Epsom & Ewell FC
Ground Number: 508
Sunday 16th August 2015
Epsom & Ewell 0-4 Erith & Belvedere
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
It was the start of my week off and as ever I was keen to fill it with lots of football and groundhopping. There was a nice amount of fixtures on offer, with lots of teams groundsharing and having their games moved to the Sunday. After careful consideration and bearing in mind that I'd be going up north the day after, I chose my closest game. That was Epsom & Ewell v Erith & Belvedere in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, my 3rd game in 3 days in that competition. I'd seen the home side play once before, back in January 2004 I saw them play Windsor & Eton. In a game played at Banstead Athletic they lost 4-2. I'd also seen Erith & Belvedere play before - last year I watched them as they were beaten 3-0 at Barkingside.
EPSOM & EWELL were founded in 1918. After playing in various local leagues, latterly the Athenian, they joined the Isthmian League in 1977. Winning Division 2 in their first season, they earned promotion to Division 1. After consolidating for several seasons, they won promotion to the Isthmian Premier in 1984 as they finished runners up to Windsor & Eton. The following season they achieved their best ever league finish of 13th in the Isthmian League Premier Division. Despite this, they were relegated after finishing bottom in 1986. They couldn't stop the rot and suffered a second successive relegation to find them in Isthmian Division 2 South. Reorganisation saw them switch to Division 3 and then Division 1 South. They were once again relegated to Division 2 at the end of the 2003/04 season when they finished bottom of the table. Since 2006 they have played in the Combined Counties League with a best finish of 3rd coming in the 2013-14 season.
They reached the 1st Round in the FA Cup back in the thirties but in modern times their best season came in 1980-81. After beating Eastbourne Town, Margate and Ashford Town they lost 5-0 to Enfield in the 4th Qualifying Round. The FA Trophy 2nd Round was reached in 2002-03 when they lost to Newport County. They got all the way to the FA Vase Final in 1974-75. After beating Reigate Priory, Horley, Worthing, Eastbourne Town, Hornchurch, Addlestone and Stamford, they lost 2-1 to Hoddesdon Town in the first ever final. Plenty of success had been had in other cups, most recently they won the Combined Counties League Cup in 2013. Former players include Matt Elliott, Alan Pardew & Chris Powell.
On the day of the game I woke at 7am after enjoying a rare Sunday off work. I watched TV before having a bath. About 9.30 I walked up the shops to get the Non League Paper. I was hoping for an FA Cup replay on the Wednesday but there was nothing on unless I fancied making a massive detour up to the North East. As I was on a budget I decided against this and narrowed it down to 3 choices in the North West Counties League at Padiham, Eccleshall and Bacup. Another blow to my few days away was had when I found out Milton Keynes market was closed on Mondays. I'd been planning to stop there on the way up as it's the only decent thing about the poxy place. I was quite bored for the rest of the morning and was glad when lunchtime came and it was time to leave.
Just after 1 I was on my way. I had to stop to get some diesel on the way as I was running low. Normally I'd be looking at arriving just after 2, but as usual the M25 was on woeful form and I added 30 minutes to my journey. The car park was already full so I had to park opposite the ground. Before I went in I grabbed one of the last programmes and had a pint of Magners in the bar. At £3.75 it was pretty expensive and not one of my favourites though. The programme at £2 was excellent though, packed with loads of reading material and one of the best I have seen on my groundhops. They were also doing reprints to people who had missed out as well, which you don't see often. I read some of it and checked Facebook before paying £6 to get in, around 10 minutes before kick off.
Before the game, I walked around the ground getting pictures and also bought myself a decent portion of chips for £1. Like yesterday's game at Knaphill, there was a goal within the opening minute. Sam May was the man with the goal, though I didn't have a great view as I was at the other end of the ground. The visitors had slightly the better of the first half, but it remained 1-0 at the break. During the first half then linesman had to put up with both managers heckling him about the referee's performance but he played the diplomat and said as little as possible.
The second half was a different story as Erith & Belvedere ran riot. George Mitchell scored within a couple of minutes of the game restarting with a great chip. There was another spectacular goal on 53 minutes, Alfie May with a real screamer. I later learned that he had been on trial with Crewe Alexandra under 21's and had played games in the Conference South for Farnborough. It showed as he was the best player on the pitch. He got his second on 64 minutes with an angled low shot into the bottom right-hand corner. That was it as far as goals were concerned. The hosts rallied late on and were unlucky not to get a consolation but overall they will have been disappointed with their performance.
The game finished just before 5. I made my way home, but once more the M25 was having a stinker. 40 minutes delay meant that I didn't get in until after 6.30. I had a great dinner of peppered grill steak, sausage and wedges. The delay on the M25 gave me time to ponder my choices for Wednesday night. I plumped for Bacup Borough as Padiham had let me down by not getting a replay in the FA Cup against Whickham and Eccleshall was nearly halfway home. I spent the evening typing this blog, getting ready for my time away and watching TV before going to bed.
HIGH ROAD is a decent ground, as it is home to Chipstead who play in the Ryman League. My favourite part was behind the goal, a small covered terrace holding around 500. There are about 150 seats in the main stand, though it is one of those metal ones. The rest of the ground is open hard standing.
The clubhouse was nothing to write home about, but the tea bar was excellent. It was great value and I was told that the burgers were sourced from the farm shop across the road and were very tasty. Had I known I'd not have had lunch and eaten there. I didn't see any souvenirs on sale for Epsom & Ewell but they did have a couple of boxes of old programmes for sale in return for donations. Chipstead stuff was on sale, scarves, hats and badges from what I could see.