The last time we visited Chatham, for the final game of the 2016-17 season, the game was so dull that at half-time we nipped down to the local B&Q for a tin of Dulux and watched that dry instead.
Well, Chatham’s had more than a lick of a paint since we last visited. The whole ground has been bulldozed and Tarmacked back into the 21st century. At Ascot last week, we struggled to even get to the away end because the pathways were so thin…
We’ve had volunteers down there all week with family-sized tubs of Flora, trying to grease trapped Stodgebusters free.
At Chatham, meanwhile, you can land light aircraft in the gap between the main stand and the plastic pitch. Which will be handy when the Mercury 13 lot need to land their private jets after the much-needed investment/takeover by shadowy private-equity types* (delete according to taste).
Chatham’s revamped ground also has the weirdest stand in Non-League Football.
Raised about ten foot from pitch level, it’s five steps’ worth of very steep terracing, at the back of which you’re caged in like battery hens, because the roof is so low. In the second half, Deon Moore fired a shot just over the crossbar and the ball ricocheted around like a pinball. Only a soft landing on the chairman’s head prevented a full-blown tragedy (sorry, Stu).
All of this fluff and nonsense is, of course, a means of avoiding talk about the football, because – to be frank – it wasn’t very good.
We had Nathan Harvey’s brilliance to thank for not going into the half-time break at least a goal or two down. He pulled off two amazing saves to keep the scores level in a half that was largely dominated by the home side.
Whether through injury or otherwise, Tony rang the changes at half-time. Archie Tamplin came on for Alfie Egan and Will Salmon replaced Kieran Murtagh. This meant our best centre-back pairing of Vint and Penney were split up, with the latter moving into midfield, and it felt like only a matter of time before the dam would burst.
Harvey made two more superb stops in quick succession, before Chatham finally got the breakthrough in the 75th minute. A long ball over the top wasn’t dealt with, a ball was slipped behind our back four, and Jake Elliott swept away the forward’s ankles for an obvious penalty that was promptly despatched by Yila.
Two minutes later it was all over. A Chatham forward spun past Salmon like me barging past pensioners in the burger queue, allowing him to run free into the box before putting it on a plate for Yila to add his second.
A third came late on after another fishy bit of defending.
If all this sounds like I’m pointing fingers purely at the back line, I’m not. Apart from Harvey, we were ropey all round. We didn’t put a single shot on target. The departures of The Bastard and Razz have left massive holes, and with Wood struggling to locate the net and Gondoh now out with a long-term injury, it feels like we need to freshen things up at the sharp end, too.
And just to top off a rotten day, the poor, slightly concussed chairman had to put on his Isthmian League blazer and present the Chatham gaffer with the Manager of the Month award. Top marks to Stu for trying to look as displeased as possible about the whole thing…
Lewes: Harvey, Elliott, Vint, Penney, Hughes, Egan, Murtagh, Whelpdale, Lumbombo-Kalala, Moore, Wood
Subs: Tamplin, Olukoga, Salmon, Panyi
Supporters Club man of the match: Only one contender, Nathan Harvey, who prevented this from being a massacre.
Boyesy’s brilliant photos: