Non-league clubs have a lot of cups to play in. So much so that the next four games I’ll be going to are all cup games spread across three different knockout competitions. The first stop on my mini cup run was Wadham Lodge where Walthamstow were taking on local rivals Ilford in the Essex Senior Cup. The contest is a repeat of a memorable game at the end of last season where Walthamstow, then Waltham Forest, beat Ilford 3-1 to maintain their status in the Essex Senior League.
Ground: Wadham Lodge
Attendance: 50 ish
Refreshments: £1.70 (tea and Snickers)
Dogs seen: None
Who are ya, Essex Senior Cup
The Essex Senior Cup is, unsurprisingly, a knockout competition contested between teams from the county. It’s mostly pitched at the non-league clubs, but Football League heavyweights like Southend and Colchester have been known to enter from time to time. Billericay are the current holders after defeating Chelmsford in last season’s final back in the spring.
The competition has been running since 1884. It has often been dominated by the old East London amateur powerhouses. Ilford are the most successful club in the cup’s history having won it 13 times, although their last victory was in 1954. Walthamstow Avenue, Leyton, and Leytonstone were also regular champions. In recent seasons Concord Rangers won three successive titles while Canvey Island, AFC Hornchurch and Chelmsford City have all triumphed.
State of play
Both sides have enjoyed pretty similar starts to the season. They’re neck and neck in the Essex Senior League table with seven points courtesy of two wins, a draw and a defeat from four games. Walthamstow were just ahead on goal difference. There was a slight sense of doom punctuating Walthamstow’s early season positivity as they been beaten twice by Takeley, once in the League and once in the FA Vase. In truth, however, Takeley are shaping up to be the favourites for the Essex Senior League and have started the season on fire.
Ilford are a bit of an unknown quantity as the club has been through a major overhaul during the summer. Martin Haywood had come in as manager from Waltham Abbey reserves and there are plenty of new faces on the pitch as well. They’d progressed in the League Cup after a win over West Essex but been knocked out of the FA Cup and FA Vase, by Sporting Bengal United and Haverhill Rovers respectively.
Ilford maintain cup pedigree with win
This historic competition was perhaps a highlight for clubs like Ilford and Walthamstow once upon a time. It may well now, however, have been pushed down the pecking order by some of the other cups that offer greater rewards and a better chance of glory. The hosts, for example, are gearing up for the visit of Southern Premier club Beaconsfield Town on Saturday in the FA Cup. With Beaconsfield having had a patchy start to the season there is a real sense that a big upset could be on the cards.
Stow brought some younger players into the squad but still put out a strong team. Former Grays Athletic player Billy Jones was also making his debut for the home side. Ilford also made one or two changes from the side that had crashed out of the FA Vase at the weekend. A decent Tuesday night crowd turned up for the game, perhaps buoyed by the prompt appearance of another international break to mess with the footie status quo.
The game started brightly as a few officials and local journos discussed some recent results. The name Lopes Tavares was referred to on several occasions. Surprisingly, it’s the name of another local club that has recently been promoted into the Eastern Counties League and not one of West Ham’s new signings. I’ll have to check them out soon. Maybe when they play Hashtag United, or maybe not.
While that research was being done Walthamstow were pushing forward and looking the most likely to take the lead. Somehow though it was the visitors who struck first. Harkin failed to deal with a corner and the ball fell to Oyeleku who drove it into the bottom corner. To their credit, Ilford tried to keep the ball on the deck and kept possession well for a lot of the game.
The home side showed flickers of their attacking threat and Jones looked bright. His battles with Sylvester were the highlights of the evening for me. They made a couple of changes at halftime, but Ilford managed to keep them at bay. As the game meandered to a close Walthamstow began to pile forward and put some more pressure on the Ilford defence. Gebrai, Owusu, and Jones all had chances but couldn’t find the target or a way past the ever-reliable Rossetti.
Rossetti’s finest work came in the closing minutes as his fine save led to a breakaway. After a few attempts, Olajide forced the ball over the line for Ilford’s second. The visitors celebrated as if they’d just won their 14th Essex Senior Cup. It capped off a good performance from the men in red and white. A second cup defeat in a week might cause a few worries in E17, but Walthamstow’s big cup day will come this Saturday. It’ll provide a much better indication of how the team is progressing.