Saturday 22nd May 2021
Lordswood 2-4 Sheppey United
LORDSWOOD FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
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.