Saturday 15th September 2012 ko 3.00pm
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round
SEVENOAKS TOWN 3 (Akokhia 45 Curtis 71 106) Bricknell missed penalty 10 Jones-Johnson sent off 101 (violent conduct)
CHESSINGTON & HOOK UNITED 2 (Hughes 86p 89) Greene sent off 107 (violent conduct)
I’d set out with the intention of seeing Whitstable Town versus Eastbourne Town in the Isthmian League. After two mammoth hold-ups on firstly the M40, then the M25 I had to revise my plans. And to be honest I’d fancied a trip here for some time, as I do have a habit of wanting to visit clubs when I’ve seen their town on a road sign. You do see a lot of signs for Sevenoaks on the M25 too…..
Sevenoaks is a typical leafy suburban Kentish commuter town, with its Arts Centre and the wide open spaces of Knole Park, famous for being the location of two Beatles promotional films for “Strawberry Fields,” and “Penny Lane.” Writer HG Wells lived in Sevenoaks, and The Vine Cricket Ground in the town is the first place where cricket was played with a set of three stumps.
Greatness Park is close to Knole Park, and its clear that the club were once allocated a corner of it and have spent the time since since improving and enclosing it, as funds and planning restrictions have allowed. The bar is the only brick-built structure and is set away from the ground; within the fence the changing rooms, hospitality and catering are all provided via Portakabins. The covered area by the half-way line has been augmented by two prefabricated seated stands either side of it. It ticks the graders’ boxes but the best view of the action isn’t to be found in the ground.
Behind one goal, the land climbs steeply and some supporters actually pay to get in, then leave immediately and sit on the hill. Fine on a warm day, but a non-starter when its cold and wet. The only issue I had up there on a warm afternoon was the din of an outdoor dance class in Knole Park; it wasn’t the kind of game where you could ignore the music either.
The first issue for the fixture was the pitch. Tinder dry, and extremely bumpy, the club had tried to water it. The problem was that with the summer we’ve had the hose hadn’t seen use for months, and when it was rolled out it was perished! Not the pitch could be at all blamed for what went on on the pitch.
Let’s get one thing straight, the club on the outside of the pitch rail were a delight. From the ladies at the tea bar to secretary Andrew Gidley, they all made the kind of impression I hope for wherever I visit. What went on inside the rail was frankly sickening.
There was no clue as to what was going to happen as Jake Bricknell missed an early penalty for Sevenoaks, although Chessington’s encroachment was something to behold! As the game wore on the players became hell-bent on arguing each and every decision made by referee Freddie Collins. He had a good game, the assessor said as much, but when 10 players get booked, 9 of them for some form of unsporting conduct you question the intelligence of the players. When 1 gets booked for dissent, surely you take note. But 10? Words fail me. I should be fair to both sides, and comment that 8 of the bookings went to Chessington & Hook players.
Add to that 2 dismissals, both for violent conduct. Eschewing the straightforward punch-up, these two opted for the cowardly, sly kick-out after a challenge, perfected by David Beckham. I depaired then, and I despair now.
At least the better side won. Sevenoaks took the lead with virtually the last touch of the first half, Sam Akokhia’s fine glancing header gliding in at the back post. That lead was doubled by Ramone Curtis’ strike on 71 minutes, and that should have curtailed the unpleasantness after 90 minutes. But a sloppy penalty was conceded and converted, and when Mickey Hughes fired home an excellent shot for 2-2, I groaned, and I bet Mr Collins did too, this game didn’t need any more time added to it.
Jamie Jones-Johnson collected his marching orders for a nasty kick following a heavy challenge, before Curtis bagged his second, finishing with a thumping shot after beating the offside trap. There was enough time for Chessington’s Frank Greene to be sent off for an even dafter sly kick, he hadn’t even been fouled! The assessor shook his head in disbelief, and made a note that he wasn’t going to be making a quick getaway after the final whistle. I did, I’d more than had my fill.
As I drove away I felt pleased that no children had been watching, the players gave a dreadful example of what is meant to be sport. The visitors were the bigger sinners, but I pondered that if this fixture had been taped, and played to the participants, I hope their behaviour would make them hang their heads in shame.