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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ebbsfleet United 1 Oxford United 3

Blue Square Premier
Stonebridge Road, Northfleet, Kent

Ebbsfleet United

On the south bank of the Thames three miles or so downstream from the Dartford Crossing sit the towns of Gravesend and Northfleet. Before the advent of cheap rail travel to the likes of Clacton and Southend on the Essex Coast, Gravesend was a popular destination for Londoners wanting a weekend away from the capitol and was easily reached by one of many competing steamboats.

Between Gravesend and Northfleet sat an old chalk pit which in 1837 was transformed into Rosherville, 17 acres of gardens, mock Greek Temples and amenities including a theatre which engaged many famous acts of the time such as Blondin the French tight-rope walker and acrobat.

Ebbsfleet United

The gardens have long since disappeared and I doubt whether any of its visitors from that era would recognise the area now let alone choose to holiday in it. Northfleet, it is fair to say, is unlikely to win a Britain in Bloom contest. It’s shoreline is a procession of cement factories, paper mills, warehouses and rusting wharfs upstream to Dartford and downstream to the more genteel Gravesend.

Gravesend, once the residence of General Gordon and the final resting place of Pocahontas, is the birth place and was the home of yours truly during his formative years, an era recently celebrated by the demolition of the old Gravesend & North Kent hospital in which I was born and fittingly the car park for the new Gravesend Community Hospital marks the spot where I entered this world.

Ebbsfleet United

With a Wembley appearance coming up for Ebbsfleet United I thought I had better show my face at their Stonebridge Road ground at least once before cheering them on beneath the arch against Torquay United in the FA Trophy Final on May 10th.

Stonebridge Road is just a few hundred yards away from the brand new Ebbsfleet Eurostar Station, and it was as a result of a deal struck with Eurostar last summer than saw the original Gravesend & Northfleet club renamed Ebbsfleet United. I say original as Gravesend & Northfleet had in fact been formed by the merger of two other clubs, Gravesend United and Northfleet United in 1946, the new club adopting the colours and home of the comparatively more successful Northfleet side.

Ebbsfleet United

And of course more recently the whole kit and caboodle has been bought out by MyFootballClub.co.uk, a takeover more than adequately covered elsewhere. Plans to move away from the immediate area into a new stadium have also been discussed. No doubting this is necessary to secure the long term future of the club but it will be a great shame to lose Stonebridge Road which to me anyway is a quintessentially British football ground. See the panoramas here and here.

It’s crumbling concrete terraces, rusting roofs and rickety but charming main stand are all painted bright red and white. The Northfleet (Plough) End terrace has been partially converted into a seating area and it is in the corner between this and the Stonebridge Road terrace that the bank of turnstiles for home fans sits. Away fans enter the ground from turnstiles in the opposite corner where they are housed behind the goal on an uncovered terrace, the only side of the ground that offers no cover at all. There are three tea and burger bars to keep you fed and watered, a club shop, and sufficient electric pylons, chimney stacks and cranes on the skyline to count during breaks in the action.

Ebbsfleet United

The last league match of the season also saw The Fleets highest crowd of the campaign. With local support boosted by those still in need of a ticket for the Trophy final, great weather and an impressively large contingent of fans from Oxford the attendance was a pretty decent eighteen-hundred or so. With Ebbsfleet minds evidently elsewhere the visitors were three-up in under half-an-hour. And nobody apart from the away support seemed that bothered.

Wem-ber-lee, Wem-ber-lee...

Ebbsfleet United

Websites:
Ebbsfleet United
Oxford United
Blue Square Football

Ebbsfleet UnitedVital statistics: Admission 13 pounds, programme 2 pounds 50 pence, cup of tea 60 pence, attendance 1,852.

Match Number: 1435

posted by chevblue at 11:10 pm






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extreme groundhopping

a (mainly) pictorial account of one man's obsession with football stadia, floodlight pylon's and ipswich town football club

recent posts

Needham Market 2 Harwich & Parkeston 1
Leiston 0 Needham Market 0 (aet) (Needham win 5-4 ...
Norwich City 1 West Bromwich Albion 2
Ipswich Wanderers 1 Walsham Le Willows 2
Cornard United 2 Long Melford 0
Scunthorpe United 1 Ipswich Town 2
Ipswich Town Reserves 5 Colchester United Reserves...
Ipswich Town 2 Charlton Athletic 0
Revisited: Widzew Lodz
Wivenhoe Town 0 Ilford 0

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Chicago Vultures
(Odeum)

Milwaukee Bavarians
(Bavarian Center)

Schwaben AC
(Schwaben Center)

Tampa Bay Rowdies
(Tampa Bay Stadium)