We’ve now hopefully seen the last of winter and spring will begin to show its overdue face. I took a bit of a risk this week. The recent bad weather meant that several interesting postponements were being played on Tuesday. I could have gone to games at Basildon United, East Thurrock or even an Essex Senior Cup Final. Instead I decided to delay my midweek game until Wednesday to finally catch a glimpse of the illusive Woodford Town 2017.
Woodford are a young club with a long catalogue of previous names. There is also a small link to Walthamstow in there, which is always good. Their game against Great Wakering Rovers was also enticing as the visitors were one of five teams competing for the Essex Senior League title, in what is shaping up to be an exciting climax to the season at step five.
Competition: Essex Senior League
Star man: Neil Richmond
Who are ya, Woodford Town 2017?
The 2017 vintage of Woodford Town is the second attempt at reviving the club. The original incarnation of the Woods, as they’re known, started out in 1937. They were founding members of the Delphian League in 1951 and also played in the Metropolitan, Greater London, Athenian, Southern and Essex Senior Leagues.
The club lost their Snakes Lane ground in 1993 and dropped out of several leagues before finally dissolving in 2003. A first attempt at reviving the club via Hertfordshire based Bush Hill Rangers only lasted one season in 2015/16.The second attempt has so far proved more successful.
Haringey & Waltham formed from the merger of the Mauritius Sports and Walthamstow & Pennant clubs, and several name changes. They were given a reprieve from relegation from the Essex Senior League last season. They’ve have now become the latest incarnation of Woodford Town. The club are currently groundsharing at Broxbourne Borough having previously shared with Waltham Forest and Haringey Borough.
- Johnny Haynes and Jimmy Greaves both played for the original Woodford Town. The former as a boy and the latter at the end of his career.
- Woodford Town played in the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1986 losing to Piacenza and Merthyr Tydfil.
- Mauritius Sports was set up in 2000 to provide an opportunity to play football for the Mauritian community in London as well as to provide a chance for British-born Mauritians to play for their country at international level.
Woodford sat in eleventh place going into the game, 34 points behind the visitors who were top. The Woods had won two, drawn two and lost one of their last five games but hadn’t played a competitive game for exactly a month due to postponements. Their last outing was a 1-1 draw against a steadily improving Stansted side.
Great Wakering Rovers, pushing for the league title, had won four out of their last five games with their only blip being a draw against fellow title rivals Redbridge. They’d won 4-0 away at Sawbridgeworth in their last game. Rovers defeated Woodford 3-0 in the first meeting between the two sides this season in December.
The Woodford Town experience
Train: Cheshunt and Theobalds Grove are the nearest stations, but both a probably a bit far to walk. The 242 bus stops on Crossbrook Street near Theobalds Grove and then near the ground.
Car: Goffs Lane can be found by following the A10 towards Cheshunt, after exiting the M25, and taking the first exit onto the B198. At the second roundabout take the third exit onto the B156 and the Ground will be on your right. There is a decent sized car park.
My first impressions of Goffs Lane were that it was a very interesting non-league ground. There is some seating at the end closest to the entrance that’s well equipped with some well finished decking. As anyone with decking will tell you it needs to be re-finished every couple of years, so as as fellow decking owner I commend Broxbourne on their commitment to this endeavour.
As well as excellent decking Goffs Lane also has a decent sized main stand as its key feature. The rest of the ground is open and has a rural feel, making for a nice setting. The club’s aim is to return to Woodford and hopefully as close as possible to it’s spiritual home of Snakes Lane. Discussions have begun with Redbridge Council, and early signs seem positive that a return will be on the cards.
The welcome I received on arrival at Goffs Lane was friendly and there was a comfortable feeling around the ground even though the contest of the field was tense, if a little spikey at times. The attendance was 50 with a few regular Great Wakering followers that I recognised from a recent visit to see them play Hackney Wick. The open nature of the ground means you can easily blend into the background at Goffs Lane, but the lively home fans are always on hand if you want to join in with a sing-song.
The feeling that Woodford are a club at the beginning of their journey is continued on the pitch. The squad is young, but their mid table position underlies the obvious quality that exists in these youthful players. The club’s support is also fairly fresh-faced. A lot of work has gone into recruiting new fans on Twitter to join the existing, small but merry, fanbase. Several occupied the main stand, singing for the entirety of the game, with the help of drums and megaphones. Others gathered next to the home dugout to ensure the linesman was getting his calls spot on.
Woodford take table toppers to the brink
The visitors started the game strongly and had a couple of early chances. Great Wakering’s forwards weren’t able to apply the finishing touch and Wilson produced a couple of saves to keep the scores level. It felt like an opportunity missed for the visitors as the young home side began to settle. Every win is vital with the title race being so tight and this tension was obvious amongst the players in green and white.
Woodford had a couple of half chances and Tobi Junior playing his first game for the Woods was putting himself about up front. The home players could sense their stubbornness was irritating title chasing Rovers and the game threatened to get heated at points. The referee stepped in to book several players when perhaps a stern warning would have sufficed.
The period either side of half time was fairly scrappy with little chances, but the game was tense with both sides sensing an opportunity. An apparent kick to a Woodford player resulted in another booking when many thought it should have ended in a red card. This incident seemed to galvanise the visitors and their efficient quality began to come to the fore again with Nash and Richmond looking threatening.
With about 20 minutes left to play Rovers struck the decisive blow. A long throw, that travelled like a rogue rocket zooming into a stricken crowd at a fireworks display, was missed by the Woodford defence and Nash was on hand to poke home the winning goal. Junior had a late headed chance for Woodford that agonisingly bounced past the post, but Rovers hung on for a win that keeps them on top of the pack.
The new 2017 Woodford vintage are clearly near the beginning of their journey, and will hopefully be back in their hometown in the not too distant future. They’ve clearly made a good start to their new life in the Essex Senior League with a creditable mid table position and some very talented young players. Their ground might not be theirs but it’s a nice spot to watch some football and, just like all the best clubs in the league, they have their own fledgling group of superfans to provide a soundtrack.