Saturday 22 May 2021

Lordswood - Martyn Grove

Lordswood FC
Martin Grove
North Dane Way

01634 669138

Ground Number: 958
Saturday 22nd May 2021
Lordswood 2-4 Sheppey United
Medway Post-Lockdown Tournament


The club was established in 1968 and initially played in the Rochester & District League. They were successful here and progressed up to the Premier Division within a few years. The same could be said of the Kent County League, which Lordswood joined in 1982. They started out in Division 2 West but by 1987, they had won three promotions to find themselves in the Senior Division. They were runners-up here in 1990. A restructuring took place in 1992 and despite Lordswood finishing bottom, they still retained their place in the top tier, now called the Premier Division (currently sitting at step 7 of the non-league pyramid). They were runners up in 1995 and a year later, they switched to the Kent League, the precursor to the modern-day Southern Counties East (SCEFL) league. Lordswood have been in the top tier (step 5) ever since, an impressive run of 25 seasons. Their best finish came in 2016 when they came 4th and the worst in 2005 & 2010 when they finished bottom, but were not relegated. They've generally finished around the middle of the league in recent times - the last two abandoned seasons seeing them in 13th & 11th.

In the FA Cup, Lordswood haven't had a great deal of success, reaching the 1st Qualifying Round three times. Their best run in the FA Vase came during 2012/13. That year, they beat Warlingham, Raynes Park Vale, Egham Town, Thame United, and Southend Manor. This was before a 3-1 loss at Northern League powerhouses, Spennymoor Town in the 4th Round. Their record attendance of 600 came against Gillingham in 2003 when 600 turned up to watch them lose 5-0 in a friendly.  This was a match that marked the opening of their new boardroom. Lordswood is a  suburb of Chatham, three miles south of the town. The population is just under 10,000 and facilities include woodland, a high street with a reasonable range of shops and a library, as well as good access to the motorway.


Finally, the time had come when it was viable to travel by public transport again, what with the pubs opening up inside and football supporters being allowed in grounds again I was fed up of driving and hadn't had so much as a lift in 14 months from others. Therefore, as soon as the first Saturday of relaxed restrictions came about, I was determined to do something on the train. The problem was, options were extremely limited if I wanted to do it economically. Originally, I'd intended to go to Birmingham with some other people from Wycombe, however, they were not all groundhoppers. As we would be going on a 'group save ticket, it would be unfair of me to ask them to hang around in Birmingham for ages, with the nearest new ground for me, Alcester Town, well over an hour away on public transport. Instead, I decided to head south. Lordswood worked out around half the price of Portchester, so I opted for that. I'd been thinking about getting a network railcard for a while and finally decided to take the plunge, using the next year to get all the Kent grounds done that I could in the next year, as well as others in the southeast.  With it, it made my trip to Chatham a shade over £20 on the train, pretty decent value. I could even go from Wycombe for the same price as Amersham and this would ensure that I got a nice walk in The only fly in the ointment was that I'd probably have to get a bus ticket at the other end. I was perfectly happy to walk the near four miles to the ground, although a large proportion of it was along a road with no path. After finding that unpleasant in Saltash last year, I decided that the few quid extra would be worth it, safety-wise. Again, the railcard would get me a discount on this, otherwise, it would have been £5. The only thing that could wreck my plans was the weather, so I kept an eye on it. With the return offering flexibility, I could buy right up until the time of departure at no extra cost. 

There was also the bonus of being able to 'break' my journey in London, meaning I could visit a couple of my favourite places in the capital. A recent newspaper report said that economists had estimated that each of us needed to have 124 pub pints in the next year and I was keen to crack on with my contribution. I had set my alarm for 7.30 on the day of the game, but an unplanned late night on Friday meant that I had a little over four hours of sleep. I felt slightly tired at first but perked up after I'd had some chicken for breakfast. I was glad that there was no rain for my walk to the station when I left just before 8. The journey took just over an hour and I also stopped at B&M Bargains to get a bottle of Irn Bru. The trains were far more regular than at Amersham and I only had ten minutes to wait after picking up my tickets. The train left Wycombe at 9.25. The station and train were very busy with people getting their lives back but apart from a couple of exceptions, people were obeying mask-wearing and social distancing. The crowds thinned out once I'd got into London and it was a case of getting the Bakerloo Line to Baker Street and the Jubilee to London Bridge. I got to the station around 10.15 and put the cider stall into my phone. According to Google, it opened at 11, so I had a look around the other stalls. I spotted a place called Borough Wines and got a couple of ciders to take away. With the train leaving soon, I made my way back to the station. Sod's law, but the train left at 10.42 and I got there at 10.43. It was all open and well aired, so I sat down and had one of my ciders - an Ascension Sonic Titan at a hefty 8.2%. It was only a small can, but it was excellent and well worth the £4.50 paid.

My train eventually came at 11.18, which was slightly longer than expected. It was a slow but relaxing journey, but I was in a good mood. This was my first trip on my new railcard and I was glad that I'd bought it, not having had a decent day out for well over a year. The fact that I could go from Wycombe for the same price as Amersham was a real bonus and I'll certainly be using it to its full potential over the coming year. I was able to kick back and type my blog, though there was a slight disappointment that I couldn't open the Spanish cider that I'd bought. Maybe that was for the best though, as I didn't want to go mad on the booze. I got to Chatham at 12.30 and headed for the Wetherspoons. It wasn't the greatest town for pubs but The Thomas Waghorn looked decent and I ordered Southern Fried chicken strips and chips plus a pint of Black Dragon cider. It was a great Wetherspoons and scored an 8/10 on my spreadsheet. It was huge but I had a nice little private booth. The service was good and the food was hot. You really can't ask for more than that in a non-cider region. Only 13 out of my 202 Wetherspoons visited so far had a better score. It was just a shame that the one in Wycombe was towards the lower end of the scale, hence me supporting a local independent place. I decided against a second pint and instead, headed for the bus station. I got straight on the bus for Lordswood. The route took us past a seemingly endless range of takeaways, mainly pizzas. I got to Lordswood at 1.50 and it was a pleasant 20-minute walk to the ground. I went to the social club and had a pint of Strongbow Cloudy Apple for £3.90. It was nothing special, but it was good to support the club. I watched the end of the Brentford game as they reached the playoff final. I then went to the ground, paying £5 to get in and £2 for a tournament programme. I said a brief hello to Mark, a Tonbridge fan who was covering the game for his YouTube channel. 

Lordswood had been 19th in the league when it was curtailed. This was their first game in this competition. Sheppey United had finished 4th and had got off to a winning start, beating Punjab United 2-1 on Tuesday. Lordswood were edging the first half, but it was a real end to end game. They had a decent passage of play on 37 minutes and with the visiting defence all at sea, scored with an opportunistic lob by Jordan Sandiford. There was an equaliser on 43 minutes when former Oxford United and AFC Wimbledon man Jack Midson, though the marking was sloppy. Sheppey United stepped up their game in the second half. They took the lead on 54 minutes when a header hit the bar and Midson scored from the rebound. Later on in the half, there was a foul apiece by the two sides, one from each in quick succession. The ref decided to punish the Lordswood one but not the Sheppey one despite them being almost identical. This led to a 'fan' asking the keeper for a scrap after the game when he agreed, to which he replied 'It's a pre-season tournament mate!'. There was a foul inside the area which led to a penalty on 82 minutes, Jack Midson stepped up and converted to complete his hat trick. Lordswood had the chance to reduce the arrears a couple of minutes from time when they were awarded a penalty. The visiting keeper saved the first effort, but was adjudged to have come off his line. The retake was also saved but from the resulting corner, Harvey Gorse forced the ball home. As the hosts pushed forward, they were done on the break by Sheppey when Warren Mfula scored pretty much straight from the restart.

It was a good game in front of a decent crowd of 205. Sheppey United deserved their win overall. I left the ground at 4.50 and walked the 20 minutes back to the bus stop. I got the 5.20 bus and had it to myself for most of the journey. It took ages though and I wasn't back in town until 5.50. Looking at the train times, I decided to head back to the Wetherspoons and have another pint before getting the train home. It was much busier now and that took a while too, in fact, 18 minutes to be precise. Luckily, despite being a high strength cider, it went down quicker than a Premiership footballer when a defender brushes past them. That meant I was able to get the 6.20 train back to London and this time, it was a lot faster as it went to Victoria. I was happy to be able to continue typing my blog, but given that I'd had a later night and early morning the day before, I decided to walk straight home once I got to the station. I'd been fairly sensible, drink wise, probably due to the fact that it wasn't the best town for pubs.


MARTYN GROVE is a decent venue for the level. One end is closed off to fans and there are two open sides. All the covered accommodation is on one side consisting of a 123 seater stand and an area of cover to the side capable of holding around 50. There's a tea bar at the ground, but I didn't try it. The social club outside is smart and offers a reasonable range of drinks at normal pub prices. There's lots of parking and the bus stop in Lordswood is around  20 minutes walk away. If coming via Chatham, I'd recommend the Wetherspoons, but otherwise, the club bar is as good as anywhere. 

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