I had to postpone a trip to Wingate & Finchley this week, for the second time. I will visit there soon, but my eye was caught by the FA Trophy Replay between Potters Bar Town and Hereford. As well as sounding like a nice pottery related drinking establishment, the Hertfordshire town is an easy drive. It was also a chance to see how the Hereford phoenix club was getting on.
Hereford was the local league club where I grew up and I’ve been to Edgar Street a few times. The club was sadly wound up in 2014, but a new club appeared in its stead a year later. The Bulls have been making waves in the Southern League and FA Cup this season, but had been held at home by Potters Bar in this FA Trophy second round tie.
Competition: FA Trophy Second Round Qualifying Replay
Ticket: £10 (£7 concessions)
Refreshments: £2 (tea and coffee)
Star man: Keyon Reffell
Who are ya, Potters Bar Town?
Potters Bar Town were formed in 1960 as Mount Grace Old Scholars. The Scholars has stuck as a nickname even though it was officially dropped from the club’s title in 1984.The club adopted the Potters Bar Town moniker in 1991.
Potters Bar have moved between the Isthmian and Southern League setups over the years but have only ever been as high as their current status at step four. They finished ninth in the Southern League Central Division last season before being transferred back into the Isthmian North Division.
- Turnstiles from the old Wembley Stadium were installed in 2005 as part of the club’s admittance to the Southern League
- The ‘Scholars’ name comes from the club’s founder who created the team for ex-pupils of Mount Grace School, where he was a PE teacher
The Scholars had only lost one of their last six games but had drawn three in that time. Hereford, on the other hand, had been in scintillating winning four of their last six games and drawing two. A reply was required following a 0-0 draw between the two sides in Hereford.
The Bulls have been in great form this season, currently sitting third in the Southern Premier Division (step three). Potters Bar are currently mid-table in the Isthmian North Division (step four). Hereford are also in the second round of the FA Cup, and they have a game against Fleetwood to look forward to.
The Potters Bar Town experience
Train: The ground is about a 10 minute walk from Potters Bar station which can be reached from Kings Cross or Moorgate.
Car: Exit the M25 at junction 24 and turn right at the first set of lights as you enter the town. Turn right onto The Walk and the club is on your right. Limited parking is available at the club.
The kick-off for the game was delayed by 30 mins as the Hereford bus had a few issues on its journey down to Hertfordshire. Unfortunately, the car park at the Pakex stadium filled up quickly despite the delay. After finding a spot down the road, and a short walk we made our way into the ground.
At first it felt like we’d arrived at a local bonfire and fireworks night. People were in good spirits, huddled around picnic tables trying to keep warm, stood in the bar or queuing for hot drinks. A few yards further on, through what appeared to be the empty frame of a gazebo we found the pitch.
The ground had the charming feel of a venue lower down the footballing pyramid but with plenty of space for the crowd of 230. There is a covered seating area on one side of the pitch, a small covered terrace at one end, and something akin to a large bus shelter on the side next to the dug-outs. The bus shelter stand had two rows of benches, but most people using it elected to stand.
Hereford brought a good crowd with them despite the delay. This included one solitary drummer to keep the singing in time. At one point the home crowd reacted angrily to a supposed Hereford injury, much to the visitors’ chagrin. A couple of Bulls fans headed off in the direction of the home supporters but were placated by a couple of stewards and soon regained their poise.
Local fans in maroon and white scarves also turned out in good numbers, in the hope of seeing their side cause an upset. Several of them were very keen to have a running dialogue with the visiting manager Peter Beadle, but the Hereford boss, and the rest of us nearby, seemed to enjoy the exchange.
The Pakex has a rural feel with trees lining both ends of the ground. This adds to the welcoming and friendly feel of the club. The bar seemed to get plenty of use, no doubt aided by the late kick-off, and the tea bar, or ‘emporium’ as it was described over the tannoy, kept the crowd well stocked on hot food and drink.
Hereford progress despite a nervy finish
The visitors controlled the game from the outset and looked to assert their role as the team from the higher level. The home side may have been guilty of affording their visitors too much respect early on, and allowing them to settle into a tempo.
Hereford didn’t fashion many early chances despite having lots of possession. They broke the deadlock, however, when John Mills rounded the Potters Bar keeper and his shot was bundled in by Lance Smith. Having finally breached the Potters Bar resistance, after over 100 minutes of football, Hereford’s intensity began to reduce.
Potters Bar began to look more comfortable, but the home side also struggled to create many chances. Their best attempts came from set pieces. A couple of corners looked potentially dangerous and Michael Murray produced a good save from the Hereford keeper from a free kick.
The second half continued in a similar vein as Hereford controlled possession and Potters Bar looked to catch them off-guard. The home side were looking more confident on the ball, and as the game wore on there was a sense they weren’t out of it.
The visitors all but killed the game off with twenty mins to go. An attempted clearance off the line hit Chris Doyle and the ball ended up agonisingly in the back of The Scholars’ net. At 2-0 down it now looked unlikely that the home side could cause an upset.
Janilionis created a nervy finish for the visitors as he halved the lead with an excellent curling shot into the bottom corner from outside the box. Potters Bar now had renewed belief. Hereford had other ideas, however, and managed to see out the final 10 minutes. Keyon Reffell was superb in the middle for Hereford and protected the defence as well as setting the tempo for the visitors.
Final thoughts and ratings
Potters Bar had a different feel to other step four clubs I’ve visited so far, and it felt like visiting a club at a lower level. It had all the warmth and friendliness of a local club and attracted a good crowd of locals and visitors from Hereford.
The ground was functional, if a little run down, but was in a nice setting, surrounded by trees and greenery. On the pitch The Scholars provided their opposition, from a higher level, with a stern test.
Ticket availability – the ground was busy but it was easy enough to get in. 9/10
Website/social media – the website is a standard non-league affair with all the basic information. The Twitter account provided an update on the events of the game. 6/10
Travel – the ground is easy to get to by train or car. There is limited parking at the club, so spaces may need to be sought in the streets around the ground. 7/10
Ground – a nice ground that could maybe do with a little more work to bring it into line with others at the same level. It does, however, have lots of character and charm. 7/10
Food and drink – a good tea bar with hot and cold food and drink. There is also a nice looking bar. 7/10
Programme – the programme contained some interesting information about the opposition and all the useful stats you’d need going into the game. 7/10
Atmosphere – the Hereford fans helped create a really good cup-tie atmosphere and a few of the locals joined in as well. 7/10
Football quality – it was quite a tense affair with both sides seemingly aware that the team from the higher level was expected to triumph. It was competitive but lacked a little quality. 6/10
Cost – £14 overall for entry, programme and a couple of hot drinks. 7/10
Matchday experience extras – not much extra on offer but the bus shelter stand was an interesting part of the ground. There was also a gate that led from the ground to nearby houses, helping some to get in free. 6/10