An early-season meeting between the two sides moved sideways from the Spartan South Midlands League to the Essex Senior League. Cockfosters were originally supposed to be joined in the ESL by London Colney and Colney Heath. The neighbouring clubs from just north of the M25, however, both protested the move. Fortunately for them, Hadley, based in Barnet, stepped in and agreed moved across instead.
To the uninitiated (me) It seems a slightly surprising move as Hadley finished third in the Spartan Premier Division last year, equal on points with second-placed Tring Atheltic. They looked well set to mount a promotion push this season, but perhaps the geographical change makes life easier for them, or maybe they fancy the ESL as their ticket to Step 4. Either way, they have an early reunion with Cockfosters who finished at the other end of the Spartan League table.
Competition: Essex Senior League
Ground: Chalk Lane
Ticket: £6 (£3 concessions)
Dogs present: 2
Who are ya, Cockfosters?
Cockfosters, known as ‘Fosters’ began life in 1921 as Cockfosters Athletic. Cockfosters Juniors soon merged with the club in 1930. The club played in local leagues for most of their early existence, until 1966 when they joined the Hertfordshire County Senior League. They had a successful time winning three championships in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1991 Cockfosters joined the Spartan League where they remained until this year. The Spartan League merged with the South Midlands League in 1997 to form the Spartan South Midlands League that we know today. Fosters’ best-ever finish in the league was third place 2017 and they also won the Challenge Trophy in 2014. Since then they’ve slipped a little, finishing 20th and 18th in the last two seasons.
Battle of the ESL new boys
The two North London sides had contrasting seasons last season with Hadley finishing third, just missing out on second on goal difference, and Cockfosters finishing third from bottom. Hadley also won both of last season’s meetings between the two sides. Last season’s form had also permeated through to their Essex Senior League debuts. Hadley thrashed another local side Enfield FC 5-0 in their opening game while Cockfosters lost 3-0 at perennial promotion challengers Takeley.
22 December 2018 – Cockfosters 0-1 Hadley
21 November 2018 – Hadley 2-0 Cockfosters
The opening day defeat, or the summer showers, did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the home crowd and a solid 100 turned up for Cockfosters first home game in their new league. The crowd bolstered by some regular watchers of Enfield Town and Wingate & Finchley whose season’s are still yet to begin.
Chalk Lane is hidden away just of the A111 opposite Trent Park. It’s very close to Cockfosters tube station, but parking was a little tricky. The nearby bowls club car park was full, leaving a few first-timers searching the nearby close for available spots. The entrance to the ground is up a tight alley and past a friendly club patron collecting money on a pop-up table, sadly no turnstile. There were rumors some were getting in via a hole in the hedge further up Chalk Lane.
Once you’re through the tight spaces of the entrance there is a green oasis of a ground to explore. One side has a three or four row seating area while the other has a covered area in prime position between the two dugouts. There is also a small covered area at one end. The rest is open and leafy.
Fosters spring second half surprise
The game itself settled quite quickly as both sides tried to play football. Both were tidy on the ball but Hadley were able to monopolise possession as Cockfosters struggled to keep the ball in the oppositions half. The visitors went close twice as Ned Clarke hit the post and Alfie Bartram’s volley just went over the bar. There was a brief moment of excitement and the prospect of a sin-bin as Bartram clashed with Matty Thomson but both players received just a standard yellow card.
Hadley soon had the lead, however, as Clarke found himself in a similar position to his earlier chance. This time he left nothing to chance and drilled the ball into the bottom corner for a deserved lead. Hadley continued to push but were unable to find a second. Cockfosters found a little joy out wide towards the end of the half, something to build on after the break.
The second half began with a couple of lengthy delays. First, the Cockfosters keeper required treatment for an injury. Then a goose invaded the pitch. The feathered intruder was impressively shepherded to the touchline by a Hadley defender. Something they were less able to do a few minutes later as Cockfosters won a corner. Robbie Carroll then headed the ball into the danger area where Harley Haag was waiting to head home the equaliser.
Suddenly it was a different game and substitute Reece Mosanya was providing some much-needed pace up front for the home side. They attacked impressively on the break. Hadley also woke from their slumber and would have restored their lead were it not for some incredible last-ditch defending in a series of goalmouth scrambles.
It was Mosanya, however, who settled the game. A nice move down the right eventually found the forward who calmly slotted home to give Cockfosters the lead. There was still time for some more action on the home side’s penalty area, but somehow they were able to repel everything Hadley through at them and get the three points.