Southern Counties East League Division One
Elite Venue, Gravesend
Match Rating: 3
With trains into London heavily disrupted this weekend, I was faced with a more palatable choice of travelling west or east this afternoon. Having travelled to Hampshire a couple of times already this season, I decided to head into Kent, to visit the newest club in the Southern Counties East League.
The Elite Venue is about a 2 mile walk southwards from Gravesend train station, through not particularly pleasant surroundings, so it was a little bit of a surprise to find an attractive, well-appointed complex on arrival at the Elite Venue. The complex contains several function rooms, a large expanse of playing fields, part of which was used today for a small funfair, as well as Punjab's football ground which is fully enclosed with see-through green fencing, making it easy to watch the match from outside for free if one is so inclined. It is a smart venue generally, with a neat entrance block in one corner featuring a gate inside instead of a turnstile, and the club's logo displayed on either side. Large vertical club flags are positioned behind each corner of the ground. Either side of the half way line on one side is a small metallic all-seater stand on one side, smartly painted in club colours, and a rather ramshackle small covered standing area, made of scaffolding poles, corrugated iron sheets and sheeting. On the opposite side, the dugouts are attractively decorated inside and out. Hard standing is available along the length and end closest to the entrance, with grass along the other two sides. An 8 page programme was available and whilst basic, covered the essentials adequately.
After winning the Kent County League last season, Punjab have had a decent start to their season at their highest ever level, securing two wins and a draw from their opening four league games. It says a lot about the rapid progress that Phoenix Sports have made in recent years that the last time I saw their first team, it was in the Kent County League, in 2011. Now their reserve team is competing in their third season at Step 6, and having finished in mid table during their last two seasons at this level, they have won one and drawn one of their four league games so far this season.
Conditions were swelteringly hot this afternoon, with conditions more akin to pre-season friendly games, and this made for a rather slow paced game that was still entertaining enough. Punjab United dominated the first half, having plenty of possession in the opposition half as the visitors too freely gave the ball away, and after a free header following a corner planted the ball just wide of goal on 24 minutes, they took the lead three minutes later. A lovely cross on the run was headed home by Anthony Adesite, and that was how the scoreline remained at half time.
Phoenix Sports were better after the break, but the closest they came to scoring was on 58 minutes when their forward just beat the keeper to the ball but it deflected just wide. Punjab scored their second on 67 minutes, following a great run toward goal from wide and when the ball was passed low across goal, substitute Luke Adams had an easy tap in unmarked. They almost added a third in added on time, when a header following a corner was cleared off the line, but the two goal final score was an adequate reflection of a game in which the home side were the better side throughout, without creating that many goalscoring chances.