Ground Hopping Part 2: Romford v Soham Town Rangers 13th October 2012

So as part of Non League Day I went to the Romford v Soham Town Rangers game as the second game of the day.


Now, Romford do not play in Romford at all. They used to play at Aveley’s ground, but not play at Ship Lane the home of Thurrock FC. This is only about 1 1/2 miles from Aveley’s ground.


Romford had a very successful football team in the period up to the 1970s. The history below is taken from their website


  1. THIS IS the third Romford Football Club, both their predecessors having competed at some point in the Southern League, and each time having been defunct for fourteen years before the name was revived.
    All three versions have had their moments, although the present model has yet to emulate previous achievements on the national stage.
    The original club was founded in 1876 and reached the last six of the F A Cup in 1880-81, then in 1884-85 visited a Blackburn Rovers side on their way to completing a hat-trick of F A Cup wins. The Club joined the Southern League in 1909 but failed to complete their fixtures in their first season, and after an internal dispute which saw a breakaway club formed and a change of name to Romford Town, folded during the First World War.
    For a while there was no senior football at all in Romford, but the situation was addressed in 1929 when local figure Tom Macpherson, later to become M P for the area and subsequently Lord Macpherson, took charge of re-forming the Club after a public meeting at the Corn Exchange, which was so well attended that the crowd spilled on to the street outside, to the annoyance of the police. The meeting was advertised by a poster proclaiming a match between Romford and Aston Villa, revealed to be hypothetical in the small print. The new Club moved into the local Brooklands stadium, which was bought by the Club when it became a limited company in the mid-1930s, possibly the first Amateur club to do so. After two seasons in the London League, Romford joined the Athenian League in 1931, and between 1935 and 1938 won two championships and twice reached the semi-finals of the F A Amateur Cup.
    After the Second World War the Club, who had acquired the nickname Boro after the Borough of Romford, was created in 1937, competed in the Isthmian League and finished third in each of their first two seasons. The highlight of this era was reaching the Final of the F A Amateur Cup in 1949, losing 1-0 to Bromley in front of 95 000 spectators in the first Final to be held at Wembley. However fortunes then plummeted and after finishing in the bottom three five times in a row, Romford took the bold move of turning professional and joining the Southern League in 1959
    Promotion was achieved at the first attempt and, after a near miss in 1963-64 when Boro finished fifth after remaining unbeaten until the New Year, the enormous Championship shield came to Brooklands in 1967. Romford were perennial (and unsuccessful) applicants for membership of the Football League but, apart from third place in 1970-71, never looked like repeating their title success and eventually were relegated in 1975.
    Boro’s failure to make it into the Football League had left huge debts, but only when the ground was sold did the extent of the Clubs problems come to light. 90% of the proceeds of the sale of Brooklands were eaten up in debt repayments and tax, leaving barely £60 000 to finance a new stadium, and the 1977-78 season was spent playing home matches at borrowed grounds – indeed the last match, at home to Folkestone & Shepway, was eventually played at Folkestone with Boro only able to field ten players including the manager. Romford Football Club closed down in 1978 and the site of the unfinished stadium in Oldchurch Park became Romford Ice Rink.
    Appropriately, it was at the Ice Rink that the first meeting took place in February 1992 to gauge interest in reviving the Club. Over 150 people attended to hear the ideas of Dave Howie, and very soon the Club was formed, a ground-share arranged with Hornchurch and senior status granted from the Essex F A. To have achieved so much so soon owed much to what had gone before, and in view of the importance and significance of such a heritage to the success of the new club, it was inevitable that it would adopt the traditional blue and gold colours and Boro nickname, despite the local council having since become the London Borough of Havering.


So today, Romford still find themselves playing several miles out of Romford at the home of Thurrock FC. This is a modern ground as Thurrock were only formed in 1985. The ground is on the outskirts of Thurrock and is situated below the Thurrock Hotel.


The first think one notices on approaching the ground is the large car park which offers free parking. From the car park there are 2 sets of turnstiles, one marked away fans only, but that was not in operation today.


At the main turnstiles, I explained the position about the tickets and handed over the business card and was allowed admittance to the ground.




Again, I notice that there is no mention outside the ground that Romford play at this ground. It may be Thurrock’s ground, but you may have expected as part of the ground share agreement that Romford would have some form of signage outside the ground.


Once in, the ground itself if a modern looking affair with cover provided on all sides of the ground.




The main stand is a little unusual I thought. The stand is shown in the picture below. It straddles the halfway line, but on the rest of the side there is no terracing and only a wide walkway.




Having seen the photograph, you may say there is nothing unusual about the stand and that it is a traditional non league style stand seen at many grounds over the years. You would of course be right. The unusual thing is that Thurrock FC were only formed in 1985 so it is unusual to have a stand built so recently in such an old fashioned style.


It should not be taken as a criticism of the stand as it is perfectly adequate, even having facilities for the hospitality of directors and sponsors at the back.


There were 2 signs on the front of the stand that I am not sure how to interpret.




Now, I always understood that football is a ball game. The clue is in the name is it not? Make of this sign what you will.



The stand behind the far goal, and in the foreground the changing rooms.



Close up of the same stand. Sadly it was without spectators as was most of the ground.





The stand backing onto the car park.




The covered stand running the length of the pitch. This is slightly unusual in that the left hand half is terracing but the right hand half is now seated. I presume this was done to ensure Thurrock met the seating requirements to enable them to move up the football pyramid.


Wandering round the ground before the game, I saw the following sign adjacent to the rubbish skip. Personally I think its a little unfair on the players!



The game itself kicked off with Romford dominating the first half and easily moving into a 2-0 lead. They were looking good value for the 3 points. I was watching this half from the seats next to the away dug out. The Soham manager was clearly not happy at the way his side were playing. I thought he looked familiar, and eventually I twigged on who it was. It was Steve Fallon who performed miracles at Histon for many years, taking them from being a village side to real contenders to win the Conference Title and beating Leeds in the FA Cup as well.


The first half was played in glorious sunshine and it seemed that nothing could rain on Romford’s parade. However, that was to change literally and metaphorically.


As I wandered round the ground at half time, I looked up at the floodlights and noticed the ominous looking sky.




Rain was on the way it seemed. Just time to get a burger and a cup of tea before the rain came. The second half I decided would be watched from the back of the main stand, well out of the rain. I’m a fair weather fan.


The rain started just as Soham came out onto the pitch for the second half. There was no sign of the Romford team though. Then an announcement was made for a qualified referee in the crowd to run the line in the second half. Apparently one of the linesmen ( I know – assistant referees!) was injured and could not carry on. Eventually 10-15 minutes late the Romford team joined the by now wet Soham team on the pitch and the 2nd half kicked off.


The replacement linesman was a young 16 year old lad who was a qualified referee. He obviously had to borrow the kit as it was way too big for him. I tweeted about the delay and about the replacement linesman. Those tweets were picked up on by The BBC’s non league show and re tweeted- my claim to fame for the day!


Sadly the delay did nothing to help Romford and they folded in the rain like a soggy pack of cards and ended up losing 3-2. Definitely 3 points thrown away.


The Crowd for this game was given as 104, which coincidentally was the same crowd Aveley claimed for their game earlier in the day. I did not count the crowd this time, but there were more people at the Romford game than at the Aveley game.


The delayed kick off in the second half had me fearing I would miss the Sports Report Theme on Radio 5 Live, but fortunately their commentary game was running even later so I still got my weekly dose of the theme tune.


No need to worry about whether Newcastle had lost today as they were not playing. However, it was still a Saturday so Orient obviously lost. I think its compulsory for them to lose.


The best news of the day were the regular tweets coming from Queensgate, the home of Bridlington AFC where Spennymoor inflicted the first defeat in 11 games on their hosts in winning 5-1 away in the first round of the FA Vase. I still marvel at the technology allowing me to know what is happening to all the Ebac Northern League sides despite being 250+ miles away at a different game.

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