Ground Hopping: Barking FC v AFC Wimbledon 27th February 2013

Competition: London Senior Cup 4th Round

Date: 28th February

Venue: Mayesbrook Park, Lodge Avenue Dagenham

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This was very much a spur of the moment decision after seeing a retweet from someone mentioning. As I live very near Barking, it seemed like a good reason to go and watch Barking play and do another ground.

I sent a tweet asking about admission prices and facilities which was quickly responded to by someone giving me the prices and confirming there was a bar at the ground.

A quick Google search revealed the ground was only about 3 miles from my home, so I could get there quickly. It also revealed a large free car park at the ground.

The history of Barking Football Club is set out in a rather random fashion on the club website at or more clearly at One thing to note is that despite now playing at Step 5 of the non league pyramid now (level 9 if you include the Premiership & Football League), they have played in both the Southern League (now Evo Stick South) and the Isthmian League. So in the past fixtures with the old Wimbledon club would have been a regular thing. Now, AFC Wimbledon are in the Football League (until May if current league positions stay the same). Where as Barking now find themselves in the Essex Senior League.

Barking have been champions of every league they have played in except the Southern League and the Essex Senior League (yet), culminating in the Isthmian League championship in 1978/79 and in that year the club was awarded the title of FA Non League Team of the Year. In addition to league championships the club has been very successful in cup competitions and over 100 titles have been won at all levels. The greatest success in national cups came in 1926/27 when the final of the FA Amateur Cup was reached and lost 3-1 to Leyton at Millwall, the ground staff having dug holes to clear the waterlogged pitch. A total of ten appearances in the last eight of the Amateur Cup were completed by three semi finals and six quarter finals. The second round of the FA Cup has been reached four times including the defeat of Football League opponents Oxford United in 1980. In the FA Vase in 1996/7 Barking reached the fifth round (last 16) and were narrowly defeated by a single goal at Mossley.

Arriving at the ground, from the outside it was a mixed view. There were proper turnstiles, but the main sign shown on the buildings on Google had been removed. Still, it was into the ground and a cheerful greeting from the turnstile operator as she sat smoking whilst taking the money.

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As I got through the turnstiles, the players were lining up to enter the pitch, being separated from us mere spectators by a wire mesh fence. The bar and toilets are in this area In front there was an open piece of terracing which is quite large in size, but not many steps of terracing. Still, it was in good condition. The main covered terrace was the other side of the players’ tunnel, but couldn’t be accessed until the players were on the pitch.

This covered terrace was quite substantial and for a club operating below the Conference south level, the ground was simple, but rather well planned. There was a stand running 2/3rds of one side of the grounds which had seats in part of it and covered terracing towards the corner flag. The far goal was an open end, with hard standing and no terracing. The big wall had the words BARKING FC painted on it. Behind the wall was an area that seemed to be used as a storage area. It appeared to be part of the ground, so could possibly be an expansion area. More on this later.

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The final side of the ground housed the dug outs, and alongside them what appears to have been the old dug outs from the days before teams had multiple substitutes. This side again was concrete standing, but had space to build a stand on. Also on this side of the ground between the floodlights were 2 telephone masts. These seem to be a common feature at football grounds these days and no doubt help to bring in extra revenue.

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One thing I did notice was the amount of space between the touchline/ goal line and the surrounding pitch wall. The area available is significant and given the building of a stand directly behind the goal and on one touchline, it is not easy to use the space without demolishing and rebuilding stands. Certainly, the ground is big enough to expand to a much larger capacity ground if ever it needed it.

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The game itself was interesting, firstly from the size of the crowd. Barking often play to less than 40 spectators, but tonight there were 168 paying spectators in the ground. Walking round the ground, it became apparent that a lot were AFC Wimbledon fans. There was a decent atmosphere although as is inevitable everyone thinks the referee is biased against their side.

Barking took an early lead which was well deserved and had chances to make it more. Half timer and it was still 1-0. A Welcome cup of tea and a seat in the warm bar (which served the usual football match food) was what was needed. £1.00 for a large hotdog was far cheaper than you’d pay for something similar at a League club.

The second half continued with Barking unlucky not to increase their lead on several occasions. The AFC Wimbledon goalkeeper pulled off a number of good saves, one when he turned a near certain goal round the post. However, the extra fitness of the AFC Wimbledon side was starting to tell and with virtually the last kick of the match AFC Wimbledon scored an equaliser. There is no extra time or replays here, so it was straight to penalties. The Barking penalties were not as good as their earlier play and they lost 4-2 on penalties.



Overall, a nice ground, with room for expansion if it was ever needed. Very friendly people and a good performance from Barking. It was a surprise to learn that they had lost 3-0 in the first round of the FA Vase given how well they played tonight.

Another club on my list of those I would like to visit again. At £6 admission and so close to home, it is likely I may well make a few more games here. Its so much more enjoyable watching football in a proper ground than in an athletics stadium like the one my local side Ilford FC play at.

Talking of athletics grounds, Mayesbrook Park is next to an Athletics Ground which has a large sports centre attached. Instead of ON THE SHED or ON THE SEAT or IN THE BEDROOM, here we have the spectators, IN THE GYM.

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Ouch–Stupidity Costs

The pictures of my arm show the cost of my stupidity


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I had an accident last night with a steam cleaner – forgot I had not turned it off and then tried to remove the cap to refill it. The water exploded out of the cleaner under pressure and burned my arm.


The stupidity? I forgot that men are not supposed to be doing housework!


Time to head off for medical treatment

Ground Hopping: Incredible Crowd

Well its been a hectic few days. I took Thursday & Friday off work to enable me to drive up to Newcastle & cook a Valentine’s Day meal for Michelle – ever the romantic me. It was of course entirely co-incidental that on the Friday, Spennymoor Town the reigning triple Northern League Champions were playing at home to the current Northern League leaders, Darlington. It would take a cynical person to suggest otherwise.

The best laid plans started to go wrong almost from the start, but actually worked out well.

Firstly, Michelle had to take a school trip to Eden Camp in North Yorkshire meaning she would not get home until around 19:30 so we would be eating late.

Secondly, Michelle decided she wanted to go to the football on Friday night, but it was an all ticket game and officially a sell out. A few phone calls and a bit of pleading  by me managed to locate a ticket for the game from one of the extra tickets the council had allowed Spennymoor to sell. It did however mean I had to go to the ground to collect it on the Thursday afternoon. I had arranged to meet the General Manager of the club, Steve Lawson at 15:00. This just allowed me time to pop into see my parents for a cup of tea whilst on my way from London to Michelle’s.

I got to the ground at 15:00 but Steve wasn’t there. However, one of the committee members Brian was on the pitch clearing away snow and water. When I first saw the pitch I would have said the game had been in doubt. Brian and others had been working since 08:00 to clear the pitch. Whilst waiting for Steve, I grabbed a shovel and helped Brian for an hour or so to clear the pitch.


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Steve eventually arrived with a device to dry the pitch he had borrowed from another club. As well as sorting that out, he was sorting out the catering vans arriving at the ground, fielding phone calls from all and sundry. He was spending Valentine’s night at the ground getting things ready for the biggest crowd at a Northern League game for nearly 60 years. That is not to forget the work done by Brian, Terry and all the other club officials and volunteers.

I eventually got up to Newcastle & started to prepare the meal for Michelle. I had decided to prepare a curry. The only problem was I couldn’t decide which curry to make, so I ended up making a prawn curry, a chicken tikka masala and a chicken jalfrezi. Then there was also a starter to make, but at least I only made one starter. Michelle has not gone down with food poisoning yet, so it appears I can cook. She even has a freezer full of curries to keep her going. Its about time I cooked for her  as she always cooks for me and sends me home with a doggie bag.

Well Friday came and time for the big match. It seems incredible that a football game at level 9 of the football pyramid could be an all ticket affair with segregation in place, police in attendance. 2670 people attended the game, being Spennymoor’s biggest crowd for 35 year and the biggest Northern League gate for around 60 years.

The game was won by Darlington 3-1 with Darlington doing what they seem to do every week and come from behind to win. It took 35 minutes for Darlington to have their first shot, and what a shot it was. All I will say about the game is that Darlington were worthy winners. For reviews of the game, see or As ever, Hayley has highlights of the game on her website NLFPP

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more pictures of the game/ ground/ crowd can be seen online at


Despite there being such a large crowd at the game, I have to say that I personally thought the atmosphere was rather flat. I had expected more noise from both sets of supporters. Perhaps I had expected too much, but I had expected a lot more atmosphere before the game and in the opening stages.


Sadly, some people at the game seem to have strange ideas of how to behave or what is acceptable. Spennymoor gave Darlington more than 1/2 the tickets for the ground. They put a bar on in the visiting section of the ground and arranged extra catering for the Darlington fans, who you will remember were the visiting side. Despite all this effort, you get muppets posting  things like this on twitter

Bobby Wallace@djbobw

Screwed over by Spennymoor already. Poorest stands, poorest food, poorest entrance and poorest bar #norespect

Clearly some people do indeed have no respect as they correctly posted. I’m not sure what this prize idiot expects. Perhaps he needs to take a reality check.

Sadly he wasn’t the only idiot at the game. The advertising hoarding were damaged by some idiots in the Darlington end, and then look at the behaviour of the brain donor in the adidas tracksuit top in the clip below. I hope his fellow Darlington fans are proud of his behaviour and that of those with him who broke the advertising hoardings down.


I should make it clear that it is only a small number of Darlington fans who have caused any problems, but even that number is too many. They get the majority of good Darlington fans a bad name. They fail to realise their behaviour inevitably reflects on the name of Darlington and their fellow football fans.

Why does this matter? Well, unlike a premiership club, every penny matters to clubs at this level and most of the work  is done by volunteers. There is no need for such damage of puerile behaviour and it is not the first time this season crowd behaviour has been called into question, mainly involving Darlington fans, but not exclusively. Sadly it seems that yobbish selfish behaviour and showing a lack of respect has spread down to this level of football.


Back home after the game, Michelle and I shared a few bottles of wine and stayed up far too late, especially as I was heading off to Sheffield to see Tom & go to Rotherham v Chesterfield at the New York Stadium. Another ground off the 92 to be done! Going to bed after lots of alcohol at 03:00 is probably not a sensible idea when I had to be on the road by 09:00.


One final item regarding the Spennymoor v Darlington game concerns a spectator at the game. you may recall “ON THE SHED” watching the game at Shildon v Spennymoor or his cockney cousin “ON THE CHAIR” at Barkingside v Great Yarmouth. Well at last Spennymoor have their own member of this exclusive club – “ON THE BED” Why pay £6 to get into a game when you can sit on your bed and watch the game

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Part 2 of the Ground Hopping weekend to follow

Ups & Downs

This certainly describes the last couple of weeks for me.

The weekend before last, I was up in the North East to see Michelle and had a great time. It was the first time I’d seen Michelle since I went back south after Christmas & New Year. Albeit I was only in the North East for around 48 hours, it was good to spend some quality time with Michelle.

Despite sneaking out for a few hours to watch Spennymoor v Lordswood in the FA Vase (about which  I have already written), Michelle and I managed to make some quality time together. Including a great meal out on the Saturday night at a pub that is becoming a favourite of ours; the Derwent Walk Inn at Ebchester. It does great home cooked food, serves real ale and have a great open fire. What more could you want? Well, directions of how to get there and back would be good. Between Michelle and I we managed to take the scenic route there and back, seeing parts of the North East I had not seen before! Of course, being male, I could not admit that I had gone the wrong way and turn back! Still, I  couldn’t have had better company to be with.

The Sunday was a little bit curtailed as I was on a train home earlier than usual. As the 5pm train was much cheaper than the later trains, I was on that one. This meant we ad to eat earlier in the day, rather than having a Sunday roast at teatime. Thanks to Keith & Elizabeth ( Michelle’s parents) for changing their plans to accommodate me.

I even managed to get home from Newcastle swiftly. The train to Kings Cross actually got in early! I got rapid connections on the tube and the train from Liverpool Street. Home before 11pm is early when I’ve been to Newcastle.  A good weekend, and home safely. Everything is good.

Monday morning and up early to cycle to work. As my normal commuter bike was in the bike shop, I went to the garden shed to get out my fixed wheel bike. It was still dark when I opened the shed door, but straight away I realised something was wrong. Five of my bikes were missing. They had been padlocked and chained together in the shed. The shed door was still locked. I then looked up to realise the b*st*rds had removed 1/3 of the shed roof and had lifted the bikes out through the roof, and into the park behind the house. Further examination revealed that they had removed the padlock – obviously having cut it and left the chain behind. They had even removed the wood from the scene as well so as to leave as little forensic evidence as possible.

They took 5 bikes, my 2 fixed wheel bikes, my son’s bike, and 2 that were used by Michelle. Strangely, they left my best two bikes which were also in the shed! Quite why they left the best bikes I do not know.

I’d hate to think of the replacement cost of the bikes. To make matters worse, they are not insured either.

So, less than 12 hours after returning home from a great weekend, I was left experiencing the lows of being a victim of crime.


Tuesday night was the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy Southern Area Final First Leg between Leyton Orient and Southend United at Brisbane Road. This should have been a banker home win as Orient are on form and a division above Southend, as well as playing at home. The excitement of a possible game at Wembley against the winners of the Northern Area Final was clear amongst the crowd.

Orient started well and looked like a side from a division above Southend. It was all Orient, and it was only a matter of time before a goal came. Sadly, it did eventually come for Southend. They managed to drag Orient into a long ball game, and they take an advantage into the second leg.

Still, look on the positive side, Orient are not out of the game yet and Wembley is still a possibility, albeit more distant than before.


The upsides came unexpectedly (and expectedly) on Saturday when Orient played at home to the league leaders Tranmere and were clearly determined to atone for Tuesday night’s defeat against Southend. Orient dominated the game against Tranmere so much that it took until nearly an hour for the first Tranmere attempt on target. Orient won 2-1 but it should have been more, they missed a penalty and had what looked like a perfectly good goal disallowed. That win, unexpected as it as, keeps Orient in with an outside chance of making the play offs this season. That could mean a second trip to Wembley for Orient in a single season. It could, but it is very unlikely.

Now, I have to confess that my attention was not so much on the football but on my mobile phone. Why you ask? Well Michelle would say there is nothing new in this, but the real reason was I was desperate for news of how Spennymoor were doing in the 5th Round of the FA Vase at home to Bremerton Heath Harlequins. Friends who were at that game and twitter kept me informed of the progress, with Spennymoor winning 4-2 to reach the 1/4 Finals of the FA Vase for the first time in the club’s history. The chance of a 3rd trip to Wembley remains a possibility for me this season.

Whilst I was delighted that Spennymoor won, I was gutted that I wasn’t  at the game.


The draw for the 1/4 final was made on Monday & gave Spennymoor yet another home tie, this time against Gornal Athletic from Dudley in the West Midlands.  Good news? Well, yes for Spennymoor it is, but for me its not. I was hoping for a game against Tonbridge or Hadleigh down here. Why? Well I am in London the weekend of the next round! Oh well, I’ll settle for a home tie if it means a chance of getting through to the semi finals.


Good news for me is that this is a short working week as I am only in work for 3 days and am heading north to see Michelle on Valentine’s Day; taking in the Spennymoor v Darlington game on the Friday and then going to see my son Tom in Sheffield on the Saturday. I have promised Michelle I will cook here a romantic meal for Valentine’s Day as she is working late that day. I will be at her house before she gets home for work. So, all I have to do now is drive up to Newcastle, decide what to cook and cook it. Apparently ordering in a Chinese takeaway is not classed as a romantic meal. So tonight, I have been looking up recipes in various cook books to try and find what I can cook. At present, I’m looking at Delia Smith’s how to boil an egg book…. Seriously Michelle, I promise that not only will I cook  you a meal, but I will also leave the kitchen tidy


Finally, sad news today with the end of an era. No, not the retirement of the ex Nazi from the biggest crime syndicate in Italy.I’m referring to the story about the ending of funding for road safety films. This means no more of Tufty

Tufty the Squirrel became so popular that a nationwide Tufty Club was formed, which at its height had a staggering two million members

No more of Green Cross Code Man etc.

No more Kevin Keegan or Alvin Stardust helping Children across the road.


Its the end of the world as we know it.

Ground Hopping: The Future

On Saturday 2nd February, at the 3rd time of asking, Spennymoor were able to play their home 4th round tie in the FA Vase.

This competition has 6 rounds, the last 3 of which are national, i.e. not split into regional groups. Then there are the semi finals played over 2 legs and the final at Wembley Stadium. This time round Spennymoor were lucky enough to have a home tie against Lordswood FC of the Kent Senior League. The winners of this tie would be at home to Bremerton Heath Harlequins of Salisbury in the 5th round which is to be staged on Feb 9th.

Before I write about the day and the game, I want to mention the trials and tribulations that footballers at this level face. The trip from Lordswood to Spennymoor is around 600 miles return. Lordswood were lucky enough to have been offered the loan of the West Ham United team bus for the journey, but would still need to travel up on the Friday for the game. The players are all part time professionals and have regular employment. So they needed to take time off work to travel up. Firstly they were due to play this tie on 19th January, sot he players had to arrange to take 18th Jan off work. Then when game was called off and rearranged for following week, they needed to take of 25th January, and finally, the 1st February. Imagine you trying to get 3 successive Fridays off work at short notice. Its a far cry from the pampered life of a premiership player. Those premiership players would do well to look at the sacrifices made by players at this level before they moan they are over worked having to play 38 games a season.

Anyway, back to Saturday. It was to be a busy day at Spennymoor as firstly there was a meeting of the supporters and the Chairman to discuss the supporters views on promotion at the end of the season. Then after this, there was to be the formal turning on of the new floodlights all before the important cup tie.

The first thing for me was to get to the game. I did not have my usual transport, so was initially looking at 2-3 hours travel by bus train and bus to get to the 12 noon meeting. However, after much pleading and grovelling, Michelle offered to give me a lift to Durham and my parents agreed to pick me up from there and drop me in Spennymoor. Getting home at that stage looked like 2-3 hours on public transport as I had no lifts arranged. However, one of the Spennymoor fans responded to my pleading on the club forum and was able to give me a lift to Low Fell from where I could quickly get a bus to Newcastle. In fact, I was back in Newcastle not long after their game with Chelsea had finished. It seemed strange to have been elsewhere and arriving back in Newcastle as the fans milled away from St James’ Park.


There was a good turn out for the meeting in the Sponsors lounge at Spennymoor. The Chairman Brad Groves held a very open and honest meeting, setting out the pre requisites before the club would take promotion, including having appropriate 3 year sponsorship deals in place, the support of the majority of the players and most importantly the support of the fans of the club.

The meeting however started with Brad saying that he was paying the admission costs for everyone at the meeting. This being a national cup competition, the club have to account for everyone entering the ground as gate receipts are split with the visitors. How many chairmen would do this? also, at the end of the meeting there was a glass of champagne for everyone there. Again this was paid for by the chairman.

A few Premiership chairmen could learn lessons from this is how to treat the fans, the lifeblood of the company.

Brad explained the risks to the club involving promotion and what had been done to counter those risks. It was refreshing to see someone in charge of a football club be so open and honest with the fans. It was even more important to meet a chairman who understood both business and football.

Brad then took questions from the supporters and refreshingly did not shy away from answering the awkward questions.He also realised the sacrifices supporters would make in moving from a league where you get home for tea to a league where some away games are 300 mile round trips.

Without wanting to rake over old issues, one sore point with supporters is the club were forced to change their name to Spennymoor Town (from United) when the club reformed in 2005 after United ceased to exist. The fans want to be called united. The chairman answered this point head on and explained why he did not want to revert to the old name – to do with the ill feeling & loss caused to others when the old club went out of business. No shying away from the issue or blaming the FA, just an honest answer.

The outcome of the meeting was a near unanimous approval from the supporters that they wanted the club to take promotion.

At  the end of the meeting the chairman remained behind to talk to the fans about the club and any issues they wanted to raise. I’m afraid to say that I hogged his time and spent probably the best part of an hour discussing the club and his visions for its future. I have to say that although I had never met him before, I was very impressed with both his business acumen and football knowledge, I was left thinking to myself that Spennymoor Town Football Club are in very good hands.

I eventually left the chairmen as the officials of Lordswood arrived along with representatives of Spennymoor Town Council ( the clubs’ landlords)  and Thorn EMI. The latter two groups were there in connection with the floodlights.


It is no secret that the floodlights at the Brewery Field were not the most powerful. Indeed it is said that those who smoke whilst watching the game were asked to stand in the top corner via the Tees Crescent turnstiles to  ensure that corner of the pitch was illuminated by their cigarettes!

The hard work of the club Chairman and others resulted in the Town Council agreeing to pay (part?) of the cost of the new floodlights. The lights themselves were purchased from Thorn Emi who have for 50+ years had a plant in Spennymoor. They have supplied the club with the latest lights to enable them to be demonstrated to other potential purchasers.

An example of the good business acumen behind the management of this club!

Sadly for me, during the game it was not dark enough to get some good pictures of the floodlights in action, so here is one taken earlier in the week by a fellow fan ( thanks Chris)

let there be light

As well as the new floodlights, the new dug outs were in use today – on the opposite side of the pitch to the main stand.


If you look back over some of my old posts, you will see how much work has been done to improve the ground, The pitch has improved leaps and bounds, the ground has new tarmac, the ground is painted every summer, new toilet blocks, including disabled toilets. New floodlights, new catering, new club shop etc. It is important to remember this work has not been done at the expense of the playing side as Spennymoor have won the league for the last 3 years.


After leaving the Sponsor’s Lounge, I went to the bar and was spoken to by a couple of fans who told me that someone had offered me a lift and made sure they pointed out Gaz who had offered the lift to me. Non league football is like a little friendly community where everyone tries to help each other.

Lordswood are another step 5 team, but the Kent League is generally regarded as a little bit weaker than the Northern League, so most fans were secretly confident of a result, but it is a cup competition and anything can happen.


There was a Lordswood banner at the game. Fortunately for Spennymoor the reverse of the motto isn’t true every time as Lordswood certainly battled.

The game itself was not the most exciting game. It was very much a case of job done as far as Spennymoor were concerned. With “Titch (Gavin Cogdon) at his unplayable best, it was no surprise to see him doing his famous handstand celebration after opening the scoring on 9 minutes. A second goal did not follow until just before half time, but just on the stroke of half time Lordswood responded with a goal.

The second half was predominantly Spennymoor and it was no shock that Titch got his second and Spennymoor’s third early in the half. From there on, there was only going to be one winner. The score line could have easily been much bigger but for a number of good saves from the Lordswood goalkeeper.

So, Moors are through to the last 16 of the competition and are already 4/5 on favourites to win the competition despite it only being the 5th round next round.

I would not be doing them justice if I did not mention that despite being second best on the day, Lordswood did not give up trying until the full time whistle and despite at times Titch and others running them ragged, they did not resort to foul play or physical football. The team, their supporters and officials are a credit to the game, unlike Spennymoor’s opponents earlier in the week. I won’t embarrass them by mentioning it was the thugs of West Auckland Town that I was referring to.

After the game, Gary, gave me a lift up to Low Fell, and despite him being red & white & me black & white (Sunderland & Newcastle respectively) we managed to avoid footballing strife! Thanks for the lift Gary, much appreciated.

So, I got the bus from Low Fell into Newcastle and met many Newcastle fans still delirious at their last gasp winner against Chelsea. It seemed strange to be stood outside ST James’  Park waiting to meet Michelle & Jack and being totally indifferent to the celebrations of fellow Newcastle fans. I was left feeling that I was part of something special at Spennymoor and was a valued member of the crowd, rather than just a cash cow as you seem to be at Premiership games.




I am already looking forward to my next trip to Spennymoor for the game against Darlington on Friday 15th February. It should be something special. In the meantime, I am intending to be at the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern Area Final 1st Leg at Leyton Orient v Southend on Tuesday night – only 2 90 minute ties from Wembley for Orient.

Non league football, its the way forward and the way the game should be – friendly, fun and with players playing for pride, not money. And great value for money as well