Ground #: 100
Ground: Mayesbrook Park
Competition: Essex Senior League (Level 9)
Kick Off: 3pm
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*
- 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)