The Darts hit the bullseye of promotion after 26 years of hurt

I’ve never really hidden my admiration for the progress Dartford have made on and off the pitch in the past few seasons.  Just a year or so ago I waxed lyrical about my upbringing just down the road from Watling Street and my afternoons spent running around the terraces here..  Back in “the day” they were one of the top Non League teams in England, along with the likes of Wealdstone, Altrincham and Weymouth.  In an age when there wasn’t any automatic promotion to the Football League, the top non league clubs had to apply for election to the League each season and hope that the Football League Chairman were satisfied with the contents of the “envelopes”.  Consequently only seven clubs were elected into the league by this method, the last being 1978.

Dartford came close to making the step from the Non Leagues to the Football League on a number of occasions, the last one was in 1974 after they won the Southern League, and reached the final of the FA Trophy.  Ten years later, after the formation of the Football Alliance (basically now the Blue Square Bet Premier), they finished third, the highest place they have finished in their history.  Since then it was a tale of woe that saw them penniless and homeless in a space of a few years.  A nomadic existence followed at places like Erith, Thurrock and Gravesend before a local council with a vision stepped in, finding them a home back in the town. Continue reading

A Massive gesture

James Drobka reports on an afternoon of Blue Square Bet South football from the banks of the Thames.

Staines. Probably most famous for being the setting to the Ali G movie, however to the council this is more hindrance rather than help. So much so, they changed the name to Staines-Upon-Thames. However to most people it is, ‘the staines massive’, home to Staines Town FC, Blue Square Bet South. Evidence of the football club not being bothered by tagline can be seen on their website,

Staines have been in the Conference South for the past two seasons, finishing a superb 8th in their first season and 15th last season. Hopes are high amongst management that this could be a good season, they have kept the nucleus of the squad from last season and added a few additions, most notably Dave Wheeler from Lewes (ED – OUR Dave Wheeler), helped by the fact he’s studying at Brunel university and relocating to the area. They have lost their most promising player in Mario Quiassaca, who had his contract terminated immediately after being named and shamed as taking part in the recent riots in London. Continue reading

The only way is Essex

Caution casual surfers.  This post has NOTHING to do with that trashy reality TV programme of the same name.  I have no interest in the fake tans, fake boobs, fake accents and the lives of people from Britain’s most derided county (OK, fake boobs are alright if you insist).  Instead this is about football.  More specifically one of the biggest banker away victories known to man.  Runaway (ish) leaders against second from bottom in the Blue Square Bet South.  A team in form and nailed on for promotion against one that has lost heavily in four of their last five games.

Hardly ideal current form, although it has to be added that the four games where Lewes have lost in have been against 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th in the league.  So it make sense to get Braintree Town, top of the pile, out of the way before the serious business of avoiding relegation can start again. Continue reading

Are you watching David Gold?

£18.50 for this view?

The thought of having to watch my football in a half empty athletics stadium is as appealing as watching a DVD box set of Kerry Katona and Katie Price’s TV highlights. From significant experience of watching games overseas in grounds where you are up to 30 metres from the action I cannot remember one match which I can say was watchable when played in such a stadium. I’ve been to some of the best in the world – Berlin’s OlympiaStadion, Barcelona’s Montjuic, Istanbul’s Ataturk and Vienna’s Ernst Happel, and I’ve been to some of the worst – Rotherham’s Don Valley, Brighton’s Withdean and Moscow’s Dinamo Stadium. And the one thing that links them all is the fact that there is very little atmosphere, and this translates to the players.  Are you listening Sullivan, Gold et al?  Of course not. Our good friend Ian King wrote in When Saturday Comes this month about the real losers in the whole Olympic Stadium farce were of course the fans who simply weren’t consulted.  As a club member at West Ham I can certainly agree with that, never once having been asked my opinion about the move. Continue reading

Christmas comes but twice a year

Why let the pesky weather get in the way of your Christmas?  Well in the case of Lewes FC it doesn’t.  We were all very excited in the extended Fuller household at Christmas to be making the trek down to the Boxing Day game with our Northern cousins (aka Northern Steve and young Liam) for their first ever visit to The Dripping Pan.  But then the weather got in the way and we were forced to watch a complete box set of Glee instead – hardly a fair trade.

The game against Ebbsfleet was duly re-arranged for mid February and 99% of clubs would just have republished the programme with a photocopied insert and be done with it. But this is Lewes we are talking about so we like to be different. And so the directors decided that Christmas would not be cancelled and simply shifted it by nearly two months.  All were welcome, Santa hats certainly obligatory.  The club even went as far as making a promotional video to encourage people to attend.  My only concern was whether the mince pies may have fermented since being kept from Boxing Day?

This was to be my seventh game in just ten days.  Was I bored with football yet?  Not a chance and as I battled my way through the rush hour gridlock on the M25 I thought that this game could be a defining moment in the Rooks season.  A win tonight and it was possible to leapfrog over a number of teams and into safety.  But as we know, “if” and “and” make odd bedfellows (like Eddie Murphy and Scary Spice I always feel).

Lewes 0 Ebbsfleet United 3 – The Dripping Pan – Wednesday 23rd February 2011
Baaah Humbug.  Ebbsfleet became the Grinch that stole Christmas, taking all three points in a game played with swirling mist all around the Christmas decorations.  Three nil flattered them but they took their chances, whilst Lewes didn’t build on the possession they had, especially in the second half.

Lewes faced a bit of an onslaught in the first half and the long ball game employed by Ebbsfleet meant that the Lewes defence had little respite although David Wheeler was a constant thorn in the side of Ebbsfleet’s keeper.  However, despite Lewes’s strong backbone, and attacking flair with Noel and Taylor it was Ebbsfleet who took the lead in route one fashion.  A long punt upfield by keeper and Ashley Carew squeezed between Chris Breach and Sonny Cobbs to slot an angled shot past Chris Winterton.

Humbug, Charlie

It was strange that Lewes attacked the Jungle in the second half, as in all my times of watching them this had never happened.  The crowd on the terrace was swelled with at least one Santa Claus (because kids there is only one, right) and in truth Lewes took the game to the visitors with Ebbsfleet riding their luck during a couple of goal mouth scrambles.  ToSH wanted at least a point so took off Anthony Barness and introduced a more attacking formation.  It had two effects.  Lewes peppered the Ebbsfleet goal mouth but simply could not find a way through, whilst they looked more exposed to the counter attack.

And it was this shortage of numbers that led to two late goals by Ebbsfleet as first Calum Willock took advantage of another route one approach with a fantastic finish and then as the game entered injury time Carew scored again to send Ebbsfleet into 2nd place in the table and to leave the Rooks clearing up the wrapping paper and putting Granny’s jumper back in the draw.

A set back to the fight that is all, no more, no less.  Bring on Woking on Saturday is what I say!

More photos from the evening can be found at our Flickr stream here.