Kent County League Premier Division
The Menace Arena, West Dulwich
Admission and Programme: None
Attendance: 70 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3
With senior football having pretty much drawn to a close for this season, I was left with scouring intermediate and junior football to eek out my groundhopping season today. In the end, it was a toss up between a Spartan South Midlands League Division Two fixture between AFC Southgate and Aston Clinton, which had the attraction of ticking off a ground hosting senior football (Hadley being the landlords), and this fixture, which had the attractions of being closer to home, the home ground is quite well appointed, and the club made impressive efforts to publicise the fixture on social media. In the end, I chose a visit to Peckham, which was just as well as the game at Hadley was called off around midday when the visitors announced that they could not raise a team.
The Menace Arena is about a 15 minute walk from West Dulwich train station, and is located next to the South Circular Road. Formerly the Southwark Sports Ground, an impressive amount of work has been put in to make this a very smart ground with excellent facilities far above what one usually encounters at Step 7. Attractive, prominent roadside signage welcomes visitors to the entrance of the ground in one corner, and first of all there is a narrow, old and precariously looking stand, half of which covers one row of eight old fashioned seats. Then, the clubhouse straddles the half way line, containing a tea bar window inside and a seating area. Along this length, hard standing is set quite a distance from the pitch, with grass to stand on close to the railing, and indeed there is no hard standing around the rest of the pitch. Behind the goal closest to the entrance there is a stand immediately behind the goal, while straddling the half way line opposite the clubhouse is a further stand, containing three rows of wooden sheets to sit on. Behind the remaining goal there is just hard standing. The stands and pitchside hoardings attached to the railings are brightly and colourfully decorated in club colours, and with trees closely lining both goals and a second pitch behind the length with the stand, this is a really attractive ground, despite a little shabbiness along one length. Some good music playing on the loud speakers before kick and as the teams walked onto the pitch certainly enhanced the relaxed, welcoming spirit of the place. It has the feel of a senior venue, apart from the mainly grass standing, an absence of dugouts, and perhaps more crucially, a lack of floodlights. Whilst they have applied for promotion to senior football again this year, it is difficult to imagine that the final answer will be positive. As usual here, no programmes were produced today.
There was not that much riding on this fixture. Peckham came into this game in fourth place, following 13 wins and five draws from 26 league games, and would have to win both of their final games and hope Bexley lose their one remaining game to finish third. Borden Village, for whom today would be their final fixture of the season, were in sixth place, following 12 wins and four draws from their 27 league games. Realistically, they could not rise any places as a result of today’s game, but could drop two if they lost. When the two teams met in the league in September, Peckham won 1-4, although when they met in the Inter-Regional Challenge Cup in January, Bexley won 1-0.
The second half was virtually a repeat of the first half, with not much action to make the heart race, although Peckham looked slightly the more likely to score. On 80 minutes, an excellent measured shot from just outside the area heading for the top corner forced a good finger tip save, and five minutes later the home side were awarded a penalty, when a shot heading for top corner was saved by the hand of a defender, who was then shown the inevitable red card. The ball was struck low in the bottom left corner, despite the keeper going the right way. Peckham saw the game out quite comfortably to finish their season on a high, but Bexley also winning means that Peckham finished the season in fourth place. Borden Village will finish in sixth, as both teams below them lost today.
There was much to really enjoy about today, with the friendliness and hard working spirit obvious all around the place, and hopefully that is rewarded with good times to come for the club. Today was a good example of why I enjoy groundhopping in May - visiting clubs that I would not normally visit during the regular season, but prove absolute gems when the opportunity arises.