Saturday, 3 February 2007

03/02/2007 - Chelmsford City 1 Hendon 0

IT'S official, the Ryman Isthmian Premier is better than the Ryman Isthmian Division One!

I feel confident in making this startling statement having spent Saturday watching Chelmsford City take on Hendon at the Chelmsford Athletics Stadium in Melbourne Park.

Organised football in Chelmsford dates back to the 1870s and the team moved to the New Writtle Street ground in 1922. They were stalwarts of the Southern League and one of the most well-supported amateur teams in the country.

Their playing staff has featured many famous names including goalkeeper Nigel Spink, Peter Taylor and the legendary England international Jimmy Greaves.

But finances have often been an issue and they were forced to leave New Writtle Street in 1997 when it was sold by the official receiver.

Redevelopment of the site meant that the scene of my own personal footballing highlight - scoring a last minute extra time equaliser in the Mid Essex League Cup Final for Braintree & Bocking United - is no longer a sporting venue. (We won the cup on penalties by the way, and during my time with B&B I also played alongside Chelmsford City 'legend' Frank Bishop).

City spent some years groundsharing with Billericay Town and Maldon Town before moving to the Chelmsford Athletic Centre at Melbourne Park. The first game back in Chelmsford was played out in front of a 3,000 capacity crowd that saw many latecomers left outside the ground unable to get in.

Further intrigue was delivered by the arrival this season of manager Jeff King who was the maestro and bankroll behind Canvey Island's rise up the football leagues.

Hendon are a team that has morphed through their existence, starting life as Christ Church Hampstead in 1908, becoming Hampstead Town, and then switching to Golders Green FC in 1932.

They became Hendon in 1946 after the Second World War because of their position in the borough of Hendon which itself has become the borough of Barnet.

This season has seen both teams operating at opposite ends of the Ryman Premier.

Chelmsford have spent a couple of weeks on top of the pile in recent months but a slump in form has seen them drop to fifth in the table.

Hendon have been grubbing around the bottom reaches of the division and they dropped down into the bottom three after this defeat.

City were operating a 'Kids for a Quid' promotion for the fixture and it paid dividends (possibly even gate receipts) with a crowd of just over 1,000 enjoying their football in the February sunshine.

The match started brightly for the home side who had a couple of good opportunities the best of which when Jason Hallett (I think) narrowly missed connecting with the ball in the six yard box after a good cross.

But to give them credit, Hendon battled their way back into the fixture and deservedly went in at half time all square.
Chelmsford have been suffering a crisis in confidence in front of goal of late and this showed as they failed to convert the superiority that they were showing, but Hendon were also struggling from a lack of invention up front.

And when the goal came in the second half, this time Hallett finding the target after a whipped -on free kick wasn't cleared.

You got the feeling that one goal would win it and in the end this was the case. The home fans left happy with the win, but there were grumblings on the terraces that this isn't the form that will will bring Conference South football to a stadium that richly deserves it.


Ground Rating:

(It would get a four were it not for the running track)

Refreshment Rating:

(Had a quarter pounder with cheese a tea and a coffee, but it was from a big fairground type burger van)

Profanity Rating:

(Couldn't hear any swearing, too far away!)

Chelmsford History:
1908-09: Spartan League Eastern Division
1912-22: Athenian League
1935-37: Eastern Counties League
1937-38: Essex County League
1938-2004: Southern League
2004- : Isthmian League

Hendon History:
1908-09: Finchley & District League (Christ Church Hampstead)
1909-11: Finchley & District League (Hampstead Town)
1911-14: London League (Hampstead Town)
1914-26: Athenian League (Hampstead Town)
1926-33: Athenian League (Hampstead)
1933-46: Athenian League (Golders Green)
1946-63: Athenian League
1963- : Isthmian League

Chelmsford City
Hendon FC