Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Sutton Athletic - London Hire Stadium

Sutton Athletic FC
London Hire Stadium
Lower Road

07788 446495 (secretary)
Official Website

Ground Number: 668
Tuesday 7th February 2017
Sutton Athletic 1-4 Whitstable Town
SCEL Challenge Cup Quarter-Final


Sutton Athletic were formed in 1898 and for the first 70 years of their existence would stick to strictly local football. In 1968 they made the step up to the Kent County League. Times were generally successful here, both in leagues and cups, but they did suffer relegations from time to time. In 2007 they found themselves in the Kent County League Division 2 East, at step 9 of the non-league pyramid. That year, they finished runners-up, wich was good enough for promotion, and what followed was a highly successful time at the club. Promotion followed again at the end of the 2008/09 season, again as runners-up, this time in Division 1 West and they followed that up with an impressive 3rd place finish in their first season in the Kent County Premier. DEspite an 11th place finish in the league the following season, they were invited to join the newly established Kent Invicta League at step 6 of the pyramid, therefore earning themselves promotion. They've remained there ever since, with a best ever finish of 3rd in 2013/14. This season, the league has been renamed the Southern Counties East Division 1 and Sutton Athletic sit in 5th, some way off promotion, but looking good to maintain their record of never finishing outside the top half.

Though the club have not yet entered the FA Cup or FA Vase, they can boast of a good record in local cups. The Erith Hospital Cup has been lifted on 11 occasions, whilst they have won the Dartford League Cup seven times. Probably their most impressive feat was lifting the Kent Senior Trophy in 1975, whilst there have also been wins in the Inter Regional Challenge Cup and the Mallinson Hospital Cup as well as a host of League Cups during their time in the Kent County League.


With fellow hopper Anwar going to Wycombe's Checkatrade Trophy game at Coventry City, I knew I'd be on my own this Tuesday. I'd been boycotting the competition due to it's inclusion of Premiership reserve teams and so I wasn't even tempted to have a night off and watch it on Sky. As I was on my own, it would be a rare trip south for me, with me saving anything north of Aylesbury for when I had him with me. There were ten first choice options in all, with me creating a Twitter list so I could keep an eye on all the feeds at once. It had been the usual miserable Monday at work, so I was just glad to get home after nearly 11 hours slog, and chill before a decent night's sleep.

On the day of the game, I awoke just after 9am, feeling nice and refreshed. I caught up with things and had breakfast and a bath before walking down town to get some shopping. Whereas last week I had not bothered, it was double my usual walk this week as I didn't have my Dad to give me a lift back, given that my folks were on holiday. When I got back around 2.30, I put all the results into a map online, to see which were closest together. I also eliminated Sheppey United and Poole Town (potential for good pubs would be wasted when I wasn't drinking) and Hillingdon Borough (a revisit that could be saved for when time was tighter) There were two that were close together - Sutton Athletic and Corinthian. I chose the former as it was a cup game, therefore there had to be a goal. Fellow hopper Splodge had this game as one of his possibles, whilst John was heading for my backup at Corinthian. It would mean that I'd be 'ticking' a ground in the SCEL D1 for two games running, having been to Eltham Palace on Sunday. I received disappointing news that fellow hopper Anwar didn't fancy Chelmsford City v Tranmere Rovers tomorrow, so unless I find something very near or in the south again, it will be a night off.

After a dinner of sweet chilli sausages and sweet potato fries, I left at 4.45. Amazingly, there was minimal delay on the M25 and I was in the vicinity of the ground at 6.25. However the postcode given was a bit of a dud, and I couldn't see the ground for love nor money. No matter how slow I drove, I couldn't see the entrance, nor was it apparent on the satellite view of Google Maps. I thought the only option was to ring the number given on the website, and this sorted me out a treat. It turned out I was a mile off, and once given the instructions, found the ground with ease. I was given a really friendly welcome as the gateman shook my hand and offered me a go on the football card. I accepted and chose Wigan as my team. An excellent thick programme was included in the entry fee of £6, and I knew despite initial troubles, I'd made the right choice for tonight. I went in the bar and watched some of the build up to the Coventry City v Wycombe Wanderers game on Sky. I'd hoped to watch some of the game, but there was a 15-minute delay to kick off meaning it kicked off in tandem with my own game, rather than the advertised 7.30 kick off. I went outside with around ten minutes to kick off, and found myself a spot on the halfway line.

The hosts came into the game in excellent form, having won their last 3, including a 9-0 victory over Snodland Town on Saturday. Whitstable were no slouches either, despite their last game a week ago when they lost 1-0 to Ashford Town. Last time I'd seen them they were in the Isthmian League, but having been relegated at the end of last season, they were in 6th place in the SCEL Premier. The game started well, with both sides having spells of pressure but it was visitors Whitstable that took the lead on 25 minutes. A low cross was put in and Kane Rowland netted from a rebound following an attempted clearance. Home keeper Charlie Beardsley had to be in good form to prevent the lead being doubled a few minutes after. The respite only lasted five minutes though, for on the half-hour Bola Dawodu headed in from a few yards out. It was another header from a corner that reduced the arrears for Sutton Athletic back into it on 40 minutes, this time it was Mick Mills who brought them back into the game. Beardsley continued his fine form in the home goal with a couple of great saves, so it was still competitive going into the half-time break. Whitstable Town made the game safe in the second half - on 61 minutes came the goal of the game as Charlie Smith curled a shot into the top corner from 30 yards, then seven minutes from time, Smith turned provider as his cross was bundled home at the far post by Kane Rowland for his second of the night.

At half time I saw that Wycombe were losing 2-0 to Coventry. However, my mood was heightened when it was announced that I had won the football scratch card and pocketed myself £20. Wycombe went on to pull a goal back and lose 2-1. It was a bit of a double edged sword for me, yes it was a worthless competition and I'd get fed up of people asking why I wasn't off to Wembley had we won, but it had been good financially for the club and it would have been nice for the fans that did want a day out. I left at 9.45 and made good time home. Without anything decent on the radio, I put on the Grange Hill CD that I'd bought off of eBay recently and had some decent 1980's tunes to accompany me on the trip home. There were a plenty of lane closures on the M25 and some poor sod got flashed by a speed camera. I was wise to the scam and so was going slow enough to avoid getting fined. There was further delay to my journey a mile or so from my house, where some roadworks had faulty traffic lights that were permanently stuck on red. After sitting there for 3 minutes I got fed up and went through a fairly small patch of roadworks with no issues. I got in at 11, relaxing for a bit and catching up online before going to sleep just after midnight.


THE LONDON HIRE STADIUM can be a bit tricky to find if you use the stated postcode, so to save anyone who is thinking of visiting, it's a mile from the town, it's listed under White Oak Wanderers on Google and the nearest turning is School Lane. Once you get there you are given a lovely welcome and £6 gains you entry and an excellent programme. The bar is bright and welcoming, and has Fosters and Strongbow Cloudy cider on tap, as well as bottles in the fridge. There is also hot food such as burgers and chips available, a very good range for the level.

The ground is very basic, with just the one small area of cover for 50 people and a few random benches dotted around for those who wish to sit. I heard that no plans are in place to expand the ground, and the club are happy at step 6, so hopefully the authorities will leave them be. The people there are really friendly and the programme is excellent and included in the admission price. Well worth a visit overall in my opinion.

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