Saturday 1st September 2007
Kick Off 3:00pm
Weather: Warm, sunny
Distance travelled: 131 miles
Huge open skies.
My first visit to this part of England and the thing that struck me most is the sky. It just seemed so, well, how can I put it?
A big expanse of sky. And, taking it's place below, Sittingbourne FC sitting in a big expanse of space. The Sittingbourne ground sits next to the (bigger) Greyhound Stadium, but both stadia are surrounded by so much open, concreted, land. Compared to the Chertsey ground which seems to have been shoe-horned into the town, Sittingbourne's ground couldn't be any more different.
The approach towards the ground, north and east of the town, is through a business park-cum-industrial estate with wide open unmarked roads. The entrance to the Central Park Stadium complex is through a set of overly grand gates. You have to drive through a huge (upper) car park to get to the large (lower) car park adjacent to the Sittingbourne ground. A vast amount of space for a club which attracts between 150 and 200 supporters.
The club itself could not have been any more welcoming. Friendly faces, jovial turnstile operators, amicable programme sellers. Before the game I even got a mention on the tannoy, and this blog address was read out to the 190+ crowd. Quite a nice moment for me, but nothing too momentous for the crowd (there was no frenzied applause, for example). An old chap, stood just alongside me, had patently misheard the announcement and, with great concern, asked why there was a delay.
The game itself was by no means a classic. Sittingbourne just about deserved the victory in a match with few clear chances. Chertsey had a golden opportunity in the first half, when the right full-back (Billy Jones) was unable to connect with a cross as the goal stood empty in front of him. Sittingbourne looked the far more likely to score and this they did on 58 minutes. Yours truly had the 72 minute Golden Goal ticket.
I managed to watch the game from a variety of different positions, with the most intriguing vantage point just in front of the tractor in one corner of the ground. Considering the amount of space outside and around the ground, it was a strange place to keep a tractor. But hey, what do I know about tractors? Maybe they like football too.
The game drifted to it's conclusion, and the locals seemed more than happy with the result. It had been a lovely sunny day with a cooling breeze, and watching an FA Cup tie in these conditions didn't really compute.The skies were still big and blue with gigantic rolling clouds and a Wembley final felt a million years away.
As I made my way back to the car, I could just about make out another tannoy announcement, this time about Sittingbourne's away game opponents in the next round. There was a huge cheer from the departing crowd and it was at that moment I realised I would be on my way back to this county for a Kent derby in two weeks time.
All in all a good afternoon out. A great little club, and if Sittingbourne now go on a bit of a cup run there is a chance that I could be back here in a later round. And I for one would be more than happy to return.
Sittingbourne v Liverpool would be good.
Pie in the sky?
A full match report and photos can be viewed on the Sittingbourne website.