Thursday, 17 February 2011


27 March 2010
Marlow 3  Bedworth United 3
Zamaretto Southern League, Division One Central
Attendance: 103
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Marlow Football Club is one of the oldest in existence: founded in 1870 as Great Marlow. One of the original 15 entrants to the FA Cup the following year, the club remains the only one to have entered the competition in every year since its inception.

In 1881-82 Marlow reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, only to be beaten by Old Etonians, at Kennington Oval. More recently, in 1992-93 they reached the 3rd Round proper and were rewarded with a home tie against Tottenham Hotspur. The game was switched to White Hart Lane, with Spurs winning 5-1. The same round was reached again two seasons later, with Marlow this time going down at Swindon Town.

After the Great War the club was forced to move from its ground at Crown Meadow, to rather basic surroundings at Star Meadow. This was unsatisfactory and Marlow were demoted as a consequence - an early example of ground grading!

Demotion prompted the club’s Honorary Secretary Alfred Davis to appeal for funding which enabled the club to purchase the ground in Oak Tree Road. Davis contributed much of the funding himself but sadly did not live to see the ground opened in 1924. Quite properly the ground was named in his memory, and one of the walls on the front of the stand carries a very attractive ornate wrought iron memorial. Trees were also planted to commemorate the work of Davis in 1936. The splendid wooden stand dates from 1930.

The ground had remained largely unchanged since my previous visit in 2004, although a pile of 'reclaimed' crush barriers, optimistically acquired from neighbours Wycombe Wanderers, was evidence behind the far goal.

Currently competing in the Central Division of the Zamaretto-sponsored Southern League, the visitors on this occasion were Bedworth United. As can be seen from the photographs it was grey and overcast for most of the afternoon, and a significant portion of the first half was spent in frustration, sheltering from heavy cloudbursts. Marlow led three times in the match but also conceded three goals themselves.

Ipswich Wanderers

13 March 2010
Ipswich Wanderers 1  March Town United 2
Eastern Counties League, Division One
Attendance: 39
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A relatively young club, Ipswich Wanderers FC originated as an under-14 boys' team in 1980. Eight years later, as Loadwell Ipswich FC the club was a founder member of Division One of the Eastern Counties League and in 1989 changed its name to Ipswich Wanderers FC.

The SEH Sports Ground in Humber Doucy Lane on the outskirts of Ipswich is gloriously ramshackle and in many ways a quintessential non-League venue, maintained by the hard work of a small but loyal group of volunteers. Blue and white painted corrugated iron predominates but the club can at least boast spectator cover on three sides. The oldest structures are the small seated stand and now disused dugouts on the near side of the pitch. Of particular interest are the wooden seats in the former, salvaged from Ipswich Town's Portman Road home and complete with erstwhile sponsors' name plates.

With their Football League neighbours at home, the usually small crowd was even sparser than usual for the visit of March Town United but the club officials were in good spirits and very welcoming, with tongues firmly in cheeks as I was asked not to photograph any of the dents! Whilst some might ridicule such a venue, for me it represents an antidote to the bland concrete 'bowl' and is emblematic of what 'real' non-League football is all about; a far cry from the exorbitance of the Premier League.

Windsor & Eton

6 March 2010
Windsor & Eton 4   Paulton Rovers 0
Zamaretto Southern League, Division One South & West
Attendance: 165
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Another non-League club with a long history, Windsor & Eton Temperance FC was formed on the 18 August 1892 by a merger of Windsor Phoenix and Windsor St. Albans. In 1893 the new club merged with Windsor Victoria and entered the first FA Amateur Cup. In 1902 the club was the subject of a take over, with the name being shortened as a consequence. Among prominent people connected with the club in this era was HRH Prince Christian. The royal patronage then continued with Kings George V and VI up to the present patron HRH The Duke of Edinburgh; hence the club nickname of 'The Royalists'.

The club moved to Stag Meadow on the edge of Windsor Great Park, in 1912 when the Royal Commission granted the club use of the field for a peppercorn rent, with free rein to expand at any time although it would appear that things aren't quite as straightforward today! Another change is that the club now finds itself immediately below the approach to Heathrow Airport, with planes flying overhead every few minutes.

In the 1920s the first wooden grandstand was erected at the ground, meaning the players no longer had to change in neighbouring pubs. This survived until 1943 when it burned down in mysterious cicumstances. Its replacement, dating from 1948, remains the focal point of the ground.

In a healthy position at the top of the Zamaretto Division One South & West (Southern League) table, Windsor welcomed third-placed Paulton Rovers to Stag Meadow with the visitors needed to maintain their own position in order to secure a play-off spot, having placed more games than those behind them. But it was the home side who consolidated their own position as champions-elect with a convincing victory. Such a shame that more spectators weren't there to see it, despite the initiative of not charging admission for U16s.

Windsor & Eton FC (Holdings) Ltd was officially wound up in the High Court on 2 February 2011 ending any hope of survival for Windsor & Eton FC. Having decided not to contest the winding up order from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs the curtain was finally brought down on the Club.

Club president, commentator Barry Davies, told BBC Berkshire: "The FA doesn't seem to be too generous to the lesser clubs.” “Not enough money in football these days filters down. It's one law for the rich and another for the poor.” He added: “There have been others at a very much higher level who've been bailed out in one fashion or another … It's a huge shame because a lot of unknown people will be suffering, people who've given their time for the club.”

Former Director Kevin Stott is now working with Crown Estates to ensure transfer of the Club’s lease to enable the social facilities to remain open. Stott is also in the process of putting together plans to resurrect the Club, under a new name, ready for the start of the 2011/12 season.


27 February 2010
Gresley 1  Whitehawk 3
FA Vase, Quarter Final
Attendance: 861
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Gresley’s Moat Ground had long been on my ‘hit list’ of grounds to visit, particularly since a move away from its tight confines has long been on the agenda of the Football Club.

Given the small size of the village of Church Gresley it is remarkable that the former Gresley Rovers FC managed to sustain a long spell in the Southern League (including six seasons in its Premier Division) and then the Northern Premier (Unibond) League over seventeen seasons. Unfortunately financial mismanagement by the previous regime and a six figure debt saw the club liquidated at the end of the 2008/09 season, and replaced by a new incarnation, minus the ‘Rovers’ suffix.

Accordingly, the new club had to start life several steps further down the non-League Football Pyramid, in the East Midlands Counties League, hence their participation in the FA Vase. Gresley’s opponents were Brighton-based Whitehawk, currently top of the Sussex County League, and looking a good bet for promotion.

The Moat Ground dates from 1909 and is hemmed in by the surrounding housing, with the covered areas behind each goal particularly narrow, as I discovered whilst trying to work my way through the bumper 861-strong crowd (more than four times Gresley’s usual attendance) with two cameras and a rucksack!

After a week of snow and torrential rain, the weather relented for just long enough for the tie to take place, but returned with a vengeance during the match, becoming increasingly wet and gloomy. Scott Kirkwood gave the Hawks a 17th minute lead and they looked set go in ahead at half-time before Matt Hill scored directly from a corner kick in first half stoppage time. Kicking down the slope in the second half, the equaliser gave Gresley some imputus, but Whitehawk soon regained their composure and ran out comfortable winners with two second half Wes Tate goals (pictured with Joint Manager George Parris).

Something I always endeavour in my photographs is to capture the essence of the occasion, and in particular to highlight all the volunteers who work so tirelessly behind the scenes. I think I achieved the latter to some degree at Gresley. A big thanks to all those who made me feel so welcome … and were happy to pose for the camera.


6 February 2010
Clapton 0  Enfield 1893 5
Essex Senior League
Attendance: approx. 30
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Founder members of the Southern League in 1894 along with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur; and then the Isthmian League in 1905, Clapton enjoyed their fair share of success after moving to their new home in 1888 after previously playing on Hackney Marshes and Elms Lane. The new ground was just behind the now boarded-up public house from which it took its name. Clapton were FA Amateur Cup finalists on six occasions, lifting the trophy on five. Even before joining the Southern League, crowds in excess of 3,000 would converge on the ground for friendly matches.

Looking around at The Old Spotted Dog Ground as kick-off approached it was hard to imagine 12,000 converging on the ground for a fixture against Spurs in November 1898, when temporary stands were erected to accommodate the spectators.

Walking from Forest Gate station, past the plethora of shops and restaurants that now cater for a large Muslim population it is not difficult to understand why Clapton are struggling for support, notwithstanding poor performances on the pitch. With West Ham United only ten minutes down the road, it will always be an uphill struggle to build a fanbase from a local demographic that is no longer football-oriented, with those who do show an interest more likely to be attracted to nearby Sporting Bengal or London APSA.

Now struggling near the foot of the Essex Senior League, having lost their continuous membership after finishing bottom of the Isthmian League in 2006, Clapton faced another club with an illustrious non-League pedigree, also fallen on hard times albeit for different reasons. Clapton may be struggling but at least they still have a ground they can call their own; the controversial sale of Enfield’s Southbury Road home in 1999 was the beginning of the end for Enfield FC.

In 2007 the club was disbanded and reformed after a losing a legal battle to remove the former owner’s debts. The new name of Enfield 1893 incorporated the year of the original club’s foundation, and distinguished it as the ‘real’ Enfield club, not Enfield Town FC, founded by disillusioned supporters as a ‘Fans’ Club’ six years earlier having seen the writing on the wall.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Chertsey Town

6 February 2010
Chertsey Town 1  Whitley Bay 1 aet
FA Vase, 5th Round
Attendance: 614
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Fifth Round FA Vase action as Surrey-based Chertsey Town of the Combined Counties League, and emphatic 6-0 winners over Plymouth Parkway in the previous Round, welcomed the competition favourites - cup holders Whitley Bay of the Northern League.

A crowd of 617 flocked to The Curfews' Alwyn's Lane ground, boosted by a substantial and vocal traveling contingent, having made the 600 mile round trip from the North East for the match.

Chertsey made a dream start and stunned the visitors when Ollie Treacher scored from 35 yards with only four minutes played. However, the euphoria was short-lived when Richard Hodgeson equalised for The Bay four minutes later.

In an entertaining game, Whitley Bay dominated for long periods, even after being reduced to ten men, but were unable to make their superiority count. However, in extra-time Bay keeper Terry Burke kept his side in the tie as Chertsey threw everything at them in the final minutes.

With the game going to a replay the following Saturday, it was Whitley Bay who eventually moved through to the Quarter Final stage, with a 2-1 win; and on to defeat Wroxham in the Final.

Glossop North End

28 February 2009
Glossop North End 5  Marske United 2
FA Vase, Quarter Final
Attendance: 1,000 +
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A crowd of just over 1,000 packed into Surrey Street, home of Glossop North End of the NW Counties League, for this FA Vase Quarter Final tie against Marske United of the Northern League.

Although the underdogs, the visitors from Cleveland brought a fervent traveling support with them to North Derbyshire and really got behind their team. The home fans, by comparison, were a little more subdued but were celebrating at the end as Glossop (in blue) won 5-2 and went on to be beaten finalists, by Whitley Bay, at Wembley Stadium.