Erith Town

5 Dec

03 December 2011

Kent Premier League

Erith Town 04  v  Holmesdale FC 03 (att. 33 – looked more like 15)

Erith Stadium, Erith

Team Talk. Like the ever-fattening goose, like the children preparing to be touched by Noel Edmonds’ kindness and like the BBC junior desperately trying to remaster an old version of Pets Win Prizes, I too am aware that xmas is coming. With diaries filling up, this Saturday represented one of my last opportunities to hop to a new ground. So casting away a trip to the Hamlet, I headed over t0 Erith to see what The Dockers had to offer.

Unlike most of the South London teams that we’ve written about, Erith are not a club rich in history. Erith were originally founded as a Sunday league team in 1959 as Woolwich Town and have only been in the business of Saturday football since 1991 when they entered the famed, and still relatively hard to research (take it from me), Spartan League. Apart from a sideways move to the Kent League in 1996, from their promotion spot in the Spartan 1st Division, they have been in the same division since formation. In recent years, Erith haven’t troubled the top of the league despite some quite phenomenal goalscoring from time-travelling Roman gladiator, Marcus Cassius, whose 43 goals in the 08-09 season had surprisingly little impact. You can tell that times have been quiet at Erith Town by the fact that their Manager of the Month awards are listed in the Club’s Honours.

Tenacious D. (Ives)

Having started out in Woolwich before moving to Eltham to ground share with Greenwich Borough in the early 90s, Erith have been playing at their current home since 1995 when a deal was reached to use facilities linked to the adjoining Council-run leisure centre and swimming pool. Despite being referred to as the Erith Stadium, it appears that the actual name of the ground is the David Ives Stadium who, according to the plaque (which was seemingly written by a Championship/Football Manager fan), was “tenacious” in championing improvements to the facilities.

Today’s game saw 9th placed Erith taking on their former landlord’s current landlord, Holmesdale, who play in the back end of Bromley. Erith’s home form in the league has been excellent with only one loss so far this season. Holmesdale, have been resurgent of late picking up 10 points in 5 games to lift the Dalers into 11th.

Both Holmesdale and Erith faced Dulwich in preseason and I was impressed with both of the sides. Holmesdale (who have since seen Fabio Rossi appointed as manager) beat out a Dulwich academy side 3-2, whilst a more established Hamlet team drew 0-0 with Erith. As a result, I was keen to see how both sides were getting on.

It’s safe to say there’s not much to do in Erith. They have public art on their roundabouts, they have a Christmas tree festival (a FESTIVAL) and they have London’s largest waste incinerator, but apart from that, it’s a wee bit quiet. That said, they must all be doing something interesting as they weren’t at the Erith Stadium, where the attendance was less than 30.

Fishy business

Park the bus. The Erith Stadium is an easy 8 minute stroll from Erith Station, through a quiet residential suburb. I’m always amazed at the frequency of trains running to places like Erith. Amazed but, in this instance, very happy. Trains leave London Bridge for Erith via Greenwich every 10 minutes and the trip takes around half an hour.

Being linked to a massive leisure centre has some benefits, there’s ample parking and the ground’s location – a short way off the A206 – makes the option of arriving by car ever so tempting.

Homefield advantage. If there’s one thing we love at the Pigeon Stands, it’s the option of seeing some additional sports on our footballing adventures. Therefore, I was understandably delighted to find a public bowling green on the approach to the ground. Being winter, this glorious rink was deserted but would make any visit between March and October even more worthwhile.

Bowling for soup

After getting lost in the leisure centre campus, something that regularly happens to me in municipal buildings, I found my way to the entrance: a small hut manned by a jolly chap who was keen to point out all of the sights in the ground. At the Erith Stadium, you have to position yourself in the main (read: only) stand, however, the chap was kind enough to allow me to walk round the far side providing I was back on the flank for kick off.

Stop. Hammer Time.

Contrary to popular opinion, I love a running track around a football pitch. I like knickknacks and the prospect of subs practising their shot-put releases and hurdling techniques. I also don’t think the view is all that bad.

It's a steeplechase, not a sprint

The other benefit to a running track is a tasty looking wheel-out technical area. Be the gaffer wherever you like; in this case, lanes 1 and 2. On the far side the pitch is a very dated dressing room block which also seemed to be the pre-match hangout for the Erith committee.

The main stand runs along just over half the length of the pitch and about half of that is covered. This is a new addition having been added towards the start of last season. Probably about 90% of seats were in good condition, with the remaining few looking like some sort of GCSE biology experiment.

It didn't really fill up

Whilst there is only one stand, the leisure centre doubles as an elevated viewing terrace which seemed popular with the Erith committee, smokers and al-fresco drinkers alike.

Get hench or die...watching Erith

As the terrace is forms part of the main leisure centre, it has some eccentricities. Tannoy (sorry, public-address system) announcements to staff were made at semi-regular intervals and a glass curtain wall gives the swimming children (**insert tasteless Alan Brazil joke here**) downstairs and health-conscious adults of Erith upstairs, the opportunity to watch some football. I personally found that having guys doing bar curls in the weight-room immediately behind me whilst I’m trying to watch football, all a little too intimidating, so I headed to a place I was more accustomed to (despite being within a municipal building): The bar.

Prawn sandwiches. The bar which on non-game days serves the leisure centre is exclusively given over to Erith Town for their home games. That said, it’s still a café in a leisure centre and the manager – who I can only assume is Gordon Brittas – had decreed that Christmas had arrived. Cue the 10 year old decorations. It’s hard to make a bad cup of tea and with no insult to the helpful girls serving, this was unquestionably the most disgusting cuppa I have ever consumed. It’s also the only football club I’ve been to that serves tea out of a Flavia machine (“Kettles are saaaad”).

Festive cheer

The boardroom also resided in the leisure centre. Upon seeing it from outside, I was speechless. WHAT A SPREAD! Considering there were more people in the dressing rooms than the bar, let alone the boardroom, I was amazed at the range of snacks. Like the xmas party of my dreams, there were cocktail sausages, mini quiches, mountains of foil covered sandwiches, cake, more cake. A full-on banquet. Sadly my hopes and those of the salivating directors were dashed as it turned out this feast was being laid out in preparation for a private party later on that evening. Apart from Michael Barrymore, who has a party in a swimming pool? Much to the ire of Erith chairman, Albert Putman, the board were relegated to a side table, an urn of tea with paper cups and a pack of Fox’s Favourites. When a Double Chocolate Viennese and a Golden Crunch looks like sloppy seconds, you know you’ve lost out on something special.

Sorry gov, private party

…and the game. I was thinking that there might be some goals in this one. I was right. Within 2 minutes, Erith were two up. First, big Kirt King slotted in from some good work down the left hand channel where fullback Lee Craig caused Holmesdale trouble all afternoon. Straight from the restart, Erith were on the attack and when the ball broke to Adam Williams he deftly chipped the ball over the hapless Dan Teeley in the Holmesdale goal. The Dockers made it 3 in 10 minutes with a breakaway from a badly placed Holmesdale corner. Williams again picked the ball up and fired home impressively much to the disappointment of Holmesdale’s 2 visiting supporters.

Holmesdale Ultras

Williams completed a remarkable hat-trick six minutes later with a carbon copy of the opener, with yet more good work from Craig down the left and his tantalising cross was eventually turned in by the game’s star performer.

Holmesdale, to their credit, did not look like a side who deserved to be on the end of a pasting and came back into the game thanks to an audacious lob by James Baker on 26 minutes. This was swiftly followed by a penalty which looked for all the world like a foul on the Erith man. Undeterred by Erith’s oddly half-hearted protest, Holmesdale’s Steve Strotton scored to make it 4-2 with two-thirds of the game remaining. Strotton is a fascinating player, not really built for sport, this 100+ kgs of man ran himself into the ground for the full 90 minutes and at no stage did he resort to the knackered overweight guy microjog (something I myself, am particularly adept at). I hope he’s still at Holmesdale when we visit, he might be our latest hero of non-league (after Francis Duku, of course).

Unsurprisingly, the second half was more sedate and Holmesdale looked like the stronger side and the side more likely to score. The difference maker seemed to be the addition of forward Tunde Aderonmu, who, after a period of sustained pressure, netted the Dalers’ third with just under 10 minutes to go. Holmesdale pushed on and, unable to take advantage of the counter attack, Erith remained under pressure deep into a seemingly never-ending period of stoppage time. Luckily for the Dockers, they held on and probably just about warranted the 3 points but Holmesdale will no doubt be ruing their hideous start.

Breaking the law, breaking the law

Man of the match. I’m going to state the obvious: Step 5 is great.  However, the one area that is often a bit of a let-down, is the matchday programme. Even in Step 4, these can be a bit ropey but down in the Kent League and the Combined Counties, they are half-a-dozen sides of basic information hastily produced by some dedicated soul in the boardroom, ten minutes before the turnstiles open. However, down at Erith, I was delighted to receive a super-chunky 40+ pages of information, statistics and even a few bawdy jokes. Like a cross between Rothman’s yearbook and the Viz Annual, it was a delight. To the unknown publisher, a hearty Pigeon Stands salute.

Post-match rubdown. Being attached to a leisure centre, I was fairly sure that this was going to be a relatively sanitised experience and in fairness, it certainly wasn’t as quirky as some of the grounds we’ve visited. That said, it was an entertaining afternoon out. Erith isn’t particularly well supported, whether this is because of the town’s proximity to Gillingham, FC Eurostar and an a strategically positioned Valley Express coach stop or whether it’s because of the easy access to London’s ‘Big’ teams, I do not know, but the good people of Erith certainly aren’t watching the Dockers which is a shame.

The ground is what it is, a pitch in the middle of an athletics track, attached to a swimming pool but whilst a tang of chlorine hangs in the air and puberty-riddled swimming pool lifeguards grab a much needed cigarette in the back of the main stand, Erith Town play some captivating football. Do what the people of Erith won’t and get along to the Erith Stadium. I won’t promise that you’ll love it, but it’s worth a hop.

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2 Responses to “Erith Town”

  1. Dave 6 December 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    As i was one of the 2 Holmesdale supporters in the photo,i think there were 4 in total,i take it you must have been the guy taking photos,who missed our first goal,and had to ask me what happend,funny you didn’t mention this lol.

    Excellent write up and account of your day,keep up the good work !!

    • James Masini 7 December 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      I was indeed. I tried to work the fact I’d missed the goal into the report but your description was so accurate, I felt as if I could describe the goal perfectly! Glad you enjoyed the post. Looking forward to a trip to Oakley Road soon.

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