Wednesday, 31 January 2007

31/01/2007 - VCD Athletic 2 Tunbridge Wells 0

THE best laid plans of mice and Stonemen often go awry. Never a truer word written on Wednesday night when my planned visit to Essex Senior League Brentwood Town was thrown into disarray by a last minute cancellation.

Town were due to face London APSA at the Brentwood Centre and as I had only visited Brentwood before when they played at Larkins Playing Fields it seemed the ideal opportunity for a visit.

But then I learnt that APSA had been 'unable to fulfill the fixture' for whatever reason and the match was postponed.

A quick search on Tony's English Football Site had shown that a short hop down the road (M25) and over the QEII bridge there was a Kent League Premier fixture between VCD Athletic and Tunbridge Wells and so I rooted out a pound for the toll and headed south of the river.

I've never visited a Kent League match before so it was pastures new in all senses of the phrase as an uneventful hour's journey saw me arrive with about 10 minutes to go until kick off.

There was a bit of shennanigans however in parking the car as the car park was full to capacity and just as I was dolefully reversing to go and park out on the street a coach pulled up at the gates and released a huge swarm of pensioners (possibly the VCD bowls club coming back from a road trip).

Happily they all then embarked in their cars freeing up plenty of room and I manoeuvured my way around them and into a space.

Walking through the turnstile you find yourself at the top of a hill looking down onto a beautiful green playing surface surrounded by a neat fence, cinder-type track all illuminated by a splendid set of new floodlights.

In fact everything about the VCD set up smacks of new, something to do with the "hundreds of thousands of pounds" worth of investment that the club has pumped into the stadium in recent years.

The floodlights were apparently the bone of some contention in the area - taking nearly nine years to receive planning permission - during which the VCD club spent something of a nomadic existence at grounds like Thamesmead in the surrounding area.

Their return to The Oakwood took place at the start of this season and hopes were high that the new surroundings could generate a push for promotion to the higher reaches of non league football - first stop being the Ryman Isthmian.

However, their attention has been somewhat diverted by a good run in the FA Vase which has seen them reach the last 16 for the second season running where they will face Bideford AFC from Devon.

Promotion aspiration has also been dented by the form of Kent Premier rivals Whitstable Town who are absolutely flying this year having not lost a game in nearly 20.

The Kent Premier was a good standard although we were moving into the realms of the pyramid where the games move at a million miles an hour - fitness and physicality the dominant forces for the first 60 minutes or so.

With both sides evenly matched on those fronts the first half was a fairly forgettable event and the two teams went in for their half time cup of tea level at nil a piece.

Tunbridge were certainly belying the fact that they are third of bottom and match the home team in every challenge and certainly creating as many chances although these were scarce at both ends.

But tiredness was overtaking physicality and space was appearing for VCD to play a bit and the deadlock was broken about 15 minutes into the second half when Leroy Huggins rather fortuitously found himself in some space in the Tunbridge box and he made no mistake in drilling the ball into the corner of the net.

Then with about 15 minutes to go it was Huggins again who rifled home a shot from the edge of the box after Tunbridge failed to deal with a VCD corner successfully.

After the referee had played what seemed an age of stoppage time we got the best shout from the crowd - although I think it may have come from one of the dugouts: "Come on ref, it's nearly Thursday!"

All in all a good evening's entertainment and I have London APSA to thank for an unexpected find. Also in a first for the Groundblogger, I have a little video taken of the ground which includes an interview with VCD Chairman Gary Rump, just click on the Play arrow in the picture below.

Ground Rating:

Refreshment Rating:

(I didn't actually partake but the smells were good)

Profanity Rating:

(All the effing was encouraging effing rather than malicious, but there was a lot of it).

VCD Athletic
Tunbridge Wells