Tuesday 25th November 2014 ko 19.30
Isthmian League Cup 2nd Round
EAST GRINSTEAD TOWN 2 (Campbell 3 Joseph 37)
PEACEHAVEN & TELSCOMBE 1 (Gatting 62)
It would be all too easy to treat East Grinstead as part of that sprawl of London commuter-belt south of the M25. Are you in Surrey, or are you in Sussex (the latter!) the endless affluent suburbia making the county irrelevant. But this is one of those towns where you need to park your prejudices and look at little deeper.
You should look out for the statue of Sir Archibald McIndoe outside Sackville College. He set up the experimental burns unit at the Queen Victoria Hospital during World War II to treat RAF and allied aircrew who were badly burned or crushed and required reconstructive plastic surgery. The patients nicknamed themselves “The Guinea Pig Club”
McIndoe encouraged his patients to lead as normal as a life as possible, there was beer made available on the ward for example, and local people were encouraged to visit and interact with the men, earning the town the epithet, “The town that didn’t stare.”
With East Grinstead Town having only just graduated from the Sussex County League, I wasn’t expecting much from the ground, but East Court, or the GAC Stadium if you’d prefer the sponsored version was far ahead of expectations. The stand is both high-specification and the bank it sits on allows a superb view of the game. Add to that a tea bar to the left and all your needs are catered for without having to move too much! There’s was one omission though, the matchday programme.
It was obvious that the club didn’t either expect, or want the tie to go ahead which is why nothing went to the printers. You could see why, weather poor, and the club light on both volunteers and players (5 triallists apparently). It’s a good job I’m not the type to worry more about the magazine more than the game, I’d have diverted to a floodlight failure at Thanmesmead if I was, and I’d have have missed a game that delivered far more than it promised.
For a start Premier Division newcomers Peacehaven had two intriguing players in their ranks. Sami El Abd is the younger brother of former Brighton and Hove Albion and current Bristol City defender Adam. In Sussex you should always look for a Gatting in the line-up, and Joe is the son of Steve, latterly of Brighton. Joe, started at the Seagulls, but his talents are closer to Mike Gatting, his uncle the former England captain, so he quit the full-time game and is now a batsman for Hampshire. I assume he’s using playing for Peacehaven to maintain fitness in much the same way Ian Botham turned out for Scunthorpe United many years ago.
With East Grinstead struggling in Division One South and having just changed managers, you’d have thought that an away win would be close to a given. And I suspect that if this game had have been played 100 times, 99 times that’s what would have happened. I happened to catch the one-off 100th game!
It helped that the hosts scored quickly, Cristian Campbell turning in a left-wing cross in the 3rd minute. From then on in, there was more or less continuous Peacehaven pressure, you wondered when the levee would break, but Stefan Joseph swept home just before the break utterly against the run of play.
The second half saw Peacehaven ramp up the pressure still further and Gatting missed a slew of chances before heading home just after the hour. That should have been the cue for them to equalise, then go on to win the game, but chances came and went, and the hosts claimed a victory completely against the odds. But then if I could predict the outcome of every game I wouldn’t bother going. That’s what the wrestling is for!