Non League Club

Whitehawk Up?

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on February 3, 2013

It seems inconceivable to have imagined the game between Whitehawk and Lewes as a local derby in the league just three seasons ago. Back then The Rooks were in the Blue Square Bet South whilst The Hawks were fighting for top spot in the Sussex County League. But the latter’s upward trajectory and Lewes’s relegation has meant the first ever league meeting has taken place this season. Back in December Whitehawk arrived at The Dripping Pan in top spot and eventually came away with all three points despite being 2-0 down at one point.

As the teams prepared to meet down the A27 nothing much else has changed. Lewes sat in mid-table whilst Whitehawk were still top and there seems no team apart from Wealdstone who have the bottle or resources to stop them heading into the Blue Square Bet South. Well that and passing the respective ground grading of course.

“I bet the crowds must be flocking to the Enclosed Ground!” I can hear you all say. Err no. The average attendance is just 157, with one league crowd just attracting 74 people. It seems that trying to get people through the gates is a problem irrespective of league position in these parts.  I’m sure the expansion of the Amex stadium just up the road doesn’t help the cause but as we saw just a few hours previous to this game kicking off, Non League clubs have to work disproportionately harder to attract fans than their league counterparts.

It is hard to see where the crowds will come from as they move up the league.  An offer from local MP Simon Kirby to his constituents for free admission was the latest attempt to boost the crowd which along with the hundred or so from Lewes boosted the attendance to a league record 459. We wish any club with ambition well – after all Status Quo is a pleasant sight these days.

Whitehawk 3 Lewes 1 – The Enclosed Ground – Saturday 2nd February
Lewes lost to a well organised team who have built a squad of players with an eye on promotion.  The Rooks finished the afternoon with 10 men after Chris Breach was dismissed but that wasn’t the reason for the defeat.  They battled on a difficult surface but were beaten by a team that should have beaten them.

DICING WITH FOOTBALL – Ramsgate v Whitehawk and Herne Bay v Sporting Bengal

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on April 9, 2011

I cannot recall the moment the idea came into our collective brains, but I am sure it was well past our bed time and would have almost certainly involved significant amounts of ale.  But whenever and whoever had the idea, it was genius.

One day of football completely decided by the roll of a single dice.  Our destination, our mode of transport, what we drink, what we eat and who we talk to.  Simple really.  In fact surely the basis for a global best seller and a film?  No?  What do you mean someone has already done this?  Gits.

Anyway in the run up to the big day we drew up a list of 36 potential games, split into 6 regions.  The idea being we would roll the first dice on the day before the games thus giving us our area to head for.

All was going well and through the means of modern technology we hooked up across the North Sea via Skype to do the live draw.  Littlest Fuller rolled the dice and up came a Five.  Five meant South West.  Not ideal for me or Danny really.  But that is fate.  Littlest Fuller rolled again.  Three.  Walton Casuals versus Leatherhead.  Both of us had been to Walton Casuals before so it didn’t really excite us.  I could tell Danny was keen to follow Lewes on the long trip along the coast to Dorchester Town so we compromised. (Leatherhead ended up winning the game 6-0 by the way).

Throw a double and we go our separate ways” I proposed, and Littlest Fuller then proceeded to throw a double six.

So on Saturday morning, with Danny heading westwards with the Rooks to Dorchester I picked up the small white cube and rolled it again.

Number one – Kent.  Probably the second best region for me.  Roll again for the game

Number three – Ramsgate versus Whitehawk, Ryman League One South.

I’d never been to Ramsgate for anything apart from catching a ferry and using the ridiculously named London Manston International Airport (it is only 69 miles from London after all).  Whitehawk are the Ryman League’s equivalent of Crawley Town to an extent.  The owners have invested significantly in the side that last season were playing in the Sussex Senior League, and next season could well be playing local derbies against Lewes.  Oh, and to underlined their “aspirations” they are moving into Brighton & Hove Albion’s Withdean Stadium next season as well.

With the sun beating down on South East London, CMF suggested that her and Lolly tag along so they could go to the beach (just in case someone from Social Services is reading, Littlest Fuller was not home alone but at a friend’s house).  Odds they came, evens they stayed at home.

Number one – they were coming.  Only fair to roll again to determine who drove then.  Four – haha – a small victory for the male side of the Fuller family.

An hour later we were parking up on the sea front in Herne Bay.  I had already clocked the fact that Herne Bay were at home to Sporting Bengal at 3pm, but the dice had already spoken.  But first it was time for lunch.

Number one – Fish and Chips, obviously as we were by the sea, but what would I have?  For some “interest” I let Lolly pick six items and she did well to pick three things I cannot stand.  Fortunately, number four, Chicken & Mushroom pie came up trumps.

I left the girls to their own devices as I headed down the Thanet Way, passing the Halfway House, made famous in the classic Only Fools and Horses Jolly Boys Outing. As a sign of the times, the once massive “bikers” pub is today luxury flats.

I pulled up outside Southwood, home of Ramsgate FC just as the players were lining up in the car park.  Yep, that is right.  The “tunnel” at Ramsgate is actually outside the stadium and they walk down a fenced path into the ground.

Ramsgate 2 Whitehawk 2 – Southwood Road – Saturday 9th April 2011
Whitehawk came into the game in 3rd place, and with the promotion fight at the top featuring the Sussex side, Met Police and Bognor Regis Town looking like it was going to go to the wire this was a must win game for them.  And they started like they meant business, peppering the Ramsgate goal from the first minute.  In fact with just ten minutes on the board the corner count was already at 6-0 in favour of the away team.

Ramsgate’s keeper these days is Jack Smelt.  The name ring any bells?  Well it would do if you grew up in or around Gravesend in the early 1980’s.  His father, Lee who is now on the coaching staff at Arsenal played in goal for Gravesend & Northfleet. One day Brian Clough brought his European Cup winning squad down to Stonebridge Road for a mid-season friendly to mark the switching on of the new floodlights .  So impressed was Clough of young Smelt that he came back the following season and signed him.

Anyway, back to the action.  Despite all of the early pressure it was actually the home side who took the lead in the fifteenth minute.  From their first corner, Mark Lovell latched onto the ball and put it through Whitehawk’s keeper, Lloyd Anderson’s legs.  This was literally the first time they had the ball in the Whitehawk area.

Smelt was having a blinder in the Ramsgate goal.  Twice he denied the Whitehawk strikers with excellent reaction saves but he could do little about the equaliser in the 27th minute when Lian Quinn inadvertently turned the ball into his own net from a Whitehawk corner.  Two minutes later he was at the heart of the action again when he was adjudged to have picked up a back pass from a defender, despite it being from two yards away and almost on his goal line.

We’ve seen the situation a number of times.  An indirect free kick 7 or 8 yards out.  Every player of the defending team is lined up on the goal line.  Yet how often do the attacking team score?  Very very rarely.  But to me it is so simple.  The free kick is indirect correct?  Which means it has to touch another player before it can enter the goal (few people also realise that a free kick from an offside position is also indirect).  So why not simply hit it as hard as you can at the wall rather than fannying about with a lay back.  I reckon you have greater than 75% of actually getting a deflection and scoring.  Of course in this case it was blocked on the line.

Ramsgate had the last laugh of the half when Lovell broke clear down the wing and crossed for Stuart Vahid to sneak between the two centre backs and slot home.

It was crunch time.  Time to let the dice decide should I stay or should I go.  Evens to stay, odds to go.  Number five rolls face up.  So where could it be then?

One/two = Deal Town (v Erith Town), three/four = Whitstable Town (v Chatham Town), five/six = Herne Bay…..And it is a six.  Back to the car and off we go again.

Photos from the game at Ramsgate can be found here. (The game finished 2-2 with Whitehawk scoring late on).

Herne Bay 2 Sporting Bengal 0 – The SafetyNet Stadium – Saturday 9th April 2011
Thankfully there were no Sunday drivers around and 17 minutes after leaving Southwood I was walking through the open game at Winch Field, home of Herne Bay.  The second half here hadn’t yet started fortunately so I had time to go and grab a beer.  With six different beers on offer there was only one way to choose my tipple – and number three saw me enjoying a rather nice drop of Courage best.

The Sporting Bengal set-up is unusual in that it is operated by the Bangladesh Football Association in the UK and players are selected from (and retain their affiliation with) the Sunday league clubs which are affiliated to that organisation. In the 2008–09 season, Sporting Bengal lost all 32 matches to become the first team in the Kent League’s history to complete a season without achieving a single point.  An impressive feat by any side.

I took my place next to the away team dug out.  Or should I say conservatory.  This was the most bizarre set up I had seen.  The dressing rooms were essentially a large blue “hanger” on the side of the pitch, with conservatories built in the front to act as dugouts.  Sporting Bengal’s coach jumped from his seat, not to remonstrate with the ref but to have a fag.  One of the scrapbook – not since the days of Cesar Menotti have I seen a manager smoking in the dugout.

The game should have been a foregone conclusion.  Herne Bay were sitting pretty in second place, within touching distance of FA Cup heroes Hythe Town, whilst the visitors from East London (and not Kent) were propping up the league in last place.  Despite their early pressure in the second half it appeared that it wasn’t going to be Herne Bay’s day.  Then I did a count of the players.  The home side only had ten men.

What to do in these instances?  Well I asked the lino of course.  Bless him.  He was possibly the oldest linesman I have ever seen.  But in breaks of play he updated me on the red card for a professional foul by Herne Bay’s Steve Hanson and the “wonderful” opening goal by Jimmy Corbett.

They doubled the lead just after the hour mark when Toby Ashmore poked home after a corner wasn’t cleared and should have got a third when they were awarded a (harsh looking) penalty in the seventy fifth minute but it was put wide.

Full time came and it was time to go.  I picked up the female Fullers and we had one last roll of the dice to go.  What to have for dinner?  A three saw us heading for the Harvester and me paying.  Who says I had the luck of the dice today?

Photos from the game at Herne Bay can be found here.



Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on October 10, 2010

Integrity versus loyalty.  Always a very difficult decision.  For the TBIR team we faced a big dilemma this weekend as to where we should nail our FA Cup colours.  Our heart said Lewes v Thurrock, our head said Whitehawk v Hendon.  We are committed to bringing you the best in the Non League action across the country and the qualifying rounds of the biggest cup competition in the world allow us to rove to pastures new.  The 3rd Qualifying round was a perfect example of this, but we now have our deep affiliation to Lewes and so when the draw threw up a winnable home tie with Thurrock I felt a pang of guilt that I wouldn’t be going.

But then the full draw became clear in the FA’s crystal ball and just 6 miles away as the Rook flies was a new ground, a new club and potentially a new adventure.  Whitehawk.  We immediately contacted our Head of Research and Development as to how we could be at two places at once without affecting the Time/Space Continuum and after a few Fuller’s Honey Dew Ales he came up with the solution.  Unfortunately a pending patent stops us revealing the actual solution here, but rest assured there was no smoke or mirrors.

When I told people I was heading down to Whitehawk everyone who knows Brighton looked at me as if I was mad and shook their head.  “Lock your car doors“, “Make sure you don’t wear your watch“, “Don’t forget your bullet proof vest” were three such comments.  But as a veteran of Zagreb, Bratislava and Arbroath it was water off a ducks back to me.

We drove down the Falmer Road, past the impressive new American Express Community Stadium which will be Brighton & Hove Albion’s new ground in just a few months time on a beautifully sunny day.  The road takes you high above Brighton, with the road falling down towards the sea.  A quick right along the top of Brighton racecourse and the a left literally across the track and down the hill.  So far all I saw was neat bungalows and smiling children playing in the sunshine.  As you get near the bottom of the hill you through a left, drive past the Caravan Club (a code word for a massive orgy according to Jay in the Inbetweeners) and there is the ground, hidden behind the trees.  So where exactly was this war zone?

We parked, paid our £8 and walked into one of the most rural grounds in England.  From all parts of the ground you simply cannot see anything apart from greenery.  The club after nearly 50 years since their formation had at last left the county leagues, having won the Sussex League last season.  They were also just one game away from Wembley in the FA Vase last year, losing to Wroxham in the semi-finals.  They were also managed recently by ex-West Ham legend George Parris.  This game against Isthmian Premier League Hendon marked their joint furthest progress in the competition.

Fanny’s was the obvious choice for a quickie prior to the game, and full sated we took our place behind the goal.  The pitch must be a nightmare to play on.  It seems to slope in all directions, and is bloody wide – a fact that the home team tried to exploit from the first minute with long cross pitch balls.  FA regulations meant that no alcohol could be taken out from the bar, but that didn’t stop a number of fans who simply brought out the cans from their bags as if it was part of a normal country picnic.

Whitehawk 1 Hendon 2 – Wilson Avenue – Saturday 9th October
The game started at a pace with some full blooded tackles flying in.  The winners of the game would get £7,500, which is the equivalent of an additional 10 games gate receipts for Whitehawk and they made the best of the early play, putting the young Hendon keeper Laurensin under pressure.  Whitehawk’s main threat up from came from Joe Gatting, son of Steve and nephew of Mike giving him something to live up to.  He had the first chance of the game after being put clean through in the tenth minute he let the ball over run and couldn’t get his shot in.  Almost immediately Hendon went up the other end, and with their first chance Ate-Ouakrim slotted home when given too much room in the area.

One thing that did strike me as unusual about the ground was the “paddock” area in front of the main stand.  This fenced off area simply caused problems when the ball bounced into it, and no one could get it back easily.  It was almost like a gold enclosure at Ascot with us mere silver ticket holders having to stand outside it to watch the game.  But five minutes before half time the home fans forgot about such trivialities as Paul Armstrong levelled the scores.

Lewes 2 Thurrock 1 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 9th October
So whilst the sun was shining in East Brighton, just across the downs Lewes were kicking off against fellow Blue Square Bet South strugglers Thurrock.  The Rooks only league win this season was against “The Fleet” back in August, and they intended to do the same, starting with two men up front for the first time in a while.

And the tactical switch worked early on as Tom Murphy headed home a pinpoint cross from Kane Wills.  Director Patrick Marber whispered in my ear that Lewes haven’t lost after taking a lead for six months and thoughts started turning to the next round, and the dilemma of a winnable tie, or a big team at home such as Luton Town or Cambridge United. The atmosphere had been boosted by the presence of the Cliffe Bonfire Society drummers, who drummed their life out, taking the team into half time with a slim lead.

Back over in Whitehawk it was Hendon who started the second half the stronger and substitute Aaron Morgan put the greys ahead before many of the fans had withdrawn from Fanny’s.  Morgan then picked up an injury and was replaced by Michael Peacock.

In one of those amusing for the fans but bloody annoying for the team moments, Peacock lasted just three minutes before he picked up an injury, and the player we had all come to see play came on – Danny Dyer.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on what you think of his work) it was not the cockney actor who thinks every situation is going to get “a bit naughty soon”, but Hendon’s midfielder.  There was time though for Jamie Busby to pick up a second yellow in injury time and give Whitehawk a glimmer of hope but it was not to be.  With the afternoon walkers descending the hill above the ground, the referee brought an end to proceedings and the hopes of a famous home win.

Meanwhile, back in Lewes City (a nod there to Batman for those not old enough to remember Adam West in tights), the Rooks were still playing with confidence.  In a day for namesakes, Lewes full back Lewis Hamilton fell awkwardly and was taken off with his arm in a sling (later diagnosed as a break).  Our sponsored man David Wheeler came on as sub, himself still getting back to full fitness after a stop/start campaign and teed up Tom Murphy perfectly for the second goal with fifteen minutes to go.  The Wheeler curse struck again a few minutes later as he was injured in a tackle with the Thurrock left back, and Lewes were down to ten men to hang on.

Every Thurrock attack was greeted with mass nail-biting but Winterton in the Lewes goal seemed to be unbeatable.  It would take something special to beat him, and that is exactly what happened in the 87th minute.  James Boyes, Lewes’s man on the ground summed it up perfectly – “It was a goal fit to grace any level of football, with the winger chesting the ball down in a goal-mouth scramble, before sending an unstoppable overhead kick past Winterton to give the visitors hope of snatching an underserved replay.”

Four minutes of added time were announced and we counted down every second.  When finally the whistle went, the 850+ crowd raised the noise another notch and the new owners of the club celebrated with the fans, as well as a big group hug.  This was progress, and whilst the Que Sera chants of Wembley may be a bit premature it could well be “Whatever will be, will be, we are going to Grimsby Que Sera, Que Sera.”

Two winners, two losers and a break through in trans-space particle acceleration.  Not a bad afternoon’s work!

More photos from our day of time travel can be found at our Flickr feedhere.