and the adjacent one (not yet ready) was a Sunday pitch. He also added that the pitch markings are staggered each season so that the grass in the goalmouths has chance to bed in.

The pitch certainly had a bearing on the game. Apart from the lush grass, the playing area is one of the largest I have seen for a long time. By the interval many of the players looked worse for wear as the large playing space took its toll; many weary pairs of legs were glad of a well earned break. In the second half Fordham started to dominate in midfield and the 'Beach defence coped well with many fine saves by the active keeper. As a lack of match fitness started to tell, mistakes almost cost both teams but by ninety minutes both were happy to settle for a 0-0 draw.

The club do not issue programmes (which are a rareity anyway in this League). From memory Waterbeach and Sawston produced last season). There were no refreshments and no 'gate' money was taken. To reach the club from the A14, take the A142 exit and turn left at the slip road towards Ely. Fordham is about two miles along this road; you will pass an industrial site on the left (with Smith packaging and Turners the hauliers prominent); continue straight over the new roundabout (ignoring the recently opened by-pass) towards the village. Take the first right turn (marked Isleham/Mildenhall) and follow the road around to the left. At the crossroads turn left next to the church and entrance to the ground is just past the Crown pub on the right. FGIF Match Rating 3*

Click here for a map showing Fordham FC

No.2 Tues. 9th August 2005; Football Championship; (att: 20519; prog: 68 pages 3.00) 

 

Leicester City (1) 4 Stoke City (0) 2 

 

With athletics taking priority on Saturday I decided to get in a midweek Football Championship game to make up for it and so settled for the match between Leicester City and Stoke City at the Walkers Stadium. To avoid sitting in a massive queue on the A14 near Kettering (due to continuing roadworks) I took a Fenland route up to Peterborough and reached Leicester using the A47 instead. Remarkably this was hassle free. Parking at the Leicester Tigers Rugby Club also went without any problem. The game itself was a scrappy one but full of incident.

 

For the second game in a row I had the pleasure of watching Stoke and for the second game in a row they were reduced to ten men for some reckless play. This did not spoil the game which saw five goals in the second half. Connolly upfront netted a hat-trick much to the delight of the home fans! In truth both defences were awful which led to the high scoring result.

 

Even with the repetitive advertising containing the Walkers logo throughout the Stadium the venue still looks impressive. My digital camera had pointed towards every aspect of the ground (as you can see from the images). Had I been converted back to the professional game? Yes it was a great experience but I'll be looking forward to visiting more humble surroundings in the coming weeks!! And so will my wallet which had been well used in the last few days! FGIF Match Rating  3*

 

End