Whitstable Town 0 Dagenham & Redbridge 4 (29th June 2013)
While not quite as wrong as chips and custard, there’s something not quite right about pre-season games being played in June. I don’t even think the fixtures should be published until the start of July, but I’m not principled enough to make any kind of stand, so I had little hesitation in going round the M25 to a game in this little visited – by football fans at least – corner of Kent.
The day did even offer the chance of a double-header, with Faversham, just 8 miles away, playing Gillingham two hours earlier, but the impracticality of trying to get between the two grounds in 10-15 minutes ruled that one out. As it was, it was just as well, as the awkward-to-find car-park would have been full by the time we got there, and the narrow streets around didn’t offer too many obvious parking spaces.
Full car parks don’t some people though. The driver of an old style Mini, parked behind the main stand, would have found himself unable to get out due to another car deciding that boxing him in completely was no problem. Just as Toyota used to have the slogan “the car in front is a Toyota”, a certain other manufacturer could use the strapline “the car parked inconsiderably next to you is a BMW” and it would ring true.
A loss of bearings having driven round all sides of the ground trying to find the real entrance, as well as a slight lack of time, meant no quick trip to the sea, apparently about half a mile away in one direction or the other. In any case, we saw its brown murkiness driving in, and although I’m willing to be proven wrong, I don’t think Whitstable beach is exactly going to rival the palm-fringed beaches of Koh Samui for beauty.
We did see seagulls though, perched on the floodlights, as well as on the large tower block that overlooks one corner of the ground.
If the game can lure seagulls, it can also lure groundhoppers and the football-starved to the match, with over 300 fans at this friendly, considerably higher than Whitstable’s normal home crowd.
The cool sea breeze that wafted over the ground did hint that this might not be the most pleasant place to visit in the depthS of winter, but it was a nice place for a summer afternoon. Structurally, the best park of the ground the old-fashioned main stand, with “Whitstable Town FC” picked out in white letters on the corrugated roof. Although a decent size, it’s too small for anything other than spectator accommodation, with the changing room opposite in a small structure, looking somewhat like a municipal park public convenience.
Both ends of the ground are partially covered. One is the standard flat-pack style tin terrace present at many grounds these days, but the other has four steps of alarmingly wonky terracing, topped by an unusual roof sloping upwards at nearly 45 degrees. The concrete roof supports are all bear the trademark “Marley”, as if Bob himself had a sideline in suitably laid-back construction.
Being a friendly, the match was also pretty laid back. Even with both teams creaking with pre-season rustiness, the league side were understandably clearly better. The home side did manage to hit the bar with a chip/cross that bounced off the top before being cleared, but seldom threatened other than that.
Not that Dagenham were peppering the home goal with shots either. In fact the opening goal, a fine shot across goal into the far corner, was almost out of the blue. Shortly before half time the game was effectively over as a contest, as a handball in the box led to a penalty making it 2-0.
The second half was even more controlled by the away side, and a good move down the left saw the ball side-footed in to make it 3-0. The fourth came from a corner, scored from a player leaping head and shoulders above all the other players, to glance to ball across the goal into the far corner.
No shame for the home side, placed a full four divisions below their visitors, and the extra money from 301 crowd will have been welcome, especially with a fair few seeking refreshment in the club bar. They’ll no doubt be hoping for a better result though in a fortnight, when local rivals Herne Bay pay a visit.