Non League Club

Draycott, Lord of the Manor

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on April 14, 2012

“Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity”

Every football team in every season has one defining event, the moment that decides the fate of the team, the players, the manager and the club. That moment may be a refereeing decision, a piece of individual brilliance or simply a team collectively not turning up on the day. But you can look back at the history books and find that compelling event. In this season’s Premier League there have been many, but if Manchester United take the title, many will point to the events of Easter Sunday as that moment when United got a fortuitous refereeing decision in their game versus QPR and then a few hours later Mikel Arteta’s last minute winner for Arsenal against Manchester City all but ended their challenge.

But for Lewes that moment still hasn’t really happened yet, or so we think. We could point to the last minute equaliser at home against Lowestoft Town, or Billericay Town’s 93rd minute winner in March. But with games running out perhaps the most defining moment was going to come at Hayes Lane, BR2 when the Rooks were going to take on Cray Wanderers. Fifth place taking on sixth, separated by just one point. A draw would open the door for Hendon, Wealdstone or Canvey Island; defeat for the Rooks would almost spell the end of the play-off charge; a win for Cray would see them with a foot in the end of season lottery.

The mood around the club had been improving almost every day since mid January. The all conquering Lewes Ladies, the Rookettes, had secured the South East Combination title some weeks ago and would be welcoming the likes of West Ham, Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur to the Dripping Pan.  In addition they had the small matter of the Ryman Cup final next week versus Eastbourne Town. The Youth team are one game away from winning the Ryman League South (albeit they have to play the team who are top, away and win by three clear goals).  And then there is the first team.

Cray Wanderers continue to surprise me.  They are a tiny club in comparison to the likes of Lowestoft Town, Wealdstone or Lewes.  They ground share with Bromley FC, have average attendances of 193 this season and rarely take more than a Smart car full of fans to away games.  Yet, just like last season, they are still in with a shout of promotion via the play offs.

The club also dream of “going back home”.  When they were founded back in 1860 by workers building the railway line through Kent they were the third oldest club in the world.  Quite who they played during this period is unknown as the two others were local neighbours Sheffield FC and Hallam.  For those unfamiliar with the area, the Cray is a river than used to run from the Thames Estuary, close to Dartford and down towards Bromley.  However, the club have not been able to find a home back in this area for decades.  Hope is on the horizon though and they are planning on developing a site in Star Lane and have made an excellent video about their plans.

But today playing at Hayes Lane, Bromley suited me fine.  A short journey 15 minutes from TBIR Towers and I was in the quite bizarre Barrel and Hole in Bromley High Street.  £5.15 for a pint of Innis and Gunn wasn’t the first surprise – that was reserved for the prevalence of rocking chairs instead of normal chairs and big luggage cases instead of tables.  Quite a strange choice to meet the rest of the Lewes Lunatic Fringe in.  So much so than they took one look of the picture I tweeted and headed into Weatherspoons opposite the station.

Cray Wanderers 0 Lewes 1 – Hayes Lane – Saturday 14th April 2012
Current form doesn’t lie and so coming into this game Lewes were top of the table from the last eight games.  And bizarrely at the end of 90 minutes they had dropped down into third place despite another excellent win on the road.  It certainly was a game of two halves as Lewes dominated the attacking play in the first half, and showed strength at the back in the second.  One Ian Draycott header was enough for all three points and finally, after months of downward trending, push the Rooks back into the play off zone.

There was two surprise guests when we arrived at the ground.  First up was Current Mrs Fuller, who had manage to escape from Littlest Fuller duties for an afternoon and thought she would spend some time with the man of her dreams.  But he was busy so she came along to football (boom-boom).  And then in the bar was none other than Steve King, ex-Lewes manager who had come along to cheer the team on (I would imagine).

Lewes started the more positive of the two teams, with young Charlie Leech slotting in a full back instead of Kamara and Chris Breach back in midfield.  For the first twenty minutes the ball hardly left the Cray Wanderers half, although there were few chances.  However, it was inevitable that a goal would come and sure enough on 25 minutes it was the Rooks who took the lead when Ian Draycott stooped to head home with ease after a well worked move involving Harding and Crabb.

It should have been two or three by half time with Crabb and Booth both going close, testing the Cray keeper, whilst Matt Ingram at the other end could have had a wander into the Town Centre such was the threat on his goal.

The second half was really a battle of the midfields, with Lewes’s unlikely pairing of centre-back Chris Breach and centre-forward Ian Draycott dominating the play.  Nathan Crabb was the star again, simply for his continuous running and chasing and he was unlucky not to double the score when Harry Harding’s free kick fell at his feet but for a great save by the Cray keeper.

The clock ticked down and we amused ourselves by looking at the score at Upton Park where Brighton had been hit for six.  I mean, who would fancy paying £45 for that type of privilege as an away fan eh Mr Last? (Especially if you have to sit in the home end to witness it).  Other results started filtering through before the 90 minutes were up in our game.  Wins for Bury Town, Wealdstone, Canvey Island and Hendon took the gloss of this victory for Lewes, but even still, the win pushed us into 5th place and come the end of the season that would be enough to go into the play offs.

Two weeks to go and next up would be a trip to the seaside to visit the Beach Boys at Concord Rangers.  Time to get out the fancy dress I think.


Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on September 13, 2010

Life must have been swimmingly for South Park FC up until Trey Parker and Matt Stone shared a beer in a bar in Colorado in the mid 1990′ and came up with the characters Stan, Kyle, Eric and Kenny who became the worldwide cult TV series South Park.  Overnight the club and its fans became the butt of jokes about chocolate salty balls and Mr Hankey.  The Barmy Army, as the club are also known as could do nothing but to ride out the storm in Crawley & District Leagues.

However, things started to change on the pitch.  The club were promoted in 2006 to the Combined Counties Football League, step six in the pyramid and thus allowing them to enter the national competitions for the first time.  Last season they made their debut in the FA Vase, losing in the second round to Shoreham.  This year it was the turn of the FA Cup.

In early August they played Greenwich Borough in Bromley, beating them 2-1.  In round two they thrashed Horsham YMCA of the Isthmian League 4-0 setting up their biggest game in their history against Isthmian League Premier Division team Cray Wanderers.

For me this would be a second FA Cup game in twenty four hours – a rare privilege in the Fuller household, but as I had been on childcare duty all day yesterday, I had earnt Husband of the year award (other candidates were John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Tiger Woods) and was allowed to hop on the bus for this one.  Let me rephrase that – hop on the bus.  Yes, we were going to do our bit for the environment by sitting on a dirty old bus as it idled in traffic.  Route 314 runs literally from TBIR towers to Hayes Lane, home of Bromley FC and tenants Cray Wanderers.  And to make the trip even better we were going to meet up with FA Cup experts The Real FA Cup team, who had taken the healthy option with a cycle down from their vast estate in South London.  If this game would be anything like South Park’s victoryagainst Greenwich Borough in the Extra Preliminary Round then we would be in for a treat, especially if there was a repeat of the “drinking alcohol from plastic glasses”.

Now Cray Wanderers – that is a story! Formed in 1860 by workers who were building the London to Kent coast railway in the St Mary’s Cray/Orpington area, and thus making them one of the oldest football clubs in the world.  But answer me this?  If they were the second oldest club (behind Sheffield FC) in England, who did they play?  And why form a club if you cannot play against anyone?  Not that it matters today – the club are still going strong 150 years later, holding their own in the Rymans Premier League which is the highest level they have played at.  As a mark of respect to their history the club are wearing a very fetching Brown and Amber kit for the season.

Cray Wanderers 1 South Park 0 – Hayes Lane Stadium – Sunday 12th September
For the second time in 24 hours the game was decided by a late goal and a contraversial sending off decision.  However, this time it was the home team who won the game with a man less after Chris Saunders was sent off on 15 minutes for a challenge that could at best be described as competitive.  A more experienced referee would have issued a yellow, but swayed by a vocal away following saw a red card being brandished by referee Pickard.

South Park came to frustrate and even with a man advantage they rarely ventured forward until the last fifteen minutes.  It was left to Cray to try and break the deadlock, but more often than not their final ball was easily dealt with by an organised South Park defence.

Star of the show had to be South Park keeper.  For those of you who haven’t seen ex-West Ham hard man Julian Dicks (now manager of Grays Athletic) for awhile then here was his doppleganger.  Dicks himself once went in goal for West Ham, in the days before 3 million substitutes were allowed when Ludo Miklosko was sent off away at Everton.  Such was his performance on the night that he won the Sky Man of the Match award despite the Hammers 3-0 defeat.

Time and time again he spread his ample frame to stop the ball with any part of his body as Cray were frustrated to say the least.  ITV Sport who were here to record this for their season long coverage would be making comparisons I am sure with Joe Hart and Ben Foster, although Gillingham fans may remember Jim Stannard better. The best chance of the half fell to Hamici who saw his header loop over the keeper, bounce of a post and straight back into his arms.  Charmed I am sure!

The second half started with a discussion between ourselves and our good chums at TheRealFACup on the state of English cricket, as we watched the game next door unfold.  The team batting first managed a huge 279 for 1 (and that one wicket fell with the score on 250) from just 38 overs.  To be truthful there was little in the way of action on the football pitch to keep our interest levels up and if Paddy or Fred (or even that lad Broke) would have come along, I would have put Lolly’s pocket money on a draw.  Cray Wanderers’ Sawyer had the best chance of the half when for once keeper Wastell was woefully out of position but he headed well over from just 6 yards.  As if to refocus their cause South Park should have taken the lead themselves as a smart move down the left saw the ball roll across the six yard line only for South Park’s Parker kicked thin air.

As the game entered time added on the odds on a winner increased greater than Avram Grant lasting until Christmas at Upton Park.  South Park, unsurprisingly were playing for the draw, enjoying their biggest day out ever in the South London sunshine.  They had frustrated Cray Wanderers, rarely troubling them apart from the 10 minute blitz on the home team’s goal late on in the game.

However, with the last attack of the game the ball fell to Laurent Hamici just inside the area and he was able to turn and slot the ball home, setting up a plum home tie in the next round with Ebbsfleet United.  Perhaps by then the cricket next door may have just reached 50!

So the headline writers will have to put away their South Park encyclopedias for another year.  They came, they fought and they went home deservedly very proud of their cup run this year.  And for me, well a 314 home and a few days off before we turned our attention back to the Allsvenskan in Sweden where we would be seeing perhaps the Championship decider.

For more photos from our day out in the sunshine click here. For a more “interesting” view on the game read the report here.