Tag Archives: Arlesey Town

Gone Fishing….

I’m on my holibobs.

See you next season!

In the meantime, please check out my posts from last season:

PREMIER LEAGUE

– Arsenal (The Emirates) – October 14; January 15;

– Chelsea (Stamford Bridge) – December 14;

– Crystal Palace (Selhurst Park) – April 15;

– Liverpool (Anfield) – October 14;

– Tottenham Hotspur – May 15;

– West Bromwich Albion – January 15;

– West Ham United – January 15;

CONFERENCE SOUTH

– Bromley FC (Hayes Lane) – November 14;

ISTHMIAN PREMIER LEAGUE

– Dulwich Hamlet (Champion Hill) – October 14;

SOUTHERN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION

– Biggleswade Town (Carlsberg Stadium) – September 14;

– Hitchin Town (Top Field) – December 14;

GERMANY

– 1860 Munich (Allianz Arena) – February 15;

– FC Bayern Frauen (Grünwalder Stadion) – February 15;

OTHER

– Wembley Stadium, London – March 15;

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Boxing Day at Top Field

Friday 26th December 2014 – Hitchin Town FC 2 – 0 Arlesey Town

Southern League Premier Division @ Top Field, Hitchin

Ground Grab was at the in-laws in Bedfordshire this Christmas. The geographic distance, coupled with ‘weather bombs’ and total shut down of the rail network, meant that whilst many a Hull City fan started 3pm in the 7th tier of the Stadium of Light’s North Stand, I opted for the 7th tier of the English football pyramid. My destination for 2014’s Boxing Day match was Hitchin Town, playing local rivals Arlesey Town (the second time I would see the latter this season).

Some research in the week running up to the game revealed turmoil at the club; Hitchin have played at their ground, Top Field, since 1928. It seems however that they are being forced out by their landlords, seemingly not cognizant of the importance of a town having a football club within its boundaries, who are intent on making a few quid by selling the land to Tesco. This would force the club outside of the town onto green belt land.

For context, Hitchin is a small, quiet market town, which like many on the same train line, has expanded as more of the populus move south to commute to and work in London. A quick walk around before the match revealed it is a friendly and pleasant place, small in size, but with plenty of greenery, old buildings and small shops (similar to my own hometown of Beverley).

Top Field itself is about 10 minute walk from the centre and is set opposite a common, with houses either side. It is quite well hidden from the road by the trees.

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Which I guess begs the question, would the residents want a Tesco there? Surely having c. 400 football fans outside your house every other Saturday is preferable to car parks, shoppers, litter, delivery lorries at 4am, and the eyesore of a superstore when you leave the house?

Guess you’d never be short of milk…

I feel for Hitchin, I really do. Their fans and the club have put on a united front in opposing such plans. Top Field is something of a ramshackle offering (more detail later – I believe the legal battle with the landlords has stopped them developing the ground further), but it is their home. I really am an advocate of a club staying close to the centre of the village / town / city it is representing. My own Hull City moved from the dilapidated Boothferry Park to the shiny KC Stadium over a decade ago now, but it worked because it stayed within the periphery of the city centre – people could still walk / get a bus there in 20 minutes max, and away fans had a short walk from the train station. One only has to look to the likes of Reading and Bolton to see how ‘stale’ a club can become when it moves outside of the confines of the city.

So best of luck in your fight; those wishing to support them can do so here.

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Entry price to Top Field was a very inexpensive £10, and only £2 for a matchday programme. Ground Grab arrived about 25 minutes before kick off, so immediately set off on an anti-clockwise wander around the ground. Immediately to the right of the entrance is the club shop and snack bar ‘Canary Corner’. Hitchin play in yellow and green (hence the nickname), which gives a retro colour theme throughout the ground. The stand immediately next to this along the long side of the pitch is a wooden terrace, covered for  a section immediately before and after the halfway line next to the dugouts (but uncovered otherwise). They reminded me somewhat of the benches you see on prison dramas….

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Left: Canary Bar. Right: Dugouts and covered wooden terracing

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Similar? No?

Opposite the entrance is a fairly sizeable terrace behind the goal (also uncovered) at the other end of which is the main, fully seated and covered, Club Stand. There are a number of club buildings behind this, which, as mentioned previously, are quite ramshackle (pictures below).

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Left: Terrace behind goal. Right: Seen better days…..

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Left: Football’s smallest boardroom? Right: impressive art on side of physio room.

Completing the tour, there is another terrace behind the other goal, partially covered with a wooden structure.

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Left: Wooden terrace behind goal. Right: view of Club Stand from terrace behind goal

So that is Top Field. I believe there is also a club bar; I saw a couple of people milling around with pints before the match and at half time but couldn’t find it. In fairness, my liver has received something of a pickling over the Christmas period, so probably for the best.

My perch for the first half was the wooden terrace (uncovered next to the entrance):

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It was a very cold and grey December day; I did actually wonder whether this one would be called off given I woke up to find a thick frost outside – but it went ahead. The pitch was a muddy quagmire, and with the drizzle that came and went throughout the first half became a whole lot worse. Hitchin dominated the first half and went in two goals up following a penalty on the quarter-hour mark, and a second right at the death. Arlesey could have had no complaints. The rain started to pick up towards the end; suddenly standing at the top of some slippery and wet wooden terracing didn’t seem the best of ideas….

The drizzle turned into a pour during half time (but thankfully wasn’t sleet / snow), so along with the Bovril and dozens others, I sought refuge in the covered area of the same stand:

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The second half was a much more even affair, with Arlesey only being denied a foot back in the game following some great saves by the Hitchin keeper. As the rain picked up, the tackles became more adventurous. Thankfully the ref, who wasn’t particularly card happy anyway, didn’t start flashing the reds around. It finished 2-0 to Hitchin. I feel slightly to blame for Arlesey’s plight; I have seen them twice this season, first time they were put out of the FA Cup, then a league defeat. Sorry guys (though your place is on my ‘ToDo List’…)

Last mention to the crowd, just shy of 500, and the odd smattering in a santa hat. Fairly large for a club at that level and nice to see.

And so into the night. I liked Top Field, and hope the club and their supporters are successful in staying there. It’s a decent place to watch a game and has real character to it. I’ll definitely be back, and perhaps next time I may find the bar…

FA Cup Qualifying 1st Round – “Battle of the River Ivel”

Saturday 13th September 2014 – Biggleswade Town FC 2 – 1 Arlesey Town FC

FA Cup Qualifying 1st Round @ Carlsberg Stadium, Biggleswade

Apologies for the lack of photos – had access to Windows Phone only.

As of c. 6pm this evening, there will be very little football for fans of clubs in the top two divisions for a fortnight, unless you can rouse yourself to get excited about England putting in a shift against European powerhouses San Marino and Estonia. Next Saturday however is FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round weekend, and you could do worse than take a trip down to your nearest non-league club (if they are still in the competition….) for a game. Fixtures can be found here.

I will officially be in ‘gone fishing’ mode next weekend, but looking at the fixtures prompted me to write about the last FA Cup game I went to a couple of weeks back, the “Battle of the River Ivel’ between Biggleswade Town and Arlesey Town.

Until last season, my attendance at FA Cup games had ranged from 3rd round games in January through to a solitary QF against Arsenal c. 5 years ago. Hull’s cup pedigree was never great, and it was usually all over before Valentines Day.

That obviously all changed with Hull progressing as far as the final last year, a great day out, but one which ultimately ended with defeat.

So it seemed fitting that my next FA Cup tie should be a match at the very outset of the competition. For the armchair fan, the great FA Cup competition normally starts in January, when ITV et al pitch up at far flung clubs, light years away from the riches of their Premiership visitors, hoping for a ‘shock’. For the more interested fan, they may even watch the 1st Round proper in November.

But it actually starts in August, when the clubs below Conference North and South, start off in their quest for that lucrative big money tie.

The match was quite opportune, and co-incided with the visit to a friend who lives in the town of Biggleswade. It represented an opportunity for a catch up, and a ground-tick.

For those who do not know, Biggleswade is a small market town in Bedfordshire. It has expanded rapidly in recent decades, as priced out Londoners move to more affordable digs a short train ride away from the capital. It actually has two non-league clubs; Biggleswade Town of the Southern League Premier Division and Biggleswade United, of the Spartan Midlands Premier Division.

The aptly named Carlsberg Stadium (unfortunately the “if Carlsberg did stadiums” analogy does not apply here) is on the outskirts of the town, c. 15-20 minutes walk from the train station. Not the greatest of routes, effectively through an industrial estate towards the motorway, but the ground itself, whilst obviously small, is nice enough with very welcoming staff and stewards.

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My friend and I were running slightly behind schedule so didn’t get chance to sample the pubs en-route (another time perhaps), but we did get chance for a quick pint in the affable club house. Usual fare; nice and spacious, decent range of beer / ales on tap, and a TV in the corner with the scores on. There is also an outside area for when the sun is shining. Couple of nice touches too, such as a raffle in relation to ‘last goal scored’ (which unfortunately wasn’t on the 17th minute) and some sort of lottery, the kind of things I avoid at Premier League grounds, but don’t mind so much in the non-league world, when the money clearly helps the club out.

Interesting mix of people at the ground (attendance was close to 200); Arsenal fans who’d just got back from the earlier midday KO between Arsenal and Man City, fans of other clubs glued to iPhones and a pleasant smattering of fans from both clubs as well.

The ground has one stand just outside of the club house, with the remainder standing only. Randomly the dug-outs are at the opposite end of the pitch to the main stand / tunnel.

The game itself was decent enough, though whilst a derby, not quite as heated as you might expect from the likes of Rangers vs Celtic! The most interesting fact of the day was that Arlesey are managed by none other than ex-QPR and Fulham legend, Rufus Brevett.

It was Biggleswade who were victorious, 2-1 after going down to an early goal. For them the dream of making the first round proper remains ‘on’, for Arlesey it is back to the league.

If you happen to be in Biggleswade on matchday, it is well worth a visit. £10 to get in, nice family feel to the club, and a good standard of football too.

Biggleswade play Maidstone United at home this coming weekend; I wish them the very best of luck, and encourage others to embrace the competition in it’s infant stage before the better known teams throw on their stiffs for a run-around.

*** POST PUBLISH EDIT – Biggleswade is actually in Bedfordshire NOT Hertfordshire as originally published. Thanks to those who corrected, and my apologies for poor geographical knowledge. ***