Yesterday’s (July 24) weather wasn’t the only surprise at Hartsdown Park, the forecast was torrential rain but the only ‘shower’ came in the proverbial sense in the form of Margate’s defending. The other change to the forecast was the Gate’s opposition, scheduled to be playing the national league’s Bromley FC under 23’s instead, due the ever-present Covid and the pesky ping-demic, it was ninth tier Erith town FC, who stepped in. Of course Erith Town play in red like every opponent that I’ve ever seen visit Hartsdown.
‘All back to normal’ was the mantra of the day among the fans as the clubhouse accommodated seated fans for a pre-game drink for the first time in months as the one-way covid-safe systems were abandoned and fans floated freely around the bar. ‘All back to normal’ could also be used to refer to the opening few minutes of play where a direct ball from one of Erith’s centre backs caused havoc amongst the defence. Margate’s latest lad to have a go between the sticks Joseph Oluwabusola made an instant impression as he was lobbed by Fred Obasa.
Margate looked decent going forward with a period of sustained pressure resulting in many a decent delivery into the box where on another day you’d bank on someone meeting it with conviction. Despite Thompson’s and Greenhalgh’s aerial presence there was no successful end to these crosses. Greenhalgh looked graceful in possession and his immaculately gelled hair and neatly groomed beard have rightly earned him the nickname ‘lower league Giroud’. Alongside Giroud upfront was Thompson who could easily be mistaken for Wilfred Zaha an observation that was met with laughter by nearby fans who added ‘yeah maybe Zaha in slow motion’.
Something that the terraces are united in though is admiration of our new number 4, marvellous Montel. In the few pre-season games Hartsdown has hosted, an undeniable highlight has been the man mountain of a midfielder. He’s great on the ball, super touch and gets out of tight situations brilliantly, speaking of tight the midfielder looks like he’s about to burst out his kit at any given moment. So much so that the club should consider getting a new size of the internationally-adored kit, small, medium, large and Montel, he’s an impressive man.
The half came to a horrible end as the players had to carry off the Erith goalscorer who had snapped his ankle in a tough challenge, the shouts of ‘oh get up’ were soon replaced with groans of concern from the fans. The half time whistle was met with the usual mass migration of the fans in order to reposition for the second half and make the necessary half time visit to the beer-cart. The second half got underway in similar fashion to the first and it was once again a long diagonal ball from the Erith keeper that caused chaos and before you could say ‘this defence looks ropey’ the keeper was flying out his area and lobbed quite brilliantly once more. The fans from Bexley were rightfully vocal about doubling their lead, one of their fans could have easily been mistaken for a manager, given his persistent shouts of encouragement and vague instructions of ‘go, go, go, go’ which actually led to one nearby Margate fan getting up and going.
Margate rallied and came alive a tad in the last half an hour, more intensity in the blues play led to a free-kick where Ben Greenhalgh showcased his Champions League pedigree and curled in a ‘belter’. No equaliser came and before the final whistle the talk in the stands had already turned to the derby of all derbies that awaits next weekend in the form of the Thanet cup, where it will once again be a case of the reds vs the blues, Thanetian bragging rights to play for.
Margate 1 Erith Town 2