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Wednesday 14th January 2015 ko 19.45

Kent Invicta League Challenge Trophy Quarter-Final

HOLLANDS & BLAIR 6 (Greenfield 6p 54p Denness 21 40 87 West 44)

GRAVESHAM BOROUGH 1 (Heddon 60)

Att 52

Entry & Programme £5

If you were to have a flick through the 700 or so articles on this site, you’d find a common theme, I don’t watch much Step 6 football in the south-east. Part of it is that I clocked up a lot of my local grounds well before I started this, but it is also because Step 6 in this part of the world in many areas is close to not really existing.

Let me explain, and let’s use Gillingham’s own Hollands & Blair as an example. They are a former works club playing at the back the Star Meadow Social Club, and to play at Step 6 ground-grading rules dictate that you must have an enclosed ground, with floodlights and a 50 seater stand. This is, of course, for clubs who will normally get crowds of around 50, making the rules for most an expensive luxury. Increasingly the lower divisions of leagues such as the Eastern Counties, and Combined Counties contain a sizable contingent of groundsharers, reserves, and quasi-reserve outfits.

There are clubs though who have learned to work with the regime, and that’s where Hollands & Blair are an example of a club bucking the trend. This was their third game under their new floodlights, the ground is now enclosed, a changing room block built and a stand erected. There are a couple of snags, you can still watch the action for free from the bar, a situation the social club likes and the football club doesn’t. The roof of the stand does look flimsy and flapped in the high winds, but I was reminded of a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The viewing deck moves in the wind, to which an attendant commented, “It’s when it doesn’t move you need to worry.”

It all reflects well on the club, and certainly a crack at the Step 5 Southern Counties East League looks on the cards. They certainly had far too much for Gravesham although they’ll point to two first half chances that were spectacularly saved by Blair’s James Smith. In the end though the floodgates opened, the goals were rolled in with Marcus Heddon’s contender for goal of the season the only response.

Even if the weather was horrible, the game made up for it, and as the car danced its way around the windswept southern M25 I wondered how many other Step 6 clubs either would or could follow Hollands & Blair’s example?