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Saturday 12th September 2020 ko 15.00

FA Cup Preliminary Round

SHEPPEY UNITED 4 (Carnegie 19 Midson 78 80 Hammill 84)

UXBRIDGE 1 (Haugh 65)

Att 235

Entry £7 (ALL TICKET)

Programme £1

I suppose I see the Isle of Sheppey as Kent’s Yang to Canvey Island’s Essex Ying. The bridge over The Swale is a little more impressive than its Essex counterpart, the slope (to allow for shipping below) is a little disconcerting! Sheppey does have its own quirks though.

For one it used to be the Isles of Sheppey- there were 3 islands, Sheppey, Harty and Elmley but the channels between them silted up! The island is one of very few places in the UK to have been successfully invaded by a foreign power since the Norman Conquest. A Dutch Naval fleet managed to capture the fort at Sheerness in June 1667, and quickly overran the island. It ought to be pointed out the fort was incomplete, and the Dutch quickly lost interest in the whole idea and withdrew.

But just like on Canvey, there is a vibrant history of football, and unlike Canvey Island FC,  Sheppey United have always played above sea level! Sheppey’s history though is more than a little chequered. They are probably best known as a Southern League club playing at Botany Road, in Sherness, but by 1991 the club were virtually bankrupt and were forced out of their home which is now housing. The club led a nomadic existance for a few years, dropping in to the Kent League, then withdrawing altogether from adult football in 2001.

A new club was formed, and re-entered Senior football in 2003, via the Kent County League, playing at Holm Place, opposite to their current home Holm Park, in Halfway Houses, just south of Sheerness. The club became AFC Sheppey in 2007 for 3 seasons before reverting back to Sheppey United when in effect the old Sheppey United, (only the football team had folded, not the limited company) merged with the new club.

They moved over the road in April 2013. The ground had previously hosted Sunday League football but 2010 the ground had not been played on for a number of years and but had potential but significantly was owned by the directors of the old Sheppey United. Even then it took a further merger, with Sheerness East for the club to find some momentum.

They entered the Kent Invicta League in 2014 and once again that league, now the lower division of the Southern Counties East proved its worth. It gave Sheppey United a platform to be able to improve both on and off the field of play. The club now play in the SCEFL League’s Premier Division and look well set of a potential return to Southern League football.

Holm Park reflects that. I’m sure no end of groundhoppers will look at the multiplicity of “Arena” stands and wince, but I’d suggest Holm Park is the best use of them I’ve seen. Sheppey United are impressive over and above just that though.

They had the most well thought out Covid plan I’ve seen so far. The game was made all-ticket with all the tickets all bought online, dealing with “Track & Trace” at a stroke. Then there was the seats barriered off and crosses on the pitchside rail to allow for social distancing. They even went as far as to sanitise the rail at half time. Sadly there were more than a few fans who completely disregarded the rules as I’m sure you can see from the photographs. Of course, if football is stopped due to a second wave I’m sure those people will blame everyone else but them!

My regular reader will no doubt spot that for the first time since the North West Counties Hop Chris Berezai and I were at a game together. And virtually inevitably a groundhopper came up to us and asked,

“So are you organising a Southern Counties East Hop?”

The answer is we’re not organising anything at the moment, restrictions make it impossible. We hope to run our next events in Scotland and in the North West Counties League in March next year, but we can’t predict what the world will look like then. As for the SCFL League- there are no plans and we haven’t spoken to anyone, but if any league officials are interested in talking to us on a no-obligation basis- we’re all ears!

The game was a nominal giant-killing, and would you believe the two clubs hadn’t met for 124 years! Step 5 SCEFL Premier beat Step 4 Isthmian South Central but without question the player that made all the difference was Sheppey’s Jack Midson.

Fans of Histon, Oxford United and AFC Wimbledon will no doubt remember Midson with some fondness. The striker has been prolific everywhere he’s been and now very much a veteran at 37 was only on the pitch for 23 minutes but scored a brace and was brought down for the free kick that produced Richard Hammill’s winner.

It gave the final score a very harsh look if you’re from Uxbridge, they looked well worth a draw before Midson’s introduction. But for Sheppey United Jack Midson is a statement of intent, any club who wants to win the Southern Counties East League will have have stiff opposition from the club on the island.