Chalky Lane, Chessington
9 April 2012
Team talk. Taking full advantage of the long Easter weekend, and scheduling that saw some Combined Countries games kicking off at 11:30am, we decided to hit up two games in south west London. In the afternoon we would visit Corinthian Casuals (report to follow) leaving us at an early kick off at Chessington and Hook United in the morning. Regular readers of this blog will know that we did a double header last year when we saw VCD Athletic and Dartford. The decision to visit these games saw us miss a massive 6-0 win for our own Dulwich Hamlet. This lead to a pact that we would never again visit other London teams when Dulwich are at home, in case the curse of Edgar Kail struck again. Dulwich were not playing today so we thought we would be able to head south west without adverse consequence.
Chessington & Hook United in its modern guise resulted from the alliance of Chessington United Football Club and Hook Youth/United in 1986. The Club gained senior status and promotion to the Combined Counties in 1997 and have been there ever since. The 2010/11 season saw Chessington finish 6th in the CoCo, a record for them.
This season the team has failed to building on the impressive finish of last, and are currently relegation threatened towards the foot of the league. Today’s opponents were play-off hopefuls and Pigeon Stands favourites the Molesey Moles.
Park the bus. Chessington’s Chalky Lane arena (no doubt named after Rick Stein’s dead dog) is a 15 minute walk from Chessington South (zone 6) main line station. Trains run every half hour or so from London Waterloo and take just over half an hour.
Home advantage. The visit to Chessington had fun written all over it. The ground is pretty much across the road from Chessington World of Adventures (the southern equivalent of Lightwater Valley), which is signposted from the station. It’s also right next door to the headquarters of SEGA arcades. Even though we chose to visit on a day when the wind was up and it never stopped raining, surely Chessington and Hook would not fail to deliver on the fun factor! Or would it?
Chalky Lane is little more than a narrow lane off a major road which leaves you with that weird feeling of being in the middle of suburbia one minute and then in a more rural setting the next. The rural atmosphere was reinforced by the sound of distant trails bikes motoring around throughout the game.
The Club prides itself on the fact that it is maintained on a purely voluntary basis. All the Committee members, trainers, managers, ground staff and adult helpers are unpaid, as are the players (in fact the players pay a fee to play for the team). This is not surprising as the Chalky Lane ground screams makeshift. You approach the pitch via a narrow walkway bounded by high timber fences. There is no turnstile so we paid a fella sat next to a white plastic box (£7 in, no program – seemed a bit steep to us).
Once in, all the usual stuff (club house, toilets, burger bar) is located at the south end. There is also a large pigeon stand at this end that looks to have been formed from bits of scaff and sheeting – a real A-Team job (BA would be proud). We spent most of our time at this end as (a) it was chucking it down and everywhere else looked grim and (b) we found ourselves next to a guy who looked just like Swiss Tony of Fast Show fame, which was far more entertaining than the match.
The rest of the ground is basically a pitch with a fence running around it and a small covered seating area on the east side. The ground is open on the north side, which led to us getting even more battered by wind and rain. Easily the best thing about the ground is the UPVc conservatory dugouts (with home and way painted on the inside). Unfortunately they were not kitted out with wicker furniture.
Prawn sandwiches. The inside of the club house is the usual 70s social club vernacular – which I always find strangely cosy. There is a dart board for a few half time games of the arrows. Didn’t have the beer as it was a morning kick off, but it looked to be standard fare.
There is a burger bar outside that also sells a selection of icepops. The guy behind the counter told me with surprise that the icepops always went down well and that he had even sold a couple during the first half – it was NOT a day for icepops!
…..and the game. Considering the poor weather and the bobbly looking Chessington pitch we knew this would not be a classic. Chessington were an unknown quantity to us, but we knew that Moseley were a team who like to pass it about. These conditions would not suit them.
So the first half was a scrappy affair during which Moseley went one up. We have no idea who scored as there was no programme available to buy at the ground. Chessington always looked second best but had their moments. Fair play to the Moles though, who against all odds managed to play some nice stuff in the second half. They deserved their second goal, which was a wonder chip over the keeper from 25 yards by Lewis Ackerman. He definitely meant to do it, but looked as shocked as everyone else that it went in. No Premier league showboating here, no sir.
Man of the match. It would be cruel to give this to the train driver who took us away from Chessington. But this really was one of those days where you wish you’d just stayed at home. I guess Swiss Tony is in with a shout purely for keeping our spirits up.
Post game rub down. Not a favourite visit. The conditions certainly didn’t help – but I personally found little to recommend a trip to Chessington and Hook. Comparisons with the set up at Moseley are completely unfair as the clubs have come from different places leaguewise. Let’s just say that I am not Chessington and Hooks biggest fan…. but this is!!