I have found myself occupied quite a lot when the Daggers have been away this season, meaning that I have only attended a handful of away games this season. I think my last trip with the Daggers was the FA Cup defeat at Bristol City, back at the start of November. Before that, I think attended both Scunthorpe and Morecambe, which means that it has only been three away trips this campaign. Which all meant that it was a bit of a shock to the system, when the alarm went off at 6am this morning for our trip to Newport county.
The signs were not good when Dagenham Dan sent a text message on Friday afternoon informing me of a pitch inspection. This resulted in hasty checking of both clubs websites, as well as the Newport message boards, to gauge opinion as to whether the game would be on. A read through of the threads gave the impression that the game would be off, so it was more in hope than anticipation that we made our journey to Victoria Road.
Arriving at the club about forty five minutes before our departure time, there were a few standing in the car park, while the rest were in the bar. With two coaches travelling, we were able to board the transport, and most had double seats to themselves.
Unfortunately, that is as far as we got. The pitch inspection was scheduled for 9am, and as we sat around waiting for the seemingly inevitable postponement, the alternatives were already being discussed. About ten past nine, the news came through on twitter that the game was off, and suddenly the coaches were emptying and people were leaving.
We decamped to the clubhouse to consider our options; a couple wanted to go to Southend, others were contemplating Millwall, but Dan produced a trip to Folkestone for their game against Guernsey. So, about thirty minutes after our game had officially been called off, we were on our way south to the coast for our replacement fixture.
Saturday 18th January 2014, Folkestone Invicta v Guernsey, The Fullicks Stadium
Before we had left Victoria road, Dan had rung Invicta to make sure that the game was still on, and was told that yes, the game was 100% on. So, that was our minds made up, and with an hours journey from Dagenham to come, we made our way along the M25, before crossing the bridge at Dartford. The roads seemed strangely quiet as we made our way along, which was great, and progress was good.
Aside from being a ground tick, the early kick off time of 12.45 was a definite plus. While the idea of attending a second game did briefly raise its head, it was just as quickly dismissed, meaning that we would be back home by mid afternoon.
We arrive at the Fullicks Stadium with about ninety minutes to kick off, which means that the bar is mostly empty, but also that Saturday Kitchen is being shown on the screens. We all take a seat, and as we do, there are the first few Guernsey fans starting to arrive.
A month ago, we attended another game at this level, but that one (Corinthian-Casuals v Leatherhead) wasn’t a particularly brilliant encounter and the cold that day seemed to permeate every bone in my body.
It is still a cold one today, but the game is a much better one. This is sixth against fourth, and the early signs are good. Given the amount of rain we have had in recent days, the pitch looks in good condition, if a little on the bobbly side. Both teams produce early signs of showing just why they are at the top of the table, and the teams are both trying to pass the ball around.
Guernsey boast in their ranks, the top scorer in the division, Ross Allen, who has got twenty five goals in a possible twenty six games. However, it is not Allen but Matt Loaring who gives the visitors the lead after twenty minutes.
Loaring is able to collect the ball around thirty yards from goal, and as he makes his way forwards, the home defence seems to part like the Red Sea. By the time anyone in the Folkestone defence tries to rectify their mistake, he has already dispatched the ball past the home goalkeeper and put the Green Lions one up.
Guernsey are the better side in the first half, clearly defying the early start that came with the 6am flight from the island. The heavy luggage labels are still visible on the kit bags during the warm up, and the travel at this point doesn’t look to be a factor.
The lunchtime kick off hasn’t helped the temperature, and it remains cold throughout. It’s cold enough for one of the supporters dogs to be wearing a scarf, although Dan asks what “make” it is and reckons that it looks more like a small lion. While the owner is queuing at the tea bar, Dan can’t stop staring at his new favourite animal.
If Guernsey have dominated the first half, then Folkestone certainly have the better of the second. Like the first half, we get a goal twenty minutes in, but this time, Johan Ter Horst scores for the home team. The game then starts to stretch out, and there are chances at both ends. The home side look dominant for a while, but while tiredness looks to be setting in for guernsey, they are looking to get something on the break, and come close a few times.
The game is one of the best I’ve attended this season, and while the game ebbs and flows from end to end, the scoresheet isn’t troubled again, and the referee only adds one minute on at the end of the ninety. Guernsey will have to board their flight back with a point gained, and while it could have been more, it could quite easily have been nothing. All three of us who have made the choice to attend agree that the game has been a good one, and probably more enjoyable than our trip to Newport.
Given that the council had only given the club permission to reopen the ground in the last few days before the game (the roof of the main stand had been partially blown away in the Christmas storms), the club had worked wonders to get the game on. The pitch looked in good condition as well, and it was a bit of a pity that just under three hundred were there to witness it.
I thoroughly enjoyed our brief trip to Invicta, and if we get the chance to return, I would most certainly do so. It has also served to make us even more determined to get to a game in Guernsey. Their debut season in the isthmian League is going well, and they certainly have a decent side. Based on today’s evidence, I think both of these could well be in the play offs come the end of the season, and that definitely be a game I would like to attend.