My Grounds

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Baffins Milton Rovers - Kendall's Stadium

Baffins Milton Rovers FC
Kendall's Stadium
Kendall's Wharf
Eastern Road

Ground: 76
Date: 16th March 2019
Baffins Milton Rovers 3-0 Portland United
Wessex League Premier Division

Baffins Milton Rovers FC - History

Baffins Milton Rovers were founded in 2011 as a merger between Baffins Milton and Milton Rovers, two successful Sunday league clubs in the Portsmouth area. The new club initially joined the Premier Division of the Portsmouth Saturday League and finished as champions in their first season. After finishing as runners-up the following season, the club moved up to the Senior Division of the Hampshire Premier League.

In their three seasons in this league, the club dominated, winning the title in their first season, finishing as runners-up in their second season before winning the title again in their third season. After this second title win in the 2015/16 season, the club were promoted to Division 1 of the Wessex League.

The step-up saw little change in the club's fortunes, as they finished 2nd in the 2016/17 season to earn promotion to the Premier Division. Their first season in the Premier Division saw the club's rapid rise up the leagues halted, but they still finished a respectable 9th-place in the league and are looking like potentially beating that this season.

The club competed in the FA Cup for the first time this season and reached the Preliminary Round, beating Tadley Calleva before losing to Hartley Wintney. As for the FA Vase, this is the club's second season in the competition and this time they made it to the 4th Round, having reached the 3rd Round in their first season. To achieve that run this season, the club beat Fairford Town, New College Swindon, Bashley, Bournemouth and Bradford Town before losing to current semi-finalists Cray Valley Paper Mills.

My Visit

Originally, the plan was to head to Woodstock Town today, but as the week progressed and the weather failed to improve, I started to have a few concerns about it. However, as I've had a very busy week dealing with coursework and the like (was possibly going to do a groundhop on Wednesday, but had to go into London instead for a book discussion event), I didn't start looking at other options until late yesterday morning.

When I did, two alternatives stood out: this and Reading City. Fairly quickly though, I decided to have this as an alternative to Woodstock, as I may be going to Reading City soon (more on that in a bit). I briefly put this as first choice, but I then saw that another groundhopper had contacted the Woodstock secretary and confirmed no pitch inspection was planned, which sent Woodstock back to first choice.

It wasn't until this morning that I decided on this over Woodstock, with the main influencing factor being the quicker and more convenient journey for this game: this was important in this case as I'm going out for most of tomorrow, so I wanted to have as much time as possible this evening to get this done (as I obviously won't have time tomorrow).

With my decision made, I ordered my train tickets and headed out after lunch, only to find that all the trains were substantially delayed due to high winds. At this point, I was very frustrated (as you may have seen by my postings on Twitter at the time) as it honestly wasn't very windy at all, and it soon became apparent that I'd be getting to the ground later than my planned arrival time of 2:30pm.

Eventually, the train left at 1:25pm, roughly 22 minutes later than intended. By the time I changed at Fratton, it was 2:30pm, meaning that I missed a reasonably-timed connection to Hilsea by a matter of minutes. At this point, I briefly considered walking from Fratton station to Moneyfields instead (as I'd seen that a game was on there from the train), but decided against it due to it being a half-an-hour walk (which I wasn't exactly keen on given how poor the weather was).

Eventually, I got to Hilsea station at 2:45pm, with the ground being a fifteen-minute walk from there according to Google Maps. However, I lost a few minutes trying to figure out how to leave the station so as to be on the right path to the ground, meaning that I had to run a decent amount of the journey to the ground (the best part of half a mile) to get there in time for kick-off.

Somehow, I just about managed it and paid for my admission and programme mere moments before kick-off and found myself a seat in the stand just after kick-off. At this point, due to how unfit I apparently am I was absolutely exhausted and out of breath, so I spent the early stages of the game only half-concentrating on the action. 

About ten minutes before half-time, I went and ordered a tea and a burger (the burger is my only real complaint about the footballing part of the day, as it wasn't very warm and was kind of hard) from the tea bar to warm up, before following that up with my circuit of photos at half-time (although the reduced time for it meant I took notably fewer photos than normal, which is slightly unfortunate).

Looking at the league table and recent form of the two sides, I was expecting a fairly close contest, with Portland perhaps being slight favourites due to their higher league position. Taking the wind into account as well, a tight game only seemed even more likely.

Here's my report on a game that initially matched my expectations before being turned on its head by a red card midway through the first half:

The opening ten minutes of this game were dominated by heavy wind, with both teams initially failing to adapt to the conditions and spurning any decent opportunities as a result. As such, little of note happened early on until Portland's Jamie Beasley had the game's first real chance after 13 minutes: a long ball over the top set him through into the box, but the angle was difficult and he placed his shot into the side netting. Four minutes later, Baffins had their first chance, Harry Wedlake spotting Portland keeper Mike Edgar off his line and audaciously shooting from range, but the ball didn't dip quickly enough and went over the bar.

A few more chances followed after this, but the next ten minutes or so were again dominated by the conditions, with misplaced passes and aerial balls with too much strength on them making it hard for either team to do much. However, everything changed on the half-hour mark when Portland's Sean Stewart was sent off; I didn't see the incident myself, but it sounded like there was an off-the-ball incident of some description. This opened the game up and Baffins were quick to take advantage in the 34th minute: Blu Boam placed a low curved shot past Edgar from the edge of the box to make it 1-0. Six minutes later it was 2-0 to the home side: I didn't see it (as I was ordering a burger and a tea), but I heard that Brandon Miller shot from just inside the box to score. 2-0 at half-time.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with the only notable difference being that Baffins were pushing forwards far more and with greater intensity than Portland could manage. The wind-influenced deadlock lasted for fifteen minutes this time before Baffins finally forced a third goal: a free kick from range was expertly played to the far post and someone was there to tap in and make it 3-0 (I think it was Ashton Leigh, but I'm not entirely certain of that). Baffins were then inches away from making it 4-0 four minutes later: Dale Mason made an impressive run into the box and got a shot away, but it went agonisingly wide of the far post.

After this, the game started to peter out somewhat, with Baffins fairly comfortable with their lead and Portland knowing that the game was done. This did at least allow Portland to play with a bit more freedom and create a few more chances, while Baffins pushed forwards on occasion and always looked threatening. The best chance in the last twenty minutes came in the 79th minute for Baffins: there was some neat interplay on the right wing between Carel Kayembe and Ashton Leigh before the latter played a short pass to Miller, whose close range shot was charged down well by Edgar before being cleared. Other than this, the only notable aspect of the last ten minutes was Baffins being forced to finish with ten men after one of their players suffered an arm or shoulder injury of some sort. Still, little changed despite this and it finished 3-0.

Overall, this was a reasonably entertaining game that could have been so much worse than it was given the conditions. Ultimately though, I'd say that the red card was the turning point that turned the game in Baffins' favour, as before this there was very little to separate the two sides. Also worth noting that Portland were apparently playing with a very depleted side today, but they competed well until the red card and the two goals that quickly followed.

Overall, if we ignore the absolute nightmare that it was to get to this game, this was an enjoyable but cold day out (the hat, scarf and gloves were out for the first time since early February today): despite the best efforts of the wind, we got a reasonably entertaining game to watch. More importantly, I was grateful for the warm hospitality I received upon arrival after my awful journey, and I'd certainly recommend other hoppers to visit.

The journey back on the train was nowhere near as calamitous as the way there, but the speed restrictions that caused the delays then were still in effect, so my train got back ten minutes later than it should have done (though after everything else that barely even bothered me).

As for what's next, with next Saturday not an option and there seemingly being nothing on in the Surrey/London area next Sunday, I'm going to have to look for a midweek option instead. However, there's not a lot of those about either, so it's looking like one of two on Tuesday the 26th of March: I'll either be heading to Reading City for their Hellenic League game against Shrivenham, or I'll be staying in Wessex League territory to visit Hamble Club (a club who I've wanted to visit for quite a while) for their game against runaway leaders (and champions-elect) Sholing.

In terms of deciding, I'm going to see if I can get in touch with Matt beforehand about his Easter plans (in terms of determining which Yaxley home game in April we'll be going to, and in turn which Saturday (the 6th or the 20th) I'll be groundhopping on instead) and I'm also going to have a look at the trains to see if they're actually feasible or not.

The Ground

Kendall's Stadium (currently called The PMC Stadium for sponsorship reasons) is a fairly new build (having only opened in 2015, I believe), but is pretty good compared to others at Step 5 that I've visited.

All the cover is on one side of the ground, with a 120-seater Arena stand providing covered seating. Next to this is an area of covered standing with a couple of steps of terracing, which could probably hold a further 100 or so people. There is further standing cover next to the tea bar, though for practical purposes not many people could or would stand here (partially because it would disrupt the tea bar, but also because you can see very little of the pitch from under there).

The clubhouse is behind the near goal and there are some wooden benches and tables in front of it to provide uncovered seating. Other than this, the rest of the ground is open hard standing, though it seems that the dugout side is closed off to spectators despite having hard standing (the players' changing rooms are on that side). Behind the main ground is a second pitch, which is used by the Reserves (who were playing today and won their league title apparently).

In its current form, the ground is a fine addition to Step 5 and could probably be upgraded to meet Step 4 criteria should the club rise to that level (as seems to be their ambition in the long-term). The ground is also shared by Portsmouth Women.


Sunday, 10 March 2019

Frimley Green - Frimley Green Recreation Ground

Frimley Green FC
Frimley Green Recreation Ground
Frimley Green Road
Frimley Green
GU16 6GY

Ground: 75
Date: 9th March 2019
Frimley Green 5-1 Bedfont & Feltham
Combined Counties League Division 1

Frimley Green FC - History

Frimley Green were founded in 1919 and won the Surrey Junior Cup in 1928. At some point after this, the club the Surrey County Intermediate League's Western Division, winning the title in the 1958/59 and 1959/60 seasons before joining the Surrey Senior League. The club initially struggled at this new level - finishing bottom in the 1962/63 season - but started to improve in the latter half of the decade: three consecutive 4th-place finishes rounded out the decade before the club went one better and finished 3rd in the 1970/71 season. 

However, the club's fortunes soon took a turn for the worse and, after finishing bottom again in the 1973/74 season, the club joined the Spartan League. After one season, this merged with the London Metropolitan League to become the London Spartan League, with the club placed in Division 2. Promotion to Division 1 followed, and after one season in Division 1 it was renamed the Premier Division. The club remained in this division until finishing second-from-bottom in the 1979/80 season to be relegated to the Senior Division.

After one season in this division, the club opted to transfer to the Western Division of the Combined Counties League, which was then reduced to a single division after their first season (in which they finished 7th out of 11 teams). The next decade was a difficult one for the club, as they struggled to break into the top half of the league: they finished second-from-bottom on two occasions but finished as high as 9th in the 1990/91 season. However, the club finished bottom of the league three seasons later and returned to the Surrey County Intermediate League.

After a few seasons in this league, the club finished as runners-up in the 1998/99 season to earn promotion to the Surrey County Senior League. After finishing 4th and 6th in their first two seasons in this league, the club finished as runners-up to earn promotion back to the Combined Counties League in the 2001/02 season. After one season in the league, it gained a second division, with the club placed in the Premier Division. The club then remained in the Premier Division for three seasons before finishing 18th out of 21 teams in the 2005/06 season to be relegated to Division 1.

After six seasons of inconsistent finishes in Division 1 (as low as 16th out of 18 in the 2008/09 season and as high as 6th in the 2007/08 season), the club won the title in the 2012/13 season to earn promotion back to the Premier Division. However, despite a respectable 12th-place finish in their first season, the club struggled to maintain this and finished bottom in the 2014/15 season to return to Division 1. The club have remained here ever since, steadily improving their league position and now finding themselves firmly in a promotion race this season.

In the FA Cup, the club have only progressed as far as the Preliminary Round on five occasions, most recently this season when they beat Fareham Town in the Extra Preliminary Round before losing to Lymington Town. As for the FA Vase, the club's best run saw them reach the 3rd Round in the 2008/09 season, beating Bookham, Redhill and Binfield before losing to VCD Athletic in a replay.

My Visit

As I stated in last week's blog entry, this was going to be my 75th groundhop and I was originally planning to head to Farnham Town. In fact, this was still the plan until midway through yesterday morning when, on a whim, I decided to look at the other two options I'd noted down (this and Fleet Spurs, both of which were intended as back-ups in case Farnham was postponed). 

When I looked on the Frimley Green Twitter feed, I noticed that they were offering reduced admission prices of £5 for their home fixtures this month. Granted, it wasn't a massive reduction, but it was enough to catch my attention and make me rethink things. I then had a quick look at the Combined Counties League Division table and noted that this game was a top-of-the-table clash, and that was what finally swayed me to choose this instead.

With my decision made, I promptly ordered my train ticket and had lunch, before heading out at around 12:35pm. My train left Guildford at exactly 1pm and arrived at Frimley station 40 minutes later. At this point, I opened Google Maps to figure out my route, only to find that the walk would only take 25 minutes rather than the 30 I had noted down. 

Of course, at my walking pace that meant it would take just over 20 minutes, so I ended up arriving at the ground just before 2pm, paying my £5 for admission and £1.50 for a programme. With roughly an hour to kill, I took my time with my usual circuit of photos (or as much of a circuit as the ground layout allowed), before taking a seat in the main stand awaiting kick-off. 

About ten minutes in the game, I opted to leave the stand due to some of the most annoying people I've ever run into at a football ground: a group of five or six or so teenagers who were yelling, playing awful music off of their phones and smashing the back of the stand like maniacs for little reason. This was the only real black spot on the day, but thankfully they had disappeared from the stand at half-time, allowing me to return and take a seat to at least try to escape the bitterly-cold wind.

As I said before, this was a top-of-the-table clash and, considering that and the two teams' identical recent form, I was expecting this to be a tight game and was expecting the two teams to cancel each other out. However, as I report below, this game completely defied everyone's expectations as Frimley Green overwhelmed Bedfont & Feltham in the second half to make a real statement in the promotion race:

The home side had two good chances in the opening ten minutes, the first of which saw a shot poked inches wide and the second of which saw a volley whistle past the post. Bedfont & Feltham then started to push up in response and forced some real defensive scrambles as they attempted to take the lead. In these early stages, both teams were placing immense pressure on the opposition defence, while at the same time leaving their own exposed to intense counter-attacks. One of these almost saw Dan Bone give Frimley the lead as he found himself through one-on-one with Bedfont keeper Devon Gordon, only for a good save to deny him. At the other end, Bedfont missed a golden chance three minutes later, a low cross played across the box before Ross Nunn and Farhad Mahboudi both scuffed their attempted tap-ins.

In the 24th minute, a push from Bedfont's Jamie Pearce saw Frimley earn a penalty, with Zac Horkan stepping up and calmly converting to break the deadlock. After this, the game became tense and scrappy as both teams searched for further openings in their attempts to change the game. A few chances came at both ends, but for much of the next fifteen minutes the two midfields dominated. It took until the 39th minute for another clear-cut chance to come: a long ball over the top eluded the Bedfont defence and forced Gordon to come out for it, with Sean Latimer chipping past him and towards goal, only for the ball to bounce wide. 1-0 at half-time.

After a less-than-stellar first half performance, Bedfont would have hoped to make a better start to the first half, but instead they crumbled in alarming fashion: Frimley kicked off the second half, instantly played a longball over the defence to set Latimer through to shoot and score off of the post. This can't have been much more than ten seconds into the half, so Bedfont were understandably shell-shocked. As such, it barely came as a surprise when Frimley made it 3-0 five minutes later: a corner was played into the box and an initial shot was blocked, but the Bedfont defence failed to clear and the ball eventually fell to Bone for a tap-in. Then, in the 57th minute, Latimer almost made it 4-0 with an attempted tap-in from a cross, but his effort went just the wrong side of the post.

Bedfont had their first real chance of the half just after the hour mark, Mahboudi receiving the ball from a corner and getting a shot away, only for his effort to be blocked and then cleared away after a bit of scramble. However, the game looked all but over in the 66th minute as Bone made it 4-0: the long ball over the top once again wasn't dealt with and Bone had plenty of time to receive the ball and calmly chip over Gordon. Despite this, though, Bedfont didn't give up on their attempts to attack and they brought on Jordan Sarfo in an attempt to at least get a consolation: this almost immediately paid off in the 69th minute, as a Sarfo cross reached the head of Mahboudi and was only kept out by an excellent save from Frimley keeper Chris Harris.

A few more Sarfo-led attacks followed - including one where he ran the length of the pitch before having his shot saved - before Bedfont deservedly scored their consolation: several shots were saved or blocked on the line before Elliott Hayden got a tap-in. This really seemed to revitalise Bedfont and they started to surge forward, forcing a few more goalmouth scrambles but somehow failing to score each time. However, that very faint hope of a Bedfont comeback was ruthlessly extinguished when Frimley scored their 5th in the 81st minute: Bedfont lost possession in their own half, allowing George Bowerman to finish with a powerful shot from the edge of the box. Even after this, the game continued to be end-to-end, but it gradually died down as the final whistle approached.

So, this was absolutely not what I expected at all: despite these two teams being the top two going into the game, Frimley ran away with it and won emphatically to go top. Looking at the game as a whole, though, the first half actually was what I expected from a top-of-the-table clash: tight but entertaining, with Frimley just edging things ever so slightly. However, the second half was nothing short of a demolition job from Frimley, and Bedfont were simply blown away. Overall, this game was fantastically entertaining, easily one of the best I've watched this season. 

So, bitterly-cold wind and extremely annoying teenagers aside, this was another thoroughly enjoyable groundhop, with comfortably the best match I've seen in quite some time after a few dismal ones of late. The club on the whole also seemed pretty friendly, which at least somewhat compensates for those teenagers.

Though the train back was direct, the journey back itself was a litte more eventful than normal: after getting out of the ground pretty quickly after the game (due to there being minimal added time in either half), I was able to get to within a couple of minutes of the station as the next train to Guildford (and last one for another half-hour) pulled in. At this point, I didn't fancy waiting on the platform for ages for the next train (not with that wind), so I had to run to catch the train just before it left. This also meant I was back in the house just after 6pm, which was not what I was expecting.

My plan for next Saturday is still to head to Woodstock Town, but other plans have come up on Saturday the 23rd, meaning I disappointingly have to miss the Chertsey FA Vase semi-final. Instead, I'm looking to slot in a groundhop either on the Sunday or some point in midweek after that Saturday, and I'll have hopefully made a decision on that front by next Saturday.

The Ground

Frimley Green Recreation Ground is a decent Step 6 ground, with three different areas of cover. One of these is a standard 100-seater Arena stand, while the other two areas of cover have a little bit more character. 

The first of these is a very odd area of cover, a small sloped covered shelter just by the ground entrance: a few chairs are situated beneath it, but even without these you would probably only be able to get 10-20 people under it at most. The other area of cover is on the other side of the clubhouse and probably provides cover for around 100 people.

Other than this, the rest of the ground is open hard standing, though there is a small area beyond the main stand that lacks hard standing, for whatever reason. In its current form, the ground is likely good enough for Step 5, but upgrading it to anything above that (if it ever became necessary) would be very difficult, partially because of a lack of space but also because it's so easy to watch the game from outside of the ground and there doesn't seem to be much the club could do about that.