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Saturday 28th May 2022 ko 14:00

Essex Olympian League Premier Division

SUNGATE 0

CANNING TOWN 3 (Newson 82 90 Thogo 89)

Att 58 at Ilford Wanderers RUFC, Forest Road 

Free Entry

After something like 126 games it finally felt like the football season was coming to an end. It wasn’t that there wasn’t a lack of games, it was just that I wasn’t looking in the normal places any more. And the Essex Olympian League is one of those places that does seem to be a go-to league at the end of the season.

I’m not sure why, it is one of the stronger Step 7 leagues, and that is despite the creation of the Eastern Senior League, now swallowed up by the Eastern Counties League absorbing up some of their bigger clubs. But if it’s late May, and you want a game a groundhopping top tip is to check the EOL’s fixtures!

The point was illustrated as I picked my way along Forest Road. This is the easternmost part of Central Line London, if you know your Underground map you’ll pass close by the likes of Theydon Bois, Loughton, Debden, and Chigwell as you approach from the M25. Forest Road is a straight road that seems intent on linking together a string of sports grounds. In fact the issue was picking which one was Ilford Wanderers even though every single one had one or more cricket matches in progress. In fact the remarkable part of my day was the sheer number of them in progress- in sporting terms I felt very much in a minority!

You’d have thought that would have made finding the exception straightforward wouldn’t you? The issue is that the football and rugby grounds are squirrelled away at the back of the facilities. There’s a fairly rough track which doubles up as parking too, and do be careful, the potholes are significant!!

The ground neatly sums up the cultural differences between Football and Rugby Union. The two pitches sit adjacent to each other, the football one railed off with dugouts, the rugby one with no furniture save for the posts. As is usually the case with rugby grounds, the clubhouse is superb, capable of hosting functions- such are rugby’s priorities. 

Unsurprisingly the game attracted the groundhoppers including one sporting a goalkeeping shirt that would even have made David Seaman blush! It was, above all else a convivial afternoon out and while there was little or nothing riding on the game, it was entertaining enough with the visitors knocking in 3 late goals to take all the points. 

All too soon it was all over and we all said our goodbyes another thwack of willow on leather signalled another boundary somewhere nearby. As is my policy I gave a couple of hoppers a lift to the nearest tube station- I take the view that as a car driver if  you can help, you should. I did smile though as I dropped them off at Fairlop Station. It was yet another Central Line station….