Wednesday 29 April 2015

Stalag Luft III - Cray Wanderers FC Vs Tilbury FC, Ryman League Division One North, Hayes Lane (19/04/15)

In lush Kent suburbia, 15 minutes from Victoria, down a tree lined lane, surrounded by paddocks & horses being fed by passers-by, lies the current home of London’s oldest association football team, the second oldest in the world, a club forged by migrant railway workers having a kick about in their spare time, Cray Wanderers FC.

The small brick wall at the top of the lane, opposite some grand detached houses, with pretty smart cars in the drive, has though, the badge of an altogether different team, this is in fact the permanent home of Bromley FC, Cray Wanderers FC (CW) are just lodgers. The lodgers have been playing at the Game Of Thrones sounding ground Fortress Stadium, Hayes Lane for a while now, in exile from their own patch since 1972, they have been living under the same roof as Bromley FC since the 1998/99 season. Their own issues with planning for a new ground, and the fact that the tenancy agreement came to an end in 2014, makes these uncertain times for the Wanderers.

The ground is as you would expect in the colours of the home team, black and white, only a small sign in the colours of CW, yellow displaying the ticket price, gives some hint of another team playing here, other than that this feels, as it should, very much Bromley FC’s home.

Once through the black and white turnstiles, and spending £1 on a golden goal ticket, the first thing to meet you is a single story wooden building, the outer cladding, making it look like a Swedish sauna, is the “Raven Club”. Once inside to get my programme and a pint, it is somewhat a juxtaposition from the traditional terraces and stands outside, to the leather seats, dark wood floors, and multiple TV’s like a city bar, and not like any club house I have been to before.

The ground as we have come to expect, admire and enjoy, is somewhat shabby, signs like “CAUTION BEWARE OF UNEVEN STEPS” and “PLEASE DON’T STAND ON THE BENCHES” suggest things are a little less than perfect, but that is just how we like it, full of character and the perfect venue for a Sunday afternoon watching a match.

The ground consists of one main covered all seater stand, flanked by the Raven club on one side, and on the other by a white tent, with a children’s birthday party in full swing, the John Fiorini stand, covered with large advertising boards for a local funeral directors. On the opposite side, and the full length of the pitch is an uncovered terrace. At each end are half covered terraces, one all standing, and the other has small black benches and some white fold down chairs.

Tom wanders as he does to take some pictures, and comes back with a less than positive report on CW’s shooting practice at the other end of the ground, he is almost decapitated a couple of times, doesn’t think he saw one goal and suggest its perhaps going to be a game “not promising for goals”.

A few fans of today’s opposition Tilbury FC (TFC) have taken up position at the all standing end of the ground, in front of two large impressive flags, one a large St Georges cross with the teams nickname “The Dockers” , and one with black and white stripes, the teams colours with “Tilbury FC” in red emblazoned across it.

A muffled voice comes over the PA, interrupting the Beatles, to announce space on the coach for the upcoming away game, and the last game of the season. I knew Cray were in a bit of a relegation dog fight at the bottom of the Ryman League North, but it was not until afterwards I knew just how significant today’s game was.

A yellow extendable tunnel appears from the middle of the main stand and “Liquidator” by The Harry J All Stars, familiar to anyone who has visited Stamford Bridge, and replaces the Beatles as the teams come on to the pitch. CW in yellow shirts, with black socks and shorts, TFC are in black and white stripes, red shorts and socks, and the golden arches of Ronald McDonald himself, on the front of the shirt.

The teams huddle and one after the other there are shouts of “COME ON CRAY”, “COME ON TILBURY”. The TFC keeper takes up position, with perhaps one of the best football beards you will ever see, in the goal in front of us, and in front of his fans, the first time I think the away fans have not stood behind the goal, their team is attacking.

There are only 4 of them but to give them credit the TFC fans are pretty nonstop, mocking CW’s “We got our own ground”, with “We’re not going to win the Ryman League, we’re not going to win the cup, but we still follow the Tilbury”.

It’s all CW from the first whistle, and it stays that way until the last.

CW line up with two big men up front, gobbling up every ball into them, both of them taking turns in knocking the ball down for each other, or for the two fast and tricky wingers 7 and 11, and Tilbury have no answer, and after 10 minutes are already 1–0 down. A floated in free kick, a TFC player drags the CW forward to the ground, it must be a penalty, but the resulting knock down is rifled in from outside the 6 yard box. The players celebrate in front of us, the TFC fans are unaffected by their teams quick conceding of a goal and sing their managers name “Gary Henty Black & White army”.

TFC almost get themselves back in the match instantly, but the goal mouth scramble at the other end of the pitch comes to nothing, and the ball is walloped clear.

The TFC fans are boisterous to say the least, and get into an exchange with the CW photographer, who by his own admission should not of got into a back and forth with them, but found himself being serenaded with “stick your camera up your arse” after disagreeing with them over a call for a free kick. This is quite the opposite to the family serenely sitting on the concrete terrace to our left with a full blown picnic, green thermos flask, enjoying the day out.

CW continue to make all the chances, the two upfront are dominating the play in the air, and in number 11, Tom Bolarinwa, they have a very skilful winger who is toying with the TFC defence and was getting past them with ease.

On 41 minutes CW further their lead, another great run by the number 7 on the right, his low cross into the box, takes a deflection off a TFC player, with the keeper on his haunches, leaning the opposite way, he and his wonderful beard, watch the ball roll in, own goal 2–0, and it’s the least that CW deserve.

Almost on half time, TFC’s first real attack results in a goal, a goal line block of the first shot, but the rebound is put away. After looking like they had nothing, all of a sudden TFC have a foothold in the game.

It’s been a niggly first half, a bit stop start with some tackles flying in, the referee has not really seemed to have a grip on it, and his only response to the players is a loud “No, NO” as he waves on play. The TFC keeper has not stopped dishing out all sorts of opinions, and one CW fan next to us, says to another “he’s got verbal diarrhoea”. The players leave the pitch, and we make our way to the bar, 2–1.

The Tilbury 4 are already in the bar, pints in hand and singing at the top of their voices, one CW fan says “Shhhhhhhhhhh” and as quick as a flash, one of the four says “someone’s got a puncture”.

The second half is a repeat of the first, it’s all CW going forward and TFC are offering very little resistance, they are close to being blown away. In the last 15 minutes the results and points were confirmed, Tom’s concern about CW shooting was put to bed, as CW scored another two goals, their number 11 continued to shine, and torture defenders and TFC have a man sent off.

 CW’s first goal, was a nice ball over the top, latched on to by number 9 the player who in the eyes of TFC was an offside, and he coolly side footed it past the Beard, 3– 1. One TFC player was booked for his fervorous remonstrating with the referee over his perceived missing of the offside player.

TFC have really been off the pace today, but their supporters have not, and once again from the other end of the pitch we hear “COME ON YOU DOCKERS!”

The game is all but over when a TFC player is given his marching orders for a 2nd yellow, and a 2nd half sub rounds the keeper after a lucky ricochet on the edge of the box, sees him one on one, and it’s a simple finish, and 3 points for CW.

I was aware as I said previously that the season had not been a great one, and CW had found themselves at the wrong end of the table, but from the delight on the fans and players faces alike, it was not until now I became aware of quite how significant the win today was. Hearing “we have done it” around us, I had to enquire what exactly had they “done”. It quickly unfolded that the win today was the 9th of an unbeaten run, winning every game, and today’s victory guaranteed they would stay in the division.

The remarkable work of former CW player and Tonbrige Angels Manager Tommy Warrilow, meant they had not lost a game since mid-March, lifting the team five points and four places clear of the dreaded drop zone, with a game to go. With a run like that, no wonder everyone was so happy!

As we walk past the end of the tunnel, the shouts from the home dressing room can be heard. Tom was kindly allowed on the pitch before kick-off, to take some pictures of the team coming out, we chance our arm and explain what we do, and ask if we can takes some pictures of the celebrations in the changing room.  He obliges, and leads us towards the noise.

We are met by people in various stages of undress, and celebration, and on seeing the camera this is multiplied 10 fold. For the 2nd time in two days, we are drenched with beer, champagne, water and God knows what else. The team bounce in front of us, with their arms around each other, one player struggles to get some music on, and another sits on the floor with a champagne bottle between his legs, spraying us.

We are offered a beer, and toast the team’s survival, or as one person said their “Great Escape”! The outpouring of joy, is mixed with relief, and the team in unison break in to “It couldn’t be done, they said it couldn’t be done!”

Two things are clear: One I will definitely have to get my jacket dry cleaned, but the second and more importantly the teams celebration are justified, after a quite remarkable turnaround, and to go 9 games unbeaten, and not dropping a single point, is no mean feat at any level, and the players and staff have every night to go nuts.

The only down side for CW, after talking to a fan in the car park after the game, the Manager is already on his way to another club, an end of season performance like that is impossible to keep under wraps. Some of the players, who I have heard described as Crays “Galacticos” who had a huge hand in the turnaround came with him, and as such there is a good chance they will be off with him again.  

CW’s Tom Bolarinwa was the stand out player and absolute joy to watch, and is hands down the best non-league player I have seen all season, I’m sure there must be countless teams chomping at the bit to get his signature.

I hope CW are able to build from this end of season magic next season and even if the manager and some players do leave, I hope they can hold on to some of that grit, belief and character, that kept them up. I hope it’s less, “Great Escape” next season and more “Field of Dreams”.

For more of our photographs from the match, click HERE

'LIKE' us on Facebook

 Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our YouTube channel


Follow us on Instagram - @beautifulgame15 - @beautifulgame15_ultra_stickers - @tomsparks3 #beautifulgame15

Sunday 26 April 2015

Bacon 15 - Haringey Borough FC Vs Bowers & Pitsea FC, Essex Senior League, Coles Park Stadium (18/04/15)

Today we are back to the now familiar surroundings of Coles Park Stadium, home of Haringey Borough FC (HB), it’s our 2nd visit this season, and the first time we have seen a team twice, but the prospect of second vs first, and a HB victory, guaranteeing the Essex Senior League title, and promotion, was too good to miss, only Bowers & Pitsea FC (BP) stand in their way.

There is a notably bigger crowd than our last visit, and this time I have to queue for a fine cup of tea from the café serving food and drink through an open double glazed window. With tea in hand we wander around the pitch in the warm sun, with a blue sky overhead, trying to avoid the BP players taking a piss in the shrubs around the pitch, and trying not to get smashed in the face as the BP players shoot at goal.

As we make our way to sit down, we bump into the smiling face of the Chairman Aki Achillea, who greats us warmly, just like last time, and thanks us for our write up on our last visit. He generously lets us pitch side, and the great opportunity to grab some pictures of the teams coming out.

A notable buzz fills the air, and some members of the team who are not playing today, have already taken up pitch side seats at the base of the main stand, the officials appear through the open double doors, and the captains of each team fill the space, almost shoulder to shoulder, one in the yellow and blue of Haringey, and the other in the red and white stripes of BP.

Aki told us last time that BP were the ones to watch on the run for promotion, so it’s ironic that the team they can win the title against is them, and the next 90 minutes might just be some of the most action packed, drama filled of any game I have ever seen live.

We hurry up the stairs at the side of the main stand, and there are a lot more bums occupying the green plastic seats, than last time, but we position ourselves on the back row, Aki takes up his vantage point next to us, leaning on the yellow corrugated metal wall of the stand, the HB team huddle and off we go.

Straight from kick off there is a great atmosphere, someone has cracked out the horn, but Aki is still the loudest shouting “COME ON BOROUGH”.

The first ten minutes is stop and start as tackles are flying in, it’s clear the occasion is not lost on either team a victory for BP can keep them in the title race. 15 minutes in and things for a brief moment seem to be going to plan, as HB score, only for it to be chalked off for offside. Unfortunately not long after, the plan seems to go out of the window, as a BP player is rashly charged in the box, goes over and the referee points to the spot.

Up steps the BP player to take the penalty, and in the goal stands Ashley Harris, the BP penalty is low and to his right, he is down quickly, gets a strong hand to it, and pushes it wide, he is up again and as quick as a flash dives on the ball and denies any further threat. A huge cheer from the crowd, and they break out into “England number 1, England, England number 1”, Ash holds up his hand towards the stand in acknowledgement.

After the heroics of the HB keeper, and his save helping keep the plan on track, the plan is now once again out of the window, as a corner from the left is converted and BP go ahead, 1–0, a poked finish into the roof of the net past a helpless keeper. The goal in the eyes of HB is shrouded in controversy, and it would seem the ref did not blow his whistle for the BP player to take the corner, and it caught HB unawares and out of position. The whole team are in shock and remonstrate with the referee, Aki offers the best advice to the players still talking to the referee “Ref fucked up, get on with it!”

HB are out of sorts, rattled and perhaps the occasion is getting to them, and are 2nd to every ball, Ash bellows at his defence, and there are a few moments of tension, as the team remonstrate with each other. Aki has left his station next to us, and is giving our ear drums a rest, as he moves pitch side, where he can still be heard, “Football Boro”

A few chances come HB’s way, their pace on the counter gets them in a good position only for a last ditch BP tackle, a ball over the top results in a one on one with the keeper, the clearance falls to a HB player outside of the box, and if composed could have been side footed into a gaping goal, only to shank the shot a fair way wide.

There is a long stoppage in play as the BP keeper is injured, he is carried off the field to applause and is replaced.

The half finishes with HB a goal behind and the party atmosphere in the stand is much muted. The BP physio calls up to someone in the crowd asking after the injured keeper, “think it’s his foot, not sure might need an x-ray”

“Pick up Boro” “Come on Boro” are shouts from the stand as the teams make their way back to the changing room. BP have looked a lot more composed, HB have looked a bit of a mess.

Some chips all of a sudden are calling us, and as we stand in the queue we hear Aki say to someone, “bit of an anti-climax”. The increased numbers in the crowd, mean the café is struggling a little, and we only get back to our seat just before the whistle for the 2nd half. A sign of just how friendly a club HB are Director George Kilikita is acting as delivery man, and is dropping off peoples orders of food, so they do not miss a minute of the match, and what a 45 minutes that is about to unfurl.

HB come out a much better side, and 10 minutes in to the match get an equalizer, a free kick from number 10 Dean Fenton, on the edge of the box, is hammered in, low and direct past the BP keeper. Aki is celebrating like a mad man in the car park behind the goal, and the fans with him sing “we’re the carpark, we’re the carpark, we’re the car park Haringey”

HB are on top now, but the tension is clear as Aki rocks from foot to foot behind the goal, John Bacon the club secretary walks along the front of the stand doing a head count.

The last 15 minutes of football are some of the most nail biting, I have ever experienced, it is one thing watching a tense game at home on the sofa, but seeing it with your own eyes is something else.
HB go from cruising to despair, once again a rash tackle from behind on a BP player, results in the second penalty of the game. Ash’s attempts to put the BP player off, as he perhaps had done on the first penalty, by jumping and banging the cross bar, has no effect as he is sent the wrong way and BP score, their first shot of the half, puts them ahead 2–1.

HB are making this hard for themselves, and look rattled and disjointed again, only a bit of luck and a piece of brilliance can save the day.

On 87 minutes a HB corner from the right, perhaps with the help of the wind, evades everyone in the box, falls at the foot of the post, and perhaps though a combination of the bounce and the BP defenders, finds itself in the back of the net. This sends Aki in to a dance/dash of ecstasy around the car park, the horn is blaring again, and just how they left it late on our last visit, and just how Aki had told me last time they had been doing it most of the season, this was going down to the wire, 2–2.

The result of the last time we visited was a late, late goal from Leroy “The Finger” Griffiths, that clinched the win, and resulted in him, not adopting his well-known celebration which gives him is nickname, but instead roaring like a lion, removing his shirt and flexing his muscles.

This time though a simple back post header was not enough, instead a goal in the the style of Charlie Adams or Wayne Rooney, in added time, a half volley from just inside the BP area, from almost on the touchline, literally right below me I have a birds eye view from my new position up against the railing of the stand, this shot flies like a rocket, bird or Superman up and over the back pedalling BP keeper, 3 -2.

The few moments that follow are of pure joy, excitement and amazement, and the people in the crowd are pinching themselves at what they have just seen, has that goal, that wonder goal, Puskas goal of the year contender just won the title?

A flash of yellow and blue flies into the corner of the field, the Referee almost like a policeman at a riot, is telling the subs and staff not to join the celebration.

Once “The Finger” emerges from the bottom of the blue and yellow pile, he blows kisses to the crowd like an Opera singer after a performance, and makes his way back into his half.

HB are moments away from the title but very nearly throw it away, when BP hit the cross bar from a header, and a fine fingertip save from Ash in goal, tips over the last BP chance of the game.

I rush from the stand, to stand pitch side, hoping to catch the moments of celebration on film. The referee keeps saying 1 minute, for what feels like 5 minutes, but he finally puts the whistle to his lips, gives 3 blasts, and HB have won the Essex Senior League and promotion.

The crowd on the edge of the pitch surge towards the team already celebrating on the field, the horn in the stand has gone into overdrive, and the crowd offers the team a standing ovation. The players joy is only occasionally interrupted by shaking hands with players from a clearly dejected BP side.
From behind me Aki appears shrieking and running like a giddy school boy towards the players, and I follow, admittedly not nearly as quickly.

Players rip off their shirts and throw them in the air, embrace and high five each other. Water bottles are squirted in celebration, as the team jumps in a huddle together, singing in unison, “Champione, Champione, Ole, Ole, Ole”, something fizzy appears in someone’s hand and is quickly covering everyone in sight.

The team makes its way back across the pitch, and someone has made a visit to the bar and douses the team in bubbles. A man in a dark suit, holding the League Trophy appears from the stand, and the captain approaches him, the rest of the squad hold back “ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, he lifts it high above his head, “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH”

“Champione, Champione, Ole, Ole, Ole”

Camera phones and cameras are flashing all around as players and staff, take turns to pose with the spoils of their season.

The team toss the manager, Tom Loizou in the air, and then its Aki’s turn. The bar has now been raided and green bottles of bubbles appear and are popped in the air like at the end of a Grand Prix, Aki holding the cup, is drowned in it, head down it pours down his face, the cold taking his breath way.

Emeli Sande the singer, who was sitting in front of us the whole game, is presented with a shirt with her name on by Aki and the Manger, and is grinning from ear to ear and looks chuffed.

I get swept up the in the crowd, as it makes its way to the changing room, and am lucky enough to be in there, as the celebrations continue. More bubbles and water shower the room, and the whole team is singing along to a song playing on the boom box. I’m drenched along with everyone and everything else, as the team bang on the walls, and a player in the shower is shooting water from a hose.

In unison the whole room sings, “we are going up, say we are going up”
Stinking of booze and wet through, I make my way to the bar for a drink and the chance to dry off. David Bauckham @CentreCirclePub, joins us at our table, also needing to dry off, and clean his glasses. His cameras are a lot nicer than mine, and were in peril in that changing room.

George who was selling the tickets on the gate on our first game here, is now offering sandwiches on a platter to the few people sitting in the bar.

Final business of the day is for Aki to present the Club Secretary John Bacon, with a club shirt with “Bacon 15” on the back. A long servant of the club and a fan since 1953, when they were called Wood Green Town, Aki sings his praises, and applauds the invaluable part of the HB machine he is. Even National Service and moving out of the area, couldn’t stop him supporting the team. I think a quote from a 2011 interview he did with a local paper, will resonate with most if not all people who love non-league football:

““I just happened to be passing the ground one day and I had a look in, and I immediately liked it. I loved that feeling of being part of something, being able to walk right up to the barriers, and chase the ball when it went for a throw-in. It was a totally different atmosphere to what I’d experienced at professional games at places like Tottenham and Arsenal”

He is very bashful and is totally unwilling to receive the accolades, bestowed upon him, and is clearly a stalwart and a much loved figure head at the club.

As we leave the trophy is still doing the rounds, and the camera phones are still clicking away. Aki announces to the team that, he is going to take them out “I mean out, out” to celebrate, which is loudly appreciated by the room.

What a fantastic day, and it could not happen to a nicer bunch, from the women behind the bar, the man making the great tea, the grounds man, players, John Bacon, George Kilikita and Aki. In Aki they have a shrewd Chairman who has the clubs interests at heart that was clear by his celebrations today. Last year they missed out on promotion by 2 points, so this year it feels that little bit better. I was told improvements to the ground will be underway shortly, including a 3G pitch. A fantastic investment at this level, not only for the first team’s ability to play all year round, but also the revenue the club would make from hiring it out.

We can’t wait for the fixture list for 2015 -16 to be released, because I will be at their first home game, in the new league, with bells on, COME ON BORO!

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

'LIKE' us on Facebook

 Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our YouTube channel


Follow us on Instagram - @beautifulgame15 - @beautifulgame15_ultra_stickers - @tomsparks3 #beautifulgame15

Wednesday 22 April 2015

The Other List: Part Two - Grays Athletic FC Vs Hendon FC, Ryman League Cup Final 2015, Church Road (15/04/15)

You can read, The Other List: Part One - HERE

The teams line up, and shake hands with the dignitaries and officials, as is customary on Cup Final Day. The teams then shake each other’s hands, HFC line up for a team photo, and GA leap, sprint and bound away.

The early signs are good for GA, Mark was correct and they do have the lion’s share of possession. Two early corners, and fast counter attacks, but GA are on the front foot from the get go. The GA fans are also doing well, and making plenty of noise "Can you hear the Hendon sing, we can’t hear a fucking thing!"

HFC manager is very loud, and is constantly barking instructions from pitch side to his team and this results in the GA fans shouting "Shhhhhhhhh!"

Two GA players warm up in front of us, one of them is an under 21 player, whose recent good goal scoring form since his return, earned him a call up to the final squad, the GA fans affectionately sing "He's 7 foot tall, he's 7 foot tall", he smiles and raises his hand. Not long after there is a huge shout for a HFC penalty turned down, the other GA player warming up in front of us, looks at us with an assured face which screams "that was definitely a penalty"

The turned down penalty sparks HFC into life, and they have GA pegged back. It also sparks the HFC fans into life, and from the main stand, draped in flags, they begin to sing.
It looks like going into the break all square, only for the game to come alive with 3 goals in about 5 minutes. Unfortunately GA’s dominance in possession, is let down by their inability to get a shot away when it matters, and HFC get the first goal. What seems like a reasonable simple shot, from my position behind the bench, is fumbled by the keeper, pops from his grasp, 1-0. The HFC fans break out into chants of "Dodgy keeper, dodgy keeper". From their position on the touch line Glen Little says, "still lots of time"
Almost bang on half time HFC take a further lead, two goals in quick succession. A case perhaps, of GA still dwelling on the first goal and not really having their heads back in the game. Mark claps his hands, rooted to the touch line and shouts "come on guys", and they respond well, because almost from kick off GA grab a goal back. A ball chipped into the box, is latched on to by the number 10, who has looked the best GA player of the game so far, and side foots it past the keeper. David is up from his seat in the dugout and lets the team know what he thinks "that’s how easy it is, you’re making them look good", he turns to the bench with a grin, and the bench all snigger. Glen Little continues to talk to the team and when the board goes up with 1 minute extra time, he points to it, and instructs the players to "play it out, let’s get in", Mark adds a similar sentiment "see it out, slow it down".
The mood in the changing room has changed vastly in the space of 45 minutes. Once again the players squeeze on to the benches, and Mark & Glen discuss the 1st half’s performance, and admit they have been surprised that HFC "have come to play", expecting them to sit back more than they have. The point that was made before the teams went out, that they are not taking their chances when they come is reiterated by Mark, "it’s our decision making that's letting us down", but he reassures them, "chances will come, you have to believe"
Glen as you might expect is to the point, "they have been the best, we haven’t!", and “don’t be scared to get shots off". He does his best to reinvigorate the team for the 2nd half, "it’s a heavy weight clash, but come on guys it’s a Cup Final!"
The players seem low, heads are down and its quiet tense. The players do their best to respond to the management, "come on guys", "big 45, no fucking regrets" but its muted and lacking any real gusto. David wants them to keep their heads up, "let’s keep positive" and as the bell goes in the dressing room, the players get to their feet, the clicking of their studs on the floor, and Mark has the final word, "enough fucking talking!"
GA has taken on board all the advice they were given at half time, and come out the second half flying, and its wave after wave of attack, and HFC have no reply. The full back on the left is constantly finding room, and delivering fantastic crosses, one after another in to the box. The players are shooting on sight, only for the HFC defenders, like an immovable object, to block everything that comes their way.
GA fans are still making the most noise, and have swapped ends at half time with HFC, and now occupy the large covered stand at one end of the pitch, "CAN YOU HEAR THE HENDON SING?", "you got more flags than fans, you forgot to bring your mates!" Tom is pitch side, taking pics and I'm on the other side of the fence being dive bombed by midges.

HFC get their first real chance of the game after 25 minutes, and GA are slowly falling back into bad habits, getting in great positions, but not shooting, and they are once again punished for not taking them, when HFC go further ahead with a screamer from outside the box, across the keeper from the left. The few HFC fans are quick to goad the noisy GA fans at the other end of the pitch, "you’re not singing anymore"
GA almost perform the same trick from the first half, and grab a goal back almost instantly, but the chip over the keeper hits the bar. The fall back on the left, number 2 is having a fantastic half, his delivery is pin point, and he has a curling shot from outside the box, but a fingertip save forces it over. They are throwing everything at HFC, the keeper is having a great night and in combination with the bus sized centre backs, they are unpassable, like Gandalf himself says "YOU SHALL NOT PASS".
The one time Gandalf’s defence is broken, is because of great work on the left, the player gets right along the by-line, cuts it back and tees up his player, but manages to miss, I'm still not sure how he missed, and neither was he, as he lies face down on the pitch exasperated.
Marks last throw of the dice is to bring Glen Little on to perhaps marshal a remarkable come back, and the young Under 21 player to hopefully bring some of his form and threat up front.
Five minutes in red goes up, to show the extra time, and GA are going to make them a frantic five, after grabbing back a late goal, a header from one of their excellent corners.
The last five minutes, are sadly for GA just like the 45 before them, and the ball just won’t go in, and when the whistle goes, it’s not their day, and HFC will lift the cup, 3-2.
League officials are quick to bring a small table on to the pitch, along with the cup to present to the winners. HFC celebrate and GA slowly makes their way towards where they will shortly have to pick up their runners up medals. The players and staff are clearly gutted, based on the possession and the chances they had in the 2nd half, a loss is very cruel. Some players sit on the floor, and I'm sure the last thing they want is to pick up the medals, probably all they want to do is get changed and go home, all this waiting leaves too much time to think over the last 90 minutes, and I'm sure they’re starting to pick apart what they could of done differently and start the self-critique.
Mark talks to the team, "we got to lift ourselves, lift your heads and we go again"! Although tonight will feel like a huge blow, there is still something to play for in the league, and they can’t let this result ruin that.
They line up, and receive their medals, the GA fans now line the edge of the pitch, and applaud their team in the same great fashion they have the whole match, a real credit to their club.
I'm alone in the changing room Tom is outside taking pictures of the victors. The mood is at an all-time low, and I feel like it’s inappropriate for me to be there, I feel like I'm gawping at someone’s tragedy or downfall. Mark speaks in this calm tone, but with a bit more anger or aggression than he has shown before "don’t let our season fizzle out", and in reference to the game against HFC in 3 day’s time, "they are fucking beatable". As if to rub it in, a huge cheer comes through the wall from the HFC changing room. One player breaks the silence, "sorry guys that was a bad miss!"
Once again I leave the team to get changed, and sit in the now empty stand. The flood lights are turned off and plunge the ground into darkness, it’s still a lovely warm evening, and I go in search of Tom. The HLC manager is posing with their fans, taking pictures with the cup, HFC players are doing interviews to camera, and once I find Tom, it’s time for us to leave, so we make our way to thank everyone and make our way back home.
David has changed back into his shirt and tie, and with his kit bag in hand we bump into him leaving the changing room. We thank him for the fantastic opportunity, and say how sorry we are they did not get the result, his response is quite pragmatic, "well that’s football", I ask how the team are, "they are particularly down, because they know how well they played. One shot in the half, and they score a peach".
Tom mentioned he saw Andy in his much hated suit, making his way to the board room, Glen is now doing a piece to camera in the car park, HFC players are tucking in to the complementary after match meal.
We walk down a long, dark road, lined with coaches, discussing the day’s events, and really having to pinch ourselves, that what just happened, actually happened.

Thank you so much to David Raven, Mark Bentley, Andy Swallow & everyone at Grays Athletic FC

For all of our photographs from match, click HERE

You can read, The Other List: Part One - HERE

'LIKE' us on Facebook

 Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our YouTube channel


Follow us on Instagram - @beautifulgame15 - @beautifulgame15_ultra_stickers - @tomsparks3 #beautifulgame15

Sunday 19 April 2015

The Other List: Part One - Grays Athletic FC Vs Hendon FC, Ryman League Cup Final 2015, Church Road (15/04/15)

You can read, The Other List: Part Two - HERE


Today starts a long time before kick-off, on the hottest day of the year so far in the beer garden of the Holiday Inn, Brentwood, Essex, nervously waiting for the arrival of Grays Athletic FC (GA). Today is a first for us and a unique and exciting experience in prospect in our short time as football bloggers. Thanks to David Raven, first team coach of GA, they have kindly agreed to let us shadow the team on the day of the Ryman League Cup Final against Hendon FC (HFC).

We have arranged to meet up with the team  in Brentwood, and travel down to Croydon, South London, for their pre match meal, meet up with the rest of the team, and then on to Whyteleafe FC, Church Road, the venue of the final.

The both of us really don’t know what to expect, and discuss the possible reaction and response we might get will they feel we are intruding on their big day?

It gets close to 3 o’clock, the time we have arranged to meet them and we make our way in to the lobby of the hotel. A group of 3 or 4 sit around a table, making a bit of noise surrounded by kit bags, and stand out compared to the men in suits using the hotels conference rooms. One player, slightly older than the rest holds court talking football as the other younger players listen attentively.
It’s not long before a well-dressed man in a white shirt and cufflinks approaches us and introduces himself in his thick scouse accent, its David Raven. All of a sudden everything feels very real, and the feelings of nervousness turn into excitement.

The group of 3 or 4 has grown, and they are now making a fair bit of noise. David calls for their attention and introduces us, and explains what we are here to do. I have to thank them on our behalf, I tell them we hope to not get in the way, and if we do to tell us to fuck off, and they laugh and this breaks the ice a little.

The noise level rises again, and they set about chatting amongst themselves. Tom sets off to grab some pictures, and I discuss the day ahead with David. Not the whole team are here in fact some are still at work, including the club captain and goal keeper, who we will be meeting up with later in Croydon.

David points out a few of the players, and the club owner Andy Swallow, who has recently arrived, and his son Danny Swallow, who is an under 21 player, Vice Chairman and who has just started his professional boxing career. He though has a soft cast on his food, and so won’t be playing today. The older player is in fact Glen Little, who will be a familiar name to fans of Reading, Burnley and Portsmouth. Glen has recently joined the club, and David explains his experience is invaluable, especially with the younger players, who David says he is fantastic at lifting up, not in an arm around the shoulder way, but in a “kick us up the arse” kind of way.

I ask David about the clubs best attributes on the pitch, and he is quick to reply with it’s their “spirit and great team character”, that has gone a long way towards their recent 12 game unbeaten run, which was only ended the previous weekend, by league leaders Maidstone FC.  The fact they played on AstroTurf in their previous match, as they will tonight, he thinks will give them a slight advantage.  He does say that this is the quietest he has ever seen them and that they would be lying if they said there was not a little bit of apprehension and nerves ahead of the final.

Their opponents HFC are in great form and sit 2nd in the league, they are an older and more experienced team, well organised and who have goals all throughout the team. The league meeting between the two clubs ended with a Hendon 3–2 victory, and in fact the whole fixture will be replayed a few days later, as the next league fixture pitches them both at it again.

A large white coach has pulled up in the car park outside the hotel, just like the one you would go on school trips in, and slightly behind schedule, everyone files outside, puts their bags in the hold and boards the coach. The team make their way to the back, the owner and other club officials sit at the front, and we sit in the middle.

The players quickly relax, either heads down looking at their phones, or talking about the previous night’s action in the Champions League. Glen Little once again, holds the attention of those around him, discussing the ins and outs of player’s performances in the games, as well as discussing his own experiences playing for Portsmouth in Europe. He talks enthusiastically about visiting Braga’s mountain side stadium, and having to take a lift to the pitch, as well as the time they played the AC Milan side with the potent attacking force of Inzaghi and Shevchenko.

There is a blog or even a book in Glen Little, as like many of the players listening to his anecdotes, I could of happily sat and listened all day as he spoke about his time under Harry Redknapp, Tony Adams take over at Portsmouth and playing at the Emirates against Arsenal to recall only a few of the stories I overheard on the coach. He seems to have an encyclopaedic memory over every line up he has played in, against, every goal scored in his 500 plus game career.

Another real character and someone else who could write a blog or book about is the clubs owner, Andy Swallow who comes and sits with us. By his own admission he is not one for social media, and although David had run us coming along with him, I think he wants to suss out what we are about and what we are here to do.

Andy has owned the club for the last 7 years, after taking it over from a friend, in the team’s last year of the conference. His ownership has been a far from quiet one, as after relegation from the conference, the club in fact had no league football, and what followed was a protracted case with the FA about what level the team would join. He says he understands now why his friend wanted to sell up, and move on from the headaches and expense of owning a football team.

Andy is a West Ham fan, the large tattoo on his forearm, and East London accent makes that clear. He has a long history of being involved with football in the east of the capital, after running a youth academy in Loughton and playing under Frank Lampard in the pub team owned by Lampard Senior and Harry Redknapp.

In the search for a new ground for GA, they have currently not played in the borough for 6 years, he had a run in with the club he supports, after buying and renovating a West Ham training ground purchased by the Icelandic consortium that once owned West Ham, and he says the current owners Sullivan & Gold without even realising they owned, renovated it, only for them to kick him out without even playing a game there.

With a smile on his face he nods in the direction of the current first team manager, and tells us how his own managerial style has rubbed off on him. Andy was manager the previous season, won his first five games, got them out of relegation and got them through 25 games in 66 days!

As we cross the Dartford Bridge he tells us he also has fallen out of love, and doesn’t go to see West Ham all that often anymore, what was once a proud community club, has lost what it used to stand for in these days of big money, top flight football.

Not long after Andy sits down the first team manager also comes and introduces himself, Mark Bentley. His name may be familiar to many, and his recent exploits in a game for GA got him nationwide recognition and a YouTube video with over a half a million views. Through my own dim-wittedness however, it was not until he mentioned it, that I put two and two together, and recognised the man whose football story had brought a huge grin to my face, like so many others.

In a recent match against Hampton & Richmond Borough, with his team 2-1 down, the player/manager subs himself on to play in defence, shortly after he scores a goal from a corner, to equalize, but the story does not end there! After the GA keeper goes off with an injury and without any replacements, Mark puts himself in goal, and ends up saving a penalty. GA then goes on to win the game 3-2, and a non-league legend is born!

Mark, who works as a coach at Enfield College for his day job is very friendly and happy to chat with us, only to be interrupted by his phone ringing, as players traveling on their own ask for directions, or in the case of one player, who has turned up in Brentwood an hour late.

He is confident of a victory. He knows HFC as a team are solid, and experienced, but not very mobile and as quick as his, and he feels they will dominate possession. When I ask if he knows his team line up, he says he does except for one player who needs a fitness test but who he thinks will be alright.
The team have played 5 games to get to the final, and much like the League Cup in the professional leagues, the competition is used to blood young players, and give others a rest, until all of a sudden you get to the quarters and it looks like you are in with a shout of winning it.

Andy and Mark both say it’s hard to keep Saturday’s game against HFC out of your mind, and Andy even says he would take a win on Saturday over today, as it would mean going into the last game of the season with a promotion place, still to fight for. Mark says at this time of the season, every game is a “Cup Final”.

During this whole time Glen Little has not stopped, at one point Andy turns around points at him, and jokingly pretends to fall asleep.

We arrive at the Hampton Hilton a bit later than planned, I think we had got a bit lost. The remaining players are standing outside, most of them in blue GA tops. The team are welcomed by the staff at the hotel, and we make our way to a private dining hall past a sign saying, “Grays Athletic FC, private dinner”

The players are quick to fill their plates and tuck in, we nip to the bar for a pint, and are kindly invited to help ourselves to the buffet. Mark walks past our table, and laughs “they’re on the beers”. We make our way to the protein & carb buffet, of chicken, eggs, and pasta. I ask one player who is helping himself, how much they normally eat before a game, and he says they never usually get a pre-match meal and he was starving, and filling up.

The dining hall is filled with the noise of knives and forks on plates, and little else. Some players are going up for round two and three as we sit down, one player hammers through two yogurts in quick succession. As soon as they had started, they are finished again, one player reclines on the leather seats, and the familiar noise of them talking fills the room, Andy has two napkins in his ears, and Glen Little is still going, as he regales his team mates with more stories from his career.

The meal is simply a pit stop, a chance for the players to fuel up for the match ahead, and there is no time for ceremony. We are in and out pretty sharpish, as we pull away from the hotel David says “No time for snoozing now lads!”

We are running late, and the rush hour traffic is not helping. There seems to be a few frantic phone calls, as the club officials have to be at a match briefing at 18:00, and it’s almost that now. After a check with the driver, and a look at the Sat Nav, David once again announces to the coach, “10 minutes lads”.

On arrival at Church Road, the home of Whyteleafe, we are met off the bus by the clubs Vice Chairman. The club sits at the bottom of a valley, surrounded by hills, in a very pleasant, green and leafy part of Surrey.  An elderly lady sits on a white plastic chair selling programmes, and there are a few GA fans there to meet the players from the bus, and call out their names.

The players and staff grab their kit from the coach and queue up at the “player’s entrance” to have
their names ticked off the list, by the security in a high vis jacket. We hang back, and Keith says under his breath, “Its ok lads, you’re with me”. He explains that we are with the club, pointing to Tom, and explains he is the photographer. The security guard looks at the paper on his clip board, and as if he was a Jedi Master, Andy says to him “they are on the other list”. Hypnotised by his East London charm, this seems to be enough for the man in bright yellow, and we are in.
The players all pile in to the “Home” dressing room. Once everyone is in, there is not enough room to swing a cat, the players put down their bags, and are ushered out, as now it’s time for the kit man to do his job and with the help of Keith and his Son they tear into the brand new match day kit. Andy has had Cup Final shirts made up, brilliant white, with the date, opponents and occasion embroidered under the clubs badge in gold, he hands one out to all the staff as a memento of the day.

A kit man’s job is not an easy one as some players own superstitions make even putting out the socks a challenge. Nike socks have an L and R on each pair, one player’s own kink means he has to have an L and R, and if he doesn’t will go in search of one, until he finds one. He also produces a box of sweets that would make Willy Wonker jealous, and says we better take one now, before the players get to them. The special occasions also means the players can cut the socks, as some prefer to wear their own, and just the long ones above the ankle, a usual no, no but given the ok by Andy.

The players cram themselves on the benches in the changing room, they all seem delighted at the brand new kit, and are happy to find out they will also be able to keep their cup final shirts as well.
Mark takes the centre of the room and talks to the players about the game ahead, the importance of taking their chances when they come to them, something he says they have been guilty of not doing all season. He emphasises that their pace, against the HFC defence will cause them significant problems, and they should all be buzzing, it’s a cup final, and they deserve to be here, they deserve some silverware, they have to go out and match their work rate, and their quality will shine through.
We make an exit to allow the players to change in peace, and go in search of a much needed pint. 

It's a short walk out of the stadium, to the clubhouse, which by now has a considerable number of fans outside, predominantly in the blue of GA, enjoying the warm evening. The bar is just as warm inside, and has all the noise and bustle one would expect.

Drink in hand, we head back into the ground and GA have finished changing and are now on the pitch warming up. David has changed from his shirt and tie, into black shorts, blue socks and a white t shirt and is laying out cones.

Mark and Glen Little run the players though their drills, not surprisingly he is the loudest one out there and leads by example, showing the rest of the team what to do next. We stand behind the goal, somewhat guiltily drinking a pint, as they sweat in the still warm sun.

Some players warm up the keeper, and their own boots with shooting practise, some have not quite got their eye in yet and send the balls crashing into the corrugated back wall of the main stand, one balls takes a ricochet, bounces up the air to shouts of “heads” and drops down plumb on the top of a passing man’s head, somewhat unfazed by it, he just grins and carries on.

It’s not long until kick off now, so the players make their way off and up the small flight of stairs at one corner of the ground, up to the changing rooms next to the main stand, overlooking the pitch. The GA fans clap their team off, and once inside the changing room, the strong smell of Deep Heat is somewhat over whelming, players tuck in to the massive box of sweets, the music is turned down, and it’s time for the Manager to do his bit.

Mark  seems a cool calm and collected type, as Andy had said to me earlier in the day, “there are only so many Churchillian speeches you can give” and Mark’s style, seems very much about explaining plainly and concisely, what he expects of them and what they need to do to win. He discusses the few changes that HT have made, and how they might affect their starting formation.

Glen Little also talks to the team, standing alongside Mark “Hit that target”, “It’s just another game”, “A great opportunity to show them how good we are”, “lovely night for football”.

The music is turned up again, and Eminem comes blasting out, players clap their hands, and offer their own words of encouragement to the team. All of a sudden a bell above my head rings, its game time!!

The door to the changing room opens, and they jostle out, we hang back and as Glen Little passes us, he give me a first pump and Andy shakes our hands, and says “Come on”.

Both teams line the stairs to the pitch and as the officials lead them on, a roar is let out by the fans, there seems to be a lot more blue, than green and white, and we are moments from kick off.


For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

You can read, The Other List: Part Two - HERE

'LIKE' us on Facebook

 Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our YouTube channel


Follow us on Instagram - @beautifulgame15 - @beautifulgame15_ultra_stickers - @tomsparks3 #beautifulgame15

Saturday 11 April 2015

Beware Of The Hedgehog - Hitchin Town FC Vs Cambridge City FC, Evo-Stik Southern Premier League, Top Field (06/04/15)

25 minutes from Finsbury Park station, north of London and a trip through Hertfordshire countryside is Hitchin, the home of Hitchin Town FC and the match of choice on this Easter Bank Holiday Monday. Spring has officially sprung, with blue skies, mild and a complete turnaround from the usual weather that has accompanied us on our travels so far this year. The idea of an Easter Monday jaunt out of London was very appealing.

The ground, Top Field, is only about 15–20minutes walk from the station, and on route about half way, like a stop for a stagecoach, was the Victoria pub which came highly recommended, thank you @ltfcstew  

The perfect weather for a spot of lunch and a pint in the pub garden, but also for a match, so off we set again along the short walk to the ground.

Top Field was not instantly apparent from the road, only after glimpsing through a hedge and seeing the large green and yellow sign, “HITCHIN TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB” did we know we had arrived. Below the sign was the Canary club, and outside a reasonable crowd, were milling around a few tables, getting the most of the sun, and getting in a pre-match drink. “Jackie and Ian welcome you to the Canary club” hangs on the wall as you enter the club house, serving drinks, with a pool table and the walls adorned with clubs shirts and other memorabilia. If you do make a visit to the Top Field and the Canary Club make sure to get you drink in a plastic cup, but as we have learnt, you are treated like an adult at this level of football and you will be able to take your drink into the ground.

Our pit stop at the pub meant we arrived at the ground with only about 10 minutes to spare, so plastic cups in hand we paid the man on the turnstile £10 each, and made our way in. What greets you on the other side is what I would describe as a chocolate box ground. Imagine the archetypal ground of days gone by and that is Top Field to a tee. Let me be clear, this is in no way a criticism or me being condescending, if anything it’s an endorsement and delight at visiting a ground like this.

Surrounded by tall bare trees, new build houses and a Shell Garage, the main stand is single story, with green corrugated metal and red, green and yellow plastic seats, the rest is a real mixture. At one end is a large all standing, uncovered concrete terrace, with green and yellow railings in the clubs colours. It’s like a part of the Kop, has been air lifted and dropped in the middle of Hertfordshire, they have forgotten the roof, and it’s not really in keeping with the rest of the ground.

The other two sides of the ground are surrounded by a mixture of covered and uncovered all wooden terraces, unlike anything we have seen before, and they are already considerably occupied, as we enter the ground, and the football time warp continues as an old woman sits on the terrace with an old handheld FM radio to her ear listening to music.

The programs, my own little football obsession, are sold by a man with glasses, in a club fleece out of a converted shed, near the main entrance to the ground. £2 later, I have another one for the collection.

We take our seats on the covered terrace behind the dug outs. The best views have been taken by the people in the know, who stand and line the back of the terrace, giving them the best view of the pitch, the dug outs, with pitch roofs, obscure our view a little, but it’s not a huge issue, and will be more than worth it once the home manager takes up position.

Some of the substitutes sign autographs for kids in front of us, as the teams emerge from the centre of the main stand, Hitchin Town FC (HT) in green and yellow, and their opponents for today, in what has been described to me as a “localish” derby, Cambridge City FC (CC), play in all sky blue, and their keeper is in a smashing shade of pink. They all shake hands, huddle and get the game underway.

The first half had little in the way of any drama or incident, and HT go in front after a very scrappy and shaky start for both sides. A nice through ball from the right, is latched on to by the HT attacker and he scores easily passing the CC keeper, 1–0 after 8 minutes.

The CC fans, had taken up position on the giant concrete steps, had hung their flags, and were less than delighted with the referee, or his staff from the get go, or for any part of the game in fact, and were more than happy to share their opinions. At one point one of them bellowed out, after his apparent objection to his decision making, “Pull your finger out your back side lino!”

The home manager, rooted to his position on the edge of his box, in tracksuit, blue socks and boots, was giving play by play instruction to the team, and turning to the bench every so often to mutter under his breath, if perhaps his well made and loudly delivered plans, had not been executed to his liking. He had the feel of someone ready to rip off his, tracksuit, sub himself on and, show them how it’s done. His constant encouragement to the home number 9, “Digger”, unfortunately did not result in any more goals for HT, and CC where unable to score either, so the half finished 1–0.

As everyone made their way to either the Canary club for a drink or the food stand for some chips or a cup of tea, and as the fans behind each goal performed what is quickly becoming my favourite quirk of “non League” football, and swapped ends, I made my way to the club office, a green and yellow porta cabin, with a plaque on the door saying “Beware of the hedgehog”.

The club office was, part book shop, with bulging shelves of football related books, and programs from all over the country for sale. The men staffing it were more than happy to indulge my lack of knowledge of the club, and gave me a quick rundown of the clubs history and of football in Hitchin. The club and area are currently celebrating 150 years of football in Hitchin, with Hitchin FC, one of the first clubs in the town, had entered the first FA Cup, back in 1865.

HT as they are today, were formed in 1928, and have played at Top Field ever since, and one of the history buffs, laughed “that things have not changed much since”. The walls of the office had pictures, shirts, pennants and highlights of the clubs history, like a poster of a summer tour to Holland in 1962/63. They both pointed to a picture of the 1960–61 HT team, and said it was perhaps their finest ever , making it to the FA Amateur Cup, what we would now call the FA Trophy, semi finals.

For the second half, we take up a new position near the CC fans, behind the goal they are attacking, and the game gets underway, with a bonfire in a neighbouring garden filling the air with the smell of smoke and a slight haze in the air. It’s not long until HT are 2–0 up, a free kick on the left of the CC box, finds the HT player unmarked, and a free header to score their second of the day. CC really are offering very little going forward. Their attempt to rectify this, is to bring on a unit of a centre forward, whose name causes the stadium announcer untold problems.

When HT do get forward, the CC keeper pulls off some great saves, most notably a one handed scoop off the goal line, to even give CC a chance to stay in the game, but from their performance so far, and even with their fans shouting “attack, attack, attack”, they look very unlike scoring.

The HT keeper has so little to do in the 2nd half, that at one point he does kick ups from a pass back, much to the annoyance of the CC fans behind the goal, and much to their amusement, his next pass back and kick, is shanked up in the air, and results in laughter, cat calls and “Woooooo” from the CC following. Their opinion is that the referee is ignoring the HT time wasting, and thus lets him in for more and more grief.

In the last 5 minutes the game sparks in to life, and CC grab a goal back. A cross from the right is controlled by the CC player, with a combination of upper thigh and stomach, and his next touch is a soft looping shot, that goes in over the out stretched arm of the keeper, 2–1.

The remaining five or so minutes of the game it’s, all CC trying to get the equalizer. A good tempered game flares up in the final moments, after some heavy handed marking in the box at a free kick, results in a bit of argy bargee, which the referee quickly snuffs out. Its backs to the wall for HT, as CC all of a sudden look like they can grab a goal. A late shout for a penalty for CC is declined, and HT get the win, just!

Top Field empties relatively quick, perhaps people keen to get back to the Canary club for a few more drinks in the sun, until it disappears, until no one knows. We wander over to the main stand, and as the players walk off, a few local kids grab a few autographs from the players.

It’s been a lovely day in the sun, watching the football and enjoying a really great little ground. It really does have a fantastic feel about it, like a real piece of footballing history, full of character and certain kind of charm, something totally lacking in so many grounds.  With attendance of over 500 this is again a well supported community club, with lots of kids and families, and as the club shirt says “Football for the future”.

When looking at things to do in Hitchin, one naturally hops on Google, and inevitably ends up on Trip Advisor. There are 26 things listed on there for things to do in Hitchin, with the lido at the summit followed by a long list of pubs. After today’s experience, I would happily put Hitchin at number one.

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

'LIKE' us on Facebook

 Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our YouTube channel


Follow us on Instagram - @beautifulgame15 - @beautifulgame15_ultra_stickers - @tomsparks3 #beautifulgame15