Friday, 4 October 2013

Rochester United 0 v 1 Lordswood

Tuesday 1st October 2013
Southern Counties East League
Rede Court Lane, Strood
Admission: £5.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 61
Match Rating: 3

I decided to visit a new ground this evening, and my first taste of the Southern Counties East League since it was renamed during the summer – in all but name, it is still the Kent League, with only one club currently located outside of Kent. This evening’s visit would also allow me to tick off the final ground in the league for me.

Rede Court Road is located adjacent to Watling Street, the old London to Dover Roman Road, nowadays the A2, just west of Strood town centre and about a half hour walk from Strood train station. One enters the ground some distance behind one of the goals, with the grassed area in between used by players to warm up before the game. There is a portakabin by one corner of the pitch to take admission money, but spectators have to consciously head for the portakabin to pay – as the area behind the goal is completely open, spectators can very easily not head to the portakabin and watch the game for free. Note should be made of a very reasonable and sensible entry fee here, unlike at certain other venues in this league where £7 and even £8 can be encountered. A new concrete path surrounds three sides of the ground, with the remaining end behind the goal further from the entrance out of bounds. All of the spectator accommodation is situated along the length to the right of where one enters, with a clubhouse and separate tea bar hutch, and covered seating straddles the half way line, partly overlapping in front of the clubhouse. Clearly a lot of effort is ongoing to get the ground up to senior standard, and credit to the league for allowing the club in to the league without demanding improvements are made beforehand. On entering the Kent League at the start of last season, the club changed their name from Bly Spartans, and it is interesting to note that only a Bly Spartans sign is located on front of the clubhouse, and a Bly Spartans sign is located next to a Rochester United one on the entrance gate. This may be a deliberate attempt to keep the memory of their former name alive. The programme certainly looked the part, on glossy paper, printed with colour and very well laid out, a very good effort for this league.

This evening’s game would be a local derby, with the two clubs separated by six miles. Both teams find themselves in the bottom half of the table, Lordswood the higher of the two teams, in ninth place in the 17 team division having won three and drawn two of their eleven games so far, and are three points better off than Rochester, with two wins and two draws  from their nine games. The two teams have already met in the league this season, Rochester claiming a 0-4 away win in Walderslade on August Bank Holiday Monday.

On a mild evening, it was clear from the start that Lordswood would prove a much tougher proposition than in the reverse fixture, as they played by far the better football and did most of the attacking. Amongst the many chances they created, on seven minutes a shot from a corner appeared to be handled on the line, a follow up shot was cleared off the link and a further shot was hit narrowly over the bar. They deservedly did take the lead on 21 minutes when a one-two released James Simmons down the right wing, who drove a low ball across the box, evading a host of players before falling at the feet of Steve Read, who drilled a low shot into the net from just inside the box. Lordwood really should have scored a couple more goals but squandered some presentable chances, and it was only in the last couple of minutes of the first half that Rochester finally threatened to score an equaliser, but 0-1 was the scoreline at half time.

Into the second half and Rochester continued their momentum and the match became a much more even affair, although the home side never really convinced that they were likely to grab an equaliser and Lordswood held on for a deserved victory.

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