Waltham Abbey was another club i’ve looked at a few times but hadn’t visited yet. It’s a close call with Haringey Borough for being my local Step 4 club, so I was glad to finally be able to pay them a visit. On this particular Tuesday evening they were in league action against another Essex based club, Tilbury.
Competition: Bostick League North Division
Refreshments: £2 (tea and twix)
Star man: Ben Glasgow
Who are ya, Waltham Abbey?
Waltham Abbey was founded in 1944 by members of Waltham Abbey Youth Club and some junior players from Tottenham. The club are also known as The Abbots due to the town’s former Abbey. They played in regional leagues until 2002 when they were elected into the Essex Senior League.
In 2006 The Abbots finished as runners up in the Essex Senior League and were promoted into the Isthmian North Division (step 4). They won the North Division play-off in 2009 and played in the Isthmian Premier for one season, and this is the highest level the club has played at.
- Waltham Abbey won the London Senior Cup in 1999, beating Bedfont 3-2 in the final.
- The club purchased some seats from Maine Road to kit out their main stand in 2005.
The Abbots had been in mixed form recently. They had won three, lost two and drawn one of their six games prior to the visit of Tilbury. They were sitting in the top half of the table before kick-off and had a positive goal difference of seven. Their last game was a 4-1 home victory against Bury Town, who were another mid-table side.
Tilbury, on the other hand, were closer to the bottom of the table, and had lost four of their last six games. The visitors had shown some positive signs in recent draws against AFC Hornchurch in the League, and Harlow Town from step 3 in the cup.
The Waltham Abbey experience
Train: The closest station is Waltham Cross, which is a 30 minute walk to the ground. Waltham Cross Station is easily reached from London Liverpool Street or Stratford.
Car: WAFC is just off the M25. Exit at junction 26, take the first exit onto the A121, and then at the next roundabout take the third exit onto Sewardstone Road. You’ll see the club sign on the right. Plenty of parking is available.
Capershotts, the home of Waltham Abbey is in a very picturesque setting just on the other side of the M25. It’s positioned in the middle of an area of greenery, next to a graveyard. The bright floodlights in the misty, cold evening air gave it a very mysterious look. The turnstile was positioned down a small woodland pathway on the right hand side of the ground. Capershotts is a tidy and well organised ground, and you get the sense you’ve arrived at a ‘proper’ non-league venue as soon as you enter through the turnstile.
Entry was £8 plus £2 for a programme, a refreshing couple of quid saving on other step 4 clubs i’ve visited this season. As I entered the ground I immediately noticed the positioning of the pitch. It had clearly been built into a slope, as one side of the ground was slightly lower than pitch level and one side was slightly higher.
On my left hand side was a tea bar positioned in a small portacabin. A few of the early birds were already holed up in there, enjoying some hot drinks and looking at the framed pictures of the club’s past successes. I grabbed my tea and chocolate, and headed for a quick lap of the ground.
Capershotts has a smart looking seated area on the ‘lower’ side of the ground that has some covered terracing next to it. At the end closest to the entrance there is another covered terrace with the additional aesthetic of some scaffolding. The far end and the ‘higher’ side of the ground are both open. I positioned myself on ‘higher’ side within earshot of the dug-outs.
The attendance for this game was 62, including plenty of vocal fans supporting the visitors. The crowd was evenly spread, despite the cold which is always a good sign that there are good views available all around the ground. A small pocket of home fans seemed to have congregated at the end closest to the tea bar, while a few were positioned near The Abbots dug-out.
Waltham Abbey pegged back by Tilbury
The Abbots started on the front foot in the cold conditions and settled quickly. The home side kept it simple and moved the ball quickly to their four-pronged attack. They took the lead fairly early on, after 11 minutes. Shad Ngandu picked up the ball on the right hand side, beat his man and slide the ball past the keeper into the bottom corner.
Waltham Abbey looked good for their lead and continued to the be the most threatening team. Tilbury tried to catch them on the break and at one point Emiel Aiken nearly got through. The pace of right-back Ben Glasgow rescued the situation for the home side. The Abbots looked threatening though Russell and Koranteng but they couldn’t add to their lead.
The home side had played the first half with real intensity, but would they be able to keep it up after the break. The answer looked to be yes as they came out of the traps quickly. They were soon two goals in front. A rushed clearance from the Tilbury keeper, Bogard, fell to Holland in midfield. His speculative volley, was acrobatically clawed away by Bogard but Aron Gordon was on hand to poke home the rebound.
To Tilbury’s credit they stayed in the game in the hope that the hosts would flag or settle for their lead. Five minutes later the visitors patience was rewarded when Jaggs picked up the ball on the right, drove into the box, and cleverly jammed on the breaks like a seasoned driving instructor demonstrating an emergency stop. The referee pointed to the spot, and Vyse stepped up and put Tilbury back into the contest.
The goal seemed to stun the hosts and their play began to deteriorate as the visitors got a stronger foothold in the game. Vyse and Aiken were providing a real threat, and a couple more vital interventions from Glasgow were required to keep The Abbots in front. With 12 minutes remaining, however, the visitors were level. Carlile picked up the ball from the left, found some space, and curled a delightful shot past Rossetti.
The Abbots regained some of their intensity after the equaliser and began to create some more chances. Tilbury also looked threatening, however, and both sides could have won the game in the last 10 minutes. In the end, it was an exciting 2-2 draw, but Waltham Abbey may rue not cashing in on their first half dominance.
Final thoughts and ratings
There are some grounds you go to, and you know you’re going to enjoy yourself as soon as you arrive in the car par. Capershotts was one of those grounds. From the first friendly greeting, to the warm tea bar, to the exciting game it was a Tuesday evening well spent, despite the cold.
The crowd was quite sparse compared to some of the other step 4 games I’ve seen. The feel of the club and the quality of the football, however, deserves larger crowds. Maybe this was down to the cold or the fact that Spurs, the local footballing powerhouse, were in action on the same night. Either way this is a club firmly on the revisit list.
Ticket availability – plenty of space for a large crowd and a good number of seats available. 9/10
Website/social media – the website is a little out of date, but it has the key fixture and league information. The twitter account provides game updates. 7/10
Travel – an easy venue to get to by car and there is plenty of parking available. Waltham Cross Station is a 30 minute walk away. 7/10
Ground – a very will organised and tidy ground. It has the feel of a proper non-league venue. 8/10
Food and drink – a wide selection of hot and cold snacks in the tea bar at bargain prices. 9/10
Programme – the programme looked good and had all the information you’d need including the lowdown on the opposition. 8/10
Atmosphere – some lively and vocal visitors from Tilbury helped create an atmosphere and the game kept the crowd interested. 7/10
Football quality – a very good game of football between two decent step 4 sides. The home side played a very exciting high-tempo style with an emphasis on attack. 8/10
Cost – entry was lower than other step 4 clubs I visited so far and anything in single figures is great in my book. 9/10
Matchday experience extras – a good all-round experience at Capershotts and people around the ground are friendly. 7/10