Chatham Town FC
Maidstone Road Sports Ground
Ground Number: 348
Thursday 27th March 2014
Chatham Town 1-2 VCD Athletic
Isthmian League D1 North
After getting to bed at 3.30 the previous night, I was not looking forward to getting up at 8am the next morning. However I woke up naturally an hour before, watched a bit of TV in bed, before having a bath and leaving the house at 9.
The reason for this early rise was that I was off to watch Wycombe train. As a thank you for raising over £4000 for the club by walking to Oxford, I and the group of walkers, amongst others had been invited to watch the team train. I enjoyed the day but had mixed feelings about the hopes for our season. While the team spirit is still fantastic and the players are running through brick walls for him which probably wouldn't be the same for most managers in the past, there were still some concerns. Ainsworth was convinced we were creating plenty of chances when I and the rest of the group couldn't say we agreed. The shooting practice was more of a concern - only about 15% of the shots on goal went in, with the keepers excelling in that respect. We had a young Italian keeper on trial who seemed to do well and are obviously thinking ahead as Matt Ingram has been one of the better players this season and his understudy Charlie Horlock has looked more than capable than doing a job if needed. After the training session, we went back to the ground where the club had food laid on for us, and a drink on them. I had Scampi and Chips with a pint of Thatchers Gold which was nice. It was a really nice touch, and showed that even if mistakes have been made this season and in hindsight decisions could have been made better, they really are the best people for running the club, certainly in terms of having the best interests for the club. Miles ahead of what we had previously - a businessman who was only after the club to try and make a fast buck. The same can be said of the manager, who despite still learning the trade and not playing the most attractive football we have seen at the club, really cares as much as the fans do about getting a result. There was concern later in the day when the club seemed happy to allow our best player Josh Scowen out on loan, and signed an inexperienced defender from Rotherham when we needed something going forward, but the reality of our situation is that we have no money and have to make do with what we have.
Chatham Town had spent most of their existence in the Southern and Kent Leagues before switching over to the Isthmian League for the 2006-07 season. They have only ever been in the regional 1st Divisions of those leagues and their record finish came in the 1986-87 season when they finished 9th in the Southern League South Division. With them being well down in 14th this season, they had no chance of beating that this season, such was the points difference. But they did have their best ever season in the FA Cup this year, in modern times at least, getting all the way to the 4th Qualifying Round before losing 2-0 to St Albans City. The FA Trophy and Vase have proved pretty barren for them, with not even a sniff of getting anywhere near Wembley. They have won a number of local cups though, but none for a good while. The most well known player to appear for the club is Danny Kedwell who started his career at the club, before progressing on to the football league with AFC Wimbledon & Gillingham.
When I first saw the name VCD Athletic, it reminded me of an old video format. VCD stood for Video CD and although mainly successful in Asia, I had a DVD player that could play them. I never had any commercially available ones, but before the days of DVD Burners, they were a good way to put stuff recorded off of your PC's TV Tuner card onto a recordable CD for watching on TV. I also bought some dodgy copies of films online - I remember the first one I bought was 'There's Only One Jimmy Grimble' for £5 In terms of the football team VCD stands for Vickers Crayford & Dartford and they were founded in 1916 by the workers at Vickers Armaments factory in Crayford. They spent most of their years in amateur leagues, that was until they joined the Kent League (step 5) in 1996. They had many successful years at this level, finally winning the league in 2009, Despite finishing 8th, they only lasted a year at Isthmian D1 North level, this was due to the Isthmian League's pedantic rules about ground grading. To make it even worse, they would have had the improvements in place by the specified deadline, but for some reason the league moved forward the deadline and wouldn't listen to reason. Justice prevailed last season when they finished 2nd in the Kent League and gained promotion back up. They were making a good fist of the season too, with them being top of the league at the time of kick off, and looking good for a second successive promotion.
I went home for half an hour before going off to meet Anwar in Aylesbury at 2.30. I was surprised to see the fact that I had done 8 new grounds since we last went to a game a fortnight ago. We had planned to get into Chatham early and have a look around the shops, leaving mid afternoon also had the benefit of avoiding the rush hour. We still got stuck in traffic though, plus had to go through the pathetic 20 miles of roadworks at 50MPH and it took us nearly 2 hours to get there. I got myself 3 Buzz quiz games for the PS2 and a set of buzzers which cost in total a very reasonable £3.75. Apart from that it was a pretty unproductive trip. I was hoping to get a new phone - as well as it being recently damaged, I was also getting fed up of my current one. I had my eyes on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, but the shops were asking silly money - more for a used one than I could get a new one for online. After shopping we were looking for somewhere to eat, and chose our usual haunt of Morrisons. While it was mainly excellent and good value for dinner, the Strood branch was pathetic. I had to make do for my 5th choice on the menu and Anwar his 3rd choice. I mean it's not as if they haven't got a huge supermarket just feet away, is it. They also said it would be half an hour for food, which was making it tight, but in the end it took half that time, and my Spicy Tomato Chicken was nice.
We left, and drove to the ground, getting there at 7.15. After getting some pictures, I went and had a look in the club shop which sold all manner of weird and wonderful things. 2 items that I wanted - a pennant and a book about the history of the Isthmian League were out of stock, but I got a pen for 50p. After that I got myself a Bovril and went on stood along the side of the pitch. Chatham had some right noisy fans, mainly students and good lads. They even sang a couple of songs about Wycombe, complimentary ones thankfully. It was sad to see that they could not travel to many away games due to the Isthmian League's decision to place them in the North Division, despite them being far better suited to the geography of the South. It also cost the club lost revenue where they did not get many local games, but like the anomaly of the likes of Oxford City playing in the Conference North, they are victims of circumstance, with a far bigger proportion of teams at that level plying their trade in the South.
The game was a pretty decent one. Both sides were on top form with Chatham winning their last 7 games and VCD Athletic being top of the league. After a pretty even opening period, VCD took control and opened the scoring on the half hour mark through Michael Power. That was it for goals until the 83rd minute despite chances for both sides. It was worth the wait though as it was a cracking goal by Lea Dawson to double the visitors lead. The consolation for Chatham 4 minutes later scored by Ade Yusseff and it was a shame for their vocal fans that an equaliser would not come despite their best efforts. Overall though, VCD had deserved it and were the better team and you could see why they were top of the league, whereas the same couldn't be said when I saw them play on their home ground against Needham Market around a month ago.
After the game we made our way home, the journey being a lot nicer than the one earlier. Good time was made and despite the 20 miles of roadworks and a road closure, I was back in Aylesbury by 11.10, getting back to mine about 11.35. I watched TV for a bit, before going to sleep shortly after midnight.
MAIDSTONE ROAD SPORTS GROUND is a real mixture of old and new, and for once it's the one of the new parts that is most aesthetically pleasing. That comes in the form of the terrace behind the goal which is all lit up, has a nice roof design and houses all the club facilities and dressing rooms. Along the side to the left of that is a newish stand, holding a few hundred and is bland in comparision to the rest of the ground. The other goal is just open standing, whilst where I stood is an old stand with bench seating and a bit of standing, and despite the supporting pillars, this is probably the best place to watch the game from.
The other facilities are pretty decent. As mentioned the club shop is a bit of a treasure trove with all manner of old books, programmes and random stuff. The tea bar offers the usual range, while the bar is smart and modern having recently been refurbished. There are probably some more local places too, but town is about a mile walk away if you fancy more choice.