Tag Archives: National League

Grey Day in Dagenham

Saturday 17th September 2016 – Dagenham & Redbridge 2 – 0 North Ferriby

National League @ Victoria Road, Dagenham, London

“…oh I’d rather be a sausage than an egg…”

A university reunion coupled with a vow to get to some Ferriby games now they were venturing south, took me to Dagenham’s Victoria Road. It was a grey September day and cold enough for a jacket; a contrast from the heat wave earlier that week, which was ended with torrential rain the day before this match up.

Dagenham, most famous of course for the Ford factory, is found in London’s eastern most reaches. It took around 45 minutes on the Victoria Line (from Victoria) to reach Dagenham East for this one, and the ground itself is around a five-minute walk from the tube station.

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The area around the ground is fairly residential so supping options are limited to a pub just past the tube station, the Pipe Major. We didn’t venture in on this occasion; there were plenty milling around outside albeit a majority seemed to be in West Ham shirts, so they probably weren’t all going to the match.

Entering Victoria Road (or the Chigwell Construction Stadium for sponsorship purposes) feels akin to entering a leisure centre, with a car park straight in front, and the relatively low stands meaning it is only the floodlights that indicate the venue is used for football.

We headed to the club bar pre-match. It cost 50p to get in (though no restrictions on away fans) and you have to sign in; it is however a nice sized bar, albeit beer on tap is limited. Seating is in what is best described as a sports hall with a couple of tables dotted around. Sutton’s defeat of Tranmere Rovers was being shown on the big screen which we watched with the locals before heading to the away end.

Away fans are accommodated in the ‘Traditional Builders Stand’ at the far end of the ground. It cost £21 to get in; the half of the stand closest to the entrance is populated with home fans, with the away fans having to walk along the bottom of the stand to the far end. There were no problems however, and given the size of the away following that day (23…) the stand felt a bit cold and, stating the obvious’ empty!

There is a small bar underneath the stand, which seemed only to serve Carling, that both home and away fans use. Other chow and sup can be bought at a small kiosk near the entrance, with reasonable prices (£1.20 for tea or coffee).

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To the left of the stand is a small terrace, half of which was closed, but the open half appeared to be full. To the right is a smaller seated stand. Interestingly the teams come out from behind the goal, so I assume more modern changing rooms were installed when the stand was built.

img_0084 img_0089In the context of each club’s respective positions last season, and results and league positions thus far, this seemed very much like David vs Goliath. Dagenham & Redbridge’s team contains a smattering of ex-league players (including the experienced Luke Gutteridge and Paul Benson); having spent nine years playing league football (including a short stint in League 1), presumably the home side are gunning for an immediate return.

This is Ferriby’s first season at this level, with mixed results ranging from a hammering away at Lincoln, and a win at Gateshead mid-week before this one. My hunch however was that the home side would prevail in this one.

The atmosphere at Victoria Road is relatively flat, with the exception of the fans immediately to the left of the away end, who enjoyed frequent exchanges with the three fans in the away end who had some voice (though most of the chants seemed to be food related as opposed to football, hence I guess the ‘Pie Cob Society’ flag).

Ferriby played like they were trying to avoid a loss as opposed to trying to get something from the game. The home side went in one nil up and at half time though it felt like it could be much more. Ferriby had a good crack of it in the second half, but couldn’t build up any meaningful sort of attack.

It was one nil for much of the match, but it never really felt close. The home side doubled their lead shortly before time, wrapping up the three points and securing top spot in the league. This result sent Ferriby into the relegation places. The difference in quality was quite stark; Ferriby constantly giving the ball away and making silly mistakes, which their more experienced equals often capitalised upon.

It might have been because the day was grey, and cold but Victoria Road feels like it has seen better days. Prices are however reasonable and the fans & staff care for the club; the attendance felt low that day (1,119) despite local Premier League behemoths being away at West Brom. The game was however both watchable and enjoyable; Victoria Road is a bit of a trek from Central London for a capital ground tick if truth be told. It feels very much like a non-league ground but with some tweaks to allow for bigger followings that must have come here when they played league football.

Other photos from the day

 

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Non League Day 2016

Saturday 3rd September 2016 – Maidstone United 2 – 2 Wrexham

National League @ Gallagher Stadium, Maidstone

A rare afternoon off following our arrival earlier in August coincided with this year’s Non League Day. And with tiredness limiting the appetite for travel too far, I opted to start my foray into Kent’s non-league scene, and visit Maidstone United‘s Gallagher Stadium for their National League match against Wrexham.

Maidstone is one of the original phoenix clubs. Formed in 1992 following the demise of the original, the National League (or Conference for us traditionals) marks the highest level the ‘new’ (if you can call 24 years new….) club has been, gaining promotion in the play-offs last season against local rivals Ebbsfleet United.

I travelled to Maidstone by train from Otford; the Gallagher Stadium can be seen as you enter Maidstone East, and is c. 5-10 minutes walk from the station. The walk is rather mundane along a series of roads outside of the town centre. There are a couple of pubs en route for those who wish to stagger the trip.

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It cost £15 to get in that day, which was easier said than done as for some reason the turnstiles wouldn’t work for me. Feeling like a bit of an amateur, I opted for some refreshment. To the left of the entrance, the Gallagher Stadium has an array of options for eating; pie and chips (with FREE gravy), burgers, hot dogs, and something of a first, a tuck shop selling sweets! I opted however to head right to the Spitfire Lounge. On tap was a club special lager which I chose over a Whitstable Ale – an error. Fairly sure it was re-branded Carling, or perhaps the late nights tending to a four-week old have killed my taste buds!

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The Gallagher Stadium comprises of two terraces behind either goal, and to the right of the Spitfire Lounge, a main stand with seating. Opposite is standing only. The view is quite scenic with trees along the perimeter (and some flats behind the main stand).

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Stands behind goals

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Main Stand

A wander around the ground showed decent views from all angles. There is a slight industrial feel to the ground however, caused I think by the corrugated metal perimeter. Fans were segregated that day, with the 200 or so Wrexham fans who made the trip situated behind the far goal (opposite the main entrance). I opted to stand opposite the main stand that day, next to the away end.

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The crowd for this match exceeded 2,000, and as mentioned it was Non League Day. I was unsure how many had come for that reason only, like myself, however there was a lot of black and amber on display, indicating I probably wasn’t giving Maidstone enough credit for their support. Indeed I wasn’t. The crowd was noisy behind both goals and got behind their team from the start.

The Wrexham fans, seemingly used to playing clubs smaller than themselves, clearly had a repertoire of songs they wanted to sing despite the ground being full and the support noisy: “Shit ground no fans”, “Your ground’s too big for you”, and “Your support is f’ing s***” all getting an airing. A word for the Wrexham fans. I’ve seen fans taunting Welsh clubs with the usual “In-ger-lund” chant many times over the years, normally responded to with appropriate hand gestures. So it was both refreshing and amusing to see the Wrexham fans that day respond in a deadpan manner with an Icelandic thunderclap. Cap doffed. I imagine it may be some time before the summer of 2016 is forgotten.

Back to the game….

As the teams came out, the guys next to me seemed very excited that Wayne Rooney’s brother was lining up for Wrexham; I was more bemused by their player by the name of Nortei Nortay. Maidstone looked decent in the opening exchanges, and took the lead through a very nice free kick shortly after 20 minutes.

“One nil, to the little club…”

The last time I saw Wrexham was against North Ferriby United in the 2015 FA Trophy Final. The perennial scalp at this level (despite being non-league since 2008), they look a little now like the bigger club money from higher gate receipts has run out. It was however fairly even after the opener, and Wrexham equalised shortly before half-time. An entertaining half and two good goals to boot.

Full from pie and chips, and of course the free gravy, I changed vantage point for the second half, opting to stand between the Spitfire Lounge and the home stand behind the goal. I started to regret not being in a stand as spots of rain started to emerge; Kent had avoided the downpours that had caused an abandonment elsewhere in England that day.

Wrexham took the lead mid-way through the second half, and in fairness had been the better side after the break, A mistake by their defence however gifted an equalizer. And the match held out for 2-2.

Thankfully it didn’t pour with rain.

Maidstone United; a very friendly club, with a support that wouldn’t look out-of-place if they ever did return to the football league. And any ground that offers free gravy with your chips is always worth a trip in my book!

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