Kent Invicta League
Lindsey Field, Lydd
Match Rating: 3
Following a beautifully sunny day yesterday, heavy rain fell overnight and into this morning to wipe out the vast majority of non-league fixtures in the south-east today. Rather surprisingly, the pitch at Lydd passed a morning pitch inspection - surprising as it was one of the first to be called off last Saturday - and so I headed to the Romney Marsh, for what would be a historic occasion for the club, with the first game to be played under newly installed floodlights.
The Lindsey Field is located on the southern extremity of Lydd, about a ten minute walk from the town centre, and is certainly an exposed location, with the flat expanse of Denge Marsh (part of the Romney Marsh) stretching as far as Dungeness Power Station over three miles away, which is clearly visible from the ground, and with no protection from the winds off of the English Channel. The ground is very neat and tidy, with an attractive pavilion clubhouse located immediately behind one goal, and the pitch is fully railed off in club red and green coloured stripes. Hard standing is only available behind the clubhouse end and along one length (along which one can also obtain a slightly elevated view by standing on top of a short bank), with only grass standing around the rest of the pitch. Although the club has gone some way to meeting ground regulations with the installation of floodlights, there is still much work to do. There are no stands here, so no seating (apart from a couple of picnic tables) and no cover (apart from the area immediate in front of the clubhouse), and one can easily watch the game without paying, either from the road passing close by the ground, or by entering through the low barbed wire fence which has some gaps that one can easily pass through to get into the ground - as several people did today. The 24 page programme was a good effort for this level, attractively laid out and with plenty to read about the club and how their season has panned out so far, and only a very small amount of advertising.
After finishing as runners-up in the Kent Invicta League last season, Lydd are having another great season so far this time around, leading the table by a point from reigning champions Hollands and Blair, with 14 wins and a draw from their seventeen games, and have won their last eight league games straight. Bearsted have not played a league games since 15th November, but were unbeaten in their last five league games and went into this game in fifth place, with eight wins and three draws from their 14 games, and with three games in hand over all four teams above them - although they were ten points behind fourth placed Sheppey United. Today's team met in the league back in August, with the home side winning 2-0.
Although blue skies and bright sunshine appeared about half an hour before kick off, they soon gave way again to grey skies by the time kick-off arrived, with heavy drizzle in a strong, biting crosswind for a period during the first half. Lydd will really kick themselves that they did not go into the interval with a lead, looking threatening throughout, particularly from set-pieces. With just two minutes on the clock, they had the ball in the back of the net, when the ball was headed home from a free kick by Gary Lockyer, but the referee adjudged that he had pushed the defender in winning the header. On 19 minutes, a glancing header by Dave Cook from a free kick dropped just wide of the post, whilst on 26 minutes, yet another header from a free kick was headed off the line. Bearsted were competitive but barely ventured into the final third, and one wondered if Lydd would live to regret their wastefulness in the first half.
Although conditions remained dry for the second half, it became bitterly cold, and just three minutes into the second half, Lydd were indeed left to rue their earlier wastefulness when the visitors took the lead. A cross from the left by Andy Hart was volleyed into the net by Ollie Bartrum, a very well-controlled finish, with the the ball volleyed at waist height. Bearsted doubled their lead on 55 minutes, when a low cross from the right by Tom Brown couldn't be intercepted until it reached Hart at the far post, who tapped the ball gently just out of the keeper's reach and into the net. For the rest of the game, Bearsted looked fairly comfortable as Lydd tried to muster attacks, but did not look anywhere near as threatening as they had in the first half, and Bearsted actually looked the more likely to make one of their rarer forays forward count. But the score remained 0-2 at the final whistle, in what could be a hammer blow to Lydd's title chances, as they remain a point ahead of Hollands and Blair, but have now played a game more.