Isthmian League Division One North
Park Drive, Maldon
Match Rating: 4
With my car being being serviced the morning, I decided today would be a good day to drive somewhere, to a destination that is not easily reached by public transport. And so I headed through the Dartford Tunnel towards a very pleasant part of eastern Essex, for my second footballing visit to the county in less than a week.
Park Drive is over six miles from the nearest rail station at Hatfield Peveral, and on a pleasant day, it is well worth arriving in town some time ahead of kick off, to explore the historic town centre and the Promenade Park a couple of minutes walk from the ground, where one can enjoy walks along a river estuary and with pleasant views to the town and Hythe Quay, with its many and varied boats moored up. On entering the ground in one corner, I was impressed by a very friendly welcome from the gateman, young programme sellers, and this friendly feeling remained throughout my stay. Along the length is a large brick building containing the changing rooms, club house and various function rooms, set some way back from the pitch, with a patio area with tables and benches spread around, giving a spacious and relaxed feel to the area. From the changing rooms, there is a covered walkway towards the pitch for the players, which connects to another brick installation containing toilets, and small covered standing areas either side of the dugouts. Straddling the halfway line on the other side is an all-seater stand, with its sign still welcoming visitors to Maldon Town FC, four years after the club reformed as Maldon and Tiptree. A large grass bank along this length makes a nice backdrop. Behind one of the goals is a further all-seater stand, whilst just hard standing is available behind the other goal - although this area was flooded today. Trees behind this goal gives another pleasant backdrop to the ground. All in all, its a neat and welcoming venue. The programme was a very pleasant surprise, priced at just £1, and was of very good quality. 32 pages in all colour, an acceptable amount of advertising, and with all of the stats, facts and comment that one could reasonably hope for at this level.
Maldon and Tiptree have had quite a difficult start to their season, coming into this game third from bottom in the table, having lost 12 of their 19 games, winning four of them, and they went through a run of losing ten straight league and cup games in September/October. In the middle of that run, they appointed former Wimbledon player Alan Kimble as boss, which has brought about a slight upturn in fortunes, winning one and drawing one against teams in the top half, although they lost 1-3 at Dereham in their last game. Waltham Abbey were in eleventh place, winning eight and drawing five of their 19 league games, and came into this game in good form, beaten only once in their last six league games.
After recent prolonged heavy rain, the pitch here was in remarkably good condition, looking firm and did not cut up as the game progressed. On a dull, dank afternoon with intermittent rain during the first half, this was a very entertaining game, which the home side surprisingly dominated throughout - even if the scoreline did not always reflect this. With just two minutes on the clock, the home side should have taken the lead, when Nathan Korangteng saw his shot from an angle parried and Cliff Akurang saw his shot somehow parried wide although the keeper really should not have been given the chance. It was against the run of play when the visitors took the lead, Harry Elmes cutting in from the left wing and pulled the ball back from the byline, allowing Jason Hallett an easy tap home from a central position. Their lead was to last barely a minute though. Korangteng dribbled around the edge of the area but then suddenly fired in a fabulous shot into the top corner, giving the keeper no chance. They went into the lead on 25 minutes, when Tunde Andewumni gained possession of the ball after a mix up between visiting defenders, and he strode forward before placing a lovely low curling shot just inside the far post. It was a deserved lead, but Waltham Abbey levelled the scores four minutes before half time. Elmes crossed the ball from the right and Jon Docker hit a shot on the turn at the edge of the area that, although was not cleanly struck, still found its way inside the near post.
So after an entertaining first half which saw Maldon and Tiptree surprisingly dominant, but one would imagine that Waltham Abbey would improve in the second half. That certainly did not happen though, as the home side deservedly went back into the lead on 55 minutes. Adewunmi got on the end of the low long ball forward, and after trying to dribble around the keeper, who had come out of his area to meet the ball, Adewunmi passed the ball to Cliff Akurang, who lobbed the ball into the net via the underside of the bar. Maldon and Tiptree sealed the three points on 70 minutes when Koranteng chased a long ball towards the corner flag, just beating the keeper who yet again was too easily tempted away from his goal, before passing into the centre and Adewunmi just managed to beat a defender to apply the finishing touch into the unguarded net. That pretty much killed the game, as Maldon and Tiptree looked comfortable holding onto their lead and Waltham Abbey never looking likely to threaten to pull a goal back. This was a very entertaining game of football though, and it was a shame that so few people were there to witness it. On the evidence of today, with their pace and guile up front, it would appear that Maldon and Tiptree are in something of a false position in the table, and should climb the table in the coming weeks, whilst presumably this was just something of a bad day at the office for Waltham Abbey.