INDEX 2016-17

updated on 28/04/17

R No.42: WebEd - Friday 14th April 2017; Marks Tey v Langham Lodgers; Colchester & East Essex League Acorn Charity Invitation Shield Q-F; Venue: The Jubilee Field, Old London Road, Marks Tey - CO6 1EN; Result: 2-4; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 18; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘The opportunity to take in an early kick-off on Good Friday was just too good to miss. My destination today was the outskirts of Braintree where Colchester & East Essex League side Marks Tey Football Club was entertaining Langham Lodgers in the Acorn Charity Shield, a local invitational cup game. This is usually organised as an end of season competition by the C+EE and is contested by eight invited clubs who enter the knock-out phase at the quarter-final stage. Monies and donations raised are used to help the Acorn Lodge Care Home, a residential institution aimed at supporting vulnerable teenagers and adults (with special needs ranging from autism to Downs syndrome) based in the Beazley End area of Braintree. The proceeds raised are ploughed back to help provide equipment, organise day trips and arrange activities in the community.

The club plays its games at the Jubilee Field recreation ground which is easily accessed off the old London Road (if you are coming from the south bound A12) which also runs parallel. Indeed, the site itself is clearly visible on approach roads as it is sandwiched between the A12 and the A120 Coggeshall Road. Fronted by some intricate ornate wrought-iron gates depicting the place name within the design, a very large car park leads the impressive village hall complete with large clock on the central gable. The modern pavilion built within the last five years is situated on the left and comprises of two changing rooms and an equipment store. Today a fun fare incorporating a wide range of bouncy castles and amusements was operating over the bank holiday and added a bit of excitement and colour to the place (judging by the number of day trippers who had descended here by mid-day). The main un-roped pitch is found on the playing fields around the back (beyond a large skate park) and is bordered by large trees and hedges on three of its sides. Visitors will not fail miss the frequent sound of trains conveying passengers at speed on the rail line (Chelmsford to Colchester) set behind the field on the opposite side of the ground. As you would expect for this level there are no pitch side facilities for both spectators and players.

Upon my arrival, it was encouraging to see that a full squad of players and subs from both clubs had already taken to the field and were going through their warm up routines well before the designated 11am start. With only a handful of league games remaining for both sides this cup game came no doubt as a bit of light relief. Before play started each side currently sat at the bottom of their respective divisions. The hosts from division one had won only three matches all campaign making it one more than their visitors from the premier division. For the record the visitors won a closely fought cup tie by a rather flattering 4-2 score-line. After leading 2-0, Tey threw the game away allowing the Lodgers to come back scoring twice in the last ten minutes to book a place in the semis against either Brantham Athletic Colts or Abbey Fields (both from Division One). The match played in mainly overcast conditions on a bumpy (very) well grassed pitch attracted nearly twenty spectators.

I was indebted to hard working and friendly secretary Sue Dyer not only for her warm welcome and but also in giving me invaluable info about the club during the morning. She explained how the club originated out of Tey Lions FC (from the Red Lion pub in Coggeshall Road). Wanting to establish greater opportunities to play football in the village, a new club named Marks Tey FC was formed back in 1998 (celebrating its 20-year’s anniversary next season). Sue pointed to a some old lock up garages on the edge of the field where the players used to change before a brand-new pavilion was built following a campaign spear-headed by councillor Nigel Fitch to promote sporting opportunities in the parish. Built initially to develop youth football in the area it is now shared with the club’s adult football teams. Without people like Sue and her helpers many teams at grass roots level would simply not survive. A visit to this friendly club comes highly recommended'.

R No.42: WebEd - Saturday 8th April 2017; Felsted Rovers v CT 66 FC; Mid-Essex League Premier Division; Venue: The Memorial Hall Ground, Braintree Road, Felsted - CM6 3DS; Result: 0-2; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 17; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘Still feeling the effects of a heavy Spring-cold I didn’t really fancy travelling too far today for my footy fix. You can imagine my relief (in addition to the required dose of Lemsip), when I found out from the excellent Full-Time website that Mid Essex League side Felsted Rovers FC was due to start its game earlier than expected with a 1.15pm kick-off (to accommodate the reserves who were playing afterwards at 4 o’clock) this afternoon. Deciding to avoid the M11, I took a more direct (albeit much slower) stress free route through Haverhill and Finchingfield towards the outskirts of Braintree and managed successfully to arrive in good time at the Memorial Hall recreation ground.

As the venue off the Braintree Road is hidden away behind the village hall you might, like me, be forgiven, for thinking upon arrival that the playing fields are actually on the other side of the road but these beautifully manicured open spaces, alas, belong to the prestigious Felsted School which dominates the area in both status and size. Better access to the football ground can be found by taking the next turning on the right down the wonderfully titled Jollyboys Lane North where a narrow track takes you to the back of the tree-lined field where a smart all weather multi use games area adjoins a much more spacious car park. The changing pavilion and equipment store both fashioned in black painted timber is found inside a landscaped area on the opposite side of the field nestled between a children’s play-ground and the village hall itself. The main un-roped pitch is some 100 yards away and benefits from having a few bench-style seats as well as a couple of mini play shelters dotted around its perimeter which offer some basic spectator comfort. A grass embankment running beyond and to the right of the far touchline gives a more elevated view of the action, a real bonus for the avid amateur snapper.

Helpful club secretary Chris McCulloch (an exiled Yorkshireman from Scarborough) explained that the club (established over 100 years ago) has experienced a particularly difficult campaign, certainly on the pitch. Having been promoted straight from the second up to the premier division (of the six-division competition) at the end of last season, (mainly to increase numbers in the top flight), Chris maintained that the club has found the step up in class has simply been too great especially for his young players. The league table doesn’t lie as they say and despite a gallant effort they have only won one and drawn two of their fourteen matches played so far to remain firmly fixed at the bottom of the rankings. Today’s opponents CT 66 FC (the CT stands for Canvey Town) have in complete contrast enjoyed much more success and with twelve wins under their belt currently sit at the top of the eight-team league. However, despite pouring over these pre-match stats the game was in fact a much closer contest than first expected with plenty of chances created by both teams throughout. For the record, it was the visitors from Canvey Island who won by a 2-0 score-line with front runner Darren Godfrey scoring once in each half to consolidate their one point advantage over second placed Beacon Hill Rovers. The match played in lovely warm, sunny conditions was attended by nearly twenty spectators. I was amazed that there was not a single break in play to allow the players time to hydrate in the heat, especially considering some of the Rovers boys were due to turn out immediately afterwards again for the reserves.

A cracking day out and back in Racing HQ just after four o’clock allowing just enough time to put a few quid on a couple of horses in this year’s Grand National at Aintree. Like my beloved Tigers (3-1 defeat at Man City), neither won but it did not spoil a lovely day out. A visit to Felsted Rovers FC in pleasant mid-Essex comes highly recommended.

R No.41: WebEd - Saturday 1st April 2017; Wheathampstead Wanderers v Shephall United; Hertford & District League Charlie Smith Divisional Cup Semi-Final; Venue: The Memorial Hall Ground, Marford Road, Wheathampstead - AL4 8AY; Result: 2-1; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 16; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

For the second week in a row I headed down into Hertfordshire for my footy fix. My chosen game between Wheathampstead Wanderers and Shephall United in the Hertford & District League Charlie Smith Cup (for teams in the lower divisions) certainly had a bit of an edge to it and fitted the bill perfectly for the addicted football ground collecting neutral. With the competition now reaching the Semi-Final stage an exciting tie was in prospect. With both clubs currently finding their form and sitting at the top of their respective divisions it would be interesting to see who would prevail. Would the hosts from division two prove too strong or would the underdogs from division four come here and spring a surprise? It was also encouraging to note that the league’s competition secretary had appointed three officials (including league chairman Neil Morris who ran one of the lines) for the game giving it greater status than a routine league fixture.

The club established in 1990, plays its games at the village Memorial Hall recreation ground which is located off the Marford Road and is some three or so miles from junction 4 of the A1M near Welwyn Garden City. There’s plenty of space to park inside the venue or along the neighbouring roads. The large site incorporates a police station and library as well as providing facilities for local clubs and societies – this afternoon members of the cinema club had gathered in the main hall to watch the latest blockbuster on offer! To reach the playing fields walk around to the back of the main buildings and then down the hill towards the adjacent tennis courts and a multi-use games area.

Unusually the football ground itself is set on a perfect plateau of land hidden just behind here. The modest, basic brick changing block is positioned in a hollow in the right-hand corner – indeed this half of the recreation ground (which runs parallel to the playing area) exists well below pitch level – meaning players need to climb up the embankment near the corner flag to get on to it. In contrast the land beyond the far touchline travels up again to form a grassy mound away to the right offering a more aerial view of the game. So, if you like watching the action from lots of different angles and perspectives you will certainly appreciate walking around the pitch a couple of times during the match. At some point see if you can spot the spire from St Helens church poking up amongst the other buildings on the horizon. Although there’s no dedicated cover a couple of benches are placed near to the half-way line for the substitutes to use during play.

The match was a closely contested affair with little to choose between both teams. For the record, it was the Wanderers who won by a 2-1 score-line with the winner coming with just ten minutes to go after the visitors had levelled on the hour mark. They will now go on to meet Wormley Vets in the final to be played at the County Ground in Letchworth on Friday 21 April at 7.45pm. Played in lovely sunny conditions on a very hard, cracked and bumpy surface, the game attracted a crowd of sixteen spectators. I was pleased to have a chat with Neil the league chairman during a stoppage in play and was grateful to him for sending me a league handbook and a list of dates highlighting the respective competition cup finals taking place before the end of the season. Another lovely day out and a club I would recommend all hoppers on the circuit should pay a visit to when they get chance.   

R No.40: WebEd - Saturday 25th March 2017; Stevenage Community v Hampstead Heath; Hertfordshire Senior County League Division One; Venue: King George V PF, Sish Lane, Stevenage - SG1 3TB; Result: 3-1; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 9; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 4 (terrific pitch and tea bar!)

‘My hop today involved watching two of the newest clubs playing in the Herts Senior Country League with each having joined the competition at the start of the season. A glance at the Division One league rankings shows the sides have experienced contrasting fortunes as they currently sit at opposite ends of the sixteen-team table. For the visitors from North London things couldn’t have gone much better with the club sitting proudly on top of the league recording sixteen wins from twenty-four games. Indeed, it was only a few weeks ago that I saw them defeat high-flying AFC Oaklands in an exciting league match that ended 2-3 at the impressive Oaklands College in St Albans. For Stevenage Community Football Club, however, success has been much harder to find with only five wins achieved so far this season. So, on paper, at any rate, it was fair to say that an away win looked most likely before play started. In hindsight it’s a good job I’m not a betting man as the result was certainly not one I was expecting!

Today’s game was an absolute cracker and great advert for the league. Contrary to my initial prediction It was the home side (in truth, the underdogs) who in fact settled more quickly and started to take control of the game, playing some terrific attacking football from the word go. Their hard work paid off as they took the lead inside the first ten minutes when Danny Bacon skilfully flicked the ball home from five yards out following a low pin-point cross into the box from the left. Although the visitors equalised through Ryan Lawrence’s speculative long range shot just before the break, Stevenage re-took the lead moments later deep into first half stoppage time when captain Luke Smith climbed high above the away defence to head home in style. Ten minutes after the interval Steve Cross added a third for Stevenage to give his side a commanding lead. Hampstead missed a chance to pull one back when they failed to convert a spot kick mid-way through the half all of which seemed to spur the hosts on and help them to take all three points with a well deserved, if somewhat surprising, 3-1 victory. The game played in beautiful bright sunshine on an undulating but well-manicured surface was attended by a handful of spectators including fellow hopper and all round top guy Dave Hattersley who had driven over from Harlow. Having to attend a function in the evening Dave (like myself) was pleased to find out that the kick-off had been brought forward by half-an-hour to 2.30pm to accommodate the ground-staff who had been on site from 8am to prepare for a junior tournament taking part later in the morning. The club doesn’t issue programmes but a wide range of hot and cold refreshments are available from the pavilion before the game.

The club plays its home games at the King George V Playing Fields located about half-a-mile from the town centre. Access from the A1M is easy by coming off at junction 8, following the A602 and then taking the A1155. From here turn left down Popple Way and then left again into Sish Lane. The site, which can be tricky to find along here, is reached by following a sign which is marked for the Stevenage Bowls Club. A narrow drive leads to the main (smaller) car park on the right or the overflow (larger) one on the left. The large two storey club house is visible ahead with the entrance around the back. A colourful mural painted on the outer wall leads to the changing rooms on the ground floor and the superb tea bar upstairs. The main pitch is found some 200 yards from here on the nearside of the field and it runs parallel to the main road opposite. There’s a constant stream of traffic passing along here during the game not to mention several Easy-Jet aircraft flying over from Luton or possibly Stansted Airport. Two large sky-scrapers also dominate the scene and make for a unique back-drop to the action. Although there are a couple of benches close to the (roped off) pitch there are at present no dug outs in situ. During the game, Dave took advantage of a recently felled tree sited close to the touchline near half-way with the remaining stump offering a perfect free seat from which to watch the game. Hope you've pulled out those splinters mate!

Before ending my review, I must mention three people connected with the club who went out of their way to make my short stay an enjoyable one. Firstly, a massive thanks to club secretary Andy Martin for giving me the thumbs up on Saturday morning about the change in start time. For someone like me who tends to arrive regularly to matches with about only ten minutes to spare ahead of kick-off (tut, tut), this was a life saver. Sadly, Andy was unable to be at the game today but kindly gave me the run down on the club beforehand.

And finally, to club stalwarts Steve at Pat without whom the club (like many others at grass roots level) would struggle to survive was it not for all their hard work and loyalty. Steve Lugg the groundsman, committee member and all-round ambassador (and ex Stevenage Football Club ground-staff back in the day) was on hand at the playing field from 8am to prepare not only for this game but also to set up pitches for a junior tournament in the morning. That’s a lot of graft! Dave and I had been told (by Andy) to introduce ourselves when we first got to the ground. It was Steve for the most part who (along with Brian Mitchell) started the club back in the 1980’s chiefly to develop football for youngsters in the area before helping them to progress into adult soccer. His next step is to help the club gain standard Charter Status to improve facilities. What a lovely bloke. Along with Pat who is responsible for the club catering and refreshments (check out her superb bacon rolls!), Stevenage Community are in good hands! A visit here is highly recommended. I wish them well in the future'.

R No.39: WebEd - Saturday 18th March 2017; Lea Sports PSG v Sundon Park Rovers; Bedfordshire County League Division Two; Venue: Pirton Rec, Walnut Tree Road - SG5 3PX; Result: 3-2; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes, although it was closed today; Attendance: 15; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 4 

Lea Sports Football Club was formed in Luton in 1973 by junior school teachers (hence the LEA acronym in the name which stands for Local Education Authority). Despite a new influx of teachers coming into the profession at local schools each year, the team occupied nothing more than a modest position in the lower divisions of the North Home Counties Sunday Football League. As more players joined the club they successfully entered the South Beds Sunday League in 1988-89. The 1992-93 season saw an amalgamation with Stopsley Boys Club, which took the club from four to eight teams and introduced youth football to Lea Sports. A Ladies football team also operated in 1994-95 and notably played in a friendly against Sheffield Wednesday, losing 16-0! In 1995 the club took the decision to move to the recreation ground in the village of Pirton, a venue which offered better pitches and facilities. As was first feared, the move out of Luton led to a reduction in the number of players available and the number of adult teams shrunk back to two. Much greater emphasis was now placed on developing youth football for the children of the village and surrounding areas. In 2006, the club achieved FA Charter Standard status detailing ambitious plans for local youth football. In 2008 a merger took place between Lea Sports FC, Pirton FC and Shillington & Gravenhurst United FC (hence the new name of 'Lea Sports PSG') which extended the youth section even further. To this end the club now offers coaching for youngsters over five with organised teams from under 7’s upwards. Two new adult sides, playing on Saturdays in the Bedfordshire County League, were established in the 2010-11 season. Today regular sessions for children take place every Saturday morning throughout the year at the rec’.

‘After watching the club play twice on my travels last season (whilst taking in games at both Clapham Sports and the now defunct, Kempston Hammers Sports), I thought it was about time to tick them off my ‘to do’ list and go and watch them play at home. My chosen game today saw mid table Lea Sports PSG entertain Luton-based Sundon Park Rovers at the Pirton Recreation ground. The venue found off the Hitchin Road is easily accessed from the A1M (at Stevenage) and Hitchin before taking the B655 towards Barton-le-Clay. As you turn right down Walnut Tree Road a sign pointing to the entrance is a bit deceptive. On first impression, it looks as though you are entering the driveway belonging to a private residential property. However, you will find the bumpy track eventually leads down past the houses and to the playing fields (shared with the local cricket club) which soon come into view on the right-hand of the side of the rec. There’s plenty of parking space here alongside the club buildings comprising of the Pirton Sports Club and the football changing rooms. A smart sign affixed to the wall welcomes visitors to the club and advertises training times covering the various age group sides for anyone wishing to join up. The main pitch is marked over to the right beyond a children’s play-ground. Pride of place goes to the roomy old wooden stand which straddles the half-way line on the far side of the pitch. Several old-fashioned park type benches decked out in red paint offers some spectator seating inside – however with the lack of club dug outs most of the subs tend to gather inside here instead’.  

‘The Division Two league fixture was a close contested affair with the hosts edging the visitors by a 3-2 score-line. A dogged Sundon side, who had taken the lead as early as the second minute, fought back after going behind to level matters just after half-time. They certainly didn’t look like a team struggling at the foot of the table until the closing stages when they eventually collapsed late on following a fast break which led to the winning goal. The game played in squally, wet and windy conditions which prevailed throughout attracted fifteen spectators including Keith Redmond an ex UCL referee who was on duty as the assessor today. We managed, between his note making, to catch up on our recent visits and swap stories during the afternoon. Also, standing pitch side was one young home fan who during the second half surprisingly showed me his smart tattoo which portrayed the club crest which had been inked onto his calf. I’m not sure whether this is called devoted loyalty or simple madness – go to the club album in the FGIF gallery and decide for yourself! Although a sign next to the club buildings advertised a tea bar no attempt was made to open this and offer any refreshments. Perhaps it is only used when the juniors (and parents) are here. My thanks go to affable and multi-talented Nathan Woodward who not only acts as a hard-working club secretary but doubles up as lino and manager as well. Nathan returned my check phone call with the match details at mid-day. A visit to this friendly well run club comes highly recommended. Another great day out on the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire border’.

R No.38: WebEd - Saturday 11th March 2017; Hickling v Runton United; North East Norfolk League Division One; Venue: Hickling Barn, Mallard Way, Hickling - NR12 0YU; Result: 1-17; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: No; Attendance: 18; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 4

‘Despite a couple of major hold ups on route to my footy fix in the Norfolk Broads, my patience (and a lot of luck) was rewarded with a most memorable (and high-scoring) hop that was well worth all the aggro on Saturday afternoon. A serious collision involving several cars on the eastbound A47 Norwich ring road just after mid-day threatened to scupper my chances of reaching the picturesque village of Hickling, the destination for my footy fix. Just as I was about to lose hope of getting to the game, fast acting emergency service personnel at the scene set up a diversion to ease the long tail back that had built up and finally got the slow-moving traffic back up and running smoothly again. However, moments after leaving the dual carriageway at Acle, another hold up (due to ongoing roadworks) meant I was once again sat in a stationary queue, this time waiting for the temporary traffic lights to change (which they did several times). It was touch and go but I managed to get through them and complete the final leg of my journey to arrive (in a bit of a cold nervous sweat) with ten just minutes to spare before the 2.30pm kick-off!'.

'The village of Hickling is about twenty miles south-east of Cromer and lies three miles east of the Broadlands town of Stalham. The nearest railway station is at Worstead for the Bittern Line which runs between Sheringham, Cromer and Norwich. Comprising of two main parts, Hickling Green and Hickling Heath, the village attracts the many tourists who come on boat trips and moor up at the staithe. On the edge of the Hickling Broads it is possible to reach Catfield Dyke, Potter Heigham and even Great Yarmouth by inland waterways. Because it leads to the sea the waters are slightly tidal and, depending on the time of year, the water levels can heavily rise or fall. There are many thatched huts dotted along the broads, one of the oldest being Turner's Hut'.

'Hickling Football Club plays its games on a playing field located on a beautiful landscaped site incorporating the Hickling Barn HQ off Mallard Way. The facilities here are housed in an impressive modern building constructed not only to replace the old outdated hall but to act as a new hub for the local village residents. Completed in 2012 to look like a traditional Norfolk barn (if you ignore the solar panels), it provides a wide range of social and sporting activities for community use. For football the changing rooms are found at the back some two hundred yards from the main pitch marked out on the far side of the field. Although the playing area is not roped off and there are no pitch side facilities to speak of, visitors here will not fail to be impressed by the wonderful old mill located behind the top goal which makes for a stunning back drop to the action'.

'The 19th-century grade II listed windmill on Hickling Heath was built in 1818 to a design known as a tower mill, a tapering circular building some eight storeys high used for grinding wheat for flour. In the 1860s this also included a bakery until production ceased in 1904, at which time the sails and fantail were removed. After several changes of ownership, the mill in 1934 came into the ownership of the Forbes family, who carried out major cap renovation in 1989. Otherwise Hickling Mill is one of the few windmills in the country to have been preserved in a largely unrestored condition. It still contains almost a complete set of main machinery and many of the original timber fittings and three sets of millstones'.

'Today’s game was going to be an intriguing contest with the bottom placed hosts entertaining high flying Runton United for a NENL First Division league game. The visitors from Cromer arrived on the back of a terrific unbeaten run (going back three season). So far in 2016-17 they had won all their games and had also reached the Norfolk Junior Cup Final where they will play Anglian Combination side UEA at Carrow Road in April. As you’ve probably guessed my choice of game was planned not just to tick of a new ground but hopefully see a few goals in the process. I wasn’t to be disappointed either as Runton quickly took control of the game scoring their opening goal inside the first minute before adding another seven without reply to lead 8-0 at the break. There was no respite for Hickling as they were penned into their own half for much of the second half as Runton went on the rampage and worked hard to build up their lead. They were relentless in scoring another ten goals before the hosts managed to get on the scoresheet themselves converting a penalty late on after the referee spotted some pushing in the area. For the record the game ended 1-17 to Runton making this the highest ever number of goals I have ever seen in a game – some thirty odd years since I started this wonderful hobby. Indeed, the score could have been more with no fewer than four goals being disallowed for offside infringements. This broke my previous total of fifteen goals coincidentally set only a few weeks back when Harston Bostocks beat Bottisham 14-1 in a Cambs County League Division 5B league match!'.

'The game played in mainly dull and overcast conditions on a bumpy but well grassed surface attracted eighteen spectators. Neither programmes nor refreshments were available. Despite the gulf in class between both sides credit must go to the Hickling players for persevering throughout. Praise must also go to match referee Ryan Starkey (secretary of the Great Yarmouth & District League) who, after only taking up the whistle two years ago, officiated in a firm and fair manner allowing the play to flow as much as possible. I was also indebted to Hickling secretary and defender Martin Hale who texted me with the important match details mid-morning before setting out. It goes without saying that a visit to this friendly, welcoming club situated in the picturesque Norfolk Broads comes highly recommended'.

R No.37: WebEd - Saturday 4th March 2017; Cockers v North Elmham; C&SNL Dick Davey Ambulance Cup Rd 3; Venue: Manns Lane, Swanton Morley, Dereham - NR204NP; Result: 2-1; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: No; Attendance: 12; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 4

‘My visit to Cockers Football Club was eagerly awaited as it meant that I had finally done the set, having ticked off all the clubs playing in the three divisions making up the Central & South Norfolk League. It also made up for a previous discounted visit here at the start of last season when prolonged heavy rain during the day led to the abandonment of a league fixture against Walsingham United just an hour before the early evening kick off. The club itself is based in the village of Swanton Morley which is located some five miles to the north of Dereham and reached by taking the B1147. The ground is found off Manns Lane where a long gravel driveway takes you to the car park and adjacent (and rather unusually shaped) village hall which caters for many local sports and social activities. The players have access to a couple of changing rooms at the side of the building'.

'Pride of place here is the ‘must see’ traditional red phone box which stands forlorn at the end of the car park. It’s all quite surreal because the box has been converted into a unique book exchange facility or as the note on the door says ‘Swanton Morley’s Phone Box Library’. An article which appeared in the Eastern Daily Press (October 2015), reveals that the old village call box has been given a new lick of paint and new windows. The parish council decided to take ownership of the kiosk which sat outside The Angel pub just over a year ago, buying it for the princely sum of £1. According to BT, the call box had just £1.80–worth of use over a whole year and it was starting to look faded and unloved.'

'Parish council clerk Faye Le Bon said they asked people for ideas for what it should be used for and suggestions ranged from turning it into a village information point, or possibly somewhere to store a defibrillator. “Someone even suggested painting it blue and turning it into a Tardis,” she said. “But I don’t think even Swanton Morley parish council has the technology for time travel. “When the idea of a book exchange was put forward it was clearly the favourite.” The box was moved from The Angel site to a new home at the village hall on Manns Lane which would give people in the village easier access and parking. New shelving is gradually filling up with books that people have donated for others to borrow completely free of charge. Mrs Le Bon said: “All we ask is that they remember to return them at some point. Nothing has to be signed in or out as it works completely on an honesty basis.” Books currently waiting to be borrowed include genres from horror to history, gardening to autobiographies, and there are also plenty of children’s books'.

'Back to the football. The main adult pitch used by the first team is marked out beyond a smaller youth pitch on the far side of the tree-lined playing field. Although there is no cover or dug outs, spectators standing on the far touchline will appreciate the large wind turbine towering above the village hall on the opposite side of the field. Both ends of the ground are bordered by fences and hedges to give it an appealing enclosed feel. If you look beyond the goal to the right you might just catch a glimpse of the All Saints parish church partly hidden between the surrounding trees'.

'Today’s game features a match in one of the league’s many cup competitions, the Dick Davey Ambulance Cup. This is contested to provide extra playing opportunities in a league that has seen its membership drastically fall (like many others up and down the country) over recent years. Cockers from division three (bottom one) welcome local rivals and division one (top) side North Elmham FC to Mann’s Lane for a third-round tie. Despite their relative lowly league position Cockers have been in good form recently with some encouraging results bolstered by the addition of several new players that have joined from neighbouring team Beetley Bees FC (who have recently left the league for disciplinary reasons)'.

'The derby game sees the form book turned on its head as the hosts prevail over their more illustrious opponents and win a thrilling game by a compelling 2-1 score-line. It’s a frantic finish as the visitors score late on but cannot find an equaliser with the Cockers defence holding firm on to their well-deserved lead. A crowd of twelve is in attendance for the game which is played in warm sunshine on a sticky playing surface that has been sanded in both goal mouths and around the centre circle. My thanks go to club secretary Mrs Sue Clarke for her invaluable help in confirming the match info before I left Racing HQ at mid-day. Although she didn’t attend, her husband Mick (complete with his specially knitted woolly club hat), was at the game and told me he will pass the message on when he gets home!  Another great day out marking a memorable occasion. Hopefully another new club or ground will soon provide a further opportunity for me to take in a game in what is a terrific competition, one of my favourites. I can’t believe it is almost six years ago since I attended my first match in the league at Bridgham United FC back in April 2011. How time flies!!'.

R No.36: WebEd - Saturday 25th February 2017; Isleham United v Upwell Town; Cambs County League Division 2B; Venue: Mill Street Recreation Ground, Isleham, Soham - CB75RY; Result: 2-0; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 7; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘Only a stone’s throw from Racing HQ, this was the nearest new ground I had not yet ticked off my hopping list! As expected, the short eight-mile journey was completed comfortably in just under twenty minutes. Isleham United Football Club plays at the local recreation ground found on a grassed playing area at the junction of the Mill Street and West Street and is close to the centre of the village. Facilities here are first class and served by an impressive community centre called The Beeches. Funded by the parish council and opened less than two years ago, the well-appointed complex is used for a wide range of sporting and social clubs providing activities for both adults and children. It also hosts business conferences and caters for wedding receptions in purpose built accommodation that features a large function room and adjacent bar lounge within its premises. The football club use some spacious new changing rooms which are hidden away at the back of the centre, located next to a large metal outdoor equipment container.

The tree-lined recreation ground has several pitches marked out within its perimeter to cater for many of the club’s teams. Apart from adult football there is also a strong youth section here and upon arrival the place was buzzing with youngsters (and their parents) after a midday training session (on one of the smaller pitches on the far side of the field) had just finished. Although I had confirmation that the match was on before setting out, I couldn’t immediately see any goal posts in place for today’s game. However, it wasn’t long before my fears were allayed when I spotted several home players wheeling them out over to one of the (two) main pitches in front of The Beeches. Phew! There are no dug outs or cover around the un-roped pitch which has a fairly strong slope running along its length between the goals.   

Today’s game saw the visit of Wisbech-based Upwell Town to the recreation ground for a league match. With both sides sitting either side of mid-table a close division 2B fixture was in prospect. For the record, it was hosts Isleham who won by a 2-0 score-line with both goals coming in a frantic five minute spell midway through the first half of what turned out to be quite a scrappy affair spoiled in part by the swirling wind and showers which had gathered throughout the afternoon. A crowd of just seven attended the game and refreshments including hot drinks and snacks were made available from the bar area at half-time. On a personal note, it was a nice surprise to catch up with the Isleham skipper Neil Parr who I had not seen for over twenty-five years since he had been a (very well behaved) pupil in one of my PE lessons at Newmarket Upper School – gosh, how time flies!! A visit to this friendly club comes highly recommended to all hoppers…

R No.35: WebEd – Saturday 18th February 2017; AFC Oaklands v Hampstead Heath; Herts Senior County League Div One; Venue: Oaklands College (Smallford Campus), St Albans - AL40JA; Result: 2-3; Admission/Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 18; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘After spending a season playing at Under 21 level, AFC Oaklands is now plying its trade in the HSCL Division One this campaign. Made up of students attending Oaklands College in St Albans (a requirement of the club) the team has made a terrific start so far and currently sit just outside the top three promotion places in the sixteen-strong division. First team manager John Highton explained that the young side has received excellent coaching with many of the players following sports related courses at the college. This not only helps to give them a good grounding but uses the advantage of sports science data to help improve their performance’.

‘The club plays its games on the vast playing field located at the rear of the Smallford Campus site. Travellers intending to make a visit should enter the college along the South Drive (off the A1057 Hatfield Road) which takes you through the college grounds and into the main Sports Zone (signposted) and car park (free on Saturdays). From here it’s a bit of a trek to walk down to the fields, passing the main centre on your right and two 3G floodlit pitches (used for hockey) to the left. The club plays on a partly roped-off pitch over to the left-hand side of the field (alongside an adjacent rugby pitch). There are two perspex dug outs positioned close to the half-way line on the far side. As you would expect there is no cover at pitch-side’.

Today’s game saw the visit of league leaders and fellow newcomers Hampstead Heath to the college. Attended by almost twenty spectators including affable Ilford based hopper (and proud grandad) Geoff Combes, the game was played in sunny conditions on an excellent well-grassed grassed surface. We both enjoyed a thoroughly captivating game of football that saw the lead change three times. Despite taking a lion’s share of the possession in the second half Oaklands just couldn’t find a way through the resolute Hampstead defence and it was the visitors’ Simon Lawrence (the hat-trick hero) who nicked the winning goal following a quick counter attack only three minutes before the end, to make it 2-3. It was a great advert for the league and on this performance both clubs should be in or near the promotion race come May. Neither refreshments nor programmes are available for matches.

Another superb day out. I can recommend a visit to this newly formed club to all ground collecting neutrals. For the record, hoppers may be interested to know that Hampstead Heath play its home games at the Toms Lane recreation ground in Bedmond on the outskirts of Watford. Although the roots of the club and majority of its players hail from North London, they must play home games in Hertfordshire to be able compete in the league’.

R No.34: WebEd Saturday 11th February 2017; Sutton Heath Saxons v Tattingstone United; Suffolk & Ipswich League Club Colours Cup Quarter-Final; Venue: Hollesley Rec - IP123QL; Result: 1-3aet; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 18; FGIF Match Rating: 5; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

WebEd reports: ‘I made the long cross-county journey from Racing HQ over to the outskirts of Woodbridge using a route that was almost in a straight line (as the crow flies) between home and destination. From the A14, I joined the B1078 (at Coddenham) before taking the B1053 at Melton and using the Heath Road for the final stages. The club plays its games in the neighbouring village of Hollesley and not Sutton Heath (an area covered by the vast Rendlesham Forest and Woodbridge RAF base). It’s a remote location which is understandable as you are only a few miles from the sea (Hollesley Bay) on the Bawdsey peninsula! I was indebted to local Ipswich-based NLM forum poster PinewoodSte who had visited the club for a match back in December (see below) and his notes are spot on. A narrow driveway takes you up to the recreation ground which is bordered on all sides by trees. To the left is the village hall (with toilets and changing rooms for the visitors) and the playing field with a lovely old wooden changing pavilion (for the hosts) ahead. The main pitch is marked at right angles with a smaller training pitch running parallel. Opposite is a small grassy embankment with a children’s slide built into its side. Apart from a couple of wooden benches placed behind the goal and next to the far touchline, there is little else on site’.

Sutton Heath Saxons Football Club is competing in only its second season in the SIL. Formed just seventeen months ago, it will allow the younger players to continue representing the club when they reach adult status. Today’s game saw visitors Tattingstone United arrive at the recreation ground for an eagerly awaited SIL Club Colours Cup tie which had now reached the quarter-final stage. As PinewoodSte recalls, it was quite a notable occasion when the teams last played here before Christmas in a league match (both sides are in division three), with no less than four red cards been brandished (all to the away side) in a feisty game that ended 3-3. As a consequence, the league had appointed a more experienced referee (ie. who normally officiates in the Senior (top) division) for this game. Indeed, apart from a small skirmish towards the end there was no obvious grudge shown between the players and for the hopping neutral this was a superb contest. For the record, it was the Saxons who progressed through to the semis, coming from behind to equalise with just five minutes of normal time remaining before scoring a goal in each half of extra time to make it 3-1. The game played in a mixture of cold, wet, windy and sleety conditions was watched by twenty or so spectators. I was really grateful to Lindy Norling for her offer of a hot cuppa or two during the afternoon which she dispensed from the kitchen area of the home dressing room’.

‘I was also made to feel very welcome by all the home committee members and helpers including Chairman Mark Green and his wife as well as Colin Knight who confirmed the match details before setting out at mid-day. A visit to this remote footballing outpost is recommended to all hoppers. On a personal level I was chuffed to tick this ground off as it completed all the venues used by clubs playing in the Suffolk & Ipswich League – I still have a few teams left (those that ground-share with others) but these might have to wait a bit longer before I decide to watch them play!’.

R No.33: WebEd - Saturday 4th February 2017; AFC Barley Mow v Wimblington; Cambs County League Division 2B; Venue: Hinchingbrooke School 3G, Huntingdon - PE29 3BN;  Result: 5-2; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 7; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 4

‘Travellers may be interested to know that AFC Barley Mow is playing its home games this season on the 3G floodlit facility at Hinchingbrooke School along the Brampton Road in Huntingdon. It’s an impressive site set in acres of beautiful countryside with the lovely Hinchingbrooke House (former home of the Cromwells) and Park close by. After leaving their previous base at Sapley Park, the club now use the impressive artificial playing surface which is situated behind the school buildings next to the sports department and adjoining grass pitches. The cage itself is only a short walk down from the purpose built wooden changing rooms and accessed along a smart walkway bordered by a neat fence. Other adjacent sports pitches including a handball court, a shot-putting area and hockey practise site all run parallel behind the main cage on the far side. There is plenty of room for spectators to watch the action from inside the confines of the cage with a wide space between the touchlines and the main outer fence. The school, dating back to 1565, sits at the top of a steep landscaped embankment and provides a superb backdrop to the action. To get there visitors can either park in the main school car park and walk down to the playing area or pay £1 at the new barrier and drive to a second car park which is a bit closer to the sports facilities’.

After only two seasons in the CCL the Huntingdon-based club find themselves well placed in Division 2B after gaining promotion from 3B and winning three cup competitions last campaign! Today’s game saw an enthralling league fixture against mid table Wimblington. Despite going a goal down in the early stages the Bears (as they are depicted on the club crest) came back to win 5-2 and maintain their push for promotion by consolidating runners-up spot behind hot favourites to win the title, Little Downham Swifts. The game played out in front of just nine spectators (including of vociferous home fans) was a great advert for the Cambs County League. As expected, neither programmes nor refreshments were available. I was indebted to club secretary Tom Peattie who not only confirmed the match details but also made me feel very welcome throughout my visit. Travellers should note that the club kicks-off its home games at 3pm, a time allocated to them by the school sports centre department, being the only afternoon slot when the 3G facility is freely available for matches. Another tick off my CCL list and a useful 3G option for all hoppers looking for an alternative if the weather is particularly bad’.

R No.32: WebEd – Saturday 28th January 2017; Wicken v AFC Christchurch; Cambridgeshire County League Division 5B; Venue: Wicken Rec - CB75XZ; Result: 4-2; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 9; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

WebEd writes: ‘There are some football watching days when even your best hopping strategy needs a bit of luck to make it work. Over the last couple of years, I have been trying to tick off all the clubs playing in the Cambridgeshire County League (you’ve probably guessed that already looking at my recent itinerary history!). Given the fact there are no fewer than thirteen divisions in the entire competition (from Premier, Senior A and B right down to 5B), it’s no mean feat to tick off the club grounds that that make up the constitution. I have made my life a bit easier by just watching First teams (apart from Cambridge City Reserves) when selecting my chosen games. As you work your way down through the CCL pyramid divisions, it can sometimes become a bit more difficult with less first team sides (and more reserves/A teams) available to choose from. Take this Saturday for instance. In Division 5B there are only three first teams making up the twelve-team division: AFC Christchurch; Marchester United and Wicken. After a bit of prior planning and checking the forthcoming fixtures for each club I found (to my delight) that Wicken FC were playing at home (against AFC Christchurch) in their next game. This was an ideal opportunity to get in an all first-team game and a new ground tick at the same time!’.

However, when it came to confirming the important match details, I seemed to hit a bit of a proverbial brick wall. I discovered from a phone call late on Friday that the secretary of the home club (listed in my Cambs County League club directory) had in fact resigned. He couldn’t help me out as he had no idea of his replacement at the club. When I realised I had no contact information available for the visiting side either I was in a bit of a pickle and so decided to consult the hopping oracle that is, Brian Buck. Always keen to oblige, super hopper and Spurs fan extraordinaire, Brian quickly provided me with a possible contact name and number for the visitors. Despite my best efforts, I still couldn’t get through and waited until Saturday morning before trying again. Without any further luck, it left me not knowing whether the game was on or not, meaning I had to forget it or risk going, picking a back- up just in case the worst happened. I decided to re-jig my itinerary, leaving Racing HQ slightly earlier than necessary so that I could reach another (Plan B) game in time. Thankfully, Isleham United FC (only a few miles just up the road) were also at home which came in handy! When I arrived in Chapel Lane my worst fears were soon allayed though as I quickly spyed both sets of players already out on the pitch warming up ahead of the 2pm kick-off. It was game on. For the record, it was Wicken who won the contest by 4-2. Played in bright but cold conditions on a bobbly, well grassed pitch, the highly competitive match attracted a dozen or so spectators’.

‘Wicken itself is made famous by the expansive Wicken Fen, a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve and a Special Area of Conservation, owned and managed by the National Trust located to the west of the village. It is one of Britain's oldest nature reserves and includes fenland, farmland, marsh, and reed bed areas. The site is noted for its plants and invertebrates as well as the many breeds of birds returning each year. It is particularly popular with visitors and can be enjoyed from a series of boardwalks (made from recycled plastic) which cover the site’.

‘The football club is easily reached from the main A142 (Ely-Newmarket) road by turning at the Downfield roundabout (on the outskirts of Soham) following the A1123. As you approach the High Street continue past the Maids Head pub before turning right into Chapel Lane. The basic but scenic ground, partly hidden by trees, is based 200 yards down here on the left (on the crown of a bend). Access through a small kissing gate takes you around the back of the lovely ramshackle pavilion (with veranda, tea room and changing facilities including plenty of old framed team photos attached to the wall). There’s plenty of seating too with many picnic benches dotted around in front of the building. A caged multi use games area incorporating tennis court also runs parallel. The un-roped pitch is bordered by trees and housing along both sides with spectacular views of the renown flat Fenland landscape running for miles behind the furthest goal. To add a touch of colour the corner flags and goal nets are decked out in green, the same as the club strip. Another cracking local trip and one off the list now leaving just ten grounds still ‘to do’!’.

R No.31: WebEd – Saturday 21st January 2017; Harston Bostocks v Bottisham; Cambridgeshire County League Division 5A; Venue: Harston Rec, The Limes - CB22 7QT; Result: 14-1; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 23; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘There can’t be many friendlier clubs in the entire Cambs County League! I can honestly say that I really was made to feel very welcome on my trip to Harston Bostocks Football Club on Saturday. My chosen game saw the visit Bottisham in a Division 5A fixture. My choice of game was not only to record a new ground tick but hopefully to see a few goals in what was going to be an intriguing game. Harston, currently leading the division were (according to their own excellent twitter feed) on a superb unbeaten run and victory today would see the club earn their tenth consecutive win. A glimpse at the stats showed the side had also scored a total of 65 goals in their twelve league games before play today. In stark contrast Bottisham, returning to the league after a year’s break, had found the going tough and had already conceded 100 goals and not won a game or scored single goal on their travels!’.

‘As expected Harston soon found their rhythm and the back of the net. They built on an impressive half-time lead to win the match 14-1 and maintain their position at the top of the table. Despite the score-line credit must begiven the visitors who competed throughout (and scored their first away goal of the season). As one of the Bottisham subs explained they are still very much a young side with most of the players aged twenty and under and are literally still finding their feet. For the visitors, it was their tenth win on the bounce and importantly a step closer to promotion. A crowd of twenty including several away fans attended the game which was played in lovely sunshine on a decent pitch passed by the referee who arrived early to check that the local ground frost had thawed out’.

‘The club plays its home games at the Limes recreation ground, a large playing field located at the end of a cul-de-sac off x road (turn opposite the local petrol station). A smart gated driveway leads to a car park and a new changing pavilion funded by a Sports Lottery grant which is positioned in the centre of the tree-lined recreation ground. There are no pitch-side facilities but the club is looking to set up a tea bar at some time in the future’.

‘I was indebted to hard-working secretary Louis Stern who went out of his way to confirm the match was on by text after my earlier phone call at mid-day. The club is also proactive in promoting itself by selling merchandise including embroidered woolly hats. I am now the proud wearer of a Harston Bostocks Football Club hat, handy for the rest of the winter and boosting the club funds in the process. A lovely day out and a memorable one too – in over thirty years of hopping its officially my highest scoring game attended, eclipsing my previous best (Buxton v Attleborough Town, 1-13, in the Anglian Combination League Cyril Ballyn Tophy round two tie played on 23/10/10), by ONE goal!!’.

R No.30: WebEd – Saturday 14th January 2017; Rampant Horse v Longham; Central & South Norfolk League Division 2; Venue: Little Snoring Rec - NR210GZ; Result: 0-5; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 7; FGIF Match Rating: 2; FGIF Ground Rating: 2

‘With the first covering of winter snow making an appearance in racing HQ on Friday morning, I provisionally looked at a couple of 3G options for my Saturday footy fix. My back up games at AFC Sudbury (FAT) and Fisher (SCEL) soon evaporated as quickly as the white stuff when a phone call to the club secretary at Central & South Norfolk club Rampant Horse FC confirmed that the pitch conditions at the wonderfully titled Little Snoring playing field were fit enough for the league game against Longham to go ahead. The journey up to Fakenham was made in lovely sunny conditions and despite a few patches of snow dotted around the neighbouring fields there was no reason to worry as the pitch looked in perfect condition upon arrival. The ground is found off Stevens Road, just a stone’s throw from the main A148 (Kings Lynn to Cromer). The facilities as expected are basic with just a small community portacabin-style building (used by the local pre-school play group) doubling up as changing room and toilets. There is only one pitch on site which is bordered by fields on three sides’.

‘Today’s fixture (a local derby of sorts) saw the hosts, bottom of the league table with no wins and only eight goals scored in their eleven games so far, take on an unbeaten (in only six outings) Longham side (still in three cup competitions). There was no doubt on paper at least that the visitors would take the spoils with the possibility of seeing a few goals too. Indeed, in the reverse fixture back in September Longham prevailed by an emphatic 17-1 score-line. As expected the visitors won (by 5-0) in a game that really took a while to get going. A strong end to end breeze and a bumpy pitch didn’t help the players in a match that attracted a handful of spectators. Neither programmes nor refreshments were available. Like all my visits to watch games in the competition, this was another enjoyable trip. With only Cockers FC (from Swanton Morley) left to visit before completing the entire set I feel a bit sad that my journey around the clubs in the wonderfully organised Central & South Norfolk League will soon be over’.

R No.29: WebEd – Saturday 7th January 2017; Suffolk Punch Haverhill v Melbourn; Cambs County League John Ablett Cup Round 3; Venue: Puddlebrook PF, Haverhill - CB98NF; Result: 4-3aet; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 23; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 2

'The club plays its home games at the wonderfully titled Puddlebrook Playing Fields, a green public space found just a couple of miles from the town centre along the eastern by-pass (A1017 to Halstead). It is located inside a built-up area known as the Clements Estate and is not easy to find. Although the post code for the ground takes you through the housing estate, the destination given as Norton Road actually brings you to a dead end behind a series of lock up garages. Thankfully a young couple walking along the road told me to retrace my steps and park up near the local primary school some 200 yards back down X road. From here I could see the playing fields and soon walked the short distance through the neighbouring park to reach the playing field. Apart from a few pitches marked out on the field there was little else to speak of. I was led to believe by some of the players that a small basic portacabin type changing facility hidden behind a small copse of trees was used for changing before the game. The main un-roped pitch used today was made more remarkable by the vast amount of sticky tape covering the goal posts – it must represent at least two season’s worth looking at the assorted lengths and colours in situ!!

R No.28: WebEd – Saturday 2nd January 2017; Haverhill Borough v Wisbech St Mary; Eastern Counties League First Division; Venue: New Croft 3G, Haverhill - CB90BW; Result: 6-0; Admission: £5; Programme: £1.50 (Double issue); Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 67; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘I made the short 30-minute cross country trip from Racing HQ to the New Croft for this crucial 3pm Eastern Counties League fixture played on the club’s new 3G pitch. Borough overcame a poor Wisbech St Mary side to win comfortably by an emphatic 6-0 score-line and consolidate their fifth placed position at the top of the Division One table. The match played in bright, sunny but increasingly cold conditions attracted some 65 spectators including hoppers George from neighbouring Yeldham and a certain Mr Tram from the North West amongst this number. A basic 24-page programme (a bumper double issue covering the Boxing Day match against Team Bury FC thrown in for good measure), sold for £1 and a wide range of hot and cold refreshments were available from a well- stocked club room/tea bar next to the entrance’.

‘Hoppers who haven’t yet watched a game here yet should note that Haverhill Borough FC play on an entirely separate floodlit 3G pitch adjacent to the main (grass) one used (next door) by ECLP side Haverhill Rovers FC. As part of the Haverhill Sports Association complex there are two separate ground entrances at the New Croft each used independently by the respective clubs. To watch matches played on the 3G spectator access is through a pay booth on the left which leads to a small tea bar building and the pitch itself. The facility is surrounded by a tall perimeter mesh fence with a separate barrier around the pitch. Viewing is only possible on two sides here: along the near side touchline where there is a small cover (standing only) with an all seater stand (for 30+) beyond the half-way line and, also, behind the goal to the right. Two perspex dug-outs used by the coaches and subs are found on the opposite side. Interestingly a small rectangular digital display clock (with time and temperature gauges) is attached to one of the floodlight pylons along here. Fans share the centrally located club buildings with access to the hall, function rooms, toilets etc’.

‘I found this to be a very friendly club run by many hard-working committee members including secretary, ace photographer and extremely pro-active twitter feeder Gary Brown who replied promptly to my E-Mail a few days earlier confirming all the match details. He explained during the game that the club is scheduled to play most of its home games on the new 3G facility although there may be occasions when the grass pitch is used in the event of a double booking by the public on the artificial surface’.

R No.27: WebEd - Tuesday 2nd January 2017; Soham Town Rangers v Bury Town; Ryman League North Division; Venue: Julius Martin Lane - CB75EQ; Result: 1-4; Admission: £5; Programme: £1.50; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 252; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 4

'A last minute decision was made at midday to attend this one. The short twenty-minute drive from Racing HQ was completed in good time for my first visit to Julius Martin Lane since Rangers had moved into the Ryman League ranks. The local-ish derby saw a strong Bury Town side secure a comfortable 4-1 victory – in truth this could have been more given the chances they created particularly in the second half. Rangers have lost several personnel over the last few weeks and are still in the process of re-building the side, hopefully avoiding relegation. The North Division match played in bright, sunny conditions attracted over 250 spectators, the largest home crowd recorded this season. A newsy, 24-page programme was issued for the game, priced £1’.

‘The ground is well appointed for this level with covered standing at both ends and a smart 100-seater stand positioned near to the half-way line. A tea bar operates close to the main entrance in the corner with a busy club house found further along the same side. The open far side consists of hard standing along its entire length. Another great afternoon’s entertainment. It was also nice to take some pictures at one of my favourite local clubs. It was brought to my attention during the game that both Mildenhall Town and Newmarket Town (members of the ECL) have applied to move up to the Ryman League. If they are successful either could be playing here next season’.

R No.26: WebEd – Saturday 17th December 2017; West Ham United v Hull City; Premier League; Venue: London Stadium, QE Olympic Park - E202ST; Result: 1-0; Admission: £30; Programme: £3.50; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 56952; FGIF Match Rating: 5; FGIF Ground Rating: 5

'An opportunity to watch the Tigers play at the new London Stadium was just too good to miss. Having purchased our tickets over the phone from the KCOM a couple of weeks prior to the game we decided to travel from Cambridge by train and tube (Central line) to reach the ground in Stratford. It’s only a short walk from the Westfield Shopping Centre with easy to follow directions up to the Olympic Park. For the travelling fan the facilities in the main the concourse are excellent and more akin to a luxury hotel. Once inside, the seats offer plenty of leg room with a great view of the action. Sadly, for away fans, there is a big gap between the lower and upper tiers at the end behind the goal. Since West Ham United FC moved into their new ground there have been many negative comments about the effectiveness of both the police and stewarding but we found there was a really good security presence both inside and outside the stadium, at all times. The only negative was the long and convoluted walk we had to make after the game finished which took us around the stadium twice before reaching Stratford tube station (a 10 minute walk which lasted three quarters of an hour!!).

Today’s game was a real relegation dog-fight with only three points separating both sides. Despite hitting the post three times and having two shots blocked off the line Hull could not take their chances and eventually went down 1-0 to a hotly disputed penalty conceded with just fifteen minutes to go. It’s frustrating to see the referee shake his head and then point to the spot. The result now sees the Tigers drop to the foot of the table and it will be nothing short of a miracle if they manage to survive relegation come May. A newsy glossy 100+-page programme containing everything you would expect sold for £3.50.

Despite the result, it was another terrific day out. A trip to the new London Stadium comes highly recommended. Amazing to think that the attendance, which included 2000 Hull City fans, was only 56947 more than the crowd watching Mott MacDonald beat Meldreth 5-2 in a Cambs County League game just one week ago…

R No.25: WebEd – Saturday 10th December 2017; Mott MacDonald v Meldreth; Cambridgeshire County League Division 3A; Venue: Impington SC, Impington VC - CB249LT; Result: 5-2; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 5; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 2

‘Founded in 1989, Mott MacDonald is a global engineering firm and is responsible for providing construction and management solutions to building projects. Major initiatives have included work on the Channel Tunnel; Hong Kong airport; Wembley Stadium; Soccer City in South Africa and Crossrail UK. The football club is comprised of players who in the main are employees working for the Cambridge branch of the company based in Station Road in the city centre.

With plenty of chances this was an excellent end to end game of football to warm up the cockles on a miserable winter’s day. After going a goal down in the opening five minutes, the hosts fought back to lead 2-1 at the break. Within two minutes of the restart they had added another before Meldreth pegged back a second to make it 3-2 mid way through the half. Mott MacDonald showed why they currently sit at the top of the table scoring twice more in the closing stages to win 5-2. Played in heavy rain and in dull light from the kick-off the players contributed to making this an excellent entertaining game on what was a slippery but well-drained surface in front of a handful of spectators.

The club plays its home games at the impressive Impington Sports Centre complex situated next to the local village college and is located a mile or so from Histon FC within easy reach of the A14. The players change in the sports centre before walking over to the recreation field on the other side of the main driveway. The main pitch is bordered by some tall trees which dominate the site. There are no pitch-side facilities although a couple of concrete strips used for cricket nets offers some hard standing.

On a personal note hopper extraordinaire Brian Buck tweeted me a couple of days ago to say that this was a ground that he had NOT yet ticked off in his long and distinguished ground collecting career. Now that is some achievement…isn’t it?

R No.23: WebEd – Saturday 3rd December 2016; Cherry Hinton v Sawston United; Cambridgeshire County League Premier Division played at St Catherine’s College Sports Ground, Kings Road  - CB39DY; Result: 2-2; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 27; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 4

‘For the second week in a row I stayed local and took in a tasty Cambridgeshire County League fixture. Once again, my chosen game did not fail to impress as a skilful Cherry Hinton took on Sawston United in a thoroughly entertaining Premier Division fixture. Seemingly the hosts were looking favourites to bag all three points when they built up a convincing two goal lead inside the first twenty minutes. Not to be outdone the visitors fought back strongly and netted twice before the break to make it 2-2. With nothing to separate the sides the Cherries were awarded a penalty only five minutes after the break but this was well saved by the United keeper. Neither side could find a winner and had to settle for a point each which was on the balance of play a fair result. Played in dull, overcast and increasingly cold conditions on an excellent surface, the match attracted almost thirty spectators. A small table set up close to the half-way line was used to dispense hot drinks, snacks and sweets at half-time.

With extensive construction work needed to improve the pavilion and changing room facilities at the club’s HQ in Cherry Hinton, the Cherries have led a bit of a nomadic existence since August having to use alternative venues in and around Cambridge to fulfil fixtures. To date they have played only once in the village this season. This has meant playing their three opening games (all midweek) at Hills Road VI Form College grounds in Luard Road, then playing away for the next consecutive nine matches before using Trinity Old Field (Trinity College grounds home of Cambridge City reserves) last week. Today they were scheduled to use the Barton recreation ground before moving the game late on to the St Catherine’s College sports field in King Street (in the Newnham area of Cambridge).

As most ground hoppers will appreciate this really is a superb venue. With the benefit of having full time college grounds staff the pitches on site are always prepared and maintained to an excellent standard. On-site parking close to the ornate changing pavilion is allowed on match day. Surprisingly the pitch was roped on all sides with subs benches as well as some advertising banners attached to sturdy wooden posts set up along the far side touchline. Over the hedge beyond the far goal it was possible to see (and hear!) a rugby match being played at the Cambridge Rugby Union Club on Grantchester Road.

One for the anoraks - this was the fourth different home venue I have seen the Cherries play on – a few seasons ago they also used the Cambridge United FC training ground at Bentley Road (off Trumpington Road). If you like collecting alternative grounds, then keep an eye open for further Cherry Hinton FC ‘home’ fixtures. Although there is no fixed time scale to complete work (mostly inside the building) on the new club house it is still not certain as to when the club will be back in the village. There could be other ‘hoppertunites to tick off new grounds – watch this space!’

R No.22: WebEd – Saturday 11th November 2016; City Life v Clare Town; Cambridgeshire County League Division 2A; Venue: Chesterton CC, Gilbert Road - CB43NY; Result: 1-2; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 4; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 2

‘This was a cracking Cambridgeshire County League Division 2A fixture and a great advert for the competition. In an end to end encounter it was league leaders Clare Town who scored a winner very late on to secure all three points and consolidate their position at the top of the table. It looked as though they had done enough to win the game after scoring in the first five minutes but hosts City Life managed to shake things up by grabbing an equaliser from the penalty spot. The game watched by a handful of spectators was played on a decent surface in mild, sunny conditions. Word must go to referee Simon Dawson who had a superb game and gains top marks. Unlike many officials that I have seen this season Simon actually explained to the players why he had made his decisions. A top-notch bloke!’.

The club, formed back in the late 1990’s, use the facilities over a split site for its home games. They are based at the Chesterton Community College sports centre on Gilbert Road (listed as the address) which is only used for parking and changing. Players, officials and spectators then walk back down the school driveway, cross over the main road and then into Courtney Way where they enter the playing field belonging to the Castle School (beware of the ‘no parking’ restriction here!). The main pitch marked out on the far side of the venue is bordered by trees and fences on three sides. Even though a new pavilion has been built on the site next to the school buildings it is only used by junior Sunday sides and not City Life FC who are more than happy to stick to tradition and make the inevitable ten-minute walk between sites for all home games’.

R No.21: WebEd – Saturday 19th November 2016; Sutton Bridge United v Glinton & Northborough; Peterborough & District League Division One; Venue: Memorial Park - PE129SA; Result: 3-0; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 21; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 4

Sutton Bridge is a village found in the South Holland district of Lincolnshire. It is situated on the A17, equidistant from the towns of Wisbech and King's Lynn. The village itself includes a commercial dock on the west bank of the River Nene over which spans a swing bridge. Today a remarkably hassle-free journey through Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and finally into Lincolnshire took me to the picturesque Bridge Road home of Sutton Bridge United FC for the P&DL Division One fixture against newcomers Glinton & Northborough’.

‘Only a stone’s throw from lovely ornate bridge, the club plays on the tidy recreation ground behind the well-appointed Curlew Club, a new community centre that incorporates the local police station, amongst other things, within its premises. The lovely tree-lined ground has been used by the club since its formation back in the 1930’s. A small brick-built pavilion complete with changing rooms, groundsmen’s equipment store and a cramped tea bar is positioned alongside the nearest touchline of the main pitch which is un-roped for games. One or two wooden seats are also in situ on this side for use by spectators. Travellers are advised not to stand too close to the trees behind the furthest goal following the report of some nesting bees that have been seen swarming around the branches – indeed a notice is firmly pinned onto one of the trunks as a necessary safety reminder!’

‘Both sides had met already having played each other here in a league cup tie recently which ended 4-3 (after extra time) to the hosts. Again, United prevailed, winning by a convincing 3-0 score-line but the match was much closer than the result suggests. Notably young Matt Eaton scored all three goals for United. He’s certainly in great form, having bagged four last week in a league fixture at Oundle Town (7-2)! Sadly, Glinton are just finding their feet after losing coaching staff and players to other clubs in and around Peterborough. The game expertly refereed by a sprightly Norman Vasey (aged 73!) was played in cold but sunny conditions and attracted about twenty spectators. Hot drinks (50p) were served in mugs by the long-serving committee member and groundsman Dave Earth at the half-time break. Another cracking trip and one highly recommended to fellow ground collectors on the circuit’.

R No.20: WebEd – Saturday 12th November 2016; Wortham v Cockfield United; Suffolk & Ipswich League Club Colours Cup Round 2; Venue: Wortham Sports Pavilion - IP221PS; Result: 0-6; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 5; FGIF Match Rating: 2; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘Newly promoted Suffolk and Ipswich League side Wortham found the going really tough in this intriguing cup tie contested by teams in the lower divisions of the competition. Visitors Cockfield, currently lead the third division table, put in a cracking and inspired second half performance to add five more goals to their tally and run out comfortable winners by a 6-0 score-line to the hosts (from division four). Young forward Luke Spivey was instrumental in the impressive victory scoring four times including two penalties. The match played in driving rain and swirling winds throughout was attended by half a dozen spectators. Despite the awful weather conditions the pitch held up superbly and should be one for hoppers to consider on similar days’.

‘I would like to thank Wortham FC chairman Carl x for giving me the thumbs up about the fixture over the phone before I set out at midday. He explained that they have thoroughly enjoyed playing in the SIL this season saying how well-run the competition is since stepping up from the St Edmundsbury League in the summer. Travellers may be interested to know that the club has now returned to playing home games at the Wortham Sports Pavilion after a three-year absence when they moved up the road to play at the Hepworth playing fields. Apparently, an infestation of moles on the playing led to a dispute over the state of the pitch with the local parish council. Although the matter seems to be resolved x told me that the pitch has since being taken over by several wild rabbits which have just taken residence in the area – any help to catch them would be gratefully appreciated!’

‘The club is reached by taking the A143 from Bury St Edmunds (central exit off the A14) and then turning off down x next to the village sign post (it’s about five miles from Diss). A short drive takes you past some heathland before turning left towards the village hall and into a small car park alongside the Sports Pavilion. The smart brick built facility funded by a sports lottery grant incorporates the changing rooms for players and officials as well as toilets. Although some distance from the pitch a veranda provides adequate cover for spectators. A visit here is highly recommended to all ground collectors’.

R No.19: WebEd – Saturday 5th November 2016; Cottered v Mangrove; Hertford & District League Centenary Cup; Venue: Cottered Rec - SG99QW; Result: 3-2; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 12; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘I took advantage of the newly early scheduled kick-off times with a fairly local trip over to watch Cottered for my first taste of Hertford & District League action of the season. The hosts currently top of the Premier Division were entertaining Hertford-based Mangrove (from Division One) in a Centenary Cup fixture. Cottered, who were struggling to field a full-strength side went down to ten players inside the first five minutes of the game after their player-manager went off injured after pulling a hamstring. Mangrove levelled twice before Cottered scored the winner late on to avoid extra-time. It was a good job too as the temperature had dropped significantly by full time. By sheer quirk of coincidence today’s referee, Mark Taylor was also in charge of the only two other matches that I have seen in this competition!

The club based at the local recreation ground is situated alongside the main A507 which by-passes the site is only a few miles equidistant from both Baldock and Buntingford. The village hall found at the end of the main driveway and car park offers superb facilities but sadly it was closed today (in preparation for a wedding). The main and only un-roped pitch on the far side is bordered by trees (and a children’s playground) on three sides has an enclosed feel to it. The local cricket club who share the field has its own pavilion on the opposite side of the venue. A smashing day out and back home before the classified footy results were announced on TV.

R No.18: WebEd – Saturday 29th October 2016; Pitstone & Ivinghoe v Unite MK; Spartan South Midlands League Division Two; Venue: Pitstone Sports Pavilion, Pitstone - LU79AP; Result: 2-4; Admission: £2; Programme: 4pp FWA; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 25; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

'For a change I travelled out of East Anglia for my footy fix today. My destination was the village of Pitstone in Buckinghamshire where Pitstone & Ivinghoe was entertaining new club Unite MK in a Spartan South Midlands League Second Division fixture that kicked off at 3pm (for the last time before reverting to 2pm to meet the change in BST). The club now plays at the Pitstone Sports Pavilion, a new venue located on the opposite side of the road and only a stone’s throw from their former home at the local playing fields. Although this is a new ground used by the first team this season it was home to the club’s reserve side last campaign. There is a small car park alongside the pavilion with access to the playing field at one end of the building. With only enough space for basic changing facilities as well as a small kitchen serving refreshments during the game it means that players, officials and patrons must go back over the road to use facilities at the old site for their after-match entertainment. A large metal seat is placed behind the goal for spectators. The main pitch positioned to the left of the field is completed roped off around its perimeter with a smaller junior pitch to the right. Two perspex dug outs are positioned along the far side behind which trains conveying passengers to and from Milton Keynes close to the regularly pass by. A large telegraph pylon runs close to and behind the goal at the far end’.

‘Today’s game which was an excellent advert for the league saw the visitors Unite MK (which was apparently made up from ex Wolverton Town players) overcome a strong home side to win by 4-2. The match played in mainly dull conditions attracted about thirty fans including several away supporters one of whom was videoing the acting throughout and a traveller who lived just over the road. A small four page black and white photocopied programme complete with raffle ticket was sold as part of the entrance fee for the princely sum of £2!! Hot drinks and snacks were also available from the pavilion throughout the afternoon. Although the club is very much seen as a work in progress I can thoroughly recommend a visit here to all hoppers and ground collectors alike’.

R No.17: WebEd – Saturday 22nd October 2016; Walsingham United v South Creake; Norfolk County FA Primary Cup Round 2; Venue: The Rec, Wells Road - NR226DU; Result: 2-3; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 30; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

'After looking at the draw for the second round of the NPC this fixture stood out immediately – not only would it be a new ground for me but both clubs were geographically separated by just a few miles to the north of Fakenham town. It meant that there would be no issues with the tie being called off (a fate I had already experienced in this competition with the late withdrawal of a side failing to fulfil a fixture probably due to the long distance involved in travelling!). Although both clubs play in different leagues the tie had all the hallmarks of a local derby. It was the homesters from the Central & South Norfolk League who prevailed after beating their opponents from the North West Norfolk League by 4-2. In reality the game was a much closer contest than the score-line suggests with the visitors pulling back a second time to take the game into what looked like a further 30 minutes of play. An exciting late flurry with two goals scored in the dying minutes saw Walsingham go through and avoid the inevitable need for extra time. The game played in mostly dull conditions attracted almost thirty spectators'.

'The club plays at the local recreation along the High Street on the far side of Little Walsingham (not Great Walsingham). The two parts conjoin to make up the village which is famed for its religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary and is a major pilgrimage centre. It is also popular with train enthusiasts who can travel on the mini steam railway up to the seaside town of Holt some five miles away. Incredibly the club has played on the same pitch here since its formation in the early 1900’s. The site found next to the local school incorporates a smart pavilion which shares with the village hall and adjacent children’s playground. Surrounded by a number of overgrown bushes and hedges on three sides gives the venue an enclosed homely feel. Another enjoyable trip watching a decent game of football in what has become one of my all-time favourite cup competitions’.

R No.16: WebEd – Saturday 15th October 2016; Marshland Saints v Denver; North West Norfolk League Second Division Knock-out Cup; Venue: Marshland St James PF - PE148ES; Result: 2-4; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 23; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

'Whilst heading to this one only a couple of week’s earlier, heavy traffic congestion en-route forced me to make a last-minute change of plan and a necessary detour (I went to Benwick Athletic FC instead). So it was second time lucky that I successfully negotiated the winding, slow moving cross-country route to reach this veritable Fenland outpost on the outskirts of Wisbech. Today Marshland Saints were taking on league rivals Denver in a closely fought Second Division Cup game. It was a superb tie which required extra time to separate both sides (sitting close to the top of the league table). The visitors came out on top to win by 3-2. The club itself plays at the Marshland St James recreation ground found along Smeeth Road, a long straight approach road running through the village. It’s a truly basic venue which incorporates a small dilapidated pavilion close to the tiny car park located just inside the entrance. The end to end heavily sloping pitch marked out some 200 yards away on the other side of the field is remarkable in that both sides are flanked by a swathe of extremely tall trees which give it a lovely surreal and enclosed feeling. The scene looked picturesque with varying shades of golden brown leaves serving as a perfect autumn backdrop to the action. A superb day out’.

R No.15: WebEd – Saturday 8th October 2016; Ellingham v Ingoldisthorpe; Norfolk Junior Cup Second round; Venue: Ellingham PF, Geldeston Road - NR352ER; Result: 4-3; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 21; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘After missing out in the last round of the competition (when the visitors Hickling pulled out late on) I was rewarded for my persistence when I retraced my tyre tracks to witness a thoroughly absorbing end to end cup tie between the hosts (Lowestoft & District League) and opponents Ingoldisthorpe (from the North West Norfolk League). Despite going behind Ellingham made a superb comeback by drawing level (twice) and then adding two more goals to lead 4-2 with only five minutes to go. Although the visitors (who had travelled down from the outskirts of Hunstanton) pulled one back to make it an exciting final five minutes of stoppage time, the hosts prevailed to book their place in the third round. Man of the match was awarded to Jack Luckham for netting a superb hat-trick for his victorious side. A cracking day out’.

‘The club based at the Ellingham playing field off Geldeston Road has played here since its formation over fifty years ago back in 1960. It’s only a couple of miles from the main A143 (between Bungay and Beccles) and reached by turning down Church Street (sign posted Ellingham Mill). The main entrance is found opposite a haulage business which stores a large number of wooden pallets on its premises. The tree-lined site which incorporates a make shift car park (on the grass) by the side of the sloping and well drained pitch has a cosy and homely wooden pavilion that includes the changing rooms, toilets, tea bar and kitchen in the nearside corner. Standing behind the left hand goal line affords wonderful views of Ellingham church. Amazingly Maurice (Mo) Goldsmith a former player represented the team from 1959 – 1992 told me that he turned out in his final season for the club at the ripe old age of 56 years!’

R No.14: WebEd – Saturday 1st October 2016; Benwick Athletic v Parson Drove; North Cambs Junior Cup; Venue: Dack Field, Beech Ave, Doddington - PE150LG; Result: 2-4; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: Yes; Attendance: 20; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘The Cambridgeshire County League Division 3B leaders found the visitors from the Peterborough & District League to be tough opponents in this exciting North Cambs Junior Cup tie. With only a few minutes remaining and the score standing at 1-1 the game looked to be heading towards extra time when the away side scored two very late goals to win the match 1-3 in front of a dozen or so spectators. The club do not play in Benwick but are based at the Beech Avenue playing fields in the neighbouring village of Doddington. On site there are three pitches and a smart pavilion incorporating changing rooms, toilets and a kitchen area from where tea (50p), crisps and chocolate bars are dispensed at half-time. Framed photos on the wall show team line ups dating back some twenty years when the club first started playing here. A fun afternoon and another important tick off my CCL list’.

R No.13: WebEd – Saturday 24th September 2016; Sporting Rebels v Langham Lodgers; Colchester and East Essex League Premier Division; Venue: Plough Corner PF, Little Clacton - CO169ND;  Result: 4-0; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 12; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 2

'For the second week in a row my failure to prepare properly landed in me in deep hopping water again. Poor planning meant I had to resort to Plan B and it was only a stroke of luck that helped me to find a game in the end!'.

'After checking Google maps at mid-morning ahead of a trip down to Kent for the Vase game at Glebe (Chislehurst) v Deal (my first choice game) I discovered that there were four major separate accidents on the M11 alone. Following much deliberation I finally decided to avoid this hassle and picked a game in the Essex and Suffolk Border League Premier Division between Brightlingsea-based Cinque Port and Hatfield Peverel instead'.

'However, upon arrival at 2.10pm the place was completely deserted. I couldn't even see any goal posts or pitch markings on the field. This meant moving quickly on to Plan B. Sadly with no back up matches on the drawing board (tut tut) I was in a spot of trouble. To make matters worse I couldn’t get an internet signal on my mobile to check for fixtures. With time running out I phoned daughter Steph for help. Luckily she was still at home and using her tablet she kindly guided me through the murky minor league options on Full-Time website. Together we managed to find a couple of possible options in the Colchester & Essex League (the local competition in the area)'.

'With no real idea where I was heading I hastily tapped the post code into our trusty sat navigator which flagged down the ground location giving a travel time of fifteen minutes to get to the destination. Following loads of narrow back roads, I ended up somewhere in Little Clacton reaching pitch side in time for kick off which had been brought forward by ten minutes. Phew. It must have taken me twenty minutes to stop sweating and then calm down enough to enjoy the match’.

'The game played at the basic but picturesque tree lined Plough Corner playing fields in front of a dozen spectators saw the hosts Sporting Rebels beat Langham Lodgers in a Premier Division fixture by a 4-0 score-line. Not only was it a decent contest for the level but it also meant I managed to get in a new ground (just). What luck - cheers young Steph you’re a star!’

R No.12: WebEd – Saturday 17th September 2016; Bar 33 v Beetley Bees; Central & South Norfolk League Division Two; Venue: Gaymers PF, Attleborough - NR172QZ; Result: 2-4; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 12; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘At 2pm I arrived at the Ellingham playing fields only to find my first choice game between Ellingham (v Hickling) in the opening round of the Norfolk Junior Cup had been called off. To my dismay the gates to the ground were firmly locked up and the place was deserted. I had to think quickly and find a back-up within driving distance from my location on the outskirts of Bungay on the Suffolk border. With matches in the Lowestoft League starting at 2pm and the Anglian Combination at 2.30pm my next best option was to find a game in the Central & South Norfolk League with games kicking off at 3pm. A drive of twenty miles took me towards Norwich along the A146 and A47 before heading south down the A11 for the market town of Attleborough. The Gaymers playing field ground located off a long industrial estate is not easy to find. A small number of porta-cabins next to the car park offer changing facilities with a 200-yard walk to the pitch in the adjacent tree lined field. Unusually the one and only pitch has an enclosed feeling with a four lane athletics tack marked around its perimeter’.

‘The game a great advert for the league was a close well fought contest between two mid table teams. The visitors from Dereham prevailed to win the match by a 4-2 score-line. Sadly, proceedings were marred when a fight broke out mid-way through the second half leading to the dismissal of three players. A crowd of twenty was in attendance at the game played in dull overcast conditions. Although the club (sponsored by a wine bar in the town centre) don’t do programmes or refreshments I was chuffed just to get in a game’.

R No.11: WebEd – Saturday 10th September 2016; Bowthorpe Rovers v Dereham Taverners; Central & South Norfolk League Division Two; Venue: CNS, Eaton Road, Norwich - NR46PP; Result: 4-2; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 10; FGIF Match Rating: 3; FGIF Ground Rating: 2 

‘On yet another wet Saturday I decided to travel towards Norwich for my weekly hopping fix. My destination was the City of Norwich School (found easily off the A11 along the Eaton Road heading to the city) where league newcomers Bowthorpe Rovers entertained Dereham Taverners in a Division Two match'.

'As expected the reigning Norfolk Primary Cup winners proved far too strong for the hosts and came away with a comfortable 7-0 victory in a game played out in front of just seven spectators. Neither programmes or refreshments are available'.

'The club plays on the middle pitch (out of three) marked out on the tree-lined playing field which is situated around the back of the main school buildings. It is some 200 yards from the changing rooms and is un-roped. The large trees on site provide ample cover from the worst of the elements'.

R No.10: WebEd – Saturday 3rd September 2016; Billingford v Hethersett Athletic; Central & South Norfolk League Division One; Venue: Billingford Lakes, North Elmham Road - NR204RF; Result: 4-2; Admission and Programme: None; Tea Bar/Refreshments: None; Attendance: 7; FGIF Match Rating: 4; FGIF Ground Rating: 3

‘This has to be one of the one of the most unusual grounds visited on my local hopping travels in recent years. Found in the centre of a fishing complex, the club plays at the Billingford Lakes, an area popular with anglers and ramblers. Hidden from view it is easy to miss as you approach along the main North Elmham Road. I did twice and eventually called in at the Railway Inn pub to ask for some directions'.

'The main entrance is marked by an entrance displaying large poster depicting a fisherman displaying his catch. A long, winding gravel track eventually takes you as far as a couple of porta-cabins and make-shift car park alongside one of the lakes. The main and only un-roped pitch is some marked out two hundred yards from here. It’s very basic to say the least. Strangely a number of straw bales are stacked up behind one of the goals to stop the ball rolling down the hill behind!'.

'The opening game of the season played in heavy torrential rain throughout saw a cracking match featuring two of the newly promoted sides into the top division. The hosts came from behind twice to draw level by half-time. Billingford then added two more goals in the second half to run out 4-2 winners in front of seven (very wet) spectatators'.

'Since the death of the local landowner, the Billingford Lakes complex has been passed down to his daughter who inherits the site. Plans to improve the facilities include the erection of a modern visitor centre including much needed changing facilities. Despite a good soaking I thoroughly enjoyed my visit’.

Tuesday 30th AugustLatest Images: WebEd – View the ground, action and match day photos from early season visits to Airdrieonians (v Partick Thistle) in the Betfred League Cup Group C fixture played on 15/08/16; Livingston (v St Mirren) in the Betfred League Cup Group H on 16/08/16; Enfield 1893 (v Tower Hamlets) in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie on 06/08/16; Cherry Hinton (v Fowlmere) in the Cambs County League on 10/08/16; Melton Town (v Rushden & Higham United) in the United Counties League Division One on 13/08/16; South Walsham (v Freethorpe) in the Anglian Combination League Division Three on 19/08/16; Wollaston Victoria (v Brixworth All Saints) in the Northants Combination League Premier Division on 20/08/16; Fowlmere (v Great Shelford) in the Cambs County League Premier Division on 26/08/16 and Spratton (v Heyford Athletic) in the Northants Combination Premier Division on 27/08/16…all now added to the new FGIF Album Gallery…