Tonight’s game was played, on a blustery and chilly late winter evening, at what has fast become one of my favourite grounds to visit, the Bauvill Stadium, home of Chatham Town.
The Bauvill is a modern ground and with its impressive standing and covered seating provision, high quality food and bar facilities and a pristine 3G pitch and powerful floodlighting, it makes a great venue to watch mid-week football. Add to that the fact that Chatham Town have been one of two runaway league leaders in the Southern Counties East Football League, whilst making their push for promotion to the Isthmian League South East, and tonight’s game promised good entertainment and high quality football.
Chatham Town’s opponents, Tower Hamlets, came into the match, involved in their own battle at the opposite end of the table, as they fought to stay in the league. A recent run of four consecutive defeats hadn’t helped, although the form of top scorer Wale Odedoyin, with 11 goals in 20 games, meant that Tower Hamlets always posed a potent threat, if chances arose for them.
On the other hand Chatham Town’s top scorer Dan Bradshaw, had now plundered 38 goals from his 25 matches and they also boasted the goal scoring prowess of Jack Evans, who has 19 goals from his 26 games. That aligned with a Tower Hamlets team, who came into the match with a negative goal difference of -55, having conceded 84 goals in 27 matches, did indicate that there would be a high likelihood of goals in this game.
Chatham are managed by their Chairman, Kevin Hake and Director of Football, Carl Laraman, who once coached with Arsenal. Their previous manager Scott Lindsay, who brought high quality players and an attacking style and flair to Chatham, left to become Assistant Manager at Swindon Town, in the summer and Hake decided to sustain the direction of travel by finishing the job himself.
Tower Hamlets are managed by Deniz Koca, who was appointed in early January. Deniz is a highly skilled coach who knows the challenge he faces this season with Tower Hamlets and from his media seems to be trying to build a team of young and committed players.
Game started with both teams evenly matched. Chatham pushed hard to find an opening for the first goal but Tower Hamlets played well as a unit, directed loudly and with skill by their manager, Deniz Koca.
When the first goal came, it was as late as 37 minutes, when Chatham Town’s Chris Lawal fired home after breaking into space.
Five minutes later, Jack Evans made the score 2-0 to Chatham with a clinical finish to send the home team comfortably into the half time break.
After the break, Tower Hamlets galvanised their approach and came back determined to break up Chatham’s approach play. Both sides created chances although it wasn’t until the 84th minute that Chatham added a third goal, with an Evans & Bradshaw combination, that gave Dan Bradshaw his 39th league goal of the season.
In the 87th minute, a beautifully struck Jack Evans’ free kick curled in to make the score 4-0.
There was still time, before the final whistle, for Tower Hamlets to bundle a consolation goal home, which was well deserved, from a side who fought fiercely, all evening.
While Chatham had looked good for every one of their goals, when I looked back at the possession and passing play, it wasn’t a game where Tower Hamlets looked like a side who deserved to lose 4-1. This was a hugely improved performance from the side who conceded ten goals to Chatham, earlier in the season. The new manager has got his team playing with shape and purpose and on this form, they will climb the table to safety.
The crowd of 302 at the Bauvill tonight had seen an entertaining match, where both sides left everything on the pitch. This match was a testimony to the quality of the SCEFL, this season. Chatham ended the game where they began, at the top of the league.
Thanks to Chatham Town’s talented Club photographer, Sam Mallia – Twitter @SamMalliaPhoto – for allowing permission to add these next images from his photographs of the match on Tuesday evening.