Canvey Island 2 East Thurrock 1 (1st Jan 2013)
There have been a few fairly random factors that have steered me towards one game over an other, but this is the first, and probably last time, that a model made out of Lego has swung the deal in one ground’s favour.
The Lego model in question was a model of Canvey Island’s Prospects Stadium, available for viewing in the club bar. It was built, as reported in several media outlets including the BBC, by the club programme seller. The 39 year old, who had actually managed to avoid the expected extra description of “bachelor”, had built it in his spare time for about £180.
Canvey Island’s ground also had the attraction of being very near the sea, or at least the Thames Estuary. A large raised sea wall just beyond the southern end of the ground provided views of the estuary itself, the North Kent coast, the odd ship, Southend Pier way off in the distance, and for one cheapskate on a bike, a free view of part of the pitch.
Other than that, Canvey Island’s attraction as a tourist destination, as it certainly is, wasn’t totally obvious. The town did have a sort of bygone feel to it, as if the 80s, lets alone the 90s and 00s hadn’t yet happened. Graffiti next to the cycling cheapskate’s vantage point of “Sid Vicious R.I.P.” did little do dispel this image, nor did a club tannoy playing The Ramones and The Kinks. It may well have been a “sunny afternoon”, but it sure as hell didn’t feel like it was “in the summer time” when the bitter wind blew.
There have been more impressive Lego stadiums built over the last few years, but few can have had such on odd design to model on, as the Prospects Stadium is certainly a bit of a mixed bag. For a start, it looks like until recently that the ground didn’t have a main stand at all. Upon going through the turnstiles, there’s the not unusual collection of club bar/tea bar/toilets/clubs shop/dressing rooms taking up half of one side. An awning adorned with some fairly lights gave a bit of festive cheer.
Beyond here was a covered stand of four rows of shallow blue seats, looking every inch a converted terrace. Notices at the front of this stand indicated that no standing was allowed there, although not that many chose to sit there either.
Round the corner, with just a bit of soggy scrubland, and children’s play area, and large earthen bank separating it from the sea, was a small end with two stubby terraces of just two or three steps, with a gap in-between.
Rather more popular were another two terraces around the corner, down the touchline. These weren’t much deeper, but were at least covered. In fact the generous amount of steel cladding on these two stands gave them the impression of being cut out of two discarded shipping containers, like some heavy duty Blue Peter project.
The most impressive part of the ground by far is the Northern end. At least 15 steps of terracing rise up from this end, in steps of staircase steepness and depth, rising high enough to see the ships passing by the sea wall beyond. Beyond one of two frightening Argentinian death-trap terraces I’ve only seen photos of, I can’t think of any other terrace as steep. If only it had a roof to stop you being exposed to the icy breezes, not to mention the obvious of rain, it’d be brilliant.
Less brilliant was the match for the most part. For much of the first half you really got the impression that this was a match that had 0-0 not so much written as tattooed all over it, with both keepers being called into action about as much as the Vice Squad at the Vatican.
Despite being the away team, and lower in the table, East Thurrock were shading the first half. They even ended up going in front ten minutes before half time, with an attacker sliding in to side-foot past the Canvey keeper. The keeper then had a dodgy few minutes, including slicing a clearance so badly that he barely touched it. Luckily for him he just a fraction more alert than the East Thurrock forward, racing back to just clear what ought to have been an empty net tap-in.
East Thurrock did think they’d gone two up early in the second half. A mate of mine, who’d missed the first goal checking on a score in the club bar, looked to have missed a second doing the same, but this time a goalmouth scramble that got turned in was disallowed.
The game was turned by the introduction of the finely named Harrison Chatting on 64 minutes. The eventual man of the match put in a low cross two minutes later, and a Thurrock defender slid in to steer it past his own keeper to make it 1-1.
This suddenly gave Canvey Island renewed belief, and for a while were rampant. It was no surprise to see them go ahead just four minutes later, with a run into the box on the right ending with a fierce shot firing across the keeper into the top far corner. They ought to have gone 3-1 up shortly later, but several despairing legs couldn’t quite get a touch to a fine low cross across the six yard box.
Another great chance on the volley from just six yards out fell Canvey’s way, but a terrific stop kept the shot out. From there, perhaps the best chance was a clever set-piece move, even if the shot into the side netting wasn’t quite how it happened on the training ground.
After that, both teams seemed to settle back into their earlier routine of not knowing how to get a shot in. In sympathy, a van driver in the car park looked like he’d totally forgotten how to park between two cars, while in the estuary, a ship appeared to be slowly going round in circles as if lost.
And I, in turn, have clearly got stuck on a decent way to end this piece. If only the tannoy had blared out Joey Ramone singing “Hey ho, let’s go!” at the end of the 2nd half, when I was freezing and desperate to get back into the warmth of the car, rather than at the start of it, it would have been perfect.