This was my first visit of 2021 to the Bauvill Stadium and I came to see Chatham play in the post lockdown “mini tournament” that had been set up to include some strong local sides from the Southern Counties East Football League. The teams involved were; Chatham Town, Sheppey United, Rochester United, Punjab United and Lordswood.
The Bauvill stadium was well prepared for this potential table topping game between two of the Southern Counties East Football League’s (Premier Division) top two sides of the past two years. (With Corinthian FC now having been promoted).
A beach bar had been set up pitch side. This was popular with fans and the quality of the stadium and the facilities really reflects well on the non league football experience of the modern time. The club had all the Covid security checks in place and I got to the ground (parking free) early at around 1.30 pm. Tickets were £5 for this match and it drew a crowd of 687.
The Bauvill is a great stadium and the club felt relaxed and welcoming. Players and staff chatted with spectators before the game.
It was a really warm afternoon and as I sat waiting for the game to begin, it was just nice to hear the voices of others and to feel what it is like to be part of a decent crowd of people in a football ground again.
There were no programmes today but the Chatham Twitter page published today’s side;
Within minutes of the kick off a brutal Chatham challenge on the left hand side led to a free kick which gave Sheppey United an early chance.
Sheppey regretted the wasted chance when on eight minutes, the Chatham Town number seven, Lawal, broke on the right to create a cross, for a simple tap in, which Jack Evans put away to make it 1-0.
On 14 minutes Danny Leonard for Sheppey, broke away and confidently took the ball to the left of the area before firing it into the corner to make it 1-1.
On 29 minutes a slip by a Chatham defender, let Harrison Carnegie in for Sheppey United, and he finished clinically, to put them 2-1 up.
Chatham pushed hard for an equaliser before half time with Dan Bradshaw going close, on 40 minutes.
The game erupted aggressively, just on the stroke of half time, when a bad challenge by a Chatham defender scythed through one of the Sheppey players. The players got into a melee, of pushing and shoving, before the referee calmed things and produced a yellow card for the Chatham defender. The sides went into break shortly after, with Chatham trailing 1-2.
Chatham came out, with all guns firing, after the break and equalised on 50 minutes with a second goal, turned in by a Sheppey defender, under pressure from the Chatham forward line.
On 52 minutes, Chatham regained the lead from a penalty. Jack Evans finishing for his second and a 3-2 lead.
A minute later, a cross from the right, led to a clinical headed goal from the Sheppey United number nine, Jack Midson, to put the scores level again at 3-3.
Chatham hadn’t let that affect them and on 68 minutes, they went back in front, 4-3, with Jack Evan’s hat-trick goal.
Yet again Sheppey United wouldn’t give in and on 74 minutes they equalised, making it 4-4 with another Midson goal.
Neither side would settle for the draw, with both going close to getting a fifth.
In the last minute Chatham created a chance to secure the winning fifth goal but the chance flew wide.
As the whistle blew the crowd knew they’d seen quite a match. This may well be the final when it is played here on the 22nd June.