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Saturday 16th May 2015 ko 14.30

Essex Olympian League- Premier Division

HAROLD WOOD ATHLETIC 4 (Tolan 45p Ziepe 68 Suchley 73 Foley 86) WADHAM LODGE 1 (Holt 6)

Att 212

Entry FREE

Teamsheet FREE

When the games start to run out what do you look for? The pretty ground? The game with something on it? I even know one hopper whom eschewed this one as there wasn’t a programme on sale! He wasn’t the only one who put the paper-based souvenir before the match, the club put up notices advertising the lack of a programme, and the strap-line on their website told the same story. You could only imagine the number of phone calls they’d taken….It wasn’t as if the game was a dead rubber, it really couldn’t have been more alive. Here’s the league table prior to kick-off, with the leaders having completed all their games.

  1. Hannakins Farm  pld 26 GD 35 Pts 59
  2. Wadham Lodge   pld 25 GD 51 Pts 58
  3. Harold Wood Ath pld 25 GD 37 pts 58
  4. Kelvedon Hatch   pld 25 GD 28 pts 58

With one game left it meant that Hannakins Farm were in the awful position of being top with absolutely no chance of winning the league. If Kelvedon Hatch beat Southminster St Leonards they’d win the league if Harold Wood drew this game.

That if became a certainty as I sat in the local Wetherspoon’s watching the locals complete the relay of a dash to the betting shop next door, then the bar, and back to the table to study the form when the news came through. Southminster couldn’t raise a side, so as it stood Kelvedon were now top and their supporters at the Harold Wood Recreation Park were in the odd position of praying for a draw!

One point wasn’t in doubt was who was going to get promoted at the end of this. Wadham are the primary tenant at the ground that bears their name, best known as being home to Waltham Forest. With Forest having been relegated since I visited, the two sides will meet in the Essex Senior League, in that quirk of the area that sees the Step 7 EOL promote to the Step 5 ESL. As pretty as Harold Hill Park is, Step 7 is the limit of the club’s ambitions here.

On a warm afternoon there was a choice of two cricket matches, and at right-angles to the main pitch the reserves were seeing out their season too. Little wonder that the ice cream van was doing a brisk trade. Retrospect is a wonderful thing, but do wonder if Harold Wood froze in front of the large crowd. The visitors took the lead early on from a corner, and perhaps it was a little too early, as from that point the hosts gradually found their feet slowly worked their way into dominance.

Jordan Tolan equalised from the penalty spot just before half time, but the pivotal moment was substitute Tom Ziepe’s 20 yard thunderbolt. No warning, no backlift, the ball slammed into the back of the net, and the title had moved from Wadham Lodge, to Kelvedon Hatch and had reached its terminus at Harold Wood. Centre half Brian Suchley scored with the type of header that normally he uses to clear his lines, and the title was sealed with Brad Foley’s late strike.

The final whistle signalled the start of the party for Harold Wood, and for Wadham Lodge a period of quiet reflection sat underneath the trees. It was disappointing that the league didn’t see fit to present the trophy there and then, it would have been a fine coda to a fine day. But as I departed, I did reflect that in the final analysis, both teams did get something out of this, the hosts the title, and the visitors the chance to pit themselves at a higher level.