Archive | March, 2012


25 Mar

19 March 2012

London FA Senior Cup Quarter Final

Kingstonian 02  v  Dulwich Hamlet 01 (att 178)

Kingsmeadow, Norbiton KT1

Team Talk. Avid readers (hello to both of you) will know that this isn’t the first Tale from the Kingsmeadow Pigeon Stand, having opened our blog with a trip to last season’s game between AFC Wimbledon and York City. However, it’s only fair that we give Kingstonian, the rightful natives of Norbiton, a fair crack of our Pigeony whip. So we girded our collective loins and headed south-westerly for the last remaining 2011-12 London Senior Cup Quarter Final.

Despite roots dating back to 1885, Kingstonian’s current incarnation is the result fo a merger between Old Kingstonians and Kingston-on-Thames. Old Kingstonians, then of the Old Norbiton Sports Ground (now Kingsmeadow) acted as the reserve team, whilst Kingston-on-Thames were based at Richmond Road, the club’s ground for nearly 70 years between 1919 and 1988.

Kingstonian are somewhat of a cup specialist, despite only winning the FA Amateur Cup once (compared to Dulwich Hamlet’s impressive 4 titles) they were twice successful in winning the FA Trophy in the 90s thanks to the Midas-handed management of non-league icon Geoff Chapple.

Your Clothes. Give them to me.

These days, Chapple is ensconced in the boardroom of Conference South champions-elect, Woking, and Kings are stewarded by Geordie and all-round good guy, Alan Dowson whose coaching staff also includes the only non-sexist at Sky Sports, Martin Tyler.

Whilst the glory days of the mid to late 90s have passed, Kinstonian are currently enjoying a stable period in the Isthmian Premier having recently escaped the clutches of Step 4, following promotion in 2009. I was (un)fortunate enough to see them lift the Isthmian Division 1 South title that year as they beat Dulwich 2-1 in Craig Edwards’ last game in charge of Dulwich. That was the last time I saw Kingstonian and here I was, back with the Hamlet; determined to see the Pink and Blues depart victorious.

Park the bus.  Norbiton Station is about a 10 minute walk from Kingsmeadow, although if you are after a few jars on the way to/from the ground, I suggest you go the extra stop into Kingston. The walk out of town along London Road and then Cambridge Road will take you no more than 20 minutes at the very most. If you’re coming by car, there is plenty of parking although access is via a single road so it might take a while to get out on busy matchdays.

Homefield advantage.  We covered a lot of ground when we visited last year, so I’m going to focus on the bits restricted by the Blue Square Powers that be.

Entry, despite being cheap (reduced to a bargain £7 for this County Cup tie) was potentially more tricky than expect as Kingmeadow seem to be operating some sort of No Fat Chicks policy on the turnstiles. Luckily, it was more spacious than initially feared but non-leaguers aren’t exactly renowned for their svelte physiques and I can think of some who would struggle. Still, it means there’ll be plenty of chips for the rest of us so no bad thing.

Once through, I was delighted to see some badges for sale.  Terry’s Badges, a massive highlight of visit #1 and of many visiting supporter’s trips to Kingsmeadow were not there but another vendor with the same level of passion for pins had turned up. WHilst his collection was admirable (especially for a monday night match, he didn’t seem to have the same gravitas Terry.

Either the button-on business isn’t as lucrative as he hoped or he didn’t think the Dulwich massive would be big spenders. Whatever the truth, instead of a majestic table in the style of Terry’s Badges, had been replaced with the top of a wheelie bin.

Get your badges/recycling here

Optimistically, they were trying to push a Hamlet badge for £20. We might be pink and blue dandies from the right side of the tracks but we’re not idiots. In fairness, the amiable bin/badge attendant admitted that badge might  not actually be worth £25 and in fact he seemed willing to let it go for a fiver. I guess when you’re trading out of waste receptacles, you don’t have much leverage, especially when the colours are wrong. Maybe that’s what drove the price up.

Come on you Pink

It’s always hard to imagine Kingsmeadow as a league ground, it feels very Step 1-2 and it seems fitting that the K’s still call the place home, and rightly so. Few improvements seem to have been undertaken to account for their tenant’s/host’s lofty new position. A few extra seats were noticeable on each end of the main stand and a subbuteo-esque TV tower now sits above the stand on the other flank. Unlike the prissy world of League 2 or even Step 1, there’s an easy path to allow you to roam freely around the ground.

Being able to explore to our hearts content, we marched into Kingstonian’s excellent, if not slightly hidden bar. The bar can be reached either from the back of the main stand or, far more pleasingly, down the tunnel. As we marched onward for a Monday evening livener, my eye was drawn to a small broom cupboard next to the bar. Adorned with red and white, this tiny wee room was a goldmine of Kingstonian swag that almost rivalled the majesty of Sutton.

As well as a plethora of Kingstonian related goodies, I was delighted to stumble (quite literally) upon a pile of old programmes and second-hand books and VHS tapes, many of which were familiar from my youth. The Saint Michael (M&S to our younger readers) guide to American Football was a particular highlight from my childhood but it was the History of Soccer, a three tape epic through the beautiful game, that I have the fondest memories of. As a young lad growing up in deepest darkest Spain, this boxed set, together with the Story of the World Cup, ET: The Extra Terrestrial and a fuzzy feed of Gibraltar TV from 300 miles away were my only English Language companions. If only they had a copy of Alex Kid on the Sega Master System, I would have been in my element.

Prawn sandwiches. The bar itself is a good space and manned by couple of proper old school bar-types complete with short-sleeved shirt and tie. Unlike Champion Hill which promises much from its four real ale pumps but perennially fails to deliver anything more than London Pride (if you’re lucky), Kingsmeadow seems to have a rotating guest ale, on this occasion a taste of the motherland in the form of Deuchars IPA.

The main tea bar was shut so food and hot drinks came from of a burger van parked at the end of the main stand. I didn’t partake in anything but there seemed to be a hell of a lot of smoke or coming from there. Maybe some Steamed Hams were on the menu.

Kingstonian's Blernsball honours board

…and the game. As you might expect, neither team fielded a full strength eleven. However, considering both sides were in action two days before, it was heartening to see both sides come out and have good go. Still, you know you’re in for a cracker when the teams run out to Rule the World by Tears for Fears.

Kingstonian are a decent looking side and they looked comfortable throughout most of the first half. They seem like a well organised bunch for the most part although questions do have to be raised about their big number five, Ian Gayle, who looked decidedly uncomfortable throughout.

Kings opened the scoring early with a bold shot-cum-cross from Allan Tait from fully 40 yards, deceiving all and sundry, including most of his own teammates.  Despite this pretty slow start from the Hamlet (due in part to massive delays on the trains meaning the some of the squad didn’t exactly have their game-face on), the pink and blues improved steadily and were unlucky to fall behind to a goal from hapless defender turned super striker, Gayle, midway through the half.

The second half started positively for Dulwich as Ian Gayle’s dodgy back-pass let Omarr Lawson clean through on goal to make it 2-1 in the 46th minute. In truth, I was still raiding the club shop when Dulwich scored so the above description is pieced together from the most reliable sources of the Hamlet Rabble although I prefer the double-overhead kick, ricocheting off the back of the goalie descriptions that also seemed to be doing the rounds.

Kingstonian looked more than happy with a 2-1 lead and seemed over complacent at times as Dulwich continued to attack but Kingstonian dealt with the pink and blue onslaught with ease as the Hamlet rarely tested Rob Tolfrey in the Kingstonian goal. In the end Kings were worthy winners…just, and will go on to face Cray Wanderers in the semi before a potential final against either Hendon or (squatters) AFC Wimbledon.

Post-match rubdown. Kingsmeadow is a great wee place. It’s hardly cut out for league football but for Step 3, it’s a bloody nice ground. Kingstonian were relatively entertaining and whilst it’s hard to judge a team based on a performance in a County Cup against a team from the division below, they seemed to have a number of talented players who, with a few additions, may make them highly competitive in the Isthmian Premier next season. I just hope Dulwich are in there with them.

Molesey FC

18 Mar

10 March 2012

Combined Counties Premier Division

Molesey FC 01  v  Farnham Town 00  (att c. 75)

The Herds Renault Stadium, Molesey

Team talk. It’s March and that means the highly anticipated return of white matchballs, undoubtedly the second best colour of matchball after orange Tangos, as they bring with them the promise of sunshine.  Taking full advantage of the glorious, if not still bloody freezing weather, we hightailed it over to deepest south west London to see what was going down at Molesey FC.

The Mighty Moles of Molesey started life in their current form in 1953 when they joined the Surrey Senior League. Their first and last major success came just five years later, when the team lifted the league title.

After some all too familiar sideways moves from the Athenian and Spartan Leagues, Molesey landed a place in London’s leading non-league ranks, the Isthmian League, where it remained until relegation to the Combined Counties Premier in 2008.

The Club is responsible for launching the career of 80s and 90s hero Cyrille Regis who top-scored for Molesey in the 86-87 season. The club also welcomed family man and facial furniture pioneer, Neville Southall, as manager-cum-director in 2003 under the dubious reign of shady South African businessman Norman Clark whose meddling and misdemeanours undid the good work of current Dulwich Hamlet suit, Martin Eede, and set a course that ultimately led to the end of club’s 30 year run in the Isthmian League and into the sticky situation they find themselves in today.

The elusive Regis 92 Panini. How you escaped my grasps, I'll never know

Molesey are facing the financial dire straits, the second worst type of dire straits after Knopffler and co. Luckily, the club’s plans to build a small number of houses on waste ground at the back of the stadium were approved by the Council’s planning sub-committee last week. Whilst the decision will be met with derision from the Daily Mail reading NIMBY neighbours, Molesey’s Save the Moles argues that this is the best way to keep the club in the area, and the club continue to seek a secure future.

Unlike their trials and tribulations off the field, Molesey have been in good form on the pitch and sit 7th, with games in hand on all of the teams above them. While Guildford have all but secured the title for a second season in a row, Molesey look like they’ll be finishing towards the top of the table for back-to-back years after last season’s 3rd place nearly saw Molesey return to the Isthmian League.

Gracing the away dressing room on this day were Farnham Town, a side who have no fewer than 96 names on their Available Players roster, a list more dubious than Russia’s electoral register. Edgar Neubauer, Prudence Goodwyfe and Humphrey Boa-Gart are all accounted for. The dead have risen and they’re playing for Farnham Town.

Park the bus.  Molesey play at the snappy-titled Herds Renault Stadium (presumably named after Jean-Pierre Herds Renault, Molesey’s French international…maybe not) in West Molesey, which from what I observed runs seamlessly into East Molesey. The nearest station is Hampton Court (45 minutes from Waterloo) so if you like the idea of visiting the home of a rotund, bearded gentleman but don’t want break into my flat, you can always pop into the palace before the game.

The Ground is located about 15 minutes walk from the station, or less than 5 minutes on the 461 bus which leaves from the station entrance.

Homefield advantage.The Herds is a classic example of a great non-league ground. Once through the classic turnstiles (a mere £6 for adults), you’re greeted by a small table, a smashing-looking dog (and its owner) and a merchandise shed. Baulking at the £2 for the programme, I was reassured after finding out that it came with a free Molesey FC coaster. Here at the Pigeon Stands, we love free stuff so this was a gigantic plus point.

Coasting to victory...sorry

The merchandise shed was a small but marvellous treasure trove of fob key rings, programmes (including some proper rarities) and a fine array of Molesey shirts through the ages. Unlike the recently erected Dulwich Hamlet Megashed, which operates more like an over-the-counter kiosk, the Molesey shed, was open for supporters to awkwardly shuffle round. Brilliant.

Unusually for a step 5 club, Molesey has a covered stand on all 4 sides, the main stand offered excellent elevated views of the action but as usual we were drawn to the ends, both of which feature quality pigeon stands. The Mick Burgess Stand is a little on the tatty side, although not as dilapidated as the sign might suggest, and the other end seemed nameless.

Along the other flank was an unusual low-roofed stand that seemed less inviting as it involved negotiating a path around a couple of sets of floodlights and some sort of trawler’s net to keep the ball in the park. These are commonplace behind the goals before, but I’ve never seen one on a flank before, let alone in front of the stand and up against the barriers. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of Molesey’s strikers.

Prawn sandwiches.Beveraging opportunities were plentiful at the Herds Renault. Despite a foreboding sign on the turnstiles which implies that beer is not an option once inside the ground, we were delighted to find that not only was there a lovely bar selling a range of Samuel Smith’s beer, but also a dartboard. Sport of kings. Alongside this was a small display board summarising the club’s history.

Abandon all hope...

Outside, there was a nice wee patio for patrons to enjoy the early March sun and sink a beer as well as some sort of party shack. As is mandatory for the Combined Counties Premier, there was also a BBQ pit although in spite of the glorious weather, the sausages remained uncooked.

A canteen is located at the foot of the main stand and served the usual array of stuff as well as rare treat, orange squash. It’s like being at the tennis except, y’know, actually entertaining. As if my purchase couldn’t get any sweeter, I was also presented with a Save the Moles sticker, yet another freebie!

…and the game. Molesey play a fairly no nonsense style and don’t look to do anything too clever. They set up in a traditional 4-4-2 and stuck to it rigidly. Their defence looked stellar throughout and apart from a couple of minor lapses in concentration, their goal remained relatively unthreatened. The only goal of the game came after about 10 minutes when predator, Arnie Tawonezvi terminated all hope for Farnham Town, with a barbaric strike from a corner I was delighted to (Kindergarten) Cop a picture of the goal….

Arnie Tawonezvi: Goalmouth Predator

The rest of the match was played out fairly routinely. Molesey sat back but were unable to really benefit from the counter attack. While James McShane looked promising up front, he plays rather flat and seemed reticent to try anything new. Farnham him a few half chances and force a couple of saves from Wester Young in the Moles’ goal. In the end, Molesey deserved the win, but considering the amount of goals which have been inundating the Combined Counties of late, I was a tad disappointed that we had landed a mono-goal afternoon.

Man of the match.Nobody knows what the future might hold for Molesey town. Despite their planning permission, the future is unknown; perhaps this is the reason why they club are turning to Simon Lock for an evening of Mediumship. We’re hoping he’ll be able to summon Edgar Kail to tell us all where he’s buried his treasure.

All aboard the MediumShip

Post-match rubdown. I found Molesey an excellent afternoon out and a real gem in the Combined Counties Crown. It’s a great local team in a nice bit of town, run by a family who clearly love the club. After years of chaos, chairlady Tracy Teague has helped the club find a degree of stability off the field whilst manager, Steve Webb, longest serving in the division, continues to help the team grow sustainably.

In spite of this, the club’s future is anything but secure and there is a lot of hard work ahead to ensure they keep their head above water and most importantly, remain in Molesey. Speaking on behalf of the club’s Save the Moles Campaign, Club spokeswoman Debbie Harry (hopefully the Debbie Harry) noted that the ground at Molesey doubles up as a community centre, a church and a school; it is clearly the epitome of a community asset, indeed, they are the epitome of a non-league football club. I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the Moles and help to ensure that they don’t burrow into football’s undergrowth forever.

You didn’t honestly think we’d get through this without some sort of lazy reference to moles, did you?

Bromley FC

11 Mar

Hayes Lane, Bromley

Blue Square South

6 March 2012

Bromley 1 v Staines Town 1 (att 233)

Team talk. Bromley FC was founded in 1892 and has the honour of being one of the earlier entrants to the Isthmian League by playing in only its fourth season (1908/09) . Bromley won the league in that year and again in 1909/10, 1953/54, and 1960/61. Bromley’s wilderness years (or a season to be more precise) is the subject of Dave Roberts’ book “The Bromley Boys”. The book is basically the authors account of the 1969/70 Isthmian League season where Bromley finished bottom of the league having been beaten 31 times and conceded 111 goals. The book has the subtitle of “the true story of supporting the worst football team in Britain”, which is why I imagine it is nowhere to be seen in the Bromley club shop. Bromley Boys is a recommended read as, whilst set in the 1960’s, some of the experiences will definitely strike a chord with any football fan who has trailed stupid distances to stand in the cold with 20-30 other people and watch their team get pumped. Non readers can fear not, a film of the book is rumoured and Bradley Pitts has already signed up to play Dave Roberts.

As noted in Bromley Boys, the team’s record attendance (which still stands) at Hayes Lane is of note. This is a game in 1949 when 10’000 people crowded in to watch Bromley play a Nigeria select eleven. Nigeria beat Bromley 3-1 with many of the visitors players choosing to play the game with bare feet. The post of the Nigeria tour from the ever fascinating Hamlet Historian (AKA Jack Mcinroy) is well worth a read for more details on this.

Recent years saw Bromley promoted from the Isthmian Premier to the Conference South as play off winners in 2006/07. Since promotion they have consolidated their position in the Conference South. The 2011/12 season has not been a good one so far for Bromley. At the start of play today they were looming close to the relegation zone. Their opponents, Staines Town, were in a similar position. This meant that the game had the air of the mathematically improbable 6 pointer about it.

Park the bus. Bromley’s stadium on Hayes Lane is approx 15 minutes walk from Bromley South Station – easily accessible from town by trains that take about 15 minutes from London Victoria.

Home advantage. The stadium is approached up a narrow road off the main Hayes Lane. Walking past the stables close to the ground gives it an almost rural setting that may I imagine has not changed much since Dave Roberts’ days.

Through the main turnstile (£12 in for an adult) you are confronted with a small shed/stable that slightly resembles a Punch and Judy booth where the programmes are sold (£2.50).

That's the way to do it.

One of the most likeable things about Hayes Lane is the variety of standing/seating positions to watch the game, each offering a slightly different perspective.

Those wanting elevation and maximum exposure to the elements should head to the east side. Standing at the top of the concrete steps that run the length of this side, with no cover or solid fence dividing the ground from the open fields beyond gives you a great view of the game but leaves you massively open to the gales that blow across the ground. Warning – this is one of the coldest parts of Hayes Lane, and that’s really saying something as Bromley is one of the coldest grounds I have been to.

East side

For those wanting cover, a closer view of the game, and perhaps a bit of nostalgia – head for the south end. Here you’ll find covered seating across the end of the pitch that is close to the action. You also get to sit on some really characterful (if not at all comfortable) timber benches. The opposite end is similar but with concrete steps to stand on rather than the benches.

South end

North end

If you want closeness, elevation, and access to the bars then head for the main stand on the west side. The atmosphere here is nowhere near as good as the ends (where the more vocal support tends to hang out) but you do get to hob knob with the officials who have an enclosure here (or fenced off bit to be more precise).

West stand

Hob nobbing

A top tip when visiting Bromley, particularly if the game is not so exciting, is to play the thrilling Pigeon Stands game “Spot that Sign”. The aim here is to see how many different types of safety signs you can spot dotted around the pitch. We assume from all the signs that either the people of Bromley are the most litigious in all of London or that Hayes Lane is really dangerous (maybe get some insurance before visiting). A select few are below but there are many many more to be seen.

The toilet drop

Secret Bromley ploy to slow down the opposition?

For any fans planning to scale the floodlights

This is not an exit (secret Seafood reference.. YES!)

Prawn sandwiches. Hospitality is one of the things that Bromley does very well. Bromley punches well above its weight in non league football by having two bars. There are not many places you can turn up to, as we did, to be told apologetically at the gate that there would only be one bar open that evening.

The main bar (that was open) is in the main stand and is fantastic. Very similar to the one at Dulwich Hamlet in many ways, in that it is at the upper level of the main stand and has big windows where (on cold nights like this one) you can watch the game in the warmth. A key feature of the operation of the bar itself is the organised queuing system that they have in place for getting your half time ale – far more civilised than the useful free for all and very similar to the level of bar organisation seen recently in Germany at SSV Jahn Regensburg. Ales on offer are also of great quality and include beers from the Shepherd Neame brewery.

An orderly bar

Outside there is a burger van (of course) where a bacon, egg, and cheese burger with chips can be yours for £6:50. The club shop is also well worth a visit if your looking to get kitted out or grab a mug.


…..and the game. Turning up at the game we were surprised to see no players warming up on the pitch. We soon found out that this was because kick off was going to be delayed as the Staines players were stuck in traffic on the M25 – we were told was that kick off would be at 8:15 instead of 7:45. Once the Staines players had turned up we then heard reports that there would be further delays. The chat in the club shop (always a good place for semi correct gossip) was that Staines had turned up without kits and that the kit man was still stuck on the orbital. We heard that offers for Staines to play in Bromley’s away kit were turned down in favour of leaving everyone to wait in the cold until the their kits turned up. I’d have made the dicks play in their skins. Perhaps they’d have beaten the traffic with a better map…….

The game finally got underway at 8:45. It’s not hard to see why both teams are struggling a bit this year. Of the two, Bromley looked slightly better, fairly strong upfront and ok at the back (although Staines didn’t really challenge much) but no midfield presence to speak of. The Bromley goal came first and was the result of an awful keeper, defender rebound/mix up. Bromley continued to be the better side for the first half and most of the second – although oddly opted to remove any counter attacking threat mid second half by putting on a big fella who was not as effective at chasing the ball. We missed the Staines goal as it came late in the game and we had trains to catch, but I understand it came from a set piece (the only way Staines were ever going to score in my view). Match highlights can be found here

Man of the match. I was really impressed with the number of local kids who had missed watching Arsenal v Milan to turn out to watch Bromley. Seeing them hounding the Bromley keeper for autographs at the beginning of the game reminded me of a scene from Bromley Boys. Of course this may have been part of a ploy to falsify the signature, knick the keepers credit card, and buy trainers from JJB Sports – but I think not. The kids were also very vocal in cheering on their team and responded hillariously to a Staines player falling over by yelling “get up, are you a man or a jelly”. Bromley is in good hands with these lot.

Da Bromley Boys

Post game rub down. One of my favourite South London grounds. The football isn’t always great but the ground, atmosphere, and facilities make up for it.