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Tuesday 15th September 2020 ko 19.30

Southern Counties East League-Premier Division

BEARSTED 2 (Marshall-Katong 20p Abibio 24)

CHATHAM TOWN 5 (Evans 17 71 Butler 74 Bradshaw 80 Abioye 86)

Att 256

Entry & Parking £8

Programme- Free, online only

On Twitter, one of my followers has the following bio, “If it wasn’t for football I wouldn’t know where half the places in the UK are.”

Now that goes double for non-league I suppose; even I had to look up where Bearsted is, and just to make life even more difficult, the football club play in Otham, not Bearsted!

Both villages lies just to the east of Maidstone, and its very much a case of pulling off the main road and picking your way through narrow country lanes until you see the floodlights. Bearsted moved the two-or-so miles to Otham in 1998 mainly to have a ground where they could progress and fulfil ground grading rules.

And its an interesting set of circumstances that has allowed them to grow from little more than park pitch football in 20 years- a chronological trifle in footballing terms. One one side of it is that the Otham Sports Club has plentiful space and is set back from the village which has allowed the club time to develop their part of it.

On the the other the creation of the Kent Invicta League in 2011 gave clubs like Bearsted a means to progress and time to improve their facilities. Bearsted have, and by the time the Invicta League became the Southern Counties East League’s lower division in 2016 Bearsted became their final champions and have played in the SCEFL’s Premier Division ever since.

You saw just how far they’ve come here. I still see Chatham Town as a Southern or Isthmian League club (they were relegated from the Isthmian in 2017) and it was obvious that the hosts saw this both as a local derby but also the chance to test themselves against the “Big Boys” from down the road. It was a fascinating juxtaposition but I know that the groundhoppers reading this will now have one thing on their mind, so let’s deal with it.

Yes, the programme here is online only, and if a printed programme is your only determinant for watching a game (why?), and you can’t be bothered to phone M60 Programmes to get the free PDF file printed for you then I suspect the rest of this article isn’t for you. Robyn spotted quickly the real silver lining- the programme is neatly tucked away with my photos, the online programme certainly saves on storage!

But back to the game. I’d wondered with high profile opposition whether the game might reach the Covid-reduced capacity of 300. They came close, closer than Sheppey did the previous Saturday, and like there, some fans didn’t pay much attention to social distancing. That included one man who pointedly ignored polite requests to add his name to the “Track & Trace” list.

I’m writing this, two days after national restrictions have been re-introduced in footballing terms at Lancaster City the new rules were enforced to the letter by stewards and Tadley Caleva have had their ground capacity reduced from 300 to 150 due to non-compliance with social distancing rules during their FA Cup tie at home to Truro City. Clubs can have the best laid plans but those plans can’t completely remove any sense of personal responsibility. If people can’t or won’t follow the rules, the consequences are now obvious

In the end class told for Chatham, but boy did Bearsted make them work for it, having led for over half the game. In the end the better side won, but I’m sure the home fans would point out the greater resources being poured into Chatham’s playing squad. And in that lies the truth of Bearsted’s existance. In a short time the club has graduated from playing village football to the regional game and have adapted well to the changes that brings. The question is how will they be able to sustain it, and will they be able to build in that success and progress further?