Thursday 7th February 2013 ko 19.45
Combined Counties League Premier Division
CHESSINGTON & HOOK UNITED 2 (Howton 88 Harding 90p) Tyler missed penalty 58
EPSOM & EWELL 3 (Burns 8 86 Jarman 67)
If ever a place is dominated by an attraction it’s the Surrey town of Chessington, even Alton, in Staffordshire manages to shelter itself from Alton Towers next door (just a turret pokes its head above the trees!). The World of Adventures sits on the site of The Burnt Stub stately home, a royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, and razed to the ground by the Parliamentarians on their victory. A Neo-Gothic mansion was built on the site by the Vere family, and the grounds were converted to a zoo in 1931 by Reginald Goddard. The site became part of the Tussaud’s Group in 1978 and the mansion incorporated as Hocus Pocus Hall. I used the entrance to turn round, and made a beeline for Chalky Lane, the ground hiding behind the trees from its big brash sibling.
There’s something of a ranch feel to the ground. Maybe its the gibbeted entry sign, or the players’ walkway from changing room to the pitch evoking the riders’ entrance at a rodeo, but all the essentials of life are here, but perhaps not in traditional form. There was no programme, as the game has been hastily re-arranged from Tuesday’s waterlogged postponement, and they hadn’t printed for that, as they’d seen the state of the pitch, and saved themselves the printing costs!
One glance at the table predicted an away win. Not many clubs can keep up with Guernsey’s rise, fuelled by the off-shore profits of online gambling, but the E’s are giving in a real go. They have no ground of their own, sharing at the moment at Chipstead, they’ve played Isthmian League football, and are keen to return. They’d won 9 on the bounce, and any team that can lay claim to having found future Scotland international Matt Elliott, needs to be taken seriously. The fly in the ointment was the last club to have beaten them… Chessington & Hook. Enid Blyton may have lived here, but this story was a good deal better thought out than one of her hackneyed yarns.
On a heavy but just about playable pitch, it was the visitors who made the early breakthrough, as Sam Currie’s cross hit the crossbar, and Robbie Burns reacted first to tap home. For the rest of the half it was more or less continuous Epsom pressure and only profligate finishing and good defending kept the score down.
The second half saw a change on formation for Chessington and it paid dividends, or rather it should! Nathan Ayling’s clumsy challenge on Dan Harding was an obvious penalty, but Tom Tyler’s spot kick failed to even draw a save from Epsom keeper Joe White. They were made to pay as a counter-attack found Mark Jarman clean through and he made the most of the opportunity, sliding the ball past Daniel Burnett.
Two soon became three as the move of the game saw Currie’s cross from the right, find Burns, whose pinpoint glancing header found the left hand corner of the net. That looked to be it but when Tony Howton’s 25 yard free kick squirmed its way past everyone for 3-1 Chessington saw and opportunity. Dan Harding made it 3-2 from the penalty spot after Luke Edwards was felled, and only the offside flag prevented Paul Gough from equalising! The win takes Epsom top of the table, although Guernsey have multiple games in hand, the legacy of a fine FA Vase run, that’s still ongoing.
Breathless stuff on a filthy night, and a game that 48 hours no-one had expected would take place. A bonus in every way possible, but there was to be no lashings of ginger beer to celebrate!