A new year dawned, the sun shone after what seemed to be weeks of rain and drizzle and Dartford played the Red and White of Ebbsfleet on New Year’s Day. There weren’t as many supporters there as had been at the Dartford home game a short while ago at the end of last year. Remarking that the Ebbsfleet pitch, in particular the goal areas, looked in remarkably good condition, I was told that was because Ebbsfleet hadn’t played much due to waterlogging. Dartford, on the other hand, had missed no matches in the run up to the end of the year, being the only match to take place against Kidderminster Harriers on 22 December.
I got to Ebbsfleet early as the parking is a nightmare. Roadside parking is subject to traffic wardens and apparently its possible to park in the International Rail Station car park for £2, but its a fair walk away. I was allowed to park in the limited parking at the club, which was excellent as I have my camera equipment to haul along. After the match I found the car park to be chock full, cars jammed in and double parked. I had to wait over a quarter of an hour until vehicles started to leave and I could worm my way out.
Ebbsfleet’s Manager Liam Daish is celebrated as the longest serving manager in the club’s history (7 years from 2005-2012). They have ‘named’ a stand after him. Its rather old, decrepit and in need of a makeover. Not sure how much of a compliment to him that is!
The club also has a ‘mascot’ – a rather dodgy looking pirate called ‘Hooky’ – in a rather bad Peter Pan outfit. Never-Never land, perhaps? There was also a moment I found quite comic when the kiddie mascot turned to show his shirt off. Poor lad. I hope that isn’t really his name.
Tony Burman, Manager of Dartford has had the role of Manager since 1993, on and off, returning in 2005, so no doubt he and Daish are old codgers.
Dartford started strongly, were 2:0 up and looking good. But then in the second half their game seemed to disintegrate and they were defending heavily, valiantly trying to keep Ebbsfleet from scoring. Which they did. Twice. Seemingly the break in playing benefitted Ebbsfleet and the constant round of training and matches was taking its toll on Dartford.
Now, on Saturday 5 January, Dartford have a long road trip up the M1 to Alfreton in Derbyshire for yet another league match against the Reds. Alfreton Town FC were promoted to the Premier in 2011, and attracted some publicity in July 2011 after beating a Sheffield Wednesday XI 14–0 in a pre-season friendly. However, they suffered a defeat on New Year’s Day home game against Mansfield Town. So everything to play for.
Saturday at Alfreton meant an early start, long trip up the M1 to arrive in pleasantly bright, if not completely sunny, weather. Alfreton Town seem a very friendly club, nice press room (more like a corridor, but its bright and clean) and plenty of tea or coffee. Before the stadium filled up I thought I’d take a few shots of the facilities, including the neat-looking food bar. I was slightly taken aback to be asked by the lady in the booth why I was taking the pictures. I told her it was ‘just as a record of the day’ and that ‘I wasn’t environmental health’, or anything to worry about. Strange the things some people fuss over.
Dartford Manager Tony Burman brought a number of Academy players as substitutes, since so many players seem injured or unwell at present.
Nice opportunity for them, L to R Lee, Mohammed, George and Steve. And just as well, as Jacob Erskine limped off early in the match, Captain Elliot Bradbrook also came off limping badly and Tom Champion needed stitches in his eyebrow after a head to head challenge. Mohammed and George were called into action towards the end of the match. The coach home was something akin to a M.A.S.H. unit. There was a small crowd there, only 522, about a hundred from Dartford. It should have been a 2:2 draw, but Alfreton squeezed a last minute goal to win. Despite the score line, it wasn’t a particularly great match, and I found it quite difficult to capture the players’ usual energy and form.
I noticed in the Blue Square League top scorers table, Harry Crawford is 5th, and aside from penalty shots, he has the second highest goal score alongside Elliott of Cambridge United. Keep it so, Harry!
But regardless, I decided to experiment with some ‘small world’ manipulation. I am keen to do this with Dartford’s home ground, but so far the weather hasn’t been ideal and I think it needs some sunshine, or at least a blue sky, to get the best. Here’s one from an earlier trip to wrexham.
Not perfect, but I shall persist. I tried this with a panorama of Alfreton Town’s ground, but the sky does not make the ground look attractive.