Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Road to Wembley 2011/12 (2nd Round)

It was 2nd Round day and as I had other matters to attend to, I couldn’t pop down South to see the small town of Rye and their boys take on Three Bridges in the FA Vase.


Rye United play their football this season in the Sussex County League 1st Division and after coming 2nd last season, they are still doing well this time out in 2nd place going into this game, although they look like they could struggle to catch Pagham FC due to playing a few games more than the table toppers. Their home ground, The Salts also plays home to the local cricket club and so was a quaint little ground with a old school pavilion until it was destroyed in an arson attack in August 2010.

_wsb_517x251_Rye United - Southern Water 9

As Rye United and Three Bridges both play in the Sussex County League, they had already met this season at The Salts with Rye winning 3-0. I’ll let the Rye United website write up for this game do the talking. It makes for some interesting reading:

Bridges defender nominated for Oscar

It all started so well. Macca lobbed the keeper from 35 yards to give Rye the lead after 3 minutes. Then came one of two defining moments. First Liam Upton stormed down the left, lost the ball and lunged in to win the ball back. Foul, yes. Red Card, very harsh. Was the ref influenced by the Bridges defender rolling around screaming? Who knows? But why are we not surprised that he recovers and jumps to his feet as soon as the red card was flourished.

United were still running rings around the punching, stamping, Bridges journeymen until the second defining moment. 10 minutes into the second half, Luke Woodley is stamped on. The assistant looked to have raised his flag but play continued and Duncan flew in, two footed. A clear red card, yes, but no reference to the stamping which it appeared the assistant had witnessed. Still Rye held out until 12 minutes from time when Carney shot through a crowd to tie it up. Yet still the 9 men came back and Sam Adams hit the post before on 89 minutes, Carney proved there is no justice and gave the visitors the win.

Rye United 1 (McArthur) Three Bridges 2”

Even for me that is an exceptionally bias sounding report. I wasn’t there but it does seem to me that Rye lost their discipline and thus lost their place in the FA Vase. Three Bridges now have a trip to Essex for an away tie against Southend Manor as the Vase starts to get down to the exciting stuff. As for Rye v T.Bridges, Round 3 of this season’s clashes takes place at Three Bridges later in season (whenever Sussex County League decide to release the later fixtures). It promises to be fiery. Next up for this road, Saafend!

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2011/2012:

1ST QUALIFYING ROUND: Croydon FC 1-2 Beckenham Town (Croydon Sports Arena, Att: 51)

2ND QUALIFYING ROUND: Beckenham Town 5-1 Fisher FC (Eden Park Avenue, Att: 58)

1ST ROUND: Three Bridges 3-0 Beckenham Town [After Extra Time] (Jubilee Field, Att: 68)

2ND ROUND: Rye United 1-2 Three Bridges (The Salts, Att: 105)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dulwich Hamlet Youth vs Oxford United Youth (17/11/11)

Match 135

Ground #: 101

Ground: Champion Hill

Competition: FA Youth Cup 2nd Round

Kick Off: 7pm

Cost: £4

Programme: 20p

Attendance: 138

Dulwich Hamlet Youth 0

Oxford United Youth 2

Marsh 5’, Udumaga 90’


It had been a while since I watched my only Youth Cup match (at Blackburn) as I had waited for a really interesting match up to take place in the Youth Cup after that. Last season Dulwich Hamlet’s Youth Team got all the way to the 3rd Round of this competition before they were beaten by big boys Newcastle United 6-2 at their Champion Hill ground. This season, Dulwich had gone on a good run again and got another Football League side in the form of Oxford United. Down to the Hill I go!


Dulwich is an area of South London and consists of East Dulwich, West Dulwich and Dulwich Village. The first documented evidence of Dulwich is as a hamlet outside London in 967AD, granted by King Edgar to one of his thanes Earl Aelfheah. The name of Dulwich may come from two old English words, Dill, a white flower, and wihs, meaning a damp meadow, giving a meaning of "the meadow where dill grows". In 1538, Henry VIII seized control of Dulwich and sold it to goldsmith Thomas Calton for £609. Calton's grandson Sir Francis Calton sold the Manor of Dulwich for £4,900 in 1605 to Elizabethan actor and entrepreneur Edward Alleyn. He vested his wealth in a charitable foundation, Alleyn's College of God's Gift, established in 1619. The charity's modern successor, The Dulwich Estate, still owns 1,500 acre in the area, including a number of private roads and a tollgate. In the Second World War, Dulwich was hit by many V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets. A possible explanation for this is that the British military when announcing V-1 and V-2 explosions deliberately gave map co-ordinates four miles north of the truth in an attempt to protect densely populated central London and focus the drops on the open spaces in the suburbs instead. Today, Dulwich has its 3 distinct areas and remains a diverse and popular part of London.


The senior side of Dulwich Hamlet are currently having an excellent season in Isthmian Division 1 South (as I write this they are top of the table). Founded in 1893, their famous pink and blue colours have seen them play in front of 20k+ crowds, saw the start of many a professional’s career and reach the FA Cup 1st Round (last time in 1998). Dulwich moved into their renovated Champion Hill ground in 1993 (the old one had to be demolished in 1991) as part of a Sainsbury’s development of the area (their ground is right next to one). The main feature of the ground is the Tommy Jover Stand (pic above) which houses all the seats and the club’s clubhouse in the top of the stand. Opposite this is a covered standing area while the rest of the ground is uncovered and standing. Its a great wee place and the ample room for everyone and between the standing areas makes this a place I would happily go back to. It’s also popular as Kent League side Fisher FC play here whilst trying to get somewhere themselves as well as Millwall Lionesses LFC who play in the Woman’s Premier League Southern section.


While this was a good time for the Dulwich Hamlet youth side, they have had a long history of professionals playing for them and coming up through the youth ranks. George Elokobi, Simeon Jackson, Marlon King, Leon Court and even Alan Pardew have all come through the youth ranks at the Hamlet. The next big star appears to be in the form of Michael Chambers, captain of this youth side. Apparently, Man Utd to Bristol City are all interested in him and are monitoring his progress. From what I can find on the interweb, Dulwich Hamlet Under 18s play in Bexley & District Junior Football League where they are currently in 7th (out of 14), although have games in hand on everyone due to their FA Youth Cup exploits. Their run in this season’s competition had so far seen off; Molesey (4-0), Welling United (5-2), Whyteleafe (3-1) and then Ebbsfleet United (2-1) in the 1st Round. Oxford United’s Youth play their football in the South West Football League Youth Alliance were they are towards the bottom in 8th place (out of 11). They had entered into the 1st Round and had beaten Cheltenham Town 3-1 to get here. The winners were at home to Bolton in the next round, big game.


Game kicked off with Oxford taking the game to the home side and after only 5 minutes they took the lead. From an Oxford corner, Cole Hinchliffe forced home goalie Sean Bazell into a good save but Tyrone Marsh reacted first to give the away side the lead. I’ll be honest, after this I did fear for the Dulwich youngsters as an early goal could have wrecked their confidence. However, the Hamlet started peppering their goal as Shelton Frimpong smashed a long range effort which was well saved by Daniel Lincoln and then he saved again from a free kick to keep it 0-1 at HT.


The 2nd half was then just 45 minutes of pure entertainment. Both sides had chances one after each other as all 138 spectators were gripped as Dulwich went for the equalizer while Oxford just needed one to kill the game off. The away side started a bit better as Marsh should have added a 2nd when he was put clear, but lacked the composure after doing all the hard work and fired wide much to the amazement of the crowd. Dulwich themselves had some glorious chances to get them back into the game with Chambers doing some excellent running which showed why a lot of top clubs are after him. Frimpong then had an excellent chance as his pace got him away from the Oxford defence but he sliced his shot wide when he looked good to score. The last 5 minutes were held up when home goalie Bazell collided with an attacker and was stretchered off with a serious looking injury. (Hopefully not too serious, he had played well) On came Emmanuel Oweyemi who apparently isn’t a goalie but made a great low save to keep them in it. Sadly though for Dulwich and underdogs everywhere, Oxford got the all important 2nd right in injury time as they turned timewasting into a textbook goal. With a free kick down in the corner flag, it looked as if Oxford would just play keep ball. However when the two defenders came at the Oxford defender, he lofted the ball over them and sent Jermaine Udumaga on his way who fired a half volley past the goalie and sent them to the 3rd Round to play Bolton.


This was a great game and an excellent evening out at the Dulwich. Great ground? Check. Entertaining game? Check. Good referee who didn’t take any of the rare dissent? Check. I need to go to more Youth Cup games as you can see some of the stars of the future before they hit the big time and the matches are normally played in the competitive but fair spirit. I intend to come back to Dulwich one day to see the senior team so good luck to the whole club and good luck to Oxford United in the 3rd Round when they take on Bolton Youth.

Photos from Dulwich Hamlet Youth vs Oxford United Youth


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7.5 (great entertainment)

- Value for money: 7/10 (reasonable enough)

- Ground: 8/10 (smashing ground)

- Atmosphere: 6.5/10 (good stuff)

- Food: 5/10 (ok burger)

- Programme: N/A – not their normal issue, was good enough though

- Referee: Andy Mead – 8/10 (excellent performance)

Dul vs OxUYou prog

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Barking FC vs Bethnal Green United (12/11/11)

Match 134

Ground #: 100

Ground: Mayesbrook Park 

Competition: Essex Senior League (Level 9) 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £6

Programme: £1.50

Attendance: 47

Barking FC 4

O’Brien 10’, Port 29’, Jones 53’, King 62’

Bethnal Green United 0


It had been a long time coming but now was the time to finally hit 3 figures in terms of grounds visited with the magic 100 mark! It had been delayed by a week due to the death of a family member and so it was again back to the drawing board as to who would be the “lucky” team and ground to be the 100. Brentford, Leyton Orient and Tooting & Mitcham were considered before it was finally decided that Essex Senior League side Barking would be the side that would be the century.


Barking is a suburban town situated in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in East London. Its name came from Anglo-Saxon Berecingas, meaning either "the settlement of the followers or descendants of a man called Bereca" or "the settlement by the birch trees". Despite a long history, the earlier 20th Century neglected Barking and it now shows. Run-down would be one word to describe it. The place though is now going through a much needed regeneration with investment in new retail outlets and business centres as well as the more grand Barking Riverside project which aims to regenerate this part of East London with housing for 25,000 people and a new DLR station.


The football team also have a long history (or a very short one depending on how you look at it!) with a Barking Institute being formed around 1896. (the origins of the club are unclear) They had some early success in various local competitions such as the South Essex League, Leyton & District League and the London League which Barking all won from 1898 to 1910. In 1919 the club became Barking Town before going to Barking in 1932. They finally joined the Isthmian League in 1952 and won the league in 1979 which started their great FA Cup runs when they reached the 2nd Round four times (in 78/79, 79/80, 81/82 and 83/84) as Aldershot, Reading, Gillingham and Plymouth Argyle all ending Barking’s dreams in that round. (And to be honest, they don’t look close to getting anywhere near the 2nd Round again) They stayed in the Isthmian League Premier until 1991 when they were relegated to Division 1 and promptly relegated again to Division 2 in 1996. In 2001, Barking merged with East Ham United (a small Essex Senior League side) to become the powerhouse of Barking & East Ham United until 2006 when they disbanded and Barking reformed, ironically now in the Essex Senior League. (As a side note, East Ham United are still defunct) They have plodded along in this league as they slowly try and get back to the days of the Isthmian League and a 6th place finish last season shows there is still a long way to go.


Their Mayesbrook Park ground has been home to Barking since 1973 when the council moved them from Vicarage Field (which is now a shopping centre). Based at the northern end of Mayesbrook Park, the ground does have a definite non-league feel about it and retains enough character but stays away from being classed as a shit-hole. Coming into the ground from behind a goal, the covered stand that you first see is a decent area to watch the game, being raised from the pitch. Down one side of the pitch is a large covered stand which has a small standing area as well as some seats and a press box (for all of those journos who report on Barking!). The other two sides of the ground is uncovered standing but the ground is set in a nice place surrounded by trees and an (it seems) abandoned athletics track. The tea hut is down in the corner on the entrance side but sadly for this game it appeared they weren’t doing hot food. (Soup doesn’t count!) So be warned if you are making a trip to Mayesbrook Park.


The Essex Senior League is at Level 9 in the FA Pyramid and so is comparable to the Western League and North West Counties League in terms of grounds and football quality. Barking were going into this game in 9th place (out of 18) and way behind current leaders Witham Town with Enfield 1893 just behind. Their opponents for this glorious match were from nearby in the form of Bethnal Green United. Formed as a community club in 2000, they were granted senior status only two seasons ago after winning the Middlesex County League in 2009. They have been a success at their new level with finishes of 5th and 4th in the league and a League Cup win too in 2009/10. They were heading into this game in 5th place and 3 points clear of Barking. Tough game to call.


After an impeccable observed minute’s silence the game kicked off with Bethnal Green Utd on top and playing a very decent slick passing game with some good runs being made on and off the ball. Their bright start continued with some possession and spending the majority of their time in the Barking area so it was no surprise then when on 9 minutes they went 0-1 down. Barking won a corner from what seemed their first attack of the game and the ball in found Ben O’Brien unmarked for an easy back post header. BGU did carry on playing well though and were very unlucky not to be level after a free kick was only partially cleared and a low shot from outside the area was brilliantly kept out by Chris Clarke. Barking though were right back at the home side and should have made it 2 when a one on one chance was rolled under away goalie Michael Bowditch’s legs but the ball rolled along onto the post and cleared away. There was no stopping the home side now though as BGU were sloppy in midfield and lost the ball. When Bobby Port was put through on goal he made no mistake for the 2nd after 29 minutes. The rest of the half swung on two controversial moments, firstly Barking again cut through BGU’s piss poor offside trap but the last man brought the striker down. A free kick was finally given but no card at all. Strange. Right on HT, a Barking player flew into a strong two footed challenge on the sideline which unsurprisingly angered the away side. After a strong chat by the ref that seemed it, until bizarrely a BGU fan jumped onto the pitch wanting to start a fight with the player who caused the tackle. Everyone seemed slightly embarrassed for him and once he was off the pitch, the HT whistle blew. First taste of non-league Essex football and it lived up to expectation!   


BGU to be fair started the 2nd half well. They pushed forward in trying to get a goal back but that was always going to leave gaps at the back and lo and behold on 53 minutes Barking effectively killed the game off. Some excellent play down the left hand side led to a chance which was at first well saved by Bowditch but Ben Jones slid in and followed up the rebound to finish in an open net. After that for around 10 minutes, BGU just fell apart with Barking absolutely battering them and creating chance after chance. They did score one of these when a cross from the right found Jake King in the box, he controlled well and turned his defender before finishing well for #4. BGU did rally back as the manager shouted to “show some pride”. They deserve one as they pushed Barking back for long spells towards the end, but you always felt that if the home side upped a gear, they would go and score some more. They showed this by hitting a post right at the death. A handsome win in the end as the open Essex Senior League proved itself again.


When I first started writing this blog, ground #100 was the target. I did have some grand plans for that 100 but in the end Mayesbrook Park was that “lucky” ground as the 3 figure sum was reached. What next? Well, the next target is to finally complete a league although that will take a while unless I actually start concentrating on one in particular! For now, it will be continue to search out the interesting and historic as I start to nail the next 200. This was a reasonable game, and a decent start to watching the Essex Senior League. I can recommend Barking, although do get something to eat before the game if you are hungry! Here’s to the next 100 grounds! *Gets out map and fixture list*

Photos from Barking vs Bethnal Green United


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (standard league game)

- Value for money: 6/10 (London priced Level 9)

- Ground: 6.5/10 (slightly quirky, slightly a shithole but in a good way)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (not much from the 47)

- Food: N/A – they didn’t do hot food

- Programme: 6/10 (reasonable for £1.50)

- Referee: Mateusz Filipiak – 6/10 (dealt with a spicy game well)

Bark vs BGU prog

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Redbridge FC vs Ebbsfleet United (29/10/11)

Match 133

Ground #: 99

Ground: Oakside Stadium 

Competition: FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £9

Programme: £2

Attendance: 442 

Redbridge FC 2

Murray 80’, Gardner 89’

Ebbsfleet United 0


It had been a whole 28 days since my last game when I saw one smaller club in the FA Cup lose out to the larger boys when Hendon finished off Oxhey’s dreams for another season. 4 weeks later and 2 rounds on I was back to try my luck again to see a cup shock. This time it would have to be a major shock as midtable Isthmian League Division 1 side Redbridge took on Blue Square Premier cracks Ebbsfleet United. At stake was a place in the 1st Round proper of the Cup, a chance at a league club and some TV footage too. A big game.


The actual Redbridge in London is in the district of Ilford and the name comes from a bridge over the River Roding which was demolished in 1921. The bridge was made of red brick, unlike other bridges in the area made of white stone. The name was later applied to the wider London borough created in 1965. Redbridge FC though have an interesting history and the club was previously known as Ford United F.C, which dated from a 1959 merger between two older clubs, Ford Sports (Dagenham) and Briggs Sports, both of which were founded in 1934. As Ford United they performed well in the Aetolian League winning the title twice and finishing runners up once. The club though were in serious problems at the start of 1995/6 season, however, as sponsorship was lost and disbanding seemed a real danger, until Vice-Chairman George Adams enlisted Sky Sports as sponsors, rescuing the Club. The 2001/02 season was an interesting one for Ford United as they bought the lease to Barkingside’s Oakside Stadium who needed to find a permanent home to allow their progression up the football pyramid. Barkingside FC (Essex Senior League) still play at the Oakside Stadium and it allowed Ford United to progress up the pyramid. They were in the Conference South during 2004-05 and were promptly relegated and then relegated again the next season from Isthmian League Premier to Isthmian 1 North were they still play today. A play-off final loss in 2007-08 is the closest they have got to heading back up to the heights they were once at.


The Oakside Stadium is a decent venue situated right next to Barkingside tube station on the Central Line way out in the sticks of NE London. A good sized clubhouse awaits you when you first come through before you walk around and see an excellent standing, uncovered terrace behind one of the goals. Down the sides of the pitch are two covered areas, one being a seated main stand, the other being a shallow covered area. Behind the other goal is now condoned off but it is just a small standing area. Having to compare it to the Evo-Stik North grounds I’ve been to, it does compare well to places like Lancaster City and Bamber Bridge. Ford United/Redbridge do have FA Cup history as they had reached the FA Cup 1st Round before in 1998-99 (losing 0-3 at Preston N.E) and 2003-04 (losing 1-2 at home to Port Vale in a replay) and were hoping to make it to Round 1 for the third time against Blue Square Prem side Ebbsfleet United.


The Fleet themselves have had a recent public history with the curious experiment of MyFootballClub taking over in late 2007. Approximately 27,000 MyFootballClub members each paid £35 to provide an approximate £700,000 takeover fund and all own an equal share in the club but make no profit nor receive a dividend. Members also have a vote on transfers as well as player selection and all major decisions which seems a bizarre way to run things but never mind. Prior to the MFC takeover, the club were known as Gravesend & Northfleet before the name change and were regular members of the Conference National/Blue Square Premier before relegation to Blue Square South in 2010. Instant promotion through the playoffs were achieved last season and would provide a mighty tough test for Redbridge with most (if not all) of their current squad having some sort of Football League experience.


And it was no surprise that the away side made most of the early running by dominating possession and winning some early corners but Redbridge’s back line were well prepared for the barrage they expected to face. No surprise it was still 0-0 after 10 mins which disappointed some Fleet fans stood near me. The Fleet still plugged away though as the opening goal was only a matter of time away and Callum Willock should have scored when he latched onto a mistake made by Billy Sendall but home goalie Adam Rafis got down to his feet to frustrate the away side more. Rafis was a busy man. First saving from a deflected Ricky Shakes shot, (yes that Shakes, the ex Swindon man) before saving a Paul Lorraine header as it was becoming clear this would certainly not be a walk in the park for the Fleet. In fact, Redbridge had a wee spell of their own at the end of the half where they began to show some belief and nearly scored a fluke when Joe Gardner curled a cross/shot (still can’t decide what it was) that just landed on the top of Preston Edwards’ net. (Yes, THAT Preston Edwards) 0-0 at HT which annoyed Fleet fans, it was deserved though.


2nd half started like the first with Fleet trying to secure an early goal to knock the belief out of the home side and like the first, the home defence were up to the task. Ebbsfleet did have the best chance of the game early on though as Michael West had the opportunity to side foot the away side into the lead but just passed the ball wide. Oh dear. Soon after this I overheard two fans say “I’m surprised at Ebbsfleet, they are like an average Isthmian League side”. Harsh words, but maybe Redbridge heard this as for the rest of the match they dominated. It was amazing to see the players grow with belief and encouragement as Ebbsfleet began to look like they weren’t up for this. Edwards kept the away side in the game around the 70 minute mark when he brilliantly kept out Vinnie Durrant’s long range effort. While it was heading for 0-0 and a cold Tuesday evening replay before Durrant got a 2nd chance at a cross after a corner and his cross found big man Ryan Murray who powered his header into the bottom corner to send Redbridge fans mental with 10 minutes to go. It was deserved and while Ebbsfleet launched forward, they had completely ran out of steam and ideas as Durrant had another shot which flied past Edwards post before party time turned into dream land for Redbridge on 88 minutes when James Robinson sent Joe Gardner through on the left wing and he finished like Thierry Henry in his pomp by passing the ball away from Edwards. Game finished. Ebbsfleet were done and so were their fans, leaving in droves to discuss yet another 4QR exit.


At the final whistle the home players and officials were absolutely ecstatic as they were into the 1st Round for the 3rd time (and the 1st under the Redbridge FC name). They received a “winnable” draw in the form of a home tie against Southern League Oxford City with the winner looking for a FL team in the 2nd Round. (Or another non-league tie to have a better crack at reaching Round 3?) I thoroughly enjoyed this game. Even though it looked to be heading for 0-0, the game was tight and tense and produced a memorable cup shock at the end of it. While leaving the Oakside Stadium, I was delighted for them. I have no connection to Redbridge and have no opinion of Ebbsfleet Utd, but I had a smile on my face at what I had just seen. I had just seen the FA Cup at its best.

Photos from Redbridge vs Ebbsfleet United


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (FA Cup shock)

- Value for money: 6/10 (upped their normal price, but still under £10)

- Ground: 7.5/10 (good non-league ground)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (good noise made)

- Food: 5/10 (small burger)

- Programme: 6/10 (added mark for new feature of wank material in prog) 

- Referee: R Whitton – 7/10 (no memory of him at all)

Red vs Ebbs prog

IMG_1036(New feature for programmes – wank material. Excellent addition)