Welcome to Volume Two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and their maintenance.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible.

I was fortunate that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately heightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done, I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a try today. They'll be delighted to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby as he grows into a young man!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on YouTube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


November 2018

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Ayutthaya United (Thailand)

Ayutthaya United FC is a professional football club from the city of Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand located around fifty miles north of central Bangkok. The club was formed in 2007 as Sena Municipality FC.

The major football club in the city for a couple of years was Provincial Electric Authority; better known as PEA FC, who had relocated to Ayutthaya from the Chonburi region in 2008. Businessman Newin Chidchob bought PEA and relocated them to Buriram and changed their name to Buriram United FC.

This left a void for the football fans of Ayutthaya. Another club, Ayutthaya FC, was formed in 2009 to vie for support with Sena Municipality, who played in amateur football. The club took part in the Khor Royal Cup in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.

Both campaigns ended in the Round of 16, with Sena going out to Assumption Sriracha School and then to Hua Hin Municipality FC. The semi-final was reached in 2013 before being defeated by Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality Sport School FC.

The club was elevated to the higher level Khǒr Royal Cup for 2014, reaching the Round of 16 with their run being ended by Institute of Physical Education Bangkok FC. In 2015 Sena got as far as the semi-final stage.

The winners would gain promotion to the Regional League; which was the third tier of Thai football at the time. Institute of Physical Education Samut Sakhon FC defeated Sena, but both sides were promoted owing to issues with the other semi-finalists.

Sena Municipality changed their name to Ayutthaya United FC and were placed in Regional League Division 2 Central Region for the 2016 season alongside Ayutthaya FC, where top scorer Tomohiro Onodera helped the team to a fourth place finish, playing home games at Senabodee Stadium.

Another local side; Ayutthaya Warrior FC won the Regional League Division 2 Central Region title in 2016 from their home base at Ayutthaya Province Stadium. In the Champions League play-offs for promotion the club were defeated in the Round of 16 by Kamphaengphet FC.

Warrior were dissolved into United remaining in the same venue for the 2017 season, with the team ending in fourth once again; this time in the retitled Thai League 3 Upper Region. Trinidad and Tobago international forward, Kendall Jagdeosingh ended the season as top scorer.

In 2018 United finished as runners-up in the third level Upper Region as Nascimento Dos Santos banged in the goals. This set up a two legged play-off against Nara United for promotion. Ayutthaya went through 2-1 on aggregate as an Arnon Buspha goal sealed the win in front of 2,850 fans.

Ayutthaya United FC will play in Thai League 2 in the 2019 season.

My visit

Thursday 22nd November 2018

I’d been packed off to Ayutthaya by my host Steve Walker in either 2004 or 2005 while he was teaching being told it had a lively nightlife. Being only used to the bright lights of Bangkok and Phuket I was a little underwhelmed. However, an incident while there cemented my affinity with the wonderful people of the country.

I’d enjoyed my full quota of beers for the evening and headed to my digs in good form, singing along, but totally unaware of my surroundings. I smacked my forehead against the edge of a metal lean to. Cue plenty of bleeding. I’d never cut my head before and was terrified.

Some locals in an open fronted garage opposite saw my predicament and came rushing to my assistance. I was cleansed and bandaged before being sent home. I’ll never forget that kind act until the day I die.

Anyway, fast forward over a decade and I’d returned by train the previous day and had a long hot walk taking in the majestic temples before a lovely local evening of chat, massage, beers, food and watching live music.

I’d stayed at the Ayutthaya Grand Hotel, which was far from grand, but it did the job in a fine location. Ideally, it meant that the Provincial, or Krungsri Stadium as it also known, was between there and the railway station and ideal for a whistle stop visit.

Again, the heat was searing, so a stop for water and Gatorade was a must at a 7/11 as I walked along the dual carriageway as far as Tambon Phai Ling where I followed the signs and took a left turn. The entrance to the stadium complex was a couple of hundred metres along the road.

An old temple and statue stood in the park behind one of the ends of the multi-purpose arena that had a running track around the football pitch as well as other facilities accommodating other sports. A school party were behind the stand awaiting their sports day.

Access was easy to take my photos. The stadium consisted of a raised area on either side. The main side had a long section of proper seating and a roof over most of it, while the area on the other side looked a little bit more makeshift as it stood open on frames.

Neither end beyond the curves had any spectator areas, but the city end had banners over the fencing giving it a bit of identity and affinity towards the anchor tenants. The goals were still in for the schools despite it being close season in the Thai leagues.

Once done I flagged down a tuk tuk next to some friendly locals who shouted, smiled and waved me off. I think they were shocked and mildly amused that I fitted inside. My driver dropped me off at the station where I snacked at the excellent but pricey Station bar and restaurant.

I headed back to the capital to grab some last minute gifts before taking the Sky Train and a taxi to Minburi to meet with Steve, Fah, Tracey and Sean to celebrate a local Loi Krathong and then have a last supper before my flight back to the cold weather and atmosphere of Blighty.

May & Baker

May & Baker Eastbrook Community FC, or May & Baker as the club is more commonly known, is a non-league club based in Romford, east London that was formed as M&B Club playing at the M&B Sports and Social Club in Dagenham.

The social club is close to the May & Baker factory; which produced chemicals. The team competed in the Essex Business Houses Football League in the 2005-06 season before progressing to Division Three of the Essex Olympian League.

A runners-up berth in their inaugural season led to promotion to Division Two, which was consequently renamed Division One. In 2007-08 May & Baker ended second in the league to seal promotion to the Premier Division.

A demotion followed despite finishing outside the relegation places, but the club soon reclaimed their Premier Division status following a title winning season in 2009-10. A change of name to May & Baker Eastbrook Community followed in 2014.

May & Baker won the Essex Junior Cup in 2016-17 before becoming members of the enlarged Eastern Counties League for the 2018-19 campaign, where the club was placed in Division One South, with home games being played at Barking Rugby Club on Gale Street in Dagenham.

May & Baker Eastbrook Community will play in the Eastern Counties League Division One South in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

May & Baker 0 Swaffham Town 1 (Sunday 4th November 2018) FA Vase Second Round (att: 162)

I’d been in a state of flux whether to make the effort to cross London on a chilly Sunday. I had plenty of work to complete for the forthcoming Siam International Cricket Sevens which I was heavily involved in the administration of.

Hendon’s defeat the previous day at Salisbury and the long journey intertwined with struggling with sleep around my shift patterns was making me tired and irritable. In the end I did all the work I could before downing tools. There was another incentive to make the effort.

A good cricket pal of mine, Terry Skillett, had passed away a few days earlier. We had spent many happy times together at events in Thailand and his death had affected me more than I envisaged. Terry was originally from Barking. It just felt right to head to his home town.

The journey was longer than usual owing to planned engineering works on the tube, meaning a ride all the way to West Ham on the Jubilee line before changing to national rail to Barking. My old mate was rather harsh when describing his old manor, the last time he’d visited.

At least I thought so. To be honest, he probably had a point. It was certainly very different to the Barking he left behind. I did feel rather isolated as a white Englishman around the station as I waited for my bus further east.

Jumping out at the Goresbrook Leisure stop on the A13 I looked across to Castle Green, where a modern sculpture depicting local heroes Sir Alf Ramsey, Justin Leonard, Bobby Moore and Paralympic swimmer Beverley Gull looked down from the top of the hill.

Across the road was the entrance to Barking Rugby Club, with a friendly May & Baker official taking the £5 admission and selling programmes for £1 from a desk near to the changing rooms. It was soon evident that the crowd would include many fellow groundhoppers.

It was only 2pm so I headed upstairs to enjoy a couple of pints of well kept Legacy from the Brentwood Brewery at a very reasonable £3.40. I know football fans with low opinions of rugby folk, but they certainly know how to provide facilities.

They can often be rugged, but they are always warm and have a good bar and catering. That goes a long way in my book. I had to strip down a few layers such was the heat in the bar; which was itself doing a roaring trade.

With kick off approaching I headed out on to the balcony where there was standing room offering a fine view. An official read out the sides, though I felt it an opportunity missed that the teams didn’t come out to Ma Baker by Boney M.

Aside from the raised standing area there was hard standing all along the near side. A covered seating stand offered a vantage point opposite, but there was no spectator room behind either end apart from access.

I’d noticed that the pitch appeared quite bumpy when I arrived. Rugby had been played on it the previous day and it hadn’t really been tended to apart from the changing of posts, football pitch lines being painted and green paint over the rugby markings.

The hosts side wore squad numbers, with both sides in fourth place in their respective divisions before kick off; with the visitors from Suffolk playing in Division One North of the same competition. A few fans had made the journey with the team.

The game lacked quality but more than made up for it in effort. Nothing too much of note had taken place on the pitch when an escalating row broke out below us. It looked like some kind of insult had been handed out from one bloke to friend and family, which another bloke took offence to.

Women, elders and even a home substitute got involved as tempers rose and an official stepped in to ask them to moderate their behaviour. The two blokes went around the side but came back later, only to start again. It was definitely more entertaining than the match.

I wasn’t the only one taking it all in. I remarked to a man next to me that it put to bed the myth that Eastenders was far fetched. We had a giggle and got chatting. He’d come from Chester specially for the game and was a Fleetwood fan back in the 1970’s.

We got talking about the Northern Premier League in the 1970’s and about my team, Scarborough. He said his only visit to the old Athletic Ground was in 1976, but he didn’t suppose I was old enough to remember it, which gave me a bit of a boost.

My eyes lit up when he said it was the FA Trophy tie with Tooting & Mitcham United. I told him the match details and recounted the wonderful winning goal from Jeff Barmby. The odds on the subject coming up must have been around a billion to one but it made my day.

Meanwhile, back out on the pitch Swaffham skipper Alex Vincent saw a shot go wide before Dean Hall had an effort for the hosts which was saved by Tommy Rix in the visitors’ net before the first half petered out.

The players who stood out to me as the game continued were Okus Connor and Hoxhaj Beshr for May & Baker and Swaffham’s Vincent. The game was played in good spirit and was end to end but missing that one piece of excellence to break the deadlock.

Rix pulled off a couple of brilliant saves; one of which from Okus. The resulting corner was headed wide by Sam Dickins. It was looking for all money that the game was going to extra time. The ‘hoppers’ around me were less than impressed with the prospect!

On eighty nine minutes Swaffham broke down the left through substitute Luke Reed. His fine run set up Joe Jackson with an absolute sitter. Somehow the striker put his effort wide of a gaping goal with keeper Michael Gooch helpless.

The groans and even profanities from the assembled crowd were most audible. It’s a good job many weren’t supporters of Swaffham or I’d hate to have heard their reactions! However, Jackson was soon to make amends.

He went on a run of his own, with his shot being parried by Gooch. Reed was on hand to slam the ball home to the delight of everyone apart from the smattering of home fans. I said my goodbyes and made my way downstairs and to the gate.

Right on full time I made a dash and went down through the underpass to jump on a bus to Beckton station, which took longer than I imagined and then the DLR and Jubilee line home. It hadn’t been a great game, but I was glad I made the effort, nonetheless.

Afterall, it’s not every day you get the chance to chat about a Jeff Barmby winner from forty two years previously. My old mate Terry would have shaken his head and laughed out loud.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Brightlingsea Regent

Brightlingsea Regent FC is a non-league football club from the Essex coastal town of Brightlingsea that was formed in 2005 following the merger of local clubs Brightlingsea United and Regent Park Rangers.

United had been formed in 1928 by their own merger between Brightlingsea Athletic, who were originally called Wesley Guild and Brightlingsea Town who had been formed as Brightlingsea Juniors in 1919.

United played in Division One of the Essex & Suffolk Border League upon formation, moving into a new ground at North Road a year later from the Recreation Ground in Regent Road and winning promotion to the Premier Division in 1930-31.

The team were relegated before reclaiming their Premier Division slot in 1946-47 as Division One champions. Another demotion ensued in 1953-54. United returned to the upper tier after another Division One title in 1960-61.

This time their Premier Division status lasted just one season, remaining in Division One until 1967-68. In 1972 United became members of the Essex Senior League for its second ever season.

The club were crowned as league champions in 1988-89 and 1989-90 under manager Jackie Parkinson before joining Division One of the Eastern Counties League, winning promotion as runners-up in their inaugural season.

United were relegated from the Premier Division in 1992-93, remaining in Division One for the best part of a decade with Frank Thompson being the longest servin manager of the period, before resigning from the league before the commencement of the 2002-03 campaign.

The management and many players left complaining of the facilities at North Road, as United joined the lower reaches of the Essex & Suffolk Border League. In 2005 it was decided for United to merge with local side Regents Park Rangers.

The new club won Division Two of the Essex & Suffolk Border League in their inaugural season before winning a second successive promotion in 2006-07. Regent won the Premier Division title in 2010-11 under the management team of James Webster and Mark Gridley.

Regent were promoted to Division One of the Eastern Counties League. This time they were to fare better, winning promotion to the Premier Division in 2012-13. Further success was to follow in the 2013-14 campaign.

The team finished runners-up in the Premier Division, earning promotion to Division One North of the Isthmian League as well as putting together a fine FA Vase run. Regent were eventually knocked out in the fifth round away to Dunston UTS.

After finishing sixth and then eighth in their new surroundings, Brightlingsea won Division One North in 2016-17 to usher in further ground improvements to North Road in preparation for Isthmian League Premier Division football.

Long serving manager Webster departed in October 2017 to take the Aveley manager’s job to be replaced by his assistant Tom Rothery. Regent ended the 2017-18 season just above the relegation places.

Brightlingsea Regent FC will play in the Isthmian League Premier Division in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

Brightlingsea Regent 0 Torquay United 3 (Saturday 6th October 2018) FA Cup Third Qualifying Round (att: 470)

The new shifts at work meant doing plenty of cover weeks, which could mean working anywhere between Eastcote and Uxbridge on the Metropolitan line on either day shift. On the plus side it offered me weekends off.

When Tony Foster suggested a trip to the Essex coast for this interesting tie he solved me from plenty of pondering where to go. I wanted a new venue to me and he was of similar thoughts, especially if it was for an FA Cup game.

The competition was clearly not in vogue in the higher echelons of the game, but it still meant the world to smaller clubs and particularly non-league sides who dreamed of glory while management also considered the valuable prize money.

It was literally a wake up call when I opened the curtains and looked at the foul weather outside after what had been a pleasant week. It was very windy and raining. It certainly blew the cobwebs away from my previous evening’s indulgence.

Tony picked me up at Stanmore at 11.30am so that we were assured against any potential hold ups in the tricky conditions. We put the world to rights as ever during a very smooth trip down the A12 before parking up near to the ground on the end of Well Street at 1.40pm.

It was an excellent spot, just a minute from the Cherry Tree pub where we watched the end of the Leeds v Brentford match among a scattering of friendly locals before grabbing an excellent lunch next door at Mac’s Plaice.

While I’m a fan of spending money inside non-league grounds and patronising the food outlets, we knew that it would be busy with the large expected crowd. We wouldn’t have done any better than the £3.60 for an excellent large portion of sausage and chips regardless.

North Road was a narrow thoroughfare with fans walking up the road to the entrance to The Taydal Stadium, to give it its sponsors title at the end. Admission was £10 with the decent programme another couple of quid. We took cover in the nearest shelter to finish our grub.

The venue had obviously been put together as the club went on their recent meteoric rise. Despite its piecemeal nature it had a degree of charm about it, with its six different covers around the pitch.

The near side had the small standing cover where we were, with a overhang from the clubhouse further along. This area along with the seated stand in between was already busy with fans.

One goal had a low cover, the other open with just a high net stopping stray shots from going into the gardens of the bungalows behind. The far side had another standing cover, a TV tower and a smaller seated stand.

After I’d gone on a lap of the ground taking my photos I returned to recommend that we went across to the far side as the heavy wind would be at our backs and we’d be on the high side of the pitch which sloped across ways.

As the teams emerged from the far corner we agreed that the match had all the ingredients of a cup upset, with the weather and sloping pitch. Although there was only one league between the clubs Torquay were seen as a big fish in the National League South.

The Gulls had fallen on hard times of late but had recently appointed the experienced and successful Gary Johnson as manager. The immediate impression was just how much bigger and imposing the visiting players were.

United went about their work quickly and efficiently. Opi Edwards fired in a vicious shot which excellent Regent keeper James Bradbrook did really well to keep out. However, it wouldn’t be long before his goal was breached.

On fifteen minutes full back George Keys failed to spot a run from Edwards on his blind side, leading to him clumsily fouling. The ref pointed straight to the spot with Jamie Reid stepping up to score and quell any nerves among the 100 or so Torquay travelling fans.

The United players were stronger and winning the midfield battle being first to the vital challenges. Billy Hunt did his best up front for Regent, but he lacked support as his team mates were forced back.

The rain hammered down at times and we were getting a real soaking as the covered area was full. At least it was just to the backs of us. Many scattered from the facing seats opposite with plenty being vacant after the first goal.

Regent did well to stay in the game until the interval. The Gulls should have doubled their lead when Jake Andrews set up Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, on loan from Bristol City, who contrived to put the ball over from virtually under the bar.

Regent could have grabbed an unlikely equaliser shortly after when visiting keeper Shaun MacDonald got a claw on a Hunt shot to divert it onto the crossbar. It would be as close as the hosts were to get.

The lead was doubled on sixty six minutes when Andrews inswinging corner was glanced home by Asa Hall. They continued to pour forward at will despite Regent’s best efforts. Bradbrook was on overtime in goal and had a fine afternoon.

However, he was helpless nine minutes from time when Andrews sealed the deal with a diving header from Reid’s cross. The final score was about right. We watched the dying embers from the entrance side where the reality of the wind was brought home.

It looked like the clubhouse had done a roaring trade all afternoon and fair play to Regent who staged the game excellently. They deserved the extra revenue. I spared a thought for the Torquay commentary team in the back row of the seats. They looked absolutely frozen.

We made a quick walk back to the car, where its best feature was soon utilised as Tony turned on the heated seats. My original plan was to go to the gym on my return, but I was wet through and worried about catching flu.

Instead I went straight home for a bath, a nice meal and a bit of telly including Match of the Day to round off a cracking day. I needed some sleep as there was more FA Cup action ahead the following day following Hendon down to Lancing.

Hartley Wintney

Hartley Wintney FC is a non-league football club from the village of the same name in north Hampshire who were formed in 1897. The club is nicknamed ‘The Row’ as Hartley Row was a hamlet engulfed by the larger village.

The club initially played their home games at Causeway Farm playing in the Basingstoke & District League. The club moved to a new home, The Memorial Ground on Green Lane as Row progressed to the Aldershot & District League where they were crowned as league champions for three consecutive seasons in the 1970’s.

Hartley Wintney became founder members of the Home Counties League in 1978. The competition was retitled as the Combined Counties League a year later as Row finished as runners-up in 1980-81.

The league was split geographically with Hartley Wintney being placed in the Western Division for the 1981-82 campaign. The league reverted to just one division in 1982-83, with Row being crowned as champions.

A new clubhouse was built along with an area of covered seating, new changing rooms and floodlights. The team had a period of decline and finished second from bottom in 1998-99 and then 1999-00.

When the Combined Counties League added a second division for the 2003-04 season Hartley Wintney were placed in the Premier Division. Row were relegated to Division One in 2004-05 where they remained for three seasons.

Promotion back to the top flight came under the management of Mike Scott in 2007-08, but their spell lasted just twelve months before they were demoted. Scott was succeeded by Pete Gray and John Condon.

Louis King was in charge as the team ended the 2010-11 season in seventh place. Neville Roach was appointed as manager in the summer of 2011, leading the club back to the Premier Division at the first time of asking.

However, celebrations were cut short when the entire coaching team departed for Thatcham Town. Former Millwall defender Dave Tuttle took over but lasted just a few months before being replaced by twenty four year old Ben Dillon.

His side miraculously escaped relegation before they reached the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round for the first time. The home tie saw Row go out at home to Daventry Town in front of over 1,000 spectators.

Dillon stepped down at the end of the 2014-15 season with joint bosses Dan Brownlie and Anthony Millerick stepping into his position. The 2015-16 campaign saw Row go out in the fifth round of the FA Vase in front of a sell out crowd to eventual finalists Hereford.

The side went on to claim the league title but were denied promotion because of ground grading issues. Row retained the Combined Counties League title and completed ground improvements to be promoted to the Southern League Division One East.

The momentum continued in 2017-18 despite having a couple of goal scorers tempted away to other clubs. Hartley Wintney finished in fourth place to qualify for the play-offs where they defeated AFC Dunstable and then Cambridge City thanks to a Nic Ciardini goal.

Row were placed in the Southern League Premier Division South after a reorganisation of non-league football for the 2018-19 campaign. Brownlie departed to Basingstoke Town, with Dan Turkington replacing him as joint manager to Anthony Millerick.

Hartley Wintney FC will play in the Southern League Premier Division South in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

Hartley Wintney 2 Hendon 3 (Saturday 13th October 2018) Southern League Premier Division South (att: 313)

It was a beautiful bright and mild if slightly lunchtime when I woke after my night shift to news that England had defeated Sri Lanka in an ODI. The world was a good place as I enjoyed some lunch in chipper mood owing to the latest edition of healthy living.

Ahead of my intended schedule I took the tube to Waterloo realising that I’d probably overdressed, such were the temperatures that were into the twenties. I caught an earlier train to ensure that I’d make the bus connection at Fleet.

My transport was a minute or two late but took us on a ride through a lovely part of the world. Traffic lights by roadworks explained the late running, especially when we were stuck on a red for an incredible four minutes.

Not to worry, as I was soon at the Green Lane stop. Hartley Wintney looked a beautiful large village. I walked past a fete, a nice church and a school which appeared to provide some parking for the football.

If you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t imagined that you’d come across a Step 3 non-league football club down the tree lined lane. A friendly steward pointed me in the direction of the turnstiles, where admission was £10. I had my regular go on the 50/50 draw for a further quid.

There was no need to worry about a programme as Gerry Maguire, one of my car park colleagues back at SJP had sorted me out. I didn’t realise he was going to the game, but he’d gone on ahead to fit in a round of golf in Slough on route.

The Row had performed near miracles in previous few years winning three promotions. The Memorial Ground was struggling to keep pace. That said, I do think the FA ground grading regulations are too stringent. I liked the community feel of the venue.

The pitch had a large slope across it. The near side had the slightly raised clubhouse, with overhang to shelter spectators with a mixture of grass and concrete open standing. A small camera gantry straddled the half way line with the see-through dug outs aside.

There was no access behind the top goal. The other end had two small covers either side of the goal over a narrow strip of standing. Two modern kit seated stands were on the far side, with the one on half way the larger.

The teams were walking down from the changing rooms as I arrived. Jimmy Gray and Mark Boyce, the Dons management duo seemed in good form, but they rarely had seen to be grumpy since joining the club.

Hendon had taken an impressive following to the game of around 80 fans who were spread out. The club had signed striker Connor Calcutt ahead of the game from Farnborough. I’d been impressed on my previous look at him and thought it an excellent acquisition.

It was all Dons for the first ten minutes. Lee Chappell put in a series of good corners and long throws. A couple of half chances were created with Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick somehow missing the best one, while young keeper Adam Desbois seemed uncertain.

For some reason Hendon resorted to short corners. On twelve minutes it was to be their undoing. A poor delivery saw the hosts break away at pace, with just three men in sky blue in defensive positions.

Keeper Dan Boness made a stop, but the ball came back to Mike Campbell whose shot was adjudged to have crossed the line by the linesman despite an attempt to clear off the line. It had certainly come against the run of play.

Hendon made an identical error within a few minutes. A fellow fan summed it up perfectly when he said, “we’ve only three back and one of them can’t tackle.” Despite these setbacks the Dons were still in the ascendancy.

Marvin Morgan was causing havoc in the air and with his strength, which lead to Stephane Ngamvoulou breaking through and forcing the ball in at the near post past Desbois on twenty five minutes

Morgan came tantalisingly close to getting a touch on a ball when outdoing the last defender as the keeper came out to collect. Opportunites continued to come at both ends. Boness made a fine save to match one from Desbois from Gianni Crichlow before the equaliser.

I grabbed a cuppa for £1 at the break at the van which was doing a roaring trade, as was the clubhouse. There was time for a walk down the far side for some extra photos before the teams re-emerged for the second half.

The game was pretty even, with perhaps Hartley Wintney having slightly the better of things while Hendon looked constantly threatening on the break. On fifty six minutes the Dons defence stood off too far allowing a low cross into the area.

It would eventually fall to Jack Ball who made no mistake smashing home. Manager Gray immediately made a change withdrawing Crichlow for debutant Calcutt. The new man immediately impressed with his areal prowess.

It would be he and Morgan who played in Hippolyte-Patrick on sixty two minutes for the in form players to slot past Desbois to the delight of the Dons fans enjoying the sun shine behind the goal where I stood with Gerry along with Andy Boness.

It was a decent enough encounter. The strong wind that favoured the visitors in the first half had dropped and the lush pitch allowed the ball to hold up. If there was one fault of Hendon, it would be the match management from some of the younger players.

The team though had made great strides since being put together from scratch and one of those who’d impressed was to score what turned out to be the winner. We were urging Laste Dombaxe to pass when he let go of a poorly struck low shot from the edge of the box.

Somehow it evaded Desbois as it went up the slope into the corner of the net. Perhaps the stopper was slightly unsighted, but we felt he ought to have done better with the effort. Not that we complained of course. Once again, the Hendon team had displayed great character.

The Row pressed forward at regular intervals, while there was always a chance of a fourth goal on the break. Romario Jonas was winning everything in the air to ease the pressure. Sometimes the ball was given away a bit cheaply.

Boness looked commanding between the sticks and made a couple of excellent saves. Calcutt was treated to a few chants of, “what a waste of money” from some home fans as he fired off a speculative shot that missed by some distance.

However, he’d already proved his worth and looked every bit a player with a football brain. Top scorer Ricky German struggled throughout, missing a bit of zip, but his colleagues felt the benefit of his close attention.

The hosts had several corners, free kicks and throw ins but the Dons held firm and were greeted with loud cheers from the travelling faithful when referee Nasimir Nzenga, who’d had a decent game with his linesmen, blew for full time.

Gerry dropped another Hendon fan and London Underground colleague off at Farnborough station before depositing me at Hillingdon after a slight detour! There was time for a couple of hours nap before heading back to work in a good mood!