Brighton, Brighton and Hove Albion, Crawley Down, England, Football, Fort Road, Gatwick, groundhopping, Lee Robinson, Newhaven, Non League, Southern Combination, Sussex County League, Withdean
Tuesday 16th October 2018 ko 19.45
Southern Combination Peter Bentley Cup 3rd Round
NEWHAVEN 2 (Robinson 31 76) Robinson missed penalty 16
Jallou sent off 79 (2nd booking)
CRAWLEY DOWN GATWICK 1 (Leslie 69)
Here’s a riddle for you. I’ve been to Newhaven hundreds of times but never visited, how is this possible? The answer is via my late Grandmother Rose, who was from the East Sussex town. She moved to Oxford to get married, but her nod back to her home town was to name the family home in Valentia Road, “Newhaven.” The house was a 5 minute walk from the Manor Ground, so I visited the place hundreds times in my youth! Rose has long since gone, but the stencilled “Newhaven” above the front door is still there!
Newhaven is best known as the port for the ferry to Dieppe, and that port has a quirk if you’re a rail enthusiast. Newhaven Marine Station is to all intents and purposes closed, the station buildings have been removed and it no longer appears in any timetables. However legally speaking the station is still open, as formally closing it is costly, so its cheaper to send a “Parliamentary” or ghost train there each day to fulful the rail companies’ legal responsibilities.
The Trafalgar Ground overlooks all of this and the port too, and on a cold night the sights and sounds of the ferries, and who knows, the odd train gave the whole backdrop an ethereal feel. However that wasn’t my immediate feeling, you may remember my trip to the other side of the Ouse, to Seaford Town and that it was just about the furthest place I could get to with with a 5.30 pm finish at work, the M23 behaving itself.
Well on this wet Tuesday the M25 misbehaved, and I positively screamed into Fort Road. I parked up just as the game kicked off, watching the first couple of minutes from over the fence, before the ball was bashed out of the ground and I had just enough time to dash over to the gate! Then and only then could I relax.
The ground is one of the more interesting I’ll see on my travels this season. There’s the stand that has the clubhouse in is bowels. It dates from the 1990’s and is, as yet unfinished, the money ran out. But its the banks of largely redundant green seats that really catch the eye. They’re an inheritance from when Brighton & Hove Albion vacated the Withdean Stadium in 2011 and while they mean that Newhaven will fulfill every single ground grading involving seats for the foreseeable future, it does mean that one end is now out-of-bounds due to hard standing now being under the seats!
Now given the unwritten law of long-distance cup games inevitably ending up going to extra time, I was rather hoping for the game be settled early. And while Newhaven deservedly won, they didn’t half make hard work of it! Clearly the prolific Lee Robinson understood my plight, scoring twice, but even he missed an early penalty!
So there I sat on my Withdean seat waiting for all that home pressure to tell, and of course the equally inevitable happened, Crawley Down Gatwick hit back on the break. I phoned Robyn and told her not to wait up for me… just as Robinson restored Newhaven’s lead! I’m not sure who was more pleased, Robyn, Robinson or me! But even then Ebou Jallou managed to get himself sent off setting home nerves (and mine) further on edge.
But that goal did settle it, and as the final ship of the evening set chugged out of the harbour Dieppe bound, the game faded to a finale. It was quite a drive for a quite a ground, a mixture of the unfinished and the unwanted at at place I’d visited several times, but never actually visited. But was that I ghost train I saw as I headed for home?
Postscript 12th January 2021
Here’s an irony. Newhaven Marine Railway station legally closed on 22nd October 2020, more or less a week after my visit! I must have heard one of the very last trains to stop there!
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