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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Witham Town 3 Edgware Town 0

Isthmian League Division Two
Spa Road, Witham, Essex

Witham Town’s Spa Road ground is just 20-yards or so from the main Norwich-London Liverpool Street railway line and in this very visible location has been an intended target of mine for a visit for a good number of years. Although I’ve travelled through Witham by train umpteen hundreds of times in the intervening years the last time and indeed the only time I had ever visited the place before was way back in my college days when I went on a junket to the foundry owned and operated by Crittall’s Windows.

Crittall’s started life as ironmongers becoming manufacturers of metal window frames in the late 1800’s, a product that would have a huge impact on the architecture of the 20th-Century, not least driving yours truly up the wall spending untold hours as I did in my first home, fitted out with said windows, sanding the things down and then repainting them. Ever tried applying a primer coat to galvanised steel? Anyway, between 1920 and the late 1960's Crittall’s were the largest employers in Witham although more recently their window manufacturing operation, and the companies workforce, have relocated 8 miles north up the B1018 to Braintree.

Witham Town FC moved to their current home at Spa Road in 1975 having previously played, among other places, at the Crittall’s owned “The Park”. The club’s roots however date back well before then with records showing their having competed in junior football well over 150 years ago. Like most clubs they struggled to keep going during the war years and their distinctive crest, featuring a phoenix rising from the ashes, emphasises this. They have slowly moved up through the ranks joining the Essex and Suffolk Border League in 1958 and becoming title winning founder members of the Essex Senior League in 1971-72.

Their next ESL title came in 1985-86, when they were also victorious in the Essex Senior Trophy, and this prompted the club to make the step up to the Isthmian League the following season. In 1996 they escaped relegation to Division Three on goal difference but were not so lucky in 2000 when they were demoted, although they are now back in Division Two owing to a regional reconstruction of the league. At a national level their best endeavours came in 1986-87 when they reached the 5th round of the FA Vase before succumbing to Falmouth Town 2-1. This game also set Spa Road’s attendance record of 600.

Today’s match programme notes inform us that Edgware “Don’t appear to have entered” either the FA Cup or FA Vase this season, and I would have been none the wiser for the reason why if it hadn’t been for a conversation during the second half with one of the small number of travelling Edgware supporters. Edgware it seems failed to get relevant approval from the Middlesex Football Association to enter either competition having failed to pay a number of outstanding fines from last year. They are naughty boys it would appear, not on the field but rather off it, with all number of sins committed administratively whilst the club went through a series of boardroom upheavals. Apparently even their youth side were banned from competing for a number of months when a team registration deadline was missed.

The Town of Edgware had a side back in 1915 although Edgware Town FC was founded as late as 1939 and – boardroom battles aside - has enjoyed a spectacularly average time of things since. Corinthian League runners-up in 1953-54 and Spartan League Champions twice in 1987-88 and 1989-90 they joined the Isthmian League the following season. Division Three Champions in 1991-92, they spent nine seasons in Division Two before relegation in 2001 but, like Witham, they now find themselves back in Division Two owing to the reorganisation of the league. However, the club has produced some half decent players in recent years including Brian Stein (Luton, Chelsea & England) and Dave Beasant (Wimbledon, Newcastle, Chelsea & Nottingham Forest).

Close to a month into the season and this is only the second league game of the 2005-06 campaign for Witham (3rd) and for that matter only the third for visitors Edgware (2nd) so billing today’s game as a top of the table clash is somewhat meaningless. Just thirty games apiece for sides in Division Two of the Isthmian League this season as the league prepares to reorganise next summer as part of an overhaul to the national pyramid structure below Football League level. A new Associate Members Trophy (AMT) has been established to make up for a lack of league action for the divisions sixteen teams so this season Witham will compete in six different cup competitions, and over the past four weeks they have already taken part in the opening rounds of the three of them: FA Cup, FA Vase and the AMT.

A relatively even first half with a limited number of opportunities gave way to a second period that gradually saw the home side take command and eventually take the lead through Bennett after 71 minutes. Bennett’s goal, after Edgware failed to clear a free kick, was followed five minutes later by Witham’s second when Rose headed powerfully into his own net and the third came shortly afterwards when Rowell side-footed home from close range.

One standout player was the Edgware Town ‘keeper who made a number of great stops particularly in the second half. My Edgware friend for the afternoon had never seen him play before and a more unlikely looking keeper it would be difficult to imagine. Without getting into pie master analogies (I’m hardly one to prattle on about the overweight) parallels between the visiting keeping and one Fatty Foulkes who was Chelsea’s first goalkeeper and first captain were easy to draw (for a fertile imagination such as mine anyway). Foulkes played for the Londoner’s in their inaugural 1905-06 season and despite weighing in at 22 stone was by all accounts a very agile and accomplished glovesman.

Match: 23 (2005/06) 1,267 (Lifetime)

posted by chevblue at 7:44 pm






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Ground Visit Record

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AZ Alkmaar
(Alkmaarder Hout)

AZ Alkmaar
(Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam)

FC Dordrecht
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FC Groningen
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FC Utrecht
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PEC Zwolle
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PSV Eindhoven
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SC Heerenveen
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Twente Enschede
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Twente Enschede
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Vitesse Arnhem
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Willem II
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Avenir Beggen
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Skeid Oslo
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POLAND

Widzew Lodz
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SPAIN

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Real Madrid
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Valencia
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Orgryte IS
(Gamla Ullevi (Old))

Helsingborgs IF
(Olympia Stadium)

Landskrona Bois
(Idrottspark)

Malmo FF
(Malmo Stadion)

Mjallby AIF
(Strandvallen)

Trelleborgs FF
(Vangavallen)

IFK Goteborg
(Ullevi)

USA

Chicago Sting
(Comiskey Park I)

Chicago Sting
(Wrigley Field)

Chicago Sting
(Chicago Stadium)

Chicago Sting
(Rosemont Horizon)

Chicago Sting
(Rockford MetroCenter)

Chicago Vultures
(Odeum)

Milwaukee Bavarians
(Bavarian Center)

Schwaben AC
(Schwaben Center)

Tampa Bay Rowdies
(Tampa Bay Stadium)