Autumn, and suddenly we’re surrounded by leaves and people panicking about Christmas. The minute November clicks up on the calendar everything goes into overdrive and time becomes even more of a passing illusion, to the point where it always seems to me that everyone gets in their cars and goes driving around in a state of frenzy just because they feel like they need to be doing something to acknowledge that the year is hurtling to a close. Tunbridge Wells town centre, of course, turns into a giant car park and even Google maps is starting to question my sanity if I enter a destination that involves driving anywhere near it, so these constant away days in North Kent are always a joy. Once out of the clutches of the Wells, I did take a moment to admire the colours and the scenery as the EV coasted down Colts Hill, swerving dangerously as I stared into the distance, but it’s fair to say that Autumn puts on a damn fine show. Today’s mystery destination for an away game with Canterbury City – it’s never Canterbury – is Faversham, a town that always reminds me of an incident on Chatham station in 1985 when an American tourist asked me if this was the right train to “Favours Ham” and I fell about laughing. Embarrassing all round really but a tiny thing that has always stuck in my head for some reason, possibly the last time I was really mean to someone.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to Faversham town centre and that record continues, as Salters Lane is out in the ‘burbs, sandwiched in between the A2 and the M2, and approaching from Sussex means that you get to the ground before the town. Circumstances dictated that I arrived with about 20 minutes to spare, so there was no time for sightseeing in one of Kent’s oldest settlements, roughly the same size as Crowborough, and the home of the Shepherd Neame brewery, not that I’m a big fan – Harvey’s it ain’t. Still, it’s always good to go to a new ground as City edge closer and closer to going home, now only 10 miles away with their current hosts, and with the planning application for a new ground submitted. If it goes ahead – and from what I read, that’s a big “if” – it’ll be built in Bridge, a small village on the outskirts of the City that also hugs the A2. I wish them well, it seems crazy to me that Canterbury doesn’t have a football team within its boundaries, so I hope it comes off.
In the meantime, we have the small matter of three SCEFL points and generally games against City are always tight and niggly. We’ve been entertained over the last few seasons by some interesting interpretations of the action on the pitch, through social media and in the programme, and we weren’t to be disappointed. For some reason, the City Twitter feed seemed to think Ryan Burbridge should’ve been sent off in the first half for something we simply didn’t see from our viewpoint, and there were several digs in the otherwise excellent programme about previous games. I’m assuming that they’ll find somewhere in the new stadium to house that chip on their shoulder. It probably needs it’s own wing.
As I’ve said before, and the results will bear out, we’re Jekyll and Hyde this season and sometimes it’s tricky to know which Crowborough will be turning up. When all of our attacking players are available, however, there’s always hope, and it was great to see Luke Leppard and Kieran Scantlebury returning to the line up, as well as a our customary new-player-every-game signing in Ansu Janneh. The bench was also especially strong, which gives us the comfort of knowing that we can change things if need be, but probably also gives the players in the starting eleven a little bit more focus to stay on top of their game. Crows started badly, mind you, and spent the first ten or fifteen minutes wondering what on Earth they were going to do about the long throw specialist in the City line-up, who I believe was a chap by the name of Jordan Casey. Indeed, City took the lead after 5 minutes when a Casey delivery was flicked on in the Boro box and looped over Burbridge into the net for 0-1. Crows seemed all over the place in the opening exchanges and the long throws caused havoc in our six yard box, with one especially tasty chuck actually hitting a post before being cleared. Eventually Boro started to settle and we scored with our first effort on target, Jack Funnell delivering an excellent ball into the box which caused the City defence to hesitate and Like Leppard nipped in to collect and take it round the keeper for the equaliser, somewhere around the twenty minute mark. From here on, Crows grew in confidence and it was a fairly even game with chances for both sides. We reached half time on level terms, couldn’t see a bar, so opted for hot brown stuff from the sinisterly named Faversham Bites tea bar. I have to say at this point that I did see a portion of something called “Chilli Chips” handed over just before the game to one lucky punter and I’d urge any future visitors to Salters Lane to check that out because it looked incredible.
Anyway, chips aside, it was a much more convincing second half from Boro, and we took the lead on the hour when a great move down the right hand side ended with the ball at the feet of Jack Funnell who swept it gracefully home for 2-1. City then unfortunately lost their secret weapon (aka Mr Casey) to injury and you could almost see the Boro defence collectively sigh with relief, although Tom Boddy had taken control by that point and the howitzers into the box were less of a shock. We started to play some good stuff, in between periods of City possession, and eventually another cracking move saw Luke Leppard grab his second and Boro’s third with about 15 minutes to go. Boro seemed in control now and comfortable enough to make some subs, with Colbran, Welsh and Masikini all getting a run out, but with two minutes or so left, City’s 8 hit a superb shot into the roof of the net from about 20 yards out to give us a scare and keep the Boro eyes firmly focused on the prize. City pumped long balls into the Crowborough box, but we stood firm and the three points were eventually confirmed as heading back to Sussex, just as fireworks literally started to go off behind the Boro goal.
All in all, a good day out for Boro who really grew into the game, and looked calm and steady once we’d gotten over the shock of the long thrower. It’s noticeable that we’re happy to concede possession in the opponents half but for all that possession, Ryan was rarely troubled and Boro looked far more dangerous when they had the ball, to my biased blue eyes of course. I’m sure the City match report will see it totally differently and so they should, although we’re all still a bit mystified by the “keeper should’ve been sent off” tweet. Anyway, the 8th Boro win of the season is all that matters, and it’s hard to single out any player as head and shoulders above anyone else. You can always say “Tom Boddy” and be right but there were great performances all round, with Janneh looking good on his debut and Leppard a constant threat. I thought Connor Pring had another solid game too but ghosting in for the “most improved player” award is Jack Funnell who worked his socks off and delivered a killer cross and a killer goal, both at just the right times. It was a very pleasing team performance and the win moves us to the dizzying heights of 7th now, and that’s mad.
I’ve got a week to build my teleport machine ready to turn the long trip down to Deal for the next game into a very short one, and it’s the start of a little series where we have scores to settle, having already conceded 16 goals to our next three opponents in the three previous games. I can tell you right now that this team is not a team that’s going to be rolling over like we did in those previous encounters and it will be good see how we shape up now against the top of the table teams. Consolidation of our own top half position suits me just fine and we’re a staggering 21 points ahead of the old ailing local rivals after 15 games which is very pleasing to say the least. I’m assuming Dr Jekyll is working on a fresh batch of his potion cos we’re going to need Mr Hyde in the coming few weeks…