Around the Grounds, Nos 16-18: Three FA Cup visits to non-league grounds

PUBLISHED: 15:05 05 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:05 05 October 2018

Vale Farm, the home of Wembley FC. Columnist Carl Marston visited here in 1990

Vale Farm, the home of Wembley FC. Columnist Carl Marston visited here in 1990


Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Here he recalls three FA Cup trips.

I am planning to hit the FA Cup trail again this weekend, heading to north London to report on AFC Sudbury’s quest to reach the fourth qualifying round, at the expense of hosts Haringey Borough.

Tomorrow will not be the first time I have visited Coles Park – perhaps that might be the subject of a future column – and it will certainly not be the first time that I have sampled the delights of those early rounds of the Cup, several months before the ‘big boys’ belatedly enter the fray at round three in early January.

- Around the Grounds: Swaffham Town and Dereham Town

I have been all the way to Wembley in this competition, although I have never actually attended an FA Cup Final, or FA Cup semi-final – the nearest I have come was a quarter-final tie between Arsenal and Cambridge United at Highbury, 27 years ago.

Instead, the ‘Wembley’ I visited was of the non-league Wembley FC variety (currently in the Spartans South Midlands League).

So to mark this weekend’s latest FA Cup journey, to Haringey, here are a few of my past FA Cup experiences, featuring some lesser-known non-league hosts.

Vale Farm

Club: Wembley FC

Founded: 1946

The match: Wembley v Bury Town (September 1, 1990)

Carl’s visit: I had always wanted to go to Wembley, with my home-town club of Bury Town, and that ambition was realised, to a certain extent, during my first couple of years at this newspaper.

Chris Symes was the Blues boss, for this visit to Vale Farm, Watford Road, Wembley – as opposed to the National Football Stadium.

I travelled down on the team-coach, but it wasn’t a great day – Bury were beaten 1-0 to bow out of the Cup at the very first hurdle (probably a preliminary round), beaten by a 38th minute strike from a certain Gursel Gulfer.

- Around the Grounds: Framlingham Town’s Badingham Road

Nicknamed The Lions, I can’t believe that I didn’t refer to Bury being ‘tamed’ by their hosts, who at the time were in Division One of the Vauxhall Opel (Isthmian, now Bostik) League.

The English national team had trained at Vale Farm, ahead of their successful FA Cup campaign of 1966. Alas, my memories of the ground are more subdued!

The Warren

Club: Yeading FC (now Hayes & Yeading)

Founded: 1960 (dissolved 2007)

The match:Yeading v Colchester United (November 12, 1994)

Carl’s visit: This was a pulsating FA Cup first round tie, which so nearly ended in a giant-killing.

I recall the whole hectic afternoon, from the moment we squeezed our car into a busy side-street in this corner of West Middlesex, to the moment when a little-known defender by the name of Phil Dicker bagged a late equaliser for the hosts.

The capacity at The Warren, a very tidy little ground, was supposedly 3,500, but it felt like a full-house even though the crowd on the day was revealed as 1,780.

The fourth tier U’s, with George Burley in charge (he was manager for just half-a-year before his switch to Ipswich Town), twice went ahead via Mark Kinsella (9 minutes) and Paul Abrahams (56).

Yeading stalwart Johnson Hippolyte, who went on to manage the club from 2001 to ‘06, equalised on the stroke of half-time and Dicker brought the house down with an 86th minute equaliser.

The U’s held on by their finger-tips, and I remember feeling very relieved to slip out of the Borough of Hillingdon with a replay – Burley’s boys went on to win that replay 7-1 at Layer Road.

Alas, The Warren fell into disuse following the merger to form Hayes & Yeading in 2007. After a spell of playing at Hayes’ former Church Road ground, the club ground-shared at distant Woking and also Maidenhead.

The original quickfire intention to redevelop The Warren never materialised, with the money running out before the work was completed, though the club have recently returned to the borough at the SkyEX Community Stadium in Beaconsfield Road, Hayes.

As an aside, The Warren was made famous by hosting scenes from the film ‘Bend it Like Beckham’.

Privett Park

Club: Gosport Borough

Founded: 1944

The match: Gosport Borough v Colchester United (November 9, 2014)

Carl’s visit: I have chosen to include this, for two reasons.

Firstly, I haven’t reported on many matches ending in a 6-3 away win (current Ipswich striker Freddie Sears scored twice that day).

And secondly, Privett Park, Privett Road, sounds remarkably like Harry Potter’s old home – at No. 4, Privet Drive!

Reasons, enough, I think you will agree, to get a mention!

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