Saturday, 26 September 2020

HORSHAM (Hop Oast Stadium)


With what seems the inevitable second lockdown looming large on the horizon, I decided on another hefty journey south to finally box off visits to all of the grounds of the Isthmian Premier Division (I still have a long way to go with the North, South East and South Central Divisions) mainly to satisfy my 'completed league' list. I know, I know!

My "champagne job" was the new home of Horsham FC at Hop Oast, or the Camping World Community Stadium to give it its sponsored name. The ground was inaugurated in 2019 after the club left their home of 104 years, Queen Street, in 2008.

In the intervening years the club ground shared at Worthing, Horsham YMCA and Lancing before finally having a home to call their own. The ground is an impressive new build with a smart clubhouse and a 300 seat stand. There are three other bits of cover around the side of the pitch. The ground was easy to find as it is just off the A24 on the edge of town and parking was a doddle as it across the road there is a park and ride car park. Due to the ongoing covid-19 situation the game was all ticket and I purchased my ticket online prior to the game. Temperature checks also took place before entrance was granted.

The game was an open affair with both teams playing on the front foot. Unfortunately there was a distinct lack of quality in the final third and defences were certainly on top. The deadlock was broken in the 25th minute when, somewhat against the run of play, a Rob O'Toole diving header squirmed past Cheshunt 'keeper Shane Gore and into the net.

The Ambers were level eight minutes later when Jamie Reynolds blasted home from 20 yards out. It was a brilliant strike which gave Bradley House in the Horsham goal no chance. He must have a foot like a traction engine, as Alan Partridge would say!

The second half started in similar fashion to the first half but began to get scrappy as the half wore on. Cheshunt scored what turned out to be the winner with 15 minutes remaining when a speculative effort from Joe Re took a slight deflection off a Horsham defender and looped over a helpless House. The Hornets almost replied straight away but Gore got a strong hand on a shot from Reece Hall.

Any hopes of Horsham salvaging a point disappeared when Lewis Taylor received a second yellow card minutes from the end of the game. An enjoyable afternoon and well done to the club for its covid-19 protocols.


As I mentioned, Horsham left their Queen Street home back in 2008. I was lucky enough to visit there when they played Swansea City in the second round of the FA Cup back in November 2007. The aforementioned Lewis Taylor scored an 85th minute equaliser to send the tie to a replay. The Hornets then lost 6-2 at the Liberty Stadium.



Sunday, 20 September 2020

HOLLAND FC (Eastcliff Recreation Ground, Dulwich Road)

ATTENDANCE: 180 (h/c)

This was a journey into the unknown for me as, I have to confess, prior to today Holland FC had never entered into my consciousness. It was only when it was highlighted to me that they were playing an FA Vase game on a Sunday, with a midday kick off, that my interest was piqued.

I clearly wasn't the only one as there were plenty of familiar faces in the crowd and it was good to have a socially distanced catch up with people who I had not seen since before lockdown.

I had to do a little bit of research on Holland FC, especially consulting the old Google maps to see exactly where they are based. Holland-on-Sea is on the Essex coast and is just up the road from Clacton-on-Sea. The town is so close to The North Sea that I was picking up the national radio of The Netherlands as approached the ground. That's just the way it is indeed!


The club was founded in 2006 and joined Essex And Suffolk Border League. In 2009 they won Division One and promotion to the Premier Division. A third place finish in 2016 led to another promotion, to the Eastern Counties League Division One.

The club play their home games at the Eastcliff Recreation Ground on Dulwich Road. The ground has undergone significant redevelopment in the last few years with a 100 seat stand installed alongside a brand new clubhouse.

With a team called Holland FC the club colours had to be orange but unfortunately today there was no 'total football' on display today. The higher ranked Enfield started brightest and hit the woodwork in the opening minutes before the game settled down into an insipid affair. In mitigation, it was a baking hot afternoon so energy levels were always going to be tested at this early stage of the season.


The presence of evergreen striker Jamie Cureton, now a sprightly 45 years old, in the Enfield ranks couldn't inspire and, as the game looked destined for penalties, the home side broke the deadlock in the 71st minute when Anthony Spyrou slotted home. Three minutes later a corner kick from Reuben Cowler deceived everyone and, with a little help from the sea breeze, curled into the net.

There was no way back for Enfield and Holland deservedly went through where they will play Colney Heath in the next round. 



Saturday, 19 September 2020

AFC TOTTON (Testwood Park)


I travelled dow
n to the south coast for some Southern League entertainment as AFC Totton got their season underway with a home game against Barnstaple Town at Testwood Park.

For once, it was a trouble free journey down the M5 and the A34, so I arrived in plenty of time to get into the ground. I had pre-purchased my ticket beforehand and my temperature was checked before I was allowed entry. I was made up that The Stags flew in the face of the current trend and produced a physical programme rather than an online issue.

Testwood Park is less than a decade old, having been opened in 2011 after the club moved from their original ground of the same name. The club celebrated their debut season at their new ground by winning promotion to the Southern League Premier Division. Having beeing founded in 1886, this was the highest step they had ever reached in the non-league pyramid. Their sojourn last three season before relegation in 2014.

Previously the club had been long time members of the Hamshire League and were also founder members of the Weesex League in 1986, finally winning the championship in 2008. As members of the Wessex League, AFC Totton reached the FA Vase Final at Wembley in 2007, losing out 3-1 to Truro City.


I visited the original Testwood Park back in 2008, as part of an Easter Monday treble and it is safe to say the new ground is a massive upgrade. The ground has a capacity of 3,500 and has a large seated main stand on one side, a bench-seated stand on the other side and elevated terraces behind each goal and at either side of the seats.

Southampton Women play their home games at Testwood and a few yards next door is the home ground of Totton and Eling, who play in the Wessex League division one.



The game was dominated by the home side and, after missing a few half chances, they effectively sealed the victory with two goals just before half time. Jack Masterton (41) opened the scoring with a neat shot, before Mitchell Byrne (45) doubled The Stags advantage in stoppage time.

Mitchell Byrne heads home to make it 2-0 to Totton

The second half was largely unevenful as Barnstaple's efforts to drag themselves back into the game quickly faded and it became very comfortable for Totton. However it wasn't until the 85th minute the home sides third goal arrived, with Criag Feeney firing home, to add some deserved gloss to the scoreline.



Saturday, 12 September 2020

THORNABY FC (Teesdale Park)


My first long distance drive since March led me to Teesside for the all Northern League FA Cup clash between Thornaby and Sunderland Ryhope Community Association at Teesdale Park.

Due to the restrictions placed on clubs due to Covid-19, the capacity for today's game was capped at 300. This meant the game was all-ticket, so therefore it was the first time in all my years of groundhopping that I had to buy a ticket for a Preliminary Round tie. I was extremely grateful to the club for putting a ticket aside for me as I couldn't get to the club to collect before the game.

Thornaby are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, having been founded in 2000. Prior to that they were known as Stockton, having been established in 1980 when Stockton Cricket Club's football team joined the Wearside Football League.

The club play at Teesdale Park and the ground is well appointed and has certainly improved since they were demoted to the Northern League Division Two because of the state of the ground. Having previously been subjected to arson, graffiti, fly-tipping and vandals driving over the pitch the ground is now fully enclosed with cover behind one goal, an open stand with seats and a seated main stand. There is even a bus shelter thrown in for good measure! For me though the best vantage point to watch the action was at the top of the grass bank when runs the length of the pitch.

The game was far from a classic with chances few and far between. Thornaby made most of the running but couldn't convert the possession into chances. They had the ball in the net in the first half but it was ruled out for offside. 

The second half continued in similar vein but at least Sunderland RCA upped their tempo a little. I sensed the game was heading for penalties until the turning point of the match after 70 minutes. Sunderland brought on Layton Watts as substitute and within two minutes he had whipped in a delicious curling cross which was headed home by Callum Hope, giving Thornaby's ex- Hartlepool and Middlesbrough 'keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos no chance.

After 80 minutes, Watts was involved again when, after some good play down the wing, he played the ball through for James Fairley to slot home. Thornaby piled forward and it took a superb double save from Sunderland's Rob Dean to preserve their clean sheet and ensure their passage into the next round.