Non League Club

All in the line of duty

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on September 1, 2011

“All Police leave cancelled”…That was the message pinned up to the notice board at Imber Court two weeks ago.  The Notting Hill carnival was in town and worried about the risk of a repeat in the “civil disorder” all spare members of the police in London were put on standby.  This meant that Met Police’s games versus Wingate & Finchley and Leatherhead were moved.  Despite what people may think, there is no longer any requirement for the team to be made up of serving police officers but the administrative staff at Imber Court, the home of the Met Police Sports and Social club are.

Met Police are not the best supported team in the league, you may be surprised to know.  Last season they averaged 123 and in their opening game this season it was less than 100.  The majority of most attendances are away fans.  But does that impact the players?  Not one bit.  They play football at this level because they love the game.

The ground at Imber Court is widely regarded as one of the best in the Non Leagues. With a full time groundsmen and policemen walking around all day they do not suffer the same issues many other clubs have.  With the right infrastructure off the pitch, the club are finally putting together a decent side on the pitch.

Last season they were promoted from the Ryman South.  On three other occasions in the past five seasons they had lost in the final of the end of season play offs, and must have thought their day would never come.  But last season they went into the final day of the season knowing that it would take a miracle at Chatham Town, where league leaders Bognor Regis Town were the visitors.  Chatham had to get a result and hope other games would go in their favour to save them from relegation.  But on that day in April Miracles did happen.  Chatham held The Rocks to a draw and Met Police’s 1-0 win at Merstham enabled them to leap over them and win the league on the narrowest of margins (by a goal difference “difference” of 1).  Bognor’s misery was completed a week later when they lost to 5th place Dulwich Hamlet, who finished 31 points behind them.  In the play off final 4th place Leatherhead beat Dulwich 4-3 on extra time to join the Met Police in the Ryman Premier.

And so just under four months later the two promoted teams were meeting again.  Last season they met twice, with the Met Police winning both games.  So far this season the Met Police side had won one and lost one (to Lewes) whilst Leatherhead had lost all three of their games so far.

It did feel a bit weird wandering through the ground when I arrived.  You just got “that feeling” that you were being watched.  It is a fantastic venue and away fans will feel very spoilt this season.  There appeared to be a bumper crowd in, which is not surprising as Leatherhead had travelled all of 8 miles to this game, and essentially it was the only football in the south of England.  Rumours spread that the Chairman of the club himself, Desmond Flanders were in attendance too.  A high endorsement if there ever was one.

Metropolitan Police 2 Leatherhead 1 – Imber Court – Wednesday 31st August 2011
The Tanners miserable start to the season continued after they threw away three points in this game, having put themselves in a perfect position to grab a victory with just fifteen minutes to go.  It was certainly a feisty affair with the referee pulling out his yellow card on half a dozen occasions.  It could and should be said that one or two of the challenges were worth a red.

The game started at a very fast tempo and Met Police should have scored early on when Tyron Smith blasted wide when it was easier to score.  But just a few minutes later Met Police did take the lead when Stafforde Palmer beat two defenders on the edge of the area before planting the ball in the corner of the net under a heavy challenge.

The rest of the first half seemed to be played out in the Met Police half with the Tanners putting pressure on the home team’s goal.  Butler in the Police goal came under significant pressure, not least from a very late challenge by the Leatherhead centre forward some five seconds after he gathered the ball in a Nat Lofthouse style challenge.  Some referees would have seen that as a red card offence so he can think himself lucky that it was only a yellow.

The second half saw the visitors come out of the blocks attacking, obviously sent out with a flee in their ears from legendary manager Mick Sullivan.  They finally got their reward just after the hour mark when Craig Davies smashed the ball home from close range in front of the travelling fans.  At this point you wouldn’t put any money on anything bar an away win, but a lapse in concentration ended up costing Leatherhead dear.

Tony Finn, the Met Police wide man was allowed far too much space to run at the defenders and before they could commit themselves he was skipping past them.  The Leatherhead keeper came out to try and narrow the angle but Finn shot first time, finding the corner of the net with accuracy.

Full time brought a collective groan from the Leatherhead fans.  This wasn’t the start they had envisaged whilst Met Police can be happy to record their second win in three games.  Onwards and upwards.

More pictures from the evening’s festivities can be found here.

Hot Fuzz

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on August 25, 2011

It is amazing how quickly the optimism of pre-season evaporates.  After three seasons of toil and struggle, resulting in relegation from the Blue Square Bet South last season, we headed up to Suffolk on Saturday expecting a change in fortunes.  And then we came home again with that same sinking feeling of defeat, failing to get out of first gear against a team who will undoubtably be challenging for promotion come what May (or April).

But 100 hours is a long time in football, and so the optimism had crept back this week with the anticipation of the first home game of the season.  For me it also meant much more.  This was my first game as an owner of a football club.  My football club.

Community ownership in football clubs is the new evolution, and it is starting from the ground upwards.  FC United of Manchester, AFC Telford United, Runcorn Linnets and Halifax are all other examples of clubs in the Non Leagues getting it right.  AFC Wimbledon have now moved into the Football League, joining Exeter City and then there is the success at Swansea City, who are part Community owned.  Is it any wonder that confidence of a good season on the pitch at Lewes follows the success of the change in ownership model off the pitch.  And it is not too late for anyone else to join.  Less than 80pence per week and you too could be walking through the gates proudly sporting your owners badge.

Three years ago, Lewes’s first home game of the season was a “local derby” versus Crawley Town in the Blue Square Conference.  Time can be a cruel mistress.  This week Crawley Town were away to Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup, a brief distraction from the Football League Division 2 where they sat top of the table.  Lewes on the other hand have moved the other way and now had a home tie with the Met Police to look forward to.  Who wants to play at grounds like Selhurst Park anyway.

I was also excited as I would be joined by CMF for this game.  As we were still sans children we decided to relive a bit of our youth with a meal out and then a football match.  A night out with Deaks and Dave took us back to those barmy nights in Kos when we first met.

Lewes 1 Met Police 0 – The Dripping Pan – Wednesday 24th August 2011
Let’s dispel a myth before all of the fun starts.  You no longer have to be a serving policeman to play for the Met Police team, so there is no fear of retribution in the form of a search warrant for a mistimed tackle or over eager shoulder charge.

The other apparent downside of being the “official team” of the police is away support is a bit thin on the ground.  In fact we officially classed the away following as one, although that may have been a bit harsh, as Danny Last pointed out, some may have been “undercover”.

Pre-match excitement came from somebody who said they saw Kenneth Brannagh in the ground.  What deluded fool thought such a thing?  I ask you! (For the record, he does look bloody like Ken).  Once that little issue was sorted it was on to the BIG pre-match news.  Homemade Chicken and Ham pies were on the menu.  I’m sorry but Pukka pies may be, well, “pukka”, but these beauties were tip top.  Worth the admission price alone, said one of the stewards, who of course didn’t have to pay to get in anyway.

It was good to see so many members sporting their badges including The Guardian’s own Paul Hayward and Come Dine With Me’s Dave Lamb on the terraces, and of course the Harveys Best was as good as ever.  All we needed now was a performance on the pitch.

Steve King was still serving his touchline ban so took his seat a good 10 feet away from the dug outs in the main stand.  But he had obviously been unhappy with the performance on Saturday so he started with a more conventional 4-4-2 with the dangerous Ciardini on the left and Paul Booth up front.

The first half ebbed and flowed with no real clear cut chances, apart from an optimistic lob from Small in the opening minutes that just bounced over the bar, and a heart in the mouth moment when Williams ventured out of his area and blocked a Met Police forward.  The referee hadn’t made many friends already in the ground and a few thought that a red card may be forthcoming but fortunately it wasn’t so harsh. Just on the stroke of half time the opening goal came when Booth’s boot met perfectly with the ball on the edge of the box and his volley sneaked into the net.

The second half was not a classic, with both teams threatening to create something but ultimately failing.  Lewes had a great shout for a penalty when Ciardini was tripped, although the referee must have been unsighted based on Mr Boyes’s photo to the right.  Met Police also had a good shout for a spot kick, although it was only fair the referee missed that one as well.

With five minutes of injury time held up, our thoughts went back to games such as Dartford last year when we threw away 3 points, but this team seems to have a bit more belief and concentration.  Full time whistle, three points, thank you very much.  My football club had won!

Roll on Saturday and the visit of Essex’s finest, Billericay Town.