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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Red letter day for supersonic Concord

Concord Rangers 4 Shawbury United 1

This was the week when it rained all week & with the exception of Wednesday, I mean all week! I had planned to visit Concord Rangers since the draw was made and had little hope of it surviving the deluge. I logged in to Tony Kempster’s magnificent website (How many other minority interests have such a comprehensive and up to date website such as his?) and watched as match after match was called off on the Friday night. All hope was not lost as Concord’s match was still showing as on. I woke on Saturday to find that it had rained all night, was still raining and the forecast was shocking. Still no news so I called the club, no reply! I called Shawbury and got through to the cleaning lady. A lovely person but she had no idea what I was talking about. Eventually, I found the secretary’s number for Concord on the Internet and called his mobile. A friendly bloke who claimed that the pitch had barely had any water fall on it and indeed it had been rolled that morning, match was definitely on. I did wonder whether this guy was using some Essex humour to wind me up, how could pitch be that good with all the water falling from the sky? But off I went. I had a 5 minute walk between stations in Haringay which wasn’t a problem, but having just missed a train, I had a 25 minute wait. This station only had a bus shelter type construction for cover and this had holes both at the back and the sides. As rain was hammering down, I got soaked. Imagine my joy when it was announced that the train had become defective and was cancelled. So another 30 minute wait meant that I stood on that damn platform for 55 mins, surrounded by various people, one of whom spoke constantly in a foreign language for 35 minutes without once breathing. She seemed to also be doing impressions of other people as part of the conversation. Quite hilarious, I just wish I knew what she’d been saying. The train finally arrived and rattled along to Barking with it still belting down with rain. I was still in good time although later than I’d liked. I often report on the tasty lunches that I experience, this day saw me have a corned beef slice on Barking station. For 85p I can’t complain & the guy heated it up for me in the microwave, but hardly fine dining. The final train journey from Barking to Benfleet saw the rain continue to fall, how was this game going to be on. On arriving at Benfleet, I got off the train where I saw the weirdest thing. It was dry! Not only was it not raining, but the roads were actually dry with no puddles. Canvey Island (Where Concord rangers are based) must have some kind of micro-climate. I set off on the 2.5 mile walk with a positive spring in my step. After only half a mile, I reached a roundabout and realised I had no idea which exit to take and my map was next to useless. I was not going to be beaten having found a dry corner of South England so did something I hardly ever do and hailed a taxi. I reached the ground in about 5 mins and was delighted to find the game on and the pitch in excellent condition. The ground is opposite some kind of complex behind a high wire fence, I was so keen to enter the ground, I never found out what it was. The tear bar was open although no hot food was ready and you could only buy chocolate bars from the clubhouse. I wasn’t going to complain as the two girls serving were very cute and incredibly friendly. The ground is next to a caravan park and also has some gas works behind one of the goals, so not too attractive on the eye. There’s a good sized stand and cover behind one of the goals. The rest of the pitch has hard standing and is surrounded by a white rail. There’s a slight end to end slope. A good sized but very busy clubhouse with bar, Sky TV & a pool table is set just next to the ground. All in all, this was an Essex league ground that I quite liked.
The match was played at a furious pace and was a feisty encounter throughout. Concord Rangers are so named as the team started out playing out of the nearby situated, Concord beach on Canvey Island. Concord took the lead on 26 mins when their captain turned in a cross from the dead ball line. 10 mins later and the same man was sent off for 2 yellow card offences. The referee lost his cool a bit at this time, evening up the score by sending off a Shawbury defender shortly after for a last man foul. A dubious red card in my opinion. Concord doubled their lead on 58 mins following a goalmouth scramble after a corner. Shawbury came storming back scoring a nice goal with a header from a corner on 67 mins and suddenly seemed to be the side on top. Concord weathered the storm and scored twice more in the last 10 mins. The first was a rebound turned in after a great save by the Shawbury keeper, the next was the best goal of the game as the left winger finished well after a great 40 yard pass.
I was a happy man and set off in an attempt to find my way home. I caught a bus as soon as I reached the main road (Number 26) and was back at Benfleet station in time to catch the 17:10.
Needless to say, when I got home, it was still raining and had been doing so all day.

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