Hereford take on Tonbridge Angels in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup on Saturday. Simon Wright and Mark Nottingham have therefore put together this guide for Bulls’ supporters who are making the trip to the Longmead Stadium.
Somebody, somewhere is testing us!
Eight away Saturdays straight? Some clubs with limited finances would be close to folding with such a schedule. But we are Hereford FC and we will survive. This is such a tough draw in every respect because of the distance and because the Angels are an unbeaten, ambitious joint top Step 3 outfit. The football club is based in a town of 38,000 people on the banks of the Medway with a lineage dating back to the Domesday Book. It is not to be confused with Tunbridge Wells.
Tonbridge Angels’ Longmead Stadium opened in 1980. The club bought with them 760 seats from their old ground which they installed as their new West Stand. This is an imposing-looking full-length structure. The Kent club also added petite covered terraces behind each goal which are named after the Mezzanine Floor Company who installed them. Admission is expected to be £10 adults, mature citizens £6 with even lower prices for children.
Between 2011-2014, the Angels were a Conference South club and their facilities reflect their previously elevated status. Since relegation, the club has become majority owned by supporters. The list of club owners is thus bigger than a Barry Fry football squad. If you like what you see, there is room for more owners.
Attendances here are impressive for Step 3 (or Southern League Step 3 at least) with an average of 500 – presumably the owners checking on their investment. The Hereford FC contingent will almost certainly be outnumbered for only the second time in our competitive history but we seemed to manage well enough last time. Didn’t we Salisbury?
Parking is straightforward, much to the relief of flagging drivers. The club car park is both large and free and amen to that. Free double expressos would be welcome too, hint, hint.
Refreshment options locally are quite limited, with only one pub left in North Tonbridge. The clubhouse “the Longmead Lounge” promises live football and real ale so will be the easy option. This is the land of £4+ pints and gastropub prices in the wealthiest part of Kent and one of the most well to do parts of the country as a whole. In fact, one of the top ten.
As the ground is on the North of town, some people may prefer to eat/drink in Sevenoaks before the game. The Wetherspoons there is fine.
In Tonbridge, Mark’s pub of choice would be the Punch and Judy as it usually has Harveys as one of my preferred pints and there are usually 2 or 3 others. Off Duty Police Officers regularly frequent this establishment so mind your P’s and Q’s.
This is the wrong direction for the ground but there are quite a few buses out to towards the ground plus regular taxis and a taxi firm by the station.
Turning towards the ground from the station for cake lovers, healthy food and good coffee, I recommend Finch House a proper local shop. http://www.finchhouse.co.uk/
Just past Finch House on your right, you can see signs to Sainsburys and the Angel Centre, a community and sports centre. This is the site of the old town centre sports ground. Initially a county cricket ground, Frank Woolley being perhaps the most famous name from their long history, you can just about imagine the scene running down to the Medway. The ground was used by Kent until the Second World War. After the war, the football club took over the Angel ground. This is where Hereford United played on several occasions, notably winning the Southern League Cup here. In 1980, the council turned it into the shops you see now and the team moved out, keeping Angels in memory of this sylvan spot.
Heading further up the High Street, the Wetherspoons outlet The Humphrey Bean is big and good but does get very full on Saturday lunchtimes. If you’re looking to eat I would recommend the Oriental Buffet Club nearby. All you can eat for £7.25 great quality and friendly service. Try this link Oriental Buffet In particular, there are Nepali dishes to try which you may not find so widely.
For culture vultures, cross the bigger part of the Medway and English Heritage’s Tonbridge Castle is on the riverbank. One of their smaller properties, it can be viewed easily in an hour or so. If the weather is fine behind, it is a well-appointed municipal park. The summer golf may still be going.
There is enough to make a nice little weekend break if you fancy an overnight stop. Hever Castle or Churchill’s Chartwell which are not far away, are both worth a day of your time.
By road: 178 miles (TN10 3JF)
This is a monster distance, probably the longest away trip during this season. Are we downhearted? Well yes frankly but we’ll be going anyway!
Pick up M4 into London then M25. After 40 miles. At J5 take right hand lanes onto A21. After five miles, take B245 exit towards Severnoaks and at Morleys roundabout stick with B245. After 4 miles, turn left into Dry Hill Park Road. At roundabout, take first exit onto A227 (Shipborne Road). 0.4 miles further on, take first exit onto Darenth Avenue. Ground is on the left (white building)
By train: 4 to 5 hours to and from the Shire including the underground and a local bus.
By coach: Hereford FC is running coaches at £20 in partnership with HUST