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Wednesday October 28th 2015 ko 19.45 (but actually kicked off at 20.15)

Essex Senior League

BASILDON UNITED 4 (Hunter 5 9 Nyanja 54 Clark 69) Sartain sent off 60 (2nd booking)


Official attendance 84

Entry £6

Programme SOLD OUT

Groundtastic editor Vince Taylor summed up Basildon neatly.

“Other New Towns such as Crawley and Stevenage have produced Football League teams, why not Basildon?”

He has a point, and you can add Milton Keynes to that list albeit by rather nefarious means, but why is a town of 100,000 residents only supporting a club at the 9th tier of English football?

You should expect the roundabouts and the “parks” that are really out-of-town shopping centres, and the industrial estates dotted at the edge of it all. But as you leave your final roundabout and turn left into Gardiner’s Close the scene changes completely. It’s obvious that the planners decided to put all the sports facilities all in the same area. Accordingly Ford (you are in Essex after all!) have a sports and social club here, and Basildon RUFC play at the end of the lane.

The ground was opened by West Ham United legends Geoff Hurst and Jimmy Greaves in 1970 and the club played in the Isthmian League, one rung above the ESL from 1981 to 1991. The ground reflects that time with the main stand supplemented by a covered enclosure nearby, and evidence of a further stand opposite. The whole area is watched over by the “Onion” water cooler town in what was the Ford Tractor Plant, but is now owned by New Holland.

In recent years the Bees have struggled, but this year has seen an influx of money, the seats in the stand have been replaced, and the team improved. With the club now third in the table, and pushing Bowers & Pitsea for top spot I expected to see a vibrant club on the up, what actually happened surprised me.

The club have an active Twitter account so confirming the game was on despite morning was easy, and they were good enough to let me know that their food bar was out of action. So fortified by takeaway I arrived at 6.30 and was surprised to be told by an inebriated youth that the club had completely sold out of programmes. That’s not a deal breaker for me by a long shot, and an official explained that they’d had a problem with a printer, and so he’d produced 10 on his PC. A shame, but no more.

I sat in the clubhouse and watched the world go by. A club on the rise normally has plenty of volunteers and they create a buzz. Here everything seemed to be being done by one or two over-stressed officials. I got the distinct impression I’d caught the Bees having a bad day at the office, with the result that at all times I felt an outsider. Their cause really wasn’t helped by the Tower Hamlets team being late, having been caught in M25 traffic. They finally arrived at kick-off time, and I did wonder how close we were to a postponement.

But all’s well that ends well it seemed and we did get a game, but if you’re a photographer at a night game here, I do suggest you either take a tripod or use some seriously high ISO settings, the floodlights aren’t great to put it mildly!

Not that it worried Basildon in the slightest; they put Tower Hamlets to the sword with what should have been the minimum of fuss. I say should have as I not sure what, if anything was going through Ben Sartain’s mind to get himself booked twice in a matter of seconds. 3-0 up and cruising, so sarcastically applauding referee David Lunani after being booked was fatuous. Hopefully his one-game ban will be spent reflecting on that.

But that shouldn’t reflect on what was an utterly irresistible performance from Basildon. They won this at a canter, and there’ll be a real battle between them and Bowers & Pitsea for the title. It’s definitely one to keep an eye on!