Non League Club

Making a point

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on February 16, 2014

12520209934_e738e1d69e_oIt’s Saturday and of course that means there isn’t a game for Lewes.  It actually could be any day of the week at the moment and the game wouldn’t be on.  The rules state that we actually had to wait until Friday to officially call the game off, although the persistent rain during the last week had left a lake the size of the a swimming pool across the pitch.

The latest postponement, the fifth in succession, means that the club have played just two games at the aptly named Dripping Pan since November.  Somehow, somewhere we have to fit in nine games that have now been postponed.  Lewes aren’t the worst hit team by any means – Grays Athletic have played four games less than us and are still in the Ryman League Cup.

The debate over 3G continues to rage with over 550 games now postponed in the Ryman League.  Whilst all of the clubs (bar Maidstone United and Harlow Town) are trying to think of ways to recover the revenues that they have lost, the Ryman League sit silently, waiting for someone to do something.  The one thing that is certain is that next season they will have to act differently.

12557923993_23bbba4781_oMost clubs and their fans expressed concern about the decision to increase the league size from 22 to 24 teams last year.  Winter’s have been harsh in the Non-Leagues in recent times, resulting in some huge fixture pile ups which devalue the whole point of playing a league over nine months.  The answer?  Well, we could opt out of the Ryman League Cup if we wanted – hardly a compromise in most club’s eyes.  Surely the most logical option would have been to start the season a week earlier (as the Football League did) or even extending the season into May (as the Football League do).  Common sense?

My Saturday mornings recently had taken on a similar theme.  Draw up a list of potential games to go to, watch them all slowly fail pitch inspections via Twitter and then at 2pm scramble around for a game to go to.  These days it’s not just about watching a game for a game’s sake (cue corporate line here for the sake of the Current Mrs Fuller), I had the opportunity to do some secret scouting on one of our forthcoming opponents.  With three of them managing to have a game within half an hour of TBIR Towers I had my afternoon mapped out.  The lucky winners were Thamesmead Town who were hosting high-flying Wealdstone.

12544128995_53187b8cdf_bRomance was still in the air when I arrived at Bayliss Avenue.  The club was handing out roses to any ladies coming through the turnstiles to mark Valentine’s Day.  The club have made massive strides in recent years, converting the basic ground into a real community facility.  The installation of their 3G pitch adjacent to the ground has given them an ongoing revenue source.  In harsh times like these, many clubs in the lower steps of the Non-League structure in Kent have been using the facilities here to play their games.  No irony here at all that clubs with fewer resources are the ones who have the means (and are allowed) to continue to play their games.  Despite having the facilities at their ground, Thamesmead Town aren’t allowed to use the pitch for themselves if the main pitch is unplayable.

Wealdstone were the visitors, almost doubling the average attendance at Bayliss Avenue and boosting the takings over the bar.  You cannot fault their loyalty to following the Stones away from home, with well over a hundred fans making their first visit to Thamesmead to see whether they could make up ground on the top two, Dulwich Hamlet and Maidstone United.

New Picture (52)With so many teams having played different numbers of games, it is hard to really see what the true league positions should be.  Lewes had dropped down the table from 7th in late November to 12th before this game, both as a result of a serious lack of games, but also due to drawing six of the eight games in that period.  So what would the real league table look like if we had been able to play all of the scheduled games?  Well thanks to my complex financial modelling I can now exclusively reveal what the true Ryman League table would look like.

So the visitors would be sitting pretty at the top if all things were equal.  But we know that football isn’t that predictable, otherwise my weekly accumulator would see me dine on Filet Steak and drinking Adnam’s Ghost Ship every week.

Thamesmead Town 0 Wealdstone 2 – Bayliss Avenue – Saturday 15th February 2014
Prior to kick off, Thamesmead manager Keith Mahon was recognised for the performance of the month for January with regard to Mead’s fantastic 4-1 victory over league leaders Maidstone United.  Any hopes of a repeat performance over another Stones team dissolved within 90 seconds of kick off in the bright sunshine when James Hammond overlapped down the right hand side, whipped his cross in and Michael Malcolm swept the ball into the net.  The romance was dead.

12544118925_cd1ef047fe_bIn truth this was a walk in the sunshine for Wealdstone who were rarely troubled.  Thamesmead got stronger as the game progressed, playing the ball around midfield well although without any threat up front, the Wealdstone centre-backs had an easy afternoon.  At half-time Bartlett saw a weakness in the Thamesmead backline (he must have been reading my notes) and changed the 4-3-2-1 to a more traditional 4-4-2 with Malcolm pushed in from a wide position to play alongside McGleish up front.  Sorry, tactical analysis over.

Fifteen minutes into the second period Wealdstone were awarded a penalty.  No real complaints on the decision, although the referee had let worse challenges go at the other end of the pitch and so you could understand the frustration of the Thamesmead bench.  Cronin stepped up and smashed the ball home to double the lead.

Full-time saw the Stones fans celebrate a decent win.  Their afternoon was made all the more sweeter by defeats for Kingstonian, Dulwich Hamlet and Maidstone United. It’s still not clear what the situation with Maidstone United is in terms of whether they will be allowed to even take part in the Play-offs but with wins for AFC Hornchurch and the form of Bognor Regis Town with seven wins out of their last eight games it may not yet be a done-deal.  Perhaps romance isn’t quite dead, although it may take the creative brain of Shelley, Byron or Audley to find a story that sees Thamesmead avoiding the drop at the end of the season.

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A Gray day I could Ilford to miss

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on October 7, 2012

Some time very soon we will be up in arms about the death of another football club in London. It is a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon at 3.05pm and I have joined barely 150 other paying spectators who are watching Grays Athletic take on Needham Market in the 8th level of English football. Why are there so few fans bothered about football at this level? Well, a scan on the immediate horizon will give you a good idea.

Just as the hosts breath down the Needham Market goal in the first minute of the game, Leyton Orient are holding their own against Sheffield United at the Matchroom Stadium and the mighty Dagenham & Redbridge are probing at Bradford City defence less than 2 miles down the Rainham Road. Two nPower Football League games kicking off at the same time. Oh, and of course let’s not forget that if ESPN didn’t have their way West Ham would have been hoofing high balls into the Arsenal box at Upton Park as well at this time.

So perhaps we can see why there are only just a few hardy souls in the Rush Green Sports and Leisure Centre for this game. But it is not just Grays who face this issue of trying to compete with the big boys this afternoon. Local rivals Redbridge and Ilford are around 2 miles North and West respectively, who both average less than 70 fans for their home games, although a late postponement of the game at Redbridge doesn’t trouble the turnstile operators elsewhere. Even if these clubs were to admit fans for free I doubt they would be able to increase attendances by more than 10-15%.

That is why next week’s Non-League Day is so important for the professional clubs to get fully behind. Even if 5% of fans from West Ham, Leyton Orient and Dagenham went along to a game next weekend in the local non league area, that would boost attendances for some of these clubs by 2-300%. One percent of West Ham fans deciding to go to Romford v Soham Town Rangers would boost their average attendance from 83 to over 400.  West Ham carry a small piece in their match day programme about next Saturday with really putting their full marketing muscle behind it – could it have hurt to dedicate a page to profiling 4 or 5 local clubs?

So why am I here today? Good question.  Opportunities to come to see the Hammers these days are few and far between.  However, with Lewes out of the FA Cup already, and ESPN showing the WHU game at 5.30pm it was a perfect opportunity for a Fuller Family day out.  Westfield at Stratford City (when did that happen??? I cannot see any cathedral on the horizon), lunch at Jamie Oliver’s gaff then a bit of Christmas shopping (if I do it now I have more time for football nearer Christmas).  However, as I had been a model husband in recent weeks – such as spending last Saturday at Ikea, Current Mrs Fuller “suggested” that I could go to a game earlier, “if logistics permitted”.  What a silly question.  Of course they would.

The initial fly in the ointment was that West Ham v Arsenal appeared to have sold out online.  But a phone call to the ticket office told me otherwise.  There were tickets available in the Family Stand.  Lolly – guess what – you are coming to football and your ticket is only a bargain £23.  This added a layer of complexity into the mix as I would now have to return to Stratford to pick her up prior to the game.

So part one of day negotiated successfully.  It was strange to come back to the Olympic Park and see it still there.  You have this impression that it will have all disappeared.  From the viewing gallery on the 3rd floor at John Lewis’s you can see everything is still there, bar the Hockey Stadium which has already been dismantled.  Good times indeed.  I had chosen Gray Athletic as it was only 15 minutes away, according to Google Maps.  But East London has some of the worst traffic in any city I have visited in the world.  That 15 minutes turned into 50 minutes.  The use of buses on single carriageway roads with no bus lane is a disaster in these parts, as too are complicated junctions with wrongly phases traffic lights – such as Gants Hill roundabout.  But I had allowed plenty of time so by 2.45pm I had arrived at Rush Green.

When I heard in the summer that Grays Athletic had found a new home I was pleased for them.  They had been treated pretty poorly in the last few years.  This was a side that held its own in the Conference for seasons and won the FA Trophy twice less than ten years ago.  Then the financial problems hit of trying to take the club to the next level.  Crowds at their Recreation Ground in the centre of Grays rarely hit the 1,000 mark and they could have never realistically competed in the Football League.  They were forced to leave after failing to re-negotiate a more suitable lease with the owner and took up residence due east in Corringham, home of East Thurrock United.

Rush Green used to be the home of Ford United, the side of Ford Motor Works in Dagenham.  However, they headed north nearly ten years ago to take up residence at Barkingside, later being renamed as Redbridge when the patronage of the now US-owned car giant ended.  Romford FC moved in instead although their tenure only lasted a short while.  Since 2008 the ground had been without a tenant until a deal was done with West Ham to purchase the land with a view to moving their training facility a mile or so south from Chadwell Heath.

With redevelopment still in the planning phase, West Ham agreed that Grays could move into the ground on an initial 18 month contract.  The ground would also host the WHU development squad (the new trendy name for the reserves).  So after weeks of hard work by both clubs, the ground officially re-opened with a friendly with the Hammers in July.

Grays Athletic 1 Needham Market 1 – Rush Green – Saturday 6th October 2012
There are few grounds in England that can boast they are also home to a dog training academy, but Rush Green is one.  Alas, there was no activities going on when I arrived, but I can see this as a step in the right direction for half time entertainment in the future.  Such scenes were common place in the seventies up and down the country.  The single turnstile operator didn’t have a taxing job this afternoon, taking my £8 and marking me on a sheet to show I was the 100th fan through the gate.  Did I win a prize?  Alas, no.

Grays had started the season relatively well, sitting in the playoff spots, with the visitors just three points below.  Last season both sides reached the play off in the Ryman League North and would again be hoping for more of the same.  The first twenty minutes were played at a decent pace although neither keeper was really tested.  The home fans, standing at the top of the main (only) stand were making a fair noise, although with only 170 hardy souls in the ground a sneeze would have caused most people to look around.

Both benches were very vocal.  Gray’s management team were full of encouragement for the effort of the players, whilst the abuse from the visitors side was clear for all including the three or four young fans to hear.  It hardly takes much effort to stamp this out yet it is very rare for any referee to actually take any action.  In fact the referee in this game seemed oblivious to everything going on, except a strange incident in the 35th minute when he saw Grays’s midfielder Jake Hall raise his hands and promptly sent him off.  Most Needham players (and their two fans) were as perplexed by this as too were the Grays fans.  Unfortunately, referees do not have to explain their decisions at any level of football, which is why the whole “respect” campaign will never work.

With almost the last kick of the half Needham missed a sitter – the ball was played across the area and the Needham forward with an open goal just a few yards out hit the post.  With an extra man it would have been a fool to have bet on anything else apart from an away win.  I simply do not buy the managerial bullshit about it being harder to play against 10 men – that is an excuse used by poor tacticians who have failed to win when they have had an advantage.  Case in point – Kettering Town (another club doomed to self implode any day soon due to poor ownership) could only muster 10 players yesterday – they lost 7-0.  If a team who is equal or better than their opponents with even numbers cannot win when that number is reduced by 9% then surely that is down to the inability of the players and management to have a plan B.

Just four minutes into the second half and unsurprisingly Needham take the lead through Wilkinson.  They took advantage of the extra man in midfield, created space and Wilkinson did the rest.  I rest my case.  Although, of course I am later proved wrong when Gray’s equalise through Luke Marshall, but by then thanks to the traffic hell I have left.

All of the main routes back towards the A12 are blocked so I end up going on side roads.  Somehow I end up going towards Ilford and as I stop at some traffic lights I see a sign to my left saying “Ilford FC”.  I know they are at home and I have a ten minute window so it would be rude not to make a short stop, surely?

Ilford play at the Cricklefield Stadium, half a mile from Ilford town centre.  They ground share with Waltham Forest in the tired-looking council-owned multi-purpose ground (aka it has an athletics track).  A new bar and club house has been added to the ground but still if attracting fans to Grays was a task, then doing the same here needs magic.  As I wander in the ground I can count the spectators watching the Ryman League North game between Ilford and Thamesmead Town in less than 60 seconds.  I make out 39 spectators, including myself (The official attendance was later given as 43).  How on earth can a club survive with less than 40 paying spectators?  That is £320 in gate receipts.  If they have a squad of 15 players that would mean they would be on £20 a week and that assumes no money for the manager or coaching team.  The numbers simply do not add up.  The situation is echoed across the Ryman North where 14 of the 22 clubs average less than 100 fans.  In the Ryman Premier, joint leaders Whitehawk had just 74 fans for their game today with Wingate and Finchley, yet have ex-Football League players on their books who wont be playing for the love of the game I expect.

This game will end in a 0-0 draw and few fans who made the trip for the first time will ever return.  That in itself is another issue – little is done to try to engage the fans or make their visit one that will stand out.  Whilst bigger clubs can take some blame for not doing enough to help their little neighbours, the little clubs do not help themselves. Yet just three miles down the A118 (and throw a left down Green Street) it was a whole different world.

West Ham United 1 Arsenal 3 – Upton Park – Saturday 6th October 2012
So my trip into the world of East London football had come a complete circle.  Lolly was picked up, eventually, and we took our seats in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand just a few minutes after kick off.  It was good to see Allardyce had started with Jarvis (why spend £10 million on a player and keep him on the bench?) and Carroll although it was clear to see from when we arrived that the tactics were still from the Charles Hughes tactics manual.  Far too often a long ball would find Carroll and he would have nobody within 30 yards of him to play the ball off to.  Parking the bus is a term that is rarely used to describe a home team’s approach to a game but it applied to this West Ham team.

In some ways can you blame Allardyce?  The Premier League today is all about winning at all costs and with more and more money being funnelled to the elite 18 it is no surprise that promoted teams have to scrap for every single point.  When you play Arsenal you know they will pass the ball around the midfield at pace, looking for the runs of the wide men, so packing the midfield was an obvious tactic to try to prevent that.  Ultimately it failed, which is no embarrassment, but Allardyce’s response of sticking to his plan even when the Hammers were 3-1 down AND then bringing on Carlton Cole shows his tactical vision as well as how West Ham will struggle this season.

The most impressive West Ham player for me was Mohamed Diame, the ex-Wigan centre midfielder who showed why a number of top European sides were interested in him in the summer.  He capped a great performance with a goal after 21 minutes when he cut inside two Arsenal defenders and steered the ball into the top corner of the net.  Against the run of play?  Probably, but it certainly lifted the full house.

The lead lasted until just before half time.  Arsenal broke again with pace, played the ball inside Demel at full back and Podolski was able to get to the by-line, cross and Olivier Giroud stole in front of James Collins to poke home.  I used to be a Collins fans when he was at Upton Park before, but his performances this season have shown a lack of pace and concentration in key areas and this was another example.

Alas, half-times at Upton Park these days are as empty as the stands at Ilford FC.  Gone are the halcyon days of the Hammerettes or the Bonnie Tyler performances.  Sullivan and Gold once promised “world-class entertainment” but instead we get extended adverts on the big screens for a 6-part new DVD about British Gangsters. “Murder, Extortion, Armed Robbery, Revenge”…I am not sure if they are talking about the DVD or paying to watch a game at Upton Park.

The second half saw West Ham try to keep possession more.  After all, if you have the ball then the opposition cannot score – right?  That only works if you can actually pass the ball under pressure.  Far too often West Ham lost the ball in the centre of midfield and you could sense that Arsenal would eventually make them pay.  Walcott came on and took advantage of a static back four to run onto a great through ball from the impressive Carzola to beat Jaaskeleinan at his near post.

West Ham should have then levelled the game when Nolan found himself clean through on goal, but decided to stop and try to beat the defender, which he failed to do.  With Vaz Te off with a dislocated shoulder and Carroll helping out in midfield, Nolan had no choice but to stop as his pace simply wouldn’t keep him ahead of the defence.

The final act was a third Arsenal goal with just a few minutes to go.  Carzola found space behind the West Ham midfield and spotted the West Ham keeper out of position and smashed the ball home from 25 yards.  Queue the resigned air of defeat from 30,000 West Ham fans as they headed for the exit.  With 60% possession and 34 shots to West Ham’s 10 you can say that result was completely justified.  But how different would it have been if we had a manager who played to win?

So my conclusion of a day of East End football was?  The landscape will have to change sooner or later.  If West Ham are allowed to move to the Olympic stadium then it could well spell the last rites for clubs like Ilford, Waltham Forest, Redbridge and Grays Athletic in the local area.  Without a restructure of the way non league funding is provided then there is no financial future for them.  Clubs should not be the play thing of one benefactor – that model has lead to disaster almost everywhere (Max Griggs at Rushden & Diamonds and George Reynolds at Darlington to name but two), but likewise the professional clubs can and should do more to help in their local regions.

Two seasons after turning my back on regular football at Upton Park I was glad to go back but do not regret my choice in where I channel my footballing energy, and I cannot wait for a trip to Hampton & Richmond Borough on Tuesday night.


Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on January 3, 2011

The word Thamesmead normally drives fear into the heart of South East Londoners.  The town was seen as innovative when it was constructed in the late Sixties on the old Royal Arsenal site by the GLC.  Flooding had been an issue in the area so the initial developments were built so that the flats were on the first floor and linked by a series of walkways and bridges.  Sounds idyllic right?  Well not quite.  Mismanagement of the whole project that initially was planned for 100,000 was rife from the start. Promised transport links never materialised (even today with 50,000 residents there is not train station), instead replaces by a dual carriageway that dissects the development, a sewage works and of course Belmarsh high security prison.

To me the word Thamesmead means five things.

1. It was used by Stanley Kubrick to represent the desolate and lawless future in his classic film A Clockwork Orange.

2. It was supposed to be the starting/ending point of the third London river crossing, and a ground breaking ceremony was arranged.  Unfortunately today commuters still have to suffer the daily queues at the Dartford and Blackwall Tunnels.

3. Thamesmead was exposed by the BBC in 2009 as the “fraud capital of England”.

4. 2010 The Apprentice winner Stella English was born and grew up in Thamesmead.

5. Andy “The Viking Fordham, once BDO Darts World Champion has a pub, The Cutty Sark, there.

But we are not here to discuss more trifling matters of society.  Today is all about football.  Football and Thamesmead are hardly two words that people fit together naturally, but I think that soon they will.

At last – 200 words in and I can stop my social lecture and start talking about football.  Thamesmead Town are currently in their third season in the Ryman League North, having been promoted in 2008 from the Kent League.  What is remarkable is that the club have simply continued to grow year in year out, and it can only be a matter of time before they end up in the Isthmian Premier League.

The club made their debut in the Isthmian League Division 1 North in 2008/09 with great anticipation, but also trepidation. It turned out to be a long season, which took time for the team to adjust to losing games by just the odd goal, it was a steep learning curve in season where the club avoided relegation and which was followed behind the scenes by BBC London in their fly on the wall documentary, “The Gaffa”.

However, in 2009/10, the first team consolidated their Isthmian League Division 1 North status finishing the season in the highest position in the clubs history, in 7th place, just outside the play off positions.

Coming into the Christmas period the club were again in 7th place.  As with most clubs at this level, December was a terrible month with just one game being playable meaning not only a potential fixture pile up but also a loss of revenue from a lack of match day activities. With so much money being invested into the Bayliss Avenue ground, it has been a crippling time for the club.  Building work on the new stand and club house had been delayed due to issues with the builders, rendering the club’s car park more like the Hippo enclosure at London Zoo.

So, New Year, new weather?   Absolutely, so we made to short hop across from SE9 for the game against the Motormen of Redbridge.  As the crow flies this was the second closest ground at this level or above to TBIR towers (Welling United being the closest) so it was quite amazing that we had not yet made the trip to see the Mead.  It would also be a chance to meet their coach “Baldy1974” aka Hugo Langton who loves his banter and doses of realism via his twitter feed.

Thamesmead Town 0 Redbridge 2 – Bayliss Avenue – Monday 3rd January 2011
Thamesmead has certainly changed over the past few years.  Smart new houses had gone up on the land around the outside of the “town” and driving down to the ground you could see that at last the authorities were putting in some infrastructure for the residents.   After negotiating the mud bath car park, we went into the cavernous club house for a swift half.  This was possibly the most unusual room we had seen.  It was essentially a bar, but on one side were doors marked “home”, “away” and “referee”.  Players and coaches kept popping in and out, tempted by the smell of beer and bacon rolls.

The ground will be dominated by the new stand and club house when it is finally finished.  For now the “main stand” is a five row temporary structure behind the north goal, with just standing around a barrier for the rest of the ground.

With the A206 passing almost overhead to the south, and planes coming into land at City Airport it was refreshing to see  both teams keeping the ball on the muddy ground.  Thamesmead would have fancied themselves for the win in this one, but in a cagey first half it was Redbridge who created the best  chance when Hyun-Jin Lee pulled his shot across the goal when put through near the end of the half.  Lee was lucky to be still on the pitch after appearing to stamp on a Thamesmead player right in front of the bespectacled “Assistant” referee, who of course didn’t see it.

During the first period we saw the return of the snow, albeit quite light but enough to have fixture secretaries crying into their beer with the prospect of more games to re-arrange.  It is bad enough as it is that at this level clubs will be expected cram in two or three games a week, simply to adhere to the League’s rules about when the season has to finish.  Flexibility is not a word in their vocabulary.

We ventured back into the warmth of the bar at half time, and caught up on events down at The Dripping Pan where Lewes were losing 3-1.  Amazingly enough, as perceptive Lolly pointed out, Lewes could be visiting Thamesmead in a league game in just eight months based on current form.  Three seasons ago the Rooks were heading for the Blue Square Premier, whilst Thamesmead were still in the Kent League.  Football is a cruel game sometimes.

The second half was already under way by the time we headed back out of the warm bar.  Whilst both teams were committed in midfield, spread the ball wide when they could, and looked assured at the back, there was few chances going begging.  If I could get bloody T-Mobile to actually work then I would have had a bet on 0-0 there and then.  Lolly, bless her, after her 30 minute queue in the pouring rain on Saturday for chips, was not on tip top form and so being a great Dad (I was accused otherwise on Saturday for letting her queue up whilst I was in the dry and warm bar) I suggested she went back to the warm bar.  Just as I came back into the ground Redbridge took the lead as Hyun-Jin Lee powered the ball home after Thamesmead had failed to clear the ball into the penalty area.

One became two a few minutes later, although I really cannot tell you what happened.  In a game where the attendance looked less than 100 one of the 2 or 3 people actually taller than me decided to stand in front of me.  Apparently the ball went over the line, although the home team appealed for a foul on the keeper, who lay prostrate on the floor.  When I asked the chap in front of me what happened, he told me he had no idea as he was on the phone.  Thanks for that!

Thamesmead threw the ball forward in a more direct style in the dying minutes but the Redbridge keeper, Nathan Fletcher, was rarely called into action.  For a game that was played at such a pace, and along the floor with tackles flying in from all sides it was amazing that the referee did not have to reach into his pocket at all.  Full time brought some big cheers from the Motormen, and some long hard looks into the ground from the Thamesmead.  Whilst they have games in hand, they would have expected to have beaten Redbridge and pushed themselves into the play off spots.

After the game we caught up with Hugo to talk about all things Non League football. Here is a man who lives and breaths football.  Every name I dropped into the conversation he seemed to know.  I would hate to see his phone bill at the end of the month, but without men like Hugo there would be no football at this level. We could have chatted for ages about football but we had to get back to TBIR towers.  But don’t fret dear readers, we will be back to see and chat to Hugo soon as part of our “Unsung Heroes of Football” series.

So a chilly January afternoon in SE28 brought to an end our Christmas treble of games.  From Carshalton to Thamesmead, via Copenhagen and Gravesend it had been an eventful few days.  But would we do it all again?  Hell yes!  Bring on the Easter extravaganza!

More pictures from the afternoon in Thamesmead can be found at our Flickr stream here.