My Grounds

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Farcet United - Middletons Road Recreation Ground


Farcet United FC
Middletons Road Recreation Ground
Middletons Road
Ground: 111
Date: Saturday 5th September 2020
Farcet United 4-5 Peterborough Polonia
Peterborough & District League Division 2
Farcet United - History

Other than the fact that they were re-established in 1992 (having evidently existed in some previous incarnation before then), there was very little historical information about Farcet United that I could find online. In recent years, at least, the club has spent its time in Divisions 2 and 3 of the Peterborough & District League, winning the Division 2 Intermediate Shield in the 2016/17 season. Though the 2019/20 season was null-and-voided because of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, the club were elevated to Division 2 for the 2020/21 season having been 3rd in Division 3 when football was halted.

My Visit

With non-league football finally returning after almost six months away at the end of August, it was only a matter of time until I'd be back groundhopping again. However, now that I've graduated from University and am back home permanently, my options are much more limited than they were last season (I'll be happy with at least 10 new ticks this season). This is exacerbated by the fact that I cannot drive yet and hence can't get around on my own, meaning that I have to ask for a lift for anywhere I do want to go. Granted, I'm still not fully comfortable travelling around too much yet, but I don't want to be unable to drive for too much longer so am well into the job hunt to start getting money in to be able to afford driving lessons and then work from there.

In the meantime, I was assessing local options as Yaxley continued to intensify our pre-season preparations ahead of our competitive start next Saturday. After attending Tuesday night's pre-season friendly, though, I felt more in the mood for competitive football yesterday without having to travel far at all. Thankfully, there are several options within the village in the form of FC Hampton, Cardea (playing on the grass pitch next to Yaxley's ground) and Farcet United (who play at the village rec).

I wasn't aware of FC Hampton playing in the village until after I got back from the match yesterday, so I was only aware of both Cardea and Farcet being at home. Ultimately, I opted for Farcet due to Yaxley being at home on the main pitch at the same time as Cardea's home game on the adjacent grass pitch there. With reports that Chelmsford were planning to bring 200 fans up for the friendly against Yaxley, I figured it would be rather busy in the area even if only a few people were watching Cardea and instead opted to head to the rec to watch Farcet.

For a 2pm kick-off, I left the house at 1:30pm and arrived ten minutes later to find that the match was being played on the pitch adjacent to the park, rather than the pitch adjacent to the primary school. I took my standing position next to the pitch and flicked through social media while waiting for kick-off after taking a few photos of the pitch.

I didn't do much research on the teams prior to the match and there's no point posting league tables for a while yet, but I did know that Farcet had been elevated from Division 3 this season, while Peterborough Polonia had requested demotion from the Premier Division to Division 2 a few weeks ago for reasons unknown. Also, this was my first foray into the 13th tier (I'd previously gone as low as the 12th when I visited Wymondham Town, but never low before this), so I had no idea what to expect in terms of quality, even more so for the first match of the season when teams would likely still be shaking off some of that pre-season rust.

Here's my report on an entertaining match which Farcet can feel unlucky to have gotten nothing out of despite having a three-goal deficit for much of the match:

This first competitive match of the season saw Farcet start on the front foot and earn themselves a penalty in the 4th minute, but the number 5's spot kick was tame and easily saved by the Polonia keeper before being cleared by a defender. From that clearance, Polonia broke quickly and took the lead, a shot from their number 11 taking a deflection off a Farcet defender to wrong-foot the keeper. Farcet had a chance to equalise 4 minutes later when former Yaxley left back Josh Pike picked the ball up on the left of the box, rounded the keeper and got a shot away, only for the keeper to reflexively and impressively block the effort with a stretched leg. In the 13th minute, it was Polonia's turn to break forward when their number 2 had space to run down the right wing and slice a shot narrowly wide.

Two minutes later, though, Polonia doubled their lead when their number 9 received the ball unmarked in the box. His first shot was well blocked by a Farcet defender, but the ball came back to him for an easy finish past the keeper. Seven minutes later, Polonia were rewarded a free kick from 25 yards out and their number 6 curled it low around the wall and into the bottom left corner, just narrowly beyond the keeper's reach. Despite Polonia having a resounding lead at this point, the difference between the teams didn't seem as wide as the scoreline suggested as the match was very much an end-to-end affair. If anything, Farcet were having more of the ball and creating more chances on the whole, but with little luck when it mattered. By contrast, Polonia were only infrequently breaking forwards, but they made it count almost every time. This difference became clear when Farcet somehow failed to pull a goal back in the 27th minute: they had multiple attacking players in and around Polonia's box, but they seemed reluctant to shoot and kept passing it around on the edge of the box. When someone eventually got a shot away, it was blocked and eventually cleared after an initial defensive mix-up that was not pounced on. At the other end, Polonia's next chance came on the half-hour mark when their number 7 shot low from distance and beat the keeper at his far post (just like the earlier free-kick).

Farcet still hadn't given up, though, and pulled one back in style in the 36th minute: number 10 instinctively flicked the ball over his head as it came to him from behind, rushed past the defender into the box and effortlessly chipped over the rushing keeper's head. It was then 2-4 four minutes later as a Farcet free kick was headed away as far as their number 6 in centre midfielder. He played a pass to the 10 on the right wing, before he crossed low into the box for Pike to tap in. There was still one more goal to come in an action-packed first half, though, as Polonia restored their three-goal cushion in the 43rd minute: someone on the left wing floated a deep cross into the box and over the Farcet keeper's head as he attempted to catch it, with Polonia's number 7 standing behind him to head into the empty net.
2-5 at half-time.

After an end-to-end second half, the second half saw a drop in intensity and fewer chances for both sides. The big difference was that Farcet came out much stronger and started to take control of the match, while Polonia struggled to find any cohesion in their attacks. Farcet had their first chance of the half in the 50th minute as their number 10 dribbled into the box from the left and shot low across goal to force a save and earn his side a corner. Four minutes later, Farcet's number 9 should have reduced his side's deficit when the Polonia keeper failed to catch a cross, but his header on the empty goal was weak and gave the keeper time to correct himself and make the save. Then, after 20 minutes of probing without success, Pike scored his second of the afternoon to make it 3-5 in the 76th minute: Polonia's 9 had a chance blocked by the keeper and quickly kicked upfield, with Pike breaking beyond the defensive line and poking past the keeper to score from the edge of the box.

Eleven minutes later, Farcet had a goal disallowed for offside: their number 10 volleyed after a cross-field ball from Pike and it was heading goalward, only to bounce into the net off the number 6 from an offside position. Undeterred, Farcet pulled another one back in the third minute of stoppage time, bundling in from a set piece after the keeper pushed an aerial ball into the path of an unmarked Farcet player. Then, with one last roll of the dice, Farcet went on the attack from a 95th minute throw-in, their number 10 punting a hopeful ball into the box that Pike got on the end of and narrowly poked over the bar. That was the last kick of the game and enough for Polonia to hold on for a 4-5 victory.

So an excellent return to competitive football and an excellent match for this blog to come back for. Though Farcet lost this crazy match, they could have very easily gotten all three points out of it on a different today and against a goalkeeper not putting in the performance of a lifetime.

There were a couple of extended stoppages in the second half as tempers flared at times, leading to just over 5 minutes added on at the end. This meant the match didn't finish until around 3:50pm, but when it's only just over ten minutes back to the house that doesn't overly matter much.

Regarding future groundhopping plans, it's still a little up in the air. Besides Cardea and FC Hampton in the village (do second pitches on the same ground complex count as new grounds, or would it be cheating to count that for Cardea?), I've drawn up a shortlist of other relatively local options I'd be comfortable visiting at the moment, but much depends on the Yaxley fixtures and what is happening with away games this season, i.e. if away travel is still happening or not (I assume not, but I've yet to receive any confirmation one way or the other). Regardless, I'm eyeing a visit to Whittlesey on the 10th of October in the FA Vase, but hoping I can get something else in before that. 

The Ground

Middletons Road Recreation Ground is a typical village rec set up, comprised of a couple of pitches with no football furniture besides the changing rooms. This match was played on the upper pitch next to the park, rather than the lower, sloped pitch across from the primary school.


Sunday, 8 March 2020

Haywards Heath Town - Hanbury Stadium

Haywards Heath Town FC
Hanbury Stadium
Allen Road
Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH16 3PT

Ground: 110
Date: Saturday 7th March 2020
Haywards Heath Town 0-1 Phoenix Sports
Isthmian League Division 1 South East

Haywards Heath Town - History

Haywards Heath Town were founded in 1888 as Haywards Heath Juniors and changed name twice in the next few years: in 1894, they changed name to Haywards Heath Excelsior before becoming Haywards Heath a year later. In 1900, the club became founder members of the Mid-Sussex League and finished as runners-up of the Senior Division in the 1901/02, 1902/03, 1903/04 and 1905/06 seasons. 

The club dropped out of the Senior Division in 1908, but went on to win the Division 2 title in the 1911/12 season. The 1919/20, 1922/23, 1923/24 and 1924/25 seasons saw the club win the league title and the club eventually moved up to Division 1 of the Brighton, Hove & District League in 1926. The club won the title at the first attempt and moved up to the Sussex County League for the 1927/28 season.

Four of the club's first five seasons in the league saw them finish in the top 4, but a drastic downturn in fortunes saw the club finish bottom in the 1932/33 season, with two further finishes in the bottom 3 to follow. In the final few seasons before World War 2, the club's fortunes improved again and they consistently finished in the top half. After the war, the club were placed in the new Eastern Division and went on to win the title.

The league reverted back to a single division after one season, and the club won consecutive titles in the 1949/50 and 1950/51 seasons. The 1952/53 season saw the club's rise continue as they joined the Metropolitan & District League, finishing a respectable 5th in their first season. However, the club struggled at this level after that and eventually finished bottom of the renamed Metropolitan League in the 1960/61 season, returning to the Sussex County League as a result.

The club remained at Division 1 level for almost twenty years, winning the title in the 1969/70 season and finishing as runners-up in the 1974/75 season. However, after finishing second-from-bottom in the 1979/80 season, the club were relegated to Division 2. Six seasons were spent at this level before a runners-up finish in the 1985/86 season saw the club earn promotion back to Division 1.

The club's first season back at this level saw them finish 3rd, but fortunes soon tailed off and the club regularly found itself in the bottom half. The 1989/90 season saw the club change to its current name, before a bottom-place finish in the 1991/92 season saw the renamed club relegated back to Division 2. Things got worse for the club as they finished bottom of Division 2 the following season and suffered relegation to Division 3.

It took close to a decade for the club to recover from this, but after three bottom-three finishes the club finished 5th in the 1999/2000 season. Two more top-half finishes followed, before the club finished as runners-up in the 2002/03 season to return to Division 2. Once again, though, the club finished bottom and made an immediate return to Division 3. 

This time, it took the club until the 2012/13 season to earn a return to Division 2 with another runners-up finish (just one season after the club had finished second-from-bottom). The club have had upward momentum ever since, winning the renamed Southern Combination League Division 1 title in the 2015/16 season to earn promotion to its Premier Division (formerly Division 1 of the Sussex County League). 

The club finished as runners-up in their first season at this level, before winning the title in the 2017/18 season to earn promotion to Division 1 South East of the Isthmian League. The club finished 5th in their first season at this level to earn a place in the play-offs, but lost in the semi-finals to Horsham. This season sees the club positioned on the fringes of the play-off race.

The club's best FA Cup run came in the 1945/46 season when they reached the 4th Qualifying Round, beating Newhaven, Southwick and Hastings & St. Leonards before losing to Trowbridge Town. The club reached the FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round this season, beating Ramsgate, Bracknell Town and Aylesbury United before losing to current semi-finalists Royston Town. As for the FA Vase, the club reached the 3rd Round in the 1990/91 season, beating Chatham Town, Crockenhill and Farnham Town before losing to Thetford Town.

My Visit

After the drama of my midweek visit to Tottenham, I was hoping for a slightly more relaxed groundhopping experience yesterday. At the same time, with my groundhopping opportunities while at University beginning to run out (if the season isn't extended, I'll only have three more opportunities due to how my Easter break works out in relation to the end of season), I'm trying to make the most of the opportunities I have left. In other words, I'm trying to get to some of the best grounds I've yet to visit while down here, because getting down this side of the M25 will be a lot harder once I've finished University.

With this in mind, I had set Fareham Town as my first choice for yesterday, with this, Maidenhead United and AFC Portchester in place as back-ups. I had tried to get to Fareham last Saturday, but as with most matches on grass it had ended up being rained off by Storm Jorge. However, they had a home match on Tuesday which ended up going ahead, so that made me slightly more optimistic.

However, it rained all day Thursday in Guildford, so I began to make preparations for another potential weekend wash out by checking on all the 3G options and adding Slough Town to the list as a last resort. I also posted on Twitter asking the four clubs to keep me posted about how their pitches were looking going into the weekend.

Fortunately, my concerns largely proved unfounded, as the sun came out on Friday and ended up staying out all day. This seemed to do a good job of drying out most of my grass options, though Fareham mentioned that they were having an early morning pitch inspection, just in case the sun hadn't been enough to dry out the pitch. 

When yesterday morning came around, it quickly emerged that all my options were going ahead, so I went to buy train tickets to Fareham on the South Western Railway website, having first checked the National Rail Journey Planner. However, I was annoyed to find that some of the options advertised on the Journey Planner - which involving changing at Woking and heading to Fareham from there - weren't actually available, and that the rest were hindered by engineering works. 

This meant that I would have to take a rail replacement bus into Haslemere first if I wanted to go to Fareham or Portchester and this was an idea I was not remotely keen on, given the recent outbreak of coronavirus in Haslemere. As such, I had to scrap those two options and opted to head here instead, deciding that National League level football at Maidenhead probably wouldn't be relaxing enough for what I was looking for after Wednesday night.

With everything decided, I paid £12.60 for my train tickets and had an early lunch before leaving the house at around 12:10pm. I then got cash out at the station and collected my tickets before getting the 12:45pm train to Redhill. I changed at Redhill to head towards Gatwick Airport, before changing there to head to Haywards Heath. Throughout the journey, I sat on my own and did some more reading for my course, reading a few Edgar Allan Poe short stories and the entirety of C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (well, most of it, as I didn't finish it until the train back to Guildford).

I eventually arrived in Haywards Heath at 2:10pm and went straight onto Google Maps to find my way to the ground. Initially, though, when I searched for the football club it pointed to a site just two minutes away, which I knew to not be correct. Instead, I had to search for the ground by its name to find it on Google Maps and begin to head towards it. Then, heading out of the station, there were two possible exits, one leading to a car park and the other to a road on the other side. I wasn't really sure which way to go, so I just headed to the closest exit which happened to take me through the multi-storey car park. Fortunately, this happened to take me in the right direction.

The way to the ground from the station was one of the more complicated ones I've done so far, though it started simply enough. Google Maps led me through Clair Park and past the pavilion of the local cricket club. After that, however, I had to pass through large residential areas, and Google Maps seemed to lead me by a very indirect and circuitous route towards the ground, forcing me to take several side streets and narrow footpaths on my way. Then, once I got close to the ground, I was almost led to the wrong entrance, but by that point it was easy enough to figure out where I was actually supposed to be going.

In any event, I arrived at the ground with twenty-five minutes to spare before kick-off, paying £9 for admission and £2 for the programme. I then did my usual circuit of photos before paying £3.50 for a cheeseburger at the food hut next to the main stand. This wasn't as good as the one I had last weekend, but it did the job of filling my appetite. 

I then headed up into the main stand and attempted to find a seat from which I could see both goalmouths, which was easier said than done due to the stand's support pillars and the floodlight pylon positioned directly in front of it. I eventually found myself a good seat near the back and centre of the stand and remained there throughout the match, only moving to put rubbish in the nearby bin when it became necessary.

A quick look at the table highlights why this match wasn't my first choice: the two teams were so close in the table that I simply expected them to cancel each other out in an evenly-matched contest.

Here's my report on an even contest which was ultimately decided by a red card just after the hour mark:

Haywards Heath had a flurry of chances in the opening ten minutes: in the 4th minute an aerial ball was played to Nico Cotton and he touched the ball into the path of Trevor McCreadie, who shot into Phoenix Sports keeper Steve Phillips' arms; two minutes later, Raheem Sterling-Parker received the ball in the box and let it roll through to McCreadie to shoot from the edge of the box, again being stopped by Phillips; another two minutes later, Luke Robinson intercepted a poor pass and played the ball to Cotton further down the left wing, the latter then dribbling past a defender before shooting from the edge of the box and having his effort saved.

Though this early series of chances suggests otherwise, the opening stages of this match were mostly even, with both sides having their fair share of the ball. The only difference was that Haywards Heath were producing good chances from the start, whereas it took Phoenix Sports 17 minutes to have their first: James Dyer worked his way past home keeper Luke Glover in the box, but was forced wide after stumbling and had to settle for crossing across the face of goal, a defender heading clear before it could be nodded in.

Three minutes later, Cotton and McCreadie combined to create another good chance, Cotton crossing to McCreadie and the latter turning and shooting narrowly wide. After some more end-to-end interchanges, Phoenix Sports came close again in the 29th minute as they passed their way through the middle and someone eventually got a shot away, which went narrowly wide for a goal kick (though it looked to me like there was a deflection on its way).

McCreadie again went close three minutes later when a cross floated into the box and eluded Phillips: he had an open goal to aim for but somehow managed to head over the bar. The best chance of the half came on the stroke of half-time when Phoenix Sports earned a penalty, Dyer being brought down by Glover in the box as both chased a long ball over the top. Kenny Alireu stepped up to take, but his penalty was poor and hit the post; certainly not one he will want to see again.

Compared to an end-to-end first half, the second half was less eventful as both teams became more solid at the back. However, after Phillips dropped the ball from a corner in the 50th minute, Haywards Heath could have taken the lead but the header was off target. Six minutes later, Phoenix Sports' Lauris Chin took the ball from a home defender in his own half, charged forward and shot from the edge of the box as Glover charged out. His shot went beneath the Haywards Heath keeper, but the deflection took the power off the effort and gave defenders time to clear.

Just after the hour mark, Haywards Heath defender Joshua Spinks received his second yellow for cynically bringing Chin down to stop a counter-attack. This would prove to be the match's turning point, but that was not immediately apparent as the teams continue to cancel each other out. However, as the match wore on, Phoenix Sports started to have more of the ball and take control of the match, with Haywards Heath only able to get forwards with occasional counter-attacks.

In the 80th minute, Haywards Heath almost nicked a winner on one of these counter-attacks, Andrew Dalhouse holding up the ball before passing to Hamish Morrison on the right wing. The full back initially attempted to cross into the box, but after this was blocked he tried his luck with a shot, but it was easily held by Phillips. Two minutes later, the away side scored the winner: after some excellent control on the edge of the box, Chin rounded his marker and shot on the half-volley to score. Haywards Heath almost equalised in stoppage time after a goalmouth scramble, but it wasn't to be and Phoenix Sports held on for the win.

Though this match did play out largely in line with my expectations beforehand, it was still a reasonably entertaining contest despite the scoreline. The only thing that was really missing for both sides was quality finishing, as so many of the chances both sides created went straight at the opposing keeper, making it all too easy to keep them out. A draw would have been a fair result, but Phoenix Sports made excellent use of their man advantage to win.

After a late start to the second half, the match didn't finish until almost 5pm, but thankfully I had plenty of time to spare before my train would depart towards Gatwick Airport. On the way back to the station, Google Maps took me on a much more direct route than it had done on the way to the ground, so I made slightly quicker progress back to the station than I expected. 

This meant that I was able to get on a slightly earlier train to Gatwick Airport, though this did mean waiting over 20 minutes for my train from there to Guildford to arrive. Eventually, I was back in Guildford at 6:45pm and back in the house just over twenty minutes later after topping up on toothpaste at Sainsbury's.

Weather permitting, next weekend should see me pay a long overdue visit to the impressive-looking ground of Farnborough as I continue to make the most of my few remaining groundhops at University. As for Fareham Town, I'll get there on either the 21st or the 28th if SWR and the weather are kind enough to allow it.

The Ground

Hanbury Stadium is a traditional non-league ground which is dominated by the impressive old main stand (this alone makes the visit worthwhile). This is an imposing structure which contains around 500 seats, some in the form of plastic seats and the rest in the form of the steps of the stand. Next to the main stand is a food hut selling a decent range of hot food and drink options, while the bar is seemingly found beneath the stand or somewhere behind it.

The only other area of cover at the ground is a small area of covered standing behind the near goal, immediately next to the turnstiles. This is where the programme seller can be found on matchday. That aside, the rest of the ground is open hard standing and there is little room for expansion, though the ground presumably wouldn't need much work to meet Step 3 grading criteria if the club were promoted in the future.


Thursday, 5 March 2020

Tottenham Hotspur - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Tottenham Hotspur FC
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
782 High Road
N17 0BX

Ground: 109
Date: Wednesday 4th March 2020
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Norwich City (AET, 2-3 on penalties)
FA Cup 5th Round

Tottenham Hotspur - 5 Facts

1) Tottenham Hotspur were founded in 1882 as Hotspur, changing to the current name two years later. In 1901, the club won the FA Cup for the first time and became the first and only non-league club to do so since the formation of the Football League in 1888. The club then joined the Football League in 1908.

2) The club experienced significant success in the early 1960s, winning the league and cup double in the 1960/61 season, defending their FA Cup title the following season and then becoming the first British team to win a UEFA competition by winning the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1963.

3) In 1972, the club won the inaugural UEFA Cup and became the first British club to win two major European trophies in the process. This was in between two seasons which saw the club win the League Cup and was followed by an FA Cup win in 1981. The club then won the UEFA Cup again in 1984, before winning another FA Cup in 1991.

4) The club were founder members of the Premier League in the 1992/93 season and have remained there ever since. Since the 2009/10 season, the club have consistently finished in the top 6, with a best finish of 2nd in the 2016/17 season.

5) The club last won silverware in the 2007/08 season when they won the League Cup for the fourth time (the third came in 1999). The club reached the final again in 2015 but lost to Chelsea. The club also reached the Champions League final last season, but lost 2-0 to Liverpool.

My Visit

I was never able to get to the old White Hart Lane, so when our promotion was confirmed at the end of last season this was one of the grounds I was most looking forward to visiting, though the date of the league match was an awkward one for me: it fell just before I was planning to head back to Guildford for University, which would have meant heading into London midweek, heading back home and then heading through London again back to Guildford on the Sunday.

Ultimately, any thoughts about that I had proved to be meaningless, as demand for tickets for the league visit was absurd, with tickets selling out almost as quickly as they had gone on sale; obviously I wasn't the only one eager to visit Tottenham's new ground. As such, I thought my opportunity to visit wouldn't come for quite a while unless we ended up there in the cup, so it caught my attention when the 5th Round draw placed us away against either Southampton or Tottenham.

Either of those would have been feasible options from Guildford (although extra-time and penalties may have made that a stretch if we had been playing Southampton), so I kept a close eye on how the replay went and was pleased to see Tottenham come out on top. Having already missed one chance to visit their ground, I wasn't going to miss it the second time, especially with relegation already looking like a distinct possibility at that point.

However, I was worried that demand would once again outstrip supply, especially if we received the same allocation as in the league fixture. Thankfully, as with Arsenal in the League Cup two seasons ago, we requested and received an allocation of around 9,000, which made me more confident that I would be able to get a ticket. 

When tickets eventually went on sale, I had made sure to set my alarm to wake up early and get on the ticket website immediately, just in case. Surprisingly, unlike what I remember with trying to get Arsenal tickets, there was no real queue and I was onto the website almost immediately, paying £25 for my ticket. 

I then just had to wait for it to arrive, though as I couldn't have multiple addresses on my account it ended up being sent home first, meaning I then had to wait for it to be sent to Guildford from there. With plenty of time to spare, though, this didn't pose a problem at all. As for train tickets, I didn't end up ordering those until yesterday morning, after taking a while to consider which of the stations closest to the ground to go to (eventually chose Northumberland Park, with that being closest to the away end as far as I could tell).

The train tickets I ordered ended up costing £17 rather than the £13 I had anticipated (probably because I left buying them until the day of travel) and my train into London left Guildford at around 4:35pm. This meant I was leaving the house just after 4pm, walking to the station through the rain (and desperately hoping my match ticket remained dry in my coat pocket) and getting there with ten minutes to spare.

From Guildford, the journey to the ground was perhaps more convoluted than it really needed to be. I started by heading to Vauxhall station, which took about an hour as only the slow Waterloo-bound services stop there. From there, I went onto the Underground on the Victoria Line towards Tottenham Hale, getting off there to get a train for the last leg of the journey towards Northumberland Park station.

Eventually, I arrived there at around 6:30pm, walking for ten minutes to get to the ground. I got a few photos from the outside as I worked my way towards the away entrance, before preparing myself for the very high levels of security at the entrances: sniffer dogs and airport security scanning gates before being let in. Certainly tighter security than anything I've ever come across before, but understandably so in the current climate. 

Either way, as tight as the security was, it was relatively quick to get through and into the concourse. At this point, there was just over an hour to go before kick-off, yet the concourse was already filled to the brim with Norwich fans and the atmosphere was great. I spent a few minutes down there, buying a programme for £3.50 as I did, before heading up into the ground to find my seat. 

Once I did, I was reasonably pleased to find that my seat was near the front and low down, rather than higher up like some people had (I'd had to deal with that at Burnley back in September, so was happy to be lower down and to actually have a good view of the entire pitch). For a moment, I was concerned about getting wet in the rain, but the roof high above meant I stayed dry throughout. I then took a few photos of the ground as I waited for kick-off, remaining standing throughout the match and only sitting down at half-time, full-time and half-time of extra time.

Being fully honest, I wasn't expecting too much out of this match. Our away record this season has been poor and we haven't been able to string multiple good results together all season, so after beating Leicester last Friday in the league I wasn't expecting as much last night. However, with Spurs missing Son and Kane, I was hoping that we would be able to work the magic of the cup once again.

Here's an official match report from the club website on a long, long match which eventually saw us triumph in the penalty shoot-out:

Spurs took an early lead when Jan Vertonghen nodded home a Giovani Lo Celso free-kick and it could have been more at half-time but for two outstanding saves from Tim Krul at either end of the half.

City probed in the second-half and got their reward on 78 minutes when Josip Drmic profited from poor goalkeeping to tap home after Michel Vorm parried Kenny McLean's rasping effort.

Drmic's equaliser sent the game into extra-time and then penalties, with Krul saving twice to see City prevail 3-2 on spot-kicks.

Daniel Farke made four changes to the side which beat Leicester City on Friday night. The back four remained the same but there were plenty of changes in the midfield and attacking ranks with Josip Drmic replacing Teemu Pukki up top. Lukas Rupp and Mario Vrancic came into the midfield in place of Kenny McLean and Ondrej Duda, and Tom Trybull was introduced to anchor the team in the middle in place of Alex Tettey.

Despite plenty of noise inside the stadium, largely being created by the 9,000 strong travelling support, the early exchanges were timid until Spurs broke at pace on 11 minutes. Giovani Lo Celso was found unmarked in the area but his low effort was beaten away well by Tim Krul.

Spurs took the lead moments later via a set-piece. Lo Celso turned provider after Steven Bergwijn was fouled by Emi Buendia on the left-hand side. His menacing delivery was met by Vertonghen who climbed above Jamal Lewis to head home at the back post.

Spurs went on to boss the next 20 minutes or so and their threat from wide areas was causing City issues. The pacey pair of Moura and Bergwijn were proving difficult to handle.

City finally got into their stride on the half hour mark. Rupp was found in the box on 32 minutes by Vrancic but after cutting onto his right he was crowded out and Spurs managed to clear.

Then Buendia weaved his way through the challenges to test Vorm before the Spurs keeper almost spilled into his own net from a long-range Rupp strike. City were rallying and Vrancic had a goalbound strike blocked on 36 minutes before the following corner was nodded over by Trybull.

Spurs were then presented with a terrific opportunity to double their lead on the stroke of half-time. Trybull played a pass to Vrancic in his own penalty area who was closed down by Moura but Krul was on hand to block Moura’s strike from close proximity.

The two sides traded blows at the start of the second 45. First, Vrancic clipped the ball to Drmic who chested down for Buendia but his strike was deflected over from a narrow angle.

Then substitute Gedson Fernandes shot straight at Krul before Rupp chested, volleyed and tested Vorm low to his right.

Farke made changes just after the hour mark with Kenny McLean and Adam Idah introduced in the hope of them giving City fresh impetus. The former was straight into the action, spreading a crossfield ball from left to right, with Aarons there to cut back to Drmic but his shot was dragged wide.

McLean was involved once again in City's equaliser. His thumping drive was parried by Vorm on 78 minutes but Drmic was on hand to scramble the ball home to send the away fans into raptures.

However, the goal kicked Spurs into action once more and City were having to dig deep to stay in the game. It was only level because of a sensational Godfrey block on 86 minutes after Lo Celso's strike seemed destined for the back of the net.

Spurs were almost in again on 89 minutes when a searching pass almost found the onrushing Dele Alli but Krul once again was on hand to race clear and beat the ball away from danger.

The game went into extra-time and both teams were out on their feet, although City went close just after the break when Adam Idah nodded Jamal Lewis's cross over.

The game headed to extra-time and it was City who held their nerve. Eric Dier scored the first for Spurs but it was all downhill from there with Erik Lamela, Troy Parrott and Fernandes all being thwarted. For City, Idah, Stiepermann and Cantwell struck the blows to send the Canaries through.

From my perspective, we were very sloppy in the first half, but eventually got up to speed and deservedly equalised, before holding on through extra time with many players running on empty and deservedly winning the shoot-out, leading to delirium in the stands (my voice still has yet to recover from it all at the time of writing).

Naturally, progress out of the ground afterwards was quite slow, not least because I chose to stay through the celebrations at the end for a while. However, once I was actually out of the ground and heading back towards Northumberland Park, it was fairly easy to navigate through the crowds. However, problems began upon getting close to the station.

For starters, the stewards controlling the crowds had made a reasonable decision to split the crowd based on which direction of trains they were taking, but the southbound line (which I was in) was ineffectively controlled, as people could simply bypass it entirely by heading down a side street. This slowed things down behind as the stewards wouldn't let the southbound line move further forwards. With the northbound line moving much more consistently, people quickly became frustrated and eventually pushed through the stewards, ignoring their laughable threats to close the station in response.

This only temporarily solved the issue, though, as there was another set of stewards and gates immediately in front of the station to further control the flow of people.  Just as I was arriving at this point, they closed our gates and started letting people heading northbound through. This meant that time to get the train I needed was very tight, even more so by the time it opened again several minutes later. I moved towards the platform as quickly as I could manage, but I still ended up missing the 11pm train by a matter of moments.

Fortunately, extra trains were put on so another one left five minutes later. From there, I once again got off at Tottenham Hale and headed onto the Underground, but this time I opted for a different route towards Guildford. I initially headed on the Victoria Line as before, but rather than heading to Vauxhall and getting a slow train back to Guildford, I got off at Warren Street to change onto the Northern Line and head to Waterloo. 

With this plan, I was somehow just able to get myself onto the last quick train back to Guildford. This eventually got me back into Guildford at 12:25am and I was then back at the house 25 minutes later, staying up for another hour or so to rehydrate and unwind before heading to bed.

For my next groundhop, I was hoping to head to Fareham Town this Saturday, but given that it has been raining all day here in Guildford, I have little hope that it - or any of my other options on grass - will go ahead - so I'll be looking at 3G options to prepare for that seemingly inevitable eventuality.

The Ground

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is the newest in the Football League, having opened in April 2019 after White Hart Lane was demolished and the site entirely redeveloped. With a capacity of 62,303, it is one of the largest grounds in the country and the largest club ground in London (i.e. larger than the grounds of Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham etc.).

It's an impressive new build, with plenty of leg room in all seats and multiple tiers of seating on all four sides of the ground. The concourse is very spacious and has plenty of food and drink outlets available, all of which are cashless. Still, besides the sheer scale of it, the ground does not have much in the way of character, very much being a uniform bowl.

The current record attendance at the ground is 61,104 for a league game against Chelsea last December.