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New Grounds

Soccer Sonnet

Now children, said the teacher with a smile
Put down your books and let your pencils fall
Come out into the playfround for a while
And run around with me and kick a ball.
We’ll pick two teams and use our coats for goals
(But leave our bags and worries at the door)
And play the game with all our hearts and souls
And never mind the weather or the score.
I’ll promise not to test your soccer skills
The ball’s the only thing you’ll need to pass
There’ll be no Key Stage Three or spelling drills
There’ll be no top or bottom of the class.
So let’s forget the gold stars for a day
And get outside – and run around – and play.

By Allan Ahlberg


Saturday 19th October 2013 Skrill Football Conference Premier k.o.:- 3.00pm

Dartford                                                                                                4
Matty Godden 12, 16, 87
George Monger 82
Hyde                                                                                                      3
Scott Spencer 35 (pen), 43
Louis Almond 54
referee:- Richard Martin attendance:- 1,083

A long time ago, (Saturday 15th October 1988), I came to Dartford’s Watling Street ground to see Maidstone United defeat Chorley 2-0 in the GM Vauxhall Conference (attendance:- 506). Since then, there have been many upheavals in all three clubs concerned, but talking to Dartford fans on Saturday, especially those with long memories, they believe that allowing Maidstone to groundshare was the death knell for Dartford’s old ground, the site of which is now covered with 153 houses.



The Maidstone United season ticket holder who was watching the game (his team were playing away), was proud of their new stadium with the 4G pitch and the big crowds, especially as in a nomadic twenty year period, they had to ground share and had played as far away as Sittingbourne! He conceded however, that promotion to the Conference with a plastic pitch was unlikely despite the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, amongst others, having to play European games this season on artificial surfaces!


Dartford opened their new ground at Princes Park in 2006 at a cost of some £6million. It is a lovely purpose built stadium, but is it really £5 million better than Corby Town’s new arena? There is terracing on three sides and four or five rows of seating along the fourth side – maybe a thousand seats if I am being generous. At each end of the ground, there are food outlets which are quite imaginative. They provide, not just the usual burger/hotdog options, but a selection of baguettes, danish pastries, cakes, soups and chocolate bars. I was spoilt for choice! There is a bar, too, behind the seated area and adjacent to the hospitality suite. Down in reception, the dragon guarding the front desk and clutching a fistful of team sheets, complained long and hard that these sheets weren’t just for anybody. Who did I think I was? I offered to pay for one and in the end she doled one out to me with a singular lack of grace!


I had come, expecting to see a rout! Hyde have just two points from fifteen games this season and are ten points adrift at the foot of the Conference. Their most recent financial crisis lies at the root of most of their problems, but there is nothing wrong with their footballing spirit. They were two goals behind after a quarter of an hour and it seemed that they would be on the wrong end of a cricket score. However, by half time they were level and early in the second half, they actually took a deserved lead. They held on well, competed well and looked for all the world as if they might gain an unlikely three points for the first time this season. The home fans were restless and angry, but eventually order was restored as The Darts scored two goals in the final seven minutes and Hyde went home pointless, but only after a fine display which so very nearly succeeded!


Late on in the match, I noticed this strange sculpture.

It was under the roof of the far side terrace.

I meant to enquire as to its provenance, but completely forgot!

Anyone got any ideas?

Monday 21st October 2013 Calor Southern League k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

St Albans City                                                       2

Mark Nwokeji10,

John Frendo 78

Hemel Hempstead Town                                   2

Lewis Toomey 42

Moussa Diarra 90

Danny May s/o 70

referee:- Mark Lucie (Southsea)                     attendance:- 677


St Albans is situated midway between the M1 and The A1 and is also easily accessible by rail, being a short walk from the station. I had planned to go by rail until I found out that there were no trains running between Leicester and London because of an ‘incident’. So I drove down the A1 and returned via the M1.


It really is a beautiful ground. It has concrete terracing all the way round and a long wooden, seated stand down one side with strictures about ‘no smoking’ and ‘no standing’. Opposite is a terrace with a central covered area emblazoned with the club’s name and crest. Behind each goal are uncovered terraced areas which provide an excellent view of play. The whole is set in the heart of Clarence Park which also houses the cricket club.


Hemel Hempstead Town are St Albans closest neighbours in this league and they sit handsomely at the top of the table, whilst The Saints, some thirteen points behind them, are just inside the top half of the table.

Tonight’s match was a real cracker! It was helped by the home side taking the lead on ten minutes after a torrid spell when ‘The Tudors’ pressed heavily from the start without reward. They equalised in the 42nd minute and many felt that would be the final score. However, late in the game, the away team’s right back Danny May was sent off after a heavy challenge, despite the strong representations of his team mates who surrounded the referee vociferously, without success!


Less than ten minutes later, John Frendo stroked one over the line after excellent work by Mark Nowekji down the left hand side and it was all looking bleak for the league leaders. In the ninetieth minute after a scramble in the goal mouth, former City man, Moussa Diarra rose highest in the six yard box to head home powerfully and the Hemel fans, behind the same goal, immediately invaded the pitch and set off a flare! Perhaps it was no more than The Tudors deserved and the game ended seconds later.

Tuesday 22nd October 2013 Sky Bet League Two k.o.:- 7.45pm

Chesterfield                                              2

Armand Gnanduillet 64 (pen),

Jay O’Shea 76,

York City                                                   2

Luke O’Neill 34

Ryan Jarvis 61

referee:- Mr Mark Brown               attendance:- 5,907


Graeme drove us both up to Chesterfield. The more frequently I drive up that stretch of The M1, the more I dislike it. It always seems that the northbound carriageway is one vast car-park, whilst the other side is moving along quite sweetly. We arrived in plenty of time, however, and found a parking spot on a side street, collected pretty expensive tickets, and walked back up the main road to purchase ‘small’ portions of chips from a local fish ‘n’ chip emporium that were so large they could have fed a hefty slice of the crowd at tonight’s game!


I was a little ambivalent about the ground. It was my first visit to The Proact Stadium, although I had been twice before to Saltergate. This new arena was little more than four tin stands surrounding a football pitch. However, there had been some attempt in the architecture to give it a personal touch. I liked the way that they had provided concave roofs to the stands on either side of the pitch and there was plenty of room in the East stand for the weekly Bridge club to continue on match night, as well as space for a substantial gymnasium.


On the West stand side, there were the hospitality suites and they seemed well patronised. There wasn’t much heed paid to the ordinary punter however, it was a case of how quickly can we grab your money, now go away and don’t bother us! There were team-sheets available at reception, but I was told there weren’t any. I was indebted to the steward at the players entrance who allowed me to photograph his sheet!


The match was pretty awful in the first half apart from a searing drive from York number 30, Luke O’Neill which surprised the home keeper and put the Minstermen in front. The second half was a different story, however. Chesterfield pressed strongly from the off and pinned York back inside their own half. It was almost inevitable that York then extended their lead from a corner following their only sally of the second half.


Chesterfield were a little fortunate to be awarded a penalty – a very soft penalty – which big striker Armand Gnandulliet put away with confidence and the rest of the half belonged to the home side, who eventually equalised with a scruffy goal with fifteen minutes remaining. “Come on The Town”, cried several fans around us, although I wondered where the soubriquet came from, but all their encouragement couldn’t produce a winning goal and York deserved their precious point!

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