Singing In The Rain
Saturday 24th August 2013
—Thamesmead Town 0 Margate FC 2—
Having missed Tuesday’s away game against Enfield, in which we picked up a creditable draw owing to a solid performance & a good strike from Zac Attwood (so I’ve been reliably informed!) my optimism bandwagon rolled on to the Saturday fixture away at Thamesmead, a side who had only managed to pick up a single point from their games so far this season, thus leaving them languishing at the foot of the table.
However, there’s no such thing as an easy game in this league, so my mood was very much of the cautiously optimistic variety, as the day approached. After meeting staunch Margate fan & fount of all knowledge Jim, who was kind enough to give a lovely chap called Bernard, Dan The Man (wearing his lucky red hoody) & myself a lift to South East London, thereby saving a train journey which would have involved changing in Gillingham (bad) & getting off at Abbey Wood (worse)
As we made our way out of Thanet, the weather took a particularly apocalyptic turn, with dark skies & pouring rain illustrating our journey, although Jim & Bernard brightened up the trip with various Margate related stories & anecdotes.. Was very much like a history lesson, only in football! Truly an honour to listen.
In what seemed like not very long at all (I believe we left Broadstairs station at half 12 & arrived in Thamesmead at 2 on the dot) we were pulling into a stony car park on what seemed to be a sporting facility as well as a football stadium. ‘Sporting Club Thamesmead’ was emblazoned on a sign, which seemed to highlight the sporting facility angle.
We walked through the turnstiles (both inflatable shark Kevlar & Dave Dolphin having been left to their own devices for the day) to be greeted by Thamesmead’s friendly staff, & a nice little stadium which consisted of a very modern looking main stand, seating behind one of the goals, & a small section of terracing behind the opposite goal.
Picking up a matchday programme (a quality read for £2) we went up into the main stand, where we met Grant, gleefully intact from his recent trip into deepest darkest Yorkshire, Mark, Christian, & Steve – a legend of a guy who makes a very good double act with Dan. Before long the banter was flying (along with a wasp that pursued all of us at some stage before flying into the sponsors lounge to wreak merry havoc there – something oddly hilarious about seeing the suited & booted brigade flustered!)
So after a conversation about the state of the pitch – not too boggy before kickoff, & more pressing issues like whether Dan did indeed use highlights (Just For Men Gel) on his blonde locks, the players were coming out to the roaring, passionate crowd of… 94 people.
At this stage, I feel it worth mentioning that Thamesmead aren’t exactly a well supported club.. their average attendance in the Ryman North last season was a paltry 53 – a shame when a nice club & stadium seem to be going to waste.
Aside from the travelling Margate fans, the loudest noise at Bayliss Avenue was the tannoy, but am happy to report that the ringing noise has now disappeared from my ears.
As the game kicked off, Grant, Dan & I traipsed down to watch proceedings from behind the goal, joining such luminaries as Mick, Christian & Mark, whose booming ‘Come on Gate!’ can be heard on the YouTube highlights of this game (link at bottom of page)
Gate started much the better of the two sides with some excellent build up play, including a sublime flick from Phil Walsh that set Zac Attwood racing down the wing – Thamesmead looking rather toothless in both attack & defence – aside from the lively #9 (Zannone) who had a lot of pace but not much else.
Margate’s dominance was then emphasised when we took an 8th minute lead, courtesy of Walshy.
In truth, a lot of credit needs to go to on-loan midfielder Jake Hessenthaler, who arrowed a shot towards the goal, Walshy getting a touch on the ball which then disorientated the ‘Mead goalkeeper, who perhaps should’ve done better – only being able to help the ball into the net. Not that we cared, leaping in celebration & relishing a great start for the mighty Gate, who were playing in their ‘bumblebee’ strip of yellow & black stripes.
As the half progressed & wet conditions slowly but surely put paid to our usual fluent passing game, we began chatting to the Thamesmead youth officer, whom it transpired used to train some of our players, Messrs Dolby & Azeez being mentioned. A really nice guy who explained why the club was having trouble picking up support, having various other clubs near them & a general lack of interest from the local community, despite advertising campaigns.
Many chances were created, mainly by the influence of Walsh whose confidence knows no bounds lately, but as the teams escaped the rain at half time, it remained 1-0 to Margate.
1-0 always being a dangerous lead, was definitely something that played on my mind during the half time break & in the opening stages of the second half, as Thamesmead’s striker was played through, only to blaze his shot high & wide. If anyone has found the ball still circulating in orbit, please return it to Bayliss Avenue ASAP.
Chances came & went for both sides, Thamesmead’s keeper Rob Budd palming a couple of Matt Bodkin efforts away, & as the game ebbed deep into the second half, I had a slight worry that we might pay for our profligacy in front of goal. Bursting into song along with Grant & Dan helped ease the nerves somewhat (cheers lads!) as did Mark Sandwell doing an impromptu Rihanna impression, whipping an umbrella out of nowhere to protect against the elements.
With several anxious glances at the clock (you never know in this game!) a jinking run from Lanre Azeez led to George Craddock’s shot being deflected over the top for a corner. ‘KEEP IT IN THE CORNER’ was flashing in neon lights (and capital letters!) in what passes for my mind.
However, Bodkin & Warren Whitely had other ideas. Bods took it short & swung a delicious cross into the box, which left the Thamesmead back four (yep, all of them!) ball watching. Tricky winger Azeez ghosted in to head the ball past the despairing dive of Budd, sealing the victory in what can only be described as swamp-like conditions. Cue more jumping about (we’re available for Zumba classes if needed, folks!) & our fans being safe in the knowledge that the game was wrapped up.
As the final whistle blew, a dejected Budd clapped the assorted Gate fans behind the goal, as did Thamesmead centre back John Scarborough – an ex player of ours who didn’t actually get to play for us, having not come off the bench in his three game spell here last season. My impression of Thamesmead was that of a good, friendly club but one who I feel will go straight back down this season, owing to a cumbersome defence & toothless attack. Willing them to prove me wrong though!
But as ever, the focus has to be about Margate & a workmanlike performance was enough to take the 3 points home. An excellent win given the conditions, and an away win is always an accomplishment.
Back to Thanet we went, a contented silence on the journey home, aside from an anonymous well-wisher informing me that it was nice that Chris could see the whole game, due to being otherwise engaged on medical duties at the Tuesday night fixture against Enfield.
As for me, I had some birthday celebrations to attend involving some vertically challenged girls in Cramptons, followed by the delights of a sudden downpour in Broadstairs High Street & meeting a Northern girl in the Rose who shamefacedly admitted that she had to leave the pub due to her unfortunate outburst of flatulence that was sewer-like in aroma.
Happy 29th birthday, Mr Black!
Thamesmead v Margate – Video Highlights (Credit to Football Exclusives)