Monday, 19 May 2014

Sheppey and Sheerness United 7 v 0 Erith 147 Sports

Saturday 17th May 2014
Kent County League Premier Division
Holm Park, Halfway (Isle of Sheppey)
Admission: £3.00
Programme: £1.50
Attendance: 58
Match Rating: 3

With options by now extremely limited, with all senior league having completed their fixtures, I chose to head to the Isle of Sheppey today, somewhere that I had always wanted to visit out of curiosity, and to visit a club very much on the up after difficult times for football on the island during the last couple of decades.

Holm Park is about a half hour walk from Sheerness-on-Sea railway station, via the town's high street and passing the ground of Sheerness East - the senior section of which merged with Sheppey United last summer to form Sheppey and Sheerness United - just before arriving at Holm Park. Walking from Queenborough train station - which I did on the way home - is about half the distance but a less interesting walk. Holm Park is currently very much a work in progress, with all the signs pointing to it becoming a very impressive facility in a few years time, as long as the obvious ambition off the pitch is matched with results on it. One enters the car park through painted wrought iron gates with the words “Sheppey United Football Club” across them, and a colourful sign attached to the top of the clubhouse adjacent to the entrance kiosk welcomes visitors to the ground. Once inside, there is a large two storey building formed of several portakabins, with the changing rooms and teabar on the ground floor with a spacious clubhouse on the upper floor, and the whole building was surprisingly airy and smart. Excellent views of the pitch can be had from the first floor clubhouse, which would no doubt be a very attractive vantage point on a winter's day. Along this length is gravel hard standing, with just grass around the rest of the pitch, which is fully railed and has a see-through perimeter fence. The ground has a very rural and peaceful location with an additional pitch visible from the clubhouse side whilst behind the goal to the right of the clubhouse, a power station and Sheerness port's cranes, factories and chimnies are visible in the distance. The installation of floodlights is fairly imminent here, as is a stand, to enable the club to progress up the pyramid. Sheppey and Sheerness produce programmes and whilst somewhat pricey at £1.50 for 16 pages, four of which are advertising and another four containing match photos, it is a very professional looking publication in full colour and credit to the club for producing programmes when they are not required to do so - and are rarely produced - in this league.

Unfortunately there was nothing riding on today's game for either side. Had Sheppey and Sheerness at least drawn at Metrogas last Saturday, a win today would have seen Sheppey win the title, however they lost 0-3, handing Metrogas the title, as they moved four points ahead in their last game of the season. Sheppey were all but guaranteed a second placed finish though, barring a 13 goal swing in favour of third placed APM Contrast, who were also playing their last game today, and with it promotion to the Kent Invicta League. Erith 147 Sports are virtually certain of finishing in seventh place unless they won by 15 goals today. When today's teams met in south-east London back in August, Erith 147 Sports won 3-1.

On a very warm and humid afternoon, an already tough assignment for the visitors became even tougher when they took to the field with just ten players and no substitutes, after four of their players had broken down en route to the ground. And with just four minutes on the clock, the home team took the lead, Dan Bradshaw hitting home from close range after some good passing in the box . A rare foray forward saw the visitors have their best chance in the game on 16 minutes, but a Danny Roots header from a free kick went wide. Sheppey were otherwise completely dominant - on 18 minutes, they had shot cleared off the line and a follow up shot from an angle was blocked, and a minute later, a well worked free kick ended with a shot coming back off the bar, although the linesman raised his flag for offside anyway. On 28 minutes, Bradshaw was through on goal, but the keeper managed to collect the ball as Bradshaw tried to take the ball around him. It was a rare piece of good goalkeeping by the Erith keeper who frequently dropped routine catches and often looked likely to drop a clanger, one of which was punished on 36 minutes. He cleared a backpass straight to Baff Addae, who dribbled towards goal before placing a low shot just inside the post. 2-0 was how it remained at half time, and presumably Erith would have been pleased to have kept it down to two, so dominant were the home side with their numerical advantage.

Into the second half and Sheppey continued their total domination, scoring their third on 55 minutes. Addae took possession outside of the area, had time to think about what to do, before firing a shot towards goal that took a deflection off of a defender to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. A couple of minutes later and it was four, a Sulimain Charm showing a great turn of pace down the right wing to beat his man, eventually cutting the ball back in from the byline to Addae, who teed up Bradshaw to fire home. Ten minutes later and Sheppey again hit the woodwork, with a follow up shot being deflected just wide. The reprieve was to be temporary though, as from the resultant corner, Grant Groom took possession of the ball just outside the area and curled a fabulous shot into the top right hand corner of the net. Erith's players were looking thoroughly dispirited by now, and they went down to nine men for the last quarter of an hour when Matt Arber went off injured. Sheppey's players didn't seem to have the appetite to really turn the screw though, probably due in part to the heat, and it wasn't until the 86th minute when they scored their sixth. Once again a good turn of pace down the right by Charm saw a cross come in, this time low across the box about 10 yards out, and Bradshaw scuffed a shot which went into the net for his hat trick and 37th goal of the season. A minute from time and the third of three clear fouls in quick succession in the penalty area finally resulted in a penalty kick being awarded, and Russell Jeffrey stepped up to stroke the ball home in the top left hand corner. The crowd and other players insisted on Jeffrey taking the free kick, who was playing despite the death of his wife last week. 7-0 was how it ended after what turned out to be a mismatch against weakened opposition, and the scoreline could easily have been double figures but for the woodwork and less than clinical finishing. Credit to Erith's players though who did battle gamely for most of the match in difficult and humid conditions.

Before this game, I stopped off at Sheerness Working Mens Club, home of Sheerness East FC, the senior section of which played there prior to merging with Sheppey United last summer. A few photos of this venue follow, with a junior game about to be played...

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