I’ve painstakingly created a December schedule that takes in several local East London/Essex derbies. The first stop on my schedule was Hargrave Park in Stansted Mountfitchet, where Stansted FC took on near neighbours Takeley. It was also my first Essex Senior League game in a few months.
I couldn’t find too much information on the history of this local rivalry, but both sides have played in the Essex Senior League for a while, so I assumed familiarity would have bred some local contempt.
Competition: Essex Senior League
Programme: Free with ticket
Refreshments: £1 (tea)
Star man: Carl Mullings
Who are ya, Stansted?
Stansted Football Club was founded in 1902, although it’s believed that a version of the club may have existed before the turn of the century. The club played in local Stansted and Herts leagues until 1971, when they were amongst the founding members of the Essex Senior League. The club are known as The Airportmen, and their ground is within spitting distance of the runway.
Stansted has played in the ESL ever since, despite winning the league in 2010. They were denied promotion due to the ground not being suitable for step 4. In 1984 the club achieved its highest honour by winning the FA Vase. They also recorded their largest ever attendance during that cup run. 828 people saw them defeat Wickham in the semi-final.
- Glenn Hoddle’s uncle, Dave, was the assistant manager of The Airportmen when they won the FA Vase. Glenn popped into the dressing room before the game to give the team a few words of inspiration.
- Dwight Gayle is Stansted’s most famous former player. The Newcastle striker scored 57 goals for the club in the 2010-11 season.
The Airportmen were on a very poor run of form going into this encounter, having lost five of their last six games. The other game was a cup draw that they eventually lost on penalties. They were in seventeenth place in the league table, and will be beginning to look over their shoulder, with teams below them having games in hand.
Local rivals Takeley, on the other hand, were in much better form having won three of their last six games. The three wins were by scores of 7-0, 6-0 and 4-0. Their only defeat in their last six games came against a resurgent Wadham Lodge. Takeley were third in the table prior to kick-off, five points behind the leaders with a game in hand.
The Stansted FC experience
Train: Hargrave Park is around a 15-20 minute walk from Stansted Mountfitchet Station, which can be reached from the airport and London Liverpool Street.
Car: Stansted FC is easily reached from the M11. Exit at the airport junction. Take the A120, turn right onto B1383, and follow the road into Stansted Mountfitchet. The ground is on the left hand side. There is limited parking at the ground, but spaces can be found on the streets in the town.
The route to Hargrave Park is very scenic, and Stansted Mountfitchet is a lovely setting for a game of football. We passed several enticing country pubs before finding a parking spot on the main road that passes the ground. The first point of note was the chalkboard announcing the fixture and ticket prices. I’d seen this on several blogs while researching the venue. It’s a nice touch and very in keeping with the feel of the club.
The quaint feel continues when you enter Hargrave Park. One end backs right onto the bar, and the main stand looks like it could have once been the verandah of a Victorian beachfront vacation home. Adjacent to the stand is a charming tea bar, and considerably less charming toilet block. The rest of the ground is open, and the far side backs onto parkland.
We sat in the main stand which is three rows high and has a fair few viewing obstructions. It was, however, sheltered from the cold December wind. The changing rooms are also located at the back of the main stand, so it offered the rare treat of being able to hear all the pre-match pep talks and tactics from within the inner-sanctum of this Essex Senior League local derby.
A good crowd of 92 turned up for this local clash, despite the aforementioned cold breeze. A large amount seemed to be aficionados of nearby Takeley. The atmosphere was quiet, despite a good congregation of people down one side of the pitch. This could have been down to a one-sided game, but the sidelines felt like a friendly gathering of old pals, which it may have been given the clubs proximity to each other.
Takeley fly highest in airport derby
The visitors took the advantage from the outset of this local derby, as they looked to continue their good form. They created a couple of early chances, but Joyce, in the Stansted goal, kept them at bay. They soon made the breakthrough, however, as Mullings found space in the box and gave Takeley the lead.
Stansted looked to have a threat up front, despite giving up a lot of possession in the first half. A couple of passes to their quick wide players weren’t quite on the money. This led to a couple of promising attacks fizzling out. Captain Ramsey had the best chance, driving a powerful shot just wide of the post.
Takeley looked to have quality all over the pitch and continued to dominate possession. They may, however, have been disappointed to only have a one goal lead. Eventually, they doubled their advantage. Todd’s shot took a wicked deflection and wrong-footed Joyce. The visitors went into the break 2-0 up on their rivals.
Stansted came out in the second half with much more intensity and won a lot more challenges and aerial duels. They asserted themselves on the game, but struggled to fashion any clear chances. Takeley were still in control of proceedings, but their defence was called into action more than in the first half.
Talented Takeley striker, Mullings, killed the game off, despite the home side’s improvement in the second half. He took the ball with his back to goal, flicked it up with his first touch and volleyed it powerfully past Joyce. It was an excellent bit of quality to finish off the game.
The visitors looked impressive throughout, while Stansted struggled to keep hold of the ball and win many 50/50 challenges. The home side improved in the second half and had some speed in wide areas, but they struggled to make it count.
Final thoughts and ratings
Hargrave Park was a really nice local football venue. It had a good balance of charm and function as well as a few extra touches, and plenty of good photo opportunities. The tea bar and main stand were very individual and added lots to the experience. The game was largely dominated by the visitors. There was enough action to keep the crowd engaged, although few were captivated.
Ticket availability – plenty of room in the ground and easy to get into. 9/10
Website/social media – the website and social accounts lack a little information, but this is often the case at step 5. 6/10
Travel – an easy venue to get to by car, but there is limited parking. Stansted Mountfitchet Station is also close by. 8/10
Ground – a charming ground with lots of little quirks. Worth a Saturday afternoon re-visit to see how it looks in daylight 9/10
Food and drink – hot and cold drinks, and snacks available, but all were well priced. 6/10
Programme – the programme was good for step 5. It had the key information about the clubs and players. 7/10
Atmosphere – it was a little quiet considering the crowd was decent for a Tuesday night. 6/10
Football quality – a one-sided game, but there was plenty of quality on show from both sides to keep the crowd interested. 7/10
Cost – lowest entry price i’ve seen this season so far for a competitive fixture, and good prices at the tea bar too. 9/10
Matchday experience extras – picturesque setting for some good photos and the quaint tea bar are the main extras on offer. 7/10