Once again, I chose this fixture on the day that the draw was published, mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t visited the Kent league for a couple of seasons. Little did I know that Stuart Robinson would be doing a review of this very club in the Non-League Digest issue before this, Faversham is obviously the place to be in September.
A glorious late summer day made a most pleasant change. Little to spoil my journey then until on arrival at Kings Cross, I was informed that there was no Victoria line that weekend. Not a huge issue, just plain annoying with about 25 mins added to my tube journey with the whole population of the South East seemingly on the Piccadilly line. I was also slightly unnerved on boarding the train at Victoria as it was announced that it would split with half going to Ramsgate, the other half to Dover. Suddenly people were flying in all directions up & down the platform trying to select the appropriate carriage. I joined in for about 5 mins until I discovered that the train was splitting at Faversham & I could sit anywhere. I’ve not really visited the North Kent coast and made a mental decision to return as there are many clubs in the area. Interesting views of the Kent countryside and the harbours at Chatham & Rocester. I had a choice of 2 exits on reaching Faversham & naturally enough, chose the wrong one. I have quite a good sense of direction but always seem to choose the wrong exit when groundhopping. I wandered down the high street which is only a minute from the station, found a Martins newsagent and consulted a map of the area ( I often use this tactic), I quickly got my bearings and as luck would have it, found myself outside a chippy. I was given a huge portion of sausage and chips which took an age to eat but I’m certainly not complaining. It often amuses me in the Non-League paper when Sad Hopper says that he can’t resist the smell of burgers at a football ground. I think in my time, I’ve had two nice burgers at a football ground & I’ll usually walk miles to find an alternative.
I wandered back to the station, went through a little tunnel & then walked down a couple of quiet back streets before reaching the A2. Considering this is a major road, it was remarkably quiet on this particular afternoon. I have busier B roads near where I live. The ground is on the other side of the A2 & is clearly signed. It’s probably no more than an easy 10 minute walk from the station.
I actually found the ground to be quite old fashioned in its look. The main stand has an unusual shaped tin roof & there are plastic bench seats littered underneath for folk to sit on. There’s also a covered area behind the near goal and a small covered area by the corner flag again at the near side. The pitch slopes from side to side but played quite well. There was a disappointing backdrop though. I was hoping for some nice views but there’s basically, nothing to speak of at all.
I wandered in to the clubhouse to buy a drink and was impressed by all the officials. They all looked extremely smart in the blazers and club ties and were all buzzing about the place carrying out their duties. Clearly, they all knew their stuff and fired an instant response to any question posed to them. I sat to watch a bit of TV as I was a little early only for one old boy to turn it off the second I sat down. It wasn’t done deliberately, I don’t think he’d even clocked that I was there but it did amuse me.
The game was a tight inter-league affair with Tunbridge Wells always slightly in the ascendancy. About once every 10 mins in the opposition half, they settled and constructed a string of about 15 neat passes. I believe Soccer AM call it total football. It’s very pleasing on the eye and they could be a real force if they could do this on a more consistent basis. They scored on 33 mins when debutant Tate played a neat 1-2 just inside the left of the box and managed to drag a finish across the young rookie keeper and in to the far corner. Then it was a tale of 2 penalties. First Faversham were awarded one presumably for a push although I was up the other end and couldn’t see exactly what had happened. The penalty kick was weak to the keepers right, he saved it but the rebound was bundled in only for it to then be disallowed for another push. 15 mins from time Tunbridge won their penalty for a more blatant trip. Their taker tried a dinky Di Cannio style chip. Embarrassingly for him, the keeper hadn’t moved and just stood there to catch the softest penalty I’ve ever seen.
A few scares at the end, but Tunbridge held on to reach the first round proper.