Ground Number: 335
Thursday 27th February 2014
VCD Athletic 1-2 Needham Market
Isthmian D1 North
PRE MATCH RESEARCH
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.
Needham Market meanwhile were also doing well, being in 9th place in the table. They had a couple of notable players - firstly former Colchester player Kemal Izzett who made hundreds of appearances for Wycombe's biggest rivals. Then there was a former Wycombe man Ian Westlake who had also played for Leeds and Ipswich. Despite looking like he would be a good signing, he never fulfilled his potential and was released without hardly kicking a ball for Wycombe. The club had also just released former Wycombe striker Richard Logan who was another poor performer in a Wycombe shirt. Despite this, it was still a surprise to see how far he has dropped, especially when he was rated by Exeter fans, prior to his move to us. Needham Market are another club who have recently been promoted to this league, winning the Eastern Counties Premier in 2010. This season they had their best ever FA Cup run, reaching the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round before losing out to the Conference leaders Cambridge United in front of over 1700 fans at their Bloomfields home.
My football filled week continued on Thursday as I eyed another match, this time with fellow hopper Anwar, which was certainly a relief to my wallet. It would also be good to have some company on the journey. On the day I really didn't feel like going, the previous week's excesses were catching up with me and on top of that, I had an awful cold. But I'm not one to let people down, having planned this a couple of weeks ago. Plus I was planning to meet another friend, Tom, who was down from Sheffield for a few days to take in some football amongst other things. I'd also had a day at work, and just before I left, had to go to the doctors to pick up some antibiotics for going to the dentist next week. I was delivered the news that I wouldn't be able to drink for a whole week whilst having them, but it's no biggie as I had no nights out planned. I made a mental note to fill my boots this weekend, however, and also to plan accordingly for next Tuesday's game - Hertford Town will have to wait, as they have a couple of interesting pubs that I wouldn't mind trying.
I left at 4 and got to Anwar's at 4.25, to my surprise he was there waiting for me, which was most unusual. There were a couple of bad spots on the M25 which delayed us a bit, and my holder for my phone fell to bits, but we still got to Morrisons for 6.15. We would have got there earlier but the greedy buggers at the Dartford Toll wanted £2 to use the bridge, and payment meant queues. To give them their dues, they were as quick as they could have been, and at least it wasn't as steep as the ridiculous near on £10 to get into Wales. I still think they shouldn't charge though, after all, the public have paid for the roads already. There I had Chicken Tikka Masala and rice. With a naan bread and a drink, it only came to £4.25 which was great. After dinner and a quick look around the shop, we set off for the ground, arriving at 7.15. I got a programme and also a pennant from the club shop. Normally I wouldn't buy one at £5 but we had such a nice welcome that I decided to get one after all. It was a nice looking one too, making my decision a bit easier. The groundhoppers were out in force for this game - a couple had travelled all the way from Leicester and we had a good chat about football. They were outdone by Tom, who had come all the way from Sheffield, or to be more precise, Chapeltown, and who would be heading back up on the overnight coach after the game.
The game was of a pretty decent standard to be honest, both sides liked to get it down and pass it, especially the visitors with Izzett pulling all the strings in midfield and showing his experience. The first goal was a bit of a cock up however. It came for the home side after a misplaced pass from a Needham defender only found VCD's number 9 who lashed it in from the edge of the area. It remained 1-0 at half time and was probably justified as the home side edged the first half. It was a different story in the 2nd however when the visitors upped their game. It was a great goal that squared things up. Ryan Crisp cut inside the area and curled a great shot into the bottom corner. The same player proved to be a real Golden Wonder too as he grabbed the winner with a lot simpler goal this time. There were chances for both sides before the end and on balance of play the result was justified. Tom had to leave a bit early to catch his train and so we shook hands and hoped that we would meet again soon. Towards the end, I and Anwar got chatting to some really nice Needham Market fans and hoped that they would get in the playoffs so we could pay them a visit. The journey home should have been a bit easier but lance closures on the M25 meant that we were delayed for about 10 minutes in all. When I got home I went to bed pretty much straight away, being that I hadn't had much sleep that week.
The OAKWOOD is a pretty basic ground, with only a couple of covered areas, one seated and one standing with the rest of the ground being open. It is however very well kept and in nice surroundings and is a nice place to watch the game. Probably the best viewing point is from near the boardroom, as it's behind the goal and high up too. The club shop was excellent and had a good range of stuff as well as old programmes, all at reasonable prices. The tea bar was OK, it was nice to be able to put pepper in my Bovril, but it was one of the pricer cups I have had in non-league at £1.50. The clubhouse is outside the ground and offers a typical range of drinks that you would expect from such a place. The club was nice and friendly too, making it well worth a visit.