When Boston United were league-surfing between the Football League Two, the Conference North and the Liga Unibondo (as we called it, sounds better then Unibond League), it seemed every weekend gave you the opportunity to visit somewhere new.
But now we’ve been static for three seasons, you look over the list of opponents and realise you’ve visited them all before. So since moving to London, I’ve made it my mission to work through the Conference North’s mirror league in the South, which is a bizarre geographical expanse from Truro in the west to Dover in the east and pretty much everywhere in between.
At present, I’m hoovering up the easy visits around London and, a fortnight on from Hayes and Yeading @ Woking, I headed in a totally different direction - Due East - to Hornchurch for their match against high-flying Dorchester.
It could not have been a simpler expedition - in contrast to last weekend’s jaunt to North Wales - as all I had to do was walk around the corner from my flat, jump on the Central Line, make a quick adjustment of direction at Mile End and hop off at Upminster Bridge for a five minute walk to the ground.
I say ‘Ground’ but Google Map reconnaissance had actually revealed an athletics stadium, which raised my temperature slightly as I absolutely hate watching football in them, but to be honest I was pleasantly surprised by the experience at Hornchurch.
The stadium came equipped with all the athletics gear - the young ball boys seemed keen to try out the long jump pit given it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon - but you didn’t seem all that far away from the action.
There are three smart seated stands with red and white coloured seats and a small terrace. Away behind one goal is the clubhouse, with some decking which allowed that luxury of watching the action with a pint of something refreshing.
I soaked up the sunshine and the pre-match atmosphere on the ear-splitting PA system, before choosing from one of the many seats on offer in the nearside stand. The locals were friendly enough, including a silver-haired gentleman who paced up and down the running track, feeling every challenge and kicking every ball.
The home fans on the terrace over to my right (about 100 metres away, I would guess with decent accuracy) tried at an atmosphere with a few shouts of ‘Ornchurch (as it is pronounced locally) but, oddly, the noise kind of sounded like it was blowing in on the wind from a distance. Very weird acoustics.
The match itself was little to write home about and I wasn’t too distracted from constantly checking if Boston had thrown away their three-goal cushion in their big home game with Chester (they nearly did, before steadying to win 3-2).
A cracker from Lewis Smith won the game for Hornchurch about 15 minutes before half-time and it was enough to win the forward the man of the match champagne. He let fly from the best part of 30 yards, giving the visiting goalkeeper no chance and raising the only cheer of the afternoon.
Hornchurch, who have started the season slowly, were good value for their win and, in fact, I don’t recall Dorchester, who entered the game in second place, fashioning any chances much at all.
In the second-half, Martin Tuohy nearly doubled the lead, striking the post after a mazy run had taken him round three defenders. He had an eventful, if ultimately unrewarded afternoon - striking the post again late on and seeing a goal disallowed for offside.
All the straightforward Conference South grounds seem to have been done, it’s going to be more of an effort from now!
Next Match Can’t be certain.