Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Southend Manor - Southchurch Park

Southend Manor FC
Southchurch Park
Northumberland Crescent
Southend-on-Sea
Essex
SS1 2XB




Ground Number: 920
Tuesday 1st September 2020
Southend Manor 0-5 Ware
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round





SOUTHEND MANOR FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 1955 as a team for youngsters - the 'Manor' part of the name coming from Eton Manor whose side one of the founders Gil Medcalf played for as a boy. Along with his wife Doris, he saw the club join the Southend Youth League in 1959 and then the Southend Combination after the boys became too old to play youth football. They started in Division 5 and progressed through the leagues to the Premier Division. They were league champions six times and runners-up a further three times. In the early 1980s, the club joined the Southend & District Alliance, winning two titles in three seasons here. Lack of facilities had stopped them progressing further but in 1985 they moved to Southchurch Park (originally home of Southend Athletics club) and were allowed to join the Essex Senior League's Reserve Division. Three years later, the gained admittance to the Essex Senior League proper and have been there ever since. Their best finish was in 1991 when they were champions, the club were also runners-up in 2000 when Saffron Walden Town. Southend Manor and Burnham Ramblers all finished on 63 points. They were runners-up again in 2012, this time finishing behind Witham Town. The worst finish came in 2013 when they finished 19th (second-bottom) but well ahead of London Bari. It has been a tricky time since -  aside from a 7th place finish in 2017, they've found things tough. Before the cancellation of last season, the side sat in 17th place.

In the FA Cup, Southend Manor played their first game in 1996, losing 5-0 at home to Braintree Town which is also their record defeat in the competition. Their first win came three years later as they beat Ilford 4-0. Their best run came in 2011 as they beat Takeley, Cheshunt, Romford, Chertsey Town and Leighton Town (by a record FA Cup margin of 5-0) before losing 3-1 at Conference National side Kettering Town in the 4th Qualifying Round. Their progress record is Extra Preliminary Round (10), Preliminary Round (7), 1st Qualifying Round (4), 2nd Qualifying Round (1) and 4th Qualifying Round (1). They've not won a game in the competition since 2017 when they beat Wroxham 1-0.

Southend Manor's best FA Vase run came in 1997. That year they beat Great Yarmouth Town, Sawbridgeworth Town, Clapton, Tiptree United and Stewart & Lloyds Corby prior to a 1-0 defeat to Wisbech Town in the 4th Round. Local cup wins include the Essex Intermediate Cup (1979), Essex Senior League Cup (1988), Essex Senior League Challenge Cup (1990), the Essex Senior Trophy (1993), the Harry Fisher Memorial Trophy (1991 & 1993) and the Eastern Floodlit Cup (2003). They are based in Southend-On-Sea and share the town with League 2 side Southend United who provided the club with their record attendance of 1,521 for a friendly game on the 22nd July 1991 for a game to celebrate their new floodlights. The town has a population of just over 183,000. It is home to the largest pier in the world, stretching 1.34 miles from the shore. Famous people from the town include YouTuber 'Kim Justice', screenwriter Dick Clement (Porridge & Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads), comedian Phil Jupitus, actress Helen Mirren, Countdown presenter Rachel Riley and 'football' manager Peter Taylor.

MY VISIT

Southend Manor had been a ground that I'd needed to do to complete the Essex Senior League for some time. However, I was in no rush, partially as it wasn't the most inspiring ground with its flatpack 'Arena' type stands. Also, in 2017, the club had taken the controversial step of banning away fans and groundhoppers from their game against Clapton, following comments by their untrustworthy and unpleasant owner citing that they would bring pyro to the game. It all smelled a bit like Luton Town's ban on away supporters in the late 1980's - though to be fair, threats from the league of big fines for clubs that allowed pro displays probably prompted their decision. The Clapton Ultras had actually only used pyro at 2 of their 30 games that season and have since formed their own club, leaving behind the shell of a club at Clapton FC, who ironically ground shared at Southend Manor last season. Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge and a new media team has joined the club. They are now a lot more welcoming and pro-active at welcoming fans. Therefore, it became a bigger priority, although I was initially hoping to do it on the train and visit a great looking micropub that had six real ciders and perries on offer. However, when the FA Cup draw came out, it paired them with Ware which was one of the more intriguing fixtures. Added to that, the fact that my usual hopping partner Anwar was happy to come along and help out with petrol made me decide to drive to this midweek game. I'd actually visited the ground to take photos on 23rd January 2010 before Wycombe's game at Southend United and the ground didn't appear to have changed much since.

When I'd signalled my intention to visit, the club had messaged me back to wish me a safe journey and an enjoyable visit. This was contrasted to my local club, Holmer Green who posted on Twitter irregularly and rarely bothered to reply to fans questions. Perhaps it was just an old person had been handed the job of handling their Twitter but they didn't seem to know the power of social media in attracting supporters through the gate. To my knowledge, they'd not played any games with fans yet, meaning that they were limited to 150 through the gate which could potentially be reached by a football-starved public. Southend Manor meanwhile had already played a game, so they would be allowed 300 in. Not that it was likely to be a problem with their biggest league attendance being 52, with an average of 37 and a low of 12. They'd last broken the 300 barrier in 2011 when 309 had attended the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying game against Leighton Town. It was all a bit baffling with the town's bigger team Southend United struggling and the entry price being just £5. I'd only seen Southend Manor once before - in a dreadful 0-0 draw at Cheshunt - ironically part of that FA Cup run. I'd seen visitors Ware twice, both at home. In 2010, they beat a Wycombe Wanderers XI 1-0 in a friendly. Then in 2017, I made a revisit to blog the ground properly as they drew 2-2 with Kings Langley in the Herts Cup before winning 3-1 on penalties.

It had been a tough couple of days for me since my last game - Sunday, as usual, was terrible at work with me having to do an 11-hour shift - off my own back I add, rather than forced, as I didn't want to let my team done. I was still feeling the effects of this on Bank Holiday Monday, which thankfully had a shorter shift, though I didn't have a football game to go to as there were only a handful of games on. I cracked on with my blog at least, learning on Twitter that the BBC's planned coverage of the game between Burton Park Wanderers had been cancelled to to one of their players having Covid and was hoping that they would cover Southend Manor instead, what with it being one of the better ties. In the end, though, they opted for Maine Road v Squires Gate. I woke at 6.30 am on the day of the game, which was a nice two and a half hours more than I usually get on a workday. I got ready and decided to walk to town and back (nearly 9 miles) as I fancied the exercise and also needed a few things. I came back and had a fish finger sandwich for lunch, also learning that yet another match - Walsham Le Willows v Newmarket Town - had been cancelled to a home player getting coronavirus. I spent that afternoon passing time, including looking at games for my time off in a couple of weeks as well as researching Corinthian FC history for my visit on Saturday. In the end, I was getting restless to leave, going out at 4 and meeting Anwar in Aylesbury just before 4.30. It wasn't the greatest of journeys over, the M25 was stuffed as usual, not helped by roadworks, inevitably with no one working on them. We got to Southend after 45 minutes delay at 6.49, parking up near Southend United FC where I got some pictures of the outside that I'd not got before. The real reason though, was food. I'd looked on Google beforehand and discovered that you could get a 9" pizza with two toppings for £3. I opted for jalapeño and tomato and very nice it was too, with it being freshly baked. I only wished I'd had a bigger one. After eating that, we made our way to Southend Manor, parking up a side street and arriving at 7.15. The well-to do area was at sharp contrast with the rough around the edges area around Southend United. The entrance was right up the other end of the park and by the time we'd paid and filled in track and trace, it was 7.35. I knew a few people at the club and also saw groundhopper and Braintree fan Maurice, so we had a good catch up as we watched the game. 

Ware's best-ever run in the FA Cup came in the 2007/08. Starting against Wembley with a 4-1 win in the Preliminary Round they went on to defeat Great Wakering Rovers, Thurrock, Hythe Town and Tonbridge Angels in the remaining Qualifying Rounds. This set up a 1st Round game against Conference side Kidderminster Harriers where they bowed out 2-0 in front of their record crowd of 2,123. The visitors would be overwhelming favourites having been top of the Isthmian D1 South Central (step 4) - some 37 places above the hosts. Despite this, they were playing in the Extra Preliminary Round for the first time since 2005 and had only gone out at this stage once when in 2004 they lost 2-0 at Woodbridge Town. It was no surprise, therefore, that the visitors dominated early on. They took the lead on 16 minutes when Leigh Rose headed in a corner from the right. The Ware boss had been moaning at pretty much everything from where we were standing behind the dugout. The goal seemed to placate him for a while but the hosts have a good five-minute spell as they briefly threatened to get back into the game. They never really threatened the goal though but the visitors did with a shot that smacked against the post. Southend Manor were still hanging on at half time but a few minutes into the second half, Ware got a second. In the only goal that I didn't get on camera on the night. A high ball was but in and it was nodded down for David Kendall to fire home from around six yards out. Southend Manor had their best chance of the game on 53 minutes as they forced a good save out Ware keeper Calum Kitscha who was forced to tip the ball over the bar. Ware sealed the game on 63 minutes, again a header from a corner, Kendall emerging from a pack of players to nod into the net from close range for his second goal. The visitors continued to have chances and they hit the post following a goalmouth scramble. They'd go on to score twice more. Firstly on 75 minutes, a free-kick was put in from the right and was nodded down for Rose to complete his brace as he shot home at the back post. Albert Adu-Doyianah completed the scoring on 78 minutes, yet another header from a corner.


It had hardly been the most inspiring of grounds or games and although Southend Manor battled hard, there was a clear gulf in class. The social media team at the club had gone out of their way to try and promote their game and they were rewarded with an attendance of 195, which was their biggest gate in years and in sharp contrast to the 12 that turned up for a league game last season. We said our goodbyes to Maurice and made our way back to the car, getting back at 9.45. It was a slow journey out of Southend with the first 15 miles of the A127 limited to 50MPH and with a constant stream of speed cameras to make sure that no one dared to exceed the limit. It wasn't helped by a tosser in a Jeep trying to cause another driver to crash into the back of him by constantly pulling in front of him and braking sharply, so I stayed well back. There were several lane closures on the M25 but happily, they didn't add too much time to our journey with me dropping Anwar off at 11.20. I was home myself 20 minutes later and went to sleep bed just after midnight. I didn't get to sleep for a while after that and only had a few hours sleep with me up for work at 4. Happily, though, it didn't affect me too much and I was fine the next morning. The game meant that I'd completed the Essex Senior League in terms of all grounds hopped. After not finding any decent games Friday night or Saturday morning, my next game will be the FA Vase semi-final between Corinthian and Hebburn Town on Saturday afternoon.

THE GROUND

SOUTHCHURCH PARK is a rather bland ground. The pitch is fully railed with hard standing though the covered accommodation is all of the flatpack 'Arena' type stands. There are around 100 seats and 50 standing spaces, though unless it is raining, you'd be better off standing around the pitch. There used to be a larger 500 seater stand here, but it was taken down due to asbestos. A new stand is set to be added, despite attempts by a spiteful local resident to scupper plans, permission was granted last month. The ground is quite open, meaning it can get quite windy and that people can also watch from outside for free.

There is a basic bar and BBQ at the ground, though I didn't sample either of them. In terms of facilities around the ground, Mawson's Micropub looks great and is 13 minutes walk away. There's a convenience store opposite the ground and a couple of chippies and Chinese takeaways within walking distance. There's plenty of parking too in the side streets and Southend East train station is 15 minutes walk away.


3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the blog. Looks like you were standing near me in both halves, sorry not to have known who you were at the time. Being the pedant that I am I have to point out that we also reached Round 1 in 1968, away to Luton Town. Also that our record attendance is 3,800 though that was a long time ago and at a different ground.
    Thanks again for the blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thamks mate, well done and good luck in the next round - who knows, our paths might cross again.

      Delete
  2. Great article!

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    ReplyDelete