Weald of Kent Charity Cup Quarter Final
Admission and programme: None
Attendance: 73 (head count)
Match Rating: 3
For my second game of the "silly season" on successive evenings, I was attracted by a real David and Goliath cup game this evening on the Kent/East Sussex border, on what would be a big occasion for the home team, against a team from several levels above the league in which they play.
Gatefield is located close to the centre of Rolvenden village, and unsurprisingly for a club in the Ashford and District Saturday League, which is outside of the pyramid but probably below the Kent County League, facilities are minimal, although for this evening's match, one length of the pitch was taped off for spectators to stand behind, whilst behind one of the goals are three portakabins housing the changing rooms and refreshments bar, with hot drinks available for a donation. The ground has a lovely rural, typically Kentish setting, lined by trees, hedges and fairly attractive houses, and was almost a perfect venue for a sunny evening watching football. The pitch, whilst in very good condition, has quite a pronounced slope downwards from the clubhouse end. Unsurprisingly for a club that doesn't even have a website, no programmes were produced.
On paper, there would seem to be a real gulf between these two teams, with the four divisions of the Kent County League dividing Rolvenden and Lydd Town, who are battling hard for the Kent Invicta League title. However, Rolvenden are traditionally a very strong team in the Ashford and District League and this season is no different, in second place, winning twelve of their fourteen league games, having scored 94 goals, and are eight points behind leaders Smarden with three games in hand. It would be difficult to predict the strength of Lydd tonight, as they would be fielding a weakened side this evening, with only six players started who also started their league game on Saturday, probably through a combination of wanting to give some of their squad members a chance as well as the unavailability of some players due to the early 6pm kick-off.
This fixture certainly captured the imagination of the locals. With cars jamming through ground's car park and overflowing into the adjacent road, a very healthy crowd was packed along the taped off length, the like of which Rolvenden FC must very rarely have seen. On a beautifully sunny and warm evening, the first half was surprisingly a very close encounter with little to choose between the two clubs. Both teams certainly seemed to be up for it, with plenty of full-blooded challenges flying in and at times the referee struggled to keep control of the players, not helped by some erratic decision making and the near constant moaning of the Lydd players and management, as at times the competitive edge to the game threatened to boil over. Lydd created the better chances and on 18 minutes they looked certain to take the lead when the ball was played to a player near the penalty area with time to aim at goal, but a defender threw his body in the way of the shot to deny what looked a certain goal. They did take the lead on 39 minutes though, a ball into the box took a deflection, falling into the path of the Matt Collins, who beat a couple of defenders before tapping the ball past the keeper and into the net. Lydd retained their slender lead at half time, although Rolvenden could be very proud of matching their much higher ranked opponents, although in the second half, they would be kicking up the slope.
Unfortunately, Rolvenden were less of a threat in the second half and Lydd looked much the more likely to score, although it was mainly a midfield scrap. Lydd did see a weak header by Lloyd Taylor fumbled onto the bar by the keeper, and with a quarter of an hour remaining, Rolvenden keeper had to be subbed, although his replacement was rarely tested, apart from a long range shot which he fumbled before the ball was hacked away by a defender. Rolvenden did create a couple of chances in the final few minutes, but the final ball was poor and Lydd held on for a semi-final date with Kent County League Division One outfit Borden Village at home next Tuesday. Rolvenden could be very proud of their performance on their big day though, and this was a very enjoyable evening all round, on a pleasant evening with a very healthy crowd supporting local football.