Don’t play to the whistle


“Moving the ball on the floor now Frase you’re a bird of paradise
Brinky’s Pink and yellow Nike’s that he believes are very nice
With a step to the left and a flick to the right Nicky Wheeler’s way out wide
He know he’s something special although some think Luke’s the best

photo 1It’s name is RIO, it means no more practicing on sand
No longer will we have the disappointment of training being canned
And when it’s built it will sit sort of behind the Main Stand
Oh Rio, Rio you are the future of the Dripping Pan

We’ve seen them at Maidstone and we’ve seen them overseas on TV
A new 3G pitch will mean so much to the Rooks
Like a cup run or a transfer deal
But owned by the fans, the owners and of course especially you

The scheme’s called RIO but it’s not to do with sand,
We want to build a 3G pitch on nearby land
So here’s our message now to every football fan
Oh RIO, RIO all we need’s 200 grand”

 

Welcome back to the Dripping Pan for the start of another season of highs and lows, of excitement and boring bits, of goals and misses, of poor and hilarious refereeing decisions (depending on whether it was in our favour or not).  But this is no ordinary season in the history of Lewes Football club.  The conversations, dreams, arguments and blue sky thinking relating to the redevelopment of the Dripping Pan finally moved off the drawing board last season and into the planning phase.  Thanks to the hard work of a few, the majority stand to enjoy new facilities by the end of the season….that is depending on getting the final funding parts in place.  We’ve filled in every grant application, found funding from the most obscure pots and now just need the contributions of the great and good from the Lewes faithful.  So near yet so far.

After the bruising encounter at Witham on Saturday, we regrouped at The Pan for our first home game of the season.  With the ground looking absolutely tip-top after a summer make over, all we needed was the sun to shine and the football to flow on the pitch.  Two issues – heavy rain was forecast for 8pm and David Spain was our referee.  Remember him?  Most Lewes fans do for a number of reasons, none of the good.  One day we would surely be talking about the positives in a game he officiated in?

If the choice of referee wasn’t a bad enough omen, the beaming face of “Jonah” Marber in the bar as I walked in was almost enough for me to turn straight back around and drive home.  His record in recent years read LDLDLLD.  Surely the combination of rain, Spain and Marber wouldn’t be the unholy trinity?

Lewes 2 AFC Hornchurch 2 – Wednesday 13th August 2014 – The Dripping Pan
Where to start on this one?  The rain arrived 15 minutes early, just as we made our way around to the Jungle.  Within a minute it was so heavy that it had us all running for cover.  All?  Not quite.  Messrs Lamb and Williams, discussing a new idea for Come Dine With Me featuring married couples and their secret lovers, where the illicit affair would be revealed over dessert, stayed on the terraces.  Hardcore fans to the end.

No sooner had we taken our spot under cover than the main talking point of the game happened.  Even 24 hours after the game it is hard to believe what actually happened.  Hornchurch won a free-kick, somewhat fortunately, on the left-hand touchline close to the half-way line.  The free-kick was hit long and whilst the ball was in the air the referee blew his whistle.  The players “stood down” putting no pressure on keeper Banks as he caught the ball.  All of the players turned away and started walking back up field, obeying the whistle for the free-kick (although no one actually knew what he had blown for).  Banks threw the ball on the floor, Hornchurch’s centre-back, still up for the original kick walked up to the ball, dribbled it to the left and put it in the net.  No-one could believe he had awarded the goal.  The Hornchurch bench stood amazed, the Lewes bench and players went ballistic, the referee ran around the pitch like Benny Hill, being chased by people wanting to slap him on the head.  But the goal stood.

The injustice of the goal seriously affected the Rooks.  They lost their head and their game plan.  Twenty minutes later it was two-nil when Tuohy turned the ball in from close range.  Half-time couldn’t come soon enough.  A posse was sent to search out Mr. Marber and eject him from the ground but he had gone to ground.

The second half didn’t start much better for the Rooks until they made a couple of tactical changes, throwing on the pace of Crabb and Romain.  Fifteen minutes to go and Romain’s persistence saw a great ball played across the box and Nick Wheeler smashed the ball home.  Hope.

photo 3With the clock ticking down towards the 90th minute Lewes hit a hopeful free-kick into the area.  Somewhere in there the assistant referee saw an infringement and flagged for a penalty.  We’d already discussed the possibility of a “soft” penalty being given to even things up and here it was.  Cool as a cucumber Luke Blewden stepped up and smashed it home. 2-2.

Did we deserve a draw?  Probably not based on the whole game.  We were poor after we conceded the first goal until the substitution in the second half.  Did the rain have an impact? Nope.  Was the presence of Mr. Marber a factor?  Not really.  And the referee?  Well, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

 

 

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Ade-ous Essex


Hands up who got any sleep last night? New season eve is the up there with the night before EFW Oktoberfest to me in terms of excitement.  I simply cannot sleep, thinking about whether this will be THE season when we actually win more games than we lose, go on a decent cup run, or win Golden Goal more than once in a season.   For us Non League fans this is also an opportunity to see most of our players for the first time and actually see them for who they really are, rather than just A. Trialist.  It is, of course, the only day of the season where we start joint top (and joint bottom), and are still in all of the cups.  It all goes downhill from here.

9477993203_53fdd185f9_bThis is my fifth season as a Lewes fan.  In that time we have been relegated twice, avoided relegation on the last day of the season twice and missed out on the play-offs on goal difference once.  It hasn’t been the best of times to be a Rooks fan on the pitch, even though off the pitch it has been a marriage made in heaven.  This season we are very quietly optimistic.  A new management team, a virtually completely new squad and even a new programme editorial team (well, Barry Collins and me).  Of course, at 4:47pm today all that optimism may have dried up after our game at AFC Hornchurch.

We tend to remember opening games more than most others in the season.  I remember one of my first ever West Ham opening season games back in 1978 when they raced to a 4-0 lead against Notts County within 30 minutes.  Of course I assumed they would go on to score 12, but they only managed one more.  Remember Micky Quinn’s hatrick at Highbury back in 1993?  Beckham’s goal versus Wimbledon in 1996? Hansen’s comments about “winning nothing with kids”? Greg Cane’s nightmare 20 minutes for Lowestoft v Lewes in 2011 when he scored an own goal from the half way line and was then sent off for arguing with the referee? Great memories.

So what could we expect from this season’s curtain raiser? I’ve never seen Lewes win at AFC Hornchurch so the omens were not good.  Granted I had only seem them play there once but stats don’t lie.  The Urchins are one of my tips to be in the top five at the end of the season.  Despite relegation at the end of last season I get the feeling that it was a mere blip in their long-term plan.  Want to know who else I think will be up there?  Go on then, just for you I will share my insight:- Continue reading

Twenty one days of pain and frustration


Twenty one days ago the sun was shining. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as Lewes kicked off against Canvey Island. Twenty four hours later I landed in Los Angeles to temperatures that would have had The Sun trumpeting as “Phew, what a scorcher” and “It’s hotter than Greece”. During the next week I worked with the sun shining all day, with my walk to the office along the empty beach in Santa Monica. Bliss, you may say and I would agree. Yet you mortals back in England were suffering freezing temperatures and tonnes of the white stuff. And of course that mean a serious lack of football.

Being purely selfish I was glad when the whole country called off their games the following weekend. Lewes’s game at Wingate & Finchley was postponed whilst I travelled east from California to New York. I cheered. Wingate is one of only two grounds I haven’t been to in the league so a re-arranged midweek fixture suited me perfectly. Seven days later and I was back in the UK but the after effects of the coldest February on record in many places in England again decimated the fixture list (and our plans for a game). What did this mean? Well, on the positive side, Lewes had gone unbeaten during February. On the pessimistic side, it would mean their last league win was 7 weeks ago when they beat Hastings United. Continue reading

Derby Day part 4 – A double helping of Essex United


What a day this promised to be.  Three (well two and a half) fiercely contested local derbies, either side of the River Thames, which thanks to some fortuitous scheduling, that I could go to, as well as still putting in some “Fuller Festive Family Fun”.  Christmas is all about spending time with your loved ones, catching up on the events of the year and generally being around those nearest and dearest to you.  But when the words “Let’s go to the sales” are mentioned, all love goes out the window and football becomes a viable option.  Hence, when the three Fuller girls all expressed a wish to go shopping, I played the football get out of jail free card and planned my day of hot and spicy local derbies.

First up was a trip under the Thames to Essex for the “Battle of the M25 junction 28” as they call it in these parts. Billericay Town sat proudly on top of the table before a ball was kicked.  Despite their nearest rivals all winning yesterday, their amble goal difference of plus 27 saw them safely sit in first place.  Visitors AFC Hornchurch lay in fourth with a game in hand and just four points below.  So a win for either side today could be pivotal in the final shake up. Continue reading

Et tu Brute


It had been quite a week for me and Lewes FC. On Thursday morning the first copies of Dripping Yarns rolled off the press and into the shops, and then a few hours later I was voted onto the Board. Unfortunately I was busy dining with the likes of Swiss Ramble, Luge Pravda and of course Sepp Blatter to be at the AGM, but word reached me soon after 9pm that the votes had been counted, and I was to take my place on the board along with two other new nominations. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, up there with my wedding day, the birth of my children and my visit to the Playboy Mansion (Have I not told you about that? Well..DELETED). I celebrated by ordering another beer. I was in one of Zürich’s finest restaurants, and surely now the club would pick up the tab – right? I mean who can begrudge me a beer at only £22.50?

So does this mean I would now have to wear a shirt and tie to games? Do I get my own parking space? An allowance for large cigars and chunky gold chains? The congratulations started flowing in via Twitter and I felt very humbled. All I can say is I will try to serve you the best I can. How would I announce my arrival? I thought about doing a “Knighton” on the pitch at half time to celebrate my new role or simply waving a scarf around my head, but instead opted to stand on the Jungle, pint of Harvey’s in hand like usual.

Continue reading

Essex United


I kid you not there is now a team called Essex United. They are the side put together by ex-Grays Athletic and Lewes footballer Mark Wright. Wright is of course better known from the ITV series “The Only Way is Essex”. The team have embarked on a series of pre-season games this year, trying to boost their “popularity” as well as giving local women an opportunity to practice their “cougar” skills. In fact they are due to play next this Sunday at The Dripping Pan against Lewes.

Last weekend they took on the once mighty Grays Athletic, now in the Ryman League North after their chaotic resignation from the league/re-instatement/demotion/promotion from last summer. They lost 4-0 which isn’t too much of a surprise considering the difference in skill between the two sides.

Grays are going through another “re-birth”. Last season with Julian Dicks at the helm, supported by ex-West Ham players John Moncur and Kenny Brown, the club flirted with the play offs for a while but had to look on enviously as landlords East Thurrock United waltzed away with the title. It is strange to think our last visit to watch the club had been on a sunny day almost two years to the day at their old Recreation Ground in the centre of Grays when they narrowly lost to West Ham United.

Two years later and the ground is a building site, the team who were looking forward to a season playing against the likes of Cambridge United, Stevenage Borough and Oxford United are now preparing to face Soham Town Rangers, Leiston and Thamesmead Town.

But there is still the pride of Essex to fight for. Last season that was taken quite literally in the remarkable games against bitter rivals Tilbury, where over a hundred “fans” were involved in a fight after the game at Chadfields. This season there will be league games against Romford, Ilford and Brentwood as well as “the Dockers” but first up was another all Essex affair against AFC Hornchurch.

The visitors knew all about spectacular falls from grace themselves. Touted as the “money bags” of the non league back in the mid 2000’s, the club were able to sign high profile players such as Ex-Chelsea keeper Dimitri Kharin thanks to some significant investment from their then owners. Unfortunately, when the money ran out the players up and left, quite a few of them to fellow Conference South rivals Grays Athletic creating a little bit of hostility that exists today in the bars and clubs of Epping Forest.

This was my first trip to the village of Corringham, home of East Thurrock United’s Rookery Hill. And pulling up outside of The Bull just across the road from the ground I was pleasantly surprised. It was almost rural. If you could ignore the huge oil refineries in the distance this could be your quintessential English village scene. I walked through the small churchyard and into the ground just as the two teams emerged.

Grays Athletic 0 AFC Hornchurch 1 – Rookery Hill – Wednesday 27th July 2011
After 20 months in charge, Grays and Julian Dicks went their separate ways back in May. Dicks felt he could and should be managing at a higher level, and as recently as last weekend he confessed so to the Non League Paper, expressing his disappointment that former team mates such as Paolo Di Canio with no previous managerial experience at all had been given the chance at Swindon Town. The new Grays era is being managed by ex-Thurrock manager Hakan Hayrettin and judging by their attacking start, with ex-Lewes striker Jean-Michel Sigere causing a threat they will be one to watch this season.

With the sun setting low over the ground and both teams forgetting that this was a “friendly”, the match made for a very interesting spectacle. There didn’t seem to be much between the sides with the ball being played through the midfield and out wide as and when a crunching tackle didn’t stop play. Chances on goal on the other hand were few and far between. Grays had the better of the earlier exchanges but it was Hornchurch who broke the deadlock just before the half hour mark.

It followed a Jon Hunt corner which was played short to Tommy Black. The ball came in but was cleared although only to the covering midfielder. When the ball found its way back into the area Lewis Smith had space and seemed to miss touch it to Curley to buried the ball from ten yards.

Half time saw the usual raft of substitutes and with the daylight fading neither team could really take a hold on the game. With the ground bathed in the last bit of sunshine (yes, in this great British Summer I have at last been able to use that world) I took stock of the surroundings. Rookery Hill is an odd ground. Behind one goal are two of the smallest piece of covered terracing I have ever seen. Stands that I would have made in five minutes in my Lego world (see my article for In Bed With Maradona on the subject). One side of the ground has a strange double decker portakabin situation going on, and the dressing rooms were in what could be described by my generation in a “Scout Hut”. But it is a welcome home to Grays, who would have been in a whole world of trouble if East Thurrock wouldn’t have thrown open their doors to help them last season.

Despite a few good saves from Grays keeper Northwood there was much more action in the second period. AFC Hornchurch can be pleased with a win over a local rival, and Grays can be pleased with the performance they put in. After all pre-season is “all about the performance” right? Or am I confused again.

More pictures from the not so friendly friendly can be found here.

See Urchins


”And so the end is near”…with just a few days left until the start of the Premier League and Non-league seasons there was still time to fit in one more friendly.  And could we have found a better one that just across the water in the heart of the Essex commuter land.  Hornchurch has some interesting memories for me.  A few years before the beautiful CMF came into my life I dated an Essex girl.  Well, dated was stretching it a bit.  Culture was not high on her agenda, but she knew every lay by in and around Upminster and Hornchurch.  Her Dad worked next to Hornchurch Stadium and threatened me on a number of occasions to “take me daarn the Urchins”.  Somehow I managed to avoid that treat as by all accounts the place was a “right dump”.  Before I incur the wrath of any Hornchurch fans this was in 1992 – some time before the club hit the highs and then the lows of the mid-2000’s. Continue reading