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Monday 14th December 2020 ko 19.45

Eastern Counties League Division One South

FRENFORD 2 (Forbes 4 Fairhead 88)

Heatley penalty saved 52

ATHLETIC NEWHAM 2 (Idemudia 9 Kone 90p)

Kone sent off 90 (2nd booking)

Att 87

Entry £4

Programme £1

Monday night football will always attract the groundhoppers, and a club new to Step 6 will do so still further. Here though there was the added thought of exactly which league I was watching. In 2018 the Eastern Senior was created as a Step 6 league to feed the Essex Senior as a joint venture between that league and the Eastern Counties. It seemed to me that the league became rapidly swallowed up by the Eastern Counties League, and has become their Division One South. Now I’m not that worried by the nomenclature, but does anyone have a definitive answer?

If the Eastern Senior League is no more then its legacy is clubs like Frenford who’ve been given an incentive and a pathway to move from the Step 7 Essex Olympian and up into pyramid football. You see it here in spades; I’m not sure there’ll be a single hopper who’ll get excited about 2 “Arena” stands in a caged 3G set up but we only visit once and “The Drive” is a perfect facilty for community involvement- which of course is the entire point of the place!

There was plenty to get interested in here in any case. The Frenford club dates back to 1928 when founder Jack Carter created a boys club based around the Friends (Quaker) Meeting House in Ilford. The name is portmanteau of FRiEnds and ilFORD but the club didn’t actually move to The Drive until 2010. Even then what you see now isn’t what the ground looked like. Look at the second-to-last photo and you’ll see the rail and pay booth that used to run behind one goal to the corner. This new facility saw Frenford drop the suffix “Senior” from their name and return from a groundshare at Bowers & Pitsea.

The opposition’s background was no less involved. Last season the Eastern Senior League included both Lopes Tavares FC and Fire United Christian FC and while Athletic Newham have taken on Lopes Tavares’ league place and are using the Terence McMillan Stadium too, there does seem to be a merger of those two clubs. That said, one hopper did suggest that the playing staff seemed to come mostly from last season’s Hackney Wick squad. The term “Cosmopolitan” doesn’t really do them justice!

Those there were dealing with the news that with London would be going into the strictest Tier 4 Covid restrictions. I’d wondered whether I should go, erred on the side of “Screw it” mainly on the basis that there was no way Robyn or I could contract the virus! But we were very nearly scuppered on arrival!

I’m not sure why Frenford opted to turn out in blue and white, their normal kit is red and white stripes. It wouldn’t have been an issue, but AFC Newham turned up in.. blue and white too! It was fortunate that Frenford were able to find different shirts and quickly!

The game was a real curate’s egg, with at times superb football punctuated by almost comical errors. For a  long time the two early strikes looked to have provided the only goals. Charlie Heatley didn’t miss his penalty, it was beautifully saved by Wilkinson Boateng whose man-of-the-match performance was the major reason Newham got something out of this game. But then Charlie Fairhead knocked in what most most have thought was the winner for Frenford, only for Newham to win a penalty with their first attack after the restart! That was converted by Richard Kone, and he was so keen was he to get the ball back for the restart that he collected his second yellow card in a scuffle with home keeper Lewis Greene.

It was a stirring end to what was both clubs 2020 with London going into near-lockdown a couple of days later. I was destined to only get one more game in, so I’ll use the opportunity to wish my reader a Merry Christmas!