Tag Archives: Kent Premier Division

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.

Beckenham Town

4 Sep

3 September 2011

FA Cup Preliminary Round

Beckenham Town 3 v Walton Casuals 1

Eden Park, Beckenham

Team Talk. Non-league day comes but once a year. The day when Premier League clubs are not in action and their supporters are encouraged to sample the delights of non league football. While non league day represents a much needed cash injection for the clubs, for me it is also a chance to show that the non league game is serious business with clubs, players and fans for whom the game means every bit as much as their league counterparts. It is a matter of pride god damn it.

Beckenham have started the season in pretty reasonable form. Something that fans of the club must be pleasantly surprised by as their pre season was horrendous. This included back to back 6-0 losses against AFC Wimbledon and Tonbridge Angels and a horrific string of defeats against Maidstone Utd (1-5), Welling Utd (1-5) and Herne Bay (2-4). Unfortunately Beckenham Town cancelled their final pre-season friendly against the mighty (and free scoring) Dulwich Hamlet. This was reportedly due to the Eden Park pitch being unavailable for the game. Naturally many amongst the Hamlet faithful opined that Beckenham’s dreadful form had led to them wussing out on the fixture.

Visitors today, Walton Casuals, could perhaps have done without the spotlight of non league day shining on them having started the new season with four straight losses, a start that is described diplomatically on their website as “indifferent”.  Surely they would be hoping that a victory in the FA Cup Preliminary would be just what they needed to get them out of their funk. Those turning up expecting Walton Casuals to put 5 or 6 past lower league opposition would however be disappointed.

Beckenham Town FC, the team formally known as Stanhope Rovers, have been knocking around the Kent league since the 1982/3 season. Beckenham’s best performance in the Kent League was in the 2005/6 season where a team managed by current Dulwich Hamlet manager Gavin Rose missed out on promotion in the last game of the season. The team has a long standing link with Crystal Palace, having been a feeder club for Palace in the 1950s. More recently, former Crystal Palace owner Mark Goldberg played for and managed the club in the 1980s.

Park the bus. Beckenham Town play at Eden Park, a few minutes walk from Eden Park rail station which is served by frequent trains from Charing Cross and Canon Street. Parking is available on site but is not advised as it’s a bit of a free for all.

Total gridlock

Home Advantage. Beckenham Town have called Eden Park home since 1980. The entrance is rather unassuming and the masses of parked cars (see above) on the narrow strip of land that takes you to the turnstiles does not make for much of a welcome.

This all changes once you get beyond the turnstile, as the cluttered feel is replaced with an expanse of green, provided by Beckenham’s main playing pitch and large warm up/reserves pitch that runs parallel.

Turnstiles

The timber club house that runs most of the length of the turnstile end of the pitch is a real treat, housing the bar, burger bar, dressing rooms, and no doubt a fine board room for treating those visiting dignitaries. The building looks like it dates from well before the 1980s and makes you wonder if it was brought in from elsewhere. Or perhaps it dates from pre-Beckenham Town days, as it resembles some form of cricket pavilion, a feel that is added to by the grassed area between the clubhouse and the pitch which is effectively used as a beer garden for chilling and watching the game, lovely.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse entrance

Cover around the pitch at Eden Park is limited to four short and open pigeon stands (two at the turnstile end and one on either side of the pitch) and a similarly short seated main stand on one side. The lack of cover did not matter to us as (1) it was scorching hot and (2) our seating was sorted early on as we stumbled upon a timber bench that can only be described as pure luxury. Whilst it resembled something my granddad would put in his garden, this was easily the most comfortable seat I have sat in at a football match to date and it kept us from moving for most of the first half. Even the local children, who were stood in front of us, sat down to give us a better view of the pitch (cheers kids).

Clubhouse end

Clubhouse end pigeon stand

Side pigeon stand

Main seated side stand

Seating in the main side stand

While we basked like pigs in muck on our luxury bench, guarding it jealously from all those who dared to even look twice at it, we were slightly crestfallen as we saw what was by far the best seat in the house. This must have been the directors box, a single seat placed on raised scaffolding between the dugouts. Accessed from a window cleaner’s ladder at the rear and resembling something between a tennis umpires seat and a diving board, this clearly gave a panoramic and unrivaled view of the action.

VIP seats

The directors box

Other features of interest at the ground included a classy “Welcome to Beckenham Town FC” etched (almost certainly with a stick) in the concrete at one of the entrances to the pitch, and the variety of warning signs placed around the pitch, including the obligatory “no ball games” (always a classic).

Prawn Sandwiches. If the exterior of the clubhouse at Beckenham has something of the 1950s about it, the bar inside is altogether different. Clearly recently refurbished and done out like a trendy wine bar, even the part of the bar referred to as the “old gits corner” was plush by non-league standards. To maintain the slightly seating related theme, the bar was set off by flash sofas that would not have looked out of place in the houses of Kensington and Chelsea. Drinks were very reasonably priced (ale – £2.70, cider £3) and there was even the option of watching Come Dine With Me on a telly in the bar if we didn’t fancy the second half. Beckenham Town really know how to treat supporters and visitors alike.

Inside club house

Bar - old gits corner

Similarly well priced were the burgers (£2) which were served up with a smile by hospitality manager Yvonne from a hole in the wall next the bar.

Burger hole

and the game. Despite the reservations beforehand, this turned out to be a fine game. This never looked like a game between two teams that were low on confidence. Nor did this Beckenham side look like the same team who were described as looking “a little out of shape” by the authors of this blog during our visit to VCD Athletic last season.

In fact the football on display was of high quality with Walton in particular showing some lovely touches early on and making a push for goal. This effort was rewarded with the award of a penalty after 15 mins which allowed the visitors to go one up. Becks responded fantastically by pinning the Walton defence back for long periods of the first half. The leveler for Beckenham was the conclusion of an incisive breakaway on the half hour mark that was coolly finished by the outstandingly named Elstrom Die.

As they had played at such a high tempo in the first half we suspected that Beckenham would run out of steam in the second and could be ripe for a pounding. However this proved not to be the case and, led by their talismanic striker Die, they soldiered on. Yes I can confirm that Beckenham Town DIE HARD (sorry).

In reality it was always going to take something pretty special to separate these two teams. And special it was, a goal of such sublime comedy that even the Edinburgh Fringe’s annual comedians v critics charity match could not have produced it. Starting harmlessly enough from one of the many Becks breakaways, things descended into madness with an edge of box drive that looked set for the top corner. To the surprise of many the ball hit the underside of the crossbar, remaining in play and then cannoning off an unsuspecting Walton defender in the six yard box. The ball then somehow managed to find its way to hitting the keeper square in the face before landing in the back of the net. Even the linesman could not help but laugh uncontrollably as the keeper sat clutching his face in agony. While I was not able to film the incident this video should give a flavour of the hilarity.

Oh yes, and Becks scored a third to guarantee their place in the next round of the FA cup and leave us having watched a thoroughly entertaining game.

Shots of the action (but unfortunately not one of the keeper taking one in the face – so to speak) can be found here

Man of the Match. “Non league day is a brilliant idea” not my words but the words of ex England winger and mullet wearer Chris “looked a bit lazy but was actually mint” Waddle. Waddle should know as he is the proud ambassador of non-league day. More importantly the day is also endorsed by Dulwich Hamlet man mountain Francis “the Count” Duku, and trust me you do not mess with the Dukes if you know what’s good for you. In fact, to maximise support for next year’s non league day I would suggest a poster campaign like this:

Seriously though, non league day is only in its second year and already feels like a much anticipated part of the non-league calendar. This can only be down to the hard work of my men and women of the match, the organisers of non –league day. Let’s also not forget those of us who attend non league games week in week out who have also done a great job spreading the word.

Post-match rub-down. Right, Beckenham Town. What can I say other than they appeared to be a well supported club with a team that play the game the right way. Did I also happen to mention the quality of the seats?

VCD Athletic: Avoiding the Internationals (part 2)

27 Mar

26 March 2011

Kent League Premier Division

VCD Athletic 1 v Beckenham Town 0 (att – 67)

Oakwood, Old Road, Crayford, DA1

Please note this is Part 2 of our double-header. Part 1 (Dartford FC) can be found here.

Team talk. Founded in 1916, VCD Athletic (or Vickers, Crayford & Dartford Athletic F.C. to give them their full name) are one of only a handful of clubs to have been formed during World War I. The club was founded by workers at the Vickers armaments factory in Crayford. The Vickers factory was well known for its manufacture of warships and machine guns.

VCD joined the Kent League Premier Division in 1996/1997 and have an impressive record of finishing in the upper reaches of this division. The club had its most successful season ever in 2008/2009, winning both the Kent Senior Cup and Kent League Premier Division, and earning promotion to the Rymans League. Despite finishing in 8th in the Rymans North Division in 2009/2010, the club were cruelly relegated back into the Kent Premier for failing to make necessary changes to their Oakwood, Old Road ground to bring it in line with league rules. Following this, the club’s then manager Paul Foley left to join Chatham Town taking most of the team with him.

Rymans League officials really rub it in with this sticker on the Old Road sign

Despite these problems, the team have had a strong 2010/2011 season and at the start of play today were third in the league, with Beckenham Town in sixth. Both teams were looking to bounce back from midweek cup defeats – VCD lost 5-1 in the league cup to top of the table Hythe and Beckenham were narrowly beaten 4-3 in extra time by AFC Wimbledon in the London Senior Cup.

Park the bus. Barnehurst and Crayford are the nearest train stations (Zone 6). Frequent trains from London Bridge will get you there in about half an hour. If approaching from the M25 by car it may be necessary to leave more time to negotiate Dartford and Crayford.

Home advantage. Whatever the folks at the Rymans League say, VCD’s Oakwood ground is a cracking little place with bags of character and certainly no dearth of facilities. From the moment we passed through the turnstiles and paid our entrance (£7 including programme) we got the impression that this is a club at the heart of a community and a ground that is well looked after.

Drat...no ball games !!!!

What you are not prepared for when you enter Oakwood is the sudden change in ground level between where the turnstiles, directors box, shop and bar are and the pitch. This makes for a great entrance. The concrete path meandering down to pitch side gives a sense of occasion to the whole thing. If Dartford’s ground (visited earlier in the day) is about intimacy then VCD’s is about space.

Ski jump anyone? : guys cling on for dear life.

On finally reaching pitch side you are faced with the only seated terrace at the ground, the Gary Rump stand. We later discovered that Gary Rump is the current chairman (insert your own joke about a guy called Rump being in charge of a club that sounds a bit like an STD).

VCD Chairman Gary Rump with former England internation Terry McDermott

Rumpy pumpy : Gary chums up to Terry McDermott during Huddersfield visit last year

We

Facing the Rump on the other side of the pitch are two smart timber pigeon stands with roofs not unlike those seen at Dartford earlier in the day (a bit less showy maybe). These stands were added in 2006 following a grant from the Football Foundation and had some input from local sports architecture firm Opensport

The future of pigeon stands.. today?

A certain symmetry?

UPVC dugout windows were perhaps not part of the Opensport vision for VCD.

UPVC dugout windows were perhaps not part of Opensports vision for VCD

Prawn sandwiches. Refreshments are available from a hole in the wall selling tea for around 80p and bacon roll, burgers, etc for between £2 and £2.50. There is also a bar, which is accessed from outside the ground.

Other half time entertainment included a golden goal, with a prize for both the first and the final goal.

No ticket, no prize.. No woman, no cry

…..and the game. This would have been a more enjoyable game, had we not learnt at the beginning that we had missed Dulwich Hamlet beating Fleet Town 6-0 to come to see VCD . The first half wasn’t much to write home about. Both teams looked a little lacklustre after really tough mid-week games. The second half was a real improvement, with VCD running Beckenham (whose players looked a little out of shape) ragged. VCD played some really entertaining stuff, lovely touches, and moved fantastically as a team and certainly deserved their goal.

The naughty corner. The latest sanction open to referees.

Man of the match. We had not heard much from the match announcer before kick off. As such, we could not have been prepared for his half time impromptu a’capella version of Bobby Darin’s “Dreamlover“. He was so in to it that he forgot some of the words, went away to look them up, and started singing again as the second half kicked off.

Dream lovers

Dreamlovers

Post game rub down. My Glasgow Rangers supporting fellow Pigeon Stander will disagree with this (due only to the green and white hoops that the team play in) but you would be hard pressed to find a reason not to like this club. VCD is a proper community club that is clearly well cared for and long may this continue to be the case. Recommended.