Tag Archives: Holmesdale

Holmesdale FC

3 Aug

28 July 2012

Pre-season Friendly

Holmesdale FC 03  v  West Wickham 01  (att c.35)

Oakley Road, Bromley Common

Team Talk. It seems like ages since I’ve been out exploring the sites and sounds of non-league football in South London. Whilst a brief emancipation has been to the benefit of my status as a married gentleman, it’s done little for my South London groundhopping.

With Olympic nonsense kicking about on the telly and with Dulwich Hamlet away to Thamesmead, I decided to take a jolly down to Bromley to watch Holmesdale.

Holmesdale started out life in the 1920s linked to a Baptist Church in South Norwood. Holmesdale is something more closely affiliated with Crystal Palace, and their Holmesdale Road stand. Yeah, you’re right, who cares? Let’s keep things in the Kent League.  Holmesdale Baptist sadly folded a few years later only to be reignited by fellow Presbyterians, Surrey Boys Brigade in 1956.

Holmesdale had muddled around the leagues for a number of decades but have hit somewhat of purple patch of late. Back-to-back victories in Kent County Division One (2006) and Kent County Premier (2007) have seen Holmesdale plying their trade in the Kent League for the past 5 years. After a comfortable end to last season, Holmesdale will be trying to mount an attack on the top half of the table, with the help of my favourite non-league player outside of Champion Hill, Steven Strotten, a man who’s Twitter description simply reads: “Chubby”. Under the tutelage of Fabio Rossi (a Fabio the people CAN get behind), Strotten has gone from strength to strength and bagged a nifty 18 goals in 2011, although prior to this game, he’d gone through somewhat of a drought.

The Dalers opponents on this day were West Wickham who play outside of the Pyramid in the Southern Amateur League Division 1. One of London’s finest and oldest Saturday leagues.

Park the bus. Holmesdale Oakley Road ground is in Bromley Common which is about 15 minutes from Bromley South Station (itself around 15 minutes by train from Victoria Station) on the 320 bus. The Ground itself is basically on the opposite side of fields from Bromley’s Hayes Lane Ground.

Holmesdale, where the kids are..err…Busyfingered?

Homefield advantage. Unlike the Bromley’s suburban heartlands in Hayes, Oakley Road feels positively rural. The first thing you’ll note as you hop off the bus is the stench of horses. There’s some sort of semi-rural pub, a village cricket pavilion and a couple of paddocks. All very odd for what is still only Zone 5.

My Lovely Horse – Where are you going, with your fetlocks blowing

The ground itself is relatively Spartan with one pigeon stand to the north of the ground made entirely out of scaffolding, and a frame on the south stand that looks like is previously (or will one day soon) also provide shelter.  The only seating is on the far side of the pitch in the form of a rickety but massively comfortable stand offering excellent views of the action, although the high flyers won’t love their egalitarian approach to director’s boxes.

All seemed relatively normal at Oakley Road: bar, scaffolding, dog, barbeque (more on that later), floodlights but something was amiss. Why did it smell like Uncle Owen’s back garden? Then I realised, instead of the usual compost heap in the corner of the ground, Holmesdale burn all their garden rubbish…during game time. It felt like a kick-about at the Temple of Ateshgah. A real treat.

A burning desire for promotion…sorry

Prawn sandwiches.It’s preseason so I was expecting a bit of renovation going on but was naturally devastated when I saw a pair of burly workers laying new laminates in the bar and all the bar furniture sitting on the lawn as teas and coffees were being dispensed from an urn on a table – guarded apathetically by a large dog – in front of the clubhouse.  On a hot Saturday afternoon, this was not the ideal situation for a man in need of refreshment. OK, there was a make-shift playground with slides, climbing frames and some sort of large birdhouse thing but without beer, these represented a wasted opportunity.

Luckily they like a beer at Holmesdale and patrons were lead around the new bits of the floor to get to the bar. Obviously it’s hard to comment on the quality of the clubhouse but it seemed to be going in the right direction, a picture of the founders 1st shirt hung on one wall and there was a pool table shunted in the corner. With a pint coming in a £3, it wasn’t a bad wee pitstop.

A Pigeon Stands salute to working on a Saturday

As is common at Step 5 grounds, there was a barbeque set up nearby, however, Holmesdale had defied convention and actually got the charcoal fired up. They seem to like fire in Holmesdale. It appeared that the burgers were for the players and officials, although I’m sure the chap would have dished out any spares for a nominal fee.

…and the game. For preseason, it was nice to see both teams field strong sides. Holmesdale, just one week from Kent League kickoff, needed the run out and were keen to restore confidence after losing to Dulwich Hamlet in midweek.

They started with a bang as Steven Strotten beat his marker to tap in from a cheap corner/free-kick. West Wickham continued to press and had the best of the midfield at times but Holmesdale steadied the ship thanks to an excellent performance from former Chipstead man, Harrison Carniegie, who looks like he’s certainly capable of stepping up a division.

After 30 minutes, the referee determined that the players needed a rest and gave them a few minutes to take on some water. This gave Holmesdale’s plucky ballboys (proudly rejoicing in their matchday fee of a burger and a Mars Bar) the chance to source two of the match balls that had been kicked over the hedge, including the Dalers secret weapon, a yellow ball in summer time. Sadly they were to return empty-handed and with the disappearance of a third ball later in the first half a lot of panicked chatter seemed to be about what happens if the fourth (and final ball) were to go missing or..I dunno…land on a bonfire that someone had started up in the corner.

Luckily, both sides seemed to have better control of the ball in the second half and all involved could concentrate on their football, not least of all, Strotten who doubled Holmesdale’s advantage with a powerful header from a pacey free-kick. Holmesdale finished off their afternoon with a fine breakaway goal from Carnegie. With that, my afternoon at Holmesdale was complete, although apparently West Wickham slipped in a late consolation as I was leaving the ground.

Man of the match. Easy this time. Steven Strotten for both his on field and off-field performance. He’s has the quintessential good touch for a big man and is deceptively fast catching out the opposition a bunch of times in this game. Not only was first to the ball in the penalty box but upon being substituted after an hour’s hard work, he was also first to the barbeque where he proceeded to enjoy a well-earned burger with his family. Well it’s only pre-season after all. What a guy.

The ultimate big man up front

Post-match rubdown.  A trip to Oakley Road is highly encouraged. They may not have the crowds of some their divisional rivals but those who do go along are a jolly bunch. The football is pretty good but the Kent Premier looks very tough this year with Whyteleafe, Erith, VCD  and Beckenham all in with a shout of the title. However, Holmesdale are good enough to cause a few shocks and should improve on last year’s 13th place.

The ground might not be the most elaborate but the newly refurbished clubhouse will be a right treat and the fire pit is the ultimate homefield advantage. I fear that the bonfire is usually left unlit on matchdays, I’d like to think on cold Tuesday night games, Holmesdale supporters burn an opposition shirt whilst chanting some ancient mantra. That would be truly terrifying.

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.