Ground Number: 897
Saturday 21st December 2019
K Sports 1-7 Sheppey United
SCEL Premier Division
K SPORTS FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was established in 1919 and was originally known as Aylesford Paper Mills and have been known as Reed International, APM, APM Mears and APM Contrast at various points during their history. Since 2016, they've been known as K Sports. They joined a Kent League (no relation to the present day competition) in 1928 and won Division 2 on three occasions. After spells in various competitions such as the London League, they joined the Kent County League in the late '50s, winning Senior Division West in 1960 and 1964. The club folded towards the end of the 1960s, but reformed in 1974, rejoining the Kent County League. They were champions of Division 1 West in 1988 and 1991. During their time in the league, they flitted between Division 1 and Division 2. Later years saw improved form and in 2011 a runners-up spot behind Bromley Green was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. They'd remain here until 2016 when a 4th place finish was good enough to see them accepted into the newly-formed step 6 Kent Invicta League. They finished 6th in their debut season before the league was merged into the Southern Counties East League. Placed in Division 1, a runners-up spot behind Punjab United was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. K Sports finished a respectable 12th last season and currently sit 14th prior to today's game.
The club entered the FA Cup in the late 40s and early 50s for four seasons, notable losing 10-1 to Bowaters Lloyd in 1949. They'd re-enter the competition in last season and despite taking Pagham to a replay, lost 2-0 down in Sussex and again against Redhill this season. A record run in the FA Vase came in 2017 as they reached the 1st Round, beating Colliers Wood United and Abbey Rangers before a 4-3 defeat at Canterbury City. The FA Amateur Cup Quarter Final was reached in 1938 where they lost 4-2 to Erith & Belvedere. Local honours include the Kent Senior Cup (three times) and Kent County League Challenge Cup in 1987. The club is based in the village of Aylesford, Kent which has a population of 10,660. Up until 2015, it was the location of the largest paper mill and recycling unit (Aylesford Newsprint) before it closed and that indeed is where the club got its original name from.
I had known almost a month in advance that I'd be working on this Saturday, my only working Saturday of the year as Christmas was fast approaching. That was fair enough, but it did put a limit on how far I could go as I didn't have a clue what time I'd be finished. I'd been lucky the past few days, starting at 4 am and finishing at 11, but I knew from experience that the favourite time for 'sick' calls was the weekend. Far more unpredictable was the weather affecting pitches and even on the Friday night my options at Taplow United, Old Bradwell, Roffey and New College Swindon had already bitten the dust. I ruled out anything I could do with fellow hoppers or easily on the train and was left with eleven possibilities. I favoured the early kick-offs at Wick and Fleetlands or the game at Totton & Eling whose blog I'd started after my visit there was thwarted by the weather for a Friday night game back in September. There was the safe option of K Sports on the 3G pitch but I was reluctant to pay £8 entry when Greenways charge a fiver for the same venue. The £3 is neither here nor there, but I'd rather go with a club that charges a more reasonable rate. My initial criteria had been new grounds within 75 miles of work, though I allowed Fleetlands on the list as it was likely free entry and I knew of a great chippy in nearby Gosport. A Twitter list was made so I could see at a glance the status of games.
I was up for work at 3 am on the day of the game and already a couple had gone. Though it was a slog, I was finished by 10 and a pigs in blankets bap perked me up. I was pleased to have time to go home for an hour or so after I'd done some shopping. More and more matches fell by the wayside until there was just two left standing - confirmed games on at K Sports and Hamble, so I chose the former seeing as they had a 3G pitch. My other option was Snodland and although there was no sign of life on their Twitter, the league website confirmed the game had bitten the dust. It was a bit of a rush to do all the research for my blog, including club history, but I left just before 1. There were the usual delays on the M25, around 20 minutes in all though I listened to the build-up to the Oxford v Wycombe game on BBC 3CR. I arrived at the ground at 2.40. Food-wise, there was a basic burger van outside and a bar with decent food although as time was tight I didn't bother. There was also homemade mulled cider, but I wasn't really in the mood. Around ten minutes before kick-off, I headed to the turnstile and paid my entrance fee.
Looking at the formbook, K Sports had been disappointing in league games, losing five of their last six, their only win since mid-October coming a fortnight ago as they defeated Canterbury City 2-1 at home. Visitors Sheppey United were on sparkling form, winning their last six including a 10-0 win at whipping boys Greenwich Borough amongst other handsome victories. The reverse game back on 24th August had seen Sheppey United triumph 2-0 thanks to a brace from Daniel Bradshaw. Sheppey United were dominant early on and they took the lead on 16 minutes. There was a trip in the area and Dan Bradshaw stepped up and converted the penalty. It was 2-0 on 21 minutes, Harrison Carnegie advanced into the area and crashed in a shot off the crossbar from just inside the box. K Sports pulled one back on 25 minutes with their first chance of the game, Jordan Ababaio chasing down a loose ball and putting it over the keeper. There was then a big rainstorm and I was soaked just as Wycombe went 1-0 down at Oxford and had Adebayo Akenfenwa sent off. Back at Cobdown, K Sports had a golden opportunity to equalise but Mat Gething screwed the ball wide from around 10 yards despite being unmarked. Danny Leonard made it 3-1 to the visitors on 43 minutes, scoring from a tight angle from the right hand side of the goal. The second half saw Sheppey continue to dominate, but the hosts were keeping things tight. The visitors could have taken the lead on 62 minutes, a long ball forward clipped the left-hand post on the way in but the linesman adjudged that a player in an offside position had got the final touch. Sheppey did get their fourth on 73 minutes, Bradshaw getting his second as he held off his marker and fired home a low shot from the edge of the area. It was 5-1 ten minutes later, a corner put in, a header partially cleared and Bradshaw completed his hat-trick, poking home from a goalmouth scramble. There was a chance for K Sports to reduce the arrears on 85 minutes, but again the ball was put wide from around ten yards. Another foul in the area following a poor first chance saw a home player getting a booking and Bradshaw get his fourth on 89 minutes. The rout was completed in injury time, a square ball across the box allowed Hicham Akhazzan a simple finish to make it 7-1 to Sheppey United.
I was pleased for the visitors, they'd been excellent hosts when I visited in September 2018 and it had been great for my blog too, with that particular entry had got around ten times the views of my average write up. K Sports had saved the day by getting a game on though, my other option at Hamble did go ahead, the visitors AFC Stoneham winning 2-0. They might not have done great on the field, but off it they'd done well, a bumper attendance that looked a lot more than the 83 quoted on 'Non-League Matters' website. Though I mentioned the entry fee above, they are far from the only club to charge £8 at step 5. By the time I left, it was 5 and unable to pick up BBC 3CR to listen to the analysis of Wycombe's 1-0 defeat to Oxford, I instead tuned to BBC Radio Kent. Their main focus was Gillingham's win over Milton Keynes, but the Non-League games did get a bit of coverage, including a mention of the game I was at. This gave way to a bit of Christmas music when I lost signal before I listened to the 606 phone in. I was back at 6.25 after minimal delay and had a dinner of Chicken Jalfrezi. I then went and typed my blog, having a couple of ciders whilst listening to the phone in. I went to bed around 9.30, as it was another early start for work, but I'd enjoyed my day watching football. On a sad endnote to the blog, RIP Martin Peters who died this afternoon. A footballing legend, but little more than a name from history for me. It came a day after another sad death of a decent friend and a Dulwich Hamlet legend Mishi Morath who was well-respected on the non-league scene. Both were taken from us far too soon.
COBDOWN is a neat and well-kept venue that is more practical than it is aesthetically pleasing. The ground is open on three sides. The near side where you come in has a bog-standard 'Arena' seated unit, holding around 100. The opposite side as a couple of scaffolded areas of covered flat standing, holing around the same amount.
There's plenty of parking to be had. There's a burger van outside or the excellent bar has a decent range of drinks including real ale and meals too. There's also a chip shop around ten minutes walk away.