My search for new grounds and clubs to visit during the week is moving in ever-increasing circles. This week my options were a couple of Essex Senior League revisits or a trip through the Blackwall Tunnel for my first visit to a Southern Counties East Football League (SCEFL) club. Naturally, I took the uncharted option and headed to Bexley. Erith Town play at Oakwood, also home to VCD Athletic of the Bostik South Division, in an area that’s bursting at the seams with non-league clubs. They entertained Crowborough Athletic in a League Cup quarter final.
Competition: Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup
Refreshments: £6.30 (cheese burger, 2x tea and a Mars bar)
Star man: Ross Treleaven
Who are ya, Erith Town?
The Dockers, as they are known, were founded in 1959 as Woolwich Town and competed in local Sunday leagues for the majority of their early years. A name change to Woolwich Heathway lasted for just a year and in 1991 the club made the switch to Saturday football and left Woolwich to move in with Greenwich Borough FC.
More change followed as the club left Greenwich and moved to the Erith Stadium in 1995. A year later the club transferred to the Kent League, the precursor to the SCEFL. In 1997 the Dockers became Erith Town to reflect their new location. Erith looked set to merge with Dartford in the Summer of 2010, but they eventually decided it wasn’t in the club’s best interests.
The club achieved two third place finishes in the Kent League Premier Division in 2013 and 2014 but have not challenged for promotion since. Erith won the league cup in 2008 with a 1-0 win over Hythe Town and the London Senior Cup in 2011 with a 3-1 triumph over Tunbridge Wells. The Dockers left Erith Stadium to groundshare with Cray Valley in 2013 and then left to begin a two year residency at Oakwood in 2016.
- Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot, who hails from Greenwich, began his youth career at Erith Town before moving on to Charlton.
- Mahama Cho, who represents Great Britain in taekwondo, played for the club briefly as a teenager before trialling at Dagenham & Redbridge and eventually giving up football to focus on martial arts.
The Dockers sat in fifteenth place in the Southern Counties East Premier Division with a good points cushion between them and the bottom two. Crowborough, on the other hand, were in fourth place in the League, four points behind the leaders.
Erith had beaten bottom club Hollands & Blair comfortably in the previous round of the Challenge Cup and Crowborough had beaten AFC Croydon 3-2 to make it into the quarter final. Erith’s victory over Hollands & Blair had been their only victory in 2018, whereas the visitors had been in good form. The two sides has already met at Oakwood in the league this season. Crowborough won the game 2-0, both goals coming in the first 20 minutes of the game.
The Erith Town experience
Train: Crayford is the nearest station and is served by trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street. It’s around a one mile walk to Oakwood. Follow Station Road into town and then follow the A2000 until it becomes Old Road by the One Bell pub. Continue on Old Road and the entrance will be on the right.
Car: Oakwood has a good sized car park, but it can fill up quickly as it’s a multi-sport complex. To get there exit the A2 for the A223. Then take a left onto London Road, followed by a right onto Old Road. Follow Old Road until you see the entrance on the left hand side.
My decision to visit Erith Town for the cup quarter final was largely down to convenience rather than any great knowledge of the club, the league or the cup competition. In truth I knew very little about the SCEFL before my trip. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find the Dockers have a good, original club website for me to swot up on. They also have one of the best, distinctive club badges I’ve seen. The image of the ship seemed appropriate. The club had clearly ridden the waves of some uncertain times over the years. They’ve moved from Woolwich to Bexley, out of Bexley and then back again. There was also the failed 2010 merger with Dartford.
After I arrived and made use of the street parking outside the entrance I was pleased to find an attractive ground, well organised setup and a good crowd eagerly awaiting this cup quarter final.
The pitch at Oakwood is set at the bottom of a slope, overlooked by the entrance and main facilities. The changing rooms are also set back from the pitch in the far corner opposite the entrance. It makes for a great setting as you can look down on the pitch with a burger and cup of tea and see the players make their way towards you in the distance.
Oakwood has a good sized seating area on the side closest to the entrance. It’s fairly modern with no pillars or side panels to obstruct your view. On the far side, near the dugouts, are two covered standing areas that span the majority of the length of the pitch. The ground encompasses a large area and the space has been well used. The tea bar, equipped with burgers and hot and cold drinks, as well as the toilets are easy to find as you go in. There are also a couple of picnic benches at the top of the slope where you can see the team sheets and gaze upon the match from on high. You can then stroll down to pitch level for a closer view of the action.
Crows make full use of extra time to finish off Dockers
Erith Town came out of the blocks quickly, despite being the underdogs. Their young side was full of pace and energy, and they reaped instant rewards. Osman Proni dispossessed the fullback and crossed for Warden to give the home side the lead. The visitors rallied and began to apply some pressure on the home defence. Ross Treleaven hit the post with a header and soon had a second chance to level the scores. He stood over a free-kick on the edge of the box, drilled it under the wall and into the bottom corner via a slight deflection.
It looked as though the home side’s early efforts may have been in vein, but they managed to regain the lead. Ollie Milton got on the end of a ball into the box and finished well to restore the advantage. Erith came under increased pressure at the end of the half, but they held out until the break for a deserved lead.
The visitors took control of the game in the second half and had the home side under sustained pressure. The Dockers did manage a few chances via counter attacks, but weren’t able to increase their lead. The Crows equalised, just eleven minutes before the final whistle. A couple of sloppy clearances failed to clear the ball and Treleaven drove the loose ball into the top corner. Crowborough had forced extra time and looked favourites to progress.
The young Erith side looked to be feeling the effects of hanging onto their lead for so long in the second half and weren’t able to create many chances in extra time. Tom Phipp struck first for the visitors and stroked in his side’s third goal from the edge of the box. Attwood powered in a fourth just before the change of ends. Attwood and then Phipp both scored again towards the end of extra time to put some gloss on the victory for the visitors. Cole was sent off for the Crows after kicking out at an Erith player, but the home side had little time left to make the most of the numerical advantage.
Oakwood was a great place to spend a Wednesday evening. It shows there is plenty to gain from looking at new leagues in my search for great grounds and interesting clubs. I’m sure it’ll be the first of many SCEFL teams i’ll see. The ground has all you’d need from a football venue with plenty of additional charm. The game was a little one sided in extra time but an excellent contest within the 90 minutes. Erith Town clearly have plenty of young talent at their disposal and should be well worth a watch in the coming seasons.