Friday 5th January 2018 ko 19.45
Isthmian League Division One
AFC HORNCHURCH 2 (Fanimo 45 Fairweather-Johnson 85)
Robyn and I zoomed round the M25, almost unbelievably clear on a Friday evening, the fact that we were both wearing our work clothes testament to how little time the satnav thought we had. It is of course the law of such things that we arrived half-an-hour early.
If any town could say to be in the shadow of the Dartford Crossing, it’s Aveley to the extent that that just about everywhere you stand you can see the red-lit tops of the QE2 bridge’s towers.
You filter off of the M25 to the north then traverse under the London Orbital, pass Thurrock’s Ship Lane ground before crossing back under the M25 and finally reaching Aveley. In quieter times this was home to John Newton who’s conversion from a profane sailor to an evangelical Anglican priest provided the inspiration for him to write the poem, later hymn “Amazing Grace.”
This is Aveley’s first season at Parkside, after selling their home at Mill Field a few hundred yards west. With Aveley being in prime commuter belt, the funds raised allowed The Millers to buy an old gravel pit, and build a high-specification ground. It is in complete contrast to other clubs who’ve moved this season into stadia provided for, and built by local authorities, Walton & Hersham being a prime example. Parkside is a ground, by and for Aveley, and it shows.
The best complement I can pay the place is that it looks like nowhere else I’ve visited. The signature piece is clearly the main stand with the 2-tier interior providing the height for the roof covering the seats below. Elsewhere further seats are provided via “Stadium Solutions” stand opposite with 2 further covered standing areas behind each goal. Beyond the immediate stadium there are two further pitches, one lit, each with cover. You really do forget you’re at a stadium hosting football at the 8th tier of English football. Even the artificial pitch is of the highest quality without any rubber crumb.
On this cold evening save for only opening up one rather slow turnstile, Aveley’s problem was applying the coup de grace to chances they’d created. Time after time chances went begging and a few seconds before half time Matthias Fanimo’s blast from just outside the box made them pay.
The pattern continued in the second half, both sides saw plenty of possession but there was no-one in the Aveley ranks to make their time on the ball count. The tie was settled by substitute Theo Fairweather-Johnson who held off several defenders through sheer strength before slotting home.
No doubt Aveley will take solace in the stadium record attendance, and the fact that they’ve invested the right way round. They’ve got the infrastructure right, and now that’s in place they can work on getting a team to match the ambition showed by their new home.