I thought long and hard about where to visit today as there were a wide range of games available, with the FA Vase Qualifying round and SCEFL games on offer. In the end, having travelled up to Hertfordshire last night to watch Cray Wanderers, I felt that coming more locally, to Chatham Town, to watch them play at home for my first visit, since they gained promotion to the Isthmian League (South East Division), was the best option available today.
Chatham Town, who so famously got promoted in 2021/22, with over 100 points and 100 goals in a season, despite coming runners up to Sheppey United, have continued to build over the close season. Over the break Chatham’s manager, Kevin Hake, added winger Isaac Thompson, from Fisher, midfielder Ainsley Everett from Glebe, winger Prince Domafriye from Waltham Forest and defender Joey Taylor from Cray Wanderers.
Chatham made a positive start to the new league in their first two games, narrowly losing on the opening day, away at East Grinstead, before winning 2-0 against Faversham Town at the Bauvill in front of 689 fans. The home support will definitely be hoping for a play off challenge at least this season. Unusually last season’s leading scorer, Dan Bradshaw, with 42 goals, was starting from the bench.
Burgess Hill Town have made a disappointing start in their first two matches. They lost narrowly 0-1 at home to Ashford United in the first day of the season and then repeated the scoreline with an away defeat at Chichester. They would have been keen to see the forward line fire into action today, to break the goal duck. Dan Perry, who scored twenty goals for Three Bridges last season, rejoined Burgess Hill earlier this month and was, undoubtedly, keen to open his account.
Manager Jay Lovett joined Burgess Hill Town in 2019 and last season led them to finish in a very respectable 7th place, in the Isthmian League (South East Division). Chatham Town’s manager, Kevin Hake, is also the club’s Chairman. Once previous manager, Scott Lindsey had left Chatham to join the team at Swindon Town, in 2021, Hake decided to take over to ensure the squad and playing style was given continuity. This season Hake added experienced coaching knowledge to his team, in the form of Danny Kedwell, ex-manager of Cray Wanderers.
The game opened up with Chatham Town dominating the midfield, through the talented passing of Evans and Robins. Burgess Hill Town seemed to struggle early on, despite the hard work of Finney, to keep hold of the ball,
In the 13th minute Chatham got their reward for controlling the play when Bodkin fed Oloyede, to slot home the opening goal and make it 1-0 to Chatham Town.
The game continued in the same vein and in the 30th minute Jack Evans made it 2-0, with what has now become a trademark In beautifully struck, long range free kicks.
At half time the teams went in with Chatham Town feeling the most confident, and a two goal cushion separating them from Burgess Hill Town.
The second half saw a more even contest, with both teams creating chances. As the game moved into the last ten minutes Chatham’s defending became sloppier and Burgess Hill Town’s forward line, led by Dan Perry, seemed to sense an opportunity, where earlier there had been a closed door.
In the 90th minute the errors that had begun to creep into the Chatham Town defending, as their players became more tired, ended up costing the home side a goal, when a failure to clear the ball allowed Burgess Hill Town’s Martin Box to slam the ball home to make the score 2-1 and set up a very nervy finale.
Chatham Town showed they have enough experience with likes of Bradshaw, Bodkin and Evans to see out the tricky periods, and at full time they left the field 2-1 winners and with all three points.