National League South
Tatnam Stadium, Poole
Admission: “Pay What You want”
Match Rating: 3
I had originally planned to take in a FA Vase game today, however on seeing this game advertised as a “Pay What You Want“ fixture a few days previously, which offered the possibility of attending a Step 2 game for an equivalent amount that I would have paid at Step 5 or 6, I decided to make the long trip along the coast to Dorset.
The Tatnam Stadium is an easy 15 minute walk northwards from Poole train station, and it is fair to say it is a rather underwhelming venue, with more of a Wessex League feel to it than a host venue in the National League South. However that is more a reflection on the impressive speeds that they have progressed up the divisions, and also that they have developed what was a school playing field, and is difficult to develop. Spectators enter through one of two turnstile blocks, both of which lead to an open tarmac space between the clubhouse and behind one end of the pitch (although with a fence between). After entering the football ground in one corner, where there are a few picnic tables, there is just hard standing available along the closest length and byline. Straddling the half way line on the other length is the “main stand”, a fairly long, low metallic stand offering the only seating in the stadium. There are a few rows of uncovered metallic steps either side of the stand, as there also are either side of a stand covering metal steps behind the goal opposite the clubhouse end. The ground is neat enough and serves its purpose at Step 2 level, but is certainly not atmospheric. The 44 page full colour programme covered the important stats and had plenty of interesting reading material.
After having been disqualified from entering the play-offs last season due to the Tatnam Stadium not passing ground grading to host Step 1 football after finishing in fifth place, Poole are having a much more tricky season so far. They came into this game in 20th place in the 22 team division, having won two and drawn two of their 11 league games, and had picked up just one point from their last seven games. They did win at Salisbury in the FA Cup last Saturday though, although Salisbury play two steps below Poole. Chelmsford finished one place (although 11 points) above Poole last season in fourth place, losing in the play-off final having taken the lead, and unlike Poole, have started this season in good form. They went into this game in fifth place, following six wins and three draws from their 11 league games.
After encountering cold and wet weather more akin to January last Saturday at Baldock, happily conditions today were almost the complete opposite, with pleasantly warm sunshine to enjoy today. There was little sign that this match would end in a stalemate as both teams did plenty of attacking, although particularly Poole, as a powerful shot was shot straight at the keeper, who then missed two high balls over his head from corners in quick succession to give the hosts plenty of encouragement. They also had a shot cleared close to the line, all in the opening few minutes of the match. The game then settled down, but throughout the half, Poole looked the better and more likely to score as Chelmsford really disappointed, given their lofty league position.
The visitors got more into the game in the second half, and both teams had good sights of goal, but the game increasingly had the feel of one when no team were destined to score, and so it proved. So, a valuable point for the hosts, but they probably deserved all three. It would be a worry that their forwards seemed to lose their way in the final third, but they looked solid enough. Presumably this was just an off day for Chelmsford, but they will certainly need to show a lot more invention and energy if they are to make another push for promotion this season.