Competition: London Senior Cup 4th Round
Date: 28th February
Venue: Mayesbrook Park, Lodge Avenue Dagenham
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 http://www.barking-fc.co.uk/clubhis.html or more clearly at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barking_F.C. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.