Man City Transfer Target!
Sep 16, 2019, 3:49 PM
Location: North London
Team(s): Oxford United / Groundhopper
FA Vase (2nd Round Qualifying) 3 pm
Sidmouth Town 0 Cullompton Rangers 5 (H/T 0-3)
Entry - £5 adults
Programme – 20 pages (included in entry)
Crowd – not yet known
As already mentioned elsewhere on this forum, I had dropped Shefford Town & Campion from my shortlist, so that left me with several Vase ties I had been considering. Eventually I chose this one, mainly because Honiton Town were also at home as a back-up in case of public transport delays, and also because I thought that as it was going to be a sunny and warm day, a day out at the seaside, particularly outside the school holidays, was a good idea. OK, so I do realise this was a clash between two clubs from the same division in the same league, and I expect a visit from the groundhopping police in due course. However, one important factor to consider in such cases is that the visiting team will not have to travel too far and will be familiar with the route, therefore greatly reducing the risk of a late arrival causing the kick-off to be delayed or even forcing a postponement.
I travelled out on the 08.20 train from London Waterloo to Honiton, arriving there around 5-10 minutes late due to a late-running connection at Salisbury. When the train approached Gillingham earlier in the journey, I noticed that it is just about possible to see parts of Gillingham Town’s new ground through the trees in the distance. The old ground, which as many of you will know is right next to the railway line, is still intact and I was surprised to see that the floodlights were still there. I would have thought that it would be cheaper to move them to the new ground, which doesn’t have lights, than to buy new ones. So be cautious if attending a midweek game there as it might be moved to the old ground. Anyway, when I arrived at Honiton, I caught the hourly number 9 bus that runs from the station forecourt to Exeter, via Honiton. The journey takes about 30 minutes, and it is possible to see the ground’s floodlights from the bus, or at least, the top deck. As I had plenty of time to spare, I did not alight there, but continued to the town centre and got off there to have a look around. The bus station is very close to the town’s cricket ground and seafront. The cricket ground, which has a noticeable slope towards the sea, is sometimes used by Devon for their games in the Minor Counties Championship and its 50-over competition. Definitely worth ticking in my opinion if you’re a cricket hopper, and it was interesting to see a notice on the perimeter fence which stated that you may be charged £2 for seating. Hopefully you would be given a ticket as a souvenir! Even if you aren’t a cricket fan, one thing that is definitely worth seeing are the stunning cliffs, their distinctive red colour being due to the fact that they date from the Triassic era 230 million years ago and you will be left in no doubt as to why the Dorset coast has been named as a World Heritage site. (The football club, incidentally, are nicknamed ‘The Vikings’ which is a bit strange considering that most Viking influence in the UK was along the north-east coast, but I suppose a nickname of ‘the Dinosaurs’ or ‘the Fossils’ would not go down very well even if it was more historically appropriate.)
I then walked back up the hill (which is more of a gentle incline than a steep one) to the football ground, which is in Manstone Lane. I was surprised to find that it is actually a public recreation ground, rather than a fully enclosed one. There are at least three access points, and gate money was only being taken from two of them. If you don’t want a programme – which was included in the entry price - then it would be very easy to gain entry without paying. Having said this, at least the ground is not used for cricket, and the clubhouse is surprisingly spacious and well-equipped for a venue of this nature. The pitch is railed off on three sides, with a rope behind one goal although there is no obvious reason for the lack of a rail in this particular area. A pair of galvanised steel dugouts are situated on one side, and very close to the pitch on this side is a skateboard park. Further along this side is some cover for spectators. It is very unusual, consisting of a curved cantilever roof with thick steel girders embedded in a concrete base. A large yellow notice attached to it warns against vandalism and graffiti and states that CCTV is in operation. The floodlights look quite recent, and it is unusual to see these in use on a recreation ground. Overall, the facilities are reasonable for a club of this level, but the fact that it is a recreation ground might prevent the club from moving any further up the pyramid. If the club do want to advance further then the easiest way to do so might be to share the rugby ground, which is closer to the town centre. I didn’t have time to look at it but the satellite images show it to have what appears to be a seated stand and it is surrounded all around by houses, so it is probably a properly enclosed venue.
The programme consisted of a glossy pre-printed shell with a four page match-specific insert, a more sensible way of producing programmes than going online-only. The pre-printed shell includes a colour aerial photo of the ground on half of one page, so if you collect aerial images of grounds then you should get to Sidmouth before the end of this season, in case next season’s programme omits the aerial photo. The front cover does vary though from one match to the next, as this one had a photo of the FA Vase and Wembley Stadium on the top half as well as the date and opponents.
The match resulted in a surprisingly easy victory for Cullompton in what was a sporting encounter with no problems for the referee, or even any injuries. Sidmouth were poor and on the evidence of this showing, they may well be relegated from the Premier East at the end of what is their first season at this level. I was fortunate in that the referee added very little, if any, stoppage time for substitutions in the second half, so I had no problems in catching the number 9 bus that departs at 16.55 from the nearest stop to the ground back to Honiton. Upon boarding it, I noticed that a passenger who was already on the bus was holding a copy of a Sidmouth rugby programme, which had a black and white cover with the club’s emblem and name prominently displayed. Upon arrival back in Honiton, I had around 30 minutes to spare before the next train to London, so in order to pass the time, I hopped aboard a number 4 bus to Axminster that was stopping at the station, and so was able to enjoy more of the spectacular Dorset scenery for the following 20-25 minutes before boarding the London-bound train at Axminster, for a punctual trip back home.