Sunday 21 September 2008

Ashford Town

Homelands, which is the home land for Ashford Town, is one of the 'older' new grounds. It was one the first soulless 'Atcost' type stadia. But what it lacks in character, it makes up for friendliness. All the stewards, and staff were most welcoming.

I'm not quite sure exactly, but it's around twenty years old. My first visit here was for an FA Youth Cup tie, back in September 1992. Now I know I've 'led a hard life' & look older than my 'tender' 41 years, but back then I got chatting to one of their supporters', who it turned out was there to watch his boy play. not realisinf I was a 'proper' fan, he asked which lad was mine...which would have made me a daddy at eight years old! ;-)

The Asford Town website says the ground is four miles from the station, and there are no buses. Not quite true. On a Saturday it is possible to get a 508 or 528 from the stops outside the station to just before Park Farm. The driver was very helpful. He pointed out the Ashford Road, as we got off, and it was just over a mile from there. A cab would set you back around eight quid from the station. A single on the bus was one pound sixty. I got a lift back into town, where I took some pictures of a World War One tank! I kid you not!

The ground is set back slightly, from the road.

As you walk up the access road you come to these turnstiles.

Past them is the entrance to the club offices, & bars.

Once inside the programmes are on sale.

To the left, as you walk in, is the club shop, and this helpful board, with team changes.

In front of the turnstiles, as you look towards the pitch, is this welcoming sign. You can see the cover behind the goal, And it is in that direction we will be walking round the ground.

From the side we have another look towards the cover.

As we go behind that end we look back towards the stand, seats in front, glass fronted bar areas behind it.

And this is the cover, with it's shallow terracing.

Looking down the far side, from behind the goal, you can see it's completely open.

Just a concrete walkway round most of the ground.

Another view of the side, without the netting in the way.

no terracing down the side, just the concrete pathway. How they ever squeezed 3,300 when they played Fulham in the FA Cup back in 1995 is beyond me! Tell a lie, I can imagine how they squeezed them in, but don't think many saw much of the match!

From this corner we look across the pitch, again, to the stand.

Another angle, from the halfway line, between the two dugouts.

And walking further along we see exactly the same cover up the other end.

As you can see here.

And from under the cover yet another picture of the stand.

We look back at the far side, and more specifically their dugouts. now I have no problem with them, but all clubs were supposed to erect new, larger dugouts last season. They clearly have not!

A look back at the cover, before we move on round.

Here we approach the stand, the only properly elevated part of the ground, if you don't include the narrow steps behind each goal.

A look down the seats, from the top corner, back row.

And the middle section, with the club officials' enclosure at the back.

The players' tunnel in the midle.

With the tea bar, and video gantry at the end, and so once past this, back to where we started.

Wingate and Finchley

I remember my first visit to Wingate & Finchley! Way before they joined up with the Wingate brigade! It was back in April 1978, and Dulwich Hamlet needed another win to clinch the Isthmian League Division One title, with a couple of games to spare, having been relegated the previous season.

Back then we were well supported, and took no less than three coaches to this game! And they were packed! A number of people turned up without booking, and some of us kids were asked to sit on the floor for half price! I I paid twelve and a half pence instead of the 25p for juniors! The previous week we should have had the title in the bag, but only drew 1-1 away to Hertford Town. Which annoyed my older brother, as he'd come down specially from Hull University for that match, and couldn't return for the Finchley trip!

We beat Finchley 4-0, and the players came back out of the changing rooms to spray all the fans with bottles of champagne! Our manager at the time was Alan Smith, who went on to Crystal Palace & Wycombe Wanderers many years later, and he gave me half a plastic cup of champagne...the first time I'd ever drunk alcohol, believe it or not!

These photos are from a pre-season 'triallists' game, from early August 2007. Not a full set of the ground, as I wasn't in full 'photoblog' mode then! ;-)

I only noticed this old sign on the way out.

This is the main entrance.

And here is the same turnstile block from inside the ground.

As you walk in there is a car park ahead of you, with this terrace on your right, as you walk in; which is on the left of this snap, as we are looking back, so to speak!

Here is a decent view of the terrace. Set back behind it is the main stand.

Hamlet Chairman Jack Payne on the left, Griff in the middle (who does this excellent blog on our matches) & Brian, a lifelong fan, who sadly died recently, age 72.

Here is the main stand. What is unsual about it is the is a single structure, with an identical stand behind it, for Finchley Rugby Club next door.

Tidy benches and seats.

Nicely elevated, but you're a bit of a way from the action.

Moving round there's some cover behind the goal.

Which for some unknown reason was taped off! Clearly too dangerous for the four Hamlet fans who bothered to make the trip on a Sunday afternoon, for a 2 o'clock kick off! ;-)

Looking through the goal, back to the stand.

With another angle, from the corner, with both the cover & stand in shot.

There is a small terrace down the far side, covered in the middle section.

Looking across from the halfway line.

It's open behind the far goal, backing onto more car parking space, and an outdoor hardcourt tennis area behind it, as we look.