The early rounds of the FA Cup continue to present opportunities to watch some Sunday football and on a very pleasant late summer (early autumn?) afternoon, I was able to take in the Romford v Kettering Town FA Cup tie, played at the ever nomadic Romford’s latest home at Rookery Hill, the home of East Thurrock United FC. I think this is now the 4th different home ground i have seen Romford play at over the years, with previous games at Rush Green, Aveley and more recently Thurrock. So it is heartening to see that the plans for a move back to Romford itself at some stage in the future seem to be stepping up a gear with a crowd funding page set up and a focus on planning & initial legal costs. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/romfordfc . Hopefully they will get some support from the local council and local businesses to get them back home after such a long time away.
The visitors Kettering Town, another club with a long and proud history, have themselves had their trials and tribulations in recent years, falling a long way from their days as a leading light in the Alliance Premier / Conference National league and sadly losing their own wonderful Rockingham Road stadium which i was lucky enough to visit about 10 years ago and which i was sad to read has now been demolished after years of lying dormant.
Without getting on my soapbox, it continues to sadden me that as the game continues to drown in money at the very top end of the game, not enough is being done by those in authority both on a national and local basis, to at the very least enable club’s to play and engage with the local community in their own town’s. Maybe i am an old fashioned sod but it is sad to see so many club’s with long histories drifting from ground to ground as loyal volunteers and supporters try and keep them going.
Anyway, back to the football and the game saw Kettering set as firm favourites given their early season form, which has seen them shoot to the top of the Step 3 Evo-Stik South Premier Division Central (they don’t get any easier the names of these leagues do they!), with six wins on the bounce in the league and a 100% record. Romford at Step 4 in the Bostik League North Division had also made a decent start and sat towards the top of the table with a 100% home record.
Romford who were injury hit going into the game, set out their stall to contain Kettering, getting men behind the ball, squeezing the space and trying to hit the visitors on the break, utilising the pace of their front men and for the most part it worked in the first half, with Kettering having most of the play but little in the way of clear cut goal scoring opportunites and in fact Romford probably had the best chance of the half with a teasing cross from the left hand side begging to be put away as it went across the six yard box but the centre forward was unable to apply a finishing touch.
However, whatever was said at half time seemed to work for the visitors, as just 22 seconds into the second period, Brett Solkhon applying the finishing touch to a cross and broke the home side’s resistance. If i am honest, i thought a goal for Kettering would push the game beyond Romford but they were level soon after with a fabulous strike from Kurt Smith after some determined approach play from Akpele. However, the home side committed the cardinal sin of allowing their concentration to lapse and almost immediately gave away a penalty which was tucked away by Solkhon to give Kettering a 2-1 advantage.
Following that there was only going to be one winner, as Romford tried to be more positive, gaps started to appear and Kettering were too good not to take advantage of them, with Hoeness racing onto a through ball to comfortably fire home a third, before he completed the scoring following up to tuck the ball home after an initial shot was blocked. Although Romford continued to push forward and created another couple of very decent chances, you always felt that Kettering had that extra yard and touch of class when needed and so it proved in the end.
An enjoyable game, which really came alive after the break and in the end Kettering progressed comfortably into the 2nd qualifying round of the FA Cup but the 1-4 scoreline probably doesn’t reflect the endeavours of Romford who will be disappointed by the timing of the goals they conceded immediately after the break and then again moments after hauling themselves level.
Kettering progress in the FA Cup on the field but hopefully over the next few years both these famous old non-league names can also progress off the field and return to play football in their own towns for generations to come.