Saturday 27th July 2013 ko 15.00
RUSTHALL 1 (Parsons 94)
HILDENBOROUGH ATHLETIC 4 (Spenceley 16 Ashmore 39 Davies 45 Chandler 90)
So dear reader, imagine its the 17th century and you are a Puritan. You’re in Kent and fancy some curative baths. Where do you go, Tunbridge Wells? Actually no, you head to Rusthall, and travel in to Tunbridge, and if you were a Cavalier you stayed at Southborough. For one, the pious Puritan would want to stay clear of their sworn enemy, and in any case would have to avoid any forms of frivolity, so the town grew to accommodate their needs.
The name “Rusthall” is from the Anglo-Saxon Ruste uuelle, meaning the local water well contains a high level of natural iron like the chalybeate springs in Tunbridge. Jockey Farm is just outside the town, and you do need a small amount of self-belief to find it. Nellington Road has such a sharp bend in it that as you approach it looks like a dead-end!
The ground is as the name suggests, a working farm, and all the facilities have an agricultural feel, apart from the bench for the second pitch which was clearly a church pew! The clubhouse roof has been extended to provide cover, and until recently, the entrance to the ground was further down Nellington Road, which meant that car drivers had to drive through the covered section to access the car park! Not a ground to visit when you needed to leave early!
This was an annual meeting between two sides roughly 10 miles apart; Hildenborough play on the top flight of the Kent County League, with the hosts one step higher, in the Kent Invicta League. On the pitch it didn’t look that way, despite Rusthall having won all of their pre-season games, including eye-catching wins against Crowborough Athletic (5-1) and Tunbridge Wells (2-1).
Perhaps it wasn’t as straightforward as that, Hildenborough are KCL champions, denied promotion on ground-grading issues. With captain and centre half Adam Davies very more to the fore, they raced into a 3-0 lead at half-time, and the Rusthall manager could only comment that he put out a stronger team for the second half.
That added up to, eventually, 6 substitutions, and while in football parlance, they drew the second half after all, but make no mistake they were second best to their County League visitors. I wonder whether they’ll be able to square the circle of their ground?