I ventured down to the South East coast line for this FA Trophy match. Margate FC play in the Isthmian Premier League, where this season, somewhat eclipsed by the unexpected league and cup achievements of their coastal rivals, Folkestone Invicta, they have snuck into 5th place, just one point and one place behind them.
Jay Saunders, the Margate manager and previously at Maidstone United, has built a decent side. Montel Agyemang in midfield, was a summer acquisition from Welling United, alongside a fellow midfield powerhouse in the form of Ryan Palmer, who is much travelled but has excelled at this level previously. This week’s Kent Non-League podcast included an interview with Ryan Palmer where he confirmed the positive feeling around the club at present.
Beaconsfield Town, known as the Rams, play in the Southern League Premier Division, which is at the same level as the Isthmian Premier League. They have had an inconsistent start to the season and sit, currently, in 18th place. The Rams are managed by Gary Meakins, who is in his second spell with them. Despite a heavy 7-1 away loss to Taunton Town, just two weeks ago, the Rams have bounced back and secured two good draws in their last two games, at home to Salisbury and away at Chesham United.
Hartsdown Park has been the home of Margate Fc since 1929. In the 2000’s the club knocked down most of the old ground and began a redevelopment project. This has been mired with planning issues but currently the ground holds 2100 people, with 400 being able to be seated.
As I arrived at the ground I found parking on the main road outside the stadium. The weather was bright and dry. The stadium boasts a 3G pitch, covered standing behind both goals and a long covered and seated stand adjacent to the pitch. The clubhouse was bedecked in Halloween decorations and there were a number of youth players and young fans around, with some playing in the football cages adjacent to the ground.
The Matchday teams showed both sides were taking the competition very seriously and putting out full strength teams. Ollie McCoy for Beaconsfield Town, is a name I knew, as he had been very promising at Birmingham City in the U23’s for a while. Ben Greenhalgh, who is top scoring for Margate this season with 5 goals and plays today at number 11, was the winner of a contract with Inter Milan when as a 19 year old he won the TV reality show, “Football’s Next Star”.
The first half was a typical cup tie, with both sides testing each other and attempting to get the vital first break through. Both Margate and Beaconsfield went close early on.
Thereafter Margate looked to be in control with much of the forward pressure. However it was Beaconsfield Town who had the best chance on 43 minutes when a mazy run from Ibib was well saved by Pat Ohman in the Margate goal.
This stung Margate into action with a late shot from Vance Bola being blocked by a desperate Beaconsfield lunge, to ensure the game went into the break, all square at 0-0.
The second half was pretty much all Margate, with attack after attack, although the failure to convert chances was clearly getting to the players and fans. A substitution was made for Margate, with Palmer going off and James Bessey-Saldanha joining the pitch. This made a huge difference with Bessey-Saldanha adding width and vision on the left side for Margate.
The pressure paid off when on 75 minutes Margate finally broke through and Crossley Lema scored with a diagonal finish across the keeper.
On 80 minutes with Margate in the ascendency, Ben Greehalgh made it 2-0, with a well hit free kick from 20 yards.
At the final whistle it was the Margate FC fans out of the 289 crowd, who were left in “Dreamland” with the next round of the FA Trophy to look forward to, while Beaconsfield Town fans had a long drive back to Hertfordshire.