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Tuesday 5th March 2019 ko 20.00

Southend Charity Shield Section A Quarter-Final

LEIGH TOWN 0

LAINDON ORIENT 1 (Williams 90)

Att 31 at James Hornsby School, Leinster Road (Laindon Orient FC)

Free Entry

Programme £1

It seems to me that if you want a really obscure ground under lights you need to be able to trawl the obscure cup competitions. That’s not one of my few talents so I’m indebted to Southend-based hopper Peter Miles’ observation skills. It could have been even more obscure, the fixture was originally scheduled for the Stambridge Memorial Ground a week earlier, and Stambridge exited the Essex Senior League in 1992 and folded altogether in 2016. The ground is currently used by Essex Olympian League outfit Corinthians.

I made my way to Stambridge, and the darkness told me all I needed to! It transpired the fixture had been put back a week, a shame neither Fulltime, Twitter, nor any website had been updated, and a week later the pitch was waterlogged! So the sensible solution was to move the tie to another ground that doesn’t see many games under lights – namely Laindon’s home!

If it hadn’t been for regular trips along the Southend Arterial Road, I’m certain I’d have never have heard of Laindon, and as one hopper put it assumed “It’s how a Londoner pronounces his home town!” These days it’s a suburb of Basildon, with the minor distinction of once being on the London Underground, when the District Line used to run excursion services beyond Upminster to Southend, with a terminus at Shoeburyness.

“Carry On” film legend Joan Sims was born at Laindon station, her father was stationmaster there, and it has to be said that my adventures before and during this game wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in one of Sims’ films!

The pitch is at the back of the James Hornsby School, once attended by Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher of synth-pop band Depeche Mode. The band played their first gig here in 1980.

It’s fair to say Laindon does come with a certain reputation, the regular blue flashing lights and the barbed wire atop the pitchside cage were proof positive of that, but on arrival the bigger issue was the incredibly dim floodlights! It was difficult to see the numbers on the back of the Leigh players’ shirts, and my camera was set to maximum aperture and ISO throughout. It wasn’t easy getting these pictures!

The match pitched two sides in the fourth tier (Division 3) of the Essex Olympian League, or putting it another way at the 10th level of English non-league. Laindon are new to the league and did have a little run-in with near namesakes Leyton Orient. Apparently the East-Londoners felt Laindon’s badge was a little too similar to there’s. Laindon quickly changed their design.

The match was looked to be between two well matched sides and other than the typical hoppers’ antipathy towards the possibility of extra time there was also the fact that the floodlights were on a timer to consider….

It had to happen didn’t it? The likelihood of extra time is inversely proportional to the difficulty in getting to the game after all, and while there was nothing much wrong with the game as a spectacle, a mixture of good goalkeeping and poor shooting kept the scoresheet clean.

With time running down it was quickly decided that extra time wasn’t needed and the tie could go straight to penalties, but with around 3 minutes left that timer tripped and the lights went out! We’d started around 15 minutes late, so it was fortunate that although dull, the lights could be restarted quickly and in the time we’d lost Laindon managed to score the winner!

It wasn’t either a ground or a game that any of the hoppers there will remember with any great fondness, it was a 3G pitch in a barbed wire topped cage after all. But in groundhopping terms it was something of a shot to nothing- a ground I’d be unlikely to target on a Saturday when there’s more choice of new grounds to visit, but one we were all pleased to have ticked off.

Just one final request though, can the semi-final be played at Stambridge under lights please, we still need that ground!