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The Dying Embers

coming full circle is not about revolving.
to say you’ve been here before
was, I assure you, never the goal.

it’s not a flash of deja vu,
not a reappearance out of the blue,
when we say our first hello.

by Lauren Smart




Monday 19th May 2014 Herts Senior County League  k.o.:- 6.45pm

Senior Premier Division

Cuffley                                                               0

Standon & Puckeridge                                      4

James Endacott 3,

Jan Stephens 16,

Chris James 50,

Antony Miles 52,

Referee:- Martin Balsar                            Attendance:- 41


Graeme and I met at Thrapston Services and I drove, reasonably sedately, though if Graeme was heaving an inward sigh of relief, it wasn’t visible, down to Hertfordshire! Talking too much whilst driving down the A1 meant that I missed the turn-off just after the Hatfield Galleria. The result was that I found myself in a traffic jam on The M25. The motorway had been closed and a police car was keeping the vehicles at bay, like a lion tamer brandishing his whip – tantalisingly only about fifty yards from our turn-off. We squeezed through eventually, found the ground and then, we actually drove on to this fish ‘n’ chip emporium (see above) to resuscitate ourselves before the match. The shirt was hanging in the shop!


Who should we see first on our arrival? None other than Dave, whom I had last bumped into at Pelsall Villa. Graeme was so pleased to see him that he donated half of his chips!

The King George V Playing Fields, just outside the village of Cuffley, are extensive and comprise facilities for bowls, football and cricket and half a dozen tennis courts. Above, are the changing rooms (on the right) and the club house and bar (on the left). The pitch was railed, but there was no other furniture. Even the dug-outs were improvised with chairs from the club house. There was, however, tea, coffee and chocolate bars in the clubhouse – and a bar!


Standon & Puckeridge must have missed a few matches this season. Besides this evening’s game, they are also playing on Tuesday and Saturday of next week.

It was a lovely sunny, but not particularly warm evening and the hoppers were out in force. There was an alluring, fresh atmosphere from the wide expanses of fields and copses surrounding the pitch (see the bottom picture), and the quality of the playing surface was pretty good for this level of football.


It was a strange match. By the end of the contest, the hosts had lost by a wide margin. However, apart from the first fifteen minutes and for five or six minutes after half time, when all the goals were scored, neither side seemed to have the advantage and Cuffley were by no means four goals worse off than their visitors. Perhaps they lacked a cutting edge, for they never really threatened Standon’s goal. Perhaps it was just one of those end of season games that can go either way. Perhaps Standon really are better than they looked tonight. Whatever, it was interesting and entertaining and after the match, before driving back, we decanted Dave at Cuffley station for his train back to Moorgate and onwards to Reading!


Tuesday 20th May 2014                       Mercian League                k.o.:- 7.15pm

Division 1

Wroxeter Rovers                                                        8

Darryl Rogers 5, 34, 65, 69,

Carl Rogers 9, 67, 82,

Matthew Brookes  22,

Brown Clee                                                                1

Daniel Conroy 10,

Referee:- Jamie James                                  Attendance:- 32


Wroxeter is a former Roman city (Viroconium Cornoviorum) and it sat some five miles south and east of Shrewsbury. Early in the last millennia, it was the fourth largest ‘civitas’ in Roman England and Wales, standing on Watling Street, which arrowed from there down to Dover! It was ‘discovered’ in 1859, the year that the poet Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936) was born, and he dedicated a section of his epic poem ‘A Shropshire Lad’ to the site whence:

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
      Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
      Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
      It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
      Are ashes under Uricon.


The football club, however, play in the centre of Shrewsbury. Indeed, if you seek out County Hall, you will find their stadium at the edge of the car park at The Unison Club in Abbey Foregate. In the top picture, you can see the county hall edifice in the back ground.

The rain which had been threatening all afternoon, under leaden skies, held off and we had no need of the small wooden stand between the dug-outs (see below). In fact, outside the Unison Club, which boasted two snooker tables and numerous cribbage and domino tables as well as a capacious bar and changing facilities for the football teams,  there was a covered area for smokers and it was a perfect vantage point for viewing the match should the weather turn inclement. Round three sides of the pitch was a ten metre high fence, but it didn’t keep all the balls from being launched onto the dual carriageway behind the dug-outs!

Graeme and I had been liberally doused with precipitation when we arrived. We had plenty of time and adjourned to The Crown on Abbey Foregate for a bite to eat (a rather bigger bite in my case than in Graeme’s!).

When we got back, the referee and the two managers were arguing about kick-off times. It was officially listed as a 7.30pm kick-off which was a bit ambitious even so late in the year, there being no floodlights. The away team were late in arriving, the sky was overcast and I thought the referee did a good job to get them started by 7.15pm. In the first half, he played almost exactly 45 minutes, but in the second, he curtailed matters at the 43 minute mark.


The hosts are attempting to gain second place in Division 1 and with it, promotion to The Premier League. In order for them to gain promotion, some work will need to be done (such as enclosing the pitch), but first, there was a job to do on the pitch. They started off like a train, with two goals in the first ten minutes. One felt sorry for the visitors , who were being over-run. Then, large gaps started to appear in the home defence and from one of these Daniel Conroy pulled a goal back for the visitors. There was no stopping the hosts, however, who had the brothers Darryl and Carl Rogers up front and these two strikers shared seven goals and perhaps, should be playing at a higher level!

Wroxeter’s final game, two days later, saw them gain the point necessary for second place in a 2-2 draw against Rock Rovers again at The Unison club.

  • Final Division 1 Table (top five)
  • . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .. . . . P. . . W  . . . D. . . L . . .GD . . . . Pts
  • 1. Childs Ercall                  26      21      0      5         79         63
  • 2. Wroxeter Rovers            26      18      6      2        66         60
  • 3. FC Oswestry Town          26      19      3      4        58          60
  • 4. Rock Rovers                  26      15      6      5        32          51
  • 5. Bishops Castle Town      26      15      2      9        26          47

Also at the match were a couple of other ‘hoppers’, regular contributors to The Kempster Forum, I believe, – “Yorkshire Exile” and “Know Your Market”.

Wednesday 21st May 2014          Essex Olympian League         k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

White Ensign                                                                2

Alf Lindfield 16,

Hamid Zamani 90+2,

Rayleigh Town                                                              1

Ross Webster 29,

Referee:- James Lisher                                      Attendance:-  44


Jack sent me an e-mail on Wednesday morning. Heavy rain was expected in the Southend area that evening! I toddled down and was doing remarkably well, all the way down the A14, M11 and even the M25. However, as soon as I left the M25 to join the A127 to Southend, it was nose to tail at snail’s-pace for the last seventeen miles!

I’d hardly pulled into the car park when Jack turned up, and with time to spare, we went for a pint of decent real ale down the road. Back at Southend Borough’s ground at the militarily named “Combination HQ”, we had a further pint, this time of Newcastle Brown. I used to drink that in my student days nearly fifty years ago!


White Ensign is not an easy club to find information on! They have been in The Essex Olympian League since around 2002. In 2006/07 they were champions of Division 1 with 52 points but the following season, promoted to The Premier League, they were champions again, but this time with 54 points! They have remained in the Premier Division ever since.


This evening’s match against Rayleigh Town was a pretty insipid affair and a draw looked on the cards after two first half goals had tied the match at 1-1. However, a goal in added time at the end of the second half, from Hamid Zamani, settled the contest, somewhat fortuitously, in the home sides favour.

At the end as the players trooped off, an aeroplane came in to land in the gloom at Southend Airport, just over the road. We both tried to capture the moment on film but it was too dark for a meaningful photograph. Needless to say, The M11 was closed from junctions 11-14 on the way home, but despite being given an unwanted tour of Cambridge, I was still able to get home for shortly after 11.30pm



Saturday 24th May 2014 Kent-Blaxill Essex/Suffolk Border League.
Premier Division   k.o.:- 3.00pm
Earls Colne                                                2
Josh Preston 42, 68,
Great Bentley                                            3
Joe Hurd 40,
Gavin Newcombe 67,
David Quinney 77,
Referee:- A. Smith                      Attendance:- 59
It was a filthy morning and it had been raining all night. It continued to rain all along the A14 and down the M11 and only began to peter out on the A120. Earls Colne is a small village  not far from Halstead in Suffolk (or is it Essex?). I stopped, just inside the village and endured a meal to forget at “The Bird in Hand”.
I was impressed, when, eventually, I reached Green Farm Meadow, the home of Earls Colne. It was a huge recreational facility with space for cricket, football and several tennis courts with a large club house which also encompassed an indoor sports hall. As I entered the gloomy bar, there were leather settees scattered around the room occupied with what looked like mafia gangsters from the 1930s. When my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I realised that the room was full of football ‘hoppers’ like myself, enjoying a drink before the match started!
Below, is the Premier League table BEFORE today’s game. I reckoned that if Great Bentley could defeat their hosts by a minimum of thirteen goals, then they would be safe from relegation and Earls Colne, themselves, would be relegated. That’s the stuff of fairy tales, and so it proved to be!
 Premier Division Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Difference Points
Gas Recreation   29 23 3 3 98 29 +69 69
Harwich & Parkeston   29 21 3 5 86 27 +59 66
West Bergholt   29 20 6 3 92 36 +56 66
Tollesbury   30 19 6 5 81 37 +44 63
University of Essex   29 14 4 11 58 42 +16 46
Alresford Colne Rangers   29 14 2 13 47 52 -5 44
Holland FC   29 11 9 9 57 43 +14 42
Little Oakley   29 12 6 11 61 49 +12 42
White Notley   29 11 7 11 65 65 +0 40
Coggeshall Town   30 11 5 14 52 56 -4 38
Barnston AFC   29 7 7 15 38 75 -37 28
Tiptree Jobserve   30 8 3 19 45 71 -26 27
Earls Colne   29 7 6 16 33 71 -38 27
Lawford Lads   29 7 3 19 42 82 -40 24
Great Bentley   29 5 6 18 36 98 -62 24
Dedham Old Boys   30 2 8 20 24 82 -58 14

Earls Colne is named after The Earls of Oxford who owned the manor from 1086 until 1703. The River Colne runs through the village (and also Colne Engaine, which is not far away). The most famous son of Earls Colne is Thomas Shepard, who was an assistant schoolmaster at Earls Colne Grammar School until he emigrated to America and founded ……. Harvard University!



Great Bentley, however, is a smaller village (some 2,500 inhabitants to Earls Colne’s 4,500), but it does boast a railway station (two stops down the line from Wivenhoe) and the largest village green in the country at 43 acres (170,000 square metres), and, its football team  were formed a year earlier than Earls Colne in 1895.



There were no programmes for this match, but a programme for a match from fifteen or sixteen years ago was passed around and copies were made for ‘hoppers’ and visitors to take away with them at the end of the match.


It was a good one hundred yards or more from the club house to the football pitch. The pitch itself was railed and on the far side there was a substantial stand with terracing inside and flanked by the dug-outs for the home and away teams. As the sun was behind this stand, most of us congregated there for the match.


This was, technically, a relegation battle, as I mentioned earlier. However, in fact, Great Bentley were already relegated and playing for pride only. After a first half which looked likely to remain goalless, each side scored within two minutes around the forty minute mark and then the referee played an amazing seven minutes of added time without any real justification.


In the second half, each side scored again within two minutes of each other in the 68th and seventieth minutes. When the visitors carved out a third goal after 77 minutes, we all awaited the home response, but none came. The away team manager, who had been using his brass lungs to good effect from the touchline, brought on his considerable bulk to aid his teams efforts and they hung on for a rare victory on the last day of their season.


The covered stand at Earls Colne 

Towards the end of the match, dark and threatening clouds drifted across the pitch and heavy drops of hailstone began to descend as the referee blew his final whistle. Whether to stay and ride out the storm in the stands or to make a dash for the club house was the question and most of us opted for the latter choice and were thoroughly soaked in the process!


Jack chatting with Andy Shaw, The Whitstable Town Programme editor in the stand at Earls Colne

Eventually, I dropped soggily into my car and turned the heater up. A couple of hours later, I arrived back in Northamptonshire a little drier and considerably warmer after an interesting second foray into The Essex & Suffolk Border League. My only previous fixture was: Tuesday 24th May 2011 – Kent Blaxill Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier Division:-West Bergholt 3 Hatfield Peveral 0 attendance: 46 and that was  some six hundred and thirty three  games ago. I hope that I will be able to return sooner than that!

Matches this season:-  224      New grounds this season:-  158

Matches this year:- 106    New grounds this year:-   72


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