Saturday 21 October 2023

Catholic United - Len Forge Centre

Catholic United FC
Len Forge Centre
Eastwoodbury Lane

Ground Number: 1238
Saturday 21st October 2023
Catholic United 2-0 CSM London
Anagram Trophy 1st Round


Though there were many catholic clubs in the Southend area in previous years, the present Catholic United was established in 1959 at the Sacred Heart church hall. They originally played on a pitch in Leigh On-Sea which no longer exists due to redevelopment. The club progressed through the Southend Borough Combination in the early 60s, winning four promotions in five seasons to reach the Premier Division. They originally wore black and white stripes but in 1968 when they reached the Walton Cup Final, played at Southend United, Celtic FC gifted them a green and white hooped set of shirts and they have adopted those colours to this day. The kit was a lucky omen as they beat Haden 2-0 in the final to lift the trophy. They would go on to lift the Southend Borough Combination title in 1969 and 1970 as well as a host of local cups. In 2009, they were accepted into the Essex Olympian League. A number of seasons were spent in Division 3 before they listed the title in 2015. They progressed quickly, winning the Division 2 title in 2016 then finishing as runners-up behind Basildon Town in Division 1. They've been in the Premier Division since 2017 and have never finished outside the top 6. Their best finish came last season as they finished as runners-up behind Hutton.

The most famous player to turn out for the club is former Spurs and current Celtic centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers who played for the club as a youngster. The club has led a nomadic existence, early on playing at Nazareth House orphanage which made way for a school in the early 1970s. A lengthy stay at Wellstead Gardens in Westcliff on Sea followed before they spent the 2018/19 season before they made way for Hashtag United who could pay higher rent. Ever since, they have played at the Len Forge Centre in Southend which gives them potential for progression to step 6 should they wish. They played a single season in the FA Vase in 2018/19. A 6-1 win was gained at Clapton but they lost in the next round at Lopes Tavares.


Originally on this day, my intention was to go to Eastbourne United v Bearsted in the FA Vase. It looked a good game and it would complete the Southern Combination Premier for me. However, with it being a rainy week and more rain on the day of the game, I was cautious. I had some games on 3G as backup, namely Longwell Green v Dobwalls in the FA Vase and either Everett Rovers or Catholic United in the Anagram Trophy. I wasn't going to make a decision until the night before or even the morning of the game as it was a potentially late night before in Devon. In the end, the Honiton game on Friday night went ahead and so it was to be Catholic United.

I'd had a late night on Friday going into Saturday, getting to bed at gone 4. Four hours of sleep was good enough though when my alarm went off at 8.20. I'd allowed the minimum amount of time possible and after a shower, getting dressed and having breakfast, I was out of the door nearly ten minutes after my planned 9am departure. I considered a bus but the times didn't work out. Tesco was called upon for a meal deal - Hoi Sin Duck wrap, Ribena Light and a Tony's Chocolenly bar. I'd deliberately gone for pricier items to try and beat the system - little victories and all that. I had to jog the last mile as time was tight. It was a good job that I got there early as there were queues to use the ticket machines. For some reason, Trainpal had given me paper tickets but the random price of £22.82 was due to a voucher. Whilst on the platform at High Wycombe, I learned that my original choice of game at Eastbourne was off, vindicating my decision to go 3G. The 10.20 Chiltern train was rammed and standing room only. Cattle would feel hard done by being treated like this and it is one of the priciest operators in the country. Thankfully it was a less than half-hour journey in uncomfortable conditions.
The next part of the journey was more pleasant, a walk to Baker Street and a Tube to Liverpool Street on which I finally got a seat. The best part was the last leg. On the Greater Anglia to Rayleigh, I got a double seat and got to charge my phone. This was a blessing with the amount of grubby germ factories that passed as passengers. I've always found this operator to be one of the best in the country though and we got off on time at 11.33. I used the journey to research Catholic United's history. I got most of it done before we got to Rayleigh at 12.15. It was then a 15-minute walk to the Roebuck Wetherspoons. My 281st Wetherspoons was decent, with a few bag-in-box ciders according to the app. However, none were available with my steak meal, which with a chicken breast and pint of Strongbow, came in at £14.26. I noticed from Futbology that there were lots of options in the Anagram Trophy and with Rayleigh Town looking good, I think I'll follow this competition and do as many games as possible. I've been to the final at the Herts FA ground a few years back and also a fantastic game at Epping Town which finished 3-3 and was decided on penalties. My second pint was Purbeck Katy Perry and having caught up with my blog, I was in a good place. I walked to the bus stop and got the 9 to Shoeburyness. I was a bit later than I would have liked but the 13.57 was on time. I was at the ground ten minutes before kickoff. It was free entry and an excellent programme was £2.
The hosts were Catholic United who sat 4th in the Essex Olympian Premier. They were in poor form, having lost four games in a row, the last being a 4-1 defeat at Sungate. The visitors CSM London were second-bottom of the Essex Alliance Senior Division. This was the same step as the hosts and they had lost their last game 6-2 to Frenford Reserves. It was a fairly even opening with both sides having chances but not hitting the target. It was goalless at the break with quite a lot of injury time. The second half started at 3.35 after a slightly short half time. The game was really end to end but the quality of the finishing was not there. CSM had the majority of the chances but Catholic smashed the bar with a great shot on 68 minutes. Just a minute from the end of normal time, Catholic United made it 1-0, a short cross found Joe O'Kane who put a controlled header into the net. It was hard on CSM but a lack of quality up front had cost them. They pushed more men forward but the few chances that came along were wasted. There was a fair bit of added time and in the sixth minute, the hosts added a second, a square ball from the right and a low finish by Frank Craik.
Seconds later the final whistle blew and I was on my way. Not the best game but not the worst either. I got the Wycombe game on my tablet and walked back to the bus stop. It was just over 10 minutes till the bus came and the Wycombe game ended as we got back into Rayleigh. It was a decent 2-2 draw at Peterborough United for us but we looked by far the better team from what I saw. I had three minutes wait for the train and I was going to stop at Billericay to check out their Wetherspoons. The Blue Boar was OK, a lot less peaceful than the one earlier, what with people building up for Saturday night. A pint of Black Dragon took the edge off. It was nice to sit at a proper table and sort my photos. From there, it was almost time to upload my blog. My second pint was ordered via the app, Strongbow which came with a nice glass. The plan from there was to head back into London and catch the train on the hour back to Wycombe from Marylebone as that was the quickest. It might involve a pint in London, I had not yet decided.

THE LEN FORGE CENTRE is a decent setup for what it is, a community pitch used by a number of local teams. Only one side is open to spectators and this is a decent-sized viewing area with standing for 200 and seating for 150. There is a bar outside but this is quite basic and does food too. It is located on the bus routes between Rayleigh & Southend and has plenty of parking available. Overall, not the most exciting venue but a decent venue for use when the weather is bad.

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