Sunday, 24 April 2016

Concord Rangers 0 v 1 Havant and Waterlooville

Saturday 23rd April 2016
National League South
Thames Road, Canvey Island
Admission: Free
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 435
Match Rating: 2

Once I saw this match was advertised as offering free entry early in the week, my mind was made up to tick off this ground, which I tried to do last year when Concord Rangers also offered free entry, but long delays approaching the Dartford Tunnel meant that I had to divert elsewhere.

Thames Road is located in the western part of Canvey Island, just under three miles from the nearest train station at Benfleet, and whilst it does not boast an attractive or quaint background, it certainly is unusual. After entering through a neat brick turnstile block, the modern designed clubhouse, which was refurbished last summer, is situated to the left, with the pitch to the right, after passing the tea hut. Along the length closest to the entrance is the main stand, all-seater with only half a dozen rows, with a couple of small metallic all-seater stands located immediately adjacent on either side. Along the opposite length, there are two further metallic all-seater stands situated either side of the dug outs, whilst behind both goals there are covered areas over a couple of terrace steps. As for the background, behind one length is a caravan park close behind, behind the other there are gas works buildings, whilst sewage treatment works are situated behind the goal opposite the clubhouse. In summary, although the ground is neat and tidy, it has the feel of one that should host a club several tiers lower in the pyramid, but it is perfect adequate for the club and is a sign of the excellent progress the club has made since climbing from the Essex Senior League in 2008. The programme was attractively laid out and printed on good quality paper but was a little light on interesting content.

After Concord Rangers lost at home to Truro in midweek, they cannot now make the play-offs. They came into this match in tenth place, with 15 wins and nine draws from their 40 league games. There was much more left to play for for today's visitors, who came into this game second bottom, with 11 wins and nine draws from their 39 games, and two points adrift of safety and fourth bottom Margate, although they have a game in hand on all clubs around them, so survival is very much in their hands. In their reverse league fixture in December, Havant and Waterlooville won 2-1. An interesting aspect of this match would be that Concord Rangers have had a relatively poor record at home, with six wins and 10 defeats from their 20 home games, whilst Havant have won just one of their 20 away league games.

On a chilly afternoon, Concord Rangers put in a poor perfomance on their Community Day (hence the free admission, with donations being invited for a local charity). The visitors started much the better, and they deservedly took the lead. The ball was lumped down the left wing, Shamir Mullings did excellently to nod the ball a couple of times around a covering defender to get to the byline before pulling the ball back to Ben Swallow who fired in from 8 yards out. They continued to look the better side during the first half, and deservedly held a narrow half time lead.

Into the second half and the home side put in an improved performance, with most of the play in Havant's half, but they never really looked likely to score, and Havant held on for a deserved and what could turn out to be a crucial three points, with both of their remaining games at home. Perhaps the match was a reflection on it being much more important to the visitors than the hosts, as Concord Rangers put in a generally uninspired performance, which was disappointing on their big Community Day.

Video footage of the goal can be viewed by clicking here

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