Saturday 15th September 2012
— Margate FC 2 Enfield Town 0 —
There’s a reason I’ve chosen to include a match report from last season in this blog, that being because it just happened to be my first visit to Hartsdown Park & one which effectively gave me the ‘blue bug’!
Having moved to Thanet earlier in September, I’d long since decided to support my local team. Knowing a few of the squad were ex Gillingham players, as well as keeping an eye on Margate when they were in the Conference, it felt only natural that they should be the team I’d go to watch. I just didn’t expect to get hooked so quickly!
Not knowing my way about, I took a cab to the ground & got there ridiculously early, just after 1PM. When I walked into the ground, the first thing that struck me was that the ground genuinely had character. That may sound condescending, having never watched a non league game previously, but I got the distinct feeling that this was definitely a family club.
After buying a programme & looking in the club shop (where I was lucky enough to meet the delightful Poppy!) I noticed the fans coming into the ground. This only heightened my instinct of Margate being a family club, everyone seemed to know each other, in fact you could tell that these friendships had gone on for years, decades even.
After reading the programme & catching up with the club info, I glanced up & saw the Margate players warming up & being put through their paces with some cone work & sprints. I then found out that it’s best to stay alert during their shooting practice! One wayward shot knocked an old timer’s cup of tea out his hand, he merely smiled & bought himself a fresh one!
Not to romanticise it too much (OK, maybe I am a little) but in the words of Bob Marley, the sun was shining & the weather was sweet. The players had long since departed into their changing rooms (well, Portakabins – another great touch!) for their team talk. Clearly a short one, as to the strains of ‘Singing The Blues’ the teams walked out, Margate in blue & white hooped shirts, blue shorts & white socks, and Enfield in what can only be described as a 2012 version of the Roy Of The Rovers kit (red & yellow striped shirts, red shorts & red/yellow socks) One of the first things I noticed about the Enfield team was the size of their number 5 (Kirby) who was a bit portly. Unfortunately the kit didn’t help his cause, making him look like a giant Refresher sweet.
As the game kicked off, the first things I noticed were these:
1 – I had been grossly misinformed about non league football. Both sides played a flowing, passing game not short on quality.
2 – The distinct lack of swearing from the fans (I later found out that Margate is a family club which discourages swearing – a good move as there’s always a lot of youngsters present)
The game wasn’t even 10 minutes old when Gate took a well deserved lead, after a scramble in the box, the ball landed to #9 Carl Rook who calmly slotted the ball past Enfield’s keeper. By this stage I was smiling like the Cheshire cat, with a great atmosphere (it later turned out that the attendance for that game – 483 – was our 2nd highest of the season) & some excellent attacking play from Gate leaving me with the feeling that a second goal was always going to be inevitable.
And so it proved, with what can only be described as one of the best goals I’ve ever been present to witness. After Enfield lost the ball in midfield, Margate’s striker / winger Tommy Murphy picked the ball up & began a jinking run that took him past three defenders & mesmerised me into the bargain. And apparently Enfield’s keeper (Noel Imber) it would seem, as Murphy crashed what can only be described as a thunderbolt of a shot past him into the roof of the net. It was in before he had the chance to move. By this stage I was jumping up & down (stunning goals seem to bring that out of me!) & the steward in front of me surveyed me with a look of quiet amusement before remarking ‘Yep.. Tommy’s got that in his locker’
After what seemed like barely 5 minutes later, the half time whistle blew & I sat on the terrace to marvel at a great 1st half of football & a well deserved 2-0 lead for my team (I’d subconsciously been hooked into supporting them by everything that was there that day.. the team, the fans, even the weather played a part)
Onto the second half, & being honest here, it was all lost in a haze of europhia. Not because Gate scored any more goals (although they had the chance to, having one disallowed & two strikers contriving to miss a tap in) but because of the Enfield keeper’s antics. The aforementioned Noel Imber, realising that the game was beyond salvation for his beleaguered troops, took to screaming at the ref, linesman & anyone in the vicinity that a Gate player had spat at one of Imber’s team-mates. Unfortunately everyone looked confused, as there was no spitting involved, leading me personally to believe that he was halluncinating or had sun stroke. As his anger grew, so did his vocabulary of curses – a particularly vitrolic rant was met with ‘Wash your mouth out keeper’ & the puzzling heckle ‘Go back to America!’
Having glanced in the programme & not finding any evidence that Imber was from America or had even played over there, I can only assume that it was based on his dodgy facial hair (he had a very thin dark beard which made him look like he’d been trying to eat Marmite out the jar) & bleached blonde locks. And so I was introduced to another string in the Gate fans’ bow – the top quality banter.
As the final whistle went, I walked out the ground & promised myself that I’d be coming to games at Hartsdown Park for the rest of the season, & so it proved.