Saturday 17 November 2018

Rusthall - Jockey Farm Stadium

Rusthall FC
The Jockey Farm Stadium
Nellington Road
Tunbridge Wells

Ground Number: 819
Saturday 17th November 2018
Rusthall 0-1 Fisher
SCEL Premier


The club was established in 1899 and started out in the Tunbridge Wells League. It was a competition they would go on to win for the first time in 1905 and 11 times in total. They'd make the step up to the Kent County League in 1983 where they were champions of Division 2 West in their debut season and also won Division 1 West the following season. They'd remain there until 2003 when they were relegated back to Division 2 West. The bounce back was immediate with a 3rd place finish in 2004 being good enough for promotion and they were champions of Division 1 West for the 2nd time in 2005, This time they took the promotion to the Kent County Premier where they enjoyed mainly mid-table finishes. In 2013 Rusthall were founder members of the step 6 Kent Invicta League, where they continued the mid-table finishes. The league was renamed the Southern Counties East League Division 1 in 2016 and after finishing second-bottom the previous season, the clubs fortunes dramatically improved and they were promoted to the SCEL Premier after finishing as runners-up to Glebe. Last season saw a second-bottom finish, but relegation was averted due to the re-organisation of the non-league pyramid. That's where Rusthall sit prior to my visit although a win on my visit against second-placed Fisher could see them climb out of the relegation zone if results went their way.

Rusthall have only entered the FA Cup a couple of times but it was this season that they enjoyed their best run, beating Wick 3-0 before a credible performance in the Preliminary Round against Isthmian D1 South side Cray Wanderers where the higher division side required a replay and a penalty shoot-out to get through. It's a similar story in the FA Vase which was first entered in 2016 with two 1st Round exits in the past two seasons, the latest coming this season as they went down at Newhaven. Local cup wins include the Tunbridge Wells Senior Cup on 13 occasions and the West Kent Challenge Shield in 2004. The village of Rusthall is near Tunbridge Wells and has a population of 10.460. The place got its name from the rusty nature of the water in the local cold water baths, the foundations of which still remain today. 


Originally I was due to be going to Sunderland v Wycombe on this day. I’d been reasonably recently but it would be great to see Wycombe play there. But two things counted against it. Firstly my parents were on holiday. Usually, we will make the trip as a family and they will help me out by paying for some of it. I ummed and arred for a bit, but despite the fact that it would cost me nearly £60 for coach and ticket alone, I initially decided to go for it. I rang up the Independent Supporters Club, booked the coach and asked what pub they were stopping at. It turned out to be the place they were going did no real cider, meals were around £15 - £20 and it was miles from anywhere. My rules are that if the food and cider are good, they would not be added to my football costs. This was not the case here, and so, with a potential £90 added to my costs for the season, I quickly phoned and cancelled, making up the excuse that work had called me in, so as not to offend the pub picker. The places they pick are generally excellent, but they have picked a few that I’ve not enjoyed and they usually tend to have the sort of owners that do not take constructive criticism on TripAdvisor well. So where to go, well, it would be on the train and it would be outside London, the lack of options within the capital had led to my inclination to visit Sunderland in the first place. I’d still be going through London and it would be Kent as SouthEastern offer the best value for where I travel from. I selected four options with good pubs - Hollands & Blair, Deal Town, Herne Bay and Rusthall. After considering several factors, I booked the train to Tunbridge Wells, the cost with my petrol to the station and train into London would not be much more than if I drove, plus I’d be able to enjoy myself more.

The previous day, I viewed the programme online and found that Rusthall had lost 9 games in a row and that included a 9-1 thrashing against Cray Valley PM. The day of the game came and I woke a few minutes before my alarm went off at 8 am. I had considered setting out early and calling in at Borough Market but in the end, I opted to stay at home for a bit longer, leaving at 9.15. 20 minutes later I was parked up near Amersham station and after a short walk, I got the 9.44 train towards London. It was a well-rehearsed journey by me and after a change at Finchley Road, I got to London Bridge at 10.50. I then had plenty of time to change to the main station with me getting the 11.09 train to Tunbridge Wells which arrived at 12. I headed to an area called the ‘Pantiles’ which takes its name from the Georgian Colonnade and well which gave the town its name. My port of call was the Pantiles Tap, a cracking pub with a massive selection of cider. I had a pint of Ascension Pilot before a pint of Nightingale Russett. Both were great and unique and it was a shame that I couldn’t stay longer, though they did have bottles to take out, making it a potential post-match drink venue. From there I headed towards Wetherspoons, but not before stopping at the market to buy some John Boys cider, which cleaned me out of cash. With my wallet refilled at a cash machine, I got to the Opera House, my 179th Spoons at 1.20. It was packed, but thankfully people were not bright enough to try upstairs where a multitude of tables were available. Sadly, real cider had run out, so I made do with a  pint of Strongbow with my Christmas Brie & Bacon burger. From there I stopped at  I stopped at Poundland en route, but it was a fair old trek to the ground with me arriving bang on kick off.

After paying £7, I got in. No sooner than I'd arrived had Fisher taken the lead, Pat Geddis scoring after 3 minutes. That was it for goals sadly, not that both sides didn’t try which made for an OK game. According to the hosts, they were notoriously slow starters which was the difference as to be honest you would never guess the two sides were poles apart in the league. The game finished and I was happy to see that Wycombe had gained a great draw up at Sunderland. Strangely enough, a long string of Wycombe games that I’ve intended to go to but not attended have all ended in draws. I listened to the reaction on Wycombe Sound on my phone which kept me company on the two-mile walk back. The Pantiles Tap was again my destination, being on the ‘right’ side of town. A pint of Wise Owl dry cider was enjoyed and although I wish I’d booked a later train, I did have to drive in a few hours, so it was probably for the best. I arrived back at the station with 15 minutes to spare, getting the 6.09 train back to London Bridge. I got back there just before 7 and hopped on the Jubilee Line to Finchley Road. It was then a 15-minute wait for my final train to Amersham. I got back at 8.30 and stopped at Tesco to pick up some Irn Bru amongst other things. I got home just after 9 and with no Match Of The Day, I got to sleep around 10.45.


JOCKEY FARM is a pleasant ground, not far from the large village of Rusthall. All the covered accommodation is on one side and includes an area of covered standing, a 125 seat ‘arena’ stand and a further stand of bench seating. The rest of the ground is open hard standing and there’s even a second pitch with a small stand. Bar and catering facilities are fairly standard. Nearby is the village which has a number of takeaways and pubs. A couple of miles away is Tunbridge Wells, this has a much better choice including the excellent Pantiles Tap. It’s also the location of the nearest train station.

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