Bank Holiday Monday offered a buffet of potential non-league games to visit. I decided on Enfield Town v Harlow Town at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium. I’d previously seen the distinctive stadium from the A10 and had always wanted to visit.
Enfield Town’s history is equally as interesting as their art-deco ground. The club was founded in 2001 as a fan-led breakaway from Enfield FC. The original club had moved to Borehamwood in 1999. The Enfield Supporters’ Trust believed the regime of the former club weren’t willing or able to bring the club back to North London. The trust created the new club two years later, as a result.
The new club started life in the Essex Senior League and almost immediately started moving up the divisions. The Club originally ground-shared with Brimsdown Rovers, but in 2008 they struck a deal with Enfield Council to move to the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium. The deal involved the stadium being restored and upgraded, and Enfield Town officially began life there in 2011.
Enfield Town are a supporter owned club, the first in the UK, and fans can join the Supporters Society for £1. The small fee buys one share, and allows fans to attend meetings, and participate or stand in Board elections.
Competition: Bostick League
Refreshments: Two Pepsis (£2)
Star player: Joe Wright
Getting to Queen Elizabeth II Stadium
The stadium is easily reached by car as is just off the A10. Turn off at the Toby Carvery and follow the signs down Donkey Lane to the car park. Enfield Town and Southbury Stations are the closest public transport options. Both are a bit of a walk. Head towards the Enfield playing fields and walk to the northern end.
I was instantly struck by the art-deco style building that doubles as a club house and main stand. Lots of fans were out on the balcony area enjoying some cold beers in the late summer sunshine.
I received a warm welcome at the turnstiles just to the right of the main building. Once inside the ground, programmes were available, and there was a food stand serving a variety of burgers and drinks.
The Enfield Town experience
My first thought when I entered the ground was ‘oh no, not another ground with a running track’. I do research grounds before I visit, however, so this wasn’t a surprise. It did seem that everything was a long way from the pitch. On closer inspection, though, it was clear that the club had put a lot of thought into how to use the space to their advantage.
Stands have been installed on each side to get people closer to the action. The stand on the far side had seats, and each end had covered standing areas. The main building also contained elevated seating above a large ETFC flag. The crowd of 514 was evenly spread around the stadium which indicates that good views are available from each area.
Enfield had a lively bunch of fans at one end. Harlow Town, had also brought a group of vociferous fans, kitted out in red replica shirts and banners. The visiting fans quickly occupied one end but were surprised to see the Enfield hoards heading in their direction just before kick-off. They quickly relocated to the other end. They returned for the second half, however, as the both sets of fans swapped ends, like their teams.
There was a great atmosphere throughout a close, lively game. Both ends were well populated but there was also plenty of space to move around the ground and see the game from different angles. The Enfield Chairman joined the home fans at one end and was clearly enjoying chatting tactics with some of the regulars.
Harlow started the game at a terrific pace and almost scored in the first 30 seconds as Dadson burst clear. His shot was well saved, however, by Enfield keeper Joe Wright. The visitors went close again a few minutes later when Wright tipped a powerful shot from Read onto the crossbar.
It was the home side, however, that broke the deadlock. Shepherd sliced the ball over his own keeper when attempting to clear an Enfield freekick. After gaining the lead the home side began to get a foothold in the game. As they began to look more comfortable Harlow resorted to trying to hit their strikers early with long balls.
Both sides had a good chance each before the break. Dadson hit the wood work again for Harlow, this time it was the post. Roberts then hit the crossbar for Enfield was a powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Enfield failed to create many chances on the second half, but Harlow were still pushing for the equaliser. Unfortunately for the visitors they fired too many aerial balls towards the Enfield centre backs. Former pro Darren Purse dealt with most of these balls, much to the chagrin of the Harlow fans.
With only a few minutes to go Harlow were denied what looked like a clear penalty. I was stood behind the net at the end where the alleged foul was committed. I may have had the best view of the incident in the whole stadium and it looked like it should have been given. The referee’s view, however, was possibly not as good as mine.
Enfield Town was one of my most enjoyable groundhops so far. It’s local, easy to get to, the club have an interesting history and the stadium is well set up, with a lot of character. They have a lot of interesting opponents in the Isthmian Premier Division, so I’m sure I’ll be visiting again soon.